Wednesday 27 April 2022

Early Spiders

 Last week I had to go and sort out a small problem at Mum's in Lewes, so I decided to take advantage of the situation and divert on the way home to go and take a look at the local population of Early Spider Orchids.

I had done the same thing the week before, but on that occasion I was a little too early myself, but 10 days later and the Orchids were in full bloom. This year they seemed to be bigger and better than ever and in very good numbers too. 

So, that's one annual fix sorted!!

Early Spider Orchids.

Monday 25 April 2022

The Fox.

 It has been a couple of years since I have been able to get over to Phil's hide, always a great place to escape and see some wonderful wildlife.

The morning was spent with Phil, but later in the day he had to leave so there I was sitting and hoping for something coming in quite close for some photography.

During the morning a Fox had appeared but he seemed very wary and it wasn't long before he left without coming close enough. We also had several Buzzards calling above us and the hoped for visit from them never materialised. However, an hour or so after Phil had left the Fox came back and this time gave me a couple of small opportunities. Then 20 minutes or so later he came back for a 3rd time and this time he really did perform well. The only problem by now was the sun had moved round further and this caused a lot of shadow on him, but lifting some of this on the software improved things a lot and some pleasing results were had.

As ever a very memorable day was had and a big thanks to Phil for inviting me and giving me this opportunity of photographing a wild country Fox. A very special animal.


Tuesday 19 April 2022

The Long Weekend.

 It was an Easter weekend of contemplation, sorrow, reflection and fortunately lots of wonderful wildlife.

Good Friday marked the year since I lost Penny and was a day I was dreading to be honest, but with the sun shining and light winds I was able to get out on the South Downs and see some delights to take my mind off things.

Before I left home I had my first Holly Blue of the year in the garden, and near the beginning of my walk I also had my first Wall Brown and Grizzled Skipper. I wasn't too worried about taking photographs as it was just so good to be out of the house and seeing these brilliant butterflies. However, I have taken more photos as the weekend progressed. This included a near perfect male Wall Brown this morning that somehow forgot that his species just do not sit still for photography!!

Male Wall Brown.

One of the highlights of the walk was finding that one of my Small Eggar egg clusters had started to hatch and this enabled me to photograph something that has almost certainly not been photographed in Sussex before as the young larvae crawled over the hairy egg cluster. I also saw 2 Vapourer Moth egg clusters also hatch out and today I found a batch of Lackey larvae, so it certainly seems to be a baby boom going on.

Small Eggar newly hatched 15/4/2022.

Small Eggar larvae already growing. 18/4/2022.

Lackey larvae.

On the subject of larva I did come across a few Marbled White larvae over the past few days and this is one I managed to photograph on Monday.

Marbled White larva.

Other delights over the weekend was finding a much better condition Green Hairstreak. It didn't give me many opportunities but a couple of photos were reasonable.

Green Hairstreak.

There is an area of my patch that I felt could possibly hold the Nationally scarce Barred Tooth-striped moth. There are a few colonies in the area, and although I have searched for this moth a few times I have always been unsuccessful until yesterday when I found 4 of these moths. Yet another rarity now on my patch.

Barred Tooth-striped.

Today I saw my first Dingy Skipper of 2022 and this species takes me to 15 butterfly species for the year. So although it was a really sad long weekend nature came to the rescue yet again!!

Saturday 16 April 2022

Life and Death in the Garden.

 A couple of evenings ago I decided to have a quiet wine in the garden as it was such a stunning day. As I was sitting there I noticed a large Sparrowhawk circling in the sky, so as I didn't have the binoculars with me I quickly got them from the kitchen table and went back outside. Of course, there was now no sign of the bird!!

Relaxing again I suddenly had what appeared to be 2 fighting birds almost hit my head as they flew just over me. They just about made it to next doors fence and it appeared they landed on the decking. After a bit of 'Bloody Hell' or words to that effect, I rushed to the fence and peered over and there was a large Sparrowhawk holding down a Pigeon. The camera with the telephoto was of course upstairs, so I quickly ran up the stairs and collected the camera, taking the converter off. As I looked back over the fence the Pigeon was really struggling and the Sparrowhawk had to fly with its prize, but only a few feet, which was just as well as it would have been too close for the 300m lens. It was now just in front of the garden shed next door. I was able to poke the lens through a gap in the fence and shoot off quite a few photos.

An amazing experience seeing this powerful bird dispatch the Pigeon pretty quickly.

Sparrowhawk.  (What an eye)!!

Thursday 14 April 2022

Green Hairstreak.

 My site for Green Hairstreak is not known for early sightings of this fabulous Spring butterfly, so on a hopeful search yesterday for Grizzled Skipper and Wall Brown I wasn't really expecting the Green Hairstreak as no others have been reported in Sussex so far this year. This one doesn't even appear to be really fresh either so it has probably been on the wing for a couple of days unless it has been damaged emerging from its pupa? Whatever, it was as always wonderful to see this little jewel and hopefully there will be many more to come over the next few weeks.

