MARCH 16 - 2015
I had a Grey
Squirrel in the garden today that was clearly
This led me to check
on the moulting process of squirrels. I gather that
both Red and Grey Squirrels moult biannually, once in
the spring (March to July) and again in late autumn
(September to December), although their ear-tip and
tail hairs are only replaced once a year (during the
summer). The spring moult starts on the head and
proceeds backwards, while the autumn moult starts at
the sides and moves upwards. The tail moult occurs
once each year, starting in July.
is still singing from the garden conifer trees
overhanging the northern end of the Bridge Road
Wayside. I caught a few fleeting glimpses of the male
singer as it flitted around in the branches, but it
was too quick for a photo. My strong suspicion is that
this is a wintering bird limbering up in readiness for
the journey back to its breeding grounds on the
Tony Wootton had male
and female Blackcaps in his garden this morning, but
never together. Tony asks if they are winter visitors
when will they leave. Well, I reckon it could be any
There was no
real change on the town millpond which had been
drained again. I happened to catch the regular pair of
swans mating near bridge close to their old nest site,
but there has been no serious nest building activity
as yet. The other pair of swans was hanging around
near the Slipper Mill. I cannot see anywhere they
could nest easily.
There was no sign of the swan pair on Slipper Millpond
nor the Great Black-backed Gulls. However, a Coot
was on a nest behind a barricade of twigs on the
north raft. I think Coots are also nesting on the
The number of
Sweet Violet flowers on the path behind Lillywhite's
Garage continues to grow. Today I counted 78 flowers.
I had a walk
through the meadow this afternoon after the worst of
the rain had gone through. I was pleased to meet Wally
and Rosemary Osborne who were out for a walk. We had a
chat about the Pike problem and Wally agreed we need
to get rid of it urgently! After leaving Wally and
Rosemary I came across the first flowers of Cow
Parsley that I have seen on Brook Meadow this
year, only tiny as yet, but with lots more to come.
There is a fine clump
of Summer Snowflake in Lumley copse close to the new
flood barrier by Rose Cottage.
and Water Voles
I have heard
back from Graham Roberts of the Hampshire Wildlife
Trust about the large Pike that Mike Wells and others
have seen and photographed in the River Ems on Brook
It is, as I feared,
bad news for our Water Voles. Graham says, "I am
afraid if you have a pike of that size that it will
definitely have a significant effect on young Water
Voles as well as ducklings. I wonder if you could
contact a local fishing club who may well like such a
big pike living in one of their lakes. They may well
be able to catch it with a spinner. Another option may
be to contact Environment Agency fisheries and ask if
they could electro fish the stream with the hope of
catching it. They are very experienced at doing this
sort of thing."
I passed this information on to the conservation group
for them to take action. The poor voles had a rough
time with the floods last year and could have done
without this! I fear we could lose them for good if we
don't do something.
Meadow - yesterday's news
Phillips got some interesting photos of wildlife on
Brook Meadow yesterday. He captured what could be the
long staying Siberian Chiffchaff in flight near
the river. We have not had it in flight before.
Malcolm also got this
White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus
terrestris) feeding on Gorse flowers. It seems a
bit unseasonable, though this species often nests very
early in southern England. That looked at first like a
pollen sac the bee is carrying, though it does not
seem to be attached to the leg. Maybe it is a tick of
was surprised to see a Herring Gull feeding a chick on
the bank next to the jetty in Emsworth Harbour
yesterday. He thought it seemed a bit early to have a
fledged chick around. I agree it is very early. The
adult had a full crop and Chris watched it regurgitate
what appeared to be pieces of fish. Later, another
adult drove off the youngster and ate what was left.
15) Peter Milinets-Raby walked from Emsworth to Pook
Lane (6:50am to 9:15am - high tide only 3.9M and
falling). The birds of note were as follows:
Emsworth Mill Pond from 6:50am - drained: 2
Redshank, 1 Dunlin, 3 Oystercatcher, 1 Little Egret, 2
Cormorants amazingly fishing frantically in an egrets
knee depth of water!.
Emsworth Harbour: From 6:55am: 7 Coot, 356
Brent Geese, 6 Mediterranean Gull, 13 Teal, 1
Greenshank (G//R+BLtag//-), 2 pairs of Gadwall, 3
Little Grebe, 4 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Canada
Geese, 7 Shelduck.
Beacon Square from 7:25am: 12 Teal, 110 Brent
Geese, 4 Wigeon, 20 Grey Plover, 80 Dunlin.
Nore Barn from 7:35am: 2 Greenshank - left the
stream calling after disturbed by a dog, 1 Spotted
Redshank stayed in the stream, 11 Black-tailed Godwit
(2 of them in the stream), 203 Brent Geese, 36 Wigeon,
84 Teal, 7 Grey Plover, A pair of Pintail, 2 Goldcrest
in the Yew Tree by the car park area.
Castle Farm 7:55am: 3 Stock Doves on the castle
Warblington cemetery extension: 1 Green
Woodpecker feeding on ants (see photo) with another
Ibis Field: 4
Moorhen, 1 Buzzard over, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Pied
Conigar Point from 8:18am: Reed Bunting
calling, 2 Stock Doves, 192 Brent Geese, 1 Greenshank
(G///R+BB//-), 2 Mediterranean Gulls over, 2 pairs of
Pintail, 21 Wigeon, 32 Teal, 17 Shelduck, 1
Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Red Breasted Merganser, 4 Grey
Plover, 173 Dunlin, Cetti's Warbler singing several
Pook Lane from 8:35am: 99 Brent Geese, 225
Dunlin, 21 Wigeon, 6 Grey Plover, 1 Greenshank
(RG//-+YY//-), 15 Shelduck, 2 Mediterranean Gull.
