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for May 14-31, 2015
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SATURDAY MAY 30 - 2015

Camber Sands
During a family holiday I had the opportunity to have a look around the dunes at Camber Sands in East Sussex on a very windy afternoon and very interesting it was too. The dunes stretched for miles and were dominated mostly by Marram Grass and Sea Buckthorn.

However, the best plants were the Houndstongue of which I found hundreds in flower in small sheltered areas of the dunes. I have only seen Houndstongue once before - at Northney during a plant survey with John Norton (10-Jul-11). The plants reminded me of the common garden Lungwort, but the leaves were plain and not spotted. I gather from the Sussex Plant Atlas that Camber is a particularly good place to see Houndstongue on sand.

Here is a close up of the attractive red flowers.

I also found some solitary yellow daisies on thin stalks which I think were Lesser Hawkbit, though I must admit to toying with the idea of the very rare Smooth Catsear.
I was also surprised to find lots of Common Ragwort on the dunes, not in flower, of course, but attracting Cinnabar moths, the larvae of which feed on the leaves on Ragwort.

THURSDAY MAY 28 - 2015

Bridge Road Wayside
I did a mini plant survey of the Bridge Road Wayside and added a good number to the 2015 list which now stands at 87 species. The total list for the wayside stands at 194. So there is still a long way to go. The chemical spraying of the kerb area adjacent to the car park by the council for the first time this year will have cut the number of species, as I used to find quite a lot of small stuff along that kerb.
Two observations of some interest. Firstly a very hairy Thyme-leaved Speedwell. The guides all say that this plant is 'more or less hairless', but this one is certainly very hairy as shown in this photo. CORRECTION - this was Wall Speedwell.

Secondly, a very small black and yellow Ladybird which I had to look up to identify it as a 14-spot. Apparently the wing cases can vary from all yellow to almost all black, with black spots merging together as in this chap in my photo.

Several cut branches from a fir tree have been left across the Westbrook Stream in Bridge Road car park. They are partly blocking the stream and partly jutting into the car park. I was told by a local resident they were left there last Monday (May 25th) following the erection of a new fence at the end of one of the long gardens in St James Road. The branches were clearly removed from the tree to make way for the fence. I have informed Rob Hill and Richard Denman of HBC about this asking them to get the branches cleared.

More orchids
Jennifer Rye informed me that she found a group of 5 Common Spotted Orchids in flower this afternoon, just north of the new perimeter barrier that the conservation group built last workday. Jennifer adds, "If you start from Beryl's bench and go due west it's about 20 paces in. I've marked it with three twigs". That's great news, the first Common Spotted Orchids of the year in roughly the same place as last year.

Magical evening
Francis Kinsella had what he described as a 'magical evening' last night on Brook Meadow. First he had a very large group (more than a dozen) young Long Tailed Tits flitting round the trees by the north bridge in the meadow. They seemed quite unafraid, coming very close and flitting from tree to tree. Here is one of them that Francis captured.

He also got a what is probably a female Banded Demoiselle in flight.


Brook Meadow
I headed for the main orchid area on the north meadow this afternoon which is basically covered in yellow buttercups, with lots of Red Clover and Yellow Rattle just starting to flower. Here it is looking north towards the railway line.

My interest was mainly in orchids. I found that five more Southern Marsh Orchids had come up since my last count two days ago and so the total now stands at 15 spikes which is a new record for the meadow. They are all marked with small twigs.

I looked around for Common Spotted and Bee Orchids, but did not see any sign of them. But it is early days. Newly flowering on the orchid area were Silverweed and Hard Rush.
The Ragged Robin count is also rising slowly. I counted 30 flowering plants on the Lumley area and another 4 on the area above the causeway. This relatively small number suggests this is not going to be a bumper year. Last year the count was 104, but the record stands at 625 in 2010.

Cuckoo Bumblebee?
Young Thomas Irons took this photo of an unusual Bumblebee on a lawn in a Warblington garden.

My tentative identification is a Cuckoo Bumblebee possibly Psithyrus vestalis - but I shall check with Bryan Pinchen. Psithyrus vestalis, like the insect in Thomas's photo, is mainly dark in colour but for the prominent yellow band at the front of the thorax and two lemon wedges on the abdomen where the black meets the white tail.
Cuckoo Bumblebee queens emerge in May and take over the nests of their preferred host species, in the case of Psithyrus vestalis that would be the common Bombus terrestris. The host queen is killed and new eggs are laid in the nest and the host Bumblebee workers then raise the Cuckoo young, rather like happens with birds. Hence, there is no need for worker Cuckoo Bumblebees and only new queens and males are produced.

Langstone Mill Pond
This morning Peter Milinets-Raby paid his last visit to Langstone Mill Pond for a couple of weeks as he is off on holiday with the family to Belarus.
"I walked in along Wade Lane (10am to 11:50am). Great spotted Woodpecker 2 adults at a nest hole trying to entice out the young (see photo of young refusing to budge),

Med Gull over south, 3 Great Black-backed Gulls south, 6 Swallow, Blackcap singing.
Langstone Mill Pond: Reed Warbler - two birds singing, Chiffchaff singing, Cetti's Warbler singing, Reed Bunting singing, A pair of Tufted Duck, Mute Swan pair with seven cygnets still (see photo of female hissing at a passing dog!). 1 Swift over - hurray!!!

