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WEEKLY SUMMARIES FOR JANUARY TO MARCH 2007


Summary for Mar 26 - Apr 1 (Week 13 of 2007)

BIRDS

Divers: Now few reports. Three Red-throated flew east past Seaford on Mar 27 and two Great Northern were off Selsey on Mar 27 but just across the Channel a four hour count at Cap Gris Nez on Mar 25 recorded 1200 mixed divers heading east. The last report of a Black-throated Diver came from Portland Harbour on Mar 22 but I have just seen that one was in Langstone Harbour on Mar 5

Slavonian Grebe: The last sighting of birds in Chichester Harbour seems to have been on Mar 23 but there were two off Church Norton on Mar 27 when one was still in the west Solent. One of two at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 30 was in summer plumage but on Mar 31 only one winter bird was still there

Black-necked Grebe: Two were still in the west Solent on Mar 27. Two others at Rye Harbour have not been reported since Mar 29 and the last report came from Dungeness RSPB on Mar 30

Manx Shearwater: As the divers and grebes leave us these Shearwaters are starting to arrive - first of the year was seen at Portland on Mar 28 and there were also sightings there on Mar 30 and 31 (max count 5 on Mar 30)

Gannet: After occasional reports of flocks feeding in the Channel over winter a spring passage seems to have started in mid-March with 3 going east past Christchurch on Mar 18 and 199 passing Dungeness on Mar 25. 100 went east past St Catherine's Point on Mar 29 and one even came close enough to Sandy Point to give the first of the year there on Mar 31

Bittern: One was still at Hatch Pond, Poole, on Mar 26

Little Egret: 13 were still in the Warblington 'slurry field' on Mar 31 (probably with another 3 in one of the shore fields)

White Stork: One was reported gliding over the Worthing area on Mar 25 but no further news

Spoonbill: At least seven were still in Dorset on Mar 30 but the winter birds seem to be dispersing. On Mar 29 three flew in from the sea at Christchurch and then headed east and maybe one of them got as far as Crawley in north Sussex where one was seen over the town that day.

Mute Swan: Still no confirmed reports of birds sitting on eggs but one has been seen settled on a nest at Emsworth Slipper Pond and another on the Long Pool at Pagham. Most pairs seem hesitant to settle down - the Peter Pond pair at Emsworth have been seen nest building and the pair at Langstone pond (which had started building a nest on Feb 23 before it was flooded after heavy rain) have still not settled though they were seen on Mar 28 in the reeds north of the pond where they regularly nested until a few years ago.

Canada Goose: Anyone wanting to test their id skill on the various races of Canada Goose could visit St George's Retreat lake near Haywards Heath where 3 birds thought to be 'parvipes' and another thought to be 'interior' (Todd's Canada Goose) were seen on Mar 24 with normal birds. More locally a pair were seen on the small Stubbermere Pond near Stansted on Mar 26 (and surprisingly none seem to have settled at Aldsworth Pond yet this year)

Brent Goose: Mar 28 brought another count of 1000 going east at Dungeness but on Mar 29 I could still find around 350 in the Broadmarsh area on the north shore of Langstone Harbour and on Mar 31 (although the shore between Langstone and Emsworth was devoid of other birds) there were still around 45 on the Langstone Wadeway.

Black Brant: Last sighting of the West Wittering bird was on Mar 5 and of the two birds in Langstone Harbour one was last seen on Mar 15 and the other on Mar 17

Shelduck: My last sighting of the flock that has spent the winter on the Langstone shore was on Mar 21 when I counted around 40 birds. On Mar 31 there was not a single bird in that area but on Mar 29 I not only saw a pair in residence on Budds Farm pools but also found two more pairs, both displaying, on the harbour just offshore there.

Mandarin: I have heard that in recent years there has been good evidence of more than one pair breeding near small streams at the north foot of the Downs south of Midhurst and maybe they have now settled south of the Downs - the evidence for this is a sighting of a pair perched in a Beech tree at the Avisford golf course (near Walberton just south of the A27 west of Arundel)

Wigeon: By Mar 29 there was only one bird left in the Broadmarsh area, probably the last I will see till next autumn

Gadwall: On Mar 26 there were two pairs on Aldsworth Pond north of Emsworth and on Mar 29 I saw at least three birds on Budds Farm pools. Over on the Isle of Wight the male bird at the Sandown boating lake seems to be in a long term relationship with the female Mallard that he paired up with on Mar 12 - they were still together on Mar 29.

Teal: On Mar 31 there were still 68 at Titchfield Haven but the only ones I could find in the Langstone area that day were a single pair on the Wade Court meadow flood.

Mallard: Eggs were seen in a Mallard nest at Rye Harbour back on Mar 8 and on Mar 31 the first family of ducklings (nine of them) was seen at Titchfield Haven

Pintail: On Mar 26 8 flew over Christchurch Harbour and another single went east there on Mar 30. Three were still at Titchfield Haven on Mar 31.

Garganey: A pair turned up on water in the Timsbury area (just north of Romsey) on Mar 30 and was still there on Mar 31 as were at least one of the two pairs that have been at Titchfield since Mar 18. Another pair which turned up at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 27 was still there on Mar 30 and a male seen at Poole Harbour back on Mar 16 may have still been there on Mar 30 when there was another report of a single bird there.

Ferruginous Duck x Pochard: I think the regular Fudge Duck was still at Budds Farm pools on Mar 29 when I saw what looked like it asleep on the water there.

Scaup: The young male that has been wintering at Titchfield Haven was still there on Mar 28 and a different drake was seen at Ivy Lake, Chichester, on both Mar 25 and 27

Eider: Up to now I have assumed that when the large flock occasionally seen off Titchfield Haven is not there it is somewhere else in the Solent but we now have evidence that this is not necessarily so. Firstly, the 74 birds off the Haven at low tide on Mar 25 were seen to come from and return to somewhere east of Titchfield, and secondly we are told that some 50 birds could be seen off Sandy Point (Hayling) on three days from Mar 22 to 24. These three days were in the March spring tide period when the sea would be both higher and lower than usual each day, and we have already been told that the birds turn up off Titchfield at low water when it is easiest to find the shellfish that the birds feed on without putting too much energy into diving for it. Maybe one of the places where these birds hang out when not in the Solent is the shallow water of the Bembridge ledges?

Long-tailed Duck: One was in the west Solent at the mouth of the Beaulieu River on Mar 27

Velvet Scoter: The Portland Harbour bird was still there on Mar 28

Goldeneye: 15 were still at the Blashford Lakes in the Avon Valley on Mar 31

Smew: At least two were still at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 30

Goosander: Two redheads were still at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 31 - maybe these were young birds that hatched in the Avon valley and regard it as their home?

Ruddy Duck: The pair on the Chichester Lakes were still there on Mar 27

Red Kite: The increase in the number of sightings in recent years may not be just due to the forced importation of birds from the continent - some may well come here of their own free will. I was reminded of this by a report from the Hastings area of one Kite and 5 Buzzards moving over the area (possibly after just crossing the channel), and I see that on Mar 16 one flew north east over Hayling Island.

Buzzard: On Mar 27 a pair were together over the Warblington Farm fields and on Mar 28 one was seen over the Emsworth gap fields just across the A27 from the farm.

Osprey: What were probably three separate new arrivals were seen over Dorset on Mar 28, 29 and 30 (the first over Seacombe cliff west of Swanage, the second over Christchurch Harbour and the third over Affpuddle to the north west of Wareham)

Peregrine: By Mar 26 the pair using the nestbox on the Sussex Heights tower block in Brighton had laid four eggs and on Mar 27 a pair were seen mating on the roof of a building in Basingstoke town centre.

Coot: One pair seemed to have a nest on a raft in the Emsworth Slipper pool by Mar 25

Avocet: The number at the Pett Level pools on Rye Bay increased from 10 on Mar 23 to 20 on Mar 25 and 27 on Mar 30. On Mar 26 a total of 19 flew east past Seaford and one was seen passing Sandy Point on Hayling that day

Little Ringed Plover: Seen at eight different sites this week as migrants arrive. On Mar 31 the first turned up at the Blashford Lakes and another was new at Titchfield

Golden Plover: Several more sightings of birds moving north - on Mar 26 there were 45 in Newtown Harbour (IoW) and 180+ at Rye Harbour, and on Mar 31 a flock of 130 on a ploughed field at Barton on sea were mostly in summer plumage

Black-tailed Godwit: On Mar 28 a flock of around 40 made a one day appearance on the Langstone village shore and on Mar 31 the count at Titchfield Haven was 135

Whimbrel: Five seen flying east past Climping (mouth of R Arun) on Mar 27 were presumably the first passage birds of the spring.

Little Gull: One which had been at Ivy Lake, Chichester, from Mar 22 to 24 was joined by another on Mar 25 and both were still there on Mar 27 (the second bird may have come via Langstone Harbour where one was seen on Mar 24). The few birds reported along our south coast recently pale into insignificance in the light of a count of 869 passing Cap Gris Nez on Mar 25.

Black-headed Gull: On Mar 27 more than 1700 birds were back at Rye Harbour to breed and by Mar 31 several pairs were already sitting on nests. This week has also seen an interesting discussion of how these and other gulls can be so quick to descend on fields when ploughing starts. Several people have noticed that although there may not be a gull in sight when a tractor enters a field within five minutes of the start of ploughing the field will be full of gulls. One theory is that the gulls have excellent hearing and recognize the sound of a tractor engine at work from miles away, another is that the gulls may (like Vultures) have sentinels stationed high in the sky (invisible to us) and just within sight of each other - as soon as one spots a source of food and drops down to investigate the others see its movement and move towards the point where it went down, attracting others in a snowball effect. This latter technique may be one developed at sea to draw in gulls when one detects a shoal of fish below.

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport Cockle Pond bird was still present on Mar 28

Common Gull: A flock of around 1500 passage birds made a stopover on Mar 26 at fields near Rye Bay and by Mar 31 I could only spot one bird left on the Langstone village shore.

Wood Pigeon: For several weeks the number of Wood Pigeons coming into my garden when I scatter food each morning has been around a dozen but on Apr 1 only one pair turned up, possibly as a result of wintering birds leaving the area. I see that there was a movement of 165 birds west over Christchurch Harbour on Mar 28 and on Mar 31 I noticed a flock of 56 feeding (apparently on grass seeds) in a local field where I do not normally see them - at the time the wind was strong and I wondered if they were birds on the move but pausing until the wind abated.

Sand Martin: Migrants are now pouring in but worries have been expressed about the loss of their nesting cliffs in Hampshire as several sand quarries are closing and when they do they are forced by planning law to fill in the quarries and return the land to agricultural use. This seems to be happening to quarries in both the Meon and Test valleys and the only sites left will soon be a few in the area east of Alton.

Tree Pipit: Just five reports so far with one heard singing on Bramshott Common near Hindhead on Mar 25 and one on heathland south of Fleet on Mar 28 - three other reports from Dorset.

Meadow Pipit: Their passage is now in full flow with an estimate of 3000 coming in off the sea at Portland on Mar 26 and more than 700 over Christchurch Harbour on Mar 28

Common Whitethroat: Three reports from Christchurch Harbour on Mar 28, 29 and 30 at first suggested migrant arrival but were later thought to be sightings of a bird wintering there but last seen on Jan 5

Willow Warbler: These started to arrive on Mar 26 with reports from Christchurch Harbour (song heard) and Portland. There have been four subsequent reports including the first for Hampshire on Mar 31 when one was singing at the Blashford Lakes.

Willow Tit: These have been heard singing in the Hurstbourne Common wood north of Andover on both Mar 29 and 31 but these are among the last birds to be found anywhere in Hampshire. A discussion of why they should be so scarce now in the south of England (but still apparently abundant in Nottinghamshire) has pointed the finger at several possible causes with Grey Squirrel predation being prominent among them, but no hard evidence has been produced.

Linnet: These now seem to be returning from the continent to be seen in breeding areas. At Portland 36 arrived on Mar 27 and at Christchurch Harbour 85 arrived on Mar 28 when they were reported newly. back in the heathland south of Fleet.

Escapees: Four Fulvous Whistling Ducks were at the Chichester Lakes on 18 Nov last year and two of these birds have been seen at Titchfield Haven on Feb 10 and on Mar 4, 15, 22 and 24 - on the last date there was a third bird in a different area of the reserve. The fourth bird may have been seen on Mar 28 when it turned up back at the Chichester Lakes giving close views at Deep Lake (second small lake on your right as you follow the path south from the Selsey Road layby)

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: A major emergence occurred on Mar 26 and 27 when there were reports of 20 seen at Arundel and 35 at Emsworth (both on Mar 26), with 8 reports on Mar 27 including 30 at Cissbury Ring north of Worthing and 11 in Andover town

Small White: I now have 14 reports of this species starting with one on Mar 8 but with widespread sightings starting on Mar 11

Holly Blue: Four early reports dated Mar 7 to 14 have now been joined by the first sighting on Thorney Island on Mar 27

Painted Lady: We now have two reports of this species. One at Portland on Mar 14 could have been a migrant but one at Cissbury Ring north of Worthing on Mar 27 was said to be in 'good condition' - could it be that one has over-wintered here?

Small Tortoiseshell: Six new sightings since Mar 21 bring the number of reports for the year to a healthy 28 involving maybe 34 individuals

Speckled Wood: These started to emerge on Mar 11 but with only 13 reports so far it seems that this species is not faring well.

Glanville Fritillary: Plenty of caterpillars seen on the Isle of Wight on Mar 25 promising a good show of butterflies in the summer.

Moths

Acleris literana: A possible sighting of the first comes from Sway on Mar 28 - the main appearance of this species is in April

Eudonia angustea: The main emergence of this Pyralid is in Spetember so I assume this one will have hibernated

Double-striped Pug: This moth emerges in August but seems to remain active through the winter but this year the first two reports have come from Rye on Mar 27 and Crawley on Mar 28

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Four new reports bring the total sightings for the year up to 40

Cinnabar Moth: Rather early to see one of these but one was unlucky enough to be in a heated house and emerged on Mar 30 at Cambe on Rye Bay

Flame Shoulder: First of the year at Rye Harbour. This is another moth that probably emerged in August last year and has hibernated.

Powdered Quaker: These normally emerge in April but two early arrivals were at Portland on Mar 26 and Crawley on Mar 28

The Satellite: One was seen on Jan 30 but no more reports until Mar 26 when the moths should be egglaying to produce a new generation to hatch out in October, overwintering before egglaying again.

Other Insects

Cranefly species: My first sight of one for the year was at Warblington on Mar 31

Owl-Midge species: One found in my house at Havant on Mar 26

Dotted Bee-fly: The first of this rare species seen at Rye Harbour on Mar 27 suggesting that we should soon be seeing the common species

Violet Ground Beetle: First report comes from Dursltson country park on Mar 30

Seven spot Ladybirds: A sudden increase in these was reported from the Sway area on Mar 28 and I saw my first at Warblington on Mar 31

Oil Beetle: One out at Durlston country park on Mar 28

Great Diving Beetle: The Rye Bay website has a close up photo of one found walking across a footpath on Mar 31 - ridged elytra show it to be a female. No explanation of why she was on foot away from water.

PLANTS

Marsh Marigold: Still no great showing but one started to flower at Emsworth Brook Meadow on Mar 25

Green Hellebore: Coming to the end of flowering in Woodlands Lane at Walderton on Mar 26 - first flowers seen there on Feb 13

Stream Water Crowfoot: This had started to flower in the R Ems at Racton on Mar 26

Common Ramping Fumitory: Having identified this species in Havant on Mar 22 I found a second example of it flowering outside the farm at Warblington on Mar 31

Wild Radish: Leaving aside the odd plant found on Jan 1 this started to flower on Mar 26 when I found some at Racton then more flowering on south Hayling next day.

Cuckoo Flower: The first flowers had been seen at Stansted on Mar 20 but I did not find one myself until Mar 31 in the Warblington Farm marsh.

Shepherd's Cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis): This had started to flower on south Hayling on Mar 27

English Scurvygrass: Several flowers were fully out on the Emsworth shore saltings just east of Nore Barn wood by Mar 31

Sea Kale: Purple leaf shoots were coming through the shingle on south Hayling on Mar 27

Little Mouse-ear: The white flowers of this seemed to be dotting the short turf of the Sinah Common area everywhere on Mar 27 - I suspect that some of the flowers were also of Sea Mouse-ear.

Sticky Mouse-ear: Flowerheads of this have been visible everywhere for what seems like weeks but I only found the first open flower on Mar 27

Corn Spurrey: Flowering in one of the Warblington farm arable fields on Mar 31

Herb Robert: This was flowering on south Hayling on Mar 28

Shining Cranesbill: On Mar 28 I saw just one flower on the hundreds of plants now well established in Havant and by Mar 31 there were still only two flowers

Common Gorse: Warm sunshine on Mar 27 suddenly filled the air with the scent of Gorse flowers on south Hayling.

Spotted Medick: I had found this in flower in Havant on Mar 15 but since then I have only had one other sight of it on Mar 26

Hawthorn: I found flowers on one tree in Havant on Mar 20 and by Mar 29 I found several trees covered with flowers at Broadmarsh

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage: John Goodspeed found a good show of this in flower at the Hook Heath nature reserve by the Wallington stream north of Portsdown on Mar 30

Flowering Currant: Two large Ribes bushes were in full flower in Havant on Mar 31

Field Maple: Leaves were unfurling on one tree at Warblington on Mar 28

Norway Maple: The first show of bright yellow flowers could be seen at Warblington on Mar 31

Horse Chestnut: On Mar 28 leaves were unfurling on trees at Stansted and Warblington (where tight flower buds could also be seen)

English Elm: Some trees at Langstone had already gone to seed by Mar 28

Silver Birch: Catkins and leaves could be seen on Mar 31

Hemlock: Just one plant in flower at Broadmarsh on Mar 29 - plenty of others were growing strongly and this one was only flowering as a last gasp attempt to reproduce itself as it had been knocked down and damaged

Hogweed: This has been flowering in early January but the first flowers of the new season were seen on Mar 28

Thrift: Just one flower had opened when I was on south Hayling on Mar 27

Cowslips: These had started flowering on the Dorset coast on Mar 17. Locally flowers were seen on Portsdown on Mar 27 and in the Broadmarsh area on Mar 29

Thyme-leaved Speedwell: This had been flowering in my garden up to Jan 15 but the first flower of this new season opened on Mar 26

Slender Speedwell: I saw the first flower on Mar 28 and by Mar 31 a mass of them were out.

Early Forget-me-not: The first flowers of this lovely little plant were out on south Hayling on Mar 27

Moschatel: I read of this flowering at Hastings on Mar 26 and then heard that it was out locally in Hook Heath nature reserve at the north foot of Portsdown on Mar 30

Nipplewort: This was flowering until mid January and restarted the new season on Mar 26

Wild Bluebell: I saw the first wild flowers in Woodlands Lane at Walderton on Mar 26

Lords and Ladies: I saw the first sheathed flowers on Mar 28 and then heard that plants on south Hayling had unsheathed their flowers by that day.

Early Purple orchid: Several flowering at Durlston by Mar 30 (I think one was out on Mar 27)

Green-winged orchid: The first of these was in flower on south Hayling on Mar 27

Early Spider orchid: Specimens were flowering on the Dorset cliffs at Durlston by Mar 31

Meadow Foxtail: One spike of this grass had put out its anthers at Langstone on Mar 28

OTHER WILDLIFE

Roe deer: Eleven were seen in the Southleigh Farm fields west of the Horndean Road at Emsworth on Mar 26

Water Vole: One was seen in the R Ems at Brook Meadow on Mar 26 and there were plenty of them (recently introduced) to be seen at the Arundel Wildfowl reserve during the week


Summary for Mar 19 - 25 (Week 12 of 2007)

BIRDS

Divers
: Reports of these are now becoming less frequent as the majority of the wintering birds have left us but a single Red-throated flew past Christchurch Harbour on Mar 23, a single Black-throated was in Portland Harbour on Mar 22, and three Great Northern were seen from Selsey Bill on Mar 22. On Mar 23 only one Great Northern was left in Portland Harbour, where up to 14 have been present recently, and that may have left that day to account for one passing Christchurch Harbour on the same day

Great Crested Grebe: In last week's summary we reported a pair with 2 well grown young seen on the River Itchen on Mar 17 and in response to that John Clark tells us that on Mar 18 there were two pairs on the Yateley gravel pits in north Hampshire with three young between them while back in Dec 2004 a pair were sitting on eggs there which hatched in Jan 2005 and one youngster from this brood fledged in Mar 2005. Also in this week's news is a report from Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex of 'several pairs performing their weed dance', and of a pair having hatched 4 young at Lakeside (Eastleigh) on Mar 16 - all four still present on Mar 25

Slavonian Grebe: The only report this week is of one off Selsey Bill on Mar 22

Black-necked Grebe: Just one report of a single bird seen from the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 22

Bittern: One was still at Hatch Pond, Poole, on Mar 22. The last Hampshire report was of one at Titchfield Haven on Jan 27 and elsewhere the latest reports were from Rye Harbour on Feb 19, Dungeness RSPB reserve on Feb 26 and Radipole in Dorset on Mar 6.

Spoonbill: The group of 7 that were in Poole Harbour up to Mar 11 was down to 6 on Mar 13, 5 on Mar 18 and only 4 on Mar 21 - possibly it was one of these departing birds that was seen for a brief 20 minutes at Pennington (Lymington) on Mar 23 before it flew off north east. It may have then altered course to the east to be seen at Titchfield Haven on Mar 24

Mute Swan: We have now had reports of nest building activity at Langstone Pond Feb 23, Emsworth Slipper Mill Pond on Mar 14 and Emsworth Peter Pond on Mar 22 but none of these pairs have yet settled on their nests. Mar 21 brought a sighting of one sitting on a nest in the Long Pool at Pagham Harbour but that also could have been a bird still nest building and temporarily on the nest 'trying it for size'.

Brent Goose: The Mar 17 WeBS count found only 203 Brent at Wittering compared to 1600 for the February count and any current visit to the Langstone or Chichester Harbour shores is unlikely to bring a sighting of more than 100 Brent but the parties of migrants still passing through the harbours can produce bigger counts on the one day that the geese rest there before moving on. Back on Mar 13 I was surprised to find around 800 birds in the Broadmarsh area and on Mar 21 John Gowen found 252 off the South Moors shore and another 71 off Langstone east of the bridge. Last year the final migrant flocks seen in Hampshire were of 120 at Titchfield Haven on Apr 17 and a similar number on Apr 25 when 80 were seen at Stokes Bay (Gosport) and 115+ at Southsea. Last reports of departing birds passing Dungeness were of 105 birds on Apr 20 and another 280 on Apr 26.

Gadwall: On Mar 12 a young male Gadwall was apparently paired with a Mallard at the Sandown boating lake on the IoW and the two were still together on Mar 21

Teal: Although there are still some winter birds around (620 at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 19 and a dozen or more at Havant Budds Farm pools on Mar 20) the last bird seen by myself in the Langstone Pond area was a single on the Wade Court south meadow flood in Mar 10.

Mallard: The 40+ birds normally seen on Langstone Pond during the winter were down to around 12 on Mar 20 and on Mar 21 there were three to five pairs to be seen on the Warblington Farm fields, one pair apparently already nesting with the male seen alone on the Cress Beds on both Mar 8 and 21, and two pairs plus two spare males seen in another wetland part of the farm on Mar 21.

Garganey: At least one pair (two reports were of 2 pairs) has been on the floods at the north end of Titchfield Haven from Mar 18 to 23. Since then there has been a sighting of both pairs there on Mar 24. At least one male seems to have been at Chingford Pond near Burton Mill west of Pulborough from Mar 13 to 22 and there have been three other reports so far - a pair in Poole Harbour on Mar 16, a single drake flying north over Christchurch Harbour on Mar 23 and what was probably the same bird seen at Ringwood (Ivy Lake) on Mar 24.

Scaup: The young male was still on the river at Titchfield Haven on Mar 21

Eider: A count of around 70 on the sea off Titchfield Haven on Mar 22 was the highest count there since 116 on Jan 26. At the other end of the Solent the highest recent count was of around a dozen near the mouth of the Beaulieu River on Mar 22

Smew: There were still four birds at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 21 and at least one there on Mar 24

Red-breasted Merganser: A regular sign that winter is coming to an end is a noticeable increase in the number of Mergansers in Langstone Harbour with much displaying and chasing among the birds. This year this phase seems to have started on Mar 21 with the presence of 47 birds off the Langstone South Moors area.

Goosander: A single female seen on the River Hamble at Curbridge on Mar 18 was presumably a passage bird making a short stopover as Goosanders are not normally seen there.

Ruddy Duck: The single male that had been at the Havant Budds Farm pools from 28 Apr 2006 has not been reported since Feb 3 but a pair has been seen at the Chichester Lakes on Mar 22 and 23 (first on Ivy Lake and then on an adjacent lake)

Marsh Harrier: A female flew north west over Titchfield Haven on Mar 21, first report from there since Mar 8 but the fourteenth report for the year from Titchfield

Buzzard: A measure of the increased visibility of Buzzards at this time of year comes from Keith Betton's report on the March 17-18 New Forest survey when 92 were seen compared to 33 in the Feb survey, 44 in Jan but only 23 and 25 in the Dec and Nov surveys.

Osprey: A migrant arriving over the West Bay area (south of Bridport in Dorset) on Mar 21 was the second of the year after an early sighting in Cornwall on Feb 26 and a doubtful report from the Cuckmere area of Sussex on Jan 23 (maybe that was a sighting of a female Marsh Harrier which also shows a pale head?). Latest news is of two arrivals in Hampshire on Mar 25 - one over Acres Down near Lyndhurst at 13:45 and another at Normandy Lake (Lymington shore) at 15:45

Avocet: An increased number of reports comes from various south coast sites as the winter population in the west country returns to breeding areas. This week brought ten new reports with the number at Titchfield Haven up to six birds on Mar 22 (when one was at the Sidlesham Ferry pool at Pagham) and at the Pett Level pools (Rye Bay) the number was up to ten birds on Mar 23

Little Ringed Plover: After the first sighting of the year at the Testwood Lakes (Southampton) on Mar 14 two more birds arrived at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 15 and were still there on Mar 18. Mar 19 brought the first to Rye Harbour and Mar 22 brought the first to Weir Wood in north Sussex.

Golden Plover: These are now on their way north bringing the following increases in the numbers at Rye Harbour - on Mar 16 there were only 18 birds, on Mar 17 there were 72 birds and on Mar 21 there were 215 birds (with 200+ still being reported on Mar 24). An isolated sighting of ten birds on the Langstone shore on Mar 21 (where there have been no reports since Feb 14) was probably part of the same movement.

