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

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Wildlife News Summaries - Fortnightly summary of local wildlife news


Brook Meadow
I had a slow mooch around the meadow on a very warm and humid summer afternoon.
On the way to the meadow up Victoria Road, I was surprised to see quite a lot of Toad Rush growing in the gap between the pavement and the garden walls. I usually associate this plant with wet conditions on Brook Meadow, though clearly this is not always the case.

Approaching Brook Meadow down Seagull Lane I was confronted by the large Buddleja in full flower near the entrance gate, but with not a single butterfly.

The interpretation board is gradually getting engulfed by shrubs, etc. I shall ask the conservation group if they can clear it at the next workday.
I can't see anything of the Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea which struggles every year to climb through the jungle of vegetation on the Seagull Lane patch. This year I suspect it might not make it.
The Oak tree that I planted four years ago on the Seagull Lane patch is growing well and looking healthy and is catching up with the Red Oak which was might taller when planted at the same time in memory of Tony Wilkinson.

Square-stalked St John's-wort is now in flower on the orchid area on the north meadow. Also on the orchid area there are lots of Yellow Rattle with seed cases, but not rattling as the seeds have largely dispersed.

I am fairly sure I located Spiked Sedge on the orchid area, much thinner than False Fox Sedge with a smaller panicle. That takes the total count of sedges recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 13. Only Hairy Sedge is not found.
Great Burnet is still showing wonderfully well on the orchid area with dozens of bright red flower spikes.

I found the first Michaelmas Daisy of the year on the east side of the Lumley area. Soon there will be thousands!

The Marsh Woundwort flowers are coming along very well at the start of the eastern path through the south meadow, just south of the Weeping Willow.
The young Horse Chestnut trees on the south meadow have been badly affected by the mite that burrows into the leaves, making them brown.

Ralph Hollins added: This is the result of millions of tiny caterpillars of the Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner moth (Cameraria ohridella) having eaten their way through the outer skin of the leaves to find a safe haven from predators (such as Blue Tits) between the top and bottom 'skin' of the leaf. The caterpillars stay within the leaves through the rest of the year and fall to the ground with the leaves in the autumn, eventually emerging as mature moths next spring to restart the cycle. This moth has had a recent significant expansion of its range and only reached the UK in 2002 but looks set to stay.

A wide path has been cleared alongside the bund adjacent to the Gooseberry Cottage garden, presumably by the Environment Agency. It looks as if the work is not finished as the southern section leading to Peter Pond has not yet been cleared. I hope the Celery-leaved Buttercups and Hairy Buttercups managed to set seed before this happened.

The best experience of the afternoon came while walking through Palmer's Road Copse with a Song Thrush singing strongly and Stock Dove cooing gently. I came across my first crop of Giant Fescue beside the path from the south bridge at Grid Ref: SU 75073 05924. Note the broad leaves and the drooping panicles. This takes the total number of grasses recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 28.

Also growing well in this area was a very distinctive dock with long leafless flower spikes which I thought could be Fiddle Dock, though Docks are certainly not my strong point! I could see some fiddle-shaped leaves. However, people I have consulted on Facebook do not agree and think it is Wood Dock. Oh, well.

Also flowering well along this path was Enchanter's Nightshade - the only place this plant grows on Brook Meadow. Further north along the path through Palmer's Road Copse is a good growth of False Brome also with drooping panicles, but hairy and more delicate than Giant Fescue.

There were not as many butterflies as I expected, but did manage to see Red Admiral, Comma and lots of Whites. Here is a splendid Comma that perched for me near the Lumley Stream. I found yet another Strangalia maculata beetle by the Lumley Stream. They are so common this year? Or just easy to spot?

Lots of gulls were wheeling around in the sky. Is this ant flying time?

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to walk along the Warblington Shore (6:37am to 8:52am - tide pushing in and very warm!!)
Warblington Cemetery: Coal Tit in the Yew Trees. Female and juvenile Green Woodpecker (see photo). 2 Song Thrush, Chiffchaff Heard,

Hedgerow: 4 Reed Warbler (2 ads feeding 2 juvs), Female Blackcap, 2 Singing Chiffchaff heard.
Conigar Point: 2 Reed Warblers in Tamarisk Hedge, 1 Greenshank (G//R + GO//-), 2 Shelduck, 2 Mute Swan, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Common Tern, 1 Black-tailed Godwit.
Off Pook Lane: 6 Greenshank (RG//- +YY//- & G//R + YN//- & G//R + LL//-), 3 Swallows, 14+ Goldfinch, 1 Whimbrel, 3 Med Gulls, 2 Common Tern, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 27+ House Sparrow .
Langstone Mill Pond: Tufted Duck female with duckling, 17+ Swallows over and 1 Swift, 36+ Little Egrets and a Cormorant in the trees, 2 Reed Warblers, 2 Reed Bunting male and a young male.

Silver-washed Fritillary
Barrie Jay got this excellent Silver-washed Fritillary a bramble bush today - our first report of the year. They must be out in Hollybank Woods surely?

