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WEEKLY SUMMARIES FOR 2009


Summary for Mar 30 - Apr 5 (Week 13 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

First reports of summer migrants this week include Honey Buzzard, Stone Curlew, Cuckoo (?), Common Redstart, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Subalpine Warbler, Common Whitethroat and Pied Flycatcher

A vagrant which may have been an Imperial Eagle over the Isle of Wight directed my attention to some interesting comments on the status of the species (some from HOS - the Hellenic Ornithological Society) and this led on to recently expressed thoughts about the effect of wind turbines on birds (do they really kill a million bird a year in Spain?). Also maybe of interest are reports of Jays imitating cats in their spring song and of the first Peregrine egg having been laid

This week has brought the first dragonfly of the year and two new butterflies (Grizzled Skipper and Green Hairstreak) as well as news of moths, caterpillars and hoverflies

A dozen new flowering plants range from Early Spider Orchid, Early Gentian and Spring Sedge (which few will see) to the Garlic Mustard and Bracken leaves which no one can avoid.

Other Wildlife also has some interest ranging from 'Who killed the Mole?' to 'Are uncontrolled dogs killing deer in the Hollybank Woods?' and if you are not into guessing games then news of a Grass Snake hunting Great Crested Newts long after dark will give you a fact to interest fellow drinkers at your local (well maybe!)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Manx Shearwater: No more than four have been reported in any of the 7 sightings off the Dorset coast since the first was seen at Portland on Mar 21 but in Devon more than 50 were seen off Prawle Point on Mar 29

Cormorant: The continental race (sinensis) of Cormorant is now said to be commoner in Britain than our British race birds and it chooses to nest in trees where our Bristish birds generally nest on cliffs. I was reminded of both points when I read of a 'new' Cormorant nest site at Knepp Castle (Horsham area of Sussex) where 11 birds were seen in trees on Mar 31 with at least one pair having a nest.

Bittern: Single late winter birds were seen at Dungeness RSPB on Apr 3 and at Rye Harbour on Apr 4

Cattle Egret: The small new colony which I think bred last year is again present in Cornwall with at least 9 birds in the Hayle estuary area on the north coast

Little Egret: On Mar 30 I had the impression that three pairs had already started nest building at Langstone pond and on Apr 2 my impression was of four pairs at potential nests. There is also an intriguing report of one in breeding plumage at the Warnham Mill Pond nature reserve at Horsham on Apr 2 while the arrival of one at Portland on Apr 4 shows that some are still reaching us from the continent

Great White Egret: The number in Holland seems to be decreasing (max count of 4 at a Dutch site on Mar 31) while the arrival of one at Sandwich Bay coming in off the sea on Apr 3 may show that others are also heading our way.

Purple Heron: The first mention of this species for the year to my knowledge was of one at a Dutch site on Mar 13, then on Mar 29 one bird was seen in Cornwall and two more were reported in Holland on Mar 31 so maybe more will soon cross the channel.

Spoonbill: The bird which turned up at Farlington Marshes Deeps on Mar 25 had moved to the main lake on Mar 29 but then I think returned to The Deeps where it was still present on Apr 4. Seven were still together in Poole Harbour on Mar 29 when one appeared in the Cuckmere Valley. On Apr 4 two new birds arrived at Rye Harbour.

Mute Swan: I was surprised to find a pair had settled down to nest in the 'Corn Wharf' on the Brockhampton Stream when I was there on Mar 30. Several years ago a pair also built a nest here but easy access to it along the far bank of the stream resulted in the nest being destroyed by vandals - I hope the current nest is more successful.

Whooper Swan: The single bird which is said to have been on the Test at Romsey all winter but which has only just come to the notice of Hampshire birders was being seen in the Saddlers Mill area on Mar 29 - this area can be reached from the centre of Romsey by following a road called The Meads south west from the Abbey or by the Test Way on the west bank of the river a short distance north of the A27. This Romsey bird was still there on Apr 3 and by then it seemed likely that it was injured (it has difficulty in walking and grazes from the sitting down positon) and so may be forced to stay there.

Black Swan: On Apr 1 four were present at West Ashling pond (west of Chichester) and were thought to be an established pair with a couple of their offspring still with them.

White Front Goose: Large numbers are still moving north through Holland - 1513 were counted on Mar 30 and 3144 on Mar 31

Brent Goose: Although most birders visiting the Solent Harbours will currently get the impression that all the Brent have left there are still some migrants passing through. On Mar 30 there were 64 at Keyhaven and some 40 in the Broadmarsh area of Langstone Harbour. On Mar 31 there were 167 in the Titchfield Haven area and 76 at Christchurch Harbour with more than 30 flying east past Seaford in Sussex, but the only birds I could find in Langstone Harbour that day were 11 near The Kench (two parties of 5 and 6 birds that may well be intending to stay the summer). Latest reports of migrants are of 620 going east in the Beachy Head area on Apr 4 when 185 were seen passing Selsey Bill and 11 flew east out of the Solent

Egyptian Goose: A pair had 8 Goslings at Petworth on Mar 15 and now a pair has been seen with six tiny goslings at Eversley gravel pits on the Hants/Berks border on Apr 2

Wigeon: 39 still present at Hook/Warsash on Apr 3

Gadwall: On Mar 30 just one pair was left at the Budds Farm pools and on Apr 3 a single departing bird paused on the sea off Sandy Point (Hayling)

Teal: Also on Mar 30 there were only 11 in the Langstone area though Mar 31 found 22 in Nutbourne Bay (east of Emsworth) and on Apr 2 the flood on the Wade Court meadow at Langstone had 24 birds bathing in the fresh water before continuing their journey.

Pintail: A group of 4 were seen on the Thorney Island Great Deeps on Apr 2

Garganey: These have been seen at seven sites in southern England this week with up to three birds at one site (Titchfield Haven) and pairs at Longham Lakes on the north fringe of Bournemouth and at the Dungeness RSPB reserve

Ring-necked Duck: The female was still in the Swineham area of Poole Harbour on Apr 4 but on Mar 31 the male at Frithend in east Hampshire had moved to the Frensham ponds in Surrey (and has not been reported since)

Scaup: One was still being seen at Titchfield Haven on Apr 3

Eider: 11 were on the sea off the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Apr 3 but I guess these were passing birds hoping to find a crab in the shallow water of the harbour mouth before continuing their journey

Long-tailed Duck: A passing bird was seen from Birling Gap on Beachy Head on Apr 4 but the last reportof the pair at Mill Rythe on the east of Hayling Island was on Apr 2. Regarding this last pair (which have been reported there since Jan 18) I have been puzzled by the fact that many of the reports come from observers at Black Point from which you cannot see into the bay on whose southern shore is the Mill Rythe Holiday Camp. I have always thought of this bay as Mill Rythe and never bothered to check with the OS map - having done so I see that Mill Rythe is properly the name of the deep water channel branching west from the Emsworth Channel and effectively ending where it reaches the entrance to the 'bay' at the southern tip of the Gutner Point saltings. As you can see this channel both from Black Point to the south and from the east end of the southern shore of the 'bay' I now realise that there is no discrepancy in the validity of sightings from both places.

Velvet Scoter: Two flew east past Selsey Bill on Mar 29 and one went past Dungeness on Mar 30 - possibly the last of the winter.

Honey Buzzard: First report of one for this year came from the Isle of Wight where one flew over Shalfleet on Apr 3

Red Kite: The area in which these are seen roaming the skies seems to be extending further southward from the Chilterns - this week there were sightings of three south of the A303 at Andover, near Fawley in the New Forest, and another over the Hayling Oysterbeds on Apr 4

Hen Harrier: One was still being seen in the Sussex Ouse valley north of Lewes up to Apr 4

Imperial Eagle??: An eagle was reported over Brighstone on the IoW on Apr 2 and there was another sighting in the Ventnor area on Apr 4 when it was tentatively identified as an Imperial Eagle. Checking the status of the species on the internet I first read dire reports of its greatly endangered status throughout Europe in an article published by HOS (not the Hampshire but the Hellenic Ornithological Society) but then read a piece in a UK publication called Science Daily (http://www.sciencedaily.com/ ), written on Apr 1 2009 (hopefully not an April Fool piece) saying .. "Imperial Eagle Numbers Have Increased Six-fold In Spain. Despite being one of the most threatened species on the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN)'s red list, the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) is recovering in Spain. The species has undergone an increase from 38 pairs in 1974 to 253 in 2008, data viewed as hopeful by the scientists who carried out the demographic study on the Iberian Peninsula." It goes on to say .. "Some of the most important reasons behind the failure of the Spanish imperial eagle (Aquila adalberti) to increase its numbers have been premature adult deaths resulting from electrocution on electricity lines and the consumption of poisons used to control predators."

This is probably a good place to mention another report brought to the attention of HOSLIST readers on Apr 4 by John Clark. The original can be seen at http://www.iberica2000.org/documents/EOLICA/EN_ESPANOL/SEO_Directrices_Eolicos_2009.pdf but John has given us a summary of the main points which include the suggestion that .. "Spanish wind farms may be killing up to 1,000,000 birds a year" and offers as evidence .. "Spain has over 670 wind farms and 16,000 wind turbines. .. Bird mortality varies betwen 0.63 and 10 birds per turbine per year in the US ( National Wind Coordinating Committee, 2004 )" but the rate is as high as 64.26 at the El Perd wind farm in Spain. The paper goes on to give some examples which include .. "(i) At the Altamont Pass wind farm, California, the death of 30-40 golden eagles is registered yearly, i.e. 42% of the deaths of golden eagles in the area ( Hunt, 2002 ). (ii) In the province of Soria, Spain, 143 griffon vultures have been killed in one year at 15 wind farms. This amounts to 0.31 vulture per turbine, or 226 vultures for the 732 wind turbines of the Province. ( my comment : for the 16,000 Spanish wind turbines the total would be 4,960 vultures a year.)" John goes on to express his disapproval of what he states to be the RSPB policy of encouraging the building on wind farms ...

Osprey: 19 new reports this week include Barry Collins first sight of one at Thorney Island on Mar 31 (another sighting of one over the Pilsey area was made on Apr 4 from Black Point on Hayling) and the sighting of one flying north east over the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 30

Peregrine: The first egg was laid in the nest box on the Sussex Heights tower block in Brighton on Apr 2 and during the week there was a short piece on the TV News showing the birds at Chichester cathedral and the setting up of the webcam there for this year's viewing.

Grey Partridge: On Apr 2 two were seen in the Eames Farm field on the north side of the Thorney Great Deeps seen from the west seawall.

Stone Curlew: One party of birders who set out to look for this species at a well known Hampshire site last week end were disappointed but they might do better next weekend as there has been one reported sighting from the Thanet area of Kent on Mar 30 and another landed at Dungeness on Apr 3.

Golden Plover: Five reports of birds still heading north this week include a flock of 210 on Gander Down east of Winchester on Apr 3

Purple Sandpiper: 11 seen at Southsea Castle on Mar 29 with 12 at Brighton Marina on Mar 30 but the only April report so far is of 2 in the Folkestone area on Apr 2 (last year the last two were seen at Southsea on May 19)

Black-tailed Godwit: Brian Fellows was pleased to find 380 of these in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Mar 31 - as there have been few seen in Langstone or Chichester Harbours recently this large number was unexpected but may reflect a coastal movement (on Mar 28 there was another unexpected large count of 417 at the Keyhaven Marshes). On Mar 29 Steve Copsey photographed one of 44 birds in the Hook/Warsash area and asked for any expert to comment on his vew that that bird was one of the Icelandic subspecies - so far as I know no one has done so but my un-educated view is that the great majority of the birds wintering in Hampshire (if not all of them) are of the Icelandic subspecies and I see this opinion is supported by Birds of Hampshire. It is also I think well supported by the ringing of birds at their nests in Iceland and then finding them back at Hampshire sites after the breeding season.

Whimbrel: More evidence of early passage birds comes from Kent (where a party of 6 flew in off the sea in the Thanet area on Mar 27). This week one flew west along the north Kent coast on Mar 29, calling as it went, and on that same day two had turned up at the Cuckmere Valley near Beachy Head. There was also one at a Dutch site on Mar 28. Latest reports include one heading north up the Avon valley over the Blashford Lakes on Mar 30, then sightings in Poole Harbour on Apr 2 and 4 when one flew past Selsey Bill (going west so maybe not a migrant)

Common Sandpiper: John Clark saw one at the Eversley gravel pits (Hants/Berks border) on Apr 4 - he does not suggest it was a migrant but these will soon be arriving.

Arctic Skua: Spring passage seems to have started on Apr 4 with three reports from the Sussex coast (including 10 past Birling Gap on Beachy Head)

Med Gull: The gravel pit lakes at Badminston Common near Fawley recorded a peak count of 554 Med Gulls present on Apr 1 - this is not a breeding site and is thought to be attractive as a source of fresh water for bathing to birds in Southampton Water (peak counts at the pits seem to co-incide with the times of high water on the sea)

Lesser Black-back Gull: Large numbers of Scandinavian birds are now returning to their breeding sites - major passage probably started on Mar 29 when one Dutch site reported 1181 birds passing, then on Apr 2 1088 went over one Dutch site and 1286 over another

Iceland Gull: The Dungeness bird was still there on Apr 3 and a couple of other transient birds have been reported with one seen flying out of Chichester Harbour on Mar 31 and another flying east past Worthing onApr 3

Kittiwake: One Mar 31 these were said to be present 'in abundance' at the nesting cliff in the Seaford area of Sussex where some had been reported on Mar 29

Sandwich Tern: I have not yet heard of any in Langstone Harbour but on Mar 30 one was seen fishing in the harbour entrance near the Hayling ferry.

Common Tern: The first report of one going east past Selsey Bill was on Mar 22 with 6 passing Cap Gris-Nez on Mar 24 and one being seen in Holland on Mar 31. April 3 brought sightings of two at Dungeness and on Apr 4 one landed on one of the scrape islands at Titchfield Haven and three 'Commic Terns' were seen at Seaford.

Cuckoo: The first is reported as being heard at Folkestone on Mar 31 (nothing since!) and the Great Spotted Cuckoo which arrived in Cornwall on Mar 22 was still being seen near St Just on Apr 2

Short-eared Owl: These are still moving north - 3 arrived at Portland on Apr 3 and 2 were hunting over the Barton-on-sea golf course on Apr 4

Common Swift: None in England but it is encouraging to see a first report of them on the Trektellen website - on Mar 30 a site in southern Spain reported 575 Swifts passing over.

Swallow: Quite a few of these are now in southern England - on Mar 29 Portland reported more than 200 arriving and on Mar 31 one was back at the stables where it will nest in Sussex

House Martin: No large numbers but by Mar 31there had been 16 reports potentially referring to 27 birds including one at Ivy Lake in Chichester and one in Romsey, both on Mar 29

Tree Pipit: On Apr 3 one was seen at Sandy Point on Hayling

Meadow Pipit: One was singing at the Langstone South Moors on Mar 30

Yellow Wagtail: A very early bird was in the Cuckmere Valley on Mar 14, then one turned up at Portland on Mar 17 and on Mar 29 one was seen at Reculver on the north Kent coast (with two there on Mar 31). I have now seen nine reports of sightings in southern England with a count of 6 together at Reculver on the north Kent coast on Apr 4 (an overshooting European race Blue-headed Wagtail was with them)

Waxwing: I thought we had heard the last of these for this winter on Mar 7 but maybe we are now seeing a few stragglers coming north after wintering on the continent. There was a party of 8 at Titchfield Common on Mar 25, then Mar 31 brought two reports (5 birds back at Goring rail station near Worthing and a single bird in the Thanet area of Kent)

Common Redstart: First of the year was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 30, then on Apr 2 one reached Durlston and on Apr 3 they were seen at six sites including Sandy Point on Hayling and Denny Wood in the New Forest. Apr 4 brought them to 8 sites including the Botley Woods north of Fareham and Farlington Marshes with 3 at Sandy Point on Hayling.

Ring Ouzel: Although one or two arrived in the second half of March more birds have been seen in the first four days of April than were seen in March but so far none have reached Hampshire

Grasshopper Warbler: One was heard in Devon on Mar 29 and another was at Selsey Bill on Apr 4 (heard reeling in the Bill House garden right behind the beach on which the seawatchers assemble)

Sedge Warbler: The first was at Dungeness on Mar 30 and by Apr 4 they had been recorded at six sites including Fishlake Meadows at Romsey and the Testwood Lakes near Southampton

Reed Warbler: Only one report so far - a bird singing at the Testwood Lakes on Apr 2

Subalpine Warbler: A singing male was at Porthgwarra in Cornwall on Apr 2

Common Whitethroat: Two reports of single birds on Apr 4, one at Birling Gap (Beachy Head) and the other at Christchurch Harbour.

Blackcap: One of the first migrants to arrive was at Sandy Point on Hayling on Mar 19. By now they are everywhere - locally Brook Meadow at Emsworth had its first on Apr 2 and there were at least six in the Emsworth Hollybank Woods on Apr 4 while a silent male was in my Havant garden on Apr 5 showing its grey plumage and glossy black cap to advantage among brilliant white plum blossom.

Willow Warbler: Portland had a fall of 200 on Apr 3 and Christchurch Harbour had 360 on that same morning. They must have come in on a broad front on the previous night as Martin Hampton heard one singing behind the Waitrose store in Havant early that morning before catching the train to Portsmouth where he heard another. Among many other places to record them on Apr 3 Sandy Point on Hayling had 4 and the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood had 7.

Pied Flycatcher: First and so far only arrival was a male at Christchurch Harbour on Apr 4

Willow Tit: An anonymous report of one in the Fishlake Meadows at Romsey on Mar 31

Jay: As with other members of the Crow family Jays can make a range of sounds and sometimes imitate other birds but the 'meeow' calls heard at Titchfield Haven on Apr 1 were thought to be neither an April Fool report nor the imitation of a cat but part of the normal spring song of the Jay species (I have heard reports of this in previous years)

Rook: On Mar 31 Brian Fellows found a large rookery which I was not previously aware of - he counted 266 nests in trees lining the road to Chichester immediately east of East Ashling village, and returning to this site on Apr 1 he increased his count to 287

Carrion Crow: Flocks of 100 or more are not uncommon at coastal sites but on Apr 3 I see that John Clark had flock of more than 150 at the Sandhurst sewage works on the Hants/Berks border.

Linnet: It may be that more of these are now returning to southern England after wintering on the continent - on Apr 2 Christchurch Harbour logged 106 passing through with another 135 there next day

Redpoll. A relatively very large and pale coloured bird which has been seen for some time on feeders at the Blashford Lakes reserve is now thought to be of a Greenland based 'rostrata' subspecies which was previously considered as never seen in Hampshire. Further disproof of this assumption comes from Romsey were several more birds which seem to be of the same race have been trapped.

Bullfinch: Further indications of these being semi-migratory come from the arrival of 12 at Durlston on Mar 22 and of single birds at Portland on the last few days

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies:

Large Red Damselfly: First of the year seen on Apr 2 at Peter Pond in the area of Farlington Marshes north of the A27

Butterflies

Grizzled Skipper: First for the year at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Mar 30 with another at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on Apr 4

Green Hairstreak: First seen at Magdalen Hill Down on Apr 4

Moths

Pale Flat-body (0700 Agonopterix pallorella): First of year seen at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Apr 4

Emperor Moth (1643 Saturnia pavonia): A male was seen flying in the Thanet area of Kent on Mar 30 to be first for the year (males fly by day seeking the females which skulk under cover but presumably attract the males with pheremones)

Double-striped Pug (1862 Gymnoscelis rufifasciata): The first of these was also in the Thanet area, trapped on Mar 30

Lead-coloured Drab (2185 Orthosia populeti): First of year seen on Mar 29 at Stoke village on Hayling Island

Dotted Chestnut (2260 Conistra rubiginea): First seen in the Lindfield area of Haywards Heath on Mar 25

Caterpillars

Red Admiral: Many of this years first caterpillars were already in their 'tents' on nettles at Rookley (Isle of Wight) on Mar 28

Scarlet Tiger moth: Caterpillars seen on Forget-me-not plants in the St Cross area of Winchester (by the River Itchen) on Mar 30

Garden Tiger moth: First 'woolly bear' caterpillars seen in the Newhaven area on Mar 30

Other Insects

Bee Flies: One of the common Bee Flies was in my Havant garden on Mar 30 and as many as 12 were seen on Chalton Down (north of Rowlands Castle) on Apr 2, Dotted Bee Flies were out in the Rye Bay area on Mar 31

Hover Flies: The Marmelade hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) was active in Havant on Apr 1. On Apr 5 I saw another medium sized hoverfly in my garden which I thought might be Myathropa florea but on checking I found that this species is not normally out until May and that it not only has the yellow abdomen with lateral black stripes across it (and one short longitudinal black stripe connecting the front two lateral ones) but it also has a distinctive 'Batman logo' on its thorax so the fly I saw was almost certainly Syrphus ribesii which comes out in April, is very common, and has a plain black thorax.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Bracken: First fronds (still unfurled) had pushed up on Hayling Island on Apr 2

Bulbous Buttercup: Although this had been found flowering in the Portsmouth area on Mar 18 my first find of a clump in full flower at Havant on Apr 1 was a real sign of spring

Eastern Rocket: A few plants were flowering on Mar 31 close to the ice-cream kiosk at the entrance to the Langstone Harbour entrance carpark on Hayling

Garlic Mustard: Another real sign of spring was a cluster of these plants in flower on Apr 1 alongside the main road into Havant from the A27

Sticky Mouse-ear: First flowers open in Havant on Apr 4

Sea Mouse-ear: Plenty of this flowering on Sinah Common (south Hayling) on Mar 31

Spring Beauty: A surprise find under the Tamarisks alongside the Langstone Harbour entrance near Gunner Point on Mar 31 - millions of plants present in leaf but just one small clump had come into early flowering

Herb Robert: My first sight of the flowers of this plant for the year came in St Faith's churchyard in central Havant on Apr 1

Early Gentian: This had started to flower at Durlston on Apr 1 (and so may be expected at Noar Hill)

Bugle: Reported flowering in Havant Thicket on Apr 2

Field Forget-me-not: Plants in flower in the Denvilles area of Havant on Apr 4 (distinctly smaller than the escaped version of the garden cultivar of Wood Forget-me-not which has been out everywhere for some time)

Early Forget-me-not: A good show of these in the short grass of the roundabout east of the Ferry Inn on south Hayling on Mar 31 though you have to be on the grass and look down carefully before you can spot these tiny flowers

Spring Starflower: I had seen these flowering in gardens for a week or more before I found the established south Hayling colony of garden escapes flowering on Sinah Common (across the road from the south end of Staunton Avenue) on Mar 31

Early Spider Orchid: The first flowers had appeared at Durlston on Apr 1

Spring Sedge: Last year I discovered this on one grave in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery and it was flowering there agan on Apr 3 (the name on the tombstone is Shepheard making me wonder if he was a shepherd and had downland turf placed on his grave!)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Fox: Among others appreciating the improvement in the weather on Mar 30 was a Fox seen sunbathing in the Wade Court south meadow within yards of a few late Teal also dozing around the flooded area.

Fallow Deer: When Brian Fellows visited the Longcopse Hill area of the Hollybank Woods (north of Emsworth) on Apr 4 he saw 10 Fallow Deer in or near the thick birch scrub which has grown up in an area that was cleared of mature trees some years ago. This has become a haven for the deer and some may even use it to give birth to their fawns in June. I have noticed that the paths used by the deer to squeeze between the birches (which were almost impenetrable to humans) now seem broader - maybe just because there are no leaves on the trees but maybe because people have started to use them. Brian also commented that the paths leading to the 'orchid area' seem to be inceasingly used by people and dogs and that on this visit he saw a group of dogs running wild, one of them with what might have been part of a deer's leg in its mouth. Just one more example of the ever increasing pressure from humans on the wildlife around them ...

Mole: A freshly dead mole was found in Brook Meadow on Apr 2 but no cause of death was given - maybe natural causes (old age) but maybe it had been killed by a Fox or Cat and then left as unedible? or maybe it had been poisoned? In dry hot summers when the worms go deep and the uppper levels in which Moles dig their tunnels become baked hard it is not uncommon to find dead Moles in a dessicated condition but apparently this one looked to be in good condition.

Water Vole: One was seen at Brook Meadow this week to come face to face with a Moorhen - both decided that caution was the best policy and retreated!

Hare: Two reports this week - one of several seen in the Martin Down area but of much more interest to me was a sighting of 3 Hares in the field south of the Little Deeps on Thorney Island where it is years since I used to see them regularly in the Eames Farm field north of the Great Deeps

Frog: On Mar 28 the Havant Wildlife Group watched Tadpoles emerging from spawn at Creech Woods south of Denmead

Great Crested Newts and Grass Snake: Another interesting item on the Rye Bay website - after dark on the evening of Apr 3 Brian Banks visited the pools in pits at Lade (between Rye and Dungeness) using a torch to check on the Great Crested Newt population. He found 115 of the Newts but also had the surprising sight of an active Grass Snake in the water and hunting the same Newts - the snake must have a good system of 'batteries' to store the energy derived from sunlight during the day in order to have the energy to catch its prey in cool water long after sunset.

Common Lizard: Several of these were seen in Havant Thicket on Apr 2 by Ashley Whitlock when he was there in search of butterflies


Summary for Mar 23 - 29 (Week 12 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

A Black-throated Diver was an unusual sight in Nutbourne Bay this week and a Spoonbill was a nice find at Farlington Marshes. Equally exciting to someone who had not yet seen one this year was a Little Owl at Warblington At Langstone the Egret roost numbers are building up - more than 53 seen this week. The majority of Brent have now left (but stragglers will continue to pass for much of April. Displaying Buzzards that do not respond to normal bird scarers are a threat to aircraft at Gatwick. Osprey are now very much with us and at least one pair is repairing their nest. The week brought an unconfirmed report of the first Hobby to reach Britain and migrant Whimbrel have been seen in Kent while the first Common Tern have passed Selsey Bill while a late flock of Waxwings has been seen west of Fareham. Oddities include a Great Spotted Cuckoo and a Hoopoe in the Scilly Isles and a Snowy Owl in Cornwall (plus 47 Flamingos in southern Spain). In Cornwall 184 Puffins have been seen. A warning to those who spend lots of money on buying bird seed is that a Rook in Sussex has learnt to fly up to a feed, bash it with its bill until the seed spills out, and then to gobble it off the ground.

Eleven butterfly species have been on the wing including the first Large Tortoiseshell of the year. The first Silver Y migrant moth has reached Portland and a Small Fan-foot which normally emerges in June has already been trapped at Rye Harbour. Perhaps of more general interest is the first Queen Wasp of the year seen in a Portsdown garden.

Among the week's new flowers are Greater Stitchwort, Hedge Mustard, Wood Sorrel and Rue-leaved Saxifrage. Newly flowering trees are Norway Maple, Silver Birch and Hornbeam with the yellow flowers of Broom also seen. A personal first which has probably been flowering some time unidentified by me until now is Green Field Speedwell.

Nothing much in the Other Wildlife category but a pod of Bottle-nosed Dolphins off Durlston had built up to more than 10 during the week

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Few now left on the English coast but Cap Gris-Nez saw 57 go past on Mar 24

Black-throated Diver: Cap Gris-Nez had 3 on Mar 22 and 2 on Mar 24, and there were only two English reports but one of these was of a bird preening in sunshine on Mar 28 only 100 metres off the Nutbourne Bay seawall east of Emsworth (the other report was of one in Christchurch Harbour on Mar 23)

Great Northern Diver: 3 were still on the sea off Selsey Bill on Mar 28 - the only other report was of one in Weymouth Bay on Mar 28)

Red-necked Grebe: One was off the Bembridge Foreland (IoW) on Mar 28

Slavonian Grebe: The only sighting this week was of one at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 24

Black-necked Grebe: Dungeness RSPB had one on Mar 21 but nothing reported this week other than 2 off the Devon coast.

Manx Shearwater: Portland saw three on Mar 3 then had two on both Mar 27 and 28

Gannet: Cap Gris-Nez had an impressive count of 7745 Gannets passing there on Mar 24

Bittern: The only new report is of one still present at the RSPB Dungeness reserve on Mar 21

Squacco Heron: One seen on the south coast of Spain in Mar 24

Cattle Egret: One was in Poole Harbour on Mar 25, 25 and 27 but there were 9 at the Hayle estuary in Cornwall on Mar 28 and one in the Scillies on Mar 22

Little Egret: There were no more than 27 Egrets roosting at Rye Harbour during Jan and Feb but the number there rose to 38 on Mar 6 and 43 on Mar 24 as birds returned from wintering to summer quarters and this expected spring increase has no doubt been continuing at other coastal sites in southern England. To check out the local population using the Langstone roost I paid a short visit (less than 40 mins) there on the evening of Mar 25 expecting to find around 20 birds but actually counting 53 (if I had stayed longer I am sure I would have seen more (certainly 60 and maybe 75). While there I noted some birds were in full spring plumage and that there was more aggression than usual with some birds flying some distance from where they were happiy perched to land beside and drive off other birds which the aggressor found to be 'not welcome here'. On Mar 28 there were 10 on the Keyhaven Marshes at Lymington

White Stork: Mar 23 brought a report of 12 passing over one Dutch site

Spoonbill: One has been at the Farlington Marshes Deeps from Mar 25 to 28 at least. Another appeared at Cuckmere Haven (near Beachy Head) on Mar 28 and one was still being reported at Lodmoor (Weymouth) up to Mar 26

Flamingo: Of general interest only I noted this species got its first mention for the year (as far as I know) on the Trektellen website on Mar 24 with a report of 47 passing the Punta de Calaburras on the southern coast of Spain

Whooper Swan: One has just been spotted near the R Test at Fishlake Meadows on the northern edge of Romsey - it said to have been there all winter and was still there on Mar 29

Brent Goose: On Mar 23 a total of 745 were counted passing Dungeness and on Mar 24 Cap Gris-Nez reported 564 passing there. Locally 277 were on the Titchfield Haven shore on Mar 24 and on that day there were over 150 on the north coast of the IoW. On Mar 28 I walked from Emsworth to Langstone without seeing a single Brent but more than 90 were on the north shore of the Isle of Wight and 155 in Southampton Water

Pale-bellied Brent: One was still at Weymouth on Mar 27 and on Mar 28 one turned up unexpectedly at the Bembridge Foreland (IoW)

Brant: Only one report this week - one at Hill Head off Titchfield Haven on Mar 23

Shelduck: On Mar 28 there were 32 on the Warblington shore, another 22 at Newtown Harbour (IoW) and 40 at Christchurch Harbour

Wigeon: None seen in the Langstone- Emsworth area this week but there were 40 at the Sidlesham Ferry Pool (Pagham Harbour) on Mar 26 and an unexpected influx of 48 at The Vyne (west of Basingstoke) on Mar 23

Teal: These too had vanished from the Langstone area on Mar 28

Mallard: I have no doubt that these have already started nesting in many places but on Mar 22 I saw a definite report of several on nests at Paxton Pits by the Bedfordshire Ouse

Garganey: A drake has been on Alresford Pond near the source of the River Itchen from Mar 21 to 28 at least. I have not seen news of the male at Titchfield Haven since Mar 22 but the one in the Breech Pool north of Pagham Harbour was still present on Mar 23 and the one at Pulbrough Brooks on Mar 24

Ring-necked Duck: The Poole Harbour bird was still there on Mar 27 and the Frithend bird in East Hampshire was seen on Mar 25

Scaup: One was still at Titchfield Haven on Mar 27 with another in Poole Harbour that day

Smew: Last report of these on the south coast was from the Dungeness RSPB site on Mar 13 but four were still present on the Paxton Pits in Bedfordshire on Mar 20 with one there on Mar 23

Hen Harrier: These are still passing north with sightings at Christchurch on Mar 26, Gander Down (east of Winchester) on Mar 27 and two different birds over nearby Alresford Pond on Mar 28

Sparrowhawk: A male was making its spring display flight over Havant town (seen from my front door) on Mar 28

Buzzard: These can be seen everywhere along the south coast nowadays but it may be of interest to know that a total of 116 was recorded from 26 different sites in the New Forest during the Shrike survey on Mar 21 and 22. A worrying report for air passengers came from Gatwick airport on Mar 24 telling of three birds making their display flights over the end of the airport runway undeterred by flares, loud bangs and bird distress calls aimed at them by the airport bird scaring team.

Osprey: I owe an apology to Jeff Goodridge for suggesting that the very early sighting of one over Southsea on Mar 15 might have been a case of mistaken identity - Jeff wrote that .. "an Osprey was seen circling high over Southsea" .. and I took this 'third party' form to mean that he had heard of a sighting by someone else who might not be an experienced observer but subsequently Jeff told us that he saw the bird himself so this early and isolated sighting was genuine. Since then there have been sightings on Mar 20 (one over the Exe estuary in Devon), on Mar 23 (two back at Rutland Water and repairing their nest), on Mar 25 (two over East Grinstead near Crawley), on Mar 27 (one over the R Itchen near Eastleigh and another over the north west New Forest), and on Mar 28 (one fishing in the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood, another over Alresford Pond east of Winchester and a third near the Exe estuary in Devon)

Hobby: The Dorset Birding Club website reported one at Portland on Mar 27 but this exciting early arrival was never mentioned on the Portland website so I am not sure how much confidence we should put in it - no other reports so far. Hobbies normally start to arrive in mid April but I see that the earliest ever in Hampshire was 16 Mar 2002 and the earliest in Sussex was Mar 21 (year not given)

Peregrine: On Mar 28 I found evidence, in the form of a headless Wood Pigeon on the ground with fresh blood showing in the gaping cavity which had been its breast, that a Peregrine had made a kill over Warblington cemetery, and on Mar 29 a Peregrine at Durlston was seen to catch a Magpie and carry the still struggling bird back to the cliffs. Also of interest it has been pointed out that last year's young Peregrines may well still retain the brown plumage of a youngster at this time of year.

Coot: There is always something good to report about any species, even Coots and Canada Geese, so after seeing them fighting each other and building rather unsightly nests in public view it is good to read that Brian Fellows has seen a pair delicately exchanging morsels of food from beak to loving beak at Emsworth on Mar 23

Black-winged Stilt: Not in Britain! On Mar 24 one was seen, along with a Squacco Heron and the 47 Flamingos, in southern Spain.

Golden Plover: On Mar 27 there were still 150 to be seen at Rye Harbour and on Mar 28 around 70 were on Gander Down near Winchester

Lapwing: I have already reported 8 back on breeding territory south of Havant Thicket as early as Feb 25 and on Mar 24 I saw six there without making a careful check for any more.

Jack Snipe: One has been showing well alongside Common Snipe just outside one of the Titchfield Haven hides this week and was still there on Mar 28

Black-tailed Godwit: The last report from Pulborough Brooks was of just 6 there on Mar 24 but Titchfied Haven had 105 on Mar 25 and there were 417 in the Keyhaven area on Mar 28

Whimbrel: Although several winter birds remain at various sites it looks as if the passage birds have started to arrive. On Mar 27 a group of six were seen to fly in off the sea in theThanet area of Kent and on Mar 28 a single bird was recorded passing a Dutch coastal site

Spotted Redshank: The photogenic bird at Nore Barn west of Emsworth has not been seen since Mar 18 and is now presumed to have left us though others have been reported since then in Poole Harbour on Mar 28, at Lymington Marshes on Mar 28, and at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 24

Pomarine Skua: The occasional winter bird is still to be seen in January of most years but their spring passage does not normally start until mid-April so I am not sure if an isolated sighting of one in the western isles of Scotland on Mar 22 was just an oddity or an indicator of early passage.

Med Gull: The number at Rye Harbour was up to 156 on Mar 22 but had increased to 170 on Mar 23. At Badminston Common in the south east of the New Forest, not far from the mouth of the Beaulieu River, more than 250 were counted on Mar 22 and more than 514 were there on Mar 28 (close to the county record count of 528+ in Langstone Harbour in May 2006)

Little Gull: These started moving along the continental coast at the beginning of March and on Mar 11 one Dutch site reported 639 heading south and west. This week that passage moved up a gear with a count of 1744 passing Cap Gris-Nez. Locally one was over Ivy Lake at Chichester on Mar 25 and 26 while one was still at the Blashford lakes on Mar 27

Lesser Blackback Gull: The only significant count of spring passage birds that I have seen prior to this week was of 38 at Sandwich Bay on Mar 4 but a count of 1181 recorded at a Dutch site on Mar 28 shows that they are now moving in serious numbers.

Iceland Gull: On Mar 23 singles could still be seen at Dungeness, Weymouth and Badminston Common in the New Forest (close to Southampton Water). Since then the only report I have seen is of one at Newlyn in Cornwall on Mar 27 with one Glaucous Gull also in Cornwall at Sennen on Mar 28

Sandwich Tern: On Mar 23 the number at Rye Harbour jumped from around 70 to 220 and on Mar 24 Cap Gris-Nez recorded 567 passing birds. On Mar 22 Christchurch Harbour noted one had broken off from the stream heading east to enter that harbour (four were roosting there by Mar 27) and I guess others are now doing the same in the east Solent Harbours.

Common Tern: First of the year on our southern coast was a single going east past Selsey Bill on Mar 22 and on Mar 24 Cap Gris-Nez reported 6.

Puffin: On Mar 27 184 flew past Porthgwarra on the Cornish coast

Great Spotted Cuckoo: On Mar 21 there was a report of a Cuckoo on the Scillies but I am pretty sure this was a first sighting of what was reported as a Great Spotted Cuckoo there on Mar 22 (no subsequent news so far)

Snowy Owl: One was still at St Ives in Cornwall on Mar 28

Little Owl: My first sighting of one this year at Warblington on Mar 28 is described in my diary for that day

Short-eared Owl: Two winter birds were still at Portland on Mar 28

Hoopoe: A single bird was reported on the Scillies on Mar 21 and 22.

House Martin: Plenty of Sand Martins and quite a few Swallows are back with us but a House Martin at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 24 was only the fourth report of the year (all singles) and may have been the same bird that was first for the year there on Mar 7. Since then there has been one at Ivy Lake, Chichester, on Mar 25, one at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 27, and 4 at Woolmer Pond in East Hants on Mar 28 when there were 2 at the Blashford lakes. Another was at Durlston on Mar 29

Waxwing: A late party of 8 were feeding on Rowan berries in the Kite's Croft area just west of Titchfield village on Mar 25

Black Redstart: A report of more than 50 came from the Scillies on Mar 21 but I am not sure if this marks a new influx or a collection of departing birds that have gone off in the wrong direction

Ring Ouzel: After two singles were seen at Portland on Mar 17 and 19 there has now been a report of two males in the Scillies on Mar 22

Blackbird: A fledgling was seen being attacked by (and was saved from) Crows at Horsham on Mar 28

Fieldfare: 15 were seen near Winchester on Mar 24 and 7 in the lower Avon valley on Mar 25

Redwing: Just one at Portland on Mar 25 was the only report for this week.

Cetti's Warbler: Of local interest only I heard one singing at Langstone Pond on Mar 25

Willow Warbler: After three isolated reports on Mar 14, 15 and 18 a probable influx on Mar 21 brought three reports of singing birds heard on the same day at Horsham, in the New Forest and in Cornwall. The only reports this week are of singles singing at Durlston and Romsey, both on Mar 29 (so perhaps another influx that has not yet been fully reported)

Willow Tit: A report of one singing at a site on the West Sussex/Surrey border on Mar 27.

Nuthatch: A pair of Blue Tits were starting to nest in a bird box equipped with a nest camera in a Crawley garden but on Mar 28 a pair of Nutchatches forcibly took possession, throwing out the Tits and their nest material before starting to furnish the box with their choice of materials

Penduline Tit: One still at Paignton in Devon on Mar 28

Great Grey Shrike: At least one of the New Forest birds was still at Vales Moor (between Burley and Ringwood) on Mar 28 (4 had been found at 4 different sites in the last survey visit to the New Forest on Mar 21)

Rook: On Mar 28 a single Rook somewhere in Sussex had acquired the habit of flying up to a bird feeder and bashing it with its beak until seed spilt onto the ground from which the Rook would eat it - I expect the purveyors of bird seed will be encouraging Rooks everywhere to lear the trick!

