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for April 1-13, 2015
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MONDAY APRIL 13 - 2015

There are now about 120 Cuckooflowers fully open on the Bridge Road Wayside. They are all in a relatively small area of the grass verge close to the waysides conservation area notice. I could not see any elsewhere, though they may come through later. Last year we had 466 plants in flower by April 6th, though the record is an astonishing 694 on 15 April 2012. This is probably the best site in the local area for these attractive native flowers.

Millpond News
The pen Mute Swan was still sitting high on the reed nest by the bridge on the town millpond when I passed by at about 10am this morning. I could see the cob patrolling the pond at the end of Nile Street as usual.
Over on Slipper Millpond there was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls. I am sure they have given up on nesting here this year. I could see five Coot chicks on the north raft, whereas previously I had been told there were just four.

Cob swan nest building
Having recently lost its mate, this morning I found the cob Mute Swan on the small island on Peter Pond. This is where the swans have traditionally nested, though last year the pair nested in the reedbeds on Slipper Millpond. It was engaged in what I can only describe as false nest building activity. I watched the bird for about 15 minutes as it moved small pieces of grass and reed towards a depression in ground where it was sitting. Later it got up and moved more grass stems. As far as I know the pen had done nothing towards nest building before she went missing and, of course, there were no eggs in the 'nest'.

I believe this type of functionally inappropriate behaviour is referred to by ethologists as displacement activity. Wikipedia defines displacement activities as those which occur when animals are prevented from performing a single behaviour for which they are highly motivated. Typing 'loss of mate in male swan' into Google led me to a rather sad case in Australia in which a cob Black Swan refused to leave the nest after its mate was stoned to death by a group of six teenagers. I gather this type of determination to carry on regardless is not uncommon in swans that have lost their mate.  

Brook Meadow
There was no sign of the Treecreepers in the Crack Willows at the south bridge where we thought they were nesting. They have not been seen for a couple of weeks so it looks as if they have moved on.
However, I was pleased to see the bright pink flowers of Herb-Robert appearing as usual on the south side of the bridge.

Pendulous Sedge is now in flower alongside the path through Palmer's Road Copse. It is not so abundant as in previous years, having been severely cut back during the winter by the conservation group, so you have to search around to find the flowers.


North Thorney
I carried on down to Thorney. There was no sign of an swans on the Deckhouses Estate pond, though a Grey Heron was standing sentinel-like on a small rock island in the centre of the pond.

Walking along the old ERA track I heard Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, but there was no sound of Sedge Warbler or Whitethroat which I was hoping for. However, I did hear my first Cuckoo of the year calling faintly from the east side of Thorney. A couple of Swallows were flying around near the Marina Farm stables. I got a shot of one of them as it perched on the overhead cables.

A very loud Song Thrush was singing from the bushes while Mediterranean Gulls flew overhead in a never-ending stream continually calling. What noisy birds they are. A Buzzard was soaring over the reedbeds. I noticed some Field Wood-rush along the edge of the track which I don't recall having seen here before.

I walked very slowly down the main track to the Little Deeps listening for Sedge Warbler or Reed Warbler but I heard nothing to indicate the presence of either of these two common migrants. Maybe it is still a bit early for them.
The Little Deeps were very peaceful, but for the whinnying calls of Little Grebes and the splashes of ducks and Coot as they hurried across the surface of the water. A pair of Canada Geese flew off while I was there, honking loudly. I also noted three pairs of Tufted Ducks. A Skylark was singing from the large field to the south of the Little Deeps.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips has been unwell and so has not been able to get out in the usual way with his camera. We have missed his regular contributions to the blog. However, today he has been sitting up and got this butterfly from his flat window. Nice one Malcolm, it is a Speckled Wood - the first of the year for the blog. Pity it was not on Brook Meadow. Malcolm says he hopes to be out and about again soon.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a quick hour long look around Langstone Mill Pond, walking in via Wade Lane (9:58am to 11:13am - low tide).
Wade Lane: 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Kestrel, 1 Buzzard perched on its usual tree, 2 Chiffchaff singing, 4 Med Gulls heading north, Blackcap singing, Swallow over farm buildings. Peter got this unique photo of a male Redstart with a Fox in the background on edge of horse paddocks on the eastern edge of Wade Lane.

Flooded Paddock (now dry): Another male Redstart being chased occasionally by a Robin, Willow Warbler singing at the back, 7 Moorhen, Chiffchaff singing, Green Woodpecker, Med Gull 2 north.
Langstone Mill Pond: Grey Heron colony: Top Holm Oak:- still four juvs present. Lower Holm Oak:- Nothing, gone. South Nest:- Two tiny young on view. Middle Nest:- Adult sorting out at her legs as if there is tiny young. Fifth & Sixth nests:- Adults sitting.
Now the big surprise of the morning (apart from the 2 Redstarts) was a Grey Heron was standing next to a substantial "construction" way to the south of the main colony (adjacent and behind the island). Is this a SEVENTH nest? I did not have the time to fully check.

24 Little Egrets in the trees, either sitting, displaying, stick fiddling etc. So much activity, what fun!!
Reed Warbler heard singing in north reed bed, Cetti's Warbler heard singing many times, A pair of Tufted Duck, Mute Swan firmly on nest, 3 Willow Warblers in the Sallow Trees in the north reed bed with 2+ Chiffchaff and a male Blackcap. (An obvious fall this morning).
Off Pook Lane: 1 Greenshank, 61 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Shelduck.

SUNDAY APRIL 12 - 2015

Brook Meadow
Jean and I had a stroll through Brook Meadow and down to Slipper Millpond this morning. We met Pam Phillips who confirmed that the Brook Meadow committee have agreed to get a fisherman to catch the Pike in the river. Let's hope he manages it soon as the Water Voles will be getting into their breeding season.

