Thursday 28 December 2017

Small Eggar Surprise.

On the 11th May I was on a general stroll on my patch when I came across a large larval web on a Hawthorn bush. As it was the same time that I was finding larval webs of Brown-tail moths this was my first thought. However, the larva looked different, as well as the web being larger. I took some photos of the the larva and web so I could check later at home. On looking through my books at home the only likely moth I could come up with was the Small Eggar. I then checked the superb 'Complete History of Butterflies and Moths in Sussex' by Colin Pratt, and this moth has been extinct in West Sussex since 1968, and has only one record in East Sussex since 2009. With this information I assumed it could not possibly be this species. I then sent copies of the photos to both Colin Pratt and Nigel Kemp, they both confirmed that they were indeed larva of the Small Eggar. I then continued to monitor the larva until my last sighting of them on 14th June when I was pleased to show them to Nigel. 

Small Eggar larval web.

Small Eggar larva. 30th May.

Small Eggar larva.  5th June.

Small Eggar larva.  5th June.

Small Eggar larva.  13th June.

After the 14th June the larva had dispersed, although the web was so robust it was still very evident several months later.

Saturday 23 December 2017

The Holly and the .....Long-tailed Tit!!

Not quite the Christmas Carol, but as near as I can get!!
I had a phone call from Phil to tell me that the Long-tailed Tit numbers had increased dramatically near his hide, since the few we had seen last week. The weather was meant to be a slight improvement on the Friday, although still pretty dire. However, we set off and after getting comfortable in the hide the weather did actually brighten a little. During this time though there were very few birds around, and it was only a short time before the heavy clouds returned and a steady drizzle began to fall. Not too helpful!!
During this time we had a few Long-tailed Tits drop in to feed and one landed on the nearby Holly where we were hoping they would sit briefly.

The Holly and a wet Long-tailed Tit.

During this time we also had the female Kingfisher around the pond. With one fish she caught she suddenly flew towards us and landed nearby on a bird table where she stunned the fish before swallowing it. A quick grab shot of her, heavily cropped to eliminate the bird table was taken. Not very good quality mainly due to the rain.

Mrs Kingfisher and Stickleback.

The bird then returned to the pond where we saw her catch another couple of fish as well as a Water boatman. This was very pleasing as the pond doesn't hold many fish, but it does have many Water boatman so hopefully that will keep the bird coming to the pond.
We also had visits from Great-spotted Woodpeckers and Nuthatch again to keep us amused.

Nuthatch in the rain.

Male Great-spotted Woodpecker.

It was however the Long-tailed Tits that we really wanted to photograph, and with the drizzle eventually clearing as well as the clouds thinning just a little the Long-tailed Tits returned occasionally giving us more opportunities to photograph these delightful little birds. At times we had large groups of double figures all over the fat balls and every now and then one would pose nicely for us.

Long-tailed Tit on Holly.

Long-tailed Tit on Lichen.

Another great morning spent watching nature in close-up in great company.

Wednesday 20 December 2017

New Garden Moth.

As it is rare for me to put the moth trap out once the Autumn is here I have never managed a Mottled Umber in the garden before. However, I spotted one the other evening on the kitchen window after dark. I managed to re-locate it the following morning for a few pictures. A very common winter moth, but new to me.

Male Mottled Umber.

I also had another Buzzard attempt at Phils' hide. Once again we had a false alarm when 2 Buzzards were heard close, but again they proved elusive for us. One day I might get a close encounter with these great birds. The branch we were hoping the Buzzard would pose on did give the Jays and Great-spotted Woodpeckers something to look at and admire though. Better luck next time!!

Male Great-spotted Woodpecker.



Wednesday 13 December 2017

Sussex Dartford Warblers.

Looking back on a few highlights from the past year that I didn't post at the time included an early Summer visit to a couple of Sussex heathlands hoping to catch up with some Dartford Warblers. This species seemed to have done quite well over the past few years in Sussex and walking around both of the heaths several birds were seen. All apart from one were quite long distance and the photos are a little more cropped than I would have liked, but they still show what a beautiful species they are. The final bird that I photographed was a bit nearer. This one I found as I was walking along a path when I heard the bird calling loudly. Creeping into an area of Gorse it became clear why it was calling so loudly, as it was having a heated argument with a Willow Warbler!!

