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for June 15-24, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

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Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow this morning. The grasses are looking and feeling great. I stopped to admire the delicate rounded leaves of the tall Aspen tree on the east side of the north meadow. Its leaves flutter in the light breeze, with a gentle rustling noise.

This tree was planted on 22 Dec 2005 which makes it 10 years old. And what a size it is already. The tree was donated by members of the Haskins family in memory of their mother who used to live in Lumley Hall.

The dark crimson flower heads of the rare Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) now stand out clearly on the southern section of the orchid area. The flowers are crowded into dense oval shaped spikes at the top of the stems. All the flowers on Great Burnet are bisexual with 4 short stamens and an undivided stigma. These can just be seen opening at the top of the flower head in the photo.

I counted a total of 48 flowering Great Burnet plants in four clusters. This is a large increase over the 28 that I counted last year.

Bee Orchids are still looking good in the main orchid area, though the Southern Marsh Orchids are well past their best. Most of the Common Spotted Orchids are also going over, though the two nestling beside a Meadowsweet bush are still pretty good.

I found more Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) - an uncommon grass - on the east side of the Lumley area.
Meadowsweet is almost out; give it a week or so and it will be a mass of aromatic fluffy flowers.

I met a young chap with filming equipment on the meadow who told me he was making a film for his portfolio. He hoped it would get him a job. I said the conservation group would be interested to see his film so he gave me his card for me to e-mail him and said he would get in touch when the film was done.

Red fungi
Chris Oakley found some fungi with bright red caps growing on the grass at the front of his house in North Emsworth. He thinks they are called Ruby Bolete (Boletus rubellus). Chris says they keep reappearing despite the regular grass cutting. The books say they are generally found in the autumn beneath oak trees. Well they're beneath oaks but it's not autumn yet.

Mystery plants
Chris Oakley says one of the plants on the Nursery Close wayside, which were thought at first to be Charlock is now just short of 9 feet tall! The others which are partly shaded by the tree are at 7 feet plus. One wonders where it will stop.

Ralph Hollins says "My guess is currently that your plants may be Black Mustard which Stace's Flora says can grow to 2 metres high though I have found a photo on the internet of a plant that seems to be higher than that.
See . . .
A diagnostic feature of Black Mustard is that after flowering the seed pods do not stick out at an angle from the main stem but are tightly pressed against it. If you want to see that I mean go to Emsworth Marina/Yacht Harbour and walk all the way round it to the footpath running along its west side (overlooking Emsworth Harbour) where there are many plants of Black Mustard (though none of your plant's height!)"
Black Mustard grows well on the western sea wall of Emsworth Marina if you want to check it. Go through the boatyard until you come to the harbour and then turn right down a dead end path.

Conigar Point
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning (6:05am to 8:15am - tide high, then dropping slowly). His report follows:
"Because the path to Conigar Point was looking overgrown and dew covered (and I did not fancy getting wet - lazy I know), I walked all the way to Nore Barn from Warblington Church and back. The bird highlights were as follows:
Ibis Field: Pheasant heard, Blackcap heard singing, Chiffchaff 2 heard singing, 1 Moorhen, 2 Stock Dove.
Big field on way to Nore Barn: 1 Skylark singing, Great Spotted Woodpecker over.
West corner of Nore Barn Wood by small stream: Cetti's Warbler heard singing, Chiffchaff singing, Blackcap heard singing.
Nore Barn: 8 Shelduck, 2 Redshank, 3 Great Black-backed Gulls, 4 Canada Geese, Skylark over pond field, 2 Great Crested Grebe (way out).
Off Conigar Point: 1 Little Gull (1st summer). There for most of the morning, as I delayed myself taking photos of the Tamarisk flowers - very attractive at the moment.

4 Common Tern, Whitethroat singing, 8 Shelduck (different from Nore Barn), 63 Herring Gulls (most semi adults), 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls (semi adults - of interest: a pair with at least two tiny chicks have bred on the factory roof of the rear of the Colt Building off New Lane, Havant), 2 Mute Swan, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting singing from small reed bed. Sparrowhawk over with prey item. 9 Curlew, 4 Redshank, 1 Sandwich Tern, 1 Little Tern, 2 Med Gulls (adult and first summer).
Off Pook Lane: Whitethroat in SSSI field, 61 Herring Gulls (again mostly semi adults), 2 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Redshank, 2 female type Red Breasted Mergansers, AND 1 fledged Black-headed Gull juvenile.

TUESDAY JUNE 23 - 2015

Emsworth Waysides
I had a cycle around some of the local waysides this morning, catching up on some of the plants as Jane and I have not been able to get together for our regular surveys so far this year. I headed through Washington Road and the Emsworth Recreation Ground before cutting across to Christopher Way and then up to the Westbourne Open Space. My final destination was the Hampshire Farm open space site where I stopped for lunch before having a little mooch around.

Washington Road path
The embankment outside Glenwood School was burgeoning with grasses and bramble. However, the pale rose pink flowers of Musk Mallow immediately stood out from the jungle. Great to see them. My first of the year and a first for this wayside.

