LINKS TO . . . Emsworth Wildlife - Homepage . . . Current Wildlife Blog . . . Blog Archives


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 March 16-31, 2016
(in reverse chronological order)

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


Leaves and flowers
As I was walking along the path behind Lillywhite's Garage this morning and looking up at the bushes, I was reminded that the sequence of leaves and flowers differs in Blackthorn and Hawthorn. In the former the flowers come before the leaves and in the latter the leaves come before the flowers.
The small white flowers of Blackthorn have been out for some time on this wayside, but there's no sign of any leaves.

In contrast, the leaves of Hawthorn are now green and fresh, but the flowers (May blossom) are yet to come. But they are usually out well before the start of May in our area.


Early Migrant birds
I heard a Blackcap singing strongly from a tree on the Seagull Lane patch this morning, the first I have heard on Brook Meadow this spring. This could well be an early migrant as it is about the right time for them. It was a bit earlier than last year which was on 06-Apr-15.
A Chiffchaff was also singing in the south meadow, though I have heard several in the past week, which I assume are all migrants.

Two firsts
I saw several spikes of Meadow Foxtail while walking through Brook Meadow this morning. This is always the first of the grasses to appear in spring on Brook Meadow. This Meadow Foxtail is a few days earlier than in recent years, ie, 04-Apr-15, 01-Apr-14, 21-Apr-13, 07-Apr-12.

I have been keeping an eye on the Bridge Road Wayside for the past week looking for the first Cuckooflowers. Well, I was rewarded today with a single flowering plant. This is also a little earlier than in previous years, except for 2014 when the first flowers out by Mar 23.

Swans nesting on Slipper Millpond
The female Mute Swan was off the nest in the reeds on the east side of Slipper Millpond when I arrived which gave me the opportunity to count 6 eggs in the nest. I was very surprised at this as I had no idea she had been on the nest so long. Swans lay their eggs at a rate of one every 48 hours, usually in the morning, which means she had been laying over the past couple of weeks. The pen returned to the nest while I was present, turned the eggs over and then settled down to brood them.

I confirmed that the pen had normal black legs and so is certainly not the same swan that nested here last year which had the pink legs and feet of a 'Polish' swan. I am fairly sure last year's pen from Slipper Millpond was was seriously injured when it attempted to take over the nest of the pair on the town millpond and had to be put down by the RSPCA. It seems likely that last year's cob which was not involved in the fight has returned to Slipper Millpond with a new mate. This new mate clearly is no novice as she has made a good job of the nest building and has laid a good clutch of eggs. The cob was on the pond this morning occupied with chasing Mallards around.
Assuming this is the complete clutch then she will be sitting for the next 36 days following the laying of the last egg. She will leave to feed about once a day, but otherwise spends the time asleep with bill tucked in, occasionally gathering and arranging material within reach of the nest. This takes us to May 4th - the predicted hatching date. The cob may sit on the nest when the pen is away, but otherwise all the brooding is done by the pen.

Great Black-backed Gulls
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft where they have nested for the past 4 years and there seems little doubt that they intend to do the same this year, particularly as the deterrent wire structure has been removed. However, they have not settled down to nesting as yet, though it can't be long before they do.

I was pleased to meet Sharon again who lives on Slipper Road overlooking Slipper Millpond. Sharon was the person who informed me about the drowning of the Great Black-backed Gulls chicks last year when they fell off the nesting raft. I asked her to keep an eye on the gulls again and to let me know when they start nesting and any other activity of interest. I am sure they will be getting up to some mischief as they have done in the past.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 1:45pm to 2:57pm. He walked in via Wade Lane and saw his first Swallow flying north over the A27.
Also, 1 Green Woodpecker and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker with Chiffchaff singing. 1 Little Egret, along with a Mistle Thrush and a Pied Wagtail feeding in one of the pony paddocks. Female Kestrel.
Flooded Horse Paddock: 16 Teal, 10 Moorhen, 2 Little Egrets and 3 Grey Herons collecting sticks - One Chiffchaff heard singing.
Langstone Mill Pond: Mute Swan pen off her nest for 10 minutes. Counted five eggs in the nest.
Off shore - last bit of mud being covered as the tide pushed in: 14 summer plumaged Black-tailed Godwit (one with colour rings W//R + LO//-), 13 Shelduck, 1 Red breasted Merganser, 17 Brent Geese, 5+ Med Gulls, 2 Greenshank (G//R + BRtag//-),

Tom Bickerton took some photos of the Portsdown Hill Peregrines over the weekend. One of his photos is shown below.

He says both adults were about, but not too much sign of any breeding activity. Both where just enjoying the sun. The male had caught a Redwing which where in good numbers along the slopes lower bushes; surprisingly he wasn't going to share any of his meal. There's no shortage of prey items for this pair on the hill.


Emsworth to Westbourne
Jean and I walked to Westbourne and back this morning via the Recreation Ground. Here are the wildlife highlights.
Along the path from the end of Washington Road we noted the first Lords and Ladies spathe of the year, but still closed up; the inner spadix will be emerging shortly.

Last year's Greater Burdock plants, now well and truly dead, are still standing prominently on the grass verge in front of the muddy pony field at the end of the path to the Recreation Ground .

I found several fresh basal rosettes which augers well for another good show of this rare plant.

We stopped on the path from Bellevue Lane to Christopher Way to admire a fine display of Lesser Celandines in full flower.

Emerging into Christopher Way itself, my main objective was the look for any signs of the rare Wild Clary (Salvia verbenaca) which we discovered here several years ago. The rosettes of wrinkled leaves were fairly easy to find on both the Council-mown grass verge and on the 'official' wayside. It looks as if we should be having another good flowering this year, providing the council do not mow too hard.

