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for April 16-30, 2014

in reverse chronological order

SUNDAY APRIL 27 - 2014

Hollybank Woods - Spring Walk
I did the annual spring walk through Hollybank Woods this morning from 10am to 12 noon. The weather was atrocious for the first hour or so with continuous heavy rain, but the seven people attending, including two children, all wanted to carry on. In fact, the walk turned out to be very enjoyable, thanks largely to the engaging enthusiam of the children, Ashley (aged 9) and Morgan (aged 5). I felt a bit sorry for them as they both brought bird and flower books which were getting wet. However, they were quite undaunted by the weather and dashed around finding plants for me to identify. There were very few birds to be seen or heard!

On the way up the central track, we stopped to look around the area where the conservation group have been coppicing the Sweet Chestnut trees. We admired Dave's hut structure, which, sadly for us, was in need of a roof. So, no shelter there!
But, the children hardly seemed to notice the rain as they discovered many of the woodland flowers, including Bugle, Common Dog-violet, Bluebells and Ground-ivy. Ashley also showed us the Oak tree that she had planted in the Jubilee area.

Ashley with Bugle
Morgan with Bluebells

Everyone was interested to see the early flowering of the native wild Lily of the Valley colony in the Jubilee area

Ashley and Morgan were taken off home by their Grandmother after about an hour as they were both soaked to the skin and getting cold. The rest of us made a long detour via the two main Bluebell areas in the eastern section of the woods which were looking very good indeed, the best we could recall. And so, it ended!

"So foul and fair a day I have not seen"

The Malta Migration Massacre - with Chris Packham . . . Dramatic as Chris is arrested!

Episode 5 . . . . . . Episode 6 . . .
Episode 7 . . .


Swan nest gone!
Oh dear. The high morning tide, combined with the increased flow coming down from the Westbrook Stream, had raised the level of water in the millpond to such an extent that the Mute Swan nest, which had looked so promising yesterday, had completely disappeared. The pen swan was mooching around where the nest had been but all that remained was twigs floating around on the surface with no sign of the eggs.

Slipper Millpond conflict
Meanwhile, the nesting Mute Swans on Slipper Millpond have their own, very different, problems to contend with, namely the presence of the Great Black-backed Gulls. John Tagg witnessed conflict between the Great Black-backed Gulls and the Mute Swans on Slipper Millpond today. He saw one of the swans take flight aiming itself directly one of the gulls that was getting close to where the Swans were nesting. The Gull took off, then proceeded to dive bomb the Swan for quite a while, but the Swan having moved the Gull away seemed to totally ignore it.
John said he was surprised to see how big the Gull was compared to the Swan when 4 feet apart. Yes, they are big birds; I would not fancy the swan if it came to a fight!

Blackbird young
Leslie Winter managed to capture this image of the Blackbirds in his garden this morning. Dad was feeding only one of the young leaving to other to fend for itself.

Oysterbeds update
Chris Cockburn provided the following update on the seabird colonies on Hayling Oysterbeds and in Langstone Harbour.
"There are increasing numbers of black-headed gull nests viewable on both islands in the Hayling Oysterbeds' lagoon; but some will have little chance of success as they are at too low an elevation (having been started during the recent run of neap tides). Hopefully, these particular nest-builders will, in time, learn as might the "39ers" pair at the bus stop and the territorial birds on the footpaths. Perhaps the most "cool" black-headed gulls on the site this year are the few individuals that have decided not to join in the noisy and stressful "goings-on" on the two islands, but have decided to spend the summer casually paddling about and eating the occasional worm (most likely, Peacock - Sabella pavonina - worms).

By keeping a fairly close watch on the RSPB's harbour islands, it is apparent that the smallest island (Round Nap) has attracted rather typical numbers of territorial (soon to be nesting!) black-headed gulls. South Binness Island, normally the site for the largest numbers of nesting gulls, presently shows infrequent signs of territorial gull behaviour although there is often seen a multitude of gulls sitting on the water, waiting to access the site. Like in 2007, the habitat is not ideal (following winter storms, there is little vegetation visible - the flora is still there as tap-roots; but, by June, it will probably be as green as ever out there!).
And, like 2007 and in several other years, peregrine falcons have been roosting on the shingle so, obviously, deterring birds from taking up nesting territories. Hopefully, the peregrines will be encouraged to roost elsewhere - after all, their numbers are probably much greater than before their dreadful problems in the 20th Century.

Probably because of the habitat changes on S Binness and peregrine-roosting, a significantly large number of black-headed gulls have taken up territories on Long Island since Tue 22 April. Prior to this year, there were reports in 2008 and 1996 of no more than two pairs attempting nesting but with no success. If this new Long Island colony flourishes, there is a chance that the territorial pair of carrion crows will be unable to predate the pairs ringed plovers & oystercatchers that have repeatedly failed at this site. However, Long Island has long been the RSPB's only permitted landing area in daylight hours for boat users.

