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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


for July 16-30, 2012
in reverse chronological order

MONDAY JULY 30 - 2012


The first round pink flowers of Strawberry Clover are now showing well on the path around the Lumley area. This is the only area they grow on Brook Meadow.


I was lucky to come across a Comma resting on a leaf on the Lumley area. I managed to get a photo without disturbing it.



Breeding waders down

The latest figures from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) show that four of our breeding waders have reached their lowest levels since the survey started in the early 1990s. Volunteer birdwatchers reported particularly low numbers of Lapwing, Oystercatcher, Snipe and Curlew during the spring of 2011.

These birds breed on wet grassland and upland habitats throughout the UK, where they rely on earthworms and other invertebrates for food, and previous declines have been blamed on habitat loss, land drainage and potential increases in predation pressure. All four species, however, saw sharp declines between 2010 and 2011, of 19% for Oystercatcher, 18% for Lapwing, 40% for Snipe and 13% for Curlew, which may have been due to unfavourable weather conditions during the year exacerbating long-term declines.

The spring of 2012 has seen the wettest April-to-June period on record, and it's likely that populations of these ground-nesting waders would have also been hit hard this year. Flooding at several key sites has seen hundreds of wader nests washed out, including 600 at the RSPB's Ouse Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire.

Ten species in serious decline

The BBS produces annual population trends for over one hundred of our widespread bird species. While many birds are thriving, ten species have declined by more than 50% since the start of the survey in 1994, including Turtle Dove, which has declined by a staggering 80%. Since the start of the survey we have lost more than half of the following ten species:

Turtle Dove -80%

Willow Tit -79%

Wood Warbler -65%

Whinchat -57%

Grey Partridge -55%

Nightingale -52%

Yellow Wagtail -50%

Pied Flycatcher -50%

Spotted Flycatcher -50%

Starling -50%

This list emphasises declines in farmland and woodland birds, and of migrants; all but three of the birds in this list (Willow Tit, Grey Partridge and Starling) migrate to Africa for the winter.

Skylark decline

The decline in Skylark numbers has accelerated in recent years, with a significant 7% decline between 2010 and 2011 of this familiar farmland bird, compounding the 20% decline since the start of the survey in 1994. Skylarks had already suffered substantial declines in the 1970s, leading to this species' red-listing as a bird of conservation concern.

Tree Sparrows recover

Encouragingly, the latest trends show that Tree Sparrows are continuing their recent increase. Once common, Tree Sparrows declined dramatically during the 1980s, and numbers today are still extremely low in comparison with the past. However, the small remaining population appears to have stabilised in patches of suitable habitat, and this these increases, while small compared to previous declines, are to be welcomed.  

FRIDAY JULY 27 - 2012


Beautiful Demoiselle

I spent the whole afternoon up dating the three display cases on Brook Meadow with new photos and text. On my way between the signcases I had an excellent view of a male Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) perched on vegetation right in front of me on on the river bank opposite the Bulrushes. it had completely dark blue wings with no sign of a band. Unfortunately, by the time I got my camera out it had flown high into a tall Sycamore tree on the other side of the river, making a photo with my 12x zoom camera almost impossible. But here is what I got, clearly a Beautiful Demoiselle.

The only other Beautiful Demoiselle sighting on Brook Meadow this year was by Malcolm Phillips on June 2.



Plant survey

I went down to Slipper Millpond this morning at the request of Gavin Miller to help him identify some new plants that had come on an area of disturbed ground where the association had planted a small hedgerow on the east side of the pond. The plants were similar to those seen on the disturbed area on the Seagull Lane patch on Brook Meadow with Fat Hen, Scentless Mayweed, Fool's Parsley, Scarlet Pimpernel etc. However, one of the residents had also scattered 'wild flower' seeds on the area resulting in a number of exotic plants.

White Creeping Thistle

I learned something new this morning about Creeping Thistles. Gavin pointed out a number of Creeping Thistle plants with white flowers. My first thought was that these florets were probably just dying off, but they all looked healthy and just like the normal flowers except that they were white. Francis Rose came to the rescue with the information that the florets of Creeping Thistle can be mauve or white!

