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for July 18-31, 2016
(in reverse chronological order)

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Wildlife News Summaries - Fortnightly summary of local wildlife news

SUNDAY JULY 31 - 2016

Brook Meadow
Hoary Ragwort is fairly abundant on the orchid area this year and has only just started flowering in the past couple of days. It can be easily distinguished from Common Ragwort by its narrow leaves with thin pointed lobes. Although I have seen Cinnabar caterpillars on the plants, there were none to be seen today and the plants are relatively unscathed. However, virtually every single plant was host to climbing Hedge Bindweed.

As usual, the grassland is alive with Meadow Grasshoppers. But I have not seen a Common Blue on Brook Meadow this year.

Blue Water-speedwell is flowering on the river bank just south of the S-bend. It can easily be seen from the river path. From the length of the flower spikes I suspect they are the hybrid Veronica x Lackschewitzii.

Mystery fungus
Chris Oakley spotted these stunning bracket fungi on a willow tree at Russell's Nursery. He described them as 'brilliant white with pale brown topping, just like chocolate meringues'. It looks like Root Fomes (Heterobasidion annosum) though that normally occurs on conifers. It is more likely to be Common Ganoderma, but we are open to ideas.

FRIDAY JULY 29 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I walked back from the village through Brook Meadow this morning. I was pleasantly surprised to see the south bridge was open again and the repairs seemingly finished. Ahead of time, or maybe not finished? The surface of the bridge itself has been replaced, but the ramps leading to the bridge, which are also in a bad state, have not been touched. Maybe there is more to do.

The Environment Agency workers were finishing off the south fence adjacent to the footpath to Peter Pond. They have also to put in a new gate at the entrance to the meadow. Will this make access even more difficult at this entrance?

I asked them about the new flood defence bund around the Gooseberry Cottage garden which they said was finished and vegetation would grow over the bags.

I met Pam Phillips on the causeway and we stopped to admire the fine crop of berries on the Alder Buckthorn trees, some red and some black.

These will provide excellent nourishment for our resident birds over the winter (if they last that long). I recall well planting the original 15 saplings over 10 years ago with Ian Brewster (of HBC) and my friend Ron Clarke who was over from the USA on a birding trip. We lost a few of the trees over the years due to poor management and as I was in charge at the time, the blame falls on me. However, the remaining trees have done very well and need no help from us any more.

Walking up the main river path was quite an experience with masses of Hogweed and Great Willowherb lining the path.

I was surprised not to see the tree surgeons at work pollarding the willows on the west side of the river. They have only cut a few trees south of the north bridge, but then apparently stopped. Maybe Andy Skeet has postponed the work in view of the negative response of the conservation group to the work.


Stansted Forest (east)
Jean and I had a nice walk this morning around the east side of Stansted Forest. Parking near the cafe we did the whole circuit from the Iron Gate Cottages up to Sonia's old cottage and back along the tarmac road.
The edges of the tarmac road leading to the Iron Gate Cottages were strewn with yellow male catkins from the Sweet Chestnut trees. Does this indicate a good crop of nuts this year, I wonder? Here is a catkin close up showing the yellow anthers.

The hedgerows east from the Iron Gate Cottages were covered in masses of flowering Stone Parsley. I don't recall having seen quite as much before. This picture hardly gives a good representation of its abundance. I seem to recall that Stone Parsley used to be on the meadow indicators list.

We stopped at the cottage where Sonia Bolton used to live many years ago for a chat with the present resident, Caroline, who was tending her garden. She told us she had been living there for the last 11 years and loves it! A delightful spot.
On the way down the tarmac road from the cottages we stopped for a traditional photo of myself standing between the twin oaks. I love these trees and have lots of photos of myself over the years at this spot. Does anyone else do this I wonder?

We saw Head Forester, Michael Prior coming towards us in his 4-wheel drive and as, always, he stopped for a chat. He was with a chap from the RSPB and said they would be looking at breeding habitats for birds, such as Nightingale. Michael told us that the Ravens had nested again on the estate, plus two pairs of Barn Owls in his boxes. He saw one only this morning coming out of one of the boxes. But sadly there has been no Spotted Flycatcher or Nightingale. However, a Goshawk had been sighted.

Traveller's Joy was also flowering well in the hedgerows.


Starlings in garden
It was good to see crowds of young Starlings squabbling over fallen seeds and bits of fat balls in my garden this morning. They have been scarce for many years in my garden and overall the BTO Garden BirdWatch Starling sightings have fallen dramatically. But up to 25 have been present in my garden over the past couple of weeks, so maybe things are on the upturn.

