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and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

for 1-15 April, 2016
(in reverse chronological order)

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

FRIDAY APRIL 15 - 2016

Eric's news
Eric Eddles saw and heard the sweet descending down-the-scale song of a Willow Warbler at Baffins Pond on Tuesday the 29th March and managed to get a quick shot of the bird - on the left below. This is the earliest Willow Warbler I have heard of locally. Eric also had 8 Wheatears on Saturday the 2nd April on the fields of the sewage works at Eastney and got a shot a nice photo of a female through the wire fence.


Brook Meadow
I had another walk around the meadow this morning, mainly listening out for migrants. I heard Chiffchaff and Blackcap which have been here for a while, but there was no sound of Whitethroat. It is still a bit early for them.

Coming down the steps from the north-east corner onto the meadow I spotted a cluster of fungi growing at the base of the wooden steps. Its caps were light brown in colour and cracked white. There was one broken which enabled me to confirm that the stem was thin and brittle and the gills radiating out from the stem. From an internet search my best guess is a species of Psathyella - though I have no idea which one, or whether this is right.

I had three butterflies on this quite warm morning. Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock rested long enough for me to get a photo. They are over wintering species and will have just emerged from hibernation. The other butterfly was what I think was a Small White which I followed for a few minutes as it flew around the area without stopping.

At least two Bee-flies were flying over the vegetation on the Lumley area. They get their name from their furry appearance. However, they are best identified from their long straight proboscis and hovering flight. They are usually seen hovering in front of flowers sucking nectar through their proboscis, but not today! They are usually recorded on Brook Meadow at this time of the year. Ralph Hollins also had his first Bee-fly yesterday in his garden, so keep a look out for them in yours.

The first Common Spotted Orchid leaves were showing on the grassland just north of the twig barrier around the official orchid area. I marked them with a stick. They usually come up in this area. I did not see any other orchid leaves.

Meadow Foxtail continues to dominate the north meadow, but I did notice a few spikes of Tall Fescue for the first time this year. It will soon be all over the meadow - the dominant grass of Brook Meadow.

Ralph's problem
Yesterday, my good friend and mentor, Ralph Hollins, left his computer to have his tea only to find, when he returned, that his computer had been hi-jacked by Microsoft to install Windows 10. This made it difficult for Ralph to find some of the files that he relies on for creating the web pages that make up his daily blog. He concluded . . . "If you ever see what I have just written (in the blog) you will know that Microsoft has not beaten me yet but I fear that I am about to be extinguished!"
I am publishing this just in case anyone out there can offer any advice to Ralph in his hour of distress. I believe he had Windows 7 until Microsoft messed it up. I have heard from reports in computer magazines that this policy of Microsoft installing Windows 10 is causing a good deal of anguish. I am relieved I never updated my splendid Windows XP which still works perfectly despite dire warnings issued by you know who!


I have a mooch around some of my old haunts in Southsea and Eastney. It was a warm morning and I was hoping to find some early bird migrants and also some butterflies, but I drew a blank on both of these. However, I noted several other things of wildlife interest.

I counted 44 Mute Swans on Canoe Lake, Southsea. This will be the same flock that I counted 43 of in February. Clearly, Canoe Lake has its resident swan flock back after about 10 years absence. Numbers will fall during the summer to recover in the autumn and winter.

On Eastney Beach there were lots of leaves and of what appeared to be Wild Radish around the beach area. I found just one plant in flower with bright yellow petals. I am never sure if these plants are Wild Radish or Sea Radish. Both, I gather can have either white or yellow flowers. They are easier to distinguish later in the year from their pods.

I had a walk around the Fort Cumberland Open Space (SINC) which is the area of land slightly to the west of the fort itself at Grid Ref: SZ 679992. This site was a regular haunt of mine some years ago, but I don't get there too often these days. This open space is the largest area of natural coastal heathland in Portsmouth, which has developed on a large stable shingle bank. It has a fascinating variety of wild flowers in summer, such as Fennel, but there was not a great deal to see today except for Bulbous Buttercups and Sweet Vernal Grass which were both widespread over the site. I was reluctant to pull up any of the Buttercups to check for bulbous roots to rule out Hairy Buttercups.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby walked in via Wade Lane to the Langstone Mill Pond this morning (10am to 11:35am - low tide.
"Lovely blue sky and warm sunshine - too idyllic! But, as usual it has been a slow spring in our part of the World. Typically everywhere else is getting Wheatears, Whitethroat, Redstart, Sand Martin etc. It would even help if some Willow Warblers held territory in the area, BUT, they only pass through and I have not seen or heard one yet. Every spring has been the same so far, just the odd migrant!
Wade Lane: Female Kestrel showing well for a change (see photo), 2 male Pheasant, 2 Linnet, 1 Mistle Thrush, 3 Pied Wagtail, Green Woodpecker heard, Chiffchaff singing and 2 Swallows flying over the horse stables checking on their old nests. A Stoat dashed across the road (nice surprise).

