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for late June, 2017
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FRIDAY JUNE 30 - 2017

Hayling Billy Line
I had a truly delightful walk down the Hayling Billy Line this morning. I started at the northern car park and did a circuit to include the Oysterbeds lagoon and mound. But, take care, you need to be constantly on the alert for unheard cyclists coming from behind.

There were masses of colourful flowers beside the main track, including Greater Knapweed, Hedge and Ladies Bedstraw, Centaury, Yarrow, Hogweed, Mugwort, Field Scabious, Pineappleweed, Field Bindweed, Traveller's Joy, Teasel and Chicory. Rough Hawkbit - with forked hairs on stem.
Bird's-foot Trefoil? This did not look like standard Common Bird's-foot Trefoil, so my thoughts went to Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil or even Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil.

Here are a few photos of some other flowers.
Greater Knapweed - Field Scabious - Pineappleweed - Field Bindweed

Black Horehound - Teasel (first flowering) - Evening Primrose (old escapes) - Chicory

Weld (some mighty clumps on the mound) - Common Centuary - Rough Hawkbit (forked hairs) - Common Bent Grass

I had a close look at the umbels of the Wild Carrot plants that I came across. The first one I saw close to the car park had several large white umbels, each one of which had a red central flower. However, for the rest of the walk the central red flowers were scarce.

Here is a close-up of the central flower. Does it have a function?

Butterflies were constantly present, particularly Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites. I was pleased to catch up with my first Gatekeepers of the year and another possible Essex Skipper with black clubbed antennal tips. This is two possible Essex Skippers in two days at two sites. I must get them checked.

Marbled Whites - everywhere, but none would stop! Ringlet - I saw just this one.

Hayling Oysterbeds
The Oysterbeds area is as always at this time of the year a cacophony of noise, mostly from the nesting Black-headed Gulls, though their numbers are going down as the chicks fledge. Here is a view of the lagoon taken from the mound showing the main nesting island and the tern raft with Langstone Harbour and Portsmouth in the distance.

An RSPB notice states that the Common Terns on the raft seemed to have been very productive and they have high hopes for fledging soon. So, everyone is urged to 'keep your eyes peeled'!

I did not have my scope with me, but I used my Lumix TZ70 camera to zoom in on the birds (up to 60x). The best place to view the tern raft is certainly from the spit at the far end of the lagoon near the harbour. This photo shows Common Terns on the raft along with several small chicks which I assume are tern chicks. The presence of an adult Black-headed Gull suggests gull chicks are there too. I think the little brown bundle near the blue rope are the Black-headed Gull chicks.

Here are a couple of older Black-headed Gull chicks.

The Common Tern chicks can probably be seen more easily on the short video clip on YouTube
Go to . . .

Pavement flowers
The absence of the Council weed sprayers has allowed a good variety of wild flowers to flourish along Bridge Road where I live. The huge Hollyhocks are still going very well after 3 weeks in flower. I am sure people enjoy having to walk around them as they go past.

Less spectacular is the Greater Plantain that I have growing on the pavement outside my own house. This is sometimes referred to as 'rat's tail' after its very long flower spikes.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby was back at Langstone Mill Pond for an hour from 1:50pm with the tide slowly moving in.

He says, "After three weeks of nothing too exciting to report, today, felt like the first day of autumn! Off shore on the mud, were the first waders for a couple of weeks. One Redshank, 2 Whimbrel and 18 Black-tailed Godwit.
On the pond were 2 Swallows feeding 6 juveniles, that were perched in the Alder trees in the reeds and allowed me to get real close for some photos.

However, the birds soon dispersed when one of the adults gave an alarm call and on looking up I observed an adult Peregrine drifting over. It carried on drifting south to Hayling Island.
Other species of note were a single Swift flying over, along with 8+ Med Gulls, plus 3+ singing Reed Warblers with two seen and photographed, a female Blackcap (looking like a migrant, with it's iPad open consulting "Trip Advisor").

I counted 38 Little Egrets and 8 Grey Herons (most of these were juveniles). And, finally the Mallard that had three ducklings in tow ten days ago, now only had two, and the female with eight, was nowhere to be seen!!

Fritillary rescued
Chris Oakley had to rescue this Fritillary butterfly from a cobweb in his utility room. It went straight out to a buddleia bush and stayed around for quite a while. Chris left me to identify the species. Thanks! Fritillaries are not easy, but this one looks like a Silver-washed Fritillary, particularly as Chris mentions its large size.