Like in 2007, with much of the S Binness vegetated ridge appearing to be clear of vegetation after the winter storms, it is possible that Mediterranean gulls will be seeking alternative nesting sites. It is interesting that reports from the Poole Bay area suggest that there is I notable increase in Mediterranean gull numbers. It seems that at least 2 or 3 pairs of Meds are beginning to act territorially on the (curved) NE island in the lagoon.

Common & little terns continue to roost at high tide on the Stoke Bay N Spit (more than 30 of former and at least 8 of latter) - soon, it will become apparent if they will nest locally.

At least two pairs of Sandwich terns are showing good interest in the NE Island of the lagoon.

A few dunlins, one bar-tailed godwit and varying numbers of whimbrels have recently been noted on passage. Unlike spring 2013, there are masses of Daisies, Lesser Celandines, Medicks and Milk Thistle rosettes - and now, "Field Forget-me-nots" - on the mound that overlooks the lagoon. Lots of Green-veined Whites but very few other butterflies recently.

FRIDAY APRIL 25 - 2014

Emsworth Millpond
After raining steadily all day long, it eased off at about 4pm so I decided to get out for a breath of fresh air. I strolled down to the town millpond where the Mute Swan nest was a fine colour green, as the swans had covered it using the grass cuttings that were floating on the pond from the verge mowing.

The pen was on the nest, while the cob was patrolling further down the pond. The south pair of swans, which have provoked some fierce battles in the past, remain on the pond, but at a safe distance. They have not attempted to nest.

Hermitage Millponds
The Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on a nest on the end of the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. The way she was moving and probing the nest with her bill suggested the presence of eggs. The Laburnum tree is looking splendid in full blossom on the south side of Peter Pond.

Short-eared Owl on Thorney
Simon Baxter was lucky enough to shoot some video footage of a Short-eared Owl taken north of Great Deeps on Thorney yesterday evening at about 6.30pm. It's a great video, showing the characteristic 'quartering' behaviour of the Short-eared Owl perfectly as it hunts the grassland for food. Click here to view the video . . .

More Thorney news
Viv Harding heard her first Cuckoo yesterday evening on Thorney Island in the place where she has heard them before, ie on the electric cables out to Eames Farm. Viv also saw 5 Buzzards together high over the main A259 Emsworth road and Lumley junction yesterday lunchtime. They were riding the thermals!

Goslings on Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles had a nice surprise when he went down to Baffins Pond on Wednesday to find these tiny fellers on the side of the pond.

Malta massacre

See Chris Packham's concluding interview about the bird hunting practices on Malta . . .


Brook Meadow
I had a stroll through Brook Meadow this morning. A single Whitethroat was singing on the west side of the north meadow. No others as yet. A Moorhen was sitting on a nest in the reeds beneath the observation fence.
A Green-veined White was fluttering over the bramble bushes in the north west corner of the meadow, possibly the same one that Malcolm Phillips snapped yesterday. This photo shows the typical veined underwings.

Hedge Mustard was flowering for the first time by the Seagull Lane gate and Meadow Buttercups are opening up on the orchid area of the north meadow.

Water Voles
Malcolm Phillips had a very good afternoon round Brook Meadow during which he saw two Water Voles together by the sluice gate at 12.45pm, one normal sized adult and one a small youngster.

Here is the adult which looks as if it has a damaged left eye, probably from fighting

Here is the youngster - the first of the year. So they are breeding. What a relief!

Malcolm also got a photo of the Whitethroat that I saw earlier near the gasholder.

He also found another Common Lizard on the mat the ecologists left on the west bank north west corner. From the south bridge Malcolm saw a Pike in the river below, so they are still about. Finally, at 3pm he spotted two Buzzards over the meadow.

Slipper Millpond
I had an e-mail from Nick Medina from the Slipper Millpond Preservation Society this morning to say the Great Black-backed Gulls were back nesting on the centre raft of the pond despite the best efforts of the group to deter them by installing wires and canes across the rafts. Nick says they cannot take any further action against the nesting as this would be in violation of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.
When I passed this morning the female was settled snugly on a nest of twigs underneath a network of wires with her mate on the water nearby. So, we are back to square one. The other nesting birds on the pond will need to be extra vigilant to protect their young from predation from the gulls. Info sent to SOS Sightings.

A Coot is sitting on a nest in the nest box on the south raft, while the Coot pair that normally nest on the north raft have their nest in the reedbeds near the swan nest. The pen Mute Swan was settled on her nest in the reeds.
Tree Mallow was flowering on the east side of the pond for the first time this year.

