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for May 17-31, 2013

in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current

FRIDAY MAY 31 - 2013


No orchids!

It was a fine warm morning, just right, I thought, to enjoy the experience of lots of lovely Southern Marsh Orchids on the South Moor. I had a good walk around the main orchid field for about 45 mins, but failed to see a single orchid, apart from the dead spikes from last year which are still standing.

My reaction was much the same as failing to find Wild Clary on the Christopher Way wayside yesterday. What the heck has happened to them? I certainly recall seeing thousands of Southern Marsh Orchids in flower on the moor in late May in the last few years. In fact, there have been bumper counts of over 9,000 in the last three years. Maybe, hopefully, it is just the very very late spring?

Other flowers

The late spring also probably accounts for the paucity of Ragged Robin on the South Moor; with only about 40 plants in flower. Cuckooflowers were dotted around the field, though these are on the wane, as they are on the Bridge Road Wayside. But, Yellow Flag was fully out and looking splendid.


These were plentiful as usual on the moor, particularly Divided Sedge and False Fox Sedge which we also have on Brook Meadow. Surprisingly, I did not see any Distant Sedge which is common on Brook Meadow. I also found some Hairy Sedge which I have not yet seen on Brook Meadow this year, though I did find one tuft on the Railway Wayside.

Common Spike-rush grows in dense green patches on the South Moor, which stand out clearly from the surrounding vegetation. Based on memory, they seem to be more common than in previous years; the largest area is almost beneath the two tall electricity poles.

The characteristic sedge of the South Moor, which I have never seen on Brook Meadow, is Black Sedge. This is distinguished by its very long leaf-like bracts, the lowest about as long, or longer than the inflorescence, and its dark (black) spikelets.


There were several whites feeding mostly on the Cuckooflowers. I did not examine them all, but those which I did turned out to be Green-veined White.



I went over to the meadow to check on the sedges in the Lumley area to see how they compared with those on the South Moor. Divided Sedge and False Fox Sedge were both present in good numbers, but also Distant Sedge which I did not find on the South Moor. There was nothing that looked remotely like Black Sedge.

Slender Spike-rush

However, I did make an exciting find of what I am fairly sure is the Slender Spike-rush (Eleocharis uniglumis) that John Norton discovered on the Lumley area on June 6 last year. Slender Spike-rush differs from Common Spike-rush in having slenderer stems as shown in the following photo of the two forms.

Slender Spike-rush also only has the lowest glume of the spikelet without a floret; in Common Spike-rush both the two lowest glumes are empty. I checked this in the microscope and only the slender type had the spikelet. This discovery made me wonder if the Spike-rush on the South Moor could have been Slender Spike-rush. I shall need to check sometime.

Other observations

The single Southern Marsh Orchid is developing well on the orchid area, but I still cannot find a trace of any others. Yellow Rattle is flowering for the first time with lots to come. There is still no sign of any Ragged Robin on the Lumley area.

THURSDAY MAY 30 - 2013


Hairy Buttercup

I confirmed the identification of the Hairy Buttercup that Jane and I noticed on the Emsworth Railway Wayside yesterday. I managed to lift the plant to establish that it had roots and not bulbs. I replaced the plant back in the same spot with no apparent damage done. There are several other similar buttercup plants on the site which are also probably Hairy Buttercups.

Ladybird larva

While I was on the Railway Wayside I came across a 7-spot Ladybird larva with the four pairs of coloured marking on its abdomen.

For more waysides news go to . . .


Great Black-backed Gull chicks

The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were clearly visible on the centre raft this morning from Slipper Road. One of the chicks looks less active and well developed than the other two and tended to remain hidden in the vegetation. This is the one on the left in the photo. Last year the gulls lost one of their three chicks, so this scenario could happen again.

While I was taking photos from Slipper Road, one of the adult gulls repeatedly 'buzzed' me, by flying over my head with aggressive calling, 'ga, ga, ga, ga' . I recall, this also happened last year. It was interesting that a pair of Mallards that were on the raft throughout my visit were tolerated by the adult gull.


Common Comfrey

There is a very attractive Common Comfrey plant in full flower on the Lumley area of Brook Meadow. The flowers of Common Comfrey are in what Rose describes as 'forked, coiled, cymes' with long calyx teeth. A cyme is an inflorescence in which the terminal flower opens first followed in succession by the lateral flowers. The colour of the flowers in Common Comfrey varies, but in this one the petals are cream and the sepals purple.

