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

for March 17-31, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

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Waysides news
Following Ralph Hollins's discovery of Slender Speedwell flowering in Havant yesterday I had a look at the wayside in Bridge Road car park where this plant has been fairly abundant in previous years. I could not find any, though this plant is not easy to distinguish from Common Field Speedwell which was present on the wayside. My main distinguishing feature is the shape of the leaves, which are more rounded in Slender Speedwell. I shall need to look again later.
Much easier is the fine display of Lesser Celandines on the verge at the southern entrance to the car park.

I also had a quick walk around the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station. I was very pleased to find a nice crop of flowering Coltsfoot on the embankment near the ramp. They were mostly yellow flowers, but some were a deep orange hue. This is the only site for Coltsfoot that I know of in Emsworth.

Also on the Railway Wayside I found a Bumblebee feeding on a Dandelion flower in the warm sunshine. From its ginger thorax and dark abdomen I tentatively identify it as Bombus hypnorum - a species which was first recorded in Hampshire in 2001, but has become fairly common.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips today discovered a new menace on the meadow - off-road motor bikes. He sent me a photo of one of the lads and hopes someone can put a stop to it before it gets out of hand. Information passed to the conservation group.

Malcolm also had some nice butterflies despite the stormy conditions, including Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell.

Malcolm met a young lad on the south bridge who showed him a photo he had just taken of a Pike which he said about 1ft long. So maybe we have at least two Pikes in the river! Extra bad news for the Water Voles.

Swan nest news
Patrick Murphy paid his first visit to the Swan nest on the town millpond this morning and got this photo just as the pen swan got off the nest revealing 7 eggs. This was surprising news, as by my calculation with laying beginning on Mar 20 and with eggs laid at the rate of one every 48 hours, then the 6th egg should have been laid yesterday and 7th tomorrow! Oh, well that's swans for you!

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon as thee tide fell (12:30pm to 1:30pm). Very, very windy.
Langstone Mill Pond: 20 Teal (see photo), Cetti's Warbler singing its heart out from the north reed bed and line of Sallows, 2 Chiffchaff singing, Mute Swan still sitting on nest - male chasing everything.

Grey Heron Colony: Top Holm nest - one juvenile left resting. Lower Holm - Grey blob viewable, but no idea what age it was. South Nest - Bird sitting. Middle nest - Bird sitting. Fifth nest (now furthest south) - adult sitting. SIXTH NEST - In front of south nest is yet another nest under construction. Adult standing guarding and other bird flying in with sticks and big twigs.
Horse Paddock: 16 Little Egrets roosting out the strong wind, 3 adult and 4 juvenile Grey Herons - probably the Holm Oak top nest youngsters, 10 Moorhen, Chiffchaff singing.
Off Pook Lane: 3 Red Breasted Merganser, 26 Grey Plover, 122 Dunlin, 60 Knot, 1 Shelduck, 54 Brent Geese, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 101 Black-tailed Godwits, 16 Med Gulls roosting on the salt marsh, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 7 Lesser Black-backed Gulls moving inland - windy movement?

MONDAY MARCH 30 - 2015

The pen Mute Swan was on the reed nest on the town millpond when I passed this afternoon, presumably brooding six eggs, with the 6th having been laid this morning. It will be interesting to see if she lays any more; up to 10 is possible.
Emsworth Harbour was largely deserted. I could see only 6 Brent Geese in the eastern harbour plus a couple of Canada Geese.
There were no Great Black-backed Gulls or Mute Swans on Slipper Millpond. The lone cob swan was not on Peter Pond either, so it looks as if he may have given up on his mate, the pink-legged 'Polish' pen which has been missing for 3 weeks or so.
The cat-like calls of Mediterranean Gulls were a constant accompaniment of my walk.

Butterbur count
I did the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes on Brook Meadow this afternoon. I counted a total of 792 spikes which slightly down on last year's count of 824, but still very high in comparison with the years before 2011 as shown in the following chart.

Interestingly, the distribution of the spikes has changed from last year with more spikes in the area below the main seat 728 (last year was 630) and less in other areas. I could only find 30 spikes at the east end of the causeway as opposed to 118 last year and numbers on the river bank by the sluice gate and on the south meadow were also well down.

In fact, this shift in distribution of the Butterbur spikes towards the seat area and away from other areas has been going on for some years. For example, in 2011 there were 248 spikes on the river bank and 142 on the eastern causeway. I recall 10 years ago there were no Butterbur spikes at all on the meadow below the seat. I have no idea why these changes have occurred.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a walk round the meadow this afternoon. He spotted another Common Lizard on one of the felt mats. There are several of these mats around the meadow. They are being used in a survey of reptiles.

From the footbridge at the top of Peter Pond, Malcolm got the first photo of the year of a Cetti's Warbler. I have had several reports of people hearing this bird, first heard on Feb 19th by Tony Wootton. However, it is rarely seen and even more rarely photographed. So, good one, Malcolm.

Malcolm also got this Chiffchaff from the foot bridge. Common or Siberian Chiffchaff? Take your pick.

Baffins Pond
Mike Wells spent an hour at Baffins Pond this morning. Mike's report as follows:
"A local walker directed me to one of the 'wetlands' where he'd recently seen a Water Rail. After about 30 minutes I was aware of something hidden in the grass, and, it was only when it opened its eyes that I realised it was a cat. A number of locals informed me that two cats 'work' these 'wetlands' and take a huge number of young birds. Is this just accepted as letting nature take its course or could something be done about it? These 'wetlands' were surely designed as a safe haven, not a deadly trap."

Mike also spotted two terrapins on the island.

As for cats I am afraid, Mike, there is not a lot one can do. They are by far the great predators of wildlife, but are much loved by a large proportion of the population. So, with dogs. I am afraid birdwatchers and nature lovers have to live with the fact. As I see it, education is the only way. This has been our approach on Brook Meadow over the years - to get dog owners to understand and appreciate the wildlife that is present. That must be the only possible approach at Baffins Pond with cat owners.
As for Terrapins, they too are serious predators of wildlife, particularly young birds. They are almost certainly discards from garden ponds. They were there when I was doing my counts at Baffins Pond in the 1990s and early 2000s. Maybe they are breeding? That's not nice to contemplate.


Millpond News
When I got to the town millpond at about 10am the cob swan (with protruding wings feathers) was guarding the reed nest by the bridge watched, as always, by an admiring audience. The nest now has 5 eggs in it - the 5th one having been laid this morning on schedule. The pen swan was further down the millpond having a wash and brush up. All looks well.