I had another good find a little way down the path towards the park. This was a Cranesbill with very tiny flowers which I think could be Small-flowered Crane's-bill. This differs from the more common Dove's-foot Cranesbill mainly in its smaller and pale dingy lilac flowers. There was some Dove's-foot Cranesbill nearby to compare it with so felt fairly confident about the identification. It was just north of the metal gates. Grid Ref: SU 74612 06370. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Ralph Hollins says "My test for Small Flowered Cranesbill is to get out my hand lens and look at the flower stem (pedicel). Dove's Foot Cranesbill can have small flowers but the pedicel will have at least a few long hairs - Small Flowered has all the hairs uniformly short."

It was good to see Meadow Barley again in the same place as for the past two years near the metal gate leading to the highways track. A magnificent Hogweed in full flower was my first of the year. The very rare Greater Burdock (Articium lappa) were severely cut back last year by the Council strimmers, but are growing again. The leaves are prominent, but no flowers as yet.

Emsworth Recreation Ground
The grassland to the west of the bowling club is looking very good with an excellent variety of grasses and flowers. Grid Ref: SU 74513 06675. The bent grasses that I puzzled over last time I was here are now opening, but I am still not sure what they are. With their long ligules, I have always put them down as Creeping Bent in the past. However, examining the spikelets closely with the microscope I found they had long bent awns coming from the lemmas. This would be very unusual in Creeping Bent, so my tentative guess was for Velvet Bent-grass. I asked Martin Rand who thought this was unlikely and suggested instead Highland Bent (Agrostis castellana) though he would need to see the grass itself in order to be sure. Highland Bent apparently is a common constituent of sport field sowing, so the habitat fits. Also, it has long ligules and long bent awns so it seems to fit the bill.
Meadow Browns were fluttering around and a Chiffchaff was singing from the bushes. Chiffchaffs have started singing again over the past couple of days.

Christopher Way wayside
The path leading from Bellevue Lane has been well and truly strimmed, so there is nothing left, not even the Shining Cranesbill. On the wayside itself, the Wild Clary plants are still present, but finished flowering. There was a possible Smaller Cat's-tail - or it could be a small Timothy. I am never 100% sure about these two grasses. I was pleased to find a couple of plants of Knotted Hedge-parsley on the edge of the footpath near the Wild Clary sign - almost as rare as the Wild Clary.

Westbourne Open Space
As expected the grassland was full of grasses swaying in the light breeze. A great sight. Timothy is dominant plus plenty of what I think is Smaller Cat's-tail.

Hampshire Farm
I settled down on one of the seats near the car park to have my lunch which I had brought with me. I was surrounded on all sides (and even on the seat itself) by a colourful variety of flowers, dominated by Oxeye Daisies and White Clover and Fescue grasses swaying in the light breeze. Meadow Browns fluttered by on their quest for nectar. There was not a human being in sight apart from a chap working on the nearby allotments. It was idyllic. Bumblebees were constantly buzzing around the clovers with bulging pollen sacs for the nests. I think this one could be a Bombus terrestris worker.

I had a close look at the Tare which was tangled around other plants immediately in front of the seat where I sat for lunch. I established that it was Smooth Tare from double lilac flowers and 4-seeded pods. Hairy Tare would have more flowers in clusters with two seeds in the pods.

Just behind my seat I could see some of the large dark plantain-type heads that puzzled Chris Oakley on June 17th. They were much larger and darker than the regular Ribwort Plantain heads which were also present in the same area. The stems were also thicker and heavily grooved. I pulled a plant up to have a look at the leaves (in the cause of science) which were also plantain-like. So, it remains a mystery.

Chris Oakley has alerted us to the presence of Alsike Clover on the Hampshire Farm site, presumably originating from the commercial seed mixes used on the site.

Alsike Clover needs a close look to distinguish it from the more common White Clover. One difference is the pink colouring of the Alsike Clover flowers, though White Clover can also have this pink flush occasionally. Some of the Alsike Clovers on the Hampshire Farm site are very pink. The structure of the plants also differs in that stems of White Clover root in the ground from which a long leafless stem rises with the cluster of flowers at the top. This does not happen in Alsike Clover in which the flower stem arises from the leaf axils. Another key difference is in the leaves; those of Alsike Clover lack the white chevrons that are usually (not always) present on White Clover. Other flowers noted on the site included Common Knapweed, Corn-cockle, Selfheal, Lesser Trefoil, Hop Trefoil,

Marbled Whites
Tony and Hilary Wootton had several Marbled White butterflies on a walk down the west side of Thorney Island between the two deeps today. These were the first I have had reported locally.

Fern Grass correction
I am grateful again to Philip Marshall from Todmorden for pointing out what might be another error in my identification of the pavement grasses in St James Road. Philip says the Fern grass photographed in yesterday's blog does not look like the ones in Todmorden and he thinks it is Sea Fern (Catapodium marinum).

He points out that Fern Grass (C. rigidum) has pinnate spikelets whereas Sea Fern Grass C. marinum has alternating rows of spikelets a bit like a small rye grass. It is usually seen at the coast but he has heard it is spreading along salted highways.
Looking at the illustrations in Francis Rose: "Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns" (Plate 2), the two grasses clearly differ in appearance. As Rose says, the spikelets in Sea Fern Grass are arranged alternately along the two sides of the main inflorescence axis - not along side branches in a twice-pinnate arrangement as in Fern Grass.
I had another close look at the grass this morning and can confirm that all the panicles are the same with spikelets arranged alternately as in Sea Fern Grass; none were arranged pinnately as needed by Fern Grass (Catapodium rigidum).
The photo of the plant shows a small and largely dead Water Bent grass growing to the right of the Sea Fern Grass.

