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

for May 1-14, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

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THURSDAY MAY 14 - 2015

Mute Swan news
I walked down to the town millpond this afternoon after the worst of the rain had finished. The pen swan was on the water with her 8 cygnets still all present and healthy. The mother swan was stirring up the mud at the bottom of the pond with her feet to dislodge any protein rich food for her youngsters. They are clearly starting to feed. The cob was nearby on guard, but not really needed.

PS - Eric Eddles tells me that the swan pair on Baffins Pond Portsmouth now have three cygnets.

Cow Parsley
Coming back home through Brook Meadow it gave me great pleasure to push my way through the overhanging panicles of Cow Parsley that now line the main raised paths. It is one of the great Brook Meadow spectacles at this time of the year.

Young Woodpigeon
We had the first young Woodpigeon of the year in the garden today. It differs from the adult mainly in the absence of the white collar. It also has dark eyes, not clearly seen in this photo; the adult has pale yellow eyes.

Francis's news
Francis Kinsella had a walk through the fields between Emsworth and Westbourne yesterday and got a couple of excellent bird photos. On the left is a male Linnet showing its red breast markings. On the right is a male Green Woodpecker with red moustache (female has no red moustache).

Francis also got this slightly unusual shot of what must be a female Blackcap on Brook Meadow.

Reed Bunting and bee
Tony Wootton was trying to get a shot of a Reed Bunting when it flew off. It was only when he got home and on the computer that he noticed the presence of a bee. In the first photo the bird is looking at the bee and in the second it is trying to catch it.

Tony asks, Would a reed bunting try and eat a bee? According to my book Reed Buntings eat seeds plus insects in summer, so a bee would seem to be an appropriate prey. I checked with the BWP which says Reed Bunting commonly catches flying insects, especially Odonata and Diptera, in sallies from perch. but does not mention bees specifically. However, with youngsters in the nest demanding high protein food, then a juicy bee would clearly be in order.

Hot Sardines
Having a snooze after a long cycle ride to Portsdown Hill yesterday, Ralph Hollins was woken by a lively jazz group called Hot Sardines singing "I wanna be like you" in French on Radio 3. Ralph was so taken with the group that he felt compelled to recommend their songs to others as "they will take 50 years off your actual age and revive your youth in a way that the NHS cannot". See . . .
Well, that is some claim, so, on a very cold and wet morning, Jean and I followed Ralph's advice and spent a wonderful hour or so enjoying this lively group on the YouTube video. We hardly danced around the room, but at least we bounced and rocked in our armchairs! The lead track is excellent (particularly if you are a fan of Jungle Book), but make sure you don't miss the black and white video with Ralph's Miss Elizabeth with her washboard strapped to her bosom! Priceless.
Go to . . .

Cuckoo migration
The BTO reports that Cuckoo migration is going well. Four years and 55,000 miles after he was first fitted with a satellite tag, Norfolk Cuckoo Chris has once again returned to the UK, along with eight other satellite-tagged Cuckoos which are all back on their breeding grounds. See . . .

TUESDAY MAY 13 - 2015

Millpond News
The pen swan was on the pond when I passed by this morning at about 11am with her 8 cygnets all still present and looking healthy. They continue to be a major attraction to people passing.

There is another very sensible notice on the bridge informing people about the importance of not feeding bread to the swans.

Over on Slipper Millpond a Coot is well ensconced on its nest behind a barricade of twigs on the north raft for a second brood. The Great Black-backed Gull is still sitting on the nest on the centre raft; my predicted hatching date is May 20th - a week's time. She looks as if she is panting in this photo - or maybe calling for her mate?

The cob swan continues to patrol Peter Pond all alone after having lost its mate a few weeks ago. There was no sign of a new mate which has been mooted for a while.

Two new plants flowering for the first time this year on the Slipper Millpond area are Sea Club-rush along the edge of the western path and Lesser Sea-spurrey on the brickwork leading down to the kissing gate near Chequers Quay.

There is also a good growth of Lesser Swine-cress on the wall of the Chequers Quay estate houses just north of the kissing gate.

First Ragged Robin
I had a look around the Lumley area on Brook Meadow hoping for Ragged Robin and, after much searching, I did eventually find just one open flower - the first of the year on the meadow.

This is about a week later than last year, though overall not all that late. I do an annual count of Ragged Robin plants on Brook Meadow. Last year had 104, though that pales into insignificance compared to the record of 625 in 2010. See the Brook Meadow web site for full details of the counts.

Southern Marsh Orchids
I had a good look for any early signs of Southern Marsh Orchids on Brook Meadow, but could not see anything, though it is still a bit early. Last year they were out on May 13th, but generally we don't see them until late May. I also had a quick look for them at Fishbourne Meadows this afternoon, but did not see any sign there either. However, Ralph Hollins did find a few leaves on the South Moor at Langstone which is the main local site for Southern Marsh Orchids.

Hairy Sedge
I found a small tuft of Hairy Sedge growing on the north-east path on Brook Meadow, just south of Beryl's seat and immediately beside the Osiers. This sedge is not too easy to find on Brook Meadow. It is rather similar in general appearance to Distant Sedge in that it has female spikelets distant from the male spikelets which are located at the top of the stem. However, as the name suggests, Hairy Sedge is hairy, both leaves and sheaths, though you need to look closely to determine this.