Lapwing: The last report of a winter flock on southern shores was of 100+ at Newtown Harbour on the IoW on Feb 24 (last sighting at Langstone village was of 30+ on Feb 5). In past years many Hampshire sites would have had breeding birds staying on (8 or 9 pairs stayed to breed on the Warblington Farm in 1977 and 1978) but by 2000 even Farlington Marshes had only a few breeding pairs (mostly failing to produce any young because of Fox predation). Maybe this decline is now reversing - the 2005 Hampshire bird reports gives an increase in the number of pairs breeding in Hampshire from 115 in 2004 to 155 in 2005 while this year on Mar 24 I found potentially five or six breeding pairs on the Gipsies Plain (south of Havant Thicket) where I have seen at most two pairs in recent years.

Ruff: Two birds have been present at Titchfield Haven from Mar 18 to 22 with at least one still there on Mar 23, and at Pulborough Brooks a group of 5 were seen on Mar 18 (at least four of these seem to have been there since Jan 15)

Jack Snipe: One was at Farlington Marshes on Mar 17 and another single was at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 22

Black-tailed Godwit: 267 were at Titchfield Haven on Mar 24

Whimbrel: Single wintering birds were seen at Farlington Marshes and at Church Norton in Pagham Harbour on Mar 15 and 22 respectively.

Spotted Redshank: One was back at the west end of the Emsworth shore on Mar 21 and 22 and others have been reported recently from West Wittering. Yarmouth (IoW) and Christchurch Harbour

Green Sandpiper: One was at Titchfield Haven on Mar 19 and a Common Sandpiper was by the Itchen in Southampton on the same day.

Med Gull: The count at Rye Harbour reached a new peak of 236 on Mar 19 and they can be heard and seen daily anywhere around Langstone, Chichester and Portsmouth harbours (including over my garden in Havant)

Little Gull: One was in Weymouth Bay on Mar 18 and two were at Rye Harbour from Mar 13 to21 (at least). Locally one was over Ivy Lake at Chichester on Mar 22, 23 and 24

Common Gull: These are now becoming a rarity in the Solent Harbours as they move north to breed. On Mar 19 a flock of 1600 rested at Amberley Wild Brooks indicating that these gulls probably take the quicker overland route to the north east coast rather than the longer sea route around Kent.

Iceland Gull: A single first winter bird has been around the mouth of the R Adur at Shoreham from Mar 11 to 24 (at least). What was presumably a different bird was reported to have flown past Titchfield Haven on Mar 24

Sandwich Tern: The count of these at Rye Harbour was up to 26 on Mar 24 and more than 50 were there on Mar 25

Guillemot: The breeding flock at Durlston was up to 300+ on Mar 22 (with only 4 Razorbills seen there that day)

Short-eared Owl: One was hunting over the fields west of Pagham Harbour on Mar 21 and two were seen on Bransbury Common by the R Test near Andover on Mar 22 (no reports from Thorney Island or Langstone Harbour since Mar 14)

Skylark: By Mar 21 seven had returned to nest on the Warblington Farm fields and on Mar 24 at least three were singing over the Gipsies Plain south of Havant Thicket.

Meadow Pipit: One was singing over the Gipsies Plain at Havant on Mar 24

Stonechat: The first report of song came from Durlston on Mar 24 when I saw a pair (plus another male) on the Gipsies Plain at Havant. Another pair were seen in fields at Long Road, Soberton in the Meon Valley on Mar 23

Fieldfare: A total of 225 were reported from the New Forest on the weekend of Mar 17/18 and a flock of around 150 was in the Long Road fields at Soberton on Mar 23

Redwing: A few are still passing north through our area with five sightings of less than 10 birds in the past week and a total of 87 seen in the New Forest on Mar 17/18

Mistle Thrush: These are still singing strongly in the Havant area and near Crowborough in Sussex a pair were feeding young on Mar 22

Blackcap: A 'fall' of 25 at Christchurch Harbour in mist on Mar 22 confirmed a strong arrival of our summer birds which probably started to arrive on Mar 8

Continental Coal Tit: The first report of one of these for this spring came from Portland Bill on Mar 21

Great Grey Shrike: There has been an almost total absence of reports of these from southern counties this winter - other than a single odd report of one in Dorset (at Mordern Bog west of Poole Harbour) on Jan 9 the only reports have come from the New Forest - 13 reports of the bird in the Holm Hill area west of Brockenhurst and just three reports from Vales Moor (between Burley and Ringwood). The Holm Hill bird was still there on Mar 18 but there have been no reports at all from Ashdown Forest where one was regularly seen last winter, nor from the Hampton Ridge area of the New Forest where one spent the early part of 2005 (when another was regularly seen in the Partridge Green area of Sussex near Horsham)

Reed Bunting: A female was near the Warblington Farm reedbed on Mar 21 (where I had seen the pair back on Mar 8) but so far I have not heard of one back at Langstone pond reeds.

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: Six new reports

Small White: The first sighting (at Southampton on Mar 8) has already been reported and since then there have been eight more reports from Sussex and Dorset as well as Hampshire.

Red Admiral: Only new report was from Gosport on Mar 10 (none in the past week)

Small Tortoiseshell: Five new reports

Peacock: Six new reports

Comma: Seven new reports

Speckled Wood: Only four reports for the year so far. First was seen at Shanklin (IoW) on Mar 11, one was in a Worthing garden on Mar 12, one in a Cosham (Portsmouth) garden on Mar 14 and one in the Itchen Valley near Eastleigh on Mar 17 so no general emergence so far.

Moths

Pine Beauty: First for the year seen at Horsham on Mar 16

Brown-tail Moth caterpillars were out of their winter tents ar Pagham Harbour on Mar 21

Other Insects

Yellow Dung Flies: Plenty of these on cowpats at Warblington Farm on Mar 24 (first report for year)

Bloody Nosed Beetles: A pair were mating at Durlston on Mar 24

PLANTS

Bulbous Buttercup: Reports of several flowering on the Eastney beach at Portsmouth on Mar 19 and one freshly flowering plant in Havant on Mar 20 mark the start of this plants flowering season (an isolated report of one seen at Emsworth on Jan 27 was an oddity). In checking the identity of my find in Havant I learnt that the look-alike Hairy Buttercup does not normally start to flower until May whereas Bulbous starts in March.

Marsh Marigold: These too are now properly into their flowering with reports from the Stansted House arboretum pond on Mar 17 and an increase from one to seven flowering plants (one plant having 30 flowers) at the Langstone South Moors site on Mar 20

Wood Anemones: Flowering at two more sites this week - Crookhorn golf course copse on Mar 18 and Hammonds Lane Coppice (Staunton country park) on Mar 24.

Common Ramping Fumitory: One healthy plant with fresh flowers at the Havant New Lane allotments on Mar 22

Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine arvense): First and only report so far is from somewhere in the Stansted Forest area on Mar 20. In the past there used to be a great swathe of these flowers by the roadside outside the Middle Lodge (start of the main road up to Stansted House) but these have not been seen for several years - probably as a result of mowing the roadside grass as I understand these plants are not good at propagating themselves by seed and rely on vegetative multiplication which is not easy if all the plants are regularly cut down and die.

Common Dog Violet: Great displays of this were seen in the Main Avenue at Stansted Forest on Mar 20 and along the southern edge of Havant Thicket on Mar 24

Sweet Violet: The first white flowers were seen in the Walderton area on Mar 21

Greater Stitchwort: The first flowers of this appeared in the Locks Farm area of Havant on Mar 7 where they were also exceptionally early last year and it was not till Mar 21 that flowers were found at a second site (Lyecommon north of Walderton) with a further find at Havant Thicket on Mar 24

Broom: I had seen this in flower on Hayling on Mar 17 and this week found flowers at Staunton country park on Mar 24

Cherry Laurel: This had started to flower in Havant on Mar 20

Hawthorn: Although an exceptional tree had been flowering Leigh Park on Jan 26 the first seasonal flowers appeared in Havant on Mar 20

Pedunculate Oak: Just one old tree at Warblington had started to open its leaves (and presumably flowers which appear with the leaves) onMar 21

Hornbeam: On Mar 20 Hornbeam catkins were expanding but not flowering in the Langstone area but by Mar 24 the catkins were fully open and flowering at Staunton country park

English Elm: Flower buds on this were expanding and maybe flowering in the Langstone area on Feb 28 but it was not until Mar 20 that I definitely saw open flowers.

Wood Spurge: Flowering at Havant Thicket on Mar 24 (although the flower heads were still drooping some flowers at the base of the inflorescence were open and showing yellow glands)

Cow Parsley: Other than the one plant that I saw flowering on Jan 1 the first open flower that I came on was in Mill Lane at Langstone on Mar 20 when others were starting to open in Wade Lane.

'Garden Forget-me-not': The cultivar of Wood Forget-me-not that is commonly found in gardens was flowering on garden escape plants by the Langbrook stream in Havant on Mar 20

Elder: One tree in Southmoor Lane below Budds Mound had four flower heads, each with at least one open floret, on Mar 20

Butterbur: Brian Fellows counted 257 flowering spikes at the Brook Meadow site in Emsworth on Mar 23 and I saw many female flowers by the Langbrook stream in Havant on Mar 20

Winter Heliotrope: Flowers have mostly disappeared at the many sites where this is found so three flower spikes near Wade Court in Langstone were probably the last I will see this season.

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii): Several years ago I noticed a clump of garden chuck out plants were flowering on the south side of Mill Lane at Langstone, across the lane from the gateway into the West Mill, and on Mar 20 these plants were again in flower though difficult to spot under the bramble bush which has grown over them.

Yellow Flag: At least two of the plants in the tiny stream which feeds the South Moors Tamarisk Pool at Langstone had flowers on Mar 20.

Hairy Wood-rush: The first plant was flowering near Havant Thicket on Mar 24 when I also found my first flowering Field Wood-rush at Staunton country park

OTHER WILDLIFE

Roe Deer: A report from Hastings of two Roe 'running around at high speed and frightening the pheasants' sounds like the start of the Roe mating season when a Buck will chase a Doe for hours before she permits the mating, and these chases often take place round and round a particular tree until the ground around the tree is beaten into a circle of bare earth similar to that created by offroad motorbikers. One problem with this interpretation is that I thought these chases did not take place until May (though sometimes a little earlier if the Doe was young when she might come into season early). Another problem arises from looking at the British Deer Society website which says that the mating season for Roe is from mid-July into August, a good couple of months later than I had previously believed to be true.

Water Vole: Brian Fellows has heard of a recent sighting of two Water Voles 300 metres upstream of Brook Meadow at Emsworth and in the Lumley Mill stream rather than in the River Ems proper. They were seen across Mill Lane from Lumley Mill Farm which is at the southern end of the straight section of Mill Lane south of the A27 (and just north of the Mill Lane bends north of Lumley Mill). Apparently Voles have been seen there in past years.

Rabbit: I'm not sure if the Rabbit breeding season has a pause during the winter nowadays but on Mar 21 the Durlston country park website reports the appearance of the year's first baby rabbits above ground there.

Common Lizard: An unknown observer reported the presence of several Common Lizards somewhere on the Emsworth foreshore, seen on Mar 18 - not a particularly early date in view of the early appearance of Adders this year, and two sightings of Lizards in Sussex on Jan 15, but perhaps a slightly odd place to see them.


Summary for Mar 12 - 18 (Week 11 of 2007)

BIRDS

Great Crested Grebe: On Mar 17 a pair were seen on the River Itchen just north of Southampton with two well grown downy youngsters, the eggs from which they hatched having been laid at the beginning of February

Red-necked Grebe: The bird which seems to have been around both sides of Hayling Island since Jan 20 was still to be seen off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 11 and 13

Slavonian Grebe: One was on the sea off Hayling Beachlands on Mar 17

Black-necked Grebe: Three were seen off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 11 and four were still there on Mar 13

Cormorant: During the Mar 17 WeBS count Brian Fellows took a photo (which can be seen on his website) of a magnificent Cormorant in full breeding plumage, and also on his website are notes on how to distinguish between the ‘British’ (Phalacorax carbo carbo) and ‘Continental’ (P. c. sinensis) races, both of which can be found in Britain. Other than the fact that the British birds like to nest on cliffs (sometimes inland), while the Continentals normally nest in trees, it is difficult to separate them and the only feature which does separate 90% (but not all the birds you may see) is the angle formed between a line drawn back from the base of the bill along the top of the bright yellow ‘gular patch’, and another line drawn down along the back edge of the patch.

Brian has found a very helpful website page on the subject of identifying the two subspecies ( Cormorant subspecies identification) and has put an extract of this on his website but somehow the illustration of how to measure the angle of the gular patch has got lost in transit from the original to his website so I suggest anyone interested in this should go to the page given above and then click the ‘illustration’ link in the gular patch section of that page to see the original illustration.

Mute Swan: Since the pair at Langstone Pond abandoned their early attempt at nest building I have not heard of any others starting to build until Mar 14 when a nest was being started in a new place on the east side of the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth (near the Strawberry tree at the north end of the pond)

Brent Geese: Another 415 went east past Dungeness on Mar 11 and by Mar 17 numbers in the Langstone area had clearly decreased though two Brant were still at Farlington Marshes with Brent on Mar 15

Garganey: The first report which I have seen for this spring was of a single male on Chingford Pond (near Burton Mill Pond west of Pulborough) on Mar 13, and this has been followed by a sighting of two in Dorset (Wareham area) on Mar 16 and three more on Avon Water at Keyhaven near Lymington on Mar 17 (two of these were smart males)

Buzzard: On Mar 13 I was surprised to see a Buzzard on the ground in a small pony field alongside the busy A27 where the footbridge crosses it near Bedhampton Mill. Having a closer look I saw the bird had one leg that was severly damaged and unusable by the bird which eventually flew off dangling the useless leg.

Peregrines: Both birds of the pair which nest on Shoreham Power Station chimney were back at their nest box on Mar 14

Goshawk: A Hoslist message on Mar 18 tells us that it is proposed to have a webcam viewing a New Forest Goshawk nest available to the public in the New Forest Reptiliary which is by the A35 road about a mile west of Lyndhurst. No date or other details is yet available.

Red-leg Partridge: On Mar 16 a pair were back in the West Lane fields on Hayling (first sighting there this year that I know of)

Little Ringed Plover: The first arrival for this spring that I know of was a single bird briefly at the Testwood Lakes near Southampton on Mar 14

Purple Sandpiper: 15 were at Southsea Castle on Mar 12 and 10 were seen there on Mar 13

Woodcock: A small cluster of reports indicates a wave of these coming north over the channel this week. Singles were seen at Dungeness on both Mar 13 and 16. On Mar 16 another single was briefly in an Eastbourne town garden, and on that day I had a good view of one which I accidentally flushed in Stansted Forest bringing my year list up to 108 species.

Black-tailed Godwit: Fishbourne Channel near Chichester still had at least 500 birds on Mar 16

Common Sandpiper: On Mar 13 I saw two of these birds together at the mouth of the Hermitage Stream at Broadmarsh in Langstone Harbour. I know one has been wintering there and I did wonder if the second bird was a migrant but those are not normally here until the start of April so with no other reports of early arrivals I assume it was a wintering bird from somewhere local feeling the same urge that drives the long distance migrants.

Snipe: The first mention of ‘drumming’ for the year comes from the Denny Wood/Matley Bog area of the New Forest on Mar 17

Med Gull: By Mar 13 the count at Rye Harbour was up to 124 and on Mar 18 it reached a site record of 193. The number in the Langstone area is probably at least that but the birds do not all congregate in one place to be counted and the highest reported figure here is currently 70+ at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 11

Iceland Gull: A first winter bird was found at the mouth of the River Adur (at Shoreham) on Mar 11 and was still there on Mar 14

Sandwich Tern: 7 had reached Dungeness by Mar 10 and 12 were at Rye Harbour on Mar 17

Arctic Tern: The SOS website has a second-hand report of one having been seen over the new pit at Drayton (east of Chichester) on Mar 14

Razorbill: A large number flew east past Portland in Mar 15 (sample count of 400 seen in 15 minutes)

Puffin: Two were seen on Mar 11 in the Dorset Dancing Ledge area between Durlston Head and St Albans Head to the west of Swanage and one was seen off Portland on Mar 14

Ring-necked Parakeet: Two reports that may be of the same bird thinking of settling in the Brighton area are from the Southwick area on Mar 12 and Hove on Mar 15

Short-eared Owl: I saw one flying over the Thornham Marshes (north east of Thorney Island) on Mar 14 - it appeared ten minutes before sunset.

Sand Martin: Since the first two were seen in Cornwall on Feb 25 there have been 13 sightings of a total of 33 birds. Four were at the Lower Test Marshes on Mar 14 and two were heading up the Test north of Romsey on Mar 17

Swallow: Just five reports so far - the first in Sussex on Mar 3, then one at Portland in Dorset on May 7, two in Hampshire on Mar 14 and 15 (Blashford Lakes and New Forest), and the latest is of one on the Isle of Wight on Mar 15

House Martin: Just two reports - one at Weymouth on Mar 6 and one at Dungeness on Mar 11

Meadow Pipit: Although these have been moving north for some time it seems that the main passage has only just started with counts of 62 north over Christchurch Harbour on Mar 15 and 150 over Portland on Mar 16

Black Redstart: A wave of migrants in the past week brought a male bird to the Old Rectory at Warblington on Mar 14 where it was found by Tony Gutteridge and later seen by myself.

Ring Ouzel: Following the first report of one in a Chandlers Ford garden on Mar 3 (could that have been a wintering bird?) the first coastal report comes from Portland on Mar 15

Dartford Warbler: After my encounter with a singing male on Hayling Sinah Common on Mar 5 Ros Norton saw a pair flying around the same area on Mar 12 (but three other attempts to see them there have drawn blanks).

Willow Tit: One was heard giving calls and song, and seen displaying, in the West Dean Woods (Chichester) on Mar 12 and on Mar 15 several were singing at Hurstbourne Common wood in north Hampshire (one bird was singing within 50 metres of the busy A343 road north of Andover)

Tree Creeper: One was seen carrying nest building material in Preston Park at Brighton on Mar 15

Hooded Crow: An unusual sighting at Portland on Mar 14 was of a single Hooded Crow on the ground, presumably resting after flying north from the continent.

Brambling: A large number were feeding with Chaffinches, and many were singing, in the New Forest on Mar 11. At least six were still in Mark Ash wood on Mar 16

Serin: An unconfirmed report of one at Durlston on Mar 13 - no further news of it.

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: On Mar 12 there were counts of more than 20 seen in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth and the West Dean Woods north of Chichester with many other recent reports of smaller numbers

Small White: First of the year was a single at the Lower Test on Mar 8. The next was in the Botley Woods area on Mar 11 and the first Sussex sighting was on Mar 12. Since then there have been three more reports from south Hampshire and one from Portland

Holly Blue: The date of Mar 7 already reported for the first of the year (seen at Reading) has now been matched by one at Gosport that day and there have been two more reports from Marchwood on Southampton Water (Mar 11) and Horsham (Mar 14)

Red Admiral: This species is keeping up its new record as Britain's first year round active butterfly - recent reports of caterpillars thriving in winter months because the nettles have not succumbed to frost have now been followed by a sighting of a female laying new eggs on nettles at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on Mar 9

Painted Lady: On Mar 14 the Portland website reported the 'first of the year' flying there that day

Small Tortoiseshell: Seven new reports between Mar 11 and 14

Peacock: Thirteen new reports between Mar 11 and 18 including a count of 10 at Pagham Harbour on Mar 14 and two sightings of one nectaring on Rosemary in my Havant garden on Mar 15 and 18

Comma: Several reports include a count of 10 at Laughton Common near Eastbourne on Mar 11

Speckled Wood: First of the year seen on the Isle of Wight (Alverstone) on Mar 11 and another in a Worthing area garden on Mar 12. A third was in the Itchen Valley country park on Mar 17

Moths

Agonopterix ocellana: First of year found at Rye Harbour on Mar 14

Yellow Horned: Four records of this between Mar 9 and 13 with the first find being in the Worthing area

Orange Underwing: This day flying moth of birch trees was seen at Horsham on Mar 14

March Moth: Two finds in Sussex - one at Worthing on Mar 12 and the other at Edburton in the week beginning Mar 12

Shoulder Stripe: Just one first find at Edburton in the week beginning Mar 12

Early Tooth-striped: First of year at Portland on Mar 15

Scorched Carpet: First at Worthing on Mar 15

Early Thorn: First of year on Mar 10 at Rye Harbour with others at Portland on Mar 12 and Pulborough Brooks on Mar 13

Dotted Border: Firsts taken at Portland on Mar 13 and at Edburton in week beginning Mar 12

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: 12 new reports bring the total of sightings I know of this year to 33 including a group of four at Portland on Mar 15 and a local sighting in a Havant Bedhampton garden on Mar 11. 24 of the 33 sightings have been in March.

Dark Sword-grass: First of year of this immigrant at Portland on Mar 14

Red Chestnut: First at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 13

Twin-spotted Quaker: First at Worthing on Mar 8

Dark Chestnut: First report from Pagham Harbour on Mar 14 (but a very worn specimen)

Dotted Chestnut: First at Portland on Mar 12 (only fourth ever record for the island)

The Herald: On Feb 7 this species got a mention through a restless hibernator being seen inside a house but Mar 12 is the first date for one in a moth trap at Worthing

Other insects

Pericoma fuliginosa (or similar): This tiny, furry 'Owl Midge' species gets a mention through being caught on camera while Trevor Carpenter was testing a new camera at Fareham

Drone Fly: This hoverfly can now be seen hovering daily in my garden

Common Wasp: First active Queens include one seen by me in Havant on Mar 11 and another reported at Durlston country park on Mar 16

Halictus species (small black mining bee): Starting to dig egg chambers in bare dry soil at Durlston on Mar 14

Bumblebee species (Bombus terrestris?): On Mar 15 I was in my garden in afternoon sunshine when a large dark coloured queen bumblebee shot by me flying at great speed upwards at an angle which took her over the roof of the house next door. To add to the puzzle as to why she was performing this 'impossible feat' she was closely followed by a smaller insect which seemed to have a yellowish colour. I took this to be a male and presumed his interest in following her would be in mating but this raised several queries in my mind, the principal one being that I thought she would have mated last autumn (I believe that normally only mated queens survive the winter and are the sole means of starting a new generation each spring) and that the male would not have survived the winter. A second query related to the flight - pictures of mating bumblebees show them doing so on the ground unlike some bees, wasps and ants which have dramatic mating flights during which the queen is pursued by many males and I think mating takes place on the wing - another function that one would think was impossible for a bumblebee. One other possiblity is that she was being pursued by some predator or parasite but I understand that such nasty minded species do not appear until later in the year...

Juniper Shield Bug (Cyphostethus tristriatus): One found at Portland on Mar 12 was thought to be a new species for the island

Pied Shield Bug (Sehirus bicolor): Reported at Rye Harbour on Mar 13 with the interesting comment that both sexes of this species can 'sing' by rubbing pegs on their wing cases against a ridge on their abdomen.

Common Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina): Seen at Rye Harbour on the very early date of Mar 13

Syromastus rhombeus (Bug species): This is a rare bug of sandy places that has I think only recently invaded England and is now spreading. First find at Rye Harbour was on Mar 10

PLANTS

Larch: The first Larch Roses (green) had appeared on one tree in Stansted Forest but the majority are only just beginning to show a bit of green foliage

Wood Anemone: Many were out in Lowtons Copse at Clanfield on Mar 11 and a few were seen in Hollybank Woods on Mar 12

Common Dog Violet: Early Dog Violets have been out since the beginning of March and there is by now a good display at the eastern end of the Havant Cemetery (junction of Eastern Road and New Lane). On Mar 17 Durlston country park reported the first appearance of Common Dog Violet and on the same day I found one in flower by the Hayling coastal path.

Three-veined Sandwort (Moehringia trinerva): Flowering in Stansted Forest on Mar 16

Broom: On Mar 17 quite a few yellow flowers were already out on a bush by the Hayling coastal path where it passes the Saltmarsh Lane copse.

Common Vetch: A single flower was open on a roadside plant in Havant on Mar 15

Spotted Medick: This was also flowering by a Havant roadside on Mar 15

Rue-leaved Saxifrage: A few plants had started to flower on the old wall separating the Pallant carpark from the Bear Hotel carpark in Havant on Mar 11

Grey Poplar: Although the catkins were fully out on an old tree which always flowers early by Feb 26 the first catkins seen on a 'normal' tree were seen on Mar 13

Cow Parsley: I still have not seen the start of normal flowering but by Mar 13 I noticed a roadside plant in Havant which had put up flowering stems with closed flower buds showing white

Wild Angelica: On Mar 15 Brian Fellows found an extraordinarily early plant in full flower in the Emsworth Brook Meadow area - I have never come across this flowering before July in the past

Cowslip: The first flower was out at Durlston country park on Mar 13 (same may be expected on Portsdown soon?)

Green Alkanet: Just one plant was flowering beside the slip road from the Langstone roundabout to the east bound A27 on Mar 13

Tartarian Honeysuckle: The large and long established bush on the south side of Ferry Road, south Hayling (junction of service road to carpark and fishermen's entrance to Sinah Lake) had started to flower on Mar 17

Oxford Ragwort: The first flower of the new season was open at Broadmarsh on Mar 13

Spanish Bluebell: These had started to flower by Mar 17.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Adder: These were seen basking in West Dean Woods (Chichester) on Mar 12 and 14 while at Portland a 'snake pit' of them was found and photographed to show a Slow Worm among the Adders

Grass Snake: Adders were seen out of hibernation as early as Jan 23 but it was not until Mar 11 that the first Grass Snake was seen at Hook Common in north Hampshire

Sea Horses: On Mar 10 the find of a Sea Horse in the nets of a Trawler was reported by the Dungeness website, together with another find of one washed up on the beach there on Feb 28 - this one was still alive and was returned to the sea. These two were different species - the one brought up in trawl nets was a Short-snouted Sea Horse while the one on the beach was a Long-snouted. I was not aware that there were different species of Sea Horse but a check with the internet revealed that there are at least 35 species and that several of them can be found in the English Channel.


Summary for Mar 5 - 11 (Week 10 of 2007)

BIRDS

Red-necked Grebe: The bird which has been seen around Chichester and Langstone Harbours since early January was off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 8 and was beginning to acquire summer plumage. With it were all four other common grebe species including a single Slavonian which flew in and made a very bad landing, crashing into the water. Nine Black-necked were still there.

