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


for 1-16 March 2014

in reverse chronological order

SUNDAY MARCH 16 - 2014

Brook Meadow

This morning at 7.30am Pam Phillips saw a Water Vole on the west bank just north of the Williams unit. That was the first sighting from that section of the river (C) this year.

Pam also met a dog walker who told her she had seen a man fishing north of the north bridge where he caught a large trout. He looked "professional" and was wearing orange clothing with a black hat. Is that illegal? Catching the fish, I mean.

This afternoon, Malcolm Phillips saw a Water Vole on the north bank by the railway embankment. This was our 10th sighting on Brook Meadow this year.

Red Kite over Emsworth

Tony Wootton told me that a Red Kite flew over Bridge Road car park going northwards at 9am this morning. He considered knocking on my door, but thought it too early. I would have got out of bed for that one!


Brook Meadow

I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning and was pleased to hear the song of a Goldcrest from the west bank bushes in front of the old gasholder, particularly since I had thought, like Firecrest, it might be out of my range of hearing. Newly flowering near the Seagull Lane gate is Ivy-leaved Speedwell.

Pam Phillips e-mailed me to say the sandbags that were lining the river bank in the north-east corner of Brook Meadow were back in the river again this morning. That's the third time this has happened! Pam said cycle tracks along the path on the east side of the meadow were wider than those of a bicycle. Clearly, the lads have been back again. Also, an old tree trunk had been floated down the river and was stuck just south of the culvert. However, Malcolm Phillips told me that he and another person had managed to retrieve the tree trunk from the river. Well done, Malcolm.

Malcolm and I were interested to see a group of 'hippies' on the meadow this morning, in flowing costumes and drumming tom-toms. Apparently, they were celebrating water. Well, there has certainly been no shortage of that this winter. A couple of weeks ago they would have been knee deep in it. I guess those whose homes were flooded would not have much sympathy with their celebration.

Slipper Millpond

Malcolm got this excellent image of a Cormorant celebrating catching what looks like a Flounder in Slipper Millpond.

Waysides News

Meanwhile, I have been celebrating the many superb displays of Lesser Celandines along our roadside verges. The display in Bridge Road car park is particularly fine this year. A queen Buff-tail Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) was feeding on the flowers while I was there, though I could not get its photo.

Staunton Country Park

Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group:
There were 14 on todays walk , a lovely sunny morning with lots of birdsong. First we saw a buzzard and a few song thrushes on the ground in High Lawn field. We heard drumming from greater spotted woodpeckers and some of us heard a lesser spotted woodpecker. Green woodpeckers were yaffling , chiffchaffs and skylarks singing. Long tailed , blue, great and marsh tits were seen. Three treecreepers were active around a tree in Cedar Avenue, a nuthatch was feeding near the Stables and there were a few rooks in the rookery nearby. On the lake were 2 Canada geese, Mute swans, mallards , coots and moorhens. A jay was seen in a tree. A speckled wood butterfly and a male brimstone were flying in the sun. A bumblebee disappeared into a hole. Flowers included primroses, celandines, hazel catkins and pussy willow.


Emsworth to Thorney

I cycled down to Thorney Island hoping for early migrants. The only possible migrant was a Chiffchaff singing near the Lumley gate on Brook Meadow. No sign of any Wheatear on Thorney. Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies on the Cherry Plum blossom by Gooseberry Cottage.

Passing Slipper Millpond I was interested to see two adult Herring Gulls on the centre raft. Possibly thinking about nesting there now the Great Black-backed Gulls have gone?

Mediterranean Gulls constantly calling over the pond. About 100 Brent Geese were in the harbour at high water, but nothing else. A pair of Tufted Ducks was on the Deckhouses Estate pond. They could be nesting there.

I walked along the old ERA track across North Thorney, but no sign of any Swallows at Marina Farm. Mute Swan pair was on the Little Deeps, plus 12 Tufted Ducks and male and female Pochard. Little Grebe were whinnying. Coltsfoot was in flower in the usual spot in front of the Little Deeps.

At least three Skylarks were singing in the fields down to Great Deeps. I met Sid Davies at Great Deeps who pointed out a male Red-breasted Merganser on the edge of the deeps. On the way back I came across a notice on the bank to say that the west security gate was closed until further notice.

