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

for September 16-30, 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Emsworth Millpond
I had my regular constitutional walk around the millpond on a beautiful sunny morning. The resident Mute Swan family with 5 cygnets was present along with the second swan pair a bit further to the south. They are not allowed any closer. I suppose it will not be long before the cygnets are driven off as is happening at Langstone Mill Pond - see Peter Milinets-Raby report below. However, I have not seen them flying yet.
The regular Little Egret was standing like a sentinel on the edge of the channel near the small fresh water outlet beneath the quay. This is a favourite fishing spot for this bird.

Nore Barn
11:30 - I had another look for the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn at about 2 hours to high water for the second day running, but it did not show up again. I did find two Greenshanks further out, including a colour-ringed one, but they were disturbed by a man rowing his boat and flew off towards Fowley island. No sign of any Mute Swans today either. I could just make out a few Shelduck and about 50 Teal in the distant main channel.

Dead Hornet
Walking along the main concrete raised path from the end of Warblington Road I spotted what looked like a very dead Hornet lying on the ground being attacked by a Common Wasp. I assumed it was a Hornet from its size which was considerably larger than the wasp. The Hornet was headless and appeared to have been well savaged before I spotted it. How did this happen I wonder. What would take on a Hornet? A large dragonfly maybe?

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was back on the meadow today. He got a couple of nice photos.
The first is (I think) an immature Southern Hawker. The other is an old favourite and easily recognised as a Four-spot Spider (Araneus quadratus). This spider varies a lot in colour from pale to dark red like this one.

Stansted fungi
Jill Stanley was up in the woods at Stansted again this morning and came across a couple of real two beauties! Jill thinks she has identified them correctly. The first is False Death Cap (Amanita citrina) which is found in woodland from midsummer to autumn. Apparently, it smells of radish! It is not poisonous, but can be confused with others which are very poisonous, such as Destroying Angel and Death Cap.

The second one is Horn of Plenty (Craterellus cornucopioides) which I gather is a favourite in restaurants where it is served stuffed. Personally, I don't really fancy it! Jill hopes to find lots more interesting fungi as the season progresses. Go for it Jill.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was down the Warblington shore this morning 6:53am to 8:29am - very low tide, brisk east wind, but alas clear blue skies:
Ibis Field: Blackcap female, 1 Goldcrest, 4 Moorhen, 1 Chiffchaff.
Conigar Point - Literally devoid of birds. Not even a single gull. Very low tide:
However, after five minutes of arriving a head pops up in one of the distant muddy gullies (in full camouflage gear, complete with mask and long rifle - very spooky!). Plus he had a hefty black Labrador on a lead with him. No wonder there were no birds!! With the lack of duck generally over the last couple of weeks, I doubt if he even took aim this morning! He wasn't talkative when he waded back to the shore. He did however, flush a single Greenshank and a single Redshank from one of the gullies.
Other birds noted were all migrating: 7 Pied Wagtails over east, 40+ Swallows over east, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff and a Cetti's Warbler in the Tamarisk Hedge.
Off Pook Lane: 6 Greenshank, 15 Little Egrets feeding in the tiny trickle of water in the middle of the channel, 7 Siskin over east, 2 Meadow Pipits over east, 2 Chiffchaff and a young male Stonechat in the hedge. In the channel the pair of Mute Swan were chasing their six offspring and making them fly back and forth along the channel. The male was very aggressive at times. Looks like it is time to go kids!
Cemetery: 1 Goldcrest, 4+ Chiffchaff.


Nore Barn
10:30 - 11:30 - I went over to Nore Barn hoping to catch the Spotted Redshank that Peter Milinets-Raby saw for the first time this year on Sunday. The tide was rising and the weather fine, but the bird just did not turn up. In fact, nothing turned up apart from eight Mute Swans in the stream and a few Shelduck and Teal further out. I have noticed in previous years that the Spotted Redshank takes some time to settle into a feeding routine in the stream, so we need to be patient.

Railway Wayside
This afternoon I walked over to Emsworth Railway Station to have a look at the wayside to the north of the station. This site was first adopted as a wayside in August 2012. The wayside has areas which are currently dominated by brambles which is not ideal, this however, I am told, will be addressed when the late autumn cut is carried out. But the wayside remains a rich area botanically and today I noted a good number of plants in flower as follows:
Michaelmas Daisies, Canadian Goldenrod, Perforate St John's-wort, Wild Carrot, Hoary Ragwort, Hedge Bindweed, Common Toadflax, American Willowherb (?), Marsh Woundwort, Bittersweet, Cat's-ear, Black Medick, Red Bartsia, Meadow Vetchling, Guernsey Fleabane, Common Fleabane, Bristly Ox-tongue, Yarrow, Tufted Vetch, White Clover, Common Knapweed, Bramble, Red Clover.