Bittern: In Dorset one was at Radipole on Mar 6 and two were at Hatch Pond (north fringe of Poole) on Mar 7 with at least one still there on Mar 8

Little Egret: At least 70 were still in the Langstone area on Mar 6 when I attempted to count them coming to roost - a couple of major disturbances made it impossible to get an accurate count but I was pretty sure that at least 64 spent the night there while another 10 came to the roost but gave up and headed off elsewhere during the distubances. On Mar 8 I was at Warblington Farm and could only find 5 Egrets in contrast to the 30 which spent their days there up to late February.

Spoonbill: A party of ten birds have spent much of the winter in Poole Harbour but no more than seven of them were reported from Feb 24 to Mar 1 so the group may have split up and one or more of the birds that had left there may have been involved in recent sightings elsewhere. On Mar 5 one was seen to fly northwest over Langstone Mill Pond and on Mar 7 on turned up at Lodmoor (Weymouth) and stayed to Mar 9 if not longer.

Mute Swan: The female bird at Langstone Pond was on a nest and building it up with reeds on Feb 23 and 26 but I think a rise in waterlevel after heavy rain has caused her to abandon that nest - maybe not permanently.

Cackling Canada Goose: The half size bird seen with normal Canadas at Ivy Lake, Chichester, on Feb 15 and 18 was still there on Mar 8.

Brent Goose: Although there are still plenty around (e.g.1800 around Pagham North Walls on Mar 3) flocks continue to leave us. 746 flew east at Dungeness on Mar 4 and 897 went past there on Mar 6

Mallard: A nest with several fresh eggs was found at Rye Harbour on Mar 8

Red Kite: One of five reported sightings in the period Mar 5 - 9 came from Petersfield where three birds were seen on Mar 9

Hen Harrier: A female has been reported on both Feb 24 and Mar 8 over fields north of Walderton in the Ems valley

Grey Partridge: On Mar 7 a pair was seen in fields just west of Chichester (between Bishop Luffa school and the A27) and a pair is thought to have bred there last year. On Mar 8 I saw one clearly on the Warblington farm fields.

Avocet: On Mar 10 three were seen at Titchfield Haven where last year at least six pairs bred and raised 18 young

Snipe: On Mar 7 several were in the fields west of Chichester with the Grey Partridge (see above) and the observer thinks it likely that they will breed there giving us a chance to hear them drumming which they do from late March to mid June

Black-tailed Godwit: A flock of around 640 birds seems to have been based in the Fishbourne channel near Chichester from Feb 27 to Mar 9 and another flock in excess of 200 was at Titchfield Haven from Feb 17 to Mar 2 at least. On Mar 9 a flock of around 1100 flew north from the Avon Causeway area up the Avon valley to Ibsley where more than 200 of these birds were seen again on Mar 10

Med Gull: The pre-breeding flock at Rye Harbour was up to 110 by Mar 11 and there have been counts of up to 50 at the Hayling Oysterbeds since Mar 4 but these birds that will breed in Langstone Harbour are spread out over a number of shore and field sites around the Hayling area making it difficult to assess the total - on Mar 10, having seen around 30 at the Oysterbeds (where a maximum of 36 was counted), I found another 10 among Black-headed Gulls in a field south of Copse Lane and north of Verner Common on the east side of the island.

Little Gull: On Mar 8 single birds were seen at Pulborough Brooks and over Thorney Island.

Great Spotted Cuckoo: One arrived at Dungeness in a heavy rain storm last on Mar 6 and was seen there off and on the next day but not since.

Little Owl: On Mar 10 as I was walking along Woodgason Lane (East Hayling) I heard one calling from somewhere near the horse riding stables at the sharp bend of Copse Lane

Short-eared Owl: On Mar 6 two were hunting the Thornham Marshes on Thorney Island - first report from this favourite site this year

Sand Martin: There have now been eight reports of this species since the first sighting at Hayle in north Cornwall on Feb 25. Some were in Hampshire at Blashford Lakes on Mar 4 and 5

Swallow: Only two reports so far - one near Brighton on Mar 3 and another at Portland on Mar 7

House Martin: Just one report so far - a single at Weymouth on Mar 6

Tree Pipit: Also just one report of two birds at Seacombe in Dorset on Mar 7

Scandinavian Rock Pipit: Up to four have been seen at Christchurch Harbour since Feb 24 and on Mar 10 Mike Collins found one at the Tamarisk pool on the Langstone South Moors showing a pink streaky breast in contrast to light grey upper parts.

Stonechat: First report of song comes from Durlston country park on Mar 10

Wheatear: I now have 14 reports since the first birds arrived in Wales on Feb 18. So far only two seen in Hants (one at Hayling Beachlands on Mar 7 and one on Beaulieu Heath on Mar 8

Ring Ouzel: First arrival of the year was in a Chandlers Ford garden (Eastleigh area) on Mar 3

Blackbird: These came into regular song in the Havant area on Mar 6 after I had seen a female gathering nest material in my garden on Mar 5

Fieldfare: On Mar 10 a flock of 430 was on Wheely Down near West Meon (100+ birds seen earlier that day at Old Winchester Hill were probably part of the same flock of birds moving north, probably coming from the continent)

Redwing: Very few Redwing were with the above Fieldfares but on the same day (Mar 10) a flock of 100+ were gathered in woods north of Hastings and for the first time this spring their pre-migration musical chattering filled the air.

Dartford Warbler: I had close views of one singing and preening in the Sinah Common area of South Hayling on Mar 5 to bring my year list to 103 species (upped to 104 on Mar 8 with Grey Plover).

Blackcap: It looks as if the first summer birds have started to arrive. On Mar 8 the Portland website remarked on one which had arrived that morning as being a very early migrant and that was a day after a male seen at Wier Wood in north Sussex was described as a newcomer there. On Mar 9 Brian Fellows heard one in full song at Fishbourne near Chichester and on Mar 10 the first song was hear at Christchurch Harbour.

Yellow-browed Warbler: The two birds which have been attracting local attention, one at Andover and the other in the Southwick area of Brighton, were both still present on Mar 10

Chiffchaff: New birds, almost certainly migrant arrivals, attracted attention on Mar 5 with 11 birds at Christchurch Harbour and 2 at Blashford Lakes (singing in an area where no winter birds had been seen). I have seen 17 reports of the birds in the past week and today (Mar 11) one has been singing as it worked its way north up the Hayling Billy trail behind my house in Havant.

Long-tailed Tit: On Mar 8 a group of three seemed to be all actively involved in building a single new nest - perhaps the third bird was one of last year's young that hasn't yet left home?

Willow Tit: At least one bird of this vanishing species was heard in the West Dean Woods north of Chichester on Feb 24. On Mar 3 one or more were found at Hannington in the area north of Andover where they still hang on.

Hawfinch: A winter flock of more than 40 birds was a great sight at Pitts Wood in the New Forest near Godshill on Mar 4

Reed Bunting: This species is just hanging on as a breeding bird at the Warblington Farm reedbed here in Havant (just one pair last year) and so I was pleased to find a pair back on the farm on Mar 8 (possibly with an additional bird which I heard calling in another damp area of the farm)

Escapees: The two Fulvous Whistling Ducks which had been seen at Titchfield Haven on Feb 10 were still there on Mar 4. These are probably from the group of four birds which appeared on the Chichester lakes last year on Nov 18

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: I now have more than 40 reports of Brimstone for the year since one was seen in the Gosport Wildgrounds on Jan 15. The majority of the reports are in March with general emergence starting on Mar 2. The first to appear in my garden was seen on Mar 6 (when two were in an Emsworth garden), and today (Mar 11) there has been another in my garden and one on Thorney Island.

Holly Blue: The first and only report so far of this species comes from Reading in Berkshire.

Red Admiral: This species has now been described as Britain's first 'round the year' active butterfly - on Jan 27 active caterpillars of the butterfly were in a Newhaven garden and on Mar 7 more were seen as well as a fresh pupa, strongl;y indicating that some of the butterflies seen during the winter have been freshly emerged rather than survivors from last summer

Small Tortoiseshell: Mar 10 brought the 8th sighting of this species for the year (going back to Jan 27, maybe to Jan 1 when a 'possible' was reported). On Mar 7 two of them were chasing each other around a garden at Steyning, north of Worthing.

Large Tortoiseshell: I have already reported the sighting of two different specimens at Portland on Jan 28 and Mar 3 and speculated that these might be the work of some breeder living in that area and releasing specimens reared in captivity. That idea is now put in doubt by a further sighting of one in Crawley on Mar 7 - this pristine specimen seems to be more likely to be the offspring of a migrant female here last summer, the mild winter allowing her offspring to survive the winter.

Peacock: Eight new reports include sightings at Carters Copse in Gosport on Mar 3 and at Thorney Island on Mar 8

Comma: Nine recent sightings include one seen on Thorney Island on Mar 11

Moths:

Early Thorn: First for the year seen at Rye Harbour on Mar 11 (photo of it on the RX website)

The Engrailed: First for the year at Pannel Valley in the Hastings area on Mar 4

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Ten new sightings in this week's news, including one in a Bedhampton Garden on Mar 11, bring the number seen this year to at least 24 (First was at the Royal Victoria country park at Southampton, feeding on pansies on Jan 31

Pale Pinion: First of year at Findon (Worthing) on Mar 3

Angle Shades: On Mar 7 one was seen to emerge from a coccoon which had been found at Rye Harbour on Jan 26 - this is the first report for the year.

Other insects:

Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax hoverfly): Rye Harbour reported their first on Mar 8 and when I saw one hovering in my garden on Mar 11 I realised that the smaller hoverflies I had seen at Bedhampton on Feb 2 were not of this species

Two-spot Ladybird: These had started to emerge from hibernation on Mar 3 when a couple were seen on Ivy at Emsworth - since thenI have had to release one from inside my house at Havant.

Kidney-spot Ladybird: This much rarer species was found at Portland on Mar 7, becoming a new addition to the Island's fauna.

Violet Oil Beetle (Meloe violaceus): One of these was found near Hastings on Mar 2 and has only now been identified, The life history of this species makes fascinating reading - this is what was put on the RX website about it ...

Gordon Jarvis wrote: "This large beetle was found in my garden in Peasmarsh on 02/03/07 and was still there on 09/03/07. I forwarded it to Peter Hodge who was able to get it identified for me. He informed me that here are no recent records of M. violaceus from Sussex and as Meloe are dispersed as tiny larvae, carried by solitary bees they can turn up almost anywhere. The antennal segment shape in the male (segment 5-7) is also diagnostic". (See photo on RX website)

Barry Yates added: "British oil beetles; so called because of the oil they secrete from their joints to deter predators, have one of the most extraordinary life cycles of any British insect. A female adult oil beetle burrows in sandy areas close to a solitary bee colony. Within the burrow she will lay about 1000 eggs which take one year to develop. Once hatched the larvae are very active and louse like, and for good reason. In order to survive and reach maturity they must immediately find a bee and hitch a ride on its back. To have the best chance of meeting a bee the larvae climb up flower stems, often lying in wait within a flower itself. A bee collecting pollen for its own nest, may unwittingly become covered in the oil beetle larvae, secured by their specially-adapted hooked feet. Once in the bee’s nest the larva disembarks and set about eating the bee’s egg. Following this meal, the oil beetle larva develops into a more regular grub like stage which then consumes the stored pollen. The larvae pupate within the bee nest until the following year, when they emerge as adult oil beetles ready to mate and start the whole cycle again".

Bloody-nosed Beetle: One of these was found at Durlston country park on Mar 10. Several of the less common Lesser Bloody Nosed Beetles (Timarcha goettingenis) had been seen at Durlston back on Jan 31

PLANTS

Lesser Celandine: Some fine examples of a large flowered subspecies (Ranunculus ficaria ficariiformis) were found at Broadmarsh on Mar 3. They can be seen by going to the road entrance to the slipway and turning left to walk uphill from the chicane on the road - immediately you start going uphill look under bushes to the left of the path,

Wood Anemone: First flowers reported from the Hastings area on Mar 10

Eastern Rocket: Plants had started to flower near the Ferry Inn on south Hayling on Mar 5 - look around the small kiosk on your right as your enter the public carpark south of the Ferry Inn

Danish Scurvygrass: Now masses in flower in pavement edge grass under the white railings at the edge of the eastern pavement at both north and south ends of Langstone Bridge (and lining the pavement by the bus stop immediately north of the public toilets outside the Ship Inn)

Hairy Violet: These had started to flower on Porchester Common (Portsdown Hill) on Mar 7 and more were found at Fort Purbrook on Mar 9

Greater Stitchwort: Several plants were in flower on the north bank of Southleigh Road immediately east of the East Leigh Road near Locks farm in Havant Denvilles on Mar 7

Wild Plum (Prunus domestica): One hedge of the Warblington Farm fields was full of these trees in flower last year but it had recently been 'failed' - nevertheless there was plenty of flower to see on Mar 8

Wood Avens: A single fresh flower was found in Wellsworth Lane on Mar 9. I had gone there to look for Bush Vetch which has in the past flowered very early on this ancient farm lane but there was none to be seen - and the lane is now becoming a Millionaire's row of new housing ...

Small Nettle: Some was starting to flower at Warblington Farm on Mar 8

Goat Willow: I saw the first normal tree covered with golden pussypaws on Mar 6

Thrift (Sea Pink): None yet in flower but several tufts had put up closed flower buds at Sinah Common, Hayling, by Mar 5

Cowslip: Many Wild Primroses are now in flower and so I interpreted a note on the Durlston website of Cowslips seen there on Mar 10 as referring to flowers but the entry was not specific.

Ground Ivy: I saw the first flowers on Portsdown on Mar 3 and found more at Warblington on Mar 8

Coltsfoot: John Goodspeed found the first local flowers on Portsdown on Mar 1 and Brian Fellows found his first at Gunner Point on Hayling on Mar 7. I eventually found my first on the north shore of Mill Rythe (east Hayling) on Mar 10

Butterbur: The normal male plants had started to flower in Brook Meadow at Emsworth by Mar 7

Spring Starflower (Tristagma uniflorum): These attractive plants which appear each year on Sinah Common by the side of the Ferry Road opposite Staunton Ave were flowering on Mar 5 and I have at last identified their name. The same flowers can be seen in the roadside in Langstone village at the end of the drive to Green Cottage.

Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris): Another entry on the Durlston website (see Cowslip above) mentions this plant without saying if it was flowering on Mar 10

Nostoc commune: This is the proper name for an alga which appears sporadically in great masses on land and which has recently been found by John Goodspeed on Portsdown (Mar 6). As it is similar to Seaweed but growing away from salt water I have in the past named it 'Landweed'. Looking on the internet I found the following extract from Webster's dictionary saying.."Nostoc commune is found on the ground, and is ordinarily not seen; but after a rain it swells up into a conspicuous jellylike mass, which was formerly supposed to have fallen from the sky, whence the popular names, fallen star and star jelly. Also called witches' butter". Pictures can be seen on John's website and also at http://www.hlasek.com/nostoc_commune_af1340.html

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: Two seen on Mar 8 moving north up the west shore of Langstone Harbour from Great Salterns to Kendalls Wharf area

Roe Deer: Three of the twelve Roe now based in the north Hayling fields were seen from Rogers Mead (housing east of the Esso Garage) on Mar 9 and on Mar 10 a buck seen at Durlston country park was moulting its winter coat to the bright reddish summer 'pelage' though its antlers were still in velvet.

Water Vole: After the first sighting of the year in the Ems at Brook Meadow on Feb 24 we had to wait until Mar 3 for the second sighting of a single vole.

Hare: First report of a couple engaged in a mad March Hare chase came from the IoW on Mar 6.

Adder: These have been seen out of hibernation and sunbathing at Durlston country park since Jan 23. Mar 8 brought the first Hampshire report of one out on the Lymington marshes (Durlston reported 'several' basking there that day)

Slime Mould: On Mar 6 John Goodspeed found a bright yellow mass around a plant stem on Portsdown (in the Portchester Redbarn estate area below the M27). This was probably a Slime Mould species which (lke Corals) starts its life as individual single cells which are mobile and eventually come together to form a mass which hardens to become what seems to be a different organism, large enough for us to see. Apparently this unification of individual cells is necessary for the species to be able to create spores and reproduce the species but I do not know to what extent the individual cells acquire specialised functions to support the working of the unified body. See the pictures page of John Goodspeed's website for a photo of his find. (John also found a strange alga on Portsdown which I have described in my plant news). In creating my wildlife database I include fungi - which are neither plants, insects or animals - in the 'other wildlife category' whereas algae are almost plants - the Hants Flora includes lichens, which are part fungi and part algae, so I have put algae in with the plants but I realise that exactly the same reasoning could have placed fungi with plants!


Summary for Feb 26 - Mar 4 (Week 9 of 2007)

BIRDS

Black-throated Diver: On Feb 4 Andy Johnson noted one of these feeding in the mouth of Chichester Harbour for an hour before flying in the direction of the Thorney Channel, and on Feb 21 Andy saw what may have been the same bird flying out of the harbour. Now comes a sighting of one in the Sweare Deep channel (off Hayling between Northney and Warblington) on Feb 25.

Great Northern Diver: Andy Johnson reports that up to Feb 28 he was still seeing one or two of these divers off Black Point on Hayling each day. On Mar 3 one was still to be seen in Southampton Water off Hythe.

Black-necked Grebe: In addition to regular sightings of Slavonian Grebe in the mouth of Chichester Harbour Andy Johnson tells us in his summary of February sightings that there were two Black-necked there on Feb 10. Current reports seem to indicate that Black-necked numbers are now dwindling (in Dorset, at Blashford Lakes and maybe in Langstone Harbour where the only recent report is of 6 off the Oysterbeds on Feb 25)

Mute Swan: On Feb 25 Brian Fellows counted 99 birds at Emsworth (one more than the previous peak count for this year of 98 on Jan 27). So far I have not heard any further reports of birds nesting other than the pair on Langstone Pond which started on Feb 23 but on Feb 28 I noticed a pair back on Budds Farm pools - though not showing any sign of nesting.

Bewick's Swan: Latest report comes from Kevin Stouse who led an expedition to Amblerley Wild Brooks on Feb 25 and found 12 birds (and a Black Swan)

Brent Geese: Numbers in the Langstone - Emsworth area seem to have dropped recently but a flock of 1800 was still on the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Mar 3 (with some ringed birds which have not been reported there before)

Pale Bellied Brent: One at Pagham north fields on Mar 3 has been reported there twice earlier this year.

Brant: One still at Wittering on Mar 3 (and a late report of one at Farlington on Feb 18)

Red-beasted Goose: Last sighting that I know of was at West Wittering on Feb 28

Mystery ducks: Two birds seen by Peter Ryder at Budds Farm pools on Mar 3 have not been identified but have a mottled plumage suggesting something like Marbled Duck. Peter has posted several pictures of the birds in the Yahoo Hoslist gallery and tells us that the birds showed skulking behaviour but gives no idea of their size except what can be guessed from the photos - I always find this difficult but my impression is that the ducks are very small (around Teal size)

Pintail: A count of 282 on the Henfield levels of the River Adur (where the only previous reports of Pintail this year in Jan and Feb have only had counts of 30, 47,11 and 23) suggests a large flock of migrants had dropped in there for a brief rest.

Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid: The two birds which Jason Crook recently told me about were both there side by side on Feb 28.

Surf Scoter: Not local but I was interested to see that what is probably the bird that made a one day stand in Langstone Harbour on Dec 18 was still at Beer in Devon on Feb 25

Red-breasted Merganser: Numbers in our harbours increase noticeably as the birds make their spring passage and a possible indication that this has started comes from a count of 225 in Portland Harbour on Feb 26

Buzzard: John Chapman, living by the main road through Langstone village, was pleased to get a garden tick for a Buzzard which flew low over the garden on Mar 2. With at least one breeding pair established on Hayling Island and another having taken up residence on Warblington farm people in the Langstone area can expect to see more of these birds.

Lapwing: An indication that the large winter flocks may now be leaving the south coast comes from the Bembridge area of the Isle of Wight where Derek Hale could only find one bird on Mar 3

Knot: Large numbers seem to have moved into the Hampshire coast recently bringing a flock of 300 to the Emsworth shore on Feb 27 and around 160 to Lepe at the mouth of Southampton Water on Mar 3. Before these two sightings I had only heard of 8 sightings in Hampshire this year and the biggest count had been of 50 at Black Point on Hayling on Jan 20.

Sanderling: Andy Johnson's summary of his February sightings around Black Point on Hayling includes a count of 405 Sanderling there on Feb 23 - the previous peak counts for this year had both been of 250 at Black Point sometime Jan and on the theFeb 17 WeBS count (next highest count was of 150+ at Rye Harbour on Feb 18).

Little Stint: One was still at East Head (West Wittering) on Mar 2

Jack Snipe: Singles were at Sandy Point (Hayling) on Feb 23 and at Long Valley (south of Fleet in north east Hants) on Mar 3

Black-tailed Godwit: Brian Fellows found a flock of around 640 in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour on both Feb 27 and Mar 2

Whimbrel: Two were in the Eling Great Marsh area at the head of Southampton Water on Feb 28, presumably the same two that had been there on Feb 11

Spotted Redshank: Singles were seen on the Emsworth west shore on Feb 26 and 27 and at West Wittering on Feb 27 and Mar 2

Grey Phalarope: An unusual report of one seen on Feb 25 comes from the Thames at Thamesmead in the Woolwich area of London - I suppose if one could turn up there at this time of year we might find one anywhere...

Med Gull: I had my first Havant garden tick of one calling overhead on Feb 26. Still no large flocks in our area but at Rye Harbour the number gathered prior to nesting had increased from Feb 26 to 85 on Mar 1

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still at the Cockle Pond on Feb 3 and another had been seen passing through Poole Harbour on Feb 28

Glaucous Gull: One seen briefly in the Portland area on Feb 25 was photographed at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Feb 27 settled on the ground. Other than one at Dungeness on Jan 3 and 4 this is the only report for this year.

Stock Dove: I do not normally think of these as garden birds but there have been several recent reports of them in gardens (including sightings on bird tables) and on Feb 28 I heard one singing at Brook Meadow in Emsworth.

Kingfisher: These will now be leaving the coast for inland breeding areas but I saw one on the Brockhampton stream in Havant on Feb 28, making me wonder if a recent substantial landslip of the bank of the Hermitage Stream near Bedhampton Mill (close to where Kingfishers used to nest) could tempt them back there

Hoopoe: One was in Cornwall at the end of February ...

Sand Martin: First migrant arrivals of the year were at the Hayle estuary in north Cornwall on Feb 25 and on Mar 1 one was seen in the Avon valley just north of Christchurch.

Swallow: First of the year to my knowledge was one seen at Hassocks, north of Brighton, on Mar 3

White Wagtail: First specific report of this species came from Portland on Feb 26

Waxwing: Lee Evans report of rare birds for the week ending Feb 25 gives a total of at least 30+ in Britain made up of birds in Clevleand, Suffolk, Norfolk, Notts and Oxon

Robin: Reports of birds sitting on eggs come from the Nutbourne area (east of Emsworth) on Feb 28 and from Chrsitchurch Harbour on Mar 2

Stonechat: On Feb 26 I saw a pair close to the west end of the Thorney Great Deeps and had the impression that they could already have a nest with young. This impression was based on (a) a view of the female carrying a large caterpillar and disappearing from sight in an area of thick tufts of grass which could have had a nest, (b) I also saw the male go down into this area of grass tufts, and (c) a little later the male was seen with two other males that were moving north as if they were newly arrived migrants - the male may have been ensuring that these two newcomers did not muscle in on his territory, to which he returned after the other two left.

Ring Ouzel: On Mar 4 Keith Betton made a cryptic reference to having increased his Hampshire year list by one with a Ring Ouzel seen on Mar 3 but the only clue to its whereabouts is that it must have been in Hampshire. I assume it was an early migrant arrival but it could have been a wintering bird …

Blackbird: A pair in the Horsham area were feeding three fledglings on Feb 24

Redwing: On Mar 1 I watched a flock of around 25 birds moving slowly north through Stansted Forest

Cetti's Warbler: These have bred at Langstone Pond in recent years but there have been no sightings there this year until Feb 25 when John Chapman heard one singing there.

Nuthatch: Although these have been noisy for some time it was not until Mar 2 that I heard one making the prolonged trilling of its spring song in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth.

Great Grey Shrike: One was still to be seen at Holm Hill in the New Forest on Mar 3

Rook: 15 pairs were back at their nests in Emsworth (between Victoria Road and Park Crescent) on Feb 26

Brambling: These have been very scarce this winter and the only flock (of around 60 birds) seems to be in the Rhinefield area of the New Forest - still there on Mar 3

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: Five new reports for Mar 2 and 3 indicate the emergence of hibernators but some of these might 'go back to bed' if they don't like the weather - Adrian Hoskins tells us that on which he saw flying in Stansted Forest on Feb 17 settled under a leaf and was still under the same leaf on Feb 24

Red Admiral: Seven new reports this week include a late one from a road called The Thicket in Portchester on Feb 21 and one seen in my Havant garden on Feb 24

Small Tortoiseshell: One of these was seen at Portland on Mar 3 when five different butterfly species and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth were all seen on the island.

Large Tortoiseshell: The second of the year at Portland seen and photographed there alive on Mar 3. The first was seen flying on Jan 28 but was captured and died on Feb 3. I suppose both could have been migrants but the time of year and co-incidence of location suggest to me that they were captive bred and either escaped or were released to cause some publicity!

Peacock: One was at the Gosport Wildgrounds on Mar 1 and another at Portland on Mar 3

Comma: Two were seen on Mar 3 - one at Portland and one at Crawley in Sussex

Moths

Scrobipalpa costella: Trapped at Portland sometime just before Feb 26 (first of year)

Eccopisa effractella: The Dungeness website reports .. "exciting moth news from last year involves a nondescript pyralid moth caught on Sep.15th which has now been identified as an example of Eccopisa effractella and is the second British record"

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: All four of the new reports for the past week come from coastal sites and could be of genuine migrant arrivals. On Mar 1 one was seen checking out a number of beach chalets at Eastbourne and another was at Seaford. The other two were both at Portland on Mar 2 and 3.

Grey Shoulder-knot: First of the year was trapped at Fernhurst (near Haslemere) on Feb 18

PLANTS

Lesser Celandine: Large plants with large flower (some with leaves on the flower stems) seen at Broadmarsh (in the same place as they flowered last year) were almost certainly of the subspecies R. ficaria ficariiformis.

Hedge Mustard: A fresh plant with flowers by the Brockhampton stream in Havant is my first of the new season

Early Dog Violet (aka Wood Dog Violet or Viola reichenbachiana): A clump which has established itself in my Havant garden showed its first flower on Mar 1 and next day I found three flowers out in the old Havant cemetery on New Lane where there should be a good display at the east end soon.

