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for December 2015
(in reverse chronological order)

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Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips says one day inside is enough for him at Christmas, so he was back out on Brook Meadow again this morning with his camera. His best birds was a pair of Goldcrests which provided good photo opportunities. On the left below is what is probably a male with its crest raised. Malcolm also got some shots of Long-tailed Tits.


Malcolm also noted the first blossom on the Cherry Plum tree on the causeway and a Lesser Celandine on the river bank just north of the gas holder. There are several Lesser Celandine flowers open on the grass verge at the southern entrance to Bridge Road car park. They are certainly early this 'spring'.  

Earthstar Fungus at Nore Barn
Barry Kingsmith spotted a Earthstar fungus in the northern woods at Nore Barn on Christmas Day. It is a bit old, but certainly worth recording as they are not common; in fact, this is the first Earthstar I recall in the Nore Barn area. Initially like a pointed Puffball the thick fleshy outer skin splits in lobes which open flat in a star-like pattern as shown in Barry's photo.



Millpond News
Malcolm Phillips was up early this morning to see the sun rise over the harbour from the millpond seawall.

While he was there he got a nice shot of the male-female pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the millpond.

There was no sign of the Mergansers when I walked round the pond later this morning, though I did find four Cormorants perched prominently on a raft structure near the Slipper Mill Sailing club building.

My attention was attracted by two very noisy Common Gulls which appeared to be doing some pair bonding with each other. Their dark bills and grey patchy heads and necks suggest immature birds, probably 2nd winters. They could be pair bonding for nesting in the spring?

Here is a link to a short video clip on YouTube . . .

Other news
Malcolm also went round Brook Meadow where he spotted Kingfishers in 5 different places but only managed one photo looking north from the south bridge. At the top end of Peter Pond he saw a cracking male Bullfinch.

 Shovelers on Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles says a pair of Shovelers have been on the on the pond for a few weeks but to-day they were close enough to get a few shots. They are superb ducks and Baffins Pond is the best place locally to see them well. Numbers may build up to over 50 in winter - if it ever comes.

Farlington delights
Colin Vanner took his camera around Farlington Marshes today and got some really nice photos. One was a male Marsh Harrier in flight, showing its distinctive tricoloured upper wings and rufous belly.

Colin also got this beautiful photo of one of the Short-eared Owls that have been a feature at Farlington Marshes this winter.


Peter Pond seat
Dodging the showers, I had a stroll through Brook Meadow this afternoon down as far as Peter Pond. I was interested to see a spanking new seat installed on the south embankment of the pond right next to the old one. The inscription says 'In memory of George and Audrey Phillips - Lumley was their home'. I do not know the Phillips's, but I met my friend Isobel Hilton who was passing. Isobel lives on Lumley Road and knew Audrey well and said what a nice lady she was. The lone Mute Swan was on the pond immediately in front of the seats, hopefully one of a pair for next spring's nesting.

This set me wondering when, if ever, the interpretation board that was vandalised some years ago, will ever be replaced. It was an excellent board that I helped to design along with Elisabeth Kinloch, the pond's owner, and Marian Forster the artist.
Here is a photo from my archives of the ceremony for the installation of the board on 17 March 2000. Elisabeth Kinloch is on the far left, David Gattrell who still manages Peter Pond fourth from the left and Marian Forster second from the right. The lady at the front was from the Brent Lodge Wildlife Santuary, but her name escapes me.


Malcolm's photos
Malcolm Phillips walked round the town millpond yesterday and got a cracking photo of one of the Pied Wagtails that can often be seen flitting around the edges of the pond, particularly near dusk.

Malcolm also had a look around the meadow where he got this cracking photo of a Blue Tit.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby was down Langstone Mill Pond this morning (from 10:15am to 11:57am - tide going out and very windy and dull.
On the pond: 4 Teal, All four Grey Heron nests occupied as per my last visit. 56+ Goldfinch flock with a male Siskin amongst them.
Flooded Horse paddock: 4 Grey Herons, 4 Little Egrets, 99 Teal, 22 Moorhen, 2 Oystercatcher.
Off shore: 11 Red Breasted Merganser, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 7 Teal, 8 Common Gull, 10 Wigeon, 263 Dunlin, 8 Grey Plover, 3 Golden Plover west down the channel, 2 Greenshank, 8 Knot, 9 Shelduck with 31 off Conigar Point, 2 female and 1 male Goldeneye, 6 Black-tailed Godwit,
70 Brent Geese, then after gun shots heard to scare the flock off the fields off North Hayling, 126 flew in to the shore and the other 400+ flew over towards the Castle Farm fields. These scaring tactics have been carried out several times now. Is this legal??? -
See note on Duck shooting below.
The bird of the morning was a splendid male Marsh Harrier that was blown along the channel, until it started to quarter over the marshes south of Emsworth Harbour, then drifted onto Thorney Island.

Here is a photo of a Marsh Harrier quartering the marshes at Thorney Island
taken by Richard Somerscocks in 2011

Colin Vanner got this photo of a Fieldfare in the hedge on the road down to Southwick yesterday. That is the nearest local location I have heard of Fieldfare so far this winter. It really needs to be much colder to push them down south. I have yet to see one. Ralph Hollins reported that a flock of some 80 Fieldfare and 20 Redwing were in the Bembridge Marshes area on the Isle of Wight on Dec 15 and 30 were at Titchfield Haven on Dec 3.

