RETURN TO . . . Emsworth Wildlife Homepage


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 September 2012
in reverse chronological order

For earlier observations go to . . . August 1-31



Gulls galore

At around 11am this morning Jean and I witnessed an extraordinary sight from our back window of hundreds of gulls flying overhead heading towards the harbour. Now the Southleigh Tip has closed we do not see many gulls flying past our house.

About an hour later I walked down to Slipper Millpond where I found what must have been the same flock of gulls on the pond. I counted a good 1,000 of them.

They were mostly Black-headed Gulls with a pair of adult Herring Gulls and 6 juveniles, plus one adult Great Black-backed Gull. As I was watching them the whole flock rose spectacularly into the air, some going west towards the harbour, but most heading east towards Thorney Island.



Water Vole

Frank Naylor sent me an excellent video he took of a Water Vole on the river bank just south of the S-bend yesterday (Sep 27). The main part of the video shows the vole actively feeding on the river bank followed by a short swim down river. We have had several sightings in this area recently, probably because it is the one of the few spots the river can be clearly seen. Link to Frank's video on dropbox . . .


I had a walk around the meadow this morning. I watched a large deep blue dragonfly flying over the Lumley area. It did not perch, so no photo. However, I think it must have been a male Migrant Hawker. There are still plenty of male Common Darters attracted to the sun-warmed gravel paths.

Black Slug

I found a fat sleek slug with a red 'skirt' rather similar to the pale Black Slug Arion ater that Ralph Hollins photographed and wrote about in his wildlife diary on Sat 22 Sep . . .

Ralph also gave a useful link to a web site specialising in gastropods (snails and slugs) . . .

What is clear from this site is that the colour of slugs varies greatly. Black Slug is certainly not always black. I include here a useful diagram of the main parts of a slug. The only difference between a slug and a snail is the fact that a snail carries a shell and a slug does not.

Cuttings pile

There is now a huge pile of grass cuttings on the east side of the north meadow from the annual cut. I climbed up on the pile and found them smoking and very hot in parts. I think it would be safe to spread out the pile to avoid any repeat of the spontaneous combustion fire we had in a similar pile of cuttings several years ago, which required the fire brigade to put it out. Maybe the contractor can be asked to make the pile lower.

Autumn colours

I love bronzed willow leaves at this time of the year


B. terrestris confirmed

Bryan Pinchen confirmed that the Bumblebee I photographed yesterday on the Emsworth Railway Station wayside was a queen B. terrestris.

He added "at this time of year it could be doing one of two things, either looking for a hibernation site, or looking to start nesting. This species often does nest in late summer rather than hibernate (it's partly down to the weather) and these queens are the source of the workers that can often be seen right through December and into January. I have seen workers here in Lymington almost every Dec/Jan since 1999. Nowadays there are enough winter flowering plants in our gardens to keep them just about going, I even saw males in Cambridgeshire last year in early March, suggesting a winter nest had been successful". Many thanks, Bryan.




While having a look around the Emsworth Railway Station wayside, I spotted a Bumblebee resting on a large sheet of plastic material. The thorax was black with an orange 'headband' across the top. The abdomen was also black and had a orange band across it with a pale yellow tail.

My best shot at identification is a queen Bombus terrestris. Bryan Pinchen says this is one of the most common Bumblebee species, being widespread across most of England and Wales. Still no sign of any reptiles under the felt mats.

Garden Ivy

The large hedge of Ivy in my back garden had hundreds of bees and flies feeding on the flowers along with 4 Commas and 2 Red Admirals.


Woodpigeon soars

BTO reports Woodpigeons are visiting a record number of gardens this year. During a typical week, 87 per cent of British and Irish householders have reported this species in their garden. The figures for Woodpigeons now exceed figures for Robins (83 per cent) and Great Tits (78 per cent). Only Blue Tits (90 per cent) and Blackbirds (95 per cent) now stand in the way of woodpigeons reaching the number 1 spot.

In some areas, including Hertfordshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, West Midlands and West Sussex, there are strong indications that woodpigeons are already the leading garden visitor.

My Woodpigeon records

Woodpigeon has also become far more frequent in my present garden since1998. However, the big increase was between 1998 (25%) and 2007 (80%). As shown in the following chart, since then the frequency has been fairly stable. In 2011 Woodpigeon was my number 3 garden bird in terms of the percentage of weeks recorded (73%), exceeded only by Goldfinch (90%) and Collared Dove (78%).



Nore Barn

10.30 - About 2 1/2 hours after high water and the tide was still well in though the stream was starting to empty. The weather was stormy with a gusting SW wind and frequent heavy showers.

When I arrived a Little Egret was feeding in the stream along with an unringed Greenshank. Just like the old days. All we need now is the Spotted Redshank, but that is still a few weeks away on the basis of previous years.

I had a walk through the woods while waiting for the tide to fall more. Only Robin and Woodpigeon were singing.

Black-tailed Godwits

11:00 - When I returned to the stream, just one Black-tailed Godwit was feeding on the edge of the saltmarshes west of the stream. It had a red marker on the left 'ankle' indicating a Farlington bird and small rings indicating an older ringing. The upper ring on the left leg was very dark, probably blue. The upper ring on the left leg stood out clearly as yellow, but the lower ring was dark, again probably blue.

B//R+YB - this is my best shot at this combination. This is new one for Emsworth. I have only one previous record of this bird in my file which relates to a sighting by Ruth Croger in the Avon Valley in Jan-Feb-07.

