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for March 1-15, 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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On such a fine spring day it was not surprising that some butterflies would be about. I had a male Brimstone flying through the garden this morning - my first of the year. It did not stop for a photo.
However, a splendid Peacock did rest on a fence post on the Railway Wayside this afternoon for a quick snap. Interesting, there is what appears to be a 7-spot Ladybird on the bush to the left of the butterfly in the photo. I did not notice it at the time.

Langstone swans
Christopher Evans was down at Langstone Mill Pond and noticed the female Mute Swan appeared to be nest building in the reedbeds. The photo was taken shortly after Christopher had crossed the little bridge, having walked round the corner from the pub.

Newts in pond
This afternoon Peter Milinets-Raby checked around the garden and was very surprised to find in the middle-sized pond a crèche of tiny baby newts. He did not know they bred like this. There were two patchiest of young in a floating nest of about 30 centimetres across. Are they colonial breeders? Peter assumes they are Palmate Newts as that is all he ever sees in his Havant garden Pond. Can anyone help please?


I had a walk from home to through the streets to Nore Barn and back to Emsworth village via Western Parade. After a welcome coffee in the Pastoral Centre I went down to the Hermitage Millponds and back home through Brook Meadow. Here are a few bird and flower observations I made on the way.

Spotted Redshank
The tide was right in by the time I arrived at Nore Barn at 11.30. The ever reliable Spotted Redshank was still present feeding on the edge of the stream, close to the path. After 13 years this bird never ceases to fascinate and amaze me. The photo shows the bird with a small crab.

Brent Geese
Brent Geese numbers were considerably down on yesterday with only about 50 present at Nore Barn and far less in the eastern harbour. There was nothing else around apart from a few gulls.

Black Swans gone home
The six Black Swans which have been resident in Emsworth Harbour since Jan 27 have not been seen since Mar 11. Well, I have just heard that they have gone back home to Riverside Park, Southampton where they were born. M G Painter reported the arrival of 6 Black Swans at Riverside Park on Mar 13 on the HOS GoingBirding web site. Mr Painter notes that the cob of nesting pair was not happy to see them all arrive. Here is a photo of them in Emsworth as a reminder. So, goodbye, it was nice having you.

Millpond swans
One of the Mute Swans resident on the town millpond was in the harbour near the quay when I passed by this morning, busily driving off another swan from its territory. Its mate was still on the pond. I watched the swan drive its adversary right out into the harbour. There is no sign of any nest building on the millpond by the pair.

Peter Pond swans
Over on Peter Pond I found the Mute Swan pair on the island near the main road with one of the pair indulging in some preliminary nest building activity. However, the site being worked on is far too low and would be readily inundated by the water level at high tide. Any nest site would have to be on a higher part of the island. The swans have not actually nested on the Peter Pond island for a few years, preferring the relative safety and privacy of the reedbeds on the east side of Slipper Millpond.

Great Black-backed Gulls
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were both ensconced on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. As far as I could see, there has been no nesting activity as yet, but with both birds present this cannot be too long away.

Now for the plants . . . .

A very nice Petty Spurge caught my eye as I walked along Convent Lane. Its stems of bright red stand out clearly from the wall it grows against. The pale green flowers have four crescent-shaped glands with long 'horns'. It grows almost anywhere where there is disturbed soil, including pavement cracks. Botanically it is classified as an archaeophyte, ie an ancient introduction.

Very similar is Dwarf Spurge, though this is an arable weed and much rarer. One can usually find it growing on the field behind Conigar Point in late summer. Here is a photo I took of it on that field a few years ago.

I stopped to admire a fine Laburnum tree in full blossom in a front garden on Clovelly Road.

Walking along Warblington Road I found Greater Periwinkle in flower on the edge of the pavement. Apart from its larger size, it can be distinguished from Lesser Periwinkle by the line of hairs along the edges of its leaves.

Also on Warblington Road I spotted my first Garlic Mustard flowers of the year. Walking back from Nore Barn along Western Parade I noted my first Green Alkanet of the year.

Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) was also in flower with its hanging white bells with green spots at the tips of the petals. Summer Snowflake (which is misnamed as it flowers in spring) can be distinguished from Three-cornered Garlic flowering nearby, the petals of which have thin green lines running down them.

MONDAY MARCH 13 - 2017

Nore Barn
I went over to Nore Barn at 09.30 to catch the rising tide. It was a lovely spring morning, sunny calm and quite warm, but the bright sun off the sea made photography difficult. I was using my Lumix FZ18 with a new wrist strap which is easier than having the camera in my bag or dangling around my neck.
I met my friend 'Hutch' (real name Ian) who lives in Seagull Lane. Hutch loves his wildfowl and was busy checking them out on the mudflats. Wigeon and Teal are still present in small numbers and he also spotted two pairs of Pintail way out in the channel.
I walked along the shore to wait for the tide and discovered my Peacock butterfly of the year, basking in the warm sunshine on the shingle beach. There have been several other Peacock sightings today, so it looks like a major emergence.

