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for June 1-14, 2015
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SUNDAY JUNE 14 - 2015

Brook Meadow
I was pleased to meet up with Tom Bickerton for the first time this morning, having corresponded with him many times over the years. Tom was birdwatching on Brook Meadow with a colleague, but they had not seen much when I met them.
Later, I had my first Meadow Brown of the year on Brook Meadow on the Lumley area. The date is about the same as in previous years.

Broad-leaved Willowherb (with crossed stigmas in its flowers) is flowering on the south bridge.

Rare sedges
Martin Rand commented on my description of Slender Spike-rush (Eleocharis uniglumis) on Brook Meadow as 'a very rare sedge':
He says, If you're talking in a national context I think it's not quite accurate to describe Eleocharis uniglumis as a "very rare sedge". It is widespread albeit rather localised in Britain. Your Carex divisa (Divided Sedge) is a much better candidate: it's largely restricted to the coasts of SE England and the shores of the Humber, with just a few outliers elsewhere, and is listed as "Vulnerable" on the UK Red List.

Slipper Millpond - chicks dead
When I arrived to check the Great Black-backed Gull nest on Slipper Millpond this morning, I could not see any sign of the chicks on the raft, but assumed they were hiding in the thick vegetation. However, both the adult gulls were perched on top of the lamp posts on either side of the main road near the Hermitage Bridge. I could not understand what was going on and why the adults were not on the raft with the chicks. While I was standing on the bridge, one of the birds swooped down low over my head seemingly distressed.

The mystery was solved by a phone call that I had later in the day from Sharon who lives in Slipper Road (No 7) opposite the nesting raft. She said both the gull chicks were dead. She had seen them in the water having fallen off the raft. Their downy feathers were waterlogged and they were unable to get back on the raft on despite attempts by the adults to help them. So, that is that for another year. The first time they have failed to produce young in four years of nesting on the raft.
What I assume was a new pair of Mute Swans was on the pond, the cob seemingly having found itself a new mate.
Lesser Sea-spurrey is now flowering well near the kissing gate on the west side of the pond.

Hayling Oysterbeds
Chris Cockburn provides the latest news from the oysterbeds.
"Common tern chicks are now in evidence on the straight island in the Oysterbeds' lagoon; but they are often being brooded by adults during the predominantly breezy and cool conditions that are prevailing so much this year. Presently, there does not seem to be a problem with the quality of fish prey being brought into the colony; but when winds reach Beaufort Force 5 or higher, the terns do have problems in capturing the fish. Like the black-headed gulls, the common terns are at various stages of breeding; there are some with chicks, some that should be hatching soon and others that are only just starting to nest-scrape.

The biggest concentration of black-headed chicks is still on the western end of the straight island and they range from the very small to ones growing feathers. The second wave of hatching, following the tidal flooding on 05 May, is well under way on the curved island and on the eastern end of the straight island. However, there are yet many gulls brooding eggs.

The pair of oystercatchers that started nesting three weeks ago on the western end of the straight island are now nesting on the north spit of Stoke Bay, a site favoured by oystercatchers in previous years. This site is, unfortunately, prone to disturbance by people and by dogs. The eggs of the pair of oystercatchers nesting on the eastern end of the straight island are probably within a week of hatching.

Apart from Holly Blues, Green-veined Whites and Speckled Woods, the numbers of most butterfly species and other insects has been disappointingly low so far, both on the West Hayling LNR and on the Billy Trail. However, on 12 June, there were at least five Painted Ladies near the Oysterbeds on Friday last and a Small Tortoiseshell was seen yesterday.

Many plants have had a good and prolonged flowering season and Milk Thistles on the Oysterbeds' Mound are in abundance after recent lean years. Bee orchids are coming into bloom on the Billy Trail and at the Oysterbeds where a cluster of at least eight plants has appeared on the south bank of the mound.

FRIDAY JUNE 12 - 2015

Brook Meadow
I had a mooch around the meadow this morning and discovered a few more orchids. One more Common Spotted Orchid was out on the orchid area taking the total so far to 9. I also found 3 more Bee Orchids, 2 on the orchid area and one on the Lumley area taking their total to 8.

The flower heads of the Great Burnet plants are growing and turning bright red. Photos to come later when in full flower.
The first Hedge Bindweed flowers are out on the Lumley area. In Hedge Bindweed the sepals are enclosed by two pouch-like bracteoles, but these do not overlap and so the sepals remain visible - see marker in photo. In Large Bindweed the bracteoles are strongly overlapping hiding the sepals.

A grass to admire


Emsworth Recreation Ground
The grassland immediately behind the bowling club on the Recreation Ground usually has an interesting selection of plants and today was no exception. The grasses included Sweet Vernal Grass, Yorkshire Fog and a small amount of Crested Dog's-tail.
I always look forward to seeing the Bent-grasses which grow well on this grassland. I have always assumed they were Creeping Bent-grass from the long pointed ligules. However, today, I took a few samples to examine the spikelets with the microscope and found they had long bent awns coming from the lemmas. This would be very unusual in Creeping Bent-grass, so my guess is that the grass is in fact Velvet Bent-grass.

