Saturday, 27 June 2020

Satyr Pug, chalk downland near Sevenoaks: 26 June 2020

Satyr Pug, Nr Sevenoaks, 26 June 2020
Had a walk up the downs with Fred Butcher. Among the many micros we netted was this one pug - initially and with fading eyesight (in naff light), I assumed it to be a Grey Pug. Fred considered otherwise and correctly so. The following morning and with the benefit of my camera, the full beauty of this Satyr Pug was evident.

Sunday, 14 June 2020

Depressaria daucella, Holborough Marshes: 14 June 2020

Took a hour out this morning with Max to visit the nearby Holborough Marshes KWT reserve. Although few highlights in this short trip, we were chuffed to find some stunning wee caterpillars feeding on an umbellifer species. Thanks to the skills of Josie Hewitt, it seems that the cats were from the less-than-stunning Depressaria daucella - thank you Josie!

Depressaria daucella, Holborough Marshes: 14 June 2020

Depressaria daucella, Holborough Marshes: 14 June 2020

Saturday, 13 June 2020

Moffin at St Margarets: 12/06/20

Had a coupl eof hours on Friday night to pop to St Margarets at Cliffe and illuminate the valley... Conditions were less than ideal - I started the evening wishing I'd delayed things 24 hours. Fox and Vine Moths were probably the highlights, though Netted Pug (8) and Shaded Pug (6) did their best to entertain.
Vine Moth

Netted Pug

Shaded Pug

Marbled Coronet

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

Pale Shoulder: Dungeness - 7 June 2020

News on the pager of a Pale Shoulder in the garden of Dungeness Bird Obs was exciting - if you like that sort of thing - as it hadn't been trapped at light and was therefore 'countable' in my personal moth listing criteria. Popping to Dunge again after an earlier trip (see earlier Swallowtail post) was perhaps excessive, but how else could I see a genuine Pale Shoulder??? Travelling through the heavy rain, I wasn't overly optimistic that it would still be in the exact same patch of the garden. It wasn't. What I hadn't realised was that the moth in question had been potted soon after its discovery. Oh well - nice picture perhaps, but my quest for a Pale Shoulder in the UK continues!

Pale Shoulder, Dungeness Bird Obs; 7 June 2020

Monday, 8 June 2020

Quarry Wood; 7 June 2020

A few bits from Quarry Wood, near Coxheath, Kent on Sunday. Names on them to follow in due course!

Swallowtail at Denge Marsh: 7 June 2020

With an adult Rose-coloured Starling at Denge Marsh on Saturday, I decided upon a short coastal visit with Max... After failing to visit the RSPB Dungeness reserve (I hadn't realised they were all still closed), we popped round to Denge Marsh to try our luck with the RCS. No sooner had I stopped the truck (10:20am), that I saw what looked like a Swallowtail Butterfly just a couple of metres in from the road. Exiting the vehicle and grabbing camera (I should have done that the other way round), I was able to confirm that I hadn't been imaging things!

I got a WhatsApp message out to Kent Birders and managed to attract the attention of the O'Reilys - at least we now had someone else on it.

The butterfly was initially on Viper's Bugloss and grasses, but later, when a small crowd of twelve or so had gathered, it was on Hemlock (I think!).

With kids taking priority over the past few years, it's been over a decade since I have seen Swallowtail in the UK - this though was my first record of the continental subspecies. And a self-find as well!!

Sunday, 24 May 2020

Broad-bodied Chaser - Hothfield Common: 24 May 2020

After snapping a couple of Tiger Beetles, we moved to the raised bog for some hot Odonata action...

No Keeled Skimmers yet, but a lovely chunky female Broad-bodied Chaser put on a good display has she oviposited her eggs in the shallow waters. Not once did she land and take a rest: she had a job to do and she was going to complete it.
Broad-bodied Chaser (female) - the venation patterns on the black patches are great (in my humble opinion!)
Would she rest? Would she b******!

Tiger Beetles at Hothfield Common: 24 May 2020

Enjoyed a couple of hours out to Hothfield Common - the first trip out with the kids to this lovely reserve since confinement. The main target of the trip was to photograph some of the solitary bees and wasps along the sandy tracks, but clearly the timing and/or the high footfall meant that this was not the ideal date...

In a sandy pit there was a limited amount of hymenopteran action but the sight of a Tiger Beetle suddenly looked more photographically appealing. It was a fun ten minutes spent watching a mating pair which then decided that social-distancing was the right thing to do, so went their separate ways...
Tiger Beetle - and my favourite image of the day! 
Tiger Beetles - I hadn't realised the gender size different before seeing these two 'getting it on'
Tiger Beetles - mating pair
Tiger Beetles - Stunning... but mean bastards... !

