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

for July 16-31, 2014
in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Brook Meadow
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning. Pepper-saxifrage is in bud but not quite in flower on the east side of the Lumley area. There is an excellent crop of ripening Strawberry Clover along the path to the east of the Lumley area - probably the best I have seen there. Tiny white flowers are now out on the Gipsywort on the west bank in Palmer's Road Copse. There is plenty of Wild Angelica in flower, attracting insects.

Malcolm Phillips spent a couple of hours round the meadow today and got the first Painted Lady of the year on the meadow. Could this be the start of an invasion I wonder?

Malcolm, also saw this rather fine spotted Trout in the stream just north of Peter Pond. A handsome fellow!

Swallows at Lumley
I saw at least six Swallows flying around over Lumley Road. I think these must be from the stables at the rear of the Lumley houses. The birds seemed to be mostly juveniles, like the one that Malcolm Phillips photographed yesterday.

Slipper Millpond
I found a total of 26 Coot on the pond and on the nearby Dolphin Lake. A few of these are probably residents, though my impression is that this could be the first signs of the autumn arrival of the Coot from their breeding grounds.
Golden Samphire is now in full flower on the Hermitage Bridge by the main road.

Narrow-leaved Water-plantain
Following the severe flooding last winter we have lost all but one of the rare Narrow-leaved Water-plantain (Alisma lanceolata) that used to be so abundant in the Westbrook Stream. There are none left on the Bridge Road Wayside site. The only remaining plant is growing and now flowering on the edge of the canalised stream immediately behind my back garden. This photo was taken from my garden wall, though I previously identified the plant from an earlier survey I did of the whole stream. I suppose all we can hope is that the seeds from this plant will spread downstream and take root to produce more plants.

House Martins at Westbourne
Caroline French has previously reported House Martin nests in Lark Avenue Westbourne, so yesterday evening David Perks had a walk round there and found an active House Martin's nest at no. 3 Lark Avenue in addition to the houses listed by Caroline with small groups flying around the estate. On his way back to Nursery Close David called in the Hampshire Farm attenuation pond where there were about 10 House Martins over-flying the pond. I assume that they are birds from the Lark Avenue colony. These are the nearest nesting House Martins to Emsworth that I am aware of.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley photographed a mystery damselfly in the grass north of the Hampshire Farm pond. It is black with gold banding. He asked the British Dragonfly Association and they said it was a newly emerged Blue-tailed damselfly (ischnuraelegans) that has not yet developed its full colour.

Chris says the Pied Wagtail is back around the pond again now with six young. Chris is still tracking down grasshoppers. There are a lot of Common Blue butterflies over the grass and he did spot a much bigger sky blue butterfly the other day but couldn't get near enough to positively identify it.
Meanwhile, in Nursery Close the foxes continue to bring gifts. The other day it was a pair of ladies black suede shoes with diamante decoration. This morning there was a vacuum cleaner bag which had split and spilled out 51p in coins. So now they are paying for their treats.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had a wander down to the Warblington shore today ahead of the incoming tide (10:55am to 1pm) - Conigar Point to Pook Lane. Details are as follows:
Ibis Field: 2 Moorhen, Chiffchaff calling from hedge, 2 Stock Dove.
Hedgerow to Conigar Point: 2 juv Long-tailed Tits, Chiffchaff calling.
Tamarisk hedge at the point: 3+ Chiffchaff calling.
Off Pook Lane: 137+ Redshank, 8 Greenshank three with rings N - R/RY - RG - /YYtag - and G - R/YN - 8 Grey Plover (3 in summer), Med Gull young fledged bird, 4 Lapwing, 10 Dunlin.
Conigar Point: 5 Lapwing, 1 juv Shelduck, 22 Common Gull, 2 Mute Swan, 4 Grey Plover (one in summer), 4 Greenshank one with rings G - R/GO - 1 winter Black-tailed Godwit.

Colour-ringed Spotted Redshank W+GR - Peter's most exciting sighting from my perspective was a colour-ringed Spotted Redshank which was in partial summer plumage - quite black on the belly and dark mantle. It was at Conigar Point Grid Ref: SU SU737050 This is the bird that was caught and ringed by Pete Potts and his team on Thorney Island on Jan 18th 2014 and as far as I am aware this is the first recorded sighting of the bird since it was ringed! Information sent to Pete Potts and Anne de Potier. For full details of the ringing session see . . .
Here is a photo of the bird I took just before it was released.