The New Atlas: "This tall perennial herb occurs on the banks of streams and rivers, in ditches, fens and marshes, and on damp road verges. Generally lowland, reaching 320 m near Buxton (Derbys.). Native (change +0.34). S. officinale was over-recorded for S. x uplandicum (Russian Comfrey) in the 1962 Atlas and this confusion still obscures its true distribution. European Temperate element; also in C. Asia and widely naturalised outside its native range."


This afternoon I noticed two Stock Doves feeding on the scattered seeds on the back garden grass. This is my second sighting of these rare garden birds this year - the other sighting was on April 30. The photo shows a Woodpigeon for a useful comparison.


Bryan Pinchen has a couple more insect courses coming up at Chilcomb (Ladybirds, Grasshoppers and crickets et al). They are booking up already so anyone interested may need to book soon.



Swan 'litter nest'

Juliet Walker reports that the swan's 'litter nest' on the town millpond has now become an island! She says, "At least this gives the female the chance to take drinks of water without leaving her post on the eggs. Various bits and pieces are still being added to the structure. Let's hope everything continues to go well. The pair seem to be very good parents." My estimate of the hatching date is June 7.

Coot 'litter nest'

Juliet was also interested to watch the antics of the Coots building their 'litter nest' on the town millpond. What she assumes is the male swims around in a very purposeful way collecting all sorts of bits and pieces and sometimes returns to the nest with pieces of wood far larger than he is! The attached pictured shows him having deposited a large sodden heap of what looks like plastic on the nest.

Peter Pond nest

Maurice Lillie was lucky enough to see a great sight this morning. He says, "I knew the swans had four eggs but as I walked by, she straightened herself, got to her feet, looked down, decided to do her usual check up, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 er excuse me, 6, 7 and, good lord, 8. She then proceeded to roll them around the nest with beak and, surprisingly, her foot, then re-seated herself. My estimate of the hatching date is June 3 - next Monday.


Chris Cockburn provides a new update on breeding activity at the oysterbeds.

"The gull hatch is now in full swing - loads of chicks on both islands. Tuesday's prolonged rainfall seems to have taken only a light toll of small chicks - a few bloated corpses were blown ashore this afternoon when the northerly wind picked up - food for the crows! Big tides on Monday & Tuesday (c5 metres ACD) night probably flooded out gull nests on the saltmarsh of South Binness Island and any little terns nesting on the shingle mounds on Baker's Island must have been flooded out. Noisy pairs of Mediterranean gulls were noticeable today, which is typical behaviour after failing as is their not-so-innocent forays over the colonies at the Oysterbeds. Apart from hungry Meds, which get away with murder, the black-headed gulls had to beat off a foraging non-adult great black-backed gull and, for the first time at the site, a buzzard was successfully chased off (possibly one of the local buzzards). The number of apparently nesting common terns will probably be similar to the 17 pairs in 2012. Little terns were again in much evidence on the shingle recharge (mating etc) and a ringed plover was acting suspiciously!


Tony Wootton saw 4 Swifts screaming over his house in Highland Road today. I did not see any over ours today, though I was out most of the morning.

MONDAY MAY 27 - 2013


Azure Damselfly

While walking down the Bramble path on Brook Meadow this morning, I spotted a pale damselfly which settled on a nettle leaf for a photo. From the black stripes on its thorax and its general greenish colouring my guess is that it is a female Azure Damselfly. The male is far easier to identify with its all blue colouring.

First Southern Marsh Orchid

I have been looking for any signs of orchids on the 'orchid area' of Brook Meadow for a couple of weeks without seeing anything. However, today I found the first Southern Marsh Orchid flower spike just starting to open in the usual spot on the east of the area. My granddaughter, Nell, asked to see the rarest flower on Brook Meadow, so I took her to see the orchid which she marked with a twig.

Two Southern Marsh Orchids were planted here by Nigel Johnson in June 2007 and they have gradually increased over the years; 7 were present in 2011 and 10 in 2012. Hopefully, at this rate we should have a reasonable showing this year, but I am not holding my breath with such a rotten spring.

