FEBRUARY 28 - 2017
It was a very
pleasant morning for a stroll around the town millpond
despite the chilly breeze. The first thing I noticed
was a large pile of twigs and other debris in the
north-east corner close to the road bridge. A new
swan nest? Mute Swans have nested at this spot in
previous years, so it could represent the first
efforts at nest building by the new pair of swans
which have dominated the pond over the past 2 years,
driving off all other swans that dare trespass on
their territory. It is a very crude effort with
several items of litter mixed in. There was no sign of
any swans in the vicinity. In fact, I could only find
one swan on the millpond this morning. Where has the
other one has got to? Of course, the nest of twigs may
have been placed there by human hand to provide
building materials for the swans. I would appreciate
any information on this. In the meantime, watch this
space, so they say.
A flock of
about a dozen Swans were gathered in the harbour by
the quay, including the six Black Swans which
have been here for the past 4 weeks. The Black Swans
can be a bit feisty towards their white colleagues.
A few Brent
Geese were on the water close to the millpond
seawall. I suspect many of their colleagues will have
already left and be on their way towards their
breeding grounds in the Russian Arctic. Fare forward
My friend John
Gowen was at the Hayling Oysterbeds this morning and
was surprised by the number of Brent Geese he saw
there, mostly in groups of 40. He asks if they should
have moved out. The answer to this is yes. The Brents
are certainly on the move, but the birds John is now
seeing are most likely to be those passing through,
having wintered further to the south, on their way to
Holland and up to the Arctic
John asked if I knew about the Brent breeding
success this year. I don't think the official
figures are available yet, but my own counts indicate
a relatively poor year with about 4% of juveniles to
John also noticed hundreds of Black-headed
Gulls on the shingle bars in the main/southern
most pool of the Oysterbeds. These birds will be
gathering together in preparation for the coming
breeding season, bagging themselves the best nesting
spots no doubt. I hope they leave some space for the
Common Terns and Little Terns. Mediterranean Gulls
also nest at Hayling Oysterbeds, though I think most
now go over to the RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour.
harbour I made my way home via Brook Meadow where I
heard a Blackbird in full song in the middle of the
day for the first time this year. All the other
Blackbird songs have been heard at dusk.
I was interested to
see a raised Mole run across the path through
Palmer's Road Copse. These are caused by the mole
tunnelling close to the surface, producing a raised
line of soil.
Willow at the north end of the south meadow is
looking quite splendid. This handsome tree was planted
around 2001 as a young sapling by Brian Boak. Brian
was an active member of the Brook Meadow Conservation
Group in the early years, though I think he has now
The yellowish glow of
the tree is caused by the colour of its twigs which
are already sprouting fresh leaves.
flower spikes on the meadow above the seat are now
clearly visible from the main path. Some are quite
A large Crack
Willow on the west side of the river north of the
Bulrushes has collapsed across the river. The branches
have been cut back where it came across the footpath.
It does not seem to be blocking the river.
A pair of
Mallard were swimming around on the river south of
the north bridge. They may nest somewhere on the west
FEBRUARY 26 - 2017
I had my usual
walk this morning through Brook Meadow and down to
Slipper Millpond. The weather was cloudy, but
otherwise fine. The paths on the meadow are drying out
nicely and boots are not needed. Here are a few
observations with photos.
closely at the various leaves that are now coming up,
including Broad-leaved Dock, Bristly Ox-tongue (left
in photo) and Spear Thistle (right).
I gather the red spots
and blotches on the dock leaves are caused by a
There is a fine
blossom on the Cherry Plum on the causeway almost
forming an archway with the yellow Gorse.
The long brown catkins
on the Alders are now ripe and looking very good,
hanging like decorations.
The small bright red
female Alder catkins which will develop into cones are
On the east side of
the north meadow, the Osier male catkins are already
showing some yellow pollen.
Several quite well
grown Butterbur spikes are now up in the area below
Lesser Celandines are
now popping up around the meadow, a real sign of
flowering along the Lumley Path, probably garden
was at work in the reedbeds on Peter Pond so I did not
disturb him, though I did admire the new channel which
showed up well at high tide. The haze in the photo is
smoke from a fire.
Gulls were on Slipper Millpond along with a multitude
of other gulls. They will be off to the breeding
colonies in Langstone Harbour. I managed to get a shot
of one of them.
The Great Black-backed
Gull pair was on the south raft along with a grey
headed Cormorant with white breeding thigh patch. The
gulls will not be nesting on this raft, but on the
large centre one.
FEBRUARY 25 - 2017
The six Black
Swans were still present and attracting attention in
Emsworth Harbour near the quay at the bottom of South
Street this morning. While I was there they were
stalked by two photographers, after the 'perfect
shot', but they said they were disappointed due to
poor light and windy conditions.
The Black Swans here
in Emsworth are all immature birds, with grey to white
edges to their wing feathers; two birds with clear
white wing edges stand out as the youngest, the other
four with greyer wing edges are older. Three of the
older birds and the two younger ones have been in
Emsworth since Jan 27th; the 6th bird also an older
one, arrived in Emsworth on Feb 19th. It seems these
birds are the offspring of a pair of Black Swans that
has nested successfully for the past 3 years at
Riverside Park (Cobden Meadows) on the River Itchen
estuary in Southampton.
Philippa Arnott walked down the west shore of Thorney
Island yesterday afternoon to count the seals. They
found thirteen Common Seals in a group of 11
plus another 2 further up the Rithe. Any pregnant
females should be about halfway through gestation
about now. John says that on 12 Feb a headless dead
juvenile Common Seal was reported - very unusual. John
did not get a photo of the seals, so here is one from
my files taken by Richard Somers Cocks a few years ago
John also had a lovely
Short-eared Owl patrolling the ground. Here it
perched on a post. The bench in the photo is the one
at Marker Point.
Here is the
Short-eared Owl close-up. What eyes! Just after John
took the Grey Heron photo it coughed up a pellet, but
the camera missed it.
FEBRUARY 24 - 2017
I had a walk
around the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway
Station this morning, looking for Coltsfoot which
usually flowers there, but there was no sign of any.