Hooded Crow: One seen at Sandwich Bay in Kent on Mar 25, and on Mar 28 a hybrid between Carrion and Hooded Crow re-appeared at Christchurch Harbour.

Raven: Not sure if it is a regular part of Raven bonding but a pair at Ashdown Forest were observed touching wingtips as they flew - an avian verison of holding hands?

Common (= Mealy) Redpoll: A very large, very grey Redpoll has been seen by many birders at the Blashford Lakes recently and has prompted discussion - it is said to be definitely not a Lesser!

Bullfinch: Although these are nowadays elusive in most places they are regularly reported at Durlston but even there I was surprised to hear of a dozen or more seen together in a coastal gully on Mar 22 where they were thought to be newly arrived migrants.

Escapees: Two reports of sightings on Mar 25 come from Ashburnham Place near Battle in East Sussex and from Alresford Pond near Winchester. At Ashburnham there was a sighting of a Golden Eagle in the same place that one was last reported last August - it was then thought to be eluding recapture and so it may have been on the loose but unreported since then though there is an alternative of it having been recaptured and then escaped again now that spring is here. The Alresford report was a first as far as I am concerned - a Hawaiian Goose (or NeNe) flying over and honking.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Orange Tip: After the first two sightings in the Emsworth and Havant areas on Mar 19 and 21 there was a new sighting at Farlington Marshes on Mar 22

Small Copper: The first for the year was seen in Bournemouth on Mar 17 and on Mar 20 a second was seen in the Gilkicker area of Gosport

Large Tortoiseshell: This the only new species for the year with reports of 2 butterflies in the Wootton area of the Isle of Wight on Mar 22 following a previous unconfirmed report of the same species there a few days earlier.

Eight other species were reported in the latest news and these included two more sightings (after the first and only earlier report of one at Portland on Mar 14) of single Speckled Wood in Gosport on Mar 21 and Portsmouth on Mar 22. Brimstone, Peacock, Comma and Small Tortoiseshell continue to be the most frequently seen species and this is particularly welcome in the case of the Small Tortoiseshell which has 8 new reports including a count of 15 in the Gosport area on Mar 22 following 6 there on Mar 21 when another 6 were seen in the Sussex Cuckmere Valley. The other species seen this week were Red Admiral, Large and Small White

Moths

Pyrausta despicata (1365 Pyrausta despicata): One seen at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on Mar 23 was the earliest ever for Hampshire (the previous earliest date was Apr 3)

Red Sword-grass (2241 Xylena vetusta): First for the year in the Cheriton area east of Winchester on Mar 22

Silver Y (2441 Autographa gamma): This early migrant turned up at Portland on Mar 27

Small Fan-foot (2492 Herminia nemoralis): Another very early find at Rye Harbour on Mar 25 - this species normally appears in June

Other Insects

Yellow Dung Fly: This species had been reported from the Bournemouth area on Jan 14 but not since so I regard a sighting of the species in a Portsdown garden on Mar 22 as the rightful first for the year.

Common Wasp: The first report of the year also comes from the same Portsdown garden in Mar 22 - this must have been a Queen rousing herself to start building a nest and creating a new generation of offspring (after mating last autumn)

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius): The first to be reported this year was in the Gosport area on Mar 23

Oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus): First mention of this species for the year comes from Durlston on Mar 22 where one was seen excavating a hole in which to lay her eggs.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Giant Horsetail: The first fertile cones of this species were seen at Warblington Farm on Mar 28

Marsh Marigold: A plant with a single flower was present in the ditch beside the Billy Trail in Havant (just north of the A27) on Mar 28 - I suspect it had been growing by someone's garden pond and had been moved in a block of soil to brighten up this area where I have never seen Kingcups before. Flowers had also appeared on established plants at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 24

Blue Anemone (Anemone apennina): This week has brought new finds of this species at both Warblington and Havant Eastern Road cemeteries.

Hedge Mustard: First report for the year of this yellow flowered species came from Emsworth on Mar 25

Honesty: Self sown plants of this can be found almost anywhere and just one plant had opened its flowers in my garden on Mar 25

Sea Kale: Not yet in flower but photos on the Rye Bay website show the pretty magenta colour of the fresh leaves now appearing the shingle at Rye Harbour and presumably also on the south Hayling shore

Common Dog Violet: First of the year were seen on Mar 24 both in the Inholmes Wood area (east of Walderton in the Ems Valley) and in Havant Thicket. On Mar 25 I found more of them flowering in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery

Greater Stitchwort: My first find of this in flower was made on Mar 23 on the roadside bank of Southleigh Road close to Locks Farm in the Denvilles area of Havant - I see it has also now started to flower in the Nore Barn woodland at Emsworth on Mar 25

Wood Sorrel: This was in flower for the first time on Mar 24 in the Havant Thicket area

Broom: First flowers were out on a bush in Warblington cemetery on Mar 28

Rue-leaved Saxifrage: First two plants in flower the East Pallant in Havant on Mar 28.

White Bryony: First plant starting the climb in the Havant cemetery on Mar 27

Holly: First unopen flower buds seen in Havant on Mar 28

Hornbeam: One tree overhanging the Lymbourne stream footbridge near Wade Court in Langstone was in full flower on Mar 28

Field Maple: Leaves showing on Mar 28

Norway Maple: The bright yellow flowers which appear before the leaves were out in Havant on Mar 23

Horse Chestnut: With many leaves now out I saw the first white candles of flowers had appeared on Mar 28 (nowhere near flowering)

Silver Birch: Catkins fully out in Warblington cemetery on Mar 28 (first flowers)

Cowslips: Genuine wild flowers first reported at Durston on Mar 21 and some were flowering in the Warblington Cemetery extension on Mar 28 (one was definitely a cultivated variety the other may have been from the wild).

Green Field Speedwell: My first definite find of this in flower was in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Mar 27 (long straight hairs seen on the fruit lobes)

Butterbur: The normal male flower spikes at Brook Meadow in Emsworth were counted by Brian Fellows on Mar 27 giving a total of 467 - the highest count since this annual survey started around 2000 (previous highest count was 458 spikes in 2001)

Spanish Bluebell: First flowers seen in Havant on Mar 23 (the great majority of plants are not even showing any incipient flower stems)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: A pod of up to 7 has been in the Durlston area this week, seen on Mar 22, 24 and 25. On Mar 28 the pod had increased to more then 10 including two young. I also see that 53 Common Dolphins were noted on Mar 24 on the Trektellen website but they were seen in the Mediterranean from a site in southern Spain!

Roe Deer: A group of four on the fields north of the Locks Farm new houses in Havant (Denvilles area) on Mar 23 included a buck and probable his mate plus two of last years young.

Noctule Bat: What was probably one of these was flying in midday sunshine over the Beaulieu River on Mar 22 - the third such sighting for the year after one in Kent on Feb 21 and another in East Sussex on Mar 15

Grass Snake: Two seen in the Aldershot area on Mar 22 - again the third report for the year after sightings in Sussex on Mar 2 and 17

Fungi: Little of this to be found in the current dry weather but one large clump of Common Inkcap had managed to flourish on a shaded tree stump above a water filled ditch in Havant Thicket on Mar 24


Summary for Mar 10 - 22 (Week 11 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week's Bird News starts with a summary of the arrival dates of the summer visitors which have reached us so far. In Kent I think a Bittern has started 'booming' and in Sussex a pair of Egyptian Geese have hatched 8 goslings (and maybe a pair of Shelduck have young at Weir Wood reservoir). Among many raptors recently airborne has been the first Black Kite over Kent and oddity of the week may go to a Red-legged Partridge driving Herring Gulls off the roof of a Sussex bungalow while the rarity prize is shared between an Alpine Swift and a couple of Penduline Tits with a Twite at Farlington Marshes as a runner up

Insects have been thriving in the warm weather and this week has seen the first Orange Tip, Small Copper and Holly Blue on the wing. Among Other Insects we have the first Bee Flies and Green Tiger Beetles as well as a possible sighting of an uncommon mining bee in Havant

New flowers include Bulbous Buttercup, Wood Anemone (and two sorts of Blue Anemone), English Scurygrass, White Campion, Cowslip, Ground Ivy and Oxford Ragwort as well as the first Bluebell and Wild Daffodils. Other new flowers are Monterey Pine, Lords and Ladies, Field Woodrush and Field Horsetail and the news includes a 'new to me' cream flowered form of Sweet Violet

Other Wildlife has an unusual encounter with a tame Bank Vole on the pavement of a Havant street, news of 'the biggest snake seen in Britain' and a web link to hear the croaking of Common Toads

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Migrant arrival dates in southern England: First dates for the summer birds already here are Sandwich Tern on Feb 18; Little Ringed Plover on Feb 25; Chiffchaff on Feb 27; Wheatear on Feb 28; Sand Martin on Mar 4; House Martin on Mar 7; Swallow on Mar 10; Garganey and Tree Pipit on Mar 11; Yellow Wagtail and Willow Warbler on Mar 14; Blackcap on Mar 16 and Ring Ouzel on Mar 17; Garden Warbler (probable only) on Mar 19 and first definite Osprey on Mar 20 plus Manx Shearwater on Mar 21

Divers: On Mar 19 Cap Gris-Nez near Calais recorded 119 Red Throated and 4 Black Throated flying east. Great Northern Divers continue to be seen from Selsey Bill with a peak of 5 on the sea there on Mar 17 (and 4 on Mar 21)

Great Crested Grebe: There were still an estimated 300 on the sea off Sandwich Bay on Mar 15 - perhaps these are birds waiting to return to northerly breeding areas as pairs breeding in southern England are almost certainly all back on territory by now

Red-necked Grebe: A single bird paused briefly on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Mar 17 and one was again seen there on Mar 21.

Slavonian Grebe: 19 were seen on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Mar 17 (two seen from Selsey Bill that day were possibly in additon to the 19)

Black-necked Grebe: One at Rye Harbour on Mar 15 was the last to be reported in southern England and the only report for this week is of three still at a Dutch site on Mar 17

Manx Shearwater: The first to be seen anywhere in southern England this year was at Portland on Mar 21

Bittern: Two were still present in Poole Harbour at Hatch Pond on Mar 14 and one was seen at Rye Harbour on Mar 15. On the evening of Mar 18 three were seen to take off from Rye Harbour and head off into the dusk heading south east for the near continent. On Mar 19 one was seen to take off at Hook (Warsash) but landed again in the reeds there. On Mar 20 one in the Kent Stour valley was said to have 'performed well' by which I think they mean it was heard booming.

Cattle Egret: The one which arrived in the Puckpool area of the Isle of Wight on Feb 27 was last seen on Mar 18 and may have left the Island - on that day a new bird turned up at Swineham in Poole Harbour and was still there on Mar 21

Great White Egret: None reported in southern England but there were still 25 at one Dutch site on Mar 17

Grey Heron: One flew in off the sea at Hayling Bay on Mar 21

Mute Swan: One was firmly sitting on the nest at Langstone Mill Pond on Mar 18 but it is not known if she has started to lay eggs yet. The pair at Peter Pond in Emsworth were nest building on Mar 20 as were the pair at Budds Fam Pools and on Mar 21 a pair were building at Sandown boating lake on the IoW.

Whitefront Goose: Mar 21 seems to have seen a mass departure of these geese from Holland - one site which was watched throughout the day recorded 6317 geese passing over

Canada Goose: A pair were back at Budds Farm Pools on Mar 20 and on Mar 21 only one bird could be seen there - the other was probably already on a nest

Brent Goose: Although a great many of these have already left us there were still an estimated 1200 at Farlington Marshes on Mar 16 and around 200 on the South Moors shore to the west of Langstone village on Mar 18. On Mar 21 I estimated there were 500 Brent in the Broadmarsh area of Langstone Harbour (possibly with another 300 on the South Moors shore). Surprisingly the only reports of birds on passage this week have been on Mar 21 when 290 flew past Dungeness (and another 117 were seen passing Selsey)

Egyptian Goose: 8 were seen at Tundry Pond west of Fleet in north Hampshire on Mar 14 and on Mar 15 a pair at Petworth Park in west Sussex already had 8 goslings with them (last year a pair at Stratfield Saye in north Hampshire had 6 goslings on Apr 16 and in 2007 a pair at Petworth were seen with a single gosling on Apr 15). The Petworth pair were down to 5 goslings by Mar 19

Shelduck: A count of 178 at the Thorney Island Deeps area on Mar 14 probably included a large number of transient birds as part of the surge of birds seen in the Langstone village area on Mar 10 and 11 (and Christchurch Harbour reported a sudden influx of 50 Shelduck on Mar 17 which I took to be flock moving through that area). More interestingly there is a report from the Weir Wood reservoir in north east Sussex of a pair being seen there on Mar 16 with four juveniles (I think this must refer to juveniles from last year as I have not heard of Shelduck nesting earlier than May in previous years though the report on the SOS website said .."On the 16th a pair of Shelduck appeared at the dam end with four juvs" .. and at first sight this would appear to be saying the juveniles were newly hatched)

Wigeon: The flocks of these that have been wintering in the Langstone village area seem to have left in the first week of March and recent high counts (an estimated 1500 at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 16 and 167 at the Thorney Deeps on Mar 14) probably reflect birds gathering to leave en masse.

Pintail: The Mar 14 WeBS count of the Thorney Deeps recorded 80 Pintail but unfortunately I have not seen any other counts from Thorney so far this year to judge if this figure is as unexpectedly high as I think it is. For last year the highest counts from Thorney Deeps were 39 on Jan 12 and 27 on Nov 15 with no other reports exceeding 10 birds. 20 flew past Dungeness on Mar 18 but there were still 7 at Lymington that day and 6 at Titchfield Haven on Mar 21

Gadwall: The five pairs seen at Bedhampton Mill Pool on Mar 9 were down to one pair by Mar 21 and there has been a similar exodus from Budds Farm where I could only see three birds on Mar 21

Teal: There were still 54 in the flooded south field at Wade Court (Langstone) on Mar 20

Garganey: These lovely spring visitors are now arriving in good numbers. The first report for the year was of a pair at Dungeness on Mar 11 and since then I have seen 28 reports from southern England covering a possible total of 125 birds. On Mar 18 there was a report of 26 flying past Seaford and on that same day Pulborough Brooks had 3 birds, another 3 pairs (6 birds) were on a farm pond near the Arlington Reservoir in the Cuckmere Valley and a single drake was at the Pagham Harbour north wall Breech Pool (another report of 9 flying east off Rottingdean near Brighton was probably of birds included in the Seaford count). Also on Mar 18 two Dutch sites reported 15 and 16 birds respectively (though these again may have been the same birds at both sites). The latest reports include 1 at Titchfield Haven and another at Arlesford Pond near Winchester on Mar 21

Ring-necked Duck: The drake which has been in East Hampshire since the New Year was still to be seen at Frithend (just off the A325 where it enters the southern part of Alice Holt Forest) on Mar 15. A female has been in Poole Harbour on Mar 20 and 21

Scaup: The bird which appeared on the Drayton pit lake at Chichester (viewable from a layby on the Bognor Road) on Mar 2 did so on the day after one of two at Titchfield Haven vanished but on Mar 15 a second drake re-appeared at Titchfield Haven while the Drayton Pit bird remained there to Mar 17 at least - the Titchfield bird was still present on Mar 21. Also still present on Mar 15 was the drake at Rooksbury Mill in Andover but at other than these three sites all Scaup seem to have left at the end of February (2 which flew past Dungeness on Mar 19 may have come from some unrecorded site)

Eider: A party of 8 were in the Hayling Bay area on both Mar 21 and 22 but a report of 114 flying over a Dutch site on Mar 21 suggests there has been a substantial departure (but many non-breeding birds remain at southern sites through the summer)

Long-tailed Duck: The single female on the sea off Pagham Harbour was still there on Mar 17 (with a single Velvet Scoter) and the pair off the east side of Hayling were still there on Mar 22

Black Kite: One seen over Sandwich Bay on Mar 21 (with a Red Kite) is the first of the year for southern England

Red Kite: The recent good weather has brought numerous reports in the past week including sightings over Walderton in the Ems valley and Bignor Hill on the Sussex Downs with the most recent local sighting being over the Hayling Oysterbeds - I suspect most of these are of birds taking advantage of the fine weather to make long distance exploratory day trips.

Marsh Harrier: Among several reports this week are two reporting birds coming in off the sea - at Durlston on Mar 16 and Christchurch Harbour on Mar 19 while 2 going north over Sandwich Bay on Mar 21 were also presumed migrants. One seen at Titchfield Haven on Mar 18 was the first I know of there since Mar 11

Hen Harrier: Reports from six sites this week including one at Woolmer Pond in East Hampshire on Mar 18

Goshawk: Two coastal sightings this week could have been of migrants - one was seen over Worthing on Mar 18 and on Mar 20 one flew past the Durlston area.

Sparrowhawk: Sandwich Bay recorded six presumed migrants over on Mar 18 and 9 over on Mar 21

Common Buzzard: These are prominent in the sky at this time of year and reports of 10 seen over Thorney Island on Mar 14 and of 5 over Stoke village near the Oysterbeds on Hayling Island on Mar 16 are not surprising but a count of 66 over a Dutch site on Mar 18 was impressive. On Mar 21 around 20 were seen in the Faccombe area of north Hants while 4 seen passing over the Folkestone area that day were thought to indicate some cross Channel migration.

Osprey: One was said to have been seen high over Southsea on Mar 15 and to have been driven away east by Herring Gulls but I think this was a second hand report and I wonder if the original observer was certain of the id as there have been no other reports of this very noticeable species in England yet - could the sighting have been of a Marsh Harrier? or even a Buzzard? Reliable Osprey news comes from Roy Dennis on the Highland Foundation for Wildlife website - go to http://www.roydennis.org/ and click one of the Osprey names mentioned in the "Roy's Blog" section at the top of the page to find out how that bird is getting on (do not click the big Osprey picture as that takes you to news from last year and not to any current news). On Mar 19 Morven was coming north and is now probably north of the Sahara, Beatrice is still at a French site just north of the Pyrenees, and Nimrod is still at his winter site on the west coast of Africa in a small country called Guinea-Bissau not far south of Dakar (the westernmost point of Africa). Since I wrote the above for the mid-week report one more Osprey seems to have crossed the Mediterranean to be seen in southern Spain on Mar 19 and the first definite record of one reaching Britain comes from the Exe estuary in Devon where one caught a fish on Mar 20

Red-legged Partridge: These birds have a reputation for turning up in unexpected places and this was confirmed on Mar 15 when one spent half an hour on the roof ridge of a bungalow in a semi-rural situation near Seaford - the entry on the SOS website reads .. "While relaxing in the lounge of my bungalow in north Seaford this morning I spotted a Red-legged Partridge walking nonchalantly along my neighbour`s bungalow roof. It reminded me of the bird in the "Famous Grouse" whiskey advertisement.Two Herring Gulls who regularly loaf about on the roof seemed intrigued by this odd arrival and flew off when it approached them somewhat deliberately. The partridge settled down for another half hour before flying off towards the town."

Coot: First report of a nest comes from Emsworth when one was seen on a raft in the Slipper Mill pond on Mar 19

Avocet: These are moving east through southern England in fair numbers, e.g. 12 passing Splash Point at Seaford on Mar 18 and 13 at Rye Harbour on Mar 21 but bigger numbers are moving on the continent, e.g. 95 past Cap Gris Nez on Mar 19 and 50 passing a Dutch site on Mar 21

Little Ringed Plover: Reports from 5 sites this week with peak counts of 4 at both Lymington on Mar 21 and at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 19

Knot: There were 370 Knot (and 55 Sanderling) in the Pilsey area of Thorney Island for the Mar 14 WeBS count

Ruff: A flock of 14 at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 16 was the highest number there since 1994. Three were at Pulborough Brooks that day and on Mar 14 there were two at Fairlight in the Hastings area and one at the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester.

Jack Snipe: During the Mar 14 WeBS count 2 were found in the Thorney Deeps are and another was across the water of Chichester Harbour at West Wittering. Also recorded that day were 89 Bar-tailed Godwit and 2 wintering Whimbrel in the Pilsey area of Thorney Island

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth has not been seen since Mar 18 (though its companion Greenshank was still there on Mar 19)

Common Sandpiper: Last year migrants started to appear in the first week of April so one which was seen on Mar 21 at Lodmoor (Weymouth) - where there have been no reports of wintering birds - could be an early migrant (though probably it was a wintering bird feeling the urge to move locally)

Med Gull: The number at Rye Harbour was 54 on Mar 14 increasing to 90 on Mar 16 and 120 on Mar 16

Ring-billed Gull: Two new birds this week - a first winter at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 18 and an adult at Sturt Pond (near Lymington) on Mar 21

Iceland Gull: The Dungeness bird was still there on Mar 21

Sandwich Tern: The numbers at Rye Harbour are increasing daily from 38 on Mar 15 to 45 on Mar 16 and 55 on Mar 17. Latest report is of 70 there on Mar 19 and 65 passing Dungeness on Mar 21

Barn Owl: On Mar 16 I was told that one had been seen at least twice just before that day hunting over the North Common area of Hayling before dusk and I have since heard that a nest box which hatched several young last year at a north Hayling site has fresh pellets in it indicating current occupation.

Little Owl: At the end of January two were heard calling in the Stoke Common woodland east of the Hayling Oysterbeds and on Mar 16 what was probaby one of these was seen in the trees of the hedgerow half way between the north end of the Hayling Coastal Path and the main road on Hayling (possibly seen from the path which connects the old rail line to the main road)

Long-eared Owl: On Feb 8 a previously unknown roost of Long-eared Owls was discovered on the Downs somewhere in the Brighton area and on Mar 15 another intriguing observation was made in a similar area - the entry on the SOS website read .. "Fantastic views of a Long-eared Owl perched and hunting - I watched it at close quarters for over an hour. Unlikely semi-rural location near Brighton. Owl not phased by passing traffic, pedestrians, a fox and a badger! It has been seen regularly for around a fortnight." Although these owls are usually very elusive I can recall another example of a Long-eared Owl which probably bred (some 20 years ago!) in the area of the Red Barn Estate on the southern slopes of Portsdown above Portchester near Fareham. At the time I was told that some residents there were regularly hearing strange 'squeaky' noises each night in the early summer (Long-eared Owl chicks are said to make a noise like that of someone riding a very rusty bicycle through the night) and about a month after this an adult Long-eared was found dead on the busy A27 which then ran through Fareham and Portchester before the building of the M27.

Short-eared Owl: No reports since Mar 18 - maybe the majority have already moved north to breeding areas?

Alpine Swift: One was almost certainly present on Portland on Mar 14 - only one observer saw it at the Bill but subsequently there were several good reports of it from residents elsewhere on Portland

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Two reports on Mar 15 - a male was heard calling in Brede High Wood north of Hastings and one was heard drumming in a New Forest inclosure.

Swallow: I have now seen 18 reports from English sites with a peak count of 6 at Portland on Mar 17 followed by 4 at Amberley Wild Brooks on Mar 19 - so far the only double digit count was one of 21 Swallows at a Dutch site on Mar 20

House Martin: Only three reports so far - singles at Weymouth on Mar 7, the Scillies on Mar 12 and now at Christchurch on Mar 20

Tree Pipit: After the exceptionally early observation of one singing near Ringwood in Hampshire on Mar 11 followed by a sighting of 2 in the New Forest on Mar 13 a third has appeared at Arne on the shore of Poole Harbour on Mar 16

Meadow Pipit: These can now be seen moving north almost anywhere and the count at Portland was around 500 on Mar 17 - since then most sites reporting birds moving north have had counts between 200 and 500 at a time

Water Pipit: These have been seen in parties of 6 or less since January but this week there was an exceptional count of 42 in the Kent Stour valley on Mar 20

Yellow Wagtail: I have already reported the arrival of the first European 'Blue Headed' Wagtail in Holland on Mar 13 and on Mar 14 one of our 'flavissima' race birds was seen in the Cuckmere Valley near Beachy Head and this has been followed by another at Portland on Mar 17

Wheatear: By Mar 22 I had recorded 63 reports of these potentially covering 693 birds - the highest count so far was of 200 at Portland on Mar 19

Ring Ouzel: One that was seen in Cornwall on Mar 12 may have been an over-wintering bird but one which flew in to Portland on Mar 17 certainly qualifies as the first arrival of the year. A second bird was on Portland on Mar 19

Dartford Warbler: It seems fairly certain that the recent cold snap has reduced the number of birds in places like the New Forest but they seem to have survived along the coast and I am pleased to see that at least one pair was seen in the gorse of Sinah Common on south Hayling on Mar 21

Garden Warbler: I think I am not alone in having to 'get my ear in' anew each spring to recognize the difference in song between a Garden Warbler and a hurried Blackcap song so I understand the reluctance of the observer who thought he heard, but did not see, what may have been an early Garden Warbler at Titchfield Haven on Mar 19

Blackcap: It is always difficult to pick out the first arrival of our summer visitors (coming north from Africa) from among the many east European birds that have been wintering here and have not yet left but one seen at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 16 was mentioned there as an 'incomer' among the Sand Martins, Meadow Pipits, White Wagtails and Wheatears. On Mar 15 one (almost certainly a wintering bird) was in full song in the Cosham (Portsmouth) garden were there has been an ongoing study of wintering birds since 1969 (see Graham Roberts' article reporting this study in the 1995 Hampshire Bird Report). During this past winter 13 Blackcaps have been newly ringed in this garden and no doubt many that were ringed there in previous years have come back for more of the homebaked cake with which they are rewarded.

Yellow-browed Warbler: Few of these have been reported during the past winter but one at least is still with us - seen in Willows behind the Fire Station at Bridport from Mar 16 to 21 at least

Willow Warbler: An early bird was reported at Portland on Mar 14 and on Mar 15 two were seen in the Andover area. Since then two have proved their identity by singing - one at Ditchling near Brighton on Mar 18 and another in the New Forest on Mar 21

Firecrest: There had been early reports of these singing at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 9 and 12 but they seem to have started in earnest on Mar 14 and 15

Long-tailed Tit: Nest building was reported on Mar 14 and 15 after an early report from Dungeness on Mar 2. On Mar 20 a pair had nearly completed their nest in the Chichester West Dean Woods

Willow Tit: Mar 15 brought a very unexpected report of one singing at Acres Down in the New Forest... on Mar 19 one was heard near Mottisfont in the Test Valley and one was found at a regular Sussex site on Mar 20

Nuthatch: Another very unexpected report was of a Nuthatch seen at St Helens in the Bembridge area of the Isle of Wight on Mar 15. Until a few years ago Nuthatch was (I think) absent from the Island but there has been just one bird which seems to have established itself on the north coast of the Island and now we seem to have another (though this new bird flew off into the unknown)

Penduline Tit: There has been one in the Paignton area of Devon recently (last report on Mar 20) and on Mar 17 one spent a few minutes at Rye Harbour before vanishing.

Great Grey Shrike: 11 reports this week show that several are still with us

Raven: Although there have been reports of Raven in the West Wittering area on Mar 1 and 5 Barry Collins was surprised to find a pair eating carrion on the shore of Pilsey Island (just across Chichester Harbour from Wittering) on Mar 21 - they flew off east, as did the two at Wittering on Mar 5

Starling: Many of these have been moving north recently with counts of 1000+ north over Sandwich Bay on Mar 15 and Mar 18 after 648 flew north over the South Foreland on Mar 15. On Mar 19 Spurn Point in Yorkshire reported 9000 there. There have also been large movements on the continent.

Chaffinch: Northward movement of these is also recorded with 1116 over the South Foreland on Mar 15, 1545 over Folkestone on Mar 17 and 2135 over Folkestone on Mar 19 with smaller numbers seen at Hastings and Sandwich Bay

Siskin: In addition to winter visitors returning north some of these nest in Hampshire and on Mar 19 several males were singing, and a female was carrying nest material, in the Romsey area

Linnet: Relatively few of these at breeding places on the south coast or passing north this week (highest count was 46 at Christchurch harbour on Mar 18

Twite: An excellent photo of one showing the yellow beak was taken by a Portsmouth birder at Farlington Marshes on Mar 18

Yellowhammer: It is good to hear that at least one was present on Mar 16 in the field by the Hayling Coastal Path a little north of the footpath connecting to the West Lane bends (I call this the 'Hoopoe field' in memory of a Hoopoe once being seen there - as was a Sub-alpine Warbler many years ago - but I was told by one 'old inhabitant of Hayling' that the locals used to call it 'Starveguts field' because it grows more Dyers Greenweed than grass). On Mar 21 the Havant Wildlife Group enjoyed the sight of a flock of 10 Yellowhammers just over the Sussex border in the Inholmes Wood area near Stoughton.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: Mar 15 brought a flood of sightings including more than 22 at Basing Forest, more than 20 in Havant Thicket and 20 in Pamber Forest. A couple of females have already been seen but the vast majority are males

Large White: At least one (first for year) was flying in a Cosham garden at Portsmouth in the week before Mar 15 and a female was found still unfurling its wings in Sussex on Mar 14. Mar 15 brought reports of 2 in Sussex and on Mar 18 one was seen in the New Forest

Small White: The first seen flying out of doors was at Falmer on the Sussex Downs on Feb 27 with another Sussex report on Feb 28 followed by a gap until Mar 14 since when there have been 14 reports

Green-veined White: At least one (first for year) was out in the Thanet area of Kent on Mar 15 (photo on Planet Thanet website) but Gosport had two on that same day

Orange Tip: The Havant area has been favoured with the only two reports so far - both males. The first was at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 19 and the second was by the Brockhampton stream in Havant on Mar 21

Small Copper: The first and only sighting comes from the Southbourne undercliff in Bournemouth on Mar 17

Holly Blue: Also just one reported from the Rother woodland in East Sussex on Mar 18

Red Admiral: Regular sightings continue

Small Tortoiseshell: The news of these is encouraging with at least reports already, potentially recording at least 60 butterflies - first at Worthing on Feb 14 with seven reports in the current week

Peacock: 42 reports so far with the first three in January - up to 122 insects seen

Comma: 40 reports so far with the first seen on Feb 10 - 141 insects reported

Speckled Wood: The only sighting so far was of one at Portland on Mar 14

Moths

March Tubic (0663 Diurnea fagella): First in Kent on Mar 15

Agonopterix propinquella (0696): Emerged from hibernation in Kent on Mar 15

Orange Underwing (1661 Archiearis parthenias): Probable only - a moth which might be this species was seen in Havant Thicket on Mar 15. Since then there have been positive sightings on Mar 16 in the Horsham area and on Mar 19 at the QE country park near Petersfield

Early tooth-striped (1881 Trichopteryx carpinata): A very early first at Wadhurst near Crowborough on Feb 27

Brindled Beauty (1927 Lycia hirtaria): First on Mar 16 in the Brighton area

The Engrailed (1947 Ectropis bistortata): First found on a house window at Liphook on Mar 15

Caterpillars

Scarlet Tiger moth caterpillar found in Friston Forest near Eastbourne on Mar 14

Other Insects

Bee Fly: First of year at Bockhill (near the South Foreland in Kent) on Mar 15 with two more seen on Goat Willow catkins at Rye Harbour on Mar 16

Dotted Bee Fly (Bombylius discolor): Also reported at Bockhill on Mar 15

Drone Fly: First of year at Rye Harbour on Mar 15

Andrena labiata mining bee??: This is a possible id for a small mining bee with a distinctive red abdomen which I saw on a bank of dry earth (with some mines already dug) on the mound above Budds Farm Pools here in Havant on Mar 21 - this bee is said to be uncommon but widespread and it could be out at this time

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris): Large queens are frequently seen now but a report of a worker of this species seen on Gorse at Durlston on Mar 16 was exceptionally early

Green Tiger Beetle: Several of these were active at Seasalter on the north Kent coast on Mar 18

Bloody Nosed Beetle: This species and the Lesser version were both out at Durlston on Mar 20

Lesser Bloody Nosed Beetle (Timarcha goettingenis): Two seen on the south face of Portsdown on Mar 16

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Field Horsetail: First fertile cone had pushed up in Brook Meadow at Emsworth on Mar 20

Monterey Pine: A young tree was shedding mases of pollen in Solent Road at Havant on Mar 21

Bulbous Buttercup: First for the year flowering in the Eastney area of Portsmouth on Mar 18

Marsh Marigold: Several newly planted around the 'improved' Baffins Pond in Portsmouth were flowering on Mar 18 and on Mar 21 I found just two plants flowering on the Langstone South Moors

Wood Anemone: Several were flowering in the Hollybank Woods on Mar 16 (first for this year - last year they first appeared there on Mar 3). Others were seen in the Inholmes Wood near Stoughton on Mar 21

Blue Anemony (Anemone apennina): A few flowering in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Mar 17 and a couple of the smaller, commoner garden plants (Anemone blanda or Balkan Anemone) had bright blue flowers on Mar 19 in the shingle around the south facing base of the Havant multi-storey carpark where they must have been self-sown. I found more of these Balkan Anemones beside the Harts Farm Way near Broadmarsh on Mar 21

Yellow Corydalis: This is just beginning to flower again after a short pause (it was still flowering from last year on Jan 5)

English Scurvygrass: Brian Fellows found the first flowers of the year at Nore Barn saltings at Emsworth on Mar 18

Early Dog Violet: A great show of these is now to be seen under conifers (Cypress species) at the east end of the Eastern Road cemetery in Havant

Hairy Violet: These were fairly easy to find flowering on the south face of Portsdown on Mar 16 (first for year here - some were out at Durlston on Mar 13)

Sweet Violet: In addition to the widespread dark violet flowered plants and the paler variety to be found in Nore Barn wood at Emsworth Brian Fellows has now found the pure white variety in flower near Stansted House on Mar 19 and along with them he found a creamy yellow form which I have not seen before

White Campion: One plant (first of year) was in full flower beside Solent Road in Havant on Mar 21 near the new Health Centre

Lesser Chickweed: Reported to be flowering at Durlston on Mar 19 - Francis Rose describes this plant as being a smaller version of Common Chickweed which has no petals on its flowers. It is said to be very local in Hampshire but among the many sites shown on the distribution map in the Hants Flora are both Sandy Point and Gunner Point on south Hayling

Herb Robert: This was still flowering at the beginning of January but the first new flowering was at Durlston on Mar 21

Flowering Currant: This is really a garden plant but it is always a pleasure to find the first in flower as I did in the Langstone area on Mar 21

Horse Chestnut: Leaf buds had fully opened on one tree by Mar 21 though the leaves had not yet expanded

Japanese Knotweed: Less welcome shoots of this were coming up through the ground at Bedhampton on Mar 21

Cowslip: Durlston reported the first flowers on Mar 21

Ivy-leaved Toadflax: The first flowers seen for a month were out in Havant on Mar 15

Slender Speedwell: First flowers for the year found on Mar 17 in St Faith's churchyard in central Havant

Ground Ivy: Flowers found in several places around Langstone on Mar 20 and more found at Broadmarsh on Mar 21

Oxford Ragwort: First fully open flowers in Havant on Mar 21

Butterbur: The normal male flower spikes were in flower at Emsworth Brook Meadow on Mar 17 with a count of 298 spikes made there on Mar 19

Scentless Mayweed: The first flowers to be recorded since Jan 3 were out in the Budds Farm area of Havant on Mar 21

Grape Hyacinth: This is now flowering as a garden escape - I noticed a large colony near the A27 underpass on my way from Havant to Emsworth on Mar 18

Snakeshead Fritillary: One bud was near opening on Mar 18 in public grassland at the east end of Mill Lane at Langstone (where the plants were presumably deliberately planted several years ago) and I am told that they were already flowering by then in at least one south Hayling garden

Wild Bluebell: At least one early flower was seen in the Inholmes Wood area near Stoughton on Mar 21

Wild Daffodil: Two colonies of these were flowering in the Inhomes Wood area on Mar 21 (first of year)

Lords and Ladies: Just one fully exposed spathe found near the Langbrook stream at Langstone on Mar 21

Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris): Flowering in my garden lawn on Mar 20

OTHER WILDLIFE

Mink: On Mar 19 the Seasalter (Kent) website has a photo of a Mink swimming openly by day in a waterway near the north Kent coast

Common Seals: Barry Collins found 14 Common Seals on the mud around Thorney Island on Mar 14 - this is exactly the same number as the peak count there on Mar 30 last year (the peak counts I saw reported for the previous two years were 10 in 2006 and 11 in 2007)

Muntjac: One seen in the Faccombe area of north Hampshire on Mar 21

Water Vole: Two more sightings of single Voles in the River at Emsworth on Mar 19 and 20 bringing the number of sightings there to at least 5 this year (compared to just two by this date last year). In January this year there were sightings in the Lumley Stream and in Peter Pond but no further reports from there so far.

Bank Vole: On Mar 21, as I turned east from Brockhampton Road into Solent Road at the roundabout at the west end of Solent Road, I was puzzled to see a young girl and her dad looking hard at something on the pavement. When I reached them they pointed out a Bank Vole searching for food in the edge of the grass abutting the pavement and regularly coming out on the pavement within a couple of feet of the people leaning down to watch it. The Vole was still doing this as we left after having had excellent close views of it and seeing the distinctive reddish fur and the short ears almost hidden in the fur. The eyes were bright and it was very active, giving me the impression of a healthy but probably young (small) animal.

Hare: More reports include three sightings by Trevor Carpenter at different places in south Hampshire on Mar 15. Jeff Goodridge saw three more Hares at Kingsley in east Hampshire on Mar 18 and more were seen at Faccombe in north Hampshire on Mar 21

Rabbit: Surprisingly Rabbits are a great rarity at the Brook Meadow nature reserve in Emsworth so one seen there onMar 17 by Brian Fellows was his personal first view of one there in the years he has been visiting the site

Noctule Bat: A large bat seen flying at 11 am on Mar 15 above the East Sussex River Rother was probably a Noctule but the thing that interested me about this observation was the comment that some bats are thought to be evicted from their hideouts by Starlings seeking nest sites.

Common Toad: These were heard croaking from ditches in the Walland Marsh area to the east of Rye town on Mar 15 and these calls can be heard if you visit http://www.herpconstrust.org.uk/animals/common_toad_call.htm

Grass Snake: On Mar 17 Bob Eade was searching for butterflies in Friston Forest (north of Eastbourne) when he came on what he describes as .. "2 fantastic Grass Snakes together. The female of which had to be the biggest British snake I have ever seen."

Slow-worm: One or more has been active in a Cosham garden at the southern foot of Portsdown during the week ending Mar 15 - the first report of them this year came from the Hastings area on Feb 21


Summary for Mar 9 - 15 (Week 10 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week I have not had time for a scan of the internet on Sunday so late news is not included but highlights of the news up to Saturday include the following

In southern England there has been a major arrival of both Wheatears, Sand Martins and Chiffchaffs while Sandwich Tern numbers are building up and the first Swallows, House Martin and Garganey have arrived with an earliest ever Tree Pipit for Hampshire. Over on the near Continent several Yellow Wagtails (of the continental Blue-Headed race) are now present and Common Cranes, Spoonbills and White Storks are now present in moderate numbers while there have been isolated reports of a Purple Heron, a Zitting Cisticola (or Fan-tailed Warbler) and a Bluethroat. Of interest to us is the first news of a satellite tracked Osprey heading for Scotland (but still in the Pyrenees) and a Ring Ouzel in Belgium. The Red-breasted Goose has now left West Wittering and Brent are becoming thin on the ground though Shelduck have apparently increased as a result of transient birds pausing in our harbours on their way to their breeding places. A pair of Mandarin have arrived at Titchfield Haven for the first time (??) and I have commented on the vast increase in the number of Gadwall that has occurred since the 1950s. Oddities include a Snowy Owl in Cornwall and a Dipper on the Dorset Coast plus a Penduline Tit in Devon.

