Back local

There’s not been much excitement bird-wise around us of late.  A few walks around Sompting Brooks have found some Snipe and a few other birds, and it has been very quiet on the Downs.  Today, though, there were Ring Ouzels at Cissbury, one of which gave brief and fairly distant views, and a Dartford Warbler.  Hope it overwinters again.

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Ravens drop into Sompting Brooks
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Stonechat
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Dartford Warbler on Cissbury Ring

Choughs and Chiff

A week in Cornwall in October is enough to get a birder’s pulse racing.  Last week we finally went on holiday there, with my brother and sister in law.  There was a marked lack of migrants, and those that were around either eluded us, or left before we could get there.  The seawatching was good though, with literally hundreds of shearwaters (Manx, Balearic and a few Sooty), 5 Leach’s Petrel, a lifer for me, Grey Phalaropes and two Sabine’s Gulls that are only our second UK view.  Distant birds on a lumpy sea aren’t good for photographs, though.

Walks on the clifftops had many Choughs that started colonising in 2001 and have spread well from Lizard all the way to Land’s End and the north coast.  They’re a devil to photograph, though, as they’re always changing direction in flight, and always hideously backlit.  It doesn’t help that they’re laughing at you while tormenting you.  Eventually some gave themselves up.

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St. Michael's Mount all lit up from just outside our beautiful apartment
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Sennen Cove
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Gwennap Head
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Land's End
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Choughs
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Chiffchaff

 

Migration

Migration continues with a steady trickle of birds through the back field.  We’re still getting Spotted Flycatchers and Blackcap numbers are increasing. Out on the Downs it’s the same, but, other than an elusive Grasshopper Warbler and a Wryneck that we missed, there hasn’t been too much to excite us.  Over at Sompting Brooks there has been a bit of entertainment, with a Wasp Spider, one of the introduced Storks flying over and a Green Sandpiper was an interesting bird here for autumn.

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Clouded Yellow
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Red Underwing
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Wasp Spider
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Redstart
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Wheatear
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Sparrowhawk
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One of Knepp's pet White Storks flies over
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Green Sandpiper
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One of the local Peregrines has a go at a passing Buzzard.

A few insects

After the excitement of the Albatross, it’s back to migration on the Downs, which seems to be a bit slower than last year, although we’ve had Redstart, Whinchat and Spotted Flycatchers at home so far.  It’s also a good time for insects, with a few late butterflies, and an excellent variety of dragonflies and damselflies in the wetland  behind us.

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Silver-spotted Skipper
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Brown Argus
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Volucella zonaria, a hornet mimic
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Brown Hairstreak, male
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Brown Hairstreak, female
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Common Darter
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Small Red-eyed Damselfly
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Ruddy Darter
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Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly
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Azure Damselfly
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Migrant Hawker
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Migrant Hawker
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Southern Migrant Hawker
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Ruddy Darters
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Emerald Damselfly

And there was much rejoicing

A deeply unsatisfactory glimpse of the Black-browed Albatross back in early July had healed the desperation, but we still wanted a proper view of the bird; we just weren’t prepared to dash around the country for it.  Predictably enough, it left just before we headed to Yorkshire for a few days, and its last trip was long enough for us to completely miss it if stayed away as long this time.  Leaving Worthing at 0445, we headed north with a simple decision to make: if it is reported before the M18 turn off, we go to Bempton, if not, we carry on to Harrogate.  To our delight it was reported about half an hour before the M18, so off we went, still nervous, as we had been so close last time and all we had was a rubbish view.

When we got there the bird was about half a mile offshore, just about identifiable through a fully zoomed telescope.  An improvement on last time, but still not quite the thing.  After a long wait, it took to the air and meandered its way towards us.  It then gave us a fantastic display circling off the cliff.  After a while it landed on the cliff, out of sight of course.  After a while it left and went back on to the sea for a wash and a rest.  Another lengthy wait ended with it coming back to us and performing superbly, giving us close range views at eye level.  Many pictures were taken, but a bird that size is difficult to photograph that close.

Best bird ever!

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Where's Albert?
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Catching up with the relatives

 

Here be dragons

It’s far too hot for anything too energetic this weekend, so we took a short walk over to the wetland behind us in search of dragonflies and damselflies.  We weren’t disappointed with many Black-tailed Skimmers, plenty of Emperors and Common Darters, but the stars of the show were our first Scarce Blue-tailed Damselflies that colonised the new stream last year, and are quite likely to move on after this year, as the vegetation grows up.

