LINKS TO . . . Emsworth Wildlife - Homepage . . . Current Wildlife Blog . . . Blog Archives


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

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


for April 1-15, 2014

in reverse chronological order


Migrant Hunting
I had a productive morning hunting for migrant birds, adding three species to my year list. Starting at Brook Meadow, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were singing well as usual, but I drew a blank on Whitethroat. It is still a bit early for Whitethroat which usually arrive on Brook Meadow in late April.

Thorney Island
I had better luck when I checked the old NRA track across North Thorney where a couple of Swallows were flying around the stables on the old Marina Farm site - my first of the year. As I watched they came across to where I was standing and perched conveniently for a photo on the overhead cables.

My second new migrant of the morning was Sedge Warbler, which I first heard briefly from the reeds to the south of the NRA track. However, I heard another two singing clearly from the reeds on the way down to Thorney Little Deeps. There was no sound of Reed Warbler, which usually arrive later than Sedge Warbler.
Amazingly, I actually saw a Cetti's Warbler singing from a bush near Little Deeps. I was so astonished to see this very elusive bird that it had gone by the time I got my camera out.

Marlpit Lane
I got my third migrant of the morning as I walked up Marlpit Lane from parking the car near the amenity tip. It was not actually what I had hoped for, ie a Nightingale, but a Willow Warbler, which was almost as good. I listened to its short sweet song for a few minutes, a short falling cadence, repeated every 6 seconds or so.
I walked the whole length of Marlpit Lane listening intently for the distinctive notes of a Nightingale, but there was nothing to be heard apart from Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps.
I had a wander around the open wasteland area to the east of the lane where there was masses of Ground-ivy in flower everywhere. This is a very attractive plant which is often given not more than a glance. So I took some pictures of it to give it rightful place among the flora of the area.

I was interested to see a couple of Pond Skaters skimming over the surface of one of the large puddles on the tracks of the Marlpit Lane site. Suddenly they came together and appeared to be mating - the first time I have ever seen this happen.

The only other flowers to catch my attention on the Marlpit Lane site were some small yellow daisies which reminded me of Autumn Hawkbit though they clearly could not be that. The flowers looked like Dandelions, but were much smaller (around 2cm) and shorter (about 6cm). They appeared to fit the description of what Blamey, Fitter and Fitter (p.294) refer to as Dandelion - Section Erythrosperma. These are our smallest and slenderest Dandelions, flowering April-June in warm dry and sunny habitats and include 30 different species! They are called Lesser Dandelion in my old Collins New Generation Flower Guide by Alastair Fitter (p.119), which seems a very good name for it. There are, in fact a staggering 240-250 different species of Dandelion!!
The photo shows a view of the flowerhead from above and below.

Racton Park Farm
As I was in the area I decided to have a look at Racton Park Farm where I used to find Swallows in BTO Breeding Birds Surveys which I did from 2006-12 on this patch. However, there were none there today. The Rookery at the back of the farm was noisy as usual, but I could only see 32 nests, which is fewer than the 54 or so I used to have in the BBS counts.

Water Voles
Rob Foord and Tina, my next door neighbours, walked through Brook Meadow last night and were delighted to see a Water Vole at about 8.15pm from the observation fence. It was Tina's first!
Malcolm Phillips saw what was probably the same Water Vole this afternoon and got the following photo of it swimming.

Rob Foord e-mailed to say he saw two Water Voles tonight at the same spot as last night, plus and what were probably two rats (more skittish than the water voles) running along and around the sluice gates. Fading light made definitive identification difficult.

Yellow Dung-fly?
Brian Lawrence snapped this fly on Brook Meadow today. I have also been seeing these golden furred flies regularly on Brook Meadow. I think they are Yellow Dung-flies (Scathophaga sterocaria).

Mystery Sedge
Martin Rand has confirmed the identity of the mystery sedge with exceptionally long bracts that I found on the old NRA track on North Thorney on April 1st. It was, as I suspected Divided Sedge - Carex divisa. It just goes to show how variable plants can be in different situations. A bit like people, I suppose.

Southbourne Copse
John Tagg contacted me about the terrible destruction of the woodland that is taking place in the area we have labelled 'Southbourne Copse' (Grid Ref: SU 7565 0612), situated at the end of Woodfield Park Road. The only access is from the public footpath from the end of Penny Lane. There is no access from Woodfield Park Road.
John knows the area well and back in June 2010, he alerted me to what looked like a route through the copse marked with orange spots on trees (to be felled?). I recall writing to a Mr L Tirebuck at Southbourne Parish Council for information, but he knew nothing about it.
Nothing appears to have happened until now when, as John writes, "suddenly, the whole area has been barb-wired and woodland cleared and still nobody seems to know what happening or who is doing it. Half of the copse has already been cleared as shown in the photo, including some mature Oak trees.

Although work has stopped in the last week, the digger is still there awaiting a restart of the clearance. The trains are now clearly visible from Woodfield Park Road. There must be some sort of planning in operation, but no notices have been posted to inform anyone. It is obviously too late for all the birds, bees, flora and fauna, as the damage has already been done."
Come on. What the heck is going on? Someone must know.

MONDAY APRIL 14 - 2014

Waysides News
Jane Brook and I surveyed three local waysides this afternoon. We started at the Railway Wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station where we filled 4 HBC bags with a variety of litter thrown from the new ramp to the station, plus some hefty bits of electrical equipment. It is amazing what people throw out. We have lost part of the original site to the new track from New Brighton Road to Washington Road. It will be interesting to see what comes up in this area which has new soil imported.
From there we looked at the New Brighton Road junction wayside where we found Hawthorn in flower along with clumps of Bulbous Buttercups.

Also, Soft Brome, False Oat-grass and Smooth Meadow-grass. Finally we walked along the Washington Road path where we noted the first leaves on the rare Greater Burdock (Articium lappa) which was identified last year.
Flowering plants of interest were Field Forget-me-not, Meadow Buttercup, Bulbous Buttercup, Oil-seed Rape, Wintercress (buds not open), Common Vetch, Red Clover, Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Germander Speedwell, Cleavers.
Grasses included False Oat-grass, Cocksfoot, Meadow Foxtail, Soft Brome and Smooth Meadow-grass.