11:30 - Over the next 30 minutes a good number of Black-tailed Godwits flew into the Nore Barn Woods creek and settled on the edge of the far saltmarshes facing the woods. I counted a maximum of 64 Black-tailed Godwits including another two colour-ringed birds:

G+BG - A regular in Emsworth Harbour for the past two winters. Our 3rd sighting this season.

Y+WL - I was not sure about the ring colours of this one. There was the usual red Farlington marker ring on the left tarsus. The left tibia ring looked orange in some lights, but I finally decided on yellow. The upper ring on the right leg was also not always clear. I considered yellow as we have had YL previously seen in Emsworth this season, but the upper right ring was clearly white and not yellow, ie WL. This was confirmed by my digiscoped photo. We have had only one previous sighting of Y+WL in Emsworth Harbour which was by Richard Somerscocks here at Nore Barn on 18-Dec-10.


I counted a total of 38 Shelduck, in various stages of moult, on the western mudflats, the first I have seen in Emsworth Harbour this autumn. Here are two swimming up the Nore Barn creek.

Shelduck regularly turn up in Emsworth Harbour (west) at this time of the year. Ralph Hollins says these early birds are not likely to stay here but are part of a westward movement along the south coast as Shelduck regain their flight feathers after their annual moult off the Dutch/German coast and move to their winter quarters, en route picking up those adults which have stayed here to chaperone young Shelduck hatched here and also now able to fly. From the start of November, Shelduck will start to settle down and through December and January flocks will be at peak strength and there is little movement from place to place.



Only had time for a walk through Brook Meadow down to Slipper Millpond this afternoon after the rain.

No Bulrush flowers

Rather surprisingly, there are no Bulrush flower spikes on the river this year, though the leaves are growing well. It is possible they have been cut by the Environment Agency or taken by someone for flower arranging, though I have not heard about this. In contrast, the Bulrush flowers are showing normally on the Westbrook Stream in Bridge Road car park.

Bulrush is a rhizomatous perennial growing as an emergent in shallow water or on exposed mud at the edge of lakes, ponds, canals and ditches and (less frequently) by streams and rivers. It favours nutrient-rich sites. It spreads by wind-dispersed fruits, often colonising newly excavated ponds and ditches and subsequently spreading by vegetative growth. Native (change +1.01). There is some evidence that T. latifolia increased in frequency in the 20th century in many areas, for reasons that are not entirely clear. Circumpolar Southern-temperate element. (New Atlas)

Shaggy Soldier on traffic island

I found several plants of Shaggy Soldier on the traffic island opposite Peter Pond all in flower. I have previously seen Shaggy Soldier flowering on the nearby island with the boat at the end of Queen Street. This is the only site I know of for Shaggy Soldier in Emsworth.

Shaggy Soldier is an annual of arable fields, waste ground, roadsides and rubbish tips, derelict urban sites and cracks in pavements, most often occurring in the larger conurbations. Alien. Neophyte (change +1.07). The species was first recorded from the wild in 1909 (Middlesex), perhaps being originally introduced with ornamental garden plants, though it is also a bird-seed alien. It is native of C. & S. America; widely naturalised in Europe and elsewhere. (New Atlas)

A close-up of the Shaggy Soldier flowers



Nore Barn

Stephanie Williamson watched hundreds of Swallows setting off from the Warblington direction this morning heading ESE against the wind towards Thorney. She wonders if these are early departures. Very probably.

Stephanie also got her a good view of a dozen Black-tailed Godwits washing and preening by the dinghies hauled up at the end of Warblington Rd. These are the first godwits I have heard about at Nore Barn this season. They always tend to turn up later there than in the main harbour east of Emsworth. I shall have to get down there to check them out for colour-rings.

Stephanie works for Pesticide Action Network (PAN) UK which is a charity concerned with Bee Declines and the Link with Pesticides. They have a very informative web site at . . .

The famous Spotted Redshank should be in the Nore Barn stream (fingers crossed) towards the end of October for its 9th winter running. I shall be waiting with a gold medal! Here is a reminder of what it looks like.


Common Darters

Ralph Hollins responded to my query about whether Common Darters would be depositing eggs at this time of the year (Sep 22). He says there is no reason why Common Darter should not be egg-laying now as the larvae will spend a couple of years in the water before emerging.

Garden caterpillar

Regarding the brown caterpillar I found in my garden yesterday Ralph thinks it is Buff Ermine (Spilosoma luteum). It grows to 45 mm, is common in gardens, parks, etc and feeds on almost anything herbaceous plus trees. It pupates in the autumn and so could be moving to pupate now. My caterpillar is a very good match with the photo from provided by Ralph.




I walked through the meadow this afternoon. I heard two Chiffchaffs calling, one from the trees north of the north bridge and the other from Palmer's Road Copse. Chiffchaffs are a regular summer visitor to Brook Meadow, though we do occasionally see one in winter. I suspect we will have had at least three on Brook Meadow this summer, hopefully breeding successfully. Malcolm Phillips got a photo of one on Sep 20 - see his photo below.

Common Darters

I do not recall having seen as many Common Darters as I saw on this walk. They were mostly males with bright red bodies and were mostly resting on the gravel path alongside the river. They really do like to sunbathe on this warm path as do butterflies. I did also spot a pair in tandem near the river bank on the S-bend with the female constantly dipping her rear onto the surface of the water. Would she be depositing eggs at this time of the year? Here is a photo of a male Common Darter resting on the south bridge that I took a few years ago.

