MAY 16 - 2012
were feeding over Peter Pond. The remains of
Brendan Gibb-Gray's Mallard family with three
ducklings are still present on Peter Pond.
Only one Great
Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft sitting
on the nest. A Coot was coming to the nest box on the
same raft. I could not see any chicks.
The first flowers of
Yellow Rattle are showing on the orchid area.
There is plenty of Divided Sedge and Distant
Sedge on the Lumley area, but no sign of any other
sedges nor of Ragged Robin. Tall Fescue is the
dominant grass on Brook Meadow.
I had a quick look in
the woods to see if the recently discovered Lily of
the Valley plants were in flower. They were not.
However, on the way I noticed a mass of tiny red fungi
globules on a dead log beside the main track. My guess
is Coral Spot (Nectria cinnabarina).
I heard just one
burst of Nightingale song from the northern end of
Marlpit Lane this morning. No sound of any of the
other four that I heard here on May 13.
Wild Clary is
now starting to show its blue flowers on the main
Christopher Way verge. There does not appear to be as
many plants as there was last year. Grey Sedge
and False Fox Sedge were in flower for the
first time this year on the Bridge Road Wayside.
MAY 15 - 2012
Tom Bickerton checked
the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond on
Sunday and witnessed a brutal attack by the male on a
Herring Gull, clearly seen as a threat. This could be
good news as Herring Gulls are the main predators of
ducklings, and it might give those Mallard in the
vicinity a better chance to raise their kids. Tom
thinks the Great Black-backed Gulls are not likely to
see the Coot in the nest box as a meal. However, he
may need to test this theory next week when the gull
He agrees the dead
Cormorant and Mallard were almost certainly the
victims of the male Great Black-backed Gull. These two
birds must have either have flown in or caused him to
feel that the nest was threatened.
Pam Phillips reports
hearing the Lumley Cuckoo calling from the area of
Lumley Mill Farm to the Brook Meadow. She says it now
starts at Lumley some mornings at 4.30am !
I logged on to the
live web cam from the Peregrine nest box on Chichester
Cathedral this morning at around 09.45 just in time to
watch the female feeding her four chicks from the
carcass of a substantial prey, possibly a Herring
Gull. The chicks are growing fast and look very
healthy. They made short work of the prey and it was
gone in 15 minutes. The adult then flew off with the
remains of the carcass, leaving the nest fairly tidy.
The first flowers are
appearing on the Hairy Garlic plants at the eastern
end of the Lillywhite's path wayside. The plants on
the footpath to the north of Nore Barn Woods may also
be starting to flower.
MAY 14 - 2012
My wife drew my
attention to an unusual bird perched in a tree in the
garden. It was clearly a Sparrowhawk, a rare, but not
unknown visitor to the garden. The last time I saw one
in the garden was in April 2010. By the time I got my
camera out it had flown onto the back garden fence and
was facing away from us, but I managed to get a photo,
showing well the rufous cheek and light eye of a male
bird. It did not attempt to catch anything while it
was in the garden.
I had a walk through a
very damp meadow this afternoon with rain was falling
lightly. Despite the conditions, I was delighted to
see a group of young children and their helpers who
were members of the Southbourne Rainbow Group. They
were clearly enjoying their walk through the meadow,
despite the very wet conditions. Their leader spoke
warmly about Brook Meadow and how lucky we were to
have such a beautiful and natural area to walk
through. I agreed!
Ralph Hollins is
pretty sure the damselfly I photographed on Brook
Meadow on May 13 was a teneral Large Red Damselfly ,
ie a newly emerged adult without its full colouration.
Ralph says it should have acquired a more definite red
colouring next time I see it.
Colin Vanner was at
Farlington Marshes over the weekend and got this super
image of a Sedge Warbler singing its heart out while
clinging to a reed stem.
MAY 13 - 2012
Two Swifts were flying
around the Bridge Road houses at about 8am this
morning, the first I have seen in Emsworth this year.
I did not see anything else of them today. They are a
good week later than usual. My son tells me there are
now plenty of Swifts around the houses in Cowes on the
Isle of Wight.
Common Sorrel is in
flower on the Lumley area of Brook Meadow. But still
no Ragged Robin.
I spotted what I think
was a pair of Harlequin Ladybirds mating on
I saw my first
damselfly of the year in the dense vegetation
north of the causeway. I cannot identify it, though it
appears to have a reddish hue. Anyone got an idea?