Young Robin
Patrick Murphy currently has a young Robin in his garden which is quite happy to come within a couple of feet while they are working, presumably looking for any insects which they may disturb. Attached photo shows it is also not camera shy - the robin was only 18 inches from the camera!

Bumblebee takes honey water
Graham Petrie had a stranded Red-tail Bumblebee on his patio which appeared to enjoy some watered down honey. Graham's photo shows the bee's tongue protruding from the tubelike structure in its mouth to take the liquid.

Missing Barn Owl
Gez Watson informed me that a male barn owl flew off yesterday afternoon from her garden in Emsworth and hasn't returned. He is wearing jesses and a metallic blue ring. Please contact Gez if you see anything at


Fort Cumberland
I had to go into Southsea this morning, so had a little wander around one of my old haunts - the Fort Cumberland Open Space. It was hot and very dry. Most prominent of the flowers was Fennel and Wild Carrot, plus some Common Ragwort, Viper's-bugloss, Ladies Bedstraw, Hare's-foot Clover, Common Knapweed, Cat's-ear, Restharrow and a small area of Sheep's-bit.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow about 3.30 this afternoon. He saw the Kingfisher again at the top of Peter Pond but still no photo! However, Malcolm did get some nice shots of Swallows, including young birds, perching on the overhead cables. Young Swallows are duller in plumage than adults and with forked tail that lacks streamers.

Birch Shield Bug
Graham Petrie found this chap on one of his Silver Birch trees in his garden in Havant. He says it is a Birch Shield Bug which seems logical as it was on a Birch. However, I don't have one in my book so can't say a lot more. Any other offers? The internet says it is not easy to distinguish from other shield bugs!

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had a walk along the Warblington shore this morning (7:02am to 8:55am - very low tide) cutting through the Sweet Corn fields to reach Conigar Point.
The details are as follows: There were less migrants around than on my last visit (no Willow Warblers).
Ibis Field: In the hedge were a single Chiffchaff, Whitethroat and a Reed Warbler (always good to see this one away from its normal habitat), Stock Dove.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 3+ Chiffchaffs, Lesser Whitethroat (cleaner bird than the other day - juv type), Reed Bunting 2, Wren - Family group of 4, Stock Doves - 2 over.
Conigar Point: 5 Common Gull, 4 Grey Plover (one in summer plumage), 1 juv Shelduck, 13 Teal (all in eclipse plumage - first returning birds?), 5 Greenshank - one with coloured rings G-R/BBtag, 2 Snipe flew off the tidal marsh and headed inland (unusual record), 2 Lapwing, 1 Whimbrel, Lesser Black-backed Gull 2 adults with 2 juvs.
Tamarisk Hedge at the point: 2+ Chiffchaff calling.
Pook Lane: 6 Greenshank (2 with rings - both with yellow in the combination, but too distant - probably the same two I saw on my last visit). All eleven birds joined to feed together at one point in the little trickle of water in the channel. 5 Grey Plover - 2 in summer, 5 Black-tailed Godwits - 1 in summer, (first of the autumn?), 14 Common Gull, 14 Little Egrets feeding together in the trickle of water with a Grey Heron, 1 Turnstone (summer), 1 Bar-tailed Godwit (full summer - very bright), 3 Lapwing, 21 Dunlin, Common Tern, Mute Swan family resting on the shingle out in the middle (2 ad and 5 young), 2 Linnets along the sea wall.

TUESDAY JULY 29 - 2014

Annual cut of grassland
Martin Cull came over to Emsworth this morning with his super machine to carry out the annual hay cut of the grassland of Brook Meadow. This is, by far, the most important management activity of the year and the cutting is done in accordance with the group's management plan. Martin started with the centre meadow and then in the afternoon carried on with the north meadow. He will be returning to complete the job on Thursday.

As always the annual cutting disturbs many small animals that normally lie hidden away in the deep vegetation. Frogs were by far the most abundant of these today with dozens of small creatures jumping around on north meadow following the cut. I also noticed a couple of large blue dragonflies flying around over the north meadow.
For more photos see . . .

Water Vole
Brian Lawrence watched from the south bridge and was delighted to see a Water Vole in greenery by the dog warning sign. This is the second day running we have had a Water Vole sighting after about a month with nothing. This could have been the same animal that Malcolm Phillips saw yesterday.

Malcolm Phillips spent most of today doing Jenny's garden in Sultan Road. Whilst trimming some shrubs they came across this Caterpillar, nearly 3ins long. I think it is the caterpillar of the Eyed Hawk-moth. Like the Peacock butterfly this hawk-moth has false eyes to startle predators.

