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

for July 17-30, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

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Portsdown Hill
Jean and I had a very pleasant walk this morning on Portsdown Hill around Fort Widley. We parked in the main observation area where we had a coffee and a cake from Mick's Burger Bar. Note, the cakes are home made and very good too! We are so lucky to live close to such a magnificent wildlife area with magnificent views over Portsmouth and the Solent to the Isle of Wight. This photo shows the large building of QA Hospital at the bottom of the hill.

We walked along the lower path beneath the main road and then back behind the fort. The wild flowers along the lower path below the fort were colourful mixture of purple and yellow with Wild Marjoram, Field Scabious, Wild Parsnip and Agrimony dominating. I don't recall having seen quite so much Scabious before. Other flowers I noted included Rough Hawkbit, Common Ragwort, Greater Knapweed, Eyebright, Harebells, Wild Basil, Agrimony, Hemp Agrimony, Rosebay Willowherb, Yellow Wort, Nettle-leaved Bellflower. No sign of any orchids - all gone to seed.

Here is a selection of photos from the hill:
Nettle-leaved Bellflower (north of the fort), Peacock on Marjoram,
Field Scabious and Eyebright

Emsworth Harbour
Following Peter Milinets-Raby's report of the return of the first Black-tailed Godwits to Emsworth Harbour on Tuesday (28 July) I decided to pay my first visit of the new season to check them out from my favourite position on the Thorney seawall. I was there from about 3pm to 4pm during which the tide was falling quickly from high water at 11.30am. The weather was fine with light cloud which was good for viewing and digiscoping.
The Godwits arrived in two groups. First to arrive were two Godwits that fed closely together, one of which was colour-ringed with the combination B+GN (left leg: blue with red on the ankle; right leg green over black). Note, the right leg ring looks blue in the photo, but it was definitely green. I have no previous records for this bird and will check with Pete Potts as to when and where it was ringed.

A much larger group of 24 godwits in various stages of moulting summer plumage arrived a few minutes later. They included just one colour-ringed bird: G+RW. This is the very regular Emsworth wintering godwit since Nov 2008 and was first seen this autumn season by Peter Milinets-Raby on July 28th.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips got some interesting photos on Brook Meadow today, including this shot of what I think is a female Beautiful Demoiselle ovipositing.

Malcolm also got photos of a couple of Meadow Grasshoppers with very different colouring. The short wings on both insects provide the best clue to their species.

Malcolm also got this shot of a female Long-winged Conehead which is similar to the Short-winged Conehead but for its longer wings and long ovipositor which is sometimes brown as in this photo. Finally, Malcolm spotted this tiny colourful moth called Pyrausta aurata or Mint Moth which can be seen flying during the day in gardens.

Malcolm tells me he also saw a Kingfisher for the first time since before his holiday but the bird was to quick for him to get a photo. It was in the tree in the middle of the stream as you look south off the footbridge at the top of Peter Pond.

Mystery wasp
Regarding the mystery insect with the orange abdomen that I photographed on Brook Meadow yesterday, both Ralph Hollins and Chris Oakley agreed that it was a Rose Sawfly.

Chris added "They are the bane of my life as the caterpillars can strip a rose bush of its leaves in a few days. If disturbed the caterpillars drop to the ground where they are almost invisible. Yours appears to be a female because of the dark spot at the base of the abdomen. They get their name from the females ovipositor that is shaped like a saw, which it uses to cut into a plant stem where it lays its eggs."


Brook Meadow
I had a stroll down the main river path this morning, inspecting the Hogweed flower heads as I went. In addition to the regular Red Soldier Beetles and (male) Common Wasps, I found several hoverflies and some yellow and black Longhorn Beetles (Strangalia maculata) which seem particularly common this year.

Other insects included what looks like a Soldier Fly - possibly Stratiomys chameleon (Chinery p.198) and a small insect with a rounded orange abdomen and black thorax that I do not recall having seen before. Possible Ruby-tailed Wasp?

