DECEMBER 30 - 2012
Robins are now singing
everywhere, mainly to establish territory for the
coming nesting season. Unusually males and females
both sing at this time of the year. There is one bird
in particular that sings loudly close to the bridge
over the River Ems from Palmer's Road Car Park. It
sang sweetly to me late this afternoon allowing me to
get this snap of him/her. What would Christmas be,
after all, without a Robin?
Apart from Robin, the
only other songs I have heard over the past two weeks
were brief bursts from Dunnock, Great Tit, Woodpigeon
and Collared Dove. Ralph Hollins has had a Song Thrush
singing in his garden recently, but that has also
stopped. My impression is that bird song is later
starting this winter.
Winter Heliotrope is
flowering very well on the A259 embankment wayside
near the surgery and on the path behind Lillywhite's
Garage in the centre of Emsworth. There are also a few
flowers almost open on the Sweet Violets on the
Lillywhite's path. There are several plants of
Scentless Mayweed in full blossom on the new wayside
north of Emsworth Railway Station, easily seen from
the new ramp. I tried to get a photo but all my photos
were blurred due to the wind moving the flowers.
Ralph Hollins has been
enjoying a fine selection of flowers that are not
usually seen in winter, including Sweet Violets, Cow
Parsley, Lesser Celandine and a white-flowered form of
Hedgerow Cranesbill. See Ralph's daily diary for their
location and photos . . . http://ralph-hollins.net/Diary.htm
Trevor Carpenter took
this photo of the Spotted Redshank in the Nore Barn
stream today, as Trevor says "in appalling light but
still managing to look very smart". I agree. What a
DECEMBER 28 - 2012
Voles on Brook Meadow
Jane, Andy and Gladys
Brook had what could well be the last Water Vole
sighting of the year on December 26. They stood
watching the animal for about 15 minutes at around 1pm
on the river bank north of the north bridge. It was
clambering about around the base of a tree finding
some juicy leaves and shoots and sitting eating them.
It is good to hear that at least one of them survived
the flooding over the past few weeks.
This takes the total
number of sightings for 2012 (so far) to a magnificent
204, which is by far the highest number since I
started formal recording in 2005. The previous best
was 161 in 2008. However, the high number this year
does not necessarily mean more Water Voles than ever,
but more likely more people watching out for them and
sending in their sightings. But, at least, it shows
the voles are still with us! All Water Vole sightings
and photos can be seen on the special web page at . .
The adult pair of
Great Black-backed Gulls were on Slipper Millpond
again this morning. They appear to be regular visitors
and are no doubt prospecting for the next nesting
season. For the story of their nesting this season go
to . . . Great
Black-backed Gull nesting
DECEMBER 23 - 2012
I have had a pair of
Robins in the garden over the past few days, sometimes
feeding together on the bird table. It is not unusual
(though very nice) to see paired Robins in December. I
saw my first pair this winter on Dec 2 on Brook
I have been looking
daily for the Water Rail that Malcolm Phillips had on
the river Brook Meadow on Dec 18 but without any
success. My guess is that it was a one-off visit and
the bird has moved on elsewhere.
recorder, Paul James, confirmed that the bird
photographed by Romney Turner flying over Emsworth
Harbour on Dec 17 was indeed a Whimbrel. Romney's
photos clearly show the dark crown, pale eye stripe
(supercilium) and shorter bill compared with a Curlew.
Paul added that this is a scarce bird in Sussex in
winter. There are usually only two or three 2-3
wintering in Chichester Harbour and sometimes one at
Pagham Harbour. Most pass through the county in late
April/early May and July/August.
DECEMBER 22 - 2012
BIRDS SURVEY TRENDS
BTO has published
charts showing trends for the main breeding birds from
the Breeding Birds Survey over the period the scheme
has been running from 1994 to 2011. http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/bbs/latest-results/trend-graphs/uk-graphs
For trends in the SE
go to . . . http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/bbs/latest-results/trend-graphs/south-east-england-graphs
Both these pages show
trends in bird numbers most of which we are now fairly
showing a steady increase over the period
Pheasant, Red Kite, Buzzard, Woodpigeon, Ring-necked
Parakeet, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Great
Tit, Sand Martin, Swallow, Chiffchaff, Blackcap,
Whitethroat, Reed Warbler, Nuthatch, Blackbird,
Dunnock, Tree Sparrow, Chaffinch, Goldfinch.
showing a steady decrease
Kestrel, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Curlew, Redshank,
Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Swift, Willow Tit, Skylark, Wood
Warbler, Starling, Mistle Thrush, Spotted Flycatcher,
Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Linnet, Corn
Birds with recent
Moorhen - OK to 2004,
then a big decline. A surprise.
Collared Dove - steady increase to 2005 then a
decline. Decline is marked in garden sightings.
Kingfisher - steady decline since 2005. A
Goldcrest - increase to 2003 then a sharp decline.
House Martin - decline since about 2005. That's no
Wren - decline since about 2007. A surprise.
Song Thrush - decline since 2008. I was under the
impression it was on the up.
Robin - decline since 2008. A surprise.
Stonechat - decline since 2006
Grey Wagtail - decline since 2002
Pied Wagtail - decline since 2002
Greenfinch - dramatic decline since 2006 - due to
Reed Bunting - decline since 2008
Plover and flowers
Ralph Hollins had a
pleasant ride to Nutbourne Bay and back yesterday (Dec
21). He saw a flock of around 100 Golden Plover on the
east side of the Emsworth Channel roughly level with
the Great Deeps. They do often assemble on these
saltmarshes often with Lapwing. Ralph also noted there
were still flowers on the Black Mustard on the
Emsworth Marina seawall.
going, going, gone
Romney Turner took
this dramatic sequence of photos of a Common Gull
consuming an Eel at Arundel Wetlands Trust reserve. As
she says, "I still can't see how that huge eel made it
into the crop. Look at its neck on the last pic".
