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


for March 17-31, 2014

in reverse chronological order

MONDAY MARCH 31 - 2014

10:00 - 12:00 - This morning I cycled from home (Bridge Road) to Nore Barn via the town millpond. From Nore Barn I went on to Conigar Point before cutting back along the Selangor Avenue path and down Victoria Road to home.

Town Millpond swans

The Mute Swan nest by the bridge on Emsworth Millpond was in a sorry state when I passed by this morning. The water had completely engulfed it along with the two eggs and the pen was dragging bits of twigs and other materials in a vain attempt to build it up. The cob was patrolling nearby, though there was no sign of the other pair of swans that usually engages its attention.

Nore Barn

About 2 hours to high water. The only birds in the stream were a Common Redshank and two Black-headed Gulls. The harbour was similarly quite empty of birds apart from a few ducks and Oystercatcher calls.

Chris Berners-Price told me that the Sparrowhawks were back in the woods (western end) and hopefully would be nesting there again as they have done (on and off) in previous years.

Walking along the path to the south of the woods, I noted Three-cornered Garlic and Greater Stitchwort both in full flower. The spathes of Lords and Ladies are now standing up well, but all were closed up with no spadix showing.

Three-cornered Garlic

Greater Stitchwort

Conigar Point field

I walked right round the field behind Conigar Point which is still lying fallow after having the Sweet Corn crop harvested in the autumn. This field is regularly surveyed by Ralph Hollins for wild flowers and I was interested to see what I could find. Generally, the plants were best in the northern area. Among those I could identify were Sticky Mouse-ear, Scentless Mayweed, Common Field Speedwell, Groundsel (no rayed forms), Field Pansy, Common Fumitory, Field Woundwort (abundant), Field Madder and Sun Spurge. Here are photos of some of the more interesting ones.

Common Fumitory
Field Madder
Field Pansy

Field Woundwort


Sticky Mouse-ear

Sun Spurge

Selangor Avenue path

This is the long path that runs from the north west corner of Nore Barn Woods to the main Havant Road coming out opposite the junction with Selangor Avenue. It is very muddy and puddly in parts and I was pleased to have my bike to cycle through the worst bits. The path has a good selection of wild flowers including Common Dog-violet (with pale notched spurs), Bluebells (just opening), Greater Stitchwort, Holly with some flowers open, Dog's Mercury. I also saw some Great Horsetail cones. It is puzzling why Great Horsetail is relatively rare in the local area whereas over on the Isle of Wight it grows abundantly in many places and is a menace in gardens and allotments where it takes over!

Great Horsetail

Holly flower

Chiffchaffs were singing everywhere. I heard a Blackcap song - my third of the year in fairly good breeding habitat, so I think we can safely assume the migrants have arrived.


I counted 28 nests in the Rookery behind the flats at the western end of Victoria Road opposite the entrance to Emsworth Primary School. This is a small increase on the 22 nests I counted at this time last year.

Malcolm's news

Malcolm Phillips went to Brook Meadow as usual today, but did not have much luck with sightings apart from this rather nice Blue Tit waiting outside its nesting hole in a Crack Willow tree on the north path.

He had better luck in his garden at home where he saw a Firecrest, but could not get a decent photo of it.

SUNDAY MARCH 30 - 2014

Mute Swan news

The swan nest on the town millpond near the bridge was completely swamped when I passed by this afternoon. The pen was on the water nearby, seemingly unconcerned. The cob was further south with wings raised more concerned about protecting territory from the south pair of swans. They have not attempted any nest building.

Meanwhile, the swans on Slipper Millpond have succeeded in building their nest in the reedbeds in the north-east corner of the pond where I have seen them several times before. The pen was sitting on the nest this afternoon with the cob nearby collecting bits of reed to reinforce the nest. The nest will certainly need building up if it is to avoid being swamped by the high spring tides. But it looked OK today.

Coot nests

I spent some time trying to work out where the Coots were nesting on Slipper Millpond. The three regular pairs have certainly avoided the nest boxes on the rafts where they have always nested in the past. This year, the rafts have been covered with wires to deter to Great Black-backed Gulls, but it looks as if this strategy has also served to deter the Coots. I am fairly sure the pair that normally nest on the north raft are now nesting in the reedbeds in the north-east corner of Slipper Millpond, fairly close to the swans. I saw one of the Coots coming and going from the area marked on the photo with nesting materials. I am not sure about the other two pairs of Coot, if they are nesting at all, that is.

Brook Meadow

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow for an hour today. He saw two Buzzards soaring overhead at the north end of the meadow. He also saw several butterflies, including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Brimstone, Comma and the first Orange-Tip of the year on the meadow.