Brook Meadow
Charlie Annalls had her maiden walk around Brook Meadow and was rewarded with some very good wildlife sightings. She found the butterflies a little skittish and reluctant to pose for photos, but she did get a smashing Peacock.

But Charlie's best sighting by far was a fine male Bullfinch high in a tree. This was our first Bullfinch on Brook Meadow this year. She says, "the colour was outstanding and at first I thought it was a very large robin!"

Charlie concluded, "All in all a lovely afternoon exploring Emsworth and I loved the meadow. I shall return when its a bit warmer and hope to find the butterflies in sleepier mode."

Swan news
Before she left Emsworth, Charlie visited the swan nest on the town millpond and was pleased to see five eggs in it which she thought looked different colours. Probably some were a bit dirty? The adult swans were busy building it up with twigs and other debris.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a short visit to Langstone Mill Pond this morning (10am to 11:40am). He walked in via Wade Lane and the highlights are as follows:
Wade Lane: Female Blackbird with two fledged young, Mistle Thrush collecting worms, Buzzard perched on usual tree, Kestrel chasing Carrion Crow, 1 Swallow north, 3 Meadow Pipits north, Chiffchaff singing.
Mill Pond: Peter's big surprise was finding two 'almost fully grown' Grey Heron chicks in the Holm Oak. The two youngsters were quite vocal at times, but the adults did not feed them; they just sat and preened. When the adults left the nest, the youngsters were very difficult to pick out. The chick is in the centre of this photo with white face and grey head.

The other Grey Herons nests were quiet, though the female on the one at the top of the Holm Oak stood up and carefully arranged something at her feet before sitting down and out of sight.
Female Mute Swan still on nest - tended eggs for 2 minutes. Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Chiffchaff all singing from the back of the pond (no Reed Warblers yet). And, 2 Swallows over north.
Off shore: (nearly high tide). 2 Sandwich Terns, Black-tailed Godwit, Female Goosander sleeping with a male and 2 female Red Breasted Mergansers close to Pook Lane path.

Mystery fly
I sent a copy of the photo of the black fly that Malcolm Phillips took on Brook Meadow on Apr 8 to Bryan Pinchen. Bryan said it was an Ichneumon wasp (Hymenoptera; Parasitica), but as to which species he had no idea as they are a large and diverse group for which no useable identification guide exists. Most are parasitic on larvae of other insects, including moths, butterflies, beetles, true bugs and flies.

SUNDAY APRIL 13 - 2014

Water Vole on Brook Meadow
Francis Kinsella got an important Water Vole sighting in an area where none have been previously seen this year - in section D, on the river bank opposite the observation fence. This area was badly flooded in early spring, but it looks as if voles might be moving back into this area which has very been popular with them in previous years.

Adders in Havant Thicket
Having read about them there for so long, and after several unsuccessful attempts, John Bogle finally managed to find some Adders at Havant thicket today! John sent me photos of a male and a female (the male is grey and black, the female brown and black).

John adds, "As I was looking for butterflies I only had a Macro lens on me, making it a little tricky to get close to them with very dry and very noisy bracken under foot but the female obliged at the second attempt! I managed to get within 6ft or so for this shot. I have found that reptiles very often return to the same spot if you leave them alone for a while, and that is exactly what happened with both of these! I shall for sure be returning to the area again now!

John said Orange Tip butterflies were far too active for any photographs today, but he sent one he found at roost, also at Havant Thicket, a couple of days ago. Although only the underwing is showing, which is the same in both sexes, one can just see a hint of the orange upper wing tip which identifies this one as a male.

John also had his first Holly Blue in the garden in Havant. Snap! We had our first Holly Blue in the garden here in Emsworth also.

Peter Milinets-Raby was out early for a walk along the Warblington shore from Conigar Point to the Langstone Mill Pond (6:50am to 9:05am). The highlights were as follows (so few migrants around):
Ibis Field: Willow warbler calling and heading north through the bushes, 3 singing Chiffchaff, Med Gulls over, 2 male Pheasant, Blackcap singing,
Conigar Point/fields: Skylar singing from high, 2 Linnets, 7 Cormorants over heading east, 8 Shelduck.
Off Pook Lane: Female Goosander on its own diving in the low tide channel, Sandwich Tern resting on a buoy, 24 Shelduck, 6 Grey Plover and 5 Dunlin over heading east, 5 Great Black-backed Gulls, 4 Black-tailed Godwits, A single Whimbrel. Peregrine flew over heading south to Hayling, disturbing the gulls and Oystercatchers
Langstone Mill Pond: Reed Bunting male moving about, but not singing, Single Swallow over north,
Little Egrets - Very quiet with birds sitting and partners out feeding. Only managed to count 53 Little Egrets present in total. Grey Herons also quiet. Mute Swan on her nest still.
Mill stream/channel: Greenshank (ringed/tagged bird, but only top rings as bird was up to its knees in water, but almost certainly probably G-R/BtagR). A single Brent Goose, 3 Red Breasted Merganser, Plus briefly a Seal popped its head above water before disappearing.


Millpond News
The Mute Swan nest near the bridge on the town millpond now has 4 eggs in it. The last one was laid this morning.

The first Coot family of the year of two adults and 3 chicks was on Peter Pond this afternoon. Here is one of the adults feeding a chick.

The Mute Swan was on the nest in the reedbeds on Slipper Millpond with her mate on the water nearby.

About a dozen Mediterranean Gulls were on Slipper Millpond when I passed by this afternoon, including these four on the wired centre raft. These will probably be moving over to their breeding colonies in Langstone Harbour. See Chris Cockburn report below on the Hayling Oysterbeds update.

Brook Meadow
There is a good crop of Sticky Mouse-ear growing on the south bridge of Brook Meadow.

I was surprised to find that this was a new plant for the Brook Meadow list, taking the total to 318 species, excluding casuals and garden escapes. See complete list at . . .