Brook Meadow

Pam Phillips saw her second Water Vole this morning at 7.30am. This one was along the north bank, under the tree trunk which spans the river. It was on a low branch to start with which had been stripped of bark. It then swam several yards towards the NE corner. It was larger and a darker colour than the one she saw on Monday. Malcolm Phillips also saw a Water Vole near the gasholder - Section B. Malcolm got a very good image of the vole eating a leaf. This was a particularly welcome sighting as we have only had one previous sighting in this area.

Rats on Peter Pond

Ken and Romney Turner were down on Peter Pond today watching people feeding the ducks by the seat. After the people had left the Brown Rats came out of the rocky wall to clean up. These rats have been a permanent feature of this area for many years, despite attempts to poison them, etc. Although rats are not normally Ken and Romney's cup of tea they thought this one was particularly cute. A nice contrast with Malcolm's Water Vole above.

Nore Barn - Warblington

Peter Milinets-Raby took a walk this morning from Nore Barn and along the shore to the Warblington church and back (7am to 9:40am - incoming tide, high tide due at 9:30am). Highlights were:

Nore Barn: 136 Brent Geese, 10 Wigeon, 79 Teal, Greenshank and Spotted Redshank in the stream (At 9:30am when I returned they were both roosting on the salt marsh by the stream, however, the Greenshank was flushed by a photographer and it headed off towards Thorney). 79 Dunlin, 7 Turnstone, 6 Grey Plover, 3 Little Grebes, 4 Red Breasted Mergansers. Singing Chiffchaff in the north west corner of the wood, plus very vocal and obliging Song Thrush (see photo).

Stubble fields: Singing Skylark very high in the sky, 2 Song Thrush, 15+ Stock Dove.

Off Conigar Point: 94 Bar tailed Godwit, 61 Grey Plover (very good count), 220+ Dunlin, 2 Knot. saw a Wren go into a bush with nesting material saw a Wren go into a bush with nesting material, 9 Shelduck, Little Egret, 48 Brent Geese, 3 Wigeon, 4 Teal, Greenshank, 11 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 male & 2 female Pintail. Reed Bunting calling from little reed bed behind sea wall and 3 Meadow Pipits over heading north.

Off Pook Lane: 123 Brent Geese, Black Brant. 5 Med Gulls over heading to the Oysterbeds, 31 Wigeon, 2 Greenshank, 5 Turnstone, A single Lapwing. A short video of the Brant is at . . .


Blackcap song

As Jean and I were sitting having coffee in the garden on this warm and sunny morning we were serenaded by the song of a Blackcap from some tall conifers in a neighbour's garden. I also heard a Blackcap song in the garden on Mar 3. Could today's bird possibly be a migrant?

Washed up sign

On my way to Nore Barn I came across a 'NO LANDING' - RSPB sign in the dinghy park west of the Emsworth Sailing Club building. It has clearly been washed up on the beach from the recent storms probably originating from Hayling Oysterbeds or possibly the Langstone Harbour islands. I checked with Chris Cockburn who said he will pass the information onto Wez Smith, the RSPB Site manager for Langstone & Chichester harbours.

Nore Barn

10:00 - Tide falling. Spotted Redshank was in the stream with a Greenshank. On the basis of previous years, it might be present for another week or two. There was no sight or sound of any migrants in the woods.

There is a new poster on the fence overlooking the stream asking people not to disturb the birds feeding on the mudflats at Nore Barn. That is a good idea, though it should have gone up at the start of the winter not now when most of the winter migrants have left.

Sweet Violets

There is a very good patch of Sweet Violets in flower on the grass verge of Warblington Road just east of the junction with Valetta Park.

Lads' camp

The lad's camp, which I first noticed a couple of days ago in the north of Palmer's Road Copse behind the recycling bins, has been cleared of all litter, etc, presumably by Council workers. All that remains is a wooden bench with a plaque indicating that it belongs to the Meadow Court residence. Maurice Lillie will be dealing with this.

