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and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

(in reverse chronological order)

April-December 2020
Restricted lockdown blog

Blog Archives . . . from 2015 to current

. . . . Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond

. . . Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn

The Brook Meadow wildlife blog is also active . . .

. .

Emsworth Millpond
A mystery gull attracted my attention on the millpond this morning, sitting alone in the centre of the pond away from the Black-headed Gulls. Its heavy bill suggested a juvenile Great Black-backed Gull though I am open to correction.

There was no sign of the male Pochard on the pond which has been present for the past couple of days.

Emsworth Harbour
A Greenshank was feeding in the low water channel near the quay. It was not ringed.

About 50 Black-tailed Godwits were scattered around the mudflats beneath the millpond seawall, may snoozing, but some feeding.

One of the latter was colour-ringed G+WR - an old friend having been a regular visitor to Emsworth Harbour since 2008. This was my 130th sighting! G+WR was ringed at Farlington Marshes by Pete Potts and his team on 10-Sep-08 as adult male. Which means he must be at least 13 years old.

Emsworth Millpond
The male Pochard was on the town millpond this morning with bright red eyes showing very nicely.


Emsworth Millpond
Black-tailed Godwits, Dunlin and Brent Geese in the harbour. Then was surprised to find a male Pochard on the millpond - the first there for years!

Bridge Road wayside
Lee and his mate from Norse were cutting the hedge and shrubs around the car park. Sadly, he could not cut the grass wayside as a truck was blocking the gap in the rails which meant they could not get their machine through! They will try again later.

Nore Barn
I got to Nore Barn at 10am with tide rising to high water in about 3 hours. The bay was well populated by Brent Geese, Wigeon and Teal; the evocative calls of the geese chattering echoed over the mudflats. A few Black-tailed Godwits were feeding near the stream, though many more were to arrive later as the tide gradually pushed in.
The Spotted Redshank and its regular feeding companion the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) were feeding in close proximity in the low water stream. Such good friends!

I took a few photos and a short video of them feeding. . . .

A little later I was joined by Colin and Tricia Brotherston who were hoping to see the Spotted Redshank. Unfortunately, it was not around while I was with them, though they did get views of the Greenshank and a Common Redshank in the stream. Maybe they saw the Spotted Redshank after I left.

I got to Nore Barn at 11am which - about 3 hours before high water. The stream was empty and the tide still well out. There were no birds in immediate harbour apart from a pair of Mute Swans and a few Black-headed Gulls, so I went for a walk through the woods, keeping an eye out for the albino Squirrel that Susan Kelly saw yesterday. I did not see it.
When I got back at about 11.30 the stream was filling up and (hey presto) there were the Spotted Redshank and the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) together, just like old friends, which is what they are!

After a few minutes, the Greenshank flew further downstream leaving me to feast my eyes on the Spotted Redshank which remained in the stream until I left about 30 mins later.

Video clip of Spotted Redshank today . . .

What a bird and what a history! This is the 17th year running that I have recorded this astonishing bird at Nore Barn since 2004.

This year Susan Kelly was the first to see the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn on October 8th - which is the earliest first sighting date since 2014 when it was seen on Oct 3. It is much earlier than last year when our first sighting was Oct 31.
The bird is not ringed, but having watched it closely for the past 16 years, I have no doubt it is the same bird, from its timing and behaviour. For its history and more details go to . . .
Spotted Redshank Home Page


Spotted Redshank returns for 17th year!!


Spotted Redshank remains!
Susan Kelly is sure the Spotted Redshank is still at Nore Barn. She saw it close up this morning at 9am on a rising tide, very close to the shore.
Susan says . . .
"Quite unmistakable, wading very deep, certainly not a Common Redshank. I watched it feeding through field-glasses for several minutes, both in and out the water. It seemed oddly slowed-down, but may have been replete at the end of the feeding session. When I returned after walking through the wood the tide was much higher. I could make out the shape of a wader snoozing on one leg on the bank, but the vegetation and sun made it impossible to see properly. There's a surprise. But you'll be sceptical without a photo".
No I don't think I need a photo as you are so sure. My only doubt is whether it is 'our' Spotted Redshank as others could be passing through. But as it was in the right place and behaved the same way then I must agree. This is the latest ever sighting, so I will need to change my records!! Please keep watching.

That was our final sighting of the season. For the complete history of this remarkable bird please go to . . .


Adieu Spotted Redshank
Our last sighting of the famous Emsworth Spotted Redshank was on 26 March by Susan Kelly who saw the bird in the usual place in the stream at Nore Barn " . . . feeding and bobbing all on his own, and looking very fat". There has been no further sightings so I think we can safely assume that it has now left our shores and is on its way back to its breeding grounds, probably in Northern Scandinavia. This is a few days later than in recent years. Age-wise at 17+ the bird must be getting near the end of its active life, so one has to wonder if it will be back again next year to spend a 17th successive winter at Nore Barn. At least it won't succumb to the dreaded coronavirus.
For the complete history of this remarkable bird please go to . . .

