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Wildlife diary and news for Mar 28 - Apr 3 (Week 13 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

The highlights below are followed by news of a wider range of species - both parts are arranged in four sections (Birds, Insects, Plants and Other Wildlife)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

Bird News highlights

Much of this week's news is taken up with reports of departing wildfowl and with details of all the summer migrant species that have reached us so far (including the first Cuckoo and Little Tern). A surprise is the arrival of Bee Eaters in the west country (will they breed again? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bee-eaters_in_Britain for previous attempts at breeding). Perhaps an even more unusual sighting was of a Red-flanked Bluetail at Durlston on Apr 2. Fnally we still have lots of Waxwings (even if two found dead at Hove have been sent off for post-mortems)

Insect News highlights

The first Grizzled Skipper (and the second Painted Lady) has been seen and lots of Orange Tips are now out.

More rare moths have been found to be relatively common in Sussex while Farlington Marshes has lots of tiny Brown-tail moth caterpillars now out of their winter tents

In the Other Insects section read how Dotted Bee-flies play 'blow football' to get their eggs into the nests of the mining bees which their larvae predate (and I discover that those mining bees can excavate tunnels that go down 60 cm into the ground). I also learn how male Pisaura mirablis try to get away with their lives when mating with the larger females - the secret is to feign death while holding a food offering in your mouth, then (having lured the female close with the food offering) get on with the job and get away before she finishes eating'

Plant News highlights

Rue-leaved Saxifrage is 'flowering plant of the week' but Early Spider Orchid is a contender for that title (and Common Spotted Orchid leaves have appeared at Emsworth

Other Wildlife News highlights

Two fungi in the news are an early find of the common St George's Mushroom three weeks early for St George's Day and a find of an uncommon fungus Gymnosporangium clavariiforme on Juniper

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Apr 2 brought a surge in departing winter birds passing Dungeness among them were 31 Red-throated and 9 Black-throated. Great Northern reports were all of singles (inlcuding one off Selsey Bill on Mar 29). On Mar 28 a White Billed Diver was seen in Orkney. The long staying Pacific Diver at Penzance has not been reported since Mar 14

Grebes: No reports of Red-necked since Mar 27 but 6 Slavonian and 5 Black-necked flew past Splash Point on Apr 2 (when 2 Black-necked were still in Portland Harbour). Locally one Great Crested was seen on the Slipper Mill pond at Emsworth on Mar 22 and again on Mar 27 (no indication of any intention to breed there)

Manx Shearwater: The first birds returning to southern British waters were 15 off Portland on Apr 1 with 7 there on Apr 2 (one bird had been seen on Feb 17 but no others until now)

Leach's Petrel: A report of one in Berkshire on April 1 sounds like an April Fool spoof to me but it was included in the RBA news for that day

Bittern: Singles reported this week at Titchfield Haven, Lodmoor, Rye Harbour and at Penzance in Cornwall

Night Heron: On Mar 27 a site in Belgium reported the presence of 17 birds

Little Egret: A partial night roost count at Langstone Mill Pond on Apr 1 recorded a minimum of 53 birds compared to 42 on Mar 17

Grey Heron: On Mar 28 there were already some young in 23 nests at the Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough and on Mar 30 the Heronry at Winchelsea was reported to have 17 nests (double the count for last year)

Purple Heron: On Apr 2 a Netherlands site reported 18 birds after the first report of the species back there on Mar 27

Black Stork: One seen in the Scillies on Apr 2 was the first I have heard of anywhere this year

Spoonbill: The single bird which turned up at Farlington Marshes on Mar 24 was still there on Apr 1. More have been arriving recently in Europe with 24 at a Belgian site on Mar 29 and 3 flying over the Lymington area on Apr 2 (probably the same 3 that were over the Isle of Wight on Apr 1 when 2 were at Saltash on the Devon Cornwall boundary)

Mute Swan: Still only two birds known to be nesting in the Hampshire area (Langstone Pond on the mainland and Fishery Pond on Hayling) but it seems these are early nesters as on Apr 1 the BBC were reporting that 31 nests at Abbotsbury was a significant increase on just two active nests there on the same date last year).

Black Swan: Brian Fellows visited the West Ashling pond (betweeen Emsworth and Chichester) on Mar 29 and found just two adult swans (apparently no young produced by them during the past winter)

Brent Goose: Very few migrants are still left along the English south coast (I could only see 64 on the Langstone South Moors shore on Apr 1). The tailing off in numbers passing Dungeness is recorded in the following recent figures - 1600 on Mar 26, 476 on Mar 29, 470 on Mar 30, 446 on Mar 31 and 169 on Apr 2.

Ruddy Shelduck: One was seen on Apr 2 at Mill Rythe on the east coast of Hayling Island - maybe the bird seen at West Wittering on Mar 17 after previously being seen there on Feb 12

Shoveler: Another indication of our departing winter wildfowl comes from counts of Shoveler passing Dungeness - 12 on Mar 27, 48 on Mar 29, 175 on Apr 2

Red-crested Pochard: A pair were seen at Ivy Lake (Chichester) on Apr 1

Scaup: Around 30 of these were at Abbotsbury in Dorset during Jan and Feb this year with only 8 left by Mar 17 and just 6 on Mar 28 since when none have been seen anywhere

Long-tailed Duck: One over the Netherlands on Mar 27 was the last I have heard of - last in southern England flew east past Titchfield Haven on Mar 26

Scoters: A final (?) surge of 2113 Common Scoter flew past Dungeness on Apr 2 along with |63 Velvet Scoters

Osprey: After the early report of 2 heading north east over Cornwall on Mar 18 I have picked up 19 reports from southern England including two sightings at Gutner point on Hayling on Mar 26 and 27. April sightings have been of one over Poole Harbour on Apr 1 and again on Apr 2, and one at Yarmouth (IoW) on Apr 2

Hobby: First was at Arne in Dorset on Mar 23 with one over the River Test near Southampton on Mar 31, another over the Charminster area of Bournemouth on Apr 1. Latest arrival flew in off the sea at Portland on Apr 2 (when another was seen in Belgium)

Peregrine: The pair nesting on Chichester cathedral laid their first egg on Mar 21 and had their full clutch of four by Mar 27

Grey Partridge: Two birds were seen in a field east of Prinsted (north east of Thorney Island) on Mar 22 and four were seen there on Mar 26. These were thought to be two pairs intending to nest but I somehow doubt they were entirely wild birds. Some years back I thought I was on the trail of a Grey Partridge on the Cobnor penninsula until I traced the calls to a 'hen coop' outside the back door of a farm cottage close to the approach road to the Cobnor Activities Centre and since then (during the five years I spent monitoring the wildlife on Great Idsworth Farm, north of Rowlands Castle) I witnessed a well meaning attempt to re-introduce Grey Partridges to the farm by the purchase and release of 50 birds, all of which had 'vanished' before the year was out. Nowadays I am of the opinion that any Grey Partridges seen in southern England (from which the native birds were driven by changes in agricultural practices which deprived the birds of the soft bodied insects which are necessary food for their young during the first few months of their life) are almost certain to have been cage-reared and puchased either to support the shooting on which some farmers are financially dependent or with the charitable intention of 'saving wildlife'. The introduction of 'beetle banks' running across fields and wider headlands around them does help breeding pairs to find the caterpillars to feed their young but does little to educate the adults in other aspects of survival in the wild which they might have learnt had they been hatched and reared in the wild.

Coot: The first newly hatched chicks were seen in a nest on one of the rafts of the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth on Apr 2

Stone Curlew: One was seen in daylight at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 28 and another was heard flying north in the dark over Worthing on Apr 2. These were the fifth and sixth birds for the year after the first seen at Martin Down on Feb 21

Long-billed Dowitcher: Still at Lodmoor on Apr 2

Little Gull: Spring passage continues to increase with counts on Apr 2 of 74 passing Dungeness and 42 at Splash Point, Seaford. This week's sightings include one at Fleet Pond, one at Ivy Lake (Chichester) , three at Sandy Point on Hayling and four at the Blashford Lakes

Common Tern: Since the first English sighting at Dungeness on Mar 26 these have now been seen at Sandy Point on Hayling and at Fleet Pond in north Hampshire and by Apr 2 the number at Dungeness was 38

Little Tern: First for the year was reported at Dungeness on Apr 2

Cuckoo: Three reports so far. On Mar 30 one was at Battle near Hastings and on Apr 2 one was in Ashdown Forest near Crowborough and another at Bolderwood in the New Forest

Short-eared Owl: The bird which arrived at Farlington Marshes on Mar 19 was still there on Apr 1

Bee Eater: On Apr 2 one was reported in the Scillies and another (?the same?) in Cornwall

Hoopoe: This week there was at least one in Devon and another at Portland while on Apr 2 one was in Sussex at Castle Hill north of Newhaven

Sand Martin: The first started to arrive around Feb 23 and they are now widespread and numerous with an estimated 200 over Ivy Lake at Chichester on Apr 2

Swallow: First to arrive in England was on Mar 12 and now Apr 2 brings news of 775 at a Netherlands site

Red-rumped Swallow: First for the year were one in Cornwall and anther in Ireland, both on Apr 2

House Martin: First was at Fleet Pond on Mar 13 and only 13 reports up to Apr 2

Tree Pipit: First was in Belgium on Mar 24 - only two so far in England (Ashdown Forest on Mar 29 and New Forest on Apr 2)

Yellow Wagtail: First reached England on Mar 15 and so far only 7 reports from England

Waxwing: Still 27 new reports this week with Poole having two flocks totalling 140 birds on Apr 2. Other flocks seen in April were at Hove (Brighton), Horsham, Fleet in north Hampshire, a garden centre in Pulborough, Ivy Lake at Chichester, Worthing, and Hedge End (Southampton). Following reports of birds falling down dead at Hove two of these birds are being sent off for post-mortems

White-spotted Bluethroat: One in the Scillies on Mar 25 (after one in the Netherlands on Mar 21)

Red-flanked Bluetail: One at Durlston on Apr 2 and 3 was only the second ever record for Dorset (first was in 1993) and the more unusual for being here in spring rather than autumn. Only 20 previous sightings in Britain, latest were at Houghton Forest in Sussex 0n Mar 4, Dungeness on Nov 16 2010 and at Sandy Point (Hayling) on Oct 23 2010

Common Redstart: 13 reports so far: first was in Kent on Mar 26 and by Apr 2 there were sightings at Ashdown Forest, New Forest, Hayling Oysterbeds, Christchurch Harbour and Pagham Harbour

Whinchat: Just two reports: one in the New Forest on Mar 26 and the second at Climping (between Bognor and Littlehampton) on Mar 28

Wheatear: First arrival on Feb 12 in the New Forest with numbers increasing to 120 at Portland on Mar 23

Ring Ouzel: First was at Portland on Mar 20 and on Apr 2 the latest of 19 reports were of 3 at Portland and 4 at Dungeness

Fieldfare: Last sighting so far was of one on south Hayling on Mar 30

Redwing: Lst report from southern England was of 25 at Dungeness on Mar 30 but Apr 2 brought a report of 1478 at a Netherlands site

Sedge Warbler: The first was singing at Rye Harbour on Mar 28 and since then they have been reported at north Devon, Lodmoor, Pagham Harbour and Farlington Marshes (six on Apr 2)

Reed Warbler: Just two reports so far - one at Hook/Warsash (two birds) on Apr 2 and probably the same birds further up the Hamble river at Swanwick on Apr 3

Lesser Whitethroat: One was reported singing at Freshwater (IoW) on Mar 23 but no further reports (they normally arrive in mid-April)

Blackcap: First definite report of a new arrival was at Folkestone on Mar 12

Chiffchaff: Probable first migrant arrival on Mar 11

Willow Warbler: First arrivals on Mar 20

Pied Flycatcher: Just one report of two birds back near their nest boxes in Devon's Yarner Wood on Mar 27

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Grizzled Skipper: First for the year at Shoreham Mill Hill on Apr 2

Brimstone: Only three reports this week

Large White: A fourth report for the year on Apr 2 at Henfield (Sussex) after other singles on Mar 1 (Hants), Mar 18 (Kent) and Mar 27 (Hants)

Small White: Three reports this week

Green Veined White: Four reports so far on Mar 26 (first for year near Eastbourne), Mar 28 (Brighton), Apr 1 (Brook meadow at Emsworth) and Apr 2 (Haywards Heath)

Orange Tip: First for the year was on Mar 23 in Sussex and on Apr 1 Emsworth had its first (15th for the year) and on Apr 2 the village of Five Oaks near Horsham had 11 on the wing

Holly Blue: First was seen on Mar 20 at Arundel and Brook Meadow at Emworth had the third on Mar 23. We now have an eighth report on Mar 28 (I have included one reported in Devon on Mar 27 as a 'Common Blue')

Red Admiral: Only two reports this week

Painted Lady: Second report for the year comes from Abbots Wood near Eastbourne on Apr 2 (as with the first at Titchfield on Feb 14 this was almost certainly an insect emerging from hibernation rather than a migrant)

Small Tortoiseshell: Still doing well this year with another 8 reports this week (including 10 seen at Gosport on Mar 27) bringing the total of reports so far to 69

Peacock: More than 30 were seen at a Devon site on Mar 27 to bring the year total to 39 reports

Comma: Three more reports this week

Speckled Wood: Now starting to emerge seriously with four reports on Mar 27, 28 and 29

