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May 16-31 2012
in reverse chronological order

THURSDAY MAY 31 - 2012


Jay in the garden

Just after I got up at around 8am, I noticed a beautiful Jay on the grass in the back garden. It went onto the seed tray on the bird feeding station where it remained feeding on the chopped peanuts and seeds for a few minutes. This gave me time to get my camera out and take a few snaps through the window. This was the first ever Jay I have seen in the garden since we moved in to the present house in 1997.

It flew off across the gardens going eastwards. Jay is a fairly common bird in the Lumley area of Emsworth and is sometimes seen crossing Brook Meadow. This bird was probably from that area, prospecting the garden feeders.

Jay is not a common garden bird. At present it is ranked 27th on the BTO GardenBirdWatch list with 11% of gardens reporting it. It is more likely to be seen in the breeding season in June with another peak in winter (Nov-Jan).

Great Black-backed Gull nest

09.30 - I went down to Slipper Millpond to check on the Great Black-backed Gull nest on the centre raft. All was quiet with the female gull sitting snugly on the nest with the chicks beneath her.

17:30 - When I arrived for my second check this afternoon the female Great Black-backed Gull was standing up over the nest. I could just make out the two chicks in the nest, but they are still not mobile. The gull sat back down and appeared to get settled for the night.

Interestingly, a Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the pond when I arrived. At first I thought it was the male Great Black-backed Gull, but the smaller size was obvious. It perched briefly on top of the nest box on the south raft where I could see its yellow legs. After a few seconds it was driven off by the resident Coot. There were also two immature Herring Gulls and one possibly immature Lesser Black-backed Gull on the pond, though I am not sure of the latter.

Meanwhile the Coot family with two chicks from the north raft are doing well and the chicks are growing. Here is a snap of them taken today by Patrick Murphy

Dolphin Creek

There is a fine display of flowering Tree Mallow at the entrance to the Dolphin Creek wayside at the end of Queen Street. Lesser Sea-spurrey is showing on the gravely path, but no flowers as yet. Green Alkanet was a new plant for this wayside, taking the total list to 72 with 45 having been found this year so far.


This morning, Jean and I had a pleasant walk through Stansted Forest from the main car park on the Forestside road, down the Main Avenue to Rowlands Castle, where we stopped for lunch at the cafe.

We enjoyed the galaxy of wild flowers and grasses along the edges of the avenue, giving a fine kaleidoscope of colours; blue of Germander Speedwell, white of Lesser Stitchwort, pink of Common Sorrel, red of Red Clover, plus the magnificent spikes of Foxgloves and the big yellow daisies of Cat's-ear.

Other plants of interest were my first Hemlock in flower, and a few Common Spotted Orchids at the far end of the Avenue by the Lime trees. It was interesting to compare the rather similar small yellow flowers of Silverweed, Cinquefoil, Tormentil and Yellow Pimpernel.

As for the grasses they were dominated by False Oat-grass, Cocksfoot, Meadow-grasses, Soft Brome, Yorkshire Fog and Barren Brome, with a few Crested Dog's-tail and Quaking Grass coming through. Other firsts for the year were Remote Sedge and Wood Sedge.



Slipper Millpond

09:30 - Both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the raft this morning with the female sitting on the nest. When she stood up, two chicks were clearly visible, one tiny spotty chick can just be seen in the following photo.

The Coot family with 2 chicks is still on the north raft.

The Mallard family from Lesley Harris's garden is now down to 4 ducklings. However, Brendan Gibb-Gray showed me the female Mallard that had returned to the nest on his patio for a second try, presumably having lost her previous brood of 13 ducklings.

I noticed that the Lesser Sea-spurrey that grows through the cracks in the path near the western kissing gate was just starting to flower.

Lillywhite's path wayside

The small verge outside Lillywhite's Garage is now blossoming with flowers and grasses. Two Viper's Bugloss are in flower along with Purple Toadflax, White Campion, Cat's-ear and Nipplewort which is a newcomer for this wayside. Spiked Sedge is now showing well at the eastern end of the main path. Three more new plants for this wayside were Smooth Sow-thistle, Cut-leaved Crane's-bill and Black Medick take the grand total for this wayside to 102 with 70 found so far this year.

Brook Meadow

I had my first Banded Demoiselle (male) in the south eastern corner of the south meadow. What beautiful damselflies these are.