In fact, I did not see any flowers apart from a Gorse
bush which was full of blossom. What I did see were
the fresh fleshy green leaves of what looked like
Broad-leaved Dock. Some leaves had red spots on them
which may be caused by an insect of some sort, but I
don't know what.
are a few Med Gulls on the main raft on Slipper
Millpond a couple of years
I happened to
meet Barry Collins on my way back from the Railway
Wayside. Barry was just returning from a birdwatching
trip on his bike to Thorney Island which he said was
fairly quiet. However, on his way back he did spot a
Mediterranean Gull on Slipper Millpond, the first of
the year. I have heard that Mediterranean Gulls are
back on the islands in Langstone Harbour and Hayling
Oysterbeds so it will not be long before we hear their
distinctive cries when flying overhead. Their numbers
will probably build up on Slipper Millpond prior to
going to the their breeding grounds.
had two Red Admirals on his kitchen windowsill this
morning. He got a quick snap of one of them before
they both flew off.
The Red Admiral is a
migratory butterfly usually unable to survive the
British winter. But here in the south, with warmer
winters, it is increasingly becoming an
all-the-year-round butterfly. It only needs a bit of
sunshine to arouse it from its slumber. Brian Lawrence
had one at Chichester Marina on Feb 13th.
The BTO has
already had reports of nesting birds, including a
sighting of a newly fledged Woodpigeon. Woodpigeons
produce crop-milk, a product high in fats, on which
they feed their young. This means that they are less
restricted than other birds in their breeding times
and young birds have been noted throughout the year.
However, most eggs are recorded between late February
and August. Interestingly, the typical lifespan of a
Woodpigeon is 3 years, though the maximum recorded is
17 years, 8 months. For more information on the
Woodpigeon see . . . http://bto-enews.org/NXK-4R6GC-3UEDCR-2IAUMO-0/c.aspx
FEBRUARY 23 - 2017
I had to go
into Southsea this morning, so took the opportunity to
have a walk round Canoe Lake. It was not easy going
against the winds from storm Doris raging in from the
sea. I counted 42 Mute Swans sheltering from the winds
along with lots of gulls. Clearly, the wintering flock
of swans are back on Canoe Lake, though not in the
numbers of the late 1990s and early 2000s when there
were regularly over 80 in mid winter.
I also had a
quick walk round Baffins Pond. A Barnacle Goose
was pottering around on the pond, all alone and not in
pursuit of a Canada Goose, which the Irons family
A pair of
Shoveler came close enough for me to get a shot
of them feeding in their unique manner.
The regular flock of
Feral Pigeons were feeding on the south side of
the pond displaying a wonderful variety of hues in
There were masses of
catkins hanging from the Alder trees on the
south side of the pond.
FEBRUARY 22 - 2017
in a tree
Glynis Irons and her son, Thomas, enjoyed a walk
around Staunton Lake during which Thomas spotted a
Mallard up a tree. This was the first time either of
them had witnessed this and wondered if it was
Yes, it is unusual. I
don't recall ever having seen one, though I gather
from a Google search that Mallards do go into trees
and occasionally nest in them. They also nest in many
other strange places, such as, window boxes and
hanging baskets. Note that Glynis's Mallard is a male
so he won't actually be nesting there! Some duck
species regularly nest in tree holes, such as,
Goldeneye, Mandarin and Goosander.
family were down at Baffins Pond in Portsmouth today
and were intrigued to watch a single Barnacle Goose
continually following a Canada Goose around, not
aggressively, but with seemingly amorous intent.
In fact, Barnacle
Geese and Canada Geese frequently hybridise where both
species occur ferally, as at Baffins Pond, and the
hybrids are fertile. Here is a photo of one such
Canada x Barnacle hybrid that I took on Baffins Pond
on May 6 2015. Here it is with two normal Barnacle
Geese. One can see the Barnacle influence in the
hybrid in the extra area of dark on the chest.
Thanks to Eric Eddles
for the identification of the hybrid.
FEBRUARY 21 - 2017
Rail on Brook Meadow
is a nice photo of a Water Rail on Brook Meadow
said the Water Rail was back in its old spot behind
the gas holder site this morning. This bird certainly
moves around a fair bit, assuming it is the same bird,
that is. Pam has also recently seen it on the north
river and last week Brian Lawrence had it in Palmer's
Road Copse, two extreme ends of the Brook Meadow site.
The Water Rail has now been on the Brook Meadow site
for at least 3 months, since November.
by Malcolm Phillips a couple of years
FEBRUARY 20 - 2017
I headed down
to the harbour this morning to have a look at the six
Black Swans which Chris Oakley saw yesterday. All six
birds were still present, all together in the same
place as yesterday, by the wooden jetty. They were
being watched and fed by a fascinated audience,
including my friends Glynis and Tim Irons and their
We looked carefully at
the Black Swans on the water and concluded that they
were all immature birds, with grey to white edges to
their wing feathers. Two birds with clear white wing
edges stood out as the youngest, the other four with
greyer wing edges were clearly older. Three of the
older birds and the two younger ones have been in
Emsworth since Jan 27th; the 6th bird arrived in
Emsworth over the weekend is another older one.
As suggested by Mark
Painter in yesterday's blog, it seems likely that
these birds came from Cobden Meadows on the River
Itchen estuary where a pair of Black Swans has bred
three times. Mark says, five swans from the second and
third broods went missing a few weeks ago; they were
seen briefly in Fareham Creek before presumably coming
over to Emsworth Harbour. Mark thinks our 6th swan
might also be from the Itchen broods.
Here is one
Toad that sadly did not make it across Lumley Road to
Peter Pond. Squashed Toads are not an unusual sight on
roads at this time of the year as they make their
annual migration to their preferred breeding grounds.
sent this shot of this unusual frog mating activity in
his garden pond today, which he had not seen before.
It shows what Graham calls a "3-frog sandwich" and
wonders what the female is thinking about it all.
Graham said they looked a bit vulnerable to the
Jackdaws/Crows on the surface of the pond so he gently
pushed them back underneath the pond cover, hoping
they didn't mind too much!
