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for early March 2020
(in reverse chronological order)

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FRIDAY MARCH 13 - 2020

Spotted Redshank
I got to Nore Barn at about 11.00 with about 3 hours to high water mainly to check on the Spotted Redshank. When I arrived our friendly bird was roaming around the saltmarshes to the west of the stream which was yet to fill up with tidal water. It finally settled down in the rapidly filling stream for a wash and preen before getting down to the important business of feeding.

On the basis of previous years I would expect the Spotted Redshank to remain here for another week or so before making its way back to its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia. Bon voyage, my friend. See you again in October maybe?

Video clip of the Spotted Redshank preening . . .

For the full history of this remarkable little bird please go to the special page I have created for it at . . . Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn

Bird Aware
It was good to have a chat to Natalie, the ranger for Bird Aware, who had a viewing post with scope at the end of Warblington Road. Natalie has replaced Emily who has now got a job with the RSPB. Today was the last of the Bird Aware sessions in Emsworth for this winter, though Natalie says they will be back in the autumn for the next wave of wintering birds. I think Bird Aware are doing a very good job in keeping visitors abreast of local bird life and in particular enabling local people to appreciate fully the wonderful bird life they have on their doorsteps! Here is a shot of Natalie looking for birds with visitors . . .

Sweet Violets
On the way back from Nore Barn I sopped briefly on Warblington Road just past the junction with Valetta Park to have a look at the magnificent crop of Sweet Violets flowering on the grass verge. There must be hundreds in flower. Here are just a few I snapped.

Great Black-backed Gulls
I also popped into Slipper Road to check on the Great Black-backed Gulls which are now back on Slipper Millpond for their 9th year of nesting on the rafts. When I arrived at about 12 noon both gulls were on the south raft where they have nested for the past 3 years. Prior to that they nested on the larger centre raft, but were ousted by a pair of Canada Geese which nested there. So far, I have not seen the Canada Geese on the pond, though there was a pair last week on Peter Pond being pursued by the resident cob swan.

While I was present what I assume was the female gull flew to the centre raft to collect a beak full of twigs. She flew off with them probably heading for the south raft to start a nest.

Video clip of Great Black-backed Gull collecting nest material . . .

For the full history of the nesting of these remarkable birds please go to the special page . . . Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond

Brook Meadow
There was a positively spring-like feel to Brook Meadow when I visited this afternoon. The sun was warm, the birds were singing and it felt as if the meadow was coming to life!
It was particularly good to hear the mellifluous tones of a Blackbird wafting across the north meadow for the first time this spring. Dunnocks were busily displaying to each other. A Goldcrest and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits were busily feeding in the Cherry Plum tree on the causeway. Here is a Goldcrest photo I dug out of the archives that Malcolm Phillips took on Brook Meadow a couple of years ago.

One bird that did stay still for a photo from me was the resident female/juvenile Kestrel perched in a Black Poplar tree.

The leaning tree with roots partly exposed on the west side of the Seagull Lane patch is a Blackthorn not as I previously thought a Prunus.
CORRECTION: My thanks to David Search for pointing out that Blackthorn is a Prunus! Prunus spinosa. I should have said it was not Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Pissardii')

It is now in full blossom with attractive white flowers.

Leaves are now starting to emerge on the Hawthorns on the Seagull Lane patch. Leaves on Hawthorn always precede the blossom, whereas in Blackthorn it is the other way round.

There is a good stack of logs near the river from the work of Maurice and Terry earlier in the week.

As I walked along the main raised path, it was good to hear the rippling of the river which is still flowering swiftly.

The river is still bubbling over the sluice gate forming a stream of water down the south path which remains closed, but is not seriously flooded.

I was amused to see a pair of Mallard clambering over the sluice gate.

The Butterbur flower spikes are growing fast, but so is the surrounding vegetation which will soon cover the flowers. So I shall have to do my annual count of the Butterbur spikes very soon while they are visible.

The Osiers on the east side of the north meadow are always the first of the pussy willow catkins to show.

Reminder: Dan and I will have to update the signcases in the coming week.

