Friday 26 August 2016

Yellow Wagtails

At this time of year the fields below Honer Farm at Pagham attract large numbers of Yellow Wagtails. These birds are always mobile and fairly skittish, not usually allowing close approach. I have tried several stratagems to get closer to the birds with the camera, even sitting in with a herd of cows and trying to look like one of them, but that didn't really work.  Of course the birds use the grazing cattle to flush flies and grasshoppers, so when the herd stops the birds just drift away. You have to be in a moving herd.

Today was slightly different, Martin spotted good numbers of Wags moving with the cattle so we just had to have a look. Martin's initial ploy of trying to attract the herd towards us by waving a large bunch of grass failed so we ducked under the wire and set up shop in the field. It wasn't long before we were surrounded by some very inquisitive young cattle and the birds came with them. I have never been bothered by cattle and the nibbling of shirt sleeves and licking of trouser leg was all very amusing. Unfortunately the close proximity of the cattle also obscured most of the views of the birds so we moved away - of course the cattle followed but at least we could see the birds. Finally, the cattle decided to settle down and chew the cud and the Wagtails moved on. I had previously counted a flock 140 birds here before but today was exceptional - we reckoned at  least 200 birds present.

I have said before that a garden pond is just as entertaining as a bird table. In the early spring we cleaned the pond and removed some of the vegetation, this has paid dividends in increased dragonfly visits. Southern Hawker and Common Darter providing some decent photographic opportunities.

Monday 15 August 2016

Pied Flycatcher(s)

Back to birding and no better place to start than Pagham, we began the day on the North Wall and were heartened to see the Breech Pool looking much better. Lots of birds in residence, Greenshank, Redshank, Spotted Redshank, Green Sandpipers, Common Snipe, Dunlin and of course the Black-tailed Godwits.  Even two Bar-headed Geese in with the Canadas. All was fine until two Buzzards flew over and then panic set in - six and two threes as some birds disappeared and others were flushed out. Fly by of a Sparrowhawk, two warring Kingfishers and two Common Terns completed the list.

Next up was Church Norton, two Pied Flycatchers had been reported the previous day but I pessimistically thought that they would have gone overnight. We met Chris Janman  who informed us that he had seen one only an hour before, so we sat on a bench in the shade of a fine tree and waited. We didn't have to wait long before the bird turned up - Sod's Law - I hadn't bothered to get the camera out - panic to get set up but the bird remained in the vicinity and I managed to capture it. During the next couple of hours we discovered there were at least two birds present and probably three, but they were mobile. Chris had noticed that one bird had more white markings than usual and he was proved right as I managed to snap a bird with an extra wing bar and a white patch - consensus is that it is just a PF - excitement over.

All in all a good start to the coming migration.

Definitely two present.

Martin and I had a go at deciphering the ring but all I got was a best guess of Z49592, which doesn't look to be complete.

And some from the North Wall
Bar-headed Goose
At least there are still fish available

Waders well represented

Thursday 11 August 2016


As I have no doubt said before, the hunt for Brown Hairstreaks symbolises, for me,  the end of the butterfly season. Last year, here in Sussex, we had an extension with Long-tailed Blues emerging at the end of October and even into November. The season is slowly winding down and soon it will be time to start looking for some elusive birds.

Over the last week I have visited some of my local sites and found that butterfly numbers have, at long last, increased. Good numbers of Red Admirals and Silver-Washed Fritillaries in particular, the odd Painted Lady and an emergence of some fresh Brimstones. Generally the condition of some of the specimens can be described as "well worn". It never ceases to amaze me that SwF males continue to make advances to females when most of their wings have disappeared and they can barely fly - driven solely by the urge to procreate. Later, I sat for an hour exactly between two territories of Walls, anything that flew through was vigorously intercepted and engaged, even the Dandelion seed heads that drifted past were attacked. Occasionally the two Walls would meet at the junction of their properties and mayhem ensued, no wonder I struggled to find one suitable for recording as they are constantly engaged in combat.

Last Thursday found me at Houghton, I live in hope of finding the SwF forma valesina on my patch, plenty of SwF about and I searched in vain. A single, very worn, White Admiral was nectaring on the Hemp Agrimony, a once stunning butterfly now full of holes. Back at Whiteways I was entertained by some freshly emerged Common Blues which I recorded.

Only a few scratches on this one


Monday I ventured to Anchor Bottom, again in search of some 2nd brood butterflies, this time - Adonis Blues - alas very little to be seen in the extensive wild flowers that cover the south facing slope. I also failed to find any sign of the Silver-spotted Skipper colony that used to be below the rabbit warren. It was all a bit depressing until a fly by of a Small Tortoiseshell had me puffing up the slope. I finally caught up with it as it came to rest on a sun baked cow pat - amazing how such beautiful creatures are attracted to so much poo! Not long before these slopes are covered in countless Autumn Lady's Tresses, another sign of the end of the butterflying year.


Tuesday, Martin picked me up and we set off for Tillets Lane Fields near Warnham, ostensibly for some late season Purple Hairstreaks and a slim chance of a Brown Hairstreak. With clear skies we were scouring the tops of some magnificent oaks, wondering if we were too late, when down fluttered a silver object that crash landed right in front of us - another worn specimen of what we had come for. And to top it all, on the way back to the car I found a male Brown Hairstreak, unfortunately I managed only two out of focus shots before it disappeared for good.

Proof - but no prize for the photo.

Next up was Madgelands Wood, again a search for possible late Purple Emperor and perhaps a White Admiral - no such luck. A fleeting glance of a large butterfly in the top of an oak was probably a purply, but there again no positive ID. So none of our targets were achieved but we were rewarded by some obliging Southern Hawkers, posing in the sunshine that penetrates the rides.

We finished the day touring the rides of Houghton Forest, lots of SwFs, Red Admirals and Brimstones but for me the blue female Common Blue was the best of the bunch.