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A community web site dedicated to the observation, recording and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

Please send wildlife observations and photos to Brian Fellows . . . brianfellows at


for October 17-31, 2012
in reverse chronological order


Grey Phalarope

No chance of getting out birdwatching today with nasty wet and windy weather.

Tom Bickerton sent me a photo of a Grey Phalarope, which he had the good fortune to see at Hayling Oysterbeds on Oct 27. He apologised for the blurry photo due to his using Chris Cockburn's camera and his shaky hand.

As far as I am aware this particular bird has not been sighted again. However, there has been one showing well at Pennington Marsh in the west of the county over the past few days.

Grey Phalarope is a very scarce autumn and winter visitor to our area, usually occurring after gales, which was probably the case with this one. The last one we had locally was on the shore at Prinsted on 16-17 September 2011 photographed by Tony Wootton, Richard Somerscocks and no doubt many others. Here is Tony's photo, taken in more favourable circumstances than Tom's, of what looks like a 1st winter bird.



14:00 - 15:00 - About 2-3 hours after high water.

Spotted Redshank and Greenshank

The Spotted Redshank was already present in the stream with the Little Egret when I arrived, even though the tide was still quite high. At about 14:15, a Black-headed Gull chased the Spotted Redshank, which went hurtling off over the saltmarshes with the gull in hot pursuit. I have no idea what prompted this behaviour, which I have not witnessed before.

However, the Spotshank did not go far and I found it a few minutes later on the shore by the woods. It was joined there by a Common Redshank, which prompted the Spotshank to do some chasing of its own and eventually the Common Redshank flew off to the far saltmarshes. The Spotted Redshank gradually made its way along the shore to the main stream which was by this time emptying fast and for the next 15 minutes or so it was feeding actively in the clear waters of the stream with its companion, the Greenshank.

More news about the Spotted Redshank is on a dedicated page on this site . . . Spotted Redshank

Brent Geese

I counted a total of 102 Brent Geese on the western mudflats with three families of 2, 2 and 1 juveniles. These seem to be the 'resident' families in Emsworth Harbour. So far I have aged 328 Brent Geese finding 14 juveniles - ie 4.27%. However, this figure probably overestimates the actual proportion of juveniles in that some will have been counted more than once.

A pair of Mute Swans was in the stream as they were yesterday, but without their brood of 4 cygnets.


Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow between 11.30 and 1pm today. From the north bridge he spotted a Water Vole on the west bank and near the south bridge he saw a Grey Wagtail. This was only the second sighting of Grey Wagtail on Brook Meadow this year. They are scarcer than usual. Going back by Peter Pond Malcolm saw a male Common Darter Dragonfly.


Regarding the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit WN+OY flag that Richard Somerscocks photographed in Findhorn bay yesterday, Pete Potts reported that they ringed it as a chick, one of a brood of 3, this summer in north Iceland on 10th July 2012



13:30 - 14:30 - Tide falling. About 3 hours after high water.

What I assume was the regular Spotted Redshank arrived with its usual 'chu-wit' greeting call at 13:30.

The Greenshank and the Little Egret came in about 13:45 and all three fed in the stream as the tide gradually ebbed. A small flock of 9 Black-tailed Godwits also arrived and settled on the shore in the lower stream - no colour-rings.

Also, in the stream was a family of Mute Swans of two adults and four cygnets.

By 14:15 the stream was fairly empty of tidal water and the Spotted Redshank and Greenshank were feeding in the lower stream where it merges into the main harbour.

I had almost given up on a second Spotted Redshank, when it suddenly turned up and was immediately 'greeted' by the first Spotted Redshank, ie it approached it and came quite close. I could then see quite clearly that the new arrival had darker legs than the original one. The original pale-legged Spotted Redshank also spent some time chasing the new arrival in a rather half-hearted fashion, suggesting it was his territory!

Sorry about the quality of this digiscoped photo. The pale legged Spotted Redshank is on the right

It is not easy to compare photographs from different days, as the light varies such a lot and my camera is not all that great. However, I don't think any of the photos show the regular Nore Barn bird's legs as dark as those of the new arrival. Today's observations convinces me that the regular Nore Barn Spotshank is the one with pale legs. The dark legs on the other bird might be part of its breeding colouration not yet worn away. Pete Potts thought the pale legs might mean it was a juvenile, but there is no other obvious plumage difference between the two birds to justify that conclusion.

For all the Spotted Redshank news go to . . . Spotted Redshank


Mystery fungi

There is a cluster of fungi growing at the base of one of the large Crack Willow trees alongside the path through Palmer's Road Copse. The caps are red and sticky, the stems white with brown spots and the gills white. They look a bit like one of the fungi that Derek Mills photographed during the Havant Wildlife Group visit to Havant Thicket on Oct 27 that Ralph Hollins thinks is Cortinarius snaguineus (Bloodred Webcap). However, the red gills of that fungus rules it out.

