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A community web site dedicated to the observation, recording
and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

for January 17-31, 2016
(in reverse chronological order)

Send wildlife observations and photos to Brian Fellows at . . . brianfellows at tiscali.co.uk


Malcolm's news
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning where I met Malcolm Phillips looking intently at the tangled vegetation on the west bank of the river below the S-bend with his camera at the ready. He had spotted something moving which he thought could be a Water Rail. We have not seen Water Rail on the meadow this winter, but, despite half an hour's looking he saw nothing. However, earlier Malcolm had been entertained by two Goldcrests near the south bridge.

Brian's news
I was not entirely surprised to see the Summer Snowflake outside the Lumley gate in full flower when I passed by this morning.

Although this is early, Malcolm Phillips saw one in flower in Palmer's Road Copse on Jan 1 this year. My previous earliest flowering date on Brook Meadow for this misnamed plant was on 01-Mar-15. This crazy winter is breaking all records!

Fresh green leaves of Hairy Garlic are showing well on the east end of the Lillywhite's path though there are no flowers as yet. The leaves have tiny hairs along the edges and give a faint garlic smell when crushed.

A large Crack Willow tree has come crashing down on the east bank just north of the south bridge on Brook Meadow. It is lying along the bank of the river so is not blocking the flow of water, so could be left in situ as a wildlife habitat.

Peter's news
Peter Milinets-Raby managed to get an hour's birdwatching in Emsworth Harbour before the fine drizzle arrived. Peter says he does not bird watch in the rain! Ice, snow, hurricanes, dust storms, blistering sunshine, fog . . . yes! Rain . . .NO!
Emsworth Mill Pond: 8 Coot, 1 Cormorant.
Emsworth Harbour: 12 Red Breasted Merganser, 301 Brent Geese, 20 Coot, 3 Grey Plover, 17 Lapwing, 4 Turnstone, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 41 Shelduck, 2 Greenshank (RG//-+BYtag//-), 2 Teal, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls (waiting for Slipper Millpond nest?), 3 male and 3 female Goldeneye, 17 Knot, 25 Dunlin.
Off Mill Pond Outflow: 11 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank, 9 Wigeon, 2 Teal, 15 Brent Geese.
Beacon Square: 96 Knot, 16 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover, 16 Brent Geese, 1 Shelduck, 26 Wigeon, 6 Teal.

See Peter's 2015 report for maps of these locations . . . http://www.peterspurplepages.webspace.virginmedia.com/EmsworthWarblingtonReport2015_Update_2.pdf

Southleigh Landfill
Hampshire Ornithological Society has sent out a request for information about landfill sites used by gulls to which Caroline French responded. She informed them that the large landfill site on the Emsworth Common Road opposite Hollybank Woods in North Emsworth, which used to attract thousands of gulls to feast on its rich waste disposal, was closed in 2007 and is undergoing restoration to create native woodland and meadow grassland, according to Veolia information available on the internet. Any further information on such sites would be welcome.


Malcolm's gallery
Malcolm Phillips was out on Brook Meadow today in wind. This did not stop him getting a number of good photos of local wildlife, including a lovely Great Tit and a bright yellow flower of Lesser Celandine. Lesser Celandine is usually seen as a harbinger of spring, but they have been out for several weeks around the town this winter where there are many good displays. Incidentally, they don't always have 8 petals like this one. I went around counting the petals a few years ago for interest and (from memory) they varied from 5 up to 13.

Slavonian Grebes
With reference to the recent sighting of a Red-necked Grebe by Tony Wootton at Keyhaven (see blog for Jan 26), Ralph Hollins agrees that Slavonian Grebes are uncommon in the Solent Harbours but thinks it worth keeping an eye out for them as Bernie Forbes saw seven of them in the water south of Thorney Island yesterday when he was on East Head (see the SOS website).

