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for January 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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Brook Meadow
I did my regular morning patrol through a slightly misty, calm and peaceful Brook Meadow. The meadow is very wet after yesterday's rain, but the main paths remain fairly dry. Here is a view looking north along the main path in the south meadow with one of the signcases on the right.

The river is now running quite high with murky water from the silt brought down from the upper reaches. This is quite a change from Saturday when the north river was bone dry. Here it is with a nice flow of water from beneath the railway.

There was lots of bird song, mostly from Robins which were everywhere. Several House Sparrows were chirruping away as usual from the bushes at the end of Seagull Lane. During my walk I was particularly pleased to hear three Song Thrushes in full song, one in Palmer's Road Copse, one on the north meadow and one in Seagull Lane patch. Three Song Thrushes is our regular quota on Brook Meadow. This photo was taken a few years ago.

I watched a pair of Dunnocks displaying with lots of wing fluttering and chasing on the west bank. Here is a shot of a pair indulging in pre-coital behaviour taken a few years ago on the meadow. Dunnocks are, in fact, quite a promiscuous species.

There is a nice flowering of Winter Heliotrope on the river bank below the south bridge. There may be enough for an aroma from the bridge. Has anyone smelt it?

Yesterday, I happened to meet a couple who were measuring the two bridges on Brook Meadow in the rain! They explained that they have been asked by the Brook Meadow Conservation Group to repair and replace the badly worn surfaces on both bridges in the near future. That will be good as they have got into a dangerous condition.

Langstone to Emsworth
Peter Milinets-Raby had some spare time this afternoon, so despite the high tide, visited a few sites around the area in grim drizzle (12:55pm to 2:17pm - high tide throughout).
Langstone Mill Pond: 7 Grey Heron present, with 6 of them standing on or by nests, 2 Adult Mute Swans on their own.
Flooded horse paddock: Perfect for birds with 176 Teal, 8 Wigeon, 1 Green Sandpiper, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtails, 2 Little Egrets and 2 female Pheasant.
Off shore on the high water were: 58 Wigeon and 20 Shelduck.
Beacon Square: 2 Red Breasted Merganser, 130 Brent Geese.
Emsworth Harbour: 8 Little Grebes, 8 Brent Geese. 1 Greenshank feeding at the base of the wall by the town. 27 Coot with 17 on the Millpond.


Conigar Point
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning visiting Conigar Point before the rain moved in and forced him home 7:40am to 8:46am - tide coming in, but still low.
4 Little Egrets in the field north of the barn, 6 Little Egrets in the field west of the cemetery, along with a male Pheasant, 2 Oystercatcher and a Curlew.
Ibis Field: Green Woodpecker, 12 Pheasant, 5 Moorhen, 2 Long-tailed Tits.
Conigar Point: 46 Teal, 136 Wigeon, 66 Brent Geese, Pair of Pintail, 1 Red breasted Merganser, 10 Shelduck, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, with 2 flying over heading for Nore Barn.
1 Snipe flushed from the SSSI Orchid field


Emsworth walk
I had a late morning walk through Brook Meadow where I found a Little Egret feeding in the River Ems below the north bridge. I managed to get a few shots before it spotted me a flew off to another location on the river. Little Egrets are fairly common on the river in winter.

I made my way down to Peter Pond where I found David Gattrell laying the reeds along the edge of one of the newly cut channels. I think he calls this thatching.

The nesting Mute Swan pair was on the pond, though I suspect they will actually nest in the reeds on the neighbouring Slipper Millpond as they have done in the past.

I also spotted this Song Thrush with what looks like a snail or possibly an insect pupa.

From there I decided to walk over to Emsworth quay at the bottom of South Street to have a look for the Black Swans which Chris Berners-Price and Brian Lawrence saw there yesterday. I had no trouble finding them, all five of them with some Mute Swans and a very attentive and fascinated audience.

Black Swans are certainly unusual in Emsworth Harbour, this being the most I have ever seen in this location. From the pale edges to their wing feathers I would guess that some of them were juveniles. Peter Milinets-Raby thinks there are 3 adults and 2 juveniles.

The next question concerns from where they came. The only local Black Swan breeding site I know of is at West Ashling millpond, but Paul Cooper informs me that for the last two or three years there's only been one Black Swan on the West Ashling pond, so they won't be from there!


Black Swans in Emsworth
Chris Berners-Price found 5 Black Swans in Emsworth Harbour by the quay at high water this morning. Quite a catch!

Mystery carcass
With regards to the carcass he found on the beach at Nore Barn, Chris Berners-Price estimates it was 2/3rds the size of these adults, so definitely not a Black Swan. Chris still prefers a Black-throated Diver.

Tom Bickerton is also adamant that the carcass was not a swan. He says, a juvenile Black Swan will show white in the secondaries, but there was no sign of this in Chris's photo. Also, the shape of the carcass is wrong for a swan and the legs should extend past the tail, which is squarer than in a swan.
However, Peter Milinets-Raby is fairly confident that the carcass was a Black Swan. He adds "There are not many other Black/Dark/White species of bird in this country that have an overall length over 57 cms and have a black tail, black vent (area where the leg meets the body - clearly black), dark wings and white somewhere along the wings or lower mantle (hard to work out from the position of the corpse where this white belongs".
I will draw this discussion to a close unless anyone else comes in with any first hand evidence, ie who actually saw the dead bird.

Nore Barn
Brian Lawrence was at Nore Barn today and found the regular Spotted Redshank and its friend the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) feeding in the stream. He also saw the group of 5 Black Swans that Chris Berners-Price saw in the main harbour near the quay.

Barrie's birds
Barrie Jay sent a fine selection of images he has taken of birds in his garden or fields nearby apart from the Fieldfare which was taken at Popham Airfield.