Havant Thicket
Brian Lawrence had a walk around Havant Thicket today and saw lots of butterflies, including Meadow Browns, Ringlets, Commas, Silver-washed Fritillary, Skippers and a White Admiral. Brian also had a what he described as a Red Deer. Hmm. That looks to me like a Roe Deer. Any other views?


Railway Wayside
I had a look around the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station this morning. The embankment adjacent to the access ramp was a riot of colour with many wild flowers in full blossom. This photo is looking up towards the ramp railings.

Plants in flower that I noted included Marsh Woundwort, Hedge Bindweed, Great Willowherb, Creeping Thistle (purple and white varieties), Hedge Bedstraw, Bramble, Perforate St John's-wort, Perennial Sow-thistle, Common Ragwort, Wild Carrot, Black Medick, Red Clover, Bristly Ox-tongue, Oxeye Daisy, Common Knapweed, Common Toadflax, Common Fleabane (1st of year), Common Vetch, Tufted Vetch, Pendulous Sedge. Here are a few photos of the main culprits.

Common Fleabane, Great Willowherb, first Blackberry, Bristly Ox-tongue

Marsh Woundwort - These attractive flowers, which are so distinctive on this site, are now popping up all along the main embankment adjacent to the access ramp. Interestingly, they appear to have disappeared from the southern area of the wayside where I counted over 200 flower spikes when the wayside was set up in 2012. I would estimate there were about 50 spikes on the wayside today. They are as good to look at as any orchid.

Dark Bush-cricket - The long blade-like ovipositor indicates this is a female, though it does not strike me as being fully developed. Maybe, it is still in one of its nymph stages.

Essex Skipper - is easily confused with Small Skipper. But I am fairly sure this is an Essex (fingers crossed) as its antennal tip is black underneath and distinctly clubbed. The antenna of the Small Skipper would be more tapered and orange underneath.

Other butterflies on the wayside: Marbled White, Meadow Brown.

Millpond News
I popped down to the town millpond to have a look at the broken sluice gate near the quay which meant the pond was empty of water. A chap from the Environment Agency was present and he explained that the hinges holding the round gate had broken and had been removed for repair. He hoped the gate would be functioning by the weekend as the sailing club had an event on the pond requiring water.

He pointed out a number of crabs that had collected on the inside of the wall near the sluice.

A gathering of about 50 Black-headed Gulls were having a whale of a time on the muddy foreshore beneath Emsworth quay, no doubt attracted by the myriads of tiny fish being swept out with the tide.

Slipper Millpond
The Mute Swan pair was on the pond with their 6 cygnets growing fast and looking healthy. Haven't they done well!

The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks, not yet fledged, are still on the south raft with one of the parents. It will not be long before they fly. The chicks are snoozing on the right side of the raft.

Cinnabar caterpillars - feasting on the Common Ragwort on the east side of Slipper Millpond. That's one reason why this plant should not be pulled. It is also valuable as a nectar source for a number of other insects.

Wild Carrot - is in flower generally around the area. There are some particularly nice flower heads on the east side of Slipper Millpond which is where I took this photo of an open umbel with its distinctive central red flower.

Golden Samphire - The first flowers of this attractive plant are now showing on the Hermitage Bridge overlooking Slipper Millpond. Soon there will be a glorious yellow glow on the bridge.

Crow Garlic Bulbils are now showing on the east bank of Peter Pond, with some already sprouting into life.

Brook Meadow
Marmalade Hoverflies (Episyrphus balteatus) - were making good use of the nectar supplied by the Bindweed and Sow-thistle flowers.

Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) - This little fellow with a distinctive white band around its middle (like the Belted Galloway cattle) was so busy feeding on a Hogweed umbel that I was able to get fairly close for a photo.

Cherry Plum and Alder Buckthorn on the causeway both have fruit.

Little Egrets nesting at Langstone Mill Pond
I had a request for information about Little Egrets nesting on Langstone Mill Pond from Helen Crabtree the regional organiser for the British Trust for Ornithology. I put her onto Peter Milinets-Raby who knows more about the birds of Langstone Mill Pond than anyone else! I quote Peter's useful response for information.

"The nests etc. are very hard to observe after late April when the foliage grows and obscures the view. There are a few Little Egrets nests remaining visible at the moment and young can be seen. However, as a short summary there were 42 to 44 Little Egrets nests in late April and I suspect all were successful.
The Grey Herons start breeding in January and were in full swing by late March. Photo of the ten nests that were occupied this year.

