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


for January 17-30, 2014

in reverse chronological order



Flooding news

I went over to the meadow this morning to check on the state of the river bank in the north-east corner. The remaining sandbags had been rearranged more neatly along the edge of the river bank, presumably by the Environment Agency. However, I don't think any of the bags had been retrieved from the river. The level of the river was a bit lower than it was yesterday as is the flood water in the south meadow.

Bird song

I was very pleased to hear the song of a Blackbird from the top of one of the Crack Willow trees on the river bank to the south of the north bridge, the first of the year on Brook Meadow. I listened to its rich song for a couple of minutes; it was not the full summer song, but probably a sub-song. Other birds singing included Robin, Dunnock, Wren and Great Tit, but I have yet to hear Chaffinch and Blue Tit this winter.

Carrion Crows

It is not unusual to see our resident pair of Carrion Crows foraging around on the grassland of Brook Meadow, particularly during this very wet weather. However, today, Chris Oakley watched a pair of Crows feeding on a carcass of what he is fairly sure was a Brown Rat and not a Water Vole.

Emsworth Millpond and Harbour

Peter Milinets-Raby took a walk around the town millpond where he saw a female Red Breasted Merganser actively feeding. I have had this bird reported by a couple of other people, but I have not seen it myself, despite walking round the pond almost daily!

In the eastern harbour (1:40pm to 2:20pm) Peter counted an impressive flock of 686 Knot from 5 photos he took of the birds. Here is one of the photos showing about 204 of the birds. Large flocks of Knot are not unusual in Emsworth Harbour at this time of the year, though this is certainly the largest flock reported so far this winter.

Peter also saw colour-ringed Greenshank G-R/BtagN which was probably one of those newly tagged on Thorney Island on Jan 18. I have asked him to report it to Anne de Potier who is keeping the Greenshank colour-ringed data base.

Harbour Seals

The report from Juliette Leach on Jan 27 about Seals actively pursuing her dinghy reminded Ralph Hollins of a similar anecdote from the distant past. He says, "It described how someone was fishing (I think using a net) from a dinghy in the Sweare Deep channel near the entrance to Northney Marina when a Seal decided to help itself to the fish he caught and it showed a similar fearlessness in coming right up to the stern of the dinghy, forcing the fisherman to abandon his fishing expedition. More recently I have heard reports of Seals in Langstone Harbour swimming underwater, coming up below wildfowl, seizing them by the legs and tossing them in the air - whether they actually eat them (they are not equipped to pluck the birds) or just do it for fun I do not know."

Here is a photo of a typical group of Seals hauled up on the mudflats on Thorney Island taken by Richard Somers Cocks a couple of years ago.

Regarding the number of Seals in the local harbours, Ralph refers to the Chichester Harbour Conservancy website at . . . which says that the current estimate of the total population in the harbours is between 23 and 25 though no more than 18 have been seen together. The Conservancy do not mention breeding, but they do refer to the harbours as being the only 'Seal Rookery' (ie where they breed) in the eastern English Channel.



Flooding news

I had a walk through the meadow this morning. The river level was about the same as in previous days and the flood in the south meadow was also much the same. The sandbags that the Environment Agency positioned along the river bank in the north-east corner of the meadow have been thrown into the river. This was sadly fairly predictable, offering too much temptation to local lads. However, Maurice Lillie informed me that Jennifer Rye succeeded in replacing several of sandbags that she was able to rescue from the river. These are the ones that can be seen in the photo. Maurice praised Jennifer for the effort that she puts in completely unsolicited and to good effect. The Environment Agency have been made aware of the situation and have said they will send out a team to remove and replace them.


The first Primroses are just opening on the path from Palmer's Road Car Park to the south bridge. I spotted a fresh growth of Jew's Ear fungus (Auricularia auricula-judae) on dead branch in Palmer's Road Copse near the car park. This is the second example of this easily identifiable fungus I have seen recently, the previous one was in Lumley Road on Jan 24.

Other news

Graham Petrie sent this photo of a small flock of Goldfinches enjoying the seed heads off pond grass in his garden, completely ignoring the niger seed he had put out for them! Given the choice, they will always go for the natural foodstuff.

Graham tells me that Hogboy the Hedgehog is doing very well but still inside at present. Graham needs to sort out the garage a bit before he put him out there, hopefully this weekend.

