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

for December 1-15, 2014
in reverse chronological order

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Nore Barn
12:00 - Tide well out. 82 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding and generally lounging around on the mudflats and in the channels. I checked as many as I could for colour-rings but only found two, both regulars here this winter: G+WR and WO+LW flag.
The tide was too low for Spotted Redshank in the stream. Two pairs of Pintail were present as on Dec 11. But newcomers this winter were two pairs of Gadwall. They were constantly feeding with the Wigeon in the channels, but here is a shot I managed to get of the two males. They are roughly in the centre of the picture.

Godwit colour-ring problem resolved
Dave Potter sent me this superb photo of colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit B+GB that he took in the Breech Pool on the North Wall at Pagham today.

Dave is a regular reader of this blog and recalled the difficulty I had in reading the rings on what was probably the same godwit in Emsworth Harbour on Nov 29. At the time, I consulted Pete Potts who said it could be B+GG or B+GB, but he preferred B+GB, which I finally recorded it as. Here is my digiscoped photo of the bird on Nov 29.


Dave's sighting is very reassuring as Pagham to Emsworth is no distance for a Black-tailed Godwit to fly so I am fairly confident that Dave's bird was the same as the one I saw in Emsworth. So, thanks Dave for that and thanks also for your great photo. Dave runs his own birding blog which I would highly recommend for its truly stunning photos. They put my own paltry efforts very much to shame. Dave's blog is at . . .

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips sent me some interesting photos that he took while out walking today. I was particularly interested in this Great Tit singing its heart out as I also heard one singing it full 'teacher' song in Bridge Road this morning. This was my first Great Tit of the winter. I have noticed how birds of a certain species, but well separated geographically, often to start up on the same day, as if an alarm suddenly goes off.

Malcolm also confirmed the continued presence of the female Kingfisher on Peter Pond. Today Malcolm caught the bird showing off its brightly coloured wings.

Today at 12.45 Ros Norton also saw a Kingfisher fly from Emsworth millpond to the harbour shore near the Quay.

Water Vole climbing
Brian Lawrence has just got round to processing his photos from the little pond in Havant where the Dolphin pub used to be. He sent me this interesting shot of a Water Vole clambering up a small wall. Water Voles can climb and have been seen up trees. But when shall we ever see another one on the river on Brook Meadow?

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had a quick visit to the Warblington shore, walking in via the Langstone Mill Pond (12:32pm to 2:05pm - low tide). The highlights were as follows;
Langstone Mill Pond; 7 roosting Grey Heron, 1 Wigeon.
Flooded Horse Paddock: 24 Moorhen, 2 Teal.
Off Pook Lane: 14 Golden Plover, 104 Lapwing, 63 Bar-tailed Godwit, 79 Knot, Greenshank heard, not seen!!! 12 Grey Plover, 275+ Dunlin, 67 Black-tailed Godwit (R//R+LG//-), 667 Brent Geese off the Castle Farm fields and alighting on the muddy shore - very spectacular sight. 22 Red Breasted Merganser, 30 Shelduck.

Note on the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit R+LG. Peter saw this one also at Warblington on 05-Nov-14. Previously I saw it in Nore Barn on 21-Oct-14. I had four sightings of it at Nore Barn last winter.


Colour-ringed Redshank
Malcolm Phillips got a photo of a colour-ringed Common Redshank on the mudflats at the bottom of South Street this morning. The combination was B+B//OR. Left leg: blue. Right leg: blue with orange over red below the joint.

This was one of about 60 Redshanks that Pete Potts and his team ringed at Thorney (west deeps) on Saturday 13-Sep-14. All have combinations as follows: BTO//B+B//xx. BTO refers to a standard metal ring as issued by the British Trust for Ornithology which can be seen on the photo. However, the colour-rings are the important ones for identification. So the sighting should be reported as eg, B+B//OR The // is the international convention for the leg joint and telling tibia from tarsus.

Spring is coming!
Ralph Hollins discovered the first sign of spring today in the form of a Lesser Celandine flower by the Lymbourne stream just south of the Havant bypass, equalling the earliest date that he have ever seen one. A photo of one from my files.

