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


for July 17-31, 2013

in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current



It was so good to get back to the meadow after a few days away on the Isle of Wight. I had a mooch around the orchid area where Gatekeepers were feeding on the Common Fleabane. Usually they settled with wings closed, but this one obliged by opening up its wings for me.

Other plants recently flowering in the orchid area included Square-stalked St John's-wort, Hemp Agrimony, and a late Meadow Buttercup. The seedheads of Great Burnet were still prominent. The yellow discs of Hoary Ragwort are now showing and will soon be open. Jointed Rush and False Fox Sedge were also easy to see among the rampant growth of grasses and bindweed in this area. The first of the Wild Angelicas was unfurling its flowers on the Lumley area. Pepper-saxifrage was in bud, but not yet in flower.

Red soldier beetles were on virtually every Hogweed flower head, 'bonking' in pairs and occasionally in threes and foursomes!


I had a quick look at the Hermitage Millponds. The Mute Swan on Peter Pond still has her one remaining cygnet. It might well be safe as I could see no sign of any Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond, suggesting they may have left. I shall need to check again.


Sparrowhawk family

Chris Berners-Price reported a fine sight this morning in Nore Barn Woods. A pigeon flying through the woods being followed by 3 small Sparrowhawks as the male taught the two fledglings to hunt - all within 6 feet of each other - lots of noise!

Warblington birds

Peter Milinets-Raby had the following sightings on a walk from Warblington to Langstone. On the shore were 1 Greenshank, 21 Redshank, 2 Lapwing, 1 Whimbrel, 3 Curlew. A Peregrine perched on one of the mud banks. A Great Crested Grebe came in with the tide. Off Langstone Mill Pond was an adult Med Gull in partial winter plumage, plus an assortment of young Black-headed Gulls. On Langstone Mill Pond were 76 eclipse plumaged Mallard, 2 eclipse plumaged Teal, 30+ Little Egrets viewable, family of Mute Swans (2 adults with 3 Juvs). 7 plus Swallows were flying around and two juvenile Buzzards with two adults off Pook Lane (almost certainly bred here).

Here is Peter's eclipse plumaged Teal


Chris Cockburn provided the following news up date on the seabird breeding from Hayling Oysterbeds:

"Although a complete hush has not yet descended on the Oysterbeds lagoon, it is much quieter now that nearly all of the gulls have left after a welcome highly-productive season. The noisiest event today was when a 'pair' of very smart common gulls started displaying on the western most island (whilst being dive-bombed by many furious common terns!).

At least twelve common tern fledglings and their parents have left the site. Hopefully, there will still be as many small common tern chicks on the western island tomorrow as there were today (at least eight more than were seen on Sunday) and there are still two or three common terns 'apparently on eggs'. It now seems that the suspected food problem has ceased and nearly all of the recent hatchlings (mostly two per nest) are surviving. However, the big spring tides (and the associated rising strandline) of last week flooded out at least seven common tern nests on the easternmost curved island, which now has very few birds and, therefore, more likely to be prone to avian predation (but, fingers crossed.!).

The Mediterranean gulls have now gone and, interestingly, so have most of the 40+ Sandwich terns that were roosting with them during the last fortnight. The few visiting Sandwich terns are now using both islands, which suggests that Med gulls are indeed excellent 'decoys' for Sandwich terns (and vice versa). It has been suggested (thanks Bob) that Sandwich terns can be attracted to a site by using a very simple black/white object (hood/neck contrast similarity?) - perhaps, Med gulls too could be easily attracted to new sites, assuming they are wanted there!

The autumn migration is picking up with increasing numbers of oystercatchers, black-tailed godwits and curlews in the harbour area and the appearance at the Oysterbeds of turnstones, common sandpipers, redshanks etc.

Compared to last year, when it seemed that spotting any insect was a major event, insects are becoming increasingly abundant (even Peacock butterflies appearing on cue as the Teasels came into flower). Many visitors have mentioned the apparent (welcome?!) lack of wasps; but things may well change with the 'fruiting' season returning to a more traditional time (e.g. blackberries are unlikely to ripen as early as in recent years - much to the present disappointment of those people hoping to make bountiful harvest ).