Lesser Chickweed: This was said to be flowering at Durlston country park on Mar 3 but we are unlikely to see it although it has been recorded at Eastney in Portsmouth and at both Sinah and Sandy Point on Hayling

Dove's Foot Cranesbill: One plant with three flowers was a surprise find in the Langstone roundabout area on Feb 28

Storksbill: First flowers of the new season found beside the Brockhampton stream in Havant on Feb 28

Blackthorn: I have reported an oddity flowering at the Hayling Oysterbeds since the New Year and before but on Feb 28 I found a whole tree starting to flower at the foot of Budds Mound in Havant and since then have seen others flowering at Broadmarsh.

English Elm: The purple pinchushion flowers on the few tree still living are now coming out - I saw my first by the Langbrook stream at Langstone on Feb 28

Alexanders: I expect this is now flowering in several places but I have only seen one plant in full flower at Thornham Lane on Thorney Island on Feb 26

Lesser Periwinkle: The plants in Pitts Copse (across the lane from the Stansted Groves) were putting on a magnificent show of flowers on Mar 1

Creeping Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum): Although I have seen this flowering in gardens for some time I was surprised to find a show of it flowering among the brambles and nettles at the Giant Butterbur site beside the Langbrook stream at Langstone on Feb 28. I can only think that it has been there for as long as the Giant and female normal Butterbur plants which were planted on behalf of IBM when they acquired the land in the 1960s and have evaded my eyes ever since!

Coltsfoot: This was flowering on Portsdown, seen in several places by John Goodspeed, on Mar 1

Butterbur: The spikes of female flowers growing in the edge of the Langbrook stream had started to flower on Feb 28

Alpine Squill (Scilla bifolia): When checking the Early Purple orchid site in the Hollybank Woods on Mar 2 I was greatly surprised to find seven flowering plants of Alpine Squill looking well established and naturalised though it seems most likely that they arrived there (perhaps years ago) as the result of some well intentioned person planting them - they made a lovely surprise for me!

OTHER WILDLIFE

Roe Deer: On Feb 27 Durlston Country Park made the first report of a buck starting to shed the velvet from its antlers though on Mar 3 another buck seen there was still in velvet

Water Vole: First sighting of the year in the River Ems was made at Brook Meadow on Feb 24. Although Water Voles are hardly ever seen by us humans between October and March I understand that they do not spend the whole winter asleep, though the only information I can find about what they do in the winter is limited to one sentence on the Kent Wildlife Trust website saying .. "Water voles do not hibernate in the winter but become much less active, spending most of their time in their burrows", and to the following sentence from a Local Heritage Initiative document describing research done in Northumberland saying .. "During the winter, water voles will store food underground in stock piles and will also eat plant roots and tubers when vegetation has died down". Coupling this with other statements that Water Voles normally only come out in daytime (not at night) I guess there must be chances to see them gathering food near their tunnel entrances at least once a week during winter months.

Toads: I think March is normally the time of year when Toads assemble to mate (although this year John Goodspeed has told us of some being paired as early as mid-January and of pawn being seen in the first week of February) so the first report of them being heard at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 2 restores a sense of normality! On Mar 1 I drove past the Brick-kiln ponds at Stansted and was pleased not to see any corpses on the road but the movement to that pond may still be to come.

Adders: We have heard of male Adders being seen at Durlston country park as early as Jan 23 this year (with a second report of two males basking there on Feb 21). Now, on Mar 1, Durlston reports a sighting of two females seen writhing together with the comment that they were probably 'checking out the competition'.

Fungi: Both Orange Peel and Yellow Brain fungi were reported by Durlston on Feb 27


Summary for Feb 19 - 25 (Week 8 of 2007)

In addition to the news below there are some significant late items listed on the Diary page.

BIRDS

Divers: On Feb 19 a large number of birds seen off Glyne Gap (between Hastings and Bexhill) which I think were passage birds moving east (though that was not explicitly stated) included 67 Red-throated and 9 Black-throated. This was partially supported by counts of Red-throated passing Portland - 7 on Feb 20 and 5 on Feb 21 while Dungeness reported 87 east on Feb 16. There was also a count of 60 Red-throated in Rye Bay off Pett on Feb 18. These are all highest counts of the year so far, so not representing winter resident flocks. So far no similar reports of Great Northern on passage but numbers in Portland Harbour seem to be decreasing from a peak of 14 on Jan 7 to 8 on Feb 20 while Hampshire counts have increased to give a peak of 5 in Southampton Water on Feb 21 and 3 off Titchfield on Feb 18. Locally a Black-throated flew out of Chichester Harbour on Feb 21

Great Crested Grebe: These too seem to be leaving us - Dungeness reported 266 east on Feb 18 and on Feb 19 the count at Glyne Gap was 116 (plus 2 Red-necked)

Red-necked Grebe: The single bird that seems to have been around Hayling Island since Jan 2 (and reported on Feb 17 off Northney) was seen again in the Chichester Harbour entrance on Feb 21

Slavonian Grebe: Chichester Harbour had a peak count for the year with 8 off Pilsey on Feb 20 - these may have dropped in on passage as 6 were among the birds off Glyne Gap on Feb 19. Two were still off Black Point (Hayling) on Feb 21

Black-necked Grebe: No local reports since Feb 17. These may be leaving us as a count from Studland Bay (where there had been 19 on Feb 13 and 20 on Feb 16) was down to 2 on Feb 20

Shag: Three were seen in the mouth of Langstone Harbour on Feb 18

Bittern: Single birds were still at Rye Harbour on Feb 19 and at Hatch Pond, Poole, on Feb 21

Little Egret: The group feeding in the Warblington Farm fields still numbered 31 on Feb 23 and Jason Crook tells me he has had a recent roost count of 95 at Langstone Pond (compared with my incomplete count of 71 there on Feb 16)

Mute Swan: The Langstone Pond pair had started nest building on Feb 23 (in a much safer place that last year when their eggs were taken by Foxes). This is the first report of nesting that I have heard of.

Bewick's Swan: On Feb 19 there were still at least 43 in the Arun valley. No reports from Ibsley since Feb 17 when 11 birds were still present.

Pinkfoot Goose: A single bird was seen with Greylags on Amberley Wild Brooks on Feb 18 and before one arrived at Petersfield Heath Pond on Feb 22, again with two Greylags - its origin is unknown but it tolerates people coming within a few feet of it.

Whitefront Goose: The group of 4 on Amberley Wild Brooks was still there on Feb 23 and a group of 24 were still in the Pett area of the Rye Bay shore on Feb 22

Cackling Canada Goose: The small bird was still on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Feb 18

Barnacle Goose: A flock of 30 turned up at Barcombe reservoir near Lewes on Feb 20 - maybe the same flock that was at Rye Harbour on Feb 16

Brent Goose: 12 more reports of birds flying east at sea between Feb 18 and 23 covers a minimum of 1167 birds. In addition to reports from Kent and East Sussex the above reports include 80+ seen from Durlston in Dorset on Feb 20 and 147 seen from Poole Place at the east end of the Bognor shore on Feb 23

Pale-bellied Brent: Four were still at Farlington Marshes on Feb 18 and the five at Portland Ferrybridge were still there on Feb 22

Brant: The West Wittering bird was still there on Feb 23 and one was at Middlebere in Poole Harbour on Feb 21

Red-breasted Goose: The bird seen in the south east of Langstone Harbour on Feb 17 had moved to the east side of Hayling on Feb 21 when it was seen in flight north of Black Point. The flock of 600 Brent that it was with was thought to have come from the Tournerbury Marsh area and thus be away from public viewing when on that Marsh but I happened to be walking along the north shore of Mill Rythe that day and estimated the flock of Brent which I could see on Verner Common to number 600 so if the Red-breasted Goose remains on Hayling it could be worth taking a scope to the shore path I was on.

Mandarin: Keith Betton saw some Madarin on Headley Mill Pond (east of Alton) on Feb 23 - he does not say how many but on 24 Jan 2006 there was a report of 76 Mandarin on this pond.

American Wigeon: One was reported at Titchfield Haven on Feb 18 and may have been there all winter as one was seen there for several days last November

Gadwall: 14 were present on the Budds Farm pools on Feb 19, the highest count I know of in the last couple of years. I have seen 6 here on a couple of occasions and there were 11 on Jan 23.

Mallard: The number on Langstone Pond has decreased recently and on Feb 23 I noticed half a dozen of them in the Warblington farm 'slurry field' - probably an indication that pairs are spreading out to seek nest sites which may be far from water.

Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid: I hear that the male hybrid which has been visiting Langstone Harbour and Budds Farm since its first winter in 1999 is still at Budds Farm but on the last two occasions that I have seen what I thought was this bird (Feb 3 and 19) its plumage has looked duller than I would have expected and Jason Crook tells me that I was probably looking at a female hybrid which has recently arrived there in addition to the male bird

Tufted Duck: Although the bird population at Baffins Pond in Portsmouth seems to have been declining in both numbers and variety in recent years there were still 74 Tufted Duck there on Feb 19 (but only 4 Shoveler - on Feb 2000 there were 36 Shoveler there with 30 in 2001, 18 in 2002, 20 in 2003, 42 in 2004, 70 in 2005 but only 6 in 2006). The equivalent February peaks counts of Tufted Duck there have been 76 in 2000 (setting a record for the pond), 86 in 2001, 36 in 2002, 62 in 2003, 90 in 2004 (new record), 98 in 2005 (new record), and 76 in Feb 2006 after 96 in Jan 2006.

Scaup: These too seem to be leaving us - 8 were in the flock off Glyne Gap at Bexhill on Feb 19 leaving just 3 in the Abbotsbury area of Dorset where there had been 14 on Feb 1

Eider: A count of 42 in the Glyne Gap flock on Feb 19 probably indicates that these too are moving back north - no reports from any where in Hampshire since Feb 10 when there were 57 off Titchfield (compared to 116 on Jan 26)

Common Scoter: More than 530 off Glyne Gap on Feb 19 (but still one in Chichester Harbour off West Wittering on Feb 20) There was one Common left in Portland Harbour on Feb 22 with the single Velvet Scoter that has been there since Jan 1 at least.

Red Kite: Six were seen over Levin Down near Singleton (between Midhurst and Chichester) on Feb 17

Marsh Harrier: A female seen over Christchurch Harbour on Feb 20 was the first for that site this year and probably marks the arrival of birds from abroad (as maybe does a sighting of a male over the Glynde levels near Lewes on Feb 17). Sightings at Titchfield Haven on Feb 16 and 21 were probably of a bird that has wintered here.

Sparrowhawk: A report of three females flying west together over Preston Park in Brighton on Feb 21 also probably indicates spring passage.

Buzzard: As we near the beginning of March we can expect to hear of increasing numbers of Buzzards but as early as Feb 3 Kris Gillam counted 20 in the air together over New Barn Down (near Calbourn south west of Newport on the IoW). On Feb 17 the Havant Wildlife Group counted 12 Buzzards in the Upmarden/Compton area north of Emsworth and on Feb 21 Ian Watts saw 14 east of Winchester and another two over the Portswood area of Southampton. Of local interest I again saw the Warblington Farm bird on Feb 23 as it flew to perch on a dead tree north of the cress beds and east of the farmhouse.

Avocet: 8 could still be seen at Nutbourne Bay on Feb 17 and 2 were in Pagham Harbour on Feb 21.

Lapwing: At least a dozen were making display flights over Verner Common on the east side of Hayling Island on Feb 21

Knot: 52 were at West Wittering for the Feb 17 WeBS count in addition to the 20 counted at Black Point on Hayling. On Feb 18 an estimated 300 were in Newtown Hbr on the IoW and more were seen in Langstone Hbr. 30 were on the west Emsworth shore on Feb 20, probably on the move east.

Sanderling: 135 were seen at West Wittering on Feb 20 after there had been 74 there for the Feb 17 WeBS count (in addition to 250 at Black Point). By Feb 21 there were none to be seen on the Ryde sands.

Little Stint: One was still at Wittering on Feb 17 and one was at Brownsea Island in Poole Hbr on Feb 21

Jack Snipe: One was with 45 Common Snipe in the Sandown area of the IoW on Feb 4, probably passing east

Common Snipe: 15 flushed from winter wheat in the Adur valley just north of the A27 were also probably passing through.

Black-tailed Godwit: I was interested to hear, from the BBC Inside Out programme about Operation Godwit, confirmation of my own opinion that these highly mobile birds think nothing of moving south across the Channel overnight if they are unhappy with their current situation on our south coast. Latest reports that I have seen show that more than 100 were in Pagham Hbr area on Feb 21 and 30 were at Hook/Warsash on Feb 20. Five were at Pulborough on Feb 19 and around 85 in Newtown Hbr (IoW) on Feb 18.

Whimbrel: Wintering birds were seen from Farlington Marshes and Thorney Island on Feb 17 and the Pagham Hbr bird was at Church Norton on Feb 20

Common Sandpiper: The Riverside Park bird was on the Itchen in Southampton on Feb 20 and a group of 4 were on the Adur at Cuckoos Corner (just north of the A27) on Feb 21

Med Gull: 14 separate reports between Feb 18 and 23 show that these birds are becoming increasingly noticeable. Biggest count was of 63 at Sandown Canoe Lake on the IoW on Feb 19 with two counts of 28 from Portland Ferrybirdge and Rye Harbour. On Feb 19 there were at least five at the Budds Farm pools in Havant.

Lesser Blackback Gull: Their spring passage is now getting under way. On Feb 17 Jason Crook saw a group going north over Farlington Marshes at dusk, and on Feb 19 Kris Gillam saw 6 at the Sandown Canoe Lake and noted them as the first spring migrants.

Sandwich Tern: We have already reported one off Hastings on Feb 17 as a possible first migrant and on Feb 19 one was seen off Glyne Gap west of Hastings. On Feb 20 one was confidently proclaimed as the first spring migrant when it arrived in Portland Harbour and that bird was still at Portland on Feb 21

Stock Dove: On Feb 23 the flock on the slurry field at Warblington (which exceeded 150 birds in January) was down to 10 or less. The majority of them may well have flown off to wherever they came from and on both Feb 17 and 19 single birds where noted as arriving in off the sea at Portland.

Wood Pigeon: On Feb 9 a fledgling was seen being fed by its parents in the Eastbourne area (what was probably the same bird was later found dead).

Skylark: Five arrived in off the sea at Portland on Feb 18 and I am sure many more are now on the move.

Meadow Pipit: These are definitely on the move north and on Feb 21 the first song was heard at Pulborough Brooks

Rock Pipit: On Feb 19 Jason Crook found two on the Langstone South Moors shore, one of them a Scandinavian bird in summer plumage. On that day 4 of 6 birds at Christchurch Harbour also had pink breasts. On Feb 21 five of 8 birds at Christchurch had pink breasts and at Durlston that day one was singing in its display flight (first song had been heard there on Jan 29 and 31) and another was singing at Ventnor on Feb 23

Water Pipit: Single birds were seen at Bembridge Foreland area on Feb 17 and one was reported to be at Farlington Marshes on Feb 18

Pied Wagtail: After some birds that roost on Ryde pier had been given colour rings these birds have been seen by day some 3 miles away from the roost at the Bembridge Foreland area and on Brading Marshes (I suspect that some birds commute much further on daily journeys between roost and feeding areas). At Warblington Farm flocks of Wagtails appear around this time of year and these may well be cross-channel migrants - the first such flock was in the 'slurry field' east of Pook Lane on Feb 23 (I only saw 13 birds but there could have been a lot more)

'Alba Wagtails': The first report of migrant birds which cannot be specifically identified as Pied or White came from Portland on Feb 20 with a few more arriving on Feb 21

Whinchat: One seen on Feb 18 at Chesworth Farm on the outskirts of Horsham was almost certainly the wintering bird seen there previously on Jan 5 and 9 and said to have been there since Christmas.

Stonechat: 35 birds arrived from the south at Portland on Feb 18 (the same day that at least 4 new birds were seen at Farlington Marshes - their presence was being objected to by the winter resident birds there) and more arrived at Portland on Feb 19 to bring the count there to 46+. We have long known that birds which breed in Britain tend to move to south coastal areas in winter and that some go on across the channel but there is little detailed knowledge of their movements despite a detailed study of the species by Ewan Urquhart (who makes the Wittering WeBS counts) and a ringing project in the New Forest.

Wheatear: Russell Wynn tells us that this years first migrants (two birds) arrived somewhere in Wales on Feb 18

Blackbird: Although I heard one singing here in Havant on Jan 30 I have not heard them again since though I have reports of them singing regularly in Emsworth since early in February and of them singing daily on Portsdown and at Durlston in the past week or so. Reasons why they birds around my garden are silent could be an absence of competition but perhaps more likely that the females are already sitting on nests - this latter theory is supported by the daily appearance of a male in the garden but very infrequent sightings of his mate.

Chiffchaff: The first migrant arrival was reported by Portland on Feb 18 and what I assume are wintering birds have caused nine reports of song since Feb 16 - I heard my first song here in Havant on Feb 19

Firecrest: One of the two birds that have been at Hook/Warsash for some time started to sing on Feb 20 (not sure if they are a pair), and on Feb 23 one of two described as a pair was singing at Burton Mill Pond west of Pulborough.

Great Grey Shrike: The February Shrike survey in the New Forest on Feb 10/11 could only find one bird (at Holm Hill) and that bird has been reported regularly since the Jan 13/14 survey when there was a second bird at Vales Moor north west of Burley which has not been reported again until it was re-found on Feb 18

Rook: The first news of Rooks having started their nesting comes from Winchelsea where the birds were said to be noisy at their nests on Feb 22

Linnet: Some evidence that winter flocks are starting to break up and birds are returning to breeding areas comes from Hook/Warsash where Bob Marchant noted the first two birds of the year at that site in Feb 23, and from Portsdown where I had my first of the year - a single bird singing from a tree top at the Fort Nelson carpark above Portchester.

Yellowhammer: These started singing on Feb 21 when full song was heard both at Pulborough and at Durlston

Reed Bunting: These had started to sing at Hook/Warsash on Feb 15 and more song was heard at Newhaven on Feb 19. By Feb 21 Peter Hughes at Pulborough Brooks told us that by then they were all singing at his reserve.

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: Feb 17 brought five new reports from different Sussex sites including Stansted Forest

Red Admiral: There were also five reports of these on Feb 17 and one was in my garden here in Havant on Feb 24

Peacock: Just one new report from Lewes on Feb 17

Moths

White-shouldered House Moth: The first for the year was seen at Gosport on Feb 13

Metzneria littorella: Late news from June 2006 but worth reporting was a find of this species at Hastings Country Park last June. This is said to be the first record from mainland Britain though it seems the species has been seen on the Isle of Wight. Part of the interest is that this species relies on a type of habitat (crumbling cliffs of soft rock) which is found at Rock-a-nore, part of Hastings Country Park, but of which there are very few examples in Britain.

The entry on the RX website goes on to say .. "The soft rock cliff at Hastings is constantly eroding creating large areas of landslip debris at the base of the cliffs which is further disturbed by regular landslides and scoured by seepages. This provides the bare disturbed ground that coastal pioneer plants such as buck’s-horn plantain, sea beet and colt’s-foot thrive on and which many scarce specialist insects and spiders require for survival. As the stretch of cliff from Rock-a-nore to Firehills has absolutely no sea defences or cliff erosion protection measures it is listed as one of the finest examples of soft rock cliff in Britain on its Natura 2000 SAC citation and is the reason why a number of specialist soft rock cliff invertebrates can be found at the site". Larvae of this moth feed on the seeds of Buck's Horn Plantain.

I think the reason for putting out this news now is that confirmation of the moth's identity has recently been received from our Southsea moth expert John Langmaid.

Oak Beauty: First of the year was trapped by Ivan Lang at Pagham Hbr on Feb 18 (he had another on Feb 19)

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Two new reports (both from Feb 3) have come from Gosport and Dungeness bringing the total number of sightings for this year to 8

Clouded Drab: Another first of year for Ivan Lang at Pagham on Feb 19 with a second record there on Feb 20

Hebrew Character: First of the year (and earliest ever for the site) was taken at Rye Harbour on Feb 18

PLANTS

Common Fumitory: On Jan 25 I found some scruffy plants which had survived frost and had flowers at Idsworth but I think the true first of year record should go to a patch of fresh plants in flower on Feb 23 beside the A259 where it goes under the A27 bypass at Warblington. Another example of plants thriving in a roadside micro-climate

Common Whitlowgrass: The plants which have been flowering alongside Waterloo Road in Havant since Jan 23 (and now make a great display) were joined on Feb 19 and 23 by first flowers on plants at new sites, indicating the start of the normal flowering season.

Danish Scurvygrass: On Feb 19 I saw the first flower open on one of these plants beside the main road through Langstone village and on Feb 23 there was a good show of flowers in the central reservation of the main road coming into Havant from the Langstone roundabout

Hairy Violet: First flowers were open on the Dorset cliffs at Durlston on Feb 21

Red Campion: A couple of flowers seen on an old plant by the Langbrook stream in Havant were a surprise but not firsts for the year.

Red Clover: A large patch of this with fresh flowers was seen on Feb 23 with the Common Fumitory at the A259 roadside in Warblington

Black Medick: The single roadside plant by Park Road South in Havant which had been flowering up to Jan 12 had revived and had many new flowers on Feb 23

Cherry Plum: This is now showing a mass of blossom everywhere around Havant

Ivy: I was very surprised on Feb 19 to discover two fresh flowerheads with their anthers still showing, indicating that the occasional find of yellow flowerheads (with no anthers) through the winter does imply continued flowering alongside fully ripe black seeds.

Ivy-leaved Toadflax: This had been flowering up to Jan 12 and had restarted by Feb 19

Field Woundwort: The most surprising find of the week was of two plants of this seen on the roadside as you enter the A27 underpass when coming from Church Lane at Warblington. One plant had many flowers, though none were fully open on Feb 23.

White Comfrey: Plants in St Faith's churchyard in central Havant were showing white petals on Feb 20 and had open flowers on Feb 23

Coltsfoot: None yet found locally but after the news of the first flowers at Rye Harbour on Feb 17 there was a second report of flowering from Durlston on Feb 20.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Roe Deer: I had my own sighting of the group of 10 Roe on the north Hayling fields when I was on the path from Tye Farm to Northwood Farm on Feb 21 - they were right out in the open to the north of my path but more than 200 metres from any of the public paths

Adder: These continue to be reported from Durlston - on Feb 21 two were seen basking

Wall Lizard: Several were sunning themselves on the walls of Shoreham Fort on Feb 17

Fungi: Jew's Ear (now Jelly Ear) is widespread and flourishing at the moment. On Feb 21 I found good displays at Woodgaston Lane on Hayling and on Feb 23 it was reported from Rye Harbour while I found it in my own garden (again on Buddleia wood) and in Pook Lane at Warblington more traditionally on Elder.


Summary for Feb 12 - 18 (Week 7 of 2007)

BIRDS

Red-throated Diver: On Feb 10 a total of 5 of these divers flew east off Splash Point at Seaford (just west of Beachy Head) and on Feb 16 Christchurch Harbour reported 6 passing there. Maybe these are the first signs of divers leaving the south coast for northern breeding areas? Another, even less valid, suggestion that divers are leaving us comes from Southampton Water where a series of sightings of up to four Great Northern Divers between Jan 27 and Feb 1 has tailed off to give just two reports of 2 divers on Feb 11 and only 1 on Feb 17. Similarly the regular reports from Jan 10 to Feb 4 of a Black-throated Diver on Sowley Pond near Lymington have now ceased after one further report on Feb 10. On Feb 17 the single Great Northern could be seen in the Chichester Harbour entrance.

Grebes: During a visit to Hayling Island on Feb 17 Steve Mansfield saw all five Grebe species including a single Red-necked off Northney, at least two Slavonian in the Chichester Harbour entrance and four Black-necked seen from Broadmarsh.

Fulmar: New reports of birds back at cliff breeding ledges come from the Seaford area on Feb 10 and the Fairlight cliffs at Hastings where on Feb 13 some birds were fighting each other for possession of mates or nest ledges.

Little Egret: On Feb 13 the count of birds leaving the night roost at Rye Harbour was 55 and on the evening of Feb 16 at least 71 entered the Langstone Pond roost. Looking back to Barry Collins record of roost counts on Thorney Island during the 1990s we can expect similar figures to the current ones again in March but can expect the counts to drop dramatically in April, May and June unless the birds decide to breed at these sites.

Grey Heron: On Feb 8 the heronry at Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex had 8 occupied nests and on Feb 11 there was a report of some Herons nesting at the Warnham nature reserve at Horsham

Mute Swan: On Feb 12 there were still 89 Swans on the three Emsworth ponds but those birds that intend to breed area mostly back on territory by now. One has been seen back on the IBM Lake at Portsmouth and another had returned to Aldsworth Pond north of Emsworth by Feb 13, on Feb 15 a pair was on Sinah gravel pit and by Feb 16 anyone passing the Langstone Pond could expect to be greeted by a pair of very defensive Swans with their wings raised in the 'busking' position.

An interesting fact provided by Brian Fellows at Emsworth comes as a result of his noticing that one of the adult Swans there does not have the normal black legs and feet of a Mute Swan but has both legs and feet coloured pink. He investigated and found that this is normal for those few Swans, called 'Polish Swans', which start life as cygnets wearing white plumage when they should be in the brown of a normal cygnet, and it seems this colour aberration continues in the adult swan, manifested by the pink feet and legs (these are otherwise normal Mute Swans)

Bewick's Swan: The group of 11 were still at Ibsley on Feb 17 along with the Black Swan.

Canada Goose: On Feb 11 the 'white' bird was still with the Titchfield Haven flock

Lesser Canada Goose: On Feb 10 and 12 there were reports from the Cuckmere Valley near Beachy Head of three birds which were thought to be 'Lesser Canada Geese (Branta canadensis parvipes)'. On Feb 15 a bird at Ivy Lake, Chichester, was more vaguely described as being of one of the smaller races of Canada Goose (maybe this was the bird seen at Pagham North Walls on Oct 30 and Nov 15?)

Brent Goose: Feb 10 brought three more reports of these flying east - 155 were counted going east in one hour off Spalsh Point at Seaford, 103 flew east past Worthing and around 20 were noted going east off Shoreham. On Feb 17 another 57 went past Worthing. Here in the Langstone area an unusually large flock of around 1000 birds has been together since at least Feb 5, feeding on fields by day and returning to the water at dusk - they were still there on Feb 16

Black Brant: The West Wittering bird was still there on Feb 16 and another was still in Poole Harbour on Feb 17 but the Gosport bird has not been reported since Jan 29

Red-breasted Goose: No reports from the Lymington area since Feb 5 but on Feb 15 one was seen back at Portland Ferrybridge though it could not be found on Feb 16. On Feb 17 one turned up in the southeast corner of Langstone Harbour and was feeding on grass in the shore field by the Sinah Warren pony stables - in my opinion this is the same bird that has been circulating since November and which has now joined the eastward movement of departing Brent.