Peregrine chicks hatched
I popped into the Chichester Cathedral cafe this afternoon to check on the progress of the Peregrines which are nesting in one of the Cathedral turrets. The RSPB volunteer told me three of the eggs had hatched successfully and they were waiting for the fourth one. To watch the Peregrine nesting live go to . . .

Turtle Doves
I had my first report of Turtle Doves of the year from Sue Woodward who has heard two singing from her new Shepherd's hut near the two cottages in the far north-east corner of the Stansted estate near the cottages. Note for members of the Havant Wildlife Group that is where Sonya used to live. Sue says she will be putting out seed for the Turtle Doves on the recommendation of Chris Packham!

Greetings from Findhorn
Richard Somerscocks sends his greetings from Findhorn in Northern Scotland where he now lives. Richard says he looks at this Emsworth wildlife site from time to time just to see what is happening in his old town. Richard of course was a major contributor to the wildlife diary until his move to Scotland in 2012. He was particularly pleased to see the Spotted Redshank had returned to Nore Barn for the 11th year running.
He thought we might be interested to hear that they currently have a Spotted Redshank that has stopped off on Findhorn Bay, presumably on its way back to its breeding grounds in northern Scandinavia or Arctic Russia. He does not think it is ours as it is rather camera shy and is quite happy to mix with the local Redshank! However, as shown in Richard's photo it is quite a striking bird in its summer breeding plumage. You can see why it is called a Spotted Redshank - we never see them like that down here.

We do, in fact, have a special page for Richard's observations and photos from Findhorn on this web site.
Go to . . .
Findhorn News 

MONDAY MAY 11 - 2015

Waysides News
I met Jane Brook this morning for a short tour around some of the local waysides.
We started by having a look at the Christopher Way verge where we found a couple of Wild Clary plants just surviving on the main wayside, one of which was starting to flower. The Wild Clary that had been in flower on the grass verge further south when Ralph Hollins visited on May 3rd have been mown by Council workers. Jane will consider putting up a sign asking for these rare plants not to be mown with the rest of the verge.

This is what Wild Clary looks like in its prime

We went on to look at the Westbourne Open Space at the top of Westbourne Avenue. As usual, this wayside was full of swaying grasses, mostly Meadow Foxtail, but we also saw a fine tuft of flowering Tall Fescue and my first Yorkshire Fog of the year.

Tall Fescue is a tall grass with panicles hanging over. It grows in tight tufts

Finally, we had a look at the wayside at the junction of New Brighton Road and Horndean Road. We were surprised to see how Stone Parsley has spread. When we first started surveying this site Stone Parsley was confined to the back of the wayside near the hedge, but now it appears to be widespread. There was a large clump of flowering Bulbous Buttercups with Red Valerian and Germander Speedwell nearby making a nice colour contrast.

Finally, I had a walk through the Bridge Road Wayside. Plants of interest included, Pellitory-of-the-wall near the grill at St James Road, Hemlock Water-dropwort in flower, False Fox Sedge in front of the wildlife conservation area notice, Cuckooflowers now almost finished, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill, Water Figwort on edge of stream, Dogwood flowering in central shrubbery, False Oat-grass, Sweet Vernal Grass, Common Sorrel.

Sweet Vernal Grass . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Common Sorrel


Millpond News
I walked down to the town millpond at 3pm this afternoon where the pen swan was on the pond with her 8 cygnets still intact.


Two Swifts were flying over the houses in Bridge Road at 8pm this evening. This was my second sighting of them.

SUNDAY MAY 10 - 2015

Mute Swan news
All continues well with the Mute Swan family on the town millpond. At 12 noon the pen swan was on the nest with most of her brood snuggled under her wings and just a couple with heads poking out. The cob was nearby indulging in a bit of half-hearted nest building behaviour. After a few minutes the pen got up and led her brood off the nest and down onto the water watched by a growing and enraptured audience. They really are compulsive viewing.

The pen swan then led her brood of cygnets over to an area of leaf and twig debris where there was probably a good supply of insect food which the youngsters appeared to be sampling, as shown in the photo below. Clearly, they are already trying to feed themselves. The two pale (Polish) cygnets still stand out clearly.

There are two notices attached to the railings on the bridge suggesting that people do not feed bread to the swans and to leave them to their own devices, which is sensible advice.

Railway Wayside
This afternoon, I had a walk around the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station to see what new flowering plants I could find. The yellow flowers of Bird's-foot Trefoil stood out very clearly.

More interesting was a very good crop of False Fox Sedge, which I have yet in locate in any quantity on Brook Meadow.

The area of Marsh Woundwort at the eastern end of the wayside, which this wayside is mainly distinguished for, is now totally covered in a carpet of brambles.
There are a number of newly laid reptile mats on the site, presumably part of an ecological survey related to the planned Interbridges industrial development.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips is off to Cuba for 3 weeks and signed off in great style today with a variety of interesting photos of wildlife taken on Brook Meadow. Sadly, they did not include a Water Vole sighting. If Malcolm can't get one then what hope is there for the rest of us?
Pride of place among his photos must go to a stunning image of a family of five, possibly six, young Long-tailed Tits begging for food from their parent. Brilliant. Wish I had got that one.

Malcolm also got several insects, some of which I think I can identify as they have been seen on Brook Meadow in previous years. A fairly easy one was this Large Red Damselfly - the first of the year on Brook Meadow.