I happened to meet Jim Berry on his way back from the Havant Wildlife Group walk to Thorney Island. Jim said they also had lots of sightings of Common Darters - suggesting a mass emergence?

Southern Hawker

While walking along the causeway I happened to come across what I think was a female Southern Hawker dragonfly resting on a leaf beside the path. Here it is . . .

Comma hutchinsoni

One of the most common butterflies on the wing at present is the Comma. In the midsummer emergence up to one third of the adults are of a form called hutchinsoni which has faint markings and is brighter and more golden with less ragged wing edges. I think I may have seen one of these on Brook Meadow this morning (or maybe not looking at the photo again).


We have a magnificent hedge of Ivy along the southern wall of our back garden which is currently in full flower. This afternoon it was attracting an amazing number of bees and flies as well as four Red Admirals and three Commas. Below the hedge I happened to spot a small caterpillar crawling along some leaves which I have not been able to identify with any certainty. It does not seem quite hairy enough for a woolly bear (garden Tiger Moth).


Tawny Owls

Caroline French was woken at her north Emsworth home at about 00.45 hrs last night by the sound of two Tawny Owls calling from the direction of Helston Drive/Woodland Avenue.

"One then seemed to move east towards the Hollybank Recreation ground. Both birds were making the 'keewick' call, quite loudly and frantically. I had thought that only the females made this call but my RSPB handbook says that the males do too. I also heard, just once, a slightly rough sounding 'hoooo' call, which I think was likely to have been a female (again, according to the RSPB handbook). The 'keewick' calls continued for a good 10 minutes. Apart from the fact that they woke me up, I was very pleased to hear the birds as the only other place I have heard a Tawny Owl locally is Westbourne, although I'm sure there must be a few in Hollybank Woods."


"I now have two quite large hedgehogs living in two purpose-built boxes in the garden and I have also had a hornet visiting the garden regularly. On one occasion I saw it fly off with a honey bee for its larvae but mostly it was feeding on ripe fruit in the garden

Stone Curlew

"Away from Emsworth, Ray and I saw our first ever Stone Curlew near Minsmere last week. A strange-looking but lovely bird.


Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk b y the Havant Wildlife Group

On behalf of Fay who led this mornings walk from Bridge Road, here is a quick account. On a glorious but slightly chilly morning, 16 attended and were met by Brian, who gave his greetings and apologised for not joining us. We had a very pleasant amble around Emsworth, first noting the wonderful display of Mistletoe on the local apple tree.

Tide out as we looked for waders. Curlew, Oystercatchers and Black tailed Godwits seen with 3 Pied wags on the foreshore. As we went around the millpond, which incidentally was being drained in preparation for tomorrow's onslaught of rain, we saw a few more waders but nothing like Brian's mention of over 100+ Black-tailed Godwits. As we looked about, a male swan frightened the group by flying right towards us and then more or less gave up and landed at our feet against the sea wall. It unfortunately looked a little worse for wear as it limped off.

As we approached the end of the pond more Black-tailed Godwits could be seen but no rings visible. Approximate 30+. A Sandwich tern could be seen preening. Single Greenshank seen and Redshank amongst Turnstones and the usual Blackheaded gulls. Further out towards Thorney, Grey plover were some of the 39+ species seen.

We continued our walk and had a break in front of the stilt houses and finished by searching for Bearded Tits, to no avail. Plants mostly bristly Ox tongue,& Mallow.

On Slipper Millpond we noted the sorry demise of the Strawberry tree. Many Red Admirals seen and a few large whites. An Great Black-backed Gull looked out at us from the raft on the mill pond but looked like a mature bird. Was this one that bred and was back to stake an early claim to this spot? Huge mullet seen in the marina moat.

Notes on the Great Black-backed Gull

from Brian

Yes, this is an adult Great Black-backed Gull, probably one of the pair that nested on Slipper Millpond. The family with the two youngsters are still in the Emsworth Harbour area and are fairly regular visitors to Slipper Millpond. It must feel like home!

from Ralph Hollins

Seeing Heather's photo of the Adult Great Black-backed Gull back on the Slipper Mill Raft, and noting the dark streaks it has acquired on its head as it moves into winter plumage, I went to see if I could find a recent photo of an adult on Brian's web pages but failed to do so.

What I did find was a webpage with a slide set of six pictures showing the plumages from juvenile to adult which you might find useful in following the development of the Emsworth GBB dynasty and from this website I learnt something that I did not previously know - that the

Great Black-back is the largest gull in the world (checking this I found that the maximum body length of a GBB is 6 cm longer than that of a Glaucous Gull and the GBB maximum wingspan is 8 cm longer than a Glaucous). The website concerned is . . .



11:30 - tide rising to high water in about 4 hours.

I had to take some garden rubbish down to the amenity tip this morning, so I took the opportunity to have a look at the Broadmarsh shore. I met Margaret and Martin Baggs down there looking at the birds in the harbour. No a great deal to see apart from a group of Herring Gull families with juveniles, plus a few Oystercatchers, Redshank, Curlew, Turnstone and Black-tailed Godwits.