Observing ALL these nests today is impossible! Though, in fact there was an eleventh nest started after this date, which has young in it at the moment, so does Nest 10. However, these juveniles are on the verge of fledging and will be gone in a few more days.
I have full details of how successful each Grey Heron nest was if you require this information, but I do not bother to count the Little Egrets success rate as the foliage makes it virtually impossible to keep track and I have noticed over the years that young Little Egrets like to wander from their nests at an early age!!
The breeding season is almost over now with quite large Little Egret young loitering around. By mid July there will only be a handful left."

Purple Emperors
Tom Bickerton popped over to Havant Thicket on Sunday and saw one perfect male Purple Emperor butterfly on the ground. Tom continues . . . "It was ready to be photographed, but unfortunately it coincided with a mass of people and dog walkers walking past, so it took fright high up into the oak, never to come down again. To say I was annoyed is an understatement, they could see what I was doing. Hopefully, someone will manage to get some images soon for publishing. So, many people though there on Sunday.

Here is a cracking photo of a Purple Emperor
by Tony Wootton at Bentley from my files

Tom added, "If coming from the Castle Road along the main track, it dips into a hollow, there's a triangle of sallow and oak, the big oak on the adjacent side. That's a good spot to start, but it's the oaks on the right hand side of the triangle opposite the sallow where I see them. The other place is in Bell's Copse along the path leading north to Waterlooville, but I find that less reliable.
Lots of White Admirals too on the path leading to the Harvester from the Thicket's car park. Good numbers of other species too. Broad-bodied Chasers and Large Red Damselflies on the pond, with Common Blues. Sparrowhawks which nested last year behind the pond, didn't use the same site."

TUESDAY JUNE 27 - 2017

Ravens at Stansted
Jean and I had a stroll around Stansted arboretum this morning, before the forecast rain set in - though it did actually not materialise until much later. We walked up the long avenue to the seats at the top where we rested for a while admiring the view.

On the way, we spotted three huge black birds perched on posts in the large fields to the south which must have been the family of Ravens that Michael Prior had told us about. I think he said two pairs had nested successfully on the estate. Here is one of the birds that I captured from quite a distance, possibly a juvenile calling to its parents.

American Galingale?
While looking around the walled garden, I spotted an unusual grass/sedge growing on the edge of the path leading to the Dutch garden. I think it looks rather like the American Galingale (Cyperus eragrostris) which Ralph Hollins pointed out to me many years ago in Juniper Square, Havant (22-Sep-2006). I wonder if that plant is still there? The stem shooting off to the left in the photo is a bit puzzling. Is this another plant?

American Galingale was originally introduced as a garden plant into Britain from its native South America in the 19th Century. It has escaped into the wild and has become naturalised mainly in the south of England, but apparently is now spreading northwards. It is also called Pale Galingale . . . see . . .

Brook Meadow
I found my first Spear Thistle of the year in flower on the main path by the river.

I think this handsome fellow is a Volucella hoverfly - a large bumblebee or wasp mimic. The larvae develop in the nests of social wasps or bumblebees where they are scavengers or parasites. The adults are often found on flowers. I think this specimen could be Volucella bombylans which is widespread and common in Britain and is distinguished by its dense hair and feathery antennae.

Black Swans
Ralph Hollins reported a pair of Black Swans were seen on Ivy Lake at Chichester with three newly hatched cygnets on June 24. Keep a look out for them. Remember the family of six Black Swans which were in Emsworth Harbour from Jan 27 until Mar 11 earlier this year.

Marina Farm footpath
Alan Thomas provided some interesting information about the footpath through the old Marina Farm near the Deckhouses Estate, the state of which I was complaining about in this blog on June 22. Alan is a volunteer footpath inspector in the Southbourne parish and confirmed that the footpath through the old marina farm yard is indeed a public right of way (PROW) and goes down the track shown in my photograph and through the gate into the old stable yard.

Alan added, "Encouraging walkers to go down the path outside the fence (by locking the gate) would be acceptable and cause no complaint provided it was viable and kept clear but the legal PROW is along the track. As long as the gate is left unlocked there is, obviously, no issue for West Sussex County Council. Interestingly, the alternative track from Thorney Road to the harbour wall, about 20m further South, which most people use because it is much more pleasant, is NOT a PROW. I inspect all the paths once every 15 months and if there is ever an issue with access WSSC are very good at dealing with it. The path outside the fence to the south of the yard which is now blocked by overgrown vegetation, is not the official path. "
Thanks Alan for clarifying the situation.


