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Wildlife diary and news for May 14 - 20 (Week 20 of 2018)

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Sat 19th May

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A walk to Sinah Common finds my first Bittersweet Nightshade, Ox-eye Daisy, Wood Avens, and Pale Flax among other first flowers

After the Royal Wedding in the morning I went for a walk along St Mary's Road and through Havant Park to Staunton Avenue for a look at Sinah Common, coming home along the beach and up Bound Lane and St Leonard's Avenue. This added 14 new plant species in flower to my month list.

The first of these new flowers were on an Elder bush which I can see from my flat and the second were the delicate bundles of blossom hiding under the leaves of the Lime trees surrounding the new block of flats almost next door which are now nearly complete and are on the market under the name 'Limewood'

My next find came where St Mary's Road joins Cherrywood Gardens and was of a substantial succulent plant (overall size about 30cm wide by 30cm tall) which has suddenly shot out, from its 'nest' of thorn-edged leaves, a spear-like structure with three points which I assume will bear flowers but so far I have been unable to find anything like it in my books or on the internet - hopefully when the flowers appear I will be able to name it but at present it is a mystery. Further west the grass lawn of Benwell Court had been mown, removing the wild orchid which I remarked on in my last blog. Crossing over Beach Road into Havant Park I found two games of Cricket in progress as I skirted the southern edge of the grass to reach the south-west corner of the park where there are two ways out. I was familiar with the first of these (leading south to Bacon Lane and Stamford Ave) so I chose the second which was unknown to me but I discovered led into Fernhurst Close, the southern end of which took me back onto Bacon Lane, but before reaching that I found my first flower on what I call Wood Avens but which is also known as Herb Bennet - for a photo see here.

Bacon Lane and Staunton Avenue took me to Seafront Road, and across it into Sinah Common where many plants of Cocks Eggs could seen among the long grass but as yet without any flowers. A few yards further south, on a low hillock, the long grass gave way to a dense ground-hugging mat of the leaves of Mouse ear Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum) from which the distinctive small, pale yellow, flowers arose (see here.) Also here were several of the much larger Common Catsear plants in flower. Before moving on I noticed a few flowers of Tamarisk in the nearby garden hedge but none of the Lycium barbarum which also grows in this hedge. From here I continued south through the line of beach huts in the hope of finding Sea Bindweed whose leaves I had seen recently at Gunner Point. No luck with that but I did find a mat of Sea Sandwort on the shingle with several open flowers - see here. Also at the edge of the shingle beach here I came on a plant of Bittersweet Nightshade already in flower (despite being so close to the sea I feel sure this was the normal form, not the Marinum subspecies which is normally prostrate). From here I trudged east along the beach past the Beachlands Amusement park (finding my first Buck's Horn Plantain in flower close to the 'Railway terminus' - see here) to the Beachlands grassland where I was surprised to find quite a lot of Pale Flax in flower among unmown grass between the railway line and the Seafront Road roughly opposite Chichester Avenue - for photos and information go to Pale Flax webpage.

I continued east until opposite Bound Lane where I turned inland past what looked like Wood Spurge and a clump of Ox-eye Daisies plus Lesser Meadow Rue in a garden - see webpage, and the first flower opening on a Foxglove. Reaching Mengham Lane I took the footpath cutting through to St Margarets Road, half way along which a clump of Shining Cranesbill was in flower - see webpage. My last two finds of the day came in St Leonards Ave. The first was of what appeared to be a wild rose bush covered in all white simple flowers similar to those of a Field Rose (but was, I feel sure, a cultivated species) - see photo of a similar plant. The second was of a genuine wild Common Ragwort.

Tue 15th May

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A surprise find of a wild orchid growing in turf used to create the lawn of retirement block of flats in St Mary's Road
Tree Lupins and Yellow Rattle starting to flower among an increasing number of Green Winged Orchids at Gunner Point
A docile Queen Hornet take honey from a human hand in the Bee Hives of Buckfastleigh Abbey in Devon
The Sussex village of Thakeham boasts a superb all-white Blackbird now singing daily
Eider now heading east to moult on the north German shore
Red-backed Shrikes arrive in Devon and at Dungeness with Quail likely to follow
New insects include Adonis Blue and Eyed Hawkmoth

Earlier this month a tiny flash of bright yellow in the roadside grass of Westfield Avenue drew my attention to a plant which I have been unable to identify despite taking home a single stem of the open bowl shaped structure (reminding me of Smith's Pepperwort). On May 11 I returned to where I had found the plant only to find that the grass in which it had been hidden had been mown, leaving no trace of the mystery plant but on the way home I was confronted with another mystery when passing Benwell Court, just east of the GPO Sorting Office at the west end of St Mary's Road. The frontage of this block of flats had been neatly turfed to create a lawn in the centre of which a single wild orchid was growing. I think this was one of the local Green-winged Orchids, but not enjoying the environment into which it had been accidentally transplanted. Further along St Mary's Road, at it's junction with South Road, I found one more new plant, several spikes of Wintercress.

On May 13 I got on my bike and rode to Gunner Point where the Green-winged Orchids are now at the peak, not only outside the Golf Course but also covering much more of the land inside the fence. Just starting to flower were the yellow Tree Lupins and among them I found my first Bird's Foot Trefoil (also known as "Eggs and Bacon") with a good show of Yellow Rattle. Out on the shingle some of the Sea Kale was now in flower and in the sandy soil lots of Hair Grass was fully grown. Some of the gardens I passed on my way out had the first ornamental Iris plants in flower and near the tennis courts in Havant Park a Bird Cherry tree was dangling its white flower spikes (reminding me that the Horse Chestnuts are also in full flower).

Turning to what I have seen on the internet the most surprising photo was of a Queen Hornet found inside a Honey Bee hive during a tour of Buckfast Abbey in Devon. To set the scene have a look at the Abbey website - see here. I think the person who described the event on the Devon Birds website was part of a party being given a guided tour, which included a look at the Bee Hives which form a significant part of the work of the Abbey. The leader of the tour took the Hornet out of the Beehive, placed it on a leaf and then fed it with Honey from her fingers, all with no aggro from the Hornet. Here is the photo of this event - see here.

Equally impressive was this photo of a fully leucistic Blackbird taken on May 12 at Thakeham, just north of Billingshurst in Sussex, where the bird has been in full song for the past month. For a photo see here. Also from Sussex comes a report of 80 Shelduck on Pagham Harbour on May 13, following a report of 12 at Normandy (Lymington) in the Solent on May 12. My guess is that these are evidence of the annual move of the majority of our Shelduck (leaving a minumum of adults to act as foster parents to this year's young) to the isolated sandy beaches of the north German shore where they will moult during the summer - normally these birds leave without any reports of their departure.

A male Red-backed Shrike was seen at Dawlish Warren in Devon on May 8 (see photo) and a female was at Dungeness on May 13 (see photo.) More summer migrants may be on their way here following reports on Trektellen of 5 Quail and 14 Honey Buzzards, both in the Netherlands on May 12, but here in southern England you may find it easier to see newly hatched Lapwing chicks which were reported at Pulborough Brooks on May 13.

To end this update the Selsey Blog has a photo of an Eyed Hawkmoth taken in north Selsey on May 12 (see photo ) while for those who do not have a moth trap they may well come across the Cinnabar, Mother Shipton and Brimstone moths that are now on the wing - reminders of what they look like can be seen in these photos ... see Cinnabar Moth, Mother Shipton, and Brimstone Moth. Finally back to Butterflies with many Adonis Blues seen in Sussex on May 11 (nationally the first was seen in Kent on May 8) - Photo of Adonis Blue.

Wildlife diary and news for May 7 - 13 (Week 19 of 2018)

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Thu 10th May

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First new Red Admiral of 2018 plus Common and Small Blue, Brown Argus and Wood White come out to show that summer has started
Experts argue about the origin of a Swallowtail on the Sussex Downs and a Holly Blue lays her eggs on Portugal Laurel
Bitterns start booming and Nightjars churring as Cockchafers become airborne
Is Porpoise a normal part of a Grey Seal's diet?
Do seagull nests have less protection than Bat roosts?
My favourite orchid - Orchis ustulata

It is over a week since I last added to this blog, not because there is nothing worth adding to it but because there is too much and too little time to do it justice (and because of heat exhaustion!)

As a starting point I have chosen Francis Plowman's sighting of a 'very fresh' Red Admiral butterfly in Gosport on May 1 which I feel sure he is right in thinking has only just emerged from its chrysalis after surviving the winter here in its immature forms. Other butterfly species that have just taken to the air are Common Blue (first seen in Sussex on May 6), Small Blue (also first seen in Sussex on May 9), Brown Argus (seen in Sussex and Cornwall on May 6) and finally a Wood White (seen on May 6 in a Sussex wood whose location is being kept secret to protect the location from being swamped by people wanting to see this butterfly in Sussex, rather than the traditional Botany Bay site near Chiddingfold in Surrey).

On May 7 Keith Wilson photographed a continental Swallowtail butterfly at the very top of Mount Caburn near Lewes (see one of his photos here) but the editor of the Sussex butterfly website expressed doubts about it being a genuine immigrant now that there is money to be made from 'farming' such attractive species and selling them as adornments for weddings. Next day however Neil Hulme (Sussex Butterfly guru) strongly defended Keith's opinion that the butterfly he had seen was a genuine immigrant and as far as I know neither party is taking the argument to court. As a sidelight on this argument I see that on May 6 Martin Kalaher watched a female Holly Blue break with tradition by laying her eggs, not on a Holly bush but on a Portugal Laurel which has similar characterics in having small white flowers and glossy green leaves - see photo.

Looking at the bird news I see that Bitterns were heard booming (from as much as a mile away) at Brading marshes on the Isle of Wight during the past week and Nightjars were heard churring at Acres Down near Lyndhurst on May 5 while at Fairlight near Hastings (also maybe flying at dusk but probably found next morning in a moth trap) a Cockchafer was seen on May 8 and a Buglife webpage on it can be seen here.

Also on May 8 one of 25 Porpoises in the sea at Dungeness was killed and eaten by a Grey Seal prompting someone there to Tweet the question "Gruesome scenes off Dungeness this morning with a Grey Seal killing and eating a Porpoise. This rare event was first seen here last year on two occasions. Is it the same rogue seal involved??" Google answers this question with a list of different reports of Porpoises being killed by Grey Seals - you can read the first of the positive replies here. To understand the size difference between the two species the maximum length of an adult Common Porpoise is 1.9 metres and the maximum weight of an adult female is 76Kg (male only 61kg). Grey Seals are about the same length (males 2m, females 1.8m) but are much bulkier (males weigh 233kg and females 155kg).

