MAY 15 - 2014
is Maurice clearing a path through the Cow Parsley on
the main river path with the power scythe
I went over to
the meadow for the regular conservation work session
led this morning by Lesley Harris. Rachel Moroney from
TCV was present to monitor the risk assessment
procedures for the insurance renewal. The main task
was to cut back the overhanging vegetation on the main
paths, using the power scythe, strimmer and hand
Lesley gave details of
the reptile relocation on Brook Meadow; 4 male
Slow-worms, 39 females and 26 juvenile and 27 Common
Lizards. Most were located in the Seagull Lane patch.
The bitumen mats have been left on the ground for the
reptiles to use.
Andy Skeet the Council
arborist was present during the morning, along with
two young chaps from the Lotus Tree Surgeons, lopping
the unsafe branches from the Crack Willow trees in the
of the young fellows clambered up a rope suspended
from a tall tree in Tarzan style.
I noted the
following new flowers on the meadow: Beaked
Hawk's-beard and Cut-leaved Crane's-bill by the
Seagull Lane gate. Stream Water-crowfoot in the River
Ems. Guelder-rose on the path leading down to the
A second flower spike of Southern Marsh Orchid
has come up right next to the one I noticed a couple
of days ago.
I had another look at the mystery plant with
round leaves that I first noticed on May 8 on the
riverside in Palmer's Road Copse. On smell alone, I
don't think it is either either Hedge Woundwort or
Water Mint. The smell is sweeter than Hedge Woundwort
and much milder than Water Mint.
Phillips spent some time on the meadow today. He saw
the now regular Water Vole beneath the south
bridge peeping out from vegetation. We have had almost
daily sightings of this vole over the past week, but
no sightings from elsewhere.
Malcolm also got a
photo of a female Banded Demoiselle - our first
of the year on Brook Meadow.
Lillywhite's path wayside, Wood Avens is abundant on
the southern verge near the wall and the leaves of the
Sweet Violets have grown to an enormous size, as they
always tend to in summer. Also, four spikes of
Hairy Garlic were in full flower at the eastern
end of the path behind the Garage.
Willowherb flowering for the first time on the
pavement in Victoria Road.
provided a quick update about the sea bird
"Not a great deal has changed since the last update
except that the first black-headed gull chicks
have been seen. These chicks were at the north-eastern
end of the East (curved) island.
A count of
black-headed gull nests (telescoped
observations from the footpaths surrounding the
lagoon) gave 677 nests (335 on the West (straight)
island and 342 nests on the East (curved) island. The
total is considerably less than last year (1149
nests). It is likely that the E island count is less
accurate due to the loss of most of the lettered pegs
and to the habitat now being predominantly rubble,
both factors being a result of the winter storms.
A keen-sighted volunteer is needed to count the
Mediterranean gull nests (today's counter,
"Blind Pugh", had difficulty in differentiating some
of the gulls and ended up with a dodgy total of 14
nests). At high tide, today there were at least 40
common terns on the Stoke bay Spit.
Common terns are still looking interested in
the site, but have not yet taken the plunge and
selected nesting sites; however, they certainly have
been taking plunges to get prey (sorry about
The three pairs of oystercatchers in the lagoon
have all been seen looking for suitable nesting sites,
but, so far, with no determined effort."
Warbler at Baffins Pond
has been hearing a Reed Warbler singing for the past
two weeks, but this morning he managed to get a
sighting and a photo of the bird.
MAY 14 - 2014
were flying over the gardens behind our house in
Bridge Road Emsworth this morning, the most I have
seen so far this year. Good to see them back. I saw
about 10 of them flying over Arundel town during a
visit there last Saturday.
I had a walk
around the Fort Cumberland Open Space (SINC) at
Eastney, Portsmouth. This is the area of land slightly
to the west of the fort itself Grid Ref: SZ 679992. It
is the largest area of natural coastal heathland in
Portsmouth, which has developed on a large stable
shingle bank. This site was a regular haunt of mine
some years ago, but I don't get there too often these
Whitethroats were singing around the area, but
not much else bird wise. I usually hear Skylark but
did not hear any today. The only butterflies I saw
were whites fluttering around. Another month or so
should really bring them out. Fort Cumberland is
particularly good for Marbled Whites.
The best time to visit
Fort Cumberland is in the height of summer when the
whole place is a blaze of colour, but it still looked
quite good today with the grasses rampant.
The casual paths were
lined with the pink flowers of Dove's-foot
Cranesbill, plus good numbers of the tiny white
flowers of Subterranean Clover. Subterranean
Clover gets its name from the unique habit of its
fruit burrowing into the ground, though the flowers
themselves are clearly visible.
Other flowering plants
noted on my walk included Sheep's Fescue, Hairy Tare,
Bird's-foot Trefoil, Buckshorn Plantain.
I walked a little way onto Eastney Beach where Red
Valerian and Sea Kale were out in force.
I also noticed that
some of the plants were covered in tiny black shiny
beetles. I wonder what they are?