Flooded paddock: 7 Moorhen, a Green Woodpecker feeding on the grass, Chiffchaff heard and Blackcap Heard.
Langstone Mill Pond: Despite the warm still weather, no Reed Warblers yet - must be in tomorrow!! Reed Bunting singing, Chiffchaff singing. 7 Little Egrets actively nesting/displaying/standing guard at old nests and all with cute burnt-blood red feet!
Grey Heron Heronry: Nest 6: a single young seen and photographed.

Off shore: 31 Black-tailed Godwits, 1 Greenshank and surprisingly only 2 Med Gulls!!!

First Cuckoo
A Cuckoo was heard near Matley in the New Forest today. Has anyone heard one locally? They should be coming in at any time now. According to the British Trust for Ornithology the first tagged Cuckoo is now back in Europe having successfully crossed the Sahara Desert. Go to . . .


Emsworth - Thorney
It was a fine spring morning, just right for a cycle ride down to Thorney Island to check for early migrants. I stopped at various sites along the way:

Railway Wayside
I had a quick look at the Railway Wayside north of the station, where the Coltsfoot is still looking very good, but I could see nothing else of interest from the ramp. The site was much too muddy to go onto.

Brook Meadow
Going through Brook Meadow I noticed Three-cornered Garlic in flower immediately outside the Seagull Lane gate.
I heard both Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing from along the north path - as I did yesterday. These birds will be setting up breeding territories. No sound of Whitethroat, but it is a bit early for them.
The two newly planted Silver Birch trees that were donated to Brook Meadow by a local resident are now both in leaf and look in good health.

Brian Lawrence was also on Brook Meadow today and saw several butterflies including Small White, Comma, Brimstone Speckled Wood and Peacock. Brian also saw a Blackcap - probably the same one that I saw singing.

Slipper Millpond
When I passed by Slipper Millpond the Mute Swan was snug on her nest in the reedbeds on the east side of the pond.
At first there were no Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft, but they both turned up while I was there and proceeded to display and to mate. When I left one gull was sitting on the nest, presumably laying eggs as mating is still happening.

I can confirm that Coots are nesting on both the north raft and the south raft. There may well be another nest on the pond somewhere that I have not seen. I was interested to watch the Coots bring small pieces of twig to reinforce the barricade in the boxes.

Emsworth Marina
I was delighted to find a nice new seat on the seawall at the marina along with raised flower beds and a newly grass seeded area. This made a nice break for coffee and to listen to constant cries of the Mediterranean Gulls overhead.

There was nothing of interest along the dead end path apart from the bright fresh leaves of Hemlock with red spotted stems. There is no Mute Swan nest on the marina embankment.

Thorney Island
I walked slowly along the old NRA track listening out for any migrant warblers. I only heard Chiffchaff and Blackcap plus a couple of very loud Cetti's Warblers. No Whitethroat or Sedge Warbler. I saw two Peacock butterflies, but neither stopped long enough for a photo. There was a pair of Grey Herons flying around the trees south of the NRA track which are probably nesting somewhere.
I walked down the western track as far as Little Deeps listening in the usual spots for Sedge Warbler, but I did not hear anything but more Cetti's Warblers. There were three Black-tailed Godwits in the harbour and a few Redshank.

Three Tufted Duck were on the Deckhouses Estate pond, but no sign of any nesting Mute Swans this year.

Bridge Road Wayside
Finally, on my way home, I found my first Barren Brome grass of the year on the northern grass verge of the Bridge Road Wayside near the signcase, about a week earlier than normally.

Mystery insect
Tony Davis has identified the mystery insect photographed by Chris Oakley in his garden as the sawfly Zaraea lonicerae. Many thanks, as always, Tony for your help. It is not in my copy of Chinery's Collins Guide to Insects, and that basically is the extent of my knowledge of insects.

