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for late May 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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Brook Meadow
I went over to do a last count of orchids before I go away for a few days. Southern Marsh Orchids 31, Common Spotted Orchids 16, Bee Orchids 3. All these counts are well up on previous years, but for the Bee Orchids, though there must be more of these to come, if we can find them in the long grasses!

A double flowered Bee Orchid today

Ragged Robin flowers are now going over, so I will use the count of 135 on May 20 as my final count for the year. This year's count is fairly good, just a bit down on last year, but well up on some earlier bad years.

Great Burnet flower buds are turning bright red,

Cetti's Warbler was singing from the east side of the north meadow.

Malcolm is back!
I had heard news Malcolm Phillips was back in town so I was not at all surprised to get an e-mail from him this morning with an attachment of several photos taken yesterday on Brook Meadow. Sorry, I missed him as I was in Chichester for the day. He says he was only in Emsworth for a few days to get some papers sorted out before he returns to his new home and family in Cuba, but he hopes to get the internet in his house out there, so he can keep in touch and send us a few photos. We shall look forward to that.
Looking through Malcolm's made me realise how much we had missed him, not just for his pictures, but for his sharp eyes for small wildlife. Three of the photos were firsts of the year for Brook Meadow.
Best of all was this recently emerged immature Broad-bodied Chaser. Its flight season lasts until early August, so there is plenty of time to get further sightings of this beautiful dragonfly as it matures.
Malcolm also got our first Beautiful Demoiselle of the year - a fitting name for this lovely female with brown wings and green body.

Malcolm managed to catch up with a White Plume Moth. I think these are the tiny white moths which can be seen fluttering around in the low grasses and flowers on the orchid area and very difficult to photograph.

Malcolm also got a ragged Peacock and a magnificent Song Thrush.

Salsify cut down
Chris Oakley was just in time to get a few pictures of the Salsify flower on the wayside on the corner of Nursery Close in north Emsworth this morning, before the Council cutting team came along and it was gone.

Green Woodpecker
Sue Thomas had a helping hand from this Green Woodpecker to get rid of the ants on her garden patio this morning. She says, "This bird does not normally visit our garden but I recall a visit or two at this time last year. Perhaps he knows where the biggest ant colonies are!" Very likely Sue, they do so love ants which they catch with their long sticky tongue.

TUESDAY MAY 30 - 2017

Chichester walls
After having spent an hour or so pondering the strange, but compelling, paintings of Sidney Nolan at the Pallant Art Gallery this morning, to clear my head, I had a stroll around the Chichester Walls.
The embankment below the east wall opposite the site of the old Shiphams factory has a glorious kaleidoscope of flowers including Oxeye Daisies, Common Knapweed, Hedge Bedstraw and Beaked Hawk's-beard. I was also surprised to see some flowering Wild Clary, which seems to be popping up in many places. I am always faintly suspicious about how 'wild' the wild flowers on this embankment really are, but they certainly warm the heart and clear the head!

Nearby is the New Park Centre which I see now has a small wild flower embankment of its own, newly created by the 'Transition Biodiversity Group' according to the notices. It has an attractive, if somewhat 'plastic', array of flowers including the inevitable Oxeye Daisies, Common Knapweed, Buttercups, Poppies, Red Campion, Common Vetch, etc.

I was surprised to see Salad Burnet and yet more Wild Clary! This must come in with the seed mixture.

The notice says the area will be mown only occasionally to allow flowers to set seed, so I shall be interested to see what it looks like in a few years time.

Just outside the main wild flower area is a large patch of what looks like Fat Hen. I don't recall having seen Fat Hen grow in this way on a otherwise mown grass verge.

Moving round to the north wall, the embankment here has a well established crop wild flowers, including lots of rough grasses that one would expect. It was here I found my first Hedge Bindweed flowers of the year (with overlapping sepals) and my first Common Toadflax.

Coming through the Bishop's Palace Gardens, I had a look in the small wild flower area adjacent to the vegetable growing plot which had Bladder Campion and Dotted Loosestrife in full flower. Again, as before I am not sure how 'wild' these plants are.

On the way home along the A259 I stopped at Appledram Lane (south) to check on the rare Spiked Star-of-Bethlehem (Ornithogalum pyrenaicum) that grows so profusely on the roadside embankment at the north end of the lane. Parking in the small lay-by a little way down the lane, you can walk back along the public footpath to view the flowering spikes.

It is a good year. Today. I counted 102 spikes, though there could well have been more near the road. I have not done a count for several years, but I know Chichester Harbour Conservancy used to do an annual count which was usually in the 80s.

I was also pleased to find a few open flowers of the equally rare Hairy Bindweed (Calystegia pulchra) which has been growing in the hedge near the small lay-by for many years. Its large trumpet shaped flowers have attractively coloured pink and white stripes reminiscent of Sea Bindweed. It is a garden plant though escapees soon become established and flourish once they get a foothold in suitable ground.

Southsea beach
This morning Maureen Power went down to Southsea. The beach at the eastern end (opposite the old Royal Marines museum) was looking very colourful - a mass of Red Valerian in flower, some Sea Kale (mostly over) and Yellow Horned Poppies. Worth a look if you're down that way.

