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

for July 16-31, 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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

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MONDAY JULY 31 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I had a stroll around the meadow in late afternoon sun. Very peaceful with tall plants swaying in the breeze. There were lots of insects on the umbellifers, including these two hoverflies. The large one on the left looked like a Hornet mimic, but I think it is Volucella inanis. The small one on the right looks like Myathropa florea. But please correct me if I am wrong.

I also spotted this cracking female Common Darter.

And could one wish for anything better than to come across a bright and fresh Red Admiral resting in the warm sunshine on a leaf. It is truly amazing to consider that this beautiful insect has just flown across the English Channel to be with us on Brook Meadow.

Hoary Ragwort and Hemp Agrimony are now in flower and I brought a few springs of the latter back for my desk display.

The Hemp Agrimony was attracting Bumblebees, like this white-tailed chap, probably Bombus terrestris.

Pepper-saxifrage is out on the east side of the Lumley area. It is always late flowering. Not easy to photograph.

The young Oak tree on the east side of the north meadow has a great crop of acorns, many of them are distorted by Knopper Galls.

In the same area, the Rowans are covered in juicy red berries, no doubt the local Blackbirds and Thrushes are watchful.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon ahead of the high tide (3:15pm for an hour). The highlights were 98 Redshank off shore with 8 colour ringed (four of them were new to him). B+B//OO B+B//WO B+B//RY. B+B//WW (Very dirty white, these two rings). B+B//RB B+B//YW B+B//NG. Redshank colour-ringed sightings should be forwarded to Josh Nightingale . . .

Peter also saw 13 Black-tailed Godwits with one colour ringed G//R+BG. This Godwit has been a regular wintering bird in the Emsworth area since Sept 2010, but this is the first sighting this 'autumn'.

Also around were 3 Common Gulls, 2 Med Gulls, 6 Mute Swan, 2 Greenshank, a Whimbrel and a single Common Tern. On the pond were 30+ Little Egrets and the female Tufted Duck still had seven ducklings.

Hedgehog news
Ken and Romney Turner have what they call 'the twins', medium same sized animals, on their feeder every night now tucking into dried mealworms, seedhearts and now a small ball of mince.
They added, "Curiously enough, they eat everything else first then come back for the mince when they have walked off a full belly. We happened to look out much later last night at 11:30 and the big one tried the feeder but others had scoffed the lot so he got a couple of titbits and cleared off. Needs to get there around 9pm like the others, early Hedgehogs get the worm or whatever else is on offer."

SUNDAY JULY 30 - 2017

When I opened my front door at 9.30pm yesterday evening, I was surprised to hear a loud snuffling coming from the path in front of the window. I got a torch out to have a look and found two Hedgehogs rubbing up against each other, but not fighting. I called Jean and we watched them for about a minute before one made off round the side of the house. What were they up to? Were they males confronting each other? Or was this courtship.

Sorry, no chance of a photo, but here is Romney Turner's photo of Hedgehogs in close proximity taken recently.

I sent a report of the Hedgehogs sighting to Caroline French, our local Hedgehog expert, who thought it sounded like courtship behaviour, especially with the snorting sounds, which are made by the female. Normally, the female will keep turning her rear end away from the male who will persist, sometimes for several hours until mating does (or doesn't) occur! Caroline sent a link a video on YouTube showing typical courtship behaviour in Hedgehogs which was exactly like we saw last night with the male circling around the female. See . . . .

Concerning the sexing of Hedgehogs, Caroline says it is difficult without picking them up and looking closely. However, males are bigger when fully grown, as in the above video.
A couple of nights ago Caroline saw a quite a small hedgehog in her garden. Although independent, it must be one of this year's as it is too small to have survived the winter.

Trees of Heaven!
Chris Oakley took this photo of the two magnificent Tree of Heaven trees in the grounds of the Waterside Church in Bath Road. They are very prominent landmarks and are currently at their best. Chris notes the trees are have bunches of crimson 'whirligigs' seeds similar to the Maple.

