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A community web site dedicated to the observation, recording
and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

for May 1-16, 2016
(in reverse chronological order)

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

MONDAY MAY 16 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow this morning, which will be the last one for a week, as we are off to the Isle of Wight for a short break. I had a look for Ragged Robin again on the Lumley area, but could only find the same two flowering plants that I saw yesterday. I did note a good flowering of Common Mouse-ear and Common Sorrel in the same area.
Marsh Foxtail is now in flower, slightly earlier than usual, in the regular spot in the wet area around the Lumley puddle. This looks very much like a smaller version of the very tall Meadow Foxtail which is currently widespread around the meadow.

There are now many flowering plants of Celery-leaved Buttercup on the east side of the south meadow. The plants are all along what we used to call the Bramble path, though most of the Bramble has been removed during the flood defence work. This is the best show of Celery-leaved Buttercup I have ever seen anywhere; there must be a good 100 quite substantial plants. As Celery-leaved Buttercup is an annual, I suspect these plants will have originated from seeds brought in inadvertently during the flood defence work on the bund around the garden of Gooseberry Cottage.

While I was admiring the Celery-leaved Buttercup, my first Speckled Wood of the year few past and landed conveniently for me to take its photo. Thanks.

Slipper Millpond
I carried on to Slipper Millpond to check on the Great Black-backed Gull nest, as this was my predicted hatching date. However, there was no change; the female was still sitting tight on the nest with no sign of any activity beneath her while her mate waited patiently beside her.

The Mute Swan family was not on the pond, but were on the low water Dolphin Lake which runs adjacent to Slipper Millpond. This is a popular spot for swans as it is the outlet for fresh water from the River Ems and probably contains plenty of nutritious food. The cygnets are also safer than on the pond itself where the Great Black-backed Gulls will soon be on the look out for tasty morsels to feed their young. My guess is that the adult swans took their brood over the sluice gates at high water and into the harbour from where access to Dolphin Lake is easy.

Peter Pond
Mike Wells spent about an hour hoping to photograph one of the recently sighted Water Voles from the small bridge north of Peter Pond, but no luck. He walked past Gooseberry Cottage to the reed beds, attempting to photograph one of the very vocal Reed Warblers. Eventually one flew across the gravel path and perched in a blossoming shrub.

Chichester Peregrines
Neal Scott was also watching the Peregrines at Chichester Cathedral on Saturday morning when the female caught a pigeon. Neal got some great action photos of a Peregrine in flight - the best I have seen. Well done Neal.

Don't forget to check the live nest cam on the web site at . . .

SUNDAY MAY 15 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning to update the displays in the three main signcases with conservation and wildlife news and photos. While I was there I discovered the first Ragged Robin flowers of the year, living up to their name, very ragged!

They are a bit later than the last two years, though the first dates do vary quite a bit from one year to the next. I counted just two plants in flower. The annual counts have been very poor for the past 4 years; only 34 were recorded last year, while 1012 and 2013 had only 20 and 12 plants respectively. This was in sharp contrast to a bumper year of 625 in 2010. See web site link for details of past Ragged Robin counts on Brook Meadow . . .

A fly with attractive veined wings and distinctive grey stripes on its thorax landed on a signcase. From my perusal of Chinery's book I think it could be a Snipe Fly possibly Atherix ibis - though I shall soon be corrected. I also had a black fly for company which was not at all disturbed when I worked on the signcase. This looks like a St Mark's Fly which usually appears close to St Mark's Day on April 25th. I did not see any swarms this year, maybe it was too cold for them?

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby Popped down to Langstone Mill Pond late morning (11:48am to 12:40pm - low tide). Not a great deal happening.
Langstone Mill Pond: 2 male and a female Gadwall, 4 Reed Warblers holding territory (2 seen singing), 7 Swallows over along with 2 Swift, Goldcrest singing and Little Egrets very quiet, not a single gobble sound out of the colony, all birds sitting tight on nests, partners obviously out feeding somewhere. A female Mallard with 3 tiny ducklings (3 days old - seen Friday).
Off shore: 2 Shelduck, 2 Great Crested Grebe in the channel and over 23+ Med Gulls over heading to the harbour, having flown in from the north.

Big Day Bird List
Yesterday: John Norton and Peter went out for a Big Day List keeping to the east of the county of Hampshire.
"We started at dawn at Whitehill (north section of Woolmer) for Woodcock, Nightjar, Tawny Owl, Garden Warbler and Firecrest. Woolmer Pond for Greylag Goose, Hobby, Cuckoo, Pochard, Bullfinch and Sand Martin. Heath Pond, Petersfield for 7 Egyptian Geese. Buriton Pond for Nuthatch. Holt Down for Raven. Chalton Down for Turtle Dove and Yellowhammer. Langstone Mill Pond for Little Egret, Gadwall and Tufted Duck. Pigeon House Lane for 13 male and 1 female Mandarin Duck and Red-legged Partridge. Farlington Marshes for Lesser Whitethroat, Lapwing, Cetti's Warbler, Med Gull, Whimbrel and Bearded Tit. Luckily bumped into a Red Kite near Hundred Acres. Titchfield Haven for Garganey, Sanderling, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Avocet, Greenshank, Black-tailed Godwit and Stonechat. Kites Croft for Peregrine. We finished at 3:30pm with a grand total of 103. We missed loads of species, some embarrassingly so i.e. Skylark, Redstart, Nightingale, Shoveler and Common Sandpiper. Let's hope we have better luck next time - Jan the First!

