Wildlife diary and news for July 16 - 22 (Week 29 of 2018)

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Wed 18th July

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Today is my 87th Birthday
And as a present to myself
I am ceasing to update this Blog

Although I am still in reasonably good health both my mental and physical abilities are dwindling with the result that I cannot cover as much ground as I would like and cannot remember the names of common species without searching through reference books and the internet.

So, to quote the Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe, all the remains for me to do now is to say "Goodbye and thanks for all the fish" ... I will not, howevever be heading into outer space, but will be staying in touch with the internet and will continue to enjoy all your observations and photos for which I must express my sincerest thanks for the reminders they bring of the pleasure I used to get at first hand from the natural world and which I will continue to enjoy at second hand for a few more years.

Wildlife diary and news for July 2 - 8 (Week 27 of 2018)

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Thu 5th July

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Heat, Football and Month End combine to take me offline
Nevertheless I have recorded 72 flowering plants to start my July list

I see that it is now ten days since I managed to upload a blog entry. The primary reason for this delay has been heat exhaustion starting with what I thought would be a pleasant walk on June 29 north up Church Road to the Havant Road roundabout, over the field path to the Maypole Inn, returning via the Mill Rythe shore. Church Road gardens gave me Black Nightshade and Flowering Nutmeg (Leycesteria formosa aka Himalayan Honeysuckle) - see photo - and the start of the field path gave me Great Willowherb - see photo - but crossing the two large fields required the stamina of a Cross-Channel swimmer as the 'path' was waist high in weeds and the crops (one of Barley, the other of Broad Beans) were of a similar height.

On the Mill Rythe shore Common Sea Lavender was flowering along the tideline and both Lucerne and Chicory had flowers along the higher ground with Fleabane, Hawkweed Ox-tongue, and Russian Vine all found before reaching the school entrance. Most of these are still to be added in July.

June 30 was devoted to rest and recovery as was July 1 but on July 2 a walk to the beach brought my total up to 58 species including Great Mullein, Wood Sage (which I did not expect on Beachlands) and my first Prickly Lettuce flowers - see webpage. One of my last finds was a lovely pink American Tamarisk or Salt Cedar called Tamarix Ramosissima in a small Elm Close garden - see webpage

Wildlife diary and news for June 25 - July 1 (Week 26 of 2018)

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Mon 25th June

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A long, hot walk adds 8 plant species to my flowering list bringing my June total to 155 species
How to buy you own Kookaburra for £500.

Today I walked down to Hayling Bay, then west to Sinah Common, coming home via Hayling Park and along St Mary's Road. The first new plant I saw flowering in Mengham was Verbena Bonariensis, standing a metre tall in at least one garden - see here.

Also seen in the built up area were my first Yucca, some Knotgrass and garden plants of Acanthus mollis (Bear's Breeches). Yarrow was fully out in the Beachlands grass, as was my first Broad Leaved Everlasting Pea and in Sinah Common to the west of the Fun Fair, I found a single Blue Globe Thistle and a single bush of Lucerne. As I was about to leave Sinah Common on to Staunton Avenue several tall yellow spikes of Dark Mullein were seen.

On June 25 the Emsworth Wildlife Diary had a photo of a Blue-Winged Kookaburra which had been resident in an Emsworth garden for some weeks (see the photo here.) The photo has also been sent to the Portsmouth News. When I heard of this I had a look at a Wikipedia article describing the species which you can read here and then went on to see if I could find out how the bird got to Emsworth by asking Google where I could buy one and I found that www.birdtrader.co.uk acts as an intermediary between sellers and buyers of any bird species across Britain and Ireland - for example, if I wanted a Blue-winged Kookaburra I could get one for £500 from an address in the Middlesbrough area.

Wildlife diary and news for June 18 - 24 (Week 25 of 2018)

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Sun 24th June

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Many Meadow Browns and a fresh Comma around St Mary's Church
Both Creeping and Spear Thistles, plus Musk Mallow and Meadow Vetchling, flowering in the Church Fields
A second pair of House Martins now nesting across Elm Grove Road
I discover a Smoke Bush Tree about to flower on Cherry Wood Gardens road

A short walk yesterday afternoon past my local bottle bank to St Mary's Church and back found a fresh Comma butterfly in the churchyard and a host of Meadow Browns ( my first) feeding on newly flowering Creeping and Spear Thistles in the Church Fields. I was hoping to see Gatekeepers but failed to do so though I see that the first were recorded in Devon on June 11. Also seen here were several Skylarks which I suspect now have young and the adults seemed to be more concerned with gathering seed and insects for them on the ground than with avoiding my presence. As I was leaving these un-restrained grasslands through which several close mown paths are maintained for visiting campers I added my first plant of yellow Meadow Vetchling to my list and also saw one plant of Musk Mallow in flower.

