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for October 1-16

in reverse chronological order



09:15 - 10:30 - Tide rising to high water at 12:25. Sunny but with a strong SW wind.

Nore Barn stream

I watched the stream filling up with the tide for a little over an hour. The Greenshank was the first on the scene, as usual, followed by the Little Egret. But there was still no sign of the Spotted Redshank which has now been missing for 5 days following the two early sightings last week on Oct 9 and 10.

First Brent Geese

Two Brent Geese were swimming into the stream this morning along with the 11 Wigeon I saw yesterday. These were the first Brents I have seen in Emsworth Harbour this autumn.


Short-eared Owls

While I was at Nore Barn, I spoke to a man walking his dog who asked me if I knew about the five Short-eared Owls on Fowley island. A friend of his who has fishing nets there told him about them. Interestingly, Barry Collins reported his first Short-eared Owl of the autumn on Thorney Island on Oct 14.

Black-necked Grebe

A lady birdwatcher I met at Nore Barn told me she had recently seen a Black-necked Grebe in the Nore Barn Creek. I have no further information about this, but as far as I am aware there have been no local sightings. Ralph Hollins reports recent sightings of one in Poole Harbour on Oct 10 followed by another at the Dungeness RSPB site.

Garden squirrel

A Grey Squirrel spent a long time this afternoon collecting peanuts, which I had only recently put on the feeding station and bird table. It was not eating them, but burying them around the garden. This is the first time I have witnessed this common behaviour in my garden.

Small Coppers

I saw two Small Copper butterflies on this afternoon's walk, one on the new Emsworth Railway Station wayside and the other on Brook Meadow. Barry Collins tells me he had 11 Small Coppers (3rd brood) on Thorney Island on Sunday. These today were probably also the 3rd brood.

Here is a Small Copper feeding on Common Fleabane on the Emsworth Railway Station wayside

Other insects

Also, on Brook Meadow I saw a rather tatty looking Red Admiral and male Common Darter

Mystery Bumblebee - Bombus pascuorum

Bryan Pinchen confirmed my hunch that the Bumblebee with a black and grey striped abdomen that I photographed feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies on Brook Meadow on Oct 14 was in fact another Bombus pascuorum. Bryan says the banded appearance of the abdomen is a result of the abdomen being slightly stretched by the feeding position so it shows the hair bands on each of the abdominal segments, an easy problem to encounter. When the abdomen is less stretched they have the usual completely hairy appearance of a bumblebee.



08:30 - 09:45 - High water at 11:42. I decided to get down to Nore Barn on the rising tide today. I stayed until the stream was fairly full.

Still no Spotted Redshank

The Greenshank flew onto the stream to be followed by the Little Egret and a single Black-tailed Godwit. But the Spotted Redshank did not show up for the 4th day running. I was interested to see how relaxed the Greenshank was in response a dog that raced into the stream; it simply moved onto the bank and waited for the dog to go. I also had a Cormorant swimming in the rapidly filling stream and two Teal.

Here are the Greenshank and the Little Egret feeding together in the Nore Barn stream

Black-tailed Godwits

A flock of 34 Black-tailed Godwits arrived on the mudflats off Nore Barn to be followed by more as the tide rose. I counted a maximum of 82 feeding mostly on the edge of the saltmarshes. I found two colour-ringed birds among them:

O+WL - My 3rd sighting here this autumn.

ROL+RLR - This is a Kent-ringed Godwit (27-Oct-08) with three rings on each leg. My 1st sighting here this autumn. It has been regular in Emsworth Harbour over the past three winters. The first sightings are usually in mid-October and the last ones in Jan-Feb. Last winter we had a total of 43 sightings of ROL+RLR from 08-Oct-11 to 11-Feb-12.

First Wigeon

A flotilla of 11 Wigeon were in the channel - the first of the year in Emsworth. Further out were a large flock of Shelduck - approximately 40. A Grey Wagtail was flitting around on the shingle beach. This was my second sighting of it this autumn.


I heard a Great Tit singing on Brook Meadow this afternoon. First this autumn.

Albino Common Comfrey?