Winter plumaged Curlew Sandpiper in with the Dunlin
feeding on the mud as it was exposed by the receding
tide - frustratingly had it in view for 10 seconds,
then the waders left towards the Oyster beds!
93 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Knot, 1 single Golden Plover,
Chiffchaff calling, 2 Buzzard displaying, 1 Meadow
Pipit heading north.
MARCH 13 - 2015
Pike in River Ems
Mike Wells was
back on Brook Meadow today and got a cracking photo of
the resident Pike in the river. It was north of the
north bridge, about two feet from the path-side bank,
and very easy to miss! That was presumably the same
fish that Mike got on Mar 8 which he said was huge,
about 2 feet 6 inches, though I gather they can get to
4 feet in length! It looks a real brute of a fish.
Pike are typical
ambush predators; they lie in wait for prey, holding
perfectly still for long periods, and then exhibit
remarkable acceleration as they strike. There is a
vivid video of a Pike taking a Mallard duckling on
YouTube at . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_E4BUt1z8Y
That is scary. The presence of such a large potential
predator makes me really fear for the safety of our
Water Voles. I will ask Graham Roberts of the
Hampshire Wildlife Trust for his advice.
nesting on Baffins Pond
reports the Mute Swan are nesting on Baffins Pond
again. He hopes they will be successful this year. The
last time they had cygnets was 2012.
A lady told me today
that she had seen the Peter Pond pair of swans mating!
Well, that is as far as they have got so far. No nest
building as yet.
MARCH 12 - 2015
Lumley area is cleared
I went over to
the meadow this morning mainly to have a look at the
Lumley area which has recently been cut and cleared by
Maurice Lillie, Pam Phillips and Carol Madgewick. Most
of the arisings have been raked up and moved to piles
around the perimeter of the area.
At the next available
work session Maurice hopes to rake the remnants from
the area and remove all the grass cuttings to a
sacrificial area. Maurice and his helpers have done a
magnificent job in clearing this very important area
for wild flowers and particularly sedges and rushes.
The plants will now have a fresh start and I look
forward to seeing the first of them coming through in
the next few weeks.
While I was on the
meadow I could not resist getting a photo of the
Cherry Plum in full blossom on the causeway - a
tree which attracts so much interesting wildlife.
Phillips spent some time on the meadow today and sent
me some really nice photos. I have picked out two for
the blog. Firstly, a Goldfinch, a common bird,
but what a beauty.
I hesitate to include
yet another photo of a female Kingfisher, but
today's photo by Malcolm is probably the best we have
had of this very familiar bird. Just look at that pure
white throat and the red lower mandible.
found some clusters of small blue beetles which he had
never seen before. They are, in fact, regularly seen
on Brook Meadow in early spring. They belong to the
family called Flea Beetles from their ability to jump,
particularly when touched. They have well developed
hind legs which enable them to do this.
Last year David Search
told me they were very likely to be Altica
lythri, though these beetles are difficult to
identify without dissecting their reproductive parts.
David says there are 12 species in this genus although
he does not think they are all present in the UK.
Altica lythri is very common in southern
Britain. It feeds on Great Willowherb (Epilobium
hirsutum) so clearly is in the right place as this
plant is abundant on Brook Meadow.
MARCH 11 - 2015
I set out on
my bike to cycle to Nore Barn via the town millpond in
bright sun, but with a very chilly easterly breeze.
The millpond was full of water which meant the nascent
swan nest of twigs and litter near the bridge was
totally awash. No sign of the swans.
I met up with Brian Lawrence near the quay and we
walked along the millpond seawall together. The
eastern harbour was occupied mostly by Brent Geese
busily feeding along the edges of the tide.
We walked along Western Parade to Nore Barn which was
deserted apart from a scattering of Brents, Wigeon and
Teal. However, our friend, the Spotted
Redshank, was present in the lower reaches of the
stream. Brian managed to get a distant shot of it with
his long lens. Brian also got a Common Redshank
which I include for comparison.
Tit with a beakful of feathers, clearly intended for
Phillips was back on Brook Meadow today close to his
favourite tree - the Cherry Plum on the causeway which
is now full of blossom. Here are a couple of
particularly interesting images he sent me.
Bee with bulging pollen sacs heading for the blossom
on the Cherry Plum tree
Mike Probert saw a
Water Rail at 1pm today walking across the cut
channel through the reeds of Peter Pond where the
flood drain from the south meadow of Brook Meadow
empties into the pond. The bird was looking very fine
in the sunshine and lingered for a while on the S side
of the channel until it saw me and disappeared into
Langstone Mill Pond
Milinets-Raby had a quick visit to the Langstone Mill
Pond this afternoon (2pm to 2:50pm - high tide). The
only birds seen were:
Off shore: 209 Brent Geese, 16 Wigeon, 3 Red Breasted
Merganser, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls.
Flooded horse paddock: 18 Moorhen, 81 Teal, 2 Pied
Wagtails, 1 Grey Heron roosting, 3 Little Egrets
Pond: Mute Swan pair milling about on the pond, not
the least bit interested in their nest!?
Too windy for the Grey Herons - one young noticed on
the top Holm Oak nest.