Also fairly easy was a brightly coloured Froghopper (Cercopsis vulnerata) which is the fellow responsible for the mass of froth on plants. The Froghopper is often called a cuckoo-spit insect as it was thought at one time in the past that the froth was produced by a Cuckoo.
Malcolm also got a Red-headed Cardinal Beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis). The rather feathery antennae and all red body and head distinguishes it from other Cardinals.

But I am not at all sure what is going on in the following photo of what seems to be two flies joined together, possibly mating. I have had a look through Chinery's 'Collins Guide to Insects' and found one that resembles the fly in the photo - called Platystoma seminationis. It is basically black with white spots on its abdomen. Chinery says it has been seen sucking dead insects which might be what is happening in Malcolm's photo.

Ralph Hollins thinks it is more likely to be a Flesh Fly (Sarcophage carnaria) as the fly has the 'white spots' not on the abdomen but on the wings, and also it does not have the longitudinal stripes on its thorax. It is called a Signal Fly because it is continually 'shivering' its wings.
Tony Davis says It certainly isn't Platystoma as that has patterned wings. It does bear a resemblance to Sarcophaga carnaria but this is a very difficult family and really cannot be done from photographs.


Chris Oakley spotted this easy to identify Cockchafer beneath one of his window sills, but it seems to have lost one of its antennae. These insects are often referred to as May-bugs since they are very common at this time of the year, often coming into the house or crashing into lighted windows. They look a bit fearsome, but are quite harmless.


Mute Swan news
There was one place for me to head for today and that was the town millpond where yesterday the Mute Swan pair hatched an astonishing 8 cygnets in the nest by the bridge. I made my first visit at about 11am, but the weather was chilly and the pen swan was on the nest with her wings covering all 8 of the youngsters. However, I returned in warmer conditions at about 2.30 this afternoon to find the mother off the nest and swimming around with her 8 youngsters in the shallow waters of the millpond. I have only seen one other Mute Swan brood to equal this one; the pair that nested on Peter Pond in 2013 hatched 8 cygnets. The most I have ever seen is a family of 10 cygnets at Hunston near Chichester several years ago.

The family was watched by a enraptured audience from the Bath Road side.

The cob swan arrived and it was good to see the whole family swimming down the pond.

I am grateful to Thomas Irons for alerting me to the fact that two of the cygnets are distinctly paler than the others. These can be seen closest to the pen swan in the above photo. The other 6 cygnets have the regular grey plumage.
These two pale cygnets could be what is called 'Polish', although it is early days and we must wait to see how they develop. Interestingly, neither of the parents are Polish, ie, they both have the standard black legs and feet. However, there has been a history of Polish swans in Emsworth so it is not unlikely that one of the parents might have some 'Polish blood' in their ancestry. The pen of the pair that has nested on Slipper Millpond for the past few years was a Polish swan with pink legs and feet, though she has gone missing, presumed dead, and the cob remains on its own.

More information on the Polish Swans
The Polish Swan is a 'pure white' version of a standard Mute Swan and is not a different species. Its legs and feet are a pinkish-grey colour instead of the usual black. A pigment deficiency of a gene in the sex chromosomes is what causes the whiteness in the plumage. When a female Mute Swan inherits only one melanin-deficient chromosome she will be a Polish swan, whereas the male of the same parents will be normal. If the next generation is produced by two of their offspring the brood will contain numbers of both Polish and normal cygnets of either sex.
Polish swans were given their name when they were imported from the Polish coast on the Baltic sea into London around about 1800. They were mistakenly thought to be a new species and were given the name 'Cygnus immutabilis' (ie Changeless Swan). Polish swans have white down as cygnets and hence do not change colour from brown to white like regular cygnets as they reach maturity. See . . .

PS I have been a bit inundated with cygnet photos today and I have to apologise for not including many. Here is one I have picked out from Charlie Annalls showing mum leading the way.

PPS - For yet another cygnet photo (from Langstone Mill Pond this time) see Peter Milinets-Raby's report below.

Wild flowers
I spent the rest of the afternoon mainly looking for anything new in the way of wild flowers and grasses.
There is an area of verge at the eastern end of the path behind Lillywhite's Garage which has been missed (or left) by the council mowers and, as a result, it has a very nice collection of grasses and flowers, including Meadow Buttercup, Yarrow and some Red Clover which looks almost orchid-like in the long grasses.

The grasses in this little patch include Cocksfoot, False Oat-grass, Soft Brome and Rough Meadow-grass.
Rough Meadow-grass can readily be distinguished from Smooth Meadow-grass by its long ligules where the leaves meet to stem - as shown in the following photo. Smooth Meadow-grass has short ligules.

Further round the corner closer to the garage one finds Common Mouse-ear, Common Field Speedwell, White Campion and Dove's-foot Cranesbill. Hedge Mustard is now out on the south bank of Peter Pond along with Beaked Hawk's-beard and lots of Common Vetch. Pellitory-of-the-wall is flowering on the pond side of Hermitage Bridge.

Walking back through Palmer's Road Copse, I noticed that the prominent tuft of Remote Sedge is just starting to flower. This can be seen easily just a little way along the path through the copse from the south bridge. This is the only spot on the Brook Meadow site where this woodland sedge reliably grows.

Malcolm Phillips also got a couple of new flowers today. First, Yellow Flag is now in flower on the Lumley pond north of the small footbridge.

