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for May 16-31, 2014
in reverse chronological order

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SATURDAY MAY 31 - 2014

Tortoise Beetle
Ralph Hollins solved the mystery of the Ladybird-like beetle I found on Brook Meadow yesterday. It is a type of Tortoise Beetle, so called because it appears to have a complete casing with no visible head, giving the impression of a tortoise with its head withdrawn into its shell. It is one of a family of over 25,000 leaf beetles (Chrysomeidae) which are often brightly coloured with smooth rounded outlines.
The beetle found on Brook Meadow yesterday was, in fact, a Fleabane Tortoise Beetle (Cassida murraea) which spends its entire life eating the leaves of Common Fleabane. This late flowering plant is abundant on Brook Meadow, which makes it somewhat surprising that we have not recorded this beetle before.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley reports very positively on the new Hampshire Farm pond site:
"The whole area is looking very promising. There are park-benches dotted around the site and paths have been mown through the grass, connecting the seats, so it would appear that they intend to keep the 'meadow' look. The pond is slowly shrinking exposing mud areas much favoured by the House Martins for their nesting material. The Swallows are in attendance in the evenings feeding on the swarms of midges and mud-flies. The Shelduck and Mallard are now regular visitors as are a very large flock of House Sparrows which are favouring an Elder bush by the road boundary. The flora is producing some quite interesting varieties. It has become a very pleasant place to visit in the evenings, when all is quiet, and I am at last feeling more optimistic about the scheme." Chris says the site is not yet officially open to the public, but it must be very near.

Malcolm Phillips went down to Thorney this morning and found these four splendid Cormorants resting on a mudflat near the Deeps. These are probably non-breeding adults as there is no record of breeding on Thorney Island. Cormorants do not normally breed until they are 4-5 years old.

Stag Beetle heads
Ralph Hollins was mowing his lawn this afternoon when he came on the heads of a male and female Stag Beetle whose bodies, he says, will have been eaten by Magpies. Ralph adds that "the muscles in the male head continued to function for hours after 'death' so photographing them was a bit gruesome with the 'antlers' and antennae slowly moving as I focussed on the male head."

Rare flowers on wayside
Ralph Hollins found a great mass of the very rare Clustered Clover (Trifolium glomeratum) flowering at the A27 Underpass wayside. They have already been recorded there in previous years. Ralph also found freshly flowering Field Woundwort.

Southbourne Copse
Regarding the mysterious clearance of woodland at the top of Woodfield Park Road, I have had a further e-mail from Mr Tirebuck of the Southbourne Parish Council to say that Chichester District Council has issued two Tree Preservations Orders for trees on the land. SB/14/00129/TPO and SB/14/00130/TPO. The Orders cover 22 Oaks and Ash trees and a Woodland Order on remaining wooded area. That should put a stop to any more devastation of the woodland, but so much has already been lost.

Hayling Oysterbeds
Chris Cockburn provides the latest news on the seabird breeding from the oysterbeds. He has news of plenty of gull chicks but no success for any of the terns, on the oysterbeds at least.
"Headline is that there are a lot of gull chicks to be seen at present. The black-headed gull eggs started hatching on 13th May and there is now a wide variety of chick sizes from the very cute recent hatchlings to the somewhat-less-than-beautiful 18-day old chicks. There will soon be chicks of the partially-feathered variety; whilst the majority of the nests seem to be producing broods of three.
Some Mediterranean gull chicks have recently hatched. The hatchlings cannot truly be described as being cute and they are much darker than the black-headed gull chicks However, as time progresses the Med gull youngsters will be easily winning the beauty contest. Although 11 Med gull nests were initially counted, it seems that only nine are still active (8 on the curved eastern island and 1 on the straight western island). Thanks to Steve Cook for the photo.

Common terns seem to be having problems with nesting on the two islands. A few birds have been seen apparently starting to nest (in hunkered-down fashion - but not with the characteristic tail-up pose) and have not been seen at the same location again. It is possible that there is insufficient safe-from-tidal-flooding nesting habitat on the islands, which have been significantly reduced in size by the erosion during the winter storms and tidal surges. So, tidal flooding might be the cause for the lack of success, so far and certainly "failures" do seem to have happened over high tide periods. However, the cause might be attributable to the intensely aggressive territorial behaviour of the black-headed gulls (and their chicks, which are just as aggressively territorial). This territorial behaviour is noticeably more evident during high tide periods when the nesting habitat is much reduced in area. Unlike last year, it is highly unlikely that the whole-harbour common tern population will try nesting at the Oysterbeds as there are many suitable habitats on the harbour islands this year.