Black-tailed Godwit G+LG

I spotted one colour-ringed godwit which I think was G+LG though the light was not good and it was a good way out. The green rings could have been blue. However, I am reassured by the fact that G+LG was seen here at Broadmarsh by Peter Milinets-Raby on 03-Mar-12. I have had two previous sightings of this bird one of which was at Nore Barn Emsworth on 19-Nov-10.


12:15 - About 3 hours to high water. Walked to the shore from the end of Farm Lane. There was not much along the shore, certainly no Black-tailed Godwits. The best birds were a flotilla of 6 Great Crested Grebes in the bay. No sign of any ducks.


Water Voles

Malcolm Phillips saw another 4 Water Voles on Brook Meadow this afternoon between 4pm to 5pm. That takes the total number of sightings for this year to an astonishing 192.

One of Malcolm's voles was half way between the sluice gate and the S bend, swimming down river. Two more Water Voles were close together near the S bend, happily feeding on the west bank. The 4th Water Vole was seen swimming north of the north bridge. Malcolm got some good photos from the bridge as the vole swam towards him. Here is one of them.

More of Malcolm's photos are on the Brook Meadow web site at . . .



11:00 - 12:00 Tide rising to high water in about 4 hours.

Black-tailed Godwits

I started on the marina seawall where around 80 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the mudflats and in the channel though there could have been more hidden amongst the boats. As the tide came in the godwits move across to the west bank of the channel where they are best seen from the millpond seawall. From there I counted 128 Black-tailed Godwits which is approaching the number I recorded yesterday.

I found three colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwits, G+WR, G+BG and the mystery B+BL which I also saw yesterday. See noteabout this bird below. I spotted one colour-ringed Greenshank - NY+GR. There are not nearly so many Redshank in the harbour as in previous years. Only about 20 or so were there this morning.

Mystery Godwit - B+BL

Anne de Potier replied to last night's news about the mystery colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit that I saw in Emsworth Harbour yesterday - B+BL. Apparently there are two different birds, one has a red ring on its left leg - ie B//R+BL, while the other one (our mystery) that I saw yesterday does not have a red ring, but has a metal ring on its right leg - ie B+BL//metal. Anne's sighting on 19 September last year was of B//R+BL. which she also saw several times last year over at Fareham.


No sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls today, but a Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the south raft. The first signs of the autumn gathering of Coot with 10 in the Slipper Mill basin below the sluice.


The annual cut carried out by the regular contractors is carrying on. Part of the centre meadow has been cut and cleared and part of the north meadow is cut and partially cleared. The cuttings have been piled high on the usual tipping area. No signs of any smoke at the moment!

Water Voles

This afternoon at about 4.15 I met Malcolm Phillips on the south bridge. As we were standing there we noticed the vegetation moving on the east bank of the river, a sure sign of Water Vole activity. As we watched it became clear that there were two voles active on the east bank about 20 and 40 metres north of the bridge. The Water Vole closest to us was eating the Water Mint plants which can be seen flowering in the photo. It almost seems to be smelling their strong minty aroma.

Malcolm told me he saw a Water Vole in the same area at about 11am this morning. It was on the east bank and swam across the river to the west bank. Malcolm got a photo of it swimming.


Malcolm Phillips also saw a Goldcrest in the north-east corner of Brook Meadow yesterday and a Chiffchaff in Palmer's Road Copse this morning.


While we were on the bridge, Malcolm and I happened to disturb a lovely 4-Spot Spider (Araneus quadratus) with round yellow abdomen. It scuttled off beneath the bridge, no doubt to construct another web.


Comma butterfly

A very bright Comma butterfly settled briefly on the rough cobbles of the Emsworth Railway Station wayside. Possibly a hutchinsoni form which do occasionally occur in the midsummer emergence.

Slow-worm and Grass-snake

Tony Wootton captured this amazing image of a Slow-worm and a young Grass-snake entwined beneath an iron sheet at Titchfield yesterday.



11:15 - 12:30 Tide rising to high water in about 3 hours.

Black-tailed Godwits

From the millpond seawall I counted 134 Black-tailed Godwits in their usual spot on the western bank of the main channel. This was the best count so far this season. As the tide came in they were gradually pushed off the islands in the channel and onto the town shore. About half the birds flew over towards Thorney Island. Two of the godwits were feeding close to the millpond seawall where I was standing. There were 6 Turnstones feeding with the godwits.

I managed to locate four colour-ringed birds, though there could well have been more as the birds had their legs in water for much of the time.

G+WR - 4th sighting this season.

OY+LR - 3rd sighting this season

G+BG - 1st sighting this season. A regular in Emsworth over the past two winters.

B+BL ? - I am not 100% sure about this bird's ring combination as the rings were thin and grey. I am sure there was no red marker ring on the left tarsus, but there was a metal ring on the right tarsus.

I have a record of two sightings of what could have been the same bird at Fishbourne from Anne de Potier on 03-Sep-08 and 19-Sep-11. Anne commented on the first of these sightings . . . "B//+BL//metal, all small rings. Honestly there was nothing on the left tarsus that I could see, and I was close. Definitely not a tall red. And the L was not W." Nick Humphrys wondered at the time if it was B//R+BL which had lost its red ring.

Here are two digiscoped photos of the bird, one showing the metal ring on the right tarsus and the other showing nothing on the left tarsus.