MONDAY JULY 28 - 2014

Waysides Surveys
I met Jane Brook this morning for a survey of two of the waysides in North Emsworth. we started at the Spencer's Field verge on the east side of Horndean Road. Not much of interest apart from a very nice patch of Upright Hedge-parsley living up to its name by standing tall and stiffly. This is the third and last of the common Cow Parsley type umbellifers to flower. We also noted some Black Bent-grass which was new to the site.
From there we had a walk along Southleigh Road (west) without finding anything special. In fact, we appear to have lost some of the more interesting plants that have been there in previous years, such as Fennel, Hemlock, Holly, Wild Carrot, Wild Radish and Butcher's-broom.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had some good sightings on Brook Meadow today. Most important he saw a Water Vole on the river bank beneath the south bridge. This was our first Water Vole sighting for a whole month. It is good to know they are still there.

For Water Vole news and photos see . . .

Just as important was the sighting of a juvenile Blackcap confirming the successful breeding of this species on Brook Meadow this year. Juvenile Blackcaps, like the adult females, have brownish heads; male juveniles will gradually acquire the black head over the first year.

Malcolm also got a young Wren. Good to see they have bred successfully too.

'Goldfish' correction
Regarding the 'goldfish' that Malcolm Phillips has seen on a couple of occasions in the stream near Lumley Mill, Mike Wells wrote to say it was, in fact, a Golden Orfe. Mike has about 20 in his pond, measuring up to approx. 18 inches in length - see the photo below. He has had them for over 30 years! He thinks the fish in the Lumley Mill stream was probably dumped by someone who did not want it any more.

Red-headed Grasshopper correction
Bryan Pinchen had a look at the 'Red-headed Grasshopper' that Chris Oakley took on the Hampshire Farm pond picture on July 26.

In fact, it is a Field Grasshopper (Chorthippus brunneus). Bryan says this species throws up many colour forms, ranging from the 'typical' grey brown colour through to greenish, reddish and even pink forms and every colour and colour combination in between. A close look at this species should also reveal that it is covered in rather dense fine hairs, the only British species like this. The characteristic white 'X' mark on the top of the pronotum immediately points to it being this species.
Bryan says our grasshopper species do show huge variation in their colouration but all can be identified by the shape and markings on the pronotum which are illustrated in his identification guide. 'Pocket Guide to the Grasshoppers, crickets and allied insects of Britain and Ireland' by Bryan Pinchen. Forficula Books, 2006.

Interestingly, Chris sent me another photo of what is probably another Field Grasshopper, but this one has a completely different colouring. Significantly, the white 'X' mark mentioned by Bryan shows up well on the pronotum.

Bee Eaters on Isle of Wight
Ralph Hollins alerted me to the fact that a pair of Bee-eaters have nested on National Trust land on the Isle of Wight and the chicks have hatched. An observation area has been set up for visitors to enable them to see these beautiful birds, but well away from the actual nest site to avoid disturbance. The site is at Wydcombe, grid ref SZ 511 778, postcode PO38 2NY. See link for a photo and more news.


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow early this morning in the hope of getting a photo of the Kingfisher which he saw yesterday at the top of Peter Pond and again today, but still no photo. Whilst standing waiting to see if he came back he saw a small bird in the reeds, probably a Reed Warbler. He also went up to Lumley Mill to see if the large 'Goldfish' was still there that he saw yesterday. Sure enough it was swimming around the same area by the mill. Where the heck has that come from?

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley poses two puzzles. Firstly the Roe Deer that regularly visits the pond on the Hampshire Farm site appears to have only one horn. Presumably the second horn is still to grow?

Secondly Chris got a shot of an unusual grasshopper with a reddish pronotum. I can't find it in Chinery, but Chris has located a Red-headed Grasshopper on the internet which is an American species from New Hampshire! The image on Google does look remarkably like Chris's photo!

