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


for APRIL 16-25, 2013

in reverse chronological order

. . .




Two Whitethroats were singing on Brook Meadow this afternoon, one from the brambles in the north west corner and the other from the brambles north of the causeway. I have heard both these birds several times and it looks as if they have settled for the breeding season. However, we are still short on Blackcaps with only one heard singing today.


Mute Swan nesting

The female Mute Swan was sitting on its nest on the island on Peter Pond this afternoon. It was the first time I have seen the bird actually sitting, though the nest has been there for a few days. The bird stood up while I was there and I could see no eggs in the nest. However, this is a promising development. maybe I have underestimated this pair of swans.

Coot chicks

I could see six tiny Coot chicks on the north raft on Slipper Millpond being attended to by their parents. They are clearly very young and need to be aware of the threat from the Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft. I could not see any chicks on the south raft.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The two gulls were on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. While I was there they mated for about 2 minutes allowing me to get a photo. This is the second time I have seen them mating this season. There is a definite nest on the south section of the raft.

Mediterranean Gulls

I was alerted to the presence of two Mediterranean Gulls on Slipper Millpond by their mewing type calls.

Mallard nest

Brendan Gibb-Gray drew my attention to a Mallard that has been nesting in the corner of his small garden overlooking Slipper Millpond for about 2 weeks. It was probably the same bird that nested in the same spot last year. Brendan has counted 14 eggs though one is broken. It will be interesting to see how many ducklings survive. Last year she had 13 ducklings in her first brood which were lost. I recall she came back to the nest for a second brood, but I can't remember what happened to that one.



Great Black-backed Gulls

The gulls are now sitting on a nest on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. This is the first time I have seen one actually sitting on a nest of twigs. Interestingly, it is almost precisely the same date that I first saw one on the nest last year (Apr 27).

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

Mute Swans

The Peter Pond Mute Swan pair have made a start at nest building on the island, but it looks a rough and ready effort, so we shall have to see how things develop.

Jennifer Rye drew my attention to a makeshift Mute Swan nest of twigs and plastic rubbish at the northern end of the town millpond, just above the line of high water, with two large neglected eggs. The mother was nowhere to be seen. Swans have tried to construct nests on the millpond in previous years using whatever material is available, but never with any success.


North Thorney

Tony Wootton went down to the NRA track on North Thorney again this morning very early. He was keen to see what the birds did in the mist - a little quieter and less active. He saw 1 Cuckoo, Whitethroats, Cetti's Warblers and heard what could have been a Reed Warbler.

Here is Tony's new Cetti's Warbler with its tail up!

Mandarin Duck

Kirsteen Titchener was in Stansted and captured this fine image of a male Mandarin Duck which she wished to share with us. She says, "After all there is little point taking the pictures if people don't see them". Quite right too! Maybe, that is the hole in the tree where the female is on a nest?

Mallard ducklings

Derek James counted 10 Mallard ducklings with their proud parents on the pond at Budds Farm from the viewing area overlooking the Bedhampton treatment works. There were also several Whitethroats and a male Blackcap around the car park area.

Mute Swan nest

Charlie Annalls discovered a pair of Mute Swans with a well constructed nest on Hilsea Lines in Portsmouth and got this nice image of them with her new Nikon camera.


Peter Hughes reports that the number of Nightingales on the Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve is now 8 or 9 singing and showing well. Pete says one was singing in full view by the edge of the car park at 08.30 this morning, just in case you haven't got time to go far. Any up dates from Marlpit Lane?

Little Terns

Bob Chapman reports three Little Terns were in high chasing flights over the RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour today - the first arrivals?




I heard three Whitethroat singing on Brook Meadow this morning, but none of them was showing well enough for a photo. One was singing from the large bramble patch in the north west corner of the meadow; I first heard this one on April 17. Another was singing from the east side of the north meadow, behind the Rowan plantation. The third was singing from the southern edge of Lumley copse; this is probably the same one that I heard from the causeway a couple of days ago. These three Whitethroat will probably be our breeding birds for the summer, if they stay.

I heard a couple of Chiffchaffs singing, but strangely not a single Blackcap.

Field Horsetail

The fertile cones of Field Horsetail are now showing on the orchid area in the north meadow. This is about 3 weeks later than normal.

Field Horsetail is the most common horsetail on Brook Meadow. Marsh Horsetail is quite rare and hard to find. My last sighting was on 25-Oct-11 in Lumley copse. Both Field and Marsh Horsetail are distinctive in producing non-green unbranched fertile cone-bearing stems in spring; in summer they produce green, usually branched, sterile stems without cones, but with vertical ridges.

