RETURN TO . . . Emsworth Wildlife Homepage


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 1-15 FEBRUARY 2013
in reverse chronological order

. . .


Brook Meadow

As I was going through Brook Meadow this morning, I happened to meet Maurice Lillie and Wally Osborne from the Brook Meadow Conservation Group and Rob Hill from Havant Borough Council on the north bridge. They were discussing the siting of a secure metal container for the power scythe and hand tools owned by the group, which could no longer be accommodated by members. A site on the southern edge of the Seagull Lane patch close to the boundary wall with the Artec factory seemed to be the most suitable.

Maurice, Rob and I then walked down the main river path looking for Water Voles and Firecrests but not seeing any. I met Mike Wells and Sid Davies in Palmer's Road Copse, also looking for the Firecrest. I left them to it and cycled over to the millpond to have a look at the harbour.

Emsworth Harbour

11:30 - 12:30 - Tide rising. I walked from the millpond seawall along Western Parade to Nore Barn. Lots of Brent Geese in the eastern harbour along with about 50 Lapwing and 6 Gadwall in the channel. Many of the Black-headed Gulls are getting their breeding plumage. One adult Great Black-backed Gull. On the western harbour I found 16 Pintail in the main channel and a group of 60 Knot feeding on the mudflats.

Spring flowers

The first Lesser Celandines are now out on the Bridge Road Wayside, mostly on the east bank of the stream.

Red Kite over Westbourne

Keith Marriot left a phone message for me at 2.30pm this afternoon to say that a Red Kite had just flown over his house in Common Road, Westbourne heading for Emsworth. Unfortunately, I was out all afternoon and did not get the message until 5pm when the bird would have gone. I wonder if anyone else saw it?

Red Kites are regularly seen over the Stansted Forest estate and occasionally over Hollybank Woods. We had some reports of Red Kite over Emsworth over the past year:

15-Apr-12 - Richard Somerscocks saw one flying over Thorney Little Deeps heading for Emsworth and got this fine photo of it.

13-Apr-12 - Tony Wootton had a Red Kite fly over his house in Highland Close Emsworth heading North.

20-Mar-12 - Patrick Murphy had a marvellous sight of a Red Kite wheeling and hovering over his Emsworth garden.

Water Rail at Baffins

Eric Eddles who lives at Baffins, finally caught up with the Water Rail on his local pond today. Nice one, Eric.

Hayling Oysterbeds up-date

Chris Cockburn reports: Several hundred Black-Headed Gulls were present in the lagoon at the Hayling Oysterbeds today - most are still in winter plumage but most are acting territorially (noisily, of course!). At least three adult Mediterranean Gulls added to the din; as did the two regular pairs of Herring Gulls (which will hopefully move on soon). A few Common Gulls were also present; they are unlikely to nest - but we can live in hope.

The usual Dunlin and Redshank roosts (on the outer bund and the 'Northwest Bund' on the northern edge of the lagoon) were displaced today - almost certainly due to the presence of a roosting sub-adult male Peregrine. As usual, several Red-breasted Mergansers were foraging in the lagoon but are now facing difficulties in feeding with so many gulls in close attendance.

The lagoon's Silver Eel population decreased by one (yet again) by courtesy of a Cormorant - this time, the Cormorant enjoyed its tasty meal unlike a previous recent occasion when a young Great Black-backed Gull dropped in and joined a Cormorant in a game of tug-of-war with an Eel - spectacular to watch and with the eel as the ultimate winner!

One Red Admiral butterfly appeared today (from the bramble bush that thankfully shelters people from the cruel breezes) and sunned itself in the balmy conditions. What a difference a calm, dry and sunny day can make.

I think that the first phase of the shingle recharge project on South Binness Island has been completed (work is only possible during the spring tide cycles) but it is possible that the machinery will remain on the island until the next phase can be done. The over-wintering waders and wildfowl are unlikely to be affected by the presence of immobile excavator, crane etc on South Binness and, in direct contrast with the gulls on the islands in the Oysterbeds' lagoon, the Mediterranean and black-headed gulls have rarely gone onto the harbour islands until March and then only for relatively brief daytime and high tide visits.



Regarding the Sticky Mouse-ear that I found in flower on the Warblington Underpass wayside on Feb 5, Ralph Hollins provided the following comments in his weekly summary:

"These plants come in many forms of which two are very common - Sticky and Common Mouse-ear - and both have similar flowers and leaves though the flowers of Sticky Mouse-ear grow in tight clusters while those of Common Mouse-ear grow separately, each flower having its own flower stem. When the plants are mature there should be no difficulty in separating them but I have found in the past that when I return to a site that seemed to be composed of Sticky Mouse-ear a few days earlier it now seems to consist of Common Mouse-ear. This conundrum seems to have occurred again at a site in Emsworth where Brian Fellows found and photographed plants of Sticky Mouse-ear (the photos show the characteristics of this species) but when I visited the site just two days later I could only find plants looking like Common Mouse-ear. It could well be that we saw different plants in different areas of the site but I am wondering if it is possible that Common Mouse-ear starts to flower before the flower stems are fully grown so a plant which starts to open its flower buds when they are all tightly grouped and look like Sticky Mouse-ear rapidly grow individual flower stems making the plant look like Common Mouse-ear. I hope to resolve this dilemma before too long!"

Common Mouse-ear

I think I have resolved Ralph's dilemma for this morning I found what I think are both Common Mouse-ear and Sticky Mouse-ear on the grass verges west of the Warblington Underpass. The Common Mouse-ear is growing on the embankment immediately west of the Underpass. I think these are the plants that Ralph looked at when he visited the site. As he says, the flowers of Common Mouse-ear are less clustered than Sticky Mouse-ear and each have their own stem. The plant is far less hairy than its Sticky cousin.

Here is the Common Mouse-ear at the Warblington Underpass

Sticky Mouse-ear

The Sticky Mouse-ear is growing on the broad central grass verge and these are the ones I photographed on Feb 5. These have a tight cluster of flowers at the top of the stems.

