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for late March 2017
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FRIDAY MARCH 31 - 2017

Rat on bird feeder
I was very surprised this morning to see a Brown Rat on the sunflower heart feeder on the Buddleja bush in our back garden. We do occasionally see a rat on the ground, but have never before seen one on a feeder. I took a few photos before it ran off along the back wall.

Rats do not really stand much of a chance as one of our neighbours has three cats which use our garden as part of the territory. I do find the occasional dead rat.
Interestingly, only today, Rosi Woods wrote a message to hoslist with exactly the same observation - a rat on her bird feeders. In view of this 'unwelcome' visitor, Rosi decided to remove the feeders for the time being. I think this is premature as the feeders are a important source of food for a host of birds that visit the garden. I shall certainly leave my feeders out and wish the rat all the best in its tussle with the local cats.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond late morning from 11:34am to 1:06pm - tide pushing in. Main observations.
Off shore: 17 Brent Geese, 103 Black-tailed Godwit, 62 Bar-tailed Godwit, 17 to 107 Med Gulls flew over the pond in a 30 minute period - all were heading south west towards the Oysterbeds. 7 Teal, 3 Grey Plover, 8 Shelduck, 1 male Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Greenshank, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 adult summer Sandwich Tern - probably my first migrant, 1 Buzzard. 20 Grey Plover and 9 Dunlin off Conigar Point
Langstone Mill Pond: 18 Teal, 33 Little Egret - lots of activity - probably the start after nothing 2 days ago! Cetti's Warbler (moving about the pond singing - seen and quickly photographed).

Good news on the Grey Heron front. The male on Nest 10 has found a mate and both birds were building up the nest together AND, an eleventh nest is being started with a pair bringing sticks to the very top of the other Holm Oak (above and slightly to the left of Nest 4.).
Horse paddock: 2 Teal, 3 Grey Heron, 7 Moorhen, 1 Stock Dove.

Gadwall pair at Baffins
Eric Eddles sends the following photo of a male and female pair of Gadwall that have been appearing on Baffins Pond for the past 3 years. The male is very easy to pick out, but the female, as Eric says, is easily confused with a female Mallard. Things to look out for in the female Gadwall, apart from its proximity to the male (the two are rarely seen apart in my experience), are the dark culmen (top of the bill) which is usually all orange in the Mallard, the more solid dark brown feather centres and white on the wing, which can be seen easily in flight, and which can be seen in Eric's photo.

For comparison, here is a female Mallard with two males on Emsworth Millpond


After parking in the 2 hour parking area at the end of Southmoor Lane and before going onto the Southmoor reserve, I walked up to the Budds Farm mound. On the way, I stopped to admire a fine flowering of White Comfrey alongside the road onto the mound.

I could not see anything special on the ponds, so went down the steps to the shore where I found a flock of 112 Brent Geese feeding near the shoreline, clearly late departures.

I was pleased to meet Martin and Margaret Baggs who were parked in the small area overlooking the harbour. Martin used to count the Heronry in Old Park Wood in Chidham, but he tells me that the woods have now been sold and divided up and access is difficult. He was interested to hear about the heronry at Langstone Mill Pond which is being currently monitored by Peter Milinets-Raby.
On the way back along Southmoor Lane I heard my first Willow Warbler song of the year from the bushes. Such a delicate and sweet song.

I carried on to the Southmoor reserve and climbed over the simple two barred stile onto the area where the Southern Marsh Orchids grow.

There was no sign of any orchids as yet, but I saw lots of other interesting things. First up was a good patch of Marsh Horsetail with fresh stems and some already with cones. Why does it not grow on Brook Meadow?

But, by far the best sighting of the morning were my first Cuckooflowers of the year, of which I counted at least 50, all with delicate clusters of pale pink flowers. Beautiful! Here is also one with a hoverfly feeding on it.

I also spotted the first Meadow Foxtail spike and the first spikes of Divided Sedge.

On the way home I passed the magnificent plant of Cow Parsley which has been in full flower for a week or more on the grass verge just past the Warblington roundabout coming into Emsworth. Sorry no photo, but look out for it.

Peter Pond
The swan nest on the island has successfully survived the 4.8m high tide and as there are no further high ones until the end of April it may be safe. However, the swan pair were busily collecting grass and reeds to reinforce it when I visited at 3pm this afternoon. I could not see any eggs in the nest. A little later the pen settled down on the nest, hopefully to start laying in the morning.

From the small footbridge on the Lumley Path I watched a pair of Coot swimming in the channel the reedbeds. These will be nesting somewhere on the pond.

Slipper Millpond
The Coots are definitely nesting in the nest box on the north raft. One Coot was in the box while its mate was collecting nesting material.

Meanwhile, the Great Black-backed Gulls were both present on the centre raft, though it is still a little early for nesting which on the basis of previous years I would expect in the second week of April. But you never know! One bird was snuggled down when I arrived while its mate was in the water nearby. When the second bird came onto the raft it was greeted with a loud cawing, which is promising.

More information about the gulls nesting in Emsworth is on a special page at . . . Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond

Brook Meadow
I had a look around the Lumley area for any signs of sedges. I did find the first brown spikes of Greater Pond Sedge which continue to spread across this area - see left side photo below. There are also many spikes of Divided Sedge - the earliest I have ever recorded them on the meadow. The silvery leaves of Silverweed continue to develop, though the flowers will not be out yet.

