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

for September, 2014
in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow this morning and had a couple of good sightings, first the Water Rail and Kingfisher both at the S bend, but still no photo of the Kingfisher.

Malcolm also got this great shot of a Robin singing its heart out near the S-bend.

The next stop was the south bridge where Malcolm saw a Water Vole just popping out of his burrow and got this quick photo of it. This is probably the same vole that has been seen several times before at this location. Are there any others elsewhere, I wonder?

River bank work
I had a stroll through the meadow this afternoon. Had a chat with the Environment Agency contractors. The wall is finished, but they are having problems getting the posts into the bank. They will need to get back to the Environment Agency for further advice. I am not sure why they need the posts. They stick up much taller than the wall and are an eyesore.

Wild flowers
Most of the Common Fleabane has now finished flowering leaving just the brown seedheads. However, many other flowers are still out including Hogweed, Red Clover, Bristly Ox-tongue, Michaelmas Daisies, Wild Angelica, Water Mint, Bindweed, White Dead-nettle, Water Forget-me-not on river bank and Common Nettle. Particularly impressive were both white and purple Common Comfrey.

Also prominent on the north meadow were newly flowering grasses, Cocksfoot and False Oat-grass.
I found some late Timothy which was a surprise.


Emsworth Harbour
I walked around the harbour this morning on a rising tide. Very little in the way of birds in the eastern harbour, but the situation improved when I got to the western harbour. I counted 92 Teal feeding in the channels and on the mudflats, much the same as I have seen here before. They were well spread out over the harbour and it was good to hear their whistling calls echoing over the mudflats. I found another 110 Teal south of Nore Barn, but much further out in the harbour, making a grand total of 202 - the best count this season. They were feeding with 13 Shelduck.
I counted a group of 94 Redshank roosting on the south side of the main channel. They were too far away to see leg rings.
Four Black-tailed Godwits flew in while I was sitting on the bench at the end of Beach Road, none had colour-rings.
The usual collection of 11 Mute Swans including one brown cygnet were in the Nore Barn stream where one Common Redshank was feeding. It's still a bit too early for the Spotted Redshank.

Brook Meadow Water Rail
Malcolm Phillips had no time to go round the meadow today, but did go round on Friday (Sep 26) and saw the Water Rail and saw it again on Sunday (Sep 28). Malcolm's photo from the rear clearly shows how slender the Water Rail is, its body is laterally compressed enabling it to slip easily through dense reeds with hardly a movement.

Havant Water Voles
Passing Tesco Havant on his regular cycle to Broadmarsh yesterday morning Roy Ewing saw 2 adult Water Voles and one juvenile simultaneously just north of the water wheel. Crossing to the Dolphin pond, Roy spied a 4th which seemed to have made a home in the branch pile in the SW of the pond. It spent 5 minutes leaving its home, circling and returning. An interesting display of some ritual? With his luck in Roy walked the river at Brook Meadow, but saw nothing. He has never seen a Water Vole in Brook Meadow!


Cormorant with Eel
While passing Peter Pond this morning, I watched a Cormorant catch an Eel and struggle for several minutes, trying to subdue and swallow it.

Near the end of the road for the Eel

Gulp. Down it goes!

Sea Trout parr?
From the Hermitage Bridge I watched a shoal of small fish accompanied by two larger fish. All the fish moved around together almost like a family. The two larger fish were not the regular Grey Mullett, but were spotted like a Trout. I think all these are young trout called 'parr'.

Water Rail
Pam Phillips saw the "tail end " of the Water Rail on the river bank behind the Williams unit at 7.30am this morning.

Mystery fungus
Chris Oakley found this fungus growing in a ditch on the Hampshire Farm site. He thought it looked like a bunch of Yorkshire puddings. The caps look a bit like Honey Fungus to me, though they appear to be growing on straw which is the wrong habitat.

Barrel Jellyfish
Ralph Hollins provided the following information about the likely identity of the large Jellyfish found on the west Thorney shore by Maurice Lillie (blog for Sep 24).
"It seems likely that there may be more jellyfish sightings around the Emsworth area and you and your readers might like more background info on this year's influx of Barrel Jellyfish along the south coast. To see good illustrations of the species that can occur in the English Channel see

To see one in action go to . . . which starts with men swimming alongside one to indicate size.

Another video at . . . shows a dog swimming alongside a specimen said to weigh 20 kg.

For local interest this week see a photo of one beached on the south Hayling shore - go to . . . and for one in Portsmouth Harbour go to . . . . . . Both these sightings appeared in the Portsmouth News this week.
Finally Ralph reminded me that I published Chris Cockburn's photo of one that he took at the Oysterbeds on the blog for June 16.

Tussock Moth caterpillar
Mike Wells was at Queen Elizabeth Country Park on Tuesday morning (23 Sep) and saw this wonderful caterpillar, later identified as a Pale Tussock moth. Mike just marvelled at how nature could produce such a wonderful design, but he was curious as to why evolution felt that it needed four shaving brushes! The evolutionary purpose of the 'shaving brushes' is almost certainly to do with deterring predators, particularly birds, which would get an unpleasant beakful if they attempted to eat the caterpillar.


After the rain I walked over to the meadow to have a look for the Water Rail that Malcolm Phillips has seen for the past two days by the S-bend. I waited and watched for 20 mins or so without seeing any sign of it, though an active Moorhen was a distraction.

