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

for April 16-30, 2016
(in reverse chronological order)

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


Langstone Mill Pond
After a quiet sea watch at Sandy Point, Peter Milinets-Raby called in at Langstone Mill Pond to try and see the cygnets seen by Ralph Hollins the day before! 7:37am to 8:49am - tide dropping.
Langstone Mill Pond. The female Mute Swan was sat tight on the nest the whole time I was visiting, but I was lucky to catch a glimpse (and photo) of one of the cygnets (Ralph had 4 cygnets yesterday). A lonely male Gadwall was present on the pond, swimming around looking for a mate, calling constantly with a very simple, single low noted 'quack' (singing!!). Quite cute really!

Also present on the pond: 3 Reed Warblers chasing one another and a single singing Sedge Warbler (it will be nice if it stays). And the male Reed Bunting singing. 3 Swallows overhead, Green Woodpecker calling and Great Spotted Woodpecker over
Off shore: 2 Little Tern and 2 Common Tern fishing. 3 Greenshank, 1 Whimbrel, 6 Great Crested Grebes, 2 Med Gulls.

Old Winchester Hill
Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.
"A group of 15 met on a lovely sunny morning and heard blackcap and chiffchaff from the car park. Just outside we heard a chiffchaff doing a part willow warbler song. Strangely we heard same last year from same place. (Brian's note - It must be the same bird?).
The birds were singing well and it was a pleasure to hear many willow warblers. We had good views of a yellowhammer and a skylark on the ground. Other birds singing included whitethroat, chaffinch, dunnock, green woodpecker, robin, wren and greenfinch. Some saw linnet, long tailed tit, kestrel and buzzard. During our coffee break we saw several hares running in a distant field.
Apart from abundant blackthorn flowers and cowslips mostly in bud, there were few flowers These included ground ivy, garlic mustard, dog violets, crosswort and dandelions. A small tortoiseshell butterfly posed on a sheltered path."

Heather Mills added: "I was delighted to find a Chiff/Willow singing from the car park as soon as we arrived. Some of you may remember that I was confused by the bird starting with a Chiffchaff song last year. It then continued with a rendition of a Willow Warbler and back again to Chiffchaff. I did get a photo of this bird (on the left below) and a very confiding Willow Warbler for comparison (on the right). The WW appears much brighter yellow around the throat and the eye stripe is more noticeable. Yellowhammer and Skylark too. "

Last year Ralph Hollins commented on the mixed warbler song as follows:
"I have come across several reports of this behaviour over the years and after having another look at the internet I see that the general opinion seems to be that these birds are the result of interbreeding between their parents rather than songs 'learnt' by the bird from hearing the songs of the two species when they are young.
In addition to the link (to which Brian sent you might like to look at for a local occurrence at Sandy Point on Hayling and also to

Lowtons Copse
Chris Westcott, the owner of Lowtons Copse, added to his note in yesterday's blog entry as follows:
"It is nice to know people are reporting these things to you. I knew we had the chiffchaff and blackcap, but not the others. Unfortunately too many people are finding the woods and doing damage to the flora just by sheer weight of numbers, as well as the other vandalism of those who want to walk through the bluebells.
If you are interested we have a Facebook page Bluebell Wood Clanfield. This had been started anyway, so we acquired it to try to get people to behave in a reasonable manner and to inform them of things like felling. Should there be a group of you that would like a guided walk, I can do that for you, but would need to make a small charge to help cover our costs in the wood. "

FRIDAY APRIL 29 - 2016

Funtington BBS Survey
Today, Caroline French did the first Breeding Birds Survey of the year for square SU7808 at Funtington. I was very pleased to get Caroline's report as I surveyed this square for 7 years until 2013 when Caroline took over, so I know it very well.
One bird I always used to look forward to hear and see was Corn Bunting, a rare bird and on BTO Red Alert List. Corn Bunting has a distinctive and remarkably far carrying song that sounds like the vigorous rattling of a bunch of keys. Here is a shot I got of one fluttering up from an Oak tree in Hare's Lane, Funtington in June 2010. I also used to see one sometimes on the metal fence around the MOD establishment.

I certainly did not record it every year on the survey and Caroline's experience so far has been much the same as mine. Sadly, there was no Corn Bunting again today, though Caroline did have a couple of Yellowhammers which was some compensation.