Jackie-Michelle Daines has had it confirmed by the RSPCA that the swan that was involved in the fight on the nest last Saturday and which they had to put down was a normal black-legged swan. So, that eliminates the missing Peter Pond/Slipper Millpond pen which is a 'Polish' variety having pink legs and feet. Jackie's conclusion is that the dead bird was the pen from the second pair on the town millpond which is also missing. What has happened to the Peter Pond pen remains a mystery.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a walk around the meadow, but did not see anything of special interest. He did however, get some nice shots, including this Chiffchaff, but whether it was a wintering bird, a summer migrant or even a Siberian Chiffchaff, who is to say?

Malcolm also captured this Song Thrush with a loose downy feather, in a pensive mood.

Charlie Annalls managed to get to over to Emsworth from her home in Portsmouth to have a look at the swan nest on the town millpond and later had a walk around Brook Meadow in fading light. The cob was on the nest while she was there and looking very clumsy, almost treading on the eggs at one point.
Meanwile, on Brook Meadow Charlie said she could hear many birds but mostly could only see silhouettes, so took more interest in the plants. She loved the delicate primroses and the brash daffodils and admired the Cherry Plum tree flowers and thought they must be quite stunning when there are blue spring skies. Yes, Charlie, they are! She also thought the Weeping Willow looked beautiful and made her walk well worthwhile, despite the weather. It needs a visitor to to make us appreciate things we almost take for granted.

Charlie was puzzled by some "white bell-type flowers which were quite tall and looked like some early form of bluebell. Very lovely to see and brightened the late afternoon gloom." These are Summer Snowflakes (Leucojum aestivum) a garden escape but now living happily in the wild.

Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles says the Mute Swan pair on Baffins Pond has also started laying. One egg was in the nest this morning with more to come, no doubt.

FRIDAY MARCH 27 - 2015

Millpond News
Basically there is no change on any of the Emsworth millponds. The pen swan was snug on the reed nest near the bridge on the town millpond and looking fine. The cob was patrolling further south on the pond, keeping a very close watch on the cob of the other pair of swans; both cobs were circling around each other with wings raised at the end of Nile Street, but there was no overt aggression while I was there.
The eastern harbour was virtually empty with just a few Brent Geese and Oystercatchers, plus a Greenshank or two and a Redshank.
Over on the Slipper Millpond the cob swan of the nesting pair was still all on its own on the pond with still no sign of its mate, the 'Polish' pen. I am now very concerned about this swan which has been absent for over a week. Jackie-Michelle Daines has asked the RSPCA about the dead swan that they rescued from the culvert on the town millpond. They are going to get back to her, but the the officer did say he did not remember the swan having pink legs! So, it is possible that the dead swan could be the pen of the second swan pair that has been on the town millpond for some while, competing for territory with the resident pair, as Jackie says this pen is also absent. The mystery of the missing pens deepens!
There was no sign of any Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond. They appear to have abandoned nesting on the raft this year.
A lady informed me that there was a family of 4 Coot chicks on the pond at the top of Sadler's Walk; they were born yesterday. This is the first brood I have heard about this year.
While standing on the Lumley path I spotted three substantial Grey Mullett swimming about in the pool just north of the footbridge. These fish come in from the harbour at high water.

Brook Meadow
I met Malcolm Phillips on the south bridge watching the Treecreepers on the Crack Willows north of the bridge. He had seen both birds moving around the area and visiting the nest site under the loose bark on one of the trees and was hoping to get both on one photo. Malcolm is seen in this photo chatting to a passer by about the Treecreepers. They are our real stars of the spring on Brook Meadow, and so easy to see.

Here is a cracking shot that Malcolm got of one of the Treecreepers today.

Malcolm had also located a pair of Wrens nesting in a tree stump a bit further up river than the Treecreepers.
He had also seen bird which he thought might have been the Firecrest that Peter Milinets-Raby saw here last week, but on looking at some of his snaps there was no sign of any white eyebrow and we both concluded it was a common Goldcrest. This one looks as if it is singing.

Malcolm also saw the first Common Lizard of the year on one of the black felt pads near the north bridge. These pads, of which there are several scattered around the meadow, have been placed by an ecology team for a reptile survey.

Nore Barn
I spent an hour or so at Nore Barn on the rising tide from 2-3pm. The western harbour was almost completely empty, rather like the eastern harbour this morning. Clearly, the Brent Geese have taken advantage of the change of wind to head north towards their breeding grounds. So goodbye until October.
I had a walk along the creek south of the woods but only found about 20 Teal and one colour-ringed Greenshank (too far to read with just bins) and one Black-tailed Godwit.
It is goodbye also to the Spotted Redshank of which there was no sign. The only birds in the stream when I left were a Common Redshank and an Oystercatcher.
At the far end of the woods I found a couple of patches of pink coloured Sweet Violets - they are characteristic feature of Nore Barn Woods. Chiffchaff was singing, but not Blackcap as yet.

Tony Wootton had both male and female Blackcaps in his garden. Here is the female on the fat balls. I think these are still the wintering birds. The summer visitors head straight for their breeding areas, like Brook Meadow or Hollybank Woods.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby spent a couple of hours at Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 1:35pm. He walked in via Wade Lane:
Wade Lane: 2 Buzzard - seen mating in their usual tree (See photo - male on the left), 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Chiffchaff singing, 8 Little Egrets in the paddocks, Coal Tit singing, 2 Stock Dove.

Flooded Horse paddocks: 22 Moorhen, Green Woodpecker, 5 Teal.
Langstone Mill Pond: Cetti's Warbler creeping along the reed edge by the small bridge and singing. 6 Teal, 2 Chiffchaff singing, 2 Med Gulls over, Mute Swan on nest with male attacking everything in sight, Reed Bunting calling, Just 2 Little Egrets roosting on the pond.
Grey Heron Colony: Top Holm Oak - 4 very old looking juveniles and adult still bringing sticks in to the nest? Lower Holm Oak - 1 juv viewable and asleep. Middle Nest - Adult sitting on nest. South Nest - Adult sitting on nest with another adult standing very close. FIFTH NEST - Just a metre away from the south nest - Two adults displaying on a pile of sticks that has definitely got bigger since my last visit.
Off Pook Lane: 3 Greenshank (G//R+BB//- and RG//-+YY//- and G//R+BRtag//-), 40 Shelduck, 56 Brent Geese, 32 Teal, 10 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Grey Plover, 2 summer plumaged Sandwich Tern sitting on the mud - first of the spring migrants, 9 Med Gulls on the mud (7 adult summer and 2 1st winter/summer - One adult had white ring on left leg with "C774"), 136 Dunlin, 17 Black-tailed Godwit (six in summer plumage).

Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles says the male Gadwall has returned again to Baffins Pond along with a female Mallard companion.