Chichester Peregrines
The pair of Peregrines are back nesting on Chichester Cathedral. See the excellent David Shaw blog and a fascinating live web cam of the nest. The birds have two eggs!!

Blog . . .

Web cam . . .


This morning's observations:

Brook Meadow
The Rowans on the north meadow are in good shape sprouting fresh spring leaves.

We stopped for a distant chat with Maurice Lillie during which our friendly Kestrel flew into one of the central Willows.

Peter Pond
The sucker Elms near the Lumley path bridge have fresh leaves. Sadly, these trees will not survive to maturity.

A Cetti's Warbler was singing from the north of Peter Pond. The first of the year.

Buds are almost ready to burst on the Hawthorns on the south side of Peter Pond. May blossom is coming and it is not yet April!

A Coot is on its nest on the east side of Peter Pond.

The Mute Swan pair was on Peter Pond, one on the water and its mate tending it its nest in the reedbeds.

MONDAY MARCH 30 - 2020

Brook Meadow
This morning's observations:
The north bridge is now clear of fallen trees thanks to the sterling work of Maurice and Nigel.

The large Ash on the railway embankment which overhangs the north path is now covered with clusters of dark red female flowers. No sign of any leaves as yet on the Ashes, nor on the Oaks.

The brown spikes of Greater Pond Sedge are now emerging on the Lumley area. This is always the first of the sedges to show itself.

The juvenile Kestrel showing its distinctive diffusively streaked breast was on its favoured Black Poplar perching tree surrounded by yellow catkins.

Here's a short video clip of this new star of the meadow, allowing, as it does, remarkably close human approach! We will have to start calling it 'Kes'. . . .

The silver-greyish leaves of Silverweed are now prominent on the Lumley area.

Chris Oakley sent me this photo of a cluster of Primroses that he saw recently. They included some pink-flowered ones which Chris thought might be a natural variety. I have also seen pink-flowered Primroses on Brook Meadow - on the new track created by the Environment Agency to the Lumley Stream (see photo on this blog for Thursday March 26). As these pink forms are usually seen near habituation my guess is that they are the products of hybridisation with garden Primulas, though probably fairly well established in the wild.

SUNDAY MARCH 29 - 2020

I spotted the first Cuckooflower of the year on the Bridge Road Wayside. This is the earliest first sighting since 2014. It will be interesting to see how many flowers we get this year as the wayside has not been cut for over a year and is running wild!
I counted a maximum of 338 on April 16. The record for this wayside is 694 in 2012, though numbers have been in decline since that high point. This is the best photo I could manage. There will be others no doubt.


Nore Barn walk
This morning Jean and I had our daily 'Boris exercise walk' to Nore Barn and back. To avoid the cold northerly wind, we went along Western Parade and returned via Warblington Road. Very few walkers were about, so distancing was no problem.
The tide was still fairly low by the time we got to Nore Barn at about 11am. From the end of Warblington Road I could see a small wader a long way out on the edge of the channel which did not look like the Spotted Redshank. I was right, for as it came closer, I could clearly see the familiar outline and demeanour of a Common Redshank.
This video clip shows the Common Redshank today . . . .

Moving over to the stream, which was not much more than a trickle of water, I found the regular colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) feeding alone with no sign of the Spotted Redshank! Has it gone?
Here is a video clip of the Greenshank . . .

Although it looks like the Spotted Redshank has finally left on its migration to its breeding grounds, we still need to keep a watch - just in case it is still hanging around.

See the following link for the history of the Nore Barn Spotted Redshank . . . Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn

Other news
Yesterday, Jo Bray saw a Swallow flying over Hampshire Farm Meadows - the first I have heard of this spring.

FRIDAY MARCH 27 - 2020

Lumley walk
Jean and I had our daily walk allowance around Lumley this morning. We did not intend to go right round, but the weather was so fine that we just carried on. No coffee stop, but I had some Rolos in my bag which kept us going! Not many people about, so keeping a good social distance was no problem. Here are a few wildlife observations.

Two Blackcaps were singing along Lumley Road - one from Lumley copse and the other from the garden of El Rancho. The very early Blackcap singing on Brook Meadow two days ago was probably just passing through. This one in Lumley copse is in good breeding territory and is likely to remain. We also heard several Chiffchaffs on the walk.

The usual mass of Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major) was in flower just before the Mill House.

The regular multi-coloured Wallflowers are out on the tall garden wall north of Lumley Mill. I have discussed these flowers with Ralph Hollins over many years and his conclusion is that they are not the wild variety but garden escapes. The only place I know of locally for wild Wallflowers (Erysimum cheiri) which are yellow is on the walls of Portchester Castle.