The large Ash tree on the railway embankment is now full of purple flowers. I think they must be female flowers as the tree has seeds, though the flowering of Ash trees is mighty complex according to my book; ie "Some trees change sex yearly, some carry branches of the wrong sex, some are hermaphrodite and some produce dual sex (perfect) flowers"

Cow Parsley is now flowering on the north path, but little sign of it elsewhere. Like most other flowers it is late this year.
It was good to see the Rowans sprouting fresh leaves in the Gwynne Johnson plantation on the east side of the north meadow.

Walking round the Lumley area we noted the emergence of brown flower spikes of Greater Pond Sedge near the copse and stream. However, this sedge appears to be spreading onto the main grassland of the Lumley area which is of some concern. There is still no sign of either Divided Sedge or Distant Sedge which are also late coming through.

Hermitage Millponds
The lone Mute Swan cob was on the east bank of Peter Pond. Its mate the 'Polish' pen that it has nested with for the past two years remains missing, presumed dead. Over on Slipper Millpond we could just make out 3 and maybe 4 Coot chicks on the north raft; the nest that was on the south raft has gone. There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls.

Mystery moth - Angle Shades
I had several replies to this query about the moth that Chris Oakley found yesterday. The unanimous opinion was that it is Angle Shades. Thanks to Mike Wells, Joyce Sawyer, Ros Norton, John Walton and Ralph Hollins for providing this information.

Ralph added the following links which he thought would be useful . . . . . .

"A resident species, regularly reinforced by immigration. Often fairly common to common and sometimes very common at my light when migration takes place. Probably generally distributed. Broods vary but range from two to three per season, one of which is always partial. Adults emerge from February to April, and sometimes from late May to early July, but most numerously from mid-August to early November. Larvae will eat "almost any green herb". (Pratt, 2011)

Hedgehogs fighting
Graham Petrie sent the following links to Hedgehog videos in his garden from last night. The first one also has a Fox that looks like it was scared away by the commotion. The second one shows a couple scrapping. Graham hopes they did not harm each other. I assume this was two males coming to blows over territory?


Mystery moth
Can anyone identify this moth that Chris Oakley found in his utility room? It's about one inch long, the wing pattern and colouration are quite distinctive, but Chris can't find it in any of his books. Nor can I. He says the moth came from a pupae that was accidentally dug up in the garden. He put it in a pot of compost with a twig (to climb on) and it apparently hatched out this morning and is now in a sheltered corner of the garden.

Holly in an Oak tree
Following Jim Berry's report in yesterday's blog of Daffodils growing in a Magnolia tree in his garden in Rowlands Castle, Chris Oakley sent me this photo of Holly growing on an Oak tree in New Brighton Road on the corner of Wickor Way. He says it has been there for some years. Chris wonders what such plants feed on, like the flowers that grow on buildings and roof tops, presumably on nutrients brought in with the rain.

Warblington shore
Despite the grim weather Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Warblington shore (6:46am to 8:38am - tide dropping). The highlights before the rain set in were as follows:
Ibis Field: 7 Little Egrets feeding, Chiffchaff singing, Blackcap singing (first one here), 1 Moorhen, Female Pheasant, 3 Song Thrush.
Conigar Point: Hedgerow behind point: 3 Willow Warblers - none singing, just moving through, 2+ Chiffchaff - some singing, others moving through, Blackcap male singing, 2 Swallows over, Cetti's Warbler singing.
Brent Geese (two flocks moving east, 14 and 15 in number), 2 Lesser Black-backed Gullls, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, A pair of Wigeon (very late), 10 Shelduck, 1 Greenshank G//R+BB//-), 2 Med Gulls over.
Pook Lane: 1 Red Breasted Merganser, 16 Bar-tailed Godwit, 98 Black-tailed Godwit (All in summer plumage - Two with rings and according to my report I have not seen them before. Are they Emsworth birds? G//R+GY//- and G//R+OL//-.
4 Med Gulls over, 16 Brent Geese, 2 Greenshank (RG///-+YY/-), 6 Knot, 2 Dunlin, 4 Shelduck.
Pook Lane track: 2 Long-tailed Tits, 3 Chiffchaff, Pair of Blackcap, 2 Stock Dove, Recently ploughed field along Pook Lane held 14 Med Gulls - 6 pairs and two 1st summer birds, Male Pheasant.

Brian's note regarding the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits.
G+GY - was ringed at Farlington on 14-Sep-05 and has been seen 14 times in Emsworth Harbour over the years. Not a regular. My last sighting was on 26-Sep-13.
G+OL - I think this was also ringed in Sept 2005. I have only seen this one in Emsworth Harbour twice over the years, but have a number of sightings of it from Langstone, Pagham, Farlington, etc. My last sighting was on 16-Mar-11 at 'Texaco Bay' Hayling.

Reminder about Peter's report summarising his bird sightings over the past three years
Go to . . . Click on the Birds of Warblington & Emsworth - A personal Report to get a pdf download.

Thornham Lane
Heather Mills reports on this morning's walk along Thornham Lane to Prinsted by the Havant Wildlife Group. Their sightings included four Spoonbills flying in from the harbour to Thorney Island. These will be the four juveniles that have been in and around Chichester Harbour for a while - see SOS Sightings. For the full report go to . . . Havant Wildlife Group - 2015 reports.

FRIDAY APRIL 10 - 2015

Hollybank Woods
On this fine spring morning I cycled up to Hollybank Woods for a short walk around this beautiful local woodland. Having my bike with me, I stuck to the main paths and did not go onto Longcopse Hill. Walking was quite easy as the paths were remarkably dry and even the notoriously muddy bits were not too bad today.
Walking up the main track to the woods I noticed that the Cherry Laurel blossom was just starting to emerge, a bit later than normal like most flowers this spring. The large housing development at the top of the drive should be near completion. There is a large fence separating the estate from the track with no obvious access.