Tony Browne saw a Slow-worm on the causeway path 25 yds west of the Lumley gate. It was approx. 12" long and thickish pencil girth, Fine bronze (& black) scales. Tony was concerned about it getting trodden on by a human or eaten by a dog, so he coaxed it back into the grass.

Pagham Harbour
Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group, including a good view of a Cuckoo. For the full report go to . . .

Hayling Oysterbeds news update

Chris Cockburn reported:
"The black-headed gulls finally recovered from yesterday's attack by a child's blue balloon and are now really getting down to nest building. It is likely that many nests will need rebuilding if the upcoming spring tides start surging. However, the predicted astronomical tides for April, May and even June are not particularly high, so fingers crossed for lots of high pressure systems.
The recently imported shingle on the east end of the "NW Bund" looks very promising and hopefully, common terns, little terns, oystercatchers and ringed plovers will find it attractive as a nesting site.
The Mediterranean gulls are not nest building on the lagoon islands yet; but they are later nesters anyway. Today there were at least seven 1st summer Meds in the lagoon. Non-breeding Ist summer Meds are not the ideal birds to have in a gull and tern colony - given half the chance, these troublemaking delinquents will readily predate eggs & chicks - even of their own species.
Up to now, this year, South Binness and Round Nap Islands have rarely had gulls on them - but when they do, there are very many birds holding territory. There has been some peregrine (male & female) activity on the harbour's islands (roosting & feeding) and that, unsurprisingly, may deter the seabirds from nesting or even sitting on the islands! This has happened in previous years and the problem was solved by increasing the frequency of close-to-island boat-patrols that encouraged peregrines to use Long Island and North Binness Island (islands not used for nesting by seabirds).
Apart from a few swallows flying past, there has been no significant migrant activity at the site; but the weather has often been good for birds to continue flying inland.
For the past week or so, one of my favourite spring events has been taking place - curlews leaving the harbour on their way to nesting grounds - even above the black-headed gull "din", there is the sound of calling curlews as they climb higher and head off eastwards - great! Interestingly, a blackbird that has territory opposite my flat has incorporated some of the curlew sounds -making me rush to the balcony to scan the skies!!
Insects are more in evidence - several "Whites" that I have not yet identified (they would not cooperate by stopping still for a few seconds, Small Tortoiseshells egg-laying on nettles etc.
The wet winter has resulted in the vigorous growth of Medick plants (as in 2012) and there are many Milk Thistle rosettes (just 3 in 2013!) - Lesser Celandines and Daisies are currently in profuse bloom - it is all looking good!

FRIDAY APRIL 11 - 2014

Mute Swan named
This morning I met Tony Wootton near the bridge at the top of the town millpond. Tony asked me if I knew the Christian name of the swan, which I did not. He then pointed out a label which the swan had collected during the nest building marked 'Fleur' . We both recalled that was the name of the character played by Susan Hampshire in the long-running BBC drama 'The Forsythe Saga'.

Hollybank Woods
I had a very pleasant walk through Hollybank Woods this morning with birds singing all around and wild flowers starting to show.
I heard most of the common woodland birds, including Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming, Nuthatch, Jay, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon and Stock Dove. In addition, several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing, but I did not hear any Willow Warbler which I sometimes get in the woods.
Flowering plants that caught my eye included Cherry Laurel on the track from the top of Hollybank Lane and Yellow Archangel (ssp. argentatum) with the white blotched leaves near the southern entrance gate.

Field Wood-rush, Barren Strawberry, Common Dog-violet, Common Stork's-bill, Wood Speedwell and Crosswort were all out on the Holly Lodge clearing (south). Also, Wavy Bitter-cress with a distinctly wavy stem and 6 stamens in the flowers.

Field Wood-rush
Wood Speedwell
Common Dog-violet

The Lily of the Valley plants are now in bud in the open area north of the Holly Lodge clearing. The two main areas of Bluebells on the eastern section of the woods are starting to open, but will not be at their best for a week or two. The Wild Cherry tree in the southern Bluebell area is in full blossom and looking magnificent.

I noted several Bumblebees including this ginger fellow on a Dandelion, presumably Bombus pascuorum.

I met up with Andy Brook and his young apprentice whom Andy is grooming to take over the leadership of the woodland activities in the near future.

Chichester walls
Chris Oakley and his wife Ann took a walk around the Chichester walls this morning. The banks below the walls were full of colour from Red Campion, Alkanet, Bluebells, Primroses. Cowslips and even a few Fritillary with their curious chequered markings. In Priory park, this Squirrel spent ages scratching around before finding his hidden treasure.


Unusual Blackbird song
A Blackbird has been singing a very unusual song from a neighbour's garden for the past week or so. The song is short and whistled with a thrush-like repetition but is certainly not a Song Thrush.

Mute Swan news
The swan's nest beneath the bridge on the town millpond now has three eggs in it; the third one must have been laid this morning as there were only two yesterday. Mute Swans lay an egg every other day up to 6-8, so we are likely to see a few more before incubation starts.

Wayside flowers
I found the first False Oat-grass of the year in flower on the A259 embankment outside the Emsworth Surgery. Japanese Knotweed is coming through again on this wayside and on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage.

Bee-fly on Cuckooflower
I watched a Bee-fly (Bombylius major) feeding on the Cuckooflowers on the Bridge Road Wayside. It moved from one plant to the next, hovering in front of the flowers and sucking up nectar though its long proboscis.

More Lizards on Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips showed me the reptile mats on the north meadow where he found the Lizards yesterday. They were there again today, two were on top of one mat and one on another. We did not look beneath the mats. The Lizards were clearly seeking the warmth of the dark mats.

Plenty of butterflies were out on the meadow, including Peacock (lots), Small Tortoiseshell, Orange Tip and Small White. Both Malcolm and Brian Lawrence got photos of Holly Blue - the first on Brook Meadow.

Brian also saw a Speckled Wood which takes the number of butterfly species recorded on Brook Meadow so far this year to nine.