I sent Martin Rand the BSBI Recorder for South Hants my photos of the pavement grasses. He confirmed the identification of Water Bent (Polypogon viridis). But he could not confirm the Fern Grass Catapodium species without seeing it. Martin says it needs measurements and close examination. The degree of branching in the panicle isn't a reliable character. He asked me to send him a bit which I will do. It will be good to get this cleared up.

MONDAY JUNE 22 - 2015

Painted Lady invasion?
In his wildlife diary Ralph Hollins provides a link to the butterfly conservation web site where you can read more about the possible invasion of Painted Ladies this year.
See . . .

Ralph adds two points of interest regarding the Painted Lady migration. Firstly, they do not make non-stop flights from Africa to this country but make their journey in stages. Those that started from north Africa will have stopped somewhere in France or Germany where they will have laid eggs from which a new generation will have developed to continue north. Secondly, the migration regularly (but not always) takes place at heights of up to 1 kilometre and at speeds of up to 30 miles an hour. This has been revealed recently by using sensitive radar to detect large flocks of butterflies that could not be seen from the ground.
See . . .

Grass correction
I am very grateful to Philip Marshall for indicating that the grass I photographed growing on the driveway of number 37 St James Road was in fact Water Bent and not Fern Grass (see blog for June 19).

Philip said that Fern Grass grows in his local town (Todmorden in West Yorkshire) and it is not as tall as Water Bent. Also, the panicle of Fern Grass is flatter in one plane, rather than branched around the stem like Water Bent. The silvery look to the spikelets are also a good guide to the 'jizz' of Water Bent. A very good tip, the St James Road grass is indeed very silvery. Water Bent - Grid Ref: SU 74732 06005
I checked the St James Road grass again this morning and Philip is spot on. In fact, my first thought when I saw the grass on June 19 was Water Bent, but I was put off by its long ragged ligules which the book says is characteristic of Fern Grass. But everything else, including the single flowered spikelets, clearly indicates Water Bent.

I had a look around when checking the Water Bent today and actually found Fern Grass growing no more than 10 metres away on the adjacent driveway outside house number 35 St James Road. I am fairly sure this is where I found it before. As Philip said, Fern Grass is quite different in appearance to Water Bent, shorter, having a flatter panicle and spikelets with several flowers. Interestingly, there appears to be a small bit of Water Bent growing beside the Fern Grass! Fern Grass - Grid Ref: SU 74740 05999

Here is Fern Grass in situ

Here is a close-up of a Fern Grass panicle

I would really appreciate hearing of any other examples of these grasses around Emsworth. They typically come up on driveways, by walls and in cracks on pavements.

Other news
I had a wander around the Hermitage Millponds this morning. Common Ragwort is now in full flower on the south side of Peter Pond and Perennial Sow-thistle also out on the east side of Peter Pond. I also noticed Rough Chervil on the edge of Lumley Road almost opposite the house called Cambercroft where I recall Pipistrelle Bats used to roost in the roof some years ago. Cetti's Warbler and Chiffchaff were singing away from Lumley copse. Rough Chervil - Grid Ref: SU 75152 06077.
The grass False Brome used to grow well along this verge, but the bank has become very overgrown with brambles, which means it is now restricted to a small area close to where the Lumley Cottages begin. False Brome can be distinguished from the more common Barren Brome by its much shorter panicle stalks.

Garden visitors
I had some interesting visitors to my garden today. First was a pair of Jackdaws on the bird table. I rarely saw Jackdaws anywhere in Emsworth until last year, but now their sharp 'jyack-jyack' calls are heard on a daily basis and they sometimes drop into the garden. I assume they must be nesting somewhere in the town. Does anyone know where?

The second unusual visitors was a family of Magpies - one adult and two youngsters were on the grass for a few minutes this morning. One Magpie is fairly common, two are less so, but three are really unusual. I don't recall having seen a family in the garden before.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby briefly popped down to the Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (2:30pm to 3:30pm). Main observations as follows:
Wade Lane: 1 Buzzard sat in the usual tree, Blackcap still singing.
Flooded Horse paddock: 4 Grey Heron, 2 Moorhen.
Langstone Mill Pond: 3 singing Reed Warblers heard with two seen, 1 Cetti's Warbler heard, Mallard with 4 ducklings, Kestrel, 54+ Little Egrets counted with at least 20+ just roosting.
Off shore (last bit of high tide tide pushing in): Swan family with 6 cygnets, 2 summer plumaged Great Crested Grebes, 1 Sandwich Tern, On the last bit of salt marsh before flying off 2 Lapwing and a single Redshank (the first I have seen for over a month - first returning birds?). 20+ Swifts over (stormy weather tempting them to feed over the channel), 12 Swallows.

The following is a link to some photos of Belarusian birds (where Peter went for his family holiday):

And a short video of Belarusian birds can be found at:

Francis's news
Francis Kinsella was on the Hampshire Farm open space today and saw lots of Meadow Browns flying and also Common Blue.

Tonight Francis had a wander up to Hollybank Woods and saw a rather battered Red Admiral, a Large Skipper, a spectacular Broad-bodied Chaser and a Common Lizard hiding in a pile of twigs.

Song and Mistle Thrush
Tony Wootton got photos of both of these handsome thrushes in the New Forest yesterday and presents them here for comparison. Mistle Thrush is a larger bird with longer tail and grey upper parts. Mistle Thrush also has heavier more rounded spots on its underparts that sometimes coalesce to form a dark smudge on the sides of the breast not seen too well on Tony's photo.