No new butterflies are yet on the wing but warmer nights have brought 11 new Moth species to traps while Mining Bees have begun digging their nest burrows.

New flowering plants range from Alpine Squill through Moschatel to Hairy Woodrush and include the very first Blackthorn enabling people to contrast their small flowers with those of the Cherry Plum which has been out for several weeks. Also new this week are flowers on the rare female Butterbur plants by the Langbrook Stream at Langstone

Other Wildlife includes some comments on wild Polecats which are now an unseen part of wildlife in most parts of England and the amusing story of basking Adders falling off cliff ledges and having a long climb back to their favoured basking places.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: On Mar 8 only 20 of these could be seen in Rye Bay from the shore of Pett Level - a sudden and dramatic disappearance of the huge winter flock here which peaked at an estimated 500 birds on Feb 8 (and that was only a fraction of the 3000+ birds wintering in the area between Hastings and Folkestone). Having written the above in my Mid-week Summary I found that the Mar 13 entry on the Sandwich Bay website reported a flock of 320 on the sea there but other entries indicated that these were passing birds.

Slavonian Grebe: More than 12 were on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Mar 11 and one was still on the Lymington shore on Mar 14

Black-necked Grebe: Birds in the Dorset area were down to just 7 in Studland Bay on Mar 13 but there were 16 in the Torbay area of Devon on Mar 11

Cormorant: Two seen flying over the well watched Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough on Mar 14 were carrying nesting material, probably indicating the beginning of a new nesting colony here

Bittern: On Mar 13 there were still two of these in Poole Harbour at Hatch Pond and the RSPB Dungeness reserve reported at least one seen there in the preceding week

Cattle Egret: The Puckpool area bird on the Isle of Wight was still present on Mar 14 and there were still at least six in Devon, two in Cornwall and one in the Scillies this week

Little Egret: The only report showing the expected spring rise in numbers this week comes from Shillingstone in the Stour valley upstrean from Blandford where there were 18 on Mar 11 and 28 on Mar 13

Great White Egret: None reported from southern England this week and over in Holland the peak count of 29 birds at Strabrechtse Heide on Mar 9 was down to 28 on Mar 11 and to just 2 on Mar 14 (though this may be just a quirk of the Trektellen reporting method which separates counts of birds on passage from those present at a site - maybe 2 flew over but up to 30 were present on the ground, unreported, but reports of a total of 4 more birds passing over three other Dutch sites that day does indicate that the flock may have been dispersing).

Purple Heron: One recorded at a Dutch site on Mar 10

White Stork: 14 in the Paris area on Mar 13 were presumably arriving migrants as were 3 at a Dutch site

Spoonbill: Mar 13 seems to have brought a wave of these into northern Europe with a count of 18 at one Dutch site and 14 at another (but 12 at a different Dutch site on Mar 12). In England 6 were still in Poole Harbour at Arne on Mar 8, 4 were at a Devon site on Mar 10 and 1 was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 13

Black Swan: One was seen with Canada Geese on Mar 11 in Chichester Marina (close to Birdham) where a Bar-headed Goose was seen on Mar 8

Barnacle Goose: Two were seen in the Gosport area of Portsmouth Harbour during the Mar 14 WeBS count - they have been around there since the New Year if not longer.

Brent Goose: These started to fly east past Dungeness on Jan 31 (2200 departed on that day). During February six more 'departure flights' were reported there but none were of more than 500 birds seen. Mar 1 brought another surge with over 2360 birds passing and since then counts have been 647 on Mar 4, 360 on Mar 8 and 400 on Mar 10 (These counts are of course only an indication of the total numbers moving east - many will have gone unrecorded at Dungeness - for intance 3370 went past Cap Gris-Nez on Feb 26 and many of the birds seen passing other English coastal sites may have passed Dungeness unseen). There were still 260 around the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 14 and 165 flew past Selsey Bill that day (and 827 flew along the Dutch coast) but the supply in other places is drying up - only 16 were seen in the Black Point area of Hayling that day when just 6 were seen in the upper reaches of the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester where there had been 140 on Mar 10.

Black Brant: One was still in the Priddy's Hard area of Gosport on Mar 14 and singles were at both Farlington Marshes and Titchfield Haven on Mar 13

Red-breasted Goose: The bird that was in the Lymington area from Oct 31 to Feb 4 then appeared in the West Wittering area on Feb 12 but now seems to have left there after a final sighting on Mar 8. Last year it left the Wittering area on Mar 6 after being there throughout the winter (from 24 Nov 2007) but in the winter before that it was more adventurous, starting in the Weymouth area from Nov 4 to 12 before appearing in Poole Harbour on Nov 29 and staying there to Jan 25, then moving to Lymington for a few days before a one day appearance in the Weymouth area on Feb 15 only to shoot back to south Hayling and on to Wittering until Feb 28 after which it vanished.

Shelduck: The number seen in the area between Langstone and Emsworth in Jan and Feb varies but does not normally nowadays exceed 40 birds so a count of 60 all in one flock on the Langstone east shore on Mar 10 suggested that these were transient birds on the move from their wintering area back to breeding areas and on Mar 11 there were 106 of them in the Langstone area (almost certainly a new wave as the majority of these were west of the village). This movement co-incides with the appearance of a pair on the Budds Farm pools where there had been none earlier in the winter (and where one or two pairs normally breed). Birds were still moving up to Mar 14 when 57 were seen on the east Gosport shore though I only saw two in the Hayling Oysterbeds area that day.

Mandarin: A pair were on the river Meon within the Titchfield Haven reserve on Mar 13 - this species has not been reported here in recent years and I wonder if this pair will be tempted to stay?

Wigeon: The very large numbers present at many sites up to Mar 1 has dramatically dropped off since then - on Mar 9 I only found one in the Broadmarsh area and none were anywhere on the South Moors shore. There were still 40 at Rye Harbour on Mar 14 (but there had been 570 there last month).

Gadwall: On Mar 9 there were 5 pairs on Bedhampton Mill pool and on Mar 11 there were still at least half a dozen on the Budds Farm pools.

The absence of Mallard on the Bedhampton Mill pool coupled with the large number of Gadwall showed the recent dramatic increase in Gadwall numbers in southern England - I have a copy of John Taverner's 1962 book "Wildfowl in Hampshire" which classifies Gadwall as 'A very scarce and irregular winter visitor' and which begins the species account with the sentence .. "Apart from extreme rarities, there is no more uncommon duck in Hampshire." In contrast this book classifies Smew as 'An uncommon winter visitor becoming more frequent in hard weather' and records the presence of up to 100 in Hampshire in 1956. Since writing that in mid-week I see that on Mar 13 Brian Fellows found 7 of these birds on the Fishbourne Mill Pond where I have not seen them before.

Pintail: Despite rapidly declining numbers of these at most sites there were more than 50 in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Mar 13 (though I suspect these were transient birds)

Garganey: The first pair to reach Britain this year were at Dungeness on Mar 11 (when one more turned up in Holland - that bird was still there on Mar 14 when another two had arrived at a different Durch site)

Shoveler: There were still at least four on the Budds Farm pools on Mar 11 (32 had been reported here in January) but perhaps of more interest locally has been the appearance of this species on the flood in the pony field south of Wade Court (and north of Langstone pond) - a couple of males were first seen here on Jan 20 and have been seen occasionally since right up to Mar 10 when one was present

Scaup: One was still at Titchfield Haven on Mar 13 and what is thought to be its companion was still at the Chichester Daryton pit lake on Mar 11 while another was at Rooksbury Lake at Andover on Mar 12 and 13 (it has been there since the New Year).

Long-tailed Duck: The Chichester Harbour pair were still present (seen from Mill Rythe) on Mar 8

Surf Scoter: The female bird that has been wintering in Devon was still off Dawlish Warren on Mar 10

Osprey: Other than the unconfirmed sighting of one seen from a train in the Itchen Valley on Mar 2 I have not yet heard of any reaching Britain but on Mar 14 one of the radio tagged Scottish birds was at a site in the Pyrenees area where she paused for a few days on her journey south last autumn - check out http://www.roydennis.org/Beatrice.htm and scroll down to see where she has got to as the days pass (the Home Page link at the head of this page will take you to links to other Osprey tracking projects)

Merlin: These are still at coastal wintering sites and one at Farlington Marshes was seen to catch a Skylark on Mar 10

Common Crane: No news from England but a measure of the build up of the migration over the near continent can be gained from the Trektellen website which reported 16 in Holland on Feb 26, 30 in Germany on Mar 4 and 35 in Belgium on Mar 13 leaping to 120 birds in Belgium on Mar 14

Golden Plover: 150 were still at Maiden Castle in Dorset on Mar 8 and 200 at Rye Harbour on Mar 10

Ruff: The lone bird that has been in the Fishbourne Channel at Chichester since Jan 11 was still there on Mar 14

Snipe: A report of 86 found on the Portsmouth Harbour Gosport shore during the WeBS count on Mar 14 was a surprise (probably transient birds stopping off at the Defence Munitions site at Bedenham)

Black-tailed Godwit: Two large flocks in different areas of the Fishbourne Channel at Chichester on Mar 14 had a total of over 300 birds where there are normally only just over 100 birds.

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth was still present on Mar 14 (when 2 were still at Lymington) but the Greenshank which has been its regular companion has not been reported since Mar 11

Green Sandpiper: One was seen in the River Rother east of Petersfield on Mar 10

Great Skua: These were being seen every few days up to Feb 14 but none have been reported since then until Mar 9 when one ws off Portland

Med Gull: These have been back in the north Hayling and Langstone area since mid-Feb but it was not until Mar 11 that I saw a summer plumaged adult resting on the mud just off the Royal Oak at Langstone - numbers should soon build up here. At the Oysterbeds more than 106 were present on Mar 13

Little Gull: Their southward spring passage along the French coast and through the Netherlands has increased in the past couple of weeks - 173 went past Cap Gris-Nez on Mar 2 but on Mar 11 one Dutch site reported 639 passing. In England, in addition to the occasional bird seen at Dungeness, and adult was inland at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood on Mar 12

Iceland Gull: The Poole Harbour bird was still in the Holes Bay area on Mar 8, and on Mar 12 one was present in Cornwall and another on the Scillies. The Dungeness bird was still being seen on Mar 13 (no Glaucous Gulls reported since Mar 1)

Kumlein's Gull: One was still being reported in the Scillies on Mar 12 - for non-gull-watchers like me the Kumlein's Gull is a small version of an Iceland Gull with a sloping forehead and dark tips to its outer primaries

Glaucous Gull: The only bird reported this week was at Newlyn in Cornwall on Mar 9

Kittiwake: On Mar 8 some 30 birds were already around nest sites on the cliffs at Seaford

Sandwich Tern: An indication of the build up of arriving summer birds comes from Rye Harbour where 7 were seen on Mar 12 and 26 were present on Mar 14. Some of those passing up the English Channel will eventually start to enter our Solent Harbours (probably not until April) but at the moment any seen in them are likely to be ones that have wintered here.

Puffin: Two birds seen off the Dancing Ledge of the Dorset Coast west of Swanage may have been the same two seen off Portland on Mar 8

Snowy Owl: One was still being reported in Cornwall on Mar 9

Skylark: Of local interest only I heard my first Skylark song from a bird above the Warblington Farm fields on Mar 10

Sand Martin: I have now seen 11 reports of these with the first being in East Sussex on Feb 27 - numbers started to shoot up on Mar 12 with a count of 15 over a Cornish reservoir and on Mar 13 there were more than 50 at Radipole (Weymouth), then on Mar 14 the Blashford Lakes in Hampshire had 20+

Swallow: First for the year was reported from the Scilly Isles on Mar 10 and there were two there on Mar 12 but the only other report I have seen so far is of one in Belgium on Mar 14

House Martin: After an isolated first at Weymouth on Mar 7 the only other report so far is of one on the Scillies on Mar 12

Tree Pipit: What is probably the earliest ever for Hampshire was seen and heard singing on the west edge of the New Forest near Ringwood on Mar 11

Meadow Pipit: Another small surge of arrivals on Mar 14 with 96 in off the sea at Selsey Bill and more than 75 at Christchurch Harbour

Yellow Wagtail: The European race birds (subspecies flava - ours in Britain are flavissima) started to arrive in the Low Countries on Mar 13 and on Mar 14 a total of 5 birds were reported from four sites - these are called Blue-headed Wagtails on the Trektellen website as the flava race birds do have a blue grey crown and nape where our birds are yellowish green or brown on their heads

White Wagtail: Their passage is now under way with with reports from Weymouth, Worthing and Selsey Bill on Mar 13 and 14

Dipper: One was seen on the Dorset coast near Lyme Regis on Mar 8 reminding me that these birds do occasionally appear in Hampshire (a pair bred on the River Test at Romsey in 1991 and 1992 while 1993 saw a long staying winter bird in the Tanner's Brook in Southampton as well as another Test valley report where at least one was seen in 1994, then there were reports from both the Romsey area and Meonstoke in the Meon valley during 1995, a single bird was in the Test valley in 1996 and 1997 and there was one near Basingstoke in the Overton area by the source of the R Test in December 2003)

Bluethroat: One was seen at a Dutch site on Mar 13

Wheatear: Portland reported 8 on Mar 13 when there were reports of singles at three other sites. Mar 14 brought reports from 12 sites with more than 10 at Worthing, at least 13 on the Hayling Bay shore and 30 at Christchurch Harbour. Also that day one was seen in north Hampshire at Ashley Warren

Ring Ouzel: No migrants have reached us yet (one seen in Cornwall on Mar 12 is thought to have wintered there) but one at a Belgian site on Mar 14 may be heading our way

Song Thrush: An increase in temperature on Mar 10 seems to have restarted Song Thrush song and I read that a nest built near Lewes in late February had two eggs in it by Mar 8.

Redwing: One was singing in the Sandwich Bay area on Mar 11 - unlike the attractive Starling-like chattering sub-song of flocks getting ready to leave us I am not familiar with the full song

Mistle Thrush: One singing strongly at Forestside Church near Stansted Forest on Mar 12 was only the fourth report of song that I have come across so far this year (I have not heard it) and this is a measure of the dramatic decrease in numbers of this species

Zitting Cisticola (was called Fan-tailed Warbler): One reported flying south at a Dutch site on Mar 13 (one of these paid a brief visit to north Kent on 13 Sep 2008 and was only the sixth for Britain).

Chiffchaff: These seem to have been arriving as migrants since Feb 27 and I think I had my first encounter with one at Langstone Mill Pond on Mar 10 - it was in Alders around the pond where I have not encountered one earlier in the year, it was calling persistently in the late afternoon when a resident bird would probably have been silent, and this is a typical coastal site where the first migrants pause to restock their stomachs (or crops!) after a journey. Mar 14 brought a surge in sightings indicating a major arrival and on that day birds were heard singing in the Fishbourne area near Chichester, at Langstone village and at the Blashford Lakes

Firecrest: Goldcrest have been singing occasionally for some time but Firecrest have only been reported in song on Mar 9 and 12, both times at Christchurch Harbour

Marsh Tit: These seem to be disappearing from the local scene in the same way that Willow Tits have already done. So far this year I have only seen 20 reports of the species but I am glad to say that two of these came from the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth where Brian Fellows came on at least one on Jan 24 and Mar 11. (The only report of song so far is of one bird at Sowley Pond near Lymington on Feb 14)

Penduline Tit: A male has ben present in Devon for some time and was seen near Paignton on Mar 11

Rook: The nesting season is now firmly under way for these birds- on Mar 9 and 10 Brian Fellows noted lots of activity at two local rookeries in Emsworth and the Ems valley, then noted more than 100 nests at the Forestside church rookery on Mar 12 and on Mar 14 found 18 more nests in trees beside the main approach road to Bosham village.

Siskin: First report of song came from a bird at Hastings on Mar 7 and on Mar 10 song was noted at Pulborough Brooks

Common (or Mealy) Redpoll: One of these larger, paler birds has been seen with Lessser Redpolls at the Eastleigh Lakes site from Mar 11 to 14

Snow Bunting: Despite warmer weather one was still present at a Cornish site on Mar 9 and one (maybe the same bird??) was seen in Holland on Mar 14

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

A Brimstone was in my Havant garden for the first time on Mar 15 and other species seen this week are Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma - nothing new to report yet!

Moths

Depressaria daucella (0670): First report for the year comes from Pagham Harbour on Mar 10

Shoulder Stripe (1746 Anticlea badiata): First in Thanet on Mar 13

Red-green Carpet (1760 Chloroclysta siterata): First sighting of a female (males fail to overwinter but females survive to lay their eggs now) at Park Corner Heath near Eastbourne on Mar 8

Early Thorn (1917 Selenia dentaria): First at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 11

Dark Sword-grass (2091Agrotis ipsilon): First at Portland on Mar 11

Red Chestnut (2139 Cerastis rubricosa): First at Friston (Eastbourne) on Mar 11

Powdered Quaker (2186 Orthosia gracilis): First at Pagham Harbour on Mar 10

Clouded Drab (2188 Othosia incerta): First at Rngmer near Lewes on Mar 9

Twin-spotted Quaker (2189 Orthosia munda): First also at Ringmer on Mar 9

Tawny Pinion (2235 Lithophane semibrunnea): First at Pagham Harbour on Mar 10

Pale Pinion (2236 Lithophane socia): First at Ringmer near Lewes on Mar 11

Other Insects

Mining Bees: On Mar 13 Durlston reported the appearance of soil heaps indicating active burrowing by some bee species

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Hairy Violet: This downland species may be out on Portsdown by now but the first report of flowering comes from Durlston on Mar 13 (Sweet Violets are out on Portsdown)

Sweet Violet: This can appear in at least four colour forms (standard deep violet, a pale version of the standard form, a pink flowered form and a pure white form) Neither of the last two forms have been seen yet and it seems that my report of the pink form was in fact an error - what had been found were the pale violet plants which have a pinkish tinge to their flowers and the mistake arose because large clumps of the pale violet form occur in the Nore Barn wood at Emsworth close to where the pink flowers will hopefully appear later)

Storks-bill: First flowers for the year seen at Broadmarsh on Mar 9

Blackthorn: One young tree in Havant had the first flowers I know of this year open on Mar 10 and next day several of the bushes planted alongside the path from Southmoor Lane into the Langstone South Moors nature reserve had their first flowers open allowing me to compare that size of their flowers (around 8mm across) with those of the Cherry Plum blossom on trees beside Southmoor Lane (nearly 2 cm across)

Horse Chestnut: Mar 10 saw the first leaf buds split open and tiny green tips of leaves appearing for the first time.

English Elm: On Mar 11 there was a purple haze of flowers around those trees that were still alive and overhanging the Langbrook stream immediately south of the west end of Mill Lane at Langstone

Cow Parsley: Occasional plants flower sporadically through the winter but Mar 10 seems to have marked the start of the general flowering season with three or four plants having newly open flowers along the southern stretch of Wade Lane at Langstone

Moschatel: Last week plants with flowers not yet open were found in the Hookheath Nature Reserve at the north foot of Portsdown and on Mar 13 a good cluster of plants with open flowers ('Town Hall Clocks') were found in an ancient lane south of Horndean

Butterbur: No general flowering of the male flowers at Emsworth Brook Meadow nor at the Racton road junction in the Ems valley (only the few spikes forced up by rising water in a ditch there and which were already in flower on Feb 14). By the Langbrook stream in Langstone however at least 31 spikes of the unusual female plants had pushed up and were starting to flower on Mar 11.

Alpine Squill: Last week I reported the presence of five plants about to open their flowers in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth and on Mar 11 Brian Fellow found flowers fully open on two of six plants

Hairy Woodrush: Several plants were in flower in The Holt wood between Rowlands Castle and Horndean on Mar 13

OTHER WILDLIFE

Polecat: Bob Chapman reports the find of a dead Polecat on a road from Ringwood to Bransgore on Mar 12 and this may be further proof of the ongoing recovery and spread of wild Polecats throughout Britain but not every animal which looks like a Polecat is a true member of the species. The dark bandit-like face mask of a Polecat is the main feature distinguishing the species from a Ferret but Polecats do interbreed with Ferrets so identification of a true wild Polecat is difficult but several reports that I have heard in recent years seem to indicate that the species is increasingly present in Hampshire and is breeding in the wild (the only evidence I have seen for this comes from the find of a dead lactating female on a road in the Test valley some years ago). The following extract from the Worcestershire Biological Records Centre website ( http://wbrc.org.uk/WorcRecd/Issue7/polecat.htm ) concerns Worcestershire but shows that these animals are now present throughout much of the UK

Polecats Are On Their Way Back by Johnny Birks of The Vincent Wildlife Trust

The polecat, the mammalogists' spiritual equivalent of the quintessentially Welsh Red Kite, is recovering well in Britain. That is one conclusion from a major study recently published by The Vincent Wildlife Trust (VWT). The report, The Distribution and Status of the Polecat Mustela putorius in Britain in the 1990s, by Johnny Birks and Andrew Kitchener, includes a review of previous distribution surveys, the findings of a new survey, development of a method to monitor variations in abundance based on live-trapping by volunteers, a summary of the relationship between polecats and ferrets, and a description of a study of polecat ecology on lowland farmland in England (part of which was carried out in Worcestershire).

The VWT distribution survey produced over one thousand records from the 1990s, 68% of which were road casualties. Many of these were collected by naturalists (thanks to all who helped in Worcestershire) for us to confirm their identity as either true polecats or ferret hybrids. Records of true polecats came from 228 'new' 10-km squares (several of which were in Worcestershire), confirming continuation of the encouraging recovery after near-extinction at the beginning of this century. Worcestershire is now completely repopulated by true polecats (a process which probably began in the far west of the county in the 1960s), although feral ferrets and hybrids will always occur from time to time as a result of ferrety escapes or releases.

Stoat: A report of a 'Stoat on a Boat' at Sandwich Bay on Mar 11 amused me - presumably the boat was in someway accessible from dry land.

Grey Seal: According to one confident observer there was a Grey Seal bull in the entrance to Chichester Harbour on Mar 8 - I hope he is not planning a takeover of the long-established Common Seal colony in the harbour.

Hare: Two were seen on the Sussex Downs just north of Worthing on Mar 14

Common Newt: These should all have roused from hibernation and be back at (or certainly heading for) breeding ponds by now but this overland journey from the winter hideaway to the safety of water exposes the animals to other threats as well as road accidents - one Newt which was found on the pavement outside Brian Fellow's house in Emsworth on Friday Mar 13 was in a dessicated state (probably just hungry after hibernation) and had an injury to the top of its left back leg. I would guess that this injury came from the beak of a bird which had perhaps caught the Newt in Brook Meadow but had dropped it onto Bridge Road when being harried by others keen to get the prey for themselves. (That is of course only one of many possibilities - one of which would by capture by a Cat which did not relish the taste of Newt meat)

Adder: Reports of basking Adders are now common but I was amused to read that two of five which had been basking on cliff ledges at Durlston fell off their ledges and had to spend a long time clambering back up the cliffs!


Summary for Mar 2 - 8 (Week 9 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Late News: A scan of the internet on Sunday evening after completing the Weekly Summary below gave me the following extra highlights ...

House Martin: First of the year at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Mar 7 (and a 'new' Cattle Egret in the Wareham area that day)

Puffin: The first of the year was back at Portland on Mar 7 (as noted below) and it was joined by a second bird on Mar 8

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: A pair were seen at the Rotherlands Nature Reserve by the River Rother east of Petersfield on Mar 8

Scaup: In the Summary below I suggest that one of the two birds that have been at Titchfield Haven left on Mar 1 or 2 to appear on the Drayton Pit at Chichester on Mar 2. We now have confimation that only one was still at Titchfield on Mar 8

Bar-tailed Godwit: One was seen in full summer plumage at Northney on the north Hayling shore on Mar 7 (probably one of those eccentric birds which does not adopt a winter plumage rather than one in very advanced moult)

Common Gull: Trevor Carpenter has photos to show that a mal-formed Common Gull has survived at Farlington Marshes from last October until now. The bird has its head on 'upside down' so that in flight the eyes and bill point upwards - it is as if someone had wrung the bird's neck, twisting it through 180 degrees without severing the spinal nerves.

New Flowers: On Mar 7 John Goodspeed found both Moschatel and Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage about to open their flower buds at Hookheath (north foot of Portsdown near the River Wallington)

Highlights: Little Egret numbers are starting to increase as spring advances and at least one new Great White Egret seems to have arrived in Britain while the small colony of what is assumed to be this species in Holland has grown to 30 birds. No Swans are yet on their natural nests but one has made a good attempt to invade a human bedroom in Emsworth while a Great Spotted Woodpecker has also alarmed the residents of another house by drumming on the metal TV aerial attaced to the roof. Also seen near Emsworth was a smart male Hen Harrier and from the Scilly Isles we have some stunning pictures of a Gyr Falcon eating a duck it has just caught. Still with oddities we have a pure albino Curlew at Pagham. A welcome spring arrival was a Puffin at Portland while more normal spring migrants now with us are Sand Martin, Wheatear and Chiffchaff plus an unusually early Lesser Whitethroat. Long-tailed Tits are now nest building (and I heard one singing for the first time in my life!)

Six butterfly species have been seen on the wing this week, among them a Small White and half a dozen Small Tortoiseshells. Just one new moth species (Angle Shades) was reported during the week

New flowers for the year seen this week were Barren Strawberry, Green Alkanet, White Comfrey and Alpine Squill

Hares have been seen 'boxing' and at least one clump of Frogspawn has hatched into Tadpoles. Reptile firsts for the year are Grass Snake, Common Lizard and Wall Lizard. The last item to catch my eye was a misprint - Roe Deer invading a garden on Portsdown were aptly described as 'Rose Deer' (after all garden roses are one of their favourite foods)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Confirmation that the birds that have been reported heading east through the channel are going north up our east coast comes in a count of 82 seen heading north past Spurn point in Yorkshire on Feb 28 (on Feb 26 201 flew past Cap Gris-Nez)

Great Crested Grebe: I think the large winter flocks on the sea are now thinning out but there were still 158 on the sea off Sandwich Bay onn Mar 4 (many said to be in summer plumage). Over in Holland one site reported 274 birds flying south on Mar 3

Red-necked Grebe: One was off Puckpool Point (north east corner of IoW) on Mar 7 - possibly the same bird that was off Southsea Castle from Feb 4 to 8 and was then seen acoss Spithead in the Puckpool area before returning to Southsea on Feb 11 but which has not been reported since Feb 23

Slavonian Grebe: On Mar 1 four flew east off Selsey Bill and I guess a lot more have been on the move to bring 20 to the sea off Pagham Harbour on Mar 5

Black-necked Grebe: The number in Studland Bay (where there were 37 on Feb 20) was down to 2 on Mar 3 (with 5 there on Mar 4) but the 2 birds at the Blashford Lakes were still present on Mar 6 (this species does occasionally breed in Hampshire)

Balearic Shearwater: Three birds glimpsed at Milford on sea on Mar 3 through a car windscreen in a howling gale and driving rain were initially reported as Manx Shearwaters but the observer was happy to agree that they might well have been the more likely Balearic Shearwaters of which there have been 17 south coast reports so far this year from Dorset, Isle of Wight, Sussex and Kent (so far no Manx have been seen along this coast this year). If they were Balearic they were the first for Hampshire this year.

Bittern: The last of the birds at the Blashford Lakes is thought to have left soon after the last reported sighting on Mar 4 but there have been reports from at least four other sites this week

Cattle Egret: The Isle of Wight bird was still present on Mar 7 and I see that there has been one on the Scillies up to Mar 3 at least

Little Egret: On Feb 27 there were 26 birds in the night roost at Rye Harbour but by Mar 6 that number had increased to 38 showing that the expected spring increase in numbers at our coastal sites has started

Great White Egret: One spent the best part of the day on Mar 2 at the edge of the 'Scrape' at Farlington Marshes but flew off north east at 5:27 pm. - maybe the same bird was at the Lewes Brooks by the Sussex Ouse on Mar 6 The bird which was at the Blashford Lakes from Jan 1 to 14 has not been seen since then.

In my summary for Week 6 I commented on my attempts to identify which species was being reported from sites in Holland under the name Great White Heron - my conclusion then was that, although there is an American species called Great White Heron it does not visit Europe, they were referring to Great White Egret. Reports of Great White Heron at the site called Strabrechtse Heide have increased from 11 on Feb 11 through 19 on Feb 19 to 26 on Feb 26 and 29 on Mar 4 with one or two birds at other Dutch sites and my latest thought (sparked by the news from Rye Harbour of increasing numbers of Little Egrets there) that Great White Heron may in fact be their name for Little Egret (but this is definitely not the case as they have Little Egret separately on their species list with many reports from northern France).

Spoonbill: The flock of up to 13 birds that were in Poole Harbour in the first week of January dimished to no more than 5 in Dorset until Mar 1 when 6 were in the Arne area with another 2 at Lodmoor. This apparent influx co-incided with the arrival of one at Titchfield Haven on Mar 2 (first for the year anywhere in Hampshire)

Mute Swan: Still no definite reports of birds sitting on nests but more than one pair have been showing interest in nests recently. Maybe one bird thought it was due for an upgrade to a comfortable human bedroom for its nest site - on Mar 1 one crashed into the bedroom window of a house in North Street at Emsworth while the human residents were still in bed - the noise got them out of bed to arrange a rescue operation for the bird that was trapped on the first floor balcony outside the window. The rescuers reported that the bird had no obvious injuries and it was soon released in a more appropriate location

Bewick's Swan: A flock of 25 was seen departing east from Pulborough Brooks on Feb 21 and I have seen no mention of this species in the Rye area since Feb 18 but a group of 10 were still in the Harbridge area of the Avon valley near Ringwood on Mar 4

Pinkfoot Goose: Another indication of departing winter wildfowl comes from Spurn Point on the Yorkshire coast where a site record was set on Feb 28 with a count of 1835 Pinkfoot flying north in a two hour period.

Snow Goose: The flock of around 25 birds seen flying over Rye Bay on Mar 1 was seen again on Mar 5 at Scotney Court on the Kent/Sussex border - in the flock were five juveniles and a single Emperor goose (this latter seems to turn the scales in favour of the birds being escapees)

Barnacle Goose: The single bird which has been at Farlington Marshes for some time was joined by two more on Mar 2

Brent Goose: Mar 1 saw a big push east by these geese with 2360 passing Dungeness after 314 went by on Feb 28. Across the channel one Dutch site reported 934 going north on Mar 3 when there were still around 300 along the west coast of Hayling Island. Mar 4 saw another 647 passing Dungeness and on Mar 5 what was probably a transient flock of 150 was in Emsworth harbour area

Red-breasted Goose: Still in the Wittering area on Mar 5

Red-crested Pochard: The male was still at Badminston Common in the New Forest area near Fawley on Mar 6 when another was seen at the Blashford Lakes

Ring-necked Duck: The female which has been on Little Sea in the Studland area since Feb 23 was still there on Mar 4 while in East Hampshire the male which had been on Passfield Pond from Jan 1 to 11 (moving to a pond in the Frith End area on one day) has re-appeared at Frith End on Mar 3 and was still there on Mar 7

Scaup: The two males at Titchfield Haven were still there on Mar 1 but maybe one of them has left as a single male appeared on one of the Chichester pit lakes (at Drayton) on Mar 2 and was still there on Mar 5 (only one was seen at Titchfield Haven on Mar 6)

Eider: A lone female has been off West Wittering in Chichester Harbour from Feb 25 to Mar 5 at least but a flock of 70 seen off the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Feb 28 seems to have been a one off appearance of transient birds. A further indication of Eider moving back north comes from the German Baltic coast where 1606 birds flew north at a site near Kiel on Mar 4

Long-tailed Duck: The pair which was first seen in Chichester Harbour off east Hayling on Jan 21 and was seen from Black Point on three more dates up to Feb 7 were seen again from the Mill Rythe area on Feb 15 and were still there on Mar 1. The bird that has been on the sea off Pagham Harbour since Jan 10 was still there on Mar 5

Velvet Scoter: 18 were seen among many Common Scoter passing Dungeness on Mar 1 when at least one was still in Dorset waters at Weymouth Bay. A single was seen off Pagham Harbour on Mar 5.

Smew: Last report from the south coast was dated Feb 24 when a single drake was at Scotney Court (Rye Harbour) but I see that a pair were at Paxton Pits by the Bedfordshire Ouse on Mar 4

Goosander: 11 flew north past Spurn Point on the Yorkshire coast on Feb 28 - the most ever recorded passing there in one day

Hen Harrier: Among nine reports which I reocorded this week is a good local sighting of a male going south down the Ems valley in the Racton area - it was seen flying at a height of around 50 feet (so probably in transit rather than hunting) over fields behind the houses in Racton hamlet

Sparrowhawk: Migrants are now passing over the Kent coast - on Mar 5 a group of 3 went high over Dungeness and on Mar 6 four flew over Sandwich Bay

Rough-legged Buzzard: The bird in the Hants/Berks border area north of Andover was seen again on Mar 7 in a valley west of the hill from which it has previously been seen - it would not have been visible from the hill but was seen well from a car on the minor road going north from Netherton to Coombe village

Osprey?: John Clark received a report of one seen in the Itchen Valley water meadows on Mar 2 from a passenger on a train going from Eastleigh to Botley. No other sightings anywhere in southern England but I see that Hampshire's earliest ever date for Osprey was 6 Mar 1954 and Sussex has had one on Mar 7 in the past

Gyr Falcon: No local sightings but there are several magnificent close up photos of one eating a white (Aylesbury type) domestic duck on one of the Scilly Isles on Mar 5 and on Mar 4 one flew north over a Dutch coastal site. To see the photos go to http://www.scilly-birding.co.uk/ and scroll down to an entry for Mar 5

Purple Sandpiper: A count of 20 at Southsea Castle on Mar 7 was the biggest for the year so far

Woodcock: The first roding bird of the year was seen in the New Forest on Mar 4

Black-tailed Godwit: Counts on Mar 1 were of 70 at Pulborough Brooks, 120 at Titchfield Haven, and at least 1625 in the Avon Valley (in past years there have been over 2000 there) comprising a minimum of 400 present all day at the Blashford Lakes, another 425 by the river in the Ibsley area, another 400 in the area south of Ringwood to the Avon Causeway (these later flew north towards Blashford to account for a peak of 800 there sometime during the day) with another 400 in the Dorset area south of the Avon Causeway. A flock of 214 at the Keyhaven Marshes on Mar 4 are probably additional to those in the Avon valley on Mar 1 and a flock of around 120 in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour on Mar 2 and 4 are almost certainly unconnected to the Avon Valley. Estimated counts at the Blashford Lakes have been 1200 on Mar 5 and 1450 on Mar 6

Whimbrel: A wintering bird has been seen in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester several times since Jan 20 but on Mar 2 there was a report of two there (maybe the Church Norton bird has moved there?). Mar 4 brought a report of one on the Keyhaven Marshes (first report there this year but there was one at Tanners Lane on the other side of Lymington on Jan 1)

Curlew: A fully white albino bird was seen at the Pagham Harbour north walls on Mar 1

Redshank: Some were displaying on breeding territory at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 2

Mediterranean Gull: The first pair to breed in this country did so at the Beaulieu River gull colony in 1968 - this year there were more than 215 of these gulls in that area already on Mar 1

Spotted Redshank: The 'tame bird' at the Emsworth Nore Barn site was still present (with its accompanying Greenshank) on Mar 7

Grey Phalarope: Nothing local but one was seen at the Scillies on Feb 27

Little Gull: A count of 173 passing Cap Gris-Nez on Mar 2 could mean that we will soon be seeing more on our side of the channel. This was confimed by a report of 140 heading south past the Dutch coast on Mar 4

Iceland Gull: The single bird in the Dungeness area was still there on Mar 6 when a young bird was seen in Poole Harbour

Kumlein's Gull: One has been in the Scilly Isles for some time up to Mar 3 at least

Glaucous Gull: The two birds that were in the Swanage/Durlston area have not been reported since Feb 25 though one of them may account for sightings in the Poole Harbour/Studland area on Feb 28 and Mar 1. The one which was around the Hayling Oysterbeds up to Feb 27 seems to have moved to the Emsworth Channel area were it was seen from the Thorney Island shore on Mar 1. No reports from anywhere since Mar 1

Sandwich Tern: The first two or three presumed migrants were seen on the Kent coast on Feb 19 and 20 and more recently one was at the mouth of Poole Harbour on Mar 1, three were off Cap Gris-Nez near Calais on Mar 2 and two at Dungeness on Mar 3. Since the one paid a fleeting visit to Pagham Harbour on Mar 4 and three went east past Dungeness on Mar 5

Puffin: One on the sea off Portland Bill on Mar 7 was the first to show up (and hopefully breed) in the Portland area though there were January sightings of singles at Durlston, Dungeness and Poole Bay

Long-eared Owl: The Farlington Marshes bird has not been reported since Feb 28 and is thought to have been frightened off by an ignorant birder getting too close to its roost - maybe it flew north to the Winchester area where one was reported to have been at Owslebury shortly before Mar 2

Short-eared Owl: One was seen quartering the Langstone South Moors at midday on Mar 4 (probably a hungry migrant which had just completed a channel crossing). A similar transient bird spent 15 minutes at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 6 and Portland had five preesent on Mar 7.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: The residents of a house 'somewhere in Sussex' had a noisy surprise on Mar 4 when a Woodpecker chose to drum on their metal TV aerial

Sand Martin: After the first of the year was seen at Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough on Feb 27 there was a second sighting of one at the Paxton Pits by the Bedfordshire Ouse on Mar 4 and that day also brought news of four at Radipole (Weymouth) and one seen in the Longham area just north of Poole. Four were at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 5 with three there next day.

Meadow Pipit: Many were singing in the New Forest Shatterford area on Mar 7 (first song was heard at Durlston on Feb 25)

White Wagtail: It is sometimes difficult to separate White from Pied Wagtail (hence the regular use of the term 'Alba Wagtail' to describe birds whose precise identity is uncertain) and some claims for White Wagtail seem dubious (e.g. one on the Bognor promenade on Jan 3 and one at Swanbourne Lake at Arundel on Feb 7) as they are normally seen on this side of the channel only as passage birds so sightings outside the dates for spring passage and/or away from the coast are dubious. Another indicator of possible mis-identification comes when the birds are reported as staying in the same area for several days - as passage birds they normally keep on the move. A report of one seen at Sandwich Bay on Mar 2 'ticks all the right boxes' and was almost certainly accurate as do reports of 'migrants' from Belgium and Holland on Mar 3 and 4 but I am less convinced by a local report from east Hayling Island of a group of 3 Pied and 5 White birds seen in the same location on two successive days (Feb 28 and Mar 1) so I have recorded them as 'Alba Wagtails' in line with the report of 'a few Alba Wagtails' arriving in off the sea at Portland that day.

Waxwing: A late report of 12 birds feeding near the Titchfield Common superstores on Feb 26 (with no follow up sightings) was probably of birds on passage north stopping off for a quick meal to keep them going. Other new reports are of three birds in Brighton still present on Mar 1, 8 birds in the Worthing area (ex - Goring?) on Mar 2 and 16 still at the Uckfield Bus Station on Mar 3 (14 there on Mar 5)

Stonechat: Several reports of birds arriving back on breeding territory and singing in the past few days

Wheatear: After the very first arrived in the Bexhill area on Feb 28 there have been reports from the Portland area on Mar 1 (5 birds there plus 1 at Langton Matravers near Swanage), Mar 2 (one still/new at Portland), Mar 3 (one at Christchurch Harbour) and Mar 4 (another single at Portland). Sandwich Bay had to wait until Mar 7 for its first but Durlston had 2 on Mar 6.

