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for 16-30 November 2013

in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Water Rail on Brook Meadow

I spent about half an hour this afternoon stalking the Water Rail as it moved along the River Ems on Brook Meadow. I first located it at about 15:00 on the west bank in front of the grey metal railings of the Williams Coachworks workshop. I took a lot of photos of the bird in the rapidly declining light as it moved rapidly up the river, frequently disappearing into the bankside vegetation only to emerge several yards further on. Here is the best image I got which shows clearly an adult bird with slate grey chest and face, bright red bill, red eye and white barring on the flanks.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Colin Vanner got this rather nice image of a Great Spotted Woodpecker near Southwick today. But is it a chap or a girl? A male would have red on the back of its head, but not a female. I wonder if Colin can tell us? Colin confirmed that it was, in fact, a male.


Graham's Hedgehog

Graham Petrie agreed that the Hedgehog he found in his garden yesterday should be in hibernation. It is way too small to survive the winter without help at only 260 grams, it should be double that by now. He spoke to the Little Prickles hedgehog sanctuary based in Fareham but they were inundated. The mild weather has resulted in some late broods and most won't survive as they just don't have the fat reserves. They said Graham's animal will need looking after until the spring, but if he can fatten it up over the next month it may hibernate from Xmas onwards. On sanctuary advice, it is getting fresh water and cat food (with cat biscuits for roughage) and they reckon it should put weight on daily, at least a couple of grams but once it settles maybe up to 10 grams a day. Graham says it is eating well and likes the hot water bottle wrapped in a towel which Graham has provided for it. All home comforts!

Advice on Hedgehog care:

The sanctuary told him the animal would be certainly on its own by now and to keep an eye out in case there were others from the same brood as they would need a rescue also. Look out for coughing which can indicate Lungworm, a common hedgehog problem, and green poo, an indication of stomach infection. Get in touch if either of these things occur or if it doesn't start gaining weight. They like warmth when they are this small as well and a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel is a good idea.

They are not riddled with fleas, they can have hedgehog fleas but these do not transfer to pets or people. You shouldn't feed them bread and milk as they are lactose intolerant. You need to keep them in a large plastic storage box (Graham uses a 100 litre box with a folded blanket over the top to maintain heat, not the lid that the box comes with), with hay/straw, a cut up old fleece, stripped newspaper (they will get out of a cardboard box). They are also capable of piling up all the bedding into a corner and then standing on their back legs to get out as well so quite a high-sided plastic storage box is required.

A clean out every couple of days. Human contact should be kept to a minimum (gloves when handling because they are prickly and so they don't get used to your scent). A 260 gram hedgehog will eat a tin of cat food in 2 to 3 days (high metabolism). Keep in a garage or shed (a very good idea because they do smell really musky!). They can suffer from ticks, which are easily visible! Graham adds a disclaimer that he is no expert, but is having to learn quickly, but found talking to the local sanctuary people very helpful.

Romney at Prinsted

Romney Turner walked round Prinsted shore for some exercise this morning and got some good photo despite dull weather. She saw two Kestrels and got this fine image of one hovering.

Romney also catured this Little Egret in flight which looked as if it has an injured right wing, but seemed to be flying OK. Can't say I have ever seen an injured egret before.



Nore Barn

09:30 - About 2 hours after high water. Tide falling fast. Hundreds of Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal were on the calm water. Two Spotted Redshank were in the stream, plus the Greenshank. I think one of the Spotted Redshanks was subsequently chased off.

I counted 7 Pintail in the main channel, 2 males and 5 females - unusual as I usually see them in pairs. Here are three females and a male partly hidden.

About 20 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the mudflats including colour-ringed birds - WO+LW flag and R+GL, both regulars this winter.


Emsworth Harbour (east)

From Nore Barn I went east along Western Parade to the millpond seawall from whereI counted 15 Lapwing roosting on the emerging mud islands in the main channel. There were also about 20 Black-tailed Godwits scattered around the mudflats including two more colour-ringed regulars this winter R+LG and W+WN.  

Brook Meadow

No sign of the Water Rail on the river today. Just the regular group of Mallards (2 male and 1 female) and a pair of Moorhens foraging on the east bank in Palmer's Road Copse. It was good to hear the first bursts of winter song from Wren and Song Thrush on the meadow today.  