Yesterday, Ken and Romney Turner got a good sighting of two male Adders courting a brownish looking female. She says, "One of the males was quite black coloured and the other much more white in the pattern. The darker one was more dominant and eventually saw off the lighter one which went into a sunny patch to sulk. The female was quite a lot fatter than the males and completely different colour as you can see from the photo which show male and female courting."

Joyce Sawyer had a Hornet in her garden yesterday. It landed in a pool, but she (brave lady) rescued it and, after it had dried out, it flew away. Well, done, Joyce!

Bats in Emsworth
Brendan Gibb-Gray witnessed an aerial display by at least two Bats between 6 and 7 Chequers Quay. Brendan says it is the first time he have seen this for some years and would like to know which species they are and where they roost. Could it be the old antique centre? Message passed on to Nik Knight.

Baffins News
Eric Eddles had another pleasant surprise this afternoon when a Canada goose family appeared on Baffins Pond. Eric says the swan family is doing well also.

SATURDAY MAY 14 - 2016

Chichester Peregrines
This morning Jean and I had coffee in the cafe behind Chichester Cathedral where the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds had their usual Peregrine watching booth with telescopes and a live nest camera.

One of the volunteers told me there were four chicks hatched 2½ weeks ago. Unusually, all four chicks hatched together; apparently they normally hatch at 24 hour intervals. They will be sexed and ringed by Graham Roberts in a few days time. Here is a photo of the chicks on monitor.

You can view the live web cam on the nest on the link at . . .

While I was there one of the birds (thought to be the female) came in with a freshly caught prey (thought to be a Feral Pigeon) and proceeded to pluck it in full view of the telescopes trained on it. Here is a digiscoped shot I got with my camera through the telescope lens - not too bad I thought. I will have to try this method more often!

For more news and photos go to . . .

FRIDAY MAY 13 - 2016

Slipper Millpond
I found the Mute Swan family with five cygnets still together and looking in fine fettle in the north west corner of Slipper Millpond near to the Chequers Quay housing estate.

Brendan Gibb-Gray came out of his house while I was there. He said he had been dropping small items of bread from his balcony overlooking the pond, but the cygnets were not taking it only the adults. I explained that the cygnets needed more high protein nutritious insect food which the adults provided by stirring up the mud at the bottom of the pond.
The Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting on the nest on the centre raft. Hatching is predicted for May 16th.

Peter Pond
I found a good flowering of Prickly Sow-thistle on the east side of the pond - with rounded auricles where the leaves meet the stem. I also found Smooth Sow-thistle a little further up Lumley Road - here the auricles simply clasp the stem.
There is also a good growth of Tall Fescue grass the spikelets of which tend to hang to one side.

Grey Sedge is also flowering along Lumley Road near the Lumley Stream.
I waited again on the Lumley bridge for about 10 minutes with my eyes rained on the pool to the north where Water Voles have been sighted, but I saw nothing. I did hear the monotonous churring song of a Reed Warbler from the reedbeds on the pond.

Brook Meadow
While I was on the meadow I happened to meet a couple of birdwatchers from Hayling Island who reported having seen a pair of Bullfinches near the north bridge. A very good sighting. I was pleased to show them some of the grasses and sedges of the Brook Meadow reserve.
I met Brian Lawrence on the main river path and we watched a Moorhen and two chicks move down river among the vegetation. Here is a not very good shot of the two chicks. The first of the year on the meadow.

Later Brian got the best sighting of the day in the form of our first Beautiful Demoiselle of the year on Brook Meadow - a male with a metallic blue body and broad brown wings. The very similar Banded Demoiselle differs in having a broad band across its wings. Well done, Brian!

Yesterday's news
Whilst having lunch in the garden yesterday, Patrick Murphy saw a Red Kite fly over, almost directly overhead. There was no doubt on identification with the distinctive forked tail. It was flying up Christopher Way and then veered off towards Westbourne. It might have been the same bird that I saw flying over Emsworth on April 16.
Ros Norton reports that among the many birds seen or heard by the Ems Valley U3A Bird Watching group was a Short-eared Owl on the ground in a field between the Deeps and a Cuckoo was heard.

THURSDAY MAY 12 - 2016

Hollybank Woods
Jean and I had a gentle stroll into Hollybank Woods mainly to see the Bluebells along the north eastern path adjacent to Emsworth Common Road. There were plenty of Bluebells still in flower, but generally they were past their best. So, if you have not seen them yet, get up there fast.
We were well compensated by a splendid display of Wood Speedwell flowers along the main paths, plus a surprisingly good number of Common Dog-violets still in flower.

We also saw Bugle in flower along the Eastern Bridleway

My personal highlight were the occasional tufts of Wood Millet, which is a lovely woodland grass with delicate whorled spreading panicles, rather like the branches of a tree. This grass is very hard to photograph with a simple point and shoot camera like mine, so you really need go into the woods and see the real thing to appreciate its nature.

Baffins cygnets
Eric Eddles enjoyed a wonderful sight to-day of six cygnets safely on the centre island at Baffins Pond. Swans are certainly very productive this year with a record 9 cygnets at Langstone Mill Pond and 5 here on Slipper Millpond and now 6 at Baffins Pond. Are there any other good broods locally?


