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Wildlife diary and news for Dec 4 - 10 (Week 49 of 2017)

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Fri 8th December

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Allowing the Langstone South Moors to flood as a delaying tactic in the face of rising sea levels.

Rising sea levels in recent years have meant that areas such as Farlington Marshes, the Langstone South Moors, land on both sides of Selsey Bill and other places around the UK coast, have in the past only been protected from inundation by high tides by the building of sea walls which are then subjected to intense pressure from the sea and need almost annual costly repairs with the sea inevitably winning until some as yet unknown global climate change reverses the long term trend.

In January 2013 Bob Chapman (then warden of Farlington Marshes) issued a warning that there was a real risk of visitors drowning if the seawall was breached by the highest tide of that month, and at the time of that tide I visited Budds Mound (at the southern end of Southmoor Lane) and experienced a storm which prevented me from seeing what was going on at Farlington (looking into the wind) but showed me that the Langstone side of the Southmoors was completely inundated by waves which had overtopped the seawall. Before that year tidal debris showed that there had been breaches of the sea defenses with the sea coming up to the line of the footpath across the moors and in 2013 that east side remained under water for at least a week, and ever since plastic hurdles have kept walkers on the seawall path from falling into holes which the tides have created under the seawall.

In November 2013 the Medmerry Scheme to allow the sea to flood 183 hectares of land west of Selsey Bill was completed and this Environment Agency scheme was recorded online, along with a similar scheme in Essex in 2002, in a BBC News report which you can read here. A current planning application to flood the Langstone South Moors is now before Havant Borough Council and the gist of what is proposed can be seen on Brian Fellows Emsworth Wildlife Diary entry for December 7 by using this link.

Brian invites his readers to let him know of concerns they may have on the impact of this flooding on wildlife. My own reaction is that this scheme is the best that can be devised and will provide a few years delay before houses and business premises disappear under the rising waters of the earth's oceans as the planets polar ice is melted by global warming. It will also provide more habitat for the birds which use our harbours, and should not have much impact on ground nesting birds - Skylarks no longer nest here and I think that Meadow Pipits have now abandoned the Moors. I can remember hundreds of Marsh Marigolds flowering here and they too are a thing of the past while the impressive figure of 10,000 Southern Marsh Orchids for 2014 was the result of just one 'good year' in the period starting in 1995 when the Havant Wildlife Group made annual counts. In 1995 the count was 6763. Counts up to 2009 never exceeded the 1995 figure but were usually in the range 1367 to 5614 (with a low of just 333 in one year when cattle ate most of the plants before they could be counted). After the 2009 count the area was fenced off to control grazing by cattle and the 2010 count leapt up to 9234 but has not exceeded that until 2014.

Wed 6th December

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A ride up the Billy Line to Langstone Bridge brings my December flower list to 97 species
And what looks like Winter Oilseed Rape introduces me to the Government Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB).

With a forecast of stormy weather for the next few days I took advantage of today's relative calm and dry, if sunless, weather to cycle up the Hayling Coastal Path (Billy Line) and add seven more flowering plants to my December list. Among them were Hedgerow Cranesbill and Creeping Thistle, both growing where the coastal path emerges onto the south of Langstone Bridge and both looking fresh. More surprising was a single plant of Wild Clary with the last of its flowers still clinging to all three spikes of the plant beside the path from the bridge to the north end of the island section of the rail track. Also seen in the northern section was Hawkweed Oxtongue, and by the back of the Esso Garage where vehicles can access the shore carpark for the Oysterbeds it looks as if the old 'inland' carpark, which has been blocked off for the building of a Greggs 'food on the go' store, may still retain its status as a site for Coltsfoot in the early spring - today it had at least one plant of Hemlock (first seen in flower on Monday at Mill Rythe) and I see no need for customer carparking to concrete over the rear of the store.

Further south I added both Scentless and Scented Mayweed still flowering and back at the West Town Station site the Perennial Wall Rocket still had flowers among the now dead, woody remains of it earlier growth.

Not added to my flower list was a yellow flowered crop gowing in the largest of the West Lane fields between the Coastal Path and West Lane. It looked like the start of flowering, much earlier than usual, of an Oilseed Rape crop, and this possibility led me to discover a hugely important branch of government called AHDB (the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board) which you can read more about starting here. It would seem that this body is encouraging farmers to invest in winter sown Oilseed Rape, though that is just a minor part of its all-embracing interest in all aspects of farming.

Mon 4th December

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A walk round the Church Fields yesterday and a longer walk to Mill Rythe today
brings my Decenber flower count to 90 species.

Nothing unexpected was seen in the Church Fields yesterday but the seven species added there included some Blackberry flowers, a clump of Common Mousear, a single Meadow Buttercup and examples of Bristly Oxtongue, Hogweed, and Charlock plus a new entry in my species index for Hebe which can be seen in gardens everywhere but which I have not previously recorded but which qualifies by its persistence long after the original gardener planted it as hedging and by having an entry in a website of 'English Wild Flowers' - see it using this link.

Today's walk to Mill Rythe found the expected Chicory flowers, but having lost their eye-catching appearance with most of their bright blue flowers having disappeared, though this was made up for in the first appearance of flowers on Hemlock and the continued flowering of Smooth Hawksbeard. While still in the Tournerbury Lane housing one alleyway had two surprises in the first appearance of Hairy Bitter-cress and a late appearance of a large garden escape Snap-Dragon Antirrhinum plus another late flowering of Broad-leaved Willowherb.

As I was leaving the open fields of central Hayling I enjoyed a fly past by a single Buzzard, while another sign of wildlife reacting to the temporary break in the frosts and strong winds of winter was seen from the windows of my flat yesterday as two Grey Squirrels started their high speed mating chases through the now almost leafless branches of the mature trees. Another reaction to the hope of spring induced by slightly warmer weather was the resumption of Wood Pigeon song.

This evening I took a break from writing this blog to watch a BBC 4 TV programme entitled 'Mexico: Earth's Festival of Life' which introduced me to a range of creatures of whose existence I was not familiar with and which you may find interesting - have a look at it on the I Player using this link.

Wildlife diary and news for Nov 27 - DEC 3 (Week 48 of 2017)

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Sat 2nd December

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70 plants flowering on the first two days of December
Surprises were a Sweet Violet, a White Camellia and two 'new to me' Clematis species.

By November 27th I had recorded 124 species of plant in flower during that month without the obvious aid of a gardener, although many of them (or their predecessors) were probably planted by a gardener, and the first two days of December have already given me a list of 70 species within easy walking distance of my home here on south Hayling. Among the surprises on Dec 1 were a single Sweet Violet, several examples of Sticky Mouse-ear, a good half dozen Cow Parsley plants in flower plus a small specimen of Three-cornered Leek and one of Cut-leaved Cranesbill all on Sinah Common (particularly in the ditch alongside the Ferry Road north of the Mini-Golf course). Before reaching Sinah I found one small Holly bush with a good show of flowers beside Hollow Lane and on my way home I found my first white Camellia flower in a garden along Alexandra Avenue.

61 of my 70 species were seen on Dec 1 but a shorter walk to the Hayling Bay shore today added another 9, mainly in Bound Lane where the roadside ditch now has 4 Lesser Celandines in flower as well as some garden escape Wood Spurge plus one plant of Hedge Mustard, and the footpath joining Mengham Lane to the south of St Margarets Avenue has an interesting creeper (probably a Clematis, of which I found another winter flowering species - Clematis Urophyla - yesterday in the Elm Close estate). All these are flowering despite the near freezing tempareatures, and I see that Brian Fellows also has a very unexpected Lesser Stitchwort flowering close to has Emsworth home while Tony Gutteridge saw a Yellow Flag (Iris) flowering in Langstone Pond on Nov 28. Hopefully my final total for December will exceed 100 species...

Tue 28th November

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Solent Seal population has increased to 49 Common plus 7 Grey
A flock of 20 Swifts seen over Blashford Lakes on Sunday 26 November.

I have long been aware that a breeding colony of Common (or Harbour) Seals is established in the Langstone and Chichester harbour area with regular sightings of Seals hauled out on the mudflats along the Emsworth Channel off the southwest of Thorney Island or the Sword Sands south of Farlington Marshes where the Langstone Harbour entrance channel divides into the Langstone Channel heading to Chichester Harbour via the Langstone Bridge and the Broom Channel heading for Portsmouth Harbour via the Eastern Road Bridge and in 2014 I came across the best account of this colony on a Portsmouth Canoe Club website in an account of a talk given to the Club by the Hampshire Wildlife Trust's Marine Conservation Officer, Jolyon Chesworth.

Today the latest Hayling Islander free paper came through my letterbox and on page 8 it had a short piece headed "New Survey shows Seals are thriving" which tells me that the Hampshire Wildlife Trust has been monitoring the Solent Seal population since 1994 and has found that it is slowly growing in numbers and extending its range of activity. They claim that in 1994 they were only aware of three Seals in the area, by the time of Jolyon Chesworth's talk in 2014 the best estimate of numbers came from the Chichester Harbour Conservancy and was just under 30 Seals but today's count is of 49 Common Seals, including 11 pups, plus 7 Grey Seals which are resident here but do no breed.