SUNDAY JUNE 21 - 2015

Brook Meadow
I was very pleased to have the company of Peter and Catherine who had come all the way from Godalming for this morning's nature walk through Brook Meadow. They both had cameras and enjoyed taking shots of the wildlife that we came across. These included some of our most spectacular damselflies as follows . . .

Male Banded Demoiselle

Female Banded Demoiselle

A male Beautiful Demoiselle with all blue wings

A very delicate Azure Damselfly.

We also spotted hairy black caterpillars of Peacock butterflies on the nettles.

Other insects we noted included a 7-spot Ladybird and a green glossy beetle with swollen thighs (Oedemera nobilis).

This is a fairly quiet time of the year for birds. However, we did hear the songs of Blackbird, Wren, Blackcap and Whitethroat. Our resident Cetti's Warbler also exploded into song briefly from the Lumley Stream area.
Of the wild flowers we noted Common Comfrey and Hemlock Water-dropwort, but the highlight of the morning was the Bee Orchids on the main orchid area which are currently quite stunning, each with two or three flowers on the stems. Here are Catherine and Peter taking photos of them.

I also pointed out the best of our grasses which included Reed Canary-grass, False Oat-grass and the silky Yorkshire Fog.
Personally, I was pleased to find the first Common Couch of the year with awns at the start of the path round the Lumley area and Meadow Barley on the eastern path near the arisings tip.
Finally, we went through the Lumley gate to have a look at the reedbeds on Peter Pond where we could hear at least two Reed Warblers singing though we did not manage to see either bird. But, we did see a rather nice juvenile Long-tailed Tit.

Finally here is a cracking shot of a Cut-leaved Crane's-bill flower that I think Catherine took on the Bramble path.


Bee Orchid
Having admired the orchids on Brook Meadow yesterday evening, Geoff Gilbert found another Bee Orchid on the roadside by the DUCK warning sign on the south side of Peter Pond.


Guided nature walk
I will be leading a nature walk through Brook Meadow tomorrow morning - Sunday 21st June from 10am to 12 noon. If you wish to join in please meet in Palmer's Road Car Park. Children are very welcome, but no dogs please. Bring your binoculars and camera as you wish.

Painted Lady invasion?
Every so often we get a huge invasion of Painted Lady butterflies to the UK from Africa. The last mass immigration took place in 2009, when around 11 million descended widely across the UK, with the butterflies spreading into the most northerly parts of Scotland. Since then, we have experienced five years with below average numbers, but there are indications that 2015 could be very different. Apparently, Painted Ladies are experiencing their best year on the continent since 2009 and unusually high numbers have been seen amassing in southern Europe at the critical time of the year for them to spread northwards into Britain. So, keep a look out for them and let me know. Locally, so far this year, Chris Cockburn reported at least five Painted Ladies near Hayling Oysterbeds on Friday June 12th and Joyce Sawyer photographed this Painted Lady feeding on Hemlock Water-dropwort on Brook Meadow on June 6th.

Monarch butterfly in Cosham
Today's issue of the Portsmouth News (June 20, 2015) had a photo of a female Monarch butterfly taken by a reader in her Cosham garden. Butterfly Conservation says there has been only one other recorded sighting in Hampshire this year. The Monarch is, of course, a North American butterfly that famously migrates in vast numbers from southern Canada and the United states to overwintering sites in central Mexico.
The big question is did this butterfly come across the Atlantic Ocean under its own steam? Well, apparently, it is not impossible. I have been reading an article which considered four theories to account for the mass invasion of Monarchs to this country in 1995: (1) unassisted transatlantic crossing; (2) entirely ship assisted passage; (3) derivation via the Canaries and/or Iberian Peninsula; (4) released or escaped captive-bred insects. The conclusion was that far from being an 'impossible' oceanic crossing' the Monarch's chances of safely reaching our shores might be relatively high if the conditions are right.
See . . .

However, what does make me cautious is the ready availability of butterfly kits on the internet with which one can easily raise and release one's own butterflies. I have not tried them, but Brian Lawrence told me his grand daughter had raised and released some butterflies in this way. Does anyone know any more about these kits? Anyway, please keep a look out for Monarchs. Here is a female like that in Cosham.

Barnacle Goose family
Eric Eddles sent me the following shot of a Barnacle Goose family on Baffins Pond Portsmouth with one remaining gosling from the original three. Meanwhile, the annual moult migration of Canada Geese is now underway to Baffins Pond where there are about 90 present.

Hampshire Farm - vote on name!
Havant Borough Council wants to know what we think should be the name for the public open space next to the Redlands Grange housing development in North Emsworth. Most people (including me) already refer to it as Hampshire Farm as that was the original name of the farm that was there before. It's nice and simple, it has a history, and we all know what we are talking about. However, HBC wants to make the decision democratic, so they have thought up some alternative names and want us to vote. Frankly, I don't see any point in this, as the site has got a name already which everyone knows and changing the name is not going to help. Anyway, HBC gives us a choice of four names: Hampshire Farm, Redlands, Bournebridge or Ffaroes. I have no idea where this last choice came from - someone with Scottish ancestry maybe? We are also given a choice for the second part of the name, assuming it needs one: Park, Fields, Meadows or none.
To vote go to . . . . . . before 10th July.