Here is the Sticky Mouse-ear at the Warblington Underpass

I also had a close look at specimens of the two plants under the microscope and the hairs on the Sticky Mouse-ear are glandular (making the plant 'sticky'), but not those of the Common Mouse-ear. Rose (New Ed, p.152) indicates that this as an important distinction between the two plants.



Considering the warm temperature today, I was not surprised to see a Buff-tail Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) flying while I was looking at the Mouse-ears on the Warblington Underpass wayside.

Red Admiral

Nor was the Red Admiral totally unexpected that I found sunning itself on the tarmac path in front of my house this afternoon. The insect was very dozy and allowed me to pick it up and transfer it to the large Ivy hedge in the back garden where it could get more shelter. The photo shows the insect on the tarmac path.


Victoria Road Rookery

Ralph Hollins found ten Rooks back at the Victoria Road rookery this morning and one nest vas visible, So the Rooks have not deserted Emsworth, but do seem to be declining in number.

Brook Meadow

Arriving on Brook Meadow from Seagull Lane Ralph saw a female Blackcap fly out of the gardens across the lane near the Rail Bridge and into the reserve where a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming as usual in the north east of the meadow. Ralph checked the Butterbur on the main river path and was surprised to find one plant was hiding open flowers under a leaf and nearby were a couple of Winter Heliotrope flowers.

A little further south Ralph saw the Common Alder in flower (reported yesterday) and back on the causeway heading for Lumley Road he had a look at the 'Cherry Plum' blossom. I am never really sure of this plant , but Ralph thinks with the total absence of green twigs it is not the standard Prunus cerasifera. But he could find no clues (other than the white flowers which are 2cm across) to determine which of the Prunus cerasifera cultivars it was but thought it might be P. cerasifera ie, Myrobalan Plum. This is what we have it down as in the Brook Meadow plant list.


Ralph found no Frogspawn in the Sadler's Walk pond. He went back up Lumley Road to Westbourne, where he saw a Mistle Thrush in the field near the river as he came down from the A27 bridge and wondered if it was possibly breeding there? We need to keep a look out, for Mistle Thrush is a very rare bird in the Emsworth area.

A little further up Mill Lane Ralph turned his bins onto an Egret in a small pool and found a Fox out in the open, lying with its back to the Egret (maybe a ploy to bring the bird within range?). At the top end of Mill Lane the Alpacas had both Goats and Sheep sharing their field.

Hampshire Farm pond

Heading back towards Southleigh Road Ralph noticed that a new pond was being dug out in the new housing development area. He thinks this is one of the three promised by the NRA to prevent flooding in Emsworth. At the start of his trip Ralph found work going on in the field west of Selangor Ave where another of the three is to be sited.


Spotted Redshank

I went over to Nore Barn at about 12 noon and found the resident Spotted Redshank feeding among the seaweed on the shore at the end of Warblington Road. It seems to have taken to feeding on the shore in preference to the stream. It was disturbed by a dog and flew over to the stream where I got this photo. I met John Hilton who was also taking photos of the Spotted Redshank.

Water Vole on Brook Meadow

Brian Lawrence e-mailed to say he saw a Water Vole today swimming under the north bridge, but did not get a photo as he was not quick enough. This was the 35th sighting for the year so far. Quite amazing!

Water Rail on Baffins Pond

After trying to photograph the Brook Meadow Water Rail for about two weeks, Mike Wells decided to take a trip down to Baffins Pond where he finally got the picture he wanted! The Water Rail was in one of the new wetlands area of the pond.

The Water Rail of Baffins Pond has a long history going back, at least, to February 2003 when I recall seeing the bird there for the first time. It was so tame that it came onto the path where people were walking and actually took food!

Hayling Oysterbeds news

Chris Cockburn says you should get your ear plugs ready for when you next visit the Hayling Oysterbeds. "Judging by the few Black-Headed Gulls presently there, they have not become any quieter and we will have to wait until July/August for peace to return. One of them is more or less in complete summer plumage and acting very territorially. So, the 2013 breeding season at the Hayling Oysterbeds seems to be entering the preliminary stages; but, probably, nesting will not start until the last week in March.

Not just a few black-headed gulls, but a pair of Herring Gulls are continuing to act very suspiciously and noisily on the western island. Chris says, if you do visit the site, it would be very helpful if you would please report any signs of rats, foxes or any other potential predators to him.




Maurice Lillie understands that the sandbags reported in yesterday's entry, were placed by the Fire Brigade to prevent further water penetration to the cottages in Lumley Road. Maurice does not know if water actually breached the wall as there does not seem to be any flow route and when he looked there the afternoon before, the water level was high but at least two courses of bricks (150mm) below the top of the lower part of the wall.

Two male Firecrests

I met Brian Lawrence in Palmer's Road Copse who told me that he had just seen two male Firecrests, one chasing the other away from the bushes south of the observation fence. This was our first sighting of two males. Brian also saw a Goldcrest, but not the female Firecrest. After Brian had gone, I met Robin Pottinger and we both had a good view of a male Firecrest with a bright orange crest working its way through the vegetation on the flooded west bank of the river south of the observation fence. I also saw the Firecrest chase what could have been Brian's second male Firecrest across the path into the wooded area near the car park. However, I did not see it clearly enough for proper identification.

Here is my shot of the male Firecrest

Water Vole

Robin told me he had just seen a Water Vole on the open area of the west bank of the river south of the north bend in the river. This was the first sighting from this section of the river for over a month.

Other observations

A pair of Mallards was dabbling together in the flooded river in Palmer's Road Copse, close to the Deep Water sign.

The Alder catkins are now fully open in the plantation on the west side of Brook Meadow and showing well in contrast with the brown gnarled cones from last year.

On Emsworth Millpond the Black-headed Gulls are starting to get their dark heads of breeding plumage.


Brook Meadow

The river level has gone down since yesterday which means the path through Palmer's Road Copse is negotiable as is the path through the south meadow.

