Tuesday 31 July 2018

Chalk-hill Blue Meets Lucy Linnet.

Not long after returning from Bulgaria I went in search on the local patch to see how numbers of Chalk-hill Blues were doing. Having photographed many open winged males over the year I was quite keen to get some pictures of females. The problem with all this hot weather though, is that very few butterflies pose well in the heat, and even early mornings can be unproductive as the butterflies are already warm before the sun hits them, so instead of opening their wings wide, it is just a quick flash before taking to the wing.
On one late afternoon I thought I would try to find a female going to roost with the plan of seeing if I could get her the following morning. I had just spotted a fresh female and was following it in flight when I suddenly had a female Linnet flying around my head. Assuming it had been flying up the hill and it hadn't seen me as I was crouched down by the butterfly I was a little surprised but assumed it would see me and fly off. However, things started to get very bizarre as the bird tried to land on my camera and then my hand. Me being me, I put out my hand and it promptly flew on it and started pecking my palm gently. I then got it hop onto a bush that was nearby and managed a few photos, but it was very persistent at trying to get back on the hand. This went on for around 20 minutes!!

Female Linnet.

Following this bit of fun I went back to looking for roosting female Chalk-hill Blues. Once again I was distracted, this time by an aberrant form of a male Chalk-hill Blue. It was a very difficult butterfly to photograph, despite it being at roost, as there was a strong breeze blowing. However, eventually a couple of decent shots were managed.

Aberrant male Chalk-hill Blue. (missing many of the under-wing spots).

Several days later I decided to try an early morning session, once again the female Chalk-hill Blues were the target. I found an area where several Chalk-hill Blues were roosting including a couple of females. However, all of a sudden I had a bird flying around my head. It even woke one of the male Chalk-hill Blues up which flew off in a panic. Yes, despite it being only just getting light I had been found again by the female Linnet. There then followed a totally crazy couple of hours when I was trying to photograph the butterflies and at the same time having a Linnet trying to land on me. I have never had such a ridiculous session before!!
Almost as strange was a male Linnet that appeared to be her mate that was watching from around 20 feet away most of the time. She did fly off with this male a few times, but after a few minutes she would return, land at the top of a bush, call a couple of times and then fly towards me to land on my hand. I'm not quite sure how I managed to photograph the butterflies, but a few shots were managed.

Female Chalk-hill Blue

Female Chalk-hill Blue under-side.

Male Chalk-hill Blue.

Male Common Blue.

Of course though, this session will always be remembered by the encounter with the female Linnet. Eventually when I decided it was time to go home I had to walk up a very steep hill before going through a track back to the car park. Halfway up the hill I stopped to admire the view and the Linnet landed in the bush next to me and chirped at me before landing on my hand. Then again at the top she once again landed on me before flying away to another higher bush where she watched me go.

Whether she had been hand reared as a youngster I can't be sure. I never thought I would be photographing a wild Linnet though with just my macro lens.

Lucy Linnet!!

Sunday 29 July 2018

The Stilt Family.

Several years ago I worked for a company based in North Norfolk. Most months I would have to go up there for sales meetings, and occasionally I would have time to call in at Titchwell for a little bird watching. In those days Titchwell had the only UK resident Black-winged Stilt. It was always a delight to see this beautiful wader, knowing it was an extremely rare bird in the UK. Since then I have only seen another 2 or 3 in the UK.

In recent years more of these birds have appeared for short periods in the UK and for the past 5 years there has been the odd pair breeding as well. 

With a pair of these birds, that probably had bred nearby, as they also had 2 youngsters in tow, appearing at Oare Marshes in Kent, David and I made a very late decision to head over that way and see if we could get a few photos of them. Calling into a couple of other spots on the way with mixed results, a Pectoral Sandpiper showing distantly at Pegwell Bay was the best, we rolled up at Oare early afternoon to be told that one of the Stilts had just walked along the shallows nearby and we should have been there 10 minutes earlier!!

From a distance we could see one of the adults and a youngster over the other side of the large expanse of water and we hoped that they would eventually come close again. While we were waiting we had good views of moulting Ruff and Avocet as well as large numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, as well as a small flock of Whimbrel flying over.

Eventually one of the youngsters flew in shortly followed by the female. With more waiting they did get reasonably close to us.

Female Black-winged Stilt.

Young Black-winged Stilt.

Muddy Waters!!

In the distance we could still see another adult, this one being the well marked male. This is the one we really wanted to come close. After another wait the 2nd chick appeared shortly followed by the male. Unfortunately the male still kept a little too distant, but with the wind easing off we both managed to get a few pleasing shots with some nice reflections.

Female Black-winged Stilt.

Male Black-winged Stilt.



Tuesday 24 July 2018

Bulgaria Finale.

