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for February 14-28, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Robin sings
There is nothing unusual to hear a Robin singing at this time of the year. However, one does not often see one singing so lustily as was the chap that Malcolm Phillips captured in Palmer's Road Copse today. What a voice it must have. Malcolm also got a Chiffchaff, but I thought the Robin was much better!

Frog spawn
John Bogle had his first frog spawn of the year. He writes, "I saw my first frogs in our garden pond in mid-January before it turned cold and sent them back into hibernation. This afternoon I checked out my regular frogspawn hotspot in Southleigh forest with no success, but decided to have a wander of some of the paths I can never find in the summer when everything is grown up. I stumbled upon barely a puddle where I counted over 50 clumps of spawn. There was almost more spawn than water in that puddle! A sign that spring is slowly but surely on it's way!"

This was not actually the first local frog spawn of the year as David Drew had dozens of frogs cavorting in his Horndean garden pond on Feb 16th and on Feb 20th there was one dollop of spawn. Reported on John Goodspeed's Nature Notes . . .

Baffins Pond
Tim, Glynis and Thomas Irons enjoyed another great visit to Baffins Pond today. They were hoping to see the ducklings that Eric Eddles spotted last week, but did not find them. However, they saw lots of other birds and young Thomas made friends with a Feral Pigeon.

Short-eared Owl
Tony Wootton got this great photo of a Short-eared Owl just north of Arundel yesterday.

Tony sent another photo to put the first in context. Phew, that was a close encounter!

Pagham Harbour
Heather Mills reports on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group
Go to . . .


Emsworth Millpond
What a difference a day makes. After yesterday's rain, the weather this morning was fine and warm, completely blue sky and definitely a touch of spring in the air. Walking round the town millpond I found the two Mute Swan cobs circling round each other with wings raised while their mates remained at a safe distance. However, there was no physical conflict while I was watching.

Emsworth Harbour
There were lots more Brent Geese in the harbour than yesterday with a good 300 or so on the mudflats. They all went up as I was passing in a cacophony of 'krunking'.
The regular colour-ringed Greenshank RG+BY tag was feeding in the low water channel near the quay with 2 Common Redshank. This was the 6th sighting of this bird in Emsworth Harbour this winter season.

Also, in the channel was a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, probably the same one that was here yesterday.

Mystery sounds
As I was walking down Queen Street towards the Hermitage Millponds I was stopped in my tracks by what sounded like repeated loud bird calls coming from the vicinity of one of the houses. At first I thought it might have been a Rose-ringed Parakeet, but I could not see anything of the bird and the sound was less of a screech than I would have expected. After listening to the sound for several minutes, I finally, concluded that it must have been coming from a malfunctioning alarm on the outside of Newham House on the north side of Queen Street. But it was very bird-like!

Peter Pond
A Reed Bunting was singing from the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond, a brief and rather inconspicuous song, but distinctive. I also heard a Cetti's Warbler from the same area, so the bird we first heard on Brook Meadow on Feb 19th must be still in the area.

Brook Meadow
It was great to stroll through the meadow in the warm sunshine, thinking of what will be coming up in the months ahead. Meanwhile, I love to see the yellow leaves of Reed Canary-grass which show up really well with the sun on them at this time of the year, a golden swathe across the meadow. I cut a few strands for my wild flower vase display on my desk at home.

I had a walk around the Lumley area which has yet to be cut by the conservation group this winter. This is a very valuable area botanically, for sedges and rushes, but it has become overgrown with rank vegetation and really needs to be cut and cleared quickly to give the new plants an opportunity to develop. It is on the group's schedule.
The main wild flower area in the centre of the north meadow is looking good; it has been well cleared and has a very low growth of grasses, just right for the orchids and other plants, hopefully. Further north the meadow is dominated by a sea of fescue grass tufts, which in close-up look like a assembly of wigwams, but look more like a stormy sea in this photo.

Reaching the far north-east corner of the meadow where the River Ems emerges from under the railway, I was surprised to find the wall of concrete bags (constructed to prevent the river flooding onto the meadow) has been boxed in around the sides with Hazel hurdles. This certainly improves the appearance of the wall and it might be possible to lay soil on the top of the bags and encourage wild plants to grow.

