Sunday, 19 April 2015

18th April - Pulborough Brooks & Noar Hill

I arrived at RSPB Pulborough at around 07.40, and the car park was full.  It was a lovely morning, clear blue skies but cool with a north easterly wind.  In fact it was cold enough for me to have to wear a hat and gloves despite the sunshine.  It would seem there was an early morning event because gradually people were leaving, so I waited for Ian to arrive. The target today was Nightingale.  Once we were all together we made our way from the car park into the reserve, as we did so the first Whitethroat of the year sang from a tree near to the cafe.

The path out of the visitor centre was alive with bird song, and Chiffchaffs seemed to be everywhere.  I have noticed that they display by fluttering the wings, and this behaviour seems to follow a burst of song, and an answering call from presumably the female.

You can see the fluttering wings here.

A little further along we came across a longer winged bird that was calling, and looked good for a Willow Warbler.

It came closer, and put in a short burst of song as if to say, yes I am a Willow Warbler.

We never heard it sing again, but we were treated to some lovely views

We made our way to the West Mead hide, with Bullfinches, Blackcaps and more Chiffchaffs singing as we walked.  On the water there were several Shoveler, Canada Geese, and a few Shelduck.  But of interest was sitting on the islands, a pair of Little Ringed Plovers.

The early morning sunshine was casting them in some lovely light as they walked along the edge of the water probing at the water.

The stillness of the water was creating some lovely reflections.

We left the hide, and made our way around the path towards the "adder alley".  There has been some planting of trees and changes to the paths which in time will make this area quite interesting.  As we walked we could hear Nightingale singing in the distance.

We arrived at the location, and the Nightingale was in full song, typically sitting low in the tree.  Then it appeared sitting at the top of the tree in full view.

We were then treated to a wonderful performance, all the notes and volume.

Changing position that was even more accommodating.

When it turned away from us the sunshine picked out the rich russet colour on the back

And you could always see the wide gape as the notes came tumbling out.

Finally it stopped and flew off, but a little way along the path another was in song.  We walked back to watch this one, and it pt in a few notes before dropping from sight, but then appearing on the ground.

It then skulked through the grass and then into the nettles where it popped up conveniently in a patch of sunshine.

These were my best views of nightingale, the timing was perfect, just arrived and not too many leaves on the trees to hide them.  The song is always there, and is truly a wonderful experience, but to see the bird that delivers it is the icing on the cake.

We walked from there to the Netley's hide, stopping on the way to check the sheltered spots, in one of these a Whitethroat was singing from the top of a tree again.

The Blackthorn is in full bloom, and looked wonderful against the vivid blue sky, it provided the back drop for most of the paths as we walked along.

The hide did not reveal a lot, and after a short stay we made our way back to the Nightingales.  However we stopped to check out what sounded like Garden Warbler.  It is always one of those bird songs that makes you doubt yourself, but this was very scratchy compared to the more tuneful song of the Blackcap.  I had to search through the bushes but eventually found it, and could confirm it was a Garden Warbler.

As we walked back to the open area we could hear Nightingale.  And then as has seemed the way today it decided to put in a wonderful show again.  Out in the open, against the blue sky, a virtuoso performance

Photographs are fine, but you also need sound so enjoy this short clip.

The Nightingale flew off once again, as if to say that was enough.  It was warming up now, the hat and gloves were discarded, the warmth also brought out the butterflies, the first was a Small White.

And then a beautiful male Orange Tip.

Finding the Cuckoo Flower irresistible it managed to show the beautiful patterns of the under wing.

Another surprise was a Large Red Damselfly along the path on a cool day.  Fortunately it stopped to allow me to get quite close.  There are some lovely colour combinations on the abdomen that remind me of a public school tie.

The sky was extremely clear and it was possible to see quite a distance, gliders were above us, and we could see Buzzards soaring, and then a Peregrine dashed past us and headed off as always out of sight.

We made our way to the visitor centre, where we had just missed breakfast, and were too early for lunch, so we had a short walk around the heath where it was very quiet, and then went back for some lunch.  Sitting outside, the view was amazing.

We were joined by a Jackdaw that came close and we were able to admire the lovely grey nape and pale blue eye.

So after lunch we considered our options, and decided to head off to Noar Hill in Hampshire, Duke of Burgundy butterflies had been reported earlier in the week.  Despite the cool wind the sun was strong and there was plenty of sheltered spots there, every chance of finding them.

As we walked up the path towards the reserve a Holly Blue appeared, and settled on the Dog Mercury.

We were to see several more around the reserve, but this was the only one to stop and allow a photograph.

We walked through the reserve checking the dips and sheltered spots.  The Cow Slips are just emerging, and the reserve looked a picture.  I have seen Dukes before, but forgot, you don't see them fly very often, typically they sit still on the grass.  We turned and saw someone photographing, and when we approached he pointed out a Duke on the grass.

A beautiful little butterfly, The Duke of Burgundy is the sole representative of a subfamily known as the "metalmarks", since some of its cousins, particularly those found in South America, have a metallic appearance.  The Duke of Burgundy was once classified as a fritillary, given the similarity with those fritillary species found in the British Isles.  The only member of the genus Hamearis, is now a member of the family Riodinidae.

The Duke then flew off, and we couldn't re-find it, but we were then informed of sightings of Green Hairstreak.  They were apparently on Juniper bushes, so we made our way to the location where there were several others looking at these lovely little butterflies.

They have black and white legs just like the antenna, and an iridescent green colour on the wings.

The Green Hairstreak holds its wings closed, except in flight, showing only the green underside with its faint white streak. The extent of this white marking is very variable; it is frequently reduced to a few white dots and may be almost absent. Males and females look similar and are most readily told apart by their behaviour: rival males may be seen in a spiralling flight close to shrubs, while the less conspicuous females are more often encountered while laying eggs.

As we watched the hairstreaks, a Red Admiral flew past us, and Holly Blues put in an appearance

It was hard to leave the Hairstreaks but we eventually did so, and made our way around the little trails, checking the ground for any sign of more Dukes.  Finally we reached the area at the back of the reserve where I had seen several before, and sure enough they were there.  Only two, but they did show well as they sat in the grass.

These are males, the females emerging a little later.  On the underwing, the male has a darker area close to the abdomen, in the female, the area is a lot lighter.

We wandered around the area continuing to search for butterflies, but they were in short supply, there was though plenty of Bee Flies.

I then heard a Firecrest singing, and wit a little patience I was able to find it, and then get some wonderful views in the sunshine.

As always this photogenic little bird put in a wonderful show.

With a fantastic background

We left the Firecrest, deciding to make our way back.  As we passed the Juniper, a Green Hairstreak flew up from the bush, and then settled on the blossom of the Blackthorn, and decided to nectar on the flowers.

And that was it, a wonderful day, with some really special views of some really good species.  As I made my way home a Raven flew over just before the A32 at East Tisted.

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