Lesser Florican - August 2023

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Monday 29 June 2020

The New Forest – 28/6/20

A short day out with Ian, Jake & Chris at The New Forest produced the ever-reliable Bog Orchids at their usual location. 

Elsewhere, it was great to find a huge number of Silver-studded Blues. Two Golden-ringed Dragonflies, four Woodlarks and a couple of Dartford Warblers were the other noteworthy species.

Bog Orchids

Silver-studded Blue

Friday 26 June 2020

Cuckmere Haven & Southease – 26/6/20

An early morning vigil in the Cuckmere revealed the start of the autumn migration for me. As well as the Common Sandpiper along the river, a Nightingale was 'croaking' by the scrape and two flocks of Sand Martins (totalling 14 birds) flew straight out to sea. 

Hoping to find some rare dragonflies, I walked a small stretch of reeds north of Southease, though all I could find were a couple of Four-spotted Chasers and an Emperor. The majority of blue damselflies present were Variable Damselflies – probably one of my favourite ‘blues'. The Reed Warblers appeared to have done very well here as several juveniles were spotted; in the river were hundreds of Mullet, all moving upstream in a single line that never stopped all the time I was there.

adult Reed Warbler

juvenile Reed Warbler

Variable Damselfly

Thursday 25 June 2020

Purple Emperor – 25/6/20

I was up at 4am this morning to see a small colony of Marsh Helleborines on the outskirts of Basingstoke (a permit-only site). Found them with ease, although I only counted 16 spikes; despite such a small site it was great to see so many orchids, with the majority being Southern Marsh Orchids. 

After more sleep, I ventured over to Straits Enclosure (near, or part of the Alice Holt complex) and walked the single track through the wood. Some funny smells down the track led me to scattered shrimp paste that had been deposited by others prior to my arrival. Thankfully for me, a male Purple Emperor glided down and onto the track, soon walking onto the deposit. It stayed 'feeding' for around ten minutes, but when the depositors arrived, I left them to it having had my photographic time with it. 

Further sightings included a family of Spotted Flycatchers, many White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries, and a single Purple Hairstreak. A great morning and I was back indoors by 10.30am.

Purple Emperor

Marsh Helleborine

Tuesday 23 June 2020

Hampshire Orchids & more Nightjars

Last week I visited a reserve not too far away from Alton, finding a nice range of orchids. Despite the dry spring, the number of Musk Orchids was certainly impressive. 

Last night, a trip to Farnham Heath was worth it as the Nightjars once again performed admirably. A Dartford Warbler and a Hobby were noteworthy, as was a calling Woodcock that flew through when it was too dark to see it.

Musk Orchid


Pyramidal Orchid

Musk Orchids

Wednesday 17 June 2020

Asian Desert Warbler - Holy Island 17/6/20

My UK twitching has dwindled in the past few years, though there are some species in my opinion that warrant a twitch. Historical records of Asian Desert Warblers in Britain are from way back (comparable to my age!); any photos of nest-building males from Yorkshire and Norfolk certainly raised much excitement when I trawled through the 'Rare Birds of Britain & Ireland' photo book in my younger years. So, the news of a male in Northumberland certainly got the pulses racing and I soon got into full twitching mode once again.

Yesterday, I had arranged to swap my working days to have today off, and had also hired a car for the long drive up to Northumberland to see the very rare Asian Desert Warbler, found on the 15th June. The Blyth's Reed Warbler find was a major setback in my plans, but only slightly, as before I went to see that, I had picked up the hire car (a nice Renault Kadjar) in Basingstoke. 

From arriving in Alton after the Sussex twitch, I gathered a few things together, had a shower, and was soon on my way north. It was a mammoth six hour drive, but somehow I managed to do it in one hit (well a brief five minute stop), arriving on Holy Island around 5am. A quick walk out onto the dunes soon revealed the presence of the warbler as it sang from its favoured pine trees. Over the course of two hours the warbler showed fairly well to its gathering of perhaps 15 observers, though it stayed remarkably well hidden in the scant bushes as it fed amongst the leaves. 

With excellent views, I reverted my attention to the island's flora. Despite a tardy search in the western dunes, I couldn't find any trace of the Dune Helleborine (until recently named Lindisfarne Helleborine, though this and Tyne Helleborine have been 'lumped' into Dune Helleborine), however, I did find many Marsh Helleborines that were still a week away from flowering. Many Northern Marsh Orchids and hybrids of Northern Marsh x Common Spotted Orchids were also present. 

By 8.30am, I thought of little else but to make tracks. After filling with fuel north of Newcastle, I drove non-stop back to Basingstoke and dropped off the car, arriving home at 2.30pm! 

Asian Desert Warbler on Holy Island

Tuesday 16 June 2020

Blyth's Reed Warbler - Beachy Head 16/6/20

After slogging around the entirety of Beachy Head over the weekend searching for a Blyth's Reed, it was with both pleasure and annoyance that I was to drive back there this afternoon to see one.

With such an unprecedented spring for this species, it felt as if Sussex had been left out altogether, but thankfully, Laurence was on hand to find the county's third Blyth's Reed Warbler, but most importantly, the first twitchable record! The previous records were suppressed, the first rightly, and the second, wrongly... I'll leave it at that.

