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for October 2017
(in reverse chronological order)

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Earthstar fungi
While walking on Brook Meadow this afternoon, Rayner Piper found four Earthstar fungi on the east bank of the river just down from the north bridge. He sent me the following two photos. I think they are Collared Earthstars (Geastrum triplex). They are like Puffballs with an outer skin which splits and peels back in a star-like pattern. The lobes surround a thin-skinned inner bag full of spores, which escape through a small opening at the top. They are relatively uncommon and a first for Brook Meadow, so we are grateful to Rayner for spotting them.


Brook Meadow Workday
I went over to Brook Meadow to take photos for the regular third Thursday in the month work session - my first outing since my fall last Saturday. The rain held off, though my wellies were useful as the vegetation was very wet. There was a very good turn out of 14 volunteers led by Jennifer Rye. It was particularly good to see Lesley Harris returning to the meadow for the first time since her serious illness.

The main task was raking and clearing the Lumley area and the two small experimental areas in the north meadow which had been cut by Nigel with the power scythe yesterday.

They did a magnificent job and all was completed. This is the most important botanical area on Brook Meadow for sedges and rushes, plus a regular crop of Ragged Robin and orchids, so it is vital to cut and clear the site each year.
Jennifer served cakes at coffee break to celebrate her wedding anniversary. I explained to everyone that the awful appearance of my face was the result of a nasty fall in Portsmouth last Saturday. I was persuaded to join the volunteers for a group photo (taken by Jennifer) around the newly installed green oak bench in memory of our sadly departed colleague Frank Styles. Lesley is sitting with me on the bench.

For the full workday report and more photos go to . . .

There is a good flowering of Meadowsweet and Michaelmas Daisies. The latter usually attract butterflies, but there were none there today, just one or two small bees. However, Jennifer said she counted 4 Peacocks and 3 Red Admirals on the daisies yesterday.

Two unidentified insects: hoverfly and bush-cricket.

Ralph Hollins comments: "My guess at your hoverfly is Sphaerophoria scripta Long Hoverfly) - see

I can't see enough of the 'Bush Cricket' to make a confident guess (especially the wings) but my feeling is that it is a Conehead - probably Short-Winged."

Sorry, there's been no blog recently, but I have been out of action due to a nasty fall.


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby had a brief hour this morning to visit Langstone Mill Pond. He walked in along Wade Lane and by the "Wade Court Castle Tower" he found 2 Chiffchaff, 2 Goldcrest and a handsome Firecrest, all virtually in the same clump of trees and bushes by the road.
At the pond (it was high tide) and consequently all I had on the water were 57 Brent Geese and a Sandwich Tern. On the pond were 47 Teal, 3 eclipse plumaged Shoveler, another foraging Chiffchaff and briefly a Green Sandpiper flew low over hectically calling.


Emsworth Harbour
11:30 - 12.30 Low water. Strong westerly wind. Greenshank and Redshank feeding in the outfall from the town millpond. This is a popular spot for these small waders.

23 Black-tailed Godwits feeding in the main channel from the millpond seawall, including colour-ringed bird: ROL+RLR. This colourful Kent ringed Godwit has been with us in Emsworth each winter since 2008. It is getting on in years.

This was my 98th sighting of ROL+RLR, but it still trails G+WR (also ringed in 2008) which is currently on 122 and W+GO (now deceased) on 113. Here are a couple of shots of these Godwits from earlier years. I have yet to see G+WR this winter.

More on ringed Godwits
Peter Milinets-Raby reminded me that the colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit he had in Emsworth on 07-Oct was clearly R+WW. Pete Potts would like to see this bird again and photograph it, if possible. There's a challenge for Peter Milinets-Raby. R+WW was one of those birds ringed way back in Nov 1998 that have not been seen for certain for many years. Many of them are assumed to be dead, though Pete says that 2-3 birds are still alive from that Nov 1998 catch of c.95 godwits made at Farlington.
Pete also pointed out that these birds ringed many years ago were fitted with the old style 7mm tall 'short rings' (other than the 14mm tall red left tarsus 'marker ring'). Since then 14mm 'tall rings' have been used. The white rings discolour to, or stain to, dirty off-white/yellowish/orange with time as do lime rings. See the photos above of G+WR with tall rings and W+GR with short rings.

Garden birds
To try to solve the problem of seeds falling from the feeders hung from a tree in the garden and rotting on the ground, I decided to remove the bird table, which had previously provided my regular flock of Collared Doves with their daily food supply. Success! Today, eleven of them gathered around the base of the tree gobbling up the fallen seeds. Early days, but let's hope it works.