A huge Bumblebee was feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies. It was jet black but for a red tail. My guess is a queen Bombus lapidarius. Both Garden and Four-spot Spiders were seen, the latter typically watching its web from the edge.

North Thorney
Malcolm Phillips went down the west side of Thorney Island this morning and got a good selection of photos including a Redshank in flight showing clearly how it got its name. Other sightings included a Meadow Pipit, a Goldfinch on Teasel and a Small Copper.


Lunar eclipse
I got up at about 2.30am this morning to watch the dramatic eclipse of the so-called 'super moon'. The eclipse was just starting when I got up and was complete by about 3.15am. It was interesting to see the gradual increase in hue of the blood red disk as the white crescent got progressively smaller. Also, it was noticeable how dark the night became as the moon dulled. I took some photos but my simple camera could not cope. Here is my best effort from towards the end of the first stage of the eclipse.

The supermoon phenomenon occurs when the moon is full at its perigee - the closest part of its orbit around Earth, meaning it appears larger in the sky. This particular combination of supermoon and eclipse had not occurred since 1982 - and since it will not be repeated until 2033, I thought I should get in while the going is good!

Westbrook Stream
The Environment Agency was present this morning doing their annual clearance of vegetation in the Westbrook Stream. Sadly, they cut down the lovely Bulrushes which could easily have been left. However, the clearance is necessary to keep the stream running effectively.

Emsworth Millpond
The resident Mute Swan family of two adults and 5 cygnets (including the white 'Polish' swan) was on the town millpond. Here is a shot of the cygnets which are now almost as big as their parents and looking very healthy. What a change from the puny broods of previous years on the pond. I think the supply of reeds for the nest made the big difference.

The cob was engaged in its now regular activity of sparring with the cob of the visiting Mute Swan pair near the end of Nile Street, but with no overt aggression.

The male Mallards now have their bright plumage back after moulting for the past couple of months.

Brook Meadow
I had a walk round the meadow late morning where I met Malcolm Phillips who was looking forward to his Cuba trip in a week's time. Malcolm showed me where to look for the Pike in the river north of the gasholder. I would never have spotted it without Malcolm's help as only the bent tail could be seen.

I walked back via Peter Pond and the Lillywhite's path where I noticed Japanese Knotweed with red spots on a few of its leaves - probably a fungal infection.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips got some good images of local wildlife today, including a handsome Brown Trout, a Grey Wagtail and a couple of butterflies.

Brown Trout

Grey Wagtail

Red Admiral and Speckled Wood


Emsworth - Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby walked the shore from Emsworth to Langstone Mill Pond (6:40am to 10:35am - tide slowly moving in). Here are his observations:
Emsworth Harbour (from 6:40am): 42 Black-tailed Godwit, 151 Canada Geese (half the flock left after 10 minutes and flew over Thorney Island - partially white-headed bird amongst them), 1 Greylag Goose amongst them. Siskin Heard flying over on three occasions, 5 Coot, 1 Greenshank, 5 Little Egrets, 26 Turnstone, 1 Peregrine sitting on red channel marker post, 1 Sand Martin over, 2 House Martin over, 3 Ringed Plover, 1 Little Grebe.
Emsworth Mill Pond: 3 adult Mute Swan and 5 juvs (Polish included), 7 Coot.
Off Pond outflow (from 7:15am): 2 Meadow Pipit over, 20 Grey Plover, 5 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank.
Beacon Square (from 7:24am): 4 Swallow over, 1 Grey Plover, 2 Chiffchaff in gardens.
Nore Barn (from 7:38am): 8 Black-tailed Godwit (including one in the stream), Siskin heard going over, then 3 over north, 2 Meadow Pipit over, 8 Long-tailed Tits with 1 Chiffchaff in gardens.
1 Greenshank (G//R+GL//-) feeding in stream with . . . . . . . . . 1 Spotted Redshank (very spotty along the edge of the wings and tail end - see photos). Probably the old faithful - a bit early?

Brian's note on the Spotted Redshank : Yes, This is almost certainly the famous Emsworth Spotted Redshank back in the Nore Barn stream for the 12th winter running. You can't really tell from the appearance, though the behaviour is exactly what we would expect, feeding in the stream with Greenshank G+GL, which has been its regular feeding companion for many years. As Peter says, it is early. In fact, this is the earliest date on record, though the first sighting dates have been getting earlier year by year. Last year it was Oct 3rd. Brilliant!