Millpond News
The cob Mute Swan was guarding the reed nest by the bridge on the town millpond when I passed by at about 10am this morning. The pen bird was having a swim and a feed further up the pond having successfully delivered egg number 4 in the nest this morning. The pen was back on the nest when I passed by about half an hour later.

Jackie-Michelle Daines tells me that the RSPCA caught the injured pen in the culvert, but after inspection she had to be put down due to a very badly broken leg. Jackie adds "This is such a waste of life but life in the real world is cruel in many ways."
The situation on the Slipper Millpond Peter Pond complex remains unchanged. The pen of the nesting pair is still missing and the cob is alone on Peter Pond looking rather lonely. I have asked Jackie if she could find out from the RSPCA if the swan they put down had pink legs and feet. This would indicate conclusively if it was the Peter Pond pen, as I fear it could be.
There were no Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond. Have they given up for this year?
Tony Wootton heard two calls from Cetti's Warbler at about 3.30pm while standing on the small bridge on the Lumley Path

Brook Meadow
I heard two Chiffchaffs singing on the meadow this morning; migrants have certainly arrived. Blackcaps are next to come. One Brimstone butterfly over the river.
I met up with Ros Norton on the south bridge watching the nesting Treecreepers. We had good views of two birds moving rapidly up the gnarled bark of the Crack Willow trees and occasionally flying across the river to other feeding spots. Ros said she could hear the thin, sibilant, high-pitched Treecreeper calls (like 'tsree') though, I am afraid, these calls are now way beyond my hearing range.


Millpond News
I had my usual walk/cycle around the local millponds. No real change anywhere. The Mute Swan cob was guarding the reed nest (with 3 eggs) by the bridge on the town millpond while the pen bird had a swim and feed elsewhere on the pond. There was no sign of the vanquished swan in the culvert or elsewhere.
There was no activity at all on Slipper Millpond with no Mute Swans or Great Black-backed Gulls. What I assume was the cob of the local swan pair was on Peter Pond, but I could no see the 'Polish' pen with pink legs anywhere. I have a growing anxiety that the pen might have been involved in the fighting on the town millpond last Saturday in the attempted take over of the reed nest. It would be interesting to know if the swan in the culvert has pink legs and feet.
There is a Coot on a nest on the edge of the reeds on Peter Pond to the right of the Kingfisher table.
There was a Chiffchaff busily feeding in the Cherry blossom tree right next to Gooseberry Cottage.

Brook Meadow
I had a quick walk through the meadow. I stopped at the south bridge from where I got a good view of our resident Treecreeper. It was mostly feeding on the gnarled Crack Willow which has bits of bark hanging off it, but it made several sorties across the bridge to trees on the south side while I was there.
Malcolm Phillips was also on the meadow today and actually saw two Treecreepers in the same vicinity which is very promising news for breeding. Here is Malcolm's shot of one of them collecting nesting material.

Malcolm also saw the dreaded Pike again, this time half way along the north bank river by the railway embankment. Malcolm also saw a Blackbird collecting nesting material and got the (Siberian) Chiffchaff at the top of Peter Pond. He saw a large Rat running across the garden of Gooseberry Cottage.

Garden birds
The number of birds coming into gardens for extra food tends to diminish at this time of the year, as they turn their attention towards nesting. However, I am still getting a good variety of species in my Emsworth town garden. This week so far I have had Blue Tit, Blackbird, House Sparrow, Starling, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Collared Dove, Chiffchaff, Blackcap (female), Goldfinch, Woodpigeon and two Long-tailed Tits. Long-tailed Tits are probably more common visitors to the garden than I think, as they remain for such a short time and are no doubt frequently missed. However, two arrived this afternoon as I was watching and I managed a quick photo before they disappeared.

Wood Mouse demise
Throughout the winter we have had Wood Mice living in our shed. They made themselves a rather cozy looking nest using soft wood which they nibbled into sawdust. Each evening, I have left them a small pile of peanuts on a shelf and by the morning the nuts had inevitably gone. However, a couple of mornings ago we found one dead Wood Mouse on the ground near the shed presumably the work of one of the local cats, of which there are many. This morning there was another corpse on the ground which is probably the end of a breeding pair. I am not usually sentimental about wild animals, but I had built up a little relationship with these creatures over the winter period with the food I put out for them. I just wish the predator had been something decent like an owl or even a fox, which would have eaten and made use of the mouse. For cats it was all just a game.

This is the second of the dead mice measuring about 7 inches from nose to tail tip.

Drama at Farlington
Mike Wells spent 3 hours on Farlington Marshes today and witnessed quite a unique and dramatic wildlife encounter. His report follows:
"I was advised by a walker that she had seen a Short-eared Owl on the eastern side of the marshes, and this was confirmed by two enthusiasts from Reading when I reached the approximate sighting area. I then spotted the owl in flight over the bushes where it disappeared from sight. Looking skywards I spotted a Red Kite, and as the three of us enthused over this latest sighting, the kite was immediately hustled by the owl which came suddenly from nowhere.

This sparring continued for a few minutes when they were joined by a second kite. This melee went steadily skywards until for a second or so, they were joined by a peregrine! This vanished as quickly as it arrived. The three of us agreed that we'd never seen anything like it. Moments later we were joined by another gentleman who innocently enquired if we'd seen anything of interest and was rather bemused by the width of our grins! I've attached the best that I could do showing the various combinations of protagonists, sadly no peregrine".


Incidentally, Mike also saw a Spoonbill. 

Chichester Peregrines
The new nesting season for the Peregrines on Chichester Cathedral is back again. There is a useful blog showing the arrival of the birds on the cathedral and and photos of them. There is a lot of restoration work going on at the cathedral, but hopefully it will not disturb the birds. The web cam should be operating again as normal fairly soon once nesting starts in earnest.
See . . .


Millpond Swans
Jackie-Michelle Daines delivered more straw to the nesting swans on the town millpond yesterday.
She called the RSPCA at 10am today to tell them about the injured swan trapped in the culvert. They arrived on site by 11.15am which is pretty good. Jackie says they were unable to see the pen swan in the culvert, but they will look in again tomorrow. Meanwhile, they have asked that anyone seeing the swan under the grill takes note of her condition and, if she is looking distressed, to call them with information. They will be contacting the Environment Agency to see if they would do a walk through the culvert to flush the swan back in to the pond so they can then assess her injuries and take the necessary action.
When I walked past this afternoon at about 3pm there was a swan immediately beneath the grill near the junction with St James Road looking in good condition and feeding from the bottom of the stream. I could see no blood or sign of injury. I did not have my camera with me.
A little later at 4pm I checked the millpond and found the cob swan guarding the nest with the pen having a swim and feed further down the pond. There were three eggs in the nest.