Horndean Down
Peter Milinets-Raby found myself in Horndean with an hour to spare, so went for a walk along the top of the Horndean Down (from 1:30pm): Some good birds seen:
male Bullfinch, singing Blackcap, Mistle Thrush, 3 Pheasant, 2 to 6+ singing Skylark, 11 Buzzard in the air together on one thermal. Two Swallow flying through, 7+ Linnets, a single Yellowhammer and 3 male Wheatear (right at the top).
Finished off with some great views of a Raven attacking/chasing a Buzzard, then 10 minutes later attacking a Carrion Crow with a peregrine-like dive from 200 metres up!!! A nest is visible on the usual pylon, but could not see into it. By the way the Raven was aggressively patrolling the area, it is probably occupied.

MONDAY APRIL 11 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I had a stroll around Brook Meadow this afternoon after the rain. It was very wet underfoot with the meadow covered in a layer of water, but I managed without geting too wet.
I was particularly pleased to hear both Chiffchaff and Blackcap singing strongly in several places, so these two migrants have certainly arrived. I tried to get a shot of the Blackcap singing from a tree in the western plantation, but lacked Malcolm's skill and equipment. Here is my best shot.

The only other bird of interest was a Moorhen prospecting for nesting sites on the river beneath the now rapidly diminishing gasholder. A 7-spot Ladybird was resting on a nettle leaf nearby. I have not seen any other species of Ladybird.

Meadow Foxtail is now well out on the north meadow, but I did not see any other grass flowers. However, I did find my first Divided Sedge and Distant Sedge of the year, both in the usual place on the east side of the wet Lumley area. They are quite easy to distinguish as Divided Sedge has a cluster of male and female spikelets at the top of a stem whereas Distant Sedge has a long male spikelet above 2 or 3 female spikelets. Distant Sedge also grows in tufts whereas Divided Sedge is generally scattered around.

I was also pleased to see Lesser Pond Sedge looking very good with anthers showing prominently on the river bank below the S-bend.

I had a look around the flower rich area in the centre of the north meadow and found leaves of Bee Orchid, Great Burnet and Meadowsweet - so we have their flowers to look forward to later in the year. The fertile cones of Field Horsetail were very prominent on the main orchid area.

House Martin survey
Caroline French provides an update on the House Martin survey she is conducting in Westbourne - the only place locally where these birds nest. She needs help, so if you can help please let me know and I will pass it on.
Caroline says, "I distributed over thirty letters and leaflets and had a response from five households, who said they were happy for me to monitor nests on their properties. One property looks like the birds began to build a nest but then abandoned it before they have got very far - I probably won't monitor that one. On another house, the birds nest at the rear of the property so I can't easily observe it. However, there is an additional property which is empty, which has nests on it, so I will try to monitor those too. So, in all, I currently have four properties to monitor, with 12 nests in total (from last year or previous years). I'll have to see how things go - how much time it takes etc. I may not be able to do them all, but I'll try. I'll let you know how it goes. "

Hedgehog news
Caroline French also reports that "about 10 days ago I spotted droppings in the garden and about 6 days ago a hedgehog moved into one of my boxes, the same one which was used by the female which produced two litters last year."

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a brief visit to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (1:43pm to 3:20pm just as the drizzle finished - high tide and flat as a pancake!)
The highlights were: the first Sandwich Tern, 1 Swallow, 42 Med Gulls loafing on the water off Pook Lane (See photo - different from those seen later), 10 Brent Geese, And a distant Great Crested Grebe off Conigar Point.

On the pond the Mute Swan stood up and I counted 7 eggs. Chiffchaff heard singing.
12 Little Egrets milling about - lots of display and territorial fighting/squabbling over old nests - a couple of birds hanging about next to a nest. Give it to the weekend and the place will be heaving with egrets.
Heronry very busy: Top Holm Oak adults sitting again for second. Lower Holm Oak adult sitting for second brood. Old South Nest young departed: Other Holm Oak 3 juvs on the verge of fledging: Nest 5 adult sitting. Nest 6 very young chicks, two for sure - both adults in attendance. Nest 7 two middle aged young: Nest 8 adult sitting. Nest 9 adult sitting:
Quickly visited the Northney Horse paddocks as I noticed more Med Gulls milling about. When I arrived I counted 141 of them feeding on the grass with a lone Brent Goose (at least 3 were in winter plumage).

SUNDAY APRIL 10 - 2016

Nest of snails
As we are having our old garden shed renovated, I removed what had become a badly rotted House Sparrow nest box with three sections. The box has been attached to the shed wall for the past 19 years and has been occasionally used by Blue Tits, but never by House Sparrows. When I opened up the lid I was surprised to find the central section lined with at least 20 Garden Snails. These presumably will have been hibernating over the winter period and will soon be waking up. I shall need to relocate them to save our tender garden plants from their ravenous jaws! Any offers?

