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for October, 2015
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Millpond Swans
I had a walk around the town millpond this morning. The four swan cygnets were on the pond as usual, even though they had been reported flying around. I don't know where the 5th cygnet went, though I did see a lone cygnet at Nore Barn a couple of weeks ago which could have been it. The regular nesting Mute Swan pair was on the pond along with the visiting pair further south. The resident swans were closely monitoring a lone swan on Bridgefoot Path, which is probably the same bird that lived here for much of last winter. It will not be allowed on the pond.

Brent Geese
From the millpond seawall, I noted about 50 Brent Geese in the eastern harbour, but there was not a single juvenile among them.

The absence of juveniles this winter supports Ralph Hollins's contention that this is likely to have been a poor breeding season for the Brents. Peter Milinets-Raby could only find one juvenile among 381 Brent Geese during his comprehensive survey of the coastline from Emsworth to Langstone this morning - see full report below. Later this afternoon I met Barry Collins on his way home from carrying out the monthly WeBS count on Thorney Island. He had seen a few Brent juveniles, but thought more could arrive later as Brent families are often the last to turn up.

Brook Meadow
This afternoon I strolled through Brook Meadow and down to Peter Pond. There was still no sign of the injured Pike in the river which makes me wonder if it has succumbed to the forces of nature. Great Spotted Woodpecker is prominent around the meadow, mainly through its loud 'tchiking'. I met a couple of birdwatchers who reported seeing three Kingfishers flying across Peter Pond.
I made a list of 34 flowering plants on my walk as follows: Annual Meadow-grass, Black Medick, Bristly Ox-tongue, Cat's-ear, Cocksfoot, Common Chickweed, Common Comfrey, Common Field Speedwell, Common Mallow, Common Nettle, Daisy, Dandelion, Dogwood, False Oat-grass, Fat Hen, Gorse, Groundsel, Hedge Bindweed, Herb-Robert, Hoary Ragwort, Hogweed, Ivy, Knotgrass, Michaelmas Daisy, Mugwort, Nipplewort, Purple Toadflax, Red Campion, Red Clover, Smooth Sow-thistle, White Dead-nettle, Wild Angelica, Wild Carrot, Yarrow.

Diseased Goldfinch
Goldfinches are very common visitors to the bird feeders in my garden, though I have not previously seen one which was clearly in some distress until today. The bird is shown in the photo on the left. Its head lacked the usual vivid black and red plumage of normal birds and it was very lackadaisical. The poor bird just sat there on the seed holder perch for several minutes hardly moving and only occasionally taking food. See the difference in the general demeanour of the poorly bird (on the left) and and the normal ones (on the right).

Emsworth to Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to walk from Emsworth to Langstone Mill Pond (6:33am to 10:43am - low tide).
Emsworth Mill Pond (from 6:44am); 8 Coot, 8 Mute Swan, 1+ Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Heron.
Emsworth Harbour: 17 Coot, 6 Grey Plover, 1 Buzzard low over, 1 Greenshank, 1 Kingfisher perched on anchor rope overlooking channel, 49 Black-tailed Godwit, 162 Brent Geese, 9 Turnstone, 7 Ringed Plover, 3 Little Egret, 25+ Dunlin, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 3+ Skylarks over (all heard).
Off Pond outflow (7:10am): 1 Little Egret, 5 Brent Geese, 1 Greenshank, 2 Turnstone.
Off Beacon Square (from 7:20am): 13 Brent Geese, 93 Teal, 2 female Pintail and a pair flew over heading east, 3 Pied Wagtails, 1 Grey Plover, 46 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Goldcrest in the gardens, 24 Goldfinch over.
Nore Barn (from 7:32am): 116 Teal, 13 Wigeon, 42 Brent Geese, 2 Black-tailed Godwit in the stream, 1 Grey Plover, 8 Shelduck,
Warblington Farm (from 7:58am): 2 Green Sandpiper flew over constantly calling and headed east towards the cress beds - lovely sound. 6 Pied Wagtails, 1 Goldcrest.
Ibis Field (from 8:02am): 6 Moorhen, 1 male Pheasant,
Conigar Point (from 8:10am - low tide and mud empty): Two shooters with three gun dogs running around all over the mud. Just packing up. I chatted to them when they reached the shore. They had bagged three Wigeon and two Teal.
As the dust settled . . . 78 Brent Geese, 25 Lapwing flying east, 4 Shelduck, 9 Wigeon over east, 3 Grey Plover, 1 Canada Goose west along the channel, 18+ Skylark over east (7, 3, 6 & 2 heard), Siskin heard going over,
Tamarisk Hedge: 1 singing Chiffchaff, 3 Reed Bunting, 1 female Black Redstart perched very briefly on sea wall. Chased off very quickly by a Robin and lost to view in the Tamarisk Hedge (a new addition for me to the area).
Off Pook Lane (from 8:45am): 81 Brent Geese - one pair close to the shore had a young bird (see photo). Could this be the only youngster of the summer (tongue firmly in cheek, but I only had a handful of youngsters all morning).

127 Bar-tailed Godwit, 150+ Dunlin - very flighty, 25 Teal, 3 Shelduck, 10 Stock Doves, 7 Greenshank (RG//-+YY//-), 7 Grey Plover, 17 Knot, 37 Lapwing, 111 Golden Plover , 5 roosting Sandwich Tern, 17 Common Gull, 82 Black-tailed Godwit (R//R+RG//- & Y//R+YB//-), 2 Skylark over east.
Langstone Mill Pond (from 9:45am): 3 Teal, 1 Chiffchaff heard. No sign of the little duckling. Could be bad news, but will not announce it's demise until my next visit as it has a habit of hiding in the reeds! Pair of Mute Swan - no juveniles to be seen! 2 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons roosting.


Pond Skaters
About 8 Pond Skaters were rushing around on the surface of the Westbrook Stream immediately beneath the small bridge over the stream at Victoria Road. I often see them in this section of the stream when it is slow moving, though usually not this late in the year. However, I gather they are active until the end of November when they hibernate. They emerge from hibernation in April and lay eggs, which hatch soon after. The nymphs go through a number of moults. Here is a photo of three of them in the stream that I took earlier this year.

Stinkhorns in Nore Barn Woods
Roy Ewing was excited to come across two Stinkhorns (Phallus impudicus) in Nore Barn Woods today. He says they may not be a rarity, but they are the first he has seen in these woods. The fungus gets it common name from the harsh pungent smell; this attracts flies and other insects which help to disperse the spores. There is a picture on the following site of a Stinkhorn head covered in flies . . . . I was interested to read that Stinkhorns begin their development as oval or round structures known as "eggs", which do not smell and which apparently are edible. Here is Roy's photo of one of the Stinkhorns in Nore Barn Woods. So, keep a nose out for them.


Stansted Forest
Jean and I had a stroll through the east side of the Stansted estate on a lovely warm morning. After coffee and scone at the Pavilion Cafe, we walked along the path in front of Stansted House where lots of Burnet-saxifrage was in flower. This is a late flowering white umbellifer, rather like Cow Parsley, but with finely cut stem leaves which have long winged sheathing stalks.

The large clusters of Ivy flowers at the far end of the path were attracting Honey Bees with yellow pollen sacs on their legs. Sorry, you can't see them on this photo, but the flowers were splendid.

We went on up the tarmac drive towards the Iron Gate Cottages where the the trees full of autumn colour. What a glorious time of the year this is.

