Tuesday 30 January 2018

American Horned Lark.

I was meant to be looking after my Mum today as she had a procedure at Brighton Hospital. I must confess, it wasn't a day I was looking forward too. However, yesterday evening she rang me to say she had a phone call cancelling the appointment. Although I was sad for her, I was pleased to have a day out in the open after all, especially as the sun was due out for the day. I rang David to see if he fancied doing anything and he said he had planned to head for the Surrey/Middlesex border with Paul to see the American Horned Lark that has been seen on and off for the past 3 months. This is a very rare bird in the UK with only 2 or 3 previous sightings, although it is I believe a sub-species of our Shorelark. Fortunately they were happy for me to join them. The bird was seen as soon as we had arrived from the central causeway across the reservoir. Unfortunately the bird was on the Southern bank so we were shooting straight into the sun. It was feeding continuously, turning over mosses as it looked for morsels. In the time we were there it did go over to the other bank where it was much closer and the light was far superior. However, when it was on this bank it only remained for a few minutes before returning to the other side where it obviously felt more comfortable. A great day seeing a mega rare bird, and it also beat sitting around in a hospital!!

American Horned Lark.

Saturday 27 January 2018

Looking for Elmley.

With a decent weather forecast on Friday David and I decided to head for Elmley Marshes in North Kent. This is a reserve that I used to call into quite often in the old days when I was a sales rep and I had a customer in sheerness. David also used to call here when he lived local to this area. All the way to David's house it was very cloudy and foggy, but with the positive forecast we were confident that the weather would improve. Unfortunately, the weather had a different idea and the fog held all the way there, so much so, that we could easily have got lost!!
After such a long drive we really wondered what we were doing there. I was hoping that the drive along the long track would provide many photo opportunities, using the car as a hide. There were so many Lapwing close to the car as well as a few other waders that it should have been fantastic, however, all we could do was watch them in the very dull conditions. A long walk to the hides was also a waste of time, apart from seeing how good they could be for future visits, as there were no birds near the hides at all. A few Marsh Harriers were the only birds of interest.
By the time we arrived back at the car the light had improved just enough to stand a chance of getting some photos on the return along the track. Once again, the Lapwing showed well as did a small group of Ruff. Unfortunately for David the Ruff were on my side of the car and he was unable to get any shots. Due to this I turned at the end and drove back hoping they would still be showing for him on what was now his side of the car. Unfortunately for David they had now moved on. However, David then hit lucky as a very showy Grey Partridge performed well for him on his side of the car. I tried to get a few hand held shots from the drivers seat, not easy with a very heavy lens, but a few shots were acceptable, just!!



The rarely seen Grey Partridge.

After leaving Elmley we headed for the famous 'Raptor Viewpoint' a few miles further on into Sheppey. Although we didn't have any close encounters of birds there we did see an amazing quantity of birds of prey. Just before we arrived we saw a Merlin hunting over the road. This was followed by a superb view of a ringtail Hen Harrier hunting the fields, a distant Barn Owl and an incredible amount of Marsh Harriers. All the time we were there the Marsh Harriers continued to arrive in this area where they roost. We must have seen between 30 and 40 individuals, a sight that just a few years ago would never have been believed. Of course, with less than 40 minutes of daylight left the clouds lifted and the sun came out. Much too late, but at least it meant there was a decent sunset!!

A very brief view of the Sun!!

Saturday 20 January 2018

Post Man Flu!!

Having felt like just sitting at home since Christmas due to the dreaded man flu, and with Pen then getting the female version, I haven't been anywhere of any significance, so with at last feeling human again I headed over to Dungeness with David, who had also been very much under the weather. The plan was to go around the reserve hoping for Bearded Tits, the Long-eared Owl and a Black-throated Diver, then to head to the sea for the confiding Caspian Gull and then head back to the ARC pit to pick up any other delights we could. Unfortunately, it was bit breezy for the Tits and the Owl was hiding too much so we had to settle for the Diver. Fortunately the Diver did show well with a bit of patience and this made up for the one that was in Ramsgate harbour that we had missed. We also had some nice distant views of a pair of Smew. These have been few and far between this winter so it was pleasing to see these. We then headed for the beach where the Gull had gone missing for the time we were there. I had managed a few shots a couple of years ago of one of these rare gulls and I am posting a shot of that one in a pose that the one yesterday would have had as it laughed at us as it hid from us!! It should be called a Laughing Gull!!
We then headed for the ARC where we had some fly past Great White Egrets and Marsh Harriers. As usual, not quite close enough. The hoped for Bittern didn't materialise but we did get to see a male Bearded Tit and a Cetti's Warbler. All in all we did have a good day despite missing some of the targets, it was however, really good to have a day back out in the field and apart from the larva shots from the previous post it was the first photos I've taken this year.

Black-throated Diver in winter plumage.

Caspian Gull from 2016.

Great White Egret fly past.

Marsh Harrier with brakes on.

Marsh Harrier.

Sunday 14 January 2018

Baby Wall.

As I had to stay local today I decided to do some scrub clearance on the patch. With so many small bushes trying to take over that will destroy breeding areas of many rare butterflies and moths I try to spend some time each year to keep it manageable. During a short break I went hunting for Wall Brown larva. I had found 2 on Friday, and one of those I located again as it was sitting on a grass blade.

A young Wall Brown larva. (Just over 1 cm long).

Wednesday 3 January 2018

A Little Tweak!!

With a nasty dose of 'Man Flu' at the moment I have had the rare opportunity of going over some of my older forgotten photos. When I do this I suddenly remember some great days spent in the field and also start to wonder why I didn't delete half of the images. Having said that, quite a few of the pictures that I wasn't particularly pleased with I have managed with a little tweaking to give them a new life. Most of this has just been a slight change of colour balance, or re-cropping. Some of the rescued images I thought I would share.

Female Chalkhill Blue.

Male Chalkhill Blue.


Male Keeled Skimmer.

Male Small Red-eyed Damselfly.

Male Chalkhill Blue.

Red-veined Darter.

Female Emerald Damselfly.

A newly emerged male Beautiful Demoiselle.

Monday 1 January 2018

White Admirals.

One of the reasons why I was so pleased to be able to show Nigel the Small Eggar larva, (see previous post) was that around the same time he had found some fully grown White Admiral larva in his own woodland that he was good enough to show to me. A few days later, he invited me back again as the larva had by now turned into pupa. I've only seen these strange larva when they have been much younger so it was a real treat to see them fully grown. Despite the tremendous camouflage that both stages have it seems that the local bird population still found them with all but one, of the 4 making it through to adult butterfly. I've also included a couple of images after the immature stages of  adult butterflies photographed sometime ago. The immature stages are all in heavy shaded areas and being higher off the ground than I am it was a case of standing, and trying to balance on an old log.

My thanks to Nigel for the invite to see these spectacular larva and pupa.

White Admiral larva. (Fully grown).

White Admiral pupa under a Honeysuckle leaf.

Adult White Admiral from 2011.

White Admiral underside from 2016.