Portsdown Hill
Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group
"Today a group of 12 met in car park near the Churchillian for a walk going west on a lovely sunny warm morning. We started around back of Fort Widley then crossed the road and walked west to roundabout.
Butterflies were active early and we saw many marbled whites and meadow browns, also comma, red admiral, whites, gatekeeper, large and small skippers and small tortoiseshell.
Other insects included bush -cricket, green thigh beetles, 7 spot ladybird, soldier beetles, bees, a blue hawker dragonfly and a lacewing.
Highlight was a distant sighting of 3 hares in a field.
Yellowhammers and greenfinches were singing well. Other birds included blackcap, stock dove, jackdaws, swallows, linnets and goldfinches.
There was an amazing variety of flowers especially yellow hawkbits and greater knapweed. Too many flowers to list all but they included bladder and white campion, a bee orchid, many pyramidal orchids, common spotted orchids, golden or tall melilot, Lucerne, rest harrow, kidney vetch and tufted vetch. There was upright hedge parsley, masses of hogweed, wild carrot , wild parsnip, field and small scabious. vipes's bugloss, ladies bedstraw, yellow-wort, common and lesser centaury, pale flax, fairy flax, harebells, nettle leaved bellflower, vervain, wild basil, marjoram, hedge woundwort, yellow rattle, musk mallow, and mignonette.

FRIDAY JULY 15 - 2016

Cuckoo back in Africa
The British Trust for Ornithology reports that the Cuckoo that was satellite tagged in the New Forest on 16 June has made it across the Sahara desert and is now in Mali in Africa. This beats the earliest crossing of the desert by a satellite tagged Cuckoo by 6 days. Between 2am on 9 July and 10.30am on 10 July he flew 1,774km (1,102 miles) at an average speed of around 50kph, and all into a light south-westerly headwind. To see the full story go to . . .

Sibling rivalry
Tony Wootton had Starlings on his bird feeder this morning. You can see the adult feathers coming through on the chest of the one facing us.

Eric's moth
During a walk around Fort Widley nature trail this morning Eric Eddles found this moth - Roeslerstammia Erxlebella.

I have never heard of this moth, so I consulted UK Moths which says, "This distinctive metallic-golden micro has, when fresh, a purplish-bronze tinge to the area around the base of the forewings. It also sports a noticeably yellow crown and has a white band close to the tip of the antennae. Mainly distributed in the southern half of England, there are also scattered localities in Wales and in Scotland where the species occurs. The larvae feed on the leaves of lime (Tilia) and birch (Betula), mining the leaves when young. There are two generations, at least in the south of the range, with adults on the wing in May and June and again in August and September."


Waysides News
I had a stroll around some of the local waysides this afternoon. Here are a few things I noted.
Several flower spikes of Marsh Woundwort are now out on the west side of the Washington Road path just north of the A27 road underpass. This was the first sighting on this wayside since 2012.

The first flowers are now opening on the Greater Burdock plants in front of the pony field near the Emsworth Recreation Ground. There are a large number of plants in this patch, so when the flowers are all out it should be a good show!

Moving onto the Recreation Ground the grassland behind the bowling club is now past its best. However, I did note some Creeping Thistles with white leaves on the northern area near the wire fence. I looked it up on Google and discovered that white leaves are called chlorosis and caused by a bacterial disease called Pseudomonas syringae. The Llanelli Naturalists were puzzled by this phenomenon in 2008 and wrote a short article called 'The mystery of white thistles'. The disease is relatively new to Britain having been discovered by Dr John Fletcher near Canterbury in 2002.
For more information see . . .

Finally, I had a look at the grass verge at the north end of Christopher Way by the final green lamp post which had been recently mown by Council workers. Amazingly, some Wild Clary plants were coming up again, some with small flowers. What robust plants they are, but they really need to be given more of a chance to develop into full grown plants. So, I shall ask Jayne Lake of Norse (Havant Borough Council) to instruct the Council cutting team to avoid this verge until after the end of the growing season.

Other news
Brian Lawrence had a walk along the Billy trail from Langstone Bridge and had a great day for seeing butterflies with lots of Marbled White - a good year for them? Also, Skippers, Whites and Gatekeepers. Here is a Marbled white on some Knapweed.

Ken and Romney Turner had this fine fellow visiting their garden this morning. Maybe a youngster?


Slipper Millpond
When I arrived on my bike, members of the Slipper Millpond Association were working on the east side of the pond to reinforce the bank against erosion. Two juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls were on the nesting raft with one adult. The other juvenile gull was on the water nearby.

A Coot is sitting in the nest box on the north raft, but there was none in the box on the south raft which has a fine display of Perennial Sow-thistle and Sea Mayweed. Here is the south raft with its display of wild flowers.

Nick Madina who was with the team working on the east bank told me had seen three Coot chicks earlier in the season, but taken by the gulls which had also taken one of the tiny swan cygnets and probably some Mallard ducklings. However, I get the impression that the large gulls have caused less consternation among the local residents than in previous years.

Hedgerow Crane's-bill was in flower on the east side of the pond, which I don't recall having seen here before, though there is plenty on the marina seawall which is not too far away.

Waysides News
Vervain is now flowering on the Bridge Road Wayside, in exactly the same place and the time as in previous years.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon 1:52pm to 2:41pm - tide out. His observations -
Off shore: 3 Greenshank, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Sandwich Tern, 2 Common Gull, 1 Redshank with rings -//B + B//GG (last seen in Sept 2015), 2 Med Gulls, In the channel by the Pub (for second day running) the 2 adult Mute Swans and 8 cygnets.
On the pond: Tufted Duck female with one duckling (again). This could be the mother of 13 and this is all she has left - shame!
Passing over west, 11 House Martins and 3 Swifts. 62+ Mallard counted - virtually all in eclipse plumage now. 27+ Little Egrets left, three adults still sitting on nests (see photo of how tiny one set of young still are).

Grey Heron Other Holm Oak nest three young getting ready to fledge. Reed Bunting still singing (see photo). In spiral over the pond, 3 Med Gulls, a Kestrel, 2 Buzzards and 5 Swallows.