Cath Mant saw 3 Spoonbills in the freshwater lagoon between Snowhill Creek and East Head yesterday (Dec 13). These could well have been the same birds that Barry Collins saw feeding on the mudflats just off South Stakes Island on Dec 3.
Ralph Hollins reported that an astonishing 43 Spoonbills were seen at Shipstal Point on the Wytch channel close to the Arne RSPB centre on 24/11 and also 32 at Brownsea Island on the same day, though Ralph suspects these are the same birds.
Here is a photo I took of the only Spoonbill I have ever seen in Emsworth Harbour in December 2002. This was taken in the low water channel near the quay. I recall it even came onto the town millpond. A memorable occasion!

Mystery bird
Ralph Hollins's 'very tentative entry' for the Bird Photo quiz is Robin. My own guess is Meadow Pipit. Any other ideas. It was taken by Malcolm Phillips on Thorney Island yesterday.


Mystery Chiffchaff
Peter Milinets-Raby thinks the Chiffchaff that Malcolm Phillips photographed by the south bridge on Brook Meadow on Dec 11 is too grey for a regular Chiffchaff. Here is Malcolm's photo taken on Dec 11.

Malcolm's photo shows a very grey, cold cast to the plumage and Peter considers the bird is potentially a Phylloscopus collybita tristis - Siberian Chiffchaff. This is an eastern race of Chiffchaff which breeds in coniferous taiga forest from the Ural region eastwards. It winters mainly in India, though odd birds stray to Western Europe annually in autumn (end Sep-Oct).

Peter recommends visiting the following page to get an idea of recently photographed birds to understand why Malcolm's bird has potential as a Siberian Chiffchaff . . .
The best ID pointer is the bird's call, described in the Collins Guide as "a mournful piping, straight (or negligibly downslurred) 'viip'". Its song is faster and more varied than the standard Chiffchaff. However, Malcolm did not hear a call or song.
For other references to the song and call of Siberian Chiffchaff Peter suggests the following but warns, "be prepared to have your head messed with!"

I went over to the meadow this morning to look and listen for Chiffchaff near the south bridge and elsewhere, but heard nothing except the sweet song of a Robin and the twittering of Goldfinches and a Woodpigeon 'coo-cooing' its raunchy song.

Thorney Little Deeps
Malcolm Phillips found Thorney Island more profitable than Brook Meadow for wildlife photography today. He was particularly pleased to find both male and female Bearded Tits showing well at the Little Deeps along with Reed Buntings and a Kingfisher. Here is Malcolm's shot of the male Bearded Tit.

Here is another of Malcolm's photo which is a bit tricky. I will leave it as a mystery. What do you think?


Emsworth Millpond
The visiting pair of Mute Swans appear to have settled down on the town millpond despite threatening displays from the resident pair that nested here in the spring. The visiting pair usually keep to the southern part of the pond, though they can often be seen advancing on the resident pair with wings raised. They circle around each other, but there has been no serious conflict as yet so far as I am aware. Meanwhile, the poor rejected swan sits alone, nibbling the grass verge on Bridgefoot Path.
There was no sign of the Red-breasted Mergansers on the millpond this morning, so I suspect they have moved away. However, it was good to see the first Tufted Duck of the winter, a lone male. Let's hope there are more to come. I don't recall seeing any on the millpond last year.

I counted 34 Coot today, which is a surprisingly large number for this pond, maybe the first of the winter gathering. Previously they have always assembled in the harbour beneath the quay. Four Cormorants were fishing on the pond which presumably indicates it is well stocked with fish.

Emsworth Harbour
As I walked round the millpond I could see large skeins of Brent Geese swirling around in the sky and coming down into the harbour, probably having just got back from their visit to the Southbourne fields.
Juvenile Black-tailed Godwits are now a very regular feature in the channel near the quay; there were four of them this morning, chasing one another and chattering away. It is interesting how they keep clear of the main flock of adults during feeding. Here is a photo I took of one of them showing well the white edges to the brown wing scapulars.

When I looked through my photos at home I found one showing this bird clearly 'spurting' water from its bill. This fairly common behaviour continues to baffle the experts as waders are thought not to be capable of forcibly ejecting water from their bills.