Warblington - Emsworth
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along the Warblington shore via the fields behind Conigar Point (7:10am to 9am. Ibis field: 2+ Chiffchaff in hedge along with male female Blackcap, Whitethroat, 9 Chaffinch and 8+ Swallows over.
Field hedgerow behind Conigar Point (fields now full of sweet corn): 20+ Chiff/Willow Warblers (at least 6+ Willow Warbler identified and 15+ Chiffchaffs seen, With them were Lesser Whitethroat, 15+ Long-tailed Tit, Blue and Great Tits, 2 Stock Doves


Conigar Point: 2 Whimbrel, 21 Common Gull resting with 200+ Black-headed Gulls, 6 Lapwing, 4 Curlew, 2 Little Egrets, Common Tern, In Tamarisk hedge 2 Willow Warbler (one occasionally singing), 2+ Chiffchaff, Reed Warbler seen in Tamarisk hedge and one heard singing from reed bed.
Off Pook Lane: 5 Greenshank (two with rings - RG-/YYtag- and NR-/YY-), 2 Grey Plover in summer plumage, 2 Common Tern, Little Tern, Mute Swan family in the middle of the channel heading east (2 adults and 5 juvs). Not seen them on the pond for a few days.
This evening the family went for a walk around Emsworth Harbour. The highlights were 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 2 Med Gulls.

Iping Common
Heather Mills reports on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group. See the report at . . .

FRIDAY JULY 24 - 2014

Brook Meadow
I had a gentle walk through Brook Meadow this morning on the way to the shops. I walked down the main river path where I spotted what I think might be a female Beautiful Demoiselle. Female Banded and Beautiful Demoiselles are difficult to distinguish, but my book says the female Beautiful Demoiselle has broader wings with a brownish tint which seems to fit this insect.

I also found Water Mint in full flower around the Lumley area. What a cracking flower that is.

Malcolm Phillips got the first Cinnabar caterpillar of the year on the meadow. But I wonder what it is feeding on? That does not look much like Common Ragwort which, in fact, is very scarce on the meadow. Maybe, it has found the Hoary Ragwort?

Millpond News
Jackie-Michelle Daines was down at the town millpond at 8am today with her camera. All is well with the Mute Swan family and the cygnet is looking and feeding well.

Cuckoos in Africa
British Trust for Ornithology reports that the Cuckoo migration is well under-way, with seven Cuckoos in Africa, five of which were tagged this year. The rest are scattered across Europe with the last one, 'Derek', having left this week. The map is changing every day so keep an eye on it here . . .

Interestingly, the Cuckoo named 'Emsworthy' has made it to Africa, having flown across the Mediterranean at almost the widest point and making the crossing around 515 miles from his last location in southern France. He is now in northern Tunisia. 'Emsworthy' has nothing to do with our home town, but was named after Emsworthy Mire in Devon, where the bird was tagged.

Swifts on their way
We are still seeing a few Swifts flying around the houses in Emsworth, but soon they will be gone. They are one of the first migrants to arrive and the first to leave. They have a 14,000 mile migration back to Africa. Swifts in the south of the country leave earlier than the birds in the north but by the end of August they will all be more or less be gone. Young Swifts are fully independent on leaving the nest, and will depart for their wintering grounds a few days after fledging. See . . .

Is it too late for pessimism?
Ralph Hollins recommends viewing a 90 minute BBC 4 film showing the beauty and fragility of our planet with superb aerial photography, and delivering alarming statistics about climate change that could make Earth uninhabitable. We have only got 10 years! Scary stuff, but a beautiful film. Here is a link to the programme (for the next 6 days only). . .

Ralph thinks this film should be compulsory watching for all the world's youth as they come to the end of their formal education, and for every politician before they are allowed to put themselves up for election. See Ralph's comments in full on his diary at . . .


Brook Meadow
I had a slow walk through the meadow on a very hot morning. Peacock butterflies were abundant on the orchid area; I counted at least 10, all feeding on Common Fleabane with wings closed, showing only the black underwings.

The Great Burnet is still standing tall with bright red flowerheads. There is plenty of Strawberry Clover along the edge of the path around the Lumley area, much of it now turning into the strawberry-like fruits, good enough to eat!

The yellow-flowered Japanese Honeysuckle is flowering by the Lumley gate. They key differences from the native Honeysuckle are: flowers are in pairs, leaves are oval and pointed and berries are black not red.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley was on the Hampshire Farm site again - "very hot and very humid". He had this Pied Wagtail on the pond fence with a collection of insects. It flew off into the Wren Centre. It was probably collecting insects for youngsters in the nest.

Chris has been collecting plant seeds and found some Wild Oats, which as he says are "really are the most peculiar things, looking like more like insects than seeds". He believes they are used by fly fisherman as lures for Trout. In fact, what Chris has photographed are the detached florets from the plants with the long bent awns still attached. These apparently, assist the plant in seed dispersal by animals.

