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Whatever your problems or mood let wildlife brighten your day (Ralph Hollins)

for late July 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

Send wildlife observations and photos to Brian Fellows at . . . brianfellows at

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


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Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond mid morning on a very low tide (10:27am to 11:21am. The highlight was a juvenile Peregrine that flew around for five minutes, having a swoop at two different Little Egrets and a couple of Oystercatchers, but failing to connect on each occasion. It was acting as if it was just practicing! He then landed on the low tide mud for a couple of minutes before flying off over the Hayling Bridge.
Other birds of note included: 2 Sandwich Tern, 4 Common Gull, 28 Dunlin, 110+ Redshank, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Ringed Plover, 19 Med Gulls with 2 juvs (all in winter plumage), 13 Little Egrets feeding in the trickle of water in the channel, 4 Greenshank, 2 Grey Plover - winter plumage.
Langstone Mill Pond: Tufted Duck female with seven growing ducklings (see photo).

1 Little Grebe, 15 Little Egrets still loitering, with 2 half grown young still in one nest.

Wood Wasp
Brian Lawrence had a walk in Southleigh Forest opposite Hollybank Woods yesterday and got a photo of a Wood Wasp. These wasps re easily recognisable from their strange shape, rounded head, long neck, long black antennae and long red legs. This one is probably Xiphydria camelus which is widespread in woodland at this time of the year, though not exactly common.

Chichester art
I did not do any wildlife today, but Jean and I had an interesting day of art in Chichester. First, we went to see the John Minton Centenary Exhibition at the Pallant Gallery. Minton was a rather sad and tortured artist who committed suicide aged 39. His art was not great, but he was a fine illustrator and did a large number of books and other things. His paintings included a huge mural called 'Jamaican Village'.

A decorated table also caught my eye, inspired apparently by his visit to the Charleston farmhouse where the Bloomsbury artists painted the furniture. Well worth a visit.

After lunch we had a look around the Cathedral where I was bowled over by a huge mural in the north transept containing 400 paintings done one every day by Frieda Hughes (daughter of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath). I did not know anything about this exhibition which has been on since June 14 and finishes on Thursday 17 Aug, so get along there if you are interested. The whole exhibition is too good to miss. This photo of the mural does not do it full justice. You really need to see the thing.

Here is a sample of what it looks like close-up.


More about wasps and flies
Following my notes in yesterday's blog about distinguishing wasps and flies, Bryan Pinchen wrote to say a much better way to separate solitary (and social) wasps from the flies is their always obvious (long) antennae. Hoverflies don't appear to have any antennae at all. As for how they hold their wings when at rest, Bryan says not all hoverflies hold their wings out, as I incorrectly indicated, some do hold them flat over the body when at rest, so that is not a reliable feature.
Bryan added that Ectemnius wasps are quite widespread and common in most habitats and we are just about hitting their peak flight season. Hogweed and other umbellifers are a good place to see them, being short of tongue the easily accessible nectar is what they're after, and any prey species visiting too.
Bryan confirmed all the other insects photographed on the blog all look OK. Wow. I can do it sometimes!

Railway Wayside
I went looking for solitary wasps on the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station, but did not see any obvious ones, though there were plenty of hoverflies as usual. I am not sure which this one is. I am going to have to give up on these trying to identify these tiny insects as it is doing my head in!

Butterflies are much easier, particularly Common Blues which were everywhere on the site. This white butterfly puzzled me for a while, though I am fairly sure it is a female Small White with two spots on the upper wings. Its underwings were a dull pale yellow, though not shown in the photo.

Waysides walk
I had an afternoon walk through the fields behind Westbourne Avenue where I spotted the Dormouse Survey nesting boxes still attached to the hedges. I have not heard any more about this survey or the housing development plans. I came back through the roads to check on the Wild Clary in Christopher Way which still had a few flowering spikes.

I was surprised to find a single flower of Fox and Cubs in front of the seat on the corner of Bellevue Lane and Horndean Road outside St James Primary School. How did it get there, I wonder?

I was pleased to meet up with Lesley Harris in Emsworth Recreation Ground. Lesley used to be the Brook Meadow Conservation Group secretary before she had to give up due to illness a few years ago. She was on her daily walk to get her health back and was looking good. She hopes to get back to help on Brook Meadow fairly soon. I invited her to have a cup of tea at home with me and Jean where we had a good chat.


My 'flies' were wasps!
Bryan Pinchen e-mailed to say what I called 'flies' feeding on Hogweed in the blog for Aug 11 were, in fact, solitary (digger) wasps in the genus Ectemnius, either cavifrons or cephalotes, but without a microscope they are not easy to separate in the field. Here is my original photo.

Ectemnius are large attractive black wasps with bright yellow abdominal markings and there are 10 species in Britain and Ireland.
They are part of a larger family of digger wasps (Crabronidae formerly Sphecidae) of which 118 species are present in Britain and Ireland. Digger wasps are solitary in the sense they do not build colonial nests like the Common Wasp, but a female builds her nest in the ground, dead wood or hollow stems alone. The cells are stocked with prey paralysed by the female's sting on which the wasp grubs feed. Adults feed on nectar from flowers and prey on various arthropods, including bees, beetles, bugs and spiders. The wings are always held flat over the body at rest as in my photo, unlike hoverflies which hold their wings out.

