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* * * DAILY WILDLIFE BLOG for JUNE 2012 * * *
in reverse chronological order


Great Black-backed Gulls

15:00 - Both gulls were on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. One chick was snoozing right in front of the now abandoned Coot nest box. I did not see the second chick, though the vegetation on the island is now quite lush and a nice hiding place for the chicks.

Brook Meadow

Richard Somerscocks had quite a good variety of butterflies on the meadow this morning. All the usual ones were showing: Comma, Red Admiral, Large Skipper and masses of Meadow Browns. There were also several Ringlets on the meadow north of Lumley Gate. These are the first Ringlets of the year on Brook Meadow, later than last year, but about average generally.

Just outside the meadow, on the path beside Peter Pond there were a couple Marbled Whites. I think we can claim these for Brook Meadow too!

Hollybank Woods

Richard went over to Hollybank Woods after lunch. There was no sign of any White Admirals yet, but there were a few Silver-washed Fritillaries around (males).

Richard also saw a dragonfly which he thought might be a Downy Emerald. That sounds like a rare one! I have never seen one. Can anyone help with the ID?


Yet another wayside orchid

See the waysides blog for details . . .


Short-fruited Willowherb

I sent the willowherb specimen that I found in Hollybank Woods on June 20 to Martin Rand for identification. I thought it might be Marsh Willowherb (Epilobium palustre), but Martin's verdict was that it is Short-fruited Willowherb (Epilobium obscurum). He says, "It has dense appressed eglandular hairs on the upper parts; glandular hairs are confined to the hypanthium; sessile leaves running onto the stem; and there are signs of stolons forming". I am not disappointed since Short-fruited Willowherb is also a new plant for the Hollybank Woods list and for me!

House Sparrow recovery

BTO Garden Birdwatch scheme reports House Sparrows numbers are approaching a six-year high following a big drop that occurred in the middle of last decade, especially in 2006 and 2007. This drop coincided with an outbreak of the disease trichomonosis, which caused the death of many Greenfinches and Chaffinches. Since 2008 a noticeable, steady upturn in GBW counts has been recorded.

Interestingly, counts of House Sparrows in Scottish and, particularly, Welsh gardens are typically higher than those in English ones. Over the longer-term, declines of House Sparrows have been steepest in urban habitats. Within England, House Sparrows are now seen least often in gardens in the south east and in Greater London.



Christopher Way verge

There is an excellent crop of Smaller Cat's-tail on the eastern end of the verge. Knotted Hedge-parsley is still flowering on the southern edge of the verge by the footpath.

Emsworth Railway Station

Rosebay Willowherb is just starting to flower in the far corner of the site. There is a very tall Hoary Willowherb - around 5 ft tall. I am sure it is not Great Willowherb. No sign of any Agrimony this year, though it is flowering on the area close to the A27 road.


Great Black-backed Gulls

12:00 - The female Great Black-backed Gull was on the raft with the two chicks, both of which looked very healthy.

I watched one of them flexing its wings and another chicks begging for food from its mother. The female's face is now much whiter and has hardly any trace of the black smudge that she has had for a week or so.

While I was there I spotted what I thought at first was the male Great Black-backed Gull flying in, but in fact it turned out to be a Lesser Black-backed Gull, which flew around the pond a couple of times before heading back to the harbour. I have seen a Lesser here before.

When I got back from Brook Meadow after about 1 hour I noticed the chicks were struggling with what looked like a substantial fish. They picked it up and nibbled it, but there was no way they were going to be able to eat it.


The Coot nest on the centre raft has been abandoned, which is not exactly surprising with the two large gulls marching around on the raft. There was no sign of the eggs which I saw before, so they must have been taken. The two Coots from the nest were in the water and looking perfectly OK as if nothing had happened. That's birds for you!

The Coots are both sitting in the nest boxes on the other two rafts. The Coot is a also sitting on the new raft on Peter Pond.


Plants in flower for the first time included Common Knapweed in the Lumley area (2 weeks later than last year, but that was very early).

Square-stalked St John's-wort is prominent nearby, not in flower, but with distinctive reddish stems. Hedge Bindweed is flowering for the first time as is Creeping Thistle.

The rushes are flowering in the Lumley area on the western edge of the Lumley area as they have in the past. Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus) and Sharp-flowered Rush (Juncus acutiflorus) are displaying spikelets. Sharp-flowered Rush is a much taller, more robust plant. A good patch of Toad Rush is also in flower in this area. I have still to find Saltmarsh Rush and Soft Rush this year.

A Frog was jumping around in the long grasses of the Lumley area while I was there.

A lady and gentleman stopped to speak, praising the meadow for its beauty and peacefulness. I explained what a lot of hard work had gone into the site over the years by the conservation group and they were very appreciative. Good work everyone!

TUESDAY JUNE 26 - 2012


I spent the afternoon up dating the three display cases on the meadow with recent news and photos. Birds singing included Wren, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff and Blackcap.

Lesser Stitchwort is flowering as usual on the cross path on the south meadow. but there is no sign of either Marsh Woundwort or Tufted Hair-grass which I have seen in recent years at the top of the Bramble path. Thyme-leaved Speedwell is growing on the wooden south bridge. The Giant Fescue is looking good on the river bank below the south bridge, but not in flower.


Narrow-leaved Water-plantain - Alisma lanceolata - is flowering again with its distinctive three rounded white-pink petals in among the Bulrushes on the east bank of the Westbrook Stream. I had feared the plants would have been washed away in the floods, but clearly some have survived.