The Rye Bay website had an interesting entry on Mar 7 from Sam Smith (one of the Rye Harbour wardens) saying .. "The first Wheatears are due to arrive anytime now. Over the past few weeks in anticipation of the coming breeding season preparations for their arrival have been underway. The Beach Reserve was searched for all the nest pipes that had been put out during the past twenty five years or so. Forty eight pipes were found, cleaned out, refurbished, replaced and mapped. The prevailing wind direction at the time of nest building is an important factor in the choice of nest site, so the pipe entrances cover all points of the compass except south west. As the breeding season progresses it wil be interesting to see which pipes if any are selected, there is of course a fair choice in rabbit burrows."

Dartford Warbler: There is some concern that a good number of these have been killed off by the recent cold weather but those that are left (or have newly returned after wintering away from bleak heathland) are starting to sing regularly

Lesser Whitethroat: A probable very early migrant was seen at Shoreham Harbour on Feb 20 and now there is a second report of one heard singing at Durlston on Mar 2.

Blackcap: There have now been five reports of Blackcap song, presumably all wintering birds. One was heard at the South Foreland in Kent on Feb 10, the next was in the Sway area near New Milton on Feb 24, then one in the Worthing area on Mar 1, another in the New Milton area on Mar 4 and one at Sandwich Bay on Mar 6

Chiffchaff: First reports of song came from the Isle of Wight on Feb 22 and from Romsey on Feb 25. These may have been wintering birds but one at Portland on Feb 27 was said to be 'new in'. On Mar 4 one in bushes by the shore at Selsey Bill was probably a migrant as was one also in bushes on the shore at Sandwich Bay on Mar 5 when one at Portland showed dark staining on the feathers around the base of its bill (said to be a sure sign that the bird has been gorging itself on pollen as an 'energy drink' prior to the long flight over the channel). On Feb 6 a bird at Hastings gave another sign of being a migrant by its non-stop activity in seeking food to replenish its lost weight and another bird at Brighton that day was heard singing on the seafont, giving thanks for its safe arrival.

Long-tailed Tit: First report of nest building comes from Dungeness RSPB reserve on Mar 2 while on Mar 3 I heard one singing on Hayling Island for the first time in my 77 year life! What I heard was a higher, lighter version of what I call the 'silly laugh' song regularly made by Blue Tits.

Great Grey Shrike: Three were still being reported on Mar 1 - one at Shatterford in the New Forest, one at Chamberlayne's Heath in Dorset and the other in the Pannel valley near Rye. The Shatterford bird was still present on Mar 7 and the one at Chamberlayne's Heath on Mar 4

Rook: A few of these have got the urge to move to pastures new (have they been slung out of the rookeries where they were hatched? or are they unable to find mates there and are chancing their luck elsewhere?). On Mar 1 four passage birds were at Portland and on Mar 2 twelve flew east over Christchurch Harbour.

Escapees: On Mar 7 a Night Heron (wearing colour rings) escaped from Paultons Park by the M27 west of Romsey and the bird was subsequently seen flying around Romsey town.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Small White: One seen somewhere in Sussex ('in our garden' with no clue as to its whereabouts!) on Feb 28 was the second to be seen in the open air after one was seen in a heated room indoors on Feb 10 and the first outdoors was seen at Falmer on Feb 27

Brimstone, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock and Comma were all seen this week - it was good to see four reports of Small Tortoiseshell plus two more late reports for Feb 27 and 28.

Moths

Angle Shades (2306 Phlogophora meticulosa): First report of this species for the year came from the Thanet area of Kent on Mar 2

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My year list of wild plants in flower has now reached exactly 99 (this includes reports by other people and excludes grasses) and I look forward to ticking the 100th species during the coming week!

Green Hellebore: I reported my own find of four plants with large flower buds, though none actually open, on Feb 14 where I found them beside Woodlands Lane east of Stansted and above the Ems valley at Walderton. I suspect they were in flower a few days after I saw them but the first report of the species in flower comes from the Brede Woods north of Hastings on Mar 4 (for a photo of this go to http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2009/03/04/brede-high-woods-6/#more-8639 and scroll down to the final picture)

Danish Scurvygrass: This had just started to flower on miniscule plants in the short grass under the white railings lining the east side of Langstone bridge approaches on Mar 3 and large healthy plants were in flower beside the Havant Road at the Selangor Ave junction on Mar 4. (The very first plants to flower were seen by the Petersfield Road in Leigh Park on Feb 10)

Early Dog Violet: The occasional flower has been seen since January but Mar 4 seems to have been the start of general flowering with several seen in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery - by Mar 8 there were at least 20 flowers on the small clump in my garden.

Barren Strawberry: A single flower on plants beside the path through the Redwood Groves near Stansted House enabled me to add this to my year list on Mar 7

Wild Primrose: These started to flower generally on Mar 3

Lesser Periwinkle: The great mass of leaves covering the ground of Pits Copse near Stansted House had at last started to flower on Feb 7 when I found at least 57 flowers there (other genuine wild plants in more favourable sites had started to flower on Feb 14)

Green Alkanet: This was the first new 'first flower for the year' for this week - one plant seen in Sinah Lane on Hayling on Mar 3

White Comfrey: First flowers open on plants in St Faith's church yard (Havant) on Mar 3

Alpine Squill: The tiny colony of five plants (apparently growing wild but maybe deliberately planted in a site where they are most unlikely to have arrived at garden throw-outs) were showing the blue of their flowers in unopen buds on Mar 7 (counted as a year tick)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: These have been a regular sight in Chichester and Langstone Harbours for many years with occasional reports of them turning up, but not stopping, in many other places. Maybe Pagham Harbour is now on the 'regular sightings' list as one seems to have been there since Nov 30 last year with two sightings in December, another on Feb 13 and now one on Mar 1

Roe Deer: These can be a pest to gardeners living on the edge of open country as these animals find the shrubs in gardens to be a much better source of food than what is on offer 'in the wild' at this time of year but I was surprised to see that two Roe had been photographed on Mar 2 in a Hilltop Crescent garden on Portsdown and to get there the deer would have had to cross several roads and go through several gardens. I was amused by a very appropriate misprint on John Goodspeed's website where I read about them - they appeared there as 'two Rose Deer' - as garden roses are one of their favourite foods.

Hare: Four had been seen 'racing around' in the Sandwich Bay area on Feb 11 and Mar 2 has brought the first report of Hares 'boxing' from The Burgh site on the Sussex Downs above North Stoke village on the River Arun

Frog: The first report of Frogspawn that I know of for this year did not come until Feb 9 so a report that the first tadpoles had hatched 'somewhere in the Havant area' on Mar 3 made me curious to know how long the eggs take to hatch. As the spawn is laid in cold water (which can freeze) I would expect the hatching time to vary considerably depending on the weather and the best estimate for the average time that I can find (on the 'allaboutfrogs.org' webpage on the lifecycle of Frogs) is 21 days but it says they can hatch in as little as 6 days.

Adder: More of these are now emerging from hibernation - Mar 2 brought sightings of 3 at Pulborough Brooks and 4 at Durlston

Grass Snake: First report for the year is of one seen at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 2

Common Lizard: First report for the year was of a single and came from the Park Corner Heath butterfly reserve in the Eastbourne area on Feb 27

Wall Lizard: The first report of these was of two at Shoreham Fort on Mar 6


Summary for Feb 23 - Mar 1 (Week 8 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Summer migrants have started to arrive with Wheatear, Sand Martin and Little Ringed Plover (along with less obvious arrivals such as Stonechats and Marsh Harriers) in southern England while the first Cranes and Storks are turning up across the sea in Holland and Belgium. New bird song includes the trilling of Little Grebes and a booming Bittern while more conventional first songs have come from Dartford Warbler, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Tit. Among birds now reported as nesting are Grey Herons, Shags, Blackbirds, Robins and House Sparrows while Magpies, Rooks and at least one pair of Mute Swans are nest building. Eight Lapwing were back on breeding territory in the Havant area. Perhaps the most intriguing of this week's reports of passage birds is of a flock of 25 Snow Geese flying north over Rye Bay but the first sighting of an Arctic Skua is good news for sea watchers and the subsong of departing Redwing is something we can all enjoy.

The first Small White butterfly to be seen outdoors was flying this week with five other species and eight moth species are new on the scene this week .

Coltsfoot, Alexanders and Yew all started flowering this week along the the common Sow Thistle

A Noctule Bat was seen flying by day but I guess it may well return to hibernation - perhaps the most significant Other Wildlife report this week was of a Roe Buck thrashing bushes to clean the 'velvet' from its antlers

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Small numbers continue to move east along the English coast but a more determined passage was noted off Cap Gris-Nez on Feb 26 when 201 flew past

Black-throated Diver: Two were in Portland Harbour on Feb 25

Little Grebe: On Feb 23 a pair were newly back on the pond where they nest at Christchurch Harbour and on Feb 25 I heard them trilling for the first time this year on the Budds Farm Pools in Havant

Red-necked Grebe: The first to be reported anywhere since Feb 12 was off Nettlestone (north east corner of the IoW) on Feb 23 - possibly the bird that was seen hereabouts and across the water at Southsea between Feb 4 and 11

Black-necked Grebe: Some of the 18 birds that have been wintering in Langstone Harbour may already have flown north - on Feb 22 only 12 could be seen and one of them was in summer plumage, and on Feb 24 there were only 11 left - latest report is of just 8 seen on Feb 27. Ibsley Water still had two on Feb 22 and there were only 16 in Studland Bay on Feb 26 (there had been 37 there on Feb 20 and 24 on Feb 24)

Bittern: One was heard booming at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 27 - one had been seen there on Jan 6 but at such a well watched site it is unlikely that one has been resident there and both were transients. The number at the Blashford Lakes is thought to have reached a peak of 4 on Feb 22 and there were still two there on Feb 28

Cattle Egret: One was found in the Seaview area of the Isle of Wight on Feb 22 and was still there on Feb 28. After the two birds in the Lymington area ceased to be reported (last seen Jan 7) there was a gap of three weeks before one showed up in the Yarmouth area of the IoW to be seen on Jan 24 and 25 only. Maybe that came from Lymington and maybe it went into hiding until Feb 22 to re-appear now at the other end of the island.

Little Egret: I went past the Langstone Mill Pond night roost trees at dusk on Feb 27 and saw three birds in the trees with five others in the immediate vicinity, showing that the roost is still being used

Great White Egret: I have seen no reports of the Blashford Lakes bird since Jan 14 but am still seeing regular reports from the Strabrechtse Heide site in Holland - 11 were there on Feb 11, 16 on Feb 13 (when a single bird was at a different site), 19 on Feb 19 and now 26 on Feb 26

Grey Heron: Most heronries probably have nesting birds now (though individual pairs of Herons nest at widely different dates - theory says they do this to reduce the strain on limited local sources of fish that would occur if they all had young at the same time). This week there are reports of birds nesting at Christchurch Harbour, Pagham north fields, Fleet pond in north Hampshire and Weir Wood in northeast Sussex (where at least 11 nests are occupied)

White Stork: These are now returning to northern Europe with 18 birds seen passing over two sites (one in Belgium and one in Holland) on Feb 26

Mute Swan: First report of a Mute Swan on its nest is my own observation of the Langstone Mill Pond pair with one bird on the nest and the other nearby on Feb 24 - they are not yet sitting and my sighting was of a bird checking out and possibly repairing the nest.

Snow Goose: There are plenty of escapees and feral birds in southern England but on Mar 1 there was a very unusual report by Cliff Dean on the Rye Bay website. Cliff was at the shore of Rye Bay in the Pett Level area and reports .. "Skeins of Brent Geese were travelling north above the murky sea this morning and a few Meadow Pipits starting to move as well, but also something quite extraordinary: at 10.25, a flock of 25 Snow Geese flew NE just offshore, calling, 3/4 dark morph birds amongst them." (I have checked that the date is Mar 1, not Apr 1)

Brent Goose: These continue to move east - on Feb 24 a massive flock of around 1800 birds was seen on the Pagham north fields (on Feb 10 there were only 220 birds there) and on Feb 25 many of the birds normally seen along the north shore of Chichester Harbour between Langstone and Emsworth had vanished though there was a noisy flock of around 1000 in the Fowley Island area (in the harbour west of the Thorney Great Deeps). Also on Feb 25 Dungeness reported 350 flying east past there. Across the Channel on Feb 26 at Cap Gris-Nez near Calais 3370 flew east and on Feb 28 a transient flock of around 500 was in Chichester Harbour off Warblington. Brent passage is always long drawn out - this year the first migrants started to move on Jan 30 and no doubt the last will not have left by the beginning of April.

Pale-bellied Brent: The big flock of up to 35 at Weymouth (Ferrybridge) on Feb 21 was down to 2 birds on Feb 24 and on Feb 27 two were seen at the Hayling Oysterbeds

Red-breasted Goose: Still at West Wittering with Brent on Feb 27

Shelduck: These too are apparently on the move back to breeding sites (a few stay where they have been wintering but the majority of our winter birds in the Solent harbours nest elsewhere - and of those that stay the majority nest in unexpected places often well away from the shore). On Feb 25 the number seen along the Emsworth to Langstone shore was up from around 60 to 110.

Wigeon: There have been 100 or more along the north shore of Langstone Harbour from Broadmarsh to Langstone since the New Year but on Feb 27 I could only see one group of 10 birds

Green-winged Teal: A very good candidate for a genuine wild bird was found in the Lymington area on Feb 22 by Andy Johnson from Hayling Island. It was there next day and may still be around though a few buffish feathers on its wings are causing controversy among the purists

Pochard: There were still around 60 on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Feb 24 but these may have departed as the smaller number that have been on the Budds Farm Pools here in Havant had all left by Feb 25

Ring-necked Duck: A female appeared on Little Sea (large lake in Studland Heath area) on Feb 23 and was still there on Feb 28

Long-tailed Duck: The bird which has been in the mouth of Southampton Water for some time was still to be seen off Calshot on Feb 27, as also was the bird off Pagham Harbour

Goldeneye: A single pair was still off the mouth of the Langbrook Stream at Langstone on Feb 27

Goosander: The last report of a night roost at the Blashford Lakes was of 66 birds there on Feb 5 and since then there has been a small number of reports of small numbers from several Dorset sites (e.g. 3 at Cowards Marsh on the northern fringe of Christchurch and 6 on the River Piddle near Wareham with on in Portland Harbour) suggesting dispersal but there were still 43 roosting at Moor Green on the Hants/Berks border on Feb 23 - the only previous count there that I have seen was of 57 on Jan 8.

Marsh Harrier: One passing over Folkestone on Feb 21 was thought to be an early migrant arrival and this was backed up by news of one flying in off the sea at Portland on Feb 20 and two arriving at Dungeness on Feb 28

Rough-legged Buzzard: The bird in the Pilot Hill area on the Hants/Berks border north of Andover was still to be seen there on Feb 25

Common Buzzard: These are now common enough everywhere and a pair has probably nested in the Warblington Farm area for the past couple of years (where Kestrel and Sparrowhawk also breed) but I had not heard of any Buzzard sightings there this year until one was seen by the Havant Wildlife Group on Feb 28

Grey Partridge: On Feb 22 a few of these could be heard calling at a site on Sheppey in Kent - yet another sign of spring.

Common Crane: On Feb 26 three sites in Holland reported these passing over - at one 22 birds were seen with with 16 and 4 respectively at the others

Avocet: 13 arrived at Titchfield Haven on Feb 22 - they have bred there since 2003. Not all have yet left their winter quarters - on Feb 22 there were still 271 at the north Kent Elmley Marshes but one that was definitely on the move dropped in at the Eastleigh Lakeside water on Mar 1

Little Ringed Plover: The first of these migrants to be reported was seen by the River Test at Romsey on Feb 25

Lapwing: On Feb 25 eight Lapwing were back on their breeding area on the Gipsies Plain rough grassland immediately south of Havant Thicket and west of Rowlands Castle

Little Stint: One was still at East Head (mouth of Chichester Harbour) on Feb 24

Black-tailed Godwit: A peak count for this winter for the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood in the Avon Valley was of an estimated 1300 there on Feb 22 (these birds feed elsewhere in the Avon Valley and use the Blashford site as a night roost). On Feb 23 there were 120 at Pulborough Brooks and 161 at Titchfield Haven

Spotted Redshank: In my last weekly summary I said that none had been seen at the Emsworth Nore Barn site since Feb 12 but the regular 'tame' bird was back there on Feb 23 and was seen again up to Feb 28 at least. I was amused to read Steve Copsey's entry for Feb 24 in the Three Amigos blog that (referring to the very close association between this bird and the Greenshank which often accompanies it very closely) .. "Many of the people strolling through the area including the dog walkers had noticed the birds over the last few days, and stopped to chat. A few asked me if it was a male and female of the same species.I think several left thinking I was spinning them a line, when I told them the birds were not related, as they were convinced the birds were an item as they followed each other around."

Arctic Skua: The first report of this species for the year is a sighting of two dark phase birds off Worthing on Feb 28. There have been ten reports of Great Skuas this year and one of Pomarine Skua off Christchurch Harbour on Jan 26

Mediterranean Gull: Numbers to be seen around the Hayling Oysterbeds are increasing daily with recent counts of 40 there on Feb 24 and more than 68 on Feb 25. Jason Crook has pointed out that they do not nest on the Oysterbeds island but they assemble there at this time of year before nesting on the RSPB Islands just across the water of the Langstone Channel so I may have misled people by what I wrote in my diary for Feb 24 ("at least four pairs of Med Gulls seemed to have already claimed nest sites and were mutually displaying"). Nevertheless the activity of the birds to be seen there at present make a visit well worth while.

Iceland Gull: The single bird at Dungeness was being reported daily to Feb 28 at least. The Shoreham Harbour bird has not been reported since Feb 16 but Feb 26 brought reports of single transient birds at both the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) and Lodmoor (Weymouth).

Glaucous Gull: On Feb 25 one was still to be seen at Swanage and another in the Hayling Oysterbeds area where it was seen again on Feb 27. The Swanage birds have not been seen again but a report of one flying west over Abbotsbury on Feb 26 may indicate where one was going.

Little Tern: Its too early to see these yet but this week the Portsmouth NEWS had a photo of an Army Tank Landing Craft close to the shore of South Binness island in Langstone Harbour with a heavy duty JCB type digger coming ashore from it - the Army have responded to a plea for help from the RSPB and if the exercise is successful the digger will dragging up shingle from the water around the island to enlarge and heighten the area where Little Terns will hopefully nest

Black Guillemot: On Feb 13 one was seen on the Dutch coast and on Feb 28 one was seen at Portland

Long-eared Owl: The Farlington Marshes bird was last reported on Feb 26

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: These are easiest to locate at this time of year when they give their loud 'Pee-pee-pee' call and I assume this is what Simon Woolley heard on Feb 22 from a male in the Roydon Woods near Lymington (though it could have been the 'Chic' call which could be mistaken for a Great Spotted making a weak version of its call). One was calling and drumming at a Kent site on Feb 27 and on Feb 21 three were drumming in a small area of the New Forest - the reporter said that they normally become silent by 9am and if you want to hear them you should be out before 8am

Wood Lark: These were singing in the Roydon Woods area near Lymington on Feb 22 (and on Feb 23 one was singing from overhead wires in the East Park at Stansted)

Sand Martin: Two were seen over the Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough in north east Sussex on Feb 27 - thought to be the 'earliest ever' to arrive in Sussex (equal to the earliest ever in Hampshire which was 27 Feb 1990)

Grey Wagtail: The start of their spring passage is marked by reports of singles over Dungeness and Pett (on the shore of Rye Bay) both on Feb 27

Pied Wagtail: A night roost of more than 200 birds was still active on Feb 23 in a busy part of Gatwick airport.

Waxwing: The 10 birds that have been a daily sight at Goring by sea since Feb 11 were there on Feb 24 but have almost certainly ceased to appear there as on Feb 25 a party of 10 appeared at Durrington (a mile or so north of the Goring site). Also on Feb 25 (and again on Feb 27) the party of 3 birds seen in Brighton on Feb 20 were seen again in the original area. On Feb 27 another party of 16 turned up at the Bus Station in Crowborough and on Feb 28 a flock of ten were seen feeding on berry trees in Valetta Park (a road off Warblington Road in south Emsworth) but they were not seen there on Mar 1. Another party of 16 were at Uckfield (north east of Lewes) on Feb 28

Black Redstart: The sudden appearance of a group of five of these birds at Dungeness on Feb 23 is a sign that they are now in transit between wintering and breeding areas

Wheatear: A very early bird was at Glyne Gap near Bexhill on Feb 28 (earliest ever for Sussex is I think Feb 13 but no year given in the Sussex Bird Report for 2006, the Hampshire report gives 6 Feb 1989 for Hants)

Stonechat: These too are heading for breeding areas. On Feb 25 two pairs were seen in the Titchfield area, the male of one pair singing, and another four turned up at Dungeness that day when I also found a male back at a breeding site in the Havant Thicket area. Since then a count of 30 at Portland on Feb 27 shows they now arriving in force (on Feb 28 there were 25 at Portland and one at Selsey Bill)

Blackbird: Most of the early reports of Blackbird song each year are of birds singing at dusk but on Feb 21 one was heard in the Kent Stour valley at daybreak (among the first dawn chorus of the year according to the person who heard it - it was one of ten species heard). On Feb 24 an early song was heard at 7am in Emsworth and from Feb 27 they have been heard in the early morning around my house in Havant. Also on Feb 27 a female Blackbird was sitting on a nest at the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath (there had been a report of one carrying food for young at Sway in Hampshire on Feb 15)

Redwing: One sure sign of spring is the Starling-like chattering subsong that comes from a flock of Redwing preparing to fly north and this was reported at Boughton Park (south of Maidstone in Kent) on Feb 26

Dartford Warbler: Although these will sing occasionally on sunny days through the winter the first report of song that I have seen this year comes from the New Forest on Mar 1

Blackcap: Two reports of Blackcap song are the first for the year - one was heard near the South Foreland in Kent on Feb 10, the second at Sway in southwest Hampshire on Feb 24

Chiffchaff: These also sing earlier than this in mild winters but the first two reports of song that I am aware of for this year are from Sandown (Isle of Wight) on Feb 22 and Romsey on Feb 25 (several singing there)

Firecrest: Two were in the copse at the extreme southern end of the Hayling Coastal Path (near West Town station) on Feb 22 with at least one there on Feb 23. What must have been a different couple of birds were in the Oysterbeds area (near the back of the Esso garage) on both Feb 22 and 25 - one was still there on Feb 27

Willow Tit: First song heard from one of the birds in the Faccombe area (north of Andover) on Feb 28

Tree Creeper: One reported to have been seen in Nore Barn wood at Emsworth on Feb 23 gives me hope that I may eventually get this species on my year list! In past years they have been known to nest in a Langstone garden near Wade Court. One had been heard singing at Battle near Hastings on Feb 17 and another was heard at Boughton Park (south of Maidstone) on Feb 27

Jackdaw: A gathering of around 230 birds was seen on cliffs in the Lewes area (near the Culfail rail tunnel) on Feb 23

Twite: The single bird in the Lymington marshes area was reliably seen again on Feb 24

Hawfinch: Seven were seen at the Mercer's Way site in Romsey on Feb 25

Corn Bunting: A flock of 55 was seen in the Cheesefoot Head area east of Winchester on Feb 22 (sadly these are unlikely to stay and breed in Hampshire)

Escapees: A Fulvous Whistling Duck was again seen at Titchfield Haven on Feb 22

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: One at Nore Barn (Emsworth) and five in the Gosport area, all on Feb 27, were of local interest but there have now been 10 reports starting on Feb 15

Red Admiral: One seen in the Ropley area near Alton on Feb 23 and 24 and of local interest one was seen at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Feb 21

Small Tortoiseshell: Feb 21 brought sightings of singles at Hassocks and at Edburton (both north of the Downs in the Brighton area but more than 5 miles apart)

Peacock: One also seen at Hassocks on Feb 21was the sixth report for the year

Comma: One seen 'somewhere in Sussex' on Feb 21 with several reported since then including 4 in the Gosport area on Feb 27 when two were performing a courtship dance in Binsted Wood near Arundel and at least two others were at another Sussex site

Small White: One seen at Falmer (north of Brighton) on Mar 1 was a more genuine first of the year than the one seen inside a house at Worthing on the evening of Feb 10

Moths

Tufted Button (1054 Acleris cristana): First of year on Feb 18 at Etchingham near Robertsbridge north of Hastings

Plume Moth (1497 Amblyptilia acanthadactyla): First in the Lewes are on Feb 21

Yellow Horned (1659 Achlya flavicornis): First in the Matley area of the New Forest on Feb 26

Small Brindled Beauty (1925 Apocheima hispidaria): First in the Matley area of the New Forest on Feb 26

Oak Beauty (1930 Biston strataria): First in the Matley area of the New Forest on Feb 26

Small Quaker (2182 Orthosia cruda): First for Hampshire in the Matley area of the New Forest on Feb 26 but one in the Blean Woods near Canterbury on Feb 25 beat it by a day for Kent

Grey Shoulder-Knot (2237 Lithophane ornitopus): First on Feb 25 in the Blean Woods near Canterbury

Early Grey (2243 Xylocampa areola): First in the Lewes are on Feb 21

Other Insects

Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum): What I think was a queen of this white-tailed species seen by me at Havant Thicket on Feb 25 - another seen in my Havant garden on Mar 1

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

I expect the count of flowering plants to increase rapidly before the end of March - my total of species seen in flower from Jan 1 to Feb 28 is just 94

Common Yew: On Feb 22 a tree in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery was shedding pollen more profusely than any I have come across before and others were shedding pollen around Warblington church on Feb 28

Marsh Marigold: I found the first flower of the year on Langstone South Moors on Feb 7 but searching the same area on Feb 27 I could still only find one plant with a couple of flowers

Early Dog Violet: These have been flowering intermittently in my garden since Jan 4 but a sudden increase in the number of flowers on Feb 28 sent me to search the Havant Eastern Road cemetery where I found the first single flower on the carpet of leaves at the east end of the cemetery

Sweet Violet: The first of the pink flowers which grow in the Nore Barn Wood at Emsworth were seen there on Feb 28 - the common deep violet flowered form has been seen intermittently at a number of sites since Jan 3 with the first in Nore Barn Wood on Jan 5

Cherry Plum: By Feb 28 this was starting to flower generally with finds in both Pook Lane and Wade Lane at Langstone and on a second tree in Southmoor Lane at Brockhampton

Grey Poplar: The large old tree in Wade Court Road (Havant) which grows opposite to North Close had its catkins open for the first time on Feb 24

Alexanders: The first flowers of this species were seen beside the London Road on Portsdown on Feb 23

Coltsfoot: One of the more exciting signs of spring, these flowers were found on Feb 24 by Brian Fellows at two sites - one in fields north of Pagham Harbour and the other by the path beside Ivy Lake at Chichester

Sow Thistle: I found the first flower of the year on this common plant on Feb 27

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: One was at the very top of Southampton Water off Redbridge on Feb 24

Roe: First report of a buck 'thrashing' its antlers to remove the 'velvet' cover comes from Durlston on Feb 28 - I think this indicates that the antlers are now full grown but need the protective cover removing and the blades and points sharpening before the rut which can start in May and continue through to August

Noctule Bat: One seen flying in sunshine at 11am in the Kent Stour Valley on Feb 21 will probably be returning to hibernation for a little longer.

Frog: The first spawn I have heard of this year was reported on Feb 9 and there were two more reports on Feb 18. Latest news adds a find in a Portsdown garden pond on Feb 21 and more appeared in a Northiam garden (Rother valley north of Hastings) on Feb 23

Adder: Pulborough Brooks had its first Adder sighting on Feb 20, a week after the first was seen at Durlston on Feb 14

Fungus: Just one report of Velvet Shank on a tree stump in the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Feb 24


Summary for Feb 16 - 22 (Week 7 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Increasing bird song and first signs of nesting as well as strengthening spring passage are all to be found in this weeks bird news. We also have an unexpected sighting of a Great Shearwater (or was it a Cory's?) in Lyme Bay, a genuine Rough-legged Buzzard contending with Red Kites for food at a feeding station at Pilot Hill in extreme north Hampshire, a single Long-eared Owl present in the 'Bushes' at Farlington Marshes and a discussion as to whether many Wrens have succumbed to recent cold weather. New bird song has been heard from Bullfinch, Linnet, Yellowhammer, Tree Creeper, Marsh Tit, Yellowhammer and Reed Bunting. Goshawk, Peregrine, Oystercatcher, Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Kingfisher have all been seen displaying to prospective mates. A Blackbird has been seen carrying food to young and another gathering nest material. House Sparrows and Shags are nest building and Rooks are gathering sticks to repair old nests while some Herons are already back on their nests, Fulmars are on their nest ledges and a pair of Shelduck were back on territory at Budds Farm pools. Spring passage news includes the arrival of the first migrant Sandwich Terns and a very early Lesser Whitethroat in southern England and a White Stork in Belgium. Also clearly on the move towards nesting places are Med Gulls whose evocative calls have been newly heard in several places (and more exciting gull passage is anticipated as several arctic gull species return north from Europe). A couple of 'out of context' sighings of female Merlin in urban situations also suggest birds on passage.

Five butterfly species have been seen on the wing this week and thirteen new moth species recorded for the year while the first Honey Bees have been out. Among Plant news is the first report of Early Purple Orchid leaves and Other Wildlife has the first sightings of Pipistrelle Bat, Toads moving to ponds and a Slow-worm warming up plus a very unusual sighting for southern England of a Stoat in Ermine.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: By Feb 15 some pairs (among a raft of around 300 birds) were seen making courtship displays on the sea off Hastings. The big flock in Christchurch Bay may be diminishing as it was reported to have 330 birds on Feb 12 but only 249 on Feb 14. On Feb 11 there was a combined total of 1310 birds at two sites in Holland and on Feb 21 one Dutch site reported the presence of 1500 birds with another 250+ flying over.

Slavonian Grebe: The number seen on the sea off Pagham Harbour varies from day to day but a high count of some 20 was recorded there on Feb 14 (there was a high count of 30+ on Jan 10). On Feb 17 there were 5 on the Lymington shore.

Black-necked Grebe: 16 were seen in Langstone Harbour off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 18. On Feb 15 there were at least 30 in Dorset with 21 in Studland Bay, 6 in Portland Harbour and 3 in Poole Harbour. On Feb 17 I noticed that one of these birds had been recorded on the Mediterranean coast of Spain and I guess that a count of 37 at Studland Bay on Feb 20 may well include some birds already moving north from the continent (there were still at least another 12 recorded in Dorset that day)

Fulmar: Around 30 pairs were seen around the cliffs east of Hastings on Feb 15 and on Feb 20 there is a note of cackling heard from nest ledges in the Thanet area of Kent

Great Shearwater: One was seen from a boat in Lyme Bay on Feb 20. Wikipedia tells us that .. "This species breeds on Nightingale Island, Inaccessible Island, Tristan da Cunha, and Gough Island. It is one of only a few bird species to migrate from breeding grounds in the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere, the normal pattern being the other way round. This shearwater nests in large colonies, laying one white egg in a small burrow or in the open grass. These nests are visited only at night to avoid predation by large gulls.

"This shearwater, like the Sooty Shearwater, follows a circular route, moving up the eastern seaboard of first South and then North America, before crossing the Atlantic in August. It can be quite common off the south-western coasts of Great Britain and Ireland before heading back south again, this time down the eastern littoral of the Atlantic".

The very few British records have been in the late summer or autumn (e.g. the only four records for Suffolk have all been in September - 1982, 1990 and 1992). The species has not been recorded in Hampshire and is only seen at all frequently on the west coast of Ireland.

Cory's Shearwater: None reported in British water so far this year but there seems to have been a large movement eastward from the Atlantic into the Mediterranean in the past few days - at one site close to the Straits of Gibralter 26 birds flew east on Feb 17 and next day 471 went the same way past a site a little further east on the southern shore of Spain. (I wonder if the unlikely Great Shearwater reported from the Dorset coast was in fact one of these birds which bear a close resemblance to Great Shearwater?)

Balearic Shearwater: The Isle of Wight claimed its first ever winter record of this species with two off Ventnor on Feb 13 (plenty of other winter sightings in Dorset, a few in Sussex and even some in Kent)

Shag: Several were bringing nest material to the cliffs at Durlston on Feb 18 and nest building there on Feb 21

Bittern: Three were still at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 20 and Dungeness RSPB had four on Feb 17. Singles were seen at four other sites during the week including one flushed from the River Darwell near Roberstbridge in the Hastings area on Feb 15

Great Egret: The Dutch site which had 16 of these birds on Feb 13 reported 19 there on Feb 19

Grey Heron: Some had started to nest in the Weir Wood area near Crowborough by Feb 17

White Stork: One was reported at a Belgian site on Feb 20, presumably an early migrant (they normally start to leave their African wintering areas in February - perhaps this one was spurred on by whatever brought a Lesser Whitethroat to Sussex this week?)

Bewick's Swan: The number by the Hampshire Avon in the Ibsley area had increased to 10 on Feb 14. This week's reports are of 55 in the Walland Marsh area (east of Rye) on Feb 18, 40 roosting at the RSPB Dungeness reserve on Feb 14 (maybe the Walland Marsh birds?), and 17 at Burpham on the R Arun just above Arundel on Feb 14. A flock of 25 at Pulbrough Brooks was seen to take off and fly east on Feb 21 (maybe departing?)

Bean Goose: The three elusive birds were seen again at Ivy Lake in Chichester on Feb 14, 20 and 21

Barnacle Goose: Two seen in the Priddy's Hard area of Portsmouth Harbour on Feb 14 - unusual there but one at Farlington Marshes on Feb 18 has (I think) been there since Jan 1

Brent Goose: The excited chattering of 170 of these geese feeding on the Warblington shore on Feb 17 suggested to me that they were thinking of moving on (and were probably just stopping off on a journey that started to the west of us) and this was backed up by the presence of more than 500 nearby in Emsworth Harbour (many more than the usual count there). Elsewhere reports on Feb 14 were of 40 going east past Brighton Marina and 340 passing Dungeness, and on Feb 15 at Hastings one flock of 20 flew east and Dungeness had another 260 passing. Not many are seen passing Portland but 10 went by on Feb 21 while a flock of 50 at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 19 had dwindled to 18 birds on Feb 20

Pale-bellied Brent: The number in The Fleet near Weymouth (where no more than 22 have been seen in February) was up to 35 on Feb 21 - possibly an indication that birds wintering in north-west France are starting their journey back to Canada.

Red-breasted Goose: Still in the West Wittering area on Feb 21

Shelduck: A pair were back on their breeding territory at Budds Farm pools on Feb 17

Mandarin: 20 birds seen at Eyeworth Pond in the New Forest on Feb 17 - roughly even numbers of male and females

Gadwall: Seven were on the seawater of Langstone Harbour at the mouth of the Langbrook stream on Feb 17

Shoveler: A total of more than 170 at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 15 include an odd looking hybrid

King Eider: The male which was first seen in Rye Bay on Jan 11 and which 'disappeared' after Jan 20 has appeared agin in Rye Bay (Jury's Gap area) on Feb 15

Long-tailed Duck: The pair which have been in Chichester Harbour (Stockers Lake area) since Jan 21 were seen in Mill Rythe bay on Feb 15. The bird off Pagham Harbour was seen on Feb 17

Smew: 8 were at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Feb 14

Goshawk: One was displaying in the New Forest on Feb 15

Rough-legged Buzzard: What is agreed to be a 'genuine' bird has been seen by many birders from Feb 15 to 19 at least in the Pilot Hill area on the Hants/Berks border north of the village of Faccombe. When last seen the Buzzard was being driven from the area by the many Red Kites which come to a feeding station on private land in this area. (If you want a good walk starting in our area the Wayfarer's Walk which starts in Emsworth will take you to the area where the bird has been seen - the Walk ends at Inkpen Beacon, just a few miles west of Pilot Hill)

Merlin: Taking a 20 minute break from writing this summary after lunch on Feb 22 I flushed a female Merlin from a hedgerow on the northern boundary of the site where a new Havant hospital is to be built (south of Crossland Drive and east of Petersfield Road). This very unexpected sighting gave me a new year tick and brought my year list up to 95 species. A couple of days ago another female Merlin was seen chasing a Woodpigeon along a road in Denmead, another built up area very unlike open moorland or marsh where these birds normally hunt - I assume both birds were on passage and not settled in these areas.

Peregrine: A pair were involved in aerial courtship display over Durlston on Feb 18 but broke off for a few minutes when a Raven flew near them. On Feb 20 the pair that will nest on Shoreham Power Station chimney were display there.

Moorhen: One seen at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 15 to catch a fish some 10 cm long and to bash it on the ground before attempting to eat it.

Oystercatcher: Displaying at Rye Harbour on Feb 18

Avocet: An indication that these are now on the move east from their west country wintering sites back to breeding sites was seen on Feb 19 when two birds (new arrivals) landed on either side of the mouth of Southampton Water (one at Fawley, the other at Hook). Maybe some of the Farlington Marshes birds have also left as there were 23 there on Feb 13 but only 9 on Feb 19

Ringed Plover: First report of these displaying comes from Rye Harbour on Feb 18

Golden Plover: On Feb 14 a flock of more than 300 was on mud by the Emsworth Channel by the west end of the Thorney Great Deeps

Lapwing: These had started display flights at Rye Harbour on Feb 18 and on Feb 20 105 Lapwing flew north east out to sea at Sandwich Bay along with many Skylarks (presumably leaving us to head back to Scandinavia)

Little Stint: The Fishbourne Channel bird was seen again in the Apuldram area on Feb 14 and one (maybe the same) was seen in the West Wittering area on Feb 16 (first report from there this winter)

Dunlin: Tim Lawman was at the Langstone Harbour entrance channel watching gulls coming in to the harbour to roost on the evening of Feb 20 and he saw some 450 Dunlin going out of the harbour - at this time of day the movement suggested these birds were leaving us and starting a long distance overnight flight.

Black-tailed Godwit: John Clark reported a peak count of around 1275 in the Ibsley area of the Avon Valley on Feb 14 and Bob Chapman reported some 1000 on Ibsley Water next day and 800 there on Feb 20. In contrast the count at Pulborough Brooks was down to 10 on Feb 18 (though 170+ were there on Feb 21 when some 70 were at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight)

Whimbrel: The wintering bird was seen again in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Feb 19

Spotted Redshank: Although these are still being seen at various sites the 'tame' bird which poses for photographers at the Nore Barn site west of Emsworth has not been reported since Feb 12.

Med Gull: Lee Evans recorded a total of 267 in the Pagham Harbour area on Feb 13 (a total of 379 was reported there on 19 Sep 2008 and there was an odd report of more than 270 in the Thanet area of Kent on 17 Oct 2008). Smaller numbers but of local interest have been reported at the Hayling Oysterbeds - the first to be reported there was seen on Feb 15 and 'a few' were there on Feb 17. Indications of spring movement come from Kent where the first for the year was at Dungeness on Feb 10, then an adult flew north past Sandwich Bay on Feb 16, the first adult was seen on the north Kent coast at Swalecliffe on Feb 18 and a pair of adults was at the Oare Marshes on Feb 20. Feb 20 brought the first report of three at the Rye Harbour gullery and on Feb 21 Cliff Dean was delighted to hear the first calling over his home in Pett village to the north of Hastings. Nearer home the first report of one back at the Hayling Oysterbeds was dated Feb 15 and on Feb 18 John Chapman heard his first over his home in Langstone village.

