RETURN TO . . . Emsworth Wildlife Homepage


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

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


for August 2013

in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current



Knopper Galls

While walking through Brook Meadow this afternoon, I noticed that the young Pedunculate Oak on the east side of the north meadow, south of the Rowan plantation, was infected with hundreds of very hard green knobbly galls.

These are Knopper Galls and are caused by a tiny gall wasp called Andricus quercuscalicis which lays its eggs on the tree's catkins in the spring. The abnormal acorns develop during the summer and the acorn is either wholly or partially replaced by the gall growth. The acorn in my photo has been completely transformed by the gall. The knoppers become woody and brown in early autumn, after which they fall from the tree and the adult sexual female gall wasp emerges through a vent in the top of the gall in spring. The small gall wasp has a two-phase life-cycle that requires both Pedunculate Oak and subsequently Turkey Oak. The Knopper Gall arrived in the UK in the 1960s and spread rapidly, but it is not thought to have any serious consequences for the Oak population.


Water Voles in Havant

This morning Nik Knight had brilliant views of two Water Voles feeding and swimming in the spring and pond next to the Dophin Centre in Park Road South in central Havant, north of the Bosmere Junior School playing field and opposite Tesco. Nik has had brief sightings there before and spoke to someone who had seen them recently beside the River Lavant and the footpath alongside Tesco.

Bird moult

Most birds are currently undertaking their annual moult into new feathers which can take several weeks. This is reflected in the rather ragged appearance of many garden birds and the complete absence of some species. Birds tend to hide at this time of the year to avoid predators and territory disputes. Results from the BTO GardenBirdwatch scheme show a pronounced late summer and autumn trough in the reporting rate of many species. For garden bird reporting rates go to . . .



Emsworth Harbour

I cycled down to the harbour this morning to catch the tide before it got too high. I found 122 Black-tailed Godwits off the Thorney shore, though most of them were in water, so could not see legs. I got two colour-ringed birds, one a regular in Emsworth Harbour over the past 5 years and one seen only once before. Chatted with a chap from London.

G+WR was ringed at FM on 10Sept08 as ad male. A regular in Emsworth Harbour ever winter since then. Total number of sightings = 85.

L+LN - My only other sighting of this bird in Emsworth was at Nore Barn on 10-Nov-10. Here is today's digiscoped bird.

Brook Meadow

Malcolm Phillips saw the regular Water Vole by the south bridge at 13.50pm. As he watched it swim across the river the Pike came out from the weeds close by. He wonderd if the Pike could take the Water Vole? Probably not an adult I would guess, but a youngster would be vulnerable. He got a nice photo of 2 Clouded Yellows together.


Clouded Yellows

Tony Wootton had what he thought was a good dozen Clouded Yellows on Oxenbourne Down this morning. They certainly seem to be having an exceptionally good year. Patrick Murphy had his first Clouded Yellow this morning on roadside verge opposite his house in Christopher Way. And I saw another Clouded Yellow feeding on the track on the west side of Thorney Island this morning.

Here is Tony's photo of two of them at Oxenbourne mating

Exotic butterfly

Chris Gibbs e-mailed me to say that he and his neighbours had great excitement in Church Path Emsworth on Aug 25 when the most amazing black and yellow striped butterfly turned up in their gardens. They all rushed to try to identify this beautiful stranger and the general concensus was that it was a Zebra Longwing Butterfly - Heliconius charitonia normally resident in Florida.

I checked this name on Google and I am sure Chris and his neighbours are correct in their identification of this striking insect. I read that the caterpillars of this butterfly feed on passion flowers which are very popular in gardens. In fact, we have some in ours which I shall need to keep an eye on.

What a find! But how did it come into Emsworth? Clearly it did not fly here from Florida. The only answer is that it is an escape from a local butterfly collection. Interestingly, the Wikipedia entry says because of their relatively long lifespan and their activity throughout the day, this is a popular species with butterfly houses. The nearest public ones are at the Chichester Butterfly World and the Portsmouth Natural History Museum, the latter of which which I recently visited, though I don't recall seeing one of these there. Alternatively, it could be an escape from a private collection.



Malcolm Phillips spent two hours on Brook Meadow this morning during which he saw a Water Vole from the south bridge at 11.50am. In the river Malcolm spotted 4 Eels, 7 Trout and what looks like a Pike.

But best of all was a fine Painted Lady butterfly - only the second sighting this year on Brook Meadow, plus our first Common Blue. He also saw a Small Copper and the now regular Clouded Yellow.


Missing Mute Swans

David Minns was at Bosham yesterday and found about 40-50 Mute Swans on the sea north of the jetty. He wonders if thye could be birds missing from Emsworth Millpond. That's possible, though Bosham and Fishbourne usually have substantial summering Mute Swan flocks of their own.

Buzzards over Emsworth

David also two Buzzards spiralling high up and mewing right above his North Street house the other day. Interestingly, I also saw two Buzzards soaring over the Emsworth Recreation Ground this afternoon during the falconry display in the main show area. I wondered if they had been attracted by the flying of the falcons.


Brook Meadow rat

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow for an hour this morning. Whilst looking for the Water Vole by the south bridge a very large Brown Rat came from under the bridge. This is the first one he had seen in this location, though they certainly are present in the Palmer's Road Copse area.