When I passed this
afternoon, David Gattrell and colleagues were
assembling what looks like an observation platform on
the east side of Peter Pond complete with a wicker
The new Mute Swan
'nest' on the island has been abandoned.
at Marlpit Lane
Potter's report that he heard at least 5 Nightingales
on May 11, I visited Marlpit Lane early this morning
and heard five birds singing along the lane, which is
the most I have ever heard at this site over the
years. They were not easy to sort out as three of them
were very close. Two were close to the footpath
entrance, one on the west side of the lane and the
other on the east side. The other three were all close
together on the west side of the lane about 200 metres
north of the footpath entrance, where there is a clear
gap in the plantation. This is very good news and by
chance coincides with the official BTO 2012
There was no sign of
the Turtle Doves which Dave also saw on May 11, nor
the Nightjar, though I did not go looking.
Barry Collins watched
an Osprey fishing at the Great Deep on the east side
of Thorney Island yesterday morning (May 12) from
10.30 - 10.50. It then flew west into the harbour.
Barry also saw a Hairy Dragonfly at the Little Deep,
his first for the year.
MAY 12 - 2012
A Cuckoo was calling
for most of the time I was on Brook Meadow this
afternoon 3-4pm. I heard it first over Lumley Road,
then I saw it fly across to perch in one of the tall
Crack Willows on the north meadow, calling all the
time. It then made its way back to the Lumley area and
finally I heard it calling from the south meadow. This
is probably the same bird that has ben heard before in
the Lumley area, but not before on the meadow itself.
leaves are now showing prominently over the orchid
A purple flowered
Comfrey on the west side of the orchid area could be
Russian Comfrey as it has not obvious 'wings' down the
stem. However, the plant is still quite young and I
shall need to check it again.
No sign of Ragged
Robin flowers on the Lumley area.
The only butterflies I
saw on Brook Meadow were Orange Tip, Peacock and Red
while on Brook Meadow, Richard Somerscocks watched a
Water Vole just upstream from the observation area,
seemingly collecting dead reeds. It swam across the
river with a dead reed in its mouth, presumably as
supplementary nesting material.
The female Mute Swan
was on top of the island where she should have nested
this year. Hopefully, she will remember it for next
time. Yesterday evening, Richard Somerscocks found
both Mute Swans getting to know the island - a bit too
Richard also spotted
what is probably the Mallard family from the Chequers
Quay patio with three surviving ducklings.
Only female Great
Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft, sitting on
the nest. No sign of the male, which probably
accounted for the presence of two Black-headed Gulls
on the raft plus the Coot in the nest box.
Dave Potter reported
(on the SOS Sightings May 11) hearing "at least five
Nightingales singing close to the roadside" in Marlpit
Lane. I was surprised to read this as I only heard two
birds singing yesterday evening (8.30pm) and five
would be exceptional for Marlpit Lane. Checking Dave's
blog entry he was at Marlpit Lane much earlier in the
day than me at 13:00. http://friendsofgroynenumber4.blogspot.co.uk/
Clearly I shall need to check this area again as I am
doing the BTO Nightingale survey here.
Dave also saw two
Turtle Doves in Marlpit Lane. These are regular on
Marlpit Lane, but I have not heard any myself this
year. The original SOS sighting by Bernie Forbes on
May 10 gives the Grid Ref as SU784078 which places the
doves much further along the footpath going east. Dave
also saw a Nightjar at Marlpit Lane which he got a
nice photo of. All in all quite a bonanza of birds!
or Smooth Hawk's-beard
Ralph Hollins gives
some good advice on the identification of these two
plants which I had difficulty with on my waysides
surveys yesterday. Beaked Hawksbeard can be very
variable but in general Smooth Hawksbeard is a smaller
plant with very different leaves (long and thin with
very small 'leaflets' sticking out sideways and
looking like sharks teeth!).
MAY 11 - 2012
I did a quick survey
of a few of the local waysides this morning. The full
report can be seen on the waysides web site blog at .
. . http://www.emsworthwaysides.hampshire.org.uk/few-NEWS-2012a.htm
The grasses are
growing luxuriantly on the New Brighton Road Junction,
particularly Barren Brome and Soft Brome, which sway
attractively in the breeze as the cars pass by. Photo
on the waysides web site.
The Tree Mallow
at the northern entrance to the Dolphin Creek path
was in full flower and looking quite
The first flower
spikes of Wild Clary are now opening on the
Christopher Way verge
Having finally lost
its nest to the high spring tides, the Mute Swan
appears to have discovered the main body of the island
where she really should have built the nest in the
first place! She was snuggled down on the island, as
if testing it out for next year, when I passed by at
about 12 noon.
Reed Warblers have
given Peter Pond miss this year I fear. I listen every
time I pass, but no sound of them.
The Great Black-backed
Gull pair was on the centre raft with the female on
the nest. My first clear indication of a bird sitting
on a nest was on 24 April, ie 17 days ago. With the
incubation period 27-28 days this means we could
expect to see chicks around 22 May.