For more discussion about spurting and many photos go to . . . Spurting behaviour

Tube Worms
Malcolm Phillips walked down west Thorney again today. On the way he took this photo of the coral-like growths on the now open lock gates of Slipper Millpond.

These are the calcareous tubes created by a Tube Worm called Ficopomatus enigmaticus which has been identified and studied over the years by scientists from the University of Portsmouth. The corals can be best seen when the pond is drained as it is at present; they attach themselves to anything hard. Looked at closely one can see the hundreds of tubes that make up the corals. They can, of course, damage the sluice gates particularly on the hinges.

Malcolm did not get any Bearded Tits at the Thorney Deeps but he did get this little fellow doing a fair imitation of one.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley reports on today on Hampshire Farm:
"I was accompanied by a blustery west wind for today's visit and being so open I really felt the cold. There was a small group of Redwing feeding along the eastern hedge with a flock of fifty or so Starlings. Even in a small group like that, the Starlings are fascinating to watch, their aerobatics never fail to amaze me. A Grey Heron flew overhead but didn't settle and one of the Buzzards was having a hard time from two of the Carrion Crows. I did notice that one of the woodpecker holes is now being investigated by a pair of Starlings.
Surprisingly, there are still a few plants in flower. There are one or two Scentless Mayweed out in the grass. Around the edges there are some Canadian Fleabane and a resurgence of Prickly Lettuce. Strangest of all, the Marsh Cudweed is producing some more flowers. There is still a lot of ground water and the stream is now full. The Ems is muddy and running much faster than a few days ago.. I noticed this morning that the Lavant is beginning to fill up as well. Only nineteen days and we all start making new lists again; birds, flowers, insects, etc., who knows what we may see."

Blashford Lakes
Tony Wootton went over to Blashford Lakes today while his wife Hilary stayed home and had two Blackcaps in the garden. This is interesting in view of the one that Malcolm Phillips got on Brook Meadow yesterday. So, clearly they have arrived and we need to look out for them in our gardens.
Tony was hoping for a glut of Kingfishers at Blashford, but found none! However, he did manage to snap this handsome Bittern as it flew past. Tony apologies for the awful photo, but ample compensation for missing those Blackcaps.

When at Barnes Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust earlier in the week Tony got a photo of this chappie which will be familiar to readers of this blog as a male Ringed Teal, two of which we have had on the local millponds in the past month.


Emsworth Harbour
10:30 - 11:30 - I cycled down to the millpond seawall and along to Nore Barn with the tide rising to high water in about 3 hours.
There was no sign of the Red-breasted Mergansers on the millpond, so it looks as if they have moved on. Just two Cormorants were fishing there.
Three Dunlin and a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit were feeding along the edge of the channel near the quay, quite close to the seawall. These are fairly regular here at low water. I managed to get quite a nice photo of one of the Dunlin. This shows well the slightly downward curving jet black bill, grey upperparts and white underparts faintly streaked at the sides of the breast.

A family of Brent Geese of 2 adults and 4 juveniles were on the near mudflats. Another 200+ Brent were further out with a good smattering of juveniles. I counted 28 Black-tailed Godwits feeding in the channel, but no colour-rings. My impression is that the Brents and the Godwits have had good breeding seasons. I also counted 52 Lapwing on a rapidly diminishing weedy rock.
At Nore Barn 82 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the mudflats, including two regular colour-ringed birds: WO+LW flag and ROL+RLR. Two Spotted Redshanks were in the stream.
I had my first Pintail of the winter, two male-female pairs. Pintail are regular here in the winter and I have been expecting them. Numbers could rise to 20 or 30. Here is one of the pairs.

Garden birds
There was a bonanza of birds in my garden today, which is a great relief after such a long period of almost total absence. The two Great Spotted Woodpeckers arrived as usual, though not at the same time. They are now daily visitors. The female came to the fat balls as usual and has now learned to cling onto the feeder itself rather than lean across from the tree. The male is much more adventurous and today had a go at feeding from the sunflower hearts feeder which I have not seen before.