Romney Turner got this quick shot of a Short-eared Owl flying away over Farlington Marshes earlier this week.


Hayling beach

Chris Oakley was down on Hayling beach on Monday where the gulls are still feeding on the Whelk egg cases. He watched a Herring Gull dropping and re-dropping a Limpet shell though the wind kept carrying it back onto the soft grass, so it gave up. Chris says there is a lot of restoration work going on along the shore and vast amounts of shingle are being piled along the top of the banks.

Chris noted a there were lot of Pine cones washed up along the shore, which he subsequently identified as Maritime Pine cones. Native to the Mediterranean coasts, these pines have been long grown in England, particularly in southern England where they are known as Bournemouth Pines. The cones are distinctive in that they grow in groups of three facing back along the branch and are very heavy.

Water Voles and flooding

Graham Roberts of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust provided the following very reassuring reply to my concerns about the effects of the flooding on Brook Meadow on our Water Voles.

"At Winnall Moors near Winchester, when the whole site was underwater for some days, I waded through the reserve and found water voles finding refuge in dense areas of bramble and vegetation which was above the water line. This re-enforces the need to always leave some dense bankside vegetation along sections of river. This obviously provides shelter for mammals during raised water levels, stabilises banks , provides some shading for rivers and potential cover and food for fish. Water voles will happily feed on shredded bark from young trees and shrubs when nothing else is available."

Note: There is no shortage of dense vegetation and brambles on the banks of the River Ems for the voles to escape to, so hopefully they should be OK.

Brook Meadow funding

Maurice Lillie informs me that at last evening's AGM of the Emsworth Residents Association, the Brook Meadow Conservation Group was awarded £500 from their Community Chest Fund to go towards the purchase and installation of the new tool store on the Seagull Lane patch.


Nore Barn

10:00 - I cycled over to Nore Barn with the scope this morning to catch the falling tide. Hard going along Warblington Road against a stiff westerly. The Spotted Redshank was in the stream when I arrived along with 6 Oystercatchers. 50+ Wigeon and a few Mute Swans were on the water. I walked to the top of the creek where I found many more Wigeon and some Teal and Brent Geese. A Common Redshank was feeding on the shore. I met Roy Eames who is concerned about the crumbling sea defences south of the woods. When I got back to the stream, I found the regular Spotted Redshank had been joined by its friends, a second Spotted Redshank and a Greenshank; all were unringed. The two shanks were feeding close together and were clearly 'good friends'.

I walked back along Western Parade checking the 200+ Brent Geese that were feeding on the shore. No sign of the Black Brant. I met Susan Kelly who told me she had seen a female Red-breasted Merganser on the town millpond last Friday - the first of the winter.

Brook Meadow

I returned home through the meadow where the river was still running high, but no higher than before. Did not see anything special in the way of wildlife. Maurice Lillie sent me a few photos of the floods, including this one of the south meadow looking north. It shows a dog walker giving her dogs a bathe with the orange Environment Agency fence in the background.


Memory of Harbour Seals

The report from Malcolm Phillips about seeing Harbour Seals during a walk around Thorney Island on Saturday reminded Juliette Leach about a wonderful encounter with them this summer.

"My brother and I were out sailing in our little dinghies on a calm and sunny day from Emsworth up the west side of Thorney Island. Just before we got to the large bay, we saw a couple of seals playing and as we slowly sailed towards them, they became very inquisitive and started playing and jumping around our boats. The more we turned, the more excited they got and as it was such a still, hot day we could see them clearly under water. At one point, I heard a noise at the stern and looked over to see one of the seals was pushing me along with her nose on my rudder! They also seemed to kiss each others noses regularly! We must have played with them for a good 40 minutes before we went our separate ways. We went back to see them again and although they were less playful second time, they still came over to say hello."

Garden Blackcaps

Following my request for more records of garden Blackcaps this winter, Martin Hampton reported that he has had a female Blackcap intermittently in his south Havant garden for about six weeks, and a male Blackcap has become near daily in the last week. Both feed on apples that Martin sticks in trees and most especially on fat, though nothing like as persistently or voraciously as during last winter and early spring when his count reached four individuals for a short time.

. . . and Green Sandpipers!

Martin Hampton says he also regularly sees a Green Sandpiper flying over his garden from the Lymbourn stream. Usually it is one or two, but once he had three! Martin is certainly a lucky chap to have Green Sandpiper on his notional from-the-garden list, and every year, too. Can anyone else match that, I wonder?