Eric's Moth
Yesterday as Eric Eddles returned home from his afternoon walk around Baffins pond he went to open his front door and found this moth called Pammene regiana on his hand Luckily he had a camera handy and was able to capture a few shots before it flew off.

TUESDAY JULY 12 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I had a little wander around the meadow this morning on the way to up date the Water Vole signcase. Looking around the orchid area which is now much overgrown, I could see Cinnabar caterpillars had discovered Hoary Ragwort. This attractive plant, which is not yet in flower, is abundant in this area and is an important source of nutrition for these insects as well as providing an important nectar source from its yellow flowers for late flying insects.

Moving down to the Lumley area I was pleased to see the first Marbled Whites of the year on the meadow. Other butterflies seen this morning included Comma, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Large Skipper and Red Admiral.

On the path around the Lumley area I saw another Strangalia maculata beetle, this time feeding inside a flower trumpet of Hedge Bindweed. Also along this path were the flowers of Strawberry Clover. Soon they will have their distinctive strawberry-like fruits from which the plant gets its name.

I spotted some interesting grasses flowering just inside the Lumley gate which could be Smaller Cat's-tail. They were Timothy shape, but with much smaller panicles than I would expect from that plant. However, I am aware that these two species are very difficult to separate, so would not wish to give a firm identification. After reviewing all the possible differences, Cope and Gray (p. 406) concluded "No single character is wholly reliable (in distinguishing Timothy and Smaller Cat's-tail) except chromosome number".

I must admit having almost given up on finding any Marsh Woundwort in the tangle of vegetation on the south meadow, but today I did find a few flower spikes pushing up through the jungle in the usual area just south of the Weeping Willow. I counted 7 spikes in all, but more should appear in time.

I checked the likely Water Vole burrow holes on the east bank of the Lumley Stream, but saw nothing in the 10 mins or so I was present.

While waiting, I was interested to see an Elm branch overhanging the stream with corky ridges. I had thought this was due to Dutch Elm Disease, but I read that it is, in fact, a common feature of Elm branches and twigs.

Finally, I went round into Palmer's Road Copse to clean and up date the Water Vole signcase. It was in a very bad state, the window was matted with tree and bird droppings and the photos inside badly faded. However, I cleaned it up and replaced most of the photos with fresh ones and left it looking fairly good. But the window frame is very difficult to remove and replace as it is jammed up against a fence post. I will ask the conservation group to see if they can adjust it.

White Knapweed
Jill Stanley went to Skew Road yesterday afternoon to see the Field Cow-wheat that Peter Milinets-Raby photographed for the blog on July 8. While she was there she came across this pure white form of Greater Knapweed which she had never seen before. I don't think I have ever seen one either. Though I have recently noted white forms of both Creeping Thistle and Marsh Thistle. I believe many flowers can have white forms?

MONDAY JULY 11 - 2016

Brook Meadow
Looking north in Palmer's Road Car Park one can see to see how the trees of Western Balsam Poplar and White Willow tower over all others in the copse.

Walk down the path towards the south bridge to find a good flowering of Ground-elder. It was attracting several insects while I was there including this familiar black and yellow beetle called Strangalia maculata.

Meanwhile, onto the meadow itself where Meadowsweet is in full blossom and smelling sweetly.

Hogweed flower heads are standing tall already. Here is a shot of some with Tall Fescue in front, typically bending sideways, taken on the north west path near to the steps up the north bridge. Creeping Bent is also growing well along this path.

There is a good show of Fox and Cubs in flower on the grass verge at the southern end of Church path. This verge is privately owned and contractors cut it frequently, but the flower are very attractive at the moment and well worth making a diversion for.

SUNDAY JULY 10 - 2016

Angel's Fishing Rods
I had several replies to my query about the grass-like plant with red bell-shaped flowers that I found in Bishop's Palace Gardens yesterday. Many thanks to Ralph Hollins, Jill Stanley, Pam Phillips, Chris Oakley and Hillary Wootton. All were agreed the plant is called Angel's Fishing Rods (Dierama latifolius). Pam actually has some in her front garden! For more information about this attractive plant which is certainly not a grass, though very grass-like, see . . .

New generations
Barrie Jay thought we would like to hear how some of this season's youngsters are progressing in his garden. He says it has been a busy breeding year, with all the regular visitors having young. Robins have been very successful -3 broods over a three month period! Barrie provided us with some excellent images of four of the leading lights: Nuthatch, Robin, Great Spotted Woodpecker and House Sparrow.

I have also enjoyed seeing several youngsters in my small town garden near the centre of Emsworth. They include House Sparrow, Robin, Starling, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch and Greenfinch. I was particularly pleased to see Greenfinch youngsters as this species has been badly affected by trichomonosis over the past 10 years. Here is a young Greenfinch I snapped through the back window on the feeder in the rain this morning. Before you say, I know the feeder needs filling; I did fill it immediately after the photo!

Barrie also had the pleasure of seeing a Red Kite over his garden in West Waterlooville last week, the third time he had seen one over the last couple of months.

First Gatekeeper
I was pleased to see my first Gatekeeper of the year during a walk through Brook Meadow this afternoon.

Nettle Weevil
Eric Eddles had another new insect at Baffins Pond today - a Nettle Weevil (Phyllobius Pomaceus) 7-10mm.