My best find
of the morning was a small colony of what I think were
Smith's Pepperwort (Lepidium
heterophyllum). I have only seen this plant on
one previous occasion which was on a special walk on
Hayling Island by Hampshire Wildlife Trust Flora Group
led by Martin Rand, and the plant was dead from what I
recall! I am fairly sure of the identification as it
is distinguished from the very similar Field
Pepperwort by its violet anthers and petals longer
than sepals and by its more oval longer-beaked pods -
this feature can easily be seen on the photo. The
habitat of undisturbed dry grassland is also right for
the plant. Apparently, Smith's Pepperwort is not
recorded in Hants Plants for Eastney so I submitted it
to Living Records.
I had a quick
look at Baffins Pond on my way back from Eastney this
morning and must admit the wetland areas are looking
very impressive indeed, simply brimming with wild
plants. Gosh, how this place has changed since I used
to do my bird counts in the 1990s. I reckon Portsmouth
Council deserve an award (if they have not already got
one) for creating such a beautiful and ecological
surrounding to the pond.
Eric Eddles reported
that some weeks ago the dominant and very aggressive
male Mute Swan met his demise at the hand of another.
He was replaced by another pair leaving his female at
the pond. Since then more have moved in and now there
are six. This reminded Eric of years ago when there
were at least two pairs on the pond. Another change
some weeks ago now was the loss of the Embden goose
which has been here for at least 15 years. However,
there are two families of Canada geese each with two
Phillips had a quick walk round the meadow this
morning. There was no sign of the oil in the river
which was good. No Water Vole, but he saw a Pike again
up by the Water Vole sign. Malcolm also got a photo of
the first Common Blue to be seen on Brook Meadow this
year, but not the first for the local area. I saw my
first Common Blue of the year on May 9 on Fishbourne
John Arnott was on the
meadow this evening and saw a Water Vole
feeding on Fool's Water-cress just beneath the south
bridge, east bank at 18:53h. Clearly enjoying its
MAY 13 - 2014
I had a walk
through the meadow this morning. A Whitethroat
was on the isolated tree on the west side of the north
meadow from where it darted into the brambles. This
bird could well be nesting in the brambles, a very
good habitat for it, being completely safe from
Common Sorrel, Common Mouse-ear and Cuckooflower are
in flower on the Lumley area. The rare Slender
Spike-rush is showing very well on the western side of
the Lumley area, close to a patch of Silverweed
Tall Fescue is the dominant grass on the north
meadow; the inflorescence of this grass typically
hangs to one side.
first Southern Marsh Orchid on Fishbourne Meadows last
week, I was on the look out for one on Brook Meadow.
After much searching, I finally found one spike
opening up quite nicely in the usual area on the
eastern side of the orchid area on the north meadow. I
have marked its location with a twig. Two plants of
Southern Marsh Orchid, donated by Nigel Johnson, were
planted in June 2007 and have expanded to 10 spikes in
2013. Let's hope we get a few more this year.
Down on the
Lumley area I found a few more Ragged Robin flowers; I
counted a total of 16 plants in flower, including a
couple on the rough area above the causeway. This
already beats last year's pathetic total of 12.
Numbers of Ragged Robin have been falling dramatically
for several years on Brook Meadow, so let's hope this
indicates a revival in the fortunes of this very
attractive wetland plant.
Rattle is generally in flower in the orchid area
Phillips was down on the south bridge again today and
once again got a good view of the resident Water Vole.
The Pike were also active. While he was there Malcolm
noticed a film of what looked like oil on the surface
and wondered if someone has dumped some in the river
further upstream. I hope not.
before the waysides survey, I parked the car in Cotton
Drive, just off Southleigh Road in Nortrh Emsworth.
That was where I saw what I thought were flowering
plants of Crow Garlic. However, on seeing my photo of
the flowers, Ralph Hollins thought they looked like
Rosy Garlic (Allium roseum). This would
make more sense as Crow Garlic very rarely flowers and
not in such profusion! There were at least six
flowering plants on the verge. Ralph suggested I
should check the leaves as Rosy Garlic has the flat
bladed leaves of most Garlics, whereas Crow Garlic has
round leaves. I did not look at the leaves at the time
and the photo does not show them.
So, this afternoon, I
took the car up to Cotton Drive again to have another
look at the plants. They had flat leaves, which means
they are Rosy Garlic and not as I first thought Crow
Garlic. Another difference between the two plants
which does show up on the photo is that the stamens
protrude in Crow Garlic but do not protrude in Rosy
Rosy Garlic is an introduced plant, but is now
established in scattered places. Ralph says it seems
to be spreading fast in our area with clumps on
Portsdown and in the small west car park at
Broadmarsh. I also saw it last year at Bosham Harbour
(15-Jun-13). I have not previously recorded it in
Mouse on feeder
had been wondering why the sunflower hearts had been
going down quite quickly in his squirrel-proof feeder.