Early Bird Survey

The BTO have published initial results for the Early Bird Survey (EBS) earlier this month in which bird watchers were asked to record the time when the first 10 species arrived to feed in their gardens. They received 3,719 responses from almost 150 areas. Blackbird won the crown of earliest bird, arriving, on average, 11 minutes after daybreak. It was closely followed by Robin, Blue Tit, Dunnock and Magpie, all arriving in the first 25 mins. The slowest of the common garden birds to arrive at the feeders at an average of 44 mins after daybreak were Collared Dove and Greenfinch. For the full list of results go to . . .


Thorney Island

Malcolm Phillips and his friend walked right round Thorney Island today. They saw some Harbour Seals wallowing on the mudflats. I believe there are around 15 Harbour Seals in Chichester Harbour in all.

Malcolm also got this photo of a female Stonechat which is a fairly common bird around the coast at this time of the year.

Grey Heron in garden

Peter Milinets-Raby snapped this fine Grey Heron which was perched on his pagoda roof over looking the ponds, no doubt eyeing up the goldfish. It stayed 10 minutes before it caught Peter's movement at the window. I have seen a Grey Heron on a neighbour's house roof also lining up the fish in his pond.

Hayling Oysterbeds

Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.

"On a lovely sunny and calm morning today 11 of us met at a low state of tide and found the telescopes very useful as many birds were a long way off. Highlights included 14 Black Necked Grebe at the end of the walk, Goldeneye, including males displaying, a distant Long-tailed Duck, Mergansers , Great Crested and Little Grebes.

Brent Geese flew overhead also on the mud and Shelduck close with distant Gadwall and Wigeon. There were many waders including Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank, Dunlin, Grey Plover, Oystercatchers, Turnstones, and Little Egrets. A Wren sang and a flock of Goldfinches flew past. A pleasant surprise along the Hayling Billy line was a large number of flowers on Sweet Violets."


Railway Wayside

I had a look around the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station. It looks as if the construction work along the track to the north of the wayside is complete. However, the wooden fence around the wayside has been badly damaged in places and needs some attention. The tall post holding the wayside notice has been uprooted and is now leaning against the fence. It will be interesting to see what plants colonise this area of virgin earth. I did not see any sign of flowers on the wayside, but there's lots of litter.

I went onto the downside platform to have a look at the waiting room. The inner room was furnished and ready for the opening of the new refreshments kiosk on Monday, selling hot and cold drinks and snacks as well as daily newspapers from 6.30am.

Brook Meadow

On Brook Meadow the river level was a little lower than yesterday and the flow over the sluice gate into the south meadow not as strong. But I suspect there's still plenty of water to come down from the hills. I spotted another Cow Parsley in flower at the western end of the causeway near the top of the steps. This was the second plant to flower this winter.


While walking along Lumley Road I heard a Greenfinch churring for the first time this winter. However, we are not likely to hear its full song until early spring. I found a nice growth of Jelly Ear (aka Jew's Ear) (Auricularia auricula-judae) fungus on a dead log by the side of the road opposite the cottages.

Daffodils were just starting to open beside the road at the top of the hill past Lumley Mill. I walked along a very muddy Mill Lane to Westbourne. I happened to meet up with John Barker who is the owner of the fields now called Mill Meadow Farm to the west of the lane with the Alpacas.

Green Sandpipers

I was pleased to learn from John that Green Sandpipers, that I used to see regularly along the River Ems in the early 1990s when I lived in Westbourne Avenue, were still present. In fact, he told me he had seen two this morning along the river. The one that Chris Oakley saw on the attenuation pond on the Hampshire Farm site on Jan 11 might well have been one of these. John hs also seen Snipe on the fields, although not this winter. I also used to put Snipe up during my winter surveys in this area.

Here is a nice photo of a Green Sandpiper feeding. However, you can rarely get this close as it is a nervous bird and usually flies off in a zig-zag flight calling hysterically with a pure white rump showing.

We are very fortunate to have Green Sandpipers in Emsworth as they are scarce winter visitors in Britain with only a few recorded by the local ornithological societies. Most of them winter in the Mediterranean basin and Africa and pass over us on their way to and from their breeding grounds in Scandinavia and Northern Europe.