About 300 Brent Geese were lingering in the creek south of the woods along with a few Teal

I found the Spotted Redshank feeding on the shore near saltmarshes with a regular Redshank. It will probably be with us for another week or so before migrating to Northern Scandinavia.

Black Swans gone?
This afternoon had a quick look at the harbour to check on the six Black Swans, but they were not in their accustomed place near the quay. Nor were they anywhere else to be seen in the immediate harbour. Have they moved on?
Five Black Swans were first seen in Emsworth Harbour on Jan 27th and on Feb 19th a 6th bird arrived. Since then all six have been regular in the harbour. They probably originated from Riverside Park (Cobden Meadows) on the River Itchen estuary in Southampton.

Spring flowers
I was pleased to see a good crop of flowering Common Whitlowgrass on the cobbled area close to the ornamental flowerbed boat where West Street meets the main road in the centre of Emsworth. This is a regular spot for this pretty white flower (not a grass!).

I also noted the first flowers of Cow Parsley on the wayside verge in Bridge Road car park. In a few weeks the waysides will be lined with this wonderful aromatic plant.

Slipper Millpond
This afternoon on Slipper Millpond, two Cormorants were on the south raft, a single Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft, the Mute Swan pair were present, but no sign of their nesting in the reedbeds. Three pairs of Coot are resident on the pond and will nest somewhere. When he was passing this morning, Chris Oakley noted that the nest box on the south raft was full of nest material. There is no movement on the north raft.
I happened to meet Brendan Gibb-Gray returning from litter picking on Brook Meadow. He does a valuable job and the conservation group are very appreciative of his efforts. Well done, Brendan.

Pied Wagtail in garden
It was good to see a Pied Wagtail on the grass in our back garden. I have had several sightings of a Pied Wagtail over the 20 years we have lived in our Bridge Road house, but this was the first I have seen since March 2013. The bird did not stay for a photo, but here is a nice one I managed to get in February 2009.

Carrion Crows
Coming back through Brook Meadow my only observation was of four Carrion Crows feeding on the north meadow. These handsome birds are regular foragers on the meadow and probably nest in the local woodland.

Thorney Little Deeps
Chris Oakley took a walk out to Thorney Little Deep this morning. The thorn bushes are now in full of blossom and Lesser Celandine and violets are showing well. Chris found a small clump Common Bonnet fungi beside the top path.

Chris noted there was a solitary Brent Goose out on the grass below the deep. This is probably an old or ailing bird that will not be moving off with the rest of the geese to their breeding grounds in the High Arctic.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 9:35am to 10:55am - tide pushing in. The birds of note were as follows:
Off shore: 174 Brent Geese, 146 Black-tailed Godwit, 5 Shelduck, Pond Pintail female, 91 Teal, 1 Sandwich Tern - tatty looking and probably an over wintering bird, 2 Med Gulls, 13 Red Breasted Merganser, 3 Buzzard, 3 Greenshank, 3 Wigeon.
Langstone Mill Pond: 14 Little Egrets roosting, through 2 of them were at the edge of the Holm oak looking interested? Seven Heron nests occupied. Two small chicks seen in the top Holm Oak nest. 2 Chiffchaff singing - first true migrants
Horse paddock: 3 Little Egrets, 2 Grey Heron, 31 Teal, 32 Wigeon, 4 Moorhen, 1 Green Sandpiper, 3 Redwing, 2 Foxes.

Long-tailed Duck
Having only seen a Long Tailed Duck for the first time 10 days ago at Ivy Lake, Christopher Evans has had two further sightings in the last 3 days, both in the northeast corner of Langstone Harbour just across the road from The Ship.

Also there this morning were circa 50 Red Breasted Mergansers. It was a lovely morning to be out with lots of birdsong and glimpses of Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits, Goldfinch and the ubiquitous Robin. On the his way back up the Hayling Billy line, Chris also saw a Peacock butterfly.

FRIDAY MARCH 10 - 2017

Spotted Redshank
I went over to Nore Barn at 12 noon mainly to check on the Spotted Redshank. The tide was still well in and the stream fairly full of water. There was a heavy mist, almost fog, over the water. I was delighted to find the ever reliable Spotted Redshank feeding among the seaweed on the edge of the stream. I had not seen it for a while so took a few photos in a very grey light.

The bird is still looking just as good as it did 13 years ago! Amazing. This is still early days for the bird's departure for its breeding ground in Northern Scandinavia. On the basis of previous last dates, I reckon it will be here for another week or so.
There is a special web page for the Emsworth Spotted Redshank, its history and photos . . .
Spotted Redshank

Brent Geese
The only other birds of interest at Nore Barn, apart from a few Teal, were the Brent Geese of which I counted 82 when I first arrived. However, as I was walking back along the shore about 30 minutes later, a large flock of over 200 flew into the Nore Barn stream area, honking joyously as they arrived. These charming birds will probably be around for a couple of weeks yet, before they too depart towards their breeding grounds in the High Arctic.

Spring blossom
Along the shore to the south of Nore Barn Woods I spotted the first of the Blackthorn blossom just opening up.
On the way home I noticed that the Goat Willow male catkins are opening on the tree on the Bridge Road car park wayside.