I recall a tip from the late Pete Selby about distinguishing Field Horsetail and Marsh Horsetail. Pull and twist the stem; there is a central core in Field Horsetail but not in Marsh. Also, Field Horsetail has 8-12 ridges whereas Marsh has less than 8. Pete was the BSBI Recorder for South Hants before Martin Rand and visited Brook Meadow a couple of times before his untimely death.

Other observations

The large Ash tree on the railway embankment is now in flower with reddish blossom prominent at the end of the twigs. No sign of any Ash dieback here.

The Environment Agency chaps were putting the final top layer of brickwork on the retaining wall for the river in the north-east corner of the meadow.


Mike Wells spent about one and a half hours at the Meadow this afternoon and got a good selection of bird photos a couple of which I include here.

Here is Mike's cracking Dunnock. What an eye that bird has!

And here is Mike's Kestrel in flight over the meadow. What a beauty of a tail!


The Great Black-backed Gulls were on Slipper Millpond near the centre raft, but not nesting as yet.

Shoals of Grey Mullett were swimming in the shallow water of Slipper Millpond near to the Hermitage Bridge.


The Cuckooflowers are at last starting to open on the Bridge Road Wayside. I counted about 300 flowering spikes this morning, though I suspect there are lots more to come. But, shall be exceed the 750 I counted last year, though 3 weeks earlier.


Tony Wootton had a good morning around North Thorney. He saw two Cuckoos flying togethe and managed to get a photo of them together on the overhead cable.

He also saw (yes saw) a Cetti's Warbler and got a nice shot of one singing away. No wonder that bird has a loud song with a beak like that!

Other birds seen included Whitethroat, Swallows, House Martin, Greenfinch, several calling, Dunnock, Wren, Blackcap and a Sedge Warbler on the path to the Little Deeps.

I went to North Thorney this afternoon and (typically) neither heard nor saw any Cuckoos! There were several Chiffchaffs and Whitethroats singing, but strangely not a single Blackcap. I seem to miss out on them; I also failed to get one this morning on Brook Meadow. I was hoping for Lesser Whitethroat but no sign it. I walked down to Little Deeps but the reedbeds were silent! No Reed Warbler or Sedge Warbler.

I walked back through the old Marina Farm which was not a pleasant experience. Although there were metal kissing gates at either end of the path, the mud was ankle deep to the west of the stables which were boarded up. However, Swallows were flying around which presumably means they are back nesting in the stables as usual.

I saw two Peacock butterflies flying. Common Whitlowgrass was flowering on the NRA track.

I met Barry and Margaret Collins back at the car park area on Thornham Lane. Barry had only had one Lesser Whitethroat, Reed Warbler and one Sedge Warbler and thought they were very late arriving.

Barry Collins 'retires'

Barry told me the astonishing news that he no longer works for the Chichester Harbour Conservancy. Officially, he has 'retired' though that is not the way Barry sees it. I do not wish to take sides, but frankly, from what Barry told me, he has been shabbily treated by the Conservancy after 25 years of very dedicated service as Conservancy Warden for Thorney Island. Thorney Island is Barry Collins, simple as that. You can't get rid of a legend just like that!

Here is a link to the official announcement of Barry's retirement . . .


Mandarins in Stansted

Tom Bickerton writes that the two male Mandarin Ducks snapped by Caroline French in Stansted Forest yesterday will have done the business by now, their limited parental job done. They were probably taking in the spring rays as the females must surely be sitting on eggs. Stansted is a much under recorded wood, here's hoping we get a mini colony going. Caroline e-mailed Head Forester of Stansted Michael Prior and he confirmed that he does have breeding records from the estate.

Garden Warbler in Hollybank

Ralph Hollins is almost certain he had a Garden Warbler singing unseen from the scrub own the west side of the Holly Lodge garden in Hollybank Woods on Mon 22 April. Peter Milinets-Raby had two Garden Warblers in Leigh Park by the Hermitage Stream and another has been seen by the Lower Test Marshes (first was at Portland on Apr 16).