Slipper Millpond

A Pied Wagtail was leaping up at the windows of the French doors of the houses overlooking Slipper Millpond. I have seen this before on the windows of Brendan Gibb-Gray. I think the bird gets fed.

Emsworth to Warblington

Peter Milinets-Raby did a low tide walk (with John Norton) from Nore Barn along the shoreline to Pook Lane and back via Warblington Church (10:20am to 12:45pm). I must have just missed them at Nore Barn. They went west while I went east. The Nore Barn observations were much the same as mine. Other observations were:

Off Conigar Point: 6 Pintail (3 pairs), 4 Knot, 120+ Dunlin, Huge numbers of Teal (200+), 2 Reed Bunting and 30+ Linnets in the stubble field (numbers much lower than last visit). Skylark over. Greenshank heard.

Off Pook Lane: 340 Brent Geese close to shore, but they soon moved inland. 200+ Dunlin

3 Knot, 27 Shelduck, 17 Curlew feeding in the field south of the cemetery. Chiffchaff calling along Pook Lane (Tit flock encountered contained 8+ Long-tailed Tits, 3+ Great Tits, 6+ Blue Tits and a Goldcrest).

2 Green Sandpipers flew up from Wade Court direction flew over Pook Lane calling and appeared to go down behind Castle Farm (probably to the Cress Beds). In the field next to the Castle Farm Barn there were 499 Brent Geese grazing. (I did not count the juveniles, but got the impression that their numbers were in the 80's). On the wires over the farm were 16 Stock Doves.


Graham Petrie found this little character wandering about his Havant garden this morning. He thought it looked a bit underweight for this time of year so he's hoping it will feed! Should it not be hibernating at this time of the year? I have asked Graham to keep us posted.



Water Rail

On a quick walk through Brook Meadow late this afternoon in poor light I had a clear sighting of the Water Rail moving down the west bank of the river about half way between the observation fence and the S-bend. This was our 5th sighting of a Water Rail on the River Ems since Nov 15.

Pintail in flight

Romney Turner got this excellent image of four Pintail in flight (two males and two females) over Farlington Marshes.

Nutbourne Avocets

Peter Adelien reported on SOS Sightings yesterday "a conservative count of 55 Avocets in the channel leading to Nutbourne Bay on the rising tide". I would appreciate confirmation of this exceptional number if anyone gets down there.

Garden butterfly boom in 2013

British Trust for Ornithology reports a good year for butterflies in gardens covered by the Garden BirdWatch scheme. A late spring meant butterflies had a very slow start at the beginning of the summer, with emergences up to four weeks late. This produced sharp peaks in activity later in the year than is usual and many species were present in numbers well below what would normally be seen in the Garden BirdWatch figures for early summer. Come July, the weather improved and butterflies made a spectacular comeback with many sudden and dramatic increases in numbers.

Three species did really well, Meadow Brown, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. The recovery of Small Tortoiseshell was particularly welcome after so many years of scarcity. Let's hope this beautiful butterfly is back for good. Those which had a lower reporting rate than in 2012 were Holly Blue and Red Admiral. I was surprised to see that Red Admiral had declined as this was the one butterfly that I was seeing everywhere in late autumn.


Nore Barn at sunset

15:30 - 16:30 - I spent an hour at Nore Barn with the tide slowly rising and the sun setting over the trees on Warblington Farm. The scene was quite magical with hundreds of birds scattered over the dead calm waters of the harbour, basking in the warm glow of the low sun.

A flock of 80 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding in the shallow water of Nore Barn Creek.
Here are just a few of them, literally glowing in the setting sun.

Spotted Redshank and Greenshank were in the stream, but not easily distinguishable in the fading light.

I can now appreciate why photographers call this 'the golden hour'.

Egret in Dolphin Lake

Another atmospheric photo was sent to me by Maurice Lillie who captured this Little Egret fishing in Dolphin Lake. Maurice said it flew out and back, out and back in the space of less than two minutes. The tide was falling fast so there was probably a lot of food about.