DECEMBER 21 - 2012
11:00 - Low water.
From the millpond seawall I could see 3 Grey Plover,
one Greenshank and one Common Redshank in the town
channel. Here is the Greenshank feeding with the Grey
Plover typically just standing and staring.
I found just 6
Black-tailed Godwits in the whole of Emsworth Harbour,
east and west. I guess they must have moved inland
onto flooded river valleys as they often do at this
time of the year following very wet weather. I believe
2,500 were reported in the Avon Valley recently and
Peter Hughes reported 235 at Pulborough Brooks on Dec
Plenty of Brent Geese
were scattered around the eastern and western
harbours. I managed to locate what I think are our
three 'resident' families in Emsworth. One family with
two youngsters and another with one youngster were on
the foreshore close to Nore Barn. The other family
with one juvenile was in the main eastern channel.
Here is the family of
two juveniles, the one on the left has started to
acquire its white neck band. This is not a reliable
way of identifying juvenile Brents, much better to use
the white wing bars.
I could just make out
6 Pintail in the low water channels on the western
harbour, but there could well have been more.
There were plenty of
Bluebottle flies feeding on the flowering Ivy
at the end of Warblington Road, but no other insects
that I could find.
Apart from Robin which
was singing everywhere, the only other bird I heard
today was a Great Tit in fairly good voice on
Brook Meadow. My impression is that bird song is later
starting this winter.
I looked in vain along
the the River Ems on Brook Meadow for the Water
Rail seen by Malcolm Phillips on Dec 18. The river
level had fallen considerably since yesterday, but
there was no sign of the rail.
Heliotrope is flowering very well on the A259
embankment wayside near the surgery in the centre of
For the first time,
Peter Milinets-Raby had a pair of Ravens fly south
west over his Havant garden (Barncroft area) this
morning at 11:35am. He thought they were probably
heading to Farlington or to Portsdown Hill where he
has seen them in the last couple of months. A good
garden record for Peter, though personally I do not
count fly overs on my garden list. The bird has to
come down and make use of the garden; this if the rule
of the BTO Garden BirdWatch Survey.
A little later in the
day at 1pm, Tony and Hilary Wootton were walking
around Walderton when they saw two Ravens hassling a
Buzzard over Inholmes Wood, complete with kronking.
I am not sure how many
Ravens there are in the area, but Havant and Walderton
are not many miles apart, and these two separate
sightings could have been of the same birds, though
Peter does say his birds were heading south towards
Farlington, whereas Walderton is to the north.
Tony and Hilary also
had the distinction of seeing the first Peacock
butterfly for over two weeks; it was feeding on the
remains of some ivy flowers, but was too far away for
a photo. Just goes to show the value of Ivy flowers at
this time of the year. The last reported Peacock was
on Dec 4 in the Candover valley south of Basingstoke -
see Ralph Hollins wildlife summary.
Tony took the
following photo of the pond at Walderton showing the
level of water in the River Ems.
DECEMBER 20 - 2012
I had a walk around
Brook Meadow and Slipper Millpond during a break in
the rain this afternoon. The River Ems is running very
high through the meadow and the Lumley Stream is a
torrent. I wonder how our Water Voles are coping.
There is quite a bit of flooding on the meadow, but
nothing like Year 2000 when the south meadow was a
lake! That was the year when the Brook Meadow
Conservation Group took over management of the meadow
and it was a tough start!
is the view from the south bridge
The Westbrook Stream
was also a torrent rushing through Bridge Road car
park but not flooding. Bridge Road was closed at its
southern end presumably as a precaution. The
Environment Agency appear to be on top of the job this
time. I spoke to one EA chap who had been on duty in
Bridge Road since 5am this morning.
I had a good look for
the Water Rail which Malcolm Phillips saw near the
sluice gate on Brook Meadow on Tuesday. I checked the
north bend where one was present for about a month
earlier this year, but no sign of it there. I checked
the main river down to the south bridge. The river had
flooded its banks in several places and there seemed
to be lots of good Water Rail habitat, but I did not
see one. However, it seems worth keeping a close look
out for the bird which may still be on the river
A succession of
Jackdaws flew over Brook Meadow while I was there
heading in a NE direction.
A pair of Great
Black-backed Gulls were on Slipper Millpond - maybe
the nesting pair staking out their claim for the
Malcolm Phillips took
this photo of a Goldcrest from his Emsworth flat
window today. Goldcrests seem to be rather common this
winter? I have even had some in my small garden near
the centre of Emsworth and there was the couple of
dead Goldcrests that I was called to deal with.
DECEMBER 19 - 2012
Yesterday morning (Dec
18) when Malcolm Phillips was walking round Brook
Meadow, he saw a Water Rail by the sluice gate, in the
reeds just up from the fence. Malcolm apologises for
the poor quality of the photo, but there is no doubt
the bird is a Water Rail.
This was the first
Water Rail sighting on Brook Meadow this winter. Let's
hope it hangs around like the one we had near the
north bridge for about a month earlier this year (Feb
15 to Mar 19).