Kingfisher dashing across the pond. Chiffchaff singing
at the back. Water Rail showing surprisingly
well again on the path behind the mill . Virtually at
my feet - especially when the path was quiet (see
This Water Rail
reminded me of the bird that used to come onto the
path at Baffins Pond several years ago. So tame.
Queen Elizabeth Country Park
the opportunity to photograph a Firecrest from about 6
feet this morning, Mike Wells returned to the park
this afternoon and found a Goldcrest at the
same place! He first watched it in the reeds having a
bath and then got some shots as it tidied itself up in
recent 'unfortunate' post-poop action shot of a Little
Egret (on Mar 4), today he got a similar photo of a
Wren! He wonders if they are trying to tell him
something? No comment, Mike.
The UK Turtle
Dove population has fallen 88 per cent since 1995.
Though it is widely known that the species is hunted
in unsustainable quantities around the Mediterranean
basin, one cause for the UK decline is thought to
surround the lack of seeds, which historically formed
the bulk of the species' diet during the breeding
season. This has resulted in much shorter and
considerably less productive breeding seasons.
The RSPB has published a new research study, conducted
across six East Anglian farms, which recommends a new
agri-environment management option that could help in
the recovery of the Turtle Dove population. The study
found that cultivating grown seed with a mix of plant
species in the autumn creates an easily accessible and
seed-rich habitat ideal for Turtle Doves, which feed
on seeds present on or close to the ground. The
authors also suggest that light cultivation or cutting
during spring would better prevent the plots from
becoming too overgrown and therefore unsuitable for
See . . . http://www.rspb.org.uk/news/395938-research-provides-farmers-techniques-help-turtle-dove-recovery
MARCH 10 - 2015
I did the
regular litter pick on my local wayside this
afternoon, collecting a couple of bag fulls of mainly
cans, bottles and miscellaneous trash. It always
amazes me what people toss out of their cars in the
car park, presumably without a thought. A couple of
weeks ago, I collected no less than 6 empty vodka
bottles and a gin bottle. What state were the people
in who consumed all this liquor beggars belief!
On a more positive note I was pleased to hear my
first Blackcap song of 2015 from a garden of St
James Road which adjoins the wayside. This is more
likely to be an over wintering bird limbering up, than
an early summer migrant. I often hear my first
Blackcap song from this location at this time of the
While listening to the Blackcap I spotted the tiny
form of a Goldcrest actively feeding in one of
the fir trees that overhang the wayside from the
gardens of St James Road. This was my best shot of the
bird. Not a Firecrest, sadly!
A female Mallard
accompanied by two males was in the stream, no doubt
soon to begin mating and nesting. We usually have a
family of ducklings in the car park.
Spring flowers are now
starting to show with Lesser Celandines leading
the way, with a good 100 flowering on the grass verge
at the southern entrance to the car park, but many
others also scattered around the main wayside.
On the main grass verge, I also noted some blue
Speedwell flowers which I thought might be of
Slender Speedwell (Veronica filiformis)
from their rounded leaves and long flower stalks.
Slender Speedwell is a speciality of this wayside
where it grows abundantly though, this early in the
year, it is not easy to distinguish from Common Field
Speedwell. I will wait for more to come up before
deciding definitely. Looking again at the leaves, the
sharp teeth suggests Common Field Speedwell.
The white furry buds
are now showing on the Goat Willow at the
southern end of the wayside.
Phillips had a very successful day on Brook Meadow.
His best find was 3 Bullfinches, 2 males and 1
female in the Cherry Plum on the causeway and he
got photos of them all. This is the first time I have
ever seen a photo of male and female Bullfinches
together. Excellent work.
is a better photo of one the
Malcolm also got the
first Comma butterfly to be seen on Brook
Meadow this year, also on the Cherry Plum tree. Worth
a close look that tree when passing! Interestingly,
Malcolm also got the first Comma of 2014 a day
Malcolm got another
first of the year for Brook Meadow in the form of a
Bumblebee feeding on the Cherry Plum blossom. From the
ginger thorax and dark abdomen and white tail (just
visible) my guess is that this is Bombus
hypnorum - a relatively new species to become
established in the south of England.
reports in his wildlife diary that at least 8 spring
migrant birds are already in Britain, including
Swallow, House Martin, Wheatear, Turtle Dove, Little
Ringed Plover, Garganey and Osprey. Ralph also says
spring butterflies are on the wing with Red Admirals,
Small Tortoiseshells and Brimstones everywhere, plus a
few Peacocks and Commas.
While researching butterflies Ralph came across a
report of two post-hibernation Scarce Tortoiseshells
(aka Yellow-legged Tortoiseshell) reported in
Netherlands! See . . . https://twitter.com/RichardFoxBC
Ralph discovered that this very rare species came from
eastern Europe and invaded western Europe in 1953 and
2014 and may be about to invade us again.
For more details see . . . http://ralph-hollins.net/Diary.htm
Days after a
weasel was seen clinging to the back of a Green
Woodpecker in mid-flight, new images have emerged to
show how another one of the small furry animals picked
the wrong bird to fight with. The aggressive Weasel's
unwise decision to attack a large Grey Heron by biting
its beak backfired when the bird scooped it up,
drowned it and ate it.
See photo at . . . http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/picturegalleries/picturesoftheday/11458290/Pictures-of-the-day-9-March-2015.html
Link from Tony Wootton - thanks.