Brook Meadow
I had another look at the Bent Grasses that I discovered yesterday in the south meadow, on the Bramble path next to the Gooseberry Cottage bund. The size of the grass up to 100cm with panicles about 20cm leaves me in no doubt that is Black Bent (Agrostis gigantea), the largest of the Bents. Its large size probably allows it to survive among the tall vegetation along this path. It also has flat furrowed slightly rough leaves and long toothed ligules. I have found it in this spot in previous years, but nowhere else on the meadow. Like many other plants this year, the flowers are about 2 weeks earlier than before.

On the left is Black Bent with closed panicle and on the right with open panicle

Hard Rush is also flowering

Butterflies were fairly numerous after the heat wave over the past few days. They included dozens of Meadow Browns plus my first Ringlets and Large Skippers of the year. The Ringlets are not easy to separate from the Meadow Browns, but generally they are smaller and darker. I managed to get photos of them both, though not brilliant. The next butterflies to appear on the meadow should be Gatekeepers and Small Skippers in a week or so.

North Thorney
This afternoon, parking at the junction of Thornham Lane and Thorney Road, I walked through the old Marina Farm which has been derelict for some time - at least a year. The footpath through the site is probably the most inhospitable in the area. I am unsure whether this path is a public right of way. Maybe someone can enlighten me.

The original path to the south of the site is totally inaccessible, but the metal gates are unlocked so one can follow the path that way. This neglect has benefited wildlife and the entrance drive has a fine selection of wild flowers including Scentless Mayweed, Docks, Common Fleabane, Selfheal, Common Ragwort, Teasel and Opium Poppies plus my first Wild Carrot of the year.

I also spotted a couple of Swallows flying around, so it looks as if they are back nesting in their traditional home.

At the end of the path, a pair of Coot with one chick was on the deckhouses pond. Coming back along the old NRA track, I found Corky-fruited Water-dropwort and Tufted Vetch in the hedgerow.

Slipper Millpond
I had a quick look at Slipper Millpond this afternoon. The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the south raft with one of the parents. Both looking healthy and stretching their wings. They must be very close to flight.

Westbourne fields update
Clive Yeomans has spoken to Mr Huxham, the owner of the fields on the east of Westbourne Ave this morning (Thursday). He has not sold the field yet. Natural England is doing a wildlife survey and until that is completed nothing will happen.

Clive added that the map of the flood zone that Sarah Hughes sent for last night's blog is very inaccurate. The floodable area includes the A27 which is 4 metres above the fields. Which means that most of Emsworth in the New Brighton area would flood! Clive has raised this several times with various authorities but they have not corrected the map. As everything is now done by satellite I think that someone at the DoE who drew the map and was not familiar with the area interpreted the A27 as being in a cutting rather than an embankment. Do you see what I mean? Yes, that makes sense, Clive!

Dave Lee visited the Record Office in Chichester this afternoon to look at the latest large scale ordinance survey map that they had. It showed that some of the development area is in West Sussex, so clearly they will also have an interest in any planning application.
Dave watched as two representatives from Hampshire Homes, the potential developers of the fields, walked round the fields yesterday evening. Today, Dave met an 'affable young man' (presumably an ecologist) checking the nesting survey boxes. He said that the field conditions were very good for Dormice nesting. Let us hope so! I told him that there was at least two that had been vandalized.

Smooth Newts
Peter Milinets-Raby did some pond dipping in his garden and discovered what he thinks are male and female Smooth Newts. He would appreciate confirmation.

Peter also had a surprising find of what looks like a skeleton of a Smooth Newt.

Orchids at B&Q
Graham Petrie found an impressive number of Orchids on the entrance road to Havant B&Q, on the left hand side as the road bends to the right mostly Pyramidal Orchids. On the right hand side opposite are mostly Common Spotted Orchids. Probably several hundred of each type. He also had Marbled White butterflies on the left hand side as well, a bit further round as you enter the goods yard, enjoying the Tufted Vetch. Let's all go to B&Q.

Colin's fame
Colin Vanner is an occasional contributor to this blog with his superb photos. Well, today he reached a national audience with a cracking photo in the Daily Telegraph showing a Grass-snake swimming across a pond at Thursley Common with a damselfly (probably Azure Damselfly) on its head. What a nice surprise amid all that doom and gloom. Well done Colin.

Here is a photo I took of Colin's photo in the newspaper.

