Return to . . . Emsworth Wildlife - Homepage

A community web site dedicated to the observation, recording
and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

for December 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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

Blog Archives . . . from 2012 to current


Avocets at Nutbourne
Chris Berners-Price put his Christmas present of a Panasonic Lumix camera TZ70 to good use to get some nice shots of a flock of Avocets at Nutbourne. I counted 33 birds on Chris's photo of the Avocets on the sea.


Millpond walk
Jean and I had a walk around the town millpond this morning and just past the bridge along Bath Road, we were chatting to a friend when a Grey Wagtail, showing its beautiful yellow underparts and wagging its tail madly, landed almost at our feet. It only remained for a few seconds, but a lovely way to start our walk. Grey Wagtail (not to be confused with Yellow Wagtail which is a rare summer visitor) is a fairly common bird around the waterways in Emsworth, but I do not recall having seen one quite this close in the middle of a road before! However, I often see one along the Westbrook Stream which runs into the millpond and here is a photo I got of one on this stream a few years ago.

The pond itself was partly frozen over with a group of Black-headed Gulls standing on the ice. How is it that gulls seem to favour standing on the ice rather than swimming around in the water like the Mallard and Coot?

Our walk ended with another fine sighting, but at the opposite end of the avian spectrum to the Grey Wagtail. Soaring over the Slipper Mill Sailing Club building was a Buzzard with mottled brown underwings. It was good to see several other people had spotted the bird and were gazing skywards in rapt admiration. The Buzzard did not stay long as it was chased off its territory by a Carrion Crow. Here is a photo that Tony Wootton got a few years ago of a Buzzard being chased by a Carrion Crow.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby walked along the Warblington area today at virtually the same time as yesterday (11:08am to 1pm - tide out). And what a difference a day and a chilly wind make!? Mainly concentrated on the fields just north of Conigar Point, details as follows:
49 Skylark flock - nice to have lots after several winters with barely double figures. 11 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtails - (note on Pied Wagtail photo - Easily mistaken for a White Wagtail, but, dark smudge along the rear of the flank to the side of rump is diagnostic, plus black crown, pale grey in White Wagtail first winter).

1 Grey Wagtail, 3 Song Thrush, 10 Stock Doves, Conigar Point: 30 Shelduck, 1 Grey Plover,
Off Pook Lane: 77 Shelduck, 2 Turnstone, Pair of Goldeneye. Pair of Pintail, 57 Teal.
Warblington church/field to the west: 8 Little Egrets, 11 Redwing, 3 Curlew.
Later in the day (3pm) we had a family walk around the half frozen Emsworth Mill pond:
Had the Kingfisher in fight on three occasions (great photo the other day of this bird - so close!!)
41 Coot and a Little Grebe swam the entire unfrozen length all the way down to the main road, before returning back.

Two Red Kites
While out on a bike ride this afternoon Geoff Gilbert was pleased to have excellent views of two Red Kites circling low over and between trees on the ridge, to the east side of the road. Geoff did not get a photo, but here is one of two Red Kites that Colin Vanner got at Arundel a few years ago.


Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had a walk around the Warblington shore after the snow early snow had melted between 11:15am and 1:20pm. Here is his report . . .
Field to the west of the cemetery: 13 Oystercatcher, 1 Redshank - unusual off the shore, 2 Common Gull, 12 Little Egret.

In the field south of the cemetery: 41 Redwing, with 5 Fieldfare and 3 Song Thrush.
Off shore at Pook Lane - low tide: 398 Dunlin, 290 Brent Geese, 19 Wigeon, Female Goosander feeding in the channel, loosely associating with 16 Red Breasted Merganser. 1 Great crested Grebe, 55 Shelduck, 1 Greenshank, 13 Grey Plover, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 2 Sandwich Tern resting on the mud, 2 Teal, 4 Pintail (2 pairs),
In the distance off Conigar Point were: 6 Red breasted Merganser, 20 Grey Plover, 123 Dunlin, 6 Shelduck, 65+ Wigeon.


Millpond Kingfisher
Kingfishers are often seen flying low across the millponds in Emsworth during winter, but they don't often perch long enough to give one the opportunity to see their beautiful plumage. However, Keith Wileman was in luck when he walked round the town millpond today when someone pointed out a Kingfisher that was perched in a tree at the southern end of the pond near the sluice gate. It was far enough away not to be disturbed by the crowds of people out walking, but not too far for Keith's super zoom camera and it just sat there while Keith took dozens of photos. Keith chose the following one to send to me and what a cracker it is, clearly showing its lower red mandible indicating it is a female. The male's mandibles are both black.


Christmas Eve walk
Jean and I had an interesting walk around the local area on a mild and slightly drizzly morning. While walking along Bridgefoot Path I spotted my first Tufted Duck of the year on the town millpond, a single male. Here it is with a Coot.

Tufted Duck used to be a regular winter visitor on the millpond with a maximum of 74 in Jan 2001. However, numbers have slumped in recent years, probably due to the warmer winters. I do not recall seeing any at all last year. Let's today's sighting is a sign and that we shall again be able to enjoy these cute diving birds.

We stopped at Flintstone's cafe where (as it was Christmas) I indulged in a glass mulled wine and a mince pie with cream. It was heavenly! PS: Jean stuck to coffee. I asked the waitress to take a photo of us! A happy Christmas to you all!

We had a quick look at the harbour where the pair of Black Swans were present and still being closely attended to by the cob Mute Swan. The rest of the family with the 5 cygnets were in the channel near the quay.

This afternoon the two Black Swans had moved onto the town millpond where they were seen by Barry and Margaret Collins.