Peter Milinets-Raby reports on another walk along the Warblington shore yesterday from 6.35am to 9am. The birds of note were as follows:

Ibis field - Warblington Farm :
2 Willow Warbler moving along the stream
Pair of Chiffchaff nest building
2 Blackcaps moving along the stream - male and female
Curlew still present!? - probably will summer here?
Singing Cuckoo for five minutes, then not seen or heard again

2 Yellow Wagtails over
2 Med Gulls over
4 Stock Doves

Conigar Point;
18 Shelduck
Greenshank (RW on left, BtagY on right)
4 Whimbrel
Common Tern on distant buoy
Sandwich Tern
7 Red Breasted Merganser
Great Crested Grebe
2 lapwing
Reed Bunting singing in reed bed
1 Grey Plover

Pook Lane:
Whitethroat singing in tall trees by lane
Greenshank (RG on left, YY on right)
56 Bar-tailed Godwit
135 Black-tailed Godwit

Langstone Mill Pond
Very surprised to find the female Pied Flycatcher still present at the back of the horse paddock - gave good scope views for ten mins before vanishing again
1 female Teal on paddock flood
Pair of Gadwall on flood, though flew off to the stream - probably will breed here?
Reed Warbler heard
Sedge Warbler heard
2 Swallow
5 Moorhen in paddock
53 Little Egrets - Lots more activity this morning with many birds clearly paired up. Hard to say yet how many are nesting.
4 Grey Herons
Sandwich Tern off shore


Peter Milinets-Raby was out with the little one this morning walking along the Hermitage Stream between Barncroft Road and Purbrook Way. and made the following observations:

Highlights were:
2 Garden Warblers
Whitethroat 1+
3+ (male, 2 females) Blackcap - plus additional 2 males singing
3+ Chiffchaff - plus additional 2 singing
3+ Willow Warbler - plus one additionally singing
Red Kite flew over heading north at 10:40am being chased by Herring Gulls
3 Buzzards also very high drifting north.
2 Little Egrets.

MONDAY APRIL 22 - 2013


Jane Brook and I continued our regular Monday morning surveys of the Emsworth waysides. The weather was fine and fairly warm. We covered three of the waysides.

Westbourne Open Space

Jane and I removed the bramble spurs that were threatening to engulf the American Hawthorn (Broad-leaved Cockspur Thorn) at the northern edge of the open space. This tree had no leaves, but the native Hawthorn growing next to it was in full leaf.

We discovered a good growth of Common Whitlowgrass, with its distinctive flattened pods, growing along the edge of the cycle way to the east of the wayside. Meadow Foxtail grass was generally in flower (ie showing spikelets) on the wayside. As for insects we saw several bees buzzing around including a Bee-fly (Bombylius major) with its long proboscis showing well. We also saw a Comma butterfly.

Christopher Way wayside

There was an abundant growth of Cow Parsley along the path to Bellevue Lane, some of its starting to open. The first Dove's-foot Cranesbill was flowering on the edge of the grass verge. We found Early Dog-violet in flower on the edge of the path to Bellevue Lane near the wall.

Emsworth Recreation Ground

The large bushes of Cherry Laurel were in blossom on the northern edge of the recreation ground; they were not out in Hollybank Woods yesterday. There was a good display of Field Wood-rush on the main grassland. Blackthorn is encroaching on the grassland and needs to be controlled.



Maurice Lillie reported that on Sunday morning, about 09.30. in the north meadow, a Whitethroat busy in the standing dead grasses near the steps up to the north bridge. Today, at 09.15 he saw a Blackcap calling tzik, tzik from a number branches 4 to 7 metres up around Lumley Pool. The Great Tits were also very busy establishing territory along the north path beside the river and railway line. 


Peter Milinets-Raby walked along the Warblington shore to the Langstone Mill Pond and back yesterday morning 6:40am to 9am (Apr 21). Virtually no wildfowl present!

Conigar Point:
Lone Brent Goose,
3 Greenshank - very flighty and left east very quickly,
22 Shelduck,
2 Grey Plovers,
3 Red Breasted Merganser,

Pook Lane:
Greenshank (coloured rings - RG on left, YY on right),
3 Med Gulls feeding with 30 Black-headed Gulls in field next to cemetery,

Langstone Mill Pond/Shore:
83 Black-tailed Godwits (90% in summer plumage),
53 Bar-tailed Godwits (Just one in partial summer, the rest in winter plumage),
pair Gadwall,
3 Teal and
3 Moorhens in the Horse paddock by the pond (very little water left),
Green Woodpecker feeding in paddock,
Pied Flycatcher (female) at back of paddock for five seconds then vanished!!!! - a real shame.
Reed Bunting male - calls constantly, PHOTO
2 Swallows over pond,
Reed Warbler heard singing from reed bed,
43 Little Egrets hanging about in the trees - at least 20 of them had rosy red feet typical of breeding/display - lots of nesting activity (re-arranging sticks, displaying - guttural calls etc. (Good to see them back!!),
4 Grey Herons nest building as well.