Romney Turner was at Prinsted today. She said the promise of sun soon disappeared and it got very windy, so she had to get down behind the sea wall most of the time. However, she did get a good view of a flock of Brent Geese feeding on the point field along with a few Curlews. Safety in numbers and the field was obviously providing plenty of food for all. There were also Oystercatchers in the fields all huddled against the wind on the point by the sluice gate as the tide was receding.


Brook Meadow

Maurice Lillie walks out early and as a consequence gets some great atmospheric photos as dawn is breaking. Here is a beauty showing the north meadow shrouded in morning mist with a touch of frost on the grass.

John Arnott heard the first Chaffinch song of the year on Brook Meadow yesterday. It came from the riverside (!) trees in the South Meadow. He says, as usual at this time of year, it wasn't the full confident rollicking rendition but clearly recognisable none the less. Ralph Hollins has already heard Chaffinch song in Havant on Jan 14.

Malcolm Phillips was also on Brook Meadow yesterday when he spotted this Robin riding on a log on the swollen river.

Malcolm also saw this cluster of fungi growing on an old tree stump near the south bridge. I think they could be Sulphur Tuft (Hypholoma fasiculare) which are fairly common on dead wood throughout the year.

Garden Blackcap

Graham Petrie had his first sighting of the year of a male Blackcap on his garden feeders. Graham is hoping a female will join him, but no sign as yet.

This is, as far as I am aware, the first garden Blackcap reported in the local area. Last winter, which was much colder than this one, I had a male and a female Blackcap in my garden in early January and also had reports of them from Patrick Murphy and Caroline French in their gardens. Blackcaps are, of course, regular winter visitors to garden bird feeding stations, migrants from the Continent. They are fairly liberal eaters, but favour fat balls, apples and sponge cake!

Astonishing Starling display

I have only just come across a film of the most spectacular Starling display I have ever seen. It was made in November 2011 by Sophie Windsor Clive and Liberty Smith, independent filmmakers based in London. They stumbled across this amazing natural phenomenon during a canoe ride to an island on Lough Derg, the last of the three largest lakes on the River Shannon in Ireland. Here is a YouTube link to their film . . .

I recall as a young lad living near Birmingham seeing the sky darken as masses of Starlings made their way to the city centre. I don't think they still do that.

As an aside, I read that a breeding pair of White-tailed Eagles nested on an island in Lough Derg in 2012. This marked a great success for the Irish reintroduction programme which started in the summer of 2007.

Review of the ringing session on Thorney Island - 18 January 2014

I am very grateful to Pete Potts for permission to publish his report of this very successful bird ringing session that I was fortunate to attend. My own report with photos that I took at the time can be seen on the blog entry for January 18.

Report by Pete Potts

"A big thank you to all that helped with the catch at Thorney on Saturday in case you haven't heard we achieved our objective! Having set a narrow net with the help of the CHC rangers Keith & Georgie on Friday afternoon in a gap in the weather we assembled again before dawn and set a second narrow net adjacent to the first. We were all set up and out of the way by c.9am. The first Greenshanks came in on schedule around 9:30 (sorry forget when exactly). Soon a group gathered reaching a max of I recall 14 birds, plus a Spotted Redshank and a couple of Redshanks and briefly 10 Lapwings and an inquisitive pair of Greylag Geese! The Greenshanks all came in from the west, some at considerable height calling, then dropped down to join the gathering roost. I could see that at least two of them were our geolocator tagged birds but at that range the combinations were impossible to read the colour-ring combos for certain- I was observing from the seawall looking east back down the deeps c.500m to the net set.

The Greenshanks gathered on the corner of the deeps in the second net that we had set that morning but it was difficult to tell how close they were to the junction of the two nets - worryingly close it seemed. at one stage I thought ok let's fire both nets catch the pair of geese in one and the waders in the other then for no apparent reason all the birds lifted and for a few frustrating moments vanished but then they returned and thanks to one late comer that had turned up and landed in front of the second net the flock joined it and the pair of Greylags!

The birds seemed jumpy but it was impossible to fire with a gander walking about on the edge of safety neck held high - it didn't like the cannons - as soon as it turned and got close to the edge of the deeps we fired. I had decided not to wait for the full complement of 16-18 Greenshanks seen in recent days on the recees as we knew we had most of them with at least 2 tagged birds and I couldn't risk losing them all. Added to that c.200 Redshanks were due to join the roost imminently which would have forced the Greenshanks elsewhere i.e. out of the catching area and we couldn't deal with 200 Redshanks when trying to sort out loggers and with a relatively inexperienced team.