Despite the drizzle we decided to return home via Brook Meadow where we had a couple of interesting meetings. First we met a couple of chaps who had just had a close encounter with a Roe Deer on the meadow. It came through the tunnel under the railway and raced past them at great speed! I explained that Roe Deer do sometimes move through the meadow, though they are rarely seen at such close quarters. My only other reported sighting of Roe on the meadow this year was by Mark Ringwood on Jan 7. Here is a nice photo that Romney Turner got of three Roe Deer in the fields at Lumley north of Brook Meadow a few years ago.

Finally, we noticed a party of people having drinks at Frank's seat on the west side of the north meadow. I called out to them and they explained they were members of Frank Style's family who had donated the seat so I asked them for a photo. Frank was a volunteer on Brook Meadow and sadly passed away earlier in the year.

BTO Bird Trends report
The BTO Bird Trends report which has only just been published confirms the rapid decline of the familiar Greenfinch (down by 59% in just ten years) as a result of the disease trichomonosis. See . . .

Although the European population is said to be stable, Keith Betton tells me that the disease has recently spread over there too. The disease is possibly carried by our Chaffinches, some of which are Scandinavian breeders. The Greenfinch graph on the following website, shows a gentle decline in Europe since 2010 which might be the start of the problem there too. See . . .

Greenfinch used to be my number one garden bird, with over 20 sometimes coming to the feeders. Now, I rarely see one, or two at the most, and then not regularly. Here is a shot of 7 Greenfinches on my garden feeders before the serious decline set in.


Avocets at Nutbourne
Anne de Potier reported that the Avocets are back at Nutbourne. Yesterday, she saw about 35 in the distance, flying towards Thorney. Up to 40 Avocets are regular winter visitors to Nutbourne Bay. Here is a similar number of Avocets in flight to what Anne saw, taken by Romney Turner at Nutbourne a few years ago.

Little Owl at Racton
Yesterday (Dec 22) Caroline French saw a Little Owl in the old Oaks on Racton Park Farm while carrying out the Sussex Winter Bird Survey on the BBS square SU7808. I always looked for Little Owl when I used to do the Breeding Birds Survey in this same square, but rarely (if ever) saw one. They are very hard to spot, so well done Caroline. Here is her photo, showing the distintive eye.


Xmas work session
I went over to Brook Meadow this morning for the special Xmas work session. There was an excellent attendance of volunteers. Here is the group, including me for a change!

The main task was to continue to clear the river and its banks of excess vegetation and overhanging branches.

Meanwhile, a bonfire was made of the smaller twigs and branches.

The aim of this work is to improve the river habitat for Water Voles, fish and other wildlife and to generally enhance its appearance, which has gone down seriously over the past 10 years. Here is the group with the fruits of their work. An excellent start, but there is much more to do.

I took photos of the work and wandered around looking for any interesting wildlife. On the bird front a Song Thrush was singing strongly in the north-east corner of the north meadow and another on the west bank near the factories. I noted Hogweed and Gorse as the two main flowers.

At the end of the work session we all assembled at the tool store for the annual festive celebration with mulled wine and mince pies and stollen. Excellent it was too!

A full report of the work session with more photos is on the Brook Meadow web site
Go to . . .

Black Swans
I had a walk down to Slipper Millpond where I found two Black Swans being chased by the resident pair of Mute Swans. There was no sign of the cygnets which I assume have been dispatched with the breeding season looming.

Dog disturbance at Nore Barn
This morning (between 11:20am to Noon) as the tide was pushing in Peter Milinets-Raby was enjoying a very pleasant walk along the foreshore and footpath of Nore Barn. However, his enjoyment was cut short by an unfortunate encounter with a particularly boisterous dog. His (slightly edited) report follows . . .

I had stopped by the stream and was resting my camera on the telescope on my tripod and was happily taking photos of the obliging Greenshank in the stream, when an unleashed dog decided to bound over and gatecrash my outing.
Such was this hairy beast's enthusiasm to join me, he hurtled at my tripod like a bowling ball into a line of skittles, and in the process nearly knocked me and my tripod off our feet. The hound clearly couldn't understand the fuss as I grabbed my teetering tripod and tried to soothe the optics fears of crashing to the floor and shattering into a million pieces. But worse still, neither could its owner.
Indeed, instead of inquiring if any harm had been done, the owner threw the mongrel a smile of absolution and excused the excitable hound's behaviour as youthful exuberance!! Then, with breath-taking indifference to my very expensive telescope (£1,300) the owner assured me that his thumping great pet "didn't mean any harm". And with that the owner blew his dog whistle, swung the animal's redundant lead over his shoulder and walked off. The dog didn't heed the whistle and dived into the water to chase a couple of Mute Swans and consequently disturbed everything in the stream - the Greenshank flying off over the hill and far far away. The owner then shouted very loudly, blew his whistle several times and of course the dog totally ignored him and dashed off at break-neck speed along the Nore Barn footpath to gate-crash the next poor un-expecting soul!

When all was peaceful the birds at Nore Barn were as follows: 332 Wigeon (Superb count and ironically a wonderful sight when they were all flushed!!), 28 Black-tailed Godwit, 57 Teal, 321 Brent Geese, 1 Greenshank usual colour ringed - see photo, 1 Shelduck, 2 Great Crested Grebes.

Brian's Note on Peter's experience
I have been birdwatching at Nore Barn for many years and have also had encounters with dogs, but none has been as bad as Peter's. I do hope it does not put him off visiting the site as his careful observations and recordings have made such an important contribution to our knowledge of the wildlife of this area.
Like Peter, I get annoyed when dogs chase birds in the harbour and I try to speak to the owner (if I have the courage) to point out the importance of not disturbing these birds which have flown thousands of miles to be with us and which so enrich our environment. Generally, the response is reasonable and understanding, though they often make the point that the site is also a valuable recreational area for the exercise of dogs which many people get great pleasure from - and this has to be admitted. We all have to live together on this one small planet! I truly believe that education is the best solution, though it is a long term solution.
Generally speaking, I don't think dogs do a great deal of damage to the birds at Nore Barn, apart from killing the occasional swan. I have never seen any smaller birds, geese, ducks or waders caught by a dog. The Spotted Redshank, for example, which has been coming here for the past 14 years, is unfazed by the dogs running in and out of the stream. It is possible that birdwatchers are more disturbed by dogs than are the birds!


