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

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


for 16-28 FEBRUARY 2013

in reverse chronological order



11:00 - 12:00 - Tide rising to high water at 12:51. The stream was already fairly full when I arrived at Nore Barn. No sign of the Spotted Redshank, but the Greenshank was feeding on the shore near the boats. A Common Redshank was feeding on the shore around the point into the creek. When I returned to Nore Barn at about 11:45 the stream was full of water and Spotted Redshank was feeding at the top of the stream near the small bridge along with a Black-headed Gull. A couple of visiting birders arrived at just the right time to see the bird at its closest.

For all the gen on our local celebrity go to the bird's own web page at . . . Spotted Redshanks

Spurting behaviour

As the Spotted Redshank was nice and close I took lots of photos with my trusty point-and-shoot Lumix FZ8. Three of the photos showed the bird apparently spurting out water through its bill. Here is one of them

I have mainly seen this behaviour in Black-tailed Godwits, but it is clearly fairly common in other waders, including Greenshank, Spotted Redshank and Common Redshank. What is surprising is that the wader experts I have consulted have not seen or heard of this behaviour, or know why it should happen. In order to resolve this puzzling behaviour, at the request of the editor of the Wader Study Group Bulletin, I have written a short paper on 'spurting' behaviour with photos.

More information and lots of photos of 'spurting' can be seen on a special web page at . . .Spurting behaviour

Brent Geese

I had a walk along the path south of the woods from where I could see a flotilla of about 50 Brent Geese feeding close to the shore, including the two small families with one and two juveniles that have been in Emsworth for the whole winter. Here is the family with two juveniles.

There were also some Wigeon and Teal but generally Brent and duck numbers are well down, indicating that many are now heading back towards their breeding grounds.

Sweet Violets

The pink form of Sweet Violets was in flower in the usual area in the western section of the woods, though not as in such great abundance as in some previopus years.

Blackbird song

Blackbird was singing from a neighbour's garden. I think this is a sign that they will all be starting their song.

Water Rail at Baffins

Heather and Derek Mills found two Water Rails on Baffins Pond this morning. Here is one of them fanning out its wing.

Glossy Ibis

Mike Wells went to view the Glossy Ibis on Warblington Farm this morning. Good bird, but with the very poor light conditions, all he managed were aerial silhouettes!


Peter Milinets-Raby did his regular Warblington walk this afternoon (12:45 to 2pm), but mistimed the tides, so he had to walk around Pook Lane first, then ended up at Nore Barn. Peter was accompanied by John Norton who was showing off his new camera. The highlights were as follows: Glossy Ibis, 2 Sandwich Tern (winter plumage) at Nore Barn, 2 Med Gulls (full summer plumage) Nore Barn, female Goldeneye off Conigar Point, along with 6 Pintail. Greenshank in the field with the pond, sitting out the high tide. Their arrival was too late for the Spotted Redshank. The 'Old Faithful' Curlew in with the Ibis, was probably the best bird of the walk. Here is John's photo of the pair. Correction - Peter actually took this photo!




I walked through Brook Meadow this morning on my way to the shops. Malcolm Phillips was stationed at the observation fence as usual, getting very cold. We both had a close view of a Firecrest with a very bright orange crest (definitely male) actively feeding in the flooded area between the path and the car park. They seem only to have recently discovered this area.

Other birds

A little earlier I had a Goldcrest feeding in the Hawthorn bushes by the small bridge on the Lumley Path. A Wren was also busily foraging on the edge of the Lumley pool; I don't recall having seen so many Wrens before on the edges of the waterways on Brook Meadow. I listened to a Great Tit singing from a tall Crack Willow near the north bridge and managed to get this photo of it in action showing off its bright yellow underparts and black chest stripe.

Water Vole

Maurice Lillie had the 44th sighting of a Water Vole this afternoon north of 'S' bend directly behind the gas holder - west bank of Ems. The vole plopped into the river and swam downstream about 8metres, stopping periodically for an excursion into the bank and back to the river for another swim.