We have probably all heard of people being refused planning permission to make alterations to property which they own if there is evidence that the property is being used by bats and we know that you are not allowed to cut hedges in which wild birds are nesting so it comes as a surprise to hear that an old factory in north Havant is being demolished while at least 22 pairs of Herring Gull and two pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls are nesting on the buildings. It seems that there is no protection for the Herring Gulls (which have in recent years abandoned nesting on cliffs and moved into our seaside towns, causing various nuisances with their noise, droppings, stealing our food, and traffic problems when the young leave the nests and roam the streets before they can fly - all on a scale which increases year by year) but this official 'licence to kill' does not extend to the Lesser Black-backs giving the authorities a headache when both species are nesting at the same site. As a sideline to this argument over real birds it is interesting to look at what Google has to say about the Hastings Direct Insurance Company which uses the Herring Gull as its 'sales image' - see for youself the response you get to asking Google for Hasting Direct Insurance Reviews.

To end this blog entry on a more cheerful note I have picked another report from the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website which was of Burnt Orchids (Orchis ustulata) flowering at Caburn Bottom (the foot of Mount Caburn a few miles south east of Lewes in Sussex) where a few of these orchids were in flower om May 5. I do not know this Sussex site but I have seen this species growing on Martin Down in Hampshire (where I was born in the Vicarage back in 1931) and this personal connection to the site probably influences my choice of this species as my first favourite. I hope that a look at the 'Wildflowerfinder' webpage illustrating the species will persuade you to add this to your 'must see' list of wild flowers. Although it is not a common species in England it can still be found in Wiltshire (where it is the county flower), Hampshire, Sussex and Kent as well as Berkshire and Yorkshire. To see more photos have a look at the Wildflower Finder webpage.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 30 - May 6 (Week 18 of 2018)

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Wed 2nd May

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Nightjar on the coast at Hook, Stone Curlew at Selsey, plus an Alpine Swift and several Golden Orioles
St Marks Flies and a dead Wasp with a pin through its body and late news of the first Pearl Bordered Fritillary in Cornwall
Half a dozen botanic surprises among the first 63 flowers for my new month list

A brief scan of the internet news told me that the first Nightjar had been seen on May 1st resting on Hook links near Warsash before moving on to its final destination where it may manage to avoid detection for some time before it feels the time is right to start its nocturnal 'churring' and birders feel it is worth exploring the local woodlands to see if they can hear it. Equally elusive was a Stone Curlew seen at Sidlesham near Selsey on May 1 and allowing a distant photo which you can see here. Also present in the Selsey area was a Golden Oriole which sang for about 15 minutes in woodland near Itchenor (2 more were seen at Portland on May 1 and another had been seen at Plymouth on Apr 18). Another good bird on May 1 was an Alpine Swift clearly seen over Compton, just south of Winchester, distinguished by its white belly and large size.

Butterfly enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the emergence of Pearl Bordered Fritillaries in Sussex but they are not as lucky as their fellow enthusiasts in Cornwall who recorded their first on Apr 29. The only insect news I picked up from Brian Fellows in Emsworth is that the St Mark's Flies were out on May 1. I learnt two new facts about these flies while looking for background info on them: the first is that the females (14mm long) are much bigger than the males (10mm) and the second is that the eyes of the male are divided into an upper and lower half with separate connections to the brain - the uppper half concentrates on looking for females while the lower half keeps an eye on the ground in order to keep hovering over the same point. For a photo of a mating pair see here and for the best info see a Buglife webpage here.

Many St Marks Flies end their short lives (they are only allowed a week on the wing after the best part of a year underground feeding on decomposing plants as larvae since they were conceived in the previous spring) on fishing hooks but I still feel repulsion to the practice of catching insects and sticking a pin through them 'for scientific examination', particularly when the insect is a rarity, as in the case of the Variable Nomad Bee described in this article. We are told that this insect was probably the first ever to reach Sussex and I am glad that the men who sailed from Sussex to explore the world in past centuries were not impaled by the spears of human natives on arrival in countries previously unknown to us.

Yesterday (May 1) my first May walk around the local area gave me 63 flowering plants including the following which I was not expecting. First of these was a flower starting to open on Rhododendrum ponticum. That was followed by Keel-fruited Cornsalad (internet photo here), Lesser Swine Cress (successively closer photos on webpage here), and Greater Celandine in flower (photo here)

The finds which excited me the most were Lily of the Valley which hopefully everyone will recognize without a photo, Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) - an escapee from being consumed as a root vegetable - photo here. Beaked Hawksbeard (Crepis vesicaria) - a soon to be very common sign of summer - Photo. Finally my best find was Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum) see webpage.

Mon 30th April

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3 new Butterflies, 2 new Dragonflies, and re-introduction of Marsh Fritillaries to Hampshire
Germander Speedwell and Crosswort now flowering
First Curlew Sandpiper, Roseate Tern and Montagu's Harrier
First summer plumage Grey Plover, a Long-Eared Owl at Lewes and a juvenile Tawny Owl 'branching' at Pulborough
Long-tailed Tits feeding from hanging feeders and Hirundines now here in hundreds.

Three new butterflies have been Small Heath in Sussex on Apr 25, a Duke of Burgundy at Noar Hill on Apr 26 and a Large Tortoiseshell at Dungeness on Apr 29. New Dragonflies have been a Blue-tailed Damselfly in Cornwall on Apr 26 and an Azure Damselfly also in Cornwall on the same day. Other new insects have been a Tawny Mining Bee at Rye Harbour on Apr 26 and a Daddy Long-legs at Emsworth also on Apr 26. Perhaps the most significant insect news of the week has been the re-introduction some 1000 Marsh Fritillary caterpillars into a marshy area of north east Hampshire in the hope of many adult butterflies emerging within the next couple of months.

I have only seen reports of two new plant species last week. The first was a good show of Germander Speedwell in St Mary's churchyard here on Hayling, seen by me on Apr 28 - photo here. The second was Crosswort seen on Portsdown on Apr 29 - webpage here.

Bird news includes the first Curlew Sandpipers in Cornwall on Apr 24, the first Roseate Tern in Cornwall on Apr 27, and the first Montagu's Harrier, a male in Dorset on Apr 29. Other first reports have been of the first summer plumage Grey Plovers at Pagham Harbour on Apr 29, a migrant Long-Eared Owl seen near Lewes on Apr 29 and a juvenile Tawny Owl 'branching' in a tree at Pulborough Brooks on Apr 28. Also of interest were two reports from Sussex of Long-tailed Tits eating seed from bird-feeders by hanging on to the feeders with one leg while using the other leg to transfer seeds from the feeder to their beaks - not sure if this is a new technique - photo here. Also this week the number of hirundines has increased greatly in many places - on Apr 28 there were 5000 Swallows over the Posbrook floods near Titchfield Haven with 450 Sand Martins, 550 House Martins and 500 Swifts at the same site.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 23 - 29 (Week 17 of 2018)

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Wed 25th April

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Three species of dragonfly and three more butterflies now on the wing.
Hirundines start to arrive in force along with the first Pom Skuas (and Bee Eaters may be on their way)
Three orchid species now flowering and a new issue of British Stamps

As the list of new summer bird migrants starts to tail off so the list of Damsel and Dragonflies gets under way with first sightings of Hairy Dragonfly in Kent on Apr 20 and the first Banded Demoiselle on Apr 22 following the Large Red Damsel on Apr 4 (after a newcomer to Brtain - a Marsh Bluetail from Senegale - appeared from a Turtle Tank in Wales on Mar 25). Ignoring the latter species here are photos to remind you what these insect look like: for the Large Red Damsel see here; for the Banded Demoiselle see here; and for the Hairy Dragonfly see here. For the home page of the British Dragonfly Society giving you access to latest sightings (under 'News & Events') and full id info on all species (under Dragonflies) go to this page.

Butterflies are also increasing in number of species with the first Wall Brown aka 'Wall' seen at Portland on Apr 20; the first Small Copper at Dungeness on Apr 21; and the first Dingy Skipper seen somewhere in Sussex also on Apr 21. Reminders of what they look like can be found by going to the full list of all British species and clicking on the species name here. While on this page you can also use it to get info on Moth species by clicking on the 'Butterflies and Moths' tab in the page header line and selecting 'A-Z of moths'.

Several people have recently commented on the low numbers of summer migrant birds they have seen so far, particularly the few hirundines, but that now seems to be changing with a report of 400 mixed hirundines over the Blashford lakes on Apr 24. This flock included at least 50 Swifts and on the same day 60 House Martins were seen over the Fishlake reserve on the northern edge of Romsey in the Test Valley. Another bird eagerly anticipated at Selsey by contenders for the crown of 'Pom King' is the Pomarine Skua of which the first of the year was reported at Dungeness on Apr 22 with two more reports (which may have been the same bird) on Apr 24 when one was seen at Portland and another at Seaford in Sussex. Not yet seen in Britain is the Bee Eater which always attracts a lot of attention when it does arrive - a report on Trektellen of 515 seen in Corsica on Apr 24 suggests that they are on their way.

In addition to the mass of Green Winged Orchids now flowering at Gunner Point on Hayling the first five Early Spider Orchids were seen at Beachy Head on Apr 22 and on Apr 23 the first Early Purple Orchids were flowering in Warnham Nature Reserve at Horsham. For a photo of an Early Purple showing its blotched leaves and woodland habitat see here and for some of the many names for this species ("Priest's Pintel" was new to me) see here. The Early Spider Orchid is uncommon in Britain but grows on chalk at several south coast sites from Kent to Dorset. The photos I have chosen to illustrate it were taken in France but include one (the last in the series) of an 'Ant-lion' species that I had not come across before (and am unlikely to do so in England!). For this see here.

While thinking about plants I had another look at the BSBI News website (http://bsbipublicity.blogspot.co.uk/ ) and picked out a story about a new issue of six British Postal Stamps that became available on Apr 19 and illustrate wild species which have been re-introduced to Britain after becoming extinct in the wild. The species are Osprey, Large Blue butterfly, Beaver, Pool Frog, Sand Lizard and Stinking Hawks-beard (Crepis foetida). The last of these has been re-introduced to coastal shingle at Dungeness and Rye Harbour and appears on the £1.55 stamp which you can see here.

Mon 23rd April

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This entry covers two days. On Sunday Apr 22 I walked north to Mill Rythe, then followed Manor Road south to Higworth Lane, and came home across the Church fields. On Monday Apr 23 I walked south west to circle Sinah Common and come home from the Beachlands grass.
Sunday gave me ten new plants including Herb Robert, Spotted Medick and Thyme-leaved Speedwell plus my first Swallow and several Speckled Wood butterflies
Monday gave me Wall Speedwell, Ribwort Plantain, Round-leaved Cranesbill and a new site for Early Forget-me-not

On Sunday I took the path north along the west side of Tournerbury Golf Course from Tournerbury Lane to Mill Rythe, along which at least half a dozen Speckled Wood butterflies were enjoying the sunshine in which a Buzzard glided south and a single Swallow flew north. On the ground I noted my first Lilac and Yellow Corydalis flowers in gardens and Herb Robert in several uncultivated places.