I was surprised to find a line of white sandbags piled along the top of the retaining wall of the river where it emerges from the tunnel beneath the railway. They are presumably designed to prevent the river flooding onto the meadow, though I do not recall ever having seen the river go over the retaining wall at this point.

Water Vole

I spotted movement on the west bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse behind the 'Deep Water' sign and with my binoculars saw a Water Vole pulling twigs and long strands of vegetation. The vole came down to the edge of the water where it preened for a little while before dipping into the river and disappearing into an underwater burrow hole. This is probably the same vole that has been seen several times this year at this spot. This takes the total number of Water Vole sightings for 2013 to 33.


A Firecrest was feeding actively in the vegetation on the flooded west bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse, in much the same place as I saw it on Feb 8. The photo clearly shows a yellow crest which suggests this was a female.

Other bird news

A pair of Blue Tits were active in the vicinity of the nest box on the tall tree above the Water Vole signcase. Blue Tits regularly nest in this box. I heard a full Blue Tit song for the first time this winter on Brook Meadow.

In addition to Blue Tit, the following birds were singing on Brook Meadow this morning: Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Great Tit and two Song Thrushes. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming from the tall dead tree in the north-east corner of Brook Meadow, as it was on Feb 8. I heard two tones of drumming, one high pitched and one low, indicating the use of two different resonating surfaces by the bird.

The Blackbird with a large white patch on its wing is still prominent in the Lumley area. To my knowledge it has been seen in this area for at least 3 years. I saw it today in the bushes by the Lumley puddle.

Here is a photo of the bird taken in March 2011 by Tony Wootton

Slipper Millpond

The five Tufted Duck that were on the pond yesterday were still there today in a tight group, 3 males and 2 females.

Also, on the pond was a pair of Mute Swans, but not the resident pair which were over on Peter Pond. I think this is the pair, which includes the 'Polish' swan with pinkish legs, that has unsuccessfully attempted to nest on Slipper Millpond in previous years.

Greater Periwinkles

While walking up Warblington Road to Nore Barn, I noticed that Greater Periwinkle with the dark blue propeller-like petals was in flower outside house number 45 much as in previous years. According to Martin Rand (March 2011) this is a form of Greater Periwinkle called Vinca major var. oxyloba. Martin added that it seems a common garden plant but that he only had 5 records of it outside gardens in Hampshire and was under recorded. The standard garden form of Greater Periwinkle with large petals of various hues of blue is called Vinca major.

Ralph Hollins has already seen Lesser Periwinkle (Vinca minor) in flower in Pitts Copse, Stansted and on the south facing hedge bank immediately east of the East Leigh/Southleigh Road junction in the Denvilles area of Havant. Regarding Intermediate Periwinkle (Vinca difformis) Martin said this is much rarer as an escape.



Tom Bickerton got the Waxwings in Bedhampton, this morning at 7:20am. They were crossing Purbrook Way by the Hyper-market, going south up Hulbert Road. Without doubt the same flock as Peter Milinets-Raby's been recording.

Spotted Redshank

Ros Norton was on a Chichester Harbour walk this morning and they saw the Spotted Redshank feeding very close to bridge over stream at Nore Barn at 11.25am.


Yellow crustose lichen is abundant on the large rocks along the shoreline of Western Parade.


Brook Meadow flooding

Following the continuous rain yesterday, the River Ems was running very high and had flooded the path through Palmer's Road Copse. The south meadow of Brook Meadow was similarly flooded and not accessible without boots.

Firecrest on Brook Meadow

I walked back through Brook Meadow along the main river path this morning and spotted the male Firecrest actively foraging on the river bank in front of the gasholder. I tried without success to get a photo. It was constantly on the move. A little later I saw a Goldcrest moving along the western river bank, roughly where I saw it on Feb 8.

Lungwort in flower on Lumley Path

A few plants of Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) are in flower on the south side of the Lumley Path which leads from the Gooseberry Cottage drive through to Lumley Road. Lungwort has regularly flowered on the Lumley Path on Brook Meadow over the past 13 years and once (21-Jun-12) on the Seagull Lane patch. Its flowers are bell-shaped and reddish-pink often turning blue. The sepals are covered with glandular hairs and leaves oval and pale spotted. They can be seen in the photo. This takes my personal list of flowering plants for February to 24.

Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) is a perennial herb, originally a garden plant, but now naturalised in woodlands and scrub, on banks and rough ground, and also occurring on rubbish tips and waste ground. It is a Central European temperate species, absent as a native from much of W. Europe.

Tufted Ducks on Slipper Millpond

Brendan Gibb-Gray had five Tufted Ducks (three male and two female) on Slipper Mill Pond outside his house this morning. He thought may have been blown in by the awful weather of the past 48 hours. Tufted Duck are not as common on Slipper Millpond as on the town millpond, though they have also been scarce there this year. Brendan's birds most likely came up from Thorney Little Deeps where they reside. I went to have a look at them this morning and all five were still present.

Here is a pair of the ducks with the male taking a close interest in the female

Juvenile Sparrowhawk in garden

We had masses of birds in the garden this lunch time including 25 Chaffinches, 4 Goldfinches, 4 Woodpigeons, 2 Blackbirds, 2 Blue Tits and a Dunnock. Then, in a flash, they all went, leaving behind a solitary brown bird perched in the cherry tree. It was a juvenile Sparrowhawk; it had warm brown upper parts with a few small patches of white and brown streaked underparts. It flew to the fence at the end of the garden for a few seconds and then flew off not to be seen again. It did not stay in one place long enough for a photo, but there was no doubt about its identity.Sparrowhawk is quite a rare bird in our garden, though we do get between two and five sightings each year. I do not recall ever having seen a juvenile in the garden before.

Here is the only juvenile Sparrowhawk I have in my files - taken by Dave Lee in his garden in August 2009

Spotted Redshank

Mike Wells got the following shot of the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn before the snow arrived. One can see from the photo how the bird's plumage is starting to darken as it acquires it breeding plumage.