Water Rail is a
passage migrant to Brook Meadow and has been seen in
most winters since 2003, very often on the Lumley
Stream, but more recently on the River Ems. Malcolm's
Water Rail may well be 'just visiting', ie dropping in
for one day to hide up before continuing its flight
back to its breeding area after nightfall.
was by the harbour entrance at Eastney yesterday
morning (Dec 18) and was able to get some photos of a
Shag perched on one of the buoys in the harbour. This
appears to be the only local Shag. Also present were 3
Sandwich Terns and 2 Guillemots.
the Curlew a Whimbrel?
Having looked closely
at Romney Turner's photo of the Curlew in yesterday's
blog entry, Tom Bickerton thinks it looks very much
like a much rarer bird, Whimbrel, unless it's a male
Curlew with a very stubby bill. Tom says there has
been a Whimbrel knocking about Northney and Texaco Bay
for a while. Tom particularly liked Romney's Little
Egret and sends his congratulations for her fine
images of birds in flight. Tom points out that
Whimbrels are on the UK's RED list.
In fact, Romney sent
me another two pictures of what I assume was the same
Curlew or Whimbrel in flight and one of the others, as
shown here, has the distinctive head pattern and
slightly hooked bill of a Whimbrel.
Ralph Hollins recent
up date indicates 29 Waxwing reports in the past week
from Kent, Sussex, Hampshire, Dorset and Devon but not
Cornwall. Ralph's impression is that the birds are
constantly on the move for lack of food and he
suspects a sighting of three in the Dorset village of
Tolpuddle could be an excuse to think of them as the
new Tolpuddle Martyrs.
The sad prospect for
them if they stay in England prompted Ralph to check
on the Trektellen 'Migration Pattern' to see if any
were heading south or west on the continent but that
site indicates that England is their sole winter
destination with no sightings south or west of the
Channel Isles. See Ralph's weekly wildlife summary at
Ron Salmon had this
handsome male Green Woodpecker in his garden for at
least an hour this morning. Only the male has red
'whiskers' below the black eye patch.
Green Woodpecker is a
fairly common garden bird, but not taking food, rather
exploring the lawn for ants using its 10cm long
tongue. The tongue is armed with barbs at the end is
used for extracting ants. Information on this bird at
. . . http://blx1.bto.org/birdfacts/results/bob8560.htm
DECEMBER 18 - 2012
I had four
Black-headed Gulls swooping down into the garden for
bread that I had thrown onto the grass. They came and
went so fast that I did not have time to get my camera
up. They are very rare visitors to the garden though I
often see them flying overhead. The last time was
during a cold period in Nov-Dec 2010. I think my
garden is too small for them to venture down into.
They are nervous birds.
Male Mallards are now
taking a close interest in the female ducks on the
town millpond. Here is a shot of a female being
escorted by two males. I have also seen an attempted
The winter gathering
of Coot in Emsworth Harbour near the quay is now
building up. I counted 74 in a very calm sea at high
water this afternoon. Numbers should increase as the
winter progresses. The record count for this area was
186 in January 2011.
I could not resist
taking this shot from the millpond seawall of the sun
setting over Hayling Island.
Bryan Pinchen replied
to my request for identification of the Bumblebees
that I saw feeding in the Ivy at Nore Barn yesterday.
Here are the two photos I sent to him.
"Yes they most
probably are B. terrestris, the second specimen looks
more like a female judging by the dirty look to the
tail tip. In this species the workers have a much
cleaner white tail tip than the queens, which makes
separating them from B. lucorum impossible. Queens of
terrestris, depending on the autumn weather, will
start nesting, and if it remains mild, will often
continue throughout the winter producing workers and
later, males and new queens which will start nesting
in the spring. At this time, it is most likely that
both the Bumblebees you saw were queens just starting
nests which will probably produce workers in a few
weeks time. A couple of years back I had a male in
Cambridgeshire in March, suggesting it had come from a
nest that would have been started in the previous
autumn. I had a queen in the garden about a month ago.
Due to the amount of
winter flowering plants available in our gardens these
days, and the recent run of mild winters, this is a
more frequent occurrence these days and many autumn
nests are successful in producing new queens in the
spring. Indeed, I have seen B. terrestris around my
garden in each of the past twelve winters. Just a
small pedantic note, workers are female.
The Bluebottles and
Eristalis would have been stocking up on food reserves
ahead of hibernating/over-wintering, perhaps even
within the evergreen foliage of the ivy. They both,
along with Episyrphus balteatus will emerge on warm
sunny days throughout the winter months and stock up a
little more. I did cover the wintering bumblebees on
my blog back at the turn of the year."
blog . . .
Romney Turner captured
the following excellent images of two common harbour
birds in flight showing off their magnificent plumage.
Chapman is back
A quick correction to
yesterday's note about Bob Chapman's blog. Bob tells
me he is now back at Farlington as the Solent Reserves
Officer. Bob is also in charge of Southmoor, Swanwick
Lakes, Pewit Island, Hookheath Meadows and
Catherington Down. Welcome back Bob. A reminder of his
blog address . . . http://solentreserves.wordpress.com/
DECEMBER 17 - 2012
11:30 - 12:30 - Tide
rising to high water at 14:00 (4.7).
It was a lovely sunny
winter's morning and I was delighted to be able to get
down to the harbour (albeit in the car) for the first
time for a couple of weeks due to poor health. And how
I have missed it and what a great show the birds and
the bees laid on for me!
There were no birds in
the stream when I arrived, but on the shore just
around the point I found two Spotted Redshanks and a
Common Redshank in very close proximity. Neither of
the Spotshanks was ringing, so I assume the second
bird was the one we have seen a number of times in
company with the regular bird this winter.