Water Voles
As I was walking up the main river path on Brook Meadow, I noticed a patch of cloudy water on the west side of the river just beneath the large Bay tree in front of the old gasholder. The cloudiness appeared to be coming from a disturbance of the mud on the river bank; it kept coming and going as the flow of water dispersed it.

Malcolm Phillips arrived and we both looked closely at the bank for some minutes until Malcolm spotted a Water Vole. We continued to watch the river bank and got several fleeting glimpses of the Water Vole as it scuttled from a burrow hole in the river bank to the left of the cloudy area and into the river to continue its digging below the water level.

This clearly was the source of the cloudiness. This was Malcolm's first Water Vole sighting for 3 weeks and my first one of the year!
After he left me Malcolm saw another Water Vole on the north river right where he saw the Weasel yesterday. This is particularly good news as it probably means that they can live together! Here is the vole having a swim.

Horndean Down
Peter Milinets-Raby went for a circular walk around Horndean Down this morning (10:25am to 12:45pm). New Barn Farm Lane - East edge to the Windmill, then back along the western edge. The birding highlights were as follows:
Pair of Ravens (again) nesting on the pylon as last year. The young (certainly two, probably three) are fairly young still.

Peregrine soaring around, before landing on one of the pylons. 5+ Buzzard soaring around with lots of tumbling display, plus they received lots of agro from the Ravens who often chased them around. Sparrowhawk. 1 Willow Warbler singing, 3+ Chiffchaff singing, 4+ Blackcap singing, 1 Swallow seen moving north, 1 Meadow Pipit moving north, 2 to 5 Yellowhammer, pair of Stonechat, 2 to 4 Linnets, 3 Wheatears, 8+ Skylarks, Male Pheasant.

Chinese Geese at West Ashling
Ralph Hollins identified the 'geese with beautiful blue eyes' that Peter Milinets-Raby found on West Ashling pond on Tuesday 8th April as Chinese Geese.

Chinese geese come in two colour forms: the white and the brown (also called 'grey' or 'fawn'). The brown is the same colour as the brown African. Both breeds come from China, and were developed from the wild swan goose. Peter's photo presumably shows the brown form of goose. See . . .

These geese have been resident on the pond for many years, at least since September 2008 when I took this photo.

Interestingly, the new BTO web site with Atlas Maps shows a scanty distribution of Chinese Geese, but no record as far as I could judge from the map in West Ashling. Maybe they are not regarded as 'wild'.
See . . .

Dry summer?
Chris Oakley observed from the leaves on the trees outside his North Emsworth house that we are probably in for a dry summer if the old adage is to be believed. 'Oak before Ash then we get a splash. Ash before Oak then we'll get a soak'.


Nore Barn
This morning I cycled to Nore Barn where the tide was falling. Nothing in the stream. The pure white flowers of English Scurvygrass are now showing very well on the saltmarshes to the west of the stream. This is the best flowering of English Scurvygrass that I have ever seen at this site. Blackcap was singing in the woods.

Millpond News
On Emsworth Millpond the swan nest near the bridge was just above water level with two eggs showing and the pen swan nearby.
All quiet on Slipper Millpond where the Mute Swan pair was on the water. I could see one egg in the nest in the reedbeds, so they have made a start! The pen will lay all her brood before she starts to incubate them and hatching will be 36 days from then.

Marina seawall
The well cut leaves of Hemlock were clearly visible on the marina seawall but no flowers as yet. Cow Parsley was in flower. There were plenty of Ladybirds on the nettle leaves, some 7-spots and some smaller ones with variable spots which may be varieties of 2-spot.

I could see a geotagged Greenshank feeding on the shore by the marina seawall, but with only my binoculars I could not clearly see the rings. I took some photos which seemed to show G//R+BL though I am not entirely sure of the lime ring. Information to Anne de Potier.

North Thorney
One Canada Goose was on the Deckhouses Estate pond. I walked down the track to Little Deeps, but there was no sound of Sedge Warbler which arrives before Reed Warbler. Similarly there was nothing of special interest along the old NRA track apart from the explosive songs of several unseen Cetti's Warblers. Still no Swallows, though I met Barry Collins later who told me he had seen two Swallows flying around the sewage works in Thornham Lane. There was a buttercup flower by the side of the track with the distinctive reflexed sepals of Bulbous Buttercup - my first of the year.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a very interesting day on Brook Meadow. Most significant was a sighting of a Weasel on the north bank half way between the willow and the tunnel under the railway - the first on Brook Meadow since 2011. Malcolm wonders if this could explain why we are not getting many Water Vole sightings. I am not sure how serious Weasels are as predators of Water Voles, but their presence could be critical, particularly with numbers of voles currently low following the flooding.

Malcolm also saw three Common Lizards on the meadow today, which is interesting in view of the reptile survey which is currently underway by Azure Ecology. The Lizards were on two of the mats at the north end of the meadow, not beneath them!

One of Lizards photographed by Malcolm was minus a tail.

Lizards have evolved what is called 'tail autotomy' as an escape strategy when they are threatened by a predator. The predator is distracted by the tail which may carry on moving when the Lizard itself remains still. The tail will regrow in time rather like human tissue and skin grow when damaged. Tail loss is costly as it represents a loss of fat and protein, both that stored in the tail and that which is needed for the regrowth of a new tail. During this time, young lizards especially are at higher risk for being preyed upon (there may be little or nothing else to drop). During the recovery period, they stop growing. If it happens to an adult, their reproductive life goes on hold.

Langstone Mill Pond
After work today Peter Milinets-Raby called in on the Langstone Mill Pond (3:30pm to 5:05pm). The birding highlights were as follows:
Offshore along the low tide mud edge: 9 summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwits (coloured ringed BY-/R tag - could not work out the colour of the ring the tag was attached too, looked plain like metal?). 2 Brent Geese, 12 Shelduck, 14 Grey Plover (winter plumage), 5 summer plumaged Dunlin, 2 to 6 Med Gulls.
In and over the channel: 2 Common Tern, 1 Sandwich Tern, Female Goosander fishing on its own, 9 Red Breasted Merganser (8 females with one lucky displaying male).
On the pond: Water Rail running around by the Mute Swan's nest and seen on and off.