Another plant to have survived the flood is Sulphur Cinquefoil which is still in full flower on the southern verge.

Hoary Willowherb is also in flower on the edge of the verge opposite the middle of the central shrubbery. Slender Speedwell is still flowering on the main grass verge. It has been in flower since early spring.

There are at least three areas of False Brome grass, like False Brome but without the long branches on the spikelets.

Meanwhile, Herb-Robert has its very attractive fruits, slightly ridged and red and hairy with a long tapering 'beak'.


Great Black-backed Gulls

I checked Slipper Millpond at about 5pm. Both gulls were on the centre raft along with a juvenile Cormorant. The gulls seem to be fairly tolerant of Cormorants, but apparently not Grey Herons. The gulls seemed to take no interest in the Cormorant.

The male and female gulls are easier to distinguish now, as the female has a dark smudge on its face which it must have picked up while feeding. As I was watching them from Slipper Road the male gull flew up and over my head making soft croaking noises, which I have previously interpreted as 'buzzing'.

I could only see one of the chicks, but while I was there it was flexing its wings which clearly are growing stronger by the day, though I do not expect to see fledging before the end of July - 55-60 days after hatching.

The Coot remains entrenched in the nest box.

Fort Widley

Jean and I had a walk around Fort Widley this afternoon, mainly to look for orchids. We found a few Common Spotteds at the back of the fort and a good number of Pyramidal Orchids on the path in front of the fort, but not so many as I recall seeing in some previous years.

Other flowers seen included Greater Knapweed, Kidney Vetch, Tufted Vetch, Agrimony, Viper's Bugloss, Quaking Grass, Oxeye Daisy, Hedge Bedstraw, Crosswort and a few Restharrow. There were lots of yellow daisies with very rough stems - Rough Hawkbit? One Red Admiral was the only butterfly seen.

Brook Meadow

Richard Somerscocks was on Brook Meadow at lunch today. He saw the usual assortment of butterflies: Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Comma, Large Skipper, and plenty of Meadow Browns. Quite a few Banded Demoiselles, but only a single Azure Damselfly.

Moths included a Small Magpie Moth - which I think is a first for Brook Meadow. What a beauty.

Richard also found the first Bee Orchid on the meadow this year just north of the Lumley Gate. Same area as last year, but slightly closer to the gate. Richard put a stick in to mark the spot, but says it is still fairly difficult to see in the long grass.

FRIDAY JUNE 22 - 2012


Bee Orchid

I did a tour round some of the local waysides this morning and was rewarded with some good finds. The best was the very first wayside Bee Orchid on the New Brighton Road Junction. The plant has one flower open at the top and several other buds yet to open. Maybe this is the first of many?

Creeping Bent-grass

The area behind the bowling club in Emsworth Recreation Ground is definitely my favourite waysides grassland. The area is dominated by the pink panicles of Yorkshire Fog waving around in the breeze, with Timothy growing well and the first of Creeping Bent-grass showing its delicate scarlet inflorescences. A really beautiful grass.

Hairy Buttercups and Toad Rush

I found a really interesting selection of plants growing along the wet track to the main gate in the north-east corner of the Recreation Ground including Hairy Buttercups, which I confirmed by pulling up one small plant which had no bulb and a number of clumps of Toad Rush - another waysides first.


Bar-headed Goose

Eric Eddles had a great surprise when a Bar-headed Goose turned up on Baffins Pond yesterday. The bird has rings on both legs, with a plain green ring on the left leg and a metal ring with number and letter engravings on the right. The right leg ring is presumably the standard British Museum Ring.

I regularly used to get a Bar-headed Goose in the 1990s on Baffins Pond along with the Barnacle Geese and Snow Geese - all part of the now extinct 'Baffins Gang' that used to move between Baffins Pond and Titchfield Haven. The Bar-headed Goose that I used to see was not ringed.

House Martins

Paul Cooper who lives in Funtington was interested to read the report about the complete absence of House Martin nests on Stansted House. He says, "Our martins repaired their nest on our house and other pairs returned to three or four neighbours' houses. Then, about four weeks ago, they disappeared. We do occasionally see four or five flying very high above the house (where previously we might see a dozen) but they do not come anywhere near the nest. A friend with a cottage on the Quantocks has a thriving family of House Martins nesting, so it doesn't seem to be a problem everywhere, and I wouldn't have thought they have many predators, if any. I wonder what has happened. Has the cold weather reduced the supply of insects so they haven't mated?"

That would seem a very likely answer. The weather has been exceptionally wet and cold this spring. This has also affected the Swifts which have not turned up in Emsworth or Havant in any numbers.


Slipper Millpond

16:00 - The two adult Great Black-backed Gulls were changing over chick minding duties as I arrived. The female flew off to the harbour while the male remained on the raft. The two chicks are now growing fast and looking healthy.

Brook Meadow

A Banded Demoiselle was flying in the south eastern corner of the south meadow. There is a good flowering of Bittersweet in this area. Lungwort is flowering on the Seagull Lane patch at the far end of the new Jubilee hedgerow. Stone Parsley is still present at the northern end of the Seagull Lane patch. Watercress and Water Figwort are both in flower on the north bend of the river.

Marsh Willowherb (Epilobium palustre)

NOTE - Martin Rand subsequently identified this plant as Short-fruited Willowherb (Epilobium obscurum). See June 28.

I think the Willowherb plants that I found flowering on the newly cleared area (Jubilee Hedgerow area) of Hollybank Woods yesterday (20 June 2012) are Marsh Willowherb (Epilobium palustre). The plants were not in a noticeably wet area though the woodland has several small streams running through it.