Nore Barn
The tide was already well advanced by the time I got to Nore Barn at 11am with the stream filling up fast. I was probably a bit too late for the regular Spotted Redshank and the Greenshank, though a Common Redshank and a Black-tailed Godwit were hanging on. Here is the Godwit.

There were plenty of Brent Geese in the creek along with a scattering of Wigeon and Teal but nothing else of special interest.

Kate L'Amie saw a Guillemot yesterday sailing through the gap into Langstone Harbour - viewed from next to the Hayling Ferry pontoon, on the Eastney side. It was having a good old preen as it proceeded into the harbour then disappeared out of view up to the north-east. This could be the same bird that was photographed by Tony Wootton in the sea off Hayling on Dec 18 (see below).

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby visited the Warblington shore this afternoon. High tide, but slowly dropping 1:25pm to 2:55pm. His report follows:
Warblington cemetery: 2 Mistle Thrush, 1 Redwing.
Fields around farm (Lots of disturbance with tractor cutting/hacking hedges by black barn). 5 very flighty Little Egret.
Ibis Field: 5 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush, 2 Song Thrush.
Big field to east by rotting wheat stems: 35 Curlew, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 Buzzard, Skylark heard, Green Sandpiper heard in distance by cress beds, 5 Linnet, Male Reed Bunting in hedge.
Conigar Point: 3 male and 10 female Pintail, 97 Wigeon, 4 Teal, 44 Shelduck, 117 Brent Geese - some nice and close on the high tide see photo - great little birds, a shame they are facing extinction!! (Peter's little joke). 6 Brent in the field south of the cemetery

Off Pook Lane: 10 Red breasted Merganser, 1 female Goldeneye, 42 Shelduck, 55 Wigeon, 2 Teal, 2 Great Crested Grebe.


Emsworth walk
The light mist created a magical atmosphere for this morning's walk through Brook Meadow.

Looking back, the hard overnight frost was taking time to clear from the nettle leaves along the main river path.

Many fresh molehills were coming up along the paths through the main meadow as these small subterranean creatures dig new tunnels in their hunt for worms. I actually watched this one in the photo being created, as the Mole (never showing itself) pushed soil up from below.

Down to Peter Pond, where a few bright yellow flowers of Hoary Ragwort were making the most of the winter sunshine, smiling serenely at the busy Christmas traffic, hurtling past merely yards away.

Meanwhile, across the road to Slipper Millpond, I had a truly festive sight of seven swans a-swimming in Dolphin Lake almost prompting me into song. They are the regular Mute Swan family from the Peter Pond nest still with 5 cygnets intact, though one youngster was lagging behind the rest.


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a visit to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon 1:40pm to 2:41pm - tide dropping. His report follows . . .
Off shore: 1 Kingfisher tried to perch on brick bridge by Mill, but was flushed , then perched briefly on a nearby fence before disturbed again. 51 Teal, 70 Shelduck with a further 44 off Conigar Point with 3 female Pintail, 12 Grey Plover, 57 Wigeon, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Red Breasted Merganser, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 200+ Brent Geese, 1 Greenshank (GR//- + BR//-), 19 Dunlin.
Pond: 1 Little Grebe, 4 Grey Heron, 14 Teal. Pond pintail female
Horse Paddock: 4 Oystercatcher, 1 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Curlew, 1 Redshank, 3 Little Egret, 1 Teal, 1 Stock Dove, 11 Moorhen. Fox with squirrel in its mouth (see composite photo).

Tony Wootton got lucky on Hayling Island today with this Guillemot on the sea.

Guillemot is described as a scarce winter visitor in the Hampshire Bird Report with only 18 reported sightings in 2016. Checking the HOS site, there have been just 3 sightings in the past month, none on Hayling Island. I have had two sightings in Emsworth Harbour over the past 10 years or so.


Farlington Marshes
The Havant Wildlife Group were on Farlington Marshes yesterday Dec 16) and got some interesting sightings. They enjoyed watching a Goldcrest taking a prolonged bath in a muddy puddle.

Best of all was the opportunity to compare Rock Pipit and Water Pipit. Derek Mills managed to get a photo of a Rock Pipit (left) and a Water Pipit (right), the latter showing its distinctive white supercilium.

A full report is on the Havant Wildlife Group web page at . . .


Emsworth Harbour
Peter Milinets-Raby had a wander around the Emsworth area this afternoon 1:52pm to 3:36pm - low tide. His report follows . . .

Beacon Square: 140 Dunlin, 285 Brent Geese, 5 Black-tailed Godwit, 19 Wigeon, 1 male Pintail, Redshank with colour rings (-//O + O//GW & -//G + G//LW), 1 Grey Plover, 1 Ringed Plover (-//- + G//NB), 1 Turnstone.
Nore Barn: 114 Black-tailed Godwit, 6 male and 20 female Pintail, 52 Wigeon, 25 Teal, 123 Brent Geese, 7 Shelduck, 71 Dunlin.
Emsworth Harbour: 173 Dunlin, 1 Ringed Plover (-//- + G//RO), 4 Teal, 8 Black-tailed Godwit, 3 Turnstone, 3 Lapwing, 70 Brent Geese, 20 Shelduck, 7 Grey Plover, 2 Greenshank, 4 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Little Egret.
Mill Pond: 30 Coot, 1 Cormorant, Juvenile Goosander flew into the pond at 2:49pm.

Winter Hedgehogs
Caroline French and Andrew Brown both responded with some anxiety to the discovery by Sue Thomas of a small Hedgehog in her garden (reported in yesterday's blog).