Nore Barn
Malcolm Phillips went over to Nore Barn this afternoon where he found the Spotted Redshank in its regular spot in the stream. On the basis of previous years I expect it to be present for another couple of weeks or so. Last year's last sighting was on March 13th though it has been as late as March 27th.

Malcolm also captured a Common Redshank as it came into the Nore Barn stream, showing its distinctive broad white trailing edge to the wing and white wedge up its back. No other wader combines these two features. The Spotted Redshank has the white wedge, but lacks the white trailing edge.

Swan nest
This afternoon Nik Knight saw that a swan had begun nest building at Langstone millpond, further back into the reedbed this year. This is the first swan nest building that I have heard of this year.


Emsworth Millpond
I decided to get out for a walk despite the steady light rain. Actually, it was not too bad as it was warm and the wind was manageable. The town millpond was drained due to the threat of flooding which meant the ducks and swans were having a hard time getting around. I was interested to see two Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mud in the southern section of the millpond. They looked like juveniles, of which there has been plenty around this winter.

A few minutes later, I found one of the juveniles feeding in the low water channel near the town; this has been a favoured feeding area for juvenile godwits this winter.

Emsworth Harbour
It was low water and the eastern harbour was almost deserted. The only Brent Geese I could find were two family groups on the shore near the conservancy wooden pontoon with 4 and 3 youngsters respectively. Clearly, the Brents are on the move towards their breeding grounds, though I expect we shall see good numbers of them passing through from places further west and south.

A flotilla of 7 Red-breasted Mergansers were swimming up the main channel with a couple of females leading the way. Mergansers are also winter visitors to the south coast, but tend to stay a bit longer than the Brents as they have shorter journeys to their breeding grounds, probably in West Scotland.

The regular Little Egret was feeding near the millpond outlet beneath the quay. What a magnificent bird and we do so take it for granted these days.

 Hermitage millponds
The Mute Swan pair were back on the Hermitage Millponds with the male on Slipper Millpond and the female (with pink legs and feet) on Peter Pond. Generally, it was a very nice day for ducks, not so good for humans!



Canoe Lake, Southsea
I had to go into Southsea this morning, so I decided to have a look around some of my old birdwatching haunts. Starting at Canoe Lake I counted 39 Mute Swans which is down from 51 on my last visit on Feb 5th. However, what is clear is that the wintering swans are back on the lake after an absence of about 10 years from 2005. And they are being fed!

Southsea Castle
It was such a pleasant morning, warm and calm that I walked along the prom to Southsea Castle. This is the best place locally to see Purple Sandpipers on the shore in front of the castle and I was not disappointed today. I found three of them snoozing on one of the large rocks overlooking the sea, while another four were actively feeding among the weeds on the concrete shore - only two of them shown in the photo on the right below.

I also spotted a Rock Pipit on the concrete, but did not see any Sanderlings that the Havant Wildlife Group saw here on their walk on Feb 14, although I have often seen them here in previous years.


Baffins Pond
I stopped off at Baffins Pond on my way home where it was feeding time.

As always, the pond was crowded with ducks, mostly Mallard and Tufted Duck, though I did spot one handsome male Pochard among the melee. Pochard was never a common or numerous bird on Baffins Pond when I used to do regular counts from 1992 to 2005, so it was good to see one present today. I did not spot a female, though they are not so easy to pick out from the mass of other ducks as the male.

The hybrid Embden Goose was in the north west corner of the pond with its close companion a regular Canada Goose. Having seen the bird in the flesh I certainly agree with Eric Eddles and Peter Milinets-Raby that this bird is not a pure Embden Goose and I am fully prepared to accept the expert's verdict that it is a Embden x Canada hybrid.

There were about 14 Shoveler on the pond, mostly in pairs, circling round and round with their heads under the water sieving food. The Mallard family with six tiny ducklings that Eric Eddles reported on yesterday are still together.