Male Reed Bunting at Langstone by Peter Milinets-Raby



Mandarins in Stansted

Caroline and Ray French went for a walk in Stansted Forest yesterday and were surprised to come across two male Mandarin Ducks in a tree near The Avenue. They look as if they are waiting for a female to arrive.

Tom Bickerton saw a male-female pair of Mandarin Ducks in Stansted in the spring of 2011 during a Bird Atlas survey. Are Mandarin Ducks resident in the forest?  

Hedgehog in Garden

Caroline French was also pleased to report that a male Hedgehog successfully hibernated in a purpose-built hedgehog box in her garden and has now been active for about a week. She thought there was a second hedgehog hibernating in another box but it hasn't emerged yet. Other possibilities are that it was never there, or that it has not survived the winter. Caroline says she will investigate but not yet in case it is still hibernating inside.  

Grey Heron on roof

Patrick Murphy got a photo of this Grey Heron perched on neighbour's roof with a fine view of all the surrounding gardens. Patrick said it had been down in his garden having a look at the netted pond, but did not get very far.


SUNDAY APRIL 21 - 2013


'Spring walk'

I led a most enjoyable 'Spring Walk' for the Friends of Hollybank Woods on this bright and sunny morning. It was attended by around 22 people which is probably a record for the spring walk. We all assembled at the top of Hollybank Lane at 10am where John Bond gave a short introduction to the woods and the conservation group.

We walked up the main path and stopped at the large area of clearance to the west of the track where Andy Brook explained the coppicing that the conservation group were undertaking.

We continued into the Holly Lodge clearing where the group enjoyed the warmth of the sunshine, but we were still waiting for butterflies to emerge.

From there we proceeded across the large jubilee area where we admired the new shoots of the wild native Lily of the Valley pushing up inside (and outside) the wooden fence protecting this rare plant.

We took the small path to the east which took us through an area of dense Holly bushes. I pointed out the dark marks on some of the leaves produced by the Holly Leaf Miner insect.

We made our way towards the northern Bluebell area where we managed to find a few flowers open, but most were not showing. It will be another couple of weeks before we get a good show. The same applied to the Bluebells in the southern area.

We stopped at my favourite (Lorton) seat on the eastern bridleway which was becoming unstable due to the digging of badgers beneath it. Andy Brook promised to try to stabilize this popular seat for the use of walkers. It is my favourite and perfect for watching White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary butterflies in the summer.

My thanks to Chris Bond for this photo of us inspecting the hole beneath the Lorton seat.


The first bird we heard near the southern entrance was the loud whistling call of a Nuthatch from neighbouring gardens.

Chris Bond captured this image of two Nuthatches on the branch of a tree

Walking up the main path we heard both Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing; another 2 or 3 of these migrant birds were heard during the walk, but generally they were far less common than they usually are at this time of the year. Most of the resident woodland birds were heard and sometimes seen including Robin, Wren, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker. A pair of Buzzards were constantly overhead in the sky giving their mewing calls.

Chris Bond got this shot of one of the Buzzards


All three common woodland butterflies were seen during the walk, Brimstone, Comma and Peacock.

Here is the male Brimstone shining brightly in the sunshine.

And here is the Comma


Towards the end of the walk we saw a Bumblebee feeding on a Dandelion flower. This was probably a queen Bombus hypnorum feeding on nectar in preparation for nesting. This a distinctive ginger species with a darkened abdomen and a white tail (not shown on this photo).


First Meadow Foxtail

On Brook Meadow, Cow Parsley is opening up on the north path and the first spikes of Meadow Foxtail are out, both a good two weeks later than usual.

Meadow Foxtail spikelets now out on Brook Meadow

The leaves of Sharp-flowered Rush are pushing up through the dead grasses on the Lumley area, but there is no sign of Divided Sedge as yet. The spikes of this valuable sedge are usually visible by now.

First Cuckooflowers

The first Cuckooflowers of the year are now open on the Bridge Road Wayside, with a lot more to come. It is about 3 weeks later than usual. I counted 750 flowering Cuckooflower spikes at this time last year! Slender Speedwell is also flowering as is Meadow Foxtail.

The first Cuckooflowers I have seen anywhere this year on the Bridge Road Wayside

Two male Bullfinches

Ron Salmon was delighted to get a pair of Bullfinches on his garden feeder today. That must be fairly unusual?