My very tentative guess is Tricholoma ustale (Burnt Knight). From the Hampshire Fungus Recording Group web site this fungus is widespread in the New Forest with the nearest record in Havant. See. .

Great Black-backed Gull

An adult Great Black-backed Gull was on the south raft on Slipper Millpond this morning. Tom Bickerton writes: "it is going to be interesting if the 2 juveniles are allowed on the pond next year. The two adults must be the most laid-back gull parents I've come across, so I wouldn't put it past them".

Brent Goose productivity

Tom Bickerton did the South Hayling WeBS on Oct 27 (that's the one I did for about 20 years). He found a total of 247 Brent Geese with only one family with 2 juveniles. The WeBS count at West Wittering on Oct 27 recorded a flock of 1160 Brent of which only 14 were young. So, this looks like another bleak breeding season for the Brents.


Richard Somerscocks sends an update on Black-tailed Godwits from Findhorn Bay in Scotland.

"Overall, we do not have the numbers of Black-tailed Godwits that you see in Chichester Harbour. The most I have seen this season is around 15. Local birdwathchers say that it is unusual to see many at all over the winter - the more common variety is the Bar-tailed which we see in greater numbers.

However, over the last few days I have been watching a group of 4-6 Black-tailed Godwits in one particular area of Findhorn Bay and on checking today I found their numbers had increased to 12 and included for the first time a colour ringed bird. It was WN+OY flag and was seen in this group at location NJ055620 at 15:00 today 29 Oct 12. Given that it had a yellow flag I was wondering whether it was an Icelandic bird ringed by Pete."

Here is Richard's photo of a few of the Godwits with the colour-ringed one on the right.
They all look like juveniles to me from the cinnamon mottled plumage on their backs

For all the local Black-tailed Godwit news go to . . . Black-tailed Godwits



13:30 - About 3 hours after high water. The stream was already quite empty when I arrived, though the mudflats were still covered in water.

Two Spotted Redshanks

As yesterday, two Spotted Redshanks were feeding in the lower stream with a Greenshank. However, unlike yesterday when one of the Spotshanks was colour-ringed W+GY, today both birds were unringed. So, clearly, we have at least three Spotted Redshanks in the area, one ringed and two unringed. The two unringed birds presumably includes the regular Nore Barn bird. I was surprised to see the two Spotted Redshanks feeding so close together, almost snuggling up at times, or so it seemed.

I met up with a visiting birdwatcher who had travelled down from Woking to see the Spotted Redshanks in the stream. He was suitably impressed with the great view of the two Spotted Redshanks with the Greenshank; hopefully he got some good photos as did I.

I was interested to see from my photos that the leg colours of the two birds differed slightly, one being a much lighter red, almost orange, not unlike that of the Common Redshank while the other was a dark red. This could be an artefact of the camera, though the Birds of the Western Palearctic states that Spotted Redshank legs and feet are black-red when breeding and at other seasons darker red than Common Redshank, only rarely orange.

For all the Spotted Redshank news go to . . . Spotted Redshank

Other birds

Wigeon - up to 36 at Nore Barn.

Black-tailed Godwits - just 29, but no colour-rings.

Brent Geese - up to 118 on the western mudflats at the end of Kings Road with just one family of two juveniles. This is probably the same family that I have seen here before. It looks as if Chris Cockburn was right when he said this looks like a poor breeding season for Brents.


Great Spotted Woodpecker

Patrick Murphy had a long visit from a Great Spotted Woodpecker to his garden yesterday afternoon. The bird spent some time having a good feed on the fatball, giving Patrick a splendid opportunity to get some nice photos. Here is one he sent me.


The Great Spotted Woodpecker is not all that uncommon in gardens. BTO figures indicate it was seen in 28.5% of gardens taking part in the Garden BirdWatch survey in this period of the year and is currently standing 16th in the overall rankings of garden birds. They are found more commonly in rural than in suburban gardens, consistent with their woodland roots. Increased prevalence of this species in gardens has been mirrored in the wider UK population where there has been a large increase.

Great Spotted Woodpecker is a rarity in my garden, which is closer into town than Patrick's; the last one was 4 years ago. Well, it was until today! Immediately after I had written this in my blog, I sat down in the back room with a coffee overlooking the garden and to my astonishment in came a female Great Spotted Woodpecker just like Patrick had. It was here for no longer than 30 seconds, and I did not have time to get my camera out.

