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

for August 17-31 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Emsworth Show
The weather for today's annual show at the Emsworth Recreation Ground was not nearly as bad as last year which was a total wash out. Light rain in the morning eased off in the afternoon and it turned out to be a very pleasant day. I went over this afternoon with Jean and two grand daughters who are staying with us for a while.
The Brook Meadow Conservation Group stall was looking very good with fresh photographic displays of conservation work and wildlife. It was manned mostly by Jennifer Rye, Maurice Lillie and David Search who did a great job. It was good to see Caroline French following her successful nurturing of Hedgehogs in her garden. Maybe she will have a Hedgehog stall next year?

I picked a bucketful of wild flowers from the meadow for the Brook Meadow stall which was being closely inspected in this photo by Dave Lee, one of the volunteers.

Next door was the Emsworth Waysides stall manned by Jane Brook.

I was also interested to see a BTO Garden BirdWatch stall manned by John Goodspeed - a first for the show.

Lily and Iris, my granddaughters, were thrilled to have the opportunity to hold a Little Owl and a Tawny Owl at the falconry stall and I could not resist a quick close-up shot of the birds while they were doing this. The Little Owl is on the left with its glaring yellow eyes fixed solidly on me! In contrast the eyes of the Tawny Owl on the right are more gentle and sleepy.

Finally, I was dead chuffed to get a 3rd prize for one of the two photos I entered in the show's photographic competition. Clearly, beginner's luck as this was my first ever entry. It was a family shot of three grandchildren dancing down the millpond seawall. If you want to see it go to . . .

Albino Squirrel
Graham Petrie managed to get a shot of the albino squirrel going into the Victorious Festival in Southsea yesterday. It posed on one of the chestnut trees in Malvern Road.


Garden Spiders
Following on from the pair of courting Four-spot Spiders (Araneus quadratus) that Malcolm Phillips photographed on Brook Meadow yesterday, this afternoon Chris Oakley had a pair of courting Garden Spiders (Araneus diadematus) in his garden. The female is on the left and the smaller male on the right.

I hope the male fared better than the one caught on camera in this YouTube video in which the poor fellow was consumed by the female before he managed to complete the act . . . .

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a short walk along the Warblington shore to catch the tide pushing in (8:32am to 10:17am).
The bird of the morning (at 8:55am) was an Osprey that flew along the channel from Thorney, circled low over the water by the Hayling Bridge, occasionally carrying out abortive dives, before flying back to my position at Conigar Point. It circled around searching for fish, then headed slowly back to Hayling Bridge and over into Langstone Harbour. Eight minutes of cracking views in the scope. Because of the Osprey, waders were in short supply.

Conigar Point: 4 Common Gull, 1 Ringed Plover, Adult winter Mediterranean Gull, A single Yellow Wagtail in the SSSI field with the friends of Number 58! 2 Greenshank, 7 Lapwing, 1 Grey Plover, 2 Willow Warblers in the Tamarisk Hedge (one briefly singing).
Off Pook Lane: 12 Bar-tailed Godwit, 32 Dunlin, 4 Grey Plover, 88+ Swallows (in small groups moving west), 11 Greenshank (6 of them with colour rings - NR//-+YY//- & G//R+YN//- & RG//-+YY//- & G//R+LN//- & G//R+GR//- & G//R+BRtag//-)
And in the hedge along the shore were an impressive flock of at least 62+ House Sparrows - difficult to count, could easily have been up to 20+ more


Brook Meadow - mystery Cranesbill
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to measure the small Cranesbill flower that I discovered on the orchid area of Brook Meadow yesterday, hoping this would help to establish the species. As can be seen from the photo, the flower measures no more than 6mm across, though some of the petals have been nibbled since I saw it yesterday.

This means it is at the top of the size range for Small-flowered Crane's-bill (4-6mm) and at the bottom of the range for Dove's-foot Cranesbill (6-10mm), so the result is indecisive between the two species. However, I am inclined towards Small-flowered Crane's-bill since the photo seems to show just 5 stamens with anthers; if it were Dove's-foot Cranesbill one would expect to see all 10 stamens with anthers. This feature shows more clearly on the photo I took yesterday.

I found a very fresh Speckled Wood butterfly resting on the ground near the recently cleared Crack Willow on the north meadow. This must be one of the new summer brood.


The five hibernacula were completed by the ecological team yesterday in the west side of the north meadow and can easily be seen from the main river path. They consist of piles of logs covered over with layers of small twigs. Hopefully will be home to reptiles relocated from local building development sites.

For more details about this work see report from Maurice Lillie at . . .