Harbour birds
As Peter Milinets-Raby has reported (see his report for July 25) migration is now underway with wintering and passage birds turning up in our local harbours. Yesterday, I had a note from Maggie Gebbett to say she had seen several waders at Nore Barn including Greenshank, Redshank and Curlew. I had a quick look at Emsworth Harbour this morning at low water. Nothing much in the main eastern harbour, though I did find both Greenshank and Common Redshank in the outfall channel from the town millpond by Emsworth Sailing Club. The light was not good for digiscoping, but here are my best shots. Both birds were still in partial breeding plumage, but not ringed.

TUESDAY JULY 26 - 2016

Willow pollarding
On the way through the meadow this morning I met tree surgeons from the Matt Godwin Titchfield Tree Services who were pollarding the Crack Willows near the north bridge.

They told me that Andy Skeet of Havant Borough Council asked them to pollard all the trees along the west bank by the factories. They started yesterday and the job is expected to take 7 days. I took photos of one chap chopping the top off a tall tree just south of the north bridge. I believe this work is being undertaken without the knowledge or approval of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group!

Flood defences
It appears that the Environment Agency may well have completed their work on the flood defence around the garden of Gooseberry Cottage on the east side of the south meadow. This shows the line of bags of stones.

However, the fence at the southern end of the meadow has only just started.

South bridge work
The south bridge across the river from Palmer's Road Car Park is now closed for 2 weeks to allow Norse (HBC) to replace the badly worn surface.

The Great Willowherb and Hogweed make a fine spectacle on the north meadow. Other plants newly flowering include Lesser Burdock, Hemp Agrimony, Red Bartsia, Wild Angelica and the grass Timothy. Hoary Ragwort is not quite in flower on the orchid area. The Strawberry Clover on the east side of the Lumley area is now turning into its strawberry-like fruits. Some flower spikes of Purple Loosestrife were pushing through the tangled vegetation in the usual spot just south of the north bridge.

Hemp Agrimony . . . Red Bartsia
Timothy . . . Strawberry Clover

My best sighting of the morning was a superb male Southern Hawker dragonfly which perched conveniently for a photo on the edge of the new track from the Environment Agency work in the south meadow.

I had a nice Speckled Wood, showing both its upper winds and its less commonly seen under wings.

Several flies of the species Volucella pellucens were flying. One actually landed on the back of my hand and gave me a sharp nip which I can still feel as I type this blog. I read the fly is a nectar feeder, so why should it want to bite me? Here is the photo my grand son took of this fly a few days ago.

Blackcap is still singing in the south meadow. A Buzzard was calling overhead.

I had a quick look at Slipper Millpond where the Mute Swan family with 3 cygnets was present along with the Coot family with two tiny chicks.

There was no sign of any Great Black-backed Gulls apart from the dead juvenile on the centre raft. It looks as if they have left the pond, but are probably in the harbour somewhere close.
Shaggy Soldier is in flower on the traffic island on the main A259 opposite the pond.

Deformed Viper's Bugloss
On Sunday July 21 during a walk on the beach at west Hayling, I found a number of deformed plants of Viper's Bugloss.

I have subsequently discovered that the deformities are caused by a tiny gall mite called Aceraria echii. The mite is, as the name implies, very small. It is shaped like the horn of a cow and has two hooks by which it attaches itself to the plant to extract nutrients. There can be countless numbers on a single plant and they produce between them this mossy like appearance. As the plant is a perennial this invasion of small mites is not likely to have a major impact on the plant.

MONDAY JULY 24 - 2016

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out early this morning to walk along the Warblington shore. (5:55am to 8:26am - tide falling - clean fresher air). The highlights were as follows:
Warblington cemetery: 1 Green Woodpecker, 35+ Collared Doves, 1 Goldcrest and Coal Tit heard singing.
Ibis field: 2 Chiffchaff and a third singing and 2 female Blackcap.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 6+ Chiffchaff, 3+ Willow Warbler (1 heard singing), a Sedge Warbler and 8+ Long-tailed Tits (see photos). Great to have some warblers to look at!

Willow Warbler and Sedge Warbler

Conigar Point: 1 Greenshank, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Common Tern, a Med Gull with a juvenile and 7 Black-tailed Godwits flew east probably heading to Nore Barn
Off Pook Lane: An amazing feeding frenzy of 422+ Black-headed Gulls on the falling tide, along with 2 Cormorants and 6 Common Gulls. Also 3 Greenshank, a stunning summer plumaged Grey Plover with 5 summer plumaged Dunlin. About 15+ Redshank now present.
Also resting for a short while on the mud were 30 Canada Geese with a noisy Greylag amongst them (see photo) After 20 minutes they flew off towards Thorney Island.

