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


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

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

for June 24-30, 2014
in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current

MONDAY JUNE 30 - 2014

Mute Swan news
I had a quick look at the swan in the 'litter nest' at about 10.30 this morning. She was standing up on the nest with her family of four cygnets still all present.
The Mute Swan family family with two cygnets on Peter Pond was on the eastern verge again looking well and growing.

Small-flowered Crane's-bill
Ralph Hollins had a look at the Bridge Road Wayside yesterday hoping to see the Sulphur Cinquefoil, but unfortunately the flowering head appears to have been chopped off, leaving the stalk and few lower leaves. Very strange!
However, Ralph did spot a healthy clump of Small-flowered Cranesbill growing on the concrete kerbstones marking the edge of the car park into the carpark about 10 metres south of the gap in the fence. Grid Ref: SU 74733 06088 The tiny pinkish flowers distinguish it from the more common Dove's-foot Cranesbill which is probably what I mistook it for. It also has short hairs on the pedicles.

This is new plant for this wayside. It is a wonder the plants survived as the council spraying team were working on this verge a couple of weeks ago.
Other new wayside plants noted for this year's list included Crested Dog's-tail, Creeping Bent-grass, Hedge Bedstraw and Red Bartsia, taking this year's total to 124 (from a grand total of 193).

Italian Ryegrass?
Martin Rand replied to my query about the possible Italian Ryegrass that I found on the north of the Hampshire Farm open space site on June 16.

Martin said: "Yes, that certainly looks like either Lolium multiflorum or its hybrid with Lolium perenne, L. x boucheanum. But the awns are so well developed, I think it will be the species. The young leaves will be rolled, not folded, and the plant will be annual or biennial (it comes up easily, though you may not want to apply that test!)"

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow again today and got several excellent photos of butterflies including Comma, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Green-veined White, Large White and the first Gatekeeper of the season.

Female Large White showing the dark spots on the upper wing

Male Gatekeeper showing the male scent mark

Gatekeeper underwing showing the characteristic white dots

Mute Swan family
Maurice Lillie found another local Mute Swan family with four cygnets on Thorney Little Deeps.

Conigar Point
Peter Milinets-Raby spent an hour at Conigar Point (Noon to 1pm) just ahead of high tide. A little bit late as the tide had pushed in more than I would have liked. Species seen were as follows: 15 Lapwing, 4 Curlew, 2 Sandwich Tern, 2 to 6+ Common Tern, Little Tern, 4 Little Egrets, 14 Shelduck (2 juvs, the rest adults), 2 Mute Swan, Brent Goose, 2 young fledged Black-headed Gulls noted.
150+ Starling feeding along the shore (closer inspection revealed only 15 to 20 adults, the rest were all juvs).
Behind the point on the small reed bed were singing Reed Warbler and singing male Reed Bunting and 2 Linnets.
In Warblington Cemetery were Green Woodpecker and a stunning looking Hobby flew low over several times before drifting away over the channel.

SUNDAY JUNE 29 - 2014

Emsworth Millpond
My first target this morning was the bridge on Emsworth Millpond where the crowds were gathering as usual to see the great local wildlife spectacle. As I arrived the Mute Swan pair were just taking their four tiny cygnets into the tunnel under the road.

This is where the Westbrook Stream flows into the millpond and the water is fresh and might harbour food for the youngsters. Swans often do make their way right through the tunnel, but they are no longer able to get through to the stream in Bridge Road car park due to the new grill erected by the Environment Agency a couple of years ago. This is a pity as the stream in the car park is ecologically rich compared with the millpond. Two eggs still remain in the nest which is being used by Mallards as Juliette Walker found this morning - the wrong nest! Incidentally, I suspect the pen swan will be back to brood these eggs for a while, even though there is no chance of their hatching now.

Hermitage Millponds
From there I cycled across to Slipper Millpond where I found a Cormorant fishing which is quite unusual to see in the summer months. One Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft with the now rapidly developing chick.

Over on Peter Pond the Mute Swan with two cygnets was on east bank with the parents busily preening with feathers all over the place; it is moulting time. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was on Peter Pond, I spotted its yellow legs as it took off.
Another new Mallard family was also on the east bank with no less than 8 tiny ducklings. I hope the Great Black-backed Gulls do not find them!

On the east bank of Peter Pond Crow Garlic bulbils were sprouting green shoots. These are not flowers, but apparently new plantlets growing from the seeds in the heads.

Other flowers on the east bank included some Blue Cornflowers and Poppies, presumably from seed packets, plus Marsh Woundwort and Perennial Sow-thistle definitely not from a seed packet.

