MAY 15 - 2017
I popped down
to the Hermitage Millponds to check on the new
families at about 2.30pm. First thing I noticed was
how empty the ponds looked. There was no sign of
either the Mute Swan family or the Canada Goose family
that had been so prominent on Slipper Millpond
I found the swan family with 6 cygnets still
intact on the Dolphin Lake which is adjacent to
Slipper Millpond. They probably reached this inlet
from Slipper Millpond by going over the sluice gate at
high water rather than scramble over the high bank.
They can return by the same route.
When I arrived one of
the Great Black-backed Gulls was bathing on the
water while the other parent was on the nesting raft
helping the two chicks to feed. There was no sign of a
third chick, so we can safely assume that only two
Here is a link to a
short video clip of the feeding activity . . .
As for the Canada
Goose family there was no sign of them anywhere,
not on any of the ponds nor in the main harbour.
The only bird of
interest in the harbour was a lone Brent Goose
over by the marina seawall, clearly not having
migrated back to the High Arctic with his fellow
geese. It is most likely to be either ill in some way
or too old to fly all that way.
resident pair of Mute Swans on the town
millpond are still obsessed with keeping all other
swans off the millpond. They were standing guard at
the sluice wall by the Slipper Sailing Club building.
These crazy swans are far more concerned in keeping
other swans away than in building their own nest.
I happened to
meet Barry Collins and his wife Margaret while out
shopping in Havant this morning. Barry told me he had
recently seen about 7 Pearl-bordered Fritillary
butterflies in Stansted Forest which he thinks are the
offspring from last year's reintroduction.
Interestingly, on May 9 Tom Bickerton sent me a photo
of a Pearl-bordered Fritillary that he took in the New
Forest and he mentioned the Stansted reintroduction
scheme. Here is Tom's photo again.
MAY 14 - 2017
I walked down
to Slipper Millpond (12 noon to 1.30) to check on the
new families. I was delighted to see both families on
the pond giving the youngsters a swim - the Mute
Swans with 6 cygnets and the Canada Geese with
There was a constant
flow of passing walkers watching in awe at the big
I was more interested
in the Great Black-backed Gulls which I knew
were due to hatch on the south raft very soon. When I
arrived the chicks had already hatched, presumably
this morning, and were being closely cosseted by their
parents. There are definitely two chicks and maybe a
The presence of two
chicks is a bit clearer on this video clip at . . .
I was interested to
watch the newly hatched chicks interacting with their
parents, with one chick pecking the red spot on the
bill of the adult to promote regurgitation of food
which it did, though I can't see the chick coping with
an item that size.
On the way to
Slipper Millpond I stopped for a chat with David
Gattrell who was busy digging out a new channel
through the reeds on the west side of Peter Pond to
promote a better flow of water. He hopes this will
help to take silt away with the tide. He said the work
is likely to take 2 years to complete! What was fine
example to us all of dedication to a worthy cause!
Sorry about the quality of the pics due to light and
shade. PS David donned his shirt for the photos!
I stopped on the
bridge to watch shoals of large Grey Mullett
swimming around in the warm waters. Here is one small
group going round and round in a circular fashion.
writes to say that yesterday, while holding open the
door to his new home in the main south Hayling
shopping centre to allow men to bring in and fit his
new Electric Cooker and Fridge/Freezer, he saw at
least 8 House Martins flying around just above his
head. Further investigation showed that the House
Martins had built nests under the roof of Ralph's
block of flats and under the roof of the building
across the road. He thought the birds must have found
a local source of mud which he had not spotted. I wish
we had some in Emsworth. No chance of that so it
seems. I've not seen any for 20 years or more.
MAY 13 - 2017
News - Canadas hatch
I had a phone
call late this afternoon from Sharon Corbett, whose
house overlooks Slipper Millpond, to say that five
Canada Geese goslings had hatched today on the centre
raft. I went to have a look for myself at about
7.30pm. The sun was very low which made viewing from
the east side of the pond difficult. From the west
side I got a good view of the nesting pair of Canada
Geese with their 5 goslings on the raft. Took photos
and a video clip.
Video clip of Canada
Geese with their goslings . . . https://youtu.be/uR_9uOIzJFk
Black-backed Gull is still sitting on the south
raft, but she should be very close to hatching.