Water Rails on Baffins Pond

J J Goodridge reported on Hoslist yesterday at least three Water Rails on Baffins Pond, 2 on the south side and 1 on the east side, plus 30+ Shoveler and a Cetti's Warbler singing from the island.

Disappearance of gulls

Chris Cockburn was concerned by the mysterious disappearance of Black-headed and Mediterranean Gulls on Hayling Oysterbeds. Since about 2008 when Black-headed Gulls started to dominate the islands in the lagoon, the site had always been continually busy with territorial birds from mid-February onwards. All seemed normal this year until they disappeared around Feb 23rd. However, the gulls were back on the islands today and Chris beathed easily again. It seems that the onset of cold easterly winds and overcast skies starting on 20 Feb was the prime cause. Fine feather warm weather birds indeed.

Incidentally, regarding to date when the Black-headed Gulls first started dominating the islands at Hayling Oysterbeds, I have an entry in my diary which says . . . "There was lots of noise coming from the "Tern Island" where about 200 Black-headed Gulls had taken occupancy, creating a rather intimidating atmosphere, I would think, for nesting Terns". I took the following photo of some of the gulls.

Woodpigeons invade gardens

The British Trust for Ornithology reports that over the past decade, Garden BirdWatch counts of Woodpigeon have risen steadily year by year and the increase shows no sign of stopping. Indeed, over the last few weeks their numbers in gardens have been almost 25% higher than the same period in 2010-12. See . . .

I have also seen an increase in Woodpigeon numbers in my own garden here in Bridge Road Emsworth as shown in the following chart. The increase mainly occurred in the 10 years from 1998 to 2008 after which there has been a levelling off. But Woodpigeons are now one of the most regular visitors to my garden, with up to 7 birds currently present on and off throughout the day.

The only bird to match this dramatic increase has been the Goldfinch

More details about the changes in the birds visiting my garden over the last 15 years are on the special garden birds web page at . . . Garden Birds



Firecrests - two or three?

I saw my first Firecrest of the morning at 11.30 in front of gasholder. I had a very good view of it feeding on the river bank; the crest was bright orange which makes it a male.

I then walked quickly down the path to the sluice gate where Malcolm Phillips and David Norris were positioned behind the observation fence on the other side of the river. They had also seen a Firecrest near the fence, which I think confirmed the presence of a second Firecrest. I doubt if the Firecrest I had seen by the gasholder could have got down to the fence area that quickly.

I walked round to Palmer's Road Copse where Malcolm, David and I enjoyed good views of first one, then two, Firecrests in the flooded area to the west of the path opposite the observation fence at about 12:00. This could mean there were three Firecrests on Brook Meadow this morning, though it is not iunlikely that the one I saw about 30 minutes earlier near the gasholder had made its way down to the fence area.

What sex?

We looked closely for the colour of the crests, but it was not easy to decide if they were orange or yellow. Malcolm managed to get shots of both the Firecrests. The first one below is clearly male with an orange crest.

The second one has a slightly less orange crest, thought the overall tone of the bird is also quite different, whether due to the photo or the plumage is impossible to tell.

However, if one compares the two Firecrest photos with the Goldcrest photo that Malcolm also got at the same time, then it is easy to see that neither of them is really yellow. My guess is that the two Firecrests in Palmer's Road Copse were males, as was the one by the gasholder.

Water Vole and Brown Rat

Malcolm Phillips saw a Water Vole north of the north bridge at 10.30am and also a Brown Rat in the same area.

Italian Lords-and-Ladies

The marbled leaves of Italian Lords-and-Ladies (Arum italicum ssp italicum) are now showing well in the usual spot on the west bank of the river close to the south bridge.

This plant is described in The Hants Flora (p.256) as rare. "Planted for its beautiful foliage and also formerly as an aphrodisiac. It has escaped into a few shady verges, hedges and streamsides."

