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for February 2018
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Hedge Laying on Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow this morning for the second and final day of the special work session hedge-laying on the Seagull Lane patch. Present were Rachel, Maurice, Tony and Dan. They completed the final section of hedgerow just after 1pm, fully laid, staked and woven and matching up neatly with the earlier one done by Mike Probert.

Here is the compeleted hedge

For the full report and more photos go to . . .

Foxes in garden - advice
Mike Wells has a few ideas for Peter Milinets-Raby's dilemma regarding the fox family in his garden - see yesterday's blog.

"Many years ago, we had a similar problem under the shed and, not wishing to harm any foxes I was simply advised to just take steps so that they no longer liked their environment. I had peered under the shed to see two cubs curled up, and obviously there were adults somewhere. It was at the time when everyone had a container of creosote in their shed/garage, which the mature amongst us will remember has a very strong distinctive odour. I simply placed two flat flower pot saucers containing old rags soaked in creosote either side of their entrance one evening and by the next day the family had moved on, possibly with their eyes watering, which was the same effect that the creosote had on me!

Two years ago, my elderly widowed neighbour, a nature lover, was quite excited to tell me she had foxes under her shed and couldn't wait to see the cubs playing in her garden. I offered to 'move them on' but she declined my offer. Later she told me how nice it was to see two small fox cubs frolicking on her lawn and around her pot plants and shrubs. Within a week or so her pristine garden was being wrecked, with all manner of damage. She belatedly accepted my original offer 'to move them on'. Firstly I changed the lovely dry environment under her shed by jetting water down their entrance and the result was immediate! Two half grown cubs plus one adult came out like missiles and disappeared down the garden. I continued this drenching to make their den totally uninhabitable. Unfortunately, no longer possessing any creosote, I went to my collection of nasty after-shaves, deodorants, body lotion etc , all collected as unwanted Christmas gifts and normally used to freshen our rubbish bin, to select the 'worst' after-shave, which, as before, I soaked the rags in, and left just inside their entrance. The fox family did not return. For a few days I could still smell this after-shave from my garden, two doors away if the breeze was in the right direction!

No foxes were harmed by my actions. I know of other people who have adopted a similar tactic. "


Brook Meadow hedge laying
I went over to the meadow at 10am for a special work session organised by Maurice Lillie and led by Rachel Bryan of the TCV. The plan was to continue laying the mixed hedgerow on the western edge of the Seagull Lane patch, started by Mike Probert and others last year. Working from south to north this hedge was planted in three phases; the first one around 2010 and this was the one laid by Mike. The second one, which is presently being laid, was planted in Jubilee year 2012. The third one to the north was planted later. Rachel thought the second hedge, comprising mostly Hawthorn with some Hazel, Cherry and Holly, was ideal for laying.
It was a fine sunny morning for the four volunteers, Maurice, Phil, Terry and Gordon plus Rachel, who all set to work cutting and bending over the small trees ready in preparation for staking.

The work continued in the afternoon session when new volunteers, Dan and Tony joined Maurice, Phil and Terry and continued the laying. Work finished at about 3pm and will resume at 9.30am tomorrow.

For full report of the hedge-laying plus more photos go to . . . - to come

A winter's view of the south meadow

Tree work
I met up with Michael Reed and team of tree surgeons at work tidying up fallen trees and branches in Palmer's Road Copse for the conservation group. Here is a shot of Mike removing a branch on the path leading to the car park that I banged my head on just now!


Garden Blackcap
I was very pleased to spot a male Blackcap feeding on the nice rosy apple that I had positioned in the Buddleja tree in the back garden specifically with him or his mate in mind. I had male and female in the garden together last week, but did not see the female today.

The first image appears to say 'Is that all for me?' and the second 'That's nice!'

Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk around the Warblington area (9am to 11:40am - low tide):
In the field west of the cemetery: 7 Little Egrets with one Cattle Egret - showed well after standing still in one place for 30 minutes - see photos. 1 Goldcrest singing in cemetery

Ibis Field: 5 Moorhen, 2 Song Thrush.
In fields behind Conigar Point: 5 Meadow Pipit and 1 Rock Pipit in rotting hay mound (only half left as the farmer has been collecting it). 9 Pied Wagtails, 2 male and 1 female Reed Bunting, 2 Linnets.
8 Skylarks (two singing at least) - see 'Dog flushing birds below'.
Conigar Point: 1 Med Gull, Male Pintail, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 176 Brent Geese, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Grey Plover.
Off Pook Lane: 7 Red Breasted Merganser, 70 Wigeon, 137 Brent Geese, 7 Grey Plover, 30 Bar-tailed Godwit, 47 Shelduck, 30 Dunlin, 4 male and 4 female Pintail, Male Shoveler, 83 Teal, 3 Stock Doves.
318 Brent Geese feeding in the field south of the cemetery.

Dog flushing birds
All 8 Skylarks in the fields behind Conigar Point were flushed by a dog that I have encountered several times before. The dog came bounding up to me as I stood in the middle of the field, after dashing erratically about chasing the Skylark as they took to the air. No sign of any owner. Five minutes later, a man with a whistle walks by along the path, whistling frantically for his mutt to heel. The dog ignored the whistle and basically just darted off through the next hedge and field and flushed a feeding flock of 40+ Wood Pigeons. Totally irresponsible! I bumped into him later on the beach and his dog was still dashing everywhere with no curbs on it frantic behaviour. The man was still using his dog whistle, but the dog was totally ignoring him. Just shocking.

Fox den in garden - query
Peter sent a photo of what he thinks is a Fox den that is being dug under his wooden summer house.

"Now the dilemma is, do we allow this to happen or fill the "den" in. I am worried about the small size of our garden and the fact that I have never seen any Foxes around the area. I doubt very much if the Fox would put up with us looking out the window at it as the garden is so small. Do these creatures dig lots of "dens", then choose. What do your readers think. I am half tempted for the photo opportunities of baby foxes, but as I have never seen a fox in the area, I do not hold out much hope of it being "tame". Any suggestions/comments for Peter are very welcome!

Here is a view of Peter's garden


Frogs and Palmate Newt
David Search took a short walk along the causeway on Brook Meadow yesterday evening just before the Conservation Group committee meeting during which he counted at least 2 dozen Frogs on the path between the Lumley gate and the central seat. It's that time of the year with frogs looking for mates. Frogs are fairly common on Brook Meadow, often disturbed during work sessions. Here is one I snapped during a workday in Oct 2008.

Among the Frogs David noticed what looked like a young Palmate Newt; he thinks the identification was correct and not fully grown. David put it in the wet grass by the Lumley information board, remembering that there's a pond in Gooseberry Cottage. Here is an image of a juvenile Palmate Newt from the internet.

Nore Barn
Brian Lawrence had a walk around Nore Barn Woods yesterday and got some nice photos of the local birds, including Jay, Goldfinch and an unusual shot of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker possibly preening.

Brian also got a shot of the regular Spotted Redshank in the stream. On the basis of previous years it could be with us for another 3-4 weeks.

For the complete records of this remarkable bird go to . . . Spotted Redshanks at Nore Barn

Remarkable school
I am grateful to Ralph Hollins for passing on a link to a report on the remarkable West Rise Junior School in Eastbourne, East Sussex. Among lots of other things the school owns a swarm of one million bees, has a herd of Asian water buffalo, and is currently constructing a Bronze Age village on marshland opposite the school site. Children get the chance to light fires outside, use knives, fire shotguns, fish with reed rods and goose feather quills, and practise archery. Some have skinned rabbits, plucked pigeons and cooked over an open fire, all with the aim of learning about the countryside, conservation and land management. Wow! Now that's what I call education!

Go to . . .

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a late afternoon visit to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (3:05pm to 4pm - high tide):
Off shore: 148 Brent Geese (some nice and close for a photo - see photo). 14 Common Gull, 2 Teal, 63 Wigeon, 3 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Lapwing.