Richard Somerscocks reports on the latest news from his home in Findhorn, Northern Scotland with photos of Ptarmigan, Grey Heron with Sea Trout and Crested Tit . Go to . . . Findhorn News 



Following Peter Milinets-Raby's sightings of Blackcaps, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler on Brook Meadow yesterday, I made an early morning visit to the meadow. The weather was fine, but chilly.

I heard three Blackcaps singing, one from a willow on the north path, one from the west bank north of Palmer's Road Copse and the other from the south meadow. It is good to know they have arrived at last about 3 weeks later than normal. I also heard a Whitethroat song from the brambles in the north west corner where Peter heard one yesterday. There were also at least 3 Chiffchaffs singing, but no sign of the Willow Warbler.

Willow Warbler

Peter Milinets-Raby confirmed that the Willow Warbler he saw yesterday was not singing, but he is fairly sure of the identification from the bird's long primary projection as shown in his photo, which would be shorter in a Chiffchaff. Peter also sent another photo showing a much stronger supercilium than in yesterday's photo, confirming its identification beyond reasonable doubt. He added there have been lots of Willow Warblers passing through this spring - probably due to the cold weather holding them up.

Peter's photo of the Willow Warbler on Brook Meadow (April 19) showing a strong supercilium

Ash flowers

Clusters of red (male?) flowers are now emerging on the Ash trees. Ash is dioecious, ie generally having sexes on different trees, though some apparently have both while others can change sex during the season!



This morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group took place at Warsash. They had two exciting finds. Two Little Gulls with slightly different in appearance, possibly 1st summer plumage were off the Hook shore.

Tony Wootton caught this image of one of the birds dipping in its typical tern-like fashion.

Also, a Little Owl was found by Caroline, after the group spent much time searching all the oaks.

They also spotted a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit on the Hook shoreline WA9+OW which I passed onto Pete Potts. Pete was very pleased with the photo - the first they have had of one of their engraved ringed birds. Pete sent the history of WA9 which was ringed as a juv female on 07-Oct-02 at Farlington Marshes. It has often been seen in Kent and at Hook.

Emsworth Millponds

Today, one Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond but not on a nest. The Mute Swan pair were on Peter Pond, but no sign of any nesting activity.

Baffins Pond terrapins

Mike Wells popped down to Baffins hoping to photograph Eric Eddles's Gadwalls, but all he managed were sun-bathing Terrapins on the main island. There was at least four of them! I recall seeing Terrapins on the island in the 1990s - How long do they live?

FRIDAY APRIL 19 - 2013


This morning from 10am to 12 noon I did a recce for my annual 'Spring Walk' in Hollybank Woods on Sunday. I walked the western and eastern sections mainly to decide on a route that would avoid the worst of the muddy paths. I was surprised at how badly churned up many of the popular paths were.


With the poor spring the migrant birds have been slow to arrive. I heard just two Blackcaps singing on the Holly Lodge clearing and four Chiffchaffs in other areas, which is far less than I usually have for this walk. Most of the resident woodland birds were heard including Robin, Wren, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow, Buzzard, Stock Dove,


Spring flowers are about two weeks behind schedule this year so I was not expecting to see much. I checked out both the main Bluebell areas in the eastern section, but only found a few flowers open. This is the best I could do.

The Wood Anemones were scarce, but with fully open flowers. The Wild Cherry tree near the southern Bluebell area had buds about to burst, but no blossom that I could see. On the track to the southern entrance the Cherry Laurel is yet to open and there are no flowers as yet on the garden Yellow Archangel. Field Wood-rush is flowering on the Holly Lodge clearing, along with the planted Cowslips, Primroses and Daffodils. However, there were some fine growths of mosses on tree stumps and wet ground, many with capsules, like this one - not identified.


I saw lots of big fat Bumblebees, presumably queens looking for suitable nesting sites. I did not see a single butterfly.

Holly Leaf Miner

Some Holly leaves had irregular marking on the upper side of the leaf. I took a couple home for closer inspection, where I discovered that the brown marks were a thin skin over the main body of the leaf.


Removing the skin revealed a cavity in which was an oval pupa. Looking this up on the internet I found out this was called a Holly Leaf Miner. Similar to the more familiar Horse Chestnut leaf miner, this grub makes a tunnel inside the leaf.

