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Monday, 21 January 2019

Snow Bunting

Nice to have a good looking bird on the patch, well actually it happens most years when a Snow Bunting turns up at Goring Gap. Lots of reports in the twittersphere convinced me to give it a couple of coats of looking at. I parked up in the likely area around 0800, people had obviously left feed for the bird as the Crows were having a field day. No sign until a lady returning from a walk along the beach said that she had found it and showed me a cracking photo - I thanked her from a distance as I was already on  my way. I searched in the described areas but couldn't find it until another birder almost stepped on it. Like most Snow Buntings it was extremely confiding - happy to pose in exchange for some seed or meal worms, surprisingly,  most of the dog walkers, joggers  and even the ladies keep fit group were happy to change direction on seeing a load of photographers lying on the shingle.  To them a hearty thank you, to the woman who refused and walked straight through spooking the bird - well my words are unprintable. Why are some dog walkers so arrogant that they think the environment is for their sole use - rant over.











Four record shots of the male Black Redstart at Shoreham Fort......









....and three from last year, the Great Grey Shrike and Crossbill at Wren's Warren in the Ashdown Forest.






Thursday, 17 January 2019

Water Rail

Photographs have been hard to come by of late, lots of trips out for no reward. It isn't that we haven't seen good birds, Black Redstart, Short-eared Owl, Hume's Warbler and a Ringtail Hen Harrier have been the highlights, but unfortunately no success in the photographic department. We set out today to do the rounds of our usual haunts, plenty of birds on the North Wall at Pagham but nothing new or exciting. Similarly Church Norton was populated with all the regulars but we didn't find the ever present Whimbrel.

Finally I suggested that we should get out of the biting cold northerly wind and  have a cup of tea at the the Wildfowl and Wetland Centre at Arundel. It's always good for a photograph or two and I jokingly predicted Water Rail, Bullfinch, Snipe and Kingfisher - blow me down we got all four. However, we never got round to having a pot of tea.

When we arrived we took a leisurely stroll round the reedbed boardwalk hoping for a skulking Water Rail, not a bird to be seen, we didn't disturb even a Mallard.  It wasn't looking too good. However when we approached one of the hides there was a small congregation of photographers with lenses pointing at a small brown object just over the fence.  We joined them and filled our boots as they say. In fact most of those who were there went off to photograph a Chiffchaff and we had the bird to ourselves. A Chiffchaff!! that's a garden tick - no contest against a very obliging Water Rail.

















The bird alternated between the deep shade and bright sunlight and compensating for that was hard work but I also learned the obvious, that during feeding its head and bill were in constant motion and that shutter speed was critical.

Having expended gigapixels on such a fine subject we continued our meandering, a Kingfisher perched but was obscured by willow branches and was a tad too distant for a decent shot. Plenty of Snipe were about and one posed well for us.




Plenty of Snipe on the reserve.





Finally on the way back to the VC we spotted a female Bullfinch, just a bit too far away for a good shot, we waited patiently, in the hope that she might relocate or be joined by a bright red male - no such luck. Just good to be out with some birds and sunshine which afforded me sufficient material for my first blog of 2019, long may it continue.




Saturday, 6 October 2018

Panama's Butterflies - Las Minas and Canopy Lodge

Some years ago, when I had just competed the UK list of butterflies, I pondered "What next?" Well several forays into Europe extended my list and I mused about going further afield. On Friday the 5th of October I boarded a long and bum-numbing flight to Panama City, having signed up for Naturetrek's "Panama's Brilliant Butterflies".  After an uneventful flight the sheer relief at being able to walk about was heavenly but it was soon curtailed by another three hours in  a minibus. Finally we arrived to a very warm welcome at Canopy Lodge, meeting Linda, Jerry and Tino our guides for the forthcoming week.  A hasty meal and I retired immediately  - early evening in Panama - early morning in UK.


As I now sit and try to compose my diary and photographic record I realise the imposition of the travel was minor, compared with the huge rewards of seeing the immense bio diversity of the rain forest. Six days where just about everything was new, every minute filled with something to see and record - well that's when it wasn't raining - we were in the rainy season so what do you expect. Of course how could it be the rain forest without the odd downpour or two. That said, our first three days were dry and hot, perfect for seeing butterflies.

I start with an apology, some of these blogs are overly large but it is my diary and context is everything. Today we logged 122 Butterfly species, most of them new to me and I attempted to photograph as many as I could which means they are of mixed quality.  I photographed the subjects as they came, no time to be picky and I am amazed by how much damage some of these butterflies have suffered. However,  by the end of the week I must have seen countless flycatchers and one stole a butterfly from under my nose.


