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for April 14-23, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

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Slipper Millpond
The female Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond when I passed by this morning. It is clearly settled and sitting on eggs. As can be seen from the photo the nest is right on the edge of the raft which still has its wires which the residents erected as a deterrent.

The Coot family has lost another chick since yesterday and is now down to two. I suspect these two will be picked off by the large gulls over the next few days.
The very attractive pink flowers are now out on the Tree Mallow plants around the pond.

Nightingale at Marlpit Lane
Terry Lifton e-mailed me to say that she and her husband heard what I assume was the first Nightingale song of the year at Marlpit Lane yesterday. Then, Barry Collins e-mailed to say he too had heard and seen a Nightingale while cycling along the lane this morning.

Encouraged by this news, I decided to pay a visit this afternoon at about 3pm. I parked the car by the amenity tip and walked up and down the lane a couple of times, but heard nothing apart from Blackcap and the usual residents. Then, I walked up the footpath and onto the large area of waste ground to the east of the lane. I wandered around for a bit; the paths are usually very muddy, but it was totally dry today. Again, I heard nothing, not even a Whitethroat which used to be so common in this area.
I had almost given up when I stopped to admire the swathes of Ground-ivy which grow so well on this barren site.

It was then I heard it, just one short repeated note, but that was enough. There is no other bird that sounds like a Nightingale. I waited for a few minutes and gradually the bird got into its full singing mode with rapid sequences of chook notes, liquid and vibrating trills and slower piu piu - which always sends shivers down my spine. Just brilliant.
The bird was singing from a Hawthorn bush about 50 yards east of the amenity tip. Look as I did, I just could not see or even get a glimpse of the bird. I think to get a really good view and a photo of a Nightingale you need to go to Pulborough Brooks as Tony Wootton did a few days ago.

Water Vole crisis
I am very grateful to Graham Roberts of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust for taking time to reply to last night's cry for help over the plight of the Brook Meadow Water Voles.
"Thank you for copying me in on your concerns for Water Voles at Brook Meadow. I hope the following comments may provide some guidance built on my experience and possibly re-assure you. Water Vole numbers really do fluctuate like Lemmings and you have good and bad years depending particularly on environmental conditions. Our Water Vole population at one of the Trust's best reserves on the Itchen vary considerably every year. Last year we had really bad flooding at several critical times and numbers still have not fully recovered.
Is there any chance you have a resident or transient Mink in the vicinity? It only takes one to often wipe out all water voles within 5km of their main lying up site. Have you put out a "mink raft" to check if this may be the case.
With the relatively mild winter again it is possible that Brown Rats have moved into the area and will actively drive out water voles or worse case kill their young or transfer fatal diseases to the voles.
Has the bankside vegetation been left undisturbed?
I will be in the office next Tuesday morning if you would like a chat. I am to retire from the Trust next Thursday after 25 very happy years but still will be retaining my e-mail to deal with such issues for the coming year I hope. Well done on all your passion for managing this special area."

Water Vole sightings
It is uncanny. After posting the Water Vole crisis report last night about the acute lack of sightings, today we have had two sightings for the first time this year! Colin Brotherston saw one swimming in the region of the fallen willow tree between the bank fences. Then, Malcolm Phillips watched one for about 15 mins by the deep water sign before it swan up past the sluice gate. These two sightings might well have been of the same vole, but WOW two sightings in one day!! Unbelievable.

For summary of this year's Water Vole sightings go to . . .

While Malcolm was watching the Water Vole would you believe it, but two Pike went past side by side, they looked to be about 18ins. There was a third Pike by the south bridge. Gosh, this Pike news gets worse by the day. Are they now hunting in packs?

Water Voles in Westbourne
On the way home from Marlpit Lane I stopped at Westbourne to have a look at the canalised millstream at Westbourne where Patrick Giles saw two Water Voles a few days ago. This has always been a reliable spot to find Water Voles over the years. The far bank has a lush growth of vegetation, reeds, willowherb, Water-cress, etc, which is ideal Water Vole habitat. I did not see any sign of them while I was there, but it is worth keeping an eye out for them when passing along this popular route. Please let me know if you see one (or two).

Here is the millstream at Westbourne where the Water Voles were seen

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Warblington shore this morning (6:35am to 8:37am - very low tide and cloudy). Not many highlights, but the best bits were as follows:
Ibis Field/Cemetery extension: Pheasant male (see Photo), Goldcrest singing, Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing.

Conigar Point: Blackcap, Chiffchaff Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler heard, 7 Brent Geese, 10 Shelduck, 1 Greenshank, 34 Herring Gulls - non breeders gathering, 1 House Martin heading east, 1 Whimbrel heading east and calling, 4 Swallows.
Pook Lane: 2 Greenshank, 3 female Red-Breasted Merganser, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Shelduck, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Linnet, 5 Med Gulls (numbers now dropped as they settle down to breed).
Langstone Mill Pond: 2 male & 3 female Tufted Duck, 3 singing Reed Warblers heard, Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff heard, 3 Swallows.
Little Egrets - Very quiet and not many birds around. All birds sitting on nests, so ideal time to count before the leaves grow - 35 nests counted, but only about 45 birds present.