Nore Barn Swans

Brian Lawrence had a stroll around Nore Barn on Saturday and saw a flock of 13 swans by the stream outlet. They may be some of those missing from the town millpond, but certainly not all, since there are usually in the region of 50-60 on the millpond.

Warblington birds

This morning from 6:40am to 9am, Peter Milinets-Raby had a wander around the Warblington Church and shore (from Conigar Point to Langstone Mill Pond). A very dull grey day, with drizzle pushing in later. The highlights were as follows:

Cemetery extension: 30+ Goldfinch still feeding in the wild patch, Singles each of Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff and male Blackcap in the bushes.

Conigar Point: 3 Lapwing, Greenshank, 52 Ringed Plovers, 7 Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Common Tern.

Off Pook Lane: 17 Grey Plover (most still in summer plumage), 4 Greenshank (one with coloured rings RG/YY), 2 Lapwing, 4 Little Egrets feeding on the low tide channel

Langstone Mill Pond: 6 Teal (all eclipse) - an increase in numbers! 5 Little Egrets in the trees. Later this afternoon Peter counted 78 Little Egrets seeing out the high tide in the trees over the pond. An amazing sight!

Just before the drizzle started, an impressive hirundine flock was pushed down out of the sky and they all flew about above the pond and trees for 20 minutes before moving on. An amazing sight, one lady was thrilled to have the birds swooping down around her head, listening to their contact notes and the swish of their wings! The flock consisted of 70+ Sand Martins, 30+ House Martins and 20+ Swallows. Other groups of Swallows were observed moving south throughout my walk (flocks of 17, 12, 5, 9 and 14).

This lunchtime Peter was cleaning the algae out of his medium sized pond in his Havant garden when he discovered three baby newts. He would like help in their identification. My guess is that the dark one is probably older than the pale one.


Shells on the shore

Ralph Hollins provided the following information about Juliet Walker's discovery of a wreck of hundreds of small shell fish on the shoreline on Hayling Island as reported in yesterday's blog.

They were not (as I naively thought) Whelks, but rather Laver Spire Shells (Hydrobia ulvae) which, Ralph says, are probably the most numerous mollusc in our harbour mud. For more about these sea snails go to . . . This site says that the shells normally measure only 4 to 6 mm; Common Whelks are considerably larger - up to 8 cm. It also says that they breed in both summer and autumn (so they might have gathering to mate) and that clusters of apparently dead shells can sometimes be revived when the tide comes in.

The hovering hoverfly

Ralph Hollins also provided the identification of the hoverflies in the photo on yesterday's blog as Drone Flies (Eristalis tenax). The general build and the thin 'gold' rings around the abdomen were distinctive.

Checking Wikipedia, Ralph was amused to find a picture of a pair of these hoverflies actually mating on a flower and wonders if my photo of one hovering while the other fed indicates the males of this species have the good manners to wait till they have finished eating before attempting to mate! See . . .

Red-tailed Woodpigeon?

Peter Mitchell sent me the following photo from his kitchen window on Hayling Island of what could be a new species known to science. Has anyone seen anything like this oddly coloured Woodpigeon? Peter assures me it was a simple compact shot with no use of Photoshop or similar.



Small Copper

I saw a Small Copper butterfly for the first time on Brook Meadow since Jul 31. It is uncommon on Brook Meadow, but recorded in most years. This one was probably one of the second (August) brood. After warm summers they sometimes have third or even fourth broods in the south, so we might be seeing them for a while.

Clouded Yellow

The Clouded Yellow is still feeding on the Lumley area. This was our 4th sighting this year, probably all of the same individual. Otherwise all butterflies were whites, but for the odd Gatekeeper.

Hoverfly behaviour

While I was on the orchid area of the north meadow, I was interested to watch one hoverfly hovering over another hoverfly which was feeding on a Common Fleabane flower. The flying fly pursued the feeding fly as it moved from one flower to another for several minutes. I have never seen this behaviour before, which I assume was preparatory to mating. They did not mate while I was there. I am not sure of the species.

Short-winged Conehead

In the same area as the hoverflies I spotted a Short-winged Conehead resting on a Common Fleabane flower. It was bright green with a dark stripe down its body and extremely long antennae. It was a female insects having a long ovipositor.

Blue Water Speedwell

There is a good flowering of the hybrid Blue Water Speedwell (Veronica x Lackschewitzii) with long flowering spikes on the west bank of the river just north of the observation fence. It is best seen from the main path on the east side of the river. I have found this plant in several areas of the meadow this year.

Alder Tongue gall - Taphrina alni

Ralph Hollins drew my attention to a strange 'fungal gall' called Taphrina alni (sometimes called Tongues of Fire) that grows on the young green female cones of Alder trees. See Ralph's diary for Mon 19 Aug. I decided to have a look at the Alders on the west bank of the River Ems in Palmer's Road Copse on Brook Meadow and found several cones that were affected by this gall which grows from the cones on tongue-like fashion. All the galls I found were either yellow-green or brown and shrivelled, as shown in this photo, though apparently the galls are often bright red.

The following web site show photos of red ones. According to Wikipedia this gall was rare in the United Kingdom and is absent from many of the published gall keys, though is becoming more common.


Peter Milinets-Raby was also on Brook Meadow today and saw a Coal Tit again, plus 2 to 4 Chiffchaff (by tunnel and by cottage by pond), 1 female and 2 male Blackcaps (by tunnel and along east edge), Two young Robins by the tunnel, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Two small flocks of House Martins flew over south (5 and 7).


Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning at 6:30am until 9:10am to walk along the Warblington shore to the Langstone Mill Pond. The highlights were as follows: Yellow Wagtail over, plus Meadow Pipit, 3 male and 2 female Blackcaps, plus 4 Chiffchaff in the bushes at the end of the new cemetery extension. 40+ Goldfinch feeding in the wild patch there - very spectacular.
Off Conigar Point: 2 Whimbrel, 3 Common Tern, 5 Little Egrets feeding together,
Off Pook Lane: 19 Grey Plover (Most in summer plumage), 13 Greenshank (two with coloured rings LR/NL and NR/RO - both different birds from he other day!), Black-headed Gull with yellow ring on its left leg '2BAS'.
Langstone Mill Pond: Kingfisher, 3 Teal (eclipse), 9 Little Egrets hanging around, 5 Swallows over.


Whelks on the shore

Juliet Walker was walking round Sandy Point at Hayling Island as the tide was going down yesterday afternoon. The shore all round the lagoon was speckled with what she at first thought might have been seeds or even man-made jetsam, but on closer inspection she realised they were, in fact, small shells, probably whelks. Juliet asks, Is this usual during the breeding season? Would they survive the hot sun until the next tide, particularly the ones which had not clamped themselves on to anything? I don't know the answers to these questions. Can anyone help?



Swan decline on millpond

Walking around the town millpond these days one cannot help but be aware of the almost complete absence of Mute Swans, apart from the pair with their one cygnet that nested near the bridge. There was just one other lone individual when I went round this morning. In fact, the regular flock has been missing since early spring. I have been doing counts of the swans on the millpond since the early 1990s and have never known numbers as low as this. In the early 2000s the August moulting flock was regularly over 100 birds. So, what has happened?

The decline started with the establishment of the swan nest and the territorial patrols of the cob. Several times I witnessed the cob chasing and sometimes attacking other swans on the millpond, even some way from the nest. Clearly, this could have produced a movement of the swan flock away from the millpond. Where they have gone to I have no idea, but Thorney Deeps is a possibility. Incidentally, the once scraggy cygnet from the 'litter nest' is now growing well and looking good.

Clouded Yellow with open wings

Brian Lawrence had the good fortune to snap a Clouded Yellow on Brook Meadow, with its wings open, a most unusual occurrence. This is the third sighting of Clouded Yellow on Brook Meadow this week, probably all of the same individual.



I had a walk through the meadow this morning. I checked the recently planted Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch which all looked fine. The Hoary Ragwort is now in full flower on the orchid area, much as it has been in the past few years.

Plenty of white butterflies were on the Common Fleabane, but there's still no sign of any Common Blues.

I happened to meet Ros Norton near the Lumley gate who was on a walk with the Petersfield group. Next, I came across Malcolm Phillips who was peering intently down at the river from the south bridge with his long lensed camera. We had a look together, but did not see anything of the possible Water Shrew that Malcolm saw here yesterday. However, we did see a fine Brown Trout and an Eel swimming in the river. Malcolm got this rather nice image of the Eel swimming near the surface.

Peter's news

Peter Milinets-Raby visited Brook Meadow today and saw a good variety of birds, including Swifts, Swallows and House Martins flying over and a Buzzard very high in the sky. He also saw at least 2 Chiffchaff, a male Blackcap and a Whitethroat; these are summer visitors which probably bred on the meadow. He saw lots of butterflies, but 2 Clouded Yellows were very special. It looks as if they are having a good year. Peter also got photos of what are almost certainly Meadow Grasshoppers. Here is one distinguished by the absence of hind wings. Meadow Grasshoppers are the only flightless grasshopper in Britain and are very common on Brook Meadow.



Patrick Murphy did some butterfly watching in his garden today. On the Buddleja flowers he saw lots of Whites (small and large) plus a Brimstone and a Small Tortoiseshell. The latter 2 spent over an hour feeding on the Buddleia florets. This is Patrick's photo of a male Brimstone typically with wings closed, showing its yellow underwings with a brown spot and its pink antennae. This will be one of the newly emerged adults that will be gorging themselves on nectar for the next two months or so in preparation for hibernation. They will re-emerge on the first warm days of spring and roam in search of mates and egg-laying sites on Buckthorn bushes of which there are many on Brook Meadow.

Thorney Island

I happened to meet Ros Norton near the Lumley gate this morning who was on a walk with the Petersfield group to Thorney. Tony Wootton sent me a few photos of their sightings on the Deeps seawall, including this Bloody-nosed Beetle (without blood) on Ros's hand. It only extrudes blood when alarmed, so clearly it felt quite safe in Ros's hand.

Thony also sent this rather fine first winter Wheatear which will be on its way to its wintering quarters in Tropical Africa.




Purple Loosestrife is in flower on the river bank south of the north bridge, as in previous years. The only other place it flowers on Brook Meadow is north of the south bridge, though there is a good crop in the garden of the neighbouring Gooseberry Cottage.

There is no sign of any Bulrush flowers this year on the west bank north of the observation fence. I think they must have been crowded out by the dominant Branched Bur-reed which have now spread along that river bank.