Coming from Westbourne on our way home we made a small diversion to look for Water Voles along the canalised stretch of the millstream at Westbourne. These animals have been frequently seen here, but sadly they were not showing today. However, I did have a small compensation in my first flowering Hedge Mustard of the year. A Chiffchaff was singing merrily from the bushes, my second good migrant Chiffchaff of the year.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon for 40 minutes (all he could squeeze in - 2:25pm to 3:05pm - high tide).
"Well surprise, surprise, a ninth Grey Heron's nest is under construction. It is the furthest nest south by only a metre. An adult bird stood guard over the small bundle of sticks. Two juvs milling about (probably from the top and lower Holm oak nests.) Other Holm Oak: three growing young, will be fledging in a week. Old South Nest (one hidden by foliage): Three young on the verge of fledging. All other nests had adults birds sitting.
Also on the pond were a single male Reed Bunting calling, a Chiffchaff singing and a constant flow of Med Gulls calling and passing over (more of them later).
The flooded horse paddock had an extra dash of water and had a Green Sandpiper, a roosting Greenshank (first I have noted - had a green ring visible), plus 23 Teal, 10 Moorhen and 3 Pied Wagtails.
Off shore were 3 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Brent Geese and 10 Red breasted Merganser.
Flying off the field at Castle Farm and landing on the high tide water off Pook Lane was an impressive flock of 191 Mediterranean Gulls - my best count by far!"

Mallard plumage
Chris Oakley sent me this photo of a pair of Mallard on a fence in Bath Road. Chris thought the female's head pattern was a bit peculiar and wondered why such strange variations occur. My general answer is that Mallard plumage is notoriously variable due to interbreeding with other species of duck, including domestic species. However, I would say that the duck in Chris's picture looks to be a fairly standard female Mallard with dark crown and dark eye stripe, leaving a pale supercilium.

MONDAY MARCH 28 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I had a family walk this morning through Brook Meadow with my son, Peter, and his two daughters, Lily and Iris. Peter is particularly interested in the Brook Meadow Conservation Project as he is organising a lottery-funded project called the 'Down to the Coast' that plans to enhance the wildlife habitat of the eastern half of the Isle of Wight. Peter's project is featured in the current issue of the magazine 'Wildlife' from the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (p12-13). See web site at . . .

As we entered the reserve by the Seagull Lane gate, we came on Maurice Lillie and two volunteers, Nigel and Tony, who were busy making repairs to the path by the north bridge. This was one of the jobs that had been previously identified by Maurice as fairly urgent, so this was an extra and impromptu work session.

Here is a couple of shots of the volunteers at work

I went along later to see the work completed - showing two ends of the bridge

My grand daughters were interested to read the material in the signcase, including the illustrated map. We did, in fact, see the original painting for the map by Marian Forster only yesterday in Emsworth Museum. It is just inside the door and is a stunning piece of work! Well worth a visit. The painting was donated to the Museum by the group for the community to see.

On the way down the raised gravel path by the river we stopped near the S-bend to admire the Hawthorn hedge laying that had been done by the group a couple of years ago. My son has been hedge laying on the Island.

Peter explained to the girls the difference between live hedge laying which is done with a living plant and the dead hedge using dead materials that the group had constructed to restrict access to the river bank. As you can see, Iris was delighted to find a twig of Willow from one of the posts that clearly was not dead.

Just below the dead hedges I pointed out the brown spikelets of Lesser Pond Sedge on the river bank, the first I have seen this year. These are slightly smaller plants than the Greater Pond Sedge that grows on the other side of the meadow by the Lumley Stream.

Peter Pond
We made our way to Peter Pond where we met David Gattrell who was getting ready to cut some grass on the site to make another duck nesting tunnel. He had already made one which is now on the raft on the pond and in which Mallards have laid some eggs.

David told us that he had been managing Peter Pond since 1979 and what a great job he has done. It was good to hear from David that Elisabeth Kinloch, who owns Peter Pond ,and who was a committee member of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group for many years, is being well cared for in her home in Westbourne. Elisabeth is 92 and suffers from dementia.

Here is a nice shot I got of David and Elisabeth
on the Peter Pond site in 2008 when she was well.

David also told us the amazing news that four Bearded Tits had been seen in the reedbeds at Fishbourne for the first time ever. These birds are common on Thorney Little Deeps and Farlington Marshes, so it is nice to think they are dispersing. Maybe, we shall get some on Peter Pond in the not to distant future.

Slipper Millpond
Later this afternoon (5pm) I nipped down to Slipper Millpond where I found a good gathering of around 200 gulls having their regular 'wash and brush-up' after a day foraging in the fields. I counted 7 Mediterranean Gulls which stood out clearly from the Black-headed Gulls with their bright red bills contrasting with their jet black heads. The plaintive calls of these attractive gulls has been heard around the town for several weeks. Here is a shot of two of the Mediterranean Gulls together, probably a pair heading for their nesting grounds in Langstone Harbour.

Just one Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft, probably prospecting its nesting site. A Coot and a Moorhen were also on the raft, not yet deterred by the large gull, though this will change once nesting gets underway.

Even more interesting was the sight of a Mute Swan sitting on a nest in the reeds in the north-east corner of the pond. This is exactly where the nest has been in the last two years. What I assume is her mate was on Peter Pond.

Southmoor flooded
Christopher Evans was down at Southmoor this afternoon which he found totally flooded. So wellies will be needed, but better not go across.

SUNDAY MARCH 27 - 2016

Spotted Redshank gone
I checked Nore Barn for the Spotted Redshank at about 12 noon in a howling gale, but there was no sign of it in the stream or along the shore. The regular colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) was present in the stream but that was all. I last saw the Spotted Redshank on Mar 21 (one day later than last year), so my guess is that it has already left for its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia, hopefully to return again to Nore Barn next autumn for its 13th successive year. For the full history of this amazing bird go to . . .

Here is my final photo of the Spotted Redshank on Mar 21
in the Nore Barn stream with a Little Egret

Other news
Roy Hay got this cracking photo of a Peacock butterfly taken around Fishbourne Meadows on the Mar 25th.