Great Black-backed Gulls

The two gull chicks were both on the pond without the parents. They both flew around the pond for about 30 seconds while I was there, but settled back on the pond again. Clearly, they are not ready to venture any further at the moment, but it cannot be long before they do.


There were plenty of butterflies on the wing this afternoon, including Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small Skipper, Comma, Red Admiral, Here is a nice Comma showing how it got its name.

There is a veritable 'forest' of Hogweed on the north meadow. Interestingly, Hogweed has both upper and lower bracts, though the lower ones are missing on some flower heads.

Wild Angelica is flowering on the Lumley area, much later than last year. Common Fleabane is now in full flower and looking quite splendid. There is a very good growth of False Brome on the north path, the best on Brook Meadow.


Parties of up to 10 Swifts have been flying around the houses in Bridge Road over the past week, occasionally screaming low in family parties. I doubt that these are local breeders, but rather birds fattening up on the glut of insects in our region before their long journey. The fine weather has probably delayed their migration.


Waste ground north of Emsworth Railway Station

This morning I did a quick plant survey of the waste ground between Emsworth Railway Station and the A27 road embankment immediately north of the new ramp. Part of the area has been disturbed by contractors vehicles during the construction of the new ramp and is largely bare ground with some rubble, but the surrounding area to the north and the east still retains its original vegetation.

The soil is clearly low in nutrients which means the ground supports a very good variety of wild flowers, including the best crop of Marsh Woundwort that I have ever seen in the local area. I counted around 200 flowering spikes, all as good as any orchids In total I logged 56 plants (not including tree and shrubs) which is pretty good for a single visit. With regular surveys throughout the year I would expect this total to exceed 100 quite easily.

I gather there are plans to sow 'wild flower seeds' on this site, but it does not really need them as there is already a massive native seed bank just waiting to come through. I would suggest waiting at least a year to see what native wild flowers colonise from the surrounding area. It could be a very exciting project and requiring no maintenance. This would make a very good addition to the Emsworth waysides project!

Black Mustard

Thanks to Ralph Hollins for identifying yet another new plant for our waysides list. Ralph noted that the yellow flowered crucifer at the end of the Washington Road path wayside just before the entrance to the Recreation Ground had the distinctive short thin seedpods appressed to the stem characteristic of Black Mustard. This takes the total number of plants recorded on the Emsworth waysides since 2009 to 312.


Southern Hawker in garden

Mary and Keith Marriot got this image of a beautiful Southern Hawker dragonfly in their Westbourne garden on Sunday.

Stag Beetle in garden

Caroline and Ray French Ray had a Stag Beetle in their garden, which was a first for their garden. Caroline watched it for a good 10 minutes as it crawled around on one of our plants, then scaled the garage wall and walked across the roof before finally flexing its wings a few times and taking off. A handsome insect and a good climber! What a handsome beast.

A rare moth in Cowplain

Mike Wells found an unusual moth on frame of his patio doors of his Cowplain home yesterday. Eventually, he identified it as Dewick's Plusia, a rare migrant to this country.

HantsMoths web site describe it as a rare immigrant from mainland Europe, appearing in south-eastern England for the first time at Bradwell-on-Sea, Essex, on 3 October 1951. From about 1920 it spread rapidly into Western Europe from the central Palaearctic, and has been seen increasingly in Britain, especially in the last ten years. In Hampshire and on the Isle of Wight recorded for the first time in August 1991, with six in 2007, 11 in 2008 and a minimum of 6 in 2009. Wingspan 32-38 mm. Fairly distinctive. Larva feeds on herbaceous plants such as Stinging Nettle, Yarrow, Corn Chamomile, Stinking Chamomile and Wormwood, no evidence of breeding in the UK.