The team having been waiting by a pill box, c.150m+ away, dashed to the nets as is tradition (and need) and were able to quickly lift the small catch from behind onto the banks of the deeps for extraction. We caught 19 birds: 13 Greenshanks, 4 Redshanks, 1 Spotted Redshank and a Greylag Goose! A nice mixture and all of the birds that were in front of the net when we fired! The net was set 6m back from the water's edge - the narrow net which goes out 8m was on 2m jumps so adequately sailed over the roosting birds.

Here is Pete and the team ringing the birds behind The Stables

The 13 Greenshanks incredibly included 5 retraps - and to our amazement and delight the 3 Greenshanks that we tagged with light sensitive loggers (geolocators) in March 2013 - so in theory the loggers will tell us where they went to breed.. plus one of the two that we tagged with a logger in September (RGYY). The 3 tags were removed for data downloading and replaced with fresh tags. All the new birds were also fitted with tags as was the one re-trapped (a colour-ringed bird and known winterer YNYY). We await initial results from the tags with impatience! How very exciting. This is ground breaking stuff as it has not been done before with Greenshanks on the wintering grounds and only a few breeding birds in Scotland have so far been tagged with geolcators- nowhere else in the world as far as we know have Greenshanks been tagged in this way. So fitting for the Farlington Ringing Group (FRG) to be doing this work as the Greenshank has long been the group's logo since the FRG inception in the late 1960s.

The Spotted Redshank was a real bonus our second to be caught in "recent years" and is now colour-ringed - the other one was seen in Sweden. Very few are ringed in the British Isles these days - Mark tells me just one in 2012.. and to think that in the early 1990s we turned down a flock of 30 spotshanks while waiting for the Greenshanks roost to develop on the scrape at FM!

The newly ringed Spotted Redshank W+GR

The 4 Redshanks were also colour-ringed, the first to be marked in this way in Chichester Harbour - a project Ed and I are developing looking at interchange between roost sites around the harbours - these follow c.50 colour-marked at Farlington in September. Next weekend (details to follow ASAP) we plan to colour-mark c.25-50 Redshanks at the Kench, Hayling on the falling tide - there have been up to 120 roosting there/Sinah this winter which is more than in recent years. Initial observations show that 3-4 of the shanks col-ringed at Farlington in Sept are now roosting/feeding around the Kench at the bottom of the harbour. Early days and all very interesting. Josh Nightingale is maintaining the new database for FRG. One has been seen on the Isle of Wight but no others sightings so far outside the 2 eastern harbours."

Pete and myself with the newly ringed Spotted Redshank
It turned out not to be the regular Nore Barn bird

See January 18 for more photos


River Ems flood news

I had an e-mail from Pam Phillips this morning to say that the River Ems was higher than ever on Brook Meadow after last night's rain. So, I donned my wellies and went over to have a look for myself. The river was rushing through the tunnel under the railway and was lapping against the black sand bags in the north-east corner, but not quite over topping them. This was as high as I have ever seen the river.

The north meadow was awash, but maybe from the rain and the high water table rather than the river. The S-bend had virtually disappeared with the river cutting through the bend. The river was cascading over the top of the sluice gate into the south meadow - now operating in its official capacity as a balancing pond. The south meadow was virtually a lake with tall vegetation sticking up above the water level.

Here is one of the Ash trees near the causeway decorated with hanging keys

Water was rushing out of the overflow from the south meadow into Peter Pond, but this channel is not large enough to keep the keep the level constant. The water was up to the top of the bund around the garden of Gooseberry Cottage, but not going over. The level of the water in the south meadow was just below the Nature Reserve sign on the signcase. The river in Palmer's Road Copse is close to the top of bund between it and the south meadow. I wonder what effect this flooding will have upon the wildlife?

Worse is to come?

Chris Oakley tried to drive to Petersfield this morning, taking the route through West Marden and Compton. He said, the valley was like one continuous lake with water gushing off the fields into heavily flooded roads. He was stopped just this side of West Marden by an AA patrol who told him that the road ahead was flooded up to four feet deep. Chris pointed out that all this water has only one way to go, down the River Ems, so the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better in Emsworth.