It searched around the feeders which I have hanging from the flowering cherry tree, though there were no fatballs or peanuts. I have dug out a photo I took of a juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker with a completely red crown (the adult male has red restricted to the nape) I had in the garden of the summer of 2008 shows it atempting to feed from the feeder containing sunflower hearts.

Garden birds return

After several weeks (or possibly months) with very few birds in the garden it looks as if the cold weather has prompted a return. During an hour's watch this morning I saw 10 species including the female Great Spotted Woodpecker described already. There were Blue Tit 2, Robin 1, Blackbird 2, Starling (a very rare visitor) 1, Chaffinch 2, Greenfinch 4 (including one juvenile), Collared Dove 2, Goldfinch 10, Woodpigeon 3 and Great Spotted Woodpecker 1.

Grey Squirrels

BTO also reported an increase in Grey Squirrel in gardens (see yesterday's blog entry). Patrick Murphy is having an ongoing battle with a local squirrel. Here is Patrick's photo taken this morning of the squirrel "attacking" a new "squirrel-proof" seed feeder. I also had one in my garden this morning, not attacking the feeders, but taking nuts from the table and burying them!




Regarding the fungi shown in yesterday's blog, Ralph Hollins provides some useful web site links for identification.

1. Roger Phillips online identification website. I have only just come across it and found it useful. To identify any fungus that you come across try starting with which takes you to the first of three pages on which you can select the image which seems closest to your find, click the name associated with that image and that takes you to a gallery of photos illustrating the species in that group, click the photo most like your find and you will get more info and the vital statistics that will confirm or deny that this is your find - if your first choice is not right go back to the gallery and try again!

2. Another useful online website is - put a name in the search box to get a map of where it has been found in Hampshire The new English Names devised by the British Mycological Society can be seen at (at the top of that page is a link to download the list as a pdf )



13:30 - 14:30 - About 3-4 hours after high water at 10:34 at height 4.7.

There was an amazing gathering of waders in the lower stream when I arrived including two Spotted Redshanks, a Greenshank and a good flock of Black-tailed Godwits. I suspect they were sheltering from the very cold north wind.

I was pleased to meet up with John Hilton from Winchester. John e-mailed me on several occasions about the best time to see the Spotted Redshank. Well, he certainly choose the right day to visit, though he was disappointed that the conditions were not good for photography.

Two Spotted Redshanks

This was my first sighting of two Spotted Redshanks in the stream this season. It is not unusual for two to turn up, for I have another 26 double sightings on record since 2004 and 5 triple sightings. The two birds were fairly close together in the lower stream when I arrived, but subsequently separated as the tide fell. The low sun meant that conditions were not favourable for taking photos. This is the best one I could manage showing the two birds together.

I am fairly sure that one of the Spotted Redshanks was the regular Nore Barn bird. The other one was the colour-ringed bird W+GY - ringed on Thorney 16th October 2008 by Pete Potts and his team. It has been regularly seen in the Thorney-Nutbourne area in the autumn-winter period ever since. We have had only one previous sighting of it in Emsworth Harbour on 24-Oct-11 by Richard Somerscocks.

For all the Spotted Redshank news go to . . . Spotted Redshank

Black-tailed Godwits

I counted 84 Black-tailed Godwits in the flock near the stream, which is the most I have seen in this area this autumn. I checked most of them for colour-rings, but the strong sun made it impossible to read the combinations with any confidence.


A couple of birdwatchers who were passing told me they had just seen a Peregrine chasing and catching a Starling over by Nore Barn Woods. About 20 minutes later I was talking with another two visiting birdwatchers when we noticed all the waders go up. One of the visitors pointed out a Peregrine flying east towards the main harbour, probably the same bird that had been seen a little earlier.

Sandwich Tern

Annoyingly, I had just focussed my scope and camera on a Sandwich Tern perched on an offshore buoy when the Peregrine passed over and everything went up including the tern. This is likely to be a wintering bird as the mass of migrants have left.

Brent Geese

I counted 62 Brent Geese on the western mudflats. I did not see any juveniles.


Heather Mills reports on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group in Havant Thicket

12 enthusiasts met on a chilly but fine morning at Havant Thicket. Beryl also arrived but only to say cheerio, as she was off to South Africa to holiday. Unfortunately Rosie was not around to give us her expertise in fungi I.D. but Jim pointed us in the right direction with the aid of a few books which we had brought along. Not many birds but some did get a glimpse of & hear a male Bullfinch, with a couple of others. Coal tit, along with blue and long tails.