Yetminster verge
Many readers of the blog will remember Sue Drewett who used to live at the top of Long Copse Lane in Emsworth. Sue was an active member of the Hampshire Wildlife Trust and was deeply interested in wildlife. Sue and husband Ray now live in a little Dorset village called Yetminster and they have just taken over the management of a small wildlife verge in the village. Knowing that I have been involved in a similar conservation enterprise here in Emsworth with the waysides project, Sue got in touch asking for advice. She also sent me a number of photos showing the verge and its plants. Here is a photo of the verge which has a nice wall at the back and a seat on the far left.

The verge already has a good variety of wild flowers living on it and I have suggested to Sue that they leave it as it is for a year or two at least and not attempt to plant anything else. There are so many plants living happily there, it would be a pity to disturb them with any unnecessary introductions. All they need to do is mow it at the end of the growing season, remove the arisings and enjoy it. It is also important to get local residents involved, or at least keep them informed about what is going on, so that the verge becomes a community project that people can feel part of. A little notice would help indicating that this is a wild flower conservation verge with a contact for further information. Sue and Ray also wish to identify the plants that live on the verge and wall. That is brilliant. Also, the other wildlife that will visit the verge, insects, birds, etc. As these will vary throughout the year, so a survey needs to be done several times. It will be interesting to see how the verge progresses and I have asked Sue for updates from time to time.


Brook Meadow
It was really much too hot for a person of my age to go wandering around, but I needed some wildlife therapy, so I had a very gentle afternoon walk through the meadow, seeking shade wherever I could find it. I sat for a while on the main seat which was in the shade and nice and cool contemplating our beautiful meadow.

There is a nice display of the hybrid grass called x Festulolium loliaceum right in front of Beryl's seat on the east side of the north meadow. Right beside it are its two parent grasses, Perennial Ryegrass and Meadow Fescue. Here is Meadow Fescue.

Walking down the old Bramble path on the east side of the south meadow. I came across a nice growth of one of the Bent-grasses, but I have not decided which one. Most of the panicles were not open, which suggested Creeping Bent. The first of the year on Brook Meadow.

There is a mass of Water-cress now growing in the river, hiding most of it from view. The area north of the S-bend contains some particularly tall plants. Blamey, Fitter and Fitter say it can grow to 60cm or more. Some of these were certainly more.

Threat to Westbourne fields
Clive Yeomans provides extra information about the fields
1. The County Border follows the old river Ems which is now no more than a ditch. That is the boundary hedge of the field on the eastern side.
2. There is a 20" gas main under field about 25yards from the properties that back on to the field. Whether it is still in use as the gas holder has gone I do not know.
3. A Mr Huxham owns the fields ­ he lives the other side of Brighton. He lets Mr Green a farmer in Westbourne graze cattle on it.
4. Sadlers the builder when he built Nos 66, 68, 70, 72, 74 and 76 also brought a "ransom strip" 25feet wide at the bottom of their gardens.
5. The Department of the Environment has marked the area from the footpath to the river Ems as floodplain.
6. The development is not on the Havant Borough Council Strategic development plan

This is what is under threat. A very popular walk from Emsworth to Westbourne.

My son who works in conservation on the Isle of Wight points out that the Westbourne fields that are under threat of development are in the Ems Valley and this waterway drains into Chichester Harbour which has the highest national and international environmental designations - Ramsar, SAC, SSSI, LNR etc. Any development would need to be able to demonstrate that it would have no impact on the quality of the habitats and species on which these designations are based. So we would have Chichester Harbour Conservancy on our side as well.

Sarah Hughes wildlife officer with the Chichester District Council added that the site is in the Flood Zone where no housing should be built. The site is also listed as a mineral site, however at the present time there is no permission to extract. Sarah has highlighted the site to West Sussex County Council ecologist, just to keep everyone in the loop. She sent the following map showing the flood zone.

Dave Lee tells me that two of the Dormouse nest boxes in the fields have been vandalized and perhaps more will be before the exercise reaches completion.

Attacked Young Gull
Tom Bickerton thinks the young gull that Mike Wells saw being attacked by adult Black-headed Gulls at Hayling Oysterbeds yesterday looks a standard Black-headed Gull chick.

He says, "It is not fully fledged yet, as the bill should be a bit pinker and the scapulars and mantle should be a bit more brown, but is close. It is not a Mediterranean Gull as the scapulars have a fringing and is a lighter greyer shade of brown. Bill a different shape too. It is not a Herring Gull because of the thin bill, and herring would have whiter head, black bill, more uniform colouring all-over and big tertial steps. Black-headed Gulls do attack each other, usually due to an infringement over territory. This bird could have mistakenly walked across neighbouring adults' territories with smaller chicks which instigated the continued attack. Can be very violent."