Black-headed Gull hoods
Tom Bickerton was intrigued by the pictures of the Black-headed Gull hoods of differing sizes on the blog for May 27.

He says . . . "Gulls sexes can be distinguished by various means, head shape, girth, bill size, the length relationship between the primaries and the tail. I've now got to go and have a real good look at them just to make sure my new theory is correct. One way of telling a male lapwing is the extent of the bib. If I'm correct then this could apply to Black-headed Gull. The bird on the right looks to be male, on the left female, I would like to see have seen her primaries to be sure. With photographs you can never be 100% sure, it's a lot easier in the field, as you can judge size comparisons. If I'm correct then by far this would be the easiest way to sex these birds, without getting hold of one. You also have to consider variations in age and hormonal extremes, but I think it's worth a real good look, just to be certain."

One problem I see with Tom's theory is that, in my experience, that the small hoods (left) outnumber the large ones (right) by a quite a lot.

MONDAY MAY 29 - 2017

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 7am to 8am (very low tide). He says, the most exciting thing was this unusual cloud formation taken from the Royal Oak pub looking across towards Emsworth.

I did a bit of research on cloud formations and Peter's looks like the rare wave-like aperitas cloud which has only recently been officially recognised by the International Cloud Atlas. See news item . . . .

Peter says there was not much in the way of birds to be seen. On the pond were 2 male and 2 female Tufted Duck, 2 singing Reed Warblers, Cetti's heard several times and late Blackcaps and Chiffchaff were briefly singing. No Reed Bunting this summer. The Grey Heron/Little Egret colony was quiet after a night of rain, though a few more young egrets were around. Peter got this cracking shot of a Little Egret on a nest with two chicks.

Off shore were 10 Med Gulls and 6 Little Egrets feeding in the tiny trickle of water in the channel, with a single Common Tern flying over. About 3 Oystercatchers seen: no other waders present. Peter says he has not even seen a Little Tern, which shows how bad the spring/summer has been.

White Ermine moth
Keith Wileman sent these shots of an attractive White Ermine moth which had been clinging to the glass on his front door all morning. What a beauty.

Mystery hoverfly
Chris Oakley had this interesting hoverfly in his conservatory today, which he thought looked similar to the one photographed by Eric Eddles in yesterday's blog. But this one has a prominent yellow 'nose'. Chris does not think it's a Volucellini but possibly one of the Meridontini. Does anyone know what it might be?

SUNDAY MAY 28 - 2017

Local Millpond News
While passing Peter Pond this morning I stopped to listen to the churring song of a Reed Warbler in the south west corner in the reedbeds in the south west corner of the pond. I caught sight of a pair of birds flitting around, which is a good sign of breeding activity. I got a quick snap of one of them.

There is no change on Slipper Millpond with the two Great Black-backed Gull chicks sleeping on the south raft and a parent keeping guard.

Brook Meadow
Coming back through Brook Meadow I noted a very attractive patch of Yellow Flag just north of the causeway from the Lumley gate.

I may have found Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) on the at the north end of the path that crosses the Lumley area. It is distinguished from the similar Soft Brome (Bromus hordeaceus) by its longer panicle - in this case it was 14cm. Soft Brome panicle is 5-10cm long. I usually find Smooth Brome in this area of the meadow, though I will check it again in a few days.

Bee Orchids
Maureen Power went looking for Bee Orchids at Northney Common this morning and found about 50 of them in the same place as last year - on the open bit of ground to the west of the pole with an owl box.
She found some more Bee Orchids growing in the patch of ground just south of the Langstone bridge - on the NE corner between the road to Hayling and the road to Northney. There was also a group of Common Broomrapes in that area.

Unusual hoverfly
Eric Eddles spotted this tiny hoverfly at Baffins Pond this morning. He believes it is a Narcissus Bulb Fly - Merodon equestris . It is a hairy bumblebee mimic and has many colour forms allowing it to resemble several species of bumblebee. It is said to be frequent over much of Britain. Eric would appreciate confirmation.

SATURDAY MAY 27 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I had an e-mail from Maurice Lillie this morning to say that local tree surgeon Sam Burnett would be on the meadow to chain-saw various lumps of fallen tree that are too big for the conservation to handle themselves. I went over there to have a look at the work, but arrived too late. I met Sam just as he was leaving via the Seagull Lane gate. I had a look at his work on the north meadow which looked very good, leaving two piles of neatly stacked logs.

It was a much cooler day than recently, so no chance of any butterflies. So, I spent a little time admiring some of the local grasses that are now coming into flower. Here are Cocksfoot and False Oat-grass.

I also noted the first of the Reed Canary-grass spikelets standing tall over other grasses on the centre meadow. This tall grass will soon dominate parts of the meadow.

I was also attracted by the attractive hanging purple flowers of a Common Comfrey on the river bank. Other Comfrey plants on the meadow have pale, almost white, flowers.