Off Conigar Point: 45 Shelduck, 10 Med Gulls, 2 Red Breasted Merganser, 11 Wigeon, 236 Brent Geese.
Flooded Horse Paddock: 12 Teal, 3 Song Thrush, 3 Little Egret, 4 Wigeon, 14 Moorhen, 3 Pied Wagtail, 1 Curlew.
Pond: 1 Little Egret roosting, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Little Grebe with a Cetti's Warbler feeding in the reeds behind - lucky!
Grey Heron colony: Top of Holm Oak: Still faint calls of young - none seen. Other Holm oak: Adult sat on nest. And on Nest 3 there was a Magpie feeding in the nest, probably on eggs - shame!! This nest had an adult sitting about two weeks ago.


Nore Barn
Peter Milinets-Raby had a quick hour long visit to Nore Barn this afternoon from 2:30pm - tide in - thinking about dropping.
The Spotted Redshank was showing off exceedingly well, down to four metres - see photos.

With only a handful of Brent Geese (32) around and not much else I wandered around the wood. I could only find 1 Firecrest (seen twice, but probably the same bird). The woods were alive with small birds and I managed to see 1 Goldcrest, 1 Nuthatch, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Coal Tit, 4 Long-tailed Tits, 8 to 12+ Great Tits, 4 to 10+ Blue Tits, 2+ Wren and 5+ Robin.
When I arrived back at the car, two Mediterranean Gull flew over from the north. Both were calling as they did so (Aarhhh, Aarhh) and then they landed on the water with graceful white wings. Both had full black hoods - spring has truly arrived!


Emsworth to Warblington
Peter Milinets-Raby had a wander around Emsworth and Warblington this morning 7:20am to 9:26am - low tide throughout, though it was coming in.
Emsworth Harbour from sunrise: 25 Wigeon - unusually high for this bit of the shore.
1 Little Egret, 7 Turnstone, 13 Lapwing, 7 Coot with 25 on the pond, 55 Canada Geese, 4 Red Breasted Merganser, 3 Greenshank (one with rings in the pond outflow RG//- + BY//- see photo).

Brian's note: Greenshank RG+BY was ringed by Pete Potts and his team on 13-Mar-2013. Originally it had a tag, but this has since been removed. It has been a fairly regular visitor to Emsworth Harbour, this being my 22nd record of the bird. The last sighting was on 18-Jan-18.

1 Adult winter Mediterranean Gull - Actually heard calling - Spring has officially arrived - what a lovely sound! 362 Brent Geese, 32 Shelduck, 10 Grey Plover, 18 Teal (highest count for the harbour in this month), 1 Great Crested Grebe, 608 Dunlin, 2 Ringed Plover - one with rings metal//- + N//YL - a new colour ringed bird.

Beacon Square: 16 Dunlin, 15 Wigeon, 10 Shelduck, Green Woodpecker heard, 4 Grey Plover, 8 Teal, 2 male and 2 female Pintail, 19 Brent Geese.

Nore Barn: 70 Teal, 39 Wigeon, 2 Shelduck, 27 Dunlin, 49 Brent Geese.

Warblington: From 8:41am: 1 Cattle Egret with 6 Little Egret. The Cattle Egret is a scruffy bird, as per the photo yesterday on your website. Two days ago I watched a bird with warm buff wash on the head and nape. I have always suspected two, but never had them together?

Off Pook Lane: 1 Great Crested Grebe, 35 Wigeon, 36 Teal, 15 Bar-tailed Godwit, 381 Dunlin, 11 Grey Plover, 74 Lapwing, 2 male and 2 female Pintail, 5 Red Breasted Merganser, 42 Shelduck, 3 male ad a female Shoveler feeding along the tide line, 108 Brent Geese, 2 Redwing in the cemetery.


Hollybank Woods
There was only one place to go on such a beautiful morning and this was Hollybank Woods. I had a lovely walk in the warm winter sunshine. The only jarring note was a huge pile of fly tippings just inside the north gate.

I was pleased to have a chat young Andrew in his 'woodland home' behind the Lowtons seat on the eastern bridleway. Andrew is a great enthusiast and a fund of information about woodland matters. He said the tipping took place one evening after he had left the site, but it had to be dealt with by the council.