Local crows and itinerant large gulls have been and are being "escorted off the premises" by angry black-headed gulls (the Mediterranean gulls tend to sit tighter & longer - thereby not exposing their eggs/young to potential avian predators). Recently, noisy pairs of Mediterranean gulls have been flying over the site; this suggests that some of the Med gull nests have failed (probably due to tidal flooding); after nest failure, these gulls change their feeding habits from only earthworms & other terrestrial invertebrates to, well, anything else - small chicks much relished!!

One of the three pairs of oystercatchers that would like to nest at the lagoon site are having similar problems to the common terns, but the other two pairs have been securely ensconced for several days on the curved eastern island.

There have been no indications that Sandwich & little terns will nest at the site (they are using the harbour islands in reportedly good numbers) nor have potentially nesting ringed plovers been seen in the near vicinity (but a family of ringed plovers was noted by Tom Bickerton last Sunday - perhaps, they might have nested on SW Hayling). During recent high tide roosts at Stoke bay, c17 ringed plovers and c20 dunlins have been seen - they will be on their way to places north to nest; hopefully, they will soon get more helpful winds!"

Kingley Vale
Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group during which they saw lots of Brown Argus butterflies.

For the full report go to . . .

FRIDAY MAY 30 - 2014

Wild flowers
I had a good search around the orchid area for Common Spotted Orchids or even Bee Orchids but could not see any sign of either. I found just one more Southern Marsh Orchid on the north meadow since I last checked taking the total here to 9 flowering spikes, plus the one on the Lumley area taking the total to 10.

This shows the cluster of three Southern Marsh Orchids which are now growing well

I was pleased to meet up for the first time with Jill Stanley who has been a fairly regular contributor to this blog. Jill was taking photos of wild flowers and was delighted to see the Southern Marsh Orchids. Here is Jill's excellent image of a Yellow Rattle in flower. These flowers are all over the orchid area on Brook Meadow and are quite spectacular.

The Blue Water-speedwell on the riverbank in Palmer's Road Copse is now in flower, with relatively short flower spikes, though they may open up later.

The first of the Meadow Fescue is out in the usual area on the north east path.
Also, showing along this path is the Hybrid Fescue (x Festulolium loliaceum) which is a hybrid between Meadow Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass. The spikelets are fescue-like and are arranged in a pattern like Perennial Ryegrass.
This is one of our meadow indicators.

What looks like the rare (at least on Brook Meadow) Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) is out on the edge of the Lumley area. The spikelets are thinner than those of the more common Soft Brome and with longer awns.
I found a good patch of Plicate Sweet-grass (Glyceria notata) on the western side of the Lumley area. I have not seen this grass before in this location and its presence probably results from the extensive and prolonged flooding of this area in the past winter.

Other grasses newly flowering were Perennial Ryegrass and Yorkshire Fog. These take the total number of grasses recorded on Brook Meadow in 2014 so far to 19. The list numbers 33.

I am fairly sure this attractive moth is a Mother Shipton (Callistege mi) so-called for the forewing pattern which is said to resemble the witch-like profile of the legendary Mother Shipton. Day flying in grassy places. Larvae feed on clovers and other legumes. Our first ever record of Mother Shipton on the Brook Meadow site as far as I am aware.

I also have a couple of mysteries. The first could be a Snipe-fly (Chinery p.198). The beetle looks vaguely like a Ladybird, but not one I have seen before.

Millpond news
I found the Mute Swan family on Slipper Millpond this morning, having moved from the safety of Peter Pond where they were yesterday. The mother swan (with pink legs and feet) was on the water with 5 cygnets - one fewer than yesterday. I won't try to guess where the missing one has gone.

There was another pair of Mute Swans on the southern part of the pond without any cygnets. I don't know where they have come from.
The Great Black-backed Gulls were absent and I could not see the chicks on the raft, though I suspect they were well hidden amongst the vegetation.
There was no obvious sign of any Coot chicks anywhere. Ominous! The Mute Swan was high on her nest on the town millpond when I passed by, keenly watched as always by an audience from the bridge.

Other news
Robin Pottinger saw a juvenile Water Vole on the east bank of the river under the south bridge yesterday (May 29) at about 12.30 pm near south bridge.

Francis Kinsella found this juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker on the pavement outside his house in North Emsworth yesterday. It looked fine and so left well alone.

Chris Oakley managed to get a shot of the Fox and its cub that regularly visits his garden at night. They are tucking into a road-kill Pheasant that Chris cut up and put out for them.

Malcolm Phillips went for a walk on the Hayling Billy Line this morning then back by Langstone Mill through the fields where he got a good photo of a Mistle Thrush. Mistle Thrush is distinguished from Song Thrush partly by its larger size, but also by the heavier spotted breast and white edges to the wings. They always look more fierce than Song Thrush. Malcolm's photo also shows the characteristic dark smudge at the side of the breast.