Colour-ringed Godwit resolved
Pete Potts has resolved the mystery over the correct colour-ring combination of the Black-tailed Godwit that has been seen by Peter Milinets-Raby and myself over the past week in Emsworth Harbour and at Langstone. Pete says the combination is definitely O+WL and not R+WL. In fact, R+WL has not seen since 2005 and is probably now deceased. It also had small rings whereas the Godwit that Peter and I have been seeing has tall rings.

Here is a shot I got of Black-tailed Godwit O+WL a couple of years ago in Emsworth Harbour
showing clearly the orange ring on the bird's left tibia in contrast to the red marker ring on its tarsus (ankle).

Ivy Bees
Ivy Bees (Colletes hedera) were first seen in the British Isles in Dorset in 2001, having arrived from continental Europe. They feed exclusively on the nectar of ivy flowers and to cash in on this autumnal bounty, they emerge in mid- or late September and are on the wing until early November. They are the latest solitary bees to emerge and because there are so few other bees around at this time of year, are easy to identify. Look out for their distinctly banded abdomens. They can look a bit wasp-like, due to the more pointed tip of the abdomen.

John Norton's photo of an Ivy Bee is on the left and Peter Milinets-Raby photo of a probable Honey Bee on the right.

Ralph Hollins provides some useful sources of information about Ivy Bees . . .


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this afternoon from 1:30pm to 2:38pm - tide coming in to high.
On the last patch of mud were: 10 Sandwich Tern, 2 Common Gull, 3 Bar-tailed Godwit, 71 Black-tailed Godwit - O//R +WL//-, 8 Grey Plover, 4 Teal, 51 Redshank (-//B + B//YG & -//B + B//YL), 1 Greenshank, 1 Sparrowhawk.

Peter's photo shows the difference between the Bar-tailed Godwit with slightly upturned bill
and the Black-tailed Godwit with a dead straight bill

This photo captures beautifully the Black-tailed Godwits in their alert mode

Off Conigar Point in the distance were: 18 Grey Plover, 1 Turnstone, 4 Brent Geese, 17 Dunlin.
On the pond were: 44 Teal, 3 Juv/female type Tufted Duck, 2 male and 1 female eclipse plumaged Shoveler, 20 Little Egret roosting, 4 Grey Herons.
A Green Sandpiper flew off from the reed bed and headed to the flooded paddock.
Grey Wagtail on the paddock.

Brian's note on Godwit O+WL: I have 13 records of colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit O+WL in Emsworth Harbour dating back to 2010. It seems possible that the Godwit Peter and I recorded as R+WL on 07-Oct and 09-Oct could be O+WL. The right leg ring certainly looked red on the bird I saw and photographed, though red and orange are easily confused in the field. I have yet to hear confirmation from Pete Potts.

Peter managed to find a photo of the godwit in question.
But the upper ring, is it orange or is it red?

LATE NEWS - Pete Potts has resolved the mystery over the correct colour-ring combination of the Black-tailed Godwit that has been seen by Peter Milinets-Raby and myself over the past week in Emsworth Harbour and at Langstone. Pete says the combination is definitely O+WL and not R+WL. In fact, R+WL has not seen since 2005 and is probably now deceased. It also had small rings whereas the Godwit that Peter and I have been seeing has tall rings.


Emsworth Harbour
I had a walk along the millpond promenade with my scope from 10.30 to 11.30 this morning. Dull conditions, quite chilly in the strong breeze. The tide was well out and I was on the look out for Brent Geese, but did not see any. They always take some time to come into the inner harbour. However, I did have the pleasure of seeing a flock of 52 Black-tailed Godwits on the edge of the main channel. Godwits regularly assemble at this point as the tide rises. I could not see any colour-rings, though many were in water. They are easily visible from the millpond with the naked eye.

Another 5 Godwits were feeding close to the millpond seawall, but again no rings. Here is one of the close Godwits digging deep for food.

There were also about 25 Turnstones feeding on the mudflats.
On the millpond itself I counted 2 Mute Swans, 22 Coot and one Cormorant. I did not count the Mallard, though there was no as many as usual.

Nore Barn
John Jury was at Nore Barn today where the regular colour-ringed Greenshank (G+GL) was in the stream, with a Common Redshank, but still no Spotted Redshank. It is not too late, but I am getting increasingly despondent!

