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for April 1-9, 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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Hollybank Woods
I had a stroll around this lovely local woodland on a warm spring morning. Parking on Emsworth Common Road I entered the woodland site by the northern entrance as shown in the photo.

I took the first path through the wicker gate to the east. This is where I found a good flowering of Common Dog-violets - distinguished by their pale notched spurs.

Further along the path Bluebells are now looking very good with more to come. Well worth a visit.

I stopped for a nice chat with Andrew, the woodman, who was working in his regular spot at the far end of the northern path surrounded by various projects. Andrew is a fund of information about all aspects of woodland management. For example, he explained that this pile of cut logs in the photo would be shaved and used as stakes like the one he is holding. Stop and have a chat if you are passing.

Early Purple Orchids
I went across the border stream onto Longcopse Hill. I could not manage the usual log bridge across the stream, but found another easier crossing a little further downstream. I went onto the main orchid area in the far end of Longcopse Hill where a good 20 Early Purple Orchid spikes were in full flower. There were also lots of spotted leaves indicating more to come.

Other flowers in this area included Dog's Mercury, Lesser Celandine, Wood Anemone, Common Dog-violet, Butcher's-broom, Bluebells but surprisingly few Primroses. Also, my first Wood Sedge of the year.

Camera issues
I used my new Lumix TZ70 throughout the walk, but inadvertantly had it set on a dark exposure which meant all the photos came out very dark. I lightened them for use in this blog, but that is not really satisfactory. I must be more careful. I am also still having a problem with close-ups. With the camera on Intelligent Auto, macro seems to work only when really close to the subject.

Holly Blues
We have had two Holly Blue butterflies in the garden over the past week. They are attracted to the Ivy hedges, though the book says the eggs are laid on Holly in springtime and Ivy in autumn. I have not yet managed to get a photo, so here is one I took last year of one in the garden.

Emsworth to Langstone
Peter Milinets-Raby was so pleased to actually see something this morning after returning home yesterday very disappointed after just an hour when the fog rolled in and made it impossible to bird watch! But, today was better, but it was all a hard slog to squeeze anything out of the morning. The highlights were as follows:
Emsworth Harbour from 6:16am - low tide at sunrise! 5 Coot with 8 on the Millpond, 1 Little Egret, 4 Canada Geese, 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, 3 Greenshank in the stream by the wall. 7 Shelduck, 5 Med Gulls heading north, 2 Brent Geese.
1 Linnet along by Beacon Square
2 Black-tailed Godwit and my first Whimbrel at Nore Barn - nothing else.
Ibis Field from 7:10am: 2 Chiffchaff singing, 1 Willow Warbler singing, 1 Blackcap singing
Cetti's Warbler singing by stream by the path (over 200 metres from the mini reed bed at Conigar Point - possibly a second bird??). 8 Med Gulls over, 2 Moorhen.
Behind Conigar Point: Cetti's Warbler singing along with Chiffchaff.
Conigar Point: 2 Shelduck, 1 Greenshank, 1 Lesser Black-backed Gull.
Off Pook Lane: 1 Dunlin, 4 Med Gulls over, 21 Grey Plover (all winter plumage), 2 Shelduck, 47 Bar-tailed Godwit (all in winter plumage, except one in full summer), 11 Black-tailed Godwit (all in summer), 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 1 Canada Goose flew east along channel, 6 Mute Swan off shore, occasionally having a scrap!
Langstone Mill Pond: 48 Little Egrets (with 17 seemingly sitting on nests already).
Grey Heron colony: Nest 10: Male has a mate helping him build the nest up. A rogue male was causing havoc amongst the colony and eventually settled down in the Ivy covered tree on the right - bringing the odd stick in - This could be the start of a new nest - watch this space!
Mute Swan on nest, Pair of Tufted Duck, Pair of Gadwall, 6 Teal, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff and Blackcap all heard singing.

Ducklings at Baffins
Eric Eddles had a nice surprise this morning at Baffins Pond with this family of eleven Mallard ducklings.

For a report on yesterday's Havant Wildlife Group walk at Baffins Pond
go to
. . .


Pavement plants
I walked up Victoria Road on my way to Brook Meadow this morning, noting and photographing the variety of plants that manage to eke out an existence in the gap between the garden walls and the pavement. I used my new Lumix TZ70 camera which was pretty good except for taking macros of small plants.