Tony Wootton got a series of photos of Black-tailed Godwits apparently engaged in combat with each other taken on Brownsea Island last week. He wonders if it is mating or fighting. My money is on the latter, as they are notorious for scrapping at this time of the year. Also, mating is unlikely as they breed in Iceland which is thousands of miles away.


Wild flowers
I had a walk around the local area this morning looking for anything interesting in the way of wild plants. On my way to the Railway Wayside I noted the continued presence of the ferns Black Spleenwort and Hart's-tongue on the garden wall of house number 90A in North Street, just before the station entrance. Black Spleenwort is the feathery fern sticking out on the right.

On the wayside to the north of the railway station I found the number of Coltsfoot flowers had multiplied since my last visit on Mar 15. I counted 14 flowers from the access ramp plus a few more that had spread onto the small embankment on the other side of the ramp. Some of the flowers had a distinct orange flush which I could find no reference to in any of my flower guides (e.g., Blamey, Fitter and Fitter, Rose, etc), though I did find some images on Google showing reddish flowers. Is this a slight aberration? Coltsfoot is a native plant.

While delivering Brook Meadow Newsletters in Palmer's Road I noticed a good flowering of Ivy-leaved Toadflax on one of the garden walls, my first of the year though I realise it can often flower throughout a mild winter which might have been the case here. This must be one of the prettiest of wild flowers. It is not a native plant, but was introduced into gardens before 1602 and records from the wild date from 1640, so it is clearly very well established as a wild flower!

Lungwort is now in flower on the Lumley Path where it comes out onto Lumley Road. This is commonly grown in gardens from where this particular specimen probably escaped, though it has been established on this path for several years. It was introduced into this country from Central Europe and was first recorded in the wild in 1793.

The first of the brown spikelets have now appeared on the Greater Pond Sedge on the Lumley area of Brook Meadow, a little earlier than usual. Soon there will be hundreds.

The yellow pussy Willow catkins on the male Grey Willow on the edge of the Lumley area are now glowing brightly and shedding pollen.

Bob Chapman (who is now back as warden of Farlington Marshes after a stint at Blashford Lakes) got a special mention on last night's Springwatch programme on BBC TV as having had what they thought was the earliest ever sprouting Oak leaves.

Bird news
A Chiffchaff was singing strongly in Palmer's Road Copse; I have little doubt that this will be a migrant settling into its breeding habitat.
A pair of Coots were nest building on the north raft on Slipper Millpond. But no sign of the Mute Swans or the Great Black-backed Gulls.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby was out early yesterday as the rain moved through. Not much around, low tide didn't help. Details as follows:
Emsworth Harbour (from 5:58am): 1 Greenshank, 7 Shelduck, 29 Brent Geese, 5 Coot, 2 Little Egrets, a single Great Black-backed Gull, a single Black-tailed Godwit, 11 Teal, 5 Red breasted Mergansers feeding in the trickle of water in the channel, 1 Turnstone and 2 Dunlin.
Beacon Square: Lots of mud and 2 Teal.
Nore Barn (from 6:38am): More low tide mud, but managed to eek out 2 Wigeon, a single Dunlin, 8 Teal, 6 Brent Geese and an adult summer Mediterranean Gull.
Warblington Church: Singing Chiffchaff heard, along with a singing Goldcrest and 3 Stock Doves, 6 Curlew in the big field east of the Ibis Field.
Conigar Point - more expanses of low tide mud: 1 Greenshank, 3 Shelduck, 14 Teal, 5 Brent Geese, 3 Red breasted Mergansers, 2 Grey Plover, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls heading inland towards Havant and a Cetti's Warbler was singing from the mini red bed.
In the field south of the cemetery were 2 Med Gulls, 4 Teal, a single Brent Goose and a Little Egret.
Off Pook Lane: 7 Shelduck, 4 Wigeon, 4 Mediterranean Gulls sitting on the mud, a Great Crested Grebe in the channel along with 5 Red breasted Mergansers. Also present were 2 male and 3 female Pintail feeding on the mud, 18 Teal, just 3 Brent Geese and 52 Black-tailed Godwits.
Little Owl in its usual tree and 16 Mediterranean Gulls feeding in the field next to the owl tree.
The flooded horse paddocks held 13 Teal, 14 Moorhen, 3 Wigeon, 2 Long-tailed Tits and a Grey Heron.
Langstone Mill Pond (from 8am): 3 Med Gulls flying over, 2 Chiffchaff seen (plus one singing merrily - the only hint of the approaching summer), 8 Little Egrets roosting (first I've seen on the pond for a month or two), Water Rail briefly at the edge of the reed bed and the Mute Swan pen was asleep on her nest (could be sitting at long last). There were just 7 Mallard present (being chased by the cob Mute Swan, so the pond felt deserted!
The Grey Heron Colony: South Nest: Hidden by foliage, but contains three nearly fledged chicks who were busy flapping their wings a lot this morning. Lower Holm Oak: Large chick being fed by adult. Other Holm Oak: Three young seen.

Neapolitan Garlic
Ralph Hollins had a look at the Garlic plants growing beside the narrow path down to the Langstone shore between the Langstone Cutters boat park on the west side of the Lymbourne stream and the Royal Oak, which I recorded in this blog on Mar 22. Ralph says, "I have long been aware of these plants but had never bothered to name them. They are, I now recognize, all Neapolitan Garlic and have presumably spread from the Millstream Cottage garden on the west side of the path".
Here is my photo of the plants from Mar 22. Note the flowers do not hang down like those of Three-cornered Garlic.

Squirrel with apple
Chris Oakley sent me a 'cute picture for a dull day' He says, "We have two squirrels that use the trees opposite our house and we have been feeding them on peanuts but today one of them found a discarded apple. He couldn't manage all of it but he made a good try."

Colin's gallery
Colin Vanner sent me a few of his latest snaps which included these two crackers! The Weasel was from Farlington and the Dartford Warbler from Warsash.