Cherry Plum blossom

I met Malcolm Phillips on Brook Meadow. He was busily taking photos of butterflies, of which Small Tortoiseshells were the most numerous and feeding mainly on Lesser Celandines. There is a good crop of Celandines on the meadow. Malcolm pointed out his favourite butterfly bush on the west side of Peter Pond opposite Gooseberry Cottage, a Cherry Plum in full and glorious white blossom.

The Cherry Plum was teeming with Honey Bees with leg baskets bulging with pollen.

I got a nice photo of a Peacock butterfly showing all its eyes.

Brook Meadow birds

Later, Malcolm sent me a photo he got of a Blue Tit investigating the concrete nest box at the north end of Palmer's Road Copse above the Water Vole signcase. Blue Tits have often used this box in the past.

Finally, the puddles in the south meadow are useful for birds to take a bath, like this Woodpigeon captured by Malcolm this afternoon.

Langstone Mill Pond

Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning visiting first Bidbury Mead, then Langstone Mill Pond and along the shore to Pook Lane. (9:40am to Noon). The highlights were as follows:

Bidbury Mead: Singing male Firecrest showed fairly well and a second bird was seen with it but not sexed. 3 singing Chiffchaff, 1 singing Goldcrest, Sparrowhawk over and a second bird perched briefly before dashing off to zoom along and over a hedgerow (missed the Blue Tits!!).

Langstone Mill Pond: Water Rail showing on and off in the small reed bed by the Mill.

Normally there are ducks to be fed, but the male Mute Swan is being highly aggressive and chasing all the Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Dogs, pushchairs and bird photographers - see photo - That's what happens when you are concentrating on the Water Rail and you take your eye off the Mute Swan!

The Mute Swan pair have built a nest (as per Ralph Hollins), the female spent just two minutes on it re-arranging sticks before leaving and helping her mate to chase a few passers-by! I think they will try and nest here in due course, but not at the moment.
Reed Bunting calling and Chiffchaff singing from rear of the pond. 3 Grey Herons (one roosting, the other two with rosy flushed bare parts preening and staying up high in a very rich dark green vegetated tree - the same one I observed display the other week. Can not see a nest, but I would not be surprised if there is one here! 1 Little Egret roosting and 3 feeding on the mud flats, 2 Med Gulls over pond, Peregrine circling on thermal over pond with a Buzzard.
In horse paddock north of the pond: 43 Teal, 11 Moorhen.
Off Pook Lane: (tide falling quickly) 220 Brent Geese (too distant and too hazy to pick out the Black Brant), 2 Black-tailed Godwits, 112 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Grey Plover, 2 Greenshank (both un-ringed), 110+ Dunlin.


Mystery fungi - The Deceiver?

Ralph Hollins says, "The name which came to mind when I saw Malcolm Phillips photo was 'The Deceiver (Laccaria laccata) and the main feature which suggested this was the flattened and wavy stem (together with the overall colour, size, shape and gill spacing (gills of Waxcaps tend to be even wider apart).

This common fungus is called The Deceiver because every example looks different from the last one you saw. The main thing against this id is that the books say it's season is from summer to winter (not winter to summer) but I think we can agree that this year the seasons are all out of kilter.

Warblington shore

Despite the chilly north west wind Peter Milinets-Raby walked along the Warblington Shore this morning repeating the walk he did yesterday - ie from Warblington church, through fields to Conigar Point, then back along the shoreline (9:58am to 11:17am - low tide).

Castle Farm cow fields: 7 Little Egrets.
Ibis Field: 6 Song Thrush, 2 Redwing, 2 Moorhen and a pair of Mallard, Med Gull (full summer) over.
Further sightings of 3 Song Thrushes along the hedgerows by the stubble fields out to the point (all probably migrants), along with 30+ Stock Doves, 5 Skylarks (plus one singing very high) and male Pheasant.
Off Conigar Point; 40 Shelduck, 64 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank (G-R/BtagB), 16 Knot, 8 Grey Plover, 1 male Wigeon, 2 Teal, 8 Red Breasted Merganser in the channel.
Off Pook Lane: 67 Dunlin, 38 Brent Geese on the mud close to the shore-path, with 5 Wigeon. Black Brant in the orchid field behind seawall. Excellent close views before a dog walker flushed it and it flew and joined its mates on the shore.
Chiffchaff calling from the Tamarix Trees (first proper migrant - Summer has arrived!!!)