Caroline stressed that any hedgehog out in the daytime at any time of the year is in trouble and needs to go to a wildlife hospital. Also, any hedgehog under 600g is unlikely to survive the winter. Brent Lodge can help in either case. Andrew added that a friend of his looked after a few Hedgehogs last winter that were chronically underweight for the winter hibernation. Sue can always call a hedgehog sanctuary for more info if she is worried or needs advice.
Brent Lodge Wildlife Hospital Sidlesham. Phone 01243 641672.

Barred Warbler
Tony Wootton went to Titchfield Haven today to see if he could find the Barred Warbler, (a rare visitor from Eastern Europe/Russia). He said it was dead easy, first find the twitchers and there it was, and very accommodating bird it was too.

Christopher Evans also saw the Barred Warbler during a U3A trip to Titchfield on Dec 7th, so it is clearly settled for a while, feasting on the red berries.


Nore Barn
I had a quick look at Nore Barn at 11am on a falling tide. There was still plenty of water in the bay and the stream was fairly full. However, the ever faithful Spotted Redshank was already feeding along the edge of the stream with its companion the colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL. They were both unfazed by the attentions of boisterous dogs which they have become used to over the years.

Also feeding in the stream were several Black-tailed Godwits which would be moving further out as the tide fell.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 1:50pm to 2:42pm - low tide. His report follows . . .

On my initial scan I found an adult Peregrine perched on a mound of seaweed on the far side of the channel ripping the guts out of a kill. It stayed there having lunch for my entire visit.
Other birds of note were: 15 Teal, 32 Wigeon, 1 adult winter Mediterranean Gull, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 16 Grey Plover, 197 Brent Geese, 62 Shelduck, 4 Red-breasted Merganser, 1 Kingfisher dashing along the channel in the middle, 114 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank (G//R + BR//-), 3 Common Gull.
On the pond: 9 Teal, Female Pond Pintail, 1 Kingfisher (unusually seen perched at the rear of the pond), 1 Grey Heron, 1 Little Grebe.
Flooded Horse paddock (packed with birds): 105 Teal, 4 Black-tailed Godwit, 1 Redshank - very unusual here, 1 Green Sandpiper, 2 Pied Wagtails, 12 Moorhen, 2 Stock Dove, 3 Little Egret, 1 Grey Heron, 2 Oystercatcher, 1 Curlew, 6 Mallard, 50+ Starling, 2 Song Thrush, 18 Black-headed Gull.

December Hedgehog
Sue Thomas had the pleasure of seeing a small hedgehog in her garden. She says . . .
"It rummaged around the dead leaves and wood chippings in the borders then had a drink in the bird bath. I hope it has somewhere warm to spend the rest of the winter. I noticed a small white 'ball' behind one ear...I guess that is a tick of some sort?

In the border which is really woodland and wood chip paths, Lesser Celandine leaves are coming through - not a sign of spring yet but a welcome bit of fresh green. These are allowed wild flowers of course, not weeds!"

Climate change effect on UK's birds
The latest State of the UK's Birds Report highlights how many of the UK's species are already being affected by climate change, responding to UK average summer temperatures having increased by nearly 1 degree C since the 1980s. While some summer migrants are arriving earlier, the distributions of others are moving northwards and some species are using the opportunity to colonise new areas. Milder winters mean that some species, such as Golden Plover and Dunlin, are benefiting from improved survival. Birds are showing changes in abundance and distribution, predominantly moving northwards, in a way consistent with a changing climate.
See report at . . .


Emsworth walk
A very cold and frosty morning, but no wind and quite pleasant walking. A number of birds were feeding in the low water channel beneath the quay, including colour-ringed Greenshank RG+BY which is a regular in Emsworth.

It was one of 3 Greenshanks Pete Potts caught and ringed at Thorney on 19-Mar-13 and fitted with geolocators to the blue rings. I think the geolocator has now been removed for analysis as it is not visible now. My last sighting was 28-Sep-17 and it was also seen by John Jury on 15-Nov-17.

Other birds feeding in the channel included 2 Dunlin - not often seen this close to the shore.

Little Egret and gulls waiting for fish by the outfall on the north side of the channel.

The millponds were largely frozen over, though the Mute Swan family on Slipper Millpond managed to find a small area of open water to swan about on.

Black-headed Gulls, including a few Common Gulls, preferred to stand on the ice

One of the Common Gulls - a second winter as indicated by the thick band on its bill and small white primary tips.

A pair of Herring Gulls preferred the relative warmth of the south raft.

The town millpond was also frozen over, so no chance of a Goosander. However, it was nice to see Yarrow plants flowering on the edge of the millpond by Bath Road, mostly with white florets, but a few bright pink ones.

Emsworth Harbour
Peter Milinets-Raby had a spare 45 minutes this afternoon, so visited Emsworth Harbour from 1:48pm to 2:45pm - lowish tide. His report follows . . .
Beacon Square: 6 male and 11 female Pintail, 12 Wigeon, 79 Brent Geese, 4 Teal, 16 Dunlin. 1 Spotted Redshank - feeding in the gully by the footpath entrance to Beacon Square. Alas, I did not have time to walk along to Nore Barn to check the presence of the regular bird, but this is likely to be the second individual that has been seen once or twice this winter.
5 Ringed Plover (colour ringed -//- + G//NB), Colour ringed Redshank (-//O + O//GW), 1 Grey Plover.

Emsworth Harbour: The female Goosander flew over the sailing club heading east, diverted over the pond, obviously saw that it was frozen and continued on heading east. 12 Teal, 222 Dunlin, 132 Brent Geese, 9 Grey Plover, 9 Turnstone, 23 Coot with 41 on the Millpond (half frozen), 26 Shelduck, 1 Black-tailed Godwit.