The BSBI New Atlas describes it as "A rhizomatous perennial herb found as a garden escape in scrub and shaded hedge banks, often in places where garden waste is dumped. It sets abundant seed which is often bird-sown. Lowland. Neophyte. This subspecies was cultivated in Britain by 1683 and was known from the wild by at least 1905. It is popular in gardens, and its distribution is probably increasing. A. italicum subsp. italicum has a Mediterranean-Atlantic distribution."

Godwit News

Black-tailed Godwit L+LL was photographed by Bob Chapman at Farlington Marshes on Feb 23. See his blog for that day . . . Godwit L+LL was ringed at Farlington and has been a regular in Emsworth Harbour for the past 3 winters, though I have only recorded it once this winter on 20-Oct-12.

Glossy Ibis

Ace twitcher Lee Evans was at Warblington today to see the Glossy Ibis. Lee also noted 400 Dark-bellied Brent Geese in the field, with a single Common Chiffchaff (collybita), Curlew and 8 Long-tailed Tits by the Church Path.


Blackbird song

A Blackbird was singing from the gardens of St James Road as I walked through Bridge Road car park this morning. This was my first full Blackbird song of the spring, apart from a short burst from one in the same area (maybe the same bird?) on Jan 17. They seem to be later starting this year. In 2012 I heard my first full Blackbird song from a tree in Chichester Festival car park on Jan 7 and another one in my garden on Feb 8. In 2011, I heard my first full Blackbird song at the southern entrance to Hollybank Woods on Jan 14.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond when I passed this morning, one was standing, the other sitting on what could have been a nest but I could not see it clearly. This seems very early if it was a nest.

All the news and photos of the Great Black-backed Gull nesting in 2012 and 2013 is now on a special web page at . . .

Water Vole

Ian Mears went over to Brook Meadow this morning at around 11:30. He saw this litlle fella in the stream opposite the Water Vole signcase on the opposite bank where he sat eating. Then he swam upstream for 10 meters on so before going into his burrow. Interestingly, Ian's photo shows the same damage to the fur on the vole's back that we have noticed before. It was probably caused by fighting.

For all the Water Vole news go to the special web pages at . . .

Glossy Ibis

The Warblington Farm Glossy Ibis had some more visitors today. Chris Berners-Price wished he had taken his scope with him - a good point. Ros Norton missed the Havant Wildlife Group walk on Saturday when the bird was first seen. Ros also went to Baffins Pond where she got a good view of two Water Rails on the south side of the pond. Malcolm Phillips returned for a second look and this time got really close with some good photos. Malcolm also saw the Firecrest on Brook Meadow.



Warblington Farm

Another very cold morning, but the wind was not as biting as yesterday. I met Malcolm Phillips in the north-east corner of the Warblington Cemetery Extension at 10.30. Malcolm had been there for about an hour and had seen the Glossy Ibis in the field to the east of the cemetery, where it was seen yesterday by the Havant Wildlife Group. But all we could see for the next 30 minutes was a Little Egret feeding in the deep stream on the far side of the field and a single Curlew which is a regular on this field.

Here is Malcolm's photo of the Little Egret displaying its beautiful plumes

Malcolm also captured the 'resident' Curlew which was feeding in the field much closer to us

A few other birdwatchers turned up, including Helen, who was the first to spot the Ibis as it emerged from hiding at about 11:00 to feed on the wet field. It was a nice relaxed atmosphere, not at all like a serious twitch. I took some digiscoped photos then Malcolm and I left for a warm cup of coffee at home.

Here is my digiscoped Glossy Ibis showing the speckled neck and curved Curlew-like bill

The white speckling on the bird's head and neck indicates the non-breeding plumage. The bird is about the same size as the Little Egret. A chap who had seen the Glossy Ibis at Bickerley Common in early January thought this was not the same bird as the speckling was more extensive. Birds of the Western Palearctic states that Glossy Ibis is migratory and dispersive, with considerable nomadic element, which probably explains why this chap is so far away from home.