Ralph also wonders whether we are now seeing the start of a period in which Slavonian Grebes start to favour Chichester Harbour in the same way that Black-necked Grebes used to winter in good numbers in Langstone Harbour in the 1980s, though they have declined since then. Interestingly, regarding Black-necked Grebes, Alan Cox (in Birds of Hampshire p.131) thinks "Such long-term fidelity to Langstone Harbour of a group whose size runs counter to national trends, might suggest a unique population perhaps originating from a specific, but as yet unknown, breeding locality"

Robin song
The autumn/winter song of the Robin is typically rather soft and wistful. However, Ralph Hollins has noted a change in the last day or two today from the laid back winter version to a much sharper, more aggressive spring version. Here is one in full song that Malcolm Phillips captured earlier in the year.

Rock or Meadow Pipit?
Peter Milinets-Raby thinks my first impression about the small bird at Nore Barn yesterday was probably correct. He said, " . . it looks good for a Rock Pipit to me. The legs are the right colour! A funny dirty burnt reddish brown. Meadow Pipit is indeed much, much paler. Also stocky bill distinctive. And the way the belly and flank streaks form parallel streaks is also diagnostic to Rock Pipit." That's interesting as it was only after seeing the pinkish legs on the photo that I changed my ID from Rock Pipit to Meadow Pipit. Rock Pipit certainly fits the habitat much better than Meadow Pipit. I usually rely on leg colour as a key distinguishing mark.

Here is the Rock Pipit (?) from Nore Barn
alongside a Meadow Pipit from Thorney Island.

Birds of Warblington and Emsworth
Readers of this blog will be very familiar with the regular counts by Peter Milinets-Raby of the birds along the coastline from Emsworth to Langstone. Peter has now summarised his findings from 2013 to the end of 2015 in a comprehensive report which can be seen on his own personal web site. This is an update of Peter's earlier report up to 2014. He says if there are any mistakes or any new data to be added then please get in touch with him. . . . http://www.peterspurplepages.webspace.virginmedia.com/EmsworthWarblingtonReport2015_Update_2.pdf

Peter is to be congratulated on a fine piece of work with lots of interesting data about all the species he has seen along this stretch of coastline. The report is beautifully presented with many fine photos of the birds. There is no doubt in my mind that Peter has done more than anyone in providing a comprehensive overview of the birds in this area and has certainly put the area firmly on the ornithological map. It has been somewhat neglected in the past. Well done Peter.


Nore Barn
I paid a quick visit to Nore Barn at 12 noon, about 2 hours before high water. The tide was already well advanced and the stream rapidly filling up. However, the ever-faithful Spotted Redshank was present, feeding serenely in the stream in the warm winter sunshine. I took a few photos. Do I detect some darkening of its plumage?

I pointed out the Spotted Redshank to a passing photographer from Pagham who was delighted to see the bird and hopefully got some nice photos.

While I was watching the Spotted Redshank a Pipit flew in, landed briefly on a seaweed covered rock for no more than 15 seconds and then was off. My first inclination was Rock Pipit, but when I saw those pink legs on the photo I realised it had to be a Meadow Pipit. It just goes to show that one can't jump to conclusions based on what one expects to see.

Sweet Violets
My only other observation of interest today was of a few Sweet Violets open on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage. This is a good spot locally to see these tiny flowers.

Another good place, which I have yet to check, is the grass verge on the north side of Warblington Road just before the junction with Valetta Park. Ralph Hollins found a single Sweet Violet flower hidden among its leaves in St Faith's Churchyard in Havant on Jan 19. I would think it highly likely that the BSBI New Year Plant Hunt reported in yesterday's blog also had some Sweet Violets.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow late morning. He saw a Goldcrest very active by the south bridge and a Great Spotted Woodpecker in the trees by the sluice gates. Malcolm got photos of a Blue tit and female Reed Bunting at the top end of Peter Pond. It is good to know that Reed Bunting is still in the reeds on Peter Pond, hopefully to breed there. As for the Blue Tit, a very common bird I know, but I find Malcolm's photos of the bird quite irresistible!

