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


for 1-16 July, 2013

in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current

TUESDAY JULY 16 - 2013

Waysides News

Marsh Woundwort is now showing very well on the Railway Wayside with at least 150 flower spikes and maybe more to come. Last year we had 200 spikes. There were lots of insects feeding on the great array of flowers, including Small Skipper, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown and this beautiful Marbled White.

I also saw a 6-spot Burnet Moth

Brook Meadow

Malcolm Phillips saw a good selection of butterflies on the meadow this afternoon, including Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Ringlet, Large Skipper, Small Skipper and this Large White. I was surprised to find that this was the first Large White we have recorded on Brook Meadow this year! Whites seem to have been quite scarce. One butterfly still notable by its absence is Common Blue which we usually have in some numbers.

Mystery plant was Apple-of-Peru - Nicandra physalodes

Ralph Hollins came up with the answer to the mystery plant in yesterday's blog. It is Apple-of-Peru (Nicandra physalodes) also known as the Shoo-fly Plant, presumably because of its ability to deter flies. It is a member of the Solanaceae or potato family, which also contains the highly poisonous Deadly Nightshade. There is some dispute as to whether it is poisonous, but I think one should be cautious and not attempt to eat it!

It has bell-shaped flowers that are most commonly pale blue and white, but there are also forms with violet flowers. The flowers are short-lived, opening for only a few hours each day. Flowers appear from June to October. Fruits are cherry-like, green-brown berries, encased within green or black-mottled calyces. Branches of the mature Chinese lantern-style fruits can be dried and used for winter decoration.

Here is a better photo of the plant than the one I used yesterday

It is native to Peru and is known elsewhere as an introduced species and sometimes a weed. It is also kept as an ornamental plant. It can be grown from seed as a decorative addition to the garden. However, it can pop unexpectedly, particularly around bird feeders because it occurs in commercial bird-seed mixtures. The distribution in Britain is predominantly south of a line from Liverpool to Hull.

MONDAY JULY 15 - 2013


Mute Swan news

I checked the three Mute Swan families this morning, which were all present and correct! The Peter Pond family with 2 cygnets were back on Peter Pond - much safer there. The one cygnet from the 'litter nest' was on the town millpond with its parents, apparently feeding and looking not too bad. The family from the marina nest with 3 cygnets (including the white one) was in the main Emsworth channel in the harbour.

Slipper Millpond

The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the water near Chequers Quay when I passed by. One of the adults was on the pond nearby, keeping an eye on them!

Emsworth Harbour

No sign of any Greenshank today, but I did spot just one unringed Black-tailed Godwit in fine summer plumage. Where are the others?

Willow leaf galls

Many leaves of the Crack Willows on Brook Meadow are currently decorated with red galls.

These are produced by a very small sawfly called the Willow leaf Sawfly - Pontania proxima. The larvae of the sawfly are pale green in colour with a dark head. They are small and caterpillar-like, reaching only 5 mm in length. Adults emerge in late spring, and females seek out suitable willows on which to lay eggs. The female inserts an egg into leaf tissue where it hatches and begins to eat the soft leaf tissue. This stimulates the leaf to produce a gall which is bean-shaped, smooth and emerges equally on both sides of the leaf. The gall may be green, red or yellow. A single larva feeds in the cavity of each gall. It pupates in the soil where it over winters. They are common and widespread in Britain.


Mystery plant

A friend of mine has a number of strange plants coming up in her vegetable patch. She pulled one up and asked if I could identify it. It was about 50cm tall with a reddish solid square stem and alternate stalked nettle-like deeply serrated leaves. The leaves have erect short dark hairs. The flowers are yet to open properly, but look purple and bell shaped. My first thought was it looked like Nettle-leaved Bellflower, but the main problem with that is that the leaves should be short-stalked, which they are not. But anyway here is a photo of the plant. I would appreciate help.

Erythristic badger

James Collings-Wells saw two Badgers in the same hour while on a bike ride in the downs one evening last week. One had unusual colouring: a creamy sandy colour with hardly any stripe. Most badgers have a black and white striped face and a grey body. However, the pelage of Badgers can vary quite a lot, including albinism. I think the one James saw could have been what is called a erythristic badger which has a sandy-red colour on the usually black parts of the body. There is a photo of one on the following link . . .

Red Kites scavenging

During his bike ride, James also surprised two big Red Kites on the road north of Compton, feeding on a dead rabbit. Red Kites are becoming increasing common in the south following their successful re-introduction in The Chilterns between 1889 and 1993, but they are usually sighted soaring overhead. James's sighting of two scavenging on the roadside is probably a reminder of those days when Red Kites were ubiquitous scavengers that lived on carrion and garbage in large cities.

Pond Skaters mating

Peter Milinets-Raby captured this splendid image of a pair of Pond Skaters mating on his garden pond. Certainly a first for this web site (though there are plenty on the internet in general).

SUNDAY JULY 14 - 2013


The family fron the 'litter nest' on the town millpond were on the pond with their single cygnet, which is definitely growing, though it still looks a bit scraggy around the neck, though this is hardly surprising considering its early life. But, having survived this long I think it has a pretty good chance of growing up to be 'a real swan' and joining the local flock.