Garden Bird feeders
Sue Thomas was interested to read about the mess the birds make around my garden feeders in last night's blog. She's had the same problem and felt more seed was being wasted than eaten - exactly my feeling, Sue. Anyway, she set about tackling the problem using her pottery skills. She writes,
"Pottery is one of my hobbies so I set to designing some feeders that I hoped would produce less mess. I started with niger seeders for goldfinches and made them with a saucer on the base to catch seed. This works fairly well. I believe you can buy plastic feeders for niger seeds with a large detachable saucer. Have you ever tried one of them?"

Brian's reply: Yes, I have used niger seed feeders in the past, and with saucers underneath to catch the dropping seeds. But I gave up on niger seed many years ago, partly because of the mess underneath the feeders and partly because the Goldfinches preferred sunflower hearts. I think many people have found the same.

Sue continues, "Then I set to producing a feeder for small birds, and came up with a round pot just with a hole for the seeds. This works very well because the bird has to pop its head right inside and so doesn't scatter the seeds so much, but the downside is that it needs filling every day as it's small."

Brian's reply: I like this one. It is original and I have seen nothing like it on sale. Will you make one for me, please? I would love to give it a try.

Sue again: "So I made a tall pot with lots of holes in it which I fill with nibbled peanuts and mixed seed. No mess but only suitable for Coal Tits, Great Tits and Blue Tits but I'm not complaining about that! The Goldfinches use all the feeders except this one and I think they are the messiest birds. However, we have a regular Woodpigeon, nicknamed 'the Hoover' and it clears up all the fallen seeds under the feeding station. Perhaps you should get one of those!?"

Brian's reply: That is an interesting one. As there are no perches, I assume the birds cling on while they grab some seeds. I can't imagine Goldfinches going for this one! I agree, they are the messiest of eaters. Concerning bird 'hoovers' I have a small flock of Collared Doves that do a reasonable job, though they don't keep pace with the droppings.


Nore Barn
12 noon. I cycled to Nore Barn in rising tide. A nice flock of Black-tailed Godwits were on the mudflats. Common Redshank, Greenshank (G+GL) and Black-headed Gull were in the steam, but still no Spotted Redshank. Three Curlew were a bit further out and their haunting bubbling calls were constant.

A small flock of around 25 Black-tailed Godwits were feeding on the mudflats.

I managed to located two colour-ringed birds among them as follows:
ROL+RLR - was ringed on 27-Oct-08 at Kingsnorth Power Station, Medway Est. Kent as an adult male. Today's sighting means the bird would be at least 10 years old. It has been a regular wintering bird in Emsworth since then and this was my 97th in total.
R+WL - This is my first record of this colour-ringed Godwit in Emsworth Harbour, though Peter Milinets-Raby did report a colour-ringed Godwit in Emsworth Harbour as R+WW on 07-Oct which could well have been the same bird. Looking through my Black-tailed Godwit records I do have some old sightings of R+WL at Broadmarsh in year 2000. I also have one other record by Ruth Croger in Jan-Mar-07 in the Avon Valley. I will check this combination with Pete Potts.

Ivy Bees
Regarding the Honey Bees on Ivy flowers reported by Peter Milinets-Raby on Oct 6th, John Norton thinks most of these would have been Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae), though the photo that Peter took for the blog may well be a Honey Bee. John added, "Now that Ivy is in full flower, it is not unusual to see large numbers of these gathering pollen. Usually they have more distinctly banded abdomens and can look a bit wasp like, due to the more pointed tip of the abdomen".

John's photo of an Ivy Bee is on the left below and Peter's photo of the Honey Bee on the right.

There is some useful info on the BWARS site:

Peter's comment: "At the time I did note a couple of these, but dismissed them as funny wasps with the stripes and consequently did not approach to take photos. I was using the mobile phone to take pictures and was within 5 to 10 centimetres from the subject. There was, what looked like a hornet also present, but this could have been a hover fly. Again, I did not go near. I will look out more carefully next time."

Brian's comment: Ivy Bees are completely new to me, so thanks to John for pointing out this interesting variation. It is always good to look closely at Ivy flowers at this time of the year and I will certainly do so.


