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

February 15-29, 2016
(in reverse chronological order)

Send wildlife observations and photos to Brian Fellows at . . . brianfellows at


Hollybank Woods
It was a beautiful sunny morning with a chill in the air, just right for a walk through my favourite woodland to the north of Emsworth, namely Hollybank Woods. This was my first visit for several months, so it was all fresh and very enjoyable. The paths were remarkably dry and generally clear of mud which so often hampers walking in this area. I parked in Hollybank Lane and walked up the main path to the old Holly Lodge clearing and then wandered around with no particular objective. It was great. Here is the main path through the woods going north.

Birds were singing well, especially Robins which were everywhere. I also heard Dunnock, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Chaffinch, Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon and Collared Dove. A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming near the southern entrance to the woods. At least two Buzzards were constantly calling overhead; they will be breeding in the woodland.
Coppicing work is continuing by the local conservation group on the east side of the main path, creating a lovely open space for flowers and other wildlife. The completed coppicing on the west side of the path is now sprouting well from the bases.

The Holly Lodge clearing was really warm in the sunshine with Daffodils and Primroses flowering nicely. These are not the wild varieties, but escapes from the garden that used to be here. A cluster of feathers from a Sparrowhawk kill was beneath one of the Yews. With temperatures rising I was really hopeful for a butterfly, possibly Brimstone, but alas, I did not get one.
I was most impressed with the newly laid Jubilee hedgerow which I had not seen before. The hedge has been extended to create an enclosure with several access points through gaps in the hedge.

Things that caught my eye as I went round the woods included the bright green Holly leaves and the much lighter green tufts of a Feather Moss.

On the north eastern path near the Emsworth Common Road I found masses of fresh Bluebell leaves, portending a good display in a month's time, hopefully. Also along this path were tufts of the smooth rounded leaves of Soft Rush.

Towards the end of my walk I came across a tree growth curiosity which I occasionally see where two trees have grown to maturity in very close proximity to each other. In this case it was an Oak and a Beech close together to the east of the main path.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips spent time on the meadow today and got some good sightings. Best of all was probably a Red Admiral - surprisingly the first butterfly recorded on Brook Meadow in 2016. Malcolm also got what I think is a Drone Fly - another first, though these, like Red Admirals, are seen all the year round.

On the bird front Malcolm saw 2 Grey Wagtails and 2 Goldcrests by the south bridge.

Finally, Malcolm put together this montage of three Lesser Celandine flowers to demonstrate their varying petal formations.

Surprise Spoonbill
At 2:10pm Peter Milinets-Raby saw a Spoonbill flying north along the Lovedean to Clanfield road (by Catherington Down).
He says,
"It was ungainly (longer wings, neck outstretched) flying close and behind a single Little Egret. What an unusual sight. No idea where it was heading, but it will obviously follow the egret to a quiet spot along the Meon Valley or perhaps further north to Alresford Pond. It would be nice if this was found by another birder!"

Langstone Mill Pond
Because of this strange piece of luck Peter decided to pop down for an hour to Langstone Mill Pond later in the afternoon at 3pm. He walked in via Wade Lane.
The highlights were as follows: The only birds of note along Wade Lane were a male Pheasant, 14 Goldfinch, a Stock Dove and 2 full summer Med Gulls flew over calling as they headed inland!
At the flooded horse paddocks were 68 Teal (they had all left by 3:45pm - heading off to roost somewhere on North Hayling or further), 24 Moorhen, 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Stock Doves, 2 Mistle Thrush and dropping in briefly for literally two minutes were 4 Water Pipits. Well, what a surprise. They alas soon moved on and headed west towards Southmoor and beyond.
On the Pond: Just the 2 aggressive Mute Swans
The Grey Heron colony: Well, surprise, surprise Nest 6 had a Grey Heron sitting on it, so completing occupancy on all eight nests. The nest was tiny and the Heron was huge sat on it. This nest will need building up!! The single huge chick in the top of the Holm Oak was again very noisy, especially when the adults flew in with food!
Off shore (high tide) were 11 Wigeon, 3 Shelduck, 3 Great crested Grebes and 4 Red breasted Merganser. And on the "island" in the middle of Sweare Deep were 55 roosting Curlew, 23 Grey Plover, 80+ Dunlin and 52 Oystercatcher.
In the distance off Conigar Point were 2 female Goldeneye and 52 Shelduck.