Here is a photo of the rail that Malcolm got yesterday in the same area.

While watching for the Water Rail I did have the pleasure of seeing a Kingfisher fly past going south down river. Several Speckled Woods were flying around the river banks. I also saw at least two Common Darters.

I spoke to one of the contractors working on the new wall in the north-east corner. He told me the wall was almost complete, hopefully by tomorrow. However, they are having to install a number of hefty wooden posts along the river bank which is hard work and taking time.

Cetti's Warbler
Yesterday, Ralph Hollins was walking through the meadow when he heard the distinctive song of a Cetti's Warbler from the trees alongside the river close tnorth of Palmer's Road Copse. This was our first report of a Cetti's Warbler on Brook Meadow since March-April 2011.

Wintering Coot
I counted 16 Coot on Slipper Millpond this morning which which maybe a small start of the winter influx of Coot onto the pond. Six of these are probably residents and the other 10 immigrants. There are also two pairs of Coot on Peter Pond. Wintering Coot on the millpond and in the harbour sometimes builds up to 150 and more.

Large Jellyfish
Maurice Lillie (and his dog) found this large Jellyfish washed up on the shore of the Wickor Bank at West Thorney on Monday 22 September.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley reports from the Hampshire Farm open space site:
"A beautiful warm afternoon with a light wind. The reserve is now settling into autumn with very few flowers left. I came across a Common Lizard sunning itself on one of the log piles. The Clouded Yellow butterfly was still there, assuming it's the same one, there were two Large Whites and a Speckled Wood. I watched a House Martin followed by four Swallows all flying north west against the wind.
Some days ago I had laid three refuge mats beneath the hedge and today one produced this Shield Bug (Coreus marginatus). I found one of these a few weeks ago over on the east side. Of all the trees that were planted around the site, the Alders are by far the strongest, bursting out of their plastic tubes, the ground must suit them. Most of the other varieties have survived but are far from robust. On the way back, I was glad to see a Little Egret by the pond but no Mallard today."


Large White
I have read that all three white butterflies have not had a good season this year. However, I have been seeing quite a few over the past week or so in my garden, mainly Large White and Small White. They are attracted mainly to the flowers of Ivy and Verbena.
Today, I had a beautiful female Large White feeding on the Verbena for about 30 mins around lunch time. It was a cracker with gleaming white wings, broken by two large black spots on the upper wing and an back wing tips extending down the side of the wings. The male Large White does not have the black spots.

There are generally two generations of adults a year, with the second emergence in summer always the most numerous. The markings on the wings are also darker in the summer brood than in the spring one. The insects overwinter in chrysalis form and the spring adults emerge in late April and May.

Field Grasshopper
John Arnott (my 'resident expert Orthopterist') responded to Chris Oakley's query about the grasshopper with the red pronotum yesterday. John said Chris's photo showed a female Field Grasshopper Chorthippus brunneus and not a Meadow Grasshopper (though Chris did e-mail me later to say the insect was a Field and not a Meadow Grasshopper).
John went on to say the insect was a female because the tip of the abdomen isn't curved up as in a male. He attached a copy of Chris's photo with five features arrowed which, in combination, confirm the identification of Field Grasshopper.
Here it is as a pdf file . . .

As for the colouring of the insect John says quite a few of our grasshopper species are very variable in colour and pattern, so these are often of little help in identification. The Field Grasshopper is particularly variable in both males and females. Twelve colour/ pattern categories have been identified with considerable variation within each. John says Chris's grasshopper is 'category 8' described as Purple, Brown Sides, where the dorsal surfaces of the head and pronotum (the saddle shape behind the head) are purple. The adult colours don't change with the season.
John also provided a link to a useful website grasshopper species accounts and sound files of 'songs', some using bat detectors.

Regarding the use of bat detectors with grasshoppers, John attached a document which he thought might be of interest about the use of songs in identification of bush-crickets in particular. . . . orthopterists-bat-detectors.pdf .

John took his bat detector onto Brook Meadow again on Saturday (Sep 20) and walked through the south meadow where on this occasion there was no sound at all on the bat detector while passing through the area so deeply flooded last winter (though there had been some there when he visited on 12th September). However, as he mounted the bund by the seat "the detector came alive in my hands as it picked up all the Long-winged Coneheads in the long grass ahead. It was just like entering a room full of people all chattering away to each other".


Water Rail
As he walked by the fallen trees just before the S-bend Malcolm thought he caught sight of Water Rail. Determined to confirm the sighting he stood there for over an hour and finally got a couple of photos of the bird as it emerged from hiding. What patience this man has!

This was our first Water Rail of the winter period on Brook Meadow and, in fact, the earliest one we have seen here. This bird could well be staying on the meadow for a while, as has often happened in the past. Last year we had one in the same area of the river by the S-bend for about 4 weeks from 17-Nov-13 to 14-Dec-13. Today's bird could be the same one returning to a favoured spot? Water Rails do pass through at this time of the year, so, please keep a look out for any.

The new wall
Malcolm Phillips had an escorted trip to see the work on the river containing wall which is being built at the north east corner near the railway tunnel. The workers are making good progress, though it will take another couple of weeks or so to complete.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley took a morning walk around the Hampshire Farm open space area. It was perfect Grasshopper weather, sunny, hot and no wind, and there were certainly plenty of them. Chris says he has been coming across a lot of the Meadow Grasshoppers with a red pronotum as shown in this photo.