Garden Blackcap
The female Blackcap is still a daily visitor to our back garden where it prefers the sunflower heart feeders to the apples and other tit bits. She has been a regular garden visitor since early February, but always alone. I have not seen a male all winter. She will soon be moving back to her breeding grounds, probably somewhere in Central Europe. For more details on their migration see . . .,4R94I,3RN36S,HX73V,1


Wayside flowers
I had a late afternoon walk around some of the local waysides on the look out for early spring flowers. I found just a few flowers of Coltsfoot struggling through the brambles on the Railway Wayside north of Emsworth Railway Station near the access ramp.

I spotted one flower of what looks like Early Dog-violet, with its two upper petals sticking up like rabbit's ears, near a garden fence along New Brighton Road north of the southern junction with Christopher Way.

Leaves of Wild Clary are now clearly showing in the usual places on the grass verge at the northern end of Christopher Way. Let's hope the Council cutters give them a miss this year.

There is also a good growth of Shining Cranesbill along the path leading through to Bellevue Lane.

Emsworth to Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a high tide walk around the whole area. The highlights were as follows:

Beacon Square (from 9:06am): 359 Brent Geese, 2 Teal, 1 Turnstone roosting on a buoy, 5 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 summer plumaged Sandwich Tern resting on a buoy - unlikely to me a migrant, just one of the wintering birds, 3 Med Gulls, 2 Shelduck, 63 Oystercatchers roosting on the salt marsh (low high tide), 1 Goldcrest in the back gardens.

Emsworth Harbour: 174 Brent Geese, 3 Cormorants on Millpond - one showing continental race features - see photo.

5 Little Grebe, 15 Med Gulls on the pier with a further 4 out in the harbour, 25 Coot with an extra 11 on the millpond, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 6 Black Swan, 10 Mute Swan, 1 roosting Greenshank by wall, 1 Red Breasted Merganser.

Nore Barn from 9:57am: 188 Brent Geese, 4 Teal, 25 Shelduck, 5 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Great Crested Grebe - first of the winter.

Warblington from 10:11am: Ibis Field: 4 Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker Heard, 5 Moorhen, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 1 Grey wagtail, 1 Buzzard, 1 Skylark singing over big fieled to the east.

Conigar Point: 8 Wigeon, 4 Brent Geese, 3 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Little Grebe.

Off Pook Lane: 14 Wigeon, 87 Brent Geese, 7 Med Gull, Field south of cemetery held 4 Teal and a Wigeon. 9 Shelduck, 9 Grey Plover, 2 Stock Dove, 2 Buzzard, 1 Meadow Pipit, 1 Kestrel.

Wade Lane from 11:03am - finish at 11:53am; 2 Mistle Thrush, 13 Little Egret in roughed up/muddy pony field, 21 Pied Wagtail - some stunning looking birds amongst them - see photo, 1 Stock Dove, Green Woodpecker heard.

Flooded paddock: 6 more Little Egrets, 2 Grey Heron, 156 Teal, 22 Wigeon, Pond Pintail female. off shore: 52 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Med Gulls.

Langstone Mill Pond: 2 Teal.
We have another Grey Heron nest being built bang between the two Holm Oaks at great height - number 10. The bird sticks out like a sore thumb at the moment, suspended almost in mid air. Can the colony have any more?
Also this morning the nest in the top of the Holm Oak had young in it - I could hear calling and could see the movement of a bill and a little shaggy head, however, I sensed that the calls were emanating from one of the other nests in the Holm Oak. The nest low down at the front had no 'life', but the nest to the rear had an adult sat on it, making a lot of fuss. So possibly two nests with young?
Three other nests occupied, with two others possibly occupied. So seven nests up and running out of the ten.

Med Gulls at Hayling Oysterbeds
Graham Petrie had a quick walk round Hayling Oysterbeds this afternoon and was amazed at the number of Mediterranean Gulls on the islands. A young RSPB guy down there estimated there were 420. Currently, they appear to outnumber the black-headed gulls which is amazing. Hopefully they will have a good year and we don't get any late storms that coincide with high tides! Wow! Look at Graham's picture. Looks like no room left in the stable for the terns this year?

Wally Osborne saw his first very sprightly Brimstone butterfly of 2017 this afternoon in his North Emsworth garden. Hardly surprising, he says, with sunshine and temperatures in the upper teens. Unfortunately, I have not seen anything today despite a couple of walks. Brian Lawrence had a Brimstone in Havant Thicket a few days ago.
Brimstone adults emerge from hibernation, usually in woodland, or in Holly and Ivy, on the first warm days of spring and immediately set about looking for mates and egg-laying sites in Alder Buckthorn bushes.

Here is a male Brimstone that I got in early spring
in Hollybank Woods a couple of years ago


Emsworth Millpond
I decided to venture out for a stroll around the local millpond when the rain finally relented late morning. The Swan nest is still swamped by high water near the bridge. They will no doubt have another go at building it up, though this will not be an easy job unless the water level in the pond is controlled by the Environment Agency as it was in previous years when swans nested there.
Several Coot were chasing around the millpond, making those loud clicking noises, in hot pursuit of one another as the hormones start to flow.