Regarding the white flowered Common Comfrey (see Oct 12 entry) Ralph Hollins notes that Stace's Flora says .. "The flowers are often wrongly described as white but except for very rare albinos they are pale creamy yellow or purplish" Ralph suggests that the Brook Meadow plant qualifies as a 'very rare albino'. If you want to see it the plant is on the river bank south of the S-bend and before the sluice gate.

Here is my photo of the white flowering Common Comfrey



14:00 - 14:30 - A fine afternoon with a chilly northerly wind. Sea fairly calm. Tide falling from high water at 11:00. I did my now regular check of the Nore Barn stream. Greenshank and Little Egret arrived at about 14:15, but again there was no sign of the Spotted Redshank for the 3rd day running. I wonder where it has got to? Thorney Island is my best guess.

There were no Black-tailed Godwits at all on the western mudflats, though I did see about 30 feeding on the emerging mudflats to the east of the Emsworth Sailing Club building. There were plenty of Shelduck further out on the mudflats, but no Brent Geese.

Other observations

A deep blue male Migrant Hawker was flying around the bushes at the end of the gardens. It did not rest long enough for a photo, but I am fairly sure of the identification.

What was probably the same Red Admiral that I have seen for the past 3 days was also flying near the woods.

The Chicken of the Woods fungus is still looking quite fresh on the tree stump on the grass verge on the east side of Beacon Square. I first saw it here on Oct 3rd.


I enjoyed a late afternoon walk through Brook Meadow - the 'golden hour', so I am told, for photographers. So I took a few photos, not that I would describe myself in any way as a photographer.

The flowers on the bank of Michaelmas Daisies are only just starting to open. It is a pity these plants have a bad reputation in conservation work, since they are a very good late nectar source. There were several Bumblebees feeding on them when I was there, including some ginger ones with grey and black bands on the abdomen. I suspect they are a form of Bombus pascuorum though they could be another type of bee, not a Bumblebee, called Anthophora plumipes (Chinery p. 48). I will ask Bryan Pinchen for his verdict.

Bryan Pinchen confirmed my hunch that the Bumblebee with a black and grey stiped abdomen that I photographed feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies on Brook Meadow on Oct 14 was in fact another Bombus pascuorum. Bryan says the banded appearance of the abdomen is a result of the abdomen being slightly stretched by the feeding position so it shows the hair bands on each of the abdominal segments, an easy problem to encounter. When the abdomen is less stretched they have the usual completely hairy appearance of a bumblebee.

The Alder Buckthorn bushes below the causeway have a very good crop of black berries this year.

The taller of the planted Black Poplar trees looks very fine from the causeway.

Bristly Ox-tongue was flowering well on the north meadow.

The seedheads of Great Willowherb make a fine show.

Finally, here are a few Teasel seedheads.



13:30 - 14:00 - I spent half an hour watching the birds in the vicinity of the Nore Barn stream as the tide fell (3-4 hours after high water). For the second day running the Spotted Redshank did not appear, though the Greenshank was present today along with the regular Little Egret.

It is too early to get concerned as the bird probably has yet to get into a proper feeding routine. I had a walk along the shore to the top of Nore Barn Creek. Another Greenshank was feeding on the far edge of the channel, but no sign of the Spotshank.

It was good to see so lots of Golden Samphire still in flower along the seawall.


And for something a bit different . . . Malcolm Phillips is just back from Cuba and sent me a couple of bird photos. Here is one of a Stripe-headed Tanager - what a fine bird.



White flowering comfrey

Ralph Hollins was on Brook Meadow yesterday and noticed a white flowering comfrey along the main river path which he thought might be White Comfrey (Symphytum orientale), which would be a new plant for the Brook Meadow list. I had a look at it this morning, but I am fairly sure it is a white flowered Common Comfrey.

As can be seen in the following photo, the stems have the characteristic 'wings' of Common Comfrey (which White Comfrey does not have) and the calyx teeth are fairly long and sharp (they would be short and blunt in White Comfrey). I checked the nearby purple flowering comfrey which had the same characteristics.

Russian Vine

Ralph also mentioned a plant of Russian Vine what is now flowering in the woodwork of the Seagull Lane entrance. This has been there in previous years and clearly has strayed from the large plant climbing over the bushes immediately opposite the gate.