Large Red Damselfly and Azure Damselfly were both on the Bramble path. Three Speckled Wood butterflies were chasing around near the south bridge in Palmer's Road Copse.

False Fox Sedge is showing well in the usual spot at the start of the Bramble path in the south meadow. Water Mint is also flourishing close by, smelling good, though not yet in flower.

At 07.30 this morning, Maurice Lillie saw a female Roe Deer leap from the river bend in the northwest corner of the meadow, up onto the bank of the Seagull Lane Patch. It sped around the thorn tree, over the fence into Seagull Lane path and turned right under the railway bridge. This was the first deer sighting on Brook Meadow this year.


Buzzards saved

The RSPB is pleased to announce that an outpouring of public concern for a much-loved bird has encouraged Richard Benyon - the Wildlife Minister - to drop proposals to licence the destruction of buzzard nests and to bring adult buzzards into captivity around shooting estates.

Hand-feeding Hummingbirds

Maurice Lillie sent the following delightful photo of a lady living in Louisiana USA hand-feeding Hummingbirds using a little red dish filled with sugar water.

TUESDAY MAY 29 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gulls

09:15 - All was quiet on the pond when I went down to check on the Great Black-backed Gull nest this morning. The gull was sitting on the nest with a Coot in the nest box nearby. The Coot family with 2 chicks were near the bridge as were the Mallard family with 6 ducklings.

17:00 - However, when I checked again this afternoon, the sitting gull was unusually restless, suggesting she had chicks. I could also see a broken egg shell on the edge of the nest. The gull got up briefly and I could see two chicks in the nest and maybe more.

Here is my digiscoped photo showing the broken egg shell

Peter Pond

Two Reed Warblers were singing in the Peter Pond reedbeds.

A Large Red Damselfly was on the reeds to the north of Peter Pond - the first of the year.



I heard two Whitethroat singing. The regular bird on the west side of the north meadow plus a new songster in the brambles in the north end of the Seagull Lane patch. A Cuckoo was calling from the Lumley area.


Red Admiral on the Seagull Lane patch. Common Blue on the Lumley area.


I had a mooch around the recently cleared area on the Seagull Lane patch near the Oak tree plantings where the ground was relatively bare. I found several interesting new plants not seen for a while. Scented Mayweed, was prominent with some flowers out and having a strong sweet aroma. Common Fumitory was widespread in this area, the first I have recorded on Brook Meadow since 2004. Lesser Swine-cress was everywhere, far more than I have ever seen before on the Brook Meadow site.

The Southern Marsh Orchids are opening their bright pink flowers in the orchid area. I saw the first spikes of Yorkshire Fog on the orchid area.

Common Spike-rush was out on the Lumley area, a good month later than last year and at least 2 weeks later than usual. Silverweed is flowering better than I recall having seen it before.

Lumley Road hedge cutting

I met Penny Aylett who was fuming about the severe cutting of the hedgerow all along Lumley Road from Peter Pond to the Lumley cottages by the West Sussex Highways Essential Maintenance Works. She had lived here for 30 years and had never seen the hedges cut in this awful manner.

When I got there the two workers had finished the job. As Penny said, the cutting was very severe and the road widened by several feet. I suggested to one of the workers that this was the wrong time of the year for hedgerows to be cut with birds still nesting and he agreed the work should have been done in the winter. However, he told me a complaint had been made by a resident about a car having been scratched by the hedges and the Council responded immediately by cutting them down. How utterly pathetic.

Clearly, no attempt had been made to establish whether any birds were nesting in the hedgerow before cutting began which is highly likely. Also, no consideration had been given to the fact that this is part of the Brook Meadow Nature Reserve (SINC). The actions could be breaking The Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 which states that it is an offence to intentionally take, damage or destroy the nest of any wild bird whilst it is in use or being built. I shall be communicating my feelings to the WSCC.

MONDAY MAY 28 - 2012


Slipper Millpond

09:00 - The female Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the centre raft. We are still waiting! Don't say I have miscalculated again.

A coot was established in the nest box on the raft and its mate was in the water nearby. When I arrived the male Great Black-backed Gull was perched on top of the nest box on the north raft. I watched in great surprise as one of the resident Coots shot across the water to drive the gull away, and it went! The Coot family with two chicks from that nest box was on the water near the Hermitage Bridge.

The Mallard family from Lesley Harris garden is now down to six ducklings.

Waysides news

Jane and I continued our regular waysides surveys this morning and discovered yet another new plant to take the total waysides list to 299. Salsify on the Beacon Square allotments path.