FRIDAY JUNE 19 - 2015

We have had just four Swifts feeding high over the houses in Bridge Road this morning, not screaming around as yet. Let's hope numbers build up as the family parties get going. I expected more this evening, but nothing. Where are they?

Brook Meadow - Plant news
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning where Reed Canary-grass is now in flower with its panicles towering over all the other grasses on the meadow. A very fine grass.

Hedge Bindweed is now flowering on the causeway. Hedge Bindweed flowers are always a lot smaller than Large Bindweed and the green bracts covering sepals overlap only slightly. In Large Bindweed the bracts overlap and completely enfold the sepals.

Bulbous Buttercup is flowering in the far south eastern corner of the south meadow. The flower had sepals bent back, though this is also a feature of Hairy Buttercup. The only sure way of distinguishing the two plants is by digging them up, which I did not do. Only the Bulbous Buttercup has bulbous roots. Hedge Woundwort is flowering in Palmer's Road Copse. False Brome is now showing on the path through Palmer's Road Copse.

Jill's news
Jill Stanley did a recount of the Bee Orchids on the main orchid area of Brook Meadow today and increased my count by 6 to a total of 26. Well done, Jill, they are so easy to miss and more keep coming everyday.

Jill also sent me this interesting shot of some seed capsules of Cut-leaved Cranesbill that she took at Stansted Forest on Wednesday. She says, "We're used to seeing the little 'candles' that appear after the flowers of any of the Cranesbill family but I'd never thought about what happens to them. Rather than describe the process I think the attached photograph shows it rather well! I never cease to be amazed by nature!" Me too.

Brian's news
I met Brian Lawrence who had just been around Brook Meadow and had seen several demoiselle damselflies, both Banded Demoiselle and Beautiful Demoiselle. He also had what is probably a Narrow-bordered 5-spot Burnet Moth. This was the first of the year on Brook Meadow; Malcolm Phillips also had one at this time last year.

Francis's News
Francis Kinsella had the first Ringlet of the year on Brook Meadow last evening. This could well have been one of the 'Meadow Browns' that I saw fluttering around, though they did not stop for me to get a good look at them. Interestingly, we had our first Ringlet sighting also on June 18 last year. They are as regular as clockwork! Francis got photos of both the brown upper wings and the under wings which have the distinctive 'ringlets'.

Peter Pond news
A Reed Warbler singing from the northern reedbeds when I passed by this morning. Let's hope it is nesting.
From the small footbridge to the north of the pond, I could see two Sea Trout in the channel between the reeds. Sea Trout are similar to the Brown Trout that we see in the River Ems in having spots, though they tend to be darker in colour. Sea Trout migrate to inshore sea areas, returning after a year or more to spawn in their native rivers. Brown Trout remain in the river throughout their lives.
One Mute Swan on Peter Pond and another on Slipper Millpond. Presumably the new pair?
Corncockle is flowering on the east bank. Formerly an arable weed, it is now more or less extinct as a native plant. Only found nowadays as the result of the use of 'wild flower' seed mixes, which accounts for its presence on the Peter Pond bank along with other regular colourful constituents of these mixes, ie Poppies and Cornflowers.

Slipper Millpond
There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls on or near the pond this morning. Maybe, their vigil over the lost chicks is over? Perennial Sow-thistle is flowering on the east end of the Hermitage Bridge overlooking Slipper Millpond. This is very early as I usually do not see these large yellow daisies until well into July. The upper stem and bracts are densely hairy, the hairs tipped with sticky yellow glands.

The Coot in the nest box on the south raft has at least one chick. Keeping it safe hopefully.

Fern-grass (Catapodium rigidum) - A good growth of this unusual grass is growing well on the edge of the driveway of house number 37 St James Road. This is a native species often found in thin bare well drained soils as in pavements. Common in the South of England. This grass was first pointed out to me during the visit of John Norton and Eric Clements (botanists from the BSBI) and Ralph Hollins on 4 June 2012. It was also growing in St James Road on that occasion, but not in this exact spot.

Thomas's news
Young Thomas Irons spotted this very spotted Ladybird - probably a Harlequin - creeping up on a mass of black fly. What a feast awaits it.

News from Belarus
Peter Milinets-Raby received an email back from ecologist John Norton this morning identifying the Belarusian flowers he sent him. The flower in John's words was "a bit stunning and does not occur in the UK." He named it as Melampyrum nemorosum, a type of cow wheat.


I have to admit I completely forget about the conservation work session this morning. So, when I got over to the meadow for a walk at about 12 noon, I found members of the work group already completing their work at the end of the session. I took a few photos of the volunteers at work for good measure before setting out to look for orchids and grasses.

Wild flowers
I found the first Pineappleweed of the year, smelling very sweet, near the Seagull Lane gate. Also, the first Large Bindweed flower of the year on the Seagull Lane patch which will soon be covered with these huge white trumpets.

I found another good patch of 10 Bee Orchids in flower in a small area just to the west of the northern Hemp Agrimony at Grid Ref: SU 75064 06139. Here is one of them with a double flower. This takes the total for the orchid area to 22 plus the three on the Lumley area makes 25.

The first of the Common Knapweed is now flowering on the Lumley area.

The only butterflies I saw were a few Meadow Browns fluttering around.

Here is a 'thigh beetle' (Oedemera nobilis) feeding on one of the Dog Roses on the Seagull Lane patch.