Water Voles

From Warblington, Malcolm Phillips went onto Brook Meadow where he saw a Water Vole about 15 yards up river from the sluice gate. Interestingly, Malcolm's photo shows damage to the fur on the animal's back, which is probably the result of fighting.

Stephanie Williamson visited Brook Meadow this morning at around 11am and also saw a Water Vole in roughly the same place as Malcolm did a couple of hours later. It was among the flooded vegetation on the west bank, hopped into the stream and swam a few metres downstream, 'deliberately' climbed over a fallen branch (scent marking?), back into the water, then hopped into the ivy undergrowth.

Water Rail

Stephanie and Malcolm also saw the Water Rail in the same general area. Stephanie watched the Water Rail for 5 mins which was completely unphased by passers by.


Stephanie also enjoyed seeing a male Firecrest, at the water's edge on west bank just south of the old gasholder, foraging a few inches above the water and displaying almost hummingbird-like hovering behaviour close to vertical stems and branches. Then just south of the north bridge she saw the female Firecrest, foraging but not 'hovering'.

Malcolm also saw what looks like a female Firecrest from his photo - with a yellow crest. This is the third sighting of what we think is a female Firecrest though it is always a little risky drawing conclusions about colour from a photo.



Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.

For the full report go to . . hwg-walk-reports-2013

Glossy Ibis

The group had a most exciting sighting of a Glossy Ibis on Warblington Farm.

Glossy Ibis is a very rare vagrant in Hampshire. It is basically a Mediterranean Bird. I have only ever seen them in Mallorca and Greece, though there was one at Farlington Marshes in June 2012 which Peter Milinets-Raby photographed. There were only four sightings Glossy Ibis reported in the Hampshire Bird Report for 2010. There were no sightings on Hoslist in February. One was present from 1-15 in January at Bickerley Common SU1404 near Ringwood.

Ralph Hollins comments: What a super record for the Warblington Farm. In case people are not aware Ibis seem to be very scarce in Britain at the moment - up to Jan 15 there was a regular at Bickerley Common (in the Avon Valley just south of Ringwood) but it seems to have flown south to Christchurch Harbour on Jan 16 and then disappeared. The only other south of England report since then was of one at the Breech Pool behind the north wall of Pagham Harbour on Feb 18, seen by Trevor Carter, and I only heard of that as Trevor reported it to John Goodspeed and the news never got on the Sussex Ornithological Soc website presumably meaning that it did not stay in that well watched area. Currently the only one being regularly seen (and appearing on the Rare Bird Alert - RBA -website) is in Pembrokeshire. In the first two months of 2012 there were quite a few roaming the British Isles with a UK total of 30 (23 of them in Pembrokeshire) reported by RBA on Feb 2 and a flock of 5 in Norfolk on Feb 23 and on May 28 and June 5 one was at Farlington Marshes (staying until June 16 and re-appearing on Aug 11) before the long stayer into this year arrived at Bickerley Common on Dec 2.

Just in case no-one on the walk has reported it to HOS I will send a message to Hoslist so that other birders can keep an eye open for it in Hampshire though I do not expect it to remain here (there's a lot of early spring movement going on at the moment). The Glossy Ibis was in the field east of the new Cemetery Extension (which is east of the Church). The map ref is around SU 731 054 Other than one reported by RBA in Pembrokeshire this appears to be the only one currently in the south of England.


Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow this morning and saw the Firecrest and a Goldcrest. He was just on his way home when he spotted a Water Vole by the sluice gate,



I had my regular walk around Brook Meadow and the Hermitage Millponds on a cold morning with an easterly wind that felt like it came from the Urals.

Grey Wagtail

A Grey Wagtail was active beneath the south bridge. The photo suggests a female from its buff-white throat and the yellow on the breast shows it is coming into breeding plumage, so it is probably the same bird that I saw here on Feb 20.