Swan eggs are laid at the rate of one every 48 hours, usually in the morning. So, the record for the millpond pen will be: (1) first egg - Mar 20, (2) second egg - Mar 22, (3) third egg - Mar 24. So she should have six eggs by Mar 30. This is the average number, though eleven have been recorded in one nest! Incubation of the eggs takes 36 days from the laying of the last egg. So, if all goes according to schedule (and that is a big if), the first hatching should be around May 6th (depending on how many eggs were laid).

Egyptian Geese
Jean and I were in Petersfield this morning and had a walk around Heath Pond. We saw a good variety of wildfowl including the usual Egyptian Geese which are long standing residents of this pond. There were, in fact, three of them. Below is a photo of two which were walking along the path in front of us. My guess is that the bird on the left, without the distinctive brown eye patch, is a juvenile. The other adult was on the pond as shown below.

This must mean the pair successfully bred on the pond. Maybe last year? Egyptian Goose is a widespread tropical African sheldgoose, with a well-established feral population in Britain.

Brook Meadow
Ralph Hollins thanks us for pointing out the Treecreeper nest site by the south bridge on Brook Meadow; he came over this morning and was able to get prolonged views of a bird collecting nest material. Malcolm Phillips was also on the meadow this morning and got this excellent photo of what was probably the same Treecreeper that Ralph saw.

Both Ralph and Malcolm also saw two Buzzards soaring over the north of Brook Meadow. Ralph noticed that one of the Buzzards folded its wings back and did a Peregrine-like vertical dive. Ralph thinks this is something Buzzards do over a chosen nest site which would be in the Lumley area north of the railway. I know that Buzzards have nested over the years on the Lumley Mill Farm site, so I guess this is where these birds might be coming from. Malcolm got this photo of one of the Buzzards in flight.

Malcolm Phillips had another look for the Firecrest that Peter Milinets-Raby saw a couple of days ago near the south bridge, but still without luck. I think we must conclude that the bird was either just moving through, or is now elsewhere on the meadow.

Francis Kinsella visited the meadow yesterday and saw male and female Bullfinches and a Common Chiffchaff in the Cherry Plum tree on the causeway, plus this male Reed Bunting in the reedbeds of Peter Pond. A good catch from a short visit!

Other news
Ralph Hollins noted that Neapolitan Garlic was starting to flower on four or five plant clumps in so-called 'Allium alley' in Nore Barn Woods just south of the path to the north of the woods, eastern end.
At Langstone Mill Pond Ralph found around a dozen Little Egrets were back as if keeping an eye on nest sites and one bird was up in the trees close to the Mill where there was a nest last year. This was the first time he had seen them, apparently thinking of nesting.

MONDAY MARCH 23 - 2015

Millpond News
10am - All was well with the Mute Swan nest on the town millpond; two eggs were in the nest and the cob was standing on guard. The cob is easily distinguished by its loose feathers hanging off. The pen was having a swim further down the pond. Jackie-Michelle Daines tells me she delivered more reeds to the nesting area today as a precaution against rising water level in the pond, though it appears to be fairly steady at present.

The Irons family provided extra information on the fate of the intruding swan that was driven into the culvert on Saturday. They found it stuck at the other end of the culvert in Bridge Rd right up against the grate with blood still on its head and a cut foot. Thomas took some grain to it tonight so it had something to eat, which it shared with some Mallards. I think the RSPCA should be informed of the plight of this poor creature if they have not already. But how the heck would anyone be able to get it out?

I also checked Slipper Millpond where I found the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the water together, but no indication of any nest on the raft as yet. Strangely, there was no sign of the Mute Swan pair on either Slipper Millpond or Peter Pond. Where have they gone to?

Harbour news
10.30 about 3 hours to high water. About 250 Brent Geese were in the channel with more further out. I also saw several hundred Brents flying over Hayling Island.
I went through the gulls in the harbour. They were mostly Black-headed Gulls with a few Herring Gulls mixed in. There were also a good number of Mediterranean Gulls - with many flying overhead calling. I counted 15 Med Gulls in the harbour itself, but I reckon there were far more in the area.

I got to Nore Barn at about 11.30 with about 2 hours to high water. The regular colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL was in the stream along with a Common Redshank and a Little Egret, but no Spotted Redshank. I suspect our prize bird may now have left on its journey back to its breeding grounds, probably in Northern Scandinavia.

Coming back along Warblington Road I stopped to admire the fine display of Sweet Violets on the northern grass verge east of the junction with Valetta Park and opposite house number 26. This is the best display I can recall at this location. My wife tells me there is another good display of Sweet Violets on the verge in Valetta Park.

Brook Meadow
I had a look around Palmer's Road Car Park and the copse for the Firecrest that Peter Milinets-Raby saw here yesterday, but I saw nothing. Malcolm Phillips also spent about an hour and a half looking for the Firecrest but saw no sign of it. It could have been just passing through.
However, Malcolm's time was not wasted as he found a Treecreeper building its nest close to the south bridge. This is an excellent confirmation of breeding of this species on Brook Meadow. The last confirmed nesting was 13 March 2012 by Peter Milinets-Raby who watched two Treecreepers bringing nesting material into a crack in the bark of a Willow tree in Palmer's Road Copse.

In the north-east corner of Palmer's Road Car Park the bottle banks were brimming full and there were masses of bottles in front of the bins. A nice job for the council officials!

Bridge Road Wayside
The Goat 'Pussy' Willow on the southern grass verge now has some of its male catkins open showing their bright yellow anthers. The other Willow in the north-east corner of the wayside already is well in flower with male catkins. Female catkins grow on separate trees and are greenish in colour. We only have males on Bridge Road, but there are several female Goat Willows on Brook Meadow.

