Sunday, 31 May 2015

Much Ado About Mothing

Although todays gloomy weather could make you believe otherwise, it is almost summer.  And with the season fast approaching it's been time once again to brush the dust off the macro lens and head out looking for moths. Oh, ahum, and butterflies too.  The annual summer transition from Ornithology to Lepidoptera has begun.  And I must say, it's been a rather good start.
 A 6:40am walk up to Hollingbury Golf-course (or rather the fields and woods around it) on the 25th for a couple of hours, transpired into over five hours.  Of course, it was on one of the few occasions I had neglected to have breakfast before leaving. And no, I didn't get lost, I just got a little bit carried away looking for moths...
 The morning started off with a stunning Alabonia Geofrella, and as it started to warm up, one of the hedgerows held a Green Long-Horn, Elachista Atricomella,  Red-twin Spot Carpet and a few hundred Cocksfoot moths.  And in the grass along the edge, a pair of Aspilapteryx Tringipennella (Yes, I wish that name was simpler too) and a Small Yellow-Underwing.
 I began to slowly make my way home, heading through a patch of woods where I found a lovely Pammene Regiana.
While walking through the main field, an interesting looking orange micro moth flew over the path in front of me and landed briefly, I grabbed a few record shots before it flew off and I was distracted by a Mother Shipton.  That little orange micro turned out to be the nationally scarce Orange Conch! A very unexpected find.

 Hoping to re-find the Orange Conch, I headed back for an hour or so in the afternoon the next day, and although I was unsuccessful in that endeavour I did find a Downland Conch, close enough for me!

After two great days mothing in Sussex, on the 28th we decided to see what we could find at Wanstead.  It was quite slow going to begin with, but we did eventually get Firethorn Leaf-miner, Pseudargyrotoza Conwagana, Dichrorampha plumbagana, Homoeosoma sinuella (If you properly read all those names you deserve a medal), and best of all a Eucosma metzneriana! A recent colonist of the UK, the first record for Britain was only in 1977.  I'm not quite sure what its status is in Wanstead.
So yes, I feel that's a decent start...

Thanks to everyone who's helped with ID's!

Friday, 15 May 2015

Patching, It's More Than a Hobby

Today the patch was, to put it simply, good. No, I jest not, it was genuinely good.
 A morning visit around 9am, had nothing out of  the ordinary, save the first Cygnet of the year. While walking through the old pitch and putt however, I heard a call I'd long awaited in the park, and looking up - as I'd clearly forgotten to do for so many springs and autumns previously- there it was, a Swallow! Patch lifer... I know, how!?  It's simply incredible it took so long. Still, all the more rewarding after a couple of years of looking.
 A little gleeful after the Swallow, and wanting to see if there were any more Cygnets, we headed back in the afternoon. Alas no sign of Cygnets, nor the female Swan, so they most likely were hidden on the island.
 Heading home after photographing some Geese and their Goslings, I picked up on a small falcon bombing past the boating lake.  Hobby! I grabbed a few record shots before it flew off distantly to the West.  Wow.  Another patch lifer, and a great one at that!  I must say, I was pretty ecstatic, an incredible day on the patch. There's something I never though I'd say!

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Cuckoo Clocked

I, as I'm sure is the case for most people, have heard Cuckoo's cuckooing.  Not many times, but, given that I spend most of my birding time on a London patch where a Swallow would be a mega, no surprises there. I'd not, however, ever seen one.  I resolved (as I do every spring) that this would be the year that would change, the year I finally saw one. With several birds being regularly reported at Two-Tree Island, it seemed only right to head down there this morning.
 The Cuckoos had been on the east side of the island, and having arrived there it didn't take more than fifteen minutes before a Cuckoo could - just - be heard over the buffeting wind. This was then quickly followed up by a flash of long-tailed pointy-winged grey as the Cuckoo flew off.  We walked back a way in the direction it had flown, to try and re-find it. And after a few minutes of scanning, I picked it up in a hawthorn opposing one of the hides.  Yes, finally!  At long last I could put a bird to the song.  Or however that expression goes.
  It was a male Cuckoo, and he gave fantastic views, singing on and off. He was soon joined by a female who flew in ever so briefly, before the pair departed.  Not for long though, as they both then proceeded to show well intermittently over the next two hours.  Beautiful birds, much better views than I was expecting...

There was even a third Cuckoo singing over the west side!
 Worth the wait? Yeah... suppose so.

Monday, 4 May 2015

May the 'fourth' be With You?

Today something happened.  Something I didn't know to be possible.  Something I thought only to be true in dreams, crazy dreams.  Seawatching... without a ridiculously early start.  Not even relatively early, I didn't leave until after midday.  I know this may be hard to believe, but I assure you it's true!
 After midday you see, was when the south-easterlies were supposed to kick in.  An supposedly that's what's needed for a good seawatch.
 I got to Splash Point for 13:00, and immediately had three Little Terns pointed out!  Of course, by Little Terns I do mean black blobs with pointy wings - it may be a different time of day but this is still seawatching after all. Still, things were looking promising, fingers were crossed for a good movement of Pomarine's!
 A handful of Sandwich Tern, a 1cy Med Gull and some Common Scoter soon followed, but no Poms, and things soon slowed down to barely a steady passage of birds past.  Hmm, surely when the wind really started so would the bird movement.  Logic right?  And so, the wind picked up, but the passage didn't.  After four hours all that was seen of note was a moderately close Arctic Skua, a couple of specks that were Bonxie's and a few Red-throated Diver. A Porpoise too, but I don't think that had anything to do with the wind movements...
 At 17:00 I had to call it and head home.  Where were the Poms? I don't know. Five passed Dungeness, but apparently avoided Splash.  So although it was enjoyable -especially not having to put on an alarm for 4:50am- it was a pretty quiet seawatch.  Today, the force was not with me.

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Grey Wagtails

Regular readers (if there are any) of this blog will probably know by now, that I'm a big fan of Grey Wagtails.  They've been an on and off photography project on my patch for well over a year now. And no, that's not just because there's nothing else to photograph in the park, that's almost, but not quite true.
 Over the autumn and early winter they spent about half the time too close for my lens to focus, then come January 1st they became elusive, I hadn't managed a passable shot since.  This seems to be their pattern, or at least it has been for the last two winters. But now, they're back, and with five fledglings!
On Friday, conveniently whilst looking for any Grey Wagtails, I found several fledglings around the Boating Lake and the Wash. The light was too high to really bother taking many images, so Saturday morning I got an earlier start. Naturally, it was cloudy. Still, beats the harsh midday sun.

 I headed back again in the afternoon, and found all five chicks lined up along the edge of the lake. While their parents were busy proving themselves amazing at fly-catching, with some incredible speed and agility! A pair of Pied Wagtails also joined them for this.  Probably the closest the park will get to a Flycatcher this year....

I would like to take this moment to apologise to my camera for the overuse of it's shutter - Sorry!  But a superb day out photographing.

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