Chris can't find any information about this unusual aberration (if that is what it is) or illustrations of grasshoppers with this red colouring. I will consult our 'resident' Orthopterist.


Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was up at first light to visit the Warblington shore yesterday (Sep 20) 6:48am - one minute after sunrise to 8:41am - tide pushing in. The highlights were as follows:
Ibis field: 1 male, 6 female type Pheasant, 1 Moorhen, 3 Yellow Wagtails over, 6 Meadow Pipits over.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 2 Chiffchaff, 7 Stock Dove.
Conigar Point: 65 Teal in eclipse (one male beginning to get green head markings), 2 Pintail in eclipse, 2 Wigeon in eclipse, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Lapwing, 6 Grey Plover, Redshank 15+ ( -//B+B//WR and -//B+B//OL and -//B+B//ON ), 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Dunlin.
Pook Lane: 8 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Greenshank, 19 Brent Geese flew east down the channel towards Emsworth, 5 Grey Plover, 15 Teal in eclipse, 1 Wigeon in eclipse, 1 Sandwich Tern, Redshank 75+ ( -//B+B//RR ), 2 Dunlin, 1 Lapwing, Spotted Redshank heard on three occasions, but could not locate, 90 Oystercatcher in pre-roost gathering.
Langstone Mill Pond: 7 Teal in eclipse, 3 Shoveler in eclipse, Chiffchaff singing.


Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips went down Thorney this morning where he got a photo of what is probably a juvenile Stonechat on the wire fence. However, I am not 100% sure about this one. Anyone help? Peter Milinets-Raby thinks it is a Wheatear. The white rump is a give-away.

Malcolm then walked over to Nore Barn where he captured these two House Sparrows feeding on the Tamarisk on the shore. No doubt about this one!

Swan rescue on Canoe Lake
Yesterday (Sep 19), Jackie-Michelle Daines made a dramatic rescue of a pen Mute Swan on Canoe Lake Southsea which had a fishing hook embedded in the upper part of her beak. The hook was attached to a lead weight and 20 foot of nylon line with a plastic handle at the end. The line was wrapped around the neck of the swan and also around one leg. The poor animal was going mad trying to get the line off, but with no chance as the hook was fully through the top part of her mouth. Jackie phoned the RSPCA for help and was told an officer was on way but after 20mins with no sign of anyone and with the swan getting more and more distressed, Jackie decided to take action herself with the help of her friend Rose and another member of the public.
I let Jackie take up the rest of story:
"I approached the swan on my knees talking softly to it and with out-stretched hand. The swan did not back off or go defensive she just lightly pecked my hand with no power. I could now see the hook was clean through the upper jaw and was barbed. At this point I asked if anyone had a large pair of nail cutters I could borrow. A young girl had a pair. The swan was very carm and just kept tapping my hand with her beak so I took a chance and took hold of both closed wings as I had been shown when I attended the Thames Upping this year, not that I had ever tried this before, but the swan remained calm.
I then gently sat over her and took hold of her neck and used the nail cutters to cut the fishing line attached to the hook and slowly untangled the swan. This just left the hook. The hole in the beak had been enlarged with her fighting the line for 20min so I had no option but to take it out the same way it went in. As I did this the swan did not show any sign of pain and at no time did she attempt to fight me. She seamed to know I was helping her.
I made sure all the line was removed before releasing the swan to a cheer from a crowd of people that had gathered. I was too involved to notice them until then. Finally, the swan stood up and stretched her wings before returning to the lake. She did not move off but went up to her mate before they both came back to where I was standing. Both her and her mate then vocalised to me before they moved off.
About 20mins later the RSPCA officer arrived and I informed him as to what had happened and showed him the hook and line (photos attached). He took a look at the swan from the bank of the lake and thanked me for saving the bird. I would not normally take this action or recommend it to anyone else but, as confirmed by the RSPCA officer, in this case it was the right move."


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was out on the meadow early this morning. He saw two Kingfishers, one at the top of Peter Pond and another by the fallen trees just before the S bend. But could not get close enough for a photo.
However, Malcolm was determined to get a Water Vole and was rewarded following a long vigil on the south bridge with a nice view of one feeding. Thank goodness they are still there! It has been almost a month since we (ie Malcolm) had the last sighting.

Malcolm gets some good bird photos from the Rowan plantation. He captured the following images of an acrobatic Magpie and a young Blackbird plundering the berries which have been abundant this year, but which are disappearing rapidly. There will certainly be none left for any Waxwings!

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley was back on the Hampshire Farm open space area today after a period of illness. He found several young Mallards on the pond and was wondering if they were the ones that disappeared some months ago. Possibly, but there must be a lot of them around. However, Chris saw no Swallows or House Martins which have been regular over the summer. They will not have left on migration just yet, but it won't be long.
Chris says the hedge fruits are at their peak with the Sloes the best he has ever seen them. They make nice wine, if you have the patience! Hazel is already showing small green catkins.

