RETURN TO . . . Emsworth Wildlife Homepage


A community web site dedicated to the observation, recording and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

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


for April 26-30 2013

in reverse chronological order



10:30 - 11:00 - I had a quick walk up the creek and back through the woods.

English Scurvygrass

This plant with small white petals was flowering well on the saltmarshes west of the stream, probably as good as I recall them previously.

Described in The Hants Flora as 'Locally frequent' ie in the right habitat. From New Atlas: A biennial to perennial herb found in saltmarshes on soft, silty substrates, and in firmer areas of mud (and on sea-walls) near the high water mark of estuaries and tidal rivers. Unlike C. officinalis and C. danica, it is not found by roads. Lowland. Native (change +0.02). The distribution of C. anglica appears to be stable.

Lords and Ladies

I usually look in Nore Barn Woods for the first open spathes of Lords and Ladies and there were several there today with spadix showing well. However, as with most flowers it is late this year. Last year I recorded it here on Mar 23.

From New Atlas: A rhizomatous perennial herb of woodlands, hedgerows and other shaded areas on moist, well-drained and reasonably fertile soils. Generally lowland, Native (change -0.28). The distribution of A. maculatum shows little change since the 1962 Atlas. There has undoubtedly been some loss caused by hedgerow removal but this has been compensated for by its ability to establish itself quickly in new areas of suitable habitat such as scrub and plantations.


11:30 - 12:30 - I went over to check on the Black-tailed Godwits in 'Texaco Bay', but the tide was too low when I arrived so I went down the Hayling Billy Line and had a nostalgic walk through the main Oysterbeds site. I was a volunteer warden here for five years until 2008, doing a weekly 3 hour stint and got to know the site and its wildlife very well.

Little Tern nesting site

I was interested to see the new Little Tern nesting site described by Chris Cockburn in yesterday's blog. This is an 'island' that Chris calls the 'North Spit' and is situated north east of the saline lagoon and where the crushed cockleshells were placed during the work described by Chris. This was the site that Jason Crook originally organised as an alternative nesting site for the terns a several years ago when the Black-headed Gulls first took over the main islands in the lagoon. However, it was never used by the terns despite the presence of tern decoys, four of which are now in place on the current site. Let's hope for better luck this time, but I am not overly optimistic.

Great Gull show

Moving round the corner to the lagoon I was immediately aware of the raucous cries of hundreds of Black-headed Gulls that are now nesting on the two islands in the lagoon - islands we used to call 'tern islands'. I recall well seeing Little Terns and Common Terns regularly nesting on the islands, but, sadly, no longer. It is the Black-headed Gull show now. I could certainly hear Common Terns calling, but I could not see any on the islands, though I only had my binoculars with me. I see a pair of Oystercatchers have clung on, but I don't know if they nest here any more. A male Gadwall was an unusual bird to see in the lagoon. It was nice to see a group of school children taking notes and doing drawings of the gull islands.


Forget-me-nots were in flower on the mound behind the bus shelter. I recall Ralph Hollins and others puzzling over these plants as possible Early Forget-me-nots, but I think their verdict was Field Forget-me-not. Glaucous Sedge is now flowering on the edge of the Hayling Billy Line along with my first Bulbous Buttercup.

Black-tailed Godwits

By the time I got back to 'Texaco Bay' at about 12.30, a flock of 51 Black-tailed Godwits along with 14 Common Redshanks were feeding in shallow water. This was far fewer than I expected from reports of over 200, so maybe they are moving off. I went through them, but only found one colour-ringed bird which I think was W+YG, though the white ring was dirty and could possibly have been lime. My last record of W+YG was at Broadmarsh on 04-Aug-99. Could it possibly be the same bird? That would make it at least 14 years old.

I could also see many examples of 'spurting' behaviour and managed to catch one on camera. Mike Wells also had a photo of one yesterday.

A Whimbrel was feeding on the near shore.


13:00 - On Slipper Millpond the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft with one bird sitting on the nest. The two Coot chicks were still in the nest box on the north raft, so no more raids since yesterday.