The Swan pair from the nest on Peter Pond have had their brood reduced to two. At least two of the missing cygnets were swept over the sluice gates into the harbour and I suspect the Great Black-backed Gulls had some of the others.

The 3 Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the north raft on Slipper Millpond as usual. The adults were on the centre raft and on the pond.

The Coot is still on its nest on the floating raft on Peter Pond. The Moth Mullein on the east side of the pond is almost finished flowering, but is still standing tall with several stems. There are more Moth Mullein plants on the nesting island. There are lots of bulbils of Crow Garlic on the east side of Peter Pond.

I got a nice photo of a juvenile Black-headed Gull on Slipper Millpond near the bridge


Greater Burdock

There are about 30 Greater Burdock plants on the Washington Road path wayside opposite the pony field. Martin Rand said this was most likely a first for SU70. Here are some of them in this photo. I have included my bicycle in the photo to give some impression of their size.

Green Woodpeckers

Both Francis Kinsella and Tony Wootton have reported seeing family parties of Green Woodpeckers. Francis saw three grouped together on the fields behind Westbourne Avenue and then further down the field another one with what might have been a 5th heard but not seen. Tony also saw three all at once on the telegraph pole outside his house in Emsworth this morning. One was making a lot of noise and was quite agitated, the other two were almost frozen. Here is Tony's photo of an adult and juvenile on the pole.


A small family party of 8 Swifts has been feeding over the houses in Bridge Road today. It was good to see them, but their numbers are well down on what they were a few years ago, when 20-30 were not uncommon. If anyone knows where they might be nesting locally, please let me know. Meanwhile, it is important that we keep potential nesting sites available by not blocking holes under our roofs.

Caroline French also had what were probably the same 8 Swifts flying over her house in North Emsworth today. On the 2nd July and 8th July Caroline saw a large gathering of feeding Swifts, around 80 and 70 respectively, in the area north-west of Lordington Copse.

Yesterday, Ralph Hollins saw some evidence of Swifts nesting in centre of Havant. See his interesting discussion of these birds and the frightening parasites they suffer from on . . .


Today, Caroline and Ray French had a walk from Stansted House, along the west side of Watergate Hanger and back past Broadreed Farm. The highlight was hearing a Woodlark singing both on their way out and on their return, though they failed to spot it! I think this is quite late for Woodlark song? Birds of the Western Palearctic says the main song period is March to mid-June. Caroline also heard several singing Yellowhammers.


Ros Norton reported on yesterday's Havant Wildlife Group walk at Noar Hill. "Three of us visited Noar Hill on a lovely warm sunny morning which brought the butterflies out early including many marbled whites and ringlets, also small heaths, skippers, meadow browns and whites. Skylarks and yellowhammers were singing. Orchids in flower included many common spotted, fragrant, pyramidal, twayblade and musk but the white helliborines had gone to seed. Other flowers included rock-rose, greater and black knapweed, fairy flax, thyme, many hawkweeds,hedge woundwort, hedge bedstraw, ladies bedstraw, hogweed, rest harrow, tufted vetch, ox-eye daisies, milkwort, birds foot trefoil, and marsh, creeping , spear and dwarf thistles."

FRIDAY JULY 12 - 2013


Mute Swan families

The Mute Swan family with their one remaining cygnet was on the town millpond. The cygnet is still looking a bit thin, but having survived this long I think it has a good chance of growing up to join the local flock.

The Mute Swan family from the Peter Pond nest was now down to just two cygnets on Slipper Millpond this morning. I saw three cygnets only yesterday evening, so the other one must have been lost overnight. How did it go? Over the sluice gate? The gulls? Who knows?

The Mute Swan family that nested on the marina embankment were in the marina this morning with their three cygnets (including one white one - 'Polish') still intact.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were still on the north raft which is where I saw them yesterday evening. While I was there one of the adults came in with some food for the chicks. The chicks are now growing fast and I saw one make a short flight of a metre or so from the raft. It will not be long before they are fully fledged, though I suspect they will remain on the pond for a while. They certainly are very big birds!

Juvenile Black-headed Gulls

The first of the juvenile Black-headed Gulls are now in Emsworth. I saw two on Emsworth Millpond this morning and there were several more in the harbour. These are probably from the breeding colony at Hayling Oysterbeds which produced in the region of 1,500 young Black-headed Gulls this year.


I got down to the marina seawall by 11am with the tide rising in the harbour to high water in 4 hours time. I usually see Black-tailed Godwits at this time of the year, but there were none there today. However, I did spot two Greenshanks feeding together, both in fairly dark breeding plumage. One of the Greenshank was colour-ringed - see below. The only other birds apart from gulls were a few Redshank, a couple of Oystercatchers, a Whimbrel and a Little Egret.

Greenshank - RG+BY geo

This is one of 3 Greenshanks that Pete Potts caught at Thorney and fitted geolocators to the blue rings. I previously saw this bird here in the harbour on 04-Apr-13. Since then it has presumably been away on its breeding grounds, either in Northern Scotland or in Scandinavia.

The other two Greenshanks with geolocators are L+WY (which has the geolocator on the W), and RW+BY. Any bird caught that was previously unringed has a blue ring as the top ring on the right leg, with the geolocator attached to that.