He had the answer in the form of a Wood Mouse, with
its distinctively large ears. I like it! I have never
seen a Wood Mouse in my present garden, but I recall
they were frequent visitors to a peanut holder in my
previous garden in Westbourne Avenue.
is continuing to monitor the plants growing around the
attenuation pond on Hampshire Farm. One in particular
which intrigued him was a fine specimen of
Celery-leaved Buttercup (Ranunculus
mentions that Celery-leaved Buttercup plant is highly
poisonous, which I was not aware of, though I
certainly have never had any inclination to eat it!
Checking on the internet I gather all Ranunculus
species are poisonous when eaten fresh by cattle,
horses, and other livestock, but their acrid taste and
the blistering of the mouth caused by the poison means
they are usually left uneaten. Apparently, extensive
handling of the plants can cause contact dermatitis in
humans, though this is unusual. The toxins in the
plants are degraded by drying, so hay containing dried
buttercups is safe.
Milinets-Raby had a walk along Wade Lane to Langstone
Mill Pond this morning (10:10am to 11:55am). The
highlights were as follows:
Wade Lane: 2 singing Blackcap, Song Thrush, 2 Mistle
Thrush still collecting worms, 2 House Martins heading
north, 2 Stock Dove, Buzzard in usual tree, 7
Partially flooded paddock; 4 Moorhen, Pair of Gadwall,
Pair of Mallard,
Mill Pond: 4 singing Reed Warblers, Reed Bunting
singing, 4 adult Grey Herons seen (two on the two
original nests and two roosting). Three juvs very
active with wing flapping and fighting each other.
Little Egrets (noises could be heard of chicks being
fed), 2 Swift over,
A second Gadwall pair
on pond (Drake turning into eclipse plumage), Tufted
Duck pair on pond.
At the bottom of Mill Lane - tip off from Ralph
Hollins): The Langstone Mill Pond Mute Swan family
with six cygnets (one missing) happily feeding in the
Langbrook Stream on weed pulled up by the adults),
Lesser Whitethroat singing, Cetti's Warbler singing,
Green Woodpecker, Buzzard and Hobby soaring, 5
Swallow, Water Rail heard.
MAY 12 - 2014
Jane Brook and I did a survey of four of the waysides
in North Emsworth. We
started as usual on the traffic island in the centre
of Horndean Road which always has a good variety of
wild flowers. Today, we were interested to distinguish
the pink flowers of Dove's-foot Cranesbill and Common
Stork's-bill, the former with notched petals and the
latter with unnotched petals, as shown in the photo
below The leaves of the two plants were also quite
The tiny bright blue
flowers of Wall Speedwell also caught our
attention - a new plant for the site.
We also found
Buckshorn Plantain and some grasses in flower. Our
plant lists for 2014 for the four waysides stand at .
. . Southleigh Road = 61, Spencer's Field verge = 34,
Barwell Grove path = 23 and Greville Green (west) =
19. There was no sign of the Common Spotted Orchid on
the Greville Green site.
Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri)
interesting sighting of the morning (for me, at least)
was a small crop of Southern Wood-rush (Luzula
forsteri) that was growing on the grass verge a few
metres west of the Greville Green wayside. It is
distinguished from the more common Field Wood-rush
(Luzula campestris), which was also present on the
Greville Green (west) site, by its V-shaped
inflorescence with slender curved branches, slightly
drooping to one side.
This was my second
sighting of this Wood-rush, the first being on the
main track in Hollybank Woods on April 23 this year.
The identification of the Hollybank Woods plant was
confirmed from a photo by Martin Rand the BSBI South
Hants recorder who said there was no previous recent
record for that tetrad. I duly sent in my record to
the Hants Plants site and will do so for this one too.
this attractive moth resting in the vegetation on the
Spencer's Field wayside. This moth flies mainly at
night and is attracted to light and sugar. However, it
is often seen during the day at rest on fences and
garden foliage as it was today. The common name is
derived from the characteristic markings on the
forewings. Adults are on the wing from May to October.
ladybird (Calvia 14-guttata)
We saw this
tiny Ladybird covered with cream spots on the Greville
Green (west) wayside, the first either of us recall
having seen. It is very variable in colouration and
the size and shape of the spots vary. However, the
arrangement of the six spots in a straight line across
the wings is regular. It is present throughout Britain
and Ireland though more common in England than further
west and north. It is usually found on deciduous trees
and bushes where they and their larvae feed on
soft-bodied insects such as psyllids and aphids. They
overwinter in leaf litter, crevices in the bark of
trees and other similar protective
On the way
home I checked on the rare Wild Clary (Salvia
verbenaca) on the Christopher Way verge. The two
spikes on the official wayside are looking good and
are in flower.
I checked on
the swan nest near the bridge on the town millpond
this afternoon. The situation was exactly as Dave Bull
described it yesterday with the pen swan 'guarding'
the nest with the one replaced egg. Replacing the egg
in the nest was not a good idea, as the presence of
the egg in the nest will have triggered a strong
brooding instinct in the female swan, which means she
will be hanging around this totally inadequate nest
for some while.