Malcolm's vigil

Malcolm Phillips spent 3 hours round the meadow getting very cold with nothing very exciting to report. Golly, these photographers really suffer for their art! Malcolm did manage to find the Firecrest in the north west corner of the meadow near the railway embankment (the first sighting here since Jan 19), but did not get a good photo. However, he got some cracking shots of some of our resident birds, including a Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Long-tailed Tit, Chaffinch and Malcolm's first ever Greenfinch on Brook Meadow.

Here is Malcolm's Greenfinch in song

I just could not resist this Long-tailed Tit

Water Vole

Annabelle Parker phoned me this afternoon to say she and her children had just seen a Water Vole on the river bank from the south bridge at 1pm. That was the 38th sighting of 2013.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The pair of adult Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond this morning. These two adults have been regular visitors to Slipper Millpond over the winter. I could not see any signs of a nest, but their intention is clearly to nest on the raft again for the second year running.

Lichen on Ash sapling - Xanthoria parietina ?

I stopped by Peter Pond to admire the abundant growth of a yellow foliose lichen on a Ash sapling on the south bank by the main road. This lichen has numerous jam tart-shaped fruiting bodies and broad lobes which resemble the white of a fried egg.

My tentative identification is Xanthoria parietina This lichen is very common throughout Britain, on nutrient-enriched bark and stonework, often abundant on coastal rocks, increasing as a result of nitrate/ammonia deposition from atmospheric pollution.

Peter's Warblington walk

Peter Milinets-Raby did his regular walk from Nore Barn (07.45) along the shore to Warblington, up Pook Lane and then headed back on the Solent Path past Warblington Church. He saw 2 Greenshank, a Spotted Redshank and 2 Black-tailed Godwits in he Nore Barn stream and another Spotted Redshank in the field with the pond at the end of Nore Barn Creek. 12 Reed Bunting were feeding in the tidal marsh at Conigar Point. A Greylag Goose was amongst the Brent on Nore Barn, then flew off over the town of Emsworth. 6 Bar-tailed Godwits at Conigar Point along with 95 Dunlin and 2 Grey plover. 18 Pintail at the point. 2 Buzzards. Peter's photo of Brent Geese and Wigeon relaxing on the tide at Nore Barn shows one juvenile Brent with very faint white wings bars.

Greenshank 'spurting'

Peter came across a colour-ringed Greenshank on the shore at Pook Lane. Peter recorded the rings as, Left: Red-Green Right: Yellow. This is probably RG+YY which we last saw in Emsworth on 18-Dec-08. This record should go to Anne de Potier.

Of more interest to me, Peter observed this Greenshank 'spurting' as it grabbed a big wiggly worm and spurted the water out. Peter added, "I observed the Greenshank at very close quarters and to me all the bird did was force out the water and sand granules that it had taken down with the wiggly flat worm into it's gullet. The Spotted Redshank does the same after feeding for two three minutes, taking in food, sand particles and excess water into the gizzard/gullet and just like regurgitating food for youngsters it spurts out the water and particles it does not want. Just like an Owl or a Shrike with its pellets".

I wish Peter would tell the experts this as they say they have never come across this behaviour and cannot understand it! For more information and photos on the 'spurting' controversy see . . Spurting behaviour



Conservation work session

I went over to the meadow this morning to take photos of the conservation work session. A good crowd turned up on a very chilly morning. They were mainly engaged in spreading wood chippings that the council had left onto the very muddy path through Palmer's Road Copse. Here are a couple of volunteers raking the chippings on the path through the copse.


Water Rails

Malcolm Phillips reported two Water Rails at 10am this morning. One flew from the west bank to the east bank of the river south of the observation fence (also seen by Lesley Harris). The other was seen by Malcolm in the open area north of the fence. This was our first sighting of two Water Rails on Brook Meadow, though it reminded me that five had been seen on Baffins Pond on Feb 19th by R Tofts (reported on Hoslist). It looks as if we could have quite a few moving through the area at present.

Water Vole

Malcolm did not manage to find his friendly Firecrest today, but did get a brief glimpse of a Water Vole north of the north bridge.

Frog spawn

I was alerted to the presence of some Frog Spawn in the small pool behind the sluice gate leading into the south meadow. This was the first of the year seen on Brook Meadow.

