Sunday 25 October 2015

Long-tailed Blue

Recently there have been few opportunities to photograph something different, so when news of a Long-tailed Blue at Beeding cement works emerged we just had to go. I had recently spent a day staring forlornly through the chain link fence in near perfect conditions, so the grey weather that was prevailing yesterday didn't fill me with confidence. Martin picked me up early and we began a vigil. Inside information was good and we knew exactly where to be, only the butterfly had obviously moved - how inconsiderate! Several hours passed and we called it day as rain was on the way.  However, just after we had left, it emerged yet again and posed. So, this morning in brighter weather we had another go. When we arrived several keen butterfly enthusiasts were already there and as we approached it was obvious that they had found the target.

Well hidden in a patch of ivy was my first Long-tailed Blue, not in the ideal position for a shot but I had to record the event. Subsequently the butterfly moved and provided excellent views to the "crowd" of thirteen "twitchers". As the sun warmed up we were lucky enough to get some open wing shots - patience rewarded. Finally, the butterfly took to flight and we departed, not expecting any better records. As always, just an hour after we left another specimen emerged, this time a male, posing for all present. Never mind, my 59th species of British butterfly in the bag, well at least this one hatched here.


One taken with flash - I think I prefer natural light.

Wednesday 14 October 2015

Long-billed Dowitcher

When I picked up Martin this morning neither of us had a clue where we were going; at the moment we are both crocks and long walks or arduous climbs are out of the question. So, it had to be somewhere flat and a short walk to be amongst birds. Initially it was going to be a trip to the Sussex commons but in the end, as the weather was so good, we decided on a return trip to Pennington Marshes for another crack at the Long-billed Dowitcher.

When we arrived a tractor was engaged in cutting both the grass and gorse hedges in the fields adjacent to the marsh. This seems to be a developing trend, everywhere we go someone wants to be "gardening". Anyway, shortly after our arrival the driver must have knocked off for a tea break as it went very quiet. On the way down to the sea wall Martin spotted a likely candidate roosting on one of the back pools, all we could see was the bird's back, the bill was tucked away and the legs obscured by vegetation - highly possible! From what we could see we were never going to get a positive ID, then the tractor started up again and everything took flight - well at least the bird had moved. On reaching the sea wall we took a right turn and just as we reached a position opposite the island, there was the bird in the open - ID no problem - the Long-billed Dowitcher. As it was the only bird of interest I suspect our blogs are pretty much the same but at least we had better shots than the ones from the previous bird that inhabited this place a couple of years ago.

The usual routine feed, preen and snooze.

Another Canada Goose showing dubious parentage - crossed with what  I have no idea.

Feeling smug with satisfaction from getting such a great result we dashed back to Farlington for another go at the Bearded Tits, this time in better light. Unfortunately a stiff north easter was blowing and no self respecting Beardies were going to come out and play.

Yesterday I put in a three hour vigil at Beeding cement works, hoping for an emerging Long-tailed Blue. Unfortunately a negative result but I did entertain myself with shots of an Ivy Bee and an unknown wasp, possibly Mellinus arvensis.   

And finally....... one for Dave Shepherd.




Friday 9 October 2015

Ring Ouzels

Following Dorian and Bernie's post on SOS we knew it was time to make another of our annual pilgrimages - this time to the "Yewsual Place".  The large Yew tree on the north west side of Cissbury Ring, thank you to all those who cared enough to give up their time so that his tree could be saved from the actions of a mad "gardener".  This year, this fine example of Taxus baccata is covered in bright red fruits - very poisonous to humans but a delight for Ring Ouzels, Mistle Thrushes and Song Thrushes. When we arrived I flushed a female Ring Ouzel down the hill but she paused just long enough for a positive ID, later a large male left the tree and disappeared into the scrub further round the hill, its distinctive flight giving the ID. We were then joined by Josh,  who generously shared his scope with us, thanks Josh. Carrying camera, lenses and bins is a sufficient load for me, when travelling uphill the scope has to stay behind.

With things being a tad quiet we made our way to the rifle butts and it wasn't long before we were in business, at least two birds - maybe more, their "chacks" giving them away, Sadly they were quite flighty but at least they perched long enough for some decent record shots.

A final visit to the Yew Tree gave no more sightings. On the way over I stumbled across a magnificent specimen of the Parasol Mushroom, Macrolepiota procera, a basidiomycete fungus with a large, prominent fruiting body resembling a parasol. It is a fairly common species  on Cissbury Ring but this year only one specimen found.  Whilst photographing the mushroom I realised that the shot gave no idea of scale so I placed my Swiss Army Knife on top and I can tell you that it is about 9cm in length.