There were lots of Sweet Chestnuts on the ground on the tarmac drive towards the Iron Gate Cottages, but quite small and hardly worth picking up.

The yellow and brown Maple leaves created a fine mosaic of colour on the ground near the cottages.

We went up the hill as far as the twin Oaks where I had my traditional photo taken. I still can't push them over!

Farlington delights
Colin Vanner tyells me that he does not out all that often with his camera, but when he does he certainly gets some cracking images of fine birds. On Sunday Colin went round Farlington Marshes and found the Bearded Tits were showing very well in groups of up to 20 in the reedbeds. Ralph Hollins was also on Farlington Marshes on Sunday and got a good view of these delightful birds in the reeds around the lake.

However, Colin's most exciting bird was a Dartford Warbler which he has not seen there before. Although Dartford Warbler is common in SW Europe, it is rare in Britain, being mainly confined to dry lowland heaths in Southern England. I have seen one on Farlington Marshes in the past, but it is by no means common, as it is in the New Forest. Colin noted that it was not yet written up on sightings board. Maybe he was the first to see it?

Spring flowers
Tony Wootton found some Cowslips flowering in the lawn at West Dean gardens today. What are they trying to tell us?


Millpond Swans
Following a report that one of the millpond swan cygnets went walkabout up Bridge Road last Friday, I checked them this morning. I found all four remaining cygnets swimming contentedly around on the millpond with not a care in the world, though their father cob was still actively engaged in preventing the visiting pair of swans from crossing an invisible line across the pond from the end of Nile Street.
The 'Polish' cygnet is now almost completely pure white and not easy to separate at a distance from its parents, though it has little in the way of a knob on the top of its bill and its legs and feet are pink. The other three cygnets are in various stages of developing their white feathers. All cygnets look strong and are probably nearly ready to leave the millpond to make their own way in life. Here is a shot of the Polish cygnet with two of its siblings near the steps at the bottom of School Lane.



Mystery godwit - solved
Pete Potts and Ruth Croger came to Emsworth on Friday Oct 23 to search for the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit with an unusual colour combination that I saw at Nore Barn on Thursday Oct 22. They found it over in the eastern harbour below Emsworth Yacht Basin/Marina close to the bank. They confirmed the colour combination as B+BL, though it really looks nothing like that now as the rings have faded badly over the years. However, the bird is distinctive in that its red tarsus ring on the left leg is missing and also that it has a bent partially deformed right tarsus.

The deformed tarsus is shown well in this photo that I got of the bird on Oct 22.

Pete tells me the bird was ringed at Farlington Marshes on 16-Nov-98 so it is clearly getting on a bit - at least 17 years old - and is one of the few still being seen. Since then it has been recorded as wintering mainly in the Chichester and Langstone Harbour areas with occasional sightings on passage in Kent. There is one sighting from Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight.

I have two previous records of this bird in Emsworth Harbour on 19-Sep-12 and 20-Sep-12. Here is a photo I got of the bird on 19-Sep-12 which also shows the leg deformity which clearly goes back some time.

Newly ringed Redshanks
Pete also says they caught and colour-ringed c.70 Redshank on Thorney east deeps last weekend (Oct 10-11). Most of the ringed birds have O+O//xx and a few have G+G//xx. The flock largely came in from east of Thorney to roost so Pete expects that they normally feed east of Thorney but obviously not all of them! Two of them had Icelandic metal rings which is exciting so they can now be tracked from their colour-rings.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning at 6:34am, temperature just 2C and ice on the windscreen of the car. He visited the Warblington shore where he was rewarded with a bright, crisp sunrise over the fields behind Conigar Point.

The bird highlights were: Warblington Church/Farm: 1 Kestrel, Chiffchaff heard, 1 Green Woodpecker, 2 Goldcrest, 3 Meadow Pipit on farm roof, 14 Little Egrets feeding in field by farm.
Ibis Field: 2 male Pheasant, 8 Long-tailed Tits with 2 Chiffchaff.
Conigar Point: (last bit of mud being covered fast as tide pushed in) 72 Teal, 27 Wigeon, 5 Shelduck, 39 Brent Geese, 16 Grey Plover, 379 Dunlin, 1 Knot, 43 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 female/young male Red Breasted Merganser, 3 Lapwing, Flock of 50+ Black-tailed Godwits flew west from Emsworth and headed over to Langstone Harbour, Siskin heard flying over, Tamarisk Hedge: 1 Goldcrest, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Song Thrush.
Off Pook Lane: Tide well in, not much around except on island in the middle of the channel, 2 Turnstone, 80+ Bar-tailed Godwit, 81 Oystercatcher, 117 Brent Geese, 1 Lapwing, 50 Golden Plover, 13 Canada Geese headed west over the Hayling Bridge, 16+ Skylarks over north west (2, 6, 2, 1, 2 and 3 heard).


Dead Owlet - correction
I had several responses to yesterday's blog report about a dead Owlet in Warblington all agreeing that it was a young Woodpigeon - squab. As Chris Oakley says "Pigeons are the only bird likely to be nesting this time of the year . . . and it's not an owlet which would have a small hooked beak and clawed toes". Chris kindly sent me the following photo of a (live) Woodpigeon squab which I think confirms the identification.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped out this afternoon with the family to visit Langstone Mill Pond (1pm to 2:15pm - tide dropped away quickly). The highlights were as follows:
Langstone Mill Pond: Cetti's Warbler heard singing, Water Rail heard squealing twice, 20+ Goldfinch, 10 Teal, 1 Chiffchaff calling and showing well, 5 roosting Grey Heron, 1 Grey Wagtail over, 2 Skylark over west.
Baby Mallard duckling still there and very bold, brave and fun to watch when bread is being thrown to the ducks. The duckling gets stuck in, not afraid of anyone. It grabs a bit of bread and like a Kiwi Rugby player dashes, zips, weaves it's way through the horde of waterfowl to get to the safety of the reed bed, where it eats it's pieces of bread, then ventures out again. Great fun!! Also interesting to watch the pecking order, as the Moorhen really do give the duckling a hard time and often chase it into the reeds!!
Off shore: 3 Greenshank, 70+ Redshank (B//-+B//YL), 4 Knot, 5 roosting Sandwich Tern, 15 Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Black-tailed Godwit, 33 Teal, 8 Grey Plover, 5 roosting Cormorant, 5 Canada Geese over west, 31 Brent Geese (all adults), 1 Turnstone, 231 Dunlin. Amongst the Dunlin I eventually found the frosty grey winter plumaged Curlew Sandpiper. It was really too dark for photos. I took loads and the one attached was the only passable one. Look for the curved bill.

Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group from Walderton to Stansted during which they saw 3 Roe Deer skipping through the fields . . .

and a Brown Hare among lots of other interesting things.

For the full report go to . . .


Mystery colour-ringed godwit
Pete Potts is as mystified as I am about the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit I had at Nore Barn yesterday which looks like W+LW. Pete says "W+LW and B+LW (its looks like a grey ring which could be faded blue) have both not been seen for over 10 most unlikely...they are probably both dead but could they come back from the dead?
B+LW last seen in 2001. W+LW last seen in 2002. L+LW was ringed in 2010 with tall rings so it is not that one".

The rings certainly look old and dirty. Maybe it is back from the dead indeed! I have been through all my 22 photos showing the mystery godwit and I am sure the bird does not have the regular red marker ring on the lower part of its left leg. The photo below shows the bird lifting its left leg and clearly there is no red ring. This is strange as all Farlington ringed godwits have this red ring. This raises the possibility that the bird is from another ringing scheme. The metal BTO ring on the lower right leg shows up well in many of the photos, though I believe this is a standard ring for all ringing schemes.