The survey square covers the Racton Park Farm Rookery and I recall spending lots of time counting and recounting the nests in the trees behind the cottages. I think the most I ever got was 64 in 2009, though the average was much less than this. This year, Caroline counted 50 nests on 19th February - the count has to be done earlier than the rest of the survey before the leaves come. Today, Caroline saw that the Rooks were busy probing the soil for invertebrates for their young, some of which were out of the nest. Here are a couple of photos she took this morning, one of an adult Rook feeding young and the other showing the extendable pouch in which the Rook collects the food to take back to the fledglings.

Caroline also spotted a pair of Starlings nesting in what looks like an old woodpecker hole, and regularly bringing food to noisy chicks. She also had a pair of Firecrests, but no photo sadly!

Lowtons Copse
Today, I had an e-mail from Chris Westcott, the owner of Lowtons Copse (and incidentally, of Blagden Copse at Clanfield), who was very interested to hear about the birds that had been reported on this blog from the wood, particularly Firecrest and Yellowhammer which he did not know about. These two birds were reported by Peter Milinets-Raby during his visit to Lowtons Copse on April 24. In fact, Peter heard 4 singing male Firecrests and thought there were probably more to be found in the copse. Here is a cracking shot of a Firecrest taken on Brook Meadow in 2013 by Malcolm Phillips

Chris went on to provide some very helpful information about the flora of the copse and how best to visit.
"There is quite a lot of Toothwort in various places and we also have lots of Early Purple Orchids and some Twayblades leaves. I would suggest during the Bluebell season you may either find it better to come during the week, or at weekends, park in the village and walk up Little Hyden Lane. If you want any further information about the flora in the woods, I have been making notes on what is in various sub-compartments for the last 13 years. I stick to flowers as they stay still long enough to be identified."

Tony Wootton took this photo yesterday near to Gore Cliffs on the Isle of Wight. I thinks it is a male Redstart. He might well be right, though it looks a bit mucky!


North Thorney
I cycled down to North Thorney this morning mainly to check for bird migrants along the old NRA track and on the track down to Little Deeps. The regular summer visitors were in good voice, including Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler. I failed to hear Lesser Whitethroat, Cuckoo or Turtle Dove - though I have pretty well given up on the latter.
I spotted a couple of Swallows feeding over the Deckhouses Estate pond, but there was no sign of any in the stables at the old Marina Farm which are now unused and neglected. Swallows have regularly nested in these stables in previous years. Chris Oakley also reported seeing Swallows perched on an overhead power line just south east of Racton Tower. There have been lots of other Swallow sightings, so they have definitely arrived.
There was nothing of interest on the Little Deeps apart from Little Grebe, Tufted Duck, Coot and Mallard. There was no sign of any Mute Swans which have usually nested here in the past. But it was good to sit on the embankment overlooking the deeps, all very peaceful but for the splashing of birds on the water and the distant drone of some aircraft over Thorney.
I happened to meet Ros Norton who was having a walk down to the deeps before her U3A meeting in Emsworth this afternoon. We stopped about half way down to Little Deeps to listen to Sedge Warbler and Reed Warbler singing from the brambles and reedbeds respectively. This is a very good spot to compare these two very similar songs, with the hurried mixed song of the Sedge Warbler contrasting with the relaxed and rather monotonous churring of the Reed Warbler. While we were watching, the Sedge Warbler flew up from the reeds a couple of times in a display flight and perched briefly on a reed stem where I tried to get a photo.

Other news
A pair of Canada Geese was on the pond south of the Deckhouses Estate this morning. I have not seen them there before. Thinking of nesting?

The long yellow catkins from the Basford Willows are starting to fall onto the ground at the southern end of Palmer's Road Car Park. Grid Ref: SU 750 059.

Here are some of the trees with the catkins

and a sample catkin

Westbourne House Martin Survey
Today Caroline French carried out her second survey visit to the Westbourne House Martin nest sites.
She reports: "I saw a maximum of about 10 House Martins feeding overhead at any one time, but there may have been more. Of the four properties I am surveying, only one had birds visiting the nests during my observation lasting 15 minutes at each property. This property has four complete nests from a previous year, three on the north-eastern aspect (front) and one on the south-western aspect (rear). All three on the front had at least one visit while I watched, and an additional *new* nest which was not present on my two earlier visits is about a quarter way built. The nest at the rear was not visited but a House Martin flew very close to it on a couple of occasions.
I couldn't see what the birds were doing because they entered the nests before I could see whether they had anything in their beaks, but I assume they may have been 'patching up' from within. Alternatively it could be that a male was bringing food to a female on eggs, as the female does most of the incubating. Can anyone reading this confirm whether male House Martins bring food to the females?"

