Horsey & Winterton, 27 August 2019

With the hot weather about to break it was nice to knock off work mid-afternoon and head up to the coast. It felt like last chance saloon in my quest for a certain damselfy in the county as the flight season is just about over.

On the sweaty walk to the location no less than 7 Whinchats, 3 Wheatears and a family party of Stonechats livened things up. As did a single late Dark Green Fritillary.

Reaching the pool I flushed 2 Common Sandpipers and then spent a good 2 hours searching the margins. Amongst a good few Blue-tailed Damselflies I found one strikingly orange specimen. I battered it with my camera and have since been able to categorically id it as a female Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly of the orange 'aurantiaca' form - bingo! Wow, has this, my 34th species of odonata for Norfolk lead me on a merry dance!

With a little time (if not energy!) to spare I popped to Winterton and in some bushes SE of the totem pole met Jus, Chris B and Chris S. And with help from some fieldcraft got some nice views of the Wryneck to round off a splendid evening.



Dark Green Fritillary

  Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfly (fem, form aurantiaca)

East Sussex & Kent for Long-tailed Blues and much more, 25 August 2019

We had been planning a day out in Kent for a few weeks but with the discovery of Long-tailed Blue butterflies in East Sussex our planned day began to take shape nicely.

Leaving Norfolk at 07.45 we were down in Brighton in time for the warmth of the day to have built up. Whitehawk Hill in suburban Brighton was our destination and sure enough, in an area of rough grassland and bushes close to the TV mast we found a couple of other guys and more importantly 2 male Long-tailed Blues! One was seen on numerous occasions, whizzing backwards and forwards with an amazingly fast and jerky flight. Luckily it did settle a few times allowing some photographs.

We then moved on through the Brighton traffic to the town of Lancing to the west. Here, looking through a fence in the corner of the Asda carpark beside the railway line we immediately got onto 2-3 female Long-tailed Blues along a line of flowering Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea. Again they performed well prospecting egg-laying spots although they were that little bit distant for decent pics.

Long-tailed Blue (male)

 Long-tailed Blue (female on Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea)

We had spoken to a guy at Whitehawk Hill who tipped us off about a couple of nearby sites. The first of those was Steyning Rifle Range (aka Steyning Downland Project) so we duly headed off there next. Despite it being supposedly after the best time to see them (we arrived at 14.20) we scored with a couple of Brown Hairstreaks within about half an hour. Some good perched views through the bins but nothing I could get my camera on.

 Steyning Rifle Range

The other site we were told about was Malling Down, just outside Lewes. After some difficulty finding a place to park we walked up the path from the west and out onto the impressive down. And it took me about 5 minutes to get onto a female Silver-spotted Skipper! She was quickly followed by a male which sat still for a while allowing some pics and for us to note it was one of the dark variety where the ground colour to the underwings is a dark brown suffused with green. A couple each of Adonis Blue and Chalkhill Blue plus some nice plants - Carline Thistle, Dwarf Thistle, Wall Cotoneaster and Small Scabious had us leaving the site in fine spirits for our trek across to north Kent.

Silver-spotted Skipper (male of the dark form)

Silver-spotted Skipper (female)

Carline Thistle

 Malling Down

The drive was surprisingly easy and we arrived at Queendown Warren, our penultimate site with about 20 minutes of decent light left. Luckily we found loads of Autumn Ladies Tresses in double quick time with the bonus of Autumn Gentian.

Autumn Ladies Tresses

 Autumn Gentians

After an entertaining fish supper in the High Street in Sheerness (dining alfresco on the pavement seating we were 'treated' to the drunken antics of 2 girls who were keen to procure some chips for a quid!) we headed to the dock area and another 'high street'. What had been our main target for the day had to be left until last and after dark - European Yellow-tailed Scorpions. Here, using 2 UV torches Jus had purchased we saw about 25 of these marvellous creatures on and in the old dock wall. Apparantly a population of 15-20,000 prevails and has been there for 250+ years!

         EuropeanYellow-tailed Scorpions

Educational Damselfly! Winterton, 24 August 2019

Despite spending some while up at 'the' pool in Winterton North Dunes looking for Scarce Blue-tailed Damselfy with Murray, Lynette and 2 others we failed to find any. There was one strange damsel that we initially thought was one but examining photos have revealed it to be a strange thing indeed. After much discussion on social media it's been agreed it's a female Blue-tailed Damselfly with atypical blue markings on segment 7 (which shouldn't have amy blue on the top). 2 Wasp Spiders nearby were less controversial!  Birdwise 3 Whimbrel flew south, a couple of Chiffchaffs and a small handful of Stonechats was about it.

Abberant female Blue-tailed Damselfly

Wasp Spiders

Black Guillemot at Cley, a Norfolk bogey bird falls! 22 August 2019

Black Guillemot has long been a bogey bird of mine and arguably the 'commonest' bird I'd never seen in the county.
So, with a confiding juvenile bird having been showing most of the day off Cley Beach carpark I dashed up there this evening and the bird was present on arrival for a bit of 'easy birding'! About 30 yards offhsore it showed very well despite diving frequently. In time it drifted west a few hundred yards, probably with the tide and it was time to quit the scene. Apart from a couple of Fulmars, Sandwich Tern and small groups of Common Terns heading west towards the point it really was just a dirty twitch!