Mystery solved - it is B+BL - see blog entry for Oct 25th

Dead Owlet
My friends Colin and Marion Harrington who live in Warblington sent me the following photo of what they think is an Owlet that was brought in by their cat. They think it may have fallen out of its nest, though they have had no sighting or sounds of owls in their area for many years. When Marion picked up the corpse she was surprised how heavy it was. Sam, the cat, is a stray that spends its day roaming, so it could have come from afar.
That is indeed very sad, but that is nature. There is a high loss of young birds every year, including owls. I agree the bird probably fell from its nest and was found by the cat. It looks in a pretty bad state. Can anyone confirm the identification of the corpse from this photo?


Nore Barn
09:30 - Falling tide was just right for birdwatching at this spot. There were two Spotted Redshanks in the stream for the first time this winter plus the usual colour-ringed Greenshank. The two Redshanks flew off together towards Thorney Island while I was there. We have frequently had two Spotted Redshanks at Nore Barn over the years, sometimes even three! But there is only one regular; the others are 'visitors'.
For more information on the Emsworth Spotted Redshanks go to . . .

I had a good view a flock of 86 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mudflats in the creek south of the woods. They included the two colour-ringed birds that have been regular so far this winter and one mystery that I could not read. The regulars were the Kent-ringed ROL+RLR (on the right), the Iceland-ringed WO+LW flag (in the middle) and the mystery with very dirty rings (at the back on the left). Here is a photo of all three colour-ringed godwits that I managed to capture together.

Here is a close-up shot of the rings on the mystery bird which seems to show W+LW, but I did not see any red marker ring on the left 'ankle' which was present in all the early Farlington ringings. The fact the rings are small indicates that it is not a recent ringing; all recent ringings use much taller rings.

I have no record of W+LW. I will ask Pete Potts to see if he has any idea what it is.

There were lots of Wigeon and Teal as usual plus a small flock of 18 Brent Geese far out - these were my first of the winter!

Here are female and male Wigeon (left) and male Teal (right)


Brook Meadow
I had a stroll through the meadow and down to the Hermitage Millponds this morning.
First, I went along the north path to have a look at the river by the railway embankment which I was pleased to find had a gentle trickle of water running in it. Last week it was completely dry.

This is change is due to the Environment Agency closing the sluice gates at Constant Springs in response to a phone call from Ruth Roberts complaining about the absence of water in the river. Closing the gates at Constant Springs allows more water to flow into the main Ems channel. Although this has worked, it is important that a good flow is maintained in the river to provide a good habitat for wildlife, particularly in view of Andy Rothwell's conclusion from his survey that the absence of Water Voles was due to the low water level in the river.
I disturbed a Kestrel from the bushes near Lumley copse. The Pike with the crooked tail was still in the river north of the new brushwood shelving.
There is a fine show of Michaelmas Daisies on the Lumley area and in the south meadow. The Wild Angelica is also still in full flower in the south meadow. Both these flowers were attracting insects to their nectar.

Bumblebee (Bombus pascuorum) - on the left and Drone Fly on the right.

Hermitage Millponds
On the east side of Peter Pond I found some puzzling Mallow flowers. The flowers as shown in the photo were bright pink. I am fairly sure they were not Common Mallow and I had to rule out Musk Mallow and Marsh Mallow as the leaves were wrong. My hunch is that they were a stunted Hollyhock. But any other ideas welcome.

The local conservation group have clearly been busy cutting and clearing the grass verge on the east side of Slipper Millpond, sensibly leaving several sections uncut as havens for wintering wildlife. Particularly dramatic were the various forms of Wild Carrot seedheads,

Here is the list of 21 plants I found in flower during the walk: Annual Meadow-grass, Bramble, Bristly Ox-tongue, Common Comfrey, Common Field Speedwell, Common Mallow, Common Mallow, Creeping Thistle, Fat Hen, Hedge Bindweed, Hogweed, Large Bindweed, Michaelmas Daisy, Perennial Sow-thistle, Purple Toadflax, Red Clover, Shepherd's Purse, Smooth Sow-thistle, White Dead-nettle, Wild Angelica, Yarrow.

Bristly Ox-tongue on the left and Hedge Bindweed on the right



Mute Swan news
The resident Mute Swan family on the town millpond was down to four cygnets (including the white 'Polish' one) when I passed by today. This is not surprising as cygnets usually start to move off, or are driven off by their parents at this time of the year. The 'visiting' pair of swans remain on the pond, and can usually be seen vying for territorial dominance with the resident pair.

Photo shows the cygnets on the left with the two parents. To the right is the pair of 'visiting' swans

Nore Barn
I arrived at about 12 noon with about 3 hours to high water. There was a nice flock of 31 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mudflats, including two colour-ringed birds, both regular wintering birds in Emsworth and both previously seen this season. ROL+RLR (Kent ringed) and WO+LW flag (Iceland ringed). Photo shows ROL+RLR.

The colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) was present in the stream, but there was no sign of the Spotted Redshank today, though I did not wait for the tide to push right up so it could have come after I left.
Other birds present included 34 Wigeon and 54 Teal and 72 Redshank snoozing on the edge of the main channel opposite the end of Beach Road. A man passing by reported having seen a flock of Brent Geese in the main Emsworth Channel earlier in the day. But I have yet to see one myself!

Garden Woodpeckers
I was delighted to see a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers in my back garden this morning. They had a go at the fat balls and the seed feedsers, but seemed more interested in the bark of the tree. The last time I had Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the garden was in January - maybe it was the same pair as they behaved in much the same way.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the garden
Male on left with red on back of head. Female on right with no red on back of head


Hedgehogs and Bats
Caroline French was pleased to hear about the Hedgehog family in Paddy's garden in The Rookery reported yesterday. She reminded us that the youngsters need to reach around 600g in order to survive the winter and Brent Lodge is there to help if needed.
Regarding Bats, Caroline has seen one on a couple of occasions recently flying across her front garden in North Emsworth and one across Horndean Road.
Caroline also saw her first Redwings of the year - 12 over the Sustainability Centre near East Meon.

Langstone Mill Pond
Yesterday Oct 16), Peter Milinets-Raby was at Langstone Mill Pond ahead of the incoming tide between 10:02am to 12:06pm. He walked in via Wade Lane and bumped into a very busy tit flock consisting of 7+ Blue Tits, 4+ Long-tailed Tits, 3+ Great Tits and 1 Treecreeper, 1 Coal Tit, 1 Goldcrest and 1 Chiffchaff. Also along Wade Lane were 2 Jay and a Green Woodpecker.
Flooded Horse Paddock:1 Grey Wagtail, 3 Pied Wagtail, 5 Moorhen.
Langstone Mill Pond: baby duckling still present and getting brave, 4 Grey Heron & 1 Little Egret roosting, 4 Teal, 1 Chiffchaff.
off shore Pook Lane: 11 Grey Plover, 6 Dunlin, 7 Greenshank (G//R+BRtag//- & G//R+YN//- & NR//-+YY//- & RG//-+YY//-), 40 Black-tailed Godwit (none with rings yesterday - today 7! Y//R+WY//- & Y//R+BN//- & G//R+WN//- & R//R+GR//- & W//R+YN//- & B//R+WG//- & WY//-+YW//- White ring with letter "X"), 14 Bar-tailed Godwit, 17 Sandwich Tern roosting on mud (see photo), 6 Common Gull, 25 Teal, 5 Skylark over west.
Off Conigar Point: 19 Brent Geese, 13 Shelduck, 136 Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Knot, 22 Dunlin, 8 Wigeon, 7 roosting Cormorants.