Moths

Pancalia leuwenhoekella and Pancalia schwarzella: Two rare micros seen at Shoreham Mill Hill on Mar 28 - see Graeme Lyons account of them at http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.com/ (you have to scroll down to 'older posts' before reaching his entry for Mar 29 but it is worth doing so)

Pyrausta despicata: Also recorded at Mill Hill on Mar 29 two weeks earlier than expected

The Streamer: First for the year in Sussex on Mar 29

Barred Tooth-striped: First at Lewes on Mar 27

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Numbers four and five for the year coming out of hibernation in Sussex on Mar 23 and 26

Brown-tail moth: A 'good' showing of their caterpillars around Farlington marshes on Mar 28

Muslin Moth: First at Worthing on Apr 2

Powdered Quaker: First in Sussex on Mar 29

Tawny Pinion: First in Kent on Mar 30

Small Purple-barred: Another first at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Mar 29

Other insects

Dotted Bee-fly: See http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2011/03/27/dotted-bee-fly-3/#more-14726 for Brian Banks' account of the Dotted Bee-flies which this year are common in his Northiam garden near Hastings. I learnt from this how the flies get their eggs into the nests of the mining bees which they parasitise. The technique is to lay their eggs on bare ground near the entrance to a mining bee tunnel, then to use the down draught from their wings to blow the eggs into the tunnel. See my correction to this entry at the end of this Other Insects section

Yellow-dung flies: These had first been reported at Rye Harbour on Mar 8 but I did not come across them until Apr 1 when young cattle were turned out to graze the Langstone South Moors and the flies were abundant on the fresh cow-pats

Mining Bees: The Havant wildlife group walk on Apr 2 was at Nutbourne and during it they came on a colony of mining bees actively digging their tunnels - they also got a photo of one of the bees which was thought to be one of the Andrena species and my comparison of this photo with one I found at http://www.omlet.co.uk/breeds/breeds.php?breed_type=Bees&breed=Mining%20Bees suggested the species might be Andrena carantonica (a species not in my Michael Chinery book but said to be common at this time of year). For further info on this species see http://www.gardensafari.net/en_picpages/andrena_carantonica.htm Another thing that surprised me during this investigation was that the Bumblebee Conservation Society website tells us that these mining bee tunnels can be as much as 60 cm deep (some digging!)

Oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus): The first find of one for the year is reported on the Devon Birding website at a site near Plymouth on Mar 27

Spiders: Several species now becoming mature and attracting attention. At Brook Meadow in Emsworth Brian Fellows found a Nursery Tent spider (Pisaura mirabilis) on Apr 1 and aroused my curiosity when he pointed out something that I did not know, namely that when you see a female walking around with her eggsac held under her abdomen between her long legs she is actually holding it in place with the 'fangs' at the tip of her 'chelicerae' which she she uses to grasp her prey and inject them with poison through the fangs. This must mean that she abstains from food during the period when she is carrying her egg-sac prior to hanging it up in her 'nursery tent'. Another new piece of knowledge about the males of this species came from Wikipaedia - I was aware that most male spiders are much smaller than the females (in this species they are 10 to 12 mm long whle the females are 12 to 15 mm long) and that the males are often eaten by the females during the mating process but Wikipaedia says .. "Males of this species offer food gifts to potential female mates. Some Pisaura mirabilis have also been observed to feign death, remaining still while holding the food gift in their mouths. When the female approaches and tries to take the food away, the male springs back to life and attempts to mate. The strategy of playing dead more than doubles a male's odds of successfully achieving copulation, from 40% to 89%" - in other words he gets on with his job while the female still has her mouth full and may get away with his life before she has finished eating.

Four more Spider species described by Chris Bentley on the Rye Bay website (entry for Mar 28) are .. "Phrurolithus festivus (The Pretty Ant Spider - great name!), Neon pictus and today several other jumping spiders, incuding Heliophanus flavipes, Euophrys frontalis, and best of all, Sitticus inexpectus, another species which, while not common nationally, is fairly regular at Rye Harbour."

Correction re Bee-Flies to my Weekly Summary for Week 13

When preparing my Weekly Summary last Sunday my imagination ran away with itself after reading an entry for Mar 27 on the Rye Bay website by Brian Banks about Dotted Bee-flies. Brian's intention was to help people to identify the species by pointing out that the dots on the wings (easy enough to see when the insect is at rest) become impossible to see when the fly takes off but even then you can identify the species by the black band around the tip of its abdomen which contrasts with the rich brown of the front of the abdoment.

He then added a paragraph which excited my imagination and led me to talk about the Flies 'playing Blow Football with their eggs' and he has asked me to point out that he never wrote anything to justify this incorrect fanciful idea.

Brian has now supplied me with a correct account of how the Fly's eggs are sent on a path which may or may not cause them to reach the Bee larvae which they predate. He says .. "The egg laying behaviour of the bee flies is summarised in the book “British soldierflies and their allies” by Alan Stubbs and Martin Drake. These insects land on bare earth and fill a chamber at the end of the body (the sand chamber) with small particles of soil. The minute eggs are coated with this material before they are flicked out onto the ground, using an ovipositor spine while the insect is hovering over suitable egg laying sites. The particles of soil may make the eggs heavier and easier to be accurately aimed when flicked. The eggs are laid on suitable looking ground where bees are likely to nest, rather than directly into the burrows, and they frequently lay eggs before bees actually start to make their nest tunnels."

Pursuing this new information Google took me to a photo (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/roly2008/4558070861/ taken at Durlston in Dorset) which shows the ovipositor at the back of the Bee-fly and the accompanying text says .. "Although it looks like this bee fly has a bad case of piles I am pretty certain the swollen behind is for egg laying as this one kept dipping down onto the ground in the same way as a dragonfly dips the surface of a pond while laying." (I presume the apparent absence of a forward pointing proboscis in this photo is a matter of it being out of focus in this shot and I must resist letting my imagination run away with the idea of the proboscis being a detachable item of the insect's anatomy which can be taken off the front end and plugged in to the back end when needed as an ovipositor!!!)

Yet another account of the egg-laying process is provided by the 'Bugs and Weeds' website. See http://www.bugsandweeds.co.uk/flies%20p2.html which says that the Bee-fly lays its eggs on the ground where they hatch out and the new-born larva which emerges makes its own way to and down the Mining-bee tunnel (and at the end of its underground development has to 'head-butt' its way out - no doubt swearing like Wayne Rooney as it does so!) Note that this link takes you to the top of a long page of fly species and you have to scroll down a long way to find the 'Bee Fly' section - alternatively you can use CTRL + F to find the words 'Bee Fly' and then scroll down the Bee Fly entry

Just one final reference - Brian Banks told us that prior to egglaying the Bee-fly scoops sand into a special chamber at the rear of her abdomen and that this sand sticks to her eggs to make them heavier (and so less likely to be blown away from the place where they land after laying?). Photos showing this behaviour can be seen at http://www.wildaboutbritain.co.uk/forums/insects-and-invertebrates/52016-curious-bee-fly-behavior.html

Apologies for a lengthy correction but at least I now know a lot more about Bee Flies.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Great Horsetail: Fertile cones had started to appear on Warblington Farm on Apr 1

Marsh Marigold: The number at the Langstone South Moors had increased substantially to more than 64 plants, some of them having 30 or more flowers, by Apr 1 Other sites are also doing well

Medium flowered (or Intermediate) winter cress (Barbarea intermedia): This is likely to be the species which Brian Fellows found coming into flower near West Ashling on Apr 1

Cuckoo Flower: First report of flowering had been near Alton in east Hampshire on Mar 23 - it was then seen at Henfield on Mar 27, in Emsworth on Mar 30 and at the South Moors at Langstone on Apr 1

Garlic Mustard: This started widespread flowering from Mar 29

Honesty: First seen flowering in Havant on Mar 28

Great Stitchwort: First flowers found in the Locks Farm area of Havant on Mar 29

Herb Robert: First flowers found by the Havant Willdife Group at Nutbourne on Apr 2

Round-leaved Cranesbill: This species is spreading in the Havant area and I found a plant in flower on Apr 1

Spotted Medick: First flowers found in Emsworth on Mar 28 with others in Havant on Mar 29

Hawthorn: A single flower open on a tree in Havant on Apr 1

Rue-leaved Saxifrage: Started to flower in Havant on April 1 (photos on my Diary page)

Norway Maple: Bright yellow flowers seen on these trees from Mar 28

Silver Birch: First catkins seen in Havant on Apr 2

Hemlock: Just one of thousands of leafy plants had flowers on Mar 28 at Broadmarsh in Havant

Wild Angelica: An unconfirmed report of this flowering at Nutbourne on Apr 2

Oxford Ragwort: First flowers seen in Havant on Apr 2

Smooth Sowthistle: First flowers at Langstone on Mar 28

Spanish Bluebell: First flowers seen in Emsworth on Mar 28

Lords and Ladies: Sheathed spikes appeared on Apr 1 - none yet flowering

Early Spider Orchid: First flowers reported at Durlston on Mar 20

Common Spotted Orchid: Leaves seen at Emsworth (Brook Meadow) on Apr 1

OTHER WILDLIFE

Water Vole: Spring weather and plant growth has brought a significant increase in the number of sightings at Brook Meadow in Emsworth where (on Apr 1 but no hoax) one was seen nibbling a nettle. I can vouch for young nettle leaves also making an enjoyable addition to human meals (providing that only the topmost leaves are picked and then boiled they are quite as tasty, and a lot less expensive, than Spinach). Also this week on the Rye Bay website Kelly Payne of the National Trust staff at Winchelsea reported .. "2011 is the year of our Water Vole habitat management trial along one of the ditches just west of New Gate, Winchelsea. After completing vegetation management in February, creating a wiggly channel of open water with scalloped “bays”, the electric fence went live on 10th March. This will protect the bank from trampling and poaching by livestock and leave the voles a wider strip of grass to feed on. Their activity will be monitored from next month. " I wonder if we will see electric fencing used at Brook Meadow to keep livestock (in this case humans and their dogs) away from the voles.

Slow Worms: The first report I have seen of Slow Worms coming out of hibernation this year was on Mar 20 in Hollybank Woods at Emsworth. A couple of days later a couple were seen at Bovey Heath in Dorset and on Mar 28 three more were seen at |Northiam in East Kent. The first indication that I see of their presence in my garden is when the local Magpies start to take an interest in the long grass, watching it intently then dashing in to grab a Slow Worm that they have detected.

Fungi: On Apr 2 I found a fresh clump of four St George's Mushrooms in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery - see my Diary page for photos. These were three week's early for St George's Day on Apr 23. A much less common fungus was brought to my attention this week in Graeme Lyons blog at http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.com/

His entry for Mar 31 has a picture of Gymnosporangium clavariiforme on Juniper at Stockbridge Down (west of Winchester) - this species was new to Graeme and contributed a tick to his personal 'pan species life list' for which his current ambition is to reach 4,000 species (so far he has reached 3,200 and he can find out more about this list in his blog


Wildlife diary and news for Mar 21 - 27 (Week 12 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

The highlights below are followed by news of a wider range of species - both parts are arranged in four sections (Birds, Insects, Plants and Other Wildlife)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

Bird News highlights

Langstone Swan on nest on Mar 25

White-tailed Sea Eagle seen again on Mar 24 (after its departure on Mar 17!)

Goshawks have 18 territories in the New Forest

New migrant arrivals in England are Hobby in Dorset on Mar 23, Whinchat in he New Forest on Mar 26, Ring Ouzel at Portland on Mar 20, Lesser Whitethoat on the Isle of Wight on Mar 23, a Quail in the Scillies on Mar 14 and Tree Pipits had reached Belgium on Mar 24

The main arrival of Common Terns started on Mar 26 and of Yellow Wagtails on Mar 20

A Curlew Sandpiper was at Pett Level on Mar 25

Insect News highlights

First Green-veined White in Sussex on Mar 26 and a second Large White in Kent on Mar 18.