Tom Bickerton popped over to Havant thicket last night for the Nightjars, they started at 21:53pm and there were two birds. He says, take the main path from Castle Road, one churring male was by the seat, then up the side path (north), about 3/4 of the way another male. Tom was slightly disappointed now with the site because of the overgrown vegetation, what used to be the best site he'd known for close up views is now becoming a very difficult to see these birds. But, he thinks Stansted Forest looks ideal with all the clearing work being carried out. The only problem is parking with the car parks closed, or a long walk up The Avenue from Rowlands Castle.

Here is the only Nightjar photo I have in my files taken by Caroline French as the bird was sitting on a fence at Pagham Harbour.

TUESDAY JUNE 20 - 2017

Hollybank Woods
I thought the woods might be a bit cooler on this very hot day with temperatures around the 30 degrees mark. It was still pretty hot, but at least the trees gave welcome relief from the sun.

I was encouraged by Barry Collins's report of seeing 8 White Admirals and 11 Silver-washed Fritillaries during a cycle ride around Havant Thicket a few days ago. However, as so often happens (just to me?), I saw just one White Admiral and three Silver-washed Fritillaries. I did manage to get a photo of the White Admiral high in the trees along the centre track, but the Silver-washed Fritillaries were active and did not stop.

Other butterflies seen included Meadow Brown, Speckled Wood and this cracking Red Admiral feeding on Bramble flowers.

The woods were very quiet with little in the way of bird song, though Chiffchaff, Song Thrush, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Stock Dove were prominent, with occasional bursts from Blackcap, Wren and Blackbird.

There was plenty of Enchanter's Nightshade lining many of the paths. I gather this plant gets its intriguing name from its reputation as a magical plant. The botanical name Circaea lutetiana comes from Circe a mythical sorceress and lutetia the Roman name for Paris where the botanist worked who named the plant.

It was good to see typical woodland grasses such as Wood Melick, Wood Millet and Quaking Grass along the paths together with Remote Sedge and Wood Sedge. Here is Wood Melick, but you really need to see it 'in the flesh'.

I also found some Soft Rush in flower.

I looked for the Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush which Gwynne Johnson found many years ago on the southern path, but there was no sign of it.

Westbourne Fields under threat
The situation is clarifying regarding the fields behind Westbourne Avenue between Emsworth and Westbourne where the Dormouse survey is currently taking place. I am afraid that things look very ominous that these much loved fields are under serious threat of housing development.

Clive Yeomans tells me the Dormouse survey is being carried out by an ecology company on behalf of Hampshire Homes Ltd. This was confirmed by Dave Lee who earlier this evening saw a new shiny pick-up truck parked at the top end of Westbourne Avenue with displayed on its side. Could there be any other reason why they would want to know about the presence or otherwise of Dormice in the hedgerows of these fields?

Sarah Hughes of the Chichester District Council, who came across the survey during the dragonfly walk along the River Ems on Saturday, has been beavering away at this issue. She has discovered that no planning application for the fields had been received by Havant Borough Council, but, of course, that does not rule out one in the future.

This fact was confirmed to me by Emsworth Councillor Richard Kennett who raised this issue with his fellow Emsworth Councillor Lulu Bowerman a couple of weeks ago. However he says, "rest assured I/we will keep our eyes peeled for any developments."

Meanwhile, in preparation for bad news, Sarah thinks local people should record wildlife species (even if it's from their garden/near to the site) and upload the information to both West Sussex & Hants biodiversity records centres.
West Sussex at . . .
Hampshire Biodiversity Info. Centre at . . .

Marsh Woundwort
I forgot to mention that I found the first Marsh Woundwort of the year a few days ago, standing tall among the burgeoning vegetation on the wayside north of Emsworth Railway Station. The only place it reliably grows in Emsworth.

Other Emsworth news
Brian Lawrence walked around Brook Meadow today and got a photo of two Meadow Browns mating.

On to Slipper Millpond where one of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks was swimming around the nesting raft while the other chick and the parent were on the raft.
Brian confirmed that the Mute Swan family is still intact with 6 healthy looking cygnets.

Most interesting, Brian also got this delightful photo of a Coot feeding a chick, the first I have seen on Slipper Millpond this year. So the Great Black-backed Gulls did not get them all - or not yet anyway!