The notice board at the entrance to the woods indicates that the Spring Walk this year is being done by John Goodspeed on April 25th. This is the walk that I have done for the past 10 years or so. I was not actually asked this year though I don't mind not doing it as my health is not all that good. I am sure John will do a good job. Other walks include Trees by Andrew Street on May 17th and Butterflies by Jane Brook on July 19th.

I was interested to see the good progress made by the conservation group in coppicing the Sweet Chestnut woodland on the east side of the main path, having completed their work on the western side.

I had a quick look at the old Holly Lodge clearing where I found the usual crop of Primroses and Cowslips.
Field Wood-rush is just starting to come up in the usual spot in the southern section of the clearing. This plant is much shorter than the Hairy Wood-rush that I found outside Bowhill House yesterday with a more compact and less spread inflorescence. The hairs identify the plant as a Wood-rush.

I had a look at the Bluebell area in the south eastern section of the woods; there were plenty of leaves, but no sign of any flowers as yet. The Hollybank Bluebells are always later than those at Ashling Wood. Just a few Wood Anemones were out in the Bluebell area. The large Wild Cherry tree was full of buds with blossom about to burst. This tree is always a fine sight.

The woods were full of bird song as usual with most of the residents in good voice including Nuthatch, Jay, Robin, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Wren, Great Tit, Song Thrush and Woodpigeon. The regular summer migrants Chiffchaff and Blackcap were also singing well. This confirms the arrival of Blackcaps in force. I also heard one burst of song from a Willow Warbler just north of the southern Bluebell area. Willow Warbler is not such a regular or abundant migrant in the woods, though I usually hear it in the Birch scrub on Longcopse Hill.
Francis Kinsella had quick walk in Hollybank Woods this evening and saw 4 Jays together in a small area, including this handsome fellow, which was rummaging through the undergrowth.

Speedwell query
Ralph Hollins queried the plant that I called Thyme-leaved Speedwell from the Westbourne Open Space on Apr 7. Ralph thinks the photo I took does not look like that species and he is right. I had my doubts about it at the time due mainly to the hairiness of the leaves, but could not think what else it could be.
Ralph sent me a photo of Thyme-leaved Speedwell that he found on his lawn to show what the plant really looks like. He says it forms a dense mat of the ground, sending up vertical flowering spikes from which the flowers do not stand out on long stems as in my photo. They also have leaves of a dull greyish green colour and not the bright green of my photo.
Here are the two photos for comparison with mine on the left and Ralph's Thyme-leaved Speedwell on the right. Clearly, they are not the same species. I am not sure what my plant is, but my best guess is Ivy-leaved or Common Field Speedwell.

Millpond News
Jackie-Michelle Daines spent a couple of hours at the town millpond this afternoon with her friend Rose. The nesting pair of swans were both next to the nest and she was able to count 8 eggs when the pen moved off the nest for a drink in the stream. That means she must have laid an extra egg after the 7th on Mar 31. In view of this I shall need to adjust my hatching date to May 10th.

Daffodils in a tree!
Jim Berry has something very unusual in his Rowlands Castle garden - namely, Daffodils growing in a tree. Jim says he has never before seen Daffodils or any similar flowers growing in such a position some 12-14 feet above ground level. The tree is a Foxglove tree (Paulownia tormentosa) and the Daffodils look similar to some of the smaller variety growing in our and neighbouring gardens. Presumably seed or a bulb has been carried up there by a bird or a squirrel. Ralph Hollins is also puzzled, but notes that Daffodils can be grown from seed but they take at least 5 years to come up. Personally, I would go along with Jim that they were put there by a Grey Squirrel, but forgotten. Has anyone else had Daffodils growing in their trees?

Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles photographed this odd-looking Canada Goose on Baffins Pond two days ago and decided to check it out with expert Dave Appleton who identified the Embden-Canada hybrid for him (see blog entry for Feb 15th). Dave said the Baffins goose is a Canada-Barnacle hybrid. One can see the Barnacle influence in the extra area of dark on the chest.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to visit the Warblington shore (6:44am to 9am - very low tide). The highlights were as follows:
Ibis Field: 2 Moorhen, Green Woodpecker, Pheasant heard, 2 Chiffchaff singing, 12 Med Gulls over heading inland, Cetti's Warbler singing from stream vegetation.
Conigar Point: Cetti's Warbler singing from rear of small reed bed (a second singing territory - obviously there has been an influx of this species to suitable habitats this spring!), Greenshank G//R+BB//-, 8 Brent Geese, 9 Shelduck, 4 Mute Swan, Male Wheatear on sea wall.
Pook Lane: 16 Med gulls feeding on field, 10 Shelduck, 21 Bar-tailed Godwit (all in winter plumage), 12 Black-tailed Godwits (all in summer plumage), 2 Grey Plover, 6 Teal, 23 Brent Geese, 7 Red Breasted Merganser, Yellow Wagtail over calling, 2 Meadow Pipits over north, Linnet east, Sand Martin low over mud then north.
Flooded Horse paddock - now dry enough to play cricket, 9 Moorhen, 2 singing Chiffchaff, Green Woodpecker heard.
Langstone Mill Pond:
Grey Heron Colony: Top Holm nest- five youngsters. Lower Holm nest - nothing, probably fledged. South nest: - two tiny young being fed. Middle nest - Adult sitting. Fifth nest - adult sitting. Sixth nest - very big construction with adult sitting.
Little Egrets:- (returned on 5th April) 3 'sitting' in Holm Oak, 2 stick arranging in Grey Heron middle nest tree, 1 actively displaying with lots of guttural noises. Pond island - 5 birds on three nests on tiny tree that has small leaves - lots of display and stick collecting.
1 Swallow over (My first seen over Beacon Square on 5th April), Great Spotted Woodpecker, Cetti's Warbler singing from area behind mill (third spring bird in this area!!!), A pair of Reed Buntings chasing each other after lots of singing and response calls from female, Mute Swan on nest - male chasing everything! Reed Warbler singing occasionally from reeds, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Stock Dove, Chiffchaff singing.