Small Yellow Underwing - Panemeria tenebrata

I am again grateful to Tony Davis for the correct identification of the small brown moth with yellow spots on its wings that I came across on Brook Meadow this morning. I thought it was Pyrausta aurata but Tony put me on the right track with Small Yellow Underwing. According to UK Moths it is a day-flying species which prefers sunny weather. This diminutive species frequents meadows, grassy downland and other open areas and is widely distributed, though local, over much of mainland Britain as far as southern Scotland. On the wing in May and June, it visits various flowers in grassy meadows. The larvae feed on the flowers and seeds of mouse-ear, especially common mouse-ear. See . . .


First Reed Warbler

I was pleased to hear a Reed Warbler singing from the reedbeds in the south west corner of Peter Pond. This was the first I have heard from Peter Pond this year, much later than usual. Characteristically, it remained hidden for most of the time I was there, but I managed to catch a brief glimpse of it in this photo. There is nothing in the northern reedbeds where they usually are.


Horse Chestnut colours

Today, I was asked a very simple question which I did not know the answer to. Why do some Horse Chestnut trees have white flowers and others have red flowers? All I knew is they just do! So I looked it up on the internet.

The Forestry Commission web site provided the answer - the red is a hybrid The normal white-flowering horse-chestnut is Aesculus hippocastanum. But, a number of hybrids between different Aesculus species are also grown in parks and gardens. The most common of these is the red-flowering Horse Chestnut called Aesculus x carnea, which is a cross between A. hippocastanum and A. pavia. See . . .

SUNDAY MAY 26 - 2013

Swifts return

Three Swifts were flying low over my garden in Bridge Road, Emsworth, this morning, probably the same three birds that we have seen several times in the past two weeks. They disappear for days on end and then suddenly appear again. Could they be nesting locally?

Young Starlings

Starlings were the other main bird seen over the garden, constantly flying around in small groups, whistling and screeching. They are almost certainly youngsters from a local brood, but we have not seen any come down onto the garden, even when we were not sitting there.

Tree blossom

The Rowan plantation on the east side of Brook Meadow (planted in memory of Gwynne Johnson in May 2005) is now in full blossom, better than I have seen it for many years. Is it just me, or is the blossom on trees this spring better than usual?

Another example of good tree blossom is the Holly bush on the east side of Slipper Millpond which is covered in white flowers.

Cuckoo calling

I met Pam Phillips on Brook Meadow this morning and she told me the Cuckoo that has been calling in the early morning in the Lumley Road area was calling loudly from the garden of Gooseberry Cottage at about 7am this morning, a bit later than usual.

Wood Mouse

Patrick Murphy had an interesting visitor to his garden this lunch time, namely a Wood Mouse unmistakable with its very large ears and eyes. Patrick says, the mouse kept coming out from some plants around base of apple tree and to feed on some crumbs we had put out for the birds and then darted back into the foliage before repeating the exercise. Patrick wonders if it was feeding young, which seems highly likely.

Wood Mouse often comes into gardens to take food put out for birds. I used to have one that climbed onto the bird feeders. My book says it is proably the most widespread and abundant British mammal.

An obliging Kestrel

Francis Kinsella came across a very obliging male Kestrel as he was walking from Westbourne to Emsworth this afternoon. These stunning photos were taken near the electricity substation at the start of the footpath through the fields behind Westbourne Avenue. Francis says he was able to walk right past the bird, passing within 3 or 4 feet on his way down to Brook Meadow.

'I've got my eye on you', he seems to be saying


SATURDAY MAY 25 - 2013

Great Black-backed Gull chicks

I went down to Slipper Millpond with the scope at about 9am this morning. From the western path I could clearly see three Great Black-backed Gull chicks in the nest on the centre raft. The photo clearly shows two of the chicks beneath the gull on the left which I think is the male from the relative size of its bill. The third chick is tucked away deeper in the nest and is not visible. I went down to have another look this afternoon at about 4pm and again clearly saw the three chicks. They also had three chicks last year, but they lost one.

Young Starlings

Leslie Winter has a nesting box of baby Blue Tits being fed and this afternoon the Starlings came down with their youngsters to feed. What good news that is. I regularly used to have crowds of young Starlings in my garden, but not any more.

Hollybank Woods

Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.

The report is on the Havant Wildlife Group web page at . . .

FRIDAY MAY 24 - 2013


Great Black-backed Gull chicks

Sharon, whose house in Slipper Road overlooks Slipper Millpond, phoned to say that two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the raft, hatching one day earlier than I predicted. I popped down in the car with the scope, but could only find one; the other must have been snuggled under its parent's body; not surprising since the weather was foul, cold wet and windy. But despite the conditions I managed to get a digiscoped pic.

