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A community web site dedicated to the observation, recording and protection of the wildlife of the Emsworth area

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

Please send wildlife observations and photos to Brian Fellows . . . brianfellows at



July 1-15 2012
in reverse chronological order

SUNDAY JULY 15 - 2012

Godwits return

Following news of an early influx of migrant Black-tailed Godwits, Richard Somerscocks went looking for them around the local area, including Pulborough Brooks, Pagham Harbour and Fishbourne Channel. His best haul was back in Emsworth Harbour where he counted 72 on the mudflats and he wondered if this was a record for mid July. In fact, Godwits regularly return to Emsworth (east harbour) in mid-July, my record is 97 on 17-Jul-00, though I do have a number of good counts above 50 at this time of the year.

Richard got the following nice shot of a flock of Black-tailed Godwits flying over Emsworth.



17:00 - Following an afternoon of sometimes torrential rain, I managed to get out to check the Great Black-backed Gulls on the Slipper Millpond raft. I was very surprised to find no less than 5 Cormorants settled quite happily on the raft in company with the female gull and the two chicks, both asleep on the edge of the raft. This is certainly the most Cormorants I have seen there since the gulls started nesting and clearly indicates a more relaxed attitude now the chicks have grown to a size when they are no longer under threat from intruders. The two chicks are lying down on the left of the photo.

FRIDAY JULY 13 - 2012


Annual Pearlwort

I discovered a small patch of Annual Pearlwort growing beneath the Beech hedge on the edge of Bridge Road car park by the footpath. It can be distinguished from the more common Procumbent Pearlwort by not having a basal rosette, by being well branched and by having hairs on the edges of its leaves.

Annual Pearlwort is a new plant for the Bridge Road Wayside taking the total for this year to 150 and the grand total to 180. Annual Pearlwort is also a new plant for the project taking the total number of plants recorded on the waysides to 310.

See the full list at . . .



Newly flowering plants on the Lumley area included Wild Carrot, Square-stalked St John's-wort, Red Bartsia, Blue Water Speedwell (near the Lumley Stream) and Common Fleabane (almost).

In the Seagull Lane area a buttercup with reflexed sepals near the southern planted Oak (the Mayor's) is probably Hairy Buttercup but I did not dig it up to find out for sure! However, there is another one at the far end of the Jubilee hedge.

Black Horehound is now flowering particularly well along the extension of Seagull Lane towards the railway arch, probably the best I have ever seen it on the Brook Meadow site. One can see both Giant Fescue and Gipsywort (not in flower) beneath the south bridge (to the south west).

Common Couch (mostly with awns) is growing well on the path around the Lumley area and on the small path down to the Lumley Stream.

Sharp-flowered Rush is showing very clearly on the cross path to the west of the Lumley area.

There is no sign of the Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea which has been a regular on the Seagull Lane patch for many years. Likewise, there is no sign of the Marsh Woundwort at the top of the Bramble path. I also looked hard for Meadow Barley but I still have not seen any on the meadow this year. Has anyone?


All three of our summer visitors were singing on the meadow this morning, Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff, but very little else.


I disturbed a number of brown butterflies, which I assume were mostly Meadow Browns. I did not pursue them. Red Soldier Beetles are now gathering on the flower heads of Hogweed, waiting for prey.

TUESDAY JULY 10 - 2012


The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the centre raft with one of the parents in the water nearby. They were looking strong and healthy. I was 'buzzed' briefly by the adult gull as I was watching from Slipper Road. A Reed Warbler was singing from the bushes nearby as it was on Sunday.

The Coot remains well established in its nest box on the north raft, but there is no sign of the three chicks that I saw there on July 7. Presumably they were taken by the gulls.

The magnificent Strawberry Tree which has been such a feature on the east bank of the pond is dying. It has lost all its leaves and looks in a very bad state. The same has happened to the Strawberry Tree in the garden of Tenerife Cottage in Bath Road.


Better news Coots on Peter Pond where a family with four chicks was seen yesterday by Brian Lawrence. They were still there today, surprisingly, on the side of the pond in front of the seat being fed by passers-by. I do not recall ever having seen a Coot family on the pond side before. Also, on Peter Pond was a female Mallard with two ducklings, down from three on July 6.

Hedge Bedstraw and Perennial Sow-thistle are both in flower for the first time on the east side of Peter Pond.