Other news
Chris Oakley was fortunate to get this Large Red Damselfly on some pea sticks in his garden where he was working at the time. Chris thinks it may be an immature male as the shoulder stripes are still yellow. This was the first damselfly of the year in the local area.

Eric Eddles had a pair of Lesser Black-backed Gulls for the first time on Baffins Pond today.


Brook Meadow
The tree cutters were on the meadow when I arrived this morning, having parked their lorry on the Seagull Lane patch. They were lopping Crack Willows which Andy Skeet had orange marked as being unsafe. The first to go was the large branch overhanging the north bridge. I got a shot of the men removing a large branch from a tree in the south meadow, just catching it as the branch fell.

I met Malcolm Phillips and Robin Pottinger and we stopped for a chat about butterflies, birds, Water Voles and inevitably those Pike. Malcolm has a couple of contacts for local fishermen who could help to catch these fish which are serious predators of Water Voles. We noticed several small Brown Trout swimming up stream from the sluice gate area, so they have escaped the attentions of the Pike. The first purple flowers of Common Comfrey of the year were out on the river bank.

Malcolm sent a selection of the bird photos he took on the meadow this morning. Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Whitethroat and Wren.

Water Vole crisis
We have a Water Vole crisis on our hands. Despite a good deal of patient riverbank watching from Malcolm Phillips and others, including myself, we have only had 7 reported sightings of Water Voles on the River Ems this year. We are now at the peak of the breeding season and we should be getting lots of sightings. I have been looking through the figures for previous years and this year has the lowest number of sightings since serious Water Vole recording started in year 2008. Here are the totals until the end of April for these years: 25 in 2008, 73 in 2009, 24 in 2010, 54 in 2011, 137 in 2012, 86 in 2013 and 26 in 2014.
Here is Malcolm's most recent photo of a Water Vole taken by the Deep Water sign in Palmer's Road Copse on 17 February 2015 as a reminder as to what they look like!

Water Voles numbers were down last year probably due to the floods in the winter of 2014 when many of their burrows were completely underwater. However, numbers have not recovered and the downward trend has continued which suggests floods were not the only problem. The presence of at least two Pike, one huge one up to 3 foot in length, in the river must be a factor in this decline. Graham Roberts has confirmed that Pike of the size will have a serious impact particularly on young Water Voles. Maybe the Pike was the cause of last year's decline in sightings which has continued into this year.
Whatever is causing the Water Vole decline, it could well be catastrophic. The Water Vole population is relatively small and any change to the environment could easily wipe them out completely as there is little opportunity for any dispersal or new input from elsewhere. I hope I am not painting a too depressing picture, but the warning signs have been there for some while and I think we need to take the problem really seriously.
But what can we do? First thing is to remove the Pike from the river. Brown Rats are another problem, though less easy to solve. A professional Water Vole survey of the river is needed to establish the facts about signs, etc, of the sort carried out by Andy Rothwell in 2007 and 2013. Andy's 2007 report provided some management advice for the Water Vole habitat that have not been properly implemented. Andy's findings in the 2013 survey were encouraging with Water Vole activity prominent throughout the entire of the River Ems on Brook Meadow. However, the survey was before the 2014 floods and probably before the Pike arrived.
See web site for links to Andy's survey reports . . .

Water Voles in Westbourne
The fact that the crisis discussed above might be restricted to Brook Meadow is suggested by the observation by Patrick Giles of two Water Voles playing/mating/fighting in the Ems at Westbourne, in the stretch just south of the church alongside the path by the village hall with the long garden on the western bank. Water Voles have been present in that location for many years and clearly are still there!

Slipper Millpond
A Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest this morning with its mate on the water nearby. So, I think this confirms their nesting and so I can start counting. Incubation is 27-28 days from the laying of the last egg. Assuming the last egg was laid today, my estimate for hatching is about Wednesday 20th May.

The three remaining Coot chicks were being fed by their parents on the pond near the Hermitage Bridge.

A Cetti's Warbler was singing from the reedbeds at the north of Peter Pond.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Langstone Mill Pond for an hour yesterday morning from 10am.
Pond: Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff singing, 64 Little Egrets counted (see photo of one on nest with two eggs).

Young Grey Heron

Off Pook Lane: 27 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Sandwich Tern, Sand Martin flying north.

Broad-bodied Chaser
John Walton was looking for butterflies in the scrub at the back of Hayling Oysterbeds and came across this fabulous dragonfly - a Broad-bodied Chaser. From the colour of the abdomen this would appear to be an immature male. Maybe, this was the first local dragonfly of the year?



Millpond News
The two Great Black-backed Gulls were on Slipper Millpond much as yesterday, on the water but not on the nesting raft. However, later I met up with Glynis Irons and her son Thomas who told me they had seen one of the gulls climb onto the nest on the raft, so maybe things are happening after all! I think the female is on the left in this photo and the slightly larger male on the right.