Nore Barn
I had a stroll around Nore Barn this afternoon. The tide was right out so there was nothing of interest to see in the harbour. I walked through the woods where Great Tit was singing its full 'teacher' song. I also heard snatches of the 'ooo-wu - ooo-wu' song of a Stock Dove. Such a peaceful scene, though several dogs rushed out soon after I took this photo!

I walked a little way up the path (sometimes called the Selangor Path) at the far end of the woods leading to the main Havant Road. There are some magnificent old Oak trees along the path.

Quite close to the Nore Barn entrance, I found several Butcher's-broom plants covered in bright red berries. There were lots of flower buds and just a few open flowers. One tiny pale flower can be seen in the centre of the photo below. The flower buds appear to be attached to oval 'leaves' with sharp spines, though these 'leaves' are in fact flattened stems. The plant flowers from February to May and sporadically throughout the year, so they were not unexpected today. I was looking for them!

The remains of last year's Great Horsetail plants were also prominent by the side of the path. This is one of the few places that this plant grows in our area. In some places they are a plague, particularly on allotments!

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby spent 40 minutes down the Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 9am - high tide. The highlights were as follows: 1 Greenshank, 85 Lapwing, 60 Shelduck, 5 Goldeneye, 4 Red breasted Merganser, 55 Teal,
Off shore: 193 Brent Geese, 54 Wigeon, 2 Adult Mute Swans chasing off 4 juveniles as far as Conigar Point - Its that time of the year!
Langstone Mill Pond: 1 Little Egret looking very cold, 8 Grey Herons: 2 on the top Holm Oak nest together looking lovey dovey! 2 on the Lower Holm Oak nest - one adult pinching sticks from other nests (see below) 1 guarding the Other Holm Oak nest - chasing off the Heron pinching sticks from its nest!! Funny to watch - so aggressive, 2 on the "Old South Nest" behind the vegetation. Looked liked they may have laid as they were very lovey dovey to one another and fiddling with sticks etc. And 1 Grey Heron loitering on furthest South nest. Chiffchaff heard calling, 26 Teal.
Horse paddock - frozen - 11 Moorhens.
And in the distance, through the scope, on the usual field was one Cattle Egret!

Mystery Corpse
Peter had a re-look at his Black Swan youngster photos and reckon the corpse found on the beach by Chris Berners-Price at the end of Warblington Road is one of these type. He thinks the markings on the wing shoulder look like the marks on Black Swan. What do you think?

Old Liss Railway
Mike Wells took a very cold stroll along Old Liss Railway this morning and got photos of Treecreeper, Buzzard, a fox, and his first photo of a Firecrest - nice one! Other birds seen were Blue Tits, Great Tits, Goldfinches, Bullfinches, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and a solitary Little Egret which I disturbed on the Rother. There were no Redwings that Mike had seen in previous years.


Emsworth walk
After yesterday's unbroken sunshine, the weather today was very different with dense fog at first and lingering all day, enveloping the whole area. I would not liked to have been driving, but walking was a surprisingly pleasant experience, peaceful, a bit like after a snowfall. I decided to walk round the town millpond which still had a layer of unfrozen ice over much of the surface supporting a variety of gulls.

The Pied Wagtails kept me amused dancing around the edge of the pond with their loud 'chick-chick' calls. A Great Black-backed Gull was perched on a post in the harbour and a Greenshank and two Redshanks were feeding in the low water channel near the quay. They are in the centre of the photo in the channel, but not easy to see.

Stock Dove in garden
I put some spare bread on the bird table which, as I hoped, attracted several marauding Black-headed Gulls, though they were extremely nervous about coming down to my relatively enclosed garden. The Gulls are always flying around on the look out for food in gardens. However, far more interesting was a Stock Dove, which I have only seen twice before in my present garden, in May 2013 and in April 2009.

Stock Dove is easily distinguished from the Woodpigeon as being much smaller and in having no white collar patch. However, telling it from Feral Pigeon is not so easy as they are much the same size and both have green iridescence on the neck. The key difference that I look for is the overall slate grey plumage of the Stock Dove; the Feral Pigeon is usually much lighter with a more varied plumage. Their behaviour and songs also differ. The Stock Dove is also largely a woodland bird with a distinctive 'ooo-wu . . . ooo-wu' song, whereas the Feral Pigeon is seen mostly in large flocks in towns and cities and has the familiar 'look-at-the-moon' cooing song. For comparison here is a Feral Pigeon that I took on Baffins Pond a couple of years ago.

Water Rail
This morning Pam Phillips got a really good view of the Brook Meadow Water Rail in open water, south of the S bend in the River Ems, catching something from the flow of the river. As Malcolm Phillips is no longer in Emsworth, it would be good if someone could get a photo of the bird.

Mystery carcass
Chris Berners-Price has been back to the exact spot where he found the headless bird carcass on the beach at the end of Warblington Road on Jan 15. Chris sent a photo of a tape measure on the beach showing the size of the carcass. From the tail to the top of rib-cage is 57cm (22.5") and the body diameter is 18cm (7"). Everyone has told him that it cannot be a Black Swan, as he first thought, so he asks, "Could someone tell me what it is, please?"

Here is the original carcass and Chris's measurement

Brian's thoughts: I think we can rule out Black Swan (length 110-140cm) as it would have been considerably larger than this carcass. Also, I think we can rule out Brent Goose (length 55cm-62cm), which was many people's suggestion, as this bird is clearly smaller than the carcass. My initial thought was Cormorant (length 77-94cm) which seems to be about the right size, but the white tip to the tail in the carcass does not fit. Chris's suggestion (or hope?) was that it was a Black throated Diver (length 63-75cm) which was also mentioned as a possibility by Tom Bickerton. Black-throated Diver has a white rear flank patch which might be what can be seen on the carcass. But, Black-throated Diver is quite a rare bird in these waters, so the odds would seem to be against that. Has anyone else got any ideas?

