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

for April 26-30, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

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Brook Meadow
Jean and I had a gentle stroll down to Slipper Millpond this morning going via Brook Meadow. We checked on the Jubilee Oak saplings that both had a hand in planting on the Seagull Lane patch in 2012. They were all looking good and sprouting new leaves. I found the first Ground-ivy and Barren Brome of the year on the meadow.
We walked along the north path where Cow Parsley is starting to flower but is still way short of its usual fine display.

Wood Avens is flowering on the north path - another first of the year for the meadow. Lords and Ladies is open showing the inner spadix.

Coming down onto the north meadow we found an excellent growth of Meadow Foxtail plus the first flowering of Cocksfoot grass. Creeping Buttercups are now in flower on the north meadow. Creeping Buttercups have furrowed stalks which distinguishes them from Meadow Buttercups which have unfurrowed stalks.

Meadow Buttercups were also in flower on the main orchid area; they tend to be taller than the Creeping species.
The Rowan trees in the plantation on the east side of the north meadow are looking fine with fresh leaves and bunches of tightly shut flower buds. The north meadow is pockmarked with large Tall Fescue grass tufts, some of which are showing the first spikelets.

Down to the Lumley area where the tiny spikelets of Divided Sedge are at last starting to show. They are a good 3 weeks later than last year. I also found a few spikes of False Fox Sedge which is the third main sedge on the Lumley area. False Fox Sedge has the larger, chunkier, spikelets of the two, while Divided Sedge has a long bract subtending the spikelets.

Coming back through the south meadow we heard a Cetti's Warbler singing its song from the bushes.
The leaves of Butterbur are covering the area of grassland immediately below the main seat, completely burying the flower spikes that have been so prominent.

Finally, before leaving Brook Meadow we noted the Common Polypody growing on the north side of the north bridge.

While on Brook Meadow, we met up with Barry Collins who was cycling back home after a visit to Pilsey Sands on the southern tip of Thorney Island. He had seen good numbers of waders, passing through on their way north, including 3000+ Dunlin and 100 Sanderling. Barry did not see anything of the Spoonbills that have been in the area for the past few months.

Hermitage Millponds
Walking along the path to the west of Peter Pond, we stopped to admire the full blossom on the apple tree on the Lillywhite's patch to the south of the Gooseberry Cottage garden. This tree was severely pruned a few years ago, which seems to have given it a new lease of life.

A Reed Warbler was chuntering in the reeds in the south west corner of the pond. I heard a Reed Warbler in the northern reedbeds on April 27th and this could be the same bird, or maybe we have two on the site.

Over on Slipper Millpond a single Coot was swimming near the bridge. No chicks were visible, so, as expected, all six have disappeared in the past week, probably taken by the Great Black-backed Gulls. I suspect the other Coot is in the nest box on the north raft trying for a second brood. The Great Black-backed Gull was on the nest on the centre raft, standing up and adjusting the eggs while we were present.

Hawthorn (May) blossom is now out on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage; a day before the start of May, though it is often much earlier than this. Japanese Knotweed is also coming up near the wall.

Mystery green beetle
Chris Oakley now thinks the mystery green beetle he found on the Hampshire Farm site on April 28 was in fact a Nettle Weevil (Phyllobius pomaceus) which is described as being just 9mm long which fits Chris's beetle. I am grateful to Ms Bempt for pointing out that the carabids have a significantly different shape to the elytra and pronotum and head shape to the weevils. Here is Chris's original photo along with another one of a Nettle Weevil that Chris got off the internet.

Other news
Malcolm Phillips got a couple of interesting sightings on Brook Meadow today. Firstly he saw two Green-veined Whites mating.

Malcolm also spotted this very common hoverfly which is easily identified by the pale stripes on its thorax. It is sometimes call a Sun Fly from its habit of basking in the sun on waterside vegetation. Its scientific name is Helophilus pendulus.

Patrick Giles got a good sighting of the Water Voles that live on the banks of the canalised millstream at Westbourne. He saw two 'playing', or so it seemed, in the rushes about 100 yards south of the little bridge, where the cut grass of the garden on the west side ends.

Jill Stanley was pleased to find a good showing of Green-winged Orchids on the west Hayling beach by the golf course. She sent a photo of one of them. This is a well known local spot for Green-winged Orchids and counts often are in the thousands.


Pike in the Ems
Jennifer Rye (Chair of Brook Meadow Conservation Group) provided the following up date on the situation regarding the Pike in the River Ems on Brook Meadow which are a potential danger to the Water Vole population.