I watched them and
took photos for about 30 minutes as they variously
snoozed, preened, fed and ambled around. They never
once went into the main stream area. The Common
Redshank was chased on a couple of occasions, but
always returned and was clearly accepted by the two
the special page for all the Spotshank news . . .
There was no sign of
the Greenshank in the stream area. Around 70
Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the edge
of the saltmarshes opposite the woods, but the low sun
made it impossible to see any rings. About 300
Brent Geese were on the western mudflats. I did
not go through them all for juveniles, but I did see
the two regular families with two and one youngsters
respectively in the Nore Barn area.
I was very pleased to
see the large Ivy hedge at the end of Warblington Road
still had masses of open flowers attracting good
numbers of insects. They were mainly Bluebottle flies
(c30) with a few Drone Flies (Eristalis tenax) and at
least one Bumblebee which I think was a Buff-tail
Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) which I gather is active
in winter. I have asked Bryan Pinchen to confirm the
ID. I managed to capture the bee in flight on one of
my photos. Note its pollen sacs.
I checked the web site
of the Bees, Wasps and Ants Recording Society
"Over the last ten
years or so, entomologists and naturalists have noted
winter activity of Bombus terrestris (the Buff-tailed
Bumblebee). Workers have been seen foraging at a wide
range of winter-flowering plants, and males have been
reported flying in February. What is quite clear is
that a small proportion of mated queens will establish
nests in the Autumn, and these can exploit the
increasing amount of forage resources available
throughout the winter in our gardens, parks and
amenity areas. BWARS is working closely with Dr Tom
Ings of Anglia Ruskin University to gather new data on
this phenomenon, to add to the information provided in
the past. This Autumn and Winter we hope to garner
more data so that we can attempt to answer some
further questions about winter activity."
Hilary Gilson writes
to say . . . "I have a pair of Greenfinches regularly
visiting my bird feeders at my Prinsted home. They
were joined this morning by a third one. They are
looking pretty healthy at present. I think it is the
fledglings that are most vulnerable to trichomonosis,
particularly the second brood of the year. I think
Prinsted must have all the House Sparrows and
Starlings in the area. A flock of sparrows lives in my
Pittosporum and enjoy the suet pellets I put out every
morning and they love my fat balls, as do the
starlings. I also have a pair of Goldfinches, Great
Tits, Coal Tits, Blue Tits, a pair of Chaffinchs,
Dunnocks, and numerous Blackbirds, as well as my
resident Robin, and of course the ubiquitous Wood
Pigeons and Collared Doves (a pair of each - they keep
all the others away!). I would love to see a
Goldcrest, although we do also have Wrens which nest
under the eaves of our thatch."
If anyone fancies
recording garden birds systematically and at the same
time making a scientific contribution to knowledge, I
can highly recommend the Garden BirdWatch Scheme run
by the British Trust for Ornithology. I have been
doing this survey for the past 30 years and it has a
nice easy online recording system. There is a great
web site and the Bird Table magazine with lots of
information about the national garden results. For
more details see . . . http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/join
Bob Chapman, now
warden at Blashford Lakes, was formerly warden at
Farlington Marshes. He has been posting his own
wildlife Blog since September and on Dec 15 went back
to have a look at his old haunt. He found lots of
Brent Geese and the lone Red-breasted Goose which has
been with them since October. Bob also noted 30
Avocets, Marsh Harrier and Peregrine. But he was
disappointed to see much of the newly repaired seawall
had already been washed away. See Bob's 108ft blog at
. . http://solentreserves.wordpress.com/
DECEMBER 16 - 2012
Two Little Grebes
were fishing in Slipper Millpond when I walked
past this morning. Little Grebes have been on the pond
for a week or so, but there is still no sign of any
A number of compact
'cushions' of moss with capsules are growing on the
flint wall along Lumley Road. I am calling them
Common Pincushion (Leucobryum glaucum) though I
am far from sure that this is the correct
identification. Maybe someone can confirm or correct,
which controls the flow of water between the River Ems
and the Lumley Stream, was fully open this morning
with the centre gate completely removed, allowing the
water to rush into the Lumley Stream.
Malcolm Phillips went
to lunch with his brother today at Hambrook who always
has a good selection of birds in his garden. Among
Malcolm's photos were these this interesting one of a
Green Woodpecker digging deep in the garden lawn, no
doubt using its long sticky tongue to search for
wintering insects and larvae.
went out with his camera today in Findhorn in Northern
Scotland and some cracking photos of Harbour Seals and
Dolphins. Richard's report and photos is on the
special Findhorn web page at . . Findhorn
DECEMBER 15 - 2012
A lady phoned me this
morning to say she had found what she thought was a
dead Goldcrest in her garden in Slipper Road,
Emsworth. I walked over to have a look and confirmed
it as a Goldcrest, though the crest was a bit hidden.
When I got home my
wife told me she had just seen a live Goldcrest in our
garden and I had missed it. Drat!
I very rarely see
Jackdaws in my garden, though I do often hear them
flying overhead. I do not think they nest anywhere in
Emsworth. However, Graham Petrie does have a couple
coming onto his well-stocked bird table as in the
sent me a report about the waders currently in the
Findhorn area in Northern Scotland. Richard's report
is on the special Findhorn web page at . .