Caroline's other sightings
"I also saw three Swallows in Westbourne, one of which was singing, and my first Swift of the year flying overhead, going north. A Kestrel and a Sparrowhawk were hunting over Westbourne. There was a Grey Heron on the Hampshire Farm Meadows pond and a magnificent male Starling singing from a roof gutter in Westbourne village. Also a couple of pairs of Linnets along the path crossing Westbourne Common, and three Mistle Thrushes."

Peter Milinets-Raby had a quick walk around Warblington this morning (10:05am to 11:33am - low tide, lovely sunshine, light wind). The highlights were as follows:
Warblington church: 3 singing Goldcrest, Green Woodpecker, 2 Willow Warbler (one singing - these are moving through) and Kestrel.
Ibis Field: Cetti's Warbler heard singing halfway along hedgerow close to cress beds. 1 Chiffchaff singing, 1 Whitethroat singing (typical habitat, but probably it will not stay), 1 Lesser Whitethroat heard distantly singing from SSSI field.
Mini reed bed behind Conigar Point: Probably a second bird, Lesser Whitethroat singing (again probably a migrant - showed well), Reed Warbler singing (showed even better!! - see photo), male Blackcap, Chiffchaff singing and female Reed Bunting.

Conigar Point: 4 Med Gulls over, 31 Herring Gulls on mud (80% juveniles), 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Whimbrel.
Off Pook Lane: 1 Buzzard, 6 Shelduck and 3 Greenshank. Little Owl seen in usual tree.
Nothing else moving, which was a shame considering the date!

Stansted orchids
Maureen Power reports that Early Purple Orchids are coming out in east Stansted Forest at approx. GR SU 771 102. This is where the path from the Racton Monument turns north towards Woodlands Lane. I recall hearing Nightingales in this area several years ago. I wonder if they are still there? I also had a late night encounter with a Badger at this spot.



Warblington road verge
This morning I had a walk along the grass verge on the north side of the main A259 road into Emsworth from the boat with the ornamental flowers to the Warblington roundabout with traffic thundering past. Grid Ref: SU 731060. This is the verge where the Bee Orchids were flowering last year and which Jayne Lake of Havant Borough Council (now Norse) has ordered should not be cut until after the flowering period. This photo was taken from the ornamental boat looking west towards the Warblington roundabout.

The verge held a good variety of plants, some in flower, some almost there. They included Common Ragwort, Common Knapweed, Red Dead-nettle, Common Field Speedwell, Spear Thistle, Ground-ivy, Forget-me-not, Docks, Dandelion, Common Mouse-ear, Sticky Mouse-ear, Ribwort Plantain, Daisy, Red Clover, and many others.
Near the boat was a clump of bright pink flowers I could not miss - they were Pink Sorrel. This attractive plant was introduced from S. America in 1870 and was first recorded in the wild in 1912. A less prominent addition to the local flora was the first flowers of Hoary Cress.

A couple of 7-spot Ladybirds mating on a leaf of Hoary Cress.

Best of all, were the grasses which were dominated by a swathe of Soft Brome along the edge of the main road. This is certainly the same species of grass that I puzzled over yesterday on the New Brighton Road Junction which had extra long panicles. These were much the same.

Other grasses flowering on the verge were Cocksfoot, Barren Brome, and a tuft of what I think is Sweet Vernal Grass. I also found a few tufts of Grey Sedge.
I always look forward to the emergence of the grasses as they make such fine displays on my desk. The large vase in the centre holds Barren Brome, Soft Brome and Cocksfoot, while the small vase on the left has the Sweet Vernal Grass and Grey Sedge. The vase on the right has panicles of Common Reed which have lasted right through the winter.

Christopher Evans saw a family of seven Mallard ducklings in the tidal section of the Langbrook stream this afternoon but didn't manage a decent shot of them altogether. Shortly after, he saw a couple of foxes in the field immediately north of West Mill.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond 11:19am to 12:22pm - low tide and still with chilly wind blowing from north, but not so breezy!
Langstone Mill Pond: With less wind, I was able to do a thorough count of the Little Egrets and reached 28 nests.

The Grey Herons were quiet, except for Nest 8 (only viewable from the horse paddock gate) which had constantly calling young. However, I could only see one youngster, as the foliage is very dense.
Reed Bunting male seen well today as it foraged in the base of the reeds (see photo)

One Reed Warbler singing. Chiffchaff singing.
Off shore: 2 Whimbrel, 2 Greenshank, 5 Great Crested Grebe, 5 Shelduck, 1 male Red Breasted Merganser diving off Conigar Point, 4 Med Gulls over.
And a spiral of 4 Buzzards drifted over the channel from Hayling. And two more seen five minutes later. Migration movement?