Pavement flora
Chris also extoled the value of pavements as a habitat for wild flowers. He sent me this photo of Nursery Close, where he counted six different wild flowers.

Bridge Road, where I live, has a similar adornment of wild flowers along the edge of the pavement. I counted 13 different species in a small section near my house alone - a sign that that dreaded council spraying teams have not been round this year (yet). Let's hope they stay well away, pavement plants are a joy to behold. We also had a magnificent display of Hollyhocks on the pavement outside number 1 Bridge Road until fairly recently, though they have now gone over.


Emsworth to Warblington
Peter Milinets-Raby took advantage of a fine morning before the rain to do his first survey of the autumn of birds along the coast from Emsworth to Warblington. The first of many during the winter I suspect. Peter covered almost all the area from Emsworth Harbour to the shore off Pook Lane 7:50am to 10:17am - tide out and dropping further. His sightings were as follows:

Beacon Square from 7:51am:
2 Greenshank, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, 62 eclipse plumaged Mallard feeding on the freshly uncovered mud, 1 Little Egret, 2 Whimbrel, Lesser and a Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Green Woodpecker, 23+ Goldfinch flock with a single Linnet in it.

Emsworth Harbour from 8:07am:
2 Little Egret, 4 Whimbrel, 1 Shelduck, 81 Black-tailed Godwit, 9 Turnstone, 5 Common Tern, Lesser and a Great Black-backed Gull, 5 Greenshank, two of them in the pond outflow, one with rings.

Ringed Greenshank: W//R+LN - Peter said he had not seen this one before and the combination of rings did look unfamiliar. So, I consulted Anne de Potier, who now keeps the colour-ringed Greenshank records. Anne told me that W//R+LN was ringed at Farlington in September 2013, but she does not think anyone has seen it until this autumn, when she saw it roosting on the Deeps on 24 July! So, done Peter.
Astonishingly this was Peter's 43rd ringed bird recorded in the area! As he says, it just goes to show how many pass through the area in the migration periods and linger during the winter months. And, of course the number of un-ringed birds could be 40+ again! 14 individuals were seen just today!

On Emsworth Millpond - 5 Coot.

Nore Barn from 8:44am:
4 Greenshank (YO//- + -//YY) - A regular Nore Barn bird, 1 Shelduck, 3 Whimbrel, 33 Black-tailed Godwit, 11 Mute Swan, 2 Little Egret, 3 Lesser Black-backed Gull,

Warblington from 9:02am:
Skylark heard singing, 3 Stock Dove, 1 Jay, 1 Kestrel, 1 Buzzard, 1 Swallow,

Conigar Point:
3 adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls and 2 juvs. 1 Common Tern, 1 Common Gull,
And loafing around on the mud were an impressive gathering of 142 adult Mediterranean Gulls (in various stages of moult) with 40 fresh juveniles!
A lovely Willow Warbler in the Tamarisk Hedge provided close views.

Off Pook Lane:
A further 2 adult Med Gulls with 7 more juveniles, 3 Greenshank, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 Little Egret in the trickle of water in the channel, 1 Stock Dove, 2 Common Gulls, 1 very handsome summer plumaged Grey Plover - very smart!


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon 1:20pm for an hour. Tide pushing in to high. "Autumn certainly feels in the air at the moment with drizzle and lots of waders around." His report follows:
Off shore were: 78 Redshank (-//B+ B//OL & -//B + B//GL & -//B + B//YW), 5 Greenshank, 1 Ringed Plover, 2 Whimbrel, 3 Common Tern, 4 Ad &2 Juv Med Gulls, 3 Common Gull, 1 Kestrel. 1 adult summer Great Crested Grebe.
Off Conigar Point: 1 Bar-tailed Godwit, 1 Common Tern, 2 Med Gulls.
On the pond: 64 Little Egrets loitering - about 10 still on nests, 2 Grey Heron, 2 Mute Swan, Female Tufted Duck with 7 tiny ducklings (First seen on 25th July and today, so still doing well - breeding confirmed again at the pond).