Malcolm also got this nice shot of Horse Chestnut flowers on Brook Meadow.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Warblington shore this morning (6:45am to 8:45am - low tide -still a chilly strong wind).
Ibis Field: 1 Moorhen, 1 Little Egret, 1 Swallow, 1 Stock Dove.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: Reed Warbler heard - 60 metres away from reed bed.
Mini reed bed: Reed Warbler heard x2, Cetti's Warbler heard.
Conigar Point: 4 Shelduck.
Pook Lane: 7 Common Tern, 7 Shelduck, 2 Linnets, 1 Med Gull, 2 Whimbrel, 2 Greenshank, 2 Red Breasted Merganser.
Langstone Mill Pond: Mute Swan pair with 7 cygnets - spent most of the morning in the pond outflow stream, then walked back across the mud to return to the pond and hid in the channel between the reed bed.

Reed Warbler heard x4. Cetti's Warbler heard. Gadwall male. Coot pair with 5 tiny chicks.
Grey Heron colony - Sixth nest had two very tiny chick in it! Here is one larger Heron chick.


Havant Water Vole
Christopher Evans spotted a Water Vole partly hidden in the water cress bed on the eastern side of Park Road South, opposite the junction with Solent Road. It did briefly appear out in the open but moved too quickly for him to get a decent shot. But, I like the one he got. I just wish they were as easy as this on Brook Meadow where we have had no sightings for ages!

Stansted Forest
Chris Cope reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group
See the report at . . .

FRIDAY MAY 8 - 2015

Emsworth Millpond
I had a walk around the local area this morning, starting with the town millpond at 10am. The pen swan was snug on the nest with her wings well spread, covering 7 or possibly 8 cygnets, of which just two were visible at the time.
Charlie Annalls was there later when the swans were changing over and got the following photo of the cygnets. Charlie said there were definitely 8 cygnets, she counted them several times!

Slipper Millpond
I had a quick look at Slipper Millpond where a Great Black-backed Gull was on the nest on the centre raft. A male Tufted Duck was on the pond, which is the first I have seen there this year. The Coots are definitely back in the nest box on the north raft for a second try. Their first brood of 6 chicks were all taken by the gulls.

Peter Pond
The Mute Swan cob which has lost its mate was on the east side embankment of Peter Pond. A local lady told me that she had seen the lone swan displaying with another swan, so maybe it will not be lonely for much longer. In fact, there was a single swan on Slipper Millpond, so maybe that is the cob's prospective mate?

As can be seen in the photo, part of the east side embankment has recently been seeded, presumably by the council. It will be interesting to see what comes up. This is the embankment that was built up to prevent flooding of the road at high tides. Both Red and Tall Fescue grasses are out further north along the east side embankment.

Wood Melick
Walking up Lumley Road towards the entrance to Brook Meadow, I found a good growth of Wood Melick on the side of the road immediately opposite the junction with The Rookery. This attractive grass has a very loose spreading panicle of tiny spikelets and regularly comes up on this verge at this time of the year. It could be natural growth as it is on the edge of a small woodland, though my suspicion is that it is an escape from a local garden. This is the first time I have managed to get a reasonable photo of it.

Brook Meadow
Into the meadow I was relieved to see Divided Sedge is now flourishing all over the Lumley area which is the wet area to the right of the Lumley gate. I had been concerned as it was later than usual, but no worries. Distant Sedge is also widespread on the Lumley area but there is little sign of False Fox Sedge or Ragged Robin as yet. Both Meadow and Creeping Buttercup are flowering well.
The non-fertile stems of Field Horsetail are coming up mainly on the orchid area. Field Horsetail has two stages of growth; in spring it has brown stems with cones, then in summer it produces sterile green stems with vertical ridges without cones.

Cetti's Warbler was singing near the Lumley gate. I heard two Whitethroats singing on Brook Meadow for the time this year, the regular one on the causeway and the other one north of the Lumley copse.

Goat Willow
The female catkins are showing up well on the Goat Willow near the Lumley gate.

In fact, we have 6 Goat Willows on Brook Meadow which are all female and 6 Grey Willows which are all male, having yellow catkins in the spring. A reliable way to distinguish between Goat and Grey Willow before the flowers arrive is by peeling back a little of the bark on a twig; the wood beneath the bark is smooth on Goat Willow and ridged on Grey Willow.

The orchid area is currently peppered with tall Meadow Buttercups and the leaves of Yellow Rattle are showing everywhere. Two new plants in flower were Common Mouse-ear and Common Vetch.

The tall Aspen tree which was donated by members of the Haskins family and planted on the eastern side of Brook Meadow on 22 Dec 2005, is probably the only tree on Brook Meadow that has yet to develop its leaves. I had a look at the leaf buds and they look fine and are clearly not far from sprouting. Is Aspen the latest of trees to leaf?

Mystery 'Ladybird'
Finally, I came across this unusual 'Ladybird' crawling around in the low vegetation that I did not recognise. Maybe it is not a Ladybird at all. Can anyone help?

Hollybank Woods
Ralph Hollins went over to Hollybank Woods yesterday to have a look at the Early Purple Orchids on Longcopse Hill which he says are now at their peak. Ralph counted 397, which though good, is well below the numbers that have been there in previous years. Ralph also had a look at the wild Lily of the Valley plants which are now in full flower in the Jubilee Plantation area. See his wildlife diary for full details.

Moorhen family
Tony Wootton was at Arundel Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust today and got this cracking shot of a Moorhen with two young chicks.


First Swifts
As I replenished the bird feeding station this morning, I happened to glance up and was delighted to see two Swifts wheeling around in the sky over the Bridge Road houses. This was exactly the same date (May 7) that I saw the first ones last year. Here is a photo I took of one over our house last year.