We were interested to see several notices along Mill Lane asking for dogs not to go into the Millstream which has protected Water Voles. All gaps in the hedges were blocked.

It was good to see the first Marsh-marigolds in flower in the Millstream at Westbourne. Sadly, these attractive flowers have not been seen for several years on the river bank in Palmer's Road Copse.

I had a look at the flowers on one of the large Ash trees on the Westbourne Open Space wayside at the top of Westbourne Avenue and was pleased to discover they were clearly male flowers emitting clouds of pollen. The photo on the left taken on site shows a twig with clusters of red coral-like unopened male catkins and a mass of what appear to be spent catkins with pollen all gone. The photo on the right is a cluster of male catkins under the microscope x20.

Finally, I saw my first Creeping Buttercup flower on the New Brighton Road Junction wayside.


Brook Meadow
I had my daily 'Boris walk' on my own this morning which gave me more opportunity to have a close look at some things. There were very few people about, so there was no problem in social distancing.
A Chiffchaff was singing in the north west corner of the meadow, as yesterday, but no Blackcap. That very early Blackcap yesterday was probably passing through.
The large Ash tree on the railway embankment is decorated with bunches of what seem to be flask-shaped female flowers. I was concerned about this Ash last year, but it now looks very much alive!
The Rowan trees on the Gwynne Johnson plantation are now sprouting leaves shielding forming flower buds.

Both yellow male and green female catkins are now open on the Grey and Goat Willows respectively. The yellow catkins were attracting lots of insects in the warm sunshine. I spotted Comma and Peacock butterflies plus Bee-fly and Drone Fly. A yellow Brimstone fluttered past, but did not stop for a photo! That's not a much of a photo of the Bee-fly, but you can see its long proboscis sticking into the flowers as it hovers.

The new track cut by the Environment Agency down to the Lumley Stream has a good selection of Primroses of various colours. While I was there I said hello to Kath over her garden wall in Rose Cottage - well distanced.

The large Weeping Willow tree is a splendid sight at the top of the south meadow - thanks are due to Brian Boak for this fine addition to the meadow flora.

The Lumley Stream continues to flow strongly with an attractive babble.

The cones of Field Horsetail are now showing on the north meadow orchid area and the Lumley area.
Moorhen is a common resident of the river.

Spotted Redshank is still here
Susan Kelly e-mails to say the Spotted Redshank is still at Nore Barn as of 8.45 am Thurs. 26, feeding and bobbing all on his own, and looking very fat. That's good as he has a long journey to make. Susan has promised to look out for our bird when she takes her regular walk to Nore Barn for which I am very grateful, as I cannot easily get there.
The bird has already stayed much longer than in any year since 2013 and it will equal that record if it shows up for Susan tomorrow!
See the following web page for all the last sightings . . .
Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn


Daily walk
For today's 'Boris walk' Jean and I went through Brook Meadow and round Slipper Millpond. At least two and possibly three Chiffchaffs were singing on Brook Meadow along with a Blackcap for the first time this spring. This is the earliest Blackcap on record. A Chaffinch was singing in Palmer's Road Copse.
On Peter Pond the pen Mute Swan was on its nest in the reeds with two eggs according to Dan Mortimer. The second Mute Swan pair was in the Dolphin Lake area, probably not nesting this year.
On Slipper Millpond, the Great Black-backed Gulls were mating on the south raft.

The pair Canada Geese was circling the centre raft with intent of nesting.

Spotted Redshank is still here
Susan Kelly reports the good news that the Spotted Redshank was at Nore Barn at 9.15 this morning, feeding with an Oystercatcher a little further up the channel at low tide.

Mallards in garden
Mallards are fairly unusual garden visitors, but over the past 4 years we have been getting fairly regular spring time visits from a male-female pair. They were here again today helping to mop up the fallen seeds from the bird feeders hanging from the tree. I suspect they are looking for somewhere to nest, though we do tend see them on a fairly regular basis until the end of May.

MONDAY MARCH 23 - 2020

Brook Meadow
It was such a beautiful spring morning for an early walk - early for me that is - 10am!. With the need for social distancing in mind, I did the 5 minute walk from home along a deserted street to Brook Meadow where other people were there walking dogs, etc. Keeping to the rules, we all steered well clear of one another, giving cheery 'Good Morning' greeting as we passed. It was just like wartime. It did my heart good to see a couple of young lads with fishing nets on the river bank. Here are a few pictures to remind one of the beauty of the place. The south path is now dry but for a few puddles at the southern end.

The main river path is also good. The grassland is drying out, though remains very boggy in parts.


Looking across the north meadow I could just detect a tinge of green of on top of the tall Crack Willows.