Black-tailed Godwits return

Ruth Croger and Pete Potts did the Hayling WeBS count yesterday on the falling tide at Northney (east of Hayling bridge) and saw 99 Black-tailed Godwits, 8 of which were colour-ringed all from Farlington, so Pete thinks they are starting to disperse and feed back on the mud again. Pete has not heard any reports from Pagham for a while, but when he and Ruth were in the Avon Valley on Friday at least 2000 were still there and they read 12 colour-ringed combinations (8 from Iceland only 2 ringed in Solent).

Pete added that the incredibly wet year/winter meant grassland sites became so attractive to the Godwits that there must have been c.5-5500 on grassland between Avon Valley, Solent sites, Pagham & Pulborough. With rain this weekend will they head back to grassland sites once more? On Thames they have had up to 9000 roosting at Cliffe marshes - the good breeding season has swelled the flocks.

Here in Emsworth Black-tailed Godwit numbers vary from one year to the next. In 2011 they tailed off in February and never came back. In 2012 they only had a short break in early January and numbers remained good until the end of February. This year numbers fell in December and are still low. I had 22 on Jan 23, but Peter Milinets-Raby only had 6 at Nore Barn yesterday. However, we shall keep looking.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Romney Turner had a cracking experience on Brook Meadow on Friday when she saw three Great Spotted Woodpeckers. That is an experience I have never had. First she heard drumming, like I did also on Friday. Then she found two Woodpeckers in trees on the north path by the railway line and stream. Neither were too bothered about Romney's presence, far more interested in each other from their different trees. She next saw them high up in a big dead tree and got near enough for lots of photos. One bird was intent on drumming from time to time, the other was watching but not drumming. That was when a third Great Spotted Woodpecker arrived much to Romney's great delight.

Here is Romney's fine image of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, possibly drumming

Kingfisher in garden

I had not seen a Kingfisher all winter despite a lot of looking out for one in the usual places, like along the River Ems, around the millponds and in the harbour. However, we had a brief 30 second visit from one yesterday on our back garden fence over looking the Westbrook Stream. My last sightings of Kingfisher in the garden were in the winter of 2007-08.


Peter's Warblington walk

Peter Milinets-Raby reports on what is fast becoming his usual walk this morning, from Nore Barn, along the shore and inland along Pook Lane and back. He started at 7:45am and finished two and a half hours later. A bit damp!

"The highlights were: 2 Spotted Redshank on Nore Barn (the old faithful was incredibly tame (less than 2 metres), until dog nearly took it and owner just looked dumbfounded and apologised profusely for scaring off my photo opportunity!!!),

Greenshank on the field with the pond, 67 Knot at Nore Barn along with 120+ Dunlin, 2 Grey Plover, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 male and 3 female Reed Bunting by the pond and a singing male further along.

At Conigar Point: 350+ Dunlin, 42 Knot, 19 Grey Plover, 13 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 14 Pintail, a female Goldeneye, Great Crested Grebe. 2 Roe Deer along Pook Lane, plus 17 Curlew feeding in one of the fields. 8 Stock Doves here as well along with 4 Pheasant.

2 Little Egrets in the fields by the church with 11 Lapwing. No Fieldfares (seemed to have departed back north!). Buzzard and Sparrowhawk also seen and Great Spotted Woodpecker."

Most interesting among Peter's sightings were the 100+ Knot around the Nore Barn and Conigar Point area, the most we have had there this winter.



I had a walk around the meadow late this morning, hoping for Water Vole and Firecrest and I was lucky enough to see both.

Water Vole

At about 12.30pm, I watched a Water Vole swim towards me through the flooded west bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse close to the 'Deep Water' sign. It settled in a tuft of Pendulous Sedge and for the next 10 minutes or so proceeded to feed on the leaves quite oblivious of me watching and taking photos.

Here is the vole chewing on one of the sedge leaves

and here it is eating a leaf with its paws.

This is probably the same vole that has been seen several times by Malcolm Phillips in this section of the river - ie Section D. This is the 32nd sighting of 2013, which is by far the best start to the year we have ever had for Water Vole sightings.


As I was watching the Water Vole, a Goldcrest came into view and actually settled for a moment in the tuft of Pendulous Sedge where the vole was feeding. It was highly active and I pursued it down the river bank taking photos whenever I could.

This was my best effort of this very active bird.


By the time I had got to the area of the flooded footpath, I suddenly realised that there was also a Firecrest feeding in the same area. Inspecting my photos afterwards I realised it was the female Firecrest with a yellow crest, which had previously been photographed by Patrick Murphy on Feb 1.

I did not see the male Firecrest, but Brian Lawrence was on Brook Meadow this afternoon at about 3pm and did see and photograph the male Firecrest with distinctive orange crest.

Woodpecker drumming

I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming from the north-east area of the north meadow. I was surprised to read that both sexes drum, so this could have been male or female. It is the equivalent of a song, used to attract a mate and establish territory. The sound seemed to be coming from one of the tall Crack Willow trees on far side of meadow. It was not loud, probably due to the bird's choice of a poor resonating surface. This is not particularly early. Ralph Hollins said the first report of drumming came from Arundel on Jan 7 and he had heard it in the Wade Court area of Langstone on Jan 19 and 21.


Metal gate lichen

I found two more interesting lichens today. A yellow crustose type lichen is growing on the metal gate in the front garden of our house in Bridge Road, Emsworth. This could be another example of Caloplaca citrina, which Alan Silverdale's web site says does occur on metal fences.

Brick wall lichen

Another lichen that caught my eye was on a brick wall on the north side of Victoria Road. It was similar to the other white crustose lichens. But it was composed mostly of tiny white spots and not the usual large patches as in chewing gum lichen. I have been through the crustose lichens on the Irish web site without seeing anything close.


The ferns are still looking good on the garden wall on the west side of North Street just south of the entrance to Emsworth Railway Station. They include Black Spleenwort, Hart's-tongue and Wall-rue.