Drama on Brook Meadow
At about 11am this morning I had a phone call from a lady who told me that Police, Environment Agency and Fire Brigade were in Seagull Lane attending to a chemical spillage into the river by the north bridge. I rushed up there to find a police tape across the top of the lane. Having identified myself as a member of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group, I was allowed to pass through to see what the problem was. The EA team leader told me that there had been an overspill of hydrogen peroxide from the anodising factory in Seagull Lane into the drains. The chemicals had got into the river through the pipe close to the north bridge. While I was there several EA members were in the river digging out contaminated stones from around the pipe and taking them away in a large bin.

The manager of the factory was present and was very apologetic about the spillage. He said the chemical used in the anodising process was kept in large tanks, but last night one had overflowed. By 11.30 the worst of the spillage had been removed or washed away downstream and all parties considered the situation solved.

Bishop's Palace Gardens
Jean and I had a walk around Bishop's Palace Gardens in Chichester this afternoon. They were a blaze of glorious colour from the flower beds. What a great show, even for a lover of wild flowers like myself.

We saw a large tuft of a puzzling grass-like plant with red bell-shaped flowers. What is a grass doing with flowers? Does anyone know what they are?

Chichester Peregrines
I stopped at the RSPB stall, now in front of the Cathedral, where I had a chat to a warden from the Brighton area. She told me that the four chicks (three males and one female) successfully fledged a few weeks ago and were now healthy and flying well. The chicks were all ringed with white numbers on a black background; this year the numbers are 66, 67, 68 and 69. All sightings should be reported to the British Trust for Ornithology. She expected the parents would soon be taking the youngsters over to the harbour to hone their hunting skills. The RSPB stall will be closing down tomorrow.

For some excellent photos of the four juvenile Peregrines go to . . .

Field Cow Wheat
Ralph Hollins provided more information about the magnificent Field Cow Wheat photographed by Peter Milinets-Raby yesterday at Skew Road, Portsdown Hill.
Ralph says, "The Hants Plants page on the Rare Plants Register which was published as a PDF in 2011. The following is an extract from that PDF which shows that the plants have been found sporadically in Hampshire since 1863. I understand that the introduction to Portsdown was made by a mythical 'Portchester Postman' but regardless of how they arrived they have been thriving there since at least June 1999. For more info see

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a walk along the Warblington shore (6:35am to 8:48am - low tide). His report as follows:
Warblington cemetery: Great Spotted Woodpecker juvenile with red crown, 3 Green Woodpecker - Female with two young dancing around the trunk of a tree.
Ibis Field: Blackcap singing and Chiffchaff singing, Med Gull over.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: Blackcap singing, Reed Warbler.
Conigar Point: 4 Med Gulls, 4 Swift over, 2 Shelduck - the lingering pair, 2 Common Tern, 14 Herring Gulls, 7 Black-tailed Godwits heading west towards the Hayling Bridge, Chiffchaff singing from the Tamarisk Hedge.
Off Pook Lane: Common Gull - adult - very stunning and smooth looking! Great Crested Grebe, 4+ Redshank, 20 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Greenshank - both un-ringed, 2 Stock Doves, 6+ Med Gulls, 3 Swallow, Pied Wagtail juv.
Horse paddock: 1 Green Woodpecker feeding on the grass. Chiffchaff singing, 11 Swallows, 3 Moorhen.
Langstone Mill Pond: 2 singing Reed Warbler & 2 others seen. 1 Cormorant.
Tufted Duck female with one lonely tiny duckling at the rear of the pond. I hope this is another female with a fresh hatchling and not the bird from the other day and she has lost 12 ducklings! There were up to four females present on the pond during June?
Grey Heron - Other Holm Oak nest - three young still being fed. And, a single young on the Holm Oak nest. Lesser Black-backed Gull over along with 4+ Swallows

FRIDAY JULY 8 - 2016

Lime leaf galls
Regarding the red spikes on the lime leaves photographed by Brian Lawrence on Brook Meadow yesterday, John Arnott says, they are sometimes called Nail galls - for obvious reasons as they look like nails that have been hammered in to the leaf. John usually sees them later in the season when they have turned brown.


According to the Field Studies Council book 'British Plant Galls' there are two mite causers.
Eriophyes tiliae on Large-leaved Lime. Galls are usually > 8 mm tall, with pointed tips.
Eriophyes lateannulatus on Small-leaved Lime. Galls are c. 5 mm tall, with rounded tips.
Both galls occur on Common Lime and on other planted hybrids. The galls Brian got yesterday have pointed tips so presumably are Eriophyes tiliae

Orchid counts
Georgie from the Chichester Harbour Conservancy e-mailed me to say the Southern Marsh Orchids on Fishbourne Meadows are going to be counted by the end of next week, hopefully. Cattle are going in around the 11th too. Having seen the height of the grasses and reeds on the meadow, I wish the counters the very best of luck!


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had an hour visit to the Langstone Mill Pond (from 12:05pm to 1:12pm - tide slowly moving in). His observations:
Off Pook Lane: 4 Greenshank (2 with rings, but too distant and heat haze - really!!), 3 Med Gulls, 2 Shelduck, 3 Sandwich Tern, 1 Common Tern, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 1 Whimbrel.
On the pond: eclipse plumaged Gadwall male (see photo) and eclipse plumaged female Shoveler (first of he year, a sure sign autumn is now on its way). Reed Bunting male singing, Grey Heron feeding at the back of the pond (see photo). 1 Reed Warbler, 2+ Swallow & 1 Swift, 61 Little Egrets counted.

Peter went again to Skew Road (Portsdown Hill) to get a photo of what he calls this "fantastic alien looking plant"! The patch has spread onto the north side of the fence and covers several square metres - Magnificent! Worth a visit!