FEBRUARY 19 - 2017
Swans have been resident in Emsworth Harbour for
several weeks, usually lurking around the quay at the
bottom of South Street. They were first seen there by
Chris Berners-Price on Jan 27 and have been regular
ever since, attracting much attention. However, today,
Chris Oakley found that their numbers had increased to
six! Chris said they are very tame and inquisitive so
make easy birds to photograph. They were just off the
jetty. There were only 5 when I checked yesterday.
Where are they coming from?
I posted this sighting
on the HOS message board and got the following reply
from Mark Painter.
from the River Itchen estuary. A pair have bred 3
times opposite Cobden Meadows. The first five
offspring departed and were last seen in Cornwall. The
second brood of 5 all survived. The third brood they
lost 3 of 5 in bad weather. Until recently these plus
5 sub adults plus 2 adults remained. Total = 9. Five
of these disappeared at the time 5 turned up at
Fareham Creek. These look like they may have moved to
Emsworth. There were still 4 at Cobden Meadows on 17th
Feb. Two adults at the nest site and one youngster
with angel wing. The other youngster has been more
mobile so may have now left. I might check along the
Mark's analysis seems
a likely scenario. The 5 Black Swans that have been in
Emsworth since Jan 27 comprise 2 adults, 1 sub adult
and 2 juveniles. The juveniles could be the two
survivors from the third Itchen brood, plus one of the
sub adults and the 2 adults. I shall need to check the
age of the newly arrived bird.
Chris also got this nice shot of a mixed flock of
Brent Geese (including juveniles) and Wigeon feeding
together in the harbour.
FEBRUARY 18 - 2017
eating what looks like a small crab.
John Dickenson came down from Nottingham to see and
photograph the famous Emsworth Spotted Redshank. John
had previously e-mailed me to ask when would be the
best time and I advised him to come 2-3 hours either
side of high water. Well, he came he saw and he
In John's words, "What
a superb day! The Spotted Redshank performed superbly
in beautiful light despite the continual procession of
dog walkers etc. Just amazing how tolerant it is and
what a pleasure to photograph. I initially located him
about 100 yards past the bridge at about 1.15 and he
then gradually made his way along the shore edge
towards the outlet. I spoke to several walkers etc who
wondered what a grown man was doing laying in the mud!
Overall, a fantastic experience to have a stunning
bird so close."
John sent a couple
A classic Spotted
Redshank stance upright and alert.
For all the news and
history of the famous Emsworth Spotted Redshank go to
. . . . Spotted
Redshanks at Nore Barn
reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife
Group during which a Long-tailed Duck was seen.
For the full report
and other photos go to . . . http://familyfellows.com/hwg-walk-reports-2017.htm
FEBRUARY 16 - 2017
Milinets-Raby had a couple of hours spare this morning
so he decided to walk along the Warblington shore
(9:06am to 11:07am - low tide). His observations as
Ibis Field: 7 Moorhen, 2 Redwing, 1 Skylark singing
over Ibis field and then went down into the big field
to the east. 48 Curlew disturbed from the fields north
of here and flew around before flying off to the
shore, 2 Stock Doves.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: A pair of Goldcrest
displaying with both birds with raised crests -
wonderful sight, bright orange crest on the male and a
stunning lemon yellow on the female. Skylark singing
from the fields behind Conigar Point
Conigar Point: 14 Pintail (six males), 111 Wigeon, 8
Shelduck, 142 Brent Geese, 4 Grey Plover, 39
Pook Lane: 57 Wigeon, 286 Brent Geese, 26 Shelduck, 53
Dunlin, 5 Grey Plover. Winter plumaged Curlew
Sandpiper associating with 12 Dunlin - easily picked
out for a change!, though it did feed often in the
muddy gullies. The Curlew Sandpiper with the slightly
curved bill is on the left in Peter's photo. The other
bird is a Dunlin.
139 Teal, 4 Red
Breasted Merganser, 32 Lapwing, 4 Knot, 38
Black-tailed Godwit, 18 Common Gulls, 1 Greenshank
(GR//- +BRtag//-), Female Pond Pintail, 1 Avocet
(asleep on the water's edge along the north Hayling
Horse Paddock: 9 Teal, 4 Wigeon, 3 Little Egret, 1
Mistle Thrush, 1 Song Thrush, 16 Redwing, 13
Langstone Mill Pond: Pair of Mute Swan beginning to
chase other ducks away, 1 Teal.
As the weather
is quite mild Nik Knight took a walk around Wade Court
and Langstone with his bat detector this evening. He
recorded both Soprano and Common Pipistrelles in
flight around 18.10 in Wade Lane. The temperature was
falling below 7C so Nik wonders if they may have
stayed out too long.
Blackcap in my garden
Up until 50
years ago, wintering by Blackcaps in Britain &
Ireland was quite unusual, but numbers have since
increased considerably, with many thousands now
counted each winter by BTO Garden BirdWatch. Gardens
are favoured sites where a combination of 'natural'
berries and fruit along with specially provided fat,
seeds, cake and pastry is the main attraction, often
fiercely defended by some individuals.
on the sunflower hearts feeder this
majority of Blackcaps breeding in northern Europe
migrate to the Mediterranean region for the winter.
However, this is changing - some of these birds may
now be migrating in a north-westerly direction to the
British Isles instead! These changes appear to be
facilitated by milder winters and the abundance of
food provided by people, according to research carried
out using BTO Garden BirdWatch data. To improve our
knowledge of migration and breeding origin, a number
of wintering Blackcaps have been fitted with
Geolocators (accurate to around 70km) by the BTO which
they hope will reveal where they spend the summer.
For more details see . . . http://btoringing.blogspot.co.uk/2017/02/where-do-our-wintering-blackcaps-come.html?dm_i=IG4,4R94I,3RN36S,HX73V,1
at Woodmancote has been locally famous over many years
for singing Nightingales. I can't begin to count the
hours I have marched up and down this dreary lane over
the past 30 years or so, listening out for the sound
of these magical birds. They usually stick to the
trees alongside the lane, though I have often heard
one singing on the old gravel pit site behind the
amenity tip to the east of the lane.