The grass is greening up well and many flowers are reappearing. Fleabane on the reserve is fading but the Bristly Ox-tongue is back in flower with a vengeance. Crane flies are everywhere and the Common Darters are still abundant.
A young Buzzard has appeared and Chris is hoping it's an offspring of the resident pair. However, Chris is puzzled by the general lack of birds on the Hampshire Farm site. Most of them will be keeping their heads down at this time of the year as they will be moulting. Winter should see an increase.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the conservation work session. I noted that the main paths through the meadow had been strimmed by the council. That's a good job done.
The north path is closed for work which is taking place in the north-east corner to build up the river bank and wall to prevent future flooding. This work is likely to take 3 weeks.
The main task for the work session was to begin clearance of the vegetation that had engulfed the Seagull Lane patch over the past year. The power scythe was used for the main cutting work, while the rest of the group raked and cleared away the arisings. The Jubilee hedgerow was also clipped, though it will need a more thorough management in the future.

A bright yellow male Brimstone butterfly was fluttering around the Seagull Lane patch during the work session. We usually associate the Brimstone with early spring as the hibernating adults emerge to look for mates and egg-laying sites. However, there is always a late summer brood which will be preparing themselves for hibernation by gorging themselves on nectar, sometimes well into October.

Emsworth Harbour (west)
11:00 - Tide still falling, very slow to go out today. It was a very low neap tide at 3.7m. I counted 34 Teal on the mudflats, well spread out, not clustered like they were yesterday. But, the most interesting sighting was a pair of Wigeon in the channel near to Nore Barn, the first of the year in Emsworth.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby went down to Pook Lane via the Wade Court access route this fternoon at 1:24pm to 3pm - low tide. The highlights were:
16 Long-tailed Tits along horse paddocks with 2+ Chiffchaff, 6 Grey Herons resting on the salt marsh (unusual sight - see photo of five), 27 Knot (best count so far), 4 Greenshank (G//R+OO//-), 43 Bar-tailed Godwit (3 still in brick red summer plumage, with at least 7 in washed out rosy plumage), 7 Grey Plover, 17 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Curlew Sandpiper (all Juvs - very elusive in the gullies), 60+ Redshank (-//B+B//ON), 10+ Meadow Pipits moving over


I spent a couple of hours from 09.30 to 11.30 at the harbour on a falling tide. High water was at 06.30. The weather was warm and sunny with a cool northerly breeze. I had some exciting sightings!

Teal arrivals
09:30 - I started at Nore Barn where I noticed two Teal in the channel south of the woods - the first of winter migrants. However, when I scanned across the western mudflats I spotted another large flock of over 100 Teal feeding together to the west of the Emsworth Sailing Club building. They were all in eclipse plumage but the green speculum on the ducks confirmed the identification.

Redshank galore
10:30 - Over to the eastern harbour. The first thing I saw when I got onto the seawall was Redshank everywhere! There must have been a big arrival overnight. They were not easy to count as they were spread all over the harbour and constantly on the move. My best count was 234 which is the highest Redshank count for Emsworth in my records. The previous best was 178 in Oct 2008. I spotted just one colour-ringed Redshank: BTO//B+B//RW This was the same bird I saw here yesterday.

New colour-ringed Greenshanks
There were also plenty of Greenshank in the harbour. There was a little group of six quite close to the shore including four colour-ringed birds. There must have been at least another six Greenshank in the harbour, some with rings. I only managed to get one definite colour-ringed combination:
G+GG - I do not have any previous records of this combination.
Anne de Potier comments that G+GG was ringed 8 September 2013, not seen again that year and it's only just come back. Anne first saw it on 10 September.

Malcolm Phillips got a photo of another colour-ringed Greenshank in the Slipper Mill basin (immediately south of Slipper Millpond) that I have no record of either: G+YB - Anne de Potier comments that G+YB is a newly ringed bird.

Godwit 'Old friend'
As yesterday, there were very few Black-tailed Godwits in the harbour (just 16). But they did include an 'old friend' back for the first time this autumn.
WO+LWflag - This bird was ringed as a chick in north Iceland on 13th July 2010 by Ruth Croger and Pete Potts. It is very distinctive due to its white flag. It has been a regular early winter visitor to Emsworth Harbour each year since 2010. This was, in fact, my earliest autumn record of this bird in Emsworth.


Colour-ringed Redshank
I went over to the marina seawall at about 09:30. It was a fine sunny morning and the tide was falling fast, in fact, it was pretty well right out by the time I arrived. My main objective was to see if any of the colour-ringed Redshanks that Pete Potts and his team ringed at Black Point on Saturday had made it over to Emsworth. Peter Milinets-Raby saw eight of the newly ringed Redshanks at Langstone yesterday, so I was hopeful.
I counted a total of 72 Redshank on the mudflats in the eastern harbour. I went through them all, but only found one colour-ringed bird. I was not sure what to expect in the way of rings and was surprised to see so many rings on the bird. It really was quite colourful with the red legs as well.
It also took a bit of working out (from photos) where the rings were located. However, I eventually came to the conclusion that the bird I was looking at had four rings, one on the left leg and three on the right as follows: Left leg tarsus: blue. Right leg tibia: blue. Right leg tarsus red over white (or possibly lime). I am not sure how to describe this combination but will stick with my standard manner until I hear to the contrary. B+B-RW. This was the very first colour-ringed Redshank I have ever seen!

