Monday, 18 September 2017

Turtle Dove

Another visit to Pagham Harbour, mainly for a reported Curlew Sandpiper and the chance to see the very obliging Turtle Dove at the visitor centre. We kicked off at the North Wall with an adult plumaged Yellow-legged Gull out on the mud, accompanied by what might have been a 3cy bird. In the creek we found plenty of Redshanks, Black- tailed Godwits and some early returning Teal and Wigeon. Further out lots of Pintail cruising up and down but unfortunately no sign of any Curlew Sands.

Nice to see a few birds on Breech Pool; whilst we were scanning the birds four noisy Greenshanks arrived for their daily bath. Hidden amongst a fair number of Black-tailed Godwits were three Spotted Redshanks, fast asleep and trying to remain inconspicuous. As the tide advanced the creek emptied and we failed to find our target. Whilst the water levels in the pool have dropped slightly I guess it is still too deep for the smaller waders like Dunlin and Sandpipers.

Finally on round to the Visitor Centre where the juvenile Turtle Dove was out on display and waiting for us.


Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Migrant Hawker

Today was our first birding trip of the autumn, great hopes of getting to grips with some of the migrants that would of course be passing through the Pagham area. The only problem is that no one has told the birds that his should be happening. Breech Pool, White's Creek, Ferry Pool and Church Norton could almost be described as devoid of birds. Not a single wader on Breech or Ferry pools, where are they all? At least it was good to find some Whinchats at the back of the pool, albeit at a fair distance.

Out on the mud from the North Wall we found a colour ringed Black-tailed Godwit, Blue Lime + Orange. I nearly always report these and as this one had been ringed by Pete Potts I snapped a record. When I got home I was amazed to find that I had recorded the self same bird exactly six years ago, and again five years ago on Farlington Marsh. I sent off a report and would be interested to know if this bird has done any travelling since I last saw it.

Captured same place 12th September 2011
And again on Farlington Marsh/Langstone Harbour 13th September 2012

Photographically speaking it would have been a poor day save for the bramble patch at the top of Ferry Creek, several interesting dragonflies to be seen. The usual Common and Red Darters and a couple of obliging Migrant Hawkers. I couldn't leave without recording the Red Admirals which appeared to be half drunk having gorged on ripe blackberry juice.


Church Norton produced only a Spotted Flycatcher and a trip to Medmerry, where we normally find Clouded Yellow, produced nothing either. It looks as though the Fleabane , which is a favoured nectaring plant, is not so plentiful as in previous years

And three from the garden, a nice, but worn Painted Lady followed by a Southern Hawker and a Red-legged Shield Bug, Pentatoma rufipes, sometimes known as a Forest Bug, which had landed amongst the laundry.

Friday, 1 September 2017

Adonis Blue

Today was probably the last butterfly day, there may be some late Clouded Yellows to come, but I have seen precious few up to now.  This time of year Anchor Bottom is worth a visit. A typical downland combe, running east to west, so it has a south facing slope that is baked by sunshine. Today was no exception and there were a host of second brood Adonis Blues on the wing.  A supporting cast of Meadow Browns and just singletons of Comma and Clouded Yellow.


Job done then - time to take it easy.


An added bonus is that there is a huge population of Autumn Lady's Tresses present, although this year I had left my visit a little on the late side and most of the blooms were just about done.


Still a few nectar sources available 

Viper's Bugloss

Carline Thistle
Round-headed Rampion

A few from earlier in the week, a walk round the fields of Honer Farm at Pagham produced very little. Whilst trying to photograph Redstarts and Spotted Flycatchers  I was treated to a low fly-by of a very vociferous Buzzard. Every year when there are some close Wheatears on the North Wall I say to myself -"Got plenty of Wheatear photos - don't need any more"  then proceed to snap away at some really obliging subjects.


Common Field Grasshopper
This Sandwich Tern managed to catch a fish every time when I failed to get focus - the Law of Sod made sure that when I got a clean shot he missed.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Up On the Downs

Around this time of year the butterfly season slowly winds down and there is always a bit of a gap before the autumn migration gets underway.  So today was a trip out on the South Downs, ostensibly to see if I could get to grips with some Orthoptera but mostly to take the camera for a walk. Having read about Southern Water's project to re-introduce the Wart-biter to an ideal habitat at the Deep Dean water treatment plant I was keen to give it the once over. Not necessarily to find a Wart-biter but to understand the habitat and of course the possibility of a late Grayling to add to the season's tally.

I can hear myself saying it, sat high in an alpine meadow, surrounded by butterflies - "We don't have anything like this at home". Today I was proved very wrong. When I parked off  the road below Wilmington and started up the Col de Windover I was expecting to find the usual suspects, Meadow Browns, Chalk Hill Blues and even some Silver-spotted Skippers but not in the numbers present. There were literally thousands of Meadow Browns and Chalk Hill Blues, all in various states of wear and tear. The Silver-spotted Skippers were the big surprise, hundreds, no - many hundreds of specimens between the top of the hill and the bottom of the dean. Martin and I had witnessed 200 plus specimens at Newtimber hill and this surpassed that by a long way.

I had arrived at 0900 and started up towards the reservoir, the south facing bank taking the early morning sunshine was already well populated with CHBs, predominantly males as I didn't see a female until at the reservoir itself. Just before the top there is a triangular patch of grass on the right hand side of the path, always a good bet for an SSS - and this time it was well populated. On up to the cattle drink and finally into the combe itself. A myriad of Meadow Browns dancing all over the south facing slope, I searched all the chalky rabbit hole aprons for a Grayling but it was a hopeless task, the place was overwhelmed with browns.

The season is coming to an end
Some males not quite so worn
Females showed in greater numbers later in the day

That electric blue can only mean a second brood Adonis

Plenty of other butterflies about
I followed the path south west towards the water treatment plant, the habitat changing from the dry steep slopes to flower filled meadow. Great stands of Harebell,and Wild Marjoram attracting butterflies. This ground hasn't been sprayed with anything for years and the density of flowers is amazing. These combes can be very sheltered and therefore get extremely warm, so at the lower end I managed to find a breeze and sat and enjoyed a comfortable lunch.

Deep Dean

Stunning wild flowers


Wild Marjoram

Scouting the area around the treatment plant gave me three great finds. First a fine Wasp Spider that I initially spooked but just a couple of minutes later it reappeared and posed well for the lens.

Second was a very aggressive Hornet Robber Fly that had captured a bee, I tried to get close but it adopted a more aggressive pose and finally flew.

Third subject was a huge Great Green Bush Cricket, at first, because of its size, I thought I had a WB but sadly not. It posed obligingly and I left it where I had found it.

Of course it is pleasant to take a mile plus walk down hill, the downside was that I had to get back to the top.

Just a few from last week, we did a circuit of Pagham and the juvenile Barn Swallows and Sedge Warblers  on the North Wall were definitely worth recording. Sadly little else but it was nice to see an early Short-eared Owl that was spooked off the Church Norton Spit by a walker. It flew over the spit and out to sea and I failed to see it return.

Finally a new garden tick butterfly, Purple Hairstreak. Obviously attracted by the honeydew from the Whitefly aphids that have infested our plum trees. The recent heavy rains have washed away most of the sticky substance but the Whiteflies remain, much to the delight of the Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers that are passing through.

One from some time ago, taken on Frensham Common, a Red-banded Sand Wasp, Ammophila sabulosa  with prey.