Orange Tips have been out since Mar 23 and Holly Blues since Mar 20

Small Tortoiseshell doing well with 34 reports this week

A second Speckled Wood was seen on Mar 22 after one on Mar 4

Lots of 'first for the year' moth reports include a Hummingbird Hawkmoth out of hibernation at Stansted House on Mar 20 and a Silver Y migrant at Portland on Mar 20

Among the Other Insect News the account of a Stylopid parasite on an Andrena bee is fascinating

Plant News highlights

This week brought the first Larch Roses, Cuckoo Flowers, Bulbous Buttercup, Garlic Mustard and English Scurvygrass while a new site for the rare Shepherd's Cress was discovered by accident on a Hayling roadside

A count of Butterbur flower spikes at Emsworth shows that the colony is growing rapidly and this year had 859 flowering plants

Grasses and Sedges get their first mention for the year

Other Wildlife highlights

An interesting photo of a Deer Tick on a Common Lizard leads to infirmation on the effects of Lyme Disease

There is also a link to a photo of a dozen Grass Snakes emerging from communal hibernation

In addition to the first report of Minke Whale in English water we have news of Dolphins not only in English waters but also some in the South Atlantic

A white coated Roe Deer has been seen in West Sussex and a Stoat in Kent was seen showing off his jumping, diving and swimming abilities

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: All three common species still being seen in the channel but no large numbers now. No mention of the Pacific Diver off Cornwall since Mar 14 so I guess it has departed

Grebes: Great Crested still to be seen in winter mode on the sea this week - more than 100 were moving east off Rustington (Worthing area) on Mar 22 and 200+ were off Saltdean near Brighton on Mar 19. One of those on the move was seen on the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth on Mar 22 but did not stay. Red-necked were still in the Channel on Mar 26 when one was off Dungeness and five were off the Netherlands. A few Slavonian were seen at seven sites this week, including one in Hayling Bay on Mar 18 and three off Splash Point at Seaford on Mar 25. Black-necked were also at seven sites with one still at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 25 and 6 in Torbay (Devon) on Mar 26 while Swanage still had 14 on Mar 19

Bittern: One was still at Marazion (Penzance) in Cornwall on Mar 25 and one at Rye Harbour on Mar 26. On Mar 21 one that intends to stay in Kent to breed was heard booming from the Walland Marsh east of Rye. Other reports this week came from the Dungeness RSPB site and from both Radipole and Lodmoor at Weymouth

Little Egret: The high tide roost at Langstone Pond on Mar 25 held 21 birds mostly adorned with long and beautiful breeding plumes

Great White Egret: One seen at Titchfield Haven on Mar 26 was the first to be reported there this year

Spoonbill: One which was at the Selsey West Fields on Mar 21 seems to have moved to the Deeps at Farlington Marshes and has been seen there from Mar 24 to 26

Mute Swan: Other than the bird which settled to nest at Lakeside on south east Hayling on Mar 17 the only other one I know to be on its nest is at Langstone Pond where I saw it on Mar 25

Whitefront Goose: Perhaps the last significant report of winter geese came in a count of 11,324 at a Netherlands site on Mar 20

Brent Goose: Small flocks of up to 50 birds can still be seen in Langstone and Chichester Harbours but I suspect the birds are different each day and are just stopping off for no more than a day before continuing their eastward movement during the night. Where they all come from I do not know but Dungeness was still recording 1600 passing on Mar 26 with 700 on Mar 25. What was probably the last major departure occurred on Mar 19 when 5650 went past Dungeness with another 2514 seen from the French coast

Garganey: 11 reports this week include 2 birds at Yarmouth (IoW) on Mar 23, a pair at the Selsey west fields on Mar 21 and three birds at the Dungeness RSPB site on Mar 20. Latest news is of singles at two different Devon sites on Mar 25

Shoveler: No recent reports from England a wave of departing birds were seen on the continent - on Mar 23 a French site had 191, then on Mar 24 a Belgian site had 241 and on Mar 25 a Netherlands site had 324

Scaup: These were still being seen in southern England this week with four at Lymington on Mar 17 (and 19), three at Rye Harbour on Mar 20 when two were at Pagham Lagoon. On Mar 22 five were at Lodmoor and on Mar 25 there were six at Abbotsbury and one at the Blashford Lakes on both Mar 25 and 26

Long-tailed Duck: A female was last seen in Devon at Torbay on Mar 21 and a female (maybe the same bird) flew east by Dungeness on Mar 26

Smew: No new reports since Mar 19

Goosander: 30 were still at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 19 and 7 were at Tundry Pond near Fleet on Mar 20 but the only report since then was af two at the Longham Lakes on the northern fringe of Poole on Mar 25 (these possibly intending to stay and breed in the Avon valley area)

White-tailed Sea Eagle: After an apparently clear report of the Basingstoke bird leaving on Mar 17 there was an unexpected report of it over the Cheriton area near Winchester on Mar 20 and then another report of it back over Basingstoke but flying east on Mar 24

Hen Harrier: Up to nine birds seem to have been in the New Forest on the weekend of Mar 19/20 but none seen since

Goshawk: No news so far of nest cameras showing Goshawks breeding in the New Forest but on Mar 22 Lee Evans told us he had heard of 18 occupied territories there this year.

Common Buzzard: No shortage of them here but even more were being seen on the continent this week as birds fly north back to territories they had to vacate during the winter. The following numbers were reported this week (mainly from Germany) - 393 on Mar 20, 267 on Mar 21, and 534 on Mar 22. During the New Forest survey over the weekend of Mar 19/20 a total of 103 Buzzards were seen at 26 sites.

Golden Eagle: A bird of this species was reported in Cornwall each day from Mar 20 to 24, each time in a different area. The first report indicated that the bird may have been around since the beginning of March. This could well be an escaped falconer's bird but so far we have had no clue as to its origin

Osprey: After a report of two birds heading north over Cornwall on Mar 18 two more were seen over Rutland Water on Mar 25 and on Mar 26 one settled on a post at Gutner Point (east coast of Hayling Island) to eat a fish it had just caught.

Hobby: The first and so far only report is of one in the Arne area of Dorset on Mar 23

Quail: A very early arrival of one in the Scillies on Mar 14 has only just been reported

Common Crane: None straying into English airspace this week but plenty arriving back in the Low Countries with a peak of 553 in Belgium on Mar 21

Avocet: The count at Titchfield Haven was up by one to 18 on Mar 23 and 2 were at Sidlesham Ferry on Mar 24 but that day brought a peak movement on the continent with 461 seen at a Belgian site

Stone Curlew: Fourth report of a migrant arrival came on the evening of Mar 21 when one was heard flying over Christchurch in Dorset in the dark

Little Ringed Plover: Arrival of these migrants is warming up with nine reports this week including one at The Kench (south Hayling) on Mar 19, two at the Selsey west fields on Mar 20, one at Farlington Marshes on Mar 21 and one at Rye Harbour on Mar 26

Curlew Sandpiper: A winter plumage bird at Pett Level on Mar 25 was the first news of one in southern England this year

Woodcock: A good number of birds that have wintered here are currently returning to the continent - at least two this week were seen in gardens on the Sussex coast

Black-tailed Godwit: The first news of them at Titchfield Haven for the year comes this week with 100 there on Mar 19 and 170 on Mar 20

Bar-tailed Godwit: Their spring passage up the English Channel is starting with 35 at Dungeness on Mar 26

Whimbrel: A report of 14 at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 20 was not confirmed but on Mar 23 Dungeness reported 8 passing and singles flew past Folkestone on Mar 25 with further singles on Mar 26 at Seaford and Farlington Marshes

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth was last seen on Mar 19 and the number at Lymington declined from 6 on Mar 20 to 4 on Mar 21 and 2 on Mar 26. One was still at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 25

Green Sandpiper: One was at Budds Farm in Havant on Mar 26

Common Sandpiper: Reports of one at Waltham Brooks (Pulborough) and two at the Lower Test Marshes (Southampton) were probably of birds that have been wintering here.

Med Gull: As the numbers build up at their breeding sites there were 240 at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 21 (these will probably nest on the nearby RSPB Islands) and 280 at Rye Harbour (already at their nest sites)

Little Gull: Dungeness had 120 passage birds on Mar 26 when there were 17 at Splash Point (Seaford) and 8 inland at Fleet Pond (probably birds going overland via the Thames valley).

Common Gull: Numbers have already dropped of at south coast sites but on Mar 26 around 400 were seen among sheep on the Sussex Downs at Steyning

Sandwich Tern: There were more than 130 at Rye Harbour on Mar 19 and by Mar 26 Rye Harbour had 200 while Dungeness had 580 passing birds

Common Tern: Although there had been reports of early arrivals in Cornwall and at the Ouse Washes the main body of migrants started to arrive this week with 5 at Dungeness and 1 at Splash Point both on Mar 26. Singles had been seen in the Netherlands on Mar 23 and 25

Puffin: One was unexpectedly seen at Seaford on Mar 20

Short-eared Owl: One was seen at Farlington Marshes from Mar 21 to 26 at least

Kingfisher: A pair were nest building at Radipole (Weymouth) on Mar 24

Hoopoe: The Portland bird of last week was last seen there on Mar 17 but I think there were at least two birds still in Cornwall up to the end of this week

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: This seems to have been a good spring for seeing these birds but I have not kept details of the many sightings reported

Sand Martin: Lots have already arrived and have been checking out their breeding cliffs.

Swallow: A steady arrival now with 18 per hour coming in at Portland on Mar 21

House Martin: Seven new reports this week but no sighting of more than two birds so far

Tree Pipit: First two arrivals in Belgium on Mar 24 and 25 but none in England so far

Meadow Pipit: Moving north in hundreds all week - highest count of 1260 at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 24

Yellow Wagtail: After the first to reach England on Mar 15 Portland had three on Mar 20

Waxwing: Still 16 reports this week from Hampshire, Dorset and Sussex (plus one bird in Cornwall on Mar 23). Dorset had 50 in the Bournemouth area on Mar 24, Hampshire had 22 at Fleet on Mar 17 and Sussex had 28 at Hove on Mar 26. Locally there were 10 in a Chichester carpark on Mar 23 and 9 at the Knowle site near Fareham on Mar 17

Dipper: One was seen as close to Hampshire as Wareham in Dorset on Mar 20

Robin: At least one brood had fledged in Sussex on Mar 20 while migrants continue to be seen at Portland (see http://www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk/aa_latestnews.htm for a photo of two held in one hand - the one with the greyer plumage is a continental bird and the one with a richer brown colour is a British bird)

Whinchat: The first arrival was seen at Acres Down in the New Forest on Mar 26

Wheatear: Highest count of arrivals this week was 120 at Portland on Mar 23. Locally there were 11 in the Hayling Bay area on Mar 26

Ring Ouzel: The first three reports for the year were on Mar 20 - one in the Netherlands, one in Cornwall and one at Portland. The first for Hampshire was at Southamptonn Lower Test Marshes on Mar 26 and Sussex has no arrivals so far

Dartford Warbler: One got onto my personal yearlist on Mar 23 when I was on south Hayling

Lesser Whitethroat: One was singing at Freshwater (IoW) on Mar 23 - presumably a new arrival though the species can winter here (one was seen in the Ramsgate area of Kent onJan 28). Another report came from Ireland on Mar 24 and this was thought to be a subspecies (Sylvia curruca halimodendri) from central Asia

Willow Warbler: 16 reports this week include one of two birds singing at Sinah gravel pit lake on Mar 26 and two more at the Lower Test Marshes that day

Great Grey Shrike: Seen at some ten sites this week as our wintering birds have been joined by others moving north after wintering on the continent

Chaffinch: Huge numbers have been on the move this week with close on 7000 moving north at the South Foreland in Kent on Mar 19 and over 15,000 going north in Belgium on Mar 25

Brambling: A flock of 150 was at Cadman's Pool in the New Forest on Mar 20 and there were still 21 in a Chandlers Ford garden near Eastleigh on Mar 24

Linnet: Many have already returned to their breeding sites in southern England but Portland was still able to count 135 coming in off the sea in a 75 minute period on Mar 26

Lapland Bunting: Although the winter flocks have now left us there were isolated late singles seen at Durlston on Mar 18, in the Stubbington area south of Fareham on Mar 20, at Farlington Marshes on Mar 21 (probably the Stubbington bird) and at Seaford also on Mar 21.

Snow Bunting: Similar 'late singles' were in Cornwall on Mar 21 and at Hook/Warsash on Mar 24

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: Numerous everywhere

Large White: One had been reported in the Southampton area on Mar 11 but no others have been reported until Mar 18 when one was seen at Folkestone in Kent

Small White: Nine reports this week

Green-veined White: One seen at Herstmonceux near Eastbourne on Mar 26 is the only report so far

Orange Tip: Ten reports of males seen this week after appearing at three sites on Mar 23

Holly Blue: Five reports from Hampshire and Sussex following the first at Arundel on Mar 20 and another at Ryde (IoW) on Mar 21. Brook Meadow at Emsworth came in with the third for the year on Mar 23 and it was followed by one at Clanfield (south of Petersfield) on Mar 26

Red Admiral: Only three reports this week

Small Tortoiseshell: 34 reports for this week (and 61 for the year to date) seems to reflect a genuine recovery in the numbers of this species. Highest counts have been 12 at Rye Harbour on Mar 22 and 13 at Hastings on Mar 25

Peacock: Widespread reports

Comma: Also widespread

Speckled Wood: One had been seen in Southampton on Mar 4 and now another is reported at Rye Harbour on Mar 22

Moths

Adela cuprella: A new species for me was reported in the Fleet area on Mar 24 - it is probably as common as the other tiny Longhorn Moths which cluster around bushes at this time of year but this species holds its meetings around tree tops

Light Brown Apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana): The first of these very common moths was reported in Kent (Thanet) on Mar 23

Lichen Button (Acleris literana): Another first in Thanet om Mar 22

Light Orange Underwing (Archiearis notha): A close relative of the common Orange Underwing for which have had seven reports this week the Light Orange Underwing was considered a rarity in Sussex (not seen there for 26 years!) until this week when one was found in the Brede Woods in East Sussex. Spurred by this find Graeme Lyons went to the West Sussex reserve near Pulborough called The Mens and found half a dozen of them. It would seem that their rarity has been due to the need to net them before they can be separated from the common species. See http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.com/ for Graeme's account of his find (and some other interesting reports)

Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata): Another first from Thanet on Mar 23

Early Thorn (Selenia dentaria): A first at Edburton in West Sussex on Mar 23

Small Brindled Beauty (Apocheima hispidaria): A first at Henfield on Mar 23

Brindled Beauty (Lycia hirtaria): An out of area first at Aberystwyth in Wales on Mar 25