Walking down the new path on the east side of the south meadow created by the flood defence work around the Gooseberry Cottage garden, I came across several fresh plants of Wintercress with flower buds not yet open, but I am not sure what variety of Wintercress.

A couple of Comma butterflies were chasing each other around the Lumley area. I managed to get a quick shot of one, showing its distinctive 'comma' on the underwing. I also spotted this 7-spot Ladybird sunning itself.

Mike's birds
Mike Wells had a wander around the Staunton Park lake this morning and saw two Blue Tits enthusing about a hole in a tree, when suddenly his attention was drawn to the 'neighbour' about eight feet further up the same tree, a very active male Great Spotted Woodpecker! Oh dear. I don't hold out much hope for the Tits.

Pulborough Brooks
Tony Wootton spent a profitable day with his camera at the Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve. He sent a selection of images from which I have chosen the following.

The Orange Tip butterfly is the first I have heard about locally. The Bee-fly is identified from its long proboscis which it uses to suck nectar in spring. The Wren singing I could not resist. What a voice to rival the great Caruso! The Grass-snake is probably a first for this blog.


Langstone Mill Pond
Twenty four hours after his last report and Peter Milinets-Raby was back down at Langstone Mill Pond from 9:05am to 10:02am. It was wet.
The highlight was a flock of 43 Bar-tailed Godwit that flew in from Langstone direction and landed on the shore where 2 others were feeding amongst 87 Black-tailed Godwits.
Other birds of note were: Just one Brent Goose could be found, 11 Teal, 2 Greenshank (G//R + BRtag//-), 8 Shelduck, 8+ Med Gull, 5 Grey Plover, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Off Conigar Point in the distance were 2 Red Breasted Mergansers, 1 Shelduck and 2 Grey Plover.
On the flooded horse paddock were just 4 Teal.
On Langstone Mill Pond: Cetti's Warbler singing again along with Chiffchaff. Only 3 Little Egrets this morning, all in the Holm Oak, standing by old nests.

Grey Heron colony
Below is Peter's revised Grey Heron colony photo. He explains "This has been revised after checking old photos from 2015 and realising that I have numbered the nests wrong as currently nest 6 does not exist any more, the last few sticks being taken by an adult from nest 1. The view point is from the bench, just along from the bridge, as from this vantage point all the nests can be seen a little better. Sorry for any confusion! "

So the correct state of play is as follows: There are 8 nests with breeding birds, plus one with a male displaying and one nest (No. 6) has almost disappeared by thieving Herons.

Nest 1: No young? Yesterday there were two juveniles flying around. Not present today. This pair were on their nest, bringing in sticks and looking very lovey dovey again as if they are going to attempt a second brood. I observed two young on this nest on 13th March.

Nest 2: Adult standing guard on nest

Nest 3: Three young in this nest - quite old, constantly begging for food - will be leaving soon.

Nest 4: Three young in this nest up in the other Holm Oak.

Nest 5: Movement of at least one tiny chick noted - more observations needed

Nest 6: Impossible to see any more, as only a few sticks of the construction are left. Last season, this nest was built up late, so maybe the owners have still to arrive?

Nest 7: Adult sitting tight on nest.

Nest 8: Adults swapping over quite regularly. This nest is only visible from the paddock gate and is difficult to observe. Probably has young.

Nest 9: Adult sitting on this nest. Seen mating yesterday.

Nest 10: As can be seen from the photo, the adult male is still there displaying. No female has shown an interest, though to be honest, there appears to be no spare birds around?

Red Kite
Neal Scott (who used to walk with Malcolm Phillips at Brook Meadow) responded to the recent report from Kate L'Amie of a Red Kite over the Emsworth Channel last Saturday. Neal saw what was probably the same Red Kite heading North over Portsdown Hill late on Sunday morning. Neal thinks the Kite might be a local resident flying this route regularly. So, we need to keep looking up. Please let me know of any other Red Kite sightings. Here is one of Neal's excellent images of the Portsdown Hill Red Kite. What a cracking bird!


Brook Meadow
Pam Phillips e-mailed me to say she saw the Water Rail just north of the old gas holder site on the west bank of the river this morning. This was the 10th sighting of what is probably the same bird this winter period. On the basis of previous years, it is likely to leave the site very soon. Pam's may well be our last sighting. Here is the only decent photo we have got of this bird, taken by Brian Lawrence in February.

I heard my first Blackcap song of the year in Palmer's Road Copse on Brook Meadow this morning. This was two days earlier than last year but generally about average for timing. Here is a photo of a male singing taken by Richard Somers Cocks several years ago.

North Thorney
The old NRA track on North Thorney is a good spot for early migrants, so I had a walk along there this morning. I heard another Blackcap singing along with two Chiffchaffs. So it looks as if there has been a general arrival of Blackcaps. There was nothing else of interest apart from the regular Cetti's Warbler belting out its song - unseen as usual.
The old Marina Farm stables are in a bad state and I hope the Swallows manage to find their way here as usual for nesting. A new fence has been erected which indicates some sort of ownership. There is a nice flowering of Alexanders along Thornham Lane.

Peter Pond Swans
I checked the Mute Swan nest on Peter Pond twice today. On my first visit this morning, the nest was occupied by a pair of Mallards. There were no eggs in the nest. The swan pair was on Slipper Millpond. Can you spot the female Mallard in the photo?

On my second visit in early afternoon, both swans were busily building up the nest which is good to see as the nest is low and could be swamped by a high tide.