On the north side of the roundabout where Church Road and Manor Road start and Havant Road ends the roadside grass had a mass of Spotted Medick and I also found my first Thyme-leaved Speedwell. Nothing new noted until I turned into Higworth Lane to follow the path through the Caravan Park where trimming of the hedges had caused Hawthorn bushes to open many of their flowers. Crossing the Church Fields I found the many buttercups had at last folded down their sepals to allow me to be sure they were Hairy Buttercups.

In St Mary's church grounds I was greeted by a Norway Maple in full flower and before reaching home I had seen the first of several Bay Trees in flower and added Charlock and Prickly Sow-thistle to my list. I had also noted several Arum (Lords and Ladies) unfurling their spikes.

On Monday I walked west to Hayling Park but took a new route around its east and south sides, finding not only a fresh showing of Annual Mercury and the delicate catkins of several Pedunculate Oaks (Quercus Robur) but also my first Wall Speedwell showing its tiny blue spikes of unopen flowers. From the south west corner of the Park I took the exit leading south to Bacon Lane which I followed west to Staunton Ave and then headed south to Sinah Common to walk west through the golden mass of Gorse. Here I found Ribwort Plantain in flower before reaching the access road to the Inn on the Beach. Crossing this road just north of the access road to the Mini Golf Course I found several plants of Round-leaved Cranesbill in flower, confirming their identity by the broad circle of white in the base of each flower below the pink tips of the petals.

I now followed the boundary of the Mini Golf Course west to the boundary of the real Golf Course where I turned south and then east around the 'Pitch and Putt' course. Along this eastward section much Thrift was now in flower and when the gorse closed in on both sides of my path I started to see clumps of Sea Campion in flower but saw no sign of the rarer Shepherd's Cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis) which used to grow here many years ago. I now re-crossed the road to the Inn on the Beach with the intention walking on along the edge of the shingle beach south of the beach huts but before reaching those huts, while still close to the 'bike park' in which young cyclists hone their skills of jumping and balancing on their bikes, I found a new to me patch of Early Forget-me-not in the very short grass at my feet. That was a good find, but the only new plant that I saw before reaching home.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 16 - 22 (Week 16 of 2018)

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Sat 21st April

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This entry covers both a ride up the Billy Line from West Town Station to Langstone Bridge in hot sunshine on Friday, Apr 20, and a ride to the Gunner Point area on a cloudy but dry Saturday.
On Friday the new plants were Greater Stitchwort and English Scurvygrass plus a mass of Oil-seed Rape flowering in the fields and the annual sight of a Pear Tree flowering alongside the old rail line, presumably the result of a Pear core being thrown out of a train window
I also saw my first Orange-tip butterflies and heard the song of a Lesser Whitethroat (sounding very similar to the calls of Whimbrel passing over Langstone Harbour
On Saturday I not only found 40 Green-winged Orchids already in flower but also found Spring Beauty, Early Forget-me-not, Spring Vetch, Bur Chervil and at least five other species

Friday's ride up the Billy Line started with a good show of Greater Stitchwort and the expected show of white from English Scurvygrasss in the saltings as I neared the Oysterbeds. Everywhere there was lots of Common Dog Violet and my first sight of Bracken standing tall and unfurling its leaves. There was also plenty of Bird song including my first Lesser Whitethroat whose repetitive rattle sounded very similar to the distant 'seven whistles' of Whimbrel passing over Langstone Harbour at the same time.

Saturday was cooler with no direct sunlight but was more rewarding in the way of flowers starting with a brief glimpse of the orange pink of Tartar Honeysuckle as I passed the driveway into the Sinah Gravel Pit (it grows on the west side of the metal archway over the entrance to the area and when in full flower looks like this photo. I did not stop for this but as I was passing The Kench I was stopped by a sight that I was not expecting here, the first flowers of Spring Beauty (Claytonia perfoliata) for which I have found this photo. While looking at these plants growing on the west side of the gateway into the golf course opposite The Kench I noticed some much smaller Forget-me-not type flowers growing less than a couple of inches high around the low wooden stakes designed to stop cars parking on the narrow grass roadside - these were Early Forget-me-not (Myosotis ramossisima) which can be seen in this photo. A little further on, before turning off the Ferry Road, I saw a plant of Bur Chervil which was already in flower - although of the same family as Cow Parsley the smaller, more compact and yellowish plants with much smaller flowers make it easy to distinguish then - see this webpage.

Only now did I turn into the harbour entrance carpark where I saw just one example of Hedge Mustard near the cafe - for a photo see here. My next stop was after passing the sailing club, using the first break in the Tamarisks to reach a sheltered grassy area shielded by Tamarisks on the seaward side and, on the landward side, the first remnants of the sand dunes which build up further south (though attempts to preserve them from erosion by fencing them off with six foot high wire fences have been unable to stop the determined onslaught of holiday makers, principally those seeking secluded places to practice nude sunbathing. Here, in the foothills of the sand dunes, I always look for the tiny Spring Vetch (Vicia lathyroides) which stands less than an inch high, and today I was successful in finding three flowering plants of which this photo may give you some idea.

Returning to the open beach I continued round the south-west corner of the Golf Course and headed for a bench, near some small trees close to the Golf Course boundary fence, where I usually stop for refreshment. This bench is in the centre of a large area in which thousands of Green-winged Orchids will flower in May but already I was able to count 40 flowering spikes as I approached the bench - see this webpage. Before leaving this area, while still heading east along the southern fence of the Golf Course and before reaching the 'kink' in the fenceline, I saw two flowers growing from the long grass at the foot of the Golf Course fence which gave me the strong impression that they were Small Scabious but I reserve judgement as this seems too early for that species. One last new flower of which I have no doubt came much later when I was back in Hollow Lane - this Annual Wall-Rocket - see its distinctive flowers and read about the nasty smell of its crushed leaves here.

Thu 19th April

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The hot weather of the past few days has produced a good list of notable sightings starting on Apr 16 the hatching of the first Lapwing chicks at Pett Level on the shore of Rye Bay. Also that day RBA reported the first Penduline Tit of the year in Hertfordshire and a very fresh Painted Lady was photographed at Folkestone - link here. This was followed by sightings of Clouded Yellows (of which the first was reported in Devon on Apr 7) at Folkestone on Apr 17 and at Portland (with another in Kent) on Apr 18. On Apr 19 the first Green Hairstreaks appeared at two sites in Sussex.

On Apr 17 bird news included the first Turtle Dove in Sussex, a Dotterel in Norfolk and a Greater Spotted Cuckoo in Kent (if you want to know what that looks like see here.

On Apr 18 a male Golden Oriole was seen in the Plymouth area and the first Spotted Flycatcher was flying in to the Isle of Wight and at dusk Jason Crook watched 48 Black-tailed Godwits heading high north east over Portsdown Hill towards Iceland. Lastly on Apr 19 the first passage Wood Sandpiper was at Pulborough Brooks and 2 Swifts were seen over Uckfield - not the first which I have as 2 Swifts over Hastings on Mar 29 followed by two over Mersyside on Apr 4 and one over Alresford on Apr 11.

Tue 17th April

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The past week has seen our harbours emptying of Brent Geese (a report of 579 heading east past Seaford Head on Apr 15 was probably the last such count for this spring) and our coastal waters bringing more reports of Terns (large numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns are now here and the first Little and Black Terns are passing along the coast). At the same time our resident breeding birds are beginning to show signs of getting on with their job - the first Mallard family of 8 ducklings was been seen on a Southampton Park lake and a family of 7 Black Swan cygnets is now to be seen on the Ivy Lake at Chichester, while the Mute Swans which had laid 8 Eggs in an Emsworth nest and lost them all to high tides are already building a second nest near to the first while the Langstone Mill Pond pair of Swans, while protected from flooding by the seawall around their pond may have lost one egg to an inquisitive Mallard poking around in the nest before the Pen swan had finished laying her full clutch and settled down to full time incubation (their way of ensuring that all the eggs, which have to be laid one per day, all get the same amount of incubation and thus all hatch out within a day). Back on Apr 12 the Little Egrets were already busy with their nests near the North Wall of Pagham Harbour but those intending to nest at Langstone had not started to do so. Now, on April 17, at least 6 nests are already occupied at Langstone and around 10 more pairs are showing a strong interest in acquiring nests.

Other birds of interest have been seen in Devon and Cornwall in the past week including three species of Heron (Night, Purple and Squacco) plus Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow and a Sub-alpine Warbler. Several Hoopoes have turned up on this side of the Channel (including this one which arrived at Portland on Apr 15 to show off to gathered photographers - see here) and the list of 'first arrivals' includes the first Garden Warbler at Portland on on Apr 16 and the first Black Tern at Dungeness on Apr 15. Locally our first Little Tern was seen passing Sandy Point on Apr 6 after 5 had been seen together at Stokes Bay on that day but the first seen in this country was in Cambridgeshire on Apr 4. Two other unexpected appearances deservere a mention - first is a Black Kite seen over Crowborough on Apr 16 and the second was a Reeve's Pheasant seen on Graffham Down the same day - see the photo here.

Turning to Insect news there is a late report of the first Green Veined White butterfly seen in Sussex on Apr 3 plus two more timely reports of a Grizzled Skippper at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Apr 14 and the one we have all been waiting for, Orange Tip, which appeared in both Hampshire and Sussex on Apr 14 but was first reported in Somerset on Apr 3. There is also an early report of a Painted Lady at Folkestone on Apr 16 (following an isolated sighting of one in Sussex on Mar 6).

Two other insect reports deserve a mention. One comes from Chris Bentley at Rye Harbour and features a blind, colourless type of Woodlouse which spends its life searching for and eating Ant droppings in the bottom of Ant nests. Most of us are unlikely to ever see one of these but its good to know they are there to do the equivalent of 'cleaning up after your dog' and in case you do ever see one you should be grateful to Chris for telling you these creatures are not real ghosts and mean you no harm. You can see Chris' photos with his short article here. The other report comes from the Reculver section of the Kent OS website which reports that on Apr 16 some 20 Black Oil Beetles were seen along a short section of the North Kent shore. Here is a link to their photo of one of these beetles - see here - and if your appetite to know more about this group of beetles has been whetted here is a link to a Buglife id guide to the Oil Beetle life cycle.