When I arrived at Peter Pond, the male Mute Swan (with normal dark feet and legs) was standing over the nest on the island; the female (with pink legs and feet) was in the water nearby. I did not realise until now that both male and female swans take turns in incubating the eggs, though this is mostly done by the female. Although I could see into the nest I could not see any eggs, which I assume were covered. That is a good sign that the birds are caring well for the eggs. The male bird sat down on the nest while I was there and made himself comfortable.

Mute Swan 'litter nest'

Juliet Walker got a nice image of the Mute Swan turning her 5 eggs in the 'litter nest' beneath the Havant Road bridge on the town millpond yesterday. That is impressive! She is really getting into it.

Juliet said the cob was also present in the evening and was seeing off ducks and also collecting sticks and litter to add to the nest. But, she says, people tend to stand on the bridge and lob bread over, which brings unwanted attention to the nest, both from ducks and people.

We all hope the swans will be successful, but I am not optimistic. The pen will need to stay sitting on her eggs for another 36 days (from the laying of the last egg) and look after them carefully to make sure they reach maturity and the cygnets hatch successfully. This is a hard task in that situation. There have been several of these 'litter nests' on the millpond over the years (though none in that particular site close to the bridge) and none has been successful. But let's keep fingers crossed for a miracle!



I had two reports of Orange Tips today. Robin Pottinger had one in his garden on Saturday Apr 27 and also saw one flying on Brook Meadow today. Brian Lawrence saw one in Hollybank Woods yesterday (Apr 29). So, they are out! I also had my first Holly Blue of the year in my garden, fluttering around the Ivy hedges.

Stock Doves in garden

The two Stock Doves were in my garden again this morning, feeding on the lawn. This time I managed to get a photo of them before they flew off. My previous sighting to two in the garden was on April 28. Stock Doves have been very rare birds in my garden until this year. The BTO does not publish data for Stock Dove in the Garden BirdWatch scheme, though I suspect the frequency is fairly low in gardens.

Barn Owl in flight

Colin Vanner sent me this superb photo of a Barn Owl he took at Waterlooville today.

Brook Meadow

Tony Wootton had a couple of hours in the meadow this morning. He saw Peacock, Comma, several small white ones, 2 male Orange Tips and a Holly Blue. All the usual birds plus Great Spotted Woodpecker and a kestrel. Best of all he managed to photo a Whitethroat carrying nesting material. That is good news.

MONDAY APRIL 29 - 2013


Bramble clearing

Jane Brook and I continued our regular Monday morning surveys of the Emsworth waysides. The weather was fine though with a chill in the air. The main task this morning was to clear the bramble spurs from the Bridge Road and the A259 embankment waysides. This was tough and at time painful work and we filled four bags with finely cut brambles. But the work was well worth while as the brambles were starting to encroach seriously on the two waysides.

Wildlife observations

On the Bridge Road site we found the first Sweet Vernal Grass of the year and also had the first Green-veined White feeding on Dandelion flowers. On the A259 embankment Common Whitlowgrass and Wavy Bitter-cress were growing at the base of the Oak tree to the south of the main verge.

The Green-veined White with heavily veined underwings which is characteristic in the spring brood.


Mute Swans

The Mute Swan was at the 'litter nest' near the main road bride on the town millpond with four eggs. The Mute Swan was off the nest on Peter Pond and I could see three eggs in the nest.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond, with the female sitting on the nest. She must be brooding eggs by now. With incubation 27-28 days hatching might be expected at around 26 May.


It looks as if the Coot nest has been raided. The chicks on the north raft were down to 2 from the brood of 6 seen on Apr 25. This loss of chicks was not unexpected with the proximity of the Great Black-backed Gulls. Mind you, the Coot parents were carrying on as if nothing had happened. Birds don't have human emotions!

The Coot is still sitting on a nest in the box on the south raft with no chicks as yet. There is a new Coot nest in the reeds to the east of the swan island on Peter Pond. This is very near the water level and looks vulnerable.