Black-headed Gull hoods
Eric Eddles has noticed an interesting variation in the size of the brown hood of summer plumaged Black-headed Gulls. On the left is what he calls the normal hood and on the right is one where the brown extends much further down the neck. Eric wonders if anyone has any ideas about this variation.

I can't say I have noticed this variation in Black-headed Gull hood size before so I thank Eric for pointing it out. I have looked through my books and searched the internet with no clear answer to Eric's question. In fact, I have not seen any direct reference to hood size variation anywhere.
If one looks at the images thrown up by a Google search, then most do have the 'normal' hood where the black curves neatly beneath the bird's chin. However, there are a few in which the hood extends further down the neck, rather like a bib. Looking through my own files of Black-headed Gull photos, one theory that presents itself is that the hood extension down the neck maybe due to the way the bird has to stretch up to look upwards.

Above is a photo I took at Hayling Oysterbeds in April 2007 showing a number of Black-headed Gulls on the main nesting island. A couple of birds have the hood extension down the neck and both are standing and one is looking up and calling, like the one in Eric's photo. So, maybe the hood extension is simply a physical effect on the dark feathers from stretching the neck?
Or, in the end, maybe it is 'just one of those things' - ie one of the 'normal' variations in bird colouring that occurs between individuals? Who knows?

FRIDAY MAY 26 - 2017

Millpond News
On the way down Queen Street towards Slipper Millpond I noticed Broad-leaved Willowherb in flower on the pavement. My first of the year.

The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls were on the south raft with their two chicks. The following photo show one of the two adults feeding morsels of regurgitated food to the chicks. Both chicks look healthy and are growing fast.

I spoke to a lady whose mobile home directly overlooks the nesting raft and she told me there were definitely three chicks at first, though one was quickly lost. I suspected at the time of hatching - see my comment on this blog on May 14th.

There were several large Grey Mullett swimming up stream under the footbridge from Peter Pond which they often do at high tide. I was interested to see them making use of one of David Gattrell's newly dug channels.

From the footbridge, I also watched a large mobile dragonfly zigzagging up and down the main channel through the reedbeds. This is likely to be a male Hairy Dragonfly which is always the first of the dragonflies on the wing in May and early June. However, I did not get a clear view or a photo, so this must be a calculated guess.

Brook Meadow
I came back through Brook Meadow to look for the two extra Southern Marsh Orchids that Jennifer Rye said she had found yesterday immediately south of the main orchid area. She had marked them with sticks and were easy to find. These take what might be the final total of Southern Marsh Orchids for 2017 to 36 with 31 on the main orchid area and 5 on the Lumley area.
I had a look around for any more Bee Orchids to add to the one I found yesterday on the Lumley area, but did not find any.
However, the Common Spotted Orchids are now looking at their best.

THURSDAY MAY 25 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow on a very warm, or should I say hot, morning. Coming to the end of Seagull Lane I noticed that the entrance gate to Brook Meadow that had been damaged has now been repaired and so the kissing gate works again, just in case you are interested in these things.

Passing through the gate, I turned left and walked along the casual path by the Jubilee hedgerow which is kept cut by the group for access to this area which is largely left unmanaged. Broad-leaved Docks can grow remarkably tall if they need to; some in this area are a good 7-8 foot tall. Blamey, Fitter and Fitter give their height as '1m or even 2m' but these are taller than that.

I passed several large Teasels along this path which had their 'water tanks' full to the brim despite the absence of recent rainfall.

These so-called water tanks come from rain collecting in a water retentive cup where the leaves come together at the stem. It is thought that the plant absorbs water from these tanks, which is a useful strategy for very dry weather. It is also thought that insects falling into the tanks and drowning provide extra nutrients for the plant. Thus, Teasels are sometimes referred to as 'protocarnivorous'. The water tanks also provide a barrier to small insects climbing up to the flowers. It is interesting to reflect on how apparently 'simple' plants like Teasels have evolved such clever strategies to assist in their survival. Clearly, those that did not evolve this strategy have not survived!

I missed the annual snowfall of Crack Willow seeds which cascade down onto everything at this time of the year. Here are some I found this morning already covering a bed of nettles.

The large Red Oak tree planted by the Wilkinson family in November 2012 in memory of Tony, who was a long standing and valued member of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group, is looking good with its large leaves showing well against the clear blue sky. A fitting memorial to a sadly missed colleague.

The three standard English Oaks, which were planted at about the same time in the area, are also doing very well. Very much things for the future!

On the north meadow I discovered a new group of 4 quite small Common Spotted Orchids just north of the 'official' fenced orchid area. They have been here in previous years - Grid Ref: SU 75060 06161. Another 5 were on the main orchid area, plus another 7 on the Lumley area, makes a grand total of 16. There could be more coming. The spikes are now developing nicely as this photos shows.

As for Southern Marsh Orchids I think we are coming to the end of their season. The flowers are still looking good, but I could not find any new ones and the overall count remains at 34 with 29 on the orchid area and 5 on the Lumley area. Late news: Jennifer Rye tells me she found another 2 Southern Marsh Orchids just south of the edge of the orchid area.