Emsworth Harbour
Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning for an hour from 9am to have a look around Emsworth Harbour. The highlight was seeing the pond devoid of water for its spring tide cleaning session.

The trickle of water left had attracted 5 Little Egrets - one with fine plumes developing.

Off shore on the low tide mud were 62 Mediterranean Gulls, 33 Brent Geese, a single Greenshank and diving in the channel were 5 Red breasted Mergansers, 2 late Wigeon and 2 Shelduck. Overhead there was an early sign of Migrational movement with five flocks of Meadow Pipits going over totalling 22 moving north west and inland.

Thorney Island
Christopher Evans had a walk down the west side of Thorney this afternoon where he got a shot of a male Stonechat with a caterpillar in its beak. That one looks scrumptious!

He also had a good view of a pair of Great Crested Grebes doing their ritual courtship display. Springtime joy!


Great Crested Grebe
At the end of our walk round a very breezy town millpond this morning, Jean and I were delighted to come across a Great Crested Grebe swimming and diving in the harbour beneath the quay. I managed to take a few photos in between 20 sec dives. One can just see traces of summer plumage starting to develop in the head and body. What a super bird!

The Great Crested Grebe is a large fish eating diving bird distinguished by its sharp pink bill and dark crest which is often flat on the head in winter. It is a moderately common resident in our area and a winter visitor. It breeds on fresh waters such as Chichester Gravel Pits where one can see their ritualised head-waggling courtship displays in spring. In winter new arrivals spread around coastal water and millponds. There is usually at least one Great Crested Grebe in Emsworth Harbour and sometimes on the millponds during the winter period.


Peter Milinets-Raby was out in the gloom this morning for 90 minutes from 9am for a wander around Warblington. The highlights were as follows:
Castle Farm fields: 13 Little Egrets, 4 Cattle Egrets - all with a soft, warm wash of orange blush on the crown and mantle

24 Med Gulls with 30 Black-headed Gulls. One of the Black-headed Gulls with a summer hood was sporting a very pink flushed breast - stunning.1 Kestrel
Big Field out east: 28 Brent Geese, 4 Skylarks - two singing, 27 Linnets.
Straw dump: 2 Pied Wagtails, 1 Rock Pipit, 4 Water Pipits - one with a smudged stain of pale pink on the breast (they were disturbed by a Kestrel and at least 5 other pipits not seen departed off west!!!)
Conigar Point: 9 Wigeon, 41 Shelduck, 9 Brent Geese, 2 Med Gulls, 2 Red Breasted Mergansers.
Pook Lane: 26 Shelduck, 3 Red Breasted Mergansers, 52 Brent Geese, 2 Stock Doves.

Langstone Mill Pond
Yesterday Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond for an hour from 9am - tide coming in. His report follows . . .
Off shore. 11 Med Gulls, most either paired up and displaying to one another or engaged in mutual preening. Such beautiful birds.

1 un-ringed Greenshank, 4 Common Gulls, 2 Teal, 11 Red Breasted Merganser, 108 Brent Geese, 3 Shelduck with 38 off Conigar Point. 2 Grey Plover, 1 Lapwing.
Pond: 1 singing Goldcrest, 1 singing Chiffchaff, 1 male and 2 female Tufted Duck.
Pair of Mute Swan still chasing young around the pond trying to make them depart.
Flooded paddock: An amazing 27 Little Egrets, 5 Grey Herons, 27 Wigeon, 47 Teal.
Grey Heron Heronry:
Nest 1: Adult sitting on nest. Unusual to be able to see this nest, but with the storms foliage has parted enough to reveal this nest.
Nest 2: Adult sitting on nest
Nest 4: Adult sitting on nest
Nest 6: Old nest being built up by a male in splendid nuptial plumage
Nest 9: Adult sitting on nest
Nest 10: Adult sitting on nest
Nest 11: No activity around this nest site
Nest 14: Adult on nest, young heard begging for food and two of the three young seen.
Nest 16: No activity around this nest. Shame after the excitement of my last visit
Nest 17: Pair seen mating on the nest.

