For illustrated talks on natural history and history see

For illustrated talks on natural history and history click here for

Sunday 31 August 2014

Migrating Whimbrel stops off at Pagham harbour for a tasty crab

Pagham Harbour is a glorious and peaceful nature reserve, one of the few undeveloped stretches of the Sussex coast, and an internationally important wetland site for wildlife.  Above is a picture from high tide yesterday. describes it as 
"a big, sheltered inlet that fills and empties with each tide, with wild ducks, geese and wading birds flighting to and fro. With a wealth of wildlife, beautiful landscapes, and a rich historical heritage, it is a great place to get away from it all.

There is something of interest all year round. Resident species include little egrets, ringed plovers and lapwings. In spring and autumn, all sorts of migrant birds pass through. In the summer, lapwings and little terns breed, and butterflies flit along the hedgerows, dragonflies patrol the ponds, and lizards bask in the sun."
 There was a bird of great interest this day; a Whimbrel which may have flown from the Shetland Isles or the Arctic.  Did you spot the Whimbrel in the first picture?
 It was feeding on a crab which it pecked and tossed around a bit and finally seemed to swallow.

More information at 

Interested in a public speaker on Natural History?  Please see or for guided walks please see

Saturday 23 August 2014

Butterfly walks in Surrey; Shabden Park & Brockham Quarry

 This is a glade in the Long Plantation, Shabden Park which is good for Fritillaries but not yesterday.  Click here for this Surrey Wildlife Trust nature reserve details
 Holly blues were feeding on Marjoram and a few common blues were about.
A Common Carpet moth was disturbed and hid under a Marjoram leaf.  It did not escape my camera lens though.
A few hundred meters along a dry track is a fabulous meadow for insects.
 A Clouded Yellow butterfly flew rapidly past, stopping only briefly to refuel.  Frustratingly it did not open its wings on such stops so we can't see the vivid yellow and black upper wing surfaces.

Dozens of Common blue butterflies were on the wing; above a female (left) and a male (right).
 Some were mating, as were Meadow Browns but they flew away as I approached them.
Above is a somewhat battered Meadow Brown female.
This is a Large Skipper.
A male Brimstone,
and a Comma.
And now today to Brockham Quarry.
Brockham Limeworks lies within the Surrey Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of its unique wildlife habitats.

According to;  Decades of industrial chalk quarrying have shaped the land, and many of the plants only exist because of the chalk. The old chalk quarry lies within the centre of the site.

Once the area bustled with activity. A network of narrow gauge rail tracks carried the chalk to two batteries of lime kilns. Here the chalk was burned to produce quick-lime, used to make mortar and fertilisers. The site reached its peak at the end of the Victorian times and digging continued until 1936. Since then the deep scar in the landscape has gradually been reclaimed by nature.

The chalk face reflects sun light into the quarry and helps to maintain a warmer ambient temperature than the surrounding countryside. This is beneficial to the many butterfly species found on site. Of particular interest is the silver-spotted skipper which is found at only a few sites in the south of England.

Today a silver-spotted skipper posed for me just as we were leaving this site.

Its wing edges are a little damaged but is wonderful nonetheless.  Click here for more Silver-spotted Skipper info' from Butterfly Conservation.
Thank you Surrey Wildlife Trust for such glorious reserves; these two within a few miles of the M25 London orbital motorway.  Who would have believed it?

Friday 22 August 2014

Butterflies and wild flowers of the South Downs in August including Autumn Lady's-tresses orchids & the "Pride of Sussex" the County flower.

This is the view to Castle Hill above Brighton on the Sussex Downs.  The wheat harvest is safely in and it only remains to harvest the straw bales down in the valley.

On the open access land from the viewpoint to Castle Hill and back there is a wealth of insect activity and beautiful plants.

Small Heath butterflies, above on a knapweed seedhead, appear an almost orange colour in flight when they are conspicuous.  At rest they are less obvious and smaller than Meadow Brown butterflies which were also abundant yesterday.

A Speckled Wood butterfly was in a small copse.
 Common blue butterflies lived up to their name inn being common.
Descending the warm south facing hillside towards a dew pond this sunny sheltered spot is favoured by Brown Argus butterflies.

A pair of Brown Argus butterflies were on a Devil's-bit Scabious flower.  One was highly active, perhaps a male trying to entice a female to mate.

For butterflies from August 2015 please see
Beyond the dew pond on the hillside and adjacent to the path in the valley bottom were Autumn Lady's-tresses orchids Spiranthes spiralis.  In the above photo' with a Pride-of-Sussex flower in the foreground and knapweed beyond

The flowers were waving around in a strong wind making photography difficult.  Spot the Common Eyebright, Euphrasia nemorosa above as well.  My thanks to Ralph Hollins for correcting my earlier misidentification of this lovely tiny flower.
Common Eyebright, Euphrasia nemorosa.  Thanks Ralph.

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Mysterious Yellow moth is a Yellow Belle

Spot the moth center picture above.

 I've searched my books and the Internet and have yet to identify it.  It was a fast flyer and very colorful as it flew over the South Downs of East Sussex yesterday.

What is it?  Please let me know if you recognize this little beauty.  It was very striking in bright sunshine.
Footnote; Thanks to I'm now informed it is a Yellow Belle.  See also

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Autumn flowers; Autumn Lady's-tresses, Autumn Gentian and The Pride of Sussex plus butterflies galore especially Chalkhill blues on the South Downs of Sussex.

 Spot the orchid above, an Autumn Lady's-tresses overgrown by the other plants yet making a late diminutive spiral of white flowers which stand out if you are lucky enough to see them.

 Autumn Gentians stand out also amongst the other grasses and plants and are looking majestic.

"The Pride of Sussex", the Round-headed Rampion, the County flower of Sussex takes pride of place though.
 Scores of Chalkhill blue butterflies were about, some more worn out than others.
This male has lost many scales and big pieces of wing as it poses on "The Pride of Sussex".
What a great few hours today on the Downs.  And there was much more too not shown here.

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