I was also very pleased to see the usual small area of Meadow Barley near the gate to the pony field - my first of the year. Other plants in this area included an excellent show of Lesser Stitchwort, plus some Common Sorrel, Bird's-foot Trefoil and Field Wood-rush. What I assume are the Hairy Buttercups are in flower along the track leading to the gate in the far north west corner of the ground leading to Horndean Road, though I did not dig them up to confirm.  

Wild Clary - comes and goes
Once again the council cutting team have mown the Wild Clary growing on the grass verge in Christopher Way. I presume they will come up again, as they have each time in the past. A tough plant. However, the three plants on the main uncut wayside are still there and growing.

Stag Beetle
My neighbours, Rob and Tina went for a walk along the shore last evening to Nore Barn and discovered this cracking male Stag Beetle on the shingle. They are named after their large jaws (antlers) which the males use to fight rivals in the breeding season.

The female Stag Beetle is smaller and lacks the antlers as shown in this photo from Thomas Irons.

Fort Purbrook
Jill Stanley eventually got to Fort Purbrook - this morning and found the Common Spotted orchids in full flower with the Pyramidal ones just opening up - they tend to be a bit later - but there are hundreds of both. Jill also noted Bladder Campion, Greater Knapweed and Knapweed Broomrape which is parasitic on the Knapweed. A great place to visit at this time of the year.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley sent me this astonishing photo of part of the Hampshire Farm open space literally covered with Oxeye Daisies. Oxeye Daisy is, in fact, a native plant, though I assume this vast swathe was sown here by the developers.


South Moor
It was a glorious sunny and warm morning, so I decided to go down to South Moor to see how the Southern Marsh Orchids were getting along. This is by far the best site locally to see these magnificent orchids.
Parking at the end of Southmoor Lane I walked along the path going east onto the South Moor. I had to clamber over the specially constructed wooden fence to get onto orchid area itself as the nearby gate was bolted. However, there is no problem about access.
The moor was unusually dry with short grass - probably indicating that grazing had taken place over the winter? This made walking much easier than it usually is and I had a very enjoyable morning. The moor itself was looking exceptionally beautiful with swathes of red Common Sorrel and yellow buttercups dotted around all over These were supplemented by large patches of Yellow Flag and pink Ragged Robin and the tiny white flowers of Lesser Stitchwort were everywhere.

Southern Marsh Orchids
The Southern Marsh Orchids were looking in good shape with probably more to come before the official count on June 20th. As the grass was short they were easy to see, though they seemed to be more spread out over the moor than usual.

Orchid counts have been taking place on the South Moor since 1995 at Grid Ref: SU 712 052. In 1995 and 1996 Ralph Hollins counted them and since then they have been counted by the local Hampshire Wildlife Trust Havant Wildlife Group under the supervision of Nigel Johnson. Last year there was a record count of 10,690 flowering spikes! This beat the previous best of 9234 in 2010 by over a thousand. It will be interesting to see what this year's count will be.

Greater Spearwort
I was pleased to find a good flowering of Greater Spearwort in a marshy area of the moor well away from the other buttercups. This was a new plant for me on the moor. Greater Spearwort is the largest flowered buttercup with distinctively long narrow leaves. It is hairless with grooved stems, though the flower stalks are not grooved - see the photo. It is a native plant, but has been so widely planted as an ornamental that its range and abundance as a wild plant are difficult to determine.

Large Bittercress
I also found (what I think/hope) were patches of Large Bittercress in flower. This is a larger more sprawling plant than the more common Hairy and Wavy Bittercresses that we tend to see around town. Its and leaves are divided into 2-5 pairs of oval leaflets with a larger terminal leaflet. There is no basal rosette. Its flowers are larger than the other bittercresses with violet anthers, though the anthers had all disappeared on the plants I found.

I puzzled for some time over some Forget-me-not flowers hoping they might be Tufted Forget-me-nots which I know have been seen on the South Moor in previous years. However, I was not sure. As, can be seen in the photo, the hairs on the stem are not flattened as they should be for Tufted. I also examined the hairs lower down the stem and they were much the same. Maybe it is Tufted, but my tentative conclusion is that it is probably Water Forget-me-not.

Other plants
Other plants noted included Brooklime, Sea Arrowgrass, Hemlock Water-dropwort and Common Knapweed (not in flower).
I was pleased to find my first Marsh Thistle flowers of the year. What a striking plant this is.

Grasses, sedges, etc
South Moor is also very good for grasses, sedges, rushes and horsetails. Of the grasses, Tall Fescue, Red Fescue and Marsh Foxtail were widespread, with occasional Crested Dog's-tail and Sweet Vernal Grass. I was also pleased to find my first Bent-grass of the year, probably Common Bent-grass, but still closed up. But no sign of Plicate Sweet-grass, maybe too dry.
Of the sedges False Fox Sedge was everywhere along with lots of Divided Sedge. I also found Distant Sedge, Black Sedge, Brown Sedge and Common Spike-rush.
Hard Rush, Soft Rush and Compact Rush were showing flowers, but not Sharp-flowered Rush as yet.