At 9:20am this morning Peter Milinets-Raby was in the car heading for his first driving lesson of the day (Peter is a driving instructor) when he noticed 2 Waxwings perched in the bare tree outside 124, Purbrook Way in Havant. Peter got his pupil to drive past the house 30 minutes later and the birds were on the TV ariel. About 30 minutes later at 10:30pm they drove by again and the birds were in the tree again, but 20 minutes later at 10:50pm they had gone. Peter says, the trees around have very few berries so the birds are unlikely to return, but they could be somewhere close.

This follows the sighting by Frances Jannaway of 4 Waxwings in her Emsworth garden on Feb 5. Clearly, there are small numbers of birds in the area and they could pop up anywhere, so keep your eyes skinned, particularly where there are berries.



11:30 - 12:30 I spent an hour or so at Nore Barn on a falling tide with about three hours after high water.

Spotted Redshank

The Spotted Redshank was feeding in the stream when I arrived, but it was alone.

See all the current Spotted Redshank news and photos on the special page at . . . Spotted Redshanks

There were masses of Wigeon and Teal in Nore Barn Creek; I would estimate at least 300 of each, along with a similar number of Brent Geese. There were also four Pintail and about 25 Shelduck further out in the main channel.


A solitary Greenshank was feeding and then snoozing at the top of Nore Barn Creek. This is probably the same bird that often feeds with the Spotted Redshank in the Nore Barn stream. I got this nice shot of it snoozing on the mud bank with a wary eye open for any threats

Carrion Crows were very noisy in Nore Barn Woods. I watched for a while and saw the reason, they were harassing a Buzzard, which seemed very reluctant to leave.

Sun Spurge

Tony Wootton found Sun Spurge flowering at Farlington Marshes yesterday. This plant is not unusual to find in flower in winter. Ralph Hollins had Sun Spurge on his January flowering list. It can be distinguished from the similar Petty Spurge, which also flowers in winter, by its toothed leaves. Sun Spurge is the only common spurge with toothed leaves.

The large Ivy hedge at Nore Barn has no flowers remaining and no insects either.

Moth decline

A report by Butterfly Conservation and Rothamsted Research has revealed that two-thirds of common and widespread larger species of moths (macro-moths) declined in the last 40 years. The losses in abundance were much greater in the southern half of Britain than the north. Some once-common garden species such as the V-moth, Garden Tiger and The Spinach have decreased by more than 90% from 1968-2007 and now face the real threat of extinction in the future. Ongoing habitat loss and the deteriorating condition of the countryside are believed to be the major factors behind these declines. The declines could have a knock-on effect for plant pollination and animals reliant on moths for food, such as garden and woodland birds, bats and small mammals. However, a substantial minority (one-third of the 337 species studied) increased, very dramatically in some cases, such as Least Carpet Idaea rusticata which has shown a 74,684% increase.

The full report is at . . .


Pied Wagtails

I was out for most of today, but managed a late afternoon walk around Emsworth Millpond. The Pied Wagtails were flitting around as usual at this time of the day. I would estimate about 50 of them, but they hardly ever stay still for a photo. Here is just a few of them. I wonder where they roost at night?


Ralph Hollins tells me he has a lot of the chewing gum lichens Lecanora muralis on the concrete blocks of his driveway in Havant. He thinks the blocks have not been there for more than ten years but almost every block has two or three of these lichens. The lichen are far more abundant on my patio where they seem to prefer the concrete slabs to the red bricks.

During my walk around the millpond, I noticed lots of yellow crustose lichens growing on the edges. Maybe, it is the same species that I saw on the gravestones in Warblington Churchyard? Caloplaca flavescens? See photos on web site . . .

For more information on Lichens go to the special web page at . . . Lichens

Great Northern Diver

Peter Milinets-Raby was at the entrance to Langstone Harbour yesterday and saw 2 Great Northern Divers together. He says it was a bit distant for any decent photos, but he particularly liked this one for the representation of the 'cold of the day'

Chaffinch disease

Recent postings on Hoslist indicate there is an epidemic of papillomavirus affecting Chaffinches in gardens. The main symptoms are swollen legs with scales sticking out from the legs. The BTO ringers have seen a really bad case as shown in the following link . . .

Clearly, by attracting Chaffinches into our gardens with food and usually in a very small area around a feeder, plus having to share perches on feeders, we are increasing the chances of the disease spreading. Normally, birds would be more dispersed in natural feeding habitats, so it would not be so contagious. As it is a virus, cleaning is unlikely to kill it and it will be on surfaces and in the soil around the feeders. The following web site has more information about this disease . . .

Nesting Little Terns - Update

Following on from yesterday's report from Chris Cockburn that some of the existing shingle mounds on Baker's Island will be capped with more shingle for the benefit of nesting little terns, Chris says, "I have just been informed that the contractor will not be recharging Baker's Island this year but, instead, will now be recharging South Binness Island (both sites are down for recharges as part of the Langstone Little Tern Project)."


Sticky Mouse-ear

I went over to the Warblington Underpass wayside to check on a plant that my friend Jack told me had been flowering throughout the winter on the grass embankments leading to the Underpass. Jack actually arrived on his bike while I was there and was able to show me the plant on the embankment. It was Sticky Mouse-ear with its compact flower clusters which actually rarely open. It is distinguished from Common Mouse-ear which has only one or two flowers at the top of the stem. I found a few other plants on the centre verge.

Other flowering plants on the wayside area were Daisy, Common Field Speedwell, Red Dead-nettle, Annual Meadow-grass, Dandelion, Petty Spurge, Common Chickweed,


Daffodils, Crocuses and Snowdrops were flowering in Warblington Churchyard. The pollen sacs were ripe in the churchyard, but no pollen was given off when I knocked them.

Lots of lichen were growing on the old headstones in the churchyard, all of the crustose type and varying in colour from white, through yellow to black.

I did the Pook Lane circuit and found a good show of blossom on the Cherry Plum tree on the track down to the shore.

I counted 50 Shelduck on the Warblington shore and a couple of hundred Brent Geese, which flew over my head as I was walking through the large field to the cemetery. They were heading for their favourite field to the west.

Water Rail

This morning Maurice Lillie saw the Water Rail on the flooded west bank about 15 metres south of the 'S' bend, running/walking/wading through undergrowth and water. Maurice also briefly saw Firecrest in same location as Water Rail, but no sign of Water Voles for the second day running.