Peter Pond
I met Malcolm Phillips who was standing on the Lumley Path footbridge watching several small birds which were constantly flitting across the channel through the reedbeds at the north of Peter Pond. We watched them together for about 20 minutes and concluded they were most likely to be a small family of Reed Warblers. This was confirmed by Malcolm's photos. The bird on the left is an adult Reed Warbler and I think the one on the right is a young Reed Warbler.

TUESDAY JULY 28 - 2015

Brook Meadow
During my walk around the meadow this afternoon, I noted several plants in flower to add to the Brook Meadow 2015 list. They included Balm, Purple Toadflax, Guernsey Fleabane, Wild Angelica and Prickly Lettuce. There are also a couple of Hollyhocks that are flowering on the edge of Palmer's Road Car Park.
The rampant growth of Great Willowherb on the south meadow reminds me of what Brook Meadow used to look like before the conservation group took over in year 2000.

The small pink flowers of this large plant are now at their best

Marsh Woundwort is now in full flower, with at least 30 flower spikes showing well and attracting insects, at the north end of the Bramble path through the south meadow.

The Lumley area is now carpeted with the bright yellow flowers of Common Fleabane, broken here and there by the red of Common Knapweed.

Walking through the area one also finds Red Bartsia and the tall spikes of Sharp-flowered Rush.

Just one Wild Angelica is flower on the Lumley area, a more rounded flower head than Hogweed and even more attractive to red Soldier Beetles.

There is no sign of flowers on the Pepper-saxifrage as yet, though Ralph Hollins has seen it in flower in Havant.

A very bright Comma perched briefly for a photo on the Bramble path; it could be a hutchinsoni which is brighter and more golden than the regular Comma and emerges in the summer brood. I spotted the dark underwings of a Peacock butterfly contrasting sharply with the yellow of a Common Fleabane flower.

I spotted a hairy fly stumbling around on a Hogweed flower head. This could be same mystery fly that I presented on the blog on July 25th and which has evaded identification. Today's fly is on the left and the previous mystery fly is on the right.

Emsworth to Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby walked from Emsworth to Langstone on a very cold and windy morning that felt like autumn!
Emsworth Harbour from 6:10am: 9 Black-tailed Godwit (three with rings O//R+WW//- and G//R+BY//- and G//R+WR//- These three have not been seen by me before!?!?) -
See Brian's comments below.
Mostly in summer plumage, 1 Whimbrel, 7 Redshank, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 9 Turnstone (in fine summer plumage), 4 Common Tern.
Emsworth Mill Pond: Mute Swan family.
Beacon Square from 6:28am: 13 Mute Swans - slowly drifted towards Nore Barn, 17 Redshank.
Nore Barn from 6:37am: 8 Redshank, 24 Black-tailed Godwit (most in summer plumage), 2 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls with 3 very noisy and freshly fledged juvs, 1 Whimbrel, Greenshank in the stream with colour rings G//R+GL//- One of the regulars returns!! -
See Brian's comments below.
7 Sand Martin flew low west.
Conigar Point from 7:03am: 2 Stock Dove, 1 Lesser black-backed Gull,
Pook Lane from 7:15am: 8 Greenshank (N//R+RY//- and RG//-+YY//- and B//R+GR//- and G//R+LG//- The first was seen the other day. YY is a regular and surprise surprise, I have not seen the other two!?). 2 Whimbrel, 19 Swallow mobbing Sparrowhawk, 73 Redshank (-/B+B//YL),
Juvenile Peregrine tried to catch a Greenshank, but failed as the Greenshank spectacularly ditched into shallow water, 3 Turnstone (in summer), 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Common Tern, Juvenile Mediterranean Gull (see photos).
Langstone Mill Pond from 8am: 1 Swift over, 1 Stock Dove, No swans!

On the left juvenile Med Gull with juvenile Black-headed Gull for comparison. On the right juv Med Gull

Brian's comments on the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits
G+BY - There have been only four previous sightings in Emsworth since 23-Nov-10.
G+WR - Ringed at Farlington Marshes on 10Sept08 as adult male. It has been a very regular wintering bird in Emsworth since then with 112 sightings.
O+WW - No records at all for this bird. Could it have been O+WL which has been seen in Emsworth over the past two autumns.