The Mute Swan
family with 6 cygnets from the Peter Pond nest was
also on Slipper Millpond swimming around near the
Chequers Quay estate. I hope they return before the
Great Black-backed Gull chicks hatch otherwise the
cygnets will be a target for the gull parents seeking
food for hungry kids.
dug this up this afternoon. He believes it to be a
Summer Truffle (Tuber aestivum), but would welcome
confirmation. It measures about 5cms on the longest
side and was in a border beneath an oak and laurel
hedge with a semi clay soil. Chris thinks it is
entirely the wrong place to find one of these. Does
anyone know the answer to this one?
MAY 12 - 2017
I found my
first Southern Marsh Orchid of the year in the
usual spot on the orchid area. I have marked it with a
stick. It is only small so take care when looking for
others. No sign of any others at present.
is now generally in flower. A ginger Bumblebee was
feeding on the flowers of Yellow Rattle - probably
In the same area,
Great Burnet leaves are now prominent, but no
flowers as yet. The tiny white flowers in this area
are Common Mouse-ear.
False Fox Sedge
is now well out in the Lumley area. Grey Sedge
is another newly flowering sedge on the side of Lumley
Road, bringing the total number of sedges recorded so
far on Brook Meadow to 8 with more to come.
I counted 48 Ragged
Robin plants in flower on the Lumley area plus
another 12 on the centre meadow makes a total of 60.
Water-crowfoot is now out on the Lumley Stream -
this shot was taken in front of the Lumley cottages -
Raglan Terrace. Greater Celandine is flowering
well at the end of the path from Seagull Lane to
When I arrived
at Peter Pond this afternoon the 6 swan cygnets
were asleep in the nest. When they woke they snuggled
up to mum almost as if to feed from her, but no chance
of that with swans.
Warblers were singing in the reedbeds near
Gooseberry Cottage, I could hear them clearly, but not
There is no change on
Slipper Millpond apart from the presence of another
pair of Mute Swans, soon to be dispatched by
the resident cob I guess as soon as he spots them.
The Great Black-backed
Gull was sitting very tight with its tail up. Does
that signify things are happening underneath? It will
be very soon.
observation in yesterday's blog that the council
pesticide spraying team did not seem to have attacked
Emsworth so far this year, Chris Oakley says they have
certainly been busy in North Emsworth where he lives.
He says "there has been a particularly virulent
treatment around the road names and trees, but the
gutters and pavement surfaces remain untreated. Surely
it is far more important to deal with these than a few
tree bases". The whole business is crazy anyway.
MAY 11 - 2017
I had a
thoroughly enjoyable morning walking around the two
eastern forts on Portsdown Hill. The weather was warm
- in fact, even hot at times, the views were
magnificent, and the wildlife wonderful, as always!
What a great asset is Portsdown Hill to local people.
I love it.
I parked at
the main observation area to the east of Fort Widley
and walked down hill, passing through the stile and
turning west along the slopes beneath the Fort. Just
about the first plants I saw was a clump of Wild
Mignonette, a typical plant of the chalk slopes.
Here is a shot of it with a rather misty Portsmouth in
Other flowers noted in
this slope included White Campion, Rough Hawkbit,
Salad Burnet, Common Gromwell, Garden Aquilegia,
Cowslips (going over), Kidney Vetch, Bird's-foot
Trefoil and Crosswort.
Gromwell . . . . . Salad
was the dominant grass of the hillside. I was
interested to see how red the spikelets appeared,
particularly on the new growth on the slope west of
Fort Widley. I picked a few stems for my window
display. Glaucous Sedge was also widespread.
Brome . . . . . . . Glaucous
There was no sign of
any orchids behind the fort, but I stopped to admire
the fine views north across to Purbrook Heath.
I went along
to Fort Purbrook, parking on the driveway immediately
opposite the main entrance to the fort which is
private (though I used to park there in the old
days!). Alongside this track I found Common Milkwort
and a bit of Quaking Grass.
I walked up the Fort
Purbrook drive and took the footpath to the left and
along the path in front of the fort which is the best
spot locally for orchids. I did not really expect to
find any orchids, so I was really chuffed to see three
Common Spotted Orchids in flower. Here are a
couple of them, one with a Glaucous Sedge and the
other with a Crosswort.
Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat were singing
on the slopes below Fort Widley. I also had a
Swift flying overhead.
Of the butterflies,
Common Blues were everywhere, usually chasing
around after each other. I also saw some Holly Blues.
But the best butterfly of the morning was a Green
Hairstreak on the path in front of Fort Purbrook.
It had me chasing around after it trying to get a
photo as it skipped rapidly from one flower to
another, hardly stopping anywhere. I was surprised at
how small was the Green Hairstreak compared with the
Common Blue. Note: this difference in size does not
show up in the photos.
Blue . . . . . Green Hairstreak
There were also some
Green Beetles mating on yellow daisies which I
Caroline French's sighting of Swifts flying over her
house in North Emsworth last week, we had two flying
over the houses in Bridge Road this morning.
Hopefully, the first of many. I saw another Swift at
Fort Widley this morning.
whose house overlooks Peter Pond e-mailed me this
morning to say there were definitely six cygnets on
the pond. That is good news, though it is quite a
I went down at about 4pm this afternoon to have a
look. The pen swan was on the nest when I arrived with
the cygnets around her. I managed to count them when
she stood up to preen - definitely six.
My luck was in when
the pen got up and proceeded to take her family down
from the nest onto the water. Brilliant. It was fun to
see the tiny cygnets tumbling down the steep slope
from the nest. I just had to do another video so here
it is, mum, dad and the 6 kids out for a swim on the
pond. For video link go to . . . https://youtu.be/EMpU0Ik1wnI
I came home
via Brook Meadow through an avenue lined with aromatic
Cow Parsley. Worth a visit for that alone.
Ray Cobbett of
Friends of the Earth writes to say that the EU has
temporarily banned the use of 'neonics' laced
pesticides on farmland following evidence that it is a
cause of the catastrophic decline in our bee
populations. However, the ban does not include the
stuff sold in garden centres, Ray says they have had
some success in getting bee unfriendly pesticides off
B&Q's shelves, but there is still work to do in
other local shops, namely Wyevale, Homebase, and other
On the home front,
personally I have not seen any evidence of council
herbicide spraying of the roadsides and pavements in
Emsworth this year. Currently, there is a nice
selection of wild flowers that have made their homes
on the pavement along my road. I wonder if this is a
new policy of HBC to cut down on this nasty
unecological practice. That would be very good
MAY 10 - 2017
This morning I
found the pen Mute Swan on the Peter Pond island
fondly nuzzling at least 5 tiny cygnets in the nest
with dad standing proudly nearby.
I also got a short
video which I have put on YouTube. I think I can see a
6th cygnet on the video. Can you see it? But maybe 5
is plenty! Video link . . . https://youtu.be/N2ilaAuiwPk
Also on Peter Pond I
heard and saw one Reed Warbler moving around in
the reedbeds in the south west corner and heard
another one singing in the northern beds. Too quick
for photos. Peter Milinets-Raby heard three yesterday,
so that's good news for breeding.
I could not resist
snapping this rather fine Grey Heron perched on
the east side of Peter Pond.
There is no change on
Slipper Millpond where the Canada Goose still
sits on the centre raft nest with its mate patrolling
the territory nearby.
Black-backed Gull is likewise sitting on the south
raft accompanied today by a Cormorant drying its
wings. It was calling out while I was there, probably
trying to catch the attention of its mate for a change
over of nest sitting duty.
While watching the
gull, I spotted a Common Sandpiper fly low over
the pond in its typical fluttering flight to come to
rest on the centre raft. I saw two here last week.
Could they breed locally? The Hampshire Bird Atlas
states that Common Sandpiper has attempted to breed in
the county, but not succeeded. But one never knows.
- I heard three Whitethroat singing from different
locations today, two on the north meadow, one on the
west side and one on the east side; also one around
the causeway which I managed to get a distant shot of
at the top of the Cherry Plum tree.
- These have been scarce on Brook Meadow over the past
couple of years. So, I was especially pleased to hear
one singing loudly at the northern end of the south
meadow. I am fairly sure Cetti's Warbler has bred on
the meadow in past years, the last being in 2015 when
Malcolm Phillips got the following photo of one
carrying food for nestlings.