I also spotted a Grey Wagtail in the stream at the northern end of the wayside, just where the houses begin. This is probably the same bird that was seen and photographed during the Havant Wildlife Group walk last Saturday morning (see blog for Mar 21). As before it appeared to be jumping onto the steep bank where it could be nesting.
I also noticed some new Mistletoe in a tree on the northern verge which has been recently cleared of scrub by the Council. This is in addition to the Mistletoe on the bush in the central shrubbery. Both probably originate from seeds brought across by birds from the luxurious growth of Mistletoe on a fruit tree in the garden on the corner of Bridge Road and Bosmere Gardens.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Warblington shore this morning (6:35am to 8:45am - very, very low tide). The bird highlights were as follows:
First thing - Ploughed field south of Pook Lane: 140+ Black-headed Gulls, 44 Mediterranean Gulls (all in summer, except for one adult winter), 2 Pheasant, 3 Pied Wagtails. When I walked back this way, there was nothing in the field.
Castle Farm tower: 2 male Mallard perched on the top, looking a bit odd, Plus 2 Stock Doves.
Ibis Field: Chiffchaff singing, 3 Moorhen, 2 Med Gulls over north.
Conigar Point: Chiffchaff singing, Cetti's Warbler singing, Reed Bunting calling, 2 Stock Doves, 2 Med Gulls over north, 37 Teal, 2 pairs of Pintail, 6 Wigeon, 32 Brent Geese, 2 mating Great Black-backed Gulls (I doubt if these are the Slipper Pond birds).
Pook Lane (just barely a trickle of water left in the channel): 5 Red Breasted Merganser - So funny watching these birds trying to fish. Just enough water to sit in, but they had to push themselves along by pushing their feet along the bottom! 24 Brent Geese, 42 Shelduck, 58 Wigeon, 2 Pintail, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 51 Teal, 57 Dunlin, 2 Greenshank, 8 Little Egrets, 6 Grey Plover, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Turnstone, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Canada Geese heading west along the channel, 2 Stock Doves.
Langstone Mill Pond: Mute Swan sitting on nest, Chiffchaff singing.

Grey Heron colony - Top Holm Oak nest - 4 juveniles sitting still and watching the world pass them by. Lower Holm Oak - two young making lots of noise - not old enough to leave the nest. Other two nests - adult birds still sitting. An adult is stood on what looks like a "mini nest" about 1.5 metres away from the south nest. Is this a fifth nest, or just a place to roost near to the female on the south nest? 3 adults roosting in the big tree nearby. Now the confusing part. A very vocal juvenile Grey Heron was obviously 'lost' and eventually it flew into the big tree to join the 3 adults. This bird did not interact with the adults. The bird was clearly a fleshly fledged young Grey Heron. Now where did this come from? From the Top Holm Oak? I have only seen four birds. So perhaps the Lower Holm Oak? The youngsters in this nest look about a week from fledgling, so could it be an older sibling of this nest OR is there a hidden nest that no-one even knows about?? Very intriguing!

Flooded Horse paddock: 12 Moorhen, Chiffchaff singing, 2 Med Gulls over north, 4 Meadow Pipits over north, Green Woodpecker.
Along Pook Lane track: 2 Chiffchaff singing, Green Woodpecker, 2 Stock Doves.

Dartford Warbler query
Tony Wootton spent some time in his favourite spot for Dartford Warblers in the New Forest recently. Here is a good shot he got of a Dartford with a male Stonechat. Tony wonders if the white belly is the female's brood patch being preened. Anyone know the answer?

SUNDAY MARCH 22 - 2015

Millpond News
After the fracas yesterday I did not know what to expect from this morning's visit to the town millpond. However, all was peace and tranquillity with the pen swan tucked up on the reed nest as if nothing had happened and the cob patrolling nearby.

Clearly, the swan on the nest this morning not the same one that was ejected so violently yesterday afternoon. It showed no sign of injury or blood on its feathers. The cob is clearly identifiable by it tatty feathers and was the major force in the attack yesterday. This morning I saw the cob go into the culvert where the attacked swan went yesterday, presumably to check it out.

Jackie-Michelle Daines was also down at the millpond this morning and saw what I saw. She spoke to a couple of residents who told her that an intruding swan had attempted to take over the nest and was attacked by the nesting pair. Jackie has not been able to confirm, but the egg in the nest may have been damaged in the fight by the intruding pen as someone saw a hole.
Clearly, I got it wrong yesterday when I thought the attacking swans were the intruders. In fact, the swan being attacked was the intruder and the attacking swans the nesting pair. However, all is well, hopefully and more eggs will be laid.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips did his regular circuit of Brook Meadow today and had several good sightings including a Treecreeper and a Great Spotted Woodpecker by the south bridge and a Chiffchaff, probably common not Siberian. He was also attracted by this marble gall which is formed on Oak trees by a small gall wasp called Andricus kollari. You can see the insect's exit hole on the gall.

Peter Milinets-Raby was also on Brook Meadow this afternoon (2:45pm to 4pm) to play a recording of a Siberian Chiffchaff song. He saw two to three Chiffchaffs, but there was no response to the recording from them or from anything else. However, Peter did hear a Cetti's Warbler singing from reed bed on Peter Pond opposite Gooseberry Cottage. He also saw 2 Buzzards soaring and 2 Mediterranean Gulls flying over going north. The distinctive mewing type calls of these gulls can be heard frequently as they pass over.
However, Peter's best bird of the trip was a male Firecrest which he heard singing immediately on stepping out of his car in Palmer's Road Car Park. (Gosh, I wish I had hearing like that!) He says the Firecrest was heard in the narrow line of trees at the south end of the car park, moving about in the Ivy and giving good views. When Peter returned back to the car park the bird was still singing by the south bridge in the Ivy covered trees that protect the area from the main road.
This was the first Firecrest we have had on the Brook Meadow site since those two very obliging birds along the river banks in early 2013 and is clearly something for Malcolm and other Brook Meadow regulars to watch out for! Here is a photo of a male taken by Malcolm Phillips from that period to remind us what the bird looks like.

Francis Kinsella was also on Brook Meadow a couple of days ago when he had an interesting experience at the top north east corner of the meadow where the river emerges from the railway tunnel. First he watched a Goldcrest bathing on the edge of the stream; it then flew up into the bush for preening. Moments later, he saw a Wren bathing in more or less the same place. Francis has discovered the favourite bathing spot for birds on Brook Meadow, but you need to approach gingerly to avoid disturbing them.

Little Owl at West Dean
Tony Wootton sent me this photo of a Little Owl which was spotted by Ros Norton and Hilary Wootton during a walk near Staple Ash Farm at West Dean. Good spotting. Not an easy bird to find.


Brook Meadow
Fay Durant asked me if I would lead this morning's Havant Wildlife Group walk through Brook Meadow which I was delighted to do. It was good to see the group is still going strong with some new members joining. Fourteen members plus me assembled in Bridge Road car park at 9am where I took a group photo. The weather was fine and sunny, but with a chilly wind. The sun went in as the morning progressed and it became quite cold by 11.30 when we made our way back to the car park.

Before we left the car park, a Grey Wagtail was spotted feeding in the Westbrook Stream. This is a fairly regular bird in this stream, but good to see. Here is Sue Hill's excellent photo. Sue said the wagtail flew in and out of the bank just above and windered if could it be visiting a nest. That seems fairly likely as it is good nesting habitat. I will keep a look out.

We also noted the Willow leaves were starting to sprout as were the catkins on the Goat Willow in the north-east corner. In addition, Ros noted Hairy Bittercress, Red Dead-nettle and Groundsel flowering on the edge of the car park kerb.