FRIDAY MARCH 25 - 2016

Spring in the air
It really felt like spring today, warm sunshine but with a hint of chill to remind us it is still March. Butterflies have been fairly scarce so far this year, but this morning I had a male Brimstone and a Small White flying though the garden. A Bluebottle fly has been buzzing around the house until I finally managed to shoo it through the open window.
Chris Oakley has also had some spring sightings with his first Bee-fly on Wednesday, a Brimstone today, Buff and Orange-tailed Bumblebees, plus a couple of 7-spot Ladybirds and a Lilly Beetle.
On the bird front I have seen Dunnocks collecting nesting material while Chris has a Blackbird collecting worms, maybe for nestlings.
Meanwhile, over in Havant, Christopher Evans got a good view of the 'tame' Water Rail at Langstone Mill Pond, where he thought he could see two eggs in the swan's nest, though the view of the nest is very limited. Later Christopher got a nice shot of a Water Vole nibbling away at some vegetation in the pond just north of the waterwheel by Tesco. Here are Christopher's photos.


Bee Orchids saved!
This morning at 10am I met up with Jayne Lake from Havant Borough Council to establish the location of the Bee Orchid plants on the grass verge near the Warblington roundabout which were inadvertently cut down last year by the Council workers. I knew roughly their location as they were seen and photographed on 8th June last year by Di Ashe - Di thought there were 50-60 flowers in bloom. Here is one of Di's photos of the orchids on the Warblington verge from last year.

Jayne and I easily found the distinctive fresh Orchid leaves a short distance to the east of the slip road from the A27.

Jayne thought the cutters could easily avoid them while still cutting the verge on the edge of the road, to provide clear vision for drivers. We walked along the rest of the grass verge, but saw no other signs of Bee Orchids.

The site of the Bee Orchids on the roadside verge at Warblington

Spotted Redshank gone?
I paid two visits to Nore Barn to check on the Spotted Redshank, once at 9.45am before meeting Jayne and again at 11am after meeting her. The tide was rising to high water at about 12 noon. On both occasions the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) was present along with a Common Redshank, but there was no sign of the Spotted Redshank. This could indicate the departure of the Spotted Redshank for its breeding grounds, but I will check again over the Easter weekend.

Yew pollen
From the Warblington roundabout I went down Church Lane mainly to have a look at the Yew trees in the churchyard which Ralph Hollins said were full of pollen. There are several male Yews in the Warblington Churchyard all of which are laden with swollen pollen sacs. One only has to touch a branch for clouds of pollen to be released into the air. Quite dramatic if you have not seen it before! I tried to capture the pollen cloud in this photo.

Wood-rush correction
I am grateful to Martin Rand for pointing out that the Field Wood-rush I reported from Hollybank Woods on March 22, is likely to be Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri). In fact, Martin pointed out that I provided him with evidence of this plant in Hollybank Woods in April 2014, a fact I had completely forgotten about. I have looked it up in my records and I did find what was subsequently confirmed by Martin as Southern Wood-rush on April 23, 2014, growing in exactly the same place along the main track through Hollybank Woods as the plants this week. So, I think that really clinches it. I should really have remembered this as Martin informed me that this was a first record of Luzula forsteri for this tetrad.
Here is my photo of the 2014 plant (on the left) compared with the one I found this year (on the right). The 2014 photo was taken about a month later than this year's one and is more fully developed, but the similarities are clear to see. However, I am a little puzzled by the long bract subtending the spikelets in this year's plant.

Interestingly, I also found some Southern Wood-rush in a different location on May 12, 2014. This was growing on a grass verge a few metres west of the Greville Green wayside at Grid Ref: SU 7437 0750. I shall have to check this spot to see if it has come up again.

Firecrests galore!
Martin Hampton says he is in full agreement with Caroline French's statement in last night's blog about Firecrests - ie 'they are everywhere'! Martin says, "Although not in my immediate vicinity, I heard lots of singing individuals on a long walk from Funtington to Rowlands Castle last weekend, including three along 'Brownhill Lane', the path leading up to Kingley Vale, one in the Yews in the NNR itself (though many more Goldcrests here), one in Inholmes Wood, and one in Lordington Copse. In any decent area of inland woodland especially that includes Holly and Ivy-clad trunks I now sort of expect to encounter them - a delightful change from, say, twenty years ago".
Martin adds that his brother Tim who lives in Petersfield also encounters quite a few in the various hanger woodlands near that town.


Firecrests galore!
Caroline French heard a Firecrest singing today (as she did yesterday also) along the Horndean Road just south of the junction with Woodlands Avenue. Caroline has got good, sharp hearing. Lucky lady for I am no longer able to hear this very high frequency song.
However, Caroline went on to say . . . "They are everywhere now!" When I queried this statement Caroline confirmed . . . "I just find that they are almost everywhere I go, given suitable habitat. I think they are overlooked because people don't always hear them. I have been at the Red Lion at Chalton a couple of times recently and there has been one singing there (outside, not in!). Also in the woods at Queen Elizabeth Country Park. I frequently hear them, but of course they are difficult to spot if you're unable to pick up the song or call."
Has anyone else heard or seen Firecrests in the local area? We did, of course, have one on Brook Meadow last winter, but it has not been seen (or heard) this year so far. We need Caroline to pay a visit.   

Here is one that Peter Milinets-Raby photographed in the act of singing in Feb 2014.
Can you hear it?

Fighting Coots
Brian Lawrence had a walk around Petersfield lake yesterday and there was plenty of mating activity going on especially among the Coots. He attached a photo of two of them having a right old scrap.



Hollybank Woods
I decided to go to the woods this morning mainly to look for butterflies and migrant birds. I found the first - 3 Brimstones - but not the second. I stopped off briefly at the Horndean Road traffic island where I found my first Common Stork's-bill of the year.