Waysides News
The first Common Sorrel of the year is now out on the Bridge Road Wayside by the car park - and no doubt in many other place too. This is always the first of the dock family to appear in the spring and is easily identified from its arrow-shaped leaves with the lobes pointing backwards.

Sheep's Sorrel is similar, but is smaller and more delicate than Common Sorrel and is found in different habitats. The track down the west side of Thorney Island by Little Deeps is usually a good place, but I have not checked this year.

Mute Swan family - first outing
I went down to Slipper Millpond at about 11am and found the 5 tiny swan cygnets from the nest in the reedbeds having their first outing on the water with mum and dad. Like all young waterfowl, cygnets accept as parents the first large moving objects they see and follow them in preference to anything else. This process is called imprinting and was discovered by the famous ethologist Conrad Lorenz. You might well have seen films of Dr Lorenz being followed by a line of geese that had become imprinted on him.

This morning the parent swans were demonstrating the rudiments of feeding to the youngsters, for cygnets must learn to feed themselves from the word go! They also need high protein animal matter, especially water insects, and one can often see the adult swans paddling the mud at the bottom of the pond to dislodge insects and other food matter for the cygnets

The family may return to the nest at night, though often the parents will brood the youngsters by carrying them on their backs between folded wings. While I was there this morning, the family did return to the nest, but the cygnets were not able to climb the steep sides of the nest, which has been built high the withstand the spring tides. Sharon Corbett rang me later to say the cygnets had been able to get onto the nest at high water.
There are just two eggs remaining in the nest, but they are unlikely to hatch even though the pen's instinct is to carry on brooding them.

Lumley Path
I stood on the small bridge to the north of Peter Pond for about 15 minutes late this morning, hoping for a Water Vole, but again saw nothing. However, I have alerted the conservation group to the fact that a Water Vole was seen on successive days at this spot, so hopefully there will be many eyes watching out for them. Birds heard singing included Robin, Wren, Woodpigeon, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.

Brook Meadow
I had a look around the wet Lumley area and it really was wet today after the early morning rain, so I needed my boots. I was hoping for Ragged Robin flowers which in the last two years were out on 13 May and 8 May respectively. I did not see any sign of them, but I did find my first False Fox Sedge of the year. This is also a bit later than normal; I have sometimes found the flowers out in late April.

The green sterile stems of Field Horsetail are now prominent around the meadow. This is the second phase of growth of this fascinating plant (if rather unpopular, particularly with gardeners). The first phase, which occurs in early spring, produces fertile cone-bearing stems. Here are both for comparison. The cone on the left was taken in the spring. The stem on the right was taken today.

Thomas Iron and his mum Glynis walked round Brook Meadow this afternoon and were thrilled to see a good number of Ladybirds. Young Thomas identified some as Harlequin Ladybirds with a variety of colours and marking. More interesting was the first Nursery-web spider (Pisaura mirabilis) to be seen on Brook Meadow this year in typical pose resting on a nettle leaf with its two front legs stuck out. Well done, Thomas.

Our local Hedgehog expert, Caroline French, was pleased to hear about the Hedgehog that Jane Allen had in her Kings Road garden yesterday. Caroline said ... "I have one coming for food each night but I'm not sure it's actually living in the garden or using any of my boxes. Its appearances are less predictable than some previous hedgehogs. I suspect it's a male which comes to have some food then goes off to bother a female somewhere."
Chris Oakley tells me that he put out his night camera hoping to catch a Hedgehog, but had no success. All he got was a passing dog fox and a local cat, but he will keep trying, because Hedgehogs were frequent visitors to his garden up until a couple of years ago.
Personally, I have not seen one in my Bridge Road garden since we had a little family in June 2010. Here are photos of one of the parents and a youngster from that occasion.

If anyone has any Hedgehog visiting their garden we would love to hear about it.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond and afterwards walked across the road and quickly checked Southmoor and the Langbrook Stream estuary this afternoon 12:57pm to 2:45pm tide coming in). His observations:
Langstone Mill Pond: I counted 74 Little Egrets, 2 male Gadwall with one female, Blackcap heard, Green Woodpecker heard, Chiffchaff heard and 3 Reed Warblers heard. Male and female Reed Bunting (see photo). 6 Swifts and 2 Swallows milling about

Off shore: 4 Great Crested Grebes, 3 Common Tern, 5 Med Gulls,
Dropping out of the heavy cloud were a flock of 23 Whimbrel that headed east along the channel. Two birds dropped to the mud to feed, the rest moved on.
Distantly off Conigar Point: 2 Shelduck, 5 winter plumaged Bar-tailed Godwit.
Langbrook Stream Estuary/outflow: 3 Common Sandpipers, 2 Adult Mute Swans with 9 cygnets (safe and well). 30+ Common Tern. 13 Med Gulls (3 first summers). 1 Shelduck, 5 Great Crested Grebes.
Southmoor: 2 Linnets, Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit in song display flight, 3 House Martin and 7+ Swallow.