Thale Cress was the first to attract my attention outside houses 30 and 32 Victoria Road. This plant can easily be confused with two others growing in the same habitat, Hairy Bittercress and Shepherd's Purse. Thale Cress has a slim stem arising from a basal rosette with a cluster of white flowers at the top and often with very slender pods which stick out prominently from the stem.

Thale Cress . . . . . . . . . . . Hairy Bittercress

There are also some good patches of the garden escape Mind-your-own-business along the garden walls.

I was not expecting to see a good patch of Shining Cranesbill with a single flower open on the wall outside number 2 Victoria Road. The plants I made such a fuss about on the Christopher Way path yesterday had no flowers.

Brook Meadow
I met Debbie Robinson at the Seagull Lane entrance who commented that the meadow was looking very beautiful this morning and I agreed with her. To prove it, here is a shot I took while walking through the north meadow.


Debbie also pointed out that the missing piece of the vandalised gate had been shifted towards the bridge and would probably soon be in the river. I have informed Maurice Lillie about it who will want it moved.
The large Ash on the north path has lots of flowers, but no leaves as yet. The buds are there, but not open.

Wrens were particularly vocal on the meadow this morning. I also had one singing in my back garden, though I could not see it.  

Hermitage Millponds
Passing Gooseberry Cottage by Peter Pond, I stopped to listen to the sweet descending notes of a Willow Warbler in full song. It later moved towards the meadow and was singing near the Lumley gate. This was our first on the meadow for a few years. We do hear them occasionally, usually at this time of the year, but they do not stay to breed. I gather they tend to fly further north to nest.

The pen Mute Swan was sitting snugly on her nest on the island on Peter Pond. She is certainly brooding eggs and I think we can start counting the days to hatching. Assuming she laid the last egg on April 5th, then hatching should commence in 36 days on May 10th.
Meanwhile, over on Slipper Millpond her mate, the cob swan was busy trying to drive off a pair of Canada Geese. He had quite a job on his hands with two of them as they often went off in different directions.

Interestingly, when I arrived one of the Canada Geese was on the centre raft. There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls, which made me wonder if the Canadas might be thinking about nesting there!

I met Brendan Gibb-Gray later in the Delicatessen cafe having coffee. As his house directly overlooks Slipper Millpond, I asked him to keep and eye on the situation and to let me know any developments

Bumblebee ID
Bryan Pinchen was just browsing this wildlife blog and felt the need to correct me over the Bumblebee feeding on White Dead-nettle on Apr 6 which I identified as Bombus lucorum. In fact, it is Bombus hortorum as Bryan explains below.

Bryan explains as follows:
The white tail - lemon yellow bands or dark yellow bands separation of B. terrestris and lucorum does only apply to queens of those species, and is only relevant if the bee in question has a single yellow band on the front of the thorax and a single yellow band on the abdomen. Your specimen clearly shows a yellow band at the back of the thorax (in addition to the one on the front edge) and a yellow band on the abdomen.
This puts into the trio of B. hortorum, B. ruderatus or B. jonellus. The two former species can be hard to separate, but ruderatus is rarer and significantly less widespread than hortorum. Hortorum also looks more untidy, due to having long body hair, whereas ruderatus looks like it's had a crew-cut. Jonellus is equally as abundant and widespread as hortorum, but often overlooked and misidentified in respect of having the entirely misleading 'English name' Heathland Bumblebee (one reason why I never use English names when referring to bumblebees). It is present on Portsdown Hill locally and I've seen photos of one from Farlington Marshes. One of the key separation features of hortorum and jonellus is face and tongue length - hortorum has a long face and tongue for accessing nectar in flowers with a long calyx-tube, whereas jonellus has a short face and tongue. Based on your photograph showing a 'shaggy-looking' species on a flower with a long calyx-tube, I have no hesitation in confirming it as Bombus hortorum. It will be a queen, being a rather late species to emerge from hibernation, in respect of the later flowering period of plants with long calyx-tubes.

I am very grateful to Bryan for pointing out this error. Clearly, where I went wrong is failing to see the separate yellow band at the back of the thorax which in my photo appears to merge into the yellow band on the abdomen. But I am now aware of the difference and shall look more carefully in future.
Bryan is author of the excellent 'Pocket Guide to the Bumblebees of Britain and Ireland' which I use regularly to check on Bumblebee ID, but clearly I got it wrong in this case. I dread to think how many others I have got wrong that Bryan has not seen!