I can really recommend the WinterWatch series of four programmes from Arne RSPB Nature Reserve that started on BBC2 tonight at 8pm. It should soon be available on iPlayer if you missed it. It is on the rest of the week. Avocets, Spoonbills, Black-tailed Godwits galore in Poole Harbour feasting on the rich invertebrates in the mud. My highlights tonight were the Waxwings on the Rowan berries in Sheffield, the catching and ringing of a Woodcock at nightime, a wonderful Starling murmuration and close-up views of Foxes tearing flesh from a carcass. How this programme has improved over the past few years!


Emsworth walk
It was another glorious winter's morning for a stroll with my bins and camera through Brook Meadow and down to the millponds. Here are a few of the things that delighted my eyes as I went along.

A Little Egret was perched high in the large Ash tree that overhangs the north path on Brook Meadow from the railway embankment. It flew off just after I took the photo. They often perch in the trees over the river.

What I assume is the regular nesting pair of Mute Swans was back on Peter Pond feeding with the Mallard and Coot. They have nested in the reeds on Slipper Millpond for the past few years.

Golden Samphire seedheads are almost as attractive as the flowers. Look on the south facing wall of the bridge at the north of Slipper Millpond.

One of the breeding Great Black-backed Gulls was back on the partially frozen Slipper Millpond along with a variety of other gulls. The gulls often recce their nesting area in the winter months. The centre raft is ready and waiting for them!

It was good to see a Coot pair back on the south raft on Slipper Millpond, though they are unlikely to nest for a month or so. But beware the Great Black-backed Gulls. The north raft is as yet unoccupied, but needs a nesting box.

I liked this straggly bush of Rose Hips on the east side of Slipper Millpond.

The orange berries of Stinking Iris were hiding away in the undergrowth on the wayside by Dolphin Creek.

The town millpond was largely frozen over, which meant most of the ducks and Coots were gathered in the open water in the northern end of the pond. So far this winter there have been no Tufted Duck, Red-breasted Merganser or Great Crested Grebe on the pond.

Grey Wagtail
Chris Oakley was also out on this glorious morning when he got this excellent photo of a Grey Wagtail perched on the canopy above the Methodist Church hall in Emsworth. It was with two Pied Wagtails, or what his wife likes to call them, 'Polly dishwashers'.

Grey Wagtail is sometimes mistakenly called a Yellow Wagtail because of its colour, but the latter is a rare summer migrant to this country and is never seen in winter. Grey Wagtails are, however, relatively common in towns and near streams.


Black Swan in Emsworth
Chris Berners-Price found this Black Swan in the channel by Emsworth Quay today. Definitely alive and well (unlike the poor corpse that Chris found at Nore Barn last week). Chris noted the interesting white flash visible at the back.

Ralph Hollins comments
"In case any readers of your blog think that the white showing in Chris Berners-Price's Swan photo today is evidence that the dead swan photo (with a V shape white patch on its rump) might be a Black Swan corpse have a look at the photo in the link given below. Black Swans have no white on their rumps but do show a startling amount in their wings.
See . . .

Cattle Egrets
Christopher Evans spotted 5 Cattle Egrets in the first field on the left down Church Lane, as you come off the roundabout at Warblington. Christopher also went to Nutbourne, where there were a few Avocet, as well as plenty of Teal and Wigeon.

Farlington Marshes
Mike Wells had a walk around Farlington Marshes this morning and got this shot of a ' lone' Avocet in the midst of Pintails and Teal. Mike noted that some ducks chose to stand on the ice, while the remainder stayed in the freezing water!

Christopher Evans went round Farlington Marshes yesterday and on the western side found 13 Pintail and approx 30-40 Avocet.

Mike also got this very clear photo of a colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit. Left leg green with red on ankle and right leg red over blue (G+RB). I don't have any records for this bird, though it was certainly ringed at Farlington by Pete Potts and his team. I will pass the sighting onto Pete.


Brook Meadow workday
It was another glorious winter morning for the regular second Thursday in the month work session on Brook Meadow attended by 10 volunteers. The tasks clearing logs and trimming off branches from overhanging Willows. Many of the sawn logs were moved to the Lumley gate where people were invited to help themselves for their fires. We were very pleased to have a visit from Michelle Good of HBC who is our main contact regarding conservation matters now Jayne Lake has been moved to other duties.

The full report on the work session plus lots more photos can be seen on the Brook Meadow web site
Go to . . .

Other observations
There are more fresh Molehills coming up alongside the main paths through the meadow. Moles appear to be particularly attracted to paths, maybe from the vibrations caused by walkers?

The frost create some interesting images around the meadow. My attention was caught by the Spear Thistle rosette.

Dan tells me the Water Rail is regularly present on the east side of Peter Pond when he puts food out for the ducks.


Mystery corpse
Chris Berners-Price tells me he went back with a tape measure the day after he found the dead bird on the beach at Nore Barn on Jan 15, but it was gone. However, he provided the following observations.

"I wish I had left my foot in the picture to give a scale to it. My guess is that it was 20" or 50cm from the end of it's tail to the hole at it's shoulders where the neck was missing. The volume of the chest area was bigger than a Jack Russell dog, at least 6"/15cm across. The front of the body had been eaten - probably by the foxes that live by the bins there. Where the neck had been there was an inverted hole as though the neck had been pulled back into the chest cavity. I latched onto a swan because of the size - it was significantly bigger than a Brent Goose, which I am very familiar with. I note a Cormorant is longer than a Brent, but it was a powerful bird not a scrawny thing - I am now wondering about a large Black throated Diver?"