Malcolm's news

Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow for about 2 hours today during which he saw the Water Vole again from the south bridge at 2.30pm. Malcolm spent about half an hour watching a very small creature swimming out from the bank and then back into the vegetation, but just could not get any sort of photo. He thought it was no more than 3ins long.

That sounds like a Water Shrew to me, which we have seen on several occasions in the past, but they are very difficult to photograph (or even to see) due to their very small size and fast swimming. Here is a photo of a Water Shrew that I took from the internet showing its typically pointed face.


I had a mooch around on the new Emsworth Railway Wayside to the north of the station. Although we had a good crop of Marsh Woundwort, Common Knapweed and Common Toadflax again at the eastern end of the site, there has been another serious invasion of Brambles at ground level. This area needs to be cleared again once the plant seeds have fallen otherwise we are likely to lose these plants in future years. Interestingly, there is no sign of the Redshank that was so abundant on the mound at the eastern end of the site last year, nor any sign of the Marsh Cudweed that we found here last year.

I looked for some of the rarer plants that we found last year, such as, Sharp-leaved Fluellen, Small Toadflax and Small-flowered Crane's-bill, but there was no sign of them this year. The embankment, in particular, has now been taken over by large dominant plants, such as Wild Carrot, Bristly Ox-tongue and Spear Thistle, leaving no room for the more delicate plants that flourished here last year. However, I have recorded some new plants this year taking the total for 2013 to 129 compared with 123 last year.

The site remains a good source of nectar for insects. Today I saw several Common Blues, males and females plus a single Clouded Yellow, which is a first for the site.

Here is one of the male Common Blues feeding on Common Fleabane

and here is the Clouded Yellow typically with wings closed on bare rocky ground


Bee chewing flower

While gardening Tony Wootton spotted a bee on his neighbours runner beans. It never tried to enter the flower by the usual route, but always persisted in biting/chewing in from behind. This is well known behaviour of some bees that are unable to get to the flower's nectar source by the normal route. However, I have not seen a photo of one doing it before. Well done, Tony.

Little Owl on Hayling

Charlie Annalls was thrilled to catch her first ever glimpse of a Little Owl yesterday in the early evening along the Hayling Billy Line. She had been walking that trail for years and not seen one before. I agree the bird looks like a juvenile as it lacks the adult's spotty head and striped chest. Charlie was about 300-400metres away when she took this photo, but it shows the bird quite clearly. Nice one, Charlie.



I had a stroll around the meadow this afternoon for the first time after a week's holiday in Somerset. Scroll down to a brief report of my wildlife observations on holiday with photos at the end of this day's entry.

The meadow is looking good as usual with a fresh growth of grasses in the recently cut areas. Amphibious Bistort is an abundant plant on Brook Meadow, but rarely flowers. However, I found no less than five flowering plants all climbing through the tall Michaelmas Daisies on the east side of the Lumley area near the stream.

Pepper-saxifrage is also flowering in the usual spot on the east side of the Lumley area.

Malcolm's sightings

Malcolm Phillips had some good sightings on the meadow yesterday. He spotted this small moth with red-brown wings and yellow patches called Pyrausta aurata. This moth has been recorded before on Brook Meadow but this was a first sighting this year. I previously saw and photographed one in Stansted Forest on Aug 3.

Malcolm also got this image of a very attractive fungus which I am tentatively identifying as Marasmius rotula - Its official common name is Collared Parachute after the cap which is white and ribbed like a parachute.

Malcolm also saw his regular Water Vole near the south bridge.

Water Vole burrows

I was away on holiday last week, so missed a TV programme showing Water Voles behaving 'naturally' inside their burrows. However, Ralph Hollins provided the following useful information with the link to watching the relevant bits on the Iplayer.

The programme was on BBC 2 last Friday at 9pm and there will be further episodes on Friday nights (next on Aug 23). For the series the BBC have constructed artificial burrows for Rabbits, Badgers and Water Voles with a glass wall allowing the cameras to see what is going on in each of the many underground chambers. The chambers have small LED lights sufficient to get good pictures without disturbing the animals. The presenter is Chris Packham assisted by experts in the animal species. If you want to minimise the time spent watching (only seeing the Vole sections) go to and start the programme then skip in for 15.00 minutes to watch the section on construction of the Vole burrow and introducing two Voles (the male is a southerner but the blacker coated female came from Scotland). When you have seen enough of that skip to 47 minutes 30 seconds to see the Voles settled in the burrow and eventually mating (you have to wait till next week for the birth). Amongst other things the programme showed that the Voles dig their tunnels using their teeth as pickaxes and only use their feet to move the earth detached by the teeth out of the way.

Warblington birds

Peter Milinets-Raby had an early morning walk around Warblington (6:38am to 9:17am). The highlights were as follows: Peregrine hunting over the church and later over the mud flats. 20+ Swallows hawking over the field by the barn. 2 Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and male Blackcap in the bushes by the Ibis Field. 30+ Goldfinch flock feeding on the wild flower patch at the far end of the new cemetery extension. Juvenile Green Woodpecker doing some historical research in the cemetery reading grave stones!

Conigar Point: Just as the tide was pushing in, so waders starting to gather before flying off to roost. 6 Lapwing 11 Grey Plover, 3 Dunlin, 13 Ringed Plover, Whimbrel, Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Greenshank (one with rings RW/B-TagY), 63 Oystercatcher, 46 Curlew, Adult winter Med Gull, 3 Common Tern.

