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for July 1-17, 2017
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MONDAY JULY 17 - 2017

Brook Meadow news
On my regular morning walk through Brook Meadow, I stopped to admire the tall cylindrical spikes of Timothy grass which is flowering and now widespread on the meadow. It flowers later in the year than most other grasses. It is named after Timothy Hanson, an American farmer and agriculturalist, who introduced it to Britain in around 1720 where it became a major source of hay and cattle fodder for British farmers. Here is a photo of some on the Lumley area.

As far as height goes, Timothy has some way to catch up with Reed Canary-grass which towers over all other grasses on the meadow. This magnificent grass is a robust perennial whose roots go deep into the soil. It is tolerant of periodic cutting and grazing and has been used in the past as a hay or pasture grass for areas subject to flooding, but not now? There are several good patches of Reed Canary-grass around Brook Meadow which are a striking feature of the grassland. Here is a photo of some in the centre meadow looking east towards the Lumley copse.

Creeping Thistles seem to be having a good year. They are abundant and flowering in several parts of the meadow. I had a sniff at some flowers and found them surprisingly aromatic. They certainly are very attractive to insects. This Comma was having a good feed.

I was surprised to see this plant of Wild Angelica rising above the rampant grasses on the north meadow. It is far more common on the Lumley area and south meadow. The red stems and rounded umbels are distinctive.

I was puzzled by a tiny plant growing in the gap in the central Willow line, no more than 4 inches tall with a single tiny yellow flower with 4 petals at the top. I guess it belongs to the brassica family, but which species?

Millpond News
I had a quick walk down to Slipper Millpond. Two large Grey Mullett were basking in the shallow water beneath the footbridge at the north end of Peter Pond. Shoals of smaller fish were swimming around in Slipper Millpond beneath the Hermitage Bridge.

Golden Samphire is looking good on the Hermitage Bridge.

The remaining 5 swan cygnets were with their mother on Peter Pond near the seat, while their father did his best to chase off some Mallard that got too close.

Waysides News
I did a big litter pick in Bridge Road car park in the quiet of yesterday evening, filling three large bags of rubbish plus a bag of bottles. Here they are still awaiting collection.


Havant Wildlife Group
This morning 11 members of the Havant Wildlife Group (including me as leader) assembled in Bridge Road car park Emsworth for the annual walk through Brook Meadow. It was good to meet up with old friends and new members who have joined since last time. Thanks to Caroline for taking the photo.

I have not attended the walks for some years, but they are still going strong under the leadership of Heather Mills. I always publish the walk reports on the web site. Details of the group which was originally started by Ralph Hollins in 1995 can be seen on the dedicated pages at . . . Havant Wildlife Group

Railway Wayside
Before going to Brook Meadow (as I revealed in yesterday's blog) I had a little treat for the group. We did a slight detour to visit the wayside behind Emsworth Railway Station which currently hosts a fine display of wild flowers. I think most members of the group (apart from Caroline French) did not know the wayside existed, so this was an eye-opener for them. We walked up and down the access ramp at the rear of the station from where the wayside could be viewed easily. Young Caroline was agile enough to climb through the fence onto the embankment to check out individual plants. Here are some of the group on the ramp looking at the wayside. Sorry my camera was on the wrong setting for this photo.

We paid particular attention to the Marsh Woundwort flowers which are the best anywhere in the local area. With the help of Ros Norton we confirmed the identification of Upright Hedge-parsley.

Brook Meadow
Entering Brook Meadow through the Seagull Lane gate we stopped to study the superb painting for the interpretation board done by Marian Forster. The original is on display in Emsworth Museum. Well worth a visit, if only to see the painting.

We also examined the galls on the larger of the planted Oak trees and with the help of Heather identified them as spangle and marble galls. There were also other galls which we were not sure about. We also looked at the other smaller Oaks that were planted as saplings in 2012.

From the north bridge we walked down the new ramp onto the meadow. Several members sampled the aroma from the Meadowsweet.

Heather's sharp eyes spotted a dead Ringlet in the vegetation near the Lumley area, though some live ones were seen later. (My photo below). We also came across lots of Meadow Grasshoppers jumping around in the grass (photo by Malcolm Phillips a couple of years ago).

At the Lumley entrance we stopped to examine the plants in 'the Lumley puddle' (now quite dry), including the tiny but robust Toad Rush which Caroline held up for others to see.

Heather spotted a Song Thrush in the red leaved Cherry Plum tree on the causeway, which I think Fay and others are looking for.

We did, in fact, get a much better view of a Song Thrush and a young Robin near the south gate. Photos by Derek.

Heather tried to make friends with the Robin.

We stopped at the main seat overlooking the meadow for coffee break. It just so happened that Debbie Robinson (the group's secretary) was set up there with sun shade and table conducting a visitor survey. Debbie was delighted to collect several £3 subscriptions from some people who were not members which will help towards maintaining the meadow in good order.