I could only see 3 Coot chicks being fed by their parents near the reeds on the eastern side of the pond, down from four yesterday. It seems that the large gulls may be picking them off one by one.
The cob Mute Swan of the nesting pair remains on the pond alone. There has been no sign of its missing mate for a few weeks not, presumed dead.
Garlic Mustard is in flower on the east side of the pond. The tiny pink flowers of Common Stork's-bill are now showing on the grass verge at the junction of Lumley Road with the main A259. Spotted Medick was also out.

Brook Meadow
Greater Pond Sedge is now in full flower on the eastern side of the Lumley area near the Lumley Stream, with the male spikelets above and the female spikelets below. As I mentioned before, the plant appears to be encroaching into the main Lumley area which is a little concerning. That is a 7-spot Ladybird on the flower.

Distant Sedge is now out on the Lumley area, but I can still not find any Divided Sedge. Where has it gone? Silverweed leaves are showing well across the area. Cow Parsley is just starting to emerge along the edge of the main river path and soon should be a glorious sight.
I spotted a Grey Heron in the river near the S-bend and managed to get a quick shot of it before it saw me and flew off. Grey Heron is a fairly regular bird in the river on the meadow, though easily disturbed.

Thomas Irons and his mother Glynis took a walk through Brook Meadow and spotted a red-tailed Bumblebee feeding on a Dandelion flower. The photo is not too clear, but from the overall dark body my guess is Bombus lapidarius. This is one of the most common Bumblebees, being widespread across most of England and Wales.

Malcolm Phillips has been watching two large Pike from the south bridge today. He says trying to judge the size is not easy but he put a 2ft stick in the water and got a photo as it passed the smaller Pike; the large Pike was about a foot longer than the stick. Here is Malcolm's photo of the smaller Pike with part of the stick.

Francis Kinsella took advantage of the glorious weather yesterday to have a look for butterflies on Brook Meadow and found a good number including Peacocks, Comma, Small Tortoiseshells and lots of Speckled Woods. Francis also had Orange Tip, Holly Blue and Green Veined White which have been the latest to appear. Here is a selection of his photos.

Comma - Speckled Wood - Holly Blue - Orange Tip

Bridge Road Wayside
I did a litter pick on the wayside this afternoon. The litter was abundant, including the usual empty bottles of Vodka.
On a brighter note Barren Brome grass is now flowering very well (and a bit earlier than usual) so I picked a few stems for the wildlife display on my desk in the window. Its drooping spikelets create a very attractive display both for myself and, hopefully, for people passing by.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley took a walk over to the pond on the Hampshire Farm open space and was pleasantly surprised. He found the water was crystal clear and there was a lot of surface insect movement. Chris was hoping to see an early damselfly, but no luck. The pair of Mallard are still there but no sign of a nest yet. The water level is quite low and there is a heavy cover of Duckweed and blanket algae which Chris says should not be touched as it is probably full of dragonfly larvae. The Stream Water-crowfoot has formed several large patches and their trailing white and yellow flowers are looking splendid.

Around the rim, clusters of the Celery-leaved Buttercup are beginning to flower as well as luxuriant patches of Trailing Buttercup actually growing in the water that could easily be mistaken for Kingcups. Apart from the regular spring flowers around the banks Chris spotted some Coltsfoot, now coming to the end of its flowering time but still a pleasure to see. Chris will continue with visits to the pond and has updated his website accordingly. See . . .
Rachel Moroney of the BTV is hoping to form a Friends of Hampshire Farm group, which is a very good move. Let's hope lots of people get involved so we can have another thriving conservation group in Emsworth.

Other bird news
Paul Cooper reported that he had just seen the first House Martins of the year, flying over Lynch Down, Funtington. He hopes there will be more and they nest successfully again.

Tony and Hilary Wootton went round Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve today and got a cracking photo of one of their Nightingales. I wonder if they have arrived yet at Marlpit Lane?

The Island Bee-eaters
A story has been dominating Hoslist regarding the Bee-eaters that bred on the Isle of Wight this summer.

The rumour was that they could have been escapees from a collection and not wild birds. My son who lives and works on the island asked the RSPB warden who told him it was nonsense for the following reasons:
- no-one reported any escaped bee-eaters;
- their arrival occurred at the same time that migrants usually arrive;
- their plumage showed no sign of having been caged (captive birds usually show wear and tear);
- their movement in flight was of an agility that would not be expected of a bird that had been caged;
- they departed at the same time as migrants usually go. Had they been escapees they probably would not have gone.
These guys sat and watched the birds for the best part of the summer. I think that if there was a hint that they were escapees they would have picked up on it. I think that looks pretty conclusive.

Butterflies of 2015
Ralph Hollins summarises the dates on which the first butterflies appeared in 2015:
March - first sightings of Small Tortoiseshell on 1st; Small White 3rd; Brimstone 5th; Comma 7th; Peacock 8th; Speckled Wood 10th and both Green Veined White and Small Copper 18th. Red Admiral was seen even earlier, in three counties on January 1st.
April - first sightings of Large Tortoiseshell on 5th; Orange Tip, Painted Lady and Holly Blue on 6th; Dingy Skipper and Scarce Tortoiseshell on 7th; Clouded Yellow and Wall Brown on 8th; Grizzled Skipper on 9th; Duke of Burgundy on 14th and Green Hairstreak on 15th.
For more about the Large and Scarce Tortoiseshell sightings go to the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website and in particular look at the entry for Wednesday 8 April where Neil Hulme has posted annotated photos with detailed guidance for identifying these rare species.