Waysides News
Passing through Bridge Road car park this morning I spotted two notices (presumably erected by Jane Brook who now runs the waysides project) informing us that in the next 2 months the wayside will be cut by Havant Borough Council. Arisings will be left for a while to allow the seeds to drop before they are raked up. That is good news as the Bridge Road Wayside has been disappointing this year and needs an early cut.

Brook Meadow
I had another look at the southern experimental cut area on the north meadow where I found one new flower for this area Selfheal. This takes the total of plants in this small area to 25, nothing special, but a lot more than one would find in the surrounding wilderness. I have recommended to the conservation group that they should repeat this regular experimental cutting regime in other areas, which they have agreed to consider.
I was delighted to see a Bittersweet plant climbing up an Elder on the side of the main path through the south meadow. It had flowers, green and red berries

There were lots of insects feeding on the flower heads of Hogweed, mainly house flies, red soldier beetles and hoverflies. Here are photos of the two most common hoverflies I saw on the flowers. The one on the left side in the photos I think is the familiar Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus), though I was not aware (until now) that it was possible to separate the sexes in the field. This looks like a female which has clearer abdominal markings than the male.
The hoverfly on the right side in the photos could be Syrphus ribesii (no common name) which is also fairly common on Brook Meadow.

A sharp shower of rain interrupted my insect watching. I sheltered for a while under trees near the seat, admiring the meadow while listening to Sarah Vaughan singing 'What a lovely day to get caught in the rain' on my iPhone!

Hummingbird Hawk-moths galore in gardens
The BTO reports Hummingbird Hawk-moths have been seen in a record number of gardens so far this season, particularly in the south and east of England. They were seen in 2% of gardens in June compared to an average of 0.5%.
See . . .

For the annual patterns of garden sightings see . . .

Hummingbird Hawkmoths do not normally over-winter here, and the population is replenished each year by new migrants. As such, numbers can vary considerably from year to year. It has been particularly warm this June in eastern parts of England - more than 2.5°C above average according to the Met Office - and warm air drawn up from the south may have helped to carry them to our shores. These moths are often seen hovering like a hummingbird over plants such as Viper's Bugloss, Buddleia and Red Valerian, to collect nectar. Our main season for sightings is June-September, so keep an eye out for them!

Martin Rand
I have just heard from Martin Rand, our local BSBI Plant recorded for S Hampshire and my mentor on all matters botanical, that he will be undergoing medical treatment for the next 5-6 months. This is likely to put him out of action for some of the time, so Martin asks us to be patient if we don't get very timely responses to e-mails. Good news, is that he expects to be back 'on all cylinders' by Snowdrop time next year! We shall be thinking of you, Martin. Get well soon.


Hedgehogs brawling
Ken and Romney Turner had the very unusual experience of watching a pair of Hedgehog apparently fighting. I will leave Romney to describe the experience in her own words.

Here is one of the Hedgehogs coming for food.

"I had put the food out and went to look if anyone was noshing, a lot of shrubbery was moving and out tumbled two medium sized Hedgehogs. They were nowhere near the food yet but the action was fast and furious, I thought maybe mating prelude. However it soon became clear that the evenly matched pair were both pushing and shoving before one got a mouthful of spines and proceeded to drag, shake, pull and push the other in and out of shrubs, under the low Spruce and all over the slate border.
I was worried they would kill each other and got my 'big hands' in an attempt to break them up, they did not appear to even notice me. It went on and on with me shining a torch to try and put them off but I could see that even when one let go the other did not run away and I could see no blood or injury so eventually went in to get my little camera to grab these pics.

The fight did break up with them scuttling off in different directions but just because they were exhausted, they took no notice of me taking flash pictures at all. We have seen up to six Hedgehogs in the garden visiting our small feeder tray and the two medium ones are none the worse for the scuffle. They seem to tolerate each other at the moment. The very large mum or dad does not bully the smaller or medium ones so life is peaceful again. I can see where some of them have daytime nests and am minimising disturbance whist sorting the paths but they have not been put off. They clean up under our bird feeders and visit our neighbours for different food nightly, sometimes using the holes in the wall we left for them to use years ago. I am in the process of writing an essay on Why I love my garden so will definitely include this episode. So lucky."