Winter flowers

There are quite a number of Butterbur buds are opening on the embankment below the main seat on the meadow, some with pale pink petals showing.

A small patch of Snowdrops are flowering below the Alder Buckthorn plantation on the south meadow. I had not noticed these before.

Lichen - Amandinea punctata ?

There is a good growth of a crustose lichen on the trunk of a young Oak tree on the east side of the north meadow. Its thallus consists of a number of thin crusts arranged roughly horizontally on the bark of the tree varying in colour from pale to darker grey. The darker crusts have a number of spaced, almost black, rounded fruiting bodies (apothecia) and the lighter crusts have pale cup-shaped fruiting bodies. Assuming I am looking at one species of lichen on the tree, these presumably are different stages in the development of the lichen.

From the National History Museum Guide to Lichens on Twigs I have tentatively identified this lichen as Amandinea punctata See . . .

This lichen is described as . . . "A widespread lichen on nutrient-rich bark and wood, also found on nutrient enriched rocks and debris. Tolerant of pollution and inorganic fertilisers. Very variable. Thallus pale to dark grey, inconspicuous, thin or thick, prothallus rarely present. Numerous flat to slightly convex, small black apothecia with thin margins. Pycnidia are sparse." Possible alternative - Arthopyrenia antecellans

For more on lichens go to special lichen news page at . . . Lichens


Intermediate Periwinkle

Ralph Hollins found what he thinks is Intermediate Periwinkle - a garden form not wild. Ralph's photo shows that this species has the 'propeller blade' petals with gaps between them, but the flowers are very pale compared with the vivid violet/mauve colour of the Greater Periwinkle var Oxyloba which also has 'propeller blade' petals.

If you want to see it go to the main road to Hayling through Langstone and park in the layby roughly opposite Langstone High Street, then walk west along the footpath leading to Mill Lane. The plants grow against the wall of the house which is on your left as you meet the roadway which is Mill Lane.

Bob Chapman

My apologies to Bob Chapman for referring to him in yesterday's entry simply as 'Warden of Farlington Marshes'. In fact, he is now the East Solent Reserves Officer and is responsible for Southmoor, Swanwick Lakes, Pewit Island (in Portsmouth Harbour), Hookheath and Catherington Down as well as Farlington.

Findhorn News

Richard Somerscocks reports from Findhorn in northern Scotland with some more excellent photos, including a drake Common Scoter, a Guillemot on the shore, Tree Sparrows which we never get down here along with some lichen.

All Richard's reports and photos can be seen on a special Findhorn News page at . . . Findhorn News



Purple Sandpipers

Jean and I had a stroll along Southsea prom this morning. We found 8 Purple Sandpipers on the concrete shore in front of the Castle, mostly very well hidden among the seaweed. A passing helicopter put them all up so we were able to do an accurate count. I tried taking photos, but the light was poor and a freezing easterly wind was blowing. This was my best effort.

Purple Sandpipers breed mainly in Iceland and Scandinavia, though some go further north to the Arctic. They are very scarce winter visitors to our coastline, but Southsea Castle is by far the best place to see them in Hampshire. I think over 20 have been recorded on occasions, though my best total was 15. They are well camouflaged among the seaweed on the rocky foreshore and are not easy to see at first.

A Rock Pipit was feeding higher up on the shore, but flew before I could get a photo. Also, on the shore were 5 Oystercatchers.


Water Rail

Maurice Lillie had the good fortune to get a good view of our very elusive Water Rail in the sunshine yesterday morning (Feb 19) at about 09.15am. It was in an open space on the west bank 20 metres or so south of the 'S' bend up to its knees in the slack water. Maurice watched it feeding and preening for a little while, before it turned and strode off out of sight into the piles of branches and twigs.