Nursery-web spiders

Malcolm's most interesting finds were two spiders which were clearly early examples of Nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis). We usually see these spiders in the summer when their distinctive silken tents (ie nursery webs containing the spiderlings) can be found in great profusion around the meadow and on grassy banks and road verges. In early spring we see the spiders, as Malcolm did, stretched out on leaves sunning themselves, waiting for flies and other insects to pass by; they then use quick sprinting and strength to overpower them. When resting or detecting prey, they extend their first and second pairs of legs straight out together at an angle. They are very variable in colour as shown in the two photos, but always have a pale line down the back.

For more information see . . .


Emsworth Swan news

The north pair of swans on the millpond were at the nest near the bridge at about 11am this morning watched by an increasingly fascinated audience of people. There were two eggs in the nest, but they were resting in a pool of water. The other white object in the photo is litter not an egg. The two swans seemed to be aware of the problem as they were both engaged in gathering up small twigs to build up the height of the nest, but there is an acute scarcity of twigs on the pond. I think the only hope for the nest is for the level of the water to be controlled in the pond.

First Orange Tip

I happened to meet Robin Pottinger this morning and we chatted about who would see the first Orange Tip of the year. Well, I called in to see my son who lives in Church Path, Emsworth and, hey presto, a male Orange Tip fluttered through his back garden, closely followed by a male Brimstone. Sadly, neither of them stopped for a photo. This is about the right date to see the first Orange Tip, which overwinters as a chrysalis. Last year they were very late due to the cold spring, but in 2012 the first one was seen on Mar 27 by Robin Pottinger.
Interestingly, and probably not by coincidence, the first Cuckooflowers were also open on the Bridge Road Wayside for the first time today. Cuckooflowers are one of the main food plants of the caterpillars of the Orange Tip.

Other Emsworth news

I heard my second Blackcap song of the year from bushes on the path south of Brook Meadow that goes to Peter Pond.
The long yellow Basford Willow catkins are beginning to cascade down onto the ground from the tall trees at the southern end of Palmer's Road Car Park.

Farlington Marshes

Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group around the marshes. Quite an exciting time with a rescue thrown in! Full report and photos are on the HWG web page at . . .

Langstone Mill Pond

Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning coming in from the Wade Lane direction. 9:30am to 11:15am - very high tide, brisk south wind! The highlight was bumping into Ralph Hollins. Birding highlights included:
Along Wade Lane; Mistle Thrush collecting worms, Green Woodpecker, Stock Dove, 2 to 8 Med Gulls going over heading inland, 2 Chiffchaff singing, Blackcap singing.
Horse paddock just north of millpond (though I learnt from Ralph that this was once a cricket pitch to the posh house!). 7 Teal, 12 Moorhen, 4 Grey Herons present - Later watched the 'left nest pair' collect long sticks from the edge of the paddock and return (four journeys).
On the millpond: Grey Herons - Lots of activity with the 'left nest pair'. Flying back and forth with twigs. Observed the two birds mating on the barely visible nest. All very promising! The 'right nest pair' were quiet, with views of one bird just poking its head above the edge of the tree on several occasions. Very windy, so the birds were keeping low!
Mute Swans - Female firmly on nest surrounded by loose feathers and male swimming around and chasing everything in sight, especially the Mallard.
Little Egrets - 24 birds clearly just roosting out the high tide and wind. 16 birds actively gwooking and guttural calling, chasing, carrying the odd stick etc. Hard to say at this early stage how many are planning to nest.
And saving the best for last again! I was surprised to see that at the back of the pond the female Goosander was fast asleep.
Off shore on the choppy waters: 2 Brent Geese, 14 Red breasted Mergansers.

Colin's photos

Finally, Colin Vanner was on Hayling Island on this bright and sunny day and got some splendid images including this fine Sparrowhawk in flight - female?

And I just could not resist including this magnificent beast.

FRIDAY MARCH 28 - 2014

Emsworth Swan news

Maggie Gebbett e-mailed me to say a friend of hers intervened in a fight between swans on the millpond on Sunday. The big cob was laying into another swan so Maggie's friend waded in and stopped the fight. He then phoned the RSPCA who came and took away both swans (one was bleeding a lot.)

All was calm and peaceful when I walked past this morning, with both pairs of swans in their territories in the north and south of the pond. The south pair was by the Slipper Sailing Club building. The north pair were both near the bridge, where the female was near the nest which had one egg in it, as yesterday.

The nest is made mostly of twigs left by the winter storms, though it is flimsy, with the water lapping around, it could be easily swamped. Last year, at the request of concerned local residents, the Environment Agency controlled the level of the water in the pond so the nest would not be swamped. I wonder if this will happen this year?