It was here that I met Ralph Hollins who was on his bike on his way to Hollybank to look for a Squill on Longcopse Hill. I met up with him again at the top of Hollybank Lane and we walked a little way into the woods together as far as the main Bluebell area. There were just a few Bluebells showing, but nothing like the display at Ashling Wood last week. Ralph carried on towards Longcopse Hill, while I turned back.
On the way down the main track I discovered a few tufts of Field Wood-rush on the side of the track along with some excellent cushions of Bank Haircap moss.

CORRECTION - The wood-rush is Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri) - see blog for Mar 24th.

The white flower spikes of Cherry Laurel were out on the track from Hollybank Lane attracting a huge queen Bumblebee while I was there, but I could not get a shot of it.


Jean and I went over to Langstone for lunch in the Royal Oak. The tide was falling and we could see a couple of dozen or so Brent Geese on the emerging mudflats. After lunch we had a walk round the perimeter of Wade Court where we noted a good population of Wigeon and Teal on the flooded horse field that Peter Milinets-Raby writes about in his surveys. I did not see the Heronry - I must have been looking in the wrong place!
On the way back along the footpath from the large field to the mill we came across a line of white garlic flowers by the wooden fence near the pond which I assume were the Neapolitan Garlic that Ralph Hollins and Peter Milinets-Raby referred to in recent discussions on this blog. As shown in the photo, the Langstone flowers do not hang down like those of Three-cornered Garlic but the petals do seem to have fine green lines on both sides. I am not sure what that makes them!


Butterbur count
Yesterday (Mar 21) I carried out the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes on Brook Meadow. I counted a total of 589 spikes which slightly down on last year's count of 792 and continues the downward trend over the past 3 years. However, the count is still fairly high in comparison with the counts before 2010 as shown in the following chart.

As in previous years the area immediately beneath the seat harbours the bulk of the flower spikes. This year 90% of the spikes were in this area which is the same proportion as last year, though the proportion has been rising steadily from 50% in 2010. I recall when I first started counting about 16 years ago almost all the spikes were to be found along the river banks with hardly any in the area below the seat, but recently the balance has completely turned around. I have no idea why this is the case, though it must have something to do with the ground conditions which allow the plants to spread by underground rhizomes in this area in comparison with the others.
Summary of counts: Main area below seat = 530. East causeway = 22 - all on the north side. River bank n and s of sluice = 24. South meadow = 13. Total = 589

A view of the main Butterbur area below the seat

Witch's Butter
Chris Oakley got a picture of a Great Tit apparently inspecting a lump of Witch's Butter, a fungus I am not familiar with so thanks for that. Chris says the bird was one of a pair looking for a nesting hole in a damaged Ash tree.

MONDAY MARCH 21 - 2016

Bird news
The weather was decidedly mild when I poked my head out of the door this morning, almost spring-like. This prompted me to go looking and listening for any signs of early migrants in the local area.
The Blackcap singing from a neighbour's garden this morning is likely to be the one that has been wintering in the local area and not a summer migrant. I would expect to hear a migrant Blackcap in suitable breeding habitat, like Brook Meadow or Hollybank Woods.
The same doubts are raised over the Chiffchaff that I heard singing in the south meadow of Brook Meadow this morning. It certainly could have been a migrant, it was the first Chiffchaff song of the year on Brook Meadow, but we have had some wintering Chiffchaffs in the area and this could have been one trying out its voice.
I also walked through Nore Barn Woods this afternoon without hearing any migrants.

Wild flowers
I found a good growth of Sticky Mouse-ear (Cerastium glomeratum) on the southern entrance grass verge to Bridge Road car park. Sticky, glandular-hairy. Flowers in dense compact terminal heads, rarely opening fully. In Common Mouse-ear the flowers are in more open heads and do open. Leaves slightly yellowish.

Common Whitlowgrass is now flowering well on the A259 roadside in Emsworth to the east of the pedestrian crossing. This is a tiny plant with a cluster of white flowers with deeply cleft petals and leaves all in a basal rosette. Pods which are visible on the photo are flattened oval shaped. This is not to be confused with the Common Chickweed which is flowering nearby.

Spotted Redshank
I went over to Nore Barn at about 1pm with tide falling to check on the Spotted Redshank. It was already present in the stream along with a Little Egret. The Spotted Redshank has now exceeded last year's last sighting date of Mar 20.

Slipper Millpond
One Mute Swan was on the pond this afternoon - on the eastern side near the reeds where the swans have nested in previous years. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the south raft as usual. Maybe they have been put off the centre raft by their bad experience last year when their chicks were drowned. A Red Admiral flew past me while I was looking at the gulls.

Neapolitan Garlic versus Three-cornered Garlic
Ralph Hollins queried my identification of Patrick Murphy's photo of the flowers in his driveway (in yesterday's blog) as Three-cornered Garlic, saying they looked more like Neapolitan Garlic; the green lines on the petals seemed to be all internal, not external and the flowers did not hang down as they would do with Three-cornered Garlic.

I went over to Christopher Way this afternoon to check on Patrick's flowers for myself but was dismayed to find that he had, this very morning, cut them all down and sprayed them with weed killer on the advice of a neighbour who told him they were very invasive!
I managed to retrieve one rather battered specimen which appeared to have green lines on both sides of the petals, but it was very unclear. Clearly, just what plant it was is now all rather academic as the plants are destroyed. However, the habitat on the edge of gardens, was similar to that where I have seen other examples of Three-cornered Garlic - e.g. in Warblington Road. While I was at Nore Barn this morning I checked on the Three-cornered Garlic plants in that area and all had green lines on both sides of the petals and the flowers drooped to one side, ie they were Three-cornered Garlic. Here is one of them.

The only recent example of Neapolitan Garlic that I have come across was the one photographed by Peter Milinets-Raby during a bird survey at Langstone Mill Pond on mar 17. Peter said it was found and identified by 'two guys with big flower books'. Ralph Hollins is familiar with the Langstone plant and will be checking it again but is inclined towards Neapolitan Garlic.