The sign in the signcases was a stark reminder of good intentions

Butterbur count
My main objective this morning was to do a final count of the Butterbur flower spikes. Today I took my time and found most of the spurs, though many were quite tiny and partly hidden amongst the burgeoning vegetation, whereas others were large and getting old and worn.

As I suspected, the total count of 198 was way down on recent years which have been consistently over 500; last year's count was 794 and the all time record was 1,150 in 2013. As shown in the following chart, this year's total was the lowest I have ever recorded over 20 years of counting.

Butterbur grow in several areas of the meadow, but the largest drop was in the largest area immediately below the main seat which fell to 147 from 704 last year. The smaller Butterbur sites, on the river bank, south meadow and east causeway were much the same as before.

So what has happened? There has been no special conservation work on the main Butterbur area which could account for this change. Weather is an obvious cause. This winter has been warm and wet, but I can see no obvious reason why this should disadvantage our native Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) - which are all male plants and which propagate and spread though underground rhizomes. If anyone has any idea please let me know.

Spotted Redshank still here!
Susan Kelly reports the continued presence of the Spotted Redshank at 10am today feeding in the stream with its favourite companion the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GR).
Yesterday on the Slipper Millpond Susan saw one of the Swans aggressively attacking one of the Canada Geese which are trying to nest on the centre raft. The swan is clearly defending its territory, but Canada Geese are determined birds. They managed to oust the Great Black-backed Gulls from their traditional nesting site on the centre raft four years ago and have been there ever since. So don't write them off just yet.

Finally . . . a little piano piece from the delightful Alma Deutcher to raise the spirits in these troubled times . . .

SUNDAY MARCH 22 - 2020

Spotted Redshank still here!
I had five messages in my inbox this morning in response yesterday's 'no Spotted Redshank' blog at Nore Barn, all of whom reporting our marvellous bird was safe and well. Three people saw it yesterday and another two this morning.
Susan Kelly saw the Spotted Redshank at 8.30am yesterday being bothered by dogs.
Steve Dennett saw the bird a bit later at 11am but it was gone at approx 12.30
Then, Jo Bray, whom I met when I was there at 12.30 ish, saw the Spotted Redshank after they left us to return to their car at the end of Warblington Road. Joe sent a photo.

Mark Wagstaff was out very early this morning (Sunday) doing his social distancing at Nore Barn/Warblington and saw the Spotted Redshank in the stream! On its own with no Greenshank. Mark said ... "I've never known it to be so confiding. I got the sun behind me and gave it quite a bit of distance and it then walked towards me - almost to my feet! I kept having to reduce the zoom on my camera rather than always peering at something distant at the long end.." Here is one of Mark's photos - a cracker!!

Tony Wootton was also at Nore Barn his morning at 9.45 and found the Spotted Redshank in the stream together with friend the colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL). What good news. Any other sightings are always welcome.

Brook Meadow
The leaning Blackthorn on the Seagull Lane patch which conservation volunteers righted during the past week is leaning over again, presumably blown by the strong winds. Maurice tells me that volunteers will have another crack at righting it, but it is a heavy tree and the roots have loosened. Not an easy task.

Maurice, Terry and Nigel were working when I arrived this afternoon, continuing the clearance of scrub from the west bank of the river on the Seagull Lane patch. This is a big job.

I tried to carry out a Butterbur count, but it was hard work finding the flower spikes in the burgeoning vegetation. My impression that numbers are well down this year. I shall try to do a final count in a few days.
The flooding on Brook Meadow has subsided and the south meadow is open again. There are still a few big puddles on the main path, but access is fine.

I walked back through Palmer's Road Car Park where I found a bright Comma butterfly basking in the warm sunshine on the edge of the car park.

Dan Mortimer delivered the three signcase display boards to my house. My job is now to update the displays for Dan to replace them in the cases later next week.

Hermitage Millponds
The pair of Mute Swans on Peter Pond are now nesting in the reedbeds in the south west corner of the pond. Although the nest can be easily seen from the roadside, it is well within the beds and not easily accessible. Dan Mortimer has seen two eggs already in the nest.

The pair of Mute Swans on Slipper Millpond do not appear to be nesting. Maybe they are a young pair? We shall see.

The pair of Canada Geese were on the water near the centre raft where I assume they will nest again.

The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls are settled on the south raft where they are likely to nest as in previous years.

Here is a video clip of the pair of gulls displaying and briefly mating . . .

Signs of spring
Walking back up Monks Hill in Westbourne earlier this morning, Jo Bray saw four Curlews in the field where the cows usually are. She's seen them there several times recently. Jo also had Skylark singing on Hampshire Farm Meadows, along with Chiffchaffs singing, and a Kestrel flying across. She says, good to see and hear these signs of spring in such an unsettling time. Yes, the natural world goes on irrespective of human problems.