Malcolm got a good variety of photos today. While on Brook Meadow he captured this excellent image of a Meadow Grasshopper, showing clearly its short forewing and absence of hind wing, making it the only flightless British grasshopper. It is the most common grasshopper on Brook Meadow.

Malcolm took this picture of a juvenile Green Woodpecker in his brother's garden. He says the bird had been attacked by something and his brother was trying to get it up and flying again.

Also, in his brother's garden Malcolm got this nice photo of a male Brimstone - the first of this insect's summer brood. We shall probably continue to see them until the end of September and even later.


Ros Norton reported on today's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group

"Four of us explored the above commons on a hot and sunny morning which brought the butterflies out early. Highlights included quite a lot of silver-studded blue butterflies around the heather, 3 silver-washed fritillaries together nectaring on bramble flowers, and a white admiral which perched on a white car in the car park. Others were brimstones, green veined whites, gatekeepers, meadow browns, speckled woods and large skippers. An emperor dragonfly flew over a small pond.
Spiderlings moved in webs on gorse bushes.
A common lizard basked in the sun.
Among the birds were a pair of stonechats, several yellowhammers, linnets, a nuthatch, Treecreeper, greater spotted woodpecker, swallows, a buzzard and many tits including coal and long tailed.
Flowers were mostly ling, cross leaved heath and bell heather but also harebells, rosebay willowherb and dodder.

FRIDAY JULY 26 - 2013


Water Vole

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow from 9.30am till 11.00am this morning and , of course, managed to find and photograph a Water Vole. Here is Malcolm's photo of the vole peeping from a hole on the north bank of the river near the railway tunnel at 10.20am.


Malcolm also got a photo of this very fresh Peacock butterfly, clearly one of the new summer brood which are just emerging at this time. I also had one in my garden today.


I discovered just one plant of Common Ragwort in flower on Brook Meadow - the first of the year for what is quite a rare plant on the meadow. I shall not reveal its whereabouts just in case some misguided person decides it should be pulled up. Common Ragwort is in fact a valuable source of nectar and the sole food source for the larvae of the Cinnabar moth. Mugwort and Stone Parsley are also in flower more generally.

Turning to the waysides, Rosebay Willowherb is flowering well on the small Railway Wayside in front of the large poster (now showing a heavily tatooed David Beckham advertising Sky TV).


Maurice Lillie found yet another Crack Willow tree was down across the river near the south bridge. He has informed the Council arborist Andrew Skeet who will no doubt deal with it. However, it is not interfering with river flow as there is almost none anyway.



Sharp-flowered Rush is flowering well on the Lumley area along with Hard Rush and a nice crop of Square-stalked St John's-wort. It is strange to think that Sharp-flowered Rush was unknown on Brook Meadow until 2009 and now it is abundant on the Lumley area.

Mystery willowherb

I took sample of the mystery willowherb that I found on the river bank in Palmer's Road Copse, along with a Great Willowherb growing nearby, over to Ralph Hollins for his opinion.


After much discussion we decided that the mystery plant was definitely not a straightforward Great Willowherb, but was probably a hybrid between Great Willowherb, which grows abundantly on Brook Meadow, and Hoary Willowherb. We compared the upper part of the mystery plant with a Hoary Willowherb that was growing in Ralph's front garden and they were virtually identical, with small flowers and long ridged pods, but the lower parts of the plants were quite different. Kitchener's paper does stress that "Virtually every combination of crosses between the British Epilobium species is known".

Small butterflies

Ralph Hollins pointed out that the very small Green-veined White in the photo of a pair mating by Brian Lawrence on July 23 is not surprising.

He says, "I have always understood that when caterpillars do not get the normal amount of food for their development they can still pupate successfully and emerge as fully working but small sized adults. I thought I would have no difficulty in finding evidence to support this but (while there were many accounts of scientific investigations into the variation in the size of eggs laid by butterflies of the same species) the only reference to size variation in adults came in a lengthy report at in which I could only find one relevant paragraph saying ..... 'If the caterpillar is under-nourished for some reason (such as having insufficient food plant in its environment) then an undersized adult butterfly may result. However, the genetic composition of the butterfly remains constant and is passed to any offspring unchanged, just as the child of a bodybuilder doesn't benefit from the workouts of their parents!'"