For more Godwit news go to . . . Black-tailed Godwits

Great Black-backed Gulls

Passing Slipper Millpond on my way to the marina I noticed two adult Great Black-backed Gulls on the pond, one on the centre raft and the other on the south raft. They were probably the ones that nested here this spring. I also saw what I assume were the two juveniles in Emsworth Harbour. I am surprised that they are staying around so long after fledging.



Water Vole

I spotted a Water Vole as it emerged briefly from beneath the overhanging ivy vegetation on the west bank of the river about 20 metres north of the north bridge. It immediately went back under the bank and I did not see it again. This was sighting number 184 for the year so far.


Michaelmas Daisies are just starting to flower on the east side of the Lumley area by the Lumley Stream. They are always much later opening than those on the south bank of Peter Pond. There is plenty of fresh growth of what looks like Annual Meadow-grass. There are a few new flower spikes of Marsh Woundwort at the north end of the Bramble path.


The autumn song of the Robin was the only bird song I heard. A Great Tit was heard calling, but not singing. I watched a tiny Wren feeding actively in the Branched Bur-reed stems on the river bank in front of the observation fence.

Insects and spiders

Red Admiral and a couple of whites were the only butterflies I saw. Spiders were on webs everywhere, but all were Garden Spiders.


The two juvenile Great Black-backed Gulls were back on the pond, one on the north raft and the other on the water. Five Cormorants and an adult Herring Gull were on the centre raft. I watched one of the Cormorants struggling to swallow a huge Eel over a period of several minutes while skirmishing with two other Cormorants out to steal the prize.


Kew Gardens

Jean and I visited Kew Gardens today. A fascinating place with some great trees and thousands of exotic plants. But the experience was largely ruined by the constant roar of overhead jets taking off from Heathrow every 4 minutes or so. I felt really sorry for a walks guide who was forced to stop several times due to the deafening noise. A 4th runway will make this worse.

Despite the noise, we admired some magnificent oaks, including a fine Red Oak - a North American 'black oak' with red leaves in autumn and very small acorns.

I also noted an unusual 'One-leaved Ash' with one big undivided leaf in place of the leaflets of the normal Ash.


Stansted East Park

Jean and I had a walk through the east park this morning. The wild flower meadow on the west side of the public footpath running in front of the house had masses of Wild Carrot in various stages of flowering and seeding. We also noticed Burnet-saxifrage in flower - another white umbellifer, but having no bracts and slightly ridged stems. Also, in flower near the path were Cat's-ear, Agrimony, Creeping Thistle, Prickly Sow-thistle, Scentless Mayweed, Fat Hen, Common Ragwort, Autumn Hawkbit. Common Knapweed, Field Bindweed, Ladies Bedstraw, Common Fleabane, Selfheal and Red Clover.

Walking up the track past the Iron Gate Cottages we had an excellent view of a Yellowhammer perched on overhead cables. We did not go all the way along the track as chemical spraying was taking place in the fields with the wind taking the spray across the path, so we turned back.

Slipper Millpond

Adult Great Black-backed Gull was on the south raft.

Brook Meadow

Maurice Lillie was lucky enough to see two Long-tailed Tits grooming themselves this morning. They were so intent on tarting themselves up that he got the impression they hadn't seen him. As he says, they are normally so shy. Here is one of Maurice's very nice images.



Chiffchaffs on Brook Meadow

Maurice Lillie spotted some small birds with distinctive white underbellies feeding in amongst willow shoots on Brook Meadow. I can detect the hint of a supercilium on the photo which suggests Chiffchaff, possibly youngsters. This is good news as it indicates that they have bred successfully on Brook Meadow.

Wildlife in River Ems

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow for an hour this afternoon during which he saw and photographed an Eel and a Trout in the river by the south bridge. Here is the Eel.

Malcolm also snapped a juvenile Moorhen. There are usually up to three pairs on the river, so it is good to know they have bred again this year.

Great Tit song

While walking to the shops this morning I heard the ringing tones of a Great Tit in full song for the first time this autumn. Great Tits do typically sing in September and October after a long period of silence, but will be quiet again until the New Year.

Emsworth Harbour

I had a quick look at the eastern harbour at low water from the millpond seawall this afternoon. I counted 78 Black-tailed Godwits, though there could have been more hidden behind the boats. I saw one colour-ringed bird - the regular G+WR. Also, in the harbour were 4 Turnstone, plus Redshank, Greenshank, Oystercatcher and Curlew.


Chris Cockburn sends the latest news up date about the breeding seabirds.

Little terns - 40 nested but no young were fledged.

Common terns - 92 pairs nested in the harbour. 23 youngsters fledged all on the Oysterbeds

Sandwich terns - 46 pairs nested in the harbour, 45 on South Binness Island and 1 at the Oysterbeds. No young were fledged

Black-headed gulls - 3643 pairs nested on the harbour islands and fledged only 12 young

Lesser black-backed gull - One pair nested on S Binness but failed to fledge young

Mediterranean gulls - 58 pairs fledged 2 young on S Binness

Finally, please do remember that our gulls and terns are relatively long-lived so they can cope with the occasional disastrous breeding season, but they would be in trouble with too many consecutive ones.



Water Voles

Malcolm Phillips went round the meadow late this morning and for the first time in 3 months he saw 2 Water Voles, one by the south bridge and the other by the sluice gate. Malcolm managed to take a few photos. Here is one peeping from behind some leaves on the river bank.

These take the total number of sightings for the year to 182, which far exceeds that of any other year since 2005. See the Water Vole web page for full details . . .