We almost had another new one, but the mowers got there first! See the waysides news blog for the full report plus photos.

Brook Meadow

Richard Somerscocks found plenty to see on Brook Meadow yesterday including a pair of Common Blue butterflies in the Lumley area of the meadow. Quite a lot more Ragged Robin are now out. There were also a lot of Azure Damselflies around and in addition a couple of Blue-tailed Damselflies. The male in Richard's photo must be very fresh since the thorax is still green - it will turn blue in time.

Peter Pond

Richard thought there were two Reed Warblers in the Peter Pond reedbeds but they were difficult to spot.

SUNDAY MAY 27 - 2012


Slipper Millpond

09.30 - The female Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest with her beak wide open, trying to keep cool on a very hot morning. The Coot family from the north raft with 2 chicks were on the pond near the Chequers Quay buildings. A Mallard with a family of 7 young ducklings was moving along the eastern edge of the pond, keeping well awy from the gulls. This is probably the remains of the family with 10 ducklings that Lesley Harris rescued from her garden on May 24.

18:00 - No change with a Great Black-backed Gull still sitting on the nest. Tomorrow must be D-Day!

Brook Meadow

Whitethroat was singing as usual from the west side of the north meadow. I have not heard the bird on the causeway for a while and I suspect we have just the one Whitethroat on Brook Meadow this year.

I could not see any Festulolium Hybrids grasses along the NE path. Grasses and sedges are seriously delayed this year.

The Southern Marsh Orchids are now starting to open their flowers. I counted a total of 10 plants, which is an increase in three over last year. It looks as if they are slowly spreading.


I counted 6 Swifts feeding over the Bridge Road area this morning. The most so far this year.


Chris Cope reported on yesterday's walk on North Common Hayling.

See the report and photo at . . . Saturday walks - reports 2012

The sightings included a rare Wild Gladiolus (or possibly Eastern Gladiolus)

SATURDAY MAY 26 - 2012


Swifts over Bridge Road

We had four Swifts feeding over the gardens at the rear of Bridge Road on and off for much of the day. At times they swooped low over our garden which is the first time we have seen them doing this year.

Slipper Millpond

10:00 - The nesting situation was the same this morning, with both Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft and one sitting on the nest. My revised predicted hatching date is Monday May 28.

I checked again at 17:00, but there was no change. However, the male gull was on pond where it caught and ate a fish, probably a Grey Mullett. They could be a useful source of food for the gulls as there are hundreds in the pond.

The Coot family from the north raft with two chicks were on the water near the Chequers Quay houses. Hopefully, they will stay well away from the gulls.

The first Sea Club-rush was flowering on the east side of the pond

Peter Pond raft

The mystery platform that David Gattrell constructed on the east side of the pond is revealed as a floating raft and is now anchored in the centre of the pond. This is the first ever proper raft on Peter Pond and will no doubt be appreciated by nesting birds, probably Coot and Mallard and even Mute Swans. However, I doubt if David would welcome Great Black-backed Gulls nesting there!

Just one Reed Warbler was singing from the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond.

My first Goat's-beard of the year was flowering on the west side of Peter Pond on the path leading to Gooseberry Cottage.

Brook Meadow

The first Marsh Foxtail of the year is now showing in the "Lumley puddle" area.

Three Ragged Robin flowers are now open on the Lumley area.

A female Azure Damselfly was flying around the Lumley area. Possibly the same one that Richard Somerscocks saw recently.

My first Common Blue butterfly of the year feeding on buttercups on the Lumley area. Two weeks later than last year.


White Stonecrop is flowering on the edge of Emsworth Millpond towards the southern end of Beach Road.

FRIDAY MAY 25 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gull nest

09.00 - A Great Black-backed Gull was still sitting on the nest with no sign of any chicks. Also on the raft were 3 Mallard and a Coot in the nest box. The two Coot chicks were on the northern raft.

17.00 - No real change. Both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the raft. While I was there they changed over the brooding duties, which enabled me to get a close look at the nest, but there were definitely no chicks there.

Hatching date

Clearly, I miscalculated when the chicks would be hatched. The incubation period for the Great Black-backed Gull is 27-28 days. I first saw the gulls on the centre raft on April 22 and Tom Bickerton first saw nest building activity on April 24. I first clearly saw a gull sitting on a nest on April 27. Assuming laying of 2-3 eggs over the next 3 days means incubation proper started on April 30. So, 28 days from then gives a hatching date of Monday May 28.