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Azure Damselfly
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Emperor
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Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly
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Black-tailed Skimmer

Dirty Twitchers

It’s been a bit busy recently.  A couple of weeks ago the Black-browed Albatross that has occasionally visited Bempton Cliffs before being reported attacked and killed by White-tailed Eagles in the Baltic rose from the dead and turned up on the cliffs again.  Obviously it did it on a Monday evening, making it hard for us to arrange time off to finally catch up with one of my most wanted birds.  The bird was hanging around and so at 0245 on Thursday morning we headed off to Bempton.  We arrived at just before 0800, which was more than the Albatross did: it was gone.  A pleasant, but frustrating, morning at Bempton was enough to confirm it had gone, and we moved on to Southfield Reservoir in the hope of another bird high on my most wanted UK list, Caspian Tern.  By 1600, I had been up for twelve hours and hadn’t seen a bird, but finally one of the terns arrived and gave us a good show.  Staying over with Mum on Thursday night gave us a chance for the Albatross to return on Friday, which it duly didn’t, and Saturday, another blank.  With the bird clearly gone, we headed back down on Saturday.  Lying in bed at 0900 on Sunday morning, the news that the Albatross had returned was not welcome.  Deciding to become dirty twitchers for the day, we headed off north on the 300 mile journey to Bempton.   Arriving just before 1500, we dashed down and found a group of people watching it.  Success, apart from the fact that we still couldn’t see the bird in a cloud of Gannets.  Not helped by the large number of contradictory descriptions of where it was, we eventually saw the bird, which promptly vanished behind a cliff and was lost to sight.  We walked around for a view of the other side of the cliff, but there was no sign.  There was still no sign by the time we left just after 1900.  We got back home at just gone midnight, having driven about 10 hour for 10 seconds of the bird.  I’m not about to start serious twitching if that’s what it’s about.

A bit more relaxed this weekend, we walked to Knepp to see the Storks and Purple Emperors.  A very pleasant 27 mile walk found all of our targets and eased the frustration of the previous weekend and the disappointment of the football.

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Not an Albatross!
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A Caspian Tern saves the day
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Marsh Harrier
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Ringlet
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Juvenile White Stork
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Purple Emperor
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Southern Hawker
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Longhorn Beetle
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Marbled White
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Silver-washed Fritillary

Orchids

As the birding slows down, there’s always orchids to keep interest up.  The dodgy weather seems to have slowed things down, but there are now large numbers of orchids on the Downs.  Around the Cissbury Ring area there are a large number of Common Spotted Orchids, and nearer to home in Sompting there is a bank with over 1000 Pyramidal Orchids on (they’re not all out yet) and, better still, 50 Bee Orchids, the first we have seen there in the 26 years we have been down here.

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Poplar Kitten
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I thought these were rare: our second Beautiful Marbled in a week
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Netted Pug
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Poplar Hawk Moth
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Privet Hawk Moth
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Blue-tailed Damselflies
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Common Spotted Orchid
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Pyramidal Orchid
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Bee Orchid
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Grizzled Skipper

Summer begins

Spring was an utter disaster moth-wise: cold, wet and wind meant that we hardly put the trap out and and on the few occasions we did it was practically empty .  June has started well, however, and numbers of moths have rocketed to the dizzy heights of average.  We have had good diversity, though, with a number of new moths for the garden.  Last night’s trap was excellent with three new moths, at least two of them migrants, and quite rare ones too: Beautiful Marbled and Portland Riband Wave, the other being a May Highflyer.

Here’s a few moths from recent traps and a couple of butterflies from our walks.

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Duke of Burgundy
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Small Blue
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Buff Tip
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Lime Hawkmoth
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Small Elephant Hawkmoth and Pine Hawkmoth
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Tawny-barred Angle, a new moth for the garden
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Pebble Hook-tip
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Oak Hook-tip
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Orange Footman, another new moth for the garden
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Puss Moth
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Scorched Carpet
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May Highflyer, another new moth
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Beautiful Marbled, new, and quite rare in the UK
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Portland Riband Wave, new and another rarity away from Dorset

The Dales

Continuing our Yorkshire weekend, we had an early morning visit to Strid Woods in Wharfedale.  The Strid in late May is one of my favourite places, and this year it was as lovely as ever.  With loads of Pied Flycatchers, as well as a few Spotted Flycatchers, Dippers, Redstarts, Goosanders, Common Sandpipers as well as the more common woodland birds, and the calls of Oystercatchers and Curlew from the moor above, it’s a great place to be in the morning.  Unfortunately there were no Wood Warblers to be found this time, but a Tawny Owl with a well-hidden chick was a treat.

In the afternoon we went up Nidderdale to Scar House reservoir for a walk with Mum and my brother and sister in law.  It was a bit quieter than normal in spring (apart from the racket made by a group of motorbikers scaring the sheep) but we still had nice views of Wheatear and many Lapwings.

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The Strid
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Dipper
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Mandarin Duck
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Common Sandpiper
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Goosander
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This Tawny Owl had a chick
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Pied Flycatcher
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Lapwing
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Meanwhile at home, the small Grass Snake sits still enough for a photo.