Apart from a few
Mallard, Coot and the male Mute Swan there were no
other birds on the millpond. I met Brendan Gibb-Gray
who commented on how quiet the millpond was this year
with the presence of the pair of Great Black-backed
Gulls. However, he did witness a confrontation between
one the gulls and a Grey Heron when the latter got too
close to the raft. There was a bit of swooping and
swirling until the Heron made its way off.
Meadow Buttercups are
flowering on the Lumley area, but there is still no
clear sign of any Ragged Robin flowering or Common
Sorrel. Orange Tips and St Mark's Flies are still
flying, but nothing else.
I checked the
Nightingales in Marlpit Lane at about 8.30 this
evening. Two were singing from the dense plantation to
the east of the lane, north of the amenity tip. I
heard them both singing at the same time. One was
singing strongly from bushes close to the road just
past the bend in the lane. This is where I have heard
them on previous visits (Apr 22, May 2), though it did
move around a bit while I was there. The other was
singing close to the footpath that crosses the site to
the east. It was not as close to the road as they
usually are, but it could easily be heard.
MAY 10 - 2012
I paid a late
afternoon visit to the millponds to check on the
The Mute Swan nest on
Peter Pond had completely gone, submerged and washed
away by the recent spring tides. With the nest being
built up, I thought maybe there was some hope, but
clearly there was no recovery from the initial placing
of the nest so low down near the water level.
Meanwhile, the swan was swanning around on the pond as
if nothing had happened! That's birds for you.
The female Great
Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the
centre raft but there was no sign of the male bird
anywhere. The male Mute Swan was on the west bank of
MAY 9 - 2012
I went down to check
the birds on the millponds this morning. Not much
The Mute Swan was on
the nest and stood up briefly while I was there
revealing a few eggs in the nest, but they looked wet
and cold. The nest must have been badly swamped by the
recent spring tides and there seems little hope for
the eggs. However, the pen must get top marks for
Not much change with
the two Great Black-backed Gulls were alone on the
centre raft. The Coot nest box looks to have been
abandoned. Tom Bickerton checked on the gulls last
night and thought they 'seem as chilled as chilled can
be'. In fact the female was on Peter Pond, washing
while the Mallard kept their distance. I did not see
Brendan's Mallard family today.
I watched the live web
cam from Chichester Cathedral for about 15 minutes
this morning from 09.45 and was just in time to see
the male arrive with a prey; not sure what it was, but
it looked like a plump feral pigeon. The male
immediately went off and the female then proceeded to
tear the carcass into small pieces to feed to the
chicks. I could only see three chicks being fed
yesterday, but there were definitely four chicks being
fed today. Also, from what I could see all four chicks
were being equally fed. Go to . . . www.chichesterperegrines.com
Breeding Season Update - 9 May 2012
from Chris Cockburn
On Monday 07 May, at
Hayling Oysterbeds there was one sitting Sandwich
tern on North Island (from the viewpoint at the
bramble bush, it was seen to the right of the LH post
'P'). There have been Whimbrels and
Bar-Tailed Godwits (some in glorious red summer
plumage) feeding & roosting in Stoke Bay and the
high tide roosts has included Sandwich, common and
Some of the
Black-Headed Gulls have had to repeatedly
rebuild their nests (as many as 9 times since last
Friday!) because of the recent high spring tides (on
Monday, the tide level almost reached the white paint
on post F) Looking at the predicted tide levels, there
should be less flooding for the remainder of the
season, but stormy weather could readily change
There is more nesting
activity out on the harbour islands and it is likely
that Little Terns will soon attempt nesting on
Baker's Island. Sandwich Tern numbers seem to
be increasing on South Binness Island, but the numbers
of Mediterranean gulls is still very low.
Trust have announced that the footpath around
Farlington Marshes is likely to be restricted or
closed for a period of six to eight weeks during the
summer and autumn - dates to be advised.
They are carrying out
essential work to help manage the risk of flooding as
a section of the embankment has slipped and its
structure has been damaged. Work is planned to repair
these bank slips and also to renew the footpath and
install drainage. The drainage will help to ensure
that rain water and sea water are carried away
appropriately. At present the water runs down the
embankment causing erosion.
Once the work is
complete the wall will be able to withstand storms
with a greatly reduced risk of collapse, and the
footpath, which is currently in poor condition will be
MAY 8 - 2012
I had one Water Vole
sighting from the observation fence at about 16.45.
The vole emerged from the east bank of the river just
south of the sluice gate and made its way along the
bank. It then swam across the open water in front of
the sluice gate and disappeared into the well
vegetated bank north of the sluice gate.
I heard three
Whitethroats singing on Brook Meadow, one from the
bramble bushes on the east side of the south meadow,
one from a Ash sapling on the causeway and the last
one from bushes on the east side of the north meadow.
