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WEEKLY SUMMARY


Summary for Mar 31 - Apr 6 (Week 13 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights of bird news are an early Black Kite over Aldershot on Apr 1; a Hobby seen at Gosport on Apr 2 seems to have been the first to reach Britain; a Corncrake was heard in Dorset near Bridport on Mar 31; two Common Cranes at Pulborough on Apr 3 and 4 proved they were a pair by mating; two Swifts flew over Sandwich in Kent on Apr 2 and one near Rye on Apr 5; first Nightingale was at Dungeness on Apr 5; first Ring Ouzels arrived at several sites on Mar 30 with the first Yellow Wagtail; first Grasshopper Warbler was at Seaford on Apr 5; first Reed Warblers were singing at Emsworth and Lymington on Apr 4; first Common Whitethroat was near Rye on Apr 2; first Pied Flycatcher was at Christchurch on Apr 1 and one was seen locally at Langstone on Apr 6 in company with a male Common Redstart; other firsts in the news are Serin and Common (was Mealy) Redpoll

Insect highlights were the first Clouded Yellow at Portland on Apr 3; first Green-veined White and Orange Tip seen this week; 12 new moth species include a very early migrant Diamond-back, and early residents were Small Waved Umber and Oak Tree Pug; other interesting species were the False Widow Spider and Black Millipede plus Gwynne's Mining Bee

Flower news is of Early Gentian and Early Spider Orchid flowering at Durlston as was Common and Chalk Milkwort; locally Crab Apple, Horse Chestnut, Wild Garlic and Cuckoo Flower were out and the fertile cones of Great Horsetail were seen

Among Other Wildlife 14 Common Seals was a good count on Thorney Island and elsewhere Hedgehog, Slow-worm and Brown Long-eared Bat were seen

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Manx Shearwater: These have become a regular sight off Portland since Mar 28 and 60 were seen there on Mar 31. 10 were seen (with 57 Fulmars) from St Catherine's Point (IoW) on Mar 29 and one went past Selsey Bill on Mar 30

Balearic Shearwater: One was off Portland on Mar 30 to become the third March sighting there (prior to 2008 March was the only month with no sightings of this species at the Bill)

Cattle Egret: None have been reported in Dorset since Mar 30 but two were still in the area near Bucklers Hard (east of Lymington) on Apr 3

Little Egret: Local numbers normally diminish at this time of year as Egrets return to their breeding sites (many of them, I think, returning to the continent) but maybe this year things will be different. My only reason for thinking this is that on Apr 2 one was seen arriving from the continent at Dungeness while on Apr 6 there appeared to be 25 or more high tide roosting in the Southmere field at Langstone village as I drove past and on Apr 4 at least 4 were in the trees above Langstone pond during high tide.

Spoonbill: More than a dozen of these have been in Dorset in January, February and March but the only reports from that county this month have been of a single bird in Poole Harbour on Apr 1 and two birds flying east over Christchurch Harbour to leave the county on Apr 5. Another new bird, which may have come from Dorset, was at Titchfield Haven on Apr 2 and 3

Mute Swan: In addition to the local birds already known to be nesting at Budds Farm, Langstone Mill and Peter Pond in Emsworth, this week has brought news of further pairs - one pair with a nest at Emsworth Marina, another pair seen together on Brick-kiln Pond at Stansted and likely to nest in the old 'boating lake' upstream of that pond, and the pair that normally nest in full view at the Thorney Little Deeps may have chosen a new site hidden in the reeds there as only one of the birds could be seen on the open water on Apr 2

White-front Goose: The single 'albifrons' bird which was seen at Farlington Marshes on Mar 1 and 2, and which has been at Titchfield Haven since Mar 14, is reported to have spent the intervening time on the IBM Lake at Portsmouth

Brent: The majority have now left but the past few days have brought several reports - on Mar 30 there were 125 in Southampton Water and 598 flew past Seaford; on Apr 1 there were at least 70 still around off Langstone village and Christchurch Harbour had 185. Reports since then include 94 on the Langstone South Moors shore on Apr 3 and on Apr 5 Selsey Bill watchers saw 35 flying east while 26 remained in Newtown Harbour (IoW)

Pale-bellied Brent: The family of four were still on the Lymington shore on Mar 31

Wigeon : Around 100 were still at Pulborough Brooks on Apr 3 with 135 Teal, 40 Shoveler and 4 Pintail

Teal: Another 172 (and 62 Shoveler) were in the Lymington area on Apr 4

Garganey: One flew east off Selsey Bill on Apr 4 and on Apr 5 there was a drake at the Lewes Brooks and 3 birds were at Rye Harbour

Scaup: Three seen at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Mar 30 and a single female was on the west Solent off the Beaulieu River on Apr 3

Eider: A peak of 86 birds is said to have been off Titchfield Haven during March

Long-tailed Duck: One was still on the Lymington shore on Mar 30 although all other wintering birds seem to have left

Surf Scoter: One still off Ovingdean (Brighton) on Apr 2

Velvet Scoter: On Mar 31 two were still in Rye Bay and five flew past Selsey Bill. Latest news is of three passing Portland on Apr 5

Black Kite: After the reported sighting in Wiltshire on Mar 28 one flew low north over Bourley Hill in the Aldershot area on Apr 1 leaving John Eyre in no doubt of its identity. This was almost certainly a visitor from the continent and maybe supports my feeling that quite a few of the Red Kites seen near the south coast recently are new arrivals.

Hen Harrier: An interesting report of one flying over the Stansted East Park on Mar 31 comes from Michael Prior who watched a local Peregrine attack it before the Peregrine went back to its perch in a Sweet Chestnut tree. Latest reports are of a ringtail over the Downs at Amberley and of a male flying west over Harting Down, both on Apr 4

Buzzard: An indication of the increasing number of these in our local Havant area come from sightings this week around a nest site in the Langstone area on Apr 5, and of pairs soaring and displaying in both the Leigh Park and Funtington areas on Apr 3

Osprey: The first to arrive at Thorney Island this spring was seen there on Mar 29 eating a fish before being disturbed by a passing jogger - it seems that did not prevent the Osprey coming back to the same perch with another fish on Mar 30. Other Ospreys have been seen in the last few days at Pagham Harbour, Poole Harbour, Christchurch Harbour, Lower Test Marshes at Southampton and Newtown Harbour (IoW) with inland sightings near Midhurst and Faccombe north east of Andover. Latest report is of one over Hastings on Apr 4.

Merlin: Three sightings on Mar 30 at Chilling near Warsash, Chanctonbury Ring north of Worthing and at Dungeness. They were still arriving from the south at Portland on Apr 3 and at Dungeness on Apr 5

Hobby: Although one was rumoured to have been seen in Suffolk during February the first genuine arrival that I know of was seen by Peter Raby arriving at Gilkicker Point (Gosport) on Apr 2 with the only other report so far being of a bird going north over Horsham on Apr 4

Corncrake: One reported to have been heard near a Dorset nature reserve in the Bridport area on Mar 31. Hopefully it was uninjured, unlike one found on Hayling in the 1990s after it had flown into overhead wires and dropped down dead in a cabbage patch

Coot: The nest on a raft at the Slipper Mill Pond in Emsworth which had 3 new hatched chicks on Mar 29 had a fourth chick showing on Apr 4

Common Crane: Two birds were seen at Pulborough Brooks on Apr 3 and 4 (seen mating on Apr 4) and wre probably the same two that were there on Mar 18 and 19.

Avocet: 18 were present at Titchfield Haven sometime during March and 11 were at Rye Harbour on Apr 4

Golden Plover: A flock of around 50 were seen in the Titchfield area on Apr 1, half of them in summer plumage, and 240 were roosting at Rye Harbour on Apr 4

Knot: 24 were still to be seen at Rye Harbour on Apr 4

Black-tailed Godwit: Christchurch Harbour had 95 on Mar 31 and on Apr 1 the count seen to the east from Langstone Bridge was around 120. Since then there have been reports of around 90 in Newtown Harbour (IoW) on Apr 5 with 63 at Christchurch Harbour that day.

Whimbrel: After an early burst of birds passing through in the first half of March there has been a lull until Mar 30 when one arrived on Portland Bill. Since then there have been reports of 2 at Durlston on Apr 2, 3 at Lymington on Apr 4, 1 at Christchurch Harbour on Apr 5 when Durlston had 3

Spotted Redshank: Since Apr 1 there have been up to five still in Poole Harbour and singles at Christchurch Harbour and at Yarmouth (IoW)

Med Gull: No recent news from Langstone Harbour but Titchfield Haven had approaching 200 on Apr 2 and Rye Harbour had 113 on Apr 4.

Little Gull: 12 were seen at Dungeness on Mar 30 and on Mar 31 there were 2 at Ivy Lake (Chichester) with one there on Apr 1 and another at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood. One was still at Chichester on Apr 3

Iceland Gull: Sightings reported at Dungeness, Newhaven and Portland in the past few days but there have been no reports from anywhere since Mar 31

Glaucous Gull: The Shoreham Harbour bird was still around on Mar 31, maybe after moving along the coast to Newhaven on Mar 30, and another has been at Dungeness. The Shoreham bird was still there on Apr 5

Common Tern: Following the firsts of the year at Milford (Lymington) and Selsey on Mar 28 there have now been sightings at Seaford, Rye Harbour and Dungeness

Short-eared Owl: One was at Portland on Apr 2 and two were there on Apr 4

Swift: After the single very early bird seen on the Isle of Wight on Mar 17 there have been two more recent sightings - two flew over Sandwich Bay in Kent on Apr 2 and a single bird was seen on Apr 5 over Icklesham in East Sussex near Rye

Wood Lark: At least one pair was still in the East Park at Stansted on Mar 31

Swallow: Numbers started to increase on Mar 31 with the arrival of 7 at Portland and on Apr 1 there were 15 in the Climping area near the mouth of the R Arun and 6 at Chichester Ivy Lake. On Apr 2 more than 40 flew in at Selsey and Portland record 100 on Apr 3. Apr 5 brought 50 to the Lewes Brooks and 25 to Stokes Bay at Gosport

House Martin: Highest count at any one site so far is 5 birds at the Chichester Lakes on Apr 5

Tree Pipit: Although one was reported to have been seen in the Bourley Hill area near Aldershot sometime before Mar 21 there have been no other reports of the species anywhere so one seen at Bourley Hill by John Eyre on Mar 30 may well have been first of the year in England. The next arrivals were singles at Portland and Christchurch, both on Apr 4

Meadow Pipit: The mass of birds that has been moving north since Feb 22 had reached a peak count of 1200 arriving at Portland by Mar 15 but plenty are still coming in with counts on Apr 2 of 200 at Portland and 530 at Christchurch Harbour. Quite a few are now on territory and on Apr 3 I heard at least three making their song flights over the Gipsies Plain to the west of Rowlands Castle

Yellow Wagtail: The first to be reported this year was at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 30. Since then there have been reports form Christchurch Harbour, Haywards Heath, Sandwich Bay, Portland, Rye Harbour and Durlston though the sum of all birds reported is still only 14

Nightingale: First of the year was at Dungeness on Apr 5

Black Redstart: Sightings continue to be reported along the coast but the report which caught my eye was of one singing in a run down area of Hastings where it might possibly breed as many did in London bomb sites after the war. I wonder if global warming or a population increase will bring them back to breed in the forts on Portsdown Hill as they did in the 1970s?

Common Redstart: After the first early female at Ebernoe near Midhurst on Mar 25 a second bird was at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 30. By Apr 3 they were back at breeding sites in the New Forest and song was heard at two of these sites on Apr 4. Locally a male was seen on the Langstone shoreline between Wade and Pook Lanes on the evening of Apr 6

Stonechat: One or two pairs will probably breed at south Hayling sites but the only local place where I have seen apparently established territorial males is the Gipsies Plain west of Rowlands Castle with two birds seen in different places on Apr 3

Ring Ouzel: These arrived on a broad front on Mar 30 with reports from the Weymouth and Brighton areas plus one near Basingstoke and another in the Aldershot area. The only report since then is of one at Christchurch Harbour on Apr 4

Fieldfare: 55 still in the Pulborough area on Mar 31 and 47 there on Apr 4

Grasshopper Warbler: First of the year arrived at Seaford on Apr 5 and was still reeling there next day

Sedge Warbler: These have been heard singing in increasing numbers since Mar 26 in the Rye Bay, Dungeness and Christchurch areas but nowhere else so far

Reed Warbler: Apr 4 brought two very early birds to Emsworth and Lymington where both were heard singing

Common Whitethroat: First of the year was heard singing at the Pannell Valley near Rye Bay on Apr 2 with another heard at Durlston on Apr 3. Portland and Dungeness both had their first on Apr 5

Blackcap: Some of our summer birds may have arrived before Apr 1 but that day brought reports from eight widely separated sites, with song heard at three sites (at least). Apr 2 brought news of another singing bird at a new site (Pannel Valley near Rye), and Apr 3 gave reports of song at Stansted Forest, Hollybank Woods at Emsworth and Great Copse in Leigh Park, all close to Havant, plus more song in a north Fareham garden. On Apr 4 one was singing in Brook Meadow at Emsworth and on Apr 5 one was singing in the old rail line running behind my Havant garden

Willow Warbler: Now arriving in small numbers - several singing among 8 birds at Church Norton on Mar 30 when another 8 arrived at Dungeness, then 10 at Portland on Mar 31 increasing to 15 there on Apr 1, plus 12 in Christchurch Harbour and several other reports including 3 at Ivy Lake, Chichester, that day. Apr 2 brought a dramatic increase in numbers with 63 at Christchurch Harbour, and on Apr 4 there were 100+ at Portland and 350+ at Christchurch. On Apr 5 there were an estimated 500 at Portland and 370 at Christchurch

Firecrest: Thirteen reports between Mar 29 and Apr 1, with numbers up to 14 at Dungeness on Apr 30 and 10 at Portland on Mar 31, show that many are now reaching us from the south.

Pied Flycatcher: A male at Christchurch Harbour on Apr 1 was first for the year and Apr 5 brought another male to the Haywards Heath area and a female to the Christchurch area. A very good local sighting on the evening of Apr 6 was of one in trees on the Langstone shoreline between Wade and Pook Lanes

Serin: The first report for this year is of one eating grass seeds in at Bognor garden on Apr 3

Linnet: Small number seem to be arriving from the south and on Apr 4 some were said to be back on territory in the New Forest

Common (=Mealy) Redpoll: One was reported from the Studland area of Dorset on Apr 5

Yellowhammer: Small flocks are now being reported from several places including the East Park at Stansted,, Lewes and Hastings so hopefully some are now arriving from the south to breed here.

Corn Bunting: A report of more than 50 in the Maiden Castle area of Dorset near Dorchester on Apr 5 gives some hope of a few coming back to Hampshire....

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Clouded Yellow: An early first at Portland on Apr 3

Brimstone: 28 new reports with 17 in the Andover area, 20+ at Cissbury Ring north of Worthing and 12 in woods east of Arundel, all on Apr 4, show that a new burst of emergence has occurred this week.

Large White: At least one was seen in the Gosport area on Feb 12, and a female was out at Portland on Mar 19, but the real emergence of this species probably starts with a male seen at Gosport on Apr 1, with two there and another at Barton on sea on Apr 4

Small White: This species too had early examples on Feb 8, 13 and 18, followed by 8 reports in March, but the real emergence seems to have started on Mar 30 with 17 reports since then

Green-veined White: One seen and photgraphed at Portland on Apr 1 remains the only one reported so far this year.

Orange Tip: Early insects were flying on Mar 26 at Horsham, on Mar 27 at Titchfield Haven and at Alresford on Mar 30 but the season began properly on Apr 3 with one seen at Warsash. Apr 4 brought three reports from Emsworth, the A27 at Havant and Stoke village on Hayling while one flew round my Havant garden on Apr 5

Holly Blue: Two reports from Gosport on Feb 9 and 12 were clearly out of line with the rest of the species which had its first 'normal' report from Portland on Mar 31 followed by a sighting of 2 at Worthing on Apr 3 and four sightings on Apr 4 (at Gosport, Winchester, Southampton and Crawley) followed by one at Durlston on Apr 5

Red Admiral: Just six recent sightings, all of ones or twos

Small Tortoiseshell: This species seems to be doing well with 17 sightings between Mar 30 and Apr 5. I saw my first at Warblington on Apr 5.

Peacock: This is currently the most often seen species with 34 sightings in the latest news, including a report of more than 40 seen at Pagham Harbour on Apr 4, 23 near Rye on Apr 3, and 14 in the Gosport area on Apr 1

Comma: Also common with 24 recent sightings but with a maximun count of 8 at any one time

Speckled Wood: 11 recent sightings including my own first sighting of one at Warblington Farm on Apr 5

(Pearl-bordered Fritillary caterpillar): Seen feeding on violets in the New Forest on Mar 30

Moths

Large Birch Purple (0012 Eriocrania sangii): First report from Ashdown Forest on Apr 3 - this is the normal time to find this Birch tree leaf-miner on the wing

Diamond-back moth (0464): First record from Newhaven on Apr 2 - this tiny but common migrant normally only flies between May and September.

Brindled Flat-body (0697 Agonopterix arenella): First at Horsham on Apr 3 - this will have hatched last autumn and hibernated

Orange Underwing (1661 Archiearis parthenias): First in Basing Forest on Mar 30

The Streamer (1747 Anticlea derivata): First near Rye on Apr 2 - early but normal time of year

Small Waved Umber (1781 Horisme vitalbata): First at Findon (Worthing) on Apr 3 - very early as this normally flies in May and June with a second brood coming out in August

Oak-tree Pug (1853 Eupithecia dodoneata): First at Horsham on Apr 3 - another May-June species

Brindled Beauty (1927 Lycia hirtaria): First at Horsham on Apr 3 - a normal March-April species

Muslin Moth (2063 Diaphora mendica): First early male at Findon (Worthing) on Mar 30 - males are a dark grey colour, female a pure white with tiny black dots

White-marked (2140 Cerastis leucographa): First at Horsham on Apr 3 - normal time of year

Blossom Underwing (2183 Orthosia miniosa): First at Horsham on Apr 3 - normal time of year

Powdered Quaker (2186 Orthosia gracilis): First at Horsham on Apr 3 - normal time of year

Other Insects

Bee Fly: A couple more sightings (one from Rye Harbour where the normally rare Dotted Bee-fly occurs but this was the common species)

Hoverflies: On Mar 30 both Drone flies (Eristalis tenax) and Marmelade Flies (Episyrphus balteatus) were on the wing at Rye Harbour

Mining Bees: On Apr 1 the Durlston rangers web diary commented on the small mounds of earth being created by the efforts of mining bees without mentioning the species - probably the small black Halictus species that we may also see on banks of dry soil around now. At Rye Harbour on Apr 3 they saw a species new to me called Gwynne's mining bee (Andrena bicolor) - see photo on the Rye Bay website.

False Widow Spider (Steatoda grossa): One found indoors on a table at Dungeness bird observatory on Mar 30 was a first for that site - the species has been spreading in Britain and was new to Kent last year. This is a species which is said to prey on Black Widow spiders in America so it is probably best avoided by humans. If you want to know more about the species use the latin name given here and not the one quoted on the Dungeness website as the genus is Steatoda not Steatodes.

Black Millipede (Tachypodoiulus niger): On Mar 31 the Rye Bay website has a picture of this creature which is 3 cm long and has 160 legs (or is that pairs of legs?)

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Great Horsetail: This species is just starting to re-appear at Warblington farm - on Apr 4 I came across three large fertile cones and one non-fertile spike

Bracken: The first fronds were starting to unfurl at Havant Thicket on Apr 3

Harts-tongue Fern: Tightly curled fresh fronds of this were seen in Pook Lane at Warblington on Apr 4

Goldilocks Buttercup: The first buds on plants at Pyle Lane in Horndean had started to break open on Apr 3

Wild Radish: One plant with white flowers seen on a Havant roadside on Apr 2

Cuckoo Flower: Although some had been found in flower as early as Feb 15 I only found my first in Warblington church yard on Apr 4

Common Milkwort: This had started to flower at Durlston by Apr 1 in reports of both blue and white flowers. More recent reports from there say they have Chalk Milkwort in flower and confirm this by writing of bright blue flowers only

Round-leaved Cranesbill: On Apr 1 one flower was open on the plants in The Ship inn carpark at Langstone where I last saw them flowering on Jan 29. By Apr 4 I had come on a second flowering plant in the Havant area.

Wood Sorrel: I found quite a lot of this in flower in the Long Avenue between Leigh Park Gardens and Havant Thicket on Apr 3 - the first I have seen but while I have no record of an earlier sighting I seem to remember John Goodspeed had found it last month.

Crab Apple: Close to the Wood Sorrel on Apr 3 I found a massive old Crab Apple tree covered with blossom in bud with some of the buds already open

Wild Strawberry: At Pyle Lane in Horndean on Apr 3 I found the flowers of this close to those of Barren Strawberry allowing the two plants to be compared.

Rue-leaved Saxifrage: This plant can be easily found on the Havant streets near my home, though in lesser numbers than in some recent years, so I was surprised to see it getting the treatment accorded to a real rarity at Rye Harbour in their website entry for Apr 5.

Beech and Field Maple: The leaves of both had started to appear in the Warblington area on Apr 4

Norway Maple: Bright yellow flowers were seen on this tree in Havant on Apr 2

Horse Chestnut: The first single white flower had opened on a tree in Havant on Apr 4

Wood Spurge: Although garden versions of this have been in flower for some time I found the genuine thing out in Havant Thicket on Apr 4 for the first time

Scarlet Pimpernel: Reported to be flowering at Durlston on Mar 30

Early Gentian: Also starting to flower at Durlston on Mar 31

Corn Salad (Valerianella locusta): One early plant showing its pale blue flowers in Havant on Apr 4

Cleavers (Goosegrass): Flowering in Havant on Apr 1 with more found on Apr 4

Nipplewort: One seen flowering in Havant on Apr 1 was my second for the year after one seen on Feb 1

Black Bryony: First leaves seen at Warblington on Apr 4

Ramsons (Wild Garlic): John Goodspeed found this flowering in Havant (Great Copse) on Apr 3

Early Spider Orchid: The first flowers seen on tiny plants at Durlston on Mar 31.

Pendulous Sedge: Also found by John Goodspeed flowering in Great Copse on Apr 3

Glaucous Sedge: Flowering on Portsdown on Apr 2

Spring Sedge: Flowering at Durlston on Apr 5

OTHER WILDLIFE

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: Two off Portland on Mar 23 were the first reported there since Feb 1, and on Mar 31 one came close in off Ovingdean (east of Brighton) to give the first report for the year from a site other than Portland

Common Seal: On Mar 30 Barry Collins found 14 Seals hauled out on the shore of Thorney Island in Chichester Harbour. Although there was a count of 14 there in Oct 2003 the next highest count was 11 in 2007 with peaks of just 10 in 2004, 5 and 6 and only 8 in 2000 and 2001 leaving 2002 with just 4.

Hedgehog: At least one was out of hibernation to be seen in a garden at Worthing on Mar 31

Brown Long-eared Bat: What was probably one of these was seen feeding by day at the Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough on Apr 4

Common Lizard: At least 20 seen in Pignal Inclosure area of the New Forest on Mar 30

Slow-worm: These are now active and one was seen in a Portsdown Hill garden on Apr 3


Summary for Mar 24 - 30 (Week 12 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Swans settled into nesting this week as Coots and Mallard both had their first young of the year on show. Surprise of the week was the re-appearance of the Finnish-hatched White-tailed Sea Eagle which spent mid-Nov to mid-January in the Andover area - another surprise was a Black Kite reported to be in Wiltshire heading for Hampshire and another was the sighting of a Quail in north Kent. New migrants were the first Stone Curlews back in Hampshire, the first Common Terns, Common Redstart and Sedge Warbler with a Golden Oriole reported near Hastings. Thorney Island hosted its first Osprey of the spring.

Best insect sightings were the first Orange Tip and Speckled Wood - less welcome news is of a fly called Sturmia bella which has recently arrived in Britain and whose larvae feed on and kill our butterfly caterpillars which use nettle as their foodplant

New flowers were Stork's Bill, Dove's Foot Cranesbill and Stream Water Crowfoot with Hairy Woodrush and Arum lily also on the list. In Langstone village Snakeshead Fritillary flowers were seen on plants that have been growing in the wild for several years

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: All three common species still being seen including a Black-throated seen from both Selsey Bill and Church Norton on Mar 25

Grebes: Four species still in the news with most birds showing their breeding plumage. Red-necks still in Portland Harbour and at Weir Wood on Mar 26. Two Slavonian were off the Lymington shore on Mar 24 and twelve were on the sea off Church Norton on Mar 25 and one Black-necked was still in the Pagham lagoon on Mar 27

Fulmar: On Mar 28 Dungeness saw 580 fly east and four of these were seen at Milford near Lymington that day with four off Christchurch Harbour next day (Mar 29)

Manx Shearwater: These are now beginning to appear in our waters with 99 off Portland on Mar 29 when one was seen as far east as Newhaven

Gannet: The major movement of Mar 28 brought 873 west past Dungeness with 64 seen from Selsey that day

Cattle Egret: The two birds were still at Lavant (Chichester) on Mar 24 with one still at Harbridge north of Ringwood on that day. One was at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Mar 26 and the Lymington area two were seen near Bucklers Hard on Mar 29

Grey Heron: Young could be seen in nests at Weir Wood near Crowborough on Mar 26

Spoonbill: Eleven were still in Poole Harbour on Mar 24 with another near Weymouth in the Fleet at Rodden Hive. By Mar 27 there were still 7 in Poole Harbour and 1 at Lodmoor (Weymouth) while one was still on the Lymington marshes on Mar 25 and 26

Mute Swan: The first to be reported on its nest this year was at Peter Pond in Emsworth, maybe as early as Mar 18 and certainly sitting by Mar 25 while one of the Langstone Pond pair were on or building their nest on Mar 24. The pair at Budds Farm here in Havant were also sitting by Mar 27 but on Mar 29 the pair at the Thorney Island Little Deeps (often the first to nest in our area) were both on the water there with no visible nest.

Whooper Swan: Hampshire had an unusual record on Mar 26 when a group of five were found on the Testwood Lakes at the mouth of the R. Test and were later seen flying north up the river past Romsey. Another odd sighting was of one passing over Sandwich Bay in Kent on Mar 20 and I hear that a group of five had been seen in Cornwall fairly recently. The last report of the five that were at the Chichester Lakes from Jan 15 was on Feb 10.

Brent: This is probably the last week in which Brent are seen in large numbers. At Dungeness 1060 went by on Mar 26 with another 243 on Mar 28. Locally there were over 500 still on the north shore of Langstone Harbour on Mar 27 and 80 in Emsworth Harbour on Mar 29 (when a flock of 220 on the Weston shore of Southampton Water was the largest seen there all winter!)

Pale-bellied Brent: The family of four that have been on the Lymington shore since Feb 12 were still there on Mar 29

Wigeon: No reports since Mar 27 when there were only a dozen left on the Langstone Harbour north shore and 33 flew east past Dungeness

Teal: At least 20 could still be seen in the Langstone area on Mar 27 but the only report since then is of two in Emsworth Harbour on Mar 29

Mallard: A female on Aldsworth Pond (north of Emsworth) had ten tiny ducklings with her on Mar 25 - the first young to hatch this year as far as I know and the first since mid-October last year when there was a family on Langstone Pond.

Eider: A single bird was in Langstone Harbour on Mar 24 - probably the same young male that was around the islands on Jan 28 and Feb 25. This week has also brought reports of a few flying east past Dungeness (5 on Mar 26, 5 on Mar 28 and 4 passing Brighton Marina on Mar 29)

Long-tailed Duck: More than one was still in the Lymington area on Mar 29 but the bird that had been in the Widewater Lagoon at Worthing up to Mar 16 probably left on Mar 24 when one was on the sea off Worthing.

Common Scoter: There were still an estimated 800 in Rye Bay on Mar 23 with 600 there on Mar 24 but numbers seem to be declining though Mar 29 still brought reports of 67 off Portland, 6 at Milford near Lymington and 13 off Newhaven.

Surf Scoter: The bird that has been off Ovingdean (east of Brighton) since Mar 15 was still there on Mar 29

Velvet Scoter: One was off Worthing on Mar 24, two off Selsey Bill on Mar 28 and one off Newhaven on Mar 29

Goosander: One paid a brief visit to Fleet Pond in north Hampshre on Mar 27 and the number roosting at the Blashford Lakes was down to 6+ by Mar 29

Black Kite: One was reported to have been seen heading south east from Devizes in Wiltshire towards Hampshire on Mar 28

Red Kite: These are fairly regularly seen in northern Hampshire nowadays but what may have been a pair in the general area between Basingstoke and Alton on Mar 23 may be indicative of a southward extension of their established range though one over West Wittering on Mar 25 was probably a wanderer (several recent reports indicate arrivals from the continent).

Sparrowhawk: Nine seen flying over Sandwich Bay on Mar 27 remind us that quite a few of these do migrate

White-tailed Sea Eagle: The bird which arrived in the Andover area last November, and was identified by rings to have come from a nest in Finland, had not been reported since January until Mar 24 when it was seen again in the same general area

Osprey: One was seen over Whitsbury (north west of Fordingbridge) heading north towards Salisbury on Mar 24 and since then there have been seven more reports including the first to reach Thorney Island on Mar 29

Quail: What may have been a very early migrant or an escaped Chinese Quail was flushed in the Whitstable area of north Kent on Mar 26

Water Rail: These can turn up in unexpected places when on passage at this time of year and on Mar 25 Alistair Martin was able to photograph one in the Lymbourne stream where it flows between the Hayling Billy trail and the grounds of Wade Court, then on Mar 27 Tony Gutteridge had a close encounter with one at the shore reed bed at Warblington Farm

Coot: The first report of nesting reached me on Mar 18 and on Mar 25 two birds were sitting on their nests at Aldsworth Pond (north of Emsworth), then on Mar 29 three chicks were seen at one of the nests on the floating rafts in the Slipper Millpond at Emsworth

Stone Curlew: Following last weeks report of one arriving at Dungeness on Mar 15 there is a sighting on Mar 28 of three birds back at a regular site in north west Hampshire

Golden Plover: A flock of around 70 on the Langstone village shore on Mar 27 may have been the last we seen there this winter

Woodcock: A brief glimpse of one fleeing my intrusion into its daytime hideout in the Stansted Forest Redwood Groves on Mar 25 brought my year list to 105 species. Since then there have been three reports of probable migrant arrivals in Kent and Sussex on Mar 27 and one report of roding in Ashdown Forest on Mar 26

Black-tailed Godwit: The only place reporting more than 100 birds at the start of this week was Fishbourne Channel near Chichester where Anne de Potier saw 127 on Mar 25 though there were 98 at Christchurch Harbour that day. Locally there were 40 on the Northney shore of Hayling on Mar 24. Since then there have been 112 in Christchurch Harbour and up to 80 in Emsworth Harbour, both on Mar 26, 40 at Broadmarsh on Mar 27 and 120 at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 29 when 22 were in Emsworth Harbour

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth has not been reported since Mar 18 but this week has brought reports of 4 still in Poole Harbour and singles at Lymington, Christchurch Harbour, Church Norton and (on Mar 29) in the outflow of the Ham Brook at Nutbourne Bay east of Emsworth.

Med Gull: I guess the majority of those that nest in Langstone Harbour are currently lurking in Pagham Harbour where 100+ were seen in the harbour mouth on Mar 25 against 20+ at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 24. On Mar 27 there were 15 at Ivy Lake (Chichester) and on Mar 29 the count at Rye Harbour was up to 138

Little Gull: One was at Ivy Lake from Mar 26 to 28 when two (said to be in full summer plumage with jet black head and bright red feet) were seen at the Blashford Lakes

Ring-billed Gull: The bird that was still at the Gosport Cockle Pond on Mar 24 was described as looking very smart in full breeding plumage (though sadly it lacks a mate there). On Mar 27 the Poole Harbour bird was also in summer plumage.

Iceland Gull: A first winter was again seen in Poole Harbour up to Mar 28 and a 'probable only' flew over Basingstoke on Mar 22. Another has been at Newhaven on Mar 26 and 29

Glaucous Gull: The first winter bird was still in Shoreham Harbour area on Mar 28 (probably having taken a day trip to the other side of Brighton to be seen at Ovingdean on Mar 24). Other reports are from Newhaven and Portland on Mar 27 and Dungeness on Mar 29

Kittiwake: 230 went past Dungeness on Mar 22 and more than 500 were off Portland on Mar 29 so there have been a few other sightings on the south coast including 1 off Selsey and 9 off Lymington on Mar 28

Sandwich Tern: By Mar 29 there were 155 at Rye Harbour

Common Tern: Mar 28 brought the first of the year to Milford near Lymington (two seen there) and Selsey Bill

Tawny Owl: The Dorset Bird Club website on Mar 25 carried a picture of a juvenile Tawny owlet perched out of its nest with a caption saying the photo was taken in the Osmington area but giving no date - and no mention of the species in the list of Dorset sightings for that, or any other recent, day. I guess the photo is a current one, not just a pretty picture from last year that has just been sent in for the website, but cannot be sure.

Kingfisher: Birds that intend to nest inland should have left the coast by now so one seen by the Brockhampton stream on Mar 27 may be going to nest somewhere in the Bedhampton area of Havant

Sand Martin: The count of birds over the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood was up to 260 on Mar 23 and these birds are now widespread and numerous

Swallow: One was at Brading (IoW) on Mar 23 and Durlston had its first arrivals on Mar 25. The first of the year was seen on Feb 13 on the IoW and so far I have only seen 35 reports featuring a total of 51 birds.