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow to see if I could find any more digger wasps on the Hogweed and Wild Angelica, but failed to find any. But I did find one Common Wasp.

There were plenty of other insects feeding on the flower heads Two fairly familiar hoverflies:
Myathropa florea (particularly common today)
Episyrphus balteatus (the Marmalade fly).

Eristalis pertinax (?) - from the pattern on the abdomen - rather than Drone Fly
Tachina fera (?) - a tubby-looking Louse-fly with an orange abdomen with a dark line down the centre.

Common Darter (male) on a grass spikelet.


Railway Wayside
Sorry, no blog for the past few days, but weather has been bad and I have been doing other things! Today it our 55th wedding anniversary and we had a little celebration, but I did manage to get out this afternoon.
I had a quick look at the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station where the flowers are now going over and setting seed for the next generation.

But the area remains very attractive to humans, like me, and to butterflies. This site is usually good for Common Blues though the ones I saw today were looking decidedly worn, the end of the summer brood of adults. However, here in the south we sometimes get a third brood in early autumn, so there way be fresh ones on the wing shortly.

Particularly eye catching are the bright red seed heads of St John's-wort.

Brook Meadow
I then had a stroll through Brook Meadow entering via Seagull Lane where I was met by a notice warning pedestrians that the north bridge will be closed from Mon Aug 14 for repair. The surface of the bridge is in very bad condition and this job has been on the books for some while.

I paid particular attention to the Great Willowherb which, in addition to the last of the flowers, is adorned with long seed pods which are just opening to release the fluffy seeds which float on the wind.

Here is a close-up of the seeds emerging from the pods.

Meanwhile, Hemp Agrimony is still in full and glorious flower.

I managed to find just one Strawberry Clover fruit that had been missed during the inadvertent cutting of the path around the Lumley area - the only place that Strawberry Clover grow on the meadow. Not to worry as they will no doubt come up again next year as it is a perennial plant.

I noticed a couple of flies with long thin and clearly marked bodies and short wings feeding on the flower heads of Hogweed. Consulting my insects guide they look like Soldier Flies (Stratiomyidae), possibly Chrysotoxum festivum? Can anyone help?


Garden birds
Currently we have a good number of birds visiting the garden virtually all day long. So far this week I have logged 1 Blackbird, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 7 Collared Dove, 1 Dunnock, 10 Goldfinch, 2 Great Tit, 1 Greenfinch, 4 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Magpie, 16 Starling.
Starlings (mostly juveniles) are certainly the most entertaining of the birds, hanging onto the fat ball feeders, squabbling on the ground, etc.

As shown in the chart, Starlings have made a remarkable recovery in my garden over the past 3 years, following 6 years of virtual drought (2009-2014) when I hardly ever saw one. This year looks to continue the upward trend, though we are unlikely to reach the heady heights of the early 2000s.

But my favourite bird of the moment must be the Long-tailed Tits (again mostly juveniles). A family of four young birds have been regular on the bird feeders, liking both the sunflower hearts and the fat balls, though they also wander around the garden looking for insects on the shrubs. At times they come really close to the house. All photos taken through closed windows.

Brook Meadow
Brian Lawrence had a quick look around the meadow today and got a couple of interesting shots. A Ladybird with only one wing casing and a Common Blue perching on top of what looks like a shield bug. I have never seen either of these events before, have you?


More Hedgehogs
Romney Turner is getting regular visits from two Hedgehogs (twins) to the feeding tray in her garden in the evening. They make several visits until the food is all gone, or until one of the larger hogs polishes it off first.

Romney also has a little Wood Mouse which has discovered the Hedgehog food tray and often nips in for a snack before they arrive. She says the mouse really can move which made getting the pics difficult without spooking the little thing.


Brook Meadow work session
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular first Sunday in the month conservation work session attended by 9 volunteers and led today by Ian Newman. The main job involved mowing and raking the paths.
I asked the group to recut the two experimental cutting areas in the north meadow. These two areas will be regularly cut to discourage coarse grasses and allow the more delicate flowering plants. It should be interesting to see what comes up. The southern area is looking quite promising with 25 species recorded at the last count.

Wildlife observations
I also asked the volunteers to clear the Jubilee Oak trees on the Seagull Lane patch which were getting engulfed by dense vegetation. The young ones we planted for the Jubilee in 2012 are growing fast. Here is the smallest one (planted by my wife) which is already 6 feet tall.

They all have a good crop of acorns and spangle galls on the leaves.

One of the volunteers told me she had seen three Hedgehogs near the Lumley gate during the past week. I have had two in my garden. Are they doing particularly well this year, I wonder?

Dan told me that David Gattrell had seen a Water Vole with a baby vole at the top of Peter Pond near the Lumley Stream. I did walk over to Peter Pond this morning to check the location of the sighting, but could not find David. In any case, this is very good news as it means we still have Water Voles not far away from the River Ems on Brook Meadow. Please come back!