After the break we walked down the new path by the Gooseberry Cottage bund where we came across several Bush-crickets. My photos were hopeless, but Derek got a good one.

On the way back we met David Search who had taken over the visitor survey from Debbie. As David is our resident insect expert, we consulted him about the Bush-crickets. He was not sure at the time, but confirmed later that it was a Dark Bush-cricket. David said something about examining the genitalia which so shocked us, that we all beat a hasty retreat!

David did have some very interesting and surprising news that he had seen two Kingfishers fly across the meadow while he was on the seat. Wow! We were all very envious. Kingfishers in summer are very rare in this area (though common in winter). These may have been youngsters dispersing from early broods further up river.
Coming back along the main path we got a good view of a male Beautiful Demoiselle by the river, which had looked for but missed at the south bridge. My photo.

PS I have just received the results of the visitor survey: 186 adults, 17 children, and 87 dogs went through the meadow between 10am and 5pm.

FRIDAY JULY 14 - 2017

Railway Wayside
The wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station is looking great, a veritable blaze of colour from a multitude of wild flowers. My camera does not do it justice. I wish I was a poet. I think I shall include this wayside as an aperitif for tomorrow morning's guided walk for the Havant Wildlife Group though it is more of a meal in itself! There will be no need for people to clamber through the railings as the view from the access ramp is fine.

Marsh Woundwort is the botanical highlight of this site and there are plenty scattered around on the embankment with a particularly nice group at the top of the ramp.

Two plants I missed on my last visit to this wayside were Agrimony - in the far east of the wayside and Upright Hedge-parsley. Upright Hedge-parsley is the latest of the three common small white umbellifers to flower, after Cow Parsley and Rough Chervil. It has very stiff and rough stems with adpressed hairs and narrow leaves.

I noted several Small Skippers and Common Blues.

A group of Cinnabar caterpillars were feasting on one of the Common Ragworts. I also spotted a green Bush-cricket. My tentative identification is Oak Bush-cricket, though it could be a instar stage insect.

Bristly Ox-tongue must be the wild flower of the week. It is abundant on the Railway Wayside and is generally widespread, even along pavements, like this one at the top of Seagull Lane.

Brook Meadow
Walking along the north path by the railway embankment I noted a good growth of False Brome (Brachypodium sylvaticum) which, the name suggests, is a grass associated with shady areas. It has softly hairy leaves and long spike-like inflorescences drooping at their tips. It differs from Barren Brome which has very loose panicles with long branches drooping.

The red spikes of Clustered Dock (Rumex conglomeratus) were very prominent on the NE path. I checked the fruits under the microscope and all had three large red warts confirming the identification.

I had a look at the two experimental cutting areas on the north meadow, the southern one of which has some interesting flowers coming through, including Common Mouse-ear, Selfheal, Red Bartsia and Jointed Rush.

The northern experimental area is less promising as it remains dominated by coarser tougher plants, such as Bristly Ox-tongue and Tall Fescue. However, one bonus on this area was a lovely view of a Marbled White butterfly resting on a Bristly Ox-tongue leaf.

The Marsh Woundworts that grow near the Weeping Willow tree at the north end of the south meadow are doing well this year, despite having to fight their way through a mass of nettles and brambles. On 11 July, I counted 11 flowering spikes; today I counted 35 spikes and there could have been more. This is the best number of Marsh Woundwort spikes that I have counted at this location since the plants were first recorded in Year 2012. Maybe, I will have to make this one of my annual counts?

From the south bridge I got good views of male and female Beautiful Demoiselles in courtship mode. It is interesting how Beautiful Demoiselles have emerged as the main damselfly of Brook Meadow, taking over from Banded Demoiselles, which are seen less often now than they used to.

A little way along the path through the copse where there is access to the river, I saw two male demoiselles, this time sparing with one another. Also, at this vantage spot, I had my first male Common Darter of the year, the first of many I am sure.

Great White Egrets
A mundane visit to Langstone Mill Pond late this morning for Peter Milinets-Raby turned into a long hike to Conigar Point for distant views of 2 Great White Egrets. The birds were picked up (through the scope) in the marsh off Conigar Point. On 60 times magnification he could just make out the hint of a yellow bill and the grey bird next to them was a Grey Heron (this helped for size comparison). Peter was thus forced to walk to Conigar Point to try and get better scoped views which he achieved, but the birds were further east than he expected, probably being in the marsh adjacent to Nore Barn. At one point the two birds were feeding next to a Little Egret as well as the Grey Heron. Peter got some 'dreadful record photos' - his description, not mine! But they record these rare birds very well. Did anyone else see them?

