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

for August 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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Caroline French had three baby hedgehogs in the garden last night. They were on their own feeding so this obviously wasn't their first outing. Early this morning Caroline also saw an adult disappear into the Ivy at the bottom of the garden. Caroline recently saw an adult collecting leaves to make a nest, but she says these hoglets are too advanced to have been the product of that nest-building effort. She will let us know of any further developments. She tried to get photos last night but the hoglets just went into a ball, which doesn't make for a good photo! They were very cute to see though.


Goshawk sighting!
Chris Berners-Price thinks he saw a Goshawk in Southleigh Forest this morning! He says, "I have seen something unusual before, but this time I got a good look at it - a falcon with pointed wings, the size of a Buzzard and solid blue/grey tops to the wings, weaving at speed through the pines. My dog put it up from the ground this morning and it flew up to a tree then gave me a full plan view of it's wings as it perched. I am pretty certain that it is not a female Sparrowhawk, it is significantly bigger."
Chris attached a map showing the exact location where he saw the bird. As Goshawk is a schedule 1 species, I have decided not to publish Chris's map, but simply say he saw the bird in the Gunter's Stone area to the north of the forest close to Woodberry Lane. If you happen to be in that area let me know of anything you see resembling a Goshawk.

Goshawk is notoriously difficult to distinguish from a large Sparrowhawk, though the female Goshawk is up to Buzzard size. The male is more the size of the female Sparrowhawk. Their plumage is similar, though behaviour, particularly in flight, differs. Although widespread on the continent, the Goshawk is rare in this country having been largely wiped out in the 19th C by persecution and deforestation. However, it is recovering thanks to recolonisation. The Hampshire Bird Atlas states that Goshawk is an increasingly common resident of the larger forests, especially the New Forest. More significantly for today's sighting, is the Sussex Bird Report for 2015 which reports up to 4 or 5 breeding pairs in West Sussex! So, there is hope!

I don't have a photo of a Goshawk in my files, but here is one I got from the internet, but you really need to consult your bird ID book for guidance on identification.

By Norbert Kenntner, Berlin


Grey Mullet
I had a walk around Slipper Millpond this morning and noted large numbers of young Grey Mullet fish swimming around in the shallow water near the western edge of the pond. Most were no larger than 6 inches in length though they grow considerably larger as they mature. Mullet are slow growing and long living fish, often being 9-12 years before being fully mature when they are about 18 inches long. Groups of large mature Grey Mullett are very impressive when swimming Slipper Millpond and Peter Pond.

Mullet are predominantly a European species with their range extending throughout the continent's waters. They are found in most parts of the UK, but are most common in the south and west. They live in calm waters, usually around harbours, estuaries and marinas where they can usually be seen (as in Slipper Millpond) swimming slowly in shoals just below the surface of the water. They are highly tolerant of brackish and stagnant water and will swim some way up rivers. In Emsworth, they are often seen in the lower reaches of the Lumley Stream north of Peter Pond.

Harbour Seals
While out sailing, Alan and Sue Thomas were lucky enough to see and get this nice photo of a large group of 23 Common Seals on the sand banks in the Emsworth Channel.

A number of Common Seals (Phoca vitulina), also known as harbour seals, live in the Solent and often visit Chichester Harbour. Each one has unique markings and their colourings can be different ranging from tan to grey, black and brown. The females are generally smaller but with a longer lifespan. The Chichester Harbour Conservancy web site estimates the number of harbour seals in Chichester Harbour at 23-25, with 18 being the most recorded at any one time.
For more information see . . .

Autumn Lady's Tresses
Having read the blog entry (Aug 21) that Ralph Hollins reported Autumn Lady's Tresses flourishing on Gurnard Point Hayling Island, Jill Stanley went to see them for herself this morning and got a few pictures. The ones she found were mainly about 5 inches high or less, and not that easy to spot, partly because of their size and partly because they blended into the surrounding vegetation, being green with white flowers. Jill's two photos, one shows the white flower spike and the other a close-up showing the general characteristics of orchid flowers.


Brook Meadow
I have made a couple short walks through the meadow over the past two days, mainly looking at leaves for insects and spiders and there were certainly plenty of them to see. I usually do my walks alone, but yesterday, for some of the time, I was accompanied by a delightful family from Hayling Island with two young children who were on a 'nature hunt'. So I joined them as we walked up the main river path to the north bridge. The young boy, Sebastian, had a very impressive knowledge of the insects we were looking at. It is so good to see youngsters getting interested in the wildlife around them. Here is a update on my best sightings.

Nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) were widespread and fairly abundant on leaves. Most of them were resting on leaves with their front legs stretched out in front of them as shown on the left. On the right is one I caught consuming a small fly prey.

Here is another Nursery-web spider carrying its white bundle of eggs in her fangs. When the eggs are about to hatch she attaches the cocoon to vegetation, spins a silken tent over it and stands guard until the youngsters disperse. Is this getting a bit late in the year for a new brood?

Shield Bugs came in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes, which made identification difficult. The green ones were probably nymphs. I am inclined towards Dock Leaf Bug (Coreus marginatus) for the adult brown ones, but not with much confidence. Here are a couple, but there were many more.

As expected there were lots of Meadow Grasshoppers jumping around in the grass and no doubt calling (which I cannot hear!), though rarely stopping for a photo. The larger Dark Bush-crickets are far more steady and photogenic. This looks like a female with its long ovipositor for egg-laying.

There were plenty of hoverflies on the umbellifers. I think this one is Myathropa florea. Honey Bees were also feeding - here is a worker with bulging pollen sacs on Common Fleabane.

Butterflies were relatively scarce though I was pleased to catch up with a female Green-veined White - part of the summer brood which has heavily marked upper wings in and faintly veined underwings (not visible in this photo). I also got a Small White (female?) feeding on Hoary Ragwort. What a valuable plant that for late flying insects of all kinds. The female Small White has a single spot on upper wing.

Here is a very ragged Speckled Wood hardly recognisable and clearly the worse for wear from its battles with weather.

The only plant of special interest was Thyme-leaved Speedwell in flower on the Seagull Lane patch. This is a small but always erect plant with oval leaves up the stem and one or more flowers at the top. It is not a common plant on the meadow; in fact, this is my first record of this year. It is not particularly late as they often carry on flowering into October.

There is a nice crop of Elderberries on the Seagull Lane patch


Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow this morning in light drizzle. The tent has gone from Seagull Lane patch - removed by Jennifer. Walking down the main river path, I looked closely at the nettle leaves for any insects. Several flowering spikes of Hedge Woundwort were pushing through the dense nettle leaves.

On the nettle leaves I spotted a Harvestman (Daddy Long-legs) with a Nursery-web spider close by.

Several ginger Bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum?) were feeding on the White Dead-nettle.

Peacock caterpillars
My best find of the morning was a mass of at least 100 jet black Peacock caterpillars that were feeding on nettle leaves on the west side of the main river path about half way between the north bridge and the S-bend. Also prominent were lots of black blobs on the leaves which I assume are the excreta of the caterpillars.

The nests from which the caterpillars came were nearby with the remains of previous instars still visible.

These caterpillars seem quite late as the usual time for the larvae to hatch is May to June. However, I gather pupation and emergence of adults is quite quick, so the butterflies could be on the wing by mid-September. This would give them time to fatten up on late nectar sources before settling down to hibernation somewhere warm and dry, like a garden shed or a hollow tree.

South bridge done?
It looks as if work is finished on the south bridge, or has it? Only the eastern approach appears to have been resurfaced, leaving a rather rough area where it joins the bridge itself which could be a trip hazard. Why was this not done at the same time?

Autumn Lady's Tresses
Yesterday (Aug 20) Ralph Hollins cycled to Gunner Point on SW Hayling Island and found around 500 Autumn Lady's Tresses in flower on the dunes. Here are Ralph's (abbreviated) directions to get to the flowers: "Heading south from the Ferry Inn I continued past the Ferry Sailing Club and the sand dunes until the track veered round to head east. Walking over the grass on the seaward side of the main track I came on the first orchids in the grass close to a small area of bare shingle surrounded by grass. I found that more appeared with every step I took. The Ladies Tresses continued to appear until I was within 50 yards of the bench by the golf club fence. I stopped counting the spikes when my tally had reached 300 but estimate that the total was probably 500 or more which is more than I would expect to see on Portsdown." See his blog for full details.

Here is the only photo of Autumn Lady's Tresses that I have in my files, taken by Richard Somerscocks at Noar Hill in Sept 2010.



I had an e-mail from Maurice Lillie about a small blue tent pitched on the Seagull Lane patch. Maurice could not speak directly to the occupants, if any, but told the tent loudly that they were not permitted to camp on Brook Meadow as it is a Nature Reserve and asked them to leave as soon as possible. This is probably the same tent that I saw on Friday on the Interbridges Site. It was still there when I went over at 1pm this afternoon, at the far end of the patch next to the small Oak sapling planted by Jean.