THURSDAY MAY 29 - 2014

Emsworth Millpond
The pen swan was sitting high on the 'litter nest' on Emsworth Millpond this morning with an audience of passers-by looking down from the bridge. She got up briefly while I was there allowing me to see there were six eggs in the nest, two more than when I last looked on May 18. So, she has clearly laid another two fresh eggs to add to the four which had been previously submerged. It was also encouraging to see her turning the eggs over in the nest, an important activity in brooding.

This swan never ceases to surprise me. I had virtually written off any chance of successful breeding this year and now I would not be at all surprised to see her hatch two or possibly three cygnets in a couple of weeks time. Amazing!
A small Mallard family with 4 ducklings was also on the pond near the bridge.

Peter Pond
The Mute Swan nest in the reedbeds on Slipper Millpond was empty except for some broken egg shells. There was no sign of the family on the pond, but I later found the two adult swans with six tiny cygnets near the island on Peter Pond. It seems they may have lost one of the cygnets since they were hatched as Nick Medina reported 7 of them. Sensibly, the parents had moved their family away from dangers of predation from the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond to the relative safety of Peter Pond.

Reed Warbler was singing from the reedbeds in the south west corner of Peter Pond.

Slipper Millpond
The female Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. I could clearly see one spotted chick in amongst the burgeoning vegetation and possibly a second chick partly hidden as shown in the photo.

The male Great Black-backed Gull arrived on the pond while I was there to be greeted with a crying call from the female. A few minutes later I was very surprised to see a third Great Black-backed Gull on the water fairly close to the resident male. As there was no apparent conflict between the two gulls I wonder if the third gull was one of the juveniles from last year?
There was also a Mediterranean Gull bathing on the pond.
I could just make out a Coot family in the reeds on the eastern side of the pond, but I could not see how many chicks there were. I assume this was the family from the south raft. I could not find the other Coot family that I previously saw on the centre raft, though there were two adult Coots on the western side of the pond and I could hear some cheeping from the reeds which hopefully indicated the presence of chicks.

Emsworth marina seawall
I had a walk along the seawall overlooking the harbour. There is currently a fine display of Hedgerow Crane's-bill, the best I can recall. Cow Parsley is going to seed, but Hemlock is just starting to flower. The two plants are easily distinguished by the red blotches on the stems of Hemlock.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips has collected a good number of photos over the past few days while I have been away, including this attractive Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis). The rather feathery antennae and all red body and head distinguishes it from other Cardinals. We have had several sightings of this insect on Brook Meadow over the years, the last one being on Jun 1 last year.

Malcolm also got this interesting photo of two Harlequin Ladybirds with very contrasting colourations mating.

Today, Malcolm also had what was almost certainly a young Water Vole below the south bridge.

Other news
Les Winter's garden bird feeding station is now very busy with Blue Tits, Goldfinches, Sparrows, Dunnocks and a Great Spotted Woodpecker all attracted by RSPB branded fat slabs which all the birds seem to love, says Les, over their previous diet of common fat balls. I will have to try those. He sent this photo of two Blue Tit chicks being fed by a parent.

Keith Wileman got his camera out to snap this rather fine Green Woodpecker which paid a visit to his north Emsworth garden this afternoon.


I have been away from home for a few days on the Isle of Wight visiting family. Here are a few bits and pieces of local news from e-mails I received while I was away.

Nick Madina reported that the Mute Swan pair on Slipper Millpond had hatched 7 cygnets by May 26. Nick thought the Great Black-backed Gulls also had chicks but did not know how many.

Jennifer Rye says there is a pair of Blue Tits nesting in the nesting box on Brook Meadow, just across from Beryl's seat.

Tony Wootton took his U3A group to Pulborough Brooks On May 27 and had what he described as 'a once in a lifetime day' of seeing at least 4 Nightingales. Here is a photo of one of them spreading its tail.

Patrick Murphy got this image of a Green Woodpecker on his lawn with earth around its bill from digging for ants.

Graham Petrie was delighted to get a male Bullfinch in his Havant garden on May 27.

Hogboy the Hedgehog
Graham Petrie provided a news update on Hogboy, the Hedgehog that he has been looking after during the winter. Hogboy has had his nails trimmed at The Little Prickles sanctuary and is out in the garden in a guinea pig run for a few days to acclimatise. From his outside camera Graham has also discovered a curious fox visits the garden and he hopes Hogboy will have the instinct to protect himself once the run is removed. The camera also revealed a visit from another hedgehog. Just goes to show the value of a night time camera to catch what goes on after dark.

Great White Egret on Thorney
Barry and Margaret Collins reported on SOS Sightings on May 25 that they saw a rare Great White Egret feeding on the south side of Thorney Great Deep (west). Other birds of note included 60 Swifts hawking for insects over the deeps and 200+ Sanderlings at Pilsey Sands on a falling tide.