After walking back to the pond, Peter quickly drove around to Nore Barn (1pm to 1:10pm), but no sign of the Great White Egrets. All he could see were 2 Shelduck, 2 Sandwich Tern and 4 Med Gulls.
Other species seen by Peter this morning (11:27am to 12:47pm - tide beginning to come in) were 22+ Redshank, 3 Med Gull and a Common tern. On the pond were 60 Mallard and a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Off Conigar Point were 2 Great Black-backed Gulls, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 Med Gull, 3 Common Tern and a Swift.

Note on the Great White Egret
Great White Egrets differ from the Little Egrets in being considerably larger and also in having yellowish legs and all yellow bill in non-breeding birds. Here is a photo of a Great White Egret alongside Little Egret taken by Richard Somerscocks at Thorney Great Deeps in Feb 2012.

Until the 1990s the Great White Egret was confined as a breeding species to central Europe and Asia, but since then the breeding population has expanded and with it the number of birds wintering in Western Europe and in Britain. They are less common in the summer months, so these two at Nore Barn are very unusual. The Hampshire Bird Atlas reported only 4 sightings in July in the years 2007-12.


Hayling Beach
Jean and I had a very pleasant walk along Hayling beach this morning from the car park east of the fun fair as far as Beachlands. Great views of sea and sky with the faint outline of the Isle of Wight in the distance.

There were as usual plenty of gulls hanging around on the beach, waiting for scraps of food from picnickers. Most were Black-headed Gulls, but the odd Great Black-backed Gull and Mediterranean Gull stood out clearly.

The beach, in parts, was carpeted with masses of Hare's-foot Clover, though most of the flowers were past their best. I checked some of the Wild Carrot umbels, some of which (though not all by any means) had a red central flower.

Almost all of the Sea Kale is now fruiting, though some of the Yellow-horned Poppies still had flowers.

Curled Dock (Rumex crispus) - was abundant on the shingle with its tall red spikes standing out prominently. All the fruits I examined had 3 warts. indicating that these plants were probably ssp. littoreus which is more common near the sea than ssp. crispus which usually has only one wart. The photo through the microscope shows two of the three warts on one of the fruits.

Lots of Bittersweet (Solanum dulcamara) with flowers and berries. I used to see this plant on the beach at Hayling Oysterbeds, but was never sure if it was ssp. marinum.

Prominent among the grasses were dense clumps of Marram Grass - a tall grass with long cylindrical panicles. Marram Grass is famous for its ability to stabilise wind blown dunes and it has been extensively planted around the coast of the British Isles to achieve this end. It also makes a very nice table decoration so I picked a few stems to go in my display vases.


Bridge Road
As I was responsible for their presence, I decided to cut back the Hollyhocks on the pavement in Bridge Road; they were leaning right across the path causing people to move into the road. There are still some flowers left, though they are all going over. But it has been a magnificent display and I am pleased I persuaded my neighbours at No 1 to let them stay. Pavement flowers at their best!

Brook Meadow
Bristly Ox-tongue is now in flower across the meadow, particularly on the north meadow and centre meadow. It is a favourite of mine, with its rough bristly leaves and deep yellow flowers, tinged red. Bristly Ox-tongue is the subject of a poem by Alice Oswald (in the book, 'Weeds and Wild Flowers'). This unglamorous plant is portrayed as a solitary and curmudgeonly old man, "too shy to speak . . . white hair uncombed . . . enormous jaws, chewing on silence". All good stuff!

Wild Angelica flower heads are a magnet for red Soldier Beetles.

There is a mass of Fool's Water-cress growing in the river beneath the south bridge. It is sometimes mistaken for edible Water-cress, but it is quite a different plant. It is an umbellifer and has flowers in white umbels. You can see some flowers on the right of the photo. Its leaves also differ from Water-cress being opposite and slightly toothed.

The Alder sapling that was planted near the Lumley Stream on 20 Aug 2015 now has a good crop of cones. Just after it was planted the tree was infested with the larvae of the Hazel Sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis) which almost stripped all of its leaves. However, it made a good recovery and is now in good health.

I scattered a few Wild Clary seeds from the Christopher Way verge on the ground in front of the main seat. It will be interesting to see if any come up.
I was delighted to discover a good growth of Giant Fescue on the path through Palmer's Road Copse, just before the first large Crack Willow going north from the bridge. It has been growing in this very spot for the last 10 years at least and probably much longer than that. This is, in fact, the only place it grows on Brook Meadow that I am aware of. Giant Fescue is the largest of the fescue grasses and is distinguished by its loose drooping panicles and large leaf-like auricles that clasp the stem, as illustrated in the photos.

I was expecting it here. This takes the total number of grasses recorded this year on Brook Meadow to 23, though I have not yet found any Meadow Barley. It is probably here somewhere, but not in great amounts and never easy to find. Enchanter's Nightshade is also flowering along the path through Palmer's Road Copse.

Slipper Millpond
The Great Black-backed Gulls have finally left the pond. The south raft where they nested is empty. The youngsters must have fledged since I was last here.