Waysides News
On my way to Hollybank Woods, I stopped to have a look at the roadside verge at the New Brighton Road junction with Horndean Road which is one of our official waysides. I found three grasses in flower, Barren Brome, Soft Brome and Cocksfoot, the latter two being new ones for me this year. I was puzzled by the Soft Brome at first as it had what appeared to be unusually long panicles, up to 12cm. I usually think of Soft Brome panicles as being much shorter than this, but I can't think of anything else it could be. It is certainly not False Brome nor Smooth Brome (I think). Rose gives the range of panicle size for Soft Brome as 5-10cm, though Cope and Gray give it as 5 - 12.5 (exceptionally to 18)cm, so I suppose that settles that.
I was also interested to see the first flowering Common Ragwort of the year on this verge.

Ralph Hollins comments
"I think (but cannot be certain) that the Ragwort which you call Common Ragwort is in fact Oxford Ragwort which is just starting to flower in Havant. Fitter and Fitter say that Oxford starts to flower in April but Common does not flower unti June and the broad flowers in your photo suggest Oxford to me."

Early Purple Orchids
I went over to Hollybank Woods mainly to have a look at the Early Purple Orchids on Longcopse Hill. I parked on the roadside just past the entrance to the Sussex Cottages and walked onto the hill. I had not been to the orchid area for a couple of years and was surprised to find a fairly well worn path down towards the south west corner of the hill which is where the orchids are located at Grid Ref: SU 751082. I came across about 10 fairly good Early Purple Orchid spikes, though I did not go deep into the orchid area which was quite wet and muddy. There were plenty of spotted leaves and I would expect more flowers to appear in the next few weeks. The peak flowering should be in mid May, though looking through my records I counted 662 flowering spikes on 28 April 2011 which was very early.

Other flowers in the main orchid area included Common Dog-violets, Primroses, Wood Anemones, Dog's Mercury, Bluebells and Wood Sedge. On my way back up the eastern side of the hill, I looked for the area where Wood Sorrel used to flower, but I could not find it.

Bluebells in Hollybank
I drove back to the north entrance to the main Hollybank Woods and walked along the eastern path adjacent to the main Emsworth Common Road where the Bluebells were in full flower and a magnificent spectacle. Well worth seeing at Grid Ref: SU 744085.

There is also a good crop of Common Dog-violets along this path with the pale plump and notched spurs showing up very well.

At the end of the Bluebell path I stopped for a very welcome rest at my favourite seat (dedicated to the Lowtons) thinking about White Admirals which I often see from here, but not just yet!

Walking back along the Eastern Bridleway I noted a patch of Bugle not yet in flower.

Onto the old Holly Lodge clearing where Japonica was in full flower. I also found some Field Wood-rush, though not as much as usual.

Ralph Hollins comments: Your naming of Japonica could be misleading as there are many very different species imported from Japan which are given the name Japonica. The one you photographed is what I call Japanese Quince . . . see . . .

Moving onto the jubilee clearance area, I was very pleased to see hundreds of wild Lily of the Valley shoots, many with buds about to burst, in the small enclosed area at Grid Ref: SU 743082. They should be out in a couple of weeks.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down briefly to Langstone Mill Pond (11:23am to 12:16pm - tide pushing in slowly - bitterly cold north wind!
Langstone Mill Pond: A count of Little Egrets sitting produced a total of 24 nests. There is probably a few more than this, but it is very difficult to see as the foliage is growing up quickly. Two Reed Warblers singing (so late in arriving - all this cold weather is delaying stuff, just bringing a trickle in!) Chiffchaff singing. 4 Med Gulls over.
Off shore: An impressive count of 6 Greenshank roosting together (three of them with rings, one normal bird, RG//- + YY//-; The other two confusing!!! One with a slipped ring? GR//- + B//R - clearly viewed with red ring down by it's ankles and the last with just a dirty metal ring on left leg -//- +ON//- This birds rings looked old and worn and the orange may have even been worn away red? Confused and as a result I could not 100% fathom this birds rings out, especially on the left leg, before it flew off towards Thorney Island. Any ideas?).
3 Great Crested Grebes. 3 Swallow. 1 Shelduck with 2 off Conigar Point. 4 Whimbrel (one close, poor phone photo taken).

MONDAY APRIL 25 - 2016

Slipper Millpond
Mute Swan on the nest in the reeds. Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft with one sitting on the nest. I could not see the Coot nest on the gull raft, but the other two nests on the other rafts were fully occupied. Here is a shot of a Coot behind a barricade of twigs on the south raft.

