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
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.
flower buds are turning bright red,
was singing from the east side of the north meadow.
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
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
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.
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.
MAY 30 - 2017
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
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
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
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.
MAY 29 - 2017
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
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
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.
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?
MAY 28 - 2017
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
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
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.
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
MAY 27 - 2017
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.
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
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?
MAY 26 - 2017
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
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.
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.
MAY 25 - 2017
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
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
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
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
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
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
MAY 24 - 2017
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
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
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.
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
Kite over Emsworth
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.
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.
MAY 23 - 2017
I went over to
the meadow this morning mainly to check the orchids
since Maurice Lillie found some more were up
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
MAY 22 - 2017
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?
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.
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
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
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
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.
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 . . . http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/langstoneharbour/b/weblog/archive/2017/04/07/quot-tern-rafts-quot-at-the-oysterbeds-a-new-habitat-for-some-of-our-breeding-seabirds.aspx
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!
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
MAY 20 - 2017
pair of Southern Marsh Orchids just emerging on the
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
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
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?
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
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.
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.
reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife
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.
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
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 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
MAY 19 - 2017
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.
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.
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
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.
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
There was a single Common Tern and 2 Shelduck off
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
The pen Mute
Swan that nested on the Peter Pond island was in
Dolphin Lake with her with 6 cygnets all still intact.
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.
Here is a photo I
took a few years ago of some Common Terns with chicks
on a shingle island at Hayling Oysterbeds
Evans has been down to Hayling Oysterbeds where he saw
10-12 Common Terns on the new tern raft.
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."
MAY 16 - 2017
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.
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
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).
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 . . . http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08r3xhf/the-day-the-dinosaurs-died
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
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.
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.
earlier observations go to . . May