I could only see 5 of the original 6 cygnets in the Mute Swan family in Dolphin Lake. Have they lost one?

TUESDAY JULY 11 - 2017

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a wet visit to Langstone Mill Pond this morning, the rain moving in for 30 minutes of his 50 minute stay from 9am. It was low tide.
The highlight was the first freshly fledged juvenile Mediterranean Gull of the summer resting on the mud off shore along with 25+ adults bathing and preening before flying on to the Oysterbeds.

Also noted with them were 3 adult Common Gull and one Lesser Black-backed Gull. The other good bird of the visit were two Little Terns that were dashing back and forth along the channel, feeding along the tide line (my first sighting this year of this declining species). Also of note was a single Common Tern.
More waders were around today with 49+ Redshank and two flocks of 18 Curlew heading west along the channel towards Langstone Harbour. It's amazing, how the numbers just build up very quickly once they start!
On the pond was a single female Tufted Duck and I counted 52+ Little Egrets still loitering. At least three nests still held chicks of roughly two weeks old.

MONDAY JULY 10 - 2017

Waysides News
I did a circuit of the local waysides on what was a very warm morning.

Washington Road path
I started at the Washington Road path where I was interested to see Balm in flower for the first time this year. At the end of the path, just before the entrance to the Recreation Ground, I stopped to admire the very large plants of Greater Burdock (Articium lappa) which regularly grow here. The flower heads of these splendid plants comprise a globular mass of hook-tipped bracts (the burrs) surrounding a relatively small cluster of reddish-purple florets which are just starting to open.

Emsworth Recreation Ground
I was surprised to see that half the grassland behind the bowling club has been cut, probably by the council. This is a good idea as it will discourage course grasses and stimulate late flowering. The uncut half has the usual Creeping Bent and a good crop of what I think is Smaller Cat's-tail (Phleum bertolonii), though this grass is notoriously difficult to distinguish from Timothy (Phleum pratense). I tend to go on the overall size of the plants, if it is big it is certainly Timothy, if it is small it is probably Smaller Cat's-tail. The panicles on the Recreation Ground grasses were mostly between 2cm and 4cm; the largest I could see was 6cm. Timothy panicles are usually up to 15cm or more.

There is a good crop of Creeping Thistles on the verge near the northern fence of the recreation ground, but, as in previous years, many of the plants are completely blanched white. I have not been able to discover the reason for this. It is not spraying as they come up each year in exactly the same spot.

Christopher Way
The official wayside at northern end of Christopher Way has been cut short by the council. Jane has fixed an informative notice explaining that the grass is cut to encourage Wild Clary. The small piece of grass verge near the footpath entrance where the Wild Clary grows has been left. Most of the Clary has now set seed, so I collected some seeds for sowing in other areas, such as Brook Meadow and Bridge Road.

I noticed a brown Ladybird with many dark spots among the Wild Clary plants. I am not sure what species it is, but it could be one of the Harlequin Ladybirds.

New Brighton Road Junction
The verge on the junction has its usual good crop of Stone Parsley, Mugwort, Common Ragwort, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Field Bindweed, Spear Thistle. A variety of bees were feasting on the Common Ragwort flowers.

Railway Wayside
Just before I got to the northern railway entrance, I stopped to inspect the Wild Carrot umbels in front of the metal gates on New Brighton Road on one of which I found a yellow Crab Spider (Misumena vatia) lurking in the centre. I watched with tension as a fly landed on the head, wandered around a bit and came dangerously close to the spider, but not close enough for the spider to attack, while I was there, at least!

The wayside embankment close to the railway access ramp is a glorious blaze of colour, pink, white, red, blue, quite spectacular. Great Willowherb, Common Ragwort, Docks, Wild Carrot, Hedge Bedstraw, Creeping Thistle, Yarrow, Perforate St John's-wort. All this can be readily seen from the ramp itself, though I got down onto the site for a closer look.

I was especially pleased to see lots of Marsh Woundwort flower spikes, not only at the eastern end of the wayside near the road where they were originally, but now scattered around on the embankment. There is lots of Bristly Ox-tongue, but mostly still in bud.

SUNDAY JULY 9 - 2017

Nore Barn
Jean and I went for a walk to Nore Barn this morning. The tide was high and lots of people were in the water and on boats. I noted the usual flowering of Lax-flowered Sea-lavender on the small area of saltmarshes on the near side of the stream. This is not a good picture, so you will have to take my word for it, or better still go and have a look for yourself. Look out also Lesser Sea-spurrey in this area.

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow this afternoon mainly to have a look at the Marsh Woundwort that Maurice Lillie found pushing its way through the jungle of vegetation at the top of the Bramble path close to the Weeping Willow. I counted 11 flowering spikes with more to come; we should finish with about 20. Here is one of the spikes I took. Not a good photo, but better ones to come I hope.