Well, well. What a story that makes. But what was going on? A bit of internet research revealed that although Hedgehogs generally are peaceful animals, they do occasionally 'fight', though this is never serious as they dont have sufficient weaponry in the way of teeth to cause physical damage. Most commonly fights occurs between males in the mating season. There are several videos on YouTube showing scuffles rather than full blown fights. Maybe Romney's Hedgehogs were two adolescents testing out their masculine strengths. Does anyone else have any explanation?

MONDAY JULY 24 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I had a stroll through the meadow this afternoon. The ground remains dry despite the rain we had had over the past couple of days. Here are a few observations.

Water Mint - first flowering of the year on the centre meadow. This is a bit earlier than usual, as it is usually into August before I see the first flowers. I love the aroma of this plant as I walk through the long vegetation.

Spider - I watched this spider weaving its orb web for several minutes, taking photos as it happened. It did not look right for a regular Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), with lighter colouring and no obvious cross. I would appreciate some help.

Harvestman - A spider type of creature with very long legs (aka 'Daddy Longlegs'). They have eight legs like spiders, but do not spin webs and don't have venom. They also have a single body with the thorax and abdomen fused. I spotted this chap scuttling through the long grasses. It hardly stopped for a moment.

Here are three of the butterflies I saw on the meadow - Gatekeeper , Common Blue and Ringlet, plus a Meadow Grasshopper which stopped long enough for me to snap it. The Gatekeeper had wings closed showing the white spots which are almost translucent, more like holes than spots.

Fly identifications
I sent Bryan Pinchen photos of three insects that I saw feeding on Creeping Thistles on Brook Meadow yesterday. Here is his verdict.
The first one is in the genus Chrysotoxum, but without seeing it from above and getting a better look at the abdominal markings Bryan can't put a species name to it, although it's probably C. cautum.
Ralph Hollins suggested Chrysotoxum verralli for this fly and referred me to a page of photos at . . .

Bryan says the second insect, is the hoverfly Volucella zonaria (aka the Hornet mimic), it has more dark yellowish suffusion on the wings than V. inanis, and has an overall broader more 'meaty' appearance.

The third (which I actually got right!) is the Conopid fly Physocephala rufipes, they parasitise solitary and social bees and wasps, this is one of the more widespread and common of the species.

SUNDAY JULY 23 - 2017

Brook Meadow
I had a walk around the meadow late this morning before the rain set in. The meadow was remarkably dry despite yesterday's heavy rain. I was OK walking with normal shoes.
Bristly Ox-tongue seems to have had a very good year. It is particularly abundant on the north meadow where it is the dominant species.

Butterbur leaves are now huge in the area below the seat. Well loved by kids as 'green' umbrellas.

I had a close look at the two experimental cutting areas on the north meadow where there are now a good number of flowers on show. I will suggest to the conservation group that this experimental cutting strategy could be repeated in other parts of the meadow to uncover seed banks which otherwise might never get the opportunity to grow into flowers in competition with the tall coarse grasses. There were also lots of Meadow Grasshoppers jumping around in the short grass and Bumblebees on the flowers indicating a good wildlife habitat. Of the two areas the southern is the best so I decided to do a count of the more obvious species I could find in this area. The total was 23, nothing special, but good to find. I will continue to monitor.

I spotted three unusual insects feeding on Creeping Thistles near the Lumley area. I will check them out with Bryan Pinchen. See tomorrow's blog for Bryan's verdict.

FRIDAY JULY 21 - 2017

White Creeping Thistle
John Arnott has cleared up the mystery of the white Creeping Thistles (Cirsium arvense) on the wayside on the north side of Emsworth Recreation Ground near the fence. These plants with pure white foliage, which are mixed in with perfectly normal plants with green foliage, have puzzled me for several years. In fact, I saw them again only yesterday, but did not bother to get a photo. Here is a photo taken earlier this month (10 July).