The following characteristics seem to support this identification.

1. Relatively short and slender plants with a small pink flower at the top of the stem.

2. A small flower about 10mm across with a club shaped stigma.

3. Stem is round and hairy without any grooves.

4. Leaves are stalkless and narrow, tapering at both ends.

5. The stolons are thread-like - as indicated by Kitchener in his paper on Willowherb ID. Here is a close up of the stolons.

I recall finding what I thought might be Marsh Willowherb on the eastern bridleway in Hollybank Woods on 6 and 20 Sep 2005. However, on advice from Ralph Hollins I decided not to formally record this as a Hollybank species. I believe the case for the present plants is stronger.

Greenshank sighting

Pete Potts reports Greenshank NY+GR ringed on 23Sept06 has been seen and photographed breeding in Sutherland, north Scotland this week! This is the first ever link with this breeding population and The Solent. He wants to know if anyone has seen this bird at any stage in the last 6 years. A great record indeed not what we expected!

I have had 18 sightings of NY+GR in Emsworth Harbour from 27-Nov-06 to 25-Nov-09. But not seen since.




For the second day running four Swifts have been flying low around the houses in Bridge Road. This is the first time we have seen then regularly throughout the day. This is probably a family group doing some social bonding. So, maybe they have nested somewhere local? I suspect they won't be here tomorrow when yet more heavy rain is forecast.

Great Black-backed Gulls

I checked Slipper Millpond at 5pm. The female Great Black-backed Gull was standing on the centre raft with its two chicks lying down nearby. While I was there the Coots changed over brooding duties in the nest box, with one Coot coming onto the raft to relieve the sitting Coot. I could just make out 2 or possibly 3 eggs in the box. The adult gull took absolutely no notice of this change over at all.


It was a lovely warm morning for a walk through this beautiful woodland. I met Andy Brook and his team of conservation volunteers working hard clearing the bracken from the recently cleared area west of the old Holly Lodge clearing. The volunteers are also learning old woodland skills like coppicing and splitting of logs.

Heath Wood-rush

The best find of the morning was a new site for Heath Wood-rushes in the southern Bluebell area about 20 metres to the east of the Wild Cherry tree. These plants were surprisingly abundant in this small area (100+) in amongst the Bracken and were certainly the best I have ever seen in Hollybank Woods.

I think most of the plants were Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp. multiflora) which I have not recorded in Hollybank Woods before. They have an umbel-like inflorescence at the top of a tall stem (up to 40 cm - which probably rules out Field Wood-rush) made up of around 10 flower heads on slender branches and a lower bract that does not overtop the inflorescence. PS - I shall need to get this identification checked by Martin Rand.

There were also some examples of Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp congesta) which I have recorded each year along this path, but not in this particular location. Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush was originally discovered in this area by the late Gwynne Johnson on 11-May 2002. This plant is quite different from Heath Wood-rush in having a single rounded cluster of flower heads with the lower bract longer than the inflorescence. There appeared to be many intermediate examples between these two species - possible hybrids?

Other plants

Other plants of interest included Quaking Grass along the main track, Creeping Bent-grass with panicles still closed, Wood Millet along the south east path, Remote Sedge, Wood Sedge. Soft Rush and Compact Rush. Lesser Stitchwort and Crosswort were showing well in the old Holly Lodge clearing along with lots of other common flowers. I noticed several Broad-leaved Willowherb type plants were flowering on the newly cleared area. They were short and thin with narrow leaves and a small flower at the top of the stem. I also found some Heath Speedwell in flower in this area.


Birds were generally quiet. I heard several Blackcaps and a couple of Chiffchaffs. Others singing included Wren and Stock Dove with Buzzard calling overhead.


Butterflies were very scarce. I saw 2 Speckled Woods, 2 Red Admirals and three Meadow Browns. I looked everywhere for White Admiral, but did not see any, not even from my favourite seat on the western bridleway.

TUESDAY JUNE 19 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gulls

17:00 - The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on their own on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond when I checked this afternoon. However, one of the parents was close by on the water, keeping an eye on them. They looked in good health.


Several Swifts were flying around the houses in Bridge Road at various times today, but not in any determined fashion, almost as if they were just passing through.


Richard Somerscocks spotted this Cuckoo which came to rest for a short while on the Willow by the Lumley Gate.

MONDAY JUNE 18 - 2012


Jane Brook and I did our Monday morning survey of the waysides in North Emsworth.

Southleigh Road (west) - We found several plants flowering on the traffic island at the eastern end of Southleigh Road, including Selfheal, Buckshorn Plantain, Smooth Hawk's-beard, Lesser Trefoil. Hemlock was in full flower on the main verge with lots of Stone Parsley yet to flower.

I was particularly pleased to discover a good growth of False Brome with lush green leaves Just past the entrance to Southleigh Farm we found a Wild Carrot in the early stages of growth.

One Meadow Brown was on the vegetation and several nests of 'Nursery-web spider' (Pisaura mirabilis).

Spencer's Field verge - The grasses were high and very lush on this enclosed wayside. The first Common Ragwort was flowering. Three Meadow Browns came up from the grasses.

Greville Green (west) - A very good patch of Bird's-foot Trefoil was in flower. The sole Common Spotted Orchid was in flower and looking quite good.


Slipper Millpond

I checked on the Great Black-backed Gulls at 5pm. One adult was on the raft with the two chciks. The adult flew off while I was there, leaving the chicks on their own, returning about 15 minutes later. This shows their growing confidence in the chicks.