Late news: Jennifer Rye informed me that she has removed the tent (and associated rubbish) as it was clearly abandoned and it's now rolled up in her garage pro tem. No harm done, except that reptile mats had been stacked underneath it and she can't return them to exact sites they were on, so she's left them stacked. Jennifer will inform the ecologists who put them out.

Common Darter
I was pleased to meet up with Paul and Carole Checksfield on the north bridge. This was my first meeting with this local couple, though I have previously corresponded with Carole who contributed the photo of the Hedgehogs in her garden for the blog on Aug 17. We had a chat about the meadow and the Water Vole crisis. While we were talking a superb male Common Darter landed on the handrail of the bridge and remained long enough for me to get a photo. These insects are so photogenic.

Interbridges Site
I had a walk around the Interbridges Site which is an area of 'wasteland' between the railway line and the A27 road to the east of New Brighton Road. It is currently awaiting light industrial development, though nothing has happened as yet. I hope this situation continues as the site has a glorious galaxy of wild flowers, much too good to build on. Access onto the site is easy through a gap in the fence from the path at the end of Seagull Lane. There is a well trodden path through the site, but no easy access at the other end onto the New Brighton Road as far as I could see. This is, of course, an extension of the Railway Wayside on the other side of New Brighton Road. Here is a view of the site looking west towards Emsworth Railway Station.

Here are some of the plants I noted in flower from the path: Common Fleabane, Stone Parsley, Common Ragwort, Hoary Ragwort, Hogweed, Common Knapweed, Wild Angelica, Red Clover, Yarrow, Canadian Goldenrod, Red Bartsia, Bristly Ox-tongue, Scarlet Pimpernel , Creeping Cinquefoil, Broad-leaved Willowherb, Guernsey Fleabane, Daisy, Bramble.
Best of all was a particularly fine growth of Perforate St John's-wort, with its red seed heads just starting to develop. I picked a few stems for my window desk display. I won't need to go to the bridge over the A27 at Lumley which previously was the only good place I knew for these attractive plants.

Wasp Spider
I came across a fine Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) on its web in the undergrowth on the Interbridges Site. The Wasp Spider builds a large orb web usually low down in grassland and attaches its silk egg sac to the grasses. The web has a wide, white, zigzag stripe running down the centre called a stabilimentum, but its function is unclear. Its main food is grasshoppers. Mating is dangerous for the male which is much smaller than the female. It waits on the edge of the web until the female has mounted into a mature form then while her jaws are soft rushes in to mate. Nevertheless males often get caught and eaten by the female during this operation.

This distinctive spider was first recorded in the UK in 1922 in Rye having spread from the continent. Since then, it has spread across the South of England where it is now fairly common. Its distribution is largely concentrated in the South and South East, but its range is spreading northwards probably due to milder winters. Its main habitat is unmanaged grassland as any form of regular cutting of grassland will destroy the webs and over wintering cocoons.

Burying Beetle
Also on the Interbridges Site, I followed a black beetle as it scuttled around in the long grasses. It was distintive in having two broad orange stripes across its body and (for a beetle) it was surprisingly easy to identify in the book as a Burying Beetle - Nicrophorus spp - probably the Common Burying Beetle (Nicrophorus vespillo), though I stand to be corrected as there are several very similar beetles. The antennae are clubbed, though they cannot be seen in this photo.

These ingenious creatures bury small carcasses (much larger than themselves, such as mice and birds), by digging a shaft underneath them and hauling them down. The female then lays eggs close to the buried corpse on which the larvae feed. What an extraordinary world we live in!

Hedgehog news
Caroline French had much excitement in her garden tonight when she spotted a Hedgehog with a mouthful of leaves, looking as if it is making a nest. She says this is a bit late for Hoglets but let's see what happens.

Emsworth Harbour
Peter Milinets-Raby was out early this morning looking at the birds in Emsworth Harbour from 6:22am to 8:16am with the tide slowly pushing in. Main observations:
Emsworth Harbour: A Redshank with colour rings (-//G + G//YG), 5 Greenshank, 2 Grey Plover, 13 Dunlin, 4 Little Egret, 12 Swallow, 25 Turnstone, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Ringed Plover, 1 Yellow Wagtail flying over, briefly landed on the mill pond wall, but I just could not find it before it flew off! 1 solitary Brent Goose out in the middle of the harbour, 1 Common Tern, 118 Black-tailed Godwit (Y//R + W//-).
Brian's note: this colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit could be Y+WL - last seen in Emsworth on 25-Sep-12

Emsworth Millpond: 4 Coot, 2 Cormorant.
Off Beacon Square: 22 Mallard feeding on the mud, 1 Sandwich Tern, In the gardens, 4 Willow Warblers, 2 Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff.