Holly leaf-miner flies (belonging to the family Agromyzidae) lay their eggs on holly leaves in June and July. After the eggs hatch out, the grubs eat the leaf from the inside from autumn to the following spring. In March the grub turns into a pupa, which is the stage I found this one at. In May the adult fly crawls out of the leaf and flies away. For more information see . . . . . .



Peter Milinets-Raby visited Brook Meadow this morning between 10am and 1pm. He had his eleven month old son with him in his pram, which was a bit awkward in places, but they managed. In fact, Peter managed remarkably well in assembling a good list of bird observations, some of which were special for Brook Meadow. The best observations were
4 singing Chiffchaff - the most so far this year,
1 Willow Warbler - the first since April 2010,
3 sightings of male Blackcaps, two singing - the first Blackcap songsters of the year,
a singing Whitethroat in brambles near railway line - the same bird I heard there on Apr 17,
two Stock Doves - which could be breeding,
2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers displaying and mating by railway line - confirmation of breeding,
2 Long-tailed Tits carrying nesting material by railway line - confirmation of breeding,
1 Sedge Warbler singing in scrub by Gooseberry Cottage - the first of the year on Peter Pond.

Here is Peter's image of the Willow Warbler - the supercilium seems a bit faint, but the lengthy projection of the wings would suggest Willow Warbler rather than Chiffchaff.


Eric Eddles had a nice surprise this afternoon when a pair of Gadwall appeared on Baffins Pond. I think they could be firsts for the pond. Here is the male.

Terry Lifton had her first Comma of the year in her Westbourne Avenue garden.



Work session

I went over to the meadow at 10am this morning mainly to take photos of the conservation work session. The main tasks involved rebuilding the dead wood fence on the river path south of the S-bend to prevent access to the river, clearing brambles from the north meadow and litter picking.


There was no sound of the Whitethroat, which I heard briefly in the north west corner of the meadow yesterday. Tony Wootton was down on the meadow earlier at 9am and also heard nothing. My guess is that this was a bird passing through on its way further north. It was certainly very early. I have noticed in previous years that early Whitethroats do tend to appear and disappear quickly.


I saw two Peacock butterflies flying on the meadow this morning.

Butterbur recount

As there had clearly been an big increase in Butterbur flower spikes since my early count on April 7th, I decided to do a second count this morning. The total came to an astonishing 1,150 spikes in the four main areas of growth, which easily beats the previous highest count of 859 in 2011.

A breakdown of the results by area was as follows:

1. embankment on west side of centre meadow = 780
2. River banks around the sluice gate = 110
3. West side of south meadow = 146
4. East end of causeway = 164

Numbers were up in all four areas on last year, but the big area of expansion was on the embankment and grassland on west side of centre meadow below the seat where the count climbed from 330 last year to 780 this year. In contrast, Butterbur on the river bank by the sluice gate has fallen from a peak of 248 in 2011 to 110 this year.

Photo showing some of the Butterbur flower spikes on the embankment near the seat


Sea Buckthorn

The bushes at the eastern end of the Lillywhite's path wayside, which I have been calling Sea Buckthorn, are in fact clearly Blackthorn. The flowers of Sea Buckthorn are small and green and are quite different from the white blossom of the Hawthorn. Male and female flowers also grow on separate plants. The only wayside with Sea Buckthorn that I am aware of is the Beacon Square allotments path. I checked the Sea Buckthorn in the south eastern corner of Slipper Millpond, which is certainly quite different from the Blackthorn on the Lillywhite's path. Closer examination revealed spent male flowers with the remains of 4 stigmas and pollen, along with emerging green leaves. The flowers themselves resembled oyster shells with attractive brown spots.

A close-up of male flowers on the Sea Buckthorn with emerging leaves

Mute Swans

Maurice Lillie saw one of the swans on top of the Peter Pond island early this morning seemingly collecting twigs together for a nest. However, when I checked later just after 10am both swans were on Slipper Millpond and there was no sign of any serious nest building on the island. But it is still early days and they might surprise us.

There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond.

Cuckoo on Thorney

Tony Wootton spotted the Cuckoo at about 2.15 on the south side of the NRA track, half way between the overhead cables and the metal gate leading to the harbour. It flew off to the north; it called, but Tony got this nice shot of it before it left.

Ravens gone?