Here is a shot of Andrew's work area

While we were talking a pair of Buzzards flew leisurely overhead. Andrew said he had last seen a Goshawk about 3 weeks ago. I noticed lots of fresh Bluebell leaves along the north path.

First Blackbird song
I heard my first Blackbird song of the year from the electricity substation at the south end of Bridge Road car park at about 3.30pm. I managed to catch the male bird on camera, though not singing at the time as he was distracted by the appearance of a female. This is the date I would expect to hear the first song at this location. Last year is was a bit later on Feb 24, but in the previous 2 years (2015-16) the first date was Feb 15 and Feb 16.

Brian Lawrence had a walk around Warblington today and saw plenty of birds and signs of spring with Snowdrops and bees. Brian also got a shot of the Cattle Egret on the farm field. This Bumblebee looks like Bombus terrestris.



Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow this morning for the regular 3rd Thursday in the month work session. The ground was very wet after yesterday's rain. Today in contrast was fine and sunny and positively warm! Only 7 volunteers, so Maurice decided to carry on with clearing the intertwined vegetation and removal of the old wire stock fencing around the Willow and Alder copse in the west side of the north meadow.

For Maurice's report and more photos go to . . .

I noted the first flowering of Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) close to the Oak that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch. As it grows from a bulb, it comes up in the same place each year.

This plant is misnamed as it flowers in early spring. I was surprised to read that it is native to this country, though is far more widespread as a garden escape, which is what I suspect this particular plant is.

Nore Barn
In the afternoon I popped over to Nore Barn just in time to catch the Spotted Redshank before the tide receded too far, looking sprightly as always.

Apart from a small flock of Brent Geese, the bay was fairly deserted. I reckon most of the wintering birds are now on their way towards their breeding grounds in the north. It was good to meet Jo Bray from Westbourne - she was the one who had a Hawfinch in her garden! Jo was a bit anxious about the possible effects of the housing development behind Westbourne Avenue, but I said not to worry as it would not do much harm and the houses and gardens would benefit wildlife.

I went over to Warblington Church where I looked for the Cattle Egret, but only saw 7 Little Egrets in the large field west of the main cemetery. The Yews in the churchyard are now loaded with full pollen sacs. I knocked the twigs, but no pollen was given off - a bit early for pollen?


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a quick visit to the Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon 3pm to 3:45pm - very low tide.
Off shore: 1 Kingfisher dashing across the channel, 59 Teal, 10 Red Breasted Merganser, 12 Dunlin, 14 Grey Plover, 2 male and a female Goldeneye, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 26 Shelduck, 581 Brent Geese, 90 Lapwing, 23 Wigeon.
Langstone Mill Pond: The pen of the Mute Swan pair was building up a nest close to where the last pair built a nest - seen reasonably well from the path behind the mill.
Grey Heron colony: Holm Oak nest. Noise of young still being heard, but no sign in the cold chilly conditions The original nest in the Other Holm Oak had two birds standing up on it today. The first signs of interest in this nest.
Flooded Horse Paddock: 3 Oystercatcher, 53 Teal, 1 Little Egret, 16 Moorhen, 1 Green Sandpiper.

Pipit identification
On Sunday Peter Milinets-Raby visited Warblington 7:40am to 10:04am. He only walked as far as a pile of rotting hay in the field east of the SSSI field and spent the whole visit taking photos of the pipits that were milling about and feeding on this dollop of discarded cow poo and rotting hay. Here is an abbreviated version of Peter's report with a selection of his photos.

"The mound attracted 7+ Meadow Pipits, 7 Pied Wagtails, a single Grey Wagtail (very elusive), 2 Water Pipits and 2 to probably 4 Rock Pipits. The birds were impossible to photograph. I had to wait until one perched on the summit of a mound and invariably this turned out too be a Rock Pipit. I took over 660 photos and on viewing them I just became very confused indeed on how to identify Rock from Water Pipit. The two obvious Water Pipits would often fly off the short distance to feed in the watery trickle emanating out from the plastic sheet mound of silage about 30 metres away - good scoped views on one occasion with the two birds together with 2 Rock Pipits. They would fly back to the mound of rotting hay and vanish in the valleys. After reading loads of articles on the identification of this group, I am none the wiser on how to separate them. "

Here is a selection of Peter's photos:
Meadow Pipit . . . . . . . . Rock Pipit
Water Pipit . . . . . . . . Water and Meadow Pipit


Barrie's Garden birds
In his Waterlooville garden today, Barrie Jay saw the two extremes - the largest and the smallest. A Grey Heron was on his neighbour's roof, waiting to swoop down to his pond and a Goldcrest was on one of the feeders - one of the resident pair always around this winter. Barrie, you are a lucky chap to get such good views of this delightful bird.