A Grey Heron was standing proudly on the raft in the centre of the pond.

Marlpit Lane
I stopped briefly at Marlpit Lane on my way to Ashling Wood, not to hear Nightingales, which will not be here for another 3 weeks or so, even if they come at all. As noted before in this blog, there an awful lot of digging activity on the old gravel pit site to the east of the lane. A notice says 'Ecological Area' whatever that means and areas are taped off. I gather from Roy Ewing that the area is being restored to grazing land, though that is a long way off.

I saw my first Ground-ivy flowering along the public footpath.

Ashling Wood Bluebells
This is the woodland that I always target for early Bluebells and I was not disappointed. Many flowers are now open, with lots more to come, mingled in with the abundant Wood Anemones. The Bluebells should be at their best in a couple of weeks. This is about the right time, though last year they were in flower on March 18 which is very early.

Where have the Rooks gone? The first thing I noticed when I entered the woodland was the total absence of any Rookery! In past years I was always greeted with a cacophony of harsh calls of the Rooks tending their nests, but today all was silence. There are usually around 20 nests in the trees by the entrance to the public footpath from the road. I realise it is not unusual for Rooks to relocate their nesting colonies, but this one has been here since, at least, 2007.

I took the single track back road towards Funtington to check the embankment outside the entrance to Bowhill House for Hairy Wood-rush (Luzula pilosa). Grid Ref: SU 81625 08923. There were several spikes. I also noted the usual Early Dog-violets.

Garden Stock Doves
When I got home I found a pair of Stock Doves feeding happily on the grass in the back garden along with 4 Collared Doves and two Blackbirds. After several years of absence, Stock Doves are becoming fairly regular visitors to our garden in central Emsworth.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning just as the cloud started to move in and cover the early morning sunshine 9am to 10:20am. The highlights were as follows:

Langstone Mill Pond: Mute Swan on nest. The nest is surrounded by loads of down feathers, recently plucked, so she has probably started to lay eggs. Cetti's Warbler singing several times and moving around a bit, so probably a new arrival. It may stay. Chiffchaff singing. 17 Teal,

1 Swallow flew over - the earliest I've had for this piece of coast.

13 Little Egrets. Up to mischief, pinching sticks from Grey Herons nests, displaying to one another, flying around and croaking. I think this is the start of their breeding season. At least 6 birds were active on the "island" and in the Holm Oak.

Grey Heron colony:
Nest 1: Two adults. I think the young were flying around - two juvs seen flying around and causing mischief.
Nest 2: Adult bird stood by this nest.
Nest 3: Two old young, nearly ready to depart
Nest 4: Three young with change over observed from the adults and lots of begging as the adult regurgitated goldfish from my pond!

Nest 5: Probably young in this nest - adult very attentive
Nest 6: Looks empty
Nest 7: Adult pair mating
Nest 8: Hard to see this nest, but watched adults swap over - probably young in this one.
Nest 9: Empty
Nest 10: Gorgeous plumaged adult displaying on this nest. Photo shows blue cere around eye, blushed red base to bill, blushed red legs, beautiful twinkling silver streaks on the grey mantle.

There was an extra Grey Heron at the top of the Holm Oak prospecting! Watch this space?
At 9:40am, high over the pond, heading north east, I had a male Hen Harrier.

Flooded horse paddock: 9 Moorhen, 8 Teal, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Green Woodpecker,
Off shore: 6 to 17+ Med Gulls constantly over, 1 Greenshank, 10 Teal, 16 Brent Geese, 123 Black-tailed Godwit (see photo), 10 Red Breasted Merganser, 12 Shelduck.

Hayling Sanderlings
Chris Oakley took an early walk along the shore near the Hayling Ferry this morning.
"It was just before high tide and the water was ripping through the inlet . Quite scary. The gorse around the golf course is magnificent now and full of bumble bees. The short turf around the tees was covered in funnel webs still glistening in the morning mist. The only birds on the shore were a group of Sanderling running through the waves like tiny clockwork toys.

We picked some young leaves of the Seakale growing along the shingle, which was added as a vegetable with dinner. It tastes like a strong cabbage but has an unpleasant bitter aftertaste. I wouldn't recommend it. Otherwise it was beautiful day."

Baffins Gadwall
Eric Eddles sent the following excellent photo of the lone male Gadwall which has returned to Baffins Pond and is showing well. Gosh, what a beautiful bird.

MONDAY MARCH 27 - 2017

Nore Barn
I went over to Nore Barn by 10am with about 2 hours to high water. A beautiful spring morning. The stream was filling up. The regular colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) and a Common Redshank were feeding in the stream, but no sign of the Spotted Redshank which has almost certainly left for its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia.

Here is the Redshank looking quite lonely

I had a walk along the shore. The channel to the south of the woods was largely empty except for about 20 Teal and 4 Brent Geese. There is a fine display of Blackthorn blossom on the bushes along the shore south of the woods.

Oak leaves are sprouting in the woods. I have not seen Ash leaves, so this must be a good sign for summer?

Two Chiffchaffs were singing in the woods, but no Blackcaps as yet.
I spotted a few Lords and Ladies spathes emerging from among the lush leaves, but none as yet open to reveal the spadix.
Also, Early Dog-violets (?) are also showing well in the woods.

English Scurvygrass is now in full flower on the saltmarshes to the west of the stream at Nore Barn.

Ralph Hollins also had his first sighting of English Scurvygrass yesterday at the edge of The Kench on Hayling Island.