Garden Sparrowhawk
Caroline French is certainly getting some good birds in her garden recently. She's had Brambling and Siskin, but today she had one that beat the lot - a Sparrowhawk. It caught a male Blackbird in her neighbour's garden, brought it over the fence, killed it quickly and made short work of plucking and eating it. Wow! Garden birdwatching does not get any better than this! I agree with Caroline that it is a juvenile Sparrowhawk due to the brown back and broken barring on the breast.


Garden Siskin
Caroline French was delighted to have a single male Siskin on her feeder today, the first she has seen since March 2013. She watched it feeding on the kibbled sunflower hearts for about five minutes, then a Greenfinch arrived and there was a bit of an altercation and the Siskin flew off. Caroline apologises for the poor quality of the photos - taken through a wet window and the rain.

Siskins look very similar to the far more common Greenfinches, so it is worthwhile checking your Greenfinches for any Siskins. This is certainly the best time of the year to see these birds. Here is Caroline's shot of the Siskin with a Greenfinch.

Siskin is quite a rare garden bird, though its frequency varies from one year to another. For example in the period Jan-Mar 2014 it was reported by about 10% of people taking part in the BTO Garden BirdWatch scheme who lived in the South East (ranked overall 25th), but in Jan-Mar 2015 it was reported by only 2.5% of participants and its ranking had fallen to 35th.

The last Siskins I had in my Emsworth garden were in Feb 2004
Here is a male, though I also had a female without the dark head

Seabird news
Great Northern Diver and Red-necked Grebe were still present in the main channel to the north of Northney Common yesterday. Reported to HOS by R Ford

New Year Flower Hunt
More than 850 members of the Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland (BSBI) spent up to three hours between 1st and 4th January hunting for wild plants in flower on their local patches for the fifth BSBI New Year Plant Hunt. The results were amazing. A total of 8,568 records of plants in flower were submitted from across Britain and Ireland which included 612 different species; this was a huge increase over last year when only 368 were found.
BSBI's Head of Science Dr Kevin Walker said "There does not seem to be any real indication of an early spring. Spring-flowering specialists, such as Lesser Celandine, Cow Parsley and Sweet Violet, were widely recorded but they make up less than a fifth of the total. At least three quarters of the plants recorded were 'Autumn Stragglers' like Yarrow, Red Campion and Red Dead-nettle that had carried on flowering in the absence of a hard frost. The two most commonly recorded plants were Daisy and Dandelion - which we would expect to be flowering at this time of year. Perhaps more surprising was Hawthorn in bloom!"

The 612 species in flower represents about a quarter of the species that occur regularly in Britain and Ireland. A number of these are aliens from warmer climates that may have escaped from gardens or cultivation and are continuing to flower until winter frosts knock them back. As in previous years, urban areas tended to have more species in flower than rural areas. This is to be expected: there are more sheltered and disturbed areas with warm micro-climates where native and alien plants, including garden escapes, can thrive.
For more details see . . .
I will try to get hold of the complete list.


Slavonian Grebe
Tony Wootton sent me photos of two cracking birds that he took at Keyhaven a couple of weeks ago, Spoonbill and Slavonian Grebe. We have had a few Spoonbills in this blog before, but never a Slavonian Grebe.

Slavonian Grebe is a scarce winter visitor and passage migrant to the south coast of Hampshire. According to the Birds of Hampshire they are most seen in three localities, Black Point/Hayling Bay, Lepe/Needs Ore and Lymington/Hurst. Numbers are generally in single figures, so it is far from a common bird. However, 2014 was an above average year with a peak of 35 present in mid-February.
Slavonian Grebe has a near circumpolar breeding range from Iceland in the west through central Asia and North America as far as the Great Lakes. There is a small but declining Scottish breeding population with 34 pairs raising 10 young in 2012. I was fortunate to see some Slavonian Grebes in breeding plumage on Lake Ruthven during a holiday in northern Scotland in May 2004. Here is my digiscoped shot from the lakeside.