Wild-oat (Avena fatua) was introduced in this country many years ago with cereal seeds and has hugely increased in frequency over the last 60 years. Despite its large and attractive spikelets and graceful panicle, Wild-oat's reputation as a troublesome weed has entered the language as a metaphor for careless procreation, particularly amongst youth, 'sowing wild-oats'!

Millpond News
Jackie-Michelle Daines provided the latest up date on events on the town millpond relating to the swans. Yesterday a work team from Havant Borough Council arrived at the millpond to remove the swans' nest which they said was smelling. They were challenged by two residents who told the workmen not to remove the nest as the swans were still using it and there was still a cygnet using the nest. The nest is still being used by the pen and cygnet every night. The work men rang their boss for instructions and smartly returned to apologise to residents for the misunderstanding. The nest will not be touched until the pen and cygnet have stopped using it. Jackie has checked the law which says it is a criminal offence to move or remove a swan's nest that is still in use. Once the nest has been abandoned it can be removed but only then by a certified person. Jackie says the pen is now moulting and looks very dishevelled, but she and the cygnet are still very active the cygnet is still looking well.

Monarch butterfly ?
Whilst in a garden in Beacon Square this afternoon Lin Senior saw a very large butterfly, heavier in flight with striking markings, which made her immediately think of Monarch. She wonders if there has been any other sightings. I certainly have not had one myself, nor have I have any reported. But it is worth keeping a look out. It is a very large butterfly, twice the size of a Peacock with orange and black wings. It tends to flap and glide. It is an North American butterfly, but does occasionally go off course and lands up in the south of England. There has been none reported on either the Hants or the Sussex Butterfly Conservation sites.

TUESDAY JULY 22 - 2014

Millpond News
Jackie-Michelle Daines says that all is unchanged on the town millpond as of 10pm last night. The Mute Swan family with one cygnet is still intact; they are still using the 'litter nest' by the bridge at night. Jackie thinks a small footed person has removed the last swan egg from the nest going by the foot prints in the mud all around the nest. The swan nest is also being used by two Mallard families during the day; both families are doing well with no further losses.
Environment Agency staff were on site yesterday trying to put some of the water back in to millpond that they took out on Friday. They informed Jackie and other residents present that as they were trying to reopen the gates they recovered two cygnet bodies from the sluice chambers. This confirmed Jackie's suspicions as to where two of the cygnets were lost. Clearly, foxes were not responsible, as I first thought. Jackie thinks the third cygnet was taken by a predator in the Westbrook Stream north of the grill. The Environment Agency staff will be returning today at both high tides to try and add more water to the millpond to at least cover the stinking mud.

Peter Milinets-Raby was out again around the Warblington shore this afternoon (12:55pm to 2:10pm - very low tide and dreadful heat haze. Main sightings were:
Off Pook Lane: 5 Greenshank (one with geo tag - too distant to read), 11 summer plumaged Dunlin, 82 Redshank, 4 Curlew.
Off Conigar Point: 16 Lapwing, 3 Curlew, 2 Greenshank, 4 summer Dunlin, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls plus two juvs, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, Common Gull. Reed Warbler singing from small reed bed. Chiffchaff calling from Tamarisk hedge. 20+ Swallows over the point, 2 Sand Martins amongst them. Turtle Dove in field by point, then flew into hedgerow (nice surprise).
Warblington cemetery: Young Chaffinch being fed by adult male.

Peter also had this giant Hoverfly in his garden this evening - huge. At first he thought it was a Hornet. Later he looked it up as Volucella zonaria.

MONDAY JULY 21 - 2014

Railway Wayside
Jane Brook and I did a survey of the wayside north of the Emsworth Railway Station on this very hot and sunny morning. The whole wayside has a masses of wild flowers, creating a fine multi-coloured spectacle. The most prominent flowers were Wild Carrot, Common Knapweed, Marsh Woundwort, Common Fleabane, Common Ragwort, Spear Thistle.

Plants newly flowering included Agrimony, Canadian Goldenrod, Hairy Buttercup, Hard Rush, Hoary Ragwort, Italian Ryegrass, Marsh Cudweed, Meadow Vetchling, Rosebay Willowherb (in the small sector near the hoardings), Scented Mayweed, Selfheal, Redshank, Hemp Agrimony, Upright Hedge-parsley.
In addition we found some Timothy grass with very long panicles - up to 16cm - on the highways track to the north of the wayside. Cope and Gray give the upper limit at 20cm, but these were the largest Timothy panicles I have ever seen.