MONDAY MARCH 10 - 2014


Water Voles

Pam Phillips was excited to see her first Water Vole of the year this morning at 7.30am along the north bank. She says it was sitting just above the wooden shuttering, around the bend from the culvert, to the left of the large Ash tree on the railway embankment and seemed to be eating bramble leaves.

Malcolm Phillips (no relation to Pam, by the way) had two Water Vole sightings today, both on the northern section of the river by the railway embankment - section A1. The first was near to the outfall on the north bend at 10.35am, quite close to Pam's earlier sighting; the second in the afternoon was about 30ft from the railway tunnel in the north east corner. It is difficult to know if these were different voles, but Malcolm's photos do show clear differences in colour of their fur, suggesting two different voles.

All the Water Vole news and photos is on a special page at . . .


Malcolm also spotted a small fungus which he took photos of. It looks like a type of Waxcap of the genus Hygrocybe though I have not idea which one. Can anyone help.

Other observations

Malcolm said there were plenty of butterflies fluttering around the meadow today again, though yesterday he saw up to 15 Small Tortoiseshell butterflies. This seems to herald a revival in the fortunes of this once common butterfly, which has been very scarce in recent years.

I noticed a female Mallard settled down on what could be a nest on a pile of twigs which has been left on top of a fallen trunk across the river south of the north bridge by the flood. She had two male Mallards in attendance. I shall keep an eye on this.

From the south bridge I could see lots of tiny creatures - possibly Whirligig Beetles - darting around in the calm water at the edge of the river.

A lad's camp has been constructed in the north west corner of Palmer's Road Copse behind the recycling bins. It is full of clothes and litter, but it is out of well sight and does not appear to be causing any problems.


I had a walk along the Lillywhite's path where both Cherry Plum and Blackthorn are now in full blossom, giving one a opportunity to compare their flowers. As can be seen from the photos the Cherry Plum flowers are much larger than the Blackthorn.

As always there are plenty of Lesser Celandines in flower on this wayside. The Sweet Violets are still out, but there are no white ones this year as there has been in previous years. There is a new patch of Primroses in flower to the west of the Sweet Violets which I have not seen before.

Yellow catkins are open on the Goat Willow tree on Bridge Road Wayside; they were attracting Bumblebees and a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly when I passed by this morning.


Peter Milinets-Raby was tempted by the chance of an early migrant to go for a short walk along the Warblington shore (10am to 11:17am). From the church he walked along the path passing the "Ibis Field" to Conigar Point, then walked back to the car via the mud flats at Pook Lane (Low tide throughout).

Cow fields by Church: 4 Little Egrets, Buzzard circling, 2 Stock Doves in castle tower, Sparrowhawk circling.

Nothing along the walk through the fields to Conigar Point except one singing Skylark very high in the sky and 3 Long-tailed Tits in the hedgerow.

Off Conigar Point: 20 Shelduck, 7 Grey Plover, 2 Greenshank, 7 Red Breasted Mergansers in the channel with a Great Crested Grebe.

Off Pook Lane: 57 Dunlin, 7 Knot, 28 Shelduck (combined with Conigar point, one of my best counts for awhile), 43 Wigeon, 108 Brent Geese, 31 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 male and 2 female Pintail, 1 Greenshank (with rings, but too far away), 3 Grey Plover, 1 Little Egret.

The only migrational movement observed were 2 Meadow Pipits heading north and three others heard and a Buzzard drifting north coming off north Hayling and flushing the waders!



Today's warm weather brought out a good variety of butterflies on Brook Meadow for the first time this year, including, Brimstone, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Malcolm Phillips had his trusty camera at the ready and got good images of most of them.

Malcolm also got a photo of a Blue Tit going in and out of a possible nesting site in a hole in a Crack Willow on the north path, possibly using it as a nesting site. I think we saw this happen last spring too.

Other news

I got a good view of a pair of Mediterranean Gulls on Slipper Millpond this afternoon. As I saw on Mar 7, they were joined a many more Med Gulls flying in from the east, giving their 'woowee' whining calls.