Spring in the air
Chris Oakley's garden Snowdrops were attracting dozens of Honey Bees in the warm sunshine today, each with their pollen sacks full of bright orange pollen. I did not realise they were active this early in the year. Chris also noted a Drone Fly on some tiny Iris flowers. There was even a Bumble bee but it passed through too quickly for him to get a picture. Spring was certainly in the air.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Pook Lane and visited the Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 12:50pm to 2:56pm - tide pushing in and 15.1C with heat haze! Here are his observations:
Pook Lane: 3 Mediterranean Gulls, 5 Turnstone, 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 255 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Grey Plover, 247 Dunlin, 34 Shelduck, 10+ Teal (see photo), 23 Lapwing, 4 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Knot, 4 Greenshank (G//R+BB//- and G//R+BRtag//-), 35 Wigeon, 1 Buzzard soaring around on the thermals.

Flooded Horse paddock: 26 Moorhen, 8 Teal.
Pond: Chiffchaff heard calling, 2 Stock Doves, Male Kestrel over, 1 Little Egret roosting, No sign of Wigeon or Goosander, 2 roosting Grey Herons.
Grey Heron top nest in Holm Oak has three chicks. I managed to get good views today - photo below. South nest looks like the adult is still sitting on eggs as I observed the bird fussing over the nest as if it had eggs, rather than chicks


Redshanks at high water
It was a lovely afternoon for a stroll around Nore Barn. I arrived at about 2.30pm with about one hour to go to high water and did not really expect to see much in the harbour. There were a few Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal pootling around on the still water, but then I noticed two little heads poking up from behind the grasses on the shore to the west of the stream. Redshanks certainly, but were they both Spotted Redshanks? I manoeuvred myself into position to get a better look and decided that one was definitely a Common Redshank - the one on the left in the picture.

As I was watching, the Common Redshank swam off quite a good distance into the harbour, leaving its companion behind on the edge of the saltmarshes.

I left them to it and walked along the shore to the south of the woods. When I got back to the stream area at 3.30pm the tide was fully in, but the two Redshanks were back together on the edge of the saltmarshes, clearly roosting there over high water.

Selangor Path
I was interested to see what had been going on along the Selangor Path and was surprised to find the first 50 yards or so from the southern kissing gate had been laid with gravel. There was a notice on the gate indicating that this work had been carried out by volunteers under the leadership of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy in co-operation with Havant Borough Council. The gravel gave way to wet mud after about 50 yards, but the presence of large piles of gravel further north must mean the intention is to relay the whole path. Trees and scrub had been cleared along the edges of the path to open it up and help it to dry out.

There were notices on the edge of the large field to the east of the Selangor Path indicating that the access to the site was prohibited except for 'recreational use consent for which is expressly given by Markfields Investments'. This would seem to be a very public spirited thing for the owners to do (to soften the blow of housing development when it comes?). Actually, walking down the edge of the field is a good dry alternative to the very muddy path.

Hedgerow project
I was also interested to see the work that the Nore Barn Woods group have been doing on the hedge along the path north of the woods in co-operation with Jon Stokes of the Tree Council. A section was laid in the 'South of England' style, rather like we have been doing on Brook Meadow. Also, many old Hawthorns had been coppiced and in-filled with new saplings including Wild Plum. The coppiced trees will also be laid after 5-6 years to form a new hedge. It all looks very fine and the Nore Barn Woods group have to be congratulated on their excellent conservation work.

First ducklings on Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles had a wonderful surprise this afternoon when he discovered this Mallard family on Baffins Pond. This is the first one I have heard of. Eric says the mother looks like a 'mix and match' hybrid.

Brent Geese on the move
I have noticed a marked fall in numbers of Brent Geese in Emsworth Harbour over the past week or so and wondered if this marked an early movement of the birds towards their breeding grounds in the north.
This was tentatively confirmed by Ralph Hollins who reported the following in his daily wildlife diary yesterday: "There have been many reports of Brent Geese heading east past coastal sites such as Dungeness since Jan 4 but I think these early departures originate from the west coast of France and only follow the English south coast for convenience of navigation (others follow the north coast of France). What may be the first report of Brent that have been wintering at English sites starting to leave came in a report on the Selsey Blog for Feb 22 of a total of just over 1500 Brent taking off from the Pagham Harbour area to head east. See . . .


