MAY 31 - 2014
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impression of a tortoise with its head withdrawn into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
reports very positively on the new Hampshire Farm pond
"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.
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
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
flowers on wayside
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
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.
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
"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
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
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!"
reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife
Group during which they saw lots of Brown Argus
For the full report go
to . . . http://familyfellows.com/hwg-walk-reports-2014.htm
MAY 30 - 2014
shows the cluster of three Southern Marsh Orchids
which are now growing well
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
Kinsella found this juvenile Great Spotted
Woodpecker on the pavement outside his house in
North Emsworth yesterday. It looked fine and so left
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.
MAY 29 - 2014
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.
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
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
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
There was also a Mediterranean Gull bathing on
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
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.
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.
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.
MAY 25 to WEDNESDAY MAY 28 -
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.
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.
White Egret on Thorney
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
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 . . . http://bto-enews.org/NXK-2GJFW-3UEDCR-133XAG-0/c.aspx
MAY 24 - 2014
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.
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?
is the female sitting on the nest hemmed in by the
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
MAY 23 - 2014
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
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.
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
and Purple Toadflax are in flower on the Bridge Road
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.
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
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
MAY 22 - 2014
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.
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 .
. . http://butterfly-conservation.org/679-823/red-admiral-.html
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 . . .
MAY 21 - 2014
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.
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.
beetle' (Oedemera nobilis)
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Warbler in flight
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.
solved - Blue Water Speedwell
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
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
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
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
MAY 20 - 2014
is a photo of the original three spikes which are
fairly close together
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
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.
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
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.
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) . . . http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b044m17b
. . . Quite pleasant, but there is no substitute for
the real thing! My preference is to hear them in
without accompaniment Marlpit Lane!
MAY 19 - 2014
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
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 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.
at Hampshire Farm
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.
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
He also captured this
excellent image of a male Broad-bodied
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife
Group on North Common, Northney.
Go to . . . Havant
and link to 2014 reports.
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?
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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!
Heath on Thorney
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.
earlier observations go to . . May