Water Rail
It was light enough at 7.30 this morning for Pam Phillips to see the Water Rail at the back of the old gas holder site. Good to know it is still about.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had a visit this lunchtime to the Warblington shore from 11:50am to 2:11pm - tide slowly pushing in.
The highlights were as follows: 10 Little Egrets in the field west of the cemetery with 2 Oystercatcher and 3 Redwing.
Next field west were 3 Stock Doves, 27 Curlew and 3 Cattle Egret, but no cows.
Field south of cemetery held 333 Brent Geese.
Off Conigar Point: 99 Wigeon, 12 Teal, 2 Pintail (a pair), 2 Shelduck, 4 Red Breasted Merganser, 70 Brent Geese.
Snipe flushed from SSSI orchid field and Meadow Pipit as I walked around with intent
Off Pook Lane: 46 Black-tailed Godwit, 8 Red Breasted Merganser, 181 Lapwing (loads because the fields were frozen, but no Golden Plover?), 66 Dunlin, 6 Goldeneye (4 males), 99 Shelduck, 11 Grey Plover, 126 Teal, 27 Wigeon, 2 Greenshank, 24 Curlew in field by Pook Lane track, 5 Common Gulls, 1 adult winter Mediterranean Gull, Female pond Pintail, 120 Brent Geese.
Horse paddock. 11 Moorhen, 1 Lapwing, 1 Grey Heron.
Langstone Mill Pond; 6 Grey Herons - two on nests numbers 3 and 7, 2 adult and 5 juv Mute Swan - seemed to have lost three?

Mike Wells got this cracking photo of a Goldcrest taken mid-morning at Petersfield Heath. The temperature was zero! Only other small birds in evidence were Long-tailed Tits, Robins and Blue Tits.


Bird song
I took the opportunity of a glorious winter's day to update the three signcases on Brook Meadow with fresh photographic displays. I had not done them since early October, so it was certainly not before time. All went well and I received several compliments about the quality of the displays from members of the public walking through. It is good to know they are appreciated. I really must try to do them more often. Here is the signcase near the north bridge which includes details of the recent hedge laying project.

I was accompanied by bird song for much of the morning, mostly from Robins plus a single loud Song Thrush. A Great Tit was also singing its full 'teacher' song from the bushes on the west bank of the river south of the north bridge for the first time this year. Here is a nice shot of a Great Tit singing in December that Malcolm Phillips got on the meadow a few years ago.

I also heard snatches from a Blue Tit warming up its song. Ralph Hollins has also heard Dunnock and Blackbird in song in Havant. Most of the common birds will be singing from time to time in the next few weeks in preparation for the great spring choral.

I could not resist including this shot that I took from the causeway looking north across the centre meadow towards the two tall Black Poplar trees. Brook Meadow is looking so beautiful!

Mystery corpse
Several people have raised doubts about the bird corpse that Chris Berners-Price found on the beach at Nore Barn being a Black Swan.

Tom Bickerton says it is the wrong shape for a swan and thinks it could be one of two birds. The upper white tail coverts fit Dark-Bellied Brent, but also Black-throated Diver. The legs look like they extend past tail which would indicate diver species.

Ralph Hollins is confident that it is not a Black Swan as, while these have lots of white in their flight feathers (normally hidden in their closed wings), they do not have the broad white rump shown in the corpse - this appears in several Goose species including Greylag.

Anne de Potier also thinks the tail pattern and general streaky/stripy appearance suggest a Brent Goose, though one needs to know the bird's size. I will have to check the size with Chris. I had a look along the beach this afternoon, but there was no sign of the corpse.

Anne also provided the following a link with information about what to do if you find a dead water bird in the context of bird flu - see What to do.


Peter Pond
This morning I had a walk through Brook Meadow and down to Peter Pond in light drizzle. I was very pleased to meet up with and have a chat to my friend David Gattrell who was just finishing his regular Sunday morning stint clearing channels on Peter Pond. David allowed me to snatch this quick photo as he finished his work on the east bank.

It is very heavy work, but he says it keeps him fit. Below is a view of the channel that David had been working on this morning taken from the footbridge on Lumley Path.

David has done a truly magnificent job managing Peter Pond single-handed for the past 36 years, in keeping the water flowing and maintaining a healthy population of waterfowl. He is rightly very proud of his achievement which is a fine natural asset for the local community. Here is a shot on this murky morning looking across the pond from the path to Gooseberry Cottage to Lumley Road.

While on this path, my attention was caught by the seedheads of the Common Reed on the west side of Peter Pond hanging wet with moisture from the steady rain.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning to walk along the Warblington shore 7:50am before sunrise to 9:34am - tide out:
Ibis Field: 10 Pheasant - 2 males and 8 females.
Conigar Point: 56 Wigeon, 16 Teal, 140 Brent Geese, 17 Shelduck, 8 Dunlin, 2 Grey Plover, Female Pintail.
Pook Lane: 6 Red Breasted Merganser, 103 Shelduck (the first time in four years that I've reached triple figures!), 6 Grey Plover, 7 Dunlin, 181 Brent Geese, Skylark heard flying over, 31 Wigeon, 28 Black-tailed Godwit, 122 Teal, 2 adult & 6 juv Mute Swans.
Adult winter Med Gull (very unusual to see one in this month. It is usually a sign that they are thinking of returning to breed????).
1 Sandwich Tern, 1 Greenshank, 4 Common Gull, 58 Lapwing, 2 Little Egret.
Langstone Mill Pond: 5 Grey Herons, 30 Goldfinch.
Pook Lane/Castle Farm: 4 Cattle Egrets with a single Little Egret with cattle in the 'Little Owl' field, one west of the field west of the cemetery.