You can see the full account of Jolyon Chesworth's talk on the Portsmouth Canoe Club's website here and for a larger version of the map plotting the movements of the tagged seals across an area extending from the top of Southampton Water down to Ryde and Bembridge on the Isle of Wight and across the Solent into Portsmouth, Langstone and Chichester Harbours and further east along the Sussex shore see here.

In 2014 the main survey method was to attach collars with GPS and Depth Recording devices to a few of the Seals, but the current survey is from the air each August when the Seals are moulting and are most likely to be resting on the mud. This change of method has allowed the survey area to be extend into the west Solent covering the Beaulieu area on the mainland and Newtown on the Isle of Wight. The Marine Aspect of the Wildlife Trust's work has also extended greatly in the last few years and you can get an overview of this from their webpage here.

Turning to a different subject the HOS website tells me that a flock of 20 Swifts was seen by two experienced observers over the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood on Sunday Nov 26. The previous last report of a Swift in Hampshire this year was on Sep 24 when just 2 were seen over Chandlers Ford and I am completely baffled as to where such a sizeable flock have come from and how they have evaded detection by other observers, especially at such a well watched site.

Mon 27th November

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A short walk to Hayling Beachlands increases my November flower count to 124.

The last few nights have brought the first frosts of this winter but yesterday (to which this entry relates) was sunny with a chill wind as I walked via South and Beach Roads to the Hayling Bay shore, then home again via Webb and Bound Lanes.

My objective was to confirm the presence of the early Lesser Celandines in the Bound Land ditch (first seen on Nov 14), which I did with three flowers now visible, but to my surprise I also added 5 new species to my month list - Winter Jasmine, Hoary Ragwort, Thale Cress, Wood Spurge, and what I have called 'Commercial Heather' which currently adds colour to many gardens. Also seen during this outing were what were probably the last traces of Vipers Bugloss and Garden Asparagus on the Beachlands grass but I had no difficulty in finding Winter Heliotrope, Butcher's Broom and Feverfew flowers elsewhere.

Back at home the internet told me that Common Darters were still flying at Dungeness on Nov 25 and a Migrant Hawker was seen in Northhants on Nov 16. Turning to Butterflies at least four Red Admirals were seen in Sussex on Nov 25 with a Comma somewhere in Sussex that day. Three Brimstones and one Clouded Yellow were seen at Newhaven on Nov 20 and at Mill Hill, Shoreham, on Nov 18 both Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell were flying.

A late Swallow was in the Lymington area on Nov 25 and a lone Whinchat was in the New Forest on Nov 25, three weeks after its last relative was reported, and on Nov 24 RBA reported 13 Shorelarks and 20 Waxwings in the UK, and one Ring Ouzel was still in Cornwall that day with a Wryneck in the county on Nov 20. Here on Hayling the first Tystie (Black Guillemot) was at Black Point on Nov 23 and six Snow Buntings were at Reculver on the North Kent coast on Nov 19. On Nov 20 the Slavonian Grebe count at Selsey was up to 8 and on Nov 21 a late Sand Martin was at Radipole and a Hoopoe was also in Dorset. That's probably enough for now!

Wildlife diary and news for Nov 20 - 26 (Week 47 of 2017)

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Wildlife diary and news for Nov 13 - 19 (Week 46 of 2017)

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Sun 19th November

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A cycle ride to Gunner Point finds Nottingham Catchfly in flower and increases my November flower count to 119.

Another bright day with a light north west wind saw me riding west to Gunner Point at the entrance to Langstone Harbour, passing more newly flowering Cow Parsley in at least eight places but with little expectation of finding anything new for my month list. Nearing Gunner Point I thought it might be worth checking out an area at the start of the Sand Dunes which has a good variety of flowers in the spring and to my great surprise it had a single plant of Common Centaury with a good head of flowers, albeit closed as the warm sun had not yet reached them. Pressing on round the corner of the Golf Course to the bench where I normally stop for refreshment I parked my bike and walked to the small gorse-covered hillock where I had seen Nottingham Catchfly re-flowering on Oct 9 and to my astonishment one plant still had fresh flowers.

Back on the bench for my sandwich break I watched a small speedboat keeping pace with a low-flying helicopter and then winching someone up from the boat - presumably a practice for the RNLI and aircrew as the Helicopter did not dash of towards a hospital with the 'recued person'. Nothing new seen on the way home but when I got back I checked to see if any of the plants seen this morning, and which I assumed were already on my November list, were in fact recorded on it and I found three which had been missed - Common Ragwort, Large Bindweed, and Red Hot Poker - bringing the total to 119.

Sat 18th November

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My round-the-island cycle ride finds just five new flowers
First Mistle Thrush song in a Mistletoe rich orchard
Reeve's Pheasant seen in Devon.

Friday Nov 17 was a great day to be out, with warm sunshine all day and only a light wind from the north. While having my breakfast I enjoyed the sight of a Red Admiral butterfly perched just outside my window, enjoying full sunlight and sheltered from the north wind. When I got on my bike and started up the old Billy Trail I was fearing that I would not find any new plants but I did find two before I reached the Oysterbeds - one was Scentless Mayweed, the other Self Heal. At the Oysterbeds I was hoping for a very early Dog Violet in the large patch of leaves around the gate into the field immediately north of the 'viewing mound' above the pools but had no success there though a little further north, opposite the northern exit from Oysterbeds area, I did find Greater Knapweed still in flower, and beside the track connecting the Billy Line to the carpark just south of Langstone Bridge, I had a real surprise in finding one plant of Wild Clary still flowering. As I left that carpark and was about to cross the busy Havant Road I saw a plant of Hedgerow Cranesbill in fresh flower to give me five new plants for this month and a November total of 115 species.

Entering Northney village I found the big field south of the road had been ploughed, eliminating any chance of finding any of the arable weeds (such as Green Nightshade) which grow there, and North Common had no new plants but the old holiday camp boating pool, with it being high tide, had a full selection of Brent, ducks, and a Redshank roost. Nothing more on the ride home, but I was encouraged to see that John Goodspeed had found Cowslips flowering on Portsdown this week and Brian Fellows had found Hemlock Water-Dropwort flowering in Emsworth

Two blog entries which caught my eye on the internet this week concerned a report of a Reeve's Pheasant seen in Devon and early Mistle Thrush song heard in an old,abandoned orchard in East Sussex where the trees are liberally covered with Mistletoe growth. The Pheasant has magnificent plumage with six-foot long tail feathers and is protected under our laws so that if any trigger-happy Pheasant shooter kills one he can be subject to a heavy fine, unlike the Chinese who have reduced the numbers in the bird's homeland to numbers similar to what can be found here in England. See a picture and read about the bird (not forgetting to click on the link in it to "the history of the pheasant" in the second paragraph) in an article from 'The Field' magazine which you can read here.

The report of Mistle Thrush song comes from Cliff Dean (based in the Winchelsea/Pett area around Rye Bay). His latest blog entry (for Nov 17) is worth reading in full, and clicking on his link to 'Rat & Sparrow Clubs' which operated in the First World War to offer an inducement to destroy the Rats and Sparrows which diminished our food supplies. The link is to Cliff Dean's account of this Deserted Orchard

Tue 14th November

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The first Celandine in flower and four other additions to my November flower list
Portugese Man-of-War Jellyfish washed up on North Devon shore
Young Herring Gulls stealing from shopping trolleys in Brighton

I had not intended to go flower hunting today but I had to deliver a note to a friend in Bound Lane so despite the gloomy afternoon I got my bike out and rode there. In Bound Lane I have in past years found early Celandine flowers in a roadside ditch and today a close look revealed a single flower among a cluster of Celandine leaves in the bottom of this ditch - probably the earliest of my life!

Encouraged by this find I cycled on towards Sinah Common but en route I spotted a single plant of White Comfrey with unseasonable flowers before reaching the Pale Toadflax site near the Inn on the Beach where at least three plants still had flowers. Returning to the Ferry Road I continued west as far as the Golf Club entrance road, passing a lone White Campion flower (an addition to my list) and specimens of both Winter Heliotrope and Cow Parsley (which I have already seen in November). Coming home via Sinah Lane and Park Road I stopped near the old West Town station to check a regular site for Perennial Wall Rocket and hidden among the mass of dead plant material I found a new plant of this species with many fresh flowers, bringing my November species total to 109.

Among today's news on the internet was a report of more than 50 Portugese Man-of-War Jellyfish being washed up on the North Devon shore near the mouth of the River Taw flowing out from Barnstable. The report included a photo which you can see here. Another unseasonal report came from Chichester Harbour where a pair of Little Grebes was found nesting some four months after the normal end of their breeding season. Less unexpected was news from the Brighton area of this year's young Herring Gulls having learnt to steal from shopping trolleys in supermarket carparks - is this a sign that they have severed their connection with the sea and now have a round the year source of food?

Mon 13th November

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Will the Sweet Chestnut Tree save humanity from succumbing to bacterial infection as our current antibiotics become ineffective?