Barrie also had the ever present Song Thrush showing off the camouflage effect of its mottled breast and a delightful Wood mouse ran underneath of the feeders. At first, Barrie thought it was a Wren as their movements are similar.

Talking about Wood Mice, I think I have a little colony (if that is the right word) of them currently living in our compost heap at the bottom of the garden. They have scooped up the soft compost soil and piled it in mounds. It could be Rats, but I think we would have seen one by now.

Egyptian Geese in Hampshire
Ralph Hollins adds some local flesh to the facts I quoted in yesterday's blog about Egyptian Geese. Ralph used the HOS search facility to list all the Hampshire sighting reports between Jan 1 2017 and the present and to summarise a very long list it looks as if pairs may have attempted breeding at around 30 sites in Hampshire and in the winter they congregate at Harbridge in the Avon Valley (just across the river from the Blashford Lakes) where the max count in Jan 2017 was 46 and 37 in Jan 2018. Ralph added that this apparent decrease in the winter population should not be taken as a trend as the birds do not necessarily stay in Hampshire - there is a sighting of 4 seen flying over Southsea to the IOW.

Egyptian Geese on Heath Pond, Petersfield in 2015

Egyptian Goose was listed in Birds of Hampshire in 1993 as 'a very scarce visitor' with no more than 5 birds being seen together in the county though a small breeding population had already become established in Berkshire. That is still reflected in the current site with the highest non winter count being the Eversley Gravel Pits on the Berkshire border. Other than that the only other sites with big counts are Petersfield with 21 on June 7 and Ripley Farm Reservoir (further down the Avon Valley) with 23 on Feb 5 this year.

Blackbird berries
Ralph also wonders if the black berries the Blackbird was eating on Brook Meadow in yesterday's blog could be Privet? I think that is almost certainly the case. I just came up with Elderberries off the top of my head, not thinking of the more obvious Privet which is fairly abundant in that area. Thanks, Ralph.

Langstone Mill Pond - Herons start breeding
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon - 1:09pm to 2:20pm - very low tide. His report follows:

Very little on the pond, except 2 Mute Swans, 32 Mallard, a single Little Egret and some new Grey Herons. The only activity in the Grey Heron colony was from the top of the main Holm Oak. An adult bird flew in and started to regurgitate food items into the nest. The other adult stood up and the faint sound of chicks could be heard. After five minutes, the adult that stood up from the nest, ate three large morsels from the regurgitated pile and then flew off. I did not see any chicks, but could clearly hear them. Spring has arrived!

Brian's note: I do not apologise for repeating Peter's cracking photo
of a Grey Heron parent and young at a nest in February 2015

In the flooded horse paddock were: 5 Oystercatcher, 2 Teal, 1 male Pheasant, 1 Redshank, 12 Moorhen, 1 Buzzard.
Off shore: 1 Greenshank (G//R + BR//-), 638 Dunlin, 72 Shelduck, 1 male and 2 female Pintail, 1134 Brent Geese - An impressive flock was disturbed off the north Hayling Island fields and they flew en masse and landed on the mud to allow me to count them. 15 Grey Plover, 70 Lapwing with 4 Golden Plover amongst them, 58 Wigeon, 86 Teal.
Male Shoveler out feeding along the low tide line. A pair were on the pond on Wednesday. This is a very unusual wintering record. I hope they stay to breed. 23 Black-tailed Godwit.


Brook Meadow
Walking back home from the village I found the first of the Sweet Violets in flower on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage. Soon there will be many more.

