JULY 16 - 2013
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.
saw a 6-spot Burnet Moth
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
plant was Apple-of-Peru - Nicandra
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
is a better photo of the plant than the one I used
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.
JULY 15 - 2013
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.
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!
No sign of any
Greenshank today, but I did spot just one unringed
Black-tailed Godwit in fine summer plumage. Where are
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.
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.
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 . . . http://www.uksafari.com/badgers4.htm
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.
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
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.
got a nice photo of a juvenile Black-headed Gull on
Slipper Millpond near the bridge
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.
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
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.
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 . . . http://ralph-hollins.net/Diary.htm
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."
JULY 12 - 2013
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.
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!
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.
- 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
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
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.
provided the following news up date from the
"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).
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.
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.
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
JULY 11 - 2013
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.
here is one that Richard Somerscocks took in Hollybank
Woods last year
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
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.
JULY 10 - 2013
I had a look around
some of the local waysides this morning, logging new
plants for the year.
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
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
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).
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!
JULY 9 - 2013
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
JULY 7 - 2013
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
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.
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
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).
JULY 6 - 2013
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
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 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?
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
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
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.
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
See . . .
. . . for previous reports and information about the
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
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.
is one Whitethroat singing from the top of an Ash tree
on the causeway
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 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.
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 http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10526446.Launch_of_Lyme_disease_centre_in_Hampshire/
JULY 4 - 2013
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
was a good crop of Harebells on the Fort Cumberland
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
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.
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,
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
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!
JULY 3 - 2013
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
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.
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.
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.
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!
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
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 . . . http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/yellow-wort
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 . . . http://www.flowers.goodpages.co.uk/index.php?page=slender-st-john-s-wort
the relevant details, then try other species.
JULY 2 - 2013
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 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.
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.
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.
beetle is a Mirid bug - Leptopterna
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.
is my photo of the Mirid Bug taken on Brook Meadow
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.
JULY 1 - 2013
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
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.
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.
is now flowering well in several places around the
Fox Sedge is showing well on the west side of the
At last I am seeing
some butterflies. Meadow Browns were flying, plus at
least 2 Large Skippers on the Lumley area.
Skipper that perched for a photo
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
. . . CORRECTION
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
beetle is a Mirid bug - Leptopterna
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
earlier observations go to . . June