Marsh Horsetail was widespread with its black cones standing out well.

Other wildlife
The only birds I heard were a Cetti's Warbler singing constantly from the bushes to the north of the area and an occasional Chiffchaff.
Despite the warm morning I saw very few butterflies on the wing. However, I did see my first Meadow Brown of the year fluttering past, plus a couple of Common Blues. Interestingly, Ralph Hollins reported in his diary last night that Barry Collins found the first Meadow Browns of the year on Thorney Island on Monday 8 June.
There was no sign of the Narrow-bordered Five-spot Burnet moths that I have seen here in the past, but maybe it is a bit early for them.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley and his wife had a walk over Hampshire Farm on a perfect summer evening. He says, "It was a delight to be out in the quiet of the meadow. The Ox-eye daisies were in swathes all across the site, I've never seen so many in one place. Last year there were some but never like this. There were several Common Blue butterflies as well as some Meadow Browns, one Large Skipper and one extremely pale Small Tortoiseshell. Swallows were hawking the grass and pond but we saw only one House Martin".
Chris found some clumps of Grass Vetchling, which is interesting as I recall finding some on the site now occupied by the housing estate during a survey prior to the development. Good to hear they have survived - and moved across!

Chris also found a puzzling Vetch that he could not identify. He says the flowers were huge by vetch standards being nearly 2cms long. From Chris's photo the plant looks looks like Common Vetch, though the size of the plant is puzzling. Does anyone else have any idea?

Stansted Ravens
Chris Oakley was at Stansted Arboretum today noted that the Ravens have at least two young which were making quite a fuss.


Bridge Road Wayside
I spent this morning surveying two of our local waysides. Starting at the Bridge Road Wayside, I donned my wellies and got into the Westbrook Stream mainly to look for the very rare Narrow-leaved Water-plantain which has been growing here since 2006 when it was first discovered by Nigel Johnson. Martin Rand (BSBI Recorder for S Hants) has confirmed the identification indicating that it is a first for this part of Hampshire.
Sadly, the plants which have numbered up to 30, have declined dramatically in recent years, probably due to the flooding of the stream and the clearance work by the Environment Agency. Now there are no plants to be seen at all in the stream adjacent to the car park and I could only find 6 plants in today's survey, all behind the Bridge Road houses (including mine) towards the Victoria Road culvert. (SU 74734 06172). Here is one of them showing the typical narrow leaves tapering to the base.

I was pleased to find some Plicate Sweet-grass had survived on the denuded banks of the stream, but not as much as in previous years. The more common grass False Brome is also showing well on the edges of the stream, enough, in fact, for me to cut some for my vase display. However, there was no sign of Blue Water-speedwell which I have seen in the stream in previous years. I did find several tufts of Remote Sedge and some Grey Sedge.
The main downside of the stream survey was that I dropped my precious Lumix FZ8 camera into the water. It was saturated. When I got home I opened up the battery case and left it in the sun to dry out. I hope it is not permanently damaged.

The grass verge wayside itself is heavily overgrown with tall grasses, mostly False Oat-grass, giving little opportunity to smaller species to grow. Several tufts of False Fox Sedge are pushing through. There is no sign of any orchids; last year we had three Bee Orchids near the Goat Willow tree and a Pyramidal Orchid near the conservation notice. Wall Lettuce is struggling to come up beneath the Beech hedge along Bridge Road; this area was chemically sprayed by the Council which put paid to most of the small plants. So, overall the wayside has had a rough year or so.
So far this year I have logged 108 species of plant on the Bridge Road Wayside and stream out of a total list of 194. So, there is some way to go. Last year I got 128.

Railway Wayside
I also did a survey of the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station which has become very overgrown since it was first adopted as a wayside in 2012 with less variety of plants on show.

Hedge Woundwort is in flower, but there is no sign as yet of the prized Marsh Woundwort, though this is often a bit later. However, the area at the eastern end of the wayside where Marsh Woundwort has been most prolific is now covered with a carpet of brambles and I fear we might not see much.
Common Knapweed is struggling through the brambles though not yet in flower as is Perforate St John's-wort. I was surprised to see the first yellow petals showing on Common Fleabane. Also, the first pink flowers are showing on Hemp Agrimony. Hedge Bedstraw was a new plant for the wayside list, though not in flower. A blue Cornflower was out on the embankment near the ramp, probably from seeds tossed there by passers by, but rather pretty. Tufted Vetch was out mainly on the west area of the wayside.

Hoary Willowherb is a regular flower on this wayside and it was good to see several of them in flower. This is a smaller slender version of the more common Great Willowherb, separated by its smaller paler flowers, its non-clasping strap-shaped leaves and its softly hairy stem, appearing greyish, ie 'hoary'.

The docks are a tricky group to separate, but I think the main one on this wayside at present is Wood Dock - though I might be wrong!. This is generally found in shady places, though here it is in the open. Stem is straight with many branches arising at a narrow angle to the stem (< 30 deg). It has flowers arranged along the spike in well-spaced reddish whorls with clusters of small untoothed tepals of which only one has a large rounded red wart.