MONDAY JULY 9 - 2012


Jane Brook and I continued our weekly surveys of the waysides after a couple of weeks off due to bad weather. We started at Washington Road path and went over to the Emsworth Recreation Ground before cutting across to the Christopher Way path and verge. Finally we cut back to the New Brighton Road Junction. It was a very successful morning's work with several additions to the plant list of each wayside and three totally new wayside plants, Marsh Woundwort, Common Oat and Enchanter's Nightshade, taking the grand total to 309.

We also found Meadow Barley and Marsh Foxtail on the Emsworth Recreation Ground and Black Bent-grass on the New Brighton Road Junction.

Details and photos are on the waysides web site . . .

Bridge Road Wayside

I had another close look at the evening primrose flowering on the Bridge Road Wayside (south verge), which I thought might be Common Evening Primrose. However, I am now fairly confident (!!) that the plant is the more common Large-flowered Evening Primrose.

It does in fact have the required the red glandular hairs on the stems. I cannot understand how I failed to see them yesterday. The styles in the flowers are also longer than the stamens supporting the Large-flowered identification. However, the petals are green and not red striped as they should be for Large-flowered.

SUNDAY JULY 8 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gulls

15:30 - I just arrived in time to see one of the Great Black-backed Gull chicks swimming around the raft, much as Janet Baker did yesterday. Both parents were on the raft keeping a wary eye on their youngster, but it was doing fine. After a few minutes the chick scrambled back onto the raft and flexed its now impressive wings. Also, on the raft were two Cormorants which are clearly well tolerated by the gulls.

Coot nest

I could see the Coot in the nest box on the north raft, but there was no sign of the three chicks that were there yesterday. It is possible that they were hiding in the nest, but when the other parent came to the raft with food only the adult Coot came out to take it. This looks ominous that the chicks were taken by the gulls.


Richard Somerscocks reports: "There was plenty to see on the meadow this morning with the sun out, although it is incredibly wet underfoot at the moment. No new butterflies noted but a good selection of Meadow Browns, Red Admiral, Commas, Ringlets (including 2 mating), Marbled White, Large White, Holly Blue, Large and Small Skipper.


Richard went to Hollybank Woods this afternoon. "The sun had gone in and after a short while it started to rain, so there was not much to see to start with. Luckily the sun came out after a while and I managed to see a couple of White Admirals so they are obviously around. A visit on a good sunny day would probably be more productive.

Other butterflies seen included the Silver-washed Fritillary and many of the same varieties as seen on Brook Meadow. In the clearing near the centre I also saw a white version of what I assume was a Musk Mallow - there were some pink flowers nearby, which is the normal colour"


I have been puzzling over a mystery plany on the Bridge Road Wayside, but it has fianlly flowered and revealed itself as an Evening Primrose. But which one? This plant does not have the red based hairs on the stems or the red striped sepals, so that rules out Large-flowered Evening Primrose which is the most common species. The green sepals and flat leaves with red midrib suggests the less frequent Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis).


Great Black-backed Gull chick goes for a swim

Janet Baker, whose house overlooks the gull raft on Slipper Millpond reported that one of the chicks took to the water at 8am this morning. "Accompanied by much mewing from the watching parent - it did several circuits of the raft - tried to get back on, but flapped and failed - did another lot of circuits and remounted the raft to 'safety'. The adult bird followed the chick round and round keeping an eye on it! Wonderful to watch. The other chick kept looking at the water and getting close but has not yet - as far as we know - made the plunge. I hope it jumps in when the tide is still high - as it might have a bit of a job getting back on to the raft afterwards!"

No sign of Grey Partridge family

Richard Somerscocks went down to Thorney Deeps again this morning during a dryish spell to look for the Grey Partridge family that he saw yesterday, but there was no sign of them. There were quite a lot of people exercising dogs so they were long since gone. Richard wonders what happened to the chicks which were trapped between the harbour wall and the canal. In the harbour opposite Little Deep there were a couple of Black-tailed Godwit.

Meanwhile, at home, Richard has had a Fox sheltering outside his kitchen window for almost the entire day.

Mating Bumblebees identified - Bombus hypnorum

I sent the photo of the two Bumblebees mating that my son took on his garden patio yesterday to entomologist Bryan Pinchen. Bryan said the excellent photo was of two Bombus hypnorum - ginger thorax, black abdomen, white tail tip.

