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for APRIL 1-15, 2013

in reverse chronological order

MONDAY APRIL 15 - 2013


Washington Road path

Jane Brook and I continued our regular Monday morning survey of the Emsworth waysides. Today we started at the Washington Road path wayside where we cut back and bagged the brambles that were encroaching onto the small embankment outside Glenwood School. We filled two bags with the cuttings and the site now looks much better for it.

There are a lot more bramble spurs overhanging the main path to the Recreation Ground which I will inform Richard Denman about. The clearance revealed a good flowering of Lesser Celandines, plus some Common Field Speedwell and Hairy Bittercress. Jane noticed an ant hill with red ants on the embankment.

Railway Wayside

The Coltsfoot is still out with four flowers showing on the embankment near the start of the ramp. We noticed the first Hogweed flower of the year next to the white lamp post near the start of the ramp. The flowers were very pink. Two Bumblebees were seen, both apparently asleep as was a 7-spot Ladybird.

The queen Bumblebee in this photo has a pure white tail and is probably Bombus lucorum

There is a very good growth of Many-zoned Polypore (Coriolus versicolor) on a fallen log.

There is another serious encroachment of brambles on this site, which really needs a work party to clear, so Jane will have a word with Andy about getting the Hollybank Woods team down here.


Nightingales at Thorney

Regarding the Nightingale that Jean and I heard singing by the NRA track across North Thorney yesterday, Thorney Conservation warden Barry Collins replied that he had two records of migrant Nightingales from this area in the past, both singing males on 29th April 2005 and 14th April 2011. Barry says they used to breed at Thorney Island (in the good old days) in the copse near the TA Centre where we had 4 singing males from 1987 to 1992+ but sadly no more.

I checked the site again this evening at 7.30pm, but there was no sound of the Nightingale. However, I did hear a very close (and loud) Cetti's Warbler from the same location and the distant call of a Cuckoo from the eastern side. Two warblers were actively feeding in a bush by the track, which were probably Chiffchaffs thought I would not rule out Willow Warbler with that sharp supercilium - see photo below. This evening, I also checked the classic Nightingale site at Marlpit Lane, Woodmancote, but no luck there either.

My best shot of the 'Willow-Chiff' at Thorney

Barry Collins added that he had his first singing Sedge Warbler and a Whitethroat at the Thorney Little Deeps this morning and a male Cuckoo calling near the hovel. Terry Lifton also had her first Whitethroat of the year during a walk along West Thorney from the marina, along with a couple of House Martins and lots of Swallows. Perhaps Spring is really here? See Ralph Hollins Weekly summary for a full review of migrant arrivals in the south . . .

Migrant overlap

Peter Adeline wondered if it was unusual for wintering birds to overlap with summer migrants. This thought was prompted by his seeing a flock of 150 Fieldfare on the Stansted Estate last Friday (12th April) along with good numbers of singing Chiffchaffs.

My feeling is that it is not unusual, but this year there does seem to be a reluctance in wintering birds to return to their breeding grounds. Peter Milinets-Raby observed plenty of wintering harbour birds during his walk along the Warblington shore yesterday along with some summer migrants. Peter commented specifically on the Pintail which were lingering longer than he would expect them to. These observations fit in with my theory that the Blackcaps that have been seen in gardens over the last couple of weeks are wintering birds feeding up for journey 'home' and not newly arriving migrants. But who knows? Ralph Hollins provides evidence for the alternative theory that they are summer arrivals. See . . .

Small Tortoiseshell recovery

Ralph Hollins reports 16 sightings of Small Tortoiseshell this week including one at Brook Meadow in Emsworth - at least 45 individuals have been seen since the first appeared on Jan 1. Ralph concludes, "It certainly seems that this butterfly is recovering from a severe crash in numbers which started in 2003 and is thought to be caused, at least in part, by a fly called Sturmia Bella which lays its eggs in Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars causing the death of the caterpillar as the fly larva eats its innards".

SUNDAY APRIL 14 - 2013


Jean and I enjoyed a gentle stroll down to Thorney Little Deeps this morning. It really felt warm for the first time this year! In Brook Meadow we happened to meet Richard Daley and his mother. Richard has sent me very good photos of Water Voles in the past and I encouraged him to carry on. We did not get any sightings today.


Walking along the causeway through Brook Meadow we spotted a Lungwort plant in flower near the Alder Buckthorn plantation. This is the first Lungwort I have seen in this particular location, the only previous ones on Brook Meadow were along the Lumley Path.

New Atlas on Lungwort - A perennial herb, naturalised in woodlands and scrub, on banks and rough ground, and also occurring on rubbish tips and waste ground. Neophyte (change +1.77). This species was cultivated in Britain before 1597, and is now commonly grown in gardens. Though some occurrences were treated as possibly native in the 1962 Atlas, it is now regarded as an introduction at all its British sites; it was recorded from the wild by 1793. The number of records has increased since the 1962 Atlas, particularly in southern England, reflecting both increased abundance and more intensive recording of aliens. A European Temperate species, absent as a native from much of W. Europe.

Great Black-backed Gulls

Passing Slipper Millpond Jean and I noted the presence of the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond, one standing and the other sitting, but not obviously on a nest. On our way back from Thorney we happened to catch the gulls in the act of mating. This is the first time I have seen this dramatic event with these large birds.