Just over the border onto the highways area I found my first Crested Dog's-tail grass of the year, showing its typical one-sided stalked flower spike.

The small wayside beneath the large poster by the station entrance looks very unpromising, covered by a carpet of Ivy. However, on the edge of the road just outside the white fence I found my first Common Ragwort of the year in flower.

In total I logged 88 plant species from a total list of 169. My guess is that many of the missing ones will have gone for good.

I saw both male and female Common Blue butterflies, the female settled for a photo.

It was good to see lots of Bumblebees feeding mainly on the clovers and the Bird's-foot Trefoil.
I spotted a Common Lizard scuttling away from one of the many black reptile mats.

Other notes: The wayside notice on the eastern section is damaged and needs replacing. I hope we can unsure that the plants near the ramp are not chemically sprayed this year.

Bee Orchids gone!
Di Ashe wrote to inform us that the lovely array of 50+ Bee Orchids that she photographed on the roadside near Warblington roundabout a couple of days ago have gone! The Council verge cutting team arrived this afternoon and mowed them all down! As Di says it is unlikely they were in flower long enough for seed to set. Clearly the management at Havant Borough Council were not listening to the chap from Plantlife on 'Springwatch' last night who was encouraging councils to delaying verge cutting until after the main flowering season. However, there is probably no great damage in the long run as all orchids are perennials with rhizomes or tuberous roots and do not rely entirely on seed for their propagation.

Here is Di's photo just for the memory!


Millpond News
On the town millpond the Mute Swan family of two adults and 5 cygnets was struggling a little in the very low water channel at the bottom of Nile Street when I passed by at about 11am this morning. However, all the cygnets looked strong and healthy and growing well.


Over on Slipper Millpond the two Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft with their two growing chicks moving around on the raft. Here is a photo of one of the parents and a chick, growing fast.

The raft now has a luxurious growth of vegetation including a large flowering plant of Hemlock Water-dropwort plus various other plants, so the chicks have lots of cover. Some of the wooden framework and wires that was originally placed there to deter the gulls nesting appears to have collapsed allowing much easier movement on and off the raft for the adults.


Brook Meadow
Walking in through the Lumley gate I was greeted by the loud song of the resident Cetti's Warbler from the purple leaved Cherry Plum 'Pissardii' on the causeway. It has been heard since 19-Feb. I watched it fly across towards the Lumley Stream, hearing it singing several more times from that area. It is clearly a very mobile bird and this probably accounts for my hearing it at several locations around the meadow. Here is Malcolm Phillips's photo of the bird from earlier in May.

I found small amounts of both Celery-leaved Buttercup and Toad Rush growing very closely together in two locations: (a) in the area north of the "Lumley puddle" and (b) on the small casual route down to the Lumley Stream from the path round the Lumley area.

I met a couple of self-confessed 'orchid addicts' on Brook Meadow this morning. They were volunteers from the new RSPB Medberry Reserve near Pagham and were very pleased to hear about the orchids growing on Brook Meadow. They were well-armed with large cameras and tripods. It is interesting to hear that news of our orchids is travelling far and wide.  

MONDAY JUNE 8 - 2015

Brook Meadow - Guided walk
I was asked to conduct this 2 hour guided walk of Brook Meadow for the Rowlands Castle U3A naturalist group by my old friend Jim Berry who is a member of the group. Jennifer Rye brought along some new Brook Meadow leaflets which I distributed at the end of the walk.
We walked round the whole of the meadow, covering all the main areas of interest.
We spent some time discussing the current parlous state of the Water Vole population. We looked where we could in the river, but did not see any sign of a Water Vole.
We enjoyed listening to the bird song which was present throughout the walk, particularly, Blackbird, Wren, Chaffinch and Blackcap. The group was also interested to hear the local Cetti's Warbler singing from the area of Gooseberry Cottage. I also heard what could have been a second Cetti's Warbler singing from the north of Lumley copse.
The group were keen to see the orchids that were currently in flower on the meadow and, most important, we made some new discoveries. It just goes to show how useful it is having several pairs of eyes looking. Two members of group spotted two Bee Orchids on the far eastern side of the Lumley area - the first of the year in that area. This takes the total found so far on Brook Meadow this year to six.

Here is a photo of the group admiring the Bee Orchids.

Here is one of the Bee Orchids - what a beauty

While looking around the main orchid area, another member of the group found a new Southern Marsh Orchid just to the east of the main group of orchids on the north meadow. Here is the group admiring these orchids.

We also found the first Hedge Bindweed of the year flowering in this area.
I also introduced the group to some of the main grasses and sedges that are currently in flower on the meadow, explaining briefly the nature of their flowering.
The only butterflies we saw during the walk were Speckled Wood and Red Admiral. However, we got a good view of a Hornet buzzing around on a path in front of us near the arisings tip on the east side of the meadow. Unfortunately, it did not stop for a photo. But a female Beautiful Demoiselle with blue body and brown wings was more obliging, basking in the sunshine on a leaf with her brown wings. The wings of a female Banded Demoiselle would be greenish.