Duck shooting
Colin has been walking round Farlington Marshes over the past couple of weekends and was saddened to see hunters shooting ducks from the sea wall on the east side of the reserve. As Colin rightly says this not only kills birds, but more importantly disturbs thousands of migrant birds during rest and feeding. I fully agree with Colin, there is no sense in it at all, even more so considering Farlington Marshes is a nature reserve and a SSSI. Can't the RSPB do anything to stop it? They should have plenty of political clout with over 1 million members.
Peter Milinets-Raby also sees wildfowling regularly on the mudflats off Langstone - see the blog for Nov 12. Bird scarers are also a problem. Peter reports today that a flock of Brent Geese was disturbed off the fields off North Hayling by gun shots. He asks, Is this legal? Good question. I thought Brents were protected species.


Millpond News
Not a lot to report today. When I walked round the town millpond this morning I was surprised to see the three swan cygnets flying off the pond into the harbour. Maybe this means they are leaving fairly soon? The cygnets at Langstone Mill Pond are also restless - see Peter's report below.
Malcolm Phillips walked round Slipper Pond and Peter Pond where he snapped a superb Grey Heron.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to the Langstone Mill Pond this morning for an hour from 10:10am - low tide. The highlights were as follows:
Off Pook Lane: 15 Common Gull, 1 adult winter Mediterranean Gull resting on the mud - suddenly so scarce! 1 adult winter Sandwich Tern resting on the mud, 7 Teal, 13 Knot, 29 Shelduck with 3 in the distance off Conigar Point, 30+ Dunlin, 30+ Brent Geese (probably all on the fields in and around the area), 21 Wigeon, 7 Grey Plover, 3 Greenshank (R//G + BRtag///-), 7 Red Breasted Merganser, 11 Black-tailed Godwit, 16 Golden Plover.

Peter's best sighting was a first winter Little Gull flying up and down over the water in the channel showing off diagnostic dark "W" (My third record and always a pleasant surprise, now that would have been a good bird to see for my January The First Day List!)
Brian's note: Peter did not get a photo of the Little Gull, so I have included a first winter bird from my files taken by Tony Wootton at Warsash in 2013 which shows well the dark 'W' pattern on the upper wings mentioned by Peter as well as the typical dipping feeding behaviour.

Langstone Mill Pond: Nesting Grey Herons - four nests now occupied. Top of Holm Oak - two birds on nest. Lower Holm Oak - two birds on nest. South Nest - two adults making lots of noise, with lots of "frank" calls whilst bringing in many sticks to the nest. Other Holm Oak (middle nest) - adult on nest serenely arranging sticks. Far south nest not occupied and sixth nest also empty. Mute Swan family with 5 juveniles - only days left . . .
Flooded Horse paddock: 61 Teal, 17 Moorhen, 2 roosting Little Egret, 3 roosting Grey Herons, 1 Oystercatcher.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning for the scheduled work session led by Maurice Lillie. There was a good turn out of 11 volunteers. The main task was to cut and clear the Seagull Lane patch, though this was not easy work as the vegetation was quite wet. However, it was a job well done. The session finished earlier than usual for Christmas festivities! Maurice had brought along warm mulled wine and delicious warm stollen and we all celebrated Christmas with a round of 'cheers'.

I had a stroll around the meadow during the work session looking for any signs of wildlife. A Song Thrush was singing strongly from one of the fir trees on the edge of the south meadow, probably the same bird that Malcolm Phillips snapped yesterday. The only other songsters were Robin and Wren. Several plants of Hogweed are still in flower and one of them on the river bank had several Bluebottle type flies feeding on it. There was just one Wild Angelica still in flower in the south meadow by the gate.  

I was interested to see the Oak tree that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch in 2012 still had brown leaves, whereas the other Oak saplings that were planted at the same time had lost theirs. The more mature Oak near the Seagull Lane gate also has retained its leaves.

The retention of dead plant organs that normally are shed in winter is called 'marcescence' and is most easily seen in deciduous trees, like Oak and Beech. Apparently, it does no harm to the tree and may be of benefit.
There is a very good flow of water in the River Ems at present. This photos shows the north river by the railway embankment.



Emsworth Millpond
The most notable feature of my walk around the town millpond this morning was the noise made by the Coots. There was lots of chasing around,splashing and wing raising which suggested to me that spring was in the air! Peter Milinets-Raby had a similar observation at Langstone Mill Pond this morning with Grey Herons laying sticks for nests. And it is not yet Christmas!
The pair of Red-breasted Mergansers were busy fishing together, but not easy to capture in a single image.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow for about an hour this morning. A Song Thrush was singing and Malcolm caught the bird in action. Clearly, the thrush is warming up for the spring.
Malcolm also found a Bumblebee (B. terrestris) feeding on Gorse flowers, probably not really unexpected in this warm winter.


Malcolm also spotted a couple of fungi growing on trees. I don't know what they are. Any offers?