MONDAY APRIL 20 - 2015

Millpond News
The cob swan was on the reed nest on the town millpond when I passed by this morning. The pen was having a break further up on the pond.
Not much else apart from gulls, mostly Black-headed Gulls, though there were a couple of Herring Gulls and one Lesser Black-backed Gull. This bird is easily distinguished from the Great Black-backed Gull not only by its smaller size, but by its yellow legs. The Great Black-backed Gull has pink legs.

I noticed a good growth of Sticky Mouse-ear on the edge of the millpond along Bridgefoot Path. This distinctive plant was also present at the base of the Hermitage Bridge. It is easily distinguished from Common Mouse-ear from its tight cluster of barely open flowers and its generally sticky appearance.

Over on Slipper Millpond I was surprised to find the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the water and not on the raft where I saw them on the nest just two days ago on April 18. In the 30 minutes or so I was there the two gulls swam around in the general vicinity of the raft, but never once went onto it. This is unusual behaviour and suggests no eggs have yet been laid.

The lone cob Mute Swan was still present on the pond.
I could see four Coot chicks being fed by the two parents near the reeds at the east side of the pond, one less chick than on my last visit a couple of days ago. I expect more to disappear with the big gulls on the pond.

Orpine in Lyels Wood
I am grateful to Ralph Hollins and Martin Hampton for pointing out that the Ice Plant that I found in Lyels Wood yesterday could well be the relatively rare wild plant called Orpine (Sedum telephium). Ralph says the photo shows the leaves are alternate which indicates the genuine wild plant.

Ralph provided the following link for more photos of Orpine . . . I must go to Lyels Wood in July to see them in flower.

This news sent me to my records again. Previously I had searched for Ice Plant and came up with nothing. But searching for Orpine produced two previous encounters with this plant that I had only vague memories of.
On Saturday May 31, 2003 I was on a walk through Lyels Wood with the Havant Wildlife Group when we discovered what is possibly the same Orpine plant. The walk was led by Gwynne Johnson and I have a note to say that Nigel used his new GPS device to give the following grid ref SU 7470 1023 for the plant. That looks spot on for the plant I found yesterday.
The Sussex Plant Atlas for 1966-78 records Orpine as being present in SU71K which is the location for Lyels Wood. So, it looks as if the plant has been there for many years.

The New Atlas describes Orpine as . . . "A perennial herb, found on wood-borders, hedge banks, roadsides, rocky banks and in limestone pavement, often in very small but very persistent colonies. It also occurs as an uncommon ancient woodland plant, but sometimes fails to flower in this habitat. Athough native in some habitats, many colonies have become naturalised near houses as this species is grown in gardens, and the native range is now hopelessly obscured by such escapes; all British records are mapped as if they are native. Eurasian Temperate element; widely naturalised outside its native range."

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips got some nice birds at the top of Peter Pond today. They included a Whitethroat and male and female Blackcaps.

The Ladybird looks suspiciously like a Harlequin with those prominent white 'cheeks'.

Other news
Christopher Evans was on Brook Meadow today and spotted this domestic cat partly hidden in the bushes near the river. That is not good news. Our dwindling population of Water Voles is already under serious threat of extinction from a huge Pike in the river. Now it also has to contend with another equally fierce predator.

Christopher also captured this image of a flock of Carrion Crows roosting in trees near Warblington Farm. Carrion Crows traditionally roost in large flocks sometimes several hundred strong.

Eric Eddles discovered a pair of Gadwall on Baffins Pond today, a first for him and probably for the pond also?

SUNDAY APRIL 19 - 2015

Lyels Wood
This morning Jean and I had a stroll through Lyels Wood conservation area in Stansted Forest. Lyels Wood is located to the south of the main avenue about 500 yards west of the car park. Due to its wildlife importance, access to Lyels Wood is restricted to people with an interest in wildlife study. We both have permission from Michael Prior the Head Forester to walk through the site.
Bluebells were emerging, though not yet on the scale or density as those in Ashling Wood. In addition we enjoyed seeing excellent displays of wild Primroses along the paths.

Also flowering well were Wood Anemones, Lesser Celandines and Common Dog-violets. Dog-violets, in particular, seem to be particularly abundant everywhere this year.
We also noted small quantities of Barren Strawberry, Wavy Bitter-cress and Bugle in flower. Ralph Hollins also noted Bugle in flower in Havant.

Wood Spurge and Yellow Archangel were in bud and not far from flowering. In one area we found a nice patch of Sweet Vernal Grass (my first of the year) and Field Wood-rush.
We also came across what we both recognised as an Ice Plant. This is a common garden plant, but how did it get into a conservation area? I have a recollection of having seen this Ice Plant in Lyels Wood before, but cannot find any record of it.

Butterflies seen included Peacock and Orange Tip, the latter feeding on Wood Anemones and Common Dog-violets. The following photos show a female Orange Tip feeding in Lyels Wood.
On the left the insect is feeding on Wood Anemone and showing its white upper wings with grey tips.
On the right the same butterfly is feeding on Common Dog-violet and showing its mottled green underwings.