More Bee Orchids
Di Ashe spotted about 50-60 Bee Orchids in bloom just as you come into Emsworth on the left by the roundabout from the A27. "Magnificent to see so many in such close proximity!" They must be having a good year? To see them Di parked in the road to Warblington Church and crossed over the road. An easier place to park would be at the pull in just past the Boat Planter.

SUNDAY JUNE 7 - 2015

Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow this morning mainly to take photos of the conservation work session. The morning was fine and warm. The session was led by Wally Osborne and attended by 10 volunteers. One task was to cut a series of narrow paths through the dense vegetation on the Seagull Lane patch to enable access to the Jubilee hedgerow and various tree saplings. This will also help to open up this area which has become very thickly overgrown this year. Wally and Mike also put a stake to support the smallest Oak sapling planted by my wife, Jean in 2012.

Here is Mike cutting his way through the jungle of vegetation with the power scythe

During this work I noticed a Dog Rose bush in full blossom - a beautiful sight. This was on the Jubilee hedgerow on the west side of the Seagull Lane patch at Grid Ref: SU 750001 06246.

Ted Aylett
Pam Phillips informed us that sadly Ted Aylett had died. Ted had moved away to Yorkshire to be near his daughter following the death of his wife Penny in September last year, but he was in poor health.
Ted and Penny Aylett were both founder members of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group in the year 2000 and held the inaugural meeting of the group at their house in The Rookery on 24th August 2000. Most of the our committee meetings for the next 3 years or so were held at their house and Ted and Penny were such generous hosts. Ted also acted as the group's publicity officer for a time. Despite his increasing ill health and loss of sight Ted continued to take an active interest in Brook Meadow, attending work sessions in the early days.

An early workday group in December 2000 with Ted Aylett prominent on the left of the photo.
Others from the left Tony Wilkinson (deceased), Viv Harding, Brian Fellows,
Penny Aylett (deceased), Alison (BTCV) and Frances Jannaway.

The funeral will at The Oaks (Havant Crematorium) in Barton's Road on 16th June at 11.30. Penny also had her funeral there on September 19th 2014.

Despite the warm morning I saw very few butterflies, just one Red Admiral, one Speckled Wood and one Common Blue. The Common Blue was the first of the year on Brook Meadow.
Joyce Sawyer got another first of the year yesterday with this Painted Lady feeding on Hemlock Water-dropwort.

Painted Lady is a migratory butterfly which is unable to survive the British winter. Our populations originate from N. Africa where numbers build up each spring leading to annual invasions across Europe with some arriving in Britain usually from June onwards. Very occasionally they turn up in their millions as in the summer of 2008.

Bee Orchids
I met Jill Stanley and Di Ashe on the orchid area standing over a small group of 4 Bee Orchids that Di has just discovered in the long grass.

The Bee Orchids were all marked with small twigs though, even then, they were not at all easy to find. These were the first Bee Orchids of the year on Brook Meadow at Grid Ref: SU 75069 06143. This is the spot where Jill and I found 5 last year. Last year we found a total of 12 Bee Orchids on Brook Meadow, 7 on the orchid area, 4 on the Lumley area and one on the centre meadow. So, clearly we need to keep looking! But what little gems they are!

Jill also discovered the first Lesser Stitchwort of the year on Brook Meadow on the centre meadow just north of the causeway at Grid Ref: SU 75093 06023. This is about 2 weeks later than last year, though that was exceptionally early.

Stoughton Orchids
Di Ashe had a walk above Stoughton yesterday where she found about 6 Fly Orchids, 8 Greater Butterfly Orchids, perhaps 20 or so White Helleborines and hundreds of Twayblades.

Here is Di's photo of one of the Greater Butterfly Orchids

Di helpfully provided directions if anyone would like to go and see them for themselves: "Up behind the Church take the path which is part of the Monarchs Way up the hill and turn right. The Fly orchid group is about 20 paces along the path on the right about 5 paces into the wood. There are several Helleborines along on the left mostly and a Greater Butterfly. On the right there are many Twayblades all along. The first Butterfly orchid is on the left, just after the footpath that goes down the hill towards the pub. Approaching the second power line swathe across the path, there is a very majestic Butterfly Orchid on the left and several more can be seen singly either side of the path further on and also more Fly Orchids. We then turned left and came back along the track through the middle of Inholmes Wood, and several Common Spotted Orchids were seen. "

Greylag Goose at Baffins
Eric Eddles was quite excited to see this Greylag Goose amongst the many Canada Geese on Baffins Pond. The last time he saw one on the pond was on the 12th of April 2006.

Titchfield Canal
Chris Cope reported on yesterday's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group
See link to 2015 reports at . . .


Orchids on Brook Meadow
I had a walk through Brook Meadow on a warm and sunny afternoon, mainly to look for orchids. The group of five Common Spotted Orchids, just outside the main orchid area to the north of the twig barrier, are now looking very good. I searched thoroughly for any Bee Orchids but failed to find any.