Sandy Point
I enjoyed a very pleasant and informative walk around Sandy Point Nature Reserve in the south east corner of Hayling Island this morning. The walk was attended by around 20 people and led by local naturalist John Arnott. Members of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy and the Hampshire County Council Ranger Service were also present. I was pleased to meet up with John for the first time. John has been an occasional expert contributor to this blog over the years. Here is a photo of John pointing out some aspect of the local plantlife to the group.

I was also very pleased to see Pete Potts who looked very well after his serious illness, though he is still not back in full time work. I know Pete best from his bird ringing work, though he was, until his illness, HCC ranger for this area of Hayling Island. Here is Pete on the left of the group with John.

Another person I was surprised to see on the reserve was Roy Ewing from the Nore Barn Conservation group. Roy explained that he and other volunteers regularly came onto the site to help in management jobs. Good work, Roy.

I used to visit the Sandy Point reserve regularly in the past, but I have not been there for many years, so today's walk was a good opportunity to reacquaint myself with this unique area of coastal heath, acid grassland and sand dune. Please note, this reserve is a protected area and there is no unauthorised access. The reserve is managed mainly through scrub clearance and by grazing from a small group of 6 Highland cattle. Here they are today, munching the grass. Fine creatures.

At one point on the walk Georgie, one of the Chichester Harbour Conservancy rangers, spotted a grass which had been puzzling her at other sites. It appeared to have a bright yellow band around the stem. One theory was that it was a fungus that had attacked the grass, but no one really knew. I brought a piece home with me to cut it open. The yellow was like a tight sock around the grass. Other views welcome, of course. Here is a photo showing the yellow band - taken against Pete's sweater.

It is Choke Disease Fungus
Ralph Hollins came up with the answer to the grass with the yellow collar. It is called Choke Disease Fungus Epichloe typhina. The fungus forms a sterilising 'collar' round the stem of the grass where the immature flowers are, and reduces flowering and seed production. The collars start as white early in the cycle and later, as the spores develop, they will turn yellow or orange.
See . . .

Having previously seen white flowered Creeping Thistles on the Railway Wayside here in Emsworth, I was pleased to see several Marsh Thistle plants also with white flowers. Martin Rand tells me that white Marsh Thistle are more common than Creeping Thistle.

I was really pleased to a fine array of Sea Holly just coming into flower near the southern fence by the beach. This must be the best spot locally to see these lovely plants. They can easily be seen from the public area on the other side of the fence. Interestingly, Sea Holly is an umbellifer and unrelated to other hollies.

Pete pointed out to me what was probably the best crop of Sea Spurge in the Solent area. They are growing outside the main reserve against the outer fence by the single beach.

Also growing together near the fence were English Stonecrop, Hare's-foot Clover and Sandwort, finished flowering.

I was particularly pleased to see that some plants of Common Ragwort had been spared in the regular Ragwort pulling sessions. This plant, as John explained, has considerable ecological value in providing nourishment for a variety of insects, such as the Cinnabar caterpillars we saw feasting on one of the plants towards the end of the walk.

Some members of the group got quite excited by a very tatty small blue butterfly which was thought could be a rare Long-tailed Blue. Here are a couple of shots I got of the insect. I think they rule out the Long-tailed Blue as there is no obvious tail and the underwings clearly show a pattern of spots. This suggests one of the more common blue butterflies (not necessarily Common Blue), but which one I would not hazard a guess as the edges of the wings are completely gone.

I spotted a hoverfly perched on a leaf which I think might be Scaeva pyrastri. John will correct me if I am wrong.

Other plants noted: Hedge Bedstraw, Ladies Bedstraw and Sand Sedge. Lots of Marbled White and Meadow Brown butterflies were flying. Pete Potts also spotted a Small Copper.

Brook Meadow
Brian Lawrence spent a couple of hours on meadow this afternoon and saw a Lacewing. He was also puzzled by leaves on a tree by the railway bridge by Lumley lane with red spikes on them. This is presumably caused by an insect. I recall having seen them before, but can't recall off hand what they are.

They are Lime Gall Red
Thanks again to Ralph Hollins for an answer to the red spikes. They are 'safe houses' in which the larvae of the gall mite Eriophyes lateannulatus can develop without being eaten. See . . .

Yellow Foxgloves
Ralph Hollins provided some extra information on the yellow foxgloves that Peter Milinets-Raby photographed in yesterday's blog. Ralph says "they have been growing wild on Portsdown for at least 20 years though the steep hill slope above Nelson Lane on which they are found is nowadays thickly covered with scrub and I am surprised that any can still be found. These plants of Digitalis lutea are normally called 'Straw Foxgloves' to distinguish them from Digitalis grandiflora which is also a popular garden plant known as Yellow Foxglove.

The Straw Foxgloves almost certainly are of garden origin but have survived as a wild population for a lot longer than would normally be expected and when I had a car I would look for them each year and happily tick them as 'survivors' along with the magnificent Field Cow-Wheat which is only to be found, according to botanic purists, on the Isle of Wight though hundreds of plants have been seen in the past ten years under the wooden fencing separating the informal parking area beside Skew Lane from the motorway bank."

Orchid counts
Georgie from the Chichester Harbour Conservancy told me during the walk at Sandy Point this morning that there had been problems at Fishbourne Meadows. The grasses were very high this year and the annual Southern Marsh Orchid count had not been done. She confirmed that cattle are due on the site shortly. That's good. They are needed!