Langstone Mill Pond: Female Tufted Duck with single duckling (starting to grow now)
33 Little Egrets, 4 Grey Heron, a adult Med Gull with a juvenile over and 2 Reed Warblers in the reeds scolding a stalking Grey Heron. 2+ Swallows milling about

SUNDAY JULY 23 - 2016

Hayling Island west
Jean and I had a very pleasant walk in a brisk, but warm westerly wind, at Hayling Island (west) this morning. From the Council car park near the Ferryboat Inn, we walked through the shingle dune area by the golf course towards the beach huts.

We turned round and came back along the low tide sandy beach.

The shingle area had lots of Sea Kale and Sea Radish, both now with their pea-like pods.

We also noticed the 'mossy' appearance of many of the Viper's Bugloss plants which has puzzled me in the past. They look quite unlike the flowering plant. However, Blamey, Fitter and Fitter (p.214) say it is the persistent hairy sepals that make the fruiting spikes look mossy.

I was interested to see several 6-spot Burnet Moths feeding on the flowers of Common Ragwort - another insect that benefits from this much maligned plant. However, there were no Cinnabar caterpillars on the plants I examined.

Teasel heads were flowering
this one attracting the attention of a Bumblebee - probably Bombus terrestris.

FRIDAY JULY 22 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I was delighted to have to company of my 7-year old grandson, Joe, for this morning's walk around the meadow. He was very good company and enjoyed snapping away with his Dad's digital camera. In fact, he got some really nice wildlife shots as shown below. I should go with him more often! We started at the south bridge before turning onto the meadow where Joe was interested to see the Environment Agency chaps working on the bund with a large digger.

Joe particularly enjoyed getting onto the fallen tree on the north river. In fact, all 8 of my grand children have climbed onto this large branch at some time or another over the years. It is a great favourite with all children and should never be felled.

We stopped from time to time to examine flowers and leaves for insects, but what Joe loved most of all was pushing through the grasses on the north meadow, mostly taller than himself, taking videos as he went.

He got some good shots of Common Darter on the south bridge handrail.

Later Joe got good photos of a pair of Soldier Beetles and what I think is a Volucella pellucens fly.

Joe also found the first fairly ripe Blackberry of the year along the north path which he ate and said was a bit sharp!


Slipper Millpond
The first thing I noticed about the pond was how peaceful it was. There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls or their youngsters from this year's nest. However, when I looked more closely at the centre raft, I could see the corpse of one of the juvenile gulls slumped over the edge of the raft, seemingly having got its head jammed between two boards.

I spoke to Pam Phillips later who said the gulls had left the pond a few days ago, but returned from time to time. She did not know anything about the dead juvenile.

With the departure of the Great Black-backed Gulls the other pond wildfowl are having a field day! First Brendan Gibb-Gray told me he had seen a Coot family with two chicks near his house in Chequers Quay. He thought they nested in the reeds rather than on the rafts. I found them feeding behind the Chequers Quay building, hopefully out of harm's way, though one never knows what is round the corner.

There was also a female Mallard with a little troop of 5 ducklings on the east side of the pond.
Finally, the Mute Swan family with three cygnets appeared from the culvert under the road. Good to know they are still doing well. Pam Phillips says she often sees them sleeping on the island on Peter Pond.

Brook Meadow
There is a notice on the south bridge from Norse (ie Havant Borough Council) to the effect that the bridge will be closed for two weeks from July 25 - next Monday - for the top board surface to be replaced. This is good for the surface of the bridge has become badly worn and broken in parts. Pedestrians will have to use the footpath by the main road to get to the Hermitage Ponds from Emsworth.

By the south gate to the meadow I met Maurice Lillie who was talking to Environment Agency workers about the extensive construction work taking place around the Gooseberry Cottage bund in the south meadow. The work was ongoing with laying of fresh bags of stones. Here is one of their tractors laying the new bund.

Unfortunately, two of our Horse Chestnut saplings have been badly damaged during the work. The small tree was going to be removed anyway, but the bark of the large Horse Chestnut (photo on the left) has been stripped. Does anyone know if it can be repaired?