We also found several tufts of Toad Rush at the eastern end of the highways track. This is a distinctive rush with a slender stem either single or repeatedly branched at the base and forked above with a floret in each fork and other florets along and at the tips of the branches. The plants were up to 25cm tall which Rose says is an exceptional height.

We found some bent-grasses with large panicles which I think could be Black Bent-grass. The total number of plants recorded on this wayside in 2014 is 109. Many of the less common plants which were seen when the wayside was first established appear to have gone. But that is still a good number, exceeded only by the Bridge Road Wayside which has 128.

A good number of butterflies were on the wing, mostly Common Blues. Here is a female Common Blue.

But the best butterfly of the morning was a Clouded Yellow which was feeding for a while on the flowers of Common Fleabane.

Other news
On the way to the station I noticed that Black Spleenwort is still growing on the front garden wall of house number 90A North street, just to the south of the entrance to Emsworth Railway Station.

Essex Skipper
Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow today and got lots of butterflies as usual including one new one for Brook Meadow for 2014 - an Essex Skipper. Essex Skipper is very similar to the Small Skipper except for the distinctive black tips to its antennae which show well in Malcolm's photo.

Mike Wells was at Petersfield Lake today where he found several Terrapins sunning themselves. They used to be common on Baffins Pond, though I have not had any recent reports from there. As Mike says, with their omnivorous diet quite a few ducklings will have disappeared.

SUNDAY JULY 20 - 2014

This morning, Jean and I walked down to the Deck Cafe in the marina for coffee. On the way through Brook Meadow we saw the first Bulrush flower spikes of the year on the west bank north of the observation fence. That's good as we did not have any at all last year.

The Horse Chestnut tree by the Lumley gate is loaded with conkers. It should be a good year, though the kids don't play them any more.

There was no sign of any Great Black-backed Gulls (adults or chicks) on Slipper Millpond meaning they have probably moved on. Teasels are out on the east side of the pond.

The tiny yellow flowers of Prickly Lettuce are out on the west side.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond ahead of the incoming tide this afternoon (4:45pm to 6pm) Off shore: 86 Redshank, Whimbrel, 5 Lapwing, 4 Med Gulls.
Mill Pond: 6 Grey Herons - 3 of them juvs, Loads of Little Egrets (counted 46 before I gave up) some still in the nest by probably only days from fledgling. 30+ Swallows overhead. A family group of Reed Warblers close to the edge of the pond (2 ads with 3 young).
And surprise, surprise a female Tufted Duck with a family of 7 ducklings (brutally chased away into a dark corner of the pond by the Mute Swan family (with 5 cygnets).

FRIDAY JULY 18 - 2014

Brook Meadow
I found Giant Fescue for the first time this year on the Brook Meadow site along the path through Palmer's Road Copse. This is the only area where this grass grows on the meadow site, but there is considerably less than there has been in previous years. This takes the totaal number of grass species recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 29.
The tiny white flowers of Gipsywort were also out on the river bank in Palmer's Road Copse for the first time this year. Gipsywort was always a scarce plant on Brook Meadow until this year when it suddenly became abundant on the river bank following the winter flooding.

Slipper Millpond
The Mute Swan family with their two cygnets that nested in the reedbeds on Slipper Millpond were on the pond. The two cygnets are now growing well.
The Great Black-backed Gull chick has moved from the centre raft to the south raft where I found it this morning. It looks a good strong healthy bird and probably flew the short distance between the rafts, but it will be a little while before it finally moves away from the security of the pond. One of the adults flew in while I was there, but ignored the chick and settled on the centre raft.

Stone Parsley with tiny white flowers is out on the east side of Slipper Millpond.

Other millpond news
There are two family of ducklings on Peter Pond, one of eight and the other of three. The mother of the smaller family is a white Mallard though her offspring are all regular brown.
The Mute Swan family are still intact with their one small cygnet on thetown millpond.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a good time around the meadow taking photos of lots of butterflies including this rather nice Common Blue.

Malcolm also got a good image of the female Common Darter.

Foxes and eggs
I have had two replies regarding the egg-delivering foxes reported by Elaine Morgan (blog for July 16). Chris Oakley said his mother-in-law who lived in Gosport had exactly the same thing happen to her. Her friend, who looked after her garden, used to find hen's eggs buried in the flower border. Nobody knew how they got there but it was assumed foxes were to blame.
Chris Gibbs contacted me to say when he used to live in Roundhouse Meadow, several of his neighbours found Swan's eggs in their flower pots. They assumed they had been cached by foxes.