More Goosanders
Barry Collins had a walk along the west side of Thorney Deeps on Saturday morning and had 4 redhead Goosanders on the Great Deep, one of which took off and flew towards Emsworth at 10.45. That latter bird might well be the one that we see from time to time on the town millpond.
In fact, I might well have seen it on the millpond yesterday afternoon (Dec 10). Here is my photo of the bird in rather murky conditions.

I was also interested to see six Cormorants on the Slipper Mill Sailing Club pontoons, no doubt resting after a fishing session. This probably indicates a plentiful supply of fish in the pond which would certainly be an attraction to the Goosander.


Southmoor flooding plan - an alternative view
So far, the response to the Environment Agency's plans to flood the Southmoor at Langstone has been very positive, particularly in that they will create an extra area of wetland for wintering geese, ducks and waders. However, Tom Bickerton presents a slightly different alternative view of the plans. He writes . . .

"In principle I like the idea, but we lose, ground nesting birds, small mammals and a good hunting ground for kestrel, Short-eared Owl and Barn owl and roosting areas in the Tamarisk.

Also do we need yet more saltmarsh? The birds that feed at Southmoor will still do so, creating a new saltmarsh just moves them 100 yards north. We need to look outside the box sometimes when we do these civil engineering projects and create a lasting legacy. What does the three harbours lack? Mostly, disturbance free breeding areas for our terns but more importantly for our small waders.

What I would do in the flooded area, while it's easy, would be to build some tern islands. Built properly and secured from fox and egg collectors these islands could be maintenance free for decades. But build them properly to last without maintenance, make them fox proof, dig a deep moat around them to flood at low tide. Oystercatcher and maybe Ringed Plover could use them.
The RSPB islands in Langstone Harbour are on their last legs without serious work put in. We got lucky this year with the Little Terns, but we have to eliminate this yearly throw of the dice attitude and get positive gains year on year. The same issue affects the Oysterbeds, they're never going to improve them, so again we'll get the first wash-out then the 2nd attempt at breeding.

It seems to me that the Southmoor plans have one serious design flaw and that is the attempt to design a human element into it. There will be a path on the embankment to the north which inevitably means increased human usage along with more and more disturbance.

The orchid field still worries me. I used to do a WeBS count at Southmoor for many years, Even well away from the wall, I occasionally got soaked from sea spray. Contamination of the field by salt water is, I feel, a serious risk.

Finally, I feel the success of the plan will depend on the size of the breech. If we are creating a break-water, such as Dover Harbour, then fine, but I feel this project is more to do with reduced maintenance expenditure than creating viable habitat. The existing outer wall will deteriorate over time, thus increasing tidal flooding activity."


Coal Tits in gardens
The BTO reports that winter 2017 is turning out to be exceptional for garden Coal Tits. In the summer Coal Tits normally remain within woodland, and are recorded in less than a third of gardens, but in winter they move to gardens in search of food. Usually in November they are recorded by about 40% of Garden BirdWatchers, but this November they have been seen in an unprecedented 70% of gardens. It is thought this maybe due the scarcity of tree seed crops in the wider countryside.
For more details see . . .

I have seen the same effect here in my garden in central Emsworth. Coal Tits have always been a rare bird, usually seen only 3 or 4 times in a year in winter and none at all last year. However, this winter I have had regular visits from a single Coal Tit almost every week over the past two months. So far, I have not been quick enough to capture the bird on camera; the bird hops onto the sunflower heart feeder, snatches a seed and then flies away to nibble it in the bushes. However, here is a nice shot from my files taken by my friend Patrick Murphy who sadly passed away last year.


Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby had a walk along the Warblington shore from 7:45am to 9:25am - low tide - apparently -3C. It was cold, but not as icy as it could have been. His report follows . . .

"Ibis Field: At the back resting on the dead tree was the Cattle Egret, with a male Pheasant in the field and 2 Jay over.
Rotting wheat stem pile in the big field: 4 Meadow Pipits, 2 Pied Wagtails, 1 Grey Wagtail, 2 Skylark. Conigar Point - a bit quiet?: Reed Bunting calling from the hedge behind the point, 3 Wigeon, 3 female Pintail, 10 Teal, 8 Brent Geese, 1 Little Egret, 1 Buzzard chased off the SSSI field by Carrion Crows and headed south to Hayling Island.
Off Pook Lane: 302 Brent Geese, 44 Teal, 6 Redwing over and 2 in the hedge along the SSSI field, 4 Lapwing, 3 Red-breasted Merganser, 81 Shelduck - best count of the winter so far. Will we get into double figures like last winter? 3 Greenshank.
A Pair of Shoveler flew west along the channel (possibly the Langstone Pond birds). 8 Little Egrets feeding in the trickle of water left from the tide going out. 19 Dunlin, 11 Black-tailed Godwits, 5 Grey Plover, 4 Bar-tailed Godwit.
3 Redwing in the cemetery (see photo). Very flighty birds, not settling. Oh, and 1 Blue Tit, 2 Robins and 10+ Blackbirds in the pristine cemetery habitat!!"

Solar Boat sightings
John Arnott had a very good bird watching trip today on Solar Heritage boat in Chichester Harbour. Chris Berners-Price was skipper and, as the weather was ideal, he took the boat further towards the entrance to the Harbour than usual to increase the chance of seeing Diver species. Good for you Chris, for they saw both Black-throated Diver and Great Northern Diver, plus three Peregrines and a Harbour seal resting on a mud bank. They also had great views of all the usual water bird species, including Knot which is not often seen on these boat trips. Here is John's 'record shot' of the Black-throated Diver.