Peter Milinets-Raby had a walk along Wade Court Road to Langstone Mill Pond (11am to 1pm). Birds of note were: On the Pond: Just two young Mute Swans, so the third has gone missing! 16 Teal. 2 Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting, Water Rail again heard squealing. Off shore was a very close Black-tailed Godwit feeding with 5 Teal, plus further out 6 Lapwing. Buzzard and Sparrowhawk over Wade Court and a Chiffchaff heard here. Here is the godwit.


House Sparrows return

A couple of weeks ago I invested in some new feeders for the garden and some different 'No more mess' bird seed which I thought I would try as a possible alternative to sunflower hearts. Well, the Goldfinches have not touched the new seeds, they have stayed loyal to the sunflower hearts, but House Sparrows seem to love them! This morning there were 12 on the feeders, which is the most I have seen in the garden since May 2007. I don't think this indicates a sudden resurgence in the House Sparrow population, but rather the discovery by this group of some food to their liking in my garden.

Here are a couple of sparrows on one of the new feeders

Water Rail

While strolling through Brook Meadow this morning I had a very brief but distinctive sighting of a Water Rail scampering up the west bank of the river in front of the brick building south of the north bridge. This was probably the same bird that was seen last week in other locations along the river. It clearly moves along the river.


Peter Milinets-Raby found this chap on his garden fence when he pulled back the bedroom curtains at 7.30 this morning as the sun was rising. Looks like a juvenile to me with white marks on the scapulars and streaks across the chest.


Geocachers on Brook Meadow

Rod Smith of Friends of Hollybank Woods, a keen Geocacher, asked the conservation group for permission to use Brook Meadow as a site for a hidden Geocache plastic container. In return he offered the services of the 'Geocachers Flying Squad' to help with conservation work on the meadow. The offer was gratefully accepted as we had an awful lot of arisings from recent cuts to be raked and cleared, a very onerous task. So, this morning about 40 Geocachers assembled in Palmers Road Car Park, having travelled from as far afield as Salisbury, Farnborough, Wales and Lumley Road. In addition to raking and clearing the arisings several of the geocachers collected litter on the meadow, not that there was an awful lot of it.

For a full report and photos go to the Brook Meadow diary page at . . .

Nore Barn

Peter Milinets-Raby spent 90 minutes at Nore Barn this afternoon just before high tide (12:30pm to 2pm). The weather closed in quite quickly and the photo opportunities were very few and rather distant. Plus a female Sparrowhawk disturbed all the birds and it took ages for the Spotted Redshank to re-enter the stream. The birds of note were: 750+ Black-headed Gulls dropped in to preen and wash before the rising tide pushed them off. Amongst them were 2 winter plumaged Mediterranean Gulls and 22 Common Gulls. There was just the one Spotted Redshank in the stream, which was eventually joined by a Greenshank.

Apart from the Mute Swans, a single juvenile Brent Goose, a single Redshank and 2 Wigeon there was nothing else, the Sparrowhawk having scarred everything off.

The female Sparrowhawk dashed through the lot and grabbed a Starling and plunged into a marshy tussock with its prey. Five Carrion Crows were soon pestering the Sparrowhawk and the bird sat still for ten minutes trying to ignore the crows. However, the crows became insistent and the Sparrowhawk was chased off and the Starling was dropped in the process. The Starling fell into the sea and over an agonising five minutes tried to swim to the nearest mud bank. When it reached the bank it was unceremoniously pounced upon by three Carrion Crows who fought over the dying bird before it died and the action continued behind a tussock, until eventually just one dominate crow won the trophy!

Trevor Carpenter was at Nore Barn yesterday and got this fine image of 'our friend' seeming to say 'Hallo, Trevor. Have not seen you for a while'.

Colin's photos

Colin Vanner sent me a selection of photos he took yesterday at Southwick. I particularly liked these two.

I don't think I have featured a Pied Wagtail in this blog before and this is a beauty!

Long-tailed Tits are never easy to capture, but this is a cracker - and what an eye!


Water Rail

Yesterday morning (Nov 22) Maurice Lillie was walking towards the north bridge from the north on Brook Meadow, when he saw a ripple in the river and thought it was possibly a Water Vole. However, a bird emerged from under the east bank where Maurice was standing about 25metres north of the bridge. He said it practically ran across the water and up into the opposite bank, its white tail at one end and long red beak at the other confirmed it was a Water Rail.

