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for March 1-16, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)
Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current

MONDAY MARCH 16 - 2015

Grey Squirrel moulting
I had a Grey Squirrel in the garden today that was clearly moulting.

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.

Blackcap song
The Blackcap 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 continent.

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 time.

Millpond news
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 south raft.

Sweet Violets
The number of Sweet Violet flowers on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage continues to grow. Today I counted 78 flowers.

Brook Meadow
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.

Pike 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 Meadow.

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.

Brook Meadow - yesterday's news
Malcolm 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 some sort?

Herring Gull chick
Chris Oakley 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.

Emsworth to Warblington
Yesterday (Mar 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 tower,
Warblington cemetery extension: 1 Green Woodpecker feeding on ants (see photo) with another calling nearby.

Ibis Field: 4 Moorhen, 1 Buzzard over, 1 Song Thrush, 1 Pied Wagtail.
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 times.
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.

FRIDAY MARCH 13 - 2015

Large 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 . . . 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.

Swans nesting on Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles 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.


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.

Malcolm's photos
Malcolm 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.

Flea Beetles
Malcolm also 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.  


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.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm 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.

Long-tailed Tit with a beakful of feathers, clearly intended for nest building.

Honey 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 the reeds!

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter 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 roosting.
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 photo).

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
Having missed 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 a tree.

Following Mike's 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.

Turtle Dove research
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 the doves.
See . . .


Bridge Road Wayside
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 year.
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.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm 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.

Here is a better photo of one the males.

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 earlier.

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.

Spring arrivals
Ralph Hollins 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 . . . 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 . . .

Weasel attacks Heron
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 . . . Link from Tony Wootton - thanks.


Emsworth Millpond
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 12:30.
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.

Emsworth Harbour
Tide already 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.

Nore Barn
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.

The Spotted 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 - colour-ringed G+GL.

The Spotted 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 Godwit.

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 years.

Sweet Violets
Cycling back 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.


Brook Meadow
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 Chiffchaff

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.

Warblington shore
Peter 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 Gull.
Langstone Mill Pond: 11 Goldfinch, Female Wigeon, Reed Bunting male, Chiffchaff singing, 3 Mediterranean Gulls over, Water Rail giving good views (see photo).

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.

Rare 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 microscope!).

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 & people!"
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 Lunularia cruciata.
John supplied the following link for more details about the bryophytes . . .


Nore Barn
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 photos galore
please go to the special pages at . . .

Millpond News
The presence 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 Slipper Millpond.

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.

Brook Meadow
While walking 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, early evening.
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 bridge.
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 damaged wings.

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.

Note: Malcolm Phillips is still having problems with his computer, particularly sending photos by e-mail

Small Tortoiseshell
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.

Short-eared Owl
Tony Wootton 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 prey.

Eastney to Milton Common
Fay Durant reports on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group:
Go to . . .


Brent Geese
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 incredible journey!
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.

Wayside flowers
Walking along 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 rosette.

Hairy Bittercress . . . . . . . . Common Whitlowgrass

Warblington shore
Peter 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 Song Thrush.
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 pond!
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.

9-year old Thomas Irons captured this beautiful image of a Goldfinch perched high in a tree at the end of his Emsworth garden. Nice one, Thomas.

A country walk
A week 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."


Water Rail
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.

Siberian Chiffchaff
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.

The Bulrushes 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.

Water Vole signs
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.

Red Admiral
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.

First Brimstone
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 lost it.

Millpond nesting news
Male and 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.

Meanwhile, the 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.

Wayside flowers
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 Lillywhite's Garage.

Reed 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 House Sparrows.

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 habitats.

Garden Blackbird song
A Blackbird 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?

Kingfisher 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.

Langstone Goosander injured
Ralph Hollins 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 itself."

Here is the Goosander in prime condition on Langstone Mill Pond

Barnacles return to Baffins
Eric Eddles 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 one.


Bridge Road Wayside
A 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.

Slipper Millpond
Two Great 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.

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.

Brook Meadow
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 group.

Moss capsules
Jill Stanley 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 reddish setae.

Farlington Marshes
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!


Swan news
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.

Green Woodpecker and Weasel
Tony Wootton 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 . . .


Brook Meadow flowers
The weather 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 magnificent.

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 with.

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.

Lillywhite's path
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 path.

Maurice's news
Maurice Lillie 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 conservation group.

Toads or Frogs?
Regarding 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 . . .

Baffins ducklings
Eric Eddles 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.

Brents still about
Nik Knight 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 . . .


Brook Meadow
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 . . .

Toads or Frogs?
While walking 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?

Summer Snowflake
This 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.

Red Admiral
I was 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.

For earlier observations go to . . February 15-28