I was delighted to meet Lesley Harris walking through the meadow by the Lumley area. She said how she was missing the meadow, but caring for her seriously ill husband is very demanding. We had a chat about the orchids and she went off to the north meadow to have a look at them. Come back soon, Lesley. We miss you.

Meeting Lesley brought me a stroke of good fortune. Almost immediately she had left, I went a little way onto the Lumley area and came across the first Bee Orchid of the year! It had one flower open, but there's more to come. I put two sticks by it so that it would not be accidentally trodden on. This was the earliest Bee Orchid I had ever recorded on Brook Meadow. I had a look around for others, but no sign of any.

As the weather was so warm, I was expecting to see lots of butterflies, but alas, the only ones I saw were a Red Admiral and this Speckled Wood which perched conveniently for me to take its picture.

Finally, I was delighted to meet a group of school children with their teachers who had walked from Thorney Island to have lunch on Brook Meadow. I introduced myself as from the Brook Meadow Conservation Group and the children asked questions about the group and the meadow. I gave their teacher a copy of our leaflet and said it was lovely to see so many children on the meadow and that they were always very welcome. They kindly posed for a quick photo by the south gate. Oh that other schools could follow their example as we have such a beautiful and interesting meadow to share with them.

Other news
Brian Lawrence sent me an extra photo of a Common Tern and a Black-headed Gull having a dispute in the air -taken yesterday while he was at Hayling Oysterbeds.

Today Brian found the Mute Swan family intact with 6 cygnets in Dolphin Lake.


Hampshire Farm
It was a warm almost summer morning for my slow leisurely walk around the new open space in the north of Emsworth called Hampshire Farm Meadows (though I still refer to it simply as Hampshire Farm). It is a very large area of mostly newly seeded grassland (it was originally arable farmland), though a large number of young trees have been planted by the new conservation group.
It is certainly a fine open space for people to walk in and it was being well used when I was there. The paths are good and there are several black seats, like we have on Brook Meadow. However, the meadow is very young and botanically not terribly interesting.

There are lots of common grasses, including Meadow Foxtail, Tall Fescue, Yorkshire Fog, Smooth Meadow-grass, Cocksfoot, Barren Brome and the not so common Crested Dog's-tail (which I think was planted). Flowering plants included masses of Oxeye Daisies, Black Medick, Bird's-foot Trefoil plus some Hairy Buttercups. I was half hoping for an orchid, but I did not see any.
Probably the most interesting flower was Alsike Clover. This is similar to White Clover with white or red tinged flowers, but it has taller more erect flower stems and its leaves lack the white chevrons and have veins branched 2-3 times. I think this is one.

Alsike Clover was originally introduced from S Europe and SW Asia and formerly sown as a fodder crop. However, it often occurs in seed mixtures for meadows, which is where those on Hampshire Farm originated.
Other observations. A Grey Heron was on the pond with Mallard and a few Black-headed Gulls. Whitethroats singing at the northern end of the meadow. Swallows were feeding. Several Common Blue butterflies were fluttering over the grassland.

Marlpit Lane Nightingale
I had a walk up and down the lane later this morning. Lots of Blackcap song, but just one Nightingale. This bird was singing from the open area about half way up the lane, north of the second main parking area. So, it looks as if we are down to just one Nightingale at Marlpit this year. But that is a lot better than none! I hope it finds a mate and breeds successfully and returns next year.

Red Kite over Emsworth
David Minns had a Red Kite fly over his house in North Street Emsworth at 13.06 today, drifting westwards. A first for him at home. Did anyone else see it? They are very occasionally seen over Emsworth, so remember to look up! This is what they look like. Photo taken by Neal Scott over Portsdown Hill earlier this year.

Hayling Oysterbeds
Brian Lawrence had a pleasant walk in the sun from Langstone to Hayling Oysterbeds and back. He saw plenty bees and a few butterflies. He spotted a Black-headed Gull chick already out on the main island - the first one I reckon. See the little brown chick with dark spots in Brian's photo. He also got this cracking photo of one of the Common Terns that are nesting on the new raft in flight.

TUESDAY MAY 23 - 2017

Brook Meadow orchids
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to check the orchids since Maurice Lillie found some more were up yesterday.
Southern Marsh Orchid numbers continue to creep up. I counted a total of 34 today, with 29 on the main orchid area and another 5 on the Lumley area. This is 3 more than my last count on 20-May, though one flower was lost as it had been knocked down. Some of the flower spikes are now looking very fine as shown in this photo.

More interesting was the appearance of our first Common Spotted Orchids of the year. These flowers are much paler than the bright pink Southern Marsh Orchids though their leaves are clearly spotted.

I counted 5 Common Spotted Orchids on the main orchid area and another small group of 7 on the Lumley area, making a total of 12. All the orchids are marked with sticks.
I think these Orchids are the descendants of those planted by Jennifer Rye on 24 June last year. Jennifer transplanted 4 Common Spotted Orchids onto the orchid area and 6 onto the Lumley area, so they have multiplied slightly. Last year we had a total of 7 Common Spotted Orchids in addition to those planted by Jennifer, so these have yet to show themselves.
Other observations. The Great Burnet flowers are starting to open on the main orchid area. Bittersweet is flowering for the first time this year outside the Seagull Lane gate.