Mystery insect
Chris Oakley has a good selection of bees and hoverflies already visiting his garden, but one has puzzled him. He says, "It is not an ordinary wasp as it has eight tegrum (yellow bands) rather than the six found on a common wasp. The antennae are clubbed and black, the legs are entirely yellow and the wings are a pronounced brown colour. There is also a yellow band behind the eyes. It is quite small being about fifteen centimetres. I feel it's likely to be a hoverfly of some sort or perhaps a sawfly. Can any of your readers help me to identify it?"

That's a tricky one Chris. My money is one some sort of wasp, but I have little knowledge of these creatures apart from the common ones.

Emsworth to Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby was out again early this morning for his regular bird walk and survey from Emsworth to Langstone.
He says, "If it was not for the many Mediterranean Gulls seen this morning, it would have been a very dull morning. Bright blue skies from sunrise, so not ideal, even though the wind will entice stuff in over the next few days.
Started at Emsworth Harbour at 6:37am (very low tide): A single Greenshank hanging around (RG//- + BYtag//-), 2 Little Egrets, 3 Med Gulls flying over calling as they headed inland. 3 noisy Canada Geese and 2 Shelduck.
Beacon Square: Lots of low tide mud and 4 +4+2+3 Med gulls flying over heading north.
Nore Barn from 7:14am: Another single Greenshank and yes you've guessed 2 more Med Gulls passing over. Grey Heron heading west, obviously heading towards Langstone Mill Pond.
Ibis Field from 7:28am: 2 Moorhen, 3 Stock Doves and 4 Med Gulls calling as they headed in land - very close overhead, so some superb views!!
Conigar Point: 2+6+2 Med Gulls over. Cetti's Warbler heard singing from the mini reed bed.Singing Chiffchaff in Tamarisk Hedge.
Off Pook Lane: 7 Shelduck, 3 Little Egrets feeding amongst the four bait diggers in the tiny trickle of water in the channel. Plus another single Greenshank. And 2 Mediterranean Gulls . . . . . with more calling,
Very quiet with wader numbers way down - in total at all sites I only saw about 25+ Redshank, 20+ Oystercatchers and 15 Curlew. Gave up at 8:20am."

Brian's note on Mediterranean Gulls
Without exception, everyone agrees that there are masses of Mediterranean Gulls around this year. Personally, I can't go out of my house in Bridge Road Emsworth without hearing their plaintive calls overhead and they have been common on millponds and fields everywhere. What accounts for this sudden surge in numbers? Here are a pair of Mediterranean Gulls that I got on Slipper Millpond on March 28th. Note their jet back heads and bright red bills and lack of any black on their winds.


Mystery plants - Spring Starflower
My thanks to Ralph Hollins for identifying the mystery plants that I found growing on the roadside verge in Park Crescent yesterday. They are called Spring Starflower - (Tristagma uniflorum or Ipheion uniflorum) - and are currently spreading across England.

Ralph has seen them for some years at one wild site on South Hayling where they have been mown recently.
See . . . for a good photo and click the link to the NBN Gateway for a map of their current distribution in Britain where they are found mainly in South of England and East Anglia with a cluster in the London area. It seems they were first brought to Britain in 1820 but have only recently started spreading rapidly.

Toothwort search
Peter Milinets-Raby and his young son Aleksandr walked around Mill Copse (NW of Horndean - 10am to 11:15am). They were hoping to find the unusual parasitic plant called Toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) which Peter had been told could be found there. My son also named Peter reported seeing hundreds of Toothwort plants in Eaglehead Copse on the Isle of Wight, but they appear to be relatively scarce here on the mainland (except in North Hampshire). Here is Peter's photo of one - see blog for April 4.

Peter Milinets-Raby and his son did not find any Toothwort in Mill Copse, but they did enjoy a lovely display of Bluebells. The whole wood floor was covered in them!

Other wildlife reported by Peter included 2 Roe Deer (a pair), Buzzard, 3+ Pheasant, Yellowhammer, Skylark singing, Chiffchaff singing, Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming and calling, 2 Long-tailed Tits, 2+ Chaffinch and singing Goldcrest.
They also quickly called in at Lowton's Copse which was another possible Toothwort site mentioned by Ralph Hollins, but again nothing was seen. "Never mind, pleasant walk, no pain, no gain."