Crab spiders and butterflies
Crab Spiders are clever creatures. They lie on flowers waiting for their prey to turn up, adopting the colour of the flower so as to make themselves less visible. Chris Gibbs relates a story about a white Crab Spider that he had on the white cosmos flowers in his garden; it caught a Small White butterfly which was at least three times its size, but its venom soon immobilized the butterfly. Tony Wootton also sent me a photo of a Crab Spider attacking a Skipper butterfly which he took while on holiday in The Alsace. Again, there's probably no hope for the butterfly.


Brook Meadow
I went over for the regular work session where there was an exceptional turn out of 18 volunteers. The main job was laying the path to the new shed in the Seagull Lane patch. Here is Maurice Lillie preparing the gravel for the path to the tool shed.

Volunteers also cleared vegetation from around Rowans on the north meadow and the Horse Chestnuts in the south meadow. I warned the volunteers to take care not to cut down the Marsh Woundwort which is now flowering well immediately in front of the Horse Chestnuts. I counted 40 flower spikes of this attractive plant.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had an hour long check of the incoming tide along the Warblington shore this lunchtime (1pm to 2pm). Very hot and too much heat haze to get details.
Off Pook Lane: 4 Greenshank (one with rings), 5 Curlew.
Off Conigar Point: 3 Greenshank (one with rings - almost certainly the same birds from the other day. I noted today that 4 flew off towards Portsmouth Harbour and the other three headed to Thorney. 14 Lapwing, 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls with two recently fledged young. 2 Common Gulls, 4 Curlew.
In the cemetery a Song Thrush was bashing the living daylights out of a snail with some incredible force!

Buzzard or Kestrel?
Peter thinks the photo of the bird of prey on the Warblington church roof in yesterday's blog is a Kestrel not a Buzzard.

Looking closely at the photo I can see what he means in that the streaky spots on the breast are certainly Kestrel like, though Buzzard also has them. This illustrates the problem of idenifying a bird from a photo which shows only part of the bird and does not give any clear indication of its size. Though looking again, the size of the bird in comparison with the roof tiles does suggest a Kestrel rather than a Buzzard.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley has been doing a good job in gathering up rubbish from in and around the pond on the Hampshire Farm site. He ended up with a bin-liner full, dirty work but very satisfying, he said. I think Chris should think about starting up a Friends of Hampshire Farm group!
Chris has been taking photos of the many damselflies that come to the pond - he has counted 25 individuals and has identified Common Blue and Blue-tailed and a new one for the site Red-eyed Damselfly - the male of which has very distinctive red eyes. Here is Chris's photo of a pair mating.

Swift in house
As a follow up to my piece about our local Swifts yesterday, John Williams, my neighbour from across the road told me about a unique experience he had when a Swift few into his bedroom through a small gap in the open window. He managed to capture the bird in his hands and take it outside from where it immediately flew off. This was probably one of the young birds that have been flying around in family parties, investigating nesting sites for next year.


Mute Swan news
Juliet Walker was up and about with her camera very early this morning. After a visit to Locksash Lane to photograph Hares, she called in at the town millpond at about 6.30am and was delighted to find the single cygnet still intact. It was looking very perky and on a breakfast sortie around the pond with the cob and pen. Juliet caught it in this photo nibbling at the concrete wall at the edge of the pond, presumably there is something nutritious there.

Hollybank Woods
I had a pleasant walk through the eastern section of the woods before lunch this morning - the coolest place I could think of! I was hoping for some butterflies, but the woods were remarkably quiet in the insect front. Despite waiting for about 20 minutes at my favourite Lorton seat on the eastern bridleway all I saw was Speckled Wood, Peacock and a fleeting fly past from a Silver-washed Fritillary.
However, a bit later I did get a nice view of a White Admiral fluttering around on the main track just south of the Holly Lodge junction. It perched long enough for me to get a few photos. This photo shows both the brightly patterned underwing and the darker upper wing cross by a white band.

I collected a few samples of grasses and sedges along the north eastern path for my wild flower vases, mainly Common Bent-grass, False Brome, Yorkshire Fog, Giant Fescue, Wood Sedge, Remote Sedge, Soft Rush.
I was interested to find some Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp congesta) along this path, for the first time. I looked in the usual spots in the woods where I have found this fairly rare plant before, but did not find any. But good to know it is still in the woods.