I have passed the sighting to Anne de Potier who is the new Greenshank colour-ringed recorder. Anne says she has no news of where the bird has been, so unless anyone reports anything they won't know what it has done until they re-trap it and download the data. But it's very important to know it has returned: being alive is good!

Other marina seawall observations

Hemlock is now abundant on the marina seawall with many plants up to 8 foot tall. My first Teasel of the year was in flower. The pretty pink flowers of Hedgerow Crane's-bill were dotted along the seawall path.

Another two Small Tortoiseshells were flying along the seawall path. I am seeing them everywhere this year, which is in contrast to previous years when they have been extremely scarce. Chris Cockburn has also commented on the good number of Small Tortoiseshells on Hayling Oysterbeds (see below) as has Bob Chapman at Farlington Marshes. I saw a 6-spot Burnet Moth on a Spear Thistle flower head; the 6-spot always has two spots at the tip of each wing, unlike the 5-spot which has one.


I went a short way down the western track to Little Deeps; it was too hot and I was too tired to go any further. My first Agrimony was in flower. Saltmarsh Rush was fairly frequent alongside the track. I was surprised at the rounded capsules, almost like Round-fruited Rush! Meadow Barley was far less frequent. I found a very obliging Small Skipper feeding on the Red Clover near the gate to the ERA track.


Chris Cockburn provided the following news up date from the oysterbeds:

"There are now 64 common tern pairs (plus some wandering male chancers - waving fish at all & sundry in the hope of finding a mate). There are c7 chicks that can lift-off from ground - but are not flying yet. There are also variously aged smaller chicks and there are adults presumed to be on egg. It is looking increasingly likely that common terns will be a feature of the site until late August or even September. Food supplies seem to be OK, with many of the adults seen returning to the site with suitably-sized "silvery" fish prey; but given that winds have frequently been Force 5, these birds may be having difficulties in finding sufficient quantities to feed more than one chick (there have been broods of two chicks in most of the viewable nest sites and all of these broods have rapidly reduced to a single chick - had they reduced to no chicks, predation would have been suspected) . There has been no definite indication of predation of common tern chicks by the gulls - but it is difficult to see what is happening on the eastern (curved) island - and no common tern chicks have been observed being eaten by black-headed gulls, unlike in some previous seasons when the weather has been very bad (long periods of strong winds , rain etc).

The Mediterranean gull nesters are being harassed by increasing numbers of other Meds (presumed to be failed pairs) and there is now a possibility that, given the dry conditions, adults are having problems in finding earthworms and other terrestrial invertebrate prey to feed their youngsters. I observed only 3 youngsters today (originally there were 10 chicks); but I could easily have missed any that were 'hunkered down' trying to avoid the attention of the failed birds.

Black-headed gulls have had an excellent season despite the extremely high density of nests on the two islands and the productivity rate for the site may end up as high as c1.75 fledged birds per nesting pair. Some of the adult gulls are still "sitting" on nests; but it is highly unlikely that any chicks will appear given that they have been "sitting" for well over four weeks.

Oystercatchers and ringed plovers - perhaps a gull/tern colony is not the ideal place for nesting waders. Such waders would normally nest on similar habitats to that at the Oysterbeds' islands; but, normally, they nest at considerable distances from any neighbouring waders and, if disturbed or threatened, quickly move away from the nest site to distract attention - they are just not capable of coping with fiercely territorial gulls & terns and to leave a nest unguarded is not the best strategy for success.

Insects are becoming more noticeable (at last!) - it was thrilling for me to see so many Small Tortoisehell butterflies recently after not having seen any (at the Oysterbeds and on my Transect Routes at FM) during the last three years."




Following an e-mail from Jane Brook that she had seen White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries in Hollybank yesterday, I headed off there this morning to have a look. The first butterfly I saw was a Red Admiral near the south entrance followed by a Comma on the eastern bridleway. There were lots of Meadow Browns on the Holly Lodge clearing, but nothing else. So, I walked down the eastern bridleway to my favourite (Lawton) seat where I have seen White Admirals and Silver-washed Fritillaries in previous years. While I was sitting there, Andy and Jane Brook came past with their dog, Bo. They had already seen some of the target butterflies, so I decided to walk back along the bridleway with them. Hey presto, we all got good views of at least two White Admirals near the main junction, but they did not perch for a photo.

However, here is one that Richard Somerscocks took in Hollybank Woods last year

Other observations

Blackcap was the only bird I heard singing. Enchanter's Nightshade was in flower along most of the woodland paths as was Honeysuckle. To the north of the Holly Lodge clearing I found an attractive growth of delicate Bent-grasses. The ligules were fairly long which inclined me towards Velvet Bent-grass, though I would not rule out Common Bent-grass or even Black Bent-grass.


I had quite a surprise when I went to fill up the bird feeders this morning and found a large black beetle squirming around in the bag of sunflower hearts. My immediate inclination was that it was a Stag Beetle, though it lacked the huge 'antlers' of the male, so I assume it was a female. It measured just under 4cm which I think excludes Lesser Stag Beetle which would be smaller than this. I placed the beetle on a dish so that I could photograph it without it running away. The white on the head is from the seeds it was immersed in when I found it. I put it back among the shrubs in the garden when I had finished.