Some noises from the Little Egrets suggesting chicks, but I could not find any - give it another week and the place will be heaving!!!
Off shore (low tide). Lots of mud, 3 Common Terns, 47 Herring Gull, More empty mud. 1 Oystercatcher, 1 Sandwich Tern. 5 Buzzard in spiral over north Hayling

Foxes in the garden
Mike Wells responded to my request as to how my neighbour might get rid of a family of foxes that are living (and wrecking) his garden.
"I have had two neighbours with foxes living in their gardens and have managed to clear both families. Are the foxes resident in the garden? If so, and if they're under a shed, I would find the entry area (s) and, during the day, when they are mainly inactive, get the garden hose on 'jet' setting and fire it in all directions under the shed, the re-action has been instant and quite humorous! On both occasions I let a considerable amount of water go under both sheds so as to make it very wet and too uncomfortable to bring up a family. If foxes have been flushed out, they must be kept out, and I have found that soaking kitchen roll paper in the cheapest, nastiest after- shave or perfume, and poking it down any entrance will certainly make their eyes water (it did for me!) The whole process is to make life uncomfortable in any way so that the vixen re-locates her family without any harm coming to them. Importantly, once the foxes have left their home for good, it must be made impossible for them to return under the building. Many years ago we had foxes under our shed and I cleared them within 2 hours by pouring creosote into shallow containers, with chicken wire stretched across the tops so they couldn't step in it, and poked it just under the shed and simply let a gentle breeze spread the aroma under the shed. I don't know if creosote is still available, because of its carcinogenic possibilities, but I'm certain anything with a strong unacceptable smell will still do the trick. If they are not resident in the garden I would still support the placing of multiple 'unacceptable smelly substances' around the area that they frequent. If the foxes move it, replace it. If your neighbour would like a volunteer to blast water under a garden building, I would happily do the task for free, just for the enjoyment factor!!"
I have passed Mike's suggestions onto my neighbour who was very grateful. He told me he had made two other contacts about the foxes, one of which offered to shoot them for a princely sum of £350. Mike's ideas are far less radical and legal!

TUESDAY MAY 26 - 2015

Millpond News
The pen swan was with her 6 remaining cygnets on the town millpond near the end of Nile Street when I walked along Bridgefoot Path this morning. Jackie-Michelle Daines tells me the cygnet that was attacked by a Herring Gull yesterday did not make it through the night. She thinks it received an internal neck/spinal injury in the attack.

There is now a Coot on a nest in the centre of the pond. Coot frequently used to make nests in the centre of Peter Pond in past years which were never successful due mainly to rising water levels. Coot have also tried to nest on the town millpond from time to time but never with any success. However, with a low and stable water level being maintained for the swans it might just be possible.
On Slipper Millpond both the Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft with their two chicks.
The cob swan was back on its own again on Peter Pond after having female company yesterday.
A Reed Bunting was singing from the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond. Let's hope it is breeding there.

Slender Spike-rush
I found a good growth of this very small sedge in the usual place on the Lumley area of Brook Meadow at Grid Ref: SU 75133 06035. Slender Spike-rush (Eleocharis uniglumis) was originally discovered here by John Norton on 4th June 2012. I have marked the area with a small twig. This is probably the rarest plant on Brook Meadow!
Slender Spike-rush differs from Common Spike-rush in having slenderer stems as shown in the following photo of the two forms. Slender Spike-rush also only has the lowest glume of the spikelet without a floret; in Common Spike-rush both the two lowest glumes are empty. This needs to be seen with a microscope.

Shelduck ducklings
Jackie-Michelle Daines and her friend Rose spent yesterday at Swanbourne Lake, Arundel, where they enjoyed the good variety of ducks and gulls that can be seen on the lake. Jackie sent me several photos she took at the time of which I have picked out this one showing an adult Shelduck with a 'family' of 15 ducklings.

I hesitate from saying these 15 ducklings are all part of one family as Shelducks are well known for having crèches where one adult looks after young from several broods. However, I gather from the books that Shelduck can have this number of young, though it is unusual.

Starlings galore
What an incredible number of Starlings there are about at present and what a racket they make. It must have been a bumper breeding season for them. This is good news for a species that has declined dramatically over the past 25 years.
I have had around 20 feeding in my garden today, most of them seem to be youngsters begging for food and generally squabbling among themselves. What fun they are.

Here are youngsters in my garden crowding on the bird table
closely watched over by dad (or mum).

And here they are queueing up for a drink from the bird bath.

Charlie Annalls got back from a week away to find a hoard of hungry Starlings and youngsters in her Portsmouth garden. This youngster looks as if it is eating the parents face!

Family of Foxes
I had a phone call from a neighbour in St James Road to say they had a family of Foxes in the garden which were damaging the garden and which they would like to get rid of. I had no idea what to suggest apart from giving Havant Borough Council a ring to see if there was someone in the pest control section who could suggest a solution. Has anyone had any experience of having foxes in the garden?

MONDAY MAY 25 - 2015

Cygnet attacked
All was well on the town millpond when we walked past at about 11am this morning; the Mute Swan pair were with their 7 cygnets near the bridge. However, things changed dramatically this afternoon. Jill Lovett e-mailed me to say she witnessed a gull attacking one of the seven cygnets at about 3pm. Jill said bystanders drove the gull away and the cygnet was rescued from the water by a local lady who took it away. This was the second cygnet on the millpond to be attacked by a gull; the previous incident happened on May 19th when one of the pale 'Polish' cygnets was the victim.
I went to have a look for myself at 6.30 this evening. The pen swan was on the mud near the bridge preening with the remaining six cygnets around her as if nothing had happened. Swans, like other birds do not grieve like humans. I was half expecting to see the other 'Polish' cygnet missing, but it was present, so one of the 'normal' cygnets must have been the victim of today's attack.