The Engrailed (Ectropis bistortata): First at Thanet on Mar 22

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: A local first nectaring on Pansies at the Stansted Garden Centre near Chichester on Mar 20 - presumably this insect had hibernated there and was not an early migrant

Pine Beauty (Panolis flammea): A first at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 23

Blossom Underwing (Orthosia miniosa): Another first at Pulborough on Mar 23

Lead-coloured Drab (Orthosia populeti): A first at Henfield on Mar 22

Early Grey (Xylocampa areola): First near Eastbourne on Mar 26

Dotted Chestnut (Conistra rubiginea): First at Pulborough on Mar 22

Silver Y (Autographa gamma): First of this migrant species at Portland on Mar 20

Other Insects

Bee Fly: The first were seen on Mar 20 at Emsworth Hollybank Woods, Rye Harbour and Henfield with others seen the next day on Portsdown, in Emsworth and at Sandwich Bay

Stylopid parasite on Andrena bee species: On Mar 25 the RX website had this entry from Chris Bentley who said "Yesterday, Colin Boyd sent me a couple of pictures, taken in his garden in Sedlescombe on the 23rd of this month, with a request to identify the ‘passenger’ on this Andrena bee. I think I may have swore then, as this is an insect I have never seen alive in over 25 years as an entomologist! It is a male stylopid, a member of a small order of insects with a bizarre and complicated lifecycle. If you know where to look, there is also a female in this picture - the red blob at the end of the males abdomen is the tip of the legless, wingless and antennaless female with which he is mating!" See http://www.amentsoc.org/insects/fact-files/orders/strepsiptera.html for fuller information about these tiny parasites and their strange lives (when the males emerge they chase after bees and sniff at their backend to see if one of the Stylopid females is already inside the bee and then mate with her - if she is not discovered by a male she will still produce viable young!) The RX web entry with the photos can be seen at http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2011/03/25/the-passenger/#more-14716

White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum): First seen at Durlston on Mar 22 and one in my garden on Mar 27

Red-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lapidarius): First reported at Durlston on Mar 24

Green Tiger Beetle (Cicindela campestris): First report from Bovey Heath in Devon on Mar 23

Eyed Ladybird (Anatis ocellata): First report from Peasmarsh near Hastings on Mar 19

Pine ladybird (Exochomus quadripustulatus): First report from Peasmarsh near Hastings on Mar 19

Bloody Nosed Beetle (Timarcha tenebricosa): Pair mating at Durlston on Mar 26

Whirligig Beetle (Gyrinus natator): First sighting in the Westbrook Stream at Emsworth on Mar 24

Common Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina): First in Newhaven area on Mar 19

Gorse Shield Bug (Piezodorus lituratus): First on heathland in the Fleet area on Mar 23

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis): Second report of the species for the year at Sandwich Bay on Mar 23 (after John Goodspeed's finding of one in his bath on Feb 9 - presumably roused from hibernation in his house earlier than normal)

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

European Larch: First sighting on green needles and blood red Larch Roses on a mature tree in Havant on Mar 25

Bulbous Buttercup: First flower at Langstone on Mar 25

Cuckoo Flower: First report of flowers from the Alton area on Mar 23

Garlic Mustard: First flower in Havant on Mar 24

Shepherd's Cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis): First flowers discovered by chance on Mar 23 at a previously unknown roadside site on South Hayling

English Scurvygrass: First flowers seen near the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 23 with more in flower at Nore Barn at Emsworth on Mar 24

Hairy Violet: First report of flowering was at Durlston on Mar 12 - I did not see any until Mar 21 when they were abundant on Portsdown and included a large clump of pure white flowers

Greater Stitchwort: Probably flowering by this weekend in the Locks farm area of Havant where I photographed flower buds close to opening on Mar 24

Sea Mouse-ear: This abundant flower on the south Hayling sandy shore had started to flower when I was there on Mar 23

Black Medick: A plant in full flower discovered at Havant on Mar 24

Hornbeam: First open catkins seen in the Langstone area on Mar 23

Basford Willow: Had started to flower at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 25

Wild Cowslips: First flowers reported at Durlston on Mar 18 and seen on Portsdown on Mar 23

Butterbur: The colony of male flowers at Brook Meadow in Emsworth continues to grow - this year Brian Fellows counted 859 flower spikes on Mar 23

Wild Daffodil: The colony in the West Dean Woods near Chichester was in full flower on Mar 17

Sedges and Grasses: Greater Pond Sedge was starting to flower at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 25 and by Mar 27 the 'Good Friday Grass' (Luzula campestris or Field Wood-rush) was in flower on my Havant Lawn. On Mar 23 Upright Brome was ready to flower on Portsdown and if you visit Graeme Lyon's blog in pursuit of his report of Light Orange Underwing moths you can scroll down to his photo of Bulbous Meadow Grass seen at Woodvale, Brighton (near the crematorium on the Lewes Road)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Stoat: A good observation at Reculver on the north Kent coast where a Stoat was seen hunting along one side of a water channel, then stopping beside some reeds, standing up on its hind legs for a look round before jumping over the reeds, diving into the water and swimming across to continue hunting on the far side

Bottle nosed Dolphin: This week brought the first reported sightings of the species in the English Channel. First report was of 35 Dolphins off Spain on Mar 19 with another 4 seen from Portland that day, then 15 seen off Swanage on Mar 22. For more exotic news of Dolphins check out Steve Copsey's entries in the Three Amigos Blog ( http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo ). He is on board HMS York now in the south Atlantic and on Mar 26 he has photos of Striped Dolphins and if you scroll back to his entry on Mar 22 he has more marine life with pictures of Flying Fish being caught by Gannet-like Masked Boobies

Porpoises, Common Dolphins and a Minke Whale: All these are reported in this week's news with Porpoises off Devon and Folkestone, Common Dolphins off Dorset and Devon, and a Minke Whale getting its first report on Mar 19 when it was seen of the north east coast of England at Whitburn in Co Durham

Common Seal: On Mar 24 one had swam up the Sussex Ouse half way to Lewes to be seen at Piddinghoe

Roe Deer: Further confirmation of their presence close to Brook Meadow at Emsworth came with a sighting on Mar 24 of two in fields beside Lumley Mill Lane which follows the Ems north from Brook Meadow to Westbourne - the lane offers a short and unimpeded route to the Meadow for a nighttime foray. Another interesting report came from the Arundel area of West Sussex where a white coated Roe was seen on Mar 20 (white Fallow have long been at regular feature in West Sussex but I think this is the first time I have heard of a white Roe)

Rats and Water Voles: As expected Water Vole sightings at Brook Meadow are now becoming almost daily but more unusual was a report on Mar 22 of a Brown Rat on the river bank which the voles inhabit. There was no news of any interaction between the two species but I am told that Rats could kill baby voles but I do not think that there is any real threat of this - I am sure Rats have always been present in the area (as they are everywhere in Britain) and I read in http://www.the-piedpiper.co.uk/th1a.htm that they will kill and eat small animals (even other Rats) - this source also tells me that weight is the most important factor in establishing a Rat's position in their social hierarchy (maybe encouraging males which want to move up their social ladder, and so get more chances to mate, to eat more than they need). Wikipaedia made me smile with its comment on Rat's diet .. "The brown rat is a true omnivore and will consume almost anything, but cereals form a substantial part of its diet.Martin Schein, founder of the Animal Behaviour Society in 1964, studied the diet of brown rats and came to the conclusion that the most-liked foods of brown rats were (in order) scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and cooked corn kernels. According to Schein, the least-liked foods were raw beets, peaches, and raw celery"

Red Squirrel: These were taking food from human hands at the Alverstoke nature reserve on the Isle of Wight on Mar 23

Grass Snakes in communal hibernation: Among the butterfly news from Sussex is an account with photo (see Mar 24 entries on http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/sightings.html ) of a sighting by Richard Roebuck of more than 12 grass snakes in one intertwined mass - he suggests that this was not a mating orgy but the result of these snakes having all spent the winter together in some underground cavity whose entrance to close to where they were seen and this was just a continuance of the intimacy they had enjoyed through the winter.

Common Lizard: Several newly emerged Lizards were seen in the Hollybank woods at Emsworth on Mar 20 and on Mar 23 a total of 44 were out on Bovey Heath in Dorset. The Hollybank Woods observation was by John Bogle who sent it with a couple of photos to Brian Fellows who published it in his Emsworth Community website ( http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm ) on Mar 21. The second of John's photos shows a Deer Tick on the face of the Lizard (but not attached to it) and in checking for more about such Ticks I came across a web entry that mentions the threat to humans from such ticks which can transmit Lyme disease to a human - see http://naturalunseenhazards.wordpress.com/category/ticks/ and if you want to hear a personal description of the effect of this disease go to the Blashford Lakes and ask Bob Chapman who has suffered from it in the past

Slow-worm: These are also now emerging from hibernation and were seen at both the Hollybank Woods and the Bovey Heath sites mentioned above


Wildlife diary and news for Mar 14 - 20 (Week 11 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

The highlights below are followed by news of a wider range of species - both parts are arranged in four sections (Birds, Insects, Plants and Other Wildlife)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

Bird News highlights

New Summer birds during the week - House Martin in north Hampshire on Mar 13, Willow Warblers in Kent and Dorset (singing at Portland) from Mar 13, and a Yellow Wagtail at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 15. Hampshire had its first three Willow Warblers on Mar 20 (one of them near Fareham)

First two Osprey over Cornwall on Mar 18

Garganey fly past Dungeness on Mar 12 (first report from Netherlands on Mar 8)

Early Common Tern at Ouse Washes in East Anglia after one in Cornwall on Mar 9

First passage Whimbrel at Seaford on Mar 12 and first substantial arrival of 14 at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 20

130 Sandwich Terns back at Rye Harbour by Mar 19

First Mute Swan on nest at Hayling Island Lakeside by Mar 17

Little Egrets now showing breeding plumage and night roost count at Langstone pond of 42 birds

Most Brent have now left us but still 400 at Lymington on Mar 19

Smew still at Thorney Island and Rye Harbour on Mar 19

Hoopoes at Portland and in Cornwall during the week with widespread reports of Sand Martins and Swallows plus a lone House Martin over Fleet Pond on Mar 13. One Swallow flew over the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 20

Many Meadow Pipits now streaming north - first song heard in north Kent on Mar 13

No Waxwing reports from Hampshire since Mar 18 (Winchester) or from Sussex since Mar 17 (Bexhill)

A Lapland Bunting was singing at Thorney Island on Mar 15 and a Cirl Bunting was heard in Devon on Mar 17

The Three Amigos website reported a Cayuga duck at Titchfield Haven on Mar 17 but as this is a commonly kept domestic species in Britain I doubt it is a trans-Atlantic vagrant

Insect News highlights

Large Tortoiseshell reported on Isle of Wight on Mar 14

Of the many Brimstone seen this week one pair were joined in mating at Ropley near Alton from Mar 15 to the morning of Mar 17

First Large White of the year at Southampton on Mar 11 and a Small White at Winchester on Mar 12 was only the second of the year after one found inside a house on Mar 7

Orange Underwing day flying moths seen in Birch woodland in both Hants and Kent this week among a total of six new moth species seen this week

The Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa) was seen digging near Henfield in the Adur valley on Mar 15 (introducing me to a new species)

Plant News highlights

First flowerings this week of Wood Anemones, Alpine Squill, Thale Cress, Barren Strawberry, Hedge Mustard, Three Cornered Leek, Field Pepperwort, wild Cowslips (at Durlston), Lesser Chickweed (Durlston), Blackthorn, Wild Currant, Flowering Currant, Small Nettle, Wood Spurge, Ground Ivy, 'Garden' Forget-me-not,

What these notes have until now wrongly called Intermediate Periwinkle is really Greater Periwinkle var Oxyloba

Other Wildlife highlights

First 'Mad March Hares' in north Hampshire on Mar 17

First report of 7 Pilot Whales and 3 Common Dolphins from the South Foreland in Kent on Mar 13

First report of a Roe buck with its antlers ready for use (cleaned of 'velvet') from Durlston on Mar 17

Many Grey Mullet in Slipper Millpond at Emsworth on Mar 15

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: All three common species are still present along the south coast with totals of 30+ Red-throated off the South Foreland in Kent on Mar 13 and 21 Great Northern in St Austell Bay (Cornwall) that day. Three Black-throated seen at Splash Point near Beachy Head on Mar 12 were probably on their way north. A White-billed Diver was off County Durham in northern England on Mar 12 and the long staying Pacific Diver was still off Penzance in Cornwall on Mar 14

Great Crested Grebe: A raft of 40 was off Peacehaven near Brighton on Mar 13 with 20 more off the South Foreland in Kent that day

Slavonian Grebe: On Mar 12 one was in Hayling Bay and more than 4 were off Pagham Harbour. Three were off Climping (mouth of R Arun) on Mar 16 but the only reports since then come from Devon and Cornwall on Mar 17

Black-necked Grebe: Two were still at the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) on Mar 19 with one there on Mar 20 but the only reports from anywhere else were on Mar 13 ,when more than 8 were at Studland in Dorset (three of them in full summer plumage), and Mar 15 when one flew past Dungeness

Fea's Petrel: This species is also known as the Cape Verde Petrel and if you want to see pictures of them taken at Cape Verde visit the Three Amigos website ( http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo ) where Steve Copsey's pictures record the many birds seen during his trip on HMS York from Faslane in Scotland to Benghazi in Libya, back to Gibraltar and now nearing the Equator after passing the Canary Islands

Bittern: Fewer reports this week, probably the result of the birds at last starting to leave their winter sites. Last week we heard of one at Ivy Lake in Chichester on Mar 12 and that bird was seen again on Mar 13 but the only Sussex report since then is of one at Rye Harbour on Mar 15. The only reports since then were all on Mar 17 from three sites in Devon and Cornwall.