No change on the local millponds. The Mute Swan with her one remaining cygnet was on Peter Pond. The family with 3 cygnets (including the white one) was on Dolphin Lake. All three Great Black-backed Gull chicks are still on Slipper Millpond with one adult.



Mystery Willowherbs

I clambered through the dense thicket of brambles and nettles onto the east bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse this afternoon to have a closer look at the mystery willowherbs that I saw from the south bridge yesterday. I found about 10 of the mystery willowherbs with small flowers growing on the edge of the river. The tallest was about my height - ie around 140cm which set alarm bells ringing immediately about my initial identification of them as Marsh Willowherb, as that grows to only 60cm. There were in fact some definite Great Willowherbs nearby with larger flowers and they were even taller. I picked samples of both to study more closely at home.

Here is the mystery willowherb with the south bridge in the background

My fears were confirmed when I looked at the flowers, which had four-lobed stigmas. This definitely ruled out Marsh Willowherb and pointed more clearly to Great Willowherb or possibly Hoary Willowherb which does have smaller flowers than Great Willowherb. However, I am familiar with Hoary Willowherb on the waysides and I can usually pick them out on the basis of their general 'hoary' appearance. The ones on the river bank did not look particularly hoary and were taller than the usual limit for Hoary Willowherb. Also, against the Hoary Willowherb identification was the fact that the stigmas were not upright. Rose says the leaf bases of Hoary Willowherb do not clasp or run down the stem as in Great Willowherb and I thought could have been the case with the mystery plants. However, my conclusion after all this is that the mystery plants are probably Great Willowherb, though a bit slimmer than the usual ones and with smaller flowers.


I walked back through the meadow where plenty of butterflies were on the wing as usual, though not many came to rest. A very nice Ringlet was an exception showing its distinctive underwings on the Lumley area.

I also captured this image of a pair of Gatekeepers mating. Like the Green-veined Whites yesterday, these were flying around still coupled together. Only the underwings are showing in the photo.

Other insects

Malcolm Phillips got a photo of an old friend that we see each summer on Brook Meadow . There is no mistaking this very distinctively marked Longhorn beetle (I hope) as Strangalia maculata, here seen feeding on a Hogweed flower head. This was out first sighting of the year.

Malcolm also got this damselfly which could be a female Banded Demoiselle or Beautiful Demoiselle


Swan cygnets

Stephanie Bennett sent me the following photo of three swan cygnets on Langstone Mill Pond, looking strong and healthy - taken by Jon Cox last weekend. Nice to hear some good news on the cygnet front for a change!

Blue-tailed Damselfly in garden

After Red Damselflies last month, Peter Milinets-Raby had his garden pond taken over by four Blue-tailed Damselflies today. Here is one of them. What a beauty.

TUESDAY JULY 23 - 2013



I had a walk through the meadow this morning. It was much cooler than yesterday, but very humid. There were masses of butterflies on the wing, including Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Comma, Red Admiral, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White and a possible Marbled White.

Green-veined Whites puzzle

Brian Lawrence got a photo of an unusual coupling of two Green-veined White butterflies on Brook Meadow today. He said they were also flying while joined up too. I found Brian's photo puzzling due to a big discrepancy in size between the two insects. Brian assured me that one of them was large and the other was small exactly as in the photo which was taken almost head on. What the heck is going on? Is it possible to have such variation in size of butterflies?

Wild flowers

Newly flowering on the meadow were Lesser Burdock, Common Fleabane (general), Enchanter's Nightshade (outside the south gate) and one spike of Purple Loosestrife on the east bank of the river above the south bridge. There are some splendid burs on the Branched Bur-reed right in front of the observation fence. I also found a good tuft of Giant Fescue growing and flowering at the base of the first Crack Willow tree along the path through Palmer's Road Copse from the south bridge.

Mystery willowherb

My attention was attracted to a tall willowherb on the east bank near the Purple Loosestrife which was quite different from the Great Willowherb which was flowering nearby on the west bank. I appreciate willowherbs are a very complex group to identify, but I am inclined towards a possible Marsh Willowherb, based mainly on its small flowers, narrow lanceolate leaves and slender erect stem. But I will need to get onto the east bank to have a closer look at it.