This morning I was visited by a grandson and we took a short walk 'round the block' during which I showed him several flowers which I find interesting but I was unable to give him an answer when he asked the name of a small tree presumably planted by the Hayling Council on the pavement of Cherrywood Gardens. (After writing this a second look showed that I was wrong in thinking that the tree was planted by the council - it is in fact just within the front garden of the nearest house, thus clearing Havant Borough of any association with the choice of this exotic species, This second visit also reminded me that the American 'Morning Glory' vine was also newly flowering on a neighbouring house and should have been given a mention.) It has purple-brown eliptical leaves and stands about 4 metres tall but a close look at it shows that it seems to be about to open some interesting flowers which give it the common name of 'Smoke Bush' and it may soon look like this photograph I found on the internet - see here. The scientific name of this tree is Cotinus coggygyra and Wikipedia says .. "Most of the flowers in each inflorescence abort, elongating into feathery plumes which have a smoke-like appearance surrounding tiny (2 -3 mm) fruit". The home area of this plant ranges from Southern Europe through Asia to Northern China.

Back at my flats we saw several House Martins visiting the building across the road and it looks as if there is at least a second nest.

Fri 22nd June

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After the Royal Wedding we have an American Royal Tern
Lesser Calamint starts to flower and the exotic succulent in St Mary's Road is in full flower
Purple Emperor, Gatekeeper and Essex Skipper now flying
The Portsmouth area has several albino Grey Squirrels, one of which was widely featured this week as a photo on local posters
In 2010 a man was fined £5000 for trapping Grey Squirrels that were raiding his bird table.

During the afternoon of June 19 a large, yellow billed and crested Tern appeared at Church Norton. At first it was thought to be an Elegant Tern which had visited the site a year ago but it was soon realised that it was an American Royal Tern which has never been recorded in Sussex before (although this 2 year old bird has spent much much of last year around Guernsey and the French coast). Since then it has been restless, exploring the British south coast as far west as Weymouth Bay. Should you come across it you should have little difficulty in realising it is not named Thalasseus maximus maximus for nothing - this ARKIVE webpage tells you it is the seccond largest Tern species and gives you measurements, see here.

Turning to my interest in flowering plants I was pleased to see the first two flowers open on a cluster of Lesser Calamint plants growing at the foot of a bare wall among builders rubble near to the Hayling Billy Pub on the east side of St Mary's Road where I found them last year. Further down that road, just before it turns west and heads for West Town, look under a tall conifer hedge on the west side of the road and you will see a large succulent plant from which long flower stems hold up horizontal circles of tubular orange pink flowers (growing about knee high). If you like seeing exotic gardening go back up the road to the entrance to the Rook Farm mini-estate and enjoy the Cordelyne Palms that are now flowering plus the huge Woollly Thistles that will soon be opening their flowers in the garden beside the road into the Rook Farm new houses.

In addition to the list of summer butterflies that I included in my last blog three more have now been seen starting with the Purple Emperor, first seen in Cambridgeshire on June 17 and now being worshipped by its devotess in 'all the old familiar places', including the Knebb estate in Sussex. For almost all you want to know about 'His Majesty' have a look here. Two more species to look for now are Gatekeeper and the Essex Skipper (the one with the black tips to its antennae).

I'll end today with Grey Squirrels about which I learnt something that surprised me. I was checking when Grey Squirrels were introduced to Britain from America and a piece in the Daily Telegraph told me they arrived here in the 1870s and went on to say that in 2010 a man was fined £5000 for cruelty to animals under the Animal Welfare Act of 2006. It seems he was so angry at Squirrels stealing food he had put out for the birds that he caught and drowned one. Another victim of this act caught several Squirrels and released them at a distance from his garden - in both cases had the Squirrels been shot there would have been no penalty as that is such a kind way to kill them!

My original interest in the Squirrels had been roused by a photo of an albino Grey Squirrel which appeared on John Goodspeed's regular weekly Nature Notes posters which he distributes widely in the Portsmouth area and from which I have learnt that there is a population of pure white Squirrels that has been living in the area for ten years or more. I have also heard of a similar population of all black squirrels, growing in number since they were first seen in 1912 and now present in a substantial area of East Anglia. Today I learnt from the Telegraph that these are now thought to be unrelated to the Greys but originated from a menagerie of exotic animals touring East Anglia 100 years ago and now outnumbering the Greys in parts of that area.

Wildlife diary and news for June 11 - 17 (Week 24 of 2018)

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Fri 15th June

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Five new plants for my June list
House Martins are nesting just across the road
A White-cheeked Turaco seems to have been resident in the Emsworth area for the past three months
Summer butterflies including Silver Washed Fritillary start to appear

A local walk on Wednesday June 13 added Greater Bird's Foot Trefoil, Pellitory of the Wall, Common Fumitory, False Acacia, and 'Cocks Eggs' (Salpichroa 0rganifolia, Sinah Common's special Nightshade) to my June and year list. Here are photos of both the False Acacia tree which I found a specimen in Hayling Park - see here, - and for the Cocks Eggs (Salpichroa organifolia), which is well established opposite the southern end of Staunton Avenue, see here. For more information about this plant see here, but do not eat this plant as it contains poisons.

Last summer the House Martins which had a nest under the eaves of the 'Pullingers Interiors' shop across the road opposite the front entrance to my block of flats left me in no doubt as to their presence as they apent much of their time hunting insects round the trees in the car park at the back of my flats and so were visible and audible from my windows. This summer the Martins are back (I have seen them at their nest on four occasions during the past two weeks) but so far they have not been seen from my windows so I guess their eggs have not yet hatched, and as their incubation only takes 16 days I am hoping their nest has not failed.....