Southmoor flood plan
Peter Milinets-Raby is ecstatic about the Environment Agency plan to flood part of the Southmoor at Langstone.
He says . . .
"these plans will make Southmoor into another Medmerry in West Sussex, so I will expect breeding Avocets, Black-winged Stilts and Glossy Ibis within four years of the work being completed. You heard it here first. I like the sound of this. It will be a great addition to improve the pitiful numbers of birdlife in this eastern corner of Hampshire.
However, my logical mind is asking. Why it is being done? To stop houses being flooded. What houses - there are none! And, if the sea levels are expected to rise, then surely the whole coastline floods. If the water levels rise to six metres, then it rises to six metres along the whole stretch of the coast. Making a breach just allows water to run in more quickly, not really alleviating the rest of the coastline, which will flood as the tide washes over the five metre sea walls. Surely to stop flooding you build the sea wall up higher to six metres. QED.
I think someone in the bird department is fed up of the lack of birds seen at Southmoor and likes the idea of a Hampshire "Medmerry".

Note on Medmerry
Medmerry is one of the newest of the RSPB nature reserves near to Bracklesham Bay in West Sussex. It was created between 2011 - 2013 when the Environment Agency breached the seawall and flooded the interior fields, much as is proposed for the Southmoor, but on a much larger scale. In fact over 4 miles of new flood bank was constructed inland from the sea before the existing shingle beach was breached to create the largest managed realignment scheme on the open coast in Europe.
It became an RSPB reserve in 2014 and since then the intertidal habitats have been developing fast, attracting a wide range of wetland birds. Brent Geese, Curlew and Grey Plover winter there, whilst in summer Avocets and Lapwings breed on the lagoons and saltmarsh.

Ralph Hollins is cautiously optimistic about the Southmoor plan. He says . . . "My reaction is that it is the best that can be done in the circumstances. I doubt it will have a significant effect on the orchid population and I fear there are few ground nesting birds left in the area. I think the flooding will provide a few years delay in the ongoing deterioration in the wildlife of the area and many even bring in some new species (Avocets?? Black-winged Stilts??)"

I asked orchid expert, Nigel Johnson if the flooding would affect the growth of Southern Marsh Orchids on the moor. Nigel thought as the new bund will be to the south of the orchid field the orchids should not be unaffected.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a high tide visit to Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon 2:45pm to 3:23pm
He said . . .
"it produced an amazing record count of 3 male and 9 female Goldeneye. They were together in the bay by the entrance to the Pook Lane track. My highest count. The males were busy displaying to one another whilst the females ignored them and dived for food.
Other birds of note on the impressive 5 metre tide (very high - water as far as the eye could see and only a few centimetres from the top of the sea wall!) were 12 Red-breasted Mergansers and 2 Great Crested Grebes. A Kingfisher dashed across the water heading towards the paddock, in which were 5 Grey Herons, 5 Little Egrets, a Grey Wagtail and 2 Oystercatchers.
On the pond there was nothing of note, except a single Little Grebe, 36 Mallard and 2 Mute Swans. No Teal and alas no sign of the male Shoveler. Icy tomorrow - should be interesting???"

Red Kites fighting?
Tony Wootton got a sequence of photos of two Red Kites apparently fighting at a site close to East Meon Has anyone seen any example of this before? I have seen Buzzards fighting over food, but to see Red Kites in action must be pretty special.


Southmoor flooding plans
I gather the Environment Agency is planning to change the sea defences at Southmoor, Langstone to mitigate the effects of flooding caused by rising sea levels. The plan is to breach the present seawall about half way along the path to allow the sea to flood the moor. A new earth embankment would be built across the moor, roughly where the present fence is located, to prevent to sea flooding any further north. There would be a footpath on top of the embankment for access across the moor. The present seawall footpath would be stopped at the breach. It is thought that as well as helping to prevent flooding of houses, the plans would create a new wetland habitat for wildlife inside the present seawall.
Here is a Environment Agency plan of the area showing the main features of the new project. The red annotations are mine just to make the map clearer.

From a wildlife point of view one can see some advantages in that the new wetland area could provide extra feeding habitat for migrant waders, ducks and geese. However, ground nesting birds in the present area would be affected by the flooding. More serious is the potential effects the salt water flooding could have on the botanically rich fields to the north of the proposed embankment, where some 10,000 Southern Marsh Orchids flower.
If you have any views about this scheme please let me know.

Here is a link to the planning application at HBC

Barred Warbler
Christopher Evans went on a walk in Titchfield Haven reserve today with the Havant U3A group and got very lucky with this Barred Warbler. Barred Warbler is described as a 'rare vagrant' in the current Hampshire Bird Report. There was only one recorded in 2016 at Sinah Common on Hayling Island and only five previous records this century. So Havant U3A were very lucky. What a Christmas present! Photo courtesy of Doug Yelland,


Warblington Hedgerow
Despite the gloom, Peter Milinets-Raby had a stroll around the Warblington cemetery area 1:15pm to 2:15pm - High tide. As it was high tide he concentrated on the cemetery and the big fields east of the church. His report follows . . .

"On December 1st the council had employed Norse to cut the hedgerow along the northern boundary of the new cemetery extension. I was shocked to see how drastic it had been cut down! What was once 4 metres high and at least a metre thick was butchered to what can be seen in the bright sunny photo (Ironic - nice views of the castle tower). The workers on site said that they were not cutting any more of the hedgerow down.

To my astonishment this afternoon I discovered that the whole length of the hedge had been felled (the seat in the distance in the photo is the one in the sunny photo - over 80 metres of hedge gone - good breeding habitat gone, good winter thrush feeding area gone (Redwing and Fieldfare seen recently in this hedge). Total shame. The council just do not know how to look after this so called conservation area. It has become too clinical over the last few years, clearing all the good "wild bits". No wonder I hardly see any passerines when I walk around this area!