I was very pleased to find some Prickly Lettuce plants in flower on the edge of the northern experimental cutting area. This is a rare plant on Brook Meadow and our first record for two years. It is not an easy plant to photograph as this attempt of mine clearly demonstrates.

I heard my first autumn song of the Robin. Butterflies included Red Admiral, Large White, Comma, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper.

The Mallards on Peter Pond are all in eclipse, which means both sexes have the same brown plumage. The best way to distinguish them is by the colour of their bills; males have yellow bills and females brown.

In response to my puzzlement in yesterday's blog entry over the Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) without a cross on its back, Ralph Hollins referred me to Nick's 'Spiders' as a great source of online info on spiders. In it, Nick says "Araneus diadematus is one of the most common and best known orb weavers. It is easily identified by the distinctive white cross on the abdomen, although in some specimens it is indistinct or missing."
See . . .

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had the company of John Norton this morning for his walk around the Warblington shore. They went on to briefly visit Hayling Oysterbeds as well (6:27am to 10:17am tide pushing in). Here are their main observations:
The hedgerow behind Conigar Point: Pheasant female, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Willow Warbler.
Tamarisk Hedge: 6 Long-tailed Tit, 4 Willow Warbler (some early autumnal movement this morning), 2 juv Reed Warbler.
Conigar Point: 1 Greenshank, 2 Common Tern, 1 Stock Dove, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 adult winter Med Gull, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Swallow, 1 Common Gull.
Off Pook Lane: 4 Greenshank (RG//- + YY//- & B//R + LO//-), 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Whimbrel.

Warblington cemetery: Fifteen wonderful minutes with a very obliging Weasel. Tricky to photograph as it dashed in and out of the gravestones before settling down for five minutes for some amazing views! Here are a couple of photos from Peter (on the left) and John (on the right).

Langstone Mill Pond: 5 Dunlin, 120 Redshank, 1 Whimbrel, 3 Common Gull, 26+ Little Egrets (mostly juvs), Female Tufted Duck with 7 ducklings, 1 Little Grebe, 4+ Willow Warbler in the Alders with 1 Chiffchaff and a 1 Sedge Warbler. Cetti's Warbler (one burst of song).
Hayling Oysterbeds: One very nice Wasp Spider, 2 Whimbrel, 24+ Common Tern, 7 Dunlin, 14 Ringed Plover, 5 Turnstone, 1 Greenshank, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 310+ Oystercatcher, 1 Swallow, 1+ Whitethroat, 23 Mute Swan off the Southmoor shore.

Wasp Spider . . . Turnstone


Brook Meadow
Just a few photos from this morning's walk through Brook Meadow. I was initially puzzled by this spider, which appeared to be a standard Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), but did not have the usual cross on its back.

Some of the Hogweed flower heads were covered in tiny black flies. I've no idea what they are.

Several Common Darter dragonflies were chasing and occasionally perching on the river near the south bridge.
Here is a male with bright red body.

A Drone Fly and what looks like hoverfly Myathropa florea.

Mystery moth
Andy Brown says he regularly looks at this blog and enjoys the varied subjects posted. Thanks, Andy. He is keen on moths and says the micro moth that I photographed on Brook Meadow on Aug 3 is Common Nettle-tap (Anthophila fabriciana) . As its mane suggests the main foodplant of the larvae is Nettle, though here the mature insect is feeding on Hogweed.

Andy's blog is at . . .


My 'beetle' is a bug
This morning I had a email from one of my wildlife gurus, John Norton, who said he was a bit surprised that I could not tell the difference between beetles and bugs! Nothing should surprise him about my knowledge or lack of it. John said the photo on yesterday's blog, which I thought might be a beetle, was a final instar nymph of the Common Green Shieldbug.
See . .

John attached a pic of a Birch Shieldbug that he photographed in the Alver Valley, Gosport yesterday.

Brook Meadow
Maurice Lillie went around the meadow with his trusty camera on this sunny and windy afternoon. Here is a selection of the photos he sent to me. He loved the black two-spotted Harlequin Ladybird with brilliant camouflage even when not on a blackberry. Others shown here are a late worker Honey Bee with bulging pollen sacs, a very green Meadow Grasshopper (I have never seen one that green) and a pair of Red-Headed Cardinal Beetles doing what they do best on their favourite flowers.

I also had a walk around the meadow later this afternoon with the warm sun shining low through the trees. As yesterday there were many insects on the Hogweed umbels, but what caught my eye was a lengthy 'scrap' between a Red Admiral and a male Beautiful Demoiselle. Here are the two combatants resting after the action, neither none the worse for their mini encounter. What was going on? Maybe a territorial dispute.


Brook Meadow
I went onto the meadow this morning mainly to try out my new Lumix TZ70 camera which I got from Amazon to replace the one that I irreparably damaged yesterday. Amazon's next day delivery service is really quite astonishing. I mainly concentrated on taking close-ups of insects on Hogweed flower heads, but the strong wind made it doubly difficult. However, I was pleased with the camera and the results were, much as with the old one, some fairly good shots among plenty of rubbish ones.

As always, there were lots of Red-headed Cardinal (Soldier) Beetles and several hoverflies on the Hogweed flowers including Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) and Syrphus ribesii.