Cuckoo Bumblebee ?
Despite the warm temperature there were very few butterflies on the wing. The only insect of interest that caught my attention was a Bumblebee feeding on the flowers of a Hemlock Water-dropwort plant on the Lumley area. This bee had a single dark yellow band at the front of the thorax (not shown too well in this photo) and two yellow wedges on the end of the abdomen where the black meets the white of the tail. All this strongly suggests it is a Cuckoo Bumblebee, probably Bombus vestalis.

Interestingly, Thomas Irons also got a photo of what was probably a Cuckoo Bumblebee Bombus vestalis on May 27th at Warblington. Here is Thomas's photo for comparison.

Bryan Pinchen agreed that Thomas's photo showed Bombus vestalis, although he thought there was a slim possibility of it being B. bohemicus. He says, "Both have a distinctive yellow wedge of hairs between the black towards the tail tip, and the white of the tail tip but often can't be separated without microscopic examination. On balance, vestalis is the more likely given that it appears to be more widespread nationally than bohemicus which tends to have a more westerly distribution." The same argument probably applies to the Brook Meadow bee.

Willowherb at Chichester
I am grateful to Ralph Hollins for correcting my identification of the small willowherb that I found on the roadside in Chichester yesterday. I thought it might be American Willowherb, but Ralph rightly pointed out something I had completely overlooked which ruled this out. He noted that the fully open flower nearest the camera showed a cross-shaped stigma in the centre of the flower and this cross-shape indicates Broad-leaved Willowherb. American Willowherb on the other hand has an upright, club-shaped stigma. See Rose 'The Wild Flower Key' p.298.

Blue Water-speedwell
Ralph Hollins also commented on the Blue Water-speedwell, which is now in flower on the east side of Peter Pond at Grid Ref: SU 75284 05856. However, it is necessary to determine whether the plant is the genuine Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) or the hybrid between Blue and Pink Water-speedwell called Veronica x Lackschewitzii which continues to spread. So, as Ralph says, there is no guarantee that the Peter Pond plant is 'true blue'.
The best way of distinguishing the genuine blue from the hybrid is by counting the number of flowers in a raceme; the hybrid has many more flowers than the genuine version. The BSBI Plant Crib says the value is 14 to 40 flowers (with a mean of 25) for the genuine Blue species and from 30 to 90 (mean 60) for the hybrid. I recall the late Pete Selby's criterion was stricter, saying that anything over 20 flowers on the longest raceme meant it was a hybrid. Also supporting the hybrid identification would be the absence of capsules on any of the plants as the hybrid is not fertile.
However, Ralph says, to count the flowers in a raceme is almost impossible till late in the season when the tight packed flower buds at the tip of the raceme have mostly opened leaving countable flower pedicels spread out along the raceme. So, at present, it is much too early to be sure of separating the true species from the hybrid but Ralph thinks the photo I took on Peter Pond on June 3 suggests a low count and thus the likelihood that this is true species.
Here is another photo of the Peter Pond plant I took today. Some of the racemes do look as if they have more than Pete Selby's criterion of 20 flowers, suggesting the hybrid.

FRIDAY JUNE 5 - 2015

Wild Clary on Christopher Way
There are about 4 plants on the main wayside with some flowers. Here is one of them.

A new notice on the wayside near to the Wild Clary plants gives information about these rare flowers.

There are many more Wild Clary plants in flower on the council verge further to the west, though these will probably soon by mown along with the rest of the verges, but they do not appear to have suffered as a result of the mowing in the past. Grid Ref: SU 74865 06900.

American Willowherb? . . . CORRECTION - see below
I saw this small flowering willowherb on a roadside in Chichester this afternoon. Small willowherbs are notoriously difficult to separate, particularly the native Broad-leaved Willowherb and the alien American Willowherb. Both are common on pavements and roadsides. My photo does not really enable one to go for either with any great confidence, but overall my preference is for American Willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum). Points in its favour include the reddish stems with raised ridges, the hairless leaves and what looks like glandular hairs on the main stem, attracting lots of green aphids.

CORRECTION - Ralph Hollins rightly pointed out something I had completely overlooked - that the fully open flower nearest the camera showed a cross-shaped stigma in the centre of the flower and this cross-shape indicates Broad-leaved Willowherb. American Willowherb on the other hand has an upright, club-shaped stigma. See Rose 'The Wild Flower Key' p.298.

Chichester Peregrines
I checked on the Peregrines nesting on Chichester Cathedral this afternoon at the excellent RSPB watch point in the cafe garden behind the Cathedral. I was informed by one of the volunteers that the three chicks were being well provided with food by both parents and were growing fast. The three, three week old, Peregrine chicks were ringed on 31 May 2015 by ecologist Graham Roberts. There are two females and one male chick. All are fit and healthy. The male weighs 600g and the females weigh 840g and 855g. The female Peregrine is always much larger than the male. The young birds' wing feathers are developing and it is expected they will fledge in two and a half weeks time. Here is a snap I got of the chicks in the nest on the monitor in the RSPB tent, the male is on the left and the females are together on the right.

To see live pictures from the nest go to . . .


Millpond News
The Mute Swan family was on the town millpond near the bridge with the 5 remaining cygnets all growing rapidly. It is amazing how they have come on in the past few days. They are fast catching up the Mallard.