Pook Lane: 117 Redshank together before departing for their high tide roost. 7 Greenshank (two with rings RG/YY and the second bird was incomplete ??/RY),

Langstone Mill Pond: Kingfisher heard, but not seen, Reed Warbler moving through the reeds, 27 Little Egrets hanging around (all nests are now empty), 4 Grey Herons with the egrets, A Moorhen has two tiny chicks (just days old!!)



Jean and I visited two or the nature reserves on the Somerset Levels during our short holiday in this beautiful area. Both reserves were in a similar habitat with extensive reedbeds and stretches of open water which attract migrant birds in winter.

We visited Ham Wall on Aug 13 - a RSPB reserve near Glastonbury. We did what is called the Ham Wall loop, walking up one side of the Glastonbury Canal and back the other side. We then visited Westhay Moor on Aug 16 - a Somerset Wildlife Trust reserve and very impressive it was too with well laid out routes and good hides with views over the reedbeds and open water.

Here is a view from the Westhay Moor reserve, looking across to the Mendips


This is not a good time of the year for birdwatching and we saw very few birds of any interest. Moorhen, Mallard and Mute Swan were common on the lakes. We also saw Cormorant, Little Egret (2) and a Buzzard flying over. From one of the observation areas at Ham Wall we could see Lapwing and Black-tailed Godwits out on the open water area. A local birder with scope said one of the godwits had colour rings with red on the left and green over white on the right, but I got no more information. It could have been a Farlington ringed bird, though there are several with GR on the right.

Ham Wall was where Tony and Hilary Wootton heard a Bittern booming on their visit in May, but we are too late for them. I was surprised to see a special information board about Little Bitterns breeding on the marshes and a look out area marked out. On Westhay Moor we passed an interesting old log with lots of carved Starlings on its branches. This is the prime area for seeing the spectacular gatherings of Starlings going to roost in winter.


I noticed a number of interesting plants during the walks, including four which were new to me. These were:

Frogbit - quite abundant in the water and looked like a small water lily with round leaves and white flowers with a basal yellow spot. It got its name from the belief by classical Greeks that it was eaten by frogs.

Greater Bladderwort - one of two yellow flowered plants growing in the lakes. This is an insectivorous plant, catching insects in its underwater bladders. It had straight reddish stems rising from the surface of the water and bright yellow flowers at the top of the stems. I think the round leaves are those of Frogbit.

Yellow Water Lily - the other yellow flowers which were much larger than the Bladderwort projecting out of the water on thick stems.

Greater Chickweed - prominent in patches around the reserves. It looked like an over large Common Chickweed. It had distinctive red stamens - 10 of them.

Other plants of interest included Marsh Woundwort, Purple Loosestrife, Gipsywort, Common Valerian, Redshank, Heather, Tormentil, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, Marestail, Soft Rush and Blackberries galore.


Small Tortoiseshells were abundant along the main tracks on both reserves, by far the most numerous butterfly we saw. Just another indication of how this butterfly has recovered. Others seen were Speckled Wood, Peacock, Red Admiral, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Brimstone (male).

There were lots of mainly blue damselflies around the lakes and some large dragonflies. I identified Southern Hawker (immature) and Common Darter (male).


We drove onto to top of Ebbor Gorge where we stopped for a short walk into Cooks Field Nature Reserve on the Mendips with glorious views across the valleys. Three species of thistle were in flower. The deep red flowers of Dwarf Thistles were attracting Bumblebees. I snapped what I think was a male Bombus pratorum, red-tailed with two yellow bands and yellow hairs on its face. Patches of flowering Creeping Thistles attracted several Small Tortoiseshells. There were also tall Marsh Thistles.



Water Vole

Malcolm Phillips went twice round the meadow today. On his first round he saw a Water Vole at 10.55am just down from the deep water sign in Palmer's Road Copse.

Clouded Yellow

More significantly, Malcolm got the following photo of a Clouded Yellow feeding on Common Fleabane. Malcolm said he had not seen one before, which is not surprising since Clouded Yellow is a very rare butterfly on Brook Meadow. This was only the third sighting on Brook Meadow since records began in Year 2000. I recall seeing one flying over the Lumley area last year on Sep 4, but it did not stop for a photo. Malcolm apologised for not getting a photo of the butterfly with its wings open. This is not surprising since Clouded Yellow hardly ever opens its wings when settled.


Mistle Thrushes

Caroline and Ray French came across a very large flock of 52 Mistle Thrushes feeding on the pasture between Lumley Wood and North Coopers Wood (approx. SU 760 106) at 10.30 yesterday. "As we walked on up the track, past the cottage, in the direction of Lordington Copse we came across another dozen or so roosting in one of the trees. These may well have been part of the original 52 that we had seen feeding on the ground, although we didn't actually see them fly into the tree so they could also be additional birds. This is by far the biggest flock I have ever come across. Before I read it on Ralph's webpage recently I had been unaware of their habit of summer flocking."

Interestingly, there have also been reports on Hoslist of large gatherings of Mistle Thrushes, but not in the numbers seen by Caroline and Ray. John Clark expects to see quite large aggregations of family parties at this time of year.