Fox and Cubs
I cycled up Lumley Road to check on the patch of Fox and Cubs at the top of the slope past Lumley Mill. They were still there, but nowhere near the abundance of those I found yesterday in Church path.

Brook Meadow
Back to the meadow where I admired the growing abundance of Creeping Bent-grass, undoubtedly the most delicate and beautiful of all our grasses, is now emerging in several places on the meadow. I checked for Marsh Woundwort in the usual spot at the northern end of the Bramble path, but there was no sign of it in the tangled growth of vegetation. I noted the first Great Willowherb in flower, though it has been out for over a week on the Railway Wayside.

Malcolm Phillips was busy taking photos when I passed through the meadow, so I did not disturb him.

He had a good selection of butterflies, Large Skipper, Large White, Meadow Brown, Ringlet, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Marbled White. He also saw a Slow Worm on the path by the new hut.

Here is Malcolm's Peacock which I have not recorded for a while

and a Marbled White

Railway Wayside
Finally, I went over to the Railway Wayside to have a look at the Marsh Woundwort which are now showing well at the eastern end of the Railway Wayside through a tangled web of brambles; there were many others elsewhere, so it should be a good crop.

Other flowers on this wayside include Common Knapweed, Common Fleabane, Perforate St John's-wort, Common Ragwort, Great Willowherb, Wild Carrot, Spear Thistle and Common Centaury.

House Martins in Westbourne
Caroline French read the blog yesterday and reminded me there are still House Martins nesting in Westbourne. Today, she saw nests on nos. 14 and 26 Lark Way but is sure there are more. Caroline says, in very recent years they have nested in Lark Way, Kingfisher Drive, Edgell Road, Homefield Road and Mill Road and it is good to see them using modern houses to build their nests, made easier by the protruding wooden rafters and soffits. Thanks, Caroline.


Millpond News
The four Mute Swan cygnets went for their first swim on the town millpond at about 12 noon this morning in company with both parents and watched by an admiring crowd of well wishers. They certainly made a fine picture and the cygnets looked healthy. One onlooker was feeding the swans porridge oats. I am not sure if the cygnets can digest these, but the parent swans certainly enjoyed the feast. Two unhatched eggs were in the nest.

Also, in the same area was the Mallard family of mum and six ducklings which I first saw here on June 22. I certainly did not expect them to stay intact for so long.

Fox and Cubs (flowers)
There is a superb display of Fox and Cubs in flower on the grass verge at the far southern end of Church Path in the centre of Emsworth. The last (and only) time I saw Fox and Cubs was on the grass verge at the top of the slope past Lumley Mill, by the old walls surrounding the garden of Mill Cottage. I actually cycled past there two days ago, but did not notice any. Maybe, I missed them?

These attractive plants have clusters of deep orange daisy-like flowers at the top of single unbranched hairy stems which rise from rosettes of leaves on the ground. Rose states that the plant was introduced from C Europe and is frequent to locally common. The Hants Flora says it is found on grassy verges usually near houses, probably spread from garden throw outs.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a couple of hours round the meadow this afternoon. While looking for a Water Vole (which he did not see) Malcolm spotted a Grey Wagtail in the river. This is a fairly regular visitor to Brook Meadow, but mainly in winter. Our last sighting was in Jan this year.

Malcolm got a nice shot of the upper wings of a Ringlet which can easily be mistaken for a Meadow Brown until it settles.

But Malcolm's most interesting sighting was an Emperor Dragonfly which at first I thought might be the same as the one I saw on the meadow on June 25. However, comparing the two photos, my impression is that these are two different individuals. Malcolm's dragonfly has a greener thorax and abdomen which suggests it might have been a female to complement the male I saw on June 25.

Here is Malcolm's Emperor Dragonfly - possibly female

Here is the male I took on June 25

Hedgehog and Fox video
Graham Petrie sent a link to a video of one of his Hedgehogs having a meal in company with a Fox! Astonishing how the two animals feed within feet of each other with no problem. Graham does not think the Hedgehog is Hogboy which he cared for over the winter, but says he is still around.

House Martins all gone?
Traditional local House Martin colonies seem to be disappearing fast. House Martins abandoned Stansted House many years ago where they used to nest for years. They always used to nest in some numbers in the new houses overlooking North Common, Northney, but Ralph Hollins said there were none there when he visited on Jun 26. That is sad as I clearly recall House Martins sweeping down onto the shoreline to collect mud for their nests. So, that's another former House Martin colony gone. The only other local site of a House Martin colony that I know of is at Lordington House near Walderton, though I have not been up there for a few years, so they may have gone from there too.