Most people are now aware that overuse of normal antibiotics has allowed the bacteria against which they are used to increasingly develop immunity to them, leaving our doctors powerless to save our lives when we are infected. However it seems that there is still hope that the ancient Romans will come to our rescue by their introduction of the Sweet Chestut tree into Britain. That is clearly nonsense but watching the Countryfile programme on TV yesterday I became aware that the leaves of Sweet Chestnut trees contain chemical elements that do not kill the bacteria but 'disarm' them. If you read the article to which I will provide a link you will know as much as I do about this so have a look at this document.

For more about the Sweet Chestnut tree here is a page on it from the Ancient Tree Forum website, clearly written before its use against MRSA was widely known. To see this page use this link..

Returning to normality I have just read of a fresh Meadow Brown butterfly being seen at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Nov 10 bringing the number of butterfly species seen flying in November this year to 13. Also seen this month has been the Hummingbird Hawkmoth (3 reports) and 5 Dragonfly species.

Wildlife diary and news for Nov 6 - 12 (Week 45 of 2017)

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Sun 12th November

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At least three Brent families with young seen locally
Recent increases in numbers of Black-Necked and Great Crested Grebes in our coastal waters
Grey Herons mating at Langstone, an Italian Sparrow in Devon, and more on the unprecedented influx of Hawfinches.

Sightings of juvenile Brent are at last being reported but in very small numbers suggesting they have had a very poor breeding season. The first report I saw was of a family with three young at Church Norton on Nov 6, reported on the Selsey Blog. What was probably the same family was photographed there on Nov 11 (see it here) followed by two sightings at Emsworth where a single lone juvenile was seen on Nov 10 and a family group with two young was seen on Nov 11.

Other reports of increased numbers of sea birds seen recently have been of Black-Necked Grebe off the Hayling Oysterbeds, with a peak of 6 there on Nov 11; Great Crested Grebe with 34 seen from Langstone South Moors on Nov 8; and from further afield both Devon and Cornwall have reported groups of 6 Great Northern Divers on Nov 9 and 10 respectively.

Perhaps the most unexpected report this week came from Peter Raby at Langstone Mill Pond on Nov 10 where he saw a pair of Grey Herons mating in one of their nests there, followed by the female settling down in the nest where she will hopefully lay eggs which should start to hatch in mid-December.

Another unexpected report was of an Italian Sparrow in Devon. If you are interested in this potentially new species go to Devon Birding and read the Nov 11 report (with photos) and if you want to pursue it further put 'Italian Sparrow new species' into Google.

For an interesting slant on the current unprecedented movement of Hawfinches all over Europe read Cliff Dean's blog entry for Nov 11 using this link.. And for an account of two unusual fungi seen at Ebernoe in West Sussex read Graeme Lyons blog here - note that the photos can be enlarged by clicking on them, then using the 'back arrow' to restore normal viewing.

Fri 10th November

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A sunny afternoon walk brings my flowering plant count to 104 including more fresh Cow Parsley and Winter Heliotrope.

Nearing Mill Rythe this afternoon the first new plant I saw was a fresh specimen of Stone Parsley in a Kings Road hedge bottom but when I had passed the throng of parents collecting their children from the Mill Rythe school I found that the fields behind the shore had been ploughed, removing any chance of finding Black Bindweed or other arable weeds. This was soon made up for as I walked down the farm track to the shore and found the first of three separate flowering plants of Cow Parsley beside the school fence.

The narrow path along the Mill Rythe shoreline not only gave me a sunlit view of gulls on the water with the tide up but also the undimmed bright blue of the Chicory flowers I was hoping for - see this Wikimedia photo here - and on the way back I found another Winter Heliotrope in flower and collected samples of the flowers and leaves of a plant that was similar to, but clearly different from, the Ox-tongue that is still flowering everywhere. This turned out to be Smooth Hawksbeard though I did not expect it to be still flowering.

Heading home I took the path running alongside the Tournerbury Golf course and was rewarded with single flowers on Common Vetch and Creeping Cinquefoil plus several examples of Herb Robert before reaching Tournerbury Lane where one small garden had plant of Apple of Peru with one remaining blue flower among its black seed pods - if you are not familiar with this member of the Nightshade family see this page from wildflowerfinder.org.uk and note the Skull and Crossbones toxicity of its seeds.

Wed 8th November

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Can David Attenborough be beaten as a producer of Wildlife Films?
Another four flowering plants bring my November score to 95 species

I suspect that everyone reading this blog will also have been watching Blue Planet 2 on TV and will have marvelled at what that series shows us about life on Earth but I hope you will also watch a film which was on BBC 2 this afternoon which was filmed and produced by John Aitchison, with the aid of specialists in Aerial and Underwater photography, and make up your minds which of the two films most closely matches your personal experience of wildlife. To do so watch "https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01sgrpz/hebrides-islands-on-the-edge-episode-2" which is John's film about the Hebrides.

I must admit that I am prejudiced as, back in the 1990s, John's mother used to work in the Havant Borough Tourist Info office to which I would take weekly Wildlife Posters (which I produced in those days before John Goodspeed took on that job) and I would hear of her son's dedication to wildlife in Scotland where he started his career after leaving home on Portsdown Hill. Over the years I heard and saw more of John's work (including the present series whch was first broadcast in 2013) and found that his quiet tone of voice and his intimate focus on the life which we can all see around us in the British Isles, was very close to my own view of it, to the extent that I can imagine myself looking over his shoulder and sharing his understanding of the wildlife stories he tells with his films where I am amazed by the view of wildlife presented by David Attenborough but could never imagine myself watching the scenes he presents and so being unable to share the reality of what is being shown on my screen.

Before watching the TV film this afternoon (not being aware of what I was going to see) I took a walk down to the Hayling Bay shore and added Hops, Annual Wall Rocket, Yellow Corydalis, and the garden version of Wood Sorrel to my month list but I was more interested to see the mass of fresh growth on Alexanders everywhere here on south Hayling. Another species of which I found a large clump today and whose flowers I expect to see before the month is out (it is already on my list with two flowering spikes in Hollow Lane on Nov 3) is Winter Heliotrope. Inevitably, despite the fresh northerly wind, at least one Red Admiral was flying.

Tue 7th November

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12 Butterfly species still active in November
Late departing bird migrants seen this month
Other birds in the news

Red Admirals have been abundant this month with a peak count of 26 seen on Thorney Island on Nov 6. The adults do not go into full hibernation mode, some will fly south but will probably find colder temperatures on the near continent then they would here so many will find places here to shelter from bad weather and be ready to emerge whenever the sun raises the temperature enough for them to fly and find nectar sources to keep them going. Inevitably many will not survive a hard winter but as a backup many of them will have mated recently, and with Nettles continuing to provide food for their caterpillars through the winter a good number of new adults will emerge in the early spring. Other species seen in the first week of November, with their date of last sighting, are Holly Blue and Small White (1/11); Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone (2/11); Small Copper and Comma (5/11); Speckled Wood, Large White, Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow (6/11); and finally Peacock and Red Admiral on 7/11. Also seen up to Nov 5 have been at least two Hummingbird Hawkmoths while two Vagrant Emperor and several Common Darter dragonflies were seen Nov 1.

Three bird species which have been reported for the first time in the past few days have been Slavonian Grebes with a party of four at Selsey on Nov 6 and the first Glaucous Gull of the winter on the Yorkshire coast on Nov 5. The third bird is a Pacific Diver, probably the only one in British waters, which has been turning up each winter for several years off Penzance in Cornwall and was first seen there this year on Nov 6. Another species which is by no means a first for Britain, but is of local interest as the first to be seen in the Langstone-Emsworth area of south east Hampshire, is a single Cattle Egret which was seen among cattle in a field south of Warblington Cemetery early on the morning of Nov 7. Another local report which I found interesting was of a family of Black Swans seen on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Nov 5 with a photo of them appearing on the Selsey blog. I have included a link to the photo here showing not only that the white down of the four cygnets might (except for the time of year) make you think the parents were baby-sitting for a pair of Mute Swans, but also showing the extensive amount of white in the adults wings that is normally only revealed in flight.

Finally for today here are some late dates for departing summer visitors. Almost certainly not the last of the year are Swallows with sightings at five sites in Hampshire, Sussex, Kent and the IOW since Nov 3 with the latest of two birds at Selsey on Nov 6. Of interest the Sandwich Bay sightings were of 37 birds on Nov 1, 16 on Nov 2 and just 8 on Nov 4. The latest House Martin was seen at Selsey on Nov 6 and a very late Yellow Wagtail was at Berry Head in Devon on Nov 3. A Dotterel was still at Dungeness on Nov 6 and a Ring Ouzel on the IOW on Nov 5 when a Grey Phalarope was still on the Lymington Marshes. A Wryneck was seen at Dorchester in Dorset on Nov 3.

Wildlife diary and news for Oct 30 - Nov 5 (Week 44 of 2017)

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Fri 3rd November

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The first three days of November give me 90 plants in flower with more to come
Highlights for Nov 1 were Lesser Calamint, Holly and Almond Blossom
Nov 3 found early Winter Heliotrope flowers.