Black-headed Gull: Said to be squabbling around their nest islands at Rye Harbour on Feb 18

Ring-billed Gull: One was still at the Cockle Pond in Gosport on Feb 14 but has not been reported there since - maybe it moved to Poole Harbour where one was seen on Feb 20 (though there had been one in that harbour briefly on Jan 9)

Common Gull: A count of more than 200 at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 15, together with a sharp drop in the number of large gulls coming to roost there, was evidence for Bob Chapman to show that spring passage is under way. Another sign of passage was a recent increase in the number roosting in Langstone Harbour - on Feb 20 Tim Lawman watched more than 250 come in through the harbour entrance

Iceland Gull: Most recent sightings have been of singles at Sturminster Marshall on the Dorset Stour on Feb 14 and the long staying bird at Hove Lagoon/Shoreham Harbour on Feb 16. The Dungeness bird was still there on Feb 21

Glaucous Gull: The last sighting at Southsea was on Feb 16 but what is thought to be the younger bird of the two which had been there was still to be seen passing the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 17 and what may have been the adult flew north through Portsmouth Harbour on Feb 21. The two birds which have been in the Swanage/Durlston area since Feb 5 were seen by Lee Evans on Feb 21 and in his opinion neither of them are similar to the two which were at Southsea. Lee Evans commented that an unusual number of arctic gulls were currently being seen at European sites (several Iceland and Glaucous plus an Ivory Gull in France and a Ross's Gull in Spain) - Lee anticipates sightings of some of these in Britain as they move north again.

Sandwich Tern: One was seen from the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 15 (I think this is the first sighting in Langstone Harbour this winter) and one was more normally in the Wittering area of Chichester Harbour that day. Feb 19 brought the first claim for arrival of a migrant when two were seen in the Thanet area of Kent, neither looking like the single bird that has been wintering there. Two at Dungeness on Feb 18 and three thereon Feb 20 are also likely to have been early migrants

Stock Dove: Three flew over the Langstone South Moors when I was there on Feb 17 and one was singing in Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Feb 20

Wood Pigeon: One flew in off the sea at Portland on Feb 15 as spring passage begins to get under way.

Barn Owl: Plenty of these currently being seen but of local interest I see that two were hunting over the Hayling Golf Course on the evening of Feb 20

Long-eared Owl: One was discovered in the 'bushes' at Farlington Marshes on Feb 15 and was still there on Feb 21 - Mark Cutts has a good photo of its location and a close up of the bird on the Three Amigos blog ( http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo )

Short-eared Owl: At least one was seen again very briefly over North Binness Island in Langstone Harbour on Feb 17. On Feb 15 a total of 7 were hunting over Bransbury Common near Andover at dusk and on Feb 14 two were seen near Steyning (Adur valley north of Worthing)

Kingfisher: The Havant Wildlife Group on Feb 14 saw two along the 'canal' joining the west end of the Little and Great Deeps on Thorney Island and on Feb 19 a pair were displaying at the Blashford Lake

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Of local interest one was heard drumming in the Nore Barn wood at Emsworth on Feb 19

Woodlark: These are now starting their breeding season - Feb 14 brought reports of birds on territory and singing at Bourley Hill (Aldershot) and the Shatterford area of the New Forest (plus another unspecified New Forest site)

Meadow Pipit: Ten flew north over the Langstone South Moors shore on Feb 17 and 80 birds were seen at Portland on Feb 18 as passage gets under way.

Rock Pipit: First song reported at Durlston on Feb 18 and parachuting display flights by six birds were noted there on Feb 21

Scandinavian Rock Pipit: Singles seen at Lymington on Feb 14 and at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 18

Waxwing: Still 10 at Goring by sea on Feb 21 (with another report of 3 in Brighton on Feb 20)

Wren: Several people have reported the apparent absence of Wrens from areas they have been surveying recently and fears have been expressed that many of these (and other) small birds have been killed by the recent cold weather - we will have to wait and see if they start to show up now the weather is warmer (it is surprising how birds can appear to vanish although they are still present - e.g. Dunnocks during their moult period - and also how they can suddenly appear in large numbers just when we feared they had become extinct - e.g. the recent re-appearance of Greenfinches)

Blackbird: Having heard one singing on Feb 10 (after one was heard in Emsworth on Feb 8) I had to wait until Feb 17 until I heard another (this time two different birds in Havant) and then a bird in Manor Close (Havant) was singing on both Feb 18 and 19. As usual all these early songs were heard at dusk - the one on Feb 19 at 6pm in dark and drizzle - I could just see the bird's silhouette on a roof ridge. In the last couple of days song has become much more frequent and there have been two reports of breeding - one carrying food to young at Sway on Feb 15 and another with nest material in the Horsham area on Feb 21

Fieldfare: A mass movement north of more than 2000 birds was seen in the Berwick area north of Eastbourne on Feb 16

Mistle Thrush: First song of this year was heard on Feb 12 in the Rye area and on Feb 14 one was singing at Durlston

Lesser Whitethroat: On Feb 20 Richard Fairbank posted this entry on the SOS website .. "A Lesser Whitethroat was heard calling and then seen in the hedge bordering the cycle lane and the children's playground at Hove Lagoon at 07.30 this morning. As I've cycled past at a similar time every day this week and not heard it, and as the habitat isn't ideal I'd suggest it was a very early migrant."

Goldcrest: Song also heard at Durlston on Feb 14

Firecrest: One seen in the small copse beside the Hayling Coastal Path immediately north of West Town Station on Feb 16 and another seen in the Oysterbeds area on Feb 21

Marsh Tit: First report of song at Sowley Pond (Lymington) on Feb 14

Willow Tit: At least three found in the Faccombe village area north of Andover on Feb 18 (but none at Hurstbourne Common woods where at least three pairs were present in April of 2007)

Tree Creeper: First report of song for the year comes from Battle (Hastings area) on Feb 17

Great Grey Shrike: The monthly survey of the New Forest on Feb 14/15 found four birds at different sites. Feb 14 also brought a report of a bird at a new site (Ringmer near Lewes)

Jay: On Feb 20 five Jays were seen in a Sussex garden and one was seen to perch on a post and to haul up a string on which unshelled peanuts had been hung, and to take these alternatives to acorns.

Rook: Birds seen back at rookeries at Barnham (Arundel) on Feb 16 and Lewes on Feb 17. On Feb 20 Roooks at Uckfield were gathering sticks to repair their nests

House Sparrow: Birds seen with nest material in Emsworth on Feb 17

Linnet: First song reported at Durlston on Feb 14 and a bird was said to be newly back on territory in the Ashdown Forest on Feb 20

Bullfinch: Another unusual report from Durlston of two birds singing there on Feb 11 - this is backed up by the note saying that the birds were perched prominently on the top of Hawthorn bushes

Lapland Bunting: A female had been seen at Pagham Harbour and the second of the year is reported as passing at Folkestone on Feb 16

Yellowhammer: Durlston also reports a 'first attempt at song' by a Yellowhammer on Feb 18

Reed Bunting: First song at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 14

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: First of year flying in the New Forest on Feb 15 with others at Southampton and Fordingbridge on Feb 16. These have been followed by reports from Horsham, Harewood Forest (Andover) and Stockbridge Down

Red Admiral: Seen in Bournemouth and on Thorney Island on Feb 14 followed by reports from four sites on Feb 21 (one of them on the Hayling Billy line in Havant)

Small Tortoiseshell: One at Goring by sea (Worthing) on Feb 14 -first of year

Peacock: One flying in the Thanet area of Kent on Feb 16

Comma: Late news of the first of year seen in the Farlington area of Portsmouth on Feb 10 and another in the Winchester area on Feb 21

Moths

White-shouldered House Moth (0648 Endrosis sarcitrella): First of year in the Thanet area of Kent on Feb 18

Common Flat-body (0688 Agonopterix heracliana): First of year in the Denton area of Newhaven on Feb 16

Brown-spot Flat-body (0695 Agonopterix alstroemeriana): First of year at Portland on Feb 15

Scrobipalpa costella (0819): Another first at Portland on Feb 15

Winter Shade (1025 Tortricodes alternella): Several had been seen in the Rye town area by Feb 20

Acleris hastiana (1053): Another first at Portland on Feb 15

Small Magpie (1376 Eurrhypara hortulata): First seen in the Fleet area on Feb 16

Brown Plume (1524 Emmelina monodactyla): First at Rye on Feb 20

March Moth (1663 Alsophila aescularia): Joint firsts on Feb 16 at Edburton (north of Brighton) and Ashdown Forest area

Mottled Grey (1775 Colostygia multistrigaria): Another first at Portland on Feb 15

Common Quaker (2187 Orthosia stabilis): First at Rye on Feb 20

Hebrew Character (2190 Orthosia gothica): First at Edburton on Feb 17

The Chestnut (2258 Conistra vaccinii): First of year in the Denton area of Newhaven on Feb 16

Other Insects

Honey Bee: First report for the year is of one foraging the Ashdown Forest area on Feb 20

Bumblebee species: Several recent reports from Feb 16 on with more than 8 seen at Horsham on Feb 21

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Thale Cress: Single specimen in Havant on Feb 16 was my first of year

Common Whitlowgrass: Flowers fully open on Feb 16 in Waterloo Road with more seen in Juniper Square, also in Havant, on Feb 20

Portland Spurge??: A photo of a Spurge in flower at Rye Harbour appeared on the RX website on Feb 19 with a caption saying that it was Sea Spurge but with a question mark, partly becuase of the early date and partly because of the strong red tinge to the stems and leaves. Both the date and colour would better suit the much rarer Portland Spurge (though that is unlikely - if true it would be the first ever recorded in Sussex). I emailed Barry Yates (who posted the picture) to get his opinion and he told me he was pretty sure the plants were the ordinary Sea Spurge which flourishes there.

Cow Parsley: Two succesive finds of flowering plants in Emsworth and Chichester on Feb 16 and 17 show that we are nearing the time when this plant will be flowering everywhere

Field Madder: A few flowers open on one plant in the arable field behind Conigar Point at Warblington were the first I have recorded this year.

Butterbur: The flower spikes of these plants were just starting to appear above ground at Brook meadow in Emsworth on Feb 14 (when I found two in full flower at Racton further up the Ems Valley). Strangely there was no sign of any female flower spikes beside the Langbrook stream on Feb 17 (they are usually out earlier than the males)

Giant Butterbur: A few plants at the site beside the Langbrook stream were in flower by Feb 17

Three-cornered Leek: This was found in flower at Emsworth by Brian Fellows on Feb 19 - the similar looking Summer Snowflake is also in flower and Brian has put comparative photos of the distinctive flowers of the two species on his website

Early Purple Orchid: My first sight of the leaves of these orchids in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Feb 20 was a pleasant reminder of the continuing approach of spring

Barren Brome grass: I had my first sight for the year of this in Havant on Feb 20

OTHER WILDLIFE

Stoat: On Feb 13 one was seen at Durlston in its white winter coat - very unusual in southern England

Weasel: Two reports, both on Feb 18 - one seen in the Broadmarsh Coastal Park by Langstone Harbour and another at Durlston. I wonder if this indicates that some Weasels already have young to feed (young are normally nor born until April)?

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: A pod of at least 8 were off Portland on Feb 15 - this is the first report for the current year though last year the first report was on Jan 22 and there had been 6 reports by Feb 1 (all at Portland)

Fallow Deer: The party led by Kevin Stouse to visit Amberley Wild Brooks on Feb 15 saw more than 50 Fallow Deer - although he does not mention their colour I guess they may have had very dark (almost black) coats indicating they were descendants of deer which escaped from the grounds of Parham House - inbreeding among that herd is thought to account for their very dark colour (but maybe now they have been free to roam for more than ten years the dark strain has become 'diluted')

Water Vole: One sighting reported in the R Ems at Brook Meadow on Feb 15

Pipistrelle: The first which I have heard of this year was flying by the Sussex Ouse south of Lewes on Feb 16

Frog: Following the first report of spawn for the year in a Waterlooville pond on Feb 9 a second report dated Feb 18 comes from the Farlington area on the south side of Portsdown. On Feb 17 there were no females and no spawn in a Northiam (Hastings) pond where just six males were awating the arrival of females. More spawn was found in a garden pond in the Denvilles area of Havant on Feb 18.

Toad: Also on Feb 17 came the first sign of these moving to breeding ponds - a single male squashed on a road at Northiam

Newts: .. and still with Northiam on Feb 17 the garden pond there had around a dozen Common and one Palmate Newt

Adder: Another sign of spring - the first sight of a basking Adder at Durlston on Feb 14 and on Feb 21 two were 'writhing together' there

Slow-worm: First report of the year from the Northiam area near Hastings - one was basking under roofing felt there on Feb 21

Trout: Several large Brown Trout were seen swimming in the River Ems at Emsworth on Feb 15


Summary for Feb 9 - 15 (Week 6 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

All 18 of the Black-necked Grebes that are wintering in Langstone Harbour were seen together from the Hayling Oysterbeds this week. Investigation of reports of up to 16 Great White Herons at a Dutch site has extended my knowledge of both the European based Great Egrets and the American based Great White Heron species, and from a bird seen in Pagham Harbour I have also learnt that there is possibly a fourth race of Brent (Grey-bellied in addition to Dark-bellied, Pale-bellied and Brant). More knowledge comes from the Sussex Ouse valley where Wood Duck breed in Owl nest boxes. Raptor behaviour continues to facinate - this week one Peregrine has been 'sparring' in flight with a Hen Harrier while another has eaten up a Merlin which dared to perch on a pylon which 'belonged' to the Peregrine, and Buzzards have been seen digging into a Mole-hill as Goshawks begin their spring display flights. Owls are also in the news with a chance to hear a Little Owl singing (on the internet), and on the Sussex Downs a previously unknown winter roost site for Long-eared Owls has been found. Both Black Guillemot and Little Auk get a mention this week. New songsters this week include drumming Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush and Linnet while Woodlarks get their breeding season under way and a couple of Skylarks are seen fighting on the ground. Two wintering Whinchats have been found in Sussex and Kent

Surprisingly four butterly species (including Small Tortoiseshell and Small White) have been on the wing this week but only one new Moth species (Dotted Border) is reported. New flowering plants are Lesser Periwinkle, Spurgle Laurel, Green Hellebore and Butterbur following the first Danish Scurvygrass and Common Alder.

One of several Porpoises arriving in the English Channel this week came into Langstone Harbour to die after stranding on the Hayling shore and from Kent we hear of the first Mad March Hares. Perhaps more significant is the first report of Frogspawn for the year.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Great Northern Diver: On Feb 11 the same observer saw one off Southsea Castle and another in the Langstone Harbour entrance and this latter bird was seen again on Feb 12

Great Crested Grebe: On Feb 8 there were 137 in the Solent west of Titchfield Haven and another 89 were across the Solent in flocks of 38 (west of Ryde) and 51 (off Seaview east of Ryde). Also that day some 500 were in Rye Bay off Pett and on Feb 7 there were 95 off Folkestone. On Feb 11 two sites in Holland had a combined total of 1310 present. On Feb 12 the flock which has been on the sea off Bournemouth for some time was reported to have 330 birds in it with 249 seen there on Feb 14

Red-necked Grebe: The bird which has been sporadically seen off Southsea Castle since Feb 4 seems to commute across Spithead to be seen off the Isle of Wight - on Feb 8 it was seen at both Southsea and Puckpool Point west of Ryde, then on Feb 9 it was still off the Seaview area of the IoW but on Feb 11 it was back at Southsea

Slavonian Grebe: No more than 4 had been reported on the Lymington shore before Feb 7 when 7 were thought to be there (Feb 8 brought a count of 5 there). On Feb 13 a total of 8 were on the sea off Pagham Harbour with 3 in the Lymington area

Black-necked Grebe: A flock of 13 were seen off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 11 and what was probably the winter total for Langstone Harbour (18 birds) was seen from the Oysterbeds on Feb 14. The Studland Bay area had at least 21 on Feb 8 and 19 on Feb 10

Fulmar: Two were already settled on ledges at Gore Cliff by St Catherine's Point (IoW) on Feb 7 with another four in the air nearby, and on that day more than ten were seen around Durlston

Balearic Shearwater: Although I have seen 16 reports of these in the English Channel so far this year (with singles as far east as Dungeness on Jan 16 and 17) two which flew west off Ventnor on Feb 13 were noted as the first winter record of the species for the Isle of Wight.

Cormorant: Flocks of several hundred have been seen off the southern English coast recently but a count of 700 on the sea of Cap Gris-Nez in France on Feb 8 was bigger than any count reported on this side of the water this year (though nowhere near the 1455 seen on the sea at a Dutch site on Jan 14). On Feb 12 Christchurch Harbour reported 240 off shore there with 232 on the sea there on Feb 14.

Shag: On Feb 12 one was seen on the sea off Portland with its body and wings completely enmeshed in part of a fishing net and associated ropes

Bittern: The Stour Valley east of Canterbury was thought to have more than 10 Bitterns on Feb 8 and on Feb 9 one walked out onto a footpath at the Rooksbury Mill site at Andover (I think it may have been a first for the site), then on Feb 10 all three of the birds at the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood were showing openly. Just one was seen at Titchfield Haven on Feb 11

Great White Heron: The Trektellen website regularly has reports of Great White Heron at sites in Holland and I initially thought this was their version of the English name for Great Egret but when I saw a count of 11 reported for one site on Feb 11 (increasing to 16 at that site on Feb 13) I had my doubts. Investigating further - see http://sofia.usgs.gov/virtual_tour/kids/critters/heron.html - I found that there is a 'white morph' of the Great Blue Heron (Ardea cinerea) which is called Great White Heron, not to be confused with the Great Egret, but I am still confused as the Great Blue Heron is an American species which is a very rare vagrant to Europe. Further investigation brought me back to the Great Egret which does breed in Europe and which is called Egretta alba in the Collins Bird Guide but which also goes under the name Casmerodius albus. My conclusion is that the birds in Holland are Great Egrets and I guess they are winter visitors from a breeding population in extreme south east Europe but I have so far been unable to find any evidence to show whether they, like Little Egrets, have been extending their breeding range in recent years.

Mute Swan: The Langstone pair were back on the Mill Pond on Feb 11

Bewick's Swan: More of these birds have been found in the Avon Valley near Ibsley (Ringwood) by John Clark who was there on Feb 14 and reported .. "ten Bewick's Swans above Ibsley - two families of 4 and 3 and three adults". Also of interest I see that Derek Hale from the Isle of Wight was at Slimbridge on the Severn estuary on Feb 13 and found around 110 present there.

Bean Goose: The three Tundra birds which have been in the Chichester Lakes area since at least Jan 9 have been seen on Ivy Lake as recently as Feb 14

Whitefront Goose: Although we in southern England cannot match the count of 2277 at one Dutch site on Feb 13 there were around 100 at Slimbridge that day and a lone bird remains with Canadas in the Hampshire Avon valley

Cackling Canada Goose: The single bird remains at Titchfield Haven (last seen Feb 11)

'Silver-back' Brent Goose: On Jan 31 a visitor to Pagham Harbour from Cornwall saw an unusual bird among a flock of 1500 Brent and he has sent drawings and notes to Alan Kitson who saw what was probably the same bird on four occasions between 27 Nov 2004 and 26 Feb 2005 and then had one more sighting of it on 28 Dec 2005. The bird is said by Alan to have its .. "mantle pale silvery-grey and belly and flanks pale mottled grey" and by his correspondent to have upperparts that are 'white wagtail grey with no brown. Alan thinks it is a mutant (and not a putative fourth race of Brent called Grey-bellied Brent which occasionally comes to Ireland with Pale-bellied Brent) and he believes it to be a female as he saw it in close company with a normal Dark-bellied bird which was 'keeping guard' as if it were a male. The bird has been in adult plumage throughout. For photos of Grey-bellied Brent go to http://www.spurnbirdobservatory.co.uk/gallery/greybelliedbrentgoose.html The Wikipaedia entry for Brent Goose includes .. "A fourth form (known variously as Gray Brant, Intermediate Brant or Grey-bellied Brent Goose) has been proposed, although no formal subspecies description has been made as yet, for a population of birds breeding in central Arctic Canada (mainly Melville Island), and wintering in the Puget Sound on the American west coast around the U.S./Canada border. These birds are intermediate in appearance between Black Brant and Pale-bellied Brent, having brown upperparts and grey underparts which give less of a contrast with the white flank patch. Given that this population exhibits mixed characters, it has also been proposed that, rather than being a separate subspecies, it is actually a result of interbreeding between these two forms".

Red-breasted Goose: The last report which I have of this on the Lymington marshes was dated Feb 4 and I have heard no more of it until Feb 12 when what is very probably the same bird turned up among Brent in the East Head carpark near the mouth of Chichester Harbour - it was still there on Feb 14

Wood Duck: A group of 12 flying along the Rother Valley near Robsertsbridge (north of Hastings) on Feb 8 provoked a question as to whether there are any established feral populations of this species which is to be found in many wildfowl collections. In response to this John Levin wrote (on the SOS website) .. "Wood Ducks in this area around the Ouse and the Uck in Isfield (north of Lewes) are relatively common. They use the boxes we put up for nesting Tawny Owls and even the triangle Barn Owl boxes when sited close to water or on the edge of woodland. They certainly breed here yearly and we had a female with five ducklings all of which survived and stayed with her until we last saw them around November".

Pintail: Flooding in the Avon valley south of Ringwood had brought at least 215 Pintail there on Feb 10. This is the third largest count I have seen so far this year after 225 of them at Pulborough on Jan 19 and 300+ in the Sheppey area of north west Kent on Jan 23

Scaup: A single drake which was seen at Rooksbury Mill (on the south side of Andover) from Jan 1 to 26 seems to have re-appeared at the Anton Lakes on the north side of Andover where one was seen on Feb 8. The two drakes were still on the river at Titchfield Haven on Feb 11

Long-tailed Duck: Single birds were seen at Hook (Warsash) and on the sea off Church Norton on Feb 8 but by Feb 11 the Hook bird seems to have crossed the mouth of Southampton Water to be seen off Fawley power station.

Velvet Scoter: Six were seen in Rye Bay off Pett on Feb 8 (with around 1000 Common Scoter) and two were in the Hurst area near Lymington that day while a single was in Studland Bay on Feb 8, 10 and 11

Goldeneye: The Fishbourne Channel near Chichester has had a flock of Goldeneye since the New Year (9 there on Jan 2) and a count of 19 on Feb 10 has only been beaten once with 20 on Jan 7

Hen Harrier: A female was seen for some time "sparring" with a Peregrine in the Sandwich Bay area of Kent on Feb 10

Goshawk: One flew over the Beeding Brooks area by the R Adur near Steyning on Feb 12 and on Feb 13 one was seen soaring over the Beaulieu Road Station area of the New Forest

Buzzard: These are often seen prowling on the ground in search of earthworms but exactly what two of them were doing 'digging at Mole Hills' in the north fields at Pagham Harbour on Feb 10 remains a mystery.

Merlin: In the Southwick area of Brighton on Feb 12 a Merlin was foolish enough to perch on an electricity pylon that is regularly used by Peregrines (probably the pair which are currently investigating the nest box on the local power station chimney). One of the Peregrines witnessed the effrontery of the Merlin, flew over to the pylon and taught the Merlin a lesson that it has now forgotten as its flesh is inside the Peregrine.

Red-legged Partridge: Of local interest I came across one on Feb 13 in the big field with the Rookery trees across the road from Northney Farm on Hayling

Avocet: The flock at Farlington Marshes numbered 29 on Feb 11

Golden Plover: A flock of around 400 was in fields on the northwest shoulder of Portsdown on both Feb 7 and 8. Bigger flocks were seen on Feb 12 - 250 at West Wittering. 700 at Rye Harbour and 2200 in the Thanet are of Kent.

Lapwing: The flooded north fields at Pagham Harbour attracted an impressive flock of 2600 Lapwing on Feb 10

Knot: Some 30 were in the Emsworth Harbour area on Feb 12 and 9 were seen there on Feb 14

Black-tailed Godwit: A total of 1120 Godwits was on the Pagham north fields on Feb 10 . On Feb 7 there were at least 120 at Titchfield Haven and on Feb 14 John Clark saw an estimated 1275 of them in the Avon valley near Ringwood

Whimbrel: The wintering bird in the Fishbourne channel near Chichester was seen again on Feb 12

Med Gull: An adult was in full summer plumage at Titchfield Haven on Feb 8 and on Feb 11 more than 120 were still in the Weymouth area while more than 250 were seen in Pagham Harbour on Feb 13

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still at the Cockle Pond on Feb 14 and a different bird was at Dungeness on Feb 8

Iceland Gull: The long staying bird was still in the Shoreham Harbour/Hove Lagoon area on Feb 14 when a different bird was seen at the Sturminster Marshall gravel pits (by the R Stour between Wimborne and Blandford) and on Feb 8 one was in the Hurst area at Lymington where the only previous sightings that I am aware of were on Jan 26 and 31

Glaucous Gull: The last report of two birds on the Southsea seafront that I am aware of was dated Feb 7. When Lee Evans was there on Feb 8 all he saw was one bird flying inland over Southsea Common and there has been another sighting on Feb 11 of one resting on Southsea Common until disturbed by a dog, when it flew north. There have been no more recent local reports except a sighting of a second winter bird (probably one that was previously at Southsea) off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 14. In Dorset one had been in the Swanage/Durlston area from Feb 5 to 14 at least. Of interest to bird parasite enthusiasts a photo which Alistair Martin took of one ot the Southsea birds shows an infestation of small fleas in its plumage just behind one of its eyes.

Razorbill: Around 500 were on the sea at Durlston on Feb 8 and on Feb 13 there were some 600 on the sea off Worthing with many more flying east further out.

Black Guillemot: First mention of this species for this winter is of one at a Dutch site on Feb 13

Little Auk: One was reported from the French coast near Calais - on Feb 8 it was seen from Cap Gis-Nez and on Feb 10 from Le Clipon

Barn Owl: One was seen over the shore field to the east of Mengham Rythe sailing club on Feb 10 (maybe one has settled in the Tournerbury Wood area just across the water?) and other local sightings were at the Thornham Marshes on Feb 12 (with a Short-eared Owl) and near the Titchfield Canal path on Feb 13 (when three were seen with two Short-eared at Bransbury Common near Andover)

Little Owl: On Feb 9 Martin Cade told us on the Portland website that one of the two birds that have been a regular sight in a small rock cave there for a long time had now started singing and you can hear a recording of this by going to the new sound archive set up as part of their website - go to http://www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk/sound_archive.htm - perhaps this is what was heard at Stoke Common (behind the Hayling Oysterbeds) on Jan 30?

Long-eared Owl: On Feb 8 a new roost of these birds was discovered by Dave and Penny Green on the Sussex Downs in the Brighton area and one of them was seen hunting by day (unusual for this species) in company with Short-eared Owls enabling the differences in plumage to be seen. Another report of one hunting by day with Short-eared Owls comes from Sandwich Bay in Kent on Feb 12.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: Maybe of local interest on Feb 11 a couple of these were seen and heard calling in the big old Grey Poplar beside Wade Court Road in Havant opposite its junction with North Close. On Feb 14 two flew over my Havant garden.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: A male was drumming at the Warnham Mill Pond reserve in Horsham on Feb 8

Woodlark: On Feb 14 John Eyre told us .. "First Woodlarks of the spring this morning on Bourley & Long Valley (close to Aldershot). I had a pair back on a known breeding site and a third bird close by. Despite the still and relatively warm conditions, I heard only a very short, weak burst of song". In the New Forest two Woodlarks were in full song that morning though another birder in the New Forest only heard a very brief burst of song. Earlier song had been heard in Ashdown Forest on Jan 27 and in the Horsham area on Feb 12,

Skylark: I have long understood that resident Skylarks can be provoked into song at this time of year by the arrival of migrants in their airspace but I have never before heard it suggested that this could lead to a serious fight between two birds yet that is one of the theories to account for a battle photographed by Steve Copsey when he was at Old Winchester Hill in the Meon Valley on Feb 8 - go to http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo and select 'Battling Skylarks' from the list of recent posts on the right of the screen.

Scandinavian Rock Pipit: The first two to be identified this year were reported by Lee Evans when he was at Gosport on Feb 8. These are now starting to acquire spring plumage which allows these 'littoralis' birds to be distinguished from the 'petrosus' Rock Pipits which will stay and breed in Britain - the Scandinavian birds in full breeding plumage have a bluish tinge to the brown on their heads and a slight yellow or pinkish tinge to the breast and underparts. These Rock Pipits retain the streaking on their breasts unlike the Water Pipits whose breasts lose their streaking and acquire a strong pinkish tinge in breeding plumage.

Water Pipit: One was seen by the Fishbourne Channel at Chichester on Feb 10 and two were seen from the Titchfield Canal path on Feb 13

Waxwing: 12 flew over Christchurch Harbour on Feb 8 and on Feb 11 a flock of 10 turned up near the railway station in Goring-by -sea (Worthing area) where they have stayed to Feb 14 at least.

Whinchat: These hardly ever spend the winter in Britain but current reports contain two finds of them - one of a male on Feb 7 at Ferring Rife (Worthing), where what may have been the same bird was reported as a 'possible' on 12 Nov 2008, and the other on the north Kent coast near Manston on Feb 10. One of the highspots of my birding career was the find of a wintering bird at the Hilsea Lines (Portsmouth) in Jan 1983 but I don't recall any other wintering birds since then.

Blackbird: First local song was heard in Emsworth by Brian Fellows on Feb 8 and I heard on in Havant at dusk on Feb 10. There had been rather vague mention of song at Durlston on Jan 27.

Redwing: There have been many throughout southern England recently so a sighting of half a dozen in the Stockheath allotments at Leigh Park in Havant on Feb 10 was of purely local interest.

Mistle Thrush: First song of the year heard in the Brede Valley near Rye on Feb 12 and at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 14

Yellow-browed Warbler: After the first report of the year which came from central Southampton on Feb 6 there has been a second report of one (heard only) in the Lymington area on Feb 8

Chiffchaff: One was working its way along Blackthorn bushes lining the Hermitage stream in the Stockheath area of Leigh Park here in Havant on Feb 10. Two Siberian (tristis) Chiffchaffs have been at Lodmoor in Weymouth for some time and on Feb 8 the Dorset Bird Club website had side-by-side comparison photos of normal and tristis birds taken at Lodmoor (to see them go to http://www.dorsetbirdclub.org.uk/Sightings.htm and scroll down to the Feb 8 entry)

Tree Creeper: Three reports this week from the New Forest, Isle of Wight and Catsfield near Hastings where a pair were investigating a nest site they have used in previous years.

Hooded Crow: The single bird wintering in north Kent was seen again with other Crows in the Seasalter area on Feb 11

Linnet: A flock of 200 at Red Cliff (between Sandown and Bembridge Foreland on the IoW) on Feb 7 may have been newly arrived migrants though there was a report of around 100 on nearby Culver Down on Jan 2. Warmer weather on Feb 14 brought at least one Linnet at Christchurch Harbour into song for the first time this year.

Twite: The single bird seen with Linnets in the Keyhaven area at Lymington on Jan 27 was seen again on Feb 7 and 11. It remains the only representative of its species in southern England this year as far as I know though 13 were seen at a Dutch site on Feb 11

Snow Bunting: Four were still in the Seasalter area of north Kent on Feb 13

Yellowhammer: On Feb 9 a flock of more than 40 was seen on Bury Hill close to the A303 where it passes Andover - also seen there were at least 11 Corn Buntings. On Feb 13 the Yellowhammers at this site numbered 53.

Corn Bunting: In addition to those mentioned above in the Andover area the flock at Rodmell (by the Sussex Ouse south of Lewes) still numbered more than 70 on Feb 13.

Escapees: One of the Fulvous Whistling Ducks was still at Titchfield Haven on Feb 8. Checking back I see that one of these was recorded there 14 Apr 2005 and that there have been at least eight sightings there prior to this one (three were present on 24 Mar 2007). The species has also been seen several times in the Chichester area (4 of them on Runcton Lake on 18 Nov 2006), while last year one was at the Blashford Lakes on May 10 and another at Hook/Warsash on Sep 19 and 29. I also discovered that a similar bird (a distinctive White-faced Whistling Duck) was on the River Ems at Emsworth for a week in April 2005

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Small White: Presumably one had been attempting hibernation in the Worthing area and was discovered when it appeared in the kitchen of a house in the Findon valley during the evening of Feb 10

Red Admiral: One was flying at Ardingly near Haywards Heath on Feb 13 and another was seen in the Emsworth area on Feb 14

Peacock: A 'half awake' specimen was seen flying weakly in the Newhaven area on Feb 8

Small Tortoiseshell: The first report of this species for the year comes from Goring-by-sea (Worthing) on Feb 14

Moths

Dotted Border (1934 Agriopis marginaria): First for the year at Newhaven on Feb 10

Early Moth (1960 Theria primaria): These have been seen since Jan 13 but a walk through Friston Forest near Eastbourne on the evening of Feb 7 encountered five different specimens

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

The number of species reported in flower so far this year is 84 (this excludes grasses and the Canadian Fleabane which I wrongly idenitfied on Feb 7). Newly added species this week are ...

Green Hellebore: Three or four plants had large flower buds (none fully open) on Feb 14 beside Woodlands Lane in the Lordington Copse area above Walderton in the Ems Valley

Danish Scurvygrass: First flowers seen beside the Petersfield Road in Havant on Feb 10

Spurge Laurel: Several plants in flower alongside Woodlands Lane at Lordington Copse on Feb 14

Common Alder: Some trees around Langstone Mill Pond had catkins open on Feb 11

Lesser Periwinkle: First flowers seen on Feb 14 at two sites - five flowers at the junction of Southleigh and East Leigh roads at Locks farm in the Denvilles area of Havant and another flower spotted on plants beside Hollybank Lane in north Emsworth (between Tudor Ave and Oak Tree Drive) - both sites probably have plants of natural woodland origin.

Butterbur: A ditch deeply flooded by water close to the River Ems in the Racton area had two fully open flower spikes holding their heads above the water on Feb 14. Plants at Brook Meadow were just pushing the tips of their flower spikes up through the ground on that day and I think the plants at Racton had been forced into growth flowering by the flood water - they could either stay at the bottom of the ditch and be drowned or rise with the water level and survive (early flowering is typical in all plant species when under threat of imminent death)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common (=Harbour) Porpoise: Perhaps some up-Channel movement this week as five were reported passing one Dutch site on Feb 13 and three were seen from another on Feb 14 (these were the first mentions of the species that I have seen this year). Of dramatic local interest one was stranded by the falling tide at the Hayling Oysterbeds (probably in Stoke Bay) on Feb 11. Claire Stares of the Marine Life Rescue Society (which was also in the local news on 1 Aug 2008 when a Northern Bottlenose Whale was stranded on the Langstone Village shore) tells us that the Porpoise was in a bad way suffering from internal bleeding and that it died shortly after becoming stranded. (the Whale was also sick and died but after a longer struggle)

Fox: As noted above in today's diary I saw two Foxes in the Wade Court area taking the chance to do a bit of sunbathing after recent wet and cold weather.

Roe Deer: A further sign of the ever growing population of these animals comes in a report from the Bownwich Cliffs area of shore fields between Titchfield Haven and Hook where a bunch of ten was seen together on Feb 9 (a peak count for the area - normally no more than two or three are seen here). Another indication of the growing population came in a report from John Goodspeed last week of two unidentified deer sightings in gardens close to his own in a crowded residential housing area on top of Portsdown close to the London Road coming up the hill from Portsmouth. On Feb 13 five of the group which inhabit the north Hayling fields between Northney and Stoke villages (and probably number more than a dozen in total) were feeding openly near Bridge Farm a little before sunset. On Feb 14 I saw two more out in the open on the Southleigh Farm fields between north Emsworth and the Denvilles area of Havant (I have seen as many as 11 here in the past)

Mole: On Feb 8 Brian Fellows remarked on the number of new molehills to be seen in Brook Meadow at Emsworth - he even saw the earth pushing up to make a new hill as he was passing. I suspect that a lot of moles will be having to dig new tunnels to escape waterlogged ground at the current time. On Feb 10 two Buzzards were seen "digging at mole hills" but whether they were hoping to catch a Mole or were after worms (or something 'entirely different') remains unknown.

Hare: First report of 'mad March Hares' comes from the Sandwich Bay area in Kent where four Hares were chasing each other on Feb 11

Frogspawn: The very first mention of this comes from a Waterlooville garden where it was seen on Feb 9


Summary for Feb 2 - 8 (Week 5 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

This week we have links to dramatic pictures of two Kestrels 'dog fighting' with a Barn Owl and to a colourful picture of an Australian Rosella that has survived for the past month at a Kent bird table. Another link is to an extraordinary set of close-up pictures of a Jack Snipe and we also have a story of a Sussex birder getting within a few feet of a Woodcock without flushing it. Peregrines at Shoreham are already checking out their nestbox on the power station chimney while a Black Brant has been seen noisily displaying to a female Brent at Keyhaven. Many birders have enjoyed two Glaucous Gulls at Southsea this week and there has been a peak count of 15 Purple Sandpipers seen there. Cold weather has brought large scale passerine movements over the south coast and firsts for the year have been a White Wagtail reported at Arundel and a Yellow-browed Warbler seen near Southampton Docks.

Despite cold weather lengthening days have brought Marsh Marigold, Stream Water Crowfoot, Cherry Plum and English Elm into flower with the first leaf buds bursting on some Elder trees. The discovery of what is almost certainly Wood Small Reed in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth adds a new species to that site's plant list.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Among 18 reports for the period Feb 1 to 7 is a count of 196 flying east past Dungeness in 75 minutes on Feb 2. On Feb 1 one birder at Selsey noted 40 going east and on Feb 5 there were at least 88 in the Pegwell Bay area of East Kent

Black-throated Diver: Steve Keen had one off Barton on Sea on Feb 1 and another was off the Climping area near the mouth of the R Arun on Feb 2. On Feb 3 one was seen from Black Point on Hayling and on Feb 7 one was off the Lymington shore

Great Northern Diver: On Feb 1 two were in Southampton Water and singles were seen at Milford on sea, off Southsea Castle and in the mouth of Langstone Harbour with two more on the sea off Selsey Bill. By Feb 7 one was still fishing in the Langstone Harbour entrance channel while a second flew west along the shore towards Southsea

Great Crested Grebe: Cliff Dean on the Rye Bay website stakes a claim for the Dungeness area to have the largest winter congregation of Great Crested Grebes anywhere in the UK. Back on Jan 27 there was a report of 2120 of these grebes on the sea off Lade Sands, a mile or so north of Dungeness and since then Cliff has found out that another group of 'a minimum of 207 birds' was off the village of St Mary's Bay (another five miles north of Lade) that day while a substantial flock (several hundred?) was still in Rye Bay off Pett at that time (only some 12 miles south west of Lade). The flock off Christchurch Harbour numbered 129 on Feb 2 and 150+ on Feb 6 while on Feb 5 there were 42 off the north east of the Isle of Wight seen from Puckpool Point and on Feb 2 there were 40 off Lancing (Worthing area)

Red-necked Grebe: On Feb 1 one was seen briefly off Milford on Sea and another was off Portland. On Feb 4 one was reliably reported off Southsea Castle and it had probably been thereabouts for some time as I read reports of one seen there last week but was unable to find a precise date for the sighting - from Feb 4 to 7 it was seen at least once each day off Southsea.

Slavonian Grebe: Ten were off Selsey on Feb 1 and one was off Titchfield Haven on Feb 2. 3 were off Black Point (Hayling) on Feb 3 and up to 7 were off the Lymington shore on Feb 7 with one Black-necked.

Black-necked Grebe: At least one was at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 1 when more than 7 were in Poole Harbour. 5 were in Portland Harbour on Feb 7 and more than 12 were in Studland Bay that day.

Bittern: Latest reports show 3 are present at the Blashford Lakes (down to 2 birds after Feb 2), another 3 at Hatch Pond in Poole Harbour, 2 at Rye Harbour, 2 at Weymouth (Radipole and Lodmoor) and one at Burton Mill Pond west of Pulborough. At least one will probably still be at Titchfield Haven (four were said to be there during January), and there may still be one at Farlington Marshes. Dungeness RSPB may have two birds and there may be one at Brading Marshes on the Isle of Wight.