Bird Atlas Mapstore
The BTO Bird Atlas Mapstore is an excellent new online resource bringing together all of the maps from both the breeding and wintering bird atlases since 1968. It allows you to 'slide' between different maps in a series to see how distributions have changed. I had a look at the maps for Nightingale and Turtle Dove which show similar patterns of decline over 40 years ie, a pronounced decline in breeding in the west but hanging on in the east. Little Egret shows an astonishing increase over this time.
See . . .

SATURDAY MAY 24 - 2014

Slipper Millpond
I had a phone call this lunchtime from Sharon whose house overlooks Slipper Millpond to say she was watching the hatching of both the Mute Swans and the Great Black-backed Gulls on the pond. I rushed over to have a look.
When I arrived at about 2pm, the pen swan was on the nest in the reedbeds with the cob also present nearby. The pen stood up briefly enabling me to see 4 or five cygnets, with one looking as if it had just that moment hatched. There were at least another couple of eggs unhatched in the nest. I imagine the swan will be brooding them for another day or two. Cygnets can just be made out in the photo on the left.

The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft of pond with one sitting on the nest and the other nearby. Sharon said they were taking turns in sitting on the nest. I did not see any chicks while I was there, but Sharon thought she had seen some.

The Coot family with 5 chicks (not 4 as I saw previously) was still on the centre raft with the gulls which were taking no notice of them. I wonder if the wiring on the raft prevents them getting access to the Coot chicks?

Here is the female sitting on the nest hemmed in by the wires

Peter Pond
David Gattrell was clearing the channels leading into the pond this afternoon. He said he had seen definite evidence of Water Voles on the reedbeds (ie food larders) and had seen at least two Reed Warblers. One was singing from the northern reeds as I was passing.

Mute Swan family
Another Mute Swan family with three tiny cygnets was present in the harbour near the quay this morning. I am not sure where they are from, possibly Emsworth Marina or even Thorney Little Deeps.

Blue Tits fledging
Leslie Winter tells me that the Blue Tits in his garden finally fledged over the last two days. He sent me this shot of a parent feeding the last one and encouraging it to leave the nest box. The parent spent some time 'demonstrating' how to fly to the pergola from the nesting box.

A pair of Blue Tits have also been very busy in my garden, going in and out of the nest box with food and faecal sacs. Fledging must be very close.

Whitethroat breeding
Malcolm Phillips had a good morning round the meadow. His best sighting was of Whitethroat feeding young. This is the first indication we have had of Whitethroat breeding on Brook Meadow this year which is excellent news.

Hairy dragonfly
Tony Wootton sent me this photo of what he thought was a female Hairy dragonfly. His wife Hilary found it on clematis in the garden. I am no expert, but it looks good to me. The thorax certainly appears to be downy which no other hawkers have. And, most significant there is a long thin pterostigma mark on the upper edge of the wings. Nice one, Tony.

FRIDAY MAY 23 - 2014

Brook Meadow
Walking through Brook Meadow this morning I found another two Southern Marsh Orchid flower spikes open on the north meadow, bringing the total for the meadow to 9 so far.

Peter Pond
A Reed Warbler was singing loudly from the reedbeds in the south west corner of Peter Pond, but no sound from the northern reedbeds. Maybe the bird I heard from there earlier in the week has moved down.
My first Goat's-beard of the year was in flower on the south bank of Peter Pond.

Slipper Millpond
I was very surprised to see a Coot family with four chicks feeding among the grasses on the centre raft where the Great Black-backed Gull was nesting. You can just make out the four chicks on the photo.

I think this must be the pair that nested in the reedbeds near the Mute Swan nest. I am not optimistic about their prospects! Another Coot family also with four chicks was on the southern part of the pond; they are probably from the south raft which is now empty. Meanwhile the Mute Swan and the Great Black-backed Gull were sitting snugly on their nests in the reeds and on the raft respectively. I think both should be hatching in the next week or so.

Waysides News
Oxeye Daisies and Purple Toadflax are in flower on the Bridge Road Wayside.

Thieving Magpie
Chris Oakley wondered who was taking the bait he put out for the Fox before it got dark, so he set up the camera and caught the culprit! He assumed it was a local cat so this caught him by surprise.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning between 10:05am and 11:20am. Very, very windy. Here are the highlights: He walked in via Wade Lane. Song Thrush, 2 adult Mistle Thrush with 2 juvs. 2 Stock Dove, Blackcap heard singing, Med Gull over, 2 Swallow, Buzzard in usual tree.
Partly flooded Horse Paddock: 43+ Starlings, 2 adult Grey Heron.
Mill Pond: Little Egrets - very windy conditions but counted 12 active nests with young - one with 3 youngsters in.
Grey Heron - 3 juvs still on nest. South nest on top of the Holm Oak with one tiny youngster visible, but windy conditions made viewing difficult. Reed Warbler heard singing, but too windy. Tufted Duck 2 pairs giving good views.
Off shore on falling tide: 5 Whimbrel, Grey Plover, 5 Canada Geese, 4 Common Tern fishing along with 2 Little Tern. Pair of Red Breasted Mergansers asleep on the island in the middle of the channel. Lingering Brent Goose feeding on the island (seen this bird a few times now so looks like staying).