I bumped into Brendan Gibb-Gray doing his regular litter pick on Brook Meadow, so he posed for a photo. Well done, Brendan, keeping the meadow and the ponds clean and tidy is a very important job. Much appreciated.

Bee Orchids on Warblington verge
I had an e-mail from Di Ashe yesterday reminding me that the Bee Orchids were due on the roadside grass verge near the Warblington roundabout where they have been in the last couple of years. I went to check on them this afternoon and found them in roughly the same place as before.

One group of about 30 plants, all in bud, was fairly close to the roundabout and directly in front of a flowering Dogwood. Another group of 8 plants, some of which were in flower, was a little further along the verge towards Emsworth. Here is a shot of one of the Bee Orchids with four flowers open.

Now we need to protect them from the Council cutting teams as the Bee Orchids on this verge have been mown down during routine cutting in the past two years. So, I have e-mailed Michelle Good (of HBC) asking her to pass on the message to the appropriate person so as avoid cutting these attractive and valuable flowers until the end of the growing season, ie autumn. I have also placed notices near the two groups of orchids saying 'Bee Orchids grow here. Please do not cut' as an extra reminder to the cutting teams, for we know the word often does not filter down to the men on the job. The orchids are away from the edge of the road and therefore should easily be avoided during routine cutting operations.

Garden birds
Visitors to the garden today included a pair of Greenfinch. Greenfinches have still not recovered from the trichomonosis disease which hit them about 10 years ago. Before 2007 my average weekly Greenfinch count in the garden was between 9 and 12 birds, whereas now I am lucky to see two or three. But that is better than nothing.

I also had a pair of Stock Doves feeding on the grass today, very good to see with that lovely green sheen around their necks. Stock Doves were seen very rarely in the garden until this year when they have become almost regular. Here they are with a Collared Dove for comparison.

Eric Eddles witnessed for the first time a couple of Carrion Crows anting in the school opposite his house near Baffins Pond. In anting the bird presses its body against ants which promotes the insects to secrete formic acid which in turn kills off lice and other parasites on the bird's body. Very clever.

MONDAY MAY 22 - 2017

Langstone Mill Pond
I stopped at Langstone Mill Pond on my way to Hayling Oysterbeds this morning, mainly to have a look at the Little Egret colony that Peter Milinets-Raby has been monitoring recently. It is very easy to see the Egrets on and around their nests high in the trees behind the pond. There were several Egrets clearly sitting on nests, but I did not get a chick, unlike Peter Milinets-Raby in yesterday's blog who got a cracking photo of one with its parent. Maybe the lower bird in this photo is a chick?

Other observations. Two Mute Swans on the pond, presumably the new residents following the demise of the previous female swan. Two Reed Warblers singing from the reedbeds. Swallows hawking over the pony field. One pair of Gadwall on pond.

Hayling Billy Line
From the parking area opposite the garage I made my way down the Hayling Billy Line towards the Oysterbeds, keeping a close look on the edge of the track for interesting plants. I used to record wild flowers on the reserve during my period as a voluntary warden from 2007-2012, but have not done much since that time, so I was interested to see if anything new was about.
I was not expecting to see Salad Burnet or Kidney Vetch (the former being quite widespread) neither of which I had recorded on the site before.

These plants reminded me of the chalky basis to the soil in this area. I also had my first Greater Knapweed of the year in flower. But there was no sign of the Salsify that I used to see regularly. I did spot my first Crested Dog's-tail of the year.

Far less expected was a single flowering spike of Wild Clary on the side of the track just past the first turn to the left, growing out of a patch of flowering Black Medick.

As this is a rare plant in South Hampshire here is the Grid Ref: SU 71885 03902. Martin Hampton recently reported some Wild Clary on the new cycleway down the Eastern Road to Portsmouth - this was on Facebook.

It was good to see 10 Highland Cattle on the marshy ground to the east of the main track. I recall Pete Potts getting me to check the cattle during my wardening stints on a Tuesday morning.

Hayling Oysterbeds
I was really looking forward to see the new floating raft that had been installed by the RSPB in the main lagoon to provide a nesting site for Common Terns, and maybe Little Terns in time. It was put in place earlier this spring after the main colony of Black-headed Gulls had nested on the shingle islands. This would give the newly arriving terns somewhere to settle down. Well, the raft is working - I counted 26 Common Terns on the raft, suggesting at least 10 nests. Only 2 Black-headed Gulls had made nests on the raft.

I spotted another 4 pairs of Common Terns among a host of Black-headed Gulls at the western end of the main island. They seemed to be sitting on nests. It will be interesting to see how they get on. Last year saw 57 pairs of Common Terns nesting at the oysterbeds.

The main shingle islands were dominated by hundreds of Black-headed Gulls sitting on nests.

I was pleased to meet up with Wez Smith, who has been the RSPB warden for Langstone Harbour for the past 2 years. I introduced myself and was delighted to hear that Wez lives in Emsworth and regularly reads this blog! Here is Wez monitoring the terns.