Roy Ewing tells me that work has started on this area
to implement an approved Planning Application to
return the area to agricultural use, following
landfill. He says major earthworks are taking place,
but currently the perimeter trees are untouched. That
site has had a chequered history over the years,
lurching from one extreme to another. It will be
interesting to see how this new venture goes. Does
anyone have any more information?
As for the Nightingales, they have tended to move
northwards up Marlpit Lane in recent years towards the
new plantation, which is where I now listen out for
them. However, they have become increasingly scarce
over the years and I did not get any reports last
Although their song is loud and easy hear,
Nightingales are notoriously difficult to see, at
least in this country. Tony Wootton got this nice
photo of one a couple of years ago at Pulborough
Brooks RSPB Reserve where they tend to show more
FEBRUARY 16 - 2017
Meadow work session
volunteers turned up for this morning's conservation
work session on Brook Meadow. The weather was fine,
though the ground was very wet underfoot. Maurice
Lillie led the session and the main tasks for the day
were: to grub out some bramble shoots on the north
meadow; to cut down a willow branch near the north
bridge - achieved with a ladder and rope; and to cut
down old tree stumps in the north-east corner which
would hinder the power scythe. Some of the smaller
branches and brambles were burned on a bonfire. Here
are volunteers setting out for the work session. PS I
am the photographer.
I was delighted to
learn that one of the next tasks scheduled in future
workdays is to continue to expose west river bank
north of the north bridge up to the bend, to enhance
water vole habitat. I think the Seagull Lane patch is
looking better than it ever has, but it would be even
better with an open view of the river.
For more photos and a
full workday report please go to the new Brook Meadow
web site at . . .
It was a
lovely afternoon for a walk through this beautiful
local woodland to the north of Emsworth. The paths
were muddy, but not too bad, so walking was easy.
Highly recommended. Here is a shot of the eastern
track from the main junction.
Holly leaves abound
throughout the woods, shining brightly in the warm
sunshine. What a wonderful world!
I was very pleased to
see so much evidence of ongoing woodland conservation
activity to the east of the main path and in the
Jubilee plantation area where the hedgerow had been
I walked along the
northern Bluebell path at the end of which I came
across Andrew (a protégé of team leader
Andy Brook) who was clearing and coppicing an area of
woodland of Sweet Chestnut and Silver Birch to create
more wildlife habitats. Andrew explained how he was
creating 'drifts' of tree cuttings for wildlife. Here
is a shot of Andrew's very neat wood piles.
Andrew also showed me
the small haycock they had constructed out hay cut
from the Jubilee site which is already providing home
for mice and Slow-worms.
I did not get around
to taking a photo of Andrew, but here is one from the
Hollybank Woods Twitter feed taken in Nov 2016.
See . . . https://twitter.com/HollybankWoods
Finally, as I was
walking back to Hollybank Lane, I took this photo of
the low sun glinting through the trees
had a walk around the meadow this afternoon during
which he saw a Water Rail on the river bank by the
deep water sign in Palmer's Road Copse. This could be
the same Water Rail that has been seen several times
by Pam Phillips further north on the river. But maybe,
it is a second one? Brian also noticed the nest box on
the tall tree near the observation fence in Palmer's
Road Copse was being prepared for nesting by a Blue
Evans enjoyed a short walk along the Langstone shore
in the sunshine this morning, during which he saw lots
of birds including Stonechat, Kingfisher and got this
excellent image of a Little Egret in flight. Maybe it
will be nesting with others in the trees behind the
FEBRUARY 15 - 2017
Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond yesterday
lunchtime from 12:02pm to 12:57pm - high tide.
Off shore flying off the last bit of salt marsh were:
120 Lapwing, 1 Greenshank, 13 Black-tailed Godwit,
Loitering on the high tide water were: 24 Wigeon, 96
Teal (I would say 50% of these birds flew off towards
Thorney), Pond Pintail female, 162 Brent Geese, 9 Red
Breasted Merganser, 20 Shelduck with 43 off Conigar
Langstone Mill Pond: Male Tufted Duck with two
females, 2 Teal. Looks like seven Grey Heron nests are
occupied - some with sitting birds!
Horse Paddock: 153 Teal, 3 Grey Herons collecting
sticks, 13 Moorhen, Sparrowhawk dashing low over the
paddock, 2 Little Egrets.
Peter then had
a wander across the main road to view the mouth of the
Langbrook Stream for an hour from 1pm (Very unlike him
to wander this far!). In the bay were: 112 Wigeon, 4
Great Crested Grebes (none on my side of the bridge),
102 Gadwall, 65 Red-Breasted Merganser, 2 pairs of
Goldeneye, 1 Grey Wagtail, 3 Turnstone, 6 Lapwing, 2
Long-tailed Ducks and 3 Rock Pipit.
FEBRUARY 14 - 2017
After lunch I
decided to do a nostalgic walk through the fields
behind Westbourne Avenue to Westbourne and back via
Lumley which I have not done for a while. This was the
regular stomping ground of myself and the children
when we lived in Westbourne Avenue and I know it all
so well and intimately. However, things change, as
they always do, and the fields are no exception, but
there is nothing dramatic.
Starting from Seagull Lane I walked along the path
towards the A27 underpass. I was pleased to see a
Hazel decorated with open catkins next to the
electricity sub station
The underpass itself
was a revelation. I always recall it as a rather
scruffy intimidating tunnel with crude drawings on the
walls. But now it is like walking into a modern art
gallery with its walls decorated with a variety of
splendid mural paintings.
In addition to the
strongly coloured stuff there is also a rural scene
with trees and cattle.
Maybe this artwork was
commissioned as the skill of the artist(s) is
remarkable? I stood there for several minutes in
admiration. Highly recommended if you are passing this
way. Sadly, my photos do not do them justice.
North of the main A27
road, I could just make out an Egret with a bunch of
large brown cattle at the far end of the field to the
west of the boundary ditch. I just wondered about
Cattle Egret, but I could not tell from that distance.
Best to stick with Little Egret.