Spiders are everywhere on their webs, usually stretched out between plants so that it is hard to avoid them when walking through vegetation. Most are the common Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus). However, I did see a 4-spot Spider (Araneus quadratus) a web on the Seagull Lane patch. It had a very yellow abdomen but had the four distinctive spots from which it gets its name.

Autumn colours

The meadow is currently a kaleidescope of brown, yellow, white and green. The brown Hogweed flowerheads contrast well with the white curled seeds of Great Willowherb.

The yellow flowers of Hoary Ragwort still dominate the centre of the north meadow and those of Common Fleabane the Lumley area. The fruits are forming on the Strawberry Clover on the east side of the Lumley area, but not yet strawberry coloured. I spotted yet another Amphibious Bistort in flower in the same area. There is a good crop of fruits (conkers) on the Horse Chestnut tree behind the signcase at the Lumley gate. The huge Butterbur leaves are curling and browning.


The only bird song to be heard on the meadow at present is the wistful autumn song of the Robin, so different from its bright and cheery spring song. Other than that there are the sweet call of the Chiffchaff, the sharp ringing call of the Great Tit and the creaky whistle of the Dunnock.


Little Egret numbers are now starting to build up in their traditional autumn roosts. Just after sunset on Sep 6, Ralph Hollins counted 106 in the trees behind Langstone millpond with still enough light for others to arrive.



Black-tailed Godwits

I checked the Fishbourne Channel from the Apuldram shore this morning on a rising tide. The weather was perfect with warm sunshine and just a light wind. I enjoyed a cup of coffee and a Heidi's jam doughnut on the saltmarshes before I started serious birdwatching.

The Godwits were mostly snoozing on the edge of the channel, but some were feeding on the open mudflats. A few were on the far side of the channel. I counted a total of 104 including one colour-ringed bird. There may well have been more colour-ringed birds, but I could not see their leg. Today's bird was O+YL which has been regular in the Fishbourne and Bosham channels since 2006. This is not a good picture, digiscoped at a distance and in a heat haze, but better than nothing! In fact, my last sighting of this bird was earlier this season on 17-Jul-12 in Emsworth Harbour.

Other waders

There were also good numbers of Oystercatcher, Redshank and Curlew in the channel along with a few Greenshank.


Malcolm Phillips went to the entrance to Langstone Harbour today and was surprised when this Harbour Seal popped up in front of him. Seals are actually quite common in the harbour, but one has to be lucky to see one like this.

Malcolm also captured this very fine image of a Sandwich Tern flying into the harbour.



Following on from the very rare form of Small Tortoiseshell (Lutea) seen in Southbourne that I reported yesterday. Brian Lawrence sent me the following fine image of a standard form of Small Tortoiseshell that he took in Hollybank Woods on Aug 22 this year. It is good to hear they are still about as Small Tortoiseshells have been having a distinctly rough time over the past few years.




Black-tailed Godwits

I watched the tide rise in the harbour this morning from the millpond seawall from 11:30 to 13:30. The rising water gradually pushed the Black-tailed Godwits closer together on the small islands of rock and mud. They were chattering away quite loudly. A number of people passing by stopped to ask about 'those brown birds' and I was able to tell them a bit about them. Finally, as happened yesterday, all the birds flew to the town beach, which was where I did the final count of 108. So, numbers are building up from 76 on Sept 4.

I logged three colour-ringed birds

G+WR and W+GO have already been seen this week.

OY+LR - I was able to confirm this combination that I was unsure about yesterday. OY+LR was ringed as a chick in Iceland in July 1999. It has been regular in Emsworth Harbour over the past 5 winters. It tends to arrive in Sep-Oct and leave by Dec.

Other observations

There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls today, but a Lesser Black-backed Gull was on the mudflats with the Godwits for some of the time, possibly the same bird that I saw on Slipper Millpond yesterday.


Maurice Lillie saw the first Water Voles for some weeks on Brook Meadow at 9am this morning. There was one adult and one juvenile swimming and moving around on the west bank about 4 metres south of the 'S' bend on the Ems. This takes the total sightings for the year so far to 179 which is our best ever year record sincew 2005.

See full report at . . .


Ralph Hollins noted the following on the Sussex Butterfly Conservation site for Tuesday 4 September 2012 . . .

"Amazing sighting of Small Tortoiseshell ab. lutea in Emsworth. It was a brilliant creamy-white which the photo (above) doesn't do it justice (taken with an elderly camera phone).

Seen on the Sussex side of the Hants/Sussex border. The butterfly ground colour was a uniform buff-white with otherwise normal markings. Any others seen? It was a spectacular event for Southbourne! (Ann and Alan Wingrove)

The photograph has been seen by both Colin Pratt and Neil Hulme and there is a suggestion that the butterfly in question might be ab. pallida, the opinion of an even higher authority (some sort of minor deity I can only presume) is now being sought. However, whether palida or lutea it will, apparently, be a first for Sussex." ed.



I watched the tide rise in the harbour this morning from 11:00 to 12:30, About 3-4 hours before high water at 15:00.

Black-tailed Godwits

I started on the marina seawall where I could see the Godwits on the mudflats. Since most of them were on the regular roosting spot on the west bank of the main channel, I decided to head over to the millpond seawall to get a better look at them as the tide pushed in. From the millpond I could see 72 godwits on the near side of the channel and another 22 were feeding on the eastern shore making a grand total of 94 - the most so far this season.