Great Black-backed Gull chicks are semi-precocial which means they are able to move on hatching, though not far and remain dependent on the parents for feeding. Complete fledgling does not occur for 55-60 days after hatching, which takes us to the end of July, though we should expect to see the chicks testing their powers of flight before that date.

Mallard family

The Mallard family with 10 ducklings that Richard Somerscocks saw on Dolphin Lake yesterday came from the garden of Lesley Harris. Lesley's house overlooks the eastern harbour. Here is Lesley's story of how they got there:

"The female Mallard who nests twelve foot up in our Wire Plant creeper pushed her ten ducklings out of the nest in the early morning. For hours they cheeped in our garden, but we needed to wait for the tide to reach our sea wall at 2 o'clock. Then battle commenced. In the blazing heat we put on thick clothing and gloves to protect ourselves from the mother's onslaught. She was fended off and the young were thrown over the sea wall. Dad came to greet the mother and offspring and they swam together into Dolphin Creek towards the danger zone of the Greater Black Backed Gulls."


Viper's Bugloss

A single plant of Viper's Bugloss was flowering on the small grass verge outside Lillywhite's Garage at the end of Queen Street. Not only was this the first Viper's Bugloss on an Emsworth wayside, but also, the first I have ever seen anywhere in Emsworth! This takes the total waysides plant list to 296, with 98 on the Lillywhite's path wayside. Not far to go now to catch up with Brook Meadow's 335.

THURSDAY MAY 24 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gull nest

09.30 - What I think was the male Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest with its beak open, as it was yesterday, presumably trying to keep cool in the hot temperatures. I spoke to Brendan Gibb-Gray's neighbour who thought she saw one of the gulls feeding a chick yesterday. However, I was at the pond for the next hour, occasionally checking the nest through my scope, and did not any evidence of chicks.

17:00 - I checked again this afternoon and there was no change in the situation. However, the gull did stand up on the nest to adjust what I assume were the eggs; there was definitely no chicks in the nest. Interestingly, a Cormorant was also on the raft drying its wings.

Coot nests

The Coot pair nesting on the north raft have two chicks. They actually ventured onto the water with one of their parents. There was also one chick in the nest box on the south raft, but nothing in the nest box on the centre raft where the gulls are nesting.

Mallard families

A small Mallard family of mum and two mature ducklings were swimming around the Chequers Quay buildings. This is probably the remains of the family of 13 ducklings that hatched on Brendan Gibb-Gray's patio about 3 weeks ago.

Richard Somerscocks saw a Mallard with a clutch of 10 very young ducklings on Dolphin Lake, clearly a new family in the area.


Red Fescue and a red form of Perennial Ryegrass were growing well along the edge of Dolphin Lake, where the leaves of Prickly Lettuce are just starting to emerge. However, there was no sign of any Sea Club-rush spikelets. Shoals of Grey Mullett were swimming in the shallow water on the western side of the pond.


Richard Somerscocks went down to Brook Meadow late afternoon. He saw some butterflies including Orange Tip, a White, Peacock, Comma and a couple of Holly Blues. There were also several Silver Y moths around. These are often seen on Brook Meadow at this time of the year. Richard notes they are migratory, coming up from the Mediterranean and can arrive in quite large numbers so one can expect more.

There were also a couple of Azure Blue Damselflies flying around. Here is a female by Richard.

Finally, just downstream of the S bend Richard saw a Water Vole swimming down river. After 20 metres or so it got out onto the west bank and started feeding giving some quite good views.

Chichester Peregrines

The four Peregrine chicks in the nest on Chichester Cathedral are growing fast. They are moving around the nest area and are losing their white downy feathers. The dark mature flight feathers are starting to come through. See the live web cam at . . .


The RSPB is stunned by Defra's plan to allow the destruction of Buzzard nests and to permit them to be taken into captivity to remove them from shooting estates. The Society believes this intervention against one of England's best-loved birds of prey will set a terrible precedent and prove to be a costly and unnecessary exercise.

The move by Defra followed lobbying by the pheasant shooting industry. Buzzards usually scavenge on animals which have already died, but they will sometimes take young Pheasants which are released for sports shooting.

The Buzzard was eradicated from large swathes of Britain following decades of persecution. Legal protection and a general warming of attitudes towards buzzards and other birds of prey on the part of many lowland land managers, led to buzzards recovering across the UK: a fantastic conservation success story.