The Tree Mallow on the south west corner of the pond has several open flowers. This is quite early for this plant which normally flowers in late May.

Wayside flowers
Common Chickweed - on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage. Described as almost our commonest weed, but attractive nevertheless with its deeply notched white flowers and hairs in lines on alternative sides of the rounded stems between the leaf nodes.
Thyme-leaved Speedwell - on a garden path. Very pale blue flowers and untoothed leaves, oval and shiny.


Barrie's news
Barrie Jay took this shot of a white butterfly with black tips to its wings in hedgerow close to home and did not know what it was. He thought male and female Orange Tip butterflies were similar in colour but after consulting the internet, realised that only the male has the orange tips, both male and female have attractive green mottled green underwings. We live and learn - always.

Barrie also got a couple of nice shots in his garden today, one showing the incredible grasping claws of the Nuthatch which are not usually obvious from a distance and also a diminutive Coal tit.

SUNDAY APRIL 24 - 2016

Marlpit Lane
I had a walk along Marlpit Lane this morning, listening intently for any signs of a Nightingale. Two Chiffchaffs were singing strongly. I also heard a Willow Warbler song on the east side of the lane north of the new entrance gate. We had one here last year. This is quite suitable habitat for Willow Warbler with young trees.
There was no sound of Nightingale along the lane, but I did hear a short but definite burst from a one at the top of the public footpath where it opens out in the extensive bushy area. I hung around for about 15 mins, but heard nothing else, but I am sure there is a Nightingale in this area. We had one here last year. Unfortunately, there is currently a lot of disturbance along the lane and surrounding areas.
As usual, the best place to hear and see Nightingales locally is Pulborough Brooks RSPB Reserve, where apparently they are showing 'ridiculously well'.

Emsworth Millpond
A walk around the town millpond this afternoon produced a pair of Tufted Ducks on the pond. It is unusual to see them here so late in the season. I suspect this is a pair moving to a breeding area, possibly Thorney Deeps. The regular Mute Swan pair was still on the pond, but there is no sign of any nesting activity.

Brook Meadow
Mike Wells spent a couple of hours on the meadow this morning. Apart from the 'normal' sightings, he saw good numbers of Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs. That is excellent news for this season's breeding.

Whimbrels have been in the news just recently. Ralph Hollins reported flocks of 17 in Langstone Harbour on Apr 19 and 40 passing Sandy Point on Hayling Island on Apr 20, then 73 there on Apr 21. Peter Milinets-Raby had 26 during a sea watch at Sandy Point yesterday (Apr 23). The Havant Wildlife Group saw 13 Whimbrel at Portchester during their Saturday morning walk on Apr 23. Heather Mills sent the following photo of three of them.

Lowton's Copse
Peter Milinets-Raby was very pleased to get an e-mail from Ros Norton with simple instructions about how to find the Toothwort at Lowton's Copse and the flowers were found with ease.
"Today, at roughly 1pm, I popped down to Lowton's Copse, north of Clanfield. The wood was utterly packed with people out for a walk amongst the splendid and spectacular display of Bluebells and Wood Anemones.

When found, the Toothwort was a very nice looking flower with subtle blends of pink and mauve. I counted 21 spikes.

Also seen in the wood were 4 singing male Firecrests (some stunning views - and there were probably more to be found in the copse!), 2 Treecreeper, 2+ Bullfinch, Buzzard, Yellowhammer, plus singing Chiffchaff and Blackcap.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular 3rd Thursday in the month conservation work session. Only 6 volunteers attended probably due to the rival attraction of the St George's Day parade taking place in Emsworth Square a couple of days earlier than usual. The main task was to clear the remaining Blackthorn bush from the north-east corner of the meadow. The idea is to open up this area to reduce vandalism and to improve the habitat for flowers and other wildlife. Here is the crew having a coffee break.

On the wildlife front I was pleased to hear the first Whitethroat on Brook Meadow this year - singing strongly from the causeway trees. This is a little later than usual. I could not get a photo, but here is one taken at this time last year by Malcolm Phillips.

I was also pleased to see the first male Orange Tip on Brook Meadow - I did see my first of the year yesterday at Marlpit Lane. They overwinter as a chrysalis and tend to emerge at the same time. The main food of the larvae is Cuckooflowers which are quite scarce on Brook Meadow, though I gather they also use Hedge Mustard which we have more of. The photo below shows the first sighting last year by Malcolm Phillips.
I spotted one of the ginger Bumblebees feeding on a Dandelion flower, probably Bombus hypnorum. I also saw a furry yellowish fly which I think could be a Yellow Dung-fly. Finally, I saw a small Ladybird with numerous black spots nestling among the nettle leaves. I suspect that this is a form of Harlequin Ladybird.