For the record here is Ralphs summary of the main differences between the Neapolitan (NP) and Three Cornered (TQ) species from Stace's Flora:
Height TQ - 45 cm, triangular with very sharp angles
NP - height 50 cm, triangular with 2 angles much sharper than the third
Leaves TQ - flat, scarcely keeled, 4-12mm wide
NP - flat, keeled, 5-20mm wide
Flowers TQ - Tepals 10-18mm, white with strong green line,
NP - Tepals 7-12mm, white
Stace also says TQ has a one sided umbel with pendent flowers that never open more than 45 degrees - this implies that NP has an 'all round' umbel and that its flowers open wide and do not hang down.

Petersfield Lake
Mike Wells had a pleasant stroll around Petersfield Lake this morning and sent a selection of photos. The swan is clearly engaged in nest building. Mike also crept up on a very handsome Great Crested Grebe.

Norfolk Estate
Caroline and Ray French had a trip to the Norfolk Estate at Arundel today. They were surprised to have good views of a Barn Owl hunting in the middle of the day in bright sunshine. Even better, it landed on a fence post quite nearby allowing Caroline to get a cracking photo. Other sightings included a flock of about 20 Corn Buntings, several pairs of Grey Partridges (see photo) and Lapwings, and a few Brown Hares.

Ringed Mediterranean Gull
Peter Milinets-Raby has had a reply about the Mediterranean Gull that he saw at Warblington yesterday sporting a white ring on its left leg labelled "35T4". The bird was ringed in Belgium as a pullus in 2008 which means it is now 8 years old. It has been seen subsequently in France and Spain as well as in Titchfield Haven and now Warblington in this country.

SUNDAY MARCH 20 - 2016

Great Black-backed Gulls
Tony Wootton alerted me to the fact that the two Great Black-backed Gulls were back on Slipper Millpond early this morning. I went down later to check and they were still there on the south raft, not on the centre raft where they have nested for the past four years. There is not much room on the south raft, so I suspect they will move to the centre raft when they are ready to nest, which will not be for a few weeks yet on past experience.

Mute Swans
There has been a pair of Mute Swans on the Peter Pond-Slipper Millpond complex for a few weeks and I have been hopeful that they will be nesting there. On Saturday morning Chris Oakley saw the pair mating on Slipper Millpond which augers well for breeding. Let's hope they do better than last year's pair, the pen of which was fatally injured when she foolishly attempted to take over the nest site of the pair on the town millpond. It is likely that the cob of that pair, which remained in the pond for several weeks after losing its mate, has returned with a new mate.

Coot nest
Chris Oakley was puzzled by the twig nest that has appeared in the middle of the town millpond and wonders if it could be a Coot nest as he saw a pair displaying nearby.

Yes, Chris, it certainly is a Coot nest, though the chances of it being successful are fairly low. Coot often build nests on the local millponds where the water level is low. However, the nests are invariably swamped when the water level rises. In contrast, the Coot that build their nests on the Slipper Millpond rafts are far more sensible as they are not vulnerable to changes in water level.

Punk Pigeon
Chris Oakley's 'punk Pigeon' is still with them. Chris reports, "On Friday it was just moping around, looking very sorry for itself. I would guess it may have survived a hawk attack by the damage to the neck. Yesterday, we put out food for it including some blueberries and it started feeding. Today, it spends most of the time feeding but never moves far away. Unfortunately its favourite perch is the washing line overlooking the feed tray which has necessitated some re-washing."

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley has been told that the handover of Hampshire Farm will now be after Easter. The developers have to do some tidying up around the paths and remove all the remaining barriers. I see the barriers at the entrance from Westbourne Road have already gone and people are using it. It looks a bit risky as the entrance leads straight onto the main road.

Invasive plants?
Patrick Murphy asks if I can identify a plant from attached photo. He said it is quite invasive and has spread all along a narrow strip which runs alongside the drive up to his garage.

This looks like Three-cornered Garlic the flowers of which have a distinctive fine green stripe running down the centre of each petal. Its stems are also sharply triangular and smells faintly of garlic. I would not think it is a plant to be concerned about, but rather one to enjoy. It was introduced into gardens from the Mediterranean in 1759 and is well naturalised and increasing. I like it.

Warblington shore birds
Peter Milinets-Raby was up early this morning to go for a walk along the Warblington shore. Here is the report: "It was a very pavement grey day, bland beyond words. I started at Warblington Church at 6:06am (supposedly sunrise, but no noticeable change in the light! Finished at 8:46am).
During the first 10 minutes 45 ghostly looking Mediterranean Gulls flew north inland, calling as they did so (groups of 12, 5, 6, 2, 14 and 6). No migrants in the Ibis Field. A Cetti's Warbler was singing from the mini reed bed behind Conigar Point.
Off Conigar Point: 22 Teal, 15 Pintail (6 males in fine plumage), 2 Wigeon, 4 Shelduck, 206 Brent Geese, 6 Red breasted Mergansers, a Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Egrets, a single Greenshank and one Grey Plover.
And, in amongst 97 Dunlin, I was surprised to find the lingering winter plumaged Curlew Sandpiper (see on right in photo). As the tide pushed in the flock flew off towards Thorney Island.

In the field south of the cemetery were more Mediterranean Gulls, 31 of them feeding (just about 10 Black-headed Gulls amongst them). All were adults in full summer plumage except for one 1st summer and one adult winter (see photo) One of the summer plumaged birds had a White ring on its left leg with "35T4". In the same field in the small puddle were 4 Wigeon.