Phillips spent all morning on the south bridge of
Brook Meadow, but said it was worth it. He saw three
large Pike and about a dozen Brown Trout.
Best of all he got the
south bridge Water Vole again. I hope there is
more than one.
As Malcolm rightly
says, "it's amazing what you can see if you stand long
MAY 11 - 2014
saw a Water Vole swimming in the river below the south
bridge and got this photo of it. This is our second
sighting here on successive days, clearly indicating
the presence of at least one vole in the area (Section
e-mailed with news about the rather Mute Swan 'litter
nest' near the bridge on the town millpond. The two
ducklings that were present earlier in the week have
disappeared and the carcass of the female duck that
was floating in the water near the nest has been
incorporated into the nest structure! Dave thinks some
well meaning member of the public has fished out one
of the swan's eggs from the water and placed it back
in the nest. The nest originally had 5 eggs in its
'heyday' a couple of weeks ago. Dave says it is really
quite pitiful to see the pen swan now remaking the
nest with litter with this defunct egg in pride of
place. He agrees with me that the nest is in the most
are the mystery plants growing on the riverside in
Palmer's Road Copse
woundwort - a hybrid?
suggests the mystery plant found on the river bank in
Palmer's Road Copse might be a hybrid between Hedge
Woundwort and Marsh Woundwort called Stachys x
ambigua This hybrid has all leaves petiolate
(stalked) as in the case of the mystery plant and can
occur where one, both or neither parent is present ie
in the latter case brought to the site by fragments of
rhizomes washed downstream. The Hants Flora lists this
hybrid as 'occasional'. Ralph gives the following link
for more detail . . . http://archive.bsbi.org.uk/Wats10p139.pdf
This is an academic article, but Table 7 at the end
specifically says its preferred habitat is beside
rivers which would fit the mystery plant.
MAY 10 - 2014
Phillips waited for an hour on the south bridge and
was finally rewarded with a glimpse of a Water Vole
before it went under water. This was out first
sighting of the year in this area (Section D). This
was totally flooded in the spring, so it is good to
know the voles are returning to this popular place.
had another look at the Hampshire Farm pond and found
two Shelduck were back. They spent last summer
on the pond but disappeared in the autumn. Let's hope
there are some suitable rabbit or tree holes for them
to nest in.
Chris also saw five
Swallows and four House Martins. Are the House
Martins nesting in Emsworth?
Chris asked what
causes some plant leaves to turn red, such as this
dock leaf in his photo. My guess it is chemical, like
what happens to tree leaves in autumn. It is certainly
not uncommon, particularly near the coast. Does anyone
has seen a Coot with a single chick near the south
raft. But will it avoid the attentions of the Great
reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife
Group during which they noted many intere4sting
flowers, including masses of Green-winged Orchids.
Worth going just for them. Ros's full report is on the
special web page at . . . http://familyfellows.com/hwg-walk-reports-2014.htm
MAY 9 - 2014
is a view of the west meadow which is dominated by
12:00 - I
spent about an hour going around these interesting
meadows at the top of Fishbourne Channel. I donned my
wellies as I knew it would be wet underfoot and it
certainly was! Parking in the car park by Fishbourne
Parish Church, I walked westwards through the three
main meadows to the millpond and the reedbeds. There
is a new fence alongside the stream, probably to
prevent the grazing cattle damaging the banks. Good
idea. I scanned the banks of the stream for Water
Voles, which I have seen in the past, but I did not
see one today.
I know this
area well, having done a BTO Breeding Birds Survey
here for 17 years until 2011. However, today, there
was not much interest on the bird front, apart from
Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing. No
Cetti's Warbler. A Mute Swan was on the millpond,
presumably its mate was on a nest nearby. A Coot was
on a nest in the centre of the pond with at least one
chick. I heard only Reed Warbler in the reedbeds.
interest was in the flora. It was a bit too early for
the Southern Marsh Orchids for which this site
is famous, though I did find one plant just starting
to open on the far western meadow. They should soon be
starting to show on Brook Meadow, though we only have
around 10 spikes compared with the 500+ on Fishbourne
The dominant wild
flowers on the meadows were Creeping and Meadow
Buttercups, Cuckooflowers, Common Mouse-ear, Field
Forget-me-not, Common Sorrel. I also noted a few
Cut-leaved Crane's-bill and Thyme-leaved Speedwell.