The Coot is still in the nest box on the gull raft. Coots are also esconsed in the nest boxes on the northern and southern rafts.

Peter Pond

The Coot is on the nest on the new raft. Crow Garlic bulbils are now showing on the east bank of the pond. Rough Chervil is flowering on the west bank of the pond opposite Gooseberry Cottage.


House Martins absent

Ralph Hollins reports that Laurence Holloway made an annual trip on June 15 from Bognor to count the House Martin nests on Stansted House, but found no nests at all for the first time. Ralph says in Havant, although none nest nowadays on houses close to his, he usually sees what he assumes are local breeders feeding over the trees lining the old rail line at the back of his garden. But, so far this year he has seen none bar a couple of individuals making a bee line for Budds Farm.



Slipper Millpond

14:00 - Another very windy day on the pond. The male Great Black-backed Gull was on the centre raft along with both chicks which were moving around and looking healthy.

Janet and Richard Baker saw some excitement on the pond this evening when another black-backed gull, with feathers missing from each wing, swooped over the central raft. The resident gulls were much disturbed by this intrusion and saw the intruder off, but this is a warning to them not to get too complacent!

This afternoon, Richard Somerscocks spotted a Sandwich Tern fishing in the pond.

Brook Meadow

Richard Somerscocks saw another Large Skipper on Brook Meadow this afternoon and also a couple of Meadow Browns. These were the first seen on Brook Meadow this year, a bit later than year.


Damselflies included Large Red, Blue Tailed and Azure. There were also several Banded Demoiselles. Lots of young birds were on the Meadow and Richard got a nice shot of some Long Tailed Tits.

Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow for about an hour this morning and saw some Brown Trout in the river.



Christopher Way verge

The grasses of the verge were looking magnificent, mainly False Oat-grass, Cocksfoot, Barren Brome, Wall Barley and Red Fescue. I was pleased to find my first Creeping Bent-grass of the year with panicles typically closed up. Some of the spikelets had awns - Rose says they are usually awnless. I also found Smaller Cat's-tail on the eastern end of the verge as last year. The spikelets are small with short awns and the ligule is pointed, but I shall need to check later just in case it develops into Timothy. Crested Dog's-tail was a new grass for this site.

The Knotted Hedge-parsley is again flowering very well on the southern edge of the verge by the footpath as is the Wild Clary. The Wild Clary were not easy to count, but I would estimate a good 40 plants, which is what I counted last year.

Westbourne Open Space

As usual this wayside has a glorious display of grasses swaying in the stiff breeze. Meadow Foxtail remains the dominant grass though its spikelets are beginning to wear thin.

I had my first Field Bindweed flowers of the year near the northern edge of the site.

We seem to have lost all the Knotted Hedge-parsley which was growing profusely along the edge of the footpath. The only plants I could find were growing under the hedge to the south of the main site. Amphibious Bistort is coming up again on the eastern side of the wayside - unusual in such a dry site.


Caroline French reported on this morng's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.

Report on the Havant Wildlife Group page for the report . . .

FRIDAY JUNE 15 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gull family

10:30 - The strong SW wind was whipping up the waves on the pond this morning. The female was on the raft on Slipper Millpond. I could see one of the chicks moving around. I suspect the other was snuggled down in the vegetation.

Late Cuckoo?

I met Sid Davies who had just come back from North Thorney where he heard and saw a Cuckoo along the old ERA track. He wondered if this was a bit late for a Cuckoo to be calling. I checked with the Birds of the Western Palearctic which indicated the Cuckoo breeding season extended through June and into July, so I suppose it would not be unexpected to hear one calling in mid-June. Migration is well underway by August.


Warblington Underpass

I did a survey of this wayside this morning. I found the following new plants Hemlock, White Clover, Buckshorn Plantain, Goat's-beard, Crested Dog's-tail, English Elm, Field Maple and Squirrel-tail Fescue (see below). These take the grand total for this wayside to 128 with 93 species having been seen so far this year. I looked for, but did not find the Clustered Clover that John Norton found here on his visit on June 4. Rough Chervil is flowering on the main wayside as in previous years.

I saw my first 'thigh beetle' (Oedemera nobilis) of the year was feeding on Cat's-ear.

Squirrel-tail Fescue (Vulpia bromides).

This was a new plant for the waysides and for me! I discovered it along the track leading to the pressure reducing station at the western end of the wayside. It stood out as a very fine green stems and long awns. Very different.

Squirrel-tail Fescue is native plant and an annual (unlike the more common fescues) and grows on sandy ground, walls and waste ground. It is distinguished from the similar Rat's-tail Fescue by the distance between the inflorescence and the inflated leaf sheaths. It is described as locally common in The Hants Flora.



Great Black-backed Gull family

10:00 - All is well. Both adult gulls were snoozing on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. The male gull was actually on top of the Coot nest box with the Coot inside! I could not see the chicks but I suspect they too were snoozing somewhere.


An Opium Poppy flower was showing above the mass of vegetation on the Seagull Lane patch, just to the west of Jenny's Oak tree. It has been there in previous years.

I was surprised at the large amount of Meadow Foxtail still in flower on the meadow. Timothy has not yet come into its own.

I discovered a number of plants of Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) (a meadow indicator species) on the path around the Lumley area and on the Bramble path much as I did last year. Smooth Brome can be distinguished from the very similar Soft Brome (Bromus hordeaceus) by its longer panicles, usually around 15cm.

A Demoiselle damselfly on the Bramble path did not settle, but was dark enough to suggest Beautiful Demoiselle. We have already had one of these photographed on Brook Meadow this spring.