Little Egret: By Mar 14 the number seen in the Langstone area was up to 19 and on Mar 17 a dusk count of birds coming to roost at Langstone Pond recorded 42. Also on Mar 17 a report from the Oare Marshes in north Kent mentioned seeing the 'purple lores which are a feature of their breeding plumage' (by 'the lores' is meant the area of bare skin around the base of the bill)

Spoonbill: These continue to be restless and to turn up at new sites. In addition to 9 on the west shore of Poole Harbour on Mar 13 and 3 at Wadebridge in Cornwall on Mar 18 there have been birds at the Exe estuary, Shoreham beach, Abbotsbury Swannery, Selsey west fields and Pagham Harbour this week

Mute Swan: The first Swan to settle on its nest was seen on Mar 17 at the Hayling Island Lakeside holiday camp by George Spraggs. Back on Mar 14 I watched the pair intending to nest at the Budds Farm pools in Havant chasing off a pair of intruders but there was no sign that they had started nest building, nor have the Langstone Mill Pond pair

Brent Geese: These started to leave us in substantial numbers on Jan 31 when 175 flew east past Dungeness and more than 1000 were seen passing there on Feb 7. By this week the majority of them seem to have left (at dusk on Mar 17 I watched a flock flying east high over north Hayling, jostling for good positions as they formed into arrowhead formations to reduce the effort required for their overnight long distance flight). Small numbers will decide to stay here over the summer and are now dissociating themselves from the other birds - a lone bird feeding in the grass field south of the Little Deeps at Thorney Island was an example of this seen by myself on Mar 19. Also on Mar 19 a flock of 400 Brent was at Lymington (probably birds which had been wintering further west pausing on their journey to feed and rest) and we may well see migrants still passing in early April.

Shelduck: Although some will stay and breed along the south coast the majority of those that have been in our harbours for the winter will soon leave to breed elsewhere and these are now gathering into flocks for company when they decide to fly. This is reflected by a count of 84 at Newtown Harbour (IoW) on Mar 17 and another of around 70 at the Thorney Great Deeps on Mar 19.

Garganey: I have not yet heard of any at southern coastal sites but they are arriving in Britain - the first was reported in the Netherlands on Mar 8 and on Mar 11 the RBA website reported the first of the year 'somewhere in Britain', then on Mar 12 a pair were seen flying past Dungeness.

Smew: One redhead was still at the Little Deeps on Thorney Island on Mar 19 when another was at Rye Harbour but it seems that the majority of those wintering here has already left

Red Kite: Numbers being seen locally around Havant are increasing and on Mar 14 one flew north over the entrance to Chichester and may be the same bird later flew over Emsworth while on Mar 19 three (maybe four) were over the garden centre close to where the railway line leaves Havant on its way to Rowlands Castle

White-tailed Eagle: RBA were still reporting the bird at Blacklands Farm (east of Basingstoke) on Mar 19

Osprey: The first arrivals were two seen passing over Mevagissey in Cornwall on Mar 18

Avocet: As these birds move back to their breeding sites the number at Rye Harbour was up to 13 by Mar 15 and there were 17 at Titchfield Haven on Mar 16

Golden Plover: These are now moving north bringing large flocks for one night stands at sites in southern England. On Mar 12 there were 150 at Lymington, 150 at Rye Harbour and 3962 at a Netherlands site

Black-tailed Godwit: There have been several flocks of up to 100 in the Langstone area this week but on Mar 16 Brian Fellows found 288 in 'Texaco Bay' (between the Texaco garage at the southern end of Langstone Bridge and the embankment of the old railway line )

Whimbrel: The first party of 6 passage birds reached the Sussex coast at Seaford on Mar 12 and these were followed by two more reports of seemingly new birds - one at the Taw estuary (north coast of Devon) on Mar 13 and one at the Oare Marshes in north Kent on Mar 15. On Mar 20 there was a more substantial arrival of 14 at the Hayling Oysterbeds

Spotted Redshank: The Emsworth bird was still at Nore Barn on Mar 19 and at the Lymington shore the number reported on Mar 12 was 7 with 6 there on Mar 20

Little Gull: Numbers along the south coast may soon increase after a report from Dungeness of 26 on Mar 12. The number at Chichester's Ivy Lake increased from one on Mar 12 and 13 to two on Mar 15

Common Gull: Numbers at southern sites were well down this week as the wintering birds moved east and north to breeding sites

Iceland Gull: Single adults seen at Dungeness on Mar 12 and in Cornwall on Mar 17

Glaucous Gull: A juvenile flew into Chichester Harbour on Mar 14 and the long staying first winter bird was still at Dungeness on Mar 15 but has not been reported since.

Sandwich Tern: By Mar 19 the number back at the Rye Harbour breeding site was over 130. The first newcomer to join the wintering birds at Sandy Point on Hayling was seen on Mar 15

Common Tern: One had been seen in Cornwall on Mar 9 and another arrived early at the Ouse Marshes in Cambridgeshire on Mar 14

Hoopoe: At least one was in Cornwall this week and one was still at Portland on Mar 16 after arriving on Mar 12

Sand Martin: Plenty of these now in southern England with more than 60 in Cornwall on Mar 13 among a list of 25 reports during the week

Swallow: Widespread in small numbers by the end of the week with one over the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 20

House Martin: The only definite report so far is of one over Fleet Pond in north Hampshire on Mar 13

Meadow Pipit: Many now passing north daily. On Mar 15 Portland reported more than 200 going over each hour.

Yellow Wagtail: Christchurch had the first British sighting of one on Mar 15.

White Wagtail: Now being seen daily along the south coast - south Hayling had at least one on Mar 14 and another on Mar 15

Waxwing: Reports seem to be diminishing at last but there were still 17 in the Winchester area on Mar 18 and just 4 at Bexhill on Mar 17

Wheatear: Small numbers all along the coast throughout the week - max count of 20 at Portland on Mar 14 and only two reports of singles from Hayling so far

Fieldfare: An impressive flock of 560 at South Boarhunt (west end of Portsdown) on Mar 20

Blackcap: Summer birds are definitely now arriving - one singing in Havant on Mar 15 was my first

Chiffchaff: Now to be heard singing everywhere by the end of this week

Willow Warbler: First arrivals at Portland and Kent on Mar 13 with the first at Durlston on Mar 14 and at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 16. Mar 20 brought reports from three Hampshire sites

Great Grey Shrike: Still at least one in the New Forest on Mar 20

Chaffinch: Lots of these on the move early in the week when 132 flew south at Sandwich Bay on Mar 13 after a massive count of 16,528 at a Belgian site on Mar 12 (I imagine these were heading north but do not know)

Linnet: It seems these are only now returning to breeding sites in southern England and a party of five moving along the shore at Langstone were the first I have seen this year

Lapland Bunting: Just three reports of singles this week but one of them was heard singing in the Pilsey area (southern tip of Thorney Island) on Mar 15

Cirl Bunting: First song on Mar 17 from one of these in a group of 11 near Berry Head on the Devon coast

Cayuga Duck: One seen at Titchfield Haven on Mar 17 was reported as if it might be a trans-Atlantic vagrant but these are widely kept as domestic duck and I am pretty sure this was a local escapee

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: 25 reports this week with a max of 30 seen on Fritham Plain in the New Forest on Mar 15. Singles were in my Havant garden on Mar 14 and 15. In Ropley near Alton a pair which began mating on Mar 15 were still joined on the morning of Mar 17

Large White: First and so far only report is of one at West End in Southampton on Mar 11

Small White: Following the one which had pupated in a house and had to be let out of the kitchen window when it emerged on Mar 7 the first 'outdoor' emergence was in the Winchester area on Mar 12

Red Admiral: Just two reports this week

Small Tortoiseshell: Another eight reports this week brings the total of the reports for the year to 27 (referring to 47 individuals) so it looks as if the species is making a recovery.

Large Tortoiseshell: A confident report of one from the Isle of Wight said to have been seen well, first on Ivy and then in flight on Mar 14

Peacock: Four reports this week with one of six indviduals seen in the Alver Valley at Gosport on Mar 15

Comma: Ten reports including one of 15 indiviuduals in the Sholing area of Southampton on Mar 15

Moths

March Tubic (Diurnea fagella): First of year in the Fareham area on Mar 15

Depressaria daucella: Another year first from Fareham on Mar 11

Agonopterix subpropinquella: A first at Thanet in Kent on Mar 14

Orange Underwing: First reports of this day-flying moth which lives in Birch woodland come from the Eastbourne area on Mar 11 and from Warren Heath in north Hampshire on Mar 14

Red Chestnut: First taken in Thanet on Mar 14

Twin-spotted Quaker: Another Thanet first on Mar 12

Other Insects

Early Mining Bee (Andrena haemorrhoa): Apparently quite a common species but new to me and my reference books these bees were digging their tunnels in the Henfield area of West Sussex on Mar 15. For more information see http://www.gardensafari.net/en_picpages/andrena_haemorrhoa.htm

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Marsh Marigold: On Mar 14 I found just seven plants flowering on the South Moors at Langstone where I can recall more than 600 plants flowering before the Penner Road industrial estate was built. Photos can be seen on my Diary page

Wood Anemones: I came on the first flowering plants which I know of in the Sussex section of the Hollybank Woods north of Emsworth on Mar 16. Photos and more info on my Diary page

Blue Anemones: Plants in full flower at the Havant cemetery on Mar 19 after starting to open their flowers on Mar 10

Charlock: First flowering plant seen on the Langstone South Moors on Mar 14

Hedge Mustard: First flowers of the spring at a sheltered site in Emsworth on Mar 19

Thale Cress: First flowering plants in the Havant Pallant carpark on Mar 16 - again see Diary for photo

Field Pepperwort: A surprise find flowering in an apparently abandoned 'market garden plot' at Prinsted on Mar 19

Lesser Chickweek: Reported flowering at Durlston on Mar 16

Blackthorn: Starting to flower on Mar 14

Barren Strawberry: First flowers seen at Emsworth on Mar 19

Red Currant: Wild plants flowering in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Mar 15

Small Nettle: First plants just starting to flower at Prinsted on Mar 19

Wood Spurge: First flowers opening in the Hollybank Woods on Mar 16

Sun Spurge: Flowering plants starting to appear in Havant from Mar 14

Intermediate Periwinkle: See my Diary page for Mar 19 in which I admit that I have been naming what is actually Greater Periwinkle var Oxyloba as Intermediate Periwinkle for several years and have never knowingly seen the Intermediate species. My apologies to all who have been misled by my mistake

Ground Ivy: Just one flower seen in Mill Lane at Langstone on Mar 14 - again photo on Diary page

'Garden' Forget-me-not: These garden escapes of the cultivated form of the Wood Forget-me-not are common everywhere and they started to flower this week

Alpine Squill: Ten of these garden plants were flowering in a remote part of the Hollybank Woods on Mar 16. They have been appearing here for many years but I cannot find out how they got there. Almost certainly they were deliberately planted but when, by who and why remains a mystery. Photos again on the Diary page

OTHER WILDLIFE

Pilot Whale: What was probably a family group of seven seen off the South Foreland in Kent on Mar 13 were the first I have heard of this year. Checking on the species I see they inhabit the cooler water in the northern hemisphere and British Marine Life Study Society web site(www.glaucus.org.uk ) says of them .. "The Long-finned Pilot Whale (Globicephala melas) is a social species of whale living in family groups that on occasions may number between 100 and 200 animals. Pilot Whales migrate north at the end of each year as they follow the squid which form the main part of their diet. Although this species has been killed for many years by the Faroese in a traditional fishery, the Pilot Whale is one of the few species of cetacean that appears to have increased in numbers"

Roe Deer: On Mar 17 a buck at Durlston had already cleaned the velvet from its antlers.