Mallard ducklings
Christopher Evans saw this little group of Mallard ducklings this afternoon on the River Lavant in West Dean Gardens. Slightly worryingly, mum was nowhere to be seen. This is the first local Mallard family I have heard about.


Mallards in garden
The first thing I saw in the garden when I came down this morning was a female Mallard on the grass. It flew off only to reappear a few minutes later with in company a male! We do occasionally get Mallard coming into the garden but they are not regular visitors, despite the presence of the Westbrook Stream at the end of the garden. The pair was back later in the afternoon feeding on the seeds around the bird table.

The last Mallard in the garden came several times in May-Jun 2016. The most we had was 4 in June 2014. We have also found a Mallard egg in a flower pot on a couple of occasions, but there has been no serious attempt at nesting. However, a few years ago my neighbour had a family of ducklings in his garden which were all taken one night by a Fox.

Waysides News
This morning I did a tour around some of the local waysides on my bike to see what was coming up. Starting at Washington Road I moved to the Emsworth Recreation Ground and then across to Christopher Way from where I went over to the Westbourne Open Space at the top of Westbourne Avenue.
The area behind the bowling club on Emsworth Recreation Ground is being progressively invaded by Blackthorn. This is a pity as this grassland is rich in several interesting species of which Field Wood-rush, Meadow Foxtail and Sweet Vernal Grass were out today. My Lumix TZ70 camera would not focus properly on any of these small plants. I tried both Intelligent Auto and Program macro. The solution was to find a spot in the shade with a plain background.

Field Wood-rush on left and Meadow Foxtail on right

I also found my first Creeping Buttercups of the year

The White Poplars are also spreading onto the grassland in the north west corner of the recreation ground.

Their very pale leaves are now sprouting allowing the tree to live up to its name.

On to Christopher Way where I found the Shining Cranesbill leaves shining brightly. They are extensive on the path from Bellevue Lane to Christopher Way. It should be a good display of flowers this year.

I also found my first Herb-Robert of the year in flower on this path. I was also pleased to find my first Sticky Mouse-ear of the year on the edge of the footpath on Christopher Way. One can see from the hairs why it is called sticky!

Wild Clary leaves are showing on the grass verge of Christopher Way, mostly on the Council mown area by the first lamp post.

I rode across to the Westbourne Open Space at the top of Westbourne Avenue where I met up with Terry Lifton for the second day running. She was delighted when I pointed out the cylindrical flowering spikes of Meadow Foxtail grasses that are now prominent on this site. They don't photograph too swell, but here are a few together on site.

I also found Sticky Mouse-ear and Thyme-leaved Speedwell on the edge of the foot path. I needed the dark background of my bike saddle for this photo to come out.

I found about a dozen mushrooms growing in small clumps on the Westbourne Open Space. There might well have been more hidden in the long grass.

Both caps and gills were pure white and the flesh was firm, if not solid.

I am certainly no mushroom expert, but I think they might be St George's Mushrooms (Calocybe gambosa), so called because it fruits as early as 23rd April, ie St George's Day.

Rather surprisingly, I did not see any butterflies during my morning walk. However, I was able to watch a Bee-fly exploring a hedge at the top of Westbourne Avenue. I tried without success to photograph it.

Finally, sorry, but I could not resist a selfie with the new camera on the Westbourne Open Space - just in case anyone does not know me!


North Thorney
I had a walk along the old NRA track on North Thorney and down to Little Deeps this morning to look and listen for early migrants. I happened to meet Terry and Paul Lifton who were on a similar mission. There were certainly lots of Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps and, of course, Cetti's Warblers, but no Sedge Warblers as yet. The Liftons did not find any either.

I did not see any sign of swans nesting on the Little Deeps, but the Liftons found a Mute Swan on a nest just below the gates on the Great Deep. They also saw two Bearded Tits at the Little Deeps - this male was taken a few years ago.

The weather was perfect for picturesque views across the harbour with the masts of boats reflected in the calm water.

Along the marina seawall I found a Bumblebee feeding on White Dead-nettle flowers. From its size I suspect it is a queen. The white tail narrows it down to Bombus terrestris or Bombus lucorum. Bryan Pinchen says "In the spring, queen B. Lucorum and can be told from the very similar B. terrestris by the lemon yellow banding and clean white tail". So this one seems to fit best the B. lucorum.