Female Mute Swan stood up to arrange eggs (still seven on view). Grey Herons - firmly sat on nests - no action.
Little Egrets:- Before the leaves on the trees obscure things too much I counted the obvious birds sitting on nests. On the island - 12 sitting birds (one was standing up allowing me to see an egg). Grey Heron trees - 8 minimum, but two others possible: very hard to count in this area. Elsewhere (along the west edge of the pond) - 4 sitting birds. So the total at the moment is 24 definite pairs with two possible extras.
Horse Paddock just north of pond; Singing Chiffchaff, 4 Moorhen.

Tony's photos
Tony Wootton sent me some photos from a magical day walking out a walk with Hilary, near Bishops Waltham. Here are sparring pheasants and mating orange tips plus Mallard ducklings from last week at Arundel.

Bullfinches in garden
Patrick Murphy has a male - female pair of Bullfinches as regular visitors to his garden feeders, coming 3 or 4 times per day.


Emsworth Millpond
Both Mute Swans were tending to their nest near the bridge on the town millpond this morning. It was just above the water level but looked very wet. There were two eggs in the nest (one more than yesterday) and one egg in the water nearby.

Brook Meadow
I snapped this ginger Bumblebee feeding on the White Dead-nettle flowers along the north path - probably Bombus pascuorum which is the most common ginger Bumblebee in the country.

I noted the following newly flowering plants: Cleavers, Three-cornered Garlic and Creeping Buttercup )in Palmer's Road Copse). This was the earliest Creeping Buttercup recorded on Brook Meadow since 2005.

Small Tortoiseshells
As I was chatting with Robin Pottinger on the main river path we watched a Small Tortoiseshell flutter past and settle on some vegetation. I saw another one a little later as it settled on the gravel path in front of me. It is so good to see them back again after several years of scarcity.

Robin and I got to talking about the very rare Large Tortoiseshell butterfly which is now thought to be extinct as a breeding species. Robin was surprised to hear that I actually saw and photographed one sunning itself on the trunk of a tree outside the One Stop shop in Warblington on 30 March 2012. The sighting was recorded by Hampshire Butterfly Conservation. This was my best ever butterfly sighting!

Here is my photo of the Large Tortoiseshell at Warblington
showing the extra dark spots on the forewings which distinguishes it from the Small Tortoiseshell

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips spent about 2 hours round the meadow this morning and spent half of the time removing some of the large logs from the river that were trapped by the old gasholder. These have come from the north-east corner where they were thrown into the river by the local lads. After this good work, Malcolm set out his camera out to get excellent photos of Orange Tip and Small White butterflies.

I could not resist including Malcolm's photo of this beautiful male Chaffinch which is featured so rarely in this blog.

Mystery Fly
Malcolm also got this photo of a black fly, which Robin and I also saw when we were chatting earlier. I thought it looked rather like a St Mark's Fly though they are not due until later in the month (April 25th is St Mark's Day). However, the one in Malcolm's photo is clearly not a St Mark's Fly due to its long antennae. Ralph Hollins says it is a Sawfly, but we have yet top determine what species.


Common Morel fungus
Chris Oakley sent me this photo of a strange looking fungus that appeared in his North Emsworth garden.

Chris pinned it down to a Morel, most likely Common Morel (Morchella esculenta) which mainly grows on woodland edges near broadleaves trees, but is also common in gardens. This is not a fungus we see often, mainly due to its very short fruiting season from April to May. However, it is highly distinctive with its deeply honeycombed conical-shaped cap. According to my book it has 'a wonderful flavour and texture', but take care as there are similar fungi which are very toxic.

Last night, Chris Oakley set up his night sensor camera trap in the garden and baited the area with some sultanas. This hedgehog arrived just after 10pm and stayed around until nearly 5am.


West Ashling pond
Peter Milinets-Raby went over to West Ashling this morning. On his way through Emsworth he observed an Osprey circling over the pony paddocks south of the main A259 Havant Road for three minutes before it flew purposely north over Record Road. When he got to the pond he found a single Black Swan. There are usually a few more on the pond where they have nested in the past.

Peter also noted 12 geese with beautiful blue eyes! Ralph Hollins subsequently identified them as Chinese Geese.

Chinese geese come in two colour forms: the white and the brown (also called 'grey' or 'fawn'). The brown is the same colour as the brown African. Both breeds come from China, and were developed from the wild swan goose. Peter's photo presumably shows the brown form of goose. See . . . . These geese have been resident on the pond at least since September 2008 - see update on April 10 entry.


Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow for the regular work session, but it had been cancelled due to the very wet conditions.
Walking round I noted a Crack Willow tree was down, roots and all, in Palmer's Road Copse just missing the nice clump of Summer Snowflake and the newly planted Alder saplings. The newly cleared area in the north-east corner of Palmer's Road Car Park badly needs a litter pick. Pendulous Sedge was in full flower along the path through Palmer's Road Copse.

Mute Swan news
The pair of swans were both busy building up their nest near the bridge on the town millpond this morning. One egg and a plastic plant pot are visible in the nest. It had two eggs when I last checked on Mar 31. Maybe this one is a new one?

I must admit I had given up on them a couple of days ago when the nest had completely disappeared under the water. However, today, the nest constructed mostly of twigs with bits and pieces of rubbish, was above the water level.. Much as last year, the nest is becoming an attraction to people passing by.
Over on Slipper Millpond the swan was settled on her nest in the reedbeds on the eastern side of the pond with her mate on the water nearby. This looks promising.

Waysides flowers
I did a recount of the Cuckooflowers on the Bridge Road car park verge and got to 466. We are approaching the record of 694 set in April 2012.

I checked the flowers along the Dolphin Creek wayside. I found my first example of Lords and Ladies with spathes open to reveal the spadix.