Longhorn Moths

I am very grateful to Tony Davis for correctly identifying the insects that I labelled as 'caddis flies' on yesterday's blog as the longhorn moth Adela reaumurella. Tony added, "If we ever get any nice weather you may see the males doing their 'dancing' flight during the day. Only the males have the long antennae as per your photograph."

Tony's note reminded me of the report I had from Tony Poulett on 25 April 2011 of a swarm of these moths in his garden in North Emsworth in April 2011. From a distance Tony said they looked like a mist cloud. I also recall seeing a swarm of them around the shrubs near the cliff edge at Bouldner on the Isle of Wight in 2011.

House Martins

I have often commented that, as far as I am aware, House Martins have not nested in Emsworth for the past 25 years at least. However, I read on Hoslist today a message from Richard Creer who has had half a dozen House Martins flying around his Emsworth house just over the border in West Sussex since the May 8th. He says, in past years they have just passed through in the Spring, but this year they seem to be sticking around at least for the moment. I wonder if they will nest?


I have not seen any more Swifts in Emsworth after the three seen over Bridge Road on May 18. The general opinion is that with the continuing cold weather, and lack of flying insects, birds will be searching far and wide for food and far more interested in surviving than breeding! This probably applies to most birds this spring.


Southern Hawker ?

Tony Wootton got a rather nice image of a male Southern Hawker while he was on holiday in Somerset last week and thinks it is pretty early. Well, I certainly have not seen one or heard of anyone locally seeing one. I usually see my first in July. Actually, in my book Tony's image looks more like an immature male with the pale abdomen colours.

. . . is Hairy Dragonfly

John Bogle corrects - The dragonfly in question is in fact a male Hairy Dragonfly. When I was in Kent there were everywhere in my 'local patch' in early spring - our earliest emerging dragonfly I think. I've yet to see one in Hampshire but I'm sure they are around here somewhere!

Colin's bugs

Colin Vanner sent me a few of his recent bug pics. Here are two I found particularly interesting.

The Bee-fly showing well its furry body from which it gets its name and its long proboscis.

And the Scorpion Fly showing well the male abdomen turned up giving the insect its common name.

THURSDAY MAY 23 - 2013


Scorpion Fly

I found yet another Scorpion Fly on the Seagull Lane patch this morning, the third we have had on Brook Meadow in the past week or so. They must be particularly common at present - or possibly just eye-catching!

David Search also got one during his insect survey yesterday. He says it was a male Panorpa germanica which is very common although Bryan Pinchen did not record it during his survey 3 years ago.

Caddis flies - CORRECTION

I am very grateful to Tony Davis for correctly identifying the insects that I originally labelled as 'caddis flies' as the longhorn moth Adela reaumurella. Tony added, "If we ever get any nice weather you may see the males doing their 'dancing' flight during the day. Only the males have the long antennae as per your photograph."


I got a nice photo of the north meadow Whitethroat singing well and prominently on the willow saplings just below the north path. I heard another singing below the causeway. I think a third is on the east side of the north meadow.


I found the first tufts of Spiked Sedge on the centre meadow. Divided Sedge and Distant Sedge are now fairly abundant on the east side of the Lumley area along with some False Fox Sedge, though I have yet to see any Hairy Sedge or Common Spike-rush which also grow in this area. Grey Sedge lines the edge of Lumley Road, but the spot where Remote Sedge usually grows on the edge of the Lumley Stream is now overgrown with other plants.

Greater Celandine

Three plants of Greater Celandine are now in flower at the end of the path leading from Seagull Lane to Lumley Mill, though most of the delicate yellow petals have been blown off by the wind. Note: these plants are not on the Brook Meadow site.


The Great Black-backed Gull was sitting snugly on her nest on the centre raft when I passed this morning in company with a Mallard. There is not long to go before hatching which I have estimated at May 26.

There is a dead Black-headed Gull on the south raft; this could be the work of the Great Black-backed Gulls, though I have occasionally seen dead gulls on the rafts in previous years. The Coot pair from the north raft still has their one remaining chick. The adult is back in the nest box for a second try. Sea Club-rush is just starting to show its spikelets on the west side of the pond. Tree Mallow is also now in flower on the side of the pond as is Silverweed.