I spoke to Glynis Irons while I was at the pond and she told me that the attacked cygnet was still alive and was being 'nursed' by Doreen, a local resident who takes a special interest in the swans on the millpond. The intention is to return the cygnet to the pond if it recovers. Glynis kindly provided me with a photo of the little cygnet snug in a box.

Great Black-backed Gull chicks
Much better news over on Slipper Millpond with the arrival of the first Great Black-backed Gull chicks of the year. I have been expecting them to hatch any time, though I did not get down to see them yesterday. However, this morning the two parents were on the centre raft busily feeding two healthy looking chicks with regurgitated food. The chicks looked quite well developed, so I assume they have been out for a day or two.

The lone Mute Swan cob was on the pond near Chequers Quay with his 'new mate'. Three Swallows were feeding over the pond.
The Tree Mallows are now in full flower around Slipper Millpond and look fine with their bright pink flowers. Also, in flower, but less conspicuously was the Sea Club-rush along the western side of the pond.

Brook Meadow
Coming back through Brook Meadow we met Jill Stanley taking photos of wild flowers. Jill is a fairly regular contributor to this blog and so I invited her onto the main orchid area which now has a twig barrier to prevent casual access to this sensitive area. She was delighted to see the Southern Marsh Orchids doing so well, though they still have some time to go before they reach full flowering maturity. However, we did find another two flower spikes taking the total for the year so far to ten! I wonder if we shall get some more and break this record?

Walking back towards the north bridge along the north west path we came across a brightly coloured Small Copper butterfly fluttering around the vegetation. It finally came to rest allowing me to get a reasonable photo. What a beautiful butterfly this is. I always seem to see Small Copper along this path each year. Maybe, we should think about renaming it as 'the Small Copper path'. Our last sighting on Brook Meadow was on May 4 by Malcolm Phillips.

Garden birds
Things seem to be picking up in the garden on the bird front after a few weeks of relative quietness. Today I recorded 2 Goldfinches, 3 Starlings, 2 House Sparrows, 3 Greenfinches (first for 7 weeks), 4 Collared Doves, 3 Woodpigeons, plus 2 Jackdaws (very unusual). I was also pleased to see the return of a Rook filling its crop with seed and chopped peanuts from the bird table and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker digging into the sunflower hearts after 10 weeks absence.

Columbine or Aquilegia
I had a gentle ticking off from Ralph Hollins about referring to the colourful array of flowers I found on Portsdown Hill yesterday as 'Columbines'. Ralph referred me to the distrubution map in The Hants Flora that shows no records for the native Columbine for SU 60 or SU 70 whereas Garden Aquilegia has always been fairly common as a garden escape in our area. He says, Martin Rand would want to discourage the use of the name Columbine unless one is sure it is the native version. Point taken.

Ralph Hollins also provided information about the mass of spiderlings that Chris Oakley found in his garden yesterday. Ralph think they are the young of the common Garden Cross Spider (Araneus diadematus). You can see further confirmation of the id at . . .

SUNDAY MAY 24 - 2015

Portsdown Hill
Jean and I had an interesting walk along the slopes of Portsdown Hill below Fort Widley this morning. Of course, we enjoyed the great views over Portsmouth to the Isle of Wight, but there was also much of interest right under our feet with a glorious variety of wild flowers typical of this chalk grassland. These included Wild Mignonette, Salad Burnet, Crosswort, Oxeye Daisy, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Red Campion, Bladder Campion, White Campion, Goat's-beard (not open) and Glaucous Sedge. Upright Brome was the major grass of the area, though I also found some Quaking Grass just starting to flower. A number of Rough Hawkbit flowers were dotted around. They are tall yellow daisies with long very hairy stems and leaves only in a rosette at the base.

Left to right and top to bottom:
Salad Burnet, Bladder Campion, Quaking Grass, Rough Hawkbit.

I was surprised at the abundance of Common Gromwell on this slope which I do not recall having seen here before.

We also came across a large patch of flowering Columbine with flowers of many colours. My first inclination was to put this down as a garden escape or, more likely, the product of seeds deliberately sown. However, I gather from The Hants Flora that Columbine is also native in the New Forest and on chalk, so could these plants be native? See Ralph Hollins comment on the following day's entry.

Wild Thyme was flowering on the slope west of the fort. Lots of Cowslips were going over behind the fort, but no sign of any orchids.

Pike in river
Malcolm Smith, the owner of the camera in the river in yesterday's blog report, sent me a still from the video that he got showing a unique close-up of one of the Pike that we currently have in the river. What a fearsome beast!

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley had a quick trip over to the pond and reports as follows:
"I was pleased to see that several of last years plants are thriving, in particular the Zig-zag Clover, Celery-leaved Buttercup and Sheep's Sorrel. The Yellow Rattle is abundant and this year has spread out of the pond compound, under the fence and along the ditch.
The Willow sticks are back in the water despite my replanting them, but curiously, where they have lain on the algae mat they have begun to shoot. The roots are long and white reaching into the sediment, so I have high hopes that they will prosper after all.