I started writing this on Apr 17 but did not finish it that day so it is now Apr 18 so I will limit further delays and end with a brief account of this afternoon's walk during which I added the folowing to my month list of flowers on my way to the southern end of Staunton Ave, then back across the east end of Sinah Common and home via the Elm Close Estate. On my way out I saw Sweet Alison and the first flowering of Garlic Mustard. In Bacon Lane I found Yellow Archangel, then on Sinah Common I added Doves Foot Cranesbill, Sheep's Sorrel, and lots of Sticky Mouseear. Back at home, listening to the Channel 4 TV News, I was delighted to hear live Nightingale song from Kent, even if the news story concerned the likelihood that when we leave European protection of our countryside house building is very likely to take precedence over the protection of habitat for wildlife that has already been brought to the verge of extinction by human activity..... Another bonus from the TV this eveing came at the end of the 'Britain in Bloom' programme on BBC 2 at 6:30 featuring Shrewsbury -almost at the end of the programme we were shown a live, wild Night Heron which suddenly appeared in full view on the mass of flowers in a public park.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 9 - 15 (Week 15 of 2018)

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Sat 14th April

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A long walk gives me 12 new flowers, 3 butterflies, Brown Tail moth caterpillars and lots of bird song

On what turned out to be the best day of the spring so far I set out with the limited objective of identifying the large tree with yellow flower spikes and pinnate leaves that I had seen yesterday in a garden close to my home but too distant from the nearest access to see clearly. Today I brought my binoculars and the detail that I saw enabled me to name the tree as a Mimosa called Acacia Dealbata which I find can grow to a height of around 50ft, much taller than the young Mimosa trees I had seen in Havant in the past. While in the 'Legion Field' from which I had been studying the Mimosa I also found one of the Buttercups which had puzzled me recently by looking like either Bulbous or Hairy Buttercups but not having the downturned sepals which both those species should have and so forcing me reluctantly to decide that they were Meadow Buttercups. Today the sepals were downturned and what's more the whole plant showed the hairiness that allowed me to name it as a Hairy Buttercup - I hope that the same will prove to be true of the many Buttercups in the Church Fields and on the Beachlands grass when they have had the same length of time to 'mature'. Before leaving the Legion Field area and heading south on the rather muddy footpath to the Mengham House area I found two flowering plants of Wild Radish (one with whits flowers, one with yellow) to add to my list of 'firsts' and nearby I found another first, a Holly Tree liberally covered with unopen flower buds - later in this walk I found two more.

At the southern end of the muddy path I came on my first two sheathed spikes of 'Lords and Ladies' (Arum maculatum). No more finds till I was nearing the east end of Salterns Lane and on the roadside grass at the junction with Salterns Close I found a sunlit patch of Ground Ivy and outside one of the nearby houses were two flowering specimens of Snakes Head Fritillary. Taking the narrow path leading to the Mengham Rythe seawall I found a patch of Wavy Bittercress plants.

Nothing new along the seawall but as I was nearing the Fishery Lane Holiday Camp area I noticed incipient flower buds on well grown plants of Hoary Cress and after crossing the neck of land to come out on the Fishery Creek shore I began to see long reddish catkins on the ground but could not see the trees from which they had fallen until I came on a small forest of trees which looked as if they were dead, covered with long grey catkins and having whitish bark similar to, but not having the slender upright stance of a birch. Back at home I soon established that these trees were not dead but were normal for Aspen trees which I have never come across before at this stage of their spring flowering. Moving on towards the head of the creek after passing the lake the water's edge below the path I was on became crowded with a mass of white blossom which I assume was Common Scurvygrass rather than the English Scurvygrass which is the only species other than Danish Scurvygrass that I have ever come across.

Before leaving the Holiday Camp area I had a close view of a single Small Tortoiseshell butterfly to add to the Peacock I had seen near the Sailing Club and the assumed Small White seen distantly earlier in the day. Trudging home from Eastoke Corner, near the roadside pavement of the Beachlands grassland between Bound Land and Webb Lane, I stopped for a close look at the many 'nursery tents' of Brown tail moth caterpillars which up to today had seemed totally lifeless (and too tatty and wind battered to support any life) and saw at least one minute caterpillar moving inside one of the tents. So far there is very little greenery growing on the bushes over which the tents are strewn but I suspect that the coming week of warm weather will see many caterpillars 'rising from the dead' to breakfast of the leaves that are now just starting to grow on these bushes.

Turning north to head home I had one more plant to add to my list, seen in a St Leonard's Avenue garden. I do not know its proper name but call it 'White Garden Oxalis' as it seems closely related to the Oxalis family and has just started to open the many white flowers which thickly cover the otherwise barren front garden of this house.

Fri 13th April

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Wood Warbler at Lodmoor and Wryneck in the Scillies on Apr 10
Swift over Alresford and Brambling singing at Eastleigh on Apr 11
50 Teal competing for a synchronous diving medal at Medmerry on Apr 12 and a Black Swan posing for a beauty prize with seven cygnets at Chichester on Apr 13
First Large White butterflies seen at Brighton on Apr 11
Honesty flowering on Apr 11 and Cuckoo Flower on Apr 12
Water Vole seen near Pagham Harbour North Wall.

The first Wryneck of the spring was reported in the Scillies and the first Wood Warbler was at Lodmoor in Dorset, both on Apr 10. The first Common Swift had been reported from Merseyside on Apr 4 followed by 2 Alpine Swifts at The Lizard in Cornwall on Apr 5 but the first Common Swift in southern counties was not seen until Apr 11 at Itchen Stoke upstream of Alresford. Also on Apr 11 a Brambling was heard singing at the Eastleigh Lakes - this is a song I have never heard but as far as I can make out from the Xeno-Canto recordings it consists of repeated single 'wheezing' notes which you might mistake for a Greenfinch.

On Apr 12 several pairs of Little Egrets were busy nest building at Pagham Harbour Owl Copse and a flock of 50 Teal at Medmerry were putting on a show of synchronous diving - the first time I have heard of them as diving but maybe they are getting ready to compete in the next Commonwealth Games? Also on Apr 12 the female Black Swan which recently hatched 7 cygnets at the Chichester Lakes was posing for a family photo which you can see here.

The only new butterfly to emerge since my last post has been the Large White with two individuals appearing on Apr 11, one at Coldean Woods by the A27 north of Brighton and the other at Ferring, just west of Worthing. Also on Apr 11 I added a couple of flower species to my April list with Honesty flowering in St Mary's churchyard and the bright white flowers of Clematis Armandii climbing a tree in a South Road garden. Two more species went on my list on Apr 12 with the slender green flower buds of an Ash tree bursting out of their knobbly black casings and the delicate catkins opening on a Silver Birch, while in Emsworth Brian Fellows found the much more attractive flowers of Cuckoo Flower. Sadly he did not have the pleasure of seeing the Water Vole which was reported from the North Wall of Pagham Harbour that day.

Tue 10th April

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The first Nightingales are here and Turtle Doves are crossing the Mediterranean
Swallows and Martins now being seen in hundreds
Little Egrets return to their nests and Rooks fight a rearguard action against their decline
Holly Blues and Speckled Woods start to appear along with the first Bluebells
I find a name for a shrub that has puzzled me for 50 years and a Beaver takes a stroll along the Kent shoreline.

The first Nightingale was singing at Newhaven on Apr 5 and on Apr 9 Trektellen reported that 8 Turtle Doves had got past the guns on Malta and had reached Corsica. Other arrivals have been the first migrant Common Sandpiper on Portland on Apr 7, a Savi's Warbler at Eastbourne on Apr 8, and a Woodchat Shrike in the Scillies on Apr 9 (when I heard my first Blackcap 'singing in the rain' here on Hayling).

Also on Apr 9 75 Swallows were hawking flies over the Blashford Lakes and on Apr 10 200 Swallows, 100 House Martins and 50 Sand Martins were over the Brading Marshes on the Isle of Wight with a Whitethroat and a singing Reed Warbler in the vegetation. On Apr 8, before their numbers started to increase, one birder in Devon watched a pair of Swallows flying round his garage, where they have nested for the past 15 years, and concluded that they had reached their journey's end. An even more impressive piece of good news from Emsworth, where Rook numbers have been declining since the 1980s, was that four pairs had decided to put up a fight against eviction from the area and had built nests in the Nore Barn wood where they have not nested before. The only other Rookery in Emsworth only has 17 occupied nests this year, reflecting the continued decline. Another bit of news from the local area on Apr 10 is a report of the first Little Egret returning to the Owl Copse nest site behind the North Wall of Pagham Harbour - no such news of the expected 30+ Little Egret nests at the Langstone Pond site where the Grey Herons now have a new 12th active nest.

Two new butterfly species are now emerging: sometime last week, around Apr 8, the first Holly Blue was seen in Cosham at the southern foot of Portsdown and today (Apr 10) the first Speckled Wood was flying near Hailsham in Sussex (ignoring one unseasonal report from the London area on Jan 25). Another insect report of Johann's Bibio, a species I am not familiar with, came from Chris Bentley at Rye Harbour on Apr 9. For his report and photos click here. For info on the Colletes bees which he also mentions see here - note that the term 'oligolectic' means that the insect only gathers pollen from the named plant.

Today I made a determined effort to find the name of a shrub which has grown in my garden hedge for the 50 years that I lived in Havant and has recently started to flower in other gardens here in Hayling. I have always assumed that the shrub is a species of Laurel, differing from Cherry Laurel only in having blotches of white on its green leaves and in having tiny brown flowers instead of long white flower spikes. For a photo of the standard Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) see here and for its red, cherry like but very poisonous berries see here. The plant which has puzzled me for so long is called Japanese Laurel (Acuba japonica) and you can read the article which solved my puzzle here.

To end today here is a photo taken on the shoreline of Sandwich Bay of a totally unexpected Beaver strolling along the beach - see here.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 2 - 8 (Week 14 of 2018)

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Sun 8th April

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A mass of Wild Strawberries and Wood Anemones in St Mary's churchyard
Roadside Dog's Mercury and Field Woodrush on a garden lawn
The first Yellow Wagtail in Sussex, Grasshopper Warbler in Kent and a Pied Flycatcher at Portland plus a Cuckoo in Hampshire
First Green-Veined White in Kent
Sand Crocus in Devon
A Rainbow Lorikeet from Commonwealth Games country in a Farnboough garden
Savi's Warbler singing at Minsmere and an American Bittern in Suffolk

Yesterday (Apr 7) I extended my route to the local shops through St Mary's churchyard where I found a mass of Wild Strawberries in flower (presumably originally planted on a grave but now covering a large area near the road to the left of the southern entrance) and a smaller colony of Wood Anemones still restricted to one grave plot. Encouraged by these unexpected finds I continued west across the Church Fields, enjoying two Skylarks in full song, and stopping to have a close look at the many Buttercups now flowering - these are not new here but I have been puzzled by their identity and had tried to make them into Bulbous or Hairy Buttercups but as none have downturned sepals and all show no sign of 'Creeping' I am forced to conclude they are Meadow Buttercups which have had their growth restricted by years of mowing to adapt the fields to public amenity grassland as also found on the Beachlands grassland.

Reaching Manor Road I turned right and walked to the roundabout where Church Road starts to head south but before reaching that I found two large clumps of freshly flowering Dog's Mercury which were my first for the year. After turning south down Church Road I added another first with Field Woodrush (aka Good Friday Grass) on a garden lawn.

Back at home the internet gave me another unexpected report from Dawlish Warren in Devon (their only site in that county plus one other in Cornwall) of dozens of freshly flowering Sand Crocus with a photo that can be seen here.