Yellow Flag was out on the edge of the stream, where I
also found a Hemlock Water-dropwort in full flower -
my first of the year. A few Ragged Robin
flowers were open, with lots more to come, no doubt.
interested to find some real Water Figwort growing
beside the millpond, which was totally different from
the plants I found on the riverside in Palmer's Road
Copse yesterday which I thought might be Water
Figwort. The leaves were longer and the square stems
were sharply winged and hairless, unlike those on
So, the question
remains what are the plants I found yesterday? The
leaves do have a faint minty smell which suggests a
type of mint. But which one?
mystery plant from the river bank in Palmer's Road
Ralph Hollins suggested they might be Hedge
Woundwort, though a flooded river bank seems an
unlikely habitat for this plant that normally grows on
dry areas of the meadow. Ralph commented that recent
flooding and fast flowing water could have either
transported lots of seeds downstream from a place that
is normally not wetland or the flow could have eroded
the river bank and exposed 'prehistoric' seed
deposited when the land there was not so riverine.
grass of the meadows was Meadow Foxtail, though I also
noted Sweet Vernal Grass and an unexpected crop of
Plicate Sweet-grass at the far end of the
meadows near the kissing gate leading to the millpond.
Sharp-flowered Rush were all over the meadow along
with a few Hard Rushes, some with small spikelets.
Both Divided and Distant Sedge were widespread, along
with Pond Sedges (probably Greater). I also noted a
few spikes of Brown Sedge with distinctively brown
spikelets, which I have previously recorded on
Fishbourne Meadows, but not elsewhere locally.
of Marsh Horsetail
surprised by the vast quantity of Marsh Horsetail
across all three meadows, which I do not recall having
seen there before. Is this due to the flooding of the
meadow? I have also seen lots of Marsh Horsetail on
the South Moor at Langstone. I wonder why we never see
any on Brook Meadow?
Orange Tips were flying around. One stunning
male perched briefly for me to get a photo. What a
beauty it was!
I also saw my first
Common Blue of the year, a male, which also
conveniently rested a while for a photo.
MAY 8 - 2014
Meadow in rain
I got into my
waterproof gear and donned my wellies for a mooch
around the meadow in the rain. No one else about,
needless to say. Walking down the main river path I
noticed the pretty white flowers of Stream
Water-crowfoot on the surface of the river.
When I got to the Lumley area a fine Grey Heron
took off from the Lumley Stream.
I noted a group of Yellow Rattle plants, which
I do not recall having seen here before. The seeds
must have spread down from the orchid area where they
were sown several years ago.
Also showing well on the Lumley area were Divided
Sedge and Distant Sedge.
My best find
of the morning was a patch of Slender Spike-rush
(Eleocharis uniglumis) that John Norton
first discovered here in 4 June 2012. I took a
specimen home to examine under the microscope and
confirmed that the lowest glume almost encircled the
spikelet base, which is distinctive of this species,
as stated by Francis Rose in "Grasses, Sedges, Rushes
and Ferns" (p. 160). I compared this with a specimen
of Common Spike-rush (Eleocharis
palustris) that grows near the "Lumley puddle"
in which the lowest glumes only go about half way
around the base.
I found the
first flowering Ragged Robin of the year in the centre
of the Lumley area.
Although this was a
good 3 weeks earlier than last year's first flowers,
it was not especially early; the earliest I have on
record was 26-Apr-11. Let's hope we have more plants
than last year when I counted just 12 on the meadow.
Numbers have, in fact, slumped dramatically since the
record count of 625 in 2010.
I had my first
good mooch around in the south eastern corner of the
south meadow since the floods. There is a lot of
sediment brought in by the flood, but the grasses and
sedges are flourishing. In particular, Sea
Club-rush seems to have taken hold more than in
the past when there were just a few isolated spikes.
Plenty of Divided Sedge also. The channel where the
flood water flowed into Peter Pond has been opened up;
I shall keep an eye on this area, though there is
nothing special there at the present.
A handsome fern is growing beneath the eastern ramp
onto the south bridge, which I have identified as
Male Fern in the past, though I am not all that
hot on ferns.
I found my
first Smooth Meadow-grass of the year on the
path leading down to the south bridge.
I had a good look around the river bank where I found
a nice patch of Gipsywort with its very
I also found a good
growth of what I thought was Water Figwort near
the new Alder saplings. However, the square stems were
definitely downy; the books specifically say the plant
is hairless! I can't think what else it could be.
are two views, one of the patch of plants on the river
bank and the other a close up.
took a quick walk around the settlement pond on the
new Hampshire Farm housing development site and was
pleasantly surprised. The margins were lush with wild
flowers, predominately clover and buttercup, but he
counted at least 15 different plants. The 'twigs' that
were planted last year have also been a total success.
Chris thinks this level of plant life around the pond
rim clearly indicates that the water level remains
He also saw about a
dozen House Martins in flight, plus 4 Mallard, 5
Black-headed Gulls, a Carrion Crow and a Jackdaw. So,
all in all it looks quite promising.
has been on holiday in Crete which is where he took
this interesting photo of a Skipper seemingly attacked
by a Crab Spider. Tony did not know the outcome as the
butterfly flew off with the spider attached. The
contest looks to be a bit of a mismatch on size, but
my guess is that the butterfly would succumb in the
end to the spider's venom.