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby braved the dull drizzle this afternoon to have a look at the Langstone Mill Pond 1pm to 2:10pm.
On the pond: Female Goosander asleep on the pipe at the back of the island after first having a wash in the far corner of the pond,

2 Teal, Family of Mute Swan with 5 juveniles, Grey Herons nesting - ridiculous and it is not even Christmas!! Top Holm Oak nest - Two adults on nest arranging sticks and indulging in some light courtship. Lower Holm Oak nest - One adult stood on nest and the other bird standing only 2 metres away. Two other Grey Herons roosting. 30+ Goldfinch with a female Siskin amongst them
Flooded Horse Paddock: 5 Grey Herons - two actively looking for sticks!!!! 6 Little Egrets, 67 Teal, 1 female Wigeon, 2 Oystercatcher, 14 Moorhen, Water Rail heard from rear of paddock.
Off shore (high tide): 17 Wigeon, 27 Red Breasted Merganser, 14 Shelduck, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 78+ Grey Plover flew off the submerging island and flew west towards the Hayling Oyster beds, along with 60+ Dunlin and 28+ Knot.
Over Castle Farm in the air briefly before dropping back down to one of the fields were 420+ Brent Geese.


Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips had a cold wet morning on the meadow, but did get a few photos. First was a Kingfisher giving a fish a good shake at the top of Peter Pond, not the best photo as there was very little light, says Malcolm, but it shows the activity well. Nearby a female Great Spotted Woodpecker arrived just off the foot bridge at the top of Peter Pond and posed very nicely for him. He makes it sound so easy!

As he walked round Palmer's Road Copse Malcolm spotted a Blue Tit investigating the nest box near the Water Vole signcase. And finally, a Robin for Christmas


Emsworth Harbour
I arrived at the millpond seawall at 10am with the tide rising to high water in about 3 hours. The water was already well advanced in the eastern harbour and all the waders had gone, leaving just a small gathering of Brent Geese. I aged 112 of them, but found no juveniles.
I found 44 Knot to the west of the Emsworth Sailing Club building, probably some of the 500 or so counted by Peter Milinets-Raby yesterday. The more dumpy stature and demure style of feeding of the Knot clearly distinguished them from the more frenetic feeding activity of the smaller and slimmer Dunlin. Digiscoped photo on a very grey morning.

I was pleased to see the Pintail in the western harbour that both Peter Milinets-Raby and Chris Oakley commented on yesterday and very fine they were too. I counted a total of 44, which was a few more than the 35 counted by Peter. They were well spread out and there could have been more. Here is a male female pair. They are often seen in pairs.

From some distance I could see the Black-tailed Godwits gathering in the Nore Barn area and so I quickly made my way along Western Parade to check them out. Unfortunately, the tide was well advanced and most of them were up to their bellies in water, which made reading colour-rings difficult. I counted a total of 146 Godwits which included three colour-ringed birds, all regulars in Emsworth this winter. R+LG. W+WN. WO+LW flag. ROL+RLR.
In the stream the same two Spotted Redshanks that Peter Milinets-Raby had yesterday, were feeding closely together all the time I was there, with no hint of the aggressive behaviour which I had noted in previous years. Clearly these were 'friends' and good feeding companions. Neither was ringed. The colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL was feeding closely with the two Spotted Redshanks for much of the time.

I was pleased to meet up with Barry Kingsmith who used to live near Racton, but now lives in Maisemore Gardens and is involved in the Nore Barn Conservation group. We both watched the Spotted Redshanks and the Greenshank feeding in the upper part of the stream. Also, present from the Nore Barn group were Roy Ewing and Maggie Gebbett.
On the way home along Warblington Road I stopped near the junction with Valetta Park to check the Sweet Violets on the grass verge and found just one flower already open! This was my first Sweet Violet of the winter. It is not unusual to get them coming out this early particularly in mild weather. Ralph Hollins even found some in flower in St Faith's Churchyard in October.

Here is the single flower on Warblington Road

Charlie's birds
Charlie Annalls had a walk around the shore Langstone yesterday and also across the road to Southmoor and identified 21 different bird species. 'A lovely gentleman' pointed out a Great Northern Diver out at sea which Charlie was very excited to see for the first time. However, her photo of it looks more like a Great Crested Grebe to me.

A Great Northern Diver was reported on the HOS sightings today at 15:00 at Hayling Oysterbeds by B Lyle, so the lovely gentleman was probably correct, but Charlie got the wrong bird.

She also saw two or three Grey Herons which appeared to be having a flying competition!

Charlie also got some interesting shots of birds on the electricity masts on Southmoor. One was clearly a Green Woodpecker. The other pair of birds look like Kestrels with a Carrion Crow standing guard.