I have heard several reports of people having had Stag Beetles in their gardens this year. Are they having a particularly good season? Caroline French had a magnificent male in her North Emsworth garden on 24 July 2012 - see photo on blog for that date. . . . .


I had a look at Slipper Millpond this evening. The Mute Swan family was present on Slipper Millpond near the bridge with the 3 cygnets looking fine and healthy.

The 3 Great Black-backed Gull chicks had migrated onto the north raft which the two chicks also did last year. One of the two adult Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft along with two Cormorants and the other one was on the water. Here are the chicks basking in the evening sunshine on the north raft.


Eric Eddles reported from Baffins Pond in Portsmouth that all four of the Barnacle goslings have been predated possibly by the local fox, but the resident Call Ducks have a young duckling, which is a first for the pond.



I had a look around some of the local waysides this morning, logging new plants for the year.

Greater Burdock?

I took some time examining the huge Burdock plants on the Washington Road path wayside at Grid Ref: SU 74612 06482. How can one judge if they are the common Lesser Burdock or the rare Greater Burdock? Some of them are a good 7 foot tall, though height apparently is not critical. The main factors distinguishing the two species are (1) whether the basal stem leaves are solid as in Greater or hollow as in Lesser and (2) whether the flower heads are long-stalked (at least 2.5cm) and in corymbs (flat-topped) as in Greater, or short-stalked (less than 2cm) and in racemes as in Lesser. I cut through the stems of the basal leaves of several of the plants and all of them were solid, indicating Greater. The flower heads appear to be reasonably well clustered at the top of the plants.

So, my tentative conclusion is that they plants are Greater Burdock (Arctium lappa). I shall, of course, ask for the opinion of recorder Martin Rand. The Hants Flora says Arctium lappa is very local and occasional and the distribution map shows no records in this area of Hampshire.

I sent the report and a photo to Martin Rand who confirmed the identification. He said, "Yes, those long-stalked rather lop-sided corymbs look dead right for Arctium lappa. That and the solid stems convince me, and the obviously large heads and the all-green involucral bracts clinch it. Arctium minus subsp. pubens, which is probably a stable hybrid formed from a cross with other forms of A. minus with A. lappa, has rather smaller heads with some russety tins on the bracts."

Other observations

There is a better than usual crop of Meadow Barley on the Emsworth Recreation Ground wayside - close to the gate to the pony field at Grid Ref: SU 74494 06724. Oh that it grew like this on Brook Meadow, where it is well nigh impossible to find.

Alas, the last remaining Wild Clary plants on the council mown Christopher Way verge have been destroyed by the workers installing the new gas mains

Two species of Bumblebees were feeding on the Common Ragwort flowers on the New Brighton Road Junction wayside; Bombus terrestris (white tail) and Bombus lapidarius (red tail). Here is what I think is a Bombus terrestris - probably a male drinking nectar as it has slightly hairy legs (workers have smooth legs) and no pollen baskets (though workers do not always carry pollen baskets).

Marsh Woundwort is now flowering on the Railway Wayside and can be seen from the northern entrance to the station. Some Common Knapweed also in flower. It is interesting to see the various shapes, sizes and colours of the Wild Carrot flower heads.

I had my first Small Skipper of the year on the new embankment - feeding on various flowers. And yet another Small Tortoiseshell - they really have come back this year! Here is the Small Skipper feeding on Scentless Mayweed. It is certainly not an Essex Skipper with antennae like those.


Colin Vanner got this fine image of a young Bearded Tit at Farlington Marshes on Saturday. He said they were showing well in the reedbeds. I believe this is the first photo young Bearded Tit I have had for the blog. Excellent!



I had a short walk through the meadow early this morning. The Willow Warbler was singing from the Crack Willows on the north east path through the north meadow. It seems to have moved its location from the Lumley copse, maybe a new singing area will bring more luck in attracting a mate. I also heard Blackcap and Whitethroat, but little else apart from Wren.

Ribbed or Tall Melilot?

Ralph Hollins queried my identification of the yellow flowered plant that I found on the Seagull Lane patch of Brook Meadow on Sunday 7 July. From the photo he could not see the shorter keel needed to distinguish Ribbed Melilot from Tall Melilot.

I did in fact check the flowers and the keel did look shorter than the standard and the wings, as required for Ribbed Melilot. However, on checking them again following Ralph's message, although they do look a little shorter, maybe they are not shorter enough for Ribbed Melilot? I will drop a sample over to Ralph for him to take a look. Meanwhile I will go over to North Common, Northney, where Ralph says there is a good showing of Tall Melilot in flower.


Tall Melilot

I went over to North Common, Northney, in the blazing sunshine this morning mainly to check on Ralph's Tall Melilot. Following Ralph's directions I turned left into the 'meadow area' immediately after coming through the entrance gate, and was confronted by a wonderful spectacle of colour. The yellow flowers of Tall Melilot were abundant, contrasting well with the white flowers of Goat's-rue and the blue flowers of Tufted Vetch. Gosh, this is really a little gem of an area.