What I assume is Keel-fruited Cornsalad (V. carinata) is flowering around the wall of my son's house in Church Path, Emsworth. This is a fairly common plant around the town where it flourishes on the edge of pavements. Apparently, this is the default Cornsalad species in Hampshire and not Common Cornsalad (V. locusta). Keel-fruited Cornsalad gets its name from its deeply grooved and keeled fruits.

Swarm of flies
Ralph Hollins thinks the swarm of flies I found near the Thorney Little Deeps on Apr 14 could well be Chironomus plumosus or the Buzzer Midge. See page 194 of the Chinery Collins Guide and

Here is one resting on a Gorse flower that I took at the time

This is the largest non-biting midge. It has a range of colour forms from green, ginger, brown and black. The male has a pair of prominent plumes. There is a dark band at the end of each abdominal segment. Often around water during periods of egg laying by the females and at the hatching of adults. Usually seen during spring and summer when males create mating swarms which people can find quite a nuisance even though adults do not bite or feed. The larvae of chironomid midges are called 'bloodworms' and they live at the bottom of lakes and rivers. The pupa floats to the surface where the adult then hatches out. They are very vulnerable to predation at this stage and rising trout and other fish are often feeding on this species. Very common species in Britain.

Pond Skaters
I am not sure why I called the water insects in the Westbrook Stream Whirly-gig beetles, but as Ralph Hollins kindly pointed out they were, of course, Pond Skaters.

I have seen them there in previous years. Another senior moment, I am afraid. Ralph added that there are around 350 species in the Gerridae family to which the Pond Skater belongs and they seem to have many English names. He has always called them Pond Skaters, so I shall continue to do that in future!
Ralph recommends . . .

Nore Barn
Charlie Annalls was at Nore Barn yesterday and found the regular colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL still present in the stream. Its usual feeding companion, the Spotted Redshank, has long since left for its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia. Here is the Greenshank stretching its wings.

Charlie also commented on "an amazing number of Greenfinch - almost everywhere I looked but they were very yellow in the bright sunshine, more like canaries!" The very yellow ones will be males, the colours of which become much much brighter in the spring through feather wear.

Other news
Malcolm Phillips spotted this Moorhen sitting on her nest near the S-bend in the river on Brook Meadow today.

Tony Wootton captured this nice image of a male Blackbird feeding one of its youngsters.

The Irons family had a good time at Baffins Pond this morning. Young Thomas managed to get a shot of a cob swan chasing off an intruding swan.


Ashling Wood
Jean and I headed to Ashling Wood to see how the Bluebells were getting on. Well, they were magnificent, a wonderful sight. Well worth visiting the site.

The woods provided a great mixture of colours with the Bluebells combining with the white flowers of Wood Anemone, the yellows of Lesser Celandine and the violets of Common Dog-violet. I could not capture it in a photo, so here is a Common Dog-violet.

Walking through the woods towards to the lane to West Stoke we came across a magnificent display of Dandelions in a large field with the Old Rectory house in the distance. Probably as spectacular as the Bluebells.

We walked back to the car along the lane towards West Stoke. There we found a Cherry Laurel in full flower and Greater Stitchwort in the hedgerows.

We returned to Emsworth via West Ashling pond where we found one Black Swan. There are usually several on the pond. I wonder if they will nest there this year?

We also called in at Marlpit Lane, but there was no sound of any Nightingales. Probably not yet arrived, though they are singing at Pulborough Brooks.

Slipper Millpond
Back in Emsworth, we stopped at Slipper Millpond where the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were back on the centre raft with the female sitting on a nest and the male standing guard. So, they are nesting here after all. I really thought they might have left it too late, but no. This will be their 4th year running on the raft.
Is that a third Great Black-backed Gull on the water in the background? That is interesting! Could it be one of the young birds from earlier years, although the plumage looks well developed. I suppose it could be a Lesser Black-backed Gull.

Mystery fly
The mystery of the mystery fly that I found feeding on Cuckooflowers on April 16 deepens. Tony Davis wrote to say it is a hoverfly (as I first thought) but is not Syrphus ribesii as Ralph Hollins considered it might be in yesterday's blog. Rather it is in the genus Sphaerophoria but is a female and females in this genus cannot be identified to species. So, maybe that is as far as we shall be able to go with this one.

I gather from the internet that hoverflies in the genus Sphaerophoria are small to medium size flies with bright yellow markings on head, thorax and abdomen. There are some entirely black species also. Also their body is longer than wings. There are 14 species and their larvae are predators of aphids.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow this morning. He got two photos of fish near the sluice gate. He is sure this one is a Pike.

But he is not sure of the other one which has black spots on its back. Could it be a young Pike? It looks the same general shape as a Pike.

Malcolm also sent me various butterfly photos. This one caught my eye as it could have been the same insect that he photographed yesterday. Then he got the distinctive underwings of a Green-veined White, today he got the less distinctive upperwings of a Green-veined White - probably a male?