Others disagree and photos taken at Portland on Feb 15 and last November (when this winter's bird first hit the headlines by arriving at Ferrybridge) are shown on the Portland website and differences in the markings are pointed out - the website suggests this proves the November and February birds are different but to my mind the fact that all the reports during this winter show no sign of two birds, just one moving from time to time in a very feasible pattern of locations, makes the likelihood of more than one bird rather unlikely while plumage of any individual bird can vary a great deal between November and February.

Egyptian Goose: On Feb 11 one birder was surprised to hear unusual calls and to find they were coming from an Egyptian Goose perched on the top branch of a large oak tree near a pond in Petworth Park.

Grey Partridge: Steve Keen added this species to his year list when one flew across the road in front of his car near Droxford in the Meon Valley on Feb 17. Earlier in the week there was a very interesting message on Hoslist from Peter Thompson (who works for the Game Conservancy). What he had to say about the ability of Partridges to hide themselves from birders is worth quoting in full ..

“Mike’s comments on not seeing Grey partridge on the Manydown estate in the last three years raises an interesting point. As the estate count their Greys every Autumn and sends the count results to the Game Conservancy Trust - I checked up and last autumn 175 Grey partridge were counted on 1,400 hectares - so thinly spread - the total estate is 2240 hectares - but only suitable areas are counted. The way we count Grey Partridge is different to the counting of other bird species as we do it from a vehicle. Grey partridge are very adept at disappearing when someone appears, but generally ignore vehicles. We drive in a "W" shape across stubble fields after harvest, counting partridge in the first two or last two hours of daylight. Probably therefore, BTO counts of Grey partridge by foot are an "under-count" of the species. This is certainly not a criticism, as these counts would indeed show trends etc and therefore are of course valuable.

“A wonderful farm on the Kent coast of around 134 hectares, counted 266 Grey partridge last Autumn. Earlier on in the year the Kent field club - which included some birders in their midst - spent a day on the farm recording the wildlife - Grey partridge were not recorded!”

Another message on the same theme described how Partridges can flatten themselves to the ground and remain motionless, making themselves invisible to the keenest eyed birder standing just yards away from them.

Shelduck: A count of 95 Shelduck seen from the Langstone village seawall at low tide on the evening of Feb 16 was a continuance of this winter's large flock in that corner of Chichester Harbour and hopefully represents an end to the decline in numbers we have seen there in the past ten years or more. In the winters from 2000 to the present the highest count I have recorded here was 78 (most counts well below 50) but this winter the average count has been around 50 with counts of 82 and now 95 seen without an exhaustive search for them.

Wigeon: This winter's unusually high counts of these also continue - on Feb 4 there were 520 at Titchfield Haven, on Feb 15 there were 580 at Christchurch Harbour (admittedly these probably came from an even larger number in the Avon Valley), and on Feb 16 there were 816 at the Blashford Lakes. (Back in January there were 1300 at the Lower Test and 2200 in the Pulborough/Amberley area)

Gadwall: Of local interest there was a pair on Aldsworth Pond on Feb 13

Pintail: On Feb 16 the count at Blashford Lakes was 182 and of local interest there was still one to be seen off the Emsworth west shore on Feb 14

Lesser Scaup: On Feb 17 John Clark drove north to Sonning Eye in Oxfordshire and saw Lesser Scaup alongside a normal Greater Scaup

Goosander: An evening roost count of these at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 16 gave an unexpected 58 birds (including at least 21 drakes) - the Hampshire Bird Reports for 1999 to 2003 show no counts of more than 30 for that site. On Feb 17 there were 17 roosting at Bramshill in north Hampshire and 20 at the Blashford Lakes.

Red Kite: One flew south over the East Park at Stansted on Feb 15 and on Feb 12 one was seen in Dorset over the Horton Inn in the valley of the River Allen north of Wimborne

Oystercatcher: There are now fewer on the harbour shores as they move to breeding areas. On Feb 14 Rye Harbour reported 'many displaying and pairing - one seen scraping a nest'

Ringed Plover: On Feb 15 an isolated pair crouching on the shingle at Gunner Point on Hayling may well have been 'on territory'

Golden Plover: On Feb 14 I watched a flock of around 80 on the mud east of Langstone Pond - my first tick for the year! At Pennington (Lymington) a flock of an estimated 690 birds was seen on Feb 15 with 650 reported there on Feb 17.

Lapwing: A winter flock of around 2000 was at Pulborough Brooks on Feb 14 but on the same day birds at the Pannel Valley (east of Rye) were displaying and on Feb 15 birds at Farlington Marshes were also displaying and disputing territory and/or mates

Sanderling: A flock of 250 was in the Black Point high tide roost on Hayling for the WeBS count on Feb 17. Along with them were 150 Ringed Plover, 20 Knot and 1000 Dunlin plus a few others. Also in that area were 850 Brent.

Little Stint: One was still in the West Wittering area on Feb 16.

Purple Sandpiper: After this winter's peak count of 17 at Southsea Castle on Feb 13 there were still 16 there on Feb 15

Black-tailed Godwit: The Titchfield Haven website had one of it unpredictable updates this week bringing its news up to Feb 10 from Dec 31, and among the new entries I found a report of 450+ Blackwits there on Jan 7 (other counts at Titchfield were 200 on 1 Jan, 210 on 3 Jan, 200+ on 20 Jan, and 180+ on 31 Jan). Currently there is still a large flock in the Avon Valley and on Feb 17 the CHOG website said .. "Just after 10:30, something disturbed birds in the Avon Valley, but presumably not shooting, as the inland season finished last month". Normally the Blackwits would have gone south but this time they went north as shown by an email from Bob Chapman at the Blashford Lakes which said .. "Record of the day from Blashford was of c1200 Black-tailed Godwits flying north over the centre about lunchtime. I assume there was something going on down at Avon Causeway area, not sure where they went though".

Spotted Redshank: On Feb 14 the one time regular bird was back in the Maisemore Gardens stream flowing into Chichester Harbour at the west end of the Emsworth shoreline where it had not been seen for a week.

Med Gull: Late news from Portland gives their maximum count for the winter as 60 birds at Ferrybridge in late January. Current news is of the birds returning to the areas where they will breed and announcing their presence by their distinctive calling - this calling was first heard in the Langstone area on Feb 4 but during the past few days the birds have been doing more to make their presence there known. On Feb 15 I heard two of them calling - one over Langstone Bridge and another at the Langstone Harbour entrance and I also saw an adult in near full breeding plumage at the Oysterbeds. On Feb 16 two adults were flying just off Langstone village and on Feb 17 Steve Keen found 16 adults at the Oysterbeds and heard much calling. In recent years this sort of report would not have come until early to mid March and the main return (with groups of 60 to 100 birds seen in the area) would have been at the beginning of April so maybe we will have to be patient for a bit longer!

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still there on Feb 17

Common Gull: 500 flying west off Portland on Feb 13 indicates that some are already heading back to breeding areas.

Iceland Gull: The last reported sighting was from Titchfield Haven on Feb 10

Great Black-back Gull: An estimated 1200 birds in the Cuckmere valley near Beachy Head on Feb 10 must have been impressive.

Little Gull: On Feb 17 a first winter bird was hawking for insects at Pulborough Brooks and on Feb 15 one was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) - these are the first reports since a run of sightings that ended on Jan 24

Sandwich Tern: Two seen off Titchfield Haven on Feb 12 were almost certainly wintering birds, as was one in the Chichester Harbour entrance on Feb 17, but one seen flying past Hastings early on Feb 17 (where there has been no reported winter sightings) could have been an early migrant....

Stock Dove: At least 40 were still feeding in the Warblington field south of the Old Rectory on Feb 14 and among them was what appeared to be a pure white albino (on Christmas Day I had seen a pale coffee coloured bird with them). At dusk on Feb 16 at least 30 came to roost in the trees near Langstone Pond.

Long-eared Owl: On Feb 13 two were still roosting at Rye Harbour but on Feb 15 only one was seen (no proof of departure but they will be off soon).

Woodlark: Plenty of reports of these now singing including at least one bird in the East Park at Stansted which has been heard by several people in the past week (last on Feb 15). I hear that Michael Prior has said that there was a wintering flock of up to 20 birds in the same area. On the weekend of Feb 10/11 at least 23 birds were heard singing in the New Forest.

Skylark: These have already started full song over their breeding areas. Locally I have heard them over the west Hayling fields but so far none at all on the Warblington fields - will this be the year in which they cease to breed there? When Tony Gutteridge started his CBC on this farm in 1977 he recorded 33 breeding pairs but by 2005 this was down to just 5 pairs (then 7 pairs in 2006). In the Up Marden area to the north east of Stansted Forest the Havant Wildlife Group reckoned there were at least 100 Skylarks in the large fields thereabouts on Feb 17.

Pipits: The first Meadow Pipit came in off the sea at Portland on Feb 4 but there has been no significant movement of these so far. Rock and Water Pipit reports have increased. Rock Pipits breed on the Isle of Wight and at Hengistbury so reports of a dozen near the Needles on Feb 13 and 20 at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 15 may be of birds returning to nest but among the latter there were several probable Scandinavian birds (one already getting less drab looking). On Feb 15 one Water Pipit arrived at Christchurch Harbour and another four turned up at Poole Harbour.

Stonechat: These have been counted in the New Forest in each of the monthly winter bird surveys from November to February and the numbers reported read 66 (for Nov), 61, 42, and just 13 in Feb - this drop, at a time when birds might be expected to start returning to the Forest to breed, is causing some concern, but with it comes news that the number of Dartford Warblers (which seemed to have plummeted earlier in the winter) are now recovering. Maybe the drop in Stonechats shows that the birds seen earlier in the winter were actually wintering birds from the north which have left before the Forest breeders which had gone further south have returned.

Blackbird: Although there is lots of birdsong now from other species Blackbirds have not yet joined the daily chorus - may be they will do so next week as Durlston Country Park has had birds singing since Feb 16 (to 18) (Both Song and Mistle Thrushes are now singing daily in the Havant area)

Yellow-browed Warbler: The bird at Hawley Meadows (Farnborough) was still being seen on Feb 14 and there is now a good report of another in the Andover area, seen there since Feb 5

Chiffchaff: One was singing at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 16 (only two previous reports of song at Romsey on Jan 15 and at Fishbourne, Chichester on Feb 3). Feb 16 also brought this year's third report of Blackcap song - this one at New Milton.

Long-tailed Tit: Two pairs were nest building in the Climping area (west of Littlehampton) on Feb 13

Marsh Tit: I heard my first song coming from tree tops in the Southleigh Forest on Feb 13 - probably not first of the year but I have not seen any earlier reports.

Raven: The daily diary written by rangers at Durlston Country Park starts (on Feb 18) with .. "As my early patrol begun the sound from overhead of 3 Ravens croaking caught the attention, these massive corvids in the throws of displaying. Ravens are one of the earliest breeders along the coast, so one of these three will loose out! The long necks, wedge shaped tail and ruff of feathers all standing out well today".

House Sparrow: I have noticed a big drop in the size of the flock of House Sparrows coming to feed in my garden recently and on Feb 17 I heard chirping from the guttering of my house where I presume one bird was investigating potential nest sites.

Reed Bunting: First report of Reed Bunting song comes from Hook near Warsash where 4 males were singing on Feb 15

Corn Bunting: On Feb 14 a flock of 75 was seen on the east side of the Adur where it cuts through the Downs and if I read the report aright more of them were seen on the Downs west of the river.

Escapees: On Feb 10 a Derbyan Parakeet was seen in the north of the West Walk woods in the Meon valley near Wickham - this was a new one on me but a search of the internet shows that it is a popular cage bird with a green back and blueish underparts, the face is white with a black chin.

On Feb 17 a Harris Hawk with jesses on its legs was seen perched on a tree in the Boarhunt area west of Portsdown.

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: Maybe one more has emerged from hibernation in Stansted Forest for when Adrian Hoskins went to look under the leaf where he had watched one in hibernation on various occasions up to Jan 28 it was no longer there on Feb 3 (there are of course other possible reasons for its absence!). One was flying in Ashdown Forest on Feb 17.

Large White: A report saying that one had been seen on the Isle of Wight on Jan 19 may well be true but it could have been a female Brimstone (no other winter sightings of Large White but several of Brimstones)

Red Admiral: Nine more reports for Feb 2 and 3. At Tadley near Basingstoke four were nectaring on the same bush and in Stansted Forest Adrian Hoskins counted 18 in one visit and thinks there were more there. Since then there have been eight more reports up to Feb 17

Small Tortoiseshell: Feb 3 also brought out two of these - one on the shore west of Newhaven and one at Fleet Services on the M3

Peacock: One at Blashford Lakes on Feb 2 and one in Ashdown Forest on Feb 17

Comma: One in Stansted Forest on Feb 3

Moths

Brown Plume (Emmelina monodactyla): First report for the year comes from the Odiham area on Feb 6

December Moth: One in an Isle of Wight trap on Feb 2 was probably the latest date ever

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Four more sightings - on Feb 4 one was feeding from a Daphne plant in Havant and another was seen on the wing near where one had been seen in hibernation since Nov 16 and which was now absent (no location given but maybe on the Isle of Wight?). The third sighting of an active insect was at Ventnor on the IoW on Feb 8 and the latest was at Hove on Feb 17

Small Quaker: First for the year at Findon (just north of Worthing) on Feb 15

Other Insects

Spiders: On Feb 17 Barry Yates at Rye Harbour writes of seeing around .. "100+ young Nursery Web Spiders (Pisaura mirablis) basking on leaves, fence posts and even my old wicker chair. In common with wolf-spiders, with which they are closely related, immatures of this species can often be found on warm days during the winter, but I have never seen them anywhere in these numbers. Also active today were a couple of Zebra Jumping-spider (Salticus scenicus), hunting around the door frame".

Hoverfly: On Feb 17 Barry Yates also saw .. "my first hoverfly of the year, a lovely male Eristalinus aeneus, the earliest one I have ever seen!"

PLANTS

Green Hellebore: At least two plants among the half dozen or so lining Woodlands Lane above Walderton had fully open flowers on Feb 13

Barren Strawberry: On Feb 16 two plants were in flower in the Sling area of Stansted Forest

Spurge Laurel: A large bush in the edge of Lordington Copse beside Woodlands Lane at Walderton had many open flowers on Feb 13

Common Alder: Although not the first to flower I noted several trees laden with fully open catkins at Langstone Pond on Feb 16

Coltsfoot: The first report of this in flower comes from Rye Harbour on Feb 17 - none yet seen locally.

Giant Butterbur (Petasites japonicus): The plants surviving by the Langbrook Stream at Langstone numbered 80 when Brian Fellows saw them on Feb 12

Sticky Groundsel: One very subdued plant of this had a couple of flowers open on the Gunner Point grassland (south Hayling) on Feb 15 when I was looking for and finding a good show of leaf rosettes of the Green Winged Orchids that will flower there in a month or more.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Roe Deer: Pete Durnell's book describing the Wildlife of Hayling Island mentions Roe Deer only in the species list of mammals that have been recorded on the island but does not mention the species anywhere else in the description of the various inhabitants of the island, and my database has no records of Roe until 26 Dec 2004 when Simon Wright reported a sighting of two on the open plain of the north Hayling fields.

I heard no more of them until February of 2006 when a party of 6 was seen on the same fields, and that group of 6 was reported again in April of 2006. Later in that year I saw two of them as I was cycling down St Peter's Road from Northney and this year new reports show that the group on the north Hayling fields has grown to at least 12 animals (a group of 8 were seen on Jan 11 and 9 were seen on Feb 14 by Alistair Martin who has heard that Andy Johnson has seen 12 there).

Maybe these are all the result of one pregnant doe crossing the bridge or swimming to the island (other hypotheses can be imagined ..) but the end result is likely to be an increasing population of the deer on the island unless something controls the animals' natural instincts. On the mainland we see more Roe each year and what used to be isolated pairs and family groups have now become 'herds'. This growth also occurs with the Fallow Deer population but that growth is to some extent controlled by culling, and as well as the above new reports of Roe on Hayling I have this week heard reports of a pick-up truck being seen carrying three Fallow corpses that had been culled - no question of poaching though that also occurs locally - when carrying out a Breeding Bird Survey a couple of years ago I stumbled on two sets of bones (likely to be of Fallow deer) which had clearly been 'butchered', each set being of the neck and rib case bones plus the spine down to just behind the ribs where the spine had been cleanly severed with no sign of the rump or back legs (which were probably carried away with their meat attached)

Mole: Walking through the Warblington farm fields on Feb 14 I had my first sight of an annual occurrence which occurs in damp ground at this time of year - a great mass of fresh molehills. I am not sure why this happens but I realise that (a) many worms are driven up to the surface as the lower ground becomes waterlogged and hungry moles don't want to miss out, (b) digging is easy in the damp soil and this gives the moles a good opportunity to repair and extend their tunnels, and (c) the moles are no doubt feeling the call of spring and are both actively seeking a partner and/or creating the large chambers in which the young will be born.

As an aside to this I heard a radio programme this week which told me that when fields become flooded some worms go deep and are able to survive in air pockets below the water while there are some worm species that are semi-aquatic.

Red Squirrel: Derek Hale's Isle of Wight bird news includes his sightings of Red Squirrels but he normally sees them in ones or twos (last year his peak count was of 4) so a count of 8 in Firestone Copse on Feb 16 probably means that they think the winter is over, and you can draw your own conclusions from his remark that most of the Squirrels were seen in pairs.

Pipistrelle Bat: On Jan 28 a small bat was seen flying by day in the Langstone area and now on Feb 10 comes a report of a Pipistrelle seen flying around a garden (no location given) for three hours at midday (11:30 to 14:30).

Frog: There were reports of frogspawn on Jan 10 and 20 but five more reports in the period Feb 2 to 12 show that spawning is now occurring generally. One report that is of special interest come from Catherington where the first spawn appeared on Feb 12 - the interest lying in the fact that (while spawn was seen in that pond on Feb 11 in 2003 and Feb 6 in 2004) no spawn was found in either 2005 or 2006. I have heard many reports of Frogs vanishing from areas in recent years, but this is the first news of them returning to a pond. Maybe it is just chance but it could be that the high Frog mortality rate which has persisted for the best past of ten years is now changing and that the virulent 'Red Leg disease' virus has run its course to allow Frog populations to build up again - we can but hope.

Toad: Last week I reported the first Toad spawn, seen in a Portsdown garden pond in the first week of February. As I was under the impression that Toads do not spawn until March I must admit that I did wonder if the observer knew the difference between Frog and Toad spawn but we now have news from an unimpeachable source that Toads were already paired in a garden pond at the foot of Portsdown by mid-January (although that report did not actually mention spawning I doubt the Toads would have remained paired for two weeks or more without some spawning!)

Cuttlefish: Among many Cuttlefish bones washed up on the shore at Rye Harbour on Feb 17 was one complete Cuttlefish - maybe we will soon be seeing the same in our harbours though I think the post-breeding wreck normally occurs later. I recall finding several of the rotting corpses on the Warblington Farm fields while doing CBC visits after mid-March - Foxes finding these very smelly objects like to roll on them and carry them to their earths as ‘air fresheners’.


Summary for Feb 5 - 11 (Week 6 of 2007)

BIRDS

Black-throated Diver: All three diver species remain in our area but I see that Black-throated, usually the least common, was well represented with three seen together in Southampton Water on Feb 3 in addition to the bird on Sowley Pond near Lymington (up to Feb 4 at least). On Feb 4 one appeared in Chichester Harbour and spent an hour feeding in Stocker's Lake before flying to the Thorney Channel. Latest report was of one off Durlston in Dorset on Feb 5

Great Northern Diver: One remains a regular sight in the mouth of Chichester Harbour where I had close views of it down to about 100 metres on Feb 6

Red-necked Grebe: In addition to the few sightings in Chichester Harbour during January what was probably the same bird was seen in Langstone Harbour at least once on Jan 24. On Feb 3 it was back in Chichester Harbour seen from Black Point. The bird that has regularly appeared off Puckpool Point on the IoW was there again on Feb 1

Slavonian Grebe: The HOS website tells us of just two sightings in Langstone Harbour on Jan 15 and 24 - these are the first reports I have heard of for this harbour since Jan 1. More recently there was one off the mouth of the Beaulieu River on Feb 5

Black-necked Grebe: I have at last got this on my year list with a sighting of 18 birds seen from the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 7

Fulmar: Around 12 birds were seen near St Catherine's Point (IoW) on Feb 3 - 7 of them were perched on ledges. Another 3 pairs were seen between Saltdean and Rottingdean (east of Brighton) on Feb 6.

Cormorant: Some people dislike these birds less than most fishermen do but I guess that a roost of more than 300 at Rye Harbour on Feb 5 did not bring joy to anyone's heart. Last year the management team at Rye Harbour was forced to cut down a lot of trees overhanging Castle Water because Cormorant droppings from these trees were seriously polluting the water but that does not seem to have deterred the birds from favouring that reserve where several hundred breed. The number of Cormorants there has reached 500 in late summer when the young birds are present in additon to their parents, but I think a count of 300 at this time of year is a record and shows continuing population growth.

Shag: Single immature birds (maybe the same bird?) were seen at Southsea Castle on Feb 10 and by the Hayling Ferry (mouth of Langstone Harbour) on Feb 7

Little Egret: On Feb 5 a group of around 30 were feeding/sheltering in the fields around the Warblington Farmhouse and at Rye Harbour that day a total of 57 left the night roost.

Mute Swan: The count of 98 at Emsworth's Town Millpond on Jan 27 has been beaten into second place by a count of 123 leaving the night roost on Castle Water at Rye Harbour on Feb 5

Brent Goose: It seems that these are leaving us earlier than usual this winter - by Feb 7 at least 1750 had been seen flying east past Dungeness and a flock of 28 seen on Flat Beach at Rye Harbour on Feb 8 was probably made up of birds heading the same way. Here in the Havant area the harbour shores are often bare of Brent but the birds can be found gathered into larger than usual flocks on fields (e.g. a tight packed flock of up to 1000 birds seen on Feb 5 on a grass field between Pook Lane and Wade Farm). I suspect this packing together is part of the process of psyching themselves up for the long journey ahead - it is certainly not the result of lack of food elsewhere nor of disturbance elsewhere.

Pale-bellied Brent: News that there have been four of these (plus one Brant) present in Langstone Harbour thoughout January has eventually appeared in the January summary published on the HOS website

Red-breasted Goose: The singleton was still in the west Solent near the mouth of the Beaulieu River on Feb 5

Scaup: The immature drake which had been seen on the river at Titchfield Haven from Jan 1 to 19 then disappeared but was seen again, looking smarter than before, on Feb 10

Long-tailed Duck: The bird which had first been seen to fly into Chichester Harbour on Jan 29 has been seen flying out of the harbour at dusk on at least six days from Feb 3 to 9 but there have been no reports of its presence from Sussex birders.

Common Scoter: Three were seen on the sea off Titchfield Haven on Feb 10, not quite as impressive as the 300+ seen close inshore at Rye Harbour on the same day.

Goosander: I have previously reported two isolated sightings of a redhead Goosander in the Sinah Gravel Pit lake this winter but I hear that people with access to the lake have seen it at the west end of the water near one of the two small islands throughout the winter.

Marsh Harrier: One was seen at Titchfield Haven on Feb 7 and I gather that up to two birds have been present there since at least Jan 24 though I have only seen four reports so far this year.

Buzzard: We are now coming to the time of year when Buzzards show themselves most prominently but the only recent reports of soaring groups come from Pulborough Brooks on Feb 3 and from Lee hamlet on the River Test south of Romsey on Feb 7 - in both cases 9 birds were seen together.

Peregrine: These are now pairing up and displaying pairs have been seen at Chichester cathedral on Feb 4 and at Christchurch Priory on Feb 3

Avocet: I think the flock of 20+ birds has now dispersed from the Farlington Marshes area but 7 could still be seen there on Feb 2 and 6 were in Pagham Harbour on Feb 3. More interesting was the first news of 3 birds back at Titchfield Haven (where they bred last year) on Feb 4

Lapwing: Pulborough Brooks reported an estimated 11,000 Lapwing there on Feb 3 - sadly they are unlikely to remain and nest in southern counties...

Knot: I have at last got these on my year list with half a dozen seen in the high tide roost at Black Point on Hayling, seen on Feb 6

Sanderling: I also ticked this species at Black Point on Feb 6 - one of the 20+ birds there had only one leg, enhancing the effect of its 'clockwork mouse' progress along the sand at the tide's edge.

Purple Sandpiper: Numbers at Southsea Castle increased to 14 on Feb 8 and then to 17 on Feb 10, probably as a result of the birds having already started their spring movement eastwards. The count will have to increase a lot more to match the total of 32 seen there on 14 March 1982.

Ruff: Maybe these are also starting to move in reponse to thoughts of spring - a group of 6 at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 10 were the first to be seen there this year but as they came south from the Avon Valley they may have been just responding to local disturbance

Snipe: Another species that seems to be on the move - I found my first of the year in the marshy 'orchid field' of Langstone South Moors on Feb 9 when I disturbed 9 or more birds from wetland where I have not found them earlier in the winter (this is a typical stop-over place for groups of birds on passage). No Jack Snipe were seen with them but on Jan 25 a total of 7 were found at Farlington Marshes.

Black-tailed Godwit: These too are perhaps becoming restless in response to the call of spring. While the main flocks have remained in the Pagham Harbour/Fishbourne channel area in the east and in the Avon valley in the west of our local area small groups have been reported at various places including a dozen back on the Emsworth shore on Feb 5 and half a dozen at Langstone village that day (and similar numbers remaining in this part of Chichester Harbour to Feb 10 at least). There have also been reports of 52 at Farlington Marshes on Feb 3, 35 at Pulborough Brooks on Feb 5 and 202 at Titchfield Haven on Feb 10.

Spotted Redshank: One had returned to the Emsworth west shore on Feb 5 and 7 and one was in the Redshank roost at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 7 (it is probably there on most days)

Herring Gull: A pair of adults were displaying on the water of the Hayling Oysterbeds lagoon on Feb 7 to remind us that the island in that lagoon will soon be filling up with breeding birds.

Sandwich Tern: Three were seen in the Titchfield Haven area on Feb 10 and at least one was seen in Langstone Harbour on Jan 23 in addition to regular sightings around the mouth of Chichester Harbour throughout January.