I used to get Green
Sandpiper in the ditch, but there was nothing there
today. I am pleased to see the fields being better
managed than they were in the past (by Mill Meadows
Farm) with proper fences to keep stock in and people
out. The present barriers would certainly have
hindered the explorations of myself and my children,
but they do keep out casual dog walkers and lessen
disturbance to birds on the river, such as Green
Sandpiper, Grey Wagtail and even Snipe which I used to
see in the old days.
The artistic theme is
continued in the main large field before Westbourne
with two mighty Oak trees that are now on the ground
producing fine sculptures worthy of Henry Moore.
Walking along the road
into Westbourne, I was interested to see numerous
rosettes of Milk Thistle (Onopordum
acanthium) in the small area near the bridge
next to the Wellness Clinic. Last summer these plants
grew to well over 10 feet tall, so it will be
interesting to monitor them again.
What I think is an
Artichoke plant is already substantial by the West
Sussex road sign on the other side of the main road.
I looked for Water
Voles in the canalised mill stream in Westbourne. They
have been seen here in the past year, but there was no
sign of anything today.
Walking back towards
Lumley along a typically very muddy Mill Lane, the
fields were occupied by a small flock of Alpacas and
among them were a group of 14 Redwing feeding
on the grass, the first I have seen this year. This is
the best shot I could manage with my simple point and
shoot 12x zoom.
The large multi-tiered
bracket fungus is still prominent on one of the
pollarded Crack Willow trees just over the wooden
fence in the garden of Constant Springs. I don't know
Song birds heard
during the walk included Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Great
Tit, Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove and the first
churring of a Greenfinch. Chaffinch should not be long
reported a Black-throated Diver in the Emsworth
channel at 08:39 this morning.
FEBRUARY 13 - 2017
walk took me past Peter Pond where I spotted the
Water Rail on the east bank where David
Gattrell feeds the ducks. I was not quick enough to
get a photo. My friend Dan Mortimer from the Brook
Meadow Conservation Group, who lives in Lumley Road
opposite the pond, was working in his garden at the
time. He told me that the Water Rail regularly feeds
at this spot as do at least 4 Brown Rats, of which I
saw two yesterday.
From there I went down to the quay to check on the
Black Swans. All five of them were present and
correct, feeding near the car park wall at high water.
This afternoon I did a
litter pick in Bridge Road car park during which I was
pleased to discover my first Lesser Celandine
flowers of the year on the grass wayside. These are
much later than usual. Another first was a
'Nursery-web spider' (Pisaura
mirabilis), basking in the sunshine on one of
the posts surrounding the wayside.
had a walk around Chichester marina and harbour today
and saw a Red Admiral sunning itself on a post. The
Red Admiral is a migratory butterfly usually unable to
survive the British winter. But here in the south,
with warmer winters, it is increasingly becoming an
all-the-year-round butterfly. It only needs a bit of
warm winter sunshine like we had today to arouse it
from its slumber.
FEBRUARY 12 - 2017
It was not
nearly as cold as it was yesterday. I strolled through
Brook Meadow and down to Peter Pond. I looked in vain
for the Water Rail that Pam Phillips has seen on the
north river recently. There are still more fresh
Molehills alongside the casual paths. Why are they
concentrated in these areas?
I took photos of the first blossom on the Cherry Plum
tree on the causeway and the first Snowdrops on the
south meadow - both reported earlier.
Down to Peter Pond
where two Brown Rats were feeding on the duck
feeding area on the east side of the pond, but no sign
of Water Rail that I have often seen here.
Across the main road
to Slipper Millpond where the pair Great
Black-backed Gulls was on the centre raft of
Slipper Millpond, no doubt sounding out their nesting
site for the coming year. The first time this year I
have seen both birds on the pond. No wires to contend
with, so all looks plain sailing for them.
Coming back along the
path behind Lillywhite's Garage I noted a fresh growth
of Hairy Garlic at the east end of the path.
Garlic plant on the left and a close-up of some leaves
on the right showing hairy
are still in flower towards the western end of the
Lillywhite's path, but still no sign of any Lesser
Celandines. They are so late this year.
Blackcap is now a regular visitor to the garden,
usually feeding on the sunflower hearts, but this
morning it was on the grass sampling the small pieces
of fruit I had thrown there especially for her! No
sign of any male as yet.
FEBRUARY 11 - 2017
Meadow Water Rail
saw the Water Rail at 7.30 this morning but in a
different location to all previous sightings. It was
along the northern section of the river to the right
of the culvert. Pam thought she had seen it there
previously but it moved too fast to be
FEBRUARY 10 - 2017
Doves in garden
I had some
more excitement in the garden today with the
appearance of two Stock Doves. I had one Stock Dove in
the garden on Jan 23rd, but I have never before seen
two. They were feeding on seeds scattered on the grass
for about 20 minutes.
Blackcap was back on the sunflower hearts for the
second day running, again completely ignoring the
hanging apples and other fruit I had laid out on the
bird table. It showed aggression towards other birds
which I have not noticed before, driving off
Goldfinches and House Sparrows which were also on the
FEBRUARY 9 - 2017
there was a female Blackcap feeding on the sunflower
hearts in our back garden. It stayed for a while, so I
was able to get the camera out to get a shot through
This was my first
garden Blackcap sighting this winter and the first
since 20-Jan-2016, also a female. Sometimes I also see
a male. Today's bird may well be the same bird that
Peter Milinets-Raby saw in the bushes in Bridge Road
car park a few days ago on Feb 5. Our house is about
50 metres along the road from the car park.
The Blackcaps we see
in our gardens in the winter are migrants from the
Continent and are not the same population that migrate
here from the south in summer to breed. In addition,
research using data from the BTO Garden BirdWatch
scheme has revealed that bird food provided in British
gardens has prompted Blackcaps evolve this new
migration strategy, ie to come here in winter from the
Continent for the food! This is the first time that
garden bird feeding has been shown to affect
large-scale bird distributions.
I shall now be
listening in the car park for the unmistakable rich
fluty song of the male Blackcap. This is likely to be
one of the winter migrants limbering up in preparation
for its journey back to the breeding grounds in
Germany, or elsewhere. The summer Blackcaps later in
the spring and are heard mainly in breeding habitats,
such as Brook Meadow or Hollybank Woods.