On Wednesday (Nov 1) I was out early for a local walk starting in St Mary's Road where the White Potato Vine (Solanum jasminoides) was still flowering behind the Mengham Infants School and Lesser Calamint still had one flower close to the road junction with Elm Grove. In the Churchyard Blackberry was still in flower and in the Church fields I found one plant of Cut-leaved Cranesbill still flowering as well as a two metre tall Mallow which I believe to be Lavatera thuringiaca (Garden Mallow). This brought me to the pulic path through the big caravan park where a small, heavily pruned, Holly tree now bears many small white flowers which I would not expect until April (maybe the pruning has induced the unseasonal flowering?). Beyond the caravans, in Higworth Lane, I found a garden escape cultivar of Viper's Bugloss (sold as 'Blue Bedder') and a planted bush of Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Later in the morning, after a scheduled visit to the local Health Centre, I found early Almond blossom on a tree in the grounds. Day 1 of the month gave me 43 plants in flower.

On the second day I took a walk centred on the Elm Grove estate where I only added 15 species which included Butcher's Broom in South Road, but today I walked a bit further via Hollow Lane and Bacon Lane to the southern end of Staunton Avenue, then back along the sea front, which added 33 species to bring my total so far to 90. Perhaps today's biggest surprise was to find two spikes of Winter Heliotrope already in flower but I also found Green Alkanet, Borage, Viper's Bugloss, and three flowers of Pale Flax.

Back at home I completed the month end procedures for my Spread Sheets and if it is raining tomorrow I can stay at home and start to catch up on the internet reports of other people's observations.

Tue 31st October

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Wild Clary in flower ends my October flower count as the 182nd species
Tomorrow marks the start of a new month with plenty still to be seen

Yesterday the wind was light and the sun shone as I cycled up the Hayling Billy track past a continuous line of Brent Geese in Langstone Harbour (none yet in the fields) to what I call 'Texaco Bay' between the disused rail bridge and the Langstone road bridge, where the ebbing tide was exposing the mud and attracting a winter selection of feeding waders (mainly Black Tailed Godwits, Redshank with the odd Oytercatcher and Curlew plus a couple of Common Gulls). It was beside the path running along the south side of this bay that I was surprised to see a single freshly flowering plant of Wild Clary which I first noticed here in October last year and have seen again this year in May, June, and September - with luck it should survive to go on my November list.

Looking back through the internet reports of the last couple of days I have noticed more winter visitors turning up - on Oct 30 the Avocets that winter in the Exe estuary increased in number from less than 10 to 141 on Oct 30. Also settling in for the winter have been Black-necked Grebes with 10 in the Studland area of Dorset on Oct 17 and 13 in the Falmouth area on Oct 30. Not yet on the south coast Oct 30 brought the first reports of Little Auk from four sites on our East Coast with a max count of 18 at Flamborough Head. Although some adult Shelduck stay here through the summer to watch over this years young it seems that the main body of adults which have been moulting on the vast sand banks off the German coast are now returning to us for the winter, indicated by two Trektellen reports on Oct 30 of 185 arriving in Norfolk and 338 on the Normandie coast of France. Another welcome sight on the south coast has been the re-appearance of Goldeneye with an early winter bird at Blashford lakes on Oct 27, increasing to 3 there on Oct 28 and 5 on Oct 31 when another arrived at Pagham. - see its photo here.

Other birds currently being reported daily in large numbers are Redwings and Fieldfares, Wood Pigeons, Stock Doves, and Starlings plus this years exceptional Hawfinch movements but one report from Devon which might have escaped your notice was of 40 Ring-necked Parakeets flying over Plymouth on Oct 28. These birds have had a colony in the city for some time but I cannot recall such a large number being quoted in the past.

Turning to insects the past week-end has brought reports of nine butterfly species still on the wing, and two reports of Hummingbird Hawkmoths plus one of a Deaths Head Hawkmoth found alive and apparently unharmed in a water butt at Dungeness.

Wildlife diary and news for Oct 23 - 29 (Week 43 of 2017)

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Sun 29th October

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During the past week ...

Vizmig counts of Woodpigeon movements increased from 11,139 in Yorkshire to 94,000 in South Devon
9 Great White Egrets at Testwood Lakes,White Stork lands on Portsdown and Glossy Ibis flies over Dorset
Brent Geese keep coming as Shelduck start to return; Lesser Scaup at Blashford & Long Tailed Duck at Pett
A Goldeneye arrives in Hampshire & Selsey reports 17 Mergansers with single Goosanders in Sussex
One Osprey still in Hampshire, a late Hobby at Selsey, a late Stone Curlew on the IOW & Purple Sandpipers seen in Kent
Grey Phalarope still passing through & 27 Little Gulls at Dungeness with 13 Sandwich Terns at Langstone
Little Terns fledged a record 73 young at Weymouth last summer & now 329 Razorbills reach the south coast
Fieldfares and Redwings are now being seen in hundreds, as are migrant Blackbirds and Song Thrushes
Coastal sites have already reported daycounts up to 100 incoming Goldcrests and Firecrests
On Oct 25 Portland reported 'strong southbound passage' of ten species that I would expect to be flying north
80 Stock Doves fly west past Titchfield Haven & 45,000 Wood Pigeons fly west over Portdown
1 Turtle Dove still in Poole Harbour & a flock of 40 Ring Necked Parakeets seen at Plymouth
Swallows still being seen four southern counties with 51 on the IOW and 56 at Dungeness also 30 House Martins in Sussex
Rock Pipits back at Southsea Castle & Water Pipits in Hants and Dorset
Black Redstarts return to Sussex and the IOW & a late Whinchat at Tit/Haven with a late Wheatear
Up to 12 Ring Ouzels at 6 south coast sites & single Whitethroats in Kent, Sussex and Devon
Great Grey Shrike at Medmerry & flocks of up to 2750 Starlings on the move with Bearded Tits still flying to new sites
5 Dragonfly species & 12 Butterflies still flying.

Today I have tried to summarize all the significant reports which I have seen on the internet and noted in my Spreadsheet with dates since last Sunday (Oct 23) and while I think this is a useful format for my blog I think that in future I will change the format from the present attempt to mention everything in the initial headlines followed by more detail and comment in the subsequent text to turning each of the headlines into a paragraph with more freedom to expand on details, continuing to highlight the species I am writing about with red colour. One of my reasons for doing this is to ensure that my headlines each appear as single lines on my screen, though I realize that most readers of the blog will not use the same line length in the format they use. One thing that brought this home to me was the discovery of a bird identification website at www.birdfieldguide.co.uk which I found useful for reminding me of the characteristics of a Serin which turned up at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 27. This uses a format designed to be easy to read on a mobile phone - have a look at it here. This long, thin format allows photos, videos and sounds as well as text to be displayed.

The last of my headlines is not very meaningful unless I list the species which were still being seen this week. By far the moste numerous Dragonfly species was the Common Darter with 35 at Falmouth on Oct 25 and counts of 50 and 20 at Dungeness and in Essex both on Oct 27. Falmouth also had 3 Southern Hawkers on Oct 25 while Oct 24 saw 3 Migrant Hawkers in Surrey and 2 in Kent. Vagrant Emperors were seen at Portland on Oct 25 and 27 and 15 Willow Emeralds were active at a Kent site on Oct 27. Butterflies seen during the week were 8 Clouded Yellows at each of Gosport and Shoreham with 2 Painted Ladys at Bexhill. 1 Brimstone was seen in Gosport and 4 at Small Dole in Sussex. 1 Large White and 2 Small Whites were seen as were 3 single Small Coppers at 3 sites. Probably last for the year were 3 Common Blues at Shoreham and Bexhill while the flowers at Nymans Gardens by the A23 south of Crawley produced a surprising 43 Red Admirals on Oct 25 with smaller numbers elsewhere that day. Just one Small Tortoiseshell was seen in a Sussex Garden on Oct 28 and two Peacocks were at Nymans Gardens while the Milton area of Portsmouth had 4 Commas on Oct 27. Last were 11 Speckled Woods seen at various sites during the week. Not mentioned in the headline were a Convolvulus Hawkmoth at Portland Bill, single Hummingbird Hawkmoths at Dungeness and in Devon, plus a Crimson Speckled migrant from the Mediterranean at Portland on Oct 26 - see their photo of it here.

Tue 24th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

First young Brent and first Black Brant plus first Slavonian Grebe and first Iceland Gull
Woodpigeons on the move, a Lesser Scaup in Dorset and 68 Bonxies off Devon
The Emsworth Spotshank returns for its 14th winter at Nore Barn and strange behaviour by a Cetti's Warbler at Baffins Pond
Clifden Nonpareil moth at Alton, still 4 Butterfly species at Shoreham and two Dragonflies actve in Norfolk
Wild Clary has a relative called "Hot Lips" starring in many gardens

In my last post I was wondering when the first of this year's young Brent would be seen in England and yesterday (Oct 23) just one was seen among 1050 adults at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) as more Brent arrive daily (another 50 flew west past Selsey also on Oct 23 when Trektellen reported flocks of 2546 and 1852 at two sites in Normandie). Another first in the Brent tribe was a single Black Brant which reached Exmouth on Oct 17 and among other seabirds the first Slavonian Grebe was reported at Pendower in Cornwall on Oct 23 and the first Iceland Gull in Yorkshire on Oct 22.