Dartford Warbler on Gorse.

Dartford Warbler having an argument with a Willow Warbler.

Wednesday 6 December 2017

Let it Snow.

With a local Snow Bunting being reported over the weekend I was keen to catch up with it after the Kent birds a couple of weeks ago which proved to be very flighty. Meeting David and Malcolm at the site the bird was visible straight away. The bird was very busy foraging in the grassy tussocks on the edge of the beach. Every time it came to the pebbles it rushed across these to get back to the grass area that held the seed. Although the bird wasn't as tame as these birds can be we did eventually get close enough for detailed photography. With the bird spending so much time in the grass it had picked up quite a bit of moisture under the chin and its under-side.

Snow Bunting.

Snow Bunting in the grass.

Following this we headed to Sovereign Harbour where a first winter Black Guillemot has settled in for a long stay. The bird has shown to be very approachable, and this was certainly the case as soon as we arrived, although it quickly started diving further out in the harbour. It then vanished for some time as it presumably was resting and feeding amongst the boats. When it eventually came close again the sun had gone behind the tall buildings. However, it performed very well as it caught several fish just a short distance away. The only other time I've seen Black Guillemot before was when I was in Scotland with Nigel. In Oban we saw several of these smart birds in their summer plumage. A super day with two very good birds.

Black Guillemot, note the visible red foot.

'Bottoms Up'  Diving for fish.

Black Guillemot in the reflection of a red boat.

Monday 4 December 2017


After failing to get any shots that I was pleased with of Sanderling 3 weeks ago I was encouraged by Leigh to have another go, this time on an outgoing tide. This worked in our favour with the birds being keen to start feeding as soon as the sand appeared. With several large groups of Sanderling it was a case of being patient and waiting for the birds to approach us. Gradually more sand appeared and the birds started feeding more confidently and coming very close.

Sanderling looking for food.

Sanderling on the sand.

Feeding on a Worm.

As more sand appeared the birds became more confident.

Following this we headed for Widewater hoping to see the female Goosander that had been seen recently. The bird was seen straight away in the distance, and we managed to get close enough for some pictures. The timing was perfect as it wasn't long before the bird flew off to feed on the sea.

Female Goosander.

Goosander in flight.

Saturday 2 December 2017

Mrs Kingfisher.

On what has been quite a busy week with 4 trips into the countryside that included rescuing a sheep from a ditch on the Levels with Nigel, a trip looking for waders and sitting in a very cold hide with Phil twice it has also been productive and enjoyable.
The first of the 2 days with Phil was spent hoping for the male Kingfisher in the promised sunshine. Unfortunately, the sunshine didn't materialise until the Kingfisher had appeared twice. Of course, once the sun came out the Kingfisher stayed away!! Several of the smaller birds did however show and perform well. It was quite a short visit due to a trip to the vet with the cat.

Blue Tit.


2 days later we went to a different hide hoping for Jays and Buzzards. With 2 quick visits by the female Kingfisher and little happening by the hide we changed tactics and moved closer to the pond so I could get some shots of the Kingfisher. We then had a short visit by the bird followed by a very long gap before she came back. With ice covering most of the pond it was pleasing to see her catch a small snack from the area Phil had cleared of ice. She was also seen hovering above the water several times. By now the sun had moved around too much meaning there was a little too much in the way of shadow. It was great though getting some much better shots of a female Kingfisher and as ever my thanks goes out to Phil who was photographing the Fieldfare in the bushes while I waited for the Kingfisher. It took quite a while for my feet to thaw out afterwards, but as ever it was a wonderful experience seeing these great birds close by.

Female Kingfisher.

Kingfisher hovering.

In between the visits by the Kingfisher I did have a Fieldfare sit at the top of a bush that was just in range for a picture.


Female Kingfisher hunting.