Waysides News
Tall Fescue and Ribwort Plantain were in flower on the A259 embankment in Emsworth.
Barren Brome and Sweet Vernal Grass are both is now fully open on the Bridge Road Wayside, much earlier than in previous years.
There is a fine crop of Keel-fruited Cornsalad growing on the pavement in front of house number 34 St James Road.

Other news
Ros Norton had her first Water Vole sighting of the year in Brook Meadow at the observation fence at 13.30 for about 15 minutes. It appeared on the east bank but kept disappearing in the undergrowth and once it had a short swim going upstream. This could have been one of those seen earlier by Malcolm Phillips.
Later Ros went to Little Deeps and heard a Cuckoo.


Hollybank Woods
This morning, I decided to do a recce for the annual Spring Walk that I shall be leading in the woods on Sunday. It was a warm though cloudy day. I walked the same route that I tend to do each year, the Holly Lodge clearing and the Jubilee plantation on the west and the two Bluebell areas on the east. It was a regular workday for the Hollybank Woods conservation group who were busy on the coppiced area to the west of the central track. I stopped for a chat with Andy Brook who told me that they would soon begin coppicing on the eastern side of the track.
As usual there was a good variety of woodland bird song, including Blackbird, Robin, Song Thrush, Wren, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Chaffinch, Woodpigeon and Stock Dove. No Willow Warbler, Mistle Thrush or, more surprisingly, Nuthatch.
I did not see a single butterfly during the walk!

The Bluebell displays on the eastern section of the woods are now at their best. The Bluebells in the north eastern section are densely packed creating a carpet of blue, almost as good as Ashling Wood. The flowers are more widespread in the south eastern area, where the occasional white Bluebells stand out sharply from the blue ones. This photo was taken in the northern area.

Other plants of interest included: Wood Melick just emerging on the central track and Ramsons (Wild Garlic) flowering alongside the central track just past the main coppicing site.

Common Stork's-bill and Wood Speedwell on the Holly Lodge clearing. Holly flowers (male?) are out on some trees. Along the north east path towards the Bluebells were Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Wavy Bitter-cress, Common Dog-violets and Yellow Pimpernel.

Holly flowers (male?)

Thyme-leaved Speedwell

Southern Wood-rush
I came across some Wood-rush on the on the east side of the central track at grid ref. SU744081 which I think could be Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri). This is distinguished from the more common Field Wood-rush (Luzula campestris), which grows mainly on the Holly Lodge clearing, by its V-shaped inflorescence with slender branches curved and slightly drooping to one side. The photos show the difference between the inflorescences of these plants very clearly. However, I shall need to check the identification of this plant with Martin Rand.

Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri)
Field Wood-rush (Luzula campestris),

I have only previously seen Southern Wood-rush at sites on the Isle of Wight, so it would be a first for Hollybank Woods. The Hants Flora describes it as 'locally frequent' and associated with ancient woodlands, old hedgebanks, boundary banks and sunken lanes.
I checked the online Hants Plants Living Record, but there had been no records of Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri) for SU70 from 2000 to 2014. However, there does seem to be a record for tetrad SU7408 in the old 'Flora of Hampshire' published in 1996, though I will check this with Martin Rand - the BSBI Botanical Recorder for South Hants.

Martin confirmed the identification of Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri). He added: "It should stay like this (or even more so) even at the fruiting stage, with none of the branches turning backwards. Also the basal leaves are narrower on average than L. pilosa. You are right, there is no previous recent record for that tetrad on the computer database. (I'm in the process of entering up all the 'dots on maps' from the 1996 Flora, but it will take a few winters yet!) But on the Living Record lists you'll only see what was put on through Living Record anyway. If you want full downloadable species lists, and lists of detailed localities, for tetrads, go to the Atlas 2020 pages on Hants Plants."

I did not find any of the Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp congesta) in the usual spot on the path east of the southern Bluebell area. It looks as if we may have lost it.

Two Nightingales at Marlpit Lane
12:00 - There are now two Nightingales singing on the scrubby land to the east of Marlpit Lane. They include the one just north of the gate that I heard on Apr 20th and a new one about 50m to the south west in scrub to the north of the amenity tip. I listened to them with Theo Roberts and his wife and granddaughter. There are none singing up the lane itself where they usually are, but the Willow Warbler is still singing near the footpath entrance.

First Green-veined White
Malcolm Phillips had a quick walk around Brook Meadow today. He did not see any Water Vole, but did get the first Green-veined White butterfly of the year on the meadow.