The first significant Wood Pigeon movement of the autumn brought a report of 11,139 birds moving in Yorkshire on Oct 23, and here in the south the high winds brought a count of 68 Bonxies (Great Skuas) from Hartland Point in Devon on Oct 22. Also on Oct 23 a Lesser Scaup arrived on Longham Lake close to Bournemouth and the report included a photo showing the size of the bird in relation to a Tufted Duck - see it here.

On Oct 22 Brian Fellows was delighted to see a Spotted Redshank back in the stream at Nore Barn at Emsworth and was convinced by its behaviour that it was the one which has spent much of the last 13 winters here, so is now starting its 14th year of residence, giving bird watchers excellent opportunities of close viewing. Another report that caught my attention came from Baffins Pond in Portsmouth where 2 birds were reported showing behaviour which makes me think of a pair of Dunnocks rather than the Cetti's Warblers which they were reported to be. A note appended to the report of the sighting said .. "Two birds calling out at southern end of pond, both waving one wing and hopping around each other in some kind of stand off, videoed it on phone, strange to watch it and so close you could almost touch them!!!!!. " I will be very interested to see the photos.

Turning to insects a Clifden Nonpareil moth was seen by day on a window of the W H Smith bookshop in Alton yesterday (Oct 23) by Steve Mansfield and I am providing links both to his photo of it and to the UKMOTHS webpage on the species which not only shows a photo of the moth with its wings open to reveal the beautiful blue of the underwing but which also gives its wingspan, showing it can be very nearly 10 cm across. Steve's own photo (or maybe one taken from the Hantsiow-butterflies website) can be seen here and the UKMOTHS page can be seen here. Today's entry on the Sussex Butterfly Conservation page tells of butterflies seen on Oct 24 at Shoreham .. they were 2 Common Blues. 1 Small Copper, several Red Admirals and 2 Clouded Yellows. At least two species of dragonflies were still on the wing in Norfolk yesterday .. 4 Common Darters and 6 Willow Emeralds. The latter species began to invade southern England in force from 2009 onward and has a page on the British Dragonflies website here. If you did not see the section on it in tonight's Autumnwatch TV programme it will give you a much better grasp of the species than these photos - see it at here and find the section on Willow Emeralds about 20 minutes into the programme.

To end today I at last found the name of an eye-catching garden plant which I am currently seeing in full flower in many gardens. Its species name is Salvia microphylla, making it a relative of the Wild Clary which has recently started to appear as a self sown wild plant, but its cultivar name is 'Hot Lips' and you will see why whe you look at this photo.

Wildlife diary and news for Oct 16 - 22 (Week 42 of 2017)

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Sun 22nd October

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A long walk adds 7 new plants to my month list
But finds no young among 500 Brent

This morning the sun shone from a cloudless sky though there was a strong northerly wind so I walked south via Eastoke Corner then back via Mengham Rythe. My first new flower was Water Pepper growing in a ditch beside Bound Lane and I then walked east on the south side of the Sea Front road where, between the Coast Guard look out and Eastoke Corner I found a large clump of Musk Storksbill in flower and then came on several plants of Silver Ragwort still in flower. My intention had been to walk along the Eastoke promenade in the hope of White Melilot or Japanese Rose in flower but the promenade walkway and the plants growing along its seaward edge had both vanished since I was there earlier in the month as a result of the storms pushing the shingle of the beach towards the houses and, I think, the levelling of the displaced shingle to provide a roadway for the lorries moving the shingle from the Gunner Point area to re-inforce the sea defences at the Sandy Point area. Quite a lot of people were walking on the shingle so I joined them and made my way east to the first path leading inland to Southwood Road where I turned west and made my way back to St Hermans road from which I joined the shore path long the north side of Fishery Creek skirting the Fishery Lane campsite to the Mengham Rythe shore. In this section I not only found more Cow Parsley (already on my October list) in flower but also added flowering Borage and Golden Samphire to that list as well as seeing both Speckled Wood and Red Admiral butterflies.

From the Mengham Rythe seawall I could see some 500 Brent on the water but with no first winter birds among them. Back at home I checked my Diary to see when the young Brent had first been noticed, coming up with these results - last year the first date on which young were seen was October 14, but in 2015 none were mentioned until November 29, and in 2014 the date was Octobeer 31 so we should not assume that the Geese have failed to breed this year until we reach December though I am hoping that, once the strong headwinds abate, the families with young which are now hopefully feeding on the coast of the continent will summon up the strength to cross the channel - the fact that Brent are still arriving is confirmed by the latest news from the Dungeness bird observatory on Oct 20 mentioning the passage of 132 Brent.

Returning to my flower theme the Mengham Rythe seawall gave me the yellow flowered Clematis tangutica which I have noticed in previous months growing as a garden escape among the Gorse bushes but nothing else new was seen until I was in Salterns Lane where one garden had a brilliant red Bottlebrush shrub in flower. For a photo and information use this link to visit the Gardeners World website. I see this page says that this Australian shrub flowers in our summer but today is the first time I have noticed it and it was looking very fresh. A second plant seen freshly flowering in Salterns Lane was Honeywort which normally flowers in the spring but was re-flowering in September as well as now. This plant has flowers of many colours but for a good example see this link. If you think of planting it in your garden beware that it scatters its seeds prolifically and is difficult to eradicate.

I now have 180 plants on my October list but doubt I will reach the 200 mark before we are into November and start again!

Sat 21st October

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Colourful moths now on the wing
Leeches in our ponds
Chaffinches arrive in large numbers

Despite the windy weather a couple of colourful moths have been trapped on the south coast in the past few days. The first of these is called the Merveille du Jour which, despite its French name, is native to Britain and its caterpillars feed on Oak tree flowers and leaves before the adult moth, which has a wingspan of 4 to 5 cm, flies in September and October. One of these moths was trapped on Oct 17 by Alan Parker at his clifftop home in the Fairlight area overlooking Rye Harbour nature reserve and he took this photo of it. The other moth, called the Crimson Speckled, was found at the Dungeness Power Station on Oct 19 and is a migrant from the Mediterranean region which does not breed in Britain. You can see a photo and read about it on the UKMOTHS webpage.

Until I read Graeme Lyons latest blog entry I had no idea that more than two Leech species (Horse Leech and Medicinal Leech) could be found in our local ponds but Graeme found seven different species in a recent survey of the Waltham Brooks area (near Pulborough Brooks). The species which I was most surprised to discover was the Duck Leech which can enter a bird's nostrils and has been known to kill baby ducklings (and even a Herring Gull - see this British Birds article. Here is a link to Graeme's blog entry/

Among the birds arriving from the continent at the moment are large numbers of Chaffinches. Back on Oct 15 I noticed reports of mass movements on the continent (one site out of 28 reporting Chaffinches that day gave the number there as 26,963) and by Oct 19 Portland had around 1000 arriving with another 200 at West Bay in Dorset and 110 at Pennington in Hampshire. Another new arrival was the first Black Throated Diver of the winter seen at Dungeness and Selsey Bill on Oct 20. Also maybe a new arrival (but not the first) was a Bittern seen to fly into reeds at Pennington (near Lymington)on Oct 19.

Thu 19th October

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Two unusual spiders at Rye Harbour
More Divers and Grebes arriving in the south
Two Hawkmoths in one hand

Last Sunday a group of amateur entomologists met at Rye Harbour and spider expert Evan Jones found several unusual species there, two of which caught my attention. The first of these was called an Ant Spider (Myrmarachne formicaria) which is classified as one of the Jumping Spiders that does not make a web but disguises itself as an ant in order to get close enough to the ants on which it preys before leaping on its prey. The two photos I have chosen to illustrate this species show its overall disguise and a close up of its face showing the large eyes which it has in common with all the Jumping Spiders - see the antlike body here and the large eyes here. The second species is called a Sand Bear (Arctosa perita) and is a Wolf Spider of the Lycosidae tribe with a colourful body which can be seen here. It lives in sandy areas in which it can dig itself a burrow which it uses both as a silk-lined home and as a pit trap with a trap-door roof where it waits for prey to fall in, but it can also be found hunting its prey on foot in the typical Wolf Spider style.

I have twice recently seen a medium sized Grebe in Langstone Harbour off the Oysterbeds and wondered if it might be a Black-necked Grebe but so far only one of these has been reported on the HOS news (off Hill Head on Oct 15). Elsewhere on the south coast one was in Poole Harbour on Oct 8, but presumably moved on as there have been no more reports from that area until Oct 17 when 7 were in Studland Bay and another 3 were in Poole Harbour. Also starting to move south a Red-throated Diver was off Selsey on Oct 19 when the first Great Northern Diver for the south was seen at Lundy off the north Devon coast.

Lastly for tonight I was interested in the following photo taken at Portland on Oct 16 showing a Death's Head Hawkmoth and a Silver-striped Hawkmoth both posing on one human hand. See it here.