Ibis Field (from 8:06am): 1 Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler heard singing distantly from cress beds, 77+ House Martin over north, Skylark Heard going over, 1 Stock Dove, 2 Moorhen, Female Blackcap, 1 Sparrowhawk.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 2 Chiffchaff.
Conigar Point (from 8:25am): 5 Chiffchaff in Tamarisk Hedge with 5+ Great Tit and 4+ Blue Tit and male Blackcap, Skylark heard going over, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, Siskin heard going over, 17 House Martins heading north.
Off Pook Lane (from 8:40am): 2 Grey Plover, 1 Dunlin, 14 Teal, 3 Greenshank, 6 House Martins over north, Siskin 3 + 3 going over west, Skylark heard going over, 1 Meadow Pipit, 204 Redshank, 9 Canada Geese west over Hayling Bridge, Yellow Wagtail 2 over east, 114 Oystercatcher on island in middle of channel, 5 Bar-tailed Godwit.
Langstone Mill Pond (from 9:02am): 4 roosting Grey Heron, Cetti's Warbler singing, 3+ Chiffchaff, 1 Teal, Female Mallard and tiny duckling hanging in there!!!! 3 Swallow over, 9 House Martin north, 35+ Goldfinch, 6+ Redpoll dropped in to the Alders for two minutes then moved on, Grey Wagtail in Horse paddock (see photo).

Castle Farm (field by barn and along the hedge: 110+ Goldfinch feeding on thistle in field - spectacular flights, 2 Whinchat (see photo), 1 Stonechat.

Buzzard at Hampshire Farm
Buzzards are fairly common sightings in our local area these days. However, it is not often one gets such a good view of one as Chris Oakley got yesterday in the plantation on the Hampshire Farm site. As can be seen from Chris's photo, the bird is balancing on one of the tree support tubes by hanging on with its hind claws.


Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips spent a couple of hours around Brook Meadow and Peter Pond today. He expressed some disappointment with his photos - 'not my best', but for me they are still pretty good. The male Kingfisher was on the table by the reeds on Peter Pond. The Crane-fly is probably a female Tipula oleracea.

Deformed Chaffinches
Chris Oakley has had three Chaffinches in his garden in the past few months, each with badly deformed feet and wondered if other people had noticed similar deformities. As a chicken keeper, he has come across a complaint in poultry know as 'scaly leg', caused by mites that live under the leg scales. Chris says, it can be treated quite effectively but in the wild it would be inclined to spread. He has not seen it in other birds that come to the garden, just Chaffinches.

The RSPB has a useful page on their web site about disease and deformities in birds. See . . .
They say that foot deformities in finches are normally caused either by Chaffinch viral papilloma or by burrowing mites that cause cnemidocoptiasis. Both of these show up as pale, crusty growths on the feet of the affected bird. Neither condition is life-threatening, although they can cause visible discomfort.


Westbourne fields
I had a walk through the fields behind Westbourne Avenue this afternoon, mainly to check on the Oak trees that Dave Lee has been recently measuring for age. On the way I was pleased to see a fine flowering of Russian Vine in the hedge at the bottom of Seagull Lane

There is an equally fine showing of bright red leaves of Virginia Creeper further along the track towards the railway.

I was curious to find just one solitary bullock grazing the grass, and completely ignoring the abundant Common Ragwort, in the first field north of the road.

Here is the now truncated fallen Oak in the centre of the main field.

As well as removing most of its branches by chain-saw the fellers painted on symbols on the main trunk which I do not understand. Anyone got any idea what they mean?

I last aged the Oak trees in the Westbourne fields in 1994 when most were around 110 years. This roughly agrees with Dave's current estimate of 130-140 years 20 years later. I will do a fuller report comparing the two studies in a later blog.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby was down at Langstone Mill Pond this morning as the tide was falling 10:14am to 11:50am. Here are the highlights.
Pond: On arrival two little Mallard ducklings were swimming around on the Swan free pond, looking as cute as ever. Whilst I was busy with searching through the waders, the family of Mute Swans with the juveniles startting to show white in their plumage walked over the mud and entered into the pond. When I wandered back passed the pond, one of the ducklings was floating in the water dead. The female Mallard was calling to it and twice swam up to it and pecked it. The other duckling said 'goodbye' to its sibling (see photo) then dashed off to get some bread, tussling with the Coot and Mallard. The Mute Swan family slinked over and the female and duckling slipped into the reeds and out of sight.

Elsewhere on the pond: 37 Collared Dove roosting, 8 Teal, Cetti's Warbler singing frequently, 5+ Chiffchaff (see photo), 8 Swallow over, 15+ Goldfinch in Alders with 3+ Siskins feeding on Alder cones (see photo), 1 Meadow Pipit over.

Off shore as the tide dropped: 4 Sandwich Tern in winter plumage, 10 Greenshank (G//R+YR//- & B//R+GR//-), 5 Dunlin, 48 Lapwing, 226 Redshank (one of my best counts - helped by a Peregrine dashing across the marsh and herding them together! (11 with colour rings -//B+B//OY & -//B+B//RY & -//B+B//YY & -//B+B//WW & -//B+B//RO & -//B+B//GW & -//B+B//BN & -//B+B//LG & -//B+B//OO & -//B+B//NY & -//B+B//YL)
Flooded horse paddock: 15 Teal, 1 Kingfisher dashed across the paddock and headed towards the pond.