Water Voles
Regarding the Water Vole survey by Andy Rothwell reported yesterday - of no sign of Water Vole activity anywhere along the stretch of the River Ems on Brook Meadow - Ralph Hollins remains optimistic that should the levels of water in the river rise the Voles will return. He says, "young voles will travel up to a kilometre, sometimes overland, in search for a home of their own when their mother chucks them out of the burrow in which they were born". Well, we are doing our best to get the habitat right for them, so let's hope Ralph is right.
Meanwhile, Nik Knight (lucky chap) saw 2 Water Voles at the Dolphin Spring in Havant this morning at around 09.10. One was swimming. The other was grazing, taking grass down to the water's edge to eat it. Both were of the relatively dark colour. I am envious.

Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group during which 49 bird species were seen including this nice gathering of Ringed Plover. For full report go to . . .


Nore Barn
11:15 - 12:15 Tide rising to high water at about 14:00. The Spotted Redshank was already present in the stream when I arrived.

It was later joined by its regular feeding companion the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL).

As I was leaving a Rock Pipit also turned up on the edge of the stream, quite close to the Greenshank.

I was pleased to see a small flock of 18 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mudflats. They later moved up the Nore Barn channel to feed on the shore, giving better views from the path south of the woods. There was one colour-ringed bird:
WO+LW flag - This has been a regular wintering bird in Emsworth since 2010. This was my first sighting of this godwit in Emsworth this winter and the 52nd overall since 2010. This bird was ringed as a male chick in north Iceland by Ruth Croger and Pete on 13th July 2010 at Langhus, SW of Siglufjordur.

Of the migrant ducks I counted 21 Wigeon and 42 Teal, but no sign of any Brent Geese. I have yet to see one myself this winter!


Two work sessions were taking place on Brook Meadow this morning; a regular work session led by Wally Osborne and a special river management workshop organised by the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust. So we had two groups working separately and I had to dodge between the two taking photos.

River management workshop
This one-off special workshop on river management was organised by Ses Wright of the Arun and Rother Rivers Trust assisted by Andy Thomas a Conservation Officer with the Wild Trout Trust.
Andy gave a useful introduction to the purpose of the workshop which basically was to improve the habitat provided in the River Ems for wildlife, ie birds, fish, plants and, of course, Water Voles. The River Ems was regarded as having enormous potential as a vibrant chalk stream, already having a good variety of fish, including Sea Trout and the first spawning Salmon.
Ses, Andy and a self-selected group of 7 volunteers then donned thigh waders and set off down the river from the north bridge, carrying their tools and equipment in a small boat.

The main job was to construct two shallow brushwood shelves, one on either side of the river using cut twigs and branches all held together by stout posts and rope, creating a small meander. These shelves will be attractive to fish and small mammals, like Water Voles. Also, a 'pinch point' was created just below the shelves and a deep pool dug out to attract fish.

For more information about the two trusts involved in today's workshop go to . . .
Arun and Rother Rivers Trust . . . . . . Wild Trout Trust . . .

The Pike
The river management work took place beneath the old gasholder close to where the lone Pike with the crooked tail spends most of its time. Here are Andy and Nigel looking at the Pike in the river.

The fish is very docile and, in fact, almost allowed David Search to pick it up at one point. Andy Thomas agreed that it appeared to be injured in the tail area hindering its mobility. One can see traces of red which is probably blood from the injury in this photo that I got of the fish today.

Conservation work session
While the river management was taking place, Wally Osborne and 5 volunteers tackled two other jobs. One was to remove the temporary twig fences that were placed around the main orchid area in preparation for the area being cut and cleared on a future session. The other job was to prepare an area on the north meadow south of the north bridge as an experimental wild flower seeding area in addition to the large area which was prepared a few weeks ago further north. Seeds sown were Yellow Rattle, Corky-fruited Water-dropwort and Common Knapweed. Photo shows Wally strimming the grass and volunteers raking.

More photos of the river management workshop and the workday will soon be on the Brook Meadow site at . . .

Water Voles - bad news
I am afraid the news on the Water Vole front is not good. Jennifer Rye and David Search have heard from ecologist Andy Rothwell who was commissioned by the conservation group to carry out a Water Vole survey on the Ems. Andy has done two previous surveys for us and the reports can be seen on the web site at . . .

Previously, Andy had always reported a good population of Water Voles, but not this time. The present survey was on Saturday Oct 10 and drew a complete blank! Andy found no signs of Water Voles anywhere along this stretch of waterway, though he did see signs of Brown Rats all along the river. Andy's conclusion is that the voles have disappeared due to the lack of water in the river rather than as a result of the previous winter 2013/14 floods.
See Andy's very alarming survey map summarising his results . . .

Andy's survey confirms the earlier survey by Jennifer Rye and David Search, which had similar negative results, and also our own lack of sightings over the past year. We have always realised that our population of Water Voles was small and vulnerable and could disappear at any time; but now it has happened and we must try to do something to get them back!
Only 11 sightings of Water Voles have been recorded in 2015, the last one being on April 30th. Malcolm Phillips got the last photo of a Water Vole on the river on Brook Meadow on April 23rd. Here it is, so take a good look, it may be the last one ever!

For full Water Vole records go to . . . .

It is not all doom and gloom for there are Water Voles in the local area, if not on Brook Meadow. Andy Rothwell found a few signs in the Lumley Stream during his survey, so maybe those will be able to make their way across the meadow to the main river. I believe they have also been seen in the gardens of Lumley Mill and Constant Springs. Also, promising was the sighting of a Water Vole in the mill stream near Westbourne by Brook Meadow volunteer Dan last week. So, all hope is not lost. What we need to do now is create the right sort of habitat to encourage them to move in here. Another possibility is to have some reintroduced, but that is probably a long way off.

Harvest Mouse
The best news in the Andy Rothwell survey was his finding a Harvest Mouse nest on the west bank of the river behind the Bulrushes. Harvest Mouse nests are occasionally seen on the meadow and we had two reported and photographed by Malcolm Phillips in June and July last year.

I spotted a Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) worker with large pollen sacs feeding on the Wild Angelica flowers in the south meadow.

White-flowering Comfrey
What I think is Common Comfrey is still in flower in the south meadow with white flowers. I decided to compare the plants with those on the A259 wayside near Emsworth surgery, which Ralph Hollins thought could be White Comfrey (Symphytum orientale). I was surprised to find many of the flowers on the wayside plants had a distinctly pink hue, which strongly suggests they are not White Comfrey, but rather white-flowering Common Comfrey like those on Brook Meadow. The sepal teeth on both plants were thin and deeply cut, also suggesting Common Comfrey. Here are two photos I took today. The white flowering Common Comfrey on Brook Meadow on the left and the pink flowers of the ?? Comfrey on the A259 wayside on the right.

Another Hedgehog family
While walking through Brook Meadow, I met my friend, Paddy who lives in The Rookery next door to where Ted and Penny Aylett used to live. She told me she has had a family of Hedgehogs in her garden, two adults and two youngsters. She thinks they are attracted by the food that she leaves outside for the cat. This is the first time she has ever seen a family group in her garden which overlooks countryside. Caroline French recently told us about the Hedgehog family she has in her garden in North Emsworth - see blog for Oct 9. How many others are there in the local area I wonder?