Emsworth to Nore Barn
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning and surveyed the shore from Emsworth to Nore Barn as the tide pushed in (7:31am to 10am). He reported as follows:
"Lots of bird activity as the channels filled up with water. On mornings like this, you realise that 'we' have a very productive, over-looked, little jewel of an back-water that is not over run with birders. A wonderful mornings birding! The highlights were as follows:
Emsworth Mill Pond (from 7:31am): 27 Coot, the female Red Breasted Merganser flew into the pond at 8am, just two minutes after sunrise.
Emsworth Harbour (from 7:44am): 40 Coot, 7 Gadwall, 14 Teal, 5 Greenshank resting along the edge of the stream outflow by the town quay. 3 Lapwing, 39 Canada Geese (including the one with more white on the face), 482 Brent Geese (at least 70% of them checked and not a single juvenile found), 52 Dunlin, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Shelduck, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Little Egrets, 2 female Red Breasted Merganser, 14 Turnstone. An impressive, tight, oval shaped wisp of 478 Knot flying around, before settling down for me to count - in flight, very compact, I estimated 220+, so very surprised to count nearly 500!

At 8:15am 4 Barnacle Geese flew in from the west and landed in the outflow adjacent to the town quay (see record photo - they were "Grrrrring" so very wild??).

Mill pond outflow (from 8:25am): 1 Teal, 105 Dunlin, 2 Knot, 2 Grey Plover, 50 Brent Geese, 2 Shelduck, 1 Wigeon.
Beacon Square (from 8:34am): 13 Ringed Plover (close enough to notice that two birds had colour rings on: -//- + G//YL & -//- + Y//NW). 85 Dunlin, 6 Grey Plover, 34 Wigeon, 35 Pintail (very impressive), 4 Teal, 2 Knot, 10 Shelduck, Great Black-backed Gull. Grey Heron flying over towards Thorney Island. 10 Brent Geese. And a Redshank with colour rings, one of the newly ringed lot I think: -//O + O//GW Not easy to read with the Redshank's orange legs!
Nore Barn (from 9:05am): 2 Spotted Redshank feeding together in the stream, 139 Black-tailed Godwit (Three with colour rings G//R +R//- & B//R +GO//- & W//R + WN///-), 21 Pintail, 171 Brent Geese (none of these were juvs), 3 Grey Plover, 141 Wigeon, 112 Teal, 19 Shelduck, 5 Mute Swan, 1 Greenshank resting right up the far end of the Nore Barn Wood channel. Then, at 9:32am, 7 Greenshank flew in and promptly dropped off to sleep - two with rings but no details!

Note on the Barnacle Geese from Brian
Very occasionally we do get Barnacle Geese turning up in Emsworth, but their origins are never easy to discern as they are favoured geese in wildfowl collections and do escape. A pair arrived in Emsworth in August 2008 and were seen on Peter Pond, Slipper Millpond and in the harbour which were almost certainly feral/escapes. The Barnacle Geese seen by Peter in Emsworth Harbour this morning certainly could be wild, but their presence in amongst a flock of Canada Geese strongly suggests to me they are from a domestic origin. There are also several feral breeding flocks of Barnacle Geese in the area. I believe there is a large feral flock on the Isle of Wight which could be the source of these birds. There was a famous flock of up to 42 feral Barnacle Geese present on Baffins Pond for many years in the 1990s - affectionately referred to as the 'Baffins Gang' by birders at Titchfield Haven - now sadly, much diminished.

Chris's news
Chris Oakley also enjoyed a walk round the harbour and the western shore a little later than Peter. He noted a male Red-breasted Merganser on the pond despite the model yachts. This bird was also here yesterday, but was not seen by Peter earlier this morning. Both male and female Red-breasted Mergansers clearly come and go. Off the western shore he saw a flotilla of Pintails, probably the same ones that Peter noted earlier. Chris sent me this snap of some showing males with the distinctive sharp tail.

On his way back up Warblington Road this morning Chris saw a mystery bird which he described as . . . "a small bird, about Tit size, generally fawn/brown but with a very prominent black on white eye stripe. Definitely not a Coal Tit, in fact I don't think I've seen its like before." From Chris's description of a 'very prominent black on white eye stripe', I think it could have been a Firecrest which, of course, we have been seeing recently on Brook Meadow.


Emsworth Millpond
On my regular walk around the town millpond this morning I watched the two Mute Swan cobs aggressively sparring with each other, rising up and wing flapping. So, the territorial battle I have been expecting is beginning, with the visiting pair of swans attempting to take over the territory of the resident pair. I am sure this is the same pair that tried last year and failed. Maybe they will succeed this year, but I doubt it. Meanwhile, the three remaining cygnets from this year's brood are still hanging on, but will soon be gone.
The female Red-breasted Merganser that has been on the town millpond for the past week all alone has been joined by a handsome male. The two are easy to pick out as the male is black and white and the female reddish-brown. Here is the male. Apologies for the image - taken with my phone.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a walk round the meadow this morning, but did not see much apart from the usual Goldcrests, Blue Tit, Robin, Blackbird, etc. No sign of any Firecrests. If they are still on the meadow I am sure Malcolm will find them! Here is a Goldcrest to go on with.

Pulborough Brooks
Heather Mills sent me her report of this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group: It was a pretty dismal day, but was enlivened by good sightings of Fieldfare and Marsh Tit. I wonder if we shall get any Fieldfare or Redwing down our way this winter?

For full report go to . . .  Havant Wildlife Group - 2015 reports


Emsworth Millpond
I had some interesting sightings during my regular constitutional walk around Emsworth Millpond this morning. The two Mute Swan cobs were 'busking' on the pond at the end of Nile Street, circling around each other with wings raised, with the pens nearby, but at a safe distance. There has, as far as I am aware, not been any actual physical aggression between the cobs, but it is early days and sparks could fly when hormones start to flow in the spring.