Another bird that I am on the look-out for is a White-cheeked Turaco which has apparently been in the local area since March and which I was made aware of by the following entry posted on the Selsey Blog on June 12 .. "What appears to be a White-cheeked Turaco was photographed in a garden in Emsworth back in March, and it was photographed again in W Itchenor yesterday. Quite a bird, having seen some pics of it, so thought I’d let you guys know..... in case you get a description of green-bodied, purple-winged, red and white-faced crested pigeon thing! (PH)" In case this description does not remind you of what the species looks like here is a photo taken at random from the internet - see link

More news of birds that have been seen recently starts with a report of a Great Bustard (presumably from the Salisbury Plain re-introduction) seen at the wartime Holmesley airfield in the New Forest some 5 miles north east of Christchurch. Another bird not normally seen on the south coast in June is the Black Guillemot but on June 11 one was seen off Littlehampton at the mouth of the River Arun.

To end today we have the more expected news of the emergence of summer butterflies. For this I have taken the earliest June dates recorded on the Butterfly Conservation webpage for this year to give the following table.

June 1 - Ringlet in Derbyshire & Black Hairstreak in Oxon
June 2 - Dark Green Fritillary in Sussex
June 3 - Marbled White in Berks
June 6 - White Admiral in Dorset, Siver Studded Blue in Sussex, Large Blue in Soms
June 7 - White Letter Hairstreak in Sussex
June 8 - Grayling in Conwy
June 10 - Silver Washed Fritillary in Herts, Purple Hairstreak in Essex
June 11 - Gatekeeper in Devon
June 13 - High Brown Fritillary in Glams
June 14 - Small Skipper in Sussex

Wildlife diary and news for June 04 - 10 (Week 23 of 2018)

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Sun 10th June

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A walk round the Mengham and Eastoke areas adds 15 flowering plants to my June list

Today I headed for the Mengeham sea wall, around the Fishery Lane holiday camp and onto the Eastoke promenade before heading home via the Hayling Bay shore and up Elm Grove. In St Leonards Avenue I found Common Ragwort in flower and along the path connecting St Margarets Road to Mengham Lane I found Square-stalked Willowherb. The pony fields along the path from Mengham Lane to Salterns Lane added Corky Fruited Water Dropwort (see webpage) and in Salterns Lane Mock Orange (aka Syringa) was in full flower - see Photo.

On the Mengham sea wall I found Wild Carrot, Hogweed and Hemlock plus a single Common Lizard before coming on the colourful garden escape Clematis tangutica - see webpage - covering several Gorse bushes, and nearing the Fishery Lane campsite Black Horehound was in flower - see Photo.

Coming out on Southwood Road I found a plant of Caper Spurge with flowers and seeds - see photo close to where I cut through to the Eastoke Promenade, passing a large bush of the Duke of Argyll's Teaplant (Lycium barbarum) in flower - see photo. Two more new plants seen in the shore grasslands were Goat's Beard (see photo) and Hop Trefoil (see webpage).

Fri 8th June

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Twelve new plants in flower added to my June list include American Willowherb, Shining Cranesbill, Scented Mayweed plus Red Bottlebrush and Salvia 'Hot Lips'
Quail flying north up the Test valley and predatory Mink still active in Susssex
Communal roost of 600 Jackdaws and a few Rooks near Romsey
Swifts start to arrive as Nightingales are feeding young

A local walk round the Legion Field and Tournerbury Lane area on the warm, sunny evening of June 6 gave me my first Creeping Buttercup since January and a tall, narrow leaved Willowherb which met the description of American Willowherb. The shrubs around the Legion Field had Japanese Honeysuckle and Field Rose in flower. At the east end of Hawthorne Grove the roadside grass had a patch of Scented Mayweed and turning north up Beech Grove I could not miss the dramatic flowers of the Red Bottlebrush (Callistemon citrinus) shrub in one garden (see photo).

Turning west along Tournerbury Lane I found a new site for Shining Cranesbill and back at home I was successful in finding the name of a distinctive garden plant which I have seen in several gardens recently and which I find is a relative of the Wild Clary that has recently established itself here on Hayling. The botanic name is Salvia microphylla but which is known to the gardening trade as "Salvia hot lips" - have a look at its photo and you will see why - link here. The San Francisco Botanical Garden website gives this background info on the plant .. "Salvia microphylla (small-leaf sage) is an exuberant evergreen shrub from the Pine-Oak Forests of Mexico with flowers that are entirely red. The cultivar, 'Hot Lips' has flowers that are bi-colored, white with red on the bottom half of the lower lip. It flowers continuously if in full sun, from late summer through fall and can have a spread of six feet. It was first noticed by Dick Turner, in the garden of a housekeeper living in San Miguel de Allende in the state of Guanajuato, Mexico, and was brought back as a cutting to the San Francisco Botanical Garden in 1999. Volunteers at the nursery propagated it, and after watching it develop its striking flowers gave it its racy name. Its beauty, hardiness and drought tolerance has made it a winner among growers of Salvia. There are times when some of the individual flowers can be either all white or all red on the same plant. Dick Turner believes this corresponds to the age of the flowering branches."