MAY 7 - 2014
My wife and I
were delighted to see our first Swift of the year from
our bedroom window at about 7am this morning. It was
flying over the gardens to the east of Bridge Road and
came fairly close to the house on one occasion. I did
not see it again today Swifts have been reported
widely along the south coast over the past couple of
days. Swifts are very common summer visitors in the
Bridge Road area where I live and I always look
forward to hearing family parties of them screaming
around the houses later in the summer.
11:00 - I
popped down to the town millpond this morning to have
a look at the swan's new nest. It was still there by
the bridge, but occupied not by a swan, but by a
female Mallard and two small ducklings that I saw here
yesterday. The pair of swans were further down the
pond, posturing in front of the other pair of swans
that I have not seen for a while. They appear to be
far more concerned with defending their territory than
in establishing a new nest.
we encourage nesting?
I have had
several inquiries from local people concerned about
the fate of the swan's nest. Some have asked about
constructing a raft or a raised platform for them to
nest on. I suppose this would be possible but would
they use it? Also, it is really such a good idea.
Frankly, I think the swans should not be encouraged to
nest in such an unfavourable situation, with no
natural vegetation and little food for the cygnets.
Remember what a torrid time the lone cygnet had last
year. If the pond were a more natural habitat with
reeds and banks like Peter Pond and Slipper Millpond
the situation would be different. As it is we would
just be creating more stress for the birds.
Another thing is that nesting swans are very
territorial and there has been several battle royals
on the town millpond over the past year. These
confrontations are still going on between the nesting
pair and the other pair of swans that have stood their
The nesting pair have also driven off the resident
flock (50+) which have peacefully used the millpond
for as long as I can remember. Personally, I prefer to
see a flock of swans using the pond and being enjoyed
by children and others.
flowering on the Bridge Road Wayside were Common
Sorrel, Wintercress, Hemlock Water-dropwort and Common
Nettle. Along Lumley Road I found Bush Vetch in flower
outside Constant Springs along with Prickly
Sow-thistle - a first for this year. Grey Sedge was
also out in several places along this road, along with
some Wood Sedge and Wood Melick.
on Brook Meadow
Kinsella captured this fine image of a Brimstone
butterfly on Brook Meadow recently. From its pale
colour this insect looks like a female Brimstone which
should now be laying eggs in preparation for the
summer brood. Let's hope she managed to find our Alder
Buckthorn plantation near the causeway.
Heron at Westbourne
Phillips has been unwell for 4 days stuck indoors and
has not been able to send us his usual batch of
wildlife photos from Brook Meadow and elsewhere.
However, he send me this excellent image of a Grey
Heron with a background of buttercups - taken in the
field behind the church hall at Westbourne last
old NRA track'
asks what does NRA mean in my reference to 'the old
NRA track' at North Thorney. I suppose other readers
of this blog might have the same question, so here is
my answer. This is the rough track, gated at either
end, that runs across North Thorney from Thorney Road
to the seawall at Emsworth Harbour. As far as I am
aware, the letters NRA stand for National Rivers
Authority, which was one of the forerunners of the
Environment Agency, which I assume now own the
It is not a public footpath, but lots of people tend
to use it in preference to the hazardous official path
that goes through the stables to the north. One has to
squeeze through small gaps at the side of the gates at
either end. It is a well known path for hearing and
seeing migrants, particularly Swallows, Whitethroat,
Lesser Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Cuckoo and, until
recently, Turtle Dove. It is a regular haunt of mine
at this time of the year.
was one of many people admiring the Mute Swan family
with seven cygnets on Langstone Mill Pond. Just one
egg remained unhatched in the nest. A fine haul
indeed. Let's hope our own swan on Slipper Millpond is
also successful when her time comes.
Ralph Hollins reports
that both adult and juvenile Herons were present at
their tree-top nests at the back of the pond. He
thinks there are two adult and three fully grown
young, but moving between two, maybe three, nests.
Little Egrets are also nesting in the area.
provided the following news update from the
On the Oysterbeds' lagoon islands this year, the
number of Mediterranean gull nesting pairs will
probably reach double figures while a preliminary
count of black-headed gull nests suggests that,
presently, there are significantly less pairs than the
1149 counted in 2013. Most of the gulls are apparently
brooding eggs and it is likely that the first chicks
will be seen by next weekend and the main hatch will
probably be in just over two weeks' time.
On Sunday 05 May, a peregrine caught a gull and
started to eat it on the western (straight) island .
After being dive-bombed by hundreds of angry gulls,
the peregrine flew off with its kill to have a quieter
meal on Stoke Bay Spit. A peregrine will rarely
succeed in taking an adult gull from a large colony
using a typical stooping attack; but this bird
probably came in fast and low over lagoon and did an
"up and under" to capture its prey (presumably, it had
been taking lessons from a Merlin during the
winter!!). It will be interesting to see if this
falcon becomes a regular visitor.