Photo by Malcolm Phillips - 18 April 2015

"With regret, the committee of the Brook Meadow Conservation group has decided, after careful consideration and consultation with relevant authorities, that we cannot authorise any fishermen to remove the large Pike which may be predating on young Water Voles. The reasons are twofold: firstly, it is the close season for all river fishing between mid March and mid June, and no exceptions can be made, even for nature reserves such as ours. Secondly, Pike, or other fish, over 65cms long, if they are caught, must be released back into the water. So, we've no alternative but to accept the legal situation, however much we may regret the circumstances.
It is to be hoped that as the season progresses, the water level in the river will drop, and become too shallow to support such large fish; we hope that this will happen soon enough for Water Vole numbers to build up again as the summer progresses. We will continue to monitor the situation closely, and take further advice from a national Water Vole expert if necessary."

Mystery green beetle
Ralph Hollins thinks Chris Oakley's green beetle in yesterday's blog is a species in the genus Carabus probably C. auratus.

Ralph added: "In Michael Chinery's Field Guide to Insects of Britain he says of this family of Ground Beetles (the Carabidae) that it has 350 species in Britain and that most are fairly common but not often seen as they are nocturnal, hiding during the day and hunting for worms, slugs and insects to eat during the night. The elytra are fused together and so these beetles cannot fly but each of the two elytra characteristically has nine longitudinal ridges separated by furrows. I think you would have to be a Beetle specialist to name the species. "


Chichester Peregrines
I had a look at the Peregrines nest site at Chichester Cathedral this morning. The RSPB have their usual Peregrine watching post with tent, telescopes and TV monitor showing a Peregrine sitting on a nest.

One of the volunteers informed me that the male was currently sitting on the nest, though the female was on the nest this morning. The two birds take it in turns to brood the eggs. The female was currently off hunting. In previous years the male brought food to the female on the nest, but this year the female hunts her own food. Here is a shot I got of the Peregrine in the TV monitor in the RSPB tent.

There are four eggs in the nest which are due to hatch on May 5th. Last year four eggs were laid, but only two hatched. The Cathedral was struck by lightening last November and the old nest box was destroyed. So, this year a completely new nest box has been constructed by Graham Roberts with logos on the front indicating who has contributed towards the project.
To watch the Peregrine nesting live go to . . .

This year will be the 15th year that Peregrines have returned to nest at the Cathedral. In this time 48 chicks have been raised all of which have been colour-ringed by Graham Roberts the West Sussex County Council Ecologist. The fortunes of a number of these colour-ringed offspring have been followed. Most have dispersed within south-east England where some are now breeding. For more details go to . . .

Waysides News
I had a quick look at the Bridge Road Wayside where the Cuckooflowers are still looking good. There are still just two grasses flowering at present on the wayside, Meadow Foxtail and Barren Brome.
I was pleased to see my first Common Sorrel of the year with red flower buds and its distinctive arrow-shaped leaves with the basal lobes pointing backwards. This is the first of the dock family to show itself.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow this morning and got a photo of a very pale and grey looking Chiffchaff which he thought might be a Siberian Chiffchaff by the old gasholder where it was seen quite a lot before. I am not sure about this, as it would probably have left for Siberia by now! But if only it would sing!

Malcolm also got Orange Tip and a Dock Leaf Bug. From Brook Meadow he went down to Thorney and saw a Skylark on the field, a Great Crested Grebe on the water and what I think is a Whimbrel in flight - ie relatively short bill and slight head markings. This is a bird that will be on passage to its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia.

Malcolm also came across some caterpillars on a mass of webs which look like the dreaded Brown-tail moths to me, so it is a good job Malcolm did not touch them as their hairs are very irritating.

Mystery beetle
Chris Oakley came across this almost fluorescent green beetle today and wonders what it is. I don't know. Does anyone out there know?

Egyptian Geese correction
Tony Wootton e-mailed to say the photo of the Egyptian Goose family with the Australian Shelduck on the blog yesterday was not his, but came from a friend and was taken at Petworth not Petersfield.

MONDAY APRIL 27 - 2015

Millpond News
The swans nesting on the town millpond near the bridge were preparing to swap over nesting duties as I passed by at about 11am this morning.

The pen swan was doing a bit of spring cleaning before the cob was allowed onto the nest. Eight eggs were showing clearly.

The Mallard family seen yesterday by Katie Golds and Chris Moodie was on the south bank of Peter Pond with the ducklings tucked under mum's wings, safe from the attentions of the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond. I am not sure how many ducklings there were as they were hidden. The one exception was this bright yellow chap which was scuttling busily around on the pond.

Walking along the footpath by the pond I noticed a single Cornflower on the edge of the path near the white railing. Cornflower was formerly a colourful cornfield weed, but following the use of herbicides it has largely died out. Nowadays, Cornflowers in the 'wild' will be garden escapes or originate from 'wildflower' seed mixtures.

A Cetti's Warbler was singing loudly from the northern reedbeds on Peter Pond. Also singing from the reeds, albeit less loudly, was a Reed Warbler, the first I have heard from there this year. They are regular summer visitors to the pond. We sometimes get Sedge Warbler also too, but I did not hear or see one today.