See a 2 minute video of the busking on YouTube video at . . .

Further south three Cormorants were busy diving for fish. As I was watching them a Kingfisher flew fast and low across the pond to come to rest on the garden wall of the cottage that used to be called Tenerife Cottage, but now renamed Swan House. I managed a distant shot of it before it shot away towards the sailing club.

The female/juvenile Red-breasted Merganser was present on the pond, quite close to the millpond seawall from where I got this shot. Note the bird's typically shaggy 'hairdo'.

Brook Meadow - Crests
Malcolm Phillips spent a long time on the meadow yesterday (Dec 10) looking for Firecrests and Goldcrests and getting cold and wet in the process. However, Malcolm's perseverance paid off as he did eventually see both birds near the south bridge and also in Palmer's Road Copse and managed to get photos of them as shown below, though the Goldcrest was far more obliging than the Firecrest.

Malcolm was out on Brook Meadow again this morning but could not find the Firecrest anywhere, but Goldcrests were about as usual. Malcolm got nice photos of resident Blue Tit and Great Tit.

An aberrant Robin in Devon
A rather ghostly looking Robin completely lacking a red breast was seen by birdwatcher Rob Jutsum on one of his local patches in Chivenor, Devon. See photos at . . .


Brook Meadow - Goldcrests
This morning's walk took me inevitably to the south bridge at Brook Meadow at about 11am where I found Malcolm Phillips, Tony Wootton and Brian Lawrence all poised, with cameras at the ready, waiting for the Firecrests that Malcolm had seen here yesterday. They had been there an hour already, but there was no sign of Firecrests. Here they are frustrated, but still smiling!

We chatted for a while, then hey presto, much excitement. Three tiny birds appeared in the tree immediately above the bridge. They were definitely crests, but which type? While they others were snapping away I tracked the birds with my bins, hoping to pick up any sign of white above the eyes. They were constantly on the move, giving one little time to check the colours, but I was fairly sure there was no white supercilium, which meant they were all Goldcrests. None the less it was a great sighting. Two of the birds were definitely a pair, with the male having a bright orange crown.

Here are the three photographers snapping the Goldcrests with their long lenses

And here are their best pics. I think they were all a bit disappointed with the results, but the birds were constantly moving around in the tree and against the bright sky. However, the evidence is clear, the birds were Goldcrests.

Malcolm's photo is on the left and Brian's on the right

Tony captured the bird in flight 'beak-diving'

Malcolm Phillips waited round the meadow until 1.30 and did actually spot what he thought was a Firecrest but the light was too low for a photo. Try, try, again!

Farlington delights
Heather and Derek Mills walked around Farlington Marshes today and counted 30+ Avocets to the west of the reserve on the high tide. They also saw 2 Sandwich Terns fishing and a Short-eared Owl. Here is one of the Terns with a catch.


Nore Barn
I had a quick look at Nore Barn from 1pm to 1.30pm. The tide was already well out and the stream empty. A strong chilly wind was blowing from the south west. However, there were plenty of birds in the lower stream and on the mudflats, including a flock of 75 Black-tailed Godwits. They included two regular Emsworth colour-ringed birds: W+WN and WO+LW flag.

The lower stream was packed with mainly Wigeon and a few Teal and Black-tailed Godwits. The regular Spotted Redshank was also present, though not feeding.

There were just 10 Brent Geese, but no juveniles. Here are a few of them.

Firecrest on Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was back on Brook Meadow this morning determined to make up for lost time while he was away in Cuba! He hit the jackpot with a pair of Firecrests, a Treecreeper and a Goldcrest all by the south bridge. What a day! That was the first Firecrest on Brook Meadow since that flurry of sightings of two birds in Jan-Mar 2013. Let's hope these two stay as long as the others did and give good views. That is great news!

Here is a cracking shot Malcolm got of one of the Firecrests

And another two images that Malcolm got - probably a male with crest raised and a female flapping

And, for good measure, here are a couple of shots Malcolm took of the Treecreeper

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 2:15pm to 3:37pm - very low tide. The highlights were as follows:
On the pond: 5 Teal, Mute Swan family - 2 adults with 5 juvs in harmony at the moment. Many male Mallard getting very fruity with the females - spring is in the air!!!!
Flooded horse paddock: 90 Teal - many of the males displaying in little groups swimming around in the flood, 27 Moorhen, 2 Grey Heron, 1 Grey Wagtail.
Off Pook Lane: 508 Golden Plover in a very long, neatly spaced out line demanding to be counted! The flock took off only moments after I finished counting and about 400 birds flew off to north Hayling. 42 Lapwing, 16 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 4 Common Gull, 13 Grey Plover, 1 Greenshank (Usual G//R+BRtag//-), 1 Knot, 30+ Dunlin, 11 Red Breasted Merganser, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 2 female Goldeneye, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Shelduck with 35 off Conigar Point, 60+ Brent Geese. 1 male Kingfisher feeding from a post by the mill in the stream outflow - nice views, despite the fence being in the way.