That could be our compliment for this year.
I could not see the
Moorhen nest, though a single Moorhen was
wandering about in the area. Has it lost its eggs?
The warmer weather
this morning tempted a few more butterflies into
flight that we have been used to over the past couple
of (cold) weeks. A Speckled Wood was fluttering around
on the edge of the path through Palmer's Road Copse
leading to the south bridge. While updating the
signcase at the sluice gate, I saw a male Orange Tip
come to rest on a Cuckooflower. A Holly Blue was
flying high in the Crack Willows on the west bank of
the river. I also had Holly Blue and Speckled Wood in
my garden this afternoon.
Lots of St Mark's
Flies were still flying over the meadow. I
photographed a pair mating on a nettle leaf. I was
surprised to see the two insects looking quite
different. I think the male is on the left and the
female on the right. According to Chinery (p. 196) the
eyes are well separated in the female, but closer
together in the male.
The Mute Swan
was busily building up the nest on the island in
preparation for the next high spring tide at about
14:00. She seems to have come through unscathed so
far. On my afternoon visit about 2 hours after high
water the Mute Swan was standing up on the nest moving
some eggs around which were clearly very wet. I am not
sure how much dowsing the eggs can take.
Mallard family with
3 ducklings were on the east side of Peter Pond,
seemingly using David Gattrell new channels to hide
away. This could be the
of the family
of 13 that hatched on Brendan Gibb-Gray's patio last
On my morning visit, I
was surprised to find not only the nesting pair of
Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft but
also the male Mute Swans from the Peter Pond pair and
a Coot presumably from the nest box on the raft.
However, on my afternoon visit, the gulls were once
again ruling the roost and the Mute Swan was
patrolling the pond. No sign of any Coot chicks.
Tree Mallow in flower
on Slipper Road (Ralph Hollins had already noted
While doing a plant
survey I came across a baby Blackbird on the
ground in the north shrubbery. It looked well, but I
walked gingerly in the opposite direction to avoid
Male and female
Orange Tips were flying. I saw several
Ladybirds, including one Harlequin and a number of
7-spots. I also spotted a pair of Green-veined
Whites which were mating on one of the many
The first Wall Barley
and False Oat-grass were in flower on this wayside,
both new plants for this wayside taking the grand
total to 95. Also, the first Grey Sedge was out under
the Hawthorn bush at the eastern end of the path.
I watched the live web
cam of the Chichester Peregrines for about 15 minutes
this morning from about 09.45 after the male came in
with prey and proceeded to feed the chicks while the
female watched. From what I could see, there were only
three chicks from the four that were originally
hatched. Of the three remaining chicks, two appear to
be dominant and were getting all the food during the
session I watched. I believe this is normal in birds
take over Oysterbeds
Tom Bickerton gave me
the astonishing and somewhat alarming news that 1039
Black-headed Gull nests had been counted on the
Hayling Oysterbeds islands. Tom says, Common Terns
will probably not nest there this year, as basically
there's no room.
When I first started
wardening at Hayling Oysterbeds in 2006 Little Terns
were regular nesters on the islands, with relatively
few Black-headed Gulls; about 36 terns nested
producing 21 fledglings which, for Little Terns, is
pretty good. In 2007 things looked promising with
around 50 Little Tern nests in early June, but all
were predated. And the Black-headed Gull population
was building up relentlessly. The gulls also arrived
first and bagged all the best spots. That was pretty
much the end of the line for Little Terns at the
Oysterbeds. They continued to turn up but in smaller
numbers and no chicks survived. Jason Crook tried hard
with a new tern island complete with decoys, well away
from the gulls, but to no avail.
is a nostalgic image from my library taken in May
MAY 6 - 2012
There was a remarkably
good turn out of volunteers for the work session on
Brook Meadow on a cold morning with light rain in the
I heard a
Whitethroat singing clearly from the bushes
along the causeway. A possible second Whitethroat was
singing less well on the west side of the north
Pam Phillips told me a
Cuckoo was singing for 20 minutes at 05.15 this
morning from the bushes on the east side of the Lumley
Stream which is immediately behind her house in The
Rookery. This is the second year running we have had a
Cuckoo on Brook Meadow.
Hollins discovery of Ragged Robin in flower on
the South Moor yesterday, I had a good look on the
Lumley area but could not find any. Nor could I see
any Common Sorrel, which is flowering well on the
Bridge Road Wayside.
There have been
remarkably few Cuckooflowers on Brook Meadow
this spring, less than 10 I would guess. This is in
sharp contrast to to 700 or so that have been
flowering on the Bridge Road Wayside for the past few
is flowering on the river bank near the north bend
where the spring outfall emerges from under the
Sedge is now fairly abundant on the east side of
the Lumley area along with Distant Sedge.