Peter's Bird Report
Peter Milinets-Raby has just finished writing up the results of his bird surveys that he has been carrying out over the past three years in the Langstone, Warblington and Emsworth areas of the coastline. Peter has contributed regularly to this blog over this time providing detailed counts of birds that he has seen in these areas and now we have a neat summary in proper Bird Report format dealing with each species in turn. This is a remarkable achievement. Peter's report for the years 2013 and 2014 can be seen on his web site at . . . Click on the Birds of Warblington & Emsworth - A personal Report to get a pdf download. The 2015 results will be added later. Peter says he would appreciate any comments and or additions.


Willow Warbler in garden
I had a lovely surprise when I went into the garden first thing this morning - I heard the sweet descending song of a Willow Warbler coming from the Large Silver Birch tree in our neighbour's garden. I had a look in the tree and could clearly see two small warblers, so maybe there were two Willow Warblers! These will certainly be birds moving through the area on their to their breeding grounds further north. My only other garden sighting of a Willow Warbler was also in this Silver Birch tree in April 2010 - and it was also singing. The tree overhangs our garden, so I usually include the birds I see in my garden list.

More Bee Flies at Stansted
It seems to be a good year for Bee Flies. We have had sightings on Brook Meadow and today I saw two feeding on Grape Hyacinth flowers in the Stansted garden with their long probosces. See blog for April 7th for more information about their breeding behaviour.

Weeping Ash
After having coffee in the pavilion cafe Jean and I had a stroll around the arboretum. We were very interested to find a specimen of Weeping Ash - Fraxinus excelsior 'Pendula' which we had never noticed before, despite having walked round the arboretum hundreds of times!

I was alert to it since I had seen an example of this tree only two days ago (April 7) on the roadside verge at the junction of Redlands Lane and Nursery Close in North Emsworth. As shown in the photo below the Emsworth tree is a larger more mature tree than that in the arboretum, but both have the distinctive black buds of an Ash and long thin branches spreading to form an umbrella like head.

Spring flowers of interest in the arboretum were my first Marsh-marigolds in the pond and my first Ground-ivy.
Birds heard singing included Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler. We also heard the distinctive croak of a Raven as it flew overhead. They are probably nesting on the estate again.

Ashling Wood
After a break for lunch at the Fox and Hounds at Funtington, we made our way over to East Ashling to see how the Bluebells were getting on in Ashling Wood. I find that this is the best place to come to see the first Bluebells and it also has a magnificent display when they are fully out. Turning left off the main road from Funtington just before East Ashling village, park on the roadside just before the junction leading to West Stoke. The Bluebell wood is on your left through the (new) kissing gate.
Bluebells seem to depend very much on the spring temperature; with a warm spring like last year they are early. They were fully out on March 23rd when I visited. However, today, there were very few flower spikes open, but lots more to come. I would give them a couple of weeks for a really good showing. Wood Anemones and Dog's Mercury were looking very good.

You can't miss the noisy Rookery at the entrance to Ashling Wood. I counted 25 active nests today, which is about the same as in 2013, but well down on the high of 42 nests in 2009.

Hairy Wood-rush
Taking the single track road towards Funtington I stopped near the entrance to Bowhill House to check the Hairy Wood-rush (Luzula pilosa) which grows well on the grass embankment east of the drive to the house. Heath Wood-rush is taller than the more common Field Wood-rush and has more open inflorescences with stalks radiating in all directions and with single flowers at the end of each stalk. A possible alternative would be Southern Wood-rush, but that has slender curved branches slightly dropping to one side. However, it would not surprise me if this is what it was!

I checked with the Sussex Flora and was reassured to find Luzula pilosa was listed as being present in tetrad SU80E. Also, on the embankment is a good crop of Common Dog-violets.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips got his first photo of a male Orange Tip on Brook Meadow today. What the heck has been eating that leaf?

He also saw a small blue butterfly fly past, but could not get a photo. This was almost certainly a Holly Blue which would be expected at this time of the year. The other possibility is Common Blue though this appears later.
But the photo I liked best was this great shot of a Bumblebee with its face covered in yellow pollen feeding on a Dandelion flower. The combination of red tail and all back body would suggest it was a Bombus lapidarius.

While standing at the observation fence Malcolm also saw a smaller Pike, only about half the size of the large one. So we have at least two to get rid of for the sake of the Water Voles.

Mike's Robin
Having been 'trained' by the Robin to hold his meal worms, Mike Wells has now learnt about its digestive system. Mike has learned that meal worms go in at one end and a faecal sac is passed to the parent from the other end. Alimentary, as Mr Holmes would say!


to Thorney Island
It was a fine spring morning with no wind, ideal for a cycle ride down to Thorney Island.
On the way I passed a rather lonely cob Mute Swan on the east bank of Slipper Millpond. Its mate (the 'Polish' pen with pink legs and feet) of several years has gone missing, presumed dead, but the cob still waits in hope. Let's hope it teams up with another pen swan for next year's nesting.

Before going down to Thorney I had a walk along the marina seawall which is an excellent point to observe the eastern harbour in winter. But today there was little in the harbour except for gulls. Everywhere I went I was regaled by the yelping calls of Mediterranean Gulls flying overhead. Out in the harbour I could see a good collection of them on a seaweed island. I can see at least 14 in this photo.

There was little of botanical interest on the seawall itself, though the Hemlock leaves were looking very fresh. This interesting plant grows very well at this site.

I saw several butterflies on the seawall including this Small Tortoiseshell which perched for a photo showing me its mottled underwings for a change.