Grasses, etc
I had a very good session for finding first of the year grasses on Brook Meadow.
On the cross path to the west of the Lumley area one can see both Soft Brome with short branches and relatively erect panicles and the less common Smooth Brome with long branches and dropping panicles.
On the centre meadow I found the first Bent grass of the year on Brook Meadow. The spikelets were not open, but the long ligules clearly suggested Creeping Bent.
Nearby, I found the first spikelets of Meadow Barley (Hordeum secalinum) which I also found in this exact spot last year. This is quite a rare grass on Brook Meadow and I might not find any more. Grid Ref: SU 675097 06032.

Also coming up in the same small area were the first young spikelets of Timothy. They will soon be adorning various parts of the meadow with their elegant inflorescences.
Walking up the eastern path through the north meadow I also came across the first Meadow Fescue (Festuca pratensis) of the year along with the Hybrid Fescue xFestulolium loliaceum which is a hybrid of Meadow Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass. In the photo one can see the Fescue-like spikelets arranged up the stem in the manner of Perennial Ryegrass.

Also, in this area I found the first Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus) of the year. The Sharp-flowered Rush is not yet in flower on the Lumley area.


Bumblebee nest
Christine Gibbs who lives in Church Path Emsworth contacted me yesterday to say she had Bumblebees nesting in a disused bird box in her garden. So, this morning I went round there to have a look and found a highly active nest with bees constantly coming and going. I identified the bees which had ginger thoraxes, dark abdomen and white tail as Bombus hypnorum (Tree Bumblebee) . This species often nests in man made structures high off the ground.

Here is a photo of one feeding on Brook Meadow that I took a couple of years ago.

Two years ago my neighbours had a nest under the eaves in their roof and only last year my friend Colin Harrington gave me a nest box with the remains of a Bumblebee nest still in it. Expert Bryan Pinchen stressed that Bumblebee nests should not be disturbed as they were not harmful and would cause no damage. Tree Bumblebees complete their cycle in early summer and then leave the nest.

Fox and Cubs
Christine told me about a mini-survey she had done of the plants coming up in the pavements in her road with an impressive list! She alerted me to the Fox and Cubs that is now flowering on the grass verge near the flats at the south end of Church path. This verge has several other interesting plants growing on it, including Selfheal and Wild Madder. It would make a nice wayside addition. I assume it belongs to the flats and is not a council authority verge.

Fox and Cubs which is also known as Orange Hawkweed is fairly unusual in the local area; the only other place I know of it is on a grass verge on Mill Lane past Lumley Mill. I think it gets its name from the rusty orange mature flower (the fox) and its flanking buds with fuzzy blackish hair (the cubs). It was introduced from Central Europe in the 17thC and since then has become widely naturalised. It grows well in churchyards, verges and other grassy places.

Nore Barn
I cycled over to Nore Barn to check on the flowers. I found a good growth of Lax-flowered Sea-lavender on the saltmarshes to the east of the stream which I have seen here in previous years. It is, in fact, more common than Common Sea-lavender in this area. In Lax-flowered Sea-lavender the flowers are well spaced out along the stems, whereas in Common Sea-lavender the flowers are densely packed at the end of the branches.

I was interested to compare the young Sea Couch growing here, with its tightly overlapping spikelets, and the more spaced out spikelets of the Sand Couch which I found at East Head yesterday. The dominant grass on the saltmarshes is Red Fescue with distinctively red spikelets, now flowering.

Sea Couch on the left and Red Fescue on the right

Other plants noted: Grass-leaved Orache, Glasswort, Sea Plantain, English Scurvygrass and Field Bindweed (south of woods). In addition Wild Carrot and Rough Chervil were out on the path west of woods at Grid Ref: SU 73580 05202.
A Reed Warbler singing in the reedbeds to the north of Nore Barn.

Farm field
I went through to the Warblington Farm field to the west of Nore Barn Woods to see the interesting plants growing around the pond which drains into the harbour as suggested by Ralph Hollins in his diary for 23 May. I was greeted by an explosive Cetti's Warbler singing from the bushes at the northern entrance. I was a little anxious about the small herd of cattle that were grazing in the field. When they spotted me by the pond they came over to investigate, but did not come too close or bother me at all.

Sea Clover
Following Ralph's meticulous directions, I located the Sea Clover (Trifolium squamosum) in on the embankment between the pond and the barbed wire fence along the shore. It was easy to find, even though it had largely finished its flowering period. Grid Ref: SU 73600 05110. It is a small clover with pale pink flowers in short-stalked egg-shaped heads with a pair of leaves at the base. Sea Clover is a nationally scarce plant and described as 'very rare' in The Hants Flora. I suspect this is one of the few places one can see the plant. I believe Ralph Hollins first found it here in June 2009 and it has been recorded each year since then.

I was also interested to see the Sea Milkwort that Ralph said was here as I also found some yesterday at East Head. It was on the west side of the pond, though far less abundant than at East Head.

Brookweed was a big surprise to Ralph as it was the first time in 30 years he had seen it in this field. This plants was also now in flower on the west side of the pond - another first for me, not having seen it before.