MARCH 9 - 2015
10:30 - 12:00
- I cycled over to Nore Barn via the millpond with a
cold westerly wind blowing in my face. I walked most
of the way, actually. Tide was rising to high water at
The town millpond was full of water which meant there
was no dry ground for any nest building. I wonder if
the residents will request the Environment Agency to
control the level of water to allow nest building to
take place as they did last year. In any case, the two
cobs were fully occupied today circling around each
other with wings raised in threatening displays.
well advanced. Several hundred Brent Geese were in the
eastern harbour feeding as if their lives depended on
it which, of course, is the case! But, now, I suspect
they are fattening up in preparation for long journeys
ahead to their breeding grounds in the High Arctic.
Here is a photo of a couple of families, feeding close
to the millpond seawall.
The tide was
coming in rapidly by the time I got to Nore Barn at
about 11:00. Mainly Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal on
the water, plus a small flotilla of 12 Pintail,
mostly in pairs as they usually are. Here is a distant
digiscoped photo of two pairs.
Redshank was in the stream when I arrived in
company with a Greenshank. I later confirmed that the
latter was in fact the regular Greenshank -
Redshank was still feeding when I got back to the
stream at about 12 noon after walking round the woods.
The Greenshank had
gone, leaving just a juvenile Black-tailed
Walking round the
woods I heard the distinctive song of a Coal
Tit - rather like a speeded-up Great Tit. That was
good to hear again as I had not heard it for some
along Warblington Road I was pleased to see how well
the Sweet Violets were doing on the northern grass
verge just east of the junction with Valetta Park.
This was the best I could recall having seen them. I
did not count them accurately, but would estimate at
least 300 flowers. Here are just a few of them.
MARCH 8 - 2015
Mike Wells and
Malcolm Phillips spent a very pleasant, if gloomy
weather-wise, couple of hours on the meadow this
morning. As Malcolm is still having a problem sending
photos to me, they agreed that Mike would send his.
They saw and photographed a large Pike
estimated at about 2 feet 6 inches long, just north of
the north bridge. How amazing to think there are fish
that size in the river. Not good news for small Trout
or even Water Voles?
They also took photos
of a Goldcrest and a male Bullfinch seen
along the small path leading on to Lumley Road.
I am pleased to say
that Malcolm managed to get a couple of photos through
to me this evening including this cracking one of what
looks like the Siberian Chiffchaff that we have had on
Brook Meadow since mid December. We thought this rare
bird had moved on when we had no sightings for about 6
weeks in Jan-Feb, but it is back! For more details go
to . . . Siberian
While they were on the
small footbridge to the north of Peter Pond they met
up with Glynis and Tim Irons, along with their very
keen and knowledgeable 9 year old son, Thomas. They
all walked round to Gooseberry Cottage and were
delighted to spot the regular female
Kingfisher. Here is Thomas's excellent photo of
the bird hiding in a bush.
Milinets-Raby had the company of professional
ecologist John Norton for his regular walk around the
Warblington Shore this morning 7:25am to 10:40am - low
tide. Their bird highlights were as follows:
Ibis Field: Green Woodpecker, 1 Stock Dove, 3
Song Thrush, 2 Moorhen,
Conigar Point: 2 Meadow Pipit over north, Cetti's
Warbler heard singing, Redshank with rings (the first
one I have seen for awhile -//B+B//NW), 4 Grey Plover,
26 Teal, 3 Dunlin, 2 Red Breasted Merganser, 1
Greenshank (G//R+BB//-), 32 Brent Geese.
Pook Lane: 6 Pintail, 133 Brent Geese, 45
Wigeon, 28 Knot, 129 Dunlin, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 8
Grey Plover, 6 Meadow Pipit over north, 38 Shelduck,
67 Teal, 8 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Red Breasted
Merganser, 1 Greenshank (G//R+BRtag//-), 2
Mediterranean Gulls in summer plumage, 8 Common
Langstone Mill Pond: 11 Goldfinch, Female
Wigeon, Reed Bunting male, Chiffchaff singing, 3
Mediterranean Gulls over, Water Rail giving good views
The Mute Swan
pair were off the pond again and out in the
channel. However, they returned at about 10am and the
female went straight to the nest and settled down and
fell asleep (the nest is left/near the information
board), whilst the male, as usual, attacked everything
that came too close to the pond's edge!
Grey Heron colony:- Top nest Holm Oak - four
young still. Lower nest in Holm Oak - male came in,
female flew off, chicks heard to beg, but the parents
ignored them - young not seen, just heard. Middle nest
(New one):- in the top branches of another Holm Oak -
Male bringing twigs in on several occasions and female
sitting very low in nest. South nest: Bird sitting
very low in the nest.
Flooded Horse paddock: 21 Moorhen, 1 roosting
Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron collecting sticks.
Along Pook Lane: 2 Mistle Thrush, 3 Stock Dove,
1 Jay, Green Woodpecker Heard.
moss on Pook Lane
Peter says the
highlight of the walk for John was finding a new
species for Hampshire in the form of Hennediella
macrophylla - a moss. It was found along Pook
Lane (photo courtesy of John Norton - taken down a
As John says, "This is
an alien species currently spreading south and west
from London. The nearest record is from north of
Chichester. Note that it is spread by animals &
Other mosses seen and photographed along Pook Lane (a
great place for them, due to the wet conditions)
included Fissidens viridulus (the most abundant
one) and Fissidens bryoides (with capsules).
Also prfesent were Plagiothecium nemorale and
Kindbergia praelonga and Rhychostegiella
pumila. John also pointed out a Liverwort
John supplied the following link for more details
about the bryophytes . . . http://rbg-web2.rbge.org.uk/bbs/Activities/BBSFGspac.htm
MARCH 7 - 2015
I went over to
Nore Barn mainly to check on the Spotted Redshank
which, on the basis of previous years, could be
leaving in the next week or so. My last sighting last
year was on Mar 13. It was not present in the stream
when I arrived, but I could just make out its familiar
profile on the edge of the channel further out in
company with a Common Redshank.