Turning to the reports of newly arrived Bird Migrants I see the first Yellow Wagtail was seen at Goring in Sussex on Apr 7 and the first Pied Flycatcher was at Portland on the same day (and had its photo taken. Also on Apr 7 a Savi's Warbler was singing at Minsmere. On Apr 8 the first Grasshopper Warbler was heard near the Medway in Kent.

Not a summmer migrant but an unusual vagrant (a first for Suffolk) was an American Bittern at the Carlton Marshes nature reserve on Apr 7. Wikipaedia says the American species (Botaurus lentiginosus) "is a large, chunky, brown bird, very similar to the Eurasian bittern (Botaurus stellaris), though slightly smaller, and the plumage is speckled rather than being barred." Another species which I have not heard of in this country before is the Rainbow Lorikeet which was seen in Farnborough on Apr 7. This is a very colourful Parrot species of which I found this photo that you can see here. It is native to Queensland in Australia where it is regarded as a pest by fruit growers and I hope this one is recaptured (or dies) before it becomes a pest over here.

Just one new butterfly, the Green-Veined White, was reported at Folkestone in Kent on Apr 6.

Fri 6th April

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Of the 178 bird species for which I have seen reports in April only 8 were first reports of summer migrant arrivals (23 species of which had already been seen in March, including an isolated report of a Cuckoo in Kent on Mar 11 which I have also included in the April list). My April migrant arrival list has Sedge Warbler and Common Redstart on Apr 3, Little Tern in Cambs on Apr 4 (plus Stokes Bay and Sandy Point in Hants on Apr 6), Reed Warbler in Lincs and Common Whitethroat in Surrey also on Apr 4, and three species on Apr 6 - Cuckoo and Whinchat in the New Forest and a Tree Pipit in Gloucs.

Also in the news are the first two Dragonfly sightings of the year. One was the expected appearance of a Large Red Damselfly in Kent on Apr 4, the other was a very unexpected report of the first appearances of a new to Britain Marsh Bluetail (Ischnura senegalensis) reported as emerging from a Turtle Tank in which it was presumably imported to this country - for these and all further dragonfly reports see here.

Other insect sightings included one new for the year butterfly, a Small White seen in Brook Meadow at Emsworth and Hailsham in Sussex on Apr 5, and the first Bee Fly (Bombylius major) seen at Reculver in North Kent on Apr 5 and reported with a photo which you can see here.

New flowers seen by me on Apr 1 during a local walk here in south Hayling included what appeared to be wild Bluebells in a garden and Common Dog Violets on a road verge. Other gardens had Blue Anemones (photo here) and Lungwort (photo here). A cycle ride to Gunner Point on Apr 5 found the first small leaves of Green-winged Orchids on the beach and masses of Blackthorn and Goat Willow flowers and fewer Cow Parsley flowers lining the Ferry Road plus my first Slender Speedwell on the Ferry Inn roundabout. Before reaching home I added Creeping Comfrey (photos here). While out shopping later in the day I found the eye-catching Small-leaved Kowhai (Sophora microphylla) was in full flower in a small garden on the north side of Tournerbury Lane just west of its junction with Beech Grove (photo here).

Wildlife diary and news for Mar 26 - Apr 1 (Week 13 of 2018)

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Thu 29th March

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First Stone Curlew flies over the Isle of Wight
A Hooded Crow on the Kent Coast near Dover
Canada Goose with 'Angel Wings' in Devon
First Small Copper butterfly reported in Sussex on Mar 14

The first Stone Curlew of the year was reported on Mar 27 flying north east over Lowtherville, part of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. This brought back vivid memories of my first sighting, many years ago, of this enigmatic bird which flew in to the rubbish dump which then existed between Port Solent and the M275 heading down into Portsmouth. This large brown owl-like bird dominated the sky as it flew low overhed, then vanished from sight as it settled into a heap of rusting car exhausts to rest after its cross channel journey. That day also brings back memories of seven sunlit Garganey also resting on the lake at the foot of the rubbish heap after completing the same journey.

Another bird bringing back memories of my schooldays at Canterbury in the late 1940s is the Hooded Crow which was a fairly regular winter visitor to the north Kent coast at Whitstable where school friends used to take me to visit their parents and to do a spot of birding. One of these was reported on Mar 26 on the south Kent coast east of Dover.

Coming up to date the Devon Birding Website taught me two things in connection with a report of a small subspecies of Canada Goose seen on the River Exe flowing though the centre of Exeter on Mar 28 suffering from 'Angel's wing'. The first thing that I learnt was that this subspecies, which I knew as a 'Cackling Canada Goose (Branta canadensis minima)' was added to the British List in 2016 under the name Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) and the second was a description of the Angel's Wing deformity which affects various water birds that are fed with too much white bread - for a fuller description and a photo of the result see here.

With nothing new reported on the Hampshire or Sussex Butterfly Conservation websites I turned to the BC National website's list of first reports of all butterfly species seen this year in Britain (at https://butterfly-conservation.org/52/first-butterfly-sightings-2018.html) which included a report of a Small Copper seen in Sussex on Mar 14 this year which has not been mentioned on the Sussex site. This brings the number of butterfly species seen in Britain so far this year to 9.

Mon 26th March

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First Hobby in Hampshire on Mar 25 and another on Mar 26
First fledgling Chaffinch out in Sussex on Mar 25
Today Redwings were singing their 'goodbye' song but no Fieldfares were reported
First Wall Lizards seen at Shoreham Fort
An outburst of butterflies including 30+ Brimstones

The first Hobby to reach Britain this year was seen near the mouth of the Beaulieu River in Hampshire on Mar 25 and another was reported (with slightly less confidence) at Bramshill in north Hampshire on Mar 26 though there have been no reports of any dragonflies for them to eat so far. An RSPB website tells me that they eat small birds as well as insects which may be bad news for the first fledgling Chaffinch which left it's nest in the Heathfield area of Sussex on Mar 25.

Yesterday I could find no reports of Redwing - today that has been reversed and no Fieldfares have been seen while some of the Redwings reported were singing that chattering song that is only heard when they are about to leave.

A dozen Wall Lizards were seen at Shoreham Fort on Mar 26 and one posed for a photo which you can see here.

A slight increase in temperature has brought more butterflies with a notable increase in the number of Brimstone on the wing. One report from the Broadwater Warren nature reserve near Crowborough on Mar 26 said that there were so many there that the observer gave up counting after seeing 30 and this outburst even gave Brian Fellows one Brimstone in Brook Meadow at Emsworth.

Wildlife diary and news for Mar 19 - 25 (Week 12 of 2018)

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Sun 25th March

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Redwings have left and Fieldfare are on their way
Brent leaving and Little Gulls arriving
First Swallows in Devon, another Willow Warbler singing and lots of Chiffchaff now here
A second Common Tern for the year with more on the way
First Grass Snakes seen last week.

500 Fieldfare were seen near Kingsclere in north Hampshire on Mar 23 and another 140 were seen to the east of Winchester on Mar 25 but the only reports of Redwing were of a lone bird at Beachy Head and another at Christchurch Harbour, both on Mar 24, giving the impression that these winter Thrushes are leaving us. A single female Ring Ouzel arrived in Devon on Mar 25 following another, also in Devon, on Mar 23.

Also hurrying to leave us are the Brent Geese with counts of 1900 passing Seaford on Mar 24 and 2300 seen passing Dungeness on Mar 24 and even more seen there on Mar 25. As the Brent flew east so the number of Little Gulls going west increased with 7 at Dungeness on Mar 23 and 31 at Seaford on Mar 24. Also on Mar 24 the second Common Tern of the year was flying east past Selsey Bill following the first seen at Seaford on Mar 15. Also on Mar 24 another was at Hayle in Cornwall and another was seen in the Netherlands.

The first two migrant Willow Warblers were reported by RBA in the UK on Mar 14 and one was singing at Fleet in north Hampshire on Mar 16 with another singing in Romsey on Mar 25. Also starting to arrive were Swallows. One had been seen in Cornwall on Mar 17 and another was in Dorset on Mar 18 before one apppeared at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 20 but we had to wait until Mar 25 for multiple reports with one in Devon backed by two singles in Belgium and Holland. By now Chiffchaffs are widespread.

I will end today with rather vague news on the Solent Reserves website that Grass Snakes were out of hibernation at the Hampshire Wildlife Trust reserve at Swanwick Nature Reserve (close to where the M27 crosses the River Hamble) sometime last week.

Fri 23rd March

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Green Alkanet, Garden Forget-me-not and Kerria japonica all go on my flower list and the first Wood Anemones are flowering in Waterlooville
First Tree Pipit of the year and first Ring Ouzel of the month in Dorset
First Common Lizard on the Downs at Lancing.

A chilly walk to the Hayling Bay shore and back this afternoon rewarded me with my first Green Alkanet flowers in Webb Lane (photo can be seen here. ) Also seen was my first Kerria japonica which I see has the English name 'Bachelor's Buttons' (photo here) and I also saw some cultivated Forget-me-nots, while John Goodspeed has a report of the first Wood Anemones seen yesterday in Waterlooville.

The internet today told me of the first Tree Pipit seen at the Longham Lakes in Dorset with a Ring Ouzel elsewhere in the county - not the first for the year as what may have been wintering birds were reported on Jan 21, Feb 2 and Feb 18.

Other bird news was of the first egg being laid by the Perigrines nesting on Chichester Cathedral and of a lone female Black Swan at Chichester Marina who has built a nest but has no male partner. Three items of good news were a Dartford Warbler at the Farlington Marshes point field and of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker drumming in the Arundel area plus a sighting of a Willow Tit in a wood south of the M3 in the Basingstoke area. Not such good news was a report of a Mink in the Folkestone area of Kent. Another report of interest was of the first Common Lizard on the Sussex Downs above Lancing where three Adders were also out of hibernation.

Wed 21st March

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I find my first Coltsfoot and Greater Periwinkle var oxyloba flowers on a trip up the Billy Line but see no Brent in Langstone Harbour but find a pair of Mute Swans thinking of nesting at the Oysterbeds
Devon reports the first Wood Warbler and the second House Martin of the year
A Stoat is seen at Rye Harbour and a Hare at Dungeness
10 Black Swans gather at the Riverside Park in Southampton to celebrate their breeding season and the first Mute Swan egg has been laid at Emsworth.

This morning there was no trace of snow anywhere on Hayling, the wind was light, the sun felt warm and Langstone Harbour appeared to be devoid of winter birds (though not yet replaced by summer birds!) as I cycled to Langstone Bridge and back. My route included Daw Lane where, thanks to an unwitting tip-off from Brian Fellows in his Emsworth blog for yesterday, I found the usual display of Greater Periwinkle var oxyloba which has so far evaded my monthly flower lists despite my having found the standard Greater Periwinkle in many places since New Year's Day. For those who do not know the difference between var oxyloba and the standard Greater Periwinkle it lies in the shape of the petals - the standard form has broad petals with little separation between them - see this photo of standard Greater Periwinkls and compare it with the narrow, well separated, petals of var oxyloba which remind me of aircraft propellor blades.