Note on colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL
Greenshank G+GL was ringed on 22-Sep-2014. This was almost certainly the same bird that had been a regular feeding companion to the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn. It was subsequently seen feeding with the Spotted Redshank in the Nore Barn stream. Good to see it is back 'home'. Now we await the arrival (fingers crossed) of the Spotted Redshank for its 12th winter running.

Hedgehog in garden
Caroline French is pleased to say that a Hedgehog has taken up residence in the Hedgehog box in her North Emsworth garden. She has also seen two small Hedgehogs which maybe young from earlier this year and which are gradually becoming more independent and dispersing. The presence of the female has attracted the attentions of a male and last night Caroline saw them mating. She assumes it is the female which has moved into the box - perhaps the two young are still with her. She has been putting out saucers of mealworms, peanut pieces, raisins and suet pellets and last night all four hogs were together around the food.
Late news: Caroline informed me that last night she had six Hedgehogs, not including the large male. So seven individuals over two nights of which five would have been born this year. Amazing!

Godwits return
Ralph Hollins notes that 7 Islandic Black-tailed Godwits were reported in the Scilly Isles on July 7, the first sign of 'our birds' arriving back in the south after their breeding season. Ralph thinks there should be quite a few back in Hampshire by now, though the birds in the Scillies may have been early returning failed breeders. And he is right judging from Peter Milinets-Raby's report from this morning.

MONDAY JULY 27 - 2015

Waysides News
Jane Brook and I carried out a survey of the plants on the Warblington Underpass wayside this morning. We managed to park outside the swing gate despite the presence of construction vehicles on the site. The central verge leading to the underpass had recently been mown, so there was no chance of any flowers there. However, the southern verge was untouched and this is where we concentrated on.
There was a good show of many late flowering plants, such as, Common Knapweed, Common Ragwort and Stone Parsley. A good selection of plants was found at the western end of the main verge and also round the corner towards the metal gates. We logged a total of 85 plants including a number which were new to this wayside list; ie, Common Fumitory, Spear-leaved Orache, White Campion, Common Poppy, Lesser Hawkbit, Lesser Swine-cress, Fool's Parsley and Common Couch, Creeping Bent-grass and Pale Persicaria (identity confirmed by the numerous tiny short-stalked glands on the upper stem and flower stalks). We were also pleased to find a good flowering of Burnet-saxifrage (while-flowered umbellifer with no bracts) at the western end of the wayside close to the new wooden fence.

After finishing at Warblington we came back to Bridge Road to carry out a litter pick of the wayside. We filled one bag with rubbish and picked up an astonishing 12 full bottles of Vodka. Who on earth is consuming all this alcohol? And then driving?

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a good day for butterflies on the meadow today so made a collage of them for us. There's a challenge to identify them all.

He also came across a Slow Worm all curled up in the north meadow.

Malcolm got a brief glimpse of a deer as it ran out of the trees at the top of the centre meadow and into the trees near the S-bend. No photos, but most likely a stray Roe Deer.


Brook Meadow
I had a very pleasant stroll around Brook Meadow this afternoon in warm sunshine. The main feature of interest on the wildlife front were the insects feeding mostly on the large white flower heads of Hogweed. Red Soldier Beetles were, as expected, the dominant species feeding, mating or just generally lounging around. The were also a good number of Common Wasps feeding on the Hogweed. These will probably be males which appear in late summer to feed on flowers. They have longer antennae than the female workers.

The Hogweed flowers were also a popular feeding site for a variety of other insects, including Oedemera nobilis - I think the photo on the left shows a female without the swollen thighs of the male. There were also many flies, including this Flesh Fly on the right. .

There were also several species of hoverflies including what I thought at first was the familiar Syrphus ribesii (on the left). However, Tony Davis kindly corrected me to say it was in fact Myathropa florea - see Chinery's Insect Guide p.206. Tony added that most photos of species in the genus Syrphus will not be identifiable to species.
One I think I must have got right was Scaeva pyrastri (on the right) - with pale lunules on the abdomen, white or cream.