Garden Bird feeders
In the garden at present I have three seed feeders and two fat ball holders hanging from the cherry tree with a bird table and water bowl nearby. Lots of birds are attracted to the feeding station, particularly Goldfinches, House Sparrows, Starlings, Blue Tits, Great Tits and Long-tailed Tits. The big problem with the feeders is the seed falling to the ground and rotting there. I had a good clear up this morning, digging out all the smelly stuff and replacing it with fresh compost, but I have done this before and it is bound to happen again. I can't put any smooth surface down due to the tree's roots. Goldfinches are the main culprits, but House Sparrows also drop stuff.

I have recently changed the composition of the seeds in the feeders from pure sunflower hearts to a mixture of standard bird seed and sunflower hearts. The reason for this is that the birds were getting through a vast amount of sunflower hearts which are very expensive! However, this makes the droppings worse since the birds usually reject the seeds in favour of the hearts. So, I can't win! Any suggestions?

Finches in decline
Greenfinches and Chaffinches are having a rough time. BTO reports falling numbers over the past 10 years, mainly due to disease. I have also seen their numbers go down in my own garden. Greenfinches used to be my number one garden bird with up to 20 birds on the feeders. Then came the disease trichomonosis in 2007 which decimated the population and produced a dramatic drop in Greenfinches in the garden. Although there does seem to be some sign of recovery, I only get the occasional Greenfinch on the feeders.

Chaffinch numbers have also been affected by trichomonosis. In addition, they are subject to another disease affecting their legs. Today, I noticed one of the two Chaffinches in the garden had a white encrustation on its right leg. According to the RSPB this is most likely to be Chaffinch viral papilloma which is a virus specific to Chaffinches, but is rarely fatal. It is caused by a wound in the leg becoming infected and has low contagiousness; birds need to be in close contact for it to be passed on.
See . . .

Nore Barn
I cycled over to Nore Barn this morning to catch the rising tide. I got there just in time to see a flock of 31 Black-tailed Godwits feeding on the mudflats before they were pushed off onto the far saltmarshes, too far away for me to see any colour-rings. Fortunately, two of the Godwits came close to the shore where I could get a nice photo of them feeding.

The only birds in the stream were a Common Redshank and a Black-headed Gull and still no sign of our regular wintering Spotted Redshank. I am getting twitchy, but there is still time.

Later in the day, a couple of fishermen in waders off the millpond seawall caught my eye

Garden Sparrowhawk
Caroline French has had a male Sparrowhawk in her area (North Emsworth) over the past couple of weeks and has seen it shooting through the garden. Today, she was in luck for the Sparrowhawk made a kill in her garden.

Caroline writes:
"I heard a 'bang' from the garden and when I looked out I saw a Sparrowhawk standing on the back of a Collared Dove in the flower bed. The Dove must have flown into the fence in panic I should think. It was still alive but thankfully didn't last more than a few minutes once the Sparrowhawk had started tearing at the head and neck area.

Ray and I were careful not to disturb the Sparrowhawk but were surprised that it took more than and hour and a quarter to finish its meal, leaving little more than a mess of feathers and a few entrails to show for it. I noticed it seemed to deliberately discard the entrails, or a least some of them.
I was surprised to go down the garden to the compost heap about an hour later to find a new Collared Dove corpse next to the remains of the first one! I didn't see the Sparrowhawk this time, and assume it was disturbed by me or something else. Either that or it had eyes bigger than its stomach and decided it couldn't quite manage two whole Collared Doves in one afternoon after all.

As you can see from the photos, it started on the head, then the back. This is the same pattern as with the first bird, before it progressed to the tail area and finished by turning the bird over and eating the breast. I hoped the Sparrowhawk might return for the second bird, but it didn't, and is presumably too heavy for it to carry away. It will be interesting to see whether the Hedgehogs eat it tonight."
What a fascinating story, Caroline. Please keep us posted on any developments.

Peter Milinets-Raby visited the Warblington shore this morning from sunrise (7:15am to 8:48am - A very, very low tide).
In the cemetery to start with were 2 Jays, a Coal Tit and a Kestrel.
In the hedgerow beside the Ibis field, I had brief close views of a Firecrest as well as a Chiffchaff. Heard flying over were 3+ Meadow Pipits.
Along the hedgerow behind Conigar Point I encountered another Chiffchaff and had a Siskin fly over.
In the mini reed bed behind Conigar Point I heard a Water Rail and a Cetti's Warbler
Off Conigar Point there was virtually nothing, just 7 Teal and 4 Great Black-backed Gulls. After a scan I discovered the culprit for the lack of birds, which was a handsome adult Peregrine perched on one of the red marker posts. It was still present when I left the shore at 8:30am!
Conigar Point also held 5 Shelduck, 10 Brent Geese and 2 Sandwich Terns. Flying over on migration I had 3+ Meadow Pipits and 3 Skylark.
Off Pook Lane I had a further 16 Skylarks flying over heading south east, along with 2 Meadow Pipits.
Off shore were 8 Greenshank, 8 Grey Plover, 7 Black-tailed Godwit, a single Bar-tailed Godwit, 6 Dunlin, 15 Little Egrets feeding in the trickle of water and resting on the mud were 7 Sandwich Tern.
Perched on the hedgerow and along the fence posts were 2 male Stonechat (see pic of one)