Brent Goose numbers in the harbour appear roughly the same as when I last looked a few days ago - about 300 in the main channel. The six Black Swans were in their favourite spot by the quay at the end of South Street.

Today, they had a very handsome and plumed Little Egret as company.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax
While I was walking along the east beach, towards the end I found a good flowering of Ivy-leaved Toadflax on the seawall. The main flowering period of Ivy-leaved Toadflax is Apr-Dec though it readily flowers throughout mild winters in Southern England and can be found in many local spots.

This attractive plant was first introduced into gardens in Britain from the Mediterranean Region in 1602 and was recorded in the wild soon after. It easily escapes and establishes itself on vertical walls where it gains hold in the crevices and joints, but is equally at home in quarries, rubbly open ground and shingle beaches. In fact, it is Britain's 7th most frequent neophyte, recorded in 65.69% hectads in the British Isles. Pineappleweed is the top alien.
Ivy-leaved Toadflax has a rather clever means of reproduction which enables it to spread easily over walls. After fertilisation, the flower stalks, which initially grow towards the light, reverse their direction and point towards the darkness of the nooks in the walls where the seeds can germinate. It also spreads through stolons. The excellent book by Stace and Crawley: Alien Plants (Harper Collins, 2015) was my main reference for this information.

Mediterranean Gulls
My walk along Emsworth east beach was accompanied by the constant yelping calls of Mediterranean Gulls as they flew around overhead. These calls are very different from the rather harsh screams made by Black-headed Gulls. Hence, I was not at all surprised to find several Med Gulls on the water of Slipper Millpond. I think there are at least 5 Med Gulls in the following photo. Can you sort them out from the Black-headed Gulls?

Look out first for pure white wings of the Med Gulls; Black-headed Gulls always have back tips to their wings. One exception to the pure white wing rule can be seen in the third gull from the right in the photo; this is a second year Med Gull which has some black markings on the end of its tail. Other distinguishing features of the Med Gull include a jet back head, which is more brown in the Black-headed Gull, a bright red and less pointed bill than in the Black-headed Gull.
Ralph Hollins noted in his wildlife diary entry for yesterday (Mar 7), Mediterranean Gulls are now back in force on the islands at Hayling Oysterbeds, seeking the best nesting spots among hundreds of Black-headed Gulls. They also nest in colonies on the main RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour. See . . .

Mistle Thrush song
With all the excitement over the Ravens at Stansted yesterday, I completely forgot to mention that a Mistle Thrush was singing strongly in the east park behind Stansted House. This was the first Mistle Thrush I have heard this year, though I am sure they will have been singing for some time. The bird's fine voice carries quite a distance and is easy to identify, though needs to be distiguished from the mellower tones of a Blackbird. Here is one singing from a tree top that I got a few years ago on Hayling.

Square Spider's Web?
We have a square-shaped spider's web on the inside of one of the high windows in the back room. I always think of orb spider's webs as being round, but this one clearly is not. It also does not seem to be a terribly well made web, so maybe it is an early effort by a juvenile spider? Or is it an abnormal web of a normal spider? Or has it been made by a less common spider? A quick search on Google did not reveal any definite answer.


Stansted Forest East
It was such a beautiful morning, that Jean and I could not resist a walk through the wonderful Stansted Estate which is so well maintained by Head Forester Michael Prior and his team. Parking by the Garden Centre we walked the very muddy track in front of the house, then up the main eastern path as far as the 'five-ways' finger post and back.
We stopped to admire the flowering Camellia by the Iron Gate Cottages and the magnificent black Highland cow in the field opposite the cottages with two light coloured calves. One of the calves is hidden behind its mother and only its front leg can be seen. Sorry about the photos, the camera was misbehaving.

Walking along the eastern track towards Walderton, we kept a close look out for the Yellowhammers that the Havant Wildlife Group heard and saw on their walk last Saturday morning, but we had no sight or hearing of any, though there were plenty of other birds scuttling around the hedgerows, including Dunnock, Chaffinches and Meadow Pipits. Here is a shot of the eastern track looking east.

We noted that many of the young Oaks by the side of the track had retained their (now brown) leaves. The retention of leaves over winter by broadleaved trees is called marcescence. Botanists are unsure why some trees develop this habit though it does not appear to do them any harm.

The hedgerow is mainly Hawthorn not yet in leaf. However, one plant stood out prominently being covered in bright green leaves.

The main hedgerow has been planted only on the south side of the track which allows excellent views to the north across broad fields to Lumley Lodge.

Dog's Mercury was in full flower near the wooded area at the far end of the eastern track.

Our best sighting of the morning was basically our last. As we came down the slope from the Iron Gate Cottages, we heard the croaking of Ravens. Looking up we saw two Ravens flying overhead heading towards the fields below the house. We had heard some croaking earlier in the walk but could not locate it.
I gather that at least two pairs of Ravens nested on the Stansted Estate last year. We always recall the great view we had of two Ravens in February 2014 when one of them perched on a post as we walked along the path in front of Stansted House. A truly memorable occasion, not repeated today unfortunately. But it is always good to see Ravens.