So, as day one dawned and with my body clock somewhere in front of me, I made my way to the  lodge, primarily for a much needed coffee, but really to watch the dawn come up. Slowly the insect cacophony diminished and both butterflies and birds took to the wing. My first encounter in the dim light was probably a Pale Owl-Butterfly, Caligo telamonius menus,  too dark for a positive ID but subsequent sightings were recorded in the same place. 

In front of the lodge a Zygia tree was in full bloom, the overpowering scent so strong that it seemed to be flavouring my early morning brew. Naturally the butterflies were interested and they were searching out nectar in the twilight.


Butterflies nectaring before sun up - How odd!!


The morning continued in the same vein, everything new and coming fast, until a timely stop for breakfast. I swear that through breakfast most people had one eye on the garden, ready to grab the camera and capture another specimen. Post breakfast we had more time around the lodge until setting off for our first location - Las Minas.




Alana White-Skipper, Heliopetes alana


Banded Peacock, Anartia fatima


Bright Brangas,  Brangas getus


Clio Crescent, Eresia clio


Common Blue-Skipper, Quadrus cerialis


Crimson-patch Checkerspot, Chlosyne janais


Crimson-patch Checkerspot, Chlosyne janais 




Cydno Longwing, Heliconius cydno chioneus


Cydno Longwing, Heliconius cydno chioneus


Deep-green Hairstreak, Theritas mavors


Diasia Clearwing, Ithomia diasia hippocrenis 


Diasia Clearwing, Ithomia diasia hippocrenis


Dinora Metalmark, Brachyglenis dinora


Dot-collared Firetip, Jemadia pseudognetus


Esmeralda Longtail, Urbanus esmeraldus


Godman's Sarota, Sarota myrtea


Godman's Sarota, Sarota myrtea


Great Southern White, Ascia monuste



Iphinassa Clearwing, Ithomia iphianassa


King's Leafwing, Memphis kingi


King's Leafwing, Memphis kingi 




Lagora Metalmark, Leucochimona lagora


Lampeto Metalmark, Caria mantinea lampeto

Malachite, Siproeta stelenes


Many-banded Daggerwing, Marpesia chiron 


Mimic Crescent, Castilia eranites




Mimic Crescent, Castilia eranites


Narva Checkerspot,  Chlosyne narva


Narva Checkerspot,  Chlosyne narva


Orange Mapwing, Hypanartia lethe


Orange Patch Crescent, Anthanassa d. drusilla


Orange Patch Crescent, Anthanassa d. drusilla


Orange Patch Crescent, Anthanassa d. drusilla


Orange Striped Emesis, Emesis cypria



Pale Sicklewing, Achlyodes pallida



Banded Peacock, Anartia fatima


Simple Sarota, Sarota acantus



Six-spotted Eighty-eight. Callicore lyca



Six-spotted Eighty-eight. Callicore lyca





Seven lifers in one shot.



Teleus Longtail, Urbanus teleus



Teleus Longtail, Urbanus teleus



Togarna Hairstreal, Arawacus togarna



Two-barred Flasher, Astraptes fulgerator



Variable Crescent, Eresia ithomioides alsina


Violet tipped Saliana, Saliana saladin??


White dotted Crescent, Castilia ofella


The fruit on the bird tables proved just as popular with the butterflies.


Cytheria Sister, Adelpha cytherea


Common Morpho, Morpho helenor peleides

Work in progress - how come they look so different when you get home. Unlike Europe, there is no concise "Collins Guide to Panama's Butterflies". Careful sifting through Jeffery Glassbergs Butterflies of Mexico and Central America helps, as does the Butterflies of America website. Previous reports and the Canopy website are other sources of information. Not easy as the checklist for the Canopy Lodge and Tower comprises some 970 species.















And now a few birds that managed to distract me during the day. I was particularly pleased to catch up with the Rufous Motmot.


Blue-grey Tanager, Thraupis episcopus


Crimson-backed Tanager, Ramphocelus dimidiatus


Crimson-backed Tanager, Ramphocelus dimidiatus


Crimson-backed Tanager, Ramphocelus dimidiatus


Clay-coloured Thrush,  Turdus grayi


Rufous Motmot, Baryphthengus martii


Rufous Motmot, Baryphthengus martii


Rufous Motmot, Baryphthengus martii


Thick billed Euphonia, Euphonia laniirostris


Thick billed Euphonia, Euphonia laniirostris




Of course bugs are everywhere - they grow big here....








....colourful too.....




......even the flies....




.... and unidentifiable to mere mortals.




Friendly Stick Insects







The only mammal of the day - a Red-tailed Squirrel   raiding the bananas from the bird tables.