Good morning for fungi as we expected. The most prolific fungi being the Amethyst deceivers. Fly agaric, candle snuff, yellow stag's horn, common earthball, sulphur tuft, a toughshank of some kind and a good few others not identified. The beech wood to the right of the footpath on our return journey had the most diverse fungi, which Derek captured some for your perusal. Nothing out of the ordinary I suspect. Tormentil, clover, Stitchwort, cutleaf Cranesbill & gorse, with cross leaved heath. in flower.

Here are just three of the fungus photos sent by Heather. Any offers for IDs?


Fish in Westbrook Stream

I met a couple of lads looking at the Westbrook Stream this morning. They said they had seen a Flounder and a Brown Trout. These are firsts for this wayside. The Flouder must have come in on the high tide.

Marsh Harrier on Thorney

A fem/imm Marsh Harrier was seen 2.30 on Thursday afternoon (Oct 25) over Thorney Deeps - reported on SOS Sightings.


Food caching in gardens

In gardens Coal Tit, Jay and Nuthatch have spent much of October caching food for winter. Coal Tits, in particular, have caught the eye, gathering food from feeding stations and stashing it in all sorts of nooks and crannies. How good are they at remembering where they have stored their food? Recently, I have also witnessed a Grey Squirrel doing exactly this in my garden for the first time.

Grey Squirrels invade gardens

It's not just birds that turn to garden feeders during autumn, Grey Squirrels also get in on the action. Garden BirdWatch data indicate that Grey Squirrels have been particularly abundant in gardens this year. See the big increase in reporting rate on the following link.

Bullfinches record

Record numbers of Bullfinches have been coming to garden feeding stations, Garden Bird Feeding Survey . . .

Thrush migration

Over the last few days one of the biggest natural events of the autumn has been unfolding along the east coast with the arrival of hundreds of thousands of winter thrushes. By far the biggest arrival occurred at Spurn, East Yorkshire where over 21,000 Redwing, 10,000 Blackbird, 9,000 Fieldfare, 800 Song Thrush, 57 Ring Ouzel and 10 Mistle Thrush were counted on the 22nd. Until then Fieldfares were conspicuous by their absence and the BirdTrack reporting rate shows just how late they are arriving this autumn, in comparison to the previous two years. Starlings also began moving this week with over 5,000 being counted moving west on the North Norfolk coast on the 20th, and around 30 Waxwings have arrived in the north.

Keep abreast of the latest comings and goings through the BTO Bird Migration Blog . . .



Nore Barn stream

11:00 -12:00 The tide was still well in when I arrived at Nore Barn. I watched the stream gradually empty over the next hour by which time the Little Egret, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank arrived in that order at about 15 minutes intervals.

One of my Greenshank photos shows it apparently spurting out water from its bill. I have peviously seen this behaviour mostly in Black-tailed Godwits, though I have photos of Greenshank doing it as well. The behaviour has continued to baffle the experts as to its explanation. For more details see . . . Godwits spurting

During that time a couple of people stopped for a chat. First, my friend Sid Davies and then Stephanie Williamson (of Pesticide Action Network). Stephanie was just in time to see the arrival of the famed Spotted Redshank at 12 noon. The birds did not remain long in the stream, as the tide fell quickly, but moved further out into the main harbour.

Brent Geese

12:00 - 12:30 - I walked along Western Parade towards the Emsworth. I had noticed small groups of Brent Geese flying in from the west. A flock of 41 geese had settled on the mudflats to the west of the Emsworth Sailing Club and I was able to go through them carefully for juveniles. There were four families of broods of 2, 2, 2 and 1.

Two families each with two youngsters are shown in this photo

The presence of such a good number of juveniles is surprising in view of Chris Cockburn's pessimism about this year's Brent productivity at last night's Hampshire Wildlife Trust talk at Warblington School. Chris counted 1,500 Brents in Langstone Harbour and found only 7 juveniles among them. However, I suspect my figures could be biased as families tend to gather in small harbours like Emsworth, well away from the large flocks that Chris deals with.

Black-tailed Godwits

I could see a good gathering of around 100 Black-tailed Godwits on the edge of the saltmarshes, but they were too far away to read colour-rings.


Juvenile Herring Gull

I cycled down to Thorney Great Deeps yesterday and found an immature gull perched on a post just before I got to the deeps. As I was watching it and taking some photos, it was joined by an adult Herring Gull and they flew off together. This confirmed my suspicion that it was a juvenile Herring Gull. My Collins Bird Guide indicated that Herring Gull has what it calls four age groups depending on plumage. My guess is that this bird was a 1st winter bird. Its bill is still completely black (a 2nd winter would have a pink base) and has barred or notched scapulars (a 2nd winter would have more of a clean grey back).