Millpond News
I had a walk round the town millpond this morning. It was a fine morning, but for a chilly easterly wind. The new Mute Swan pair was lording the pond with not another swan in sight, but seemingly taking no notice of the accumulation of twigs and other potential nesting material in the far north-east corner by the bridge. It will be interesting to see if they do try to build a nest which I assume this pair have not done before.
Meanwhile, over on Slipper Millpond four Cormorants were ensconced on the centre raft. More interestingly, a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were snoozing on the south raft. These will be the regular nesting pair staking out their territory for another nesting attempt, though I suspect they will soon move to the centre raft where they usually nest.

Just one of the pair of Mute Swans that I saw yesterday on Peter Pond was present today. It looked reasonably settled, so hopefully we should soon see some nest building.

Brent Geese on the move
While walking along the millpond seawall, I could see and hear hundreds of Brent Geese (500+) in the main channel in the eastern harbour, chattering away, with many washing and preening. This was by far the largest flock I have seen in Emsworth Harbour for several weeks. Here is a shot of a small section of them.

I recall having seen large flocks of Brent in the harbour at this time of the year in previous years and have assumed they are birds passing through on their way towards their breeding grounds in the Arctic.

Marsh or Willow Tit - the last word?
Concerning the photos taken by Mike Wells at the Queen Elizabeth Country Park on Feb 26, Peter Milinets-Raby is fairly certain they show a Marsh Tit and not, as Mike had hoped, a Willow Tit. Peter says the critical feature is a white pale spot, which one can see on all Mike's photos, at the base of the bird's upper mandible. Peter gives the following link to a BTO video for help in separating these two species. See . . . . Another feature of Mike's photos supporting the Marsh Tit identification is the slightly forked tail, whereas the Willow Tit's tail is more rounded and often straight edged.

Steve Hooper, who used to work at QECP and its various satellite woodlands before he joined the Environment Agency, is also sure Mike's bird is a Marsh Tit. He says they were seen regularly in the QECP woodland when he was there, but never Willow Tits. Steve says the last pair of Willow Tits to breed in the area was in about 1985 or 1986 when a pair bred on the south-west side of the valley at Oxenbourne Down. Sorry, Mike!

Green Woodpecker
Patrick Murphy had this magnificent male Green Woodpecker in his garden this morning. A regular visitor. Patrick is a lucky chap. It spent about half an hour aerating the lawn probing with its large beak searching for ants and insects.

Bosham delights
Barry Jay had a walk around Bosham harbour today and got a couple of really nice photos of local birds. Curlew in the reeds and a Little Egret. Barry added, "I feel, we are truly fortunate to have the resident breeding colonies of these majestic birds on our doorstep."


Swans back on Peter Pond
I was interested to see what was clearly a pair of Mute Swans swimming around on Peter Pond when I went past this afternoon. It is likely they were prospecting for a possible nesting site.

We have had nesting swans on either Peter Pond or Slipper Millpond (sometimes both) for many years, with varying degrees of success. On Peter Pond, traditionally, the nest was built on the island near the main road, though this is a very exposed position and often led to casualties. For the past few years a pair of Mute Swans, including a 'Polish' variety pen, has nested in the reeds on the east side of Slipper Millpond with mixed success. Last year I am fairly sure the Polish pen of the pair was killed in a fight after straying into the territory of the nesting pair on the town millpond; the cob remained on Slipper Millpond for several weeks without its mate, but then went. It is possible that the cob has now returned to the pond with a new mate; however. the new pen is not a Polish bird as it has normal black legs and feet. We shall wait and see how things develop.