Wed 18th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Yesterday's long walk around mid-Hayling added 10 to my October flower count
It also gave me a great show of Stubble Rosegill fungi

Yesterday a break in the windy weather gave me a good oportunity for a long walk north over the mid-Hayling fields to Daw Lane, then west to the coastal path, south to the Saltmarsh Lane area and back across the Church Fields. My first find was of Flowering Nutmeg (Leycesteria formosa) in a Church Road garden where it was covered with black berries but also had a single white flower to qualify for my month list - both berries and flowers can be seen in this internet photo. Reaching the roundabout on the Havant Road I joined the field footpath leading to the Maypole Inn and found that all the fields in this area had been newly ploughed leaving no field edge vegetation until I had crossed the northern edge of the first field and reached a small area of waste land at the west end of a couple of isolated houses. Here, as well as a fresh Broad-leaved Dock, I found two interesting additions to my list. One was type of Evening Primrose with typical yellow flowers but differing from the Large-flowered species that is common in the Sinah Common area in various respects, most noticeably in having green rather than reddish sepals dangling from the base of the flowers to identify it as Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) which I have not come across before. The other was my first find for the year of Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes) and I have to admit to cheating in adding it to my list as the three flowers had lost their blue colour but retained sufficient of their structure to be sure of their identity - all the features can be seen in the Wildflowerfinder page on the species.

Moving on across the last field before the Maypole pub there was no trace of the Field Pansies which I have seen here throughout the summer but in their place was a huge display of Stubble Rosegill fungi on the bare ground on the west side of the field path in a field which was currently being ploughed. To get a good impression of these fungi see the first-nature.com webpage on the species. Beyond the pub I turned into Daw Lane where a sizeable stretch of the east end of the lane has its northern bank covered with the 'var Oxyloba' form of Greater Periwinkle whose flowers have narrow propellor like petals (see this internet photo. As I have found the normal form of Vinca major flowering elsewhere recently I was surprised to find just one flower open here but that was enough to qualify for inclusion in my list. After crossing West Lane I took the roadside route created to keep Horses from the road traffic at the West Lane blind bends and in this track I added Marsh Cudweed to my list - the Leicestershire Naturespot webpage shows several photos of this inconspicuous plant..

Next stop was on the Coastal Path at the Pill Box where a bench seat gave a great view of Langstone Harbour at high tide but with no birds in sight - later I found at least 100 Brent on what I call the 'midway saltings' some way further south after adding Thyme-leaved Speedwell (see to my list. Turning off the Coastal Path on the track to Saltmarsh Lane I found Shasta Daisies flowering as garden escapes and in Higworth Lane another garden escape was the cultivar version of Viper's Bugloss known as 'Blue Bedder' (see an internet image.

En route I noted a third garden in which the Morning Glory creeper was flowering (see illustration on my Oct 14 entry) and back at home I found my October flower list now had 171 entries.

Mon 16th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Mass Movement of Hawfinches to Brittany
Great Grey Shrikes and Snow Buntings now in southern England
13 species of Dragonfly and 16 of Butterflies seen this month
Atlantic storms push Portuguese Man-of-War jellyfish onto our shores
Increasing numbers of Great White Egrets

On Oct 14 I commented on a very unusual westerly movement of Hawfinches in southern England but today I have looked at the Trektellen web site reporting observations across Europe and further afield and this shows a much more dramatic picture of this mass movement starting on Oct 12 and increasing to a peak on Oct 15. Hawfinches were being reported in unusual numbers from up to 50 sites (bearing in mind that just 1 or 2 birds were 'unusual' at most sites where the Hawfinch is not normally seen). On Oct 15 38 Trektellen sites recorded unusual numbers of Hawfinch, mostly less than 10 but 17 sites reported more than 10 birds and 3 sites had more than 100, with one of these called Planguenoual reporting 900 birds. I found that Planguenoual is a district on the Brittany coast of France south of the Channel Islands and not far west of the port of St Malo. Maybe we will learn more about what is going on in the Hawfinch world but at the moment I have the impression that all the Hawfinches of Europe have heard an urgent call to attend the equivalent of a very important Druid festival at their most sacred site in Brittany, and are all attempting to get there without very accurate maps or satnavs.

After a Red Backed Shrike turned up at Dungeness on Oct 14 the first Great Grey Shrike was seen at Pulborough Brooks on the same day that seven arrived at different sites in the Netherlands and Belgium. Today, Oct 16, a single Hawfinch arrived at one of it regular winter sites - Lakeside in Eastleigh - after lots more were reported on the continent on Oct 15. Last month the first Snow Bunting was seen in the Netherlands on Sep 12 but I have seen no more reports of this species until Oct 9 when 10 were in the Netherlands followed by one at St Ives in Cornwall on Oct 11.

Today I had a look at the British Dragonfly Society website and was surprisd to see that 13 Dragonfly species have been seen in southern England this month including a late Emperor in Cornwall on Oct 3 and several Common Darters at Slimbridge on Oct 15. On Oct 14 Willow Emeralds were still going strong with a count of 28 in Kent after 3 Black Darters were reported in Glamorgan on Oct 12. A similar scan of the Hampshire and Sussex Butterfly reports shows that 16 Butterfly species have been seen during the month with Red Admiral being the most numerous followed by Clouded Yellow, Small Copper, Speckled Wood and the Large and Small Whites. A single Brimstone on the Sussex Downs on Oct 12 was a surprise as was several Meadow Browns still active at Mill Hill, Shoreham, on Oct 15.

One result of storms in the Atlantic has been to push several Portuguese Man-of-war jelly fish onto the west coast of England with some arriving on the Sussex shoreline where Graeme Lyons saw one at Shoreham on Oct 13 but for a more general account of these creatures see this BBC webpage.

Finally for today there seems to be an increasing number of Great White Egrets both in England and on the near continent. On Oct 14 there were 16 at the Dungeness RSPB reserve while on Oct 15 Trektellen had reports from 13 sites in the Netherlands and Belgium with 41 birds at one site and 10 to 13 birds at four other sites.

Wildlife diary and news for Oct 9 - 15 (Week 41 of 2017)

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Sun 15th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Mass Movement of Hawfinches to Brittany

Yesterday I commented on a very unusual westerly movement of Hawfinches in southern England but today I have looked at the Trektellen web site reporting observations across Europe and further afield and this shows a much more dramatic picture of this mass movement starting on Oct 12 and increasing to a peak on Oct 15. Hawfinches were being reported in unusual numbers from up to 50 sites (bearing in mind that just 1 or 2 birds were 'unusual' at most sites where the Hawfinch is not normally seen). On Oct 15 38 Trektellen sites recorded unusual numbers of Hawfinch, mostly less than 10 but 17 sites reported more than 10 birds and 3 sites had more than 100, with one of these called Planguenoual reporting 900 birds. I found that Planguenual is a district on the Brittany coast of France south of the Channel Islands and not far west of the port of St Malo. Maybe we will learn more about what is going on in the Hawfinch world but at the moment I have the impression that all the Hawfinches of Europe have heard an urgent call to attend the equivalent of a very important Druid festival at their most sacred site in Brittany, and are all attempting to get there without very accurate maps or satnavs.

Sat 14th October

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Many Hawfinch moving west
A Holly Tree with fresh flowers and no berries
A second find of Morning Glory in flower

Between Oct 10 and 14 Hawfinches were reported moving west at seven sites in Hampshire and Sussex with a peak count of 23 at Rewell Wood near Arundel on Oct 13. 15 seen at Fairmile Bottom in the same general area on Oct 10 may have stayed in the Arundel area to be part of the Rewell Wood total but other sightings on Oct 13 at Sandy Point on Hayling (1 bird), 7 over the Westdean Woods north of Chichester, 6 in the Test Valley near Romsey and 1 at Portland must have ben part of a wider movement. Two more reports on Oct 14 were of 11 birds in the Fleet area of north Hampshire and a lone bird at Stubbington near Gosport. Three reports from the Budds Farm area of Havant which also caught my eye today (Oct 14) were of were of 4 Ring Ouzels and 2 Redwings plus 200 Brent already on the foreshore there.

My own local walk today added four flowering plants to my month total, now 161 species. The most significant was a young Holly Tree just opening a good show of fresh white flowers with not a berry in sight. Less surprising were a single flowering plant of Common Vetch and several of both Smooth and Hairy Tare in the long grass of my local Church Fields. Also seen on the same circuit were a third specimen of Cow Parsley in flower near the Newtown House hotel and a second find of Morning Glory flowering in a Manor Road was garden where it had obviously been planted and looking like this.

Fri 13th October

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Where are the juvenile Brent this year?
Migrant birds which are difficult to spot
11 species of butterfly seen this week
National moth nights run from Oct 12 to 14 this year.

The first reports of Brent Geese on the English south coast came on Sep 19 this year with 15 flying west past Selsey and another two flying east past the Gosport area after having followed the French coast west to the D Day beaches north of Caen before doing a U-turn in the channel. It makes sense that these first to arrive are adults without young to slow them down but I see that last year the first mention of juveniles in my diary was on Oct 14 so I will be expecting to hear of them in the near future, followed by news of the first to leave the harbour waters to feed on arable fields and at a later date change to feeding on grassland.

