After yesterdays successful twitch for finally my first Marsh Sandpiper in the UK at Cliffe Pools in Kent (6 Black-winged Stilts also present), I was back on the motorways today slightly further north in Essex to Canvey Island for yet more Dragonfly action. For years I've been wanting to see the Southern Migrant Hawkers that have colonised certain parts of Essex, and most notably on the delightful(??) island of Canvey. Me and Dad left early and arrived on site just after 7am and soon found our first male Hawker. Due to the cloud cover we only managed to see around 10 males, and while most were settled and showing well, by the end of the morning we mostly saw them hunting along the long ditch. Also present were many Scarce Emerald Damselflies. A great morning out.
Despite regular visits to the Cuckmere recently, this evening was the first notable session for migrants. The lower water levels on the meanders doing some good as two juvenile Little Ringed Plovers were present. Other common bits were present but most pleasing were the two young Oystercatchers that have finally spread their wings. How birds like these survive on the scrape is a miracle but this is now the second year running of successful fledging.
Its been a few years since I saw Purple Emperors in Sussex, so I made the effort on what is likely to be the last good day for a while. The Knepp Estate seemed the most reliable, and although its not the greatest place to find them low down, I had several nice views of 13 individuals including one on the ground. The usual other bits seen/heard during the four hours I was present.
On Saturday, a walk in the Cuckmere produced my first Common Sandpiper of the autumn, and the two young Oystercatchers are nearly ready to spread their wings.
Another long hot day out in the Sussex countryside was very successful. I started at a private site where a male Honey Buzzard and male Goshawk flew through, and then the rest of the day was spent on Ashdown Forest catching up on some newly emerged Dragonflies (namely Brilliant Emerald and Keeled Skimmer) and a few different Orchid species, and a bonus singing Wood Warbler. A cone and a flake was also very welcome.
male Honey Buzzard - click on image to enlarge
Birds Nest Orchid
singing Wood Warbler
Brilliant Emerald - just about make out the incurving anal appendages and the yellow frons. My first perched photo of this species.
A brilliant morning was spent with Dad watching and photographing these superb Common Clubtail Dragonflies in West Sussex today. With sightings during the week (many thanks Simon and John) we were semi-optimistic in finding one, but to find up to ten individuals and for them to be showing so well was completely unexpected. This was a new species for me which now nearly completes the set for the UK Dragonfly/Damselfly list.
With news last night of the Elegant Tern heading east into Sussex from Hayling Island, I was in two minds whether to spend the day down in West Sussex searching for the bird, or positioning myself at a decent location so I could reach the area in quick time. I chose the latter and after nearly three hours of wandering around finding a few Orchids north of Brighton, I was photographing a Beautiful Damoiselle when a phone call from Jake came through that only meant one thing, the Tern had been found by Alan Kitson, but I wasn't expecting it to have been found at Church Norton. I legged it to the car for ten minutes and raced down towards Norton.
Bee Orchid near Wolstonbury Hill
Beautiful Damoiselle at Nyetimber Hill
The Tern had disappeared straight away but when I had just passed Sidlesham it was re-found on Tern Island, and I screeched into a parking place along the Church Norton Road and yet again legged it to the beach where mercifully the ELEGANT TERN was on view just after arrival. It was only visible when it flew up and around from the vegetated island for twenty minutes when it then decided to strongly fly off way out of the harbour and out of sight towards Selsey. For once my plan had worked, as I wouldn't have seen it if I had stayed at home and waited on news. Not that any of this mattered however, as two hours later the Tern had returned and showed nicely perched in full view.
a county first - Elegant Tern at Church Norton
I then continued the Orchid theme with 130+ Musk Orchids on the way home, and then at sunset bumped into a very vocal Roe Deer.