Other birds in the vicinity included a good number of
Brent Geese and Wigeon along with a few Teal and
Pintail. I could see several hundred Brent Geese on
the water in the western harbour near the Emsworth
Sailing Club. About 50 Dunlin were feeding on the edge
of the channel and 4 Black-tailed Godwits were
snoozing. When I left Nore Barn at about 10.30 the
tide was well in and the Spotted Redshank was all
alone in the stream.
For more information
about the Emsworth Spotted Redshank, kits history and
please go to the special pages at . . .
of a few twigs and pieces of litter in the usual swan
nesting spot near the bridge on the town millpond
would seem to indicate that some nest building
activity has recently taken place. There is no change
on the eastern millponds, where the female swan was
alone on Peter Pond. No Great Black-backed Gulls on
Several tall flower
spikes of Winter Heliotrope are still standing
proudly on the A259 wayside near the Emsworth Surgery
back entrance. Most of the other flowers of this plant
have now faded.
through Brook Meadow this morning, I heard two
Blackbirds in full song, one from the Gooseberry
Cottage area and the other near the south bridge.
These were the first daytime Blackbird songs I have
heard this year, the others have been late afternoon,
I met Malcolm Phillips told me he had seen a Water
Vole by the gasholder at 10.30 this morning, but
no photo. He also saw what he thought could have been
a Siberian Chiffchaff near the Lumley Path
Malcolm had also seen Brimstones on the meadow,
the first of the year, but they did not stop for a
photo. We both saw two Red Admirals, one on the
wooden railing of the south bridge with complete
wings, so not the same one as on Mar 5th which had
Francis Kinsella came
up while Malcolm and I were on the south meadow. He
later sent me a photo of a male Bullfinch that
he had taken on the meadow. This could be the same
bird that Malcolm saw yesterday.
Phillips is still having problems with his computer,
particularly sending photos by
After leaving Brook Meadow, Francis went to
Hollybank Woods where he saw several Small
Tortisesehell butterflies and around the housing
estate. These were the first local Small
Tortoiseshells of the year that I have heard about.
got this fine image of a Short-eared Owl in flight,
taken a couple of days ago near Arundel. Short-eared
Owl is a day flying owl and can often be seen in the
right habitat quartering fields in the search for
to Milton Common
reports on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife
Go to . . . http://familyfellows.com/hwg-walk-reports-2015.htm
MARCH 6 - 2015
Jean and I had
a walk around Hayling beach this morning. Parking as
usual by the Sinah Gravel Pit we walked along Ferry
Road to The Kench where we found a couple of hundred
or so Brent Geese on the water a high tide, gently
krunking away. Here is a picture of a few of them,
including at least 7 juveniles, probably from two
family groups. There have been a lots of juveniles
around this winter which indicates a good breeding
season last year. From my own counts the proportion of
juveniles to adults was 11.7%.
The geese will be
moving off fairly soon, first they will cross the
North Sea to The Netherlands for refuelling before
their long flight across the Baltic Sea and then up
the North Russian coast to their nesting grounds in
the Tamyr Peninsula in the High Arctic. What an
Just in front of The Kench is a sculpture celebrating
the Brent Geese. It says this stretch of coast
(presumably the whole of the Solent) sees about 20% of
the world's population in wintertime.
Ferry Road to the Ferryboat Inn we noted Hairy
Bittercress in flower with four stamens and what I
think is Common Whitlowgrass with deeply
notched white petals and hairy leaves in a basal
Bittercress . . . . . . . . Common Whitlowgrass
Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along
the Warblington shore to Langstone Mill Pond and back
(6:44am to 9:25am - tide slowly pushing in). His main
observations were as follows:
Ibis Field: 2 Mallard. 2 Moorhen. 2 female Pheasant. 2
Cemetery: 2 Stock Doves. 2 Mistle Thrush. Green
Woodpecker Heard. 2 Goldcrest.
Conigar Point: 3 Shelduck. 23 Teal. 142 Brent Geese. 6
Grey Plover. 45 Dunlin. 1 Black-tailed Godwit. 1
Greenshank (G//R=BB/-). 4 Red Breasted Merganser.
Cetti's Warbler singing.
Pook Lane: Kestrel male. Stock Dove. Singing
Goldcrest. 129 Brent Geese. 36 Shelduck. 12 Pintail
(see photo). 32 Knot. 6 Red Breasted Merganser. 186+
Dunlin. 9 Black-tailed Godwit (one in summer). 58
Wigeon. 12 Grey Plover. 24 Bar-tailed Godwit. 37 teal.
Langstone Mill Pond:
Female Wigeon. Chiffchaff singing. 4 Mediterranean
Gulls (in summer heading over south). 2 Goldcrests
with 2 Long-tailed Tits. Great Spotted Woodpecker.
Reed Bunting Male (see photo).
The pair of Mute Swans
were in the channel having an away-day from the
Grey Heron Colony: Holm Oak: Top nest with four very
grown young (see photo) - no adults. Lower Holm Oak
nest: Begging calls heard and movement of young noted
- adult resting on nest. South nest: Adult firmly
lying down low in nest. FOURTH NEST: In between the
Holm Oak and the south nest. Two adults arranging
sticks and looking set to lay soon!!!