THURSDAY MAY 22 - 2014

Fox cub
Chris Oakley has a regular Fox cub visiting his garden at night, the same time as the adult, at around 3am. Chris got this photo of the cub with his night time camera. He's hoping to see the two together. There's been no sign of the Hedgehog but Chris says he's still leaving his calling cards around the garden.

Red Admirals
Following my sighting of three Red Admirals yesterday, Ralph Hollins e-mailed to say he'd also seen several Red Admirals and agreed that it probably marked a wave of immigrants. However, he disagreed with my statement that they do not overwinter in Britain. I should have known this as I have seen them in winter as well.
Ralph mentioned the The Butterfly Conservation national website which states that overwintering does now occur in the south of England; their first sightings page lists them as being seen this year on Jan 2 in many counties in the South of England. See . . .

Black-winged Stilts
A pair of Black-winged Stilts have been present at the new Medmerry RSPB Reserve for the past few days and appear to be breeding. These attractive wading birds winter in Africa, but usually migrate no further than the Mediterranean area for summer breeding. They are very rare visitors in Britain. I have not been to this reserve myself, but apparently access, particularly parking, is extremely limited and there is still construction machinery moving around nearby. See . . .


Emsworth Railway Wayside
I had a look around the Railway Wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station this morning. Overall, I found it a pretty depressing experience due mainly to the presence of a wide strip of totally barren ground alongside the ramp, clearly sprayed with chemicals. This is most disappointing as it had been previously agreed with Southern Rail that this area would be preserved as a wildlife wayside area.

Another depressing aspect of the site was the continued encroachment of brambles across the area where the glorious Marsh Woundwort colony has been flowering in previous years. The situation is now desperate.
I had a walk along the track to the north of the railway where a sewage pipe had recently been buried. This is potentially an interesting area botanically as it has a ditch on the north side with running water which runs into the Westbrook Stream.

'Thigh beetle' (Oedemera nobilis)
One compensation on the Railway Wayside was my first 'Thigh beetle' (Oedemera nobilis) of the year. This is not the official name of the insect, but describes it well as hind limbs have swollen thighs. Note only the male has swollen limbs. It is fairly common on flowers in summer.

Red Admirals
I saw three Red Admirals today in different areas, the first I have personally seen for a long time. Does this indicate a fresh wave of migrants, I wonder? These butterflies are unable to survive the British winter, so the ones we see here migrate from the Mediterranean region. Malcolm Phillips also had one on the Hayling Billy Line and got a nice photo.

Blackthorn galls
Many of the Blackthorn bushes along the path behind Lillywhite's Garage are covered in soft white 'berries'. They are not the regular berries or sloes, which can be seen forming on the tree, but are white and soft, more like galls.

Dissection of one of the galls revealed a hollow centre and no stone.

A bit of research on Google indicated that the culprit is probably a fungal plant pathogen called Taphrina pruni or the Pocket Plum gall. It affects Prunus species (Plums, Damsons, etc) causing distortions in the developing fruit which become hollow without stones. Later, a white bloom of fungus appears, then the fruit shrivels and falls.

Black-headed Gull chicks
Malcolm Phillips managed to get this photo of some of the Black-headed Gull chicks on the islands in the lagoon of Hayling Oysterbeds. Chris Cockburn counted 677 nests, so there should be a lot more to come in the next few weeks.

Cetti's Warbler in flight
Tony Wootton has been over to Ham Wall nature reserve on the Somerset Levels where he obtained this unique photo of a Cetti's Warbler in flight in the reedbeds. The bird's overall brown colouring, fan tail and short rounded wings are very distinctive.

Mystery solved - Blue Water Speedwell
Regarding the mystery plant on the previously flooded river bank in Palmer's Road Copse that I reported yesterday, Ralph Hollins e-mailed this morning to ask if I had considered Blue Water Speedwell. Well, the truth is that I had not considered it until lying in bed early this morning when it suddenly came to me. That is what they are!
In fact, I have recorded Blue Water Speedwell (called just Water Speedwell in Blamey, Fitter and Fitter) on Brook Meadow since 2001, both on the Lumley Stream and on the River Ems. Here is a photo taken several years ago on Brook Meadow of a Blue Water Speedwell plant in flower.