At the end of recording these and other finds my count of flowering species seen in June stands at 118. While scanning the internet for other wildlife news I noted two current reports of Mink from East Sussex - one was attempting to take a wild Rabbit at Cuckmere Haven. Hopefully these Mink no longer pose a significant threat to the Water Vole population.

One report which surprised me was of a night roost of some 600 Jackdaws, plus a few Rooks, somewhere in the West Wellow area south of Romsey. At this time of year I would expect the majority of Jackdaws to be breeding so I wonder if this number of non-breeding birds is the result of an imbalance between the numbers of male and female Jackdaws or of a significant shortage of potential nest sites. Another bird species which hardly ever gets a mention in current bird reports and which I have neither seen or heard for two or three months is Song Thrush. Another species which has been giving birders concern recently over the low numbers being seen is the Swift but several recent reports (e.g 256 flying north up the Test valley in one hour on June 5) seem to show there is not a serious problem with their numbers this summer.

Wildlife diary and news for May 28 - June 03 (Week 22 of 2018)

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Sun 3rd June

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This update covers an evening walk over the Church Fields yesterday and a cycle ride to Gunner Point today
At the end of this third day of June my flower count for the month is 105 (23 being first for the year)
Best find yesterday was Basil Thyme in St Mary's churchyard
Best finds today were Bell Heather, Field and Sea Bindweed, Nottingham Catchfly, Sheep's Bit and Heath Groundsel
Notable by their absence were flowers on Gorse and all signs of Green Winged Orchids.

Yesterday evening I walked down St Mary's Road to just beyond South Road, then turned north through the Fathoms Reach housing into the open grassland of the Church Fields before coming home through St Mary's church yard, addding 16 flower species to my month list. On the north side of St Mary's Road the Giant Viper's Bugloss went on my list but the Eastern Rosebud Tree which I only identified as recently as May 26 had lost all its flowers so failed to make it this month. Walking on along the north side of the road I did find Creeping Cinquefoil and Lesser Trefoil before turning into the new housing where my first Feverfew, common Honeysuckle and the bright yellow Welsh Poppy were seen. Out in the acres of tall grass covering the uncultivated parts of the Church Fields I added Common Sorrel and Broad-leaved Dock, and saw many Thistles (none yet in flower). Outside the caravan park the great mass of Charlock had mostly gone to seed but still had plently of flowers. In the churchyard I added my best find - Basil Thyme - see photo.

Today my first new flower came as soon as I joined St Mary's Road outside Mengham Infant School - this was the first Field Bindweed of the year on the central division of the road. Cycling on west through West Town, I did not need to stop to be sure of the Perennial Wall Rocket which I described on May 26, and coming home along Hollow Lane I passed a plant of Annual Wall Rocket. From Station Road I turned down St Catherine's Road where I added a single bush of Spanish Broom to my list - see webpage. Reaching the entrance to Sinah Gravel Pit from Ferry Road I did stop to see the distinctive pink flowers of Tartarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tertarica) on the massive bush of it which confronts you as you turn off Ferry Road. Surprisingly there were no flowers yet but you can see three good photos here and I'm sure I will see them next time I pass (as I have for at least ten years!). Another plant which has covered this part of Sinah Common with its yellow flowers for the past few months is Common Gorse but today I think I only saw three flowers on the thousands of Gorse bushes I passed!

Reaching the open water of the Kench I added the first flowers of Privet to my list, and just after passing a little used gate into the Golf Course I found Bell Heather already flowering and further in to the Golf Course I could see the bright yellow of the Tree Lupins that are now in full flower. After the crowded car park along the harbour entrance I took the first entrance through the Tamarisks into the foothills of the Sand Dunes where I found the bright blue of Sheep's Bit (Jasione montana) - see here and was surprised to see the tall skeleton of an Asparagus bush with its tiny yellow flowers - see here. Back on the beach after rounding the sand dunes my first new flower was Restharrow - see photo and after that I found at least three plants of Nottingham Catchfly - see webpage poking their heads above some low Gorse bushes near the bench where I usually stop for refreshment. Unlike my recent visits there was not a trace of the Green Winged orchids but after leaving the Golf Course area, on the path between the western beachlands car park and the mini Golf Course, I saw the first flowers on Heath Groundsel.

Fri 1st June

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64 Plant Species to start my June list
And a very unexpected 'Dog Vomit' Slime Mould on Wood Chips in Bound Lane

Today I walked to the Beachlands shore via the Health Centre carpark and Bound Lane, coming home via the Elm Close estate for a look at the large succulent/cactus which I am still unable to name. One of the first new flowers I saw was the white flowers of the Australian Cabbage Palm (Cordyline australis) - see the Wildflowerfinder web page, but perhaps the most significant was the common Hedge Woundwort - see photo.

In the Health Centre car park the biggest of our wild brambles (the 'Himalayan Giant' - Rubus armenniacus) was in flower - see photo - as was another 'hedgerow bully', the Large Bindweed - see webpage.