FEBRUARY 8 - 2017
Milinets-Raby visited the Langstone Mill Pond late
this afternoon 1:42pm to 2:55pm - very low tide.
Langstone Mill Pond: Female Tufted Duck (see photo). 1
Teal, 5 Grey Heron (four loitering around nests), 2
Horse Paddock: 21
Teal, 9 Wigeon, 1 Grey wagtail, 12 Moorhen, 1 Green
Sandpiper, 1 Grey Heron collecting sticks.
Off shore on the mud: 62 Teal, 28 Wigeon, Pond Pintail
female, 366 Golden Plover (not as many as two days
ago, but worth the effort counting, because when I
reached 171, there was the . . . . Winter plumaged
Curlew Sandpiper walking amongst the plover (see
record photo - I just love a poor record
Ahhh, Spring is on its
way - official, with 2 Med Gulls seen out in the low
tide trickle (both moulting into breeding plumage!!).
6 Little Egrets, 2 Red Breasted Merganser, 233 Brent
Geese, 24 Lapwing, 66 Shelduck, 6 Black-tailed Godwit,
20 Dunlin, 10 Grey Plover.
And in the distance (obviously through the scope) on
the field by the Petrol garage on Hayling north shore
were 6 Roe Deer!!
note: My apologies to Peter for mislaying his
Langstone Mill Pond report for Feb 6 when he had a
very impressive count of 541 Golden Plover. Other
observations: Langstone Mill Pond: Female Tufted Duck,
Pair of Mute Swan, Green Woodpecker Heard. 3 Grey
Heron on nests - Holm Oaks birds hidden and out of
Paddock: No duck, just 11 Moorhen and a
Off shore (Pook Lane): 19 Common Gull, 186 Lapwing, 1
Greenshank (G//R + BRtag//-), 40 Black-tailed Godwits,
2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 35 Dunlin, 12 Grey Plover, 152
Teal, 22 Wigeon, 366 Brent Geese, 80 Shelduck, 6 Red
Breasted Merganser, Female Goldeneye.
FEBRUARY 7 - 2017
My target for this morning's walk/cycle ride was Nore
Barn on a falling tide. On the way I went along
Bridgefoot Path from where I spotted a Grey Wagtail
flitting along the edge on the far side of the
millpond. This was the best snap I could get of this
lovely non-stop bird. Pied Wagtails are, in fact, more
common around the millpond, particularly around dusk.
The 5 Black
Swans were in the channel near the quay as usual.
My walk along Western Parade towards Nore Barn was
accompanied by the gentle grunting of several hundred
Brent Geese punctuated by the sharp cries of
I got to Nore Barn at about 10:45. The tide was
falling and the stream emptying fast. The Spotted
Redshank was not there at first but it did show up
I walked along the
path south of the woods to check the Black-tailed
Godwits in the channel, but by the time I got
there most of them had moved over to the lower reaches
of the stream. So I walked back and set my scope up
near the picnic table to have a closer look at the
Godwits. It was a beautiful scene, weather warm and
calm and hundreds of birds feeding in the stream area.
I counted 116 Black-tailed Godwits which
included 3 colour-ringed birds, all regulars in
Emsworth Harbour. G+WR, W+WN and ROL+RLR.
Ralph Hollins arrived
on the scene just as I finished the count. We both
looked around the saltmarshes for English
Scurvygrass flowers, but did not find any.
However, Ralph did point out their spoon-shaped
We also noticed
clusters of fresh green leaves of a cress-like plant
growing on the saltmarshes.
They were easy to pull
up and clearly were young plants. Neither of us knew
what they were, but I brought some samples home for
further investigation. The spoon-shaped leaves seem to
point towards young English Scurvygrass plants. I note
that English Scurvygrass can be annual (as well as
perennial and biennial) which would account for this
young cress-like growth.
After Ralph had left I
went a little way along the south path to check for
flowers on the Butcher's-broom plants that grow on the
side of the path near the woods. I managed to get a
photo of one flower with a red berry nearby. There are
more Butcher's-broom with flowers on the path towards
the main Havant Road from the western end of Nore Barn
suggests the following link for more information about
Black Swans in Britain . . . http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/earth/wildlife/5907318/Australian-black-swan-threat-to-native-cousins.html
Note: I was
unable to find the information referred to in the
article on the BTO web site.
responded to my request for information about the
colony of Black Swans that have become established in
Dawlish, Devon. Jackie and her friend Rose spent a day
in Dawlish Warren where they walked along the Brook
through the town where she said the Black Swans were
looking well and had a family. Jackie says Dawlish is
well worth a visit as there are lots of other water
fowl to enjoy.
at QE Park, Mike Wells managed to creep up on a
sun-bathing Muntjac Deer within about 30 yards of the
busy A3! This was a first for Mike and a first for
this blog too!
The Muntjac is the
smallest British Deer and has a rounded back and
slightly blunt ears. It was introduced into this
country to the Duke of Bedford's Woburn estate from
China in about 1900. The escaped descendants have
since become established mostly in the south.
FEBRUARY 6 - 2017
I went over to
the meadow this morning to have a look at the
clearance work done by the volunteers during
yesterday's work session which I missed as we were
looking after grandchildren. The main task was to
clear some of the damaged branches from the Crack
Willows overhanging the river north of the north
bridge. They also cleared a lot of scrub and brambles
and so tidied up the west bank which now looks very
good. They have more to finish off at the next work
session. The brambles were used to build up the
reptile hibernaculums on the north meadow.
Walking along the
north path near the river I was pleased to see the
first of the Primrose flowers open. Several
Primroses were planted on the north river bank in 2009
and they have come up every year since and spread a
little I think.
Birds heard singing on
the meadow this morning: Robin, Wren, Dunnock and
Woodpigeon. Dunnocks are now singing generally in
other locations. I heard a Blackbird in full song at
dusk yesterday evening. That is the best time to hear
them at present.