Mediterranean Gulls were present everywhere this morning, their yelping calls echoing around the sky. I found a large flock on the shore immediately beneath the marina seawall. I counted 44 individuals in this shot. They must like Emsworth!

Another 6 Mediterranean Gulls were perched on a nearby rock.

A pair of Mute Swans was on the pond on the Deckhouses Estate, but no sign of any nesting. They looked like young swans.

There is a nice clump of Yellow Archangel near the start of the path to the old Marina Farm. This is the cultivated form, subspecies argentatum which has silvery patches on its leaves.

No sign of Swallows around the dilapidated stables.

Butterflies seen on North Thorney included Orange Tip, Small White, Comma, Peacock, Speckled Wood and Small Tortoiseshell. Here are the photos I managed to get.

I called in to Slipper Millpond on the way home where one Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft, but still no definite sign of nesting.

I met Mike Wells at Slipper Millpond who told me he had just seen a pair of Long-tailed Tits building a nest on Brook Meadow. We both went over to the meadow where Mike showed me the nest which was on a tree in the south meadow, but he asked me not to publicise the exact location of the nest so as to prevent disturbance. Good point. I will keep on eye on the nest as it could easily be predated by Magpies or Crows. Here is a selection of the photos that Mike took of the nesting activity.

Portsdown Hill
Jean and I thought it would be nice to go up onto Portsdown Hill to have our lunch. We parked in the observation area by Fort Widley, facing north to avoid the glare of the low sun. The view across the fields towards the hills of Purbrook and beyond was magnificent. What a wonderful world!

The grass slope immediately below the car parking area was carpeted with hundreds of delicate flowers of Slender Speedwell. Note the rounded leaves. I also had a quick look at the Cowslips which are looking good behind Fort Widley.

Camera news
For those who take an interest in these things, I used my new Lumix TZ70 for all the photos throughout the day. I left it on intelligent auto setting, since I got into a right old muddle trying to set it up myself. The camera is more intelligent than me! On the whole, it turned out well with some decent picures. In fact, I am getting to like it!

Mandarin Ducks at Staunton
Mike Wells and his wife and grandchildren were wandering around the lake in Staunton Park on Wednesday afternoon, when he spotted some rather frantic chasing in the middle of the lake. It turned out to be two male Mandarin Ducks competing for the attention of a female Mandarin.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby quickly visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (2:45pm to 4pm - tide way out). His report follows:

"All the usual birds of the last few days were still present. Singing Chiffchaff (x2), 1 Willow Warbler, 1 Cetti's Warbler, 1 Blackcap, the male Mute Swan was still sat on the nest (with 4 Mute Swans waiting with intent off shore - there were actually six of them yesterday having a fight, so it looks like two have lost and moved on - word has certainly circulated around that there is 'trouble 't the mill'). Here is the male on the nest on the millpond.

Not much off shore, except for 104 Black-tailed Godwits today (146 yesterday). No Bar-tailed or Grey Plover. Just one Shelduck and no sign of any Brent Geese (4 yesterday).
Grey Heron nest 9 has three young and Nest 7 has two young and there were 31 Little Egrets displaying and some sitting on nests.
The only new arrivals were a pair of Tufted Duck to the pond, joining the lingering 10 Teal (with 4 more on the trickle of water in the paddock).

Mystery Wasps
Chris Oakley says, "Over the past few weeks we have been pestered by an influx of wasps. They are not aggressive but there are a lot of them. There appear to be two distinct types in equal number. One is larger than the other, which I believe to be a German wasp. You expect it in the autumn but at this time of the year it seems strange. Have you any ideas?"


Brook Meadow
I had a pleasant stroll through Brook Meadow this morning. Sunny, but still with a chill wind. I am persevering with my new Lumix TZ70 camera, though I am struggling with it and am sorely tempted to go back to my old and trusty FZ8.
Lots of bird song. I counted 6 Blackcaps (2 in Palmer's Road Copse, 1 by Lumley gate, 1 in Lumley copse, 1 on the west side of the north meadow and 1 in the brambles close to the north path) and 2 Chiffchaffs. Others heard included Wren, Robin, Great Tit, Woodpigeon and Stock Dove.
I found a fine Cow Parsley in full flower by the observation fence in Palmer's Road Copse and further along the path the first Spanish Bluebells. Brown spikelets of Lesser Pond Sedge are out on the river bank below the south bridge.