New wayside
I had a note from Chris Oakley about the need to save a verge at the junction of Redlands Lane and Nursery Close from the cutters. His house end wall forms one side of the plot, so he is closely involved. Chris's preliminary survey listed 25 different wild flowers, which is a promising start. I had a quick look at the wayside this morning and it looks good, having Cuckooflowers as well as plenty of others. So, I put up a waysides conservation area notice and e-mailed Richard Denman of HBC to instruct his team to avoid cutting it. This could be our wayside No 17. Here is Chris's photo of the site.

Malta - Massacre on Migration - Episode 3 . . .


Brook Meadow
This morning I had a stroll through Brook Meadow, looking for insects on the nettle leaves along the main paths. There were lots of 'Nursery-web spiders' (Pisaura mirabilis) mostly with legs bunched up, but I caught this one in a classic legs forward pose.

I also came across a fine Holly Blue butterfly on the main river path.

I did not hear any Whitethroat, so I suspect the one I heard last week has probably moved on. They have often done that in the past, here one day and gone the next. But, soon some will stay to breed hopefully.

Millpond News
The swan nest on the town millpond looks good with the pen sitting snugly when I passed this morning. The nest was surrounded by masses of grass cuttings from the recently mown verges around the pond, so there is no immediate shortage of food.

There are now two Coot families on Peter Pond, the one with 4 chicks that has been there for about a week and a new family with two chicks, which is probably from the nest in the northern reedbeds which is now unoccupied. There is no sound of any Reed Warbler from the reedbeds as yet.

Reptiles for Brook Meadow
Jennifer Rye met up with Sam Lunn from Azure Ecology on the meadow this afternoon and watched while he introduced 15 Slow-worms and Common Lizards to four of the black squares, two in Seagull Lane patch, and two in the north end of the Meadow, where examples of these creatures have been found. He's hoping to continue with two visits a day, but can't really predict times as it's weather dependent, and relies on how many he can catch. Sam said they will survey the Meadow again in a year's time, and again the following year, to establish the success of this process. Regarding grass cutting, he recommended a high first cut, to enable them to get away in time. So, it's all happening, very exciting.

Garden Bullfinches
Patrick Murphy is still having daily visits from Bullfinches to the feeders in his North Emsworth garden, sometimes 2 males and 1 female at the same time! Here is a photo of a male sharing with a Goldfinch.

Malta - Massacre on Migration. Episode 2 . . .

MONDAY APRIL 21 - 2014

Brook Meadow
Jean and I had a walk through Brook Meadow and down to Slipper Millpond this morning. We looked for Water Voles along the river, but did not see any. However, I did hear a Whitethroat, albeit briefly, singing from the brambles in the north west corner of the meadow. Wood Speedwell is flowering outside the Lumley gate as usual.

Slipper Millpond
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on Slipper Millpond with one of the gulls perched on the centre raft when we arrived from where it moved to the north raft. They are amazingly persistent despite their regular nesting sites being barred.

Nick Medina, who manages Slipper Millpond, told me that the three pairs of Coots are doing reasonably well this year in the absence of the Great Black-backed Gulls. In addition to the Coots with the nest in the reedbeds (this is the pair that normally nest on the north raft), another Coot is currently sitting in the box on the south raft and another has an egg in the box on the centre raft.

Wayside flowers
There are several clumps of Keel-fruited Cornsalad in flower along the pavements in St James Road and one along Bridge Road near the railings. We also noticed Scarlet Pimpernel was out under the Beech hedge on Bridge Road.

I placed a new wayside conservation notice on the grass verge on Christopher Way where the Wild Clary is growing well to prevent the council workers cutting it down. They are in a small area on the northern section of Christopher Way just a few metres along the way from the official wayside close to the junction with New Brighton Road. I have e-mailed Richard Denman who manages the cutting teams asking him to inform the cutting teams to avoid this small section of grass verge.

Pied Shieldbug
I spotted a tiny black and white bug on the nettles near the sluice gate on Brook Meadow which I subsequently identified as Pied Shieldbug (Sehirus bicolor Cydnidae) from Chinery (p.72).

I have one previous record of this insect on Brook Meadow for 06-Apr-11. Bryan Pinchen also recorded this insect in his insect survey in May 2010.
Like other members of this family, this is a ground-dwelling species, but may be found feeding on the aerial parts of white dead-nettle and black horehound, the main hostplants. Widespread in southern Britain in hedgerow and woodland edge habitats, becoming rarer northwards and absent from Scotland and Ireland. There may be two overlapping generations each summer. Females exhibit brood care of the eggs. See . . .

