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* * * DAILY WILDLIFE BLOG ARCHIVES * * *
May 1-16 2012
in reverse chronological order


WEDNESDAY MAY 16 - 2012

Peter Pond

Three Swallows were feeding over Peter Pond. The remains of Brendan Gibb-Gray's Mallard family with three ducklings are still present on Peter Pond.

Slipper Millpond

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.

Brook Meadow

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.

Hollybank Woods

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).

Marlpit Lane

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.

Waysides Plants

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.


TUESDAY MAY 15 - 2012

Great Black-backed Gulls

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 chicks hatch.

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.

Lumley Cuckoo

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 !

Chichester Peregrines

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.

Hairy Garlic

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.


MONDAY MAY 14 - 2012

Sparrowhawk

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.


Brook Meadow

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!


Mystery Damselfly

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.


Sedge Warbler

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.

 


SUNDAY MAY 13 - 2012

EMSWORTH

Swifts

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.


Brook Meadow

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 Brook Meadow.

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?


Peter Pond

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 hide.

The new Mute Swan 'nest' on the island has been abandoned.


OTHER NEWS

Nightingales at Marlpit Lane

Following Dave 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 Nightingale Survey.

There was no sign of the Turtle Doves which Dave also saw on May 11, nor the Nightjar, though I did not go looking.


Osprey on Thorney

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.


SATURDAY MAY 12 - 2012

BROOK MEADOW

Cuckoo

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.

Plants

Yellow Rattle leaves are now showing prominently over the orchid area.

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.

Butterflies

The only butterflies I saw on Brook Meadow were Orange Tip, Peacock and Red Admiral.

Water Vole

Yesterday evening, 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.


HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

Peter Pond

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 late.

Richard also spotted what is probably the Mallard family from the Chequers Quay patio with three surviving ducklings.

Slipper Millpond

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.


OTHER NEWS

Nightingales

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.

Turtle Doves

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!

Beaked 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!).


FRIDAY MAY 11 - 2012

EMSWORTH WAYSIDES

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 magnificent.

The first flower spikes of Wild Clary are now opening on the Christopher Way verge


HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

Peter Pond

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.

Slipper Millpond

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.


BROOK MEADOW

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.


NIGHTINGALES

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.


THURSDAY MAY 10 - 2012

HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

I paid a late afternoon visit to the millponds to check on the situation.

Mute Swan nest

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.

Slipper Millpond

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 Slipper Millpond.


WEDNESDAY MAY 9 - 2012

HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

I went down to check the birds on the millponds this morning. Not much change.

Peter Pond

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 perseverance.

Slipper Millpond

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.


OTHER NEWS

Chichester Peregrines

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


Langstone Breeding Season Update - 9 May 2012

from Chris Cockburn (RSPB Warden)

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 little terns.

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 that!

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.


Farlington Path Closed

Hampshire Wildlife 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 repaired.


TUESDAY MAY 8 - 2012

BROOK MEADOW

Water Vole

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.

Birds

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?

Butterflies

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.

Other insects

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.


HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

Peter Pond

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 remains of the family of 13 that hatched on Brendan Gibb-Gray's patio last week.

Slipper Millpond

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 this).


WAYSIDES NEWS

Bridge Road CP

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 disturbing it.

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 Cuckooflowers.

Lillywhite's path

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.


OTHER NEWS

Chichester Peregrines

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 of prey.


Gulls 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.

Here is a nostalgic image from my library taken in May 2008.


SUNDAY MAY 6 - 2012

BROOK MEADOW

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 air.

Birds

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 meadow.

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.

Plants

Following Ralph 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 weeks.

Early Wintercress is flowering on the river bank near the north bend where the spring outfall emerges from under the railway.

However, Divided Sedge is now fairly abundant on the east side of the Lumley area along with Distant Sedge.


HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

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.


SATURDAY MAY 5 - 2012

HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

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 Millpond.


Mute Swan nest

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.


Great 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.


Coot nests

There was no change in the Coot nest situation from yesterday. No sign of any chicks.


Mallard family

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?


Plant news

Common Sorrel 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.


FRIDAY MAY 4 - 2012

Moorhen nesting

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.


Common Sandpiper

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 big gulls.

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.


Thorney news

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 Deeps.


Cuckoo 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.


THURSDAY MAY 3 - 2012

EMSWORTH NEWS

Peter Pond

No sign of any Reed Warbler. The Mute Swan was on its nest and its mate was patrolling Slipper Millpond next door.

Slipper Millpond

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.

Mallard family

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.


Swifts over Emsworth.

Peter Milinets-Raby 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?


Water Voles

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 exceptional year.

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 . . .
http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/bm-water-voles-2012.html


Water Shrew?

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 underneath."

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 Water Vole.

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.


Plant news

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. .


WEDNESDAY MAY 2 - 2012

BROOK MEADOW

Water Voles

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 wonder?


Moorhen nest

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.


Whitethroat

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.


Flowers

Creeping Buttercup 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 first flowers.

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.


Insects

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.

 


HERMITAGE MILLPONDS

Mute Swans

The Mute Swan was snug on her nest while her mate was on Slipper Millpond.

Great Black-backed Gulls

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 keeping watch!

Coot nests

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 see!

Others

One pair of Tufted Duck are still on the pond. I wonder if they will nest here?

Standing on the Hermitage Bridge I could see a shoal of around 50 fairly large Grey Mullett swimming beneath me.

 


OTHER NEWS

Nightingales

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 five.

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.


Thorney News

Richard Somerscocks 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 well.


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 continuously.

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.


Peregrine in Havant garden

Tom Bickerton relates an interesting experience that he had last night, while potting up his tomatoes in his back garden in Havant.

"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 hunting conditions."


Ralph's news

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 water.

Yesterday evening 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's mystery warbler

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 suggestions?

 

 


TUESDAY MAY 1 - 2012

SLIPPER MILLPOND

Great Black-backed Gulls

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.

They 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.

Dead Cormorant

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.

Tufted Duck

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?

Flower news

Cow Parsley is flowering well on the east side of Slipper Millpond.


BROOK MEADOW

Whitethroat

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.

St Mark's Flies

Swarms of St Mark's Flies with their long dangling legs, were flying on Brook Meadow. These were the first swarms I have seen this year.


OTHER NEWS

Late Black-tailed Godwits

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 sure.


House Martins

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.


Thorney Island news

Richard Somerscocks 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 airborne.


Cuckoo arrivals

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.