Daw Lane also had a great display of wild Primroses and when I reached the Oyster Beds I found another personal first for my flower list in around half a dozen Coltsfoot flowers around the now closed entrance to the old carpark behind the Esso Garage - these had started to flower in north Kent (at Reculver) on Mar 16. While at the Oysterbeds I rode up onto the mound overlooking the mass of nesting gulls among which I found a pair of Mute Swans looking very settled (as if thinking of nesting there) at the northern tip of the southern island. If they do try to nest there on the water line I hope they are aware that the monthly spring tides may well swamp their nest.

Before turning for home I rode to the southern end of Langstone bridge and noted the presence of no more than 20 Brent Geese in what I call Texaco Bay (between the road bridge and the remains of the rail bridge) plus a couple of small flocks of Dunlin and a couple of Shoveler. While cycling up and back down the Billy Line I had seen no Brent in Langstone Harbour nor any in the fields leaving me with the impression that the great majority of the Brent have now left, though I am sure that quite a few stragglers will still be seen passing through.

Back at home my daily scan of the internet told me that both a House Martin and a Wood Warbler had been see in Devon today though my records show that neither was a first for the year - two House Martins had beeen seen in Sussex on Mar 8 and I have a more dubious report of a single Wood Warbler in the Isle of Wight on Jan 28. Other reports of some interest were of a Stoat at Rye Harbour and a Hare at Dungeness (both seen yesterday) while today a total of 10 Black Swans were assembled at Southampton's Riverside Park. I am not aware of the details of their breeding there beside the River Itchen but I am under the impression that at least one nest has been active for at least five years, and I suspect that all ten of the assembled birds were of the same family. Still on the subject of Swan nests Brian Fellows today saw the first egg in the Mute Swan nest in Peter Pond at Emsworth - both parents and the egg can be seen in Brian's photo which you can see here.

Tue 20th March

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The natural world thrown into confusion by the weather
Magnolia tree flowering on Hayling Island and an oversize 'Ruddy Duck' in western Australia is reported on BBC News
At 4:15 pm today the sun crossed the equator heading north and will hopefully be bringing us warmer weather.

Since writing my last blog entry on Mar 18 I have continued to scan the south coast websites for news of spring birds but everywhere I have found reports similar to the pictures of our road traffic trying to get around in the strong winds on icy and snow covered roads - one image that stuck in my mind was a sighting of a newly arrived Wheatear perched on a snowman and everywhere birders have been reporting large numbers of Fieldfares, Redwing and Golden Plover desperately searching for somewhere where they can be out of the wind and find food. On Mar 17 RBA reported a moribund Alpine Swift in the Sheffield area and on Mar 18 they told us that three Bluethroats were present, two at Dungeness and one in Suffolk (presumably wind-blown from the continent) while two Hoopoes had been seen in Cornwall.

Yesterday (Mar 19) I took a short walk 'round the block' and was very surprised to find a small Magnolia tree in one garden had decided to open its first flowers which should have looked like the following photo but the sky was grey with snow and the flowers were bent over and damaged by the wind so this photo from the internet (see here) only illustrates the shape and colour that I am still waiting to see!.

It seems that the weather, and its effect on birds, is not restricted to England - the BBC News website had this report from Western Australia of strong winds driving what might be described as a giant Ruddy Duck out to sea when it was launched to act as an accompaniment to a 'jetty to jetty' swim off Perth. You can read the story and see the 'duck' here.

Hopefully our weather is set to improve following the sun's crossing of the equator which occured at 4:15 pm today. I knew that today was the Spring Equinox but was not aware that astronomers knew the exact moment when the earth's trajectory brought the sun directly above our equator to start warming the northern hemisphere.

Wildlife diary and news for Mar 12 - 18 (Week 11 of 2018)

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Sun 18th March

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First Willow Warbler in north Hampshire and an escaped Eagle Owl at Sandy Point
Two Hummingbird Hawkmoths come out to see the snow
Hoopoe and Ruddy Duck in Cornwall and Rosefinch in Devon

The first Willow Warbler was singing at Fleet in north Hampshire on Mar 16 and at Sandy Point on Mar 17 a huge escaped Eagle Owl appeared in the morning and was thought to have flown off to escape the barrage of abuse hurled at it by Crows, Magpies and Herring Gulls but re-appeared there at dusk before flying off - no further reports of it.

Two Hummingbird Hawkmoths emerged from hibenation in Sussex this week, one at Newhaven on Mar 14 and the other at Brighton on Mar 16.

Today (Mar 18) a Hoopoe was reported at St Buryan in Cornwall between Penzance and Lands End. The report said it had been there for three days. Another bird which has not been reported before was a single Common Rosefinch seen on a bird feeder in a Plymouth garden on Mar 17 - for a photo of it with a Greenfinch see here. A more interesting sighting at Newlyn in Cornwall on Mar 17 was of a Ruddy Duck which I thought had been eradicated from Europe several years ago - if you are not familiar with this saga you can read a summary of it which appeared in The Guardian in 2014 - see here.

Fri 16th March

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An early Common Tern and the first migrant Lesser Whitethroat
First Coltsfoot flowers in Kent
My first singing Blackbirds
First Toadspawn in a Portsdown pond

The first Common Tern to be reported anywhere in the UK was seen off Splash Point at Seaford in Sussex yesterday (Mar 15). The average date for this species to reach Sussex over the last 10 years is Mar 26 and the earliest arrival for the county since 1960 is Mar 14. Another first arrival in the UK, at Portland on Mar 15, was a Lesser Whitethroat though at least four of these birds were seen, presumably wintering, in Sussex during January.

An early plant flowering reported today (Mar 16) was Coltsfoot at Reculver in north Kent - that report was published with a photo which can be seenhere. Another photo of a spring flower was of Butterbur at Brook Meadow (but that had started to flower a month ago on Feb 15) - you can see the current photo, published yesterday by Brian Fellows on the Emsworth Wildlife site, here. Brian's photo also has some Lesser Celandine flowers and he reminds us that these flowers have a variable number of petals and that is confirmed by the following web page which gives 8 as the minimum and 13 as the maximum (but also comments that "Petal counting is a sad hobby!" ). To see this page click here.

First thing this morning I heard my first Blackbird song from my open window and later a hint of sunshine and a moderate wind persuaded me to get on my bike for a ride to Sandy Point during which I heard both Greenfinch and more Blackbird song but saw no new flowers. Back at my computer I saw from John Goodspeed's website that the first Toad spawn had been reported yesterday from a Portsdown garden pond.

Thu 15th March

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First two Willow Warblers and several Swallows now in Britain
Seven more Ospreys and the first migrant Whimbrel also reported
Blackbird seen on nest and an interesting photo of Hawfinches displaying
Large Tortoiseshell is a surprise arrival in Sussex.

The Rare Bird Alert team give their subscribers up to the minute news on rare and newsworthy bird sightings anywhere in the British Isles but they also put a free summary of the highlights on the internet at http://www.rarebirdalert.co.uk/RealData/dailysummary.asp albeit a day later than they received the news and their summary for yesterday (Mar 14) had this to say about our summer migrant arrivals .. "In addition to many reports of Sand Martins, records of summer migrants included Whimbrel (Bedfordshire), Manx Shearwater (Devon), two Garganey, two Willow Warblers, three White Wagtails, six Swallows, seven Ospreys, eight Little Ringed Plovers and 21 Wheatears". The Willow Warblers were the first I had heard of this year while the Whimbrel was the first to be reported as a migrant rather than a wintering bird. RBA had reported the first Swallow (seen in Warwickshire) on Mar 12, with another four on Mar 13, so I cannot claim to be up to date with the news of their arrival.

Other bird news which caught my attention today was of a Blackbird sitting on its nest in Brighton and a Song Thrush collecting wet material from House gutters with which to construct a solid base for its nest see photo here.. Another newsworthy photo of two Hawfinch caught my eye on the Dorset Bird News for Mar 14. The strange pose shown may be part of their sping pairing but it seems to me to be more likely an aggressive confrontation - the photo can be seen here.

By far the most exciting butterfly sighting was made today at the Woods Mill HQ of the Sussex Wildlife Trust where Graeme Lyons decided to take a walk around the grounds at midday and had an accidental encounter with a very unexpected insect - a Large Tortoiseshell butterfly. For his description of the encounter see Graeme's Blog. For information and photos about the now rare in Britain Large Tortoiseshell see (to read the text of any section of this website click the section header) here.

Wed 14th March

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First Small White butterflies in Dorset and Sussex and an early Painted Lady is blown to Britain
Lots of Glanville Fritillary caterpillars on the Isle of Wight
Redwing and Fieldfare moving north as more Brent fly east
Photos of male Smew in Sussex, Little Bunting on the Isle of Wight and Snowy Owl in Norfolk.

The first butterfly of 2018 (i.e. one which had not existed in adult form last year but which had only become adult as it over-wintered as a pupa) was a Small White of which one was seen in Dorset on Mar 12 and a second was in Sussex on Mar 13. This claim to be the first non-hibernating species seems to be challenged by a report of a Painted Lady in Sussex on Mar 6 and I suppose it could have been blown to Britain from North Africa on strong southerly winds but this 'oddity' was not mentioned on the Sussex Butterfly website and I was only aware of it from Butterfly Conservation national website page which you can access here. That page also made me aware of a very early sighting of a Speckled Wood in London on Jan 25.

Other insect news includes a sighting of a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in Dorset on Mar 13 - I think this is the third report of this moth for the year, presumably as a result of hibernating in a place where the sun was able to rouse it. More significant were the results of a detailed search of likely locations on the Isle of Wight for Glanville Fritillary caterpillars which overwinter in silk 'webs' as shown in this photo. The search located 50 of these webs with a potential population of around 5000 caterpillars. Also on Mar 13 a Small Tortoiseshell was seen in North Baddesley and a Brimstone in Southampton.

Turning to Bird News two reports from Dungeness on Mar 12 and 13 indicate a speeding up of the departure of Brent Geese - on Mar 12 648 Brent flew east and on Mar 13 a 2 hour count gave another 486. Also on Mar 13 three Merlins were seen to fly in off the channel. The Sandwich Observatory also reported a strong movement, this time northward, of 2250 Redwing and 111 Fieldfare on Mar 13.

Finally for today here are three good photos of birds that have been attracting the twitchers. My favourite is the male Smew which was briefly on Arlington reservoir in Sussex on Mar 14 - see this photo. The second bird was the Snowy Owl that has been on Norfolk which you can see here.. The last of these is the Little Bunting which has been in a private garden at Brading on the Isle of Wight from Mar 4 to 12 and can be seen here.

Mon 12th March

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First Cuckoo in UK plus 2 Ospreys and more Sand Martins and Wheatears
Migrant Robin caught by Gulls at Selsey
Wintering Bitterns now heading home as Mute Swans start nest building
Warmer weather brings out a Slowworm and three Butterfly species.