Concerning Little Terns, none was on the Hayling Oysterbeds, but Wez said about 40 were currently on the main RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour, though numbers are generally down this year. He estimated that around 4,000 Black-headed Gulls were nesting on the main islands and 800 or so on the Oysterbeds.
For more details about the installation of the tern raft see Wez's blog at . . .

I was a bit puzzled by a small streaky bird perched on one of the posts. My first inclination was Meadow Pipit which is common and would be expected in this habitat. However, I was distracted by a distinctive smudgy dark spot that the bird had on its front, which brought Corn Bunting to mind. However, the bill was much too sharp for a bunting, so I will stick with Meadow Pipit unless I hear to the contrary! Also, one of my shots shows the bird apparently singing, but I did not hear the distinctive Corn Bunting rattle song.

Lots of fresh Glasswort was emerging on the mudflats to the west of the main lagoon.

Sadly, the mound overlooking the lagoon is in a sorry state compared with what it used to be. Brambles and Teasels have taken over pushing the smaller flowers out to the edges. The path still goes over the top of the mound with two nice wooden seats. Weld is growing well at the top. However, the famous 'bus shelter' still survives, a very useful refuge when rain comes. But don't hold your breath for a bus!

Young Blackbirds
Back home I had my first young Blackbirds of the year in the garden. Here is one of them.

I am also hearing young Starlings, but have not seen any in the garden as yet.

SATURDAY MAY 20 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to do further counts of orchids and Ragged Robin which are both flourishing. I counted a total of 31 Southern Marsh Orchids in flower with 26 on the main orchid area in the north meadow and a further 5 on the Lumley area. This is a new record, beating last year's total by 10. I will continue to monitor the orchids as more will probably pop up in time. There was no sign of any Common Spotted or Bee Orchids which usually flower a bit later.

A pair of Southern Marsh Orchids just emerging on the Lumley area

I counted a total of 135 Ragged Robin plants in flower, with 110 on the Lumley area and a further 25 on the main centre meadow. This is approaching last year's total of 154 counted on May 28, so I will do a final count in about a week's time.

I also noticed that Common Spike-rush is out in the usual spot just north of the Lumley puddle. I have not checked for the Slender Spike-rush on the main Lumley area.

There is a fine growth of Hairy Buttercup on the new path near the Gooseberry Cottage bank in the south meadow. To confirm its identification I pulled up a single plant which revealed a root structure with no sign of a bulb which would have indicated Bulbous Buttercup. As the ground was very wet and soggy I was able to replace the plant, hopefully without too much damage.

Sadly, there is no sign of the Celery-leaved Buttercup that grew so well with the Hairy Buttercup in this area last year. I have no explanation for this as there were many plants here last year that appeared to be seeding.

There is also a splendid growth of Plicate Sweet-grass (Glyceria notata) along this path. This interesting grass is far more abundant in this area than anywhere else on the meadow.

Nearby, a Cetti's Warbler was singing from the bushes just inside the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. This is the second time I have heard it at this location this spring. A sign of nesting?

Slipper Millpond
Brendan Gibb-Gray reports that it has been a remarkably quiet week on Slipper Millpond with an almost complete absence of Mallards and Coots. He has not seen the Canada Geese and their goslings either. The swans and their cygnets have spent much of the week in Dolphin Creek, which he thinks may be a tactic to avoid aerial attack from the Great Black-backed Gulls. The swans were back on the pond this morning, but keeping very close to reeds on the pond edge.
Brendan asks, "Are the Great Black-backed Gulls frightening everything away, or is there another reason?"
I agree with Brendan that the problem is likely to be the gulls which are huge birds and fierce predators of young birds. However, I have not seen, or had any reports, of aggressive behaviour from them this year, unlike in previous years. I was wondering if they were becoming more docile, having been 'put in their place' by the Canada Geese.

Nightingales at Marlpit
Dave and Kathy Cuell were delighted to hear the song of a Nightingale from their parked car in Marlpit Lane at 11am this morning. The song was coming from the scrub on the west side of the lane. I have occasionally heard song from this side of the road, though usually it comes from the east side.

South West Hayling
Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group
Today a group of 7 walked a circuit of West Hayling from the Gun Site lay by clockwise via Gunner Point and ferry on a day of mixed weather.

The masses of tree lupins were spectacular as most had not been eaten by aphids this year. Sea kale was equally spectacular but we were too late for the green winged orchids. A few plants of Nottingham catchfly were seen. Other flowers included yellow horned poppies , sea sandwort, beaked hawksbeard, mouse ear hawkweed, hoary cress, spring beauty, tamarisk, hares tail grass, birdsfoot trefoil, storksbill, spindle and thrift.
Several common blues, a white and a painted lady braved the weather. Caterpillars of lackey moths, Oak Eggar moths and possible white satin moths were seen.

Birds seen or heard included skylarks, whitethroats, blackcaps, chiff chaffs, a mute swan, tufted ducks, linnets, greenfinches, greater spotted woodpecker, greater black backed gulls and long tailed tits.