Roger and Linda Mills also saw the two gulls mating last Thursday (April 11) on the north raft. So, they are clearly enjoying themselves!

For all the news on the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting go to special page at . . . Great Black-backed Gull nesting

Thorney Island

Jean and I walked down the Wickor Bank to Little Deeps hoping for some migrants, but the reedbeds were silent except for the loud song of a Cetti's Warbler and a distant Reed Bunting. There was no Reed Warbler or Sedge Warbler or the Cuckoo that Barry Collins had reported earlier in the week. However, we did enjoy seeing a good display of Coltsfoot flowering on the bank in front of the Little Deeps.


Our luck changed quite dramatically as we made our way along the old 'NRA' track towards Thornham Lane. We stopped about half way along the track to listen to the wonderful song of a Nightingale from the bushes to the south of the track west of the overhead cables at Grid Ref: SU 755050. This was the first Nightingale I personally have ever heard in this area. Following the report of 5 Nightingales at Pulborough Brooks it seems that these birds are bucking the trend of a slow return of migrants.

A Swallow flew overhead while we were listening to the Nightingale.


On opening my back door this morning I was greeted with the mellifluous song of a Blackcap. Is this a late wintering bird or a migrant? Who knows? A little later a male Brimstone flew through the garden, my first of the year, but very much later than usual.

Tony Wootton reports that today's walk just north of Midhurst produced 3 Swallows, an easy 6 Brimstones, Wood Anemones, a single Wood Sorrel and Golden Saxifrage.

A Whitethroat was seen on Farlington Marshes by P A Gammage in the bushes near the deeps. Also 8 Swallows, 13 Sand Martins, 3 Chiffchaff, 6 Willow Warbler and 2 Blackcap.


Peter Milinets-Raby had more evidence of the arrival of spring during his walk along the Warblington shore this morning from 6:35am to 9:15am taking in Warblington Farm, Conigar Point and Langstone. It was a very low tide, with expanses of mud and little in the way of waders. No photos taken, everything was too distant. The highlights were as follows:

Ibis Field: Green Woodpecker, Pheasant, 2 Chiffchaff (plus 2 others singing), 2 Willow Warbler (plus one other singing), Blackcap singing, 4 Med Gulls over. The single Curlew was back along with 3 Moorhens

Conigar Point: Little Egret, 2 Skylark (plus one other singing), Greenshank - Coloured ringed RW on left, BtagY on right, 3 Whimbrel dropped in onto the mud and fed for 20 minutes before heading off east, 6 Pintail (these birds are lingering longer than I would expect them to), 3 Grey Plover, 6 Med Gulls, 13 Shelduck, Reed Bunting (Heard), Cormorant

Pook Lane: 2 Little Egret, 2 Knot (winter plumage - these birds are really lingering), 6 Black-tailed Godwits (summer), 3 Grey Plover, pair of Red Breasted Merganser, 12 Med Gulls feeding in the field next to the cemetery (11 adults and a smart looking first summer), Greenshank 1 (later 3 birds seen flying around calling, two left north). 15 Shelduck, 16+ Teal, 9 Golden Plover (summer), 27 Whimbrel (lovely calling flock flew over heading east), 6 Dunlin (summer birds).

Langstone Mill Pond/Shore: 1 Wheatear along sea wall. 12+ Teal on tidal mud, 4 to 12 Swallows heading north, 1 Sandwich Tern (summer bird), 15 Teal in horse paddock next to pond, pair of Gadwall & 11 Moorhen in paddock, Willow Warbler at the back of the paddock, Blackcap male at the back of the paddock, 3 Grey Heron roosting on the pond, Reed Bunting male, No Little Egrets!!!


I was not aware until I got a message from Ray Cobbett that Michael Gove is planning to downgrade teaching on the natural environment and climate change in the national curriculum. Ray forwarded a couple of interesting links:

A letter from David Attenborough and many others requesting a change of policy

and a letter and petition from a youngster


Mute Swan walkabout

Malcolm Phillips went out in the rain this morning and came across this Mute Swan, presumably one of the Peter Pond pair, going walk about along the Gooseberry Cottage drive. Malcolm is off to Cuba, so this is his last photo for two weeks.

Sparrowhawk in garden

Tony Wootton has his daughter Gayle to thank for spotting a Sparrowhawk in his garden this morning. Tony captured this superb series of photos as the bird flew on to a neighbour's garage roof where it proceeded to cough up a ball of undigested food and then it defecated before finally flying off. Tony says, "Whilst I've seen them flying over, this is the first time a Sparrowhawk has landed in our garden. I presume it was a juvenile male because of its rufous markings".

Here is Tony's photo of this cracking juvenile male Sparrowhawk

Sparrowhawks, like all birds of prey, create a small parcel (called pellet) of those parts of their prey, such as fur, bones and feathers, which they they are not able to digest. They regurgitate these and they may be found on the ground near their eating place.