Thorney Talk
Tim Kenealy, Station Staff Officer at Baker Barracks, Thorney Island will be talking about "Thorney Life" including its military history, current activities/strategic importance, role in preservation of wildlife and flood prevention plans.
Date Friday 17th March at 7.00 for 7.30pm at the Pastoral Centre in Emsworth Square.
This is a talk organised by the Slipper Millpond Preservation Association.

Photographing Owls
Richard Ford has created a superb summary of his experiences in photographing Owls in Hampshire. This is a fascinating article illustrated with many beautiful photos with lots of tips of how to take them. Well worth a look.
See . . .


Emsworth Millponds
I had a walk around the three main Emsworth millponds this morning. Emsworth Marina is the 4th millpond - or was until it was converted into a marina. The Swan nest on the town millpond was totally swamped and will need rebuilding. The two swans were not in attendance.

I estimated 400 Brent Geese were in the main channel of the harbour, so there are still plenty about. They should be gradually moving off as the month progresses, but more should be moving through.

A Great Black-backed Gull was on its favourite perch on the red topped post. It is probably one of the nesting pair from Slipper Millpond.

Godwit on millpond
John Jury sent me a photo of a Black-tailed Godwit that he saw on the town millpond on Saturday. Godwits do occasionally come onto the millpond when the water is low, but this is a rare occurrence.

Slipper Millpond
Over on Slipper Millpond the much enlarged south raft has been taken over by gulls, but not for nesting I guess. The nest box that Coots have nested in in the past has gone, but a pair are still hanging around the raft. Maybe they will try again, but if they do they will be terribly exposed to attack by the Great Black-backed Gulls. Interestingly, a Moorhen was on the raft while I was there. I am not sure where they nest on the pond.

Peter Pond Water Rail
I got a good view of the resident Water Rail on the east bank of Peter Pond, poking around in the remains of the duck feed that David Gattrell throws out.

Brook Meadow
I came back home through the meadow where I had a good look for our Water Rail, but there was no sign of it anywhere. I met Brian Lawrence with his long lensed camera and we had a chat about Water Voles and other things. He had not seen much apart from common resident birds, including this sweet Robin singing its heart out.
Brian also had a Brimstone butterfly in Havant Thicket a few days ago, the first locally that I have heard of. Here is the photo.

Salterns Quay
Mike Wells had a short stroll along the Eastern Road sea wall at Langstone Harbour this morning, near where the Salterns Quay pier was removed last year. He found a good selection of waders including a 'ringed' Redshank and a lone Dunlin. Pete Potts and his team ringed a large number of Redshank a few years ago, but due to the mud, one can't see enough of the Redshank's rings to read them clearly.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow for the regular first Sunday in the month work session. The sky was heavy with rain clouds which burst from time to time during the morning with cold showers. However, the group of volunteers were not at all disheartened and kept at their various tasks throughout the morning.

The main job was cutting and clearing branches from the large Crack Willow that had come down on the north meadow earlier in the winter.

The logs were moved to the Seagull Lane gate where people were invited to help themselves for firewood.

For a fuller report on the work session and more photos go to . . .

Wildlife observations
The Butterbur spikes are now springing up all over the area beneath the seat and it could be another good year. I shall do the annual count of flower spikes towards the end of this month.

The Cherry Plum tree is now in full blossom and looking very good near the Lumley gate. The Weeping Willow is also a fine spectacle at the north end of the south meadow.

 The catkins are opening on the female Goat Willow which grows right beside the Weeping Willow.

Fresh leaf buds are present on the new Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch, including the one I planted which has retained its leaves over the winter. The retention of leaves over winter by broadleaved trees is called marcescence. Botanists are unsure why some trees develop this habit though it does not appear to do them any harm.

Peter Milinets-Raby is back from a family holiday in Naples. After wall to wall blue skies and 16C in Naples, he came back to hail stones, chilly blustery wind and only 8C for his walk around Warblington this morning.

I had alerted Peter to the sighting of two possible Jack Snipe in the southern part of the Ibis field (east of the cemetery extension) by Kate L'Amie while he was away. So, this morning Peter had a look and found one Snipe hiding in the gully along the muddy edge and 'bobbing up and down in a very Jack Snipe-like manner when it broke cover and was surrounded by grass'. Peter says, Snipe is a good record for the area, but a Jack Snipe would be a mega. March and April are peak months for Jack Snipe, so keep looking out and remember Snipe has a golden central crown stripe, whereas Jack Snipe has a dark central crown stripe with thin golden stripes either side.

On the left are Snipe taken a few years ago at Titchfield Haven byTony Wootton
On the right is a close-up of a Jack Snipe head showing its distinctive pattern.