Marsh or Willow Tit?
Mike Wells provided two more photos of the Marsh/Willow Tit that he took in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park yesterday hoping that it might help to establish the bird's identity - as a Willow Tit! Personally, I have nothing to add to my comments on Mike's photo in yesterday's blog. I am inclined towards Marsh Tit, but I am definitely no expert on these birds! The winter distribution map for the Willow Tit on page 298 of the new Hampshire Bird Atlas also raises doubts about Mike's bird as it shows no sightings in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park area.

Water Vole reintroduction
Following the demise of the Water Vole population on Brook Meadow I was interested to read that last year 190 animals were released within the South Downs National Park. This was the third year of a successful project to return Water Voles to the River Meon in Hampshire which has already seen the animals successfully breed on other release sites further down stream. The 190 water voles were released near Soberton, and joined 450 previously released at Titchfield Haven in 2013 and 600 released further upstream in 2014. Evidence, collected by a team of volunteers monitoring latrines, shows that they are breeding at every release site with some animals breeding 2km further upstream.
For more information go to . .

If the Water Voles do not return to Brook Meadow then maybe we should press for a reintroduction? As a reminder, here is a photo of probably our last Water Vole on Brook Meadow on 23 April 2015 by Malcolm Phillips. For the history of the Water Voles on Brook Meadow along with lots more photos go to . . . Water Voles

Snoozing Fox
Christopher Evans spotted this fox on the east bank of the tidal section of the Langbrook stream. Christopher says, "Obviously not as asleep, as I had initially thought, as you can see that the/she was keeping a watchful eye on me and subsequently moved quickly, when I went up the bank too get a closer shot."

Cams Hall
Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group
On a cold morning with a brisk easterly wind 8 set off to see the delights of Cams. I shall start with the plants in flower for a change. Red Dead-nettle, Celandine, Cherry-plum, Dandelion, Butcher's Broom. We paused to look over the bridge at a close Greenshank. Further up the footpath there were sightings of one or two Redshank. Whilst the groups of Wigeon numbered in dozens both sides of the creek. Teal with small flocks of Black-headed gulls and Mallards. We had a very long look at a male Goldeneye which was feeding in the middle of the creek, together with another male which ventured closer to shore, with one female. One distant Kingfisher across on a sluice, with another seen by one member later on. Six Little Grebes in the lower end of the creek were joined by others busily diving. Birds singing were Blue & Great Tits with Goldfinch and Greenfinch. The Brent Geese were evident towards the Portchester end of the creek flying about as the tide changed. 36 species seen with both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, the latter seen drumming.

On a sad note, I have read that Richard Hedley had passed away in January, and as a group would like to send our condolences to Jean. Richard guided our group around Browndown in the distant past and shared his wealth of knowledge in talks that we attended."


Marsh or Willow Tit?
Mike Wells got a photo of what he thinks could be a Willow Tit on a feeder in the Queen Elizabeth Country Park. Or is it a Marsh Tit? Separating Marsh and Willow Tits is one of the most difficult identification tasks in birding, and I certainly am not going to stick my neck out on this one. However, Mike's excellent photo shows the features well, so I am hoping someone with more experience of these birds than me can provide an answer. Mike points out that the bird has a metal ring on its right leg.

The books say that Marsh Tit has a glossier black cap and a smaller black bib than Willow Tit, but that is not an awful lot of help unless one sees the two birds together. My book also says the Willow Tit has a pale panel on its closed wing, which Mike's bird does not have. This inclines me towards Marsh Tit. If in doubt over identification, my policy is always go for the most likely one, which in this case is Marsh Tit, a fairly common woodland bird, but Willow Tit is rare. However, all the experts agree the best way to distinguish these two birds is by their call and song, though even that is far from straight forward!

Robin goes fishing!
David Taylor, who lives in Dumfries and Galloway, was amazed to see a Robin catching a fish from an outside tank. The Robin flew down to the tank and watched the fish intently. It then jumped into the water and successfully caught one of the fish and proceeded shake and bash it against the edge of the tank. After this the Robin went under the tank to consume its prey. For a full description and photos go to . . . Has anyone ever seen anything like this?