As this will probably
be his last update for a while, Richard wishes all his
friends in Emsworth a Happy Christmas and a prosperous
DECEMBER 14 - 2012
A nasty wet morning,
so I sat in front of the window watching the birds in
my back garden. The best surprise was the appearance
of a Little Egret on the back fence which overlooks
the Westbrook Stream. Here is my best shot through a
misty window. It tends to walk along the fence looking
down for fish.
Little Egret is a
fairly regular visitor to my garden in winter, though
this was the first time I had seen it this year since
early February. Little Egret is not one of the 41 core
species in the BTO Garden BirdWatch Scheme, so I do
not have data on the overall reporting rate, but I
suspect it is quite low.
A female Blackcap was
a welcome visitor for the second time this week.
Patrick Murphy has also had a female Blackcap in his
garden last week, while lucky Caroline French had two
males and a female in her garden at the same time.
These Blackcaps will
be winter visitors from the Continent and they
regularly come into gardens to supplement their food
supply. About 11% of people taking part in the BTO
Garden BirdWatch report Blackcap in the winter period.
Sightings are scattered around the country, but most
tend to be concentrated in the South of England.
The following chart
shows the reporting rate for Blackcaps throughout the
year. The rate increases in late October when the
first of the wintering birds arrive and peaks in
February. The rate then declines sharply through March
and April as the wintering birds leave. The rate
continues at a steady level through the summer period
when the summer visitors are present.
If you get regular
Blackcaps in your garden you might interested in
taking part in the BTO Garden Blackcap Survey. See the
following link for details, but note it does not start
until January 2013 . . http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/about/background/projects/garden_blackcap_survey
DECEMBER 12 - 2012
The first decent flock
of Tufted Duck of the winter were on the town millpond
this afternoon. I counted 11 with 6 females and 5
males. I expect their numbers to build up as the
winter progresses. We had a record 74 on the pond on
Jan 8 last year.
Tufted Duck hardly
ever go onto the two Hermitage Millponds even though
they would appear to be far more wildlife friendly
than the town millpond. It must be the food and the
company of the Mute Swans and Mallard that attracts
are a common sight around the town millpond at dusk.
Presumably they roost somewhere nearby. During the day
they disperse around the town to feed. I often see
them on pavements near busy roads. Today, I saw one on
the pavement outside Waitrose shop in the centre of
Havant. There was also one searching alongside the
A259 south of Peter Pond in Emsworth.
are far less common than Pied Wagtails and prefer more
natural habitats. They tend to stay close to water,
though can often be seen on small streams in the
centre of town. I sometimes see one on the Westbrook
Stream in Bridge Road car park. Today, I saw one in
the channel through the reedbeds on Peter Pond.
was in Portsmouth counting Brent Geese yesterday (10th
December 2012) and was lucky to find a rare Red
Breasted Goose amongst one of the flocks. It presence
among a large flock of Brent Geese strongly suggests
it was a genuine wild bird having migrated with the
Brents from the Arctic breeding grounds. This is
probably the same bird that has been hanging around
Farlington Marshes for the past two months.
Peter points out that
white wing bars on the goose in the photo do not
necessarily indicate a juvenile, as they would on a
Brent Goose, as white wing bars are also also
prominent on the adult Red Breasted Goose (black
mantle as well). Peter is doing some survey work on a
private site with limited access in southern
Ralph Hollins reports
that a flock of Waxwings were seen on North Common
(Northney Marina area) around 10am on Dec 10. Ralph
himself was there a couple of hours later, but none
were there when he arrived!
DECEMBER 11 - 2012
St Theresa's Close,
Bedhampton is fast becoming a 'hot spot' for Waxwings
in the local area. Following the one R Valentine heard
in the close on Dec 8, today his neighbour Michael
Leadbetter saw 4 Waxwings in his garden in the close
at about 9.45am. Michael was 'so excited' as he had
never seen them before. Waxwings have been flooding
into Britain from the Continent in increasing numbers,
but the opportunities for feeding over here are very
limited with very few red berries on the trees -
apart, that is, from St Theresa's Close and Havendale
at Hedge End. If you know of any other red berried
trees then please keep a look out for these beautiful
birds and let me know.
Malcolm Phillips saw a
good seelection of our resident birds on Brook Meadow
over the past couple of days, including this smashing
female Great Spotted Woodpecker.
This morning, Caroline
French counted an incredible 54 Goldfinches in
the cherry plum tree in her garden, easily beating her
previous best of of 37 in Jan 2011. Can anyone beat
Like Patrick Murphy
and me, Caroline also has had Blackcaps in her
garden: last week two males and a female were in the
garden at the same time. She says, the most attractive
food item is English red apple, which is not too hard
for them to pull bits off with their beaks, but they
have also been occasionally pecking at the fat balls
and also coming onto the ground to feed on apple which
has fallen down. However, the Blackcaps prefer the
apple to the fat balls, despite the latter's higher
calorific value. Caroline notes that one of the males
has become quite protective of 'his apple', driving
off the other male. I haven't seen much of the female
so perhaps it is the one in Patrick Murphy's garden,
which I believe is quite nearby!
Caroline has also had
three Song Thrushes a few days ago and
Blackbird numbers are well up. Sadly,
Greenfinches are few and far between. Is there
any hope for the poor Greenfinch?
Tom Bickerton reports
a couple of fairly close encounters with Buzzards
locally. Chris Cockburn was cycling home along the
Farlington Cycle pass, when he disturbed a Buzzard on
the ground, which nearly took him out as it passed his
front wheel. On Sunday Dec 9, another (or maybe the
same?) Buzzard was perched on the traffic lights at
the Havant Hayling M27 intersection looking down on
the motorists. Unfortunately, no camera shots of
DECEMBER 9 - 2012
There are still no
Tufted Duck on Emsworth Millpond, though they do tend
to arrive later in December and into January. Also, I
have not seen or heard of any Red-breasted Merganser
or Great Crested Grebe on any of the Emsworth ponds.