Also, on the Hogweed were Episyrphus balteatus (Marmalade Fly) and

Here are another two I have not yet been able to identify. Chris Oakley says the Ichneumon fly on the left is a male Pimpla rufipes. A female would have a long ovipositor. For more details see . . .

The Cinnabar caterpillars are widespread on the Hoary Ragwort plants on the main orchid area on the north meadow and in far greater numbers than I recall in previous years. The Ragwort is not yet in flower.

Butterflies seen during my walk included Comma, Red Admiral, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Small Skipper.

Malcolm Phillips was also on the meadow this afternoon (we did not meet) and got a fine male Common Blue along with our first male Common Darter of the year - on its favourite perching spot on the south bridge.

He also spotted this female Blackcap peeping out of the bushes. I hope she has successfully bred on the meadow this year.

Francis Kinsella had a good day for butterflies on Brook Meadow. He saw Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral, Large White, Green Veined White, Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood, Holly Blue and Common Blue. Walking back north through the cow field toward Westbourne he saw lots and lots of second brood Holly Blues along the Hedgerow. They seem yo be doing very well here as they were earlier in the year. I went to Hollybank Woods to look for White Admiral but did not see any, I did spot a Hummingbird Hawk Moth though just as it was getting a bit darker.

Mystery fly
Ralph Hollins has had another stab at the one of the mystery flies that Malcolm Phillips photographed on Brook Meadow. Ralph thinks it is Cheilosia illustrata see . . .

However, Tony Davis disagrees. He does not believe Cheilosia illustrata is identifiable from that photo. So, the mystery remains unsolved. Let's see if Malcolm can get a better picture of the creature.

FRIDAY JULY 24 - 2015

Redshank return
Peter Milinets-Raby recorded the first of the returning Redshank yesterday at Langstone where he counted 80 on the shore. These birds are probably early birds from their breeding grounds in the North of England or Scotland, or even Scandinavia. Redshanks are increasingly scarce breeding birds in the south of England.
Two of Peter's Redshanks had colour rings with the combinations B+B/GL and B+B/YG - both not recorded before by him.
Last evening, my neighbour, Rob Foord sent me a photo of another colour-ringed Redshank that he took yesterday while walking along the foreshore at Emsworth.

The combination of rings of this bird was B+B/OR which looks like a regular Emsworth wintering Redshank as it was also seen and photographed in Emsworth by Malcolm Phillips on 14-Dec-14. All these Redshanks were caught and ringed by Pete Potts and his team at Thorney Island on Saturday 13 Sept 2014.
Note: All colour-ringed Redshank sightings should be sent to Josh Nightingale the Redshank recorder at . . .

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley has his Hampshire Farm web site up and running again with a regular blog.
So for all the news from the farm go to . . .

BTO information pages
The BTO has many useful pages on its web site for the identification and understanding of birds. One concerns how to identify young birds which are often very different from their parents. See . . .,3JDMV,3UEDCR,COPV0,0

Another BTO page involves plumage abnormalities. From time to time we come across a bird with plumage that is different from the norm for a species. Some of these abnormalities may result from abnormal feather growth or feather loss, while others may be a consequence of problems with pigmentation. The leucistic Blackbird is a common aberration.
See . . .


Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley has been looking at the insects on Hampshire Farm and has amassed dozens of photographs, many of which he still has to identify. He finds the wasps, sawflies and hoverflies are the most difficult, as there are so many varieties.
Some of the Common Ragwort is playing host to the Cinnabar moth caterpillars. Chris has also seen a Clouded Yellow butterfly and many Six-spot Burnet moths on the farm. He also managed to get himself bitten by a spider and stung by a wasp, so tread warily when you visit the farm!
A Mallard has managed to raise a family again this year; six young have been seen, quite well grown, but there may be others in the reed beds. There is also a very young Black-headed gull in brown plumage.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had 40 minutes spare today, so he popped down Langstone Mill Pond ahead of the tide pushing in to hide tide (2:30pm to 3:10pm). He had good views of the Tufted Duck female with her two ducklings (usually so elusive, no a nice change).