Common Tern with crab

Mike Wells was at Hayling Oysterbeds yesterday afternoon (Wed) watching a Common Tern 'fishing'. Mike was very interested to ascertain that one of its catches was a crab, which it grabbed in about 12 inches of water. He thinks it certainly looked like a 'soft-back', which is a state the crab has after a complete shedding of its outgrown shell, legs, pincers etc.. This condition of crab is very desirable both to birds and predatory fish, so, would be easily eaten by a tern.

Fox cubs in garden

Susan Kelly has a litter of five fox cubs in her South Emsworth garden, still at the fat and fluffy and curious stage. "Last week, very early one morning, two of them burst out of the bushes in pursuit of a bumblebee and ran straight past my feet"!

She was out watching them in the gloaming at 9.30 yesterday evening, from only a few feet away. "They were playing boisterously in a corner of the garden near the main earth, hiding behind the apple trees and jumping out. Magic, but very noisy." What a great experience.



I had a very good walk through Hollybank Woods this morning in fine but cloudy weather. The conservation group have their regular workday on Wednesday mornings and volunteers were hard at work clearing trees and making fences. Andy told me that the deer were not grazing off the new regeneration of tree growth this year like they usually did. He thought there must be plenty of food elsewhere in the woodland.


I heard several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing, along with Song Thrush and Blackbird and other common woodland birds, but no sound of Willow Warbler this year.


The most abundant wild flower in the woods was Wood Speedwell with its bright blue flowers with hairs all round the stems, not just in two lines like Germander Speedwell.

Andy told me the Early Purple Orchids were in flower on Longcopse Hill, but not in any great numbers. I did not have time to check them today. The small patch of Ransoms (Wild Garlic) is flowering on the side of the north-south main track. I believe this was planted several years ago Jill von Westarp. Crosswort was flowering well in the Holly Lodge clearing along with very good crops of Sweet Vernal Grass and Field Wood-rush in the south of the area.

The Julilee open area to the north of the old Holly Lodge clearing was looking very fine with a variety of flowers, grasses and mosses creating a beautiful kaleidoscope of colours. The conservation group has constructed a dead wood fence behind the Jubilee hedgerow to provide cover and extra warmth.

Sheep's Sorrel was one new plant in this area, which can be identified from its leaves which have basal lobes pointing sideways or forwards.

One target was to check on the native wild version of Lily of the Valley which I was delighted to find with 12 flower spikes. Excellent work by the conservation group to discover and protect it.

Bluebells are now looking especially good along the north eastern path near the Emsworth Common Road. However, those on the south eastern path, which are usually better are having to compete with burgeoning Bracken.

Grasses etc

I have never seen so much Wood Millet in the woods. This charming grass with delicate panicles has been very scarce in previous years, but this year it is growing well in several areas, particularly the new open Jubilee area and the south eastern Bluebell area. My camera does not do it justice. you need to see it for real. Super. I also found Wood Melick - though far less in quantity.

Best find of all was a good tuft of the scarce Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp congesta) (only one that I could see) in the usual spot at the junction of several paths just east of the south eastern Bluebell area. This plant was originally discovered in Hollybank Woods on May 11, 2002 by my friend Gwynne Johnson, now sadly deceased, but her memory lives on in these plants which come up every year.


I saw several ginger Bumblebees which I assume were Bombus pascuorum. The only butterfly of the morning was yet another Green-veined White.


Turtle Dove in Havant

Martin Hampton was pleased to read in yesterday's blog about the Turtle Dove sighting in 'his' bit of Havant. Martin has been working on his community 'meadow' two evenings and has heard the bird purring both days and had started to doubt his own ears until he read that others too had heard and seen the bird. Martin also mentions that he had a male Bullfinch feeding on a sunflower seed feeder in his front garden in Lower Grove Road for the first time ever.

I went over to Lower Grove Road this afternoon and also heard the Turtle Dove purring from trees behind Martin's community 'meadow'. So, it looks as if it may be staying for a while? The Turtle Dove we had on Brook Meadow in Jun-Jul 2008 stayed with us for 6 weeks.

Reed Warbler on Baffins Pond

Eric Eddles was very excited to tell me the brilliant news that they have a Reed Warbler in the North East reed bed, which is certainly a first for Baffins Pond. Here is Eric's photo of the bird. Eric also says there are two families of Canada Geese on the pond, one pair with five goslings and the other with six and all growing up fast.