Half way down Bound Lane I came on my first White Bryony for the year - see webpage but as I moved in for a close look I found a much more exciting sight on a patch of wood chips which was a 15 cm squarish bright yellow patch of what looked like vomit. I foolishly bent down to pick up a small sample and found it to be almost liquid but also revealed that the bright yellow 'skin' covered a pinky brownish inside. Back at home I soon came across a web page (Link) describing slime moulds in technical terms which did not mean much to me but at the end of the first section my attention was held by the sentence .. "The plasmodium of some slime fungi (Fuligo) can grow to the size of a large pizza." I then skipped the next two sections until I came to the heading .. "Vomit Slime Mold: Fuligo septica" .. which told me .. "in its early stages this turns yellowish and feeds on wood chips" By now I was convinced that I had found a name and description of my find despite the somewhat light hearted approach of this scientific article which ends with a series of links such as "GO TO BIOLOGY GEE WHIZ TRIVIA PAGE".

A few more finds on the Beachlands grass and in gardens on my way home, including an unexpected Marsh Thistle, gave me a total flower species count of 64 for the day.

Wed 30th May

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Summary of recent news from the internet

Bird news since May 19:

On May 19 a Red-Footed Falcon was seen over Noar Hill in Hampshire and a Honey Buzzard over Sandwich on the Kent east coast. The falcon was a 'one off' but the Honey Buzzard was one of many now migrating to northern Europe where they will feed mainly on grubs taken from Bee and Wasp nests. On May 27 Trektellen reported them at 11 sites with peak counts of 79, 68, 37 and 29 at four sites in Belgium and Holland and a map on the Wikipedia page shows that the great majority of them are heading to northern continental Europe. To find out more about the species use this link to Wikipedia and for an indication of the 11 areas where they may breed in the UK use this link to an RSPB webpage.

On May 24 the RBA (Rare Bird Alert) site said .. "The highlight of the day was the discovery of a Broad-billed Sandpiper in East Sussex at Rye Harbour." .. and highlights on the Selsey Blog were, on May 23, a visit by a Bee Eater (Photo here,) and a heard but not seen Golden Oriole at Church Norton on May 25.

Also on May 24 Dungeness counted 104 Black Terns heading east and on May 26 a group of 4 Barnacle Geese were seen heading out to sea from Cuckmere Haven near Beachy Head, helping to confirm the impression expressed on the Portland website on May 22 when what was probably the same group were seen there and were thought to be genuine migrants heading for the Netherlands from eastern Europe which had overshot and were exploring the south coast of Britain.

May 25 brought the news that the first Little Egret chicks had hatched in some of the nests at Langstone Mill Pond near Havant. On May 26 Devon Birding reported 792 House Martins heading north east up the Bristol Channel, seen from Ilfracombe, and on May 27 two Black Winged Stilts turned up at Rye Harbour but did not stay. May 28 brought sightings of Rose Coloured Starlings at several southern sites ranging from the Pevensey Levels in Sussex to Portland Bill where this photo was taken - see here. A much rarer bird - a Black-headed Bunting - was also photographed there that day and can be seen here.

Insect News since May 22

See my entry for May 22 on this blog for first sightings of Dragonflies on May 18 and 21 plus instructions on how to see photos and other information about all dragonfly species mentioned there and in today's update. To find similar information and photos of UK Butterfly species go to the Home Page of the UK Butterflies website at http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/index.php (link to it here) and find the species name you are interested in by searching down the left hand panel in which the names are listed alphabetically within families (names of rare species appear in faint letters). Click on the species name you are interested in and that will take you to a page detailing all aspects of that species. E.g. to find the dates when you are likely to find the adult insect flying click the box saying 'Life Cycle' which will show you the likely dates for each stage of the life cycle and to get an idea of whether the place you found if was likely habitat click the box saying 'Habitat'.

For similar information about Moths go to https://ukmoths.org.uk (link to it here) and scroll down to the bottom right area of this home page to find a Quick Search Box in which you enter the species name and then click the Search Button. Here click one of the listed names to be taken to a page showing a photo of the moth plus basic info about it. At the foot of this page you will find more small photos which you can click to see them full size and at the end of these is a map which you can click to get distribution info.

Back to this year's news! On May 23 the very common migrant moth, the Silver Y, turned up at Portland and the first Large Skipper butterfly was seen at Compton on the IoW. May 23 brought the first Common Darter dragonfly out at Cadnam in the New Forest and the much less common Red Veined Darter was seen in Somerset.

For me the most interesting insect found in this period was the Longhorn Beetle found by the Havant Wildlife Group during a visit to Old Winchester Hill on May 26 and subsequently identified by Brian Fellows as the Golden-bloomed Grey Longhorn Beetle (Agapanthia villosoviridescens) which I had never heard of before but is apparently widespread and increasing in moist meadows and hedgerows in much of England where it is most likely to be found feeding on the flowers of Hogweed and Cow Parsley. It lays its eggs in the hollow stems of Hogweed and various Thistles. For photos of adults and grubs see this webpage. The grubs feed inside the plant stems through the autumn and then pupate, emerging early next year as adults with bodies up to 22mm long, plus antennae of a similar length. Although the adult beetles spend much of their time feeding on flowers they all have wings hidden under the rigid elytra which cover the top of their bodies. When the beetle needs to move (to get to flowers or to search for the opposite sex) the elytra spring apart and are held at 90 degrees to the body, allowing the flexible wings to unfold and carry them through the air.