I saw very few Black-tailed Godwits - not more than 10.
I spotted a couple of our regular colour-ringed Greenshank: G+BL geotag and O+YY geotag.
Other birds included 3 Grey Plovers, two in full summer plumage, several Turnstones. Numerous Swallows flying around over the shore. Wheatear on the shore.

Re Redshank ringing
Pete Potts informed me that the Redshanks were col-ringed at Thorney (west deeps) on Saturday 13-Sep-14. About 60 were marked. All have combinations as follows: BTO//B+B//xx . It is best to just write as B+B//RW The // is the international convention for the leg joint and telling tibia from tarsus.


Brook Meadow
I had a walk around Brook Meadow this morning in lovely warm autumn sunshine. I happened to meet Ros Norton on the main path by the river. She was heading towards Lumley Mill to see the Chicken of the Woods fungus. We stopped for a while to look at the small creatures on the nettle leaves beside the path. They included a couple of what I assume were Dock Leaf Bugs and a 'Nursery-web spider' (Pisaura mirabilis) with its front legs typically stretched out.

Horse Chestnut
I also met Brian Lawrence whom I had not seen for a while. He was sporting a replacement camera for one that was faulty. We were interested to see the great crop of conkers on the Horse Chestnut tree near the Lumley gate. They are such beautiful nuts that I can never resist collecting some. I recall spending many hours as a boy selecting and preparing my best conkers for the battles ahead.

Brian and I noted how the tree's leaves were badly affected by the leaf miner moth. The larvae of this moth (Cameraria ohridella) eat their way through the inside of the leaves causing browning between the veins. The larvae can easily be seen (and felt) as dark lumps in the leaf. Despite the poor appearance of the trees the Forestry Commission say there is no evidence that damage by the moth leads to a decline in tree health or tree death. It appears that the damage caused by the grubs occurs too late in the growing season to greatly affect tree.

We were surprised to quite a few sticky buds on the Horse Chestnut, which we normally associate with spring time. However, I gather they do commonly develop in winter.

Long Hoverfly (Sphaerophoria scripta)
There were lots of insects feeding on the Common Fleabane flowers which are still very bright and cheerful. One insect that caught my eye was a tiny hoverfly with yellow bars across a long black abdomen.

I recall having seen this fly once before on the Railway Wayside last year (June 24, 2013). I think it is a male Long Hoverfly - (Sphaerophoria scripta). The insect gets its common name from the fact that the male shown here has a body longer than its wings. It is common over much of Britain.

There were lots of Garden Spiders sitting in the middle of their orb webs strung across the vegetation. I spotted several with prey including this distinctive hoverfly (Helophilus pendulus) which was yet to be wrapped up.

Other observations
I heard snatches of song from Great Tit and Wren in addition to Robin A pair of Moorhens was in the river by the S-bend; they probably had youngsters, but I could not see them. Some of the Hogweed flower heads were pick tinged as they tend to at this time of the year. Creeping Buttercup is in flower. False Oat-grass is now starting to flower again.

First Brent Geese
Ralph Hollins got a sighting of a group of 11 newly arrived Brent Geese in Langstone Harbour on Friday 12 September. Brents have also been seen at Rye Harbour and Pennington near Lymington. Ralph thinks that all these early arrivals are heading for the west coast of France and that it will be some time before birds begin to settle on our south coast.

Common Darters
Joyce Sawyer and her husband were lucky to get this nice view of a pair of Common Darters mating. We have had lots of Common Darters on the blog, but not one of their mating as far as I am aware. Nice one.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby managed a quick one hour visit this afternoon to Langstone Mill Pond (1:35pm to 2:38pm): Off shore ahead of the incoming tide were the following:
9 Greenshank (G - R/BRtag -) off Pook Lane. 7 Adult winter Sandwich Tern on the mud by the pub. 11 Dunlin. 2 juv Curlew Sandpiper (swimming as the water rose, before finally flying off towards Thorney). 9 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Grey Plover, 38 Bar-tailed Godwit, Common Tern, 8 Eclipse plumaged Teal on the Pond with a single Shoveler. Kingfisher heard and 3 Grey Herons with 47 Little Egret. No sign of this Great White Egret that keeps getting reported flying east over Langstone Harbour!!!
And finally, 263 Redshank (best count so far and loads with coloured rings - fresh from Saturday's ringing session which I missed out on due to DIY job!) - B/B - BY, - B/B - WW, - B/B - OL, - B/B - LN, - B/B - ON, - B/B - WL (though the WW bird could have been this), - B/B - BN, - B/B - GN.


Railway Wayside
I had a walk around the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station this morning. There was a profusion of wild flowers, on show most of which could be seen easily from the access ramp.

They included Marsh Woundwort, Hoary Ragwort, Common Fleabane, Bristly Ox-tongue, Common Knapweed, Yarrow, Red Bartsia, Creeping Thistle, Hedge Bindweed, Nipplewort, Great Willowherb, Spear Thistle, Bittersweet, Common Field Speedwell, Knotgrass, Smooth Hawk's-beard, Black Medick, Canadian Goldenrod, Perennial Sow-thistle, Cat's-ear, Wild Carrot, Red Clover, White Clover, Scentless Mayweed, Prickly Lettuce, Scarlet Pimpernel , Ribwort Plantain, Guernsey Fleabane (in bud), Perforate St John's-wort (in seed).
At the eastern end of the highways track near New Brighton Road, I found the usual good flowering of Redshank and some Marsh Cudweed and Toad Rush in much the same area as last year, at the base of the mound of soil.