Pheasants are not native to the UK. Around 40 million birds are released every year for shooting. The impacts of this practice on wildlife have been poorly documented, but serious questions have been raised about the impact such a large injection of captive-reared birds might have on the predator-prey balance in our countryside.

Buzzards will take young pheasants from rearing pens, given the opportunity, but the RSPB believes the issue can be managed without destroying nests or moving buzzards. Measures include providing more cover for young pheasants in release pens, visual deterrents to discourage birds of prey and providing alternative food sources.

The current government would seem to have enough worries about accusations of being being rich, upper class and out of touch without adding Britain's millions of bird watchers to the fray. I for one will be writing to my MP if this looks at all likely to go ahead and I would urge you all to do the same!



Great Black-backed Gull nest

When I arrived to do my daily check at 09.00 the female Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the centre raft, accompanied by the female 'Polish' Mute Swan (with pink legs) from the failed Peter Pond nest, a Black-headed Gull and a Coot near the nest box. The male bird arrived back on the raft at 09.30 when a change over of incubating duties took place. The female immediately flew off to find food, leaving the male sitting on the nest, gasping in the hot sunshine.

Reed Warbler

At long last a Reed Warbler was singing in the reedbeds to the north of Peter Pond, about 4-6 weeks later than usual. In fact, I thought I heard two singing at one time.


Ragged Robin

The first Ragged Robin flower of the year was out on the Lumley area. I could only see one flower open. This is the latest they have ever been; they are usually well open by the second week in May. Last year the first flower was open on April 26, though this was exceptional.


There is a good growth of Divided Sedge in the south eastern corner of the south meadow as well as on the Lumley area. I found the first False Fox Sedge of the year on the Lumley area, at least 2 weeks later than usual and a whole month later than last year! Sedges I have not seen as yet are Remote Sedge, Grey Sedge, Hairy Sedge, Spiked Sedge Common Spike-rush and Sea Club-rush .


Parking at the end of Thornham Lane I walked along the old NRA track across North Thorney and down the west side of Thorney to Little Deeps. I was surprised by the large amount of water in the field owned by Chichester Harbour Conservancy to the north of the track, just like a lake. I have never seen it like it before.

The old Marina Farm stables is now a somewhat intimidating place to walk through with lots of vehicles, dogs and hundreds of horses grazing on grassless fields. What is going on here?


A Cuckoo was calling from the bushes to the south of the track. but no sound of Turtle Dove.

I have not heard one this year. Several Swallows were flying around the old stables. Cetti's Warbler was singing. Reed Warbler was singing in the reeds at Little Deeps and Reed Bunting was active in the reeds. But no Sedge Warbler. A Mute Swan was at the nest on the island on the Little Deeps, but there did not seem to be any eggs in the nest.


Bee Orchid buds are starting to show at the start of the track, but no flowers as yet, but Bird's-foot Trefoil was in flower. Three Red Hot Poker plants were flowering at the start of the track to Little Deeps. I thought they had all been dug up! I like them.

I found the following sedges, Spiked Sedge, Glaucous Sedge and Distant Sedge, plus Saltmarsh Rush, Sheep's Fescue and Sea Plantain were flowering along the edge of the track near Little Deeps.

TUESDAY MAY 22 - 2012

Great Black-backed Gull nest

9am - What looked like the male Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the centre raft. No sign of any hatching as yet, but it should be close The Coot was still in the nest box on the raft. Two Black-headed Gulls were also on the raft, though they are unlikely to stay once the second Great Black-backed Gull returns.

Patrick Murphy went to the pond this afternoon at about 4.30pm. Initially only the female was on the nest but was joined shortly by her mate. Patrick also saw the Coot chick on the northern raft. That Mallard is taking a risk!

Beaked Hawk's-beard

Following the tips from Ralph Hollins about distinguishing Beaked Hawk's-beard and Smooth Hawk's-beard I had a look at the numerous plants growing along the ege of the Washington Road path wayside, north of the road bridge. Many of the plants were in flower and the flowers were generally 15mm or more indicating they were Beaked Hawk's-beard. Smooth Hawk's-beard flowers are smaller than this. This identification was supported by the fact that most of the stems were very rough though I did find a few with smooth stems! Smooth Hawk's-beard has smooth stems. I feel fairly cionfident in putting these down as Beaked Hawk's-beard.