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along the Warblington shore (6:38am to 9am - low tide). Very few migrants. Peter says - Looking at my report for the last two years, the area does not really get many migrants during the spring and today was a typical day. Highlights today:
Warblington cemetery: Briefly singing Whitethroat along the southern edge, a migrant moving through.
Ibis Field: male Pheasant, Blackcap 2 singing and holding territory, Chiffchaff 2 singing and holding territory, 2 Moorhen, Cetti's Warbler singing (a different bird from the one at the mini reed bed - so four in the area (Langstone Mill Pond, Brook Meadow, Conigar Point and Ibis Field).
Conigar Point: Reed Warbler and Cetti's Warbler singing from mini reed bed, 3 Shelduck, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 4 Med Gull west,
Pook Lane: 10 Shelduck, 2 Greenshank (RG//-+YY//-), 73 Black-tailed Godwit (3/4 in summer plumage), 14 Bar-tailed Godwit (all still in winter plumage), 2 Whimbrel (see photo), 9 Med Gulls off the Castle Farm fields (4 pairs & a first summer), 2 Swallow collecting mud from the shore to build nests in nearby farm buildings - no others seen.

Horse Paddock: 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Green Woodpecker, 2 Moorhen,
Langstone Mill Pond: Reed Warbler & Cetti's Warbler singing, Reed Bunting male, Chiffchaff singing (No Willow Warblers - all moved through).
The Seventh nest was an old Little Egrets nest and now occupied by Little Egrets.
Middle Grey Heron nest with tiny young - movement seen, but not numbers
Holm Oak - Viewed from the gate by the horse paddock - nice clear view now the scrub has gone!! There were four juveniles on the top nest and two on a NEST behind the top nest (This nest is not visible from the usual viewing point. Could this be where the odd youngster appeared from?) So there could have been a seventh hidden nest at the back of the Holm Oak? I counted 23 Little Egrets sitting on nests.

Chris Cope reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group:
For the report go to . . .
Havant Wildlife Group - see link to 2015 reports.

FRIDAY APRIL 17 - 2015

Mystery fly
Ralph Hollins thinks the small fly in last night's blog feeding on Cuckooflowers (April 15) which I tentatively identified as Atherix ibis is more likely to be the Hoverfly Syrphus ribesii For more information on this hoverfly go to . . .

Ralph is not entirely confident with this id but he notes the semi-circular yellow pad at the rear of the thorax and the central break in the frontmost yellow cross band. While the Nature Spot photos do have the longitudinal stripes on the thorax Ralph says he would always go for a common species rather than a rarity. Very sensible advice. Thanks Ralph.

North Thorney
Tony Wootton got out of bed early this morning to get down to North Thorney by 7am and it paid off handsomely with some cracking photos. As he walked along the old NRA track a Cuckoo flew in from the east, probably the same one that I heard calling constantly a couple of days ago. Tony managed to get a shot of it perched in a tree before it flew away.

Tony also saw and got a photo of one of the several Cetti's Warblers that singing from the bushes along this track. That bird is a great challenge to any photographer.

Before he left the area Tony got photos of a couple of much easier subjects perched on the overhead cables, namely the pair of Swallows that I hope will be nesting as usual in the old stables to the north of the track, though I have not been along there to see whether it is still suitable for them.

Finally, Tony snapped this rather nice male Linnet just getting into its summer plumage.

Barry Collins news
Barry Collins reports on the SOS sightings list: "A Marsh Harrier flew N low over the Great Deep on the west side at 11.10 this morning and disturbed 16 Greenshank as it did so. On the east side of the Great Deep the 4 immature Spoonbills were roosting throughout the high tide period."
On April 15th Barry reported 3 Cuckoos at various sites around the Island, plus 4 Sedge Warblers, Reed Warbler, 3 Whitethroats, 10 Cetti's Warblers, 5 Wheatears and a flock of 250 Linnets.

Slipper Millpond
From Thorney Tony Wootton made his way to Slipper Millpond where he found the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls on the water.

One of them went onto the raft while he was there and looked threateningly at a Black-headed Gull. If I were that gull I would get away swiftly while the going was good. So maybe the Great Black-backed Gulls have not given up on nesting here again this year?

Tony could only find 4 Coot chicks on the pond by the north raft where there had been 5/6 previously. It seems highly likely that the missing two chicks have been taken by the gulls and one can't hold out much hope the others.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow as usual today where he got this photo of a Green-veined White butterfly. This butterfly which is easily identified by its heavily veined underwings, is generally not as common as the cabbage whites (Large and Small White), but unlike them it has a rather weak fluttering flight and is often seen low down among vegetation. It also does does not lay its eggs on cabbages, but prefers crucifers such as Garlic Mustard.

Migrants arrive in force
The British Trust for Ornithology report that the light winds and warm temperatures during the last week provided the perfect conditions for migrant birds held up in southern Europe to continue their journeys north. Swallows, Willow Warblers and Ring Ouzels arrived in force. Cuckoos were heard from at least sixteen different counties, the most northerly near Manchester. The BTO satellite-tagged Cuckoos are also making their way north with four having completed their Sahara crossing.
See . . .