TUESDAY MAY 10 - 2016

Slipper Millpond
I cycled down to Slipper Millpond at about 11am this morning to check on the Mute Swan cygnets which had started hatching yesterday, as reported to me by Sharon Corbett. Before I set out I received a phone call from Gavin Miller to say he had seen some cygnets in the nest in the reedbeds this morning.
When I arrived at Slipper Road I could see at least 5 cygnets in the nest, three fairly well exposed the other two being under their mother's wings. Since I initially counted 8 eggs in the nest there may well be more than 5 cygnets, though it is not unusual for one or two of a clutch this size not to hatch.

While I was there I met a couple (Simon and Clare) who were buying the house next to where the swans were nesting. They were naturally delighted to see the swan family so close to their prospective home and to hear about the rest of the wildlife on and around the millpond. Roger Mills also turned up and we both welcomed the newcomers to Emsworth - a very good choice, we both agreed!
A Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the centre raft - hatching should be in about a week's time.
The Coots nesting on the south raft now have at least two chicks - their bright red faces can just be seen looking out from the nest box in this photo.

I could not see any chicks on the other two rafts. However, I did spot a Coot sitting on a nest on the edge of the island on Peter Pond; it is easily seen from Lumley Road.

Lumley Pool
From Slipper Millpond I headed for the Lumley Stream to have a look for Water Voles following the sightings reported in last night's blog. On the way I stopped at the broad grass verge at the junction of Lumley Road and the main A259 to admire the Musk Storksbill which was looking very good.

I waited on the Lumley Path footbridge with camera at the ready for about 15 minutes around 12 noon, but saw nothing. However, I did enjoy the bird song all around to pool and the bright yellow flowers of Yellow Flag which have multiplied considerably since I was last here as few days ago.

I also noticed that Germander Speedwell was in flower on the Lumley Path, a regular place for this delightful plant. Germander Speedwell is easily identified from the two lines of hairs on opposite sides of the stem. The very similar Wood Speedwell has hairs all around the stem.

Brook Meadow
From the Lumley Path, I went onto Brook Meadow through the Lumley gate and was immediately confronted by the huge Horse Chestnut tree completely laden with pink-flecked white 'candles'. What a wonderful spectacle! The tree is actually in the garden of Gooseberry Cottage, though most of its branches hang over the Brook Meadow site.

Two Harlequin Ladybirds were mating on a nettle leaf, both very different in appearance. Harlequins certainly vary a great deal in colour and spots. On the right is another Harlequin I found nearby with hardly any marks on its wing case. The Harlequins tend to have large white 'cheeks'.

In contrast here is a native 7-spot Ladybird I found nearby.

I found my first Hemlock Water-dropwort in flower on the south meadow. I hope the conservation group don't see it otherwise they will chop the flowers in an attempt to restrict the spread of the plant. Personally, I don't think removing the flowers makes much difference as the plants spread vegetatively underground. The best way to get rid of them is to dig them up like the conservation did successfully on the botanically sensitive Lumley area where it was threatening to engulf the sedges.

I also noticed purple-flowered Common Comfrey in the south meadow and Elder blossom now out above the south bridge.

Hedgehog returns
Jane Allen was delighted to report that after 4 years of no show she finally had a Hedgehog in her garden tonight - at Kings Road! Jane says they always used to have a few Hedgehogs that visited regularly, but after finding one that had been hurt way back they have not seen anything. So pleased! Caroline French will also be pleased to hear about another local Hedgehog. How many others are living in gardens I wonder?

MONDAY MAY 9 - 2016

Waysides News
I was to have met up with Jane Brook for a waysides survey this morning, but unfortunately we missed each other, so we each went round on our own! Here is my report.
I started at the Washington Road wayside where I saw my first Hemlock Water-dropwort starting to flower, but no sign of any movement on the Greater Burdock which is the prize plant of this wayside

I walked on to the Emsworth Recreation Ground where I found the usual collection of interesting grasses on the nice area behind the bowling club. They included lots of Sweet Vernal-grass, Meadow Foxtail, Field Wood-rush and Tall Fescue. The Blackthorn scrub continues to spread and is now seriously threatening the grassland.

On the track in the far north-east corner of the Recreation Ground leading to the gate, as in previous years I found several tufts of buttercups with turned back sepals which are likely to be Hairy Buttercups. I have found these here in previous years and have occasionally dug one up to establish they are not Bulbous Buttercups.

I moved on towards Christopher Way where I found a magnificent display of Shining Cranesbill in full flower along the edge of the path leading from Christopher Way to Bellevue Lane - certainly the highlight of my morning. I expected to see some flowers on this shady path, but this is certainly the best I have ever seen them with hundreds of tiny bright pink flowers contrasting with the glossy green leaves. My photo does not do full justice to the flowers, which must be seen in situ. Truly wonderful.

There was nothing of special interest on the grass verge wayside on Christopher Way as the cutters had been there recently. There was no sign of the Wild Clary on the official wayside, though I could see some battered leaves on the council verge. I found my first Smooth Meadow-grass of the year with short ligules.

I walked back to the wayside on the junction of New Brighton Road and Horndean Road where I had my first Hedge Mustard of the year, but my best find was Wall Speedwell.

Finally I had a quick look at the Railway Wayside where I found the Coltsfoot had largely gone over to seed heads and the large leaves were growing.

Walking to the top of the ramp I spotted a few flowers of Keel-fruited Cornsalad in among some large dock leaves - a first for this wayside.  