The Shelduck are still present but I haven't been able to see if they are the ones that appeared last month. The Mallard were there as well. There were no sign of Dragonflies and I did wonder if the blanket algae may have inhibited them from hatching, or the ducks have been feeding on the larvae.
In my garden I found a lovely clump of Spiderlings. It always fascinates me the way they scatter when disturbed then reform into a ball. I can't be sure which these are but my guess is a form of Crab Spider because of their yellow and black.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out for 'a not very exciting visit' to the Warblington shore (6:38am to 9am - low tide). The birds of note were as follows: "Goldcrest singing in Yew Tree in the church cemetery. Ibis Field: Whitethroat, Chiffchaff singing.
Conigar Point: 2 Skylark in the field behind the point - one singing for a short period, Cetti's Warbler heard, Reed Warbler heard. Three heard - two in mini reed bed and one 60 metres away along the hedgerow, 13 Long-tailed Tit, Chiffchaff singing.
1 Oystercatcher, 51 Herring Gull - non breeding birds, 2 Little Egret, 3 Common Tern, 2 Shelduck, 2 Curlew, 2 Great -Black-backed Gulls.
Pook Lane: 25 Herring Gulls, 1 Great Black-backed Gull (adult & sub adult), Lesser Black-backed Gull (sub adult), 5 Oystercatchers - no more waders around - the shore is now virtually empty!!! 2 Red Breasted Merganser (a female and a moulting male), 2 Linnets (see photo), 1 Little Tern, 1 Shelduck.

Langstone Mill Pond: Mute Swan family left again at 7:40am with 7 cygnets and headed across the mud to the Hayling Bridge. 5 Swallow over, Cetti's Warbler Heard. Reed Warbler - 4 pairs holding territory (see photos),

7 male Tufted Ducks attacking and mating with 2 females - very aggressive orgy! Mallard pair with a single duckling - a few days old, 2 Coot families - one with two chicks and one with four chicks, Moorhen family with 2 chicks.
Grey Heron colony, Fifth nest - 3 young, Sixth nest - 3 young. Reed Bunting male singing.

Is it me, or has this been a very dull spring/summer. Very few summer migrants. In general, whilst driving around teaching I have seen very few Swifts and only one or two House Martins."
I agree with Peter, I have seen only 4 Swifts over the houses in Emsworth and those very briefly. And not a single House Martin - though I would do a dance if I did see one. But Swallows are certainly about.

SATURDAY MAY 23 - 2015

Millpond News
The Mute Swan family on the town millpond continues to progress well. When I passed by at about 11am this morning the cygnets were feeding both from the surface of the pond and by upending in the shallow water.

Meanwhile, the waiting game continues over on Slipper Millpond. The Great Black-backed Gull was still on the nest when I looked this afternoon with no sign of any chicks.

Fish video
Walking over the south bridge I came across a chap dropping morsels of bread into the river for the Brown Trout to come up for. We had a chat about the fish and he told me he had also seen several Pike in the Palmer's Road Copse stretch of the river.
While we were talking a couple of fellows came up with various bits of camera equipment. They told me they were making a video film of fish in the river for a local camera club competition and pointed out a water-proof camera which they had positioned in the river just north of the bridge.

I have never seen anything like this on the meadow before. They went off to the car park leaving the camera in the river which I thought was very trusting. I just hope none of the conservation group came along and cleared it thinking it was litter!

Procumbent Pearlwort
We have a pot of garden lilies in the garden which I noticed today is covered with Procumbent Pearlwort. This leafy plant also regularly invades the rose bed in our front garden, much to the dismay of my wife (the rose gardener). The plant is invasive and is not loved by gardeners but is nevertheless a delightful native wild plant to be cherish by naturalists.

Procumbent Pearlwort (Sagina procumbens) is a low, hairless mat-forming plant spreading outwards from central leaf rosette, and rooting at the nodes. Flowers are solitary at the end of long slender stalks with 4 parted petals, minute or absent. Fruit with spreading sepals. It basically resembles a rather leafy moss with tiny white flowers.

This plant loves bare and well trampled ground, paths, walls, rocky places and also on lawns and garden flower pots! It is a native plant and perennial and fairly common throughout Britain. The word 'pearl' refers to the shape of the seed pod or unopened flower bud, while 'procumbent' simply means growing along the ground.
Procumbent Pearlwort has a dramatic role in religious legend as it is said to have been the first plant on which Christ set forth his foot when he arose from the dead. It was also thought to protect domestic animals from fairies. It was said that a young maiden could attract her lover by drinking an infusion of the plant and if a piece were in her mouth when she kissed him, he would be bound to her for ever! So, please think twice before you pull up this somewhat rampant 'weed'.

FRIDAY MAY 22 - 2015

Millpond News
All was well on the town millpond at about 2.30 this afternoon where the pen swan was with her 7 cygnets, all looking good and growing fast. The cob was patrolling further down the keeping the other pair of swans at bay.
No change in the situation on Slipper Millpond where a Great Black-backed Gull continues to sit on the nest with its mate on the water nearby. I am way out again on my predicted hatching date for the eggs.
The cob swan was alone on the pond, so clearly there is not an established pairing as yet.

Peter Pond plants
I did not intend to stop at Peter Pond, but I got hooked when I saw the plants coming up on the newly seeded area on the east bank. They included a variety of wild plants which were certainly not among the seeds, such as, Lesser Swine-cress and Spear-leaved Orache.

I proceeded to walk along the east and south banks, listing all the obvious plants that I could identify. My total plant list for the survey came to 67. I am sure I missed some and others will be more obvious later in the year, so I shall need to keep this survey going.