Water Vole

Malcolm Phillips was also on Brook Meadow again today taking photos of various birds and butterflies. No Purple Hairstreak today, but Malcolm see a Buzzard soaring overhead and got the following image of a Water Vole having a snack beneath the south bridge at 12.30pm.


I was pleased to see the Mute Swan family from the Peter Pond nest with their one remaining cygnet back on Peter Pond and away from the dangers lurking on the neighbouring Slipper Millpond.

Interestingly, I could only see two of the three Great Black-backed Gull chicks on Slipper Millpond, which suggests that they are now becoming more mobile and that one has left the pond. However, on the basis of last year's experience I expect it to return. One of the chicks was on the north raft near the bridge and while I was watching one of its parents arrived and literally grabbed the youngster by the scruff of the neck and flung it into the water. Clearly, the intention was to get the young bird to get moving. The effect on the chick was to send it scuttling over to the wall next to the Chequers Quay buildings where it was still cowering when I left.

Cormorants are back on the centre raft now that the Great Black-backed Gulls have vacated it; there were 6 there this morning.

Meanwhile, over on the town millpond I have to report the sad news that the Coot nest on the north end of the pond has succumbed to the rising waters and is no more.


House Martins bred

Paul Cooper writes to say that 'his' House Martins have successfully bred on his house in Lynch Down, Funtington as have the ones next door. He was rather worried a few weeks ago as the adults disappeared but then they returned and bred. There are two chicks which look as if they will be ready to fly soon.

Stansted butterflies

Paul also reports that on Sunday his partner saw approx 50 Silver-washed Fritillaries and he saw about a dozen yesterday in Stansted Park at Rowlands Castle - just through the entrance in the wall opposite The Castle pub and on the tracks after there. She also saw on Sunday approx 40 White Admirals plus lots of Marbled Whites and other more common butterflies on the grassland in the Park.

MONDAY JULY 22 - 2013


Purple Hairstreak

Malcolm Phillips has had a couple of good days with his camera on the meadow, getting an excellent selection of butterflies. The best of all was this Purple Hairstreak which he saw on Sunday morning (July 21) opposite the north bridge on the east side of the north meadow just along side the pathway. This was a first ever for Brook Meadow. Malcolm's photo shows well the dark upperwing with the distinctive purple blotch and the white streak on the silver-grey underwing.

This second photo below shows the white streak much better and the single black-pupilled orange eye beside the tail.

Purple Hairstreak is mainly associated with Oak trees on which its larva feeds. It may have been attracted by our our recent plantings of five Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch to add to those already present on Brook Meadow. The adults feed mainly on honey-dew, obtained from Oaks and Ash, though it may well have been making use of the Crack Willows which abound on the meadow. Apparently, in very hot weather, like we have been experiencing recently, adults will descend to seek moisture from the ground, which might account for the one that Malcolm found. It looks as if this is a good year for Purple Hairstreak as 17 were recorded in Havant Thicket on July 21

Today, Malcolm also had the first Marbled White of the year plus Red Admiral and Gatekeeper which are now very numerous.

Beautiful Demoiselle

Today, Malcolm also got the following image of what I am sure is the first Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) seen on Brook Meadow this year. The photo shows a male with the distinctive fully blue wings; it lacks the dark band of the Banded Demoiselle, which is a far more common damselfly on Brook Meadow. Malcolm also photographed the last Beautiful Demoiselle on Brook Meadow on June 2 last year.

Water Vole & Brown Trout

Malcolm had two river sightings. One was a Water Vole in the river beneath the south bridge. Most of our sightings are now coming this area, which is hardly surprising as this is the most easily viewed area of the river. This was sighting number 107 for the year so far. Malcolm also got this image of a Brown Trout with its very distinctive spots. But what is that red spot near the gills?

Strawberry Clover

I found Strawberry Clover to be flowering for the first time this year at the start of cross path from the Lumley gate; some plants already were showing the distinctive strawberry fruits. This is a bit earlier than in the past few years, which makes a nice change.



There was no change on the millponds from the weekend with the Mute Swan families both on the town millpond and on Peter Pond with one cygnet each. However, the Coot on its 'tower nest' on Emsworth Millpond was having severe problems today with the high spring tide swamping its nest. Malcolm Phillips found it desperately trying to build the nest higher to preserve the three eggs, which it has sat on so steadfastly through all the hot weather.