I found Black Bryony clambering over the shrubs in the north-east corner of Palmer's Road Car Park behind the bottle bank. Not quite flowering. This is a new plant taking the Brook Meadow list to 225 herbs and a grand total of 339



Great Black-backed Gull family

12.30 - Both the adult Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft along with the two remaining chicks. The chicks are looking healthy and were moving around the raft. At one point they were fed by the male. Here is one of the chicks.

The female spent some time collecting small twigs and bits of dead vegetation for the nest. At one point, she raided the Coot nest and removed some of the barricade of twigs; the Coot did not stir. I was buzzed again briefly while standing on Slipper Road by the male. All three nest boxes on the rafts are still occupied by Coot sitting on nests, including the one on the gull raft.


Mystery Pipit

Peter Adeline was puzzled by a bird he saw at Nutbourne this morning. He was pretty sure it was a pipit, large like a Rock Pipit, but very speckled and distinctly creamy-yellow and very pert, long-legged, thin-billed. It was on the track below the sea-wall path between Prinstead and Nutbourne marshes. It scurried into the long grass and hid. It flew with a fluttery erratic flight, showing a creamy-white rump, then went into the grass again, not seen further.

Not having seen the bird my first inclination was to go for Meadow Pipit, which is a common bird in that area. But Peter insists it was not a Meadow Pipit. He thought Tawny would be closer in appearance, but it wasn't that either. Has anyone got any ideas? Sorry no photo.

TUESDAY JUNE 12 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gulls

12:30 - I was relieved to find both Great Black-backed Gull chicks moving around on the centre raft when I checked this morning.

Clearly, they had survived the awful weather conditions of yesterday. The two adults were also on the pond, one just having returned with some food for the chicks. As I was watching the nest with my scope from the Hermitage Bridge one of the adult birds flew over my head a few times, clearly unhappy with my presence, though I was a good 50 metres from the nest. The gull finally settled on the pond in front of me where I took the following photo. This is the second time I have been 'buzzed' by one of the adult gulls.


The Coot is still ensconced in the nest box on the same raft as the gulls. I think the Coots are also present in the other two nest boxes for second broods.

A Coot is also nesting on the new floating raft in the centre of Peter Pond.

Brook Meadow flowers

The first white flowers of Large Bindweed were showing on the Seagull Lane patch. I also found a good growth of Slender Speedwell in the recently cleared area on the Seagull Lane patch.

I found a cluster of 7 flowering spikes of Common Spotted Orchids on the north path of the orchid area - an increase of 4 over last year. These are about 20 metres west of the large Crack Willow tree near the small seat on the north east path. I cleared some of the tall grasses around the flowers to give them a better chance. I looked for more spikes in the usual places, but the grasses are far too dense and tall.

The Southern Marsh Orchids are looking splendid - 9 of them in the same area as last year. I looked in vain for the 10th which I have previously seen to the south of main plants.

Waysides News

I had a quick walk along the Dolphin Creek path where I found Lesser Swine-cress, Thyme-leaved Speedwell and Wall Barley. The latter two were new plants for this wayside taking the grand total to 74.

The Honeysuckle on the Lillywhite's path is now flowering with pairs of purple tinged pale yellow flowers characteristic of Japanese Honeysuckle, not the native one. Japanese Honeysuckle has black berries, whereas the native Honeysuckle has red berries.

MONDAY JUNE 11 - 2012

Westbrook Stream flood

Here are a few photos taken during the flooding of the Westbrook Stream today. The rain was heavy and continuous all morning and much of the afternoon, which meant that the Westbrook Stream became a raging torrent. Here is it racing through the Bridge Road Wayside.

I was surprised to find the flowers of Sulphur Cinquefoil still intact despite the flood.

The stream quickly broke its banks and flooded the car park.

The flooding in the southern part of Bridge Road was not as bad as it was in Nov 2010, but the road had to be closed and sandbags issued. I believe some houses were flooded.

The flooding in Victoria Road where the Westbrook Stream flows under the road was much worse than last time. In fact, locals said they had never seen the stream as high. Several houses were flooded and the road closed.

Our garden which backs onto the stream progressively flooded during the day, but the house was not threatened.

SUNDAY JUNE 10 - 2012


Plant news

Hedge Woundwort was flowering by the Weeping Willow tree at the top of the Bramble path where Marsh Woundwort often flowers. No sign of the latter. Oxeye Daisies are now flowering on the east side of the orchid area on the north meadow.

All the Ragged Robin appear to have gone from the Lumley area. I did not get around to doing a proper count this year, but number could not have been more than 20. This is the lowest count ever. See Brook Meadow web site for full details on Plant List page.

There is a good growth of Meadow Fescue at the south end of the north west path. Timothy is now flowering widely on the meadow. Hard Rush is flowering in the Lumley area, but no sign of Sharp-flowered Rush.

Nuthatch family

We have had several sightings of Nuthatches along the north path by the railway embankment and have wondered whether they were nesting somewhere in the area. Well this afternoon, Richard Somerscocks happened to see a family of 4 Nuthatches beside the north path He thought there could have been more but they were very difficult to count as they moved through the fairly dense foliage.


Great Black-backed Gull chicks

10:00 - I checked the centre raft on Slipper Millpond this morning and an adult was on the raft along with two surviving youngsters, both moving around and looking healthy.



I confirmed that Water Bent and Fern Grass are growing on the driveway of number 35 St James Road. These were discovered during the visit of John Norton and Eric Clement to Emsworth on Monday June 4.