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a little wander around Langstone Mill Pond this morning as the tide pushed in (10:38am to 11:44am).
Off shore: A nice selection of waders including, 14 Black-tailed Godwits, 23 Bar-tailed Godwits (with 130 in the distance off Conigar Point), 6 Grey Plover, 26 Dunlin, 1 very smart looking pale, frosty winter plumage Curlew Sandpiper (It flew off with the Dunlin towards Thorney Island), 1 Knot, 3 Greenshank (G//R+YN//- & G//R+BRtag//-), 60+ Redshank (-//B+B//GN & -//B+B//NG & -//B+B//YL), 6 Common Gull, 35 Teal, 14 Brent Geese, 14 Sandwich Tern roosting on the mud, then impressively flew off as a flock over the Hayling Bridge into Langstone Harbour.
Pond: Baby Mallard duckling still hanging on, 2 Teal, Female eclipse Shoveler, Cetti's Warbler Heard, 3 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Heron roosting, Chiffchaff heard, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Grey Wagtail.


Nore Barn
I popped into Nore Barn on the way to Chichester at about 10am this morning. The tide was rising to high water in about 3 hours, but the tide was still well out and there was no sign of anything in the stream. Richard Hallett was also present in response to my notification about the arrival of the Spotted Redshank for the 12th winter running. What a remarkable bird! It was good to see Richard again, but I had to get going so left him to it.
After I left, Richard walked along the shore and got back to the stream by about 11am where he found three waders busily feeding, including a Spotted Redshank, the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) and another Redshank, which I am pretty sure is a Common Redshank from Richard's photo. They were accompanied by a Little Egret.

Emsworth bats
Nik Knight was delighted to hear about the Pipistrelle Bats on the Emsworth foreshore at the bottom of King Street from Lynda Harris (reported yesterday). He will try to get down there to have a look soon. He thinks there might be Daubenton's bats too, which fly very close to the water and make more of buzzing sound audible at lower frequencies than the Pipistrelles.

Night sounds
Lynda Harris arrived late one evening at Emsworth Railway Station and was surprised to hear lots of 'insect noise' in the wildlife area beyond the ramp, despite all the work at the lower end. She wonders whether the insects have moved up the hill giving higher densities and asks would these be crickets of some kind?

Minsmere RSPB
Tony Wootton sent me some photos taken during a visit to the Minsmere RSPB reserve. I have picked out a couple of interesting ones. Tony was lucky to spot this pair of Stone Curlew (on the left), but this magnificent stag Red Deer in rut (on the right) could hardly be missed.


Late strawberry
I had a lovely surprise this morning when my wife presented me with a perfectly formed miniature strawberry that she found in the garden. I did not have the heart to eat it as it was so beautiful, so I put it on my work desk for display along with all the other bits of nature that I collect on my walks.

Bats in Emsworth
Lynda Harris Paysagiste writes to say that she and her parents, Lesley and Keith Harris, have recently been enjoying watching the aeronautic displays of bats on the foreshore at the bottom of King Street, Emsworth. This evening they borrowed the bat detector from Debbie Robinson of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group which showed that the bats were loudest on the 55 kHz frequency so they are probably Soprano Pipistrelles. They counted five bats feeding together. They came out at about 6.30 and were easy to see - plus a wonderful sunset too!

PS I have passed this information onto local bat expert Nik Knight.


Nore Barn
I did not get any joy on the bird front today. I checked Nore Barn a couple of times, once before high water and once after high water, but there was no sign of the Spotted Redshank (or Greenshanks) on either occasion. My one and only sighting of the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn this winter was on 07-Oct-15. I am pretty sure it is here, but it has yet to settle down in a regular feeding routine.
Regarding the two colour-ringed Greenshank seen here yesterday by Peter Milinets-Raby, I forgot to mention that Greenshank YO+YY was last seen at Nore Barn at this time last year on 07-Oct-14. G+GL is the regular Greenshank at Nore Barn.

Railway Wayside
I had a look at the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station where work is progressing on the construction of the new cycle rack. Today, the chaps were laying the concrete foundation. I see from their jackets they are HBC employees, so the project is clearly being funded by the council, even though the land is owned by Southern Railway. Incidentally, I can now see why the brambles were cleared - to make way for the vehicles that have to access the site via the highways track to the north.

There are still a good number of wild flowers to be seen from the railway access ramp, including a spray of bright Hoary Ragwort peeping through the wire fence.

On the other side of New Brighton Road work is progressing preparing the Interbridges Site (east), presumably for the proposed industrial development. Here is a view from the end of the path from Seagull Lane.

Brook Meadow
Moving over to Brook Meadow, I got a nice view of a flock of around 10 Long-tailed Tits feeding in the Crack Willows to the north of the north bridge. I took some photos, but I am no where near as good at this as Malcolm Phillips who is away in Cuba.

The north river is almost totally dried up and has no water coming under the railway arch from Constant Springs.

I checked the sluice gates at Lumley Mill and they were closed thus allowing water to flow into the main river through Constant Springs, but there was basically no flow.

While checking the Lumley Mill sluice gates I could not help but admire the huge log pile in the enclosed piece of land to the north of Constant Springs which I assume belong to Constant Springs. What a magnificent hibernaculum it would make.


White-flowered Comfrey
Regarding the White-flowered Comfrey growing on the roadside embankment near the doctor's surgery in Emsworth, Ralph Hollins is still in favour them being White Comfrey rather than Common Comfrey. Here is his summary of what his three main books say about the differences.

'Blamey, Fitter and Fitter stresses that White Comfrey has pure white flowers and has leaves that never run down the stem. It is happy to grow in drier places than Common but never grows higher than 70cm whereas Common can grow to well over 1 metre tall, never has pure white flowers, and is usually found in damper places. Marjorie Blamey's separate illustration of the calyx of the Common Comfrey shows the longer calyx teeth that I expect.
Stace's key uses the decurrent stem wings as its key factor for Common and says .. "stem-leaves strongly decurrent, forming wings on stem running down for more than 1 internode". Stace's key factor for White Comfrey is "calyx divided less than halfway to the base, plus corolla pure white" (i.e. no hint of pale yellow which is always true of Common).
Francis Rose adds that the leaves of Common are 'soft-hairy' whereas White leaves are 'softly downy', and he also says that the calyx teeth of White are only half the length of the calyx tube while those of Common are twice the length of the tube and are narrow and pointed.'

My photo of the flowers on the Emsworth embankment shows deeply divided calyx teeth more than halfway to the base which suggests Common Comfrey. Also, the flowers are not pure white. Ralph intends to have another look at the plants and, no doubt, will report back.


Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley reports they are having problems with horse riders coming onto the Hampshire Farm site. He is concerned that they may damage the soft grass paths and render them unusable by walkers. We have not had this problem on Brook Meadow, but I know it has been a problem over the years in Nore Barn Woods and in Hollybank Woods. But they solved it by keeping horse riders' to the special hard core paths.
Chris got pictures of a couple of late butterflies on the Hampshire Farm site: Small White and Small Copper, both not unexpected in October.

Chris also came across Badger paw prints in the mud a couple of days ago. Chris says, the only sett was abandoned some years past, so thinks they were just visiting.
He also comments that Hornets are present along one of the hedges, they seem very placid but will keep clear of them just in case. In fact, I gather Hornets unless directly threatened at the nest are very unlikely to sting.