I actually met Maurice on the meadow taking photos. He told me about a Beech tree he had discovered in the north-east corner. This is the first Beech to be recorded on Brook Meadow so will be added to our list of trees. It is a fair sized tree growing right next to the large pollarded Crack Willow at the far end of the north path. I have not noticed it before!

Hemp Agrimony is in flower a good 2 weeks earlier than usual. An attractive White Plume Moth was resting on Brambles.


Black-tailed Godwits
Pete Potts provided useful information about the Black-tailed Godwits that Sue Thomas saw at Pagham Harbour yesterday.

Pete says, "The vast majority of birds present in the UK and on the south coast from mid-may to the end of June are first summer birds, hatched the previous season which do not return to Iceland to breed till the following spring. There are always a few adults in these flocks through the summer which are either in poor condition or injured in some way and so don't return north to Iceland to breed.
Now, from the very end of June and through July ever increasing numbers of failed breeders (adults) are arriving back daily. The successful breeders return probably from the end of July through August followed by this years juvs from mid August onwards.
The birds breeding on the Washes are the limosa race of Black-tailed Godwit as opposed to the islandica race - these are quite rare on the south coast.
If you see any with rings on do please let me know."

Coral ornament
While browsing through antique shops in Lewes on Friday, I came across an attractive piece of white coral about 11 inches in height and mounted on a black base. I was so taken with it that I bought it for £40. As well, as being an attractive ornament, currently on display in my study window, the coral is a natural object, created by small marine invertebrates in tropical seas.

But was I right to buy it? As we all know, coral reefs are under stress around the world, mainly from human activities, such as harvesting. This makes me feel rather guilty about having this lovely object on my desk, as in buying it I have in a small way contributed towards the degradation of the reefs. Can anyone put my mind at rest? Or should I cover myself with sackcloth and ashes?

Putting aside the ethical issue for the time being I did a bit of research on the coral itself. The label on the base of the coral gives the name as Acropora arcuata from the Celebes Sea in the Indian Ocean. Acropora species are some of the major reef corals responsible for building the immense calcium carbonate substructure that supports the thin living skin of a coral reef. Coral reefs are built by colonies of tiny animals found in marine water that contain few nutrients. Most coral reefs are built from stony corals, which in turn consist of polyps that cluster in groups. Coral reefs are mainly concentrated in the oceans around northern Australia and Indonesia, though there are many others scattered around the word.

Portsdown Hill
Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group: They saw lots of butterflies and the hill was ablaze with colours and flowers at their peak.

Best of the butterflies was this Essex skipper with black clubbed antennae

The best of the flowers was this Lesser Centuary

For the full report and other photos see . . .

FRIDAY JULY 7 - 2017

Black-tailed Godwits return
Sue Thomas saw a flock of 35 Black-tailed Godwits in Pagham Harbour this morning, in the lagoon behind the harbour wall. Sue wonders what they were doing here as they should be breeding in Iceland. Here is Sue's photo of a few of them, some being in breeding plumage. They are such elegant birds. My favourite wader.

My guess is that these birds were the first returnees from the breeding grounds in Iceland. The failed and non breeders tend to return early and it is not unusual to see fairly large flocks up to 100 assembling in our local harbours. The most we have seen in Emsworth Harbour in July is 97 on 7th July 2000. Though these seen by Sue are particularly early. I will send Sue's sighting onto Pete Potts our Black-tailed Godwit guru for his comments.

Puss Moth caterpillar
Caroline French spotted this spectacular caterpillar at Medmerry last Saturday. It was about 5 or 6cm long. She was unable to identify it at the time but it was finally identified as a Puss Moth caterpillar. This one looks quite mauve but apparently they are quite variable and can also look green. I see from my guide that the moth itself is furry white with black spots. What amazing variety there is in the natural world.


Conservation Work
A group of 6th Form students from from Bay House School in Gosport came to Brook Meadow today with their teachers to carry out out some conservation work as directed by Jennifer Rye. I was not present, but went later to see the results of their work which were very impressive. They completed two main jobs. One was to extend the path area immediately outside the HQ tool store to allow for easier access for the power scythe. The other one was to construct steps in the north-east corner of the meadow from the path down to the river. This was to make it easier for people to exercise their dogs in this dedicated splash zone. Pam Phillips was making good use of it while I was there.

Tree surgeons from the Christopher Hoare Tree Services were on the meadow yesterday to cut up a couple of large fallen Crack Willow trees in the south meadow. They did a good job and neatly stacked the logs. They also lopped some of the tall Willows behind the tool store on the Seagull Lane patch and again stacked the resulting logs neatly. A good job well done. Many thanks also to HBC arborist Andy Skeet for organising it.

Wildlife observations
I was pleased to see my first Small Skippers of the year on Brook Meadow. This takes the total number of species recorded on Brook Meadow so far this year to 17.