Off Pook Lane: 29 Shelduck, a single Great Crested Grebe (summer plumage), 22 Wigeon, 132 Brent Geese, a single Greenshank (with colour rings RG//- + YY//-), 55 Teal, 3 Common Gulls, 9 Red breasted Mergansers, 2 Grey Plover and 9 Black-tailed Godwits (all in summer plumage). A Buzzard was perched in the huge pine along the Pook Lane track.
Flooded Horse Paddock: A Green Woodpecker, 4 Teal, 14 Moorhen, 2 Mistle Thrush, a juvenile Grey Heron and a briefly singing Chiffchaff was heard.
Langstone Mill Pond: Grey Heron colony: South Nest: Three blobs (presumed juvs) standing up in the nest (foliage cover makes it almost impossible to see any detail). Other Holm Oak: Two chicks seen. Seventh Nest: Two adults swapping over and looking as if there are tiny chicks it the nest - faint calls heard. Lower Holm Oak: Juvenile from Paddock pestered the adult on this nest for food. Mute Swan pair just loitering on the pond, with two other Mute Swans just off shore by the Pub, being brave!
Pook Lane track: Male Pheasant, 2 Stock Dove. Little Owl seen in the large Oak north of the main Pook Lane tarmac road (see photo) and 7 Little Egrets feeding amongst cattle in the field even further north. The other big surprise of the morning was seeing 44 Redwing feeding in the field next to the Castle Farm Barn.

Wood Anemone
Tony Wootton found some Wood Anemones in flower in woods near Up Marden. They often come up in company with Bluebells, though I did not find any in Ashling Wood on Friday Mar 18.

Barrie's birds
Barrie Jay is a lucky chap in getting some cracking birds in his Waterlooville garden. These include Chiffchaff, Treecreeper, Nuthatch and Coal Tit as shown in Barrie's photos below.


Brook Meadow
I was very pleased to meet up with several members of the Havant Wildlife Group in Bridge Road car park at 9am this morning to lead a walk through Brook Meadow. This is the only walk I now regularly lead for the group, so it was good to meet up with many of my old friends whom I see so rarely these days. The group is still going strong after 21 years - it was first established by Ralph Hollins in 1995. I still receive weekly reports of the walks, which take place throughout the year, in all weathers, and which I publish on the specially designated web page - see . . . Havant Wildlife Group

While we were in the car park we heard a Blackcap singing from the bushes at the end of the St James Road gardens. I explained that I have heard this bird several times recently and suspect it is a winter visitor rather than an early migrant. We did, in fact, keep an ear out on Brook Meadow for migrants, particularly Chiffchaff and Blackcap, but heard nothing. Are they a bit later than usual this year?
We walked up Bridge Road, stopping briefly at my home for Jean to say hello to the group, and then made our way up Victoria Road and down Seagull Lane to Brook Meadow. On the way Ros Norton identified a small flowering Hairy Bittercress growing on the pavement.
We noted the regular flock of House Sparrows chirruping away at the end of Seagull Lane. We looked at the Jubilee hedgerow which was growing very well and noted the first Blackthorn flowers.

We walked round the north path to the north-east corner where we heard and saw several resident birds including Blue Tit, Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Wren, Robin and Dunnock. A Cormorant flying overhead going north was an unusual sighting; we wondered where it was off to? Some inland lake maybe. We also saw a Kestrel taking off from the Lumley copse. This will be a resident bird and frequently seen around the meadow.
Heather spotted a Deer hoof mark in the mud on the east side of the meadow. A wandering Roe Deer is seen occasionally going through the meadow, probably coming from the railway embankment. The Gorse was flowering well on the causeway

We looked for Kingfisher when passing Peter Pond, but there was no sign of one, though we did see a Grey Heron flying off from the pond. The first local Cow Parsley was just starting to flower at the start of the path from Peter Pond to the south bridge.

We had our coffee break at 10.30 at the main seat. Thanks to Tony for taking the photo.

From there we had a look at the Butterbur spikes which are abundant in the area immediately below the seat. I shall need to do the annual count soon as many are going over. For full details of counts over previous years see . . .

Little Egret in garden
This Little Egret has been a regular visitor to our garden over the past couple of weeks. It usually perches on the fence overlooking the Westbrook Stream that runs at the bottom of the garden beyond the wall before dropping down to catch fish.

FRIDAY MARCH 18 - 2016

Native Bluebells
Martin Rand (BSBI Recorder for South Hants) found some native Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) coming into flower in woods west of Upham, Hampshire on 17th March, the first he'd seen really open, but now 'all over the place'. Up to then Martin had only seen the garden hybrid H. x massartiana in full flower. He added that although this is a weird year it is not the first time in recent years that the native Bluebell has been out well before the end of March in Hants.
Martin also saw Green Hellebore (Helleborus viridis), Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola) with flowers and fruit and Sweet Violet (Viola odorata var. dumetorum) in flower. He notes that this variety of Sweet Violet has "whiskers" on the two lateral petals and nearly always seems to have the face of the petals pure white with just the spur purplish. The "whiskerless" variety of white Sweet Violet, var. imberbis, often has a pinky-purple tinting or mottling on the petals. All Martin's observations are on Facebook - 'Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland'

Ashling Wood
Prompted by Martin's news, I headed over to Ashling Wood near East Ashling in West Sussex which is the best site I know locally for early Bluebells. The earliest ones I have ever seen in this wood was on 23 Mar 2014, but last year they were not open until well into April. I was encouraged by Dave Perks seeing a few coming into flower in Ashling Wood on Mar 7.
Parking beside the small road between East Ashling and West Stoke, I was greeted, as usual, by a cacophony of noise from the resident Rookery. I counted 18 nests, though there could have been more; last year there was 25. Stock Dove and Nuthatch were singing in the woods and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.
I entered the woodland through the new kissing gate and immediately I could see lots of Bluebells dotted around the woodland floor beneath the trees. The more I looked the more I saw. It was not exactly a blue haze, but it was much better than I expected. The light was very gloomy, but my photos were not too bad.


From Ashling Wood I drove along the single track road towards Funtington to check the embankment outside the entrance to Bowhill House for Hairy Wood-rush (Luzula pilosa) which I have seen there in previous years. I usually see it in April, so this was very early, but I did find a few spikes one of which I photographed.