English Scurvygrass is a native plant belonging to the family Brassicaceae. As the name might suggest, it rich in Vitamin C, a deficiency of which causes the condition known as 'Scurvy'. It is also known as Spoonwort due to the shape of its lower leaves. It can be eaten in salads though, not surprisingly, it is quite salty. For more information on this plant see . . .

Garden sightings
David Minns has had some interesting wildlife sightings from his little garden in the centre of Emsworth. On the bird front, David has four young Robins bouncing around from a nest in his ivy and Blue Tits nest-building in a box with camera high on the back wall. He has seen a Buzzard flying over, mewing as it headed towards Brook Meadow, plus Med gulls calling overhead.
As for insects, David has had Peacock, Brimstone and Red Admiral in the past few spring like days, plus a bumble bee with an off-white rear and Wasps. I have seen several of Bumblebees bumbling around; they are most likely Queens looking for suitable nesting places.

Langstone sightings
Christopher Evans had a walk down to Langstone and back this morning between 11 and 12.45. Tide was high. Here are his observations.
"In the flooded horse paddock there were circa 40 Teal. On the pond were 10/12 Teal but only 2 Gadwall (1m/1f), as far as I could see. In the trees at the back there were 9 Grey Herons and 6 Little Egrets, with another Heron spotted at the water's edge as I continued round the pond. By The Royal Oak were 2 Mute Swans and there were 24 Brent Geese between The Royal Oak and The Ship.
As I crossed the Hayling Road, 3 Mute Swans flew over and headed towards Northney Marina. In Langstone Harbour there was a single Mute Swan but it was quickly joined by another 4.

Heading down to the sea wall from the end of Mill Lane there was flock of about 40 Starlings in bushes to the west of the path and 9 Little Egrets hunkered down by the small stream that runs across Southmoor and joins the tidal part of Langbrook Stream. Offshore there were 30+ Wigeon, with some Red Breasted Mergansers mixed in with those that were a bit further out. Difficult to pick them out when looking into the glare of the sun. Walking back there was a Buzzard riding the thermals above West Mill and probably the same bird visible as I walked back home up the Hayling Billy trail."

BTO News
The British Trust for Ornithology reports it has been a good winter for seeing thrushes. Redwings were seen in 4% more gardens this January compared to 2016 and Song Thrushes were recorded in more gardens in December than they had been for the last five years It was also a good year to see Blackbirds and Mistle Thrushes. The wealth of thrushes in gardens could be due to a lack of food in the wider countryside, with birds coming into gardens to find berries and fallen fruit.

New research led by The University of Exeter, in collaboration with the BTO, has found that watching birds near your home could be good for mental health. People living in neighbourhoods where there were more birds about in the afternoon, as opposed to early mornings, reported lower levels of stress, anxiety and depression. See . . .

The first Cuckoo of the year was reported on 16 March in West Sussex. Meanwhile the seven satellite-tagged Cuckoos are on their way home, with four of them currently in West Africa, feeding up and resting before they make their desert crossings. You can track their progress online at . . .

SUNDAY MARCH 26 - 2017

Brook Meadow
It was a fine spring morning with a slight chill in the air, for a walk around my local patch. I went through Brook Meadow where I heard two Chiffchaffs singing, but no Blackcaps as yet. Despite the warm weather I only saw one Peacock butterfly.
Field Horsetail stems with cones at the top are now out both in the orchid area and on the Lumley area.

I could not find any brown spikelets on the Greater Pond Sedge, but they should be coming soon. Lots of fresh growth on the Lumley area, including Silverweed, Common Comfrey and Sharp-flowered Rush.

Hermitage Millponds
The pen Mute Swan was snuggled down on her nest on the Peter Pond island and has probably started laying. We need to keep a look out for eggs.

The north raft on Slipper Millpond has become a popular roosting spot for Black-headed Gulls. There is no sign of any Coot nesting in the box. The resident Coot pair were on the water nearby. The nest box on the south raft is also unoccupied from what I could see, though the southern Coot pair was on the water.

The Great Black-backed Gulls were both on the centre raft, but there is no sign of any nesting activity.

Fresh leaves of Hemlock are now showing well on the eastern side of Slipper Millpond.

Swan nest on millpond
There is no substantial change to the swan nest near the bridge on the town millpond. It is just above water level, but vulnerable. The swans were not present.

Red Kite over Emsworth
Kate L'Amie saw a Red Kite soaring over the Emsworth Channel yesterday morning. It struck her as rather unusual to see one so far south, and also apparently searching for food over the sea. Kate did a little googling and it seems that Red Kites have been known to pick up fish from waterways, though she didn't see it dive.

Red Kites do seem to be spreading slowly in our direction and we get the occasional sighting over Emsworth. All the more reason to remember to look up to the sky from time to time! Mrs Salter saw one flying north across North Emsworth on Feb 6 last year. Here is a nice shot that Tony Wootton got of a Red Kite in flight near Arundel, on Feb 24 last year. On that occasion Tony saw a dozen Red Kites and 6 Buzzards.


Earthworm identification
Following the identification of the mystery worm that Barry Kingsmith found in his garden recently as a common Earthworm, Ralph Hollins stressed that my conclusion that the mystery was now solved is somewhat premature.
Ralph says
". . . there are some 27 species of earthworm, as distinct from marine worms, to be found in the UK and a website that should help with their identification is at . . . - use the link to Less Common Earthworms to complete your search. This also has a link to the New Zealand Flatworm which Michael Prior found at Stansted in February. No doubt there are other exotic species in the UK. When you have named the species you will be entitled to say that the problem is solved!"
Thanks and point taken, Ralph.

