Saturday 31 August 2013


I seem to be chasing birds at the moment, following a disastrous day in East Sussex  I took an early morning trip to the dip in the Monarch's Way, just north of Cissbury Ring. On SOS there had been reports of double figures of Whinchats present. I have seen Whinchats here before but due to the poor results of the previous two days my expectations were low. Anyway, as I ambled down towards the dip I was delighted to find the birds as reported. Overnight a stiff northerly breeze had developed and I think this was making the birds flighty. I tried stalking them and sitting in ambush, neither method worked, oddly enough the usually obliging Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails were behaving in a similar manner. In the end all I could manage were shots from distance.

The ubiquitous post sitting Wheatear
A quick reconnoitre of the eastern side of Cissbury revealed similar conditions, apart from a large flock of Wilchiffs and a few well spread Redstarts and Whitethroats there was nothing moving. With the wind moving round to the east I expected the sheltered Rifle Butts to deliver, yet again very little to be seen.

The previous day Martin and I had visited Seaford Head, Shooter's Bottom and Belle Tout and they were virtually devoid of birds. Reports on SOS suggested that large numbers of birds were present. Yes, you have guessed it, "should have been here yesterday", no doubt large numbers of migrants decamped across the Channel overnight leaving just a few tardy Whitethroats and Redstarts. Nice to meet David Buckingham, always good to put a face to a name, David regularly posts about Beeding Brooks on SOS. Looking forward to seeing his future photographs.

Thursday 29 August 2013


What was meant to be a quick trip along the Monarch's Way in search of Whinchats or a possible Wryneck became a marathon hike around Steyning Rifle Range. The upshot of several hours walking on the downs was that I dipped on any Whinchats and never saw hide nor hair of a Brown Hairstreak. However I did manage to snap an obliging Migrant Hawker, Aeshna mixta.

I had a leisurely lunch at Whiteways, next to Houghton Forest and then took a small walk to see if there was any birdlife. Surprisingly there were plenty of Common Redstarts but unfortunately I couldn't locate a Flycatcher of either variety. I waited for a skulking Lesser Whitethroat to pose, in the end it was a standoff, as we watched each other through leafy branches.

I was using a new combination of the Canon 300mm F4 with the 1.4 extender on the Canon 7D which gives a fairly reasonable focal length with the added Image Stabilisation that is not on the 400mm F5.6. The big advantage is that it is much lighter, the downside is that the AF is a tad slower, but a great rig for dragonflies as the minimum focus distance is less than 6ft.


Wednesday 28 August 2013

Back to Birding

At long last a day out birding. Martin picked me up at 0900 and we set off for the North Wall at Pagham, half way there we realised that we intended to start at Church Norton. A quick diversion via Ford put us back on track. Following all the excellent reports of migrants on the SOS website the visit to Church Norton was a bit of an anti climax. Just one elusive Common Redstart in the churchyard and virtually nothing else. Just before we left we met Dorian and Dave who reported similar results. Finally a Spotted Flycatcher perched on one of the dead trees as we got into the car.

Next up was the west side by Long Pool, Dave had seen Whinchats here so we decided to stop for a look. Same old story - nothing to be found. Though in the creek Martin identified Greenshank and Spotted Redshank, albeit at some distance.

On round to the North Wall and as we parked in the lane the place was buzzing with hirundines. On the wires were Swallows, House Martins and a large number of Sand Martins.


"Let me get it straight - we are flying south 6000 miles to a place you don't know?"


Flight preparation - just about every bird on the wires was preening

As we made our way towards the sluice we recognised the familiar figure of Dave Shepherd, so not only was I reacquainting myself with birds but birders too. Several hours on the bank watching Breech Pool produced nothing out of the ordinary. On the pool were Black-tailed Godwits and Lapwings, an occasional Snipe and several Dunlin. A canary Yellow Wagtail on the mud on the far side and for just an instant we were thrown by the arrival of three Pintails in eclipse plumage.  Finally, on the way back to the sluice we were treated to good views of a Whinchat.