More flood photos are on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .

But spring is on the way!

Despite the flooding, there was a real feel of spring in the air this morning, the sun was shining and the birds singing brightly all around the meadow. It was good to hear Robins, Wren, Dunnock and Great Tit, plus two Song Thrushes, one from the east side of the north meadow and one from Palmer's Road Copse. What great voices these birds have. Fresh leaves of Hairy Garlic are now showing well along the path behind Lillywhite's Garage, where the Sweet Violet flowers now number over 20.

Peter Pond is looking good with Gooseberry Cottage in the background

Buff-tail Bumblebee

Chris Oakley got this image of a Buff-tail Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) feeding on one of the flowering Gorse bushes on the east side of Slipper Millpond this afternoon. This was our first Bumblebee of 2014, though I did see some in December 2013 on the Ivy flowers at the end of Warblington Road. Bryan Pinchen has alerted us to expect to see B. terrestris bumblebees in mild winters. Queens start nesting in the autumn and, if the weather is mild, continue throughout the winter producing workers and later, males and new queens. This is probably a worker.

Buddleja seedheads

Tony Davis, Ralph Hollins, Martin Hampton and Daniel Hoare all responded to my request for help in identifying the seedheads that the female House Sparrow was feeding on in yesterday's blog. They all agreed it was Buddleja. Tony added that the seeds of this plant were very popular with Goldfinches (feeding on the bush) and Chaffinches (feeding on the ground below the bush) in his garden last winter, which is a good reason not to dead-head in the autumn! Good advice. They are also very attractive as they are.

Dead Guillemot

Tony Davis also noted that the dead Guillemot found by Chris Oakley on Hayling beach on Jan 16 was probably the same bird that he saw. Tony says, the bird had a ring on its leg which he removed and sent to the BTO for identification. "The ring was very 'fresh and shiny' - most unlike what I would expect from something that has been in sea water for a while - and I fear that it will turn out to be a recently released rehabilitated bird (which perhaps wasn't rehabilitated enough! Time will tell."


Brook Meadow

I had a walk through Brook Meadow to Slipper Millpond this morning. The River Ems is still running very high and the water is lapping at the base of the line of black sandbags in the north-east corner, but not going over. Water is still rushing over the sluice gate into the south meadow, though this is no more flooded than over the past few days. The plastic fencing the Environment Agency erected across the top of the steps down to the south meadow is still there. However, the fence had been removed from the south gate entrance and the flood sign has been damaged by kicking. The fence at the entrance to the Palmer's Road Copse path has also gone as has the cones, one of which was in the river. Clearly, the work of the local lads.

Birds singing included Robin, Dunnock, Great Tit and Song Thrush. A Grey Wagtail was hunting around the reeds in the centre of the river in front of the observation fence. This is the best photo I could get of this constantly moving bird.

Malcolm Phillips went around the meadow and got this rather nice image of a female House Sparrow in the large bramble patch in the north west corner of the meadow. Can anyone help with the plant she is feeding from. I just can't think what it is at present. A flock of House Sparrows regularly come over to feed on Brook Meadow from the gardens at the end of Seagull Lane.

Robin pair

We had a pair of Robins in the garden this morning for the first time this winter. Although this is not particularly early, as pairing can take place by the middle of December, it is still about two months before the birds actually nest. Most other song birds pair up in the spring, with the exception of Blackbirds and Starlings which pair in late autumn (David Lack: The Life of the Robin).

Water Rail at Fishbourne

Roy Hay got this photo of a Water Rail in the stream at Fishbourne Meadows today. I think the bird we had on Brook Meadow in early December has gone.

Seaweed identification

John Arnott came to our rescue by identifying several of the seaweeds collected yesterday from Hayling beach by Chris Oakley. Here is John's annotated version of Chris's photo.

The seaweeds identified by John in the photo are:

Chorda filum - Sea Lace.
Laminaria latissima (formerly Laminaria saccharina) - Sugar Kelp
Laminaria digitata - Oar Weed or Tangle. Laminaria hyperborea - Forest Kelp or Cuvie is very like Oar Weed but has a tough round stipe (stem) with usually epiphytic algae, typically a red alga Palmaria palmata. Absence of this implies the smoother oval stipe of Laminaria digitata for both specimens.