Four Greenfinches were good to see on the sunflower hearts along with the Goldfinches. I am having to fill the feeders every day. Best of all were a small flock of 12 Starlings which were feeding on the ground beneath the fat balls on droppings produced by the woodpeckers. One of the Starlings actually fed on the fat balls for a while. Let's hope this is the start of their return.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips spent most of the day going round the meadow trying to find a Water Vole, but without any success. If Malcolm cannot find one then that is worrying. However, he did find both the Water Rail and the Little Egret in the usual area by the S-bend.
More interesting were photos of two wintering warblers which Malcolm spotted on the meadow. The Chiffchaff by the south bridge was not all that surprising, as we have a regular wintering population on Brook Meadow, though it was the first I have had reported this winter.

The female Blackcap that Malcolm got in the north west corner of the meadow was more interesting. It is now well established that the regular wintering population of Blackcaps in the South of England are birds that have migrated here from the Continent. They are not the same population that migrate here in the summer from Africa. Again, this was the first wintering Blackcap that I have had reported locally. Female Blackcaps have a brown crown in contrast to the males whose crowns are black.

Malcolm also had a walk round Peter Pond where he found the Kingfisher sitting on the table as usual when the tide comes in and a Water Rail near the reeds. Finally he got this image of a fine Brown Trout in the stream near Lumley Mill.

Mystery path
Ralph Hollins offers a couple of possible answers to Chris Oakley's query about the mystery path across the Hampshire Farm site reported in yesterday's blog. Ralph says, "For what it is worth my random guess about the origin of this line across the field is that it was caused by faulty agricultural machinery inadvertently laying an extra strong line of some chemical in the past (maybe long before the sowing of the grass) and that this has polluted the soil and so reduced growth of anything such as the grass to grow along the line of the pollution.
I think it is misleading to call it a path but it could of course be caused by the magical properties of a 'Ley Line' and in view of this morning's news of Greenpeace being fined for damage to the ancient Nazca Lines in Peru I would be wary of damaging this Emsworth relic of a prehistoric visit created by litttle green men from space".


Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips went round Brook Meadow this morning found the Water Rail and Little Egret feeding in the area of the river which has just been cleared of fallen trees by the Environment Agency.

Malcolm saw the usual female Kingfisher perched on the table to the north of Peter Pond. This bird is so easy to see.

Over on Slipper Millpond Malcolm found the pair of Mute Swans with their two cygnets. This is most likely to be the pair that nested here in the spring producing two cygnets. Back to check out the nest site? They have been in the harbour near the quay for much of the winter period.

Mystery path
Chris Oakley wants help with a mystery path that runs across the main grassland on the Hampshire Farm site in north Emsworth. Chris says "It measures about 300 yards long, is about eight or nine inches across and is perfectly straight and yet has no end or beginning. It runs diagonally across the grass planting line, so it's not that. It's to wide to be a fox path and there are plenty of those about. There are no hoof prints so it can't be deer. The baffling thing is that it just doesn't go anywhere. It's been there for some months now. It runs NE to SW (or the other way round). Chris would appreciate any ideas on what this path is.

Langstone shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had a walk along the Warblington shore from Langstone Mill Pond to Pook Lane (10am to 11:40am - tide pushing in). The following birds were of note:
Langstone Mill Pond: Juvenile Wigeon, 7 roosting Grey Herons,
Peter forgot to mention that on the 4th December he had the two male Ringed Teal feeding on the low tide mud off the pond for an hour, before they flew into the rear of the pond and settled down to preen - not seen since. They were seen on Emsworth Millpond on Dec 6th, so are clearly moving around the area.
Flooded Horse Paddock north of pond: 18 Moorhen, 8 Teal.
Off Pook Lane: 20 Shelduck, 22 Red Breasted Merganser, Female Goldeneye, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Sandwich Tern loitering on the mud, 77 Black-tailed Godwit ( B//R+WN//- and B//R+GW//- and Y//R+YB//-), 42 Teal, 238 Golden Plover, 43 Lapwing, 107 Bar-tailed Godwit, 15 Wigeon, 9 Greenshank (RG//-+YY//- and G//R+BRtag//- ). Only 164 Dunlin and I could not find the Curlew Sandpiper.