Peter Milinets-Raby was on Portsdown Hill yesterday (twice - 9am and 12:30pm). He said, "The Peregrines were very vocal and spent a lot of their time chasing a pair of Carrion Crows that were trying to build a nest on the next arm down from the Raven's nest. The Raven's nest was clearly empty with no activity or Raven's present. There are three possibilities for this:

1. The aggressive Peregrines have chased them off
2, The eggs failed in the cold weather
3. The eggs were taken?
And 4. There always is a fourth: They have fledged?? Too quick by my calculation as I last saw them on 3rd April and there was no activity in the nest.

Whilst on the hill I had a Hobby fly over, up to 5 Brimstone Butterflies seen and several Peacocks. One singing Chiffchaff and not much else!"



Wall repair

The Environment Agency chaps have almost completed the rebuilding of the retaining wall for the river in the north-east corner of the meadow, though the final layer of bricks will be done tomorrow.


I met Mike Wells sporting a new long lensed camera. As we were talking a Buzzard flew overhead pursued by two Carrion Crows, though we were pleased to see the Buzzard fighting back at one stage. However, the Buzzard finally relented and flew off towards the Lumley Mill Farm area.


I heard the distinctive scratchy song of a Whitethroat coming from the large patch of brambles in the north west corner of the meadow. This was the first Whitethroat of the year on Brook Meadow for 2013. It was also the earliest on record, but for one on April 12th in 2011. But, strangely I have yet to hear a Blackcap song on Brook Meadow. They are late.


Cow Parsley is flowering for the first time this year on Brook Meadow. But there is still no sign of Ground-ivy.

Many more Butterbur flower spikes have come up since I did my annual count on April 7, so I shall need to do another one


There are two pairs of Coot nesting on Peter Pond, one on the floating raft and the other in the reeds somewhere.

The two Great Black-backed Gulls were on the pond, one on the centre raft and the other shepherding a group of six adult Herring Gulls.


Warblington Underpass

I visited this morning to check on the plants Ralph Hollins had told me about. Namely, Spotted Medick, Meadow Buttercup, Common Whitlowgrass and the large plant of Stinking Hellebore inside the road fence at the west end of the wayside. There was also a lot of Forget-me-not flowering inside the fence with fairly large flowers (c 10mm) which suggests a garden escape of Wood Forget-me-not. I also found my first Cocksfoot flower spike of the year. There was a line of Danish Scurvygrass in flower along the edge of the main road from the roundabout. These take the plant list for 2013 to 35 from a grand total for the site of 132.


Brimstone in Hollybank

Brian Lawrence captured this image of a Brimstone butterfly in Hollybank Woods this morning. This was probably the same one that was flying around the old Holly Lodge clearing when I was there yesterday.

Nightingale at Marlpit Lane

Barry Collins had a Nightingale singing at Marlpit Lane today at 1325. Last year was a particularly good one for Nightingales in Marlpit Lane, when on May 13th I heard 5 songsters for the BTO survey. Let's hope this one is similar.

Buzzard at Fishbourne

Roy Hay got this fine image of a Buzzard resting in the Willows on Fishbourne Meadows today. The streaks on the bird's breast suggests it might be a juvenile.


Brook Meadow repairs

The Environment Agency were preparing to rebuild the brick retaining wall for the River Ems in the north-east corner of the meadow. They had previously placed sandbags along the rim of the wall which were all dumped in the river. So, they are now going to do the job properly. The reason for building up the wall is to prevent any flooding of the meadow behind the Lumley Road cottages, though personally I have never seen this happen in the 13 years I have been involved with Brook Meadow. However, the new wall will tidy up the area which was getting a bit battered.

Waysides News

I found a new plant on the Bridge Road Wayside this morning, namely a nice flowering of Lungwort behind the signcase. This takes the plant list for this wayside to a total of 186. This was the second new find of Lungwort this week, following the discovery of some flowering near the causeway on Brook Meadow on Apr 14.

I looked hard, but failed to find any Cuckooflowers. It is astonishing to think I counted 750 flowering plants on this date last year! The anthills are active again on the grass verge.

Emsworth's Swans

The resident pair of Mute Swans were on Peter Pond this morning with the cob (with dark legs) snoozing on the bank near the seat but with a wary eye open and the pen ('Polish' variety with pink legs) on the water nearby. There is still no obvious signs of any nest building.

A second pair of Mute Swans (both with normal dark legs) was on Slipper Millpond and I would not be surprised to see them trying to nest among the reeds on the western side of the pond close to the path. Mute Swans have often tried nesting here in previous years without any real success.