Surely the Grizzled Skippers and Wall Brown will be with us any day now.

Green Hairstreak.

Another iconic insect seen on the walk was a stunning male Emperor Moth.

Male Emperor Moth.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my telephoto with me which was a shame as there was a beautiful female Ring Ouzel that posed well on the top of a Hawthorn bush. It wasn't close enough to get a really good shot anyway, and it was just lovely watching her, as it was last week when a couple of Stoats gave a brilliant display. Sometimes it's good to just watch these magical moments and forget the camera!!

Earlier in the moth trap a very poor number of moths were caught. I did photograph a fresh Brimstone Moth and Nut-tree Tussock. Unfortunately, nothing notable caught despite seeming to be ideal weather for trapping.

Brimstone Moth.

Nut-tree Tussock.

Tuesday 12 April 2022

Common Whitethroat.

 On the way to Lewes today to see my Mum I stopped briefly on the local Downland hoping for a possible early Skipper or Wall Brown. Unfortunately, these did not materialise, although it must be very soon now for all of them, but I suddenly had a Warbler calling nearby and as I lifted the binoculars I realised it was a Common Whitethroat. Shortly after I saw and heard a few more, so as Matt was at home I got a message to him and he managed to get up there to see his first of these of the year. 

If nothing else it gives me the excuse to post one of my favourite bird photos of one I photographed in 2020 in the same area!!

Common Whitethroat from 2020.

Nearby several Speckled Wood were showing well. I generally only try photographing this species at the start of their season as they mark up very quickly, and once the season really gets going too many other things are the focus!!

Speckled Wood.

I also saw a Pyrausta ostrinalis nectaring.

All in all quite an interesting little day.

Wednesday 6 April 2022


 Many years ago I was born in Lewes where I lived for the first 22 years of my life in a house that was opposite a well known Rookery. In fact the Lewes Football Club are nicknamed The Rooks after the Lewes Rooks.

I guess that living around the birds all that time has made me slightly oblivious to them and I don't really take much notice of them even now. However, a couple of weeks ago when I was trying to photograph the Kestrel I noticed that there was a Rookery close to where I now live which was possible to photograph from the height of the tree-tops which could give an interesting perspective.

A couple of times I walked nearby to see what reaction I would get, and although the birds moved away briefly they did soon return if I stood still, so the next time I went for a walk in that direction with the telephoto lens I gave it a go. One bird in particular wasn't too concerned with me being there and I got a few shots of him by the nest. It was clear he had a full crop and when his partner turned up on the nest a bit of bonding went on with the male passing the food in his crop to her. As I was conscious that some of the birds were still keeping the far side of the trees I then left them to it. A very quick 5 minute session at most to minimise any disturbance, but a very interesting one.

Male Rook waiting for his partner.

Male sharing his crop.

Female Rook telling him how horrible it tasted!!

Monday 4 April 2022


 Each Spring woodland rides and edges of scrub come alive with the wonderful Bee-flies. We have two species locally, the Dark-edged Bee-fly and the less common Dotted Bee-fly. 

The Dark-edged Bee-fly has the Latin name Bombylius major. It would sound so much better if the names were the other way around so it was Major bombylius!! 

The Dotted Bee-fly has the Latin name Bombylius discolor and looking at these close up shots I wonder if this name has anything to do with the flashes of colour on its back?

The Dotted Bee-fly photos were taken on Thursday last week when I found the poor insect stranded on a very exposed hillside in a strong freezing wind. It was so cold it couldn't escape the cold, so I carried it to a much more sheltered area where it could warm up in the sunshine that was filtering through. Just as well as within another 30 minutes of leaving it we had a blizzard!! Anyway, before leaving it the insect posed very well for me, and so it should as it would have perished if I hadn't spotted it.

Dotted Bee-fly (Bombylius discolor).

Yesterday I had another experience with the other species the Dark-edged Bee-fly. I had seen several during the walk in any sunny sheltered spot and as it was as I was walking along the track I spotted a much larger insect flying. It suddenly dawned on me that it was a mating pair of Bee-flies. I can't remember seeing this before, although I probably have in the dim and distant past. 

It certainly was interesting watching them when they were in flight as they both wanted to go in totally different directions!! Anyway, they did settle a couple of times and I got a few photos before they split up.

Mating Dark-edged Bee-flies.

About an hour later I had started the long trek back home when I spotted another Dark-edged Bee-fly that had stopped flying due to the weather cooling down as the clouds had built up. I then had the unusual experience of being able to photograph at close quarters the other species from Thursday.

Bombylius major.

Dark-edged Bee-fly with a background of Gorse.