Thursday 26 March 2020

Pupation Approaches?

With it getting more difficult to get out, even on the Downs without seeing lots of people, I am trying to find ways of getting to the areas where I am normally clear of others without hitting the commonly used footpaths. 

Yesterday I did manage to have a short time in a secluded area and in doing so I found just 2 of the Wall Brown larvae I've been monitoring. One was feeding out in the open and the other was one of the smaller specimens. Every year just before the end of March the larvae become much harder to find and this is possibly due to the larvae moving to a different area to pupate as well as them becoming more nocturnal in their habits.

Pictured below is the larva feeding in the open.

Wall Brown larva feeding.

I was also hoping to find the first of the scarcer micro moths that I find in the area and I was pleased when this tiny Ancylis comptana appeared. Most years I see my first one of these before the end of March.

Ancylis comptana.

Finally, I couldn't resist posting another image of the stunning male Sparrowhawk that I photographed a couple of weeks back when I was with Phil. 

Male Sparrowhawk.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

Spring Butterfly Bonanza.

What a difference a day makes, with the weather yesterday being really warm with light winds and full sunshine. 

It felt right for seeing a butterfly or two and that is how it turned out except it was more like twenty two!!

With around 8 Peacock seen and 12 Brimstone, 3 Comma and 1 Small White it was quite a day. One of the Comma was seen in the afternoon in the garden, but all the others were on a gentle stroll over the local Downs.

Despite this my favourite sighting of the walk was a Stoat that I thought was going to come within camera range as it ran up the path in front of me. Unfortunately it jumped into the undergrowth before it did get close enough.

Comma on the Downs.

Peacock basking on the path.

Comma in the garden.

As the sunny weather went into the late afternoon I decided to have another session with the Barn Owl. By the time I had made the decision it was a little bit too late so I took the lighter lens and binoculars, expecting to only have distant views at best.  However, the Owl did perform reasonably well, although not as close as a couple of weeks ago, and a few shots were actually worth keeping.

Barn Owl hunting.

Thursday 12 March 2020

Male Sparrowhawk.

There are few birds in the UK that are as impressive as a pristine male Sparrowhawk, and my good friend Phil has had one of these regularly visiting his hide for the past three years.

When it first appeared it was in its juvenile plumage, but over the past two years it has become a really stunning bird as the adult plumage gradually came through.

During my several visits to photograph birds with Phil I have always hoped it would appear, but alas that had never been the case.  All I could do was see the stunning photos that Phil got of the bird.  

All that changed last week though when the bird suddenly turned up and at last I was able to get several photos of him.  At first he kept looking around hoping to spot a small bird that could be his prey, and then after a couple of minutes, he shot off after one.  We couldn't tell if he had caught the target, although apparently if he had missed there was a good chance that he would have returned to his favoured perch.

As ever a special thanks to Phil for the opportunity of seeing and photographing this very special bird.

Male Sparrowhawk.

Prey Spotted.

Attack Imminent.

Monday 9 March 2020

Ooooh Norman, It's a Loon.

The famous line from 'On Golden Pond'.

Unfortunately, the scenery from the West Beach in Newhaven doesn't quite come up to the Canadian lakes and the Loon, or Diver as it's known over here, isn't in breeding plumage, but it is still good to see a Great Northern Diver locally.

The bird has been showing for several weeks and I really should have gone earlier, but as Pen and I were heading to Lewes a quick stop off en route allowed a few distant shots of the bird in the choppy waters.

Great Northern Diver.

A Surfing Diver.

Last week I met up with Nigel to search for Newts in Friston Forest.  During the search we spotted all 3 varieties of the UK Newts with the main prize of a Great-crested Newt seen just before we gave up.

A few days later I went to a local dew pond where I saw lots of Common Newt as well as some Toad spawn.  On the same walk I also spotted 11 Wall Brown larvae, my highest count so far during this Winter.

Common Newt coming up for air.

Wall Brown larva.

Wednesday 4 March 2020

Owl Fest.

For many years I have tried and failed to photograph hunting Owls, mainly Short-eared and Barn.  This has meant many hours spent in the freezing cold and coming home with at best, only reasonable images.  Eventually I knew that if I kept persevering the day would come when I managed to improve on those poor results from the past.

After failing again at a site I found just over a week ago, when I saw a hunting Barn Owl in perfect light, but as I was driving Pen back from the hospice I didn't have a camera with me.  The following day I went equipped but the Owl decided not to appear!!

Since then there has only been two days when the weather was good enough to try,  this time I relented and went back to a site that I have tried a couple of times this year as here there are both a Barn Owl and Short-eared Owls showing well.

Even arriving at 2pm I had been beaten by 3 others that had the same idea, although the others were not able to see the Barn Owl that was sitting on a post already as it was hidden from them by a bush.  The Owl soon flew and after a couple of circuits vanished for what turned out to be over 2 hours.

Meanwhile the 2 Short-eared Owls were also showing, with one on another post and one in the long grass.  The one on the post soon flew, with the grounded bird sitting tight for well over an hour.

Other photographers came and went as the action was virtually non-existent, but eventually the Barn Owl appeared again hunting over the meadow.  It wasn't long before the bird made its way towards where I was hidden and the camera at last saw some action.

There was still plenty of mixed success with the bird keeping out of range for much of the time, however, at one point it located a Vole quite close to me and it was seen hovering above the long grass for several seconds before it pounced on the Vole.  I then saw the bird transfer its capture from its talons to its bill where it swallowed the Vole at the 2nd attempt.

Just after it took off I was following it in the camera screen when I suddenly saw the shape of a Short-eared Owl move past the Barn Owl.  I just had time to move the camera and re-focus to get a few shots of the Shortie.

After several more views of the Owls I eventually decided the light was going so I decided it was time to leave.  I was quite surprised to find I was the only one still there.  It had certainly been a great afternoon with great views of all the Owls as well as a pair of Peregrines that had been displaying nearby too.

A further attempt a few days later resulted in just one view of a Short-eared Owl and a blank for the Barn Owl.

Barn Owl.

The Hunt Begins.

Vole Detected.

Final Adjustments.

Vole Caught.

Vole Swallowed!!

Short-eared Owl.

My Favourite Shot.