 As expected, the Environment Agency started work this morning on the new flood defence bund around the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. I met a couple of chaps in the channel leading from the south meadow to Peter Pond where one of them was drilling a second hole through the concrete wall to facilitate the flow of flood water from the meadow into the pond. This is the first stage. The main work will be reinforcing the existing earth bund around Gooseberry Cottage.

Malcolm's news
I met Malcolm Phillips on Brook Meadow. He had seen several birds in the bushes near the old gasholder including these two migrants, Chiffchaff on the left and female Blackcap on the right. Let's hope they bred successfully on Brook Meadow this year.

Yesterday Malcolm got a shot of a male Common Blue with bright blue upper wings; today he got one of a female with brown upper wings feeding on Common Fleabane.
CORRECTION - Malcolm's photo was a Brown Argus - note the two black spots on the upper wings.

But the most interesting photo that Malcolm got was of what he thought at first were two different species of spider in the same web. In fact, I think what Malcolm got was a female Four-spot Spider (Araneus quadratus) being courted by a male spider of the same species. The male spider is much smaller than the female and needs to approach her very carefully, and to get away quickly after the mating act, to avoid being eaten.

Long-tailed Tits galore
Patrick Murphy had 8 Long-tailed Tits feeding on the fat ball feeder in his North Emsworth garden in the rain this afternoon. There were at least another 2 waiting nearby for their turn. What a crush!

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby took his son Aleksandr out for a brief walk along Wade Lane to the Langstone Mill Pond (10:45am to 12:15pm) during which he saw 5 birds of prey!
Along Wade Lane: The resident family group of Swallows (19) were very agitated and the culprit was a Hobby, which was quickly chased off by a couple of brave birds.
1 Spotted Flycatcher typically fly-catching from the big tree in the first paddock field - only the second I've seen in this area.
A good record of 3 Swift flew over together (almost certainly these will be the last I see this summer).
Langstone Mill Pond: A very hungry family of Mute Swans were pushing all the eclipsed Mallard away as each toddler walked by with a plastic bag of bread! Pair of eclipse plumaged Gadwall - getting harder to identify as they get tatty. 26 roosting Little Egrets seeing out the high tide. And, a female Mallard with a 4/5 day old duckling
Over the northern shore of Hayling, a warm thermal pushed into the air, 2 Buzzards, an Osprey (this slipped away quickly into Langstone Harbour), a Peregrine and a Sparrowhawk - the later harassing the two Buzzard with lots of dive bombs.


Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow for a couple of hours this morning, mainly examining the flower heads of Hogweed and Wild Angelica for insects. The south meadow is currently dominated by the tall plants of Wild Angelica with their distinctive rounded umbels towering over everything else. I don't recall this plant being quite so abundant as it is this year.

For the second day running I found what I think is a Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea) feeding on a Hogweed flower head. It gets its common name from the distinctive marking on its thorax which is thought to resemble a human face or death mask.

I also found what I think is a Soldier fly which had its wings folded over its back while feeding, unlike hoverflies which spread their wings when feeding. I think it might be a Banded General (Stratiomys potamida) which is the most widespread Soldier Fly in England and mainly a lowland species. The flight period is from May to early Sept.

Also, on the Wild Angelica flowers I was interested to watch a dark brown Shield Bug extend its antennae straight out in front, maybe as a reaction to my close approach to get a photo. I have not seen it in this pose before.

While walking through the tangled vegetation on the orchid area, I came across a single tiny pale pink flower with 5 notched petals and partially lobed leaves. My guess is Dove's-foot Cranesbill - or could it possibly be Small-flowered Crane's-bill? Amazingly, if it were either of these it would be the first to be recorded on the Brook Meadow site!

I was surprised to see a flowering of what I assume is Redshank pushing up through the tangled vegetation on the river bank near the north bend. A first for this year. The only alternative is Amphibious Bistort.

What is left of the Strawberry Clover after the inadvertent mowing of the path round the Lumley area by the conservation group is now starting to fruit.

We have an interesting growth of Straw Cup Fungus (Peziza vesiculosa) on the naturalised extension to the new wall containing the river in the north-east corner of the meadow. Here are two examples of their tough bowl-shaped fruiting bodies.

We have had several records of this fungus on Brook Meadow over the years the last being on 20-Feb-14 when it was found growing in clusters on a pile of rotting grass arisings in the north-east corner of the meadow. These cuttings were, in fact, used by the conservation volunteers to cover the ugly concrete bags of the newly constructed flood wall, taking with them the spores of the fungi.

Finally, I found what I am fairly sure is a primary wing feather of a Carrion Crow (28cm in length). All birds change their feathers at about this time of the year, called moulting.