Willow clearance on Brook Meadow
I had an e-mail from Maurice Lillie to say the Environment Agency arrived in force on Brook Meadow soon after 8am this morning to start work on the removal of willows that had fallen into and across the River Ems south of the S-bend. Maurice said they plan to be there for two days and will carry out other minor cutting north of the bend and also clearing the channel in the South east corner of the South meadow. Most of the arisings up to 15cms diameter will be chipped leaving the chips handy for the conservation group to distribute around the site.
I went over to take some photos of the work. I asked one of the workers if they intended going further upstream where there were more fallen branches, but he said they had received no instructions to do any more.

Jennifer Rye saw the team as they were leaving the site today about 3.30pm having finished the task already. She said there were quite a few of the large diameter logs left on the meadow side of the river, not on the river side of the raised path; hopefully they are too big and heavy to be chucked into the river by bored youngsters. Jennifer says the group now need to think about management of the river banks, as the Environment Agency are not doing any clearance as far as she knows.

Water Rails
Malcolm Phillips had a bumper day for Water Rails. First he saw the resident Brook Meadow Water Rail near the old gasholder. Then he saw two more on the Lumley side of Peter Pond just south of the Kingfisher table. These Water Rails could well be wintering on Peter Pond, but not previously recorded. Here is one of the Peter Pond birds.

Malcolm saw the female Kingfisher on the table in the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond. This bird is clearly very fond of this perch which can be easily seen from the path that runs from the main A259 road to Gooseberry Cottage and is well worth a visit to get a really good view of a Kingfisher. I too had the pleasure of seeing this bird on the table today, probably a little later than Malcolm. Here's my photo taken with a simple 18x zoom point and shoot.

Red Admiral
While on Brook Meadow Malcolm Phillips got this fine late flying Red Admiral basking in the sunshine. Red Admiral must probably now be regarded as an all-year-round butterfly.

Slipper Millpond news
Nick Madina (Chairman, Slipper Mill Pond Preservation Association) reported that the water level of Slipper Pond is being allowed to rise and fall with the tide for the next two weeks. This is to enable work to take place in Lumley Road to raise the bank of Peter Pond and also to install new road drains. This should reduce the flooding in Lumley Road at times of high tide and heavy rain.
The project was initiated by residents of Lumley Road and has been supported by West Sussex County Council and Southbourne Parish Council. Funding has been provided by the WSCC Operation Watershed Active Communities Fund, which supports local efforts to alleviate flooding. The work is being carried out by Landbuild Limited.
On another note, Wilson House Limited, the potential developers of Dolphin Quay, have formally withdrawn their Appeal against the decision of Havant Borough Council to refuse their Planning Application for the development of Dolphin Quay.

Baffins Pond exotic duck
Eric Eddles reported a recent addition to Baffins Pond today in the form of a very cute Indian Runner.


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow this morning saw the Water Rail again. Good to know it is still here. It has been on the meadow for 10 weeks.

Malcolm also got a very unusual photo of a steam train passing on the railway line immediately north of the meadow. In all the years I have been visiting Brook Meadow I do not recall having seen a steam train go past. Ralph Hollins informs me that the Steam Locomotive was the Battle of Britain Class "Tangmere" which was also seen by a surprised birdwatcher at the Chichester Drayton Pits on Dec 6.

Emsworth Millpond
Sid Davies e-mailed to say he saw the pair of male Ringed Teal on the town millpond in Emsworth on Friday (Dec 5). This is very likely to be the same birds that have previously been seen on Peter Pond and on Langstone Mill Pond.
There was no sign of them on the millpond this morning. However, the pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were showing very well in the southern part of the pond.

Hungry Crow
Patrick Murphy reports that the white winged Carrion Crow visits his garden 4 or 5 times a day and has been taking food in increasing quantities. It normally eats a couple of slices of bread then collects others and flies off to eat in peace or cache the food as shown in the photo.

Tony's photos
Tony Wootton sent me a batch of photos, some taken at Hayling Oysterbeds and others at Thorney Deeps. I have selected a couple of special interest, both taken at the oysterbeds. Tony says the egret's leg colour is due to low warm sunlight.

Here is a Little Egret with orange coloured legs. Strange!

A pair of Goldeneyes taking off - great shot!


Kingfisher fishing
He's done it again. Malcolm Phillips was back at Peter Pond again this afternoon stalking the Kingfisher and found it on the table near the northern reedbeds as before. This is clearly a good place to look for the bird. As he stood and watched, the bird dived into the water and came out with a small fish and subsequently swallowed it. Malcolm got photos of the whole sequence.