UKmoths describe it as a vagrant to Britain, having occurred only a few dozen times, mostly attracted to light on the south and east coasts. August is the optimum month for this species, but records have occurred between July and October. On the continent it is double-brooded, and the larvae feed on a range of plants, most commonly nettle (Urtica dioica).

TUESDAY JULY 24 - 2012


Slipper Millpond

10:00 - It was all very quiet and peaceful on the pond this morning. The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were swimming around, they tend to stay fairly close together. The two adult gulls were also on the pond, though one did leave while I was there in the direction of the harbour.

Seven Cormorants were clustered on the centre raft, chattering away in their guttural voices. The only other birds on the pond were the resident Mute Swan pair and three Coot pairs, plus several Mallard and a small group of Black-headed Gulls.

A large dragonfly was constantly hawking near the east bank of the pond while I was there. I was not able to get a photo but from its green and blue colouring I would think it was a Southern Hawker.

Peter Pond

The Coot family with 4 chicks are still together on Peter Pond. Shoals of very large Grey Mullett were swimming in the shallow water while I was there.


Butterflies in Hollybank Woods

Tony Wootton went to the woods with his U3A group this morning and saw 2 White Admirals and 2 Silverwashed Fritillaries plus a few Meadow Browns, Red Admirals, Large Whites and 1 Large Skipper. And one common lizard.

Turtle Dove in Marlpit Lane

Caroline and Ray French did a butterfly survey on my old BBS square SU7808 as part of the Wider Countryside Butterfly Survey. As they were walking along Common Road they heard a couple of short bursts of Turtle Dove song as they approached the corner of Marlpit Lane. Caroline's only encounter with Turtle Dove so far this year. They certainly have been scarce and I believe Marlpit Lane is the nearest site to Emsworth they have been recorded.

Tree dying from Honey Fungus?

Keith Wileman sent me the following photo of a tree in Danbury Court which appears to be dying. Last winter (December 7) Keith found the area near the tree covered in Honey Fungus and wonders if this is the cause of the tree's decline. I would think that could well be the case as Honey Fungus is a notorious tree killer.

MONDAY JULY 23 - 2012

Great Black-backed Gulls

Janet Baker whose house overlooks Slipper Millpond reports: "The Great Black-backed Gull chicks are behaving like teenagers, leaving the central raft early each morning and arriving home late! They spend a lot of time on the water and both are flying. I am guessing it won't be long before they go for good as we have seen them catching their own food. They seem to do everything together at present. Just before last weekend we had a flight from another pair of Greater Black Backed gulls but they didn't stay."

SUNDAY JULY 22 - 2012

Slipper Millpond

I checked Slipper Millpond at about 5pm this afternoon. Both the Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the water and while I was watching one of them flew round the pond over the water for about 30 seconds, the longest I have seen so far. Clearly they are getting ever closer to complete independence. There was no sign of the adult gulls, but presumably the chicks will still need feeding until they are independent. They will not breed for 4-5 years.

The Cormorants have now taken back the centre raft, there were 5 on there this afternoon. Interestingly, the Coot pair were back on the north raft tending to their nest after it was temporarily taken over by the Great Black-backed Gull chicks.

Brook Meadow

This was a Skipper afternoon on Brook Meadow, they were everywhere! I have never seen so many on one occasion. They must be having a good year? Most were Small Skippers, though I did find one Large Skipper which flitted from one Hedge Bindweed flower to another on the Lumley area. I have not seen them feeding on bindweed before.

I also saw one likely Essex Skipper with jet black tips to its antennae.

I also saw my first Peacock butterfly for some while, an absolute stunner.

Hemp Agrimony is showing the first signs of its pink flowers. They should soon be out.


First Teasels of the year in flower on Nutbourne seawall.

Thorney Island

Richard Somerscocks provided the following round up of his wildlife highlights over the weekend on Thorney.