Patrick Murphy has
been getting a female Blackcap in his north Emsworth
garden fairly regularly. Here is Patrick's shot of the
bird visiting his fat ball holder.
I too have seen a
female Blackcap in my garden in Bridge Road Emsworth.
These are certainly wintering birds which migrate here
from The Continent. They could be the same bird, but
this seems unlikely considering a major road and a
railway line separates our two houses.
Chris Cope reported on
yesterday's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group at
Walderton. Please note the new web site address for
all the Havant Wildlife Group pages is now at . . .
These pages are on my family web site where I have
plenty of space, but they are quite separate from the
family stuff. The switch was necessary as I was
running out of space on my Emsworth web
DECEMBER 8 - 2012
Tits on Thorney
walked down the west side of Thorney Island and got a
good view of Bearded Tits in the reedbeds at Thorney
Little Deeps. Here is Malcolm's image of a female.
R Valentine reported
one Waxwing calling in tall tree south of St.Theresa's
Close in Havant at SU703072 this morning at 11.20. I
went over to have a look myself this afternoon. There
is a private garden at the end of St.Theresa's close
with a few bright red berries, but there was no sign
of the Waxwing. However, they are here and roaming
around looking for food. So, please keep a look out
and let me know if you see any.
Up to 16 Waxwings were
still present at 8.15 this morning at Havendale Hedge
DECEMBER 7 - 2012
Yesterday (Dec 6),
Ralph Hollins confirmed my recent observation of
already paired Robins which I saw on Brook Meadow on
Dec 2. A pair came together to breakfast on the
breadcrumbs Ralph put out in his garden as he went
round removing the thick ice from the various bowls of
water, which they also need.
Bernie Forbes had "a
delightful flock of 31 Avocets" counted off Chidham
Point. This is the largest total of the winter locally
as far as I am aware.
Owls at Sinah
Yesterday at 15:35
(Dec 6), Tim Lawman saw two Short-eared Owls over
Sinah Golf Course on SW Hayling Island. Both birds
showing again well in the evening, close to the road
by the Kench. One bird with quite pale upperparts,
assumed recent Farlington birds?.
15 Waxwings were still
at Hedge End today at Grid Ref: SU SU4912. Also, a
good few Waxwings have been reported around Sussex,
including 12 at Pulborough Brooks Nature Reserve
feeding on Guelder Rose berries in bushes right next
to the classroom/play area. But none near Emsworth as
DECEMBER 6 - 2012
Tom Bickerton raises
two interesting issues that he would appreciate views
no Tawny Owls on the Island?
Grogan's talk on the wildlife of the Isle of Wight to
the Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust last
Wednesday, Tom wonders why there are no Tawny Owls on
the Island. There certainly has to be a reason, as
nature doesn't just stop dead in its tracks. Could the
cause be human interference at some point in history?
Derek Hales has the
best web site for bird recording on the Isle of Wight
and he only saw one Tawny Owl in the whole of 2012
The BTO say that all
Tawnies are very sedentary and are very reluctant to
cross water, hence are absent from Ireland and many
other islands as well as the IoW. "The sedentary
nature of the Tawny Owl has already been touched upon.
However, it is not just adult Tawny Owls that are
sedentary in their habits. Young birds, dispersing
away from where they were born, rarely move far, the
average distance moved being just four kilometres
(just over two miles). There also appears to be some
reluctance to cross large waterbodies. The Tawny Owl
is absent from many of the islands around our shores,
with only occasional records of the species reported
from Ireland and the Isle of Wight." See
Tom watched a Common
Gull dropping shells onto rocks and wondered if this
behaviour was unusual in this species. We are used to
seeing Carrion Crows and Herring Gulls dropping
cockleshells on rocks and these birds clearly learn
this behaviour by watching and copying others perform
it. However, Tom points out that Common Gulls are
winter visitors and have a limited time to learn, so
one would not expect them to see them behaving in this
manner. Are these gulls more intelligent than we
usually give them credit for?
DECEMBER 5 - 2012
I found a flock of 700
Brent Geese feeding on the grass lawn in front of the
Old Eastney Barracks, now developed as housing and
renamed as Teapot Row: Grid Ref: SZ 666987. The flock
included 22 juveniles, though I was unable to sort out
broods. These take my current proportion of juveniles
to adults for the winter so far to1.97%.
I also had a look at
the Tangier Road Brent Goose Refuge where I found a
huge flock of around 1,000 Brents feeding on the lush
grassland. I did not have my scope at the time, so was
not able to check for juveniles.
I did not do a proper
count but noted the folowing birds on the pond this
morning: Cormorant 4, Mute Swan 2, Embden Goose 1,
Tufted Duck 60, Mallard 100+, Shoveler 30, Feral
Pigeon 100+, I was suprised to find no Canada Geese at
The Shoveler were
feeding in their distinctive fashion, usually in
male-female pairs, circling around sieving food
particles from the water.