Bumblebees - Bombus pascuorum

Two ginger Bumblebees were feeding on the Common Comfrey with purple flowers, one of which had a full pollen sack on its leg. I thought they might be Bombus pascuorum workers which Chinery says are the latest flying Bumblebee. I sent this photo to Bryan Pinchen who confirmed the identification.

Bryan added "this species does often continue until this late, this year it's probably more down to the wet and cool weather throughout the summer which would have made it hard to fully provision the nest, hence workers still busy this late. I've not seen any for a couple of weeks, but there are still plenty of Red Admirals around on the ivy". Bryan provides a link to his fascinating commentary on the Dung beetle on his blog at . . . A highly recommended blog for regular visits.

Common Darter

A late male Common Darter was basking in the warm sunshine.


A Chiffchaff was active in the old Elder bush on the river bank just north of the purple flowered Common Comfrey. Chiffchaffs are regular summer visitors to Brook Meadow and some usually stay into autumn when their sweet whistles can be heard around the meadow. One or two may even remain here through the winter.


12:00 - 13:00 - I waited for an hour while the tide fell in the western harbour, watching the small stream as it emptied. A Little Egret was feeding in the stream for most of the time along with an Oystercatcher and a Curlew, plus an increasing number of Black-headed Gulls. However, there was no sign of the Spotted Redshank or the Greenshank. I also checked the shore in front of the woods, but they were not there either. I hope this does not mean a change in their feeding habits.

Shoreline conservation project

Friends of Nore Barn Woods report that HBC have made a good start on the shoreline work. After one week good progress has been made on protecting the most vulnerable section of the shoreline. Full details are on the web site . . .



Nore Barn stream

09:45 - About 2 1/2 hours after high water. Weather conditions were a big improvement on yesterday with calm sea, light wind and good visibility. A Grey Wagtail flew up from the stream, heading for Maisemore Gardens - the first one of the year.

Greenshank was the only bird feeding in the stream when I arrived

The Spotted Redshank soon arrived with a typical 'chu-wit' call

It was followed by a Little Egret and a Common Redshank
For a while, all four were feeding in fairly close proximity in the low water stream.


There was no sign of the Spotshank chasing the Common Redshank as has happened in previous years. However, the Spotshank was itself chased out of the stream and into the harbour by the Greenshank, something I had not witnessed before. Maybe, they are all having to get used to each other again.

Brian Lawrence arrived to take some photos of the Spotted Redshank. The Little Egret and the Common Redshank had by this time flown, leaving the Spotshank and Greenshank feeding in company with a couple of Black-headed Gulls.

Black-tailed Godwits

10:30 - Meanwhile, the Godwits were starting to collect in the Nore Barn Woods channel and on the western mudflats as the tide went out. The sun was troublesome trying to look for colour-rings. I counted 90 godwits including one colour-ringed bird: WO+LW flag which I also found here on Oct 8.

11:30 - The tide always falls much more slowly in the main channel to the east of Emsworth. From the millpond seawall I found 60 Black-tailed Godwits resting on the near side of the channel and another 13 on the town shore, making a total of 73. They included one colour-ringed bird: G+WR - a regular here this season. What I am not sure is whether these Godwits included some from the western mudflats.

Other observations

The first Grey Plovers of the autumn in Emsworth were on the western mudflats and on the main channel. A Red Admiral was flying along the edge of Nore Barn Woods.



I had a reply from Martin Rand in response to the very poor Skullcap specimen I sent him from the Lumley Stream. He thinks it unlikely to be anything except Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata) in that habitat, and nothing in the specimen indicated anything different. However, if we can get some better material he should be able to give a more definite answer. I shall try to do that when Maurice Lillie (the chap who found it) gets back from his holiday.



Spotted Redshank is back

I have been checking the Nore Barn stream regularly for the past week or so, more in hope than expectation. I got there at about 9.30 on a very murky morning with a light drizzle in the air. The tide was falling - about 3 1/2 hours after high water. The mudflats were starting to emerge and the stream was running well.

I was certainly not expecting the Spotted Redshank to be back this early, as my first sighting last year was on 21-Oct and my earliest ever was 19-Oct the year before that. But there it was, looking as sprightly as ever, feeding actively in the stream along with its two 'friends' the Little Egret and the Greenshank which have been feeding there for the past couple of weeks. I have no doubt that it is the same bird that has been coming back to this area for the past nine winters.