My final post starts off again on that same rutted woodland track. We had seen so many species here the day before that a 2nd visit was a must. 

In an area where we could pull into the side of the track easily, we could see some thistles well in flower and a large Fritillary on them. Straight away we could see it was a Cardinal, the largest European Fritillary. This was the only one of these we saw on the trip, but it was a fine specimen and it remained faithful to these thistles for some time.

Cardinal on Thistles.

It was whilst I was photographing this beauty that we suddenly had a very large, dark butterfly flapping around us. I immediately thought we had an aberrant Purple Emperor as it was behaving in a very similar fashion. It even landed on the car, and then went into the car where it briefly sat on the back seat next to the Butterfly Book!!
After it had eventually landed on the track we could see it wasn't a Purple Emperor, but a wonderful Poplar Admiral. There is no doubt that this would have been our favourite butterfly if only it had hung around and let us get some photos of it. As it was I managed to get a grab shot of it as it sat on a fallen small branch. However, it was soon very quickly back in the canopy where we lost it.

Poplar Admiral.

On another roadside verge we found many more flowering thistles that had several High Brown Fritillaries on them. This was the most common of the larger Fritillaries. Some of these were also in very good condition. At least 4 High Brown Fritillaries were of the form cleodoxa which have very few markings on the under hind-wing. The first of these I saw I was convinced I had found a different species.

High Brown Fritillary.

Queen of Spain Fritillaries were also seen in most areas throughout the week and varied from very tatty specimens to very fresh, showing that they have an almost continuous flight season.

Queen of Spain Fritillary.

On our final day we headed away from the area and ended up doing more birding. In the area where the Golden Orioles were prolific I managed to photograph our 2nd Scarce Swallowtail of the trip while Matt was trying to nail the id on the Syrian Woodpecker.

Scarce Swallowtail.

Eventually we left this meadow and drove further up the hillside where we spotted a farm track that looked worthy of checking out. It was here we saw Great Banded Grayling and as the light started to drop, our only Lattice Brown. The Brown landed on a tree branch quite high up and the only way we could get decent shots was with a small fill in flash and Matt pulling the branch down to my level, and for those that know me, that is quite a long way down!!

Great Banded Grayling.

Lattice Brown.

On the trip we also saw a few stunning moths of which my favourite by far was the beautiful Purple-barred Yellow. This species we saw several times including once at very high altitude.

Purple-barred Yellow.

A Hummingbird Hawk-moth was seen nectaring alongside the High Brown Fritillaries.

Hummingbird Hawk-moth.

The following moth I was having trouble working out what it is. David Gardiner spotted the similar fore-wing wing pattern to the Purple-barred Yellow above. It looks as though it is either the same species, with an abnormal colouration, or a very closely related species.

Unknown moth in the Lythia family.

It was certainly a week to remember and has given me the taste for more foreign butterfly trips, this being only the 2nd one I have done. Thanks to Matt for doing all the driving as well as spending time trying to id the species. Also for showing me many new bird species to me. Thanks also to Steve and Julie for the use of their apartment, as well as Jean, Chris and several of Pen's friends for helping out back in England while I was away, as I couldn't have gone without that help.

Sunday 22 July 2018

Spot The Friillary.

Part 3 of our Bulgarian Butterfly hunt starts with a road that Matt spotted on the map on his phone, this was just past our favoured meadows. He could see that there were several more meadows in among the wooded areas that this road would go down.

As he turned off the road that we knew onto this woodland road it was apparent straight away that it was not a made up road and all the way along it there were enormous pot holes that the timber lorries had made. With Matt being Matt though that was not going to stop us and the little Cleo somehow made it down this horrendous road twice, as we went again the following day too!! We actually only heard the bottom of the car hit the track a couple of times, although in the very worst bits I did get out to lighten the car.

On the way down the track there were many places to stop and explore and many species were seen ranging as ever from Coppers to Fritillaries and different Browns. A small selection of shots follow. This includes the Spotted Fritillary, we did encounter this species several times throughout the week and it was probably our favourite species of the trip, absolutely beautiful species.

Pearly Heath.

Spotted Fritillary. This one went to roost for a while during some rain.

In the next meadow a differently marked Spotted Fritillary.

Spotted Fritillary.

Large Blue.

Purple-shot Copper.

Purple-shot Copper.

Arran Brown.

Arran Brown.

Scarce Copper.

Possibly a False Eros Blue. The wide black margin and iridescent blue would lead to this id.

Female Silver-studded Blue.

Nickerl's Fritillary.

Heath Fritillary.

I hope the id's are correct. With only being used to 59 species of butterflies in the UK it is a struggle when being confronted by so many all of a sudden. Especially difficult in the case of Blues and Fritillaries. Matt spent some time each evening going through them all and trying to nail the id.

The final part of the butterflies to come..