Frances Jannaway e-mailed to say she had 4 Waxwings in her back garden yesterday afternoon. They were in the top of the False Acacia tree for quite a while, but made trips onto the garden to collect rose hips, which they took back to the tree to eat. These were the first Waxwings reported in Emsworth this winter, as far as I am aware.

Herring Gull pair on Slipper Millpond

Tom Bickerton sent me the following image of a pair of Herring Gulls, (male left, female right) in the south raft on Slipper Millpond. He says, "Looking at them it seems they're prospecting for a home on the pond, whether the Great Black-backed Gulls will let them is another issue. If they do then we can rip-up the text books on bird behaviour, but nothing would surprise me with the Great Black-backed Gull pair."

Nesting Little Terns

Chris Cockburn reports "As part of RSPB's seabird projects, it is planned to cap, with imported shingle, some of the existing shingle mounds on Baker's Island for the benefit of nesting little terns. If the capping is carried out, it is hoped that little terns will try nesting at elevations above typical flooding tides". Let's hope this improves their breeding which has been virtually nil over the past couple of years.

Butcher's-broom flowering season

Regarding the Butcher's-broom I found in flower in Nore Barn Woods yesterday (Feb 4), Ralph Hollins informed me that the flowering season of Butcher's-broom actually starts towards the end of the summer Aug/Sep and continues through the winter to the end of April. Ralph has no records for the months of May to July and has only once found flowers in August.

His records for the last two years show:
2011 - 11 records from Jan 4 to Apr 25. 15 records from Aug 5 to Dec 26
2012 - 7 records from Jan 1 to Apr 30. 8 records from Sep 12 to Dec 18
2013 - 4 records from Jan 5 to Feb 4.


I watched a the re-run of programme 3 shown on Monday evening on Channel 4 version of Iplayer which you can see at . . .

It mainly focussed on special plants to be found in London due to its warm atmosphere. The main topics with in the programme were as follows.

Chewing gum lichen - Lecanora muralis

This was on pavements in London and resembles discarded chewing gum. They cut through a flagstone to show how the lichen anchored itself firmly to the pavement. The tough upper surface of the lichen is made up of thousands of tightly packed filaments which collect the nutrients and moisture in the air. People walking over it helps the lichen to spread. This lichen was first seen in London in 1960 and now it is found on pavements all over Britain. We have quite a lot on the paving on our patio at the back of the house.

Loquat - Eriobotrya japonica

This is a large evergreen shrub or small tree, grown commercially for its yellow fruit, and also cultivated as an ornamental plant. Native to China but according to Wild Things it now grows in the wild in London. The fruit is like a large plum and the discarded stones (seeds) can germinate and lead to new plants. According to my Collins Tree Guide this is unlikely. In the last 15 years Loquat has become established in London due to the extra warmth in London. The Loquat fruits do not ripen in Britain.

Passion Flower - Passiflora

The botanist presenter was very excited to find this exotic plant growing wild in London. He said it was native of the Amazonian rain forest and was imported as a garden plant but escaped. The first plants in the wild were spotted in 1995 and by 2005 had reached London where it spread fast where the warmth promoted it growth. It grows over other bushes and trees using its tendrils to wind around and choke other plants. The presenter was seen eating a fruit, but I gather they do not ripen properly in this country and are not recommended for consumption! But, the flowers are a good source of nectar.

From Wikipedia I learned that Passiflora is a genus of about 500 species of flowering plants and has many hybrids.

From the Wild flower finder web site I also learned that the one variety which does grow wild is the Blue passion flower - Passiflora caerulea. This is rather tender and sensitive to heavy frosts, and is therefore only likely to be found growing wild in a major city in the UK which has a considerable 'heat-island' effect such that temperatures at night do not fall quite so low as in the rural areas. Many species of Passion flower exude a nutrient-rich nectar which attracts ants that will then attack and kill other insect pests of the plant that happen to be feeding on the flowers. It thus encourages ants for its own defence. I think this is the Passion flower we have in our garden.

Incidentally, this web site has a sequence of photos of Passion Flowers at various stages of growth and looks like a good reference source for wild flowers.


Brook Meadow

I met Malcolm Phillips, Mike Wells and Tony Wootton in Palmer's Road Copse on Brook Meadow at about 10.30am, all armed with their long lensed cameras. Tony looks as if he has just missed out on something good in this snap, though he did get some excellent shots of the Water Vole and Firecrest - see below.

Water Voles

They had seen three Water Voles; the first one was on the reeds near the fence and then swam north. Just as it went out of sight the second Water Vole was seen by the sluice gate. The third Water Vole was on the east bank opposite the Deep Water sign. While I was there we saw a fourth Water Vole in the bushes on the edge of the river on the eastern bank.

Here is Tony Wootton's image of one of the Water Voles having a good feed

These sightings take the year's total to 31, which is far ahead of anything we have experienced before on Brook Meadow. Why are the voles so active so early this year? It is usually well into March before we get this this number of sightings. See the special Water Vole web pages for all the details . . .


The three photographers got a good view of the male Firecrest. Here is Tony's photo.

Tony also got this Treecreeper. - Note the tail firm against the tree for balance

Meanwhile, Malcolm got this fine shot of a Long-tailed Tit elsewhere on Brook Meadow.


I went on a lichen hunt and found examples of the three main forms. 1. crustose - lichens that form patches of negligible thickness that cannot be scaraped off; 2. foliose - lichens composed of more visible "flakes"; and 3. fruticose - little hairy/fibrous "bushy" lichens that mostly frequent trees. Classifying the lichens is about as far as I can go at present!

At the far eastern end of the north path on Brook Meadow I found a yellow and grey lichen of the foliose type growing on the twigs of the Blackthorn bushes. Possibly the same species in different stages of development? Xanthoria parietina?

Walking round Emsworth Millpond I found lots of light green lichen of the crustose type growing on the inside of the seawall. It was hard to scrape off a sample. Awaiting identification.