Emsworth Millpond
On my usual morning constitutional around the millpond I was entertained (if that is the right word) by what must be by now a regular confrontation between the two pairs of Mute Swans that are competing for ownership of the pond. Today, the two cobs were engaged in threatening gestures towards each other with wings raised high and heads down. The pen of the resident pair was also getting involved. I imagine the conflict will become more physical, as it did last year, as spring approaches.

The resident pair are on the left in this photo with the visiting cob on the right

The pair of Red-breasted Mergansers is still on the pond for the 4th morning running. Today, they were constantly diving for food, but I managed to get a quick photo in between dives.

Garden Woodpeckers
I had both male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the garden yet again this morning, though not at the same time. These two birds are becoming daily visitors which is amazing, as up to now, Great Spotted Woodpeckers rarely seen in the garden. Today, the male went onto the bird table which I had just replenished with a mixture of chopped peanuts and seeds. The female was here earlier, pecking away at the fat balls as usual.

Nore Barn
I got over to Nore Barn at 1:30pm about 3 hours or so after high water. A good flock of 76 Black-tailed Godwits was feeding on the mudflats in the lower stream area close to the shore at the end of Warblington Road along with a smaller number of Wigeon and 6 Mute Swans. Another couple of juvenile Black-tailed Godwits were in the upper part of the stream with the Spotted Redshank. The colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL was also in the stream along with a Grey Plover and, surprisingly, two Little Egrets, though they did not seem entirely happy with each other.

Long lost Godwit returns?
There were three colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits among the 76 on the mudflats. G+WR and ROL+RLR were regulars this winter, but G+GO was not so. G+GO was very interesting as I had not seen it in Emsworth for a good 7 years. I could not get a photo, but I am pretty sure of the combination. G+GO was a regular in Emsworth Harbour in the winters of 2005-06 and 2006-07 with a total of 38 sightings. However, I only saw it twice in the following winter and not at all since then. My last sighting of G+GO anywhere was in the Bosham Channel on 22-Oct-08. I had assumed it was dead. Now, it turns up again in Emsworth Harbour 7 years after my last sighting. I shall need to check with Pete Potts that this is not a new ringing using an old combination.

Dunlin imitating Knot
I walked back along Western Parade where I spotted what at first glance looked like a flock of Knot feeding in a typical close group. However, on closer inspection they turned out to be Dunlin doing a fair imitation of Knot feeding behaviour. Knot are much dumpier birds than Dunlin and feed in a more steady picking fashion and they never run, unlike Dunlin.

Geo-tagged Greenshank
There were a few birds feeding in the small channel that runs on the east side of the Emsworth Sailing Club building. They included 2 Common Redshank, Little Egret and a Greenshank G+BN tag. The geotag on the blue ring on the right leg is very easy to see though the colours of the rings were not at all easy to read in the dull light.

This bird was one of the 13 caught and ringed by Pete Potts and his team at Thorney Deeps on 13 Jan 2014 to provide information on the migration movements of the bird on its way to and from its breeding grounds, probably in northern Scotland or Scandinavia. This was my personal 5th sighting in Emsworth Harbour.

Full Moon
I took this photo from our bedroom window at about 5pm looking across to the houses in Victoria Road. It shows a superb full moon (yes it really was that size) rising over the chimney pots. Pity my camera could not pick up any details from the moon, but I like the picture nevertheless!


Garden birds
I had an unusual visitor to the garden this morning in the form of a juvenile Black-headed Gull. I often see gulls flying around, but rarely get any in the garden. However, I did put some scraps of bread on the bird table yesterday, which is what brought this bird to the table. A little later I saw four Black-headed Gulls flying low over the garden, though by then there was nothing left on the table.

Even better was to see both male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers at various times during the morning, though never at the same time. The female woodpecker has been a regular visitor to the fat balls over the past 5 weeks, but the male (with red on its nape) has been a rare visitor. But today I saw it on the fat balls for the first time. Interestingly, the two birds had different feeding methods. Whereas the female would cling to the bark of the tree and lean across to the balls, the male plonked himself firmly on the feeder and pecked away for a good 5 mins or so. I was lucky to get a reasonable photo in such murky conditions and through the window.