May 27 brought reports of several new insect species. First was a rare Lesser Emperor Dragonfly seen in Somerset. Next came the distinctive Golden Ringed Dragonfly in the New Forest where the first Scarce Blue-tailed Damsel was also seen. Much more exciting was a report of a Large White-faced Darter at Landguard in Suffolk. At first I was puzzled as, while a White Faced Darter (Leucorrhinia dubia) appears in the BDS species list the 'Large' species does not but I eventually tracked it down and found that Leucorrhinia pectoralis had only been found three times before in the UK (the last sighting being also at Landguard in 2012). Information on this species can be found on Wikipedia - see here.

Just four more species were seen on May 28. The first was the common Meadow Brown butterfly seen at Newhaven, the other three were all dragonflies. First of these was the Emerald Damselfly (Lestes sponsa) seen here in Hampshire at Christchurch - the other two were seen in the Scottish Highlands - the Northern Emerald and the Black Darter (which is not restricted to the north but can be seen as far south as the New Forest).

Wildlife diary and news for May 21 - 27 (Week 21 of 2018)

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Sun 27th May

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Today I cycled to Sandy Point and back, adding 12 flowering plants to my month list including Hounds Tongue
I also came on an insect mystery which I think was the sad end of a failed invasion by a large force of 'Cabbage Whites'

The massive thunderstorms which hit much of southern England last night bypassed the southern coastal fringe and I set out to ride to Sandy Point (at the mouth of Chichester Harbour) in warm sunshine with little wind. My first new plant was Viper's Bugloss by the side of Rails Lane and my second was of several Manna Ash trees in a garden on Sandy Point Road - see photo.

Reaching the Chichester Harbour entrance shore via the path around the north of the Sandy Point reserve I immediately found one of my target species, Hounds Tongue, just opening its flowers - see webpage. Also in this area of beach outside the reserve the first Yellow Horned Poppies were easy to see, (for photo and info on the 'Horned' name, click here) as was my first Common Blue butterfly patrolling the grass fringe of the old Hospital grounds. Less obvious were the Hare's Foot Clover (for photo click here) and the bright yellow, but tiny, Biting Stonecrop (see here) and its reddish companion English Stonecrop (see here). Standing taller, but currently few in number, was the Sea Spurge (for photo see here).

My next,very surprising, find came after completing my circuit of the nature reserve and reaching the start what I call the Eastoke promenade. Here, where the shingle of the open beach gives way to a long tarmac cycle/walkway running west between the gardens of houses on the landward side and Council controlled shingle beach/flood defence on the seaward side. Here I was expecting to get back on my bike and ride on to the start of the Hayling Beachlands railway at Eastoke Corner, but before I reached the tarmac I could see that the white paint on the wall of the landward side of the track was dotted with many (at least 100) snail-like objects as if an army of small snails had been attempting to climb the wall and invade the gardens after emerging from the sea, but had been struck by exhaustion in the climb.

A close view of this wall showed me that the 'snails' were in fact chrysalises, and among them were a very few caterpillars which looked like those of the very common 'Cabbage White' butterfly (see photo here). I can only guess at what had caused this bizarre scene, but I do know that at this time of year large numbers of Large White butterflies do cross the channel to invade Britain and I can imagine such a flock of butterflies reaching our shore, perhaps at night and in bad weather, to crash land on the shingle of the Eastoke sea-defence managed shingle in which few 'cabbage family' plants still grow. This could have persauded any females in the exhausted flock of immigrants to lay their eggs on the shingle before they died of exhaustion in the hope that the larvae emerging from these eggs would find something to feed on. This seems to be a possible explanation of why these underfed caterpillars had got here and of why they had not got the strength to find more suitable places to attempt to pupate.

Just one new plant was seen on the shingle before I reached Eastoke Corner, the Japanese Rose (Rosa rugosa) which you can see here, but before I got home I also saw Oriental Poppies growing in a couple of gardens (see photo). Before ending this account of my outing I must mention that, just before reaching the Sandy Point shore I had collected a specimen of what I thought was Rough Chervil, the successor to Cow Parsley, and looking at it back at home I was able to confirm this name by the dark colour of my specimen's stem.

Sat 26th May

(Link to previous day’s entry)

A cycle ride adds 14 flowering plants to my month list including an Eastern Rosebud tree

My cycle ride yesterday was up the old Hayling Billy trail to Langstone Bridge and back but before starting I heard House Martins outside my front door and saw one repairing its nest under the eaves of the building across the road from my block of flats. A pair nested there last summer and two birds were back on Mar 8 but did not stay and the two seen today were only seen once so the chances of them breeding seem very slim.