John says the lack of colour in the plants is caused by a bacterium called Pseudomonas syringae pv. tagetis - a fairly new infection, first recorded in Kent in 2003. I gather Creeping Thistles can also be affected by a rust disease called Puccinia punctiformis which causes the plants to go spindly and a pale green in colour, but not white.
I assume the Creeping Thistles with pure white flowers, but otherwise normal, are not affected in this way. Maybe these just old flowers going over? This photo was taken on the east bank of Slipper Millpond. There are also lots on the wayside north of Emsworth Railway Station.
John says that these white flowers are just a genetic variation in the same way that one can find white flowered Bluebell and Self Heal. Nice find though!


Brook Meadow
I had completely forgotten about the regular 3rd Thursday in the month workday on Brook Meadow, so I was naturally quite surprised to find some volunteers just completing their morning tasks when I arrived at about 11.30am. As there were only 5 volunteers they restricted the jobs to clearing and tidying up some of the paths. I took a few photos before they finally packed up at 12 noon.

I was pleased to hear from Jennifer Rye that the group will be employing Martin Cull to carry out an early annual cut of the grassland once the payment situation with Norse gets sorted. Cutting and clearing early will remove the maximum nutritional value in the arisings and reduce the amount of nutrients returning to the soil through decomposition. Less accumulation of soil fertility equals more flowering herbs and less grass.

Green-veined Whites
While I was on the meadow I saw three Green-veined White butterflies on the main river bank, the first I have seen this year on Brook Meadow. These will be the first emergence of the summer brood which is more numerous than the first brood in spring. The upper wing markings are always heavier on second brood adults.
The one on the left side photo looks like a male with a single black spot in the middle of its forewing. Or can I see a hint of two spots through the nearest wing? The butterfly in the right side photo is showing only its underwings, but it could be a female, which has two spots on the upper wings.

The Green-veined White caterpillars feed on Water-cress among other things, which probably account for the presence of the adults today near the river where there is an abundance of it.

Other news
Lesser Burdock is just coming into flower on the Seagull Lane patch opposite the tool store.
The tall flower spikes of Purple Loosestrife are now showing above the other vegetation in the river just south of the north bridge.

Greater Burdocks gone!
I had a stroll around some of the local waysides this afternoon, starting inWashington Road. On reaching the end of the path to Emsworth Recreation Ground I was dismayed to find the magnificent Greater Burdock plants that were just starting to flower when I visited last week, had been mown out of existence. Gone, not a trace left apart from strimmed chippings on the ground. I hope there is a good seed bank in the soil to allow the plants to regenerate.

I cheered up considerably when I spotted several other Burdocks on the pony field over the wire fence. I slipped through a gap in the gate to check them out. From the flat-topped arrangement of the flowers they are almost certainly Greater Burdocks as Lesser Burdocks have their flowers in a spike-like clusters. This field which used to be used for grazing is abandoned and is largely covered in Common Ragwort. Lets hope it stays like this. Grid Ref: SU 74601 06478

I had this nice Gatekeeper nearby.


Wild Clary flowering
The grass verge at the northern end of Christopher Way where the Wild Clary grows has not been cut. Most of the Wild Clary has now set seed, though I did find some fresh late flowering spikes. I collected some of the seed for use elsewhere.



Great Black-backed Gulls nesting records
A pair of Great Black-backed Gulls have nested on one of the rafts on Slipper Millpond, Emsworth, for the past 6 years - 2012 to 2017. As far as I am aware this is unique for this area. Here is a summary of the nesting records.

Year 2012 - A pair of Great Black-backed Gulls nested for the first time ever in Emsworth, on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond in 2012 producing two youngsters.

Year 2013 - They nested again on the centre raft in 2013 producing three youngsters.