Emsworth at high tide (2pm ish) Tufted Duck female on the Emsworth Mill Pond, with 6 Buzzards in the air at once and a single Sandwich Tern and 3 Great Black-backed Gulls in the harbour.

Brian's note; That was the first Tufted Duck of the winter on Emsworth Millpond. Six Buzzards - what a sight!


Emsworth Harbour
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Emsworth Harbour this morning from 7:10 to 8:28 in awful weather, with a fine drizzle and blustery wind and very low tide. The details as follows:
7 Little Egret, 4 Greenshank in the trickle of stream by the wall of the town, 1 Lapwing, 33 Black-tailed Godwit (R+WW), 6 Turnstone, 23 Brent Geese, 4 Canada Geese, 1 Grey Plover, 1 Great Black-backed Gull.
Mill Pond held 25 Coot, 2 Mute Swans, 5 Cormorants feeding together and in the outflow stream was perched a Kingfisher.
Beacon Square: Just a Chiffchaff heard in the gardens
Nore Barn: Usual coloured ringed Greenshank (G+GL) in the stream with a Redshank and Little Egret. 3 Black-tailed Godwits nearby and 3 Shelduck further out. Flying over I heard 1 Siskin.

Brian's note: I have no previous records of colour-ringed Black-tailed Godwit R+WW in Emsworth. I will check with Pete Potts.

Heather Mills reported on this morning's walk by the Havant Wildlife Group at Chidham, which included the following sightings.

4 Grey Partridge

Bar-tailed Godwit. Curlew.

Hornet feeding on Ivy flowers.

For the full report go to . . . Havant Wildlife Group - 2017 reports


Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby made a couple of visits today. The first was from 9am to 9:30am to Langstone Mill Pond - tide out.
Off shore 11 resting Sandwich Tern on the mud. Feeding along the tide line were a single Bar-tailed Godwit and a single Greenshank (G//R + BR//-). Further out were 5 Brent Geese and 6 Teal.
On the pond were 17 Teal, 2 juv/female type Tufted Duck, an eclipse plumaged male Shoveler. Flying over were heard only Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Pied Wagtail. Calling from the reeds was a Cetti's Warbler.
A Kingfisher was seen briefly dashing inches above the pond, along with 2 Swallows (a late date for this part of the world - possibly the last of the summer).
In the paddock was a Grey Wagtail and a lovely charm of 55+ Goldfinch.

Nore Barn
Peter's second visit was to Nore Barn from 2pm to 4pm - high tide, until the last 30 minutes, when the tide fell away.
A Peregrine was dashing about over the marsh - seen a couple of times during the two hour visit.
Three Sandwich Tern were feeding off shore for the entire two hours.
Also present 2 Shelduck, 8 Brent Geese and in the stream a single Little Egret.
In the gardens I had one calling Chiffchaff, a laughing Green Woodpecker.
As the tide dropped away, in flew 14 Greenshank from Thorney Island (RG//- + BY// & G//R + GR//- & G//R + GG//-), along with 5 Dunlin and 33+ Curlew. In the Beacon Square part of the shore were 9 Black-tailed Godwit and a flock of 67 Brent Geese were seen heading into Emsworth Harbour. Noted flying over on migration were 1 Siskin, 2+ Meadow Pipits and 2+ Pied Wagtails.

Butterflies galore
This warm spell of weather along with the opening of the richly scented nectar Ivy flowers has produced an exceptional emergence of butterflies. During his visit to Nore Barn, Peter Milinets-Raby noted that one Ivy bush held 7 Red Admirals, a Peacock, a Comma, 2 Whites and 40+ Honey Bees!! Along the whole stretch of back gardens, he had a further 8+ Red Admirals, another Peacock, 3+ Whites and a further 15+ butterflies flying across the water. An impressive number.
Susan Kelly was also struck by the number of butterflies she saw on Western Parade. Eleven Red Admirals and innumerable bees were feeding on the flowers of a big clump of ivy. What a valuable plant is Ivy at this time of the year.