Several Common Blues were fluttering around, occasionally settling on flowers for nectar. From what I could see most were in reasonably good condition.

I came across what looked like an unusually large female Common Darter resting on the wooden fence. Maybe, I had judged it size wrongly as it could not have been anything else. From the colour of its abdomen my dragonflies guide describes it as an 'over mature' female.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along the Warblington shore via the cut sweet corn fields (6:51am to 9:11am - a very, very low tide). The highlights were as follows:
Ibis Field: 2 Chiffchaff.
Hedgerow along the sweet corn fields: 2 female type Blackcap, 1 Whitethroat, 2 Chiffchaff.
Tamarisk Hedge: Cetti's Warbler singing three times, 2 Chiffchaff (one singing).
Flying over: 3 Ind. Meadow Pipit, 2 Ind. Yellow Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 128+ Swallow, 93+ House Martin.
Conigar Point: 2 Greenshank (G - R/BBtag - ), 3 Grey Plover, 5 eclipse plumaged Teal, 2 Lapwing.
Pook Lane (too distant to see the waders properly), 9 Knot, 44 Bar-tailed Godwits (4 still in summer plumage), 5 Greenshank (G - R/BRtag -), 10 Grey Plover, 11 Dunlin, 13 Black-tailed Godwit.
Langstone Mill Pond: 2 eclipse plumaged Shoveler, 10 eclipse plumaged Teal,
Off shore on the mud were 2 winter plumage Sandwich Tern

Best photo of one of the Curlew Sandpiper typically feeding in the deep gullies off Pook Lane.

Masses of Starlings
Malcolm Phillips walked from Emsworth to Warblington today and came across this great spectacle of Starlings massed on the overhead electricity cables.

Sparrowhawk takes Goldfinch
Patrick Murphy witnessed a Sparrowhawk take a Goldfinch in his garden this morning and got this fine image of the hawk with its prey. Patrick said the hawk is a regular visitor and normally comes at lunch time but clearly decided to try his luck earlier.


Brook Meadow - Bush-crickets
John Arnott walked around Brook Meadow on the evening of Thursday 11th September between 18:00h and 19:00h with his bat detector to check up on bush-crickets.

John's report: "All the long grass areas across the reserve were full of Long-winged Coneheads. Even more numerous were Dark Bush-crickets on the Bramble patches everywhere. There were some Speckled Bush-crickets around but not many. They give a quiet tick at 40 kHz roughly every four or five seconds but being so quiet they may be more widespread than I found on the reserve. The north-west corner along the river path was the best place, with around 4 or 5 stridulating. Finally, there was one brief Roesel's Bush-cricket on the west side of the north meadow. All of these were heard on the detector at 25 kHz (apart from the Speckled Bush-cricket).
I didn't actually see any of these animals, though I spent a lot of effort trying to. That's the advantage of a bat detector. I used to be able to hear Dark Bush-crickets and Roesel's Bush-crickets with the unaided ear but at age 68 those times are now past!"

Here is a Long-winged Conehead that Malcolm Phillips got recently on Brook Meadow

John ran a brief survey for Orthoptera with the Chichester Natural History Society at Medmerry for the RSPB last Friday afternoon and was able to locate Long-winged Coneheads by using the bat detector to triangulate on their stridulation. Their density was lower there and walking through the long grass was easier, so it was possible to do this. Consequently he was able to watch a male stridulating on a grass stem while listening to it on the detector and managed to get a photograph of it too. The females of bush-crickets don't stridulate of course, but one of the members did catch a female Long-winged Conehead in a sweep net.


Emsworth Harbour
10:30 to 11:00. - I had a look at the eastern harbour from the marina seawall from. The tide was rising to high water in about 4 hours. I counted 37 Black-tailed Godwits none appeared to be colour-ringed. One of the Godwits appeared to have a shell attached to its left foot causing it to limp. I have come across this problem before when a wader puts its foot into an open mollusc which then closes. I gather the mollusc eventually falls off when it needs to feed.
There were 5 Greenshank in the town channel, but just as I got my scope on them to check for colour-rings four of them flew off towards Thorney. The fifth bird had colour-rings G+BL with geotag. I last saw this bird here last spring on 09-Apr-14. It has probably been away to its breeding grounds in the meantime and is now back 'home'.

Ivy flowering
Yesterday, Ralph Hollins drew my attention to the start of flowering for Ivy. This is always a significant event in the natural calendar as Ivy flowers provide the best nectar source throughout the winter for late flying insects. The large Ivy hedge at the end of the Western Parade footpath to Nore Barn was in flower when I passed by. The flowers were being visited by a variety of flies, bees and hoverflies. They also attracted a Hornet, though it did not stop for a photo! All I could get was a Green-bottle fly.

Malcolm Phillips had a long day in the field today. He went round the meadow this morning then down to Thorney then back to the meadow this afternoon. While on Thorney he got a rather fine photo of a Whinchat. Whinchat is a summer visitor to Britain and probably breeds on Thorney, though I suspect this one has come from further north and is on its way to its wintering quarters in West Africa.

Wasp Spider
While on Brook Meadow Malcolm came across this magnificent spider. It is usually called the Wasp Spider due to its resemblance to a wasp, though this is unfortunate as it does not sting.