House Martin: Even fewer of these than of Swallows with 18 reports totalling 23 birds - one over the Test north of Romsey on Mar 27 seems to have been the third seen in Hampshire

Meadow Pipit: These are still pouring north, especially over Dorset. Here in Havant one was singing briefly over the South Moors on Mar 27 (the first song was reported at Durlston on Feb 22)

Robin: Nest building in Emsworth on Mar 23 - not the first as there was a report of a nest with two eggs in the Farnborough area back on Feb 24

Common Redstart: First for the year at Ebernoe near Midhurst on Mar 25 - unusually this was a female rather than a male

Blackbird: Nest building in Emsworth on Mar 23

Fieldfare: Flocks of 100+ were seen on Mar 24 in the New Forest and near Crowborough in Sussex with 107 seen in the New Forest on Mar 29

Redwing: These have been in short supply this winter (far fewer than Fieldfare in most reports) but on Mar 25 there were 10 of them at West Wittering near the mouth of Chichester Harbour with no accompanying Fieldfare. Perhaps the majority have wintered on the continent as a result of warmer than usual weather - there is some evidence for this is a report from Sandwich Bay (where they have not featured during the winter) of 287 passing north there on Mar 27

Sedge Warbler: First for the year reported at Rye Harbour on Mar 26 and several were singing there by Mar 29

Blackcap: The first of our summer birds may be starting to arrive - one bit of evidence comes from Christchurch Harbour where five suddenly appeared on Mar 29

Pallas' Warbler: The bird which was found in the Weymouth town area on Mar 12 started to sing regularly from Mar 22 and could stlll be heard on Mar 28

Chiffchaff: Plenty of these around and singing but a fall of 427 birds at Sandwich Bay on Mar 27 (and 50 at Portland on Mar 28) is worth noting

Willow Warbler: The first to be seen at Portland was there on Mar 24. I have seen just three earlier reports - Selsey Bill on Mar 16, Langstone village on Mar 18 (not certain if this was a correct report), and Christchurch on Mar 22. By Mar 29 I had seen 12 reports cover at least 16 birds with 2 singing inland at Andover on Mar 29

Firecrest: It looks as if more than usual are currently arriving to spend the summer here. Counts at Dungeness have been 6 on Mar 24, 7 on Mar 25, 10 on Mar 26 and 12 on Mar 29 when 8 more were in Christchurch Harbour and one on the Pagham harbour shore

Golden Oriole: One was reported in woods north of Hastings on Mar 27

Great Grey Shrike: What may have been the last of the winter birds was in Ashdown Forest on Mar 25

Rook: A survey of rookeries in Sussex during 1996 recorded 154 nests at Hambrook by the A27 west of Chichester (these are the birds seen in the Pig fields and MoD site west of Funtington) and until I looked back at the report of the survey I had the impression that Hambrook had the biggest rookery in Sussex. In fact the table from which I got this impression shows 13 Rookeries each having more than 100 nests and Hambrook is shown as top of the list with the following 11 sites having smaller numbers. What I failed to notice is that the table is in alphabetical sequence of site names and that the last entry (for Winchelsea on Rye Bay) had 351 nests, well ahead of all the others. My reason for mentioning this is that on Mar 27 the Rye Bay website carried an item about this rookery in which Cliff Dean said that it is .. "the biggest rookery in Sussex, with about 350 nests. This morning, I counted a mere 326, but quite a few of these were in the very first stages of construction. New nests appear into April until unfolding leaves conceal latecomers". Cliff added .. "The occasional croak betrays the presence of between 4 & 7 pairs of Herons, standing on their massive nests high in the branches".

Starling: If you are worried about a shortage of Starlings it may be that this will soon be eased by the arrival of continental birds as on Mar 27 more than 11000 migrants passed over Sandwich Bay

Tree Sparrow: Their decline in southern England continues - in Jan and Feb 2007 there were reports of 40 at Dungeness and 44 at the Pannell Valley (Rye Bay). So far this year the only report from the Dungeness area has been of 'a few' there on Mar 24, and the only other reports from southern counties have been of 5 birds in the Henfield area (Arun valley) and now of just 1 'possible' sighting at Newtown Harbour on the IoW on Mar 25 and just 1 at Dungeness on Mar 27

Chaffinch: The surge of migrants passing Sandwich Bay on Mar 27 included 2300 Chaffinch

Brambling: 120 were still around Fleet pond in north Hampshire on Mar 27 and on Mar 29 there were more than 80 at the Blashford Lakes

Linnet: The flock in the Chilling area west of Titchfield numbered around 950 on Jan 19, then 750 on Mar 9 and now just 100 on Mar 25

Corn Bunting: The only Hampshire reports so far this year started well with a flock of up to 52 at Cheesefoot Head (east of Winchester) in early January. On Jan 17 two birds were seen in the Test valley at Kings Somborne but nothing since then until a report on Mar 23 from the area of open fields southwest of Fareham saying that one had been there recently. More recent good news is of several present and singing in the Andover area.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: A few more out this week

Small White: One in the Horsham area on Mar 26 appeared at a more expected date than the four earlier reports on Feb 8, 13, 18 and Mar 5

Orange Tip: The first out at Horsham on Mar 26 and another at Titchfield Haven on Mar 27

Red Admiral: Just one at Gosport on Mar 19 became the 49th report of the year

Small Tortoiseshell: Two seen at Gosport on Mar 29. Also relevant is an entry on Brian Fellows' website referring to a report which got into the Daily Telegraph recently blaming the decline of this species in recent years to an increase in numbers of a fly called Sturmia bella whose larvae invade the caterpillars of Nymphalid butterflies and eat the caterpillar from the inside before pupating. The fly is one of a group known as Tachinid flies which are related to House Flies and Bluebottles, and this particular species is an invader from Europe that was first identified in Britain in 1998 when it was found killing Peacock caterpillars in Hampshire. Reading up about this fly I learnt to distinguish 'parasites' (which attach themselves to another species and may cause it much discomfort) from 'parasitoids' which kill off the species to which they attach themselves, but make sure their food supply lasts as long as possible by eating the non-essential organs of the prey first. While Sturmia is a new problem to Nymphalid butterflies there were already some 250 British species of Tachinid before it arrived. Unlike some Tachinids that lay their eggs directly into the living body of the prey species, and others which lay their eggs on the prey and leave the larvae to burrow in, Sturmia uses the sneaky approach of laying its eggs on the foodplant of the prey and allowing the unsuspecting caterpillar to ingest them as they munch their way through the nettles on which this group of butterfly caterpillars feed.

Peacock: This was the most commonly seen butterfly of the week with 8 reports

Comma: Two of these were seen

Speckled Wood: First of the year seen at Normandy Farm on the Lymington Marshes - the farm is now home to Pete Durnell who wrote 'The Wildlife of Hayling Island' when living here

Moths

Water Carpet (1750 Lampropteryx suffumata): First of year found in Friston Forest near Eastbourne on Mar 26 - normally flies in April and May

Mottled Grey (1775 Colostygia multistrigaria): First report of this species since an exceptional early appearance in January - normally flies in March and April

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

136 flowering plants seen in March so far (130 seen by me) against a total of 169 seen so far this year (159 seen by me)

Buttercups: Several Bulbous and one Meadow seen this week with Goldilocks buttercup already having well formed buds by Mar 25

Stream Water Crowfoot: Just two flowers seen on Mar 27 in the water overflowing from the Bedhampton springs into the Hermitage stream

Dove's Foot Cranesbill: One flower seen in roadside grass on Mar 28 was my first for the year

Storks Bill: Another first seen on Mar 27 at Broadmarsh slipway

Lesser Periwinkle: This has been flowering since Feb 12 but the massive show on the floor of Pits Copse (across Park Lane from the Stansted Redwood Groves) seen on Mar 25 deserves a mention - best I have ever seen here.

Moschatel: A good showing in Pyle Lane near Horndean on Mar 25 was my first but the first flowers were seen by John Goodspeed on Mar 11

Butterbur: Brian Fellows counted the plants flowering at Brook Meadow at Emsworth on Mar 26 and obtained a total of 201 which is the lowest of all the annual peak counts made over the years 1999 to 2008 (max was 458 in 2001) - it is possible that a few more will appear next month

Snakeshead Fritillary: No doubt these were planted ten years or more ago but a few plants continue to flower in grass under trees on the north side of the short footpath from the main road roughly opposite the Langstone High Street to connect with Mill Lane. Twelve flowers were seen on Mar 27

Arum Lily (Lords and Ladies): The first spathe was unsheathed to allow the spadix to 'flower' at Nore Barn, Emsworth, on Mar 26 with another seen in Mill Lane at Langstone on Mar 27

Hairy Woodrush: First flowers seen in The Holt wood near Pyle Farm at Horndean on Mar 25

OTHER WILDLIFE

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: 2 off Portland on Mar 23 were the first reported since Feb 1

Water Vole: Two were seen actively rushing around (and possibly mating) for at least 30 minutes in the R Ems at Brook Meadow around midday on Mar 25 - this is the first sighting of two together here this year. At least one other sighting at Emsworth since then plus a note from a visitor to Arundel Wildfowl Reserve that many Voles can be seen alongside Mill Road before you reach the reserve

Hare: Another comment from a birder on the Sussex Ornithological Society website is that the area called The Burgh above the east bank of the R Arun where it cuts through the Downs near Amberley is a great place to see Hares


Summary for Mar 17 - 23 (Week 11 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week's bird highlights include a very early Swift on the IoW and a Cirl Bunting at Portland. Unusual reports were of a Rough-legged Buzzard going north over Christchurch, three Cranes briefly at Pulborough, a Kestrel catching a Daubenton's Bat by day and a Ring-necked Parakeet at Sandy Point on Hayling. Other good items were the first Peregrine egg being laid, Willow (and Pallas') Warbler song and the reported arrival of a Tree Pipit in north east Hants - and for amusement I learn that Jackdaws living on the cliffs at Hastings are called Coastguard Chickens.

Large White, Large Tortoiseshell and Bee-fly are all in this week's Insect news.

New flowers include Greater Stitchwort and Crosswort, Common Dog Violet and Garlic Mustard, Rue-leaved Saxifrage and four more trees (Oak, Hornbeam, Black Poplar and Hawthorn)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Slavonian Grebe: One in partial summer plumage was off Selsey Bill (with a Great Northern Diver) on Mar 18. Two more of the grebes were in Dorset (Poole Harbour on Mar 19 and Longham Lakes on Mar 20) in almost full summer plumage

Black-necked Grebe: On Mar 21 one was still on Pagham Lagoon with at least one still at the Blashford Lakes, and on Mar 18 one in summer plaumage was still on Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough

Cormorant: Several were carrying nest material to the IoW cliffs near the Needles on Mar 20 - also in the area were 3 Shags

Bittern: On Mar 20 one was still at Rye Harbour and another at the nearby Dungeness RSPB reserve

Cattle Egret: The two birds were still at Lavant (Chichester) on Mar 20 when another flew north over Christchurch Harbour and on Mar 21 one was seen at Abbotsbury in Dorset

Spoonbill: 12 birds were still in Poole Harbour on Mar 16 with at least 4 seen on Mar 19 while one was still being seen at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 21.

Mute Swan: One was already on a nest at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 21

Whooper Swan: One seen at Sandwich Bay on Mar 20 was the first I have seen reported anywhere since two were at Rye Harbour on Feb 17 (the last report of the family of five at the Chichester Lakes was on Feb 10)

White-front Goose: A single tundra race (albifrons) bird was at Farlington Marshes on Mar 16 - two Barnacles and one Pale-bellied Brent also there that day. Maybe the Whitefront then flew to Titchfield Haven where a first winter bird was seen on Mar 19 and 20

Brent Goose: There were still around 200 along the shore from Langstone to Emsworth on Mar 18 (seemingly mainly families with young), and Christchurch Harbour still had 189 birds that day. By Mar 22 the number on the water around north Hayling was down to less than 100 but I was surprised to find a flock of at least 500 on the Hayling West Lane fields

Shelduck: On Mar 22 I found a pair alone in the old Holiday Camp boating lake at Northney on Hayling and had the impression that they were intending to stay and nest here while a group of 14 at the Oysterbeds were still in winter mode. Last year the first duckling was seen on May 7 and as they incubate their eggs for four weeks those Shelduck that intend to nest here should be laying their eggs at the beginning of April.

Wigeon: Around 50 still on the Warblington shore on Mar 18 with some 30 Teal in the Langstone area but I have seen neither since then

Garganey: Latest additions to the sightings of this species include one flying past Seaford on Mar 16, one new in at Bembridge (IoW) on Mar 17 and still there the following morning, a pair on the north Kent coast at Oare Marshes also on Mar 17, and one at Dungeness RSPB on Mar 18. On Mar 19 a male was seen on the lagoon at Pagham and it was still there on Mar 21 but its origin is in doubt as it shows none of the wariness of a normal Garganey and comes to bread with the Mallards.

Aythya hybrid: What was at first reported as a drake Scaup on the Pagham Lagoon on Mar 19 was agreed to be a Tufted Duck hybrid by Mar 21. It is probably a different bird to the one on the Thorney Little Deeps from from Feb 12 to 22 as that was thought to be a Pochard hybrid

Long-tailed Duck: The last report for this winter seems to have been the Widewater (Worthing) bird reported on Mar 16

Surf Scoter: The first winter female which appeared on the sea off Ovingdean (east of Brighton) on Mar 15, and was still there on Mar 18, is a different bird from the similar bird which has been in The Fleet at Weymouth since Feb 13 and was still being reported there on Mar 17. Both birds were still at their respective sites on Mar 21

Goldeneye: Three were still at Pagham lagoon on Mar 19

Goosander: The number roosting at the Blashford Lakes was down to 8 on Mar 21

Sparrowhawk: A male (by its small size) was high over my garden in Havant on Mar 19 being noisily harrassed by an adult pair of Herring Gulls, adding to my belief that these gulls intend to nest on rooves in the Havant area.

Buzzard: Sightings on Mar 18 of one bird flying over a tall tree carrying a stick in its talons, and of a second bird perched in that tree, help to confirm my belief that a pair are intending to breed in the Langstone/Warblington area this year.

Rough-legged Buzzard: On Mar 17 one flew over the Christchurch Harbour area, presumably returning northward from a winter spent on the continent. It was said to be only the second ever recorded at that site - the first having been seen in Mar 2002.

Osprey: The first to reach us was over Gloucestershire on Mar 4, with another over the M3 at Winchester on Mar 7, and what was maybe the fourth to arrive was over Weymouth on Mar 19.

Kestrel: On Mar 15 one caught a Daubenton's bat as the bat was flying by day low over the lake at The Vyne National Trust site near Basingstoke

Merlin: Still a few around. On Mar 16 a female was seen at Farlington Marshes, on Mar 17 one was at Lodmoor near Weymouth in Dorset and on Mar 18 there were sightings in Kent (female flying north at Sandwich Bay) and at Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough in Sussex. Latest report is of one in off the sea at Christchurch harbour on Mar 22

Peregrine: The first egg was laid in the nestbox on the Sussex Heights tower block in Brighton on Mar 18

Water Rail: The bird that has been seen in the River Ems at Brook Meadow (Emsworth) since Feb 12 was still there on Mar 19

Moorhen: A pair were seen mating on Mar 15 at Swalecliffe on the north Kent coast between Whiststable and Herne Bay

Common Crane: Three birds landed at the Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve on the afternoon of Mar 18 and were still there (and feeding) on the morning of Mar 19 though they flew off west at around 9am

Golden Plover: There were still 440 at Rye Harbour on Mar 21

Purple Sandpiper: At least 7 were seen at Southsea Castle on Mar 16

Common Snipe: The sight of 81 all visible together at Yarmouth (IoW) on Mar 16 must have been impressive - presumable these were birds on passage, maybe having a rest after just crossing the channel.

Black-tailed Godwit: A group of at least 40 was feeding off Langstone village on Mar 18 and there were at least 25 on the Northney shore on Mar 22 when the number at Christchurch Harbour was up to 84. On Mar 19 there were 79 in Yarmouth Harbour on the IoW

Curlew: A pair were seen back on breeding territory in the New Forest on Mar 16

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird was still present on Mar 18 though difficult to spot while it was 'sleeping like a log' among floating seaweed just offshore before the tide had fallen much from high. More recent reports are of 5 at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour on Mar 19 and one still at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 22

Green Sandpiper: These seem to be fairly scarce this winter and the only report for this week is of one at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 21

Med Gull: Although quite a few are present in Langstone and Chichester Harbours I have seen no significant counts yet - on Mar 22 there were probably only 20 at the Oysterbeds. Elsewhere there were 96 at Rye Harbour and more than 85 in Pagham Harbour on Mar 21 with 92 at Titchfield Haven on Mar 19

Little Gull: Numbers now increasing - this week there was one inland in the Romsey area on Mar 16 and on Mar 21 there were 22 at Dungeness, 1 in Pagham Harbour and 1 'walking on the water' at the Westhampnet Lake where the A27 goes east from Chichester

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird has not been mentioned since Mar 9 but on Mar 20 one was in Poole Harbour

Lesser Black-back Gull: 325 flew west along the north Kent coast on Mar 22 in a major movement involving 3100 Herring Gulls, 90 Great Black-backs, 60 Common, 7 Kittiwakes and a Glaucous Gull.

Iceland Gull: On Mar 16 an adult was seen in Poole Harbour and on Mar 18 a first winter bird was seen at Newhaven. The Poole Harbour bird was still there on Mar 22

Glaucous Gull: The first winter bird was still at Shoreham on Mar 21 when a different first winter bird was at Dungeness

Sandwich Tern: By Mar 21 there were 85 present at Rye Harbour

Stock Dove: On Mar 18 a flock of at least 40 was feeding on one of the large fields at Warblington Farm which still has stubble. Adding to the meagre supply of left over grain was some from one of the large circular bales of straw which had burst open. Flocks of Pied Wagtails and Chaffinches were also seen here.

Ring-necked Parakeet: One paid a brief visit to the Sandy Point area of Hayling on Mar 19, almost a year to the day since a similar visit in 2007

Long-eared Owl: One was a surprise sight at Dungeness on Mar 19, presumably arriving from the continent.

Swift: First for the year was seen over Luccombe Down near Ventnor on the Isle of Wight on Mar 17, a good three weeks earlier than the previous 'earliest ever' in either Hampshire or Sussex

Sand Martin: By Mar 16 an estimated 110 Sand Martins could be seen ovet the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood and on Mar 18 there were around 80 over the Chichester Lakes with plenty of smaller groups seen all across southern England by now

Swallow: Five early birds were reported between Feb 13 and Mar 3 with no more reported until Mar 12 but thereafter they have been seen daily in groups of up to four birds. The nearest to Havant have been three birds at Ella Nore (near Wittering) on Mar 15

House Martin: These too started to be seen daily from Mar 14 but the one seen at Langstone on Mar 4 remains the third report of the year for the country as a whole and the only one so far in the Havant area

Tree Pipit: First for the year was reported from the heathland south of Farnborough shortly before Mar 21

Meadow Pipit: Lots are now moving north - on Mar 18 the count at Portland was 300 and on Mar 20 there were 200 going over Christchurch Harbour

Scandinavian (littoralis) Rock Pipit: As these acquire breeding plumage they are much easier to recognize and we now have the first reports of them for the year. On Mar 15 three landed at Farlington Marshes and on Mar 16 the first was identified at Ovingdean in the Brighton area. On Mar 18 one was seen at Sandy Point on Hayling, on Mar 20 two were at Sandwich Bay in Kent and another was in East Sussex at the Cuckmere valley.

Water Pipit: Also seen at Farlington on Mar 16 were two Water Pipits - possibly the same two that were there in January. Also on Mar 16 singles were at Pagham lagoon and at Keyhaven marshes. More recently one was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 21

Black Redstart: One had been seen on the roof of Chichester cathedral on Mar 2 and maybe the same bird was seen again there on Mar 22

Stonechat: These are still arriving from the south - Portland reported 30 on Mar 15, 25 on Mar 16 and 25 again on Mar 17 (maybe these were all hangers on from Mar 15 but more likely most were new birds) On Mar 16 Hayling Bay shore had at least six birds.

Wheatear: On Mar 16 Portland had a count of 150, and larger than usual numbers turned up at many other places - the best count locally being 27 at Farlington Marshes but there were also 22 on the South Hayling shore and 9 in the Warblington Farm shore field immediately west of Nore Barn wood. On Mar 17 there was an interesting find of 11 inland near Romsey at Abbotswood

Blackbird: By Mar 18 most males were singing occasionally and on Mar 21 one was seen on a nest at the Blashford Lakes (I guess others were sitting earlier than that date)

Mistle Thrush: For the first time this year I heard distant Mistle Thrush song from my garden on Mar 17 and on Mar 23 two birds were singing at full blast, one just east of my garden, one to the north (appropriately for Easter Day the latter was perched atop a Tree of Heaven)

Blackcap: Brief bursts of song were heard in Brighton on Mar 16 and at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 18, then on the Isle of Wight on Mar 20 and at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 21

Pallas' Warbler: The bird which has been in the Weymouth area since Mar 12 was still there and singing on Mar 22

Willow Warbler: Chiffchaffs are now to be heard and seen daily everywhere but so far I have only seen three reports of Willow Warbler. On Mar 16 one was said to be in the 'Bill House garden' at Selsey, and this was presumably seen well enough to be sure of the longer projection of the closed wing behind the bird's body to separate it from Chiffchaff (leg colour is usually dark in Chiffchaff and light in Willow Warbler and the latter does not regularly dip its tail as it moves around the branches, but both these features can mislead). On Mar 18 one was reported to have been in a Langstone garden, but I am not sure if the observer noted these features - that report said that the bird had been heard and if that means that it sang that would give conclusive proof of its identity but if it just refers to the bird's contact calls they can be difficult to assess as to the species making them. Earliest ever Willow Warbler in Hampshire is given as Mar 16 in 2001 though Sussex has a record of one on Mar 4 (year not stated). The first bird reported to have been heard singing was at Cowards Marsh alongside the River Avon at Christchurch on Mar 22

Firecrest: Quite a few seem to have arrived in the country from the south this week with reports of new birds from Dungeness, Rye Harbour, Beachy Head, Christchurch Harbour and Portland. Song has been heard in several places including Christchurch Harbour and the New Forest

Willow Tit: More song was heard at a Sussex site (probably near Arundel) on Mar 20 after an earlier report on Mar 11

Great Grey Shrike: Just two were found in the New Forest during the monthly survey which took place on Mar 15,16 and birds were still in Dorset (Wareham Forest) on Mar 17 and in Sussex at Lavington Common near Pulborough on Mar 19

Jackdaw: An attempt to count the birds making their homes in the crumbling cliffs east of Hastings on Mar 20 came up with a total of 240 but also introduced me to the local name for these birds - Coastguard Chickens

Starling: There was a significant movement of these on Mar 17 and 18. On 17 Mar 300 birds went past Fairlight near Hastings and on Mar 18 'thousands' were said to have flown north along the Rye Bay coast while 'thousands more' were feeding in wet grassland east of Rye - Sandwich Bay gives some idea of the number moving with a count of 2800 seen there on Mar 18 increasing to 7000+ on Mar 19

Chaffinch: These were moving north with the Starlings and other passerines - the count at Fairlight on Mar 17 was 500 and at Sandwich Bay on Mar 18 it was 1950 with 1412 seen there on Mar 19 and 672 on Mar 20. This movement seems to have included the pair that have been regularly feeding in my garden since the beginning of January but have not been seen since Mar 18

Cirl Bunting: One was briefly at Portland on Mar 20 - its rarity indicated by the dates of the three most recent sightings (28 Mar 1990, 16 Apr 1975 and 15 Apr 1968)

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: Three reports of singles seen on Mar 15 at Winchester, Ropley and Worthing

Large White: A female was out at Portland on Mar 19 - not the first, that had been seen in Gosport on Feb 12 but none have been reported since until this one which is still very much earlier than the normal date of mid-April

Red Admiral: Two reports on Mar 15 from Lewes and from the north Kent coast

Small Tortoiseshell: A single seen near Whitstable on the Kent coast on Mar 15 and another at Portland on Mar 19

Large Tortoiseshell: One was disturbed from hibernation in a barn at Normandy Farm on the Lymington marshes on Mar 14. This is not the first for the year as one had been seen in an Isle of Wight garden near Ventnor on Feb 18, and there had been four sightings at Portland (maybe of different individuals) between Jan 27 and Feb 10.

Peacock: One observer came across a dozen of these in the Thanet area of Kent on Mar 15 and on Mar 19 singles were seen at Newhaven in Sussex and Oxenbourne Down near Petersfield in Hampshire

Comma: Three reports, again all on Mar 15, from the Sussex downs, from Seaford and from the Whitstable area. Hampshire got its tenth report for the year with one at Overton near Basingstoke on Mar 17

Moths

Phyllonorycter anderidae (0347): First find of this Birch leaf miner was in Kent on Mar 16

Phyllonorycter kleemannella (0360): Another first in Kent on Mar 17 - both this Alder leaf miner and the previous species should not fly until May or August

Other Insects

Bee Fly (Bombylius major): One was flying in the Denvilles area of Havant on Mar 21

Greater Bloody-nose Beetle: One seen walking along the back of a basking Adder at Durlston on Mar 18

Oil Beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus): Also seen at Durlston on Mar 18 - id only probable

Common Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina): Seen in the Thanet area of Kent on Mar 18

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

121 Species have been reported in flower so far this month with 116 seen by myself. The year to date totals are 170 and 149

Bay tree: Flower buds on these tree suddenly opened on Mar 18

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge: One plant flowering by the A259/A27 junction east of Havant on Mar 21

English Scurvygrass: Flowers were newly out on this when I visited Nore Barn on Mar 18

Common Dog Violet: A good show of these plants already flowering along Daw Lane on Hayling on Mar 22

Sweet Violet: The white form was seen for the first time in flower at Emsworth on Mar 20

Greater Stitchwort: More than a dozen plants were in flower at the junction of Southleigh and East Leigh roads in the Denvilles area of Havant on Mar 23

Shining Cranesbill: A single first flower seen on Mar 18

Hawthorn: A few flowers open on one young tree on Mar 18

Rue-leaved Saxifrage: One bud had opened on the first of these tiny plants on Mar 19

Pedunculate Oak: At least one tree with flowers and leaves opening on Hayling on Mar 22

Hornbeam: First catkins seen on Mar 18

Horse Chestnut: Not flowering yet but the first 'candles' of potential flowers could be seen among the emerging leaves on Mar 18

Ash tree: Flowers had been seen in Emsworth on Feb 3 but the buds on most trees remained closed until Mar 18 when I found several just opening.

Hybrid Black Poplar: Red male catkins torn off by the wind and lying on the road through Northney village on Hayling on Mar 22

Yellow Archangel: These had been reported in flower near Hastings on Mar 15, possibly on wild woodland flowers, but the only flowers I have seen were on the garden variety (subspecies argentatum) with large flowers and white blotches on the leaves - seen on Mar 18

Crosswort: First flowers seen on plants close to the Greater Stitchwort on Mar 23

Groundsel: This has of course been flowering all year but on Mar 18 I was pleased to find one plant of the 'rayed' form in an arable field at Warblington Farm

Field Woodrush (aka Good Friday Grass): Flowers opened on my rough lawn on Mar 17

OTHER WILDLIFE

Daubenton's Bat: One was seen flying low over the lake at The Vyne National Trust site near Basingstoke by day on Mar 15 before it was taken by a Kestrel. Normally this species would only fly at night but I suspect that it, as with other bats, will emerge from hibernation for brief daylight flights at well spaced intervals during the winter - I believe these flights are necessary both to allow the bat to defecate and thus not allow toxins to build up in its body, and maybe also to give its muscles minimal exercise to prevent them atrophying.

Common Newt: One was seen out of water at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 16 - the photo on the Rye Bay website shows it to be small and pale in colour and probably indicates it was hatched last year and is not yet full grown. Full adults were recorded returning to breeding ponds in the first half of January but presumably this youngster will not be participating the breeding process this year and so is free to wander.


Summary for Mar 10 - 16 (Week 10 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week's bird highlights include the arrival of Osprey and Stone Curlew with a major influx of Chiffchaff on Mar 15. Also in the news are the first Puffin and a very early/wintering Curlew Sandpiper plus the arrival of several more Garganey and Whimbrel

The number of flowering plants seen in March is now 115, including Moschatel, Wild Daffodil and Early Forget-me-not plus Blue Anemone and Spring Starflower

Other wildlife features Frogs having their bottoms wiped with cotton buds and fish killed by too much water

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Slavonian Grebe: On Mar 13 at least three were on the sea off Pagham Harbour and another three off the north east of the Isle of Wight. On Mar 14 two were off Selsey Bill

Black-necked Grebe: One was on Pagham lagoon from Mar 12 to 15 at least and three were still at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 13 with at least one there on Mar 15

Cormorant: In a discussion about the British and Continental races the opinion of someone in Holland was quoted as being that the spread of the Continental (sinensis) race would continue to push out the British/Atlantic (carbo) birds - Nick Hull wrote on Hoslist .. "A Dutch acquaintance of mine reckons that carbo will disappear within the next twenty years and be absorbed into sinensis, time will tell".

Bittern: The Blashford bird has not been seen since Mar 1 but one was still at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 9 and two were seen at Stodmarsh (east of Canterbury) on Mar 14 but the latter were flyng off to the east, maybe leaving.

Cattle Egret: The two Chichester (Lavant) birds were last reported on Mar 11 but at least one was still in Sussex at Piddinghoe on Mar 15 when one was also seen near Wareham in Dorset

Little Egret: The flooding of shore fields by the exceptional high tides and rain on Mar 10 forced earthworms to the surface in an attempt to escape drowning (many failed to escape that fate) and Egrets were attracted to this bonanza - I counted 32 in the pony fields north of Wade Court at Langstone and saw others around the flooded South Moors.

Grey Heron: 25 nests were occupied in the Weir Wood heronry near Crowborough by Mar 9 and I assume that other heronries are equally busy now.

Spoonbill: On Mar 14 there were still 9 together in Poole Harbour and two more at Lodmoor (Weymouth) with one at Keyhaven from Mar 11 to 13 at least

Bewick's Swan: The only new report is of a single bird flying over Christchurch Harbour on Mar 9 - it looks as if the winter birds have now left

Whitefront Goose: A flock of around 100 were still in the Rye Harbour area with around 60 Barnacles on Mar 9

Canada Goose: Those which intend to breed are now returning to their proposed nest sites - a pair were back at Aldsworth pond north of Chichester on Mar 11 and on Mar 12 two pairs were on the still flooded area of the Langstone South Moors, probably intending to nest at Budds Farm

Brent: Dungeness reported another 1345 passing there on Mar 9 when the number seen at Farlington Marshes was only 500+. On Mar 10 there were still an estimated 200 in one of the Warblington shore fields - probably preferring not to travel while the 'great storm' was on (though watchers at Seaford that day saw a dozen Brent heading east, keeping low among the huge waves). More recently another large exodus took place on Mar 15 with 1700 passing Dungeness but that day also found the best part of 1000 (including many of last year's young) still on the Broadmarsh shore of Langstone Harbour (though probably just there in transit)

Pale-bellied Brent: The family of four were still at Keyhaven on Mar 15 with two others seen on the Titchfield shore on Mar 14 and 15

Brant: Two were still present on Mar 9 - one on the fields north of Pagham Harbour and one in Portsmouth Harbour at Priddy's Hard, Gosport.

Wigeon: A lot of the local birds in Chichester and Langstone Harbours seem to have left but on Mar 15 there were still 50+ in the Broadmarsh area

Pintail: More than 40 were still at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 15 (but possibly just passing through as only one was reported there on Mar 13)

Garganey: Lee Evans' national report on rare birds dated Mar 10 listed three Garganey currently in the UK - one had reached the Hebrides by Mar 4, another had settled on Barnes Reservoir in London from Mar 2 to 10 while a different bird was in the London area on Mar 8. These are in addition to the exceptionally early bird reported at Pagham Harbour on Feb 27. Another surge of arrivals was reported on Mar 15 with at least 12 seen passing Seaford in addition to four which arrived in the Keyhaven area that day and probably in addition to another three seen on Pagham Lagoon that day.

Shoveler: Seven were on Aldsworth Pond (north of Emsworth) on Mar 11 and at least 15 were on Budds Farm pools on Mar 12 but only one was still there on Mar 15 (when 16 flew east past Dungeness)

Long-tailed Duck: One was still in the west Solent at the mouth of the Beaulieu river on Mar 11 and more seem to have arrived on Mar 14 when there were 6 in Poole Harbour, 2 in Portland Harbour and one on Widewater Lagoon near Worthing. On Mar 15 another three were seen in the Lymington area.

Common Scoter: A flock of around 1000 was in Rye Bay off Pett Level on Mar 9

Surf Scoter: The young female was still in The Fleet near Abbotsbury on Mar 15 but may have left that morning as one answering to the same description (first winter females) was on the sea off Ovingdean (east of Brighton) that same day

Velvet Scoter: At least one was in Rye Bay on Mar 9 and two were seen at Dungeness on Mar 11 and 12 with another off Selsey Bill on Mar 13

Goosander: The count at the Blashford Lakes was down to 15+ birds by Mar 15 (peak of 62 there in Jan)

Ruddy Duck: This year the only previous report that I have seen of one at Budds Farm pools was dated Jan 26 but on Mar 12 I had a good view of a smart male there.

Osprey: Lee Evans tells us that Osprey have started to return with one over Gloucestershire on Mar 4, one over Warwickshire on Mar 7 and even one over Hampshire (M3 at Winchester) also on Mar 7

Water Rail: Brian Fellows glimpsed one on the banks of the Ems in Brook Meadow on Mar 9 - it had probably been there unseen since a previous sighting in the same place on Feb 12 and it was still there on Mar 14 though it is unlikey to stay much longer - a migrant already leaving us was seen at Sandwich Bay on Mar 15

Avocet: The number at Rye Harbour had grown to 13 on Mar 15 since the first arrived back there on Mar 4

Stone Curlew: First of the year arrived in the Dungeness area on Mar 15

Golden Plover: A report of 560 at Rye Harbour on Mar 11 is an increase on recent counts there, probably reflecting continental birds moving north, though it is nowhere near the counts of 1700 on Jan 2 and 1400 on Feb 18. By Mar 14 there were 830 at Rye Harbour. Locally there were still 100+ at West Wittering on Mar 5 (and just 7 at Farlington Marshes on Mar 9).

Knot: 120 were still to be seen at Church Norton on Mar 11 when some 380 were in Newtown Harbour on the IoW

Sanderling: I had close views of 100 or more feeding on the Hayling Gunner Point tideline on Mar 14

Little Stint: One was at Farlington Marshes on Mar 9 (presumably the same bird that was there on Jan 22 and 27). The West Wittering bird was last reported on Mar 1

Curlew Sandpiper: What was presumably an early passage bird was reported from Tilbury in Essex on Mar 10 - last year spring passage did not start until May 10 so the current bird may well have been here through the winter.

Ruff: Five were at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 15

Black-tailed Godwit: A flock of 250 was at Farlington Marshes on Mar 9 - the only other reports of this species at Farlington Marshes which have been published this year were of 17 birds there on Jan 27 and 20 on Jan 29

Whimbrel: In last week's summary I guessed that three birds seen in Dorset on Mar 7 were the first, early, passage birds. This seems to have been borne out with further reports of singles at Climping (mouth of R Arun) on Mar 9 and at Keyhaven on Mar 11, while Lee Evans tells us that he is aware of some four reports from the south coast recently. Further confirmation that they are on passage comes in a report of 24 seen at the Dartford Marshes in north Kent on Mar 13 and at least one heard passing in the Purbeck area of Dorset on Mar 15

Arctic Skua: A single at Dungeness on Mar 10 was the first to be reported on the south coast since Jan 31 and marks the start of spring passage for this species. This is backed up by four reports of Great Skua starting on Mar 8 after a gap with no reports since Jan 15

Med Gull: More than 100 were back at Titchfield Haven by Mar 15 and 115 were at Pagham Harbour on Mar 12

Little Gull: On Mar 15 more than 10 were recorded passing Seaford and one was at Pagham Lagoon that day

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still at the Cockle Pond on Mar 9

Iceland Gull: A first winter bird was at Newhaven on Mar 9 and maybe the same bird at Dungeness on Mar 11, while an adult was among Med Gulls at the Badminston Common pool just inland of Calshot on Mar 12. The Dungeness bird was still there on Mar 13 and a first winter was seen at Ovingdean near Brighton on Mar 15 before flying south.