Other birds at Warblington
Peter Milinets-Raby's other main observations were as follows:

Ibis Field (from 9:05am to 9:36am) - Wow, loads of birds - worth checking. 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 female Teal - looking more Snipe-like than the Snipe, especially as they were submerged in the grass with barely the mantle showing - care needed for these two!
5 Moorhen. And the bird of the morning, a splendid Water Pipit, which showed well for ten minutes before a Buzzard flew over and flushed it and it headed west. Also Skylark singing over the huge field to the east and 4 Mediterranean Gulls over calling
Langstone Mill Pond (9:41am to 10:14am - low tide). Off shore: 15 Red Breasted Merganser, 26 Shelduck, 162 Brent Geese, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, Male and female Goldeneye, 4 Grey Plover, 165 Dunlin, 2 Mediterranean Gull, 10 Teal, 13 Wigeon.

Langstone Mill Pond: No Mallard, as the Mute Swan pair are in residence. The female was building a nest to the rear of the reed bed by the main viewing path/area of the pond (back of Mill - different from last year). All the Grey Herons were sitting tightly and it was impossible to say which nests were occupied. I could see three, but certainly more!

Flooded horse paddock: 89 Teal, 1 Grey Wagtail, 26 Wigeon, 7 Black-tailed Godwit - getting regular now! 6 Moorhen, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Curlew, 1 female pond Pintail.

Wild Daffodils
Roy Ewing had a walk through Inholmes Wood near Stoughton yesterday where the wild Daffodils are quite advanced in the usual two locations.

Colin's gallery
Colin Vanner sent me a selection of his recent excellent wildlife photos from the Farlington/Havant area. He said the Short-eared Owls are still at Farlington Marshes. The Kingfisher was at Bedhampton.

The Harbour Seals were in Langstone Harbour seen from Farlington Marshes, 11 in all but not all in the shot.

Wildlife of India
Tony Wootton has assembled a gallery of wildlife photos from his recent trip to India. Click on the link below and click on an individual photo to enlarge it. Then click on the little ladder (bottom right) and the photo info tab (top right) to get the name of the species. If there is no name it's because Tony is unsure of it. Tony saw 230 bird species and managed to photo a high number of them with varying degrees of quality.

For bird photos go to . . .
For non-bird wildlife photos go to . . .


Stansted Forest
Heather Mills reported on the Havant Wildlife Group walk
Four met on a glorious spring morning filled with an assortment of Stansted's birds singing. Robins were the most prolific. Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Chaffinch and most noticeably at least 3 Song Thrush in the vicinity of the car park. As we slowly progressed along the main thoroughfare towards the house we could hear Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming. The Jackdaws were vocal and a Stock dove called.
The grounds were busy with joggers and cyclists, so we took a muddy footpath beside the main road. Here we saw our first Redwing and had a very close encounter with Dunnocks foraging under our feet as we progressed eastward. In the gardens of Stansted were masses of Primroses. The Highland cattle had 2 young calves. Behind the first cottages we heard our first Yellowhammers. I counted at least 4 along this stretch starting their song, with one nearly completing the "little bit of bread and no cheese". Here we had good views of 4 Meadow Pipits and a singing Linnet. Dog's Mercury was abundant but Celandine only seen at the entrance to the gatehouse, where Snowdrops and a small patch of Violets were evident. A small patch of Wood Spurge seen. As we walked towards Walderton we kept a lookout for the Green Hellebores which were in flower.

Although several Bullfinch called along the way, we did not locate them. A small party of Long-tailed Tits pecked for insects as we turned north alongside the fields to take the footpath back to the road. We came across 2 Marsh Tits along the hedgerow, whilst Coal Tit sang and we caught a snippet of Skylarks singing, but not for long. Beyond the 2 cottages in the past we have been fortunate to see Fieldfare and Redwing. Today only Redwing visible with about 20 foraging on the ground around the trees. 31 bird species seen. A very pleasant outing.

For more reports of walks go to . . . Havant Wildlife Group

Crane sighting
Ralph Hollins gives extra information about the Crane reported in yesterday's blog.
For info on the association of the Somerset and Slimbridge sites see first then read about the Crane Introduction programme at . . . and for the 'pre-history' of this project see the following (written in 2009) see .. about a group of Cranes which introduced themselves to Norfolk in the late 1970s and were probably breeding there in 1981. Ralph thinks that independent group is still present in East Anglia and/or further north in England

First Comma
Ralph Hollins says that Tony Wootton's Comma is the first he's heard of but on checking the ButterflyConservation page at . . . there is an isolated report of one in Lancashire on 20 Jan this year. But Ralph suspects that it was an insect disturbed from hibernation rather than naturally emerging in response to the current longer days and high temperatures of spring. So well done, Tony.


Swans nest building
The Mute Swan pair were having another go at building their nest in the corner of Emsworth Millpond near the bridge when I passed by at about 11.30 this morning. The water in the pond was quite high, but the nest structure had been built quite substantially so that it was mostly above the water level. These birds are clearly determined!

Here they are sailing off after their spell of nest building, rulers of all they survey! No other swan would dare trespass on their territory.