Yesterday (Mar 11) the RBA website reported the arrival of the first Cuckoo of the year in Kent plus two Ospreys somewhere in the UK following the tentative sighting of one at Bewl Water in Sussex on Mar 9. Also in yesterday's news RBA reported a total of 23 Sand Martins and 15 Wheatears in the UK while today Trektellen reported 3 more Swallows on the near Continent though none yet in the UK. Among the migrants which are currently crossing the channel are Robins and the Selsey Blog yesterday for Mar 11 reported how one Robin failed to complete its journey as a result of an unexpected last minute hazard .. the blog described what happened in these words .. "a newly arrived Robin was plucked from the air as it came in at the Bill this morning with a flock of passerines. Initially caught by a Black-headed Gull and fought over with another Black-headed, a Herring Gull then managed to snatch it away." The blog has a photo showing the end of this sad saga which you can see here.

Another sad story comes from Portland on the same day and concerns what may be the last Puffin to be seen in the Portland area. In May 2011 an article on 'Where to wach birds in Dorset' said that the cliffs around Portland .. " support a variety of breeding seabirds, including common guillemots, razorbills and a few puffins. Since then sightings of Puffins in the Portland area have diminished to the extent that when Martin Cade (Portland Bird Observatory Warden) heard that a single Puffin had been found today being washed ashore on a Weymouth beach he feared it might be the last to be seen in the area and rushed to see the poor bird and managed to get a photo of the moribund bird which you can see here.

A couple of recent reports from the Isle of Wight have been of Bitterns seen flying in the Bembridge area, perhaps indicating that they are becoming restive and thinking of returning to the areas where they hope to breed and confirmation that at least one bird had decided to set out on that journey came from Radipole in Dorset on Mar 10 when a single Bittern was seen flying off at dusk. Local news for today was of the first signs of nest building by a Mute Swan at Emsworth and of 35 Rook Nests under construction near Racton Park Farm (5 miles up the River Ems from where it reaches the sea at Emsworth). That rookery will hopefully survive for a few more years but the number of Rooks to be seen in the Havant area has declined over recent years to the point that there is only one small rookery left (in trees behind a block of council flats on the south side of Victoria Road in Emsworth - I wonder when that will cease to exist?).

Finally for today there has been a good show of butterflies in Sussex responding to the slight increase in temperature. On Mar 11 a total of eleven Brimstones were seen plus singles of Peacock and Red Admiral. Also reported for the first time was a Slow Worm seen with many of the butterflies at the Park Corner Heath woodland butterfly reserve near Uckfield in East Sussex.

Wildlife diary and news for Mar 05 - 11 (Week 10 of 2018)

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Sun 11th March

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Adders now emerging at Durlston
Bluethroat in the Lancing area
First Arctic Skua at Portland as Brent Geese continue to leave us I add Spring Starflower and Cherry Laurel to my March list

I do not normally include Durlston in my regular scan of the internet but a casual visit today told me that three Adders were seen on the cliffs there today, presumably having only recently emerged from hibernation. In Sussex a Bluethroat was seen today in the Sompting area of Worthing but with no clue as to whether this is the bird that was at Eastbourne from Feb 4 until Feb 17 but has not been reported since. Two more items of bird news today were the sighting of the first Arctic Skua for the year at Portland and a report of another 367 Brent heading east past Dungeness after Folkestone reported 210 going east yesterday.

En route to the shops today I noticed a garden flowerbed with a good show of Spring Starflower (Tristagme uniflorum) and on my way home I found the first flowers just starting to open on a Cherry Laurel bush, bringing my March flower count to 61 species. If you are unfamiliar with the Spring Starflower see this webpage.

Sat 10th March

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Four newly flowering plants bring my March list to 59 Species
First Swallow in Belgium and a Snowy Owl in Norfolk
Several Blackcaps and the first Bullfinch now singing
Peacock flying in Eastbourne and Dippers nesting in Devon
Migrant White Wagtails at Portland with hundreds of Meadow Pipits.

A short walk to the Hayling Beachlands this morning found the White Comfreyin the garden of my flats had recovered from the cold snap sufficiently to open two flowers but a more unexpected new flowering in a nearby garden was Creeping Comfrey - for a photo of this see here. Much less surprising were my first finds of Common Mouse Ear and Common Storksbill.

Back at home the internet (Trektellen) reported the first Swallow had reached Belgium today and RBA reported a Snowy Owl in Norfolk yesterday (not the first for southern England as one was in the Scillies around Jan 7). Other bird news for today was of a pair of Dippers nest building in the River Teign near Newton Abbot in Devon. Other bird news was of three White Wagtails and hundreds more Meadow Pipits seen at Portland yesterday, and of a male Bullfinch singing in north Hampshire along with several male Blackcaps in various places.

Following the Red Admiral which re-appeared in Sussex on Mar 8 a Peacock butterfly was seen in Eastbourne on Mar 9.

Fri 9th March

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House Martin and Osprey join the list of summer migrant arivals
Is it possible to distinguish British from Continental Cormorants?

On Mar 8 the first two House Martins were seen in Sussex at Partridge Green (near the A24 south of Horsham) and today (Mar 9) what was thought to be the first Osprey flew up from the edge of Bewl Water (by the A21 south east of Tunbridge Wells). These are the latest summer migrants to arrive following a Sand Martin over Havant on Mar 5, a Little Ringed Plover in Worcestershire on Mar 4, two Garganey at Farlington Marshes on Feb 28, the first Wheatear in Ayrshire on Feb 27 and what were thought to be the first migrants joining wintering Chiffchaff at Portland on Feb 13 and 42 Med Gulls were back at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 16. Another species that has been arriving without any fanfares is Meadow Pipit.

On Mar 8 Brian Fellows Emsworth Wildlife Diary reported a sighting of 'Grey Headed Cormorants' on the Emsworth Slipper Mill Pond and included a photo of three of them showing very grey heads (but surprisingly no sign of the large white 'thigh patches' which are part of their breeding plumage). This sighting caught my attention and I have been searching the internet for information to update what I know about these birds.

A BTO website at https://www.bto.org/about-birds/species-focus/cormorant tells me that .. "In the UK the Cormorant was almost exclusively a coastal breeder until 1981, when an inland tree-nesting colony became established at Abberton reservoir in Essex. This colony was later found to comprise of Cormorants of the continential sub-species, P. c. sinensis." It goes on to say .. "Whilst the Cormorant population as a whole in Britain & Ireland has increased in recent years, at a local level there are some very different trends.
Our native (P. carbo carbo) coastal breeding species has declined by about 11% since 1986, with some larger declines of up to 60% in northern Scotland.
In contrast, our recently established inland breeding population which is largely (but not exclusively) associated with the continental sub-species P. c. sinensis, increased rapidly following colonisation, but is now showing signs of stabilisation."

The question of which race do the Emsworth birds belong to is echoed on the Sussex sightings website by a birder who saw a similar grey headed bird and published a photo of it asking if anyone could give him a positive answer - one answer was .. "with both races of Cormorant breeding and interbreeding in this country separation is becoming increasing difficult and I wonder if there are any pure carbo left in Sussex." I agree with that. Another Sussex birder said .. "The most reliable ID feature is the 'gular angle' - I've marked up your pic to show how to measure this. If it's over 72 degrees it's sinensis and yours looks like 90 degrees (or even slightly over)" .. and accompanied his reply with the following version of the original photo which you can see here.

Thu 8th March

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Another Wheatear arrives in Dorset where Cirl Buntings are now singing
The first Red Admiral to venture out after the frost gives me the name of a shrub for which I have been searching
Four more plant species go on my March list
The moth season gets under way with six species recorded this week
Plant hunters who are not yet members of the Hampshire Flora Group may be attracted to join by reading of recent finds and future plans ...

On Mar 1 I passed on the news that the first Wheatear had arrived in Scotland and yesterday (Mar 7) I read of a second arrival in Devon where Cirl Buntings had started to sing on Mar 6. Also in Devon several Golden Plover corpses were found on Mar 7 when a Little Egret corpse was seen at Farlington Marshes here in Hampshire.

Hopefully there will be no more additions to the list of deaths attributable to the Beast from the East, and as a sign that spring has now been resumed the first Red Admiral was seen in Sussex on Mar 7 where it was thought to have been attracted to the perfume of a shrub called Winter Daphne (Daphne odora) and when I looked this shrub up on the internet I realised it was one that I have seen recently but been unable to name - for a photo and description of this plant see here. This spurred me to make further efforts to name another plant that I have seen recently in gardens and Google came up with a good answer in Viburnum tinus which is a close relative of both the Wayfaring Tree and Guelder Rose - for a photo of the garden plant see here.

In addition to these two new plants I found two more during a walk in this morning's glorious sunshine (tempered by a strong west wind). The first was the very common (and very hairy) Ivy Leaved Speedwell and the second was a single buttercup with one fully open flower growing on the Beachlands grass close to the minature railway track. I have recorded this as a Hairy Buttercup although the sepals were not yet down-turned. These finds bring my March list to 55 species.

Reports of Early Moth, March Moth and Oak Beauty flying at Folkestone on the night of Mar 6, plus a Hummingbird Hawkmoth, Dotted Border and Pale Brindled Beauty reported at Dungeness on the same date, were a good sign that we have emerged from the cold snap, though we must wait for the wind to abate before we can really enjoy the spring. For those keen to see what Hampshire has to offer in the way of botany, and who are not already members of the county Flora Group, I would strongly recommend having a look at the latest county Flora News which is available as a PDF on the internet here.. This is a lengthy document covering the group's outings last year and those planned for 2018.

Tue 6th March

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My first bike ride of the month plus a short walk round the local church brings my plant list to 51 and I hear my first Song Thrush.

Today the wind was light enough to allow me to cycle to the Hayling Ferry in the morning and the temperature had risen sufficiently to let me take a short walk after lunch without any gloves. The mornings ride rewarded me with a rich display of white blossom covering half a dozen small trees lining the road frontage of the Sinah Warren Hotel from the grounds of which came my first Song Thrush song of the year. Although I stopped for a close look at the blossom, which I am pretty certain was Blackthorn although the wood was brown, not black, and I could not see any thorns but neither could I see any green shoots indicating Cherry Plum which normally flowers before Blackthorn. The absence of any leaf shoots also helped to rule out Cherry Plum. The only other new flowers for the month were one roadside plant of Cow Parsley and Pot Marigolds in gardens. The only other possible tick for the morning's ride was what sounded convincingly like the drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker which I heard while getting my bike out but I did not record it as the sound apppeared to come from the site where builders are still working on a large block of retirement flats and it could have been the noise of some drilling machine (though I felt pretty sure that it was a genuine Woodpecker in trees around the flats).

After lunch I extended my walk to the shops to have a look round the churchyard of St Mary's Church where the ancient Yew trees responded to a quick tug by showering me with clouds of pollen. On the way to the church I also added a mass of Chickweed in flower.