There were not many
butterflies apart from Peacock, Holly Blue, Orange Tip
and Small White. I thought about Green-veined
White, but opted for male Small White as the wings
were not sufficiently veined.
protected wild flower area in the centre of the north
meadow is currently a sea of buttercups, both Creeping
and Meadow. No sign of any orchids as yet.
I had several
flowering firsts of the year as follows.
Yellow Flag - now fully open at the southern
end of the old Bramble path. The other Yellow Flag
plants are yet to flower.
Cut-leaved Crane's-bill - in flower generally
around the meadow. Earliest date on record.
Common Sorrel -
out on the centre meadow. Lesser Stitchwort -
in the same spot as in previous years, centre meadow
north of the causeway. About a week earlier than
False Fox Sedge
- is showing for the first time on the Lumley area and
the centre meadow. It is about the same time as last
year, but getting earlier. I have now recorded 7 of
the 15 sedges on the Brook Meadow list, so still some
way to go.
Ragged Robin -
36 flowering plants counted plants on the Lumley area.
It is too soon to do the annual count.
MAY 9 - 2017
News - Swan eggs hatching!
Milinets-Raby visited Emsworth this afternoon (1:45pm
to 2:45pm) to check on the situation on Slipper
Millpond and Peter Pond. He found one of the Mute Swan
eggs on the nest on Peter Pond island had hatched and
on close inspection, as the adult rolled them over, he
could see that a further three of the five eggs had
the beginnings of little chips dented into the shell.
So possibly another 5 cygnets on the way. Note: this
is one day earlier than my predicted hatching date of
See Peter's video of
the swan with cygnet at . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AedkmHyionA
Other birds Peter
noted on Peter Pond were a Lesser Black-Backed Gull
bathing, 2 Herring Gulls back on the floating raft and
3 Reed Warblers singing from various parts of the
reeds. There is no change over on Slipper Millpond.
Which will hatch first, Canada Geese or Great
provides some more information about the Tamarisk
shrubs that are currently in flower along our
understand from Wikipedia that there are 50 to 60
species of Tamarisk world wide but I believe that the
species planted by the Victorians along our shoreline
is Tamarix gallica) which has been grown in British
gardens since before 1597, and was known from the wild
by 1796. The photo on this web page shows the species
to have the pale pink to whitish flowers which I
associate with our long established shore line
See . . .
few years ago I noticed that a different species with
much brighter pink flowers was being planted
extensively alongside motorways and my attempts to
distinguish this from the traditional seaside plants
came up with two names - a spring flowering species
called Tamarix tetandra and an autumn flowering
species called Tamarix ramossisima. Both these are
also known as Salt Cedar. Both these species have the
bright pink flowers shown in your photo on the
sent a image of a Pearl-bordered Fritillary that he
took this weekend at the New Forest. He only saw this
one and it didn't hang about too long, but he did get
it, just! Tom say the Stansted Estate are planning a
reintroduction of these iconic butterflies, so it
might be worth looking out for them.
Tropicbird (on the left) and Lesser Antillean
Bullfinch (male) on the right.
Collings-Wells sent me a couple of images of tropical
birds taken by his wife Debbie while they were on
holiday in Antigua. A long way from Emsworth
certainly, but I thought the photos would brighten up
MAY 8 - 2017
opening on the rare Wild Clary that grows on
the Council mown verge by the first post on
Christopher Way (north). I will ask the Council to
delay cutting this small verge until the end of the
summer to allow the flowers to open fully and set
Shining Cranesbill is still flowering well
along the path leading from Bellevue Lane to
The much truncated
fallen Oak tree in the fields behind Westbourne
Avenue reminds me of a Henry Moore sculpture.
Black-backed Gull was perched imperiously on a
post in Emsworth Harbour, probably the same one that
Chris Oakley saw on the town millpond yesterday. I
agree with Chris it is certainly a magnificent bird.
It can readily be identified from its dull pink legs;
the legs of a Lesser Black-backed Gull would be more
Tamarisk is now
in full flower and is looking splendid along Western
Parade and all along the shore from Nore Barn to
Warblington. What a fine plant, though it is not
native to this country. It was introduced to this
country in the late 16th century, but is now well
established in the wild. It grows best in conditions
similar to its natural Mediterranean habitat, ie on
sandy ground near the sea on the south coast.