Before reaching the start of the Billy Line I saw my first Honeysuckle and Common Mallow flowers and one garden had the first cultivated Gladiolus flowers. The southern end of the old rail line had a surprise in the shape of Black Bryony in full flower (see photo,) and nearby I saw a Guelder Rose bush starting to develop its first umbel of small white flowers surrounded by a ring of larger flowers (see photo.) Also seen before reaching the Oysterbeds were several Dog Rose bushes now covered with pink flowers.

At the Oysterbeds Slender Thistles were starting to flower (see webpage.) Also flowering here was my first Hemlock (see photo).

After a pause for refreshment and to listen to the clamour of the nesting gulls I rode on towards Langstone Bridge via the track which connects the old rail line to the car park near the brdige. Where this track enters the shade of the trees I found three flower stems of Wild Clary (see webpage). Wild Clary first appeared on Hayling Island in the late summer of 2016 and now appears to be established at the site where I found it today. Before that the only other site I am aware of for this plant in the Havant area was in Emsworth where it can still be found on the grass verge of Christopher Way near its northern junction with New Brighton Road.

I cycled on as far as the main road going over the bridge, adding just one more first for my month list - White Clover - before heading back south. During this return journey I stopped once to confirm that the Common Figwort which I had noticed on the way out was in fact in flower (see photo) - I chose this photo because it came from a blog written by a Professor P. Brain and thought a link to this Blog would provide some light relief. See what you think by having a look at this blog at webpage.

Back at West Town Station I turned left along Station Road soon stopping outside some run-down buildings with no front gardens but having some yellow flower spikes emerging from a small plastic tub in which Perennial Wall Rocket had somehow survived despite total neglect to be added to my list (see webpage). Just one more interesting find as I headed home along St Mary's Road - this was a small tree with unusual leaves and a mass of pink/mauve flowers which I soon realised, when I stopped to have a close look, was a species I had seen before in Havant Park called Eastern Rosebud (Cercis canadensis) which is well illustrated on the following webpage which starts with a slideshow showing the tree in flower, a closeup of the flowers, the tree in leaf, and the seed pods, ending with a close up of the leaves. In the same garden was my first sight for this year of the Giant Viper's Bugloss (Echium pininana) which had puzzled me last year. A short distance further on, just after the road makes a sharp left turn, this year's puzzle plant (some form of cactus or succulent) is getting close to flowering on the long flower stalks it has recently put out under a dense coniferous hedge.

Thu 24th May

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Recent news of 'Animals' includes a Basking Shark off Portland and 52 Sika Deer on Lundy Island
Bird news includes the first Avocet chicks hatching at Medmerry, Willow Tit song in the Candover valley, Snipe drumming over Beaulieu Heath and some transient rarities
Plant news includes 8 newcomers to my month list, 4 summer Orchids and the rare Clustered Clover at Dungeness
Insect news is of UK Cardinal Beetles and a Cream Spot Tiger moth.

The first report of a Basking Shark in British waters for this summer came from Portland on May 18 and that day brought the first photo of a Fox cub out of its home den at Christchurch - see here. Another report which surprised me came from a party of Devon Birders who visited Lundy Island on May 20 and saw a herd of 52 Sika Deer on the island (presumably long established there though I cannot remember hearing of them before). To satisfy my curiosity I visited a web page descrbing unusual mammals found on the Island (Soay Sheep, a Lundy Pony, Wild Goats and Sika Deer) which tells me they were introduced to Lundy in 1920 and breed freely, requiring periodic culling. To visit this web page click here and for a more comprehensive account of this species in Britain go to the British Deer Society page on Sika Deer. In the section on 'Breeding, behaviour & Lifecycle' I learnt that "Sika have a wide repertoire of vocalisations. Stags groan, blow raspberries, yak-yak and give a high-pitched whistle during the rut or can emit a startling scream! Hinds with calves whine and calves reply with a bleat or squeak."

All websites are naturally reluctant about publishing news of breeding birds but on May 19 the Selsey Blog told us that at "Medmerry: Easton Lane to the Stilt Pool - There were at least three lots of chicks and 50+ Avocets around the Stilt Pool" and accompanied this with the following photo. Other general bird news was of 12 Black Swans (including one cygnet) seen together at their Southampton Riverside Park base on May 19, a gathering of 16 Mistle Thrushes on Beaulieu Heath on May 21, and the first report I have seen of Snipe 'drumming' over the same heath on that day - interestingly this 'drumming' was reported as 'winnowing' which I have not heard of before - another term for this territorial behaviour (involving the Snipe climbing to a good height above its breeding territory, then diving vertically with two of its tail feathers held out rigidly to vibrate in the rush of air produced by the dive) is 'bleating' which I think to be the most apt term.

Other bird news is of 'one off' observations starting with the first Spotted Crake of the year seen near Land's End in Cornwall on May 18. To get an idea of your chances of actually seeing this species (of which very few breed in Britain, and slightly more turn up annually as spring and autumn passage migrants) have a look at this Bird Guides species profile. Another report which caught my eye was of a Willow Tit heard singing on May 21 in the area of Hampshire known as the Candover Valley (stretching north from Alresford towards Basingstoke but bounded by the M3 to the west and the A31 to the east). It has always been difficult to separate Marsh and Willow Tits visually but this report of the bird singing makes it much more likely that the bird was a Willow Tit (now near extinction in Hampshire) and not the much commoner Marsh Tit.