Nigel Johnson also e-mailed to say he had not been able to arrange the annual Southern Marsh Orchid count on the Southmoor this year. This is a pity as we have counts going back to 1995 when Ralph Hollins did them. They were taken over by the Havant Wildlife Group who did them until 2015 when they were done by Hampshire Wildlife Trust Beechcroft Monday Team.

Here is a summary of the Southmoor counts year by year

1995 - 6763 . . . 1996 - 4319 . . . 1997 - 2407 . . . 1998 - 4890 . . . 1999 - 333 . . . 2000 - 5614 . . . 2001 - 491

2002 - 5086 . .. 2003 - 4474 . . . 2004 - 5561 . . . 2005 - 5129 . . . 2006 - 3234 . . . 2007 - 1367 . . . 2008 - 996

2009 - 4142 . . . 2010 - 9234 . . . 2011 - 8805 . . . 2012 - 7865 . . .2013 - 7420 . . . 2014 - 10690 . . . 2015 - 7786


Waysides News
I had a little wander around some of the local waysides this morning to see if there had been any significant changes. The Greater Burdock at the end of the path from Washington Road is almost in flower. The red petals are starting to show as in this photo.

I saw my first Small Skippers of the year on the wayside at the junction of New Brighton Road and Horndean Road. This photo shows the distinctive fine scent line on an otherwise plain wing.

Marsh Woundwort is now showing very nicely on the Railway Wayside. Several flowers can be seen from the access ramp to the north of the station. Common Centaury is in flower. I also saw my first Common Fleabane of the year in flower.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down too Langstone Mill Pond this morning (10am to 10:45am - low tide). His report as follows:

"The highlight was a female Tufted Duck with 13 ducklings (I only counted 11 to start, then discovered 13 in the photos!). The female was keeping them in the water under the overhanging vegetation, so they were not always on show.

Other birds of note were 3 Black-'Baled' Godwits, 3 Great Crested Grebes, 4 + Med Gulls. Noisy Black-headed Gull chicks have arrived to the shore. I counted three (see photo).

2 Swifts over and 5 Swallows. Reed Bunting male seen singing still.
Peter also got a shot of some Yellow Foxgloves during a ten minute break at lunchtime at Skew Road (Portsdown Hill). I think they are garden flowers?

Martin's comments
I am very grateful to our BSBI South Hants Recorder, Martin Rand, for proving the following valuable and thought provoking comments on recent botanical issues in this blog:

Regarding the Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum) at Fishbourne, Martin says it has been known in the Fishbourne area for nearly 100 years, and at Appledram Lane for nearly 30 years. So he agrees we can fairly say it's naturalised. Also, Fishbourne being Fishbourne he thinks it could be a Roman introduction, but one can only speculate!

I also raised the issue as to whether it matters about the plant being introduced. Martin commented on this as follows: "No, I don't think it matters from the point of view of pleasure in seeing the plant, except that many people's enjoyment is enhanced by seeing it in its 'original' habitat and getting some idea of its place there. To take another example, I'll get some pleasure in seeing Purple Gromwell escaped into a Hampshire hedgebank from an adjoining garden, but it isn't the same as seeing it on the floor of a wood in the Mendips. I think it matters from a scientific point of view in understanding its original natural range, or some aspects of its ecology. It may also matter from a conservationist point of view if (as in this species) there are genetically different races whose occurrence is poorly understood but probably splits between native and introduced, and you want to know what you're trying to conserve."

I asked Martin if the same argument could be applied to the Great Burnet on Brook Meadow and to the Wild Clary on the wayside in Christopher Way - ie, not their 'natural' home, but introduced and living happily. Martin replied "the Wild Clary could be a native relic, as it's not really out of geographical range nor even habitat exactly. The Great Burnet is a bit more dubious, as it's outside its previously known geographical range in the immediate region, not exactly in typical habitat, and it's a bit suggestive that it only got noticed recently given how well you and many others know Brook Meadow. Sometimes these things will be undecidable, and we just have to lie back and enjoy them! :-) Clary is more of a coloniser than Great Burnet, so its appearance, even if recent, could be more 'natural'."


Following a discussion on Facebook about Bath Asparagus (aka Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem), I thought I would drive over to Apuldram near Chichester to have a look at a regular site for these plants on the roadside verge at Appledram Lane (south).

Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem
I first saw these spectacular flowers on this verge in June 2009 when I counted 78 spikes. This particular occasion stands out in my memory as I was due to lead the Havant Wildlife Group the next day to see the flowers, but when we got there they were all gone! Mown flat, apparently, by local person annoyed about the state of the verge. Today, the plants were there, but almost all of them had gone to seed. I did manage to find one plant with some flowers still present, but all the others just had seed pods.

This crop of Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem plants is well known to local botanists and is recorded in the New Flora of Sussex for tetrad SU80M. As a native the plant is said to be very local and restricted to the counties of Somerset, Wiltshire, Gloucestershire, Berkshire, Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire - not Hampshire or West Sussex! I don't know how it got here, but Martin Rand thinks it was introduced. Introduced or not, the plants are now well established despite having undergone a traumatic history. It would not be correct to refer to it as a 'casual'. The plant gets its name Bath Asparagus, as its young shoots were formerly marketed in Bath as Asparagus. It is a bulbous perennial and flowers in June. See Martin's comments on the next day's blog.

Hairy Bindweed
At the southern end of the Appledram Lane verge were two flowers of the unusual Hairy Bindweed (Calystegia pulchra). I also saw this plant in June 2009 - fortunately it did not get mown with the rest. With its large pale pink flowers and white stripes it looks like Sea Bindweed; however, the leaves of the plant are not kidney-shaped, as they should have been for Sea Bindweed, and the plant also has inflated bracts completely enfolding the sepals, like Large Bindweed. Also, the flower stalks are hairy - which gives the plant its common name.