Thursday 8 October 2015

Bearded Tits

It  was that time of year when we visit Farlington Marsh near Portsmouth to get our year tick of Bearded Tits. We arrived around 0830 and decided that we would stick to one species rather than a general walkabout with the camera. As we walked down the western bank towards the viewpoint we were overwhelmed by traffic noise - how on earth could we hear anything above such a din? As I sat on the low concrete wall, in what was now fairly warm sunshine, I thought I could hear "pinging" - no surely I was imagining it, then a flock of 8 Beardies flew in low over the reeds and landed some twenty yards to my left.  Slowly more small flocks arrived and the birds, which had been feeding low down in the reeds, began to perch on the tops. The estimate of how many birds were present rose to 30, then 50, now 60+. These birds are difficult to count as they are highly mobile, the 60 count is conservative, it could easily have been 100. Martin counted a departing flock numbering 35.

About in numbers and willing to perch in the open.



Sunday 4 October 2015


The prime reason for going to Mull was to see White-tailed Eagles and we weren't disappointed. Sometime last year, whilst on a visit to the Farnes I met Iolo Williams, he of BBC fame. During our conversation I asked him "Skye or Mull for eagles?" - "Mull" was the direct reply. Good enough for me. Then at Christmas our local Ornithological Society had a presentation on Mull and its wildlife. From then it was just a matter of time. I had no idea how popular Mull is as a holiday destination and that getting a cottage for a couple of weeks in September  would be difficult. However, in the end, we managed to book Riverside Cottage on the Aros River which turned out to be an ideal choice for us.

Before travelling to Mull I had been monitoring Alan Spellman's Mullbirds  for sightings of Eagles so when we arrived I had an idea where we might go. Well, just 20 minutes after disembarking from the CalMac ferry at Craignure, we passed by the golf course and I spotted a sign about watching eagles. So we pulled in and scanned the horizon and with some help from some really friendly birders, located our first ever White-tailed Eagle. Great joy and huge celebrations - unfortunately as you can tell by the photograph, it was at some distance. I could have stayed for ages but the bird wasn't going to move and we needed to be at our holiday home.

An invitation that you can't refuse

Not much of a photograph  but a life tick for me.
We arrived at Riverside Cottage in warm sunshine and everything augured well for our stay as we could see Dippers, Hoodies and a variety of LBJs in the "garden" and further off in the distance Heron, Red-breasted Mergansers, Eider Ducks, Mallards and Curlews.

The Hoodies were more reticent about coming close but over the next fourteen days Messrs. Hovis and Warburton's products had them sitting in the trees waiting expectantly.

The Red-breasted Mergansers were a different kettle of fish, as soon as the front door was opened, no matter how quietly, they were off down river in a mad panic.

There are much photographed derelict boats on Mull, the ones on the shoreline as you enter Salen have featured in countless magazines worldwide. Everyone stops to capture them and we were no exception. However, on the Aros I had a boat to myself, well almost, as I had to share it with a pair of Pied Wagtails which were constantly perched in the dead branches adjacent to the wreck.

I am no artist and my composition is pretty rubbish, at least I removed the "road furniture" with Photoshop.

Surprisingly few coats of paint during its hard life.

Like everyone else I couldn't resist these, at least I used a camera and not a mobile phone.

Clearly, it has been a good year for Buzzards on Mull. During our meanderings around the byways of the island we came upon lots of them, perched on the utility poles at the side of the road. Trying to photograph them was a bit of a game, creeping up to the nearest passing place wasn't a problem but open a door and they were off. However, only to the next pole down the road.  So the game of "raptor on a stick" developed with Liz driving and me sticking the camera out of the car window.

Not always on a "stick"

It wasn't just about wildlife, Mull has some stunning scenery and we toured around most of the island visiting such places as Calgary, Lochbuie, Croggan, Grasspoint, Killiechronan, Dervaig and even Tobermory when the weather turned driech.

Head of Loch Na Keal

Ben More

Loch na Keal

These unusual distance markers also proved popular with photographers so we didn't hesitate to join in. It's remarkable how they have survived for so long.

Another bonus is that there is virtually no light pollution on Mull and therefore we had stunning views of the night sky, especially the Milky Way, something we don't see at home.

Finally we had one last visit to the golf course viewpoint, just to see if we could have one more view of an eagle. Sadly no one was at home.

I can heartily recommend the cottage, very comfortable and ideally situated for travel any where on the island. Another recommendation is the world famous fish and chip van located on the fish pier in Tobermory - proper fish and chips. During my first visit to Mull I realised that things such as a high performance sports car, lawn sprinkler and a non Vodafone mobile are virtually useless.