Mute Swan: The Langstone Pond pair seem to have realised that as there is no room for a Swan to land on that pond (they have to land on the sea and walk to the pond) their best way to defend their territory is to remain on the harbour guarding the approach routes to the pond. On my last two visits they were either in the Lymbourne stream outfall (near the Royal Oak), or out in the main water channel where (on Feb 2) there were seven apparently adult Swans - one (probably the resident Pen) was keeping in the background while what was probably the resident Cob was actively chasing the other five away. These five may have been last year's young from the pond though I could see no trace of brown in their plumage. At Budds Farm pools the break up of last year's family had begun on Feb 6 with the parents in one pool and the two cygnets in another pool - on Feb 7 there were none on the pools and what I assume were the parents were in the Hermitage Stream pool under the nearby Gravel Quay with the cygnets nowhere to be seen.

Bewick's Swan: Kevin Stouse will be leading the annual HOS walk around Amberley Wild Brooks on Feb 15 and a report of more than 30 Bewick's flying over the Brooks (and 15 seen on the ground near Amberley Castle), both on Feb 1, suggests that there is a good chance that people going with him will see this species

Bean Goose: It looks as if the 3 birds seen at Chichester Ivy Lake on Jan 9, 10 and 11 may still be there as a group of three were seen there again on Feb 4

Brent Goose: On Feb 1 Folkestone reported 42 flying east and another 7 were seen going the same way off Ventnor (IoW). 96 more left us on Feb 3, seen passing Dungeness, and on Feb 6 another 40 flew east off the Worthing area. Walking around Warblington Farm on Feb 4 it struck me that not only have I personally seen none on the farm fields there this winter but I have seen no reports of large flocks on grassland (though I have seen large numbers over Northney Marsh area on Hayling on a few occasions, seen distantly from the mainland). I wonder if there has been a change in their behaviour this winter? On Feb 5 Andrew Madgwick was at Farlington Marshes and saw 2 ringed Brent Geese. He says .. "One bird had a RED band on RIGHT LEG with letter H in white, a YELLOW band was on the LEFT leg (No markings on the yellow band could be seen). The second bird had a small plain silver band on RIGHT leg - no markings visible" Andrew has been advised to contact Pete Potts of the Farlington Ringing Group to find out more about these birds.

Pale-bellied Brent: There were still 15 seen together at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) on Feb 1 but other reports indicate that birds seen at several points along The Fleet may be in addition. On Feb 7 one adult was seen again at Lymington.

Brant: The Farlington Marshes bird was seen on Feb 3 and one was in Fishbourne Channel area again on Feb 1. On Feb 7 one was seen noisily displaying to a female Brent in the Keyhaven area at Lymington.

Red-breasted Goose: The Lymington bird was still present on Feb 4.

Mandarin: On Feb 7 a group of 8 males were displaying to 2 females

Pintail: A 'good number' were in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Feb 6

Shoveler: A flock of 345 must have been an impressive sight at Rye Harbour on Feb 3

Red Crested Pochard: A male was seen at the Badminston gravel pits near Fawley in the south east of the New Forest on Feb 6

Scaup: The young male on the river at Titchfield Haven has been joined by another as there is a report of two males there on Feb 4 and both were still present on Feb 7. More than 16 were at Abbotsbury in Dorset on both Feb 5 and 6.

Eider: The recent report that none were to be seen off Titchfield Haven was rectified by news of 67 on the sea there on Feb 2

Long-tailed Duck: The female/immature bird seen off Titchfield Haven on Jan 27 seems to have moved east along the shore to be seen off Hook on Feb 4 where it was still present on Feb 6. In Chichester Harbour the pair which were first seen from Black Point on Jan 21 (one was there on Jan 18) were still there on Feb 7

Goosander: Maybe some of these are already heading back to breeding places as only 66 came to roost at the Blashford Lakes on the evening of Feb 5 (92 had been present on Jan 4)

Red Kite: One was mobbed by Crows over Stansted Forest close to Rowlands Castle on Feb 3 - there seem to have been fewer reports of Kites in this area since the Southleigh Forest rubbish dump was closed!

Kestrel: Further proof that Kestrels do occasionally catch birds came from the Isfield area of the Sussex Ouse valley upstream from Lewes where a Kestrel caught a Linnet on Feb 4. Also this week my attention was drawn to piece in the Daily Mail for Feb 5 - if you want to see some dramatic photos of two Kestrels attacking a Barn Owl which came out to hunt by day (and maybe violated the boundary of the Kestrels' breeding territory?) go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1136642/Pictured-The-moment-barn-owl-ambushed-mid-flight-kestrels.html

Peregrine: The pair which intend to use the nest box on the power station chimney at Shoreham were seen checking it out on Feb 6

Avocet: No substantial reports from Farlington Marshes between Jan 10 (when at least 15 were seen) and Jan 24 (when 22 were reported) but on Feb 3 there were 24 seen there (getting back towards the count of 32 there on Jan 1) with another report of 17 seen on Feb 5

Golden Plover: 70 were roosting on the Langstone village shore on Feb 2 and at least 40 were there on Feb 4 when a substantial flock of 151 were in the Hook area at the mouth of the Hamble river. Larger flocks have been some 900 at West Bexington (by the Fleet north of Weymouth) on Feb 2, 700 at Rye Harbour on Feb 3 and 500 at Maiden Castle near Dorchester on Feb 4. On Feb 7 some 400 were near the Wallington River just north of Fareham.

Little Stint: The lone bird that seems to be wintering on the Fishbourne channel near Apuldram was seen again on Jan 31 and Feb 1

Purple Sandpiper: The number seen at Southsea Castle was up to 15 on Feb 6

Jack Snipe: A typical sighting of one of these is of a previously unseen bird springing up from the ground at your feet as you are about to tread on it, flying a short distance low over the ground and vanishing as it drops back into cover. The exception to prove this rule has been seen in the Stodmarsh area of the Stour valley just east of Canterbury in the past few days - go to http://www/kentos/org.uk/Stodmarsh/FebruarySightings09.htm and see the pictures associated with entries for Feb 3 to see very close pictures of a bird that clearly has the confidence that you are not going to tread on it when you are looking straight down at it from directly above.

Woodcock: The inability of birds to see vehicles as a threat was illustrated by a report from Penny Green of how she was able to drive within a foot of a Woodcock that was crouching by a puddle in a narrow country lane near Henfield on Feb 5 without flushing the bird.

Black-tailed Godwit: A visitor to Pulborough Brooks on Feb 4 saw a flock of more than 200 in flight low overhead and on Feb 7 a flock of more than 120 were seen from the Titchfield Canal Path.

Whimbrel: On Feb 6 wintering birds were seen both at Church Norton and near Apuldram on the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester

Spotted Redshank: Two have been seen recently by the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester and four were present on the Lymington marshes on Feb 4 and 7. Also on Feb 4 the Emsworth Nore Barn bird was back in its usual place but beginning to acquire breeding plumage (still white below but not distinctly spotty on its wings and mantle) - when I saw it it was searching for food left in the saltmarsh vegetation by the last high tide and when it found something it ran down to the fresh water stream and washed the item before swallowing it. Latest sighting of it was on Feb 7

Greenshank: Plenty of these about all along our shores but I was interested to find one in the pool of the Langbrook stream immediately below the end of Langstone Mill Lane on Feb 3 and again on Feb 6

Common Sandpiper: One on the mud of the Hermitage stream where it meets water of Langstone Harbour below the Brockhampton Gravel Quay on Feb 7 was a new tick for my year list and with a male Sparrowhawk seen later that day brought my score to 94 species

Med Gull: One seen at Barton on Sea on Feb 3 was already in almost complete breeding plumage. 60 adults flying west past Lepe (mouth of Southampton Water) on Feb 7 may have been heading for their breeding colony at the mouth of the Beaulieu River.

Little Gull: Small numbers are now passing west through the English Channel and on Feb 2 a total of 8 could be seen at Dorset sites. On Feb 3 four were seen at Dungeness and one was at Southsea Castle.

Ring-billed Gull: On Feb 2 Birdguides had an anonymous report of one seen near the Gravel Quay on the Hermitage Stream close to the Broadmarsh Slipway here in Havant but this has not been confirmed by subsequent sightings. The observer may have been influenced by having heard that one was a regular here but that info is now out of date - there was a regular winter visitor to this site from 22 Feb 1998 to 2 Apr 2003 only.

Common Gull: These continue to move back towards their northern breeding places - on Feb 2 another 160 flew east off Christchurch Harbour.

Iceland Gull: A juvenile was still being seen at Dungeness on Feb 3 and the Shoreham Harbour/Hove lagoon first winter was still there on Feb 6

Glaucous Gull: The two birds (second and fourth winters) were both still in the Southsea area on Feb 7 when an adult was seen at Swanage. On Feb 6 one was seen in the Pilsey area of Chichester Harbour and on Feb 7 a second winter bird was seen hearding east over the Hayling Golf Course (possibly going to Chichester Harbour). Back on Feb 1 there were single birds at Bexington (The Fleet near Weymouth) and at Dungeness

Kittiwake: More than 460 were in the Pegwell Bay area of north east Kent on Feb 5 and Durlston reported more than 30 seen on Feb 7.

Sandwich Tern: Two of the birds wintering in Chichester Harbour were seen from Black Point (Hayling) on Feb 3 after one had been seen in Poole Harbour on Feb 1

Guillemot: On Feb 2 a total of 2200 flew east past Dungeness in a 75 minute period

Stock Dove: More than 30 were on the old Broadmarsh playing fields (north of Harts Farm Way) on Feb 7

Wood Pigeon: Some 4000 were in fields just north of Fareham on Feb 7

Barn Owl: A report from the Constantia Manor fields by the Sussex Ouse (upstream of Lewes near Isfield) describes how several species of raptor can currently be seen there trying to catch some of the large number of small passerines feeding in the fields. I was surprised to read .. "For the last three days we have had some amazing raptor viewing with a pair of Barn Owls hunting the bird crop in broad daylight. At one point the male almost collided with a ringtail harrier and both rose vertically to avoid hitting each other. The Barn Owl didn't back off as one would expect and flew after the harrier. A few minutes later it chased the much larger bird across the field which is very unusual." Both Kestrel and Sparrowhawk are also regular sights there. A local report of interest is from Michael Prior at Stansted Forest - he says that the Barn Owl which he reported on Jan 24 as to be seen hunting in the East Park is now to be seen on the other side of Stansted House in either the South Park or the old orchard (close to The Groves). See also the entry for Kestrel above for the link to photos of two Kestrels attacking a Barn Owl which was hunting by day.

Short-eared Owl: On Feb 2 one was seen hunting over the Farlington Marshes reserve - maybe this is the bird which was seen to fly in from the sea through the Langstone Harbour entrance back on Jan 29

Kingfisher: These have been in short supply in the Havant area this winter but one appeared at Farlington Marshes on Feb 2 and I had my first sighting of one on Feb 6 (flying south from Langstone Mill Lane towards the mouth of the Langbrook Stream) while on Feb 7 I saw one at the Brockhampton stream (west side of Budds Farm)

Woodlark: This is one of the passerine species affected by the recent cold resulting in a report of 17 flying over Corfe Mullen in Dorset on Feb 3 after an unexpected local sighting on Feb 2 of one searching for food in the gravel carpark adjacent to the Hayling Lifeboat Station in the mouth of Chichester Harbour

Skylark: Also seen in the Sandy Point area of Hayling on Feb 2 was an astounding cold weather movement of 1530 Skylarks going roughly north east. Other reports of this immense movement on Feb 2 were of 497 going northwest over the Titchfield Haven area, 150 over Southsea Castle, 140 over Christchurch Harbour and 141 over Brighton marina (mainly heading west) with one tight flock of 30+ going south west over Bognor, 32 going west over Fleet pond in north Hampshire and two reports of 44 going westerly over the south of the New Forest (at Badminston near Fawley and at Sway on the other side of the Forest).

Meadow Pipit: Small numbers were also moving in the cold weather with sightings of 150+ over Christchurch Harbour on Feb 4 and 60 over the Worthing area on Feb 3. Portland had 42 on Feb 7.

Grey Wagtail: These are often seen as winter visitors in the Lymbourne stream near Langstone but the presence of two together there on Feb 7 raised faint hopes that we might have a breeding pair this spring.

White Wagtail: These are not normally present in southern England during the winter but on Feb 7 there was a confident report of a male seen at Swanbourne Lake at Arundel

Waxwing: Recent reports are of 19 or more flying east over Sainsbury's at Farlington (north of Portsmouth) on Feb 1 and 10+ over Canford Heath (north fringe of Bournemouth) on Feb 3. Latest news is of 10 over the Holes Bay area of Poole Harbour on Feb 3 and a flock of more than 15 at the hamlet of Cross-in-hand near Heathfield (Crowborough area of north east Sussex) on Feb 6

Dunnock: By Feb 5 these were to be heard singing everywhere in the Havant area with at least two places where two birds were clearly singing at each other.

Fieldfare: A big cold weather movement occurred on Feb 2 when 210 flew over Sandy Point on Hayling (and half a dozen visited a Saltmarsh Lane garden while I had a garden tick with three over my Havant garden). Other movements that day included 56 over Titchfield Haven area, 40 over Brighton marina and 100 over Climping near the mouth of the R Arun. On Feb 3 more than 450 went over Christchurch Harbour and 100+ over Rye Harbour. In the Portsmouth area 40 were in a garden at Widley (north face of Portsdown) and some 80 went over the north of Fareham residential area. Also on Feb 3 26 landed on the Southsea seafront playing fields, 40 were in Sidlesham village near Brent Lodge and 100+ were seen over Middleton in the Bognor area. On Feb 4 some 300 were seen at Birling Gap (Beachy Head) and on Feb 7 Christchurch Harbour had 350 (also that day a lone bird was perched on a pine tree near the Hayling Lifeboat Station).

Redwing: On Feb 2 at least 20 were in the residential area of Havant by the Billy line (just north of the A27), 62 were recorded at Titchfield Haven and 65 at Sandy Point on Hayling. On Feb 3 there was at least one in the Havant area with horses in the meadow south of Wade Court while Seaford (near Beachy Head) had around 100 and Christchurch Harbour had more than 250 going over in the snow. On Feb 4 there were 32 (with 3 Mistle Thrushes) in the Staunton Country Park north of Havant

Mistle Thrush: These are few and far between in the Havant area nowadays so the sight on Feb 7 of a pair in a meadow east of Mill Lane and south of Bedhampton church was welcome

Dartford Warbler: Another bit of local news was a sighting of one in the gorse of Sinah Common near Staunton Avenue on south Hayling on Feb 6

Yellow-browed Warbler: The first report of this species that I have seen this year came unexpectedly from a small park by Platform Road in Southampton (adjacent to the Ocean Dock) on Feb 6.

Bearded Tit: Nine were seen at Farlington Marshes on Feb 3

Penduline Tit: Not in our area but maybe part of the cold weather movement there was a Penduline Tit at Strumpshaw Fen in Norfolk on Feb 4

Chaffinch: By Feb 5 two Chaffinches could be heard singing at each other from neighbouring trees in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery but neither bird showed much enthusiasm for the task.

Linnet: Reports of 40 at Portland and 55 at Christchurch Harbour, both on Feb 7, may suggest a small cross Channel movement

Twite: The bird which was first found on Jan 27 with Linnets in the Keyhaven (Lymington) area was seen again there on Feb 7

Snow Bunting: A report of 3 seen near the beach huts on the shore at Titchfield Haven on Feb 4 has not so far been confirmed

Reed Bunting: A flock of more than 70 in Ashdown Forest on Feb 4 is the only large flock reported so far this year other than the flock on the Lewes Brooks which reached 110+ on Jan 10

Escapees: On Feb 4 a Golden Mantled Rosella was seen drinking from the gutter of a house in Ramsgate, Kent. After taking the colourful photo which can be seen on the Planet Thanet website the observer was told that this bird had been coming to the bird table of this house for the past month. See the photo at http://www.planetthanet.org/golden__mantled_rosella.htm

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Peacock: The only 'new' report in the past few days is old news of a Peacock seen in the Ventnor area (IoW) on Jan 5

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

So far this year I have recorded 80 wild plant species in flower (admittedly these include a couple of 'garden plants' which will later be found flowering in the wild)

Marsh Marigold (Kingcup): Just one flower open on plants in the 'orchid field' area of the South Moors at Langstone on Feb 7

Stream Water Crowfoot: Again just one flower open in the Bedhampton Water Works outflow into the Hermitage Stream at Bedhampton on Feb 7

Cherry Plum: The first white flowers were open on one of the trees at the southern end of Southmoor Lane near Budds Farm on Feb 6

Hazel: First female flowers seen on Feb 3 - several others seen since then

English Elm: Flower buds opening on at least one tree over the Langbrook stream at the end of Langstone Mill Lane on Feb 7

Lesser Periwinkle: A garden version of this (clearly not Greater or Intermediate) was flowering in the Parchment housing development off South St in Havant on Feb 6

Creeping Comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum): This also had a flower open on plants in the Parchment development on Feb 6

Elder: Not flowering but leaf buds were starting to burst on trees close to the A27 Havant bypass on Feb 6

Canadian Fleabane: Small plants in flower but having no stem leaves to check for species id were seen alongside Solent Road in Havant on Feb 7

Corn Marigold: One of the wildflower seed plants at the southern end of Southmoor Lane was still covered with fresh flowers on Feb 6 despite recent cold weather

Bee Orchid leaf rosettes: These can currently be seen both at the east end of Mill Lane at Langstone and in garden lawns beside Lower Road at Bedhampton

Wood Small Reed (Calamagrostis epigejos): When walking in the Hollybank Woods on Jan 31 I came on a clump of dead grass and was not sure what species it was but after Brian Fellows had seen it and I had had further thoughts I am nearly certain that it is Wood Small Reed (though these plants look smaller than those with which I am familiar at North Common on Hayling). Final determination of its identity will have to wait until there is fresh growth to investigate next summer.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Mink: Photos of a Mink eating the corpse of a Pike near a dam on a canal at West Hythe (Folkestone area of Kent) appear on the Planet Thanet website in an entry for Jan 31 in the Non-Avian section

Hare: A birder at the Lewes Brooks was told by the local farmer on Feb 3 that there were men out on the Brooks with loose dogs 'lurching' for Hares and the farmer was afraid the dogs might take new born lambs from nearby fields - a variant on the birder vs dog walker theme

Fungi: A show of fresh Jew's Ear was found at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Feb 5


Summary for Jan 26 - Feb 1 (Week 4 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

The end of this week saw a very strong eastward movement of several seabird species apparently leaving their winter quarters and starting to return to their breeding places. Most obvious movement was of Brent Geese which started on Jan 30 with 100 birds flying past Beachy Head and continued on Jan 31 with eight sites all along the south coast reporting significant numbers flying east (peak count of 2200 at Dungeness). Two observers commented that the Brent will be heading for Denmark where they will wait until conditions in the arctic make it possible for them to survive in their breeding places. Auks, Divers and other seabirds (Fulmars, Common Gulls) all joined in this movement despite having to head into strong east winds. Also of interest were reports of the first Twite of the year, a probable Pied-billed Grebe in Kent and a Kumlein's Gull at Pagham Harbour - both Iceland and Glaucous Gulls feature in a good many reports (sadly including the death of a Glaucous Gull which become entangled in fishing line). Photos taken at Portland show how to distinquish Continental from British race Cormorants. In the New Forest Woodcock may be starting their roding while more passerines are getting into spring mode with Skylark, Woodlark, Cetti's Warbler and Goldcrest starting to sing and Blackbirds fighting over territory. Flooding of river valleys has attracted many Black-tailed Godwits inland but at Emsworth the Spotted Redshank has returned to Nore Barn after being chased away by an over-eager photographer.

Two butterflies and two moths get a mention in the sparse insect news but plant news is starting to 'warm up' with the first spring flowers including Common Whitlowgrass and wild Primroses both in bud while the bright yellow of Winter Aconite was seen in Chichester and the intense blue of Grey Field Speedwell in Havant. The winter remnant of what was probably an easily identifiable grass species found in the Hollybank woods has left me puzzled (see Diary for Jan 31).

The only real Other Wildlife news is a first report of a Roe Buck with its antlers in 'velvet' but while I was writing that section I was also listening to Radio 4 and hearing a fascinating account from John Aitchison (a local lad made good!) whose parents still live on Portsdown. John was giving a description of how he recently flew from Scotland to Sweden to bring back two Moose/Elks as part of a Scottish land-owners get rich quick scheme to import all the animals that once roamed the highlands in the hope that Britain's "wildlife loving" townspeople will flock to the wildlife park in the Highlands and pay good money to be attacked by Wolves... Leaving aside the commercial part of the scheme John's description of bringing the two Elk back, locked in the toilet of the small aircraft for a journey of several hours, was absolutely fascinating. He will be on air again after lunch next Sunday and I recommend that you listen. (You will probably have seen John acting as wildlife cameraman for some of Bill Oddie's TV programs last year).

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: At the beginning of this week it seemed that large numbers of seabirds were moving west in the English Channel to escape cold weather in the North Sea (e.g. 455 Red-throated Divers passing Dungeness on Jan 26) but by the end of the week everything seemed to be moving east with thoughts of the coming breeding season overcoming the cold of the strong easterly wind (e.g. 91 Red-throated Divers flying east off Christchurch Harbour). Not all were able to join the movement - one Red-throated Diver was found on Jan 31 on grass by the River Adur well inland near Steyning, poisoning itself by ingesting oil from its plumage. 20 reports during the week came from all along the south coast from Dungeness to Portland.

Black-throated Diver: Nine reports during the week included one in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Jan 27

Great Northern Diver: Fourteen reports during the week included one in the mouth of Langstone Harbour on Jan 26 and one in Southamton Water on Jan 31 when two were in the Hurst area west of Lymington

Pied-billed Grebe: A 'probable only' was seen at least twice in East Kent recently - the first report that I am aware of was on Jan12 at the Seaton pits which are due east of Canterbury near the road to Sandwich and the bird may have been seen in the Stour valley near Stodmarsh on Jan 24. This is a very rare vagrant in Britain (around 30 reports, the latest being of one in Ireland in 2003, another 'probable' in Devon in 2004, and now this one) but it is common on inland waters in north America. There is an interesting record of one pairing with a Little Grebe and raising three hybrid young in Cornwall in 1994.

Great Crested Grebe: More than 1000 on the sea off Dungeness on Jan 28 and 208 in Southbourne Bay (off Bournemouth) on Jan 27 but the flock in the east Solent is decreasing (202 there on Jan 3 but only 93 seen on Jan 27 and 88 on Jan 28). It seems that the large congregation of these birds that was in Rye Bay at the end of last year is still present to the east of Dungeness - on Jan 27 there was a count of 2120 on the sea off Lade (close to Lydd)

Red-necked Grebe: One was in the east Solent off Chilling on Jan 27 when another was still in Weymouth Bay (this bird may have moved to the mouth of Poole Harbour where one was seen on Jn 29)

Slavonian Grebe: 12 were seen in Chichester Harbour from East Head on Jan 27 - other than one in the same area on Jan 26 these seem to be the first in that harbour this year, presumably these are birds that have been in the flock on the sea off Pagham and Selsey. Two were off the Lymington shore on Jan 27 and 31

Black-necked Grebe: Just five were seen from the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 27 when there was a count of 22 in Studland Bay. One was still at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 30

Fulmar: This is one of the species moving east in the English Channel by the end of the week - 62 went east past Beachy Head on Jan 29 and another 88 followed them on Jan 30

Balearic Shearwater: These seem to have resumed daily appearances off Portland this week with 4 recorded on Jan 26 but no more than 2 later in the week

Cormorant: Two were seen flying in from the south at Portland on Jan 26, presumably migrant arrivals. On Jan 31 more than 300 flew east off Christchurch Harbour but no big movements were reported further east. If you want to distinguish between the Continental and British races of Cormorant the only reliable indicator is the 'angle of the gular patch' and if this phrase means little to you have a look at some photos on the Portland website ( http://www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk/aa_latestnews.htm ) that come after the diary entry for Jan 31. The thing to look for is the prominent white patch at the base of the bill - on the British (carbo) birds this extends forward almost as far on the lower mandible as it does on the upper, and the angle between the upper and lower parts of the white at the point where they meet is no greater than 90 degrees whereas the continental (sinensis) birds have a smaller patch on the lower mandible and this results in an angle noticeably greater than 90 degrees.

Bittern: One flew low north east over the Hook area near Warsash on Jan 26 - the first mention that I know off for that area this winter. At the Blashford Lakes there was confirmation on Jan 28 of the presence of a second bird in addition to the one regularly seen there.

Cattle Egret: One seen on Jan 24 and 25 at Kings Manor Farm by the Western Yar (between Yarmouth and Freshwater) was the first on the Isle of Wight since 1996 - prior to that there was one in 1990.

Bewick's Swan: A herd of 27 was on Amberley Wild Brooks (close to Amberley Castle) on Jan 26 and 30

Brent Goose: Brent decided to start their spring journey eastward on Jan 30 when 100 flew past Beachy Head and on Jan 31 eight sites reported these geese flying east - Dungeness reported more than 2200, Brighton had at least 600, 220 went east into the Solent over Hurst spit, 320 flew past Christchurch Harbour and Portland recorded 8 (including one Pale Bellied). On the Isle of Wight 80 went around the south of the Isle of Wight and were seen passing Sandown (I suppose these might have come from north west France, being blown north by the strong east wind). Last year the first migrants (170 passing Dungeness) were seen on Feb 3 and passage was measured in terms of hundreds of birds each day from then on - despite this the numbers to be seen in the Solent Harbours did not noticeably diminish until the end of March with small number around through April (Dungeness had an isolated surge of 585 passing on Apr 23 when Selsey Bill recorded 122 with another 75 on Apr 24). Current reports added to my knowledge with two observers telling me that the Brent head for Denmark where they wait for spring to reach their arctic breeding areas.

Pale-bellied Brent: One was in the East Head area of Chichester Harbour on Jan 27 when a Brant was in the Fishbourne Channel.

Red-breasted Goose: The Lymington bird was still present on Jan 31

Scaup: The young male on the river at Titchfield Haven has been seen daily from Jan 24 to 29 and a group of four birds were at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Jan 30. Others were seen during the week in Poole Harbour, Rooksbury Mill (Andover), and Dungeness.

Long-tailed Duck: The two birds in Chichester Harbour were last reported (seen from Black Point) on Jan 27 on which day one appeared off Titchfield Haven (possibly one of the Chichester Harbour birds?)

Ruddy Duck: We have heard for years that these birds are being culled in Britain in order to maintain good diplomatic relations between Britain and Spain (more accurately the reason is to prevent these alien birds getting to Spain and diluting the gene pool of the White-headed Ducks that are native to that country - I wonder when they first arrived there and if Christopher Columbus brought them back from the New World?). This remark was sparked by news that there had been a shoot of the species at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Jan 29 but despite that some of the birds were still alive there later that day - do the shooters have mixed feelings about the orders to shoot from DEFRA and deliberately miss?

Red-legged Partridge: Of purely local interest I added another tick to my year list (now 91 birds including the Sanderling I saw on Jan 29) on Jan 30 with two Red-legged Partridge in the small grass field enclosed by hedges immediately north of the large open West Lane fields (recently ploughed). A pair has bred here for several years and Jason Crook tells me that a day or so before I saw them there were five birds in this field (presumably the pair with a few of last year's young still hanging on).

Avocet: 12 were seen at Nutbourne Bay on Jan 27 and 13 were there on Jan 30. The winter flock at Nutbourne Bay was up to 17 birds on Jan 1 but had reduced to just 5 by Jan 13 and it was thought that most of these birds had flown west but maybe they were just elsewhere in the harbour (one was seen from Thornham Point on Jan 20). Another indication that these birds are not afraid of the cold comes from the continued presence of around 300 in the Medway estuary near Sheppey in Kent on Jan 26.

Knot: Some 330 of these were in Newtown Harbour nature reserve on the Isle of Wight on Jan 30 - the first report of the species that I have noted on the Island so far this year. If flocks of this size are on the move in our area it is worth looking to see if some are back off north Hayling in the near future (flocks of up to 2000 appear here unpredictably). A count of 15 in Southampton Water on Jan 31 was also a first for the current year.

Sanderling: Around 200 were in the Black Point high tide roost on Hayling island on Jan 26 (and I got the species on my year list at last on Jan 29 when I came on a single bird among 500+ Dunlin in a high tide roost on the shingle a little east of Gunner Point on Hayling)

Purple Sandpiper: Up to four were still to be seen at Southsea Castle this week (4 on Jan 31) and there were good counts of 10 at Brighton Marina, 11 at Christchurch Harbour and 12 at Newhaven

Dunlin: There are several well known high tide roosts in the Solent harbours and I have long been aware of substantial numbers sometimes roosting outside the harbours on shingle at Eastney and on concrete at HMS Dolphin seawall just west of Portsmouth Harbour entrance but I was not aware of a substantial roost on shingle south of the Hayling Golf Clubhouse (actually slightly west of due south) until I stumbled on it on Jan 29 and found some 700 Dunlin with at least 50 Ringed Plover plus up to 100 Turnstone (although these were mostly spread out along the shingle tideline searching for food)

Jack Snipe: One was near the Apuldram sewage works on the edge of Fishbourne Channel at Chichester on Jan 27

Little Stint: The wintering bird in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester was seen again near the Apuldram sewage works on Jan 27

Woodcock: I was surprised quite a few years ago to learn from Richard Williamson (when he was warden of the Kingley Vale nature reserve north of Chichester) that Woodcock can begin roding in January, and I was reminded of this on Jan 28 by Andrew Walmsley who had been out in the New Forest at dusk and had put up two Woodcock from open rides (not the thick cover where they would have been by day). Andrew suggested that this was a precursor to the roding season and that these were males exploring the rides along which they would fly in search of females (but - my suggestion - they could equally have been females out early in the season to make sure the males did not miss them!)

Black-tailed Godwit: On Jan 25 there were more than 150 at Pulborough Brooks and on Jan 28 there was a sudden increase in the number at Christchurch Harbour to 250+ (probably an indication of a large flock now in the Avon valley in response to recent flooding and this is backed up by news of some 700 roosting at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 30). I also see that more than 520 were at Conyer on the Medway estuary in north west Kent on Jan 26

Whimbrel: The wintering bird in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour was seen there again on Jan 31 (following a sighting there on Jan 20)

Spotted Redshank: I am glad to see that the Nore Barn bird at Emnsworth was back again in the Maisemore Gardens stream on Jan 30 after being chased off by an over-eager photographer on Jan 26

Pomarine Skua: First report of one for this year comes from the sea off Bournemouth on Jan 25 with the same bird seen again at Christchurch Harbour on Jan 26

Med Gull: More indications that these are now moving from their wintering places towards areas where they will nest come from Dorset where the large flock at Weymouth has dropped from 170+ on Jan 7 to just 19 on Jan 27 (with 12 on the move past Portland Bill that day rather than the occasional single seen there earlier in the month). On Jan 28 there was a count of 90 in Poole Harbour where none had been reported earlier in January and on Jan 29 the number passing Portland Bill was up to 25.

Little Gull: The first mention of this species did not come until Jan 13 when just one was off Dungeness and since then there have been 24 reports from sites along the south coast with the first in Sussex on Jan 23 and the first in Hampshire on Jan 28 at Titchfield Haven. Numbers seen at each site have been gradually increasing from Jan 29 and 13 were at West Bexington (a little west of where the Fleet ends at Abbotsbury) on Jan 31. An unexpected report from the Oare Marshes in north west Kent on Jan 23 was of 120 birds flying west in two flocks so maybe a movement has started following the Thames rather than the south coast.

Common Gull: These are among the seabirds already starting to move east towards their breeding areas - on Jan 31 Christchurch Harbour recorded 270 passing east.

Iceland Gull: There have been almost daily sightings along the south coast since Jan 18 (after two isolated reports on Jan 1 and 11) and several birds must have been involved as both adults and immature birds have been seen at sites from West Bay (near Bridport) in Dorset to Dungeness. Between Jan 26 and 28 there have been at least two birds (an adult and a first winter) seen around south Hayling (both Langstone and Chichester Harbour entrances) with another adult off Titchfield Haven on Jan 28. Latest sighting in Hampshire was of one in the Hust spit area west of Lymington on Jan 31 bringing the total of reports along the south coast up to 35

Kumlien's Gull: Chris Newton confidently reported an adult winter bird of this species (very similar to an Iceland) at the Pagham Harbour entrance on Jan 27 but there have been no other sightings of it so far.

Glaucous Gull: Between Jan 20 and 31 there have been 22 reports of this species involving several birds at nine sites. One of the birds (in second winter plumage) was feeding on the carcase of a Kittiwake on the shore at Sandy Point (Hayling) on Jan 25 (when two others were seen flying west from the west Solent). The Sandy Point bird seems to have been in Langstone Harbour earlier in the day, being seen from both Farlington Marshes and the Oysterbeds. Another second winter bird was already at Newhaven on Jan 24 and was still there on Jan 27 when it was entangled in fishing line, seemingly having swallowed the hook on the end of the line which, when seen, was around its body and one leg. When something put up the other birds in its area this gull could not take off but after a struggle fell into the sea - the effort appeared to have torn the hook out of the bird's throat but the struggle may have been too much for it as I have not seen any further reports despite efforts to rescue it.

Great Blackbacked Gull: More than 300 were roosting in the Cuckmere valley near Beachy Head on Jan 25

Sandwich Tern: One of the birds wintering in Chichester Harbour was seen from East Head on Jan 27

Auk species: 1680 were seen to fly east past Beachy Head on Jan 30

Guillemot: Several thousand were to be seen daily feeding off Dungeness from Jan 23 to 31 with a count of 3000+ there on Jan 29

Razorbill: The only substantial count of these in recent reports is of 1200 going west off Durlston on Jan 26

Puffin: Many recent reports of Guillemots and Razorbills but so far only four reports of Puffin for the year. On Jan 12 one flew west at Durlston; on Jan 17 one flew west at Dungeness; on Jan 25 one was in Poole Bay and on Jan 26 what was probably the same bird was close in at Durlston.

Barn Owl: Five reports between Jan 24 and 26 include one hunting in the East Park fields at Stansted Forest, one at the Apuldram sewage works and one on the Thornham Marshes. Another, seen at Hook (Warsash) on Jan 25 was attacked by a Kestrel when it caught prey.

Little Owl: Brian Fellows was at the Hayling Oysterbeds during the day on Jan 27 when he was told by another birder that a Little Owl had just been heard in the nearby woodland (presumably the Stoke Common trees). In the past Little Owls have been present in the hedgerow trees running north from the woodland between the Coastal Path and the main road. Since I wrote the above for my mid-week Summary I have spoken to Jason Crook who confirms that he has recently heard two Little Owls calling to each other in the Stoke Common trees.

Short-eared Owl: An owl hunting over the Barton on sea golf course on Jan 25 caught a vole and was attacked by a Kestrel but the Kestrel was not successful and the owl ate the vole in flight to make sure of its meal.

Kingfisher: One was seen at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 27, another flew over Peter Pond at Emsworth on Jan 26 - yet another was seen in the Apuldram area of the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 27

Woodlark: First song for the year was reported from Ashdown Forest on Jan 27

Skylark: First song for this species reported on Jan 26 at Whitsbury (northwest of Fordingbridge) - song was then reported at Durlston on Jan 28 and on the Downs above Worthing on Jan 30

Rock Pipit: More than 15 were reliably reported to be by the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 27

Water Pipit: More than 25 of these were seen in a bunch in the Kent Stour valley during flooding on Jan 24 (when one was at Titchfield Haven) . Six were then seen on Jan 25 in the Avon valley just north of Christchurch and on Jan 25 more than 5 were at the Waddocks Cross cress beds in Dorset (by the R Frome near Bovington)

Pied Wagtail: A few of these plus some Meadow Pipits were moving north at Durlston on Jan 28 and it was suggested that this was the start of spring movement though a similar movement of Pipits at Portland was described as probably just a local movement.

Waxwing: The flock at Windmill Hill near Eastbourne were still there on Jan 31 and new reports on Jan 26 came from north Fareham (20+ birds seen distantly) and from Brighton where 4 were seen in gardens. On Jan 30 one was in the Burgess Hill area near Haywards Heath and a flock of seven were at Beaulieu Road station in the New Forest.

Blackbird: Durlston reported Blackbird song heard on Jan 27 (first for the year) and I see that last year reports of song become fairly regular from the beginning of February though I do not expect to hear them all singing until mid-March. There have also been a couple of reports of fierce fights between males that are now staking out their territories.

Cetti's Warbler: The first report of song this year came from Kent on Jan 1 but there were no more reports until Jan 17 (at Dungeness) and these have been followed by reports from Rye Harbour on Jan 26, then Langstone Mill Pond here in Havant on Jan 28 and from Warnham Mill Pond at Horsham on Jan 31

Goldcrest: First song I know of was the briefest of bursts coming from an unseen bird in one of the huge Redwood trees in the Stansted Groves on Jan 31

Willow Tit: Part of an entry for Jan 30 posted on the SOS website by Christopher Sutton reads .. "feeders at Pulborough Brooks RSPB reserve had a Willow Tit as well as 2 Marsh Tits"

Carrion Crow: The regular flock of these on the east bank of Southampton Water in the Netley area numbered 180 birds on Jan 31 - last year the peak count there was of around 250 at the end of August and there were up to 500 there in Sep 2007

Hooded Crow: The single bird on Sheppey in Kent was seen again on Jan 24

Chaffinch: These were singing at Sway near New Milton on Jan 27 and at Durlston on Jan 28 - they should soon become regular songsters if the weather permits. (First attempt at song was on Jan 8 and there have been six reports to date)

Brambling: Around 70 were seen with many Chaffinch and Linnets in a new sown field near the Chichester West Dean Woods on Jan 24 (presumably getting some of the wheat seed out of the ground?)

Greenfinch: First attempt at song here in Havant on Jan 28 from a lone bird perched in a treetop - when they are really proclaiming a territory they sing while making a butterfly like figure of eight flight over the area.

Siskin: These normally start to appear in gardens during February as the birds begin to move north so two reports of 'first seen in the garden this year' were not unexpected during the RSPB garden birdwatch weekend (Jan 24/25)

Twite: First report for the year is of a single bird seen among Linnets at Keyhaven Marshes on Jan 27

Common (=Mealy) Redpoll: A single seen among Lessers in the Kent Stour Valley on Jan 25

Hawfinch: Between Jan 24 and 26 there were reports of singles from the Chichester West Dean Woods, from Dunbridge near Mottisfont in the Test valley, and from Rooksbury Mill at Andover with a sighting of 19 birds in the Whitsbury area north west of Fordingbridge on Jan 26

Reed Bunting: One seen in the reeds around Peter Pond at Emsworth on Jan 26 was only the second recorded there (though plenty breed a short distance south on Thorney Island and one is usually present at Langstone Mill Pond)

Yellowhammer: A flock of 40 were on Beeding Hill above the R Adur near Steyning on Jan 29

Corn Bunting: Around 60 were still present at Lewes Brooks on Jan 31

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Red Admiral: Four seen this week - on Jan 24 one was flying in a Southampton street, on Jan 26 one was in a Worthing garden, on Jan 27 one was in Friston Forest near Eastbourne and on Jan 29 one was flying at Sandwiich Bay

Peacock: Just one seen at Portland on Jan 27

Moths

The Satellite (2256 Eupsilia transversa): On Jan 27 Portland recorded the first of these for the year plus a single Winter Moth

Dark Chestnut (2259 Conistra ligula): Another first - this time in the Thanet area of Kent on Jan 27

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My overall year list of flowering plants seen so far this year now stands at 75 but I should deduct a couple of grass species to give 73

Winter Aconite: These were flowering in the Bishop's Palace garden at Chichester when Brian Fellows was there on Jan 29 - although planted these persist for years with no attention and I think to deserve to be counted in the list of flowering plants just for the pleasure their unexpected brightness gives to the observer at this time of year

Common Whitlowgrass: Many tiny white buds could be seen on Jan 30 on the thousands of plants growing along the carpark edge on the north side of Waterloo Road in Havant

Common Mouse-ear: One flowering in Havant on Jan 26 was my first for the year

Primrose: One plant flowering on an old grave in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Jan 28 had presumably been planted there in the past but it looked very like the wild Primroses that will soon flower in woodland (Near it both Snowdrops and the first Crocus that I have seen were in flower). On Jan 30 I found at least one genuine wild plant having yellow showing in a flower bud under the oak trees of the shoreline copse south of the Hayling Oysterbeds.