FRIDAY JUNE 27 - 2014

Millpond News
I checked the swan's nest on the town millpond at about 10am this morning. I was certainly not the only onlooker as there were several other people on the bridge looking down at the nest. In fact, there has been a constant presence of people on the bridge all day from what I can judge watching the swans, just like last year.

The three cygnets that I saw yesterday were out of the nest on the millpond mud. In the nest with the pen swan was a fourth cygnet! So I was wrong about the remaining three eggs not hatching. There are now two eggs remaining in the nest and I am saying nothing. While I was there the three cygnets managed to scramble back into the nest with their mother, so they can do it without help! One other observation is that there was more water in the millpond today. Has the Environment Agency opened the sluice to increase the level?
The following photo taken from the bridge looking down on the nest shows three cygnets, the other one is inder the pen's wings. The photo also clearly shows the variety of litter material used to construct the nest. Amazing.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips got some interesting sightings on the meadow today. Most important he got this photo of what I think is a juvenile Whitethroat. It reminded me of the photo that Charlie Annalls sent in of a juvenile Whitethroat from Hilsea Lines yesterday (Jun 26). This is important since it confirms the successful breeding of Whitethroat on Brook Meadow this year.

Malcolm saw a Water Vole just south of the S-bend in the river (section C), but could not get a photo. This was also important as it was the first sighting from anywhere else on the River Ems but the south bridge since May 6th. Malcolm also saw a Rabbit sitting on a pile of grass cuttings, but it went before Malcolm could get a photo.

Hollybank Woods
Francis Kinsella was in Hollybank Woods and saw several White Admirals, but typically, they were not easy to capture on camera. Here is the best shot.

There must be some Silver-washed Fritillaries on the wing as well in the woods, though Francis did not report any. Francis also got the following image of a male Broad-bodied Chaser - not an uncommon dragonfly to see in Hollybank.

Hayling Oysterbeds
Chris Cockburn gives the latest news from the Oysterbeds

"Common tern numbers at the Oysterbeds have increased to c96 apparent nesting birds; c34 on the inside of the 'curved' island while on the straight island there are c56 visible on the north side and 6 on the south side. Like 2013, the common tern season could extend well into August or even September.

At least one Mediterranean gull youngster is now able to get airborne. After a very short flight, it spent some time paddling about (closely accompanied by a parent) amongst the many black-headed youngsters in the lagoon. A few failed pairs of Mediterranean gulls are demonstrating their 'nuisance' traits. As observed many times previously on the harbour islands, it seems that after a failure at the egg or chick stage, their pair-bonding remains very strong; hence, the noisy calling as they fly over and their half-hearted territorial behaviour. They often develop a taste for eggs or small chicks (of any gull, tern or wader species) and these failed birds seem to prioritise the harassment of successful broods of other Med gulls (as has happened at the Oysterbeds' site recently). Hopefully, such birds will soon move on out of the area; otherwise, the multitude of common terns might have a very unproductive year!

Black-headed gulls are continuing to have a very successful breeding season, with several broods of three at the flight stage. There are often 'crèches' on the lagoon shores or on the lagoon itself where the youngsters are developing their foraging, flying, bathing and (of course!) territorial-behaviour skills. All of them are relying primarily on their parents for food but many of the oldest broods are flying further afield accompanied by parent birds. A youngster was seen 'foot-stamping' for prey items in a pool on the mudflats; was that learned or in-built behaviour?!

There is still an 'active' oystercatcher nest east of peg B on the north side of the straight island. Another pair now seem to be apparently on nest east of peg H on the straight island; but, in the typical oystercatcher fashion, there are periods when the nest site has been unattended by either bird.

Locally, It is continuing to be a good season for many floral species (e.g. Lady's bedstraw, Tufted vetch, Meadow Vetchling, Pale flax etc), which is good news for many invertebrates. There are many Marbled White and Meadow Brown butterflies (most of which have been instructed by their agents to not to pose for photographers!). However, Common Blue butterflies are presently a rare sight in the locale (Holly Blues are more numerous); this could be a result of the very wet winter, or, perhaps, a localised phenomenon caused by the winter's surging tides and storm driven 'sea spray'. It will be interesting to hear reports from other locations.

PS Great news; Wez Smith, the RSPB Site Manager, reports that there are good numbers of little tern chicks on the harbour islands and some should be fledging soon.


Swan eggs hatch on millpond
I had an e-mail from Rachel Sinclair to say the swan's eggs on the town millpond had started to hatch last evening (June 25), she thinks, about 8pm. Rachel took this photo showing just one cygnet and 5 unhatched eggs in the nest at about 9.45pm.