Cuban Wildlife
Malcolm Phillips did not have much to report on locally, so he sent me a couple of pics he got while on holiday in Cuba which he thought would lighten up a very dull and dismal day. Does anyone know know what they might be?

Little Auks invade Scotland
RSPB Scotland reports that thousands of Little Auks have been driven from their normal wintering grounds off Scandinavia by stormy easterly winds and have been appearing inland in Scotland in unprecedented numbers. One even turned up in a garden, the first ever Little Auk recorded on the BTO Garden BirdWatch scheme. The Scottish SPCA has been caring for more than 100 Little Auks at its National Wildlife Rescue Centre in Fishcross. For more details and a fascinating video of the Little Auks in the rescue centre see . . . http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-35249939

Goldfinches prefer sunflower hearts
Two months into the Goldfinch Feeding Survey it seems that sunflower hearts are more tempting to Goldfinches than niger seed or other food types. This is certainly no surprise to me as Goldfinches abandoned niger seed in my garden many years ago and now hardly ever touch anything else than sunflower hearts. You can still take part in the survey by going to . . . http://bto-enews.org/NXK-3YVIN-3UEDCR-1Y16FF-0/c.aspx

Monthly pattern of garden use
BTO has a fascinating web page showing in graphical form how different species use Garden BirdWatch gardens month by month throughout the year . . . http://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/results/annual-patterns-garden-use?dm_i=NXK,3YVIN,3UEDCR,EBPJA,0


Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips was on Brook Meadow today and got the first Cetti's Warbler of the year by the sluice gates.

Last year a Cetti's Warbler was regularly seen around the meadow or in the Peter Pond reedbeds from 19-Feb-15 until the summer. On 05-Jul-15 Malcolm got a photo of one with food probably for nestlings which was a good indication of breeding success. Let's hope they do as well this year.

Malcolm also got a nice shot of a Goldcrest - but no Firecrest as yet.

Finally, Malcolm spotted this tuft of smooth, bell-shaped, sulphur-yellow fungi with tan centres growing on a dead log. My guess is they are young Sulphur Tufts which are fairly common in this habitat (though I could be wrong).


Special birds on millpond
My walk around the town millpond this morning was enlivened by five Red-breasted Mergansers, two male-female pairs and an extra female/juvenile. These beautiful birds have been regular visitors to the pond over the past few weeks and have attracted a good deal of attention from people walking past. They are fairly easy to photograph. Here is my snap from this morning showing one pair with the spare female in the background.

But much better than that was a single female Goldeneye busily fishing on the pond. This was not entirely unexpected as Peter Milinets-Raby had seen three Goldeneyes (one male and two females) in the harbour yesterday and I was hoping they might find their way onto the pond. I can't find the record when I last saw a Goldeneye on the town millpond, but it must have been a very long time ago - 20 or 30 years maybe. Here are two shots I got of the bird for good measure.

Goldeneye breed mainly in Scandinavia with a few in Scotland and are widespread around the British coastline in winter. The Birds of Hampshire report that the wintering population of Goldeneye is declining in Hampshire, though numbers rise in cold winters. In 2014 just 20 were recorded in Chichester and Langstone Harbours combined (from Hampshire Bird Report) so they are far from common birds.

Juvenile Cormorant
I also had a quick look at Slipper Millpond where I found a juvenile Cormorant basking on the south raft sometimes with its wings extended. The very white fluffy underparts of this Cormorant strongly suggests it is a first year bird born last spring. The dark adult plumage of the Cormorant is gradually acquired over a 2 year period.

Gulls galore
The only other birds of interest on Slipper Millpond were a large flock of around 500 Black-headed Gulls. I went through them and noted a few Common Gulls, but most were Black-headed. Here is my shot of a few of them.