There are several promising-looking holes in the east bank of the Lumley Stream, viewable from the casual path down to the stream from the Lumley area. But no sign of any Water Vole activity.

A white butterfly was fluttering around on the Lumley area. I managed to get a quick shot of it when it came to rest on the ground. Its white wings would seem to indicate a male Small White, the first brood of which in spring may have pure white wings with no marking. I also had a beautiful Small Tortoiseshell on the north meadow, probably the same insect that I saw here on Sunday.

I also spotted a Harlequin Ladybird in this area - my first of the year. There were several 7-spots about.

There are lots of Goat Willows with female catkins on the east side of the north meadow behind the cutting tip.

I had my first Distant Sedge of the year, not on the Lumley area where I was expecting to see it, but on the north edge of the orchid area. Grasses are starting to flower. I noted both Meadow Foxtail (photo below) and Tall Fescue were out on the north meadow.

I spoke to the Norse litter collector loaded up with bags praising him for doing a good job. He was standing in for our regular litter man - William the black chap - who was off today.

Hermitage Millponds
The pen Mute Swan was well settled on her tower of a nest on the island of Peter Pond, brooding her eggs. I wonder if she has added to the five I saw on Apr 1. Her mate was keeping other swans at bay on Slipper Millpond. There is a nice display of Summer Snowflake beside the crash barrier on the south side of Peter Pond.

One Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft when I arrived but it flew off to the harbour. I do not think they have started nesting. The small nest box on the north raft has a barricade of twigs at its entrance which indicates Coot are nesting.
What looks like Lesser Swine-cress is growing again against Brendan Gibb-Gray's garden wall at the start of the west path of Slipper Millpond.

Japanese Knotweed is growing again on the path behind Lillywhite's Garage despite regular attempts to get rid of it. It is well out of the way in that location and I think should be left. It's an interesting plant and has attractive flowers.

Jackdaw in garden
I had this fine fellow in the back garden this afternoon. Not an unusual visitor, but always welcome.


Hayling Gorse webs
Ralph Hollins commented on the silken webs that Chris Oakley found yesterday on Gorse on Hayling Island.

Ralph says, "Of the three species which make similar nests looking like Spider webs, the Gorse Spider mite is the only one which does so on Gorse - Brown-tail Moth and Lackey Moth caterpillars both feed on green leaves. The spider mites are tiny (half a millimetre long) but are so good at digesting Gorse that they have been introduced to several countries where Gorse is a problem. For basic info see . . .

I first heard of them several years ago when Alistair Martin came across them on Hayling in summer when what seemed like a stream of rusty-red liquid was running out of the web and closer inspection showed that the stream of liquid was composed of thousands of tiny insects emerging to allow the wind to carry them to a new home.

I have updated my blog with news of a Spider Mite web which I found yesterday on Sinah Common, including a photo of the web and a superb magnified shot of one of the mites." See . . .

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a spare hour this afternoon, so he popped along to Langstone Mill Pond walking in via Wade Lane from 1:45pm - low tide.
Along Wade Lane: 1 Buzzard sat on the usual bare tree on the left as you walk in, 1 Chiffchaff heard singing, 1 Swallow flying around above the farm, 1 Blackcap heard singing - first I've heard.
Horse Paddock: 7 Teal and 4 Moorhen.
Langstone Mill Pond:
Grey herons: Nest 7: Has at least one tiny young in it. Nest 1: Adult is sitting on a second brood. Nest 11: still being worked on with both adults bringing in sticks. 45 Little Egrets actively building and displaying.
11 Teal, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Cetti's Warbler all heard. I've just realised, I have not had a singing Reed Bunting yet? Should be starting up soon? 21 to 32+ Med Gulls over.
Male Mute Swan serenely sitting on nest - no other swans around.
An adult Peregrine flew over the pond and headed south over Hayling bridge.
Off shore: 2 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, 2 Teal, 1 Greenshank, 4 Brent Geese, 53 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Bar-tailed Godwit.
In the distance off Conigar Point were 22 Grey Plover, 6 Dunlin 3 Shelduck and 4 Black-tailed Godwits.