Some prefer the name Golden Orb spider, as it is golden and builds a fine orb web with a stabilimentum. Its scientific name is Argiope bruennichi. This was our first Wasp spider of the year on Brook Meadow, though they are seen almost every year, usually in the autumn. Malcolm's spider is a female, the male is tiny in comparison and I gather probably gets eaten after mating.

Raven over Emsworth
Tony Wootton saw a Raven fly over his Emsworth garden. He said it was quite high and going north, probably heading for Stansted.


Chicken of the Woods
The first thing I did this afternoon was to have a look at the Chicken of the Woods fungus that Malcolm Phillips found yesterday growing alongside the path from the end of Seagull Lane to Lumley Mill. It is indeed a magnificent specimen growing on an old pollarded Willow inside the garden of Constant Springs near the Lumley Mill end of the path. There is one huge fungus and a smaller fungus growing on the same tree. They can be seen easily but are completely inaccessible behind the tall wooden fence. This is the first Chicken of the Woods fungus I have ever seen in Emsworth.

Hoverfly - Helophilus pendulus
I had a little stroll around Brook Meadow this afternoon. One of the first things I noticed was a very distinctive hoverfly moving among the flowers on the Lumley area. This must be the easiest hoverfly to identify with the black and yellow longitudinal stripes on the upper surface of its thorax.

However, I gather that all Helophilus species have this feature, but none is as common in Britain as H. pendulus. It is sometimes known as the Sun Fly from its liking for sunbathing. Its scientific name means "dangling marsh-lover" (from Greek 'helo-, "marsh", -phil, "love", Latin pend-, "hang"). It is a fairly common hoverfly on Brook Meadow throughout the summer and autumn.

Hoary Ragwort
This attractive plant is now in full flower on the north meadow. It is not as prolific as in previous years.

Hoary Ragwort is one of the latest plants to flower on the meadow; it rarely overlaps with Common Ragwort which flowers much earlier. This is a good way of distinguishing between the two ragworts. The flowers of Hoary Ragwort also always appear brighter than those of Common Ragwort. The leaves are also different with those of Hoary Ragwort paler green, almost grey, and more deeply lobed with the end lobe narrow and pointed. There is, in fact, little, if any, Common Ragwort on Brook Meadow.

Speckled Wood
This was the only butterfly I saw during my walk through the meadow. It was flying around the open Lumley area, which is unusual as one usually sees them in shady areas by trees.

Unusually, the Speckled Wood can hibernate as either a caterpillar or a chrysalis, thus leading to a complicated sequence of adult broods throughout the years.

Mother of Pearl Moth
Malcolm Phillips was also around Brook Meadow today and got this excellent image of a moth, which I have tentatively identified as Mother of Pearl. This would be the first to be recorded on Brook Meadow.

Mother of Pearl is said to be common in rural gardens, waste ground and rough pastures throughout the British Isles. It is widespread and common in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. It wings have an opalescent sheen, most obvious in sunshine, which gives rise to the common name. I think Malcolm's photo captures this feature very nicely. The larvae feed predominately on Common Nettle, living within a spun or rolled leaf.

Other news
Malcolm also saw two Kingfishers flying up the Lumley Stream towards the mill.
When he got to the mill, Malcolm found the large 'goldfish' ie Golden Orfe, that he first saw there on July 25th was still present.


Emsworth Harbour
I got to the marina seawall at about 09.15 which was about 4 hours before high water. I remained for about 45 mins as the tide gradually pushed in. The Black-tailed Godwits were fairly scattered around the mudflats, with 16 on the shore in front of me and another 13 on the town shore, making 29 in all. There were no colour-rings.
I had a couple of colour-ringed Greenshank. RG+BY tag - this was ringed on 19-Mar-13 with a geo-tag on the blue ring. This was my 3rd sighting of it this autumn.
OO+YY tag - Photo. OO+YY without a tag has been recorded 11 times in Emsworth Harbour between Oct-07 and Oct-11, but not since then and never with a tag. The tag was clearly on the upper yellow ring on the left leg. I assume the tag was added in a recatch of this bird? Sorry for the poor digiscoped photo but the sun was very bright.

Other birds included 16 Turnstone, 12 Curlew. Hedgerow Crane's-bill is still in flower on the marina seawall.

Nore Barn
I got to Nore Barn just after 10am with the tide still out but rising. The regular unringed Greenshank was on the edge of the stream, but no other waders. I stayed for about an hour, but no waders turned up. Eight Shelduck were in the far channel including some juveniles. Workers were busy with the seawall restoration.
Robins were singing in woods and Speckled Woods flying around, but nothing else of interest. Selfheal was still in flower along the edges of the central path through the woods.

I had a look around the saltmarshes to the west of the stream where I found all the regular saltmarsh plants including Common and Lax-flowered Sea-lavender, Sea Aster, Golden Samphire, Common Glasswort, Common Cord-grass (Spartina anglica), Annual Seablite, Sea Purslane, Sea Plantain, Sea Beet, Sea Couch and Sea Wormwood.

Chicken of the Woods
Malcolm Phillips discovered this magnificent collection of bracket fungi growing on one of the trees (Willows?) along the path from the end of Seagull Lane to Lumley Mill. I have not seen the fungus myself, but it looks like a very nice example of Chicken of the Woods (aka Suphur Polypore).