The male anthers are now prominent on the Distant Sedge on the Lumley area, where Divided Sedge is also fairly abundant. But I could not find any False Fox Sedge which will be the next of the regular sedges to emerge.

A single spike of Distant Sedge showing the male flowers at the top and females below

North Thorney
Tony Wootton went along the NRA track at North Thorney and down to the Little Deeps and back. He saw several migrants including Swallows, but no Cuckoo. Tony's photos included a Whitethroat and a possible Reed Warbler. There is no doubt about the Whitethroat.

However, I am a bit uncertain about the Reed Warbler so I have included two of Tony's photos of this bird. Two points make me hesitate; one the absence of any supercilium and two the habitat which is clearly willows and not reeds. Tony was unsure about the bird's song. We would appreciate any suggestions about this bird's identity.

Queen Elizabeth Country Park
Mike Wells spent yesterday morning at Queen Elizabeth Country Park and got a couple of excellent images of a couple of common birds that can be seen there.


Wayside flowers
Here are some of the flowers that I saw during a walk around Emsworth this morning.

Cleavers . . . . . . Herb-Robert

Thale Cress . . . . . Spotted Medick

Slender Speedwell . . . . . . . Ribwort Plantain

Tall Fescue on Brook Meadow

Marlpit Lane
I checked the lane again at about 12 noon, but there was no sound of any Nightingale. There is still time, though the current disturbance at the site and along the lane does not fill me with much optimism.
However, I did see my first male Orange Tip of the year. it did not stop for a photo so I am using one from last year taken on Brook Meadow in April by Malcolm Phillips.

House Martin survey - help needed
Caroline French carried out her first weekly survey of the House Martin nests yesterday morning, following the preliminary survey a about 10 days ago to record the existing nests and their condition. She was monitoring four properties with a total of 12 nests. Caroline reported: "There was no activity around any of these nests during my visit, although 11 House Martins did appear, feeding quite high overhead. I was interested to read on John Goodspeed's 'Nature Notes' that the first House Martin was reported at Westbourne on 16th April. There will be far too many nests in Westbourne for me to monitor them all, but I'd be interested to hear about the location of any active nests in Westbourne, or in Emsworth."
Please contact Caroline at . . . if you can help. I too would be interested, particularly if there are any House Martin nests in Emsworth as we have not had any for around 20 years.

Ros Norton responded postively to a query on this blog (April 9) as to whether Toothwort ican still be found in Lowton's Copse, Clanfield. Ros visited this site yesterday and found several Toothwort plants at both east and west entrances under Hazel but added that they are not easy to find. She also said the Bluebells and Wood Anemones are at their peak there.

Joyce Sawyer went to Stansted Forest yesterday at approximately 3pm and heard a Cuckoo in really good voice! Have there been any other local hearings?

Thorney news
Martin Hampton and his brother were on NW Thorney yesterday evening until dark, and got great views of a Barn Owl hunting the grassland and gorse scrub. They also heard 'pinging' Bearded Tits in the Little Deep reeds. Other sightings were Bar-Tailed Godwits in with a group of c.30 Curlew, a high and distant Osprey over the harbour entrance and, most satisfying, a Merlin that dashed south over the mudflats just off the west bank after sunset. They also saw a medium sized bat species, as well as Pipistrelles, right in the far NW corner.

Hampshire Farm
Message from Jayne Lake
"For those of you who do not know me, I work for Norse South East with volunteer groups on behalf of Havant Borough Council. For those of you who live in the borough you will know that we do the same roles just under a the different banner!
I am currently planning a couple of short work afternoons at Hampshire Farm - next to the Redlands Grange development. It's all light work - working on the newly planted trees and litter picking. I was hoping that some of you might join us - I have attached a poster with the details. I am hoping in the future I might be able to set up a volunteer group to help us maintain and keep an eye on the area, this is the first step. Feel free to forward this to anyone else you think might be interested."
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further information.


I had a late afternoon walk through Brook Meadow and down to Slipper Millpond. Nothing special. Saw male and female Blackcaps together just off the north path which is very good news for breeding. But, still no Whitethroat. The Great Black-backed Gull was on the nest on Slipper Millpond with her mate on the water. Mute Swan also on the nest. Mediterranean Gulls everywhere. Here are a few splashing around on the pond.