Tony's photos of the bird coughing up and dropping a pellet of undigested food

. . . and its final act

Garden Blackcaps

I got taken to task by Ralph Hollins for insisting in yesterday's blog that the Blackcaps that I and others have been getting in our gardens are wintering birds and not summer migrants. Ralph rightly pointed out that they could be hungry new arrivals seeking easy food after a long flight. Point taken, though personally I prefer to wait until I hear that rich fluty song in the appropriate breeding habitat before accepting them as definite migrants. For example, Bob Chapman had his first Blackcap of the year at Farlington Marshes on April 11 which he is sure was a migrant. See . . .

All this assumes the winter and summer populations of Blackcaps really are distinct and that no mixing goes on during the overlap. Just a thought.

Interestingly, Malcolm Le Grys comments (on SOS Sightings Apr 11) that he has been recording wintering Blackcaps in his Keymer garden since 1993 and has never seen an April influx like this. He says, most normally leave well before the end of March, but this year there has been an unprecedented number of late arrivals. This suggests to me a weather related delay in birds leaving for their breeding grounds on the Continent, though Ralph may wish to interpret it differently.

Migrant arrivals

Meanwhile, definite migrants are arriving at long last. Barry Collins had both Cuckoo and Willow Warbler singing at the Little Deeps on Thursday Apr 11. There was lots of migrant activity at Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve this morning, including three singing Nightingales and at least five on the reserve. Also small parties of Swallows and Sand Martins and at least one Willow Warbler and a Blackcap. Maybe, we should start checking out the Marlpit Lane bushes?

FRIDAY APRIL 12 - 2013


Two Blackcaps

There have been lots of reports on Hoslist of Blackcaps in garden, all I am sure wintering birds feeding up in preparation for their journey back to the Continent. I too had two males in my garden this morning, feeding actively in the shrubs, though they did not come onto the feeders.

Here are the two male Blackcaps on a Buddleja. The second bird is partly hidden

House Sparrows

I was almost as pleased to see three House Sparrows on the bird table; these are very scarce in the garden these days.


Bird song

Two Chiffchaffs were singing on Brook Meadow, one on the north path and the other near the Lumley gate. Malcolm Phillips captured this rather fine photo of a Chiffchaff in full voice, looking remarkably like a Whitethroat with its throat feathers fluffed up.

However, there was no sound of a Blackcap. They could be up to two weeks late. Here are the first song dates on Brook Meadow over the past 4 years: Apr 2, 2009, Mar 30, 2010, Mar 28, 2011, Mar 26, 2012,

Possible Water Shrew

Malcolm told me he had seen a very small mammal in the river near the north-east corner on another occasion, but did not get a photo. This could have been a Water Shrew which we have seen on occasions in the past. Maurice Lillie saw what could have been one in the Palmer's Road Copse river on 03-May-12. Patrick Murphy came across a rather bedraggled creature on the main path on 30-Apr-08. Here is a Water Shrew swimming - not one of our photos.


I was surprised to see a Little Grebe fishing on Peter Pond; they are usually on Slipper Millpond. A Coot is sitting on a nest on the floating raft in the centre of the pond; they also nested there last year and raised a brood.

One Mute Swan was on Peter Pond and the other on Slipper Millpond; no sign of any nest building. Both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond with one sitting and the other standing; I could not see any nest. But, clearly they are back! A flock of around 100 Black-headed Gulls were on the pond with two Mediterranean Gulls.

Here are the two Great Black-backed Gulls on the raft with two Mediterranean Gulls in background


Approaching the Lillywhite's path wayside from the millponds, I puzzled over the Mouse-ears on the eastern verge near the 'Hampshire' road sign. The plant with a tight cluster of flower buds at the top of the stem is probably Sticky Mouse-ear. I think I also found Common Mouse-ear along with Common Chickweed.

Sticky Mouse-ear on the Lillywhite's path wayside


First Swallow

Terry Lifton had her first Swallow over the house yesterday, the latest she has ever seen them.


Peter Milinets-Raby walked from Warblington Church along the shore to Langstone Mill Pond. The birds of note were as follows:

Ibis Field on Warblington Farm: Swallow, 3 Willow Warbler, Blackcap male moving through bushes by stream, 2+ Chiffchaff (one heard singing), 3 Little Egret, 2 Med Gull over, 3 Teal, 2 Stock Dove. No Ibis!

Pook Lane: 4 Grey plover, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Pintail (male & 2 females), 27 Shelduck, 2 Swallow, Peregrine circling around for two minutes before drifting off west, 36 Golden Plover (summer plumage), 2 Brent Geese, 12+ Teal, Red Breasted Merganser, 11 Bar-tailed Godwits.

Little Egret at Langstone

Langstone Mill Pond/Shore: In flooded horse paddock north of Mill Pond. A pair of Gadwall, 8 Teal (low tide, so not as many as last visit), 5 Little Egret roosting, 14 Moorhen, Water Rail creeping about at the back, 4+ Willow Warbler at the back of the paddock by the fence, Redstart (female) at the back of the paddock, Blackcap male (back of paddock), 6 to 10 Med Gulls over, Swallow, Sand Martin, Chiffchaff singing, Mute Swan on nest on pond, Reed Bunting (male) - calling again, not singing? 7 Little Egrets roosting on pond, but no nest building activity (At least they were present)

Off shore on the Langstone Mill Creek: 77 Black-tailed Godwits, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 1 Knot



Brook Meadow

A Song Thrush was singing strongly from the large Ash tree on the railway embankment. This is probably the bird that Malcolm Phillips photographed that is featured in 'The Portsmouth News' this evening. There was plenty of other bird song, but no sign of Blackcap.