Most interesting were a couple of Celery-leaved Buttercup plants with their distinctive rugby ball-shaped seed heads pusjing their way through a tangle of other plants on the bank immediately opposite the pull in to Lumley Gardens.

Brook Meadow
Walking back over the south bridge I noticed a single Greater Periwinkle (?) flower on the east side of the bridge. Amazingly, this was the first time it had been recorded on the Brook Meadow site!

Judas Tree
Jean and I had a walk around Stansted Arboretum this morning in light drizzle. The paths were being cut and it was wet underfoot. No special observations of wildlife, though we were interested to see Michael Prior's notice in front of a Judas Tree in flower which had been nominated as 'tree of the month'.

The Judas Tree is so-called as Judas Iscariot supposedly hanged himself on one although there are several other trees with this claim to fame. The tree originates from SE Europe and western Asia, but has been cultivated for centuries in Europe. It is a favourite garden tree mainly for its bright purplish-pink pea-like flowers in early summer.

THURSDAY MAY 21 - 2015

Millpond News
The Mute Swan was with her 7 cygnets when I passed the town millpond today. All looking well.
Down on Slipper Millpond a Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest with no clear sign of any hatching having taken place, though the gull was sitting with its tail sticking up which I thought was a bit odd.

Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow on a fine morning for the regular Thursday conservation work session led by Mike and attended by 14 volunteers. The main task was to erect temporary twig barriers around the main orchid area on the north meadow to protect the delicate plants from casual walkers. Notices were all placed at selected points asking walkers not to enter the area during the flowering season to avoid damaging delicate plants. Here is Mike erecting one of the notices. Jennifer Rye found another small Southern Marsh Orchid flower spike, making 8 in total.

Volunteer erecting notice asking people not to walk on the wild flower area

Beautiful Demoiselle?
While we were having coffee break at Beryl's seat during the work session, Tony Wootton pointed out a damselfly fluttering around on the vegetation. I managed to get a few shots of what Tony and I thought at first was a female Banded Demoiselle. However, looking closely at the photos I am inclined towards a female Beautiful Demoiselle mainly on the basis of the insect's broad brown wings; in the female Banded Demoiselle the wings would be narrower and have a greenish tint.

There are photos of Beautiful Demoiselles on the internet which closely match the one I took. However, I am not entirely confident as looking through the previous records we tend to see the Banded Demoiselles at this time and the Beautiful Demoiselles a bit later in the season.

Here is a female Beautiful Demoiselle from the internet

Being such a fine and warm spring day, I was hoping to see some good butterflies, but the only ones (apart from unidentified whites) that I saw the whole morning were a Green-veined White feeding on flowers of Yellow Rattle and several Holly Blues, including this one on Hemlock Water-dropwort.

While walking around the orchid area I spotted at least two more of the small white moths that Tony Davis identified as Grass Rivulets - their larvae feed on Yellow Rattle.
I saw another very small but far more colourful moth on the south meadow which I was able to identify for myself as I have seen it many times in previous years both on the meadow and in gardens. It is a micro moth called Pyrausta aurata It has two generations in May and June and again through July and August. It flies both during the day and at night. The larvae feed on mints hence its common name of Mint Moth, though it will not find many of these of Brook Meadow.

Nore Barn Woods appeal
Mike Thomas of the Friends of Nore Barn Woods is looking for our support in the completion of the Shoreline Conservation Project to protect the woods from coastal erosion. The aim is to raise about £14k to complete the job and the group have an opportunity to win a £10,000 donation from Aviva Insurance Company. The following link fully explains the project and what they hope to achieve . . .
In a nut shell, they have to win as many votes. All you have to do is follow the above link, register and then transfer all 10 votes to the FoNBW (Friends of Nore Barn Woods). Mike stresses this is not an appeal for funds, there is no commitment to make a donation. It would help enormously if you could forward the above request to your friends, relatives or anyone else willing to register and vote for our cause.. The more support the better our chances of being awarded £10,000.

30 Days Wild
On his current wildlife diary Ralph Hollins gives a plug for a new scheme called '30 Days Wild' run by the national Wildlife Trusts which aims to get people (particularly children) to interact with wildlife. The idea is to get people out of doors on every day in this coming June to do something in the natural world in whatever way interests them. You can sign up for this project on the web site and they will send you a starter pack.
Go to . . .

Ralph goes a step further to suggest a comprehensive plan to keep you going after the end of 30 days to stimulate an interest in wildlife to last a lifetime. For details on this go to . . . for Wed 20th May.


Millpond News
The pen Mute Swan was on the town millpond at 10.15 this morning with her 7 cygnets, having lost one of the pale Polish ones yesterday. The remaining cygnets looked fine and healthy and were feeding busily near the interpretation board.

The second pair of swans was also on the pond, but keeping their distance, thanks to the cob patrol. What looks like a makeshift Coot nest is out in the centre of the pond, but with no Coot sitting.
I checked the Great Black-backed Gull nest on Slipper Millpond, but there was no change. No sign of any chicks as yet. However, the new Mute Swan pair were together on the pond, which is good news.

Brook Meadow
I had a short walk around the meadow before the river survey. Gipsywort with its distinctive toothed leaves is growing well in the same place as last year, on the west bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse. Also abundant on the same area are Hemlock Water-dropwort, Water Mint and Great Willowherb.