The river in full flood in Palmer's Road Copse, giving no access along the river path without wellies, which I did not have, so I skirted around the car park, but not before I got this nice shot of fallen trees and flooded banks.

I waited for a while on the south bridge with my camera at the ready (doing a Malcolm), but all I managed to capture was this chirpy Great Tit digging for insects in the rough bark of the willows.

The large Crack Willows on the main path through the south meadow are festooned with a variety of plants including Ivy, Cleavers and a feather moss (Brachythecium rutabulum?).

Just before I reached the north bridge I spotted a pair of Blackbirds in the bushes on the west bank, plucking at the remains of what looked like Elderberries. Here is the male.

The small Alder sapling that grows at the outfall on the north bend is looking very attractive with its fresh reddish catkins and last year's knarled cones.

Egyptian Geese
The British Trust for Ornithology reports that Egyptian Geese, native to central and southern Africa, have been present in Europe as an exotic species since at least the 17th Century. Naturalised populations in Germany, the Netherlands and eastern England remained relatively small, but have expanded considerably since the 1980s. Egyptian Geese are early breeders, with pairs defending potential breeding sites from January onwards. Cavities in trees are favoured, but it may also nest on the ground.
See . . .

I know there has been a pair of Egyptian Geese for some years on Heath Lake at Petersfield. Here is a photo I got of them in March 2015 and they have bred. Tony Wootton got one of the pair with a clutch of goslings in April of the same year. I do not know if they are still present.

BTO Heronries Census
Intended to be a one-off survey for British Birds magazine in 1928, the BTO Heronries Census is now in its 90th year and still going strong! It is probably the longest running data set for any breeding bird in the world. Although focused on Grey Herons, the census also covers inland-nesting Cormorants and Little Egrets, with scarcer herons also counted at a handful of sites. Around two-thirds of the UK's heronries are surveyed annually by the census, with 'apparently occupied nests' counted at each site, in order to estimate the UK population each year. See . . . . . .

Locally, we have a well-established Heronry in the trees behind Langstone Mill Pond which Peter Milinets-Raby does a good job at counting each year. See his annual report for more details . . . .

 Here is a great shot Peter got of parent and young at a nest in 2015.


Thornham Lane
This morning I had a walk from the parking area at the junction of Thornham Lane and Thorney Road to the harbour wall and back via the old Marina Farm in bright and chilly weather.
I found plenty of fresh green leaves of Alexanders along the edge of Thornham Lane, but no sign of any flowers as yet. Alexanders is an early flowering plant and should be out in a few weeks, at least.

Annual Mercury is flowering well at the start of the main path to the seawall. This is a very common plant on disturbed and waste ground and flowers all year round. Male and female flowers occur on separate plants (dioecious), the male flowers, as shown in this photo (not yet open), are in erect catkin-like spikes. It is an ancient introduction from Europe, present for at least 1000 years and still spreading!

I came across a fine rosette of Spear Thistle on the Emsworth Marina seawall which was muddier than I have ever known it.

Things are changing on the old Marina Farm site which has been derelict for some years. The tall fence separating the site from the public footpath has been removed, so it is now possible to walk through unhindered. New fencing has been erected along the driveway and new gates at the entrance. A large horsebox was present, so maybe the stables will be preserved. Let's hope so as Swallows nest there each year. I spoke to a young chap who was busy installing lights on the new fence. He thought the place had been recently purchased and that bungalows were planned. Photos from the back and the front.

Garden Blackcap
John Walton had a female Blackcap in a Pyracanthus bush outside his kitchen window in Waterlooville. She kindly waited while John found his camera to get the following shot. He hopes she will find my garden welcoming enough and stay a while. She certainly looks very cosy and snug in the sunshine.


Work session
I went over to the meadow for the regular first Sunday in the month work session. Weather was bright with a cold NE wind. Fairly good turn out of 9 volunteers led by Jennifer. The main task was to make a start on tidying up the small copse on the west side of the north meadow and removing the wire stock fencing that no longer serves any purpose. Here is a view of the copse in question. This copse, comprising mainly Crack Willow and Alder, was planted over 20 years ago by HBC to shield the old gasholder from the houses in Lumley Road.