Farmland stars
Caroline French got some good sightings while carrying out an early morning survey on a South Downs farm yesterday. Here are two cracking photos of the stars. A Brown Hare and a Yellowhammer.

MONDAY APRIL 18 - 2016

Marlpit Lane
I drove up to Marlpit Lane this morning to check for Nightingales. I walked slowly up and down the lane listening intently, but there was no sound of a Nightingale. I also walked up the footpath going east, but there was nothing there either, but for Chiffchaff, Blackcap and the local birds. There is a lot of work currently going on in this area and I am concerned that this could deter any Nightingales. But, we shall see, as it is still fairly early for them.
I was interested to read a notice on the metal gate leading to a new track going eastwards from the lane. It was headed 'Work in Progress' and said they were 'looking to thin the trees out to enhance the growth and welfare of a better woodland'. But, I fear in doing this they could be making the woodland less attractive for Nightingales, which have probably been coming to the Marlpit Lane area for hundreds of years. In fact, the woodland is of fairly recent origin, as the area used to be a land fill site until about 15 years ago when it was planted up with new trees.

North Thorney
Parking the car at the corning of Thornham Lane and Thorney Road I walked along the old NRA track listening out for any sign of migrants, but again heard nothing, but for Cetti's Warblers - at least three of them.
However, I had better luck on the track leading down to Little Deeps with a Sedge Warbler singing strongly from the reeds a little way down the track. There was no mistaking that cheerful mixture of musical phrases, harsh chattering and squeaky whistled notes, quite different from the monotonous churring of a Reed Warbler (not heard today).

Here is a Sedge Warbler that Tony Wootton got on North Thorney in April last year.

While walking along the NRA track I was accompanied by the constant calling of Mediterranean Gulls overhead. What a year it has been for them. I spotted a hoverfly feeding on a Dandelion flower with distinctive stripes down its thorax which I think is Helophilus pendulus.

I stopped to admire a Goat Willow beside the NRA track which was covered in green female catkins.

Thornham Lane
Masses of Alexanders are now in full flower along Thornham Lane. This is certainly the best place locally to see these magnificent plants. They were first introduced into Britain by the Romans as a salad, but are now well naturalised and widespread mainly along coastal regions.

I also noticed that Blackthorn leaves were starting to sprout to complement the flowers which have been out for some time.

I was interested to see that the Osprey nesting platform is still intact on one of the old landing lights on North Thorney. This was erected several years ago, but I am not sure if it has ever been used.

I found a good flowering of Periwinkle on the northern path round Thornham Point near to the last house. But which Periwinkle was it? Rose says the key difference between Greater Periwinkle and Lesser Periwinkle is the tiny hairs on the leaf margins in Greater. These cannot be seen on the photo, but checking at home with the microscope showed some of the leaves (not all) to have tiny hairs around the edges (see photo on the right), which presumably means the flowers are Greater Periwinkle.

Slipper Millpond news
Sharon whose house overlooks the pond phoned to say that the Great Black-backed Gulls appear to be settled on the nest. She said they had been restless for the past few days and leaving the nest at night, but today the gulls were present and sitting. So, I think we should calculate the hatching date from today. Incubation takes 27-28 days, so hatching is predicted for May 16. Sharon said the male gull had been confronting the cob swan of the nesting pair, not tolerating its close approach to the raft. However, the gulls are surprisingly casual about the Coots that are nesting in the box on the same raft as their nest.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond, walking in via Wade Lane at 1:05pm until 2:42pm - cloudy - low tide. The highlights were as follows: Male and female Kestrel, but not seen together. 1 Buzzard in its usual tree being mobbed by 4 Magpies. 1 Swallow flew into horse stable. 2 Stock Doves and 1 Mistle Thrush. Fox seen as well. Flooded horse paddock just held 4 Moorhen
Langstone Mill Pond: Buzzard and 2 Med Gulls over. Male and female Tufted Duck on the pond. Male Reed Bunting singing along with Chiffchaff.
Little Egrets settling down quickly. Not so many birds around (only 23 individuals, compared to the 34 seen yesterday). However, those present were sitting on nests and I counted 19 occupied nests. It is a shame that the breeding plumage Cattle Egret at Pagham choose that heronry instead of this one! The Grey Herons in the Old South Nest are attempting a second brood! Still no Reed Warbler singing? Maybe tomorrow! Also of note is that the Cetti's Warbler that sung its heart out last summer has not re-appeared.
Off Pook Lane: 92 Black-tailed Godwits (172 seen yesterday). Some in deep burnt, red, glorious summer dress. 5 Shelduck flying about. 2 Common Terns. 1 Great Crested Grebe and a male Red Breasted Merganser diving for fish etc. 11 summer plumaged Dunlin. 3 Whimbrel flew over calling and headed off east and one was seen feeding in the channel 2 Greenshank (coloured ring G//R + BRtag//- getting into summer dress now - see photo - plus one of Reed Bunting).