Nore Barn: 3 Greenshank (G//R + GG//-), 11 Black-tailed Godwit, 12 Mute Swan, 1 Great Black-backed Gull, 1 Kingfisher perched on a yacht, 3 Whimbrel, 1 Dunlin.


Warblington shore birds
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for a couple of hours visiting the shore at Warblington (6am to 8:11am - tide coming in). Main observations.
Warblington cemetery extension: 2 Green Woodpecker.
Ibis Field: 2 Chiffchaff, 1 Jay, 1 Swallow.
Hedgerow behind Conigar Point: 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Stock Dove.
Conigar Point: 1 Grey Plover, 2 Common Tern, 2 Little Egret, 1 Whimbrel, 1 Snipe flushed by Kestrel, 9 Dunlin, 7 Ringed Plover, 1 Greenshank.
Off Pook Lane: 7 Grey Plover, 8 Dunlin, 14 Greenshank (5 with colour rings RG//- +YY//- & G//R + YN//- & G//R + LL//- & B//R + LO//- & GR//- + YY//- ), 3 Common Tern.
Great Spotted Woodpecker flew over heading across the water to Hayling, 7 Swallow, 2 Yellow Wagtail - yellow adult over, then a dull, light brown juvenile landed on the shore for a couple of minutes before flying on - Autumn has truly arrived NOW! 1 Sandwich Tern, 9 Black-tailed Godwit.

Elephant Hawkmoth
Malinda Griffin had the good fortune to spot a Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar in Brook Meadow exploring leaf litter for winter quarters. It winters as a pupa, emerging as a beautiful pinkish moth from Mid May to July.
Apologies for over exposed photo, but the creature is easily identified from its huge eye-spots and long trunk-like snout.


Brook Meadow
I spent an hour or so on the meadow this morning taking photos of the regular work session. Rain overnight had left the vegetation quite wet, but underfoot was still firm. Seven volunteers attended and the session was led by Maurice Lillie. The main tasks involved cutting and clearing parts of the Seagull Lane patch and the south meadow.

For a full report on the work session with more photos go to . . .

Other observations
The resurfacing of the north bridge is now complete and looks very good. I checked on the south bridge where work is ongoing. Here are the two Norse workers on the site, both named Lee. They said the bridge should be finished in a couple of days.

Gordon showed me a Song Thrush nest that he and Maurice had discovered on top of a fence post as they were clearing some overhanging branches on the north west plantation. Close up, the nest is an impressive structure - a woven circle of small twigs, leaves, grass, roots, moss and bits of string surrounds a smooth inner cup of papier-mâché made from rotten wood-pulp. Song Thrushes are fairly common around the meadow, but it's good to have confirmation of their nesting.

Grandchildren on Brook Meadow
Jean and I have been looking after two of our granddaughters (Lily and Iris, aged 11 and 9), so I thought it would be nice to take them over to the meadow to catch the end of the work session before their lunch. They loved it. The workday was just finishing so I introduced them to some of the volunteers. They had a mock try with the power scythe which Mike was in the process of cleaning at the time!

We had a look at the young Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch. Lily measured herself against the height of the smallest of the Oaks that my wife planted in 2012.

They were interested to learn about the various galls growing on the trees and were reassured to learn that they would not harm the trees. On the left are some spangle galls on the Oak leaves and on the right a Knopper gall.

We lifted a couple of the reptile survey mats and found Slow-worms underneath both of them.

I was astonished when Iris complained of the noise of the grasshoppers on the north meadow, something I have never had the pleasure of hearing. Here they mocked me by 'blocking their ears' to the noise!


Finally, they had a sniff of Pineappleweed which they thought was wonderful! Their first ever experience of smelling this delightful plant.


More Hedgehogs
Carole Checksfield who lives in Sultan Road, Emsworth has had some friendly Hedgehogs in her garden. She says they started feeding them several years ago and they now have five Hedgehogs, including what seems to be three babies. Beautiful animals that are a joy to watch. Carole would like to encourage others to put out a few mealworms as Hedgehog numbers are decreasing and so they need all the help they can get. Well said Carole. Here is Carole's photo of two of the hogs that visit her garden.

I had the nice experience a couple evenings back while walking along St James Road with my two granddaughters (Lily and Iris) when a Hedgehog scuttled across the road in front of us. It was their first ever sighting of a Hedgehog. How wonderful!  