Song Thrush song
Finally, making my way home through Brook Meadow I was pleased to hear my first Song Thrush in full song from the top of the Weeping Willow tree just below the causeway. This was very likely the same bird that I watched extracting a snail from its shell at this spot on Jan 21. In fact, Song Thrush has been vocal for a little while; David Minns heard two singing on Brook Meadow on Jan 8 and Ralph Hollins has also reported them singing in the Havant area.

Here is the Song Thrush singing its heart out on Brook Meadow


Emsworth to Nore Barn
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning 7:43am to 9:28am - tide nearly in - dense fog! Because of the tide pushing in quickly I only had time to visit Emsworth and Nore Barn. The highlights were as follows:
Emsworth Harbour: 40 Coot, 215 Brent Geese, 3 Canada Geese, 1 male and 3 female Red Breasted Merganser, 9 Gadwall, 12 Lapwing, 1 male and 2 female Goldeneye, 41 Shelduck, 1 Little Grebe, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Grey Plover.

Peter's photo of a male Goldeneye in Emsworth Harbour
This was the first Goldeneye of the winter in Emsworth Harbour.
Look out for them on the town millpond possibly?

Emsworth Mill Pond: 2 male and 3 female Red breasted Merganser, 9 Coot, 2 Cormorants,
Off the pond outflow: 178 Dunlin, 17 Turnstone, 3 Teal, 15 Wigeon, 227 Brent Geese,
Beacon Square from 8:25am: 35 Wigeon, 10 Turnstone, 36 Brent Geese, 24 Dunlin, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Grey Plover.
Nore Barn from 8:40am: 27 Wigeon, 1 Spotted Redshank with usual Greenshank in the stream, 22 Brent Geese, 7 Teal.
Took a walk along the shore to the real Conigar Point - very foggy

In pool at top end a pipit sp that looked more like a Water Pipit than Rock Pipit - alas it did not call and slipped away at the back of the pool and out of sight!

Barry & Margaret Collins saw a first winter Spoonbill roosting on the west side of the Great Deep on 20 Jan. Then on a falling tide it flew E high over the Island and into Chichester Harbour.
This bird could well come over to Emsworth Harbour. The last Spoonbill seen locally was a juvenile/first winter by Peter Milinets-Raby flying over Conigar Point on Sunday 8 Feb 2015. The only Spoonbill I have seen in Emsworth Harbour was in Dec 2002. A memorable occasion! Here is a photo I got of it on the town millpond.


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond after the rain (1:45pm to 3pm - tide dropping fast). Birds of note: female Kingfisher on the seaweed posts in the mill outflow. Used up 40 minutes of my visit taking photos!!

Off Pook Lane: 1 Greenshank, 7 Red Breasted Merganser, Male & female Goldeneye, 59 Lapwing, 55 Shelduck with a further 20 off Conigar Point, 80+ Dunlin, 6 Grey Plover, 60+ Brent Geese.
Pond: 2 Teal, Male Siskin with 20+ Goldfinch, Five nests occupied.
Flooded paddock: 9 Little Egrets, 77 Teal (see photo of male Teal), 3 Oystercatcher, 1 Curlew, 23 Wigeon (photo of two female Wigeon), male Pheasant, 2 Mistle Thrush (one later singing), 26 Moorhen


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular conservation work session, not to work, but to take photos of the volunteers working! The weather was fine and there was a good turn out of 12 volunteers. The main tasks were to continue to cut and clear the Seagull Lane patch and to strim the new experimental wild flower area in the north meadow. A small area has been sown with wild flower seeds from a local site and the strimming might help to keep the coarse grasses at bay.

A band of people worked to clear and widen the main raised path

For the full report and more photos go to . . . http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/bm-diary-current.html

The river was running high and the path through Palmer's Road Copse was partially flooded

Here are a couple of shots I got yesterday. One of the regular pair of Carrion Crows foraging around on the grassland. And a Song Thrush extracting a snail from its shell.