Grey Field Speedwell: Another first for the year - I saw the vivid blue of its flower as I walked round Havant on Jan 26

"Garden Forget-me-not": Escaped plants of the common garden cultivar of Wood Forget-me-not were flowering in Havant pavment cracks on Jan 28

OTHER WILDLIFE

Roe Deer: First report of a buck in 'velvet' comes from Durlston on Jan 30

Amphibians: A report from the Hastings area tells us that only one Frog has so far turned up at a garden pond which had had many present by this time last year and the some pond has just five Common Newts were there were 30 by Jan 19 last year

Fungi: On Jan 31 Durston reported the presence of Jew's Ear, Yellow Brain and Candlesnuff fungi despite the cold


Summary for Jan 19 - 25 (Week 3 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

The English Channel has been full of Divers and Auks this week (plus a few Iceland and Glaucous Gulls) and there is a possible hint of the first returning migrant Sandwich Terns with a report of 28 seen at the northwest tip of France. Discussion of the 'tickability' of various species elucidated a fact that I was previously unaware of - namely that Cackling Canada Geese are now declared to be a separate species, not just a race of Canada Goose. Those who think of Marsh Harriers as still being mainly summer visitors to Britain may be surprised that, in the recent cold snap, at least 50 could be found at just two night roosts in Kent. Two interesting raptor stories are of a persistent Peregrine eventually capturing a Black-tailed Godwit after the Godwit had evaded capture several times both hiding in a reed bed and then submerging under water when swimming in the river at Titchfield Haven. The second story gives further proof that Buzzards will catch birds - in this case a failed attempt to pick up a Wood Pigeon from the ground. The week's most unlikely sighting was of a Woodcock seen circling the traffic lights at a junction on the M23 while in the 'new tricks' department we hear that Kingfishers have learnt to hang around Little Egrets as they stir up their food in the hope that this will bring them a small fish. New to southern England for this year was a Lapland Bunting which flew over Pagham Harbour.

Both Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies were on the wing with three new moths which included Spring Usher

The only new flower this week has been Grey Alder but the first fresh green Larch leaves were also seen.

A new slug species has been added to my database but otherwise Other Wildlife has to rely on two 'cast offs' - the empty cases of Whelk eggs and the empty shells of Spider Crabs, both being found in the local tideline

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: On Jan 18 large numbers were seen all round the south east coast - 517 at Sandwich, 683 at Dungeness, 85 at Folkestone, 24 at Selsey, 35 at Christchurch and 4 off Portland. Large numbers have continued to be seen throughout the week with 492 off Dungeness on Jan 21 and more than 70 off Selsey on Jan 24 - sadly the last report I have seen was of a single oiled bird close in to the Hook shore at Warsash on Jan 24

Black-throated Diver: On Jan 18 one was off Portland and perhaps 4 off Sandwich. More recent sightings have been of 2 off Selsey on Jan 22 and 1 flying east past Christchurch Harbour on Jan 24

Great Northern Diver: Among many sightings there was one in Portsmouth Harbour seen from Priddy's Hard at Gosport on Jan 21

Great Crested Grebe: The big flock in Rye Bay seems to have broken up with only 150 reported there on Jan 17 and 169 off Sandwich on Jan 21. Locally one of half a dozen pairs at the Testwood Lakes near Southampton was already in courtship display on Jan 18 although there were still 105 birds in winter mode off the Brownwich cliffs west of Titchfield Haven on Jan 24

Red-necked Grebe: Three were seen together in Portland Harbour on Jan 18 and more recently one was off Splash Point near Beachy Head and another was in Poole Harbour, both on Jan 24

Slavonian Grebe: One was in Chichester Harbour seen from Hayling Black Point on Jan 20 when another was off Titchfield Haven. The flock which was seen off Pagham Harbour in recent weeks seem to have moved closer to Selsey Bill from which 8 were seen on Jan 22 (but only 3 on Jan 24)

Black-necked Grebe: 11 birds of the Langstone Harbour flock were in Broom Channel between Farlington Marshes and Portsea Island on Jan 20 (they are normally seen along the east and north sides of the RSPB islands in the harbour). On Jan 21 the number in Portland Harbour was up to 6 and by Jan 24 there seems to have been an increase in the number around the mouth of Poole Harbour with a total of 35 reported there on Jan 24 (but that includes some birds in Poole Harbour was well as those outside it in Studland Bay).

Balearic Shearwater: Prior to Jan 23 all sightings of this species this year had been of single birds but Jan 23 brought reports of two seen off Portland and 3 off Roscoff on the north shore of Brittany in France

Cormorant: Around 150 of these were on the water off Selsey on Jan 18 and on Jan 21 a flock of around 140 was feeding on a shoal of Sprats off Christchurch Harbour

Bittern: At least one bird was reported at Titchfield Haven on Jan 24 and back on Jan 18 Rye Harbour and the Dungeness RSPB reserve both had 2 birds. During the week there were reports of singles at 5 other sites (including Brading Marshes on the IoW)

Night Heron: Still at Hythe near Folkestone on Jan 21

Little Egret: I have seen no counts of the Langstone night roost for some time but at dusk on Jan 20 at least five birds had come into the roost trees when I was driven from the area by a hail shower.

Mute Swan: The resident pair were on Langstone Mill Pond on Jan 23 with their six cygnets from last year nowhere in sight - they have probably got the message by now that they are no longer welcome at their 'birthplace'.

Bewick's Swan: On Jan 19 a total of 22 were in the Arun valley between Amberley and Pulborough town (16 of them close to Amberley Castle on Jan 20) and on Jan 21 a flock of 80 was on the Walland Marshes to the east of Rye - this latter flock was seen by Brian Banks who commented (on the RX website) that up to 350 could be seen there in the early 1990s but that recently warmer winters had enabled most of these birds to remain in the Netherlands. Looking at the very large numbers of geese currently reported from Dutch sites I guess this same argument applies to the disappearance of large flocks of wintering White-fronts from the Hampshire Avon valley.

Whooper Swan: The group of four remained in The Fleet near Weymouth on Jan 23 but there have been no reports from the Chichester Lakes since Jan 11 - however Jan 24 brought at report of a group of 5 flying low over the Bognor area heading roughly in the direction of Chichester.

Cackling Canada Goose: The single bird was still at Titchfield Haven on Jan 18 - discussion of its 'tickability' elicited from John Clark that this is now treated as a separate species on the British List (as recognized by the British Ornithologists Union) but further discussion revealed the BOU is 'out of step' with official bodies in other countries (and many lesser groups of birders within Britain) on the subject of what constitutes a full species and separates a species from a sub-species or a 'race'.

Pale-bellied Brent: A count of 42 present at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) on Jan 19 is the biggest flock recorded in southern England so far this winter. Elsewhere a single young bird was still at Farlington Marshes on Jan 20 while Jan 21 brought a report of one at Church Norton and Jan 24 brought news of a colour ringed bird (thought to have been ringed in Canada) at Keyhaven and of an adult bird at Hook near Warsash

Red-breasted Goose: This was still on Normandy Marsh at Lymington on Jan 21. Pete Durnell tells us that the Lymington Marshes (of which he is now warden) will feature on the BBC TV Countryfile programme on the morning of Sunday Jan 25 and the programme should include shots of the Red-breasted Goose.

Egyptian Goose: Three flew down the Itchen under Itchen Bridge in Southampton on Jan 23 and may be new arrivals in the area (I don't remember hearing of them there in the past year) but they may have been on a day trip from the nearby Royal Victoria Country Park

American Wigeon: One was reported to be at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 19 but subsequently the warden (Pete Hughes) has seen what he thinks to be the bird and he says that it is a European bird with unusual markings which he has seen in the area in the past.

Teal: A count of 121 on the flood in the meadow south of Wade Court at Langstone on Jan 21 was the highest for that site this winter but probably reflects the strong wind making other local sites uncomfortable at that time

Pintail: At least three pairs were on the water off Nore Barn woods at Emsworth late in the day on Jan 19 (when the count in the Arun valley between Amberley and Pulborough town recorded 225 Pintail). On Jan 24 Titchfield Haven had 10 and Hook (Warsash) had 21

Scaup: Single birds were at Titchfield Haven, Haslar Lake at Gosport, and Rooksbury Mill at Andover this week. Lodmoor at Weymouth had 9 and Shipstal Point (at the west end of Poole Harbour) had 4 while Castle Water at Rye Harbour had 2 males.

King Eider: The single adult male which appeared in Rye Bay off Pett on Jan 11 had moved into Kentish waters by Jan 20 when it was seen close in at Dungeness

Long-tailed Duck: At least one was in Chichester Harbour, seen from Black Point, on Jan 18 and on Jan 21 two females could seen to the north of Black Point. At least one was in Poole Harbour on Jan 24

Velvet Scoter: One was in Rye Bay, another was off Portland and three were off Dungeness this week

Hooded Merganser: This long staying mystery bird was still at Weymouth on Jan 23

Goosander: A redhead was new on the scrape at Hook near Wasash on Jan 18

Marsh Harrier: On the evening of Jan 18 the night roost on Sheppey in Kent had at least 38 Marsh Harriers and on the same evening the separate roost at Stodmarsh by the R Stour east of Canterbuty had another 14 (plus 3 Hen Harriers). Locally there were two females in the Keyhaven/Lymington area and one female at Titchfield Haven, both on Jan 24

Hen Harrier: A fairly local sighting was of a male hunting near Hucksholt Farm (just west of the road going north from Compton towards Uppark and South Harting) on Jan 22

Goshawk: A male was seen in the south west of the New Forest on Jan 24

Buzzard: On the afternoon of Jan 21 (or thereabouts) Marcus Ward watched a violent altercation between a Buzzard and a Barn Owl at the Lymington Marshes. Unlike attacks on Barn Owls by Kestrels (which I have only seen reported as occurring when the Owl is carrying prey which the Kestrel tries to seize from it) this Owl was flying without prey when the Buzzard attacked - the apparently fought back but soon took cover in a gorse bush where it remained for around half an hour with the Buzzard perched nearby and waiting to resume its attack - Marcus then had to leave so could not tell us the end of the story. If nothing else this story lends credence to the recent report of several Buzzards making concerted attacks on Starlings as they settled into their night roost in the New Milton area on Jan 8. Another report from Titchfield Haven on Jan 24 is of a Buzzard trying, but failing, to take a Wood Pigeon from the ground.

Peregrine: Mark Rolfe describes (on Hoslist) a lengthy encounter between a Peregrine and a Black-tailed Godwit which he watched at Titchfield Haven on Jan 24. Mark writes ...

"Whilst locking up I witnessed a remarkable Peregrine hunt from the Knightsbank Hide. The falcon (a large adult female) was seen chasing a Black-Tailed Godwit which managed to escape by diving into the reeds. The Peregrine then landed on the ground and waited. Ten minutes or so later the Godwit flew out from the reed-bed. This was a big mistake, as the Peregrine immediately resumed its pursuit forcing the Godwit to make an emergency landing in the river. The falcon then made a number of dives low over the water. With each attack the Godwit escaped by diving under the surface. Eventually it reached the edge of the reeds and the Peregrine landed on a nearby post. The wader then tried to take off but could only manage to flap across the river - presumably because of waterlogged feathers or maybe it had been injured. The Peregrine then launched another attack and on its third attempt plucked the Godwit out of the water and carried it onto the meadow to eat."

Avocet: The recent cold snap seems to have persuaded the majority of Avocets at Nutbourne Bay and in Langstone Harbour to move west but a few are still present. On Jan 20 five were in Pagham Harbour, one was in the Thorney Channel east of the Thornham Marshes on Thorney Island, and four were in Langstone Harbour. Perhaps the Farlington Avocets had not left the area as on Jan 24 John Goodspeed found 22 still in Broom Channel on the east side of the Marshes.

Golden Plover: 370 were in the North Walls area of Pagham harbour on Jan 20 when a flock of 39 were roosting on mud off Langstone Mill Pond in the late afternoon.

Lapwing: On Jan 20 the flock around the Pagham Harbour North Walls numbered 3400 birds

Little Stint: One was again seen by the outfall of the Lavant into Fishbourne Channel on Jan 20 (last reported there on Jan 6 and previously on Dec 9). Also on Jan 20 one was at Pulborough Brooks where one had been seen on several dates in October and November up to Nov 30

Ruff: One seen in a field near the Fishbourne Channel on Jan 20 and on Jan 18 there were some 15 in the Pett Level area by Rye Bay.

Woodcock: An unexpected Woodcock sighting was of a bird circling the traffic lights at the junction of the A264 and M23 on Jan 18. Since then there has been a count of 10 in the Langton Matravers area of Dorset (near Swanage) on Jan 23 and a sighting of 2 (disturbed by a nearby shoot) at Beacon Hill in the Meon Valley on Jan 24

Black-tailed Godwit: A count of 870 on fields north of Pagham Harbour on Jan 20 was the highest count I have heard of anywhere since there were 960 at the Oare Marshes (north west Kent) on Aug 28 last year (there were estimated to be 1000 there on Aug 7 and 900 there on July 17). These counts were well exceeded by up to 2500 in the Hampshire Avon Valley between Feb 2 and 4 of 2008 and by up to 1200 in Pagham Harbour between Jan 25 and 29 in 2008. Another high count this week was of 130 at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 19 (with an additional 60 more in the Amberley Wildbrooks area that same day), 125 at Christchurch Harbour on Jan 21, and of 114 at Titchfield Haven on Jan 24.

These and many other counts from numerous sites show how mobile these birds are and how quickly they discover good places to feed. Though the birds seem to think nothing of flying 50 miles or more to a new feeding area in response to a change in the weather, or a shortage of food where they currently are, I have seen no evidence that they remain in massive flocks which move as a whole over long distances - what seems to happen is that as food runs short in the area where they currently find themselves they either spread out as many small groups to many different sites (most of which are unobserved), giving the impression from the reported figures that numbers have dropped considerably), or they all move together to one site where they are counted (giving the impression of a massive increase in total numbers) from which they will again disperse after a relatively short time.

Whimbrel: A wintering bird was in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 20 - I have not seen reports of a wintering bird there so far this winter but this may be either one of the 3 which were reported on the west side of Thorney Island on Dec 31 or possibly the Pagham Harbour/Church Norton bird (which was seen at Church Norton on Jan 21)

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth was present in the Maisemore Gardens stream on Jan 21 but flew off when a photographer (probably not a birder) walked down the stream to get closer to the bird but approached too close for even this 'tame' bird which flew off

Green Sandpiper: One was seen at Hook/Warsash on Jan 22

Med Gull: Possible signs that these are sensing the approach of spring, and are moving from their winter quarters, come from Alresford Pond (near the source of the R Itchen upstream from Winchester) where one was an unexpected find on Jan 18; from Haslar Lake at Gosport where more than 5 were seen on Jan 18; from Falmer Pond, well inland on the Sussex Downs, were another single appeared on Jan 18; and from Hythe on Southampton Water where Colin Allen on Jan 19 saw the first he has spotted there in seven years of watching. Nevertheless there were still around 160 in the mouth of Pagham Harbour on Jan 20

Iceland Gull: After a couple of isolated sightings of adults on the River Hamble on Jan 1 and at Portland on Jan 11 we now have eleven new reports from seven sites during the past week. On Jan 18 one was at Blashford Lakes, another was at Portland and a third was at Dungeness - what was probably the same bird was at Dungeness again on Jan 20. On Jan 21 one was seen in Gosport and two different birds were at Dungeness. On Jan 22 an adult (maybe the Gosport bird) was seen from Ryde (IoW) and may have flown east to be off Splash Point at Seaford on Jan 24 when what was probably a new young bird (with 'biscuity' plumage) was seen from Durlston.

Glaucous Gull: An adult flew east past Pagham Harbour towards Bognor on Jan 20 and on Jan 24 an immature (second winter) bird was off Newhaven

Kittiwake: A noticeable increase in numbers this week with around 600 of Dungeness on Jan 20 after 96 had been seen from Selsey Bill on Jan 18 (when there were 55 off Folkestone and 3 off Christchurch)

Sandwich Tern: Two birds were perched on buoys in Chichester Harbour (seen from Black Point on Hayling) on Jan 21 and on Jan 23 a total of 28 were seen at Roscoff on the north coast of Brittany (could they be forerunners of out spring migrants?).

Guillemot: Large numbers have been on the move - 100 flew east at Dungeness in two hours on Jan 18 and there were more than 2000 offshore on Jan 17 before 3000 were seen flying west on Jan 22

Razorbill: In general fewer of these than Guillemots but more than 600 were off Durlston on Jan 17 (and one was seen to fly past Sandy Point on Hayling on Jan 18). On Jan 22 Durlston had an unusual count of more than 1300

Puffin: One of these went west off Dungeness on Jan 17

Barn Owl: One was again hunting over the Thornham Marshes on Thorney Island on Jan 20 (with a Short-eared Owl and a Kingfisher also seen there that day). Other sightings this week come from Titchfield Haven, Hook/Warsash and both Keyhaven and Normandy in the Lymington area.

Short-eared Owl: On Jan 23 two were hunting over the Barton on sea golf course and on Jan 24 one was in the Broomy Plain area of the New Forest

Kingfisher: A couple of recent reports have remarked on Kingfishers apparently purposefully following a metre or so behind a Little Egret that happened to be searching for food in water near the edge of vegetation on which the Kingfisher could perch (reports of this from the Lewes Brooks on Jan 7 and 11 - maybe the same Kingfisher?) and on Jan 21 the same behaviour was seen at the Pannell Valley near Rye - this time the Kingfisher was seen to catch a fish that had been disturbed by an Egret

Rock Pipit: A total of around 10 were seen in Chirstchurch Harbour on Jan 21

Water Pipit: On Jan 18 there were 9 together at Cowards Marsh by the River Avon immediately north of Christchurch and on Jan 20 one was seen by the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester - a noticeable increase in reports this week may suggest that these (and Rock Pipits) are feeling the call of spring and are already on the move back to their breeding areas

Grey Wagtail: The brightness of the yellow plumage on a female seen in the Lymbourne stream at Havant on Jan 23 was also a reminder of approaching spring.

Waxwing: One was still at the Bursledon site on Jan 19 and on that day came the first report of a new flock of up to 29 birds in the Whiteley built up area north of Fareham (and not far from Bursledon). No more sightings came from Bursledon but on Jan 21 a flock of 20 flew in to feed on shrubs in a pub carpark at the village of Windmill Hill on the A271 just east of Hailsham in East Sussex. Both these and the Whiteley birds were still being seen on Jan 24

Wren: These have been unusually silent since the end of September and a single burst of song on Jan 17 was welcome - by Jan 24 one was singing repeatedly in my garden.

Song Thrush: More of these are now singing but more unusual was a flock of around 50 (with some 15 Redwing and 4 Mistle Thrushes) in the Falmer area on the Downs near Brighton on Jan 21

Redwing: A report of five seen in the Staunton Country Park on Jan 22 led to a personal sighting of two there (with four Mistle Thrushes) on Jan 24 to get the species onto my year list at last.

Marsh Tit: A find of one in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Jan 24 may enable me to get the species on my year list next week! Treecreepers were also seen in these woods on Jan 24 and this is another species I need for my year list.

Hooded Crow: One was seen on Sheppey (NW Kent) on Jan 18, possibly the same bird seen there on Dec 10 and maybe the one that was on Sheppey in Jan of 2008 (when there was just one other sighting of a single bird at Dungeness in April)

Chaffinch: Another early report of song comes from Bognor on Jan 19 (earliest of the four reports so far came from the Battle area near Hastings on Jan 8)

Serin: Two were seen in The Fleet area near Weymouth on Jan 17 (and again on Jan 21) close to where two had been seen on Jan 5

Lesser Redpoll: Four were feeding in Alders (with Birches nearby) in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Jan 24 when a flock of more than 50 was in the Shatterford area of the New Forest.

Common (=Mealy) Redpoll: A young bird was confidently claimed as having been seen near Crouch Farm close to Burton Mill Pond to the west of Pulborough on Jan 21

Bullfinch: These continue to pop up more frequently than usual - on Jan 24 four were seen at Titchfield Haven, on Jan 21 one flew over the Warblington farm fields and on Jan 20 two were seen by the church at Apuldram near Chichester

Lapland Bunting: The first anywhere in the south this year was a female flying over Pagham Spit on Jan 17 - identified by call

Yellowhammer: A flock of 40 on the Sussex Downs at Falmer on Jan 21 was good news - reported by someone putting out bird seed as part of an RSPB project to encourage wintering Corn Buntings (of which more than 5 were also present)

Escapees: A Lanner falcon was at Keyhaven Marshes on Jan 24

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Red Admiral: One seen in Gosport, and another in Lewes, both on Jan 17

Peacock: One at Abbot's Wood near Hailsham in East Sussex on Jan 17 and another (though it may have been a Red Admiral) at Sandy Point on Hayling on Jan 18

Moths

Pale Brindled Beauty (1926 Apocheima pilosaria): First report for the year from Northiam (north of Hastings) on Jan 16

Spring Usher (1932 Agriopis leucophaearia): Another first at Northiam on Jan 16

Mottled Umber (1935 Erannis defoliaria): Another first at Northiam on Jan 16

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

The first open catkins of Grey Alder seen in Havant on Jan 22 brings my count of flowering species for the month up to 67 excluding 2 grass species. (In my mid-week Summary I listed Common Alder but having been back for a second look at the trees in the Prince George St carpark here in Havant I concluded that they trees there are Grey Alders)

European Larch: Not yet flowering but the first green leaf shoots were seen in Havant on Jan 20

OTHER WILDLIFE

Yellow Slug (Limax flavus): A photo of this on the Rye Bay website with comments by Brian Banks suggested that this is a fairly common and easily identifiable species which likes to live in human habitations (especially older houses that may have damp cellars) though I have not come across it. The species is said to feed on fungi. The photo can be seen at http://rxwildlife.org.uk/category/other-sites/gardens/ in an entry dated Jan 23

Whelk Egg-cases: Several of these washed up on the Langstone east shore on Jan 23

Fungi: Several species seen in the Hollybank Woods on Jan 24 by the Havant Wildlife group (photos on Brian Fellows website - go to http://www.emsworthwildlife.com/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm and pick the links to the photos from the diary entry for Jan 24). Among the finds was a magnificent display of what we used to call Many-zoned Polypore but must now call Turkeytail (I had forgotten this and spend some time searching for the appropriate entry in my database to record this find!). Also found was the first Earthstar that I have heard of this autumn/winter - has it been a bad year for them?

Spiny Spider Crab (Maja squinado): When at Black Point (Hayling) on Jan 20 Jeff Goodridge found lots of shells of these crabs washed up in the tideline. This reminded me of a similar report of large numbers of shells being found in Langstone Harbour but I cannot recall the date though I think it was more than ten years ago. On that previous occasion I assumed that these came from Crabs which had died but the information below (from the Helford Marine Conservation website) might suggest that these are 'cast skins' after a moult. The extract from the website reads ...

"Unlike many other crabs, spider crabs do not moult every year. Once they reach their ‘teenage’ phase in their second year, the females have a terminal or final moult, after which they do not grow any further. The males have one additional moult during which they grow their distinctively larger claws which are essential for defence and for successful mating. In a few cases, mutations occur resulting in crabs which have half male and half female characteristics, locally called ‘halfies’ in Cornwall and ‘strangers’ or a more non-pc term further up the south coast! In the population, there will be a range of different sized crabs which may all be of a similar age and they can live for up to 8 years. One interesting piece of recent research has used the rate at which their claws erode as they walk about the seabed, as a way of estimating their age. Younger crabs have pointed black claws whilst the older crabs are walking about on worn out stumps!

"They have a complex lifecycle during which they undertake mass migrations annually from our coastal waters to deeper offshore and back again, like the wildebeest of our waters. The juveniles live in shallow rocky areas where they feed on a variety of animal and seaweed species. In order to hide from predators, they decorate their shells with seaweed and sponges and some species are known as ‘decorator’ crabs. The local name for these juveniles is ‘commandoes’, after soldiers’ habit of wearing camouflage on their helmets. Some adults also carry often large numbers of a parasitic sea anemone on their legs.


Summary for Jan 12 - 18 (Week 2 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Both Cormorants and Herons are already on their nests at the Paxton Pits in Bedfordshire and some are probably now nesting the south of England (a sudden increase in Shags off Christchurch probably reflects the return of birds that breed on the Isle of Wight cliffs). At Langstone the resident pair of Swans are back on their pond without last year's cygnets (though these are nearby on the sea) and at Northney on Hayling Rooks are back at their nests. Not breeding but still of interest was the 'Fudge Duck' seen on Budds Farm pools but bird of the week was undoubtedly a single King Eider seen twice in Rye Bay where it was a new species for Sussex. Also new for the year was a Grey Phalarope seen a few yards off Pagham Harbour

Two reports raising strong opposed feelings among different groups of birders concern Peregrines (the deliberate shooting of a nesting male in Sussex and the destruction of the eggs in its nest in the 'interests of conservation') and Bustards (the project to introduce them to Salisbury plain could destroy the fragile Russian Bustard population and damage other ground nesting bird species in Russia, and could also damage the integrity of the Spanish Bustard population). There is also controversy concerning the Waxwings at Bursledon in Southampton which have been the target for ringers using both nets and poles to capture and ring them.

Welcome news this week is of the start of Chaffinch and Dunnock song (also reported singing was a Great Grey Shrike) and increasing numbers of Greenfinch and Redwing.

Hampshire has the first butterfly report of the year with Dorset a day behind while Sussex has just one Large White caterpillar surviving the frost though it can claim the first Early Moth of the year. A report of a Yellow Dung Fly on a frozen dog dropping raises the question of how this and other fly species survive the winter.

Ivy Leaved Speedwell was a good first flowering record for this week while the flowering of Snowdrops and the appearance of King-cup leaves are signs of rapidly approaching spring (we can but hope!). On my lawn the appearance of more Meadow Waxcap fungi was a surprise to me.

Not mentioned in the bird news which follows, but I think worth repeating here, is an entry from Steve Keen's birding blog for Jan 16.

Terrorist geese attack

The birding fraternity reels again. New York is stunned by an attack by SUICIDE GEESE. The incident showed all the hallmarks of the work of Anser Bean Laden and his Al-Taiga terror network.

Canada fears reprisals. "The problem is we will all be tarred with the same brush" complains an Egyptian.

"Snow joke" said a spokesman. "Néné never! These thugs are hell Brent on striking fear . . ."

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: These birds seem to spend as much of their time flying backwards and forwards in search of good feeding areas as in actually feeding but a total of 58 flying past Portland on Jan 13 were said to be heading for Lyme Bay which is said to be one of their favourite winter feeding areas - another 36 followed them on Jan 14. 50 going west off Ventnor (IoW) on Jan 11, when more than 30 were seen passing Worthing, were presumably part of the same movement which may have started when 342 flew past Dungeness on Jan 9 (Dungeness also reported 347 there on Jan 13)

Black-throated Diver: No site has reported more than two of these at a time but on Jan 10 there were two off the Portobello Sewage Pumping Station on the Telscombe Cliffs between Saltdean and Peacehaven (east of Brighton), another two on the sea off Pagham Harbour and one in Portland Harbour (where there were two on Jan 13)

Great Northern Diver: By Jan 14 the number in Portland Harbour was up to six while one was seen in the entrance to Langstone Harbour on Jan 12, 13 and 14 (and may well still be there - as probably are more than one in the mouth of Chichester Harbour)

Great Crested Grebe: No reports from the Solent nor Rye Bay so far this week but on Jan 14 there were at least 32 off Pagham Harbour and more than 144 off Christchurch Harbour (there had been 157 in Southbourne Bay off Bournemouth on Jan 10)

Red-necked Grebe: One was in Portland Harbour on Jan 13 and 14

Slavonian Grebe: 30+ on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Jan 10 beat the count of 28 there on Dec 24 to be the maximum for this winter so far. On Jan 13 there was also a high count of 5 in Portland Harbour.

Black-necked Grebe: 20+ in Studland Bay on Jan 14 was also a notch up on the 20 there on Jan 10

Fulmar: 20 flying east past Splash Point at Seaford on Jan 15 was the highest count for the year so far

Balearic Shearwater: By Jan 16 one had flown as far east in the Channel as Dungeness and another was off Portland that day

Cormorant: A raft of more than 400 on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Jan 10 was the highest count I have seen for British waters this winter, and on Jan 11 a huge flock of more than 300 came flying from inland over the Worthing shore before turning east (not sure if these were in addition to those off Pagham on the previous day - maybe they flew inland to roost overnight?). On Jan 14 a flock of 296 were fishing together off Christchurch Harbour and on Jan 15 there were 220 fishing off Climping at the mouth of the R Arun. These counts are large enough but in Holland there have been counts of 1455 on Jan 14 and 1593 on Oct 22. First report of both Cormorants and Grey Herons on their nests came from the Paxton Pits by the Bedfordshire Ouse river on Jan 15

Shag: 30 were fishing off Christchurch Harbour on Jan 16 (maybe birds coming to nest on the Isle of Wight cliffs?)

Bittern: Between Jan 10 and 15 there have been reports from ten sites with 7 birds present at one site (Dungeness RSPB) on Jan 11 and 4 reported to be at Titchfield Haven that day.

Night Heron: The long-staying bird was still in the Folkestone area on Jan 12

Great White Egret: No further sightings in the Chichester area (one was in the Nutbourne Bay area on Jan 6) but the regular birds were seen at Blashford (on Jan 14) and at the Lewes Brooks (on Jan 10)

Mute Swan: Signs of territorial activity show that it will not be long before some pairs start nest building. At Langstone the resident pair (which had been fighting off an intruder pair last week) were back on the Mill Pond on Jan 13, now separated from their six cygnets which they had left behind on the sea. At Emsworth the resident pair in the Slipper Mill/Peter Pond area were seen on Jan 12 driving of an intruder on their territory (though not fighting)

Bewick's Swan: Latest counts come from the Dungeness area (40 on Jan 11), Burpham near Arundel (26 on Jan 12) and Ibsley near Ringwood (family of 3) on Jan 13. On Jan 15 Derek Hale was at Slimbridge and found more than 100 there

Whooper Swan: The pair at Chichester do not seem to have been seen since Jan 11 but on that day Derek Hale was at Welney in Norfolk where he saw more than 200

Cackling Canada Goose: The half-size Canada was at Titchfield Haven on Jan 14

Pale-bellied Brent: One was at Farlington on Jan 11 and one at Titchfield on Jan 14 - the flock in the Weymouth area numbered more than 35 on Jan 11

Red-breasted Goose: This was still at Lymington on Jan 10

Emperor Goose: The first mention of this species for the year comes from Scotney Court (Rye Harbour) where two were seen on Jan 12 (escapes or feral birds)

Pintail: Some 150 were in the Arun valley between Pulborough and Amberley on Nov 17, 89 were at Christchurch Harbour on Nov 22, and 75 were at the Blashford Lakes on Dec 14 but all three of these counts seem to have been of birds passing through rather than winter resident flocks. Locally the large flock of Pintail which has remained in Nutbourne Bay of Chichester Harbour in previous winters has not yet settled down there but counts of 50 in Pagham Harbour on Dec 24, then 30 (maybe 60) in Nutbourne Bay on Dec 31 and 54 in Nutbourne Bay on Jan 13 may indicate they are now settling in.

Ring-necked Duck: The bird that was on Passfield Pond in East Hampshire from Dec 10 to Jan 11 (with an excursion to Frithend Pond on Dec 30) has not been seen since Jan 11, probably as a result of recent clearance of vegetation around the Passfield Pond.

'Fudge Duck' (Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid): I had a clear view of this bird at Budds Farm pools on Jan 16 (in particular noticing the triangular - not rounded nor tufted - shape of its head) though it was the larger size, all dark colouring contrasting with the white undertail area that first attracted my attention. This is presumably the same bird which was first seen (at Farlington Marshes) on 23 Nov 1999 and which has returned to the area each winter since then with most sightings being on the Budds pools - it is the same bird it will be ten years old this summer.

Scaup: A young male has been in the Titchfield/Hillhead area from Jan 9 to 16 and the cold snap brought 8 to Rye Harbour and 4 to Poole Harbour (both on Jan 11). A different first winter male has been on Stoke Lake at Gosport, seen there on Jan 10 and 15.

Eider: The flock off Titchfield Haven shot up to 66 on Jan 14 - previous counts there since Jan 1 have not exceeded 4 birds - and also on Jan 14 the count at one Dutch site was up to 144 birds.

King Eider: One was found in Rye Bay on Jan 11 by Cliff Dean and was seen and photographed by several other birders that day though it was not seen there again until Jan 17. This is a new species for the Sussex County List. Only one or two are seen in Britain each year (just 115 records between 1958 and 2004), the great majority being recorded in Scotland and the only south coast records prior to this were of one in Kent in 1996 and one in Cornwall in 2001. This year one was seen off County Sligo in Ireland on Jan 9 and last year one was off the north coast of Devon on 24 Feb 2008.

Long-tailed Duck: One (possibly two) were on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Jan 10, and on Jan 11 there was at least one in Rye Bay and two in Poole Harbour. On Jan 15 one flew west past Climping at the mouth of the R Arun

Velvet Scoter: 12 in Rye Bay off Pett was the highest count of the winter so far

Goldeneye: 15 were in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 11 and 6 were in the main pool of the Hayling Oysterbed on Jan 13

Smew: Another high count (presumably a result of the cold snap) was of 19 at the RSPB Dungeness reserve on Jan 10

Ruddy Duck: A single female was on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Jan 7 and 11

Marsh Harrier: One at Titchfield Haven on Jan 15 was the first reported there this year (though there were two females in the Lymington area on both Jan 9 and 10)

Buzzard: Two pairs were displaying over the central Isle of Wight on Jan 17

Merlin: One reported perched on a fence post of the main marsh area at Farlington Marshes on Jan 11

Peregrine: The 2007 Sussex Bird Report has an article by members of 'Sussex Peregrine Study' - a group of raptor enthusiasts - describing how the male of a pair of Peregrines breeding at a coastal site was found to be a far from pure-bred Peregrine but contained the genes of Prairie Falcon and Gyr Falcon as well as Peregrine. This information came to light when this male was seen to have a closed ring of the type used on birds bred by falconers (using artificial insemination and any adult parents that happen to be available to the breeders) in order to supply the global demand for hunting falcons without taking birds from the wild. When it became clear that such a 'tribrid' bird was fathering young that would spread out and mate with pure bred Peregrines in the county a decision was taken to capture this rogue male and to destroy the eggs in his nest. In the event the female was caught (and released) but the male evaded capture and was eventually shot. I wonder what position the Pope (or the Archbishop of Canterbury) would have taken on the ethical issues raised here - certainly the thinking and action would seem to have won the approval of those Germans under the leadership of Adolph H. who felt strongly about the need for pure Aryan stock in the German population and the consequent need to eliminate impurities but in this case there are the more complex issues relating to the breeding techniques used by the falconers, and the motivation of those who demand a supply of falcons from them. See the entry for Great Bustard below for another view of the ethics of humans trying to manage the fate of bird populations (and another slant on the breeding of birds of prey for 'sport').

Great Bustard: In Sep 2008 another 19 young birds were brought from Russia and released on Salisbury Plain where it is hoped that a breeding population will eventually become established (the first arrived in 2005 but none of the birds there are yet old enough to breed). As in previous winters some of the birds have flown away from Salisbury Plain though most of them have returned there next spring and this winter one female was seen in Dorset on Dec 29 and 30 and is now being seen at Harbridge close to the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood.

One view of this project to establish a population of Bustards in Britain comes from Lee Evans, who wrote the following in a message to Hoslist this week ...

"I am not sure if this is an officially sanctioned project or not but I personally am appalled by it and the quicker it runs out of steam the better. It is an absolutely pointless project and a very dangerous one. Firstly, there is no place in modern agricultural Britain for a species like Great Bustard - let's face it, Turtle Dove, Grey Partridge, Stone Curlew, Tree Sparrow, Skylark, Yellowhammer and Spotted Flycatcher are barely surviving in it. Far more serious are a number of other concerns I have.

"When Mr Waters first applied to the scientists of Russia for Great Bustard eggs, I received a number of complaints from Russian ornithologists about the Project (via a BirdsRussia website I am on). What he did in essence was reward Russian peasant farmers (with a trivial amount of money in a British context but substantial for Russia) to obtain the eggs for them. Now, these farmers did not take just Great Bustard eggs, they ended up raiding nests of all species of ground-nesting birds, including Demoiselle Cranes and the like, and when they were told that these were not as ordered, they simply smashed them on the ground in disgust. Now, I don't know how many Great Bustard nests were raided for this ill-conceited project but I find it disgusting and abhorrent. Great Bustard is a mega-rare bird and this population which once migrated to Turkey in large numbers now occurs in perhaps ones and twos. It cannot afford outsider meddling in this fashion.

"What could prove catastrophic is the next scenario. The Russian Great Bustard population from which the Salisbury Plain birds have been sourced is highly migratory, unlike the Iberian population which is relatively sedentary. We already have proof that the Salisbury Plain birds are trying to escape to the South (a whole host of David Waters wing-tagged birds colliding with power lines in Northern France) and if he persists with this project, eventually one will make it to the steppes of Central Spain. If a pair hybridise, this could have very serious repercussions for the endangered Spanish population, should the migratory genes of the British bird attract or reorientate birds from this population.

"The Russian ornithologists were so incensed by this project that they produced several articles which were published in the National media, both locally in Russia and in Britain. Typically, though, as always, their concerns were totally ignored (and over-ridden by greedy Russian scientists) and the operation still continues today".

Lee then goes on to a related topic ... "The Saudi Arabian government got involved with Bustard reintroduction and are currently breeding Houbara Bustards in pens in the hope of releasing up to 6,000 birds in the deserts of Merzouga and the Western Sahara in Morocco. A small number (150) have already been released and what do you think happened. Within days, bedouins were offering shooting and hunting trips in these areas, and many were killed. Conversely, to feed this hunting habit, more and more Lanners, Sakers, Barbary Falcons and Peregrines are taken from the wild to support the hunting lobby, with all four species now under intense pressure. Even Northern Bald Ibises are being shot in various countries in the Middle East, despite being a 'sacred' bird."

Water Rail: The bird which John Gowen saw in the Lymbourne Stream near Langstone on Jan 9 was probably still there this week and I went to look for it on Jan 13 but could not see it - however, as I was about to give up the attempt, I heard piglet like screams coming from an ivy covered small tree which had fallen into the stream, providing dense cover for a bird as small as a Water Rail. I had no doubt, as the calls were repeated from a spot less than 2 metres from my feet, that there was a Water Rail present and I had no compunction in adding the species to my year list (though, by doing this, I could not join the competition between birders to see who has the highest year list). Every competition has to have rules and I think the Hampshire Year Listing competion not only requires you to see each species but also prevents you from counting birds which are not on the official British list or subspecies or 'races' - thus you can count Brent Goose but not Pale-bellied Brent or Brant.

Avocet: 28 were seen at Farlington on Jan 9 but only 15 were seen there on Jan 10 and there have been no reports since that date. Similarly the flock in Nutbourne Bay was down to just 5 birds on Jan 13. This drop in the number of local birds may reflect the impact of the cold weather which has driven them to fly west in the hope of warmth.