Hare: The first report of 'Mad March Hares' for the year comes from Ashley Warren Farm near Whitchurch in north Hampshire where a total of 11 were chasing each ther

Grey Mullet: We are now in the spawning season for these fish which brings them inshore in large numbers and the high tides this week had brought many into the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth on Mar 15


Wildlife diary and news for Mar 7 - 13 (Week 10 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

The highlights below are followed by news of a wider range of species - both parts are arranged in four sections (Birds, Insects, Plants and Other Wildlife)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

Bird News highlights

First Common Tern in Cornwall on Mar 9

Chiffchaffs arriving in numbers from Mar 9

Little Ringed Plovers started to arrive on Mar 10

Second Stone Curlew of the year on Mar 11

First Garganey somewhere in Britain on Mar 11

First Whimbrel migrants at Seaford on Mar 12

50 Sand Martins at the Blashford Lakes and first Swallows seen 'somewhere in Britain' (outside Cornwall)

A general return of Stonechats to breeding areas this week

First Firecrest song heard on Mar 9

Four reports of Hoopoes in Cornwall and at Portland

Late news of a female Red Flanked Bluetail in West Sussex on Mar 4

Meadow Pipits starting to move north and first reports of White Wagtails on the south coast

Stejgner's Scoter - new for Britain

A Long-eared Owl seen on a road sign near Lewes reminds me of the recent discovery of this species breeding on the Sussex Downs and the possibilty of them breeding on Portsdown

Bewick's Swans have left southern England

600 Black Kites seen by a Portsmouth area birder this week (but not in Britain!)

Insect News highlights

First Small White butterfly and a very early Speckled Wood

First report of Yellow Dung flies

New to me are a common early spring Hoverfly (Cheilosia grossa) and a Spider species (Phrurolithus festivus)

Plant News highlights

Common Dog and Hairy Violets now flowering

Alexanders flowering on Portsdown and Lesser Periwinkle in the Havant area

Early Forget-me-not flowering on south Hayling and Slender Speedwell in Havant

Leaves of several orchid species seen this week

Other Wildlife highlights

Distinguishing Polecats from Ferrets

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Divers: In mid-week these were heading north in large numbers with 107 passing Folkestone on Mar 8 and 160 past Dungeness that day followed by 704 along the French coast on Mar 9. Hardly any other divers reported - max of 3 Black-throated at Seaford on Mar 12 and 2 Great Northern in Cornwall that day. Last report of the Pacific Diver at Penzance was dated Mar 6

Great Crested Grebe: These are mostly back at breeding sites by now and could be seen in courtship display at Ivy Lake in Chichester on Mar 11 (first report of display came from Eastleigh Lakeside on Feb 11)

Red-necked Grebe: On Mar 6 a group of 3 were seen in the Netherlands (where there had been 11 on the previous day) but one was still to be seen in Hayling Bay on Mar 8

Slavonian Grebe: Numbers now rapidly diminishing - there had been 14 off Pagham Harbour on Mar 5 then 3 at Studland and 3 in Hayling Bay on Mar 8 with 4 at Lymington on Mar 9. On Mar 11 three were seen at Selsey Bill, two at Dungeness and one at Lymington. Latest sighting was of one in Hayling Bay on Mar 12

Black-necked Grebe: Last double-digit count was 15 at Studland on Mar 8 when 5 were at Torbay and 4 in Hayling Bay. On Mar 11 there were still 3 at the Blashford Lakes and latest reports on Mar 12 were of 1 in Hayling Bay and 3 off Folkestone

Bittern: The week brought reports of one on the Isle of Wight, three in Poole Harbour (Hatch Pond), one in Havant (in an unspecified garden in old Bedhampton where it had been resident for at least a week), one at the Blashford Lakes, two at Rye Harbour, one at Eastbourne (West Rise Lake), and (on Mar 12) one at Chichester Ivy Lake plus other singles in Cornwall and at Lymington.

Little Egret: Photos seen this week show that these birds are acquiring their breeding plumage but there are still few to be seen along the coast though numbers are increasing at the Rye Harbour roost (roost counts of 32 on Mar 3 up to 37 on Mar 8)

Spoonbill: These seem to be on the move - 13 turned up at a Belgian site on Mar 7 and here in England a Spanish ringed bird turned up on the Exe estuary after moving from another site in Devon. On Mar 6 one arrived at Slimbridge and on Mar 10 there was a newcomer at Rye Harbour while Portland reported one flying south over Portland Harbour on Mar 9. On Mar 8 Lodmoor (Weymouth) had its first for the year, joined by a second on Mar 10

Bewick's Swan: No reports from Sussex sites since Mar 5 and counts at Slimbridge show that their winter visitors have left during the week (there were still around 80 there on Mar 6 decreasing to 41 on Mar 8, 21 on Mar 10, 5 on Mar 11 and just 3 on Mar 12). A report of 61 flying east past Folkestone may have marked the exodus of birds from south coast sites including the 9 last seen at Ibsley (Ringwood) on Mar 5 when there were also 14 still in the Adur valley north of Henfield.

Brent Goose: The last reports of Brent in Hampshire that I have seen were of 410 at Tichfield Haven and of 94 at Nore Barn (Emsworth), both on Mar 11, while Sussex had 342 passing Seaford on Mar 12 when 518 went past Dungeness.

Wigeon: None reported in the Havant area this week during which I have only noted two reports of the species - 230 at Hook/Warsash on Mar 7 before they flew north and 80 at Bradig Marshes (IoW) on Mar 12

Gadwall: I think all our wintering birds have now left but each year more of them stay to breed here and I suspect that around 10 which were on Aldsworth Pond (north of Emsworth) on Mar 7 were in this category.

Pintail: No reports seen since Mar 9 when 9 were at Christchurch Harbour and a few still on the Adur near Henfield in Sussex.

Garganey: RBA reported the arrival of one 'somewhere in Britain' on Mar 11 after one had been seen in the Netherlands on Mar 8

Scaup: 19 were still at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Mar 8 but the only report since then is of 2 still on Widewater at Worthing on Mar 11

Eider: 24 were off Titchfield Haven where there has been no mention of the species since Jan 29

Long-tailed Duck: One was still in the Torbay area on Mar 11

Velvet Scoter: The only south coast reports this week were of one at Hurst Castle off Lymington on Mar 6 and another off the Penzance area in Cornwall on Mar 12. For those interested in unusual birds seen in far-off places the RBA service report for Mar 12 started with .. "The adult drake Stejneger's Scoter continued its stay in the bay at Rossbeigh in County Kerry, much to the delight of all those that made the journey across to see it" If, like me, you have never heard of a Stejneger's Scoter have a look at what Lee Evans had to say about the discovery of the current bird at http://uk400clubrarebirdalert.blogspot.com/2011/03/mega-stejnegers-scoter-off-west-ireland.html (the mention of Richard Bonser's name in this report may revive memories of when Richard was student at Southampton University and had a leucistic Herring Gull unofficially named after him as Larus argentatus bonserii). To see how the current bird relates to other Velvet Scoters see what Andy Musgrove has to say about it at http://www.bubo.org/Forum/Britain-Ireland-and-Isle-of-Man/641-Stejneger-s-/-White-winged-Scoter-in-Ireland.html

Smew: One of the two Blashford birds was still there on Mar 13 and there were birds at three other sites on Mar 11 (Exe esturary, Longham Lakes at Poole and Dungeness RSPB site)

Goosander: It would seem that our winter visitors have now left though a few continue to be seen (probably intending to breed in the Avon valley or nearby Dorset)

Black Kite: A report of an estimated 600 Black Kites seen within a ten minute period may sound out of place among reports of birds in southern England but the connection lies in the birder who saw them and placed photos on one of my favourite websites (Three Amigos). The birder in this case was Steve Copsey serving on board the Royal Navy's latest acquisition - HMS York - which was heading for Gibraltar after involement in the Libyan troubles when Steve saw the Kites. If you visit http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo the entry for Mar 13 will show you pictures of a Swallow heading north across the Mediterranean ( and then perching on the ship), followed by pictures of the Oriental Turtle Dove at Chipping Norton taken by Tony Tindale (another of the Amigos) on Mar 12, before we reach Steve's encounter with the Black Kites and then, ashore in Gibraltar, with a Hoopoe, Bonelli's and Sardinian Warblers and Pallid Swifts as well as a Willow Warbler.

White-tailed Sea Eagle: Still in the Blackland's Farm area east of Basingstoke on Mar 12

Buzzard: The large number of these which abandoned the furthest northern parts of Europe during the depths of winter (and which gave us a peak count of 1075 seen heading south on Oct 16) are now starting to return north. On Mar 12 a German site reported 225 heading north.

Common Crane: This week may have seen the peak numbers of these returning to northern Europe with one Belgian site reporting 6340 birds on Mar 7 and another in the Netherlands having 6217 on Mar 8. Here in England we continue to see some birds that have overshot their destination (e.g. two in Kent on Mar 9) but I see that the pair which arrived at Wiston village (north of the downs at Worthing) on Mar 5 were still in that area on Mar 8

Oystercatcher: Although we do not think of these as migrants since many that have spent the winter here stay to breed the number to be seen on southern shores does noticeably diminish at the end of the winter (the 2009 Hampshire Bird Report tells us that the Langstone Harbour population which was up to 1500-2000 in winter dropped to below 500 in April, May, and June) so it is not surprising that Peter Millinets-Raby, who lives 3 miles from the coast in Bedhampton (Havant area), has heard Oystercatchers flying north over his house after dark on at least two nights this week

Avocet: On Feb 28, when many of the birds set off from their winter quarters in the west country (Poole Harbour and the Exe eastuary) for their breeding sites, Titchfield Haven reported the presence of 21 - for the majority this was just a one day feeding stop and on Mar 2 only 3 could be seen but on Mar 9 the number was up to 8 and there were still 8 there on Mar 12 - maybe those will be joined by others that will stay to breed there.

Stone Curlew: An early bird was at Martin Down (south of Salisbury) on Feb 21 and this week there is a second report of one heard calling as it flew north over the Hardham area near Pulborough at 4:30 am on Mar 11

Little Ringed Plover: The first arrivals were seen this week at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 9, at Pagham Harbour on Mar 10 and at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 11

Curlew Sandpiper: The first to be reported anywhere this year was at a French site on Mar 11 (two birds)

Whimbrel: I dismissed a couple of reports of single Whimbrel seen recently at Kent sites as being wintering birds but then read of six being seen at Seaford (between Brighton and Beachy Head) on Mar 12 and claimed as the first migrants on the south coast

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth was still there on Mar 11 (last year it was last seen on Mar 24). Others were seen this week at Lymington, Christchurch Harbour and at Mill Rythe on Hayling.

Green Sandpiper: Two were seen on the Langstone South Moors on Mar 12

Med Gull: The number at the Hayling Oysterbeds shot up from 30 on Mar 1 to 131 on Mar 12

Little Gull: One seen at Chichester Ivy Lake on Mar 11 and another at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 12 were probably stragglers from a wave heading up Channel towards breeding areas to the east and north (on Mar 9 a total of 566 were seen on the French coast - the first report of more than 7 birds anywhere in northern Europe this year). Checking the BirdLife fact sheet on the species I read .. "The Little Gull can be found breeding in northern Scandinavia, the Baltic republics and western Russia to western Siberia, in eastern Siberia, and in the Great Lakes of North America. Its distribution expands in winter to include most of the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Caspian Sea coastlines, as well as the Atlantic coast of Europe and the north-west coast of the USA"

Common Tern: First of the year in Britain was one at Pendeen in Cornwall on Mar 9

Little Owl: Of local interest one seen sitting on a tree at Warblington Farm on Sat Mar 5 and was still showing openly on the same branch of the same tree on Mar 12 - almost certainly a male sitting right outside a nest hole where the female was already sitting (this tree has been used for nesting in at least one recent year

Long-eared Owl: Since 2009 Dave and Penny Green of the Sussex Wildlife Trust have been studying these birds and have found a small colony nesting on the Downs north of Brighton though naturally full details have not been published. In March of 2009 I saw a report which said that one had been seen .. "seen perched and hunting for 1 hr+ in semi-rural area nr Brighton - unphased by traffic pedestrians or a fox" That report could of course have been of a wintering bird about to depart but now that we know some do breed in that area a further report of a sighting on Mar 10 this year of one seen by night perched on a roadside signpost near Lewes may indicate that the birds are established in a larger area than just around Brighton. It also reminds me that quite a few years back there were reports of young birds making their 'rusty bicycle' sounds in the Red Barn estate on the slopes of Portsdown above Portchester and a report of a Long-eared corpse being found on the A27 where it runs below the site so there could still be a possibility of finding these elusive birds on Portsdown....

Hoopoe: Up to four Hoopoes were seen in Britain this week (first reports for the year). The first was near Stithians Lake in Cornwall (well inland from Falmouth) on Mar 6, the second was at Hayle on the north coast of the county next day and the third report came from The Lizard on the south coast on Mar 12. These three could all be sightings of the same bird but the fourth sighting at Portland Bill on Mar 12 must have been a different bird

Shorelark: The three birds on the north Kent coast were still being seen on Mar 12 though the arrival of heavy machinery on the beach in that area may well persuade them to leave in the near future!

Sand Martin: Twelve new reports this week include a sighting of 50 birds over the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on Mar 10

Swallow: Reports of them somewhere in Britain on Mar 9 and Mar 11 were on the RBA website (presumably not in southern England as I have not seen them mentioned elsewhere). On the near continent one was in Belgium on Mar 10

Meadow Pipit: Reports of birds flying north after arriving from the sea at Durlston (10 on Mar 8) and Christchurch Harbour (46 on Mar 7) show that the huge northward stream of these birds has now started.