10:30 - High water at
midday. Both Mute Swans were busy building up the nest
on the edge of the Peter Pond island. The nest looked
fairly secure, but high water was still an hour or so
away. I had a look around the edges of Peter Pond
where Brian Lawrence saw the Mallard family yesterday
evening, but did not see it.
No big changes on
Slipper Millpond from yesterday. The pair of Great
Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft with the
female sitting on the nest. There was no sign of the
Cormorant that was here yesterday; hopefully, it
decided to move to safer grounds elsewhere.
MAY 5 - 2012
I walked down to the
Hermitage Millponds after the worst of the rain had
stopped to check out the various nesting birds. I was
pleased to see a Swallow skimming over Slipper
12:15 - About an hour
after high water (4.7m height) and Peter Pond was
full. The Mute Swan was sitting on its nest, which was
an island surrounded on all sides by water. The water
was virtually lapping the edges of the top of the nest
and the eggs must have been in some water. The sitting
bird was trying to build up the nest around her, but
with about 4 or 5 days of spring tides to come this is
a critical time for her.
Black-backed Gull nest
Over on Slipper
Millpond, the female Great Black-backed Gull was
sitting on her nest on the centre raft with its mate
in the water nearby. Also, on the raft was a juvenile
Cormorant. This bird could be in serious trouble if
the Cormorant corpse I found floating in the water
last week was in fact a victim of the big gulls
occupying the raft.
There was no change in
the Coot nest situation from yesterday. No sign of any
I had a good look
around Slipper Millpond, Peter Pond and Dolphin Lake
for the Mallard family with 12 ducklings that were in
the north west corner of Slipper Millpond yesterday,
but there was no sign of them anywhere.
However, of ominous
significance, a dead female Mallard was
floating in the water on the western side of the pond.
I fear this could be the mother Mallard losing an
unequal fight to protect her brood from the predatory
Great Black-backed Gulls. I checked with Brendan
Gibb-Gray on whose patio the Mallard family were
hatched, but he had not seen them today either. Oh,
dear it looks bad.
Late News -
Brian Lawrence tells me the dead Mallard was in
Slipper Millpond on Tuesday 1st of May, so the one I
saw today could not have been the mother of the large
family of ducklings.
Brian did see a family
of mum and 5 ducklings today on Peter Pond. They could
well be the remains of Brendan Gibb-Gray's large
family of 12 ducklings. Comparing the two photos, the
adult looks the same and the ducklings are the right
size and colour. If they are the remains of the big
Mallard family they will be a lot safer on Peter Pond.
I wonder what happened to the other 7 ducklings?
was flowering on the Bridge Road Wayside for the
first time this year.
Ralph Hollins found
Ragged Robin flowering flowering today in two
places on the South Moors Orchid field today, so it
should soon be out on Brook Meadow. Yellow Iris
also flowering on the Budds Farm pools.
MAY 4 - 2012
I have already
mentioned the Moorhen nest in the dead reeds in front
of the observation fence before (May 2) and we shall
be keep an eye on it. However, Malcolm Phillips got a
particularly good photo shot of the bird today.
Malcolm also got the
following nice photo of a Common Sandpiper at rest on
Slipper Millpond. This is probably the same bird that
I saw on the centre raft along with the pair of Great
Black-backed Gulls on April 30. I am relieved to see
it is still around and has not been gobbled up by the
Common Sandpiper has
been a fairly regular summer visitor to Slipper
Millpond over the years, though has been less frequent
in recent years than it used to be. To my knowledge
one has never nested here and this bird is likely to
move on shortly. It has a very characteristic
fluttering flight just above the surface of the water.
Ros Norton heard a
Cuckoo at 12.30 today calling from east of Deckhouses
Estate. This is a fairly regular bird this year. On
the way down to the deeps, Ros saw two Wheatear on
fence posts near west path between Little and Great
at Nore Barn
Roy Ewing heard a
Cuckoo for a short while in Nore Barn Woods this
morning, north of the bridge. This was probably the
same bird that has been heard around the Warblington
Farm area over the past week.
MAY 3 - 2012
No sign of any Reed
Warbler. The Mute Swan was on its nest and its mate
was patrolling Slipper Millpond next door.
The two Great
Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft as usual
with one bird on the nest. The Coot was still busy in
the nest box on the same raft. There is still no sign
of any Coot chicks on any of the rafts. The pair of
Tufted Duck were still on the pond.
I met Brendan
Gibb-Gray coming back from electioneering duty. He
told me that the Mallard duck that had been nesting on
his patio overlooking Slipper Millpond hatched no less
than 13 ducklings. Brendan kept them on the patio for
the next 36 hours and then last night opened his gate
to allow mum to take her brood down into the pond. I
found mum with 12 ducklings (one lost in the night) in
the far north west corner of the pond by to the
Chequers Quay houses and the Hermitage Bridge.