While on the centre meadow I met Malcolm Phillips and we watched a male Common Blue butterfly fluttering around low over the grassland. Common Blues tend to fly low, unlike Holly Blues which invariably fly high. Malcolm managed to get a nice photo of the insect when it came to rest. We also watched a Painted Lady flying briskly around the area before disappearing into the trees of Lumley copse. Probably fresh from flying across the English Channel! But Malcolm did not get a photo of this one. After I left Malcolm also got this splendid photo of a female Common Darter.

As I was leaving the meadow at the Seagull Lane entrance, I met two ecologists from the Ecology Co-Op who were preparing to build five hibernaculums in preparation for the translocation of some Lizards and Slow-worms from a building site. Here are Sam and Bryony with logs making the first of the hibernaculums. We shall publish more details of this work later.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley was on the Hampshire Farm site this afternoon and spotted a group of at least five baby lizards. Here is one that Chris got with a 16 spot Ladybird for company. They were sunning themselves on one of the left-over refuge mats. This little one is barely 4 cm long and Chris thought looks like a tiny dragon.
Chris also noted a good selection ichneumon flies around the remaining Wild Carrot and sent the following photo of what he thinks is Pimpla rufipes.

Caroline's Hedgehogs
Caroline French sent the following update on the hedgehog situation in her garden.
"I still have the female hedgehog living in the original box and at least two of her brood still visiting the garden, as well as at least one other male. This makes a minimum of four hedgehogs regularly coming, but I suspect it is probably more like six. I think the large male may even be living somewhere at the bottom of the garden underneath the ivy, as he seems often to emerge from that area. A couple of weeks ago, I thought all the young hedgehogs had disappeared, bar one. However, I was thrilled to look out on 12th August and see three of the young hedgehogs plus one adult feeding together at the feeding station (see photo).

It seems that hedgehogs don't follow a particular pattern in the times that they emerge or where they head to first to feed. I have even seen the female emerge from the box and head straight under the fence into my neighbour's garden, rather than towards the feeding station. This suggests to me that they are not desperate for food.

Female emerging from box

A few days ago I put a second hedgehog box in the garden, under the same bush as the original one and I was amazed this morning to see that it looks very much as though it has already been occupied! I will be interested to see whether this is a second hedgehog or whether the female has decided to move into a new box with fresh bedding in it. I have bought a third box which I am going to site under my beech hedge in the front garden, but after that I think I will have run out of suitably sheltered and shady places to put boxes.
According to Pat Morris in his, 'The New Hedgehog Book,' hedgehogs are not thought to be very territorial so it may be that my garden, although small, might be able to provide safe homes for more than one hedgehog. We'll see what happens. From time to time I witness a bit of pushing and shoving between two hedgehogs, but nothing ever looks very violent. I did see one male charge a larger male, which just curled up into a ball until the assailant had gone off to continue its pursuit of the female!

Readers or your blog might be interested to know that the Chichester-based company, 'A Chip off the Block', who made my latest box, will have a stand at the Emsworth Show this weekend, so anyone who would like to buy a box could possibly pick one up there. Mine cost £25. My immediate neighbour and a work colleague have both asked me to buy one for them.

Hedgehog Street are hosting a 'Day of the Hedgehog' event on 21st November in Telford - I am very tempted to go:

Monarch and Martins in Funtington
Paul Cooper was excited to get a Monarch butterfly in his garden in Funtington, quite unlike any butterfly he's ever see before. Paul admits it probably came from a butterfly kit, but one never really knows for sure. This question came up on this blog on June 20th concerning the origins of a Monarch seen in Cosham. However, the ready availability of Monarch butterflies on the internet for Weddings, Funerals, etc. makes one wonder.

Paul also reports the House Martins that regularly nest on his house did build a nest this year, but quickly deserted it. However, he says there are lots of House Martins around Funtington so they obviously have nested nearby.


Brook Meadow
I had a slow walk down the main river path from the north bridge this morning, stopping every few yards to examine the insects and spiders resting on the nettle leaves. Here are just a few of them that I snapped and that I felt fairly confident about an identification from Chinery's Collins Guide to Insects. There were many others that I just enjoyed.
There were several shield bugs: on the left is what I think is a Sloe Bug (Dolycoris baccarum) which feeds on a wide variety of herbaceous plants as well as Blackthorn according to Chinery (p 74). On the right is a nymph Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina) which Chris Oakley also had recently on Hampshire Farm (see illustration in Chinery p.75).

Spiders are also emerging: on the left is a Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) with a prey in its web. On the right - one of many Nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) lying in wait for its prey with its front legs typically stretched out.

There were plenty of hoverflies. On the left what I think is a Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea) which gets its common name from the marking on its thorax which is thought to resemble a human face or death mask. They feed on pollen and nectar and appear on various plants including Hogweed and Cow Parsley between May and October. On the right is a female Dark Bush-cricket with a long curved ovipositor showing well.