Lacewing at Titchfield
Tony Wootton saw this live Green Lacewing in a hide at Titchfield Haven NR today. Unfortunately for it, it flew into a spider's web, though there was no spider.


Slipper Millpond
On my regular morning walk round the millponds, I met Ros Norton outside the newsagents in Emsworth. She was off to Thorney Deeps, so I walked with her to Slipper Millpond where we pleased to see a Kingfisher flying across. I also found just one flower open on a Tree Mallow on the west side of the pond - a very early flowering?


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips had a nice couple of hours on the meadow today, but said there was still not much around. He found the first Primrose (of the spring?) in flower on the north bank.

He also got more photos of the Goldcrest and the Pike with the twisted tail. Here is the perky Goldcrest. We shall need to keep a look out for a Firecrest which we have had on Brook Meadow in previous years. It has a distinctive white stripe above the eye.

Siberian Chiffchaff
Another bird we need to look out for is a Siberian Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita tristis) which we had on Brook Meadow at this time last year. One has been seen at Portland and Ralph Hollins gives this link which has photos, a video and a sonogram of the bird's calls which might find useful in identifying the species. See . . .
Phylloscopus collybita tristis
is an eastern race of Chiffchaff which breeds in coniferous taiga forest from the Ural region eastwards. It winters mainly in India, though odd birds stray to Western Europe annually in autumn (end Sep-Oct).
It is not at all easy to distinguish a Siberian Chiffchaff from a Common Chiffchaff in the absence of song, but generally it has a very grey, cold cast to its plumage in contrast to the warmer colouring of the Common Chiffchaff. Last year Peter Milinets-Raby was pretty we had a Siberian Chiffchaff. Key ID features are more prominent supercilium, more prominent black alula, fine off-white wing bar along the edge of the scapulars and whitish panel in the closed wing. Here is a photo of the supposed Siberian Chiffchaff on Brook Meadow last December taken by Malcolm Phillips.

One method used last year to tempt the bird to show itself was to play its song on a smart phone. This actually worked quite well. For songs see . . .


Brook Meadow
I was on Brook Meadow this morning for the regular 1st Sunday in the month work session. There was a good turn out of 13 volunteers. The main task was cutting and clearing the main orchid area in the north meadow which completes the cutting of all the main areas. An excellent job.

For the full report and more pictures go to . . .


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips spent an hour going round the meadow this morning. He said there was not much to see due to too much wind. However, he did manage to get a nice shot of a Long-tailed Tit sheltering against the strong wind.

Malcolm also got an excellent photo of our regular Pike with the twisted tail just south of the north bridge.

How to attract birds in the garden - update
Leslie Winter was interested to read Rosemary Osborne's request for help in attracting birds to her garden in North Emsworth in this blog for Dec 2 and offered the following advice:
"My wife and I had the same issue when we moved to Cumberland Avenue some seven years ago. When we had settled and the refurbishments were completed we bought a feeder and then several (and nesting boxes). The breakthrough came when we moved the feeder station near to a small tree so that the birds could roost and feel protected. Rosemary has the advantage of well-established trees in her garden.

As you can see from the photo we now have Goldfinches and Greenfinches enjoying the sunflower hearts to the point where we now purchase 30kg sacks of the seed about four times a year! We are, of course, feeding the local Squirrel as well who regularly empties the feeder early in the morning. We also have visiting Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits, Robins, Blackbirds, Starlings, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Woodpigeons.
The Blue Tits have nested for the last two years, this year, whilst we missed the actual fledging, we spotted five babes in the garden."


Emsworth Harbour
Nothing special in the millpond when I walked round this morning. However, there was a flock of 118 Black-tailed Godwits resting on the edge of the far channel - I counted them from this photo. They were too far away to check for colour-rings with my bins.

Colour-ringed Greenshank RG+BY tag was feeding in the town channel, as yesterday with a Redshank. The rings show up quite well in this photo.

A lady stopped by to say she had just seen a Kingfisher flying around the boats. Needless to say, I did not see it.

Caroline's news
Caroline French was in Southsea today so took advantage of a window of improved weather to check out the Purple Sandpipers at Southsea Castle. She was in luck, with 9 picking through the surf in front of the Castle at 13.15, about 3 hours after low tide.
Caroline also found a group of 29 Brent Geese on Southsea Common, which included 7 juveniles. Well, well. That's the most I have heard of this winter in one flock. Caroline also checked a group of 276 Brents feeding in front of Teapot Row at Eastney but could find only one juvenile. However, things are not quite as bleak as I first thought for the Brents.

Plight of the Curlew
I was very surprised to hear that the BTO is launching an appeal to help save the Curlew. Yes, this very familiar wading bird with the long, decurved bill and evocative bubbling call has just become one of the newest additions to the British Red List of Birds of Conservation Concern and deemed to be of the highest conservation priority.

Here is one I snapped in Emsworth Harbour a couple of years ago

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) shows a 46% decline across the UK in the last two decades. Critically, the UK holds 28% of Europe's breeding Curlew, meaning that declines here represent the loss of a substantial portion of Europe's total breeding Curlew population. British breeding Curlew are joined in winter by birds from the Continent and Scandinavia, but the Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) estimates about a 20% decline in Curlew numbers over the last 15 years.
To unpick the causes of Curlew population decline we are planning a ground-breaking programme of research, analysing existing datasets to investigate patterns of extinction and colonisation and utilising revolutionary new technology to track wintering Curlew.
For more details see . . .