Yellow Oat-grass is flourishing along the edge of the millpond along Bath Road, where the mowers did not cut close to the pond edge.

Fox in garden

The first thing I saw when I came down this morning was a fully grown Fox on the grass in the garden. He was munching away at the small pile of chopped nuts and seeds that the grandchildren had put out yesterday. That was a first for the garden.

Bullfinches in garden

As previously noted in this blog, I have had the pleasure a pair of Bullfinches visiting my garden feeders on two occasions in the past week. Terry Lifton who lives in Westbourne Avenue e-mailed to say that she too has had a pair of Bullfinches in her garden for the first time ever. It is not impossible that they are the same pair that I had, though I would have thought there must be more than one pair roaming the area at present after the end of breeding. Here is Terry's photo of the male.


With his 5 week old son waking us up at 4:40am, Peter Milinets-Raby decided to get up and go down Farlington Marshes for a couple of hours and had the place to himself until 7am. The bird highlight was a Glossy Ibis on the small pool by the information hut.

Peter also has a short video of it on YouTube . . .

Other highlights were Black Tern on the main lake at 5am for 20 minutes along with 12 Little Egrets and 3 Med Gulls. Elsewhere around the reserve were Cetti's Warbler 2+, Lesser Whitethroat 1, Bearded Tit 2, Black-tailed Godwit 2, Buzzard, Cuckoo, Rock Pipit 2, plus usual warblers.



Ros Norton reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group.

There were 8 of us on today's walk . The weather was sunny but breezy. We walked from the car park east of the A3 around a field south of the road and then past Fort Southwick. We saw very few insects but Speckled Wood, Holly Blue and Small White butterflies were seen. Birds heard included Greenfinches and Whitethroat and those seen included Jackdaws, a Stock Dove and Kestrel around the fort.

Flowers included hundreds of Pyramidal Orchids, rather less Common Spotted Orchids and a few Bee Orchids. Many other flowers included Common Gromwell, Columnbine, Red Valerian, Rock Rose, Kidney Vetch, Field Madder, Ox-Eye Daisies, Mouse-Ear Hawkweed, Rest Harrow, Yellow Wort, Meadow Vetchling, Wild Mignonette, Weld, Viper's Bugloss, Bladder Campion and Milkwort.


RSPB Warden Chris Cockburn reported:

There are presently no sitting Sandwich or Common Terns at the Oysterbeds and only c120 Black-Headed Gull chicks (from c1000 nests), which are mostly on South Island to the west of peg E. This follows two very high tides (Thu pm and Fri am - latter almost as high as Easter Monday tide), the long period of heavy rainfall (Thu) and the strong/gale force winds (Thu pm and Fri). There is a strandline running northwards from post Q and very close to the ridge crest on North Island, which appears to have been mostly flooded.

It is presumed that chicks and eggs were washed into the choppy waters and probably gave a feast to crows and large gulls (and crabs & fish?!!).

This afternoon at the Oysterbeds, a pair of Lesser Black-Backed Gulls (failed pair from South Binness?) was predating gull chicks with relative ease - even floating about in the lagoon. Several immature Great Black-Backed Gulls patrolled the lagoon edges, but found no prey. The majority of the gulls at the Oysterbeds have failed at the chick stage so there is a chance that common terns will find more space to re-lay eggs.

Views of the harbour islands from my flat suggest that most of the gull nests (c1350) have failed on the saltmarsh areas of South Binness and the highest strandlines strongly hint that most tern nests must have been flooded. Hopefully, weather conditions will improve to allow all of the birds to find food more easily and for the terns to successfully re-nest.

Official (BODC) Portsmouth tide-gauge records from Jan 1991 show that there has not been a similar prolonged period of very high flooding tides during the breeding season (Apr-Jul). There were flooding tides (> 5.0 m ACD) in 1995 & 2002 (mid-May) and 2009 & 2010 (mid-Jul) - but none of these were as high as or prolonged as the current ones and their timing was less damaging for productivity. A review of the RSPB Annual Reports for Langstone Harbour (1979 to 1990) likewise suggests that there were no comparable events.

The surging tides have given clam-dredgers the opportunity (Thu pm) to exploit the Zostera-rich mudflats off West Hayling.

FRIDAY JUNE 8 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gulls lose a chick

Janet and Richard Baker, who have been keeping a watch on the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond from the balcony of their house, e-mailed me this morning to say they could only see two chicks on the raft with the body of the third chick lying in front of the log.

I went down to the pond myself on an extremely windy morning to confirm the observation. There certainly are only two surviving chicks on the raft and one corpse, probably from natural causes. Considering the cold and wet conditions over the past few days, it is hardly surprising that one of the chicks succumbed.

The parent gulls were more disturbed than I have seen them before, both at times flying over the pond making harsh calls. In fact, I felt at one point that one of them was targeting me as I was standing on Slipper Road with my scope.

Here is the photo that Richard Somerscocks took later of the two remaining chicks.

Brook Meadow

Richard Somerscocks went over to Brook Meadow late this afternoon. Still a bit windy for butterflies but there were a few around, including a couple of Red Admirals, a Common Blue and also two Large Skippers - the first of the year.

One was on the Orchid area and the other just to the south. Other insects on the south meadow included Azure and Large Red Damselfly and also a Broad-Bodied Chaser.

The 10 Southern Marsh Orchids were showing well. In contrast, the Common Spotted Orchids were flowering but looked weak. They are crowded out by grasses and the wet and windy weather doesn't help.