Finally, what looks like some sort of sawfly, though I do not know what species. Possibly Tenthredopsis litterata ?
See . . .

I also noticed Purple Loosestrife struggling through the tangled vegetation in the river south of the north bridge.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to walk along the Warblington shore 6:20am to 8:40am - tide coming in.
Ibis Field: Male Blackcap.
Conigar Point: 12 Sand Martin heading south, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 19 Dunlin, 9 Lapwing, 11 Grey Plover, 1 Greenshank, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Willow Warbler in the Tamarisk Hedge (not much else).
Off Pook Lane: 59 Grey Plover in pre-roost gathering, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 7 Greenshank (4 with colour rings N//R+RY//- & G//R+BR///- & NR//-+YY//- & RG//-+YY//-), 56 Redshank (6 with colour rings -//B+B//RR & -//B+B//ON & -//B+B//OY & -//B+B//YR &-//B+B//NG & -//B+B//OO), 82 Oystercatcher in pre-roost gathering, 26 Dunlin, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit (summer), 2 Juvenile Black Tern feeding in the middle of the channel with 3 juv Common Terns.
Langstone Mill Pond: Pair of Gadwall in eclipse plumage, 1 Reed Warbler.


Emsworth Millpond
I had a walk around the millpond this morning in between the rain showers. The regular Mute Swan family with 5 cygnets was sheltering from the strong southerly wind in the corner on Bath Road near the house that used to be called Tenerife Cottage until the new owners renamed it Swan House.
The small Mallard family with mum and three ducklings is still present on the pond. I think there were about 10 ducklings to start with, but the surviving three seem to be healthy and growing well. Here they are snoozing on the seaweed near the road bridge.

In general, Mallard numbers on the pond are now fairly high as the breeding season ends and the birds enter their annual moult. I counted 84 Mallards (not including the family) on the pond; the winter peak is usually around 100.

Mallard eclipse
Almost all the Mallards on the millpond are in eclipse plumage which means the normally brightly coloured males (drakes) are almost identical to the females (ducks). This is due to moulting. In common with most other wildfowl, Mallards moult all their flight feathers at once in late summer and become flightless until the new feathers grow. This strategy has evolved to make the males less conspicuous and less vulnerable to predator attack.
Although the two sexes are alike they can still be distinguished as shown in this photo that I took today on the millpond showing a female on the left and a male on the right.

The easiest feature by which to distinguish the sexes at this time is bill colour; the male has a yellow bill, whereas the female's bill is a dull brown. There are also more subtle differences in plumage which can be seen on this photo. The breast of the male is red-brown in contrast to that of the female which is paler and streaked. The male's black tail also shows up as do the pale upper wing feathers.  

Mystery falcon - not Kestrel?
Responding to the report by Peter Milinets-Raby in the blog entry for Aug 24, Malcolm Phillips is sure the bird he saw (and photographed) in flight over Brook Meadow on Aug 21 was not a Kestrel. "I have seen and photographed many Kestrels, but this bird did not look or act like any I have seen before. I have also looked on the internet for photos of Kestrels and cannot convince myself it is a Kestrel."

I suppose we shall never know for certain what the bird was, but if it was not a Kestrel then there are few alternatives. The only other serious suggestion came from Ralph Hollins who thought it could have been a Red-footed Falcon and, looking at photos of the two birds side, by side clearly shows their similarity - see blog entry for Aug 23. However, as far as I am aware, there has been no other reported sighting of a Red-footed Falcon in the local area.  


Water Vole at Fishbourne
Roy Hay sent me a nice photo of a Water Vole having a feed in the stream that runs through Fishbourne Meadows. Gosh, how I wish we could see one like that on the river on Brook Meadow.

Roy sent another photo of a not so happy scene of a Water Vole nest site that was dug out last night, presumably by a fox. The fox is certainly one of the many predators of Water Voles, but not on Brook Meadow where foxes are rarely seen.

Turtle Dove at Woods Mill
What better to brighten up a wet and miserable August day than a picture of a Turtle Dove. Well, Romney Turner realised my dream when she sent this super photo that she took at Woods Mill nature reserve at Small Dole which is near Henfield in West Sussex. I did not realise that Woods Mill is the headquarters of the Sussex Wildlife Trust.


Mystery falcon - Kestrel?
Peter Milinets-Raby is pretty sure that the falcon that Malcolm Phillips photographed in flight over Brook Meadow on Aug 21 was in fact a Kestrel.