Pheasant in garden
Ray Hay had this cracking cock Pheasant on his lawn in Fishbourne yesterday morning.

SUNDAY APRIL 17 - 2016

Hayling West Beach
Jean and I had a walk along the beach at West Hayling from the beach huts as far as Gunner Point on a fine spring morning of unbroken sunshine. The main objective was to look for early Green-winged Orchids on the dunes. I knew where to look for them so they were not difficult to find. We counted 76 flowering spikes mostly in the area between the pill box (Grid Ref: SZ 691 990) and just past the first seat (Grid Ref: SZ 693 988). There are certainly lots more to come as several thousand are usually counted at the height of their season.

Other plants in flower included Spring Beauty, Musk Storksbill, English Stonecrop, Sheep's Sorrel, Musk Storksbill, Sweet Vernal Grass, Field Wood-rush, Bulbous Buttercup, Thrift. Plants not yet in flower included Sea Kale, Tree Lupin and Hoary Cress (aka the Portsmouth weed). See photos below.

Spring Beauty on the left has two stem leaves fused to form a saucer-like structure below a cluster of tiny white flowers. This arrangement is unique. The flowers are not fully out at the moment. It is a non-native plant, introduced to gardens from N. America and E. Asia by 1768 and first recorded in the wild in 1838. It is still spreading. It can mainly be found near the western end of the dunes.
Musk Storksbill on the right was scarce and I only came across it by chance. I also saw a good flowering of this plant yesterday on a grass verge in Emsworth.

Spring Beauty and Musk Storksbill

English Stonecrop, Sheep's Sorrel

Field Wood-rush and Tree Lupin

Sea Kale and Hoary Cress (aka the Portsmouth weed) - in bud.


Musk Storksbill
During a walk down to Slipper Millpond this morning, I found a good flowering of what looks like Musk Storksbill on the grass verge at the junction of Lumley Road and the main A259. The flowers reminded me of Common Stork's-bill, but the plants were larger and the flowers were in a cluster at the top of a long slender stem. It is said to have a slight sweetish musty smell, but I could not smell this. My only previous sighting of Musk Storksbill was at Shanklin on the Isle of Wight in May 2011.

The first image shows the plant in situ. The images below show a flower cluster and a leaf in close up.

Slipper Millpond
On Slipper Millpond a Great Black-backed Gull was snug on its nest on the centre raft. I believe there may be a Coot nesting in the box on the centre raft right next to the Great Black-backed Gull - not a good idea at all! Meanwhile, the Mute Swan was on her nest in the reeds with her mate for company.

Red Kite
When I got home I was delighted to see from our back garden window a Red Kite with long wings and a distinctively forked tail flying north over the town. This was the first I have ever seen over Emsworth, though they have been seen and photographed in the past. Here is a cracking photo of a Red Kite over Emsworth taken by Richard Somerscocks in April 2012.

Langstone Mill Pond
After a disappointing sea-watch at Sandy Point Peter Milinets-Raby called in briefly this morning to Langstone Mill Pond (7:41am to 8:32am high tide).
Lots more Little Egrets milling about, standing by nests, displaying etc - 12 on the island and 23 around the Holm Oak. Too early to start counting pairs/nests.
Elsewhere around the pond were: Goldcrest singing from the Fir tree in the grounds of the Mill, two Chiffchaff singing and a male Reed Bunting singing.
Grey Heron Nest 6 has two young. 3 Swallows over.
Off shore: 5 Great Crested Grebes (4 in summer and 1 winter) and 2 summer plumaged birds further away off Conigar Point, Whimbrel heard calling, 8 Med Gulls, Great Black-backed Gull, Male Red breasted Merganser.
90 Black-tailed Godwit roosting on the northern shore of Hayling Island.
Flooded horse paddock: 6 Moorhen and 2 Stock Doves.

Barrie Jay had a pair of Blackcaps in his garden today. He hopes they will breed. This is possible if the garden is suitably wild. I hope he keeps a look out for any signs of nesting and feeding young.

For earlier observations go to . . April 1-15