White Wagtail: These too have started to arrive at coastal sites - seven reports this week starting with with 'several' at Thurlestone Bay in Devon on Mar 7 followed by reports of singles at Sandwich Bay on Mar 8 and Portland on Mar 10

Waxwing: At least 25 reports this week shows that we are not yet seeing the end of these birds in southern England. On Mar 9 there were around 85 in Poole and and other sightings came from Hampshire and Sussex

Red-flanked Bluetail: Late news of a female seen in Houghton Woods on Mar 4 by an inexperienced birder whose clear description could only be of this species. Houghton Woods are on high ground west of the River Arun in the Amberley area

Stonechat: At last these are starting to re-appear at many southern breeding sites including Sinah Common on Hayling, Hook/Warsash, Ibsley Common near Ringwood and Lymington Marshes. On Mar 12 a pair were on the Langstone South Moors and one seen at Amberley Wild Brooks that day may have been an eastern race (maura) bird. Song was heard at Durlston on Mar 8

Wheatear: After a few isolated reports in Jan and Feb they have been pouring in this week with a peak count of 10 at Portland on Mar 9 and a total of 21 reports. The first in Hampshire was at Lymington on Mar 9 and Sussex had one that day in the Ouse valley south of Lewes but Kent and the Isle of Wight seemingly did not have any until Mar 12

Chiffchaff: Although the first migrant was claimed at Climping on the West Sussex coast on Feb 25 it was not until Mar 9 that definite migrants were reported from Titchfield Haven and north Kent and subsequently all along the south coast. On Mar 12 they started to appear inland at Eastleigh, Fleet Pond and Andover

Goldcrest: An impressive flock of 50 birds were at Bolderwood in the New Forest on Mar 12

Firecrest: Song heard in the New Forest on Mar 9 and at Beachy Head on Mar 11

Raven: A pair at Gore Cliff (St Catherine's Point on the IoW) were gathering nest material on Mar 5 and a pair were courting at Arlington (nr Beachy Head) on Mar 8

Lapland Bunting: Flocks of up to 150 were being seen in Cornwall up to Mar 6 - since then the only reports I have seen were of one on Pilsey Island (south of Thorney Island) on Mar 8 and just 2 left in Cornwall on Mar 9

Snow Bunting: One was on the causeway from Sandy Point to Black Point on Hayling on the evening of Mar 5 but left early on Mar 6. The 3 long staying birds at Reculver on the north Kent coast were last seen together on Mar 5 although a single was seen on Mar 12

Yellowhammer: First reported song at Durlston on Mar 8 when Hampshire had a flock of 45 at Over Wallop near Andover

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: Ten reports this week, all on Mar 7 and 8. I seem to have had the highest count with four seen on Portsdown on Mar 8

Small White: One seen in the kitchen of a house in south-east Hampshire on Mar 7 seemed to be a very early 'first sighting' but the latest Hampshire Butterfly Report gives the earliest date for the species in 2009 as Mar 1 while 2008 had the first sighting on Feb 8

Red Admiral: Eight reports this week

Small Tortoiseshell: I get the feeling that this species is making a comeback with 19 reports so far this year including ten this week. At least two reports are of courting pairs.

Peacock: Eight reports this week including a sighting of one on Brook Meadow at Emsworth on Mar 11

Comma: Nine reports this week

Speckled Wood: First for the year seen in Southampton on Mar 4 (Earliest in both 2009 and 2008 were seen on Mar 21)

Moths

The only item of moth news this week is a find of a Large Yellow Underwing caterpillar munching away in a Fareham garden on Mar 7 - for photos taken by Tony Tindale see http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo/18788/Probable+Large+Yellow+Underwing+caterpillar+in+Fareham+garden.html

Other Insects

Cheilosia grossa Hoverfly: Although there is no mention of the species in the Insect books by Michael Chinery which I rely on this is apparently quite a common spring hoverfly which I was made aware of by an entry on the RX website about one at Rye Harbour on Mar 8. To see what it looks like go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Cheilosia_grossa_(male).jpg

Yellow Dung-fly: First mention of these also comes from Rye Harbour on Mar 8

Red Mason Bee (Osmia rufa): While I was on Portsdown on Mar 8 I had a close look at an orange-striped bee nectaring on Gorse flowers and think it may have been a male of this species (it did not have the curved horns which a female would have)

Lesser Bloody-nosed Beetle: One seen by me on Portsdown on Mar 8 and Durlston reported a pair mating on Mar 10

Nursery Tent Spider (Pisaura mirabilis): First report for the year from Rye Harbour on Mar 8. This is one of several ground hunting spiders given the general name of 'Wolf Spiders' though I associate that name with the smaller, faster, all black spiders which are very common on dry ground and which I found in fair numbers on Portsdown on Mar 8 (I think they belong to the Pardosa genus but am not sure). Unlike the long-legged Pisaura females which carry their egg sacs around under the body the small black ones attach their egg sacs to the rear of their bodies.

Phrurolithus festivus spider: The RX website also introduced me to this species this week. To learn more about it go to http://www.eakringbirds.com/eakringbirds3/arachnidsinfocusphrurolithusfestivus.htm

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Blue Anemone: Although normally a garden flower this readily escapes and persists as it seems to have done in a corner of the Havant Eastern Road cemetery. See my Diary page entry for Mar 10 to see pictures I took there.

Yellow Corydalis: Although this was flowering in January I have seen none for over a month until new flowers appeared in my garden on Mar 8

Common Dog Violet: First mention of these flowers comes from Durlston on Mar 12

Hairy Violet: Although I feel sure I saw this species starting to flower on Portsdown on Mar 8 the distinctive leaves had not developed and I could not be sure of separating the flowers I saw from the very variable Sweet Violets that were also flowering there but Durlston confidently reported Hairy Violets flowering on Mar 10

Western Balsam-poplar: Flowering at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 9

Alexanders: Flowering on Portsdown on Mar 8 - twenty plants in flower at the entrance to the Cliffdale Caravan Park on the London Road

Lesser Periwinkle: Flowering on an 'ancient hedge bank' at the Locks Farm road junction of Southleigh Road in Havant Denvilles area on Mar 7 (75 flowers counted there with another 19 in Pitts Copse close the Stansted Forest 'Groves')

Ivy-leaved Toadflax: Just one flower open in Havant on Mar 12 after watching buds 'about to open' for some two weeks!

Slender Speedwell: On Mar 8 I found flowers in St Faith's churchyard and put photos comparing this plant with Common Field Speedwell on my Diary page (the church yard has since been close mown)

'Garden Forget-me-not': This abundant garden escape already had many flower buds in Havant on Mar 12

Early Forget-me-not: I found the first tiny flowers of this in the grass of the roundabout at the Ferry Inn end of Ferry Road on south Hayling on Mar 11 and have put photos on my Diary page

White Comfrey: First flowers on plants beside the Hayling Billy trail between the Langstone main road and the end of Langstone Avenue seen on Mar 9

Cleavers (Goosegrass): Abnormally large flowers seen on one clump of plants close to the Petersfield Road/Elmleigh Road roundabout in Havant on Mar 10 (photos again on my Diary page) - I suspect these plants had suffered from the volume of car exhaust fumes they experience there and am not expecting normal plants to flower yet.

Garden Grape Hyacinth: The multitude of garden escapes had started to flower in Havant on Mar 10

Green-winged Orchid: Many leaves could be seen on Mar 11 at the south Hayling Gunner Point site where thousands will start to flower in a few more weeks

Early Purple Orchid: First report of leaves somewhere in Sussex on Mar 5

Lizard Orchid: Leaf rosettes seen in the Thanet/Sandwich Bay area of Kent on Mar 11

OTHER WILDLIFE

Polecat Ferret: No location was given for the report of the stinking corpse of a Polecat Ferret found dead on a road somewhere in Sussex on Mar 5. I suspect it had had a human owner but the report reminded me of a 'hot topic' in these notes some years back. The topic had two themes - one was the spread of genuine wild Polecats from Wales into most of southern England, the other was the question of how to distinguish a Polecat from a Ferret. On the first subject I recall a report of another road casualty found in the Hampshire Test valley which was definitely a Polecat and was also a lactating female showing that they were breeding in the county, the other came from a cyclist on a north Hampshire country lane who had to give way to a hunting pack of a dozen or more supposed Polecats which (the cyclist feared) threatened his life! As to identification their overall colour is black except for the face which has a white edging to the small ears and a whitish muzzle but always has a dark mask covering both eyes and running down the 'cheeks' - this mask is set off by whitish areas around it and is the main feature distinguishing them from Ferrets which are slightly smaller and have many variations in the colour of their fur (many are white overall). The tail of a Polecat is more bushy than that of a Ferret. A good source of information is http://www.wessexferretclub.co.uk/polecats.htm - follow up all three of the links provided on that page

Water Voles: With a rise in temperatures these should now become more active and two sightings at Brook Meadow in Emsworth this week shows that this is starting to happen

Hare: We are now well into March but this week has brought just one report of several seen on the Sussex Down south of Pulborough but none of them were 'boxing'


Wildlife diary and news for Feb 28 - Mar 6 (Week 09 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

The highlights below are followed by briefer news of a wider range of species - both parts are arranged in four sections (Birds, Insects, Plants and Other Wildlife)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

Bird News highlights

Bird news from the Navy: With Libya in the news the Three Amigos website ( http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo ) has some supplementary news from Benghazi supplied by Steve Copsey (one of the three naval friends after whom the site is named and who all live in south east Hampshire). To see his news and pictures scroll down to the Mar 4 entry (nice photos of Pom Skua and Auduoin's Gull) seen from HMS York (the latest addition to our Navy) while the previous entry comes from Mark Cutts serving on HMS Liverpool which is about to be scrapped. The third 'amigo' is Tony Tindale and he is the author of the piece about Golden Plovers in the Titchfield area which follows Mark's entry about bird ringing in the Liverpool area. It's good to know that our Navy is taking such an interest in birds over such a wide area of the globe.

Swallows are on their way: The Trektellen website records bird migration reports from the whole of Europe (in fact from Morocco to Moscow - you can see the sites which contribute to it by going to http://trektellen.nl/ and clicking 'Overview of sites', then selecting Europe in the first box and All Sites in the second). Today I found that the first Swallows are making their way from Morocco into Spain by selecting 'Migration Pattern', then selecting Swallow as the species on the first line, 'Period' on the next line, 'Numbers' on the third line, 'Europe' and 'All Sites' on the next line, setting the period from Feb 5 to Mar 5 and leaving 'Scale' as 'Automatic, then clicking 'Show Overview'. The map that came up showed (by green circles - the bigger the circle the more birds seen) that Swallows had been recorded at Cap Beddouza in Morocco and at Punta de Calaburras in Spain. Clicking one of these green circles brings up the latest full report from that site (which may or may not include a report of Swallows). The Spanish site has no mention of Swallows in the latest report but by clicking the dates alongside the month shown near the top of the report you can work thorough the reports from that site and in this case I had to go back to Feb 24 before I found a Swallow mentioned but for Cap Beddouza there were reports of 2 Swallows on Mar 2 and 4 on Mar 1 and another 1 on Feb 23

Spotted Flycatcher in Cornwall?: The Cornwall Birding website reports a Spotted Flycatcher at Roseland near Liskeard in east Cornwall on Mar 5. Both Hampshire and Sussex have Apr 8 as their earliest ever arrival date for this species and I suspect this is a case of mistaken identity

Little Auk: One was seen in the North Sea off Whitburn (Co Durham) on Mar 6

New Bird Song: The first Reed Bunting song was reported in Sussex on Feb 27 and Blackbirds were singing regularly at dusk this week

Insect News highlights

This week Insects were waiting for warmth

Plant News highlights

Paterson's Curse (aka Salvation Jane): I came across these two names on Cliff Dean's blog ( http://rxbirdwalks.wordpress.com/ ) which I usually find to be a fascinating read. Have a look through a few entries and you'll see what I mean - currently the first entry is a straightforward piece about the BTO Winter Atlas, the second is a series of pictures with no descriptive text (can you tell me the identity of the animal whose very dead head appears in the fifth picture - the lower front teeth suggested Wild Boar to me but I am not convinced), and the third piece (dated Mar 5) is titled 'Weed Mentality' and starts with a picture of cattle seemingly in an endless 'Bluebell Meadow'. In fact the blue flowers are of Echium plantagineum (a relative of our Viper's Bugloss) and Google sent me to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echium_plantagineum_in_Australia which tells me that Jane Paterson brought a few seeds from England to brighten her garden in Australia when she went there in the 1880s. Since then the plant has spread to become a dominant pasture weed over five states of South Australia and is a very mixed blessing. On the plus side it is very good for bees making honey and can be the food of last resort for cattle in drought conditions when every other food has died (hence the 'Salvation Jane' version of the name). On the negative side it is very poisonous and can only be digested by ruminant animals but the cattle can lose weight if they eat too much and brushing against the plants causes irritation to their udders (and to human skin) while it can kill Horses which eat it (from which we get the Paterson's curse name).

Newly flowering this week:

Marsh Marigold

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage

Coltsfoot

Ivy-leaved Speedwell

Herb Robert

Green Alkanet

White Campion

'Wild' Primrose

Rape

Field Pennycress

Other Wildlife highlights

Sperm Whale: On Mar 3 the Planet Thanet website carried the first mention (that I am aware of) of a Sperm Whale on British soil when the corpse of a 45 ft long specimen was seen on the beach of Pegwell Bay near Ramsgate in Kent. Andy Horton's excellent Marine Life Study website at http://www.glaucus.org.uk/ tells me that .. "The Sperm Whale can be seen off the west coasts of Ireland and Scotland, usually sighted alone. As they are a deep water species, they are usually only observed from a boat" I have no idea how this specimen came to be in the Ramsgate area!