Brook Meadow
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning. Chilly but bright sunshine with birds singing everywhere, particularly Robin and Wren. From the north path by the railway embankment I could hear and occasionally see two Buzzards soaring high to the north of the meadow - birds from the Lumley Mill Farm colony, maybe?
One of the conservation volunteers (Phil) was working at the north-east corner using his bow-saw to remove a small tree stump that had he had not managed to do at the last workday.

I also met Malcolm Phillips on the main river path; he had not seen much apart from the usual Kingfisher and Goldcrest - good enough return for most people I would suspect!

Malcolm also got a shot of one of the Buzzards that I mentioned earlier.

However, Malcolm missed the Cormorant which I saw flying down onto the river. This may well have been the bird that Ros Norton saw yesterday north of the north bridge with a fish in its bill. The river is running very high at present, thus allowing the Cormorant to fish. Thinking back, I do not recall ever having see a Cormorant fishing in the River Ems before. I tried to get a photo, but the bird was moving very quickly, so this is my best effort.

I wandered over the wet Lumley area on the east of the meadow where fresh leaves of Greater Pond Sedge were emerging in profusion, but there was no sign of any brown spikelets. As I noticed last year, this plant is rapidly spreading onto the main Lumley area, previously it was largely confined to the areas close to the stream.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 10:08am to 11:41am - tide pushing in to high tide.

Langstone Mill Pond: The single Grey Heron chick from the Top Holm Oak nest was very vocal this morning, constantly calling to one of its parents for food. As you can see from the photo the adult ignored it! Other chick noises were heard from the Lower Holm Oak nest, but the foliage is too dense to see anything.

Also on the pond were 2 very aggressive Mute Swans - given half a chance they would grab one of the dogs that tease them and pull it in the water and drown it!
Also seen was a flash of blue as a Kingfisher dashed across the pond, a Water Rail briefly slinked along the edge of the reeds before slipping out of sight, 2 Long-tailed Tits were moving through the spring blossom and a pair of Siskin were in the Alders at the rear of the pond.
Flooded Horse paddock: 23 Wigeon preferring to feed on the grass rather than the low tide shore. Also present were 1 Grey Wagtail, 22 Moorhen, a single Oystercatcher and just 2 Teal (the rest were feeding offshore on the mud as it covered over).
Off shore: 44 Teal, 25 Shelduck, 82 Dunlin (which soon moved off towards Thorney Island), 203 Brent Geese, 2 Common Gulls, 12 Lapwing and 2 Grey Plover.
Out on the rising tidal waters of high tide were a pair of Goldeneye and a female Red Breasted Merganser. And way in the distance off Conigar Point were 7 Shelduck.
With the warm sunshine, the morning did have the air of late winter, with stuff leaving. It is only a matter of days before the first true migrants arrive, especially as the nearby High pressure slips onto the continent giving us some interesting weather conditions for the weekend and early next week! Med Gulls heard several times, but not seen.

Swan courtship
Christopher Evans got an excellent image of a pair of Mute Swans doing their classic courtship display at Langstone. Something I have not see this year as yet.


Canoe Lake, Southsea
I had to take Jean into Southsea, so while I was there I had a look at Canoe Lake where I used to do regular weekly bird counts in the 1990s and 2000s. It was very good to see a reasonable flock of 43 Mute Swans on the lake. At the end of my regular counts in 2003 numbers had dropped off dramatically probably due to the banning of feeding. I also had 51 swans on the lake at this time last year, so they are clearly back. For more details of my counts at Canoe Lake see . . . Canoe Lake, Southsea

I was also interested to see the Shag which several people have previously reported and photographed. It was swimming and fishing at first and then got onto the boats. It was really good to get a good view of the Shag which one generally only sees on choppy seas. The Shag is a much sleeker bird in the water than the larger Cormorant and gives a little jump before diving. When perched its steeper forehead becomes much clearer. The photo shows a brownish overall plumage and slightly pale underparts which suggests it is an immature bird, though probably not a first winter. Full adult plumage is not attained until the third winter.