Also on the seawall I spotted my first 'Nursery-web spider' (Pisaura mirabilis) of the year basking in the sunshine on a dock leaf. This is a hunting spider which typically sunbathes with its front two legs of each side extending forward. The female will carry its egg cocoon in its fangs. The spider gets its popular name from its habit of spinning a silken tent over the eggs before they hatch.

Coming down from the main seawall look out for the mass of tiny white flowers of Common Whitlowgrass which carpet the ground at the bottom of the slope.

I locked my bike to the metal gate before walking along the old NRA track towards Thorney Road. Note NRA stands for National River Authority which used to own this track in the old days. I think it is now owned by the Environment Agency, but public access is allowed along it.

I love this track at this time of the year where Cetti's Warblers shout out their songs - it's almost like being in Mallorca. The track is of special interest for early arriving migrants. Today I heard the first three common arrivals, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler singing their varied songs. But no sight or sound of anything else, no Swallows over the old Marina Farm, no Sedge Warbler in the bushes and no Cuckoo on the overhead cables. Hopefully, they will be here in a week or so. The gentle but long carrying purring song of the Turtle Dove which used to be so common here is sadly no more.
Note: Tony Wootton did see Swallows over this track this morning, so they are here - see his report below.

I made my way down to Little Deeps where I found the usual crop of Coltsfoot on the side of the track in front of the deeps. I was surprised to find a Mallard family with 3 ducklings. This must be the biggest one I have seen in years. I pity that poor mum trying to feed and protect such a large brood.

I expected to find the regular Mute Swan pair nesting, but there was no sign of them on the deeps. However, I did find them a little way south of the deeps in the small canal that runs parallel with the track. I was very surprised to see that the pen had the pink legs and feet of a 'Polish' swan. This could not be the missing Slipper Millpond pen as swans mate for life and don't swap around half way into a breeding season. No, this must be a second Polish swan, probably from the brood on Peter Pond several years ago which included two pure white cygnets - ie Polish swans.

While studying the swans I spotted a Grey Heron struggling to swallow a large fish. I watched it for several minutes as it gradually got it down its gullet only for the fish to emerge again. Finally, the Heron flew off with the fish still in its beak.

Tony's news
Tony Wootton went for a mooch along the old NRA track this morning. Apart from bumping into Barry Collins who was looking for Sedge Warblers, he managed to photo a Cetti's Warbler, one of four that were around. He also saw his first Swallows of the year, 5 or 6 flew over. One seemed to be having a good look around the the horse stables.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips went around the meadow as usual today. He got an excellent photo of a Bee Fly which seem to be fairly common at the moment. Note its extra long proboscis.

Malcolm also noted the first leaves sprouting on one of the Horse Chestnut trees.

Eyed Hawkmoth
Chris Oakley found this Eyed Hawkmoth in his utility room this morning. It was covered in cobwebs, so Chris cleaned it up as best he could but it was in a very poorly condition. He put it outside on a plant with a small drop of honey beside it but sadly it didn't last. Chris thought it was a very early hatch probably brought on by the warm weather.


Brook Meadow
I had a stroll around the meadow and was pleased to hear my first Blackcap song of the year in Palmer's Road Copse near the south bridge. In this habitat, I assume this would be the first of the migrants rather than a wintering bird. It is a little later than usual.
I met Malcolm Phillips and we walked round the meadow together admiring the butterflies on the way. Peacocks were particularly abundant - I counted at least 6. We also saw one Orange Tip flying over the railway embankment, but it did not stop for a photo. Malcolm also had one Orange Tip yesterday which did not stop. Here is one of the Peacocks taken by young Thomas Irons.

Malcolm showed me the spot on the north meadow where he had the 7-spot Ladybirds yesterday and they were even more numerous today; I estimated at least 50 and all the same species. They were in the northern section of the north meadow near the brambles.

Waysides News
This afternoon I got the bike out to have a cycle around some of the local waysides. Starting in Bridge Road car park, I found the first open Cuckooflower of the year. This is late in comparison with previous years; on this day last year we had 466 in flower, though that was exceptionally early.

I then went to the Christopher Way wayside where I could see the leaves of Wild Clary coming up on the grass verge immediately west of the official wayside. This is where they were growing last year with very few on the main wayside.
Moving on to the Westbourne Open Space, I could only see a few Meadow Foxtail spikes. They must be later coming up this year. One new flower for me this year was Thyme-leaved Speedwell on the edge of the cycleway.

Then, I went over to Redlands Lane to have a look at the Nursery Close wayside. It was there I met Chris Oakley who was mowing a grass verge outside his house - not the wayside I might add! The wayside has a very good display of Common Dog-violets with pointed sepals and notched spurs. There are also some white Sweet Violets. I am finding this white variety in several locations. I puzzled over the speedwells as I always do at this time of the year, but I think they were Common Field Speedwell and Ivy-leaved Speedwell. We also had Hairy Bittercress with 4 stamens.
The grass verge on the north side of the junction also has lots of wild flowers and some not so wild. It has a very unusual tree in the centre of the verge - I think it is a Weeping Ash 'Pendula' with long thin branches spreading to form an umbrella like head. I did not take a photo but there are plenty on Google.
It was on this verge that I had my first Lords and Ladies of the year with an open spathe revealing the brown spadix.

Hampshire Farm
Crossing Redlands Lane I decided to have a quick look at the Hampshire Farm open space. I found what I think is the resident Pied Wagtail perched on the fence around the pond.

There was nothing on the pond itself but for a Black-headed Gull. I was pleased to see my first Swallow skimming down to the water on the pond and later hunting for insects over the main grassland. Excellent sighting.
Meanwhile, a Skylark was singing from the plantation area.

Cetti's Warbler on Baffins Pond
On his morning walk round Baffins Pond Eric Eddles heard the explosive song of a Cetti's Warbler and managed to get a sighting and a photo of this cracking bird. Nice, one Eric. That must be a first for the pond?