Peter Milinets-Raby had two unexpected new bird visitors to his Havant garden today. Both were enticed in by the pond - the urge to drink being very strong! The first was a Stock Dove, which flew off before Peter could get his camera out. These are fairly unusual garden birds, though I have had a few sightings in my Emsworth garden over the past year, the last being a pair on May 30. The second was this magnificent Rook which lingered on the fence as if wanting to come back for some more water. Rook is ranked at 29 in the BTO garden bird list and is reported in about 9% of gardens at this time of the year. Personally, I have never seen one in my garden.



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

"It's beginning to get less crowded out on the two lagoon islands with the departure of many black-headed gull families (productivity seems to be heading for c1.65 young per pair). Despite the lower bird numbers, noise levels are still quite high especially when the black-headed gulls are shouting at their squeaking youngsters as they fly in and out of the lagoon.

The five Mediterranean gull nesters will most likely have a final productivity rate of 1 young per pair and it should not be too many days before they leave.

Sandwich terns in moult are now a regular sight; today there were 30+ and it is noteworthy that they are clustered around the Mediterranean gulls on the easternmost curved island. It is likely that the strong black hood/white neck contrast attracts Sandwich terns to Med gulls (and vice versa as often noted on South Binness Island in previous years). It is also interesting that the Sandwich terns started using the Oysterbeds on the day after a sailboarder was seen enjoying a stroll along the S Binness vegetated ridge in areas often favoured by Sandwich terns.

It looks as if the breeding season for common terns will continue for many weeks. There are many youngsters able to fly, there are chicks from newly hatched to almost three weeks old and there is a significant number of adults that are apparently on eggs. The main pattern seems to be that the common terns have two eggs that hatch with only one chick surviving more than a few days. The surviving singletons all seem to be doing well so it is likely that there is a food problem with only enough prey items for one chick (but given the lateness of the breeding attempts, another factor might be that the terns have not reached the best breeding condition)."

SUNDAY JULY 21 - 2013


Cygnet attacked

I had a phone call last night from a resident of Slipper Road to say that one of the two Mute Swan cygnets was badly injured near Chequers Quay on Slipper Millpond. I also had an e-mail from Brendan Gibb-Gray who lives in Chequers Quay with the same news. He said local residents had done what they could, but to no avail. Both thought the cygnet had been attacked by one of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks which had been in this area during the day. This is no surprise as the chicks are now large and fairly mobile birds and will be developing their predatory instincts.

I had a look this morning and found the Mute Swan pen with her one remaining cygnet on Peter Pond. It looked fine as shown in the photo.

Later they were on Slipper Millpond near the bridge where the Great Black-backed Gulls and the chicks were present. Definitely not a good idea! There was no sign of the corpse of the other cygnet. Frankly, I cannot hold out much hope for the remaining cygnet if the swans stay on Slipper Millpond.

The three Great Black-backed Gull chicks were near the north raft on this photo with an adult

I shall be recommending to the Slipper Millpond Association that the centre raft where the gulls have nested for the past two years is moved to the side of the pond so as to deter them from nesting there next year. Although they are magnificent birds their presence has unbalanced the ecology of the pond to the extent that no other birds have been able to nest successfully on the pond, in particular Coots, Mallard and Mute Swans. They are just too big for our small pond!

Other news

Meanwhile, the cygnet from the 'litter nest' on the town millpond seems to be doing well. It's looking nice and fluffy and growing stronger by the day. Juliet Walker took this photo of mum and youngster taking their evening ablutions.

The Mute Swan family with 3 cygnets (including the white one) that nested on the marina embankment is still together and were on the marina this morning.

The Coot is still on its tower nest at the northern end of the town millpond where it has been ensconced for the past 2 weeks or so. I think hatching should be any time now and well deserved it will be too for surviving this hot weather.



Tony Wootton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group and what a bonanza they had!