Baffins Pond
I stopped briefly at Baffins Pond on the way home. I walked round the pond, where a pair of Mute Swans was on the pond and another pair (probably driven off) was on the grass to the south of the pond. A bit like Emsworth Millpond. Tufted Duck were particularly numerous (60+), but very few Shoveler (I only saw 4). A fine grey-headed Cormorant was on the island, while male Feral Pigeons were busy displaying to potential mates by puffing out their chests and flattening their tails.

First bird songs
While at Canoe Lake I heard my first Chaffinch song of the year from one of the trees. Last year I heard my first full Chaffinch song on Brook Meadow on Feb 20.
Also, I heard my first Blackbird song of the year at dusk from a neighbour's garden, which is a little later than usual. In the last two years I heard the first Blackbird song on Feb 15 and Feb 16.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill pond late this morning 10:50am to 12:07pm. The highlight was discovering that an eighth Grey Heron nest is being built by two adults. Its location is behind the top Holm Oak nest and can only viewed from the flooded horse paddock gate at the start of the path that leads to Wade Lane. Also observed from here was the top Holm Oak nest that only contained one very huge looking chick that was noisily begging for food when the adults flew in. The lower Holm Oak nest had noisy young calling but nothing seen through the thick foliage. Nest seven has an adult bird sitting already! Nest 5 was occupied by two adults that were displaying and fiddling with sticks. The male of this pair had flushed, blushed red legs. Very impressive. All other nests occupied, except for nest 6 which has still not attracted last year's pair. Last year they were the last to start breeding, so it is no surprise that this nest is empty.
Also on the pond were the very aggressive Mute Swan pair, a Kestrel, a Green Woodpecker and briefly a Water Rail swam across from one reed bed to another. It was heard singing twice.
In the flooded horse paddock were 23 Wigeon, 1 Oystercatcher, 79 Teal, 19 Moorhen, 1 Little Egret and 3 Grey Herons collecting sticks.
High tide off shore. Just caught the last metre of mud being covered containing 30 Dunlin and 21 Lapwing. Also seen were 6 Brent Geese, 3 Calling Mediterranean Gulls flying over, 8 Teal, 1 Shelduck and a Great Crested Grebe.
In the distance off Conigar Point were 17 Shelduck, 5 Red Breasted Mergansers, a female Pintail and another Great Crested Grebe.
Of interest I noted this afternoon that one pair of Lesser Black-backed Gull were on the Colt factory roof off New Lane Havant, plus a prospecting pair of Great Black-backed Gulls!!! At least 12 pairs of Herring Gulls! Numbers will grow as spring takes hold.

Tony's gallery
Tony Wootton spent a lovely warm (Spring is coming!) day at the Burgh, which is just East of Arundel. He saw a dozen Red Kites and 6 Buzzards, including some repeats. Other birds seen included Grey Partridge, Skylarks, Corn Buntings, Linnets, 2 Ravens, and one Short-eared Owl. Also, a very elusive Brown Hare and Tony's first butterfly of the year, a female Brimstone.

Southsea Castle
Barrie Jay captured this excellent image of a Rock Pipit at Southsea Castle today. He says 5 Purple Sandpipers were also present.



Local observations
Collared Dove and Woodpigeon were singing almost in harmony in Bridge Road car park, with Robin and Wren adding their soprano voices.
Also along Bridge Road, I spotted a small plant of Petty Spurge growing out of a crack in the pavement, not in flower as far as I could see, though the flowers are normally very inconspicuous. This plant can flower all the year round. It is not a native plant but it has been here a long time. Officially it is called an archaeophyte (an ancient introduction) and has been recorded as a casual garden weed, brought in with garden plants from Italy.

I had a quick look at the wayside north of Emsworth Railway Station, but it was very wet and muddy so I did not go on it. I gather from Andy Brook that it will soon be cut, so that is a good thing.
The Black Spleenwort ferns are still growing on the garden wall outside house 90A North Street just before the entrance to Emsworth Railway Station.

Malcolm's gallery
Malcolm Phillips got excellent images of Goldcrest and female Kingfisher both in the garden of Gooseberry Cottage.