Birds of Warblington & Emsworth 2016
Peter Milinets-Raby has completed a report for the Birds of Warblington & Emsworth 2016 which summarises his personal observations over the past year along this stretch of coastline. The comprehensive report has lots of facts and figures along with many fine photos of the birds. We are certainly all very grateful to Peter for his meticulous reports throughout the year published in this blog which have provided a comprehensive and always interesting view of local bird life. Langstone Mill Pond is now firmly on the ornithological map thanks mainly to Peter's logging of the nesting Little Egrets and Grey Herons. Peter also discovered the Cattle Egrets in December on Warblington Farm which have generated so much interest in the birding community. Brilliant, Peter and keep up the good work!
See the following link for a abridged version of Peter's report on his personal web site. He has a longer verion on a PDF file and if anyone wants it they should email him. The report is at . . . .

Dead swan?
Chris Berners-Price came across this carcass of a large headless bird 100 yards east of the beach at the bottom of Warblington Road. From its size and colouring, Chris thinks it could it be a Black Swan. There certainly have been Black Swans in the Nore Barn area recently and this could be one of them. I did wonder about Cormorant but size is difficult to determine. Any other ideas?


Thorney Marsh Harrier
Christopher Evans had a walk down the western edge of Thorney this afternoon. On his return leg, he spotted a Marsh Harrier over the reed beds at the northern end of Thorney. He says, "At that point, it appeared to be over by Thorney Rd. When I got back to my car, which was parked at the junction of Thorney Rd and Thornham Lane, I saw it again. This time, sods law, it was over nearer to the sea wall! Given the distances and failing light, it was 4ish by then, views weren't brilliant, but good to see it nonetheless."
Marsh Harrier is not an uncommon bird in this area, but certainly very good to see. Here is a photo that Tony Wootton got of one a few years ago over the deeps.

Millpond Kingfisher
At 4.30pm this afternoon, Steve Dennett had the good fortune to see a Kingfisher on the millpond steps where two big square planters are on Bath Road. This has been a good winter for seeing these delightful birds around our millponds. Here is a nice shot that Richard Somerscocks got of a Kingfisher on the millpond seawall a few years ago.

Steve asks if I know anyone with a knowledge of fossils? I don't but there may well be someone out there who does.


Emsworth Millpond
What a beautiful day it has been. This morning I really enjoyed my walk around the town millpond which was looking so good that I could not resist taking a snap of it looking north. What a lovely place we live in!

I found the regular Mute Swan pair 'guarding' the sluice gate by the Slipper Mill Sailing Club, as they have done in previous years, to deter any intruding swans from getting onto the pond. They are so protective, but will they nest? They did not last year, but we shall see.

The tide was high in the harbour which was also flat calm, just like the millpond. I took the following snap of some gulls resting on one of the boats near the quay, mostly Black-headed Gulls, but including one Common Gull.

Tony Wootton was also at the millpond this morning to try out some new techniques. Here are some images of the gulls he sent to me 'because he likes them'. Tony says . . .

Juvenile Herring Gull because I love the detail in the markings. 2nd winter Common Gull because I don't pick out too many.

Black-headed Gull really on the turn. Springs coming.

Nore Barn
I got to Nore Barn just after 12 noon with the tide falling. It was a truly beautiful morning, calm sea, no wind and a gentle sun, not too bright. 'Perfick' for birdwatching as Pop Larkin would say. And here were certainly lots of birds to see. The regular Spotted Redshank was feeding in the stream closely stalked by a photographer with a long-lensed camera.
Several hundred Wigeon, Teal and Brent Geese were mostly in the channel south of the woods, plus a good flock of 125 Black-tailed Godwits which is my highest count of the winter. This is not a record for the site which is 180 in Oct 2011.

I also found four colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits:
G+BG - Sightings of this bird go back to Sep-10 and it was a regular visitor until Sep-14 when there was a gap of about 3 years before it was seen again here at Nore Barn on 03-Jan-17.
G+WR - This bird was ringed at Farlington Marshes by Pete Potts and his team on 10-Sept-08 as adult male. It has been a mega regular in Emsworth Harbour ever since and today's was the 121st sighting!
O+WL - I first saw this bird in Emsworth Harbour on 25-Sep-12, but it has been an irregular visitor since then with only 12 sightings up to 17-Aug-15. Today's sighting was the first since then.

ROL+RLR - This is a recognisable Kent ringed bird with 3 coloured rings on each leg. It was ringed on 27-Oct-08 at Kingsnorth Power Station, Medway Est. Kent as an adult male and has been a mega regular in Emsworth Harbour since then. Today's was my 93rd sighting!

I walked on to the head of the channel where I found another Spotted Redshank feeding in the fresh water stream from the field along with the colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL. This Spotted Redshank is probably the bird that Anne de Potier saw here on 30 Dec 2016.

When I got back to the main stream, the regular Spotted Redshank was feeding at the top end of the stream near the bridge, close to the path and quite unfazed by people and dogs walking by.

Here is an unusual shot of the bird feeding deep in the stream with its left wing raised.

I also saw a Rock Pipit walking around in the grasses near the shoreline.


Garden Greenfinches
When I fill up the bird feeders in my garden I know I am being watched by dozens of eyes from surrounding trees and bushes. This morning was no exception, for no sooner had I finished filling up the sunflower hearts and got back into the house the birds were down and on the feeders. There must have been around 10 Goldfinches, plus a couple of Chaffinches and House Sparrows. But I was most pleased to see 5 Greenfinches. We have been getting get one or two Greenfinches fairly regularly, but 5 was the most I have seen for a year.