Langstone news

Ralph Hollins has been keeping an eye on the Mute Swans nesting on Langstone Mill Pond. They are far more advanced than the Emsworth ones and already have 7 eggs in the nest. Ralph reports the number of Egrets claiming nest sites in the trees at the back of the pond had risen to 8. There could also be two pairs of Grey Herons nesting in the same area. See Ralph's wildlife diary for details . . .

Chichester Peregrines

Malcolm Phillips went to see the Peregrines on Chichester Cathedral again today and got some more excellent photos.

This bird is launching itself off from one of the towers

Here is one in flight showing clearly the bird's barred underparts

While watching the Peregrines on Chichester Cathedral on Mar 26, David Holdstock also saw a Sparrowhawk, 3 Red Kites and 3 Buzzards! That was quite a haul of raptors! David noted that the RSPB will be at the cathedral from 11th April until 5th July for their annual Peregrine watch. (Posted on SOS Sightings).


Hermitage Millponds

A Coot was sitting on a nest in the northern reeds on Peter Pond, just to the right of the Kingfisher table. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the water on Slipper Millpond. Yesterday's swan 'nest' in the reedbeds was unoccupied and looked a scrappy affair - not serious. As far as I could see, the Coots are not using either of the nest boxes on the north and south rafts.

Mute Swan nesting

There is some action over on the town millpond with the female of the north pair sitting on a rudimentary nest of twigs beneath the bridge in much the same position as last year. She has laid one egg! The nesting swan is already attracting the attention of people passing by and no doubt will continue to be a huge draw just like the nest last year which produced one cygnet.

Waysides News

There is a very nice patch of Early Dog-violets flowering on the grass verge on the east side of New Brighton Road opposite the northern junction with Christopher Way - thanks to Ralph Hollins for pointing that out.

Here is one of the flowers showing the straight unnotched spur and pointed leaves

The first Meadow Foxtail of the year is out on the Westbourne Open Space at the top of Westbourne Avenue. It is a bit earlier than usual?


10:00 - 12:00 - I cycled from Emsworth to Thorney this morning to see what was going on. The answer was not a lot!

Emsworth Harbour

I started at Nore Barn where earlier Maggie Gebbett told me she had observed Greenshank, Common Redshank and Little Egret in the stream. The tide had fallen a good bit by the time I arrived and the only bird left in the stream area was a Little Egret.
A Chiffchaff was singing in the north wood by Maisemore Gardens. Coming back along Western Parade I noticed Hoary Cress in bud, but not in flower.
I counted 15 Mediterranean Gulls in the eastern harbour, 11 Shelduck and 6 Brent Geese.

Slipper Millpond

On to Slipper Millpond where the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was eyeing up the raft they nested on for the past two years, but which is now inaccessible. Where will they go?

The female Mute Swan of the pair was sitting on a nest in the reedbeds in the north-east corner of the pond. This is where I have seen them on several occasions. However, it is rather a low area and could be swamped by the high spring tides this weekend.


From the marina seawall I could see a pair of Mute Swans near the entrance to the marina which could be the pair that nested on the embankment last year. But there's no sign of any nest there as yet.
The pair of Tufted Ducks was still on the pond of the Deckhouses Estate, but no sign of any nesting.
A notice at the start of the Wickor Bank indicated that the west Thorney path was closed for reasons of public safety.
Chiffchaffs were singing along the old NRA track, but no sign of any Swallows.
I heard two Cetti's Warblers singing either side of the Little Deeps. I could not see any Mute Swans on the deeps.

Chichester Peregrines

Malcolm Phillips went Chichester today and got some photos of the Peregrines on the Cathedral, in one he caught them mating. He also saw A Red Kite flying overhead.

Brook Meadow North Bridge

Looking through some old diaries, I noted that the north bridge on Brook Meadow was erected 20 years ago in March 1994. Before that one had to wade across the river to get onto the meadow, as related by many people interviewed by Frances Jannaway for her book 'Brook Meadow through the ages'.

MONDAY MARCH 24 - 2014

Summer Snowflake
The level of the River Ems is gradually falling on Brook Meadow which means it is now possible to walk along the riverside path through Palmer's Road Copse from the south bridge, though the path is still very wet and muddy. This enabled me to get a good look at two clumps of flowering Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) which survived the river flooding its banks.

This plant is misnamed as it flowers in the spring and should not be confused with Spring Snowflake (Leucojum vernun) which is a very rare plant. Summer Snowflake is an attractive plant with white flowers in small drooping umbels. Its petals have a distinctive green spot near the tips. The rather similar looking Three-cornered Garlic (Allium triquetrum) is distinguished by having a green stripe down the centre of each petal as well as a strong garlic smell. Summer Snowflake occurs as a native plant mostly in winter-flooded riverside habitats and occasionally in meadows and woodland rides. However, it also occurs as a garden escape, probably accounts for the two specimens in Palmer's Road Copse.