Almost certainly Flustra foliacea - Hornwrack. This is a Bryozoan - a colony of small animals. It has a tough sandpapery texture and is exactly this colour, size and shape.

John says "A couple of the others look like possible Bladder Wrack (Fucus vesiculosus) and Sea Oak (Halidrys siliquosa) but I cannot make them out clearly in their tangled state and would need closer views (magnifying the image doesn't help). The red one might be Dulse Palmaria palmata but again difficult to tell in its tangled state.

Ralph Hollins was also prompted to have a crack at the seaweeds. He identified the two examples of Oarweed (Laminaria digitata). However, the one that interested him most was the one that curved down from the top of the photo to almost touch the central Oarweed. Ralph thinks it is a small section of Wireweed (Sargassum muticum) which he says was first identified in Britain in 1973 by Bill Farnham of Portsmouth Polytechnic (now University) - see . . . Ralph adds that in the 1970s and 80s this weed was thought to be unstoppable and would clog up the water all round Britain making leisure sailing impossible.



Nore Barn

I took the bike out with the scope down to the harbour this morning mainly to look for the ringed birds from Saturday's ringing on Thorney. There was nothing much in the main harbour but the situation changed dramatically when I got to Nore Barn. The Spotted Redshank (without rings) was already present in the stream when I arrived at about 10:30 along with a Little Egret. They were joined by an unringed Greenshank at about 11:15.

Two Spotted Redshanks

This is when I met up with Peter Milinets-Raby and his young son, Alexandre. We chatted for a while and watched the birds when Peter noticed a second Spotted Redshank further out in the channel. In a few minutes it had made its way into the stream to feed along with the regular Spotted Redshank, which did a bit of chasing to begin with, but soon came to tolerate the second bird's close presence.

Here are the two Spotted Redshanks feeding with the Greenshank

It was immediately clear that this second Spotted Redshank was also not ringed, which meant that the Spotted Redshank ringed by Pete Potts on Saturday on Thorney was not either of these two birds. This means we have at least four local Spotted Redshanks, ie the two ringed birds G+GY (ringed in Oct 2008) and G+GR (ringed on 18 Jan 2014) and the two in the stream today.

For an hour or so Peter and I had the great pleasure and privilege to watch these four iconic birds actively feeding in the stream, often in close proximity to each other, two Spotted Redshanks, a Greenshank and a Little Egret. Fantastic! I also got some nice photos.

and Peter got one of me!

Where do they roost?

The fact the Spotted Redshanks that were at Nore Barn today were not caught on Thorney on Saturday clearly suggests they do not roost on Thorney Island, but possibly on the saltmarshes in Emsworth Harbour. Today, after they had finished feeding in the stream the two Spotted Redshanks settled down on the edge of the saltmarshes to the west of the stream where they were when I left at about 12:30.

The Greenshank did not roost with the Spotted Redshanks, but went elsewhere. The Little Egret was still feeding in the upper stream near the bridge when I left. I had seen it catching small fish which seemed to be abundant in the stream.

Finally, a nice sky view taken by Peter Milinets-Raby from Nore Barn


Maurice Lillie made a couple of interesting observations today. Firstly, he noted that several flooded parts of the meadow have what look like mole holes. But, more interesting is that in some holes water is draining into the hole and in others water is bubbling out. This is water finding its own level, but it does look odd.

The other was a fairly common bracket fungus growing on a log on the right hand side of the Seagull Lane patch towards the tunnel. This is Many-zoned Polypore (Coriolus versicolor) which is distinctive for its concentric zones of black, grey and brown with a pale margin on its upper side.


Chris Oakley was down on Hayling beach again this morning where he discovered a large variety of fascinating seaweeds. He collected this lot of 12 different types in a matter of few yards. Can anyone identify the species?



River Ems

Basically, nothing new from yesterday. The river level remains very high on Brook Meadow, but no higher than it was yesterday. Water was still cascading over the sluice gate into the south meadow. I saw people attempt to walk through the south meadow, but they did not get very far as the water is at waist height at the south end.

More news and photos is on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .


I had a phone call from Anne de Potier this morning inviting me to come down to The Stables on Thorney Island where Pete Potts and his bird ringing team had made an excellent catch on The Deeps. The birds caught included 15 Greenshank (including all three of the geo-tagged ones) and a Spotted Redshank, which Anne thought could be the one that I have been watching at Nore Barn for the past 10 years. I rushed down there just as Pete was putting the colour rings on the Spotted Redshank; the rings used were W+GR (white on the left taibia and green over red on the righ tibia). It was great to see the bird at such close quarters. But was it the Nore Barn bird? Sadly, not as I explain below. Meanwhile, here are a few photos I took of the ringers and the birds.

Pete and other members of the team. Not all are shown here.

Close-up of Pete with Ruth Croger putting rings on the Spotted Redshank

Pete discussing features of the Spotted Redshank's wing feathers

Close-up of the Spotted Redshank with wing extended

Spotted Redshank with its new rings - W+GR

Pete invited me to share a photo with the ringed Spotshank just in case it was the Nore Barn bird

Finally, the Spotted Redshank was released onto the field behind the stables

This shows one of the geo tags attached to the upper blue ring on the Greenshanks

One of the ringing team taking measurements of a Greenshank

Finally, a small flock of Brent Geese feeding on the field behind The Stables

Which Spotted Redshank?

I went over to Nore Barn this afternoon about 3 hours after high water to see if the Spotted Redshank would turn up. I stayed for about 30 minutes watching the stream, but there was no sign of it, or anything else in the stream. Anne de Potier arrived as I was leaving to have a look for the bird, but also she saw nothing. However, the Havant Wildlife Group had their Saturday walk to Nore Barn this morning, so I rang Caroline French to see if they had seen the Spotted Redshank. Yes, they did at about 10:10 (see Caroline's report below). I checked with Anne and she told me the all birds were caught this morning at 10am, which almost certainly means that the ringed Spotted Redshank was not the one that has been coming to Nore Barn over the years. However, it might be its 'friend' which often turns up in the stream, so we shall have to keep a look out for it.

Havant Wildlife Group walk

Caroline French reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group to Nore Barn in Emsworth. "Six of us walked from the Bridge Road car park, along the western side of the town mill pond and along the shore as far as Nore Barn Woods stream. It was rather cold and grey but dry at least! The highlight of the morning was the Spotted Redshank feeding in the stream at 10.10. There was no Greenshank in the stream but we did think we caught sight of one flying from nearby on the shore out towards the saltmarsh in the harbour, but couldn't be sure. Other birds seen were: Mallard, Little Grebe, Black-headed Gull, Mute Swan, Coot, Dunnock, Woodpigeon, Goldfinch, Little Egret, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Brent Goose, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Redshank, Shelduck, Turnstone (30+), Pintail, Wigeon, Teal, Carrion Crow, Herring Gull and Starling.


Flooding of the River Ems

I was interested to see the effects on the level of the River Ems through Brook Meadow of the heavy overnight rain. The river has been running exceptionally high for several days and today it was even higher. The S-bend had almost disappeared completely. The water was going right over the sluice gate into the south meadow. I met two Environment Agency workers who told me they had removed the wooden struts from the sluice to prevent the Ems flooding in the north-east corner, thus putting the cottages in Lumley Road at risk. So, the south meadow was now functioning in its official capacity as a 'balancing pond'. **

The south meadow was not actually as deep as it was following the Christmas Eve flooding, but I suspect the level is still rising. Palmer's Road Copse was totally flooded.

I walked up to Lumley Mill where the sluice gates were were fully open allowing water to flow freely into the Lumley Stream, which was a raging torrent, but not immediately threatening the cottages along Lumley Road. I tried walking a little way along the flooded path from the mill towards Seagull Lane, but had to turn back as the water was periously close to the top of my wellies. In contrast, Gooseberry Cottage, which had suffered severe flooding from the storms and the tidal surge over the Christmas period, appeared to be unaffected.

More photos on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .

Chris Oakley took this picture of the River Ems raging under the bridge at Westbourne. He compared it with a picture he took last year and said it was about the same level, although last year it was heavy with mud from the Hampshire Farm development. At the moment the attenuation pond on the Hampshire Farm site is nowhere near full so that is unlikely to to be having any influence on the water flow.

Other observations

More Sweet Violets are opening up on the south side of the path behind Lillywhite's Garage near the tall brick wall. Cow Parsley is still flowering on the causeway on Brook Meadow. A Song Thrush was singing strongly from Palmer's Road Copse.

For earlier observations go to . . . January 1-16