Due to the
chilly north wind, Peter Milinets-Raby only visited
Langstone Mill Pond this morning for 30 minutes! It
was freezing! The highlights from 9am were as
The tide was pushing in and on the last patches of
salt marsh was a single Greenshank and 3 Whimbrel (see
The swan vacancy was
obviously high on the agenda this morning, as there
were 13 Mute Swans off shore, having various bouts
between each other. There was just the one Mute Swan
on the pond along with 2 male and a female Tufted
Duck. There were 3 Reed Warblers singing and despite
the chilly weather the Cetti's Warbler was still in
song. Nothing else making any noise, even all the
Little Egrets and Grey Herons were keeping very low
and tight on their nests, giving the pond a very
quiet, eerie feel!
Apart from single Common and Sandwich Terns feeding in
the channel, there was little else to
MAY 7 - 2017
Meadow work session
I went over to
the meadow this morning for the first Sunday of the
month work session. Nine volunteers attended and the
session was led by Dan.
The main tasks were
hauling logs from the river where they had been dumped
by the local lads, clearing vegetation from around
young trees, cutting and clearing paths and general
Full report and more
photos are on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .
Rattle is now flowering on the orchid area and on
the Lumley area. This is my earliest ever flowering
date for this plant.
I counted 18 flowering Ragged Robin plants on
the Lumley area which is an increase on my last count.
There are more to come.
Of the grasses,
Tall Fescue dominates the meadow at present. It
is such a graceful grass with panicles that hang down
on one side.
The Oak sapling
that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch 5 years ago
is now twice as tall as me and currently is full of
leaf and looks very healthy.
The fresh leaves of
Hoary Ragwort are now emerging on the orchid
area where we shall get a fine display of yellow
flowers and a good source of nectar in late summer.
saw a Red-breasted Merganser on the town
millpond this morning. The first and only sighting of
the winter period. There was also a magnificent
Great black-backed gull, probably one of the
Slipper Millpond pair having a change of venue.
Tern Raft on the Oysterbeds
I was a
volunteer warden at the Hayling Oysterbeds for several
years when Little Terns regularly nested on the
islands. I finished in 2007 when the nesting islands
had been completely taken over by Black-headed Gulls
to the exclusion of the Little Terns, though a few
Common Terns managed to hang in there. Hence, I was
really interested to get Christopher Evans's e-mail
and photo of the new tern raft that has been installed
in the lagoon in front of the island. Christopher says
the only Terns on the raft so far are decoys, though
ominously there are already some Black Headed Gull
nests. If anyone sees terns nesting on the raft please
let me know.
Evans sightings yesterday.
the pond nothing out of the ordinary, though I only
spotted one of the swans. In the bushes at the Wade
Lane end of the pond there was a Reed Bunting, whilst
on the mud just off shore there was a single Whimbrel.
Round by the Royal Oak there were two pairs of swans,
one in the channel and the other on the mud near the
Crossing over the main road and walking north up the
Billy Line there was a Blackcap. Off shore from the
mouth of the Langbrook stream there were two Brent
Geese in amongst the gulls, whilst flying alongside
the stream there was one, possibly two Swallows.
Heading north along the concrete pipe, there was a
Buzzard riding the thermals overhead, possibly the
very pale one that I saw at Easter but it was never
close enough to be sure. Finally, further up the
stream by the houses, there were 5 Mallard ducklings
MAY 6 - 2017
Jean and I had
a short stroll along the beach east of the fairground
on Hayling Island this morning. Sea Kale was in full
flower on the shingle beach along with some bright
clumps of Thrift.
On the grassland
further inland we found several flowers of Flax. The
thin wiry stems and relatively large 5-petalled pale
blue flowers, along with the habitat of dry grassland
near the sea, suggested Pale Flax (Linum
bienne), though I am happy to be corrected.
We also noted
Bird's-foot Trefoil in flower.
PS I have just got
back from an astonishing evening at Fratton Park where
everything went perfectly for Pompey. They played
well, scored 6 goals, and Plymouth and Doncaster
failed to win, so they are champions! A wonderful
pitch invasion at the end with thousands of fans,
including me, my son and my grandson, three
generations,all celebratiing promotion to Div 1.