I had a walk this morning after the rain through Brook Meadow and down to Slipper Millpond. A Song Thrush was singing strongly from the south meadow. Also, a Chaffinch was singing its 'bowling song'.
There was no sound of the Cetti's Warbler on Brook Meadow, though I did get a brief burst of its song from the reeds to the north of Peter Pond. While standing on the small footbridge to the north of Peter Pond I spotted a Chiffchaff flitting around in the reedbeds, moving quickly across from one side of the channel to the other. Too quick for a photo.
Meanwhile, over on Slipper Millpond Black-headed Gulls and a Cormorant were the only occupants on the centre raft; no sign this morning of the Great Black-backed Gulls that I saw here last week.
A pair of Coot were taking an interest in the nest box on the north raft for the first time this year. The photo shows the raft still with its covering of wires designed to deter the Great Black-backed Gulls from nesting; however, they would not attempt to do that as that raft is far too small for them.

The pair of Mute Swans that nested in the reeds on the east side of Slipper Millpond were back on the pond, the female 'Polish' variety showing her distinctive pink legs and feet. I assume they will try to nest there again this year. The two cygnets from last year's brood are in the harbour with other juveniles in various stages of maturity, plus a few unattached adults.

Little Grebe fishing
John Bogle was also down at Slipper Millpond yesterday where he had what he described as his "best wildlife experience of the year so far" watching a Little Grebe fishing near the sluice at the end of the pond.
"I was walking past and saw it there in the fast water and thought I'd watch it for a few minutes. Almost instantly it dived under and came up a few seconds later with, for the size of the bird, quite a large fish! Fortunately I already had my camera in hand and was able to fire off a few shots to capture the moment! The whole sequence lasted just 8 seconds from surfacing to fish gone, and I watched it catch and swallow a further two baby mullet of similar size in the space of 2.5 minutes! Clearly a very efficient little hunter! It had then clearly had it's fill went off to settle down under the hull of one of the boats."

Here is John's superb sequence of photos showing the grebe catching and swallowing the fish.


Emsworth to Langstone
This morning Peter Milinets-Raby covered all the main sites from Emsworth to Langstone (7:22am to 10:55am - low tide). Here are his observations:
Emsworth Harbour off the Mill Pond (4/5th frozen -3.4C): 3 Pied Wagtails on the sea wall, 10 Lapwing, 1 Grey Plover, 4 Greenshank, 22 Coot, 348 Brent Geese, 2 Canada Geese, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 7 Gadwall, 1 Mediterranean Gull (see photo), 91 Dunlin, 1 Little Egret, 46 Shelduck, 4 Teal, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Little Grebe.

The Mediterranean Gull is in the centre of the photo with the slightly faded black head

Mill Pond outflow (from 7:59am): 1 Rock Pipit, 68 Brent Geese, 8 Teal, 3 Grey Plover, 9 Wigeon, 69 Dunlin, 2 Shelduck.
Beacon Square (from 8:08am): Singing Goldcrest in tree by footpath, 57 Brent Geese, 19 Teal, 2 Shelduck, 75 Dunlin, 5 Grey Plover.
Nore Barn (from 8:17am): 42 Wigeon, 49 Teal, 9 Black-tailed Godwit, 16 Pintail, 7 Grey Plover, 43 Dunlin, 1 Rock Pipit.
Ibis Field (from 8:40am): 1 Moorhen, Song Thrush singing, Green Woodpecker calling, 3 Pied Wagtails.
Conigar Point (from 8:50am): 11 Wigeon, 13 Pintail, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 18 Teal, 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Knot, 6 Shelduck, 27 Dunlin, 4 Lapwing, 3 Red Breasted Merganser, Reed Bunting calling.
Pook Lane (from 9:03am): 207 Dunlin, 69 Brent Geese, 39 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Red Breasted Merganser, 48 Wigeon, 56 Teal, 15 Black-tailed Godwit (R//R+GR//-), 11 Knot, 22 Shelduck, 8 Lapwing, 135 Golden Plover, 11 Grey Plover, 2 Greenshank, 1 Great Black-backed Gull.
Castle Farm fields: 302 Brent Geese.
Flooded Horse paddock: 11 Moorhen, 1 female Pheasant, Fox.
Langstone Mill Pond: 2 Mediterranean Gulls calling, Female Wigeon, 2 Roosting Grey Heron in big tree with 2 Stock Doves,
Grey Heron nests: South nest: Sitting bird with adult standing less than a metre away (see photo). Holm Oak: Top nest:- lots of activity from adult male bringing sticks in, plus young chick observed raising its head up on several occasions. Lower nest:- Both adults in attendance with lots of young begging noises, but nothing to really see with too much vegetation in the way.