Slipper Millpond

I was surprised to find no Great Black-backed Gulls on the pond this morning. They were both present on the centre raft yesterday, with one seemingly sitting on a nest.

Lillywhite's wayside

Sea Buckthorn and Blackthorn blossom is now opening on the wayside behind Lillywhite's Garage.

Here are some of the tiny flowers on the Blackthorn.

Sweet Violets are still out, with three colour varieties on show, normal dark violet, white and the 'intermediate' pink of the same shade as those in Nore Barn Woods.


Summer migrants late

Migrants have continued to trickle in but it has been slow and most of our early arriving summer visitors are running two to three weeks late. See for example, the BirdTrack reporting rate graph for Chiffchaff at However, with a change in the weather, species such as Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler have arrived on time. Two more Cuckoos were reported this week, in East Sussex and Kent, and our first satellite-tagged Cuckoo could make his move from France to the UK any day now. By Saturday we should be enjoying warm winds from the south which will bring migrants with them.

Nesting delayed

The cold start to the breeding season has delayed nesting attempts this year. Although birds have been prospecting sites as usual, far fewer have started laying eggs and things generally seem to be a fortnight behind schedule.



Nore Barn

10:00 10:30 - Tide rising to high water in about 2 hours.

There was nothing in the stream when I arrived, nor in the pond at the top of the creek. However, I did spot a Greenshank snoozing on the edge of the channel in the creek. The Common Redshank was in the stream when I got back; this is the bird that Maggie previous thought might have been a Spotted Redshank. But there is really no doubt that the two Spotted Redshanks that have been at Nore Barn have left.

I counted 20 Brent Geese in the creek, including a family with 2 juveniles, possibly one of those that have been in the Nore Barn area over the winter. I also counted 48 Teal along with a few Wigeon.

I found a small patch of Sweet Violets, with normal colouring, on the southern path close to the wooden post marking the start of the bridleway. I do not recall having seen this patch before. I was hoping for Greater Stitchwort but there was no sign of any, though Ralph Hollins has found some in flower in Havant.

Slipper Millpond

The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft with one apparently sitting on a nest of twigs. This is the first confirmed date of nesting. This is earlier than last year when my first sighting of one sitting was 27-Apr.

Here is what I assume is the female sitting on a nest of twigs

One Mute Swan was on Slipper Millpond and the other on Peter Pond, but no sign of nesting.

Coot pairs are now nesting on both the northern and the southern rafts. Fortunately, the nest box has been removed from the centre raft so there will be no temptation for the Coot to nest right next to the Great Black-backed Gulls as happened last year.

This is the Coot pair on the southern raft on Slipper Millpond

Red Kite over Emsworth

Terry Lifton was excited to see this Red Kite circling over and around their garden this afternoon. Terry says, "Not the first Red Kite I've seen over Emsworth, but certainly the closest".


Grey Wagtail in garden

We had an unusual visitor to the garden today in the form of a perky Grey Wagtail. It perched briefly on the wall which overlooks the Westbrook Stream at the end of the garden before flying off not to be seen again. I do occasionally see Grey Wagtail in the stream in Bridge Road car park which is about 200 yards further down the road from us, but I have only three previous records of one in the garden: 03-Oct 2004. 06-Feb 2003 24-Dec 2001.

Brent Geese on the move

Bob Chapman reported a mass departure of birds on Saturday April 6, during which 1500 Brent Geese left Langstone Harbour in the evening along with lots of waders. Bob says this is a month later than they would normally go and reflects the influence of the prolonged cold easterly winds. They will stop off in Holland to feed up before their long onward flight to Siberia in six weeks or so. See . . .

I always thought that Brent Geese moved round the coastline on their way north. However, a flock of circa 45 Brent Geese were reported flying over Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve yesterday. Is this unusual?

Summer migrants

In a response to a query about Blackcap sightings, Glynne Evans on Hoslist says they are most likely to be wintering birds. BTO BirdTrack reporting rate suggests that summer Blackcaps have not yet arrived. Also, in his own garden, Glynne had seven wintering Blackcaps on Sunday plus a ringed male that is almost certainly the same bird that has been present all winter.

A small sign of summer was a single Swallow and two House Martins seen flying over the Pulborough Brooks reserve yesterday by Peter Hughes. I have just seen the weather forecast and the winds are turning warm and southerly at the weekend, so that should bring the migrants flooding in.

Bats flying in daytime

Ralph Hollins refers us to the Portland Bird Observatory web site which has a couple of bat photos above the Apr 6 entry that look similar to that taken by Malcolm Phillips at Brook Meadow on the same day. Martin Cade at Portland supports Nik Knight's view that the bats are Pipistrelles but he also makes the suggestion that the reason for day flying is the shortage of insects to be caught at night in this cold weather when the bats will be especially hungry on emergence from hibernation.
See . . .

