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Whatever your problems or mood let wildlife brighten your day (Ralph Hollins)

for Early May 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

Send wildlife observations and photos to Brian Fellows at . . . brianfellows at

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current

MONDAY MAY 15 - 2017

Millpond News
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 yesterday.
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 were hatched.

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.

Meanwhile, the 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.

Pearl-bordered Fritillaries
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.

SUNDAY MAY 14 - 2017

Millpond news
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 5 goslings.

There was a constant flow of passing walkers watching in awe at the big millpond show!

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 third.

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.

House Martins
Ralph Hollins 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.

SATURDAY MAY 13 - 2017

Millpond 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 . . .

The Great 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.

Chris Oakley 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?

FRIDAY MAY 12 - 2017

Brook Meadow
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.

Yellow Rattle is now generally in flower. A ginger Bumblebee was feeding on the flowers of Yellow Rattle - probably Bombus pascuorum.

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.

Stream 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 Lumley Mill.

Millpond News
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.

Two Reed Warblers were singing in the reedbeds near Gooseberry Cottage, I could hear them clearly, but not see them.

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.

Pesticides spraying
Following my 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.

THURSDAY MAY 11 - 2017

Portsdown Hill
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.

Fort Widley
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 the background.

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.

Common Gromwell . . . . . Salad Burnet

Upright Brome 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.

Upright Brome . . . . . . . Glaucous Sedge

There was no sign of any orchids behind the fort, but I stopped to admire the fine views north across to Purbrook Heath.

Fort Purbrook
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.

Birds and butterflies
Both 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.

Common Blue . . . . . Green Hairstreak

There were also some Green Beetles mating on yellow daisies which I cannot identify.

Swifts are here!
Following 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.

Millpond News
Dan Mortimer 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 handful!
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 . . .

Brook Meadow
I came home via Brook Meadow through an avenue lined with aromatic Cow Parsley. Worth a visit for that alone.

Pesticides news
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 places.

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 news!


Millpond News
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 . . .

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.

The Great 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.

Brook Meadow
Whitethroat - 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.

Cetti's Warbler - 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.

The specially 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 before.

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.

TUESDAY MAY 9 - 2017

Millpond News - Swan eggs hatching!
Peter 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 May 10th!

See Peter's video of the swan with cygnet at . . .

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 Black-backed Gulls?

Ralph Hollins provides some more information about the Tamarisk shrubs that are currently in flower along our coastline.

Ralph says, "I 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 plants.
See . . .

A good 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 blog."

Pearl-bordered Fritillary
Tom Bickerton 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.

Tropical birds
James 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 the blog.

Red-billed Tropicbird (on the left) and Lesser Antillean Bullfinch (male) on the right.

MONDAY MAY 8 - 2017

Waysides news
Flowers are 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 seed.
Shining Cranesbill is still flowering well along the path leading from Bellevue Lane to Christopher Way.

The much truncated fallen Oak tree in the fields behind Westbourne Avenue reminds me of a Henry Moore sculpture.

Harbour news
A Great 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 yellow.

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.

Langstone Mill Pond
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 follows.
The tide was pushing in and on the last patches of salt marsh was a single Greenshank and 3 Whimbrel (see photo).

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 report.

SUNDAY MAY 7 - 2017

Brook 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 clearance.

Full report and more photos are on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .

Wildlife observations
Yellow 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.

Millpond News
Chris Oakley 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.

New 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.

Christopher Evans sightings yesterday.
On 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 path.
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 plus parents.


Hayling Beach
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.

FRIDAY MAY 5 - 2017

Brook Meadow
Walking around 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 28-Apr-09.
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 News
On Slipper 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.

Waysides News
The Musk 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.


Peter 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 Warbler."

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 again.

Pulborough Brooks
Christopher 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.


Caper Spurge
Four people 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. . .

Nightjar migration
Nightjars are 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 . .,4W8NT,3GJW16,IJK7B,0

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.

TUESDAY MAY 2 - 2017

Nightingale 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 area.

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 nests.

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.

The Bluebells 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.

Waysides News
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.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter 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 calling nearby.
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 occasionally.
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 light)

Brook Meadow
Tom Bickerton 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.

Millpond News
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 they do.

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?

Stansted mystery solved
Jill Stanley 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, Jill.

Cuckoo images
Colin Vanner sends some cracking photos of a Cuckoo he came across recently.

MONDAY MAY 1 - 2017

Brook Meadow
Sadly, the 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 Sparrowhawk.

Hermitage Millponds
Better news 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.

Bloody-nosed Beetle larvae
Tony Wootton found these Bloody-nosed Beetle larvae down by the army gates on the Western side of the Great Deeps.


For earlier observations go to . . April 10-30