Three Greenfinches on this feeder with a Goldfinch

As is well known, there was a catastrophic crash in the Greenfinch population following the outbreak of the disease trichomonosis in 2006. Up to then, Greenfinch was my number one garden bird, but numbers plummeted. The current BTO Garden BirdWatch Magazine 'Bird Table' states categorically that the decline in Greenfinch populations caused by this infection continues unabated.

Here are my records from my present garden for Greenfinch since 1998
The chart shows the dramatic fall in the mean weekly count from 2006

Barrie's birds
Barrie Jay always makes me envious of the birds he gets in his Waterlooville garden. Barrie often gets a Green Woodpecker pecking around the garden in the search for ants. This one is a male - with the red moustache which is absent in the female. Grey Wagtail is far less common than the Pied Wagtail which visits daily. This photo was taken early in the morning and quite dark. Interestingly, the bird has a metal ring on its leg, but not readable.

Yesterday, Barry also had a Grey Heron on the neighbour's tree
licking its lips while observing his fishpond!

Regarding Redwings and Song Thrushes, Barry has seen many in his area over the last couple of weeks but says they are camera shy at the present.

Kingfisher crossing
While taking his pupil on a driving lesson through Emsworth this morning, Peter Milinets-Raby spotted the blue flash of a Kingfisher cross the road in front of them at about 5 metres height, heading east towards Brook Meadow and completely ignoring the 'Rules of the Road'! Good to know that the pupil kept his/her eyes on the road (unlike the instructor).

BTO News
Based on records compiled from the Nest Record Scheme and Constant Effort Sites Scheme, the British Trust for Ornithology reports the 2016 breeding season was a late and poor breeding season. Great Tit, Chaffinch and Blackcap were particularly affected by cool and damp weather in April, with many laying eggs a week later on average. Species nesting in June, such as Reed Warbler, were also affected by heavy rainfall.
See . . .

But Chiffchaff did well. There was a higher adult abundance of short and long-distance migrants at the start of the season. Chiffchaff in particular were noted in the greatest numbers since 1983. Survival rates may have been helped by warmer than average conditions in their wintering grounds. Similarly, the survival rate of cold sensitive species such as Wren and Cetti's Warbler was up on previous years, no doubt helped by the milder winter in 2015-16.

Waxwings continue to arrive BTO reports that October and early November 2016 saw one of the largest arrivals of Waxwings into Britain in recent years. Large flocks were noted on the east coast, and especially in Scotland with a peak count of 600. Some have been reported down here. I would love to hear of any local sightings.


Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby was up and out down to the Warblington shore before sunrise, a gloomy day, with the tide dropping very slowly (7:47am to 10:38am).
At first light, 16 Little Egrets were in the field west of the main cemetery with 3 Cattle Egrets. I found a fourth Cattle Egret on its own in the next field west from the cemetery.The shore was perfect this morning with the tide dropping very slowly, allowing for a wader & wildfowl frenzy, especially at Conigar Point. Great stuff.
Off Conigar Point: 41 Shelduck, 6 Pintail (3 males), 169 Wigeon, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 481 Dunlin, 382 Brent Geese, 14 Teal, 4 Grey Plover, 1 Greenshank, 1 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Buzzard passed over flushing everything -
Off Pook Lane: 2 Red Breasted Merganser, 7 Lapwing, 33 Shelduck, 41 Wigeon, 138 Brent Geese, 5 Grey Plover, 289 Dunlin, 1 winter plumaged Curlew Sandpiper (spent over an hour going through the 700+ Dunlin, until I eventually found this bird!). 2 Teal, 2 male & 2 female Goldeneye, Meadow Pipit over, 10 Curlew in field south of cemetery.
Finished off the morning taking photos of the Cattle Egrets for 30 minutes. I had them to myself, shame about the gloomy light. I took 350 photos and virtually deleted 300 of them!!!

Link to Peter's short YouTube video of the Cattle Egret feeding . . .

Tony's puzzles
The first of Tony Wootton 's puzzling photos of the two birds in silhouette at Farlington was recognised correctly by several people as Shovelers.


Pretty easy really as there is no other duck with that profile. Ralph Hollins said he was surprised to surprised to see them feeding in the sea (rather than a pond), though he had previously seen several feeding in the sea off the mouth of the Langbrook Stream.

Ralph was much more intrigued by Tony's mystery sea man and felt he should be in Portsmouth Harbour south of Horsea Island where the Navy had their long lake for testing Torpedoes. He recalls trainee sailors being forced to do runs through the harbour mud which tested their stamina to the point of death and wonders (tongue in cheek) if this is one of those young men who failed to survive!

Peter Milinets-Raby was the only one to correctly identify the 'man' as a seaweed covered post is off Thorney Island shore viewable from the Emsworth Mill pond wall.
Tony added the 'man' is standing at the foot of the slipway that's on the corner of the deck houses and the sea wall that leads out to the Western gate of Thorney. Right by where the official footpath comes out from the Thorney Lane sewage farm. It is apparently a lady made structure that has been there since just before Xmas. That's all I know and that was gleaned from a passer by.

There have been several recent reports of Redwing in the local area. The Havant Wildlife Group saw a flock of around 20 at Warblington during their New Year's Eve walk. While only yesterday, Ralph Hollins also spotted a flock of about a dozen Redwing and Song Thrushes in the pony fields north of Wade Court. Pam Phillips also had the first Redwing sighting in Emsworth when she saw one along Thorney Road yesterday. So, keep looking out for them and for Fieldfare.

Here is a nice shot of a Redwing that Mike Wells got a couple of years ago
showing all its major features very well, the red flanks and bold creamy eyebrow.