Jean and I had coffee in the Pavilion Cafe and then had a walk around the Dutch Garden right next door. I love the aroma of this garden. But more so I love the myriads of insects that are attracted to the smelly flowers. Today, the Buddleias were covered with butterflies, including Large White, Small White, Peacock, Comma, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, plus one Silver-washed Fritillary. I was hoping for Painted Lady, but no such luck.

Here is a female Large White with very prominent black spots and pale yellow underwings.

Here is the Silver-washed Fritillary on the white flowered Buddleja

Meanwhile the low growing herbs were covered with hundreds of mainly white-tailed Bumblebees. I think I found both Bombus terrestris (two yellow bands with dark face) and male Bombus lucorum (yellow bands with yellow face).

I also found a small moth Pyrausta aurata with red wings and yellow patches which I have seen many times before.

A male Common Darter and a pair of Azure Damselflies were around the Lily pond. We also walked around the arboretum where I added a male Brimstone to the list of butterflies.



I had a amble around the meadow this afternoon where I found several ginger Bumblebees Bombus pascuorum feeding on the flowers of Lesser Burdock on the Seagull Lane patch

I found red-tailed Bumblebees Bombus lapidarius feeding on Common Fleabane. I wonder if this indicates a preference?

Water Voles

Malcolm Phillips had two more sightings of Water Voles on the river in Palmer's Road Copse today. The first one was just up from the south bridge at 10.20am. The second was just south of the deep water sign at 1.30pm.

Here is Malcolm's photo showing the vole swimming through a jungle of Fool's Water-cress in the river beneath the south bridge

Privet Hawkmoth larva

Chris Oakley visited Brook Meadow last week on one of those scorching hot days so there was not a lot to be seen apart from butterflies, bees and hoverflies. However, he did find a dead caterpillar of the Privet Hawkmoth which appeared to have been trodden on. One can just make out the seven white and pink stripes on the sides of the larva at the top of the photo. These distinguish the Privet Hawkmoth from the caterpillars of other Hawkmoths. As far as I am aware this is the first Privet Hawkmoth recorded on Brook Meadow.




I went for my regular morning walk through Brook Meadow and down to the Hermitage Millponds. The Seagull Lane patch is currently a blaze of colour from the multitude of wild flowers that flourish there. They include Mugwort, Teasel, Hogweed, Large Bindweed, Spear Thistle and Stone Parsley with a few bright pink flowers of Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea thrown into the mix. Stone Parsley with tiny white flowers seems to have done very well everywhere this year. A bush of Lemon Balm is flowering near the metal gate to this area for the first time in my memory. Blackberries are now ripening on the Brambles on the north path - the Himalayan variety which are large and juicy.

Here is a cracking Speckled Wood that I got resting on the leaf of Hogweed

Elsewhere on the meadow, Hemp Agrimony and Hoary Ragwort are in flower on the orchid area and Common Fleabane abounds on the Lumley area along with the emerging umbels of Wild Angelica.

There are some spikes of False Fox Sedge on the far side of the Lumley area among the Michaelmas Daisies which stand some 6 feet tall (180cm). I have never come across them that tall before. Francis Rose gives the limit as 100cm in his book on Grasses, Sedges and Rushes.

There is a fine crop of berries on the Rowan plantation that was planted on the east side of the north meadow in 2005 in memory of the late Gwynne Johnson. Gwynne was a very good friend of Brook Meadow and personally was an inspiration to me in the identification of flowers and grasses. I think Gwynne would have appreciated these berries. I wonder if they will attract Waxwings?

Malcolm Phillips had two Water Vole sightings today, possibly of the same animal, north of the south bridge. Malcolm got this very good image from one of the sightings.


All is quiet and peaceful on Slipper Millpond now the Great Black-backed Gulls have left with their three youngsters. The Mute Swan family that nested on Peter Pond swim quietly around the pond with their one remaining cygnet while the Coots scuttle around in their busy fashion with the occasional skirmishes when they get too close. Cormorants are also back on the centre raft which will be their home for the winter period.

I have suggested to the Slipper Millpond Association that they temporarily move the centre raft, where the Great Black-backed Gulls have nested for the past two years, to the edge of the pond to discourage any further nesting. Unfortunately, although these are truly magnificent birds, their presence has unbalanced the ecology of this small pond. They are just too big for this small pond.

Golden Samphire is in flower on the Hermitage Bridge.

Westbrook Stream

There were about 20 Pond Skaters on the Westbrook Stream beneath the small bridge in Victoria Road. I could also see one plant of Narrow-leaved Water-plantain. There is another one just over my back garden wall, so they have not all been lost as I first feared. But there are none in the usual spot on the Bridge Road Wayside.


Chris Cockburn provided the latest news up date from the oysterbeds.

"At least one common tern chick hatched today and, if it survives and the other c3 still-sitting common terns produce chicks, it will be well into September before the breeding season at the Oysterbeds is finally over! However, there is no sign of the two chicks that hatched last Friday (they were last seen on Sunday, but not yesterday or today). Coincidentally (?!), the juvenile Mediterranean gull (almost certainly not an Oysterbeds 'product' and that has recently been seen wandering through the westernmost island at high tide) was seen swallowing a chick today (before being chased off by many irate common terns). So, "yes" is the answer to the question "Do Med juveniles take eggs and small chicks?"! If continued, this behaviour could result in an earlier end to the breeding season (ominously, several Herring gull families have been seen nearby - also a juvenile great black-backed gull has been around - to my ears, this bird has a suspiciously Emsworth-like call!).