We entered Brook Meadow at the Seagull Lane gate and had a walk around the patch. We admired the Jubilee hedgerow which is growing really well on the western edge of the meadow and the three Oak saplings which were planted at the same time in 2012. I also pointed out the new tool store which is the pride and joy of the conservation group. Looking up Des Barker spotted two Buzzards soaring almost overhead; these are probably birds from the Lumley Mill Farm nesting site.

We walked along the north path to the north-east corner where I explained the purpose of the flood barrier new wall. While we were there we noticed a Chiffchaff flitting around on the river bank. From photos taken by Sue it appeared to have quite a bit of yellow and green in its plumage, which would make it a Common Chiffchaff than the Siberian variety.

Malcolm Phillips, whom me met later, agreed with us. He later did get a shot of the Siberian Chiffchaff in the usual spot on the Lumley Path. The Siberian is an overall grey bird.

We stopped by the Rowan plantation on the east side of the north meadow to pay our respects to the memory of Gwynne Johnson who was a well loved member of the Havant Wildlife Group until she died 10 years ago. The Rowans are looking very good and always have a great crop of red berries.
We walked across the now cut and cleared Lumley area and clambered up the muddy bank onto the causeway where we admired the Cherry Plum which is now in full blossom and smelling good.
We met up with Malcolm Phillips who walked round to the Lumley Path with us where we got a good view of a Treecreeper scuttling up one of the trees around the pool.

Here is Malcolm's photo of another Treecreeper that he found this morning near the south bridge.
So we have at least two on Brook Meadow.

A Kingfisher was seen by some members of the group on a tree by the pond in the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. This was probably the female Kingfisher, with a red lower mandible, which has been present in this area all winter and has been photographed umpteen times.
Some of the group were also lucky enough to see three Bullfinches in the bushes by the Lumley Path. These birds have been around this area for a few weeks.
After a break for coffee at the main seat we walked to Palmer's Road Copse from where some members of the group left to walk back to the car park. We walked through the copse passing a very friendly Robin and looking for any sign of Water Voles on the river bank; there were plenty of burrow holes but no voles.
We then walked back through the meadow along the main raised path where we were rewarded with an excellent view of a Water Rail scuttling around on the river bank below the old gasholder. This is exactly where Malcolm Phillips saw it 2 days ago. We have had a Water Rail on Brook Meadow since 22-Sep-14, but whether it is the same bird each time is difficult to say, but probably. Here is a Water Rail on Brook Meadow taken earlier this year by Malcolm Phillips.

The morning's bird list was 28 species as follows: Grey Heron, Mallard, Buzzard, Water Rail, Moorhen, Stock Dove (heard), Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Kingfisher, Grey Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Treecreeper, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Bullfinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch. As for insects we did not see any butterflies, it was probably a bit too cold for them. However, we did see several large Bumblebees; these were most likely to be queens looking for suitable nesting sites.
This report and more photos is also on the Havant Wildlife Group web page at . . .

Swan attack on millpond
I went down to the town millpond at about 2.45pm this afternoon to check on the swan's nest only to be met with the sight of a fierce fight taking place on the nest by the bridge. In fact, it was not so much a fight as a relentless attack by one swan (an intruding cob?) on what I assumed was the resident pen.

The attacker continually pecked at the neck of the pen, pushing its head down and climbing on top of its victim. The pen held its ground for about 10 minutes, but when another swan joined in the attack (the cob's mate?) it finally gave up and fled with blood splattered over its neck and chest. The attacker chased the pen into the culvert under the bridge from which it emerged after a few minutes, but there was no sign of the pen. I waited for another 10 minutes, but the pen still did not appear.
The impression I was left with that this was a 'take-over' bid for the nest site by a pair of intruding swans. These intruders could have been the swan pair that has been present on the southern part of the pond for a few weeks now. However, there was another pair of swans on the pond and I reckon they might well have been responsible for the attack. As you could imagine the fight attracted the attention of quite an audience on the bridge!
I did try to video the attack but my camera unexpectantly gave out after the first first filming. This meant I only had a video of the initial attack on the pen, plus a few still photos of the incident.
Here is a link to the video on YouTube . . .

When I left at about 3.15pm the two pairs of swans were circling around each other with wings raised near the end of Nile Street, but there was no overt aggression. There was also another single swan which was continually chased by the cobs.

The cob that was involved in the original attack was very tatty with feathers hanging off its wings.

I had another look at the pond an hour or so later. The nest was still open with its solitary egg. There was no sign of the injured pen which had sought refuge in the culvert. The swan with tatty feathers that was involved in the original attack was preening close to the nest - lying in wait for the injured pen?

FRIDAY MARCH 20 - 2015

Millpond News
I checked the Mute Swans on the town millpond twice today. 11am - the nest was unoccupied. It was well constructed with the reeds, though not lined. It had one egg in the centre. The two swans were on the pond further south.

5pm - The pen was tucked in snugly on the nest for the night with the cob elsewhere on the pond.

11.30 - On Slipper Millpond both Mute Swans were on the pond. I had a look at the reeds where they nested last year, but there has been no clear signs of any nest building. The two Great Black-backed Gulls were on the pond and one gull got onto the centre raft while I was there. No sign of a nest.

There were also 12 Herring Gulls on the pond, including 9 adults and 3 immatures. One Little Grebe was fishing in the southern part of Slipper Millpond. It was in breeding plumage with chestnut coloured face and neck and a distinctive yellow breeding spot on its gape which can even be seen in this rotten photo.

Brook Meadow
Lungwort is flowering on the Lumley Path - the first of the year. This attractive plant with bell-shaped flowers and white spotted leaves comes up every year in this area. It is a perennial herb.

Lungwort was introduced from Central Europe in 16th Century and it is now commonly grown in gardens. It is naturalised in woodlands and scrub, on banks and rough ground, and also occurs on rubbish tips and waste ground.
The Butterbur flower spikes are now standing up prominently in the area below the main seat. I will carry out my annual count in a week or two. I had a look for the Pike but did not see it. However, I did see two small Brown Trout swimming side by side in the river by the old gasholder.

Stansted Forest
Jean and I had a short walk in the east park of Stansted Forest this afternoon. On the path in front of the house there is a notice indicating that Cowslips grown from English seed have been planted with wire guards to protect them from browsing deer.
We did not see any Cowslips, but we did enjoy the sight of swathes of 'wild' Primroses at various points along the walk.
We heard the distinctive croaking calls of a Raven from the top of the tall conifer tree opposite the Iron Gate Cottages. Michael Prior told me that two pairs of Ravens were nesting on the estate last year. On Feb 26 last year I had my best ever view of a pair of Ravens at Stansted. Here is a pic I got of one of the Ravens on that occasion perched on the fence in front of Stansted House.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips had a quick look round Brook Meadow but saw nothing of special interest. However, he did find what looks like a Siberian Chiffchaff at the top of Peter Pond. If this is the same bird, it has now been with us since 11-Dec-14.