Marlpit Lane
I decided to stop in Marlpit Lane to listen for any migrants, but all was very quiet. Certainly, no Chiffchaff or Blackcap. I was surprised to see a new board marked 'LANDACRE' at the entrance to the site on the east of the road. I asked a chap who was sweeping the road outside what was going on and he told me the gravel pit site was being filled and converted into grassland for grazing like the fields on the west side of the road. This clearly puts an end to my wanderings around the site. That's a pity as it is interesting with lots of wild flowers.
I walked a little way up the footpath going east but there was no easy access onto the old gravel pit site. I was very surprised to meet my friend Jane Noble on this path. Jane is the official public footpaths officer for West Sussex and was just checking the path to see if it had been cleared. We stopped for a chat, but she had to get going.
Hollybank Woods
I stopped along Emsworth Common Road and popped in quickly to Hollybank Woods to have a look at the Bluebell area near the main road, but there was not a glimmer of blue anywhere, not even a flower bulb. Bluebells in Hollybank Woods are always much later than other areas. I kept an ear open for any migrant activity, but did not hear a thing apart from residents.  
Mystery Spider
Ralph Hollins suggests a possible id for the spider photographed by Malcolm Phillips on Mar 12

He agrees with me that it is not Nursery Tent Spider (Pisaura mirabilis) - the front legs are not long enough and and these spiders do not appear until early summer. Ralph thinks it might be a Pardosa species which are active in the early spring. Specifically, it might be Pardosa proxima as shown in the link to following photo tern . . .

See Ralph's thoughts about these spiders in his wildlife diary for Mar 15 . . .

Punk Pigeon
Chris Oakley was amused by this 'punk' Woodpigeon that visited his garden this afternoon. Chris also says he has several Chaffinches visiting but I hasn't spotted one with the terrible foot deformities which seemed to be prevalent last year. That's good.

Barrie Jay had this very fine Sparrowhawk which settled on a Pittosporum bush in his Waterlooville garden 'waiting for one of the Blue Tits to fly out and then give chase!' It looks like a male bird.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow for the regular third Thursday in the month work session. It was a fine morning and about 10 volunteers attended. One task was to trim the large fallen Crack Willow near the north bridge and use the cuttings to create a temporary barrier around the special orchid area on the north meadow to prevent casual tramping of the area. This measure has been successful in previous years in helping to protect valuable wild flowers.

The big excitement of the morning was the arrival of a new Tracmaster power scythe for a demonstration. It is much larger than our present model and has extra controls. Several people tried it out, but not me! It reminded me when we had a demo of the original power scythe in Year 2000. This was well used and highly valued. I loved it and I think the present volunteers were similarly overjoyed with this one, though no definite decision has yet been made about its purchase, though I would be very surprised if they did not go for it. The only doubt concerns its size.

I took the usual photos as usual and had a wander around with this Saturday's walk for the Havant Wildlife Group in mind.
I checked the experimental wild flower area in the north meadow which had been sown with a variety of locally sourced wild flower seeds, including Yellow Rattle, Common Knapweed, Corky-fruited Water-dropwort and Meadow Barley. Nothing was showing apart from grasses and Great Willowherb pushing through. However, I suggested to the group that they persevere with the experiment and keep the area cut. We can try again next autumn with more seeds.
There was no sight or sound from any early migrants, though Chiffchaff and Blackcap must be here fairly soon.
I noted that catkins were starting to burst on the male Grey Willows.

For a full report on the work session and more photos go to . . .

Spotted Redshank
I was not able to get to Nore Barn today to check on the Spotted Redshank. So I am grateful to John Jury who sent me this nice photo of the bird in question, in an uncharacteristically relaxed pose, in the company of its good friend the colour-ringed Greenshank. We are approaching the date when the Spotted Redshank traditionally leaves on its journey to its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia. Our last sighting last year was Mar 20, though it has been as late as Mar 27 in 2012.

Hampshire Farm
Chris Oakley had a very nice male Stonechat on a log pile on Hampshire Farm today. Chris also found a well advanced Spear Thistle on the grass verge at the top of New Brighton Road, all the others being still in their ground rosette stage.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby is back from his family holiday in Turkey. He wasted no time in getting back to business at Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 3:25pm to 4:25pm -tide out, but on the move in. He had quite a good selection of birds:
Langstone Mill Pond: Water Rail showing well occasionally. Mute Swan pair have built up last years nest, but no one was sitting in it. The female was wandering around, whilst the male was motoring after every living thing in range! Mediterranean Gull over along with 2 Buzzard.
Grey Heron colony: South nest had two fairly grown chicks. All other nests occupied with adults. Top Holm Oak nest empty (see below).
Flooded horse paddock: 19 Wigeon, 6 Teal, 2 Grey Heron (one was a juvenile - probably the fledgling from the Holm Oak nest), 19 Moorhen.
Off shore, Pook Lane: 1 Avocet feeding with 28 Shelduck (so easily overlooked). 2 Shelduck off Conigar Point. 55 Teal, 2 Greenshank (G//R+BRtag//-), 236 Brent Geese, 10 Black-tailed Godwits (Y//R+YW//-), 3 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Common Gull, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Grey Plover, 4 Dunlin.
Peter sent two photos. A Neopolitan Garlic 'identified by two guys with big flower books' flowering by the pond by the swan walkway to the muddy shore and one of the best birds of his short family trip to Turkey - Creztschmar's Bunting.

Purple Sandpipers
Barrie Jay found a trio of Purple Sandpipers on the rocks below Southsea Castle at low water. He asks when they will be returning northwards to their breeding grounds. In fact, Purple Sandpipers are one of the latest of the winter migrants to leave. The Hampshire Bird Report gives May 18th as the last sighting at the Castle in 2014, so they could well be present for some time

David Minns had a Peacock on his garden today, in this welcome sunshine. He also saw a Brimstone (male) in Wickham on Tuesday. No Brimstones reported locally as yet.

For earlier observations go to . . March 1-16