Removing the wire fence was not an easy task and will have to be continued in future sessions. Regarding clearing, I sounded a note of caution as I suspect this copse is well used by birds (including Blackcap and Whitethroat) for nesting. Meanwhile, Maurice and Peter installed new reinforcement boards in front of the main seat and on the north river bank.

Here are the volunteers having a well earned coffee break

For the full report of the work session plus more photos go to . . .

Wildlife observations
Volunteer Terry pointed out to me the first Butterbur flower spike beside the main path near the sluice gate. I found several more just emerging on the large Butterbur area below the main seat. This is not especially early. In some years I have found them out in January.

I had a little mooch around in the Lumley copse. It is not easily accessible, but OK if you go carefully. I found plenty of fresh growth of Lords and Ladies (Arum) leaves. I also noticed a few fronds of what I assume is Male Fern.

There was also, lots of a light green feather moss growing on trees and twigs. I will tentatively identify this as Brachythecium rutabulum, which is one of the mosses that Rod Stern identified during his survey of the site in 2001. The photo shows fruiting of inclined capsules which are produced on rough reddish stalks in autumn, winter and spring.



Spotted Redshank
Graham Petrie was at Nore Barn today at high water and got this interesting shot of the Spotted Redshank with a Common Redshank. Graham was a little concerned if the bird had lost a leg or was it tucked under. No problem, Graham. Spotted Redshank in common with most other waders occasionally roost on one leg, presumably as a way of relaxing - a bit like when we cross our legs.

For history of the Spotted Redshank in Emsworth go to . . . Spotted Redshanks at Nore Barn

Moss correction
I am grateful to ecologist John Norton who corrected the identification of the plant I photographed yesterday in Hollybank Woods. John pointed out that the plant is not a moss (as I incorrectly thought), but a foliose lichen with crinkled lobes called Platismatia glauca. As far as I can discern it does not have a common name. It is described as 'widespread and often very common on acidic bark and twigs' and its distribution covers all of Europe, plus Eastern and Western USA as well as in the tip of South America. Thanks, John.


Hollybank Woods
I had an hour to spare this morning so I decided to try out my new Derry boots for a walk in Hollybank Woods. It was certainly very wet, but the boots were excellent. Incidentally this is now my 4th pair in about 20 years. I parked on Emsworth Common Road and did a short circuit in the north-east sector. I have not been in the woods for a few months and it was so good to walk along the eastern bridleway with the trees glistening and the birds singing, notably Robin and Great Tit.

There were masses of Sweet Chestnut husks beneath the trees, indicating a bumper autumn harvest which I missed.

Young Andrew was not in his usual work area, but he is still very busy cutting stakes, etc. He also has erected a gazebo to shelter from the rain since I was last here.

Wandering around this area, I noted plenty of bright green Bank Haircap moss which I can identify.

Nearby I found another green moss (or liverwort?) with crinkly edged leaves growing on a dead twig which I recognised as familiar, but could not identify. My very tentative guess is Marchantia polymorpha though I would appreciate help.

Return of the winter Blackcaps
It is now well known that a population of Blackcaps over winter in UK gardens and research evidence provided by the BTO Garden BirdWatch scheme has established a firm link between increased in Blackcaps over wintering to both garden feeding and warmer temperatures. See . . .

More recently, there was excitement in November when a Blackcap fitted with a tiny tracking device was recaptured by Glynne Evans in his Hampshire garden where it was tagged nine months earlier. Preliminary analysis of the tag data indicates that the bird left Britain at the end of March and spent the summer in France, before returning by early November. But is this pattern the exception, or the rule? And why did this bird decide to come north for the winter when it was already in southern France? BTO hope to find the answers to these questions and many others as the project continues. See . . .

For a general summary of this fascinating project on the movement of Blackcaps organised by BTO, and Oxford and Exeter Universities see . . .

Personally, I have not seen any wintering Blackcaps in my Emsworth garden, though I certainly have had them in previous years. However, Barrie Jay has had a female in his Waterlooville garden - see blog for Jan 22.

For the previous month go to . . . January 1-31