Water Bent
On my way to Washington Road wayside, I noticed several tufts of grasses growing between the houses and the pavement on Victoria Road near its junction with Washington Road. They were immediately recognisable as Water Bent (Polypogon viridis) which I have found on the pavements around the area in previous years. Interestingly, this grass is not covered in Francis Rose's book on grasses, but is present in Cope and Gray's book.

Water Bent is a native of Southern Europe and the Mediterranean, but has been widely naturalised elsewhere. Here in Britain it is confined mainly to Southern England below a line from the Bristol Channel to the Thames. It occurs in a wide range of waste and built up habitats, including pavement cracks, as here. Martin Rand says it is now widespread in Hampshire and even common around some of the main built-up areas. It's spreading in much of the rest of the country too.

Water Voles are back!
I had two reports today of a Water Vole seen swimming in the Lumley Stream where it enters Peter Pond.
Carole Checksfield and her partner saw a Water Vole swimming in the small pond just north of the Lumley Path yesterday 8th May at 4.30. She said they had a really good view of it swimming and resting on the bank.
Then today, at approximately 11.35am whilst standing on the small Lumley footbridge with his back to Peter Pond, Chris Akass saw a Water Vole crossing the Lumley pond from west to east bank. Chris added "I couldn't get my phone out quick enough to take a photo. All I saw was its head and back. It's fur was a very light brown and it didn't appear to have a long tail."

How exciting! These are the first Water Vole sightings we have had on the Brook Meadow site for over a year. Although they could well be of the same vole, it does give us hope that the voles are back at least on the Lumley Stream, if not on the River Ems as yet. If they are on the Lumley Stream then it is only a short distance across the meadow to the River Ems. So, please everyone who reads this and walks Brook Meadow and the Lumley area keep looking in the stream and river for any more voles. Here is a photo of one swimming in the river taken a couple of years ago, just to remind you what to look for. Note the blunt nose and tiny ears; Brown Rat has a sharper nose and longer ears.

See the special web page for the history of Water Voles on Brook Meadow with photos and counts . . .

Cygnets born!
I had a phone call from a very excited Sharon Corbett who lives in Slipper Road over looking Slipper Millpond to say she was looking at three swan cygnets which she thinks had just hatched in the nest in the reedbeds. With up to 8 eggs initially in the nest, we should expect many more to emerge!

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (1:52am to 2:55am - very high tide). His report follows
"Funny, but I have rarely visited on extreme high tides, so it was a pleasant surprise today to find the pathway flooded by the combination of high tide and a brisk easterly wind (see photo).

On the pond were a pair of Gadwall (he found a mate), a pair of Tufted Duck (all at peace, now the swans are away!! - I must check on them)
Also 2 Reed Warblers seen and 2 heard singing, a Reed Bunting was heard singing, And seeing out the high tide was a Whimbrel feeding on the last puddle of water in the horse paddock.
The Grey Heron heronry was very quiet, with the old south nest with an adult bird re-sitting and on the other Holm oak nest, the birds were busy displaying and bringing sticks and almost certainly are going to re-sit.
The Little Egret colony was back in full swing today (no idea, why certain nests had been abandoned the other week). Egrets were everywhere, calling constantly with lots of display. I counted 35 egrets sitting on nests with a further 2 pairs engaged in display beside old nests, so an impressive 37 pairs (and there maybe the odd nest hidden away that I could not see as the foliage has grown up quite significantly).
Off shore on the choppy waters was a single Great Crested Grebe and overhead were 2 Med Gulls.

SUNDAY MAY 8 - 2016

Mute Swan nest
At about 11am (2 hours before a high spring tide) I cycled down to Slipper Millpond to check on the Mute Swan nest. All seemed to be well, with the pen snug on the nest and the cob on the water nearby. There was no sign of any cygnets.
However, at about 1.30pm I had a phone call from Gavin Miller who said the swan's nest had been swamped by the 5 metre spring tide and he watched both swans desperately trying to retrieve the situation. I nipped down in the car to have a look for myself at 2pm (about 1 hour after high water) by which time the situation had settled down and the pen swan was back on the nest in the reedbeds rebuilding the nest around her while her mate was swanning around on the water nearby. I could not see any sign of cygnets, so the waiting goes on, but hatching must be fairly imminent. I trust the eggs were not damaged in the swamping.


Brook Meadow
I also had a look at the Celery-leaved Buttercups that Maurice Lillie discovered yesterday in the south eastern corner of the south meadow where the ground had been disturbed by the recent flood defence work on the bund around Gooseberry Cottage. There was a really good crop of them, at least 12 plants and mostly in flower growing on the bare muddy ground near the new pebble mesh defence at Grid Ref: SU 751 058.

In the same area as the buttercups there is a good crop of what I thought at first was Wintercress until I touched the stems which were decidedly bristly, suggesting Charlock. The leaves were strongly toothed, but not bristly as I would have expected. So, the jury is still out on this one: Wintercress or Charlock? My money is on the latter!

Also in flower in this general area were Creeping Buttercups, Garlic Mustard, Cuckooflower and Divided Sedge.

House Martin survey
Caroline French reported on her third survey visit to the House Martin nests she is monitoring at Westbourne.