"I was down at Little Deep both today and yesterday morning. Black-tailed Godwits were in the harbour both mornings. I could pick out colour-ringed W+WN yesterday but they were impossible to count as they were in amongst all the boats. Today they were in two distinct groups, one by the channel in the centre of the harbour and the other larger group closer to the shore in the eastern harbour. In all there were 81. I couldn't however pick out any colour ringed birds although the group closer to me gave some good photo opportunities. Here is Richard's photo of a group in flight.

In and around the water at Little Deep there were a number of young families. There was a Little Grebe with a chick, two families of Mallard - one with 4 and the other with 5 ducklings, and a Tufted Duck with 6 ducklings. There was also a Pochard this afternoon with the Tufted Ducks.

On the reed beds there were plenty of Reed Warblers , a few Sedge Warblers and also Reed Buntings. On both mornings I have also seen Bearded Tits. I also attach a picture of a Warbler taken this evening in a birch just beside the path at Little Deep. I wasn't certain what it was - Reed or Cetti's Warbler?"



Slipper Millpond

The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks have now migrated to the south raft. They have been on the north raft for the past few days. One of the adult gulls was on the water nearby. By my reckoning the chicks should be flying in around 2 weeks.

The centre raft where the original nest was has been given over to the Cormorants.

Peter Pond

I was pleased to hear from Maurice Lillie that the family of 4 Coot chicks was still alive. Maurice has been watching them daily and marvelling at what good parents the Coots are. He thinks the chicks are more disciplined than ducklings and tend not to stray so far from adult supervision. Coot parents are much stricter with their youngsters than are Mallard. Maurice wonders why the newly hatched cootlings have such brilliantly coloured red plumage. I got the following photo I took of the family near the Peter Pond seat this afternoon.

Walking past Gooseberry Cottage I noticed a single flower of Musk Mallow on the pond side of the track. This plant comes up here every year, but never produces many flowers

Brook Meadow

Walking home through Brook Meadow I put up a good number of butterflies, mostly Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and a Ringlet. However, I did stop to look more closely at a Small Skipper following Richard Somerscocks's finding of an Essex Skipper yesterday. From the photo its antennae tips are black, but not black enough, I think, to make it an Essex Skipper. Compare the black tips on the antennae of this insect with those on Richard's insect yesterday.

Tall Fool's Parsley

Regarding the extra large Fool's Parsley (Aethusa cynapium) currently standing at around 8 feet tall on the Seagull Lane patch of Brook Meadow (see yesterday's entry), Ralph Hollins provided a technical reference to indicate great variability in Fool's Parsley in life form, size, position of branches, degree of leaf division, pigmentation, length of peduncles, number of rays, and size of bractlets. So I should not be too surprised at variability!

Langstone Harbour seabird breeding - a very poor season

Chris Cockburn provides yet another gloomy report on the seabird colonies: Harbour Islands: Breeding season is now effectively over for the harbour islands with very few birds out there. Productivity for all terns looks to be zero (unless a few common terns on Round Nap defy all the odds)

Hayling Oysterbeds: Black-Headed Gull chicks continue to hatch and some survive (a few two-week old chicks were seen); the first of the Common Tern chicks should appear in the next few days while the oystercatcher on south island had one egg hatched today and, hopefully, have one or two more eggs to hatch. The other Oystercatcher pair (chicks hatched last Sunday) now have no chicks.

Good news - very few Med gulls seen or heard - hooray!

Bad news - with many fewer gulls and terns at the site, carrion crows are predating chicks (behaviour first noted last Sunday) - they seem to have wiped out all chicks on north island and are now concentrating on south island - I think that only one particular crow family is involved with their youngsters getting a high-protein diet - boo!

FRIDAY JULY 20 - 2012


It was a warm and cloudy morning for my mooch around the meadow. I was surprised at how quickly much of the meadow had dried out, apart from the notorious hot spots on the north meadow and around the "Lumley puddle".

One of the Fool's Parsley plants on the Seagull Lane patch has grown to a whopping 5 feet tall. The Hogweed are even taller - some up to 8 feet tall. Field Bindweed is in flower for the first time at the far end of the Seagull Lane patch.

