MARCH 31 - 2016
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
MARCH 30 - 2016
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
A Chiffchaff was also singing in the south
meadow, though I have heard several in the past week,
which I assume are all migrants.
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.
nesting on Slipper Millpond
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
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.
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
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.
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//-),
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.
MARCH 29 - 2016
Jean and I
walked to Westbourne and back this morning via the
Recreation Ground. Here are the wildlife
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
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.
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.
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).
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
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
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
MARCH 28 - 2016
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Evans was down at Southmoor this afternoon which he
found totally flooded. So wellies will be needed, but
better not go across.
MARCH 27 - 2016
Here is my final
photo of the Spotted Redshank on Mar 21
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 . . .
in the Nore Barn stream with a Little Egret
Roy Hay got
this cracking photo of a Peacock butterfly
taken around Fishbourne Meadows on the Mar
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.
MARCH 26 - 2016
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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."
sent me a few of his latest snaps which included these
two crackers! The Weasel was from Farlington and the
Dartford Warbler from Warsash.
MARCH 25 - 2016
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.
MARCH 24 - 2016
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
MARCH 23 - 2016
Here is one that
Peter Milinets-Raby photographed in the act of singing
in Feb 2014.
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.
Can you hear it?
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.
MARCH 22 - 2016
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
- 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!
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
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
view of the main Butterbur area below the
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 =
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
MARCH 21 - 2016
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
Garlic versus Three-cornered Garlic
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
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
Height TQ - 45 cm, triangular with very sharp
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
MARCH 20 - 2016
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
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.
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' 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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
MARCH 19 - 2016
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 . . .
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
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
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 . .
Egret in garden
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.
MARCH 18 - 2016
(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'
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
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.
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.
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 .
. . http://ralph-hollins.net/Diary.htm
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.
MARCH 17 - 2016
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
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
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 . . .
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
earlier observations go to . . March