From the BTO web site the maximum recorded age for Spotted Redshank is 7 years 5 months 16 days (set in 1983). The present bird clearly beats this record. However, I suspect the British Trust for Ornithology record simply reflects lack of data, as the the longevity record for the more closely studied Greenshank is over 16 years and that of Redshank over 20 years.

I took a number of photos both digiscoped and normal though with the rain falling steadily I needed to keep wiping the lenses.

For all the news about this bird and its history at Emsworth go to . . . Spotted Redshank

A family of 5 swan cygnets were also in the stream without their parents and I wondered where they had come from. Langstone Mill Pond maybe? Or Thorney Little Deeps?

About 20 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the emerging mudflats, but the conditions were too bad to look for colour-rings.



Black-tailed Godwits

I checked the western harbour at 12:00 with about 5 hours to high tide at 17:00. The conditions were poor, with a light drizzle and rather misty. I counted 26 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mudflats, including one colour-ringed bird.

WO+LW flag - This was ringed as a chick in Iceland by Ruth Croger and Pete Potts on 13th July 2010. Fairly regular in Emsworth over the past two winters: in 2010-11 from 16-Nov-10 to 26-Feb-11 and in 2011-12 from 03-Nov-11 to 07-Dec-11. This was our first sighting here this season.

Patrick's garden birds

Patrick Murphy sent me a couple of photos of birds he had in his garden today, both reasonably common in gardens at this time of the year, though I wish I had them in mine!

The first is a male Great Spotted Woodpecker with a red nape patch on the head (the female lacks this red patch).

The second is a Chiffchaff on the seed holder, distinguished by its generally dull greenish plumage and pale supercilium. I do not recall having seen a Chiffchaff on a seed holder before. Insects must be getting short. It seems to be saying to Patrick 'How about filling up this feeder with some nice seeds?'


British Trust for Ornithology reports the BirdTrack reporting rate for Jay routinely climbs at this time of year, as birds make regular foraging flights to collect and cache food for the winter. However the rate for the first week of October was the highest ever recorded in BirdTrack, reaching 39 percent. Some of the Jays being seen may be of continental origin, but there are also native birds dispersing from breeding areas in search of food as the acorn crop is very poor in some areas this year. See . . .

Here is a Jay that was a surprise visitor to my garden in May this year.


Dead Goldcrest

During the conservation work session on Brook Meadow this morning, Pam Phillips told me about a dead Goldcrest in her garden, caught by a neighbour's cat. I went over to get it and showed the beautiful creature to all the volunteers. They were delighted to see it and to feel such a small and delicate bird in the palm of one's hand, as light as a feather and with a superb gold crest with a touch of orange.

Young Great Black-backed Gulls

The two juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls from the Slipper Millpond nest are still in the local area. Both were on the town millpond this afternoon, feeding with the Black-headed Gulls.

Skullcap for Brook Meadow?

In a survey of the Lumley Stream for the Brook Meadow Management Plan Review, Maurice Lillie and Frances Jannaway discovered a small plant growing on the east side bank. It looked like a Skullcap (Scutellaria), which would be a new plant for the Brook Meadow list. However, we were not sure which one - the more common Skullcap (S. galericulata) or Lesser Skullcap (S. minor).

Interestingly, the common Skullcap has been present on the stream wall outside the Lumley Road cottages for many years and it would not be surprising if some of its seeds came down stream to establish new plants on the Brook Meadow site. However, the plant Maurice found in the stream had characteristics suggesting Lesser Skullcap, which would be more exciting.

I sent photos of the plant to Ralph Hollins and to Martin Rand (the South Hants Botanical Recorder) and to Ralph Hollins.

Ralph was strongly in favour of Skullcap (S. galericulata) on the basis of habitat, leaf shape and 'jizz', but thought Lesser Skullcap could not be ruled out.

Martin also thought it was most likely to be Skullcap (S. galericulata), but said it looked a little odd with rather long petioles and leaf teeth not much in evidence. He asked me to send him a specimen. Unfortunately, Maurice who found the original plant has gone away to Wales for 2 weeks so is not here to show me exactly where he found it. I have been in the stream on a couple occasions looking for the plant without success. So, I had to send the original rather dead specimen to Martin to see what he makes of it.



Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) are absolutely everywhere at present. It is hard not to blunder into their webs which are often stretched across paths and between bushes. The spiders vary widely in colour from light yellow to very dark grey, but all have mottled markings across the back, with five or more large, white dots forming a cross. My attention was caught by this particularly colourful female spider on the new Emsworth Railway Station wayside this morning.

The large substantial webs are always built by females. Males make webs, although they tend to be not as big or substantial as the webs of females. They need to make webs to capture prey as they are not hunters. As adults the males spend most of their time looking for females, and so they don't tend to put much effort into web-making.

In mating the much smaller male approaches a female with caution in order to avoid being eaten. During copulation, the male embraces the female's abdomen; sperm is transferred by the insertion of one of the male's palps.

Here is a link to an astonishing 9 minute video on YouTube of a male tentatively approaching a female for mating . . .

The male departs after mating, and the female spends a number of days inside her retreat. She then begins to spin an egg sac or 'cocoon', which protects the eggs. She stays close to the cocoon for a number of days before dying. The young spiders emerge from the cocoon in spring; they gather into dense groups until after their first moult, after which they disperse by 'ballooning', a form of dispersal in which the spiderlings are carried on the wind by a thread of silk.

Spiderlings are black and yellow and look almost identical to adults except for the markings. Here is a photo of a nest of spiderlings that I came across on Hayling Island in June 2010.



Eastern harbour

11:00 - Tide rising to high water at 13.54.

Black-tailed Godwits were much as they were yesterday on the near and far sides of the main channel. The godwits on the far side progressively moved across as the water rose. I counted 38 on the near shore and 76 on the far shore making a grand total of 114, which is much the same as yesterday. I checked about half of them for colour-rings but found only one: G+BG - which is one of the regulars this season.

Nore Barn

Nothing of interest here, but for the usual Greenshank in the stream. The godwits clearly have not yet established the pattern of assembling here, which they normally do later in the season.

Chicken-of-the-Woods fungus

I found a large yellowish bracket-type fungus growing on a tree stump on the roadside verge on the east side of Beacon Square, generally pale with yellowish edges and tiered. I broke off a bit and the flesh was bright yellow. My tentative identification is Sulphur Polypore or 'Chicken-of-the-Woods'. Apparently it is good to eat, but with my poor record of choosing fungi to eat, I did not attempt to taste it. Ralph Hollins found some Chicken-of-the-Woods recently (Sep 24) growing on an ornamental cherry or plum tree in a Havant garden.



Eastern harbour

10:00 - I got down to the millpond seawall just over 3 hours to high water. The tide was rising quickly as it always does in the main Emsworth channel. High water was due at 13.24 ht 4.7. The conditions were not good for birdwatching with a very strong SW wind blowing and occasional showers. I sheltered on the shore behind the seawall.

The Black-tailed Godwits were gathered on both sides of the channel along with some Turnstone, Redshank and Black-headed Gulls. Over the next hour I watched the godwits being gradually squeezed onto the small island that remained in the channel. Just before 11am some flew off towards Thorney Island. A little later, the rest drifted off in small groups, some moving onto the town shore.

I counted a maximum of 116, including at least 4 juvenile Godwits, with variations in plumage. I managed to check about half the godwits for colour-rings and found just three:

G+BG - An Emsworth regular. 4th sighting this season.

G+WR - An Emsworth regular. 6th sighting this season.

O+WL - This is a tricky one to identify with 100% certainty, particularly the right leg rings. I am going for O+WL though Y+WL or O+YL are possibilities. Two of these colour-ringed combinations have been seen in Emsworth this season: O+WL on Sept 25 at Nore Barn and O+YL in Emsworth Harbour (east) on 17 July and also at Fishbourne on Sept 7.

Nore Barn

11:30 - The tide was rising fast and the stream was filling up. The usual Little Egret and unringed Greenshank were feeding there with a single Black-tailed Godwit further out.

Three Teal were in the Nore Barn creek with another 2 Black-tailed Godwits on the edge of the saltmarshes.

For earlier observations go to . . .
September 1-30