New wayside plants

I found a number of other plants of interest while looking around the Washington Road wayside. New plants for this wayside found were Black Medick on the Glenwood School embankment, Hairy Tare along the western side, plus Weld, Green Alkanet and Hemlock just before the posts at the entrance to the Recreation Ground. These take the list for this year to 75 and the grand total to 125.

I also found what looked like False Brome, rather like Barren Brome but with spikelets on short stalks, on the edge of the path by the pony field. However, the leaves were not hairy as they should be, so I shall need to look at this one again.

Other plants of interest: Balm was still present despite the reconstruction work just north of the railway bridge. There a very good growth of Swine-cress along the edge of the path north of the railway. Rough Meadow-grass and Hairy Tare are flowering.

Dead Rowans

A lady asked me today why trees were dying in Christopher Way. I did not know they were dying, so I had a look this afternoon. One Rowan outside Number 22 was not in a good state with its upper parts rotted and many small dead branches on the ground. The bark appeared to be infected on the main trunk. Another Rowan by the southern bend in the road was completely dead. I have not been able to find out much about Rowan diseases, but the species is vulnerable to fungal attack and this might be the problem here, though I did not see any visible signs of fungi growing near the tree.


It was a perfect evening for Swifts. Warm, cloudless with little wind. And they came, just five of them were flying around the houses and gardens in Bridge Road at around 8pm. They were clearly feeding on insects. This was our first proper sighting of them this year.

Nightingale Survey

For the nocturnal part of the BTO 2012 Nightingale survey, Terry and Paul Lifton visited Marlpit Lane last night. They heard just one Nightingale and no Nightjar. They stayed around Marlpit Lane for about 30 minutes and the one bird was singing the whole time. Unmated Nightingales apparently continue singing through the night, so presumably this bird had yet to find a mate.

I visited Marlpit Lane this afternoon at 2pm, where I found one Nightingale singing in much the same place described by Terry and Paul Lifton last night - about 200 metres north of the footpath entrance. Apart from that exceptional five songsters I heard on May 13th, the most I have heard at one time is two. This makes me wonder if some of those I heard on May 13 were just passing through. But five are now entered on the official survey.

Marlpit Lane site

I had a walk around the wasteland site to the east of the lane. There was another birder there from Pagham Harbour watching and listening for Nightingales and Turtle Doves. It was the first time he had been on the Marlpit Lane site and thought it a gem! I heard both Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroat but not Turtle Dove. A Buzzard was flying over the plantation to the north, probably nesting in there. As for flowers, I could see only a few Creeping Cinquefoil flowers whereas thousands were out at this time last year. Others in flower included Scarlet Pimpernel and Crosswort.

Crow takes Goldfish

Peter Milinets-Raby watched with astonishment (and horror) this morning as a Carrion Crow grabbed his prize 17+cms Goldfish out of his garden pond! It bashed it on the ground, stabbed it several times with its bill and flew off with its prey! Peter said it all happened so quickly, even the Goldfish didn't see it coming! But, stupid Goldfish, as it always basks near the surface of the pond on warm days!

That was quite a catch! Pity about the fish, but the Crow must have enjoyed the meal.

MONDAY MAY 21 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gull nest

I checked the Great Black-backed Gulls a couple of times today, once at 09.30 and again at 17.00. One bird was still sitting firmly on the nest with no sign of any chicks. Its mate was not present on either occasion.


Interestingly, a Coot was back in the nest box on the same raft as the gulls with another nearby, presumably its mate. Yesterday, it looked as if the nest had been totally predated by the gulls. However, there was no sign of the chick that was present earlier. Maybe, the pair are trying for another brood? What amazingly resolute birds they are, carrying on regardless of the obvious threat to their own safety.

I could see the one chick in the northern raft being fed by its parents, sensibly not straying far from the nest box.


Water Vole

Debbie Robinson saw her second Water Vole in a week at 4.30pm. It was in more or less the same place as my sighting the week before, ie, looking from the Palmers Road carpark viewing fence across to the sluicegate, and the vole was between the sluicegate and the visible vole hole entrances on the far bank. He sat nibbling like a hamster and then turned and 'walked' off away from me into the undergrowth.

Debbie also had a frog hop across her path - about an inch long - not a froglet by any means - in the grass near where the picnic table used to be.


Jane Brook and I continued our surveys of the Emsworth waysides this morning. We did the four main sites in North Emsworth. See the waysides web site for the full report with photos . . .