11:30 - 12:30 - Low water. I counted 46 Brent Geese on the mudflats to the east of the Emsworth Sailing Club building at about 12 noon. This was the highest number so far in Emsworth Harbour. They included two families containing two and one juveniles.

As I was looking at a Grey Heron on the edge of the main channel, it caught an Eel and spent the next 5 minutes or so subduing it before it finally swallowed it down.


Juvenile Black-headed Gulls

Black-headed Gulls had another very poor nesting season in Langstone Harbour. I had a look through the 100 or so on the town millpond this morning to see if there were any juveniles. I found just five among them; they are easy to pick out from the adults as they have gingery edges to the wings. Unlike the larger gulls, Black-headed Gulls only have one stage of juvenile plumage, so there is no mistaking first winter birds.



Great Tit song

Jean and I were in Chichester this morning and parked in the multi-story car park where we listened to at least one, and possibly two, Great Tits in full song. This is the second Great Tit song I have heard in the past week. This must herald their autumn song.

Water Bent

As we were walking over the bridge from the top of the car park into Chichester, I noticed some unusual grasses coming up along the edge of the walkway. Grid Ref: SU 859044.

I confirmed them later as Water Bent (Polypogon viridis), which I was introduced to by John Norton and Eric Clement when they visited Emsworth on June 4 this year. They found it coming up through a crack in the pavement in the driveway of 38 St James Road. I have subsequently found it on the pavement outside 24 Victoria Road.

Cope and Gray (p.378) state that Polypogon viridis occurs in the Channel Is and Isles of Scilly and is scattered across Southern England, especially below a line from the Bristol Channel to the Thames. It is rare elsewhere in the British Isles.

I checked the Sussex Atlas and Polypogon viridis is recorded in SU80M.

New Atlas

An annual or perennial herb which is well-naturalised in the Channel Islands on roadsides and by pools. In England it grows on tips and damp waste ground, and is spreading as a weed of nurseries, gardens and pavement cracks. Lowland.

Neophyte (change +1.28). P. viridis was introduced into cultivation in 1800 and was first noted in the wild in Cardiff in 1876. It was recorded in Guernsey in 1897, and in Jersey in 1906. It has spread in Jersey since the 1960s, and also appears to be increasing in England, at least locally; for example, it was first recorded in Somerset in 1989 and is now known from nine 10-km squares.


Emsworth Harbour (east)

15:15 - 15:30 - Tide rising to high water at 18:47 Ht 4.0.

Looking across the main channel from the millpond seawall I could see about 100 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the far side beneath the marina seawall. The light was not good and they were too far away for me to read any colour-rings. So I moved round to the western harbour to see if any were there.

Emsworth Harbour (west)

15:45 - 16:15 - Mudflats were still completely exposed. I found 8 Black-tailed Godwits feeding close to the Emsworth Sailing Club building and another 21 near to Nore Barn.

Ther best sighting of the afterboon were my first juvenile Brent Geese; 4 adults and 4 juveniles were pootling around in one of the low water channels. My guess is that they were two broods of two juveniles, but I am not sure.

With the low high water still some way off, the stream was slow to fill up and had no birds in it when I left at 4.15pm.


Short-eared Owl

Tony Wootton went down the Sussex side of Thorney today with his U3A bird group and had lovely flying and perched views of a Short-eared Owl. It was around the low bushes on the far side of the Great Deeps near to the security gate. This follows the report of five Short-eared Owls being seen on Fowley island. So, this is a good time to see one.



Tall Fescue is out on the east side of Peter Pond, some with panicles open and others with them closed. I have also seen it out on Brook Meadow.

A Broad-leaved Cockspur Thorn tree is growing in the front garden of number 14 The Rookery. It is loaded with large red berries. The only other one in the local area that I am aware of is on the Westbourne Open Space wayside.

What I think is Common Polypody is growing under the north side of the north bridge on Brook Meadow. If confirmed this would be a first for Brook Meadow.


A 'charm' of about 20 Long-tailed Tits were feeding in the trees in my back garden for about 5 minutes this morning. They were constantly moving around and hardly stayed still for more than a few seconds. And then they were gone! I was lucky to get one shot that was reasonably in focus. Long-tailed Tits are very infrequent visitors to the garden; these were the first we have seen for over a year.


14:30 - 15:30 - Tide rising to high water at 17:00.

Black-tailed Godwits

There was a scattering of godwits over the western mudflats when I arrived. Some of them moved into Nore Barn Creek as the tide came in, others flew off elsewhere. I counted just 26 in the Nore Barn area at 15:00, including two colour-ringed birds:

WO+LW flag - Regular over the past three winters in Emsworth. Our 3rd sighting this autumn.