"Like many insects they will often fly when still attached if they are disturbed. However, it is a rare thing to see, and I have only witnessed Bumblebees mating on two occasions. It was a good sighting and a sign that at least one Bumblebee nest has succeeded this 'summer' when generally numbers have been well down everywhere."

Ralph Hollins also provided the correct identification of the Bumblebees and suggested the following web site for more information on Bombus hypnorum (Tree Bumblebees).

Interestingly, although they are recent invaders to this country, Tree Bumblebees are causing no harm to our native bumblebees or other wildlife. They are also great pollinators, supporting our plant populations at a time when some other bumblebees are declining in numbers.

FRIDAY JULY 6 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gull family

16:30 - When I arrived at Slipper Millpond this afternoon, the female Great Black-backed Gull was sitting on top of the now empty Coot nesting box on the centre raft with one chick standing beside her and the other chick on the other side of the raft. Two Cormorants were also on the island, presumably after fishing, but were not attracting any attention from the resident gull. The two chicks are now developing the neat black and grey mottled plumage of a typical juvenile, as shown in this photo taken this afternoon by Richard Somerscocks. I saw them both flexing their wings.

New Coot family

One new development on Slipper Millpond was the appearance of three Coot chicks on the north raft. The chicks were clearly only a few days old and were being fed by their parents on the raft. We shall see how long they survive in such close proximity to hungry Great Black-backed Gull chicks.

Mallard family

The Mallard family with three small ducklings that I saw earlier in the week is still present on the pond, presumably out of sight of the large gulls on the adjoining pond.

Grey Partridge family

Richard Somerscocks went down to Thorney Deeps this afternoon. As he walked along the western path, two Grey Partridge flew up a few feet away from him, taking him by surprise. Richard got the following shot of one as they flew over the channel and into the field on the other side, where they disappeared from view. Looking at where they had got airborne from and he could see 4 or 5 very small chicks scurrying away into the undergrowth. This is worrying as this path is well used by people with dogs and the small birds can't get away from the path because the channel stops them getting into the field.

Waysides News

Shaggy Soldier is flowering in the same place as it did last year - namely along the roadside kerb on the west end of the island at the bottom of Queen Street - right opposite the entrance to the Lillywhite's path wayside.


Bumblebees mating

My son, Danny sent me a very interesting photo of bumblebees mating on his garden patio in Emsworth. He said they flew off a few feet, still stuck together, when he and the kids got too close. Personally, I have never seen bumblebees mating and I gather it is not commonly observed, so they were very fortunate to witness such an interesting natural event.

The bees were probably of the species Bombus pascuorum, which is the most widespread ginger-coloured bumblebee in this country, occurring in most habitats including gardens. I will check with expert Bryan Pinchen. The larger queen is on the right of the photo and the smaller male on the left. The queen is about 17mm and the male 13mm. These two are likely to be newly emerged male and queen bees, which come out from mid-July onwards.

The adult male bumblebee has only one function in life which is to mate. He will fly in a circuit depositing a queen-attracting scent in suitable places, usually in the morning, and replacing the scent if it rains. New queens emerge about a week or so after the males. The new queens leave the nest to forage for themselves. When she is ready to mate she flies to where the attractant chemical has been deposited by the male and waits for a suitable mate. Queens generally mate only once.

Bumblebees form annual colonies and only mated queens will survive the winter to start new colonies in the spring. The nest is often in underground holes and is basically a ball of grass and moss with wax cells inside it. The young are reared on pollen and nectar carried home by the workers in pollen baskets on their back legs.

As for the mating process itself this usually takes place while resting on the ground or on vegetation. Mating bees are sometimes seen flying still attached to each other, presumably when they are disturbed, as they were in my son's garden. The time taken for mating varies widely from 10 minutes to 80 minutes. The sperm is transferred within the first 2 minutes of mating. After the male passes his sperm into the queen he pumps a sticky mixture into her genital opening, which when hardened can completely or partially block the entry of sperm from other males. So, even though this lengthy mating period makes the two bees vulnerable, it is in the interest of the male to hang on to ensure that his genes have a good chance of being passed on to the next generation.

Most of this information came from . . .