Black Swan
Regarding the photo of a Black Swan nesting at Chichester Marina taken by Roy Hay on Mar 17, Ralph says this is almost certainly of a lone female which has been there without a mate for over a year. She nested there last year but her infertile eggs were eventually abandoned.

Ralph's move
After 49 years and 8 months living in the same house in Havant Ralph Hollins has moved into a flat near St Mary's church on Hayling Island from where he will be able to start his personal natural history of the island . For his first entries after the move see his wildlife diary at . . .

Eiders at Titchfield
Derek Mills thought we might be interested to see this photo he got of some of a group of 25 Eider Ducks in the sea off Titchfield Haven yesterday. Yes, that's a great shot.

Derek also got this fine image of a Snipe which had just dug up a worm.

Alver Valley, Gosport
Tony Wootton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group. 11 had a lovely Spring walk this morning. Just occasional blasts of a Northerly wind reminded us that Winter hasn't quite gone yet.

We saw butchers broom, ivy leaved speedwell, Alexanders, primrose, celandine, and more coltsfolt than anyone can remember anytime anywhere. Here are just some of them snapped by Heather.

Both male and female brimstones and 2 commas (does that make a full stop). Numerous bees and a common lizard.

Birds included mallard, moorhen, sparrowhawk, buzzard and kestrels gave us a courting display. Stock dove, green woodpecker, GS woodpecker, skylark, meadow pipit, wren, dunnock, robin, blackbird, heard cetti's and blackcap. Dartford warbler, chiffchaff, long tailed tit, blue tit, great tit, treecreeper, jay, magpie, carrion crow, greenfinch.

For more details about the Havant Wildlife Group walks go to . . Havant Wildlife Group

FRIDAY MARCH 24 - 2017

Mystery worm solved
I had a couple of replies to my tentative suggestion that the 'worm' that Barry Kingsmith photographed in his garden near the Nore Barn stream yesterday was a Lugworm. Both strongly insist it is not a Lugworm, but an Earthworm. Just goes to show how much I know about these lowly creatures, which, incidentally, Charles Darwin treasured so highly.

Mike Wells says, "I've dug thousands of Lugworms in my younger, fitter days, as well as Harbour Ragworm and King Ragworm. I take it that it was seen where the stream is still fresh water, where marine worms would not survive. It certainly looks like a large common Earthworm. If it had been injured, the open end could look like a mouth. Possibly a predator could have picked it up and dropped it in the stream."
Chris Oakley agrees that it is certainly not a Lugworm which is only found in shore mud or sand and is completely different in appearance. Chris agrees the worm is a standard Earthworm which has probably been living under leaves instead of beneath the soil, hence the flat appearance. The black 'mouth' is part of the gut.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 1:45pm to 2:45pm - very low tide.
Grey Heron colony
Peter sends a photo of the Grey Heron colony trees at the pond and with the aid of phone technology he has scribbled the nest locations. The numbers relate to the order they were found, 'that's why the numbers are all over the place'.

1: Top of the Holm Oak - best viewable from the gate by the horse paddock - three young

2: No movement, not visible, so status uncertain

3: Obscured behind lots of vegetation, just visible, only because there are three large young o the nest

4: Top of the other Holm Oak. Adult sitting and standing, suggesting very small chicks - not visible yet

5: Adult sitting and standing - movement of tiny chick noted

6: Doesn't appear to be occupied yet - adults can sit surprisingly low in their nests!!

7:: Adult sitting very low in nest

8: The rear of Holm Oak and only viewable from paddock gate - adult sitting and standing - there must be young in here

9: Appears to be unoccupied

10: An adult started building this a week ago, but now seems to have abandoned it. This is behaviour I have noted before, so I expect this nest to be occupied soon

Other birds of note were as follows:
Walked in via Wade Lane: 2 Med Gulls over, 1 male Kestrel, 2 Stock Doves.

Horse paddock: JUST 34 Teal, 7 Moorhen, No Wigeon. This looks like it, all the wildfowl have nearly gone! Chiffchaff singing, Green Woodpecker heard.

Off shore: Virtually empty. 20 Black-tailed Godwits, 2+ Little Egrets (where the 20 disappeared to, from last week I do not know). 11 Red Breasted Merganser, 4+ Med Gulls, 4 Grey Plover, 26 Brent Geese, 2 Shelduck, 1 Teal, 2 Common Gull.

Langstone Mill Pond: 20 Teal, Chiffchaff singing, 5 Meadow Pipit over.


Mystery worm
Barry Kingsmith spotted this worm in Nore Barn Stream, at the end of his garden in Maisemore Gardens. It is about 8" long, moves slowly, has a mouthpiece that is dark.

It looks like a standard Lugworm to me though I really know little about these creatures. Can anyone help?

Mistle Thrush
Mike Wells took another photo of the Mistle Thrush he saw at Langstone yesterday, this time carrying a beak full of nesting material. That's a good sign for a bird that has become increasingly scarce over recent times.

Lapwings on South Downs
Caroline French requests help to protect breeding Lapwings on the South Downs.