I spent much of the afternoon sitting in the garden watching several Swifts scything through sky over the Bridge Road houses, occasionally swooping low. What superb birds! Later in the afternoon numbers gradually built to around 12, though feeding higher in the sky. This was the most I have recorded this year. I tried taking photos, but they move much too fast. This was my best effort!

Juvenile Buzzard - correction probably a Kestrel - see tomorrow's blog
Joyce Sawyer and her husband were lucky enough to get this photo of a juvenile Buzzard sitting on the corner of the spire of the church at Warblington on Monday (July 14). Young Buzzards are often quite pale like this one with streaks down the chest. This is most likely one of this year's young birds from a nest on Warblington Farm.

Strange Fox behaviour
Elaine Morgan relates some unusual behaviour by the foxes in Valetta Park which have been delivering hen's eggs to her and her next door neighbour for some months! It started in the Spring when Elaine would find a few broken bird's eggs and the occasional hen's egg - unbroken - in her flower beds. A week or so ago Elaine's neighbour was watering a pot which is attached to the top of a 5 foot wooden fence and she found - in place of her plant - an unbroken hen's egg in the pot! A fox had been seen running along the top of the fence that morning. Has anyone heard of anything like this before?

Hayling Oysterbeds
Chris Cockburn reports a good breeding season for Black-headed Gulls on the Hayling Oysterbeds, but what looks like a 'disastrously poor' season for Common Terns.

"The majority of the black-headed gull youngsters are now fledged and the numbers of family groups have started diminishing. Productivity is estimated to be at least 1.5 fledged birds per pair. However, some pairs have not produced any young, indeed may not even have laid any eggs; but, their magnificent nests are a sight to behold.

The Mediterranean gulls have been less successful with only three of the original nine nest sites having broods (of 2, 2 and 1 youngsters). The poor overall productivity may be explained by the fact that some of the original pairings were of adult and 2nd summer birds. It has also been a relatively dry spring/summer and earthworms may be hard to find.

The common terns might be heading for a disastrously poor breeding season. Common tern AONs (Apparently on Nest) were seen in late May and reached a peak of c96 AONs by 26 Jun with a few very recently hatched chicks seen on 30 June. Recently, no chicks have been seen and on most days apparently -new pairs of terns have been seen displaying, showing post-breeding moult behaviour etc while some have started (re-started?) nesting activity. It is possible that these pairs have lost their first egg clutches and are attempting to re-lay. To add to their problems, many nests were flooded out by the recent surging tides (particularly the tides of 13 & 14 July). The behaviour is not easy to explain without closely inspecting the nests.

The most likely cause is either predation of eggs/small chicks or that the adults are not in good breeding condition. The most likely predators are either failed Mediterranean gulls, which have been regularly flying "low & slow" over the colonies and even strolling about on the islands, or rats, which were the cause of nest failure in 2005 & 2006. The common terns were very late in starting to nest, indicating a food problem in the harbour and with frequent windy conditions making it difficult for the terns to catch prey fish, it is quite possible that they are not in good breeding condition.

The pair of oystercatchers that started nesting on June 23 failed after only eight days, almost certainly due to predation of eggs. The main suspects are Mediterranean gulls; but rats might be the culprits (swimming out at night when wind speeds drop). "

Managing out of town road verges
It is good to see Hampshire County Council us taking a responsible approach to managing out of town road verges in respopnse to the guidelines from Plantlife.
See . . .

"Plantlife has asked councils to cut the full width of the verge once a year, no earlier than the end of August and no later that the end of March. In Hampshire, the full rural verge width is actually cut just every three years to allow for the natural ecosystem as far as possible. When it is cut in the three year cycle, this is done after the end of August.

"The second request is to refrain from cutting verges between April and August except to maintain sight lines or for other road safety purposes. Hampshire County Council does, indeed, cut verges at this time, specifically and only for these reasons. The width cut is just one metre.

"The third request is to gather and remove cuttings wherever possible, and this is where we will have to agree to differ. As we cut the full width of the verge only every three years, we do not think the cuttings are detrimental to wildlife. On balance, because of the significant cost of removal and transport of cuttings from the 2,000 miles of rural verges we look after, together with the increased traffic of heavy vehicles through Hampshire's rural villages this would entail, we leave cuttings to naturally compost where they are."

Wildlife crime
Nik Knight provides suggests a good web site to get advice about wildlife crime, with links to the RSPB legal team and the Birders Against Wildlife Crime website, where there is excellent advice as to what to do when a wildlife crime is suspected.
See . . .

For earlier observations go to . . July 1-16