New Blackcap research
Exciting new results about Blackcaps were published today by the BTO. Since the 1950s, Blackcaps breeding in southern Germany and Austria have increasingly migrated to Britain for the winter rather than taking the traditional route to wintering grounds in southern Spain. As a result, we have seen a rapid increase in the number of Blackcaps wintering in Britain over the past 60 years, such that the species is now a familiar visitor to garden feeding stations across the country.
This change in behaviour has coincided with the wider introduction of commercial wild bird foods. Kate Plummer, using BTO Garden BirdWatch data, has shown that supplementary feeding in British gardens is one factor in the recent evolution of Blackcap migratory behaviour. Another important factor is the milder winters in Britain, which have led to better survival rates for the Blackcaps choosing to winter here.
The increasing association with supplementary food over time suggests that Blackcaps are adapting their feeding habits to exploit human-provisioned foods. This complements recent evidence that those Blackcaps migrating to Britain in winter are diverging phenotypically, as well as genetically, from those that winter in Spain. Blackcaps wintering in Britain have relatively narrower and longer beaks than those wintering in Spain, suggesting that British migrants have adapted to a more generalist diet. This is the first time that garden bird feeding has been shown to affect large-scale bird distributions. For more details see . . .


Henbane at Up Marden
I decided go to Up Marden this morning to have a look at the rare plants of Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) that Heather Mills found during Saturday's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group. I found them fairly easily following Heather's directions. From the parking area next to the barn near the church I walked down the main track towards Compton until the footpath turned left. The plants were on the corner of the Sweetcorn crop, where one path goes left and the other goes right. Grid Ref: SU 79438 14170

I found just two plants in flower though there could well have been more hidden amongst the corn stalks. One was large with two stems each having a row of developing fruits

Here is a close-up shot of the flowers.

The BSBI New Atlas describes Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger) as an 'Archaeophyte' and says there is a continuous archaeological record of it in Britain from the Bronze Age onwards. But declines in the plant before 1930 were evident in the 1962 Atlas and have continued markedly since then, mostly through the increased use of herbicides. As an archaeophyte H. niger has a Eurosiberian Southern-temperate distribution, but it is widely naturalised so that it is now Circumpolar Southern-temperate.
I checked the New Flora of the Sussex Botanical Recording Society Atlas and found that Hyoscyamus niger is recorded in for Tetrad SU71X - so these plants are probably known. The Hants Flora describes it as 'rare'.
Like its relative Deadly Nightshade, Henbane is highly poisonous. I gather that in 1910 Dr Crippen used a chemical derived from Henbane to murder his wife. Historically, small amounts of Henbane have also been used medicinally to treat various disorders.

I noted a variety of other plants growing around the Sweetcorn at Up Marden, including Black Nightshade and Fool's Parsley with its conspicuous bracteoles hanging down from the umbels. Quite a little botanical hotspot.

Brook Meadow - Flood defence update
Asad Abbas provides an update on the Environment Agency work on the flood defences on the bund between the south meadow and the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. (information from Maurice Lillie)
"Last weekend we managed to dodge the weather and finished the bottom layer. As you understand it has become very wet in the meadows at the moment and we will struggle to go back and finish the second layer. Keeping in mind that we don't want to create any "mess" in the meadows we will leave the bottom layer and will monitor it over the winter months and if needed we can go back in Feb/March to finish the top layer. The bank seems in good condition and we are expecting that with your new footpath running next to toe of the bank will give us opportunity to monitor the condition of the bank more frequently. At the moment, considering the condition of the bank I think we need the second layer but as I said earlier we will still monitor the condition over the winter and will make a decision in Feb 2016. The works on screen replacement are going to start at the end of this month."

Oak tree aged
Dave Lee has returned to measure the age of the other dead, but still standing, Oak tree at the Westbourne end of the field behind Westbourne Avenue - see his previous aging of the other oaks in this field in yesterday's blog. He found it was also about 130 years old, which probably means that both the dead oaks were planted together. As they are both in isolated positions you would think that they would still be healthy growing trees, but sadly not.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along the Warblington shore (6:50am to 8:45am - it was a glorious morning. High Tide).
Warblington Cemetery at sunrise (see photo): 1 Yellow Wagtail over north, Chiffchaff heard, 3 Swallows over north, 1 Green Woodpecker, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Grey Wagtail over. Male & female Pheasant.