Pavement grasses

I had another good look at the two grasses on the pavements which were identified by John Norton and Eric Clement when they visited Emsworth last Monday. Water Bent is an upright grass with a an open reddish inflorescence. Fern Grass is low growing in a rosette fashion with reddish stems and a one-sided inflorescence.


This afternoon Jean and I had a walk along the lane from Prinsted to Thornham Lane. The Alpacas have now gone from the field opposite Thornham House.

Mystery grass

I was puzzled by a couple of grasses with grossly distorted inflorescences growing along the edge of the lane. I picked one to have a close look at home. The presence of an apparent bract extending past the inflorescence suggested a rush of some sort, but the spikelets were clearly fescue-like. As Tall Fescue was growing nearby I assume this is what it was.

Rough Chervil

I was pleased to find plenty of Rough Chervil in flower along Thornham Lane - my first of the year. Rough Chervil is like Cow Parsley, but flowers later and has a rough stem with purple blotches, a feature which is shared only by Hemlock, though that plant is much taller than Rough Chervil.



Chichester Peregrines

We had planned to go over to the Isle of Wight today, but the weather was so dreadful that we abandoned that plan. Instead we had a morning browsing around the shops in Chichester. While we were there I popped into the RSPB booth at the Cathedral - now located on the grass in front of the cathedral. They had a telescope trained on one of the male youngsters perched on a turret. The volunteer told me at least two of the birds were regularly making short flights, though they would not be able to fend for themselves until the end of September.

I asked him about the Peregrines nesting on the church in Bath as shown on Springwatch where one of last year's juveniles had been taking part in the brooding and feeding of the chicks. He said this had never occured at Chichester though it was not unusual to see juveniles from previous years around the nesting site. They were always driven off by the parents.

Interestingly, the volunteer told me about an occasion when one of the adult Peregrines brought down a Buzzard that was flying too close to the nest. The Buzzard was so badly injured it had to be taken to the Brent Lodge Bird Hospital!

Chichester Walls

I had a short walk around the walls before the rain set in. I noted the following new plants in flower; Hedge Woundwort, Common Knapweed, Oxford Ragwort, Tufted Vetch.


Slipper Millpond

17:00 - Both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft. The chicks were not visible, probably sheltering in amongst the vegetation from the strong winds.

Peter Pond

I am fairly sure a pair of Coot is nesting on the new floating raft on Peter Pond.

Brook Meadow

Birds singing on the meadow this afternoon included Blackbird, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Song Thrush.

Common Comfrey is flowering well around the meadow, some plants with white flowers and others with purple-pink ones. Yorkshire Fog is now showing its attractive pink tinged spikelets around the meadow. Reed Canary-grass is also showing its tall spikelets for the first time. I shall need to check the Soft Bromes for Smooth Brome.



Slipper Millpond

09:30 - Both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft with the female sitting on the nest and the male standing nearby. I could just make out the chicks but they were sleeping. While I was watching, the male gull went onto the water and the female went around the raft collecting small pieces of vegetation which it placed on the nest. It seemed to be nest building even though the eggs and chicks were not there.

A Little Egret arrived on the raft, but was quickly seen off by the female gull. All three nest boxes on the pond rafts are still occupied by Coot.

Brendan Gibb-Gray told me he saw all three chicks yesterday moving around on the raft. They appreciated naan bread which he tossed into the water. The Mallard duck is still sitting on the nest on Brendan's patio.

Garden Bullfinches

This afternoon at about 3pm we had a male-female pair of Bullfinches on the feeding station and the bird table for abouit 10 minutes. This gave me the chance to take a few photos through the window. They were the first Bullfinches seen in the garden since July 2008.



Slipper Millpond

09:30 - Both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft. The female was snoozing on the nest, probably protecting her three chicks from the very cold easterly wind blowing across the pond. The male bird was also snoozing.

Coots were occupying the nest boxes on the three rafts, probably for a second brood. All chicks from the first broods have been lost.

A Mediterranean Gull was on the pond, the first I have seen there for a while.

Peter Pond

David Gattrell is in the process of cutting out a new channel through the reedbeds for the Lumley Stream as it flows into Peter Pond.

A Coot may be nesting on the new floating raft in the centre of the pond.


Chris Cockburn reports on what is looking like a poor breeding season in Langstone Harbour for the nesting gulls and terns.

"At the Oysterbeds, the extremely high density of gull and tern territories is causing problems, with small chicks often straying into adjacent territories and suffering the inevitable consequence of being attacked by the neighbouring adults. These problems are being heightened by the current series of very high spring tides, during which birds are forced into diminishingly small areas. Many of the Black-Headed Gull nests that were rebuilt after the May spring tides have been flooded out again and the local crows have enjoyed feasting on the eggs that were washed up on the shorelines.

Approximately half of the c20 Common Tern nests have been flooded out; but they were all at the egg stage, so there is a chance that the re-lays will be more successful. No Sandwich terns are presently nesting here.

As for the RSPB islands, it has not been possible use the boat to monitor the gulls and terns on the islands; but there are strong indications that many of the Mediterranean and Black-Headed Gull nests on the saltmarsh areas have been flooded out, Likewise, many of the shingle-nesting Common Tern and (of course!) Little Terns will need to re-nest.

The very high spring tides are likely to continue until Thursday and if long periods of rainfall continue, chicks will be at additional risk of suffering hypothermia.

Unsurprisingly, insect numbers are low while vegetation is burgeoning. The summering flock of Bar-Tailed Godwits that are roosting on Stoke Bay Spit is a pleasant bonus (47 birds recently).