Brook Meadow
On this morning's walk down to the meadow, I was confronted with a badly damaged kissing gate at the Seagull Lane entrance to Brook Meadow. This clearly looks like vandalism. The gate still works, though does not close properly. I informed Jennifer Rye who will report it to Havant Borough Council.

The Hawthorn hedge on the west side of the meadow which has been laid is now full of fresh green leaves and is looking fine and healthy.

There is still a very good show of Coltsfoot on the embankment beside the access ramp to the north of Emsworth Railway Station.

Maybe this is a good year for these plants as the Havant Wildlife Group also commented on its abundance during their walk in the Alver Valley a couple of weeks ago.

Swallows are here
Colin Falla and his wife Claire saw an early local Swallow flying over the marshes north of Thorney Island on Saturday 1st April. Later Colin saw a second Swallow flying low over the grass on Thorney Island itself. Lovely to see them back and good to know they are back on Thorney. Peter Milinets-Raby saw what was probably the first local Swallow flying over Langstone Mill Pond on March 28th. Colin did not get a photo of the one he saw, but here is one perched at North Thorney taken a few years ago.

Langstone swan killed
I had e-mails from Russell Brown and Peter Milinets-Raby reporting the sad news that one of the nesting Mute Swans on Langstone Mill Pond had been killed by two dogs on Saturday. The carcass is near the old nest site.

Peter writes as follows: "I could not sex the dead swan, as it was partly hidden in the reed bed, but is probably the female as the male was sat on the nest. I talked to a few locals and the rumour flying around was that a lady with a couple of Labrador dogs was seen chasing the swan causing it some serious harm. It didn't survive.
The male was looked content on the nest until a another male flew and landed on the pond This new arrival had a female in tow, which wisely kept her distance on the muddy shore. The resident male puffed up his wings and left the nest pronto and swam towards the intruder, who wisely flew off the pond onto the muddy shore. The resident male followed and a big fight ensued, which the resident swan won - well look at the size of him!. He did not return immediately to the nest, which incidentally had two eggs in at least. In fact, I left before he even walked off the muddy shore.

The fight and the winner

What happens now is anybody's guess, but I think the resident male will boss the pond as he always does and will continue to sit on the eggs and with luck they may hatch. But, I would not be surprised, however, if he abandons the nest after a couple of weeks and gives up the pond. I don't think the other male has enough aggression in him to take over, so I think there may well be no breeding Mute Swans on Langstone Mill Pond this year. This is very sad news, as this pair have thrilled and entertained many people over the years. Dogs and dog owners, I'll leave you with your own conclusions!"

Langstone Mill Pond
And here is Peter's regular bird survey:
I walked in via Wade Lane 11:35am to 1:07pm - low tide and very grey. 1 Buzzard on usual tree, 2 Stock Doves, 8 Med Gulls over, male Pheasant, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gulls over.
Horse paddock: A trickle of water with 4 Teal, Green Woodpecker and Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding on the grass together? 4 Moorhen, Chiffchaff heard singing, 1 Stock Dove.
Off shore: 124 Black-tailed Godwit, 61 Bar-tailed Godwit, 21 Grey Plover, 4 Brent Geese.
Langstone Mill Pond: 16 to 37+ Med Gulls over, 9 Teal, Chiffchaff heard singing, Willow Warbler heard singing - first of the year - typical date. Cetti's Warbler heard, 27 Little Egrets displaying, pinching sticks and building up nests.

Cocoons on Gorse
Chris Oakley took a walk through the sand dunes down on Hayling this morning, where he found Gorse in full flower. But he was a little concerned to see several bushes covered in dense silken tents which he thought looked like a Brown-tailed Moth infestation.

Unfortunately, there are no larvae visible in Chris's photo to confirm the identification. Maybe going back to check in a week or so will establish this. Meanwhile, I did a little research on alternative explanations and came up with two possibilities: the Lackey Moth and the Gorse Spider Mite, both of which have silken tents. I would appreciate some help from anyone familiar with these things.


Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow to take photos for the regular work session led by Jennifer Rye. They were mainly engaged in clearing brambles from the north meadow to expose a rather fine fallen Crack Willow tree. Here are seven volunteers deservedly having a rest on the fallen tree.

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

Wildlife observations
I heard five Blackcaps singing in different parts of the meadow this morning. Clearly, they have arrived, though all five may not stay with us to breed. Three is our usual ration.