Horse Paddock: 2
Mistle Thrush. 17 Moorhen. 2 Grey Heron roosting. 8
Mallard. Green Woodpecker heard. A pair of Gadwall.
Thomas Irons captured this beautiful image of a
Goldfinch perched high in a tree at the end of his
Emsworth garden. Nice one, Thomas.
following his hernia operation, Chris Oakley had what
he called 'a proper country walk' today. "We took the
path from West Stoke over Stoke Clump toward Bow Hill.
A nice gentle climb with about a three mile return
trip. It was a glorious day with the temperature up to
13C. Flowers are pushing through all along the path.
Primroses, Dog Mercury, Speedwell as well as both Red
and White Dead-nettle and the Hazel bushes are full of
their lambs-tail catkins. How many people actually see
the minute red female flowers, perhaps only 2mm
across? They are quite beautiful, really best seen
through a magnifying glass.
The Elder bushes are
actually in leaf now. The view from up there is
astonishing with a clear spread from Fawley Oil
Refinery in the New Forest in the west to the tower
blocks of Worthing in the east; a span of almost
50miles. Below spread out like a map are the channels
of the three harbours with Chichester nestling just
left of centre. Portsea Island and Gosport with all
their identifiable landmarks to the right. It was a
beautiful and reinvigorating afternoon. When you are
in hospital you do sometimes wonder if you will get
the chance to see it all again and when you do it's
good to be alive."
MARCH 5 - 2015
It was a
lovely sunny morning with warm sunshine, good medicine
I thought for my very stubborn chest infection. I
walked over to Brook Meadow and met up with the
ever-present Malcolm Phillips on the north path. He
had just seen a Water Rail among the brambles
on the north side of the river close to the tunnel
under the railway. We waited for a few minutes
listening to the abundant bird song when the Water
Rail popped out again and scuttled swiftly along the
river bank. I think this is very likely to be the same
bird that Malcolm saw near the north bend yesterday,
but probably not the one we saw regularly from
September to January near the S-bend.
While we were watching the Water Rail Malcolm and
I saw a Buzzard flying high over the garden of
Constant Springs, coming towards Brook Meadow. This
might be one of the birds that regularly nest on
Lumley Mill Farm.
We noted that the
debris from the tree cutting in Constant Springs
remains in the river near the entrance to the tunnel.
The conservation group have been informed.
Yesterday Malcolm told me he was pretty sure he got
the Siberian Chiffchaff again. This one was by the
small footbridge at the top of Peter Pond.
are growing well on the west bank of the river north
of the sluice gate. The flowers are densely packed
into long sausage-shaped spikes, the fluffy golden
brown males in a narrow spike above the more numerous
chocolate-brown females below. Some of the plants
still have the cottony down fruits from last year.
I had a look
for the Water Vole opposite the Deep Water sign in
Palmer's Road Copse where Malcolm Phillips saw one on
Feb 17th. I did not see any vole today, but there are
a number of fairly fresh burrow holes in the east bank
of the river which are good signs of recent activity.
I was standing
on the south bridge looking and listening for anything
of interest, when along came a Red Admiral to settle
down beside me on the wooden rail bathing its wings in
the warm sunshine. What a privilege!
A man passing by
stopped to look and admire. He told me about some
frogs or toads he had seen mating on the pond in
Pagham Close; he was having the same problem as me,
distinguishing the two species. But the presence of
clumps of spawn in the pond would suggest frogs, as
toads produce strings of spawn.
Interestingly, the Red Admiral remained quite unmoved
as several people walked past us over the bridge. From
the slight damage to its right wing I can identify
fairly certainly it as the same butterfly photographed
on this bridge by Malcolm Phillips on March 1st.
I left Brook
Meadow through the Lumley gate to have a look at Peter
Pond. I stopped on the small footbridge of Lumley Path
to the north of the pond which was bathed in warm
sunshine. No Reed Bunting today, but I was more
pleased to see my first Brimstone of the year
fluttering by, a bright yellow male. I tried to follow
it and saw it again flying around the open pool to the
north of the bridge and then over the trees when I
female Mute Swans were both preening on the east bank
of Peter Pond at about 12.30, but there's no sign of
any nest building.
Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the
centre raft where they have nested for the past 3
years. They look pretty serious to me.
The count of
Sweet Violet flowers has gone up from 14 on Mar
2nd to 24 today. More to come no doubt.
It was nice to see Common Field Speedwell
flowering on the small grass verge outside
Bunting in garden
I fully expect
to see Reed Buntings in the reedbeds at Thorney Little
Deeps and Peter Pond, but today I had a male feeding
on the bird table in my garden with a House Sparrow.
This was the first Reed Bunting I have recorded in our
present garden in Bridge Road near the centre of
Emsworth in the 18 years we have been living here. In
fact, I do not recall having seen one in our previous
garden in Westbourne Avenue in the 31 years we were
there. So, this was quite an occasion! I saw it
several times during the afternoon as it fed with the
Reed Bunting is ranked
36th in the garden bird list of the BTO Garden
BirdWatch scheme for this area of the country at this
time of the year. On average only 2% of participants
in the scheme report Reed Bunting as being present,
so, clearly it is a pretty rare garden bird. The
reporting rate for Reed Bunting peaks in late winter
Feb-Mar when birds move into gardens from other
habitats, before moving off to their breeding
was singing strongly again from a neighbour's garden
between 6.30 and 7.00pm when it was quite dark. I
first heard it on Feb 15th at about the same time.