The workers explained that the south fence bordering the footpath to Peter Pond would be also be replaced as it was in a bad state and a gate erected across the entrance to the south meadow which could be closed in case of flooding, like we had in February 2014. The steps down to the meadow would be left as they are, though a ramp would be preferable for ease of access.
Maurice and the Environment Agency also had a look at the vandalised concrete flood defence in the north-east corner of the meadow where bolts were now sticking out.

Regarding the ongoing debate over Common Ragwort, I was interested to see a field full of these plants just off Thorney Road at the junction with the entrance to the Emsworth Yacht Harbour with a horse feeding away quite happily on the grass, sensibly avoiding the distasteful Ragwort. Ragwort is really only a problem for horses if it is mixed in with a hay feed where they can't taste it.

Moorhen chicks
June Hay got his nice photo of a Moorhen feeding two of six chicks on the stream near Fishbourne Meadows yesterday.


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby briefly popped down to Langstone Mill Pond late this morning (10:33am to 11:33am - tide nearly in). Highlights were:
11 Greenshank offshore, flew off as I arrived and headed noisily towards Thorney Island - remarkable count for July! 5 Med Gulls resting on the last bit of mud by the pub, 1 Black-tailed Godwit feeding. 4 Common Terns.
On the pond: 2 very aggressive adult Mute Swans with 8 cygnets - so much fun, watching them spit and hiss at the dogs as they walk pass!
Tufted Duck female seen slipping into reeds, could not see if it had a single duckling (probably), then a minute later another female Tufted Duck appeared at the rear of the pond with 7 duckling (probably the bird with 13 ducklings a week or so ago).
And, the first sighting of a returning Kingfisher dashing across the pond.

Hayling Oysterbeds
Brian Lawrence had a walk round Hayling Oysterbeds today and saw plenty of Common Terns, some with chicks which is good news. But alas, there was no sign of any Little Terns, but I presume (hope) that some will have nested on the RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour. Maybe we shall hear from Chris Cockburn in time, the ex RSPB warden for the site, now a volunteer.

TUESDAY JULY 19 - 2016

Brook Meadow
I had a walk this morning with one of our grand daughters that we are looking after for a few days. Iris had my iPhone and spent much of the walk looking for creatures called Pokemons. In fact, we found quite a lot and it was actually quite exciting, though not exactly wildlife!
We met Glynis and Thomas Irons on the way to Brook Meadow. They thought they may have seen a family of Cetti's Warblers near Gooseberry Cottage, which I thought was unlikely as we have had no sightings of this bird at all on the meadow this year. However, one never knows.
I had a look wide swathe which had been cut along the eastern edge of the south meadow by the Environment Agency, which went through the nice crop of Marsh Woundwort. They had not informed the conservation group about this drastic action which was very disappointing. Here are photos - on the left of my grand daughter standing by the notice stating this area should not be disturbed due to valuable wild flowers. On the right of the the southern fence which used to have a nice hedge of bramble.

We met Peter Milinets-Raby on the south bridge who was hoping to get some shots of the Marsh Woundwort, but I had to tell him they were gone. He showed me a gadget he had bought to fit on his smart phone which enabled him to get very good macro shots. Later he sent me some shots he got on the meadow. Great Burnet and Ribwort Plantain.

Other news
Brian Lawrence caught this a Hummingbird Hawk-moth on his Buddleja tree. Eric Eddles continues to log interesting insects on Baffins Pond. Today he got the insect a female Soldier-fly (Statiomys Potamida).

MONDAY JULY 18 - 2016

Fishbourne Meadows
Following my visit to Fishbourne Meadows on July 5, I asked the Chichester Harbour Conservancy if they had done the annual count of Southern Marsh Orchids. James Parkin, the new Chichester Harbour Conservancy Farming & Wildlife Officer, e-mailed me today to say he didn't manage to get around to conducting the usual orchid count on Fishbourne Meadows this year, but sent me the reading for some earlier years. Here are the recent counts from James along with others going back to 1991 that I got from Anne de Potier when she was the Chichester Harbour Conservation Officer.


The figures show a steady growth in orchid numbers from zero in 1991 to 782 in 2004 since when they have levelled off. It would be nice to think the Southern Marsh Orchid numbers increase in a similar way over the next 20 years on Brook Meadow, though sadly I shall not be around to see that.
 James says the site will be grazed shortly. They tend to wait until after the orchids have flowered before the cattle are put onto the site each year to allow the optimum seed set for the following year.

Water Ladybird
Eric Eddles had another interesting find on Baffins Pond today with this 19-spot Ladybird commonly called a Water Ladybird (Anisosticta novemdecimpunctata).

For earlier observations go to . . July 1-16