I recall Pete Selby, the late BSBI South Hants Recorder, during a visit to Brook Meadow in July 2001, telling me that I should always count the flowers on the stalks to establish if it was the pure form of Blue Water Speedwell or a hybrid between Blue Water Speedwell and Pink Water Speedwell called Veronica x Lackschewitzii.
Pete's tip was that if the flower spike had more than 20 flowers then it was probably the hybrid and not the pure form. The Plant Crib (1998 p. 263) gives a mean of 25 flowers (range 15-40) for the pure form and a mean of 60 (range 30-90 for the hybrid, so clearly the 20 limit is not final. Interestingly, the illustration of Blue Water Speedwell in Rose (New ed p.401) shows a plant with a very long flower spike which would certainly qualify as a hybrid by Pete Selby's maxim, whereas that in Blamey, Fitter and Fitter (p.243) shows a relatively modest flower spike. All rather confusing! Anyway, here is an example of a hybrid Veronica x Lackschewitzii from Brook Meadow with the long flower stalks.

I have used Pete's tip as a good rule of thumb subsequently to check on the Blue Water Speedwells I have found and most of them have turned out to be over the 20 flowers limit, ie, the hybrid Veronica x Lackschewitzii. However, last year (21-Jun-2013) I came across some plants on the bank of the Lumley Stream with relatively short flowering spikes suggesting they were the pure form of Blue Water Speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) and not the hybrid. I shall be interested to see how these plants develop, hybrid or pure?

TUESDAY MAY 20 - 2014

Brook Meadow
I found another three Southern Marsh Orchid flower spikes on the orchid area this morning in addition to the three I noted on May 17. Two are in the same area as the other three, but the other one is about 20 metres further south. I have marked their locations with twigs. Including the one spike on the Lumley area, this means we now have 7 flowering orchids on the meadow.

Here is a photo of the original three spikes which are fairly close together

On the Lumley area, Pepper-saxifrage leaves are now showing in the usual place on the east side of the area. While looking for damselflies (which I did not see) near the Lumley Stream, I spotted a brown moth-like creature which perched long enough for me to get a photo. My guess is that it is a Caddis Fly, though I really have no idea which one, even if that is the case.

The extensive flooding of the river in Palmer's Road Copse earlier in the year has produced an interesting variety of plants on the mudflats to the west of the river. Among the flowers are Yellow Iris and Bittersweet.

Yellow Iris

Plants which have seem to have benefited especially from the flooding are Gipsywort, Bittersweet and the mystery plant with round leaves that I have been puzzling over, which is probably Water Mint.
There is another mystery plant which looks like a substantial willowherb, but is not hairy which rules out the Great and Hoary Willowherb. One possibility is Marsh Willowherb which would be a first for Brook Meadow. Again, I shall have to wait for flowers unless someone knows.

 Reed Warbler on Peter Pond
I had almost given up on the Reed Warbler on Peter Pond, having not heard one singing for about 2 weeks. However, I heard and saw one this morning in the northern reedbeds. It perched briefly (no time for a photo) and then flew off in pursuit of what I assume was another Reed Warbler. Hopefully, this is a pair.

Nightingale and music
BBC have issued a recording of a Nightingale singing alongside folk singer Sam Lee in Sussex to commemorate the first BBC wildlife outside broadcast of Beatrice Harrison playing her cello with a Nightingale in her garden 90 years ago. It was recorded in the early hours of the May 12th and went out yesterday on Radio 4 at 11.00 pm. Listen to it on IPlayer (for the next 6 days) . . . . . . Quite pleasant, but there is no substitute for the real thing! My preference is to hear them in without accompaniment Marlpit Lane!

MONDAY MAY 19 - 2014

Waysides News
This morning from 10 to 12 noon, Jane Brook and I conducted a survey of three Emsworth waysides. We began at the Westbourne Open Space at the top of Westbourne Avenue. There was a riot of grasses, mostly Meadow Foxtail, Tall Fescue and Smooth Meadow-grass with Rough Meadow-grass starting to open, plus small amounts of Soft Brome and Wall Barley. There are lots more species to come.
The best find of the morning was Knotted Hedge-parsley on the edges of the footpath and cycle way. We also found some on the Christopher Way site where the plants were also growing on the main grass verge. This is a welcome comeback for this plant which The Hants Flora describes as 'rare' in Hampshire. We first found it on the Christopher Way site in 2010 and on the Westbourne Open Space site in 2011. The plants were considerably reduced in 2012 and had completely disappeared from both sites by 2013.

Also on the Christopher Way wayside we found three good sized Wild Clary plants in flower along with a fourth stunted one. There were several more Wild Clary plants which were already growing back on the council verge having been cut a couple of weeks ago. They are certainly tough plants. But it is so good to see them coming back after almost disappearing last year. But shall we ever get back to the 40 plants we had here in 2012.

Shining Cranesbill was shining in the sunshine on the path leading to Bellevue Lane and was in flower. A Red Admiral on the path was the only butterfly we saw all morning. Finally, we went over to the Warblington Underpass. There was no sign of the Clustered Clover. The verge having been recently mown did not help.