This was our 3rd sighting in the past week of what was probably the same bird. I had thought it may have moved on but presumably not. The last Water Rail we had in this area of the river was the one that was there and showing well for about 5 weeks from 15-Feb-2012. I had a look for the Water Rail this morning but did not see any sign of it anywhere along the river on Brook Meadow.

I found a dead Brown Rat lying on the north path near the river. There was no obvious sign of any injury. The regular group of Mallards was swimming up river by the S-bend, with a female accompanied by two males.

Horse Chestnut galls

I had a look at the large Horse Chestnut tree growing in the grounds of Holmwood House in Kings Road where Jennifer Rye found the large crown gall on the ground on Nov 12. There are in fact many other such galls growing on various parts of the tree, some huge ones on the main trunk and branches.

Roosting Lapwing

I stood for a while at Fisherman's Walk outlook over the harbour which was calm and very peaceful at about 1 hour to high water. A group of Black-headed Gulls was roosting on the beach near the old jetty including 4 Lapwing. We usually do get small groups of Lapwing roosting in the eastern harbour. Only three Lapwing are shown in this photo.

Wintering Coots

I am surprised there is as yet no sign of the usual winter invasion of Coots into the harbour or onto Slipper Millpond. I could only find 4 individuals in the harbour beneath the quay this morning, which is as many as I have seen this winter. At this time last year there were 30 which had increased to 74 by early December. My record count for Coots in the harbour was 186 in January 2011.

Spotted Redshank

I walked along Western Parade to Nore Barn in the warm sunshine this afternoon at about 14:00. I was surprised and delighted to find the Spotted Redshank still present in the stream despite the fact that is was almost high water. I was interested to see it swimming, which I do not often see.

As expected, the bird was not at all disturbed by the close proximity of lots of people walking past with dogs and children. In fact, while I was there two unruly dogs rushed into the swollen stream chasing the swans, but the Spotted Redshank hardly turned a hair (or a feather). What an amazing bird. It was still present when I left at about 14:30, clearly intending to sit out the high tide.

For all the Spotted Redshank news and photos go to . . . Spotted Redshanks

Insects on Ivy

I usually check the Ivy hedge as I approach Nore Barn from Western Parade. Today the warm sunshine had attracted several Bluebottles and Drone Flies to feed on the few remaining open flowers. Here are two Drone Flies, so called because they look remarkably like Honey Bee drones.


Dick Senior saw two Marsh Harriers (a male and an all dark bird) at Thorney Little Deep at midday today.

Doug Yelland saw a male Dartford Warbler on the Prinsted shore at 13.00 today on the extended run of brambles above water on inner side of ditch, about 50m north of the point where the snow buntings were a couple of years ago.


Emsworth Harbour

I cycled from home around the millpond and along Western Parade to Nore Barn this morning on a rising tide. I counted 104 Mallard on the pond, but the swans are still absent, all but for the 'litter nest' family. It was very cold standing on the millpond seawall where I could see a group of 9 Greenshank huddled together on the edge of the channel.

I met Susan Kelly who told me her book about the travels of an Anglo Saxon monk named Willy was back on track; he's currently in Damascus of all places! I'm looking forward to reading it.

Onto Nore Barn where a chap launching his boat disturbed the birds in the stream and they did not return. Before they went I saw the Spotted Redshank and a collection of Black-tailed Godwits. I walked to the top of Nore Barn Creek which was full of Wigeon and Teal with a few Brent Geese mixed in.

I noticed some flowers were opening on the Butcher's-broom bush near the path to the south of the woods.

Brook Meadow

Malcolm Phillips had his regular walk around the meadow early this afternoon and got photos of several of the resident birds. The one I liked best was this Blue Tit surrounded by Ash tree seeds.

Thorney Island

On Nov 19 Barry Collins reported a very smart looking Wheatear in the field behind the hide on the southern end of Thorney Island, which has been present since the 10th Nov. He and Margaret then did a Dark-bellied Brent Goose productivity count on Thorney airfield and had 78 juveniles in a flock of 500 (15.6%).