Pipit correction
Eric Eddles corrects my labelling of his photo from Salterns Quay as a Meadow Pipit. As Eric rightly points out the bird is a Rock Pipit - the dark legs give it away.


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning at 6:45am and covered all the sites between Emsworth Harbour and Langstone Mill Pond - The details were as follows:
Emsworth Harbour (from 7:14am - tide slowly pushing in): 1 Greenshank, 41 Black-tailed Godwit, 25+ Pied Wagtails moving over east (Heard several, then 5, 14, 1 & 5), 5 Little Egrets, 24 Turnstone, 5 Canada Geese over, 55 Brent Geese, Kingfisher on pontoon.
Emsworth Mill Pond: 14 Coot, 6 Mute Swans.
Off Mill Pond outflow (from 7:30am): 2 Greenshank (G//R+NN//-), 6 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Meadow Pipit over east, 19 Goldfinch over east.
Off Beacon Square (from 7:36am): 1 Little Egret, 3 Grey Plover, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Yellow Wagtail over east, 1 Pied Wagtail over east.
Nore Barn (from 7:46am): 10 Black-tailed Godwits, 7 Wigeon, 3 Shelduck, 4 Teal, 2 Little Egret, 2 Greenshank (YO//-+YY//- and G//R+GL///-). No Spotted Redshank.
Ibis Field (from 8:07am): 2 Goldcrest, 1 Grey Wagtail, Siskin heard going over, 69 Collared Dove on overhead cables, 3 Skylark over east, 1 Moorhen.
Conigar Point (from 8:20am): 5 Chiffchaff in Tamarisk Hedge, 2 female type Pintail, 12 Teal, 8 Wigeon, 7 Grey Plover, 2 Greenshank, 1 Dunlin, 3 Brent Geese, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 5 Skylark over east.
Off Pook Lane (from 8:42am): 92 Dunlin, 82 Bar-tailed Godwit, 5 Grey Plover, 13 Brent Geese, 2 Meadow Pipit on sea wall , 10 Skylark over east (4, 2, 2, 2), Young male Stonechat, Little Owl in usual tree, 3 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Greenshank, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 2 Swallow east, 18 Siskin east (11, 4, 3), 5 Sandwich Tern roosting on mud (see photo), 29 Teal, 1 Kingfisher on wreck by Mill, 5 Lapwing, Mute Swan family (2 adults with just 5 juveniles - lost one?).

Langstone Mill Pond (from 9:05am): 2 Chiffchaff, 5 Teal, Cetti's Warbler heard, Siskin Heard going over twice, Eclipse female Shoveler, Female Mallard with duckling (STILL).
Castle Farm (from 9:55am) 3 Swallows east, 1 Chiffchaff.

Brian's comments: Many thanks as always to Peter for his brilliant survey of the birds along this coastline. It just goes to show the value of getting out early to catch the best birds.
The 25+ Pied Wagtails in Emsworth were probably some of those that regularly roost somewhere in the millpond area. One can often see them around the millpond at dusk.
It was good to hear about the arrival of Brent Geese in Emsworth Harbour - the first of the winter. They always take some time to move into Emsworth after their early arrival in Langstone Harbour. It will be interesting to see how many youngsters there are this year.
The absence of the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn was not surprising as I have found it often takes some time to settle down in a regular feeding routine.
Greenshank YO+YY was last seen at Nore Barn last year on 07-Oct-14. G+GL is the regular Greenshank at Nore Barn.

Salterns Quay
Here are another coupole of birds taken at Salterns Quay from Eric Eddles library. Meadow Pipit and Guillemot.


Salterns Quay
Following the news that Salterns Quay is to be demolished next spring, I asked Eric Eddles who lives nearby to write a short appreciation of the place:

"My wife and I have spent many hours parked on Great Salterns Quay on the Eastern Road observing the vast variety of birds. Seasons have come and gone and we have never been disappointed as there has always been something interesting to see. Many hundreds of photos have been taken and so I have selected just a couple." Common Tern and Wheatear.


Yesterday (Oct 8) Ralph Hollins made several interesting botanical discoveries during a cycle ride through Emsworth. He was kind enough to e-mail me the details along with directions as to where to find the plants. So, this morning I cycled around checking on the plants.

Wild Clary
I started at Christopher Way where Ralph noted that some Wild Clary stems were still in flower. I counted 11 plants in all, most with small flowers open. All were on the main council mown verge by a lamp post just a little way east of the official wayside. I did find a few Wild Clary flowers on the official site earlier in the year, but now they are probably covered over by other plants.

Dwarf Mallow
Going north from Christopher Way along New Brighton Road, Ralph came across a plant that he did not immediately recognise, but later discovered it was Dwarf Mallow (Malva neglecta). It was growing and flowering against the outside of wooden fencing just before the turning into Wensley Gardens.

Ralph had only seen Dwarf Mallow locally once (at the north end of Langstone Bridge a couple of years ago) since it vanished from a regular site in the orchards at Prinsted about five years ago. So, we have another uncommon wild flower within a couple of hundred yards of the Wild Clary at Christopher Way. Ralph checked the seed shape in Stace which was correct for and unique to Dwarf Mallow (including hairiness of the seeds), thus confirming the identification.

Here are the flowers and the seed pods of the Dwarf Mallow on New Brighton Road

I found the Dwarf Mallow easily by the fence in New Brighton Road and took a few photos. My only previous sighting of Dwarf Mallow was many years ago at Prinsted. The 1996 edition of the Hants Flora describes it as locally frequent, but with no records in our area as far as I could tell from the distribution map. So, I suppose Martin Rand would appreciate a formal record.

White or Common Comfrey?
Ralph also had a look at the embankment on the side of the main A259 outside the doctor's surgery where Winter Heliotrope grows in profusion. This wayside has a good show of what I have always put down as white flowered Common Comfrey. However, they reminded Ralph of White Comfrey and he suggested I should check them. These two species are easily confused, but the key differences are (1) the size and shape of the calyx teeth on the flowers and (2) the presence or absence of decurrent wings running down along the main plant stem from the leaves.
I checked several plants carefully with photos and all had long, deeply cut narrow calyx teeth which is consistent with Common Comfrey; for White Comfrey the teeth would be short and narrowly cut.

The wings were less decisive. Some of the plants had narrow wings running down the stem suggesting Common Comfrey, but they were not as prominent as those on Brook Meadow. Based mainly on the calyx teeth, my conclusion is that the plants are white-flowering Common Comfrey.

Ebbinge's Silverberry
Finally, when Ralph was going down Slipper Road towards Thorney Island he found two examples of Ebbinge's Silverberry on the pond side of the road almost as soon as the Great Black-backed Gull nest raft comes into view. He said the bushes are inconspicuous but the scent of the tiny flowers attracted Ralph's attention. I did not have time to check on this plant (which I have never heard of before), so it will have to wait for another time.

Railway Wayside
On my way home I passed by the Railway Wayside at the north of Emsworth Railway Station and was surprised to see it transformed as a result of work to install the new cycle rack. Much of the ground at the eastern end of the site has been bulldozed and a large area concreted for the racks. I was complaining about the invasion of brambles following my last visit, but now most of them have gone! It will certainly be interesting to see what comes up in this virgin ground next year.