It seems they are
fairly safely out of sight of the Great Black-backed
Gulls in this spot and have plenty of vegetation etc
to feed on. However, should they venture too far onto
the open water I fear they will be doomed. Let's keep
our fingers crossed for them.
was briefly in Palmer's Road Car Park this morning at
9.30am. He heard and saw a flock of 6 Whimbrel going
north and also saw 4 Swifts pass over heading the same
direction. Maybe, we shall soon be hearing the Swifts
screaming around the houses?
We have had four Water
Vole sightings on Brook Meadow today - this takes the
total number of sightings for 2012 to 161 which equals
the record set in 2008. This is certainly an
Pam Phillips saw one
sitting on the reeds on the east bank just a few yards
north of the Williams site (Section C). Patrick Murphy
saw what looked like a young Water Vole swim across
the river above the north bridge (Section A). This
would be only the second young Water Vole sighting of
the year. Maurice Lillie had a brief view of one in
the river in Palmer's Road Copse about 10 metres south
of the sluice boards (Section D).
Finally, As I was
walking along the north path, I saw a Water Vole swim
across the north river from the near bank into the
dense vegetation on the railway embankment (Section
A1). It was just past the last large Crack Willow
before the steps down onto the meadow. I have never
seen one this far along the river before.
All Water Vole
sightings are logged on the special web page along
with lots of excellent photos . . .
Maurice Lillie had the
most interesting sighting of the day (and probably of
the year) when at 17.20 - 22 metres north of south
bridge, he saw what could have been a Water Shrew swim
across the river in Palmer's Road Copse.
The only other time a
Water Shrew was positively seen on Brook Meadow was by
Patrick Murphy on 30 April 2008. This was a very
bedraggled half-dead creature on the river bank, which
Patrick managed to photograph. The black coat and long
snout were very distinctive features to clinch the
identification. However, a Water Vole survey carried
out by the Hampshire Wildlife Trust in 2002 did
discover signs of possible Water Shrew in the river on
Brook Meadow. We have been looking ever since!
Maurice did not get a
photo of this afternoon's creature, but his
description strongly suggests a Water Shrew. "Small,
about 8cm long at a rough guess with a dark brown head
sticking up out of the river. It swam vigorously from
the west bank to the east and, without a pause, raced
up the bare bank opposite. This gave me a chance to
see that its body back fur was equally dark with what
seemed to be a shiny lighter colour
I happened to meet
Maurice just after his sighting and Water Shrew
immediately came to my mind, particularly its small
size and its very fast swimming, not likely to be a
Here is an image of a
Water Shrew swimming I got from the internet, showing
its vary dark coat and pointed snout very well. So,
when you are walking through Palmer's Road Copse,
please keep a look out particularly in the open area
where there is access to the water.
I discovered three
plants of Keel-fruited Cornsalad growing and
flowering along the edge of the pavement of Bridge
Road, north of my house. It is an annual which clearly
sets seed quite well as there was only one plant last
year. I shall collect some seeds to try to get it to
grow on the Bridge Road Wayside.
On Brook Meadow,
White-flowered Common Comfrey is flowering on the
railway embankment and Wood Avens is in flower on the
north path. .
MAY 2 - 2012
Maurice Lillie had
three sightings of Water Voles today. The first was
fairly brief on the railway side of Ems (Section A1).
The second was about 25 metres south of the S-bend
(Section C) which Maurice watched for about 15 minutes
as it busied itself carrying and chewing willow
shoots. The third was another good view of one
swimming and nibbling at vegetation near the bend
north of the north bridge (Section A).
The full report is on
the Water Vole web page at . . http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/bm-water-voles-2012.html
Malcolm Phillips also
saw one Water Vole near the sluice gate and got this
rather fine image of it emerging from its burrow hole.
Malcolm tells me he is off to Cuba so will be out of
touch for a while. Is that better than Brook Meadow I
Maurice Lillie had
noticed a Moorhen sitting on a nest in the reeds just
north of the observation fence on Sunday. On Monday
she was off the nest allowing him to see the wonderful
construction of woven reeds in the shape of small
basket with one egg. Today, the nest had four eggs in
it. Lets hope the rats do not find the nest. Three
pairs of Moorhen usually nest along the River Ems on
Brook Meadow, though with what success we are never
sure, though young birds are seen.
The Whitethroat that I
heard and saw yesterday was singing from the top of
one of the Alder Buckthorn saplings near the causeway
when I passed by this morning. I thought I may have
heard a second Whitethroat on the north meadow, but I
cannot be absolutely sure.
was flowering for the first time on Brook Meadow,
a good two weeks later than last year.