Friday, 31 January 2020

Sperm Whale: The Swale, Kent - 31 January 2020

Sperm Whale, Swale, Kent - viewed from Oare Marshes KWT. Photo by Adam Whitehouse

During the afternoon of 30 Jan there was a report of Whale species, presumed Humpback, off the north Kent coast. Being a Thursday and having seen Humpback off Scilly, there little personal interest in this record from a 'seeing it' perspective.

My causal interest in this record changed later in the afternoon when it was re-identified as a Sperm Whale - and now being seen off the east end of the the Isle of Sheppey.

As luck would have it...I had to be up on the coast this morning to take Max to a sporting tournament with his school... John Clements confirmed its presence just before 8am and after dropping the wee lad off at 9:15am it was only a few miles drive to Oare Marshes before taking a brisk walk out to the seawatching hide. Thankfully Doug was still in position and able to confirm that the whale was both present and very much alive. Sure enough, the Sperm Whale was readily scope-able, clearly stranded on the sandbank but with most of the body under water and producing regular spouts, it was an impressively huge beast with it's very distinctive blunt forehead.

My second species of whale in Kent, following the Beluga Whale off Gravesend 15 months ago, and my sixth species in British waters.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Hothfield Common, Kent: 19 Jan 2020

A nice trip out with the kids to Hothfield Common this afternoon. No great ornithological delights, but just good to be out in the sunshine with a few woodlands bits and bobs.

And the highlight of the day? A tree! I wonder if many people spot this face looking down at the dog walkers and the horses...
A great tree!
Common Buzzard
Pony thing...
Some weary beasts...

Thursday, 26 December 2019

Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail (tschutschensis), Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019

It was many moons ago that I consider I first saw an Eastern-type Yellow Wagtail on the Isles of Scilly. Three different observers called it different species and without a consensus it has remained in limbo, ever since, in the back of my mind. With the boys getting multiple EYW on Scilly that bird in the back of my mind needed sorting...

Fast forward to the afternoon of 23 December and news from Norfolk of an Eastern Yellow Wagtail was surely too good to be true... fortunately not! Indeed, with the bird being a well-patterned male, not only was the (current) species confirmed, but the bird was deemed (by better people than myself) to be of the nominate tschutschensis race - whether you want to call that Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail (a bit of a mouthful), Alaskan Yellow Wagtail or just Alaskan Wagtail is entirely up to the list keeper.

With work on 23 & 24 Dec and something else happening on the 25th...the first available slot for me to travel to Norfolk was early doors today. Thankfully the weather-gods played ball and the rain held off - alas, the bitterly cold wind was a constant reminder that I should have actually put the gloves on and not just drive them to the site and then leave them in the car...

Thankfully the BHEYW...was still present and showing well both beside the puddles in the field and then on the dung heaps. A few snaps taken...

Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019
Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019
Blue-headed Eastern Yellow Wagtail, Sedgeford, Norfolk - 26 Dec 2019

Saturday, 14 December 2019

Rough-legged Buzzard, Funton Creek, Kent; 14 Dec 2019

Went out for a couple of hours this afternoon to get some fresh air. Arrived at Funton Creek just after 3pm and didn't even have to wait five minutes before the Rough-legged Buzzard flew in to view and tracked west towards the trees. A quick search for crabs and mice, under the copious quantities of tyres and building materials thrown out by Kent's finest, meant that Max also had a great trip out!

Rough-legged Buzzard

Thursday, 21 November 2019

Vagrant Emperor: Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory, Kent - 20 Nov 2019

I don't often think of late November as being prime Odonata time, so was hardly expecting to see a new species during a frosty spell... Pager news earlier in the week of a female Vagrant Emperor in The Elms at Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory seemed too good to be true, especially as the beast in question was sticking to its favourite branch in the chilly conditions - but whereas most things that seem to good to be true are usually naff, the same wasn't true for this individual.

An extended lunch-break enabled John and I to head east to Sandwich and then find the required woodland. Finding the right twig was, however, a rather more challenging task and we resorted to extra help to locate our quarry.

Thankfully, SBBOT Vice-Chairman, Sally Hunter came up trumps with not just accurate directions, but also a lift back round the corner to The Elms and the a guided tour to the Vagrant Emperor which was still clinging to its chosen twig. Seeing something completely new is always a treat - a big, big thank you to Sally for all her help for getting us happily back on the road and, for me, back in the office...