Off Pook Lane: Kingfisher on the posts by Pook Lane, all morning and giving wonderful views and photo opportunities, female Red Breasted Merganser,

Roosting on the island in the middle of the channel were 19 Lapwing, 2 Brent Geese, 87 Oystercatcher, 132 Redshank, 2 Greenshank (G//R+BRtag//-), 2 Sandwich Terns and 5 Dunlin. Meadow Pipit heard going over several times. Siskin heard going over on three occasions.
Langstone Mill Pond: 5 roosting Grey Heron and 7 Little Egrets, 11+ Swallows passing over, 10 House Martins passing over, 1 Grey Wagtail over, 30+ Goldfinch feeding in Alders with 6 noisy Siskin, 5+ Chiffchaff, 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, 1 Cetti's Warbler seen well singing, 2 Teal. AND, alas a 33% decrease in the tiny ducklings - The female Mallard now only has two! The Mute Swan family were off shore, but again only 3 juvs. Where do the other three hang out?


Emsworth Harbour
10:00 - 10:30 - Not a nice morning for harbour watching with a strong wind blowing into my face and rain in the air. However, I gave it a go for 30 mins or so on the marina seawall. The tide was falling from high water at 6am.
Lots of Redshank were in the harbour as on my previous visit last week. I did not count them accurately, but I estimated at least 130. There were also a few Greenshank rushing around in typical fashion making it difficult to see the colour-rings on their legs. I identified two of them:
RG+BY tag - This bird was ringed and fitted with a geo locator on Thorney Island by Pete Potts and his team on 13-Mar-13. It is regular in Emsworth Harbour, but this was my first sighting of it this season.
G+LY - I have no information or previous records of this bird. Maybe it is recently ringed?

River view
Malcolm Phillips did not get much in the way of wildlife today, but he did capture a great view of a slightly misty River Ems looking south from the S-bend on Brook Meadow.

Fallen Oak
Since I wrote about the fallen Oak tree in the field behind Westbourne Avenue in this blog on Aug 18, Dave Lee has been to have a look at it and says it has fallen prey to the 'eco warriors who are saving the planet by their use of wood burning stoves'. However, he thinks the main trunk will probably elude them unless they can acquire a particularly large saw to cut it up. Let's hope they don't as there must be plenty of wildlife living in its crevices. Referring to the Woodland Trust website regarding the age measurement of Oak trees, Dave has measured the circumference of the fallen oak 1.5m above ground height, at 3m 15cms. This would put its at around 140 yrs old. Here is my original photo of the tree on Aug 18th, though I suspect most of the limbs that were then present will have been removed.

Dave has estimated the ages of nine other Oaks which are aligned along the original footpath that ran through the fields from Emsworth to Westbourne. They range between 80 years to, the daddy of them all at the Westbourne end which has a girth of 5m 06cms which makes it 306 years old. Dave still has two Oaks to measure but they are surrounded by brambles. One of the two is another "dead" oak. I have asked Dave to let us know their ages if he manages to measure them.

Dave pointed out there is a BBC program 'Timestudy of a year in the life of an oak tree' on Saturday 26 September that should be worth watching.

Cunning Pigeon
Chris Oakley couldn't understand what a Wood Pigeon was finding so fascinating in the Hydrangea flowers in his garden, until he spotted that the sunflower seed feeder above, was being used by a Greenfinch and the spilled seeds were falling into the flower heads. The pigeon had obviously spotted this and taken advantage of the situation.

Cuckoo migration
The tagging of Cuckoos by the BTO which started in 2011 has been a great success and much has been learned about their migration routes and wintering grounds. Currently, most of the 11 remaining active Cuckoos seem to be making their way across the Sahara Desert. One or two appear to have reached their destination. For example, Stanley, tagged at Cranwich Heath, Norfolk, on 31 May 2014 is now in northern Cameroon. It is interesting to see that they all travel as individuals, not together.
For latest news go to . . . However, there is no sign of Chris (the one that was named after Chris Packham) and is presumed dead. There is a nice piece in celebration of Chris' journey at . . .

This is not one of the tagged Cuckoos but one taken on the overhead cables on North Thorney

Bruce Darby
The recent newsletter of the Friends of Nore Barn Woods announced the death of Bruce Darby. Bruce was co-founder of the Nore Barn Woods group in 2002 and chairman until 2014. He was also a long-standing supporter of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group.


Millpond swan news
This morning's walk round the town millpond revealed the presence of a second Mute Swan pair - probably the same pair that were competing with the resident pair for nesting territory earlier in the year. As before, the cobs of the two pairs were circling around one another with wings arched without coming to blows. I suspect the second pair are making an early bid for territory for next year. This clearly is a good nesting spot with the resident pair having successfully raised 5 healthy cygnets this year. But it will be a tough job trying to oust them.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 10am to 10:47am when the rain started:
Langstone Mill Pond: No sign of the Wigeon reported from Ralph Hollins's web site. Female Mallard still with 3 tiny ducklings. There is hope!!! Cetti's Warbler singing frequently, 17+ Swallows swooping low across the water and drinking, 9 Teal.
Off shore: 5 Common Gull, 3 Sandwich Tern, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 7 Greenshank (three with rings G//R+BRtag//- & G//R+YN//- & G///R+LN//-), 14 Dunlin.