Joyce Sawyer had this magnificent Sparrowhawk in the tree at the end of her garden in Denvilles. The picture was taken through a window. Joyce hoped it might be the Goshawk that mentioned in the blog on Sunday, but I think that was wishful thinking on her part!!


Spotted Redshank
I popped into Nore Barn at about 10am this morning. It was blowing a gale and the tide was close to high water. But the ever faithful Spotted Redshank was present in the flooded stream, feeding nonchalantly on its own. I took some photos and video clip which was not easy in the strong wind.

The expected date of departure of this iconic bird, now in its 16th winter with us, is fast approaching; last year our last sighting was on Mar 23rd which is in about 2 weeks time. I shall keep checking, but would really appreciate receiving any other sightings before it leaves on its migration to its breeding grounds, probably in Northern Scandinavia.

Video clip of the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn . . .

The special Spotted Redshank page has full history of this remarkable bird in Emsworth . . . Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn

Stock Doves in garden
I was very pleased to see two Stock Doves in the garden this lunchtime. This is my first sighting of Stock Dove in the garden for a year; I had two at almost a year ago on Mar 20th. They regularly seem to turn up at this time of the year. Why is that?

This year, as shown in the photo, they came in with a pair of white doves. We have had a flock of white doves in Emsworth for the last couple of years, there used to be about 10, but I think there are just two left. Apparently, they were released at a wedding in St James Church and were not recaptured and have been hanging around the church, coming into local gardens to glean droppings from the bird feeders.

Video clip of the Stock Doves in the garden . . .


Brook Meadow
While on Brook Meadow this morning, I came across Maurice Lillie and Terry Lay on the Seagull Lane patch collecting up sawn logs and branches from the recent tree surgery to create a log pile. This is not a regular workday. Here is Terry at work.

I stopped to admire the interesting patterns of rings and cracks that had been created on the sawn stumps.

I had a closer look at the bracket fungi growing on a fallen Crack Willow tree on the river bank that Terry had alerted me to previously. I am fairly sure they are good examples of Common Ganoderma (Ganoderma adsperum) - now renamed Southern Bracket (Ganoderma australe).

Maurice and Terry had already placed some of the sawn Willow stumps in an attractive circle in the area of Frank's seat and the Cherry trees on the west side of the north meadow.

The river is still running very high and is brimming over the sluice gate into the south meadow which remains impassable without boots.

Here is a view of the river looking north from the observation fence - the banks are nicely clear of excess vegetation for the time being, though this will change with the growing season.

Hermitage Millponds
The regular pair of Mute Swans was on Peter Pond when I passed by but with no sign of the Canada Geese that were present on my last visit on Friday 6th. The other Mute Swan pair was on Slipper Millpond with the cob standing guard on the west path! It will be interesting to see if both swan pairs manage to nest on the adjacent ponds.

I was intrigued to see the pair of Great Black-backed Gulls snoozing together on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. This will be the pair that has nested on the pond for the last 8 years. For the past 3 years they have been ousted from their preferred nesting site on the centre raft by a pair of Canada Geese. It will be interesting to see if this happens again this year.

Pussy Willow
Coming back home via Bridge Road car park I spotted my first yellow catkins of 'pussy willow' emerging on the Goat Willow tree on the wayside verge. Spring is here!


Stansted East
Jean and I had a pleasant walk through the eastern section of the Stansted Estate this morning. The weather was breezy with a few blustery showers at the end of the walk. On the way we stopped just inside the main entrance to admire these Beeches supporting a luxuriant growth of lime green moss around their bases.

Further along the main tarmac road near the Iron Gate Cottages we came across a number of large mature Ash trees that had been felled beside the road.

The notice from Head Forester Michael Prior explained that these trees had to be felled as they were affected by Ash die-back disease and were starting to drop dead branches, thus becoming a hazard to walkers and workers on the estate. He says large areas of Ash will need to be felled across the estate and an expensive replanting programme undertaken. He urges anyone who would care to sponsor the replanting of trees to contact the estate office on 02392 412265.