Injured Chaffinch
Graham Petrie found a damaged female Chaffinch in his garden yesterday. It was clearly having difficulty in flying so he brought it inside for the night and will probably take it to Brent Lodge to give it the best chance. He will keep us updated.

Late news from Graham: Brent Lodge have her now for a few days, they say the wings are good but she was probably stunned from a window strike. They will get her up and running and then we get her back for release because they are territorial apparently. Turned out to be a mature female, not a fledgling.


Brook Meadow
Tony Wootton had a quiet morning around Brook Meadow this morning. He saw Little Egret, Blue Great and Long-tailed Tits, Wren, Robin, Kestrel, Blackbird, Mallard, Goldfinch, Magpie and a female Great Spotted Woodpecker. He also heard a second Great Spotted Woodpecker, probably her mate.
Tony also got a nice photo of a juvenile Moorhen having a splash and stretching its wings in the river. We usually have three pairs of breeding Moorhens on the river, but I am never sure how many of the youngsters survive, so it's good to see this one. The juvenile Moorhen is generally much browner than the adult with buff-white lateral line and undertail, but, most important, it lacks the bright red frontal shield and yellow-tipped bill of the adult.

Graham's Hedgehog
Graham Petrie has specialised over the years in caring for wild Hedgehogs that turn up in his Havant garden and he provides them with special feeders. You may recall Graham was looking after a male Hedgehog last winter which he named 'Hogboy'.
Well, Graham has another Hedgehog coming for food to his feeder, even though it is getting late in the year. Graham only puts out dried food with fresh water at the moment, as it is too damp for anything else. He managed to pick the hog up today, but is not sure if it is male or female. From Graham's photo it certainly looks very healthy.

Graham weighed the hog which was a good weight for hibernation. After being handled, the hog went straight back out to the feeder, clearly not worried at all. It usually feeds at about 10:30pm Graham thinks there is no reason to keep it inside and hopefully will hibernate when ready.

Avocets and Spoonbills
On Sunday 30 Nov Barry and Margaret Collins had a walk down the east side of Thorney Island and had an impressive flock of at least 80 Avocets roosting on the saltings where Thorney Channel meets up with Nutbourne Channel at SU771037. It's worth going to Nutbourne Bay to see them.
They also saw three juvenile Spoonbills feeding on the mudflats just off South Stakes Island. Wonder if they will come into Emsworth Harbour?

Cuckoo migration
Since being fitted with a satellite tag by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) four years ago, Chris the Cuckoo, named after TV wildlife presenter Chris Packham, has travelled more than 60,000 miles - the equivalent of flying twice round the world, and he's taken in 22 different countries along the way! This is the fourth year Chris has been studied and is the only tagged Cuckoo to provide continuous data for so many years. For details of the routes taken by all the active Cuckoos fitted with tags see . . . . . .


Red-breasted Mergansers
My usual morning constitutional walk around Emsworth Millpond produced two nice birds in the form of male and female Red-breasted Mergansers. Mergansers are fairly regular winter visitors to the Emsworth millponds, though I have not seen any for a couple of years. These were the first I have seen this winter.

Ringed Godwit Query
I asked Pete Potts for help with a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit I saw in Emsworth Harbour Nov 29. All the rings were blue or green (except for the red marker on the left leg), but it was very difficult to make out which was which in the bright sun. Pete thought it could be B+GG or B+GB, but preferred B+GB. I see Peter Milinets-Raby recorded B+GG on Oct 15 at Warblington shore and could have had the same problem as me. I will put it down as B+GB (?).

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwits
There have been an unusually large number of juvenile Black-tailed Godwits in the harbour this winter, more than I can recall having seen before - up to 6 have been in the Nore Barn stream and more in the eastern harbour. I queried Pete Potts if the Godwits had had a particularly good breeding season and he said, yes, they must have had a better breeding season than he thought!