For other news from this group go to . . . Havant Wildlife Group

FRIDAY MAY 19 - 2017

Emsworth to North Thorney
On my way through Brook Meadow this morning I stopped to listen to the Whitethroat that has now established itself in the north west corner of the north meadow, close to the extensive area of Brambles which is where it will be nesting. It was singing from a tall Crack Willow tree and I got the following nice photo of the bird in full voice. This is one of three Whitethroats we have on the meadow.

Passing Slipper Millpond, I noticed that the Coot on the north raft appears to be sitting on a nest outside the 'official' nesting box. My hunch is that the opening to the box is too small for the bird to manoeuvre in.

The Hemlock on the east side of Slipper Millpond is in bud and it will not be long before the flowers open.

I had a walk along the marina seawall where the usual Black Mustard is now in full flower.

Hedgerow Crane's-bill is also in flower on which I spotted my first 'thigh beetles' (Oedemera nobilis) of the year.

I found a slender trailing Tare at the bottom of the slope going down onto Thorney from the seawall. In the absence of pods, as it is hairy and with calyx teeth roughly equal length, I guess it is Hairy Tare, rather than Smooth Tare which would be hairless with unequal calyx teeth.

Jackdaws in garden
Today I had three Jackdaws in the garden at the same time, the first I have ever seen more than two. Two of them spent several minutes on the bird table scoffing down the seed mixture I put out.

Jackdaws have been increasingly common visitors to my garden in the centre of Emsworth over the past couple of years. I hardly ever saw one before 2014, but now they are regulars to the garden and I frequently hear their calls as they pass overhead.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 8:56am to 9:41am.
He reports: It has been very hard work over the last few days, checking the area with little reward. This morning was just the same. The best moment of the morning was the sighting of a single Swift and a single House Martin heading north over the pond. On the pond were 2+ Reed Warbler, the Cetti's Warbler was still singing along with a Blackcap.
Lots of activity from the Little Egrets with small chicks in almost every nest that I could see.

And, whilst scanning the egret nests I was very surprised to discover a NEW twelve Grey Heron nest had been constructed above nest 9 and almost at the same height as nest 7 in the background. The nest was heavily covered in foliage, but I could clearly see two young chicks in the nest. Now, what a surprise!!!!! It is almost impossible to see the colony well, because of the fresh spring leaf growth.
There was a single Common Tern and 2 Shelduck off shore.

Crested Lark??
Chris Oakley saw a Lark on the shingle by the golf course on Hayling Island this morning with a distinctly raised crest. He wondered if it could be a Crested Lark. I would say this is very unlikely, though not impossible. Chris sent me a few photos which I include here for interest. My guess is that Chris's bird is a highly aroused Skylark. Chris says he had a feeling the bird was trying to lure him away suggesting the close proximity of a nest on the shingle. If you Google Skylark with raised crest you will get a lot of images exactly the same as Chris's.

For information, Crested Lark does not appear at all in the Birds of Hampshire 2007-2012, indicating it has not been recorded at all in that period. The Birds of Sussex does include it, but states it is a very rare bird in Britain with only 22 sightings to the end of 2011. However, the latter book does recommend south coast birdwatchers to keep their eyes skinned, just in case. SE England is likely to become climatically suitable for this bird which is fairly common on the continent.

THURSDAY MAY 18 - 2017

I went over to Brook Meadow this morning for the regular 3rd Thursday in the month work session. Eight volunteers attended including new volunteer, Jane.

 The session was led by Michael Probert who outlined the main jobs for the day. These involved cutting the main paths to keep them reasonably clear of overhanging vegetation for walkers


Wildlife observations
I looked around the orchid area on the north meadow very carefully, being watchful about not treading on any emerging orchids, which is so easy to do as you often can't see the flowers until you are right on top of them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that more Southern Marsh Orchid flowers had opened since my last visit a couple of days ago.

I counted a total of 21 flowering spikes in the protected orchid area with another one on the Lumley area making a grand total of 22. This is already betters last year's total by one and I am confident there are more to come. I have marked them all with small sticks. I did not see any other orchids species.

Stream Water-crowfoot and Water-cress are in flower in the River Ems.

While looking for orchids I spotted two Common Blue butterflies fluttering from one buttercup flower to another - our first Common Blues on Brook Meadow this year, though I saw many others on Portsdown Hill last week.

There are several clumps of a very delicate fungus growing on the wood chippings near the HQ tool store. There are also some on the grass immediately in front of the main seat.

I believe they are the same fungi that we had earlier in the spring (see blog for Mar 17) which Dan Mortimer identified them as Hora Cap (Panaeolus rickenii). The following photos show a cap and gills in more detail.

There is a huge quantity of fresh 'keys' on the large Ash tree that overhangs the north path. I don't recall having seen them quite as prolific as this. Interestingly, some of the branches of this tree appear to be dead with no leaves, but the tree as a whole looks in good shape.

Hermitage Millponds
I had a quick look at Slipper Millpond where the Great Black-backed Gull chicks were asleep on the nesting raft with a parent keeping a watchful eye on them from the roof of the old Coot nest box while the other parent was on the water nearby.