Grey Wagtail

I had a walk through the meadow this afternoon, looking for the Water Rail that Maurice Lillie saw yesterday, but there was no sign of it. However, I was compensated by geting a good view of a Grey Wagtail feeding on the west bank of the river north of the south bridge. The bird's buff-white throat indicates it is a female and from the yellow on the breast it is coming into breeding plumage. This bird is probably 'resident' in this area as we have had several sightings this year. So maybe it will breed on the meadow, if it finds a mate.


Malcolm Phillips only managed 20mins around the meadow today from 2pm, but still managed to find and get this superb photo of what I think is a male Firecrest in Palmer's Road Copse. How does he get shots like this?

Malcolm also captured this image of a Blue Tit coming in to land.


Maurice Lillie reports that the white sandbags that had been placed on the curved retaining wall in the northeast corner of the meadow presumably as a flood precaution have been thrown into the river. Maurice has spoken to the Fire Brigade and to Havant Borough Council who think it is the responsibility of the Environment Agency to clear the bags. Meanwhile, the bags are lying at the bottom of the fast flowing river.


I can highly recommend Bob Chapman's blog for all the news from Farlington Marshes reserve, where Bob is back as warden after a few years away at Blashford Lakes. Yesterday, he was pleased to find a Bittern sun bathing in the reedbeds near the building and took some good photos, which you can see on the blog. He also heard 4 Cetti's Warblers and 4 Bearded Tits. Go to . . .


Red Admiral

The butterfly that I rescued from a bucket of water yesterday and brought into the house was still alive after spending the night under a cover. This morning I transferred it to a small cardboard box and took it outside. When I opened the box it stretched its wings and flew off into the winter sunshine! That made me feel really good, to think I have saved one fellow creature, at least for a short while. It had done really well to survive this long.

This is where I first found it on the garden path

Red Admiral has a strange life history. It is strongly migratory and the British population depends almost entirely on the immigration each year from the Continent as very few adults manage to survive the winter. The first major influxes are in late May and early June. The females arrive already mated and it is their offspring that we see in summer and autumn. There is some evidence of a return migration, though many try to hibernate, often in quite exposed places. Most of these will perish, but their hibernation is not complete and like the one I found are liable to 'wake up' on warm winter days. So, Britain is in a sense a dead end for this species as they go no further.

This is presumably an evolutionary push towards expansion of range. Recent studies of over wintering behaviour has shown that all four stages may be found in Southern England. Eggs and larvae are sometimes able to pass a complete winter and sometimes hatch in the spring, but the adults are usually much weaker than the immigrants.

There are four other UK butterflies that hibernate as adults: Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Peacock. Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock regularly over winter near or inside human habitation, in lofts, outbuildings, cool rooms, etc. Brimstone and Comma hibernate in woods, deep among evergreens such as Holly and Ivy.


I was in Palmer's Road Copse at around 3.30pm and saw two Firecrests feeding in the large ivy bush to the south of the observation fence. I am fairly sure both of them were males with bright orange crests. There was also a Goldcrest feeding further south along the river, but much higher in the Crack Willow trees.

Chaffinch song

While watching the Firecrests in Palmer's Road Copse, I heard my first Chaffinch song of the year. Another new song heard this afternoon was a Stock Dove calling from Lumley Mill Farm.

Wild flowers

There is a good display of spring flowers on the roadside verges along Lumley Road, including Snowdrops, Sweet Violets and Lesser Celandines. I also noticed a single flower spike of Grape Hyacinth (a common garden escape). Ralph Hollins also discovered one on Havant on Feb 11. Just one (not so wild) Wallflower was also out on the wall of Inholmes Cottage, north of Lumley Mill.

Red-breasted Goose

Ralph Hollins found a Red-breasted Goose on the mudflats in front of the Royal Oak pub at Langstone at 5pm this evening. Ralph says, "There were a few Brent in view but the Red-breasted was on its own with its back end towards me. The black and white pattern I could see was clearly not that of a Brent and as I was wondering what it was it turned its head sufficiently to show the distinctive red of its breast and neck." This could be the same bird that has been around Farlington and Thorney Island for several weeks.