Mute Swan family plus 6 cygnets, being fed bread by load of children. Reed Warbler - One still singing and birds seen dashing across the pond. Off shore: 3 Greenshank, 80 Redshank (two with colour rings -/B+B/GL and -/B+B/YG - both not recorded before)

Mystery flies
I think we have successfully cracked one of the mystery flies that Malcolm Phillips photographed on Brook Meadow - see yesterday's blog.
However, the identity of the other one remains in doubt. Ralph Hollins thought it might be a hoverfly called Leucozona lucorum, but Tony Davis says "No, it is definitely not lucorum!" So, I think that one will remain a mystery until Malcolm gets a better photo.


Fort Cumberland
I had to go into Portsmouth this morning, so took the opportunity to have a walk around the Fort Cumberland Open Space (SINC) at Eastney. I have been there many times over the years and it can be very rewarding in spring and summer for its special flowers. It is the largest area of natural coastal heathland in Portsmouth which developed on a large stable shingle bank. If you have not been there it is easy to find. Go along the road towards Eastney Ferry and it is on the right just before you get to the military fort.

Fennel (as shown in the above photo) is one of the most common plants on this site, but one has to see it in full flower, as it was today, to appreciate its true beauty as in the following photo.

Fennel was one of the plants introduced by the Romans which is still going strong. Alexanders is another that comes to mind. It is grown in gardens and does escape, however, like Alexanders, it is now well naturalised particularly in areas like this near the sea. The leaves smell strongly of aniseed when crushed. It is also a good nectar source for Bumblebees, like this Bombus terrestris.

Wild Radish is another distinctive plant of this site. Its flowers can be either white or yellow, though they have pretty well gone over now. However, lots of seed pods divided into several 'beads' were on show. I recall a tip from F Rose (Wild Flower Key) that the beaded joints of the pods of Wild Radish are weak and break apart easily when ripe.

In contrast the pods of Sea Radish are stronger and do not break easily. I also found a good number of pods with a single rounded bead which I am not sure about. Can anyone help?

Other plants noted included Harebells, Rest Harrow, Cat's-ear, Common Ragwort, Yarrow, Viper's-bugloss, Common Knapweed, Mugwort, Creeping Cinquefoil, Field Bindweed, Common Mallow, Lesser Hawkbit.

Rest Harrow on the left and Viper's Bugloss on the right

Mystery flies
I had replies from Ralph Hollins and Tony Davis about the mystery flies in last night's blog. Both are agreed that the one on the left is a hoverfly named Long Hoverfly - Sphaerophoria scripta. For more information see . . . This name jogged my memory and, looking back through the records, I did in fact see one on Brook Meadow on 15-Sept last year.

The fly on the right is not as straight forward. Tony thinks it is also a hoverfly, but cannot identify it from the photo. Ralph also goes for a hoverfly and hazards a guess that it might be Leucozona lucorum which can be found on page 204 of Chinery's Insect Guide. The Nature Spot website gives more detail but the best picture is at . . .

Finally, Malcolm Phillips thinks the right side fly is like one he photographed recently while on holiday in Cuba. Well, you never know!

TUESDAY JULY 21 - 2015

Brook Meadow
Newly flowering on the meadow site are Stone Parsley, Field Bindweed, Red Bartsia, Perennial Sow-thistle and Square-stalked St John's-wort.
The usual good growth of Strawberry Clover can be seen along the edge of the path that goes round the east side of the Lumley area. This area is favoured by Strawberry Clover which likes the brackish influence from the tidal Lumley Stream. Its flower heads are much smaller than those of White Clover and Red Clover, but the most distinctive feature of Strawberry Clover, from which it gets its common name, is the shape and colour of its fruiting heads. I found just one rounded head today, though not yet with its pink strawberry hue.

The Lumley area this year is covered with Common Fleabane, some of which already has its bright yellow flowers which always make such a fine autumn show on Brook Meadow as well as providing a good source of nectar for late flying insects. The Sharp-flowered Rush which has been very prominent on the Lumley area over the past few years has really been pushed out and one has to search around to find their flowering spikes.
The berries are ripening well on the Gwynne Johnson Rowan plantation on the east side of the north meadow, though most of the berries are still to turn bright red.