Bee Flies and footballers
Ralph Hollins pointed out the similarity between Bee Flies and footballers with the following link which describes how the female Bee Fly lays her egg on the ground close to the tunnel which leads to the nest of a mining bee, then 'flicks' the egg (Beckham-like) down the tunnel where it will become a parasite of the bee larva. See . . .

Great Black-backed Gulls
On Sunday Ralph saw the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the Slipper Pond (on the water, not the raft) so it seems they may not have given up the idea of nesting there.

Francis Kinsella enjoyed the butterflies that the Bank Holiday sunshine brought out. He saw Peacock, Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and this cracking Brimstone in Hollybank Woods. What is it feeding on?

Clever Robin
Mike Wells sent a couple of photos of one of the Robins nesting in his back garden. Mike says it took a week for this Robin to train him to do this!


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips spent most of the day on the meadow where he saw lots of butterflies, including Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, Brimstone, Comma and the first Orange Tip of the year. Here are two Peacock butterflies that he captured in mating.

He also got the first 7-spot Ladybird of the year on the meadow.

These are two of the species that BBC Springwatch are asking for records of - Orange Tip and 7-spot Ladybird.
Finally, Malcolm got some shots of a pair of birds that were clearly nesting. He was puzzled as to their identity, but they look like Dunnocks to me. The photo on the left shows a chick and the one on the right an adult. That is a good breeding record.

Charlie Annalls was also on Brook Meadow today and met up with Malcolm who pointed out the best places to see interesting birds. She failed to see the Treecreepers, but was pleased to spot a tiny Wren flitting along a fallen tree next to the stream. She says, "Wrens normally disappear very quickly but this one seemed to be playing hide and seek with me".

More interesting was the Chiffchaff she found at the north end of the meadow near the railway. "It was persistent in one particular tall tree and stayed for quite a few minutes for me. When I downloaded the photos I could see why - there were hundreds of tiny little flies. The Chiffchaff must have had a proper feast up there. It seems very yellow - is this normal? " Yes.

Tony Wootton was also on Brook Meadow today and photographed this Bee Fly (Bombylius major) this afternoon. One can just see its long proboscis in the photo. Interestingly, this is the first Bee Fly I have recorded for Brook Meadow, though Bryan Pinchen did find it during his Insect Survey on the meadow in May 2010.

Millpond News
I walked round the town millpond at about 9,30 this morning before the family invasion! Lovely spring day with a slight chill in the air. The resident pen swan was high on her reed nest near the bridge and looking very secure brooding her seven eggs. Her mate the cob was patrolling the northern section of the pond.

The other pair of swans were displaying in the southern section of the millpond, but sadly they have nowhere to nest.

During her visit to Emsworth Charlie Annalls had the pleasure of seeing the first Coot chicks on the north raft on Slipper Millpond. I think I can see four chicks in the photo.

Garden Blackcap
Tony Wootton had a female Blackcap in garden this morning and wonders how much longer will she stay. Not much longer I would guess. He has not seen the male for 4 days now.

Baffins Pond
Last week Eric Eddles met Mike Wells at Baffins Pond looking for the Gadwall but it was nowhere to be seen. Since then it has returned and to-day Eric had an opportunity to see it out of the water. Eric also reports that the Swans on Baffins Pond have so far produced three eggs.

Horsetails correction
Martin Rand helpfully corrects my rather casual comment about the nature of Horsetails in my fortnightly wildlife summary (see below). I said that Horsetails are unusual in having two stages of growth; in spring they have brown stems with cones, then in summer they produce green stems with vertical ridges without cones. However, as Martin indicates this is not strictly correct.
He says, "There are only two species in Britain that do what you say, producing brown spore-bearing stems early and completely separate green sterile stems later. These are the Field Horsetail (Equisetum arvense) that you mention, and the Great Horsetail (Equisetum telmateia), which is also quite widespread in Hampshire and which you have a bit of in the Emsworth / Warblingron area. A couple of others sometimes produce their spore-bearing cones on paler, initially not very branched stems but these then grow on to resemble the sterile ones. They are the Wood Horsetail (Equisetum sylvaticum), our prettiest Horsetail but not found in your corner of the county; and the Shady Horsetail (Equisetum pratense) which in Britain is only found in the north. All the rest bear their cones on green shoots."

Field Horsetail with spore-bearing cone on Brook Meadow (4 April 2015)

For contrast here are
Great Horsetail with brown stems taken on the Selangor Avenue path - on left
and Marsh Horsetail with green stems taken on Fishbourne Meadows - on right


Brook Meadow news
Treecreepers are nesting behind the bark of one of the old Crack Willow trees in Palmer's Road Copse; they are easily seen from the south bridge. Malcolm Phillips has been studying them closely and his photos are on the Emsworth blog. This is a great chance to see this elusive little bird really well.
Chiffchaffs are always the first of the summer migrants, announcing their arrival with their cheery 'chiff-chaff' song. Malcolm got photos of one with reddish legs suggesting a Willow Warbler. However, these birds are tricky to distinguish until you hear them sing. So, please sing to us!
We have had just one sighting of a Water Vole over the past two weeks which is not a good sign. They should becoming active at this time of the year. The conservation group are still pursuing the Environment Agency to get rid of the huge Pike that we have in the river. Pike of this size can be a serious predator of young voles in particular. Malcolm has got several photos of the beast and thinks there could be more than one!
Malcolm has also seen and got photos of the first Common Lizards of the year, usually basking in the warm sunshine on top of the black felt mats. These mats are used for a survey of reptiles.

Butterbur count
I did the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes on Brook Meadow on Mar 30. 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. Most of the flowers are now in the area below the main seat where they are increasing year by year. Full details of the counts can be seen on the web site at . . .