I happened to meet my
friend Eric Eddles who lives near the pond and it is a
regular birdwatching site for him. He told me the Mute
Swan pair had a successful breeding season producing 7
cygnets all of which survived. He said Canada Geese
were quite rare on the pond except during moult in
Eric showed me some newcomers to the pond, called Call
Ducks, which I had not only never seen before, but
never actually heard of. He said there were about 10
of them, both males and females, but just how they
came to be on the pond he is not sure. The males were
Mallard-like with dark heads and white on the flanks;
the more attractive females had pale orange plumage
and orange legs and feet, as shown in the following
From the internet I
learned that the Call Duck is a bantam breed of
domesticated duck raised primarily for decoration or
as pets. They look similar to Mallards, but are
smaller in size. They were first used in the
Netherlands as decoys, their high-pitched distinctive
call luring other ducks into funnel traps. However,
now they are mainly a domestic species kept as pets.
There is actually a British Call Duck Club to promote
interest and good management of these popular ducks.
See . . . http://www.britishcallduckclub.org.uk/
This web site
indicates there is a variety of breeds of Call Duck.
12:30 - 13:30 - Tide
rising to high water at 15:00. Spotted Redshank
was already present in the stream and very
persistent in chasing off a Common Redshank.
A flock of 90
Knot was on the western mudflats near to the
Emsworth Sailing Club, the largest flock so far this
I counted 88
Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mudflats quite
close to the shore at the end of Warblington Road.
They included two of our regular colour-ringed birds
this winter: WO+LW flag and ROL+RLR.
On looking through my
photos of the Black-tailed Godwits I found two that
showed birds spurting water from their bills. One of
the godwits appeared to be spurting objects with the
stream of water. I have many examples of Black-tailed
Godwits and several other waders engaged in this
so-called 'spurting' behaviour, but I have never seen
one spurting objects before. Spurting behaviour
continues to baffle the experts. See the special page
on spurting behaviour . . . Spurting
Malcolm Phillips got a
first for me on Brook Meadow today with the following
shot of a Brown Rat climbing a tree in Palmer's Road
Copse. I am not surprised to hear that rats can climb
trees, but have never seen one doing it before.
More reports of
Waxwings are coming in mainly from the north of
Hampshire; the nearest to us is in Hedge End, probably
in the large shopping complex where they turned up a
few years ago. If you know of any Rowan trees with
berries, this is where they are most likely to be
seen, but this is a very poor year for berries and the
Waxwings could starve. I do not know of any good crops
of berried trees in Emsworth.
DECEMBER 4 - 2012
11:00 - 12:00 Tide
rising to high water at about 14:00. The first good
flock of Knot of the winter numbering 22 were
feeding in characteristic fashion in a small tight
group on the mudflats. My only previous sighting this
winter was of two Knot on Nov 9. Birds in the main
channel included 24 Shelduck and 4 Pintail.
Two Brent Goose
families were on the mudflats, one with two
juveniles and the other with one. I have seen these
two families in Emsworth several times before. I
captured the family with two juveniles on the photo
with the Knot. These juveniles will not make any
difference to the overall proportion of juveniles to
adults in the harbour which remains very low at about
I watched the tide
gradually fill up the small stream in which the
regular Spotted Redshank was feeding along with
a Greenshank, 2 Knot and 4 Black-tailed Godwit. 10
Mute Swans were also in the stream, including 3
The regular Little
Egret was feeding well away from the rest of the
birds right at the top of the stream almost beneath
the bridge. I rarely see any birds quite this far up
stream. It did not seem bothered by my close presence.
There were still
plenty of flowers open on the large Ivy hedge on the
coastal path near the end of Warblington Road. Insects
feeding included Bluebottles, Drone Flies and Common
Posting from Ian
Julian on Hoslist: "Birdguides reported 11 Waxwings
were around Hedge End this morning and then at 13.45
at 85 Havendale." The first Waxwings photos are coming
in. Go to . . . http://john102.magix.net/public/image_archive/2012/2012%20-%20late.htm
uncovered this Common Frog while moving some stones.
He abandoned the job and covered him up again.
sent a report from his new home in Findhorn in the
north of Scotland. Richard focussed on the ducks in
the local bay and the sea ducks just offshore. For
Richard's report and some photos go to . . .
DECEMBER 3 - 2012
Walking through Brook
Meadow this morning I noticed a single Yellow Dung-fly
(Scathophaga stercoraria) on one of the large
flowering umbels of Hogweed along the main river path.
I have been looking out for them over the past couple
of weeks, but this was the first one I have seen this
winter. I last saw two Yellow Dung-flies on what was
probably the same Hogweed plant at about this time
last year (Dec 15 2011).
Yellow Dung-flies are
mostly predators on smaller insects. They will also
feed on pollen, but most seen on flowers will be
hunting prey. Both males and females are found on
dung, hence their name, the males only feeding on
other insects that visit dung, such as blow-flies.
Females will be there both to feed and oviposit on the
I have previously
written (on Nov 30) about having a Magpie in the
garden trying to grab the fat that I had rubbed into
the bark of a cherry tree. Well, what I assume is the
same bird has been coming daily since then and today I
managed to get a photo of it in action. After a couple
of minutes it was joined by a second Magpie and so I
had the pleasure of seeing two in my garden for the
first time ever.