Here is a view looking west along the wayside from the path to the station.
The foundations for the cycle racks are in the foreground.

Stansted fungi
Jill Stanley went to Stansted woods again this morning to see if any interesting fungi had appeared after the recent rain. She found a few Magpie Inkcaps, and quite a number of False Death caps dotted about though some were looking rather the worse for wear. However, she was pleased to find a few Saffron-drop Bonnets (Mycena crocata), of which she photographed this one.

Jill also sent a picture of some Stump Puffball (Lycoperdon pyriforme) fungi that she found elsewhere on the Stansted estate last weekend. These are said to be quite tasty!

Jill says she has managed to find and identify 22 different fungi at Stansted this autumn, "not to mention the various little brown things and so on that elude me!"

Hedgehog news
Caroline French provides the following news update on her garden Hedgehogs.

"The female Hedgehog which had a litter earlier in the summer is still occupying the same box in my garden and has had a second litter. Each evening this week from Sunday to Thursday, I found a small hedgehog in my back garden - five in all! Two of them weighed just over 300g and three of them were around 250g. I'm hoping there will be no more but I will keep checking the garden just in case.
According to UK hedgehog expert Pat Morris' book, 'The New Hedgehog Book', this weight puts them at about five or six weeks old, so they must have been born around the beginning of September. Although I had been anticipating a second litter, as I had seen the mother mating after the first litter, I was completely unaware of any young until this week. I estimate that her first litter must have been born around mid-June.
Unfortunately, all of them are far too small to be able to put on enough weight to successfully hibernate this winter, so they have been taken to Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital where they will be kept warm and fed until they can be released next spring. Although it is not ideal for them to be in captivity, this is apparently their only chance of survival.
Although the mother is still around, each of the hoglets was completely alone. I wonder whether the mother has given up on them, sensing that they cannot survive. In fact, the final hoglet, which I picked up last night, had a superficial wound on its head and I wondered whether this may have been inflicted by the mother in an effort to drive it away - Brent Lodge thought this was a possibility.
I continue to put food out for the hedgehogs each night and I know that at least three adults are visiting the garden (including the mother), although there may be several more. Without marking individual animals it is very hard to tell them apart."

Here is a photo of one of the hoglets, taken just before they all went to Brent Lodge.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped along to the Langstone Mill Pond this lunchtime 12noon for an hour. Walked in along Wade Lane. The highlights were as follows:
Along Wade Lane: 1 Kestrel, 3 Buzzard, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Firecrest - by the big garden behind the "castle tower" - see dreadful photo - Also photo included from Thursdays early morning visit of the Little Owl in its usual tree showing why I never find it from one visit to the next.

Only managed to see it because a Carrion Crow was giving it some hassle. 1 Nuthatch.
Horse paddock: 3 Moorhen, 1 Pied Wagtail, 2 Skylark over with a single Meadow Pipit (heading west).
Langstone Mill Pond: 14+ Goldfinch flying around with 2 Siskin amongst them, 5 roosting Little Egrets, Cetti's Warbler heard, 2 Chiffchaff (one singing briefly), 7 Teal, 1 female eclipse Shoveler (so different from the other day). Mallard female and duckling hiding in the reeds as the Mute Swan family swam by - just the female with five juvs. The male was off shore, but no sign of the sixth juv.
Off shore (high tide): 1 Greenshank roosting in the small marsh, 30+ Linnets flying around the distant island in the channel, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Lapwing, 1 Golden Plover, No other waders due to high tide.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to update the photographic displays in the three signcases. It was a beautiful morning and the all went well. A couple of chaps from HBC were strimming the edges of the main path while I was there. They were not familiar with Brook Meadow so I filled them in a bit about the history of the conservation group. They did a very good job with the cutting and I took their photo at the end of the work. John is on the left and George on the right.

I had a look for the Pike in the river and found it in its usual place under the west bank south of the north bridge, close to a pair of thin willow branches across the river. I could not get a photo of the fish.

A little further south a Moorhen was sitting in a bed of cut reeds. If it were spring time I would have said it was on a nest. Do Moorhens nest this late?


Spotted Redshank
11:00 - 11:30 - I went to Nore Barn to the west of Emsworth about 3 hours after high water.
I was delighted to see a Spotted Redshank in the stream feeding happily with its the now colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL. This is almost certainly the same bird that Peter Milinets-Raby first saw here on 27-Sep. I reckon it is also the same bird that has been wintering here for the past 12 years! One can't really tell this from the appearance of the bird, though its behaviour is exactly what we would expect: the time of its arrival is right, its relative tameness and the fact that it feeds in the stream with its regular companion the Greenshank. Here is today's photo with Greenshank (left) and Spotted Redshank (right).

Black-tailed Godwits
It was also good to see a flock of 64 Black-tailed Godwits on the emerging mudflats and around the stream. This was the first good flock of Godwits I have seen this autumn at Nore Barn. I expect numbers to build up during the winter to around 150. Here are a few of them with the Spotted Redshank also in the picture.

I did not have my scope with me, but I managed to find one colour-ringed bird which was fairly close to the shore:
ROL+RLR - This bird was ringed on 27-Oct-08 at Kingsnorth Power Station, Medway Est. Kent as an adult male. The fact that it has three colour rings on each leg makes it fairly easy to spot, though a photo is handy for getting the right combination as there are others with similar combinations.

It was first seen in Emsworth on 23-Oct-09 and has been a regular winter visitor ever since then. Today's sighting was first of this winter season and was the 83rd sighting in all. It is often seen in Kent by Dudley Hird before it arrives in Emsworth which shows it moves down the east coast stopping in Kent on the way.

First Wigeon
I was also pleased to see the first Wigeon of the autumn, a male and female together in the lower stream near the godwits.

There was definitely no sign of any Brent Geese anywhere in Emsworth Harbour, west or east. I have not seen any here as yet this winter period, though there are plenty in Chichester and Langstone Harbours. They always take some time to move into Emsworth.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby was out briefly at 10:08am to 11am and visited Langstone Mill Pond as the tide fell.
Langstone Mill Pond: 1 Kingfisher dashed across the pond, Cetti's Warbler heard singing, Chiffchaff heard, 4 Teal, 1 male Shoveler in eclipse plumage - nice, 20+ Goldfinch flying around with 1 Siskin.
And, for all you softies out there, the baby Mallard duckling is still alive and looking well. I think having the Mute Swan family off shore is helping - just 5 juveniles. Yellow Wagtail over.
Flooded paddock: 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 13 Teal.
Off shore: 8 Little Egret on the marsh, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 8 Sandwich Tern resting on the exposed mud, 3 Dunlin, 147 Redshank (see photo), 23 Brent Geese, 17 Grey Plover, 1 Turnstone, 21 Golden Plover, 6 Greenshank (RG//-+YY//- & G//R+YN//- & G//R+RY//-),
Off Conigar Point: 22 Grey Plover, 30+ Dunlin, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit.

Short-eared Owl migration
The British Trust for Ornithology reminds us that October is the peak month for winter visitors arriving from their northerly breeding grounds and that one of these is the Short-eared Owl.
See . . .
Around 1,400 pairs of Short-eared Owl breed in Britain, mainly in the Pennines and the Scottish uplands and islands, but we only see them here in the south on passage or wintering. The BTO Birdtrack reporting rate shows a clear peak in mid October, perhaps as a result of arriving and departing birds being found in well-watched coastal areas.
Locally, the best spots to see these superb birds are Thorney Island, Pagham Harbour and Farlington Marshes. I have one vivid memory of seeing seven of them quartering an area of marshland near Tournerbury Farm during a WeBS count in 2006. Here is a digiscoped snap I got of one of them perched in a bush. Those eyes are unmistakable!