Bridge Road Wayside
Ivy-leaved Toadflax is in flower on the wall of the stream. Two good patches of Slender Speedwell with the rounded leaves are out on the grass verge. White Comfrey is flowering again on the east bank of the stream behind the signcase. Spanish Bluebell is flowering on the north shrubbery. Two new grasses were Meadow Foxtail and Barren Brome.

I found a clump of Dog-violets flowering in the far eastern corner. I am inclined to go for Early Dog-violet rather than Common Dog-violet due to the following (based on Rose New Ed p. 186): (1) spur straight, pointed, unnotched and violet; (2) purple veins on lower petal slightly branched.

I did a recount of the Cuckooflowers on the wayside which came to 338. This is a big increase on the 120 counted just three days ago on April 13. It will be interesting to see the final total.
I spotted a small fly feeding on one of the Cuckooflowers. It looked at first like a hoverfly but not one I recognised. It has a dark abdomen with broad pale stripes across and a dark thorax with pale stripes lengthwise. Looking through Chinery's Collins Guide to Insects my tentative guess is Atherix ibis. This could be a female with the grey stripes on the thorax.

Mystery water insects
Several beetles were darting around on the slow moving Westbrook Stream below the small bridge at Victoria Road when I passed by this morning. I have seen them here in previous years and have always called them Whirly-gig Beetles. However, I took some photos of them today which did not look like that species. The insects in the stream had long bodies and legs, unlike the Whirligig Beetles which have oval shaped bodies and shortish legs. Any ideas about what they are please?

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular conservation work session attended by 9 volunteers. The main job was to continue clearing of the brambles around the causeway and those climbing up the Alder Buckthorn trees. We were very aware of the need to avoid any disturbance to wildlife at this sensitive time of the year.

Wildlife observations
A 7-spot Ladybird was on the Seagull Lane patch. Interestingly, all the Ladybirds I have seen so far this year have been natives. I have yet to see a Harlequin Ladybird. Maybe they have died out?

I spotted some Bittercress growing on the wet mud of the river bank near the sluice gate which had the the wavy stem typical of Wavy Bitter-cress. It was also in the right wet habitat for this plant.

I checked the flowers with the microscope at home and they had the required 6 stamens which confirmed it as Wavy Bitter-cress. The very similar Hairy Bittercress has only 4 stamens.

The Lesser Pond Sedge is now flowering well with its dark brown spikelets on the banks of the River Ems. I found the first small clump of Distant Sedge on the Lumley area, but still no sign at all of Divided Sedge. A Cetti's Warbler was singing strongly from the direction of Peter Pond.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips was back on Brook Meadow this morning after a period of illness. He got several excellent sightings, including a Water Vole just north of the sluice gate under the tree which is across the river. No photo, but a very welcome record. The absence of sightings at what is usually a peak time of the year has been quite worrying. This was out first sighting since 28 March and only the 7th of the year.

Another excellent sighting was the first Whitethroat of the year on Brook Meadow - in much the same place as last year near the north bridge.

North of the bridge Malcolm got this photo of a female Blackcap - he says the male was also there, so perhaps a breeding pair. These will be migrants and not wintering birds.

Malcolm also got this image of the underwings of an Orange Tip butterfly; both male and female have these mottled underwings, so it could be either.

Finally, Malcolm got this 'Nursery-web spider', of which we shall be seeing a lot more on the meadow.

Scarce Tortoiseshell
Jan-Paul Charteris describes the discovery of this very rare butterfly at the Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve on April 7th. See the following link . . .

This is what it looks like.


Marlpit Lane
09:45 - 10.15 - It was a fine sunny morning when I parked the car in the lay-by opposite the amenity tip in Marlpit Lane ever hopeful, as I always am at this time of the year, of hearing my first Nightingale. I was much encouraged by the report on the SOS sightings web site yesterday of 7 Nightingales having been heard singing at Pulborough Brooks. I walked slowly up and down the lane listening for any bird song, but the only migrants I heard were Chiffchaff, Blackcap and a Willow Warbler, but no Nightingale. A Song Thrush gave its poor imitation of a Nightingale.
I had a walk up the public footpath to the east where Nightingales used to be heard in the old days, but there was no sound of any today. There has been further clearance of the woodland area to the north of the site which does not auger well for the Nightingales.

North Thorney
10:30 - 11:15 - I parked the car at the junction of Thorney Road and Thornham Lane and the first thing I heard when I got out of the car was the calls of a Cuckoo coming from the west end of the old ERA track. In fact, this Cuckoo was calling the whole time during my walk. This was a good start and things got better.

Two Swallows were flying quite low over the track in front of me; I assume they will be nesting in the stables to the north as usual. 12 Canada Geese flew over, honking noisily, heading for Emsworth Harbour. Cetti's Warblers were singing along the track as usual.

I turned down the track leading to the Little Deeps and had hardly gone any distance when I heard the distinctive rhythmic song of a Reed Warbler. I saw it perched on some brambles which is most un-Reed Warbler-like. I reckon this could be the same bird that Tony Wootton got a picture of yesterday, also on brambles.