Hayling Oysterbeds

Peter Milinets-Raby took his son in his pram to Hayling Oysterbeds at high tide this morning. The wader roost consisted of 62 Oystercatcher, 2 Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, Ringed Plover, 6 Dunlin, 2 Sandwich Tern, Great Crested Grebe off shore. Here is Peter's photo of the great gull show on the 'tern islands' in the lagoon. Cover up your ears as it is noisy! Peter says, some Med Gulls were nesting and 4 Little Terns looking very interested in the new shingle bit! Spot them if you can!

TUESDAY MAY 21 - 2013


Seagull Lane patch

The Seagull Lane patch which the conservation group cleared of brambles last year is now looking green and luxurious with a massive growth fresh grasses, mainly Rough Meadow-grass, Cocksfoot and Barren Brome, peppered with the umbels of Cow Parsley. The three planted sapling Oaks and the Red Oak are sprouting fresh leaves and all look very healthy. The leaves of the Red Oak are much sharper than the native ones.

A view of the Seagull Lane patch looking north towards the railway line

Green-veined White

I found a Green-veined White on the Seagull Lane patch with almost pure white upper wings with just a hint of the green veins showing through. This feature is characteristic of the first brood males. I am surprised by the number of Green-veined White butterflies I have seen this spring, far more than the other two common whites.

Scorpion Fly

Ralph Hollins provided the answer to the mystery fly photographed by Brian Lawrence on Brook Meadow yesterday. It was a Scorpion Fly, probably Panorpa communis. Here is Brian's photo again.

This is the most common and widespread Scorpion fly in Britain though there are three Panorpa species in Britain and all require close examination with a microscope or good hand lens to distinguish them. I knew I had seen one before, but did not consider looking in the lacewings section in Chinery's guide for it. I had seen and photographed one on Brook Meadow on 5 Sep 2007.

Scorpion Fly has patterned wings and sturdy beak, but the scorpion-like tail from which it gets its name is only seen in the male and is in fact its genitalia - and doesn't sting! It likes hedgerows, Nettle beds and well wooded areas and is seen from May to September. They feed mostly on dead insects, which they frequently steal from the webs of spiders.

Information from . . .

Insect survey

I happened to meet David Search on Brook Meadow this morning. David was carrying out an insect survey and in one of his little plastic pots he had none other than a Scorpion Fly. He said he would be looking at it closely later to determine the precise species. David also saw the first damselflies of the year, a pair of Common Blue mating and a possible immature male Azure Damselfly.

Water Vole

I met Graham Petrie on the main river path at bout 3.15 this afternoon. He had just seen a Water Vole on the west bank of the river immediately beneath the old gasholder. This was particularly interesting as we have had very few sightings from this area of the river this year (only 6 in fact until today).


Turtle Dove in Havant

Ralph Hollins had some luck yesterday when Tony Gutteridge phoned him to say he had a Turtle Dove in Grove Road, Havant. Ralph was there within minutes and luckily so was the bird, perched silently in full view on a tree top, but within a few more minutes a pair of Magpies decided to chivvy it out of their territory and the Dove was last seen flying west towards South Street. Ralph doubts that it stayed in Havant Town though why it should stop here in the first place is a mystery. This was the first Turtle Dove of the year in the local area. See Ralph's diary entry for Mon May 20 . . .

Nightingales at Marlpit Lane

I had a walk along Marlpit Lane this afternoon and heard Two Nightingales singing loudly just past the first bend north of the amenity tip. I listened for Turtle Dove, but did not hear anything.

Terns at Hayling Oysterbeds

Tony Wootton spent a couple of hours at the Hayling Oysterbeds this afternoon. He saw 6 to 8 Common Terns, no Little Terns, 5 Oystercatchers, hundreds of Black-headed Gulls. The noise was overwhelming he says.

Tony's photo shows some of the Black-headed Gulls on nests on the island,
with two Black-headed Gull chicks and a single Common Tern

See Chris Cockburn's report on the breeding activity at the oysterbeds in yesterday's blog entry. Chris counted an astonishing 1,149 Black-headed Gull nests on the two small islands.

House Martins at Funtington

Paul Cooper reported that House Martins have returned to his house in Lynch Down Funtington. They arrived on 18 May and a pair appear to be nesting under the eaves. They disappear during the day (hunting insects presumably) but return at night. As he was writing, 10 were flying high above the house. Last year Paul said they nested but then all disappeared by mid-May - we thought because of the awful wet weather. We hope they have more success this year.