Blackcap song
I have been listening out for Blackcap song for the past week and finally heard one this morning for the first time this spring, from the trees in Palmer's Road Copse near the south bridge. This is about the expected date for the first song, though last year they were very late due to the exceptionally cold spring. I had previously heard a Blackcap song from a neighbour's garden on Mar 16, but I always put these garden songsters down as wintering birds limbering up before their journey back to the continent. In contrast, today's bird was in regular breeding habitat and was almost certainly a migrant. A Chiffchaff was singing nearby, also a migrant. Whitethroat is the other main summer visitor to Brook Meadow, but they always arrive well into April.

Water Vole
Robin Pottinger saw his first Water Vole of the year at 11.50 am on the north river on Brook Meadow about halfway between the north bend and the north-east corner. This is section A1 by the railway embankment where most of this year's sightings have been. It was munching on some greenery at the water's edge on the north side of the stream.

Fox at night
Chris Oakley has been trying out a night sensor camera in his garden and so far has caught three different cats and one fox. Last night he put out a road kill Pheasant as bait which attracted a Red Fox again shortly after 1am. The fox took the bait immediately, then spent about an hour searching around the garden. On one occasion it brought back one of the wings and even inspected the camera sniffing at the lens. Chris will set the camera on video tonight, which should be interesting.

Fox in daylight
Malcolm Phillips also got a photo of a Fox, but in broad daylight during a walk on Hayling Island. He said the fox was only about 15 feet away and paid no attention to him and his companion.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby paid another visit to Langstone Mill Pond late this morning (11:45am to 1pm - very low tide).
3 Greenshank off shore (one in the creek by the mill - coloured ringed G-BRtag. This could be one of the birds newly ringed with a geo-tag by Pete Potts on Hayling Island on Jan 13.

On the low tide mud: 22 Shelduck, 55 Bar-tailed Godwits, 3 Black-tailed Godwits, 37 Brent Geese, 14 Teal, 2 Med Gulls.
In the channel: 13 Red Breasted Mergansers and a Great Crested Grebe - a bit too choppy and windy to pick out the Goosander! And, very distantly along the channel shoreline by Conigar Point were 7 Brent Geese and the Black Brant.
On the pond: 7 Little Egrets - One clearly sitting on a nest in the Grey Heron tree. Two others in the tree on the island (viewed from the back of the mill) stood looking interested and occasionally calling. The others were clearly just roosting. I think the cold weather has put them off for a few days!
A pair of Grey Herons was on the usual tree. Watched the female leave for a stretch and a fly round, then return and muscle her way back onto the nest and sit down out of sight. In the photo the male is on the left and probably stood on the nest and the female on the right just returned from a short one minute fly around. Lots of display and stick moving observed, before she then moved in to the left of the male and sat down!

Mute Swan pair - On arrival the male was sitting on the nest and 20 minutes later the female came and their swapped duties. Five eggs noticed as they changed over.
Horse paddock north of pond: 10 Moorhen.
And, saving the best for last again: A commotion of gulls and corvids made me turn around and in the air was an Osprey with a fish in its talons (glinting in the sunshine). The Osprey gained height, circled around before drifting off north up along Pook Lane direction. Also in the air at the same time was a Buzzard. All this in just over an hour!

SUNDAY MARCH 23 - 2014

Bluebells in Ashling Wood
I went over to Ashling Wood to see if there were any Bluebells were out. This is always the best woodland for Bluebells and they are usually out before the end of March, though last year they were very late due to the cold spring. I accessed the wood from the usual stile on the east side of the wood where the Rookery was busy and noisy. It was great to find a few Bluebell flowers here and there in the woodland to the north of the path.

However, not so great was the fencing that was being erected along the edge of the path to prevent access to the wood. I spoke to the lady owner who was working there; she told me the fencing was necessary due to vandalism, but assured me that a 'permissive path' would be created into the woodland for Bluebell time. I hope so, as this is a truly wonderful wood to see Bluebells. I suggest going to see them in a week or so, though be prepared for distant views. Other flowers in the woodland included Wood Anemones and Dog's Mercury.
I checked Hollybank Woods on the way home, but there were no Bluebells showing as yet in the northern section, but plenty of leaves.

White Comfrey on Bridge Road Wayside
A clump of White Comfrey (Symphytum orientale) is in flower on the east bank of the Westbrook Stream on the Bridge Road Wayside behind the interpretation board. This is the first White Comfrey to be recorded on any of the Emsworth waysides. White Comfrey is distinguished from Common Comfrey by having pure white flowers and calyx teeth less than half the length of the tube. Both these features show up well on this photo.