Wayside flowers
Prompted by a glowing report from Ralph Hollins yesterday of the wayside flowers that he had seen along the Havant Road, I decided to cycle up Victoria Road and Selangor Avenue this morning to have a look at them for myself. But, imagine my dismay when I met several yellow-jacketed Council workers with huge grass cutting machines gradually making their way down the road towards me. Hell, they had beaten me to it. However, I pressed on in the hope that some flowers had been spared or somehow escaped the mower's blades.
Turning right at the end of Selangor Avenue I made my way slowly down the north side of the Havant Road where a new tarmac cycleway now covers what used to be a nice grass verge by the road. The remaining verge next to the hedgerow had been strimmed, but some of flowers mentioned by Ralph had survived. This verge is certainly worth preserving and I will ask Jayne Lake of HBC about making it a protected wayside, to be cut just once a year in late autumn. Grid Ref: SU 733060.

Flowers noted included Dove's-foot Cranesbill, Spotted Medick, Cow Parsley, Red Dead-nettle and Common Field Speedwell among many others yet to come.

Dove's-foot Cranesbill on Havant Road verge

However, the best find of the morning in the Havant Road hedgerow just west of Selangor Avenue was my first Hawthorn blossom of the year. May blossom on April 8th!

I carried on to have a look at the verges by the Warblington underpass which had also been cut earlier this morning. The best flowers were right next to the kerb stones on the way to the underpass, including Red Clover and the first tiny white flowers of Hedge Bedstraw.

I was pleased to show these and others flowers to three of our Brook Meadow volunteers who were coming back from shopping in Havant. I had one amusing encounter with a chap who saw me peering down at the ground and asked if I had lost something. When I told him I was looking for wild flowers his response was 'Don't bother. They are just weeds'. I let things rest at that. This was about the time when I spotted a 7-spot Ladybird crawling around in the grass.

I was relieved to see that the wide verge by the main road which houses the Bee Orchids had not been cut, thanks to prompt action by Jayne Lake of HBC following our visit to the site on March 24th. The Bee Orchid leaves are still fresh and prominent, but no sign of any flowers as yet. Jayne suggests we put up conservation area signs to indicate clearly which area should not be cut until late autumn. Grid Ref: SU 730059.
I was interested to find a small clump of what I think may be Common Cornsalad in flower near to the orchid area. Although Keel-fruited Cornsalad is the default Cornsalad in our area, I gather this flowers much later than Common Cornsalad (late June-August) which is an early flowering species (April-June).

On my home I noticed several bunches of white star-like flowers with purple tinged petals on the edge of the grass verge on the northern side of Park Crescent. From a distance they looked a bit like Three-cornered Garlic, but the stems were round with a single flower at the top of each stem. I assume they are a garden escape or maybe planted. Grid Ref: SU 740061.

I counted 24 nests in the Rookery behind the flats at the western end of Victoria Road immediately opposite the entrance to Emsworth Primary School. This slightly up on the last two years when I counted 22 nests. This is the only Rookery in Emsworth - apart from the close with this name off Lumley Road that is.

Avocet breeding at Medmerry
Regarding the sighting of 40 Avocets at Medmerry RSPB reserve yesterday by Christopher Evans and others, Ralph Hollins pointed out that Avocets have been breeding at both Medmerry and Rye Harbour for a year or more and he suspects that those that Christopher saw intend to stay there which is good news indeed!

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby put in an hour at Langstone Mill Pond from 2:50pm - high tide).
Not much in the way of birds: Grey Heron Heronry: Nest 7 had three calling chicks just visible above the nest line. 11 Little Egrets initially just roosting, though after 10 minutes five of them started prospecting the Holm Oak and clearly staking out previous nests. Lots of display and territory claiming. Another three plonked themselves on the island in the middle, taking up residence on old nests. The other three kept on roosting! Spring has sprung! Chiffchaff singing at the rear of the pond. Three pairs of Tufted Duck on the pond (a typical date - also getting ready to nest somewhere on the pond.)
Horse paddock: Getting empty, with 4 Teal, 6 Moorhen, 2 Little Egrets, a singing Chiffchaff.
Best sighting was of TWO Common Seal together swimming trough the channel heading east. Also 2 Great Crested Grebes and 14 Med Gulls and 2 Great Black-backed Gulls.

Ducklings at Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles had a delightful sighting at his local pond this morning with this family of nine ducklings, all pale like their mother, but for one 'black sheep' of the family.


Slipper Millpond
The Great Black-backed Gulls are nesting again on Slipper Millpond for the 5th year running. What I assume was the female bird was sitting on a nest of twigs on the end of the centre raft with its mate on the water nearby.