Breeding Birds Survey
The BTO the Sussex BBS population trends from 1995 to 2014 have been published and can be viewed on the web site at . . . . They make very interesting reading. Here are some of the more notable trends that caught my eye.

Steady increase 1995-2014
Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat - three regular summer visitors are doing well.
Goldfinch - massive garden increase.
Buzzard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jackdaw, Jay, Pheasant, Red Kite, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Tree Sparrow.

Increase to 2005 and then sharp decline
Chaffinch, Greenfinch - probably due to trichomonosis.
Collared Dove - not surprising. They have declined in my garden too.
House Martin - not surprising. I have not seen any nesting in Emsworth for years.
Grey Heron, Rook, Coot, Moorhen - not sure of the reason for this decline.

Steady decline with a recent upturn
Nightingale, Cuckoo - Good news

Steady decline 1995-2014
Curlew, Lapwing, Redshank, Kestrel, Linnet, Pied Flycatcher, Spotted Flycatcher, Little Owl, Mistle Thrush, Skylark, Swift, Turtle Dove, Willow Tit, Wood Warbler, Yellow Wagtail, Yellowhammer.


Hollybank Woods
As it was such a beautiful autumn morning, after watching my youngest grandson playing football for the Castle United Under 8s at the Rowlands Castle Rec, I stopped off at Hollybank Woods on the way home for a stroll. These woods are quite magical at this time of the year with the low sun slanting though the trees.

I did the circular walk on the western side of the main track which was in very good condition considering the recent heavy rain. The tracks are not being churned up by horse riders as they used to be in the old days. I had a lovely encounter with a young Roe Deer on the southern section of the walk. We stood looking at each other and I wondered if it would tolerate my getting the camera out of my bag. It did and I got a few nice shots of it before it moved away.

There was not much activity on the bird front except for the raucous song of the Woodpigeon and the wistful autumn song of the Robin I also heard a Buzzard calling over head. I did not see much in the way of Holly berries. Maybe it is a poor year?
I had a look at the newly coppiced area to the east and west of the main path where new Sweet Chestnut shoots are growing among the standard trees. Logs are stacked up for sale? The conservation group are doing a fine job of management.

While walking through the coppiced area I noticed several little groups of puff-ball type fungi which resembled baked potatoes in various stages of disintegration. I think are Scaly Earthballs (Scleroderma verrucosum) They have solid rounded caps with a leathery skin and scales. On the older specimens the caps have curved in at the centre producing an irregularly shaped opening.

This fungus is generally considered as at best inedible and suspect. They are usually found growing on well drained, sandy soil or dry humus-rich soil under hardwood trees. The season is July to early December in Britain and Ireland.

I returned through the eastern section going past the Lawton seat and along the northern path adjacent to the road. It was there I found Yellow Pimpernel in flower (May-Sep, so not particularly late), Bluebell leaves ready for flowering in the spring, unidentified lichen on small logs and masses of what I think might be Creeping Feather-moss (Amblystegium serpens).

Red Admiral
This afternoon we had this cracking Red Admiral feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies in the garden. What a beauty. I hope this is one of the few that finds somewhere warm to survive the British winter.

Emsworth to Warblington
Peter Milinets-Raby was up at the crack of dawn to do his monthly Emsworth to Warblington wander (6:40am to 9:15am). A very valuable service too, Peter. Thanks. Main observations:
Emsworth Harbour from Emsworth Mill Pond (from 6:40am) - tide high, but dropping - Sunrise at 6:47am see photo:

1 Little Grebe, 1 Greenshank, 6 Mute Swan (one juvenile), 16 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Little Egrets, 3 Dunlin, 2 Turnstone, 4 Grey Plover, 1 Great Black-backed Gull.
Emsworth Mill Pond: 1 Chiffchaff in Tamarisk at edge of mill pond, 2 Kingfishers dashing around chasing each other low over the water in butterfly-like flight - fascinating to watch as they zipped close to me on several occasions. 4 adult Mute Swan and 5 juveniles (polish still present).
Beacon Square (from 7:12am): 37 Teal, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, Chiffchaff in back gardens.
Nore-Barn-in-the-Fog (from 7:23am - fog rolled in and reduced visibility to less than 60 metres!!!): 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Teal, 1 Chiffchaff , 2 Redshank in stream, 1 Greenshank in stream (G//R+GL//-).
Conigar Point (from 7:55am - low tide - still foggy): 8 Teal, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, Siskin Heard going over, 5 Grey Plover, 4 Chiffchaff in Tamarisk Hedge along with a Willow Warbler, 3 Pied Wagtails over heading south.
Off Pook Lane (from 8:15am - fog lifting eventually at 8:40am): 1 autumn male Stonechat - the first I have seen in the area - however, a regular 'walker' that I often bump into, commented on their being two of them yesterday! (see photos).