I also had two mystery flies, very disticntly different. The one of the left looks like a hoverfly but I can't identify it. The other is furry and bee-like, but I am pretty sure it's a fly. Any answers?

Malcolm Phillips has put together the following collage of butterflies that he has recently taken on Brook Meadow. See if you can identify them. The two whites may be tricky.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along the Warblington shore (6:06am to 8:53am - tide falling). Swift 1 over the church (most possibly one of the last I may see as they are leaving in droves now?)
Conigar Point: 4 Greenshank (two with rings N//R+RY//- and G//R+GO//- both fairly regular in the autumn period, but not winter), 8 Redshank, Reed Warbler singing from mini reed bed, Skylark singing over field behind the point, 15 Mediterranean Gulls loafing (2 juvs, 1 adult winter and the rest still in summer), 1 Common Gull, 2 Common Tern.
Off Pook Lane: 50 Redshank, Mute Swan family (with 6 cygnets) out in the middle of the channel, Red Breasted Merganser female, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Shelduck, 2 Common Tern, 7 Swallows and a family of three being fed.

Horse Paddock: 13+ Goldfinch, Chiffchaff singing, 5 Swallows, 1 Treecreeper in oak tree in the paddock (the first I have seen away from Brook Meadow).
Langstone Mill Pond: 38+ Little Egrets (See photo of juv),

Cormorant roosting, 2 Reed Warbler still singing, Tufted Duck female with two ducklings, AND, surprise, surprise the Grey Heron pair that have a nest in the top of the Holm Oak have a second brood of three fairly big young!

MONDAY JULY 20 - 2015

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips got an interesting insect on the meadow today. As it has two wings not four, I assume it is a fly, but which one? In fact, I recall seeing this big chap a few days ago on the meadow feeding on Hogweed, but it went before I could get a photo. Does anyone know what it might be?
Ralph Hollins thinks it must be another example of Volucella zonaria. Chinery's illustration does not show the yellow band down the front of the face but it is present in all the photos Ralph has seen on the internet. This is a notorious Hornet mimic, so don't be taken in by it.

Ralph's news
Ralph Hollins celebrated his 84th birthday last Saturday. Well done, Ralph, I hope I can follow in your footsteps, though I am still 5 years behind you. Yesterday (Sunday), he cycled down to Thorney Great Deeps to see the Slender Hare's Ear and Pointed Snails, but saw neither. However, on the way he passed by Slipper Millpond where the pair of Great Black-back Gulls were perched forlornly on their raft with three Cormorants, maybe praying for the return of their chicks which drowned a few weeks ago.

Bats on Hampshire Farm
Nik Knight and David Search did a bat survey by walking around the perimeter of the Hampshire Farm open space on the evening of 9th July. From their recordings, Nik can state that at least 6 species were present: Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle, Serotine, Noctule and two species from the genus Myotis. Myotis bats are difficult to identify: ours were most likely to be Natterer's or Bechstein's bats in the first instance and Daubenton's or whiskered bats in the second instance. Nik will enter these records in the Hampshire database.

SUNDAY JULY 19 - 2015

Railway Wayside
The wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station is currently a blaze of colour with masses of wild flowers all along the side of the ramp. It is a fantastic sight. Common Ragwort, Wild Carrot, Common Fleabane, Common Knapweed, Creeping Thistle and Spear Thistle are the main contenders.

Marsh Woundwort flower spikes are struggling for light through the mass of competing vegetation and are less prominent than in earlier years. I see the plants have been cut down immediately inside the ramp. That is better than spraying which happened last year. I found a good display of bright pink flowers of Common Centaury on the verge just outside the metal gate on New Brighton Road.

Just across the road, a new driveway has been cut into the embankment, I gather for access to a car park for vehicles involved in repairing the rickety wall under the railway bridge.