Exploding fungus
Chris Oakley wonders what to make of this fungus which appears to have exploded! He assumes it is some kind of Puffball but they are usually full of powder spores. Does anyone have an answer?



Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond mid morning on a very low tide (10:27am to 11:21am. The highlight was a juvenile Peregrine that flew around for five minutes, having a swoop at two different Little Egrets and a couple of Oystercatchers, but failing to connect on each occasion. It was acting as if it was just practicing! He then landed on the low tide mud for a couple of minutes before flying off over the Hayling Bridge.
Other birds of note included: 2 Sandwich Tern, 4 Common Gull, 28 Dunlin, 110+ Redshank, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 4 Ringed Plover, 19 Med Gulls with 2 juvs (all in winter plumage), 13 Little Egrets feeding in the trickle of water in the channel, 4 Greenshank, 2 Grey Plover - winter plumage.
Langstone Mill Pond: Tufted Duck female with seven growing ducklings (see photo).

1 Little Grebe, 15 Little Egrets still loitering, with 2 half grown young still in one nest.

Wood Wasp
Brian Lawrence had a walk in Southleigh Forest opposite Hollybank Woods yesterday and got a photo of a Wood Wasp. These wasps re easily recognisable from their strange shape, rounded head, long neck, long black antennae and long red legs. This one is probably Xiphydria camelus which is widespread in woodland at this time of the year, though not exactly common.

Chichester art
I did not do any wildlife today, but Jean and I had an interesting day of art in Chichester. First, we went to see the John Minton Centenary Exhibition at the Pallant Gallery. Minton was a rather sad and tortured artist who committed suicide aged 39. His art was not great, but he was a fine illustrator and did a large number of books and other things. His paintings included a huge mural called 'Jamaican Village'.

A decorated table also caught my eye, inspired apparently by his visit to the Charleston farmhouse where the Bloomsbury artists painted the furniture. Well worth a visit.

After lunch we had a look around the Cathedral where I was bowled over by a huge mural in the north transept containing 400 paintings done one every day by Frieda Hughes (daughter of Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath). I did not know anything about this exhibition which has been on since June 14 and finishes on Thursday 17 Aug, so get along there if you are interested. The whole exhibition is too good to miss. This photo of the mural does not do it full justice. You really need to see the thing.

Here is a sample of what it looks like close-up.


More about wasps and flies
Following my notes in yesterday's blog about distinguishing wasps and flies, Bryan Pinchen wrote to say a much better way to separate solitary (and social) wasps from the flies is their always obvious (long) antennae. Hoverflies don't appear to have any antennae at all. As for how they hold their wings when at rest, Bryan says not all hoverflies hold their wings out, as I incorrectly indicated, some do hold them flat over the body when at rest, so that is not a reliable feature.
Bryan added that Ectemnius wasps are quite widespread and common in most habitats and we are just about hitting their peak flight season. Hogweed and other umbellifers are a good place to see them, being short of tongue the easily accessible nectar is what they're after, and any prey species visiting too.
Bryan confirmed all the other insects photographed on the blog all look OK. Wow. I can do it sometimes!

Railway Wayside
I went looking for solitary wasps on the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station, but did not see any obvious ones, though there were plenty of hoverflies as usual. I am not sure which this one is. I am going to have to give up on these trying to identify these tiny insects as it is doing my head in!

Butterflies are much easier, particularly Common Blues which were everywhere on the site. This white butterfly puzzled me for a while, though I am fairly sure it is a female Small White with two spots on the upper wings. Its underwings were a dull pale yellow, though not shown in the photo.

Waysides walk
I had an afternoon walk through the fields behind Westbourne Avenue where I spotted the Dormouse Survey nesting boxes still attached to the hedges. I have not heard any more about this survey or the housing development plans. I came back through the roads to check on the Wild Clary in Christopher Way which still had a few flowering spikes.

I was surprised to find a single flower of Fox and Cubs in front of the seat on the corner of Bellevue Lane and Horndean Road outside St James Primary School. How did it get there, I wonder?

I was pleased to meet up with Lesley Harris in Emsworth Recreation Ground. Lesley used to be the Brook Meadow Conservation Group secretary before she had to give up due to illness a few years ago. She was on her daily walk to get her health back and was looking good. She hopes to get back to help on Brook Meadow fairly soon. I invited her to have a cup of tea at home with me and Jean where we had a good chat.