I found more of the grey 'bushy' lichen of the fruticose type on an Oak tree on the path west of Nore Barn Woods.


On Brook Meadow, the orange 'berries' (botanically, called arils) are showing well on the Japanese Spindle on the west bank of the river just south of the north bridge.

Tony Wootton pointed out some highly nibbled Ivy leaves along the top of the observation fence and wondered what had caused it. Clearly, it must have been some sort of caterpillar feeding there last year.

While in Nore Barn Woods I discovered a few open flowers on the Butcher's-broom bush on the southern path. This plant usually starts flowering in February, though Ralph Hollins found some flowers out in January.


Egret in garden

We had a visit from the local Little Egret onto the garden fence this afternoon. It stayed for about 10 minutes, looking down into the Westbrook Stream that flows at the bottom of the garden, but did not go down as it often does. Little Egret is a fairly regular visitor to the garden in winter. Photo taken through the window.

Godwit News

Yesterday, Kevin Sayer reported a flock of around 1300 Black-tailed Godwits on Coward's Marsh, near Christchurch at GR SZ152948. They have also been seen recently at Avon Causeway - best at dawn & dusk.

Greenshank at Nore Barn

Brian Lawrence captured this rather nice image of the Greenshank in the Nore Barn stream on Saturday Feb 2. Why do they always look so quizzical? Could they be listening for food?



Work session

I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the conservation work session. The main job for the work session was laying the remainder of the path gravel on the areas that needed reinforcement.

For the full report on the work session and more photos go to . . .


I had a good view of the male Firecrest (with orange crest) on two occasions; first at about 10.15, on the west bank about 20 yards south of the S-bend and about 10 minutes later in the open area north of the observation fence. It had clearly worked its way down there.

On the second occasion I also spotted the Water Rail slinking around in the vegetation north of the observation fence, but it had gone before I got my camera ready. We had some visitors to Brook Meadow hoping to see the Firecrest and the Water Rail, but I do not think they did.

Water Vole

Maurice Lillie saw the smaller Water Vole again this morning at 08.50 in the same location as before, about 20 metres south of the S-bend. This time Maurice had his camera at the ready.

It is interesting to note the damage to the fur on the Water Vole's back. I have seen this in the past. Malcolm Phillips photo of what was probably the same Water Vole on Feb 2 also shows this damage.

I recall consulting Water Vole expert Graham Roberts, who said it was probably the result of females fighting over territory. This suggests that Maurice's vole is a female. See my photo of a Water Vole with similar damage to the of Maurice's taken on 1st April 2003 on the main Water Vole web page at . . .


Godwit News

Kevin Sayer reported: This morning on Radio 4 there was a broadcast about Black-tailed Godwits in the Hampshire Avon Valley. You can listen to this program here

Kevin estimates there are still around 3500 birds in the valley. 'A big pack of Black-tailed Godwits' was reported to be present at Amberley Wild Brooks yesterday, so they are clearly still in the flooded valleys.

Early morning at Warblington

Peter Milinets-Raby was in the Warblington Church area this morning at 5:45am checking the fields around Pook Lane for night time feeding duck. He heard a few Teal and Wigeon, but no numbers. He thought we might like to see a sunrise over the Warblington shore.



Red-breasted Goose

I went down to Nore Barn at around 12 noon to catch the Spotted Redshank on the rising tide. While I was there, I met a visiting birder who was looking for a Red-breasted Goose that had been reported on Birdguides in Emsworth Harbour at 10am. We both looked through the 100 or so Brent Geese scattered around the western harbour, but there was no sign of the Red-breasted Goose. I suspect this was the bird that has been on Farlington Marshes with Brent Geese for the past couple of months and which had more recently been seen on Thorney Deeps since Jan 14.

Here is a photo of the Red-breasted Goose in Portsmouth in December 2012 by Peter Milinets-Raby

I checked the Birdguides web site for Red-breasted Goose, which had the 10:00 sighting in Emsworth Harbour, but also had another sighting just 5 minutes later at 10:05 at Thorney Deeps, west of the army guardhouse. So, the bird's visit to Emsworth could have been a fairly brief one. Nevertheless, Red-breasted Goose is a first for Emsworth Harbour!

While I was on the Birdguides web site I checked Spotted Redshank sightings and found a nice photo of the colour-ringed bird W+GY by Jake Gearty at Nutbourne on Jan 24.

Spotted Redshank

I was rather surprised that the visiting birder did not seem at all interested in our local Spotted Redshank which was showing very well right in front of us on the shore at the end of Warblington Road. Maybe, it was already on his list! Local wildlife artist Marion Foster arrived a little later and while we were watching the Spotted Redshank a Greenshank turned up. I took some digiscoped photos including this one showing them feeding close together.

Marion was fascinated to hear the story of the Spotted Redshank's nine winters at Nore Barn and said she would like to do a painting of the bird. I look forward to that. Marion, of course, was the artist who created the wonderful illustration for the Brook Meadow interpretation board, the original of which is now on show in Emsworth Museum. Marion also thought the bird needed a name, so I asked her to come up with one.

All the news is on the special Spotted Redshank web pages at . . . Spotted Redshanks


Water Voles

Maurice Lillie had another sighting of what were probably the same two Water Voles that he has seen in the same place twice before - 25-30metres south of the 'S' bend. The time was 08.55 to 09.25. The smaller of the two was washing, scratching and feeding. Malcolm Phillips also saw what was probably Maurice's Water Vole and got the following nice image of it on the river bank.

Water Rail

The elusive Water Rail was also seen by both Maurice Lillie and Malcolm Phillips in the same area as the Water Vole, south of the S-bend, but neither could get a decent photo.

Maurice added, "It strolled through undergrowth stopping periodically to peck at things, quite close to the river and travelled north to the remains of the fallen willows at the point where the river bends. It stayed by the willows for several minutes then disappeared from view."