Ralph apologises for the dreadful photo.

This might help to see what it should look like


Odd-looking Brent

Tom Bickerton was out photographing Brent families on Saturday (Feb 16) at Farlington, when he came across this rather sad-looking individual. Talking to Bob Chapman (who has returned as Warden of the reserve) and Chris Cockburn (RSPB Volunteer Warden), Tom learned that the goose was about 10 years old. One can't help feeling sorry for the old guy, as Tom said, he didn't seem to have a mate, plus he was being pecked by the family groups. There is no hybrid in the bird's plumage, so the speckling must just be a generic disorder. Interesting looking bird though.

Red Admiral

This afternoon, my wife discovered a Red Admiral floating in a bucket of water in the back garden. It was still alive, so we fished it out and brought it inside to dry off. It looks like the same insect that I rescued from the garden path on Feb 14 and placed it on the ivy hedge from where it must have flown into the bucket.


Ros Norton saw a Firecrest at 1pm today flitting around the bushes near the observation fence at Brook Meadow.


Lichen on Elder on Brook Meadow

There is a dense growth of yellow foliose lichen on the bark of the dead Elder tree on the main river path opposite the Bulrushes.

My tentative identification is Xanthoria parientina which shows the distinctive cup-like fruiting bodies under the microscope.

Alder flowers

Alders on Brook Meadow are now showing this year's male and female catkins; the male ones are yellowish and hang down like Hazel catkins, the female ones are smaller, red and erect, and will eventually develop into cones. The trees also have last year's gnarled cones.

Gorse on Slipper Millpond

Two Gorse bushes in full blossom on the east bank of Slipper Millpond were looking magnificent in the sunshine. A Little Grebe was fishing on the pond, but nothing else of interest.


Hayling Billy Line

Chris Cope reports on the Saturday morning walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.

Go to . . . Havant Wildlife Group

Water Rails on Baffins Pond

Eric Eddles went for his regular morning walk around Baffins Pond and was thrilled to see not one but a pair of Water Rail. This could be a first for the pond?

Unusual Wren behaviour

Malcolm Dixon was told by a friend about a Wren sitting on the back of a Woodpigeon and pecking at the back of its neck for a few seconds. He says, both birds were aware of the the event and accepted it. Anyone heard of anything similar? (reported on Hoslist) 


Gorse flowers

Walking around Emsworth today I could not help but admire the splendid blossom on the Gorse bushes. There is a good one flowering on the causeway on Brook Meadow and an even better one on the south west corner of Peter Pond.

Gorse can be seen flowering almost throughout the year, which no doubt gives rise to the saying 'When Gorse is out of bloom, kissing is out of season'. But it is at its best in spring and early summer.

Gorse is a member of the pea family and, looked at closely, its rich golden yellow flowers have the characteristic five petals with a standard petal at the top, two wing petals at the sides and two lower petals forming a boat-shaped keel. I have opened up a Gorse flower for the following photo to show these features. The sepals are also yellow and hairy and one can be seen in the photo.

Gorse (Ulex europaeus) is a native shrub which occurs in under-grazed pastures, woodland rides, on sea-cliffs and sand dunes, and on waste ground and railways. It is sometimes planted as hedges or game-shelter and on roadsides.


Malcolm Phillips was back in Emsworth after a few days away, but he found 'his' Firecrest with no difficulty in the usual area by the observation fence, despite the presence of crowds of people in the car park for the Country Market.

Warblington walk

Peter Milinets-Raby did his regular walk along the Warblington Shore this afternoon starting at 1:30pm. Wigeon and Teal numbers well down, but that could be due to all the boats milling about! The highlights were: 4 summer plumaged Med Gulls at Conigar Point, with 2 more further along the shore at Pook Lane. 11 Pintail, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn. 150+ Dunlin, 10 Little Egrets in the Pook Lane fields with 5 Stock Doves, 350+ Brent Geese feeding their usual field despite the huge number of dog walkers.

For earlier observations go to . . February 1-15