Grasses, sedges and horsetails
I always look forward to the first signs of less conspicuous plants on Brook Meadow. Meadow Foxtail is the earliest of the spring grasses to show; this week I found the first of its cylindrical spikelets out on the north meadow. Soon they will be everywhere. Also dotted around the north meadow are the fertile cone-bearing stems of Field Horsetail. Horsetails are unusual in having two stages of growth; in spring they have brown stems with cones, then in summer they produce green stems with vertical ridges without cones. Down by the Lumley Stream the first dark brown flower spikes of Greater Pond Sedge are now showing through the reeds. There is no sign of Divided Sedge or Distant Sedge on the Lumley area at the moment, but they should be out any time. See comment on Horsetails from Martin Rand in blog for Monday 6 April

Waysides News
My best wayside find of the spring was a crop of flowering Coltsfoot on the waste ground to the north of Emsworth Railway Station. They can easily be seen from the new access ramp. They are mostly yellow flowers, but some have an orange hue. This is the only local site for Coltsfoot that I know of in Emsworth; the nearest being on the west side of Thorney Little Deeps.
There is the usual fine display of Blackthorn blossom on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage. Blackthorn blossom opens later than Cherry Plum with which it is often confused. Blackthorn flowers are smaller than Cherry Plum and come out before the leaves.
It has been a good spring for Sweet Violets. They are still showing well on the grass verge of Warblington Road, just before the junction with Valetta Park and on several other verges. Chris Oakley also reports seeing them on the Redlands Lane wayside, including white ones.
It has also been a good year for Lesser Celandines, particularly good near the southern entrance to Bridge Road car park as well as in many other places around the town.
But what has happened to the Cuckooflowers? On this day last year I counted 450 in flower on the wayside in Bridge Road car park, but this year there are hardly any showing at all.

Millpond News
This year, thanks to the efforts of Jackie-Michelle Daines, the pair of Mute Swans on the town millpond have had a supply of fresh reeds to construct their nest. This is a big improvement on the situation over the last two years when they had to make do with a nest made up of bits and pieces of debris and litter. Egg laying is now complete and the pen swan is snug on the nest brooding 7 eggs. She will be brooding for 36 days from the laying of the last egg, except for brief periods off the nest for feeding when the cob takes over. My predicted date for hatching is May 8th. As always, the nest attracts a constant audience of locals and passers-by on the bridge.
I think this may be the only swan's nest in Emsworth this year as the pen of the Slipper Millpond pair (the one with pink legs and feet) has gone missing. The cob stayed around for a while, but has now given up and left the pond. My guess is that the missing pen was the bird that the RSPCA had to put down following the attack on the town millpond on Mar 21.
There is no sign of any nesting activity by the Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond this year. So it looks as if they have gone elsewhere after three fairly successful years - much to the relief of the local residents I would guess.

Harbour news
As you must have noticed, the harbour has fallen eerily silent with only the calls of Oystercatchers and Mediterranean Gulls echoing across the mudflats. Brent Geese, Wigeon, Teal and waders have all gone, heading north towards their breeding grounds on their incredible journeys. They include our very own Spotted Redshank which has been at Nore Barn for the 11th winter running. Our last sighting was Mar 20, which is much in line with previous years. Will it return again next autumn for its 12th winter with us? Who knows? Let's hope so, for this tiny bird has now become an integral part of the local scene. Nore Barn just would not be the same without it.

Other news
Malcolm Phillips has seen and photographed a Cetti's Warbler from the small footbridge at the north of Peter Pond. Remarkably good views are possible if you are patient! Chris Berners-Price recently heard (but did not see) a Cetti's Warbler singing from the reedbeds to the north of Nore Barn. A first?
The Coots nesting on the raft on the Sadler's Walk pond have produced a brood of four chicks.
Peter Milinets-Raby has been monitoring the Grey Heron colony in the trees behind Langstone Mill Pond. He says there are six nests with birds sitting on some and youngsters in others.
Swallows have been seen in many locations along the south coast and should soon be with us in Emsworth. The rest of the summer visitors should not be far behind.


Peter Pond
Malcolm Phillips says the top of Peter Pond is where most things happen right now. For over half an hour, standing on the small footbridge to the north of the pond, he watched two Brown Rats eating what looked like a dead Pigeon on the edge of the water. The one at the front of the photo looks quite pale compared with the one at the back. Maybe a youngster?

While watching the rats, Malcolm also spotted and photographed what appears to be a resident Cetti's Warbler. We have had a couple of recent hearings and sightings of this bird. The Peter Pond path is clearly a good spot to see this very elusive bird, that most people only hear and never see. It sings its name 'chetti-chetti-chetti' very loudly. Let's hope there are two birds and they decide to nest here. That would be a first.

Waysides News
Chris Oakley is pleased to report that the Sweet Violets are at last flowering on the Redlands Lane wayside. He says "they are a lot later this year but there is a lovely selection of shades from the very pale through to the darkest purple. Best of all there is a beautiful clump of white Sweet Violets, perhaps fifty or more. It's not unusual to see the odd one, but to find such a large clump is very heartening. The Lesser Celandines are coming to an end but It would seem that there is a good selection of other plants now pushing through so it may prove an interesting year."


Brook Meadow
I had a stroll through the meadow this afternoon where I found some early signs of spring flowering.
A few flower spikes of Meadow Foxtail were out on the north meadow. Very soon the whole area will be adorned with these attractive grass spikes. Meadow Foxtail is the earliest of the spring grasses to come up. Another good place to see this grass is on the Westbourne Open Space wayside at the top of Westbourne Avenue near to Westbourne.

Another common spring plant on Brook Meadow in the spring is Field Horsetail. I could see numerous stems on the cut grassland of the north meadow with cones from which spores are released. Field Horsetail is the most common horsetail on Brook Meadow, whereas Marsh Horsetail is quite rare and hard to find. Horsetails are distinctive in producing non-green unbranched fertile cone-bearing stems in spring; in summer they produce green, usually branched, sterile stems without cones, but with vertical ridges.