I had a pure white dove in the garden again today. This is one of several I see frequently around St James Church and probably live in a local dovecot.


Mike Wells was in the North Hayling Billy Line area today and sent me the following photos. The first is a real cracker of a Kestrel hovering against a clear blue sky. This is probably the best one I have ever seen. From the black tip to the tail and the spotted underparts I would guess it was a male bird.

The other one is of a group of Black-tailed Godwits, some in their orange breeding plumage feeding in the 'Texaco Bay' area. It is amazing how long these birds hang around their wintering quarters. Don't they have a home to go to? But of special interest to me is that one of the Godwits is spurting water from its bill.

We have had lots of examples of such 'spurting' behaviour from a variety of waders, all of which have left the experts scratching their heads. See the special web page for more details and photos . . . . Spurting behaviour


Chris Cockburn wrote to say that parts of Tom Bickerton's report on the work taking place on Hayling Oysterbeds to help nesting Little Terns (see entry for Friday April 26) was slightly misleading. I am grateful to Chris for the following summary to clarify things:

"Firstly, I am unsure of the main source of funding for the Oysterbeds works, but I think it might be from a Veolia grant and not from Heritage Lottery Funding - it is very important that the correct funding source is named.

The crushed cockleshells will be used in a trial to try to improve Little Tern nesting habitats on South Binness Island and/or Baker's Island (most likely in time for the 2014 breeding season). Over time, wind, wave and tidal action tends to remove fine material, leaving a very stony surface layer that is not suitable for nesting Little Terns. These birds look for relatively small patches of fine material between larger 'lumps' of shingle (the large lumps afford some protection from the wind etc). In an earlier trial in 2010, 12 volumetric tonnes of uncrushed cockleshells were used, but the little terns did not like them! A few bags of crushed cockleshells were taken to the Hayling Oysterbeds - not 8 volumetric tonnes.

A volunteer work party from RSPB Pagham Harbour and one of the Oysterbeds' RSPB volunteers cleared vegetation from the middle third of the "North Spit", an 'island' situated north east of the saline lagoon. The few bags of crushed cockleshells were spread over part of the cleared area and four Little Tern decoys were placed there. The remaining cleared area has a surface of graded shingle (a mixture of very fine and larger material). If Little Terns do nest on "North Spit", it will be instructive to note which habitat is preferred.

The western end of the "Northwest Bund" (that is the bund that forms the northern edge of the saline lagoon) was charged with graded shingle (thus creating an ideal nesting habitat); it will not be dressed with crushed cockleshells. Similar operations using heavy machinery on the harbour islands (2009) showed that the most birds were not unsettled by the activities, the only birds affected were those within a c50m radius. The western end of the "Northwest Bund" is much further than 50m from the nearest parts of the two islands in the saline lagoon and it was seen that the nesting black-headed gulls took no exception to the operations and simply got on with nest-building, egg-brooding and noisily asserted their territorial rights. Like the crushed cockleshells, this shingle charging is a trial and, if it proves successful, other parts of the "Northwest Bund" may be charged in future years. The new habitat is likely to be attractive to nesting oystercatchers and ringed plovers. Secure fencing during the breeding season will be necessary, but its placement will need to be done by contractors having experience and expertise in fencing on similar ground conditions (rubble, chalk etc).

As far as I know, there are no plans to set up a warden viewpoint "to show the breeding activity of these birds for general interested". The works at the Northwest Bund were carried out by a local contractor - I am not aware of how local companies helped and collaborated".


Chris was told that the edited filming will be broadcast on BBC Countryfile on May 12.

Chris also points out that Wez Smith's title is 'Sites Manager, Langstone and Chichester Harbours, while his own badge states: 'RSPB Volunteer Warden Langstone Harbour'

SUNDAY APRIL 28 - 2013


This morning, I found a number of plants in flower for the first time on Brook Meadow, so spring is coming at last! All these plants are 2-4 weeks later than usual.

There is a good growth of Wintercress at the far end of the Seagull Lane patch, in bud, but not yet in flower.