I think I spotted a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit with a pale cinnamon wash over its neck and breast and neat warm buff fringes to the small brownish upperpart feathers. Pete Potts confirmed that it was a juvenile Black-tailed Godwit.

I watched the godwits for about an hour as the water gradually rose and pushed them onto smaller and smaller islands of rock and mud. I scanned each bird for colour-rings, but only located two. G+WR which was also here yesterday. I could only see one colour-ringed combination leg of the other godwit - LR. It is possible that this was OY+LR which has been a regular wintering bird in Emsworth Harbour where it was recorded 11 times last autumn/winter from 25-Sep to 22-Dec.

Great Black-backed Gulls

At one point around 12.15 the majority of the godwits were clustered together on a small island with an adult Great Black-backed Gull for company. An extraordinary sight which I have never witnessed before.

The gull was probably one of the parents from the Slipper Millpond nest earlier in the season. I saw the two juveniles from the brood frequently during the morning flying between the harbour and the millpond. Finally, as the last remaining island disappeared, the godwits flew onto the east beach in front of the town.

Other observations

An adult Lesser Black-backed Gull was standing on the south raft on Slipper Millpond.


This afternoon I met up with Gareth, an ecologist working for Aluco Ecology, on the Interbridges Site on the east side of New Brighton Road. Aluco Ecology have been employed by the owners of this land to undertake ecology related works on the site to fulfil a planning condition. The site was in fact granted planning permission in year 2004, but little has happened since then. However, this permission was renewed this year and development could take place fairly rapidly.

As part of the survey works Aluco Ecology are undertaking on site they are looking to agree a biodiversity compensation package with Havant Council to fund local wildlife conservation projects. Gareth thought the line of Lime trees on the south side of the site might be spared in the development, but everything else would go. The area would involve a yard with industrial units.

Gareth had previously surveyed the site and located some extra plants not logged in 2004. Notably Corky-fruited Water-dropwort, Bee Orchid, Hairy Sedge and Spiked Sedge.

Emsworth Railway Station wayside

At my invitation, Gareth had a look at the new Emsworth Railway Station wayside which is directly opposite the proposed development area on the west side of the New Brighton Road. He thought it was a very interesting area from a wildlife point of view and fully approved of our plans to preserve it as a natural habitat. However, he stressed the need for scrub management which he thought could be funded from the compensation from the Interbridges Site development. He would get in touch with Terry Green of Southern Railway to discuss this arrangment.

Narrow-leaved Water-plantain

Our most exciting find on the railway site was a flowering plant of the rare Narrow-leaved Water-plantain in the concrete lined channel that comes under the A27 to the west of the main site. I think this is a feeder stream for the Westbrook Stream where we have a number of well established Narrow-leaved Water-plantain plants. Gareth also noted what appeared to be Remote Sedge growing in the same channel.

Prickly Lettuce

Gareth pointed out two forms of Prickly Lettuce that were growing close together on the northern track, one with whole lanceolate leaves and the other with lobed leaves. He thought the lobed form used to be more common, but the other form had now taken over. I had never noticed the differently shaped leaves before. Interestingly, Wikipedia gives a reference to an American paper on 'Lobed Prickly Lettuce' where some leaves are lobed others not so. Maybe American Prickly Lettuce is more lobed than the British version? See . . .

Gareth also noted what he thought was Small-flowered Crane's-bill.


After leaving Gareth, I went onto Brook Meadow to look for the Clouded Yellow that I saw, but failed to photograph, on the Lumley area yesterday. There were several White butterflies flitting around the Common Fleabane flowers, but no sign of the Clouded Yellow. However, I had a fine Southern Hawker flying near me and when it settled I was able to take the following photo, which I think confirms it as a female.



10:15 - 11:15 - Viewing the harbour from the Emsworth Marina seawall. About 3-4 hours before high water at 14:28.

Black-tailed Godwits

I counted a maximum of 76 Godwits feeding in the low water channel. As the tide rose they assembled along the edge of the main channel making them easier to count. Among them were two 'old friends' - colour-ringed birds.

W+GO - Ringed Farlington. 20 Oct 1995 as adult male. A mega-regular wintering bird in Emsworth Harbour since 1996. This was our 112th sighting. It usually arrives here in September and for the past two winters has departed in December.

Pete Potts says good to know W+GO is still alive. Our oldest one is c.20 years and the oldest UK record c.23 years and the oldest Dutch limosa bird is c.30 years old so a way to go yet to become the oldest ever islandica and even more to become the oldest godwit of either race! However I am sure we will smash the records given time and continued collaboration.

There should be lots juvs on their way to us it has been a good breeding season and some have yellow flags on so please look out for them.

G+WR - Ringed at Farlington on 10 Sept 2008 as adult male. It has been regular wintering bird in Emsworth Harbour since that time. We have had 76 sightings of it in Emsworth. Last winter it was here continuously from 08-Aug-11 to 11-Feb-12.


There were about 8 Greenshank scattered around the channels in the harbour. I saw one colour-ringed bird, but I could not be 100% sure about the colours. I am fairly sure the left leg was RO. The right leg could be LY, YY or WY. Possible RO+LY.

Other harbour birds

Redshank (20), Turnstone (4), Curlew (3), Little Egret (1), Black-headed Gull (260), Herring Gull (4), Great Black-backed Gull (2 adults).