"With the help of volunteer surveyors and the South Downs National Park, the RSPB is monitoring Lapwings on the South Downs. The aim is to find out how many chicks are fledging each year, and which factors might be affecting fledging success at each site. This information will help the RSPB give appropriate management advice when working with local landowners, with the aim of improving fledging success for this declining species. If you come across breeding lapwings on the South Downs it would be helpful if you would let me know so that we have an opportunity to monitor them."

Here is a shot of what might have been a breeding Lapwing on Thorney Island in 2007

Caroline would encourage birders to always report sightings of Lapwings during the breeding season through whichever recording method you normally use - BirdTrack, Going Birding or directly to the Country Recorder. Please include a 6-figure grid reference, breeding status and, if possible, some brief habitat notes.

Caroline's contact details are as follows: Caroline French, Conservation Monitoring Officer.
Email: Mob: 07736 722208 Office: 01273 775333


Brook Meadow
I walked through the meadow this morning on my way to check the swan's nest on Peter Pond. The weather was bright and sunny, though there was a deceptively strong and cool March wind from the west. I noted both White Dead-nettle and Red Dead-nettle in flower on the main path by the river. These plants are called Dead-nettles as, unlike Common Nettles, the leaves do not sting. Both Dead-nettles are ancient introductions to Britain, but are now so common and widespread as to be classified as native.

A Red Admiral was fluttering around in the vegetation in Palmer's Road Copse.

The path behind Lillywhite's Garage is covered with a wonderful canopy of Blackthorn blossom.

I spotted a good flowering of Ivy-leaved Speedwell on the pavement of Bridge Road near Beech hedge around the car park - my first of the year. This is another ancient introduction which is now widespread and common.

Brian Lawrence had a couple of hours on the meadow today. He noticed the large Ash on the north east of the meadow is flowering. The flowers, which come before the leaves, are petalless with tufts of purplish stamens. Many trees have both sexes, but on different branches. These look like female flowers with stalks bearing flask-shaped pistils.

Swan nesting on Peter Pond
The pen Mute Swan was sitting on her new nest on the island on Peter Pond with her mate nearby. It remains to be seen if the nest is high enough to avoid being swamped by the high tides. The last nesting on this island was in 2013. Since then the swans have nested in the reedbeds on Slipper Millpond. However, the individual swans have changed since the last Peter Pond nesting.

Brian Lawrence also saw the swan on her nest and got a nice close-up photo.

Meanwhile, all was quiet on Slipper Millpond. So far, the Coots have taken no interest in the new nest box on the north raft. The Great Black-backed Gulls were not present.

Nore Barn
I went over to Nore Barn at 14.30 with high tide about 2 hours away mainly to check on the Spotted Redshank. The water was still fairly low when I arrived with only 6 Brent Geese, 2 Black-tailed Godwits and a few Oystercatchers feeding in the channels. I had a walk along the south path to wait for the tide. I found 26 Teal in the channel south of the woods along with the regular colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL).

Spotted Redshank gone?
I returned to the stream at about 15:15 where I found a Common Redshank and two Oystercatchers feeding there, but no Spotted Redshank. The Redshank has caught a small crab in the photo.

The last sighting of the Spotted Redshank was by Peter Milinets-Raby on Mar 16, so I have to assume the bird has probably left our area and is now on its way to its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia. Our last sighting in 2016 was on this day - Mar 21. I will continue to check, but my gut instinct is that it has gone. Maybe it will return yet again in October for its 14th winter with us in Emsworth?

For the history of this remarkable bird go to . . . Spotted Redshanks at Nore Barn

Mistle Thrush
Mike Wells was at the Langstone 'Horse Paddock' this morning and photographed a thrush but was unsure which one it was, Song or Mistle. Mike got two shots of the bird which is undoubtedly a Mistle Thrush. Mistle Thrush is a larger sturdier bird than the more delicate Song Thrush. It has a harder look about it than the softer Song Thrush. On plumage, Mistle Thrush has colder, greyer, upperparts and head and underparts with heavier more rounded spots than Song Thrush.

Here is a Song Thrush in full voice for comparison

Peter's Newts
Peter Milinets-Raby had a surprise today when he looked in the pond. The floating mat of vegetation was covered in tiny tadpoles looking as if they have only hatched a few days ago. So, it seems that what was observed last week was a feeding frenzy of baby newts on frog spawn and possibly on baby tadpoles. Why just baby newts? See Blog for Mar 15. Those newts are nowhere to be seen, probably going down into the depths of the pond. What remained of the frog spawn (hidden in the floating vegetation, so not easily seen) produced tadpoles today. Very fascinating stuff. But, why just baby newts were involved in the feeding frenzy.

MONDAY MARCH 20 - 2017

Early Dog-violet
I was very pleased to find what looks like Early Dog-violet in flower on the western edge of Lumley Road by the stream. Narrower petals straight dark violet spur, not notched. As this area is within the Brook Meadow site the plant can go down as a first on our plant list.

Greater Celandine
I found some fresh growth of Greater Celandine leaves at the start of the path from Lumley Mill to Seagull Lane. This is a regular spot for this delightful plant with very delicate yellow flowers. It resembles the far more common Lesser Celandine, but the two are botanically unrelated. The only other place for Greater Celandine in Emsworth that I know of is the garden of a house at the top of Queen Street where it meets King Street. Greater Celandine was introduced into Britain in Roman times and was once cultivated as a medicinal plant.