Lapwing on Farlington Marshes

Bob Chapman reports that the Lapwing are getting on pretty well so far. There have been losses of clutches to predators, but there are now at least four hatched broods around the reserve and a number of others should be getting close to hatching. Bob also thinks there are at least four pairs of Redshank with territories on the reserve.

MONDAY MAY 20 - 2013


Jane Brook and I continued our (not so) regular Monday morning surveys of the Emsworth waysides. The weather was fine and warm. We surveyed two of the north Emsworth waysides together. Jane continued with the other two as I had to leave early for a hospital appointment. Jane found the Common Spotted Orchid had come up on the Greville Green (west) wayside, but was not yet in flower. Jane found a rather groggy looking Cockchafer on the pavement on Horndean Road. After taking some photos we placed it in the dense vegetation on the Spencer's Field wayside.

The full report with photos is on the waysides blog at . . .


After my hospital appointment, I had a stroll around Fort Widley and Fort Purbrook. No sign of any orchids, but there were Cowslips and Crosswort everywhere.

Several Swifts were flying over Fort Widley. Lesser Whitethroat was singing behind Fort Widley. Swarms of St Mark's Flies were in the air, but only at Widley. Here is one feeding on Crosswort.

Other flowering plants; Wayfaring-tree, Red Campion, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Germander Speedwell, Hoary Cress, Field Madder, Beaked Hawk's-beard, Lots of Oxeye Daisies were in bud in front of Fort Purbrook, but none was open. Two extra plants at Fort Purbrook were Common Milkwort, Bugle and Salad Burnet. Upright Brome with hairs on the edge of the leaves was abundant as was Glaucous Sedge.


Brian Lawrence arrived at Brook Meadow at about 10.30 this morning as he got out of the car he was greeted with the call of a Cuckoo. He saw a large bird fly off which might have been it. Brian also sent a photo of an insect with mottled wings. It turned out to be a Scorpion Fly - see entry for May 21 for discussion and photo.


Chris Cockburn sends his regular update:

"There are now increasingly larger numbers of Black-headed Gull chicks to be seen, but the very close proximity of some nests will create problems for these fiercely territorial birds. It is no surprise that the Oysterbeds' islands look crowded. There are no less than 1,149 Black-headed Gull nests there (110 more than in 2012). There were 550 nests on NE Island and 599 nests on SW Island - the round figure of 550 is typical of summed totals for bird/nest counts and, perhaps, I did miss one nest on SW Island!

The density of gull nests obviously precludes good numbers of nesting common terns; however, 8 Common Tern pairs are fighting for territory (1 on North/East/Banana Island) and 7 on West/South Island). We really must have a competition to decide on names for these two islands - please do offer suggestions (printable, of course) - we would use the most popular!

There were three Mediterranean Gull nests seen - but it is possible that one or two were missed - it will be a case of finding a special viewpoint.

As expected, there were no Sandwich Tern nests and, as yet, the 3 pairs of Oystercatchers have not found suitable places.

The recently imported shingle (western end of the "NW Bund") is proving attractive to Little Terns and to an oystercatcher pair and a common tern pair that might well try nesting there (encouragingly, a ringed plover was there on Sat & Sun). If Little Terns do nest there, they might become of interest to a Kestrel that regularly hunts nearby - hopefully, any Little Tern chicks will start a new fashion and actually use chick-shelters. So far, no Little Terns have shown interest in the bare shingle area north east of the lagoon on the "North Spit" (a better name, please?!).

It is hoped that weather conditions will be good enough to do a nest count on the harbour islands soon - the count will have to be done at some time between Wed 22 May &Tue 28 May, before the main hatch starts (eggs are static - small chicks not so!) "

SUNDAY MAY 19 - 2013

Drama on Brook Meadow

As I was walking through the south meadow this afternoon, I heard someone screaming 'I can't swim' from the river on the other side of the embankment. I rushed over to the south bridge only to find a crew of young people filming a girl being rescued from the river. In fact, I watched a second take of the action as the girl was first pushed into the river and then hauled out by a boy.

Speaking to the group, I discovered that the film was a drama written by a young student of Southampton University for her MA thesis. The crew and actors were her student friends helping with the filming. The photo (taken from the south bridge) shows the girl in the water and her lover on the bank preparing to rescue her. The film crew is behind the bushes on the left. The chap on the opposite bank had an underwater camera on the end of a stick to film her agonies from under the water. I explained to them that this was a nature reserve, and they were very understanding, but there was no question of their doing any damage or lasting disturbance. So I wished them good luck and went on my way.