Peter gives the following reasons:
1. Pointed wings (No 10 primary tip very short and virtually equal in length to No. 7 primary tip - Both short adding to pointed look).
2. Long grey tail, with black terminal band - no other barring visible, makes this bird a classic male.
3. Dark claws (visible on photo at 400% magnification).
4. Pale straw yellow feet.
5. Grey hood and moustache of male plumage barely visible - typical wear of an adult after a long summer breeding.
6. Kestrels do (annoyingly) glide around in circles for minutes at a time, just like any other raptor. They obviously has a unique hunting technique which can aid Identification!

For a summary of the local wildlife news over the last two weeks go to . . . Wildlife News Summaries


Red-footed Falcon?
Ralph Hollins spent some time trying to match up the mystery falcon that Malcolm Phillips photographed in flight over Brook Meadow on Aug 21. Ralph agreed with Malcolm that the bird in the photo did not really look like a Kestrel, nor did it behave in a typical Kestrel-like manner. Malcolm's description of the bird 'flying around for five minutes' did not match his memories of Kestrel behaviour, which if not hovering to hunt, was flying directly to a perch. Then Ralph dropped a bombshell: "I don't like to suggest rarities but after rejecting all other possibilities I found a photo of a Red-footed Falcon which seems a good match for Malcolm's photo" See . . .

Here are the two images side by side with Malcolm's on the left and a Red-footed Falcon on the right
The resemblance is impressive!

One major difference is the tail, which appears to be dark tipped on Malcolm's photo as in a Kestrel. However, Ralph thinks the distortion of the tail in Malcolm's photo was caused by the bird twisting its tail to adjust its flight path. Also, the colouration of Malcolm's bird suggests it is a female. Red-footed Falcons feed mainly on dragonflies, so that might be a reason for the bird spending some time over Brook Meadow.
The Red-footed Falcon is a vagrant to Britain, usually about 5-10 annually. It breeds in Eastern Europe and winters in SW Africa. It is a very rare bird in our area. The new 'Birds of Sussex' reports a total of 35 sightings up to 2011 with a peak in May and June. There were no records for August and only one for September. That is not good news for our Red-footed Falcon ID as this is clearly the wrong time of the year for one to be seen. I would be grateful for any other contributions to the debate.

Mallard ducklings diving
Chris Oakley took his usual Sunday morning walk around the town millpond despite the rain. He noted that the three Mallard ducklings seemed to have doubled in size since last week. While watching them he was surprised to see one of the youngsters actually diving under the water and he asked how common is diving in Mallard ducklings?
This question sent me to Google where, as you would have guessed, there were plenty of examples of Mallard ducklings diving, including a YouTube video of one doing just this at . .

Little Terns
Apparently, Little Terns have had a good breeding season in Chichester Harbour with 17 young fledging there to give the best result since the mid-1970s. I wonder how they fared in Langstone Harbour? 


Peter Pond
Malcolm Phillips got his first photo of a Kingfisher for a few months, in its favourite place on the table at the top end of Peter Pond. And it is a male, for a change, with all black bill; almost all the earlier ones Malcolm got were of a female.

Malcolm also found plenty of Swallows flying around the edge of the pond and perching on the overhead cables. They will be soon be preparing to depart for their long migration to Southern Africa.

Mint Moth
Chris Oakley was interested in the Mint Moth (Pyrausta aurata) that I had feeding on the mint flowers in my garden yesterday. He agrees they are abundant at this time of the year, and in his garden they around the Marjoram and Thyme both of which attract hoards of insects. Chris has logged 22 varieties of Hoverfly alone this year. Chris says there is another mint moth that is very similar to the Pyrausta aurata and in fact flies with it called Pyrausta purpuralis - there are subtle differences but it's worth looking out for. Here are Chris's photos with aurata on the left and purpuralis on the right.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Warblington shore this morning (6:25am to 8:16am - tide dropping, virtually no migrants). The highlights were as follows:
Ibis Field: 2 Swallows, 1 Green Woodpecker, 2 Stock Dove.
Conigar Point: 30+ Redshank (three with colour rings - -//B+B//GG & -//B+B//NY & -//B+B//ON), 1 Lapwing, 10 Grey Plover, 56 Dunlin, 73 Ringed Plover, 1 Common Gull, 1 Greenshank, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 27 Mallard with 2 Teal flew west and headed for the Langstone Mill Pond: 2 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Meadow Pipit over, 2 Yellow Wagtails over.
Off Pook Lane: 4 Common Tern, 16 Grey Plover, 1 Dunlin, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Greenshank (none with rings).


Mystery raptor
While he was on Brook Meadow today Malcolm Phillips got a photo a raptor in flight, which he could not identify. He said it was flying over the meadow for about 5 mins before it went off to the north.