Stream Water-crowfoot is now in flower in the river near the old gasholder.
I happened to meet Pip and Dot Warren and friends walking through the meadow. We went over to look at the Southern Marsh Orchids and while we were there we found another four flowering plants, making 7 in all. The flowers are all very small at present, but should grow well over the next week or two. All the orchids were marked with twigs.
I found the first Cut-leaved Crane's-bill flowers on the main river path south of the north bridge.

I watched a pair of Blue Tits going in and out of a nest site in a small cleft in the bark of one of the large Crack Willow trees that has been pollarded just north of the north bridge. The Blue Tit is standing right next to the nest hole in the photo.

River survey
From 11.30 to 13.30 four members of the Environment Agency, led by Phil Rudd, carried out a survey of fish along a 100 yards stretch of the River Ems on either side of the north bridge. Jennifer Rye and myself were present throughout the operation. Here they are at the north bridge getting things prepared.

Their method was to move along the river with an electrical device which temporarily stunned the fish. Here they are working below the north bridge with Jennifer watching. Both Jennifer and I found the whole operation fascinating and we learned a lot about fish.

The fish were then scooped up into a large bin for identification and measurement. The fish were all revived with oxygenated water and were all put back into the river.

The results: Brown Trout 46, Eels 16, Salmon 1, Bullhead 50. Unfortunately no Pike were caught during the survey. These are generally seen futher south near the south bridge.

Brown Trout count was considerably more than the last count on Brook Meadow. They varied considerably in size from tiny ones no more than 5cm in length which would have been born this year,

to medium sized parr of about 13cm

up to magnificent mature ones of over 30 cm which would be at least two years old. Most of the ones caught were of parr size.

Eels also varied considerably in size with large ones of 50 cm and more which were probably up to 20 years old. They will have spent all their lives in the river until maturity and then will move out to sea again.

The Salmon parr was a surprise to the surveyors, the first ever to be seen in the River Ems. It was thought to be an odd wanderer that came into the river from the sea. It will probably stay for the year and then try to find its way back. It can be distinguished from the Brown Trout by its more forked tail and by the 'fingerprint' marks on its flanks.

In general Phil thought the river was in excellent condition, though some of the overhanging branches needed clearing to allow more light through to encourage plants in the river. Their recommendations would be included in the report to go to David Search.

Water Vole situation
Jennifer and I discussed the situation regarding the Water Vole problem in the river this year with the Environment Agency chaps. Regarding Pike, they agreed they were predators, though thought it unlikely they would be taking full grown voles. This was particularly the case since the survey indicated the river was well stocked with Brown Trout and Eels which would provide a good food supply for the Pike.
They thought last winter's flooding would have had only a temporary effect on the Water Vole population. From their experience of other rivers that flooded, the voles quickly returned once the floods had gone. So, it seems we have to look elsewhere for the cause of the Water Vole problem. Although we have never seen a Mink on Brook Meadow, it was thought to be useful to set Mink traps to see if they were present.

Mystery moth is Grass Rivulet
Our entomologist correspondent Tony Davis came to the rescue over the identification of the small white moth that I saw and photographed on Brook Meadow on May 18th.

He said both of the suggestions on last night's blog were incorrect. Tony said the moth is Grass Rivulet (Perizoma albulata), the larvae of which feed on the ripening seeds of Yellow Rattle. That is very appropriate as we have masses of Yellow Rattle on Brook Meadow right where I saw the moth. Tony saw several of these moths at Brook Meadow last year whilst looking for some of the plants that you mentioned on the blog!
Details: "May - July. Britain and Ireland. A small white moth variably marked with grey and brown lines. Often found near Yellow Rattle and found on grassland, dune slacks and coastal shingle. Typically the whitish forewing with extensive grey-brown cross-bands help to identify this moth. Paler forms can be found in some calcareous districts. Flies by day, from late afternoon to early dusk, sometimes in large numbers. Also flies after dark."
See . . .

TUESDAY MAY 19 - 2015

One cygnet lost
All was well on the town millpond when I checked the Mute Swan family at 10am this morning. The pen was on the pond with her 8 cygnets in tow and all were looking good.

However, I had a visit from Juliet Walker at about 6pm this evening. She had just come from the millpond where the cygnets were down to seven. She was informed by a lady who had seen what had happened that one of the pale 'Polish' cygnets had been attacked by a gull and had died in the attack. It is possible that the gull targetted the pale cygnet as stood out from the rest. This is unfortunate, but not unexpected as young birds are very vulnerable and mortality among them is large. That is the main reason why many bird species (like swans) tend to have such large families. I would be very surprised if other cygnets were not lost in the next week or so.

Slipper Millpond
Over on Slipper Millpond a Great Black-backed Gull was sitting snugly on the nest on the centre raft with no sign of any hatching activity. My predicted hatching date is tomorrow!
Two Mute Swans were on Slipper Millpond looking very much like a pair. So, the cob that lost its mate a couple of months ago appears to have found himself a new mate. Let's hope so, though it is too late for any nesting this year.

I was disappointed to see that the nice growth of Lesser Swine-cress that I found growing against the wall of Chequers Quay houses near the western gate on May 13th has been cleared, along with all the other 'weeds'. At least, they have not been sprayed.

Brook Meadow
I saw two people with their dogs walking through the centre of the orchid area this morning. I shall inform the conservation group and suggest they erect the temporary fences around the main area with notices asking people to avoid walking through this sensitive area during the flowering season to avoid damaging delicate plants.

Young Starlings
It is good to see the first young Starling of the year in the garden this morning, just one being fed by its attentive parents. I hope they can avoid the marauding cats. Here is the youngster calling from the clematis.