He then went down to Nore Barn where he found the Spotted Redshank feeding in the stream with the regular colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL. The Spotted Redshank has now remained longer than last year when the last sighting was on Mar 13th. However, in 2013 the last date was Mar 27th.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to walk along the Warblington shore (6:48am to 9:35am - tide pushing in - total grey cloud cover giving dull and gloomy conditions: getting strangely murkier with a sombre shadowy quality at 9:27am. Was that it? Thank goodness the birds made up for the lack of any solar event.
Ibis Field: Green Woodpecker, Moorhen, Chiffchaff singing, 2 Long-tailed Tits,
Conigar Point: Cetti's Warbler singing several times in the hedgerow behind the small reed bed, Chiffchaff singing, 34 Teal, 6 Wigeon, Little Egret, 3 Pintail (male with 2 females), 3 Mediterranean Gulls on the mud, 53 Brent Geese, Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Chiffchaff in the Tamarisk hedge, 2 Shelduck, Water Rail flew from the orchid field into the small reed bed, 37 Dunlin, 3 Grey Plover, Pheasant - male.
A small Peregrine (probably a male) flew around for a minute, then landed on one of the channel navigation posts where it put its solar glasses on in case the eclipse showed.
Pook Lane: 2 pairs of Pintail, 79 Teal, 52 Wigeon, 227 Brent Geese, 26 Shelduck, 8 Grey Plover, 101 Dunlin, adult winter Curlew Sandpiper (some nice flight views as well as feeding in with the Dunlin - overall rather flighty - see photo below), 73 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Knot, 2 Stock Dove, 6 Red Breasted Merganser, Mediterranean Gulls (so many milling about calling 2 to 4+), however in a five minute spell 16 flew north inland (2, 8, 5 and 1), Sandwich Tern - alas not a migrant as it was in moult and still in winter plumage, 14 Black-tailed Godwit (R//R+LG//-).
Langstone Mill Pond: Med Gulls 8 flying north inland, Mute Swan on nest after being away for five minutes (could not see clearly into the nest, so nothing to report), 2 Chiffchaff milling about occasionally singing,
Grey Heron Colony: Top Holm Oak nest - two juvs left in nest, other two in trees 20 metres nearby, stretching wings and lots of calling. Lower Holm Oak nest: Adult standing with two boisterous youngsters fighting each other. South Nest: Adult sat firmly on nest. Middle nest: Adult sat very low in the nest, barely visible.
Flooded Horse Paddocks: 9 Goldfinch, 16 Moorhen, 2 female Pheasant.
No visible reaction to the slight change in light by the birds.

Curlew Sandpiper photo
Peter took 40 photos of the Curlew Sandpiper this morning and deleted 39 of them. The bird was too far away and it was too dark and gloomy.
Here is the only poor quality photo that Peter got that is identifiable.
Curlew Sandpiper is upper right (I think)

* Long legged jiz shows well (more leg above the knee than the squat Dunlin)
* Slightly attenuated jiz to the tail tip
* And very characteristic way of feeding with body and tail end held up at the back, unlike the horizontal tank-like look of Dunlin

Langstone Swan
On his way back from a walk down to Langstone and Broadmarsh, Christopher Evans spotted a Water Vole in the stream by Tesco. As it kept to the bank and then swam very quickly across the stream, he could only manage a very poor photo. However, Christopher got a much better one of this magnificent Mute Swan in flight just off The Ship pub at Langstone. Maybe one of the nesting pair getting some exercise?


Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow at 10am this morning for the regular 3rd Thursday in the month work session. About 12 volunteers attended the session which was led by Jennifer Rye who outlined the various jobs for the day. These included raking off the arisings from the Lumley area of the meadow which had been previously cut and partially cleared by Maurice Lillie and helpers. This is a very valuable area of Brook Meadow botanically, as it houses most of the sedges and rushes on the meadow list as well as an annual flowering of Ragged Robin.

Other jobs included erecting a new 'Local Nature Reserve' sign at the northern entrance to Palmer's Road Copse, clearing debris from the river and making an earth topping to the new Hazel hurdle enclosure around the concrete bag flood control barrier in the north-east corner of the meadow.
I met Andy Skeet from HBC who was checking the state of trees on the Brook Meadow site with regards to safety. He found several that would require some cutting which would be undertaken by Council contractors.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips had a very cold hour on Brook Meadow this afternoon. However, he did get to see a Water Rail this time by the observation fence, but it was to quick for a photo. We have had a Water Rail on Brook Meadow since 22-Sep-14, but whether it is the same one is difficult to say, but maybe.
Malcolm also found the Pike down by the old gasholder. This is be useful information if we are to catch this large fish which is a serious threat to our Water Vole population on Brook Meadow. I assume (pray) there is only one of these!

Malcolm also got the inevitable female Kingfisher and saw 2 Bullfinches in the tree by the five-barred gate of Gooseberry Cottage.

Millpond swans
I went down to the town millpond this afternoon at about 3pm to see how the Mute Swans were getting along with the recent delivery of reeds for nesting material by Jackie-Michelle Daines. Both swans were at the nest site beneath the bridge busily arranging the mound of reeds into something resembling a nest. While I was there the cob went off, no doubt to make sure there was no invasion of its territory by the other pair of swans further south on the pond. The pen swan remained working on the nest for a while before plodding across the mud to have a swim in the narrow channel formed from the outflow of the Westbrook Stream.

As I was taking a few photos of the swans at work, Jackie-Michelle came up and introduced herself. She was delighted at the response of the swans to the reed material and clearly hoped they would be able to build a substantial nest to resist any rise in the level of water in the pond. The pond is, at present, drained though this could change if the Environment Agency opened the sluice gates to allow the high tide to fill up the pond. I believe last year the Agency agreed to control the level of water in the pond so that the nest was not inundated which would be the best policy this year too.
PS Jackie-Michelle can be seen in the above photo of the swan on the nest.

Wade Lane hedge cutting
Following the very angry report from Peter Milinets-Raby yesterday about the destruction of the hedgerow along Wade Lane in Havant, I contacted Rob Hill the open spaces manager at Havant Borough Council who told me the land in question was not owned by the council and the hedges are clearly in the fields and so are private. Rob thinks the land owner could have been trying to 'regenerate' the hedge.
I also spoke to Andy Skeet the Council arborist about Wade Lane when I met him on Brook Meadow this morning. He had received a complaint from a member of the public about the cutting and would be looking at it later. However, Andy was told by Jamie Gargett in Planning that the landowner has not contravened any Conservation Area or Tree Preservation Orders and so there was no point in visiting the site.