"I'm pleased to say there are now plenty of House Martins busily repairing old nests and building new ones. Watching their aerial twists and turns and listening to their dry 'prrrt' calls certainly brought a smile to my face today - although that wasn't difficult on such a glorious May morning! I counted 16 at one time but I'm sure there are many more that that throughout the whole estate. Of the 12 original nests plus a brand new one being built on the four properties I am monitoring, adults are now active at eight.
I noted that the House Martins appear to like to stay together to some extent. While I was watching, most of the birds would disappear for a while and then return a bit later, more or less together. I think some are perhaps males bringing food to females, while others are still going off to collect mud for nest-building. I'll watch to see whether this pattern continues throughout the season, but I imagine that once they have young they will be continuously relaying food to the chicks.
There were two Swifts hunting overhead, and five or six Swallows around. Plenty of Starlings and House Sparrow were around too, and I could hear the noisy begging calls of juvenile Starlings from several eves.
I'm very impressed with the amount of greenery around Westbourne - thick hedges, shrubs, climbers, trees etc. This must all be helping greatly with the amount of invertebrate food around, along with the many horses in the area. I hope Westbourne doesn't go the way of so many other places and start putting block paving and fencing everywhere. At the moment plenty of wildlife seems able to thrive there, so well done Westbourne!
I'm attaching a couple of photos. One shows the feathered feet of a House Martin and also the very early beginnings of nest building - just a few blobs of mud. The other picture shows a House Martin inside a nest - you can see the pinky 'new' mud on the nest and on the bill of the bird - repairs to last year's nest."

A new wildlife link
John Norton has taken over from Rod Stern as bryophyte recorder for VC11 and has set up a 'Hampshire Bryophytes' web site at . .
John also has started a blog though he does not know how long he will be able to keep it up . .


Brook Meadow
Maurice Lillie had some interesting plant sightings on the meadow yesterday. They included our first Celery-leaved Buttercup of the year in the south eastern corner of the south meadow. Celery-leaved Buttercup is less showy than the other buttercups with somewhat washed out yellow petals and an abnormally large green ovary in the centre. The leaves are only vaguely celery-like. Interestingly, this plant has not been recorded in this location since 2010.

Maurice also spotted a Lords and Ladies (aka Cuckoo Pint) plant on the Lumley Path with an open spathe revealing its the deep brown spadix which contain the flowers. They turn into bright red berries in late summer.

Maurice also snapped the first Yellow Iris flower of the year in the Lumley pool, the first of many to brighten this shady pond.

FRIDAY MAY 6 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I went looking for the moss Drepanocladus aduncus (Kneiff's Hook-moss) that John Norton found on the Lumley area on May 1, but which I missed when I last looked for it on May 4. John's suggestion to look for a 'dark golden moss' was the key and I literally found it everywhere. It stands out quite clearly from the more common Brachythecium rutabulum (Rough Feather-moss). Here is a photo of the Drepanocladus aduncus I took today (on the left) alongside John's more close-up photo (on the right) for comparison. Note the small cup-like fungi which I have yet to identify.

Looking at the moss through a microscope (x20)
reveals the falcate (curled) nature of its leaves more clearly.

Other observations: I found the first spikes of Rough Meadow-grass just starting to emerge along the main river path. As well as being rough this grass has long pointed ligules to distinguish it from Smooth Meadow-grass.

Cow Parsley is now coming into full flower and should produce a fine display along the main path in a couple of weeks time.

The Bulrushes are now starting to shed seeds on the west side of the river. The tiny flowers are grouped into separate cylindrical spikes with male on top and female below. Only the female spikes remain in the photo below. The female spike is the familiar brown fat brown 'cigar' that releases masses of seeds that are carried on the wind by their cottony down.


Peter Pond
A Reed Warbler was singing strongly from the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond when I passed by this morning. The first of the year.
Common Vetch is in flower on the path to Gooseberry Cottage from the main road.


Slipper Millpond
I was keen to check the Mute Swan nest in the reedbeds as this was the hatching day I had predicted. However, there was no sign of any cygnets. In fact, both swans were very busy building up their nest in the face of a 4.8m high tide. The tide will be even higher tomorrow at 5.0m. There was no change on the centre raft where the Great Black-backed Gull was still on the nest with its mate on the water nearby.
A local resident told me that a couple of weeks ago she had witnessed the cob swan drowning what from her description appeared to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull in the pond. I know nothing more about this and I have not seen any corpse. But I would be interested to hear from anyone else who saw this event.

Spreading Yellow Sorrel
Meanwhile, back home, the first flowers have appeared on the Spreading Yellow Sorrel in the brickwork of our front garden. My wife always pulls up this plant which she says is an invasive weed - too true. But how could one fail to love such an attractive flower growing in such difficult circumstances?

Other news
Jill Stanley was down at Gunner Point on Hayling this morning to photograph the Green-winged orchids and there were hundreds of them. Well worth a visit. They are mostly in the area between the pill box (Grid Ref: SZ 691 990) and just past the first seat (Grid Ref: SZ 693 988). Jill's photo shows the green stripes on the sepals which form the hood, and from where they get their name.

Chris Oakley was also on Hayling foreshore this morning. Chris noted a pair of Common Terns performing their high speed aerobatics. Also a group of six Carrion Crows which he says belies the saying; 'If there's more than two Crows, they're Rooks and if there's only one Rook, it's a crow'.
Barrie Jay was over on the Lee seafront today and saw many Small Tortoiseshells and got this cracking photo of one.