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Pook Lane via the Langstone Mill Pond (Noon to 2:10pm - very low tide). The highlights were as follows:
The waders were very flighty today and were never settled, often flying off to the distant water's edge of the channel before little groups would return. The winter plumaged Curlew Sandpiper was seen on four occasions and when on view the bird was observed for about three or four minutes. However, in the grey monotone light conditions (and the added bonus of the wind blowing off the land - giving me a wind free view point by the Pook Lane footpath) the views were very good. Again, I even had some nice flight views of the bird showing off it's white rump. A couple of other birders turned up and alas left without seeing the bird - it typically flew in five minutes after they left! The rest of the sightings of note were as follows:
Langstone Mill Pond: The juvenile Wigeon was back on the pond. 28 Teal, 5 Grey Heron roosting, But no exotics!
The flooded horse paddock: 27 Moorhen.
Off Pook Lane: Just 40 Knot, 156 Dunlin, 2 Greenshank (Both with rings – RG//-+YY//- and G//R+BRtag//-), 17 Wigeon, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 12 Grey Plover, 61 Black-tailed Godwit, 57 Teal (obviously the bunch from the horse paddocks), 23 Red Breasted Merganser in the channel, 29 Shelduck, 66 Lapwing and 542 Golden Plover (Very flighty - just managed to count them before they were disturbed. Only 100+ returned with the others heading to north Hayling).

Brian's note: By way of illustration here is a photo some Golden Plover in flight from the archives
by Richard Somerscocks in Emsworth Harbour in Nov 2011

Along the high tide shoreline hedgerow I bumped into a very excited and noisy tit flock containing 7 Long-tailed Tits, 2+ Blue Tits and 3 Chiffchaff together with a fourth calling nearby!!
No sign of the Little Owl. The Brent Geese were in the field by Castle Farm Barn, so I didn't bother to walk around to count them. Judging by the fact that there were no Brent to be seen on the channel, the fields probably contained the current flock of 500 to 600+ geese!


Brent Goose spectacle
Viv Harding e-mailed to say that she saw a huge flock of Brent Geese flying inland over her garden just off Lumley Road on Saturday Nov 29. She also had a smaller flock yesterday 30th over Queen Street.
This morning at about 9.30am as I was walking along the High Street in Emsworth, I too witnessed the spectacle of several hundred Brents flying across the town in a southerly direction, clearly on their way back from feeding on the Southbourne fields. No camera, so no photo alas. I saw them a few minutes later in the eastern harbour noisily chattering away to themselves.
This is clearly becoming a daily event, so please keep a look out and let me know if you see them. This is what they look like when they go.

Stag's Horn Fungus
Fresh from his superb photos of the Kingfisher yesterday, Malcolm Phillips went round Brook Meadow with his camera at the ready today, but only managed to get fungi. Here is one of the fungi he snapped, which I think is Stag's Horn Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon). It is a common wood rotting fungus which has small erect finger-shaped fruit bodies, often forked at the apex as in Malcolm's photo, giving it an antler shape. Initially just black at the base, it gradually becomes all black during the winter.

More Ringed Teal
Martin Hampton e-mailed to say that he saw 3 male Ringed Teal on Langstone Millpond yesterday (Nov 30). He double- and treble-checked and his eyes did not deceive him. Well, well, these exotic birds are not only moving around, but also increasing in number! I saw one on Peter Pond in Emsworth on Nov 3, then Malcolm Phillips had two there on Nov 12. Peter Milinets-Raby also had presumably the same two Ringed Teal on Langstone Mill Pond on Nov 27 and now, there are three! Some wildfowl collector must be wondering where all his birds are disappearing to. Note: to avoid any confusion, Ringed Teal (Callonetta leucophrys) is a species of duck native to South America and not a ringed Teal, ie Teal with rings on their legs! Here is Malcolm's photo of two of them on Peter Pond.

Martin also said there were 2 Red Admirals on the wing in Havant yesterday.

Parakeets arrive
Ring-necked Parakeets are fairly common birds in the London area and in Surrey and Kent where they are often found in flocks, numbering hundreds at a roost site, which can be very noisy. The British population is estimated to be around 30,000, but there are very few sightings of this attractive parrot here in the south. However, Susan Kelly had the honour of seeing one in Westbourne on Sunday Nov 30. Maybe, this is a sign they may be spreading south? So, please keep a look out for them and let me know if you see one. Here is what they look like as a reminder.

For earlier observations go to . . November 16-30