Hopefully, the weather will soon change to give a prolonged spell of gentle winds and sensibly warm seasonal temperatures..."

MONDAY JUNE 4 - 2012


Slipper Millpond

10:30 - Both Great Black-backed Gulls were on the centre raft when I arrived, but I could only see one chick. However, the other two chicks showed themselves after a few minutes. Interestingly, the chicks were pecking the red spot on the parent's mandible to stimulate regurgitation. The gull family had the company of the Coot nesting in the nest box on the raft.

The Coot pair from the north raft were alone on the pond and appear to have lost their remaining one chick, probably down the throats of the large gulls.


Beautiful Demoiselle

Malcolm Phillips captured this excellent image of a Beautiful Demoiselle damselfly on Brook Meadow on Saturday June 2. Beautiful Demoiselle is a far less common damselfly on Brook Meadow than the familiar Banded Demoiselle. It was first recorded on the meadow in 2008 and was seen again in 2010, but not at all last year. So it is good to know it is back with us. The male differs mainly in the having pure blue wings without the dark band of the Banded Demoiselle.


John Norton and Eric Clements (botanists from the BSBI) along with local naturalist Ralph Hollins, visited Emsworth this afternoon. I was pleased to accompany them around a few sites. They started in Bridge Road car park wayside and walked up Victoria Road to Brook Meadow.

Bridge Road Wayside

Two new plants were discovered on the Bridge Road Wayside, Common Vetch flowering near the Goat Willow and Stone Parsley (not flowering) on the east bank of the stream near the Bulrushes. These take the total list for the site to 172. Plicate Sweet-grass is also out in the Westbrook Stream near the Bulrushes, taking the total for 2012 to 112.

Brook Meadow

Three new plants were found for Brook Meadow, taking the list (excluding bryophytes) to 338. Wych Elm tree on the east bank of the Lumley Stream opposite the small path to the stream from the Lumley area. Common (not Early) Wintercress flowering on the east bank of the river opposite the observation fence.

Best of all, was One-glumed Spike-rush or Slender Spike-rush (Eleocharis uniglumis) - a patch on the west side of the Lumley area about 10 metres from the cross path. This is a good plant to have as an indicator of saltmarshes.

John Norton inspecting the Slender Spike-rush with Ralph Hollins while Eric Clement examines some grasses

Other plants noted:

Beaked Hawk's-beard confirmed as flowering outside the Seagull Lane gate. Common Fumitory was confirmed on the Seagull Lane patch. Festulolium Hybrids south of the seat on the east side of the north meadow. Square-stalked St John's-wort on the Lumley area. Japanese Honeysuckle in flower by the Lumley gate. Water Forget-me-not flowering on the east bank of the river north of the south bridge. Blue Water Speedwell growing north of the Forget-me-not on the east side of the river. Toad Rush flowering near the "Lumley puddle". The leaves of Giant Fescue are shining brightly beneath the south bridge.

John provided a useful tip for distinguishing the Pond Sedges. Lesser Pond Sedge has longer ligules than Greater Pond Sedge which has shorter blunt ligules. Most of the Pond Sedges near the Lumley copse were Greater, though John did find one example of Lesser. I usually find Lesser Pond Sedges on the banks of the River Ems.

Other observations

Water Bent (Polypogon viridis) was found growing in a crack in the pavement outside house number 24 Victoria Road and in the driveway of 38 St James Road.

Fern Grass (Catapodium rigidum) was discovered on the pavement outside number 38 St James Road and in the driveway of number 35 St James Road. This is a native species often found in thin bare well drained soils as in pavements. Common in the South of England.

Keel-fruited Cornsalad was confirmed outside house number 34a St James Road.


Caroline and Ray French Ray drove past Chichester today and there were, at a very rough guess, about 200 Swifts above the Westhampnett lake area. Why aren't they coming to Emsworth?



Great Black-backed Gulls

11:00 - I checked on the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond this morning. The female was with the three chicks which were huddled beside her. After a few minutes the male bird came in with food which it regurgitated for the chicks. The female went off herself.

The Coot family from the north raft has lost one chicks since yesterday, possibly taken by the gulls. So they are now down to one. However, the Coot remains entrenched in the nest box on the centre raft with the gulls.

FRIDAY JUNE 1 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gull nest

09.30 - The Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on the nest on the centre raft when I arrived, but after about 5 minutes she stood up to allow the chicks to move around. I got a good view of them and can confirm there are definitely three spotty chicks.

17:00 - When I arrived the female was on the nest, but constantly calling and looking around presumably for her mate. The male arrived after about 5 minutes and proceeded to regurgitate food for the chicks.


The Coot was back in the nest box on the centre raft, presumably for a second try. The Coot family with two chicks from the north raft was on the pond near Chequers Quay.

Bridge Road Wayside

I was pleased to find to striking yellow flowers of Sulphur Cinquefoil on the grass verge, close to where they were first seen last year, though not until July! There is a good growth of False Fox Sedge around the Wild Flower Conservation Area notice. Yellow Flag was flowering well on the verge south of the Goat Willow, a new plant for this wayside. Meanwhile, flowering beneath the Beech hedge were Lesser Swine-cress, Wall Lettuce, Wall Barley, Smooth Sow-thistle, Broad-leaved Willowherb, Wall Speedwell, Dog Rose, Bramble and Honeysuckle. The leaves of Narrow-leaved Water-plantain are growing near the Bulrushes in the stream, but no flowers as yet. The grand total for this wayside now stands at 170 species with 109 having been found so far this year.

For earlier observations go to . . May 2012 (17-31)