Water Vole decline
Dave Lee notes a letter in this week's Chichester Observer from Jane Reeve, who is a Water Vole conservation officer for the Manhood Wildlife and Heritage group. Her letter is about the decline of water voles in the Chichester/Hunston section of the Chichester ship canal, so we are not the ones witnessing a decline in numbers. However, I believe the Havant voles are still very well.


Harbour Seals
Juliette Leach got this cracking photo of several Harbour Seals on the shallow sands on the West Side of Thorney the weekend before last. Juliette says there were about 12 in all with some swimming.

A number of Common Seals (Phoca vitulina), also known as harbour seals, live in the Solent. Each one has unique markings and their colourings can be different ranging from tan to grey, black and brown. The females are generally smaller but with a longer lifespan. The Chichester Harbour Conservancy web site estimates the number of harbour seals visiting Chichester Harbour at 23-25, with 18 being the most recorded at any one time.
For more information see . . .

Juliette also spotted these Turnstones resting on a buoy. Turnstones are a regular winter visitors Chichester Harbour where they number up to 300. We regularly see them in Emsworth Harbour though in much smaller numbers (about 20 at a time). They can often be seen best when resting on boats and buoys as in this photo.


Cygnet eats Eel
Yesterday (Sun 4 Oct) Glynis Irons was fascinated to see the Mute Swan cygnets on Emsworth Millpond trying (without success) to eat an Eel. Glynis said "two cygnets held the eel, one each end, but after a good few attempts of trying to bite at it (they couldn't keep it in their mouths) they both gave up. The Eel was dead and just sank to the bottom of the pond."

Personally, I have never seen or heard of this happening before. So, I checked on the diet of Mute Swans in the Birds of the Western Palearctic which said, as expected, that swan food was mainly aquatic vegetation obtained from water up to 1 m deep by full up-ending or by immersing head and neck only (dipping); also emergent plants and seeds by grazing and dabbling at water's edge, and grasses and herbs by grazing on land. It also said small animals were also occasionally but regularly taken, including frogs, toads, tadpoles, molluscs, worms, insects and larvae. But no mention of Eels! So, this could have been a first - if it had succeeded.

Glynis also found the first Tufted Duck of the winter season on the millpond.

Signs of autumn
David Minns had a flock of at least 12 Long-tailed Tits in the elder and apple trees behind his house in Emsworth yesterday afternoon (Sun 4 Oct) as well as a Robin setting up his winter territory.

Black Swan at Nore Barn
Chris Berners-Price found a Black Swan swimming around with the regular white ones at high water at Nore Barn on Saturday (Oct 3). This is the first Black Swan in the local area for some time and probably the first one ever at Nore Barn as far as I am aware. This could be one of the birds from the West Ashling pond, though I gather there are a good few in the local area.

Thorney birds
On Saturday Oct 3, Barry Collins reported seeing 2 Ospreys on the east side of the Great Deep and a flock of about 60 Golden Plovers flying around probably disturbed by one of the Ospreys. The previous day, Barry saw a juvenile Peregrine harassing 200 Dunlins at Pilsey Sands. There were also 300 Dark-bellied Brent Geese off the southern end of Thorney Island. Other birds of note included 2 Short-eared Owls, 6 Wheatears, 10 Stonechats, 1 Whinchat, 4 Grey Wagtails, 10 Chiffchaffs, 2 Water Rails and 18 Seals hauled up on the mudflats near Marker Point.

Red-backed Shrike
This bird was still present at Hayling Oysterbeds yesterday. Best seen from the northern end of the Oysterbeds in the hedges close to the steps up from the main path.


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a good time on the meadow this morning. His best photo was of a male Kingfisher (all black bill) that posed on a branch just up river from the old gas holder. Why don't they ever do that for me?

In the river almost beneath the Kingfisher was the regular Pike with the twisted tail which Malcolm also got a good shot of.

Other interesting photos that Malcolm got on the meadow today were of a moulting Blackbird, a Grey Wagtail in the river, a Buzzard flying over head and a pair of mating Common Darters.

Dave Perks and David Minns also saw what was probably the same Grey Wagtail as Malcolm where the river flows alongside the railway embankment.

Common Scoters tracked
Common Scoter is Britain's most threatened breeding duck; its breeding population has halved in the last twenty years and it is the only breeding wildfowl species to be red listed in the UK. To find out more about its migration behaviour, researchers at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust caught and geo-tagged four Common Scoters last year. They were re-caught this year and the tags retrieved. As the birds all came from a single loch they were likely to be related and it was thought they might migrate together to a similarly small area to overwinter. However, the results were quite unexpected.
The tagged Common Scoters went off in four different directions; one travelled the short distance to the Scottish coast, one flew hundreds of miles south to the coast of Morocco and the other two went to completely different locations in the Irish Sea.
All this suggested to the researchers that whatever is causing the decline in Common Scoter numbers is more likely to be in the summer when they're all together in the Highlands than in their winter habitat. So, the focus is now on the scoters' breeding sites; nest cameras have been installed along with thermometers to record the temperature under the egg clutches.
For more details go to . . .

Common Scoters are seen from time to time in winter around the south coast. I personally have not seen any for many years, however, in early December 2014, a friend of mine saw a flock of 12 while canoeing in the main Emsworth channel. Peter Milinets-Raby occasionally sees them off Langstone - e.g. 3 males were seen on Oct 14 2013. But when Richard Somerscocks moved to Scotland a few years ago he was delighted to find them fairly common in Findhorn bay. Here is a fine shot Richard got of a male in Feb 2013.


Clouded Yellow
Jean and I had a stroll along Eastney prom this morning for a coffee at the new Coffee Pot cafe on the beach - highly recommended. On the way I saw my first Clouded Yellow of the year feeding on Red Valerian on the beach. I got a reasonable photo despite the strong easterly wind.

Clouded Yellow is a migratory butterfly. Each spring they fly across Europe to reach Britain's southern shores in highly variable numbers, some years there are lots and other years virtually none. However, even those that do arrive here and manage to breed, very few survive the winter. This raises the question of why do they bother migrating if most of them perish. As I see it migration is an evolutionary strategy of the species to extend its range when conditions become favourable, as will presumably happen with the global warming. The individuals are of no consequence, it is the species that counts.

Headless Hornet
Ralph Hollins provided an answer to the headless Hornet that I found on the path yesterday at Nore Barn. Ralph thinks it could well have been killed by a Hobby. Here is my photo with the corpse of the dead Hornet being tackled by a Common Wasp.

My first thought was a big dragonfly could have been responsible for the Hornet's death, but Ralph says no dragonfly is large enough to capture an insect the size of a Hornet and to hold it in the 'basket' formed by its legs while it chews the Hornet's head off. However, a Hobby is a sizable bird that could catch and hold a Hornet in its claw; it would be quite likely to eat the head only to avoid ingesting poison from the abdomen. Ralph has not heard of this happening before and can't find any confirmation on the internet. Has anyone else any knowledge of a Hornet being caught?
Here is the best photo I have in my records of a Hobby - taken by Colin Vanner at Arundel in Sept 2013. In this shot the Hobby is being chased by a Crow or possibly a Jackdaw.

For earlier observations go to . . September 17-30