Ralph Hollins has also heard a Blackbird singing for a
full two hours of full song in his garden between 4
and 6 pm on Mar 2. He asks, "Can anyone tell me why
Blackbirds always start their spring song with late
afternoon performances while the majority of other
bird species are normally first heard in the early
morning?" Does anyone have an answer?
at Dolphin Quay
For 3 days in
a row Francis Kinsella has seen a Kingfisher perched
right at the top of Dolphin Quay near the culvert. A
couple of times he has seen it dart back apparently
into the darkness of the culvert to re-emerge with
fish. This is probably the same female that we have
been seeing around this area all winter.
is the Goosander in prime condition on Langstone Mill
reported in his daily wildlife diary for Mar 3 that
the female Goosander, which had been such a feature on
Langstone Mill Pond over the past winter, had recently
been seen on the harbour just off the pond with the
front half of her lower mandible hanging vertically
down after being somehow broken. The cause is not
known - maybe snagged on something under water and
having to break its own bill in order to get back to
the surface before its air supply ran out or maybe
having it broken in a fight, but with what? Ralph
says, "Regardless of the cause, it seems the bird is
now doomed to die through being unable to feed
return to Baffins
reports that the four Barnacle Geese were back on
Baffins Pond to-day with what looks like the one
remaining gosling from last year and the usual odd
MARCH 4 - 2015
Greenfinch was singing its drawn-out nasal
'dzhweee' from the bushes on the Bridge Road Wayside
as I walked through this morning. The full song
usually includes a more varied Canary-like twittering,
though I have not heard that combination as yet this
spring. But it is so good to see and hear Greenfinches
about once again after the trichomonosis infection
which drastically reduced their numbers.
I was also pleased to see a good number of Lesser
Celandine flowers open on the wayside,
Wordsworth's favourite spring flower, so I gather. A
very good judge he was.
Not such good news was
to find a couple of Council chaps setting out to weed
spray the Beech hedge and the shrubbery in the north
end of the car park. I hate the idea of spraying
chemicals and I have had a few tussles over the years
with the Council over their policy, but all to no
avail. However, now they do avoid the official
waysides which is something! Here is a photo of the
north shrubbery from where the Council have already
cleared the bramble undergrowth which is good, but now
they are spraying it. I don't understand.
Black-backed Gulls were on the pond this morning,
very likely the pair that have nested here for the
past three years. I strongly suspect they are back
again for another nesting season on the centre raft
which today was occupied only by a few Black-headed
Gulls. Here are photos of both the gulls, presumably
one male and the other female, though which is which
is never easy to determine. I recall Tom Bickerton
giving me some tips a few years ago saying the male
has a heavier bill and has more of a 'mean look' than
the softer face of the female. Of the two the one of
the left looks like the male, but that could be just
how the photo was taken. What do you think?
Two Little Grebes were
fishing, one on Dolphin Lake and one on Slipper
Millpond itself. The female Mute Swan was on Slipper
Millpond near the bridge but there was no sign of
nesting as yet in the reeds on the eastern side of
Slipper Millpond. The male was over on Peter Pond.
From the path
in front of Gooseberry Cottage I heard a Reed
Bunting singing from the reeds to the north of
Peter Pond which I also heard on Feb 27th. This time I
managed to locate the bird perched high up on the
isolated tree in the centre of the reedbed and got a
photo, though he would not turn around! Hopefully,
this means we shall have Reed Buntings nesting in the
reeds this spring.
I met Malcolm
Phillips on the main river path at about 12 noon. He
had been on the meadow since 7.30 this morning! The
early start paid off with a sighting of a Water
Vole swimming across the river just north of the
sluice gate. This was our 4th sighting of 2015. It's
early days, but things are looking more promising.
Malcolm also had an unexpected sighting of a Water
Rail in flight on the river near the north bend.
We had really given up on them for this year. This may
well have been a different bird from the one we saw
regularly from September to January further south.
Unusually, Malcolm failed to get a photo of either the
Water Vole or the Water Rail.
Malcolm saw four Great Spotted Woodpeckers on
the north meadow, which could mean we have two pairs
of breeding woodpeckers on the meadow. Brilliant.
Malcolm alerted me to the presence of a pile of small
branches and twigs which had accumulated across the
river near the new wall in the north-east corner of
the meadow. He thought they were drifting down stream
from the garden of Constant Springs where tree cutting
was taking place. I shall inform the conservation
sent me this excellent photo of some Capillary
Thread-moss (Bryum capillare), with prominent
capsules that is growing in the cracks of her patio in
North Emsworth. She measured it and it's no more than
2cm tall! But how graceful it is.
This is not only our
most widespread species of Bryum but is indeed one of
the most abundant of all British mosses. It can be
seen all the year round. The cylindrical, drooping
capsules ripen in spring and summer, and are borne on
Mike Wells was
at Farlington Marshes this morning and got what he
called an 'unfortunate action shot' of a Little Egret
having a poo. Quite dramatic!
MARCH 3 - 2015
I had a quick
walk round the Hermitage Millponds this afternoon. The
male swan was on Peter Pond while the female swan with
the pink legs and feet was standing on the east bank
of Slipper Millpond near to the reedbeds where she
nested last year. But so far as I could see there has
been no serious nest building as yet, though it could
be near as the two swans were definitely nest building
at this time last year.