Barn Owl: There has been a noticeable increase in the number of daytime hunting birds seen recently as they get ready for their breeding season. Five reports from different sites between Feb 3 and 7 include on from the Finchdean area north of Rowlands Castle where a report on Feb 3 said that a bird there could regularly be seen hunting by day. There has been a similar increase in reports of Little Owls including a pair to be seen at Idsworth just north of Finchdean (and the birds at Hoe Cross to the west of Hambledon have also been seen on Feb 3)

Short-eared Owl: The sight of one hunting in the New Forest (west of Brockenhurst) on Feb 5 probably indicates that some of these owls have started moving north (perhaps from France?) as there have been no previous sightings at this well watched site earlier in the winter.

Woodlark: These are now returning to their breeding areas and singing, not only in the New Forest but at two sites much closer to Havant - one around Markwells Wood north of Finchdean and Forestside, the other in the East Park of Stansted Forest.

Rock Pipit: I saw my first for the year on the Langstone South Moors shore on Feb 9 - probably a bird moving back to its breeding quarters as I have not seen them here this winter. Numbers at Christchurch Harbour have also increased with a count of 15 there on Feb 10 - on Feb 7 there was one good example of a Scandinavian bird there, already showing some breeding plumage.

Water Pipit: The HOS summary for January reveals that up to three have been at Farlington Marshes during the past month. At least on was at the Lymington marshes on Jan 26 and five were at the Lower Test on Jan 31

Pied Wagtail: These are also on the move with the first report of one coming in off the sea at Portland Bill on Feb 6

Black Redstart: One of these was also 'new in' at Portland on Feb 10

Blackbird: One was heard singing at Emsworth on Feb 4 and more than one was singing there on Feb 7 but so far no general start of song.

Dartford Warbler: At least four were singing in the New Forest on Feb 3

Blackcap: The first report of full song came from the Southampton area on Feb 4

Chiff Chaff: Two were singing at the Apuldram sewage works near Chichester on Feb 3

Tree Creeper: One had been heard making noises (probably singing) at Durlston on Jan 31 but the first definite report of a pair seen with the male singing comes from the Isle of Wight on Feb 10

Rook: I do not think of these as migrants but Portland reported the first coming in off the sea on Feb 4

Raven: A group of 8 were together at Tarrant Rushton airfield (east of Blandford in Dorset) on Feb 5

Brambling: There have been few reports of these this winter - last winter Daryl Short in the Fishlake area north of Romsey had 50 Brambling in his garden at this time of year, this year his very first did not turn up until Feb 8.

Siskin: These two have been in short supply but on Feb 3 the number to be seen around Paul Hoare's garden in the Whiteley area of Fareham had increased to around 30.

Hawfinch: On Feb 8 Daryl Short heard one 'singing' at the Rhinefield Arboretum night roost site (where up to 12 birds have been seen recently). I had to look up details of this bird's 'song' and find it to be a quiet and confused jumble of monosyllabic notes.

Escapees: It is some time since I first heard of the Scarlet Headed Blackbird that has been on the loose in the Medina valley area of the Isle of Wight but the picture of it which Derek Hale has put on his website after seeing it again on Feb 7 is impressive - it is a blackbird with a complete scarlet head and neck. Two Fulvous Whistling Ducks seen at Titchfield Haven on Feb 10 may well have been part of the group of four that were at the Chichester lakes on Nov 18 last year.

INSECTS

Butterflies

Brimstone: We have now had six reports of these flying during 2007. Of the new reports I have seen this week one is late news of a female seen at Selham (just east of Midhurst) on Jan 20. More recently there was one at Bartley Heath in north Hampshire on Jan 28, another at Yew Hill near Winchester on Jan 31, followed by one in north Fareham on Feb 2 and the last at Coldwaltham near Pulborough on Feb 3

Red Admiral: We now have an incredible 77 reports of this species for the year, 17 of them in February.

Large Tortoiseshell: Extremely uncommon at any time of year I was amazed to hear that one had been found on Jan 28 flying at Portland Bill where it was caught and taken into care but died after a few days. (Photo on the Portland website)

Camberwell Beauty: Equally amazing was the find of one hibernating at Peamarsh (just west of Rye) on Feb 4

Peacock: Seventh report for this year comes from Wadhurst in East Sussex on Feb 2

Comma: Second report for the year comes from Appledore near New Romney in Kent on Feb 3

Moths

Light Brown Apple Moth: First for the year found flying at dusk in Gosport on Jan 24

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: The first two reports for the year are both of flying insects already out of hibernation. One was feeding from Pansies at the Royal Victoria Country Park (Southampton) on Jan 31 and the second was on Winter Jasmine in the Wallington area of Fareham on Feb 1

Common Quaker: One was reported from Wadhurst in East Sussex on Jan 20

The Satellite: Also at Wadhurst in East Sussex but on Jan 30

The Chestnut: Also at Wadhurst in East Sussex on Jan 30 (a second specimen was taken at Pagham Harbour on Jan 31)

The Herald: John Goodspeed has heard of one hibernating in a house and occasionally seen moving from one dark corner to another. I understand that the full name of this insect is 'The Herald of Spring' but in view of the numerous moths already on the wing this one is not doing a good job of being their forerunner!

Other insects

Gorse Shieldbug (Piezodorus lituratus): I think this is not an uncommon species but I was not aware of it until I saw its photo on the Portland website where many had been found emerging from hibernation in Gorse on Feb 5

PLANTS

Sea Rocket (Cakile maritima): One plant of this had several flowers on it when I was walking along the causeway to the Black Point sailing club on Hayling Island on Feb 6

Red Clover: My first find of this in flower was in Havant close to the Langstone roundabout on Feb 8 - while the flowers were fresh both flowerheads were drooping as their thin stems had been weakened by frost.

Grey Poplar: A tall mature tree growing beside Wade Court Road in Havant always flowers much earlier than others of its species and by using my binoculars to scan the upper branches on Feb 5 I could see that several catkins were already starting to open

Lesser Periwinkle: Just one flower was open, sheltering within the bottom of a thick hedge across East Leigh road from Locks Farm, in the Denvilles area of Havant on Feb 8

Ivy-leaved Speedwell: Last week I reported by first find of this in flower at Bedhampton on Feb 2 but that was a single isolated specimen. On Feb 5 I found a whole clump of flowering plants on the old wall running along the south side of St Faith's churchyard in Havant. (In the churchyard and elsewhere plants of White Comfrey had started to develop flowerheads but so far I have not seen a single flower)

Stinking Hawksbeard: Not local but maybe of interest was a progress report on the Rye Bay website showing how this plant, which became extinct in Britain in the 1980s) is being re-introduced at two sites (Dungeness and Rye Harbour). The website told us that the plants are surviving and multiplying in rabbit proof cages on the beach at Rye Harbour - last summer 47 plants flowered - but as usual in conservation management in excluding one threat to a species (in this case the rabbits) has exposed the rare plants to another threat from Ivy-leaved Toadflax that is also benefiting from the absence of rabbits to multiply faster than the Hawksbeard and to cover the tiny Hawksbeard seedlings)

Summer Snowflake: What must be a garden escape of this was flowering by the side of Mill Lane at Langstone on Feb 9. In previous springs I have also found Glory of the Snow here but the site (almost opposite the entrance to the West Mill) has become very over grown with brambles.

OTHER

Frog: On Feb 2 more than 50 Frogs were busily mating and spawning in a New Forest stream and by Feb 5 there was lots of spawn in Theo Roberts garden at the southern foot of Portsdown but John Goodspeed has heard of another garden (no location given) where spawn was found as early as Jan 10 (ten days earlier than what I have previously posted as the first - found in Eastleigh area on Jan 20). Even Jan 10 is in one sense not the earliest for on Feb 4 Mike Collins was cleaning out his north Havant garden pond when he came across a very large tadpole - this must have been from last spring's spawn, and this is the first instance that I have come across of something that I have read about, which is that when there is insufficient food in the pond to support full development of tadpoles in frogs the tadpoles will go into a sort of suspended animation and remain in the pond for a full year, emerging with the others in the second year. I believe that the crucial factor is a shortage of meat to feed the tadpoles when they change from the early stage as vegetarians into carnivores, and I have heard that if you suspect this is happening then you can supplement the food available in the pond with a very small amount of finely chopped meat (I think raw liver is best) but you have to be careful not to put more meat in the water than the tadpoles can eat or it will rot and pollute the water. I think I would try with a couple of pinches of meat chopped so finely that it floats on the surface of the water.

Toad: These normally spawn in March but John Goodspeed reports that spawn was found in one pond in a Portsdown Hill garden during the week ending Feb 4 - and on that day Brian Fellows found one unlucky Toad squashed on a road at Emsworth close to Peter Pond.


Summary for Jan 29 - Feb 4 (Week 5 of 2007)

BIRDS

Red-throated Diver: Two were off the mouth of Pagham Harbour on Feb 1, and Andy Johnson reports that one or two could be seen in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on most days during January

Black-throated Diver: The Sowley Pond (east of Lymington) bird which was first reported on Jan 10 continues to be seen there up to Feb 2. Two more birds have been seen together in Southampton Water since Jan 1 - both were last seen in Jan 27 but at least one was still there on Feb 1

Great Northern Diver: Four were in Southampton Water on Feb 1 with another off Puckpool Point (IoW) across the water from Portsmouth. Three were in Portland Harbour and one in Poole Harbour on Feb 2 and one was off Portland on Jan 30. Andy Johnson reports regular sightings of one in the mouth of Chichester Harbour throughout January

Red Necked Grebe: One was still off Puckpool Point (IoW) on Feb 1 where it has been seen on and off since Jan 3 and another was in Pagham Harbour (also on Feb 1). I have seen no reports of one in Chichester Harbour since Jan 20

Slavonian Grebe: The only sightings in the past week have been from the Lymington area, Portland Harbour and Studland Bay but it is unlikely that the three birds that have been in the mouth of Chichester Harbour throughout January have already left. Langstone Harbour has not had any reports so far this year.

Black-necked Grebe: Until now the highest counts of this species in Langstone Harbour have been 19 or 20 birds in both December and January but on Jan 28 Lee Evans was at the Hayling Oysterbeds and saw a flock of 26 birds. One remains in the Lymington area and another at the Blashford Lakes but to see any others you have to visit Dorset or the Rye Bay area.

Shag: At least one bird has been seen carrying nest material in the Durlston area and on Jan 27 Russell Wynn found at least 11 birds in the Needles area of the IoW. On Feb 1 one first winter bird was seen close to Southampton Town Quay.

Bittern: No further reports from Titchfield Haven since Jan 27 but in the past week there have been sightings at Rye Harbour (2 birds on Feb 2), the Dungeness RSPB reserve, Radipole Lake at Weymouth and Hatch Pond (on the east side of the A349 coming into Poole from Wimborne Minster - two were there on Jan 26 and one on Feb 1)

Cattle Egret: An unconfirmed report says that one flew south from Pulborough Brooks on Feb 1 (there have been no other sightings anywhere this year before or after that date)

Mute Swan: 98 birds were crowded on to the Emsworth Town Millpond on Jan 27. This is the highest count I have seen reported anywhere this year - on Feb 2 the Gosport Cockle Pond had 73 birds, on Jan 15 there were 74 on the Avon at Ibsley and on Jan 7 there were around 60 on the Ryde (IoW) Canoe Lake

Bewick's Swan: On Feb 2 the count on the Avon at Ibsley jumped from a peak of 8 earlier this year to 14 (and the Black Swan was also present)

Brent Goose: On Jan 29 a total of 145 Brent flew east past Dungeness (95 had previously gone east here on Jan 22) and this suggests that at least some Brent think the weather is mild enough to start their spring passage (though I realise that these could have been birds seeking pastures new - perhaps heading for the Thames estuary or intending to stay in the Dungeness area to support the RSPB protest against expansion of the Lydd airport)

Red-breasted Goose: The bird which arrived in the Lymington area on Jan 26 was last seen there on Jan 31 (sometime before 11:45 am) when it flew east as far as Park Shore (west of the Beaulieu River mouth) where it was seen on the afternoon of Jan 31. As you need a permit to visit that site, and there is an embargo on putting out information from the Beaulieu estate without prior permission, it is quite likely that the bird is still there but there have been no further reports so far ...

Shelduck: Good numbers still present in the Langstone area - cycling across Langstone Bridge on Feb 1 I counted 89 birds on mud east of the bridge and at least another 75 to the west of the bridge. On Jan 28 Derek Hale found around 100 in Newtown Harbour on the IoW

Gadwall: On Feb 2 a pair was on Bedhampton Mill Pool and on Feb 3 there were at least half a dozen on the Budds Farm pools

Green-winged Teal: One was reported from the Holes Bay area of Poole Harbour on Feb 1

Pintail: On Jan 30 Brian Fellows found 38 in Nutbourne Bay and on Feb 2 Newtown Harbour (IoW) had at least 10 birds

Ferruginous Duck: The regular Fudge Duck was still on the Budds Farm pools on Feb 3 so a similar Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid which turned up at Rye Harbour on Jan 30 was a different bird.

Scaup: Single birds remain at Weir Wood reservoir and Normandy Lake at Lymington. At Rye Harbour 3 were seen on Feb 3 and at Abbotsbury in Dorset 14 were counted on Feb 1

Long-tailed Duck: In addition to a couple still in Poole Harbour and one at Abbotsbury, a new bird was seen briefly in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Jan 29 when Andy Johnson watched a male fly in from the sea to land on the Sussex side of the water (not seen again).

Ruddy Duck: The single male was still on Budds Farm pools on Feb 3

Marsh Harrier: One was seen at Titchfield Haven on Jan 31 - the first Hampshire sighting this year, seen on the same day that a new British record was set when 96 were seen at a roost in north Norfolk.

Hen Harrier: Despite recent suggestions that some sinster person or persons were trying to drive Hen Harriers from the New Forest by hovering unmarked helicopters low over their night roosts the number reported at the roost in the north west of the Forest the count increased to at least 5 birds spending the night there on Feb 2.

Peregrine: A pair were displaying at Dungeness on Feb 1

Avocet: These can still be seen in Nutbourne Bay (4 on Jan 30), Farlington Marshes area (7 on Feb 2) and the Lymington shore (12 on Feb 2)

Ringed Plover: A pair were displaying at Rye Harbour on Feb 2

Golden Plover: 1000 birds were over Pagham Harbour on Feb 1 when 200+ were in the Lymington area. On Jan 27 the first substantial flock of 230 was on the Wide Lane playing fields at Eastleigh

Lapwing: On Jan 28 more than 3000 were present at Pett Level near Hastings and on Feb 1 Pagham Harbour had 4000 birds

Black-tailed Godwit: The unusual behaviour of these birds in the past month or so has brought an 'unprecedented' report of 75 at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 31, and back on Jan 6 I see that a flock of more than 80 appeared at the Lower Test reserve where it was said to be the biggest flock seen there for five years. I wonder if large numbers have also been at other unwatched sites - including the grassland within the MoD Defence Muntions site on the northwest shore of Portsmouth Harbour where 364 birds were found on 14 Jan 2006.

Whimbrel: One was still in Langstone Harbour on Feb 1 in addition to birds wintering in Pagham Harbour, Southampton Water and at Keyhaven (just one report on Jan 20)

Spotted Redshank: One was again in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Feb 2 but the best place to see them remains the Lymington area where 5 were present on Jan 31 and 3 on Feb 1

Green Sandpiper: On Jan 27 three were seen in the Alresford area and on the same day a Common Sandpiper was on the River Hamble where it passes through Burridge

Black-headed Gull: On Feb 2 the Portland website remarked on the first spring passage of gulls moving east 'up channel', including 104 Black-headed and just 2 Med Gulls - I suspect that we will soon be seeing increased numbers of both species back in Langstone Harbour

Iceland Gull: What was probably the same adult bird was seen on Jan 29 at both Hook/Warsash and Titchfield Haven, on Jan 30 in Haslar Lake at Gosport (south of the Cockle Pond where the Ring-billed Gull resides), and Jan 31 it was back off Titchfield Haven

Sandwich Tern: January brought sigthings from Titchfield Haven. Southampton Water and Poole Harbour (4 there on Jan 21) but no mention of them in Langstone or Chichester Harbour though that does not mean they were not there as Andy Johnson has just told us that two were present in the mouth of Chichester Harbour throughout January.

Auk Species: The bad news of oiled birds on the Dorset coast recently does preclude the fact that many birds have escaped pollution - Portland Bill reported more than 2000 feeding offshore there on Jan 29 and gave a count of 3000 there in Jan 31, with more that 1000 Razorbills in the area on Jan 30

Razorbill: Andy Johnson reports that up to four were in the mouth of Chichester Harbour throughout Jan and more recently one was seen close off Southampton Town Quay on Feb 1

Little Owl: I had my first sight of one for the year - it was on a tree at the Warblington farm close to where they nested last year.

Long-eared Owl: On Feb 1 four were seen at Rye Harbour where no more then two had been seen earlier this year.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: The first four reports of this elusive species have come in a bunch (probably because this is the time of year that birders go looking for them!). On Jan 28 Alan Lewis found three in the Rhinefield Arboretum area of the New Forest (and recorded the first drumming) while Russell Wynn heard one calling in his Brockenhurst garden. On Jan 29 Keith Vokes had three birds in the Denny Wood area of the New Forest and on Feb 2 Ian Calderwood saw one at Rhinefield.

Woodlark: There had been an isolated report of one in full song near Horsham on Jan 9 but it is now that we are more likely to hear them and Alan Lewis heard one on Jan 27 at a coastal site east of Lymington and on Feb 2 one or more were singing in Wareham Forest in Dorset.

Skylark: Since the first report of song on Jan 27 there have been three more reports (from Sussex, Hants and the IoW) on Jan 28, 30 and Feb 2

Rock Pipit: As yet no one has mentioned Meadow Pipit song but on Jan 29 and 31 a Rock Pipit was singing at Durlston Country Park. Rock Pipit are vocally distinguished from Meadow Pipits in winter by their much more 'wheezy' calls but I understand that Rock Pipit song, while very similar to Meadow Pipit, is sharper in sound and 'more electric'.

Blackbird: I heard my first 'daytime' song from a Blackbird at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Jan 30 and Brian Fellows heard another nearby on Feb 2 but there has so far been no general start-up of Blackbird song (either by day or at dusk).

Fieldfare: There have been fewer than usual along the south coast this winter and so an isolated report dated Jan 31 of 'hundreds and hundreds' of them at Amblerley Wild Brooks may indicate the start of a northward movement of birds that have been wintering in France.

Blackcap: This is another species that has been in very short supply this winter and several people have recently commented on the absence of birds from their gardens - in particular I hear that there have been none in the garden shared by Theo and Graham Roberts on the southern foot of Portsdown where any birds that arrive are fed cake baked to a special recipe favoured by the birds and the birds are ringed and closely monitored.

In the 1995 Hampshire Bird Report Graham Roberts published an article reviewing observations of Blackcaps in this garden over a 25 year period from the 1969/70 winter to 1995/6 and this shows two things that may be relevant to the present dearth of sightings. The first is that numbers do fluctuate from year to year - in four of the winters only one bird was recorded and in one year there were none, while in another five there were always more than ten (with a peak of 37 in1993/94). This variability occurs in two forms - firstly there are differences from one year to the next, and secondly there are periodic variations that probably reflect overall population numbers (peaks occurred in the mid 80s and the early 90s during which each year had higher numbers than were seen in the 70s and late 80s)

The second major fact is that numbers build up over the winter with peak counts in Feb and March, so there could still be a significant increase in gardens before the spring migrants arrive.

Chiffchaff: Numbers of these also seem to be lower than usual and this probably helps to confirm that a major factor is the absence of cold weather to drive the birds south and into areas where there is still food (gardens and sewage farms). Lower numbers (and the consequent thin spread of birds) means that few of them come in contact with each other and thus are provoked into song. When we used to have 20 or more birds bunched together at Budds Farm sewage works in the past it was common to hear song on sunny days in January - this year the only site reporting 20 birds has been Brading sewage works on the IoW (and that only since since Jan 25 when only one was seen there) so it may not be surprising that there have only been two reports of song so far - one in Romsey on Jan 15 and one at the Apuldram sewage works near Chichester on Feb 3.

Tree Creeper: On Jan 31, among a list of birds heard singing at Durlston country park, is a note that the 'tremulous squeaks of a Tree Creeper ' were heard - I take it that constitutes at least an attempt at song by one of these birds.

Raven: A pair were seen displaying in Wareham Forest, Dorset, on Feb 2

Starling: Numbers of these have greatly diminished in recent years though fairly large numbers can still be seen - this is illustrated by an observation from Brighton west pier on Jan 28 of around 18,000 Starlings coming to the communal roost there - that may sound like a lot of birds but the observer commented that it is only half the number to be seen there last winter.

Chaffinch: Although song was heard earlier Jan 29 seems to be the date on which Chaffinches started their spring songs

Greenfinch: While these are not yet in general song I witnessed my first song flight in Havant on Jan 30 and have recently noticed a general increase in numbers around the area as winter flocks break up and birds return to the places where they will breed.

Corn Bunting: The only major flock remains at Rye Harbour where 87 birds were counted on Jan 30 but of more interest to us in the Havant area there was a flock of 18 birds seen on the downs just north of Worthing on Jan 28

INSECTS

Butterflies: Eleven new reports of Red Admiral since last week's summary, including two within Havant Borough on Feb 2. Also reported since last week are two Peacocks, one Small Tortoiseshell and one Brimstone

Red Admiral caterpillars: On Jan 27 a report on the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website from a Newhaven garden read .. "Still a handful of overwintering Red Admiral caterpillars despite recent storms and snow". My Collins Guide to caterpillars tells me that the eggs of this species hatch in about a week and that the caterpillars become full grown in a month, when they pupate - if this timetable applies to winter months the many Red Admirals on the wing during the winter were still indulging in sex and laying eggs in December.

Moths: New on the scene have been ...

Pale Brindled Beauty at Edburton in W Sussex on Jan 30

Spring Usher at Pagham on Jan 31 (and Hastings on Feb 1)

Early Moth at Edburton shortly before Jan 30

Tawny Pinion and Early Grey at Portland on Feb 1

The Chestnut at Pagham Harbour on Jan 31

Silver Y at Portland on Feb 1 (migrant?)

Hoverflies: On Feb 2 I noticed two small hoverflies active in the Bedhampton area of Havant. In my diary I suggested that these were likely to be Drone Flies (Eristalis tenax) emerging from hibernation but on reflection the smaller size and long thin body was more like that of the Marmelade Fly (Episyrphus balteatus) though the specimen which I saw closely lacked the 'marmelade' colour and was more of a shiny black and white colour

Lesser Bloody-nosed Beetle: Seeing a report of several of these beetles seen on short turf at Durlston country park on Jan 31, and not being able to find the Latin name of the species which I needed to add the species to my database, I did a Google search and found the answer in a list of beetles recorded here on Portsdown (some years ago). Durlston would seem to be the best place to see these beetles nowadays.

PLANTS

Marsh Marigold (Kingcup): Finding one plant of this with five open flowers on the Langstone South Moors on Feb 3 was one of this week's high spots. Other buttercup species now in flower include Bulbous Buttercup in Emsworth on Jan 27 and Meadow Buttercup in Havant on Feb 2, plus the many Lesser Celandines now out.

Hairy Bittercress: Flowering plants of this are now becoming widespread but I only know of one pavement crack in Havant where Thale Cress can be seen flowering (first seen Jan 31)

Common Mallow: I was surprised to see a plant of this with several fresh flowers here in Havant on Feb 3 (I think it was responding to the cutting down of scrub which had been shading it from the light)

Yellow Oxalis: The many self seeded plants of this which have spread around my garden were starting to open new flowers on Feb 1 after a very short 'rest period'.

Blackthorn: The single aberrant tree at the Hayling Oysterbeds was still flowering on Feb 1

Common Alder: A few of these had started to flower on Feb 3 - one in a sheltered position near the Tesco store was well out but others around the Langstone South Moors were starting to open their catkins.

Wild Primroses: On Feb 1 at least 8 clumps of what I think are genuine wild Primroses had flowers in the small shoreline copse south of the Oysterbeds

Ivy-leaved Speedwell: The discovery of one flowering plant of this growing on an old wall near Bedhampton church (St Thomas) was probably the high spot of my week - unlike the Marsh Marigold which 'hit you in the eye' this tiny plant was so inconspicuous that I did not recognize it until I used my hand lens and saw the exuberantly hairy stem and the lovely (but tiny) violet coloured veining of the flower

Giant Butterbur (Petasites japonicus): On Feb 3 I made my way into the neglected thicket beside the Langbrook Stream where these plants grow and found them starting to flower - in total there were at least 55 plants but only two or three had their white flowers open.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Fox: At Budds Farm Pools in bright sunshine on the afternoon of Feb 3 I enjoyed a prolonged view of two Foxes strolling on the grass north of the pools. One squatted to show she was a Vixen while the other (presumed to be a Dog) kept his nose glued to the ground throughout the ten minutes or so that I watched. They appeared to be just enjoying the warm sun but it is possible they were trying to persuade the waterfowl that they were not hunting - the birds all kept a respectful metre or so off the north shore and while the Vixen at one point disappeared into the shore vegetation there was no attempt to 'jump' the birds.

Harbour Porpoise: The first report for the year is of one seen from Hastings Country Park on Jan 28

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: One seen from Portland on Feb 2 was the second for the year - one had been seen there on Jan 10

Fallow Deer: Looking east from the Stansted House area on Jan 29 a herd of at least 12 Fallow Deer could be seen resting in the furthest open field of the East Park. Several had good heads of antlers and at a guess they were all bucks as I think the sexes keep separate outside the rutting season. There could have been a lot more animals hidden behind trees and one may have been white-coated though the white patch I could see through the trees was not identifiable as a deer! (In the past there have been one or two white coated animals fairly regularly seen in this area - the first time I saw one I thought it was a goat!)

Bat species: On Jan 28 a small bat was seen flying and apparently feeding in the Wade Lane area of Langstone. My understanding is that all hibernating bats have to emerge at least once a month to defecate if they are not to accumulate poisons in their bodies and I think they normally do this in the daytime when the warmer air gives them less chance of 'catching a cold' while their body temperature is lowered by hibernation - when the time comes for proper spring emergence from hibernation they are perhaps more likely to come out to feed at night?

Lacquered Bracket fungus (Ganoderma lucidum): By chance (having to creep along the drier edges of the very wet Park Avenue, aka Monument Avenue, leading east from the road bisecting Stansted Forest to Racton Folly on Jan 29) I found myself clinging to a mature oak and as I made my way round it I came on an excellent example of this bracket fungus on the far side of the trunk. Note that Roger Phillips and Michael Jordan both give this species the name Ganoderma resinaceum but that name has disappeared from the 'new list' and it seems the species has been lumped with G. lucidum.