My 'flies' were wasps!
Bryan Pinchen e-mailed to say what I called 'flies' feeding on Hogweed in the blog for Aug 11 were, in fact, solitary (digger) wasps in the genus Ectemnius, either cavifrons or cephalotes, but without a microscope they are not easy to separate in the field. Here is my original photo.

Ectemnius are large attractive black wasps with bright yellow abdominal markings and there are 10 species in Britain and Ireland.
They are part of a larger family of digger wasps (Crabronidae formerly Sphecidae) of which 118 species are present in Britain and Ireland. Digger wasps are solitary in the sense they do not build colonial nests like the Common Wasp, but a female builds her nest in the ground, dead wood or hollow stems alone. The cells are stocked with prey paralysed by the female's sting on which the wasp grubs feed. Adults feed on nectar from flowers and prey on various arthropods, including bees, beetles, bugs and spiders. The wings are always held flat over the body at rest as in my photo, unlike hoverflies which hold their wings out.

Brook Meadow
I went over to the meadow to see if I could find any more digger wasps on the Hogweed and Wild Angelica, but failed to find any. But I did find one Common Wasp.

There were plenty of other insects feeding on the flower heads Two fairly familiar hoverflies:
Myathropa florea (particularly common today)
Episyrphus balteatus (the Marmalade fly).

Eristalis pertinax (?) - from the pattern on the abdomen - rather than Drone Fly
Tachina fera (?) - a tubby-looking Louse-fly with an orange abdomen with a dark line down the centre.

Common Darter (male) on a grass spikelet.


Railway Wayside
Sorry, no blog for the past few days, but weather has been bad and I have been doing other things! Today it our 55th wedding anniversary and we had a little celebration, but I did manage to get out this afternoon.
I had a quick look at the wayside to the north of Emsworth Railway Station where the flowers are now going over and setting seed for the next generation.

But the area remains very attractive to humans, like me, and to butterflies. This site is usually good for Common Blues though the ones I saw today were looking decidedly worn, the end of the summer brood of adults. However, here in the south we sometimes get a third brood in early autumn, so there way be fresh ones on the wing shortly.

Particularly eye catching are the bright red seed heads of St John's-wort.

Brook Meadow
I then had a stroll through Brook Meadow entering via Seagull Lane where I was met by a notice warning pedestrians that the north bridge will be closed from Mon Aug 14 for repair. The surface of the bridge is in very bad condition and this job has been on the books for some while.

I paid particular attention to the Great Willowherb which, in addition to the last of the flowers, is adorned with long seed pods which are just opening to release the fluffy seeds which float on the wind.

Here is a close-up of the seeds emerging from the pods.

Meanwhile, Hemp Agrimony is still in full and glorious flower.

I managed to find just one Strawberry Clover fruit that had been missed during the inadvertent cutting of the path around the Lumley area - the only place that Strawberry Clover grow on the meadow. Not to worry as they will no doubt come up again next year as it is a perennial plant.

I noticed a couple of flies with long thin and clearly marked bodies and short wings feeding on the flower heads of Hogweed. Consulting my insects guide they look like Soldier Flies (Stratiomyidae), possibly Chrysotoxum festivum? Can anyone help?


Garden birds
Currently we have a good number of birds visiting the garden virtually all day long. So far this week I have logged 1 Blackbird, 1 Blue Tit, 1 Chaffinch, 7 Collared Dove, 1 Dunnock, 10 Goldfinch, 2 Great Tit, 1 Greenfinch, 4 Long-tailed Tit, 1 Magpie, 16 Starling.
Starlings (mostly juveniles) are certainly the most entertaining of the birds, hanging onto the fat ball feeders, squabbling on the ground, etc.

As shown in the chart, Starlings have made a remarkable recovery in my garden over the past 3 years, following 6 years of virtual drought (2009-2014) when I hardly ever saw one. This year looks to continue the upward trend, though we are unlikely to reach the heady heights of the early 2000s.

But my favourite bird of the moment must be the Long-tailed Tits (again mostly juveniles). A family of four young birds have been regular on the bird feeders, liking both the sunflower hearts and the fat balls, though they also wander around the garden looking for insects on the shrubs. At times they come really close to the house. All photos taken through closed windows.

Brook Meadow
Brian Lawrence had a quick look around the meadow today and got a couple of interesting shots. A Ladybird with only one wing casing and a Common Blue perching on top of what looks like a shield bug. I have never seen either of these events before, have you?


More Hedgehogs
Romney Turner is getting regular visits from two Hedgehogs (twins) to the feeding tray in her garden in the evening. They make several visits until the food is all gone, or until one of the larger hogs polishes it off first.