Other observations

A Dunnock was constantly calling from Tamarisk bush on the marina seawall path.

Hedgerow Crane's-bill is still in flower along this path.


Clouded Yellow

A stroll through the meadow this afternoon produced the first Clouded Yellow of the year on the Lumley area. That was the first Clouded Yellow sighting on Brook Meadow since 2003. I chased it around taking snaps, but none of them came out. It just would not settle.


Ralph Hollins provides some extra information on Harvestmen that I was not aware of when I wrote the short piece yesterday. Thanks Ralph.

1. Many of the species have their eyes mounted in an 'armoured turret' on top of their bodies.

These special eyes can in fact be seen on my photo.

2. They have no silk glands and do not spin webs which makes one wonder how they catch their prey. Harvestmen are omnivorous. They will catch and eat smaller invertebrates and feed on the remains of any dead animals they find.

3. They also have a different sex life. Many of the species are parthenogenic and reproduce without males but in other species the males do have a penis and copulate (unlike spiders in which the males extrude sperm but do not have a penis - they use the palps that can be found hanging from 'arms' in front of their faces to 'manually' transfer the sperm to the epigyne of the female).




As I was up dating the signcases on Brook Meadow this afternoon, I noticed a 'Daddy-long-legs' resting on a leaf. But which 'Daddy-long-legs' was it? It had no wings, so that must rule out a Cranefly (Tipula) which does have wings. As it had a single rounded body, it could not be a spider which has a clearly distinguishable head/thorax and abdomen. So that left Harvestman. Although they belong to the class Arachnida, Harvestmen are in the order Opiliones and are not spiders, which are members of the order Araneae.

This Harvestman appeared to have lost one of its eight legs, though that is not uncommon. One interesting feature of this insect was the bright orange colour of its body and the absence of any marking. However, there are images of Harvestmen on the internet that look very similar to this one.

We have 23 species of Harvestman living in Britain, though an amazing 6,500 species have been discovered worldwide. Harvestmen are a very old family. Well-preserved fossils have been found in the 400-million-year-old Rhynie cherts of Scotland, which look surprisingly modern, indicating that their basic structure has not changed much since then.



Light drizzle did not deter about 10 volunteers from turning up for the regular conservation work session on Brook Meadow. The main task was cutting and clearing the mass of vegetative growth in the southern part of the north meadow, using the power scythe for cutting and rakes and bags for clearing the arisings. The area in and around the small Osier plantation was also cleared. This should be an attractive area, as Osier catkins are always the first to show in the early spring.

I saw what looked like a family of Whitethroats feeding on the seedheads in the north meadow. Robin was singing its autumn song. Volunteers brought to my attention a Frog which was revealed during the clearance.



Great Black-backed Gulls

At least three members of the Great Black-backed Gull family that nested on Slipper Millpond this spring and summer are still in the area. An adult (probably female) was on the south raft on Slipper Millpond this morning. Then in the afternoon two juveniles were on Emsworth Millpond and a little later they were both in the main harbour along with an adult.

Mallard ducklings

Mum and 8 ducklings were on Emsworth Millpond this afternoon, a late brood probably due to the difficult conditions earlier in the season. A number of birds are probably having late broods like this.

The mystery climber - Clematis flammula

Martin Hampton suspects the white-flowered plant I saw climbing on the vegetation on the path alongside the golf course at Sinah might Clematis flammula which is scented and has flowers very like those in the picture. It is also known as fragrant virgin's bower. I think he is absolutely correct. Thanks, Martin.

Wikipedia adds: It is native to southern Europe and northern Africa, but it is cultivated worldwide as an ornamental plant in gardens. The woody vine bears fragrant white flowers and small green achenes. When the flowers are newly opened they have a strong sweet almond fragrance. The vine grows in a tangled mass that is heavily sprinkled with flowers throughout the warmer months. It is popular with gardeners as a decoration along fences and trellises, or as ground cover. If the vine has no other plants or structures to climb on, it will climb on itself, forming a large, densely tangled bush. The plant sends out many shoots and can reach over five meters in height. It is sweet-smelling but poisonous. In some areas, this species has become a nuisance after its introduction. It is a weed outside of gardens and landscaped areas. Clematis flammula var. maritima is a hardier variety that is adapted to sand dunes. It is currently being studied as an agent of soil stabilization on eroded sandy beaches.

Tony's dragonfly - Migrant Hawker

Regarding the dragonfly that Tony Wootton took in flight on West Thorney yesterday, Ralph Hollins agrees it looks like a Common Hawker but points out that that species does not normally occur in our area (though it is common in the New Forest and as near as Thursley in Surrey).

He says, another possibility, which would be found here, is Migrant Hawker. When flying a reliable feature to look for is the bright blue spot on the side of the base of the abdomen, as no other Hawkers show this and Tony's pic does show this. However, the photo does give the impression of the bulkier Common Hawker but Ralph still thinks Migrant Hawker is a possibility. Ralph provides a photo that Heather Mills took of a Migrant Hawker during a visit to Browndown (Gosport) today showing the same prominent blue spot as in Tony's photo which is further evidence that that may have been what Tony saw.

Hayling Island

Having seen my photos from Hayling Island yesterday, Malcolm Phillips had a walk around Hayling west beach for the first time ever. What a nice experience to have. Malcolm got some good photos, including this one of the local Kestrel taking off from the golf club fence.

For earlier observations go to . . . August 1-31