Slipper Millpond
Malcolm Phillips captured a juvenile Herring Gull in flight, seemingly diving to retrieve some morsel of food.


Garden Blackcap
I was pleased to see my first (female) Blackcap of the winter in my garden this morning, feeding on the fat balls. Good to see and I hope to get a male fairly soon!

Brook Meadow
I had a lovely walk through Brook Meadow this morning in winter sunshine to collect my car from Lillywhite's Garage. A hard frost overnight had left the grassland and other vegetation with a silver covering. Robins were singing everywhere and I heard a brief burst from a Blue Tit - first of the winter. Wrens were darting around on the river banks and a pair of Carrion Crows were foraging on the grassland. I watched a Song Thrush extracting a snail from its shell. As Ralph Hollins noted in his wildlife diary, Moles are now digging news tunnels in the search for worms and I saw several fresh ones on the meadow.  
Nore Barn
11:00 - Tide falling. The Spotted Redshank was feeding on the shoreline at the end of Warblington Road along with two Dunlin and a Grey Plover. More interesting was a flock of 64 Black-tailed Godwits at the top of the Nore Barn channel. The sun was not good for photography. I went through most of them for rings, but did not find any.

There were also plenty of Wigeon and Teal milling around, but I did not see a single Brent Goose. Very strange.

Malcolm Phillips was also at Nore Barn this afternoon and saw similar birds to me, but in addition got some good photos of them as follows. Male Teal, Dunlin, Grey Plover and Common Redshank.

Interestingly, Charlie Annalls also saw a Grey Wagtail during a visit to Nore Barn last Saturday. That is quite an unusual bird to find there.

Mergansers on the millpond
Jennifer Rye spotted six Red-breasted Mergansers on the town millpond this morning. This is the most so far this winter.

Prinsted Short-eared Owl
Juliet Walker cornered me at table tennis this afternoon to describe a bird she had seen during a walk along the shore from Prinsted to Nutbourne. Juliet said it was flying low over the first field to the west of the Nutbourne reedbeds and from her description there was no doubt whatsoever that the bird she had seen was a Short-eared Owl. I can't recall her exact words, but they went something like this: 'A large owl-like bird flying with slow wing beats, low over the grassland, with frequent banks and glides, occasionally dropping onto the ground'.
Short-eared Owl is the only British owl that regularly hunts during the day. I vividly recall seeing seven of them quartering a field near Tournerbury Wood on Hayling Island many years ago. This past winter several have been seen over Farlington Marshes and occasionally over Thorney Island, but this is our first sighting at Nutbourne.
Here is a superb image of one quartering over Thorney Deeps that Romney Turner captured in Jan 2012.

And this is what it looks like when perched - with yellow eyes glaring out of a white face - which I managed to get during a WeBS count on Tournerbury Farm in Nov 2006.


Penduline Tits
After five visits over the last 6 weeks, so probably 10-12 hours of devoted vigilance, Tony Wootton finally achieved his goal today - a 10 minute sighting of two Penduline Tits at Meadow Hide at Titchfield Haven. So well done Tony. I certainly have never seen one of these birds.

Penduline Tits are very rare birds indeed, particularly in winter, but The Birds of Sussex reports a surge in records of this 'curious little wetland bird' though, even here, we are talking of no more than four sightings a year and sometimes none at all. The last recorded in Hampshire according to the new Hampshire Bird Atlas was two at Titchfield Haven in 2010. The name Penduline comes from the hanging pouch-like nests which the bird weaves and decorates with Willow down.


Colour-ringed Greenshank
On my walk this morning I found a single colour-ringed Greenshank feeding busily in the low water channel near the quay. The rings came out clearly in the photo as - RG+BY tag . This bird was ringed on 19-Mar-13 by Pete Potts and his team at Thorney Deeps and fitted with a geolocator to the blue ring. It is seen regularly in Emsworth Harbour - this being my 4th sighting this winter.