We started at the Greville Green (west) site where we found a fine display of Bulbous Buttercups.

The Common Spotted Orchid leaves were showing very well on this site. We erected a stake behind the plant to protect it from Council mowing around the edge of the site. Ransoms were flowering on the edge of the path just west of the main site.

This fenced area of the Spencer's Field verge with litle public access has a magnificient growth of grasses, including the first Yorkshire Fog of the year. We found Thyme-leaved Speedwell and clsw in flower. We were tempted to re-identify Common Mouse-ear as Sticky Mouse-ear, but the cluster of terminal flowers was not quite dense enough.

We spent some time examining the plants on the traffic island at the junction of Southleigh Road and Horndean Road. We found a number flowering for the first time including Bird's-foot Trefoil, Buckshorn Plantain, Thyme-leaved Speedwell and Red Fescue.

On the main Southleigh Road (west) verge, we found what looked at first like an exceptionally large Meadow Foxtail but I subsequently confirmed it as an early Timothy - first of the year. There was an amazing amount of Grey Sedge which seems to come up almost anywhere. We were surprised to find Balm on the edge of the cycleway.

We came across fine displays of Greater Stitchwort and Germander Speedwell in flower. The western verge past the entrance to Southleigh Forest was lined with aromatic Cow Parsley.

SUNDAY MAY 20 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gulls

I had predicted May 20 as a possible hatching date for the Great Black-backed Gulls, but there was no sign of anything happening when I visited the pond at 10am this morning. Both gulls were on the centre raft with the female on the nest and the male standing imperiously nearby.

Coot nests

The Coot nest box on the centre raft was empty with no sign of either the adult Coot or the chick that I saw there yesterday. The barricade of twigs had been smashed down, clearly indicating that the nest had been predated. A single Coot was swimming around the raft, maybe the surviving member of the pair.

The Coot on the north raft was still tucked up behind its barricade of twigs, though I could not see the chick that was there yesterday. The Coot on the south raft was similarly entrenched behind its twigs with one chicks clearly visible.

Swifts very late

We saw two Swifts flying high over Bridge Road at about 8am this morning. We did not see them again. Looking back through my records since I came into this house in 1997, this is the latest arrival ever of Swifts.


For full report and photos go to . . .

Washington Road path

Masses of plants are burgeoning along the edge of the new path, not easy to sort them out. The tall Hawk's-beards are still baffling, though some of them have bristly stems with orange under the petals, suggesting Beaked Hawk's-beard.

Emsworth Recreation Ground:

The grassland to the west of the bowling club is covered with flowering Bulbous Buttercups. However, there is an encroaching growth of Blackthorn suckers which threatens to engulf this area. This needs cutting back along with the White Poplar suckers. Sweet Vernal Grass and Field Wood-rush grow particularly well in this area and later are Bent-grasses. Common Sorrel is also flowering here.

Westbourne Open Space

This wayside looks beautiful with masses of tall grasses, mostly Meadow Foxtail, waving gracefully in the breeze. Other grasses included Soft Brome, Barren Brome, Wall Barley, Tall Fescue (new), Red Fescue (with closed leaf-sheaths),

New Brighton Road Junction

Plants in flower: Red Clover, Beaked Hawk's-beard, Red Fescue, False Oat-grass, Wall Barley, Germander Speedwell,

Bridge Road car park

Plants flowering for the first time on the wayside included Hemlock Water-dropwort and Pellitory-of-the-wall. Wall Speedwell was in flower under the Beech hedge with its tiny bright blue flowers almost hidden by the untoothed upper leaves. Leaves of Wall Lettuce are also showing under the Beech hedge but no flowers as yet.

FRIDAY MAY 18 - 2012


Tony Wootton had a lovely morning in Brook Meadow, during which he saw 2 Blackcaps, a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff carrying caterpillars for its chicks. Three Swifts flew overhead - I have not seen any over Bridge Road as yet. Tony also saw two Cuckoos flying over the meadow going towards Lumley Road, clearly indicating we have a pair in the local area. He also a Green Woodpecker yaffling. Here are a couple of his photos.


Tony watched a pair of Black-headed Gulls dive bombing the Great Black-backed Gulls that are nesting on the centre raft. One of the Great Black-backed Gulls got fed up with this and saw them off. Hatching must now be fairly close. Possibly tomorrow?

He was pretty sure there was only one Coot chick in the nest box on the centre raft. I thought I saw two yesterday, which suggests one may have been taken. Not very surprising.