Onto the birds. With all the disturbance and noise, there were very little birds to report: In the big field by the rotting wheat stems: No sign of the Water Pipit, though 2 Pied Wagtails present with a Grey Wagtail, 3 Skylarks and a Meadow Pipit.
In the field south of the cemetery: 138 Brent Geese (contained 2 juvs. Are these the only ones, just moving around slightly, or are there four birds?). 46 Curlew, 1 Mistle Thrush, 6 Redwing feeding in the hedge, 1 Green Woodpecker.
In the field west of the cemetery: Briefly (literally only two minutes worth - before a dog walker flushed them) were 4 Little Egrets and 1 Cattle Egret. Could not find them later, obviously flew into the central fields out of sight!


Goosander returns
I decided to have a late afternoon walk (about 3.30pm) around the millpond, not really expecting to see much, though fortunately I did take my trusty Lumix TZ70 camera with me. I was striding in time with Beethoven's 4th symphony on my bluetooth earphones when a ripple on the surface of the pond caught my eye. Maybe it was a Coot, but wait for it to come up. Wow, it was the juvenile Goosander which I had not seen since Nov 20, though it was reported to me by Nicola Hammond on 24 Nov. I took some pictures, but the light was awful, almost dark and this was the best I could manage. This follows the two redhead (female) Goosanders that Barry and Margaret Collins saw on the Great Deep west side on Dec 3, so there are more about.

Red-breasted Mergansers
Interestingly, Susan Kelly saw 4 Red-breasted Mergansers in the harbour this morning near the Slipper Sailing Club. If they also come onto the millpond it could make for a nice comparison with the Goosander. Here is a cracking shot that Richard Somerscocks got of some male Red-breasted Mergansers displaying to females in Emsworth Harbour a few years ago.

WW2 aircraft collision over Brook Meadow
Here is a link to some memories by Adrian Voller of the collision between a Wellington bomber and a Mosquito Nightfighter over Emsworth in 1944 which claimed two airmen's lives . This WW2 incident is commemorated in a plaque on the north bridge on Brook Meadow.

Here is the link to the story . . .


Emsworth walk
I had a stroll around the local area before an early lunch. I stopped to admire the nice contrast between the red Hawthorn berries and the green Mistletoe on the tree in Bridge Road car park.

Walking down Bath Road I was pleasantly surprised to find a group of workers from Norse clearing the weeds from the edge of the roadside by hand! I congratulated them for not using a spray which has been the custom in the past. Let's hope HBC (Norse) has abandoned this awful unecological practice which contaminates the environment and leaves ugly burnt scars. The three Norse workers were happy for me to take a photo of them at work.

Two Cormorants were fishing on the Millpond but no sign of the Goosander - but see Barry's note below. No sign either of the Black Swans that were in the harbour yesterday.

I came back home via Brook Meadow where I stopped to admire the neatly trimmed Hawthorn laid hedge and the newly woven dead hedge on the river bank from yesterday's work session.


Goosanders on Thorney
Barry and Margaret Collins had two redhead Goosanders on the Great Deep west side yesterday (Dec 3) and a juvenile Marsh Harrier foraging over the Little Deeps.

Langstone Mill Pond
This afternoon Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond at 1:38pm and watched the tide drop until 3:15pm. As it did so, the birds moved in . . .
59 Shelduck, 200+ Brent Geese, 8 Red-breasted Merganser, Male Goldeneye, 19 Wigeon, 5 Grey Plover, 49 Teal, 22 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank (G//R + BR//-), 1 Kingfisher - very mobile. One minute on a boat out in the harbour, the next dashing over the pond. 5 Little Egrets, 8 Common Gull. 11 Black-tailed Godwit (R//R + LG//- see photo - though in one photo it looks white???),

On the Pond: Nothing when I arrived, just the lingering male Shoveler (see photo), which after ten minutes flew out into the channel to feed. When I left, the pond held 34 Teal, 2 Little Grebes and the female pond Pintail. Most of the Teal (34 on the pond and the 49 on the mud) were observed flying in from Thorney Island.
Of interest were a pair of Grey Heron on the big obvious nest, moving sticks around and attempting to mate.

Brian's note on colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit R+LG - First seen at Nore Barn on 23-Oct-13 and seen each early winter since then. It seems to be a Langstone - Nore Barn bird. I have never seen it on the east side of Emsworth.


Brook Meadow work session
It was a relatively mild morning compared with recent ones for the regular first Sunday in the month work session on Brook Meadow. There was a good turn out of 11 volunteers led by Mike. The main tasks were to reconstruct the dead hedges along the river bank and to trim and tidy Mike's laid Hawthorn hedge.

Here is Mike discussing the hedge trimming with one of the volunteers

For the full report and more photos see . . .

Black Swans return
We have had a single Black Swan in the Emsworth area for the past week or so, but this morning Chris Oakley alerted me to the presence of three of them in Emsworth Harbour. So this afternoon I went down to take a look for myself and, true to form, three Black Swans were in the low water channel at the end of the wooden jetty.

Here they are with one showing off its white underwings

They may well be part of the family of six which were in Emsworth Harbour from Jan 27 until Mar 11 earlier this year. These birds came from a nest site at Riverside Park on the River Itchen in Southampton. It will be interesting to see if any more turn up.

Warblington shore
Peter Milinets-Raby visited the Warblington shore this morning from 7:36am to 9:30am - nearly high tide.
Warblington cemetery: 17 Redwing, 1 Jay, 1 Meadow Pipit over.
Ibis Field: 1 male and 3 female Pheasant.
Big field with rotting wheat stem pile: 4 Pied Wagtail, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Water Pipit feeding amongst the pile - worth checking this area again as this bird may hang around. 2 Meadow Pipit over, 2 Skylark.
Water Rail heard squealing from mini reed bed behind Conigar Point
Conigar Point: 1 Greenshank, 145 Wigeon (good numbers), 17 Shelduck, 7 male and 16 female Pintail (good numbers), 233 Dunlin, 11 Grey Plover, 31 Teal, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit. 41 Curlew and 2 Brent Geese in the field south of the cemetery.