Great Tit in nest hole

Malcolm Phillips walked round Brook Meadow this morning and along the north path saw a Great Spotted Woodpecker leave the hole in one of the large Crack Willow trees where last year a Nuthatch was seen working on. Malcolm then saw a Great Tit go into the same popular hole. Back at the observation fence Malcolm found the friendly male Firecrest hopping around in the bushes.


Richard Somerscocks sends his latest missive from his new home in the frozen north of Scotland. It is full of interest complimented by Richard's superb photos which include Bar-tailed Godwits in flight, masses of Pintail, a Red-breasted Merganser taking a large Flounder, as well as two close-up shots of the heads of Cormorant and Shag to show the difference between them.

Go to the special Findhorn News page at . . . Findhorn News


Waxwings in Fishbourne

Chris Janman reported on the SOS Sightings that Waxwings were up to 33 this morning (just 15 yesterday) in Caspian Close, Fishbourne, "quite a flighty bunch and a lot of coming and going, could be more in the area".

Operation Godwit programme

Pete Potts tells me that the Operation Godwit project in Iceland will feature on BBC Radio 4 'Living World' this Sunday Feb 3 at 06.45am. If this is a bit early for you look at it on Iplayer for a week! . . .



Two Firecrests

We have the best evidence so far of the presence of two Firecrests on Brook Meadow, with photos showing both female and male birds. The female with yellow crest was captured by Patrick Murphy near the Water Vole information board, though he was sure he also saw the male with deeper coloured orange crest whilst he was watching. In fact, looking through all the other Firecrest photos they all show the orange crest of a male bird; Patrick's is the first to clearly show the yellow crest of a female.

The male with an orange crest was photographed by Malcolm Phillips in the usual spot by the observation fence.

Yet more Water Voles

There has never been a start to the year for Water Vole sightings like this one. Three more reports, one yesterday and two today (one of two voles) take the total to 23 for 2013 and we are only just entering February!

1. Yesterday afternoon at 3.45, Patrick Murphy stopped at the observation fence in Palmer's Road Copse to look for the Firecrest, but there was no sign of it. However, Patrick saw movement on the opposite bank amongst the reeds and there was a Water Vole. (Section D) He watched it for about 10 minutes and it popped into the water a couple of times each time coming out on the bank by the edge of the water eating and preening itself. The light was fading, but Patrick managed to get this reasonable image.

2. Then, this morning (9.15-9.30), for the second day running, Maurice Lillie saw two large Water Voles on the west side of the River Ems, 25-30 metres south of 'S' bend (Section C). One vole was slightly larger than the other. The smaller one went into the water, almost totally submerged for several seconds, appeared to be struggling, but emerged with some rotten vegetation in its mouth. It climbed up onto a fallen branch well above fast flowing water, transferred the 'food' to its paws, sat up and ate.

3. This afternoon, Malcolm Phillips watched a Water Vole swim out to the tree that we saw it at the other day near the Deep Water sign. Malcolm watched it feeding for about 10mins. It then swam over to the east bank.


Garden first Blackcap

Tony Wootton had a male Blackcap on his garden feeder this morning. "The first time in the 13 years that we have lived in Emsworth that a Blackcap has been seen in our garden. That's despite Hilary putting out fresh food, towels, warm water and soap everyday". Pity the BTO Garden Blackcap survey finished yesterday, but the BTO Garden BirdWatch survey carries on 52 weeks a year and you can enter everything. Why not join up?

Here is Tony's photo. I think he must be offering a spot the Blackcap prize!


Bumblebee confirmed

Bryan Pinchen confirmed the Bumblebee photograph in yesterday's blog as B. terrestris and, he says, "judging by the pollen loads and lack of dirty tail it would be a worker of this species.

This is most likely as the very similar B. lucorum rarely starts nests in the winter. Workers of these two species are impossible to separate both in the field and under a microscope. Fingers crossed the nest is successful and doesn't succumb to the wet - although it has already survived the recent brief temperature drop and snow".

Hoverflies Course

There is another course at Hampshire County Council on Hoverflies led by Chris Palmer

Waxwings at Fishbourne

Bart Ives reported on SOS Sightings fifteen or so Waxwings feeding on two red-berried shrubs just past the sign for Rudkin Place (off Caspian Close by Salthill Road) Fishbourne this afternoon. He was absolutely chuffed to see them! That is the closest they have come in those numbers to Emsworth.


Tom Bickerton has been analysing different owls' pellets to see the different mammalian prey variation for each owl species. He was hoping to test his theory that by mid-winter the owl's diet had changed and roosting birds were now very much included within the pellet. Here is Tom's account of the preliminary stage of his investigation:

"I was given some Tawny pellets in June, so I thought that I could use these as a control against later pellets. Unfortunately getting hold of fresh firm later pellets has proved difficult in such wet conditions, so my progress has been hindered. Also the owls had not used the usual roosting trees.

The Long-eared Owl pellets are standard January issue, but my haste and stupidity along with their exposure to the frost and snow caused them to disintegrate with horror in front of my eyes.

In the control pellets there are a high percentage of insects mainly Lesser Stag Beetle, I didn't expect this. The mammals were Wood Mouse and Field Vole, about 5 to a pellet. I've shown the lower jawbone; some skulls had survived, along with most of the skeletons.

Of interest, emitting off the pellets was a pungent smell, not unpleasant, but a very antiseptic fragrance. I'm not a chemist, but this would explain one reason why the female Tawny coughs up these pellets in the nest chamber, as they decayed they must generate heat, therefore sterilizing the nest, a bit like a compost heap which produces sterile soil. A theory which if anybody knows for certain then I would be delighted to be informed.

I would have like to have compared Barn/Little owl pellets, with the Tawny; if anybody does have a fresh supply then I would be grateful to continue my evaluation. Once the Short-eared Owls have vacated the golf course I will endeavour to locate their pellets, and evidence that bird species taken can be found in their pellets.

On my theory whether bird species are taken mid-winter, well, I did witness a Tawny take an unfortunate Fieldfare, which did surprise me in many ways, not least the prey item size, but I concluded that the bird was probably in trouble with the cold and snow.

For earlier observations go to . . . January 17-31