I had a look at 10am this morning and found the pen swan sitting as usual on the high nest. After a few minutes she stood up to reveal three tiny cygnets and three unhatched eggs. I suspect the two most recent eggs she laid have hatched along with one other. I suspect the remaining three eggs are too old to hatch; they were the ones retrieved from the bottom of the pond after the flood. Only two of the three cygnets can be seen in this photo; the third is hidden.

Rachel was concerned about the lack of water in the pond; if the cygnets leave the nest, they will struggle to get back in. I agree the water level is less than ideal, though I doubt if a higher water level would make much difference if a cygnet fell out of the nest. In fact, this happened last year when one small cygnet fell out of the nest and could not get back. It died. The remaining cygnet survived and prospered, despite a notable absence of natural foodstuffs on the pond.
This will be the big problem again this year, particularly if there is more than one youngster to feed. Three cygnets are not necessarily good news in such an impoverished habitat with little in the way of natural vegetation to harbour insects. Cygnets need natural high protein insect food to grow properly ie they cannot survive on bread, etc thrown in by well wishers. Last year a single cygnet survived thanks to the parents stirring up the mud on the bottom of the pond to release insects. So, there is always hope.

Other Millpond News
The Mallard family with six tiny ducklings was still present near the Mute Swan nest.
Common Fleabane was in flower on the edge of the millpond within sight of the swan nest - the first of the year.

The Mute Swan family with two cygnets on Peter Pond was on the grass verge right next to the seat. The pen's pink feet and legs (she's a 'Polish' variety) showed well.

Lumley - Westbourne
From Peter Pond I cycled to Westbourne via Lumley Lane. Plants of interest to me included Rough Chervil, False Brome, Hard Rush and Redshank along Lumley Road. The bridge over the A27 was ablaze with yellow flowers of Perforate St John's-wort and Agrimony along with Jointed Rush and Creeping Bent-grass along the edge of the kerbstones.

As I was approaching Westbourne alongside the millstream canal, I was surprised to hear a Reed Warbler singing from the vegetation. I don't recall ever having heard one here before.

Westbourne Open Space
I turned down Westbourne Avenue to have a look at the Westbourne Open Space wayside which was a mass of grasses. Creeping Bent-grass is coming up everywhere, most with closed panicles, but some with delicate open panicles. I was puzzled by what appeared at first glance to be Sea Couch, but surely not here, so far from the sea? More likely, it is an unusual silvery version of Common Couch.

Smaller Cat's-tail was fairly easy to pick out from the Timothy which has very much longer panicles. I noticed a bit of Knotted Hedge-parsley on the edge of the footpath just past the first lamppost. Common Ragwort is in full flower and attracting insects to its copious supply of nectar. The edge of the open space is lined with flowering Common Mallow.

Christopher Way verge
The two Wild Clary plants on the main wayside are now going to seed. I thought it might be a good idea to collect a few seeds - to start another colony somewhere, maybe? There were a good 20 Wild Clary plants coming up again on the verge further along Christopher Way which is regularly mown by the council. These must be pretty tough plants and they are starting to flower again!

New Brighton Road Junction
Finally, I got my first Small Skipper of the year, feeding on a Red Clover flower head on the New Brighton Road wayside. Note its plain upper wings and thin scent mark.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow again today with his trusty camera at the ready and got some excellent images of several butterflies including Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Meadow Brown and this little gathering of three Large Skippers. Discussing where the best flowers are to be found, I guess?

Hilsea Lines
Charlie Annalls has been out on Hilsea Lines with her camera in the recent fine weather. She found the regular Mute Swan pair with a family of 5 cygnets. Golly, there are so many relatively late broods this year.

She was unsure about the damselfly, but thought it might be a Blue-tailed Damselfly. With an all dark abdomen and bright blue tail, that looks right to me.

Charlie also took some snaps of a juvenile bird, preening and fluffing its feathers. She thought it might be a juvenile Whitethroat and I would agree again. Nice one, enjoying the warm summer weather.

Charlie concluded: "I understand that there is a shortage of Starlings generally. If anyone asks, they are all in my back garden and the noise is horrendous! Very argumentative birds. They are costing a fortune in fat slabs at the moment as they are bringing their families of 6/7 youngsters with them.......Oh well it only lasts a short while and they fly off after they've eaten all I can offer." Enjoy them, Charlie.