Glaucous Gull: The Shoreham Harbour bird was still there on Mar 15 though maybe it took an excursion to Selsey Bill on Mar 14

Kittiwake: I had my first of the year off Gunner Point at Hayling on Mar 14

Sandwich Tern: One or two remain in the Dungeness area, where they arrived on Mar 4, and the first to be seen at Portland was there on Mar 10. By Mar 11 the number at Rye Harbour was up to 11 and on Mar 15 there were 8 at Dungeness

Puffin. First of the year seen at Portland on Mar 15

Stock Dove: A winter flock of 116 birds remains in the Chilling area near Warsash where they have been seen since January

Short-eared Owl: One flew in to Portland on Mar 15 but the R. Arun seems to be the favoured route north for these birds this spring - a total of 8 were seen on the Downs about the river near Amberley on Mar 15

Kingfisher: One seen on the River Ems at Brook Meadow on Mar 4 and 9 may well stay to nest somewhere upstream. Similarly in Havant (where a pair used to nest regularly in the Bedhampton area) it was good to see one still on the Brockhampton stream on Mar 12

Sand Martin: No shortage of these now - on Mar 14 there were well over 200 in Dorset and on Mar 15 there were 50 at the RSPB Arne reserve on the shore of Poole Harbour and 40 at the Blashford Lakes in Hampshire

Swallow: After half a dozen early birds turned up between Feb 13 and 21, plus one in Dorset on Mar 3, Swallows have started arriving from Mar 12 onwards.

House Martin: One arrived at Portland on Mar 14 to become the fourth bird known to have arrived since the first on Feb 29 (one of the four is reported to have been at Langstone on Mar 4)

Meadow Pipit: The arrival of these began in earnest on Mar 6 with 100+ going over Portland and by Mar 15 the count at Portland was 1200 with another 420 over Christchurch Harbour.

Rock Pipit: One was still on the Langstone Harbour shore by Budds Farm on Mar 12

Water Pipit: One or two were around Farlington Marshes in January but the last report from there was on Feb 2 with no more Hampshire reports until a couple were seen at Keyhaven on Mar 13

Wheatear: The first arrival for the year seems to have been one at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 8 and the first in Hampshire was at Calshot on Mar 12 but since then they have been arriving on a wide front with e.g. a total of 6 on the south coast of Hayling on Mar 15 when nine more were at other Hampshire sites (and 30 arrived at Portland)

Mistle Thrush: These are now rare in the immediate area of Havant so it was good to see at least one near Bedhampton Mill on Mar 12

Blackcap: One singing at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 15 was a migrant but probably a departing bird.

Pallas' Warbler: The bird in Oakers Wood near Bere Regis in Dorset has not been seen since Mar 2 but maybe the same bird has been on the outskirts of Weymouth from Mar 12 to 15 at least

Chiffchaff: Although there had been plenty of song from wintering birds reported since Feb 7 there was a sudden outburst of song everywhere on Mar 15 to indicate a major arrival of migrants (one was singing in the Billy Line here in Havant almost all day)

Firecrest: Quite a few migrants are now around with counts from Dungeness of 10 on Mar 14 and 15 on Mar 15

Bearded Tit: A flock of 13 birds were 'high flying' at Rye Harbour on Mar 15, signalling their intention to pluck up courage for a flight into the unknown.

Willow Tit: One was singing 'somewhere in Sussex' on Mar 11 giving hope that they have not yet ceased to breed in that county. No reports so far from Hampshire but song was heard last year between Mar 15 and Apr 21 in two areas of northern Hampshire near Andover and Basingstoke so there is still hope.

Rook: These are generally thought of as sedentary birds but some do move around at this time of year. At Portland Bill two were seen on Mar 5, four on Mar 9 and eleven on Mar 15

Chaffinch: The biggest count of passage birds seen so far this spring is of 110 at Sandwich Bay in Kent on Mar 15

Brambling: A wave of birds passing north through Hampshire is indicated by reports of 14 Brambling with Chaffinches in the Chilling (Warsash) area on Mar 9, 52 at Blashford Lakes on Mar 10, and on Mar 11 counts of 150+ near Badbury Rings in Dorset and 14 in one Romsey garden which also had 50+ Siskin on an array of feeders. In addition to birds on the move quite a few are still happy to stay at their winter feeders and Ian Julian tells us that he recently visited a small garden in Petersfield where 280 Brambling were still present on Mar 11 and had been there for months.

Siskin: More than 50 were still at feeders in a Romsey garden on Mar 11

Linnet: The flock of 1000 birds seen in the Chilling area west of Titchfield in January still numbered 750 on Mar 9

Twite: Six winter residents were still in the Pegwell Bay area of Kent on Mar 14

Lapland Bunting: Despite the ploughing up of their favourite stubble field at Keyhaven one the birds that has been there was seen on both Mar 13 and 15

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

One Brimstone was seen in Chichester on Mar 15

Moths

Red-green Carpet (1760 Chloroclysta siterata): First for the year trapped at Friston near Eastbourne on Mar 13 - newly flying after over-wintering as an adult

Tawny Pinion (2235 Lithophane semibrunnea): First for the year trapped at Friston near Eastbourne on Mar 13 - also newly emerged from hibernation

Pale Pinion (2236 Lithophane hepatica): First for the year trapped at Friston near Eastbourne on Mar 13 - also newly emerged from hibernation (I see this is recorded in my database as Lithophane socia but it is now listed as L. hepatica in UK Moths)

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

115 Species have been reported in flower so far this month with 101 seen by myself. The year to date totals are 147 and 136. One species which had failed to open its first bud by the end of the week is Rue-leaved Saxifrage growing in central Havant pavement cracks and walls

Meadow Buttercup: A single plant in flower in Havant on Mar 11was the first for the year

Marsh Marigold (Kingcup): By Mar 12 there were around 80 flowers out on four clusters of plants at the north end of the Langstone South Moors 'orchid field' - apparently none the worse for flooding by the high tide of Mar 10

Blue Anemone (Anemone apennina): Although I have probably seen this species in gardens I have never before come across it established in the wild and had to put a name to it until Mar 11 when I found a cluster of these plants, four of them flowering, in a dark corner of the virtually abandoned cemetery at Eastern Road in Havant - see my Diary for Mar 11

Eastern Rocket: One plant flowering near the Ferry Inn on Hayling on Mar 14

Wallflower: On Mar 14 I collected flowers from two roadside plants by the Ferry Road on Hayling which I had often thought might possibly be of the 'wild' species. At home I extracted the stigma from each flower and compared it to the drawings in Stace's Flora showing the wild plant to have two divergent lobes at the tip of the stigma whereas the garden plant has the two lobes pressed together. One of my specimens was clearly of the garden variety but the other had distinctly divergent lobes (but were they sufficiently divergent???)

Cuckoo flower (aka Milkmaids): This was reported in flower at Wisborough Green near Pulborough on Feb 15 and now we have another early report of the species flowering in Guestling Wood near Hastings on Mar 15

Honesty: One flowering outside gardens in Wade Lane at Langstone on Mar 10 was my first for the year

Hoary Cress: This plant usually shows its tighly closed flowerheads a week or more before the first flowers are seen in April (last year my first date was Apr 4 but that was unusually early). This year, however, roadside plants on a sunny bank in Havant had the beginnings of flowerheads visible on Mar 12 and since then I have seen similar buds in two other places

Sea Kale: Not in flower but the purple leaves were starting to emerge in the shingle of the Hayling shore on Mar 14 - the action of recent storms had swept away much of the shingle leaving up to 20cm of woody stem exposed and making the fresh leaves look like fronds on woody stemmed palm trees

Early Dog Violet: A mass of flowers was making a great display under old conifers at the east end of the Eastern Road cemetery in Havant on Mar 11

Round-leaved Cranesbill: A single flower seen on Hayling on Mar 14 was the expected first of the year though I had seen a couple of 'oddity' flowers at Langstone village on Jan 29

Common Vetch: Flowers on Hayling on Mar 14 were probably genuine first flowers though I had seen a plant flowering in Havant on Feb 1

Horse Chestnut: Leaf buds had burst on at least one local tree by Mar 10

Cowslip: The first flowers were reported from the Sussex Downs on Feb 24 but I did not see any locally until Mar 12 when a couple of plants had started to flower on the roadside of Mill Lane in Langstone with more near Broadmarsh on Mar 15

Black Nightshade: On Feb 4 I was very surprised to find a plant of this in flower at the foot of a brick wall at Warblington Farm. I have looked for it more than once since, but not closely enough, for on Mar 10 I again found it, still in flower but hidden by other plants growing up around it.

Slender Speedwell: Since I found the first flowers in Havant St Faith's churchyard on Mar 6 I have seen more flowers in both Warblington cemetery and in Old Bedhampton churchyard

Yellow Archangel: Reported flowering in Guestling Wood near Hastings on Mar 15

Early Forget-me-not: A good show of these tiny flowers in the centre of the roundabout near the Ferry Inn on Hayling on Mar 14

Green Alkanet: The first flowers of the year seen on two plants at different sites around Havant on Mar 10

Creeping Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum): Although I had seen this flowering in cultivation last month the first flowers on plants long abandoned to the wild were seen on Mar 10 close to the similarly abandoned Giant Butterbur (Petasites japonicus) by the Langbrook stream at Langstone.

Moschatel: The first flowers on this tiny 'Town Hall Clock' plant were found on Mar 11 by John Goodspeed in Gundymoor Wood on Portsdown close to South Downs College near the A3M. This is about two weeks earlier than normal in recent years.

Field Madder: Although this was flowering in both Jan and Feb I did not see any this month until Mar 12

Oxford Ragwort: I found buds opening in several places in Havant on Mar 11 and 12, later seeing fully open flowers in Solent Road which must have been open on Mar 11

Sticky Groundsel: One plant with flowers found close to one of the Oxford Ragwort plants on Mar 12

Ox-eye Daisy: A single cluster of plants has continued to flower in a sheltered spot by the Langbrook stream up to Mar 10 when they were still flowering but looking distinctly battered - interestingly on that same day I found a number of this spring's fresh plants starting to grow on a nearby bank and expect them to be flowering before this month is out

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii): Some of these pretty blue spring garden flowers had, some years ago, been chucked onto the side of a ditch in Mill Lane at Langstone and still flower each spring though this year you have to peer deep into a bramble bush to spot them as I did on Mar 10

Bluebell: A few plants have started to flower but I think these are all Spanish or hybrid Bluebells rather than our genuine wild Bluebells. The Spanish plant which is commonly grown in gardens has a stout erect flower stem with flowers coming off it all round, while the genuine wild plant has a thinner flower stem which bends over at the tip with all its flowers hanging from the underside of the curve of the stem. As our plant hybridises easily with the Spanish species you find a wide range of intermediate types. There is also an Italian Bluebell but that should not cause confusion as it is much more like a Hyacinth than either of the others and has narrow leaves and pyramidal flowers. Maximum leaf widths given by Stace are 12 mm for Italian, 20 mm for the native Bluebell and 35 mm for Spanish

Spring Starflower (Tristagma uniflorum): On Mar 14 around 30 of these pale mauve Crocus or Squill-like flowers were out in the ususal place on Sinah Common (Hayling) opposite the end of Staunton Avenue

Wild Daffodil: John Goodspeed found a great display of these already out when he visited the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on Mar 11

Lords and Ladies (Arum maculatum): I came on the first two spathes, still firmly sheathed, on Mar 10

OTHER WILDLIFE

Hare: A visitor to the Sussex Downs south of Amberley on Mar 15 reported numerous Hares

Frog: An item on the Rye Bay website dated Mar 13 describes how researchers in East Sussex are catching Frogs and wiping their bottoms with cotton buds - not to ensure their cleanliness but to learn about the spread of a disease called Chytrid which is thought to have been brought into this country with North American Bullfrogs

Fresh water fish: When the high tide overtopped the seawall on Mar 10 and inundated Langstone Mill Pond with salt water many fresh water creatures got a nasty shock. Coupled with this the water level of the pond was raised allowing fish to swim (or be carried by the unusual flow of water) beyond the normal boundaries of the pond. Some may have been swept out to sea while others became stranded on 'dry land' as the tide fell - Nik Knight found five small Rudd (around 15 cm long) on or near the path between the pond and sea when he was there shortly after high tide on Mar 10. I guess there will have been even greater loss of fish in the Hilsea Moat (at substantial financial cost to the Portsmouth anglers who stock and fish the pools).

As an aside to this subject I recall walking round the tarmac path around the IBM Lake (many years ago) after a severe thunderstorm and finding several 'minnow type' fish lying dead on the tarmac - their fate must have been the result of being sucked up by the storm and dropped nearby (no dead cats or dogs were found on that occasion!)

Fox cubs: Still with the flooding of coastal fields on Mar 10 I watched a Fox in the field north of Langstone Pond when I was there just after the high tide. The sight of the adult Fox reminded me that this year's cubs are being born at this time, and I wondered how many may have been drowned before their eyes have opened - presumably Foxes dig their underground dens in places that will not flood with normal rain but they can have no defence against the sea flooding the area they have chosen for their den. This thought can be extended to a wide range of creatures living in these fields.

Fungi: Several finds of Jew's Ear recently, on Buddleia as well as Elder. In the Havant Eastern Road cemetery, where there was a great display of Field Blewit in January, the 'fairy ring' in which they grow is now clearly visible as much lusher and greener grass than its surrounds and on Mar 11 I found four fresh Blewits there.


Summary for Mar 3 - 9 (Week 9 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week's bird highlights include news of Sand Martins at the Chichester Lakes and a House Martin at Langstone while Sandwich Tern migrants have reached Dungeness. A very early Wood Sandpiper was on the Isle of Wight and possible migrant Whimbrel were seen in Dorset. For general interest read how an Oystercatcher was killed by an Oyster and what happens when a Sparrowhawk hits its prey but fails to get a 'stranglehold' on it. We start with a Diver coming to Farlington Marshes to die (?) and have good news of Lapwing breeding locally plus links to photos showing the differences between British and Continental 'forms' of Stonechat

Insect news has no new butterflies but the survival of over-wintering Red Admiral caterpillars in Sussex is good news. Interesting to me is the appearance of seven different Leaf-miner moth species of the genus Phyllonorycter - well worth a look at their pictures on the internet. Moths appearing about a month earlier than usual were Brindled Pug, Early thorn and Lead-coloured Drab. The first Red-tailed Bumblebee has been seen and this week's news introduced me to the Rosemary leaf beetle (Chrysolina americana)

Best new flowers are Wood Anemone, Hairy Violet and Slender Speedwell. Although they may be regarded as garden shrubs I was delighted to welcome the first flowers on Flowering Currant, Cherry Laurel and Broom

Other Wildlife news has the story of a Water Vole which has taken up residence in a raft designed as a trap for Mink and a description of yet another unwelcome invader of British habitat - the Chinese Mitten Crab

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: A surprising report appeared on Bird Guides saying that on Mar 4 one of these divers had been seen at Farlington Marshes "by the path in landward side channel 100m west of the Deeps". I take it this means that the bird was in one of the narrow channels of the area just within the eastern seawall of the reserve - if so I guess it was feeling very unwell and seeking somewhere to die in peace rather than to nest! I wonder if this is the same bird that was seen on Feb 11 hauled out on the mud of the Warblington shore and probably already feeling unwell then? The report reminds me of a personal find many years ago of a dead diver in the Sinah Gravel Pit lake on Hayling - I think many species seek out a quiet retreat before they die.

Great Northern Diver: Although many divers have already departed from south coast waters the regular winter Great Northern was still in the Chichester Harbour entrance channel on Mar 3

Great Crested Grebe: More than 700 of these were still feeding off Dungeness on Mar 2 but only 200 were seen there on Mar 3 - maybe the rest were still somewhere in the area but I guess it is more likely that the big winter flock has broken up.

Red-necked Grebe: The Weir Wood (Crowborough) bird was still present on Mar 8

Black-necked Grebe: The two birds at the Blashford Lakes were still there on Mar 8, by which time they had acquired much of their breeding plumage. The third bird that had been seen on Feb 29 was still there on Mar 5

Fulmar: Fulmars and Kittiwakes were back at their nests on the Telscombe cliffs at Newhaven on Mar 7

Balearic Shearwater: Until now these have been seen off Portland Bill in every month of the year except March but a sighting of one on Mar 6 plugged that gap.

Cattle Egret: The two birds at Bergerie Farm near Lymington were still there on Mar 5 and at least two birds were still at Dorset sites on Mar 6

Grey Heron: At least 20 nests were active at the Weir Wood heronry near Crowborough on Mar 3

Black Swan: The bird which has been at Harbridge near Ringwood had moved the Blashford Lakes proper on Mar 4

Red-breasted Goose: This, and the Wittering Brant, were still present on Mar 3 when they were seen commuting from Wittering to the Tournerbury shore of Hayling at dusk - two Barnacle Geese were also seen from Black Point on that day. On Mar 6 Andy Johnson had a very close view of the Red-breasted bird when it came to feed in the creek alongside the Black Point causeway

Emden Goose: Two were still to be seen at Baffins Pond in Portsmouth on Mar 6 but the ravages of time plus much disturbance as the surroundings of the pond are being rebuilt seem to have ended the saga of the 'Baffins Gang' which once had 42 Barnacles and at least one Snow Goose. The only birds seen at Baffins on Mar 6 were 30 Tufted Duck, 14 Shoveler, about 100 Mallard, 4 Canada Geese and the resident 2 Embden Geese along with the usual Coot and Moorhen but no Cormorants and no Mute Swans

Wood Duck: The female was still on the River Alver (west of Gosport) on Mar 2 where it has been present near the Apple Dumpling bridge since Feb 16 (prior to that it may have been at Titchfield Haven on Feb 3)

Goosander: The number roosting at the Blashford Lakes decreased from 40 on Mar 1 to 35 on Mar 5 and on Mar 1 one was seen flying north over The Fleet in Dorset while on Mar 9 two flew up Southampton Water and then up the River Itchen so it looks as if the winter birds are now heading north

Marsh Harrier: One flying in off the sea at Portland on Mar 4 was presumably another migrant arriving to swell the numbers already here - similarly a Red Kite flying northwest over Brading Marshes on the Isle of Wight on the same day was probably new to our shores.

Sparrowhawk: I scatter bird seed daily on both my front and back lawns so the local Sparrowhawks will know that this is a good place to include in their hunting forays - to confirm this a female went high over the garden on Mar 6, not hunting but patrolling her territory in a way that would be visible to all concerned. On a couple of occasions in recent years I have seen Sparrowhawks in the garden with prey on the ground but much more frequently I have found substantial clusters of feathers (usually Blackbird or pigeon) with no evidence of the predator which caused the prey to lose its feathers, nor any evidence of the success of the attack. I am therefore grateful to Brian Fellows for an observation in his Emsworth garden on Mar 7: Brian says he was .."in our back room overlooking the garden watching the birds feeding on the grass when, whoosh, down streaked a Sparrowhawk and hit a Collared Dove sending up a cloud of white feathers. There was a brief struggle for a few seconds and then the Dove fly off with the Hawk in close pursuit. They passed over the house and out of sight." This shows that if the Sparrowhawk does not get his talons firmly around the throat of its prey (I think they usually kill by throttling the prey, not breaking its neck as a Peregrine might do) the prey bird can wriggle free and fly off having suffered no more than some bad scratches and a severe shock. If this happens more frequently than successful kills (and I suspect it does) it would account for the feathers I have seen on the lawn and also for the curious 'pictures' of birds (usually Collared Doves) which are left on window glass after a dove has flown into the glass at high speed in its haste to escape a hawk. These pictures can show every feather of the Dove's wings, plus other parts of the body, in a semi-permanent fashion on the glass (even persisting after a light window cleaning!) - the picture is 'drawn' using the lubricating powder which 'oils' the bird's feathers, this powder being shaken from the edges of the feathers by the force of the impact and the oily powder then adheres to the glass.

Another account of a Sparrowhawk kill (dated Mar 5) came from Neal Ward in Crowborough via the SOS website - it said .. "While washing the car in my driveway, I became aware of a commotion from the local corvid flock, followed by the thud of a Woodpigeon hitting the road only 20 feet away. At first I thought it had hit an overhead power cable, but as the cloud of Woodpigeonfeathers cleared, the reason became clear. A female Sparrowhawk was struggling to overpower it, and the more it struggled, the greater were the cries from the corvids. I dashed indoors for my camera and took a number of shots, before a passing motorcycle interrupted the show. The Sparrowhawk reluctantly released its hold on the Woodpigeon, which amazingly flew off, but only for a few yards. The Sparrowhawk pounced again, but was met with ferocious struggles, which continued for several more minutes, when both birds disappeared under the hedge. After that it went quiet, so I presume that execution was achieved".

Hobby: A reported sighting of one at Yateley in north Hampshire on Mar 1 was more likely to have been of a Peregrine but the person who reported it quoted another reported Hobby sighting in Suffolk during February. Currently the earliest ever Hobby in Hampshire according to HOS records was seen on 16 Mar 2002

Peregrine: With the arrival of many exhausted passerine migrants likely to reach our shores in the next few weeks a pair of Peregrines were seen on Mar 8 patrolling over the sea off Hengistbury Head (Christchurch Harbour), clearly aware of the possibility of an easily acquired meal. A quote from the Rangers' Diary at Durlston country park on Mar 6 will further illustrate this .. "A pair of Stock Doves clatter in off the sea, as a Peregrine Falcon puts on an impressive display of aerobatics to snatch an unfortunate Meadow Pipit out of the air"

Oystercatcher: Shore birds are always at risk of losing a foot or a leg to one of two causes - the first is frost gripping the foot while the bird is sleeping so that the bird cannot move the foot when it wakes and tries to fly, the other is the equivalent of a human or land animal stepping on a gin trap whose jaws snap shut and trap or break the leg. This equivalent trap is, for birds, the jaws of a shellfish (particularly a large clam). I have heard of both of these disasters affecting birds but on Mar 6 Alistair Martin put an entry on Hoslist which made me aware of a different way in which shore birds can die - he had found an adult Oystercatcher drowned and washed up on the west Hayling shore, the cause of death being obvious as the tip of the bird's bill was firmly clamped within the shell of a very large Oyster. Presumably the Oyster was too heavy for the Oystercatcher to lift as it could then have carried the Oyster to a stony area and bashed the mollusc against the stones (something the Oystercatcher had probably done many times before until it met its match!)

Avocet: By Mar 5 a total of 11 Avocet were back at Titchfield Haven from their winter quarters (though I see that a flock of 109 birds was still on the mud at the mouth of the Medway in north Kent on Mar 6 - there had been 133 birds there in January)

Little Ringed Plover: After the early arrival of one at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 29 there were more sightings of one there on Mar 3 and 5

Lapwing: Few of these can now be seen at coastal sites and the 2006 Hampshire bird report indicated that there are now only around 20 sites where they still breed in the county. Bird reserves such as Farlington Marshes and Titchfield Haven still have nesting birds (though at Farlington very few eggs escape the Foxes which methodically quarter the ground where the birds nest) and luckily we still have one place in Havant Borough where up to half a dozen pairs still nest. This is on the 'Gipsies Plain' rough grassland south of Havant Thicket and west of Rowlands Castle. Five pairs were back there on Mar 8 but this site is currently destined to be 'developed' as a huge water storage reservoir and it remains to be seen if the fringes of the reservoir will continue to attract the birds.

Purple Sandpiper: I think Trevor Carpenter set a new record for the number seen at Southsea Castle when he counted 14 there on Mar 2

Woodcock: I know that some continental birds come here to escape the cold of winter but at least one flew in off the sea at Dungeness on Mar 2 as a spring arrival

Black-tailed Godwit: The 300+ birds seen in the Fishbourne Channel on Mar 1 were still there on Mar 4 (but no news of the big flock of Pintail seen there on Mar 1). I don't know where these birds came from but I guess that a few of those that have left the Avon valley went to the Isle of Wight where 105 were in Newtown Harbour on Mar 3 (previous counts there have been 44 on Feb 7 and 59 on Feb 29) - admittedly these birds may have just moved along from Yarmouth where there were 120 on Feb 21 but only 6 on Mar 3. I think that all we can really say about Godwit movements is that the birds are very mobile and are prepared to fly fairly long distances 'at the drop of a hat'.

Whimbrel: A report of three flying along The Fleet near Weymouth on Mar 7 attracted no special comment on the Dorset website where it was reported but did make me wonder if these were early migrants, especially as I have only seen one mention of Whimbrel in Dorset earlier this year (one flew over Portland harbour on Jan 28) and I am not aware of any regular wintering birds in that county. Passage birds do not normally appear until early April but in 2006 the first was reported in Sussex (passing Birling Gap where they do not winter) on Feb 25 with seven more flying by on Feb 26.

Green Sandpiper: A slight increase in the number of reports this week, including two from sites where the birds are not normally seen (one was a downland pond near Ventnor of the IoW, and the other a pond within the Gatwick airport perimeter), suggests that these are leaving their winter quarters.

Wood Sandpiper: This species only appears on the south coast as a rare passage migrant and the 'earliest ever' in Hampshire was seen on 23 Mar 2003 (none before 10 Apr in Sussex) so a sighting of one near Ventnor on the IoW on Mar 5 was another exceptionally early bird

Great Skua: There have been no reports of this species since Jan 15 so one passing Dungeness on Mar 8 was an indication of the start of spring movement

Little Gull: One seen at Arundel Wildfowl Reserve on Mar 5 was the first to be reported anywhere on the south coast since Feb 5 after daily reports during January but I expect it will not be long before regular sightings are resumed

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport Cockle Pond bird was still present on Mar 6

Common Gull: A sighting of more than 160 at Alresford Pond (east of Winchester) is probably the result of a significant number now moving east through our area on spring passage, though this species is much more likely to be found inland than at the coast during the winter and these birds may have been around for some time.

Iceland Gull: A first winter bird was at Arlington reservoir in the Cuckmere valley on Mar 1 and Mar 8, and an adult was seen in Gosport (HMS Sultan playing fields) on Mar 2

Glaucous Gull: The first winter bird was seen again at Shoreham Harbour on Mar 4 and 8. Also on Mar 8 there were sightings at Seaford, the Chesil area near Weymouth, and at Durlston

Great Blackback: Two of these were among a large inland movement of gulls seen at Weir Wood reservour (near Crowborough) on Feb 25 - with them were 50+ Herring Gulls and 15 Lesser Blackbacks

Kittiwake: Some were back at nest sites on the cliffs at Telscombe (close to Newhaven) on Mar 7

Sandwich Tern: Two birds seen at Rye Harbour on Mar 2 and then at Dungeness on Mar 4 were almost certainly the first migrants as none had wintered at either site. By Mar 8 three birds were at Dungeness. A winter bird was still in the Chichester Harbour entrance on Mar 3

Guillemot: Among the 200+ birds seen on the Durlston cliffs on Mar 7 was one with a distinctive white plume of feathers on his head, earning him the name of 'Tufty' - this bird has been coming there to breed for 16 years and must be around 20 years old.

Little Auk: Immense numbers of these were in British waters betwen mid-September and the end of December last year but the only one I have heard of this year is one found dead in the Sandy Point area of Hayling on Feb 17 - this late news only came to light in Keith Betton's summary of Hampshire birding during February to be published in Bird Watching magazine.

Sand Martin: We now have fourteen reports of these migrants since the first was seen in Dorset on Feb 26. By Mar 3 around 6 were at the Blashford Lakes and 8 over a lake at Sherborne in Dorset, and on Mar 5 five birds were over Runcton Lake at Chichester.

Swallow: The first was seen on the Isle of Wight on Feb 13 and by Mar 3 I had seen 6 reports coming from Dorset, Kent and Sussex but not Hampshire

House Martin: After a report of one in Cornwall on Feb 29 one was seen at Sherborne in Dorset on Mar 3 and on Mar 4 one was seen hawking over the fields on the Langstone shore between Wade and Pook Lanes

Meadow Pipit: Northward passage is increasing with more than 100 birds coming in off the sea at Portland on Mar 6

White Wagtail: There have been a number of reports of Alba Wagtails on passage recently but the first definite report of a White Wagtail came from Portland on Mar 3 with another single bird seen at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 5

Black Redstart: These are starting to move around and on Mar 2 one was seen on a roof at Chichester cathedral posing alongside a Grey Wagtail.

Stonechat: First report of one in song came from Christchurch Harbour on Mar 2. The number of birds returning from the continent to breed here is growing with a count of 20 at Portland on Mar 6. The Portland website had a couple of photos with that day's report, one showing a normal British breeder ('hibernans' form) and the other of a 'rubicola' bird which would normally breed on the continent - the latter has distinctly paler underparts, a blacker mantle and a white rump.

Blackbird: A number of reports indicate that there have been more continental birds than usual in our gardens during the past winter but in at least one Southampton garden the winter visitors had abruptly vanished on Mar 5

Fieldfare: Numbers are now declining as the birds move north but more than 80 were close to Stansted House on Mar 2

Blackcap: The birds which have been wintering in our gardens began to sing in mid February and comments at the time suggested that they do this for about a week before they start to head east to their breeding areas in central Europe. The first reported indication that they are now leaving their winter haunts came on Mar 7 when one 'arrived' at Portland (of course that could have been one coming from the south to breed here) and on Mar 8 one was seen out in the open of the Christchurch Harbour area, probably having just left a local garden.

Pallas' Warbler: The bird in Oaker's Wood near Bere Regis in Dorset has not been seen since Mar 2

Chiffchaff: There have now been many reports of these singing since the first was heard on Feb 7 but it was nice to hear two answering each other near Sinah gravel pit on south Hayling when I was there on Mar 5

Firecrest: One was in a Langstone village garden on Mar 5 - interestingly it was in a Mimosa tree, as had been the one seen on Feb 12 in a Havant garden

Raven: An interesting bit of behaviour seen on Mar 1 was of a pair of Ravens catching Toads in a shallow stream somewhere in Hampshire

Greenfinch: A count of 80 at Portland on Mar 6 may indicate a new influx which will increase the numbers in our gardens this spring

Bullfinch: Although I have heard what were almost certainly Bullfinches on more than one occasion this year it was not until Mar 3 that I saw one - a lovely male briefly perched in the open before flying west over the Warblington Farm fields. It become the 100th species I have seen this year.

Hawfinch: Another interesting observation of behaviour comes from the Haywards Heath area on Mar 4 - a pair feeding at a garden peanut feeder.

Reed Bunting: First report of song comes from Pett Level (Rye Bay) on Mar 4. On Mar 3 there were still at least 6 based in the Conigar Point field at Warblington Farm - this is just one of many sites where increased numbers of Reed Buntings have been seen this winter.

Escapees: A recent report of a possible Golden Eagle seen on the ground in a field near Denmead on Mar 2 may have been a mis-identification of a Buzzard but we know from the story of the White-tailed Eagle in the Andover area this winter that wild eagles can end up in Hampshire. A similar report of an eagle seen in the Brede valley (Rye area) on Mar 4 brought out news that a Bateleur Eagle (which escaped from the Ardingly show two years ago) was still being regularly seen in the Hastings area, while another source revealed that an escaped Golden Eagle had been seen between Hailsham and Hastings within the past month

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Small White: After a very early first sighting on Feb 8 there were two more sightings in February before the latest report of a male seen at Eastney (Portsmouth) on Mar 5. In the photo which Brian Fellows took of this one the small central black spots indicate its sex to be male but the normally distinctive black wing tip markings are virtually absent - Jeremy Thomas says this is not uncommon with the spring brood

Peacock: One seen in Ropley on Mar 5 was probably one of three that had been hibernating in Lynn Fomison's garden shed (only two there now!)

Comma: One seen at Shoreham on Mar 7 is the only butterfly seen flying in Sussex so far this month

Caterpillars: In the 2006-7 winter a good number of Red Admiral caterpillars in the Sussex Ouse valley survived the cold and successfully pupated at this time of year. This winter it seemed that none had survived there until a tent was found on Mar 8 with three caterpillars in it

Moths

Phyllonorycter species (Leaf miner moths): Anyone who thinks that the moths which emerge from the tiny larvae that munch their way across less than the full width of a tree leaf, leaving both upper and lower 'skin' of the leaf intact, before pupating, cannot turn into 'things of wonder and beauty' should visit http://www.planetthanet.org/Moth_news_and_updates_March_2008.htm to see pictures of the insects that have just emerged from larvae collected in the east Kent area. Click the pictures of the Pyllonorycter species whose thumbnails appear down the righthand side of this page to see them more clearly, and if you are impressed then visit Mike Wall's website http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/moths/moth_0315.htm to see a fuller collection of photos of both the moths and their distinctive 'leaf mine patterns' (starting with the page given click the links at the top right of each page to see some 50 other species in the genus). Note that the Planet Thanet website mis-spells the specific name of one species as P. ragella where other official sources give it as P. rajella

Early Flat-body (0666 Semioscopis avellanella): First trapped in the Horsham area on Mar 1 and normally flying in March. Note that the Sussex BC website reporting this misspells the specific name as avellana though other sources agree that it is avellanella

Shoulder Stripe (1746 Anticlea badiata): First trapped at Blean Woods near Canterbury on Mar 6 - first appears in March

Brindled Pug (1852 Eupithecia abbreviata): First trapped at Blean Woods near Canterbury on Mar 6 - single generation normally appears in April

Early Thorn (1917 Selenia dentaria): First trapped at Blean Woods near Canterbury on Mar 6 - first generation normally appears in April

The Engrailed (1947 Ectropis bistortata): First trapped at Blean Woods near Canterbury on Mar 6 - first generation normally appears in March

Lead-coloured Drab (2185 Orthosia populeti): Another first at Horsham on Mar 1 - normally appears in early April

Grey Shoulder-Knot (2237 Lithophane ornitopus): First trapped at Blean Woods near Canterbury on Mar 6 - just out of hibernation

Other insects

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius): First report for year is from Gosport on Mar 4

Pine ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus): Seen in the Northiam village area north of Hastings on Mar 2 - not uncommon in parts of Britain but new to the 10K square where it was found

Rosemary leaf beetle (Chrysolina americana): Brian Banks, the Natural England officer for Dungeness, writes on the Rye Bay website (Mar 3) ... "Another new arrival, found on the rosemary bush in our garden today. A rather pretty beetle, just under 1cm long, with maroon and metallic green stripes. It is a rosemary leaf beetle Chrysolina americana and feeds on rosemary and lavenders causing damage to the leaf tips. Despite its Latin name it seems to be an inhabitant the Mediterranean coast of southern Europe and N Africa". For a good picture of the beetle go to http://www.west-crete.com/dailypics/crete-2007/3-27-07.shtm and for an account of its habits and recent arrival in Britain visit http://www.rhs.org.uk/research/projects/rosemary_beetle.asp

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

So far I know of 68 species flowering in March and have seen 66 for myself. The equivalent figures for the year to date are 132 and 122

Wood Anemone: John Goodspeed found the first of the year in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Mar 3 with more in Great Copse (Havant Leigh Park area) on Mar 6

Common Ramping Fumitory: Still flowering at Warblington farm on Mar 3

Yellow Corydalis: Back in flower on Mar 3 after a very short winter break

Hairy Violet: John Goodspeed found the first flower on Portsdown on Mar 2 and I saw a couple of flowers there on Mar 4

Field Pansy: Still flowering in the Conigar Point field at Warblington on Mar 3

Yellow Oxalis: Flowering by the Havant to Emsworth road on Mar 3

Broom: I found flowers on one bush at the Leigh Park Gardens on Mar 8

Cherry Laurel: Also at Leigh Park Gardens on Mar 8 I found the first white 'candle' with open flowers

Flowering Currant: The pink flowers were open on a bush of this in a Havant garden on Mar 3

Grey Willow: Newly flowering at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 8, reported by Brian Fellows

Slender Speedwell: First flowers of the year in St Faith's churchyard on Mar 6

Field Woundwort: Still flowering in the Conigar Point field at Warblington on Mar 3

Butterbur: After an odd appearance by one male plant at Emsworth on Jan 20 these began their normal appearance at Brook Meadow on Mar 2

Hairy Garlic: No flowers (I have never seen this in flower!) but the distinctive leaves were found at Nore Barn in Emsworth on Mar 3

Wild Garlic (Ramsons): Nowhere near flowering but it was good to see the first leaves coming up in Great Copse (Havant Leigh Park area) on Mar 8

OTHER WILDLIFE

Weasel: First report of the year comes from Brook Meadow at Emsworth on Mar 4

Wood Mouse: Also seen and photographed at Brook Meadow on Mar 4. I wonder if this sighting was connected with that of the Weasel - although I have read several reports of Wood Mice active by day and coming close to houses to gather left overs under bird tables these mice are supposedly mainly nocturnal, making the day time sighting at Brook Meadow somewhat unusual. Much more unusual was the apparently very wet fur on the mouse as if had just been in the river - perhaps the mouse had just had a narrow escape from the Weasel by hurling itself into the river?