Bug - Corizus hyoscyami
I asked David Search to have a look at the photo of the bug that Brian Lawrence took on Brook Meadow on Apr 18. David confirmed its identification as Corizus hyoscyami and said that although historically confined to the coasts of southern Britain it is now found inland throughout England and Wales as far north as Yorkshire. David, in fact, recalled finding one some years ago in a familiar haunt of mine, Poppit Sands near Cardigan in 2009. Here is David's photo of the Poppit bug, clearly the same species as the one Brian Lawrence got on Brook Meadow.

I also asked Bryan Pinchen to comment on the bug and here is his reply:
"You are correct, it is the seed bug Corizus hyoscyami, it is a curious one too, until about seven years or so ago it was confined in Britain to the coast, often being reported as occurring no further than a few yards from the sea. Then, for some reason it started to spread inland, I personally recorded it at a couple of sites just north of Salisbury, Wilts in 2007 and friends recorded it from Queen Elizabeth Country Park at the same time. It was also recorded as far north and inland as Luton. Since then it has continued to appear at inland sites, and I have recorded at a site in Frome, Somerset in each of the past four years, suggesting, for that site at least, that it has been breeding there. I had previously only ever seen it on my doorstep on the coast at Highclliffe. On the whole a stunning and distinctive member of our heteroptera fauna, and one which could turn up almost anywhere these days. A good find."

Other news
Penny Aylett told me a friend had heard a Cuckoo calling from the direction of North Thorney. Hilary Gilson also heard a Cuckoo this morning (8am) at Thornham Point. So, it looks as if they have arrived!
Paul Cooper e-mailed to say he'd just seen three House Martins flying over Lynch Down in Funtington, five days earlier than last year. He hopes they will nest as they did last year. That's good to hear, but shall we ever have any in Emsworth?
Pam Phillips saw a Grey Heron standing on the edge of the Gooseberry Cottage pond this morning with the most enormous eel in its beak. She was sure it couldn't have swallowed it, but I bet it did.

See Chris Packham's film on the massacre of migrant birds on Malta Episode 1 . . .

SUNDAY APRIL 20 - 2014

Nightingale at Marlpit Lane
I walked up and down Marlpit Lane a couple of time from my parking spot near the amenity tip at about 4pm. The rain had stopped and the sun was glinting through the trees. Lots of birds were singing, including several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs and the Willow Warbler which I have heard on each visit this spring. But no sound of Nightingale. I was about to give up when I thought I would walk a little way up the footpath to the east just in case. Hey presto there it was! There is nothing like hearing the first Nightingale of the year, just like the first strawberry. One bird was singing from the scrub just past the metal gate where the footpath veers off the right.


Brook Meadow
I had a quick walk around the meadow this morning just to see what was about. There was plenty of bird song everywhere. Blackcaps were particularly prominent; I counted six songsters in all, on Seagull Lane patch, north path, east side north meadow behind the Rowan plantation, west side north meadow, south meadow by Bramble bank and Palmer's Road Copse. However, Whitethroat which I first heard on Apr 17 was not singing. Maybe it has moved on?

Wood Avens is flowering for the first time this year on the north path and the first signs of Wintercress is now showing on the east side of the centre meadow. There are several patches of Bluebells around the meadow, but all of them are of the Spanish/hybrid variety as in this photo of some on the north meadow. In Spanish Bluebells the flowers are erect and do not hang on one side as in the native variety.

Meadow Foxtail is flowering well showing its anthers. The only other grass with spikelets is Tall Fescue. There is a great display of Divided Sedge on the Lumley area this year with plenty of Distant Sedge showing as well. Also, the Sharp-flowered Rush leaves are abundant.
There is an interesting leaf in the river between the north bridge and the north bend that looks like Water-plantain. It can be seen best from the main path. I shall keep an eye on its for flowers to confirm its identity. Water-plantain would be a new plant for the Brook Meadow list.

It is good to see all three of the Julilee Oak saplings, that were planted by the group in 2012 on the Seagull Lane patch, looking healthy and sprouting fresh leaves, including the one that I planted!

The tall Red Oak which was planted to in memory of Tony Wilkinson, which we have been a bit concerned about, is also starting to sprout.