Common Wasps were also on the Hogweed along with a small black fly, much small than a standard Bluebottle which I think could be one of the parasitic flies in the family Trachinidae.

Also a small moth . Help appreciated.

Other sightings/photos included a Dark Bush-cricket and an unidentified tiny beetle (?) resting on leaves with quite distinctive markings, but which I could not find in my books.

A Bumblebee (possibly Bombus pascuorum) was on Common Comfrey and a Harvestman hiding away in the vegetation.

On the plant front I was really surprised to come across a single flowering spike of Agrimony alongside the path on the west side of the north meadow - the first ever Agrimony I have seen on the main Brook Meadow site. The only other ones were all on the Lillywhite's patch to the south of the Gooseberry Cottage garden, which is, strictly speaking, not part of Brook Meadow. I think I can just make out another Agrimony plant next to the flowering one in the photo, so I will keep an eye on these.


Bridge Road Wayside
I was surprised, but also delighted, to see that the wayside in Bridge Road car park had been cut. The council cutting team has done a very thorough job, all the verge has been cut and some of the bushes also trimmed back. Well done to Jane Brook for organising this. The arisings will remain in situ for a few weeks to allow seeds to drop. Then they will be raked up presumably by volunteers.

The cutting had produced a lot of minced up litter that I had missed in my last litter pick, so I went round again and filled one full bag of general waste and two extra bags of broken tiles from fly tipping. Exhausting work, but good to have it done. I took this selfie with the camera balanced on the bonnet of a parked car.

In fact, it turned out to the the last one I shall take with that camera - my favourite Lumix TZ70 - as in doing a second photo a gust of wind blew the camera off the car bonnet and it crashed zoom first onto the hard surface of the car park never to operate again. A lesson learned, but an expensive one, as to repair it would cost almost as much as a new camera!

There was not much to see on the wayside, though I noticed a good crop of apples on the tree in the central shrubbery, which should be sweet when ripe.

There is also a very nice display of Bulrushes in flower on the edge of the stream with 29 brown flower spikes. Here are just a few of them.

Colin's gallery
Colin Vanner sent me a few of his recent images mostly taken at Farlington Marshes. Here is a selection of Colin's quite outstanding photos. Greenfinch, Blue Tit snoozing (?) and Kingfisher with crab.

MONDAY JULY 31 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I had a stroll around the meadow in late afternoon sun. Very peaceful with tall plants swaying in the breeze. There were lots of insects on the umbellifers, including these two hoverflies. The large one on the left looked like a Hornet mimic, but I think it is Volucella inanis. The small one on the right looks like Myathropa florea. But please correct me if I am wrong.

I also spotted this cracking female Common Darter.

And could one wish for anything better than to come across a bright and fresh Red Admiral resting in the warm sunshine on a leaf. It is truly amazing to consider that this beautiful insect has just flown across the English Channel to be with us on Brook Meadow.

Hoary Ragwort and Hemp Agrimony are now in flower and I brought a few springs of the latter back for my desk display.

The Hemp Agrimony was attracting Bumblebees, like this white-tailed chap, probably Bombus terrestris.

Pepper-saxifrage is out on the east side of the Lumley area. It is always late flowering. Not easy to photograph.

The young Oak tree on the east side of the north meadow has a great crop of acorns, many of them are distorted by Knopper Galls.

In the same area, the Rowans are covered in juicy red berries, no doubt the local Blackbirds and Thrushes are watchful.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon ahead of the high tide (3:15pm for an hour). The highlights were 98 Redshank off shore with 8 colour ringed (four of them were new to him). B+B//OO B+B//WO B+B//RY. B+B//WW (Very dirty white, these two rings). B+B//RB B+B//YW B+B//NG. Redshank colour-ringed sightings should be forwarded to Josh Nightingale . . .

Peter also saw 13 Black-tailed Godwits with one colour ringed G//R+BG. This Godwit has been a regular wintering bird in the Emsworth area since Sept 2010, but this is the first sighting this 'autumn'.

Also around were 3 Common Gulls, 2 Med Gulls, 6 Mute Swan, 2 Greenshank, a Whimbrel and a single Common Tern. On the pond were 30+ Little Egrets and the female Tufted Duck still had seven ducklings.

Hedgehog news
Ken and Romney Turner have what they call 'the twins', medium same sized animals, on their feeder every night now tucking into dried mealworms, seedhearts and now a small ball of mince.
They added, "Curiously enough, they eat everything else first then come back for the mince when they have walked off a full belly. We happened to look out much later last night at 11:30 and the big one tried the feeder but others had scoffed the lot so he got a couple of titbits and cleared off. Needs to get there around 9pm like the others, early Hedgehogs get the worm or whatever else is on offer."

SUNDAY JULY 30 - 2017

When I opened my front door at 9.30pm yesterday evening, I was surprised to hear a loud snuffling coming from the path in front of the window. I got a torch out to have a look and found two Hedgehogs rubbing up against each other, but not fighting. I called Jean and we watched them for about a minute before one made off round the side of the house. What were they up to? Were they males confronting each other? Or was this courtship.

