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Wildlife - Homepage
written for 'Kingfisher' - the Newsletter of the
Hampshire Ornithological Society by Brian Fellows 28
It was love at first
sight. That was 40 years ago when I first moved to
Emsworth and I am still in love with the place today!
It was actually a good 20 years before I got into
birdwatching, but now I am making up for lost time and
enjoying every minute of it. Emsworth is a small
village full of small shops, pubs and cafes, nestling
in the far SE corner of Hampshire, with a toe-hold in
West Sussex. It has several good natural habitats
within easy walking distance of the town centre,
namely, a tidal harbour, three millponds, a wet
meadow, a chalk stream and two woodlands. It is also
within easy reach of Thorney Island and Chichester
Harbour to the east, Hayling Island, Farlington
Marshes and Langstone Harbour to the west and Stansted
Forest and the Downs to the north. What more could you
Emsworth is on the
northern edge of Chichester Harbour and its harbour is
a magnet in winter for migrant geese, ducks and waders
(with the exception of Bar-tailed Godwit, which I have
never seen here). The seawall of Emsworth Marina is
the best place to view the main harbour, in the
morning, at low water, with the sun behind you. The
harbour to the west of the town as far as Nore Barn
Woods can be seen from anywhere along Western Parade.
Of the waders, my
personal favourites are Black-tailed Godwits and
Greenshank, many of which have been colour-ringed by
Pete Potts and his team from the Farlington Ringing
Group. Logging colour-ringed birds and conveying the
information to Pete and other BW/GK fans has added a
new dimension to my birdwatching. I can identify
individual birds and I look forward to the return of
"old friends" to Emsworth Harbour year after year.
Saying that, Godwits appear to have largely abandoned
Emsworth this year, preferring the Fishbourne and
Bosham Channels in West Sussex.
Greenshank are usually
seen feeding actively in the low water channel near
the quay. There are so many colour-ringed that it is
unusual to find one without rings on its legs! They
are all part of the Greenshank Migration Project and
for more information about this project see the web
site at http://www.greenshank.info/
Undoubtedly, the star
bird in Emsworth over the past three winters has been
a very confiding Spotted Redshank which regularly
turned up at Nore Barn to the west of Emsworth,
providing excellent photographic opportunities. It had
not turned up at the time of writing (Oct 28), though
we did have a juvenile in early October in the channel
beneath the quay, but it did not stay.
We do not get many
rare birds (or I don't see them, more likely), but I
do remember clearly a Spoonbill which was in the
harbour for about 2 weeks at the end of 2002, and
actually came onto the town millpond on one occasion.
Emsworth is blessed
with three millponds and a marina. The Council-owned
town millpond has a resident flock of well-fed Mute
Swans and Mallard, enlivened by Tufted Duck, Little
Grebe, Great Crested Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser
in winter, plus an occasional exotic species, like
Black Swan. The two millponds to the east of the town
are privately owned and managed as nature reserves.
They are saline lagoons with rare species of Sea
Anemone and Lagoon Worm growing on their beds. The
local Mute Swan pair that nest on Peter Pond got a
reputation a few years ago for producing "Polish"
variety cygnets. The reedbeds regularly attract Reed
Warbler in summer but no Bearded Tits as yet. In
winter Cormorants are attracted by the impressive
shoals of Grey Mullet that come in with the tide and
Kingfishers can often be seen flying low over the
Brook Meadow is a wet
meadow of five acres of grassland, near the centre of
Emsworth, surrounded by woodland and flanked by the
River Ems. Grid Ref: SU7506. It is easily approached
from the car park behind Tesco Express and is well
worth a visit, particularly to see the Water Voles
that thrive on the river banks. Brook Meadow is now a
Local Nature Reserve, though this was inconceivable no
more than 8 years ago when it was an intimidating
wilderness of impenetrable vegetation, just waiting
for the bulldozers to move in. At this time, I and a
number of other local residents got together to form
the Brook Meadow Conservation Group to protect it from
development and conserve its wildlife. And phew, after
much hard work, we appear to have succeeded (I hope).
Over the years, we
have been busy logging the wildlife of Brook Meadow.
The plant list currently stands at a staggering 332
different species, including 4 orchids, 34 grasses and
12 sedges. The bird list stands at 68, with all the
common birds well represented. Blackcap, Chiffchaff
and Whitethroat are regular summer visitors and this
year we had a Turtle Dove for the first time ever.
Moorhen, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail and Water Rail are
regular on the river, where Brown Trout can be seen.
Little Egrets are ever-present in the area and one
even regularly perches on my garden wall to scan the
local stream for fish.
For more information
about Brook Meadow and the work of the conservation
group see the group web site at . . . http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/
Emsworth boasts two
main areas of woodland of which Hollybank Woods is by
far the largest and most interesting. The woods are
best approached from the top of Hollybank Lane; Grid
Ref: SU745080. Owned by the local council, there is
free access, but note this does not apply to the
woodland north of the Emsworth Common Road, marked
Southleigh Forest on OS Maps. I recall finding a pair
of Wood Warblers in Southleigh Forest many years ago.
Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl and Buzzard all nest in
Hollybank Woods and Red Kite has been rumoured. All
the usual woodland birds are here with Chiffchaff,
Blackcap and Willow Warbler the main summer visitors.
Roe Deer are common and I gather Badgers are also
resident. There is also free access onto Longcopse
Hill (in West Sussex), where there is an area of
heathland and a wonderful colony of Early Purple
Nore Barn Woods to the
west of Emsworth is a much smaller and more heavily
used woodland; Sparrowhawk regularly nests there.