Warblington shore

Peter Milinets-Raby was up with the larks this morning and went for a walk along the Warblington shore from Conigar Point to the Langstone Mill Pond.(6:30am to 8:52am - sunny but chilly). Main observations were:
Ibis Field: Chiffchaff singing, Whitethroat briefly singing (probably a migrant), Song Thrush, Single Swallow over, Stock Dove, Moorhen.
Stubble fields behind Conigar Point: Male Pheasant, 2 Chiffchaff moving through, Blackcap singing, Song Thrush, 3 Long-tailed Tits.
Off Conigar Point: 4 Shelduck, Greenshank (G-R/BBtag), 2 Med Gulls looking splendid in the early morning sunshine.
Off Pook Lane (tide now ridiculously low!): 7 Grey Plover (one in summer plumage), 3 Greenshank (only one with rings - RG/YYtag). 3 Whimbrel - some good views as they fed in the salt marsh, 6 Shelduck, pair of Red Breasted Mergansers in the remaining trickle of the channel, 5 Linnet in the hedge by the church.
Paddocks north of millpond: 2 Swallow hawking low amongst the horses, 2 Moorhen
Langstone Mill Pond: This morning's visit was so weird. A very strange sight! Not a single Little Egret could be seen!!!! Very eerie, very quiet. On closer inspection you could barely make out the sitting birds on their nests; all of them flat and low in their nests keeping warm. All their mates out fishing somewhere! Incredible sight, you wouldn't think the colony existed!
Three Grey Heron chicks just visible with a scope and an adult Grey Heron perched low nearby (again probably keeping out of the chill wind).
What noise there was from the pond, came from a singing Chiffchaff and a Reed Warbler (good views at it perched in the open to sing).

Havant Wildlife Group walk
Chris Cope reported on this morning's walk at Hook with Warsash. See . . .

Gadwall on Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles sent this photo of a male Gadwall on Baffins Pond today. Eric looked up last year's photo of the Gadwall and amazingly it arrived on exactly the same day, 19th April 2013. Personally, I never recorded a Gadwall on the pond during my surveys from 1992 to 2005.

FRIDAY APRIL 18 - 2014

Millpond News
The pen was on the nest on the town millpond incubating her eggs, while the cob was on the water fending off an intruding swan, circling round and round each other.
Meanwhile over on Peter Pond I discovered the Coot family had 4 chicks not 3 as I had previously thought. The other one must have been hiding. Another Coot is still on its nest in the northern reedbeds to the right of the table.
The Mute Swan was snug on its nest in the reeds on Slipper Millpond and is now surely incubating. Estimated date of hatching is 22-24 May.

North Thorney
I walked along the old NRA track, listening for migrants from the bushes. There was no sight or sound of Common Whitethroat, but I heard snatches of what I am fairly sure was a Lesser Whitethroat 'rattle' song. Sedge Warblers were singing from the reedbeds down to Little Deeps, but still no sound of Reed Warbler.

Waysides News
Newly flowering plants on the Bridge Road Wayside today were Thyme-leaved Speedwell and Red Valerian.

Interesting Bug on Brook Meadow
Brian Lawrence sent me a photo of a distinctively marked bug that he had taken on Brook Meadow today. I identified it as Corizus hyoscyami from Chinery's 'Collins Guide to Insects' p.74. Lots of photos of this bug on the internet confirmed the identification.

Corizus hyoscyami is a species of scentless plant bug . Adults are about 9 millimetres (0.35 in) long and feeds on plants. Like all scentless plant bugs, it lacks well-developed scent glands. It is found in most of Europe, though it appears to be relatively uncommon in Britain. It was a first for Brook Meadow. Bryan Pinchen did not record it in his surveys in 2010, so I have sent the photo to Bryan for his comments.
A recent record of Corizus hyoscyami was at Holme Fen nature reserve on Sun,22nd Sep 2013. This record says, 'This bug was only known in Britain from sandy habitats at a number of well-separated sites around the coast of SW England and Wales. Since then, it has rapidly expanded its range eastwards and inland, and the online National Biodiversity Network distribution map now shows it as having been recorded at a number of locations across England, south of a line running roughly from Southport to Scunthorpe, and as far east as the Suffolk coast.'
See . . .

Langstone Harbour update
Chris Cockburn gives a news update for the seabird colonies in Langstone Harbour with particularly encouraging news of the return of Little Terns.
"Following a report yesterday from Wez Smith (RSPB Site Manager Langstone & Chichester Harbours) of 22 little terns in Langstone Harbour, some were seen today. Encouragingly, there were at least 7 little terns and a similar number of (displaying) common terns plus two Sandwich terns roosting on the north spit at Stoke Bay during the rising tide - unfortunately, they were disturbed by kayakers and moved elsewhere.
Noisy visitations by Sandwich terns (up to six birds, sometimes) have been a daily occurrence over the Oysterbeds' lagoon at high tide for several weeks now and, hopefully, some will nest on the lagoon's islands this year.
More and more black-headed gull nests are appearing on the two lagoon islands; but the presently surging spring tides have flooded out many and most of the owners of those riskily-sited nests have rebuilt on the same spot - they will either learn to nest higher or join the relatively large percentage of animals that are repeatedly unsuccessful in breeding.
As usual, there are some black-headed gull pairs that have decided to hold territories on the footpaths etc and one pair (the "39ers" - named after the bus service that never stops at the site's bus shelter) would like to nest on the roof:
There are fewer Mediterranean gulls to be seen compared to earlier weeks - many are presumed to be considering nesting on South Binness Island as in previous years; they do generally nest later than the black-headed gulls so it will be some time before we know if any are going to nest at the Oysterbeds.
Within the Stoke Bay roost mentioned earlier, there had also been four summer plumage dunlins, one ringed plover and one moulting bar-tailed godwit. A visitor today reported four whimbrels roosting on their favoured bund (NE of the lagoon).
Butterflies and other insects are becoming more abundant but they seem to have greatly improved their skills at avoiding being photographed.