Calystegia pulchra is recorded in the New Flora of Sussex for SU80M, so the plant is already known. In "The Wild Flowers of the British Isles" by Garrard and Streeter (p.279) it is described as "An alien whose origin is something of a mystery, but it probably appeared as a garden hybrid somewhere in Europe. It is a local plant scattered throughout the British Isles and is most frequent in the south-east and north-west of England where it usually appears close to gardens. It flowers from July to September." It is certainly well established in this location, not a 'casual' and worth seeing soon before the flowers go.

Fishbourne Meadows
I also had a walk round Fishbourne Meadows which I found a little disappointing. The east meadow was fine with some Southern Marsh Orchids still in flower, but the main west meadow was very overgrown with tall reeds and very few orchids. I will ask the Chichester Harbour Conservancy for their annual orchid count and ask if grazing is still taking place. I was also saddened to see the river bank fenced off with metal fencing and a line of barbed wire at the top. This is presumably to prevent cattle getting into the stream, but thank goodness we don't have to do that on Brook Meadow.

I was pleased to see several plants of Marsh Ragwort which we don't get at all on Brook Meadow despite the habitat being right for it. The reddish stems and the leaves with large rounded end lobes and distinctive.









I found a substantial Blue Water-speedwell plant growing beside the first wooden bridge over the river. Its spikes appeared to have well over 30 flowers, so I assume it is the hybrid variety - Veronica x Lackschewitzii.








I also noted some bushy specimens of Fool's Water-cress along the river. It does not usually grow in this form.


Fishbourne Millpond
I walked through to have a look at the millpond where I found the usual large plants of Greater Tussock Sedge on the edge of the pond.

The pond itself was largely covered by a mass of Marestail - I don't recall having seen this plant anywhere else locally. Note: Marestail is quite different from Horsetail which grows on land.

 PS There is a new notice at the entrance to the Fishbourne Parish Church car park to say this is a private car park and unauthorised parking is not allowed. This must have appeared since the new church hall was built. As there is no other easy parking for visitors to Fishbourne Meadows this seems a bit unreasonable. Personally, I shall ignore it. I have been using the car park frequently over the past 40 years with no problems.

Stag Beetle
Chris Oakley rescued a Stag Beetle from a water filled pot today, which could be a Lesser Stag Beetle. He says, "I can only see one spine on the tibia but the head/pronotum does not seem to be of that type. The length, as you can see is about 20mm. What do you think?" I will leave that to the experts. Any offers?

MONDAY JULY 4 - 2016

This morning I walked from Seagull Lane to Lumley Mill and then down Lumley Road to Slipper Millpond and back via Brook Meadow. I had quite a few interesting observations as follows:

There is currently a nice selection of wild flowers along the edge of the path leading from the end of Seagull Lane to Lumley Mill. This path was heavily sprayed with herbicide last summer, which seems to have given the plants a new lease of life! They include Enchanter's Nightshade, Great Willowherb and Broad-leaved Willowherb - I think, for Willowherbs are tricky.

Broad-leaved Willowherb and Great Willowherb

Greater Celandine is also hanging on at the end of the path near the bridge. I am amazed how these delicate petals ever remain on the plant when a slight puff of wind would seem to blow them off.

Walking down Lumley Road I stopped to check the Skullcap that usually flowers on the wall of the Lumley Stream outside Lumley Terrace cottages. It is still there an looking good, though there's not an awful lot of it.

Brook Meadow

Moving down Lumley Road past the cottages I came to the area by the stream which is part of the Brook Meadow site. It was here that I found the usual growth of False Brome with its distinctive panicles spikelets on short stalks. This is a new grass for this year taking the total list for 2016 to 28.

I also noted Feverfew, Wood Sedge and Grey Sedge along this roadside. Blackcap and Chiffchaff were singing strongly from Lumley copse.

The Japanese Honeysuckle is flowering nicely just outside the Lumley gate. This is the species with black berries.

Peter Pond

On to Peter Pond where Perennial Sow-thistle and Wild Carrot are flowering well and the very tall plants of Prickly Lettuce tower over everything else, but not yet in flower.

While I was there one of the Great Black-backed Gulls came onto the pond and then flew off towards Brook Meadow. White swan feathers were on the east bank which probably indicates the recent presence of the Mute Swan family. I did not see anything of them today, but I gather the family is now down to 3 cygnets.

Slipper Millpond

The other adult Great Black-backed Gull was snoozing on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond with two of its youngsters in close company.

Meanwhile, the third young gull was on the water swimming round the raft
where it had a mini skirmish with a Coot.

Brook Meadow
Coming back over the south bridge, I stopped to check the regular Brown Trout which was, as usual, swimming happily a little way upstream.

Fool's Water-cress was flowering in the river beneath the bridge. This is often confused with Water-cress, but as shown in the following photos the flowers are quite different. Fool's Water-cress is, in fact, an umbellifer.

SUNDAY JULY 3 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular first Sunday in the month work session. Put my wellies on to go over, but I did not really need them. Good group of volunteers including two grand children of Jennifer. Ian led in the absence of Maurice.

Birds singing included Whitethroat and Blackcap, plus the usual regulars, but no Chiffchaff this morning. I spotted a few butterflies, Red Admiral, Comma, Meadow Brown and Ringlet but no photos. There were several Beautiful Demoiselles flying around the waterways of which I captured this female. I also got an Azure Damselfly.