It has been a good couple of days for butterflies on Brook Meadow. Jennifer Rye reported seeing 3 Commas, 3 Peacocks, 1 Red Admiral and some Small Whites yesterday. Today I saw my first Orange Tip ( male) in flight which did not stop, a male Brimstone, a Small White and a cracking Small Tortoiseshell which did perch nicely for a photo.

I spotted a few Nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) resting on nettle leaves with their front legs typically stretched out. You need to approach very gently as they are hyper sensitive to movement.

I noticed the first Cuckooflowers were starting to emerge on the orchid area on the north meadow, though we never have many on the meadow, unlike the Bridge Road Wayside. Ground-ivy is also in flower on the Seagull Lane patch. This plant grows nowhere else on the meadow.

Peter Pond
The Mute Swan was off the nest when I looked this morning, but the eggs were covered, so I could not see if there had been any addition to the five I saw in the nest yesterday. Swans lay one egg every two days.

I met David Gattrell, the warden of Peter Pond, throwing food out for the ducks. He told me he had recently introduced 24 new Mallards, male and female, all ringed, onto the pond. This should bolster the resident population and provide a firm breeding base for the future.

David invited me onto the Peter Pond site to see the new trees he and his son had planted. There are a variety of species and all are protected with plastic tubes. This guy deserves a medal for all the work he has done on Peter Pond.

David also told me he was keen to install a floating raft with a Mink trap in one of the main channels on the pond. David has had experience of catching and disposing of Mink on other local sites and felt this would be of great benefit to local wildlife, including Water Voles. I said the Brook Meadow Conservation Group would be interested to cooperate and later mentioned this to Jennifer Rye (Chair of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group) who was very enthusiastic about the idea.

Slipper Millpond
When I arrived the two Great Black-backed Gulls were mating on the centre raft. After this activity both gulls settled down on the raft, though I could not see any definite indication of a nest.

One cannot go anywhere in Emsworth without hearing the constant cries of Mediterranean Gulls. I counted 6 on Slipper Millpond. The two in this photo appeared to be a pair. What cracking birds they are.

I found just one flower on a Tree Mallow plant on the west side of the pond.

Other news
Chris Oakley caught these two Mallards having a snooze on the swan nest near the bridge on the town millpond. I have not seen the swans anywhere near the nest for over a week. It looks abandoned.

Eric Eddles had not seen this Barnacle x Canada hybrid goose for a while, but it turned up on Baffins Pond today - with a regular Canada Goose for company.

Roy Hay spotted this Water Rail on a stream near Fishbourne Meadows this afternoon. I think the one we have had in the river on Brook Meadow for much of the winter has moved on.


Photography day
I had a morning out with my 8 year old grandson Joe who was taking photos for the Maurice Broomfield Schools Photographic Competition 2017. Four photos could be entered two of 'Wildlife/Chichester Harbour and two of 'Any Subject' which gave him a pretty free hand! The closing date was tomorrow, so, we had to get our skates on! The presentation of prizes will be at 4pm on Friday 28th April at the Community Centre.
Anyway, Joe and I went around Emsworth, Brook Meadow and the millponds with Joe snapping away at anything that took his fancy. He finished up with about 200 images from which he chose four to enter for the competition.
I should add that Joe took all the photos himself with no assistance from me except that I did provide him with a small compact camera (Sony WX350). Here is a snap of Joe on the Lumley Path overlooking Peter Pond.

The following report is a few of my own observations of wildlife interest with my own photos.

Hermitage Millponds
Only one of the Great Black-backed Gulls was present on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond. When we arrived it was sitting down as if on a nest, but when it got up and started to walk around then I realised that there was no discernable nest. It is still a bit early for nesting, but they are very interested!

The resident Mute Swan pair was on Slipper Millpond. Over on Peter Pond, the swan nest on the island was exposed to reveal no less than 5 eggs. This was surprising as I did not see any eggs when I looked two days ago. As swan eggs are laid one every two days, clearly there must have been some in the nest but were covered over. Good policy. So, maybe we can look forward to a fine family of cygnets?

From the small footbridge to the north of Peter Pond, Joe and I watched David Gattrell, the pond warden, with waders on and shirt off working in the channel through the reedbeds in the north of the pond. We both took a photo and got a cheery wave from him. David was not actually cutting the reeds, but bending them over with a long rod to create a platform. I think he calls it 'thatching'.

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!

For earlier observations go to . . March 16-31