Turtle Dove concern

The latest Breeding Birds Survey report from the British Trust for Ornithology - - reveals that the Turtle Dove population has suffered a 69% decline since 1980; such is the level of concern amongst conservationists, it is now the focus of a special project, Operation Turtle Dove - . We do not appear to have had a Turtle Dove in Emsworth this year or even on Thorney Island where they are usually regular summer visitors.



I spent a couple of hours on the Bridge Road Wayside this morning checking the plant list for anything new and doing a litter pick.

Plants newly flowering since the last survey included Butterfly Bush, Hollyhock, Vervain, Water Figwort, Common Knapweed, Corn-cockle, Narrow-leaved Water-plantain, Toad Rush, Hairy Buttercup.

I had my first Gatekeeper of the year. At least four Swifts have been flying around the houses in Bridge Road today.

The full report with photos is on the waysides web site at . . .


Richard Somerscocks found plenty of butterflies on Brook Meadow on a warm afternoon, the most he has seen this year. Sightings included Meadow Browns, quite a few fresh Commas, Red Admirals, Ringlets, at least 3 Marbled Whites and Large Skippers.

Richard also had Small Skipper for the first time this year on Brook Meadow. He looked on the Hants and IoW Butterfly Conservation site and couldn't see Small Skipper recorded for Hampshire so he submitted a report.

Banded Demoiselles were also around, as well as Azure and Blue-tailed Damselflies.


Richard found the Great Black-backed Gulls peacefully co-habiting the raft on Slipper Mill Pond with the Cormorants on his way home. That chick is certainly growing, but where is the other one? I have not seen it recently. But Richard saw them together a little later this evening. Despite their growing size they can be difficult to see amongst the vegetation at times.



I donned my wellies and had a good mooch around the meadow this morning. I started in the Seagull Lane patch where I had a look along the path leading to the railway arch where I found a good growth of Stone Parsley though not yet in flower. A plant which often does not flower is Black Horehound but there is a lot of it along the edge of the Seagull Lane patch with whorls of pink flowers and tunnel shaped sepals.

The Fool's Parsley on the recently cleared area by the hedgerow is now showing flowers and thin bracteoles hanging down. There is a lot of Amphibious Bistort on the Seagull Lane patch, but no flowers.

I was very pleased to discover a single plant of Hairy Buttercup at the far end of the hedgerow line. It had reflexed sepals and as the ground was very soft, I was able to prise the plant up with my penknife to reveal normal roots and no bulb. I planted the plant back in the ground without any problem and it should be OK.

Hedge Bindweed is flowering on the north path. There is a good growth of what looks like Male Fern on the railway embankment side of the north river. Hogweed is flowering well on the north meadow with mainly white umbels, but sometimes pink. Yellow flowers are starting to show on the Square-stalked St John's-wort on the orchid area. There is a good display of Meadowsweet in flower on the north east path. It is good to see the Jointed Rush again in flower on the north east path south of the small seat.

Marsh Foxtail is flowering well in the "Lumley puddle" - the only place on the meadow that it grows.


Birds heard singing this morning included Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Wren, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, House Sparrow.


I had a splendid male Banded Demoiselle on the Seagull Lane patch which I could not resist taking a shot of. An Azure Damselfly was flying near the "Lumley puddle".


Tony and Hilary Wootton had a fruitful half hour on Brook Meadow during a burst of warm sunshine this afternoon. They saw lots of butterflies, including Red Admiral, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper, Marbled White, Comma and Ringlet.



Juliet Walker has created a fine series of images showing the changes in the Christopher Way verge wayside throughout the year. Juliet's images are on the Christopher Way verge page at . . . .


Slipper Millpond

15:30 - One Great Black-backed Gull was on the pond near the raft. I could only see one chick on the raft, but the vegetation is now so lush that I suspect the other chick was snuggled down somewhere out of sight.

The Coot nest on the southern raft has been abandoned. A Coot has been settled on the raft for a few weeks and I did see some eggs in there about a week ago. However, there is no sign of eggs, chicks or adults - though I suspect the latter are hiding away in the reeds. The Great Black-backed Gulls are the obvious suspects. The Coot is still settled firmly behind its barricade of twigs on the north raft.

However, there was no sign of the Coot family with two chicks that I saw on the Peter Pond raft on July 2. The best we can hope is that the parents took the chicks into the reeds, though I fear they may have been discovered by the gulls.