Marlpit Lane
I parked near the amenity tip at 12 noon and slowly walked up and down the lane but did not hear anything of a Nightingale. I then walked around the wasteland area to the east of the lane, hearing just one short burst of Nightingale song from the same bushes that I heard one on April 23rd. It looks as if this has been a poor year for Nightingales at Marlpit Lane as only this single songster has been reported as far as I am aware. A Whitethroat was singing strongly and a Cuckoo was calling from a distance, but nothing else of interest on the bird front apart from a Swallow flying over.
The only butterfly I noticed happened to be a good one - my first Common Blue of the year.

As for wild flowers I found some new ones coming up on the waste ground including, Field Madder, Field Forget-me-not, Weld, Crosswort, Scarlet Pimpernel. It was interesting to compare Silverweed and Creeping Cinquefoil at close quarters. They both have very similar flowers, but quite different leaves.

Silverweed . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Creeping Cinquefoil

Hampshire Farm
I popped into the Hampshire Farm open space area on my way back from Marlpit Lane. I parked in the car park, noting the interesting Willow tunnel structures and several new pieces of play apparatus. The photo shows one of three Willow tunnels, still fenced off to allow them to establiush themselves.

I walked right round the site including the wilder northern section. I did not see much in the way of birds. However, the pair of Shelduck that Chris Oakley previously noted was still on the pond. I should have thought that one of the pair would be on the nest if they were nesting nearby.

A Pied Wagtail was feeding on the edge of the pond and a Swallow hawking over the water. Starlings were very noisy in the hedges at the north of the site, presumably with youngsters. I passed a dead and well eaten Fox on the north west of the site.

The grassland is mostly a single species, presumably sown when the land was developed. I am not entirely sure of the species, but it is almost certainly a Fescue, probably Red Fescue, though it did vary quite a lot from one area to another. In parts it certainly lives up to its name in having very red panicles. Of other grasses, I also noted Yorkshire Fog (a nice patch in the northern sector), Cocksfoot and Barren Brome mostly in the wilder area to the north of the main site. I think I also noticed some Crested Dog's-tail which was present in some quantity last year.
I noted down any flowering plants that caught my eye, without in any sense trying to do a proper survey. I noted Black Medick, Lesser Trefoil (small clusters of yellow flowers with notched leaves), Ribwort Plantain, Oxeye Daisy (just one open), Bulbous Buttercup, Creeping Buttercup, Meadow Buttercup, Common Vetch, Wintercress, Field Forget-me-not, Red Clover, White Clover, Common Mouse-ear, Red Campion, Daisy, Broad-leaved Dock, Curled Dock, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Creeping Thistle, Bristly Ox-tongue, Cat's-ear, Common Ragwort, Beaked Hawk's-beard.

Mystery moth
Regarding the identity of the small white moth I saw flying on Brook Meadow yesterday Ralph Hollins thinks it is likely to be a Common Carpet (Epirrhoe alternata). Common in a wide range of habitats, including hedgerows, woodland, calcareous grassland, acid heathland, moorland, fens, sand-dunes and gardens throughout the British Isles. Widespread and common in Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight. See . . .
Eric Eddles suggested it might be Satin Wave (Idaea subsericeata). Common in woodland, scrub, hedgerows, rough grassland and gardens throughout much of southern England, less frequent in south-western and northern England. In Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight fairly common locally, on heaths and amongst tall grasses on downland.
See . . .
Purely on the basis of likeness to the original I am inclined to go with Common Carpet.

Here is the Brook Meadow moth

and here are Common Carpet Moth and Satin Wave moth


MONDAY MAY 18 - 2015

Millpond News
When I passed by the town millpond at about 11.30 this morning, the pen swan was on the water with her 8 small cygnets all present and correct. The youngsters were all busily feeding among the leaf litter on the water surface and are clearly growing in size and looking well.

Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow after morning rain. This seemed to have given the flowers a lift.
I found my first Southern Marsh Orchids of the year, just starting to flower in the usual area on the north meadow; two plants were close together and a third nearby. I marked them with twigs. The first Yellow Rattle flowers are also starting to open.

I did another count of Ragged Robin flowering plants and got a total of 25 with 20 on the Lumley area and another 5 on the area north of the causeway. That's a good increase from the 11 just two days ago.

Lesser Swine-cress (not in flower) is growing on the steps down to the meadow from the north bridge. I must warn the conservation group not to clear these steps.

Another three firsts for the year were Marsh Foxtail in the "Lumley puddle" area and Common Spike-rush in the area north of the "Lumley puddle" and Spiked Sedge on the main Lumley area. I could not find the rare Slender Spike-rush that John Norton first found in 2012.
I spotted the first 'thigh beetle' (Oedemera nobilis) of the year on a buttercup flower. And a small white moth was flying which came to rest briefly for a photo. I would appreciate help with the moth ID. My very tentative suggestion is Mother of Pearl.

