Category Archives: South Downs National Park

Seven Sisters

After yesterday’s outstanding encounter with a great white egret, today was – as expected – somewhat calmer. We headed out to Seven Sisters Country Park and did the walk down to Cuckmere Haven. It’s a beautiful spot, but can get a little crowded at times which means that it isn’t always ideal for wildlife watching. The views are stunning though.

Seven Sisters Country Park

Seven Sisters Country Park

And as it turned out, the wildlife was quite good too. A couple of herons were among the early sightings. Nothing spectacular, but nice to see. The first good sighting was all too fleeting. A smallish bird zipped over, heading out to the cliffs. I was talking to another birder at the time, and the consensus was that it is a merlin, our smallest bird of prey. If we’re correct that’s a first for me. The photo is dire. It came in over my shoulder so I could only catch it heading away from the camera.

Merlin (unconfirmed)

I could be wrong about the i.d., but the conversation quickly turned to that other merlin (no, not the wizard), the engine of the Spitfire. And remarkably on cue, one flew over just to prove the point. It’s a 2-seater (converted apparently for training purposes) and there’s precious little data about it on the web, though it seems have been part of the Dutch airforce at one time. Its index is SM520.

Spitfire SM520

We have several airshows in the region at this time of year, so no doubt it’s been taking part in one or other of those.

There were two other notable sightings, the first coming at the far end of the bird of prey scale. Having seen the smallest (I think), this is one of the largest: an osprey.

Osprey

The second notable bird was a curlew. While not wholly unexpected, they are relatively uncommon and always a pleasure to see.

Curlew

Curlew

To close, a video clip of the egret from yesterday.

Camera note: all wildlife photos taken with the Canon 7D and EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens. The two landscapes were with the EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens.

Also posted in Bird of Prey, Birds, coastal, Landscape, Spitfire, water birds Tagged , , , , , |

An Afternoon at Woods Mill

I spent a few hours yesterday at Woods Mill, the headquarters of the Sussex Wildlife Trust. It was hot (but not unbearable), with a light breeze. Perfect weather for a gentle walk through the nature reserve, which itself nestles in the South Downs National Park.

Fields at Woods Mill, East Sussex

The middle of summer isn’t the best time for wildlife watching. In the spring there’s all the breeding activity and new life, and in autumn many birds and animals become emboldened by the need to prepare for winter. So it was relatively quiet, but not without a few highlights. Several buzzards flew over, but the best raptor spot was a young kestrel (male) which was perching on one of the information boards.

kestrel at Woods Mill

kestrel at Woods Mill

Just along from there a pair of herons emerged from the fields. Nothing too dramatic in terms of photos opportunities, but good viewing as they flew over.

heron

I did rather better by the small lake. There was a lone swan there. I have a suspicion that it is rather used to humans as it paddled to the edge of the water each time I paused.

Mute swan at Woods Mill lake

Mute swan at Woods Mill lake

Mute swan at Woods Mill lake

There were a few moorhens, and one or two coots, plus mallards (of course). Nothing surprising there, but among them there were four or five little grebes (dabchicks), and they were in an entertaining mood.

little grebe (dabchick) at Woods Mill

little grebe (dabchick) at Woods Mill

little grebe (dabchick) at Woods Mill

little grebe (dabchick) at Woods Mill

One final treat. The small streams at Woods Mill provide a perfect environment for these very appropriately named “beautiful demoiselle” damselflies. The blue one is the male.

Beautiful Demoiselle

Beautiful Demoiselle

Beautiful Demoiselle

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 7D and EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens except images 1 and 5 (the landscape and the lake) which were taken with the EF17-40mm f/4L USM lens.

Also posted in Bird of Prey, Birds, damselfly, Landscape, water birds, Wildlife Tagged , , , , , , |

Summer Colours

I’m cautiously prepared to say that we do indeed have a summer this year. It’s still hovering in the upper 70°sF and I counted no more than about 10 drops of rain today. Even the storms have given up bothering us. The landscape is feeling the heat, but showing some fine summer gold.

wheat field

Wheat field providing a touch of gold in the South Downs National Park

Single stalk of wheat

Single stalk of wheat.

There are butterflies everywhere, with a sudden influx of the brightly coloured peacock butterfly. A small swarm of them have been occupying the garden for the past two or three days, enjoying the sunshine and buddleia.

Peacock butterfly on buddleia

Peacock butterfly on buddleia

Pair of peacock butterflies on the fence

Pair of peacock butterflies on the fence

Back in the fields, a pair of meadow browns were busy making more meadow browns.

meadow brown butterflies mating

Meadow brown butterflies mating

And at home today, a small tortoiseshell joined the peacocks at the far end of the garden.

Small tortoiseshell and peacock butterfly

Small tortoiseshell with a peacock butterfly to the right.

To complete the recent set of butterfly photos, here’s a red admiral from this afternoon.

Red Admiral

Red Admiral (the buddleia’s common name is Butterfly Bush)

The other striking garden invasion has been small swarms of migrant hawker dragonflies. For the past few evenings we’ve watched 20 or more flying over the garden. They are really difficult to photograph in flight, but I did manage this shot.

Migrant hawker dragonfly

Migrant hawker dragonfly

Plus a ‘proper’ photo when one briefly took a breather on the hawthorn.

Migrant Hawker dragonfly

Migrant Hawker dragonfly

Any post about summer colour really needs a sunset, and I’m not going to disappoint. This was taken this evening.

Sunset

Sunset over distant hill

Camera note: all photos taken with the Canon 7D. Wheat field, small tortoiseshell and red admiral, and the sunset taken with the EF 400mm f/5.6L USM lens; Peacock butterflies and dragonflies taken with the EF 200mm f/2.8L II USM lens; and the meadow browns with the EF 100mm f/2.8L macro IS USM lens.

Also posted in Butterfly, dragonfly, Farming, Insects, Landscape Tagged , , , |