It is most commonly found oak, but also on yew, sweet chestnut and willow. The fungus is said to be edible, rather like chicken, though take care since in some cases eating the mushroom can cause nausea. So, it best admired from a distance.

September strawberries
Graham Petrie sent me this photo of some fruit he found ripening in his garden. Yes, stawberries in September.


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a good catch on Brook Meadow this morning with what appears to be mother and son Great Spotted Woodpeckers. Here is what I assume to be the mother with no sign of any red on the back of her head.

And here is the juvenile with an all red crown, probably a male as a female juvenile would have less red on its crown. This is good news as it proves successful breeding of this species on Brook Meadow.

Malcolm also got a fairly late and slightly battered Common Blue butterfly. This will be the second brood; there is sometimes a partial third brood in warm weather which means the adults are seen into October.

I was interested to read about the relationship between the caterpillar of this butterfly and ants. Hibernation occurs when the caterpillar is quite small, among dead leaves. There it attracts ants which eat its sugary secretions, though they do not damage the creature. The pale green chrysalis is formed on the ground and is often taken into their nest by the ants.


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow late this morning and got some good images of insects, including this rather fine Small Copper. We usually get the odd Small Copper on the meadow each year at about this time, but this was our first of 2014. It usually has three broods and this will be an adult from the final one of the summer. One can see one flying even into October.

One of Malcolm's other photos was this mature male Migrant Hawker which is not uncommon on Brook Meadow at this time of the year. It is slightly smaller than the Southern Hawker which is also common on Brook Meadow, but Southern Hawker has broad green antehumeral stripes and predominantly green abdomen. This insect could well have flown across the channel. There are regular migrations of Migrant Hawkers from the continent which increases the population in the our area in late summer.

Garden caterpillar
Chris Gibbs had this magnificent beast turn up in his Church Path garden near the centre of Emsworth. In fact, the caterpillar is more often seen than the moth and its large size is obvious on privet bushes - its main source of food. It burrows into the ground and changes into a chrysalis nearly 6 inches deep in the soil where it can remain for up to two years before it emerges.

Sparrowhawk in Garden
Patrick Murphy had this fine male Sparrowhawk waiting in his plum tree. Patrick took the photo through a venetian blind but he thinks the bird must have noticed some movement as it turned its head to look straight at the camera!


Emsworth Harbour
12:00 - About 3 hours after high water, so the tide was still well in. From the millpond seawall I counted 55 Black-tailed Godwits on the town shore. They included one colour-ringed bird: G+BG - This has been fairly regularly in Emsworth Harbour over the past 4 years. First sighting here this season.

In 2011-12 it was recorded right through the winter from Sep to Mar, but usually it is only seen in autumn and early winter. This was out 53rd sighting of the bird in Emsworth.
Also in the mudflats were the regular flock of 8 Turnstone. The Godwits on the shore were disturbed by a person rowing in the channel and they all flew off in the direction of Thorney Island. I went over to the marina seawall where I located what was probably the same flock (and more) on the far mudflats off Thorney, much too far for colour-ring sightings. I counted 85 Redshank, 5 Curlew, 1 Greenshank and an adult Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Brook Meadow fungi
Malcolm Phillips has been out taking photos of fungi. Of course, he does not attempt to name them and I am pretty hopeless when it comes to fungi, particularly from photos. However, here is a fairly distinctive one which someone might recognise.
Ralph Hollins obliges: He says, "This looks like what is sometimes called the 'Yellow Cowpat Toadstool' (Bolbitius vitellinus) which you can see at . . . where the habitat is described as "on rotting straw, manured grassland or wood chips" which would fit with the photo."

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley reports that the cutters are back on the open space area to finish off the cutting of the main grassland. A once a year hay cut should benefit the wild flowers for the following year. It will be interesting to see what happens.
Chris found three Common Lizards and some copper-coloured baby Slow-worms in the northwest corner which is very rough with a good variety of cover. He also came across a young Fox fast asleep under the hedge, so got some 'cute 'shots.

Of the insects Chris saw a Clouded Yellow butterfly and Silver Y moth and some Shield Bugs - probably Coreus marginatus - also known as the Dock Leaf bug. Chris says it does have the horns between the antennae; they are not easy to see in this photo but blown up one of them is clearly visible. That's an interesting pattern on the leaf next to the bug.

Tony Davis comes to the rescue by identifying the 'interesting pattern' in the bramble leaf next to the shieldbug. He says, "It is due to the leaf mine of the micro-moth Stigmella aurella. The mine has recently been vacated by the larva and will soon turn white. You can see the old (white) mines in virtually every bramble patch you look at."

Heronries census
The BTO Heronries Census in Sussex for 2014 and the last two years has just been published, with numbers of nesting pairs of Grey Herons and Little Egrets counted at each heronry.
Locally, the one that stood out was the complete abandonment of the Old Park Wood heronry this year. The survey figures for this site were:
2012 - Grey Heron 5, Little Egret 14. 2013 - Grey Heron 5, Little Egret 13. 2014 - Grey Heron 0, Little Egret 0.
Old Park Wood is a privately owned woodland on the Chidham peninsula which can be seen from Dell Quay across the channel. I know Martin Baggs used to monitor this heronry for many years, though I recall him saying that the number of Heron nests was in decline.

For earlier observations go to . . Aug 17-31