Barry Jay had what he described as a 'beautiful but deadly' male Sparrowhawk on his garage roof in Waterlooville today. Barry's cracking photo shows well the barred rufous underparts which distinguishes the male Sparrowhawk from the larger female which has finely barred, pale underparts. Just look at those talons!


Millpond News
There is not much to report from this morning's constitutional around the town millpond in a constant and wetting light drizzle. There was no sign of the lone swan under the grill on the corner of St James Road; I assume the RSPCA have moved it as I reported yesterday, but to where? The new dominant pair of swans was near the Slipper Mill Sailing Club buildings, though there was no sign of any other swans in the harbour for them to be concerned about.
Here are a couple of very ordinary wild flowers that I snapped on the edge of the millpond along Bath Road, ordinary, but with a beauty all of their own. Shepherd's Purse (decorated with raindrops) and Red Dead-nettle.

Spotted Redshank
I popped over to Nore Barn at about 14.15 this afternoon on a falling tide mainly to check on the health of the Spotted Redshank which I had not seen for a couple of weeks. I found it looking perky as always and feeding in the stream, but all alone. In fact, there was virtually no other birds visible in the harbour, but for a few gulls and Oystercatchers. Have they already left for their summer quarters? From my previous records, the Spotted Redshank should be with us for a little while yet, but there is no telling in this very unusual winter. Last year's final sighting was on Mar 20, 2015.

'Polish' swans in Emsworth
I produced the following summary of the history of Polish swans in Emsworth in response to a request for information from Moss Taylor in the current issue of the BTO News. Moss intends writing a paper on the subject for British Birds and would like to present the results at this year's BTO Swanwick conference in December.

Polish swan showing the distinctive pink legs and feet

2004 - Peter Pond - Pair nested. Pen was Polish. Five cygnets were produced, including 2 'Polish'. All survived.
2005 - Peter Pond - Pair nested. Pen was Polish. Five cygnets were produced, including one 'Polish'. Four survived, not the 'Polish'.
2006-2007 - No nesting, but Polish swans occasionally sighted on ponds and in harbour.
2009 - Slipper Millpond - Polish pen swan attempted to nest. Laid eggs. Nest failed
2010 - Slipper Millpond - Polish pen swan nested. Produced 3 cygnets including one Polish. All survived.
2012 - Slipper Millpond - Polish pen swan nested - 5 eggs. No cygnets.
2013 - Slipper Millpond - Pair with Polish pen - 8 eggs but late. Failed.
- Emsworth Marina - Pair (both normal). Produced 3 cygnets including one Polish
2014 - Slipper Millpond - Pair with Polish pen nested and produced 7 cygnets 2 of which survived. Neither is Polish.
2015 - Slipper Millpond - Pair with Polish pen back on territory (Jan 25). Polish pen presumed killed in a fight after straying into the territory of a nesting pair on town millpond (Mar 25). Cob remained on Slipper Millpond for several weeks without its mate.
The town millpond pair (neither Polish) produced 8 cygnets including 2 Polish. Three cygnets lost to Herring Gulls including one of the Polish cygnets. The surviving Polish cygnet fledged and I assume went off successfully.

The swan family on the town millpond in May 2015 with two white cygnets

More information on the Polish Swan
The Polish mute swan is a 'pure white' version of a Mute Swan. The legs and feet are a pinkish-grey colour instead of the usual black colour. A pigment deficiency of a gene in the sex chromosomes is what causes the whiteness. When a female Mute Swan inherits only one melanin-deficient chromosome she will be a Polish swan, whereas the male of the same parents will be normal. If the next generation is produced by two of their offspring the brood will contain numbers of both Polish and normal cygnets of either sex.
Polish swans were given their name when they were imported from the Polish coast on the Baltic sea into London around about 1800. They were mistakenly thought to be a new species and were given the name 'Cygnus immutabilis' (ie Changeless Swan). Polish swans have white down as cygnets and hence do not change colour from brown to white like regular cygnets as they reach maturity. Polish swans are not a different species of swan, because they are mute swans.