Mon 5th March

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First Sand Martin in Havant and Little Ringed Plover in Worcestershire plus first migrant Sandwich Terns in Kent
More dead birds include a Spoonbill and a Shelduck, both in Dorset
First reports of Rooks nest building plus Yellowhammers, Firecrest, Crossbill and Cetti's Warbler singing

The internet today had news of the first Sand Martin of the year, just one flying north today over Leigh Park in Havant. Further afield RBA reported the first Little Ringed Plover in Worcestershire on Mar 4, and two reports of Sandwich Terns from places where there have been no wintering birds (one at Rye Harbour and three at Dungeness, both on Mar 4) strongly suggested that the first migrants are now arriving.

Hopefully the last reports of dead birds killed by the recent weather came from Dorset on Mar 4 and included a Spoonbill and a Shelduck plus 14 more Lapwing. Against these losses the rising temperature has brought news of Rooks re-building their nests near Pulbrough Brooks and of song on Mar 4 from Yellowhammers on Old Winchester Hill and from Siskin and Crossbill (the latter also making display flights) at Acres Down (near Lyndhurst in the New Forest) and from a Firecrest on Sprats Down near Calshot. In Kent a Cetti's Warbler was singing at Reculver and since Mar 3 (when I heard my first Dunnock) their song has been widely reported.

Wildlife diary and news for Feb 16 - Mar 4 (Week 09 of 2018)

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Sun 4th March

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Todays local walk in milder, less windy conditions brings my March flower count to 44 and hears song from Chaffinch, Blue Tit, and Dunnock.

Today I walked south to the sea front and was surprised to find Flowering Currant, Grey Alder, and a Weeping Willow cultivar in flower (as well as several expected regulars which I have seen in previous months) and I came home with two further plants which I have as yet been unable to name. I also enjoyed song from Chaffinch and Blue Tit (the latter being my first for the year) as well as Dunnock which I had heard yesterday.

I came on Flowering Currant in South Road - for a photo see here and found a lone Grey Alder planted by the roadside of Mengham Avenue - see id plate. The minature Weeping Willow cultivar that I found in a St Leonards Avenue garden seems to go under the commercial name of 'Large Standard Weeping Pussy Willow (Salix caprea pendula Kilmarnock)' the one I saw had a central stem around 1 metre high and a similar tree can be seen in this photo. The one I saw had just two golden Pussy-paw catkins open.

Sat 3rd March

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My first wildflower walk for March finds 24 species in flower and my first Dunnock song
Recent hard weather brings reports of many birds in unexpected places ...
... and of freshly dead birds (Dartford Warbler, Woodcock and a young Common Gull) plus a live Quail in Cornwall

With much of the lying snow having melted (and before the rain forecast for the afternoon) I set out for a walk around by local area in the late morning and saw 24 plant species in flower. The first unexpected survivor of the recent frost was the Common Ramping Fumitory growing up the fencing around the allotments at the east end of Palmerston Road - to see a photo of this species see here. The next place where I was expecting flowers was the footpath joining Mengham Lane to St.Margarets Road and at the Mengham Lane end I found Sweet Violets, Butcher's Broom and several new plants of Alexanders just opening their flowers -if you are unfamiliar with this species see here.

From Mengham Lane I walked north towards Tournerbury Lane and in the garden of one of the new houses in the estate east of the Mengham Junior School I found a plant which had been mentioned in yesterday's HOS bird reports as providing berries as an unusual food for a Song Thrush in Romsey. This is Sweet Box which is currently flowering but which bears berries that last until the following winter. For a photo of this species in flower see here. My next find was another garden shrub in fresh flower in a Beech Grove garden - this was Montpellier Broom (Genista monspessulana) shown here. My last find was in a Tournerbury Lane garden and was of fresh flowers opening on the New Zealand Kowhai tree (Sophora microphylla) which looks like this.

During this morning's walk I heard five bird species singing including my first Dunnock and my second Collared Dove as well as a Great Tit. Also singing for the first time today was a Reed Bunting in the Winchester area

Recent hard weather has driven several bird species into places where they are not expected with many Redwing and Fieldfare coming into gardens in their search for food, Woodlark appearing on beaches (5 were on Exmouth beach in Devon on Mar 2), 17 Little Gulls were driven east along the north Kent shore on Mar 1 (2 more were seen at Sandy Point on Hayling on Mar 2) and 13 Woodcock were found on the Sandwich shore in East Kent. Following yesterdays news of 2 Garganey at Farlington Marshes on Feb 28 Mar 1 brought reports of 3 more in Dorset while Lapwing were being widely reported ( a sighting of 1864 all heading north west over the mouth of Chichester Harbour in a 3 hour period on Mar 1 suggested that they had come across the Channel from France).

By Mar 3 the weather was proving to be too much for some birds. A freshly dead Dartford Warbler was found at Sandwich Bay where 1 of 8 Woodcock was also dead and at Dungeness a young Common Gull was also found dead. Also on Mar 3 a Quail was found (alive) at Sennon near Lands End but I am not counting this as an early migrant on its way to the Western Isles of Scotland - I guess that it was a bird being kept for the restaurant trade in Quail's eggs which had taken advantage of the strong winds breaking down the barriers to its freedom.

Thu 1st March

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First Garganey at Farlington Marshes and first Wheatear in Scotland
A website giving you both future and past weather information

With snow falling all afternoon here on Hayling Island I sat down at my computer to pick up any late wildlife reports for February and was very surprised to see that the first Garganey (a pair) had been seen yesterday at Farlington Marshes and that a Wheatear had been reported in Ayrshire by the Rare Bird Alert (RBA) website.

I have until now relied on the BBC for my local weather information (using https://www.bbc.co.uk/weather/po11 for details of what to expect in the Hayling Island, PO11, postcode area) but that only gives information for the future and does not allow you to look back at the temperature, rainfall, and wind speed on earlier days. Today I asked Google to point me to a website which would allow comparison with the past and it came up with the following website (which I have again tailored to the PO11 area) at https://www.worldweatheronline.com/v2/weather.aspx?q=po11 which does allow you to see not only the forecast for the coming 15 days but also to look at the same information for any one past date.

To try this for yourself copy the above web address and paste it into the address bar on your computer, then press ENTER. To get results for your Post Code enter your Post Code in the box at the top right of the screen and click the symbol at the right hand end of the box. Now click one of the options from 'OUTLOOK' to '1 TO 15 DAYS' to see the forecast. To see past data click 'HISTORY' and then enter the date for which you want the past data (make sure the date is in the past). Hopefully this will work for you - if it does and you like the format of the forecasts add the address to your bookmarks.

Wed 28th February

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Frost, Snow and freezing easterly winds send wildlife and its human observers running for cover but before the 'Beast from the East' reached us ...
A falconer's Red-tailed Hawk was seen near Hastings and an Alexandrine Parakeeet (Psittacula eupatria) at Winchelsea
A rare Ross's Gull from arctic north America was seen at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) and birders from Kent used Euro-tunnel to see a second Ross's Gull in the Netherlands
Also seen near Hastings on Feb 25 were two colourful fungi.
A newly-emerged Bluebottle provokes an interesting comment from Rye Harbour's Insect expert

Normally the last day of each month sees me scurrying round to complete my spreadsheet of wildlife observations for the month that is ending while planning an optimal route for tomorrow's outing to maximize my count of flowering plant species. Today, however, the temperature has not risen above zero and the easterly wind has not dropped below 25 mph and although we have not seen the snow flurries which persisted through yesterday the forecast for tomorrow (Mar 1) shows a midday temperture of -2 with gale force north east winds throughout the afternoon. Hopefully the old weather proverb saying the "March comes in like a Lion but goes out like a Lamb" will still be true ....

Since my last blog entry I have been made aware of an impressive 'Red-tailed Hawk' being flown by a Falconer in the Crowhurst area east of Hastings where it was seen by Clff Dean on Feb 25. I think this bird is relatively common in North America but this report of one in southern England is the first I am aware of and if you want to be prepared for seeing one have a look at this American website Here. Another bird species to be aware of is the Alexandrine Parakeet which was seen in the Winchelsea area of Rye Bay on Feb 23 and initially reported as a Ring-necked Parakeet but the id was subsequently corrected to the larger and far less common Alexandrine species - for photos and info on the latter see Link.

On Feb 21 the Portland website reported the presence at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) of a very rare visitor from arctic north america (a Ross's Gull) and I later discovered that birders from Reculver in north Kent had been to see a second bird of the same species at Vlissingen in Belgium (at the mouth of the River Scheldt which flows through Antwerp) on Feb 20. The best website for information on this species seems to be here.

Going back to Cliff Dean's walk in the Crowhurst area on Feb 25 he also saw two colourful fungi - for the Scarlet Elfcup see this photo and for the less common Green Elfcup see this webpage.

Finally for today some information about Bluebottles from Chris Bentley, the Rye Harbour entomologist - see here.

Wildlife diary and news for Feb 19 - 25 (Week 08 of 2018)

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Wed 21st February

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Havant has its first Water Vole sighting of the year
Frogspawn and Honey Bees seen in Portsmouth area gardens
The Eastbourne Bluethroat may have left but Hares are in spring mood on Sussex Downs
Grey Field Speedwell flowering on Hayling where one of the Eastoke Black Redstarts has started singing
Look out for three races of Jackdaw and read about a possible cause of the decline in Cuckoos in Britain.

John Goodspeed's Nature Notes tell us that the first Water Vole sighting for the Havant area this year has been reported this week in the stream which flows into the Langbrook Stream at the south east corner of the Havant TESCO store. I guess it was seen from the footpath, following the Langbrook stream south from Solent Road, from which you can get a view of the 'feeder' stream which comes from the Homewell spring (close to St Faith's Church) and flows under the busy road into Havant from the By-pass, and then through the relatively undisturbed gounds of the big office block east of TESCO, to reach the Langbrook. John's Nature Notes also tell us that Frogspawn can now be seen in several garden ponds in the Havant/Cosham area where Honey Bees have started collecting pollen.

The Bluethroat which arrived in the West Marsh Rise area of Eastbourne on Feb 4 and was seen regularly there until Feb 17 has not been seen since and has presumably now left. For me the highspot of the latest news from Sussex is the first report of three Hares starting to chase each other around Cissbury Ring on the Downs above Worthing. Here on Hayling Island I added Grey Field Speedwell to my February flower list (total now 72) and the HOS bird news tells me that one of the three Black Redstarts currently to be found along the Eastoke seafront has been heard singing. I have never heard one singing so I listened to several of the recordings available on Xeno-Canto and will in future be listening for what sounds similar to the first part of a Chaffinch song without the final flourish. To hear the recordings use this link.

To end today I was interested to learn from a HOS report of an 'unusual' Jackdaw seen at Middle Wallop on Feb 21 that Jackdaws come in three races (Common Jackdaw, Nordic Jackdaw and Russian Jackdaw) and this report was thought to be of a bird of the Nordic race. In case you see a strange looking Jackdaw have a look at the following paper about them at this link and for more light reading on a possible reason for the decline in Cuckoos in Britain try this BTO paper.

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