Siskin heard going over, 3 Grey Plover, 2 Common Gull, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, Yellow Wagtail heard going over, 79+ Swallows heading south, 1 Sand Martin heading south, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Dunlin. 2 Greenshank. 2 Meadow Pipit heading south, 4 Stock Dove.

Peter also had 3 Green Sandpiper on the Hermitage Stream seen from the bridge along Barncroft Road on the way home. Very nice!

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was out on the meadow as usual but did not see much apart from a Kingfisher flying up and down the river and this fearsome looking Pike in the river.


Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips had a quick look at the harbour at the bottom of South Street this morning and spotted this Greenshank feeding in the low water channel. Greenshank are fairly common birds in the harbour, but seeing one without rings on its legs is quite unusual these days!

Malcolm then went round Brook Meadow and got this excellent image of a male Kestrel in flight over the trees with a pure blue sky in the background.

Up Marden
Heather Mills sent me a report on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group around Up Marden. Only four people braved the cold start, but they got a real treat with over 100 Red-legged Partridges in the fields and a couple of Red Kites flying over head. Derek Mills got this cracking picture of one of them.

They also discovered an unusual plant in a field of Sweetcorn which looks suspiciously like Henbane from the photo. Henbane is sticky hairy plant with a foul smell and rather sinister-looking flowers. It was introduced to Britain in the Bronze Age, but is now listed as vulnerable. Like its relative Deadly Nightshade, Henbane is highly poisonous. I gather that in 1910 Dr Crippen used a chemical derived from Henbane to murder his wife. Historically, small amounts of Henbane have also been used medicinally to treat various disorders.


Emsworth Harbour
11:00 - 11:30 - I got down to the marina seawall by 11am at which point the tide was rising to high water in about 4 hours. The conditions were good with light wind and partial cloud.
The first bird I noticed was a Wheatear bouncing along the seawall with its white rear end showing well. There was no chance of a photo, but here is one I got a few years ago. This will be a bird on passage moving south to its wintering grounds in tropical Africa from its breeding grounds, probably in North England or Scotland. Peter Milinets-Raby also had a Wheatear at Langstone this morning, so maybe there is a wave passing through.

I was very pleased to see the seawall at the far end of the marina has been cleared of rubbish and has been flattened out, making it far more convenient for setting up one's scope to view the eastern harbour. Redshank were by far the most numerous wader in the harbour - they were everywhere. I counted 192, though there could be more hidden behind the boats. Here are a few of them.

Redshank do tend to build up at this time of the year, presumably from a new wave of migrants. My record Redshank count for Emsworth was 200 in October 2009.

Black-tailed Godwits were not nearly as numerous. I counted just 38 among which was one colour-ringed bird: LY+RO - This bird has been a fairly regular visitor to Emsworth Harbour each year since its ringing in Iceland in 2003. This was my second sighting in Emsworth this autumn. It has also been seen Pagham, Fareham, Farlington, Avon Valley, Ireland, France and Portugal.

Other birds included 2 Dunlin - the first I have seen this autumn in Emsworth - and 1 Whimbrel. There was no sign of any Brent Geese which have been seen in the past week in Langstone. However, Peter Milinets-Raby had some at Langstone this morning, so maybe they are moving our way.

Nore Barn
11:45 - 12:15 - The tide was still well out by the time I got over to Nore Barn with very few birds to be seen. The regular colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL was snoozing in the lower stream along with 3 Black-tailed Godwits. 19 Teal were in the main channel, my first of the autumn, plus 5 Shelduck. I waited around for 30 mins or so, but there was no change apart from a Lesser Black-backed Gull which turned up.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips got a good selection of photos from his visit to Brook Meadow today as shown below: Blue Tit, Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit and Garden Spider.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to walk along the Warblington shore (6:33am to 8:41am). He said there was a distinct whiff of migration in the air.
Ibis Field: Male Blackcap, 3 Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler heard briefly singing, 4 Moorhen, 11 female type Pheasant.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 2 Chiffchaff, 3 Stock Dove, 1 Goldcrest, 4 Siskin flew over south.
Conigar Point: 1 Greenshank (G//RR+GO//-), Common Tern juv, 2 Grey Plover, 1 Knot, Peregrine flew over heading to the Oyster beds.
Tamarisk Hedge: 3 Chiffchaff, Female Blackcap.
Off Pook Lane: 12 Brent Geese (Nice to see them back - obviously wandered up from Chichester Harbour), 3 Dunlin, 1 Grey Plover, 5 Teal, 8+ Yellow Wagtails over (Heard, six and two), 33 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Greenshank, female/juvenile type Wheatear (see photo), 12+ Swallows.