Here is the Goat's-rue in flower - Thanks to Ralph as I thought it was White Melilot!

I was able to check some pods from the Tall Melilot at home with my microscope. Rose says the pods contain the key differences between the Melilotus species. All the pods were hairy, indicative of Tall Melilot; pods of Ribbed Melilot would be hairless. From a few pods available on the Brook Meadow plants, I could see that they too were hairy, confirming the plants as Tall Melilot.

Other observations

Other plants I noticed included Hoary Willowherb and Perforate St John's-wort. I also spotted a single flower spike of Pyramidal Orchid. What a beauty!

Divided Sedge and Spiked Sedge were also prominent. This meadow area is distinctive in the absence of tall grasses, which overpower most other plants on Brook Meadow. What a contrast in these two sites! The flowers were attracting dozens of bees. I also saw several Meadow Browns and a couple of Marbled Whites, but none rested long enough for a photo.



Tony and Hilary Wootton and Ros Norton found this fine insect in Bentley Wood this p.m. It was on their bench which was made from a sawn tree trunk. Tony asks if I or any readers can identify it for them. It was about 2" long from tip of feelers to tip of ovipositor. Here is Tony's photo of the beast!

Well, I have never actually seen one of these in the field, only on the pages of a book, but have often wished I had. But there is no mistaking this dramatic insect as a Horntail, aka Giant Wood-wasp. But it is not a wasp and does not sting. It is totally harmless. This is a female which uses its long ovipositor to bore a hole into a tree into which she delivers her eggs. The larvae take 2-3 years to mature in the timber.

SUNDAY JULY 7 - 2013


Conservation work

I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the work session. It was a blazing hot morning and there was a good turn out of volunteers. The main task was to cut paths through the jungle that the Seagull Lane patch has become following the clearance of Brambles last year. The Jubilee hedgerow was also cleared of vegetation as were the four planted Oak trees on this site.

Here are the volunteers, including two children, assembled at the Lumley gate

Wally told me the good news that he and Rob Hill are negotiating with Martin Cull to do the annual cutting of the meadow this autumn. Martin and, before him, his father Brian, did an excellent job in cutting the meadow for the first eight years of the involvement of the conservation group in Brook Meadow up to 2008. I look forward to seeing Martin again.

Ribbed or Tall Melilot?

I found a little colony of yellow flowered Melilot near the Oak sapling that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch; this is yet another new plant for the Brook Meadow list. I initially identified it as Ribbed Melilot, but Ralph Hollins queried this. From the photo he could not see the shorter keel needed to distinguish Ribbed Melilot from Tall Melilot. I did in fact check the flowers and the keel did look shorter than the standard and the wings, as required for Ribbed Melilot. However, on checking them again following Ralph's message, although they do look a little shorter, maybe they are not shorter enough for Ribbed Melilot? The key difference is in the pods (see Rose New Ed). The pods on the Brook Meadow plants were hairy confirming the plants as Tall Melilot; pods of Ribbed Melilot would be hairless.

Other observations

Perforate St John's-wort was in flower at the far end of the Jubilee hedgerow on the Seagull Lane patch. It was deliberately avoided by the volunteers in their clearance of the area. But there was no sign of the many other casual plants that showed up following the clearance of the Brambles last year, like Black Horehound, Common Fumitory, Fat Hen, Field Madder, Fool's Parsley, Lesser Swine-cress, Slender Speedwell and Many-seeded Goosefoot.

I saw several Meadow Browns while on the meadow plus one Comma that perched nicely for a photo showing its underwings with the distinctive 'comma'.

Both Jointed Rush and Sharp-flowered Rush are now in flower on the western edge of the Lumley area - along the cross path. The inflorescence of Jointed Rush (on the left) is slightly more open than that of Sharp-flowered Rush (on the right).



Mute Swan news

The Mute Swan family from the marina nest with 3 cygnets (one white) was on the shore at the bottom of South Street, being fed with dry bread. The cygnets were pecking at it, but not with any relish. Then a helpful cap threw all the bread into the low water channel to make the bread more palatable to the parents, at least. I am not sure if cygnets of this age are able to digest bread. The family from the 'litter nest' with one cygnet was on the millpond.

Mullet fry?

Walking down Bath Road of the millpond, I noticed the low water rippling with the activity of hundreds of small fish. I am not sure what they are, but would guess at Grey Mullett fry. Can anyone help?


Eight Swifts were flying over the Bridge Road houses this afternoon for about 15 minutes and then they were gone. This is the most I have seen this year, but they are not regular.

Wild Carrot

Wild Carrot often has a bright red flower in the centre of an otherwise pure white flower head. This sometimes looks like a small insect on the flowers. Today, on the Railway Wayside, I spotted a flower head with two red flowers in the centre. What is the evolutionary purpose of these flowers I wonder. To attract insects?

Brook Meadow

I had a stroll through the meadow on a very hot afternoon. Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler were singing as usual. Four Large Skippers were flying on the Lumley area, but no Small Skipper as yet; they are always a little later than the Large. I had a Small Tortoiseshell on the Bramble path. Malcolm Phillips also had one elsewhere on the meadow. It is so good to see them back on the meadow after such a long absence. Here is Malcolm's image.