Conservation work session
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular conservation work session. There was a good turn out of 14 people on a fine sunny morning. Jennifer Rye outlined the main tasks for the session which were:
(a) Preparing the foundations for the new tool shed to be sited on the Seagull Lane patch. Jennifer explained that HBC had granted the group a license to erect the shed on their land, so we could now go ahead, buy it and put it in.
(b) Removing the sandbags from the river in the north-east corner of the meadow where they had been thrown. There was some discussion about how to dispose of the bags as the Environment Agency did not want them back as they were 'contaminated'. I am not sure of the outcome of this discussion, but some of the bags were split to allow the contents to wash away in the river stream. Other bags were physically removed from the river and used in the construction of a hibernaculum.

(c) Constructing a hibernaculum in the north-east corner as suggested by Azure Ecology - see report below. This was done using the sandbags and logs and branches from the pollarding of the Crack Willows all covered over with grass cuttings and sods of turf. Here are two volunteers with the completed hibernaculum.

Reptile translocation
Jennifer Rye informed us that Azure Ecology have completed their reptile survey of Brook Meadow in which they found peak counts of 4 Slow-worms across three separate areas and 5 Common Lizards. The average across the seven surveys was slightly lower indicating low populations of both slow worm and common lizard. They would now like to start translocating from the Clay Lane site as soon as possible before the weather gets too hot and the reptiles too active to catch. They suggested the group should build hibernacula in the areas where reptiles have been found. The official report will be sent next week.
The RSPB site gives advice on the building of hibernacula (the plural of hibernaculum). See . . .

First Whitethroat
The most interesting wildlife observation of the morning was the first Whitethroat of the year on Brook Meadow. I first heard its distinctive short scratchy song from bushes on the causeway at about 10am; this is where I tend to hear the first of the arrivals. Later in the morning I heard and saw what might have been another Whitethroat (or maybe the same one) in the brambles on the west side of the north meadow and I managed to get a quick photo.

Interestingly, this was exactly the same date that I had the first Whitethroat on Brook Meadow last year. That was fairly early as they are not usually heard until the 4th week in April. The earliest on record was 12-Apr-2011.

Other Brook Meadow news
There must be 4-5 Blackcaps singing around the meadow at present, along with a few Chiffchaffs and the regular residents.
Butterflies seen included Brimstone, Peacock, Comma, Small White, Orange Tip, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood.

Marlpit Lane
I had a walk up Marlpit Lane this afternoon listening for Nightingales, but there was no sound of any. Sid Davies was sitting in his car along the lane, but also had heard nothing of the Nightingale. However, the Willow Warbler was still singing well on the west side of the lane just north of the footpath sign.

Waysides News
Westbourne Open Space has a wonderful display of Meadow Foxtail. Some of the spikelets of the Meadow Foxtail were very long - up to 9cm - reminding me of Timothy. I checked and they were definitely not Timothy. I also found the first spikelets of Barren Brome and Beaked Hawk's-beard flowering.

Christopher Way verge had a variety of flowering plants, including Spotted Medick and Dove's-foot Cranesbill which were firsts for me this year. I could not find any Wild Clary on the wayside verge, but there was a very nice cluster of plants in full bud on the council verge to the west of the main wayside along Christopher Way which has not yet been cut. I hope to put a small notice to warn the council cutters to avoid cutting these plants.

Garden news
We had the first young Blackbird of the year being fed by its parents in the garden.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a quick walk down Wade Lane this morning to visit the shore and Langstone Mill Pond (10am to 11:25am - Very low tide). Here are his main observations:
Along Wade Lane: Mistle Thrush, Chiffchaff singing, 2 Stock Doves, Sparrowhawk soaring about, Buzzard perched in its usual tree.
On Mill Pond: First Reed Warbler singing at long last, though it only sang quietly for a couple of minutes. Reed Bunting singing briefly. 2 Swallows over north. Chiffchaff singing and Med Gull over.
The Grey Heron youngsters were showing fairly well at times, though for long periods they were very hidden deep in the Holm Oak. On checking his photos Peter discovered there are in fact three youngsters, not two as previously thought.