Nore Barn - No Spotted Redshank
Jean and I walked to Nore Barn for the second day running, mainly to check on the Spotted Redshank. There was no sign of the bird despite the tide being at the right state for its presence. I am coming to the conclusion that the bird may well have already left our shores for its migration back to its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia. My last sighting was on Monday 16 March, but I shall keep checking for the next week or so and would appreciate any further sightings. But I think that is that for another year. Will it be back for a 17th year, who knows? But I shall be there (coronavirus willing) to welcome it.
For the full history of this remarkable bird go to . . .
Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn

Maureen Poweer was also at Nore Barn today and did not see the Spotted Redshank, but did get a snap of a Peacock butterfly sunbathing. Wow, that is a beauty! I have not seen one yet this year.

On the way to Nore Barn we spotted a Great Crested Grebe and a female Red-breasted Merganser swimming in close proximity on the town millpond. This is the first time I can recall having seen both these birds on the pond at the same time. I wonder if they will get together (joke!).

Walking round Nore Barn Woods I noticed a Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax) feeding on the blossom of Hawthorn. Named after its resemblance to a Honey Bee drone, this insect can be seen at almost any time in the year feeding on nectar, but particularly prominent in early spring.

On the path to the north of the woods we spotted a cluster of Violets hiding away in the vegetation along the new fence. But which Violet? Certainly, not Sweet Violet, which leaves the choice of Common Dog-violet and Early Dog-violet. From the small floppy petals and straight dark violet unnotched spur my money is on Early Dog-violet.

We walked home along Warblington Road where we stopped to look at the cheerful blue flowers of Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major) - though there are other varieties. This attractive plant was introduced into Britain for cultivation from the Mediterranean by 1597 and first recorded in the wild by 1650, so it's been here a jolly long time! Cheer anyone up in these days of gloom!

A couple of distractions from the gloomy coronavirus news . . .

If you like opera have a listen to this . . .

If you are an art lover missing galleries you might be interested that Paris Museums have put 100,000 images on line for public use. See . . .

Peter Milinets-Raby reports on today's observations . . .

"Every March and April for the last seven years, whilst I have been out exploring the Emsworth and Warblington area, I have always daydreamed about seeing one particular bird. Well, this morning, that dream came true for eventually I had my first sighting of a Red Kite!! A nice adult bird was seen well this morning, drifting very slowly into the east/northeast wind as it headed inland over the Warblington Church tower. The undisrupted bird of the day!"

"I was out around the fields and shore of Warblington this morning for a couple of hours from 8:15am (Along with a surprisingly huge number of people - I've never seen so many people walking around the area in inappropriate shoes, in a rainbow of ridiculously bright coloured coats getting caked in mud - all half-heartedly trying to practice Social Distancing!).

On arrival the Egrets were also not practicing Social Distancing as they were all huddled up against the hedge out of the wickedly, chilly wind (See photos). There were 20 Little Egrets and 4 Cattle Egrets (3 adults in summer dress and a first winter moulting - see photos).

Once they were warmed up, they fanned out and fed amongst the cattle. I managed to get one photo of the first winter bird catching what I assume to be a ugly looking Leatherjacket!.

Over the Castle Farm area were 2 Mistle Thrush, 1 Buzzard, 1 Sparrowhawk and 1 Kestrel.
In the Ibis Field was a singing Chiffchaff. On the straw dump were 3 Water Pipits (See photo of two),

1 Meadow Pipit and 1 Pied Wagtail - though 9 pipits flew off!!

In and around this field were 4 Skylarks and 6 Linnets.
High tide at Conigar Point produced only 1 Great Crested Grebe and 3 Red Breasted Merganser
Off Pook Lane were another Great Crested Grebe and another 3 Red Breasted Merganser, 25 Brent Geese and 2 Shelduck.

FRIDAY MARCH 20 - 2020

Nore Barn walk
Jean and I walked to Nore Barn along Warblington Road and back along Western Parade for our daily constitutional this morning in a chilly NE wind, but preferable to the blustery south westerlies that we have been getting recently.
The tide was fairly low by the time we got to Nore Barn, so I was not surprised that the Spotted Redshank was nowhere to be seen. It had most likely been and gone. I usually record negative sightings at this time of the year in order to establish the latest sighting date - in the last two years these were 22 Mar and 23 Mar. So we are very close to its regular leaving date when it will be off once again on its long journey back to its breeding grounds, probably in Northern Scandinavia. Fare forward friend and journey well. If anyone has any further sightings please let me have them. Thanks.
For the full history of this remarkable bird go to . . .
Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn

Apart from the occasional calls of Oystercatcher and Curlew and a few gulls the harbour was deserted as most of our winter visitors have now left. However, to our great pleasure, we came across a lingering Brent Geese family comprising two adults and four youngsters feeding close to the shore. We will soon bid these birds farewell too though their journey to their arctic breeding grounds is far longer than that of the Spotted Redshank. The four juveniles show up well in the photo with one of the parents on the left.