Brents on the move
About 200 Brent Geese were on the water in the harbour in small groups close to the millpond seawall. They are probably preparing to fly north towards their breeding grounds. I think they stop off in Holland before heading north over the Baltic Sea and along the Arctic coastline. Their destination for nesting is the Tamyr Peninsula in Northern Siberia. A long journey, but well honed through eons of evolution.

Stock Dove in garden
After several years of absence, Stock Doves are becoming fairly regular visitors to our garden in central Emsworth, though only in ones and twos. One was present again this morning feeding alone on the grass lawn. Such a neat, attractive and gentle-looking bird. I love the patch of emerald gloss on its neck.

Hayling Oysterbeds
Christopher Evans had a walk around the oysterbeds this afternoon and got a lovely photo of a Long Tailed Tit shortly after leaving the small car park at the top of the island.

Heading down past the beds Christopher saw 3 or 4 flocks of Dunlin swirling around but the all eventually landed on the banks and spits that remained above water. On the southern most lagoon there were 5 Red Breasted Mergansers (2m, 3f) and 5 Little Grebes in the water, with plenty of noisy Black Headed and Mediterranean Gulls on the ridges in the lagoon. Walking back, there was a single Great Crested Grebe in the harbour.

Chichester Gravel Pits
Yesterday Christopher had his monthly U3A Birdwatching walk (and drive around) which included Church Norton, RSPB Pagham and finally Chichester Gravel Pits where they managed to find the male Scaup and male Long Tailed Duck on Ivy Lake. The former was a bit trickier to spot as it was in with a number of Tufted Duck. Highlights back at Pagham include a Green Sandpiper and 3 Red Legged Partridge at the back of the Ferry Pool, then walking down alongside the Ferry Channel, a Reed Bunting, a Cetti's Warbler (heard not seen), a Buzzard on a post and a flock of about 40 Avocet that twice briefly rose in to the air before dropping down out of sight.

Ringed Crane
Derek Mills sent me the following photo of a Common Crane that he took at Titchfield Haven on Thursday 2 March. Derek drew my attention to the rings on the bird's leg and wondered where it came from. The rings one can see in the photo are blue, white and yellow, though I am not sure if this would be enough to establish the bird's identity. There is also a black ring at the bottom of the leg.

This Crane was reported by four other birdwatchers on the HOS sightings site at Titchfield Haven. One of the observers said the Crane is a released bird from Slimbridge with a transmitter. Another observer said it is female ringed in Somerset in 2013. Maybe the warden at Titchfield Haven could provide more information? Colour-ringed birds can be reported to European Colour-ring Birding at

Cranes breed in bogs and marches across north and central Eurasia and winter in Southern Europe and Africa. They are vagrants to the UK and very rare residents - only in Norfolk?

Tony Wootton had the first Comma of the year (as far as I am aware) yesterday at Blashford Lakes. And nice one too.


Early Meadow-grass
John Norton was in Bedhampton yesterday and noticed a fine patch of Early Meadow-grass (Poa infirma). It was along Lower Road, but John thinks it might be fairly frequent all over the general Havant area. It likes warm, south-facing road verges and (as shown on the photo) often forms a striking pale band of thin shoots along the edge of the pavement or roadway.


When growing well, as here, Early Meadow-grass looks quite different from Annual Meadow-grass. It is yellowish-green in colour whereas Annual Meadow-grass tends to be bright or dark green. The following close up photo of Early Meadow-grass (on the left in the photos below) is one of John's stock photos taken in Gosport in 2008. The panicle tends to be less open than that of Annual Meadow-grass (shown on the right taken on Brook Meadow).

Early Meadow-grass was formerly only in Cornwall and Hayling Island, but has spread rapidly in recent years. We would be interested to hear from anyone who has seen any.

Unusual moss
John also had an unexpected find of a nice little moss called Scorpiurium circinatum, growing on a railway bridge (private land). It is a warmth-loving limestone species, common in places like Portland, Dorset and parts of the Isle of Wight, but rare in Hampshire, where hitherto only found on old abbeys and similar buildings. John also discovered some at Hurst Castle last year. The nearest other site to us is Portchester Castle, where John has looked for it, but couldn't refind it. It has distinctive curved mouse-tail like shoots which hang downwards. The ruler shot shows the more distinctive dry leaves and the other shows slightly moistened leaves which have started to swell up and stick out. The shoots are quite small, but it often forms large patches.

Wayside flowers
I had a stroll around my local area this afternoon looking closely at roadside verges for any sign of Early Meadow-grass. I did not find any, but I was pleased to locate several other interesting flowering plants. They included a splendid display of Sweet Violets along Warblington Road and Valetta Park, plus nice patches of Common Field Speedwell, Common Chickweed and Lesser Celandines.

More on Nightingales
Tom Bickerton added the following comments to the discussion in yesterday's blog about Nightingales at Marlpit Lane:

"One thing you should highlight is the RSPB are fighting a development at Lodge Hill, Kent of 5000 houses which they feel will impact on the Nightingales there. That's great, but, we have a proposed 6000 development here at Whitely, close to Botley Wood where these birds are. Now the argument is there's enough distance between the two locations, I disagree as it's the impact of the increased number of people using the Wood for leisure, walking etc.
It's not only Nightingales which are in danger, but the small numbers of Nightjar which attempt to breed there. The nightingale population has declined in the UK by 90% since 1967. Human progress will ultimately be responsible of the extinction of summering migrants in Southern England."