Red-breasted Mergansers
A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers on the town millpond was attracting a lot of attention from passers-by. Here is a shot of the very handsome male. Look at that crest and those eyes! Who could resist him?

Garden Magpies
While having lunch, my wife and I were entertained by a flock of 7 Magpies that descended into the garden. The photo shows just 5 of them. This is by far the largest number of Magpies I have ever recorded in my present garden.

The Magpie is, of course, a fairly common garden bird. At this time of the year it is ranked 7th in the BTO Garden BirdWatch list with a reporting rate of 67%. The average monthly maximum count at this time of year is 1.3 so having 7 at one time is clearly quite exceptional. The following chart shows the average monthly maximum count in the Garden BirdWatch scheme for 2015 (blue line) and across all years (dotted line).

Malcolm's photos
Malcolm Phillips went round Brook Meadow today and got a couple of nice photos - Robin and Dunnock.

Hayling Billy Line
Mike Wells took a very cool stroll along the Old Hayling Billy Line this morning and saw a rare sight of the 'field side' flooded and frozen - Barn Owl or Short-eared Owl? Sadly, after zooming in Mike said it was not an owl but a man-made structure. How disappointing.

Mike also got a photo that made him smile, a Kestrel with Goldfinches sitting behind it which made me think of the obvious panto line!

Thorney Heron
Jill Stanley was out walking with a friend along by Thorney Deeps, and enjoying this glorious day, when they spotted this beautiful Grey Heron just standing, stock still, on a fence post. They watched it for several minutes before it flew off, circled round, and came to rest in the harbour where the tide was out.


Emsworth Millpond
My morning constitutional around the millpond this morning was considerably enlivened by the presence of a pair of magnificent Great Black-backed Gulls. It is very unusual to see these two large gulls on the town millpond. My guess is that they are the Slipper Millpond breeding pair returning to the area for another season.

A pair of Red-breasted Mergansers was also fishing in the northern part of the pond close to the path.

Garden Blackcap
Chris Oakley has had a male Blackcap in his North Emsworth garden for about a week and says it feeds happily on sunflower hearts with the hoards of Goldfinches and Greenfinches, though it has ignored the sponge cake that Chris put out for it.

The sponge cake idea originally came from local ecologist Graham Roberts who was one of the first to discover that Blackcaps migrate to Britain from the Continent in winter. But that was before the widespread use of sunflower hearts - now there is no going back!

Farlington Marshes
Dave Perks joined 14 other hardy souls on the HOS walk around Farlington Marshes yesterday. He reports as follows: "I can confirm the sighting of a Spoonbill flying north east from the harbour over the reserve at about 12 noon as reported on your blog. There was also the regular flock of about 30 Avocets feeding on the mud between the sea wall by the lake and the Eastern Road shore and a Short-eared Owl quartering the field close to the point. There were also good but fairly distant views of at leasr 4 Bearded Tits in the reeds on the far side of the lake. Black-tailed Godwits were almost completely absent apart from a flock of about 30 in the fields by The Deeps. Plenty of Brent Geese and Wigeon and also a fair number of Pintail but we didn't see many Shovelers."

Spurting Spoonbill
Tony Wootton got this shot of a Spoonbill 'spurting' at Keyhaven on Saturday.

For more information about this behaviour which continues to puzzle the experts go to . . . Spurting behaviour . This link has lots of photos of waders spurting, including on of the one and only Spoonbill at Emsworth also spurting in December 2002.

Black-tailed Godwits
Steve Gale counted 900 Black-tailed Godwits from a photo at Pulborough Brooks today! So that's where they have got to. He counted every single one of them! See the photo on his blog at . . . http://northdownsandbeyond.blogspot.co.uk/

Other news
11 Purple Sandpipers roosting in rock crevices above the high tide at Southsea Castle at 16:30 today.
41 Mute Swans on Canoe Lake, Southsea today. They are coming back to the lake!

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

For earlier observations go to . . January 1-16