I also found Thale Cress in flower near the back entrance to Holmwood House. This photo was taken against the white garage door of Wharf House to show the structure of the plant - having a rosette of basal leaves, erect stem with tiny white flowers.

Bosham Harbour
Jean and I had a stroll round part of the harbour this afternoon. I spotted a good flowering of English Scurvygrass on the saltmarshes on the eastern side of the harbour. Most of the Hoary Cress was in bud, but I managed to find a few plants in full flower for the first time.

The photo shows English Scurvygrass (left) and Hoary Cress (right).

We discovered one Hawthorn bush which was full of blossom - the first May blossom of the year on April 6th.

Ashling Wood - Bluebells
On the way home, we called in at Ashling Wood where the Bluebells were in full flower along with lots of Wood Anemone and Dog's Mercury. The new fencing does not obscure the view of one of nature's glories. Well worth an early visit. Take the road from East Ashling to West Stoke and pull in to the side of the road just past the small wobbly stile on the left which leads to a footpath through the Bluebell wood.

Other news
Tony Wootton had what I think was the first Early Purple Orchid of the year in West Dean woods this morning.

Tony also found a Magpie Inkcap fungus in West Dean Woods. He thinks it is out of season as it should be Autumn. It was growing in a bare patch of land apparently recently cleared of a log pile, so maybe it was the introduction of rain and light that made it burst into life.

Male and female Bullfinches are now regular visitors to the feeders in Patrick Murphy's North Emsworth garden where they have to share the food with other species, such as this Blue Tit.


Brook Meadow
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning and was pleased to see the Cow Parsley starting to open its white flowers along the main river path. Soon we shall be able to experience walking through an avenue of aromatic lace flowers when they are fully out. Cones of Field Horsetail are now up on the north meadow. The large leaves of Water Dock are standing tall and fresh on the bank of the Lumley Stream.

The bright leaves of Silverweed are now prominent on the east side of the Lumley area, but no flowers as yet.

Greater Pond Sedge is in full flower on the east side of the Lumley area. The photo shows well the yellow anthers on the upper male spikelets and the white stigmas on female lower ones.

Distant Sedge is also out on the Lumley area as well as Divided Sedge.

Malcolm Phillips was busy picking up a load of rubbish on the meadow today. He also hauled three long logs from the river. Well done, Malcolm. He still managed to get this rather nice image of one of our resident Song Thrushes.

Millpond News
A pair of Mute Swans flew onto Peter Pond as I was passing, probably the same pair that I saw there yesterday. The Mute Swan was off the nest in the reedbeds on Slipper Millpond and both swans were being fed on the west side of the pond. There were no eggs visible in the nest. I counted 10 Mediterranean Gulls among the Black-headed Gulls on Slipper Millpond.

Wayside plants
I spotted a single plant of Wood Avens in flower on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage.

Barnacle Geese on Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles was surprised to find these four Barnacle Geese walking around the tarmac path at Baffins Pond today.

These attractive feral geese were a common feature of the pond in 1990s and early 2000s when I used to do my weekly surveys. They reached a peak of 42 in the winter of 1998-99 and used to migrate regularly to Titchfield Haven where they were affectionately known as the "Baffins Gang". However, numbers gradually fell away, though I believe a pair did produce a brood of 5 on the pond in 2008. Nowadays, I only make occasional visits to the pond, though Eric keeps a good eye on the place as he lives within walking distance. I have not seen any recent reports of Barnacle Geese locally. However, I believe there are a good number of feral Barnacle Geese on the Isle of Wight from where these birds may have come.

Colin Falla and his wife spotted their first Swallow resting on a telephone wire at West Stoke near Lavant, at 8.20 am this morning. There have been a few local sightings, though I have yet to see one. They are clearly moving in and soon should be flowing through the country.

Milton Common
Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group at Milton Common. Sightings included Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler. Full report is on the web page at . . .


Stansted Forest
Jean and I had a walk round Stansted Forest (east) from the garden centre past the Iron Gate Cottages and up the tarmac roadway to the cottages where Sonia Bolton used to live. We returned along the rough track to the house.
Virtually the first bird we heard and saw was a Raven flying overhead and kronking as it went. This was out second Raven sighting at this spot - the first was of a pair with a photo on Feb 26. Michael Prior told me they are nesting on the Stansted estate. Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were singing throughout the walk, but no other migrants. We heard two Mistle Thrushes singing during the walk and saw one on the ground near the house.
Wild flowers of interest noted included Ground-ivy, Cherry Laurel, Bluebells (mostly in Oak Copse), a few Cuckooflowers, Greater Stitchwort, Coltsfoot, Primroses and Common Dog-violet.

Waysides flowers
Cuckooflowers are now showing well on the Bridge Road Wayside. I counted 340 plants in flower this afternoon with more to come. However, we have some way to go to beat the record of 694 set in April 2012. Also out on the Bridge Road wayside were Bay and Meadow Foxtail.

Cornsalad is flowering again on the pavement in St James Road where I have found it in previous years. I assume it is Keel-fruited Cornsalad (V. carinata) which Ralph Hollins told me is the default Cornsalad species here in Hampshire and not Common Cornsalad (V. locusta). Keel-fruited Cornsalad gets its name from its deeply grooved and keeled fruits.

Local bird news
The Mute Swan nest near the bridge on the town millpond has been totally engulfed by the incoming tide and is no longer viable. The swan pair was on the water, but no sign of the other pair.

Yesterday, Tony Wootton saw his first Swallows (4), Orange Tips (2) and Blackcaps (2) during a walk from Thorney to Prinsted. Tony snapped the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond and suggested the caption 'Are you listening to me'.

Lizard on Brook Meadow
Yesterday (Apr 3) Malcolm Phillips got a photo of a Common Lizard on the north meadow. This was particularly interesting in view of the reptile survey that is currently underway on the meadow and I shall be informing the surveyors of the sighting.
See report below.