Brook Meadow

There was a chilly NE wind, but good turn out of nine volunteers for the regular conservation work session. The main tasks as outlined by Jennifer Rye, the leader for the session, were to cut and clear the rest of the orchid area and to start cutting the sedgey area above the causeway that has not been done for a few years. The full report and more photos is on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .

Maurice using the power scythe to cut through the rampant vegetation above the causeway

Brian Lawrence was on the meadow with his camera looking for Water Rail, but with no success. I think the bird Pam saw earlier in the week must have moved on. However, while watching the river Brian did see the now regular Grey Wagtail on the north river near the large Ash tree.

Nore Barn to Warblington

Peter Milinets-Raby was out mid morning for a walk from Emsworth, then along the shoreline to Pook Lane then back via Warblington (11:05am to 1:35pm, with high tide at 1ish). The highlights were as follows:

Nore Barn: 163 Black-tailed Godwits (most up to their bellies in water - two coloured ringed birds WO- -/LYtag and R-R/LG). 2 Spotted Redshank, a Little Egret, 11 Mute Swans and a single Dunlin in the stream. 2 Grey Plover, 191 Brent Geese, 152 Wigeon, 80+ Teal, 2 female Pintail, 2 Shelduck, 3 Little Grebes.

Off Conigar Point (again no mud exposed): 67 Linnets in the stubble field (perched on a hedge for a nice count!), 29 Stock Doves in same field, 4 female Pintail, 4 Shelduck, 6 Cormorants, 35 Grey Plover, 1 Knot, 2 Turnstone, 180+ Dunlin, 5 male coming out of eclipse plumage and 10 female Red Breasted Mergansers loafing on the water. 106 Wigeon, 11 Lapwing.

Off Pook Lane: Young Peregrine making several failed attempts to catch a Dunlin and causing mayhem in the process. 20 Wigeon, 10 Brent Geese, 31 Curlew in the field adjacent to Pook Lane (with 10 Stock Doves),

Chiffchaff heard calling in the cemetery. Water Rail squealing from the stream beside the Ibis Field, And finally back at Nore Barn to watch 7 winter plumaged Sandwich Terns fishing off shore, then take a rest on the buoys!!! Also this juvenile Brent Goose was alone on the high tide covered stream and even came out onto the main path, looking very lost!


Nore Barn

Maggie Gebbett had an entertaining 15 mins watching the Spotted Redshank getting cross with a Common Redshank, head down chasing it around. The Greenshank took no notice - although Maggie says it aimed a peck in the marauder's direction when it went past. Also, 10 swans were in the stream including cygnet, Little Egret, Grey Plover, Wigeon, Teal and the usual wonderful collection of Black-tailed Godwits including Nore Barn regulars G+WR and W+WN .

Brook Meadow

Malcolm Phillips said there was still no sign of Water Voles or the Water Rail. I suspect the latter may have moved on. But he did see a large Pike by the deep water sign; no chance of a good photo due to the reflections on the water but, it was at least 18ins long. Two male Mallards were pursuing a female on the river. Spring is in the air?

Avocets at Nutbourne

Romney Turner took a walk along the Prinsted foreshore with friends yesterday (Nov 19) and all were very excited to see a flock of 36 Avocets in Nutbourne Bay. When they all went up in flight Romney managed to capture most of them in this excellent photo. I counted 34 in Romney's shot. Brilliant.


Nore Barn

15:00 - Tide falling from high water at 12 noon. A bright sun low in the west was casting long shadows. The Spotted Redshank was feeding in the stream alone but for a few Brent Geese and Wigeon. No sign of its 'friends'.

The best birds of the afternoon were the Black-tailed Godwits which progressively gathered in the Nore Barn Creek as the tide fell. I pitched my scope in front of the wooden seat installed in memory of my friend John Mant who died in 2011. Nice to think of him here, if only in memory. I counted a total of 98 in the flock which included at least 5 colour-ringed birds:

G+WR - A mega regular in Emsworth since Sep-08. 12th sighting here this season.

L+RG - Only one previous sighting in Emsworth on 04-Nov-11.

R+GL - Fairly regular in Emsworth since 10-Sep-10. 2nd sighting here this winter. PHOTO

R+RN - Only two previous sightings in Emsworth on 16-Jul-12 and 17-Jul-12.