There are plenty of red berries on the Alder Buckthorn below the causeway and on the Rowans in Gwynne's plantation on the east side of the north meadow. Hard Rush is flowering well on the Lumley area.

The broad white umbellifers of Hogweed provide popular mating and feeding grounds for red Soldier Beetles, where they had the company of some attractive yellow and black Longhorn Beetles (Strangalia maculata).

A Gatekeeper perched conveniently displaying its attractive underwings.

Richard Somerscocks had a good afternoon on Brook Meadow, finding a good variety of butterflies, including Gatekeeper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Comma, Marbled White, Green-veined White, Ringlet, Small Copper and Essex Skipper which was a first for the year. Essex Skipper is distinguished from the similar Small Skipper by the black tips to their antennae and a more diffuse black marginal border.

Richard also found an unusual female Meadow Brown with two white pupils in the oceli on the forewing, which the Gatekeeper also has. However, the Gatekeeper is a much smaller butterfly and has much more orange on its forewings than any Meadow Brown.


Slipper Millpond

The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the north raft along with one of the adults. The other adult was on the centre raft with 4 Cormorants. One of the chicks went onto the water while I was there with much splashing and flapping of wings. It looks as if the chicks have left the nesting raft for good and are waiting for flight to happen. Not much longer?

A single Swift was hawking over the pond. I also saw two Swifts flying over Bridge Road this morning, all birds heading south on migration back to Africa.

Perennial Sow-thistle is flowering well on the edges of Slipper Millpond and Dolphin Lake , but not Golden Samphire as yet.

Sea Club-rush is in full flower along the west bank of Slipper Millpond. This has been successfully transplanted by the pond association a few years ago to stabilise the banks.

Peter Pond

Two Coot chicks still survive from the family of four that were on the pond a week ago. A female Mallard also has two growing ducklings. Hairy Tare with very small pale bluish flowers, is flourishing along the path to Gooseberry Cottage on the western side of Peter Pond, the best I have ever seen it.

'White slug' update

John Vickers e-mailed to say the mystery 'creature' was still in the same place on the dead tree on his back patio, but there was no sign of yesterday's whiteness. "The whole body has turned a darkish brown. To all appearances, quite dead. I shall leave it there to se whether any birds show interest, but I don't expect so."

That clinches it; the mystery growth is clearly not a white Black Slug which was my first guess. Ralph Hollins thinks it is more likely to be a fungus growth, possibly an early stage of one of the big brackets, but more likely (especially as there is sign of slime) to be a stage in the development of a Slime Mould when all the individual cells have come together to form a Coral like single organism. Ralph provides a link to the slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon which looks very much like John's growth. . . .,_(Bull.)_M.L._Farr,_1976_(Reticularia_lycoperdon).JPG

Ralph also refers to the section of which deals 'Plasmodia'. If John's growth is a slime mould in its plasmoidal stage the whole organisim could move in a very slow slug like fashion.



Slipper Millpond

15:00 - There was not much change from yesterday. The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were both on the north raft snoozing, one of the adults was on the centre raft with two Cormorants and the other adult gull was perched on the nest box on the south raft. So, the Great Black-backed Gulls rule the pond. Full stop!

Hollybank Woods

16:00 - I had a quick walk through the woods hoping for a White Admiral, but apart from a couple of Meadow Browns I saw no butterflies at all. The most interesting observation was the bushes of both white and pink flowering Musk Mallow on the old Holly Lodge clearing. Richard Somerscocks had previously reported them on July 8. I have not previously recorded Musk Mallow in Hollybank Woods. So, where have they come from?

Westbourne Open Space

It was a joy to walk through the grasses on this wayside, dominated by the very delicate inflorescences of Creeping Bent-grass and the cylindrical spikes of Timothy and Smaller Cat's-tail. There was no mistaking the difference in size between these two similar grasses. The grasses were overlooked only by the tall flowers of Common Ragwort and the reddish spikes of Broad-leaved Dock. I found a good patch of Perforate St John's-wort in flower for the first time. Lots of red Soldier Beetles were on the site, many of them in flight. A flock of about 10 Swallows were skimming over the mown grassland on the east side of the cycleway.