The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond with their two chicks. All was quiet. Two Mute Swans were present, the regular cob on Peter Pond and its mate (to be) on Slipper Millpond.

Sea Trout
From the small footbridge to the north of Peter Pond I could see two fairly large Trout in the stream below me. They were much darker than the Brown Trout we get in the River Ems and the spots seemed to be more numerous, almost mottled. These presumably will be Sea Trout that move up from the harbour. Please correct me if I am wrong. I tried to get a photo, but my point and shoot camera does not cope well with water, so this was the best I could get. The head is facing down in the photo.

I read in my guide that Sea Trout feed on small fish such as sprats and grow much faster than the river-dwelling Brown Trout whose diet is mainly invertebrates, such as freshwater shrimps and insect larvae. This diet apparently accounts for the reddish spots on the flanks of Brown Trout, whereas the Sea Trout tend to be darker.

Brook Meadow
There is a good crop of Common Spike-rush now showing on the Lumley area along with the abundant Divided Sedge, Distant Sedge and False Fox Sedge. There was no sign of Toad Rush as yet. The leaves of Pepper-saxifrage are now showing in the usual place on the east side of the Lumley area. I found my first Brooklime of the year in flower on the edge of the Lumley Stream, but no sign of Blue Water-speedwell which I usually see here as well.

I looked hard for Bee Orchids on the main orchid area in the north meadow, but did not find any. However, I did find another two Common Spotted Orchids in much the same place as last year, growing close to a bush of Meadowsweet. I marked them with a tall stick. Their spotted leaves show up well in this photo.

Jill Stanley also went looking for orchids on the meadow this afternoon and found an unmarked Common Spotted Orchid, albeit a small one that was only just coming out - picture attached. This is almost certainly not one of the pair I found this morning, so that adds another one to the total taking it to 8 in all, equalling the record for Common Spotted Orchids set in 2010.

I also found another Southern Marsh Orchid about 20 metres to the west of the main group. This takes this year's total of Southern Marsh Orchids to 20 (a new record). Some of the older Southern Marsh Orchids are now looking very good.

There were lots of little white moths fluttering around the orchid area. These are called Grass Rivulets and their larvae feed on Yellow Rattle. This is a photo I took a couple of weeks ago.

During my walk on the meadow, I met Tess, an ecologist, who was in the process of relocating Slow-worms from a housing development site in Southbourne to Brook Meadow. This is the same group that relocated both Common Lizards and Slow-worms last year onto Brook Meadow.


Brook Meadow
I had a good mooch around the orchid area, but did not find any more orchids to add to the 17 Southern Marsh Orchids and 5 Common Spotted Orchids already found in this area. There was no sign of any Bee Orchids as yet, though they are always difficult to find in the long grasses. I noted the distinctive greyish leaves of Hoary Ragwort are now showing well in this area along with lots of Common Fleabane.
However, my best find of the morning was the first Great Burnet of the year in the same place as last year on the main orchid area at Grid Ref: SU 75068 06131.

This is now the third year we have been graced with this rare plant. When it was first discovered in 2013 this was the first Hampshire record in SU70 for Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis). Martin Rand said, as a native in South Hampshire it is confined to the New Forest where it is one of several "hay meadow" constituents of base-rich flushed heathland in the south of the Forest.
I also had a mooch around the Lumley area where I located the two Southern Marsh Orchids that Jennifer Rye found, taking the grand total so far for the Brook Meadow site to 19. These two plants are not together on the Lumley area but separated by about 10 metres. I would suspect that seeds from the orchid area plants have been inadvertently transferred to the Lumley area on people's shoes.

Ragged Robin are now going over. Today's count came to less than the 34 that I counted on May 27th, so I shall take that as the annual count for 2015 which is very low. The chart below shows the maximum counts each year from 2002. The counts have been very variable over the years. Following a record 625 in 2010 the count fell to 214 in 2011 and then plummeted in Years 2012 and 2013. The count in 2014 was up to 104, but it fell again to just 34 flowering plants this year. I have no idea why the numbers of this very attractive plant fluctuate so much.

A Cetti's Warbler was singing strongly from Lumley copse area. A Red Admiral was flying - the first I have seen for a while. This must be the first of the migrants from the Continent which will soon be flooding into Britain.

Millpond News
The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond with their two chicks - follow the thin white lines on the photo.

The Coot is still sitting on the nest on the north raft. Hemlock is in flower on the east side of Slipper Millpond.

I found Blue Water-speedwell in flower on the eastern side of Peter Pond along with more Celery-leaved Buttercup and Water-cress.


Grass Vetchling
Joyce Sawyer sent me the following photo asking if I could identify it for her. She had searched the internet and various books without success. Joyce said her husband took the photo in an uncultivated part of the field opposite the Havant Crematorium, but they have also seen them on Northney Common, Hayling.


Joyce's very beautiful jewel-like crimson flower is the one-and-only Grass Vetchling, named after the fact that its leaves are very thin and look like grass. The Hants Flora describes it as 'local but increasing' which is good as this is a flower to be cherished. Grass Vetchling is mainly confined to the south and east of England. I think Northney Common is the best place to see it locally. But the field opposite the crematorium is a good record for this scarce plant.  