I found yet more Great Burnet plants had sprung up on the north meadow; I counted 14 today, up from 12 on July 1. A few patches of Procumbent Pearlwort were clearly visible among the dust on the eastern edge of Palmer's Road Car Park adjacent to the copse; I was surprised to find this was a new plant for the Brook Meadow list, taking the grand total to 308, not including bryophytes. Also, along the edge of the car park were numerous patches of Lesser Swine-cress and Redshank.

I was particularly pleased to locate a patch of the very tall Black Bent-grass (Agrostis gigantea) at the south end of the Bramble path, some standing a good 120cm tall, which I last found here in July 2010.

Malcolm Phillips had another sighting of the adult and baby Water Voles from the south bridge, probably the same ones that have been seen before.

Kestrel in garden

Charlie Annalls was pretty thrilled to see a fine male Kestrel sitting on the canopy of the swing seat in her Portsmouth garden for about 20 minutes or so, allowing her to get some cracking photos of the bird which, as can be seen, has the remains of it meal around its face. Charlie hoped it was a mouse rather than baby birds, though whatever, having such a bird in one's garden is well worth a few baby birds. They are all part of the big food chain with the Kestrel at the top. A Kestrel is a very unusual bird to find in the garden. Its presence in Charlie's garden in Anchorage Park Portsmouth is probably due to the proximity of Hilsea Lines.


Ros Norton reported on today's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group at Coulters Dean. What a cracking list of flowers!

"Starting at car park at back of Queen Elizabeth Country Park south of Buriton 7 of us walked to Coulters Dean Nature Reserve on a warm morning with some sun. Along the track we saw Agrimony, black bryony, bladder and red campion, crosswort and bush vetch in flower. The reserve was a mass of yellow, mostly hawkbits but among them many common spotted orchids, twayblades and a few greater butterfly orchids, fragrant orchids, bee orchids, pyramidal orchids in flower. A few broad leaved helliborines are still in bud.

Other flowers include birds foot trefoil, rock rose, kidney vetch, common valerian, columbine, clustered bellflower, round headed rampion, fairy flax, meadow vetchling, thyme, marjoram, self heal, greater knapweed, hedge bedstraw, common milkwort, and a few ox-eye daisies. A buzzard flew overhead. Butterflies seen include meadow browns, ringlets, small heath , skipper, a blue and a spotted burnet moth."

See . . . . . . for previous reports and information about the group.

FRIDAY JULY 5 - 2013


A very nice morning for a stroll through the shoulder high grasses on our beautiful meadow. I met William our new Council litter man who was walking back through the main meadow after emptying the bins at the north bridge. He said he really enjoyed walking through the meadow on such a fine morning. I encouraged him by telling him how much the conservation group appreciated what he was doing in keeping the meadow clean and tidy.

Sadly, there is some graffiti with brown paint on the Water Vole signcase in Palmer's Road Copse. It might come off with water, or if not it will have to be Brasso! Brian Lawrence pointed out that there was also some graffiti from the same source on one of the Crack Willows on the path that leads away from the observation fence towards the south bridge 'Southbourne Rules'. There is also graffiti on the hand rail of the south bridge. Let's hope this juvenile does no further damage with his spray can.

The Willow Warbler, which I normally hear from the Lumley copse, was singing from the plantation on the west side of the meadow. This bird has been resident on the meadow for over a month - hopefully having found a mate and nested? Other birds singing included several Wrens, a Blackcap in Palmer's Road Copse and 3 Whitethroats. This seems to have been a good year for Whitethroat. Nothing else of note, no Robin.

Here is one Whitethroat singing from the top of an Ash tree on the causeway

Plants of interest

Wild Radish is flowering on the NE path through the north meadow leading to the corner. This plant has bright yellow petals, but is best identified from its pods with 'weakly-ribbed bead-like joints which easily break apart when ripe' (F.Rose; New Ed p.202).

Meadowsweet is now flowering generally around the meadow, a couple of weeks later than usual. The plants growing abundantly in the river north of the south bridge are Fool's Water-cress. It's not poisonous! It is actually an umbellifer and not related to the edible Watercress. It should be flowering fairly soon.

I found three more plants of Blue Water Speedwell on the west bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse. They were down the small path leading to 'Jeff's spot'. From the length of the flower spikes I guess they are the hybrid with Pink Water Speedwell called Veronica x Lackschewitzii. Here is a photo of the flower spike of a Blue Water Speedwell near the Lumley Stream which I suspect is also the hybrid.

Malcolm's observations

Malcolm Phillips went round Brook Meadow this afternoon. He saw 2 Water Voles from the south bridge, the first at 1.30pm the second at about 3.15pm. That makes exactly 100 Water Vole sightings for 2013. Malcolm also had a good haul of butterflies including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper, Comma and Green-veined White. He also got this rather nice photo of a Mallard family with 8 ducklings on the River Ems from the south bridge - the first of the year on the river.


The Coot is back on the nest on the floating raft on Peter Pond for a second brood. The first brood of 5 chicks all seem to have survived. There are another 3 plants of Moth Mullein on the island, in addition to the one on the east bank of the pond. These must have been brought over by David Gattrell with the soil from the eastern bank that David used to build up the island during the winter.