Just for interest, I did a bit of research on the global status of the Nightingale which does not appear to be anywhere as critical as it is in the UK. Nightingales have an enormous global range covering most of Asia, Europe and Africa (except the far south). Their global population is said to be in the range 43 million to 89 million, including an estimated 8 million to 23 million in Europe alone. reports that globally the Nightingale population trend appears to be stable and is not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated by Birdlife as of 'Least Concern'.
For more information see . . . .

Jack Snipe?
Kate L'Amie is 90% certain that she saw two Jack Snipe a couple of times recently close to where the Solent Way path from Warblington to Emsworth passes over a small stream before the large arable field at Grid Ref: SU 731054. Kate says they were in the field to the north of the path, south of the large muddy section. I would appreciate any confirmation of this very interesting observation. The Hampshire Bird Report describes Jack Snipe as 'A scarce but overlooked winter visitor and passage migrant'.


Millpond Swan nest
Anne Moodie solved the mystery of the new 'nest' near the bridge on the millpond that I noted in yesterday's blog. Anne and her husband saw the two resident Mute Swans actively building the nest last Saturday. Here is Anne's photo of the pair at work.

This is interesting as they did not attempt to build a nest on the millpond last year which was their first year of residence on the millpond. These were the swans that aggressively ejected the previous pair which had successfully nested for the previous three years. As this is most likely to be their first nest it will almost certainly be a bit rough and ready. Swans usually take a few years to get their nest building skills properly honed. But we shall see.
I had a walk round the millpond at about 11am this morning and there had been no further progress on the nest, which had been largely swamped by the high tide.

Hige tides will be a constant hazard for the swans unless someone persuades the Environment Agency to control the level of water in the millpond - which they have done in the past for the previous pair of swans. I found the pair of swans patrolling the wall by the sailing club to make sure no intruders get onto the pond. They are serious!

The 6 Black Swans were on the shore at the bottom of South Street as usual, being fed by families.

Nightingales at Marlpit Lane
In this blog for Feb 17 I included report from Roy Ewing concerning construction work on the site to the east of Marlpit Lane which might well impact on the breeding of Nightingales in that area. Well, Tom Bickerton has written to reassure everyone, he says, about what exactly is going on at this site.

"I've known the landowner and that patch for 30 years, he is one of the good guys and during the time I've known him I've made him aware of these birds. The land is going back to a hay meadow, some trees will have to go, areas of low-shrub will stay. He is getting advice from West Sussex conservation.
Now the bad news. I don't think these birds are sustainable, not because of alteration, but year on year they have declined, they have been in isolation all these years, the surrounding habitat doesn't suit their needs for expansion. We need two adults plus 1 young to survive to maintain a breeding population, we simply are not getting that. Whether the problems here or in the African wintering grounds who knows, I suspect both.
Now some good news, Nightingales are about here locally in Hampshire, certainly around Havant Thicket and the Rowlands Castle to Finchdean strip, not huge numbers, you just have to listen."

I welcome any comments on Tom's report. All I can say, having watched and listened for Nightingales along Marlpit Lane for the last 30 years or so, and having done several surveys during that time, is that Tom is correct that Nightingales have become more scarce at that site, though there has been a tendency over the years for them to move northwards up the lane. But, from what I understand from BTO research, the decline in Nightingales is not restricted to Marlpit Lane, the tend is more general. It appears that the migrant Nightingale population is gradually shifting eastwards with the result that they are on the increase in eastern counties such as Kent and Essex, but declining in Hampshire and Sussex.

Mediterranean Gulls
Regarding the Mediterranean Gulls at Hayling Oysterbeds, Tom Bickerton says 159 were counted on the recent low tide count at the Oysterbeds, along with over 1200 Black-headed Gulls. A raft is being built which will be anchored off South Island at the Oysterbeds for the terns. They might be lucky to get a few Med Gulls nesting at the Oysterbeds. Hopefully the raft will prove as successful as the Blashford Lake. What is needed is a replica of the one at RSPB Ham Wall.


Emsworth Millpond
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.

Emsworth Harbour
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 travellers.

Hayling Oysterbeds
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 adults.
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.

Brook Meadow
From the 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.

The Weeping 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 passed away.

The yellowish glow of the tree is caused by the colour of its twigs which are already sprouting fresh leaves.

The Butterbur flower spikes on the meadow above the seat are now clearly visible from the main path. Some are quite well grown.

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 bank.


Emsworth walk
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.

Brook Meadow
I looked 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 fungus.

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 also prominent.

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 the seat.

Lesser Celandines are now popping up around the meadow, a real sign of spring.

Snowdrops are flowering along the Lumley Path, probably garden escapes.

Hermitage Millponds
David Gattrell 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.

Two Mediterranean 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.

For earlier observations go to . . February 1-28