South nest: Sitting bird with adult standing less than a metre away


Blackcaps in garden
For the first time this winter we had two Blackcaps on the feeders in our back garden. I have previously seen the female and the male separately, but today both were present at the same time. I did not manage to capture both together, but here is my first photo of a male this winter, appropriately with a sunflower heart in its bill.

Wood chips for path
Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow this morning and down to Thorney, but did not find much of interest. So, he came back to Palmer's Road Copse where he spent a couple of hours moving the wood chips from the tree cutting onto the path, with just his hands and a carrier bag as the only tools available. Good job, Malcolm.


Following Ralph Hollins' discovery of Coltsfoot in flower at Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 17, I had a look on the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station where I had previously found this plant. However, there was no sign of it today, or anything else in flower, if it comes to that.
The most reliable spot to see Coltsfoot locally that I know of is alongside the west Thorney track close to the Little Deeps. I have not had the chance to go down there yet, but here is a photo I got of the flowers in March 2007.

Chaffinch song
Walking through Brook Meadow I heard a Green Woodpecker calling from the east side of the north meadow, the first I have heard this year. Another first of the year for me was a full Chaffinch song from the tall Alders just opposite the outside of the Lumley gate. I could not get a photo of the bird, but here is a super photo of a male Chaffinch that Malcolm Phillips got a couple of years ago on Brook Meadow.

Cetti's Warbler
At 12:15pm I heard a Cetti's Warbler singing from the bushes on the west bank north of the sluice gate, immediately behind the large Crack Willow that has fallen across the river. This was probably the same bird that Tony Wootton and Pam Phillips heard on Brook Meadow yesterday and it might be staying with us for a while. I listened and looked closely for about 10 minutes, but, needless to say, I did not see the bird, or even get so much as a brief glimpse of it. But the characteristic 'cetti .. cetti .. cetti' song was unmistakable. No photo of today's bird alas, but here is one I am proud of. It was taken while the bird was on the Goat Willow tree on the north of Peter Pond on 17 May 2010. My best Cetti's Warbler ever though not up to Tony's standards!

Tree cutting
One of the large Crack Willows on the path through Palmer's Road Copse has had three of its main branches lopped, presumably for safety reasons.


This is the tree where Jon Stokes from the Tree Council discovered the Big Smokey Bracket fungus (Bjerkandera fumosa) on Jan 17th. This is a nationally scarce fungus and one with only 2 previous Hampshire records. I was interested to see if the fungus was still there. Fortunately, some of the fungi was still present on the north facing side of the tree right next to a label with the numbers 000605 printed on it.


High tide flooding
The high 4.9m spring tide had partly flooded the Lumley area, but nowhere near so extensively as last year.

I tried to walk down the path in front of Gooseberry Cottage but this was totally flooded by the tide. It would normally have been impossible to walk down Lumley Road to the main A259 at such a high tide, but today the new bunds on the east side of Peter Pond were doing their job in keeping the water off the road.


Great Black-backed Gulls return
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were back on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond . This is the time of year when the gulls will be staking out their territory and we can expect them to be present on most days until nesting begins in the next few weeks.

This pair of gulls have nested on the centre raft for the past three years, producing 2 youngsters in 2012 and three in 2013. In December 2013 the Slipper Millpond Association decided to try to deter the gulls from nesting again due to their predatory habits on the other avian inhabitants on the pond, notably Coot. To achieve this the three rafts on the pond were covered with wires, but this did not put the birds off and they nested again successfully in 2014 rearing one youngster.
See the special web page for more details at . . .
Great Black-backed Gulls nesting 


Brook Meadow conservation work
I went over to Brook Meadow this morning for the regular Thursday morning Conservation work session led by Wally Osborne. The weather was fine and 11 volunteers attended. The main task was to repair the dead hedges at the top of the river banks to protect the Water Vole habitat from damage. This was done using branches and twigs from willow trees.