The five Black
Swans were on the beach at the bottom of South Street
at 11am this morning, feeding on the seaweed that has
been deposited there by the tide. As usual, they were
attracting a lot of attention from people passing by
and from photographers. They certainly are very
handsome birds. The two juveniles with white edges to
their wing feathers, identified by Peter Milinets-Raby
yesterday, can clearly be seen on the left in my
photo. The three adults have relatively plain wings. I
think the middle one of the 3 adults is the one
identified by Peter as a 'worn adult'. They are very
tame, allowing people to approach closely, which
suggests a captive origin, though none of them is
ringed, which one might expect from escaped birds.
They were first seen
in Emsworth Harbour on Jan 27 by Chris Berners-Price
and have been here since then. I have seen them in the
main channel and Pam Phillips said she saw them on
Slipper Millpond early one morning last week, so they
have wandered, but not far. They look like a family
group, but I have no idea where they come from.
There has been a
colony of Black Swans on the West Ashling millpond for
many years, but they are now reduced to just one bird.
Here is a photo of a Black Swan family with young
cygnets on West Ashling pond that I took in May 2006.
A search of the HOS
GoingBirding reports revealed two sightings of 5 Black
Swans (reported as 2 adults and 3 juveniles) on the
21st and 22nd of January this year in Fareham Creek by
K J Ilsley. There are no reports of 5 Black Swans
after those dates, so the Fareham birds could have
flown over to Emsworth. The 'worn adult' is certainly
juvenile-like, hence Mr Ilsey's description of it as a
Another possibility, suggested by Ralph Hollins, is
that the 5 Black Swans in Emsworth came from the group
of 9 which centre on a nest site at Riverside Park on
the Itchen in Southampton.
The Black Swan is
native to Australia. It was originally introduced into
England in 1791 and the earliest record of successful
breeding in the wild was not until 1902. The Black
Swan is now widespread throughout the UK, but it is
difficult to get any figures as the major bird
organisations do not record it. However, the Wildfowl
and Wetlands Trust did record a total of 9 breeding
pairs in the UK in 2001 with an estimate of 43 feral
birds in 2003-04, though that is likely to be much
There is a famous
colony of Black Swans in Dawlish, Devon which has
become so well established that the bird was made the
town's emblem. See . . . http://www.dawlish.com/article/details/9
The local press reported that the Black Swans hatched
3 cygnets on 11 March 2016 with more to come. See . .
Has anyone seen these Black Swans at Dawlish?
have become increasingly common in my garden over the
past 20 years as shown in the following chart showing
the mean weekly counts for each year since 1998.
This morning there 7
Woodpigeons were feeding on the grass in my back
garden which is quite a high number, though I did
count 9 last week. There was still a frost on the
My own records mirror
those of the BTO Garden BirdWatch scheme which shows
in 1995-97 Woodpigeons were reported in 40-60% of
gardens. Ten years later the reporting rate had gone
up to 60-80% and currently Woodpigeons are reported in
80-90% of gardens in the UK throughout the year. See .
. . https://www.bto.org/volunteer-surveys/gbw/results/long-term-patterns
reports finding one of the Farlington Marshes
Short-eared Owls dead on Sunday. Tom says,
"Probable cause starvation and the recent wet weather,
which meant this bird was unable to hunt successfully.
Great shame for a beautiful bird, but it shows just
how much on a knife-edge of winter survival they are
on, and of course we don't help by constantly
Tom says it is not
just owls, but the winter roosting waders too we
disrupt, by our inconsideration. At some point we have
to fence off where roosting waders are in winter here
in our harbours from humans and dogs, as it really is
becoming an increased problem. Tom also noted a
Canada Goose taken by a Fox, quite a struggle
too apparently, with bits of bird in many locations.
Tom has informed Pete
Potts about the Short-eared Owl.
FEBRUARY 5 - 2017
Swans in Emsworth
Here is one of
the two adults
Milinets-Raby visited Emsworth this lunchtime and saw
a Little Grebe on the Emsworth Mill Pond. He was more
interested in the 5 Black Swans in the out-flow from
the pond by the quay. Peter thinks they look like two
pristine plumaged adults, two juveniles and the fifth
looks like a worn adult, rather than a juvenile.
On the left is one of
the juveniles with clear white edges to its wing
On the right is the worn adult
noted the presence of a colour-ringed Greenshank in
the outflow from the millpond with rings RG//- +
Chris Oakley also saw the same Greenshank the low
water channel with the Black Swans and got a photo of
the bird showing its rings. Left leg: red over green
and Right leg blue over yellow - or RG+BY for short.
Greenshank RG+BY is a
fairly familiar bird in Emsworth Harbour - this being
the 17th sighting since 2013, though the first this
winter. It was originally ringed on 19-Mar-13 by Pete
Potts and his team at Thorney Island. It had a
geolocator fitted to the blue ring, but this cannot be
seen on the photo. However, the geolocator is unlikely
to be still operating. Anne de Potier may be able to
provide a lift history of this bird.
is a female Blackcap having a bathe in my garden taken
a couple of years ago.
in Bridge Road
While he was
in Emsworth this morning, Peter Milinets-Raby also saw
a female Blackcap in the bushes of the Bridge Road car
park. This is only a stone's throw from our house in
Bridge Road and Peter said it was heading our way!
Wintering Blackcaps are, in fact, regular in the
Bridge Road car park bushes and I sometimes hear one
singing. They do occasionally visit my feeders, though
I have not seen one as yet this winter, so I shall
keep a keen look out.
FEBRUARY 4 - 2017
saw the 5 Black Swans that have been in the Emsworth
area for the past week gliding around Slipper Mill
pond at 7.15 this morning. She says the two resident
Mute Swans were asleep in Dolphin Creek at the time,
probably driven in by the "storm" last night. When I
walked round the town millpond this afternoon the
Black Swans were back in their usual spot near the
quay in Emsworth Harbour. From the plumage, I think
they may be a family of two adults and three
Milinets-Raby walked along the Warblington shore this
morning 7:30am to 9:30am - tide dropping. He says
after the winds of yesterday, there were 100+
cuttlebones of different sizes washed up along the
shoreline, especially at the end of the Pook Lane
highlights as follows: 11 Little Egrets in the Castle
Ibis Field: 16 Pheasant (just one male), 2 Moorhen, 18
Curlew heading north inland, 1 Jay and 3 singing Song
Thrush along the hedgerow behind Conigar Point.