Little Egret obligingly feeding close in the stream until "Maizie" the dog flushed him!!!

Off Pook Lane - tide nearly in: 1 Kestrel, 45 Wigeon, 3 Teal, 48 Brent Geese, 8 Red-breasted Merganser, 9 Lapwing, 2 Grey Plover, 21 Shelduck, Shoveler male on the shore.

Nore Barn
In the afternoon, Peter took the family for a walk along the shore of Nore Barn and around the corner to the real Conigar Point - 1:38pm to 2:45pm - tide dropping.
Spotted Redshank in the stream with a Redshank. 2 female Pintail, 233 Brent Geese, 33 Teal, 1 Greenshank at the top end stream (G//R +GL//-), 173 Wigeon - very good count, 6 Black-tailed Godwit with a further 127 around the corner (G//R +GY//-)


Black-throated Diver
John Arnott saw a Black-throated Diver from the Ellanore bird hide (West Wittering) this afternoon at 15:06h . . .

"It was in the main channel opposite the entrance to Snowhill Creek, too far to photograph but easily 'scoped. At first it was facing away from me but was looking over its shoulder showing a peaked crown. My initial thought was Great Northern Diver but then it turned sideways and showed a text-book white half moon patch on its rear flanks. I examined it for the collar of a Great Northern Diver low on the neck but it was clean white all the way down the front and very black down the back of the neck. Typically, the top of the neck gave the impression of being thicker than the lower half of the neck and it was very full chested. It then vanished but I later saw it briefly as it headed for the west side of East Head and then I finally lost it to view behind the dunes of the Head.
Lots of other water birds from the hide - Dunlin, Knot, Bar- and Black-tailed Godwits (this is a good spot to compare Godwit species), Redshank, Grey Plover, Oystercatcher, Curlew, Great Crested Grebe, Cormorant, Shelduck, Red-breasted Merganser and lots of Black-headed Gull.
Sorry no numbers but my wife went home with the notebook from our WeBS count at Bosham in the morning - that was my fault! Pretty quiet on our Bosham sector count but there was a Whimbrel, first heard then seen at the entrance to Furzefield Creek on the north side, sitting on a post of an old fence that runs down the shore to the waterline.

The Black-throated Diver was also seen by Bernie Forbes during an outing to East Head - reported on the SOS Sightings site . . .


Nore Barn
12 noon. Tide falling from high water at about 9am. The sun was low and very bright making conditions difficult for viewing and photography. However, at Nore Barn it is possible to shelter from the north wind. The area around the stream was crowded with birds, mostly Brent Geese, Wigeon and Black-tailed Godwits. Here is just a small section.

The Spotted Redshank was also present feeding among the Godwits. In this photo it is with a Godwit which appears to be having a little bathe in the fresh stream water.

Over 300 Brent Geese were scattered around the western mudflats including at least one juvenile - probably from the sole family of two youngsters. I found two Shelduck among the Brent Geese. I counted 174 Black-tailed Godwits, though there could well have been more. This is my best count of the winter so far. I picked out two Godwits with colour-rings, G+WR and ROL+RLR - both mega regular birds in Emsworth Harbour each with over 100 sightings.

Winter flowers
Quite a number of plants continue to flower right into winter, so I though I would include a regular spot on the blog for the ones I notice as I go around town. To start the ball rolling, here is a not terribly good snap of some Lesser Stitchwort that has been flowering for a few weeks by the Beech hedge adjacent to Bridge Road car park quite close to where I live. It would not keep still in the wind, but the white sharply divided petals are very distinctive. It is a perennial plant and I see it in this spot every year, though this year it is flowering later than usual.

Weasel on Brook Meadow
Whilst on a recce (for Sunday's work session) around Brook Meadow, Mike Probert was fortunate enough to see a Weasel (no black tip on tail) run across the River Ems from east to west on a thick, fallen tree trunk - the first one south of the North bridge. That is the first Weasel we have had reported on Brook Meadow since one seen and photographed by Malcolm Phillips on 09-Apr-2014. I suspect they are more common than this but elusive and not easily seen. Here is Malcolm's excellent image. We do miss him - Malcolm that is!

Garden Sparrowhawk
Keith Wileman just caught this magnificent female Sparrowhawk on his garden fence this afternoon a couple of seconds before it flew away. Wow! What a bird!

Emsworth Harbour
Peter Milinets-Raby had a couple of outings today in the bitter north wind.
The first was from Nore Barn to Emsworth for only 40 minutes from 9am - "just too cold!"
Nore Barn at high tide: 1 Greenshank, 1 Spotted Redshank and 1 Redshank resting by the stream. 234 Brent Geese, 73 Wigeon, 12 Teal.
Beacon Square: 44 Wigeon, 153 Brent Geese, 8 Shelduck.
Emsworth Harbour: 1 Sandwich Tern, 10 lapwing on the pier by the town wall.
On the Mill Pond were 3 Cormorants and 39 Coot.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter visited Langstone Mill Pond in the early afternoon (1:11pm to 2:46pm - very low tide):
Off Shore: 6 Red Breasted Merganser, 2 Great Crested Grebes, 114 Teal, 17 Black-tailed Godwit, 62 Shelduck, 6 Lapwing, 2 Greenshank, 366 Brent Geese (with 2 juvs), 9 Wigeon, 12 Grey Plover, 2 Grey Herons with 9 Little Egrets in the trickle of water in the channel, 100+ Dunlin.
On the pond were: 51 Teal, Male Shoveler, Female Pintail, 1 Chiffchaff.
1 Little Grebe with fish - Giving stunning views - Help needed on the ID of the fish - The bird caught three of these fish - all were this huge size - reddish tinge in the fins. Amazing sight as it swallowed them head first.

For the previous month go to . . November 1-30