Roe Deer on Brook Meadow
Mark Ringwood spotted three Roe Deer at 09.15 this morning running through Brook Meadow from the bottom of his garden in Lumley Road, but too speedily for him to take a photo. Deer do occasionally come through the meadow, but this is the first confirmed sighting for over a year. Here is a nice shot of one from my files taken by Richard Somerscocks a few years ago on Thorney Island.

Short-eared Owls
Tony Wootton got some good views and photos of the Short-eared Owls while on Farlington Marshes today.


While walking through Brook Meadow this morning, I was interested to see a line of freshly created molehills along either side of the path through the centre meadow from the seat. In fact, I could see soil moving on one of them which indicated a Mole was active below ground.

This Blackbird was also taking an interest in the hills, probably as a look out post, but maybe also for any tit bits the Mole may have thrown up with the soil.

Fresh mole-hills are commonly seen on Brook Meadow and else where during periods of frosty weather. I also noticed a large number of them along the grass verges in the Stansted Estate yesterday. Molehills indicate that tunnel systems are being enlarged in preparation for the breeding season. The tunnel system is the permanent habitation of the mole and also acts as a food trap, constantly collecting invertebrate prey such as earthworms and insect larvae. As the Mole moves through the soil, invertebrates fall into the run and often do not escape before being detected by the patrolling resident.

Some years the molehills are very abundant. I recall an occasion in February 2005 when I counted an astonishing 1,110 hills on the meadow in 21 clusters. Here is a map of Brook Meadow showing the distribution of clusters and the number of molehills in each cluster.

Tony's puzzles
Tony Wootton sent a couple of puzzling photos that you might like to ponder over. The first one was taken on open water at Farlington Marshes in the evening. What birds are they?

Tony's second photo query is, Where is the mystery man? He is life size. Let me know if you have seen it.


Cattle Egret news
Christopher Evans was at Warblington Farm yesterday afternoon at 2.30 and saw 5 Cattle Egrets in the field immediately west of the main cemetery, along with a similar number of Little Egrets. He says they are certainly attracting plenty of birders.

Pulborough Brooks
Christopher Evans reports on the monthly Havant U3A walk at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 5.
"We met at Pulborough Brooks on a cold but gloriously sunny morning and joined one of their regular guided walks. Star attractions at the moment are 5 Bewick Swans, which we had good views of through the guides' telescopes. Other sightings included male and female Bullfinch, Greenfinch (looking fantastic in the sunshine), Tree Creeper, Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Linnets, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Snipe, Peregrine, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Canada Geese, Wigeon, Teal, a single Black Tailed Godwit and numerous Robins."

One of the Snipe

Red Kites
Fiona Bangert recommends Chilgrove for 'pretty much guaranteed sightings of Red Kites'. She says, 'I do it as a winter walk along lanes with my mother and have seen them every time. On our first winter walk there this year we had the treat of 3 at once. We have also had good Yellowhammer sightings there. We have realised that we haven't done it in the summer, something we will rectify!'
Thanks for that Fiona. They do seem to be spreading slowly in our direction. We even got the occasional one over Emsworth. Mrs Salter was 'absolutely thrilled' to see a Red Kite flying north across southern part of Birch Tree Drive in North Emsworth on Feb 6 last year. It was being mobbed by Carrion Crows.
Here is a shot that Tony Wootton got of a Red Kite in flight at The Burgh, which is just East of Arundel, on Feb 24 last year. On that occasion Tony saw a dozen Red Kites and 6 Buzzards.


Lumley walk
This morning I had a walk through Brook Meadow where I looked for the Water Rail that I saw in the river on Jan 1, but there was no sign of it anywhere. Just the odd Moorhen mooching lazily around.


I came back along Lumley Road to check on the milky sediment in the Lumley Stream. I discovered that it was coming from work on flood protection around Rose Cottage where a substantial brick wall has been built along the side of the stream.

Walking back along the path from Lumley Mill to Seagull Lane I noticed a large tiered bracket fungus on one of the pollarded Crack Willows in the garden of Constant Springs. Possibly Grey Polypore (Bjerkandera adusta)? The photo also shows a truncated branch with a covering of what I assume is a white fungus. Possibly Bleeding Porecrust (Physisporinus sanguinolentus)?

Interestingly, this was the same tree that had the splendid Chicken of the Woods growing on it in Sep 2014, though the present fungus looks quite different to that one. Could it be just an aged Chicken of the Woods?

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a spare hour early this afternoon and almost wasted it at Warblington. He arrived, saw a "crowd" of nine birders looking into an empty field and thought, "too many", so headed to the peace and quiet of Langstone Mill Pond instead. Good man! So, Langstone Mill Pond it was then - 1:05pm to 2:05pm - tide nearly in.
Off shore on the last piece of salt marsh: 9 Dunlin, 6 Grey Plover, 14 Black-tailed Godwit, 81 Teal (see photo), 98 Lapwing, 3 Greenshank, 31 Shelduck, 63 Wigeon, 1 male and 2 female Goldeneye, 8 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Turnstone.

On the pond: After high tide there were 118 Teal on the pond, 1 female "Pond" Pintail, 1 Little Egret, 3 Grey Heron just loitering, Reed Bunting calling (heard only).
Horse paddock: 9 Moorhen, 1 Lapwing, 1 Curlew, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Teal.

Cattle Egret news
From the HOS Going Birding sightings: J.Simons reported 5 Cattle Egrets on Warblington Farm at 9.30, but he says he could not get a definitive count as the birds were being disturbed by people and were moving around from field to field. There were definitely five but there could have been more.
Interestingly, J. Simons also saw 2 Cattle Egrets farm geese and ducks on Northney Farm which is across the channel from Warblington. He thought they would not stay as the farm birds were quite aggressive.