Malcolm's news
On Sunday, Malcolm walked through the meadow where he saw a male Azure Damselfly to complement the female that I had on the same day. Then he went down Thorney Island where he managed to get this image of one of the Reed Warblers that spend the summer in the reedbeds on the Little Deeps.

This morning Malcolm spent some time on the south bridge on Brook Meadow watching the Pike. He was worried for the Moorhen as it swam right over the Pike but the fish never moved at all. Malcolm also got this excellent image of a Long-tailed Tit stretching its wings and staring at the camera with its red-rimmed eyes.

Shelducks at Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley found two Shelducks on the pond of Hampshire Farm site this evening. He had to take over 50 photos to get this one of them both together with their heads out of the water. He says they spent most of their time dabbling with the occasional preen. Chris notes that the female, at the back in the photo with the smaller knob, has a white mark in the centre of the head above the bill. He has also seen another female on the pond with a white spot on the side, presumably a different bird. Female Shelducks do normally have some white marks on the face.

Havant Thicket
Brian Lawrence had a walk through Havant Thicket today and saw a lot of these Speckled Yellow Moths. They are one of the attractive day flying moths, almost like butterflies.

He also captured this excellent image of a male Broad-bodied Chaser.

SUNDAY MAY 18 - 2014

I had two damselflies fluttering around the vegetation on the edge of the Lumley Stream on Brook Meadow. One was a Large Red Damselfly and the other was a female Azure Damselfly - our first of the year.

Millpond News
The Mute Swan is back on the nest on the town millpond brooding the four eggs I saw yesterday. I am not hopeful, but I have learned from experience never to underestimate this swan! So you never know.

SATURDAY MAY 17 - 2014

Southern Marsh Orchids
There are now three Southern Marsh Orchid flower spikes on the east side of the orchid area, plus another one on the Lumley area, which Maurice Lillie and Lesley Harris both mentioned to me. This is the first Southern Marsh Orchid we have seen on the Lumley area, a good 100 metres away from the main colony on the orchid area of the north meadow. Let's hope this means they are spreading. You can just see the third orchid in the right hand corner of this photo.

Ragged Robin
I counted 104 Ragged Robin in flower on the Lumley area and another 6 on the centre meadow taking the total to 110. This shows a considerable increase since May 13 when I could only find 16 plants in flower. We have already passed the totals for the past two years, which were very poor, but I think there are more to come. The next target is the 214 we had in 2011.

Mystery plants
I am still puzzling over the plants with square stems and round leaves that are springing up on the banks of the river in Palmer's Road Copse. They look a bit like Water Mint and have a faint minty smell, but this is nowhere near as strong as in Water Mint. Hedge Woundwort has been suggested, but the smell is quite wrong for that plant.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips was also on the meadow this morning. He caught a quick glimpse of the Water Vole by the south bridge and also saw a large Pike again. His best sighting of the morning was this Large Red Damselfly.

Emsworth Millpond
The Mute Swan pair on the town millpond continue to perplex. I thought they had given up their nest after it and the 5 eggs had been washed away by the high tide and storms. However, swans are back with a renewed nest and four eggs, though how many have been recently laid is unclear. One wonders if there has been any helping human hand at work in egg retrieval and nest construction. Still, they continue to be a constant source of interest to people passing over the bridge.


Peter Pond
I have not heard the Reed Warbler since May 3 and I suspect it may well have moved on. The two Coot families each with 4 chicks are still doing well. One rather fine Mediterranean Gull was on the pond along with a few Black-headed Gulls. In the centre of the photo with the jet black head and red bill.

Slipper Millpond
All was peaceful with the Mute Swan on the nest in the reedbeds and the Great Black-backed Gull on the nest on the centre raft. I have had no reports recently of conflict, so I assume they are tolerating each other's presence.

Chris Cope reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group on North Common, Northney.
Go to . . .
Havant Wildlife Group and link to 2014 reports.

Ralph Hollins heard from Tony Gutteridge this morning saying that he had heard two Turtle Doves on May 14 'behind Stansted House'. These are the first I have heard about locally. Has anyone else heard them?

FRIDAY MAY 16 - 2014

10:00 - I walked around the old Hayling Oysterbeds site (now the West Hayling Nature Reserve) from the northern car park overlooking 'Texaco Bay' on this fine warm morning. There are notices that the northern part of the Hayling Billy Line will be closed from Monday May 19 for resurfacing. I don't think this is particularly good news for walkers as it means cyclists will be even harder to hear coming up from behind. As it is, one really needs to take great care walking down this path which is a cyclists race track. I nearly got hit this morning. But no more of that, let's get on with the wildlife.