Ring Ouzel

Regarding Caroline French's Ring Ouzel sighting, Ralph says Caroline need not worry that her photo does not show the light patch in the wing which usually only shows well in flight when the feathers are stretched out. However, Ralph does provide the following link to a Ring Ouzel photo showing the silvery wing panel quite nicely . . .


Waysides surveys

Jane Brook and I made a start on our regular survey of the Emsworth waysides this morning. We did the four sites in North Emsworth, starting at Southleigh Road (west). We were very late starting due to the poor weather, but we need not have bothered as there was little in the way of wild flowers to see. However, it was good to renew contact with the waysides. The biggest change was in the Spencer's Field verge where the council have done some lopping and clearance of trees.

Brook Meadow and Lumley

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow today. He had no Water Vole sightings, but did see the Woodpecker in the Great Tit nest hole. He then walked round to the Lumley stream under the railway, where he got a nice photo of a Woodpecker.

Malcolm carried on to Peter Pond where he found a pair of Goldcrests and a Chiffchaff. Back through the meadow just in time to see the Buzzard take off from the trees in the middle and fly north.

Ring Ouzel at Stoughton

Caroline French carried out her final BTO Winter Thrushes Survey at her allocated 1km square at Stoughton. She reports, "I have been doing them monthly since November and, apart from 4 Redwings and the odd Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush, usually all I see in the way of thrushes are Blackbirds. But today I was treated to a Ring Ouzel! It was sitting high in a tree, with a Mistle Thrush for company. I just about managed to digiscope it, but as it was at least 200m away from me, the image is poor."

Caroline's only reservation about identification is that it doesn't show pale wings. In all other respects though it fits the description of Ring Ouzel: white crescent across the chest - very well defined; dark tip to bill; no yellow eye ring that a male Blackbird would show. Grid ref. SU801125 on the northern edge of Inholmes Wood, just west of the footpath. Interestingly, this is the third local Ring Ouzel in the past week, following those on Thorney Island and Warblington Farm. Personally, I have never seen one locally. Caroline also saw Brown Hares around on the bare fields and young crops and a few Skylarks that were singing.

Robins fighting

Caroline also watched two Robins fighting, almost to the death it seemed. "I couldn't see very clearly because they were partly obscured by grass but it looked like one bird had managed to pin the other on the ground and was pecking viciously at it. What seemed a bit incongruous (to my ears) was that one of the birds was singing away the whole time! I thought it was probably the one on top asserting his dominance but maybe it could have been the other one refusing to be beaten into submission! Eventually they parted and one flew away, possibly injured. "

Brent Geese

Tom Bickerton has been photographing the behaviour patterns of the Brent Geese for some time, where they turn turtle in the fresh water to clean the plumage. He got the following image on Saturday at Farlington. He thinks it was their final brush-up and go before the flight back north, which a lot did in the evening on Saturday.

Tom also included the following image of a pair of Brents, as a good example of how to tell male and female apart; male on left, female on right. Main clue is head shape, but the male is bigger and bulkier.

Hawfinches at Romsey

Tony Wootton went twitching with Ros Norton to Romsey today and got really good views of possibly 10 Hawfinches, lifetime firsts for them both. Also on the same bit of woodland close to a housing estate they heard a Blackcap (probable migrant?) and saw 2 Chiffchaffs and a Brambling. Tony concludes, "Quite an amazing little spot".



Conservation work session

I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the conservation work session. Twelve volunteers turned up on a fine morning. The main jobs were clearing long bramble spurs and removing the temporary barriers around the wild flower area on the north meadow. A full report and more photos will shortly be on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .


A Song Thrush was singing strongly from the east side of the north meadow. I heard two Chiffchaffs singing, one from Lumley copse and the other from the Peter Pond copse; they are almost certainly migrants. But I have still to hear a Blackcap song; they are certainly very late this spring. I could hear the mewing calls of a Mediterranean Gull flying overhead.


I was hoping to see butterflies after Malcolm's success yesterday, but I did not see a single one.

Butterbur count

I carried out the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes in the four main areas:

1. embankment on west side of centre meadow = 264 (330)
2. River banks around the sluice gate = 50 (93)
3. West side of south meadow = 36 (24)
4. East end of causeway = 28 (99)
Total = 378 (546)

As can be seen the counts in all areas were down except for the south meadow which was slightly up on last year. The largest fall was on the east causeway. The total count is well down on the previous 4 years but more on a par with the earlier counts as shown in the chart.


Mute Swans

The dark legged Mute Swan (male?) was on the east bank of Peter Pond by Lumley Road. Its pink legged mate was on Slipper Millpond. I have not seen them together for some time. There is no sign of any nest building. I am not optimistic.


The Coots are well established in the nest box on the northern raft on Slipper Millpond. There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls.

Great Crested Grebe

Francis Kinsella found the Great Crested Grebe on the town millpond on both Friday and Saturday and got a very nice photo of the bird. Jean and I walked round the pond this afternoon, but it was not there. I have yet to see the bird!


12:00 - 12:30 - About 2 hours after high water. Nothing in the stream. The Greenshank was feeding in the pond at the top of the creek, but there was no sign of the Spotted Redshank. My guess is that the dark plumaged bird has also left the area; my last sighting was on Apr 1. I counted 26 Brent Geese in the creek along with 14 Teal.