Water Vole: More proof that these animals have roused themselves from winter inactivity comes in two sightings at Brook Meadow, both in areas well away from recent sightings (one further downstream in the Ems but in a place where they have been seen regularly in past years but the other sighting was in the Lumley stream on the other side of the meadow - I don't think the voles have been seen there before)

An interesting item on the Rye Bay website (entry for Mar 6) describes how a Water Vole has made its home in a floating raft that was designed as a Mink trap. The raft has a box structure on it with an underwater entrance ramp below the raft and a Water Vole which came across this ready built home floating in the reeds at Rye Harbour has settled in, coming back to it despite being disturbed when the lid of the box was raised to inspect the contents while the vole was taking a nap. I presume that when used for trapping Mink the raft would have had a device to prevent the Mink getting out once it was in but that has not prevented the Vole from coming and going.

White Squirrel: White coated Grey Squirrels have been widespread in the greater Portsmouth area for at least twenty years so another sighting of one in Cosham is no surprise

Toad: We have heard many reports of Frogspawn recently but Mar 1 brought the first news of Toad spawn in a Cosham (Portsmouth) garden pond where it is expected each year

Great Crested Newt: A report of eggs found under the leaves of Water Soldier plants in Great Dixter garden at Northiam (north of Hastings) is not unexpected - some eggs had been reported from the Romney Marshes area in the first week of January this year.

Chinese Mitten Crab: This gets into the Rye Bay website news after one was found dead on the Camber Sands, and this news set me to search out more information about yet another species I had not previously heard of. This is an unwelcome ship-borne alien invader from the Far East which arrived in the Thames estuary (where it is now well established) as long ago as 1935 and has been spreading around the east coast - the dead one was the first to be found in Rye Bay and may have been washed there after it died, but live ones are probably not far behind. The name 'Mitten Crab' comes from the tufts of hairs that grow between the joints of the crab's limbs giving the appearance of a crab wearing gloves. The reasons for this species being unwelcome include the fact that it is able to flourish and multiply in our waters, but are mainly based on its habit of tunnelling into the banks of streams, causing the banks to collapse, and on its willingness to enter buildings (including inhabited houses). It probably also has an adverse effect on longer established species here.


Summary for Feb 25 - Mar 2 (Week 8 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week's bird highlights include the first Sand and House Martins and the first Little Ringed Plover and Garganey plus the first Manx Shearwater back in British waters prior to breeding. More Wheatears have arrived but no more Swallows have been reported this week. Other birds of interest are a Rose Coloured Starling on the IoW and both Robin and Raven incubating eggs

Insect news features more Holly Blues, a lot of early moths (Bright-line Brown-eye in particular) and both Ants and Jumping Spider active in my garden.

Best new flower find was Alpine Squill flowering in the Hollybank Woods, while Bulbous Buttercup, Early Flowering Wintercress and Hemlock Water Dropwort were new in the wild. Naturalised garden plants newly flowering were Grape Hyacinth and Flowering Currant and a single Spanish Bluebell was found with flower buds about to open.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Many are now heading east up channel (205 went past Dungeness on Feb 18, 56 on Feb 21 and 50 on Feb 25) but the single bird which had been in the River Itchen near Northam Bridge in Southampton from 3 Oct to 24 Nov last year, and which was reported to have left the river on Nov 24, has recently been reported again in the Northam Bridge area on Feb 21 and 24

Great Crested Grebe: In Southampton Water some of these were displaying on Feb 17 but there were still 570 in winter mode on the sea off Dungeness on Feb 18 and around 200 in Rye Bay on Feb 24

Slavonian Grebe: 6 were on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Feb 23

Black-necked Grebe: Visiting birders from Sussex found 9 in Langstone Harbour, seen from the Oysterbeds, on Feb 24. At the Blashford Lakes the two which have been there since Jan 1, but were thought to have left after Feb 17, were still there on Feb 29 and Mar 1 (maybe with a third passing bird joining them on Feb 29)

Manx Shearwater: Portland reported the 'first of the year' there on Mar 1 (though they had reported a single passing bird on Jan 8)

Cormorant: 42 were on power cables in the Adur Valley near Steyning on Feb 25 - I think this is a regular roost, and probably a more 'environmentally friendly' one than others (as at Ivy Lake at Chichester or at Rye Harbour) where the birds droppings kill the trees on which the birds roost and pollute the water below the trees - so far as I know the Adur Valley roost does not threaten to damage the power lines and disrupt the electricity supply.

Bittern: The Blashford Lakes bird was still present on Feb 29 and Mar 1

Cattle Egret: On Mar 1 two were still at Lavant (Chichester) with one at Piddinghoe (Lewes area) and at least two in Dorset. On Feb 29 Lee Evans reported a new arrival near Swansea with the flock of 18 remaining in Cornwall and one still in the Macclesfield area, and on Feb 27 the single was still at Harbridge (Ringwood) and two were still at Bergerie Farm (Lymington area).

Great White Egret: The bird which moved from the Blashford lakes to Fordingbridge after Jan 13 is now reported to be back at the Cotswold Water Park where it spent last summer.

Spoonbill: On Feb 28 one dropped in at Church Norton but flew on southwest after two hours and since then the only reports have been from Dorset where a group of 10 was at Ridge Wharf (near Arne) on Mar 1 with at least three others elsewhere in the county.

Bewick's Swan: The group of 6 were still at Ibsley near Ringwood on Feb 25 but the count in the Arun valley at Burpham was down to 15 on Feb 25 and just 9 on Feb 27 (after which no further reports from anywhere)

Black Swan: The one which arrived at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood on the day after one was last seen at Emsworth (Feb 9) was still in the Blashford area (at Harbridge) on Feb 25. Also on Feb 25 there was a report of two on the Itchen in the Bitterne area of Southampton where I think they have been since Jan 14. On Mar 1 Brian Fellows could only see one bird at the West Ashling pond near Chichester. This pond, where there have been 'captive' birds for a good many years, had 7 birds on 4 Apr 2007, and on 8 Nov 2007 two pairs were present, one pair having 5 newly hatched young,

Greylag Goose: Up to now the area immediately around Havant has not been invaded by the hordes of Greylag that are found in much of southern England but the arrival of four birds on the field west of Aldsworth Pond (north of Emsworth) may mean our immunity is coming to an end - these birds were reported on Feb 25 as having been there for several days

Barnacle Goose: The group of 18 birds which has remained on Thorney Island (the remnant of the 43 which arrived there on Feb 14) were still around on Feb 25 when disturbance on Thorney sent them flying west over Hayling Island - they landed in Langstone Harbour but only stayed for 45 minutes before flying back east.

Brent Goose: Another 900 flew east past Dungeness in the three days from Feb 23 to 25 - the sum of the counts from Dungeness alone is now 5739 since the geese started leaving us on Feb 3 (and of course many more will have got away without being counted)

Pale-bellied Brent: A photo which appeared with the Feb 23 entry on the Portland website shows how clearly a Pale-bellied bird stands out from a group of Dark-bellied when seen from below in flight. When I was at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 27 I was able to see this for myself when a flight of around 20 Brent flew over my head with two Pale-bellied among them - the birds I saw landed in Stoke Bay just south of the Oysterbeds.

Red-Breasted Goose: Still in the Wittering area of Chichester Harbour, seen on Mar 1 on the mud at Ellanore (maybe it has ceased to feed on the carpark area grass and has changed to feeding on the harbour tideline - this would account for the lack of reports from Feb 12 to 29)

Pintail: Mar 1 brought a surprising report of more than 150 seen in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester - presumably this was a large flock of passage birds resting after an overnight flight and intending to move on when darkness fell again.

Garganey: The first summer migrant arrival, a male, was in the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Feb 27

Eider: Jason Crook saw one from the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 25, possibly the same young male that he saw there on Jan 28. Also on Feb 25 Dungeness reported 10 Eider flying east following 3 passing on Feb 21 - as the only other report of Eider at Dungeness this year was on Jan 3 the two current reports may mark the start of passage for this species.

King Eider: Not in our area but maybe of general interest Lee Evans reports a first winter drake has been in north Devon since Feb 18

Surf Scoter: A young bird seen in The Fleet near Abbotsbury on Feb 28 and 29

Goldeneye: A substantial increase in numbers at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 29 was probably accounted for by passage birds dropping in.

Merganser: A pair were displaying at Lymington on Feb 24

Goosander: Still 40 roosting at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 1

Red Kite: Mar 1 brought a sighting of one over the Castlepoint shopping centre in Bournemouth - an indication of how rapidly these birds are spreading through Southern England

Marsh Harrier: One seen at Titchfield Haven on Feb 24 may have been the same female that was there on Feb 20 but one seen flying east over the Lymington Marshes on Feb 26 was probably a newly arrived migrant still on passage.

Kestrel: On Feb 25 a pair were seen displaying in the Barcombe area north of Lewes by Robin Pepper, who writes on the SOS website .. "Pair of Kestrels displaying at Clay Corner (TQ428165). Male flying above female with rapid wing beats and then swooping and diving." Around the same date Sparrowhawks were displaying over gardens in Cosham at the southern foot of Portsdown, and I mention this as I believe male and female Sparrowhawks make solo display flights (the male flying in a roller coaster style, the female high and straight), more to mark out their claim to a territory than to impress each other, but I would like to know if I am wrong in this. Most of us will have seen Kestrels and/or Sparrowhawks displaying by now and I quoted Robin Pepper's observation as I have not seen such a distinctive display - the displaying Kestrels I see are normally very noisy males flyng around on their own, maybe trying to impress an unseen female or possibly to lead her to a potential nest site.

Avocet: A single bird was an unusual visitor to the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 25, presumably on passage, and from Titchfield Haven we have a cryptic report on Feb 24 of 'numbers increasing' there. On Feb 21, however, more than 200 were still in winter quarters on the Exe estuary in Devon.

Little Ringed Plover: A male at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 29 was another very early first migrant arrival - the previous earliest ever arrival date for Hampshire was 5 Mar 1997.

Little Stint: The wintering bird was still in the Wittering area of Chichester Harbour on Mar 1

Purple Sandpiper: Eleven new reports from at least five sites (including 4 birds at Southsea Castle on Feb 26).

Ruff: One was in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Mar 1

Woodcock: The first report of roding comes from Pondhead Inclosure in the New Forest on Feb 21 with more seen in another New Forest wood on Feb 22

Black-tailed Godwit: Brian Fellows saw more than 300 on the Exe estuary on Feb 21 - he tells us that this large flock tends to remain in situ throughout the winter and does not move around dramatically in the same way that the birds in the Solent do. Although there was more than one recent report indicating that the Godwits seem to have deserted the Avon Valley entirely a flock of 388 were at Harbridge on Feb 27 but most have left Pulborough area while Chichester Harbour has regained a flock of 300+ in the Fishbourne area (seen on Mar 1) and up to 35 in the Emsworth area

Spotted Redshank: The regular bird in the Nore Barn area west of Emsworth is still being seen there and on Feb 27 it was joined by a second bird seen in the pond just within the seawall in the Warblington Farm field immediately west of the Nore Barn wood. Since then there have been two birds at Nore Barn again on Mar 1 when a single was in the Fishbourne Channel

Med Gull: When I visited the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 27 two Med Gulls in summer plumage were making their presence known by their calls as the flew over the area while at least half a dozen were on the water of the lagoon. One of the latter revealed that it had a green plastic ring on its legs when it made a short flight. After Jason Crook had been there on Feb 25 he commented on the value of these plastic rings .. "I have so far seen six ringed birds in two visits, including a long returning Hungarian-ringed bird, and another bird which winters in Spain."

Iceland Gull: A first winter bird was at Dungeness on Feb 27 and maybe the same bird was at Seaford on Mar 1

Glaucous Gull: The Shoreham Harbour bird has not been reported since Feb 26 but what I think is a different bird was still at Dungeness on Feb 28

Sandwich Tern: One was fishing in the Nore Barn area of the Emsworth shore on Feb 25 and another was seen in Poole Harbour on Feb 26 and 27 - both were almost certainly wintering birds.

Long-eared Owl: On Feb 23 one was reported to have been seen perched on a post near Church Norton church

Kingfisher: On Feb 18 one was seen flying up the River Ems at Brook Meadow and over the railway to the north, reviving hopes of breeding somewhere along the Ems south of Westbourne. This is the first sighting in the Brook Meadow area this year though there were four coastal sightings in the Emsworth area during January.

Sand Martin: First migrant arrival was at Radipole (Weymouth) on Feb 26 and on Feb 29 Lee Evans was reporting several in the country

House Martin: Lee Evans reports one seen in Cornwall on or before Feb 29

Meadow Pipit: Durlston reported the first northbound passage birds on Feb 24 with more seen on Feb 25

Robin: A nest with two eggs was found in the Farnborough area on Feb 24

Stonechat: Portland reported the first few migrant arrivals on Feb 18 and around 20 were at Portland Bill on Feb 24, while Christchurch Harbour reported 5 'new' birds there on Feb 26

Wheatear: I have already mentioned a second hand but very probable report of one seen in Kent om Feb 10 and by Feb 29 Lee Evans tells us that several are now in the country

Blackbird: These have mostly started singing, if intermittently. Walking around Emsworth on Feb 24 Brian Fellows heard nine different birds singing.

Song Thrush: I think a pair is already nesting close to my garden - both birds were seen searching for food on my lawn on Feb 26 with one of them being seen there most days. Their presence, and the cessation of song, both suggest that they have a nest but do not wish to attract attention to it.

Blackcap: Three reports of males in full song suggest that our winter birds are getting ready to depart - one has been singing continuously in a Havant garden since Feb 18.

Pallas' Warbler: One has been in Oakers Wood south west of Bere Regis in Dorset from Feb 24 to Mar 1 at least

Goldcrest: Although these sing throughout the winter I suspect there has been a surge of song in the past week based on my hearing birds singing on both Feb 28 and 29

Long-tailed Tit: One pair was lining its nest in a Cosham garden here in the Portsmouth area on Feb 24

Raven: These are early nesters and a pair 'somewhere in Sussex' which fledged 5 young last year has already begun incubation of this year's eggs some 3 weeks earlier than last year

Rose Coloured Starling: On Feb 25 Kris Gillam's website (http://mysite.wanadoo-members.co.uk/wightvogels/news.html) had a close up photo of a first winter male at a garden feeder in East Cowes on the IoW. Kris says .. "A juvenile was seen in a garden c.150yds from there in October so it seems most likely that this bird has over-wintered in the area."

Tree Sparrow: The presence of five Tree Sparrows among finches and buntings feeding in the Henfield area of West Sussex on Feb 28 was, I think, the first report for the year for Sussex (none reported at Rye Harbour or the Pannel Valley so far this year). No reports at all from Hampshire this year.

Lapland Bunting: One of the birds seen in the Keyhaven (Lymington) area since Nov 17 last year was still feeding with Reed Buntings on Feb 26 despite most of the stubble field which they frequent being recently ploughed (it seems the farmer has deliberately left them a wide headland). That respite did not last long and when the rest of the field was ploughed the birds disappeared.

Escapees: A white Little Corella parrot which was first seen in the Widewater lagoon area of Lancing (Worthing) last November was still alive there on Feb 25

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: A single male was seen at Ambersham Common near Midhurst on Feb 25 This brings the number of reports for this year to 19

Holly Blue: The earliest ever was in a Gosport garden on Feb 9 and on Feb 12 two more were seen there. These are the only two reports for this year.

Red Admiral: One was flying in Brook Meadow at Emsworth on Feb 18 and counts of three came from Gosport on both Feb 14 and 26. Now 44 reports for the year

Comma: One seen in Gosport on Feb 18 and another in a Cosham (Portsmouth) garden around Feb 24 brings the number of reports for this year to 9

Moths

Spindle Smudge (451 Ypsolopha mucronella): First taken at Worthing on Feb 28 This species overwinters without hibernating

Depressaria daucella (670): First of year trapped at Newhaven on Feb 23. This species overwinters without hibernating

Brown-spot Flat-body (695 Agonopterix alstroemeriana): First of year at Rusper (Horsham) on Feb 23. This species overwinters without hibernating

Grey Birch Button (1051 Acleris logiana): First of year at Rusper (Horsham) on Feb 23. I think this species overwinters without hibernating

Tufted Button (1054 Acleris cristana): First of year out after hibernation at Rusper (Horsham) on Feb 23

Lichen Button (1061 Acleris literana): First of year after hibernation out at Rusper (Horsham) on Feb 23

Plume moth species (1497 Amblyptilia acanthadactyla): First out of hibernation at Worthing on Feb 27

Yellow Horned (1659 Achlya flavicornis): First of year somewhere in Sussex on Feb 23 This is a genuine first emergence - moths only fly in the March to April period

Bright-line Brown-eye (2160 Lacanobia oleracea): A very early first somewhere in Sussex on Feb 23 - normal flight period is May to July

Clouded Drab (2188 Orthosia incerta): First of year at Rusper (Horsham) on Feb 23 Normal flight period is March to May

Twin-spotted Quaker (2189 Orthosia munda): First of year in the Northiam area north of Hastings on Feb 26 Normally flies in March and April

Early Grey (2243 Xylocampa areola): First of year at Rusper (Horsham) on Feb 28 Normal flight period is March to May

The Chestnut (2258 Conistra vaccinii): First of year at Rusper (Horsham) on Feb 23 Flies from September to May without hibernating

Other insects

Ruby Tiger caterpillar (Woolly Bear type) nearly full grown enjoying the sun at Rye Harbour on Feb 25

Chequered Hoverfly (Melanostoma scalare): Probable id only of a small thin bodied hoverfly seen in Havant on Feb 27

Black Garden Ant: These started to come out in my Havant garden on Mar 1

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris): A worker seen with full pollen sacs in the Northiam area north of Hastings on Feb 24 indicates that this species has continued nesting through the winter (normally only Queens survive)

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum): Living up to its name, a queen seen prospecting for a nest site at Northiam on Feb 24

Zebra spider (Salticus scenicus): First of the year hunting in my Havant garden on Mar 1

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My March list of flowering species stands at 41 after the first couple of days (124 species for the year)

Bulbous Buttercup: First flower seen on Feb 28

Early Flowering Wintercress (Barbarea intermedia): First flower found on Feb 27 - fresh growth on a woody stem of a last year's plant!

Flowering Currant: First bush in flower in Havant on Mar 1

Hemlock Water Dropwort: First flowers in Havant on Feb 27

Cowslip: Found in flower near Lewes on Feb 24 after Durlston had reported plants 'about to flower' on Feb 22

Elder: On Feb 28 an old tree near the Viewpoint carpark on Portsdown was covered with unopen flower buds

Shasta Daisy: One flower seen in Havant on Mar 1

Grape Hyacinth: Flowering in Havant on Mar 1 after unopen buds seen on Feb 11

Spanish Bluebell: A single erect flower stem with closed blue flower buds seen in Havant on Mar 1

Alpine Squill: Five plants in full flower in the 'orchid corner' of the Hollybank woods on Feb 25. These plants were first seen last year but have probably been there for years (likely to be the result of deliberate introduction as the site is extremely remote from roadside or gardens from which the plants could have been thrown out)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Roe Deer: By Feb 29 a buck at Durlston had regrown its antlers to full size though they were still in velvet

Vole species: On Feb 27 John Goodspeed's website reported a Vole seen inside a garden bird feeder at some unspecified location in the Portsmouth area - it was reported as a Field Vole, and while I have no evidence that it was not that species. I understand that Bank Voles are commoner and more given to climbing while Field Voles (aka Short-tailed Vole) are less common and are normally restricted to rough grassland. Google gave me a reference to http://www.wildyorkshire.co.uk/naturediary/docs/2003/8/3.html which has a useful summary of the differences between the two species and is illustrated with attractive drawings

Water Vole: Now becoming more frequently seen in the River Ems at Brook Meadow

Frog: Recent frosts killed off some of the early spawn but since the frosts ended Frogs have become active enough locally to get a photo in the Portsmouth NEWS of a small garden pond brimming with spawn and John Vigay reports his garden pond in the Lovedean area of Waterlooville is equally full, as is a pond in nearby Yoells Copse

Fungi: A good show of Jews Ear fungus on Buddleia wood in my garden this week


Summary for Feb 18 - 24 (Week 7 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week's bird highlights include another Swallow seen at Sandwich Bay on Feb 21 brings the total of arrivals so far to four, maybe five. Three Common Cranes flying north over Horsham on Feb 21 were unexpected, less so is the start of passerine arrivals with Grey Wagtail and Stonechat both seen coming in off the sea at Portland. A Spotted Crake briefly at Shoreham on Feb 19 was also probably a migrant arrival. Insect highlights include a Large Tortoiseshell and a Camberwell Beauty on the Isle of Wight. Among flowering plants finds of Ground Ivy and Kingcups were pleasing. Other Wildlife has news of the cross channel travels of a tagged Seal and some info on Reindeer antlers.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: One was reported between Oct 3 and Nov 24 last year as being regularly seen in the Itchen near Northam Bridge in Southampton. The Nov 24 report said it had left the Itchen and was seen in Southampton Water, and we have heard no more of it until now - on Feb 21 it was back in the river near the same bridge

Black-throated Diver: One seen in Chichester Harbour from Black Point on Hayling on Feb 22

Slavonian Grebe: On Feb 23 two were at the mouth of the Beaulieu river and on Feb 22 more than 20 were off Pagham Harbour.

Black-necked Grebe: It seems that the two which have been seen daily at the Blashford Lakes left on or after Feb 17, and on Feb 22 none could be seen from the Hayling Oysterbeds by three experienced Sussex birders (admittedly the water was choppy)

Cattle Egret: On Feb 18 Lee Evans national bulletin of rare bird news said that there are currently around 55 Cattle Egrets in Britain. Those at Harbridge near Ringwood, Bergerie Farm near Lymington, at Piddinghoe on the Sussex Ouse, the Weymouth area in Dorset and near Lavant at Chichester were all reported in the past few days.

Spoonbill: An adult seen in the Thorney Deeps on Feb 17 has not been reported again but on Feb 18 there were still 9 in the Arne area of Dorset.

Bewick's Swan: Six still at Ibsley on Feb 18 and 20 at Burpham near Arundel on Feb 20 are the latest reports I have seen

Barnacle Goose: In my last summary I suggested that the flock of 43 seen at Piddinghoe on the Sussex Ouse on Feb 14 had flown on to Thorney Island where 40+ arrived late that day but this was contradicted as 42 were still at Piddinghoe on Feb 15 and the flock of 43 were still at Thorney Deeps on Feb 18 and 19 (with 18 still there on Feb 22). On Feb 21 a total of 160 were seen at Rye Harbour.

Brent Goose: Although the initial surge of departing birds is now over a few are still moving east - on Feb 21 Seaford reported 27 heading east and on Feb 23 another 32 flew east past Portland

Pale Bellied Brent: I was also wrong about the family of four of these seen at Lymington marshes on Feb 12 - I thought they were already on passage and would not stay there but they were still present on Feb 23 at least. Another single was found at Calshot on Feb 16 and was still there on Feb 23

Aythya hybrid: The bird on the Thorney Little Deeps which was originally thought to be a male Scaup has been recognised as a hybrid since at least Feb 12 and on Feb 19 it was declared to be (probably!) a male with both Tufted Duck and Pochard in its parentage. Still there on Feb 22.

Goosander: 37 were still roosting at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 20 but the number there is now diminishing and maybe one of these appeared on the scrape at Hook (Warsash) on Feb 21

Marsh Harrier: A male was seen briefly over Thorney Little Deeps on Feb 17 before flying off east, and a female was at the same place on Feb 22. Another female was at Titchfield Haven on Feb 20 - these are all presumably arriving migrants.

Merlin: Numbers at the coast seem to be diminishing as birds return to breeding areas but one was perched on the outer bund wall of the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 22

Spotted Crake: One was seen and photographed at Shoreham Harbour on Feb 19 but then flew north suggesting it was on passage. Quite a few winter in Britain but the majority fly on to Africa after a prolonged autumn stopover in southern Britain. Very few are seen here on spring passage (and those generally in March) but my guess would be that this was one of the few heading north from Africa earlier than usual.

Common Crane: Three of these flew north over Horsham on Feb 21, presumably newly arrived from the continent.

Golden Plover: A count of 1400 at Rye Harbour on Feb 18 was the highest count there since 1700 on Jan 2 and may reflect birds now moving north across the English Channel. On Feb 20 there were 80 on the Langstone shore, on Feb 22 some 200 were in the Oakley area west of Basingstoke and on Feb 23 around 500 were still in the Lymington area.

Lapwing: On Feb 8 there were at least 50 on the Langstone shore with one of them practising territorial display flights over the saltings. On Feb 20 I only saw one Lapwing anywhere on the shore from Langstone to Emsworth - it looks as if they have headed off to breeding grounds although several large flocks can still be found (on Feb 21 there were 300 at Brading Marshes and 200 in the Yarmouth area - both on the IoW - and there were at least 400 on the Pevensey Levels on Feb 23)

Purple Sandpiper: One seen at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 23 is thought to be only the third seen inside Langstone Harbour since 1950 (the others were there in Nov 1955 and Aug 1996). The current bird may have been lurking around the Oysterbeds for some time as John Goodspeed heard an un-named birder saying he had seen one there in mid January this year.

Ruff: On Feb 18 there were 11 Ruff at Rye Harbour increasing to 29 on Feb 19 - more evidence for birds already moving north from the continent? The flock of 29 was still at Rye Harbour on Feb 21

Black-tailed Godwit: These are still on the move, probably spurred by the need to find the best feeding places where they can fatten up in advance of their approaching flight north. This year the floods in the lower part of the Avon valley did not persist for long and the crowd of up to 2500 Blackwits which moved there at the beginning of February was down to just 600 birds by Feb 13 and these have now dispersed. A good number seem to have gone back to Poole Harbour but at least 360 flew north up the Avon valley to roost at Ibsley Water and spread out by day to feed at places such as the Hucklesbrook floods (some 2 km north of Ibsley Water) - at least 170 were in that area on Feb 18. A very small number have returned to Chichester Harbour, probably from the Pagham or Pulborough areas. Interestingly the count at Yarmouth on the IoW was 120 on Feb 21, a significant increase on 96 there on Jan 13 and just 44 on Feb 7.

Spotted Redshank: No recent reports from the Emsworth shore but three reports show that at least one is still around Thorney Island (Chidham Point on Feb 16, near the Emsworth marina on Feb 17 and in the Great Deeps roost on Feb 22)

Greenshank: A group of 14 were roosting at the Thorney Great Deeps on Feb 22

Med Gull: The number around Weymouth at built up to 150 by Feb 20 and on Feb 23 a count of 45 was reported at the mouth of the Beaulieu River (where the first pair bred in 1968)

Ring-billed Gull: Still at the Gosport Cockle Pond on Feb 23

Common Gull: A flock of 60 at the mouth of the Beaulieu River on Feb 23 may have been the result of spring passage having started. On the same day a leucistic individual was seen at Alresford Pond

Lesser Blackback Gull: On Feb 23 Portland reported a 'trickle passing east' as their passage gets under way.

Iceland Gull: An adult was seen briefly at Seaford on Feb 21 but flew east

Sandwich Tern: One seen at the Lymington marshes on Feb 23 was presumably a wintering bird

Stock Dove: There have been few reports of large flocks this winter so news of a flock of 120 on the Sussex Downs by the Arun south of Amberley on Feb 18 stands out (maybe birds gathering prior to leaving us?). The only other report of 100 birds came from the Chilling area near Warsash on Jan 19 when they were feeding with many small birds (e.g. the huge Linnet flock)

Short-eared Owl: 5 were still hunting over the Downs south of Amberley on Feb 17 and on that day 2 were hunting the south side of the Thorney Great Deeps east end but at least one of these moved on, flying high to the east.

Kingfisher: One was seen at the outflow of the Lymbourne stream opposite the Royal Oak at Langstone on Feb 20

Swallow: Two new reports bring the total of sightings to four, possibly five. One of the new reports is the earliest so far - one flying in off the sea at Ventnor on Feb 13 (maybe it was that bird seen around St Catherine's Point on the following day). We then have a sighting in the Rye Bay area (Jury's Gap) on Feb 16 and now one seen flying over the A27 in the Nutbourne area early on Feb 19 by someone heading from Havant to work in Chichester. Latest news is of one at Sandwich Bay in Kent on Feb 21

Meadow Pipit: First report of song comes from Durlston - definitely heard on Feb 22 and probably singing for a couple of days before then.

Rock Pipit: We are told this had started to sing at Durlston on Feb 11 and the full song flight could be heard and seen there on Feb 23

Grey Wagtail: One of these coming in off the sea at Portland on Feb 23 was among the very first indications of spring passage bringing us passerines

Stonechat: On Feb 18 the news from Portland included a mention of 'a few new Stonechat arrivals' - I guess that refers to birds flying north from the continent. More of them arrived there on Feb 23

Blackbird: Still no general start of song but one was singing sporadically in Havant on the morning of Feb 20 (following one in full song at Emsworth on Feb 13). Also on Feb 20 I was told that one in a Havant area garden had been seen carrying food to young in a nest. By Feb 23 prolonged song was heard in Havant in the late afternoon.

Song Thrush: The bird which has been singing strongly around my garden up to Feb 20 has now ceased to do so, yet one of the pair that have been coming to feed in my garden is still doing so on Feb 24, suggesting that they have started nesting.

Goldcrest: Many were singing in the Chichester West Dean Woods on Feb 20

Carrion Crow: On Feb 23 a flock of 210 were in the Weston shore area of Southampton Water where the regular large flock peaked with an estimated count of 500 in September last year.

White-Crowned Sparrow: The bird at Cley in Norfolk has now been resident there for 40 days and so far has raised £5730 for local church funds.

Lapland Bunting: The Selsey Bill bird was last reported on Feb 20 but the Hurst area birds near Lymington have not been in the news since Feb 17

Reed Bunting: Still at least 8 in the Warblington Farm field behind Conigar Point on Feb 20 - half a dozen Skylark were still there with plenty of Wood Pigeon but no Linnets, Yellowhammer nor Stonechat were seen

Hawaiian Goose: An unusual escapee of this species was with Canada Geese at Rye Harbour on Feb 17

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Small White: Another sighting in Gosport on Feb 18

Red Admiral: Seen on Feb 17, 18 and 20

Small Tortoiseshell: One seen in Steyning (north of Worthing) on Feb 18 with another in Farnborough the same day and a third at Horsham on Feb 19

Large Tortoiseshell: Following the sightings at Portland on Feb 9 and 10 there is one from the Ventnor area of the IoW on Feb 18

Camberwell Beauty: One in the Ventnor Botanic Gardens seen on Feb 18 is an even greater surprise than the Large Tortoiseshells - can these all be insects that have started to succeed in hibernating here?

Peacock: Two sightings in Sussex on Feb 18 and 19

Comma: One seen in Friston Forest near Eastbourne on Feb 17

Moths

No new reports but I have learnt the origin of the 'new names' for micro moths now appearing on the Sussex BC website (e.g. Red-letter Flat Body). Sam Bayley tells me these are the work of Jim Porter (an eminent entomologist with several books to his credit) and can be found in a booklet he has published but which has not yet been given national support, hence the new names cannot be found online on the Butterfly Conservation or UK Moths websites, nor in counties other than Sussex where the county Moth Group has adopted them. I am told that when they appear in reports on the Sussex BC website the new name should always be accompanied by the scientific name of the species but that rule has already been violated once and is likely to be increasingly violated as Sussex moth-ers get used to the names.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

I now have reports of 84 species flowering during February with 82 seen by myself

Marsh Marigold (aka Kingcup): On Feb 21 I found just one plant flowering on the Langstone South Moors but I could not see any more leaves indicating further plants still to flower - the three flowers and ten buds were a delight but the decline in numbers (from around 600 plants here before the new industrial buildings went up to just one now) is saddening.