Herring Gull nest

Marion Emberson has been enjoying watching a Herring Gull family nesting on the roof of no 50 Selangor Avenue. Marion first saw two chicks 2-3 weeks ago, standing on the flat porch roof. Since then they have wandered over the roof, sometimes retiring behind the chimney again. Marion says there is always an adult on the roof and when the chicks first appeared the adult flew at her when she stopped to look. Interestingly, this 'buzzing' also happened to me when I watched the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond. The larger chick is now showing its first proper wing feathers, but flight is unlikely for another 2-3 weeks as fledging is 35-40 days after hatching.

I went up this afternoon to have a look for myself and take some photos. While I was there a lady passed by saying 'Have you come to see our seagulls?' She explained that several neighbours had been enjoying the spectacle of the young developing and were looking forward to them fledging.

MONDAY JULY 2 - 2012


Following a communication from Maurice Lillie about the 'new' plants coming up in the recently cleared ground on the Seagull Lane patch, I had a quick look today. I found the usual mass of Lesser Swine-cress and Scented Mayweed along with a number of large plants of Prickly Lettuce and a single Fat Hen. Interestingly, I also noted several new plants of Fool's Parsley which I had not seen before; they were not in flower, but were showing the distinctive thin bracteoles hanging down from the developing umbels. I have previously recorded Fool's Parsley in this area, so the clearance work has helped the plants to spread.


The Coot nesting on the new raft on Peter Pond has hatched at least two chicks. Let's hope the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on the adjacent Slipper Millpond do not discover them. I have never seen the Great Black-backed Gulls on Peter Pond, but I would not be surprised if they were discovered.

The male Great Black-backed Gull was on Slipper Millpond with the chicks on the raft. I was 'buzzed' again by the gull while I was watching the raft from Slipper Road; the gull swooped low over my head, closer than it has ever been before. A little scary! While the gull was buzzing me a Cormorant which had been fishing in the pond got up onto the raft, but did not attract the attention of the gull.

Isle of Wight cemetery

Jean and I were on the Isle of Wight on Sunday, during which we had a walk around Northwood Cemetery in Cowes. I had been there before, but not in 'summer' so I previously missed the splendid areas of wild grassland, with lots of flowers, including Common Spotted Orchids and lots of Corky-fruited Water-dropwort. Walking through the grasses we put up lots of Meadow Browns and a few Marbled Whites.

I was most pleased to see Common Cow-wheat in flower, not a plant I was expecting as it is not at all common locally. However, it is common in the north of the Isle of Wight - eg in Parkhurst Forest.


Chris Cockburn has not good news from Langstone Harbour.

At the Hayling Oysterbeds, stage 1 of breeding season is coming to an end with c80 black-headed gulls youngsters from the original 1039 nests. Stage 2 is now underway with c100 Black-Headed Gull pairs apparently nesting, most of them presumed to have lost their first clutch due to tidal flooding.

There are currently four Common Terns apparently on eggs and at least five pairs prospecting for nest sites. Their main problem is that many failed black-headed gull pairs are still acting territorially, especially over the high tide period - this behaviour is deterring common terns from settling. If all goes well, the breeding season will now extend into August, possibly even September! No Sandwich or Little Terns are nesting but two pairs of oystercatchers are firmly ensconced. Mediterranean gulls are occasional visitors to the site but, like foraging large gulls, must be disappointed at the lack of tasty chicks. Hopefully, the Meds at least will have left the harbour before any common tern chicks are hatched.

The series of spring tides from 04 to 07 July pose the biggest potential threat if this year's pattern of tidal surges continues, so much crossing of fingers. Visible insect activity is still low in spite of lush vegetation - very disappointing now that many of the summer butterflies should be flying (e.g. only a few Marbled Whites have been seen so far)

It has not been possible to closely monitor the colonies on the harbour's islands, but the unusually frequent unsettled behaviour of the birds implies that 2012 will be a season of low productivity. Recent views of Baker's Island from Farlington Marshes suggest that there are no longer any active nests of gulls, little terns, oystercatchers or ringed plovers. Given that there have been no flooding tides recently, mammalian or avian predation might be the cause but the strong winds & wet spells have not been beneficial. The summering flock of bar-tailed godwits are still in the harbour and the numbers of roosting curlews is rapidly increasing.