White Black Slug?

Jon Vickers e-mailed me to say he had a strange white creature on a dead tree in his back garden patio in the centre of Emsworth. I went round to have a look and take some photos. I have never seen anything like it. It was slug-like, but all white, and did not appear to have any head! It was soft to the touch, but not as slimy as a normal slug. It did not respond when I prodded it. There were a few tell-tale traces of slime around it, though John had not seen it move. It was about 2 inches (5cm) in length

One possibility is that it is a white form of a Black Slug (Arion ater). Wikipedia states although the colour of the Black Slug is generally black, colouration is very variable and it can even be white. There is a photo of a white form of Black Slug on the Wikipedia web page. The Black Slug is mainly nocturnal which probably accounts for the torpidity of John's slug. It also prefers moist conditions, such as lawns, but John's slug was on dry branch of a dead tree, again not ideal for its locomotion.

Does anyone else have any idea what it might be? Maybe, it is not a slug at all? I have asked John to keep an eye on it let me know if it moves.

Crab Spider

Tony Wootton captured this image of a white coloured Crab Spider with a Meadow Brown butterfly as its prey. Crab Spiders are predatory, waiting on flowers for insects to land, which they then immobilize and consume. This butterfly was quite a feast! Photo taken at Denmead this morning.

Langstone Harbour breeding news

Chris Cockburn reports on a pretty poor breeding season to date:
Nest counts:
RSPB Islands 23/24 May: Mediterranean Gull 58 Black-Headed Gulls 3643. Sandwich Tern 45, Common Tern 74 Little Tern 26.
Oysterbeds 30 Apr & 25 May: Black-headed gull 1039 Sandwich Tern 1 Common Tern 17

Fledging up to 17 July:
RSPB islands: Mediterranean gull 2 Black-Headed Gull 11
Oysterbeds: Black-Headed Gulls 67

Present outlook:
RSPB islands: at least 2 Common Terns re-nesting and potential for some Black-Headed Gulls to be re-nesting (but vegetation too dense for nests to be seen). No Little Terns nesting but c30 birds roosting on South Binness. If all goes well (weather, tides and Mediterranean gulls leaving the harbour) the season could continue until early September!

Oysterbeds: c80 re-nesting Black-Headed Gulls (hatching started on 07 July). c50 re-nesting Common Terns (nesting started on 20 June and continues - 1st hatch expected c20 July) At Oysterbeds, one Oystercatcher chick was seen on 15 July and another pair should have their eggs hatching c19 July

English summer is over for our Cuckoos

BTO reported "Twelve of our thirteen male Cuckoos have already left the UK and Chris has become the first of the tagged Cuckoos to arrive in Africa this year! Lyster, the last to leave in 2011, headed off twelve days earlier than last year, probably as tired of the poor weather as the rest of us! All the Cuckoos are now named, with Roy, Lloyd and John joining the ranks. Wallace is the only male remaining in the UK, while the others appear to be preparing for their southward crossing, as they line up on the northern edge of the Mediterranean, between the extreme east of the French Mediterranean coast and Montenegro. Find out more on the blog . .



Fort Cumberland

I had a walk around the open area to the west of Fort Cumberland on a very windy morning with rain constantly in the air. A new interpretation board has been installed since my last visit in May 2011 and the site is now called Fort Cumberland Open Space (SINC). This is the largest area of natural coastal heathland in Portsmouth which developed on a large stable shingle bank. Looking across the site, one's impression was of an area ablaze with wild flowers, creating a rich kaleidoscope of colours. The yellow of Fennel contrasting with the bright pink of Common Mallow, and the deep blue Viper's Bugloss scattered among yellow swathes of aromatic Ladies Bedstraw. It was a joy to walk through the area despite the wind. Highly recommended!