Other bird reports were of passing passage birds - on May 19 a Red-Rumped Swallow flew over Ventnor, a Red-footed Falcon was over Sandwich, as was a Honey Buzzard while a Terek Sandpiper was at Rye Harbour. On May 22 another Honey Buzzard flew over Shanklin and on May 23 a Temminck's Stint was at Sidlesham and a Bee Eater was at Church Norton seen in the church yard by the Rector of Selsey.

Moving on to Plant News on May 17 Dungeness reported the presence of the rare seaside Clustered Clover which is well described on this webpage. Much commoner are the Southern Marsh Orchids which started to appear at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on May 21 (photo taken there in a previous summer at mature Southern Marsh orchid). Three other orchid species got a mention on the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website when some of their members visited their Heyshott Down site on May 21 - these were the Fly Orchid (see here}, the White Helleborine (see here, and the Greater Butterfly Orchid (see here).

New additions to my personal flower list for May came on a local walk on May 23. These were Pellitory of the Wall, Common Poppy, Broad-leaved Willowherb, Dewberry, Adria Bellflower, the blue form Potato Vine (Solanum jasminoides) and the first unopen flower heads on Ground Elder. In case you are not familiar with all these here are photos of Pellitory of the Wall, Dewberry, Adria Bellflower, and Potato Vine blue form. Also seen recently in several places has been the bright yellow Californian Poppy (see here, ) and in Emsworth Brian Fellows got this photo of Changing Forget-me-not flowers.}

Finally a couple more insects starting with a Cream Spot Tiger moth seen near Hastings on May 23 (see here. The other insect is the Cardinal Beetle which has been seen in Emsworth on May 19 and at Rye Harbour on May 22. Both sightings were of the Red-headed Cardinal Beetle which I knew was only one of a group of Cardinal Beetles to be found in Britain and to learn what the others were, and their relative population numbers, I found the answers on this Wildllife Trusts webpage which you can see here.

Tue 22nd May

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Insect news for the past few days
(News for Birds, Plants and Animals to follow)

In order to complete this update in a reasonable time I am limiting it to Insect News, starting with the Dragonflies which are now emerging in large numbers. The species which are new in the past few days are the first Emperor (Anax imperator) seen in Norfolk on May 18 and the first Southern Hawker (Aeshna cyanea) seen at Thursley in Surrey on May 21. Less well known species newly reported on May 18 were White-faced Darter (Leucorrhinia dubia) in Shropshire, Small Red Damselfly (Ceriagrion tenellum) in Co Durham, and Keeled Skimmer (Orthetrum coerulescens) in Norfolk. On May 21 the first Brilliant Emerald (Somatochlora metallica) was seen at Thursley. For photos and info on these Dragonflies (and Damsels) I suggest you go to https://british-dragonflies.org.uk/content/latest-sightings and click on 'Dragonflies' in the page header bar, then click 'UK Species' in the drop down menu, then search the names below the photos for the species you are interested in. Note that both Dragonflies and Damsels all appear but are split over three pages so if you reach the end of the first page without finding the species name you want click 'next' below the last photo to see the next page - if you know the Latin name of the species you can save time searching by knowing that the species are arranged in alphabetical sequence of these latin names with page 2 covering Cordulia aenea to Pyrrhosoma nymphula. When you find the species you want click its English name to be taken to the page having its photos and other details.

New butterflies in the past few days have been the Glanville Fritillary (Melitaea cinxia) seen in the Ventnor area of the IOW on May 17 and reported with a photo that you can see here. Also newly on the wing at Martin Down on May 18 were the first dozen Marsh Fritillaries from the 1000 caterpillars released there at the end of April (which I mentioned in my blog for Apr 30) - for a photo of one of these see here. The only other butterflies in the news are a Painted Lady seen near Lancing Ring on May 21 (still no major influx of these) and a second newly emerged Red Admiral seen on Chalton Down on May 15 following one seen in Gosport on May 1.

Several interesting insects get a mention in a contribution dated May 18 to the RX website (www.rxwildlife.info) by Andy Phillips describing insects he saw during a visit to Weights Wood near Northiam in the country north of Hastings. First of these was the Crane Fly Ctenophora pectinicornis which you can see here.. After that he found two Queen Hornets feeding on sap coming from an Oak tree (reminding me of the one found in Bee Hives at Buckfast Abbey in Devon which I mentioned on May 15). Nearby was a Fly called a Hornet Grabber (Conops vesicularis) which I had never heard of before but which lays its eggs in Hornets and is active at this time of year when the Queen Hornets are out on their own, feeding up on sap and honey after their winter sleep before starting their own nests. For a photo of a Hornet Grabber see here - you may come across an adult of this species innocently feeding on nectar from flowers while its not-so-innocent larvae are disembowelling a Hornet. Also seen on May 17 at Dungeness was one of the first of the summer Hoverflies called a Barred Anthill Hoverfly (Xanthogramma citrofasciatum ) which you can see here.

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

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Sat 19th May

(Link to previous day’s entry)

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

(Link to previous day’s entry)

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.

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