From The New Atlas: This perennial herb is found as an escape or outcast in hedgerows and copses, on lanesides, by roads and railways, and on waste ground. It is often naturalised, and sometimes regenerates from seed. Neophyte (change +1.83).
S. orientale was introduced to gardens by 1752, when it was known to have been grown in Cambridge, and was known from the wild by 1849. Its distribution has increased greatly since the 1962 Atlas owing to a genuine spread, although part of the increase is also due to better recording of alien species. Native of S. Russia, N.W. Turkey and the Caucasus.

Ravens nesting in Stansted Forest
My wife and I saw a pair of Ravens in front of Stansted House on Feb 26 and we wondered whether they might be nesting. Today, I met Michael Prior (Head Forester of Stansted) who said he was fairly confident that a pair was nesting on the estate for the first time. That is very good news indeed .

Spotted Redshank leaves Nore Barn
I checked Nore Barn at 14:00 which was about 2 hours to high water. The only birds in the stream were Mute Swan, Little Egret, Oystercatcher, Greenshank, Common Redshank and Black-headed Gull, but no Spotted Redshank. It was interesting to see the Greenshank and Common Redshank feeding closely together, rather like the Greenshank and Spotted Redshank used to.

I checked the pond in the wet field at the head of the creek, but there was nothing there. So, I think we can safely conclude that the Spotted Redshank has now left on its journey back to its breeding grounds in the north. The last sighting was on Mar 14. Will it return to Nore Barn for a 11th year?


Spring birds
Chiffchaffs have been singing their cheery 'chiff-chaff' song for at least 2 weeks on Brook Meadow. Today, Malcolm Phillips managed to get a photo of the first of our summer visitors.

Spring flowers
Yesterday, I saw my first Cuckooflowers of the year on an embankment in Kingston near Lewes. I checked the Bridge Road Wayside where I could just make out pink petals of some plants. This is early as they have not been seen before April in previous years.
Today, while walking around the Chichester walls I saw both Red and White Campion in flower.
Also, on the Chichester walls I found one plant of Wild Carrot in flower.
Forget-me-nots are in flower along Lumley Road, probably a garden escape.

Slipper Millpond
The Mute Swan pair was by the Hermitage Bridge this afternoon, but there is no sign of nesting. I have not seen them on Peter Pond for a few weeks, which suggests they will not be nesting there this year.
The two Great Black-backed Gulls were both perched on the edge of the southern raft, but there seems little prospect of their nesting there as the raft is small and has a tent structure of wires, making access difficult. But they are not giving up easily!

Meanwhile, the calls of Mediterranean Gulls could be clearly heard as they made their way onto the pond from a day foraging in the fields. Here are two of them close together on the pond with their black hoods, red bills and white eye rings showing particularly well in the afternoon sunshine.

This morning (10am to 11:15am) Peter Milinets-Raby did a quick circular walk from the Warblington church to Conigar Point via the stubble fields and back along the Warblington shore. The highlights were as follows:
5 Little Egrets in one of the cow fields near Castle Farm. Great Spotted Woodpecker in the cemetery.
Stubble fields behind Conigar Point: 17 Linnets, 2 Goldfinch, 4 Skylarks, Single Meadow Pipit, male Reed Bunting, 2 Stock Doves.
Conigar Point (low tide): Empty except for 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 2 Med Gulls.
Off Pook Lane: 30 Shelduck, 21 Brent Geese, Black Brant surprisingly still present with these geese on the mud., Out in the channel the female Goosander was seen with 12 Red Breasted Mergansers and a Great Crested Grebe. Along the edge of the mud were 56 Bar-tailed Godwits, 19 Teal and 3 Grey Plover.
The only migrational movement observed were 4 Meadow Pipits heading north (though I did hear a few more moving north but did not see them).

FRIDAY MARCH 21 - 2014

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby spent an hour at Langstone Mill Pond (Noon to 1pm). The tide was pushing in just covering the last bits of salt marsh. Amazingly 7 Greenshank present (G-R/BtagB, RG/YtagY, G-R/YtagY and YN/YtagY). I hope these are all correct, as the birds were up to their tummies in water and it took patience to get the details.
Also present 47 Bar-tailed Godwit, 11 Knot, 21 Grey Plover, 28 Brent Geese, 18 Teal, 4 Med Gulls and 13 Red Breasted Mergansers. The Godwits and Greenshank flew off towards Thorney when the tide covered the salt marsh.
On the pond: Chiffchaff singing. Mute Swans - female off the nest having a swim around and a little brush up whilst the male stood guard over the nest which contained two eggs. The female was back on the nest after 20 minutes.
35 Little Egrets roosting - disappointingly very quiet, no noisy activity or chasing and no egrets on any of the potential sites I saw them the other day and which were also mentioned by Ralph Hollins. I only counted 9 birds in breeding plumes and two with red feet. A bit of a step backwards!
A single Grey Heron roosting - pink flushed bill (probably the mate of the other bird). And, deep in the 'tree' with the aid of a scope I was able to determine that there was a Grey Heron shape sat down. On what is anyone's guess! It even wiggled as it settled down!
Paddock (virtually dried up): Fox present - hence all the Teal off shore. Just 10 Moorhen.
And saving the best for last: Perched on one of the fallen trees at the very rear of the millpond was a female Goosander. It came off its perch for five minutes, had a preen and a little swim around then went back to the fallen tree to snooze.