With plenty of Storm Petrels in Kent (unusual to be so many) in the past few days, this morning I was very confident in finding one off Splash Point despite only having seen two off here before (one in spring and one in the autumn). So I was pleased to spot one relatively close inshore only half hour from starting moving quickly east. Despite finding one quickly, this was sadly the only one in the three hours I (and soon to join me Bob Self) endured.
Totals between 07.40 - 11.10
Storm Petrel - 1 at 08.12 (less than a mile out at a guess)
Manx Shearwater - 10 (incl a flock of 8)
Sandwich Tern - 13
Gannet - 20
Common Scoter - 6
Having worked very long days all week, I could've done with a lay in, but I was keen to visit Pannel Valley (having not been there since the Wilson's Phalarope) at least once this time of year and thought today was probably my best chance of getting there. I left home at 3am and arrived shortly before 4am. A good range of species seen but sadly no scarce Warblers were found. I was however pleased to find a drake Garganey and a purring Turtle Dove.
Totals for Pannel are:
Barn Owl - 1
Cuckoo - 2
Garganey - 1 drk
Little Ringed Plover - 2
Avocet - 4 Turtle Dove - 1
drk Garganey at Pannel Valley
Turtle Dove at Pannel Valley
close enough?? Reed Warbler at Combe Haven
I quickly nipped over to The Midrips where I wasn't surprised at all to find the Black-winged Stilts had departed overnight.......they always do. I started heading home at 8.30am but stopped off at Camber quickly and happily found 47 Lizard Orchids, most of which were very robust and looking good. Closer to home I checked into Combe Haven where another Cuckoo was found but little else.
Lizard Orchids at Camber
Knepp Estate - 28/5/17
Undecided on what to do last Sunday, I soon found myself at the Knepp Estate, a site I hadn't been to before and plucked upon just to wander around and see where I ended up. I eventually found an area that hosted both singing Turtle Dove and Cuckoo, plus many species of Warbler including lots of Garden Warblers.
Probably the unexpected sighting of the morning were a flock of 16 Mediterranean Gulls flying high heading west.
Having not seen a Black Guillemot for a few years, I thought it was a must after seeing the Chequered Skipper that I popped down the road and see these lovely birds, that are nesting on the promenade wall.
Having come back from America and seen very little in the way of birds, my mind turned to Butterflies, and in particular a species that has always been cast to one side in previous years, mainly due to time of year as birds normally take over. The Chequered Skipper of NW/W Scotland is only one of two species I'm still yet to see in the UK, and therefore I hatched a plan for Tuesday to day twitch this butterfly. The weather appeared to be ok, with Monday being grim and working Wednesday this could be my only opportunity this year.
My BA flight from LGW arrived in GLA just before 9am, and I swiftly got through to Avis car rental and set off just before 9.30am. The journey was 2 hours, but could've been much quicker if it wasn't for the constant lorries and caravans doing half the speed limit alongside Loch Lomond. Two Ospreys circling low above the road alongside the Loch seemed a good omen.
I arrived at Glasdrum Woods NNR (situated between Oban and Fort William) at 11.30am which allowed me 2.5 hours before I had to start heading back towards Glasgow. Thankfully however, a two minute show of the sun was enough for my first Chequered Skipper to take flight where it quickly landed on some bracken and I made the most of it just incase it was my only one. As I walked the stretch underneath the power cables (now being joined by Dave Cook from Burgess Hill......small world) I must've seen another 10-15 individuals, all of which were near enough in perfect condition. The constant cloud cover with short periods of sunlight was brilliant as this allowed the Skippers to fly around but then quickly land again and be dosile enough for a close approach. Also present were a couple of Pearl Bordered Fritillaries and Small Pearl Bordered Fritillaries. After many photos of the Skippers I decided to quickly head down to Oban and photograph the Black Guillemots before making my way back to Glasgow Airport for a well deserved beer. My easyJet flight back to LGW only landed ten minutes late and I arrived home at 9pm.
A very successful and pleasing twitch to one of my favourite areas.