Information on the Common Lizard
The common lizard is the UK's most common and widespread reptile. It is found across many habitats including heathland, moorland, woodland and grassland where it can be seen basking in sunny spots. Variable in colour, but usually brownish-grey, often with rows of darker markings down the back and sides. Males have bright yellow or orange undersides.
Adults emerge from hibernation in March, usually the males are a few weeks earlier than the females. Mating is between April and May. The females produce between 3 and 11 young in July, the young are born in an egg sac that breaks either during birth or soon afterwards. This is why the name viviparous lizard is sometimes used, as it means bearing live young, as opposed to laying eggs, which is more usual for lizards.
In spring the males and females bask in the open to absorb the heat from the sun. Later in the summer it is usually only the pregnant females that are seen to bask. They will often use a stone, log or grass tussock close to cover for basking. If disturbed they often return to their favourite spot soon afterwards.
For more information see . . .

Brook Meadow reptile survey
Paul Whitby of Azure Ecology, who are conducting the survey, checked the reptile mats on Brook Meadow on Apr 2 and found a single Slow-worm, so there is at least a presence!
Regarding the concerns expressed over the possible detrimental effect of the proposed introduction of reptiles onto Brook Meadow on the resident insect population, Paul indicated that the main prey for Slow-worms is small slugs and not faster moving prey, such as beetles, flies etc. Although Lizards are insectivorous he says the impact upon the population of the meadow would be negligible. The dynamics of the populations of invertebrate prey and reptiles would balance out, i.e. if the invertebrate population fell, so would the reptile population. There would not be a situation where the reptiles could eliminate a prey source.aul Whitby of Azure Ecology checked the reptile mats on Brook Meadow on Apr 2 and found a single Slow-worm, so there is at least a presence!

Langstone Mill Pond
Armed with his digiscope camera setup, Peter Milinets-Raby headed for Langstone Mill Pond to try and improve on the photos of that female Goosander. It wasn't to be! Morning visit via Wade Lane (10:10am to Noon - bumped into Ralph Hollins).
Wade Lane: Chiffchaff and Blackcap both singing, 1 Buzzard, 1 Little Egret feeding in horse paddock, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, 2 Stock Doves.
Paddock north of millpond: 9 Moorhen, Blackcap singing, 1 Stock Dove,
Pond itself: Female Mute Swan off its nest for about 20 minutes (7 eggs clearly visible).
Little Egrets: 33 birds on the island, 32 birds by the Grey Herons nests and 8 elsewhere (about 17 to 20 nest sites at present: this number will grow.)

Blackcap singing from rear of the pond. 2 Med Gulls over. Grey Herons:- North nest - bird firmly sat down. South nest. Male came in with a huge "branch" that the female stood up and arranged about her.
In Channel offshore: 14 Red breasted Mergansers, Female Goosander amongst these birds, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 20 Shelduck, 2 Brent Geese, Greenshank.
And this afternoon while Peter was cleaning out his garden pond he accidentally caught a male Palmate Newt.

Black Swans in UK
There is a long standing small colony of Black Swans on the West Ashling millpond where they sometimes breed. So it was interesting to get the following information about their present status in the UK from Lee Evans. Lee says there are now at least 91 Australian Black Swans at large in the UK and perhaps as many as 37 pairs breeding. The majority are escapes from captivity but young are now dispersing from core areas and establishing new territories. There is also a sizeable non-naturalised population in The Netherlands and Lee feels that quite a few of our East Coast population has arrived from there.

BTO migration news
Wheatear, Sand Martin and Chiffchaff were among the early-arriving migrants that appeared on cue in March. By 24 March, the first Osprey had reappeared at RSPB Loch Garten and the turn of the month heralded the first wave of Willow Warblers. There were a number of reports of surprisingly early dates for some migrants, including Yellow Wagtail in the first ten days of March and three reports of Grasshopper Warbler reeling in the same period. For the latter, at least, these exceptionally early dates might relate to a very small number of overwintering individuals. This was certainly the case for a Whitethroat that wintered in Cambridgeshire and made it through into early spring. For more migration news, check out the BTO Migration Blog at


I did my regular cycle ride from home, through Brook Meadow, past the Hermitage Millponds and down to North Thorney on this warm and sunny morning.

Brook Meadow

I met Brian Lawrence on the meadow and as we walked down the main river path we saw several butterflies including Comma, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Brian also had an Orange Tip earlier on. We noted a large number of Nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) resting on the nettle leaves, all with their legs scrunched up, clearly not actively hunting. There were also a few 7-spot Ladybirds and one Harlequin Ladybird with markings like I have never seen before.

I heard two Blackcaps singing, one on the west bank behind the factories and the other in the south meadow near the bramble hedge. Many of the Cow Parsley plants along the main river path are in bud and there are a few with open flowers.

Hermitage Millponds

A new pair of Mute Swans was on Peter Pond this morning. This is not the same pair that was on the pond briefly on Feb 26 since one of those swans had a metal ring on its left leg. Neither of today's swans had a ring. It will be interesting to see if they stay and attempt to nest now Peter Pond has been vacated by its regular nesting pair.

The regular Mute Swan pair was on Slipper Millpond, with the pen now snuggled down on her new nest in the north west reedbeds and the cob on the water. The nest has been built up since I saw it last and now looks quite substantial. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the water. The south raft has had an extra structure added to deter the gulls from nesting there, though this would be unlikely due to its small size.
One new flower was out - Garlic Mustard in the area behind the reedbeds where the swan is nesting.

North Thorney

There is no sign of any swan nest on the marina seawall as there has been in previous years. I met Barry Collins on the marina seawall. He had just seen a Swallow while walking along the old NRA track. I walked along there myself, but did not see anything apart from a Moorhen chick in the flooded field to the north of the track - my first of the year. There was a new pair of Mute Swans on the Deckhouses Estate pond.

Mystery sedge

I had another look at the mystery sedges on the edge of the old NRA track. Most of the plants have relative short bracts as required by Divided Sedge, however, many of them have much longer bracts than would be expected from this sedge. I first noted these unusual sedges on April 1st and sent a photo of one of the inflorescence showing the long bract to Martin Rand.