The other task was to cut back the large hedge opposite the Seagull Lane gate which had been badly damaged. This hedge is a wildlife haven and needs protection and conservation, even though it is not strictly speaking on the Brook Meadow site.

For the full report with more photo go to . . .

To join the Brook Meadow Conservation Group
go to . . .

Wildlife observations
A Cetti's Warbler was heard singing from the Lumley Stream area during the work session. Tony Wootton heard it first and drew my attention to it. Later Pam Phillips said she had also heard a Cetti's Warbler near the sluice gate at 7.30 this morning, probably the same bird. The last Cetti's Warbler song on Brook Meadow was heard by Ralph Hollins on 23-Sep-14 from the river bank north of observation fence. Previously, we had long staying Cetti's Warblers in the springs of 2010 and 2011 giving good photo opportunities. Let's hope this one stays. Cetti's Warbler has a very loud song 'cetti-cetti' but is very difficult to see.

Tony Wootton got a brilliant photo of one in April 2010 in the reeds on Peter Pond

I noted the pink Butterbur flower spikes are now springing up more generally in the area below the seat where this plant grows most abundantly.

Baffins Pond
The Irons family (Tim, Glynis and young son Thomas) paid a visit to Baffins Pond in Portsmouth and had 'a great morning'. Keen-eyed Thomas spotted the hybrid Embden x Canada Goose which has been extensively discussed on this blog over the past 2 weeks. Thomas got a nice photo of the bird which he has named 'Bruce'.

Here is young Tom stroking a very tame Canada Goose.

I cannot speak too highly of Baffins Pond as an excellent site for relative beginners to get really good views of the more common waterfowl, plus some not so common. I certainly did a lot of my early birdwatching at this pond and enjoyed every moment. I still call in there from time to time when I am passing. The natural environment of the pond has been greatly improved in recent years by the creation of the new wetland areas. For more go to . .Baffins Pond


Gulls on frozen millpond
The town millpond had a thin layer of ice on its southern part when I walked round this morning. It was occupied by around 200 Black-headed Gulls mostly snoozing. Gulls do seem to like standing on the ice. I wonder why? I went through them carefully looking for other species, but they were all Black-headed. Presumably some of them will be heading off to Hayling Oysterbeds where the Black-headed Gull breeding colony is starting to assemble according to Chris Cockburn's report in yesterday's blog. The southern pair of Mute Swans can be seen in the photo behind the gulls. The two pairs of swans are still present on the millpond, but I have seen no other signs of friction between them.

Grey Wagtail on Slipper Millpond
Francis Kinsella saw a good selection of birds during a walk last evening. First he had a sighting of a Grey Wagtail flitting round the rocks in the water near the sluice gate at the bottom of Slipper Millpond. The reflected light was very bright so it was only when Francis looked carefully at the photo that he realised what it was.

The Grey Wagtail flew off past a female Kingfisher (with red lower mandible) that was perched at that point on one of the ladders along the wall down from Dolphin Quay.

Snippets from the archives - February 16-28, 2013

Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn
Sweet Violets on Lillywhite's path
Two Firecrests on Brook Meadow with some great photos - from Feb 16
Two Water Rails - Feb 21
Water Vole sightings.
Great Black-backed Gulls back on Slipper Millpond for nesting again - Feb 22 and Feb 25
Glossy Ibis on Warblington Farm - Feb 23 to end month
First Blackbird song - Feb 25
Frog spawn by the sluice gate


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a good time on the meadow today. He had two sightings of what was probably the same Water Vole in Palmer's Road Copse by the deep water sign, first at 12 noon and again at 4.30pm. This was our 3rd Water Vole sighting of the year and from different locations which is encouraging news for the future. For all the Water Vole news and photos go to . . .

Malcolm also got a good photo of a common Chiffchaff - the first we have seen for a while on the meadow. The Siberian Chiffchaff appears to have gone.

It always pays to look up from time to time. Doing this Malcolm spotted a Buzzard flying overhead.