I last checked on Apr 3 when neither of the gulls was on the pond, so the nesting and laying must have occurred in the intervening period. Incubation takes 27-28 days, so hatching is predicted for May 2-5. This is about the same date as the expected hatching of the Mute Swan eggs, so that could be interesting! This morning, the Mute Swan was snug on her nest in the reeds on the east side of the pond. Coots are also nesting on the north raft.
Meanwhile, over on Peter Pond a Coot has a nest in the reedbeds on the east side of the pond, viewable from the A259 roadside.

Dog-violets on Lillywhite's path
Ralph Hollins commented on the photo of the Dog-violets in yesterday's blog, which I tentatively identified as Common Dog-violets. Ralph said, "A lot of variation and hybridisation seems to occur with Violets, but I would record those in your photo as Early/Wood Dog Violets (V.reichenbachiana) despite the notch (which only seems to occur on the left hand plant) To me the critical feature is that the spurs and long, thin, straight and dark violet in colour. Common Dog Violets usually have shorter, broader and paler spurs".
I had another look at the flowers this afternoon and have to agree with Ralph. See the following photo. The spur is certainly straight and is darker than the petals. However, it does have a very clear notch at the end of the spur which I had previously considered the defining feature of Common Dog-violet, but clearly it is not! Also, the upper petals of the flower look remarkably like rabbit ears, which is a feature of Early Dog-violet highlighted by Frances Rose (New Ed p.186) .

Will Water Voles ever return?
I have been corresponding with Ses Wright who is a Project Officer with the Ouse & Adur Rivers Trust (OART) and the Arun & Rother Rivers Trust (ARRT) about the state of the River Ems on Brook Meadow. You may recall that Ses and her colleagues visited Brook Meadow on Oct 15 last year to construct two shallow brushwood shelves creating a small meander in the river to help fish and small mammals, like Water Voles. I asked Ses what chance we had of geting our Water Voles back on the River Ems. Here is a shot of what could be our last ever Water Vole on Brook Meadow taken by Malcolm Phillips on 23 April 2015.

She replied, "That's not easy to predict with confidence, however, if you improve habitat diversity within the river (as per the artificial berms and log flow deflectors) this will in turn help to scour and clean the flow and deepen the riverbed which in turn enables other plants and invertebrates to populate the river channel which all helps to build resilience into the river - which are all things that water voles like and rely upon. Managing dogs, brown rats and monitoring for possible mink risk are all good precautions too."

RSPB Medmerry
Christopher Evans was with the Havant U3A Birdwatching Group at RSPB Medmerry this morning, where they saw some 40 Avocet on the pool nearest to the sea wall. Here is a photo of a couple of them. I suspect they will be on their way to their breeding grounds shortly, maybe in East Anglia or on the Continent.

Other highlights were Little Ringed Plovers and a pair of Yellowhammers. On the way back, Christopher called in at Chichester Marina, where the Black Swan was sitting on the nest on the canal. This is clearly a new nesting site for this striking bird.


Greater Celandine
On his way back from Thorney Island on Apr 2, Ralph Hollins came back through Emsworth where he happened to notice a tiny front garden at the junction of Queen and King Streets which was full of Greater Celandine flowers - the first he had seen this year. I was excited by this news as it was a new site in Emsworth for this scarce plant; the only other place I know where it regularly comes up is near the small bridge at Lumley Mill at the end of the footpath from Seagull Lane.
So, in drizzly rain this morning, I went to have a look at this garden for myself which I had never previously noticed. The garden is small at the front of a house that appears unlived in; the garden is unkempt and full of 'weeds', but is enlivened by the presence of a mass of Greater Celandine, some with delicate yellow flowers.

Despite its name Greater Celandine has no connexion with Lesser Celandine apart from the colour of its flowers. In fact, it is a member of the Poppy family and was introduced into Britain in Roman times and was once cultivated as a medicinal plant. Rose describes it as 'poisonous' so maybe it is best avoided! It is now well established mainly in the south and can usually be seen growing at the base of walls in towns. It usually flowers from May to August, so these flowers are early.

Lillywhite's path
I had some interesting observations while walking along the path behind Lillywhite's Garage this afternoon on the way to collect my car which was having a wing mirror replaced - vandalised last weekend! First I noticed a few dark blue violets on the north side of the path, almost opposite the larger growth of Sweet Violets on the south side. I have seen these violets in previous years and have always put them down as Common Dog-violets mainly on the basis of their notched spurs. But I always have problems with violets. Could they be another species? Do any other violets have notched spurs?

Also along the path I noticed my first unsheathed Lords and Ladies of the year showing its spadix - rather weather beaten. Finally, I looked carefully for any signs of the Hawthorn coming out; the buds were there and looked about to burst, so it cannot be long before we see the May blossom.