For the past few mornings, and sometimes during the day, small groups of up to 9 Swifts have been flying over the gardens at the back of our house in Bridge Road, sometimes swooping quite low and resting briefly under the eaves of neighbouring houses. I have witnessed this behaviour many times over the years, which I assumed was due to young birds investigating possible nesting sites. Swifts have not in fact nested in the immediate area for several years, though I do recall their nesting under a neighbour's roof.

Chichester Peregrines
Jean and I stopped for a morning coffee in the Chichester Cathedral cafe where the RSPB stand is still up with web cam still running on the Peregrine nest on the Cathedral. I was told by one of the volunteers that the two chicks, one male and one female, had both been ringed by Graham Roberts and were developing normally and were expected to fledge sometime in the next week. The two chicks can be seen flexing their wings on the live web cam on line at . . .

Brook Meadow
I had an exciting discovery on Brook Meadow this afternoon when I came across a magnificent male Emperor Dragonfly on the Lumley area. It remained resting in the sunshine on a stem of grass for a good 10 minutes while I took some photos.

I even had the opportunity to call over my neighbour, Rob, who was having a stroll to come over to have a look at it. What a cracking insect. This was certainly the best view of an Emperor Dragonfly that I have ever had, usually one just sees it patrolling swiftly over the river.

Malcolm Phillips also had an exciting time on Brook Meadow today when he got a couple of photos of a Silver-washed Fritillary, the first we have ever recorded on the meadow. The second of Malcolm's photos (on the right) shows the silvery underwing from which the insect gets its name.

Malcolm also saw the first Marbled White butterfly of the year on Brook Meadow.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley has been asking around about the position of access to the open space on the Hampshire Farm site and there still hasn't been any decision regarding the hand-over. However, the site now has two open gates one off Long Copse Lane and the other off Skylark Way, but the play area, the car park and the cycle path entrance are still fenced off. It is freely used by people from the estate - joggers, dog walkers, cyclists and people just out for a breath of fresh air. So, other than for the legal niceties Chris says there seems to be no restriction on use.

TUESDAY JUNE 24 - 2014

Millpond News
The Mute Swan remains sitting on her tower-like 'litter nest' near the bridge on the town millpond. I really have no idea when the eggs will start to hatch since I think she laid another two extra ones fairly recently. The Mallard family near the bridge with six tiny ducklings remains intact.
Meanwhile, the Mute Swan pair on Peter Pond now seem to have settled down with two cygnets, after losing five of their brood soon after hatching. The pen swan is a 'Polish' variety (pink legs and feet), though neither of the surviving cygnets are 'Polish' (they would be pure white if they were).

Over on Slipper Millpond the Coot family with three growing chicks are doing remarkably well despite the close presence of the Great Black-backed Gulls. I could see one of the gulls on the centre raft, but there was no sign of the chick.

Brook Meadow
I had a slow wander through a stiflingly hot meadow this morning. I found two new grasses to add to this year's plant list. Creeping Bent-grass not fully open was along the edges of the path round the Lumley area.
An awned version of Common Couch was present in the same area. I recall Martin Rand assuring me several years ago that Common Couch does sometimes have short awns. This means 26 of the 34 grasses on the Brook Meadow list have been located this year.

While looking for the grasses I came across a 'Nursery-web spider' (Pisaura mirabilis) standing guard over her nest of spiderlings.

Malcolm Phillips was also on the meadow today and photographed quite a number of butterflies including a Large Skipper. I was hoping it would be a Small Skipper which we have yet to record on Brook Meadow this year. Large Skipper always comes out before the Small Skipper.
Here is Malcolm's photo of the Large Skipper along with a Small Skipper I took on the meadow a couple of years ago for comparison. As the photos show the Small Skipper has relatively plain upper wings whereas those of the Large Skipper are usually well marked. The long scent line is also much thicker on the Large Skipper than on the Small Skipper.

Large Skipper

Small Skipper

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley spotted a Magpie Moth on Hampshire Farm but was puzzled by the stripe being yellow instead of the more common orange. It actually looks right by the illustration in my book (Chinery) which to my eyes is yellow like Chris's photo.

Chris also found a grass which looks like Green Bristle-grass (Setaria viridis) to me. I occasionally come across Green Bristle-grass, the last time being on the pavement in St James Road Emsworth. Hence it is fairly rare. It is described as an annual occurring as a casual of cultivated and waste ground, road verges and rubbish tips, mainly introduced in bird-seed.

Chris was also puzzled by the Bread Wheat which grows around the edges of the site. These seem to be popping up all over the place. I often see it on waysides and only this week I found some on Brook Meadow.

For earlier observations go to . . June 16-23