About 20 yards further south I heard the equally distinctive song of a Sedge Warbler; this is similar to a Reed Warbler, but more hurried and varied with a mix of musical phrases and harsh chattering and random squeaky whistles. The song of the Reed Warbler in contrast is a more rhythmic and monotonous churr, churr, churr.
It was quite a magical experience standing there looking out over the extensive reedbeds, with Cuckoo to the left of me, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler in front and a Cetti's Warbler to the right. All I needed now was a Whitethroat, or a Turtle Dove, but neither turned up.
Walking back along the old ERA track I watched two Lapwings displaying over the grassland; maybe they will be nesting somewhere nearby.

Langstone Mill Pond
11:30 - 12:15 - I decided to end my little tour with a visit to this millpond, which the regular and very detailed reports from Peter Milinets-Raby has put firmly on the ornithological map. The Royal Oak pub is closed for refurbishment - due to open on May 1st so a worker told me. The big attraction at the moment is certainly the large number of Little Egrets in the trees behind the pond. This photo only shows a few of them. I actually counted 46 Egrets in the trees, though there could well have been more. Peter Milinets-Raby had an astonishing 72 early this morning - see Peter's report below.

I spoke to a number of people passing by who were curious as to what these big white birds were doing in the trees. I explained that this was a favoured nesting site for them.

I am not sure if this bird is on a nest, probably not.

There was a good deal of displaying going on during which the Egrets uttered a variety of croaks and some curious gargling noises which I do not recall having heard before. Here is link to a YouTube video illustrating these noises:

I made the acquaintance of Peter's 'friend' the cob Mute Swan, who immediately attacked my shoe when I got a bit too close to the edge of the pond, actually undoing a shoe lace in the process!

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby said the weather early this morning was too perfect for his little walk along the Warblington shore (6:35am to 8:40am - tide pushing in sloooowly!). Highlights were as follows:
2 male & a female Mallard on castle tower.
Ibis Field: 7 Med Gulls, 5 Ad summer with 2 1st summers, 1 Little Egret, 3 Moorhen, Chiffchaff singing. Skylark singing from big field, Male Pheasant.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 2+ Chiffchaff, Blackcap singing, Cetti's Warbler singing and seen.
Conigar Point: A pair of Red Breasted Mergansers, 8 Shelduck, 11 Black-tailed Godwits (all in summer plumage), 17 Bar-tailed Godwits (all in winter), 5 Whimbrel heading north and inland.
Off Pook Lane: 8 Shelduck, 2 Teal, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Sandwich Tern.
Horse paddock: (Not flooded and now not any good for migrants or BIRDS in general AS all the hedges and bramble bushes have been ripped out and left in the middle to be burnt - Shocking, especially when you consider I viewed a Redstart, Robin, Song Thrush, Dunnock, Wren and Blackbird all in theses hedges and bramble bushes just two days ago. And, apart from the Redstart, all of them were probably nesting in the hedge!!!!!! - see photo - nice view of Wade Court now - ironic!):

9 Moorhen, Chiffchaff singing, 1 Swallow:
Langstone Mill Pond: 6 juvenile Grey Herons in the top of the Holm Oak, 72 Little Egrets counted (a huge increase on the other day), Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing, Cetti's Warbler singing, A pair of Reed Bunting (see photo).


North Thorney
I cycled/walked down to Thorney for another listen for migrants. But no change from yesterday. No sign of Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler or Whitethroat. I counted 5 Cetti's Warblers singing along the old ERA track. There was a lovely Small Tortoiseshell that I could not resist.

Swarms of flies
While walking down the track to the Little Deeps I was beseiged by swarms of flies. They did not bite even though they were all around me.

I am not sure what they were, but they had long abdomens, feathery antennae and held their wings over their backs at rest.

Here is one that came to rest on a Gorse flower.

My tentative guess is that they were what is called 'phantom midges', closely related to mosquitoes, but non-biting. The larva is called a glassworm and lives in lakes, hence the convenient proximity of the Little Deeps. From Chinery (p.194) my best guess is Chaoborus crystallinus, but I shall be happy to be corrected.

Tony Wootton was also on Thorney this afternoon and got a photo of what I am pretty sure is a Reed Warbler. Nice one, Tony. First of the year here, I reckon, though Peter Milinets-Raby did have one at Warblington yesterday.

Slipper Millpond
On the way to Thorney I noticed that the Coot family on the north raft on Slipper Millpond had 5 chicks not 4 that I previously thought. There are no Great Black-backed Gull predators this year, though they must beware of the Herring Gulls.

There is also a Coot nesting in the nest box on the south raft. The lone cob swan was on the pond.

Fishbourne Meadows
I paid a flying visit to Fishbourne Meadows on the way home from a trip to Chichester to check on the Divided Sedge of which there is no sign on Brook Meadow. I could not find any there either, so it is probably late generally. That is a relief. I did find some Brown Sedge and Water Horsetail the latter in abundance. I wish we had some of this attractive plant on Brook Meadow. Brown Sedge is on the left and Water Horsetail on the right.

I noted that the river had been fenced since I was last here, presumably to keep out dogs and protect the Water Voles. Good policy. We have used dead wood fencing on Brook Meadow.

For earlier observations go to . . April 1-13