A quick phone call to my boss to ask for the afternoon off meant a nervous but steady drive back to Beachy earlier than expected. Upon arriving, it didn't take too long for the bird to show itself. Over the course of an hour, it showed reasonably well, especially for such an elusive species.

For a Blyth's Reed, the bird was most striking; the short primaries, non-rufous rump, striking supercilium and plain tertials were all evident, not only in the photos below, but also during the prolonged scope views I managed to achieve.

Well done to Laurence on another Beachy find... and also it was great to see a number of Sussex birders!

Blyth's Reed Warbler at Beachy Head

Monday 15 June 2020

Beachy Head - 13/14 June 2020

Over the weekend, Ian and I walked the whole of Beachy Head on two occasions, in a last ditch attempt to find that June rarity. With plenty of Blyth's Reed Warblers and Rose-coloured Starlings entering the UK currently, it felt worth a go, despite probably knowing that little, if anything, was going to be found. 

On Saturday, despite a moderate SE wind blowing, I resisted the urge to do a seawatch, and joined Ian up Beachy. The meagre highlights from the morning were the usual male Black Redstart at Chat Vale, and an Arctic Skua that flew east off Cow Gap - the latter maybe demonstrating that I should've done a seawatch instead!

After a bit of a rest during the afternoon, I did manage to do a seawatch from Peacehaven, seeing just 11 Common Scoters and 9 Sandwich Terns. I do wonder if a proper seawatch had been undertaken, what may have been passing in mid-June... I'm just hoping that Long-tailed Skua didn't pass!

On Sunday, the same route on Beachy with Ian produced just two Crossbills flying west, and a nice adult Hobby, also flying west. At Belle Tout, we got informed of a Large Tortoiseshell at Holywell; a long and brisk walk back resulted in a dip... but thankfully my Dad ensured our dip was short-lived. 

Whilst walking Jasper out the back of Denton, Dad phoned informing me of a Large Tortoiseshell he had just found, and seemingly, showing well and loyal to a small area. Eventually, I made it and the butterfly showed brilliantly for a duration... a long awaited new butterfly for Sussex/UK. Whilst watching the butterfly, a female Marsh Harrier flew over, presumably migrating. Very strange, not only for the time of year, but also the fact it was in heavy moult!

Black Redstart at Chat Vale

Large Tortoiseshell near Seaford

Friday 12 June 2020

Red-footed Falcon - 12/6/20

After satisfactory views yesterday morning, I felt compelled not to return to Beeding Hill. However, the photos were getting better and better from many others, and with rain forecast today, I decided to take this opportunity and make a return visit, hoping very few people would be up there.

Upon arrival, only Lee Evans and another chap was present... and so was the falcon! Initially sat in a bush taking cover from the rain, it took flight and over the course of the next hour, the Red-footed Falcon showed brilliantly; hovering just metres in front of me, it was difficult to not press down on the shutter, and 1500 photos later, I left for home.

Red-footed Falcon at
Beeding Hill

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Tice's Meadow - Surrey 9/6/20

Before this evening, I hadn't realised Tice's Meadow was only a twenty minute drive away. So, it would have been rude not to have twitched the pair of Black-winged Stilts that were found this morning in Farnham; apparently only the seventh record for Surrey! 

Last night, a few of us from work met and socially distanced at Farnham Heath, and enjoyed a lovely display from five or six Nightjars, Dartford Warblers, Cuckoos and Tree Pipits. Other than this, I haven't been getting up to much recently, though this weekend in Sussex looks promising for a late-spring mega!

Black-winged Stilts (far
right and left of image)

Friday 5 June 2020

Pagham Harbour & Medmerry RSPB 5/6/20

With a day off from work, and the thoughts of many early June 'mega waders' trawling my mind, I fancied a morning down in the Pagham area... something I never thought I would say! Still, early June in the past has done me well with finding some decent stuff, and generally, there are fewer birders around too, and with more eyes needed around Pagham, I opted for there.

I arrived at Sidlesham Ferry at 05.15, with only eight Avocets on offer here. I quickly whizzed down to Church Norton and spent a couple of hours here, checking many sites; including the harbour, the spit, up to Selsey East Beach including The Severals, all the back fields and up to Long Pool. As I arrived in the car park, a flock of 13 Crossbills flew west; this felt like a good omen, but it was as good as it got. The harbour was quiet with very few terns about, but it was nice to get good views of the  Little Terns, and a Knot was near the mouth. Along East Beach, a Spotted Flycatcher was present, and finally, around the back, were 24 Southern Marsh Orchids in a boggy field. 

Still being relatively early, I was hoping to be the first birder at Medmerry for the day, and I just about scraped that. The habitat looked brilliant for a singing Blyth's Reed or a posing shrike, but all I could find was a singing Cuckoo, 16 Avocets on Stilt Pool, and a single Common Tern offshore. 

Back at Pagham, I spent much time covering the scrub between the visitor centre and the seawall as once again, a singing rare warbler here seemed most appropriate... I wonder how much has been missed in this area? I walked all the way to North Wall, though I could only find a lovely summer-plumaged Cattle Egret and another Cuckoo

Southern Marsh Orchid
at Church Norton

Avocet at Medmerry

Cattle Egret at North Wall

Roe Deer at Pagham