ROL+RLR - Regular over the past four winters in Emsworth. Our 4th sighting this autumn.

The stream

Spotted Redshank and Greenshank were feeding in the stream from 15:00 to about 15:30 when the Spotted Redshank flew off to the saltmarshes, apparently chased by the Greenshank, which returned to the stream. This is the second time I have seen this happen this season. Strange, as they are usually so tolerant of each other.


28 Shelduck were in the main channel. Ralph Hollins says these waves of Shelduck passing through are likely to continue to arrive until the end of December when wintering numbers in the Solent harbours reach their peak.

Still no increase in Wigeon numbers with only 6 present this morning. Ralph Hollins says a big wave of Wigeon brought 850 to Pulborough Brooks on Oct 15 when he first noticed 24 back in the mouth of the Langbrook stream at Langstone.



It was good to hear from Richard Somerscocks who moved to Findhorn in the north of Scotland in the summer. Richard was an important contributor to local wildlife news when he lived in Emsworth and we all miss his beautiful photos.

Here is a view of Findhorn Bay

Well, he is back - at least in spirit! Here is Richard's first ever report from his new home town.

"You asked for the occasional report with a photo or two, so here is a bit of news from the north. I hadn't bothered up till now because I didn't reckon that Findhorn could be construed as local to Emsworth since it is over 600 miles away!

It was a gloriously sunny day today so I had a good walk around Findhorn. There was the usual group of Golden Plover in the bay totalling 155 today. They tend to gather together in quite a tight group - very similar to the group that used to gather on the mudflats off Great Deep. The ones here are much easier to photograph as you can get somewhat closer.

Whilst photographing these a group of 6 Whooper Swans flew over. We have had several in the bay along with the Mute Swans for a few weeks now. The attached picture of the 2 Swans was taken a week or so ago.

Offshore there were plenty of Scoters as well as reasonable numbers of Long-tailed Ducks.

Several people reported a number of Dolphins off the beach this afternoon but I missed them unfortunately, although I do see them occasionally. The picture attached was taken at Burghead about 7 miles along the coast a few days ago. There are a reasonable number living in the Moray Firth."


Western Harbour

12:30 - 13:30 - Tide rising to high water at 15:25. The conditions were perfect for birdwatching with no wind, calm sea and a cloudy but reasonably bright sky.

Black-tailed Godwits

I tracked a good flock of Black-tailed Godwits as they gradually moved westwards on the mudflats with the incoming tide. I counted a maximum of 104 by about 13:00.

They included several colour-ringed birds:

O+WL - 4th sighting in Emsworth Harbour this autumn.

L+LL - First sighting in Emsworth Harbour this autumn. L+LL was regular in Emsworth over the past 3 winters. Last winter it was recorded 25 times from 24-Sep-11 to 11-Feb-12.

O+GB - First sighting in Emsworth Harbour this autumn. A regular in Emsworth Harbour last winter from 03-Dec-11 to 11-Feb-12.

R+GL - First sighting in Emsworth Harbour this autumn. A regular in Emsworth Harbour over the past two winters. Last winter we had 14 sightings from 28-Sep-11 to 07-Dec-11.

ROL+RLR - 3rd sighting in Emsworth Harbour this autumn. A regular in Emsworth Harbour over the past three winters.

RYL+RLY - 2nd sighting in Emsworth Harbour this autumn. A regular in Emsworth Harbour over the past six winters.

The stream

13:00 - All the regular birds were feeding in the stream with Spotted Redshank, Common Redshank, Greenshank and Little Egret. The Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank flew off at about 13:15 and the Greenshank went about 5 minutes later.


Other observations

A large gathering of about 130 Carrion Crows were on the mudflats - presumably indicating a glut of food? About 50 Dunlin were feeding on the edge of the main channel - the first of the autumn in Emsworth.


Water Voles

Malcolm Phillips had a walk round the meadow from 1pm till 2.30pm and was lucky enough to see 2 Water Voles the first by the north bridge and the second about 20yds south of the sluice gate. He got a photo of the one near the sluice gate as it was climbing the plants. These take the total number of sightings for this year to 199. Shall we get to the double century?


Malcolm also saw a couple of heavily moulting Goldfinches feeding north of the north bridge.


I have now successfully cracked all the mystery ferns growing on the North Street wall in Emsworth, thanks to help from Martin Rand and Ralph Hollins. Following yesterday's confirmation of Black Spleenwort, Martin has now agreed that my other mystery is Male Fern (Dryopteris filix-mas) with Wall-rue growing on the wall nearby.

This wall almost deserves a SINC designation with four fern species growing on it: Male Fern, Wall-rue, Black Spleenwort and Hart's-tongue.