I was also pleased to spot a very good growth and flowering of Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) near the reeds on the west bank of the river north of the sluice gate. The flower spikes did not appear over long, which suggests this maybe the pure species and not the hybrid (Veronica x Lackschewitzii)

Ants flying day
Hundreds of gulls were swirling around in the sky this afternoon gobbling up ants. Clearly, this was the perfect day for the local ant colonies to begin the 'nuptial flight' period of their reproduction cycle. Other colonies will choose different days. Apparently, they fly some distance to start new colonies - this avoids inter breeding. The photo shows just a small section of sky.

New contact for TCV
Rachel Moroney (now Bryan) has been our main contact and good friend from the Trust for Conservation Volunteers for many years, but she has a new job within the TCV. She will be the Operations Leader for England West, which means managing staff and offices in Southampton, Reading, Bristol and Gloucester. Rachel says it has been a pleasure working with all the conservation groups in the local area and hopes to visit on occasions. I think I speak for all the Brook Meadow Conservation Group when I say it has been our pleasure to work with you Rachel, always so helpful and friendly. We wish you all the best in your new job. Here is a photo of Rachel with the Brook Meadow Conservation Group at the start of a workday in June last year.

Meanwhile, the new TCV contact for the local conservation groups, ie, review visits, conservation forum and general advice and support will be Colette Court. Her email address is We look forward to meeting Colette.
Rachel also provided the name of a new contact within Norse SE for payment of TCV membership & Zurich insurance renewal as Chris Haynes . . .

Shelducks on the move
Shelduck are a familiar feature of estuaries and other coastal sites in north western Europe. The species has a fascinating breeding biology, and is the only waterbird in the region to regularly nest in burrows. Parents can be seen with chicks from late May onwards.
In July, the majority of the adults leave for moulting sites in the eastern North Sea. Up to 300,000 birds from across Europe take part in this moult migration and remain until September when they return to their regular wintering quarters, including Langstone and Chichester Harbours.
The following BTO link shows a map based on ringing recoveries which vividly illustrates this movement.


Bird's-foot Trefoils
As I was walking down the Hayling Billy Line on June 30th I came across some Bird's-foot Trefoil that did not look right for Common Bird's-foot-trefoil. The flowers were all yellow, it was quite erect and the leaves looked thin. This set me thinking about the possibility of alternatives, such as, Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, or even Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil. Here is the photo I took of one of the plants.

Ecologist John Norton replied to say the plant was definitely Common Bird's-foot Trefoil. He said this often has moderately elongated leaflets below the flowers, but it was the lack of hairs on the plant that ruled out Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil, while Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus glaber/tenuis) would have much longer and narrower leaflets.

The identity question was reopened by Ralph Hollins who told me that he found some Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil yesterday near the west end of the Mengham Junior School site on Hayling Island which he thought looked very similar to the plant in my photo. Ralph took a specimen of his plant home and confirmed the id of Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil by cutting through the main stem to ensure that it was hollow; Common Bird's-foot-trefoil would have a solid stem.

To try to resolve this issue, this morning went to the Hayling Billy Line and have another look at the Bird's-foot Trefoil that I found there last week. The plants were easy to find a little way down the main track from the northern car parking area. Interestingly, some of the plants had pods arranged in a bird's foot pattern from which the plants get their common name.

I cut a couple of specimens and they certainly had tough, solid stems. The plants were also largely hairless and the calyx teeth were not reflexed as they would have been in Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil. So, it looks as though John was right, the plants are Common Bird's-foot-trefoil and not Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil.

Interestingly, I found this photo in my files taken several years ago at Newtown Nature Reserve on the Isle of Wight showing examples of both Common Bird's-foot-trefoil (left) and Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil (right). Clearly the latter is very hairy. These were confirmed by the reserve warden.

Back to today, coming back to the car park along the Hayling Billy Line, where the cycle track veers to the right , I took the path straight on that originally carried the train line across the harbour to Havant. It was here, with Bird's-foot Trefoils prominently in my mind, that I got quite excited by another scrambling yellow-flowered plant with narrow leaves. Surely, not Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil? Closer inspection revealed the presence of tendrils and leaflets in pairs not trios. This was Meadow Vetchling.

I also observed a Wild Carrot plant with pink hued umbels, one of which was heavily populated with red Soldier Beetles (Rhagonycha fulva).

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby popped down to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 1:52pm to 2:34pm. Still not much around. It was low tide. The highlight was the first freshly fledged Black-headed Gull wandering around the low tide mud. Such ginger brown things, very odd!
Off shore were 2 Black-tailed Godwit with 8+ Curlew and a single Common Tern. On the pond were 36+ Little Egrets, mostly juveniles, some still small and in their nests. 4 Grey Heron (all juvs), Reed Warbler and Chiffchaff still singing

MONDAY JULY 3 - 2017

Slipper Millpond
As I stood on the Hermitage Bridge by Slipper Millpond, the Mute Swan family with 6 cygnets went sailing by. They look really healthy. Less happy was the forlorn looking pair of Coot near the west path - yet another breeding season gone with no youngsters to look after.