I think this puts me on 44 Odonata for the UK (with Red-veined Darter, Lesser Emperor and Dainty Damselfly all currently eluding me - not that I've put any effort in to seeing them, honest!).

Happy Days  - thanks Sally!

Saturday, 2 November 2019

Presumed Paddyfield Pipit: Sennen, Cornwall, 2 November 2019

It was many moons ago that I ripped out the pipit page from my field guide... after all, what chance of a Siberian Buff-bellied Pipit (A. r. Japonicus) in the UK?

News then of an odd large pipit in a soggy Sennen was initially met with little excitement - news though of its continued stay was providing local birders with prolonged viewing opportunities as well as sound recording and even mDNA sampling via droppings.

Expert opinion seemed to be pointing towards an incredulous outcome - could this really be a Paddyfield Pipit? Should we wait for nice weather to go and see a potential 'First for Britain'? No!

Despite a very obviously naff weather forecast for the Saturday (2 Nov), we headed out at 5am. And it really did get f****** windy. With trees and branches down along the route, we eventually arrived to find a soggy field being battered by gales and rain - perfect...not!

Well, we weren't going to see this thing in the car, so eventually we ventured out and got muddy - very muddy. As fortune had it, all was not to be lost and by the great hand of the birding gods in teh sky, I relocated our quarry by pure chance as I slipped my way to seek a new (sheltered) vantage point.

So what was it? Well, I don't know - but the acoustics do indeed seen to point to this being Paddyfield Pipit. And if the mDNA confirms that, it would potentially be the most outstanding rare passerine records I will ever see in the UK. I for one do not think this could be and escape of ship-assisted - but we'll just have to wait to see what the DNA doctors make of samples taken...

Presumed Paddyfield Pipit (Lee Gregory - that's name of the photographer, not the bird)
Presumed Paddyfield Pipit (Lee Gregory)
Paddyfield crowd...
Cornish paddyfield...

Friday, 6 September 2019

Brown Booby: Kynance Cover, 3 September 2019

Stunning shot of the Brown Booby
The reported Brown Booby off Swalecliffe, Kent, on the 19 August was an exciting prospect. Could we really have such a mega seabird just 30 minutes up the road. Typically of seabirds, it did what seabirds do, and disappeared.

Fast forward to the 26 August and an apparent Brown Booby is seen near St Ives by bloke with no bins... Too good to be true? Thankfully not as Keith Jennings photographed a clear Brown Booby off Porthgwidden Beach. Seemingly settled in to a pattern around the St Ives bay, the challenge was clearly going to be one of timing - this bird wasn't going to give up easily. Showing on the 29 Aug, but not on the 30th, surely the report of one off the French coast (on the 30th) was the same bird...

On Saturday morning the bird was again seen in St Ives Bay and this time it did the honourable thing and sat on the rocks. Shortly after mid-day we departed with news the bird was still sat on the rocks - shortly after departing, but before taking our first blurred picture of Stonehenge, we heard it had taken off. But surely it was still in the area - we continued... Even news later in the afternoon that the bird was reported past Pendeen was nothing more than its usual daily ritual of feeding off Land's End...

A couple of beers later (and some sleep) and we were on site again - Sunday morning - a brisk NW wind blowing through my insufficient clothing. A no bird to be seen... We had dipped. Yet another blurred image of Stonehenge at 60mph...

Back in to the office on Monday - to be shaken by mega alert at 10:57am. The Brown Booby had been relocated at Kynance Cove near The Lizard - game on! Plans to return to Cornwall were considered whilst birders on site and viewing images considered this was a different bird to the St Ives individual - what? Surely not? There can't be two Brown Boobies in the NE Atlantic! Actually, as the French bird was an adult, surely there couldn't be three!

Third Stonehenge fly-past...
Collected by John RHJS Clements at 5am and gathering Doug at 6am, we were taking our third Stonehenge image in four days before most people get to work: by 11.10am we were on site. Communications as they are these days, we could almost relax before seeing the bird - almost! National Trust car park ticket resolved (my membership card on me was typically three days out of date!) we sauntered down the amassed group of like-minded nutters to witness the almost unbelievable sighting of Britain's second, or just possibly third, Brown Booby!

Certainly though, Kynance Cove is beautiful. OK the weather was brilliant: OK we were excited at the prospect of seeing something special, but Kynance is lovely - simple as that!

The Brown Booby may be difficult to pick out though as it was a little way away...

However, aided by scopes and phones, the amazing sight of an immature Brown Booby in UK waters was now a reality. And after watching it for an hour or so, we did the right thing and departed to take our final picture of Stonehenge!

It was on this rock - honest!