Derek Mills confirms
that the Red-breasted Merganser he photographed
struggling to swallow the Ruffe on Nov 29 did
eventually get the fish down. He then went on to get a
small crab and demolish that too, as shown in Derek's
Tom Bickerton sends
his observations from the past weekend:
Kingfisher was back on
the Hermitage Stream, just opposite Charlton Crescent,
and 3 different Little Egrets along the Stream as
well. A Black-Throated Diver was at the Oysterbeds on
Sunday, unfortunately disturbed by a powerboat which
acutely curtailed my views. A family of 5 juvenile
Brents were again there this week, must be unique this
year. A nice show of Dunlin, ideal for photography, as
they flashed the silvery on-off flight pattern. No
birds of Prey, except for a very distant Merlin on
South Binness, which would be hard to call as a
certainty. No waxwings yet. Very few ducks, a flock of
Pintail and 3 Goldeneye, I saw 3 Black-necked Grebes,
Chris Cockburn thinks we have 13-15 in the harbour. We
seem to be low on Shelduck too.
John Bogle sent the
following photo of the Dartford Warbler that he saw
near the Thorney Little Deeps on Dec 2. This was only
the second Dartford Warbler that John has seen and in
his words he was "quite chuffed". I would be too if I
had seen it as it is certainly an uncommon bird for
that area. At my suggestion, John has posted the
sighting up to the SOS Sightings and also informed
Barry Collins about it.
NEWS - from
Richard Somerscocks coming tomorrow!
DECEMBER 2 - 2012
I went over to the
meadow to take photos of the regular conservation work
session. It was a fine and frosty morning and a good
group of about 10 volunteers turned up for work. They
had to postpone their original plan to lay gravel on
paths, as it was frozen. So they set to work to trim
off some willow branches overhanging the river. The
resulting branches were used to build barricades to
restrict access to certain areas on the meadow which
were being heavily used.
Walking through the
south meadow of Brook Meadow this morning, I came
across what I am fairly sure was a pair of Robins in
close proximity to each other. Such pairing seemed
very early. However, I consulted David Lack's classic
book "The Life of the Robin" whose observations at
Dartington showed (also to his surprise) that the
first pairings often occurred by the middle of
December, which is over 3 months before the birds
actually nest. Lack added that most other song birds
pair up in the spring, with the exception of
Blackbirds and some Starlings which pair in late
Inspired by Ralph
Hollins, who already has 38 species on his December
flower list, I made a start on my own list for Brook
Meadow this morning. I found 19 plants in flower, best
of all were the magnificent white umbels of Hogweed,
which are still standing tall in several spots around
the meadow and attracting late flying insects. Hemlock
Water-dropwort is also going strong near the Lumley
Stream. However, the Stone Parsley plant in the far
corner of the Seagull Lane patch, which has been
flowering superbly throughout November, was covered in
frost this morning, but I could still make out a few
flowers. Nearby, there are also some flowers remaining
on the Scented Mayweed.
on Warblington Farm
Ralph Hollins found an
unusually large number of corvids in the Warlblington
Fam area. He has been used to find flocks of over 100
attracted to the shore and fields in winter but today
his impression was of more than 300 with almost as
many Jackdaws as Crows (and only half a dozen
Starlings in the whole outing)
John Bogle thinks the
fish that the Red-breasted Merganser was struggling to
swallow on Derek Mill's photo was unlikely to have
been a Scorpion Fish as was suggsted yesterday. The
body shape and colour are wrong and, as a saltwater
species, it is not likely to tolerate the brackish
water of Thorney Great Deeps for long, unlike Grey
Mullett which are quite happy in pure fresh water a
long way up rivers. It was far more likely to have
been a Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua) which is a pretty
fearsome looking prey for a Red-breasted Merganser to
swallow as shown by the following diagram.
John Bogle visited
Thorney Island today, the highlight of which was
seeing only his second ever Dartford Warbler on the
western side near the Little Deeps. This more than
made up for his missing out on the Bearded
What appeared to be a
rare abberant (albino) Bullfinch was captured on film
by a birdwatcher at Brockenhurst last week. Some
people thought it might be a Bullfinch x Snow Bunting
hybrid. The film can be seen on You Tube at . . .
DECEMBER 1 - 2012
I have had two
different responses to my request for an
identification of the fish in Derek Mills's photo
caught by the Red-breasted Merganser on Nov 30.
John Bogle thought it
was a Ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernua) and was not
surprised to see the merganser struggling with it as
he said they are a small but spikey fish with a spiked
dorsal fin, much like a Perch, and with a very bony
head and gill covers covered in spikes. When
threatened they can flare out their gills making their
head quite broad and very spikey. Wikipedia says the
Eurasian Ruffe is a freshwater fish found in temperate
regions of Europe and northern Asia. It has been
introduced into the Great Lakes of North America,
reportedly with unfortunate results.
Mark Tutton thought it
was a Scorpion Fish (Taurulus bubalis) which he said
has some serious spines in the dorsal and pectoral
fins and would have taken very careful swallowing!
Wikipedia says Taurulus bubalis has a number of common
names including Scorpion Fish. It is a coastal fish of
the sculpin family, inhabiting waters of Northern
I suppose we shall
never know for certain what fish it was. However, from
its spiked fins, it seems clear that the Merganser
would have a struggle to get it down. I wonder if
Derek saw what happened in the end.
Malcolm Phillips went
round the meadow from 11am to 12.15 today. He thought
he saw a Water Vole swimming up the river from the
north bridge, but when it came out of the water it was
clear the animal was a Brown Rat. This just goes to
show that you cannot be too careful about Water Vole
sightings, particularly in the area above the north
bridge where both Water Voles and Brown Rats live.
Malcolm walked back to
the bridge just in time to catch a Song Thrush having
a good bathe in the river.
Heather Mills reported
on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group to
the RSPB reserve at Pulborough Brooks. For the report
and photos of Hen Harrier and Bullfinch go to . . .
walks - reports 2012
earlier observations go to . . . .