As far as I am aware these were the first local Swifts of the year. Large numbers of Swifts have been seen at Pulborough Brooks and at Rye Harbour in the past week. Closer to home, six Swifts were seen screaming and circling over Elm Grove, Southsea at 9am this morning - reported on the HOS Bird sightings.

Squirrel family
As I was watching the Swifts circling overhead, my eye caught a movement in the corner of my next door neighbour's roof. Three pairs of little eyes were peering at me from a gap in the roof beneath the eaves. It was a family Grey Squirrels - a mother and three youngsters. I got my camera and took some shots as the squirrels skipped around on the roof.

I do hope this does not prompt the hole being covered up as this hole has quite a history. Many years ago I used to see Starlings nesting in the hole and I have suspected Swifts have also nested there. In June 2013 Tree Bumblebees made a nest there, but never squirrels.
I read that the average litter size is three and that the male Grey Squirrel takes no part in the rearing of the youngsters, which is entirely done by the female. The youngsters disperse when their teeth are fully grown and they can feed themselves, usually at about 10 weeks old. So, I assume they will be around for a little while longer.

Swan cygnets
Early this morning Jennifer Rye e-mailed me to say she had seen two cygnets in the reed nest on the town millpond at about 9am. So, hatching is underway, some 3 days earlier than I predicted. I checked the nest site a couple of times later in the day and by 3pm six cygnets were in the nest with two eggs remaining, one of which was definitely hatching.

Along with many other people I watched the two swans swap over the brooding duties as the chick in the 7th egg started to break through its shell. What a marvellous experience it was for me and others watching to be able to see new wildlife coming into existence at such close quarters.

Great Black-backed Gulls
I checked the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond this afternoon. I caught them just as they were changing over nesting duties. The female flew off towards the harbour leaving the male to brood the eggs.
I think the last egg was laid on April 22nd. As incubation is 27-28 days from the laying of the last egg, my estimate for hatching is about Wednesday 20th May, so we have another couple of weeks to wait.

Red Fescue
On the footpath to the west of Slipper Millpond I found the grass Red Fescue was just starting to emerge. This grass is fairly easy to identify from the tight panicle and the single leaf jutting out from the stem at an angle of around 45 degrees which is nicely shown in the following photo.

Other news
Malcolm Phillips did not have long on Brook Meadow today, but managed to capture a superb photo of this Small Tortoiseshell.


Baffins Pond
I had to go into Portsmouth this morning, so this gave me the chance to have a walk around Baffins Pond, one of my old haunting grounds in the early days of my birdwatching. The pond and its environs have changed dramatically since I used to visit in the 1990s when there has barely anything in the way of natural vegetation around the pond. Now, the place is transformed by the planting of wetland areas and it looks just great - and is great for wildlife too!

Greater Tussock Sedge
Several marshy type plants were flowering on the wetland areas of Baffins Pond including Yellow Flag and Marsh-marigold. But I was most interested to see a good growth of Greater Tussock Sedge which I had not seen here before, though I am sure it has been here. This is a tall sedge with rough triangular stems with sharp edges, ie fulfilling the adage that 'sedges have edges'. Its most distinctive feature is the large inflorescence at the top of the stems containing many spikelets.

It reminds me of False Fox Sedge, which we get on Brook Meadow, but with a much bigger inflorescence. Greater Tussock Sedge is not a common plant in our local area and the only other place I have seen it growing is on the edge of Fishbourne Millpond.
It is not recorded in SU70 in the 'The Flora of Hampshire' though that was published before the wetland areas were developed at Baffins Pond. It probably would not count anyway as it was almost certainly planted when the wetlands were set up.

Canada and Barnacle Geese
I was interested to find a Canada Goose on the edge of the pond with a couple of Barnacle Geese. This is not a standard Canada Goose and Eric Eddles has had it identified as a Canada-Barnacle hybrid (see blog entry for Feb 15th); one can see the Barnacle influence in the extra area of dark on the chest.

The two Barnacle Geese must be the those remaining from the original brood of five goslings reported on this blog by Eric Eddles on June 6th, 2014. I assume they came from pure Barnacle Geese and not from a union with a Canada Goose.
Barnacle Geese are attractive feral geese and do not migrate like their wild counterparts. They were a common feature of Baffins Pond in 1990s and early 2000s when I used to do my weekly surveys. They reached a peak of 42 in the winter of 1998-99 and used to migrate regularly to Titchfield Haven where they were affectionately known as the "Baffins Gang". However, numbers gradually fell away, though I believe a pair did produce a brood of 5 on the pond in 2008. Nowadays, I only make occasional visits to the pond, though Eric Eddles keeps a good eye on the place as he lives locally.

Fort Purbrook
On the way back home I called in to Fort Purbrook mainly to check on the Upright Brome grass that I thought I might also have found at the Warblington Cemetery yesterday. I found lots of Upright Brome on the side of the track leading to the fort which was clearly quite different from the Warblington grass with thinner spikelets. I think the grass at Warblington Cemetery was probably Soft Brome. Here are the two grasses for comparison.

It was not the best day to go onto Portsdown Hill with the gale force winds blowing in from the sea, so I did not stay long. However, I did stay long enough to see and enjoy the first of the many splendours this area has to offer in the way of wild flowers and grasses.

Cowslips were resplendent in front of the fort.