I am never sure whether to call this simply Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris) or Early Wintercress (Barbarea intermedia). The books say the one difference is in the leaves; Wintercress has simple upper stem leaves, whereas Early Wintercress has pinnately-lobed upper stem leaves. The leaves were not fully developed on the Brook Meadow plants, but the upper stems leaves did appear to be simple and not pinnately lobed like the lower stem leaves, which suggests they are Wintercress (Barbarea vulgaris). I will need to check them again when they have grown a bit.

I have checked regularly for Ground-ivy flowers on the Seagull Lane patch on Brook Meadow, but have not found any until today when the first ones were open at the far end of the patch.


Garlic Mustard was also out in this area. The first Cuckooflower was out in the centre of the orchid area on the north meadow. We never get many Cuckooflowers on Brook Meadow in sharp contrast to the Bridge Road Nature Reserve where I counted over 300 spikes on April 23. Finally, Distant Sedge and Divided Sedge are starting to show spikelets on an open area the eastern side of the Lumley area where dead grasses are not lying.

Not on Brook Meadow, but I also found my first flowering Greater Celandine of the year in a neighbour's driveway in Bridge Road.



The Mute Swan was snug on her nest on the island on Peter Pond when I passed by this morning. She should have laid her first egg by now, so we can start counting to the hatching date 36 days from now - Monday June 3rd.

Over on the town millpond a swan is now sitting on the 'litter nest' near the bridge which had four eggs in it yesterday. We shall wait and see any developments, but I am not at all optimistic of success.


I had some unusual visitors to the garden today. Two Stock Doves were feeding on the seeds thrown onto the grass. I had one Stock Dove in Mar of this year, but this was the first time I have recorded two Stock Doves.

A little later a pair of pure white doves were also on the grass. These are from a dovecot somewhere close by; I often see a small flock of these birds on St James Church. These were the first I have seen in the garden since Nov-Dec 2008. Unfortunately, I missed getting photos of any of these visitors.  


Peter Milinets-Raby took a walk along the Warblington shore this morning (6:40am to 9am). The weather was too nice for migrants. The tide was very low. The species of note were:
10 Med Gulls feeding in the field next to Castle Farm and a handsome cock Pheasant with them
6 to 10 Stock Doves (the 6 were feeding on the seed that had been sown at the far end of the cemetery extension - 'Wild Flower Patch').

Yellow Wagtail over heading north.
16 Grey Plover at Conigar Point (4 in stunning summer plumage) - Also 13 Shelduck
3 Whimbrel and 4 Greenshank off Pook Lane - one with coloured rings - RG, YY.
The pair of Gadwall (plus female Teal) were on the small flood in the horse paddock adjacent to the Langstone Mill Pond.
2 Reed Warblers singing from Langstone Mill Pond and male Reed Bunting.
21 Little Egrets (This is probably an indication of how many nests there are - it was eerily quiet with no displaying, the birds present were 'sitting/loitering with intent' - All the males were off fishing somewhere - There were 7 feeding off Conigar Point).

Carrion Crow takes Goldfish
And, yesterday Peter's wife watched a Carrion Crow take a 7 centimetre long Goldfish from the pond! The crow could not hold it properly in its beak, dropped the fish on the lawn. Peter's wife scared the crow off and rescued the fish. This morning the fish was swimming around the pond, quite unperturbed, but minus a dorsal fin! 


Ashling Wood

11:00 - I had to take Jean and her sister over to Chichester this morning, so I decided to check a few sites on the way home. First stop was Ashling Wood where I found a very good display of Bluebells with more to come. This is what they were like on Mar 27 in 2012, so they are about 4 weeks later this year.

Marlpit Lane

11:45 - My next stop was Marlpit Lane. I parked the car about half way up the lane between the amenity tip and the main Funtington road. The first thing I heard when I got out of the car was the incredible song of a Nightingale from the bushes on the east of the lane. It moved further up the lane and then stopped singing. I waited for another 30 minutes without hearing it again. During this time I was pleased to meet David, a gardener from Bedhampton, who had also heard the Nightingale singing.