"Five went to Burton Mill Pond on what was the first comparatively cool and cloudy day for a about 2 weeks. Birds. Very few seen, Jackdaw, Mute Swan, Great Crested Grebe, Mallard, Coot, but heard was Chiffchaff, Wren, Great Spotted Woodpecker , Green Woodpecker, Reed Warbler. Butterflies, very few again, mainly whites, ringlets and meadow browns, but the first Gatekeeper of the year for most of us. Dragons and damsels. Only one unidentified dragon in a warm boggy area. Lots of blue damselflies, one of which was a blue-tailed plus a banded demoiselle.

Plants, because of the terrain, many different ones to normal. Bogbean, sphagnum moss, yellow loosestrife, hemlock water dropwort, alder buckthorn, greater willowherb, rosebay willow herb, greater tussock sedge, skullcap, marsh bed straw, common water plantain, Gipsywort, honeysuckle, bulrush, crossleaf heather, wood sage, musk mallow, lesser and greater burdock, hemp Agrimony, hogweed, brandy bottle water lily, woody nightshade, forget me not, Nipplewort, marsh thistle, red campion, white water lily, arrowhead, Branched Bur-reed, bristly ox-tongue, creeping thistle, creeping cinquefoil, centaury, betony, enchanted nightshade, Vervain, Selfheal, climbing corydalis. Phew, thanks to Ros for 99.999% of the i.d. and to Hilary for the note taking.

Here is the Arrowhead named after its arrow-shaped leaves which unfortunately are now shown in the photo

Here are the stalwart naturalists beneath the oldest sweet chestnut you ever did see

For more information about the Havant Wildlife Group and reports of walks go to . . . Havant Wildlife Group


Swallow-tailed Moth

Malcolm Phillips had this moth come through the open window into the hall of his flat in Emsworth today.

I usually approach moth identification with some trepidation, but this one I am fairly sure about having seen it myself a few years ago (famous last words!). I think it is a Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) which the HantsMoths web site says is one of the largest and most spectacular geometer moths and is common in woodland, scrub, hedgerows, parks and gardens, throughout the British Isles. See . . .

Juvenile Dunnock - Correction this is a young Starling

Graham Petrie had a young bird on the bird table in his garden, which he was not sure about. At first I thought it looked like a juvenile Dunnock but I am now pretty sure that it is, in fact, a young Starling. Graham sent me another photo showing bill more clearly and stressing that the size of the bird was much larger than a Dunnock. After seeing Graham's photo Charlie Annalls added that she had been getting young Starlings in her garden in Portsmouth which looked just like Graham's.

FRIDAY JULY 19 - 2013


The flowers of Hemp Agrimony are starting to open on the orchid area. I noticed the first red Blackberries on the large bushes on the north path. There is a good flowering of the Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea despite the rampant growth of grasses and other plants in this area. As Bob Chapman included a photo of these flowers in his Farlington Marshes blog for today that seemed good enough excuse for me to have one here!

Martin Cull has stacked the arisings from the annual cut in two large piles on the east side of the north meadow, very close to the Lumley Road gardens. I have warned the conservation group of the need to check the piles regularly for any signs of combustion. We don't want the fire brigade in here again like happened a few years ago.


Two of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the centre raft in company with 6 Cormorants. The other chick was on the north raft begging for food from a visiting adult.

There was a large gathering (shoals) of young Grey Mullett in the shallow water by the Hermitage Bridge.


Kestrel returns

Charlie Annalls had a return visit from a male Kestrel to her garden in Anchorage Park Portsmouth yesterday. She last saw what was probably the same bird on July 6, but this time he perched much higher up on the roof. He was scared off by people in the area so Charlie only got a few shots before he flew off in the direction of Hilsea Lines. In this photo he seems to be saying, 'Hi, Charlie, I'm back'.

Purple Emperors

South Today this evening had a piece about a team of butterfly experts rushing around the countryside looking for Purple Emperors. I don't think they found any. They could not have gone to Southleigh Forest where John Bogle saw another two males in the same spot as yesterday's and possibly a third at another oak further along the ride. Bob Chapman has a smashing photo of a Purple Emperor on his Solent Reserves blog for today see . . .



Conservation work

I went over the meadow this morning for the regular workday. There was a remarkably good turn out of 15 volunteers considering the very hot weather. They included two ladies from the local Co-op store complete with emblazoned T-shirts.