R+YN - 6th sighting here this winter. PHOTO

Brook Meadow

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow for a hour this afternoon looking for the Water Rail, but only found the usual Moorhens. I think that Water Rail may have moved on. No sign of any Water Vole either. He did see two Little Egrets in the trees which took off as he approached.


Nore Barn

14:00 - I had a quick look at the stream on a falling tide. The Spotted Redshank was looking sprightly as always feeding in the shallow stream

It was accompanied by a Little Egret which spend a good deal of time stirring up creatures in the mud with its foot.

In addition, 66 Brent Geese were in the harbour with two families in the stream with 1 and 2 juveniles respectively. These are the Nore Barn regulars. Also, 5 Mute Swans.


Romney Turner got a great photo of some Avocets in flight at Nutbourne recently. I counted 18 in the full photo that Romney sent me, though I had to cut some out to make it fit the page.

Anne de Potier found 31 Avocets at west Chidham yesterday at high tide which is very encouraging. Keep a look out.


Water Rail

Pam Phillips got another view of a Water Rail on Brook Meadow at 7.30 this morning. It was south of the S-bend running up and down the middle of the river. Pam said, although the light was not good the bird's bill did not look red. This suggests it could have been a juvenile which has a much browner bill.

Long-tailed Duck

Peter Milinets-went to Hayling Oysterbeds yesterday to see the Long-tailed Duck - typically with no long tail! He had to wait an hour before the bird came close for a photo opportunity. Peter says, the excessive amount of pink on the bill and clear cut markings on the crown and ear coverts suggest a first winter male; they are usually more smudged in female. Also the bird is beginning to acquire some winter male plumage on the wing coverts.

Here is Peter's photo of waders in flight over the Oysterbeds. What a spectacle.

Bearded Tit

Colin Vanner was at Farlington Marshes yesterday and found the Bearded Tits were showing very well in the reedbeds.




I had a bonanza of birds in my garden this afternoon. Thirteen species included 15 Goldfinches, which are now my number one garden bird, though when we first moved into our present house in 1997 I hardly ever saw one. This increase in Goldfinches using gardens is general across the country as evidenced by the BTO Garden BirdWatch scheme. See . . .

Interestingly, I have recently installed a nice new seed feeder with four perches which I bought from Stansted Garden Centre, but the Goldfinches and other birds have largely avoided it, despite it being filled with their favourite sunflower hearts. They still prefer the old battered two perch feeders which I have left up. I am not surprised, since birds always avoid anything new in their environment; however, there were one or two brave fellers venturing onto it today and more will follow I am sure.

Here is a view of three feeders in my garden with some Goldfinches - the new one is on the left.


Today I also had 4 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, 3 House Sparrow, which are always good to see, but best of all were the 10 Starlings that suddenly crowded onto the feeders and fatballs, but they did not stay long. Starlings are such a rarity in the garden these days, whereas they used to be so common, descending in flocks of up to 100 birds to gobble up food and then off they went in a flurry of wings! Overall, Starling numbers in the garden have plummeted from a mean weekly count of 27.5 in 2002 to just 0.2 last year.


Stuffed Water Rail

I had a phone call from taxidermist Michael Farley to say he had finished stuffing the Water Rail that he found dead near Peter Pond on Nov 11, so I went over to his house in Thorney Road to have a look at it. The bird had hardly any sign of damage from the accident and Michael had mounted it attractively on a piece of wood surrounded by some reed spikelets. Michael's place was quite amazing, full of stuffed birds of many species, all of which had been found by himself, usually beside the road, or had been given to him by other people.

Here is a photo of Michael's display taken with a flash in his kitchen

Water Rail in Fishbourne

Talking about Water Rails, Roy Hay said he had seen one this afternoon in the stream that passes through Fishbourne Meadows. Clearly, Water Rails are moving through the area, probably from breeding sites further north, though they could be migrants from the continent.

Chichester Gravel Pits

Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group. The highlight of the morning was an adult Great Crested with 2 juveniles constantly begging for food, on Great Copse lake.

For the full report go to . . .

For earlier observations go to . . November 1-15