The pointed wings of the bird suggest a falcon. One cannot gauge the size of the bird from the photo, but the black tip to the tail seems to indicate Kestrel. However, when I asked Malcolm about this, he said it did not fly or hover like a Kestrel. He said it was going round in circles and gliding a lot. He wondered if it could be a Hen Harrier. Well, that would be an exciting first for Brook Meadow! Does anyone else have any idea what it might be?

Malcolm also got this nice shot of what looks like young Swallows - not a common sight on Brook Meadow.

Mint Moth
I was interested to see three Mint Moths (Pyrausta aurata) feeding on the flowering mint plants in our garden this afternoon. This is a very common moth to be seen flying around gardens and meadows. It has two generations; in May and June, and again through July and August. The larvae feed on mints.

Oak leaves with brown areas
Ralph Hollins thinks the Oak leaf with brown marks that I included in yesterday's blog could be the work of a leaf-mining moth caterpillar but he stresses he is not at all certain. Ralph gives the following link to a web site with information about these creatures . . . - scroll down to 'Page 3 of 6'.

Having looked closely at one of the affected leaves with the microscope I think Ralph is correct. The brown areas consist of two thin skins which can be pulled apart to reveal lots of tiny dark nodules, which look like excreta of the grubs that were eating their way through the leaf. Also, the images of oak leaves affected by leaf miner are exactly the same as those on the Brook Meadow tree. Interestingly, Wikipedia says that when leaf miner larvae attack English Oak, they selectively feed on tissues containing lower levels of tannin, which is a deterrent chemical produced in great abundance by the tree.


Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow this morning for the regular 3rd Thursday in the month conservation work session. The weather was overcast and humid and the ground very wet after yesterday's rain. The session was attended by 12 volunteers and led by Ian Newman. The main job was to prepare the meadow for the annual cutting by Martin Cull later this month. The power scythe was used to mark out the areas for cutting and overhanging trees were lopped to allow room for Martin's tractor.

An Alder sapling donated by Frances Jannaway before she moved away from Emsworth was planted on the eastern side of the Lumley area near the Lumley Stream.

Wildlife observations
There is a fine display of Hoary Ragwort both on the orchid area and on the centre meadow. No sign anywhere of Common Ragwort. Also looking good were the tall umbellifers of Wild Angelica the flowers of which were attracting hordes of flies and other insects. The bright pink blossom of Hemp Agrimony is showing well on the orchid area. Common Knapweed looks particularly fine against the yellow of Common Fleabane on the Lumley area.

I had a look at the Oak saplings on the Seagull Lane patch which are all growing well. However, they support a variety of galls, produced by the larvae of Gall Wasps which lay eggs on the tree. When the eggs hatch the tissues of the tree swell up around the grubs to form the galls. I found lots of Spangle galls on the leaves (top left) and a few Marble galls (top right) and Knopper galls which distort the acorns (bottom left). Some leaves have brown areas which could be caused by a fungus (bottom right).


Mystery grub
Ralph Hollins provided the answer to Jill Stanley's mystery grub that she dug up from her garden yesterday. It is a Stag Beetle larva. Ralph provides the following useful link to its life history and larval stage at . . .

Dead racing pigeon
As to the dead racing pigeon that Tom Bickerton found in Havant Thicket yesterday, Ralph Hollins thinks it would have been brought down by a young Peregrine. A Sparrowhawk (which was Tom's suggestion) would have no chance of catching it and Peregrines kill by breaking the neck of the prey which would explain the wound around the neck.

However, Tom Bickerton disagrees and sticks to his opinion that the culprit was a Sparrowhawk. He says . . .
"Four reasons, head's still on, first thing an adult perry does is remove head. I've lost count on the number of perry kills I've witnessed or photographed, and heads I've collected. Second both male and female can carry the carcass away, why remain on a busy path, when there's a lovely big field 25 yards away. Three the bird was undamaged, if taken from the sky then I would expect damage, plus the wings extended out. Adult peregrines are very surgical in the way they eat. This was, but controlled to max the meat in a short period of time. Four, it's the territory of a Sparrowhawk pair, they nested just by the pond this year. No, this bird was taken by the Sparrowhawk, on the ground from behind, you can see gravel embedded in the cheek, this was due to the force of impact."

Regarding the Pigeon's ring number Ralph suggests Tom should go to . . . and click the 'Report a Stray Pigeon' button so that the Royal Racing Pigeon Association can inform the owner of the pigeon of its fate.

Flood protection work on Brook Meadow
As previously reported in this blog on Aug 4, the Environment Agency has already carried out extensive clearance work by removing brambles and other vegetation from the bund between the Brook Meadow south meadow and the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. Most of the Bramble hedge has gone, though our prized patch of Marsh Woundwort at the northern end has survived - just!
This photo shows the already cleared bank on the left - looking south along the path. Gooseberry Cottage is on the other side of the bank on the left and the south meadow on the right.