MAY 5 - 2017
the meadow this morning I had a few firsts. The first
Ragged Robin flowers are now emerging on the
Lumley area. I counted just 5 open flowers, though
more to come. This is the second earliest date on
record for Ragged Robin - the earliest being
I also found the first Yellow Iris flower just
starting to open at the southern end of the south
meadow near the signcase. This is about the same time
as last year.
The first Hairy
Buttercups were in flower along the new path on
the east side of the south meadow created by the
Environment Agency flood defence work. They were
present for the first time last year and its was good
to see them up again. There was no sign of the
Celery-leaved Buttercups that also appeared in this
area last year. Let's hope they also come back.
I also found what looks like Plicate Sweet-grass
(Glyceria notata) growing near the
Hairy Buttercups. This is not a new plant for Brook
Meadow, but is new for this area.
It was good to see the
Gwynne Johnson commemorative Rowans full of
white blossom on the east side of north meadow.
The tall trees with
yellow male catkins on the east side of Palmer's Road
Car Park are White Willows. The Crack Willows
on Brook Meadow are all female with green catkins.
Millpond the Canada Goose was sitting tight on
its nest on the centre raft, along with a nesting
Coot, several Black-headed Gulls and a Cormorant. It
mate seems to spend its time on the north raft where
the Coots have a nest, but no sign of chicks as yet.
The most interesting
birds of the morning were two Common Sandpipers
which I spotted flying across Slipper Millpond to the
centre raft. Here they are on the raft by the Coot
nesting box. The last Common Sandpipers I saw on this
pond were on 30 Apr and 5 May 2012. They are probably
regular at this time of the year as they pass through
on their way to their breeding grounds further north.
The Great Black-backed
Gull was on the south raft as usual. The pen Mute Swan
was snug on its nest on the Peter Pond island while
its mate was on Slipper Millpond. By my calculation
the hatching date should be next Wednesday - May 10th.
The Herring Gulls were not on Peter Pond so I suspect
they will not be nesting there.
I had a quick look at
the pond at the top of Sadler's Walk where I met
Malcolm Greenwood, one of the local residents who keep
an eye on the pond and its wildlife. We watched a
pair of Moorhens feeding their three chicks.
Malcolm said there were no Coot on the pond this year.
Storksbill is still in flower on the grass verge
at the junction of Lumley Road and the main A259
despite part of the verge having been cut. Its very
long pods stand out prominently.
Spotted Medick is also
in flower on this verge, which also supports and fine
array of Soft Brome and Red Fescue grasses.
MAY 4 - 2017
Milinets-Raby had a walk along the Warblington shore
this morning from 9am to 10:30am. His report:
"The tide was just beginning to drop so my arrival at
Conigar Point was perfectly timed to watch the birds
fly in. At Conigar Point were 4 Shelduck, a male
Gadwall, 8 summer plumaged Dunlin, 3 Ringed Plover, 5
winter plumaged Grey Plover and 1 Whimbrel. Also seen
were single Common and Sandwich Terns.
Elsewhere, I had a singing Whitethroat along the hedge
south of the cemetery, a singing Cetti's Warbler in
the Mini reed bed along with a singing Reed
On his walk
around Baffins Pond today Eric Eddles spotted this
cluster of tiny insects that he could not identify.
They are, in fact, spiderlings of the common Garden
Spider (Araneus diadematus). The
eggs were laid in the autumn by the female which spins
a cocoon around them to protect them over the winter.
The spiderlings emerge in the spring and gather into
dense groups, as in Eric's photo, before dispersing by
'ballooning' in which they are carried on the wind by
a thread of silk, and so begin the process of life
Evans had his May Havant U3A walk this morning at
Pulborough Brooks where they joined the weekly
Wildlife Walkabout. They had pleasure in seeing
Whitethroat and Garden Warbler. They also heard and
saw Nightingales - one posed in full view about
30 feet away on a dead branch. Now that's pretty good
compared with Marlpit Lane! Rounding off the walk,
they saw two Red Kites, the first of which was
wheeling around directly overhead.
MAY 3 - 2017
identified the mystery plant that I found near Racton
Park Farm yesterday as Caper Spurge (Euphorbia
lathyris), namely, Ralph Hollins, Jill Stanley, Sue
Thomas and Chris Cope. Thanks to them all.