Down by the Lumley Stream on the Lumley area were the first dark brown flower spikes of Greater Pond Sedge. The very similar Lesser Pond Sedge tends to grow on the river bank on the west side of the meadow, but I could not find any today. I was expecting to see some early signs of Divided Sedge and Distant Sedge on the Lumley area, but I could not see any. I will look again in the week.

Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow briefly, but enough time to catch one of the nesting Treecreepers in the Crack Willows near the south bridge.

Waysides News
There is the usual excellent display of Blackthorn blossom on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage. Blackthorn flowers open later than those of Cherry Plum with which they are often confused. The Blackthorn flowers are smaller than Cherry Plum and come out before the leaves.

The Sweet Violets and Primroses are still in flower on this wayside. I also found a single flowering plant of what I think is Early Dog-violet (aka Wood Dog Violet) with a straight dark violet spur (not notched like Common Dog-violet). Grape Hyacinth is flowering on this path and Summer Snowflake, which is a first for this wayside.

Bullfinch in garden
Over the last month Patrick Murphy has had a couple of fleeting visits from a male Bullfinch, but this morning it stayed for a while longer enabling Patrick to get a quick shot of this lovely bird. Bullfinch is a fairly uncommon bird to have in the garden. It is ranked 25th in the BTO Garden BirdWatch rankings for this area with 12% of particiants reporting it.


Millpond News
When I passed by the town millpond at 10am the pen swan was snug on the nest near the bridge brooding her 7 eggs.

The cob was further down the pond busking with what I assume was the second pair of swans that have been competing with the residents for territory.

If this was the second pair then, clearly, we must look elsewhere for the victim of the nest attack on Saturday 21 March. I still think the swan that the RSPCA had to put down after the attack could have been the pen from the Peter Pond/Slipper Millpond pair since the attack coincided with her disappearance. Her mate, the cob, has been alone on the Hermitage Millponds ever since. Unfortunately, the RSPCA did not provide information about the colour of the legs and feet of the injured swan; if they had been pink this would have confirmed the bird as the pen from Peter Pond.

Walk to Nore Barn
Jean and I had a walk to Nore Barn this afternoon. On the way along Warblington Road we admired the fine display of Sweet Violets on the grass verge near the junction with Valetta Park which have been showing well for several weeks. We also noted the white bell-shaped flowers of Three-cornered Garlic growing beside the hedge of house number 59 Warblington Road. The flowers of this plant have a green line down the petals; the similar flowers of Summer Snowflake have a green spot at the tip of its petals.

The tide was completely out at Nore Barn and the harbour looked totally empty, all we could hear were the calls of Oystercatchers over the mudflats. However, of more interest, we met Chris Berners-Price who told me he had recently heard a Cetti's Warbler singing from the reedbeds to the north of Nore Barn. That is probably a first for that site?
On the way back along Western Parade we noted that the Hoary Cress was in bud, but not quite showing its white petals. But Honesty was flowering for the first time.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips spent some time on the meadow today. The first thing he saw was a Kingfisher at the north bank then the large Pike just up from the north bridge. This is the chap that we are hoping the Environment Agency will trap and remove from the river to protect young Water Voles on which it predates.

Further south a Grey Heron was in the open space by the S-bend plus an obliging Song Thrush.

Malcolm also got this excellent photo of two male Blackbirds together, quite an unusual sight, I would think, at this time of the year when territorial disputes are at their height?

Malcolm also watched from the foot bridge at the top of Peter Pond and saw the regular Chiffchaff plus 2 Coots.


Millpond News
The pen swan was snug on the reed nest by the bridge on the town millpond at 10am this morning. She has probably started brooding the 7 eggs and will be on the nest for the next 36 days except for brief periods for feeding when the cob takes over. The predicted date for hatching is May 8th.

Brook Meadow
At about 12.40 this afternoon Malcolm Phillips saw what was almost certainly a Roe Deer run across the Lumley area of Brook Meadow to the east corner and across the Lumley Stream onto Lumley Road. We do occasionally get deer sightings on Brook Meadow though this was the first for a couple of years. However, we probably miss some. I found some deer droppings on the east side of the north meadow by Beryl's seat on 20-Aug last year.
Malcolm also spotted a large Pike in the river by the large Ash tree at the north west corner. Bad news for our Water Voles. He also found again both a Common Chiffchaff and the pink-legged bird that we think might be a Willow Warbler in the reeds north of Peter Pond.

While Colin Brotherston and I were installing a new perspex window in the Water Vole signcase in Palmer's Road Copse this morning, Jennifer Rye alerted me to the presence of a small crop of white Sweet Violets that were in flower immediately in front of the new Local Nature Reserve sign at the northern end of the path through the copse. These were the first white ones recorded on the Brook Meadow site.


Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow today and saw two Buzzards soaring to the north of the meadow and a Kestrel flying over at the same time. He also saw what he thought at first was a Water Vole at the top of Peter Pond, but it turned out to be a Brown Rat.

More interestingly, at the top of Peter Pond Malcolm got this photo of what he thought could be a Willow Warbler, because of its pink legs. Malcolm's book says a Chiffchaff never has pink legs.

I would have said Chiffchaff, but those legs are very suggestive of a Willow Warbler. Willow Warbler is certainly a possibility, as there have been numerous early sightings of them in the local area. Peter Milinets-Raby had one at Nore Barn on Mar 27 and Martin Hampton had one singing in Havant on Mar 30. I cannot see the relative lengths of the tertial length and the primary projection which would differentiate Willow Warbler from Chiffchaff. Personally, I would wait until I heard one sing before I drew any hard and fast conclusions. What do you think?

For earlier observations go to . . . March 17-31