Millpond Swan saga
I went down to the town millpond this morning to check on the swan situation. The new dominant pair were still up to their tricks near the small wall by the Slipper Mill Sailing Club, defending their newly won millpond territory from invasion by another Mute Swan pair that were in the harbour immediately outside the wall. This has been a fairly regular high tide activity over the past week or so.

As for the lone swan that has been held captive in the millpond culvert for past few weeks by the dominant swan pair, I gather that the plan mentioned in yesterday's blog has been carried out. The Environment Agency did remove part of the grill on the corner of St James Road allowing the RSPCA Rescue Officers to capture the swan which apparently they moved to the relative safety of the Westbrook Stream at the back of Bridge Road car park. I was surprised to hear this as I would have expected the officers to have moved it into the harbour, well away from the millpond. This fact needs confirmation. There was certainly no sign of the swan in the stream this morning.

Malcolm's gallery - Brook Meadow

female Blackbird feeding on Rowan berries . . . . . . . . . female catkin on a Goat Willow tree


The swan saga
When I walked past the grill at the end of St James Road this morning I found three Environment Agency chaps and two RSPCA Wildlife rescue men discussing how to get the 'trapped' swan out of the culvert. The swan was not present at the time, though the RSPCA chaps were well aware of the situation from phone calls. I spoke to one of the RSPCA chaps who said there could be another swan, possibly dead, in the culvert. However, EA did not have the manpower to go into the culvert to recover it. The RSPCA man thought the best way to catch the live swan was for the EA to remove part of the grill allowing the swan to move onto the stream. I think this was the plan.

First Daffodil
Malcolm Phillips had a walk round the meadow this morning. He saw nothing of special interest though a Daffodil just emerging opposite the sluice gate caught his attention. I think this is the first one on Brook Meadow, though Daffodils have been out generally in town and country for some weeks. They are always a bit later on the meadow.


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby is in the middle of a major DIY project so does not have much time to get out. However this afternoon at 1:12pm he managed a very short visit to Langstone Mill pond.
The highlight was discovering a seventh Grey Heron nest located at the back of the trees and now the furthest nest to the south. It is a huge stick nest and very obvious and the two adults were adding to it as I watched. Also five of the old six nests are occupied and chicks were heard calling. Also on the pond were 2 adult Mute Swans and 2 Teal.
In the horse paddock were 22 Moorhen, 2 Oystercatcher and 56 Teal.
Off shore were 1 Greenshank, 12 Shelduck, a pair of Goldeneye, 2 Red Breasted Merganser and 230+ Brent Geese. And 1 Med Gull over.
Also seen briefly as I departed at 1:51pm was the Water Rail creeping along the edge of the reeds at the back of the pond.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow for the regular Thursday work session. It was not a bad morning weather wise, but very wet underfoot and the river was running high. Just 6 volunteers turned up for work. The main job was to continue clearing scrub from the north-east corner to open the area up and make it less attractive to vandals. A pity really as it is nice bird habitat, but clearing excess scrub will hopefully encourage new growth. Here is a shot of the group at work in this area.

See the following link for more details and photos . . .

Wildlife observations
The volunteers worked to a rich medley of bird song, notably from Song Thrush, Wren, Great Tit, Dunnock and a Robin which sang strongly from high up a small tree.

I had a walk round the meadow to see what I could find of interest. Wrens were singing everywhere. The leaves of Hard Rush were standing up sharply in the orchid area and in the wet Lumley area.

A good number of Butterbur flower spikes are now up plus bright yellow Dandelion flower, shining like a gem in a sea of green grass.

Swan news
The lone swan under the grill at the corner of St James Road was attracting quite a bit of attention when I passed this afternoon. A lady who lives across the road told me she had been feeding seed to the swan for the past 2 weeks and wondered if the authorities should be alerted to move the bird. I said the bird looked in reasonably good condition with no signs of injury. Also, I had seen the swan emerge onto the pond from the other end of the culvert, so it is was not trapped under the grill. However, it is reluctant to move onto the millpond by the aggressive attentions of the new dominant pair of swans on the pond. I said I thought it was likely to be one of the pair of swans that nested on the millpond for the past 3 years, but which had been ousted by the new pair. That unfortunately is nature!  