Monarchs for sale
Ralph Hollins comments in his wildlife diary about a recent surge of sightings of Monarch butterflies in the Brighton area which caused great excitement among Sussex butterfly enthusiasts. That was, until someone made them aware of the following website which advertises the supply in the UK of Monarch butterflies at Weddings, Funerals or other occasions. See . .

On this web site 30 live Monarchs will cost you a cool £260 (plus packing and postage). Other butterflies for sale include Swallowtails, Painted Ladies and Red Admirals. The butterflies arrive in a box which needs to be kept cool until the time of release. The site does add that they only supply captive-bred butterflies. No butterflies are taken from the wild. But how does one tell the difference?
I recall this question coming up on this blog on June 20th concerning the origins of a Monarch butterfly seen in Cosham, but the big question was did this butterfly come across the Atlantic Ocean under its own steam or was it one of the captive-bred insects.

Butterfly kits
I should admit, that I recently bought a butterfly kit for my two locally-based grandchildren. These kits are quite different from the adult butterflies that you can buy from the above site. The butterflies (Painted Ladies, in this case) arrive as caterpillars in a special container in which they live for a while before transforming themselves into chrysalis form. You then transfer them to a supplied cage and wait 7-14 days for the butterflies to emerge. They are released after a few days, once their wings have developed fully. The whole process is educational and the children (and I) were fascinated to watch it. Apparently, these kits are popular in schools too.

Mystery plants
Chris Oakley sent me a photos of a couple of strange plants from a field at Bosham on the corner of Chequer Lane. Chris says a couple of years ago travellers pitched there for two weeks and when they were removed the owners smothered it with herbicide killing off any growth and then re-sowed it with a completely new crop. There are two principal plants growing together, one is a bright red, long-headed 'clover' and the other a very strange tall blue flowered plant. Chris thinks they were either for fodder or green manure but he can't find any trace of such plants on the internet and wondered if anyone knew what they were.

Well, I think I have the answer to the Clover. It is Long-headed Clover (Trifolium incarnatum ssp. incarnatum). It is illustrated in Blamey, Fitter and Fitter (p.153) and 'used to be cultivated, but is now rarely seen' - except in Bosham!
Ralph Hollins provided the answer to the other one - Tansy-leaved Phacelia (Phacelia-tanacetifolia) See the bottom of page 210 of Fitter, Fitter and Blamey or go to Ralph says David Uren, farmer of Great Idsworth Farm, planted a mass of it in his field behind Idsworth Chapel in the years when he visited the farm weekly but he do not know if it is still there.

Cuban Cuckoos

Malcolm Phillips could not find anything of special interest on Brook Meadow today, so he thought I might like to see two Cuckoos he saw in Cuba. Well, it makes a change from all these boring flowers!
The largest and most colourful one is the Great Lizard Cuckoo (on the left) and the second smaller one is the Yellow-Billed Cuckoo (on the right).


Hollybank Woods
I spent a relaxing couple of hours out of the heat this afternoon wandering around this beautiful woodland. In fact, I almost had the woods to myself as I only met a couple of people with dogs. Everyone must have gone to the beach; They are welcome to it. The conservation group are still busy building new hurdle gates and more coppicing.
It was also very quiet from a wildlife point of view. The only bird I heard singing was a Woodpigeon. As for butterflies, I was hoping I might see White Admiral and Silver-washed Fritillary, but there was no sign of either of these summer regulars in Hollybank. Have they been reported here this year I wonder? Gatekeepers were everywhere along with a few Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods, Large Whites and a Peacock.
As for plants Enchanter's Nightshade lined the edges of the path, its tall spikes having both white flowers and fruits, which were covered in hooks, presumably to aid in the dispersal of seeds.

Marsh Thistle was flowering in the open Jubilee area; I have only recorded this before on Longcopse Hill. Just a few Foxglove flowers were still open, most having gone over. Other flowers noted included Wood Speedwell and Yellow Pimpernel. Both pink- and white-flowered Musk Mallow were out on the old Holly Lodge clearing.

The paths were liberally carpeted with Sweet Chestnut flower spikes. Is this a good sign or a bad, I wonder?