Brook Meadow - Conservation work session
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the work session. The workday was well attended with 13 volunteers. A passing lady kindly offered to take the group photo which meant I could take part in it for a change.

Maurice Lillie explained the morning's jobs to the volunteers. These concerned clearing debris from the south meadow, cutting back the edges of the raised paths, attending to damaged dead hedges on the river banks and litter picking. Lesley Harris showed the group the new shirts with the Brook Meadow Conservation Group logo and she took orders for a good number on the spot.

For full report and more photos go to . . .

Butterbur count
I took the opportunity to carry out the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes on Brook Meadow. As can be seen in the following table, the overall number of spikes remains very high, but is well down on last year's record total. The embankment immediately below the seat still accounts for the major proportion of the spikes - 76% of the total. The next best area is the eastern end of the causeway, but numbers on the river bank near the sluice gate have gone down a lot. The luxurious growth of Winter Heliotrope on the river bank south of the sluice gate probably obscured some from my sight. Low numbers in the south meadow are probably due to the fact that this area was under water for several weeks in Jan and Feb and has only just gone down. I will carry out another count in a couple of weeks time to see if things have changed.













river bank






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This chart shows the total Butterbur counts for each year


Wildlife observations on Brook Meadow
Pam Phillips reported seeing a Rabbit near the cuttings tip north of Lumley copse.
The brown spikelets of Greater Pond Sedge are starting to show near the Lumley Stream as are the spikes of Divided Sedge on the Lumley area. Sharp-flowered Rush leaves are very prominent on the western side of the Lumley area.
There are lots of fresh clumps of Hemlock Water-dropwort in the south meadow, probably promoted by the very wet conditions. The leaves of Common Comfrey are also showing well.
The Goat and Grey Willows are now looking particularly attractive, some trees with yellow male catkins and others with green female catkins. Here are female catkins of the Goat Willow near the Lumley gate with Gooseberry Cottage in the background.

Spotted Redshank final sighting?
Paul Dogman was at Nore Barn stream on the 14th March to see what was probably the final appearance of the famous Spotted Redshank for this winter season. And what a fine photo Paul got to see the bird out. The Greenshank was also present in the stream. Paul says, "I felt very lucky to have seen such wonderful birds so close" which is a thought echoed by so many people over the past 10 years. Roll on for the 11th year I say.

Chris Oakley has a carpet of lovely Early Dog Violets outside his house in North Emsworth. They come up each year but the Council grass cutters usually put paid to them before they flower. This year they were lucky.


Chris also had a Common Toad in his garden which almost suffered the same fate as the Violets when the mower got perilously close.

Roy Hay sent me this unusual photo of four of eight Shelduck which were perched on a rooftop near Fishbourne Mill Pond this morning. Roy has seen Mallard on a roof before but this is the first time he'd seen eight Shelduck.


Bird Song web site
Ralph Hollins highly recommends the following web site for an astonishing range of bird songs from all over the world. They are all there, along with sonograms. . . .
Enter the name of a bird species in the Search Box on the top line of the page and click the Search Button, and you will be presented with a list of recordings (with details of where they were made, how long they are, etc) and all you have to do to hear the recording is to click the button in the left hand margin of the page against the recording you are interested in.
Quiet winter in the garden
The BTO Garden BirdWatch 2013 annual results showed how a chilly March brought record numbers of birds into gardens but, from September onwards, with bumper seed and berry crops, it turned out to be one of the quietest winters for garden birds in the last decade. You can find out more about how individual species fared on the results pages. Look at Greenfinch for example. Go to . . .


Reptile survey
Jennifer Rye (Chairperson of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group) and I met up with Sam Lunn and a colleague from Azure Ecology (an ecology consultancy based in West Sussex) on Brook Meadow. They will conducted a reptile survey on the meadow, specifically of Slow-worms and Common Lizards. The idea behind the survey is to determine the size of the existing reptile population prior to relocating others to the meadow from a building development site they are working on at Clay Lane, Fishbourne. If the meadow were to have a substantial reptile population already then it would not make ecological sense to locate any more there. However, this is unlikely to be the case as sightings of reptiles on Brook Meadow are uncommon. Here is Jennifer discussing the location of the mats with the ecologists.