When I walked through this afternoon I noticed the first blossom on the Cherry Plum 'Pissardii' tree on the causeway to the Lumley gate on Brook Meadow. It is a bit later than usual; first flowers in 2014 were on 5th Feb. Common Name: Purple-leaved plum (Prunus cerasifera Cultivar: 'Pissardii'). This is the purple leaved cultivar Pissardii, grown in suburban gardens.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby says it was a lovely blue sky morning visit to the Warblington shore just as the last bit of mud was being covered by the rising tide (7:22am to 9:22am). Peter was pleased to get his scope back repaired and restored to full functioning, all the way from Austria! Highlights were:
Castle Farm fields: Spring has arrived when the first sound you hear is the call of a pair of summer plumaged Mediterranean Gulls flying over! 21 Oystercatcher. 33 Curlew. Mistle Thrush. Buzzard on old tree. 2 pairs of Stock Doves in the big trees. Green Woodpecker calling all morning.
Off Pook Lane: 2 feeding Avocet (A nice surprise, but soon flew off), 310+ Dunlin (160+ flew off within five minutes of arriving along with the Knot and Bar-tailed Godwits - a pity did not get the chance to search through them!). 15+ Bar-tailed Godwit. 118 roosting Golden Plover. 30+ Lapwing. 2 Knot. 1 Turnstone. 3 Black-tailed Godwit. 40+ Shelduck. 2 female Goldeneye. Skylark over calling. 140+ Brent Geese feeding on the shore by Pook Lane along with 50 Wigeon.

Langstone Mill Pond: Male Reed Bunting singing and a handsome male Chaffinch singing.
Two Grey Herons standing on the south nest and a bird on the top nest in the Holm Oak that had a stretch before settling back down with a lengthy hilarious wobble back and forth before finally sitting.

Mallard numbers on the pond down by 50% - probably a result of the aggressive Mute Swans and the fact that spring is now officially in the air! No sign of the Wigeon.
Flooded horse paddock: 26 Moorhen. 93 Teal.


I had a stroll this morning before the worst of the rain. A Grey Wagtail was feeding in the Westbrook Stream that runs alongside Bridge Road car park. This bird is probably present more often in this fast running stream than I see it there.
Walking up West Street towards the shops I heard the sweet song of a Blue Tit from one of the gardens. This was the best song I have heard this winter. My only other Blue Tit song was not much more than a call on Brook Meadow on Jan 7.
Greenshank G+BN tag was feeding with a Common Redshank in the channel to the east of the Emsworth Sailing Club building. This is an Emsworth regular. It was caught and ringed by Pete Potts on 13 Jan 2014 and this was my 6th sighting of this bird in Emsworth this winter period. The photo is blurry as the bird was constantly on the move.

Breeding season gets underway at the oysterbeds
Chris Cockburn reports on the start of the 2015 breeding season on Hayling Oysterbeds:
"The cheery noise of territorial black-headed gulls has started. The first handful of them were on the straight island on Sat 14 Feb when at least one Mediterranean gull was heard but not seen. Numbers of both species noticeably increased on Sun 15 Feb with much coming & going and lots of calling, especially from the Med. gulls.
Are these gulls creatures of habit? Well, the 2014 season started on Feb 14th and the 2013 season on Feb 10th. Presumably daylight hours must be the trigger (weather conditions were very different in those years). Anyway, numbers and noise should increase soon and it will great to see the Med gulls again displaying on the islands (and perhaps an opportunity to read some alpha-numeric Darvik rings).
Both of the lagoon islands have been significantly eroded due to storm-wave action; so it will be interesting to see how many nests are made this year (677 black-headed gull nests and 10 Med gull nests in 2014).
There are at least three potential pairs of oystercatchers in the lagoon area; but they will probably have another abject season unless they heed the advice to start nesting well before the gulls get down to business in early April.
The high tide wader roosts are still giving good value, especially during the higher spring tides despite the relatively lower number of over-wintering birds (Brent geese excepted); the likely result of many waders and wildfowl staying in western Europe (particularly Holland etc) whilst no major freeze-up occurred.
It will not be long before the northwards bird movements start and it will be autumn before we see birds such as common gulls: Hopefully, once spring arrives, there will be more to report."