Kingfisher on the Ems

Francis Kinsella saw a Kingfisher close to the River Ems at Westbourne. He only saw it fleetingly and from a distance - too far away to get a decent photograph, but the shot he got was good enough for identification. He also saw a juvenile Sparrowhawk in the same area.

Ravens at Horndean

Fiona McKinnon checked on the Ravens again yesterday, watching the nest with her scope. She was surprised that the adult was not sitting on the nest but sitting beside it as although the sun was shining it was cold. When the second adult returned two possibly three gaping breaks popped up begging to be feed. Fiona also saw 15 Wheatear in the same field.


Peter Milinets-Raby could not resist doing his regular walk from Nore Barn to Warblington and back this morning. For the first time he took my telescope so he could count the waders more accurately. He started at Nore Barn at 7am, walked along the shore to Langstone Mill and then back inland past the church and returned at 9:40am.

Peter's highlights were as follows:

Nore Barn: A single singing Chiffchaff in the wood, 2 Whimbrel over heading north east 11 Grey Plover, 31 Brent Geese, 3+ Curlew, 60+ Teal, 42 Dunlin, 5 Wigeon, 1 Greenshank at the top end near the pond field. Little Egret (only one seen today), 1 Canada Goose.

Conigar Point: 2 Meadow Pipit over, 22 Grey Plover, 10 Pintail, 144 Dunlin (all in winter), 1 lonely Knot (winter plumage), 2 Greenshank (one with coloured rings RW on left, B(tag)Y on right), Skylark singing inland, 11 Bar tailed Godwit (all in winter), 1 Black-tailed Godwit (summer), 7 Cormorant, 4 Red breasted Merganser, 15 Turnstone, 35 Shelduck, 46+ Teal, 4 Wigeon, 5 Brent Geese.

Pook Lane: 2 Greenshank (one with coloured rings RG on left, YY on right), 4 Med Gulls, 3 Black-tailed Godwit (summer plumage), 2 Wigeon, 6 Brent Geese, 35 Bar tailed Godwit (all in winter), 3 Grey Plover

Langstone Mill Pond/offshore: 118 Black-tailed Godwits (80% in summer plumage), Turnstone, 3 Grey Plover, 71 Teal and 13 Moorhen in a puddle in the horse paddock next to the Mill Pond, Reed Bunting male (calling not singing), 2 Grey Heron roosting, Mute Swan on nest. No sign of any Little Egrets.

Lack of migrants

Peter writes: "Apart from one singing Chiffchaff and 2 Whimbrel, there were no other summer birds. Feels like winter still - early migrants (phaw - do not make me laugh?) I usually would expect to see a Swallow by now and the first singing Willow Warblers. This cold weather has really held them up!! Though the weather forecast is looking interesting over the next few days and birds will be moving in - thank God! Stuff always trickles in early every year, so taking the first dates for things is not a fool proof way of monitoring things. This is a bad spring so far. Birds are moving in, but not in the usual expected numbers. For example where are the Swallows? I am still waiting. Though I had another Red Kite on 5th April over London Road near the Hazelton junction (Horndean) at 1:37pm. "



Spotted Redshank

I visited Nore Barn early this afternoon at low water. There were no birds in the stream. However, I met Maggie Gebbett, whose house overlooks the stream, and she said there had been a 'dark Redshank' which she thought could be the Spotted Redshank feeding with a Greenshank. From her description of the bird I would think it was the one I have been seeing on the pond at the top of the creek.

Lone Brent Goose

I walked to the top of the creek, but there were no birds in the pond either. I counted 46 Teal in the creek and just one Brent Goose sitting alone on the mudflats. Maybe, this is an old or unwell bird that will not be making the long journey back to the Arctic breeding grounds?

'Pink' Sweet Violets

The pink Sweet Violets are still showing well in the western section of Nore Barn Woods. Ralph Hollins says these are an intermediate form between the normal violet colour and the pure pink form.


Bat flying

Malcolm Phillips had an interesting day in the meadow today. He was surprised to see a bat around in broad daylight; it was flying round and round the rough ground towards the Lumley stream and gate, just after 1pm. I don't know what species it is or how common daytime flying is in bats. I have asked Nik Knight what he thinks.

Water Vole (and Brown Rat)

Malcolm had another Water Vole sighting on the north bank; it came out a hole into the water then back in another hole. But within 30secs a Brown Rat came out of the same hole, which is not good news. Here is the vole looking fairly sprightly.


At last we have a bit of spring sunshine and the butterflies are on the wing again. Malcolm saw two butterflies, both firsts for Brook Meadow this year, a Comma and a Small Tortoiseshell. The latter is particularly welcome as it has been in severe decline over the past few years. In fact, we did not get a single sighting last year on Brook Meadow.

Firecrests in Havant

Martin Hampton continues to see and hear the calls, and occasionally the singing, of a Firecrest in Lower Grove Road in Havant. Peter Milinets-Raby had previously seen what is probably the same Firecrest on Mar 23 and Brian Lawrence also on Mar 30. Yesterday (Apr 5) Martin and his brother went one step better when they saw a pair of Firecrests on the Hayling Billy path adjacent to the road. He is hopeful they may stay to nest as he thinks happened last year.