Aldsworth Pond

12:15 - I stopped briefly to look over the pond from the roadside verge though this is not easy with constant fast traffic on the road. I could see lots of Swallows and House Martins hunting over the pond. I wonder where they all nest? Maybe in Sindles Farm? I could see a Canada Goose sitting on a nest on the small island.

Hollybank Woods

12:30 - I checked the northern Bluebell area where there were a few more flowers open than during last Sunday's 'Spring Walk', but nowhere near as many as in Ashling Wood. I walked down the main track to have a listen for the Garden Warbler that Ralph Hollins thought he may have heard singing from bushes east of the Holly Lodge clearing. I heard no Garden Warbler, but I did hear no less than five Blackcaps in the short walk, two of them around the Holly Lodge clearing. Clearly, they are back!

BTO reporting rates

The BTO confirm that Blackcaps were about 2 weeks later than usual . . . However, Whitethroats were earlier which fitted perfectly with my observations on Brook Meadow


Mute Swan nest

The Mute Swan was sitting snugly on the nest on the Peter Pond island when I arrived at about 5.30pm. The nest looked reasonably well constructed and the pen was adding a few twigs.

She stood up while I was there which enabled me to confirm two things: there were no eggs in the nest and the swan was the 'Polish' variety with pink legs. She could have been one of a brood containing two other 'Polish' cygnets that were born on the pond about 6 years ago. So, it will be interesting to see the colour of the cygnets when, and if, they get born. 'Polish' cygnets are all white whereas normal cygnets are brown.

Slipper Millpond nests

The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond with the female sitting on the nest. I could just see the Coot chicks in the nest box, so I assume they have survived so far. The Coot nest on the western side of Slipper Millpond near the path has been swamped by the tide.

Mute Swan 'litter nest'

I was surprised to see the 'litter nest' on the town millpond by the bridge with four eggs in it and a Mute Swan in attendance nearby. The nest was made mainly from twigs with pieces of litter added and was just above the level of the water. I gather someone asked the Environment Agency to adjust the sluice gate so that the water in the millpond remains below the level of the nest. The eggs were covered by a piece of transparent plastic which presumably the swan had put in place. Frankly, I am not optimistic about this nest as the swan will need to brood the eggs for 36 days before hatching and I cannot see that happening. There have been other 'litter nests' on the millpond before which came to nothing, but you never know.


Bluebells (native?)

I found some Bluebells in flower on the Lillywhite's path wayside which looked as if they could be native ones. The flowers were one-sided and drooping not erect as they would be in the Spanish variety. However, I gather there are many hybrid forms which escape and these could be one of those. I recall querying this plant last year also.

Basford Willow catkins

The long yellow catkins of the Basford Willow trees are now cascading down onto the ground on the southern side of Palmer's Road Car Park.

FRIDAY APRIL 26 - 2013


Mute Swans

The female Mute Swan was off the nest on the Peter Pond island and was pootling around on the water. The nest still looks a bit flimsy and there were no visible eggs. The male of the pair was on Slipper Millpond, no doubt defending its territory from all comers.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond this morning, one bird (female) was sitting on a nest while the other (male) did some repairs to the nest.


The Coot pair nesting on the north raft were attending to the demands of their brood on Slipper Millpond. I could only definitely see five chicks, but the other may have been hidden. I noticed another pair of Coot building a nest in the reeds on the west of the pond just south of the Chequers Quay estate. This is the third pair of Coot on Slipper Millpond. There appear to be another two pairs on Dolphin Lake, but I have no idea where they are nesting. Meanwhile, there are two more Coot pairs on Peter Pond, making a total of seven pairs in all.


There is still no sound of either Reed Warbler or Sedge Warbler from the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond. The Sedge Warbler that Peter Milinets-Raby heard on Apr 19 was probably just moving through.



I heard several Blackcaps in the area in the Brook Meadow - Lumley area this morning, including the first one in Palmer's Road Copse by the south bridge. So, it looks as if they are back.

Greater Celandine

Three Greater Celandine plants are now showing well near Lumley Mill at the end of the footpath from Seagull Lane.

