Sunday 27 April 2014

Black-winged Stilts

On Saturday evening I received an e-mail from Martin asking if I wanted to join him on a birding trip, Sundays are not normally one of my birding days; too many people. However, his proposed list looked ambitious but credible. It included - Kentish Plover at Rye, Black-winged Stilt and Black Tern at Dungeness and if possible the Blue-winged Teal at Sandwich. So bright and early at 0700 we set off east for a long day's birding. On the way we weighed up our expectations 2 ticks - satisfactory, 3 ticks - good and 4 ticks - excellent. The weather wasn't that good and we knew it was a definite birding day and that photographs would be hard to come by.

We arrived at Rye expecting to find the place crawling with birders, in fact we were in the John Gooders hide on our own for some time before we saw another birder. With a brisk wind blowing through the hide windows I diligently searched the flat beach for either a Kentish Plover, Little Stint or Curlew Sandpiper, none of which I could find. However, I did come up with Common and Little Terns and Martin found a nice Whimbrel out on the mud.

We had given up and decided to make our way back to the car park when we met  Barry Yates who had found a Temminck's Stint. We opted to give it a go but to no avail, as when we arrived at the location, the bird had already departed. Out on the pool there were plenty of Avocets and another tick in the guise of a Little Ringed Plover. The walk back to the car gave a great fly by of a very fresh Hobby and a scan from the car park gave views of several House Martins - 5 ticks by 1030 - we were on a roll.

Avocet and Ringed Plover

The short trip to Dunge was pretty uneventful, as usual we stopped at Scotney Pit,  finding some distant Terns but nothing to get the blood flowing. Arriving at Dunge, Martin, thankfully, insisted that we visit the Black-winged Stilts first. Just after we had taken a few record shots of two charming birds the power station vented a massive amount of steam with an accompanying din which spooked the birds, but of course they were relocated just a couple of hundred yards away some time later. Whilst viewing the Stilts we were informed that a Wood Sandpiper was in the neighbourhood and sure enough some kind birders got us on to the bird - well its head that was frequently seen above the short reeds. We decided to hang around in case the bird made a full showing - some one and a half hours later we gave up and we had blown our chance of visiting Sandwich.

The best view of the Wood Sandpiper in one and a half hours!!!
 Finally, in the rain, we ended up at the ARC hide where we were treated to distant views of two Black Terns but precious little else. On the way home we again visited Scotney and the Colonel Body lakes but nothing had moved in during our absence - after a quick look at the sea it was homeward bound with total of  8 ticks - one a lifer - another good day.

Usual suspects:

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Pearl-bordered Fritillary

Today was an outing with a difference, we decided to give the long lenses a miss, just a medium length lens and a macro in the bag. The target today was to get some shots of a Pearl-bordered Fritillary and any other interesting bugs or insects that may be about. Also, a Nightingale would be nice to have in the bag as they have been showing well at Pulborough Brooks.  So the itinerary was set, Waltham Brooks, Pulborough Brooks and finally Rewell Woods and a fairly small target list.

The walk from the road to the wooden footbridge at Waltham Brooks gave Martin ticks of Sedge Warbler and Whitethroat. A quick scan of the lake gave nothing exotic on the wildfowl front; I still cannot find a Garganey and despair of getting a tick until later in the year. At the railway crossing several birders were about but it was a freshly emerged Small Copper that caught my eye and was duly captured.

On the return journey we came across an obliging Sedge Warbler that sat immediately above us in a hawthorn bush, Murphy's Law prevailed as I had a 180mm macro lens on the camera - anyway I managed a record shot of his head.

As we reached the road the superb song of a Nightingale was reverberating through the hedgerow. Whilst you can't miss the song, getting a visual sighting is a tad more difficult. He never posed in the open for us but I managed a record shot - another year tick.  Having got a Nightingale we didn't need to visit Pulborough, so it was an early start at Rewell Wood.

When we arrived another butterfly enthusiast was just leaving and he showed us a photo of a PBF that he had found just recently. After that, climbing up from the entrance at Fairmile Bottom to the top of the hill was a doddle. However, as we made our way down the main ride the sun was definitely weakening and grey skies loomed. Things didn't look too encouraging and I thought we might struggle. Twenty yards in and Martin flushed not one, but two, pristine specimens - a life tick!. We went to work with a will, managing to record some open wing shots of three fairly active specimens. Finally the sun gave out and slight drizzle set in, which for us was most fortunate as we had tracked one specimen until it rested on a bracken shoot, where it remained for at least forty five minutes. I only took two hundred shots and I still can't decide which is the best!! Lindsay arrived just as we were about to leave but we managed to find a couple of specimens for him .

On the footpath back towards the car we discovered a magnificent specimen of the Green Tiger Beetle, sporting a very impressive metallic green bum, purple legs and a superb set of jaws.