We all walked round the meadow to determine the best sites to locate the felt mats to be used in the survey. I think 9 mats were used in total, placed around the meadow; three on the Seagull Lane patch, three on the northern part of the north meadow including one of the cuttings pile in the north-east corner, one in the Rowan plantation and one on the cutting pile on the east side of the north meadow and finally one on the Alder Buckthorn plantation below the causeway. Here is Sam with a reptile mat to locate.

Sam and his colleague will return in a couple of weeks to examine the mats to see if any reptiles have made their homes underneath them. They will be looked at from time to time after that. It is important that the mats are not disturbed during the survey as this will scare off any reptiles using them.

Wildlife observations
The sharp eyes of the two ecologists spotted three small Brown Trout in the river beneath the south bridge.
I heard the distinctive song of two Chiffchaffs, one in Palmer's Road Copse and the other in Lumley copse, both very likely to be migrants. There was no sound of Blackcap which is will be the next migrant to appear on the meadow.
I watched a Blue Tit going in and out of a small nest hole in one of the Crack Willow trees along the north path. This could be the bird that Malcolm Phillips photographed here on March 9.

Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow this afternoon when he also spotted two Brown Trout from the south bridge. He also got this rather nice photo of a Goldfinch; such an attractive bird which we have not had on the blog for a while.

Emsworth Millpond
10:00 - The two pairs of Mute Swans were the only swans on the millpond when I passed this morning. The other lone swan that used to live on the grass verge on Bridgefoot Path appears to have gone, probably driven off by the resident pairs.

Now the immediate threat of flooding has gone, the sluice gates have been closed and the millpond is reasonably full of water and looks like a millpond again. However, this poses a problem for the swans' of nest building as they would need to start from scratch on the bottom of the pond and build up, which would be a difficult task considering the paucity of nest building material on the pond. Last year, when the swan was on the nest near the bridge, local residents appealed to the Environment Agency to control the sluice to maintain a low level of water in the pond so as to prevent the nest being swamped. It will be interesting to see what happens this year once nest building starts.

Slipper Millpond
The two Great Black-backed Gulls were both on Slipper Millpond this morning, looking rather forlornly I thought at the raft where they have nested for the last two years, but which is now covered in wires to prevent their nesting this year.

The pair of Mute Swans was also on the pond with no sign any nesting.

Emsworth Harbour
From the millpond seawall I counted just 54 Brent Geese in the eastern harbour and nothing else apart from the usual gulls. This is clearly the end of the winter season.

Waysides News
There is a fine display of flowering Blackthorn on the wayside path behind Lillywhite's Garage. Grape Hyacinth is also out immediately behind the conservation area notice.

First Orange Tip
In his blog last night, Ralph Hollins reported news of what may be the first Orange Tip butterfly to have emerged in England this spring seen in Fareham on Mar 16 and reported to John Goodspeed. See . . .


15:00 -16:00 - Tide falling from high water at 12:30.

Spotted Redshank gone?
There was no sign of the Spotted Redshank again this afternoon. Nor was there anything on the pond at the head of Nore Barn Creek where a Spotted Redshank was last year at this time. The only birds in the stream today were Greenshank and Little Egret. When I arrived there was also a solitary Brent Goose.
All this points to the fact that the Spotted Redshank has now left on its journey back to its breeding grounds, probably in Northern Scandinavia. The last confirmed sighting we had was on Mar 13 by Peter Milinets-Raby, much earlier than last year (Mar 27), though much in line with previous years. Generally, this has been a good winter for sightings with two 'friendly' Spotted Redshanks being present on many occasions along with the regular Greenshank and Little Egret. Earlier in the season we also had a regular juvenile Black-tailed Godwit in the stream.
For full details of departure dates go to . . . Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn

I walked through the woods where I met Roy Ewing who was surveying the area of Bluebells in a glade in the western section of the woods. Roy told me that the glade had been cleared two years ago by the Friends of Nore Barn Woods and native bulbs planted which were now growing well. There were far more than last year and he was hoping some might flower this year. We discussed the possibility of planting Early Purple Orchids which would also enhance the flora of the woods.

While we were talking Roy and I were serenaded by the metronomic song of a Chiffchaff, very likely an early migrant. I also heard one singing in the woods yesterday. But there was no sound of Blackcap as yet. Roy was hoping that Sparrowhawks would be nesting in the woods as they have done in previous years.

Nore Barn to Warblington
Peter Milinets-Raby was at Nore Barn this morning. He walked along the shore to Pook Lane and back through the church - 10:15am to 11:50am - tide pushing in. Very little around - took ages to find anything - the wind was a bit brisk!