Maurice Lillie now provides more details about the proposed work by the Environment Agency to the bank between the South Meadow and the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. He says the vegetation that was cut down along the bank will be allowed to regrow. The work is being carried out by the EA under the special powers that they have when responding to flood situations. The EA has assured Maurice that they have obtained necessary approvals from Havant Borough Council, Natural England and the coastal protection organisation. Maurice has produced a sketch of a cross section through the bank that runs along the east side of the south meadow and shows the proposal as confirmed by the Agency.

They plan is to start work on the far south end part this coming weekend (Aug 22-23). This is to remove the front face of the concrete structure through which a small diameter pipe passes to convey flood water through a much larger pipe to Peter Pond. This job includes leaving the main structure in place but, by removing the front wall will allow a far greater quantity of water to pass more quickly to the pond. The west facing "hole" will be protected by a childproof grill which will also serve to trap any debris that arrives there. The Peter Pond end of the discharge pipe will have a flap mounted on it to prevent tidal surge from flooding back to the Meadow.
The planned work to the bund bank will proceed as soon as materials can be provided and labour resources assembled. It is intended that the work will be carried out at weekend and the present duration forecast is five weekends. The access to carry out the work will be from the Lumley Road gateway into Brook Meadow and the EA will take all reasonable precautions not to disrupt the use of that entrance by the public.

Are gulls a menace?
Summer headlines about gull attacks are not unusual, but this year the stories have been particularly numerous, and the claims particularly serious, leading to David Cameron calling for a "big conversation" about gulls. The British Trust for Ornithology has been carrying out gull research for many decades, and is well placed to clarify the facts on the behaviours that brings gulls into conflict with humans, as this short very well reasoned piece shows . . .


Emsworth - Westbourne
Jean and I had a nostalgic stroll through the fields from Emsworth to Westbourne and back through Lumley. We got to know these fields very well as we lived for 30 years in Westbourne Avenue where they were readily accessible over our garden wall.
We loved to pick the juicy Blackberries for pies and wine and today there was the usual fine crop of berries in the bushes. However, I was rather sad to find the northern most of the old Oaks in the field had finally given up the ghost and toppled over. I had watched this old Oak over the years, gradually losing its leaves and branches. But no doubt lots of wildlife still continues to flourish within its trunk and bark, so I hope the tree will not be removed. As the following photo shows the tree also looks very good even though it is on the ground.

I was very surprised to see so much Common Ragwort flowering in the fields (see the above photo), much more than I recall when we used to live nearby. A local man told me that 7 young bullocks had been grazing the grass in the fields, but not touching the Ragwort, of course.
Walking back along the river path from Westbourne I heard my first autumn song of a Robin, a rather thin and wistful song in comparison with the strong and vigorous spring song.
I was particularly looking forward to seeing the Perforate St John's-wort that lines the bridge over the A27 near Lumley. It was quite magnificent with its bright red seed heads showing well. I picked a few stems as they make a fine decoration for my desk and will last through the winter. At the southern end of the bridge the glossy brown flower heads of Jointed Rush were shining even though there was no sun.

The path coming down from the A27 bridge was lined with many wild flowers including Stone Parsley, Rough Chervil and Common Knapweed. Sadly, there was no sign of any Swallows around Lumley Mill Farm where they always used to nest. Have they deserted this site?  

Rare plant on the edge
Two plants of the rare Narrow-leaved Water-plantain (Alisma lanceolata) have grown and flowered in the Westbrook Stream immediately behind our back garden. Sadly, there are no longer any plants in the stream through Bridge Road car park.

Malcolm's pics
Malcolm Phillips got another couple of excellent photos of the Brook Meadow wildlife today. Another shot of a Painted Lady - I have yet to see this lovely butterfly. And a splendid shot of a Meadow Grasshopper - note its very short wings, probably female.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along the Warblington shore (6:24am to 8:36am - low tide). A dull grey day and a dull selection of birds with very few migrants.
Ibis Field: 10 Stock Doves, 2 Teal flew off the cress beds and headed to the coast.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point, After much searching and "pishing", just 1 Willow Warbler.
Conigar Point: 28 Dunlin, 14 Ringed Plover, 2 Common Gull, 11 Grey Plover, 1 Common Tern, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 1 Willow Warbler in Tamarisk Hedge.
Off Pook Lane: 5 Greenshank (one coloured ringed N//R+RY//-), 1 Dunlin, 14 Grey Plover, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Common Gull.
Langstone Mill Pond: A pair of Gadwall in eclipse plumage, Interesting plumage and consequently they were the best sighting of the morning! 1 Reed Warbler, 11 Little Egrets - getting quiet. Grey Heron young still in nest in the top of the Holm Oak

Mystery grub
Jill Stanley While unearthed this very strange creature as she was digging out the roots of a plant in her garden this morning. She's never seen anything like it before when I've been gardening! Nor have I. Jill's guess (and it is only a wild guess!) is that it might be the larva of some sort of beetle.