Emsworth Millpond
I did my regular constitutional walk round the town millpond this morning. Still quite breezy. I managed to get a shot of the male Tufted Duck that has been on the pond for several days. No sign of any other Tufted Duck.

However, much better was my first female/juvenile Red-breasted Merganser of the year, but no sign of any male. Since this is a solitary bird my guess is that it is a juvenile.

Emsworth Harbour
From the millpond seawall I got a good view of a flock of 42 Black-tailed Godwits (and one Redshank) feeding on the green seaweed quite close to the shore. They included the very familiar colour-ringed bird: W+WN which I also saw here on Tuesday Dec 1. Note, they are not all in this photo!

There were plenty of Brent Geese honking away on the mudflats, but I did not have my scope to check their ages. However, there were a few Brents in the low water channel near the town including a family with one juvenile. That was my first juvenile Brent Goose in Emsworth this winter, though I did have two juveniles in Southsea yesterday. Maybe things are looking up slightly?

Also in the low water channel were two Redshanks and a colour-ringed Greenshank - RG+BY tag - This bird was ringed by Pete Potts on Thorney Island on 19-Mar-13 and fitted with geolocator on the blue ring. I wonder if we have any information back from the geolocator about the bird's movements? It is a regular in Emsworth Harbour, my last sighting was on 22-Sep-15.

Malcolm returns
Malcolm Phillips was back on Brook Meadow this morning after 2 months away in Cuba. He says it was nice to be back on the meadow and typically got a couple of excellent shots of a Goldcrest near the south bridge. The bird is kindly showing its gold crest in the photo on the right.

Emsworth Seal
Regarding the recent Seal sighting in Dolphin Lake from a Harbour Way house at the end of King St in this blog for Nov 30, Ralph Hollins comments that many would be surprised to know that, as with rats, Seals are often very close to us without being seen. Reports on recent Seal tagging projects show their ongoing presence round every bit of the harbour coastline with trips regularly extending to Selsey Bill, around the north of the Isle of Wight and all the way up Southampton Water. Official sources (like Chichester Harbour Conservancy) give a Seal Population of 25 or less but on 31 Aug 2015 there was a count of 28 Common Seals on Pilsey Sands and there could well have been others on the Sword Sands in Langstone Harbour or off on their travels round the area. Finally Ralph notes that Grey as well as Common Seals both breed in Chichester Harbour.
For an introduction to the subject Ralph recommends a one page summary of a talk given by Jolyon Chesworth of the Hants Wildlife Trust to the Portsmouth Canoe Club - see

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby went to the Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (1:12pm to 2:50pm - tide starting to push in): No Goosander and no Diver, though with more mud exposed there were more waders to look at. The details were as follows:
Langstone Mill Pond: 3 Grey Heron roosting, 2 Teal, Mute Swan family.
Flooded horse paddock: 25 Teal, Female Wigeon, 18 Moorhen,
Off Pook Lane: 30 Common Gull, 1 Sandwich Tern, 21 Teal, 12 Wigeon, 11 Grey Plover, 255 Dunlin, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 20 Red Breasted Merganser, 4 Great Crested Grebe, Male & female Goldeneye, 5 Knot, 36 Shelduck, 20 Golden Plover, 21 Lapwing, 3 Greenshank (NR//-+YY//-) and 191 Brent Geese (all checked and not a single juvenile amongst them).
Later three gun shots were used to scare the Brent Geese off the fields at north Hayling (270+ flew off, some flew beyond Conigar Point and 184 landed on the Pook Lane shore - all checked and again not a single juvenile amongst them). So that is zero juveniles in a total of 375 Brent!
Peter also did a Brent Goose count in Southsea on the St. Vincent's Cricket pitch on Dec 1. He found 161 Brent Geese with three juveniles, which must mean there are at least two families of Brent Geese in the area, as the one I saw on the nearby golf course on Dec 2. definitely had only two juveniles.


Juvenile Brent Geese
I had to take Jean into Southsea this morning and on the way back I passed the Tenth Hole pitch-and-putt golf course where I noticed a small flock of Brent Geese feeding on the links, so I stopped to have a look. I counted 54 Brents and among them I was delighted to see a family of two adults and 2 juveniles - the first youngsters I have seen this winter. The family were in fact, as often happens with Brent families, a little separate from the main flock which enabled me to get a nice photo of them through the wire mesh fence. I wonder if there are any other juvenile Brents in the local area? Has anyone seen any?