Sorry, no chance of a photo, but here is Romney Turner's photo of Hedgehogs in close proximity taken recently.

I sent a report of the Hedgehogs sighting to Caroline French, our local Hedgehog expert, who thought it sounded like courtship behaviour, especially with the snorting sounds, which are made by the female. Normally, the female will keep turning her rear end away from the male who will persist, sometimes for several hours until mating does (or doesn't) occur! Caroline sent a link a video on YouTube showing typical courtship behaviour in Hedgehogs which was exactly like we saw last night with the male circling around the female. See . . . .

Concerning the sexing of Hedgehogs, Caroline says it is difficult without picking them up and looking closely. However, males are bigger when fully grown, as in the above video.
A couple of nights ago Caroline saw a quite a small hedgehog in her garden. Although independent, it must be one of this year's as it is too small to have survived the winter.

Trees of Heaven!
Chris Oakley took this photo of the two magnificent Tree of Heaven trees in the grounds of the Waterside Church in Bath Road. They are very prominent landmarks and are currently at their best. Chris notes the trees are have bunches of crimson 'whirligigs' seeds similar to the Maple.

Pavement flora
Chris also extoled the value of pavements as a habitat for wild flowers. He sent me this photo of Nursery Close, where he counted six different wild flowers.

Bridge Road, where I live, has a similar adornment of wild flowers along the edge of the pavement. I counted 13 different species in a small section near my house alone - a sign that that dreaded council spraying teams have not been round this year (yet). Let's hope they stay well away, pavement plants are a joy to behold. We also had a magnificent display of Hollyhocks on the pavement outside number 1 Bridge Road until fairly recently, though they have now gone over.


Emsworth to Warblington
Peter Milinets-Raby took advantage of a fine morning before the rain to do his first survey of the autumn of birds along the coast from Emsworth to Warblington. The first of many during the winter I suspect. Peter covered almost all the area from Emsworth Harbour to the shore off Pook Lane 7:50am to 10:17am - tide out and dropping further. His sightings were as follows:

Beacon Square from 7:51am:
2 Greenshank, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, 62 eclipse plumaged Mallard feeding on the freshly uncovered mud, 1 Little Egret, 2 Whimbrel, Lesser and a Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Green Woodpecker, 23+ Goldfinch flock with a single Linnet in it.

Emsworth Harbour from 8:07am:
2 Little Egret, 4 Whimbrel, 1 Shelduck, 81 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Turnstone, 5 Common Tern, Lesser and a Great Black-backed Gull, 5 Greenshank, two of them in the pond outflow, one with rings.

Ringed Greenshank: W//R+LN - Peter said he had not seen this one before and the combination of rings did look unfamiliar. So, I consulted Anne de Potier, who now keeps the colour-ringed Greenshank records. Anne told me that W//R+LN was ringed at Farlington in September 2013, but she does not think anyone has seen it until this autumn, when she saw it roosting on the Deeps on 24 July! So, done Peter.
Astonishingly this was Peter's 43rd ringed bird recorded in the area! As he says, it just goes to show how many pass through the area in the migration periods and linger during the winter months. And, of course the number of un-ringed birds could be 40+ again! 14 individuals were seen just today!

On Emsworth Millpond - 5 Coot.

Nore Barn from 8:44am:
4 Greenshank (YO//- + -//YY) - A regular Nore Barn bird, 1 Shelduck, 3 Whimbrel, 33 Black-tailed Godwit, 11 Mute Swan, 2 Little Egret, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull,

Warblington from 9:02am:
Skylark heard singing, 3 Stock Dove, 1 Jay, 1 Kestrel, 1 Buzzard, 1 Swallow,

Conigar Point:
3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 2 juvs. 1 Common Tern, 1 Common Gull,
And loafing around on the mud were an impressive gathering of 142 adult Mediterranean Gulls (in various stages of moult) with 40 fresh juveniles!
A lovely Willow Warbler in the Tamarisk Hedge provided close views.

Off Pook Lane:
A further 2 adult Med Gulls with 7 more juveniles, 3 Greenshank, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Little Egret in the trickle of water in the channel, 1 Stock Dove, 2 Common Gulls, 1 very handsome summer plumaged Grey Plover - very smart!


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon 1:20pm for an hour. Tide pushing in to high. "Autumn certainly feels in the air at the moment with drizzle and lots of waders around." His report follows:
Off shore were: 78 Redshank (-//B+ B//OL & -//B + B//GL & -//B + B//YW), 5 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 3 Common Tern, 4 Ad &2 Juv Med Gulls, 3 Common Gull, 1 Kestrel. 1 adult summer Great Crested Grebe.
Off Conigar Point: 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Common Tern, 2 Med Gulls.
On the pond: 64 Little Egrets loitering - about 10 still on nests, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Mute Swan, Female Tufted Duck with 7 tiny ducklings (First seen on 25th July and today, so still doing well - breeding confirmed again at the pond).


Waysides News
Passing through Bridge Road car park this morning I spotted two notices (presumably erected by Jane Brook who now runs the waysides project) informing us that in the next 2 months the wayside will be cut by Havant Borough Council. Arisings will be left for a while to allow the seeds to drop before they are raked up. That is good news as the Bridge Road Wayside has been disappointing this year and needs an early cut.