Sharp-flowered Rush is now widespread on the Lumley area, more so than I have seen it before. This plant was first recorded on the Lumley area in June 2009 and has expanded rapidly since then to the a dominant plant of the area.

Meadowsweet is now flowering and smelling strongly along the path on the east side of the north meadow.

Blue Water-speedwell
I went down onto the west bank of the river in Palmer's Road Copse to have a look at the possible Water Vole burrow holes in the far bank, but did not see any activity. I found several plants of Blue Water-speedwell with fairly long flower spikes, indicating they are probably the hybrid with Pink Water Speedwell ie, Veronica x Lackschewitzii. Here is a spike with at least 36 flowers that I pulled off to demonstrate.

I recall the old BSBI Recorder for South Hants, Pete Selby, telling me that if the flower spike had more than 20 flowers then it was the hybrid and not the pure form of Blue Water-speedwell. However, the Plant Crib (1998 p. 263) gives a mean of 25 flowers (range 15-40) for the pure form and a mean of 60 (range 30-90 for the hybrid, so maybe the 20 limit is probably not quite as precise as Pete led me to believe and these plants could be the pure form of Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica).

There are several patches of a Water-starwort floating in the river. I hesitate to say which species particularly as Rose (New Ed p. 384) specifically states that Water-starworts cannot be identified without ripe fruits.

However, during his survey of the River Ems on 13 June 2005, Andy Powling found what he thought was the relative uncommon Blunt-fruited Water-starwort (C. obtusangula) rather than Common Water-starwort. He pointed out that it had floating rosettes and spoon-shaped leaves, strongly veined above with 3 distinct veins. The Hants Flora does not show records for C. obtusangula in the Brook Meadow area, but there are records close by. Blunt-fruited Water-starwort (C. obtusangula) was subsequently confirmed in the river on Brook Meadow by Martin Rand on 3 July 2005.

Meadow Barley
Just before the workday coffee break I went looking for Meadow Barley on the centre meadow where I have found some in previous years. I quickly located a small patch at Grid Ref: SU 75094 06030. That takes the total number of grass species (not counting sedges and rushes) recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 27.

Awned Couch Grass
I also had a look at the Water Vole burrows on the east bank of the Lumley Stream where I actually saw and photographed a Water Vole on June 4, but there was no sign of any vole in the 10 minutes I waited today. While I was on the Lumley Stream bank I noticed several spikes of a heavily awned Couch Grass pushing up through the mass of Michaelmas Daisies that grow there. I gather from Rose (Grasses, p. 132) that Common Couch is sometimes awned, but these awns seem very long. Could it possibly be Bearded Couch? Martin Rand identified an awned Common Couch on Brook Meadow during his visit on 3 July 2005. Here is a photo of part of a panicle that I brought home. The full length was 19cm.

Peter Milinets-Raby I was out this morning for a proper walk after a lazy June. He walked the Warblington shore to the pond and back (6:50am to 9:12am - tide pushing in slowly, chilly wind, felt like autumn!
Warblington Cemetery: 2 Stock Doves and Pheasant heard. And flowers taken with mobile phone again - English Stonecrop and Selfheal.

Off Pook Lane: 2 Great Crested Grebe with one distantly off Conigar Point, Little Owl in the usual tree, Med Gulls 24+ (lots of singles and pairs flying south to Hayling, plus two flocks of 8 & 9.). 2 Shelduck and 1 distantly off Conigar Point (and two separate on the pond = 5). 17+ Swallow. 2 Kestrel, 3 Common Tern, 1 Sandwich Tern, 2 Greenshank (both with colour rings - first returning birds - G//R + GO//- {seen in July in 2015 & 2014} and G//R + ON//- Surprisingly not seen by me before! 1 Redshank (first for a month), 1 Rock Pipit flew west along the shore calling - odd record?
Langstone Mill Pond: Pair of Shelduck, a pair of Tufted Duck and 3 Swifts over heading south. Reed Warbler 4 and one still singing. Reed Bunting still singing, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard. Grey Heron in Other Holm Oak has three young (second brood) and the furthest nest south has two young (Nest 5 - second brood).
Horse paddock: Green Woodpecker heard, Blackcap still singing, 5 Moorhen, 2 Foxes.


Swan attacks cygnet
I had an e-mail from Angela Brown posted at 9.48 this morning to say she had just been watching a male swan attack and drown a cygnet in the pool in front of Slipper Mill. I wondered if the dead cygnet was one of the family from the nest on Slipper Millpond, which I gather is now down to three cygnets, but Angela said it appeared much smaller than those in the Pond family. It seems likely that the poor cygnet had wandered away from the safety of its parents and became vulnerable to attack. This is not an uncommon occurrence.

Plant updates
Regarding the white flowered Creeping Thistles I found on the Railway Wayside on Thursday, Martin Rand said that Creeping Thistle does occur with white flowers, but is much less common than Marsh Thistle with the same.

Regarding the cluster of Cotton Thistles (Onopordum acanthium) that I found Next to the Wellness Clinic in Westbourne at Grid Ref: SU 7544 0721. Martin said he would like a full record for these plants. Interestingly Cotton Thistle is described in the old Hants Flora as "Very local and rare". Adding that . . . "Its distribution in Hants cannot be readily reconciled simply with random garden escapes. The records show it is more frequent in the sandy regions of the NE and E". It is a biennial plant occupying broken ground and therefore rarely persists for long.

For earlier observations go to . . June 14-30