Common Ramping Fumitory: A couple of plants with larger flowers than those of Common Fumitory seen at Warblington Farm on Feb 20

Thale Cress: I found the first to be reported in February in Havant on Feb 20

Sweet Violet: The first two flowers of the pale pink form were out in Nore Barn wood on Feb 20

Spotted Medick: A few flowers seen in Havant on Feb 18 and more found on Feb 22

Wild Carrot: A substantial bushy plant in the Warblington Farm stubble field on Feb 20 had shielded its flowers from the recent frost to increase the February flowering list by one

Cowslip: None yet flowering but at Durlston the plants are now close to opening their flowers

Ground Ivy: A very pleasing find at Warblington on Feb 20 was of two plants in flower at Pook Lane in a sheltered spot where I have found early flowers in past years, but none this early. To back up this early find I came on at least ten flowering plants in Mill Lane at Langstone on Feb 21

Butterbur: The female flower spikes were flourishing by the Langbrook stream on Feb 21 but the male flowers at Brook Meadow have yet to make a serious show - Brian Fellows found one or more spikes flowering on Jan 20 but on Feb 22 when I went to see them I could only find one spike looking sorry for itself and still not fully emerged from the ground. They may have been set back by recent frost which has severely blackened many of the white flowers of the Giant Butterbur flowers by the Langbrook stream

Three-cornered Leek: Another pleasant surprise in the Nore Barn wood was to find a cluster of half a dozen plants of this in full flower on Feb 20

Summer Snowflake: The flowers of garden chuck-out plants (now growing up through bramble bushes) were seen in Mill Lane at Langstone on Feb 21

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: The colony of Common Seals in Chichester Harbour is the source of most seals seen locally but there are occasional sightings of both Common and Grey Seals along the south coast for which the origin of the Seal is unknown. An entry on the Rye Bay website this week provides further information in the account of the travels of a Seal (species not stated) which was fitted with a radio tag by researchers at the University of Rochelle and is known to have swum in November 2007 from northern France across the channel to the Isle of Wight (taking 24 hours to do so) and then headed east, calling at Shoreham, Newhaven and passing Hastings two days later - sadly its radio then failed so further travels are unknown. Clearly some Seals are long distance swimmers, at least at some periods of their life.

Adder: Five were basking on the cliffs at Durlson on Feb 19

Fungi: A specimen of Scarlet Elf Cup was found at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 14 and now there is another find reported from woods in the Hastings area on Feb 21.

Reindeer: Sorry - none seen locally but maybe of interest is a fact that I only learnt this week when I was sent some Honeymoon photos from a young couple just back from Finnish Lapland. A couple of the photos contained pictures of Reindeer, one with a full set of antlers and the other photo showing two Reindeer, neither of which had antlers. I already knew the both sexes of Reindeer (aka Caribou in North America) grew antlers but I had not thought that these, like those of other deer, are renewed annually so there comes a time when each animal drops the set it has been carrying and starts to grow a new set. Wikipedia tells us .. "Both sexes grow antlers, which (in the Scandinavian variety) for old males fall off in December, for young males in the early spring, and for females, summer".

My request to Google had been for "Reindeer antlers", not thinking that this would bring many offers of buying antlers to adorn my own head for fun at Christmas. I ignored these but did look at an excerpt from the BBC News for 29 Sep 2002 describing how a Bull Reindeer (not Buck or Stag!) had had its antlers removed by a vet after it had gored two human walkers in the Highlands - the female Reindeer (cows?) in his 'harem' approached the walkers (perhaps thinking they had food) and the Bull took exception to what he saw as an attempt to seduce his harem. This also confirmed that the Reindeer rut lasts from late September to early November.


Summary for Feb 11 - 17 (Week 6 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week's bird highlights are two reports of Swallows and one of a Wheatear plus discussions of Crows stealing food from Raptors and Gulls stealing earthworms from Flamingos. Insect highlights are the early emergence of Holly Blue plus both Large and Small Whites, while Plant news includes a very early find of Cuckoo flower

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: See diary entry for Feb 12 describing an unusual sighting of one 'beached' on the Warblington shore soon after that day's high spring tide had dropped. An easterly movement on Feb 14 took 126 past Dungeness

Black-throated Diver: One was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Feb 9

Great Crested Grebe: The flock in Rye Bay still numbered at least 200 on Feb 10 and on that day an even bigger flock of 220 birds was off the north Kent coast seen from Seasalter. On Feb 17 several birds in a flock of around 40 in Southampton Water were displaying to each other.

Slavonian Grebe: On Feb 10 there were still 9 off Pagham Harbour and there have been reports from five other sites this week. The arrival on Feb 16 of a third bird to join the two which have been wintering at Dungeness RSPB reserve probably indicates the start of their movement away from winter quarters.

Shag: Several were carrying nest material to the cliffs at Durlston on Feb 11

Bittern: The Blashford Lakes bird was still present on Feb 15. Other reports this week have come from Radipole (Weymouth), Rye Harbour, Pevensey Levels and Dungeness RSPB

Cattle Egret: One was still at Harbridge near Ringwood on Feb 16, one was at the Chichester Lakes on Feb 14 (with two more in the Lavant area north east of Chichester up to Feb 16) and the two in the Bergerie Farm area near Lymington were still around on Feb 14

Great White Egret: The only two reports this week are of birds on the move. On Feb 13 one flew south east over Eastleigh and on Feb 16 Portland had its first ever sighting of the species with one flying south (leaving the UK?)

Spoonbill: On Feb 12 a flock of 12 were seen together near Arne in Poole Harbour and another single was reported that day at Lodmor (Weymouth). Evidence that these birds are on the move came on Feb 11 when one flew east over Worthing - maybe it was this one which turned up in the Cuckmere Valley near Beachy Head on Feb 14 and was still there on Feb 16

Bewick's Swan: All six were still at Ibsley near Ringwood on Feb 16 but only 19 were seen at Burpham (near Arundel) on Feb 12 - there had been 37 there on Feb 5

Whooper Swan: The family of 5 were still roosting at the Chichester Trout Lakes on Feb 10 but there have been no further reports of them this week

Black Swan: The bird which has been in the Emsworth area since Jan 26 was seen to fly off to the west on Feb 9. Maybe it was the one which suddenly appeared on Ibsley Water near Ringwood on Feb 10 (and was still there on Feb 16)

Barnacle Goose: A series of reports from Sussex this week suggests that some wild (not local feral) birds have reached us. A group of at least 27 arrived in the Cuckmere Valley on Feb 14 and were still there on Feb 16. Also on Feb 14 a flock of 43 flew west over the Sussex Ouse near Piddinghoe and (maybe co-oncidentally) a flock of more than 40 was seen over Thorney Island later that day, apparently landing near the Little Deeps though there have been no further reports of them so far.

Brent Goose: Plenty more reports of these heading east - 3250 went past Splash Point at Seaford over the three days Feb 7 - 9 and on Feb 9 Dungeness reported 2600 passing against only 1800 at Seaford that day. Dungeness had another 1750 passing on Feb 10 and on Feb 12 Christchurch Harbour reported the first passage birds seen passing Hegistbury Head (albeit just 30 birds). Further reports on Feb 14 were of 40 going east off Seaford and 129 passing Dungeness - nothing more since then

Pale-bellied Brent: Some of these are also on the move if the report of a family of four seen in the Lymington area is taken as evidence (first report of Pale-bellied there for this year)

Red-breasted Goose: Maybe this too is getting the itch to be on the move - at any rate on Feb 12 it changed its daily routine of commuting between south east Hayling and the West Wittering carpark and appeared on Thorney Island. Maybe that change of routine was a first step to leaving us as the bird has so far not been reported again.

Mandarin: An interesting report on Feb 15 came from a gardener at Paulton's Park near Romsey - he said that around 40 Mandarin flew into the Park each evening to roost in the trees there. John Clark commented that in his experience Mandarin roost in trees by day and forage for food in woodland by night.

Wood Duck: A female arrived in the River Alver (east of Gosport) on Feb 8 and could still be seen near the Apple Dumpling Bridge on Feb 13

Pintail: Signs that these are leaving us came on Feb 13 when three flew past Portland and 9 went east at Dungeness - this was re-inforced on Feb 16 when a flock of 38 left the Avon valley and flew out to sea over Christchurch Harbour

Scaup: A bird looking very like a male Scaup has been hiding at the east end of the Thorney Little Deeps but on Feb 12 it was stated to be just another of those 'Aythya hybrids' On Feb 16 single genuine birds were seen in Poole Harbour and at Tundry Pond west of Fleet in Hampshire

Peregrine: In the entry for Barn Owl below I say that I had not previously been aware that one reason for Crows mobbing raptors is that they hope to make the raptor drop its prey so that they can 'pirate' it. Since writing that I read of a Peregrine perched in a tree at Pulborough Brooks, eating a Moorhen it had just caught, being hassled by Crows until it decided to move to a more secluded perch but dropping its prey in the process - presumably the Crows then ate the corpse of the Moorhen.

Water Rail: One was seen on the bank of the River Ems running through Brook Meadow at Emsworth on Feb 12 - as this is a well watched area, and there have been no previous sightings there, the bird is likely to have been 'just visiting', dropping in for one day to hide up before continuing its flight back to its breeding area after nightfall.

Coot: First report of nest building comes from the Slipper Mill pond at Emsworth on Feb 11

Avocet: Three were still to be seen at Farlington Marshes on Feb 12, with one in Pagham Harbour on Feb 15

Golden Plover: There was still a flock of around 500 on the Lymington marshes on Feb 15 and at least 50 were on the Langstone village shore on Feb 15

Knot: A small flock of around 30 were on the north shore of Chichester Harbour close to the Emsworth Sailing Club on Feb 11

Black-tailed Godwit: There were still around 600 in the Dorset section of the Avon valley on Feb 13 but by Feb 15 a comment on the Christchurch Harbour website said the most of these had left and that some had flown north up the valley to an unspecified site south of Fordingbridge while 800 had returned to Poole Harbour. I also see that on Feb 15 a flock of 220 was on a flood in the Keyhaven area near Lymington (where none had been reported since a count of 150 in mid-January). A small number have returned to local sites (e.g. 34 at Emsworth on Feb 12, 30 at Hook/Warsash on that day). At Pulborough Brooks more than 50 were still present on Feb 16

Med Gull: Following the first report of hearing their catlike mewing calls at Gosport on Feb 7 a second report of hearing these calls, which are nowadays almost as evocative of spring as the call of the Cuckoo, came from Rye Bay on Feb 11. On Feb 15 Jason Crook reported a minimum of 20 birds in the Langstone area (including a flock of 13 around the Oysterbeds). I heard one calling at the Oysterbeds that day - my first for the year.

Herring Gull: A couple of sightings this week of Herring Gulls 'pattering' their feet on wet grass in order to fool earthworms into thinking that it is raining (thus bringing them to the surface to be eaten by the gulls) has produced a correspondence on the subject of what Bob Chapman calls "Podifaciliphagy" (taking the three latin words which make this term in reverse order we have 'Eating' 'Facilitated by' 'Feet'). Last year there was a discussion of this in relation to Black-headed Gulls (which could be seen doing it at night in Southampton by the light of streetlamps). It seems that many species do this (e.g. Blackbirds or Song Thrushes making short fast runs over the grass then stopping to see if a worm pops up in response) and Glyn Young from the 'Durrell Zoo' on Jersey tells us that Flamingos also do it, though there is a twist to this example as the tall Flamingos are often successful in bringing up worms but the local gulls, closer to the ground and more agile, have learnt to watch the Flamingos and to dash in and grab the worms before the Flamingo can bend down to get its rightful prey.

Sandwich Tern: A sighting of one off East Head at the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Feb 9 is unlikely to be of an early migrant but much more likely to have been one of two or three birds that have wintered thereabouts.

Barn Owl: Feb 12 brought another report of a Barn Owl losing its prey, this time to a Kestrel which succeeded in taking a vole from the Owl's talons soon after the owl got airborne in the Adur valley near Steyning. It would seem that this form of piracy is not uncommon but this instance is worth reporting for the accompanying comment from Alan Kitson who said .. "This is of course why crows mob raptors - to get them to drop any food they might be carrying" I'm not sure if that is the only reason why Crows mob raptors but it is one which I personally had not previously thought of. (See entry for Peregrine above)

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Three reports in the past few days - on Feb 9 drumming heard in the 'wood pasture' area of Stansted Forest probably came from a Lesser, on Feb 10 one was seen in the Rempstone Heath area on the southwest shore of Poole Harbour, and on Feb 11 one was heard calling at Warnham in the Horsham area. I can add another 'probable' heard in Lordington Copse (eastern fringe of the Stansted estate) on Feb 12 - very quiet drumming in very short bursts, strongly contrasting with the loud and long response of a Great Spotted in the same area.

Woodlark: At least seven birds have been seen recently in the Rosamund's Hill fields at Stansted according to Michael Prior on Feb 12. On Feb 16 Brian Fellows added a new site for these birds to the local cluster of sites where the birds seem to have bred in recent years - a string of sites runs east from Markwells Wood (north of Stansted Forest) to Locks Ash Farm and Up Marden area and on to Wildham Wood north of Stoughton. A little south of this line come the birds on Rosamund's Hill just east of Stansted Forest and now Brian's new site by the B2146 just north of Walderton village

Swallow: Not one but two early sightings this week. On Feb 14 one was watched for some time flying along the cliff edge near St Catherine's Point on the Isle of Wight and on Feb 16 one was seen at Jury's Gap on the east side of Rye Bay. A cursory check of the continental sites where Swallows might be expected to be seen before they cross the channel found no sightings so these two are presumably oddities, not forerunners of a mass arrival.

Rock Pipit: On Feb 11 the first report of song came from Durlston and on that day Christchurch Harbour reported an unusual count of 23 in a flock (presumably birds on the move to breeding quarters including Hengistbury Head). A few are known to breed on the Hampshire coast west of Southampton Water and they may well be extending their range but so far none of them have been seen in the Portsmouth area between the end of March and late summer so one still at Southsea Castle on Feb 11 and another on the Langstone South Moor shore on Feb 10 are unlikely to breed at those sites.

Stonechat: Of local interest the male in the pony fields north of Wade Court at Langstone was still present on Feb 13 (and the other one in Warblington fields close to Conigar Point was seen on Feb 7)

Wheatear: On Feb 10 a Kent birder was told by a farmer that he (the farmer) had seen a male Wheatear at Edenbridge that morning. The birder was sceptical, but became convinced by the farmer's detailed description of the bird.

Blackbird: Still no general start to spring song but one was singing in mid-morning in a north Emsworth garden on Feb 12 and one was in full song at Emsworth at dusk on Feb 13

Chiffchaff: Four reports of song - heard in Brighton on Feb 7, at Brading sewage farm (IoW) on Feb 13 and also at Langstone village that day, then at Sidlesham sewage works (Pagham Harbour area) on Feb 14

Firecrest: Bird watching in a small town garden doesn't get much better than having a Firecrest working through a flowering Mimosa tree only 12 feet from the house windows but that was Martin Hampton's lucky experience here in Havant on Feb 12

Bearded Tit: The Christchurch Harbour website says that Bearded Tits there were heard calling for the first time this year on Feb 13 - I think that they have been present there through the winter but keeping a low profile, if so this news gives hope of hearing more of the birds at local sites in the near future.

Blue Tit: A bird with a greatly deformed bill (the upper mandible four times as long as it should be and strongly downcurved) must have great difficulty in surviving but on Feb 10 Mike Rafter saw one managing to eat peanuts in his Romsey garden - presumably the bird had survived for the best part of a year.

Rook: Some birds were back in the rookery trees at Forestside church on Feb 16

Siskin: On Feb 9 Martin Hampton found a total of around 250 Siskin in four flocks on Larches in Stansted Forest, then on Feb 14 John Simons reported a large flock of around 150 seen and heard in the north west of Stansted Forest and on Feb 15 the flock was estimated by Brian Fellows to have around 200 birds feeding on larch cones. I found a few in the north east of the Forest on Feb 16 and one of these was singing.

Redpoll: There have been relatively few reports of these this year, the peak count being of around 40 Lesser Redpoll in Ashdown Forest on Feb 8. Another report of 16 birds came from that area on Feb 16 when Christchurch Harbour reported 2 Common Redpolls there (what we used to call Mealy Redpolls).

Hawfinch: A second dawn watch on birds leaving their New Forest roost trees on Feb 12 recorded at least 38 birds against the 17 seen at first light on Feb 9

Lapland Bunting: The Selsey bird was seen again on Feb 16 and one of the Keyhaven birds was still there on Feb 15

Yellowhammer: First song reported at Durlston on Feb 13

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: Eight new reports between Feb 8 and 13 with a total of 14 butterflies seen, six of them seen on Feb 9 in Barnett Copse (more than a mile south east of the QE country park with the Sussex Border Path running along its northern edge)

Large White: An early first sighting in the Gosport area on Feb 12 - these normally appear in early April and the earliest previously recorded in Hampshire since 2000 was on Mar 25.

Small White: Two sightings in different parts of Southampton on Feb 8 followed by one in Brighton on Feb 13

White species: Feb 9 brought distant sightings of two white butterflies in the Gosport area - maybe Large or Small White or female Brimstone

Holly Blue: The earliest ever recorded in Hampshire was seen in Gosport on Feb 9 (seen by Peter Bowker in the Hermitage Garden)

Red Admiral: Eight more reports in the latest news

Small Tortoiseshell: We have already had reports of these seen on Jan 6 and Jan 22. Latest news is of one in north Hampshire (Axmansford) on Feb 8, one in Stansted Forest on Feb 9 with another near Henfield in Susssex that day, and one near Brighton on Feb 10. Another was seen in Lee on the Solent on Feb 10 and one in a Shoreham garden on Feb 13.

Large Tortoiseshell: The mystery of why these keep appearing at Portland so early in the year continues. A probable sighting there was reported on Jan 27 and there have now been three more sightings (with a photo) on Feb 6, 9 and 10 at different places on the island. Last year there were sightings at Portland on Jan 28, Mar 3 and Apr 6 with another at Crawley on Mar 7.

Peacock: Ten new sightings in recent news

Comma: Three sightings on Feb 9 were the joint firsts for the year (one in each of Hampshire, West and East Sussex). Since then two more reports have come from Gosport on Feb 11 and 13

Moths

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): Three reports are probably of insects emerging from hibernation rather than migrants. On Feb 10 one was feeding in a Seaford garden, on Feb 11 one was on Daphne odora in an Eastbourne garden and on Feb 12 one was seen in a Fareham garden.

Red Chestnut (2139 Cerastis rubricosa): First of year at a Findon (Worthing) moth trap on Feb 11

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

66 species have so far been reported flowering in February, 64 seen by myself

Green Hellebore: A good show of plants already in flower alongside Woodlands Lane at Walderton (east of Stansted Park) on Feb 12

Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis): Two very early plants in flower by the roadside at Wisborough Green near Pulborough on Feb 15

Danish Scurvygrass: A good show of flowers in grass beside the south east end of Langstone Bridge seen on Feb 15

Early Dog Violet: The number of early flowers to be seen in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery had increased to 23 on Feb 11

Blackthorn: The first normal spring flower was seen on Portsdown on Feb 11 on a small bush about to open a thousand more flowers. Another find of fresh Blackthorn in flower came on Feb 15 near the Hayling Oysterbeds where the 'winter flowering oddity' also still had flowers despite recent hedge trimming.

Barren Strawberry: Two flowers seen just inside the Stansted Groves on Feb 13 were the first for the year

English Elm: First flowers open on trees above the Langbrook stream at Langstone on Feb 10

Grey Poplar: The tall old tree in Wade Court Road in Havant which had opened its first catkins on Jan 29 had dropped the majority of them onto the road by Feb 15

Lesser Periwinkle: A good show of flowers already out on plants in the foot of an old hedgerow at the junction of Southleigh and East Leigh Roads at Locks Farm in the Denvilles area of Havant on Feb 12. On Feb 13 a few more flowers were seen in Pits Copse adjacent to the Stansted Groves

Coltsfoot: The first flowers were out at Pagham Harbour north walls and at Chichester gravel pits on Feb 6 but I did not see any until Feb 15 when I found two flowers in the overflow carpark area at the Hayling Oysterbeds

Grape Hyacinth: Plants in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery were starting to flower on Feb 11

OTHER WILDLIFE

Badger: As these become more active an increase in road casualties and sightings is reported from the Petworth area. Of local interest I learnt from the BBC film about Badgers that they help to grow Wild Cherry trees by unintentionally depositing the cherry stones in their latrines - digestive juices and well manured soil help the seed to germinate. Hence, I assume, the name Cherry Row for the thin strip of woodland running north from Wellsworth Farm at Rowlands Castle towards Finchdean.

Common Seal: Two reports of individuals hauled out on shores where they are not usually seen - one at Rye Harbour on Feb 14 and more interestingly one on the Weston shore of Southampton Water on Feb 16. Some years ago a very young Seal was found on top of a concrete pillbox beside Southampton Water, presumably separated from its mother by the falling tide leaving the pill box some distance from the water. Could the current sighting be of this same animal returning to the place of its childhood memories? Maybe it is a female thinking of giving birth in this area in the coming summer?

Roe Deer: On Feb 14 a buck at Durlston was said to have his antlers in velvet and growing fast

Brown Rat: While birdwatching at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 15 I came on a large dead Rat lying on the southern bund wall of the lagoon - possibly a sign that the war against Rats which predate Tern eggs and chicks is already under way?

Water Vole: Two sightings in the Ems at Brook Meadow on Feb 10 and 11 indicates that they are becoming more active with the approach of spring

Hare: At least one was seen in the Up Marden area on Feb 16. After just three reports in January this is the first report for February.

Frogspawn: On Feb 11 a garden pond in Cosham was said to be overflowing with spawn and on Feb 13 more spawn was reported from a Havant garden in the Denvilles area. Sadly, when cycling through north Emsworth on Feb 12, I passed the squashed remains of one female (its sex identified by the yellow colour of the underbelly skin)

Adder: These have been reported out of hibernation at Durlston since Jan 26 and we now have two reports of sightings in Hampshire - at Hook near Fleet in north Hampshire on Feb 9 and in the Lymington area on Feb 12. On Feb 13 three Adders were seen basking at Pulborough Brooks

Slowworm: One seen out of hibernation at Hook in north Hampshire on Feb 9. However a corpse found recently in the Hastings area and a sighting of one active there on Dec 24 shows that some Slowworms are not hibernating (and are more exposed to predation when out in the open while in a torpid state)

Fungi: Scarlet Elf Cup was seen at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood on Feb 14


Summary for Feb 4 - 10 (Week 5 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Little Grebe: This is not normally a newsworthy species but the presence of a pair on Langstone Mill Pond on Feb 8 may be of local interest as I don't think they have ever bred there (and I can only recall one previous sighting of them on the pond this winter)

Great Crested Grebe: On Jan 29 Cliff Dean counted 691 of these around the west side of Rye Bay and wanted to use this count to stake a claim for Rye Bay as the premier wintering site for Great Crested Grebes on the south coast. On Feb 4 Dungeness reported a count of 900 of them offshore there. In view of the proximity of Dungeness to Rye Bay this new count supports Cliff's claim - on the other hand, being outside the bay proper, we might take the view that thpse seen off Dungeness are a different set of birds to those wintering in Rye Bay. I'll leave any readers to make up their own mind on that question - for myself I reflect that this just confirms that wild life is always more complicated than we like to think, and that it never behaves according to our view of the world. (Another example of this failure to conform can be taken from the current attempt to compile a complete atlas of British birdlife with every bird recorded in its proper place - the authorities have decreed that a bird's proper place is in a 2 by 2 km 'Tetrad' delimited by straight lines on an Ordnance Survey map, but those birds in Rye Bay refuse to accept such constaints and continually float across Tetrad boundaries, driven by wind, tide, and their food sources.)

Red-necked Grebe: Another bird refusing to stay in its 'proper place' was a Red-necked Grebe seen on the sea off Branksome Chine (part of the Bournemouth and Poole shoreline) on Feb 3 - was this the bird that had been seen from Selsey Bill on Jan 20, then off Sandy Point on Hayling on Jan 28 and just inside Chichester Harbour on Jan 29? or was it the one seen in Brands Bay (Poole Harbour) on both Jan 20 and 28 (and again on Feb 7)? or was it a 'new bird on the block'?

Slavonian Grebe: A count of more than 25 on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Feb 4 was the second highest count there so far this winter after a pre-Christmas party of 40 seen there on Dec 23.

Black-necked Grebe: A count of 22 had been recorded in Langstone Harbour on Jan 1 (also that day there was a slightly dubious claim to have seen 28 there) and we now have a peak count of 26 in the harbour on Jan 22 - this comes from Jason Crook in Keith Betton's report of Hampshire birding in January. In Dorset 2 of 3 birds seen in Studland Bay on Feb 5 were 'approaching summer plumage', and on Feb 6 six were still in Langstone Harbour seen from the Oysterbeds.

Fulmar: A lot of these were on the move on Feb 3 when 185 were seen off Ventnor (thought to be a new record count for the Isle of Wight). Dungeness reported 257 seen that same day. On Feb 9 at least 15 were seen at Seaford but these are birds that will nest there.

Sooty Shearwater: One flew west past Ventnor (IoW) on Feb 3, the first anywhere since Jan 2 when one was off Dungeness.

Bittern: One was seen at Titchfield Haven up to Jan 27 but has probably remained throughout as it was seen again on Feb 6 when the Blashford Lakes bird was also seen

Cattle Egret: The two birds which had been seen together in the North Mundham area (south of Chichester) from Jan 19 to 22 then moved a short distance to fields around the Chichester lakes where both were seen on Jan 27, but on Jan 29 one of them apparently flew north east to the Crowborough area. On Feb 5 that bird may have returned to Chichester as two were again seen together in the field close to the East Trout Lake. Since then the only other reported sighting in the Chichester area has been on Feb 9 when one was back in the East Lavant area on the north east fringe of the city - before this the last report there was on Jan 6. Latest reports of other birds at known sites are of the Harbridge (Ringwood) bird seen on Feb 8, the Piddinghoe (Sussex Ouse) bird on Feb 6, and one of the Weymouth area birds coming to roost at Radipole on Feb 6 - maybe the flock of six that were in the Upwey area have split up as there are reports this week of one at Bere Regis (by the A35 half way between Dorchester and Wimborne) and one near Frampton (by the A37 northwest of Dorchester). In addition to these this week has brought sightings from two new sites - in the Lymington area two birds were discovered on Feb 6 at Bergerie Farm (north east of Sowley Pond on the minor road which takes the Solent Way path from Beaulieu to Lymington) and one near the Tesco store at New Milton on Feb 8. The Bergerie Farm birds roosted with 28 Little Egrets at Sowley Pond on Feb 6

Little Egret: Although most of these have deserted coastal sites many of them return at night to roost - at Rye Harbour 47 roosted on Feb 9, at Radipole 55 roosted on Feb 6 and at Sowley Pond near Lymington 36 roosted on Feb 6. An unusual report came from the Normandy area of Lymington marshes on Feb 7 of a Little Egret eating a Rat - apparently it managed to swallow it but I hope the Egret survived as the Rat may well have been poisoned, making it easy for the Egret to catch.

Grey Heron: On Feb 7 a birder at Weir Wood near Crowborough noted 'much mating in the heronry' there and on Feb 9 six Herons were seen on the ground close to the Tournerbury Wood heronry on Hayling - it would seem that their breeding season is now underway (though pairs of Herons stagger the time of their nesting through a season lasting from February to June - supposedly this benefits them as only a few pairs are needing extra supplies of fish to feed their young at any one time)

Mute Swan: On Jan 29 a count of Swans on the Romney Marshes between Rye and Dungeness found 448 Mute - more than 1 percent of the UK population - and 370 Bewick's but only 2 Whoopers

Whooper Swan: The family group is still spending its nights on the East Trout Lake at Chichester (last reported on Feb 9) and the count seems to have settled down to five birds where several of the original reports were of four birds (one adult and three young) but no one has yet stated if the additional bird is the second parent or another youngster.

Black Swan: The bird which arrived on the Town Millpond at Emsworth on Jn 26 has not been reported since Feb 4 and has probably moved on.

Pink-foot Goose: The single bird first seen at Amberley Wild Brooks on Jan 27 has not been reported since Feb 1 but two others have just been seen on Feb 3 at Bisterne in the Avon valley where none have been reported earlier this year

Brent Goose: Feb 3 brought the first reports of spring passage with counts of 265 going east past Ventnor on the IoW and, more significantly, 170 flying east past Dungeness. This start of their departure is slightly later than last year when 145 flew east off Dungeness on Jan 29 followed by 127 on Feb 4 and 1360 on Feb 5. None of the local birds seem to have left the Solent area yet but a steady flow of birds coming from further west and south has undoubtedly started and has been seen from Durlston, the Isle of Wight, Worthing and Seaford with a minimum of 1284 birds flying east between Feb 7 and 9 inclusive (total of all birds reported moving was 1798)

Brant: Keith Betton's Hampshire Birding report for January shows that three Brant were in Langstone Harbour sometime during the month. On Feb 9 one was still at Gosport, seen in Portsmouth Harbour at Priddy's Hard

Red-breasted Goose: Still being seen at Wittering on Feb 6

Gadwall: On Dec 28 Bob Chapman reported 900+ present on the Blashford Lakes but there have been no more quantified reports from the Ringwood area until Feb 3 when John Clark found 150+ in the area north of Ibsley bridge (no mention of the Blashford Lakes)

Mallard: A pair were seen mating on Budds Farm pools in Havant on Feb 5

Pintail: On Feb 3 John Clark reported a total of more than 600 in an area of the Avon valley reaching from the watermeadows in Dorset just south of the Avon Causeway to the Hucklesbrook area north of Ibsley (150+ of these were, I think, in Dorset)

Pochard: On Jan 27 Bob Chapman reported a peak of 190 birds on the Blashford Lakes and suggested that this peak was caused by the arrival of birds already moving on their spring passage. On Feb 3 he confirmed this by saying that there none left at Blashford. By Feb 10 only one could be seen on the Havant Budds Farm pools from which all but two Shoveler and a very few Mallard had also gone though quite a few Teal were still present.

Marsh Harrier: Kris Gillam tells us that the bird which has been wintering at the Brading Marshes on the IoW is the first ever to winter on the Island.

Goshawk: At least one was seen displaying in the New Forest on Feb 8, along with Buzzards and Ravens

Merlin: The number of Merlin sightings reported has dropped off noticeably since the end of January but one was over Portsmouth Harbour (Gosport area) on Feb 9

Water Rail: Following the report of one Water Rail killing another at Titchfield Haven on Jan 20 a report from Pulborough Brooks on Feb 7 describes how a Water Rail killed and ate a Bullfinch when the finch came to the water's edge to drink.

Golden Plover: A small flock of around 30 was on the Langstone shore on Feb 4

Lapwing: These are a daily sight on the Langstone shore through the winter but the sight of one practising its territorial display flights over the saltings on Feb 9 indicates that they will soon be leaving us

Knot: A flock of around 2000 was in the Gutner Point wader roost (east Hayling shore) on Feb 9, considerably more than the 1500 which were on the Pilsey Sands (just across the Emsworth Channel) on Jan 12 and the 700 seen at Black Point on Jan 23.

Long-billed Dowitcher: The young bird was still at Rodden Hive on The Fleet near Weymouth on Feb 9

Black-tailed Godwit: It seems that these have now become very restive, maybe spurred by the start of urges to migrate or maybe by urges to find the best feeding grounds to put on fat prior to migration. One significant move was to Pagham Harbour where around 1200 birds appeared on Jan 29 (maybe coming the short distance from Langstone and Chichester Harbours, but maybe at least some coming north across the Channel from France). Some of these seem to have moved further north to the Arun Valley south of Pulborough where more than 170 were seen on Feb 1 on Amberley Wild Brooks (and these have been edging north again into the Pulborough Brooks reserve with some 160 there on Feb 5).

Over in Dorset numbers at Christchurch Harbour increased gradually during January (12 there on Jan 1, then 175 on Jan 15, 240 on Jan 21, 300 on Jan 27 and 400 on Jan 29). Feb 3 brought a sudden invasion of 2500 to the watermeadows just south of the Avon Causeway and on that same day Christchurch Harbour had 850 that seem to have been in addition to those in the Avon valley (interestingly 550 of this 850 were seen to fly on west towards Poole Harbour from whence the Avon valley flock was thought to have come, so maybe there was some tendency to go round in circles from Poole to Avon then back via Christchurch, though I suspect that there was also an influx from the south across the Channel). I have not seen any counts from Poole Harbour this year but 1550 were at Brownsea Island on Oct 12, increasing to 1617 on Oct 29, and I suspect the Dorset Bird Club would have got hold of any substantial increase since then and published it, so my guess is that the Poole Harbour birds must have been swelled from other sources to give 2500 in the Avon valley (let alone the 2550 + 850 that seem to have been in the area on Feb 3).

On Feb 4 the Avon Valley flock was down to 2000+ and on Feb 5 to 1500+.

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird was still there on Feb 9

Redshank: One was heard making its territorial 'Chiff, chiff' song on the Langstone village shore on Feb 8

Med Gull: A pair both in full summer plumage were seen in the Lee on Solent seafront on Feb 7 and were the first to be reported making their quiet catlike mewing calls

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still at the Cockle Pond on Feb 6

Iceland Gull: An adult was seen at Lee on Solent on Feb 9 - it flew inland towards Fareham Creek

Glaucous Gull: The first winter bird was back in Shoreham Harbour on Feb 5 and 6 after maybe straying to Brighton marina on Feb 3

Kittiwake: 300 were off Ventnor on Feb 3

Guillemot: Dungeness reported 3250 flying west in two hours on Feb 5 so the vast movement of Auks and Gulls which has been going on since just after the New Year has not yet ceased despite breeding birds having been back at the Durlston cliffs since early January. With so many birds in the channel it is not surprising that one or two have fallen by the wayside - a Razorbill on the Hengistbury Head shore on Feb 9 was thought to be sick but not oiled, but a Guillemot on the Langstone Harbour shore at Sinah Warren that day was oiled though still active

Barn Owl: On Feb 2 feathers were seen to fly when a Barn Owl was attacked by a Sparrowhawk in the Amberley Wild Brooks area and this reminded me of a very similar attack which I myself saw in that same area on a winter's day many years ago. My observation came after we had been watching the Barn Owl hunting and saw it drop to the ground onto its prey. When the Owl eventually rose into the air again carrying a vole a Kestrel decided to rob the Owl of its prey, flying at high speed to crash into the Owl - as far as we could see the Kestrel came away with nothing more than a scrap of the large vole and the Owl flew off with its meal.

Long-eared Owl: The group of four which arrived at Rye Harbour on Feb 2 had increased to five by Feb 8

Short-eared Owl: During January several birders watched a group of Short-eared Owls in the Ashley Warren area just east of the A34 north of Whitchurch and two reports mentioned that 5 Owls had been seen. In his summary of Hampshire birding in January Keith Betton states that the peak count at that site was as high as 9 Owls, beating the Sussex maximum of 6 seen at The Burgh site on the Downs south of Amberley on Jan 4

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Flakes of rotten wood on the ground under an oak in Nore Barn Wood at Emsworth on Feb 4 probably indicated that a Woodpecker heard drumming there had also been excavating a nest hole - Tony Gutteridge found one excavating a nest in Wildham Wood near Stoughton (source of R Ems) on Feb 5

Woodlark: Tony Gutteridge also heard Woodlark song in Wildham Wood on Jan 29 and John Eyre heard the first song in the Bourley Hill area south of Farnborough on Feb 4. The earliest date for song that I have seen this year was Jan 12 at an unspecified site in Hampshire with Sussex birds following on Jan 26 at Slinfold. These birds have been increasing in number and extending their range in our local area in recent years, and on Feb 9 John Goodspeed heard and saw one in a new area at the northern foot of Portsdown near Mill Lane which goes north from Fort Widley on the hill.