Patrick Murphy found the pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the town millpond this evening. They are becoming regulars

Roy Hay had this partially albinistic Blackbird in his garden in Fishbourne today.

Blackbirds notorious sport a variety of white patches in their plumage, though I have not personally seen one quite as white as this one. Sometimes they can be pure white.
See the RSPB web site for more information at . . .



The Butterbur flower spikes are now showing very well in the usual places on Brook Meadow with some spikes very well grown. I shall do a count towards the end of the month. Last year was a record count and it looks like this year's total could be high as well. For details about previous Butterbur counts see . . .

Pochard on Baffins Pond

Eric Eddles had a nice surprise this afternoon to find a handsome male Pochard on Baffins Pond. Pochard are quite a rarity on Baffins Pond; they were fairly regular in the 1990s, but not since then as far as I am aware. I did not see one when I visited Baffins Pond on Mar 5.


Emsworth Millpond

Both pairs of Mute Swans were on the pond when I walked round this morning; the north pair was on the mud near the bottom of Nile Street, while the south pair was on the water near the quay, displaying to one another.

Water in the pond remains low, which means that movement around the pond is not easy for the swans. There is no sign of any nest building. Finally, after weeks of looking and hoping, I managed to see the elusive pair of Red-breasted Mergansers among the gulls on the millpond. And here is my proof!

Slipper Millpond

I walked round Slipper Millpond this afternoon and, for the second time in a week, watched the Mute Swan pair (with the Polish pen) messing around in the reedbeds in the north-east corner of the pond, but there does not appear to have been any obvious nest building.

While I was there a group of gulls flew onto the millpond from the east with the distinctive whining calls of Mediterranean Gulls very prominent. Once all the gulls had settled down on the pond to wash, I counted 27 Med Gulls among the Black-headed Gulls. Also present on the water were the two Great Black-backed Gulls, probably pining for their old nest site on the centre raft which is not longer available to them.

Mandarin Ducks at Stansted

This morning Jim Berry made a brief visit to see the floods in Woodberry Lane, Rowlands Castle and was very surprised to see two male Mandarin Ducks in the lake which has formed at the bottom of the Sling. Jim gathers from locals that 3 males and 2 females have been seen in the area for at least three days.

Mandarin Ducks apparently are not all that unusual on the Stansted Estate. I have had a few reports over the years. Most recently, Caroline French came across two males in a tree near The Avenue on 21 April 2013. When Caroline contacted Michael Prior (Head Forester of Stansted) he told her that there were breeding records for Mandarin Duck on the estate. Here is Caroline's photo of the two males.

Reptiles for Brook Meadow

Sam Lunn from Azure Ecology, a small ecology consultancy based in West Sussex, has approached the Brook Meadow Conservation Group for permission to relocate a small population of Common Lizards and Slow Worms onto the meadow from a site in Fishbourne. Sam indicated that managing fee would be paid for the use of the site and a reptile survey would be conducted to determine the size of the existing populations on the meadow. The Brook Meadow Conservation Group has agreed to the proposal and the survey is planned to take place on March 19th. All the data collected would be provided to the group to help with conservation work on the meadow.


Kestrel hovering

Malcolm Phillips went round Brook Meadow for an hour today. He saw no Water Voles, but did get a good view of what is probably our resident male Kestrel hovering.



Red-breasted Merganser

Mike Wells adds his name to the growing list of people (except for me) who have seen the pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on Emsworth Millpond. He got this shot of the male having just emerged from a dive with his usually shaggy crest smoothed down.


Wool for nesting

Each spring Chris Oakley fills an old bird-feeder with sheep's wool to help the garden birds with their nesting. He says, "Usually Great Tits are the first to use the service, but this Greenfinch was obviously curious. He pulled out great lumps but didn't take any away. Perhaps he'll come back another day. In the autumn, if I clean out a nest box, it's fascinating to see just how much wool has been used and how intricately it's been woven".




I had to take Jean down to Southsea this morning so I took the opportunity to have a look around some of my old haunts that I used to survey regularly for about 15 years in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Canoe Lake

The first stop was Canoe Lake where I was very surprised to find 23 Mute Swans on the water and around the edges.