Romney also has a little Wood Mouse which has discovered the Hedgehog food tray and often nips in for a snack before they arrive. She says the mouse really can move which made getting the pics difficult without spooking the little thing.


Brook Meadow work session
I went over to the meadow this morning for the regular first Sunday in the month conservation work session attended by 9 volunteers and led today by Ian Newman. The main job involved mowing and raking the paths.
I asked the group to recut the two experimental cutting areas in the north meadow. These two areas will be regularly cut to discourage coarse grasses and allow the more delicate flowering plants. It should be interesting to see what comes up. The southern area is looking quite promising with 25 species recorded at the last count.

Wildlife observations
I also asked the volunteers to clear the Jubilee Oak trees on the Seagull Lane patch which were getting engulfed by dense vegetation. The young ones we planted for the Jubilee in 2012 are growing fast. Here is the smallest one (planted by my wife) which is already 6 feet tall.

They all have a good crop of acorns and spangle galls on the leaves.

One of the volunteers told me she had seen three Hedgehogs near the Lumley gate during the past week. I have had two in my garden. Are they doing particularly well this year, I wonder?

Dan told me that David Gattrell had seen a Water Vole with a baby vole at the top of Peter Pond near the Lumley Stream. I did walk over to Peter Pond this morning to check the location of the sighting, but could not find David. In any case, this is very good news as it means we still have Water Voles not far away from the River Ems on Brook Meadow. Please come back!

I was very pleased to find some Prickly Lettuce plants in flower on the edge of the northern experimental cutting area. This is a rare plant on Brook Meadow and our first record for two years. It is not an easy plant to photograph as this attempt of mine clearly demonstrates.

I heard my first autumn song of the Robin. Butterflies included Red Admiral, Large White, Comma, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper.

The Mallards on Peter Pond are all in eclipse, which means both sexes have the same brown plumage. The best way to distinguish them is by the colour of their bills; males have yellow bills and females brown.

In response to my puzzlement in yesterday's blog entry over the Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus) without a cross on its back, Ralph Hollins referred me to Nick's 'Spiders' as a great source of online info on spiders. In it, Nick says "Araneus diadematus is one of the most common and best known orb weavers. It is easily identified by the distinctive white cross on the abdomen, although in some specimens it is indistinct or missing."
See . . .

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had the company of John Norton this morning for his walk around the Warblington shore. They went on to briefly visit Hayling Oysterbeds as well (6:27am to 10:17am tide pushing in). Here are their main observations:
The hedgerow behind Conigar Point: Pheasant female, 2 Whitethroat, 1 Willow Warbler.
Tamarisk Hedge: 6 Long-tailed Tit, 4 Willow Warbler (some early autumnal movement this morning), 2 juv Reed Warbler.
Conigar Point: 1 Greenshank, 2 Common Tern, 1 Stock Dove, 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 1 adult winter Med Gull, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Swallow, 1 Common Gull.
Off Pook Lane: 4 Greenshank (RG//- + YY//- & B//R + LO//-), 22 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Whimbrel.

Warblington cemetery: Fifteen wonderful minutes with a very obliging Weasel. Tricky to photograph as it dashed in and out of the gravestones before settling down for five minutes for some amazing views! Here are a couple of photos from Peter (on the left) and John (on the right).

Langstone Mill Pond: 5 Dunlin, 120 Redshank, 1 Whimbrel, 3 Common Gull, 26+ Little Egrets (mostly juvs), Female Tufted Duck with 7 ducklings, 1 Little Grebe, 4+ Willow Warbler in the Alders with 1 Chiffchaff and a 1 Sedge Warbler. Cetti's Warbler (one burst of song).
Hayling Oysterbeds: One very nice Wasp Spider, 2 Whimbrel, 24+ Common Tern, 7 Dunlin, 14 Ringed Plover, 5 Turnstone, 1 Greenshank, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 310+ Oystercatcher, 1 Swallow, 1+ Whitethroat, 23 Mute Swan off the Southmoor shore.

Wasp Spider . . . Turnstone


Brook Meadow
Just a few photos from this morning's walk through Brook Meadow. I was initially puzzled by this spider, which appeared to be a standard Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus), but did not have the usual cross on its back.

Some of the Hogweed flower heads were covered in tiny black flies. I've no idea what they are.

Several Common Darter dragonflies were chasing and occasionally perching on the river near the south bridge.
Here is a male with bright red body.

A Drone Fly and what looks like hoverfly Myathropa florea.