Skylark: A flock of around 100 birds was seen in the Abbotstone Down area north of Alresford on Feb 3

Dipper: The first known records of this species breeding in Hampshire came in the 1930s with less than 6 known instances of breeding in the second half of that decade. The next report of breeding came in 1954 followed by nothing more than very occasional reports of single birds until 1990 when a pair bred successfully in the Romsey area in each of 1990, 91 and 92. Another half dozen isolated sightings in the years up to 1997 were followed by a gap until 2003 when a bird made a two day appearance at Overton at the head of the River Test in December. This account of the historical background should illustrate why I was interested to hear that a Dipper had been seen in Dorset on Feb 2 - not much chance of it reaching Hampshire as it was seen at the far end of the county in Lyme Regis.

Stonechat: Of local interest two males are still present in fields near the shore betwen Langstone and Emsworth

Chiffchaff: The first report of one singing this year came from Brighton on Feb 7

Bearded Tit: Keith Betton's summary of Hampshire birding in January gives a peak count of 25 birds at Farlington Marshes in that month

Long-tailed Tit: A pair had started nest building in a Cosham (Portsmouth) garden on Feb 4

Chaffinch: Many have now started singing (as have Greenfinch)

Crossbill: Two were singing among a flock of 13 in the New Forest on Jan 27

Hawfinch: The Rhinefield Arboretum area in the New Forest is a good spot to see a communal roost of Hawfinches in winter. Most people visit just before dusk to see the birds arriving and on Jan 12 a peak count of 16 was reported. On Feb 9 Martin King was at the site at dawn and had good views of at least 17 in the tree tops together (not slinking into the roost in small groups and immediately disappearing from view as they do at dusk).

Lapland Bunting: Single birds were still being seen at both Keyhaven and Selsey Bill on Feb 5. On Feb 7 all three of the Lymington birds were seen together.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: A male and female were both seen in the Meon valley on Feb 8 but it was Feb 9 that brought a general emergence of this species with six reported sightings ranging from Romsey in the west to Friston Forest near Eastbourne in the east. One was in my Havant garden briefly.

Small White: One was seen in Southampton on Feb 8 - a very early date. I had to look back to the year 2000 before I found any year with a first earlier than March and in 2000 the date was Feb 25, more than two weeks later than this year's first.

Red Admiral: Seven new sightings this week

Peacock: Five new sightings this week

Moths

Variable Smudge (0461 Ypsolopha ustella): First of year taken at Horsham on Feb 7

Common Flat Body (0688 Agonopterix heracliana): First of year taken at Horsham on Feb 7

Winter Shade (1025 Tortricodes alternalla): First of year taken at Horsham on Feb 7

Rusty Birch Button (1045 Acleris notana): First of year taken at Horsham on Feb 7

Small Brindled Beauty (1925 Apocheima hispidaria): First of year taken at Horsham on Feb 7

Oak Beauty (1930 Biston strataria): First of year somewhere in Sussex on Feb 7

Hebrew Character (2190 Orthosia gothica): Although one had been taken at Portland on Jan 27 this trapping somewhere in Sussex on Feb 7 was still earlier than usual - moths normally out in April.

The Satellite (2256 Eupsilia transversa): First of year somewhere in Sussex

Other Insects

Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax): One of these common hoverflies was feeding at Winter Jasmine in my Havant garden on Feb 6 (some do hibernate)

Harlequin Ladybird: Around 60 of these were active inside the windows of a house at Kingston near Lewes on Feb 9

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

So far I have recorded 55 species flowering in February and have seen 53 of them myself

Sea Mouse-ear: Tiny white flowers on several plants no more than 2cm high were seen in the short grass north of the Sinah gravel pit lake when I was at south Hayling on Feb 6

English Elm: This had started to flower by Feb 10 when I saw flowers on trees above the narrow bridge connecting Mill Lane at Langstone to the South Moors.

Ash: Brian Fellows found several trees had flowers open in Emsworth on Feb 3. I assume these were male flowers but I could not remember if Ash trees were of separate or mixed sexes. A glance at Alan Mitchell's Field Guide showed why I was uncertain - he says .. "Total sexual confusion: some trees all male, some all female and others a mixture with male and female on different branches"

Black Nightshade: A very unexpected find on Feb 4 of a small fresh plant with flowers growing in the carpark area at Warblington Church

'Garden Forget-me-not': I use this name for the very common weed which is a form of Wood Forget-me-not but must be distinguished from that uncommon native species as the garden form has no special merit. This weed started to flower in my garden on Feb 8

Lungwort: This is also a garden plant which flourishes as an escape and I saw one of the escapes in flower in Havant on Feb 4.

Coltfoot: Coming back to genuine wild spring flowers Brian Fellows found this one flowering in several places around the north of Pagham Harbour on Feb 6

OTHER WILDLIFE

Frogspawn: The first spawn that I am aware of was seen in the Portsmouth/Havant area on Jan 22 with a more definite report from the Cosham area on Jan 30, and this has now been followed by reports from the Lumley area of Emsworth of spawn appearing on Feb 5 and from the Northiam area near Rye of first spawn there on Feb 6.

I find it interesting that the Northiam report (which comes from Brian Banks, who is clearly an experienced professional naturalist with a senior post at one of the Dungeness reserves) comes so long after Brian first reported that Frogs has started to move back to ponds in that area on Jan 10, and after his first report of Frogs in amplexus (i.e. males gripping females and waiting for them to spawn) on Jan 18 - those males must be very patient to hold on for 19 days before the females felt like satisfying their needs.

Adder: At Durlston two females could be seen sunning themselves on Feb 9 - not their first appearance as one had been seen there on Jan 26


Summary for Jan 28 - Feb 3 (Week 4 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Dungeness reported a count of 283 flying west on Jan 28 and 373 passing on Feb 1 - maybe these did not all go far as on Jan 29 more than 100 'diver species' could be seen fishing in Rye Bay.

Great Northern Diver: At least one was still to be seen on Feb 2 from Black Point on Hayling with another out in Hayling Bay that same day

Great Crested Grebe: Cliff Dean puts in a bid for claiming Rye Bay as the main wintering site for this species in southern Britain with a count of 691 spread out around the west side of the bay (Winchelsea to Hastings) on Jan 29

Red-necked Grebe: One was seen off Sandy Point on Hayling Island on Jan 28 and next day one was seen off East Head just inside Chichester Harbour. Regular birds were two in Portland Harbour, one in Poole Harbour and one well inland on Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough.

Slavonian Grebe: On Jan 27 one was seen in Langstone Harbour south of the Farlington Marshes southern point. Others reported that day were 2 in Portland Harbour, 2 at Dungeness RSPB reserve, and 2 off Lymington. On Feb 1 six were seen from West Wittering and at least one of these was still off Black Point on Feb 2

Black-necked Grebe: Some were seen in Langstone Harbour from the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 28 when there were still 17 in Studland Bay and one in Portland Harbour

Fulmar: Although there have been reports of these back at their breeding sites throughout January perhaps the first real indication that they are about to start nesting came from the Brighton area when, on Jan 27, a report on the SOS website read .. "Pair of Fulmars seen together in crevice within cliff approx 300m short of Ovingdean, some Fulmars in the air."

Balearic Shearwater: There were still at least 2 of these lingering off Portland on Feb 2 following the count of around 50 there on Jan 13 (numbers have been gradually diminishing since then)

Cormorant: These are now getting their breeding plumage - I first saw one with a grey head and nape on Jan 29 and another was seen at Petersfield Heath Pond on Jan 30

Bittern: Despite fears that the Blashford Lakes bird had left the site on Jan 27 it was still there on Jan 28

Cattle Egret: The two birds that have been in the North Mundham area were still present on Jan 27 but one may have flown off as on Jan 28 only one was seen in the Chichester Lakes area and one was seen in fields by the B2110 just east of Hartfield village between Crowborough and East Grinstead. The one remaining at Chichester was in the Leythorne Meadow SWT reserve east of Runcton Lake and only viewable from the minor road going south from the A259 Bognor road roundabout on the Chichester by pass to Runcton village (looking at the map I discover that the Pagham Rife stream seems to originate in this meadow). It was back in the fields adjacent to the East Trout Lake on Feb 1 and 2

Great White Egret: The last sighting at the Blashford Lakes was on Jan 13 but on Jan 27 Bob Chapman heard a report that the bird was now upstream in the Fordingbridge area.

Bewick's Swan: Six were seen to fly north over Harbridge (Ringwood) on Jan 27, probably the same group which were seen at Ibsley on Jan 24 to set this year's peak count in the Hampshire Avon valley. In the Arun valley 12 were at Amberley on Jan 20 and 29 were at Burpham near Arundel on Jan 29 - by Feb 1 the count at Burpham was up to 35

Whooper Swan: The family of one adult and 3 cygnets was still being seen on the East Trout Lake at Chichester, but only using that lake as an overnight roost - for most of the day they fly a couple of kilometres south east to a lake near South Mundham which is said to have its own large population of Swans. My map shows a good sized lake at SU 884008 but the site is described as having both a lake and a reservoir with public access to neither. Some reports of the Chichester birds give a count of 4 birds but an equal number of reports are of 5 birds as was the case with the latest sighting at dusk on Feb 2. In Dorset three birds remain in The Fleet near Weymouth.

Black Swan: Two were at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 27 and on Jan 28 one was on the Hampshire Avon at Hale (a mile or so north of Fordingbridge). In past years there has been a small population of these birds further upstream in Wiltshire with regular successful breeding near Salisbury. The single bird at Emsworth Town Millpond was still there on Jan 30

Pink-foot Goose: The single bird on the Amberley Wild Brooks has now had its identity confirmed and was still present on Feb 1

White-front Goose: Regular reports continue to come from the Rye Bay area with a peak count of 110 flying over the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Jan 27

Cackling Canada Goose: The half size bird was still at Ivy Lake (Chichester) on Feb 1

Pale-bellied Brent: In addition to the two at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) one was seen at Titchfield Haven on Jan 27 among 310 Dark-bellied birds

Brant: One was still at West Wittering on Feb 1 and another in the Fleet at Weymouth on Feb 2

Red-breasted Goose: Still at Wittering on Feb 2 when it was seen from both Hampshire and Sussex

Gadwall: These are not often seen on sea water so a group of three in the Delme Pool at the head of Fareham Creek was slightly unusual (though this pool is fed by fresh water from the Wallington River as well as being a tidal part of Portsmouth Harbour)

Pochard: An increase in the number at the Blashford Lakes from 101 on Jan 25 to 190 on Jan 27, and increased activity among these and other ducks, suggested to Bob Chapman that some of our winter visitors are already starting to move back to breeding areas.

Eider: A lone first winter male was in Langstone Harbour on Jan 28, seen from the Oysterbeds

Velvet Scoter: One was in the west Solent off Lymington on Jan 29 and another nine entered the English Channel via Dungeness on Jan 31

Goldeneye: 35 of these (with 100+ Mergansers) could be seen from the Hayling Oysterbeds at high tide on the evening of Jan 28 and small groups (including full males) have given close views at the tidal limit of the local harbours - on Feb 1 a group of 6 with 2 full males was off Thornham Point in Chichester Harbour and on Feb 2 a group of 7 (with 3 males) was at the head of Fareham Creek where one of the males was seen throwing its head back in display mode.

Ruddy Duck: One was displaying at Dungeness (RSPB) on Jan 29 but only one female was seen on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Feb 1 (no reports from Budds Farm since Jan 26)

Sparrowhawk: On Jan 27 two females were both seen in the Adur valley at Henfield marking their territorial boundaries with slow flap and glide flight fairly high above the ground. On Jan 28 I watched another female do the same over Havant, coming right over my house.

Merlin: The bird (a female) currently resident in Langstone Harbour was seen on both Jan 28, 29 and Feb 2

Peregrine: Both male and female birds were seen from the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 28

Coot: At least one of the birds at the Budds Farm Pools had become territorial by Jan 28 and was seen aggressively attacking another. Similar aggression was seen at Emsworth on Jan 30

Avocet: A total of 27 were seen from Farlington Marshes on Jan 27 and at least 24 were there on Jan 28. Some of the birds may have left as only 8 birds were seen on Feb 2

Ringed Plover: These were starting to make territorial displays at Rye Harbour on Jan 28 and on Jan 29 I had my first sight of the species at the Hayling Oysterbeds while on Jan 30 a flock of around 20 was high tide roosting on the shingle of the Langstone South Moors shore (by the stream mouth) where I have not seen them earlier in the month - maybe both flocks were of birds on the move?

Golden Plover: 1700 were estimated to be present in Pagham Harbour on Jan 30 and some 600 were still in the Lymington area on Jan 27

Lapwing: Some were already making territorial displays over Rye Harbour on Jan 28

Little Stint: The bird wintering in Langstone Harbour was seen at Farlington Marshes on Jan 27

Long-billed Dowitcher: One turned up at The Fleet (Weymouth area) on Feb 1 and was still there on Feb 2 (said to be the first in Dorset since Nov 2000 although one has been at Topsham in Devon as recently as Jan 25 this year)

Black-tailed Godwit: Both Chichester and Langstone Harbours seem to have been deserted by these birds (on Jan 27 only 17 could be seen at Farlington Marshes) but there has been a big increase in numbers in Pagham Harbour, Amberley Wild Brooks and the Christchurch area - on Jan 29 the number at Pagham was estimated as 1200 and there were some 400 at Christchurch Harbour, increasing to 2000 in the Dorset part of the Avon valley on Feb 2, with more than 170 newly arrived at Amberley Wild Brooks on Feb 1). The nearest flocks to Havant are currently at Titchfield Haven (where 100 were seen on Jan 20) or in Portsmouth Harbour (where a flock of around 100 has been seen a couple of times near Port Solent in Paulsgrove Lake north of Portchester Castle). There could be a larger flock on the grass of the Defence Munitions MoD site just south of Fareham Creek but I have seen no reports from there this winter.

Whimbrel: The single bird wintering in Langstone Harbour was seen from Farlington Marshes on Jan 28 and Feb 2 provoking reports of other wintering birds. Putting these together with earlier reports shows that one is in Pagham Harbour, at least three in Chichester Harbour (3 seen in the Emsworth Channel on Jan 9 and 1 in the Fishbourne Channel on Jan 5), two are at the head of Southampton Water (Eling Great Marsh), while another was in the Medina estuary at Cowes (IoW) on Jan 1. Reports of one seen occasionally in January at Langstone on both sides of the bridge to Hayling may be of the Langstone Harbour bird. An additional bird flew over Portland Harbour on Jan 28.

Common Sandpiper: What was presumably the bird which has been wintering in the Broadmarsh/Hermitage Stream area of north Langstone Harbour was seen on Feb 1 further east in the Langbrook Stream at Langstone village.

Med Gull: One was in full summer plumage at Stokes Bay (Gosport) on Jan 28 and on Jan 30 the first of the year was seen at the Pannel Valley reserve (near Rye). Last year the first report from the Pannel Valley was of 15+ there on Feb 27 and by Mar 25 there were 85 there on islands where they might breed (but so far have not done so despite a good breeding colony at nearby Rye Harbour).

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still to be seen at the Cockle Pond on Feb 2

Iceland Gull: On Jan 28 a second winter bird was seen passing Durlston while on Jan 29 a first winter bird was reported at Selsey

Glaucous Gull: A first winter bird at Shoreham Harbour (Southwick Canal section) was seen on four days between Jan 28 and Feb 2

Sandwich Tern: A single bird was seen again in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Jan 30

Guillemot: The supply of these seems endless with another 5000 seen at Dungeness on Feb 1

Razorbill: Only 480 reported at Dungeness on Feb 1 but Portland Bill reported more than 10,000 there on that day

Barn Owl: In response to an unusually high number of Barn Owl sightings reported recently Barrie Watson tells us that 2007 seems to have been a good year for these owls to breed, with a plentiful supply of voles.

Little Owl: On Jan 28 one was heard at dusk close to the Hayling Oysterbeds (probably in the fields east of the Billy Line and north of the Oysterbeds)

Long-eared Owl: We have had very few reports of wintering birds so far this winter but on the morning of Feb 2 four of them were found roosting in trees at Castle Water (Rye Harbour) and on Jan 27 there was a report of four seen on the Downs just east of the R Arun (with several reports of Short-eared Owls in that area recently I would like confirmation of this isolated report)

Short-eared Owl: Two were still hunting the fields west of Pagham Harbour on Jan 27, at least one was at the Ashley Warren site (north of Whitchurch) on Jan 28 and four were seen hunting the Downs above the R Arun on Jan 29

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Three reports show that these elusive birds still exist! On Jan 27 a male was seen within the boundary of Gatwick airport, and that day also brought a probable sighting in the Chichester lakes area, while on Jan 29 a male was seen in the Horsham area.

Woodlark: More song was heard in the New Forest on Jan 27 and at Ambersham Common near Midhurst on Jan 29

Rock Pipit: I saw my first of the year on the Langstone South Moors shore on Jan 28 and saw another at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 29

Water Pipit: The Farlington Marshes bird was seen again on both Jan 27 and 28 - it seems this bird is to be found close to the southern Point

Black Redstart: One was seen on Jan 28 just east of the start of the Eastoke Promenade at Eastoke Corner on Hayling and on Jan 29 there was an unexpected sighting of one on seaweed washed up by the west seawall of Farlington Marshes close to the carpark area. On Feb 2 there was another sighting of the Eastoke Promenade bird with the additional info that it is a female or immature bird and was seen at SZ 735983 which (for those who know the area or who have a street map) is in an area of the Promenade east of the cul de sac called The Stand and west of the start of Eastoke Avenue (both being roads off Southwood Road)

Stonechat: The male in the pony fields immediately north of Wade Court at Langstone was still present on Feb 1

Blackbird: Two isolated reports of song on Jan 14 and 19 have been followed by two consecutive days (Feb 1 and 2) on which song gets a mention in the Durlston rangers diary

Mistle Thrush: I now have seven reports of Mistle Thrush song heard since Jan 17 including three in the Havant local area

Dartford Warbler: The first report of one singing this year came from Ambersham Common near Midhurst on Jan 29

Goldcrest: One of these was singing at Durlston on Feb 1

Bearded Tit: More than 25 put on a good show in the reeds by the Farlington Marshes lake on Jan 28 and some should be seen here on any visit in the near future (latest report is of more than 6 seen on Feb 2).

Great Grey Shrike: A 'new' bird has been seen from Jan 27 to Feb 2 close the The Sportsman pub at Amberley by the River Arun - maybe this is the bird that was being seen regularly at Lavington Common until Dec 20 last year. The Morden Bog (west of Poole Harbour) bird was seen again on Jan 30 and on Feb 2 two birds were seen in the New Forest.

Carrion Crow: An opportunistic Crow at the Fareham ASDA site spotted a Feral Pigeon being run over by a car near the supermarket garage on Jan 30. The Pigeon was not killed but it seems that its wing was broken so it could not fly off. The Crow took this as an invitation to pluck and eat the Pigeon while it was still alive - not a pleasant sight for motorists coming to fill up with petrol ... This report attracted several similar reports of past observations of brutal opportunism among Crows showing this current incident was not exceptional.

Chaffinch: Chaffinch song usually starts before the end of January but this year none was reported until Feb 1 when two birds were heard at Up Marden and one at the Emsworth Marina, followed by two more birds heard in Fareham, and others at Durlston, on Feb 2

Linnet: Feb 2 brought the first mention of Linnet song from Durlston. Also that day a Linnet was seen on a bird table in the Horsham area and the observer asks is this is unusual.

Lapland Bunting: One of the two birds in the Hurst area at Lymington was seen on Jan 27, 30 and Feb 1. Another single bird was seen at Selsey Bill on Jan 29 and again on Feb 2.

Corn Bunting: Although a total of 52 were seen at Cheesefoot Head (east of Winchester) on Jan 12 (with 20+ seen on the Sussex Downs that day) these birds are becoming very difficult to find in either Hampshire or Sussex but while scanning Kent birding websites I was pleased to see that a flock of at least 60 came to roost in reeds in the Stour Valley (east of Canterbury) on Jan 30

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: We have already reported a male flying at Grayshott (near Haslemere) on Jan 26 and now we have a probable sighting of a female out that same day at Lower Froyle near Alton.

Red Admiral: Eleven more recent sightings at widespread locations

Painted Lady: An unexpected sighting of one in a Gosport garden on Jan 25 was thought to be a re-appearance of the same insect seen previously in the same garden on Dec 8 and presumably trying to hibernate here.

Small Tortoiseshell: One also seen in the Gosport area on Jan 22 plus a late report of one in the Henfield area of West Sussex on Jan 6

Large Tortoiseshell: A sighting of one at Portland on Jan 27 sounds very unlikely (and it was reported as 'probable only') but one was definitely seen there on 28 Jan 2007 (that one was captured and taken indoors but died on Feb 3). Last year also brought sightings at Portland on Mar 3 and Apr 6, possibly the result of attempted hibernation, early migration, or the work of a local breeder/hoaxer. Photographs confirmed the identity of some of these sightings. The possibility of early migration was supported when one was found in pristine condition at Crawley in Sussex on Mar 7 and the finder of that one thinks he may have seen it on Mar 3 (same date as one of the Portland sightings) but initially dismissed that sighting as being of a Comma

Peacock: On Jan 27 one was out at Portland and another at Bartley Heath near Hook in north Hants. On Jan 28 one was seen near Pagham Harbour with another at Horsham on Jan 29 when a total of 7 were found hibernating in the Ashdown Forest

Moths

Rush Veneer (1398 Nomophila noctuella): First for year at Portland on Jan 28

March Moth (1663 Alsophila aescularia): First of year trapped on Jan 29 somewhere in Sussex

Dotted Border (1934 Agriopis marginaria): First of year at Edburton (north of Brighton and the Downs) on Jan 29

Small Quaker (2182 Orthosia cruda): First for year somewhere in Sussex on Jan 29

Common Quaker (2187 Orthosia stabilis): First for year somewhere in Sussex on Jan 29

Hebrew Character (2190 Orthosia gothica): First of year at Portland on Jan 27

Angle Shades (2306 Phlogophora meticulosa): First for year somewhere in Sussex on Jan 29 (On Jan 26 a caterpillar of this species was seen feeding in an Ivy flower at Newhaven)

The Herald (2469 Scoliopteryx libatrix): First of year found in Ashdown Forest on Jan 29

Other Insects

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum): This is a buff or ginger tailed species slightly smaller than the others that may be out at this time of year. The only evdence for it at the moment is the finding of a roadside corpse at Tenterden in Kent on Jan 27 - apparently they often feed at flowers growing in roadside verges and suffer the penalties of this habit.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My count of species reported in flower during January now stands at 90 (including garden Daffodils and Snowdrops) - my personal count is 82 - these counts do not include several new species seen in February.

Yew: Brian Fellows was the first to be able to shake pollen from the flowers of a male tree at Petersfield on Jan 30

Wallflower: The yellow flowers of this native wild plant were already out on the walls of Portchester Castle on Jan 29

Early Dog Violet: On Jan 31 I saw the very first flowers open on plants growing on ancient graves in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery - I was prompted to look for them by the sight of the first unopen but coloured bud on plants in my own garden on that day.

Round-leaved Cranesbill: Two flowers seen on Jan 29 at the edge of the Ship Inn carpark at Langstone

Common Vetch: One plant had three fresh flowers in Havant on Feb 1

Black Medick: Another first flower in Havant on Feb 1

Blackthorn: The single tree which flowered during last winter, and which I had already seen in flower last month, was showing flowers at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 29 (definitely Blackthorn and not Cherry Plum which is now fairly abundant in flower)

Yellow-flowered Strawberry: The plants which have become established on the roadside in Juniper Square (Havant), and which had been flowering on Jan 13, again had a couple of flowers on Feb 1

Common Alder: Although only seen distantly with binoculars on Jan 29 I am pretty certain the trees with open catkins by the Lymbourne stream just north of Langstone Pond were Common, not Grey, Alder

Grey Poplar: The tall old tree growing on the east side of Wade Court Road in Havant (opposite North Close) had started to open its catkins on Jan 29

Grey Field Speedwell: A single flower was found in St Faith's churchyard in Havant on Feb 1

Borage: A small plant with one as yet unopen flower was found beside Park Road South in Havant on Feb 1 - several plants were seen there in December but this is the first for 2008

Black Knapweed: A single fresh flowerhead was seen beside the main road to Hayling outside the Ship Inn at Langstone on Jan 29

Three-cornered Leek: This had started to flower at Durlston on Jan 28

OTHER WILDLIFE

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: A pod of at least three has been off Portland from Jan 22 to Feb 1

Fallow Deer: I see that an attempt to count the Black-tailed Godwit flock on Amberley Wild Brooks area on Feb 2 was interrupted by galloping Fallow bucks...

Hedgehog: One was seen on Feb 1 wandering across a garden lawn in the Wade Lane area of Langstone on Feb 1 - I am not the only one to have been tempted to do some tidying up in my garden in the past few days and I suspect this animal had become homeless when someone cleared up the pile of leaves and rubbish in which it had been hibernating, though it could have woken naturally in the relatively warm weather.

Hare: A third report for the year was of 2 Hares seen on the Sussex Downs south of Amberley came on Jan 29

Bat species: A small bat seen at dusk on Jan 27 over the Titchfield Canal was probably a Pipistrelle (I think Daubentons like to hunt low over broader stretches of open water).

A separate observation of my own on Feb 2 was the sight of three or four bat boxes positioned around a sturdy oak standing by the little pond beside the public path from Pyle Lane in the Horndean area to The Holt woodland (and subsequently to Links Lane at Rowlands Castle).

Adder: A very early emergence was observed at Durlston on Jan 26 when one came out to bask on a cliff ledge.

Fungi: Sulphur Tuft, Jew's Ear, Yellow-brain and Candlesnuff were all noted at various places on Jan 28 and 29


Summary for Jan 21 - 27 (Week 3 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: 14 flew west past Ventnor (IoW) on Jan 13 and another 13 went past Portland on Jan 22 with a total of 40 passing Durlston on Jan 23 - all part of the massive movement of seabirds west through the English Channel recently

Black-throated Diver: On Jan 20 one was seen at Selsey Bill and one in the Lymington area where another was seen going west on Jan 23. On Jan 24 two were seen in Chichester Harbour from the Wittering shore

Great Northern Diver: On Jan 22 six were in Portland Harbour and another four were nearby in Weymouth Bay. At least one remains in the mouth of Chichester Harbour and on Jan 26 there was an unusual observation of three divers flying by at Selsey Bill with one of each of the three common species in the group

Great Crested Grebe: The large flock which has been in Rye Bay may have moved a little east as 350 of them were off Dungeness on Jan 22. Locally I had a group of 11 brought together at the north end of the Thorney Channel as the tide drained from the Nutbourne and Prinsted Bay area on Jan 22

Red-necked Grebe: One was off Selsey on Jan 20 with others seen this week at Dungeness and in Poole and Portland Harbours

Slavonian Grebe: One was seen in the north of Langstone Harbour on Jan 19 and more than 10 were off Selsey Bill on Jan 20. On Jan 22 there were 4 in the west Solent off Lymington and another 3 off the north east of the IoW. On Jan 24 two were in the mouth of Chichester Harbour and on Jan 26 there were four off Pagham Harbour and three off Puckpool Point (north-east IoW)

Balearic Shearwater: A small group remain off Portland Bill - counts on Jan 24, 25 and 26 were 10, 12 and 9

Shag: These are not commonly reported in Chichester Harbour but on Jan 24 one was seen from the Wittering shore

Bittern: One is still at the Blashford Lakes and another at Hatch Pond on the north of Poole Harbour while another is at Burton Mill Pond west of Pulborough - the latter gave further proof at dusk on Jan 22 of their habit of roosting high in the reeds, well off the ground (I would imagine this could lead to sleepless nights if the wind gets up and the reeds grasped by one leg are constantly blown away from or towards those grasped by the other leg)

Cattle Egret: Lee Evans weekly bulletin of national bird news for the week ending Jan 25 reported a total of 53 in southern Britain (the majority in Cornwall but others widely distributed). The two birds recently reported at North Mundham near the Chichester lakes were down to one by Jan 24 but that one was in a field only separated from the East Trout Lake by the grounds of a bungalow and the bird could be seen by turning right from the track going between Ivy Lake and the Trout Lakes when you reach the T junction. The Harbridge bird in the Avon valley was still present on Jan 22 and there are now three at Combe Haven (Bexhill) - I see that I have been guilty of mis-spelling this site as Coombe Haven!

Spoonbill: Poole Harbour still has eleven of these (seen together at Arne on Jan 26 when a twelfth bird was at Abbotsbury)

Bewick's Swan: By Jan 24 the flock at Ibsley had increased from three to six birds (all adults). On Jan 20 there were six by the Ouse south of Lewes and another 10 by the Adur between Henfield and Steyning

Whooper Swan: The family of one adult and four young was still at the Chichester Lakes on Jan 26 and the three birds that have been in The Fleet near Weymouth since the beginning of November were still at Abbotsbury on Jan 26 (they have not succumbed to Bird Flu)

Black Swan: On Jan 24 a group of 5 were on a lake in Princes Park at Eastbourne (said to have been there since at least Jan 10) and on Jan 26 one turned up on the Emsworth Town Millpond (the first there since Aug 2004)

Bean Goose: One or more were seen on Amberley Wild Brooks on Jan 26 - the first report from anywhere this year (3 birds in the Littlehampton area from Dec 24 to 28 was the only report for the end of last year)

Cackling Canada Goose: The 'half size' Canada Goose was still at the Chichester Lakes on Jan 26

Barnacle Goose: An interesting local sighting of two among the Brent off Warblington on the evening of Jan 20. Earlier that day one had been seen in the Adur valley near Steyning - that is the only other report so far this year other than the huge flock of feral birds just across the water on the IoW (as many as 300 of them have been seen in the past but this year the only report is of 120 seen at the Hersey nature reserve at Seaview on Jan 8)

Gadwall: Four pairs were on the Budds Farm pools at Havant on Jan 26 when another 10 were in the Emsworth Harbour area (unusually on sea water)

Pintail: 25 had been seen in Nutbourne Bay (Chichester Harbour) on Jan 20 and I saw around a dozen there on Jan 22 - in contrast there were more than 300 in the Pulborough Brooks area on Jan 25

Shoveler: An odd looking bird among the flock of 150 at the Blashford Lakes seemed (to Bob Chapman) to have traces of Blue-winged Teal in its make up - see next entry

Red-crested Pochard: A male which appeared on the Blashford Lakes on Jan 22 possibly came from a large collection of wildfowl kept on a pond in the Harbridge/Bleak Hill area just across the River Avon from the Blashford Lakes - this collection is penned in by wire to prevent the birds walking off (or foxes getting in) but the pond is open to the sky so unpinioned birds can fly out

Scaup: 13 at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Jan 21

Long-tailed Duck: The long staying bird on the Brooklands lagoon at Worthing is no longer there as that lake has been drained - it continues to be seen on the nearby Hove lagoon. One was in the Lymington area on Jan 20 and both Poole Harbour and Portland Harbour each have three birds.

Velvet Scoter: Three were still in the Lymington area on Jan 23 while a westward movement took four past Portland on Jan 22 and five past Dungeness on Jan 25

Smew: The escaped female bird on Swanbourne Lake (just across the road from the Arundel Wildfowl reserve) was seen again on Jan 22

Goosander: 62 were still coming to roost at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 23 and one was at the Calshot marshes on Jan 20 with two seen on Jan 22 at Cowards Marsh by the Avon where it enters Christchurch

Ruddy Duck: One female was on Swanbourne Lake at Arundel on Jan 22, two females were on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Jan 25 (with at least one there on Jan 26), and one was on Budds Farm pools here in Havant on Jan 26 (Last sighting at Budds Farm was of a pair there on Dec 16)

Red Kite: Up to three are still being seen regularly near the Chichester West Dean woods

Marsh Harrier: These are commonplace in Kent, East Sussex and Dorset so it was good to have one in the Southampton Water area on Jan 23, only the second Hampshire report for this year after one in the Titchfield area on Jan 5

Sparrowhawk: These often land on garden fences and the like to rest after failed attacks on small birds but in a Rowlands Castle garden one was twice seen using the bird table as a 'rest and recuperation' perch. With spring nearly with us these birds are already in breeding plumage and at least one report this week remarks on the brightness of a male's red breast.

Merlin: On Jan 19 one was seen to make two unsuccessful attacks on a flock of Skylarks in fields beside the railway line just south of Rowlands Castle

Grey Partridge: A report of at least 10 calling pairs heard on the Downs south of Amberley on Jan 24 indicates that these are moving from winter mode when they go about in silent coveys to spring breeding mode

Water Rail: I seem to remember Chris Packham talking about Water Rails in one of his TV programs and describing their ability to eat almost any food and to attack it with considerable force, illustrating this by saying that if you offered a Water Rail a tin of Sardines it would have no hesitation in opening the tin with its beak and eating the contents. Mark Rolfe witnessed similar behaviour near the Titchfield Canal Path on Jan 20 when he saw two Water Rails fighting - as he approached one of the Rails disappeared but the other lay still on the ground and was seen to have a 'hole in its head' where the bill of the victor in the fight had pierced the loser's brain.

Coot: Also seen by Mark Rolfe at Titchfield Haven on Jan 20 was the sight of two Coot's fighting each other - this will soon become a common sight as more and more Coots abandon their winter flock mode to become territorial.

Crane: In addition to the established resident flock of around 30 birds in Norfolk Lee Evans reports 14 vagrants in Scotland (11 at a Moray site and 3 more in Caithness)

Avocet: The SOS website carried news of 11 Avocet present in Nutbourne Bay (east of Emsworth) on Jan 20 and when I was there on Jan 22 all 11 were still present in the outflow of the Ham Brook stream at high tide but moving to the Thorney Channel as the tide fell. Jason Crook tells us that a flock of 26 Avocet has been in Langstone Harbour off Farlington Marshes 'recently' but he gives no date of last sighting. On Jan 26 an unspecified number were in Pagham Harbour.