Swallow or Sand Martin?

Peter Milinets-Raby queried the photo of a Swallow flying over Peter Pond in yesterday's blog by Brian Lawrence which he thought looked more like a Sand Martin. Sand Martin would certainly fit the observation from the point of view of timing as they usually arrive and pass through our area earlier than Swallows. Also, I have often seen them flying over Peter Pond at this time of the year. Looking closely at Brian's photo one can see what Peter is getting at. The bird in the photo lacks the long tail feathers of a Swallow and the wings look a bit short for a Swallow. Also, the colouring is brownish rather like a Sand Martin.

Brian Lawrence agrees that the bird might well have been a Sand Martin and sends another image which I think puts the issue beyond reasonable doubt. It was a Sand Martin.

Water Voles

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow this afternoon and had 3 Water Vole sightings. The first was at the north bank near the tunnel at 1pm. The second was just up from the north bridge at 1.45pm. The third was in front of the gasholder at 2pm. The one by the north bridge still has a very bad eye, but comparing it with the last photo on Mar 28 it seems to be improving. See Graham Roberts comments on April 2.

Siskins in garden

Patrick Murphy had a pair of Siskins in his Emsworth garden yesterday, paying a very brief visit. This one looks like a female as it lacks the black cap and bib of a male.



Greenshank with geolocator

A colour-ringed Greenshank RG+BY was feeding in the low water channel near the quay at the bottom of South Street at 11am. This is one of three Greenshanks caught by Pete Potts and his team at Thorney in March and fitted geolocators. The other birds fitted with geolocators are L+WY (which has the geolocator on the W ring) and RW+BY (with the geolocator on the B ring). I have also seen RW+BY on the Nore Barn pond on Mar 21.

Greenshank RG+BY with a geolocator on the blue ring - as a dark 'flag'.

Chiffchaffs in reeds

I met Brian Lawrence on the Lumley Path bridge and we watched at least two Chiffchaffs busily feeding in the narrow channel between the reeds to the north of Peter Pond. The birds constantly flew to and fro across the channel, skimming over the surface of the water as if picking off insects.

I managed to get this photo of one of the Chiffchaffs as it stopped briefly in the reeds.

First Swallow

Brian has the honour of recording the first Swallow of 2013 in the present wildlife blog. He saw one flying over Peter Pond before he met me and got this fleeting image as it went by.

Water Voles

Brian told me he had seen three Water Voles in the river in the far north-east corner of the meadow near the railway tunnel. There were three separate animals which disappeared into holes in the river bank. This must mean there is a little colony in this area where we have had several sightings over the past couple of months. These take the total number of sightings for the year so far to 76.

Mute Swans

The male swan with dark legs and feet and large knob on its bill was on Peter Pond and the female with light pink legs and feet and smaller knob was on Slipper Millpond. But there appears to be no sign of any nest building.

Greenfinches return?

I was very pleased to see 4 Greenfinches back on the sunflower heart feeders today. The last time I had four was back in October 2012. But gone for good are the days, before the dreaded trichomonosis outbreak in 2007, when Greenfinches were my number one garden bird with a dozen or so regularly clustered on the feeders.

Great Crested Grebe

John Sawtrell saw what the first, and probably last, Great Crested Grebe of the winter on Emsworth Millpond on April 1.

Ring Ouzel

Also on April 1st, John Sawtrell saw a Ring Ouzel in a field west of Warblington Church. Ring Ouzel can be distinguished from the normal Blackbird by its crescent shaped white bib, though one needs to be careful since Blackbirds notoriously sport various white bits on their plumage. However, John's photo seems to indicate a good male Ring Ouzel. Thanks to Ralph Hollins for passing this news and photo onto me.

This could have been the same male bird that was seen by Barry Collins at Nutbourne Marshes on 31 Mar. Ring Ouzel is a scarce passage migrant in our area, seen only in spring and autumn. The Hampshire Bird Report reports 2011 was the best spring passage of the century with a minimum of 28 birds seen, so it looks as if they are becoming more common. John should certainly submit the sighting to the Hants recorder.



Brook Meadow

On this very chilly morning (the weather seems to be getting colder by the day), I walked through Brook Meadow. I thought about doing the annual Butterbur count, but it was much too cold; also, the spikes are not very big, so I will wait for a few more days. A Coot had come up from Peter Pond into the Lumley pool, so I added it to this year's Brook Meadow bird list, which now stands at 42.

Malcolm Phillips spent an hour round the meadow today where he saw a Rat on the bank opposite the deep water sign. Later, a Little Egret was on the north path and a Wren was doing a great balancing act.

Slipper Millpond

I had a quick look at Slipper Millpond where the Coot are back in the nest box on the south raft, a bit later than usual. The Great Black-backed Gulls were not there today, but there were 2 adult Herring Gulls and 6 immature Herring Gulls. The Polish Mute Swan was swimming near the Hermitage Bridge, but no sign of its mate or of any nesting.

Raven nests

Peter Milinets-Raby visited Portsdown Hill this morning. He had calculated that the Ravens should of had young by now. Not quite, maybe in the next two or three days. But it must be a bit chilly for them way up there?