The following photo shows a view of the farm field looking south with the approximate locations of the Sea Clover, Sea Milkwort and Brookweed. The yellow plants could be Heath Groundsel sprayed by the farmer to prevent the cattle eating them? Other plants noted in the pond area were Greater Sea-spurrey, Lesser Sea-spurrey, Sea Arrowgrass and Celery-leaved Buttercup.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley reports from Hampshire Farm this afternoon. Here is his report:
"The sun was really hot which brought out a multitude of insects and butterflies. There were Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White and two beautiful Adonis Blues but I couldn't get close enough for a better photo.
Brian's note - more likely to be Common Blue?

There was also a Silver Y moth. The damselflies are at last appearing, there were both immature Small Red and Common Blues. Over the pond were two Broad-bodied Chasers which are always my favourites.
I found more clumps of Grass Vetchling within the pond enclosure. There were a few Swallows and House Martins over the water as well as some House Sparrows hopping on the rafts of weed, they looked very comical. The Ox-eye daisies are still at their best. There are Birdsfoot Trefoil, Kidney Vetch and huge patches of red, white and Alsike Clovers everywhere, which were full of small and large Red-tailed Bumblebees.
One plant that's puzzling me appears to be a plantain with round or conical heads, there are a lot scattered among the more conventional plantains but apart from their leaves they are noticeably different.

I'm meeting up with Michele Good and Rachel Moroney tomorrow for a tour of the site, I'll let you know the outcome."

TUESDAY JUNE 16 - 2015

East Head
Jean and I spent the morning walking round East Head at West Wittering. From the end of the car park (charge £6.50) we walked down the east side of the dunes with the saltmarshes on our right to the end. The view across the harbour to the downs was spectacular. We walked back along the sands west of the dunes. The weather was warm with very little wind, so conditions were ideal for nature watching. A very good morning and highly recommended - but not in mid-summer!
My main target was to find the very rare Sea Heath in flower. I really thought I had found it too, but see below for my disappointment! However, I did get a couple of firsts for me by way of compensation along with lots of other good plants.

Sea Milkwort
I discovered what I thought was a good flowering of Sea Heath. However, Ralph Hollins subsequently pointed out that the plants I got were in fact Sea Milkwort. This was disappointing, but this was a good plant for me and a first. I found the plants are located in two main spots on the east side of the dunes.
1. small plants on a small island of dense vegetation on the edge of the dune system at Grid Ref: SZ 76744 98956. Here one can see them standing up with flowers in the axils.

2. low growing and extensive on the saltmarshes east of the dunes at Grid Ref: SZ 76764 98986

Sand Couch
I found quite a lot of this grass growing at the base of the dune system. It looked at first like a small Sea Couch, but the spike was clearly different. The most distinctive feature of this grass is the spike which bears large spikelets spaced more or less their own length apart along the stem, which means there is relatively little overlapping. In sharp contrast, in Sea Couch the spikelets hug the stem and closely overlap.

Sand Couch is common in suitable habitats around the entire coast of the British Isles, but is largely confined to a narrow zone at the top of sandy beaches and low fore dunes to landward which is where it grows at East Head. Its ability to survive and flourish in its disturbed and hazardous environment is dependent on its perennial life cycle, extensive rhizome system, ability to grow vertically through accreting sand, tolerance of saline conditions and its ability to establish new plants from seed and fragments of rhizome.

Heath Groundsel
I found a large number of these plants growing at the base of the dune system. At first sight they looked like extra-large Groundsels, but clearly not as they were all growing in sand on the dunes. Heath Groundsel resembles Common Groundsel, but is much larger and its flower heads have very short ray florets that rapidly curl under. Groundsel flowers very rarely open. The whole plant has glandular hairs, but is only slightly sticky. Heath Groundsel grows not only on heaths, but also on dunes and sandy soils

Here is a close-up of the flowers of Heath Groundsel

Other plants
Lesser Hawkbit, Glasswort, Thrift, Common Sea-lavender, Sand Sedge, Sea Spurge, Sea Rocket, Sea Holly (not in flower), Sea Arrowgrass, Scarlet Pimpernel , Saltmarsh Rush, Lesser Sea-spurrey, Sea Plantain.

Left to right and top to bottom: Glasswort, Lesser Hawkbit, Sea Rocket, Sea Spurge

Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem
On the way home we stopped off at Appledram Lane (south) to have a look at the Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum) on the roadside embankment just before the junction with the main A259 road into Chichester. This is a well-known site for this nationally scarce plant. I think I first saw it here in year 2009. The tall elongated flower spikes with numerous star-like flowers are unmistakable and they have no difficulty in climbing through the tangled growth of vegetation on the verge. Today, I counted 112 flowering spikes pushing, which is about the same number as I have counted in previous years.

Apparently, this plant used to be known as 'Bath Asparagus' as the young shoots were harvested and sold as a substitute for Asparagus.

Hairy Bindweed
I also found a few flowers of Hairy Bindweed (Calystegia pulchra) in the hedgerow just south of the footpath sign on Appledram Lane (south). This unusual plant has large trumpet flowers the size of Large Bindweed, but with pink stripes, rather like Sea Bindweed. It gets its name from its hairy flower stalks. I first discovered it here on 10 June 2009. The Hants Flora describes it as "very local . . . found in gardens and hedges near houses, frequently having been transported with earth."

Just two Swifts were feeding high above the houses in Bridge Road. Swifts have not been at all regular this year and 4 is the most I have seen at any one time in this area.