I look forward to seeing the yellow poppy-like flowers in the near future. This is the only place that I am aware of that they grow in the local area. Greater Celandine is not related to Lesser Celandine. It is said to be poisonous, though I cannot really imagine anyone wanting to eat it.

Sluice gates

The new metal sluice gates at Constant Springs are a big improvement over the old wooden gates. They were installed by the Environment Agency, though it seems as if the residents of Constant Springs still have control over them - there is a gate through to the sluice from the garden. The gates were open this morning when I looked with the water rushing down into the Lumley Stream.


I checked Marlpit Lane this evening at around 8pm to 8.30pm, but failed to hear any hint of a Nightingale song. I have only two records of Nightingale singing at Marlpit Lane this year. The first by Barry Collins on Apr 17 and the other by James Collings-Wells on the morning of Apr 21. I would appreciate reports from other people visiting the site, positive or negative.


A report by Tom Bickerton

Thursday 25th April - The BBC Countryfile came down to report and film on the re-creation of suitable breeding habit for Little Terns within Langstone Harbour. The crew started filming at 8:00am at The Broadmarsh Coastal Park where 8 tonnes of cockleshells where crushed and bagged. They then moved on to Hayling Oysterbeds where volunteers had cleared vegetation from one of the islands, the crushed shell where then evenly spread over the area. On hand for advice were Wez Smith (RSPB Langstone Harbour Warden) and Chris Cockburn, (volunteer for the Oysterbeds). They both detailed the intentions for the Oysterbeds regarding Little Terns. Four decoy Little Tern models were placed down to entice the terns to use the island for breeding.

Friday 26th April - A barge and excavator were in position close to the south side to off-load 100 Tonnes of graded shingle onto the outer bung of Oysterbeds today; this again will be dressed with the crushed cockleshell. The Terns have shown in the past an interest for this particular area of the site and it is hoped that this new raised area will now tempt then to attempt breeding.If the birds do breed then the area will have to be secured from human and predator's activity and a warden viewpoint set up to show the breeding activity of these birds for general interested. It may also be that, because of this new secured area, Ringed Plover may again start to breed and it may now be possible to place a nest box for Shelduck. None of this would have been possible without the obtaining of a lottery grant and the help and collaboration of local companies.

The report should go out on the BBC Countryfile Show in early May.

My note: What were the resident Black-headed Gulls doing while all this activity was going on on the islands?


Peter Milinets-Raby walked to Langstone Mill Pond with his young son this morning from 10:30am to just after mid-day. Birds of note included the following:

Yellow Wagtail over heading north
2 Buzzard
Green Woodpecker
6+ Chiffchaff
2 Whitethroat moving through the bushes
2 Reed Warblers singing
Reed Bunting singing
13 Shelduck
32 Bar-tailed Godwit
2 Swallow
3 Sandwich Tern
4 Grey Herons
Purple Heron ? - flying over, but it was below the horizon before Peter could get his binoculars on it. He heard one was seen going over Portsdown Hill at 1:30pm, so it could have been!
54+ Little Egrets - At least 13 pairs, but still too early to count. Looks like being a bumper year for them! - See Ralph Hollins count below.

Langstone Little Egret roost

Ralph Hollins checked the Little Egret roost on Thursday April 25 at around 19:30 (sunset at 20:15) and counted 58 which he was pretty sure was an under-count. Ralph counted more as they arrived and reached 89 birds but as it was still light when he left there were more were still to come in. See . . .


Eric Eddles had a puzzle today on Baffins Pond when he saw what looked like a pair of Gadwall were on the pond. However, on closer inspection the female Gadwall turned out to be a Mallard. Gadwall and Mallard females are not easy to tell apart, though fortunately the Gadwall are usually in male-female pairs. One can just see the tell-tale dark blue speculum on the female in Eddie's photo indicating a Mallard. Gadwall would have a white speculum. I have never seen a Gadwall - Mallard pair like Eddie had. I wonder if they will breed?

For earlier observations go to . . April 16-30