On Sunday, a dead adult black-headed gull was found
close to the lagoon in Stoke Bay and it is suspected
that its demise was caused by a pellet from an air
rifle/pistol. It would be appreciated that if anyone
sees signs of such activity that they might please
Recently, there have been fewer visits and overflights
by Sandwich terns, which suggests that they are
now probably nesting on South Binness Island; but it
is still possible that a few might choose to nest at
Common terns are regularly roosting in good
numbers on Stoke Bay Spit and some have been fishing
and displaying in the lagoon (see photo):
Some of the harbour's
common and little terns have frequently been
seen feeding in Texaco Bay and they should soon be
reaching good breeding condition for nesting. Both of
these species have paid brief visits to the new
shingle recharge on the NW Bund (that forms the
northern boundary of the lagoon) and it is possible
that some may nest there.
Flowering plants (on the mound that overlooks the
lagoon) presently include good quantities of Bugle,
Scarlet pimpernel, Herb Robert, Forget-me-nots, White
dead nettle etc. Milk Thistle and Medick are growing
in profusion, unlike 2013 when there were very few of
these plants. Green-veined White, Orange tip, Peacock,
Holly Blue and Red Admiral butterflies have been seen
MAY 6 - 2014
10:00 - I
decided to cycle down to Thorney Island through Brook
Meadow. I arrived at Seagull Lane gate in time to see
a lorry from Covers delivering two huge railway
sleepers for the foundation of the new tool shed.
Maurice Lillie was there to supervise the operation.
The driver moved both the sleepers onto the site for
the shed virtually unaided, but for a bit of help from
Maurice. An amazing feat of strength!
is the best shot I could get with my old
Vole nest building?
down the main river path through the avenue of Cow
Parsley, I checked the usual spot by the old gasholder
for Water Voles and was in luck. A vole swam across
the river from west below the large Bay tree across to
the east bank where it disappeared under the
vegetation. I waited and after a couple of minutes it
emerged carrying a mouthful of small twigs, which
looked like nest building material. It swam across the
river to the west bank where it disappeared into a
burrow beneath the water level. Another couple of
minutes went by and it emerged again to repeat the
I watched it for the next 15 minutes while it made
four more journeys to and fro across the river, each
time carrying bits of vegetation in its mouth from the
east to the west bank. On one crossing towards me it
actually swam the whole width of the river underwater,
which made me wonder if it had caught sight of me
standing on the bank. My guess is that it was
collecting nesting material, or possibly food for its
A lady passed by as I
was watching the vole and also had a good view of it
swimming across the river. This was exactly the same
place where I had my previous sighting of a Water Vole
on Apr 10, when Malcolm Phillips and I watched it
burrowing into the west bank creating a cloud of mud
in the water.
As I walked
along the causeway towards the Lumley gate I heard and
watched a Whitethroat singing strongly from top of the
tall Ash sapling. But that was the only one I heard on
the meadow this morning.
I cycled into
The Rookery to deliver a printed version of the e-mail
newsletter to Penny and Ted Aylett as I have done for
several years. There I met Paddy a neighbour who told
me she had had a May bug or Cockchafer in her house.
As she was removing it from the house, she told me how
difficult it was to get the insect from her hands as
its feet stuck to the skin. Here is one that Jane
Brook and I found while doing a waysides survey last
year. It was on Jane's hand, though I don't recall her
reporting any stickiness.
Ralph Hollins pointed
out that all insects have feet which enable them to
stick to any surface (e.g. flies on a window or
ceiling). See . . . http://jeb.biologists.org/content/213/4/i.2.short?rss=1
Susan Kelly has them
invading her house. Her new downstairs neighbours keep
leaving the door open and the light on in the communal
hallway, so the poor things are flying in and dying on
From the small
footbridge to the north of the pond I noticed that
David Gattrell has created another channel
through the northern reedbeds to the west of the main
channel. So, there are now channels on either side of
the main one, thus creating more wildlife habitat.
I listened at the reedbeds, but there was no sound of
Reed Warbler which I heard on May 3. However, I just
make out the soft tones of the Reed Bunting song
which I also heard on May 3.
is the younger family with four of the five chicks
The two Coot
families were on the water. The family in the northern
part of the pond have four fairly mature chicks. The
other family near the island in the southern part of
the pond have five younger chicks. I previously only
There is no
change on this pond with the swan snug on her nest in
the reedbeds and her mate on the water and the Great
Black-backed Gull on the centre raft with its mate on
the water. The Coot is still in its nest box on the
south raft, but I could not see the Coot nest that was
in the reedbeds near the Mute Swan.
were a very unusual sight on the marina seawall. Hoary
Cress and Black Mustard were both in flower along with
a great display of Hedgerow Crane's-bill. At the
bottom of the slope near the gate to the NRA track, I
had an astonishing experience as follows:
I watched a
pair of Large Red Damselflies in tandem, which
is not an unusual sight. Then a third (male) damselfly
latched onto the pair, making it a threesome. They
stayed like this for a couple of minutes at least
while I took some photos. I have never seen three in
tandem before. Has anyone else seen this?