Summary for Jan 22 - 28 (Week 4 of 2007)

BIRDS

Red-throated Diver: On Jan 26 there were 40 feeding off Dungeness but the only report from our area was of one off East Head (Chichester Harbour) on Jan 24

Black-throated Diver: Two remain in Southampton Water off Hythe (seen on Jan 21 and 27 and present since at least Jan 1)

Great Northern Diver: One was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Jan 22 and 24 and one was off Lymington on Jan 25. On Jan 27 three were seen in Southampton Water (probably including one also seen off Titchfield Haven that day)

Great Crested Grebe: The only substantial flock on the south coast (off Dungeness) which was reported to have more than 550 birds on Jan 15 had increased to 880 birds by Jan 26. By Jan 27 there were 5 on the sea off Titchfield Haven - a faint reminder of the flocks that used to gather there (217 in 1987 and a Hampshire record of 220 in Feb 1996). Locally the Emsworth Town Millpond had its first ever on Jan 22 and it was still there on Jan 23

Red-necked Grebe: Five isolated individuals were reported last week - one off the north east IoW shore, one in the Southwick Canal at Brighton, and the others at Christchurch Harbour, Portland Harbour and Rye Bay (Pett pools)

Slavonian Grebe: Three were in the mouth of Chichester Harbour off Black Point on Jan 22 and two were off East Head on Jan 24 while two remained in the west Solent off Lymington. Further west one was in Portland Harbour on Jan 21 and maybe the same bird was at Abbotsbury on Jan 24

Black-necked Grebe: A sighting of 19 off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 22 is the first proof that the flock seen there in December has survived the storms. In Dorset up to 11 were reported from Studland Bay on Jan 21

Leach's Petrel: The most unexpected report of the week was of a Leach's Petrel in Langstone Harbour on Jan 20 where it was seen from the Oysterbeds for more than an hour before someone spotted it flying east past Langstone Bridge (presumably going under the bridge) but there were no further reports from anywhere in Chichester Harbour.

Bittern: There seems to be a shortage of these on the south coast this winter but locally there was news of one seen flying at Titchfield Haven on Jan 27. This is the first report from Titchfield Haven since Oct 11 where one had been present from Sep 15 last autumn, and it is the only Hampshire sighting so far this year. Since Jan 1 the only sightings I have heard of have been at the Dungeness RSPB reserve in Kent and nearby Rye Harbour while Dorset has had up to 2 at Radipole and one at Hatch Pond (can anyone tell me where that is??)

Pale-bellied Brent: The number in the Portland area had crept up to 8 by Jan 26 and the Isle of Wight reported its first for the year (a single in the Brading Marshes area on Jan 24 and 25). So far this year there have been no reports of any in either Langstone or Chichester Harbours

Black Brant: Singles remain at Gosport, West Wittering, Poole Harbour and Portland (Ferrybridge). On the IoW their first of the year was at Brading Marshes on Jan 24 and 25 with the Pale-bellied bird).

Red-breasted Goose: The bird which turned up at Ferrybridge in Portland Harbour on Nov 4 moved to Poole Harbour on Nov 29 and remained there until Jan 25 but on Jan 26 and 27 it has been in Hampshire in the Keyhaven area (seen near Lyemore Lane)

Garganey: An unconfirmed report of a female at Morden Lake (west of Poole Harbour in Dorset) on Jan 26 ...

Eider: A count of 116 seen off Titchfield Haven on Jan 26 is the highest anywhere for this winter but last year more than 130 were seen there on Jan 25 and on Feb 3 the count was up to 220+ (probably 240)

Goosander: A single redhead was seen on Sinah gravel pit lake on Hayling on Jan 19 (one had been there on the same date last year and again on Dec 23 but there is no evidence for a winter resident bird there)

Marsh Harrier: One was reported from somewhere on Thorney Island on Jan 24 ...

Buzzard: On Jan 21 I had a close up view of a bird flying in to perch on a tree in one of the Warblington Farm hedgerows bordering the field in which Brian Fellows had seen a Buzzard on Nov 19 and Dec 18 - it would seem that this bird has decided to settle down on the farm.

Avocet: A sighting of 8 from the east side of Thorney Island on Jan 24 presumably confirms the continuing presence of a small flock in the Thorney Channel/Nutbourne Bay area

Ringed Plover: 220 were in the high tide roost just west of the Black Point sailing club at the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Jan 20, indicating the recent arrival of more of these birds in our area and on Jan 26 I scored my 'first of the year' with just 8 of them in the minor high tide roost at the mouth of the Langbrook stream at Langstone.

Golden Plover: Although there have been none in the Langstone/Northney area recently and 'few' were seen from Thorney Island on Jan 24 that date brought the first sighting for this winter of a substantial flock of 185 birds on the Wide Lane playing fields at Eastleigh while the Gosport area has also acquired a small flock of around 45 birds this week and the flock at the Lymington marshes had increased from 200+ on Jan 4 to 500+ on Jan 24.

Knot: The only substantial number I have seen reported this year was a flock of around 200 in Newtown Harbour (IoW) on Jan 4 so recent reports of 50 in the high tide roost at Black Point (mouth of Chichester Harbour) on Jan 20, and around 70 in Pagham Harbour off Church Norton on Jan 23, are welcome.

Jack Snipe: Two of these were flushed from East Head in Chichester Harbour on both Jan 23 and 24

Black-tailed Godwit: Very few are currently being seen in Chichester or Langstone Harbours (e.g. just 18 at Farlington Marshes on Jan 25) but there have been counts of 200 at Titchfield Haven (Jan 27), 59 on the north shore of Portsmouth Harbour on Jan 26 and 60 on Amberley Wild Brooks on Jan 19. I think there are still substantial numbers in the fields north of Pagham Harbour.

Spotted Redshank: The Emsworth/Thorney birds have not been reported recently but there are still 3 on the Lymington marshes (Jan 25 - 5 there on Jan 19), 1 in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester (Jan 25) and a total of 13 in Poole Harbour (Jan 21)

Green Sandpiper: The bird which I saw in the Hermitage stream running through Leigh Park here at Havant just before New Year was back there on Jan 26 (with a Kingfisher for good measure)

Iceland Gull: An adult was seen at Winchester sewage farm on Jan 22 and off Titchfield Haven on Jan 27

Sandwich Tern: The only Hampshire sightings so far this year have been of singles (probably the same bird) off Titchfield Haven on Jan 13 and further up Southampton Water on Jan 15. Maybe they have moved west as Jan 21 brought two sightings, each of two birds, from different parts of Poole Harbour (where they were, I think, newcomers).

Guillemot: This past week has brought sad news of more than 200 oiled along the Dorset coast west of Portland but on 26 Jan 200 Guillemots were feeding off Dungeness and 150 Razorbills were seen flying west there.

Stock Dove: The large flock of 150 or more that had been seen at Warblington Farm on Christmas Day were still there this week - 150 were seen on Jan 22. The attraction seems to be that the field is being regularly sprayed with slurry that contains a lot of undigested Maize (Sweetcorn) that is fed to the cattle while they are being kept in.

Black Redstart: One or more are probably still present in the central beachlands area of south Hayling and there has been a report of one seen on Jan 24 at a 'new' site around the Anglican cathedral in Portsmouth

Blackbird: The outburst of song heard on Jan 19 does not seem to have become regular but Jan 21 brought news of a female collecting nest material in the Horsham area.

Fieldfare: A few more have moved south this week bringing reports of 100+ at Lymington (Jan 21) and around 200 (with 100 Redwing) by the R Adur just north of Henfield on Jan 24. I had my first sighting of a dozen or so (with some 20 Redwing) in the Idsworth area north of Rowlands Castle on Jan 25.

Common Whitethroat: We have already had more than one report of wintering Whitethroats at the end of last year (at Portsmouth, Christchurch Harbour and somewhere in Devon) and Jan 23 brought news of a female eating Ivy berries at Burpham across the R Arun from Arundel.

Goldcrest: I heard my first Goldcrest song of the year on Jan 21 and I see another was heard near Hastings on the next day ...

Great Grey Shrike: I see that the Holm Hill bird in the New Forest south of Rhinefield House was seen on Jan 25 to catch a Blue Tit, stash that bird, and then catch a Dartford Warbler which foolishly took a short flight between two gorse bushes and was easily caught by the Shrike before it could get back into cover.

Chaffinch: First (and only) report of song for this year comes from the Hastings area on Jan 22

Linnet: I have yet to see one this year and I have only seen three reports from others - on Jan 5 a flock of 20 were near Horsham and on Jan 20 a flock of around 50 was at Adgestone (near Brading) on the IoW. Now on Jan 27 I see that Derek Hale has come across a total of 70 in the Dungewood Farm area half way along the south coast of the Island

Hawfinch: The only report for this week is of just one in the West Dean Woods area north of Chichester.

Yellowhammer: I have at last got this species on my year list with just two of them seen on Old Idsworth Farm north of Rowlands Castle.

INSECTS

Red Admiral: One of these seen at Portland on Jan 23 was the only insect mentioned in this week's reports

PLANTS

Common Fumitory: Some had escaped the frost and were still flowering in the field around St Hubert's Chapel at Idsworth on Jan 25

Sea Kale: No local reports but I see that this had started to put up fresh leaf sprouts on the shingle at Rye Bay by Jan 22

Sweet Violet: It is not difficult to find these in flower now but on Jan 21 I was surprised to find one flower of the pale pink variant that grows in Nore Barn Woods at Emsworth (these and the all white variants normally appear much later)

Cherry Plum: Several trees had flowers open in the Broadmarsh area of Havant on Jan 23

Hawthorn: The aberrant tree by the Hermitage stream in Leigh Park (Havant) which had flowers on it at the end of December was covered with flower buds (but no leaves) on Jan 26

Spurge Laurel: Just one plant in Markwells Wood at Forestside (north of Stansted Forest) had two open flowers on Jan 25

Goat Willow: The single aberrant tree (growing above the HWT Southmoor reserve sign by the footpath leading east from Southmoor Lane in Havant) was in full flower by Jan 23 (I had seen it from a distance on Jan 19 but this was my first close view of it)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: One was well up Southampton Water on Jan 21 and on Jan 22 one had swum up the Arun as far as Pulborough.

Frog: The first and so far only report of Frogspawn seen in a pond came from Bishopstoke (Eastleigh) on Jan 20 (the day after a female was run over in south Hayling, leaving a pile of squashed spawn in the road)

Adder: One was seen basking in the sun, but still only half out of its hibernation hole, on Jan 23 and was seen in the same place on the next two days (perhaps it didn't have the energy to go back into its hideaway?)

Blonde Ray: This is one of several species of Ray and Skate (all relatives of the sharks) to be found in the English Channel and on Jan 22 a large 'Mermaid's Purse' eggcase of a Blonde Ray (Raja brachyura) was washed up at Rye Harbour - this species has a larger eggcase than the commoner species and in this case it still had all four 'horns' intact.


Summary for Jan 15 - 21 (Week 3 of 2007)
(See Diary page entry for Jan 21 for late news not included below)

BIRDS

Great Crested Grebe: In recent winters a flock of up to 500 of these grebes has been on the water of Rye Bay off Pett. On Jan 14 a flock of around 100 could be seen there (the biggest flock so far this winter) but a flock of more than 550 were off Dungeness were they are not normally seen.

Slavonian Grebe: Three could be seen in Chichester Harbour from Black Point on Jan 14 but there have been no recent reports of these (or Black Necked) from Langstone Harbour

Shag: One was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour, seen from Black Point, on Jan 15. (There have been no further reports from the mouth of Langstone Harbour since one was seen there on Jan 1)

Little Egret: At least 72 went into the Langstone Mill Pond roost on the evening of Jan 15. I have previously said that this was the highest count recorded in January but Jason Crook has since told me that he has two higher counts - on 9 Jan 2006 he recorded 74 birds and on 21 Jan 2005 he counted 92.

Bewick's Swan: On Jan 12 Derek Hale visited Slimbridge and noted 44 Bewick's there (I guess there were more that he did not see as this seems a low total - Dungeness reported 100 flying over on Jan 13) and on Jan 14 Derek was at Welney where there were more than 200 Whoopers

White-front Goose: Derek Hale had more than 200 of these at Slimbridge on Jan 12

Scaup: The count of these at Lodmoor in Weymouth was up to 8 on Jan 16 and there was at least one other in Dorset and one in Sussex at Weir Wood but there have been no Hampshire reports other than the single bird reported to be on the R Meon at Titchfield Haven on Jan 1

Common Scoter: On Jan 14 around 1000 Common Scoter were put up from the sea of Rye Bay by a plane and boat passing through the area.

Goldeneye: Still no large numbers - five is the largest group reported anywhere this month, first at Newtown Harbour, IoW, on Jan 4 and then off Langstone Village (seen from The Ship pub) on Jan 15

Goosander: There may have been a small arrival of new birds on Jan 13 when a group of three were seen at Widewater in the Worthing area, and another single was at Hook/Warsash

Ruddy Duck: The single male was still on Budds Farm pools at Havant on Jan 19

Hen Harrier: On Jan 15 Michael Prior watched one quartering fields at South Holt Farm, Finchdean. On 30 Jan 2003 David Parker saw one over Warren Down in the same area and in March of that year John Simons saw one hunting over South Holt Farm on both Feb 5 and 11. John Simons also reported a Marsh Harrier working the farm on 15 Jan 2006

Avocet: Four were seen at Nutbourne Bay on Jan 16. (I have heard nothing of these birds at Farlington Marshes since Jan 4 when 26 were still present)

Greenshank: Six were still to be seen on the west Emsworth shore on Jan 15 and on Jan 14 there were 7 at Bembridge Harbour, IoW

Sandwich Tern: I have only seen two reports of these in Hampshire waters during January. On Jan 13 one was off Titchfield Haven and on Jan 15 maybe the same bird was in Southampton Water off Hythe

Guillemot: On Jan 15 several oiled Guillemots and Kittiwakes were seen at Portland and on the same day more dead or dying birds were seen in the west Solent at Milford and the mouth of the Beaulieu River. Another message on the same day told us that hundreds of Guillemots were dying of stavation around northern shores of Britain and Ireland with the suggestion that rough seas around the coasts had driven all the small fish (on which these birds normally feed) into calmer, deeper waters where the Guillemots could not reach them.

Kingfisher: On Jan 17 two birds were seen in the Worthing area engaged as what was described as a 'courtship chase'.

Rock Pipit: There have been very few reports of this species this winter - hopefully this is just a reflection of stormy weather driving the birds away from the exposed shores where we normally see them but there could have been some other problem reducing their numbers.

Pied Wagtail: In Petersfield a large night roost (in the Rams Walk area) of up to an estimated 400 birds was reported on Jan 17 and also this week there is a report of a roost somewhere west of the Tesco petrol station in Solent Road at Havant. There is probably a roost somewhere in central Emsworth but the only evidence for this is the sight of many birds collecting around the town millpond at dusk on several evenings.

Black Redstart: A female or immature bird was seen again in the Hayling Beachlands area, near the Anne's Court flats, on Jan 15

Fieldfare: A total of 1206 birds were recorded in the New Forest over the weekend Jan 14/15 but locally the only report is of 3 birds seen in the Finchdean area on Jan 15

Redwing: The New Forest weekend total was 980 and here I had my first small flock of around 10 birds in Stansted Forest on Jan 17

Song Thrush: There was a general outburst of song from all these birds in the Havant area on Jan 15 and they have been heard daily since then.

Blackbird: At dusk on Jan 19 two birds were heard in full song at Emsworth and another was singing in Havant that evening

Blackcap: The first report of subsong came from a garden near Cheriton Wood, south of Alresford, on Jan 14

Chiffchaff: One of these was in full song for at least 30 mins at Romsey on Jan 15

Dartford Warbler: A total of 42 was recorded in the New Forest on Jan 14/15

Firecrest: A male was seen displaying to a female near Henfield in Sussex on Jan 13 (and I heard Goldcrest song here in Havant on Jan 21)

Marsh Tit: I encountered two birds in different areas of Stansted Forest on Jan 17

Great Grey Shrike: Only two birds are currently being reported from the New Forest - one at Vales Moor between Burley and Ringwood (seen Jan 15) and the other at Holm Hill south of Rhinefield House (on Jan 16). On Jan 9 another was reported from Dorset at Morden Bog near Wareham

Jackdaw: A flock of around 50 were high in the air over the north of Stansted Forest on Jan 17

Yellowhammer: Several flocks were seen on game cover in the Finchdean area north of Rowlands Castle on Jan 15. On the Isle of Wight a flock of 56 was seen at Whale Chine (near St Catherine's Point) on Jan 13 and Jan 14 brought news of two flocks of around 100 in Sussex - one in the Ouse valley north of Lewes and the other in the Pannel Valley near Rye.

INSECTS

Red Admiral: These have been seen all along the south coast in unusually large numbers for January. On Jan 14 there was a count of 12 from Bartley Heath in north Hampshire and one of at least 33 butterflies flying in Stansted Forest, with seven other sightings of up to 3 butterflies from different locations on the same day (including 3 on Kingley Vale). Jan 15 brought three more sightings of singles.

Peacock: At least three reports of these this week including one in my garden on Jan 19

Mottled Grey moth: First for the year was trapped at Portland Bill on Jan 15

Mottled Umber: First of these was found at Sway in the Lymington area, also on Jan 15

Buff-tailed Bumblebee: A newly emerged queen was seen at Durlston in Dorset on Jan 16

PLANTS

Goat Willow: The only new flowering I am aware of this week was of the single aberrant Goat Willow at the southern end of Southmoor Lane near Budds Farm in Havant. This was covered in golden Pussy Paw catkins on Jan 19 (the Cherry Plum trees around it were close to opening their flower buds)

Spurge Laurel: On Jan 17 I could just see the bright yellow tip of one anther in still closed flowers at Stansted Forest

Borage: A plant which I had first found in flower on Nov 12 was still flowering on the dung heap of the Forestside Farm pony stables on Jan 17

Snowdrop: These and many Daffodils have been in flower at isolated places in the past week

OTHER WILDLIFE

Mink: On Jan 14 one was seen to catch a large eel in the R Ouse south of Lewes showing that these animals can take prey under water as well as on the banks

Roe Deer: At Durlston in Dorset a buck was seen on Jan 18 with well developed antlers still in velvet but not yet showing any 'points'

Newts: Newts (presumably Common) were active in the Sway area near Lymington on Jan 15

Common Lizard: On Jan 15 five Common Lizards were basking in the sun at Hastings and one was seen at Horsham on the previous day.

Frog: On Jan 19 or thereabouts a female was found on a south Hayling road after being run over, the corpse surrounded by spawn. So far I have not heard of any spawn in ponds...

Toad: These normally spawn in March but a couple of reports of active Toads seen by water may indicate that recent warm weather has brought their schedule forward...

Dolphins and Porpoises: During the past week a dead Harbour Porpoise was washed up on the Chesil bank at Weymouth and a few days later a dead Dolphin was floating in the water there just offshore. I wonder if their deaths are attributable to lack of food during the rough weather (see comment on Guillemots dying of starvation)


Summary for Jan 8 - 14 (Week 2 of 2007)

BIRDS

Black-throated Diver: All three diver species continue to be seen along the south coast and I suspect the reason for them continuing to be a regular sight in the shelter of Southampton Water has something to do with the gales and rough water of the open sea - this is also the probable reason why one Black-throated Diver was seen on Sowley Pond to the east of Lymington on Jan 10

Red-necked Grebe: One was off Selsey Bill on Jan 6 and 7 but it may have then sought shelter in Chichester Harbour where one was seen from Black Point on Jan 8 (along with two Slavonian Grebes seen there on the same morning)

Black-necked Grebe: On Jan 8 there were 20 of these seen in Studland Bay and around the mouth of Poole Harbour - - this number equals the highest count in Langstone Harbour this winter (I have seen no reports of any in Langstone Harbour this year)

Leach's Petrel: No further 'wreck' of these birds but there were 4 in the Portland area on Jan 11

Little Egret: The pre-roost gathering around the pool in the pony field north of the Langstone pond night roost trees numbered 52 birds at dusk on Jan 8 - probably the highest ever January count there. On Jan 9 there was also a high count of 51 birds by the River Avon at Christchurch. These figures, combined with shortage of numbers reported from inland Hampshire, seems to show that the Egrets have not made there normal retreat from the coast this winter.

Purple Heron: One was reported to be in the Bembridge area of the IoW on Jan 7 but the absence of any further reports makes me suspect this was a sighting of a Grey Heron that had a brownish plumage (which does happen from time to time)

Mute Swan: I have commented above about some of the difficulties that birds have been having in finding food during the recent gales but I would not have thought of this affecting Swans until I saw a picture on the Rye Bay website showing Mute Swans struggling to take off from Castle Water at Rye Harbour and read that the wind had caused the birds to abandon their daily commute from their night roost on the water to nearyby meadows - if they got off the surface they were then blown back and could not make headway towards their feeding ground.

Pintail: A good count of nine birds on the water off the Emsworth Western Parade on Jan 11 increased to 10 (five pairs) there on Jan 13

Red-crested Pochard: A drake was on the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on Jan 11

Ring-necked Duck: The female which arrived on Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex on Jan 3 was still there on Jan 11

Ferruginous Duck x Pochard hybrid: The Fudge duck was on the Budds Farm pools, associating the the Pochard flock and not with the Tufties, on Jan 12

Long-tailed Duck: The only birds of this species to get a mention in reports so far this year are two in Poole Harbour seen near Arne on Jan 1 and Jan 7

Ruddy Duck: The male bird was still on Budds Farm pools here in Havant on Jan 12

Red Kite: Two were seen in the West Dean area north of Chichester during a bird race on Jan 4 (three Hen Harriers were also in the same area that day)

Sparrowhawk: My first of the year was not seen until Jan 13 flying high over the road where I live in Havant, bringing my year list total to just 79 species (including my first Spotted Redshank seen that same day)

Buzzard: I have often wondered how the large number of Buzzards now populating our countryside manage to find sufficient food and the report of an emaciated bird being picked up alive on Portland on Jan 12 (but dying despite attempts to feed and warm it) may show that the Buzzard population has now reached the limit set by the available food supply (I realize that the temporary difficulty of hunting in the recent high winds is also a major factor). Another possible indication of food shortage came in the report of one Sussex bird race team which, at Thorney Island at dawn on Jan 4, recorded a Buzzard in flight almost before it was light and then recorded another Buzzard flying at Amberley Wild Brooks at dusk as one of their last birds seen - are the Buzzards now having to extend their 'working hours' in order to find sufficient food to keep going?

Sanderling: A report of 36 seen at Black Point on Hayling on Jan 10 probably reflects birds which would normally be on the Pilsey Sands to the south of Thorney Island (or elsewhere in the Solent) preferring the increased shelter from the wind to be found on the Hayling side of Chichester Harbour

Purple Sandpiper: High counts of 9 birds were recorded at Southsea Castle on both Jan 9 and 10 but more interesting was the report of these birds flying out to sea towards the Spit Bank Fort at the end of their feeding session. Flying out in the face of a gale, rather than moving along the coast or even into Portsmouth Harbour to reach a safe roost, strongly suggests that they greatly prefer the safety and lack of disturbance offered by this isolated fort.

Black-tailed Godwit: As with Buzzards (see above) any large population of birds needs a large population of prey items and the sudden disappearance of the flock of 100+ birds that had been feeding daily along the Emsworth west shore from Oct 23 to Dec 6 (and which had previously been feeding in the Langstone area during September and early October) was probably the result of increasing difficulty in finding food in that 'worked out' area. Their disappearance from the Emsworth shore was soon followed by reports of a flock of up to 800 birds newly arrived in Pagham Harbour from Dec 23 (and still there now on Jan 12). The gap between Dec 6 and 23 probably represents a period during which the birds moved about looking for a new place to feed and escaping the attention of the birders who tend to watch the 'hotspots' and ignore many parts of Chichester Harbour which the Godwits would find potentially attractive. The leap in numbers from a peak count of less than 150 at Emsworth to around 800 in Pagham Harbour shows that several previously dispersed feeding flocks all had the same urge to find better feeding grounds at roughly the same time, and I suspect that one of the reasons why they moved to Pagham is the combination of large areas of mud in that harbour and the lowlying, undisturbed grass fields to the north of the harbour which, once they become waterlogged both become easy to probe with Godwit bills and which suddenly become rich with easy pickings of earthworms (the water in the soil forces the worms to stay near the surface by day rather than retreating to depths beyond the reach the birds which they would do at other times of year when they only surface at night).

The huge numbers of Godwits (2000 to 3000) now feeding in the lower Avon valley are probably there for exactly the same reasons and my guess is that most of those birds originate from the west Hampshire and east Dorset shore but it will be interesting to see if any colour-ringed birds there had previously been feeding in the east Hampshire and west Sussex area. After all birds that regularly fly between Iceland and the English Channel would not think much of a fifty mile hop to find food.

One final thought is based on the remark made by Barry Yates at Rye Harbour where, on Dec 11, two colour ringed Godwits, which records showed to normally feed on the Essex shore, turned up at Rye - Barry said then that it was unusual for Godwits to move between 'regions' at that time of year and my conclusion from that was that maybe an overall increase in Godwit numbers was causing normal feeding areas to become exhausted of Godwit food earlier in the year than usual - that of course is purely speculative.

Bar-tailed Godwit: Cycling home from Hayling at dusk on Jan 14 I stopped on the Langstone shore outside the Royal Oak for a quick scan of the harbour and picked out a distant flock of around 40 Godwits which I assumed were Black-tailed but which must have been Bar-tailed as I saw several of them flutter their wings with no glimpse of white, and also noted that when they occasional probed the mud with their bills their bodies remained parallel to the ground (with the longer legged Blackwit’s the tail goes up as the head goes down in order to reach the mud)

Spotted Redshank: The single bird which favours the Maisemore Gardens stream at the extreme west end of the Emsworth built up area is still being seen there regularly - most recent reports are for Jan 7, 8 and 13.

Greenshank: There is still a good winter population in Chichester Harbour as shown by recent sightings of 12 at the west end of the Thorney Great Deeps on Jan 9 and around 10 off the Emsworth west shore on Jan 11

Grey Phalarope: One was seen at Portland on Jan 7

Great Skua: Only two reports so far this year - a single bird off Durlston Head on Jan 7 and two off Portland on Jan 9

Med Gull: The first report of a substantial winter gathering in the Foreland area of the Isle or Wight comes with a count of 110 birds in the Sandown area on Jan 9

Iceland Gull: What are probably sightings of the same bird started on Dec 28 with one seen off Titchfield Haven and continued with one over Gosport (Bridgemary area) on Dec 31 before one was seen at Worthing (Ferring area) on Jan 5 and has now appeared in the Warsash/Hook area on Jan 12 (where it was given yet another age - this time a probable fourth winter)

Little Auk: One seen in the Portland area on Jan 11

Wood Lark: Full and sustained song was heard from one in the Horsham area of Sussex on Jan 9

Swallow: One was reported as seen at the Tesco store in Poole on Jan 7

Whinchat: The bird seen at Chesworth Farm just south of Horsham on Jan 5 (and said to have been there since Christmas) was seen again on Jan 9.