Peter's photos: Comma, Peacock, Red Admiral and Honey Bee - all on Ivy flowers



Nore Barn
I went over to Nore Barn on a falling tide this afternoon. I stayed for about an hour from 2.30 to 3.30 as the tide fell and the stream gradually emptied, but there was no sign of our regular Spotted Redshank. The only bird feeding was a Common Redshank. I am getting a little anxious, though there is still plenty of time for our Spotted Redshank. Last year it was not seen until Oct 11.

I had a walk along the beach where Golden Samphire was still flowering.

There are thousands of Acorns everywhere, including on the beach
where they are difficult to distinguish from the small pebbles.

Ichneumon Fly
Bryan Pinchen checked last night's blog entry and thinks the Ichneumon Fly that I identified as Pimpla rufipes is, in fact, Apechthis compunctor . The ovipositor looks too short and stout for Pimpla and in the second photo certainly appears to be down curved at the tip which is the main feature to separate the two species. The Brook Meadow one also has orange coxae whereas in Pimpla these are generally dark to almost black.

For more details see . . .

Bryan added that strictly speaking, these are Ichneumon wasps not flies, they belong to the hymenoptera. He has never understood why some books call them ichneumon flies. Thanks Bryan. Point taken.

Caddis fly
Bryan also pointed out that my 'moth' is actually a Caddisfly - looks like Limnephilus auricula, but this is a notoriously difficult group with only a few identifiable in the field.

Bryan adds, "This species is one that I took recently on a survey and have been able to compare your photo with my specimen. It's a pretty good match. Note the wing membrane of yours is quite glossy in appearance, whereas in a moth they would be matt due to the complete covering of scales that make up the colour patterns. In Caddisflies the wings have a covering of fine hairs of variable density depending on genus/species."

Brent Geese
Mike Wells found a small flock of Brent Geese from path at the north end of Old Hayling Billy Line. I have not seen any in Emsworth Harbour as yet, though Susan Kelly did see a small flock a few days ago. They should be in the harbour in the next couple of weeks.

Chidham walk
Christopher Evans went out with the Havant U3A birdwatching group to Chidham.
"The main sightings on our walk to and from Cobnor Point were: half a dozen Swallows, a heard but not seen Green Woodpecker, a brief glimpse of a Sparrowhawk, regular sightings of probably the same Kestrel, Meadow Pipits, a pair of Reed Buntings, a lone Whinchat, about a dozen Redshank, a small number of individual Little Egrets, a couple of Lapwing, two Grey Herons, a pair of Mute Swans and a small number of Brent Geese in the main part of the harbour. Down by the point and out of the wind it was quite glorious and a good site for our coffee/lunch stop. What remained of the sand spit off the point (it was high tide by then) was densely packed with Oystercatchers, Curlew and Grey Plovers, whilst a lone Sandwich Tern perched on a nearby post. Approaching the point, two or three of us had a brief sighting of a Harbour Seal, whilst throughout the walk we saw a number of Red Admiral butterflies, at least one Peacock butterfly and a single Clouded Yellow."


Ichneumon Fly
While walking down the raised path adjacent to the river on Brook Meadow this afternoon, I noticed a single stem of Common Nettle shaking, which was puzzling when everything around it was still. At first, there seemed no obvious cause for the shaking. However, there was a black fly with bright orange legs and an ovipositor was on the uppermost leaf and appeared to be trying to lay eggs on or into one of the nettle leaves. The photo on the left shows the fly with the ovipositor and the photo on the right shows it seemingly laying eggs.

When I got home, a little research in my insect books and on the internet led me to identify the fly as an Ichneumon Fly called Pimpla rufipes. The fact that it appeared to be egg laying along with its thick and short ovipositor clearly indicated it was a female. Pimpla rufipes is quite common and widespread in England and Wales. It is an autumn species and predates butterfly and moth larva, laying an egg in each one.

Back to the shaking Nettle leaves, I could see some were bound together in a cocoon and, when I prised it apart a little, the origin of the shaking became clear. Inside the leaf cocoon was a butterfly chrysalis hanging down and distinctly shivering, probably due to the attempted egg laying by the fly. Here is a photo of the chrysalis which I think is a Small Tortoiseshell, though Peacock is possibly.