Nore Barn: 31 Teal, 10 Wigeon, 2 Red breasted Mergansers, Later when I returned at 11:45am (high tide) I managed to locate 23 Shelduck, a Great Crested Grebe and a Little Grebe. At the top of the Nore Barn Creek was a single Greenshank that moved onto the pond at high tide. 3 singing Chiffchaff in woods. No Spotted Redshank!

Stubble fields behind Conigar Point: 4 Skylark and one singing very high, 2 Med Gulls over, 38 Stock Doves, female Reed Bunting, 36 Linnets with 12 Goldfinch with them.
This pansy-like flower caught Peter's eye? Possible Field Pansy (V. arvensis)? Ralph Hollins says "Peter's find was definitiely Field Pansy which is regularly found in my Field V. Not only is it there in the autumn but this winter I found fresh flowering plants of it on both Feb 4 and Mar 4".

Off Conigar Point: 17 Brent Geese, 2 Wigeon, 5 Red Breasted Merganser, 4 Grey Plover, 3 Knot, 1 Turnstone.
Off Pook Lane: 25 Brent Geese, 2 Wigeon.

Regarding the possible nesting Grey Heron at Langstone Mill Pond, Peter says on almost every visit to the Mill Pond he has seen the Grey Heron in the same tree. "The tree obscures the bottom half of the heron, so I have no idea what it is sitting on. But over the visits I have witnessed display with a second bird, stick re-arranging and aggression towards a Carrion Crow. I hope there is something there! I'm sure they nested in the same spot last year, but can not recall if I saw youngsters."

Water Voles
Pam Phillips saw a Water Vole under the giant ash tree at 7.30am today. It was just above the shuttering again eating ivy leaves.Water Vole sightings on Brook Meadow are picking up after a slow start to the year. So far we have had 12 sightings, mostly along the stretch of river by the railway embankment and mostly by Pam and Malcolm Phillips. Malcolm has got some great photos as usual.
For all the current news see . . .

MONDAY MARCH 17 - 2014

Nore Barn
09:30 - About 2 hours to high water. All very calm with very few birds in view. I counted about 50 ducks, Wigeon and Teal in Nore Barn Creek. The stream was empty, though I did notice what was probably a Common Redshank (the bill seemed a bit short for Spotted Redshank) swimming in the water some way off shore.

We must be getting fairly close to the Spotted Redshank leaving date. For previous latest sightings go to . . . Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn
Walking back through Nore Barn Woods I heard a Chiffchaff singing, which is very likely a migrant.
On the way to Nore Barn I noticed a good flowering of Three-cornered Garlic beneath the Privet hedge on the north side of Warblington Road just east of the junction with Beach Road.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow this morning. He had yet another sighting of a Water Vole on the north bank near the railway embankment.

Malcolm also got a good shot of two Small Tortoiseshells mating. Another sign of their revival? However, Ralph Hollins points out that the rear butterfly of the pair in Malcolm's photo is facing the wrong way for successful copulation.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby walked to Langstone Mill Pond via Wade Lane this morning (10:10am to 11:50am). The highlights were as follows:
Wade Lane: 4 Little Egrets feeding in the horse paddock, 2 pairs of Mistle Thrushes. Singing Chiffchaff, 1 Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Flooded paddock (fast drying out) north of the pond: 39 Teal, Grey Heron feeding, 18 Moorhen, 4 Med Gulls over calling, Chiffchaff singing.
Off shore (almost high tide): 16 Red Breasted Mergansers with a single Great Crested Grebe, 9 Teal, 37 Brent Geese, 7 Wigeon.
On the Langstone Mill Pond: Chiffchaff singing, Stock Dove, 2 Buzzard soaring around.
Female Mute Swan looking truly settled on its nest. Observed it pluck a few feathers from its breast after a preening session and a rearrangement of some twigs. As you can see from the photo this nest is very open and close to the main footpath.

29 Little Egrets present. Most roosting out the high water and still in winter plumage. However, 12 were looking splendid in their wonderful spring plumage and engaged in lots of calling, chasing and ruffling of elaborate plumes. Of these 12, four had flushed red feet. Two birds were clearly establishing territories within the trees at previous known nest sites. Much earlier than last year, but there again it was still winter this time last year!
Grey Heron observed on its usual tree rearranging sticks, raising all its feathers in alarm to a Carrion Crow that ventured too close and carrying out Stork-like display of tossing head up and back. it will only be a matter of time when chicks will be seen.

Great Crested Grebes
Chichester Gravel Pits is certainly the best place locally to see Great Crested Grebes displaying. Tony Wootton got this superb image of a pair doing their special courtship dance.

For earlier observations go to . . March 1-16