The Mute Swan family with 3 cygnets was at the far end of the pond near the sluice gate. Don't go too close! The Great Black-backed Gull family with the 3 chicks now growing fast showed well on the centre raft along with one of the parents.


Lyme Disease

Story from Keith Betton on Hoslist. This nasty disease is a threat to people, particularly on heaths and woodlands where there are deer. It is the most common tick-borne disease in the Northern Hemisphere. Left untreated it can lead to problems in joints, the heart, and the central nervous system. So it is good news that Winchester's Royal Hampshire County Hospital is to house the National Lyme Disease Clinic from September. Link to full story



Fort Cumberland

I had a walk around this interesting area immediately west of the fort. It is the largest area of natural coastal heathland in Portsmouth, having developed on a large stable shingle bank. Plants in flower included Ladies Bedstraw, Wild Radish, Viper's-bugloss, Harebell, Sheepsbit, Common Centaury, Crow Garlic, Restharrow, Perforate St John's-wort,

There was a good crop of Harebells on the Fort Cumberland site

and a few Sheepsbit

There was little in the way of butterflies on this warm though breezy morning, except for Marbled Whites of which I counted 12 during my walk. What beauties they were too.

I heard several birds calling from the Gorse bushes as I walked around the site. I am not sure but they sounded like Stonechats. I did not see any of them.

Eastney Beach

There was a strong chilly breeze blowing from the west which made walking hard going. Plants in flower included Black Horehound, Lucerne, Restharrow, Cat's-ear, Yellow-horned Poppy, Sea Kale, Oxford Ragwort, Silver Ragwort, Red Valerian, Wild Carrot, Wild Radish, Hedge Bedstraw,

Sea Kale was well in flower on Eastney Beach



I asked Bryan Pinchen whether one can assume that male Bumblebees do not have pollen sacs like the workers. Bryan replied: "Males don't collect pollen so don't have smooth hind legs for carrying it, they are usually slightly covered with hairs. Males have an idyllic life of drinking nectar and if lucky, mating. However, just because a bee doesn't have pollen doesn't always make it a male. Some of the workers take only nectar back to the nest, while all of them feed on nectar as their fuel for flight and foraging activity. So what these may be doing is collecting nectar, or feeding prior to collecting pollen and returning to the nest."

Hayling Oysterbeds

Chris Cockburn provides the latest news update from the Oysterbeds. He thinks there could be around 1,500 Black-headed Gull chicks so keep a look out for their arrival on the Emsworth millponds. They look nothing like the adults, having a pale gingery plumage. There are also a few Mediterranean Gulls which might produce young, but not on the same scale as in previous years. Chris is hoping for some Common Tern chicks, but they are struggling. The same applies to Little Terns that are trying to nest on the harbour islands. Time running out for all the terns! One Oystercatcher chick is all that has been seen, but better than none!



Wild flowers

I had a look around three of the local waysides this morning, spending most time on the Railway Wayside. Colin managed to get the padlock open on the small wayside in front of the large poster, so I was able to have a look inside for the first time this year. Rosebay Willowherb was in flower in the far corner near the railway. On the main railway wayside the first bright yellow Common Fleabane flowers were out along with Common Knapweed.

The first of the Marsh Woundwort was starting to open its flower spikes. As last year there are many plants on the site and the late cutting does not seem to have affected them. Other newly flowering plants were Hedge Bedstraw and Perforate St John's-wort with two raised lines down the stem and many translucent dots on the leaves.

The first of the Marsh Woundwort


There were dozen of Bumblebees feeding on the flowers on the Railway Wayside. The small red-tailed workers of Bombus lapidarius were particularly active. I also noted B. terrestris and a rather worn B. pascuorum with a very hairy thorax. Thanks to Bryan Pinchen for help with the identification.

A rather tatty and worn Bombus pascuorum,

Hoverflies were also prominent on the flowers. I noted in particular the bright one with yellow vertical stripes down its thorax called Helophilus pendulus and the familiar Marmalade hoverfly (balteatus).

I spotted a Dark Bush-cricket in the vegetation on the Railway Wayside and got my first Meadow Brown photo of the year on the Washington Road path wayside.

Dark Bush-cricket

Water Vole

Joyce Sawyer took this photo from the south bridge of a Water Vole munching away on the Fool's Water-cress in the river below. Plenty of food there!

Water Vole by Joyce Sawyer

On his walk round Brook Meadow today Malcolm Phillips saw another Water Vole by the south bridge at about 11.30am, and a Brown Trout. Then at about 1.30pm he saw 2 more Water Voles within about 6ft of each other by the south bridge. Clearly, this is a prime spot for seeing the voles at present where they have plenty of vegetation to feed on too.

Caroline's queries

Regarding Caroline's yellow flower from yesterday, Ralph Hollins responded to say he was pretty sure it is a St John's Wort, probably Slender St John's Wort which is one of the first species to flower.

He says, if you look at . . . the three top photos show the distinctive way in which the leaves completely surround the stem - Caroline's plant has separate leaves on each side of the stem. The plants in St John's Wort family are variable in several features and you need to see features like the tiny black dots under the edges of leaves and petals. Have a look at . . . which gives the relevant details, then try other species.