Also, lots of Crosswort.

There was also some Milkwort flowering alongside Glaucous Sedge

I also spotted the first flowers of Bird's-foot Trefoil just starting to open.

Malcolm Phillips spent a very windy hour on the meadow this afternoon. He did not get much for his efforts apart from this rather nice hoverfly which I think is the very common Syrphus ribelsii.

Mystery fly identified
Tony Davis confirmed the identification of the fly photographed by Malcolm Phillips on Brook Meadow yesterday as Phasia hemiptera. I gave the old name Alophora hemiptera which is how it was described in my copy of Chinery's 'Collins Guide to Insects'. Maybe, I should invest in the new edition? Tony says there are no other species which look like this fly so the identification is sound.

Phasia hemiptera is a tachinid fly found throughout Northern and Southern Europe. It is a strongly sexually dimorphic species, males being more colourful with curved patterned wings. Like most tachinid flies, the female lays her eggs on other insects, the larvae then develop inside the living host, devouring it and eventually killing it.

Swan with eggs
John Neal got a nice photo of the Mute Swan tending to her eggs on the nest on the town millpond yesterday.

Mallard mating behaviour
The Irons family had an unpleasant experience when they found a dead female Mallard near the swan nest with two male Mallards trying extremely hard to mate with it. They asked if this is usual behaviour? And as it was right next to the nesting swan, could it have been attacked?

Personally I have certainly never witnessed this type of behaviour, though I have often seen several male Mallards trying to mate with a female, almost drowning her in the process. My guess is that this is what happened in this case and that the Irons just caught the end of the event.

TUESDAY MAY 5 - 2015

Warblington Cemetery
I had to take Jean and a neighbour over to Warblington Church for a funeral this afternoon, so I took the opportunity to have a look at the natural burial area of the Warblington Cemetery extension. There is a useful information board on the site with Ralph Hollins's wild flower sightings and photos along with John Goodspeed's Nature Notes. Ralph Hollins has a Cemeteries page on his web site which is worth consulting.
I did not find the Cowslips or the Snake's Head Fritillaries that were on Ralph's list, though his last update was on April 9th. However, I did find a couple of very interesting grasses. They were both very hairy and almost certainly Bromes. I decided the one with stems bearing loose panicles with drooping branches was Hairy Brome. The more upright one looked like Upright Brome though I usually associate this grass with the chalk downland of Portsdown Hill. I assume both these grasses were brought in with the seed mixture that is used for the natural burial area.

Emsworth grasses
I went for a walk around Emsworth and found a number of other grasses which had come out over the past few days. On Brook Meadow, I found Rough Meadow-grass starting to open in Palmer's Road Copse and on the main river path. False Oat-grass was also coming out on the main river path.
Down by the Hermitage Millponds, Wall Barley, Cocksfoot and Soft Brome were out on the grass verge at the eastern end of the Lillywhite's path and Red Fescue on the south bank of Peter Pond by the main road. The best way of identifying Red Fescue is to look for the single leaf sticking out from the stem at a sharp angle.
I also found my first Germander Speedwell of the year by Peter Pond, opposite Gooseberry Cottage. This is the speedwell with two lines of hairs down either side of the stem. You can probably just see them on this photo.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow as usual today and saw the the first flowering Wintercress of the year. This is a fairly common spring flower which brings a welcome touch of golden yellow to the meadow.

He got this excellent photo of a 'Nursery-web spider' (Pisaura mirabilis) - resting in typical fashion with its four front legs outstretched.

Finally, Malcolm got a photo of this small fly. My very tentative guess is one of the family Tachindae, possibly Alophora hemiptera (Chinery p.212). Any other ideas welcome.

MONDAY MAY 4 - 2015

Swan nesting news
The Mute Swans on the town millpond were in the process of changing over nesting duties when Jean and I passed by this morning. The photo shows the cob engaged a bit of tidying up of the nest while the pen gets herself ready to settle down on the eggs for the rest of the day. I could not actually see the eggs in the nest, but I assume they were covered which is an extra level of sophistication that I had not observed before with this pair. Covering helps to keep the eggs warm and safe. Predicted hatching date is Sunday May 10th, though I cannot be really sure as I did not have the date the last egg was laid.

Pike in river
The Irons family was on Brook Meadow today where they got some nice photos of butterflies including Peacock and Comma. Most interesting they spotted one of the Pike that inhabit the river and young Thomas managed to get a very good photo of it from the south bridge. Pike are prime river predators and could seriously harm our already fragile Water Vole population, particularly around breeding time. But there is nothing we can do about them except hope and pray.

Mallard family
The Irons family then went over to Peter Pond where they found the Mallard family seriously diminished in number. From 14 ducklings on April 26 the family was down to 6 on May 1st and is now down to just 4. Young ducklings have many predators ranging from Pike to Grey Heron and Herring Gull.

Small Copper
Malcolm Phillips had a good day on Brook Meadow, where he got the first Small Copper of the year plus a couple of Holly Blues. Small Copper overwinters as a caterpillar, then pupates into a chrysalis in early April before finally emerging as an adult butterfly in early May. They are usually only seen in ones or twos. Larger numbers emerge in the second brood in August and after warm summers there might be a third or even a fourth brood with adults flying well into October.