Regarding the Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum), Martin says he has 3 post-Flora records in SU70, all of them around Emsworth/Lumley and not too far away, but the North Street record is a new one.


Ralph Hollins provided the following caption for the disputing House Sparrows

Nobody told me to wash my hands before showing my love for you, Tweety Pie!
(and I did not know I was passing on the deadly Trichomonosis bacillus)



12:00 - 13:00 - Tide rising to high water at 14:37. The visibility was poor with a constant light drizzle. The conditions were very poor for photography.

Spotted Redshank returns!

Good news - the Spotted Redshank was back in the stream feeding with its regular companions, Greenshank, Common Redshank and Little Egret, after an absence of over a week.

Here are the Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank feeding together

Here is the Little Egret waiting for fish to come to him

Also in the stream were 5 Mute Swans, 4 Mallard and a Teal. A Cormorant was fishing further out.

Black-tailed Godwits

12:30 - 31 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the near shore of Nore Barn Creek. They included three colour-ringed birds, two of which were Kent ringed.

G+WR - Ringed at Farlington on 10-Sept-08 as adult male. A regular in Emsworth Harbour each winter since then. This was our 8th sighting this autumn.

ROL+RLR - Ringed on 27-Oct-08 at Kingsnorth Power Station, Medway Est. Kent as an adult male. A regular in Emsworth Harbour each winter. This was our 2nd sighting this autumn.

RYL+RLY - Ringed in Kent near Cliffe in autumn 2005 by Bill Jones. A regular in Emsworth Harbour each winter since 2005. Our first sighting in Emsworth this autumn. Usually arrives in early October, so it is a bit later this year.

Here is RYL RLY showing me its left leg - just in case I had missed it!

News from Findhorn Bay

Richard Somerscocks moved to Findhorn in the north of Scotland in the summer. Richard was an important contributor to the Godwit news when he lived in Emsworth and we all miss him. I left him on the e-mail list for local news and was delighted to get the following e-mail from him today. I hope Richard can find the time to send us more news from the 'frozen north', as well as some of his wonderful photographs.

"Thanks for all the news, although I am afraid I cannot contribute much to the Godwit news from Findhorn in the north of Scotland. I must admit I have been keeping an eye on your website to find out what was going on. I was glad to hear that the Spotted Redshank has returned and I seem to remember from last year that its sightings were a bit intermittent to begin with, although a week with no sign of it is quite a while.

Findhorn Bay which is where I live has a fantastic amount of birds overwintering. However there aren't many Black tailed Godwit. The most I have seen is about 15 and I haven't spotted any ringed birds yet. Common waders include Redshank with about 400-500 at the moment, Golden Plover (100+) and quite a lot of Knot and Dunlin. Ringed Plovers breed here and there are about 30 Turnstone on the shore in front of my house.

The most numerous birds though are the Pink-footed Geese. At the 2-monthly bird count for the bay which we did last weekend, we estimated that there were in excess of 10,000, which is quite a spectacular sight. Large numbers of Wigeon are also present. Offshore there are good numbers of Long-tailed Ducks, Eiders and Scoters both Common and Velvet.

Hope you are all well and that it is bit warmer than the frozen north. There is already quite a bit of snow on the hilltops around here."


Black Spleenwort

Martin Rand cleared up one of the mystery ferns that I found growing on the garden wall of numbers 90 and 90A North Street on Wednesday October 17th. It is Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum), which is a new plant for me.

Here is a view of the underside, showing the sori (spore cases)

Ralph Hollins provided me with a link to an excellent web site on ferns which has a page of photos of Asplenium adiantum-nigrum which closely match mine. See . . .

Black Spleenwort is described as 'frequent' in The Hants Flora (p.95) on walls, especially damp ones, and shady hedgebanks. Surprisingly, it is not recorded in the 10km square SU70. The site of the plants was at Grid Ref: SU 749063.

The New Atlas describes Black Spleenwort as follows:
This evergreen perennial fern occurs on a wide range of well-drained, usually basic substrates, in lightly shaded habitats where there is little competition. It is found on cliffs and screes, in quarries, on lane banks and walls. Generally lowland, but reaching 575 m at Moor House (Westmorland) and possibly higher in the Cairngorms. Native (change +0.35). The distribution of this species appears to be stable. European Temperate element; also in C. Asia and N. America.




10:30 - Before going to Nore Barn I had a quick look at Nutbourne Bay just in case the Spotted Redshank had turned up there. Plenty of Wigeon were in the bay along with a few Brent Geese and Teal. A couple of Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the edge of the shore, but there was no sign of the regular Greenshank (GY+GY) or the Spotted Redshank in the stream.