I had a look around
the Lumley area, hoping for some early Ragged Robin
but without luck. It was out on 26-Apr last year,
but it is usually well into May before we see the
I did find the first
Common Comfrey with purple flowers, again a bit
later than usual. The Distant Sedges are showing very
well with spikes full of yellow anthers.
St Mark's Flies
were in the air much as they were yesterday along the
main river path, with some perching on vegetation,
giving me the opportunity to take some photos.
This photo of one on a
grass spike shows well the hairiness of the insects
and its long legs which it dangles down when flying.
The Mute Swan was snug
on her nest while her mate was on Slipper Millpond.
The pair of Great
Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft with the
female sitting on the nest. I met some people whose
house overlooks the centre raft. They have been
watching the nesting gulls through a telescope, but
have not seen any eggs when the bird is off the nest,
though they could be hidden. One evening they
witnessed a skirmish when the male Mute Swan attempted
to board the centre raft and was promptly seen off by
the male Great Black-backed Gull. Gavin Miller and
Brendan Gibb-Gray have also promised to let me know
anything of interest, so they are a number of people
All three Coot were in
the nest boxes on the rafts with no sign of any
chicks. Regarding the Coot nesting on the same raft as
the Great Black-backed Gulls Tom Bickerton observes
that it is sometimes its safer to nest near a predator
for protection. For example, geese in the Arctic nest
near the Snowy Owl and at Symonds Yat, Jackdaws nest
immediately above the Peregrines. So, maybe it's not a
bad site to choose close to these gulls, but we shall
One pair of Tufted
Duck are still on the pond. I wonder if they will
Standing on the
Hermitage Bridge I could see a shoal of around 50
fairly large Grey Mullett swimming beneath me.
Nick Lear, who is
taking part in the BTO 2012 Nightingale Survey,
reported a sudden increase in singing Nightingales at
Barcombe from just one to three and possibly as many
As this could indicate
a surge in arrivals, I nipped up to Marlpit Lane at
7.30pm this evening. I had heard two singing along the
lane north of the amenity tip on my previous visit on
April 22, but tonight I am fairly sure there was only
one in much the same place as before about 200 metres
north of the amenity tip. I walked all along the lane
as far as the main Funtington road without hearing any
other bird. During the time I was there (about 30
mins) and it moved around quite a bit, giving the
impression of more than one bird, but I am sure there
was only one songster.
had some great views of 2 Short-eared Owls last
night quartering a field just beyond the Thorney
security gate. There was even a fox at one stage as
This evening Richard saw about 25 Swifts flying
around over the reeds. These are the first local
Swifts I have heard about and should mean we shall
have them screaming around the houses in Bridge Road
Emsworth and elsewhere fairly soon.
He aslo saw about 15
House Martins and the usual selection of Swallows. A
couple of Common Terns were fishing in the Harbour
just off Little Deep. The Cuckoo was singing almost
Roy Ewing also heard a
Cuckoo 'singing endlessly' this morning at the
eastern end of Thornham Lane, on the large tree to the
east of the last bungalow. This Cuckoo was well away
from the others which were seen on the ERA track
across North Thorney, so it could be another bird.
in Havant garden
Tom Bickerton relates
an interesting experience that he had last night,
while potting up his tomatoes in his back garden in
"My attention was
alerted to the rapid 'Kerr-Kerr-kerr' looking up I saw
a male adult Peregrine struggling with a tentative
grip on a domestic Pigeon along the apex of my house.
Rushing around to the front, the Pigeon had I think
managed to free itself, and the Peregrine was heading
up the street at roof height. I did check the other
gardens to see whether it had dealt with the prey and
just dropped it.
I don't know how many
kills I've seen, hundreds, but each one is
exhilarating to witness. The reason why this male
dropped the Pigeon is due in part to the fact that
they grip from below (breast area), this allows access
to the neck which they can then bite. The female
Peregrine being that much bigger has less of a
problem, her talons just puncture the bird.
With the rapid
increase in Peregrine numbers, I shouldn't be
surprised at seeing these birds, but I have to admit
it I was dumb-struck to see it that close. I would
think that it was the Portsdown Hill male, nice bright
evening, warm good thermal off the hill, perfect
Ralph Hollins had a
ride to south Hayling this morning and saw his
first Little Tern (only one) at Hayling
Oysterbeds. Ralph also logged eleven newly flowering
plants including Wall Speedwell.
Coming back to Havant,
at Langstone Pond he had three surprises - the Swan
pair had seven healthy looking cygnets out of the
nest, the first Reed Warblers were back and
singing, and four pairs of Tufted Duck were on the
Ralph did a circuit taking in Christopher Way to see
if the Wild Clary was flowering yet, but he
found no sign of them. He says, Wild Clary is in
flower at Durston. Ours were not in flower until May
13th last year.