Stonechat: Wintering birds are normally to be seen on north Hayling but as far as I know one seen in the Oysterbeds area on Jan 13 was the first to be reported there this winter.

Blackbird: One was heard in subsong at Emsworth on Jan 9 - the first reports are normally of birds singing at dusk but this one was heard in the morning.

Fieldfare: A flock of 80+ was in the West Dean (Chichester) area on Jan 4 and a flock of 300+ was seen in the Gander Down area between Winchester and Alresford on Jan 10

Firecrest: The bird(s) seen in the Forestside area on Jan 1 were probably both still there on Jan 7 when one was again seen in the same area (map reference of SU 127254 is frustrating - the 127 part is probably the result of putting the 'northings' before the 'eastings' but the second part should then be 75x as the Forestside area lies mainly in the SU 75x12x one kilometre square and transposing the remaining digits from 24 to 42 gives a position close to the Forestside Farm pony stables along the track leading to Warren Down and this position seems to fit the verbal description of the site but I can find no logical reason for changing 127254 to 754122!)

Tree Sparrow: It is a sad reflection on the demise of the Tree Sparrow in southern England that the only mention of them so far this year comes from Nottingham - so far there has not even been one report from the Rye Bay area were there were up to 60 being seen in the Pannel Valley to the west of Rye

Brambling: These also seem to be in short supply this year with only four reports and the maximum count being of 6+ at Wakehurst Place in Sussex on Jan 1. The only significant report in Hampshire during December was of just 20+ in the Aldershot area on Dec 27

INSECTS

Red Admiral: Just three new reports. One had been flying about inside the main Post Office in Winchester for several days before it was seen and reported on Jan 4. Another was at Peacehaven near Brighton on Jan 9 and the third was in the Arboretum area near Stansted House on Jan 10

Peacock: One was seen in the Wadhurst area of Sussex on Jan 7

Winter Moth: 8 of these were around an outside light of a house in Edburton to the north of Brighton on Jan 5

PLANTS

Larch species: A young tree in a sheltered garden in Havant was covered with fresh green leaves on Jan 9

Lesser Celandine: A new report of these in flower came from the Climping area of the west Sussex shore on Jan 7 followed by a minor outburst of new flowerings reported from Jan 9 onwards

Winter Aconite: Brian Fellows was rightly pleased to be the first to find and report these flowering in the Bishops Palace garden at Chichester on Jan 9. I don't know if the plants have any religious significance but one of the places I have found them in the past was in the churchyard at Greatham (east of Greatham Bridge over the Arun just south of Pulborough) where I saw them more than once on the annual walks which I once led over the Amberley Wild Brooks in Februarys. Those which I also enjoyed in past years were definitely planted on the mown grass outside the IBM building at Cosham - no religious significance there, and the site had been under the harbour water until the early 1970s.

Common Whitlowgrass: The single plant which had been flowering beside Waterloo Road in late December became several from Jan 6 onwards.

Tamarisk: On Jan 13 there were still at least two clusters of flowers open on the Warblington shore trees.

Dogs Mercury: Also on Jan 13 the single fresh plant on the bank of Pook Lane at Warblington had increased to about half a dozen.

Wild Carrot: The first report of this flowering in 2007 came from the Hayling Oysterbeds area on Jan 13

Elder: Fresh leaves are now opening on several Elder bushes.

Marsh Ragwort: My report of this flowering in Emsworth on Jan 11 must be retracted - what looked like Marsh Ragwort in a close up photo was clearly Common Ragwort when seen with the naked eye on Jan 13.

Scented Mayweed: At least one plant was flowering in Emsworth on Jan 11, its identity confirmed by disecting the flower head to find a hollow receptacle.

Wall Rocket: What was probably the last to be seen in flower this winter was on the wall of the path along the south side of Havant churchyard on Jan 12

Blackthorn: Passing the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 14 I was surprised to find Blackthorn still flowering on the one aberrant branch where I had seen it in December.

Primrose: The genuinely wild plants in the tiny west Hayling shoreline copse at the north end of the big West Lane fields had four flower buds on show on Jan 14 - two of them already showing yellow petal tips.

OTHER

Roe Deer: Prior to 2006 it was very unusual to see any Roe on Hayling but in February and April of last year there were reports of a group of six Roe roaming the north Hayling fields. Now, on Jan 11, that group has been seen again and has now grown to 8 in number.


Summary for Jan 1 - 7 (Week 1 of 2007)

BIRDS

Diver species: All three of the regular diver species were seen in Southampton Water off Hythe on New Years Day (at least three Red-throated, two Black-throated and three Great Northern. These species could be seen all along the south coast with a count of 7 Red-throated in Christchurch Harbour area on Jan 5 and 12 Great Northern in Portland Harbour on Jan 1 though Southampton Water was the only place with more than one Black-throated (on Jan 4 the two were still to be seen from Hythe with another one seen from Kings Quay on the other side of the Solent near Fishbourne IoW).

Great Crested Grebe: A flock of 220 was on the water off Dungeness on Jan 4 but Hampshire's highest reported count was of just 28 on the Blashford Lakes (though not reported I suspect you can still see 50+ on the Chichester Lakes)

Red-necked Grebe: The bird which has been on the sea off Puckpool Point, IoW, since Nov 11 was still there on Jan 3 and the one that has been in Portland Harbour since Dec 3 was still there on Jan 5. So far in 2007 these are the only reported birds.

Slavonian Grebe: Reports for this year have come from Lymington (one on Jan 1, two on Jan 4), Pagham Harbour (one on Jan 2), and the north east of the IoW (singles on Jan 3 and 4), Studland Bay (two on Jan 2) and Portland Harbour (two on Jan 1).

Black-necked Grebe: No reports from Langstone Harbour so far this year but one was seen at Lymington on Jan 1 and Dorset has at least six in Studland Bay and singles in Poole Harbour and Portland Harbour)

Leach's Petrel: Probably the best bird for Hampshire on New Year's Day was one of these seen from Milford on sea

Cormorant: I have in the past been told of a regular Cormorant roost in trees by the Leigh Park Gardens lake in Havant and on New Year's Day I saw three birds on a very dead tree (no doubt killed by the Cormorant droppings) at the north west corner of the lake. Another inland roost at The Vyne (National Trust property near Basingstoke) was the cause of an interesting comment on Hoslist concerning these inland roosting and tree breeding Cormorants - I have not been alone in thinking that inland Cormorants are probably of the continental race which does nest in trees while our British race birds stay on the coast and nest on cliffs. Martin Pitt writes about the birds at The Vyne lake .. "The birds seem to be young birds and are present from Aug thro to March. Seven is an exceptional count but the numbers have been increasing year on year. Keep your eyes open for a young bird with a green ring. It is a bird that has been present since Aug this year. It was ringed in the Bristol Channel and is of the British subspecies P.carbo carbo rather than the Continental P carbo sinensis that has been assumed to be behind the increase in inland cormorant records".

Shag: One was present in the mouth of Langstone Harbour on New Year's Day with others on the IoW coast and at Shoreham Harbour

Bittern: Despite an update to the Titchfield Haven website (which had no news after Nov 5 until an update in the past few days brought it up to Dec 31) there are no reports of Bittern there (or anywhere in Hampshire) since one was seen there between Sep 15 and Oct 11. Hopefully that will soon change as the sightings which have been mostly around Dungeness and Rye until the end of the year (though one was at Radipole in Weymouth on Nov 29) are now coming from Dorset where one was reported at Radipole on Jan 1 and there is news of 2 seen recently at Hatch Pond (somewhere in Dorset).

Great White Egret: Probably still at the Blashford Lakes where it was seen on Jan 1

Spoonbill: Ten were in Poole Harbour on Jan 1 (where there were 8 on Nov 29 and 9 on Dec 27

Bewick's Swan: On Jan 4 Sussex had a total of at least 33 (23 on the Adur near Henfield, 7 on the Arun near Arundel and 3 in the Greatham Bridge area. In the Hampshire Avon valley the group of five which arrived on Christmas Day seemed to be down to two birds on Dec 31 and Jan 31 but was back to six on Jan 4

Whooper Swan: On Jan 2 there was a report of two adults and one juv flying over South Mundham (close to the Chichester Lakes) but there is nothing in the report to convince me that these were Whoopers rather than the Bewick's which are in the area (this would be the first report of Whoopers in Sussex this winter - in fact the only reports of Whoopers that I have seen have been of four birds at Dungeness on Nov 4 and a single at Abbotsbury on Dec 10 and 11). Of course both the South Mundham and the Abbotsbury reports could have been of escaped Whoopers rather than wild birds. There have been past reports from the Chichester/Pagham area which I believe to be of birds taking a winter break from local captivity - two flew north over Pagham Harbour on 2 Jan 2002, two were near the Pagham North Walls on 15 Nov 2003 and in 2004 two were again seen at Pagham on four dates in January before moving to Ivy Lake at Chichester where they were seen on six dates from Feb 15 to Apr 14. Part of my feeling that these were locally based birds was the late date in April - surely migrants would have left by then?

Shelduck: Cycling over Langstone Bridge to the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 2 I saw a total of 138 Shelduck - 71 on the Langstone-Warblington shore, 40 on the South Moors shore and 27 at the Oysterbeds. Hopefully that is an indication that the decline in numbers of Shelduck in our local harbours is slowing if not reversing though a count of 138 is no indicator of the totals (in recent winters there have still been around 600 Shelduck in Langstone Harbour in January and another 700 in Chichester Harbour)

Gadwall: Of purely personal iterest after failing to see a Gadwall on New Years Day I was pleased to see a single male on Aldsworth Pond on Jan 5 - others may like to know that that pond is now brimming with water but has very few birds so far (one Gadwall, two Mallard, a few Coot and at least one Little Grebe was all I found there)

Ring-necked Duck: A single first winter or female bird arrived on the Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex on Jan 3 and was still there on Jan 5

Scaup: Numbers continue to increase very slightly. There are now at least seven in Weymouth and probably one in Poole Harbour and one in the Studland Little Sea. Hampshire had one on the river at Titchfield Haven on Jan 1and on Jan 5 Sussex had an immature male at Weir Wood reservoir with four still at Rye Harbour.

Eider: The recent update of the Titchfield Haven website gives a peak of 108 on Dec 23, marginally below the autumn peak of 112 on Oct 29. Currently only one or two are being reported there in 2007.

Common Scoter: A count of 238 going west off Dungeness on Jan 4 may mean an increase in numbers in our area.

Goldeneye: A party of three were off Langstone Village on New Year's Day when I saw two in Langstone Harbour and Dan Houghton had two on Anglesey Lake in Gosport (the dammed off west end of the Haslar/Stoke Lake creek).

Goosander: A single bird at Titchfield Haven on Dec 28 does not seem to have stayed there but in the New Year a flock of 18 was on Eyeworth Pond in the New Forest on Jan 4 (and probably the 34 spending the night of Dec 29 at the Blashford Lakes were still there in the New Year - and had probably increased)

Ruddy Duck: Seven were at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 1 but the male on the Budds Farm pools in Havant has not been reported this year.

Buzzard: Looking from the top of Compton Down to the north of Stansted Forest on New Year's Day John Simons reported a total of 27 Buzzards (not all seen at the same time!)

Peregrine: One was seen to enter the nest box on Shoreham Power Station chimney on New Year's Day

Avocet: I had 2 at Nutbourne Bay in Chichester Harbour on Jan 1, and 5 were in Pagham Harbour on Jan 2 while on Jan 4 the flock in the Farlington Marshes area still numbered 26.

Knot: On Jan 4 an estimated 200 were in Newtown Harbour on the IoW where there had only been two reports of more than 9 birds so far this winter (70 there on Nov 24 and 30 on Dec 8)

Little Stint: A single bird was still at West Wittering on Jan 2 with another single in Poole Harbour on Jan 2 and 5

Purple Sandpiper: No Hampshire reports so far this year but on Jan 5 Christchurch Harbour had a peak count of 14 birds

Black-tailed Godwit: Further snippets of information about the whereabouts of these birds come from the newly updated Titchfield Haven website which reports 150+ there on Nov 29, 256 on Dec 23 (but only 30 on Dec 10), then 200+ on Dec 31. Pagham Harbour had a peak count of 800 (estimated) on Jan 2 (much the same as the 790 on Dec 25 and 750 on Dec 23)

Whimbrel: Single wintering birds were at Pagham Harbour and at Cracknore Hard (north end of Southampton Water), both seen on Jan 2

Spotted Redshank: At least two of the three birds which have been seen on the west Emsworth shore this winter were back there on Jan 2 and on Jan 4 there were five on the Lymington shore and another 3 in Poole Harbour

Greenshank: Two of these were also on the west Emsworth shore on Jan 2. This week has also brought reports of one at Bunny Meadows on the Hamble, one near Bosham and two at West Wittering with 6 on the Lymington marshes and one across the water at Yarmouth, IoW

Green Sandpiper: I failed to see the bird on the Hermitage Stream here in Havant on New Year's Day but there was one at Titchfield Haven, another at the Blashford Lakes and a third in north Hampshire on the Mapledurwell cressbeds. The only one reported from Sussex this week was at far away Bewl Water.

Common Sandpiper: Sussex has had three of these this week (Bewl Water, Piddinghoe on the Ouse and Beeding on the Arun) and I did have one at the Brockhampton/Hermitage stream junction on Jan 1. Other singles have been on the Itchen in Southampton and on the north shore of the IoW at Kings Quay, Fishbourne.

Med Gulls: Although there is a good chance of seeing one of these anywhere on the south coast the current hot spot seems to be the mouth of Pagham Harbour with 47+ there on Jan 2 (though there may well be a bigger flock going un-reported in the Bembridge Foreland area of the IoW - 50 were there on 15 Jan 2006 with 121 in the previous November)

Little Gull: Up to four have been at Dungeness this week and Jan 1 found 2 in Southampton water and 1 at Widewater (Worthing)

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport Cockle Pond bird was present on Jan 1 when there was an interesting report of one seen on the water of Ivy Lake at Chichester before flying off east.

Iceland Gull: The single bird seen off Titchfield Haven on Dec 28 and in the north part of Gosport on Dec 31 may have re-appeared on the Worthing shore on Jan 5 - descriptions of these three sightings give the age of the bird respectively as a third winter, an adult, and an immature (probably second year) so we may have three different birds or three different views of the same bird.

Sandwich Tern: The only report so far this year is of a single in Poole Harbour on Jan 1

Auks: New Year's Day saw 2 Razorbills in Southampton Water and 1 Guillemot in the west Solent area

Stock Dove: The large flock remained on the Warblington Farm fields from Dec 25 (when I estimated 140 birds) to New Year's Day (when 100+ were seen by a local bird watching melee - I was sadly disappointed to see in their scoresheet that these lovely little doves that have probably flown here from Scandinavia were downgraded to the status of Sotck Dove/Feral Pigeon as if they were local building foulers)

Barn Owl: It would appear that Barn Owls had a very bad year in 2006 with many adults birds dying and even more broods failing as a result of cold wet weather and a vole shortage in the first half of the year. Locally there have been no reports of the birds at Nutbourne but I am glad to read that this week has brought sightings of two hunting at Waltham Brooks (Pulborough), two more at Shoreham airport and one on the fields north of Pagham Harbour.

Short-eared Owl: This species too has been in relatively short supply this winter but Jan 2 saw one hunting near Bowley Farm, South Mundham, between Chichester and Pagham Harbour.

Kingfisher: One perched on trees at the back of Langstone Mill Pond on New Year's Day was a bonus for a big group of local birders.

Swallow: The newly updated Titchfield Haven website highlights the sighting of a late bird there on Nov 22 but since then there has been an even later bird at Portland on Dec 8.

Water Pipit: When I came on four of these at the Spring Garden cress beds (SU 799067) to the north of Bosham on Jan 1 I was particularly pleased as I had not seen one at all during 2006 and the few reports of them had dried up at the end of November. Since then I have heard that one was at Titchfield Haven on Dec 28 and that 14 were seen together on Jan 5 at the Lower Test Marshes, Southampton

Black Redstart: Although there have been widespread reports of these this winter they seem to have ceased to be newsworthy to those who have them on their doorstep but at least on fairly local bird was seen on Jan 1 at Newlands Farm near Stubbington (south of Fareham) where two or more were seen on Dec 17

Whinchat: What was probably the last migrant was at Portland on Nov 1 so one seen by the Sussex Ouse upstream of Lewes on Dec 14 (and which was filmed and officially confirmed as a Whinchat) can be regarded as a wintering bird. No more reports of that one but this week there is a report of another on the southern outskirts of Horsham, seen on Jan 5 and said to have been there since Christmas. I recall seeing one wintering at Hilsea Lines in Portsmouth and seeing what may have been a second bird at Portchester in the same winter - that was in January 1983 and both were surviving in rough grass pony paddocks so if more are around this winter it could be worth checking out similar habitat. The report of this winter's first bird was reported in these words .. "At around 2pm today I was very surprised to see a Whinchat hawking insects from the deer fencing below our bedroom at Constantia Manor, Isfield. It stayed in the same area for about an hour before flying off into the wild bird crop". The second report was equally brief, saying .. "A Whinchat in the tip fields at Chesworth Farm, Horsham".

Common Whitethroat: Another bird finding it warm enough to spend the winter here remains at Christchurch Harbour where it was showing well on Jan 5 after being first found on Dec 28. No further news of the bird seen at the IBM Portsmouth site on Dec 13 or of the other bird 'somewhere in Devon'

Yellow-browed Warbler: The bird at Hawley Meadows just north of Farnborough was still there on Jan 1 but the only other birds being currently reported are two separate birds in Dorset (at The Nothe and Sandsfoot Castle Cove)

Firecrest: Two birds remain in the Hook Lake area near Warsash and at least one (probably two) were seen near Forestside (northern edge of Stansted Forest) on Jan 1.

Marsh and Willow Tits: I was lucky enough to hear a Marsh Tit in Southleigh Forest on New Year and I think these can be found fairly easily (on Dec 2 there was a report of 7 in West Dean Woods north of Chichester and at least one was in The Sling area of Stansted Forest on Dec 17). Willow Tits on the other hand seem to be extinct along the south coast and confirmation of this came from Cliff Dean in the Rye Bay area who, after a walk in Ashes Wood near Battle (north of Hastings) on Jan 5, wrote .. "Sadly, there was no sight or sound of the Willow Tits which have been here in the past".

Tree Creeper: I was lucky enought to see two Tree Creepers briefly on the tree I was standing under in the Stansted Forest Groves on Jan 5 (but not to hear their song which Bob Chapman tells us he has heard recently in the Ringwood area.

Raven: The pair which have been seen around the Stansted Forest area since the end of October were seen again on Jan 1 flying north over Forestside.

Crossbill: The only report of this species for the year so far is of three birds flying west over the Blashford Lakes on Jan 1

Yellowhammer: A flock of around 30 in the Horsham area on Jan 5 was as large a flock as has been reported anywhere on the south coast this winter. I think these birds were congregating at a night roost with 35 Reed Buntings and other small birds.

Corn Bunting: At least one was heard singing on New Year's Day (but only at Dungeness RSPB site)

INSECTS

Brimstone butterfly: None seen flying in 2007 but on Jan 1 Adrian Hoskins refound one hibernating under a leaf in an area of Stansted Forest where he had seen it on Dec 16. One was flying on Portsdown on Dec 18 to be the latest sighting of 2006

Red Admiral: A total of 18 insects were active at 13 sites on Jan 1 and 2 (combined)

Small Tortoiseshell: Peter Hughes, RSPB warden at Pulborough Brooks, is cautious in claiming that a butterfly he saw on Jan 1 was a Small Tortoiseshell but I suspect it was,

Peacock: One of these was seen in the Chichester/Pagham area on Jan 1 - the location is given at Hamsleys Farm which I cannot track down (maybe Halsey's Farm near Sidlesham?)

Brown Hairstreak: Eggs of this butterfly were found on Blackthorn at Cissbury Ring (Sussex Downs north of Worthing)

Pearly Underwing: The first and only moth to be reported so far in 2007 was a Pearly Underwing in the trap at Portland Bill on the night of Jan 1

Harlequin Ladybird: This species has spread dramatically since it first appeared in Britain in 2004 and it has demonstrated that it can survive our winters. I have just heard from Brian Fellows that a specimen found in north Emsworth in November 2006 has been formally identified as one and I know that Nik Knight at Wade Court Farmhouse in Langstone has had several candidates found in his garden this year confirmed as this species. In the north of Hampshire we were told in October that a total of 186 of them had been found at a primary school at Overton (near Basingstoke) and also in October one was found locally at the Stansted Sawmill. There are probably thousands more which have escaped notice or identification and I do not see any likelihood of stopping the spread of these invaders and hope that, as with many other invasive species that have reached Britain, they will eventually settle down without destroying all the other species with which they compete or prey on.

Our native Ladybirds spend most of their time eating Aphids and thus acting as a vital pest control on both garden and farm crops whereas the Harlequins have a more varied diet - they will eat fruit but their favourite meal is the larvae of other Ladybirds and similar insects, and to show their catholic taste they are quite happy to eat othe Harlequin Ladybirds smaller than themselves (i.e. their one larvae and young adults). Destruction of the Aphid eating species could have a catastrophic effect on our food crops.

For those who are concerned and want to be able to identify the enemy there is great difficulty in doing so as the Harlequin is immensely variable in colour patterns and has no ‘easy to spot’ characteristic other than its size. It is invariably bigger than 5mm long, ruling out confusion with several of our smaller species of Ladybird but the common Seven Spot and the Eyed Ladybirds fall into the same size range (5 - 8 mm) as the Harlequins.

An article in the Aug 2005 issue of British Wildlife could only give us this help with identifying them. It said .. "Harlequin Ladybirds are larger than most other species of Ladybird and typically measure 5 - 8mm. They are highly polymorphic in colour. The elytra (wing cases) range from pale yellow-orange to black. Common forms in Britain include those with orange, red or yellow elytra with anything from zero to 21 spots as well as black forms which have either two or four orange or red spots." For more information visit http://www.ladybird-survey.org

PLANTS

Coastal Redwood (Sequioa sempervirens): The trees which line the path through the Redwood Groves at Stansted are of this species and at present the tips of every branch end in many male flowers, one of which shed pollen when I held it in my hand for a closer look on Jan 5

Wild Radish: One plant with white flowers was flowering beside Hares Lane (Racton to Funtington) on New Year's Day along with lots of Charlock.

Common Whitlowgrass: The first of the plants lining Waterloo Road in Havant started to flower on Jan 3 and by Jan 7 the best part of a dozen plants were showing white buds or flowers

Sweet Violet: On Jan 2 a few of the plants at the Hayling Oysterbeds had flowers

Blackthorn: The single branch of Blackthorn that has been flowering at the Hayling Oysterbeds will soon drop all its petals but could still be found on Jan 2 with Dog Roses still flowering nearby

Hawthorn: The flowering tree by the Hermitage Stream in Leigh Park was seen again on Jan 1

Barren Strawberry: In the Stansted Groves area on Jan 5 I found one white flower bud on this plant

Spurge Laurel: A plant by Woodlands Lane above Walderton had buds starting to open (but none in flower) on Jan 1

Holly: A bush in Havant Park still had flowers on Jan 4

Grey Alder (Alnus incana): Catkins were fully open on a tree growing above the Lavant stream at the Prince George Street carpark in Havant on Jan 4

Dog's Mercury: A single very young plant bearing male flowers was growing in Pook Lane at Warblington on Jan 2

Cow Parsley: My best botanic find on New Year's Day was a single plant of Cow Parsley flowering beside Hare's Lane (Racton to Funtington)

Primrose: Plenty of Polyanthus and Primrose type flowers can be seen in gardens (and both Narcissi and Daffodil have been seen in flower at the end of December) so flowering Primroses in the small copse bordering the Palmers Road carpark in Emsworth , seen on Jan 4, are of dubious status as wild flowers. In the Stansted Groves where I usually see my first wild Primrose flowers I could only find fresh leaves, not even a flower bud, on Jan 4 (while there I also failed to see any Early Purple orchid leaves nor any Lesser Periwinkle flowers in Pitts Copse where recent scrub clearance promises a good flower show this spring)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Field Vole: A sighting of a small rodent in Brook Meadow at Emsworth on (or just before) Jan 4 raised a couple of interesting points. The person who saw it in the long grass described it as being "smaller than a rat, but larger than a mouse, with greyish fur" and thought it was a 'common vole', probably not intending to name its species but to say that it as one of the commoner vole species. Interestingly there is a species called Common Vole (Microtus arvalis) which is abundant in Europe from the Pyrennees east into Russia and south to the Alps but this species is absent from mainland Britain, just having a toehold on Orkney (there called the Orkney Vole) and in the Channel Isle (Guernsey Vole). In southern Britain the only Vole species are the Water Vole, Bank Vole and Short-tailed (or Field) Vole, and as one of the distinctive features of Bank Vole is a reddish tinge to its fur (while Field Vole has greyish fur) the animal seen was probably a Field Vole though (given the mild weather) it could have been a young Water Vole setting off on a cross country journey or even a young Rat if it was not seen well. While reading up on this subject I was interested to see that my 1976 edition of a Collins Field Guide to the Mammals of Europe showed two variations of Water Vole in Britain - the regular Water Vole (named Arvicola amphibius) in most of England but in northern Scotland it was replaced by Arvicola terrestris which had the English name of Ground Vole (a species common in Europe from Germany east and northwards). By 1984 my Readers Digest Guide to the Animals of Britain only mentions one species which it calls Water Vole but gives it the scientific name Arvicola terrestris (as if it was a land species) rather than the more appropriate A. amphibius

Fungi: Little to be seen at present but on Jan 2 I did see some large gilled fungi growing on the east bank of Pook Lane at Warblington (near the seaward end). They were starting to decay but by the tawny colour of both cap and gills, and by growing from tree roots, I think they were Specatacular Rustgill (Gymnopilus junonius). Another find made in the Stansted Forest Goves was a cluster of newly emerging Velvet Shank on a tree stump - this fungus seems to love frosty weather and the current mild weather may be responsible for the absence of the fungi that we normally see in January. On Portsdown I see that Jews Ear (now called Jelly Ear to be politically correct, though maybe an unkind slight on Jelly Babies?) was seen.


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