During the walk through Brook Meadow this afternoon I had the pleasure of seeing a Kingfisher flash beneath the north bridge where I was standing, going north. I walked gingerly around the north path, but did not see any more of the bird. Kingfishers are fairly common along the river and over the millponds at this time of the year as they have come down to the coast for the winter period. No chance of a photo of today's bird, but here is a cracker that Malcolm Phillips got on Brook Meadow a couple of years ago.

Walking back through Palmer's Road Copse a brown moth flew across the path and landed on a plant allowing a photo to be taken. Its wings were closed at rest and it has long antennae. I have not identified it as yet.


Millpond News
Jean and I had a walk around the town millpond this morning after coffee in Flintstone's. We found the resident millpond Mute Swan pair on patrol at the wall near Slipper Sailing Club, as in previous years, defending their millpond nesting territory from another pair lurking just outside in the harbour.


Last year the resident pair built a nest of sorts near the road bridge, but no eggs were laid as far as I am aware. Maybe, this year? The aggressive behaviour of this pair is the main reason for the absence of the once regular flock of 100 or so swans on the pond.

I scanned the harbour for Brent Geese that Susan Kelly reported yesterday, but none was to be seen. Walking back down Bath Road we stopped to admire a Holly bush by the millpond covered with bright red berries. Is it a good year for them?

It seemed as if Red Admiral butterflies were everywhere today, enjoying in the warm sunshine; I saw one over the millpond, two on the Ivy flowers at Nore Barn, two on Brook Meadow, four on the Michaelmas Daisies near Gooseberry Cottage and two on the Verbena flowers in my back garden. I also saw several Peacock butterflies at some of these locations. How it lifts the spirits to see such beautiful butterflies. The Red Admirals are unlikely to survive the winter unless it is very mild, but the Peacocks should find somewhere warm to hibernate. Here are the best photos of the day.

River surveys
This morning we received a letter from the Environment Agency warning us of river channel surveys to be carried out along the River Ems over the next 3 weeks which might involve entry onto our land. I am not sure why we got that letter as our house in Bridge Road is outside the area designated for the surveys, which appears to be confined to the Ems Valley north to Walderton. Anyway, as Brook Meadow in inside the surveying area, I was not surprised to find two surveyors at work by the sluice gate when I walked through this afternoon. I had a brief chat with them and they confirmed they were contracted to the Environment Agency.

Surveying is OK as far as it goes, but what is really needed on Brook Meadow, is a good clearance of the burgeoning vegetation in and around the river. I have never seen the river in such a bad state over the past 20 years; in fact you can hardly see the river at all except from the bridges. Surely, clearance of in channel and bankside vegetation would help the flow of water as well as improving the habitat for Water Voles which we would all like to see back on the river.

Langstone Mill Pond
Peter Milinets-Raby visited Langstone Mill Pond this morning from 9am to 9:47am - tide nearly in. On the pond were 2 female/juv type Tufted Duck along with 37 Teal.
Roosting out the high tide were 14 Little Egrets and 2 Grey Herons.
In the reeds in the north section of the pond were 5 Chiffchaff, a autumn plumaged male Stonechat and a Cetti's Warbler creeping about singing quietly to itself.
In the flooded paddock were 2 Green Sandpipers, 3 Pied Wagtails, a Grey Wagtail and a Buzzard perched on one of the fence posts.


The Snout Moth
Thanks to Andrew Brown and Ralph Hollins for identifying the brown moth in yesterday's report. It is called 'The Snout' (Hypena proboscidalis)

A common species throughout Britain, this moth can often be found in numbers around dusk, flying over patches of the foodplant, nettle (Urtica dioica). It is on the wing from June to August, and again later in the autumn, and is a common occurrence at the light-trap. It occurs on waste ground, gardens, woodland and other places where nettle occurs.
See . . .

Silk Button Galls
John Arnott enjoyed seeing the photos of the Oak galls in yesterday's blog, particularly the golden doughnut shaped ones, which are his favourite. They are called Silk Button Galls and are caused by the little wasp Neuroterus numismalis. John said they used to be quite common, but have become quite scarce.

He added, "The alternation of generations and the agamic generation (female only) that emerges from these galls is fascinating and you can find lots about them online. In spring the females emerge from these galls and lay their eggs by parthenogenesis (i.e. without the need for fertilisation, since there are no males) into the buds of oak leaves. These buds later form what are called blister galls and produce the spring/early summer generation which is bisexual. After mating these new females lay their eggs on the undersides of oak leaves and so we are back to autumn again. The autumn is a great time to look for plant galls, especially on oaks - leaves, buds, stems and acorns are all galled, mostly by the various species of tiny Cynipid wasps you mentioned.