SATURDAY MAY 18 - 2013


Young Water Vole

Malcolm Phillips saw what looked like a young Water Vole in the river beneath the railway embankment on the north path at 10.30am.


I watched one of our Whitethroats from the north path. It occasionally perched on the tall stems of dead vegetation singing its short scratchy song.

Common Comfrey

Both purple and white flowered varieties of Common Comfrey are now out on the south meadow, about 2 weeks later than usual. I always puzzle over comfreys as to whether they are Common or Russian Comfrey.

I looked closely at the stems, but all plants appeared to have strongly winged leaves running down the stem suggesting they are Common Comfrey and not Russian Comfrey, where the wings only slightly run down the stem. Also, Rose (p.364) states that Common Comfrey flowers before Russian Comfrey ie May-Jun as opposed to Jun-Jul, which also supports the Common Comfrey identification.

Sharp-flowered Rush

The leaves of Sharp-flowered Rush can be seen all over the Lumley area, pushing their way up through the matted dead grasses (the Lumley area was not cut and raked last year). These plants were first seen on Brook Meadow in 2009 on the western side near the cross path, but have spread each year since then. They must be spreading through their far-creeping underground stems (rhizomes).

Greater Pond Sedge

Greater Pond Sedge is now very prominent on the east side of the Lumley area near the Lumley Stream. The brown male spikelets are at the tip of the stem and the female spikelets below.

The key to identification are the long sharp-pointed tips to the female glumes; Lesser Pond Sedge has short pointed tips to the glumes. Lesser Pond Sedge grows on the banks of the River Ems on the west side of Brook Meadow.

Other plants

There were just a few Cuckooflowers out on the south meadow, in sharp contrast to the hundreds still in flower on the Bridge Road Wayside. There is no sign of any Ragged Robin on the Lumley area or elsewhere. It is usually out by now, though last year was a very poor one. Lots of leaves of Wild Angelica are present on the Lumley area. I also noticed Yellow Iris in flower for the first time on the edge of the Lumley Stream, 2 weeks later than last year.



Susan Kelly alerted me to the arrival of Swifts in Emsworth; she heard some flying over her house in Kingsley Avenue Emsworth this morning. Then, this afternoon, we had three of them screaming over the houses in Bridge Road, here one moment and gone the next. These were probably just passing through, but it is encouraging to know they have arrived, albeit about a week or so later than usual.

Water Vole in Havant

Bernard Gudge and his wife watched a Water Vole feeding close to the reeds in the stream near the entrance to the dialysis unit in the De La Rue building in Havant today. Bernard noticed there were anti-vermin boxes about the site which he hopes won't be a problem.

Havant Wildlife Group walk

Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group from Sinah gravel pit around Gunnar Point and Hayling Ferry on a bright, dry morning. For the report go to the special web page for the 2013 walks at . . . Havant Wildlife Group

FRIDAY MAY 17 - 2013

Swan 'litter nest'

Rosemary Hampton reports that the pen swan is still sitting on 6 eggs on the "litter nest" on Emsworth Millpond and has collected a piece of builders' merchant bag for the nest. Has there ever been a nest like this one?

Rosemary says the male is busy keeping other birds at bay, ducks, doves, pigeons and gulls all attracted by bits of bread thrown to the swan. This morning I watched the cob attack another swan that came a bit too close, continually biting its neck. This territorial activity of the cob probably explains the relative absence of Mute Swans anywhere on the millpond at present.

Long-tailed Tit young

Francis Kinsella was on Brook Meadow this afternoon when he captured this delightful image of two young Long-tailed Tits begging to be fed. This confirms breeding of this species on the Brook Meadow site. The photo was taken near the railway bridge in the north-west corner of the Seagull Lane patch.

Ham Wall, Somerset

Tony and Hilary Wootton visited the Ham Wall RSPB reserve in Somerset last week and saw some good birds and heard Bitterns booming. Sounds like a good place for a visit. Ham Wall is near Glastonbury, Somerset. Grid reference: ST449397.

Here is Tony's smashing photo of a Hobby
showing well its black and white head, heavily streaked underparts and rufous vent.

Tony also got this Swift, a bird which I still not have seen in Emsworth this year.

For earlier observations go to . . May 1-16