In fact, looking
through my records I have seen this plant before,
though I had forgotten it!! I found a single plant on
the east side of Peter Pond on June 9 2016 and then a
day later came across a mass of them near the
ornamental boat on the grass verge coming into
Emsworth from the Warblington roundabout.
The plant is so-called
as the fruits resemble capers but are poisonous. It is
also known as Mole Plant as it is said to deter Moles
from entering a garden in which it is planted. The sap
can be irritating, particularly if it gets in the
eyes. Ralph added the basal stem is easy to identify
but the flowering parts at the top can look very
variable depending on the stage of development. See
following link for photos and more info about this
plant. . . http://wildflowerfinder.org.uk/Flowers/S/Spurge(Caper)/Spurge(Caper).htm
very secretive breeding birds and are most frequently
detected by the male's distinctive 'churring' song.
The migration routes used by Nightjars, as well as
their precise wintering areas, were virtually unknown,
but a new study by BTO researchers and others has shed
light on this. By attaching tiny GPS tags to Nightjars
breeding in Britain, Belgium and France it has been
shown that they winter in the savannah in southern
Congo. The study also showed differences in the routes
of spring and autumn migration, with birds favouring a
western route in spring. For more details see . .
Here is a shot of a
Nightjar taken a few years ago at Pagham by Caroline
French. A friend of mine had one turn up in his back
garden in Southsea. They can turn up anywhere while
migrating back to Africa.
MAY 2 - 2017
at Marlpit Lane
This morning I
went to Marlpit Lane to listen for Nightingales. I
heard two songsters here on Sunday April 30. I left my
car near the footpath entrance and walked up the lane,
stopping from time to time and listening intently. I
did not hear any on the way up the lane at about 10am,
but I did hear one singing on my way back down the
lane at about 12 noon. Unusually, it was singing from
scrub on the west side of the lane, not the east side
where they usually are. I heard only one songster this
time, but one Nightingale is a lot better than none!
It was such a
nice morning that I decided to carry on from Marlpit
Lane for a nostalgic walk around one of my old BTO
Breeding Birds Survey squares (Funtington SU7808). I
surveyed this particular square from 2006 to 2012
after which it was taken over by Caroline French, who
is still doing it.
I crossed the main road and walked up the footpath
alongside the wire MOD security fence. I was
accompanied for much of the way by this Small
Tortoiseshell butterfly that kept pace with me.
I sometimes used to
hear and see a Corn Bunting along the MOD
security fence during my surveys. I listened intently
for its distinctive rattling song, but did not hear
anything today apart from Skylarks singing in the
wheat fields and a Whitethroat in the brambles. Here
is a shot I got of a Corn Bunting at this site during
a BBS survey in 2011.
At the end of the MOD
fence, I walked through an attractive woodland
with good displays of
Bluebells and Greater Stitchwort in flower.
The fields to the east
are still occupied by a multitude of pigs and piglets.
I turned left along
Hare's Lane towards Racton Park Farm. The roadside
banks were full of Cow Parsley and Greater Stitchwort.
It was here I found my first Goat's-beard
flower of the year. And a little further along a
nice patch of Crosswort in flower.
It was good to see the
River Ems flowing well at the bottom of hill near the
farm. I love the view from the farm drive across the
valley to Racton Tower.
The Rookery in
the trees behind the farm is much diminished in size
(and noise) from when I used to do the survey. I could
only see about a dozen or so nests, whereas I usually
had over 50. It was good to see young in one of the
I looked around for
the regular Swallows around the farm buildings, but
did not see any. Do they not come any more? A pair of
Pied Wagtails was a small compensation.
A variety of plants
are in flower in the semi wild area to the south of
the farm, including Honesty. There were also some
mystery plants with stiff upright stems decorated with
many long fleshy lanceolate leaves.
The flowering top
reminded me of Herb Paris, but it wasn't that.
The large field at the
far end of the farm had several sheep families with
lambs. Here is a little group of lambs (one family?)
with an adult sheep lying down on its side. As it did
not stir when I approached, I thought at first it was
dead, but I could see it breathing and its ears
twitching. Do sheep normally sleep like this? I have
not seen one before.
in Racton Park Wood were simply wonderful. I don't
recallhaving seen them quite this extensive before.