During my counts, I used to get 40-80 swans until 2003 when they all disappeared. I never found out why, though I know the local council were discouraging people from feeding the birds to avoid pollution of the water. I have often had a quick look in the years since then, but have never seen anywhere near the number that were there today. Maybe, some of the evicted Emsworth Millpond swans were among them?

There were many Black-headed Gulls and a few immature Herring Gulls on the pleasure boats in the centre of the lake, but no Mediterranean Gulls like I used to see here.


Over to Baffins Pond where the new wetland landscaping has been extended to cover the western end of the pond in addition to the eastern and southern banks, with useful breaks with gravel inclines down to the water to allow for families to get close to and feed the birds. It all is looking quite splendid and provides an important wildlife habitat. It is certainly a major improvement on the dull concrete surround that was present when I did my surveys in the late 1990s.

Water Rails

One bird that has benefited from the wetland areas is the Water Rail which is now a fairly common sight around the pond in the winter period. Today I had good views of two Water Rails, one in each of the two wetland areas on the eastern side of the pond. Here is a photo of one that showed particularly well.

A local photographer I spoke to told me there was a third in the southern wetland, though I did not see that one. Baffins Pond has been well known for its Water Rails for some years before the wetlands were created. I recall one bird that was so tame it used to come out onto the southern path to be fed. This bird provided locals and visiting birders with excellent photo opportunities in March 2001 and again in 2003, when it was joined by a second bird.


Baffins Pond is also well known in birding circles for Shoveler in the winter. I think the record count was 83, though the number I got was usually more like 50. I always enjoyed watching them feeding in their distinctive circling fashion. Today I counted 22 Shoveler, though we are getting a bit late in the season for them. They are very photogenic. Here is a male snoozing close to the edge of the pond, but keeping its beady eye on me.

Feral Pigeons

Baffins Pond still holds a good collection of around 150 Feral Pigeons, which is probably the best local gathering of these attractive but neglected birds. They are a domesticated form of the wild Rock Dove and their plumage is vary variable, though they usually retain some of the features of Rock Dove, like the beautiful iridescence on the neck and two black bands across the wings. Here is a photo of one of them on the side of the pond.

Other birds

There were lots of other birds on the pond including 2 Mute Swans, 7 Canada Geese, 1 Embden Goose (there always used to be 2), and the usual collection of Tufted Duck, Mallard and Coot. This is a good place to photograph gulls as they perch conveniently on the many posts. Here is a nice one I got of an immature Herring Gull.

For more details of my old counts on Baffins Pond see . . . Baffins Pond

Tangier Road Brent Goose refuge

At 11:30 I stopped to have a look at the large field behind Portsmouth College which has been dedicated as a Brent Goose refuge area. Plenty of Brent Geese were feeding on the field today. I did not do a proper count but would estimate 600 plus. I looked through them for Brant, but there was not one there. Here are just a few of them.

Wayside Flowers

On the way home I stopped to have a look at the Common Whitlowgrass that Ralph Hollins had told me was flowering on the grass verge of the main Havant Road just a few yards to the west of the junction with Selangor Avenue. My main problem was separating it from Danish Scurvygrass which was also growing abundantly along the edge of the road. One big difference is in the flowers which shows up well in the following photos of some I picked from the verge.

Common Whitlowgrass has deeply divided white petals, whereas the petals of Danish Scurvygrass are not divided. It also has flattened oval pods which can be seen on the photo.

Here is Danish Scurvygrass for comparison

I found a hoverfly, possibly Syrphus ribesii, feeding on a Dandelion flower on the wayside.

Nore Barn

12:45 - Tide fairly high and the stream filling up. A single Spotted Redshank was on the edge of the saltmarshes, probably hoping to roost there for high water, but there's a long way to go. Two Mute Swans were in the stream including a cygnet - possibly from the town millpond. About 100 Brent Geese were in Nore Barn Creek.

Water Vole

Malcolm Phillips was back on Brook Meadow today and, guess what? Yes, he saw a Water Vole on the north bank! And he got some rather good photos of the animal. One of them shows the vole on a branch which has been stripped of bark. I gather they do this in winter to supplement their diet.