Wader roosts are becoming larger - oystercatchers, ringed plovers, grey plovers (SP - hooray!), dunlins, turnstones, curlews, whimbrels, redshanks etc. - but, apart from great-crested grebes, wildfowl are few & far between.

Havant BC have done a thorough job in mechanically-cutting Ragwort spp. and many other flowering & fruiting plants on the Mound and the area from the Mound to the Hayling Halt car park (I am sure that great care was taken to not disturb or, in any way, damage the Adder population!). Oddly, since the cut, there are now very few butterflies and other insects to be seen in these areas compared to the many that were seen last week - can anyone suggest why?!!"

I replied to Chris: "You might be right about the the juvenile Great Black-backed Gull visiting Hayling Oysterbeds. The pair that nested on Slipper Millpond here in Emsworth this year raised three youngsters which have recently fledged and gone from the pond. But, you will no doubt be relieved to learn that I have suggested to the Slipper Millpond Association that they discourage any further nesting of the Great Black-backed Gulls on the pond by moving the floating raft where they have nested for the past two years, to the edge of the pond. Although these are truly magnificent birds, their presence has unbalanced the ecology of this small pond. Early replies from members of the association indicate general agreement with my proposal. I suppose they will find somewhere else to nest and I dread to think but the oysterbeds could be a suitable spot! "



I checked several of the Emsworth waysides. Here are the main observations. A full report along with photos is on the waysides news blog at . . .


I found two Slow-worms underneath a discarded cardboard box on the Washington Road path. I had intended to remove the box, but decided to replace it as a cover for the Slow-worms. Here is one of these delightful creatures.

Greater Burdock

The rare Greater Burdock is now looking quite magnificent on the Washington Road path wayside just before you reach the Emsworth Recreation Ground and is just starting to flower.

Wild Clary survives!

About 10 plants of Wild Clary were still present on the council mown verge on Christopher Way just to the west of the official wayside - and they were flowering. They were not killed by the gas work that took place recently. There is also one plant still remaining (and in flower) on the main grass verge wayside about half way along. So, there is still hope that the colony of 40 plants we have had in previous years will recover, though not this year.



I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular conservation work session which was attended by 12 volunteers. Here they are ready and waiting at the Lumley gate. There's only 11 in the photo as Wally came in too late for the photo.

The main tasks were concerned with clearing away the many fallen willow branches from the paths through the meadow. This is a particularly vulnerable time of the year for Crack Willows the branches of which are heavy with leaves.


Butterflies were numerous around the meadow, though few of them stopped long enough for a photo. The whites were particularly elusive, though I did identify both Small White and Large White. Gatekeepers were by far the most common on the meadow. Here are two I saw feeding together on Common Fleabane flowers.

I also saw Peacock, Holly Blue, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Comma and Red Admiral. Speckled Woods were common in the shady areas in Palmer's Road Copse. But my best butterfly of the morning was a Painted Lady. I first spotted its powerful flight in the north west corner of the north meadow near the thistles. It came to rest on a path in front of me and I was about to take a photo, when a dog rushed up and the butterfly was gone! It was my first of the year, though Ralph Hollins says they are about though not in large numbers. In fact, this was my first Painted Lady for two years!

Other insects

I spent a lot of time inspecting the flower heads of Hogweed which were highly attractive to insects, particularly red Soldier Beetles, flies, hoverflies and Common Wasps. Most interesting was a Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) which I found feeding on Hogweed on the western side of the north meadow.

Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria)

Volucella zonaria is a large and distinctive hoverfly with a brown thorax and a yellow abdomen with two thick black stripes. It looks rather like a Hornet, but is harmless with no sting. The main observable differences are (1) the antennae are short in the hoverfly and long in the hornet and (2) the hoverfly has just two wings and the hornet has four. Volucella zonaria was recorded on Brook Meadow by Bryan Pinchen in his insect surveys in 2010 (July and August).

In Great Britain, it was only known from two specimens prior to 1940, so was regarded as rare. Since then, it has become increasingly widespread in many parts of the South and South East England, often in parks and gardens, where adults are usually seen visiting flowers. Elsewhere in England, only a few scattered records exist. The larvae live as commensals in nests of wasps of the genus Vespula. Like all Volucella, the adults are migratory.


I had a good mooch around on the west bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse. I was pleased to find my first Gipsywort of the year with its nettle like leaves and tiny white flowers, dotted purple, in whorls at the base of the upper leaves. There is a small colony of Gipsywort plants on both sides of the river north of the south bridge. This is the best I have known it.

Other plants flowering on the river bank included Fool's Water-cress, Brooklime, Blue Water Speedwell (hybrid?), Bittersweet and Enchanter's Nightshade. The Giant Fescue is looking great - a tuft is growing beside the first Willow along the path through the copse from the south bridge. Blackberries are now ripening on the Brambles on the north path - the Himalayan variety which are large and juicy.


The only observation of any interest was a churring Greenfinch from the garden of Gooseberry Cottage - the first I have heard for some while.


Malcolm Phillips sent me this photo of some fungi that he took on Brook Meadow today. I am very reluctant to even try to identify fungi, but they remind me faintly of the famous Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata) which were popular in the 1960s as a hallucinogen. Not that I ever tried them (of course).