First Swifts
We had our first Swifts of the year, three of them, flying over our garden in Bridge Road at 10am this morning. A wonderful sign of summer on such a lovely morning. This is a couple of days earlier than last year, but about the norm for first arrivals in Bridge Road. My earliest ever date was May 1 in 2007. This year Caroline French had the first local Swift sighting at Westbourne on Apr 28 and Thomas Irons saw one in Emsworth on May 1.
Ralph Hollins summarised earlier south coast sightings: The first Swift was at Portland on Mar 31 followed by 2 at Hill Head on Apr 7 and one at Christchurch on Apr 13. They were seen daily from Apr 15 with the first small flock of 18 near Romsey on Apr 20, then 30+ over Chichester Ivy Lake on Apr 21. Sandy Point on Hayling had 2 on Apr 21 and 3 singles in off on Apr 23.

Holly Blue
Another first of the year was a Holly Blue in the garden this afternoon. It fluttered around the Ivy hedge, but did not stop long enough for a photo. Here is one I got last year showing its typical black spotted underwings.

Brian Lawrence also had a Holly Blue on Brook Meadow yesterday, so they are definitely out and about. The only other blue butterfly one is likely to see on Brook Meadow is a Common Blue, but they won't be out until early June. In flight the best way to distinguish the two blues is to remember that Common Blue usually flies low over grassland, whereas Holly Blue flies high in bushes.

Brook Meadow mosses
John Norton provided further information about the Drepanocladus aduncus moss he discovered on Brook Meadow on May 1st.
He says, "
The Drepanocladus is quite a common species; mainly coastal, though I've seen it inland once in a wet meadow. I couldn't see enough detail in your posted photo, but there is some dark golden moss by the left hand cup fungus which looks possible for Drepanocladus. The plants at Brook Meadow had more strongly falcate leaves than usual for this species."

This is the dark golden moss that John is referring to in my photo

I will have another look for this dark golden moss that I missed last time. PS: Falcate means curved, as a sickle.

Warblington verge cut!
I had an e-mail last night from Di Ashe alerting me to the fact that yesterday the council mowing team had cut the northern grass verge on the Havant Road east of the Warblington roundabout, which is home to around 50 Bee Orchids. It was Di who first drew my attention to the Bee Orchids on this verge last summer (8 June 2015), but they had gone by the time I went to have a look! News of this cutting is very disappointing, particularly since Jayne Lake (of HBC now Norse) and I had gone to the trouble to survey the verge earlier in the year (on 23 March 2016), in order to establish the exact location of the orchids, so that the mowing team could be warned not to cut there. Grid Ref: SU 730059. Clearly, the appropriate message had not go through to the cutting team. However, I am also annoyed with myself for failing to put up 'Not to be cut' notices as Jayne and I had agreed at the survey.
I had a look at the verge for myself this afternoon and was pleasantly surprised to find that most of the broad verge from the ornamental boat as far west as the black and white road sign was uncut apart from a metre strip along the edge of the road. However, the far end of the verge, nearest the roundabout, had been completely mown and, sadly, that is where the Bee Orchids are located!

I managed to find some of the orchids in amongst the grass cuttings; their leaves were badly cut and mangled and the central flowering stems also cut. I will make enquiries as to whether there is still chance that they will flower this summer.

On a more positive note, the uncut area of the verge is brimming over with grasses and there are several areas rich in wild flowers, such as the one shown in this photo.

I also found a couple of very nice patches of flowering Field Madder. So, there remains plenty of botanical interest on this verge, if you can get there, that is. It is not easy.

Young Blackbirds
Patrick Murphy reports the first young Blackbirds in a nest on top of some boxes near the roof of his open ended garage. He says, "We have been unable to look into the nest but recently I have seen 2 beaks sticking out. Yesterday I thought I could see a young bird and took a photo. I was surprised how well it came out showing 2 healthy young blackbirds. I'm not surprised as the parents have been constantly flying in with worms."


Brook Meadow mosses
John Norton e-mailed me this morning about the mosses that he and Peter Milinets-Raby found on Brook Meadow last Sunday (May 1). He said the photo that Peter Milinets-Raby provided for yesterday's blog was the wrong one. It was not of the Drepanocladus aduncus (Kneiff's Hook-moss), but was most probably a discoloured Brachythecium rutabulum (Rough-stalked Feather-moss) which is usually green, or possibly Leptodictyum riparium (Kneiff's Feather-moss). We already have both the latter mosses on our Brook Meadow list from the early surveys by Rod Stern.

Here is Peter's photo

John attached the correct photo of Drepanocladus aduncus (Kneiff's Hook-moss) showing the curved leaves - shown below. He said it is abundant in the small patch of saltmarsh where the Divided Sedge is flowering at the moment, ie what we call the Lumley area and is the most salt-tolerant species in the UK, so is not unexpected in this place.

Here is John's photo

Interestingly, John's photo also has a small cup-like fungus which he thought looked interesting! He defined it as a ascomyscete fungus, but said no more. These are commonly known as sac fungi. It is very tiny.

I went over to Brook Meadow this morning mainly to have a look for the Kneiff's Hook-moss on the Lumley area. I found some green moss which I think is the same type as that in Peter's photo (at the top), probably Kneiff's Feather-moss. This moss was on the far east of the Lumley area where the casual path goes down to the Lumley Stream. Interestingly, it also had some of tiny sac fungi growing among it that were on John's photo. I shall need to look again for the Kneiff's Hook-moss.