Young bird attacked
This morning Mike Wells went to the Oyster Beds to see the new Tern raft, which he thought looks a success. He was distracted by a commotion nearer the shore line as a young bird was being dive-bombed by dozens of Black-headed Gulls and at one time had actually submerged it. The gulls flew off as Mike approached and he got some photos of the poor victim. He was not sure of the species, but thought it looked larger than a Black-headed Gull.

One can't judge size from Mike's photo, but certainly one cannot imagine Black-headed Gulls attacking one of their own. My guess is that it is a young Herring Gull that strayed into the Black-headed Gull colony and was definitely not welcome. Any other thoughts welcome.

Yesterday, Mike Wells took a very warm stroll on Farlington Marshes and got a couple of amusing photos. He thought the Coot photo could be entitled "only a mother could love them!"

Mike also watched this Whitethroat processing an item of food which eventually hung on a strand of tenacious body fluid, lovely!

MONDAY JUNE 19 - 2017

Fields under threat?
I had a walk around the fields between Emsworth and Westbourne behind Westbourne Avenue this evening and established conclusively that the Dormouse survey nesting tubes go right round all the fields. Previously, I had overlooked the boxes on the west side of the fields at the end of the Westbourne Avenue gardens. I think the total number of boxes is 85. Here is number 13 that I found attached to a Horse Chestnut tree.

Clearly this is a very serious Dormouse Survey. If, as seems highly likely, this survey is a precursor to housing development, then I hope local residents rise up against it. I lived for 30 years in Westbourne Avenue and have walked these fields many hundreds of times with my children over the 49 years I have lived in Emsworth. To lose these fields would be a local tragedy.

I have been in correspondence with Sarah Hughes (Community Wildlife Officer with the Chichester District Council) who has checked on the planning portal to see if any application has been made, but there are no details of any development proposed on this site. But Sarah thinks it may be that a developer is undertaking surveys prior to putting in a planning application, so it would not be on their radar yet. Sarah has contacted Havant Borough Council and is waiting a call back. As soon as she has further details/update she will let me know. Meanwhile, fingers crossed all round. Maybe, the odd Dormouse will save our fields?

While looking around the fields this evening I was impressed with the variety of grasses in the southern field by the A27, including Crested Dog's-tail and Timothy. A smashing Red Fox raced across the field near the river and stopped briefly by the motorway fence for me to get a photo. I hope it does not try to cross that road.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning for an hour from 9am. He says it was a wonderfully warm morning. The highlights were as follows:
"On arrival the first bird I saw was a female Mandarin Duck (the first I have seen on the pond). It was showing really well, until the pair of Mute Swans chased it away and ten minutes later I could not relocate it!. They totally knew it was not one of the regular Mallards. Or maybe the Swans were getting jealous of me ignoring them totally and photographing this new stranger! The photo where the bird was looking at the water (mirror, mirror) was prior to the bird dunking itself underwater to catch something. It was a half-hearted dive, but nowhere as efficient as a Tufted Duck for example.

Other stuff present were 2 male Tufted Duck and a single female, 2 singing Reed Warblers, 2 singing Chiffchaff, the Cetti's sang just the once (still lingering), Blackcap still singing and a Whitethroat was singing from the rear of the horse paddock. Lots of young Little Egrets knocking about (30+) and 12 juvenile Grey Herons loitering.
Over the pond were 7+ Swallows and 2 Med Gulls and off shore flying around as the tide dropped were 2 Sandwich Terns.

Pavement Hollyhocks
We have a magnificent display of Hollyhocks growing in a gap between the pavement and house wall in Bridge Road where I live. I have been keeping a beady eye on them for some while just in case some council official decided to chop them down. I have consulted with my neighbour whose house they adorn and he is quite happy that they should remain. And here they are for us all to enjoy.

Hollyhocks are popular garden plants, but they grow well in the wild as evidenced from these specimens on the pavement in Bridge Road. According to Stace and Crawley: 'Alien Plants', they have been around since the Middle Ages (14th Century) and were well known as aliens to early botanical writers.

In response to my request for any local Cuckoo hearings this year Mandy Baines e-mailed to say she has heard three. One on Thorney Island, one near Christopher Way, Emsworth (west) and the other in Westbourne.
I happened to meet Pam Phillips this morning who told me she had also heard one on North Thorney. So they regular Thorney Cuckoo seems to have arrived, but none at Lumley.