We were blessed with an abundance of young Brent Geese in local harbours this winter indicating a very good breeding season. This should boost their population following some poor breeding seasons.

On the flower front, we stopped to admire the abundance of Sweet Violets on the grass verges of Warblington Road. Other flowers to catch our eyes included Three-cornered Garlic growing against the garden fences and Green Alkanet on Western Parade. Nearer the sailing club I looked at the Hoary Cress (aka the Portsmouth weed) but no sign of flowers as yet - probably out in 2 weeks.

Garden Sparrowhawk
Peter Milinets-Raby reports the appearance of a juvenile Sparrowhawk in his garden
He says . . .
"All I ever seem to get in my Havant garden of late are visiting Sparrowhawks. Find attached today's visitor on the roof of the Summer House. Since, I last posted a photo of a Sparrowhawk (sometime last month), I think I have had seen 2 Wood Pigeons in the garden along with a single Blackbird!!! Dreadful! Flying over the garden in the last few days, has been a different prospect altogether, with Mediterranean Gull, Buzzard, Cormorant. Meadow Pipit and Grey Heron."


Brook Meadow workday
It was a dank and drizzly morning, but there was a good turn out of 10 volunteers for the special 'coronavirus work session' organised by Colin Brotherston. Colin had previously outlined the conservation group's position regarding volunteering on Brook Meadow during the coronavirus crisis which were circulated to all volunteers. Everyone appreciated this information but were keen to get on with physical work on the meadow as a release from the doom and gloom in the news. The volunteers spaced themselves about 2 metres apart for the group photo - three more arrived after the photo had been taken.

Colin outlined the main tasks which involved moving chippings and gravel to the paths and transplanting grass to the river bank on the Seagull Lane patch.


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

Other news
Dan Mortimer told me the good news that the pair of Mute Swans on Peter Pond were now nesting in the reedbeds in the south west corner of the pond where they have nested in previous years and ... they have a single egg!
Dan helped me to mark out the area below the seat for the Butterbur count which I shall be carrying out later this week.
Dan also confirmed that he would collect the signcase display boards from the meadow and deliver them to my house at his convenience. The spring displays up date is now overdue!
Maurice Lillie was stung by a Bumblebee while working on the river bank. Bumblebees are normally very docile creatures unless aroused. I suspect Maurice may have disturbed this insects nest in the ground and got stung for his trouble! Queen Bumblebees are actively building nest sites at this time of the year.
I had a look at the planted Oak saplings in the Seagull Lane patch. The buds look healthy, but there's no sign of leaves.

While out for a walk round Thornham Point Lesley Harris told me she had seen what she was sure were two White Admiral butterflies. I must admit I found this difficult to believe, since White Admirals are a typically summer butterfly of woodlands, such as Hollybank Woods. They overwinter as a caterpillar but I have never heard of any emerging this early. I checked the Hants and Sussex Butterfly Conservation sites but there was nothing there apart from the regular spring butterflies, ie, Brimstone, Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, etc.

Spotted Redshank
It was good to hear from John Evans who has just moved into Emsworth. On Monday 16 March John photographed the Spotted Redshank. Here is one of his images, very good too. Thanks John.

On the basis of previous years I expect the Spotted Redshank to leave our shores in the next week or so, hopefully to return again next year. The history of this remarkable bird which has just spent its 16th consecutive winter with us in Emsworth can be seen on the special web page dedicated to it. Go to . . . Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn


Long Copse Lane
For our daily constitutional walk, Jean and I had a very nice stroll along Long Copse Lane; we parked at the top of Hollybank Lane and walked from there. It is an easy walk along a tamac road with few vehicles and fewer people. We considered going into Hollybank Woods, but the paths looked rather muddy.

We really enjoyed seeing several spring flowers coming into bloom along the roadside, including White Comfrey, Cow Parsley, Wood Anemone, Three-cornered Garlic, Green Alkanet and Cherry Laurel. The latter was particularly abundant at the start.

On the way we stopped to admire the magnificent Oak trees in the fields to the north of the lane and also to listen to a Mistle Thrush singing strongly from that direction.

 Notes on some of the flowers on Long Copse Lane:
Cow Parsley - There were a few plants of Cow Parsley just coming into bloom, our first of the year with many more to come. In a few weeks much of this road and other roads in the area will be lined with this most wonderful and prolific flower of spring. I always look forward to walking through the avenue of aromatic flowers that lines the main river path through Brook Meadow. It is sometimes called Queen Anne's Lace, probably after its attractive lace-like flowers, but I like the humble name best.