Langstone shore

Peter Milinets-Raby took a walk down Wade Lane to the Langstone Mill Pond (9:50am to 11:20am). The highlights were as follows:
Along Wade Lane: 2 Mistle Thrush, 4 Little Egrets in the muddy horse paddock, 2 displaying Buzzards (great stuff - lots of tumbling).
In flooded paddock north of millpond: 14 Moorhen, 28 Teal, a Fox.
On Langstone Mill Pond: calling Reed Bunting, 2 Grey Herons roosting, 2 Stock Doves.
Off shore (very low tide): Greenshank (coloured rings - G/ BtagR), 2 summer plumaged Med Gulls, 28 Bar-tailed Godwit, 60+ Dunlin, 4+ Grey Plover. 4 Red Breasted Merganser and 2 Great crested Grebes in the channel.

When he got back home Peter found this Bumblebee, probably a Buff-tail (Bombus terrestris) covered in yellow pollen while feeding on Crocus flowers in his garden.


Emsworth Millpond

I had a walk round the local millponds this afternoon, mainly to check on the swan situation. On the town millpond the north pair plus the male of the south pair were on the water north of Nile Street. I watched them for about 10 minutes as the two males continually sparred by circling round and round one another, though they never came into physical contact. Meanwhile, the female of the north pair remained at a safe distance as shown in this photo taken from Bath Road.

This is probably the activity that Chris Oakley observed yesterday. The female of the south pair was much further to the south by the seawall. There was no sign of the Red-breasted Mergansers. I must be the only person in Emsworth not having seen them! Many of the Black-headed Gulls are now in full breeding plumage with their dark brown hoods - not black.

Slipper Millpond

I walked down to Slipper Millpond where I found the regular Peter Pond pair (with the pink legged female) on the water. While I was there the two swans entered the reedbeds in the north-east corner of the pond and engaged in nest building activity - ie picking up pieces of reed and placing them into a pile.

I have seen swans attempt to nest in these reeds in previous years, but never with any success because the nest gets swamped by the high spring tides. Let's hope they stay on the relative security of the Peter Pond island, though that too is not entirely safe from the tides.

Another feature of interest on the pond was a regular late afternoon gathering of gulls having a wash and brush up after a day foraging in the fields and prior to settling down for night in the harbour. They were mostly Black-headed Gulls, but I could also hear the distinctive whining calls of Mediterranean Gulls of which I counted 16. These will be gathering to return to their breeding colonies in Langstone Harbour. I managed to capture 5 Mediterranean Gulls along with the few Common Gulls in this photo.

Unusual shellfish

Romney Turner sent me the following photos of Chiton and Goose Barnacles which a friend of hers got on a local Goring beach. Has anyone seen them around here?


Blackcap song

It was not a particularly spring-like morning, which made it more than pleasing to hear the beautiful rich and fluty song of a male Blackcap issuing from a neighbour's garden at about 11am. I am fairly sure this was one of the wintering Blackcaps limbering up before his journey back to the Continent rather than a summer migrant. I often hear one in the garden at this time of the year; last year I heard one in the same place on Mar 6. Summer migrants will not be here for a couple weeks, although there is always some overlap with the wintering birds. Also, they tend to sing in breeding habitat, ie Brook Meadow or Hollybank Woods and not in gardens.

Emsworth Millpond

Chris Oakley caught up with the elusive Red-breasted Mergansers on Emsworth Millpond this morning. They continue to evade me! He got this snap of the male.

There were just 3 Mute Swans on the millpond, including what was probably the regular north pair, but there was no sign of the south pair. They could just have been having a break. Or maybe, they have decided to try for a less contended nesting site elsewhere? Chris watched the pair of swans perform a display with wings held up and spinning in contra-rotating circles, almost touching each other. Maybe they were celebrating seeing off the competing pair?

Chris was puzzled by a upsurge of water from the mud at the bottom of the millpond, almost like a low fountain, opposite 10 Bridgefoot Path. I have always assumed that this was a spring feeding into the millpond. Does anyone else have any other ideas?