SUNDAY JUNE 18 - 2017

Dormouse Survey
I had a visit from Dave Lee (a Brook Meadow volunteer) this morning. Dave lives in the new houses at the top of Westbourne Avenue and regularly walks in the fields at the back of the houses. He was concerned to see a number of boxes tied to hedgerows in the fields behind Westbourne Avenue which he feared could indicate a wildlife survey prior to housing development. I said I would have a look at them myself and get back to him.
I had a walk through the fields this (very hot) afternoon and confirmed Dave's observation. I counted a total of 26 boxes tied to Hawthorn bushes along the eastern boundary to the fields as far as Westbourne. The ones I saw were numbered from 49 to 75, though there may well have been more (ie numbers 1-48) that I missed. Here is number 56 as an example.

I recognised them as nesting tubes which are used in Dormouse surveys. The tube consists of two parts, a black plastic rectangular tube (about 10ins long) and a wooden 'tray' insert. One end is open with a small platform and step. Dormice are attracted to make nests in these tubes and these nests are used as indicators of their presence in the habitat. The boxes, which were all new and securely taped to the trees, clearly represent a serious survey. But for what purpose?
They could be part of a scientific wildlife survey by one of the wildlife organisations. I will try to find out more from Sarah Hughes (Community Wildlife Officer with the Chichester District Council) whom I met yesterday on the dragonfly walk, though I am not aware of Dormice ever having been reported in this area.
However, they could be associated with the development of the land for housing. Local planning authorities are required by law to assess the impacts of any proposed development on Dormice, so the boxes could have been put in place by a local ecology consultancy. See . . .
Dave told me he had written to his local councillor asking for more information. If anyone knows anything more please let me know. In the meantime, it is important that the nesting tubes are not disturbed or damaged in any way. Dormice are a legally protected species and only a licensed handler is allowed to check the boxes.

Cuckoos gone?
Reading the BTO report that tagged Cuckoos are already on their way through France towards their wintering grounds in Africa, reminded me that I had not heard one calling this year. Nor have I had Cuckoo reported to me for the blog. I realise I do not get around as much these days, but nevertheless this is somewhat surprising as we usually hear one over Lumley or at North Thorney. Has anyone heard Cuckoo locally?
The BTO report of tagged Cuckoos leaving the UK is at

BTO also reports that Mallard numbers have hit a record low. See . . .


Dragonfly walk
I joined about 15 other people at 10am in Palmer's Road Car Park for a dragonfly walk organised by Sarah Hughes the Community Wildlife Officer with the Chichester District Council. The walk was led by entomologist, Dr Alison Barker. I introduced myself to Sarah and indicated that I would only be staying for the first part of the walk through Brook Meadow. I gave out some Brook Meadow Conservation Group leaflets and pointed out the interpretation board. The group stopped on the south bridge, but (somewhat surprisingly) they did not see anything from there.

However, things improved as the group went up the main path by the River Ems where both Banded Demoiselle and Beautiful Demoiselle were seen. I think Large Red and Azure Damselflies were also seen in this area. This photo shows Alison Barker (in the white hat) explaining the breeding habits of damselflies on the main river path on Brook Meadow.

What looks like a male Beautiful Demoiselle was the only damselfly I managed to capture over the river. Or was it a Banded Demoiselle?

I left the walk at the Seagull Lane gate and the rest carried on towards Westbourne. Sarah Hughes left me her card and indicated she would like to keep in touch with the Brook Meadow Conservation Group and help in any way possible with wildlife and conservation issues.

Jill to the rescue
Jill Stanley came to my rescue with photos of two plants that my point and shoot camera could not cope with. Fairy Flax (which I saw on Portsdown Hill) and Hairy Tare (which I found by Peter Pond, Emsworth).

Starry Clover
Ralph Hollins provides more information about Starry Clover which was found by John Norton and Peter Milinets-Raby during the Pan Species Listing field day in Gosport on June 10. Here is Peter's photo of this unusual plant.

Ralph says . . . "Starry Clover is described in Stace's Flora as .. "Introduced but naturalised since at least 1804 on shingle at Shoreham in Sussex but seen infrequently as a casual elsewhere in south Britain." The find at Gosport was presumably one of the casual appearances of the species, but for the fullest description we have a lot of information on the British Marine Life Study Society website at its page on Starry Clover. An interesting feature of this plant is that it only develops its striking star shaped calyx segments in its fruiting stage so the flowering clover looks very different from the fruiting stage."
This seems worth keeping an eye out for at Hayling and Eastney beaches.

Jean reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.
See the web page for the report and photos . . .
Havant Wildlife Group

For earlier observations go to . . . June 1-16