It is good to be back birding and Pagham is always a pleasure, 50 species in the day was a good reward. However, I did note that there was a loud exclamation of "Clouded Yellow" each time we were treated to a flyby.

Monday 26 August 2013

Last of the Butterflies.

I made what will probably be my last butterfly outing of the season early this morning. I gave Mill Hill and Anchor Bottom one last look. Whilst I didn't find any new species it was still satisfying that I managed a few improved photographs. Most of my captures are what I call diary or record shots made whilst out on a walk, today I took some extra care. Initially butterflies were a fill in, something to be captured instead of birds which of course throughout July and August have been well hidden. However, I am now a convert to butterflies and I am already planning trips for next year, some further afield than Sussex. Also, I have joined Butterfly Conservation. Well if you are a beginner you need all the help you can get!! Which brings me to thank those people who have provided IDs where I have been guessing - perhaps I really will get to see a Chequered Skipper next year.



This Wall had established "territorial rights" to a nice sun-baked cowpat and in defending its ground to all and sundry, became rather predictable and therefore easy to photograph.

And another one....

And ...... as always..... something different. This time Deadly Nightshade, Atropa belladonna, growing well on the chalky slopes of Mill Hill.

Bittersweet, Solanum dulcamara, often miscalled Deadly Nightshade but still very poisonous.

Viper's Bugloss, Echium vulgare - rather dwarf - not like the forests of Dungeness

Thursday 22 August 2013

Two Hawks

Having topped up the feeders earlier in the morning I was surprised how quiet the garden had become, apart from some chatter from the old flowering cherry the garden was deserted. Closer inspection of a "pigeon" perched up in the branches gave the reason - a Sparrowhawk obviously looking for a mid-morning snack.

Later in the day, a hawk of a different kind, a Hummingbird Hawk-moth, Macroglossum stellatarum, rapidly flitting from flower to flower and not really coming close.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Clouded Yellows - Ferring Rife

This time you get what it says on the label. Following a posting on SOS by John Dixon that he had seen three Clouded Yellows on the rife I took a quick look. Mid-morning there were at least 20 Clouded Yellows shared between the lagoons. A more realistic total would be 30, some of which were most obliging and posed for the camera.

Many thanks for the tip John.

Plenty of Common Blues showing, particularly in the southern lagoon, why I am not sure. There doesn't seem to be a noticeable difference in food plant quantity between north and south. On the footpath the ever present Speckled Woods.

Even a late Skipper!!

Thursday 8 August 2013

Clouded Yellow

Now the title has grabbed your attention, here is the reality. On what was a beautiful warm day - thankfully not too hot, I visited  Anchor Bottom in search of a Clouded Yellow. Parking at the Beeding Hill car park I wandered down the fence line past the rabbit warren. Of course I located my first specimen just behind Dacre Gardens, should have used the lower car park!  A second specimen showed soon after and try as I might I couldn't get close, finally one settled about 15ft away and I managed a record shot.


Apart from the usual Common Blues and Meadow Browns there was little else moving, the occasional Marbled White flew past. Near the rabbit warren I stumbled upon this Wall basking in the sunshine.



Also it was nice to see some of the flowers, especially the thistles, in bloom.


Common Centaury, Centaurium erythraea

Carline Thistle, Carlina vulgaris

Unfortunately all the Ragweed and thistles that were so abundant next to the lower entrance have been cut down.

I also noted the vast number of Grasshoppers present, they seem to have a peaceful time of it with no predators about.

Field Grasshopper, Chorthippus brunneus


So, eventually recuperating after the long uphill walk back to the car, I visited Mill Hill, parking in the car park next to the A27 bridge, and walking down the path to the lower slopes. The place was alive with butterflies, mainly Meadow Browns but also a large number of Chalkhill Blues. What I believe to be a "blue" female Common Blue caught my eye. also the Small Heaths were posing well.
A "blue" female Common Blue - many thanks to Colin Knight for the ID

The final list was:

Red Admiral
Clouded Yellow
Large White
Small White
Common Blue
Chalkhill Blue
Marbled White
Small Heath
Speckled Wood
Meadow Brown

Dark Green Fritillary
Painted Lady