Firecrest in Bedhampton

This morning between hefty showers/hail Peter Milinets-Raby did his regular weekly bird count in the fields etc. around the Bidbury Mead area in Bedhampton. Peter was amply rewarded for his fortitude with a cracking male Firecrest. It was quite fearless, perching in the open and singing actively. It was highly mobile and Peter had to take over 80 photos before the bird gave him a brief opportunity when it perched close and long enough for this one beautiful photo!

Peter's experience reminds me of the two Firecrests that we had on Brook Meadow at this time last year of which we also got some super shots. But there has been no sign of them at all this year. I envy Peter's ability to hear the Firecrest song which is way out of my age restricted range of hearing.



Conservation work session

I went over to Brook Meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the conservation work session. Ten volunteers attended and the session was led by Lesley Harris. Here are the group assembled by the Lumley gate.

The main job was to continue repairing the badly worn north path with gravel from the bags near the Seagull Lane gate. This was successfully achieved. Another job was to clear some willow branches from the path through Palmer's Road Copse; they had come down as a result of one of the large Crack Willows snapping.
For the full report and more photos go to . . .

Flooding news

The flood is now virtually cleared from the south meadow and the warning fences and notices have been removed by the Environment Agency. It is now possible to walk down the south path, though the far south eastern corner remains under water. It was good to see dozens of Lesser Celandines flowering alongside the path through the south meadow despite the area being under water for several weeks.

The level of the River Ems remains high, though continues to fall gradually. The path through Palmer's Road Copse is flooded, though it is possible to walk through with wellies. Following the vandalism last Wednesday resulting in all the sandbags on the river bank in the north-east corner being thrown into the river, the agency have built another line of bags on the river bank at the western end of the new wall. Let's hope these do not go the same way as the others. The path from the end of Seagull Lane through to Lumley Mill is still flooded.

Great Black-backed Gulls

The pair of adult Great Black-backed Gulls were on the pond at about 10.30 this morning. While I was there, one of the gulls flew around a few times then headed towards the harbour. The other gull remained on the water bathing. I can now see clearly that both the small rafts have also been wired as a deterrent to the gulls.

For all the news and photos of the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on Slipper Millpond over the past two years
go to . . .

Mute Swans

The Mute Swan pair, including the 'Polish' female with pink legs and feet, was on Dolphin Lake this morning. The 'Polish' swan is on the left in the photo.

This was the pair that nested on Peter Pond last year and produced 8 cygnets of which only one survived. However, there was no sign of the other Mute Swan pair (including the male with the metal ring on its left leg) that I saw on Peter Pond on Feb 26. Maybe they have already been driven off by today's pair. Very likely.



First Water Vole

Brian Lawrence had a couple of very exciting sightings while he was on Brook Meadow this afternoon. First, and most significant for our conservation work, Brian saw a Water Vole on the river bank near the old gasholder (not used for gas storage any more). This was, in fact, our first sighting on the River Ems for 2014. So, at least one vole has survived the floods! The only other Water Vole sighting we have had reported this year was on the Lumley Stream on 06-Feb-14.

Early Small White butterfly

Brian also saw and got a photo of a female Small White butterfly. The female Small White is distinguished from the male by having two dark spots on the upperside of the forewing; the male only has one spot.

Small Whites are generally seen a few weeks before Large Whites. This was not only the first Small White of the year on Brook Meadow, but the first butterfly of any species recorded this year on Brook Meadow, though some have been seen elsewhere. It was also the earliest Small White record on Brook Meadow and the earliest I can recall having seen anywhere.

The earliest Small White records on the Hampshire Butterfly Conservation web site tend to be later into March; the earliest for 2012 was 12-Mar and for 2013 was 11-Mar. However, there was an extraordinarily early sighting of a Small White this year on 10-Feb-14 by Roy Symonds at Stoke Farm, Hayling Island. There have been no other sightings after that one. So I have suggested to Brian that he reports this sighting.

Great Black-backed Gulls return

Brian had another less exciting, but interesting, sighting when he noted that the Great Black-backed Gulls were back on Slipper Millpond. Brian's photo shows the two gulls on one of the small rafts and not the large central one which has been extensively wired to deter them from nesting there this year. This small raft has also been wired, though I doubt of they would try to nest on this one, but you never know. So, watch this space!

For earlier observations go to . . . February 16-28