Eastney Beach
Jean and I had a walk along the prom at Eastney this morning, keeping an eye out for any early flowers on the beach. Very prominent were the bright orange flowers of Pot Marigold. These are garden escapes, but are now well established on this beach and may well have over wintered during this very mild winter.

 Silver Ragwort (Senecio cineraria) is another plant which is now well established on Eastney Beach with its distinctive silvery leaves and yellow flowers just starting to show on some plants. Red Valerian is also fully naturalised on the shingle beach and its red flowers are just starting to open.

When fully open Red Valerian provides a fine spectacle on the beach contrasting with the white flowers of Sea Kale. Here is a photo taken in early summer a few years ago.

We also noticed several clumps of Common Whitlowgrass on the edge of the prom walkway.


Ralph Hollins was particularly pleased to see the photo of this unusual plant in yesterday's blog as it revived distant memories of when he came across Toothwort in Lowton's Copse just north of Clanfield in 1987. Ralph's sighting was recorded as a first for the square SU7018 in The Hants Flora (p.219). I wonder if can still be seen there?  


My son, Peter sent me this photo of Toothwort which he took yesterday during a family walk through Eaglehead Copse on the Isle of Wight. Personally, I have never seen this plant and I look forward to going over to the island in the next few weeks while the plants are still present. The Hants Flora shows no records in our area at all; most are in North Hampshirre.

The article in the current issue of the magazine 'Wildlife' from the Hampshire Wildlife and Isle of Wight Trust highlights Eaglehead Copse as the best place on the Isle of Wight to see this unusual plant. The Isle of Wight Flora (Pope, Snow and Allen) describes Toothwort as "locally frequent in woods on chalk or heavy clay soils" and says that Eaglehead Copse can hold over 2,000 plants, in three different colour forms, white (the most common), lemon-yellow and beetroot red.
Toothwort is a member of the Broomrape family which are parasites on various plants and have leaves reduced to scales with no chlorophyll and are hence not green. Toothwort has tubular flowers in one-sided spikes up to about 25 cm which die down quickly after flowering. It gets it name from the flowering spikes which resemble rows of teeth. It is parasitic on mostly Hazel and Elm.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby paid a quick visit to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (2:40pm to 3:05pm - extremely low tide) mainly to get an update on the Grey Heron nesting colony. He prepared a photo of the Grey Heron colony with the nests numbered. The leaves are growing quickly, so views will become very restricted soon. Remember that the Holm Oak (not in photo) contains Top and Lower nests and Number 8 (hidden at the rear). This afternoon, a tiny fluff of a chick was noticed moving about in Nest 6.

Peter also sent photos of the recently fledged youngsters from the Old South Nest trying off new skills of balance and stabbing at sticks.

Also on the pond, were the two Mute Swans coming to bread-giving kids. I noted that 6 eggs were in the nest before the pen sat back down again.
Horse Paddock: 10 Teal and 10 Moorhen. With 2 singing Chiffchaff.
Off shore were 61 Black-tailed Godwits, 28 Med Gulls, Just 2 Brent Geese, and 2 Great crested Grebes.


Brook Meadow workday
I attended the first Sunday in the month work session on the meadow as usual to take photos of the volunteers at work for the web site. Here are the volunteers assembled at the tool store before the session with wheel barrows at the ready!

There were two main jobs. One to cover the rubble ramp that Maurice Lillie and volunteers made yesterday with path gravel. This ramp is mainly to provide easy access for the new power scythe, though it can also be used as an alternative route for pedestrians. The other main job required moving several barrow loads of path gravel all the way from the Seagull Lane gate to the south meadow to fill in a large puddle on the main path near the south gate.

A full report on the work session plus more photos can be found on the Brook Meadow web site . . .

Wildlife observations
Chiffchaffs were singing from Palmer's Road Copse and Lumley gate, but still no Blackcap.
The brown spikes of Lesser Pond Sedge are showing well on the river bank north of the sluice gate. What looks like a young Jew's Ear fungus is growing on a dead branch at the bottom of the steps leading down to the south meadow from the seat.

Slipper Millpond
I had a quick look at Slipper Millpond where I found a pair of Coots nesting in the box on the north raft, but no sign today of the Great Black-backed Gulls.