Conigar Point looked very impressive as the tide
dropped (see photo): In the photo are: 1 Greenshank,
131 Wigeon, pair of Goldeneye, 369 Brent Geese, 4 Red
Breasted Merganser, 41 Shelduck, 13 Teal, 5 Grey
Plover, 4 Pintail (2 pairs), 197 Dunlin.
Field south of the
cemetery: 3 Wigeon, 2 Teal and 2 Stock Doves, 15
Oystercatchers and a Little Egret.
Off Pook Lane: 182 Brent Geese, 102 Shelduck (one
short from the record the other day), 7 Grey Plover,
18 Wigeon, 86 Dunlin, 14 Teal, 6 Black-tailed Godwit,
2 adult Mute Swans chasing off one juvenile swan along
the channel, 12 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Greenshank,
67 Lapwing, 2 Golden Plover. Buzzard flew over the
shore and flushed everything, before it drifted
Flooded Horse paddock: 7 Wigeon, 8 Mallard, 2 Grey
Wagtail, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 120 Teal, 1 Jay, 11
Moorhen, 1 Grey Heron collecting sticks, Pond Pintail
Langstone Mill Pond: Five Grey Heron nests occupied,
with plenty of stick collecting observed. Female
Tufted Duck, 2 Teal.
went on the Havant Wildlife Group this morning at
Southsea where they discovered thousands of Starfish
stranded on the beach plus other items after last
night's storm. Dave took some pictures of starfish and
scientists are trying to the name Starfish with Sea
Star as the Starfish is not actually a fish. It is an
echinoderm closely related to Sea Urchins and Sand
Dollars. They have a bony calcified skin which
protects them from predators.
the Havant Wildlife Group walk report go
to . . .
FEBRUARY 2 - 2017
I went over to
Brook Meadow this afternoon, dodging the showers,
mainly to update the Water Vole signcase in Palmer's
Road Copse with a new display and chart showing the
dramatic decline in Water Vole sightings over the past
4 years. I reproduce it here for your interest. As you
can see, we only had 5 sightings in the whole of 2016
and all those were on the Lumley Stream on the east
side of the meadow.
We have always
realised that the Brook Meadow population of Water
Voles was small and vulnerable and that any small
change could wipe it out. The life expectancy of a
Water Vole is not much more than a year which means a
poor breeding season or two could mean the end and
this appears to have happened.
Just what is responsible is not clear, though no doubt
it is multi factorial: factors such as, flooding of
the river, the poor state on the bankside habitat and
the presence of predators, such as Pike and Brown Rat.
There is also some concern about the possible presence
of American Mink in the upper reaches of the Ems,
though they certainly have not been seen in the Brook
While I was walking through Palmer's Road Copse I was
interested to see some promising looking holes in the
bank on the far side of the river which could, just
could, be a sign of Water Voles, but more likely they
are old holes opened up by the river flow, or even
holes made by Rats.
Several Mallards have
been blown inland onto the river by the high winds.
Is this a dead fish
lying in the river near the railway tunnel in the
The Winter Heliotrope is in full flower by the
south bridge and if you get close enough you can smell
the sweet aroma given off by the flowers.
Nearby on the river
bank is a Holm Oak sapling with its slightly
prickly Holly-like leaves. I think this is the only
Holm Oak actually growing on the meadow, though there
are several along the path just outside the sluice
There are lots of
Lesser Celandine leaves on the Butterbur patch
below the main seat but no sign of any flowers. Ralph
Hollins has seen open flowers in Havant, but I have
yet to see any in the Emsworth area. They are late
Here is a shot of
the Brook Meadow Cherry Plum in full blossom
Mills spotted the first blossom flower on the purple
leafed tree by the Lumley gate which we usually call a
Cherry Plum Pissardii. Roger looks for these flowers
every year and this year is later than last. Last year
they were open in limited numbers in December but the
flowering season was so long the tree never looked at
its best. In 2014 it was a day earlier than this -
01/02/14. In 2013 a blossom was well open on 18th
January to be covered in snow.
French found a 6 inch long Slow-worm on the pavement
along Horndean Road before 7 am this morning. She was
on her way to catch a train so only had time to put it
at the bottom of the nearest hedge. It was alive and
Caroline wonders whether a Blackbird or another bird
had tackled it then given up. That is certainly
possible. However, a more interesting question is what
it was it doing out and about when it should have been
hibernating? Like all the other UK reptiles,
Slow-worms hibernate over the winter, usually from mid
to late October to late February or early March
depending on weather. This one must have woken up
early in the mild weather.
Slow-worms are, of course, fairly common in gardens
where they often seek out the warmth of a compost
heap. They are also very common on Brook Meadow where
there has been several reallocations from local
building development sites over the past few years. It
is possible to distinguish the sexes, as the male has
an unmarked coppery colour with no dark stripe which
presumably means it is a male.
scientific name is Anguis fragilis which
means 'fragile snake' and refers to the ability of
this Lizard to shed its tail when seized; the tail may
continue to wriggle after being shed, and can distract
predators while the slow worm escapes. A new tail
begins to regenerate after a couple of weeks. Another
interesting bit of information I came across while
researching this species was that Slow-worms are
relatively long-lived, with one specimen known to have
lived for 54 years! Wow.
FEBRUARY 1 - 2017
I visited Nore
Barn from 11.30-12.30 with the tide rising to high
water at 14.00. Plenty of birds on the mudflats and in
the channels mostly Wigeon, Teal, Brent Geese and
I counted 166 Black-tailed Godwits which is the
best count of the winter so far and close to my record
of 180 in Nov 2011. As most of the godwits were in
water for much of the time, I was not able to check
them all for colour-rings on their legs. I did find
one colour-ringed bird - ROL+RLR - a Kent-ringed bird
with three colour rings on each leg. This bird is very
regular in Emsworth Harbour and this was my 8th
sighting this winter and the 94th since Oct
The regular Spotted
Redshank was present in the stream throughout my
visit, but alone.
of my photos shows the bird calling - 'Where is
earlier observations go to . . January