Brook Meadow
I had another look at the southern experimental cut area on the north meadow where I found one new flower for this area Selfheal. This takes the total of plants in this small area to 25, nothing special, but a lot more than one would find in the surrounding wilderness. I have recommended to the conservation group that they should repeat this regular experimental cutting regime in other areas, which they have agreed to consider.
I was delighted to see a Bittersweet plant climbing up an Elder on the side of the main path through the south meadow. It had flowers, green and red berries

There were lots of insects feeding on the flower heads of Hogweed, mainly house flies, red soldier beetles and hoverflies. Here are photos of the two most common hoverflies I saw on the flowers. The one on the left side in the photos I think is the familiar Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), though I was not aware (until now) that it was possible to separate the sexes in the field. This looks like a female which has clearer abdominal markings than the male.
The hoverfly on the right side in the photos could be Syrphus ribesii (no common name) which is also fairly common on Brook Meadow.

A sharp shower of rain interrupted my insect watching. I sheltered for a while under trees near the seat, admiring the meadow while listening to Sarah Vaughan singing 'What a lovely day to get caught in the rain' on my iPhone!

Hummingbird Hawk-moths galore in gardens
The BTO reports Hummingbird Hawk-moths have been seen in a record number of gardens so far this season, particularly in the south and east of England. They were seen in 2% of gardens in June compared to an average of 0.5%.
See . . .

For the annual patterns of garden sightings see . . .

Hummingbird Hawkmoths do not normally over-winter here, and the population is replenished each year by new migrants. As such, numbers can vary considerably from year to year. It has been particularly warm this June in eastern parts of England - more than 2.5°C above average according to the Met Office - and warm air drawn up from the south may have helped to carry them to our shores. These moths are often seen hovering like a hummingbird over plants such as Viper's Bugloss, Buddleia and Red Valerian, to collect nectar. Our main season for sightings is June-September, so keep an eye out for them!

Martin Rand
I have just heard from Martin Rand, our local BSBI Plant recorded for S Hampshire and my mentor on all matters botanical, that he will be undergoing medical treatment for the next 5-6 months. This is likely to put him out of action for some of the time, so Martin asks us to be patient if we don't get very timely responses to e-mails. Good news, is that he expects to be back 'on all cylinders' by Snowdrop time next year! We shall be thinking of you, Martin. Get well soon.


Hedgehogs brawling
Ken and Romney Turner had the very unusual experience of watching a pair of Hedgehog apparently fighting. I will leave Romney to describe the experience in her own words.

Here is one of the Hedgehogs coming for food.

"I had put the food out and went to look if anyone was noshing, a lot of shrubbery was moving and out tumbled two medium sized Hedgehogs. They were nowhere near the food yet but the action was fast and furious, I thought maybe mating prelude. However it soon became clear that the evenly matched pair were both pushing and shoving before one got a mouthful of spines and proceeded to drag, shake, pull and push the other in and out of shrubs, under the low Spruce and all over the slate border.
I was worried they would kill each other and got my 'big hands' in an attempt to break them up, they did not appear to even notice me. It went on and on with me shining a torch to try and put them off but I could see that even when one let go the other did not run away and I could see no blood or injury so eventually went in to get my little camera to grab these pics.

The fight did break up with them scuttling off in different directions but just because they were exhausted, they took no notice of me taking flash pictures at all. We have seen up to six Hedgehogs in the garden visiting our small feeder tray and the two medium ones are none the worse for the scuffle. They seem to tolerate each other at the moment. The very large mum or dad does not bully the smaller or medium ones so life is peaceful again. I can see where some of them have daytime nests and am minimising disturbance whist sorting the paths but they have not been put off. They clean up under our bird feeders and visit our neighbours for different food nightly, sometimes using the holes in the wall we left for them to use years ago. I am in the process of writing an essay on Why I love my garden so will definitely include this episode. So lucky."

Well, well. What a story that makes. But what was going on? A bit of internet research revealed that although Hedgehogs generally are peaceful animals, they do occasionally 'fight', though this is never serious as they dont have sufficient weaponry in the way of teeth to cause physical damage. Most commonly fights occurs between males in the mating season. There are several videos on YouTube showing scuffles rather than full blown fights. Maybe Romney's Hedgehogs were two adolescents testing out their masculine strengths. Does anyone else have any explanation?

MONDAY JULY 24 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I had a stroll through the meadow this afternoon. The ground remains dry despite the rain we had had over the past couple of days. Here are a few observations.

Water Mint - first flowering of the year on the centre meadow. This is a bit earlier than usual, as it is usually into August before I see the first flowers. I love the aroma of this plant as I walk through the long vegetation.

Spider - I watched this spider weaving its orb web for several minutes, taking photos as it happened. It did not look right for a regular Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), with lighter colouring and no obvious cross. I would appreciate some help.

Harvestman - A spider type of creature with very long legs (aka 'Daddy Longlegs'). They have eight legs like spiders, but do not spin webs and don't have venom. They also have a single body with the thorax and abdomen fused. I spotted this chap scuttling through the long grasses. It hardly stopped for a moment.