Black-headed Gull takeover
Here is a photo of some Black-headed Gulls nesting on the shingle island at Hayling Oysterbeds taken in May 2010 at the start of my 5th and final year as a volunteer warden. The number of Black-headed Gull nests had risen to 667 last year!

During my wardening period I witnessed the takeover of the original Little Tern breeding islands by the Black-headed Gulls. When I first started wardening there were around 40 Little Tern nests on the shingle island; when I finished there were none. This photo was taken in May 2007 when the terns were doing well. Nostalgic!


Malcolm's news
It was a very pleasant almost spring-like morning for a stroll through Brook Meadow and round Slipper Millpond. While on Brook Meadow we met Malcolm Phillips who had just seen and photographed a Treecreeper near the south bridge, his first one of the year.

Malcolm also got a shot of a Blue Tit with nest materials in its bill emerging from what must be a nesting hole in one of the large Crack Willows on the north path.

Malcolm said he had not seen the Siberian Chiffchaff for some weeks (since Jan 14 in fact) and thought it must have gone. He had not seen any common Chiffchaffs either. The long staying Water Rail has also not been seen since Jan 31 and may have moved on as well.

Plant news
While on Brook Meadow I checked the flower spikes of Butterbur which are now starting to emerge from the buds in the area below the main seat.

Along the path behind Lillywhite's Garage I found a variety of plants in flower including Sweet Violet, Common Field Speedwell, Common Chickweed and a bright yellow flower of Lesser Celandine.

Also along this path there a fresh growth of Lords and Ladies, including some with dark spotted leaves.

The now severely truncated Gorse bush on the east side of Slipper Millpond is flowering well and looks good on this photo with the pool in the background.

Looking more closely at its rich golden yellow flowers one can appreciate why the plant botanically belongs to the pea group. The flowers have the characteristic five petals of the pea family with a standard petal at the top, two wing petals at the sides and two lower petals forming a boat-shaped keel.

Tagged Greenshank
Glynis and Tim Irons had a lovely walk this morning with their 9-year old son Thomas through Brook Meadow, Peter Pond, the Harbour and then to the town millpond. Thomas, who is a keen birdwatcher, spotted wading birds in the harbour and took some photos. One of them was a colour-ringed and tagged Greenshank - RG+BY tag (ie left leg: red over green and right leg blue over yellow with the geo tag on the blue ring). Although Thomas's photo only shows the left leg rings he also saw the colours on the other leg which enabled me to identify it.

RG+BY tag was one of 3 Greenshanks that Pete Potts and his team caught at Thorney on 19-Mar-13 and fitted geolocators to the blue rings. The bird has been seen 10 times in Emsworth Harbour since its ringing and today's sighting was the 5th in this winter season.

First Blackbird song
As I was writing this blog at 6pm this evening my wife called me into the kitchen to hear a bird singing in the back garden. It was our first Blackbird song of the year and the song was full and rich, certainly not a sub-song in any way. Last year I heard my first Blackbird song on Feb 16th so it looks as if it is about on time.

Hybrid goose on Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles helped to answer my puzzlement over why the hybrid goose on Baffins Pond that he photographed on Feb 13 should be so different in appearance from one of its assumed parents ie a Canada Goose. Eric said that expert Dave Appleton wrote as follows: 'It is likely to be a hybrid between a domestic goose such as (Embden) and a Canada Goose. Such very white birds as this are difficult to separate from domestic geese as the white plumage masks the usual signs of Canada Goose involvement, so I would shy from being 100% positive, but it is as least consistent with how I would expect a domestic goose x Canada Goose hybrid to appear.'
Thanks, Eric. I think that resolves my problem with the ID, though I still think it is a bit strange that things happen this way.

Finally, Peter Milinets-Raby sends a link to breeding event between a domestic goose and a lame female Canada Goose which he says sheds some light on things and resolves the situation. As Peter says, the offspring in the photos that are white look just like the Baffins Pond bird. See . . .

Havant Wildlife Group at Southsea
Fay Durant reported on yesterday's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group:
See . . .

For earlier observations go to . . February 1-14