Langstone Mill Pond: 7+ Chiffchaff (one singing), Female Blackcap, 4Teal.
Flooded Horse paddock: 3 female and 1 male Blackcap, 1 Chiffchaff, 4 Moorhen, 1 Meadow Pipit.

Stansted fungus
Jill Stanley was in Stansted woods this afternoon with a friend looking for fungi and they found this peculiar one. It reminded her of a Stinkhorn though without the awful smell. Having consulted her book, Jill identified it as Dog Stinkhorn which is 'smaller, more slender, and with a less powerful smell than Stinkhorn'. It grows to 10cm high though the one in Jill's picture seems to have fallen over under its own weight. Nice one Jill.



Brook Meadow work session
A very nice morning after the rain. There was a good turn out for the regular conservation work session of 10. We were pleased to see Michelle Good from HBC who had come to put new plastic barrier on the broken fencing on the bridge, but stayed on to do some work!

The main job for the morning was preparing the ground and sowing the seeds from the ecologists in the experimental wildflower area on the north meadow. They were Common Knapweed, Corky-fruited Water-dropwort and Meadow Barley. We were too late for the Yellow Rattle seeds, so Maurice obtained some locally. This went all well and everyone really liked the idea of doing something positive with a definite practical objective. We shall have to see how it turns out.

The area designated for the sowing had already been cut, so the first job was to rake off the arisings and remove them to the cuttings tip in the north-east corner. When this was done, Wally used the brush cutter to scarify 30 small areas in the selected plot for the seeds to be sown. It will be a good idea to cut the whole area again in early winter and possibly again in early spring to give the seedlings a better chance to grow. Just disturbing the soil might help to bring up new plants that we don't normally get here. I checked the plants currently growing on the north meadow and they included Tall Fescue, Hogweed, Common Fleabane, Cocksfoot, Greater Plantain, Creeping Thistle, Common Nettle, Great Willowherb, Bristly Ox-tongue, Amphibious Bistort, Bramble.

Alder infestation
I checked the Alder sapling which I found infested with the larvae of the Hazel Sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis) yesterday. It was in a pretty sorry state with about half its leaves gone, however, there was no sign of any larvae which was amazing considering I counted at least 50 on the tree only yesterday. Maybe the heavy rain washed them off?

Bill Dean
While I was taking photos of the work session a chap named Bill Dean introduced himself. He was interested in the wildlife on the meadow, as he had been involved in surveying nature reserves and was particularly interested in hoverflies. So we went on a little walk around to see what we could find. Bill had already noticed the wasps around the Osiers and had also seen a Hornet, but did not get a photo. He spotted an insect near the wasp's nest that was parasitic on wasps, but I cannot remember what he called it. Bill only used scientific terminology!

On the way round the Lumley area we found a couple of flies on the Pepper-saxifrage which Bill said were Sphaerophoria scripta (Long Hoverfly). He said there were both male and female present. I think I got a photo of the female as the male's body is longer than its wings; in the female the wings are the same length as the body.

If you want to see Bill's 876 photos of insects then go to . . . . . .

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down the Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 10am for one hour. The highlights were as follows:
Langstone Mill Pond: 2 Chiffchaff and a single Reed Warbler feeding in the Weeping Willow by the small bridge (see photo). 4 Little Egrets & 2 Grey Herons roosting. 6 Swallow & 2 House Martins over, 3 Teal.
Female Mallard (looking like a female Garganey) with 3 very tiny ducklings (probably only a day or two old - so timid). How long will they survive?

The Mute Swan family (with six cygnets) were off shore in the creek by the pub, but they will be back on the pond for the weekend rush of children bringing bread. Poor ducklings. I think we should open a betting book on their survival! I give them a 10% survival rate. The cob Mute Swan has a good extermination record!
Flooded Horse Paddock: 2 Chiffchaff, 1 autumn male Redstart perched on the fence posts at the rear, Fox (looks a bit young in the photo).

Off shore (tide out): 16 Bar-tailed Godwit, 3 Dunlin, 3 Turnstone, 1 Common Gull, 2 Greenshank, 14 Teal, 4 winter plumaged Sandwich Tern roosting on the mud.

Cirl Bunting
Tony Wootton got this lifer during a trip to Labrador Bay in South Devon 2 days ago. Not a bird we are likely to see around these parts, but regular in parts of Devon. This looks like a juvenile or moulting bird as there is no sign of its distinctive head pattern. Not all that easy to separate from a similar Yellowhammer.

For earlier observations go to . . September 1-16