By the way, some of your readers may not quite appreciate that the size, shape and colour of galls is a modification of the growth of the host plant caused by chemicals either (depending on species) from the female when she lays the eggs or from the mouthparts of the larva as it eats its plant host tissues from the inside. Also, the way a gall looks, the species of hostplant and (usually) the location on the host plant are all specific to the species of insect causing the gall. Other organisms also cause galls, e.g. mites and fungi. The well known Witch's Broom gall in birch trees is often caused by a fungus Taphrina betulina for example, though there are many other candidates for causing this gall."

Brents arrive
Susan Kelly is pretty sure she saw Brent Geese in Emsworth Harbour this morning. A flight of about 15, and another larger group in the distance. This is almost certainly the case. I have been expecting them as they have been in the area for a couple of weeks, but always take time to come to the inner harbours. Susan did not have her camera at the time, but here is a shot of a flock of Brent Geese in flight that I got a few years ago at Pagham Harbour.

Woodland walk
Susan had an excellent walk from Westbourne to Stansted on Saturday. She went through Hollybank woods and Southleigh forest, up the lane past the stable to the sawmill, then had coffee at Stansted house before coming back via Sindles Farm. She says, "The highlight was a Nuthatch only a few yards away going quite bonkers with what sounded like an alarm call. I couldn't see any threat (unless it was me), but the tree also had a dozen or so tits flitting around, so it was perhaps warning them off. Also a nice sighting of a Jay, and a Fallow Deer and fawn in the garden of a house on Hollybank lane, nonchalantly eating the lawn."

Nuthatch taken on Brook Meadow a few years ago.


Brook Meadow - Work session
There was rain in the air for the work session this morning led by Dan Mortimer with just 5 volunteers attending. They had a productive session clearing the vegetation from around the Rowans on the east side of the north meadow which were engulfed by vast growth of Bindweed, Bramble and Nettles. We counted 20 large Rowans which were planted in 2005 and 6 small Rowans which were planted fairly recently. I think it would be a good idea to give this area a regular cut throughout the year with the power scythe to prevent this happening in the future and to allow the Rowans to show to their best effect.

Volunteers tackling the undergrowth around the Rowans

For the full report and more photos go to . . .

During the clearance around the Rowans I came across a light brown moth fluttering around. Any offers welcome!

Thanks to Andrew Brown and Ralph Hollins for identifying the moth. It is called ‘The Snout’ Hypena proboscidalis. A common species throughout Britain, this moth can often be found in numbers around dusk, flying over patches of the foodplant, nettle (Urtica dioica). It is on the wing from June to August, and again later in the autumn, and is a common occurrence at the light-trap. It occurs on waste ground, gardens, woodland and other places where nettle occurs.

I heard my first Wren song for several weeks. Meadowsweet is still in flower near the Rowan plantation. Common Fleabane is hanging on here and there. Wild Angelica standing tall and in flower on the south meadow. Dock Shield Bugs conveniently on Dock leaves.

Oak galls
I had a look at the Oak saplings on the Seagull Lane patch which are all growing well. Here is a snap of the Pedunculate Oak that I planted in Year 2012 with the Red Oak donated by the Wilkinson family in memory of Tony in the background.


The under sides of leaves of the Pedunculate Oak were spotted with spangle galls, seemingly of different varieties. I am most familiar with the flat disc galls which have a slightly hairy central elevation. The other galls, more numerous on this leaf, are ball-shaped with a slight depression in the centre.

Here are close-ups of them both through my microscope.

The galls are produced by a Cynipid Wasp which lays its eggs on leaves and the gall develops grows around the developing larvae which feed on the leaf. The galls mature at this time of the year and fall to the ground before the leaves themselves. The larvae continue to develop in the fallen spangle and, protected by the leaf layer, they overwinter before emerging in the spring as adult insects.

 Water Vole
Dan Mortimer reports seeing a Water Vole this morning swimming across the channel between the reeds in the north end of Peter Pond. This is good news, so let's hope this indicates the start of a new generation that may disperse to the River Ems. However, the river at present of seriously overgrown and hardly presents a welcoming sight to any wandering Water Voles. It needs a good cut and clear out.

For the previous month go to . . . September 1-30