Swan nests
I could see the fairly substantial swan's nest on the island on Peter Pond that David Gattrell mentioned to me yesterday. However, it is on a low part of the island which always gets flooded at high water. The nest is built up, but is it high enough? The same question applies to the new swan's nest near the bridge on the town millpond. We shall just have to see how things go.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond on a rather wet morning. Walking in via Wade Lane 9:06am to 10:45am. The highlights were as follows:
Wade Lane: 11 Little Egrets feeding in the churned up pony paddock, 1 Kestrel.
Flooded Horse paddock: 3 more Little Egrets - None on the pond today! 2 Grey Heron. 13 Wigeon - numbers dropping on every visit, 23 Teal - The 120+ seen five days ago, seem to have departed, 2 Chiffchaff singing, 1 Curlew, 7 Moorhen, 2 Med Gulls over, 2 Stock Dove.
off shore: 10 Red Breasted Mergansers, 13 Dunlin, 11 Teal, 2 Bar-tailed Godwit, 4 Grey Plover, 45 Brent Geese - numbers beginning to drop - in fact the channel looked rather empty of waders today with only 3+ Redshank, 5+ Curlew and 20+ Oystercatchers. 3 Greenshank (ringed bird G//R + BRtag//-). 4 Med Gulls, 63 Black-tailed Godwits - I note from previous years, the months of March and April have little influxes. 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 4 Common Gull.
Langstone Mill Pond: The top Holm Oak Grey Heron nest contains 3 young. The nest below the other Holm oak and obscured badly by vegetation has three very grown up young (so easily overlooked this nest). The nest slightly left and below this nest has tiny young (watched adult regurgitate food and saw a very tiny head move). I will update a colony photo for the next post and number all the nests.
Also on the pond were Chiffchaff, 3 Teal and the Mute Swan pair (female on nest, but when she stepped off for a moment there was no sign of any eggs just yet)

SUNDAY MARCH 19 - 2017

Emsworth walk
Jean and I had a very breezy walk down to The Deck for coffee via Brook Meadow and Slipper Millpond. We met David Gattrell and Dan Mortimer on Lumley Road. David told us that the swans had started nest building on the Peter Pond island. I shall have to keep an eye on how it develops. For the last three years the pair have nested in the reeds on the east side of Slipper Millpond.
Over on Slipper Millpond, I noticed that a new nest box had been installed on the north raft since I was last here. The box and what looks like bags of nesting material should help the Coots nesting.

The Great Black-backed Gull pair was on the centre raft as usual, but no sign of any nest as yet.

A Coot was peeping out of the nest box on the south raft which probably means they are nesting there. Meanwhile, a pair of Cormorants came onto the raft to dry their wings.

Emsworth Harbour was largely deserted, but for a scattering of Brent Geese. The town millpond was also largely empty, though we did notice a grey-headed Cormorant fishing there.

The swan nest near the bridge has had some work done to it since I was last here, though there was no sign of the builders. The nest is largely constructed from twigs with a few bits and pieces of litter material mixed in. It still needs to go higher to avoid being swamped by the high tides.

FRIDAY MARCH 17 - 2017

Swan nest
The Mute Swan pair have been working on their nest again near the bridge on the town millpond. The nest is built up to just above the water level, but really needs to go higher to avoid being swamped. No sign of any eggs. The swans were not present.

First Chiffchaff
I was delighted to hear my first Chiffchaff of the year on this morning's walk through Brook Meadow, singing strongly from a tree on the north path. This was almost certainly an early migrant. This was 4 days earlier than last year, though exactly the same date as in 2015. Here is my shot of the 2015 Chiffchaff singing in the flowering cherry plum tree.

The only other bird of interest was a Green Woodpecker calling from the north-east corner.

I had another look at the cluster of fungi that we found yesterday growing on wood chippings on the Seagull Lane patch. The caps have a distinctive radial cracking from the centre of the cap. Some are going dark and the gills and spores are almost black. But they are not dissolving, so they certainly are not Ink Caps as I first thought.

I met Dan Mortimer who is keen on fungi and is anxious to identify these fungi. Dan took a few home with him for further study. He emailed me later to say he thought they were Hora Cap (Panaeolus rickenii). That sounds like a good ID to me.

Butterbur annual count
As the Butterbur flower spikes were showing so well in the area below the seat, and with the surrounding vegetation growing fast, I decided to carry out the annual count this morning. The flower spurs are in their prime and looking splendid.

This was a bit earlier than I usually do the count, but I felt I could not leave it any longer. As usual, to facilitate counting, I divided the area on the meadow below the seat into 12 sections using dead stems to mark out each section.
The total number of spikes counted in the area of the meadow in front of the seat came to 561 which is slightly up on the 530 counted in 2016, but well below the totals of the 3 previous years; 728, 630 and 780.
Much as in the previous 3 years, there were very few flower spikes in the other Butterbur areas; only 20 on the river bank, 12 on the south meadow and 16 at the east end of the causeway. The grand total came to 609, which was similar to last year's 589, but well below the previous 3 years of 792, 824 and 1,150 which was the record count in 2013.
However, looking further back as shown in the chart, Butterbur numbers remain high compared with those in the early years of 1999 to 2010.

Overall, the pattern has not changed from last year with over 90% of the Butterbur spikes now to be found on the area of the meadow in front of the seat. The rise in Butterbur in this area and the fall in the other areas has taken place mainly since 2010 when only 50% of the plants were in the area below the seat. As to why this migration has taken place, my guess it must have something to do with the increasingly overgrown habitat on the river bank and in the south meadow where Butterbur used to flourish and the open area where they now grow so well.