Ringed Plover: These seem to have been in short supply this winter and I still do not have one on my year list but on Jan 23 Andy Johnson saw 300 of them in the Black Point wader roost at the mouth of Chichester Harbour - with them in an exceptionally large roost were 15000 Dunlin, 700 Knot, 220 Sanderling, 200 Oystercatcher, 150 Turnstone and 91 Grey Plover

Golden Plover: Following a report of 4000 at the Thorney Island old airfield on Jan 11a flock of around 400 were seen distantly over Thorney on Jan 23 and on Jan 26 a flock of 300 was on the mud of the Emsworth Channel over the seawall from the Thorney Great Deeps

Knot: Also on the Emsworth channel mud on Jan 26 was a feeding flock of around 50 Knot

Little Stint: Jason Crook saw one in Langstone Harbour during 'the week-end's WeBS count' which I assume to be Jan 12 or 13 but Langstone has a tradition of carrying out its WeBS counts on different days to those scheduled by the BTO and followed by other local coastal sites so the date may have been Jan 19 or 20. The wintering bird at West Wittering was seen on Jan 24

Purple Sandpiper: An unusually high count of 21 seen together at Newhaven Pier on Jan 20 may indicate that these birds are already starting to move back east thinking that the winter is over (or maybe these are birds seeking a less exposed site after being battered by recent storms on more exposed shores). Christchurch Harbour also had a site record count of 13 birds on Jan 24

Ruff: Two remain at the Lymington marshes, seen on Jan 22

Black-tailed Godwit: A count of 240 at Christchurch Harbour on Jan 22 was the highest there so far this winter - maybe these were birds heading for floods in the Avon Valley but the flooding there is said to have abated very quickly before it could attract any substantial number of extra birds. At Titchfield Haven there were at least 101 birds on Jan 20 and on Jan 25 a flock of 103 was in the north of Portsmouth Harbour at Portchester (maybe the same birds as at Titchfield). With virtually none currently in Langstone or Chichester Harbours there has been an exceptional count of around 1000 in Pagham Harbour on Jan 25 after 400 were seen there on Jan 22

Whimbrel: Jason Crook confirms that one is wintering in Langstone Harbour and has been seen 'recently'

Spotted Redshank: The very tame bird which feeds at the west end of the Emsworth shore was still present on Jan 23

Common Sandpiper: The bird wintering around the mouth of the Hermitage Stream in the Langstone Harbour Broadmarsh area was seen on Jan 1 but I have seen no further reports of it until I saw the bird myself on Jan 26 - it was feeding just north of the Harts Farm Way bridge on the east bank at high tide

Phalaropes: Very stormy weather on Jan 21 rewarded the few birders who ventured out onto the Hurst spit at Lymington with the very exciting sight of three Phalaropes together, one of them showing the smaller size and darker plumage which confirmed its identity as Red-necked while the other two were Grey. Grey Phalarope is not unknown along the south coast in winter but this seems to be the first ever Red-neck to be recorded anywhere on the south coast in January. Russell Wynn comments that with global warming it may not be the last one to winter here.

Iceland Gull: No Hampshire sightings since Jan 13 but on Jan 22 one was seen in the Portland Habour area with a further probable sighting of it on Jan 26

Glaucous Gull: On Jan 20 one was seen off Ventnor (IoW) - this was a first winter bird and maybe the same as one seen off Dungeness on Jan 19. A first winter bird was seen at the mouth of Pagham Harbour on Jan 26 and what is thought to be a different first winter bird was at Shoreham Harbour on both Jan 25 and 26

Kittiwake: Many of these have been heading west through the English Channel recently - 167 went past Dungeness on Jan 20 and 180 were off Durlston on Jan 23 with 300+ passing Portland on Jan 26

Sandwich Tern: Only two reports of wintering birds so far this year - one in Chichester Harbour on Jan 4 and now one off Dungeness on Jan 25

Guillemot: On Jan 13 there was a very unexpected sighting of one amongst Swans in the north of Chichester Harbour off the Emsworth west shore - possibly a weak bird that had abandoned the struggle to move west down the channel with thousands of others. Since then there has been a report (in the Portsmouth NEWS) of one on the Southsea shore. On Jan 23 at least one oiled bird was seen in the west Solent and the TV News that day mentioned that several oiled auks had been washed up on the IoW. While on this species I learnt from the Durlston website that the collective noun for Guillemots is 'a Bazaar'. Latest news is of another 1800 going west past Dungeness in one 40 min period on Jan 24

Razorbill: No recent reports to match the 20,000+ moving west off Portland on Jan 19 but on Jan 23 Durlston was able to report 2,000+ passing and on Jan 26 Portland reported 5000+ going west

Stock Dove: On Jan 22 I at last added this species to my year list with a flock of 14 going to roost in trees at the Nutbourne orchards and on Jan 25 I heard one singing in Stansted Forest

Barn Owl: Several people have reported recent sightings from their cars as they drive after dark and there have also been reports of Tawny Owls hooting.

Short-eared Owl: Groups of up to four have been seen hunting and displaying both at The Burgh on the Sussex Downs south of Amberley and at Ashley Warren north of Whitchurch. Another two have been seen at Bransbury Common near Andover

Woodlark: At least two were in fields on Rosamund's Hill east of Stansted Forest on Jan 19 (a flock of 14 had been seen in the Stansted East Park on Jan 1 and may well still be in the area). One had been heard signing in Hampshire on Jan 12 and 2 were singing in the Slinfold area near Horsham on Jan 26

Water Pipit: Two have been seen recently around Farlington Marshes, one of them appearing fairly regularly on seaweed washed up at the foot of the seawall not far south of the main lake.

Fieldfare: Plenty of these around but a flock of around 300 on the grassland west of Stansted House on Jan 25 was particularly impressive.

Redwing: These are currently much less numerous than Fieldfare with maximum counts of no more than 50 at any one site

Mistle Thrush: The first that I have heard singing this winter was in Havant on Jan 23

Yellow-browed Warbler: These seem to be unusually scarce this winter - Lee Evans tells us that he knows of only 1 currently in Britain (up in the north at Jarrow)

Crow: This species went onto my 'singing' list when I heard the first 'motor horn' notes from one near my garden on Jan 22

Raven: A pair were displaying to each other at Isfield (just upstream from Lewes) on Jan 21

Starling: A very impressive pre-roost display was seen in Portsmouth (near the Portsmouth Harbour Rail Station) at dusk on Jan 24

White-crowned Sparrow: The bird at Cley in Norfolk (far from its American home) has so far raised £3,500 in voluntary donations from twitchers for the Cley village church restoration fund (the bird was first found in the Rector's garden)

Lapland Bunting: One of the two birds that have been spending the winter on the Lymington marshes, together with a single Twite, was seen on Jan 23 (all three are thought to be still present). Latest sighting was of one on Jan 26.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: The first and so far only sighting was of a male flying at Grayshott on the Hampshire/Sussex border east of Petersfield on Jan 26

Red Admiral: Twelve sightings so far this year from widely separate sites - most recent report is from Huckswood Lane north of Rowlands Castle on Jan 26

Peacock: Six reports so far this year - the first being in the Newhaven area on Jan 6 and the first in Hampshire at Hook (Warsash) on Jan 12

Moths

Light Brown Apple moth (0998 Epiphyas postvittana): First of year at Portland on Jan 23

Acleris hastiana (1053): First of year at Portland on Jan 23

Crocidosema plebejana (1157): First of year at Portland on Jan 23

Euchromius ocellea (1289): First of year at Portland on Jan 23 (on southerly winds which are said to have brought a fall of Saharan dust)

Narrow-winged Grey (1342 Eudonia angustea): First of year at Worthing on Jan 22

Rusty-dot Pearl (1395 Udea ferrugalis): Another first at Portland on Jan 23

Brown Plume (1524 Emmelina monodactyla): I disturbed the first I know of on Jan 21 in my garden - also taken at Portland on Jan 24

Double-striped Pug (1862 Gymnoscelis rufifasciata): An interesting first at Newhaven on Jan 20

Spring Usher (1932 Agriopis leucophaearia): First for the year at Worthing on Jan 22

Dark Chestnut (2259 Conistra ligula): Another first at Portland on Jan 23

Caterpillars

Last winter a number of Red Admiral caterpillars in the Sussex Ouse valley managed to continue to feed through the winter on nettles that remained free of frost (they were seen to pupate at around this time of year and to emerge earlier than usual in the spring) but this year all known Red Admiral caterpillars have succumbed to wind and rain though a few caterpillars of Large and Small Whites which were taken indoors have recently pupated.

Other Insects

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum): First report of this species comes from Northiam in the Rother valley near Rye but is sadly of a road kill corpse - apparently quite a few of these are hit by cars as they forage at roadside plants

Lesser Bloody Nosed Beetle: Several of these were active at Durlston on Jan 20 - I think they do not normally appear until April but I suspect that adults survive for more than one year and are normally dormant in winter, waiting for warmer weather. This year temperatures in January are probably around those expected in April and as these beetles are herbivores they should find food at this time of year (assuming they eat grass).

Ground Beetle: A black Ground Beetle was rescued (still alive) from the water of a bird bath on my garden lawn on Jan 25

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

81 species have been seen in flower so far this month, 76 of them seen by myself. (My count includes Garden Daffodils and Snowdrops but not Croci)

Thale Cress: I noticed one plant of this flowering on Jan 23 and have seen others since

Cherry Plum: The lovely white blossom of these trees could be seen in Southmoor Lane and at Broadmarsh on Jan 26

Goat Willow: The first golden 'pussy paw' catkins were seen in Havant on Jan 21

Hogweed: Not a first for the year but the unusual pink colouration of the flowers on a fresh plant in Church Lane at Warblington on Jan 25 is worth seeing

Alexanders: Although I had found this flowering in December it only went onto my January list with a find in Harts Farm Way, right outside the Pulbic Amenity (Rubbish Tip) site, on Jan 26

White Comfrey: Just one plant had started to flower at the foot of the 'Broadmarsh mountain' on Jan 26 - probably flowering as a result of welcome tree clearance letting in the light.

Heath Groundsel: A new addition to the year list with one 'old plant' flowering at Stansted on Jan 25

Sticky Groundsel: One small plant freshly flowering in Town Hall Road at Havant on Jan 24

Butterbur: One spike of the normal male plants was flowering at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Jan 20, one day after I had seen a female plant out near the Giant Butterbur plants in Langstone

OTHER WILDLIFE

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: A small party of them off Portland on Jan 22 - first report of them for the year

Grey Seal: One off Bembridge, IoW, seen on Jan 12

Roe Deer: After two recent reports of these dying on rail line and road it is good to know that the group resident on the north Hayling fields is still present - a count of 12 there on Jan 21 is equal to the highest count reported last year

Mole: With their breeding season approaching and the soil easy to shift after rain evidence of their activity can be seen in many places but on Jan 20 Brian Fellows observed a less common facet of their behaviour when he came across a ridge of raised earth running across the surface of Brook Meadow at Emsworth - this surface tunnelling does not require the creation of mole hills as the earth displaced by the tunnel is immediately pushed up to the surface as the mole progresses. As Brook Meadow has recently been subject to partial flooding from a swollen River Ems plus rainfall directly on the meadow my guess is that the Mole could not make its tunnel any deeper underground without drowning in the waterlogged soil.

Hare: Late news of one at Yew Hill (south of Winchester) on Jan 19 - only the second report I have seen for this year after one on the Sussex Downs on Jan 10

Common Frog: Jan 22 brought the first report of frogspawn from a pond somewhere in the Portsmouth/Havant area and on Jan 23 there was a further report of Frogs back in a Gosport garden pond

Newts: Following news of Newts returning early to breeding ponds in the Rye area (see last Sunday's Weekly Summary) there has been a further report of early return from the Pennington area of Lymington where, on the evening of Jan 23, there were at least 16 Newts in a small garden pond (both Smooth and Palmate being found with the use of a net). On Jan 24 this same pond was found to have a half-grown Common Newt larva (or tadpole) maybe indicating that Newts sometimes take more than one season to fully develop and emerge from their birth pond (Frog tadpoles are known to do this when conditions are not suitable for their normal development)

Goose Barnacles: Among the flotsam and jetsam found on the shore of Portland recently was at least one small cluster of the Goose Barnacles whose normal life is a nomadic one attached to floating objects in the open sea.


Summary for Jan 14 - 20 (Week 2 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Black-throated Diver: On Jan 16 one Black-throated and two Great Northern Divers were seen in the mouth of Chichester Harbour from the West Wittering area

Slavonian Grebe: A total of 9 were seen from West Wittering on Jan 16 (previous highest count in the Chichester Harbour mouth area had been just five birds) - another 5 were in the west Solent off Lymington that day

Fulmar: 23 were seen moving west past Dungeness on Jan 19 - a very small part of the vast numbers of birds recently leaving the North Sea.

Balearic Shearwater: Perhaps the most surprising species among the birds moving west past Portland in the past week (but not coming from the North Sea, just returning west after being blown up the English Channel by recent gales) was Balearic Shearwater with an estimated 50 passing Portland on Jan 13. My first guess was that this was the largest number ever recorded there but I see that 52 were seen there on 22 June 2007 and July 8 brought a count of 117 (with 88 next day) while 74 were recorded there on Sep 20. (In 2006 the highest count of the year was only 32 on Sep 22, and in 2005 the peak was just 7 birds)

Storm Petrel: The Dorset Bird Club has a report of one seen over Poole Harbour between Poole Quay and Brownsea Island on Jan 19 - I suppose it was blown in by the gales which have brought the Shearwaters but it is the first report I have seen since Dec 2 and that was a probable only with the last confirmed sighting on Nov 19. None were seen in 2007 before May 7 though Hampshire in the past has had a couple of January records

Bittern: Wintering birds were seen this week at the Dungeness RSPB reserve (Jan 16), Burton Mill Pond near Pulborough (Jan 18) and the Blashford Lakes (Jan 19) but one flushed from the River Test at Mottisfont on Jan 14 could have already been on its way back to its breeding site after leaving winter quarters.

Night Heron: One seems to have been moving around south west Hampshire this week. First report is of it seen in flight low over a stubble field just west of the Beaulieu River on Jan 14. On Jan 16 there was a probable sighting of it high over Christchurch and also a report of it being flushed from Sowley Pond (east of Lymington) during a shoot. Latest news of it came on Jan 17 when it was flying over East Boldre village near Beaulieu (and a mile or so north of Sowley Pond)

Cattle Egret: Recent reports come from the Weymouth area (5 birds), the west of Poole Harbour, Avon Valley (Harbridge), Lewes Brooks and Coombe Haven at Bexhill. Most recent news is of two seen locally on Jan 19 at a new site between the Chichester lakes and the hamlet of North Mundham

Spoonbill: A total of nine probably remain in the Poole Harbour area but the biggest group was of seven seen at Arne on Jan 14 (with a single seen about a mile away that day). Five were together there on Jan 19

Bewick's Swan: Four were still in the Ringwood area on Jan 19 and during the week there have been sightings of 8 on Amberley Wild Brooks (Jan 14) with 11 more at Warningcamp on the R Arun south of the Downs that day, and on Jan 16 nine birds were seen on the R Adur in the Henfield area

Whooper Swan: One adult with 4 young was at the Chichester Lakes on Jan 15

Black Swan: Two turned up at Pulborough RSPB reserve on Jan 16

Brent Goose: Brian Fellows thinks that the past year was moderately successful for Brent breeding - the overall percentage of young to adults which he has recorded this winter is 6.41- putting this in perspective among the percentages achieved in in the past 20 years he says that the percentage was 0 or 1 in six years (89, 92, 95, 98, 2000, 06), between 6 and 10 in seven years (94, 96, 97, 01, 02, 03, 07), and above 10 in seven years (12 in 04, 16 in 90, 18 in 93, 24 in 99, 25 in 05, 27 in 88 and 31 in 91)

Red-breasted Goose: Still being seen daily at West Wittering - on Jan 19 it was sheltering from the wind behind the East Head carpark cafe.

Shelduck: An unusually large number (in present day terms) has been in Chichester Harbour recently - on Jan 11 Barry Collins saw 187 around Thorney Island and on Jan 16 I found at least 150 in the Langstone to Warblington area. These are good counts for recent years but looking back to the 1982 Sussex Bird Report I see there was a peak count of 4242 Shelduck in the whole of Chichester Harbour in Jan 1982 (admittedly a hard weather peak) and 2514 in Jan 1989 (a more normal count for those years). By Jan 1992 the harbour peak was down to 1863 and in Feb 1999 there were only 784 as a year peak. Recent year peaks for the harbour have been 810 in Feb 2004, 825 in Feb 2005, and 793 in Feb 2006.

Wigeon: Flooding of the Pulborough Brooks area became widespread on Jan 16 and there were counts of 2300 Wigeon at Pulborough with another 1000 at Amberley Wild Brooks

Teal: Counts of these on Jan 16 were 2280 at Pulborough and 850 at Amberley

Pintail: On Jan 12 there were 65 in the Thorney Island area and on Jan 16 there were 630 at Pulborough and 100 at Amberley. On Jan 18 the count at Blashford (Ringwood) was 72

Shoveler: The overall count for the Pulborough area was 150 on Jan 16 and the Blashford Lakes had 136 on Jan 18

Scaup: An adult male was at the Thorney Deeps on Jan 12 with 20+ remaining in Dorset during the past week

Velvet Scoter: 21 flew west past Dungeness on Jan 16 with another 16 going by on Jan 19

Red Kite: Two continue to be seen in the Chichester West Dean Woods area and I got the species on my year list with one flying low over my car as I negotiated the busy M40/A34 junction north of Oxford late in the afternoon of Jan 15 (a very wet and windy day)

Quail: Also on Jan 15 someone called Sam Hill was driving along the foot of the Sussex Downs on the B2139 from Storrington towards Amberley when a Quail flew across the road in front of his car. The Sussex Bird Report now describes the species as a scarce summer visitor "formerly occasional in winter", and the 1982 report says of Quail .. "Although sometimes recorded in winter, one at Graffham Common on the early date of Apr 1 may have been a migrant". In Hampshire there were two sightings of a presumed wintering bird at the Hayling Oysterbeds in Jan 2003 (flushed there on both Jan 1 and 31) and the Hampshire Bird Report then gave the species status as "A very rare and erratic summer visitor; rarely recorded in winter" - it added that the Jan 2003 bird was the first to winter in the county since 1961. In both counties the possibilty of escapes has to be considered - on the Sussex website Tim Lincoln pointed out .. "I could very well be wrong, but the winter Quail sighting sounds very much like it could relate instead to an escaped Japanese Quail, a bird farmed here in huge numbers and virtually indistinguishable, even by experts, from the european version"

Golden Plover: 95 were on the Langstone village shore on Jan 16 but on Jan 11 there was a flock of 4000 at the old airfield on Thorney Island and on Jan 17 there were around 400 in the Lymington area

Lapwing: The start of flooding in the Hampshire Avon valley had brought 1000+ Lapwing there by Jan 15 and a similar number were at Amberley Wild Brooks on Jan 16 (when Pegwell Bay in East Kent had a flock estimated at 12,000 birds)

Knot: 1500 were on the Pilsey sands south of Thorney Island on Jan 12

Purple Sandpiper: Six were seen at Southsea Castle on Jan 14

Ruff: Two were in the Lymington marshes on Jan 17 (on Jan 16 there was a flock of 22 at the Oare Marshes near Faversham on north west Kent)

Jack Snipe: On Jan 9 Barry Collins had a total of 14 birds on Thorney Island

Black-tailed Godwit: The number seen at Christchurch Harbour was just 12 on Jan 1 and had not exceeded 55 up to Jan 14 but on Jan 15 there were 175 there, presumably heading for the Avon Valley floods. By Jan 18 Christchurch had 192 birds with 127+ seen on Jan 19. In 2007 there were already more than 2000 in the Avon Valley by Jan 7 and in 2003 the count was 2000+ on Jan 12 and 2750+ on Feb 2. Also in Jan 2007 there was a flock of up to 800 birds in the fields north of Pagham Harbour but the presence of large flocks there seems to be even more occasional than in the Avon Valley where the big numbers have in the recent past only been seen on average every five years or so.

Bar-tailed Godwit: The presence of 800 on the Pilsey sands of Thorney Island on Jan 12 is the first large count anywhere in Chichester Harbour since there were 700 on the Warblington shore on Oct 17 last year. The last count I have seen from Pilsey was of 341 on Sep 30

Whimbrel: A couple of these are usually found on the west side of Thorney Island each winter and on Jan 9 Barry Collins saw three of them at Wickor Point (the Pagham Harbour bird was still to be seen at Church Norton on Jan 12)

Spotted Redshank: The tame bird in the stream running into Chichester Harbour on the east side of Nore Barn wood (west end of the Emsworth shoreline) was present on Jan 13 and 16 - at high tide it probably joins two others roosting at the Thorney Island Deeps where a group of three were seen on Jan 12

Greenshank: At least 12 were still at the high tide roost at the Thorney Deeps on Jan 12 and at low tide these birds disperse to give sightings at several places in the Emsworth to Langstone area (maybe even visiting the Hayling Oysterbeds though any birds seen there are more likely to be based at Farlington Marshes). On Jan 17 Brian Fellows found 6 on the Emsworth west shore

Pomarine Skua: I have come across a couple of second hand reports that an immature is hanging around in the Lymington area but have no factual info

Arctic Skua: A juvenile was seen in the Calshot area at the mouth of Southampton Water on Jan 19

Franklin's Gull: An adult was reported in the north of Poole Harbour off a private nature reserve called Holton Lee on Jan 17 and the Friends of Holton Lee immediately offered access to their private land to any birders who paid up £15 subscription to join their group. Not sure how many did pay up but I do know that there have been no further reports of the bird

Ring-billed Gull: Regular winter birds were at the Gosport Cockle Pond on Jan 12 and at Radipole in Dorset on Jan 13 when there was also an immature bird seen well inland among a large gull flock at Wivelsfield Green south of Haywards Heath.

Iceland Gull: An immature bird flew past Portland on Jan 18

Glaucous Gull: A first winter bird was at Dungeness on Jan 19

Auk species: An estimated 20,000 flew west past Portland on Jan 13, with a similar number seen on Jan 16, and they were still passing Dungeness in large numbers on Jan 17 - most of them were Razorbills

Feral Pigeon: These do not often attract attention but a report that some 600 were present in the Chilling area near Warsash on Jan 19 is worth noting. Also in the area that day were some 100 Stock Doves and only 100 Woodpigeons (though 5000 of these had been at this site on Jan 12)

Wood Pigeon: A recently fledged bird was seen in the Horsham area on Jan 16

Collared Dove: While writing this summary on Jan 20 a very recently fledged Collared Dove was brought to my front door for advice on how to help it survive - it may well have a chance!

Ring-necked Parakeet: More than 30 were seen in Ramsgate cemetery in Kent on Jan 16 showing they have not abandoned that area. (This and many other news items appearing on the Planet Thanet website come from someone known only as 'Gadget', I wonder how earned this tag?)

Short-eared Owl: Although none seem to be wintering on Thorney Island nor at Farlington Marshes this winter there were 3 on Bransbury Common near Andover on Jan 14 when another group of four were showing well in the Ashley Warren area north of Whitchurch and just east of the A34, Another group of three were seen on Portland this week while a similar number have been in the area south of Pulborough

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Two sightings this week at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood and in the Pannel Valley near Rye are a reminder that the next few weeks are the best time of year to track down these elusive tree top birds by their 'pee-pee-pee' calls and prolonged, quiet drumming.

Stonechat: Two sightings of local interest - one was in the pony fields north of Wade Court at Langstone on Jan 12 and still there on Jan 16 when a second bird was in the Warblington Farm shore field behind Conigar Point

Blackbird: One was in full song in St Faith's churchyard in central Havant at dusk on Jan 14 and a report of 'first full song' came from the Sway area near New Milton on Jan 19

Song Thrush: Four different birds could be heard singing as I made my way home from Warblington to Havant at dusk on Jan 16, and snatches of song can be heard most days despite the strong winds.

Mistle Thrush: Several were singing at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 16 and further reports of song came from the Pannel Valley near Rye on Jan 17 and from Sway near New Milton on Jan 18

Marsh Tit: First report of song for the year came from the Pannel Valley near Rye on Jan 17

Willow Tit: On Jan 12 two were seen and positively identified by call in the unlikely location of the steep slope of the Sussex Downs above Rackham Woods (near Pulborough) and on Jan 13 one was also seen (and positively identified) on a feeder in a garden in the Hastings area.

These sightings prompted an interesting discussion on the SOS website from which I learnt that (a) there are still at least two sites in Sussex where Willow Tits can still be found though they are virtually extinct in the county, (b) Willow Tits have small and well defined territories which they stick to throughout the year and (c) despite bird books saying that Willow Tits do not visit garden feeders there are plenty of proven instances where they visit feeders regularly. No one could explain the presence of the birds half way up the Sussex Downs!

Jackdaw: A pair were nest building in a chimney in the Horsham area on Jan 16

Rook: On Jan 15 while waiting at traffic lights to turn from the A1 to the A14 in Bedfordshire I watched some 20 Rooks apparently taking an interest in their nests, and on Jan 16 there was a similar report of Rooks active at a rookery in the St Cross area of Winchester

Tree Sparrow: Although these are effectively extinct all along the south coast an ex-Hampshire birder, now living in the Stourhead area of Wiltshire, reports that they still flourish there, probably on account of the continuance of small mixed farms and old farming practice there.

Brambling: More than 300 were seen in the Cheesefoot Head area east of Winchester on Jan 13 and up to 40 have been in the Chilling area near Warsash

Siskin: On Jan 18 Bob Chapman commented that the presence of a greatly increased number of Siskins on feeders at the Blashford Lakes site, probably indicating that natural food in the countryside was becoming difficult to find

Linnet: The huge flock of around 1000 birds was still in the Chilling area near Warsash on Jan 19. A much smaller flock of up to 40 was in the Warblington Farm shore field at Conigar Point during the week

Yellowhammer: A small flock of around 10 birds was still at Conigar Point, Warblington Farm, on Jan 16 with a similar flock of Reed Buntings

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Peacock butterfly: One seen flying at midday on Jan 16 in Arundel town was the third report of the species for the year after two sightings on Jan 6

Mottled Grey moth: One of these was the only result of the first moth trapping session at Portland Bill for this year on Jan 16

Pale Brindled Beauty and Early Moth: Both were seen at Edburton at the north foot of the Sussex Downs on Jan 16

Sawfly larva: On Jan 20 when replenishing the water put out on my lawn in low bowls for birds to drink and wash I found in one bowl the corpse of a chubby pale green caterpillar nearly 3cm long which must have crawled into the bowl and drowned - I have found similar drowned larvae on several occasions in the past but not in January. I'm pretty sure it was a sawfly larva but have no idea of the species.

Bumblebee species: There have been several reports of queens actively feeding in recent days and one of them included a photo and specifically referred to Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) seen feeding at a Hellebore on Jan 15, but other reports refer more vaguely to 'white-tailed bumblebees' and a glance at www.bumblebeeconservationtrust.co.uk/bumblebees_id.htm shows that three of the six commonest species (which make up 90% of all the Bumblebees commonly found in Britain) all have whitish tails. The one with the purest white tail and the brightest lemon yellow bands is Bombus lucorum (White-tailed Bumblebee) but the Garden Bumblebee (Bombus hortorum) is very similar, the main difference is the the central yellow band is around the 'waist' between thorax and abdomen where B. lucorum has its bright yellow band around the abdomen only with black around the waist. Perhaps the commonest species (B. terrestris) is generally duller and more 'fuzzy' in both the yellow and white areas, the tail being much more 'Buff tailed' in appearance.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

The number of plant species which I am aware of as being in flower this month up to Jan 20 is now 74, of which I have seen 67 for myself. Recent new comers to the list are noted below.

Common Fumitory: A fresh plant with one cluster of flowers was seen at Warblington Farm on Jan 16

Cabbage: One plant was flowering in the 'bird seed' plot on the Langstone South Moor nature reserve on Jan 19 - I guess this is closely related to the cabbages we grow for human food and is not Wild Cabbage

Wavy Bitter Cress: I thought this was already on the list but I seem not to have noted it until Jan 17

Common Whitlowgrass: I have already noted first flowering of this on Jan 10 but by Jan 20 at least 85 plants were out in the Waterloo Road site and on that day I discovered a mass of plants (none yet in flower) at the foot of the brick wall on East Street in Havant immediately east of the entrance to the Townend House (Musem) carpark

Wood Avens: Brian Fellows found this flowering in the Palmers Road Copse adjacent to Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Jan 14 (before the R Ems started to flood the copse!)

Hazel: Brian Fellows also found the first female flowers on Hazel at Brook Meadow on Jan 18

Sun Spurge: This was added to the list on Jan 18 in the Langstone area

Ivy Leaved Speedwell: I found the very first flower on this in Havant on Jan 17

Field Woundwort: Brian Fellows found this in flower on Warblington Farm on Jan 13

Field Madder: I found this out at Warblington on Jan 16

Butterbur: Just one spike of flowers was out on Jan 19 on one of the female plants growing by the Langbrook stream close to the South Moors

Giant Butterbur (Petasites japonicus): At least two plants had started flowering on Jan 19 at the site by the Langbrook stream

Cat's Ear: This seems to be new this week, flowering in Juniper Square at Havant on Jan 17

OTHER WILDLIFE

Frogs: First report of a pair of Frogs 'in amplexus' came on Jan 18 from Brian Banks garden pond at Northiam near Rye and Brian has also commented on the increasing scarcity of Frogs on the Romney Marshes where there is a large population of Marsh Frogs but he disputes the claim that these newcomers are responsible for the decline of our native Frogs which have been vanishing equally rapidly in all the areas where no Marsh Frogs exist. (For anyone interested he tells us the Marsh Frogs have been given a 'new name' of Pelophylax ridibundus by the taxonomists). Brian first reported the movement of Frogs back to breeding ponds on Jan 10 and then gave a simple test for distinguishing the sexes - look at the throat and belly and you will see that females are yellow while males are whitish

Toads: On Jan 19 Bob Chapman noticed Toads crossing a New Forest road between Ringwood and Bransgore - a very early first report. Brian Banks tells us that .. "Toads are in trouble, and have recently been added to the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. This amphibian is known to be vulnerable to a new disease, Chytriodiomycosis, but this disease appears to be very localised in Britain at the moment, and other factors appear to be at work". One of these factors seems to be the well motivated efforts of conservation organisations seeking to save wildlife but (not for the first time) inadvertently destroying it - Brian goes on to say .. "Another study undertaken at the Offham Marshes, near Lewes, found that changes in ditch management resulted in significant declines of this species. Counts of adults at this site fell from 2,500 animals to less than 100 in less than ten years. This coincided with a move from annual clearance of whole ditches, to a practice where only half the ditch width was cleared in any year. Increased quantities of vegetation in the water increased numbers of predatory invertebrates, which impacted on tadpole survival. A return to the previous practice of total ditch clearance resulted in a partial recovery in the toad population within a few years".

Common (Smooth) Newt: Up to Jan 10 Brian Banks had only 4 of these in his Northiam garden pond (near Rye) - on that day the number was up to 9, on Jan 18 it was up to 19 and on Jan 19 the number was up to 30. The name of this species has changed to Lissotriton vulgaris

Palmate Newt: Jan 18 brought the first of these into Brian Banks' garden pond - new name is Lissotriton helveticus

Great Crested Newt: When Brian Banks visited a pond where these can be found on the Romney Marshes he was told that the first eggs had been laid about two weeks earlier - amazingly these have retained their name of Triturus cristatus and are thus now regarded as being in a separate genus from the other Newt species

Polecat: What looked like a Polecat rather than a Ferret was one of many animals and birds killed by trains on the Basingstoke to Salisbury main line recently and seen by a railwayman walking the line in the Tadley area - among other species were Roe Deer and Buzzard

Fungi: The only species mentioned by name this week was Yellow Brain Fungus seen in the Forestside area north of Rowlands Castle


Summary for Jan 7 - 13 (Week 1 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

New Year's Day bird races: All three common divers seen off Selsey Bill were among the early ticks in a Sussex record breaking Day List of 121 species made on Jan 6 by the West Sussex team calling themselves "The Bald Eagles" (Dave Smith, Dorian Mason & Richard Ives). They did particularly well on Thorney Island with 3 Jack Snipe, pinging Bearded Tits, Greenshank, Spotted Redshank, 3 Goldeneye, Cetti’s Warblers and a few others, and at Amberley they added a species they have never encountered before in many similar winter outings - 3 Ruff.

Since then Dorset birders have also set a new record for their county - the Dorset Bird Club website tells us that on Jan 12 .. "The Bird Race teams today scored well in the brighter weather, the winning team recording an impressive 129 species to set a new county winter race record. Equally one team confined themselves to doing Poole Harbour only and scored 119".

Red-throated Diver: Plenty of these about with 15 off Christchurch Harbour on Jan 6 and 27 passing Portland on Jan 12

Great Northern Diver: In addition to those in the open sea one was seen in Sweare Deep off north Hayling on Jan 12 - it probably then went south to be seen with two others in the mouth of Chichester Harbour later that day

Great Crested Grebe: The flock in the Solent continues to increase with 112 off the Chilling area on Jan 12 (prev peak count was 102 on Jan 5)

Slavonian Grebe: Five were seen in the mouth of Chichester Harbour from Black Point on Jan 12

Manx Shearwater: Balearic and Sooty Shearwater have both been seen along the south coast this year but a single Manx Shearwater off Portland on Jan 8 was the first of the year and the first anywhere since Nov 18 (and in 2007 none were reported in the early part of the year until Mar 28)

Shag: At Durlston one was seen showing a breeding crest on Jan 6 and on Jan 7 it or another was seen bringing seaweed to the cliffs for nest building.

Cattle Egret: Latest sighting at Rodmell on the Sussex Ouse was on Jan 10, the bird which arrived at Coombe Haven (Bexhill) on Jan 5 was still there on Jan 7, five were still together in fields north of Weymouth on Jan 11, and on Jan 6 the single bird was seen at Lavant (Chichester) while the other loner at Harbridge near Ringwood was still being reported on Jan 12

Great White Egret: The bird which has been regularly seen at the Blashford Lakes has not been reported since Jan 6

Bewick's Swan: The count in the River Arun south of the Downs increased by one to 27 on Jan 12. In Hampshire the 5 birds were still by the Avon at Ibsley on Jan 12

Black Swan: Two which have been on the Test in the Eling/Redbridge area at the beginning of January had moved down Southampton Water to the Hythe area on Jan 11

Greylag: 173 of these were in the Avon valley south of Ringwood on Jan 12 along with 465 Canada Geese

Cackling Canada Goose: First report for the year of one of the 'half size' Canada Geese came from the Chichester Lakes on Jan 11. John Goodspeed was leading the group which saw it and he suggests it was of the Aleutian Canada Goose subspecies (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia) but I think the differences between the subspecies of small Canada Goose are too difficult for the amateur to sort out. Last May I wrote the following about this group of birds ...

Brian Fellows found two newcomers at Baffins Pond on May 14 which he noted as 'small Canada Geese'. He rightly points out that there are some 12 different races/species/subspecies of Canada Goose and isn't going to commit to naming the bird he saw but his mention of them has led me to revise my previous idea of recording these small geese as a subspecies (Branta canadensis minima or Cackling Canada Goose) of the normal Canada Goose.