Baffins Pond
I had a quick walk round Baffins Pond, but nothing special. Lots of Mallard, Coot and Tufted Duck as usual with a pair of Mute Swans and, of course, over 100 Feral Pigeons.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down briefly to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon at 2pm to 3:10pm (tide nearly in, with some marsh left exposed). The highlights were as follows:
Langstone Mill Pond: 6 Teal, 4 Grey Heron & 3 Little Egret roosting, Mute Swan family on the pond (2 adults with 5 juvs), Male & female Kestrel.
Flooded Horse paddock: 65 Teal, 1 female Wigeon, 3 Mallard, 2 Curlew, 15 Moorhen, 30+ Goldfinch.
Off shore off Pook Lane: 4 Dunlin, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 16 Common Gull, 10 Greenshank up to their bellies in water, lingering before flying off towards Thorney Island, 22 Red Breasted Merganser, Female Goosander feeding with a group of six female mergansers, 4 Great Crested Grebe, 11 Wigeon, 28 Lapwing, 2 Grey Plover, 36 Shelduck, Male & female Goldeneye.
Distantly off Conigar Point: 10 more Shelduck, 1 Great Northern Diver diving regularly - the first I've seen and overdue.

How to attract birds in the garden
Rosemary Osborne requests help with attracting birds to her garden. I have given my reply. If anyone else would like to offer Rosemary advice please get in touch and I will pass it on.
"We moved to our lovely bungalow (in North Emsworth) a year ago. We have quite a big garden heavily planted with fruit. Soft fruit plus apple trees, pear and damson. Which is of course lovely. There is a big colourful border, but the plants dont really do much for me - I'm more a wild flower person than a Fuchsia person!
And I want to attract birds to my garden. As well as putting food out for them at various points I have had no luck. All we have is Pigeons. Do they need a "feed station" lots of nuts, etc, all in one place, or should I scatter them about the garden? We do have some water which will be expanded in the future. I can't put food on the ground because my lovely dog will eat it. We don't have cats."

My reply
Good to hear from you and I am pleased to hear you want to encourage birds into your garden. It certainly sounds the sort of garden that would be immediately attractive to a good variety of birds with all those trees, fruit and flowers. You have all the basic ingredients already present and with a water feature - pond - that would be ideal.
You don't specifically mention feeders in your letter and really you should invest in some. Most garden centres sell a good variety of feeders with the right food to go in them. It sounds as if you have plenty of branches to hang feeders from which will avoid the need for a special feeding station.
I would start with the food birds like best, ie, sunflower hearts. They are expensive compared with the others but are what reliably attracts birds. I have three sunflower heart feeders permanently hanging in my small garden in the centre of Emsworth and they are in constant use at this time of the year throughout the day. Goldfinches, Greenfinches and House Sparrows love them and will spend ages stationed on the perches chomping away. All the tits will also take them plus other common birds occasionally.
Here is a snap of a couple of Goldfinches on sunflower heart feeder in my garden that I took recently.

I find having a fat ball holder is a good idea and most of the common birds will have a nibble from time to time. But best of all they attract Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
I would not bother with peanut holders as they are not used when there are sunflower hearts available.
As you don't want to put food on the ground, I would strongly suggest a bird table - and a fairly wide one which will take plenty of food and birds. You can scatter bird seed on the table for the ground feeders, who find it difficult or impossible to cling onto the feeders, ie Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Starling, Chaffinch, House Sparrow Collared Dove and Woodpigeon. I think no-mess seed is the best idea as birds are very selective and will pick out only the best stuff and leave the rest. Peanuts can also be useful as many birds like taking them including Magpies and Jackdaws as well as the tits. Grey Squirrels also like them, though they often prefer to bury them for later. I also chop up some of the peanuts for the bird table which stops them all going at once.
However, please don't expect instant results. Birds will take some time to find your garden. It helps if your neighbours also feed the birds so your garden can then get you on their 'circuit'.
Finally, three important tips. 1. Always have your binoculars handy for identification plus a good bird guide. 2. Keep a camera handy just in case you get something really interesting like Bullfinches or even Bramblings. 3. Keep a list of the birds seen in your garden each week and the maximum number of each species. This will give you a good indication of how you are doing.

I hope this helps. Please keep in touch and let me know how it goes.


Emsworth Harbour
11:00 - The wind had dropped a bit so I decided to have a look at the eastern harbour from the millpond seawall. I scoured 292 Brent Geese for juveniles but found none at all.
I counted 114 Black-tailed Godwits on the western edge of the channel with another 9 feeding on the shore close to the wall. The latter included two colour-ringed birds:
B+GO - First seen in Emsworth Harbour on 10-Nov-14. This was my 5th sighting since then and the 2nd this winter.
W+WN - Ringed on 05-Sep-10 at Farlington Marshes. It has been a regular visitor to Emsworth Harbour each winter since then. Today's sighting was the first of this winter, but the 56th in total.

Here are the 12 colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits seen this winter in Emsworth so far.
B+BL - B+GN - B+GO - G+WR - G+BY - O+WL - R+LG - R+RG - W+WN - LY+RO - ROL+RLR - WO+LW flag

Nore Barn
11:30 - Along to Nore Barn where I found the regular Spotted Redshank and colour-ringed Greenshank in the stream, though the tide was still fairly low.

There were still no juveniles among the Brent Geese. I walked a little way along Western Parade where I came across at least 18 Pintail - my first of the year. Here are a couple of males in one of the channels.

Hampshire Farm - Stonechats
Brian Lawrence had a walk round Hampshire Farm this afternoon and got the following snaps of male and female Stonechats near the pond. Their presence is very good news for this new site. Let's hope they stay.

For earlier observations go to . . November 1-30