Norfolk bird no.397


Success at Winterton! 21 August 2019

After failing at Winterton on Saturday I was keen to return for another crack at Southern Emerald Damselfly. New Norfolk odonata don't come along every day and it's a long time since I saw the species on Cliffe Marshes in Kent.

Reaching the favoured pool at about 09.30 there wasn't a huge amount of odonata activity and I'd had just 2 Chiffchaffs and 3+ Stonechats on the 30 minute walk there. After an hour of fruitless searching John Geeson, Stew Betts and Simon Chidwick arrived so we suddenly had a few more eyes looking! It still took another hour before Simon got onto a male Southern Emerald Damsel but it quickly slipped away. They really are elusive. In the next hour we then went on to get several views of the female although she has now lost her right hand hindwing. Each time we saw one it quickly disappeared. Still, I managed to get a few acceptable pics of what was my 33rd species of odonata for the county and well worth the effort. The pool also yielded Common Emerald Damselflies, a single Willow Emerald Damselfly, Azure Damselflies, Small Red-eyed Damselflies, Ruddy Darters, Common Darters, Emperor Dragonfly, Migrant Hawker and Brown Hawker. While sitting down having our lunch and a natter a spider sp (id awaited) and a Straw Underwing moth graced us with their presence.

Southern Emerald Damselfly (female)

Southern Emerald Damselfly (male)

Willow Emerald Damselfly 

Azure Damselfly (female)

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

 Spider sp

The leisurely walk back gave us plenty of Graylings, Painted Ladies, Small Copper, Gatekeeper, Small White, Red Admirals and Small Tortoiseshells. Birdwise we had 2 Common Buzzards, Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrels and a small pasage of Swallows. John was able to help me out by pointing out a few plants - Royal Fern, Wild Horseradish, Burnet Rose (with it's distinctive black hips), Square-stalked St John's Wort and Great Water Plantain.

Burnet Rose

Staying with John and Stew we checked out the South Valley in the early afternoon and bumping in to Barry Jarvis we were soon watching 3 Pied Flycatchers on the slope just past the oaks. The same small area also held Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat and Blackcap. The slope by Hermanus had a large number of entertaining Bee-wolfs, some carrying their prey! 3 Brown Argus on the stroll back to the car finished things off nicely.

Pied Flycatchers        

Bee-wolf (with prey!)

Little Owl at Redgrave & Lopham Fen, 20 August 2019

After finishing work in South Lopham I had a couple of hours to have a walk around nearby Redgrave and Lopham Fen. As expected things were quiet but livened up by a Little Owl that sat obligingly on some fencing in the middle of a paddock on the edge of the reserve. Other than that I had Reed Warbler, calling Bearded Tit and Green Woodpecker. Red Admirals were out in big numbers sharing the Hemp Agrimony with Painted Ladies, Peacocks and a single Speckled Wood.
Plant-wise there was plenty of Yellow Loosestrife, Purple Loosestrife, Scarlet Pimpernel and Water Mint.  

Little Owl

Painted Lady

Winterton and The Birdfair, 17 & 18 August 2019

It was a tiring and rather hectic weekend but that's the way I like them!

On Saturday Belinda and I headed up to Winterton via Steve & Dot's house to collect some Birdfair tickets that they kindly gave us. We weren't intending going but free tickets are not to be sneezed at!

A long walk through Winterton North Dunes book-ended by 2 visits to the Dunes Cafe was very enjoyable. Graylings were out in big numbers, in fact the most I've ever seen. 120 would be  conservative estimate and that was only from the paths we walked. There were still loads of Painted Ladies plus Small Heath, Small Copper, Small Tortoiseshell, Gatekeeper, Small White, Red Admiral and Peacock. I wanted to visit the pool north of the concrete blocks for Southern Emerald Damselfly but despite much searching couldn't locate the species. The pool had plenty of odonata interest though with several Small Red-eyed Damselflies, Common Emerald Damselflies, Blue-tailed Damselflies, 3 Emperor Dragonflies (including an egg-laying female and a male that caught and ate a Small Tortoiseshell!), Brown Hawker, Ruddy Darters, Common Darters, Migrant Hawkers and brief visits from a very welcome Common Hawker and a late male Broad-bodied Chaser.


Small Heath

Small Red-eyed Damselfly

Brown Hawker

Emperor Dragonflies (m & f)

 Migrant Hawker

Sunday was spent at the Birdfair enjoying catching up with plenty of old friends, a couple of talks (Birding Angola and Small Cats of South Africa), weighed down with brochures as usual and one book purchase - the Lynx guide to Birds of the West Indies with a 30% discount. I also made a useful Mexican contact who has promised to help out with info in preparation for our trip to the Yucatan in February. A couple of Red Kites were seen on the way and way back in the Peterborough area.