Malcolm also got some good shots of the Cetti's Warbler that seems ever present in the Gooseberry Cottage area and the Whitethroat which sings constantly from the trees on the causeway. But there only appears to be one Whitethroat on the meadow at the moment; usually we have up to three.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down Wade Lane late this morning at 11:25am for an hour - high tide). Not much to report.
Wade Lane: Med Gull over, 4 Swallow, Singing Chiffchaff.
Langstone Mill Pond: There were six male Tufted Ducks chasing one poor female and a pair of Gadwall.
The female Mute Swan was still firmly on her nest, but I did notice a young cygnet poking its head out from under her body. So probably in the process of hatching. I wonder how many?
Brian's note: Was this the first Mute Swan cygnet of the year?
3 Reed Warbler heard, Cetti's Warbler Heard.
The Little Egret nest that had its eggs snatched from was still empty - so abandoned.
Grey Heron colony: Both Holm Oak nests empty. South nest - two young. Middle nest - two young. Fifth - adult still sitting. Sixth - adult still sitting.
Off shore: 4 Sandwich Tern.

SUNDAY MAY 3 - 2015

Brook Meadow painting
Jean and I visited Emsworth Museum as part of the Emsworth Arts Trail today and were delighted to find Marian Forster's original artwork for the Brook Meadow interpretation board hanging prominently just inside the front door.

This brilliant original work by Marion was commissioned by the Brook Meadow Conservation Group and took Marion over a year to complete. After the prints were taken for use with the interpretation boards, the original painting was donated to the Museum in April 2005 for safe keeping and looks as good as new. Being able to view the painting this closely, gives one the opportunity to fully appreciate the detail and fine artwork that went into its production.

Wild Clary
Following his discovery of the rare Wild Clary in flower on the grass verge at the northern end of Christopher Way yesterday, Ralph Hollins comments that the flowers have benefited from the Council's mowing regime.

He says, "The 'no mowing' regime of the Christopher Way Wayside has forced the Wild Clary to abandon its original site (on the wayside) and move to the nearest site where it has a chance to survive (i.e. where the grass has been cut by the council). I have always thought that the excellent Waysides project can only succeed if the people who live close to the sites you wish to protect actively manage them in a way that suits the plants you wish to conserve (and as with all managed nature reserves they will encourage certain species to survive while preventing other species from gaining a foothold even it factors such as climate change make the site suitable for their natural growth). I know this is often a 'no win' situation and is very disheartening for those who know what should be done but cannot command the manpower to achieve it."

Other news
The long yellow catkins of the Basford Willows are now cascading down onto the southern end of Palmer's Road Car Park as they usually do at this time of the year.

The removal of one of the large Willows from the edge of Palmer's Road Car Park has opened up the view into the copse, allowing one to see more clearly the tall straight trunks of the Western Balsam Poplars.


Malcolm's news
Malcolm walked round Brook Meadow this morning, but did not find much of interest. So, he stood on the foot bridge at the top of Peter Pond for about an hour and a half and got some good birds. Just shows what patience can do.

From top left to bottom right: female Blackcap, male Bullfinch, Cetti's Warbler, Greenfinch

Ralph's news
Ralph Hollins was in Emsworth today and found the first open flowers on the Wild Clary on the grass verge at the northern end of Christopher Way with lots of Shining Cranesbill in the nearby public path. Wild Clary is a very rare plant that has been flowering on this wayside for several years, despite the regular cutting of the grass by the council workers. Here is a photo of the flowers taken previously.

Two botanical surprises for Ralph were (a) Three-nerved Sandwort (Moehringia trinervia) flowering in a Warblington Farm field beside the Selangor Ave path; and (b) was a bright yellow plant of American Wintercress (Barbarea verna) on the north side of Warblington Road, two houses before reaching Clovelly Road.
Less welcome was a large dead Badger beside Southleigh Road about 200 yards east of the entrance to Southleigh Farm.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley reports that the Shelducks are back on the pond of the Hampshire Farm open space after missing last year.

"It appears to be the same pair that stayed the summer of 2013; the male has a distinctive white patch above his beak. There were several Black-headed Gulls and one passing Swallow, bearing in mind the cold blustery day, that Swallow was the one that does not make a summer. I found two new plants for my list Winter Cress and a Thyme-leaved Speedwell and I found my first Corn Cockle of the season."

Tony's news
Tony and Hilary Wootton had a couple of days away in the week and took the chance to visit Rye Harbour Wildlife Trust Reserve. Tony says it was very windy and open, but they had lovely views, of amongst others, two Hobbies and a male Marsh Harrier. Here is one of the Hobbies which Tony managed to capture in flight with its tail feathers spread out. Note also the streaked underparts and the black and white hood which are so characteristic of a Hobby.

FRIDAY MAY 1 - 2015

Millpond News
The pen Mute Swan was snug on her reed nest on the town millpond by the bridge when I passed by this morning (see photo). My predicted hatching date is May 10th. Her mate was patrolling further up the pond at the bottom of Nile Street. While I was there he was approached by the second pair of resident swans with wings raised, but got to within 10 yards of the cob then turned round and retreated. 'You are going no further' was the message. (see photo)

The willows on the east side of the pond along Bridgefoot Path are now showing their long bright yellow catkins, many of which are scattered on the ground. I think these trees might be one of the Goat Willow 'Basford' hybrids.

Hermitage Millponds
I walked down Queen Street to Slipper Millpond where both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft, one on the nest and on standing guard on the new framework.

A Mallard with 6 small ducklings was on the east bank of Peter Pond. This is probably the remains of the family of 14 that was seen here on April 26.