Year 2014 - In December 2013 the Slipper Millpond Association decided to deter the gulls from nesting due to their predation of other avian inhabitants on the pond, notably Coot. To achieve this the three rafts on the pond were covered with wires, but this did not put the birds off and they nested again successfully in 2014 rearing one youngster.

Year 2015 - They were back again in 2015 and nested successfully on the centre raft hatching three chicks, but all three were drowned when they fell from the raft, much to the distress of the parents! So, this year's nesting was unsuccessful.

Year 2016 - The two gulls returned again to the pond in the spring of 2016. They nested on the centre raft again and produced three chicks of which two youngsters survived. One mature juvenile was seen dead on the raft in July, from unknown cause.

Year 2017 - They were back again in 2017, but, very surprisingly, were ousted from their usual central nesting raft by a pair of Canada Geese which nested there temselves and produced a brood of 5 goslings. The gulls settled down on the smaller south raft and hatched three chicks of which two survived and fledged by early July.

For more details about the nesting plus lots of photos go to the specially dedicated web page on this web site at . . . Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond

Caroline's news
Caroline French shared some of her recent wildlife news and photos with us.
She writes, "The Cockchafer Beetle was on a dead rose head in our garden on 19th May. It was the first I've seen, although they are apparently quite common having recovered from over-use of pesticides in the mid 20th century (Buglife website).
The Brown Hare was one of six in a weedy stubble field near Stansted. They are clearly finding plenty to eat here.

The male Bullfinch and male Yellowhammer were on farmland at Ramsdean, near Butser Hill.

The Herring Gull is the latest addition to our garden avifauna! This is the first year I have heard Herring Gulls in north Emsworth. This one is immature but there have been two around all summer and I wouldn't be surprised if they breed nearby next year if they can find somewhere suitable."

I too have noticed many more gulls flying around the gardens in my area in South Emsworth this year. Black-headed Gulls often swoop down to snatch any bread I throw out, but I have not had a Herring Gull.

TUESDAY JULY 18 - 2017

Stansted Forest
Brian Lawrence was in Stansted Forest today and got what for me is a unique photo of a pair of Silver-washed Fritillaries mating. I think the butterfly on the right of Brian's photo with the broader dark scent lines is the male. What a photo! Brian also got a more mundane White Admiral at Stansted.

Brook Meadow
Brian Lawrence was on Brook Meadow yesterday and got a photo of a female Common Darter - an increasingly common dragonfly on the meadow. He also managed to snap one of the Meadow Grasshoppers in between hops.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon (1:53pm to 2:35pm - low tide). The highlight was the first returning Greenshank to this stretch of the shore (an un-ringed bird).
"Loafing on the mud by the pub were 33 adult Med Gulls with one fresh juvenile and on the island out in the channel were a further 16 adult Med Gulls. Definitely feels like autumn! Amongst them were 5 Common Gulls.
On the pond were 2 female Tufted Duck (Have not seen any evidence of breeding this year) and surprise, surprise, an early returning Little Grebe. I counted 36 Little Egrets still loitering with intent with hungry mouths!"

Black Swan
Kate L'Amie saw a single Black Swan with a group of 11 Mute Swans this morning, in the channel between Emsworth and Nore Barn woods. She wonders where it has come from. Who knows? There are quite a few of them around the local area. We had a group of 6 in Emsworth Harbour from Jan 27 until Mar 11 earlier this year.

Mystery flower
I posted the photo of the mystery flower that I found on Brook Meadow yesterday onto Facebook where I got the answer I was expecting - Hedge Mustard (Sysimbrium officinale). I have never seen one that small before, but all plants must grow!

Avocets breed at Farlington
News that at least one pair of Avocets have, for the very first time, nested and hatched young on the Farlington Marshes reserve was revealed on the Solent Reserves blog posted on July 12. Four pairs attempted to breed at but most of the eggs and young were taken by Crows and Buzzards. The photo on the blog shows at least four juveniles.
See . . .

For earlier observations go to . . . July 1-17