MONDAY JUNE 1 - 2015

Millpond News
The Mute Swan family on the town millpond is now down to 5 cygnets. They started with 8, then lost two following attacks by Herring Gulls. The third cygnet must have been lost while I was away over the weekend. I don't know what happened. Does anyone know?

I checked the Slipper Millpond nest where the two Great Black-backed Gull chicks are still active on the raft.

Speedwell correction
I am grateful to Ralph Hollins and Jill Stanley for correctly identifying the hairy speedwell I found on Bridge Road Wayside on May 28 as Wall Speedwell and not Thyme-leaved Speedwell as I first thought. I should have know this as I have found Wall Speedwell on the Bridge Road Wayside in previous years.

As Ralph rightly pointed out "although the flowers of Wall Speedwell are usually bright blue and your photo shows pale streaked flowers like those normally found on Thyme-leaved Speedwell everything else about your photo suggests that this is Wall Speedwell which is abundant at present".

More orchids
On May 28 Jennifer Rye discovered the first Common Spotted Orchids of the year; 5 plants were flowering just north of the new perimeter barrier that the conservation group built which is roughly where they were last year. We should be getting others. We are also expecting Bee Orchids fairly soon, though they are a devil to find among the long grasses.

Today, Jennifer called in to tell me she had found two more definite Southern Marsh Orchids on the Lumley area, taking the total so far this year to 19. These new sightings are particularly welcome as they are well distant from the main orchid area and indicate the plants are gradually getting established generally.

Cuckoo Bumblebee ID
Thomas Irons took this photo of what looked like a Cuckoo Bumblebee on May 27th. I asked Bumblebee expert Bryan Pinchen to have a look at the photo and he tentatively agreed with my identification of the bee as Bombus vestalis, although he thought there is a slim possibility of it being B. bohemicus.

Bryan says, "Both have a distinctive yellow wedge of hairs between the black towards the tail tip, and the white of the tail tip but often can't be separated without microscopic examination. On balance, vestalis is the more likely given that it appears to be more widespread nationally than bohemicus which tends to have a more westerly distribution. However, this may be due to recorder bias of thinking 'its in the east therefore it must be vestalis' and vice versa".
Bryan also cleared up a nomenclature issue. I had called Thomas's bee Psithyrus vestalis which is the name given in my old copy of Chinery. However, Bryan says all cuckoo bumblebees now come under the genus Bombus, like their hosts.
Ralph Hollins gave a link to a very useful web site which tells you all you need to know about Bumblebees and Cuckoo Bumblebees . . .

Hayling Oysterbeds update
Chris Cockburn provides the most recent news from the oysterbeds
"Hello, here is a much belated update of the 2015 breeding season at the Hayling Oysterbeds. Just like 2014, the first black-headed gulls and Mediterranean gulls arrived on the lagoon islands on February 14th. Numbers of both species rapidly increased as March progressed and, although not properly counted, the numbers of Mediterranean gulls seemed to be much higher than in 2014. None of the Mediterranean gulls or Sandwich terns nested on the lagoon islands this year. The black-headed gulls started nesting in the first week of April, as in previous years. Common terns started visiting the site in the third week of April and appeared to be finding silvery fish prey, presumably herring sprats.
On 05 May, a low pressure system and its associated strong winds (F8/9) caused damaging waves and a tidal surge (the Cambernet weather & tide station showed that the predicted 4.6m high tide had surged to 5.28m).The result was that apart from the nests on the top of the western half of the straight island, all other nests were washed into the lagoon along with eggs and a few chicks (an estimated 500 nests were lost). Those gulls that had lost eggs soon started re-nesting.
Here is a photo taken 06 May when the tide level was 5.05m (using a macro lens and trying to keep steady while the wind was gusting at 48 to 58 mph).

By 10th May, some black headed gull eggs had hatched and chicks were becoming visible; but 14th May was a cold and wet day with prolonged periods of rain and it is highly likely that some of the chicks perished from hypothermia.
By 17th of May, encouragingly high numbers of common terns were on the straight island and a few scrapes were becoming active. Nearly all the common terns were on the northern edge of the straight island and therefore not readily visible from the mound.
During the night of 18th May, another tidal surge occurred (slightly lower than the previous one at 5.22m); once again many nests were lost. It seemed that the common terns realised the dangers of nesting on the northern side of the island and a great many are now nesting atop the straight island. Meanwhile, some of the black headed gulls are busy on their third attempt at nesting; they certainly are a tenacious lot! So, presently, it is a very busy colony with chick feeding, nest building, egg incubating etc - oh, and it is quite noisy too.
Two or three pairs of oystercatchers have now been nesting on the islands for a week or so and if all goes well their eggs should hatch in about four weeks' time.
No little terns have attempted nesting at the Oysterbeds, but one or two have been seen fishing have been seen fishing in the area. They are probably best viewed from the eastern sea wall at FM (from a point south of the Deeps); look eastwards towards Baker's Island and South Binness Island.
No ringed plovers have attempted nesting in the lagoon area.

For earlier observations go to . . May 14-31