The Harebells were far more abundant than I recall on my previous visits with some good patches of them in flower along the northern path. The flowers looked like regular Harebells, not the large variety that I used to find there in the early 2000s. I also found a small amount of Sheep's-bit along this path.

Other plants in flower that caught my attention were Wild Carrot, Bristly Ox-tongue, Perforate St John's-wort, Common Ragwort, Wild Radish, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Crow Garlic, Hare's-foot Clover, Restharrow, Oxeye Daisy, Common Centaury, Red Clover, White Clover, Buckshorn Plantain, Yarrow and Smooth Hawk's-beard, Black Medick, Mugwort. Tansy grows along the path to the beach, not quite in flower. Not many butterflies were on the wing, but I did have my first Small Skipper of the year.

Eastney Beach

I walked along the top path overlooking the caravan park. Here I found a good quantity of Lucerne in flower plus a single Sea Holly which I previously saw in the same spot in flower in November 2007. It was not in flower today, but looked healthy and I must try to get back here to see it flowering.

Plants in flower on the shingle beach included White Melilot, Red Valerian, Silver Ragwort (one bush), Yellow-horned Poppy, Oxford Ragwort, Cat's-ear,

I saw just one Mediterranean Gull among the Black-headed Gulls on the beach.

Baffins Pond

The Canada Geese are assembled as usual on the pond for their annual moult, but not in the numbers there used to be when I did regular bird counts on the pond. I counted just 80 on the pond today, whereas my July counts from 1992 to 2005 never fell below 100 and were a massive 198 in 2002.

One reminder of the 'good old days' was the presence of two Barnacle Geese, but again nowhere near the 42 there were on the pond in 1998-99. The two regular Embden Geese were with the Canadas.

However, the Mute Swan pair have broken all my old records for Baffins Pond as they were on the southern verge with no less than 7 cygnets. I think 5 was the most I ever recorded. Some of the family can be seen in the background in the Canada Geese photo above. All I could see on the main island were 1 Cormorant, 1 Grey Heron and 1 Little Egret.

I was interested to see the five newly created wetland areas to the east and south of the pond which are starting to look very good indeed. A complete transformation from the rather barren edges there used to be.


Great Black-backed Gulls

I had an e-mail from Patrick Murphy who went down to Slipper Millpond this morning to see the Great Black-backed Gulls and found that chicks had moved onto the north raft. I had a look for myself this afternoon in between the showers and found the chicks still on the north raft.

One of the adult gulls was on the centre raft with two Cormorants. I waited for about 30 minutes to see if anything happened. While I was there one of the chicks flew a couple of metres from the raft onto the water and spend the next 15 minutes swimming around, making occasional brief flights of about 2-3 metres, before coming back onto the raft. The other chick remained on the raft the whole time. I reckon the two chicks made their way to the north raft by a mixture of swimming and flapping. But they can't be far away from proper flight.

Mystery mammal

Patrick Murphy saw what he thought was a shrew or a vole on the main path through the south meadow of Brook Meadow. Patrick got a quick shot at it as it dived into the foliage at the side of the path. There is not much to go on in the photo, but the way the head narrows towards the snout suggests Common Shrew to me.

Strawberry Tree deaths

In response to my news about the deaths of two prominent Strawberry Trees in Emsworth over the past year, Lesley Harris tells me they had a beautiful Strawberry Tree in their front garden, which after five years suddenly gave up the ghost and died. It's a great sadness the magnificent specimen beside Slipper Millpond is going the same way. I agree. Maybe the hard winter finished them off? They are only native in Western Ireland where the climate is very mild.


Pete Potts reports on his trip to Iceland

"The godwit team returned from Iceland on Sunday after 2 weeks of field work. Our team consisted of 10 people with some turnover - with participants from The Netherlands, Ireland, UK plus help from various Icelanders. Iceland has had a good summer with little rain and plenty of sunshine which has helped the breeding season in some areas, it was certainly a much better season than 2011. However, in some core areas very few pairs were found with chicks, no fledged chicks and no flocks were seen on fields suggesting an early departure. We ringed a record number of wader and arctic tern chicks a total of c.410 of 10 species of wader. Arctic Terns have had a good breeding season for the first time for ages.