Three-cornered Garlic (Allium triquetrum) - This is a garden escape and was growing in some abundance on the roadside verge. It is easily mistaken for Wild Garlic or Ransoms which usually flowers a bit later. It has bell-like flowers which are very similar to those of Summer Snowflake which is also currently in flower; but the former has a narrow green stripe down each petal whereas the latter has green tipped petals. Three-cornered Garlic gets its name from its triangular angled stems. Introduced into Britain in 1752 it rapidly escaped into hedgebanks and churchyards and is now widespread mainly in the South and East of England. Not much loved by gardeners I gather!

 White Comfrey (Symphytum orientale) - This is our only Comfrey with pure white flowers. Common Comfrey sometimes has whitish flowers but they are tinged with yellow or purple. White Comfrey is also the first of the Comfreys to flower in early spring. Unlike Common Comfrey which is native to this country, White Comfrey was introduced from West Russia and Turkey, but is now naturalised in hedgerows, churchyards and waste places, chiefly in Eastern and Southern England.

Green Alkanet - This is a garden escape which seems to establish itself well in the wild, though usually not far from habitation. Describing the plant as 'Green' is somewhat puzzling to me as the flowers are distinctly bright blue with a white 'eye' which gets it its alternative name of 'Bird's Eye'. There is also a good crop along the garden walls along the shore road at Western Parade in Emsworth.

Ravens in Chichester
Chris Oakley has seen a pair of Ravens at the east end of Chichester Cathedral and thinks they may be nesting somewhere up there. Well, Chris, you are correct! The Chichester Peregrine blog confirms that a pair of Ravens are building a nest on the Cathedral, not far away from the Peregrines. The blog includes the following photo taken on 22/02/2020.

For the latest news of the Ravens and the Peregrines see . .


Brook Meadow
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning and down to the Hermitage Millponds, keeping well clear of other people! Lots of dog walkers on the meadow. I was the only one without one! Here are a few of my observations.

Meadow Foxtail - The first spikelets of the year are now out on the north meadow (though not yet in full flower with anthers).

Meadow Foxtail is always the first of the grasses to flower on Brook Meadow in the spring, but Mar 17th is exceptionally early even for Meadow Foxtail. Looking back through my records I find this is the earliest ever date for the appearance of Meadow Foxtail spikelets since I started recorded in Year 2000.

Butterbur - Many of the Butterbur flower spikes on the area below the main seat are now well developed, but many are still in bud stage.

So I will delay the annual count of the flower spikes for a few more days, though I can't leave it too long as the surrounding vegetation is also growing fast and threatens to envelop the flower spikes making them difficult to count. Last year I did the count on Mar 22.

Black Poplar - The two large Black Poplar trees on the edge of the Lumley copse are now covered in thin yellow-green catkins which I think are female; apparently male catkins would be fatter and red.

These two Poplars were planted on the meadow in November 2004 in memory of Frances Jannaway's mother are probably hybrids, but I am not sure which hybrid. The Collins Tree Guide has a section devoted to Black Poplar hybrids, some of which are female clones and others male clones. Of the female clones I am tempted to go for 'Florence Biondi' (p,158) on the basis of its description as straight stemmed, graceful with fairly sparse foliage denser at the crown, but I could be wrong!

Queen Bumblebee - I watched for a few minutes a large black Queen Bumblebee with a bright red tail exploring the rough grassland on the on the edge of Lumley copse, presumably looking for a suitable site for a nest to lay eggs. I took a few photos and managed a video clip.

Identification - possibly Bombus lapidarius which Bryan Pinchen says is one of the most common species, being widespread across most of the country. Queens emerge in March and April and nests produce workers from May to August. The worker is a similar colouration to the Queen but much smaller.

Lumley Stream - Continues to flow swiftly. A video clip taken from the edge of the Lumley area.

Hermitage Millponds
Fresh green reeds are growing on the edge of one of the new channels cut by David Gattrell on the west side of Peter Pond.

The pair of Mute Swans was on Peter Pond with no clear sign of any nest building as yet, though it can't be all that far ahead.

Meanwhile over on Slipper Millpond the pair of Canada Geese have returned to the centre raft where they have nested successfully for the past 3 years. The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls will presumably nest on the south raft as before, though they were not present at the time I was there this morning.

The second Mute Swan pair was on the pond close to Chequers Quay when I was there.

Slipper Millpond always provides an attractive bathing stop for flocks of gulls. They are mostly Black-headed Gulls, but also include several Mediterranean Gulls - here are three of them in close proximity. Their distinctive mewing type calls can be heard at some distance. These gulls will be returning soon to the breeding colonies in Langstone Harbour.

Here is a video clip of a group of 3 Med Gulls having a good wash in company with a few Black-headed Gulls.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby spent 90 minutes down Langstone Mill Pond this morning checking on the Grey Herons. The only changes to his previous visit were:
Nest One: Adults were observed swapping over brooding duties and on each occasion tiny chicks were faintly heard calling.
Nest 14: Young growing older.