Continuing along the track to the east past the Iron Gate Cottages we met up with my old friend Dave Mead who was leading a group of birdwatchers possibly from Portsmouth RSPB. I had not seen him for a while. He told me they had seen a pair of Goshawks, rare birds indeed, but known on the estate. I assume they are in addition to the pair in Southleigh Forest - Hollybank Woods. Here's a photo I got from the internet.

There was plenty of Blackthorn in flower along this track - our first of the year. The flowers are much smaller than those on the similar Cherry Blossom and lacking the leaves which are already sprouting on the latter.

Bird Populations in the UK
The British Trust for Ornithology has published the latest assessment of the size of bird populations in the UK. The population estimates presented in the report indicate that there are now thought to be about 85 million breeding pairs of birds in the UK. Wren continues to hold the title of our commonest breeding bird with 11,000,000 pairs, followed by Robin (7,350,000 pairs), House Sparrow (5,300,000), and Woodpigeon (5,150,000). Chaffinch and Blackbird share the number five spot at 5,050,000 territories each. Turtle Dove numbers have dived from 75,000 pairs in 1997 to just 3,600 pairs. The Chaffinch breeding population has also fallen by 1.15 million pairs since the last report seven years ago.
You can see the full list at . . .

Chaffinch in Garden!
Yesterday, I was astonished to see a Chaffinch (male) in the garden for the first time for a whole year! He did not stay long enough for a photo, so here's one I got a few years ago, just in case you can't recall what they look like!

Here is a record of Chaffinch sightings in my garden since 1998. Last year was a disaster!

PS - I am still waiting for a Greenfinch - no sightings for well over a year!


Brook Meadow
What a difference a day makes! I went over to the meadow on this bright and sunny morning mainly to have a look for the fungi that Terry Lay found while he and Maurice Lillie were making a dead hedge along the west river bank in the Seagull Lane patch a couple of days ago. By chance, Maurice was on the meadow when I got there, so we looked together for Terry's fungi. Despite a good deal of scrambling and searching we failed to locate any fungi on the west bank of the river.
However, looking across from the east bank of the river, I could clearly see at least four bracket fungi on a fallen Crack Willow. From a distance, I am fairly sure they are Common Ganoderma (Ganoderma adsperum) - now renamed Southern Bracket (Ganoderma australe). We have had these large very woody bracket fungi on the meadow before, though not often, so Terry's was a good find.

Here is a shot looking across to the west bank with the arrow pointing to the fungi.

Here is a close up of the four of the fungi.

Walking along the north path I was very pleased to see the black flower buds on the large Ash tree with purplish male flowers starting to show. I do not recall this tree flowering at all last year. Maybe this is a sign of the tree's good health? I shall keep an eye on it.

As for the younger Ash saplings along the north path, some of them appear to be dead or dying from Ash die-back disease.

Maurice told me that Michael Reed had been on the meadow a few days ago to cut off the large Crack Willow trunk that had been leaning low over the path which meant one had to duck down to avoid cracking one's head. The photo shows the path now has a nice clear run with the offending branch removed.

The river is now running very high after yesterday's deluge and as can be seen in the photo the water was topping the sluice gate and streaming onto the south meadow. The two chaps wading through the flood are from the Environment Agency and they had just placed 'Footpath Closed' signs at the two ends of the main south path and padlocked the south gate. Maurice has asked them for a key so we can open the gate once the flood subsides. Last time there was a flood the gate was closed for a long period after the water had gone. Here is a shot looking south . .

Here is a shot from the south gate showing the 'Footpath Closed' notice and the padlocked gate.

Peter Pond
I walked down to Peter Pond where the cob Mute Swan was busy driving a pair of Canada Geese into the reeds in the far north east of the pond. These geese could be the pair that regularly nest on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. Maybe they fancy Peter Pond instead? But they won't be allowed. It is swan territory!

Bridge Road
I must congratulate George and his colleague from Norse for trimming the old Beech hedge along the edge of Bridge Road car park. They could not reach some bits due to car parking. They also trimmed various shrubs and trees in the two shrubberies.