Well worth a visit. The woods are easily accessible
from the path on the east side. I recall hearing a
Nightingale in these woods many years ago, but today I
only heard Blackcap.
Along the final
section of the path towards the main road, I often
used to see Yellowhammers in the hedgerow, but today
all I could hear were Whitethroat.
I checked the
Cotton Thistles by the Wellness Clinic in
Westbourne on my way home. The leaves are now well
grown, but the bright pink flowers are not likely to
be out before June.
Wild Clary is
flowering on the council mown verge at the north end
of Christopher Way. I counted 10 plants on this small
area of verge by the post, but none on the official
wayside where we used to have over 40 plants.
Here is a shot of
of a spike of Wild Clary with a leaf as a background
so my camera could focus on it.
Milinets-Raby walked in via Wade Lane this afternoon
to visit Langstone Mill Pond (3:25pm to 4:35pm - tide
pushing in to high tide). Along Wade Lane he luckily
grabbed a photo of a Whitethroat that was singing
along the hedge along the lane.
Other birds of note
along the lane were Mistle Thrush, 4 Swallow and 2
Stock Dove.In one of the horse paddocks were 2 Green
Woodpeckers feeding together, with another heard
On the pond were 52 Little Egrets, two pairs of Tufted
Duck, a pair of Gadwall, 2 singing Reed Warblers and
the Cetti's Warbler was still singing
Off shore on the last remnants of salt marsh were 2
Greenshank, 4 Whimbrel and a Common Sandpiper (I
managed a lucky photo with Whimbrel and Common Sand
together - poor quality as it was against the
popped over to Brook Meadow this Bank Holiday where he
noted some birds nesting. The Willow at on the north
path had a pair of Blue Tits using a Great Spotted
Woodpecker nest hole. Tom says, like the
Long-tailed Tits, this is not a good location, far too
accessible, and could predated. A Robin was
nesting in a tree stump at the entrance, which Tom
photographed from distance not to disturb it.
Tom also had a
look at the Great Black-backed Gull nest on
Slipper Millpond where he noticed there was a Coot's
egg also on the raft. He thinks the gulls must have
'raked' out the coot's nesting material to build their
own. Tom is not sure these birds are going to be happy
with Herring Gull nesting close by on Peter Pond - if
Brian Lawrence got a
quick shot of the Mute Swan turning her eggs on
Peter Pond nest. He thinks there are 5 eggs. The
Herring Gulls were on the floating raft and
could be nesting soon?
has solved the mystery plant that she found in
Stansted Forest last week. Today she found a lot more
coming up and they are very young Beeches! Jill says,
"The two 'leaves' are the cotyledons and now the
normal leaves are starting to appear. Always nice to
learn something new, and no wonder I couldn't find it
in the wild flower books!" Fascinating. Well done,
sends some cracking photos of a Cuckoo he came across
MAY 1 - 2017
Long-tailed Tit nest on a tree in the south
meadow which was first discovered by Mike Wells on
April 10 has been predated. It was in a very exposed
position and clearly vulnerable. This afternoon, I
found the top of the nest had been removed and fresh
feathers scattered around which must be the remains of
the chicks. I hope the two adult birds survived the
attack. As to the predator, my guess is Great Spotted
Woodpecker which is a common resident on the meadow,
though it could have been Magpie, Carrion Crow or even
from Peter Pond where the Mute Swan is still
sitting snugly on her tower nest on the island.
Assuming she laid the last egg on April 5th, then
hatching will start after 36 days on May 10th.
I have noticed a pair of Herring Gulls taking
an interest in the floating raft in the centre of
Peter Pond. Would they nest there?
Over on Slipper
Millpond the nesting Canada Goose is still
settled on the centre raft. Its mate was on the south
raft with the Coot nest, but no Coot chicks as yet.
The ousted Great Black-backed Gull is now well
settled on the south raft.
Best sighting of the
afternoon was a small group of Mediterranean
Gulls splashing around on Slipper Millpond. What
super birds they are.
Tony Wootton found these Bloody-nosed Beetle larvae
down by the army gates on the Western side of the
earlier observations go to . . April