Mystery moth
Andy Brown says he regularly looks at this blog and enjoys the varied subjects posted. Thanks, Andy. He is keen on moths and says the micro moth that I photographed on Brook Meadow on Aug 3 is Common Nettle-tap (Anthophila fabriciana) . As its mane suggests the main foodplant of the larvae is Nettle, though here the mature insect is feeding on Hogweed.

Andy's blog is at . . .


My 'beetle' is a bug
This morning I had a email from one of my wildlife gurus, John Norton, who said he was a bit surprised that I could not tell the difference between beetles and bugs! Nothing should surprise him about my knowledge or lack of it. John said the photo on yesterday's blog, which I thought might be a beetle, was a final instar nymph of the Common Green Shieldbug.
See . .

John attached a pic of a Birch Shieldbug that he photographed in the Alver Valley, Gosport yesterday.

Brook Meadow
Maurice Lillie went around the meadow with his trusty camera on this sunny and windy afternoon. Here is a selection of the photos he sent to me. He loved the black two-spotted Harlequin Ladybird with brilliant camouflage even when not on a blackberry. Others shown here are a late worker Honey Bee with bulging pollen sacs, a very green Meadow Grasshopper (I have never seen one that green) and a pair of Red-Headed Cardinal Beetles doing what they do best on their favourite flowers.

I also had a walk around the meadow later this afternoon with the warm sun shining low through the trees. As yesterday there were many insects on the Hogweed umbels, but what caught my eye was a lengthy 'scrap' between a Red Admiral and a male Beautiful Demoiselle. Here are the two combatants resting after the action, neither none the worse for their mini encounter. What was going on? Maybe a territorial dispute.


Brook Meadow
I went onto the meadow this morning mainly to try out my new Lumix TZ70 camera which I got from Amazon to replace the one that I irreparably damaged yesterday. Amazon's next day delivery service is really quite astonishing. I mainly concentrated on taking close-ups of insects on Hogweed flower heads, but the strong wind made it doubly difficult. However, I was pleased with the camera and the results were, much as with the old one, some fairly good shots among plenty of rubbish ones.

As always, there were lots of Red-headed Cardinal (Soldier) Beetles and several hoverflies on the Hogweed flowers including Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) and Syrphus ribesii.

Common Wasps were also on the Hogweed along with a small black fly, much small than a standard Bluebottle which I think could be one of the parasitic flies in the family Trachinidae.

Also a small moth . Help appreciated.

Other sightings/photos included a Dark Bush-cricket and an unidentified tiny beetle (?) resting on leaves with quite distinctive markings, but which I could not find in my books.

A Bumblebee (possibly Bombus pascuorum) was on Common Comfrey and a Harvestman hiding away in the vegetation.

On the plant front I was really surprised to come across a single flowering spike of Agrimony alongside the path on the west side of the north meadow - the first ever Agrimony I have seen on the main Brook Meadow site. The only other ones were all on the Lillywhite's patch to the south of the Gooseberry Cottage garden, which is, strictly speaking, not part of Brook Meadow. I think I can just make out another Agrimony plant next to the flowering one in the photo, so I will keep an eye on these.


Bridge Road Wayside
I was surprised, but also delighted, to see that the wayside in Bridge Road car park had been cut. The council cutting team has done a very thorough job, all the verge has been cut and some of the bushes also trimmed back. Well done to Jane Brook for organising this. The arisings will remain in situ for a few weeks to allow seeds to drop. Then they will be raked up presumably by volunteers.

The cutting had produced a lot of minced up litter that I had missed in my last litter pick, so I went round again and filled one full bag of general waste and two extra bags of broken tiles from fly tipping. Exhausting work, but good to have it done. I took this selfie with the camera balanced on the bonnet of a parked car.

In fact, it turned out to the the last one I shall take with that camera - my favourite Lumix TZ70 - as in doing a second photo a gust of wind blew the camera off the car bonnet and it crashed zoom first onto the hard surface of the car park never to operate again. A lesson learned, but an expensive one, as to repair it would cost almost as much as a new camera!

There was not much to see on the wayside, though I noticed a good crop of apples on the tree in the central shrubbery, which should be sweet when ripe.

There is also a very nice display of Bulrushes in flower on the edge of the stream with 29 brown flower spikes. Here are just a few of them.

Colin's gallery
Colin Vanner sent me a few of his recent images mostly taken at Farlington Marshes. Here is a selection of Colin's quite outstanding photos. Greenfinch, Blue Tit snoozing (?) and Kingfisher with crab.

For earlier observations go to . . . July 18-31