Great Black-backed Gulls
Sharon Corbett who originally told me about the Great Black-backed Gull chicks falling off the Slipper Millpond raft into the water provided a bit more information about what she saw. She said each of the chicks fell in on different days: the first on Wednesday (June 10) and the second on Saturday (June 13). On each occasion there seemed to be some sort of altercation with the nesting Coots which she think caused the gull chicks to fall into the water.
When I passed the pond at about 10.30 this morning. The female gull was still maintaining its vigil on the tall lamp post over the Hermitage Bridge

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby is back from family holiday to Belarus with wonderful birdlife. 'A bit like stepping back to the 1970's in the UK with birds everywhere.' Here is a cracking Fieldfare that Peter got in Minsk, presumably a breeding bird in that area.

Now he's back to reality again at Langstone Mill Pond, yesterday afternoon (2:45pm to 3:45pm - low tide).
Pond: Tufted Duck 2 male and a female - all asleep, 7 Swallow over, 4 House Martin over heading north, Reed Warbler - 2 singing, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff, Reed Bunting male, Stock Dove, Very little activity from the Little Egrets - two fledged fluffy young out of the nest was all I saw.
Off shore: 3 Common Tern, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, 3 Med Gulls, Canada Goose, 2 Shelduck.

MONDAY JUNE 15 - 2015

Great Black-backed Gulls
Tom Bickerton sent me a photo of one of the two Great Black-backed Gull chicks that died on Slipper Millpond over the weekend. There does not appear to be any obvious damage to the chick which fits with Sharon's observation that the chicks fell from the raft and were unable to get back on and were drowned.

Tom commented as follows: "I'm at a loss to what caused both birds to panic. Something made these birds move off the raft, thoughts tend to lean towards dog or human, but the adults would certainly attack. Another gull would do the same, but again the adults have an avian exclusion zone around the nest. The other predators that would come to mind would be Mink or a Dog-Otter. Both can climb onto the raft out from the water. I only found the one body."

I went down to Slipper Millpond this afternoon at about 2.30pm to have a look for myself. The dead chick was still floating in the water at the eastern end of the bridge with no clear signs of injury. I was very surprised to see the two adult Great Black-backed Gulls still perched on the same lampposts where I saw them yesterday, either side of the bridge, seemingly holding vigil for their dead chick. One of the birds (the male) flew off towards the harbour while I was there, but the other one (female) remained steadfast on the post watching over its dead chick in the water below. Do birds really grieve?

Millpond Swan family
The swan family was on the town millpond with the 5 cygnets constantly upending to feed on nutrients from the bottom of the pond. They are all growing and looking healthy. The 'Don't feed the swans bread' notices have all been taken down; clearly they were not needed any more, but they did provide useful advice to the public.

Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow this morning with my son and two young grand daughters who had been staying with us over the weekend. The girls (6 and 8 years) really enjoyed walking through the tall grasses on the north meadow and (as they always do) asked me to cut off a couple of Butterbur 'umbrellas' for them to hold. These large leaves are so much loved by children.

Bee Orchids
We also had a look at the orchids in the main orchid area where they liked the Bee Orchids in particular and actually found a couple of new ones that I had not previously recorded. They have sharper eyes than me. Here they are with the top of one Bee Orchid that I inadvertantly snapped off while trying to clear away an entanglement of bindweed. At least, my clumsiness gave them the opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the flower at close quarters.

I went back to the orchid area this afternoon to mark the new Bee Orchids with twigs and record the grid refs. In fact, I found there were 10 Bee Orchids in a relatively small area with more to come I am sure. Together with the three plants on the Lumley area that takes the total Bee Orchid count to 13 which is one more than we recorded last year.
Just after I finished marking the orchids, Barry and Margaret Collins arrived to see the orchids, so I was able to guide them carefully through the area to the main area. They were very pleased to see the orchids looking so good. I introduced them to Jennifer Rye (the Brook Meadow Conservation Group Chair) who was in the process of doing a butterfly transect. Finally, local orchid enthusiast, Jill Stanley also arrived with her camera, so we had quite a social gathering, all for a common purpose - to see some tiny but beautiful flowers! Jill later e-mailed me to say she had found another two Bee Orchids in the same small area as the others, taking the grand total to 15.

Smooth Brome
Less dramatic, but equally attarctive in my eyes was the Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) that I found growing in much the same area as in previous years - on the cross path north of the Lumley area. It is fairly easy to distinguish from the more common Soft Brome (Bromus hordeaceus) due to its looser panicle which droops more to one side. Smooth Brome is a fairly uncommon grass, described as 'occasional' in The Hants Flora. So far this year I have recorded 17 of the 34 grasses on the Brook Meadow list, so there is a lot more more to come.

Big-flowered Vetch
Regarding the vetch with extra large flowers that Chris Oakley found on the Hampshire Farm site on June 11, Martin Rand confirms that it is indeed Common Vetch (Vicia sativa) but one of the cultivated and introduced forms. Either subsp. sativa which used to be grown as a crop plant, or (more likely because of flower size and colouring) subsp. cordata, which is still grown as a silage crop component and also appears in "wild flower" seed mixes. To make sure, one would have to see seed pods.

Young Blackcaps
Lucky Romney Turner had Blackcaps nesting in her garden this spring and she was delighted to find they had produced three fine looking youngsters. Here they are lined up for some close-up photos. Interesting to see all the youngsters with chestnut-brown caps just like their mother. However, they might not all be females as young males also have brown caps, but this changes to black by late autumn. What a cracking photo this is.

For earlier observations go to . . June 1-14