More Crests
Peter Milinets-Raby had a walk with his family this lunchtime along the Billy Trail from Noon to 1:30pm during which he heard both Goldcrest and Firecrest singing.
"Firecrest was seen in the Billy trail trees at the rear of the gardens just two gardens down (south) from the Glenhurst nursery wooden building (which puts it within a few gardens of Ralph Hollins' garden). The Firecrest responded very well to a MP3 playback giving great views. It chased a second crest which I did not quite get onto - so maybe a second or just a Goldcrest.
Later in the afternoon after we had coffee & panini at the Rowlands Castle cafe (roughly 3pm) another singing Firecrest was seen above the flint wall in amongst a small clump of yew and deciduous trees (opposite the 'green' and Lloyds Bank). Again, it responded well to a MP3 playback, raising its flame orange crest to an extent that it reminded me of the punk pigeon from your blog! Superb views. Also of note were 3 Med Gulls passing over calling as they headed further inland."

Bob Chapman correction
Ralph Hollins informs me that Bob Chapman is not back at Farlington Marshes as I incorrectly reported on Mar 26. Bob's current job title is Reserves and Projects Manager (New Forest & Avon Valley). Ralph thinks the Solent Reserves (including Farlington Marshes) are managed as a group by Rob Skinner who apparently produces the entries on the blog at . . .


Emsworth to Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby was out early this morning starting at Emsworth Harbour at 6:39am (two minutes after sunrise and half an hour before a 3.7 metre high tide). He says, "Not much around: 2 Coot, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 4 Teal, 1 Shelduck, 3 Canada Geese and heard from Thorney Island (south wind blowing) was a singing Cetti's Warbler! Chiffchaff seen in the garden by the yacht club.
Straight to Warblington at 7:18am: Ibis Field: 3 Curlew and a male Pheasant, 1 Stock Dove, a singing Chiffchaff and with 2 Mediterranean Gulls over.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 2 Long-tailed Tits, singing Chiffchaff heard and surprise, surprise 3 Greylag Geese flew low over the field and headed east.
Conigar Point: 6 Med Gulls flying over and 14 resting on the last bits of sea marsh along with 2 Grey Plover, 5 Brent Geese and 14 Shelduck. On the water were 3 Pintail (a male with 2 females) and 2 Red-breasted Merganser. Cetti's Warbler singing from the mini reed bed with a Chiffchaff singing in the Tamarisk hedge.
The best sighting of the morning was of a Common Seal that tried to climb out of the water onto the "island" in the middle of the channel. Very dark grey animal, which lolled about out of the water for 10 seconds or so before slipping back into the water.
Off Pook Lane: 27 Brent Geese with a single Great crested Grebe and 2 Red breasted Merganser. 2 Teal, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 1 Swallow flew north (my second of the year, so it is now officially summer!!!), 4 Mediterranean Gull, 1 Greenshank (B//R + GR//-) and 18 Black-tailed Godwits. 1 male Linnet, Little Owl perched in it's usual tree.
In the field south of Warblington Church was a Black-headed Gull with a white ring on it's right leg with the characters "2L59".
Flooded Horse paddock: Numbers dwindling with just 7 Teal, 9 Moorhen, a singing Chiffchaff and a Green Woodpecker heard laughing.
Langstone Mill Pond: Chiffchaff singing, 2 Little Egrets calling to one another and roosting together. First hint??
Grey Heron colony: 9th nest: still under construction. Adult pair in courtship display and mating. 7th Nest: the huge nest at the rear: Two calling chicks seen - maybe a third??? Old South Nest: 3 young on the verge of fledging. Other Holm Oak: 3 young, again on the verge of fledging - adult swamped when it came in to feed these three vivacious youngsters.

Firecrests galore
Following the observations of Caroline French and Martin Hampton about the good number of Firecrests in the local area (see this blog for Mar 23 and Mar 24), Ralph Hollins reported in his wildlife diary that the Dungeness Bird Observatory recorded a massive influx of 120 Firecrests on Mar 30. This confirms many birders comments that there are a lot more of these tiny birds than usual all along the south coast currently.


Stansted walk
Jean and I had a short walk through the east side of the Stansted Estate this morning from the cafe to the Iron Gate Cottages and then along the track to the 5-ways footpath junction at the far end.

It was a bit muddy in front of the house, but otherwise it was fine. There was plenty of bird song, but nothing special. Chiffchaff was the only migrant heard. I listened out for Mistle Thrush but heard only Song Thrush.
However, we did see a few spring flowers, including Ground-ivy, Scentless Mayweed and Dog's Mercury. I also had my first Oak leaves of the year. All shown in the following photos.

Tony's gallery
Tony Wootton got some cracking photos from his visits to Blashford Lakes and Ibsley Common yesterday. They included a female Brambling, a Reed Bunting, a Dartford Warbler and a small group of Fallow does.

For earlier observations go to . . March 17-31