No movement on the nest at the top of the Holm Oak and as for the other nest he just could not find it! "Has it been swallowed up by vegetation growing or has it been abandoned as I feel that the tree that was leaning over has moved further towards the ground."
The female Mute Swan was half off her nest revealing a couple of eggs. She was probably hot. It was a warm morning and her nest is in direct sunshine!
Little Egrets very busy. Carefully counted 31 nests, though there could possibly be another 5 suspected! (leaves growing up quickly, so there will not many more opportunities to get accurate counts until we have chick activity).
Off shore; 4 Greenshank (2 with tags, but glare from the sun made it impossible to get details), 2 Ringed Plover.

Hilsea Lines
Charlie Annalls visited Hilsea Lines to the north of Portsmouth yesterday in, as she puts it, "stunningly beautiful weather". She certainly chose the right week to take annual leave from work! Hilsea Lines is very good for orchids later in the year. Charlie saw some good butterflies and birds, including Chiffchaffs. She also came across a Grey Heron rooting around in the tall reeds. Charlie took several photos of the Heron catching what looks like Eels. However, the photo which I found most interesting was of a Grey Heron in breeding plumage sporting a magnificent red blushed bill which it will have for a short period; its legs will also be reddish.


Emsworth Millpond
The Mute Swan was on her nest near the bridge on the town millpond when I passed by this morning. But Malcolm Phillips caught her off the nest revealing her 5 eggs snuggled in down. They look very promising. She has probably finished laying and is now incubating, which means we can start the clocks for 36 days from now until the eggs hatch - around May 22nd.

Slipper Millpond
The Mute Swan on Slipper Millpond was also snug on her nest in the reedbeds, probably also incubating.
Three pairs of Coot are on the pond, one nesting in the north-east reedbeds and the other two seem to spend their time chasing each other.
The pond had an unusual visitor this morning in the form of a Greylag Goose. The last one I recorded on the pond was seen by Brendan Gibb-Gray on 27.04.06. A single Great Black-backed Gull was also on the pond and I got both it and the Greylag Goose in this photo.

North Thorney
A pair of Mute Swans was on the Deckhouses Estate pond along with a single Canada Goose. The swans did not appear to be nesting. No more news about migrants from yesterday. A Buzzard perched on the cables down to the Little Deeps was the only new observation.

Southbourne Copse
I had a look at the clearance of woodland in Southbourne Copse from the end of Woodfield Park Road which was as dramatic as John Tagg described it yesterday. A large area had been cleared of trees and scrub leaving massive piles of logs.

I spoke to the residents of the house immediately adjacent to the woodland who, like John, had no idea what was happening. They said there was no planning application or notices to indicate the purpose of the clearance and were resigned to their fate whatever it might be. It all reminded me of a similar clearance of bushes and scrub that took place on the large field to the west of Thorney Road in 2009, which in that case was stopped by with a 'Stop Order' from Chichester DC. Nothing further has happened on that field.

Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow this afternoon and found two Cuckooflowers, one on the north meadow and one on the Lumley area. This is in sharp contrast to the near 500 flowering plants on the Bridge Road Wayside verge.
Malcolm Phillips spent about 3 hours round the meadow today but had no Water Vole sightings. However, he saw a good selection of birds including a Goldcrest. He also had another Lizard this time on the mat on the west bank at the north west corner.

Flea beetles
While wandering around the north meadow this afternoon I came across good numbers of small metallic blue beetles that I immediately recalled having last seen several years ago - in fact in May 2005, though I have earlier records for 2003 and 2004. They were identified then as Altica oleracea which is a species of leaf beetle. They are called Flea beetles from their habit of jumping like a flea when touched. They feed on various plants and clearly had nibbled the leaves I found them on. They can be a garden pest on brassicas and other plants.

David Search comments: "During my project in 2005, I identified Altica lythri using museum specimens as my knowledge wasn't very good in those days and I was short of ID books. More recently my results for last year again included this species. My records show that I dissected a male beetle to look at the reproductive parts. This confirmed that it was this species. There are 12 species in this genus to my knowledge although I don't think that they are all present in the UK. I'm not saying that A. oleracea is wrong, but we may have to dissect for some genera to get the identification right.

While I was shopping in Emsworth yesterday, I met Jennifer Rye who showed me a strange object that she had found washed up on the shore near West Wittering. I was unsure what it was, though clearly it was a fish of some sort with a tubular snout rather like a Seahorse. Several other people also had a look at the object without any clear identification. It was not until the Emsworth Harbour Master came along that the puzzle was solved; he pronounced it was a Pipefish, which he said was not uncommon in these parts.

For earlier observations go to . . April 1-15