Here are three of the butterflies I saw on the meadow - Gatekeeper , Common Blue and Ringlet, plus a Meadow Grasshopper which stopped long enough for me to snap it. The Gatekeeper had wings closed showing the white spots which are almost translucent, more like holes than spots.

Fly identifications
I sent Bryan Pinchen photos of three insects that I saw feeding on Creeping Thistles on Brook Meadow yesterday. Here is his verdict.
The first one is in the genus Chrysotoxum, but without seeing it from above and getting a better look at the abdominal markings Bryan can't put a species name to it, although it's probably C. cautum.
Ralph Hollins suggested Chrysotoxum verralli for this fly and referred me to a page of photos at . . .

Bryan says the second insect, is the hoverfly Volucella zonaria (aka the Hornet mimic), it has more dark yellowish suffusion on the wings than V. inanis, and has an overall broader more 'meaty' appearance.

The third (which I actually got right!) is the Conopid fly Physocephala rufipes, they parasitise solitary and social bees and wasps, this is one of the more widespread and common of the species.

SUNDAY JULY 23 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I had a walk around the meadow late this morning before the rain set in. The meadow was remarkably dry despite yesterday's heavy rain. I was OK walking with normal shoes.
Bristly Ox-tongue seems to have had a very good year. It is particularly abundant on the north meadow where it is the dominant species.

Butterbur leaves are now huge in the area below the seat. Well loved by kids as 'green' umbrellas.

I had a close look at the two experimental cutting areas on the north meadow where there are now a good number of flowers on show. I will suggest to the conservation group that this experimental cutting strategy could be repeated in other parts of the meadow to uncover seed banks which otherwise might never get the opportunity to grow into flowers in competition with the tall coarse grasses. There were also lots of Meadow Grasshoppers jumping around in the short grass and Bumblebees on the flowers indicating a good wildlife habitat. Of the two areas the southern is the best so I decided to do a count of the more obvious species I could find in this area. The total was 23, nothing special, but good to find. I will continue to monitor.

I spotted three unusual insects feeding on Creeping Thistles near the Lumley area. I will check them out with Bryan Pinchen. See tomorrow's blog for Bryan's verdict.

FRIDAY JULY 21 - 2017

White Creeping Thistle
John Arnott has cleared up the mystery of the white Creeping Thistles (Cirsium arvense) on the wayside on the north side of Emsworth Recreation Ground near the fence. These plants with pure white foliage, which are mixed in with perfectly normal plants with green foliage, have puzzled me for several years. In fact, I saw them again only yesterday, but did not bother to get a photo. Here is a photo taken earlier this month (10 July).

John says the lack of colour in the plants is caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas syringae pv. tagetis - a fairly new infection, first recorded in Kent in 2003. I gather Creeping Thistles can also be affected by a rust disease called Puccinia punctiformis which causes the plants to go spindly and a pale green in colour, but not white.
I assume the Creeping Thistles with pure white flowers, but otherwise normal, are not affected in this way. Maybe these just old flowers going over? This photo was taken on the east bank of Slipper Millpond. There are also lots on the wayside north of Emsworth Railway Station.
John says that these white flowers are just a genetic variation in the same way that one can find white flowered Bluebell and Self Heal. Nice find though!


Brook Meadow
I had completely forgotten about the regular 3rd Thursday in the month workday on Brook Meadow, so I was naturally quite surprised to find some volunteers just completing their morning tasks when I arrived at about 11.30am. As there were only 5 volunteers they restricted the jobs to clearing and tidying up some of the paths. I took a few photos before they finally packed up at 12 noon.

I was pleased to hear from Jennifer Rye that the group will be employing Martin Cull to carry out an early annual cut of the grassland once the payment situation with Norse gets sorted. Cutting and clearing early will remove the maximum nutritional value in the arisings and reduce the amount of nutrients returning to the soil through decomposition. Less accumulation of soil fertility equals more flowering herbs and less grass.

Green-veined Whites
While I was on the meadow I saw three Green-veined White butterflies on the main river bank, the first I have seen this year on Brook Meadow. These will be the first emergence of the summer brood which is more numerous than the first brood in spring. The upper wing markings are always heavier on second brood adults.
The one on the left side photo looks like a male with a single black spot in the middle of its forewing. Or can I see a hint of two spots through the nearest wing? The butterfly in the right side photo is showing only its underwings, but it could be a female, which has two spots on the upper wings.

The Green-veined White caterpillars feed on Water-cress among other things, which probably account for the presence of the adults today near the river where there is an abundance of it.

Other news
Lesser Burdock is just coming into flower on the Seagull Lane patch opposite the tool store.
The tall flower spikes of Purple Loosestrife are now showing above the other vegetation in the river just south of the north bridge.

Greater Burdocks gone!
I had a stroll around some of the local waysides this afternoon, starting inWashington Road. On reaching the end of the path to Emsworth Recreation Ground I was dismayed to find the magnificent Greater Burdock plants that were just starting to flower when I visited last week, had been mown out of existence. Gone, not a trace left apart from strimmed chippings on the ground. I hope there is a good seed bank in the soil to allow the plants to regenerate.