Smooth Sow-thistle is now in flower on the east bank of Peter Pond. These plants have attractive dual colour florets. Note also the leaves which clasp the stem with pointed auricles which distinguishes it from Prickly Sow-thistle in which the auricles are rounded.

Lumley Road
From Peter Pond I walked straight up Lumley Road heading for Lumley Mill. Along the edge of the road Garlic Mustard was in full flower plus the first flowers of Cleavers. These are very tiny white flowers. Further north along Lumley Road I found my first Grey Sedge of the year with spikelets just starting to emerge. This is a good spot to find this plant.


Just before you get to Lumley Mill where the footpath branches off left for Seagull Lane there is a nice flowering of Greater Periwinkle. This attractive perennial garden plant flowers here every year. The slightly hairy edges to the leaves (which can just be seen on the photo) distinguishes this plant from the less common Lesser Periwinkle. It was introduced to cultivation from the Mediterranean by 1597 and first recorded in the wild by 1650.

Lumley Mill
I was surprised to find the large 'Goldfish' still present in the river by Lumley Mill just north of the bridge. This was last photographed by Malcolm Phillips on 26 July 2014 and identified by Mike Wells as a Golden Orfe.

At the start of the path towards Seagull Lane agaist the tall wooden fence of Constant Springs are several plants of Greater Celandine , one of which was flowering well with its very delicate yellow flowers. This is the only spot I know of in Emsworth where this plant grows. It is not related to the more common Lesser Celandine.

Walking along the path from Lumley Mill towards Seagull Lane I stopped to inspect a bright green beetle which was crawling around on Common Nettle leaves. I thought at first this might be another Nettle Weevil like what Chris Oakley found on the Hampshire Farm site - see yesterday's blog for photos. However, this beetle was clearly a different shape and not a weevil. My guess is that it is a type of Leaf Beetle which Chinery says are often brightly coloured with smooth rounded outlines (page 282 in my copy of Collins Guide to Insects).

Waysides News
The northern entrance to the Dolphin Creek wayside has been cut since I last visited with the Tree Mallows removed and the waysides notice gone. The notice has also been removed from the tree at the other end of the path which is ominous. However, I was pleased to see the usual good flowering of Ivy-leaved Toadflax on the wall of Dolphin House. Ivy-leaved Toadflax is not a native plant, but was introduced to gardens from S Europe and first recorded in the wild in 1640. So, it has been in the wild for a good long time!

Water Vole sighting
Frank Naylor saw a Water Vole at about 7.15 yesterday evening. It swam across from the reeds below the observation fence to the sluice gate area. Frank lost sight of it round the sluice gate bend. This was the 4th sighting we have had from this specific area in the past week which suggests all were of the same animal.

Hayling Billy Line
Mike Wells had a wander along the Old Hayling Billy Line on Thursday morning. He got some great photos including this superb male Kestrel which I could not resist. Brilliant.

Walking north along main path Mike also spotted an Adder basking in the sun, near a cleared area on the right. Sadly, by the time Mike had adjusted his camera, the snake had slid away into the undergrowth. But Adders are often seen along this track, so please keep a look out for them.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to walk along the Warblington shore (6:44am to 8:45am - tide pushing in - grey and very chilly). A few interesting sightings:
Ibis Field: Goldcrest singing, Pheasant heard, Adult summer Med Gull feeding at the feet of the cattle, 2 Blackcaps singing, Chiffchaff singing.
Hedgerow down to Conigar Point: Skylark heard, Whitethroat singing briefly, Cetti's Warbler Heard, Reed Warbler heard from mini reed bed, Cuckoo singing very briefly by mini reed bed.
Conigar Point: Greenshank (G//R+BB//-), 2 Shelduck, a pair of Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Great Black-backed Gull.
Pook Lane: 2 Stock Dove, 3 Whimbrel. A pair of Shelduck were observed in the field south of the cemetery, clearly prospecting for a nest site as the female was wandering into holes/paths in the western hedge line, whilst the male stood guard. Watched for 15 minutes before they flew off to the shore. 2 Greenshank (RG//-+YY//- and an unringed bird), 2 Swallow, 2 Linnets on the fence posts, 3 Shelduck, 1 Black-tailed Godwit.
Horse paddock: Another calling Cuckoo, which soon moved on. 5 Swallow, 1 Green Woodpecker feeding on the grass, 2 adult Grey Herons, 2 Little Egrets, 4 Moorhen, 1 Stock Dove.
Langstone Mill Pond: Swallow perched on the reeds singing (see photo), Cetti's Warbler heard, Reed Warbler heard (just the one).

Little Egrets - I counted 37 nests. Probably the last reliable count due to the foliage starting to grow! Whilst behind the mill looking at the Little Egrets nests on the island, I witnessed a Carrion Crow snatch a Little Egret's egg from one of the nests and fly off with it. Literally a minute later, a second Carrion Crow landed on the unguarded (and probably abandoned) nest and started to stab at the two remaining eggs and seemingly "drink" the contents of one of the eggs. I hurriedly set up the camera and just caught the bird picking up the third egg and flying off with it (see a very lucky photo).

The crow flew over the mill and landed on the shore. I walked along the path to view the crow and hopefully get some more photos, but I accidentally flushed it. The Carrion Crow left the virtually intact egg on the shore. It was quite cold. I picked it up temporarily to photo for identification and scientific purposes and then destroyed it.

For earlier observations go to . . April 24-30 . . .