Wikipaedia tells me .. "The Cackling Goose was originally considered to be the same species or a subspecies of the Canada Goose, but in July 2004 the American Ornithologists' Union's Committee on Classification and Nomenclature split the two into two species, making Cackling Goose into a full species with the scientific name Branta hutchinsii. The British Ornithologists Union followed suit in June 2005". (Wheels turn slowly in these matters and I see that in the latest version of the list of Euring Codes which I downloaded in order to find the code for the Masked Booby this change from Branta canadensis to Branta hutchinsii has not yet been made!)

I think we now have to be aware of two species, each with subspecies. The larger sized Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) appears to have subspecies named B.c.occidentalis (Dusky Canada), B.c.maxima (Giant Canada), B.c.interior (Todd's Canada), and B.c.moffitti (Moffitt's Canada Goose). The smaller Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) has subspecies named Richardson's Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii hutchinsii), Aleutian Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii leucopareia), Small Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii minima) and one with no common name (Branta hutchinsii taverneri).

Wikipaedia says .. "The distinctions between these geese have led to a great deal of confusion and debate among ornithologists" but for my purposes I will continue to record under just two names - large birds as Canada Goose and small birds as Cackling Goose with the two small birds at Baffins going under the latter name when I have changed its scientific name from B.c.minima to Branta hutchinsii.

White-front Goose: Two Greenland birds were still in Dorset (near Puddletown) on Jan 7 but over on Sheppey in Kent a flock of 181 could be seen on Jan 5

Brent Goose: It seems there are nearly 4000 of these based around the mouth of Chichester Harbour - on Jan 12 the WeBS count at West Wittering recorded 2600 Brent (including a couple of Brent x Brant hybrids) while the equivalent count for south east Hayling found 1109 there.

Pale-bellied Brent: The birds that have been in the Weymouth area since Oct 19 seem to have moved west as on Jan 7 four birds were reported in the Burton Bradstock area (still there on Jan 10)

Brant: One remains a regular sight in the Chichester Harbour mouth area and another at Gosport seems to have moved from the HMS Sultan playing fields on the west side of Gosport to the mud of Portsmouth Harbour off Priddy's Hard (maybe it regularly moves between the two places depending on the state of the tide).

Red-breasted Goose: After the first report on Jan 1 of this bird coming to roost at night off south east Hayling (possibly in the Fishery Creek or Mengham Rithe area) it was seen to do so again on Jan 8. On Jan 12 it was seen on its return journey from the Hayling side to West Wittering - it seems that it usually pauses for up to an hour on the bank of shingle and mud lining the east side of the harbour entrance opposite Black Point both when moving west in the evenings and then east in the mornings, giving good opportunities to see it from the Hampshire side either in the first or last hour of daylight each day so long as the tide is not at its highest (and thus covering the mudbank) at those times

Pintail: A flock of 94 birds was in the Avon valley south of Ringwood on Jan 12, seen by John Clark when making the WeBS count - John comments that the low lying fields of the valley are just starting to flood and soon should be attracting vast numbers of wildfowl and waders

Pochard: Mike Collins recently reported (Dec 30) that a Pochard on Budds Farm pools had a plastic plate (with a unique id number on it) fixed to the top of its bill and there have been several similar reports in recent years. To find out more about the practice of fitting birds with these 'nasal saddles' go to http://pt-ducks.naturlink.pt/

Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid (or Fudge Duck): On Jan 13 one of these hybrids was on the Budds Farm pools associating with Pochards. Until Feb 2007 it was common to talk of 'the Fudge Duck', referring to a single male hybrid which had been coming back to the north of Langstone Harbour each winter since the autumn of 1999 (first seen 23 Nov 1999) when it was a juvenile/first winter bird. Last February however Jason Crook told me that a second female hybrid had joined the first, and I think the bird I saw on Jan 13 was the female (less colourful than the male). Another reason to be uncertain as to which bird we are seeing is that this winter there have been similar hybrids (two birds at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Oct 6 and 7 only - were those our two having got off course on their flight to the south coast? - and a single at Rye Harbour (referred to there as a Porruginous Duck) on Nov 24 and 25)

Long-tailed Duck: In addition to the regulars in Portland Harbour, at Rye Harbour and at Brooklands in Worthing, a new bird was seen on Jan 6 at the head of Southampton Water in the Eling Great Marsh area. Jan 12 brought a first sighting of one in Brands Bay, Poole Harbour (there were 5 in Poole Harbour on Dec 22, but no reports since then until now)

Smew: Still none further west than the Rye Bay area but the count at the Dungeness RSPB reserve was up to 18 (5 of them males) on Jan 12

Red Kite: Three were seen on Jan 6 in the area north of the Goodwood Trundle race course. In the north of Hampshire these birds are much more common - on Jan 12 there were at least 7, probably 13, in the Ashley Warren area east of the A34 and north of Whitchurch.

Marsh Harrier: On Jan 5 more than 20 could be seen over Sheppey looking from the Kent mainland coast and 11+ were in the Stour valley east of Canterbury on Jan 6

Sparrowhawk: On Jan 9 a pair were already displaying to each other in the Pulborough Brooks area

Buzzard: On Jan 7 I had an unexpected local sighting of one flying west over the Warblington farm fields at dusk - it went west of Pook Lane but may have been intending to roost in the tall Monterey Pines in the field boundary half way between Pook Lane and Wade Lane

White-tailed Sea Eagle: Still being seen in the Andover area on Jan 12

Peregrine: A large female was the 80th bird to go on my personal year list when I saw it perched on the ground at Gutner Point (East Hayling) on Jan 12 (from what I have heard from others who saw it it may have been eating prey)

Avocet: The wintering flock in the Swale estuary (north Kent alongside Sheppey) seems to have numbered 133 on Jan 10 but this is taken from the sum of two flocks reported the same day (if they were not different birds then the total is only 80)

Ringed Plover: The high tide roost at Black Point (Hayling) numbered 220 on Jan 12

Golden Plover: So far this winter the highest count of these along the south coast has been 1100 at Rye Harbour but on Jan 5 an estimated 5,000 to 10,000 could be seen over Sheppey

Sanderling: A good count of 245 in the Hayling Black Point high tide roost on Jan 11

Ruff: Four were seen on Amberley Wild Brooks on Jan 6 and maybe the same four were at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 9

Jack Snipe: Three were seen on Thorney Island on Jan 6 and another count of three came from the Wittering area on Jan 12

Black-tailed Godwit: Numbers remain low in Chichester Harbour but on Jan 12 Titchfield Haven had 326 and the Oare Marshes in north Kent had a flock of more than 500. At Pulborough Brooks the count on Jan 6 had increased to 42 (from 15 on Jan 1)

Whimbrel: The wintering bird is still in Pagham Harbour, getting its first mention for this year on Jan 8 (seen again on Jan 12). On Jan 1 one was seen in the Medina estuary on the IoW and on Jan 5 one was in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour

Spotted Redshank: The bird which had been a daily sight on the shore west of Emsworth at the end of last year is now elusive but was seen on Jan 6. One was seen on Thorney Island on Jan 6 with another seen at Church Norton on Jan 8

Sabine's Gull: The first and only sighting so far this year was an adult passing Dungeness on Jan 4

Ring-billed Gull: Still present at Gosport Cockle Pond on Jan 12

Iceland Gull: The Titchfield Haven bird had not been reported since Jan 5 until Jan 13 when two different birds were there - the 'regular' adult was in the reserve and an immature bird flew west along the coast

Glaucous Gull: The Shoreham Harbour bird has not been seen since Dec 29 but on Jan 6 one was seen passing Portland Bill

Kittiwake: On Jan 7 both Dungeness and Portland reported many flying west and on Jan 9 Durlston mentioned them passing there at the rate of 350 an hour. They were still going west in large numbers on Jan 10 and 11

Auks: On Jan 5 Dungeness reported 2550 passing there with other counts of 5000+ Guillemots on Jan 4, and 2600 on Jan 6, 1500 on Jan 7 and 4000+ on Jan 8 (mostly Guillemots and all flying west)

Stock Dove: A flock of 84 was in the Chilling area between Ttichfield and Warsash on Jan 12 (with some 5000 Woodpigeons) and one of 30+ was on the Sussex Downs above the R Arun on Jan 10

Collared Dove: A pair in a Burgess Hill garden (north of Brighton) had been sitting on a new nest for two days by Jan 6 - I think this is the same garden where a fresh broken egg was seen on the ground on Dec 23

Long-eared Owl: A single bird at Rye Harbour on Nov 9 seems to have been the only indication of wintering birds settled on our south coast at the end of last year so the presence of one at the Hastings Country Park on Jan 7 is of interest (though it may have been just an arrival from the continent pausing briefly - as several have done at Portland - rather than a bird intending to stay there)

Short-eared Owl: Two were still to be seen hunting the fields west of Pagham Harbour on Jan 6 and since then the number being reported has increased substantially with reports from five different sites on Jan 12 including 4 together on the Sussex Downs (at The Burgh above Amberley) and maybe 5 in the Ashley Warren area north of Whitchurch (are these birds moving north from the continent because they think spring is on the way? - among the reports there was one of two birds at Portland which might have arrived from the south)

Hoopoe: The Kingsley Common (east of Alton) bird was still there on Jan 11 but a sighting from nearby Broxhead Common (less than a mile south east of Kingsley Common) indicates that it is not tied to one spot.

Woodlark: First report of song for this year came from a Hampshire site on Jan 12

Shore Lark: The Rye Harbour bird was still there on Jan 12

Song Thrush: I have not heard one singing around my garden since Jan 1 but one was in full song in central Emsworth on Jan 8

Dartford Warbler: A pair were seen fairly regularly on Sinah Common (south Hayling) last summer and probably bred there so it is good to hear that a pair have been seen again there recently

Hume's Leaf Warbler: Still at the Beachy Head site on Jan 12

Firecrest: More than 3 were at Southampton Common on Jan 6 and one was seen at Church Norton on Jan 8 when two remained in Christchurch Harbour

Bearded Tit: Several were heard at the Thorney Deeps on Jan 6

Hooded Crow: A single Hooded Crow was among a flock of Carrion Crows on Sheppey on Jan 5 and at the nearby Oare Marshes on Jan 9

Brambling: 400+ could still be seen in the Cheesefoot Head area east of Winchester on Jan 6 and 200+ were still in the Badbury Rings area of Dorset on Jan 7. Good numbers were still in the Chichester West Dean Woods on Jan 11 and at least 49 were in the Chilling area near Warsash on Jan 12

Greenfinch: These remain distinctly scarce this winter so the sound of one trilling as it flew over Emsworth on Jan 8 was welcome (one had done the same over Havant on Jan 1)

Linnet: A flock of around 1000 birds was in the Chilling area near Warsash on Jan 12

Hawfinch: At least 16 were using the main roost in the New Forest on Jan 12, and 9 came to roost in the Chichester West Dean Woods on Jan 11 (3 were at the Romsey site on Jan 6)

Yellowhammer: A flock of around 12 birds was still in the Warblington Farm field behind Conigar Point on Jan 7 and 49 were in Hastings country park that day with 60 on the Downs above Worthing on Jan 8. Another flock of 22 was seen in north Solent farm fields between Calshot and Lepe on Jan 10

Corn Bunting: On Jan 9 a count of 32 was reported from Cheesefoot Head east of Winchester and by Jan 12 at least 52 were there. In Sussex some were singing on Jan 10

Escapees: A Hooded Merganser was on the River Stour in Dorset on Jan 9

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

The only insect sightings in the latest news are of one Red Admiral seen on the Sussex Downs (Bignor area) on Jan 6 with two Peacocks seen the same day at Wiggonholt Common (Pulborough) and Newhaven

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

By Jan 13 I had recorded a total of 54 plant species in flower during January, with 49 of them seen by myself

Lesser Celandine: The first sign of these becoming a widespread sight came on Jan 13 with many scattered along the edge of the Emsworth Road in Havant (and elsewhere)

Winter Aconite: A few were flowering in the Bishop's Palace garden at Chichester on Jan 8 - worth recording despite being planted there

Black Mustard: On Dec 15 I wrongly reported Sea Radish as having flower buds on the sea wall of Emsworth Marina but another look at the same plant on Jan 8 showed that the flowers (some of which had now turned to seed) were on a plant of Black Mustard growing up through the large leaves of several Sea Radish plants

Wild Radish: A flowering bush of this was a surprise find in the Warblington Farm field behind Conigar Point on Jan 7

Common Whitlowgrass: This started to flower beside Waterloo Road in Havant on Jan 10

Sweet Violet: Three flowers were visible in St Faith's churchyard in Havant on Jan 8 with one or two more seen on plants beside the path running along the north side of Nore Barn woodland at Emsworth

Field Pansy: A much larger than usual plant of this (with correspondingly large flowers) was seen in the Warblington Farm field on Jan 7

Corn Spurrey: Also in the Warblington field on Jan 7 was a substantial 'bush' of this with many fresh (though closed) flowers

Yellow-flowered Strawberry (Duchesnea indica): I had seen this in flower in Havant during December but had not been able to name it then. On Jan 13, however, I did realise what it was - see my Diary entry for Jan 13 for more detail

Spurge Laurel: This had open flowers on plants in Markwells Wood (north of Finchdean and west of Forestside) on Jan 10

Grey Alder: Catkins were open on these trees above the Lavant stream running through Havant on Jan 12

Strawberry Tree: The tree by Slipper Road at Emsworth still had a few white flowers on Jan 8

Wild Primrose: I found an single genuine wild flower in the ditch beside Daw Lane on Hayling on Jan 11 (others had been found in flower as early as last November)

Hawkweed Oxtongue: Brian Fellows found this still flowering on Portsdown on Jan 9

Garden Daffodils: My first sight of these came on Jan 13 but others have been seen in December

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: First report of the year from the Chichester Harbour colony - just one seen off West Wittering on Jan 12

Hare: Also first report for the year - one seen on the Sussex Downs in the area known as 'The Burgh' above the R Arun south of Amberley

Frog: Brian Banks reports on the Rye Bay website (Jan 10) that both male and female Frogs are starting to return to his garden pond in Northiam near Rye - he gives id tips on separating males from females by the colour of their throat and belly (females yellowish, males whitish)

Common Newt: Brian Banks also tells us that on the night of Jan 10 the number of these Newts in his garden pond had suddenly increased to 9 from the 4 which had already been there for some time

Fungi: On Jan 12 I visited the Eastern Road cemetery in Havant and found a massive ring of around 50 good specimens of Field Blewit on display (just over the Eastern Road boundary wall and not far west of the main entrance gate)


Summary for Dec 31 - Jan 6 (Week 0 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

New Year's Day bird races: From the news I have seen so far it seems that a new Hampshire record has been set by Steve Keen who ticked 111 species on New Year's Day (not perhaps a day list record compared to totals that are achieved in May and approach 150 but probably the most that has ever been achieved in the short daylight hours and cold conditions of New Year's Day). John Norton and Peter Raby together also beat the 100 mark with 103, and on the Isle of Wight Derek Hale scored 93. The highest scores I have seen claimed by Sussex teams are 85 and 81 respectively but I am pretty sure these will be beaten by others in that county.

Red-throated Diver: 60 were seen in Rye Bay on Dec 30 and 5 flew past Sandy Point (Hayling) on Jan 1. By Jan 5 larger numbers were being reported from Dorset with 20 seen at Christchurch and 13 passing Portland

Black-throated Diver: One was off Selsey Bill on Jan 1 and two were in Portland Harbour (still there on Jan 5)

Great Northern Diver: Andy Johnson has confirmed that at least one was in the Chichester Harbour entrance area throughout December with three there on Dec 17 and two on both Jan 1 and 5. On Jan 4 there were 10 in Portland Harbour

Great Crested Grebe: The 'raft' of these on the sea off Titchfield Haven which had first been noticed on Dec 23 with 43 birds in it had risen to 65 on Dec 26, 78 on Dec 30 and 83 on Dec 31. It is still growing with a total of 102 there on Jan 5 (99 in one flock plus three loners)

Slavonian Grebe: Andy Johnson reports that up to seven of these were in the Chichester Harbour entrance area throughout December and he had 3 there on Jan 1 with 5 seen there on Jan 5

Black-necked Grebe: 23 were seen off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Dec 31 and 22 were counted from Budds Mound on Jan 1 but I have no confirmation of a rumoured count of 28 in Langstone Harbour that day. In Dorset there were 15 in Studland Bay on Jan 4 with at least another 2 in Portland Harbour (3 there on Jan 5)

Fulmar: One was seen from Selsey Bill on Jan 1 when 25 were reported from Dungeness and 9 from Seaford

Sooty Shearwater: Autumn passage sightings of this species ceased after Nov 18 and the only report since then has been of one passing Sandy Point on Hayling on Dec 1 with another seen at Dungeness on both Jan 1 and 2

Balearic Shearwater: An isolated report of one from Selsey Bill on Jan 5 was the first that I have seen since one was at Portland on Dec 9

Shag: On Jan 6 the Durlston ranger's log commented on a Shag already showing its breeding crest

Bittern: Four were reported at Titchfield Haven on Dec 21 and on Jan 1 there was proof of two at the Blashford Lakes but at both sites you will be lucky to see even one of these elusive birds. Jan 5 brought the first report of one at Burton Mill Pond (west of Pulborough) while others remain at Radipole (Weymouth), Hatch Pond (Poole), and no doubt in the Rye area, at Dungeness and the Kent Stour Valley

Cattle Egret: It seems likely that there are still six in the Weymouth area, one at Harbridge (upstream of Ringwood), one at Lavant (Chichester) and one at Rodmell near Lewes. On Jan 5 what maybe another bird turned up at Coombe Haven (Bexhill west of Hastings)

Great White Egret: One continues to be regularly seen at the Blashford Lakes up to at least Jan 1 when there was a single report of one briefly by the Sussex Ouse near Southease (this one seen again at Piddinghoe on Jan 2 but not since)

Spoonbill: The half dozen birds that were in the Weymouth area up to Dec 24 have not been reported since (other than singles at Abbotsbury on Jan 1 and at Ferrybridge on Jan 4) but Jan 5 brought a report of 4 back in Poole Harbour. On Dec 30 there was an isolated report of one flying over the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood.

Bewick's Swan: No reports from the R Arun (where there had been 25 birds near the Wildfowl Trust reserve on Dec 26) until Jan 5 when 6 birds were seen there (Burpham area)

Pink-foot Goose: Two of these were seen by the River Avon on both the Dorset and Hampshire sides of the county boundary in the Avon Causeway area on Dec 31

White-front Goose: On Jan 1 a group of 8 flew over the Pulborough Brooks reserve but maybe they stayed in the area as on Jan 5 there is a report of 8 seen at Widney Brooks (the area west of the River Arun immediately north of Greatham Bridge, complementing Waltham Brooks which are south of the road to the bridge)

Pale-bellied Brent: The number in The Fleet at Weymouth was up to 5 on Jan 1

Red-breasted Goose: On Jan 1 the bird which is regularly seen by day at West Wittering flew west at dusk to roost off the east Hayling shore (I think in the Mengham Rithe area). It is still being seen daily at Wittering up to Jan 5 but seems to fly west at dusk to roost on the south east shore of Hayling.

Mallard: I watched a pair displaying to each other on Jan 1

Pintail: I only saw a single male in the Chalkdock area of Langstone Harbour on Jan 1 but along the coast at Hook (Warsash) 45 were present, probably in addition to 11 seen at Titchfield Haven on Dec 31

Pochard: On Dec 30 Mike Collins noted that a male among the birds on Budds Farm pools was fitted with a 'bill saddle' marker.

Ferruginous Duck: One arrived at Rye Harbour on Jan 4 and was still there on Jan 5 - comments are invited on the purity of its breeding.

Scaup: On Jan 1 the number at Abbotsbury in Dorset was up to 12 with another 10 still in Poole Harbour. One was at Normandy (Lymington) on Dec 31 but I think it left overnight and could not be found on Jan 1 - it may have flown to Poole Harbour where the total increased by one from 10 to 11 on Jan 5

Eider: The number on the sea off Titchfield Haven was up to 69 on Dec 31 (with 65+ being reported on Jan 1)

Long-tailed Duck: On Jan 1 one remained in Hove lagoon (Brighton), three were in Portland Harbour and five in Poole Harbour with one or two probably still present in the Rye Harbour area. Brian Fellows saw at least two (presumably part of the collection) at the Arundel reserve on Jan 1 and was fascinated to hear these two males 'howling like small dogs'. Since then the Hove bird has flown to Brooklands in Worthing (arrived there on Jan 5) and the number in Portland Harbour has increased from 3 to 4

Smew: One seen on Swanbourne Lake at Arundel on Jan 1 was probably part of the Wildfowl Trust collection which had flown over the fence - I have not heard of any Smew anywhere west of the Rye Bay area along the south coast this winter.

Red Kite: One was in the Chilgrove area north of Chichester on Jan 5

Marsh Harrier: A female was active in the northern part of Titchfield Haven on Jan 5 and another was seen at Rodmell near Lewes on Jan 2

Sparowhawk: These are adept at using their long legs to catch and kill prey hiding in crevices which the hawk is too big to enter and Jan 3 brought a good example of this in a description on Hoslist of how a Sparrowhawk caught, killed, and extracted a Greenfinch from within one of those metal cage 'Squirrel proof' bird feeders

White-tailed Sea Eagle: Still being seen in the Andover area on Jan 2

Peregrine: On Jan 1 one was perched on the nestbox on the chimney of the Shoreham power station - not sure if this was by chance or if it indicated the start of their breeding season

Water Rail: A bonus for my New Year's Day list was the sight of a Water Rail openly preening among the vegetation around Budds Farm pools - I watched it for at least a minute before it strode off purposefully into the surrounding cover. Brian Fellows has also seen a Water Rail by the Lumley stream at Emsworth on Jan 3.

Great Bustard: One of these (presumably a wanderer from Salisbury Plain) was seen in a field near the A35 in the Dorchester area on Dec 30. In Oct 2005 one of these wing-tagged birds caused a minor sensation by flying around the Portland Bill observatory at eye level while it was photographed - I think one or more escapees were in Dorset until March 2006 when they returned to Salisbury Plain.

Avocet: Six were in Pagham Harbour on Dec 30 but the only one I have seen claimed on New Year's Day was the single bird wintering in Christchurch Harbour - since then I have seen a report of 14 birds in the mouth of the Beaulieu River on both Dec 31 and Jan 1). On Jan 4 one was found at a new site (Fishbourne Channel near Chichester) and it was still there next day.

Golden Plover: The species was claimed as seen 'somewhere on Hayling Island' on New Year's Day when 25 were seen in the Medina estuary at Cowes (IoW). The count at Rye Harbour on Jan 2 was 1700, well exceeding this winter's previous peak count there (1100 on Dec 4)

Knot: Around 300 were seen in Pagham Harbour on Dec 29 and around 100 were in Newtown Harbour (IoW) on Jan 1 with at least one seen from Hayling

Sanderling: Jan 1 found an estimated count of 80 on the Ryde west sands (IoW) with some seen on Hayling

Purple Sandpiper: No Hampshire reports for Jan 1 but 8 were seen at Southsea Castle on Jan 3

Jack Snipe: Simon Ingram had one at Eastleigh Lakeside as an early Christmas present on Dec 24 when another was seen in the Worthing area (at Ferring Rife). Locally there was one in the Sandy Point area of Hayling on Dec 21

Black-tailed Godwit: As usual after Christmas some of these birds are moving from the coastal mud to wet grassland. On Dec 31 Titchfield Haven had 239 (not a significant increase as 400 had been there in November and 313 had been seen on Dec 23) but Pulborough Brooks (which had no more than 3 before Christmas) had 15 on Jan 1, 26 on Jan 2 and 41 on Jan 5. No news so far from the Avon Valley

Bar-tailed Godwit: One was seen in full summer plumage at West Wittering on Jan 1 and what may have been the same bird was at Titchfield Haven area on Jan 2 (I think it is not unknown for several wader species to have a genetic disorder which gives them summer plumage in the winter and non-breeding plumage in the summer)

Whimbrel: One wintering bird was in the Medina estuary at Cowes (IoW) on Jan 1 and another was in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour on Jan 5

Greenshank: One was seen in the Broadmarsh area of Langstone Harbour on Jan 1 but the only other reports of this species for 2008 are of a single in the Fishbourne Channel on Jan 4 and 5, and of two in Emsworth Harbour on Jan 4

Common Sandpiper: I failed to see the wintering bird when I was in the Broadmarsh-Budds Farm area on Jan 1 but Peter Raby confirms it was still there. Inland Dave Ryves had 3 of these Sandpipers at Curbridge on the River Hamble and the regular bird was still at Christchurch Harbour. On Jan 2 two Common Sandpipers were seen by the River Arun in the Ford area south of Arundel and on Jan 3 two were at the Lower Test (Southampton).

Pomarine Skua: Seven were seen at Dungeness on Jan 2 with singles there on Jan 1 and 3

Arctic Skua: Two seen at Dungeness on Jan 1 and 2 were the first to be reported anywhere since Dec 2

Great Skua: Dungeness also did well with these having 9 there on Jan 1

Med Gull: There were 118 at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) on Dec 30

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still at the Cockle Pond on Jan 1 and 3

Iceland Gull: The bird which returned to Titchfield Haven area on Dec 23 was still around on Jan 5 (but the Shoreham Harbour Glaucous Gull seems to have departed on Dec 29)

Kittiwake: This week has seen several large movements of seabirds in the English Channel including 820 Kittiwake at Dungeness on Jan 2 and 250 off Portland on Jan 4

Sandwich Tern: At least one was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour throughout December (with five seen from Black Point on Dec 8) and one was seen at West Wittering on Jan 4

Auk species: 4220 were recorded at Dungeness on Jan 2 and 1300 flew east off Worthing in 1 hour on Jan 3

Guillemot: More than 200 were on their breeding ledges at Durlston on Jan 6 - they have been there since the beginning of December

Razorbill: More than 300 flew past Portland on Jan 4

Barn Owl: One was hunting over the East Park at Stansted at 7:30am on Dec 24 and the latest news includes daytime sightings of these birds at Walland Marsh and Pannel Valley (both near Rye), Rye Harbour, Steyning Brooks on the R Adur and West Bexington near Weymouth. Following reports of late youngsters fledging in November I am not sure if these are young birds desperately trying to find food in order to survive or adults needing extra food as they come into breeding condition (or just generally hungry birds). As well as the weather Barn Owls often die from collisions with cars as the owls hunt roadside verges - a dead bird was found beside the A23 just north of Brighton on Jan 5

Long-eared Owl: With no Tawny Owls present on the Isle of Wight their niche is taken by Long-eared but there have been relatively few reports of them in the last few months. On Dec 30, however, a group of four were flushed by a Buzzard from cover on the hills south of Newport - presumably by day.

Short-eared Owl: Two could still be seen hunting over fields west of Pagham Harbour on Jan 1

Kingfisher: I had a good sighting of one flying up the Brockhampton stream (west of Budds Farm) on Jan 1 - unlike last winter there have been few sightings at Langstone Mill Pond (last report I have from there was on Nov 21)

Hoopoe: One which arrived at Kingsley Common (east of Alton) on Dec 24 was still being seen on Jan 5

Woodlark: Michael Prior tells us that a flock of 14 were feeding in stubble in the East Park fields at Stansted on Jan 1

Skylark: A flock of more than 100 were feeding in stubble near South Warnborough (near Hook in north Hampshire) on Jan 3

Shorelark: The Rye Harbour bird was still there on Jan 4

Black Redstart: One was seen at Portchester Castle on Jan 3

Stonechat: At least one was at the Langstone South Moors on Jan 2

Fieldfare: John Clark saw more than 600 come to a night roost in the Greywell area west of Fleet in north Hampshire on Dec 31

Mistle Thrush: I read on John Goodspeed's website that someone had seen "Redwings among Mistle Thrushes" in Staunton Country Park (north of Havant) on Jan 2 but have no further details - Mistle Thrushes are nowadays in very short supply and I have not yet seen one in the Havant area this year

Cetti's Warbler: One sang from the vegetation surrounding Budds Farm pools while I was there on Jan 1

Hume's Leaf Warbler: This rare vagrant is almost indistinguishable from a Yellow-browed Warbler except for a di-syllabic call which has the stress on the start rather than the end syllable. A bird generally agreed to be this species has been in the Horseshoe Plantation on Beachy Head from Dec 29 to Jan 5 at least

Firecrest: Several local reports - on Dec 24 Michael Prior had one in his Woodberry Lane garden at Rowlands Castle, on Dec 29 there were reports from the Fordwater Road area of Chichester and from Church Norton on Pagham Harbour, and on Jan 1 Mike Collins had one in the north of Stansted Forest close to the footpath entering the wood east of the road almost opposite Forestside Church.

Tree Creeper: I had good views of one in Stansted Forest on Jan 5

Jackdaw: More than 2150 birds came to a night roost in the Greywell area west of Fleet in north Hampshire on Dec 31 (some 3000 Starlings also came to roost there)

Brambling: Among several recent reports there is a claim of a 1000+ flock at Longwood Warren (east of Winchester) on Dec 24.

Greenfinch: As these are in very short supply at the moment I was pleased to hear one trilling as it flew over Havant on New Year's Day

Linnet: Dan Houghton reported a flock with more than 1100 birds seen in fields in the Chilling area between Titchfield and Hook on Dec 30 - John Clark commented that this would be the second largest flock recorded in Hampshire after one of 2000 birds seen at Morestead (Winchester area) in 1974

Twite: The last report I have seen of the Keyhaven area bird was dated Dec 30

Hawfinch: Four were seen at the Mercer's Way site in Romsey on Jan 3 and at least 7 were using the Rhinefield arboretum roost in the New Forest on Jan 2. Eight were seen in the Chichester West Dean Woods on Jan 5

Yellowhammer: Although these remain scarce in south east Hampshire there are two recent reports of flocks of 20 a little further north - in the Shalden area north west of Alton on Jan 2 and in the Greywell area west of Fleet on Dec 31

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Red Admiral: One seen at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Dec 30

Peacock: One seen at Mouth Harry (Lewes area) on Dec 26

Moths

Small Purple Flat-body (0691 - Agonopterix purpurea): This tiny micro is mostly seen in August and has not been recorded in Hampshire during winter months - that may be because it does not appear in outdoor moth traps at this time of year but one was found on Jan 2 by searching the inside walls of a cottage in Sussex.

Garden Cosmet (0892 - Mompha subbistrigella): - Also found indoors on cottage walls in Sussex on Jan 2

Light Brown Apple moth (0998 - Epiphyas postvittana): Four in a trap at Newhaven on Dec 31

December Moth (1631 - Poecilocampa populi): One at Haywards Heath on Dec 24 and another at Newhaven on Dec 31

Common Quaker (2187 - Orthosia stabilis): Perhaps the least expected species at this time of year (mainly seen in March and April) one was trapped in the Haywards Heath area on Dec 24

Other Insects

Liancalus virens: Sandstone rocks in the Hastings cliffs capture heat from the sun and create a warmer than average microclimate which is also wet from rain percolating through the porous rock. Andy Phillips of the Hastings Country Park wrote (entry for Jan 2 on the RX website) .. "This probably accounts for the amount of invertebrate life on the wing here recently, providing prey for a small number of black redstarts, pied wagtails and grey wagtails wintering on the undercliff. The most notable species on the wing has been the scarce fly Liancalus virens. This colourful fly lives amongst the mosses, liverworts and algae growing under and beside waterfalls and fast running water. The species is very common beside the Ecclesbourne waterfall where the Ecclesbourne stream falls over the cliff edge onto the beach, but can be very difficult to find anywhere else in Sussex". This fly is one of the Long-legged (Dolichopid) Flies which look slightly like Mosquitos.

Shore Ant (Temnothorax albipennis): It was assumed that this rare species living on the shingle at Dungeness would be hibernating at this time but when a Sea Kale stem was blown from the beach against a fence on Jan 5 the stem broke and revealed active (if sluggish) ants within - they are clearly able to survive hard frost but have little defence against gales blowing away their homes

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

A total of 26 species seen in flower so far this year. Not counted or listed below is Common Whitlowgrass which has white flower buds about to open on one of the plants in Waterloo Road, Havant, on Jan 6

Hairy Buttercup: A surprise find on the last day of 2007 was a single plant of Hairy Buttercup flowering in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Dec 31

Sticky Mouse-ear: Flowering in Havant on Dec 31

Musk Mallow: A couple of plants still flowering in Marlborough Park (Denvilles area of Havant) on Dec 31

Goat Willow: At the Arundel Wildfowl Reserve on Jan 1 Brian Fellows noted that some of the Willows had lost the brown leathery outer cover of their flower buds to reveal the silky white hairs which form a secondary cover to the 'Pussy Paw' catkins which will start to open on some trees during January

Fools Parsley: Also flowering in Marlborough Park on Dec 31

Stone Parsley: One or two white flowers found on a plant in a sheltered situation on the Emsworth west shore on Jan 5

Angelica: Two plants in full flower at the Arundel Wildfowl Trust reserve on Jan 1 were the best find of the New Year so far

Primrose: Flowers were out on wild plants in woodland at Durlston country park on Jan 1

Wood Sage: A very few flowers still to be found on one plant in Stansted Forest on Jan 5

Water Forget-me-not: Several plants flowering by the Langbrook stream in Havant on Jan 1 (by the water wheel immediately north of the A27)

Creeping Comfrey: A garden flower but its first flowers of the year were a welcome sight in Havant on Jan 2. Another garden flower also seen for the first time on Jan 2 was Lungwort

Sea Aster: A single plant in full flower on Jan 2 at the Langstone South Moors where sea water seeps out of the concrete cover to the old sewage pipe

Giant Butterbur: Not yet in flower but plenty of developing plants at the Langstone site by the Langbrook stream on Jan 2

OTHER WILDLIFE

Wild Goat: I occasionally see references to these in the Isle of Wight news as I think several roam the open areas of the south coast of the Island but I was surprised to see a photo of two Goats which appeared on the Portland website on Jan 1. I have never been sure of the origin and exact species of the IoW animals but we are told told that those on Portland are a small herd of British Primitive Goats that were released there last year to exercise natural scrub control (which they are good at). Enquiring via Google I found a web page for a British Feral Goat Research Group and on it I read - "The British Primitive Goat (a feral goat with no modern goat blood in it) is now one of our rarer breeds. All our domestic breeds of today are descended from foreign imports, and our primitive breed would have died out completely but for the fact that some escaped or were turned loose on the hills to run wild. But having all died out in domestication our feral population has been in decline for some time. Recent large culls (eg circa 1,200 in Galloway) have seen numbers drop dramatically. Known introgression with modern breeds has spoiled some herds. The number of true British Primitive Goats has therefore been severely reduced (possibly to circa 1,500). Urgent action is needed to protect, preserve and promote what is rapidly becoming a remnant of our Primitive breed".


To see Summaries for October to December 2007 go to OCT-DEC SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for July to Sept 2007 go to JUL-SEP SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for April to June 2007 go to APR-JUN SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for Jan, Feb and Mar 2007 go to JAN-MAR SUMMARIES


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