Purple Sandpiper: A count of 15 at Newhaven Pier was the highest for this year so far (Southsea has not had more than 9 reported and Portland has only had 10) but last autumn Southsea had 20 or more on Dec 28 while over in Kent there was a report of 47 seen together in Thanet on Dec 1

Ruff: One was seen in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 11 and two were at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 17

Woodcock: Plenty of these are currently wintering in southern England and local sigthings this week included three flushed in Pond Copse (behind the Brick-kiln Pond at Stansted) on Jan 11 and one seen drinking from a puddle by the road leading to Stansted House on Jan 12

Black-tailed Godwit: Although there were 84 at Bosham in Chichester Harbour on Jan 17 (when around 120 were at Christchurch Harbour) the number going inland seems to be increasing to judge by the following counts at Pulborough Brooks - 20+ there on Jan 3, 30 on Jan 14, 62 on Jan 15 and 80 on Jan 16

Green Sandpiper: These are in short supply in Hampshire this winter - other than one seen several times at the Blashford Lakes, and the two which I saw in the Hermitage Stream here in Havant on Jan 7, the only other one to be reported flew over Newlands Farm (south of Fareham) on Jan 11.

Common Sandpiper: One was seen by the River Arun south of Arundel on Jan 15, 3 were by the River Test at Redbridge at the head of Southampton Water on Jan 17 and on that day a group of 6 were by the River Arun in the Beeding area north of the Downs

Grey Phalarope: The only 2009 report I am aware of for this species is of a single bird seen swimming on the sea 10 yards off Pagham Spit on Jan 14. Plenty were still being reported in November but I am not aware of any on the south coast since Nov 24.

Med Gull: The count in the Pagham area was up to an estimated 150 birds on Jan 10 after 170+ had been seen at Weymouth on Jan 7 - it will not be long before we start seeing flocks gathering around Langstone Harbour prior to the breeding season - last year the first few were seen at the Oysterbeds on Feb 15

Iceland Gull: One flew by Portland on Jan 11 (other than one over the River Hamble on Jan 1 this is the only other south coast report for the year so far).

Kittiwake: After 'many hundreds' were reported passing Portland on Jan 11 the next day brought an exceptional report of more than 1000 off Dungeness , seemingly associated with a mass westward movement of Auks

Auk Species: On Jan 7 these were passing Portland at up to 300 a minute and on Jan 9 15,000 were reported to have gone past Portland. On Jan 11 this had increased to an estimated 20,000 passing Portland with similar exceptional counts from other sites (e.g. more than 1000 past Worthing in 45 mins)

Puffin: Just one was seen among the auks passing Durlston on Jan 12

Kingfisher: In recent winters these have been fairly easy to see in the Havant area at Langstone Pond and on the Langbrook, Brockhampton and Hermitage streams but so far this year I have not come across one anywhere locally (though there was a sighting near Budds Farm on Jan 1). This week there are reports of two seen together at Peter Pond in Emsworth (after one was seen in the Dolphin Lake area on Jan 8), and of at least four in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester (both sightings on Jan 11)

Waxwing: The flock of up to 34 birds was still in the Bursledon area of Southampton up to Jan 15 but the number was down to 23 on Jan 16 and 17, probably as a result of the activities of two ringers (not local people) trying to catch the birds using both a pole which captured any bird that perched on it (something I have not heard of before but which apparently caught two of the birds) and mist nets. For an account of this read the entry for Jan 16 on the 'Three Amigos' blog at http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo and then scroll down to see the bigger flock photographed on the previous day.

Dunnock: The mild springlike weather on Jan 13 brought full song from half a dozen different birds around the Havant area. They have continued to sing since then.

Song Thrush: Also on Jan 13 the weather prompted two Song Thrushes into full song at Emsworth. They were heard again there on Jan 15 and on Jan 16 full song was reported at Durlston

Redwing: So far this winter we have had plenty of Fieldfare in southern England but few Redwing. This may have started to change this week with a report on Jan 14 of 'hundreds' of Redwing, with 40 Blackbirds and 20 Mistle Thrushes but no Fieldfares, in the area immediately south east of Horsham containing the Sunoak Plantation and the Horsham Turf Fields and Rugby Club grounds. On Jan 15 there were more than 40 at Pulborough Brooks and a flock of around 150 in the Avon valley just south of Ringwood, with another flock reported from the Lewes Brooks on Jan 16

Dartford Warbler: Hard weather can virtually wipe out Dartford Warbler populations and Jan 14 brought a find of a dead body of a male Dartford Warbler at Blackbushe near the A30 in north Hampshire. One body does not make a disaster and the latest news has reports of live birds at two sites but it also has figures for the number seen during the monthly Shrike surveys in the New Forest and these show counts in November of 123 birds seen, then 99 in December but only 37 in January (weekend of Jan 10/11).

Blackcap: The normal diet of this species is insects and soft fruit and while they have been known to eat almost anything when hungry in cold weather (one was eating chopped peanuts in Emsworth on Jan 3) Brian Fellows tells us that a male and female feeding in his Emsworth garden this week showed a preference for the exposed soft interior of apples against the alternative of left over mince pies.

Great Grey Shrike: Only two were found during the survey of the New Forest on Jan 10 and 11 and David Taylor says that the one he saw in the Holmsley area was 'singing' (what is described as Song 1 on the Birdguides CD)

Rook: A good number were back at their nests at Northney on Hayling Island on Jan 13 - unlikely to be breeding for another month but they need to repair any winter damage to their nests and to defend those nests against 'stick thieves' looking for an easy source of material to repair their own nests.

Tree Sparrow: What are probably winter visitors from the continent still turn up in small numbers in Kent and East Sussex plus a few in Dorset but very few in Hampshire or West Sussex. Last October there was a report of three being seen at Sandy Point on Hayling but subsequent remarks by Andy Johnson have made me wonder if this report was erroneous (in a review of his birding year Andy included an unexpalined remark which read "WORST MOMENT: the `TreeSparrowgate' scandal of late Oct/early Nov)". Currently however there are a couple of reports of up to 5 birds being seen in the Adur valley near the foot of Beeding Hill (near Steyning and north of Shoreham)

Chaffinch: The first report of this species beginning to sing came from Battle near Hastings on Jan 8 and one was heard in the New Forest on the next day but I have not seen any local reports until Jan 17 when one was practising tentatively in the 'Sling' area of Stansted Forest.

Greenfinch: This is normally one of the commonest birds at any time of year but since the start of last autumn Greenfinch seem to have almost vanished from the scene. Rather than finding large flocks on the shoreline almost anywhere there were only two notable flocks reported - one of 220 birds at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 6 with 112 still there on Oct 10, and the other of around 150 birds at Shoreham Harbour on Nov 5 with 110 still there on Nov 15. This year the shortage can be measured by the fact that I did not see one at all until Jan 6 (when I came on half a dozen on Thorney Island) but maybe there has been a new influx as on Jan 9 there was a report from the Sussex Downs of a mixed flock of Greenfinch and Chaffinch (some 100 birds in total) and on Jan 10 there was a report of a 'huge flock' of around 300 Greenfinch (with no other species) coming to roost for the night at an industrial estate in Andover (possibly birds from northern England rather than from the continent?)

Yellowhammer: These too have been in short supply this winter with no report so far this year of a flock of more than 35+ so it was good to hear of at least a dozen being seen with other finches on Portsdown on Jan 14

Corn Bunting: The biggest count this winter was of 170+ on River Ouse floodplain south of Lewes on Jan 10 (with them were more than 100 Reed Bunting, and also in that area on the same day there were some 200 Skylarks). On Jan 11 around 40 were seen on the Downs south of Amberley in Sussex and 32 were at Sandwich Bay in Kent.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Red Admiral: Hampshire claims the first active butterfly of the year with one seen flying in the Lyndhurst carpark on Jan 13 and this was followed on Jan 14 by one seen basking on a wall in Boscombe at Bournemouth (Dorset)

Winter Moth (1799 Operophtera brumata): The mild night of Jan 13 brought out many of these. 16 were on the kitchen window of the Portland Observatory after the kitchen light has been accidentally left on overnight while in the Newhaven area 79 (including three mating pairs where males had found the flightless females) were detected during a walk on the downs

Early Moth (1960 Theria primaria): The first for the year was found in the Newhaven area on Jan 13

Caterpillar: In Sam Bayley's garden at Horsham just one Large White caterpillar was still alive on Jan 14

Yellow Dung Fly: One was seen on a frozen dog dropping in the Bournemouth area on Jan 14 prompting the question as to how these insects survive the winter. So far I have been unable to find a positive answer - the species is said to be active all round the year. I suspect the reason why we do not normally see them in the winter after October but suddenly find cowpats covered with fresh specimens in the following May is that eggs laid by the females in the autumn remain dormant until the temperature reaches the level needed for their development when the eggs hatch and the larvae start to grow. The insect seen in Bournemouth must have come from an egg that was in an artificially warmed environment (not the frozen dog dropping!)

Buff-tailed Bumblebee: These were active in Bournemouth on Jan 14 - the adult females presumably remain active right through the winter, escaping frost in underground hideaways where they will later make their nests

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

The month (and year) list of flowering plants is now up to 64 (excluding grasses) with 61 seen by myself.

This week's additions have been ..

Brackish Water Crowfoot: Buds seen in the Havant Homewell spring on Jan 13 were open later in the week (Jan 16)

Rape and Charlock: Both seen flowering in an arable field south of Daw Lane on Hayling Island on Jan 13

Small Nettle: Flowering at the south end of Southmoor Lane on Jan 16 along with Sun Spurge

Fool's Parsley: Flowering in Emsworth on Jan 13 and in Havant on Jan 16

Ivy-leaved Speedwell: First flowers seen at the foot of the Havant multi-storey carpark on Jan 16

Snowdrop: First flowers seen by Brian Fellows in an Emsworth garden on Jan 14

Also seen this week, though not yet flowering, were the first leaves of Marsh Marigold (Kingcup) plants on the Langstone South Moors and the first signs of Giant Butterbur with four shoots just above ground by the Langbrook stream, both found on Jan 16

OTHER WILDLIFE

Water Vole: These do hibernate and so have to come out to gather food regularly during the winter but in the cold weather they prefer to take the food back into their burrows and eat it there. Proof that the Emsworth population has survived the cold spell comes from sightings in both the River Ems and in the Lumley Stream plus Peter Pond since the thaw. While the frost was still in charge over in East Kent several Water Voles were active in a stream at the Sandwich Bay bird observatory where, on Jan 14, "a Water Pipit was furtively nipping among the water voles on the North Stream"

Fungus: I have been surprised to find fozen chunks of Meadow Waxcaps on my lawn in the past few days - it seems the fresh specimens have been pushing up through the grass only to be pecked to pieces by hungry Wood Pigeons


Summary for Jan 5 - 11 (Week 1 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Among the birds driven into our area by the cold weather were two Green Sandpiper which have appeared on the Hermitage Stream in Leigh Park at Havant, and birds driven into gardens in search of food include both Blackcaps and Siskin. The freezing of fresh water ponds has forced many wildfowl onto the sea and made me wonder about why Shoveler seem to differ from other duck in this respect. So far the only bird corpses reported have been of one Swan (that may have died of other causes than cold), a Tawny Owl (hit by a train) and a Woodcock. Best sighting this week was of a Great White Egret at Nutbourne and another good local sighting was of a Water Rail in the Lymbourne stream. Over in Kent the first Richard's Pipit of the year is claimed and in Hampshire a now very rare Willow Tit has been heard. Both Cormorant and Black-headed Gull are now acquiring breeding plumage, Shag are making the honking sounds they only make when breeding, a Chaffinch has started practicing its song and a pair of Collared Doves are already nesting while Swans at Langstone are battling over the right to nest there. A few Bullfinches have learnt to come to hanging bird feeders. Oddities include a report of Serins in Dorset and of a pair of Egyptian Geese hatching 11 goslings on Jan 4 (down to just three next day). Last week's news of a Hampshire birder achieving a New Year's Day list of 120 species has been eclipsed by a Kent birder with 137 species.

Insect news includes a strange emergence of midges as well as the first new moth of the year and four caterpillars still surviving the cold spell. Buff-tailed Bumblebees are still active when the sun shines.

Plant news has the first Goat Willow 'pussy paw' catkins seen in Havant and a find of Thrift in the Bishop's garden at Chichester cathedral while Other Wildlife has a Stoat 'dancing on ice' and a Grey Squirrel gathering leaves to keep it warm in its winter nest (or 'drey')

Late News

The following items only seen by me on Sunday evening after completing the Summary below.

Drake King Eider (new for Sussex) in Rye Bay on Jan 11

Iceland Gull at Portland on Jan 11

Scaup off Titchfield on Jan 11 is different to younger bird at Gosport on Jan 10

Up to 4 Bittern at Titchfield Haven on Jan 11

Great Grey Shrike at Holmsley in New Forest was singing on Jan 11

1000 plus Auks past Worthing in 45 minutes on Jan 11

Whooper Swans again on Runcton Pit at Chichester on Jan 11 with 3 Bean Geese back on Ivy Lake on Jan 10 and 11

Great White Egret at Lewes Brooks on Jan 10

300 Greenfinch to roost at Andover on Jan 10 - the only report of any significant number I have seen this winter was a flock of up to 150 at Shoreham in November, next highest was of 50 at Horsham also in November and then 42 at Barton on Sea in the same month. In most places the species has been absent this winter.

Black Point (Hayling) wader roost on Jan 10 had 8 Sanderling (needed for my year list!)

Scaup (adult drake) on Jan 10 at Lymington

Dorset Bird Race winning score of 127 on Jan 10 (highest in Hampshire has been 120 and 137 in Kent)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Lots of cold weather movement brought well over 1000 past Dungeness on Jan 6 though strangely it seems they were heading east

Black-throated Diver: Two were on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Jan 4 with singles seen at Portland and Christchurch Harbour on the same day. Another single was off Pagham on Jan 7.

Great Northern Diver: On Jan 4 at least ten were seen at five Dorset sites and two were off Selsey. One was still to be seen in Southampton Water on Jan 9 and 10

Unidentified Divers: 217 'diver species' flew south past the North Foreland in Kent on Jan 3

Great Crested Grebe: On Jan 6 a site in Holland reported 1050 of these, making me wonder if the birds from Rye Bay had moved there but on Jan 7 there were still at least 400 off Pett Level (an estimated 700 were there on Jan 4). The local flock off the Titchfield/Warsash shore was up to 202 on Jan 3, seen by Mark Rolfe who commented that Melvyn Brickwood had seen 277 there on 23 Dec 2008 (though this count never appeared on Hoslist nor on the HOS website). Another report of this Tichfield area flock on Jan 8 was of 198 birds but some may have moved up Southampton Water where more than 35 were seen on Jan 10

Red-necked Grebe: Two seen in Pagham Harbour on Jan 7 were the first seen away from Dorset this year

Slavonian Grebe: More than 15 were off Pagham Harbour on Jan 4 and 8 were still there (with another 7 seen on Jan 6 off Selsey Bill) on Jan 7 when two were seen on the Lymington shore

Black-necked Grebe: 13 were in Studland Bay on Jan 8 (against 15 there on Jan 4) but I have seen no reports from Langstone Harbour since 18 were counted on Jan 1

Balearic Shearwater: The first (and so far only) report for 2009 is of one off Portland on Jan 7 (in 2008 there were at least five reports of singles (including one off Selsey on Jan 5) prior to Jan 13 when an estimated 50 were off Portland followed by almost daily sightings, though all seen from Dorset.

Cormorant: One of four roosting in Ivy Lake, Chichester, trees at dusk on Jan 9 had the white 'thigh roundel' of breeding plumage though no 'judge's wig' was seen in its nape. Also on Jan 9 a shoal of fish seemed to have brought around 100 Cormorant to fish frantically off Christchurch Harbour.

Shag: These are normally silent but on Jan 8 four birds at Durlston were making the 'honking' noises they make when breeding

Bittern: One at Titchfield Haven on Jan 3 was said to be the first there since 29 Nov 2008. Cold weather brought one to Farlington Marshes on Jan 6 (a photo of it taken by Jason Crook appeared in the Portsmouth NEWS) and the Titchfield bird was seen again on Jan 7 and Jan 9 (when Trevor Carpenterwas lucky enough to get super photos of it in flight seen from the road outside the reserve) . Reports of Bitterns in this week's news come from 12 sites including Christchurch Harbour where one on Jan 6 was their first of the winter, and the Lower Test reserve near Southampton where one turned up on Jan 9. Jan 9 also brought an interesting photo of one roosting 10 metres up a Birch Tree at Rye Harbour (two had been seen in sunlit trees at 10.30 am on Jan 6 at nearby Northpoint gravel pit, and the Farlington bird was also seen at times 'sunbathing' outside the reedbed, but on the ground).

Night Heron: The Folkestone bird was still present on Jan 9

Great White Egret: On Jan 6 one was seen in the marshy field where the Ham Brook flows into Nutbourne Bay (east of Emsworth) - the observer was struck by the large size (similar to a Grey Heron), the long neck (curved, not straight), and an all yellow bill, the latter definitely distinguishing it from Little Egret. I have not seen a report of the Blashford bird since Jan 4, nor have I seen any other sightings anywhere in West Sussex.

Cattle Egret: One was still being seen in the Bergerie Farm area between Lymington and the Beaulieu River on Jan 7 and there are probably still two in that area (both were seen on Jan 1)

Spoonbill: Although four were seen at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Jan 6 the main flock seems to have remained in Poole Harbour with 13 there on Jan 7 (though one was at Radipole on Jan 9)

Mute Swan: In previous hard winters we have heard of many dead birds being found, particularly on the shores, but so far this current spell has only brought news of one such corpse - a Mute Swan whose body was being eaten by Crows in the Lymington Marshes on Jan 6 (the cause of death was not proven to be starvation - it could well have been killed by a fox or dogs or even shot accidentally). Here in Havant I hear that there have been battles for breeding territory at Langstone Mill Pond between the pair which bred there last year (and still had six cygnets with them on Dec 29) and interlopers. (PS - since writing this in mid-week I have heard of one more corpse, a Woodcock, being found at Portland on Jan 8, and another corpse of a Tawny Owl lying between the rail tracks at Three Bridges rail station in Sussex on Jan 9 - probably weakened by hunger and unable to avoid being hit by a train).

Bewick's Swan: In December the highest count I saw was of 52 at Slimbridge on Dec 18 followed by 26 at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Dec 30. On Jan 4 the Dungeness flock was up to 61 birds (plus one Whooper) and on Jan 6 the family of three Bewick's at Ibsley Water at Ringwood increased to five with the arrival of an additional pair. Jan 9 brought a count of 58 from Dungeness RSPB

Whooper Swan: The Ivy Lake pair at Chichester were on Ivy Lake on Jan 6 (at dawn) and Jan 7 but on Jan 9 they seemed to be settled on Runcton Lake as dusk approached and on Jan 8 one or more were over Pagham Harbour after dark, identified by calls. A group of 4 that have been in The Fleet north of Weymouth since the end of December were still there on Jan 9

Bean Goose: The single bird in the Avon Valley was still in the Moortown area of Ringwood on Jan 9 and a group of four were at the Pagham Harbour north walls on Jan 8, then at Ivy Lake, Chichester, on Jan 9. In Kent a flock of 18 were at Sandwich Bay on Jan 4 and two were on the north Kent coast at Reculver on Jan 7

Whitefront Goose: The highest count in southern England so far this winter had been 67 in North West Kent on Nov 9 until Jan 4 when 100+ were reported at Dungeness RSPB. Other recent sightings have included 20 at Pett Level on Jan 4 (when one was at Lymington), 8 at Longham Lakes in Dorset on Jan 5, 11 in the Stour Valley near Canterbury on Jan 7, 5 on Arlington Reservoir (near Beachy Head) on Jan 8, 21 over the north Kent coast on Jan 9 and 2 flying east over the Adur valley that day.

Greylag: The Avon valley flock near Ringwood numbered around 180 on Jan 7 (when others could be seen at Titchfield Haven) and on Jan 9 there were around a dozen at Chichester,

Cackling Canada Geese: One seen at Titchfield Haven on Jan 4 was said to have been there for some time (and it was still there on Jan 7). In most recent years there have been reports of these 'half-size' Canadas moving around with flocks of Canada Geese but their origin was not clear - now Ian Watts tells us that a small flock of them can normally be seen with other 'plastic wildfowl' on a lake at the Royal Victoria Country Park just south of Southampton, but that they are not there at present. Maybe, like their big cousins, they suffer from an instinct to migrate in the autumn but do not know where to go - this insinct probably prompts them to go 'fly about', they then see a flock of Canadas and think they know where to go and so join them for a few months until the spring time urge to return to their breeding sites takes them back to square one. Latest news is of one in the MoD Defence muntions area (north west shore of Portsmouth Harbour) on Jan 10

Barnacle Goose: The appearance of a flock of more than 60 in the Rye Harbour area on Jan 4 suggests that some of the large feral breeding population in the Netherlands has been driven across the Channel by cold weather.

Egyptian Goose: A pair at Hartley Witney (north west of Fleet) had 11 newly hatched goslings with them on Jan 4 (but only three had survived to the next day)

Mandarin: John Clark counted 75 at Headley Mill Pond in east Hants on Jan 5 - I have heard of similar numbers there in the past but not in the last few years.

Shoveler: With the freezing of inland waters many wildfowl that would normally only be seen on fresh water can be found on the sea but maybe Shoveler have to resort to the seaside even when other wildfowl manage to survive on a pond which has been partially kept open. My personal theory is based on the presence of Shoveler on the north shore of Langstone Harbour since Jan 1 although the other duck species that they would normally be seen with remain on Budds Farm Pools (where a fairly large area is kept ice free partly by the inflow of above freezing clean water coming out of the sewage treatment plant and partly by the presence of numerous wildfowl). My theory is that the diving ducks can still get food by diving (perhaps going some way under the ice) while Mallard, Gadwall and Teal are all able to forage on land. Shoveler are restricted in their feeding habits by their design as filterers of invertebrates from surface water and this source of food will soon run out in a limited surface area packed with other wildfowl, driving the Shoveler to feed in the tideline of the sea.

Red-crested Pochard: A pair seen at Titchfield Haven on Jan 7 are presumably 'plastic' and have maybe come from the lake at the Royal Victoria Country Park at Southampton where a male was seen on Jan 1

Ring-necked Duck: The bird on Passfield Pond in east Hants was still there on Jan 5

Scaup: On Jan 4 the number in Dorset had increased with 13 at Abbotsbury and 6 in Poole Harbour near Arne. On Jan 5 one appeared at Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex and on Jan 7 a pair were seen on Ivy Lake at Chichester (not reported since then)

Velvet Scoter: The Titchifield/Wasash shore bird has not been reported since Jan 3 but on Jan 4 Durlston saw 8 fly past and on Jan 7 the sea off Pagham Harbour had 7.

Goldeneye: 20 (including 4 males) were in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 7

Hooded Merganser: The bird which has been in the Weymouth area since last June was still at Radipole on Jan 7

Goosander: The number at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood had increased from the 85 seen on Dec 23 to 92 on Jan 4. On the Hants/Berks border there were 57 at Moor Green on Jan 8

Ruddy Duck: One was seen on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Jan 7 when there were 2 on the sea at Lymington. On Jan 4 there were 5 at Ibsley Water (Ringwood) and 6 at Dungeness RSPB

Marsh Harrier: Two females have been regularly seen hunting the Keyhaven area near Lymington for some time - last sighting on Jan 9. Over in Kent 22 were roosting in the Stour valley east of Canterbury on Jan 3

Sparrowhawk: I have still to get this species on my year list and have seen relatively few reports of them this year so I was interested to hear of one hunting at Hoe Cross near Hambledon on Jan 6, the more so as it was chasing an escaped Parakeet (thought to be Alexandrine). Strangely the Sparrowhawk gave up the chase and the Parakeet was last seen being harassed by Crows.

Buzzard: These probably owe their success in expanding their numbers and range at least in part to an ability to adapt to new situations and an example of this comes in a second hand report from a landowner in the New Milton/Hordle area who claims that three Buzzards have been coming regularly at dusk to 'dive bomb' a large Starling roost on his land - there is no confirmation yet that the birds are Buzzards or of their success in catching Starlings.

Merlin: Reports of these hunting in Pagham Harbour on Jan 4 and 7 and of one hunting over North Binness Island (seen from Farlington Marshes) on Jan 6

Water Rail: There are plenty these around in marshy areas but an interesting local sighting was made by John Gowen in mid-afternoon on Jan 9 when he was walking up the Hayling Billy trail past Wade Court. The bird was in the Lymbourne stream some ten yards north of where it turns south away from the Billy Trail to head for Langstone Mill. This may be the same bird that was seen further up stream (just south of the footbridge) on Dec 5 and 8.

Avocet: The number at Farlington Marshes was back to 25 on Jan 6 (after peaking at 32 on Jan 1)

Golden Plover: The number in Hampshire seems to have increased in the past week and reports have included 60+ in field south of Cemetery Lane at Westbourne (north of Emsworth), 173 in the Hook/Warsash area and several sightings west of Basingstoke. A few were seen in the Langstone village area on both Jan 5 and 6.

Knot: A report of 900 in Pagham Harbour on Jan 8 was the highest so far this winter at that site - almost double the previous high counts which have been around 400.

Little Stint: None have been reported in the West Wittering/East Head area of Chichester Harbour this winter but one was seen on Dec 9 where the River Lavant meets the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester and what may be the same bird was seen in that area on Jan 6. Christchurch Harbour had its first of the winter there on Jan 5

Woodcock: There seem to be more than usual of these wintering along the south coast and the latest news has nineteen reports including one of 6 birds flushed in Firestone Copse on the Isle of Wight on Jan 1, three on the beach at Hastings on Jan 6 when singles were seen at Titchfield Haven, at Farlington Marshes, Burton Mill Pond near Pulborough, Dungeness and in the New Forest. In north Kent 5 were seen at Reculver (near Whitstable) on Jan 6 and 4+ were there on Jan 8. A dead bird was found at Portland on Jan 8

Spotted Redshank: The 'tame' bird at Nore Barn (west of Emsworth) was still there on Jan 9, while on Jan 6 four were seen in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester and five were at Holes Bay in Poole Harbour, and on Jan 7 two were on the Lymington shore

Green Sandpiper: Seen at six sites this week including the welcome return of two birds to the Hermitage stream running through Leigh Park at Havant on Jan 7 (seen downstream from the first footbridge upstream of Barncroft Way)

Mediterranean Gull: A count of 170+ at Littlesea (Weymouth) on Jan 7 was the highest anywhere this winter other than the one off report of a flock of 270 in the Thanet area on Oct 17

Black-headed Gull: One was seen at Goring (Worthing) as early as Dec 29 with the black head of breeding plumage and on Jan 9 I saw a similar bird at the Chichester Lakes (another with it was well on the way to breeding plumage)

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird has not been reported since Jan 7 and on Jan 9 one was seen briefly at Holes Bay in Poole Harbour

Auk species: A lot moving through the English channel this week with estimates of as many as 300 a minute passing Portland at times during the morning of Jan 7 with another estimate of around 15,000 birds passing Portland on Jan 9

Guillemot: Some 200 birds back near the breeding ledges at Durlston on Jan 8 were all in spring plumage

Razorbill: More than 200 flew past Durlston on Jan 5 but on Jan 8 only 2 Razorbill could be seen there among the crowd of Guillemots.

Stock Dove: In recent winters large flocks of Stock Doves have been reported in various places but this winter a flock of 200 in the Lydd area near Dungeness in Kent seems to be only the second such report after one of 160 birds near Folkestone on Nov 12

Collared Dove: These have been singing and displaying for some time and on Jan 8 a nest was found in the Burgess Hill area near Haywards Heath.

Barn Owl: At dawn on Jan 4 three different birds were hunting the Thornham Marshes at the east end of the Thorney Great Deeps (and one was seen at Titchfield Haven on Jan 3)

Short-eared Owl: On Jan 4 one seems to have decided not to stay in England and was seen heading south from Portland Bill. In Langstone Harbour two had been seen over the RSPB islands on Jan 1 and they were still there on Jan 8

Kingfisher: These do not seem to be as numerous in the Havant area as they were last winter and I still do not have one on my year list. These that I have heard of were one at Budds Farm on Jan 1, and one at Dolphin Lake (the channel through which the Ems flows into the sea at Emsworth) on Jan 8 when another was seen at the Torpedo Lake on Horsea Island in Portsmouth Harbour.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: One was drumming persistently in the Haywards Heath area on Jan 6 (this is the seventh report of drumming this winter since the first was heard on Nov 19 in Southampton).

Skylark: A flock of over 100 was on the Lewes Brooks on Jan 7

Richard's Pipit: A birder who is very familiar with the species reports seeing one in the Thanet area of Kent on Jan 7, identifying it by 'its powerful bounding flight and long tail'.

Waxwing: In the past few days there have been at least 30 in Kent (23 at Folkestone and 7 at Boughton Park south of Maidstone), 9 in Sussex, and 44 in Hampshire (14 at Bordon in east Hants and 30 over Gosport) though numbers at each site vary from day to day. A flock of up to 30 birds turned up in the Burseldon area of Southampton on Jan 7 and was still there on Jan 10. On Hayling Island a group of six birds were seen very briefly on Jan 8 before flying on north

Dunnock: Jan 8 brought reports of song from two sites near Hastings and also from Durlston

Blackbird: A photo of an oddly plumaged leucistic bird taken on the north Kent coast can be seen at http://www.kentos.org.uk/Seasalter/Jan.09.htm

Song Thrush: Flocks of around 20 birds were seen at Portland and on the north Kent coast in the past few days (two of the latter were feeding in saltmarsh gullies) and on Jan 11 three birds were in my Havant garden desperately seeking food - a suggestion for gardeners on the Rye Bay website is that unwanted snails can easily be found in a dormant state under stones and they could be removed from their hibernation sites and left out in the open for Thrushes to find and then give then a more permanent rest.

Redwing: Still very few of these anywhere in comparison to the numbers of Fieldfare - I have seen no report of more than 10 Redwing so far this year whereas three reports of Fieldfare have given numbers from 100+ to 250+

Mistle Thrush: These are very scarce nowadays so I was pleased to get the species on my yearlist with one at the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Jan 5

Cetti's Warbler: These are mostly silent at this time of year but one at the north Kent Oare Marshes sang twice on Jan 1 - although they sing sporadically in the winter they will hopefully become more audible in mid April (they do sometimes reveal their presence by a harsh ticking note slightly like a Blackcap)

Blackcap: The cold weather has brought them into gardens in search of food - Brian Fellows saw a male in his Emsworth garden for the first time on Jan 1 and now has a pair visiting regularly and eating chopped peanuts (their normal food is insects, fruit and berries but in the winter they will eat many things - one Portsmouth garden which regularly hosts several of these birds each winter attracts them with a 'special recipe' home made sponge cake). On Jan 4 a female was seen in the hedge of Russell's Field between the Royal Oak at Langstone and the Billy Trail. Also this week I have been sent a stunning picture of a male Blackcap dramatically driving off a Blue Tit from a nut feeder which the Blackcap regarded as its private food store (taken recently at Wade Court in Langstone)

Firecrest: Among eleven recent sightings one is reported to have been in the west hedge of Warblington cemetery on Jan 8, seen where the kissing gate leads you onto the field path to the seawall.

Bearded Tit: Both Thorney Little Deeps and Farlington Marshes still had these on view this week with four seen at each site. At Christchurch Harbour a pair were seen 'cuddling up to each other to keep warm'.

Willow Tit: These are virtually extinct in Hampshire as a breeding species but on Jan 7 one was definitely identified by call at Shatterford in the New Forest

Tree Creeper: One was an unexpected visitor to a bird table near Crowborough in Sussex on Jan 4

Jay: On Jan 1 'very many' were present at the North Foreland in Kent, almost certainly a new wave arriving from the continent

Raven: 28 were seen together at Tarrant Rushton airfield in Dorset on Jan 3 reminding me that John Clark told us last year that Hampshire had a winter roost of 25 birds last winter. Also of local interest I have just received a photograph of three nearly fledged young Ravens at a nest in the Ems valley at a site where I had suspected they were nesting - the photo was taken in 2007 and I am told the site was not used in 2008

Chaffinch: First report of very tentative song comes from the Hastings area on Jan 8

Serin: Two seen at Langton Herring (by The Fleet north of Weymouth) on Jan 5 was an unusual winter record

Greenfinch: An indication of their current scarcity is that I had to wait until Jan 6 to get the species on my yearlist (which had some 80 species on it before these few Greenfinch were found on Thorney Island)

Siskin: Most people do not expect to see this species in their gardens until February but more than one birder has reported them in their gardens this week.

Bullfinch: These seem to be more numerous than usual this winter and seven reports have been made this week including another lovely male seen by myself near Marina Farm on Thorney Island on Jan 6 (I also had two separate birds on Jan 1) and a group of 5 were seen close to Fort Widley on Portsdown on Jan 7. In west Kent a birder called Andrew Lawson achieved the highest New Year day total that I have come across so far (137 species) and had Bullfinch as his first finch of the day (and Greenfinch as the last!) when at the Bedgebury Pinetum (a one time hotspot for Hawfinches). Bullfinch have also been in the news this week as a result of seeing them on a few bird tables - they are said to be slow to move in on this food source, first picking up food on the ground and then moving to bird tables before acquiring the skill of going to hanging feeders but when they do they are said to become aggressive to other users of the feeders.

Hawfinch: Here in Hampshire 25 Hawfinch left the Rhinefield arboretum roost at dawn on Jan 4 when at least 7 were seen in the Chichester West Dean Woods. One was also seen on Jan 5 in trees close to Stansted House.

Snow Bunting: A count of 30 at Sandwich Bay on Jan 1 was a good start to the year but I see there were 40 of them there on Dec 9

Yellowhammer: A few more of these are being reported though they are still scarce. Best count was of 30+ on the Downs above the River Arun near Amberley on Jan 9

Reed Bunting: A flock of more than 50 were at the Lewes Brooks site on Jan 3

Corn Bunting: More than 60 at Lewes Brooks on Jan 3 (with an estimated 70 there on Jan 7) and 20+ were at Cheesefoot Head near Winchester on Jan 5

Escapees: In addition to the probable Alexandrine Parakeet at Hoe Cross (Hambledon) on Jan 6 there was a Cape Shelduck (Tadorna cana) at Petworth Park lake on the same day

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Caterpillars: On Jan 7 at a site in the Newhaven area two Large White caterpillars had recently pupated and two Red Admiral caterpillars were still alive but had tightly rolled themselves up in nettle leaves (presumably emerging at night to continue feeding)

Case-bearing Clothes Moth (0240 Tinea pellionella): A not very exciting first for the year on Jan 1 at Sandwich Bay in Kent

Unidentified midges: A few days ago, when dislodging blocks of ice from the bird water containers in my garden, I found a single tiny midge hovering over the ice and on Jan 8, in the first warm sunshine for days, a crowd of around 30 such midges were dancing in the air over my garden lawn (six of them were much larger than the others and may have been a different species - though maybe just a different sex?) These insects could only be seen by me when backlit by the sun - when I went round to the sun side of them to get a closer look I could not spot them!

Bumble Bees: Buff-tailed Bumblebees were seen taking nectar from Ivy and Heather plants at Stanley Park in Gosport on Jan 6

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My January flowering plant list is now up to 53 species. New additions since Jan 4 have been ...

Common Ramping Fumitory: At the New Lane allotments site in Havant on Jan 5

Tamarisk: A few flowers left on otherwise frosted trees along the Warblington shore on Jan 5

Goat Willow: A very unexpected find of several golden 'pussy paws' showing their anthers on catkins of a tree beside the Hayling Billy trail where it passes the Lymbourne Road wildflower meadow, seen on Jan 5 (the tree at the kissing gate entrance to the South Moors reserve from Southmoor Lane, which was very nearly cut down last year, has put out new branches from the stump that was left and still intends to flower this month - all the catkins are now clad in silver hairs but none are yet flowering)

Dog's Mercury: Not a new addition to the list but the first to be seen in Pook Lane at Warblington were found there on Jan 5

Cow Parsley: The plant which I had found flowering beside Church Lane at Warblington (on the west side of the 'black barn') on Dec 29 was still flowering unharmed by frost on Jan 5

Thrift (or Sea Pink): On Jan 6 Brian Fellows found this flowering in the Bishop's Garden at Chichester and I have not included it in the total as it would seem to have been deliberately planted and tended there as a 'garden plant' but I was intrigued by the find as I had previously thought of this plant as being only found close to the sea. Looking in the Hants Flora I see that the wild 'seaside plant' can be found in north Hampshire (in the central reservation of the A325 dual carriageway road at Aldershot, beside a road at Chawton, and most strangely on chalk turf at the Micheldever Spoil Heaps). I also see that there is a larger flowered garden plant called Estoril Thrift (grows wild in Portugal) which is distinguished by the flowerheads being more than 3 cm wide and having calyx teeth with terminal points more than 1 mm long - this species was growing 'wild' on the shore at Lee on Solent until it was destroyed by the construction of the wide Hovercraft slipway, making it extinct in the county.

Intermediate Periwinkle: Despite the frost there were two flowers on the many plants growing wild in the hedge around the Havant Health Centre, seen on Jan 6

Lungwort species: The first flowers were seen on Jan 5 on garden escape plants growing by the path between the Billy Trail and the southern end of Lymbourne Road in Havant

Hedge Bedstraw: A few flowers still left in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Jan 5

Butcher's Broom: On Jan 5 I had my first 2009 record of this when I found it flowering both at Nore Barn and on the Warblington Farm area.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Fox: On Jan 8 one was seen trotting over the ice of the main lake at Farlington

Stoat: For one of the less expected photos of wildlife during the cold snap on Jan 6 see http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2009/01/06/icy-castle-water/#more-8062 which has photos of a Stoat and other creatures on the frozen surface of a pool at Rye Harbour

Seals: A group of 23 Common Seals had sought the shelter of the River Stour estuary banks at Pegwell Bay in Kent on Jan 4 - two of this year's pups were inquisitive enough to come within a few feet of the person who saw them. At Lymington the regular Grey Seal was seen on both Jan 4 and 7

Roe Deer: On Jan 7 when I visited north Thorney Island I saw, from the Wickor bank track, two Roe feeding in a field adjacent to Eames Farm and later, from the east end of Thornham Lane saw at least two (maybe four) more on the south bank of the Great Deeps.

Red Deer?: A birder at Shatterford in the New Forest (close to Beaulieu Road station) saw what he thought was a single Red Deer hind but the photo on his blog shows it was clearly a Roe doe. The most distinctive feature is the large unbroken white patch on its rump (this area is known to deer stalkers as its 'target' but hopefully they do not shoot it in the backside) with a separate tuft of white hair pointing down in the centre of this area. Sika Deer also have a bold white rump but with the black hair line along their spine continued down onto the tail, dividing the white patch. Fallow also have their white rump clearly divided into two by a black tail (and have a black line around the white patch) while Red Deer have a smaller, more buffish, patch on the rump, divided by a reddish brown tail. Two other pointers to the identity of the animal in this photo are the black nose and 'muzzle' and its being on its own - I think Red Deer are almost always found in 'bunches'.

Grey Squirrel: No more red, white or blue variants reported but on Jan 5 I saw one in Nore Barn at Emsworth on the ground with a mouthful of leaves which I assume it was taking to its winter drey to act as an extra 'duvet' for the coming sub-zero night.

Hare: One seen on Sheppey in the Thames estuary is the only one reported this week


To see Summaries for October to December 2008 go to OCT-DEC 2008 SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for July to September 2008 go to JUL-SEP 2008 SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for April to June 2008 go to APR-JUN 2008 SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for January to March 2008 go to JAN-MAR 2008 SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for October to December 2007 go to OCT-DEC 2007 SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for July to Sept 2007 go to JUL-SEP 2007 SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for April to June 2007 go to APR-JUN 2007 SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for Jan, Feb and Mar 2007 go to JAN-MAR 2007 SUMMARIES


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