As for the two Great Black-backed Gull chicks, they were alone on the south raft.

However, I spotted one of their parents on a chimney pot on Slipper Road, keeping an eye on them. I got the impression that the adult was trying to encourage the chicks to fly.

While I was taking photos of the chicks from the west path this adult swooped down low, right over my head. This was the first time I have been 'buzzed' this year, though it has happened in previous years. Quite scary!

Fox and Cubs
The small grass verge at the far end of Church Path once again hosts a superb display of Fox and Cubs flowers. This is, by far, the best display of these attractive flowers that I am aware of in Emsworth.

Fox and Cubs (aka Orange Hawkweed) gets its name from the rusty orange mature flower (the fox) and its flanking buds with fuzzy blackish hair (the cubs).

It was introduced into Britain from Central Europe in the 17thC and since then has become widely naturalised. It grows well in churchyards, verges and other grassy places. The verge in Church path is privately owned and contractors cut it frequently, but the flowers seem to benefit from this cutting, for they pop up in this fine display every year in July.

Other local news
Brian Lawrence had a walk around Brook Meadow today. There were a few butterflies about not much else. So he went down to Slipper Millpond and saw one of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks fly a short distance. There was also a Mallard with 4 ducklings. And the best of British luck! Finally, Brian then went up Lumley under the A27 road where he had Cinnabar moth caterpillars on Common Ragwort. Lovely grub.

Conigar Point
Peter Milinets-Raby parked himself on the shoreline by Conigar Point and watched the tide drop from 9:03am to 10:54am.
"Apart from lots of exposing mud, I had a few Med Gulls. The Med Gulls were obviously returning from their morning hunting sessions inland as they flew over in one and twos and briefly dropped in to the stream for a quick two minute drink before moving on to the Hayling Oyster beds. I had in total of 23 birds, with three being the maximum at any one time. (see photos)

Adult and second summer Med Gulls

Also dropping in for a wash as the tide fell away were 2 pairs of Shelduck, a Curlew, 10 Lesser Black-backed Gulls, though three together were the highest encountered and over 30+ Herring Gulls.
Other species of note were 3 Common Tern and a Sandwich Tern.
In the Tamarisk hedge and the mini reed bed, I heard singing Reed Warbler and 2+ Whitethroats and saw a Chiffchaff (probably the first of the autumn).

Chaffinches in decline
The British Trust for Ornithology says this spring saw the lowest ever numbers of Chaffinches in gardens as reported by the Garden BirdWatch participants. I have also noticed a similar trend in my own garden here in Emsworth where Chaffinch numbers have been falling for several years. Here are my weekly average count of Chaffinches in the garden over the whole year. Numbers go up and down, but it shows very poor counts for Years 2014, 2016 and 2017 so far.

This trend is also seen in wider countryside, with the Breeding Bird Survey reporting a decline in Chaffinches over the last ten years. They don't know the reason for this decline but one line of investigation is the disease Trichomonosis which has caused large declines in the Greenfinch population.
See . . .

Finally, they urge all garden birdwatchers to regularly clean feeders and bird baths and to report any sick or dead birds to the Garden Wildlife Health project at

Red flower in Wild Carrot
I posted the photo of the Wild Carrot umbel with the red flower in its centre that I took on Slipper Millpond on June 29 to the Wild Flowers group on Facebook with a query. Is this an aberration? Well, this posting provoked a long and interesting discussion from which I give some extracts which might be of more general interest. Here is the original photo.

Rob Large (the group guru) replied to say that the central red flower it is not an aberration, but neither is it the norm (though it is normal), or truly characteristic of the species. He thinks it may be locally common for some umbels to have the red flower, but in his experience in the west country and elsewhere it hardly ever occurs. However, other correspondents from across the country did report having seen the central red flowers on many Wild Carrots, so maybe it is a local variation?

Rob rapped the knuckles of one correspondent who suggested that 'evolution has put the red flower there for a reason, perhaps to attract a certain type of insect'. Rob replied, "That is not how evolution works. Rather evolution has failed to eliminate this minor variation in the phenotype because it does not confer a survival disadvantage. If there was an advantage in having the red central flower (never ever call it a reason) then all (or most) plants would have it."

Finally, Rob added, "The white flowered umbellifer is an exceptionally efficient form for pollination and Daucus (Carrot) typically exhibits close to 100% seed set in most environments. Hence, it is hard to believe that there is even a marginal benefit to a single red flower in attracting pollinators. I understand that the red one is usually sterile anyway. Given that the flowers in bud are typically red/pink, perhaps it has more to do with the development process itself, with red pigments being progressively withdrawn as the flowers open from the outer edge, until the concentration of pigment at the centre actually prevents proper flowering."