Mute Swan news

The Mute Swan families seem to have settled down after the hurly-burly of the first few weeks. The pair on the town millpond still have their scraggy necked cygnet, the poor little thing does not look healthy. In contrast, the family from the marina nest were on the shore at the end of South Street this morning with their three very healthy cygnets, one of which is white - Polish.

Finally, the family from the Peter Pond nest still have their 3 cygnets; they were at the north end of Slipper Millpond near the bridge when I passed by this morning. No more losses over the sluice gate thank goodness.

Caroline's queries

Caroline French sent me a couple of queries. Firstly, she found a yellow flowered plant growing along the sea wall of north Thorney which she could not place. It looks like Yellow-wort to me, but if anyone else has any ideas please let me know. Ralph Hollins responded to say he was pretty sure it is a St John's Wort, probably Slender St John's Wort which is one of the first species to flower.

Secondly, Caroline has a special interest in Hedgehogs. She sent me a photo of 'her' garden hedgehog which has a strange pattern on its back and wonders if someone is doing a hedgehog marking scheme locally. Caroline has previously noted hedgehogs with unusual light markings or patches on their spines, although none quite so elaborate as this one! She would appciate any ideas as to the origin of the marks. Close up, it looked like a thick whitish paint, like the sort used for marking grass sports pitches.

Other news

The Coot is still sitting proudly on its tower nest at the northern end of the millpond. I hope we don't have too many high tides.

A few plants of Ladies Bedstraw have survived the strimmer on the Bath Road grass verge. The verge now looks ugly compared with when it was not cut.

Large Bindweed and Hedge Bindweed are now both in flower along the causeway on Brook Meadow, making comparison between them easy.

Malcolm Phillips got this rather nice photo of the Moorhen shielding her chicks on the river near the sluice gate. He also saw a Grey Wagtail in the north west corner.


Longhorn beetle is a Mirid bug - Leptopterna dolabrata

While browsing through Peter Marren's excellent 'Bugs Britannica' tome late last night I came across photos of Capsid Bugs which looked remarkably like the attractive 'longhorn beetle' that I photographed on Brook Meadow yesterday. Checking with Chinnery's Insects Guide the one that closely matched my insect was Leptopterna dolabrata. I went to the British Bugs web site where I confirmed the identification as a male Leptopterna dolabrata Family: Miridae.


Here is my photo of the Mirid Bug taken on Brook Meadow yesterday

Bryan Pinchen confirmed the identification from the photo, adding ". . . it's a True Bug (Heteroptera) - sucking mouthparts, only four antennal segments and wings half leathery/half membraneous. In the females, the wings only extend for about half the length of the abdomen. And one of the few true bugs that can be readily identified in the field. Should be very common in grassland but I'm seeing it in low numbers this year - blame last summer.

MONDAY JULY 1 - 2013


Whitethroat are still singing, one from the east side of the north meadow and the other from the causeway area. The Willow Warbler is still singing from the Lumley copse.

A recount of Southern Marsh Orchids produced 10 flowering spikes, which is the same number that we had last year. I found more plants of Great Burnet in the same small area in the centre of the orchid area. There are now 12 plants all with 3 or 4 flower heads.

Creeping Bent-grass is out for the first time this year on the NW path. I am seeing a lot of Water Bent coming up along the pavements in Victoria Road and St James Road areas.

Timothy is now flowering well in several places around the meadow.

False Fox Sedge is showing well on the west side of the Lumley area.

At last I am seeing some butterflies. Meadow Browns were flying, plus at least 2 Large Skippers on the Lumley area.

Large Skipper that perched for a photo

I also saw my first Ringlet of the year on the Lumley area

I was only thinking that I have not as yet recorded Red Admiral on Brook Meadow this year, when Brian Lawrence sent me this cracking photo of one he saw on Brook Meadow today!

Longhorn beetle? . . . . CORRECTION see below

I spotted what looked like a longhorn beetle with a distinctive patterned thorax, perched on a leaf. I have not been able to find it in the books, so I would appreciate any help.


Longhorn beetle is a Mirid bug - Leptopterna dolabrata

While browsing through Peter Marren's excellent 'Bugs Britannica' tome late last night I came across photos of Capsid Bugs which looked remarkably like the 'longhorn beetle' I photographed on Brook Meadow yesterday. Checking with Chinnery's Insects Guide the one that closely matched my insect was Leptopterna dolabrata. I went to the British Bugs web site where I confirmed the identification (fingers crossed) as a male Leptopterna dolabrata Family: Miridae.

See . . . . . . "Leptopterna species are large and common grass bugs which often have reddish or orange-yellow forewings. They have a transverse furrow between the eyes and the legs and antennae are covered in long dark hairs. There are two very similar species, both of which are sexually dimorphic. Males are always macropterous (fully-winged) and females usually brachypterous (partly-winged). A common and widespread bug throughout the UK, feeding on a variety of grasses; more common in damper habitats than L. ferrugata. Adult: June-September. Length 8.0-8.5 mm"

For earlier observations go to . . June 17-30