Woodpecker and Weasel
drew my attention to an astonishing photo on the
internet of a Green Woodpecker in flight with a Weasel
clinging to its back. The photo was taken by Martin
Le-May while he and his wife were out birdwatching
near his home in Hornchurch, Essex. The encounter
ended happily for the woodpecker which escaped with
its life, but it was a close call. See Martin's photos
and report at . . . https://www.birdguides.com/webzine/article.asp?a=4886
MARCH 2 - 2015
was bright and sunny, though the wind was chilly. So,
I opted out of my usual walk around the millpond in
favour of the more sheltered climes of Brook Meadow
and its environs. Walking into Palmer's Road Copse
from the car park, I noticed the Cherry Laurel
behind the recycling bins had an abundance of buds
some with flowers opening. It's not much to look at
the moment, but when fully open it will be quite
The Gorse bush
on the causeway on Brook Meadow is full of bright
yellow blossom and makes a nice picture with the
emerging blossom of the Cherry Plum just behind.
There are now plenty
of pink Butterbur flower spikes opening up on
the meadow immediately below the main seat, but lots
more to come.
While I was on
the footbridge over the Lumley Stream enjoying the
warmth of the sun on my back, I was entertained by a
tiny Goldcrest which was feeding actively in
the tangle of brambles and other shrubs nearby. I
pointed my camera in its direction, more in hope than
expectation, and this was the best I could come up
I met Malcolm Phillips
who had not seen very much on the meadow apart from
another Red Admiral, a Long-tailed Tit and this rather
pensive looking Dunnock.
This morning I
had a walk along the path behind Lillywhite's Garage
to see how the Sweet Violets were coming along.
I counted 14 flowers next to the tall brick wall, with
lots more to come, hopefully. This is the best spot
locally to see these attractive purple flowers.
On the other side of
the path Lesser Celandines are starting to
open; one I spotted had a double row of petals. I
often see this double-flowered variety along this
from the conservation group was also on Brook Meadow
on this warm and sunny afternoon with his camera at
the ready. He had a look at the Lumley area
which 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. He agrees the area is reasonably dry despite
the recent rain, but until they start cutting he
cannot be sure that it will be straightforward.
However, he will try to get the cutting started as
soon as possible. Brilliant.
Maurice also had a
look at the new hazel hurdle enclosure of the
cement bag wall in the north-east corner of the meadow
and tossed a few sods off the top of the nearby grass
cutting dump to see what it might look like fully
covered. Maybe if we all did a bit when we were
passing, the job would get done in no time at all! On
second thoughts, it's best to leave it to the
identity of the paired amphibians in the photo in
yesterday's blog, Mike Wells thought they looked like
a male toad on top and a female frog below. Mike says,
although he's never heard of such a union, he thought
it must be possible when he actually had amorous male
frogs attached to his goldfish in the past when there
has obviously not been enough females frogs. I had a
look at Google and was surprised to see there were
examples of frogs and toads mating together, but this
was very unusual.
In contrast, Ralph
Hollins is sure both creatures in the photo are Frogs.
He suggests we look at a video on YouTube which shows
what a mating pair of Toads would look like. They have
warts and black spots which were not present on the
Brook Meadow animals. See . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TD1Q2skUnPw
tells me that the hybrid Mallard family of 6 ducklings
that was on Baffins Pond are there no longer. They
have all been predated in the last few days. Well,
that is the way of the world. I suspect it was the
work one of the large gulls or maybe a Grey Heron.
reports there are still plenty of Brent geese around
the Warblington area. Both yesterday afternoon and
this afternoon there was a large flock in field H24D
(west of Pook Lane), around 600 today. As usual he
reported them on Goose Watch as this should report to
the Chichester Harbour Conservancy and HIWWT and thus
be accessible to the planning authorities. See . . .
MARCH 1 - 2015
I went over to
Brook Meadow on this fine and sunny morning for the
regular conservation work session attended by 12
volunteers, including a young chap working for his
Duke of Edinburgh's Gold Medal Award. Several tasks
were carried out including clearing brambles from new
saplings, clearing the edges of the main river path
and clearing debris from the river in Palmer's Road
Copse. I was there as usual to take photos and to keep
note of any wildlife interest. Here are the
voilunteers having their coffee break.
The full report along
with more photos is on the Brook Meadow web site at .
. . http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/bm-diary-2015a.html
up the Bramble path I almost trod on what I thought
looked like a pair of Common Toads mating; the smaller
male was on top of the larger female. I took a few
photos and then picked them up and moved them to the
side of the path where they would be safe from other
walkers' boots. They remained firmly clamped together
throughout this operation.
It wasn't later when I
examined my photos that I started to ask myself
whether they were toads or frogs. The lower one had a
dark patch behind the eye which is distinctive of a
frog, though the upper male does not. I must admit I
am never too sure about the differences between these
two creatures unless I see them move; I know the frog
always jumps and the toad crawls. Can anyone help?
attractive Snowdrop-like plant had one flower open on
the Seagull Lane patch this morning. This is the first
I have seen this year and the earliest I have ever
recorded it on Brook Meadow. Its white bell-shaped
flowers have green at the tips of each petal.
It is misnamed as the
plant usually flowers in March-April. It can occur as
a native in some habitats, but near habitation, as in
the present case, it is most likely to be a garden
escape. Summer Snowflake can be confused with
Three-cornered Garlic, though the white flowers of
that plant have a narrow green stripe down the centre
of each petal and, of course, the stem has three
corners and smells of garlic.
expecting someone might see a butterfly during the
warm sunny weather this morning. I did not nor did any
of the work party. But Malcolm Phillips obliged with a
couple of excellent photos of one near the south
bridge, getting both the upper wings and underwings.
earlier observations go to . . February