Swan news
The lone swan with a loose feather on its right side was under the grill at the corner of St James Road when I passed by at about 10am. Walking round the millpond I found the dominant pair of swans in far south west corner of the pond near the Emsworth Sailing Club. This is where a pair of swans tried to nest many years ago, with no great success from what I can recall. However, there is some twiggy material there, so it is possible. Their presence here rather than by the bridge confirms for me that this is not the original nesting pair, but a new pair. There is, in fact, a nice build up of potential nesting material in the corner near the bridge where the original pair have nested for the past 3 years, but it looks as if it will not be used. We shall see.

Malcolm's news
Malcolm Phillips had a wander around Brook Meadow this morning. He found a Goldcrest displaying at the south bridge and a Dunnock in full song, establishing its territory. Most birds are getting frisky.

Magpie gathering
Yesterday morning Eileen Kendall saw 7 Magpies together in a big tree in a neighbour's garden in North Emsworth. She says, "Apart from the old meaning 'a secret never to be told', do you know why they gather in such a number? We usually see 1 or 2 and then their youngsters later in the year, but never this number at once."
In fact, it is not all that unusual to see gatherings of Magpies at this time of the year. These spring gatherings are apparently used to resolve territorial conflicts and social standing. I found a picture on the internet of 21 Magpies in a tree, which seems pretty exceptional.

The gatherings are called 'parliaments' and have given rise to nursery rhymes and poems about Magpies, such as, the one referred to by Eileen. Here it is in its entirety, though there are variations.
One for sorrow,
Two for joy,
Three for a girl,
Four for a boy,
Five for silver,
Six for gold,
Seven for a secret never to be told,
Eight for a wish,
Nine for a kiss,
Ten for a surprise you should not to miss.

Colin's news
Colin Vanner got the chance to nip over to Titchfield Haven canal path and got some excellent photos there. I am not too hot on deer, but I think this one is a Roe Deer growing its new antlers.

Colin says to see the Barn Owl park in the car park at the top of the path in Titchfield village and walk along the path for a few hundred yards look to your right across the field there is an oak tree with a split running up it its in the top of the split.

and a cracking Redwing


Garden Egret
The frosty weather brought a Little Egret up from the millpond this morning to prospect for fish in the stream that runs along the end of our garden. It usually perches on our wall, but today it was on our neighbour's Silver Birch tree.

We also had a a very active Goldcrest searching around the shrubs and trees for insects or grubs. It never stopped moving, so there was no chance of a photo, but it was so good to see. My last sighting in the garden was in November 2015, though we usually have a few sightings each year in winter.

Wood Mouse
John Arnott saw a Wood Mouse at the northern edge of the back track at Nore Barn Wood just before 17:00h today. John says, "The Wood Mouse was very confiding and was digging successfully for food. Neither Philippa or myself could see what it was eating even though I also took some video footage of it. When a dog walker passed the Mouse just dived into cover under the hedge a couple of feet away. Once the dogs had passed it reappeared even though we were standing only 6 or 7 feet away. I thought it was worth a quick picture or two as I don't often have the chance to observe them in the wild."

The Wood Mouse is easy to identify from its large ears and big black eyes. It is common in gardens and in sheds where it can be somewhat troublesome! We had a family of them in our garden shed last year and they made a nest behind a workbench making holes in the wooden wall and piles of wood shavings. They also nibbled garden gloves and chair covers as well as bags of bird food before I invested in some sturdy plastic bins to keep them out.

Short-eared Owl
Tony Wootton got an excellent photo of one of the Short-eared Owls that have been wintering at Farlington Marshes. This must be the winter of the Short-eared Owl surely. Tony also got this all black Rabbit - unusual, though they are seen from time to time.

Purple Sandpiper
Leighton Barrable was at Southsea Castle again today and got a nice shot of one of the Purple Sandpipers standing on a rock. They are usually here until early March. He also spotted a Shag out at sea.

For earlier observations go to . . February 1-14