Yesterday I mentioned that both Blackbirds and Song Thrushes cross the channel in large numbers to escape the continental winter and today I noticed that the Sandwich Bay observatory had reported the arrival of at least 40 Backbirds on Oct 9 while on Oct 12 an influx of Blackbirds was noticeable by the River Arun south of Arundel. Another species which comes to us from the continent but is not often seen on passage is Woodcock. It arrives in sufficient numbers to be worth while organising shoots in the Tournerbury area of Hayling Island (though I have not heard of these in recent years) but on Oct 12 what was almost certainly a newly arrived migrant was put up on Blackfield Common near Calshot by a cyclist on his morning ride to work without the need for the beaters necessary to put up these cryptic and elusive birds for a shoot. Also on Oct 12 another bird not often seen on passage, the Bearded Tit, was seen flying in a group of four in the Pennington area near Lymington. And while on the subject of migrant birds I see that after what I think was the first flock of 21 Velvet Scoter arriving this winter on the south coast (off Pett in Rye Bay on Oct 9) a second report of a single bird in Poole Harbour was made on Oct 10.

Warm weather is allowing us to see a good variety of butterflies in mid October and a look at the reports of this week's sightings in Sussex and Hampshire show that 11 species have been seen with Red Admiral being particularly numerous (17 seen in Gosport on Oct 12). Another colourful species still on the wing is Small Copper while a single unexpected Brimstone was seen on the Sussex Downs, also on Oct 12, and migrant Clouded Yellows were still crossing the channel to arrive on Eastney Beach in Portsmouth on Oct 12 (Four had reached Penzance in Cornwall on Oct 5).

Each year our national Butterfly Conservation, together with Atropos magazine, organise a national moth night (actually three consecutive nights to allow for the weather) and this year the dates are Oct 12-14. An article in the Daily Telegraph quotes Richard Fox, of Butterfly Conservation, saying .. "A quick check of ivy blossom on a sunny autumn day will reveal bees, hoverflies, butterflies and other insects, all making the most of this seasonal bonanza of nectar. After dark, the pollinator nightshift takes place and a myriad of moths come out to feed. For this year’s Moth Night, find some big patches of ivy flowers nearby and go back with a torch after the sun has set. It’s a fantastic and easy way to see some of the beautiful moths that are on the wing in autumn.”

One Hawkmoth that catches eveyone's attention is the Death's Head which has a Skull image on its thorax and one was seen in Folkestone on Oct 5 but the photos of it were not as impressive as this one used by the BBC - see it here. For more info on this moth see this link. Note that you can change the main image show on this web link by clicking on any of the small images at the foot of the page.

Thu 12th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Oregon Grape, known to me as the Tealeaf Plant, is now flowering
A guide to identifying Ichneumon Wasps
Fieldfares heading north and Ring Ouzels heading south cross in the New Forest.

A local walk to enjoy the warm sunshine today added one more species to my October flowering plants - the Oregon Grape (Mahonia aquifolium). Although every plant you see will originally have been planted by a gardener it qualifies as being of interest to me as, once planted, it needs no care and is capable of looking after itself for many years as was the case with one example in the Disenters section of the New Lane cemetery in Havant where it had happily survived some 20 years of total neglect but still brightened the scene each autumn with its bright yellow flowers and glossy, rain resistant leaves. If you don't recognize its name have a look at this link to a photo on the internet (Here). Personally I still call this the Tealeaf Plant with fond memories of regularly emptying the teapot over one just outside the backdoor of the New Forest cottage where I was evacuated during the war...

I occasionally come across insects which I believe to be Ichneumon Wasps but do not know how to name them so I am very grateful to Brian Fellows (for publishing a link to) and to Bryan Pinchen (for supplying the link) to a PDF file which should help people like myself to name the species. If you want to see this comprehensive guide to these fascinating wasps go to Ichneumon species PDF.

Many bird species are now on their way to winter quarters and two Thrush species (Fieldfare and Ring Ouzel) are currently being seen heading in opposite directions. This came to my notice when, on Oct 11, north bound Fieldfares were seen at Leaden Hall (just south of the B3078 road running across the north of the New Forest from Cadnam to Fordingbridge, not far short of Godshill) and on Oct 12 southbound Ring Ouzels were seen at the same site. Both species have been seen at numerous sites in the past few days (including one Ring Ouzel at Sandy Point on Hayling on Oct 10). As well as these obvious migrants both Blackbirds and Song Thrushes are on the move, but less easy to identfy as migrants unless they are seen in large numbers, though Redwings are often identified by the distinctive 'seep' contact calls they make as they fly over at night.

Wed 11th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Fatsia japonica - the Castor Oil plant - now flowering
Waxwing in the Scillies and Stone Curlew wintering in Kent?
70 mile wide flock of Painted Lady butterflies seen on radar in Colorado

A walk along the south Hayling shore in today's near gale force wind was not expecting any new flowers - my target was to explore the area called Cockle Warren near Eastoke corner - but included the sight of the first flowers on a garden shrub called Fatsia japonica to which those unfamiliar with it can be introduced by this RHS webpage - see Link. It is one of a large group of plants of the Aralia genus from which we get products such as Rice Paper (made from the leaves) and Castor Oil (which can be extracted from its stems). Our common Ivy is a member of the family and it is not difficult to see a similarity between the structure of Fatsia and Ivy flowers (both of which flower in the autumn).

Among current Butterfly news is something that I heard about on BBC News a few days ago concerning the Painted Lady. The thing which caught the attention of the media was a report from Colorado in the US of radar screens showing a 70 mile wide image of what was at first thought to be a huge flock of migrating birds but which turned out to be Painted Lady butterflies heading south to hibernate. You can see the BBC report here. Wikipedia tells us that Vanessa cardui, the species with which we are familiar, is found on every continent except Antartica and South America and it is thought the radar image was of this species though it seems that the Americans call it the Cosmopolitan.

This being October many birders will be visiting the Scilly Isles and one of them was Matt Eade from Seaford in Sussex. My regular check on his website (Seafordbirding.blogsp.co.uk) showed that he paid a three day visit to the isles on Oct 5 and saw the first Waxwing I have heard of this autumn on St Mary's. I was aware that there are two species of Waxwing - Cedar and Bohemian - but a quick check showed that the Bohemian Waxwing has a more northerly range and it is the Cedar Waxing which regularly invades the British Isles. For more detail on the differences see Link. While on the Scillies Matt also saw a Cliff Swallow and a Vagrant Emperor dragonfly - you can read his account in the Oct 5 entry in his blog Here.

For an endpiece tonight I see from the Sandwich Bay observatory website that a Stone Curlew which appeared in the Pegwell Bay area of Kent on August 17, presumably on its migration south, was still there on Oct 6, reminding me of one which spent a whole winter on Hayling Island in a field on the south of the large open area of north Hayling fields (between Northwood Farm and Upper Tye Farm) but I have forgotten the date.

Tue 10th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Both Redwings and Fieldfares are now arriving on the South Coast
Spoonbill numbers set a new UK record in Poole Harbour
Bearded Tits and Black Swans are on their winter wanderings

So far this month I have been 'flower hunting' here on Hayling but I have now started to catch up on South Coast bird news and have already picked up reports of both Fieldfares and Redwings arriving in serious numbers. The first Redwing I saw reported was a single bird in Ashdown Forest on Oct 1 and this has been followed by seven more sightings from five different sites in Hampshire and Sussex with the biggest counts coming from Tweseldown Racecourse near Fleet in north Hampshire (168 birds flying north west on Oct 7 and 2630 going the same way on Oct 9). A further report of 16 at Dungeness on Oct 9 hints at a widespread but largely un-noticed influx on that date. Also on Oct 9 came the first report of Fieldfares - 11 flying up the Test valley just north of Romsey.

Oct 9 also brought a new UK site total for Spoonbills with a total of 75 in Poole Harbour (in two separate flocks: 35 birds in Brownsea lagoon and another 40 at Shipstal Point near Arne).

The first report of Bearded Tits moving between reed beds came from Portland where at least one 'migrant' bird was seen on Oct 8 after a report of 21 seen 'high flying' at Keyhaven that day. For anyone unfamiliar with their life style these birds spend most of their lives in the same reed bed with no view of the outside world but at this time of year, when the juveniles are full grown, nature forces them to seek new homes and mates, and to do this they have to pluck up the courage to set out on lengthy journeys to find suitable places to settle. Prior to setting out they can be seen flying up above their reed bed 'home' to get a first look at the outside world before setting out on this 'voyage into the unknown' - this is commonly known as 'high flying'. A similar process at this time of year sends young Black Swans off into the unknown to seek breeding sites and mates and a report of one at the head of Fareham Creek on Oct 7, where the species has not been seen before, may be a sign that the young birds which have been raised at the Riverside Park site on the River Itchen in Southampton (where a peak count of 17 birds was reported on March 31 this year when the resident pair had just hatched 7 new cygnets and 8 juveniles from last year had come to look at them) are currently exploring the local coast in search of mates and nest sites.

Just one more news item worth a mention today is the first report of Velvet Scoter on the south coast - a flock of 21 were in Rye Bay off Pett Level yesterday (Oct 9).

