Tuesday 22 January 2019

Snow Bunting On The Beach.

Although I have seen quite a few Snow Bunting over the years, it is one of those birds that I have struggled to get shots that I'm really pleased with.

With one of these delightful birds currently spending the Winter on the beach in West Sussex, and a sunny day it was thought a trip in that direction was worth doing.

Following a very clear night I was convinced we would arrive and find the bird had moved on, but as we were walking along the beach one of the many dog walkers told us that the bird had been seen some time earlier. A little further on, and after seeing a couple of other birders that were also looking and failing, I spotted a small bird fly away from a dog a couple of hundred metres further on. Binoculars confirmed the bird had been found. We then had a very enjoyable couple of hours watching and photographing this very confiding bird. It was amazing how many people out for a stroll didn't see the bird even though they were almost treading on it as they walked past. It was mainly dogs that the bird would fly up from as it fed on the main footpath.

Snow Bunting posing well.

A little preen.

It was certainly a messy eater.

Still messy on the beach.

Shortly before we left the bird had disappeared, but I then spotted it sitting on one of the groynes where I assume it was busy digesting its food.
Thinking I may be able to get a shot or two a little different from most of the others I slowly moved into position. With such a confiding bird she allowed me to get several shots as she preened some more before the perfect pose.

Having a preen on the groyne.

And a good stretch. (Hope it doesn't get a groyne strain)!!!!

Snow Bunting looking very pretty.

We then headed for a session with the Short-eared Owls. Once again we failed with the photography, but we did get some good views of several Shorties as well as the Barn Owl.

Short-eared Owl just after the light had gone.

Thursday 10 January 2019

Black Redstart take 2. If at first _ _ _ _

A repeat of last Thursday, with even the weather forecast being the same. However, this week the forecast was pretty much right with sunshine most of the time.

The Black Redstart was nowhere to be seen when we first arrived, although thankfully after a few minutes it was showing well, and with a patient wait it was soon performing very well for us on and off. We even had it in sunshine and a few minutes later in softer lighting as the sun went behind clouds. The cloudier pictures were much easier to get the colour balance right in processing. A fabulous morning followed by another trip to the Short-eared Owls. These unfortunately did not perform at all well with only 2 distant birds seen. Even the large flocks of Yellowhammer had all but gone.

Male Black Redstart.

Meadow Pipit.

Friday 4 January 2019

Black Redstart and Blast from the past.

With a sunny day forecast yesterday David and I decided to head for Shoreham where a very smart male Black Redstart had decided to take up residence for the time being. When David arrived at my place the cloud cover was looking a bit heavy, but as that had happened a few times recently we assumed it would clear soon. However, when we arrived on site the clouds were just as bad and it looked as though we were not going to get lucky.
The good news was that the bird was at least showing, although it was quite flighty. Eventually a patient wait brought it within range and a few shots were taken, albeit not as good as we were hoping with the very dull conditions.

Male Black Redstart.

When it became clear that the weather was not going to improve we headed for a nearby site that can be very good for Short-eared Owls. This is one of my favourite Winter sightings and I'm pretty sure I didn't see any of these Owls last year so I was hoping to at least see some. We didn't have to wait long either as one was flying on arrival. A little later we saw at least 3 of them, although the camera stayed quiet. On leaving a lovely Barn Owl was hunting over the meadows but by then the light had really started to go. What was particularly impressive was the high numbers of Yellowhammers. Each field seemed to have large numbers and we may well have seen around 100 of these Buntings during the time we were there. I did take one photo of a flock in a bush, although this is only a small flock compared with some of the others. Several Reed Bunting were also mixed in with the Yellowhammers.

Yellowhammers in a bush.

This morning I had an e mail from Pete saying he had found an old picture of me and my good friend Larry Crowhurst taken many years ago. I would guess that the picture was taken around 1979 or 1980 and was probably in the Chiddingfold Forest where we regularly used to go butterfly hunting in those days. Larry and I used to have some great sessions in those days photographing Pearl-bordered Fritillaries and Wood White. Both common species in that area in those heady days. Unfortunately Larry passed away in October 2002 and is still missed by his many friends. My thanks to Pete for e mailing the picture over.

Larry Crowhurst and myself. I am the handsome bloke on the right, Larry is the intelligent one on the left!!

Tuesday 1 January 2019

2019 Kicks Off in Style.

Happy New Year everyone.

Having seeing my last butterfly at the end of November it was a pleasant and pleasing start to 2019 seeing a Peacock at the first opportunity. I was sitting at home working through some photos when I noticed that the sun had come out. I quickly got a bit of gear together and headed up to High and Over to have a quick look for Wall Brown larva. Before I had a chance though to look for larva a worn Peacock was suddenly flying around me. I managed a shot of it before it flew away, although not far, as it was still flying when I left the site an hour later.
There was also a Bumble Bee flying around.

Peacock on 1st January.

It was then onto the larva hunt. One I found quickly, but I then struggled to find any more until I tried a different area. Here 4 were found including one that looked as though it was either approaching a moult, or had just moulted. This one was both marked slightly differently, but also had an over-sized head. All the larva were busy feeding in the mild conditions, it was also good to photograph a couple of them showing their feeding pattern on the grass.

The first Wall Brown larva of 2019.

Wall Brown larva probably approaching a moult. Feeding signs above and below the larva.