Here is Peter Milinets-Raby's photo showing some of the hedgerow that has been cut

The other issue concerns the legality of hedge cutting at this time of the year when birds are nesting. I checked with the RSPB site which gives some details of the law on cutting hedges in springtime. It states: "It is an offence under Section 1 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act of 1981 to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built." Gov.UK advises: "If you suspect an offence has been committed in relation to nesting wild birds you should contact your local police force and report the incident to them. Ask for the case to be investigated by a Wildlife Crime Officer if possible and ask for an incident number so you can go back to them if needed." See . . .

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley took a brief trip over to Hampshire Farm this afternoon and discovered that they too have been hit by tree felling. Chris says, "A row of conifers between the Wren Centre and the pond have been cut down. They formed a beautiful barrier between the pond and the centre and were always full of birds.

The resident Kestrel used the end one as a refuge and lookout. They stood about thirty foot high and stretched about fifty yards. Their loss will undoubtedly have a diverse effect on the birdlife. I just don't understand this vandalism and can see no good reason for it. That end of the Wren Centre is now open and a complete eyesore". Clearly, the same legal issue of the disturbance of birds nesting in the felled tres arises here as in the Wade Lane case.

Pulborough Brooks
Mike Wells spent 3 hours at a cold and gloomy Pulborough Brooks today, but was rewarded by getting superb photos of Fieldfare and Redwing. Unfortunately, the winter was not cold enough to drive these winter visitors down onto the south coast.


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had another good day on the meadow for butterflies seeing Peacock, Comma, Brimstone, Small Tortoiseshell and Small White. Both Small Tortoiseshell and Small White were firsts of the year for Brook Meadow. This reminded me that last year Brian Lawrence got a Small White on Mar 1st which was the earliest one ever seen on the meadow. Today's was more in line with normality.

Malcolm also got a Treecreeper by the south bridge, not a first of the year as Malcolm also had one on Feb 15th, but a good bird to get. Malcolm also got a Chiffchaff singing in the Cherry Plum tree, probably the same bird that I heard yesterday. Peter Milinets-Raby heard 6 Chiffchaffs singing during his Langstone walk this morning (see below), so clearly the migrants have arrived!

Finally, Malcolm says, "I know it is only the same Kingfisher but a different view. I thought she was looking at me saying 'I am fed up with having my photo taken'". A bored Kingfisher? Surely not.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby walked along Wade Lane to the Langstone Mill Pond this morning 10 am to Noon - high tide, slowly trickling away. What a lovely spring morning! However he came across . . . DISASTER: All the trees along the western edge of Wade Lane itself (from the A27 tunnel to the horse stables - at least 200 metres worth) had been chopped down and burnt!!!!

Peter says, "I counted 17 substantial trees gone and many large hedges. The noise from the A27 is now obviously much louder with no vegetation to absorb the sound. And no Robins, Dunnock and singing Song Thrush to be seen. How can this be allowed to happen? A tidy up? More like a mass extinction! Shame! It will take years for the hedges and small trees to grow back to the height they were. And what the digger is up to is anybody's guess! More to do, perhaps?
Another moan - Warblington cemetery has also been drastically tidied up with perimeter hedges cut down and huge bramble bushes destroyed. It looks a bit clean and clinical now. It has lost its birding charm - again the small birds will be affected - Dunnock, Wren, Robin etc.
Back to the birds: Wade Lane: 8 Magpie in one field, 1 Little Egret feeding, 1 Sparrowhawk over, Chiffchaff singing, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Buzzard displaying and 2 high up heading north.
Flooded Horse paddocks: 5 resting Little Egrets, 1 Grey Heron, 21 Moorhen, 44 Teal, 1 male Wheatear, Chiffchaff singing, Male Green Woodpecker (see photo - last bird I took a photo of was a female), 2 Mistle Thrush (see Photo), 1 Pied Wagtail, 2 Med Gulls over north.

Off Pook Lane: 222 Brent Geese, 14 Wigeon, 5 adult Common Gulls, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 3 Shelduck, 1 Black-tailed Godwit.
Langstone Mill Pond: Grey Heron nests: Holm Oak: Top nest the only one with action - Four very grown up young flapping furiously and soon to leave! (see photo). And an adult bird flew inn with a huge stick. Are they planning another brood? Begging calls from the lower Holm Oak nest. No activity from other two nests.

2 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons roosting, 5 Chiffchaff singing and feeding behind mill, Cetti's Warbler singing from bramble clump on pond behind mill (possibly a new arrival - hopefully it will stay), Mute Swan firmly on the nest asleep, then pilling sticks in close to bulk up the nest, 4 Med Gulls over north, 6 Meadow Pipit over north, 2 Teal on pond, Reed Bunting male calling.


Swans nest building
On the town millpond this morning, the pair of Mute Swans was busy trying to construct a nest in the same place as in the last two years, near the road bridge already with an audience.

It was not an easy job for the swans due to an acute shortage of nesting material, but the swans were sticking to their task using twigs and other material. Last year their nest was largely composed of litter, but following the big litter pick over the past weekend there is barely a scrap of litter to be seen on the pond. I will contact the lady who said she would be providing reeds for the nest to tell her the swans had started.
The second pair of swans were on the southern section of the pond, not nesting as yet, though there are a couple of promising spots, e.g. in the corner by the old Mill House.
Over on Slipper Millpond the Mute Swan pair was on the water with no clear signs of nest building. The centre raft was occupied by Black-headed Gulls with no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls. Have they given up this year, I wonder?

Common Whitlowgrass
A line of Common Whitlowgrass lines the edges of the pond along Bridgefoot Path. This is not a grass as the name would suggest, but a pretty white flower with deeply cleft petals.

Migrant Chiffchaff?
Coming through Brook Meadow I spotted a Chiffchaff actively feeding in the blossom of the Cherry Plum tree on the causeway. While I was trying to take some photos of the bird, it started to sing its cheery 'chiff-chaff' song, the first I have heard this year. I think there is a good chance that this is an early summer visitor rather than a wintering bird, though I have no proof. However, the location, time and song are suggestive of this.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips had a good day on Brook Meadow for butterflies, Comma, Red Admiral and Peacock.

He also had a Kingfisher and a Buzzard overhead. In the river Malcolm had two Brown Trout, but no sign of the Pike.

Finally, Malcolm got a nice photo of a Honey Bee feeding in the Cherry Plum tree.

For earlier observations go to . . March 1-16