She says it seemed anxious to get underground again and was squirming around. It has three pairs of legs at the front and its skin is quite glossy and opalescent with tiny ginger hairs. It occurred to me that the gingery legs might belong to another creature that was attacking the grub, but they appear to be firmly attached to the grub's body. Has anyone got any ideas?

Who killed the Racing Pigeon?
Tom Bickerton sent this rather gruesome photo of a dead racing pigeon he found in Havant Thicket and considers how it met its grizzly end.

Here is Tom's interpretation of the scene. "I think an adult Sparrowhawk, probably a male, killed this bird. Now it has to be empathised that a Sparrowhawks chances of catching a fully fit racing pigeon in the open sky are zero. So what happened? Well something made this bird come down into the forest, maybe it needed water, or it had become disorientation, through climatic conditions, whatever the cause it proved a big mistake because there it met it nemesis.
I think it was taken on the ground by surprise, shock probably killing it, there's no struggle marks or feathers out of place, the wings are nicely folded and feet splayed apart indicating downward force. Why not peregrine, buzzard? Well the head's still in place, both species can carry off the carcass if they had too. Why adult? The feeding is not frenzied; the juveniles rip apart the prey.
If we look at the picture feeding has taken place around the prime choices of meat, the neck area, this is a case of eating as fast as you can before disturbance. No bird of prey gives up on such a good meal, that's why I think the male did the dirty deed. A female is bigger and has the strength to drag away the prey; there was no sign of this. Neither bird is capable of carrying away the prey without the disembowelment of the pigeon.
Obviously something like this gets my full attention, after scanning all the trees for the culprit, I decided to hide and wait for the return, alas too many dog walkers, and cyclists use this path. The feral pigeon is an important prey species for the Sparrowhawk. I found another two older pluckings that morning of pigeon within the wood. This pigeon had the misfortune to descend down over the hunting territory of a Sparrowhawk, once it did that, it gave up any advantage of speed and acceleration it had over the hawk."

Red Squirrels on the Island
Graham Petrie spotted this handsome Red Squirrel while he and his family were waiting for the car ferry at Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight. They were in the Fishbourne Inn car park and had a good view of two Squirrels taking advantage of some feeders in an adjacent garden.

I also recall seeing Red Squirrels on the feeders in this garden a few years ago, so look out for them if you are visiting the Island. It is such a nice introduction to the Isle of Wight where these beautiful creatures are widespread and come to feeders.


Emsworth Harbour
10:00 - 11:00 - I spent about an hour walking along the marina seawall and the Wickor Bank. Phew! It was very hot and humid with little wind. The tide was rising to high water at about 14:00. There were lots of Black-tailed Godwits (82) and Redshank (50+) plus smaller numbers of Greenshank, Turnstone and Curlew.
Two colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits: G+WR (4th sighting this season and 116th overall) and O+WL (3rd this season).
Two colour-ringed Greenshank G+BL tag (last seen 12-Aug-15 and 3 times in 2014) and G+GG (last seen 17-Sep-14).
Here are digiscoped photos of two of the ringed birds.

Brook Meadow news
Malcolm Phillips sent me a selection of photos that he took on Brook Meadow this morning. Two that grabbed my attention were a Long-tailed Tit with a cheeky look in its eye and a cracking image of a Small Copper butterfly.

Trout species
Malcolm Phillips had another look at the fish to the north of Peter Pond from the Lumley Path foot bridge. He sent two photos which he says show the difference between a Brook Trout and a Brown Trout. From what fish expert Steve Hooper told him the one that has spots with 'pupils' is a Brook Trout (top) and the other is a Brown Trout (bottom).

Green Shield Bug nymph
Chris Oakley sent me the following photo of a bug that he found on his garden dahlias. It took him ages to identify it, but finally nailed it as a nymph of a Common Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina).

I gather from Chinery's 'Collins Guide to Insects' that nymph bugs go through five instars during their development in which they gradually get more like the adults. There is a nymph illustrated on page 75 of my old edition of Chinery. The whole range of nymphs is shown on the British Bugs web site and Chris's one looks like the final instar before it becomes an adult.
Go to . . . .

For earlier observations go to . . August 1-16