Brook Meadow
Walking back through Brook Meadow I had a look at the sedges on the Lumley area near the Lumley gate. Distant Sedge is currently very prominent where it grows in dense tufts. Each inflorescence is comprised of one cylindrical male spikelet (rarely two) above 1-3 short-stalked female spikelets, the lowest one having a leaf-like bract longer than itself.

There is still little sign of our other main sedge, namely Divided Sedge, though Divided Sedge does tend to be a bit later than Distant Sedge. Divided Sedge does not grow in tufts, but grows more evenly around the site, having far-creeping rhizomes from which the plants spring.

Robin Pottinger got his first Water Vole of the year, just north of the sluice gate. It swam across from east bank into the young Bulrushes on the other side. That is only our 10th sighting of the year, but means we do have at least one Water Vole on the site!

Today Malcolm Phillips managed to hear, see and photograph a Cetti's Warbler in the apple tree on the area owned by Lillywhite's Garage, south of Gooseberry Cottage garden.


This could well have been the same Cetti's Warbler that David Minns saw during his lunchtime stroll through the meadow which flew south towards the south bridge and the one I heard singing from the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond.

Two more birds that Malcolm got on Brook Meadow today, Whitethroat and Wren.  

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley went over to the Hampshire Farm site to clean out some of the debris in the pond and had this Grey Wagtail for company. It was probably attracted by the insects Chris was disturbing.

Chris also had his first dragonfly from there for this year, a Broad-bodied Chaser. Two House Martins and one Swallow were about. Chris has also noted several new flowers on the site including Red Campion, Black Medick, Pink Sorrel, Wood Spurge and Red Clover which are adding to colour the dry grass. There were a group of tiny mining bees, perhaps eight or ten exploring the dried clay near the gate. Things are beginning to look up on the farm!

North Thorney
Tony Wootton had a walk along the NRA track on North Thorney late this morning and had the following birds: Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler and possibly two Cuckoos.

Sedge Warbler - note the white 'eyebrow'
which distinguishes it from Reed Warbler

One of possibly two Cuckoos

Old Winchester Hill
Ros Norton reported on the Saturday morning walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.
For the report go to . . .

Mixed Warbler song
Heather Mills sent me a video recording she made at Old Winchester Hill of an unusual bird song. It started off like a Chiffchaff but then developed into a standard Willow Warbler song. She asks if I have come across this and if it was learning or mixed parentage. My guess would be to go for learning as birds readily mimic of other bird's songs and this could be a case in point.
This so-called song switching or song mixing is not all that unusual in Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers. There is a discussion of it on the Internet with some examples of songs that sound a lot like Heather's.
See . . .

Ralph Hollins added: "I have come across several reports of this behaviour over the years and after having another look at the internet I see that the general opinion seems to be that these birds are the result of interbreeding between their parents rather than songs 'learnt' by the bird from hearing the songs of the two species when they are young.
In addition to the link (to which Brian sent you might like to look at for a local occurrence at Sandy Point on Hayling and also to

Water Vole in Westbourne
Katie Golds and Chris Moodie saw a Water Vole on Sunday (April 26) in the canalised section of the millstream at Westbourne. The vole was swimming in the water and then hid in the reeds when it spotted them. It looked smaller than ones they have seen in the past and wondered if it was a youngster. That is quite likely.
Later, Katie and Chris saw this Mallard family with 14 newly hatched ducklings on Slipper Millpond.

Egyptian Geese
A friend of Tony Wootton discovered a family of Egyptian Geese on a lake at Petworth, two parents and a string of goslings. There is a mystery bird in the same picture. My guess is Australian Shelduck, but what is it doing there?

SUNDAY APRIL 26 - 2015

Walton's Copse
I spent the weekend on the Isle of Wight visiting family. On Sunday April 26, we had a family walk with two young grand daughters through Walton's Copse in the Newtown Estuary Nature Reserve. This is a lovely broadleaved woodland which borders on the estuary; walking is very easy, though muddy in parts. Highly recommended if you are in the area.
The woods had the usual fine display of Bluebells, Wood Anemones, and Common Dog-violets, plus lots of Primroses in flower. There were also a few Cuckooflowers and Wild Strawberry flowers. Personally, I was delighted to find my first Wood Sedge and Glaucous Sedge of the year, though I could not interest the girls in these inconspicuous plants with so much more attractive to enjoy.
Down by the estuary, Sea Plantain, English Scurvygrass and Divided Sedge were very common on the saltmarshes, plus a bit of Thrift. We were serenaded by the rich tones of a Nightingale singing from the military area on the other side of the channel.

A highlight of the walk was to see the Early Purple Orchids which were out in force in Walton's Copse and very easy to see, being right beside the path in places. Ralph Hollins has been down to the orchid area on Longcopse Hill in Hollybank Woods where he counted 125 Early Purple Orchids. There will be more to come with May being the peak time for them.

For earlier observations go to . . April 14-23