This shows the main Butterbur area looking north from the seat

Black Swan nesting
Roy Hay sent me the following photo he took yesterday of a Black Swan nesting in the canal adjacent to the Chichester marina.


Brook Meadow Workday
There was a good turn out of volunteers for this morning's work session on Brook Meadow. It was led by Maurice Lillie who went through the various tasks for the day. Here are the volunteers taking a coffee break.

The tasks included to continue removing branches from the fallen Crack Willow on the north meadow, clearing Ivy from the two bridges (which are due for repair) and cutting up and moving small branches and twigs for chipping. Wally used the power scythe to clear certain areas of grassland.

For the full workday report and more photos go to . . .

Wildlife Observations
I was interested to see a very noisy gathering of about 20 Carrion Crows in one of the tall trees in the garden of Constant Springs just north of the railway line. I don't recall having seen this number of Crows from the meadow site before. What were they up to?

The Osiers on the east side of the north meadow now have fully open catkins and look beautiful. The Summer Snowflake is flowering as usual on the Seagull Lane patch.

 Dan pointed out a patch of fungi growing among the wood chippings near the tool store. I am not sure what they are, but they look like a crumble cap or maybe an ink cap?


Emsworth to Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby walked the whole area today from Emsworth to Langstone and had the pleasure of bumping into Kate L'Amie - the lady who reported two Jack Snipe at Warblington earlier this month. Here is Peter's report:

Beacon Square from 9:05am - tide low at this point, 2 Brent Geese, 1 Wigeon, 4 Teal.

Emsworth harbour (east): 194 Brent Geese, 12 Canada Geese, 53 Med Gulls with 200+ Black-headed Gulls on the mud with 4 flying over - very noisy with Med Gull calls! 1 Greenshank, 3 Turnstone, 8 Grey Plover, 27 Teal, 4 Coot with 7 on the Millpond. Also on the Millpond were 2 Cormorants and 2 Little Grebes. 13 Shelduck, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 3 Wigeon.

Nore Barn from 10am. 2 male and 6 female Pintail, 16 Teal, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Med Gulls, 1 Spotted Redshank, 39 Brent Geese, 2 Wigeon, 1 Little Egret, 1 Common Gull.

Warblington from 10:18am: 2 Stock Dove, 2 Med Gulls over.

Ibis Field: 2 Canada Geese flew over and landed in the field south of the cemetery - looking for somewhere to nest? 1 Chiffchaff singing (heard), 2 Moorhen, Cetti's Warbler heard singing the once! Green Woodpecker laughing.

Hedgerow behind Conigar: 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 4 Skylark in the big field.

Conigar Point: 1 un-ringed Greenshank, 34 Brent Geese, 8 Teal, 2 Grey Plover, 3 Dunlin, 1 Little Egret, 4 Lesser Black-backed Gull (2 pairs), 1 Wigeon, 1 Red Breasted Merganser.

Off Pook Lane: No Snipe in the SSSI Orchid field after a clumsy clapping hands walk around, 5 Grey Plover, 108 Brent Geese, 89 Teal, 7 Shelduck, 1 Dunlin, 6 Red breasted Merganser, 34 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Med Gull, Female Pond Pintail, 11 Common Gull, 2 Stock Doves.

Wade Lane from 11:24am: 3 Med Gulls over, 2 Buzzard soaring around, 4 Song Thrush and 1 Mistle Thrush in the pony field, 3 Stock Dove, 2 male Pheasant.

Flooded Horse paddock: 10 Teal, 31 Wigeon, Chiffchaff singing, 1 Little Egret, 1 Green Sandpiper, 6 Moorhen.

Langstone Mill Pond: Grey Heron colony as it was last visit (7 occupied nests - some young). Chiffchaff heard singing. 21 Little Egrets roosting - this is generally early - maybe the nice weather has tempted them in? Mute Swan female standing over nest in reed bed and sitting (no eggs noted). Male chasing everything as usual!

Nore Barn from 12:40pm to 1:05pm - tide in: Spotted Redshank showed obligingly to the camera - down to 8 metres! See photos and video link, 3 Sandwich Tern on the buoys (2 adult summer and 1 winter bird).

Video link:

Peter's Newts
Regarding Peter Milinets-Raby's photo of newts in last night's blog, Ralph Hollins thought the they could be feeding on baby tadpoles which is normal behaviour for newts, except that they are normally seen doing so at night by shining a torch into the pond. See . . .

Ralph wonders if this very shallow and shelter less pond might have influenced their behaviour? Is there nowhere for the adult and young Newts/Frogs to hide away during the day? Ralph gives the following link to a You Tube video of a Newt eating a tadpole . . .

Peter's Newts also prompted a response from Steve Hooper who saw something very similar many years ago when he lived in Essex.
"After a very mild autumn, the newts in our pond (mostly Great Crested newts, with a few Smooth newts to make up the numbers) were still laying eggs in early October, and quite a few baby newts (less than half an inch long) were still visible in the pond when the winter weather really set in.
I thought no more about them at the time, fully expecting that the ice would kill them off, but the next spring - one sunny morning around the end of March, as I recall - as the remains of the 'jelly' from the recently-hatched frog spawn was collapsing, there were at least thirty or forty newts, each about an inch or so long, feeding on the remnants.
The group were visible for several days until they gradually dispersed, presumably because they had eaten what was left from the frog spawn, and I wondered whether something similar may have happened here?"


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.

For earlier observations go to . . March 1-15