I got to know this area well during my weekly wardening stints from 2006-2010. Since then I have only been a casual visitor, but have appreciated the regular news updates from Chris Cockburn. I was looking forward to seeing the 'great gull show' on the islands in the lagoon and was not disappointed as the two main islands were packed with hundreds of very noisy Black-headed Gulls. Chris counted 677 nests on the two islands, down on last year's 1149. I had a look for the chicks, but I did not have my scope with me so did not spot any. This is a view of the main island from the western bund.

However, I did see several Common Terns, a couple of which regularly fished along the edge of the lake close to the shore, giving excellent photo opportunities. I often saw them doing this during my wardening years and they are cracking birds.

As Chris says, the Common Terns have not yet settled down to nesting, though there clearly is not much space left for them on the islands. However, there seemed to be a small gathering at the western tip of the north (curved) island. Here is a couple that perched quite close to me. They are such photogenic birds.

Chris did not mention Little Terns in his last report and I did not see any this morning, so I assume they have abandoned the site for nesting and gone over to the harbour islands. When I first started wardening in 2006 Little Terns were regular nesters on the islands, with relatively few Black-headed Gulls being present; 36 Little Terns nested in that year producing 21 fledglings which, for Little Terns, is a pretty good proportion. It was not long before the Black-headed Gull invasion began in earnest and that was pretty much the end of the line for Little Terns at the Oysterbeds. This was despite Jason Crook's creation of a new tern island complete with decoys, well away from the gulls. Incidentally, I noticed that this island with the blue 'roosting birds' warning sign on it further to the west of the lagoon is now covered with rubble, presumably from the storms, and now looks very unsuitable for tern nesting.
Just to remind ourselves what they look like, here is one of many snaps I got of Little Terns in my wardening years on the main shingle island. Beautiful birds.

Today, I also saw 3 of the Oystercatchers mentioned by Chris on the east end of the south island. My only other bird observation was hearing a good number of Whitethroat songs around the area.

I always used to have a walk around the site during my wardening duties, noting down any wild flowers, grasses, etc that I saw and finished up with a reasonable list of 183 species. Not many of these were on show today, as it is still early in the season, though I managed to log 61 species. There was a good display of Oxeye Daisies along the main path, along with some Cat's-ear and Field Forget-me-nots.
I recall having to ask Martin Rand about the tall grasses growing beside the main track. He told me they were Upright Brome, which probably came with chalk from Portsdown Hill where they are the dominant grass. This grass looks superficially like a fescue, but they are more delicate than the fescues and are definitely upright, not drooping to one side as the fescues tend to do. Here are some Upright Brome on the seawall looking towards the mainland.

As Chris has said, the Milk Thistles are doing well to the west of the mound with lots of fresh leaves, but no flowers as yet. The large colony of Divided Sedge is still going strong on the east side of the main Billy line, right opposite where the track comes down from the mound.
I always enjoyed mooching around the saltmarshes to the west of the lagoon, but today they appeared to be greatly denuded, presumably from storm damage. They were mostly covered with Sea Purslane with pockets of Glasswort and Common Sea-lavender (not in flower) and some English Scurvygrass in flower.

From the Oysterbeds I carried on down Hayling Island with the intention of going to Gunner Point to have a look at the orchids, but I never got there. I was distracted by a fine splash of pink Thrift on the shore of The Kench.

I parked the car by the roadside and enjoyed the next half an hour looking at the wild flowers on the shore, which included Sheep's Fescue, Cat's-ear, Common Vetch, Danish Scurvygrass, Tree Lupin and Mouse-ear Hawkweed plus an abundance of Sand Sedge.
There was also a mystery Lily-like plant with bright yellow flowers up a rounded fleshy stem at the western end of the shore which I have no idea about. Ralph Hollins thinks it is of one of two members of the Pea family - either Broom (flower length 15-20 mm) or Spanish Broom (flowers 20-28mm). My guess is Spanish Broom as the stems are rounded and not angled like Broom and the flowers are over 20mm.

Sea Mouse-ear
Also, on the shore of The Kench was also a low-growing mouse-ear with notched white petals shorter than the sepals. It was very sticky and had grains of sand stuck all over it. It was certainly not Common Mouse-ear or Sticky Mouse-ear. From the guides, the two choices I seem to have are Little Mouse-ear and Sea Mouse-ear. From Rose (New Ed p.152) Sea Mouse-ear (Cerastium diffusum) seems to be the best ID for the plants - with bracts wholly green without the silvery margins of Little Mouse-ear and with straight not curved capsules. The Hants Flora describes it as locally common on sand dunes and beaches. This is a new plant for me!

Small Heath on Thorney
Malcolm Phillips got this photo of a Small Heath butterfly during a walk on Thorney Island today. This is the first one I have come across locally, though I gather they have been recorded in Sussex for a week or two. This butterfly always settles with its wings closed, so only the undersides of the wings are seen.

For earlier observations go to . . May 1-15