See Ralph's diary for
details . . . http://homepage.ntlworld.com/ralph.hollins/Diary.htm
Colin Vanner was at
Pagham Harbour yesterday and captured an image of a
warbler with very few distinguishing features but with
jet black eyes. Colin wondered if it might be a Marsh
Warbler, but my guess is a Garden Warbler. Any other
MAY 1 - 2012
12:00 - The two Great
Black-backed Gulls were on the central raft on Slipper
Millpond, now seemingly well established, with the
female bird sitting on a nest and the male bird
standing as if on guard.
My book says the male
and female both share the duties of incubation of 2-3
eggs and tending for the chicks. Incubation lasts
27-28 days and chicks fledge in 55-60 days. So they
could be here for quite a while.
are both off the nest in this photo. The female is
nearest the camera (I think).
Tom Bickerton agrees
the two gulls are certainly having a go at nesting.
But wonders whether we shall we claim it for West
Sussex breeding or Hampshire. Although the country
boundary has shifted a few times in this area, I am
fairly sure that Slipper Millpond is in West Sussex.
There was no sign of
the Common Sandpiper, which was on the central raft
with the gulls yesterday, though Tom thinks it would
have made 'a nice snack' for the gulls! Hope not.
The only bird present
on the central raft today was the lone Coot behind a
barricade of twigs in the nest box, though one
suspects his days are probably numbered.
Regarding the dead
Cormorant that I found floating in Slipper Millpond
near Chequers Quay on April 28, Tom Bickerton agrees
it was probably killed by the gulls. Tom did in fact
witness Great Black-backed Gull attack a Cormorant on
Round Nab on Sunday. He thinks the young Cormorant,
which I saw on the central raft with the Great
Black-backed Gulls, just got too close and the male
dealt with it. The male gull is very aggressive, the
pond area around the nest he's going to defend. But
these are magnificent birds.
Only one pair of
Tufted Duck was on the pond this morning. As there
were two pairs yesterday, I hope the gulls did not get
the other pair! Is any bird on the pond really safe
from them, except for the adult Mute Swans?
Cow Parsley is
flowering well on the east side of Slipper Millpond.
Walking back home
through Brook Meadow, I was pleased to hear the
Whitethroat again singing this time from the top of
the old Elder tree on the east bank of the river
opposite the Bulrushes.
Swarms of St Mark's
Flies with their long dangling legs, were flying on
Brook Meadow. These were the first swarms I have seen
Heather Mills wondered
if the 40+ Black-tailed Godwits she saw at the east
pools on Farlington yesterday were late going, been or
not going at all?
Well, they could be
late migrants, having dropped into Farlington on their
way north. However, a good number of Godwits do spend
the summer in the local area. Following reports from
Godwit watchers, Pete Potts reported on April 21 that
there was a minimum of 476 Godwits in The Solent, but
probably double that number, but declining daily for
House Martins have
become increasingly scarce birds in the Emsworth area
over the past 40 years or so. I recall them vividly
nesting under the eaves of houses in Victoria Road
when I walked the kids to school in the early 1970s
and we even had a nest on our house in Westbourne
Avenue one year. About 20 years ago, they used to nest
on the new houses at the north end of Westbourne
Avenue, but they have long since gone. I have seen
House Martins nesting on Stansted House, Lordington
House and on the harbour cafe at Bosham. Last year
Caroline French spotted some in Westbourne.
Now, Paul Cooper
e-mailed to say that four or five House Martins
arrived over his garden in Funtington at 6.15pm
yesterday and are already going into last year's nest.
went down to the Deeps yesterday evening where he
found masses of Reed Warblers in the reeds by Little
Deep, difficult to spot and even more difficult to
photo. He also saw a few Sedge Warbler. Further on the
Short-eared Owl was showing again on the fields
between the Deeps. In the same area, Richard spotted a
Roe Deer with a very young fawn unsteady on its feet,
so not very old.
Out in the Harbour
between the Deeps there were two Whimbrel and three
Bar-tailed Godwit, two males with very dark chests and
a female which Richard managed to get a picture of
Keith Betton on
Hoslist notes: "I was interested to see that the BTO
tagged Cuckoos have just made it back to East Anglia -
and yet there were some very early Hants Cuckoos in
late March seen and heard by regular birders in the
New Forest. It's and interesting example of how some
species stagger their return to breeding areas. The
average "first date" for Hants over the last 18 years
is 2 April."
Locally, we had our
first sightings/hearings on North Thorney on April 21
- see the photo of two Cuckoos on the overhead cables
by Richard Somerscocks on that date.