I was also pleased with the very prompt response of the Council to my request for the clearance of litter in the car park. Thanks. I hope it goes on the regular litter picking route. Meanwhile the two large clumps of Mistletoe are looking good on the Hawthorn trees.


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby spent a couple of hours down Langstone Mill Pond this morning - low tide throughout.
The highlight of the morning were the antics in the Heronry with nine pairs up and running and one pair with three chicks. Details below:
Nest 1: Adult male stood on top of the Holm Oak above where the nest is located, occasionally displaying, though only doing so in response to the new randy couple! Herons mating . . .

Nest 2: Usually visible this nest, the storms having taken down some of the covering foliage. Adult sat firmly on the nest.
Nest 4: Adult sitting on the nest
Nest 9: Adult sitting on the nest
Nest 10: Adult sitting on the nest
Nest 11: Male displaying stood on the nest. Female standing close by.
Nest 14: Adult male on the nest. When he fiddled with sticks to rearrange around the nest, three tiny young could be seen. They were also calling and begging for food

Nest 16: (NEW construction): An actively mating pair of Grey Herons (see photo) were building a new nest about three metres to the left of the main colony up against the trunk of a substantial Oak Tree. The male was in very bright nuptial plumage.
Nest 17: (NEW construction): Another pair were building a new nest about 10 metres behind the main Holm Oak and viewable just to the right of the Holm Oak. This nest is different to Nest 15 which is as yet unoccupied and over 20/30 metres away from the main colony.
Also on the pond were 4 male and 3 female Tufted Duck, a calling male Reed Bunting, at least 3 Chiffchaff were heard calling and moving north - these were almost certainly migrants of some sort, whether the wintering population on the move or genuine birds up from Africa? The male Mute Swan spent the whole two hours chasing the three remaining juveniles around the pond, pecking at their bums. He has managed to see off two of last years brood, only these three belligerent teenagers to get rid of!!!
In the flooded paddock were 4 loitering Grey Heron and a Little Egret, plus 23 Wigeon, 2 Teal a Buzzard over and 16 Moorhen.
Off shore were 48 Shelduck, 79 Brent Geese, 142 Dunlin, 9 Red Breasted Mergansers, 6 Grey Plover, 32 Teal, 16 Wigeon and 14+ Med Gulls passing over calling. In the pond outflow stream was a single un-ringed Greenshank. Now, here is a question. Has the very regular G//R + BR//- (last seen in the stream on March 15th 2019) snuffed it? or is today's bird which acts like the old G//R + BR//- the same bird or a new individual taking up the vacated habitat? It is strange that G//R + BR//- should be missing after being so regular?


Brook Meadow Workday
There was a turn out of 10 volunteers for this morning's first work session of the new month.

The weather was bright and sunny with a keen westerly wind. The session was led by Maurice Lillie who outlined the tasks for the morning which were to continue laying gravel on the path from the Seagull Lane gate to the north bridge and also filling in patches along the main path south of the north bridge.

Also to transport barrow loads of wood chippings to the gap in the willows between the north and the centre meadows where considerable quantity of water collects.

For the full workday report plus more photos go to . . .

Wildlife observations
There was plenty of Robin and Wren song around the meadow this morning. But I was most excited to hear the distant song of a Mistle Thrush wafting across the meadow from the Lumley Road area. I have heard this song from this area on several occasions over the past month or so and hopefully this indicates a male bird setting up its territory.
Jennifer Rye was most excited to tell me she had seen a Kingfisher flying down river south of the north bridge.
As for flora, the bright star-like yellow flowers of Lesser Celandine are now well scattered around the meadow.

I also noted Red Dead-nettle on the north meadow and Summer Snowflake and Primroses on the new track created by the Environment Agency to the Lumley Stream. This looks promising.

The flower spikes of Butterbur are now prominent in the main area below the seat and will be ready for counting in a couple of weeks I reckon. On the right below is a close-up of the attractive pink flowers.

Mergansers on millpond
Chris Oakley counted five Red-breasted Mergansers on the town millpond this morning. One adult male at the seaward end and another one at the road end. In the middle were what appeared to be a female and two juveniles.

For the previous month go to . . . February 1-28