Bastard Cabbage

Ralph Hollins cycled down the Hayling Billy Line on Wednesday and, passing the Saltmarsh Lane marsh, he saw that the seawall was covered with a mass of yellow brassica flowers. On closer inspection they turned out to be the Bastard Cabbage that has been increasing its foothold there in recent years. See Ralph's photo on his wildlife diary for Wednesday May 16, particularly the 'Chianti bottle' shaped seed pods that identify the plant. The seaward end of the track leading to the seawall also had a good show of Lesser Sea Spurrey and Subterranean Clover.

Grasses on waysides

The grasses are growing well on the Havant Road verge wayside at the top of Valetta Park. This morning I noted Meadow Foxtail, Cocksfoot, False Oat-grass, Smooth Meadow-grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Red Fescue and Perennial Ryegrass (for the first time this year).

THURSDAY MAY 17 - 2012


Work session

I went over for the work session on Brook Meadow, mainly to take photos of the volunteers at work. Rachel Moroney from The Conservation Volunteers (the new name for BTCV) came to carry out the annual inspection for insurance purposes. The main task was clearing the edges of the paths in preparation for the Herb walk this week.

For the full report and photos go to the Brook Meadow diary . . .

The volunteers were careful not to damage the fine display of Cow Parsley, along the edges of the paths.

Two Whitethroats

Two Whitethroats were singing on the meadow this morning, one from the Willows on the west side of the north meadow, about 100 metres south of the north bridge, the other from bushes below the causeway.

Nuthatch tapping

My wife drew my attention to a tap-tapping from the large Crack Willow just north of the north bridge this afternoon. I thought at first it was just the tree creaking, but the tapping was too regular. It certainly was not a Great Spotted Woodpecker. Then we spotted a Nuthatch high in the tree. I assume it was searching for insects in the bark of the tree. It flew off towards the north path as we were watching it. That was the first Nuthatch sighting we have had for a while. I wonder if they are nesting on the meadow?

Smooth Meadow-grass

Smooth Meadow-grass is not a common grass on Brook Meadow and some years I have a job to find any at all. The key is to look for it early as it flowers earlier than Rough Meadow-grass. It differs from Rough Meadow-grass by its short ligules. Today, I found a small growth on the north section of the south meadow. Rough Meadow-grass is fairly abundant in Palmer's Road Copse. I also found some Smooth Meadow-grass on the Lillywhite's path wayside, so it appears to be opening generally.

Water Vole

At 9am Penny Aylett saw a Water Vole swimming along the edge of the river bank just north of the south bridge.


Great Black-backed Gulls

The Great Black-backed Gull pair was on the centre raft as usual with one bird on the nest. Unusually, one of the Mute Swan pair was also on the raft, though it moved off while I was there.

Coot chicks

I caught a brief glimpse of two Coot chicks in the nest box on the same raft as the gulls. The chicks did not venture out of the box while I was there, though they will be vulnerable to the predatory gulls once they do. There was no sign of any Coot chicks on either of the other two rafts.


Common Jellyspot fungus

Ralph Hollins solved the mystery of the mass of orange jelly-like globules that I discovered on a dead log in Hollybank Woods yesterday:

"Your photo suggests to me Dacrymyces stillatus rather than Coral Spot mainly because of the variability in the size of the 'spots'. Coral Spot has very small spots of a consistent size while Dacrymyces has slightly larger, more variable spots that fit Roger Phillips description of them as 'gelatinous'. Checking with the second of my three main books (Michael Jordan's Encyclopaedia) I was put off by his photo of Dacrymyces as showing a pale yellow colour but his text says 'yellowish orange when damp, deeper orange when dry'."

The official English name for Dacrymyces stillatus is Common Jellyspot.

Chichester Peregrines

The four Chichester Peregrine chicks were ringed on the 15th of May - to see pictures of them being ringed go to . . .

Osprey over Emsworth

Yesterday, D A Morgan reported a pair of Osprey flying over Emsworth by-pass (A27) for approx 10 mins at 11am. Barry Collins also reported one at Pilsey Island Thorney throughout the morning today, plus 174 Ringed Plovers, 400 Dunlin, 60+Sanderling, 12 Barwits, 7 Knot, 9 Turnstone etc and a male Wheatear. Nearby a Short-eared Owl was foraging over fields.

For earlier observations go to . . May 2012 (1-16)