And, a new pair were displaying and mating in the small gap between Nests 14 and 10 and bringing sticks to a tiny pile of a nest (See photos).

This is a new location and is given the number 18. Now, is this the pair who half built a nest at location 16 on 2nd March and gave up on it?

Other birds around the pond included two pairs of Tufted Duck, 5 Teal, 4+ Med Gulls over and 3 Little Egrets in full spring plumes on the main Holm oak standing over old nests!
In the paddock were 8 Teal and a singing Chiffchaff.
Off shore there were 9 Dunlin, 1 Greenshank, 4 Grey Plover and a Bar-tailed Godwit. Also of note were 41 Shelduck, 13 Brent Geese, a Great Crested Grebe and 5 Red Breasted Mergansers

The Chichester Peregrines are back on the Cathedral all ready for another breeding season. The webcam for ongoing coverage will soon be in action. For all news go to . . .

Meanwhile, Keith Betton reports the first Peregrine egg in the nest at Winchester Cathedral ... a day later than last year!
See . . .

MONDAY MARCH 16 - 2020

Great Crested Grebe
Jean and I had a walk round the town millpond on this very spring-like morning. We stopped to chat to Susan Kelly when we all watched a Great Crested Grebe with a fine crest diving and eventually flying off with its distinctive scuttling walking-on-water action. This may well have been one of the grebes seen displaying on Thorney Island by Christopher Evans last Friday.

Brook Meadow
A little later I walked over to Brook Meadow to look for signs of spring in wildlife. On entering the Seagull Lane gate I encountered Maurice and Terry from the conservation group working to straighten the Blackthorn tree on the west side of the Seagull Lane patch that had been partly blown over in the wind.

As Maurice said . . . "My old climbing rope that lives in HQ was useful but even with our combined strength, (Terry's 90% and my 10%) we needed greater pulling power. Our friend Steve in Artec Engineering came to the rescue with two adjustable webbing ratchet ties and after a lot of head scratching we pulled the tree at last to an acceptable position." Well done, chaps.

The two workers were being closely watched by a Robin first from the handle of a fork pushed into the ground and secondly from the dark ash remains of a bonfire.

I had another look at the Ash flowers on the north path which I am fairly sure have a mixture of male and female parts as shown in the following photos. Here is the whole flower cluster with the female styles and stigmas sticking up above the coral-like male anthers which split open to release pollen. In fact, pollen can be seen sticking to various parts of the flowers.

Here are two photos taken through the microscope with the male flowers on the left and the female flowers on the right.

I was delighted to see two butterflies heralding the onset of spring, a male Brimstone and a Small Tortoiseshell, neither of which stayed still for a photo.

Spotted Redshank
I popped over to Nore Barn at about 14.30 with the tide rising to high water in about 2 hours. Unusually, the Spotted Redshank was feeding not in the stream as is his wont, but along the shore at the end of Warblington Road.

Occasionally, he waded out further out in a search for food

Maureen Power also reported seeing the Spotted Redshank feeding in the stream later this afternoon - about 4pm.

Peter Milinets-Raby was out this morning in the glorious sunshine for a couple of hours from 9am. I visited the fields and shore at Warblington. The highlights were as follows:
The Cemetery held 2 Coal Tit and the Ibis Field had 4 Long-tailed Tits and a Song Thrush.
At the straw dump I had 5 Water Pipits (one nice pink breasted bird and one in partial moult), 2 Rock Pipits, 1 Meadow Pipit and 2 Pied Wagtails.
In the fields around were 5 Skylarks (2 singing) and a flock of 61 Linnets.
In the distance from the direction of Nore Barn Wood I could hear a Chiffchaff and a Great Spotted Woodpecker singing and drumming. Over the wood for a good ten minutes was a displaying Sparrowhawk with butterfly-like flight.
It was a very low tide and consequently Conigar Point had very little to offer with just 17 Shelduck and 13 Brent Geese.
The SSSI field held the best bird of the day and that was a singing Meadow Pipit complete with display flight. What a great sound. I have not heard this at all since I started watching the area some 7 years ago. Shame about the ignorant dog owner in the SSSI field letting his two poodle types run riot and flush a female Mallard and the Pipit.
High in the sky over the SSSI field were 5 soaring Buzzards and 2 Raven.
On the low tide mud off Pook Lane were 4 Grey Plover, 98 Brent Geese, 22 Shelduck, 2 Wigeon, 2 Bar-tailed Godwits, 2 Med Gulls, 1 summer plumaged Great Crested Grebe, 12 Red breasted Mergansers, 7 Dunlin and 38 Teal. With the help of Mark I eventually found the 3 Cattle Egret with 4 Little Egrets feeding in the fields by the main road. In the hedge here was a singing male Blackcap. Nice views.

Two Cattle Egrets - photo by Mark Wagstaff

For the previous month go to . . . March 1-13