I walked along
the old NRA track which was fairly quiet but for the
inevitable Cetti's Warblers and the occasional
Whitethroat. Swallows were flying around the old
stables. No Cuckoo or Turtle Dove. I found my first
spike of Perennial Ryegrass of the year. I was
surprised by a patch of almost white flowers, which I
think must be Dove's-foot Cranesbill.
There is a good patch
of red-flowered Sheep's Fescue on the east side of the
track just before Little Deeps. Both Reed Warbler and
Sedge Warbler were singing from the reedbeds on the
way to Little Deeps.
I was passing
the town millpond on my way home at about 12 noon,
when I saw someone looking down from the bridge. I had
a look and found that the swans had built yet another
nest in the same position as the one that got washed
away. They were not present and there were no eggs.
However, settled on the edge of the nest were two very
tiny ducklings with a dead female Mallard floating in
the water nearby, probably their mother. But what
I went back later at about 8pm and both swans were at
the nest trying to build it up. The top was above the
level of the water, though there is not much hope for
it with the next spring tides due in about a week's
time. The two ducklings were on the water near the
bridge, but there was no sign of any female Mallard
that could be their mother apart from the one floating
dead in the water.
MAY 5 - 2014
of Coot, one with 4 mature chicks and the other with 4
new young chicks. Ros Norton and I watched the adult
Coot scrapping vigorously, presumably over territorial
rights. Two Swallows were feeding over the pond.
had a pleasant surprise on the Hayling Billy Line
today when he saw this Adder on the main path near the
MAY 3 - 2014
I checked out
the millponds, but there has been no obvious change
over the past week while I have been away. The town
millpond Mute Swan nest has completely disappeared,
but for a few twigs and grass cuttings. The pair are
still on the pond.
Over on Slipper Millpond, the swan is sitting on the
nest in the reedbeds. The Great Black-backed Gull was
on her nest on the centre raft and all seemed
peaceful, though there no doubt have been
A Reed Warbler was singing from the northern
reedbeds of Peter Pond, the first of the year. Also, I
could hear the distinct song of a Reed Bunting
coming from the reeds on the eastern side of the
pond, but I could not pick up the bird visually.
Hoary Cress and Hedge Mustard were in flower on the
west side of the pond.
through Brook Meadow where I heard one
Whitethroat singing near the eastern end of the
causeway near the Lumley gate; no sound of any others.
Yellow Flag is out on the Lumley pool. The
display of Cow Parsley along the main river
path is superb. Wintercress is also out on the
Charlie Annalls also went round Brook Meadow today and
managed to get a photo of the Whitethroat, probably
the same one that I heard.
Charlie also got this
interesting shot of a female Orange Tip from
the top. Without showing its mottled underwings, it
looks like a white.
Malcolm Phillips has
been round Brook Meadow each day of the week during
which I was away. He had no Water Vole sightings, but
did get pictures of birds, including this
Chiffchaff in flight.
When I checked
the Christopher Way verge, I was disappointed to find
that the Council strimmers had cut down the Wild Clary
flowering plants, despite the waysides notice that I
placed there before the cut. I suppose they will grow
again, but I did find a couple of Wild Clary spikes
coming up on the main wayside which is not cut, so
some have survived.
had an exciting observation on his garden pond when he
saw this female Broad-bodied Chaser that had
recently emerged from its exuvia - ie the remains of
an exoskeleton and related structures that are left
after the insect has moulted. When he checked again 5
minutes later it had flown.
sent me a photo of two Bumblebees that he found when
he opened a new bag of compost. The bees were clearly
mating, a natural event that I have only come across
once before (on July 6, 2012). The bees were probably
of the species Bombus pascuorum, which
is the most widespread ginger-coloured bumblebee in
this country, occurring in most habitats including
gardens. The smaller male is on the top of the much
How they got into the
bag of compost and survived is quite astonishing, but
there they are. For more information see . . .
continues to make me very envious of his Bullfinches.
Today he had two males on his bird feeder in the
garden. How does he do it?
Milinets-Raby was tipped off by Ralph Hollins
yesterday about the Mute Swan cygnets hatching on
Langstone Mill Pond. He went down this evening to
check out the situation (4:30pm to 6:30pm). Well after
waiting nearly 45 minutes, the pen stepped off the
nest to reveal six cygnets and at least two eggs
remaining. These are the first cygnets I have heard
John Tagg had
a flyer put through his letter box, from Seaward Homes
with reference to the development of the land at the
end of Penny Lane, Southbourne. The proposal is for
100 new homes on the open fields to the north of Penny
Lane as far north as the railway line. However, the
purpose of the clearance of woodland at the top of
Woodfield Park Road remains a mystery as this woodland
is not part of the development site. Maybe this is an
access site for the development? There is an area
marked "Protected Wood" at the western end of the site
near the allotments. For more information go to . .
earlier observations go to . April