Fiona Mckinnon was out walking on Horndean Down at the weekend and heard the kronking of a Raven. Looking around she found a pair nesting on the pylon in the cowfield at the bottom of the valley, visible from New Barn Farm Lane. Fiona said they nested in the same place last year. 

Farlington news

Mike Wells was on Farlington Marshes yesterday where he saw a group of about 6 Wheatears, the Red-breasted Goose, (after much searching), Goldcrest and Skylarks. Mike also watched a Red Fox which was torn between a pair of Shovelers on a small pond and a Rabbit behind a bush. He eventually went for the Rabbit, which was too quick for him! Mike couldn't resist this lovely wader roost of Dunlin, Grey Plover and the odd Ringed Plover just south of the marshes.

Bob Chapman reported at least 2,000 Brent Geese were still on the reserve today along with the long-staying Red-breasted Goose.

Water Rails

Water Rails are still prominent around the local area. No more sightings on Brook Meadow, but Kevin Crisp reported five Water Rails on Milton Common today and Eric Eddles said two were still showing well in the wetland areas of Baffins Pond, one in the south west section and the other in the southern reed bed.


Nore Barn

I did my daily check of the stream and pond at about 14:30. Tide still rising. A Common Redshank was feeding in the low water stream, probably the same bird that Malcolm Phillips saw here on Mar 31.

A Greenshank was feeding on the pond at the top of the creek. This bird is developing its breeding plumage, though in a less dramatic fashion than the Spotted Redshank.

There was no sign of the dark Spotted Redshank that has also been there for the past few days. Maybe it has moved off like its pale companion? However, I shall continue to check for the next few days.

Brook Meadow

Maurice Lillie noticed a new hole had been pecked in the pollarded Willow beside the north path opposite the railway embankment. The new hole looking as if it had been drilled by a machine is almost at the same level as the older one made about two years ago. Clearly the work of one of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers that we have in that area. Not far from this Maurice found a dead Common Shrew on the path. Wonder what happened to the poor fellow. A dog maybe?

Woodpigeon behaviour

Last Wednesday, Maurice noticed some unusual behaviour by a Wood Pigeon. It was standing on flat ground close to the river, west bank just south of the 'S' bend, pecking the ground. It took off no more than 10cm above the water and flew at that level, in a vertical posture, head up and tail down and flicking its tail into the water as it flew. It landed maybe 6 to 8 metres down stream, preened its wing and tail briefly then flew up about a metre onto a branch where it sat and stayed. Maurice asks, can you explain this? Any offers?

Baffins Pond

Malcolm Phillips had to go to Portsmouth today so called in at Baffins Pond to see the Water Rails and was not disappointed as they came within 6ft of him. He also saw some splendid Tufted Duck and Shoveler. I had a feeling Malcolm would like Baffins.

Have you ever seen a Water Rail this close before?

Injured Water Vole

I sent Malcolm's photo of the Water Vole with an injured eye to Graham Roberts of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust for his opinion as to the cause.

Graham said . . . " Looking at the picture I definitely would think this a result of territorial fighting. I have witnessed similar before and tried to show pity on the individual and have been bitten in the process - that did teach me!! Really glad that despite the cold weather and elevated water levels last year that your population continues to flourish. Please thank all the working party followers for their efforts."

Red Kite

Peter Milinets-Raby had a Red Kite this morning at 9:50am. It was circling over Camp Down and seen from Crookhorn Lane (whilst a pupil was driving).


Spotted Redshank

I arrived at Nore Barn at 14:00 about two hours before high water. The stream was empty of birds. However, as yesterday, the dark Spotted Redshank (with developing breeding plumage) was on the pond at the top of the creek feeding with a unringed Greenshank. Other birds in the creek included about 30 Brent Geese and a few Wigeon and Teal.

Greenshank and (dark) Spotted Redshank feeding in the Nore Barn pond

Robin with food

Malcolm Phillips only had half an hour round Brook Meadow this morning, but managed to get a photo of a Robin with a mouthful of food, hopefully for nestlings.

Robin collecting juicy insect larvae for nestlings

Pheasant in garden

Patrick Murphy had a surprise visitor to his garden today in the form of a handsome cock Pheasant which spent about an hour in the garden, mainly feeding fallen seed from the feeders.

Handsome cock Pheasant in Patrick's garden

Blackcap migrant query

Patrick also had a female Blackcap on the fatballs a couple of days ago and asked if this could be a summer migrant? It could be, but one can never be too sure at this time of the year when there is an overlap between the population that have been wintering here and those newly arriving from the south. My rule of thumb is that Blackcaps seen on garden feeders at this time of the year are wintering birds, fattening up for their journey back to the Continent. I suppose they will not be in a hurry to move off until the current easterly winds abate. I expect to see and hear the summer migrant Blackcaps in their traditional breeding habitats, like Brook Meadow or Hollybank Woods.

Migrants arriving early

Ralph Hollins has provided another table of migrant arrival dates to justify his claim (which surprised me at least) that this is an 'earlier than average' year for migrants "even if they do die of starvation on arrival" (Ralph adds). See his daily diary for Sat 30 Mar . . .

For earlier observations go to . . March 16-31