He did not think it was Carex divisa as it appeared to have female flowers at the top of the terminal spike. He asked me to check this which I did and, yes, the flowers were all female, ie, they had stigmas not anthers. The terminal spike in Carex divisa should have male flowers with female flowers lower down. I looked at some of the lower flowers and they all seem to be female as well. Martin also thought the green midrib on the glume looked rather too prominent, but this may have been due to the young stage of growth. He added that the lowest bract length is very variable in this species and can be considerably longer than the inflorescence. I collected another couple of samples which I will send on to Martin for his close inspection.


Langstone Mill Pond

Peter Milinets-Raby was at Langstone Mill Pond this morning (10:40am to 11:40am - grey day, south wind, drizzle just finished - tide pushing in).
On the mud as the tide pushed in were: 11 Brent Geese, 17 Shelduck,, 43 Black-tailed Godwits which alas soon flew off to the north Hayling shore (probably with coloured rings, but they flew off before I could go through them), 4 Red Breasted mergansers, Greenshank (coloured ringed, same as the other day G-R/BRtag).
On the pond: Female Goosander again preening and swimming at the rear of the pond.

Little Egrets: Very busy with several birds observed today collecting twigs and sticks. On the island (best viewed from the back of the Mill) there are 7 to 8 nest sites. And on the trees with the Grey Herons there are 8 to 9 nest sites. Still early in the season, I'm sure more will nest, though the island looks thinner than last year (I think a few trees have fallen down). Grey Herons: Firmly on nests, not doing much.
Mute Swans: Male out in the harbour, so the duck were having a great time coming to bread. Female on nest.
Paddock/pony field/ancient cricket pitch north of pond: 7 Moorhen

Bullfinches in garden

Patrick Murphy had male and female Bullfinches in his North Emsworth garden - lucky chap. Here is a photo of the female.

Hayling Oysterbeds news update

Chris Cockburn provided the latest news on the new breeding season at Hayling Oysterbeds:
"It looks as if nesting might be earlier at the Hayling Oysterbeds this year - today, the first black-headed gull nest-building attempt was seen on West Island (between pegs F & G - but nearer to G). Plenty of Mediterranean gulls still strutting about on the lagoon islands and a few Sandwich terns have been flying over the site during the high tide period. The 2 or 3 pairs of the lagoon's resident oystercatchers are unlikely to nest successfully unless they can become as aggressively territorial as the gulls (leaving your egg-filled nest unguarded is not a good strategy) nor is nesting below the mean-springs high tide level (unfortunately, the lagoon islands rarely have helpful strandlines to inform the birds).

The recent coincidence of light breezes and sunny weather during the high tide period has resulted in many gulls taking up territories on South Binness & Round Nap Islands plus a few, apparently, considering Long Island's shingle ridge. If their behaviour corresponds with previous seasons, they will probably start egg-laying at the end of April (3 or 4 weeks later than the Oysterbeds' birds). The nest counts on South Binness & Round Nap are likely to take place in the week of 12th May to 16th May and Thursday 15th May is probably the ideal date - weather permitting.

The tides have been surging slightly, despite the benign weather conditions - but nowhere near as damaging as the recent winter surges. This effect appeared to have caused a slight delay to the RSPB's shingle recharge that is taking place on Baker's Island (on Monday, the excavator was unable to reach the submerged shingle bags on the peak of the tides). Let's hope that the little terns appreciate the RSPB's efforts to save them and that they, the little terns - not the RSPB - have a successful breeding season.


North Thorney

11:00 - I walked along the old NRA track. With the sun shining and songs of unseen Cetti's Warblers exploding from the bushes, it was just like being in Mallorca! There was no sign of any Swallows though I did hear several Chiffchaffs and a single Blackcap. Plenty of Mediterranean Gulls were flying over, calling as they went. I noticed some sedges in a wet area on the northern edge of the track which I think must be Divided Sedge, even though the inflorescences were more substantial than I would have expected and some plants had exceptionally long bracts.

I walked down to Little Deeps where Little Grebes were whinnying, but no sight or sound of any migrants. Spider's webs were draped over the reeds shining with droplets of moisture from the heavy mist. I did not realise that spiders wove their webs this early in the season. Not much to catch in the way of insects? I walked back through the old Marina Farm which was horrendously muddy near the stables.

Hermitage Millponds

12:00 - The pen swan was on the water on Slipper Millpond which meant I was able to get a good look at the nest in the reeds. It is fairly rudimentary and has not yet been lined and there were no eggs in it. The cob swan was over on Peter Pond. There is a Coot 'tower nest' on the edge of the reeds on the western side of Peter Pond, which should be safe from the spring tides. It looks as if there is another Coot nest in the process of construction on the floating raft. So with the nest on the north reedbeds there are at least three Coot nests on Peter Pond.

Plant news

I have confirmed the identification of Common Dog-violet on the Lillywhite's path wayside. It has long-stalked cordate leaves, two narrow stipules with stipule teeth, pointed sepals with square-cut appendages and spurs curved and blunt with notch at the tip. It grows on the verge near the brick wall, a little further west than the Sweet Violets, which flowers much earlier and now shows just large fleshy leaves.

Meadow Foxtail grass which I recently found out on the Westbourne Open Space wayside is now out on the Lumley area of Brook Meadow. This is the right time, though is 3 weeks earlier than last year which was very late due to the cold spring.

Other news

Robin Pottinger saw his second Water Vole of the year this morning at about 11.45. It was swimming south through vegetation on east side just opposite the bay tree behind gasholder. That was a particularly good sighting as it occurred in an area where we have had only 3 previous sightings this year - Section B.

Malcolm Phillips captured this image of a Coal Tit in a Yew tree in his Emsworth garden today.

Tony Wootton sent me the following photo of 5 Brent Geese, one adult and 4 juveniles, flying westward at Keyhaven yesterday - probably on their way back to the breeding grounds in the High Arctic. As Tony says this shows that juveniles keep their white wing markings even though they are nearly a year old by now. But they will have lost them by the time they get back in the autumn, replaced by a fresh lot of youngsters we hope.

For earlier observations go to . . March 17-31