Nore Barn
I went over to Nore Barn at about 11.30 this morning to catch the incoming tide. It was a fine and sunny morning, with no wind and not too bright. There were masses of birds everywhere on the western mudflats and at Nore Barn. They were mostly Wigeon and Brent Geese, but there was also an unusually large number of Pintail. Peter Milinets-Raby counted 76, which is by far the best count of the winter (see Peter's report below).

I waited for the tide to push the Black-tailed Godwits up the creek south of the woods where I counted 98 - my best count of the winter. They gathered close to the shore, feeding feverishly, before the tide finally pushed them off. Here are a few of them in this photo.

Here is a YouTube link to a short 1 minute digiscoped video I made of a few of them . . .

I noted four colour-ringed birds: R+GL - was a bit of a surprise. I had not seen this bird for 4 years. In fact the last sighting was on 20-Dec-13, though it had been fairly regular in the harbour before then. Welcome back.

G+GB - was also a bit of a surprise as I had not seen it in Emsworth since Sep-2014. The other two colour-ringed Godwits G+WR and ROL+RLR are both mega regulars in Emsworth.

The Spotted Redshank was in its regular place feeding in the stream.

As I was leaving, the Spotted Redshank was being very closely monitored by two photographers with long lensed cameras standing on the bank. Although the bird was typically quite unfazed, I do wish bird photographers would respect feeding birds and keep their distance to avoid disturbance. Interestingly, Anne de Potier was at Nore Barn a little later this afternoon and saw the Spotted Redshank roosting on the saltmarsh by the picnic table at high water with a photographer standing within 5m of it!

Beacon Square - Nore Barn
Peter Milinets-Raby visited the western shore from Beacon Square to Nore Barn at about the same time as I was there, though we did not meet up. Peter's highlights were as follows:
Beacon Square: 15 Teal, 1 Red Breasted Merganser, 38 Pintail (17 males), 79 Wigeon, 9 Ringed Plover (two with colour rings -//- + G///NB & -//- + R//LY), 14 Dunlin, 105 Brent Geese, 10 Grey Plover. Two colour ringed Redshank (-//G + G//LW & -//O + O//GW).
Nore Barn: 66 Teal, 38 Pintail (18 males). So a grand total of 76 - by far the best count I have had in the area!!! Great looking birds! 273 Wigeon, 101 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Dunlin, 5 Shelduck, 1 Greenshank - asleep in water, 12 Mute Swan, 1 Spotted Redshank, 172 Brent Geese.

Cattle Egret news
News from the HOS Going Birding web site: Stephen Bassett reported all 8 Cattle Egrets together in the field at the very end of Church Lane to the right of the Cemetery at 10am this morning.

Dartford Warbler
Yesterday, Catherine Mant spotted a Dartford Warbler on the brambles at the end of the west Thorney Island track just before the army gate. Another birdwatcher confirmed the ID. Catherine did not get a photo, but here is one from my files taken by John Bogle on Thorney in December 2012.


Cattle Egrets galore
Anne de Potier was right about this being 'a season of Cattle Egrets, with some sort of influx going on'. When she said that on Dec 30 there were 4 Cattle Egrets on Warblington Farm. However, today the number had doubled to 8, in what might be the largest ever gathering of these birds in Hampshire.
Peter Milinets-Raby was probably the first to count this number when he visited the farm early this morning (at 7:49am). He found them in the corner of the field to the west of the main cemetery, just by the gate by the cattle feeding pen. He says, "after several unbelieving counts, I reached a total of 8 Cattle Egrets with 2 Little Egrets, plus a single Redwing. With low cloud on the horizon, the sun did not initially come up and as usual the photos are poor and grainy in the pre-dawn gloom. After twenty minutes they were disturbed by a dog walker and flew over to the north east of the farm. Again, the main herd of cattle are in fields away from public view."

Here is Peter's close-up shot of four of the Cattle Egrets

And here are all eight in one photo!

Later in the day, Chris Oakley counted 7 Cattle Egrets in the field at the northern end of Church Lane close to the Warblington roundabout which is where they must have flown to after being disturbed.

Warblington shore
After the excitements of Warblington Farm, Peter walked down to the shore to view the birds in the harbour: Off Pook Lane: 123 Brent Geese, 55 Shelduck, 110 Teal, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 82 Dunlin, 6 Grey Plover, 13 Wigeon, 9 Red Breasted Merganser, 54 Lapwing, 3 Golden Plover, Common Gull, Turnstone, 2 Rock Pipit,

One of the Rock Pipits

off Conigar Point: 43 Brent Geese, 3 Grey Plover, 10 Dunlin, 15 Shelduck, 2 Red-breasted Merganser.

New Year's Day News
On a walk through Brook Meadow on New Year's Day I was delighted (and relieved) to see the Water Rail that Pam Phillips has been reporting to me throughout the winter, but that I kept missing. It was in the regular place under the west bank of the river beneath where the old gasholder used to stand. This was the best photo I could get of the bird. I badly needed Malcolm Phillips, but he's far away in Cuba.

The New Year got off to a very unexpected way for Anne de Potier with a rare sighting of a Guillemot paddling slowly westwards in Emsworth Harbour (west) just off Kings Road at 3pm. Sea birds that end up in harbours are often ailing, but Anne said this Guillemot looked OK and was perky enough.

Here is a photo of a Guillemot I found in similar circumstances
drifting into Emsworth Harbour (east) on 30 Sep 2004.

Tony Wootton got what he thinks could have been 'world beating photos of Red Kites' if he had only 'pushed the right buttons at the right time'. Does anyone know what they might be up to. Food passing? Or fighting?

A nice New Year's Day surprise for Eric Eddles was this pair of perky domestic ducks on Baffins Pond.

For earlier observations go to . . December 2016