Mon 9th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

A ride to Gunner Point finds seven more plants in flower including Nottingham Catchfly and Musk Mallow.

This morning was forecast to be cloudy but dry with a light breeze, and that was right for the outward trip during which I found Common Comfrey and Red Bistort plus a re-flowering of the Dark Mullein near the Golf Course entrance and Red Hot Pokers growing outside the Kench houses.

Turning south through the harbour entrance carpark I took the path along the Sailing Club fence to have a look at the sand dune area where I was cheered to find the bright blue of Sheep's Bit still flowering (for photo see Sheep's Bit flowers.) but when I emerged on to the open shore I found a thick mist had hidden all trace of the Isle of Wight and on the way home this mist followed me in the form of an increasing drizzle. This did not start until I had visited the Nottingham Catchfly site and found two plants in full flower (for photos see Nottingham Catchfly flowers.) but as I walked my bike over the shingle at the east end of the Golf Course I suffered the double annoyance of finding the shingle churned up by heavy lorries taking shingle from the western shore to re-inforce the flood defences for the eastern end - they were taking advantage of the low tide - and the onset of the drizzle.

Taking the quickest route home, up the road from the Inn on the Beach to the main Shore Road, I had my most unexpected find of the day - a large plant of Musk Mallow in full flower, bringing my October flower count to an encouraging 150 species. To add to my pleasure when I arrived back at home I noticed that one of the specimens I had brought home last Thursday, the Morning Glory creeper, had opened two new flowers which were rewarding me with the full colour - even better than the photos on the website I used to illustrate them then is this photo at Morning Glory

Wildlife diary and news for Oct 2 - 8 (Week 40 of 2017)

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Sun 8th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

A cycle round Hayling Island adds 15 plant species to my October list bringing the total to 148
Two unexpected additions were Wild Privet which usually flowers in June, and commercial Pea flowers
I also saw my first large flocks of Wigeon and Brent Goose in Langstone Harbour.

There was very little wind to hinder my progress this morning and the visibility was excellent but a layer of cloud meant I did not see the sun (though it shone all afternoon when I was back home). Nothing new was seen until I reached the Coastal Path/Billy Line where Agrimony had started re-flowering. I was going to check out the Saltmarsh Lane seawall area until I found that the direct approach to it was under water, so I pressed on to the point where the Coastal Path touches the edge of the harbour and here the familiar sound of Brent Geese could be heard though a scan of the 500 or so birds on the water closest to me showed them to be Wigeon with a similar number of Brent beyond them. Later the Wigeon made an impressive mass take off and flew north though though a good half dozen Great Crested Grebe were left along with two smaller birds which may have been Black-necked Grebe though a search of the HOS website reveals no reports of them in the harbour so far. Also seen here was Field Scabious still in flower and by the time I reached the Oyster Beds I had added the following to my month list:- Hoary Ragwort, Black Knapweed, Self Heal, Perforate St John's Wort, Pepper Saxifrage, and Golden Samphire (which I see is already past flowering in the Langstone Bridge area). On the Oyster Beds mound I added Scarlet Pimpernel and Lesser Hawkbit.

Pushing on up the Coastal Path I found plenty of Greater Knapweed and one example of Hedge Bedstraw flowering near the northern exit from the Oyster Beds but the biggest surprise of the day came as I turned right off the old rail track onto the path to Langstone Bridge. Here a small bush of Wild Privet, which normally only flowers in early summer, was topped with many clusters of white flowers.

Nothing more of interest until I reached the first house of Northney village where I was hoping to find several good 'arable weeds' in the corner of the large north Hayling fields. In their place it seemed that, since my last visit here in September, this vast field had been harvested and re-planted with a crop of peas, not for harvesting but for replenishing the nitrogen content of the soil before the field was ready to plant with a future 'cash crop'. These small, white flowered Pea plants had not previously been listed in my index of wild flowers, though I have often seen them. To make up for the absence of the rare Green Nightshade which I have previouly found here (including last month) I did some research to discover that the original wild form of Pea is called 'Pisum sativum' and, while I am sure that the seeds sold for the nitrogen enrichment of fields nowadays will have undergone 'genetic enrichment' and will be sold under commercial names, I have listed them in my plant index under the 'English Name' of 'Commercial Field Pea' with the catchall scientific name 'Pisum sativum' and become species number 146 in my October list.

My last stop before heading home was North Common and here I added Goats Rue and Strawberry Clover, bringing my month total so far to 148. With much of October still ahead, and a forecast of warmer weather for next week-end, I am expecting the final total to be at least 150 so my hunt goes on!

Thu 5th October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

A walk to Mill Rythe not only adds Chicory and Black Bindweed to my flower list but also finds another Cow Parsley re-flowering plus an unexpected Morning Glory creeper in bloom.

I was not intending to go out plant hunting today but bright afternoon sunshine persuaded me to walk to Mill Rythe where I was confident of adding two flowering plants to my October list (Chicory and Black Bindweed) but in fact I added 18 species and found a second example of Cow Parsley in full flower.

Starting out across the Legion Field towards the footpath following the western edge of the Tournerbury Golf Course all the way to tha Mill Rythe schools I found both White Deadnettle and Japanese Honeysuckle, which I was surprised were not already on my list, before I crossed Tournerbury Lane and made a surprising discovery of a bindweed-like creeper with purple flowers on the pavment outside one of the crowded houses with little in the way of gardens. This turned out to be Ipomea purpurea, one of three species of Morning Glory listed in Stace's Flora of the British Isles, though Wikipedia lists over 1,000 species world wide which share that name. For more info see the Finnish Naturegate website. Also nearby I found Short-fruited Willowherb flowering by an alleyway between the houses.

Beside the road to the Mill Rythe Holiday Camp I found a single flower of Creeping Cinqufoil and noted that I had not yet listed Greater Plantain as being still in flower. After passing the schools I turned down the farm track alongside the arable field behind the Mill Rythe inlet of Chichester Harbour. The Chicory which I was aiming for, and which rewarded me with a blaze of blue in the bright sunshine (see the Wildflower Finder webpage for photos and info) grows along a narrow waterside footpath which is hidden by bushes which screen it from the large arable field in which I found Wild Radish, Charlock, Prickly Sowthistle, and both Scented and Scentless Mayweed plus Hawkweed Oxtongue and Smooth Hawksbeard. On the seawall I persuaded myself that the drab brown colour of the tiny flowers on Mugwort was their natural colour and did not mark them as dead!

Back at home I added one plant, Lesser Sunflower (Helianthus petiolaris) to my spreadsheet index so that I could include it in my total and also realised that I had omitted to add Argentinian Vervain (Verbena bonariensis), thus bringing my current October total to 133, which I will hopefully increase next Sunday when I plan to cycle round the whole Island, taking in the whole Billy Line and Northney village.

Mon 2nd October

(Link to previous day’s entry)

A cycle ride to The Kench and then to Sandy Point on a lovely sunny morning brings my October flower count to 113.

I started through West Town where, close to the site of the old rail station, Perennial Wall Rocket flowers on the north side of Station Road. My route then took me along Park Road and Sinah Lane to Ferry Road where, on Sep 28, just beyond the Golf Course Maintenance site, I had seen two plants of Cow Parsley flowering in the roadside grass. Reaching this point I was intending to dismount and have a close look but today a small group of elderly people had already stopped to chat there so I rode on to the Bell Heather site on the Golf Course opposite The Kench (on which the tide was high and had a large flock of Brent on the water with another flock of Oystercatchers roosting on the shore). The Heather was still in flower and I also ticked flowering Tamarisk nearby before riding back to look for the Cow Parsley, one plant of which had been cut by seaonal roadedge grass cutting but a second plant was undamaged.

I now headed back east for Sandy Point but noted both Seaside Daisies and tall Hollyhocks flowering just east of Staunton Avenue. When I reached Southwood Road I was hoping for Silver Ragwort flowers but they were all over and the next plant to go on my list was the Black Horehound by the road passing the vehicle entrance to Sandy Point. Following the footpath round the edge of the reserve I found the Western Gorse, Red Campion, and a few remaining flowers of Marsh Thistle in the old, overgrown Hospital grounds before emerging on the harbour entrance shore where I listed Blue Fleabane, Sea Spurge, Sea Knotgrass, plus Guernsey Fleabane before heading back home along the Eastoke Promenade. Here I missed out on White Melilot and Japanese Rose but did see Sticky Groundsel and Rock Samphire (plus a display of Shaggy Inkcap fungi on the wide lawn of one of the big blocks of flats). Back at Eastoke Corner I headed up Rails Lane, having no difficulty in seeing that one of the Thorn Apple plants in the garden of the house at the Harold Road junction was still flowering as I rode past. Today I will end with a link to the Wildflower Finder page on Thorn Apple though the plant I saw did not have the pure white flowers it shows - they were tinged with a blue colour. And before the link I must mention that the Hayling Islander paper which came through my door today says the Environment Agency have decided to abandon their attemtpts to repair the South Moors seawall at Langstone and to let the South Moors flood - perhaps we will soon have nesting Avocets there as has happenned at the Medmerry breach near Selsey? Coming back to the present here is the link to the Thorn Apple webpage.

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