I cheered up considerably when I spotted several other Burdocks on the pony field over the wire fence. I slipped through a gap in the gate to check them out. From the flat-topped arrangement of the flowers they are almost certainly Greater Burdocks as Lesser Burdocks have their flowers in a spike-like clusters. This field which used to be used for grazing is abandoned and is largely covered in Common Ragwort. Lets hope it stays like this. Grid Ref: SU 74601 06478

I had this nice Gatekeeper nearby.


Wild Clary flowering
The grass verge at the northern end of Christopher Way where the Wild Clary grows has not been cut. Most of the Wild Clary has now set seed, though I did find some fresh late flowering spikes. I collected some of the seed for use elsewhere.



Great Black-backed Gulls nesting records
A pair of Great Black-backed Gulls have nested on one of the rafts on Slipper Millpond, Emsworth, for the past 6 years - 2012 to 2017. As far as I am aware this is unique for this area. Here is a summary of the nesting records.

Year 2012 - A pair of Great Black-backed Gulls nested for the first time ever in Emsworth, on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond in 2012 producing two youngsters.

Year 2013 - They nested again on the centre raft in 2013 producing three youngsters.

Year 2014 - In December 2013 the Slipper Millpond Association decided to deter the gulls from nesting due to their predation of other avian inhabitants on the pond, notably Coot. To achieve this the three rafts on the pond were covered with wires, but this did not put the birds off and they nested again successfully in 2014 rearing one youngster.

Year 2015 - They were back again in 2015 and nested successfully on the centre raft hatching three chicks, but all three were drowned when they fell from the raft, much to the distress of the parents! So, this year's nesting was unsuccessful.

Year 2016 - The two gulls returned again to the pond in the spring of 2016. They nested on the centre raft again and produced three chicks of which two youngsters survived. One mature juvenile was seen dead on the raft in July, from unknown cause.

Year 2017 - They were back again in 2017, but, very surprisingly, were ousted from their usual central nesting raft by a pair of Canada Geese which nested there temselves and produced a brood of 5 goslings. The gulls settled down on the smaller south raft and hatched three chicks of which two survived and fledged by early July.

For more details about the nesting plus lots of photos go to the specially dedicated web page on this web site at . . . Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond

Caroline's news
Caroline French shared some of her recent wildlife news and photos with us.
She writes, "The Cockchafer Beetle was on a dead rose head in our garden on 19th May. It was the first I've seen, although they are apparently quite common having recovered from over-use of pesticides in the mid 20th century (Buglife website).
The Brown Hare was one of six in a weedy stubble field near Stansted. They are clearly finding plenty to eat here.

The male Bullfinch and male Yellowhammer were on farmland at Ramsdean, near Butser Hill.

The Herring Gull is the latest addition to our garden avifauna! This is the first year I have heard Herring Gulls in north Emsworth. This one is immature but there have been two around all summer and I wouldn't be surprised if they breed nearby next year if they can find somewhere suitable."

I too have noticed many more gulls flying around the gardens in my area in South Emsworth this year. Black-headed Gulls often swoop down to snatch any bread I throw out, but I have not had a Herring Gull.

TUESDAY JULY 18 - 2017

Stansted Forest
Brian Lawrence was in Stansted Forest today and got what for me is a unique photo of a pair of Silver-washed Fritillaries mating. I think the butterfly on the right of Brian's photo with the broader dark scent lines is the male. What a photo! Brian also got a more mundane White Admiral at Stansted.

Brook Meadow
Brian Lawrence was on Brook Meadow yesterday and got a photo of a female Common Darter - an increasingly common dragonfly on the meadow. He also managed to snap one of the Meadow Grasshoppers in between hops.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (1:53pm to 2:35pm - low tide). The highlight was the first returning Greenshank to this stretch of the shore (an un-ringed bird).
"Loafing on the mud by the pub were 33 adult Med Gulls with one fresh juvenile and on the island out in the channel were a further 16 adult Med Gulls. Definitely feels like autumn! Amongst them were 5 Common Gulls.
On the pond were 2 female Tufted Duck (Have not seen any evidence of breeding this year) and surprise, surprise, an early returning Little Grebe. I counted 36 Little Egrets still loitering with intent with hungry mouths!"

Black Swan
Kate L'Amie saw a single Black Swan with a group of 11 Mute Swans this morning, in the channel between Emsworth and Nore Barn woods. She wonders where it has come from. Who knows? There are quite a few of them around the local area. We had a group of 6 in Emsworth Harbour from Jan 27 until Mar 11 earlier this year.

Mystery flower
I posted the photo of the mystery flower that I found on Brook Meadow yesterday onto Facebook where I got the answer I was expecting - Hedge Mustard (Sysimbrium officinale). I have never seen one that small before, but all plants must grow!

Avocets breed at Farlington
News that at least one pair of Avocets have, for the very first time, nested and hatched young on the Farlington Marshes reserve was revealed on the Solent Reserves blog posted on July 12. Four pairs attempted to breed at but most of the eggs and young were taken by Crows and Buzzards. The photo on the blog shows at least four juveniles.
See . . .

For earlier observations go to . . . July 1-17