Nore Barn

11:00 11:30 - About 3 hours to high water. The tide was already well advances and the stream filling up. The Greenshank was feeding in the stream on its own. No Little Egret or Spotted Redshank.

A flock of 54 Black-tailed Godwits gathered on the edge of the saltmarshes in Nore Barn Creek. I checked most of them for colour-rings, but did not find any.

Brook Meadow

I had a stroll through the meadow this afternoon. Very muddy underfoot.

A fine Red Admiral was resting on the Michaelmas Daisies on the east side of the Lumley area, along with a few Bombus pascuorum bumblebees.

Wild Angelica was flowering on the south meadow. There is a fresh growth of Annual Meadow-grass at the start of the north west path through the north meadow.

Slipper Millpond

Eight Cormorants were on the centre raft. An adult Great Black-backed Gull was snoozing on the south raft, probably one of the birds that nested here this summer.


Anne de Potier counted 33 Black-tailed Godwits in Bosham Channel this morning including three colour-ringed birds: RL+GL, which historically favours that area, and G//R+BY, both just north of the quay on the Bosham side. Also a new one for the area, RGO+RNR, on the Chidham side almost opposite. There were none at all at Fishbourne, which is very surprising as that has been the best local site for Black-tailed Godwits in previous years.


Swallows leave it late

The BTO reports a difficult year for Swallows. Many returned to the UK later than normal this spring, having been held up by poor weather further south. Now, some are setting off late this autumn. They have reports of at least seven nests still containing young in October, with one brood fledging as late as 11 October. This is quite unusual - of the 45,000 Swallow nest records collected by the BTO Nest Record Scheme since 1939, only 16 Swallow nests have ever been recorded with chicks in October.

See the reporting rate at . . .

Problems for Pochard

The recent BTO Wetland Bird Survey has revealed that numbers of wintering Pochard in the UK have halved in the last 25 years. The reason for this decline is uncertain, but climate change it is thought that may be implicated. Numbers of Ringed Plover have also fallen to an all time low.

For the report see . . .

Identifying Dunlin and Knot

The BTO has produced a useful video to help people distinguish between these two small common waders. Go to . . .

One feature I use which the video does not emphasise is the different feeding behaviour. Dunlin dart around like tiny wind up toys feeding with a frenetic sewing machine action. Knot are far more sedate feeders, pecking here and there and not moving a great deal.



Nore Barn

10:30 - 11:00 I did my usual check of the Nore Barn stream on a rising tide. The Greenshank was feeding but there was no sign of the Spotted Redshank. I did not stay due to rain and high tide. The high spring tide produced the usual flooding around Peter Pond and Dolphin Creek in Emsworth.


I had a close look at the ferns growing on the garden wall of house numbers 90 and 90A just south of the entrance to Emsworth Railway Station in North Street.

Hart's-tongue Fern was an easy one to identify.

The others were not so straight forward. The one on the south side of the gate looked like Male Fern,

This one looked rather like Wall Rue, but it clearly is not. I also considered Rustyback

I also checked the wall of the Waterside Church in Bath Road where the unmistakable Maidenhair Spleenwort was looking very fresh with ripe spore cases on the underside.

The Wall Rue on the church wall was also in good shape

Albino Common Comfrey?

Ralph Hollins suggested that the white flowered Common Comfrey on the river bank south of the S-bend in the river on Brook Meadow (see entry for Oct 12) might qualify as a 'very rare albino' form of the plant. Stace's Flora says .. "The flowers (of Common Comfrey) are often wrongly described as white but except for very rare albinos they are pale creamy yellow or purplish".

I asked Martin Rand if this was possible. He was not persuaded by Stace's argument. "If the wings are decurrent well beyond the next leaf junction, and if the ripe seeds are shiny and not minutely warty, then it's S. officinale (Common Comfrey) and there's nothing else it can be. 'Real' albino plants in the Boraginaceae family usually also have yellowish-green leaves, and yours don't. When the flowers are in bud or very freshly opened it's true they are usually cream (but sometimes a gorgeous wine-red in bud!), but later on I think they're often more white than cream."


Silver Y moth

Mike Wells sent me this photo of a Silver Y moth in his garden in Cowplain. Mike says, it is classed as a frequent migrant, but it is the first one he has seen. He has informed the Hants Moth Recorder who has recorded the sighting.

Caption competition

Lesley Harris sent me this sweet photo of a pair of House Sparrows disputing over some food item. Lesley says it is doing the rounds on the internet and suggests a caption competition. The original caption was "When a Male Bird can't stand it anymore". Lesley prefers "I don't want you dropping off the perch". Any other offers?

For earlier observations go to . . . October 1-15