See a summary of the local wildlife news from over the past two weeks at . . . Wildlife News Summaries

SUNDAY MAY 17 - 2015

Weed spraying - a rant
One thing that really upsets me when I walk around the town is seeing patches of burnt grasses along the edges of pavements and around trees and lampposts. This is the result of weed spraying by the Council. Not only is this practice unecological but it also defaces the town, leaving ugly scars which take time to heal. And it is not just Havant that does it, but also West Sussex.
Jean and I had a walk to Westbourne this morning and found the edges of the millstream brown and lifeless. This is, of course, where Water Voles have been seen. We walked back via Lumley Mill where I had hoped to see the Greater Celandines on the path towards Seagull Lane, but I was dismayed to find them shrivelled and dying. This is the only place in the local area that these beautiful plants flourish in the wild and they have been snuffed out. The destruction of interesting plants is inevitable with indiscriminate spraying.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was on the Warblington shore this morning from 6:34am to 8:48am with the tide pushing in. The highlights were as follows:
Cemetery: Goldcrest singing, Green Woodpecker, Med Gull over north, Male Kestrel
Ibis Field: Chiffchaff heard, Blackcap heard, 4 Swallows east.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: Chiffchaff heard, Cetti's Warbler Heard, Reed Warbler (Heard - 60 metres away from mini reed bed).
Conigar Point: Reed Warbler heard x2 (mini reed bed), 5 Grey Plover (2 in summer plumage) - flew off south after 20 minutes with Dunlin), 1 summer plumaged Dunlin, 2 Shelduck, 2 Med Gull - adult and first summer.
Pook Lane: 4 Common Tern, 2 Little Tern, 6 Med Gulls west to Oyster beds, 1 Greenshank - un-ringed, 2 Shelduck, 1 Turnstone in summer plumage, 3 Swallow east.
Langstone Mill Pond: Mute Swan - 2 adults with 7 cygnets left at 7:20am and walked across the mud to the pond outflow stream - stayed here until 8:35am when they headed off to the Hayling Bridge. Reed Warbler - Heard x2, Cetti's Warbler heard, Reed Bunting heard, Male & female Tufted Duck, Two Coot families - one with 2 young and another with five, House Martin - single over.
Grey Heron colony: Fifth nest - 2 adults feeding 3 very tiny young, Sixth nest - 2 adults feeding 2 very tiny young.

SATURDAY MAY 16 - 2015

Mute Swan news
The resident pair of Mute Swans were on the pond when I passed by at about 11am this morning with all 8 cygnets still present. Aren't they doing well!

Ragged Robin
I spent the whole afternoon on the meadow updating the three signcases with new photos. While there I counted 11 Ragged Robin plants in flower on the Lumley area, which is a good increase from the one 3 days ago on May 13th. Is this going to be a good year? Here is one of them. You can see how the plant gets its name.

Baffins Pond
The Irons family was at Baffins Pond again today. Young Thomas got photos of the swan family with 3 cygnets and a Coot feeding two older chicks.

South Hayling
Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group - including some pretty special plants:
Go to . . . Click the 2015 reports.

FRIDAY MAY 15 - 2015

Millpond News
The resident pair of Mute Swans were on the pond when I passed by at about 11am this morning with all 8 cygnets still present and looking healthy. The parents were puddling up the mud at the bottom of the pond with their feet to release bits and pieces of foodstuff for the cygnets.

Over at Slipper Millpond one Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the centre raft while its mate was in the water nearby, seeing off any gulls that came too close. Hatching time is getting nearer - my estimate is May 20th.

Meanwhile on Peter Pond, the lone cob Mute Swan that lost its mate a few weeks ago appears to have a companion. A second swan, probably a female, was nearby and significantly not being driven off. Romance is in the air!

I had my first Goat's-beard flower of the year on the south side of Peter Pond near the main road. The yellow florets are markedly shorter than the long pointed bracts. This plant is also known as 'Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon' from the habit of the flowers of only opening in the morning sunshine. Goat's-beard has a large and conspicuous 'clock' seedhead.

Walking up the path towards Gooseberry Cottage I could hear the Reed Warbler singing in the reeds at the north of Peter Pond and the regular Whitethroat in the bramble hedge.

North Thorney
I cycled down to North Thorney and at the bottom of the slope towards the western track I found a good tuft of Spiked Sedge. This is a fairly common sedge, though is easily confused with False Fox Sedge. But , False Fox Sedge is generally a much larger plant with stouter stems, broader leaves and a thicker inflorescence. I have included a photo of the two inflorescences for comparison. The Spiked Sedge on the left was from North Thorney and the False Fox Sedge (in flower) from the wayside north of Emsworth Railway Station.

The red flower spikes of Sheep's Sorrel are very prominent on the left hand side of the track towards Little Deeps. This is a smaller plant that the more common Sorrel with a more open flower spike. It has distinctive leaves with basal lobes pointing sideways or forwards. It also has a slightly different habitat to Common Sorrel, preferring drier, heathy places with bare soil. It is a native perennial plant.

Rook in garden
I had a call from my wife this afternoon from the kitchen that we had a crow on the bird table. That was good news as crows are quite rare birds in the garden. However, when I arrived at the kitchen window I could see immediately that the bird in question was a Rook - a first for our garden. The Rook stayed on the bird table for a few minutes taking seeds and chopped peanuts that I leave out for the birds. I approached the window with my camera very cautiously and managed to get a few shots of the bird before it flew off.

As can be seen from the photo, the Rook had a bulging crop, presumably of seeds and nuts to take back to the nest for hungry youngsters. The nearest Rookery to my house in Bridge Road is about half a mile away, in the tall trees behind the flats opposite the entrance to Emsworth Primary School in Victoria Road. That is not a great distance for a Rook to fly, but quite a surprise to see it here. There are quite a few similar photos on the internet of Rooks with full crops.
See . . .

Rook stands 25th in the BTO Garden BirdWatch list for this time of the year and in this area of the country. It is reported by 15% of the participants in the survey. But it was a first for me!

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 . . .

For earlier observations go to . . May 1-14