Here is my photo

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had another quick 30 minute visit to Langstone Mill Pond today (mid afternoon 2:30pm to 3pm), mainly to check on the Little Egrets nesting.
"I need an early morning visit to really confirm things (as the egrets are usually busier in the morning) but after today's and yesterdays visits I am concerned that quite a few nests have been abandoned. The number could be as high as 10 nests having been deserted, which is very concerning indeed. Could the constant chilly wind just put them all off??
On the island there appears to be only three nests occupied (I had a count of 7 nests on the island a week ago, with two pairs being very active and obvious!!! Nothing now!).
In the main area, by the Holm Oak I noticed today that at least 4 nests appeared to be empty and others looked suspect. The colony was VERY quiet today (especially as 12 Grey Heron were resting on the salt marsh). I hopefully will have a definitive answer on the weekend, but it does look a bit ominous.
The highlights of today were as follows: No Mute Swans for a second day (obviously on the Langbrook Stream).A pair of Tufted Duck. 2+ Reed Warbler singing. 3 Swallows over. Chiffchaff singing. off shore (very low tide) 1 Greenshank, 2 Shelduck, 1 Whimbrel, 2 Med Gulls, 4 Great Crested Grebes. "

Other news
Caroline French saw several Brown Hares and a Mistle Thrush near Singleton yesterday.

Brian Lawrence saw some Swallows at Langstone.

Barrie Jay had a baby Robin in his garden today - first of the year?

TUESDAY MAY 3 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I had a stroll through Brook Meadow this morning with a cacaphony of bird song everywhere. Blackcaps were particularly vocal and I counted at least 4 singing males (much as Peter Milinets-Raby found yesterday). It looks like a good year for them. I also heard two Whitethroat and two Chiffchaff.

Slipper Millpond
No change at Slipper Millpond where the Mute Swan and the Great Black-backed Gull were sitting on their respective nests in the reeds and on the centre raft. I noticed a large shoal of about 50 Grey Mullett swimming around in the shallow water near Chequers Quay. Tried to get a photo, but no good.

Waysides News
Coming back through Bridge Road car park I stopped to count the Cuckooflowers on the wayside grass verge which numbered 268 - a good count but far off the record of 694 in 2012. I also found a few spikes of False Fox Sedge - my first of the year.

Garden Slow-worms
While she was doing a bit of gardening this morning my wife came across three Slow-worms basking in the warm sunshine, the most we had ever seen in the garden together. One of the worms was half in and half out of a crack on the brickwork of a wall. We had not seen so many Slow-worm in the garden.

Catch-up on news while I was away

Brook Meadow
Peter Milinets-Raby and his botanist friend John Norton wandered around Brook Meadow on Sunday 1st May mainly in search of rare mosses. John's best find was Kneiff's Hook-moss (Drepanocladus aduncus) - named after its slightly curved leaves.

CORRECTION - This is the wrong photo. It is not of the Drepanocladus aduncus (Kneiff's Hook-moss), but is probably a discoloured Brachythecium rutabulum (Rough-stalked Feather-moss), which is usually green, or possibly Leptodictyum riparium (Kneiff's Feather-moss). We already have both the latter mosses on our Brook Meadow list from the early surveys by Rod Stern.

Birds seen by Peter included 2 female Blackcap, at least 4 male Blackcap, 2 Whitethroat, singing Goldcrest, 2 Chiffchaff.
He also sent photos of Thyme-leaved Speedwell and Mind-your-own-business (he likes the name!). The latter can be found on the brick retaining wall by the tunnel in the north-east corner.

Ringed Black-headed Gull
Peter Milinets-Raby saw a Black-headed Gull with a white ring on its right leg engraved with "2L59" on 2nd April 2016 feeding in the cattle field south of Warblington Church. Well, he has just had a reply from the ringer with the news that his sighting was the first ever of this bird which was ringed as a chick at the Cotswold Water Park in Wiltshire on 31st May 2010. It has eluded detection for 5 years and 307 days - until Peter spotted it.

First Thorney Cuckoo
The North Thorney Cuckoo is back all the way from Africa! Steve Dennett said it was showing well and calling from a tree between Thornham Lane and the stilt houses on Sunday 1 May at 7.45am. Here is Steve's cracking photo of the bird.

First Emsworth Swift
I happened to meet the Irons family on the Emsworth Arts Trail on Monday May 2. Young Thomas Irons was very excited to tell me that he had seen what is the first reported Swift over Emsworth this spring. Well done Thomas! Caroline French also had one flying over Westbourne on April 28. So it looks as if they have arrived. But will they nest locally? We certainly saw very little of them around Bridge Road last year. So, fingers crossed. Here is one I got flying over my house in July 2014.

Langstone cygnets
Christopher Evans got this delightful photo of the Mute Swan family on Langstone Mill Pond with 9 cygnets. Quite a haul!

Hayling Orchids
Despite the typical Bank Holiday weather, Di Ashe went down to Gunner Point on West Hayling beach to see the Green-winged Orchids, which she said were standing proud in the wind and rain. They should soon be reaching their peak. I wonder if anyone counts them.

For earlier observations go to . . April 16-30