The next interesting contribution came from Ellen Lamborn who had done some research on the red central flower as an undergraduate project and got the findings published! Ellen says, "I studied the theory that dark central floret was a 'fly' (or insect) attractor, but we didn't find any significant effects. I believe this has been studied since by other authors who concluded that certain beetles were attracted to the floret, but in populations in Portugal."

The paper concluded thus: "The role of the dark central floret remains an enigma. We speculate, following Darwin, that the dark central floret may now be functionless and possibly represents a trait that has persisted long after its original function has been lost." See link to Ellen's paper at . . .

In response to Ellen's research, I had a close look at the Wild Carrots during a walk along the old Hayling Billy Line on June 30. The first one I saw, close to the car park, had several large white umbels, each one of which had a red central flower. There were lots of flies on the umbels and I got the distinct impression thy were attracted to the central red flowers, though they did not seem to feed. Here is a photo taken then showing a fly approaching the central flower.

Ellen Lamborn agreed. In her research the red central flowers were attacked by Sawflies, but there was no significant difference in seed set, ie there was no clear advantage for the plant from the flies attention.

Finally, Mike Crewe replied as follows, "Since the benefits of attracting insects to an insect pollinated plant are obvious and since this mechanism is well known in other plant groups, it seems a fair assumption that the red flower helps attract insects, probably by indicating (falsely) that there is already an insect there so a visit would be worthwhile. Two thoughts on the presence/absence variability noted: the red flower may only be functionally present at the optimum time for attracting insects and may simply appear to be absent at other times. Alternatively, since insect populations fluctuate widely year on year (both in number and in species composition) it may suit the plant to have this mechanism only available in a percentage of the population for a variety of reasons."

SUNDAY JULY 2 - 2017

Work Session
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular 1st Sunday in the month conservation work session. Ten volunteers attended led by Jennifer Rye who outlined the various tasks for the day. These involved mainly cutting and clearing the paths and some of the special areas, including the new 'recreation area' in the north meadow near the large fallen Crack Willow tree. This is becoming a rather nice glade.

The full report and more photos can be seen on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .

Wildlife news during the morning
Birds singing included Blackbird, Wren, Blackcap and Chiffchaff. I was pleased to see the first Gatekeepers and Marbled White. That takes the total number of butterfly species seen on Brook Meadow this year to 16 (out of site total of 26). Azure Damselfly in the south east corner.

My best sighting was a Birch Sawfly near the south gate - see below.

Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea - has managed to battle its way through the jungle of vegetation on the Seagull Lane patch. This attractive flower has been regular at this location for many years, but as I did not see it at all last year I thought we may have lost it. But, no! Here it is again.

Perforate St John's-wort - one plant in flower on the edge of the Lumley area. This was my first sighting on the meadow since 2014. Square-stalked St John's-wort is far more common.
The small Oak sapling planted by my wife Jean on the Seagull Lane patch as part of the Jubilee celebrations in 2012 has been cleared and is look in very good health. Here's to the next 300 years!

Tony Browne told me that he thought he saw a Leech while clearing out the Lumley Stream in front of the Lumley Cottages where he lives. Brenda Scott reported seeing a Cinnabar Moth.

Birch Sawfly
The most interesting sighting of the morning was a large handsome insect which I saw while I was chatting to Dave Lee. It was perched on the gate post at the south entrance, but obligingly crawled onto my hand where I was able to get this nice photo. Neither of us knew what it was, but looking it up in my insect guide I identified it as Birch Sawfly (Cimbex femoratus). Interestingly, there is a Birch tree close to the south gate where I found this insect.

The adult Birch Sawfly is best recognised by the pale band on its shiny black abdomen. Its wings are smoky brown colour with dark brown margins and the antennae are clubbed yellow tipped. The Birch Sawfly is also large; at up to 25mm long, it is the largest British Sawfly. It buzzes in flight, though it did not have a chance to fly. In fact, I had difficulty in getting it off my hand as it clung on tenaciously. Its UK status is said to be local throughout Britain, so not very common.
The solitary larvae feed on Silver Birch leaves between June and September and can grow up to 45mm in length. A black edged bluish stripe runs along the middle of the larva's back for the length of its body. There is a single row of black dots along the side of the body.

Identification Updates
Bryan Pinchen confirmed that both the Skippers I saw recently, one on the Railway Wayside in Emsworth and the other on the Hayling Billy Line, were correctly identified as Essex Skippers. That is brilliant. The best view I have ever had of these elusive butterflies.

However, John Norton said the Bird's-foot Trefoil that I found on the Hayling Billy Line that I thought might be Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil or Narrow-leaved Bird's-foot Trefoil was definitely Common Bird's-foot Trefoil. He says, "It often has moderately elongated leaflets below the flowers. The lack of hairs rules out all the other species other than Lotus glaber/tenuis, but that has much longer & narrower leaflets.


For earlier observations go to . . . June 17-30