Ralph Hollins thinks these fungi are unlikely to be Magic Mushrooms (Psilocybe semilanceata). They would have a small nipple-like umbo in the centre of the cap which Malcolm's photo shows no sign of . His best guess without seeing the fungi is that they might be Panaeolus semiovatus though that should have some hint of a ring on the stem and also is said to grow on Horse Dung which is not present on Brook Meadow.



Inane Hoverfly

Malcolm Phillips visited Brook Meadow this morning armed with his mighty camera and got some interesting images of insects. One that intrigued me was a hover fly with a distinctive pattern of dark bars on a largely yellow abdomen which I do not recall having seen on the meadow before.

I narrowed it down to Volucella inanis - which the UKSafari web site refers to as one of the 'Inane Hoverflies'. The scientific name 'inanis' is Latin for 'inane' or 'empty', possibly referring to the lack of stinging organ on this wasp-like insect. Its food is nectar and pollen from a variety of flowers and is found throughout southern England up to the Midlands from June to September. These hoverflies resemble wasps for a very good reason, as the adults lay their eggs in the nests of bees and wasps, where the larvae feed on the larvae of those insects. See . . .

Southern Hawker

Among Malcolm's other photos was a Southern Hawker - a common dragonfly in summer on Brook Meadow, but the first I have recorded this year.


Charlie Annalls who lives in Anchorage Way, Portsmouth has had a return visit from the male Kestrel to her TV aerial. She says, She was surprised to see the Kestrel so easily give up his spot as "Arial King of the Aerial" when harassed by a Magpie. Shortly afterwards the Magpie flew off after asserting its territorial rights to the TV aerial.

CORRECTION: Peter Milinets-Raby pointed out that the Kestrel on the aerial is in fact a Sparrowhawk - white dots on mantle, bright yellow legs, rounded wings in flight and barring on long square edged tail.

Sparrowhawk being harassed by Magpie

Charlie said the aerial wasn't empty for long as a rather large family of Starlings laid claim to it - much to the dismay of a Collared Dove. Charlie noted how the Starlings are developing a nice line in iridescent waistcoats at the moment as the juveniles grow more colourful plumage. "It's been fascinating watching them develop throughout the Spring and Summer."


Tony Wootton reported on this morning's walk by Havant Wildlife Group.

"8 of us set off to have a walk around Foley Manor and Folly Pond, in lovely sunny fresh conditions. Although it tried to rain on us several times but with no real success. We saw meadow browns, gatekeepers, ringlets, large whites, a large skipper, a peacock, a speckled wood and a very tired silver washed fritillary, blue damselflies, soldier beetles, a variety of bees. Plants: Bell heather, crab apples, greater burdock, figwort, marsh thistle, creeping thistle, water mint, yellow loosestrife, and self heal. Birds: Chiffchaff, 3 young whitethroats, swallows, house martins and swifts. Carrion crow, jackdaws, blackbird, dunnock, wren, tufted duck with ducklings, mallards, Egyptian geese, little grebe, great crested grebe, young nuthatch, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, spotted flycatcher, then right at the end around 20 siskins and the thin call of a bullfinch."


Millpond News

The Great Black-backed Gulls have definitely gone from Slipper Millpond, so all was quiet again. The full story of their nesting both this year and last year is on a special web page - with photos. Go to . . . Great Black-backed Gulls nesting

There was one juvenile gull, of Herring Gull size (much smaller than the Great Black-backed Gulls), noisily begging for food at the Hermitage Bridge along with Coot and Mallard, including a family of 4 ducklings. Here is the gull with Coots disputing territory.

The Mute Swan pair with their one rapidly growing cygnet was on Peter Pond, where the floating raft had 6 juvenile Black-headed Gulls. They have had a bumper season on Hayling Oysterbeds.




A few Swifts were flying in the sky over Bridge Road today, up to 8 at a maximum. I suspect these may be birds which are passing through the area on their way south on migration back to their wintering grounds in Africa.

Emsworth Waysides

I had a quick walk around the new Railway Wayside to the north of the station ramp. The main embankment below the new ramp has a mass of wild flowers attracting myriads of bees and butterflies. I spotted a Common Blue fluttering around which I have yet to see on Brook Meadow this year. I could not see any sign of the special plants we found last August - Marsh Cudweed, Sharp-leaved Fluellen, Small Toadflax and Small-flowered Crane's-bill.

Bulrushes are now flowering in the Westbrook Stream in Bridge Road car park.

Brook Meadow

Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow over the past weekend when he got a couple good insects. The first is clearly a Blue-tailed Damselfly with its black abdomen and bright blue segment 8. The orange colour of the thorax suggests it is a female.

The second is a Silver Y Moth - one of the few moths I feel fairly confident about identifying due to the distinctive Y shaped mark on silvery wings. It is usually recorded on Brook Meadow during the year.

Painted Lady

During a walk down the Hayling Billy Line, Brian Lawrence had what is the first Painted Lady to come to my attention this year. It is feeding on what looks like Spear Thistle which is the favourite plant of this butterfly for egg laying.

Ralph Hollins informed me that Painted Ladies have been more frequent than I thought. His database has 52 Painted Lady records for this year and shows that there was a moderate influx of them during June. In contrast, Ralph has only 26 records for Clouded Yellow - all between June 18 and July 9 so presumably they were influenced to move by the same factors that brought the majority of the Painted Ladies.

For earlier observations go to . . July 16-31