We colour-ringed 115 godwit chicks (with our new yellow flag scheme) and 38 adults in two catches (using the last of the X scheme and the 8 scheme). Jose Alves has also colour-ringed c.50 chicks and 20 adults on his study sites in SW Iceland. So plenty more ringed godwits to look out for.

We logged c.45 colour-ring sightings mainly godwits including our birds from the Solent (2), Portugal (2), Brittany (1), N Ireland (1) also birds from the Wash (1) and Iceland. Also colour-ringed Ringed Plovers, Redshanks and Whooper Swan."

TUESDAY JULY 17 - 2012


Great Black-backed Gulls

15:00 - The centre raft was rather crowded this afternoon (3pm) with the male Great Black-backed Gull and the two growing chicks accompanied by no less than 7 Cormorants.

The adult gull was clearly not entirely happy with the situation and spent much of the time constantly giving its croaky call, presumably to alert its mate to the growing crowd. I did witness one skirmish in which the adult gull chased a juvenile Cormorant over the pond, getting very close to it at times, but not actually catching it. After a couple of minutes it abandoned the chase and went back to the raft.


I noticed Fennel flowering on the east side of the pond. There are many clumps of Lesser Sea-spurrey now flowering nicely along the edges of the path leading to the western kissing gate.


Black-tailed Godwits

15:30 - I got to the Wickor Bank about 4 hours after high water; the tide was already well out and godwits were feeding in small groups on the mudflats and in the small channels. Most were still in their summer plumage and looked quite splendid. The conditions were reasonably good except for a brisk SW wind blowing straight into my face!

I counted a maximum of 74 Godwits including three colour-ringed birds:

O+YL - A regular winter visitor to the Fishbourne-Bosham harbours for many years (since 2006), but this was my first ever sighting in Emsworth. My last sighting of it was on 10-Jan-12 in the Bosham Channel. This was the earliest record for this godwit.

W+WN - First recorded in Emsworth Harbour on 18-Oct-10. It was very regular in Emsworth last winter with a total of 41 sightings from 21-Jul-11 to 11-Feb-12.

W+RY - I am not 100% certain about this combination. The white ring could possibly be yellow. However, W+RY was recorded just once last winter on 14-Aug-11 in Emsworth Harbour (east) by Richard Somerscocks. We did not see it again. If this is W+RY it could be a passage bird that just drops into Emsworth on its way to winter elsewhere.


Richard Somerscocks went to the harbour later in the afternoon when the tide was low and counted 76 Black-tailed Godwits from the millpond seawall. They included R+RN which he also saw yesterday. He was certain on the combination today. So that means we have at least four colour-ringed godwits back in Emsworth, at least temporarily.

Richard also spotted Greenshank RO+NY, which he also saw in the harbour last August.

MONDAY JULY 16 - 2012

Godwits in Emsworth Harbour

Richard Somerscocks had a quick look at the Black-tailed Godwits in the eastern harbour this evening at 6pm. There were similar numbers to yesterday - 67 this evening. There were also 3 colour-ringed birds. The viewing conditions were poor and Richard's photos not conclusive. We shall need to look at them again in better conditions.

R+RN - I have two records from last winter in the Bosham-Nutbourne areas. Richard in fact got a photo of R+RN at Bosham on 23-Oct-11.

G+GG - There have been several sightings of this one over the years, the most recent I have is in Fishbourne Channel on 05-Oct-10.

Richard also spotted Greenshank L+WY which has been fairly regular in Emsworth Harbour over the years.

Colin Vanner at Farlington

We have not heard much from Colin for some while, but he managed to get down to Farlington Marshes on what was the only fine day we have had for months (or so it seems). He returned with some smashing photos to share with us.

Here is a Short-eared Owl hiding in the long grasses

and a Meadow Pipit  

and a family photo of Little Grebe and chick