Bugle, Ajuga reptans - sometimes known as "carpenters herb" -  a favourite nectar source of the
Pearl-bordered Fritillary 
 Finally, home, completely knackered but determined to get amongst some more butterflies before long.

Tuesday 22 April 2014

Ring Ouzels

It was nice to be out birding and at last there seemed to be lots to see. We set out fairly late in the morning, avoiding the early rain,  and hoping to see the long staying Ring Ouzel in the horse paddocks in Warner's Lane down in Selsey. Unfortunately the bird had gone - "should have been there the day before".  Never mind, there had been something of a fall and the paddock was becoming well populated by Wheatears, there were also several Redstarts in attendance. It is apparent that the paddocks have a large population of rabbits, something that Reynard was attempting to address.




Next up was a visit to Church Norton where we gained information of a Ring Ouzel on the West Side. The bird was easy to locate, a large male sat up high in the gorse, unfortunately it spooked and relocated to a blackthorn clump some distance away. Whilst we were keeping an eye on this bird, a second specimen turned up and at one time they both occupied the same tree. We hung around to try and improve our shots but unfortunately the bird was always at distance.

 Amusement was provided by a Linnet that was obviously nest building but it would appear that small feathers are at a premium.

Next stop, the Visitor Centre just to enquire after any birds of note. Nothing to keep us occupied so we decided to visit the North Wall. Dave Shepherd was in attendance and put us on to a Cuckoo, we had seen and heard one on the other side of the harbour but this one was happy to perch and give us good views but not in camera range We had previously seen a Little Grebe on the nest in one of the pools, so it was time to check up on any offspring. I suspect that this is a fairly young and inexperience mother because of the rather open siting of the nest, but at least one chick has survived and has the undivided attention of its parent.

Plenty of Whimbrel out in the harbour and on the return trip to the car we had great but distant views of a Whinchat resplendent in full summer plumage.

And finally..... a usual suspect.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Orange Tip

Finally got some decent shots of an Orange Tip, thanks to a posting on BC by Doug and Trevor. Thanks guys, pleased to meet you and very happy to share your butterflies. Driving round the environs of Arlington and Berwick in the early afternoon, specimens of the butterfly were present in most lanes, as were clumps of Cuckoo Flower, Cardamine pratensis

This is the most frenetic of butterflies posing real problems in getting a decent shot, that said; this individual alighted on the flower head just as the sun was slightly shaded and remained in the same position for at least 20 minutes. Great experience but needs a revisit to get some more open wing shots.

Monday 14 April 2014

Mill Hill and Houghton Forest

With clear blue skies I decided to revisit Mill Hill, ostensibly to find an Adder, get some improved shots of the Grizzled Skippers and also to meet Dawn and Jim who were going to locate yesterday's Green Hairstreak. Of course I arrived too early and nothing was flying, the sun had warmth but there was a fairly cool breeze from a northerly quarter. Dawn and Jim arrived and we started the vigil for "Beautiful Eyebrows". After a fruitless hour I abandoned D&J and made my way down to the lower slopes where I met Lindsay who was just arriving. Immediately we were into several feisty Dingy Skippers and two or three Grizzled Skippers, by now the temperature had risen considerably and these specimens  were not willing to pose in any spot for long. I phoned D&J to let them know that at least there were some targets about, their long GH search was still proving fruitless so they joined us.

Failed on improving previous efforts!


After several sweeps of the north west end of the reserve I was treated to a flash of green and a specimen settled in the brambles about 8ft from me. Lots of happy snapping  ensued.

During the search I had located what I thought was a clearwing moth but on reflection I guess it is a Scorpion Fly, really not sure, so if anyone can provide me with an ID I would be truly grateful. On the way back up to the top car park I located a rather handsome moth and the "staircase" provided several more specimens of Green Hairstreak with a single Speckled Wood.  It is probable that we located at least six specimens of GH, three Grizzled and three or four Dingy Skippers. All in all, a good visit.

Small Purple Barred, Phytometra viridaria

 We parted company and I decided to give Houghton Forest a try for the first time this year. I parked at the entrance to the ride on the Madehurst Road and as I entered the ride I was immediately treated to a high speed fly past of an Orange Tip. All the usual specimens were about in good numbers, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Brimstone and Comma. It was nice to note my first Green-veined White of the year.

Finally I located an Adder - well two and doing what Mr and Mrs Adder do at this time of year. I was desperate not to disturb them so took some shots and made my exit. However it is apparent from the photographs that the male was very annoyed at the interruption in their nuptial activity. Sorry!

Not happy.

What a shame that the Forestry Commission wish to totally ruin this area, they and a partner company have submitted a planning application for Seventy Five!! log cabins in the forest.
On this ride I have had 18 species of butterfly in a day, including a Purple Emperor - this is designated as the main road in. Why on earth should the superb wildlife habitats of Sussex be given up so that the Lurid Lycra Clad Mountain Biking fraternity of London can come and play here.

Vital food plants like this violet will soon be under concrete.