The main jobs were to tidy up the paths in the south meadow and to clear some fallen trees. But everyone was pleased when the coffee break arrived supplemented with ripe strawberries from Pam Phillips's allotment - they were delicious.

Annual cut

It was very good to see Martin Cull with his tractor back on the meadow to carry out the annual cut. Martin, and his father Brian before him, used to do the cut in the early years of the meadow and always did a splendid job.

On this occasion, Martin is here for just one day and will be cutting the main areas of coarse grassland, including parts of the centre meadow and the north meadow. However, we hope to get him back to do the rest, including the Lumley area and the orchid area, in the autumn after the wild flowers have set seed. Here is Martin in action on the north meadow.


Plenty of butterflies were on the wing around the meadow, including Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large and Small Skippers and a single Comma near the seat.

Marsh Woundwort has just started to flower on Brook Meadow for the first time this year. It was in the usual spot, forcing its way through a jungle of other plants in front of the Horse Chestnut saplings at the north end of the Bramble path. It is usually a late flowerer, though those on the new Railway Wayside have been out for a couple of weeks.



Sitting in our back garden on these very hot afternoons, my wife and I have been regularly entertained by small parties Swifts swooping around the houses. It is good to see them, but numbers are well down on what they were several years ago when we regularly had up to 30. Today I would estimate the maximum was 15 with 8 being a more regular number.

I was interested to see the occasional Swift fly up to investigate the hole beneath the eaves in my next door neighbour's roof. It was probably a juvenile attracted by a possible nesting site for next year, but Swifts have not actually nested there for many years. This is where Bumblebees nested earlier this summer, but they have gone now.


Brian Lawrence spotted three young Swallows perched on the overhead wires in Lumley Road by Peter Pond. Here is his photo of two of them. Young Swallows are duller than adults with patchy breast band. Their forked tails lack the long streamers of the adults.

Peter Milinets-Raby also had a family group of two adults and five juvenile Swallows around his house in Havant all day, which was very unusual.

Purple Emperor

John Bogle got this photo from yesterday of a Purple Emperor at the top of an Oak tree in Southleigh Forest. John caught a brief glimpse of possibly a second at another spot yesterday too but he needs to spend a bit more time to get a better look and be sure it's wasn't just a Silver Washed Fritillary. He also saw quite a lot of Purple Hairstreaks sparring at the top of the oaks too while looking for Emperors. He now needs to work off the crick in his neck from spending significant amounts of time staring at the top of oak trees for the past few days!

Both sexes of this butterfly look alike except in sunshine when the male's upper wings turn an iridescent purple. At all other times the basic colour of both sexes is dusky with a solid white band across the hindwings and a patch of white on the forewings. The female is recognisable by slightly more-rounded wingtips, and the width of the white band on the hindwing. After mating females go off in search of suitable Willows to lay eggs, sometimes flying considerable distances. The caterpillar feeds on the leaves of Goat and Grey Willows and over winters in this stage.

The last local Purple Emperor sighting I had reported to me was on 4 Aug last year when Andy and Jane Brook saw a female in Kings Road, Emsworth. Before that Alan Bonner had one on his wheelie bin in Southbourne on 23 July 2010.


Emerald Moth

Tony Wootton found this moth in his hall this morning, unfortunately not looking at all well.

It is clearly an Emerald Moth, but which one, Common, Small or Small Grass? Tony preferred Small Grass, though that one is quite rare in Hampshire, except for the New Forest. I would go for Common Emerald (Hemithea aestivaria), though I am not a moth expert by any stretch of the imagination! It is common in Hampshire and Tony's photo matches well the one on the Hants Moths web site . . .

Hants Moths describe it as . . . "Common in woodland, hedgerows, scrubby heathland, downland, gardens and parks throughout much of lowland England and Wales; widespread and often fairly common throughout Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. Wingspan 29-34 mm. Unmistakable. Larva polyphagous on the foliage of many deciduous trees and shrubs, including Hawthorn, Blackthorn and Hazel."

Little Egrets at Langstone

Ralph Hollins was at Langstone Mill Pond last evening a good half hour before sunset until twenty minutes after sunset and counted at least 67 Egrets entering the roost for the night.

See . . .

For earlier observations go to . . . July 1-15