The dominant grass throughout the woods was Common Bent. This grass has open delicate panicles and short ligules, as distinct from Creeping Bent which has long ligules. There was no sign of any Creeping Bent though I did not look hard for it. I also found several examples of a very tall bent grass with long ligules which I assume was Black Bent.
The usual woodland sedges were prominent along the paths, particularly Remote Sedge and Wood Sedge, but I could find no sign of the Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush which Gwynne Johnson discovered here many years ago.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips did his daily tour round the meadow and got this splendid photo of two Marbled Whites feeding together on emerging Common Knapweed. Or maybe they were preparing to mate? Getting one Marbled White is hard enough, but getting two in one shot pretty special.

Tortrix moth
Our chief entomological correspondent, Tony Davis wrote to correct the identification of the small white moth photographed by Chris Oakley on Hampshire Farm. Tony said it is not a grass moth as suggested by Ralph Hollins, but is a Tortrix moth called Eucosma campoliliana. The larvae feed on the seeds and stems of Common Ragwort. The moths fly in June and July, from evening onwards, and are attracted to light. Here is Chris's original photo.

This moth is distinctive with its black and brown markings on a white background, and white head as shown in Chris's photo. It is distributed widely over Britain, but mainly coastally. It is fairly well distributed in Hampshire, particularly on chalk downland and near the coast, but very rarely recorded on the Isle of Wight.
See . . .
Tortricidae is a family of moths, commonly known as Tortrix moths or Leaf Roller moths. Most hold their wings roof wise over the body at rest and many are economically important pests, including the codling moth, the larvae of which attacks apples.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down very briefly to Langstone Mill Pond late morning just ahead of an incoming tide (11am to 11:40am). The highlight was his first Common Sandpiper running along the tidal creek that leads to the mill.
Brian's Note: This bird will probably be a passage migrant stopping off on its way from its breeding grounds in the north to its wintering quarters in Africa. We should be getting some in Emsworth too, so please keep a look out. It is easy to identify from its fluttery flight, its tail wagging and the white sweep under the breast.

Other species of note off shore were: 8 Greenshank, 3 Whimbrel. 77+ eclipse plumaged Mallard being fed grain behind the mill - a good count. No sign of the swan family.

FRIDAY JULY 17 - 2015

We have had a tutorial from Ralph Hollins today.

Grass Moth?
First Ralph says the 'tubular' moth that Chris Oakley photographed on Hampshire Farm yesterday must be one of many similar 'grass moths' that are currently on the wing. They typically rest vertically on grasses, usually head down, with wings wrapped tightly around the body. Ralph thinks the moth is most likely to be Crambus lathoniellus which is said to be widespread and common in Hampshire. See . . .

See Correction to this moth ID on the following day

Comb-footed Spider
As to Chris Oakley's spider with the big meal Ralph's thinks it is a species of Comb-footed Spiders (family Theridiidae) e.g. Enoplognatha ovata - one of our commonest, prettiest and most recognizable species of comb-footed spiders, found throughout the British Isles and an occupant of most domestic gardens.
See . . . Figure 2 on . .

Flying Ants
Ralph Hollins confirms Caroline French's report of flying ants yesterday. He says, "I was going to mow my lawn in the afternoon but as I went to get the mower out of the shed I found myself in a 'snow storm' of insects rising from the ground towards the masses of gulls circling overhead. Looking down to the ground I found every tuft of grass along the edge of the lawn where it borders a concrete path (which must act as a roof to the home of many ants) was a writhing black mass of Black Garden Ants (see Chinery page 234). "

Silver Y moth
Finally, Ralph confirms the moth with the silver Greek letter 'Gamma' its wing that was photographed on Brook Meadow by Malcolm Phillips is in fact a Silver Y. See . . .

Holly Blue
Peter Milinets-Raby had a beautiful Holly Blue in his back garden in Havant. He thinks it might be a male. Holly Blues are very common in gardens, particularly where there is Ivy growing. However, I have not tried sexing them before. I think Peter is right about the sex of this butterfly, as the female should have a broad black margin to the wings.

For earlier observations go to . . July 1-16