I was not surprised to hear from Maurice Lillie of fighting between the two males, as the one from the Slipper Millpond pair encroached onto Peter Pond and was vigorously resisted by the resident male. John Tagg also witnessed the fracas which he said was extremely violent and almost spilled over onto the main road.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The pair of gulls were on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond, but there is no obvious sign of nesting as yet.

Thorney migrants

Tony Wootton spent a couple of hours yesterday morning (April 15) on the NRA path on North Thorney from 10 till 12ish. He saw Swallows, House Martins, Chiffchaffs, Blackcap, Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Greenfinch doing the display flight, Sparrowhawk and a Wren. Tony also heard the very loud Cetti's Warbler from the same bushes that I heard it yesterday evening and managed to get a photo which he says he has absolutely no doubt it was the Cetti's.

Ashling Wood

I went over to check Ashling Wood near West Stoke, which is by far the best woodland locally for early Bluebells. There were none out at all when I last checked on Mar 29 and I was hoping for a good showing today. But, alas, there were only a few flowers to be seen and this was the best cluster I saw.

They are very late coming; they were fully in flower on Mar 27 last year, though that was exceptional. Plenty of Wood Anemone, Dog's Mercury and Lesser Celandine. The Rookery near the eastern entrance was noisy with 26 nests being actively attended to.

Bowhill House

I stopped at the entrance to Bowhill House to check the uncommon Hairy Wood-rush (Luzula pilosa) which grows well on the grass embankment east of the drive to the house. Early Dog-violet was also in flower on this embankment.

Marlpit Lane

I stopped at Marlpit Lane on the way home. I walked along the lane and around the site to the east of the lane, but there was no sound of any Nightingale. However, I was pleased to hear my first 'cast iron' migrant Blackcap singing splendidly in breeding habitat east from bushes east of the lane north of the tip. How good it was to hear this wonderful song again. Three Buzzards were soaring overhead; they probably nest in the forest plantation east of the lane. The only flower of any interest was Ground-ivy (my first of the year) which was out in some abundance and looking good.

Hollybank Woods

I did a short recce for my so-called 'Spring Walk' on Sunday, but it was nothing like spring with hardly any bird song, certainly no migrants, and very few flowers. I had to search hard for Barren Strawberry on the Holly Lodge clearing. Field Wood-rush (Luzula campestris) was also out, which Ralph Hollins calls 'Good Friday Grass'.

Walking across the cleared area to the north of the Holly Lodge clearing I came across a Holly tree with numerous hard knobs on the white bark of its trunk. They were solid and my best guess is some sort of gall.

The best sightings were three butterflies on the Holly Lodge clearing. A male Brimstone was flying around, but did not settle. A Comma shot past, going somewhere in a hurry. But a Peacock posed just long enough on a Daffodil flower for me to get my camera out.

Garden Slow-worm

My wife drew my attention to this beautiful Slow-worm in our garden this afternoon, with its fine bronzed body shining in the sun.

Although these legless lizards are often mistaken for snakes, they differ in a number of ways. 1. They have small eyes with eyelids that blink like lizards'; this feature is not found in snakes. 2. They may also have visible ears as do lizards, which snakes do not have. 3. They shed their skin in patches like other lizards, rather than the whole skin as most snakes do. 4. Slow worms also shed tails (autotomy) by breaking one of their tail vertebrae in half, as a defence mechanism, as lizards do. 5. Also, the pattern of their ventral scales is totally different from that of snakes.

In the United Kingdom, the slow worm has been granted protected status, alongside all other native British reptile species. The slow worm has been decreasing in numbers, and under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, it is illegal to intentionally kill, injure, sell or advertise to sell them.

Birds in the garden

Robin Pottinger has plenty of activity in his Southbourne garden at present the highlight being a visit from a pair of Greenfinches on the feeders this morning for the first time for some weeks. I too have seen some in my garden in the past week, so let's hope they are making a comeback. Other birds in Robin's garden include Great Tits, Blue Tits, House Sparrows, Goldfinches, two or three visits from a Blackcap (which had a bath on one occasion), a couple of Starlings yesterday, plus the inevitable Collared Doves, Woodies, Magpies and even a couple of Crows. A Wren was gathering nesting material. A Blackbird hauled a massive worm out of the ground, then proceeded to cut it up and flew off with bits into the hedge, clearly feeding young.

Baffins Pond

Eric Eddles, our Baffins Pond correspondent, reports three Chiffchaffs were in the north east reedbed. Also, two Call ducks were on the pond; Eric sent me a photo of the drake called a Crested Call duck. That's a strange one, I've never seen one of those before.

For earlier observations go to . . April 1-15