The chicks have to be especially careful not to fall off the raft as they would quickly become waterlogged and drown. This happened to a two chicks a couple of years ago. Unlike cygnets and goslings, the plumage of gull chicks is not waterproof.

The pen Mute Swan that nested on the Peter Pond island was in Dolphin Lake with her with 6 cygnets all still intact.

Sea Club-rush and Red Fescue are now both in flower on the west side of Slipper Millpond.

There is a nice growth of Water Bent on the wall of one of the houses in Chequers Quay.

Terns arrive
Christopher Evans has been down to Hayling Oysterbeds where he saw 10-12 Common Terns on the new tern raft.

Here is a photo I took a few years ago of some Common Terns with chicks on a shingle island at Hayling Oysterbeds

Baffins Pond
Eric Eddles reports from Baffins Pond: "For a few years all the Mallard ducklings have been predated, but this year so far things are looking up with four remaining from an Aylesbury x Mallard brood. The Red-eared terrapins are sadly still thriving."

TUESDAY MAY 16 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I walked through the meadow this morning mainly looking for orchids. I found another four Southern Marsh Orchids on the orchid area in addition to the one previously found. I had another one in the Lumley area, making a grand total of six. I have marked them all with sticks, so tread carefully! We had 21 Southern Marsh Orchids last year, so there will be more to come. There was no sign of any other orchid species, ie Common Spotted and Bee.

I did another count of Ragged Robin plants in flower. Today I counted 87 on the Lumley area plus another 17 on the main centre meadow giving a grand total of 104. Last year we had 154 by May 28, so I will give it another week or so before doing a final count.

Brooklime is in flower on the path down to the Lumley Stream. Silverweed is now out on the centre meadow.

Birds singing included two Blackcap, one Chiffchaff and two Whitethroat - one from the brambles in the north west corner and one from the bushes near Beryl's seat.

Hermitage Millponds
Walking down the path by Gooseberry Cottage on the west side of Peter Pond, I heard a Reed Warbler singing from the reeds and actually managed to see the bird moving around in the reeds. This was my best shot at a photo.

Wall Barley is out generally around the area. Red Fescue, with its distinctive leaf sticking out at a 45 degree angle from the stem, is out around Slipper Millpond.

The Mute Swan family with 6 cygnets was on Slipper Millpond, all looking well and healthy.

There is still no sign of the Canada Goose family which hatched 5 goslings on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond on May 13. I had a look at Emsworth Marina, but they were not there. Does anyone know what has happened to them? They could not have gone far as the goslings were so tiny.

The Great Black-backed Gull chicks were being tended by one of the parents while the other had left to get food from the harbour. The box on the raft, originally intended for nesting Coot, has come in useful for the gull chicks as a shelter from the elements.

A nice Holly Blue came to rest on the gravel path next to Dolphin Lake. A lady passing was delighted when I pointed the butterfly out to her. Sharing knowledge about the natural world is so rewarding.

I spent a very pleasant half an hour chatting (covering a wide range of topics) with Pam Ewing over a coffee in the Pastoral Centre. Pam is the wife of Roy who does such a lot of valuable conservation work in Nore Barn Woods and elsewhere in the local area. He was on a conservation course today in Southampton with the BTV (Trust for Conservation Volunteers).

Death of dinosaurs
There was a very interesting TV programme on BBC2 last night about recent research on the sudden disappearance of the dinosaurs 66 million years ago. There is now good evidence that the dinosaurs were wiped out after a city-sized asteroid smashed into the Gulf of Mexico causing a huge crater and a cloud of dust around the Earth which cut out the sun. Interestingly, had the asteroid struck the Earth a moment earlier, or later, the destruction might not have been total for the dinosaurs. And if they still roamed the world, we humans may never have evolved. But we did, Phew. That was a close one!
The programme can be viewed for the next 29 days on the iPlayer at . . .

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this lunchtime at 11:16am to 12:30pm (low tide throughout). Not a great deal happening this end of the harbour.
Off shore along the channel was a single summer plumaged Great Crested Grebe (first non-breeder returning) and on the mud a single Whimbrel.
On the pond were 2 pairs of Tufted Duck, 2 male Gadwall with a female and two Reed Warblers singing. The Cetti's Warbler sang a couple of times and I heard the call of a Reed Bunting, but no singing.
The Little Egret colony was in full swing, with nests occupied with young. I could clearly see three nests with young. There are two new nests on the island and there were at least three extra nests being built in the main colony in the Holm Oak. It is very difficult to count now with the vegetation grown up, but an educated guess on breeding numbers would be, a minimum of 44 nests, with possibly 49. This is up on last years minimum total of 40.
On the Grey Heron front, Nest 10 has young, as I observed an adult regurgitating food into the nest to tiny chicks that were below the nest line and Nest 1 has a second brood of two chicks.

Baffins hybrid goose
Eric Eddles reports from Baffins Pond in Portsmouth that for a few years a female hybrid Canada x Embden goose has always been accompanied by a male Canada goose. Recently, it returned minus the Canada and now has teamed up with this Barnacle goose.

For earlier observations go to . . May 1-15