White-beaked Dolphin: First report for the year (with photos taken from a boat in Lyme Bay on Mar 5) was seen on the Devon Birding website. On Mar 6 23 Harbour Porpoise were off the Netherlands

Winter Stalkballs (Tulostoma brumale): Also seen on the Planet Thanet website on its 'Non-Avian Updates' page was another entry for Mar 3 reading .. "There are still quite a number of Winter Stalkballs near the garage pools" .. As I had seen no previous reference to this species I did not immediately realise it was a Fungus but Google soon put me straight and I find it is a small and uncommon stalked puffball, the thin stalk being no more than 5cm tall with a globular puffball up to 2 cm in diameter on top. The Hants Fungus Recording Group website says that there have only been six records of it in the county and Roger Phillips book says that it occurs in the autumn while Stefan Bucksacki gives the habitat as dry sandy/chalky soil with mosses

While searching for information about it I learnt that it had been found in a Brighton cemetery as recently as Jan 3 this year and the BBC Radio Nottingham website had pictures of it taken last November (said to be the first find in Nottinghamshire since 1898)

Winter Stalkballs

Moss Club fungus (Multiclavula vernalis): I came across this fungus through a link from the Radio Nottingham site and though it describes a find made last June I thought it worth mentioning here as the find was made on a Hampshire Wildlife Trust reserve (unnamed but said to be land used for army training so possibly in the Woolmer Forest area of East Hants). This species is much rarer than the Stalkball and this find in Hampshire was said to be the first anywhere in England - the species was previously only known in the Outer Hebrides and Shetland.

Moss Club Fungus at its Hampshire site (fungus confused with Sundew flowers)

A clearer picture of Moss Club Fungus

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Few reports and small numbers of all species this week with the exception of late news of 66 Black-throated Divers in Gerrans Bay (Cornwall) on Feb 22. The single Pacific Diver which has been wintering in the Penzance area was still there on Mar 4.

Grebes: A raft of 17 Great Crested were still on the sea off Titchfield Haven on Mar 4 and single Red-necked were off Worthing on Mar 1 and Thurlestone Bay in Devon on Mar 3 (11 of these were seen together off the Netherlands on Mar 5, presumably having formed a flock for company on their journey north). Slavonian were seen at six sites from Worthing to the Exe estuary with the biggest count of 14 off Pagham Harbour on Mar 4. Numbers of Black-necked are down this week with a maximum count of 5 in Portland Harbour on Feb 27 but they were still being seen at five sites including Hayling Bay (two birds there on Feb 27 and four at Torquay on Mar 1). Interestingly the two which have been seen for several weeks on the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood became three on Mar 4 (not I think a new arrival there but no previous sightings had been of all three together)

Bittern: These remain relatively numerous with reports from ten sites and a maximum of 4 birds still together at Hatch Pond (Poole Harbour) on Mar 4. One was still at Titchfield Haven on Mar 2

Cattle Egret: The two birds were still on the Hants/Dorset border just west of Fordingbridge on Mar 2

Little Egret: Numbers in the Havant area and elsewhere along the south coast are still at their lowest point for the year with many of the birds inland (e.g. 5 in the Fordingbridge area on Mar 2) though the number roosting at Rye Harbour has already started to rise from 20 on Feb 3 to 32 on Mar 3

Mute Swan: A probable record count of 71 birds were on Fleet Pond on Mar 5

Brent Goose: 2000 were at Farlington Marshes on Mar 3 but there has been a noticeable reduction in numbers at other coastal locations

Black Brant: One was still in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Mar 1 but there have been no reports from elsewhere since Feb 24 when 3 were still at Weymouth

Red-breasted Goose: No reports of the Lymington bird since Feb 24 though one (I suspect the ringed bird) was still at the Exe estuary on Mar 5

Teal: There were still 94 at Langstone (Wade Court south meadow) on Mar 2 (with another 50 at Nore Barn that day) but there has been a mass exodus of other wildfowl (especially Wigeon and Gadwall)

Pintail: Good numbers still with us up to Mar 4 when there were 44 in the Warsash area and 48 at Newtown on the IoW

Shoveler: Only two reports seen this week - on Mar 2 there were 20 on the Adur near Henfield and on Mar 3 the Exe estuary had 57 forming circles to stir up food for the bird behind as they stocked up for their journey.

Pochard: I have not seen any at Budds Farm since Feb 22 and the only report for this week is of just two birds at Widewater (Worthing) on Mar 2 (probably a pair intending to breed here)

Scaup: A few of these are still here this week. One was last seen at the Thorney Island Little Deeps on Mar 1 and two were at Widewater (Worthing) on Mar 2 while the Lymington shore had 4 on Mar 4 with another single at Lodmoor (Weymouth) that day plus at least one still at the Exe estuary.

Velvet Scoter: Two were in Poole Harbour on Mar 2 and nine were at Seaton (Devon) on Mar 3

Smew: Several were still at the Dungeness RSPB site at the start of March and on Mar 4 one was still at the Thorney Island Little Deeps (photographed with a Goldeneye), two were at the Blashford Lakes and one at West Bexington (north of Weymouth). Latest report is of one at Longham Lakes (Poole) on Mar 5

Goosander: The only March report is of one bird at the Longham Lakes (Poole) on Mar 2

White-tailed Sea Eagle: The Hampshire bird was still in the Blacklands Farm area east of Basingstoke on Mar 6

Kestrel: One flew in off the sea at Portland on Mar 1 so perhaps others will be arriving

Merlin: These too are arriving from the south - latest arrival was at Portland on Mar 4

Coot: Back on Jan 8 Emsworth Harbour had a record count of 186 birds and more than 100 were still there last week but the count was down to around 20 on Feb 28

Common Crane: Ten new comers were seen in the Netherlands on Mar 5 as the flow of migrants returning to northern Europe continues. Also on Mar 5 two were seen near Steyning (north of Worthing) and one turned up at Pulborough Brooks. Earlier this week at least two (maybe four) birds turned up in Sussex (2 near Haywards Heath on Feb 28 and 2 near Chanctonbury ring north of Worthing on Mar 3)

Avocet: These are now moving east after wintering in the west country and 21 were at Titchfield Haven on Feb 28 when another 11 were at Rye Harbour. Three were in the Hook/Warsash area on Mar 5 but there was still a flock in the Exe estuary on Mar 4 when 6 were at Titchfield Haven

Golden Plover: These too are now moving north and a flock of around 200 was at Newtown on the IoW on Mar 4. Other reports this week have come from the Titchfield area and Pulborough Brooks.

Lapwing: Large numbers moving through the Low Countries this week with 3500 in Belgium on Feb 27 and 1500 in the Netherlands on Mar 5. In southern England many are already back on breeding territory

Little Stint: One was still in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Mar 1 and one was at Christchurch Harbour from Feb 28 to Mar 4

Ruff: A flock of 9 was at Amberley Wild Brooks on Feb 27 with 2 at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 2. Mar 5 brought news of 20 at a Netherlands site.

Snipe: Two have been at the Langstone South Moors through the winter but I found 4 there on Feb 28 as these birds start to move north

Long-billed Dowitcher: The Lodmoor (Weymouth) bird was still present on Mar 4

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth was still present on Mar 5 and at least one other bird has been at the Thorney Deeps this week (2 seen there on Mar 1). Christchurch Harbour also had 2 on Mar 3 but there have been no more reports of the six that were at the Lymington marshes on Feb 25

Green Sandpiper: One was still at the Langstone South Moors on Feb 28 and one was at Fishbourne Channel, Chichester, on Mar 1

Turnstone: A flock of 120 a Weston Shore (Southampton Water) on Mar 3 was probably made up of birds on the move

Med Gull: The number at the Hayling Oysterbeds had risen to 30 by Mar 1 and 25 were back at Rye Harbour on Mar 3

Slaty-backed Gull: This newcomer to Britain was still at the Rainham Marshes in London on Feb 26

Oriental (or Rufous) Turtle Dove: The Chipping Norton bird was still on show on Mar 4 for those prepared to pay up the £5 for entrance to the kitchen of the house from which it can be seen.

Little Owl: On Mar 5 the Havant Wildlife Group had the first sighting of one of the resident Little Owls at Warblington Farm and Richard Somerscocks got a photo which can be seen on Brian Fellows website

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Three sightings of this elusive bird came this week from Ticehurst near Hastings. the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood and Chandlers Ford near Eastleigh

Shorelark: Three could still be seen on the north Kent coast at Reculver on Mar 3

Waxwing: Still plenty to be seen this week

Stonechat: Still in short supply but a few more have returned to breeding areas this week including three birds at Titchfield Haven on Mar 1 and two females at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 28

Redwing: A flock of 110 was seen in Devon on Mar 1 and 21 birds were in a field west of Selangor Avenue at Emsworth on Mar 3

Mistle Thrush: A single bird was seen at Bedhampton Mill in Havant on Mar 4

Great Grey Shrike: Single birds were still at four sites in the New Forest, Dorset and Devon this week

Rook: Back at their nests in the Northney rookery on Hayling Island on Mar 2

Tree Sparrow: One seen at Iden in the Hastings area on Feb 27 and two reported in a Catherington garden (north of Waterlooville) on Mar 3 - House Sparrows also present there for comparison

Brambling: Still being seen at five sites this week - 80 at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 4, 45 at Blandford on Mar 2, 28 at Chandlers Ford on Mar 5, 14 at North Baddesley (nr Romsey) on Mar 1 and 11 at Froxfield near Petersfield on Mar 3

Lapland Bunting: One flew over Christchurch Harbour on Feb 28 when more than 100 were at a site in Cornwall (80+ still in Cornwall on Mar 3)

Snow Bunting: 3 still on the north Kent coast on Mar 3 and one turned up on Hayling Island on the causeway from Sandy Point to Black Point at dusk on Mar 5 (seen again early on Mar 5)

Reed Bunting: First report of song this year on Feb 27 from a bird at Climping near Worthing

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Small Tortoiseshell: One seen in Eastbourne town on Mar 3

Comma: One at Ditchling Common near Burgess Hill in Sussex on Feb 27

Moths

Common Flat-body (Agonopterix heracliana): Late news of the first back on Feb 8 at Folkestone

Plume Moth (Amblyptilia acanthadactyla): First also at Folkestone on Feb 23

Shoulder Stripe (Anticlea badiata): Another first at Eridge near Crowborough on Feb 28

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Marsh Marigold: One half open and three closed flower buds on the Langstone South Moors on Feb 28

Rape: The first bright yellow flowers were seen by me in Hayling Island fields on Mar 2

Field Pennycress: A surprising find on Feb 28 of many fresh flowers on old plants still bearing seed pods from last year - seen in Havant Juniper Square on Feb 28

Common Dog Violet: First flowers at Durlston on Feb 28

Sweet Violet: Although flowering in some places since Jan 10 there was a general outburst of flowering on Feb 26 with both white and pink flowers seen at Nore Barn Wood at Emsworth

White Campion: A single roadside flower in Havant on Feb 28 was the year's first

Herb Robert: Flowering at Durlston on Feb 27 but so far nowhere else

Blackthorn: No open flowers yet but tight buds were noted at North Common on Hayling on Mar 2

Barren Strawberry: Also one unopen flower bud seen on this species at Emsworth on Mar 3

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage: First flowers seen on Mar 1 at the Hookheath nature reserve (northern foot of Portsdown)

English Elm: Following the first Wych Elm flowers seen last week those on English Elm were out on Feb 28

Primrose: A good display of 'wild' flowers seen in a Hayling Island wood on Mar 2

Ivy-leaved Speedwell: First flowers seen on Mar 3 in the Emsworth area

Green Alkanet: First flowers seen in Havant on Feb 28

Coltsfoot: The first single flower was seen on Hayling Island on Mar 2 with more out on Portsdown on Mar 4

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii): Although of garden origin the single flower seen in Mill Lane at Langstone on Feb 28 deserves recognition for having survived being covered by a bramble bush for several years until the brambles were cleared during the recent felling of trees across the lane from the West Mill. A Summer Snowflake plant had suffered the same fate and is also now flowering there.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Fallow Deer: In the early 1990s when I was an irregular visitor to Amberley Wild Brooks south of Pulborough we occasionally saw one or two Fallow Deer with dark coloured coats and I understood these had escaped from a herd which had been kept captive at Parham House for several hundred years and had acquired their dark colour through inbreeding. This week I read that scores of deer were seen on the Pulborough Brooks reserve, leading me to think that the whole population has escaped from Parham and is free to interbreed with deer that have 'normal' coats. Will the dark form survive? and for how long?

Sperm Whale: See the highlights above for details of the 45 ft long Sperm Whale found dead at Pegwell Bay in Kent on Mar 3

Winter Stalkballs: Also see the highlights above for news of this unusual fungus found recently in the Ramsgate and Sandwich areas of east Kent as well as in a Brighton Cemetery.


Wildlife diary and news for Feb 21 - 27 (Week 08 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

See relevant entries in the full text below for each of these highlights

Bird News highlights

Latest Summer Migrant arrivals include a Stone Curlew seen in the Martin Down area on Feb 21 (provoking news that in the autumn around 100 can gather in East Anglia and remain there until December, though they do not overwinter) Hampshire earliest ever arrival was 5 Feb 2006 when one was seen on the north Hayling fields, staying their until Feb 10

Other new arrivals this week were Sandwich Terns at Dungeness on Feb 20, at Durlston on Feb 24 and Rye Harbour on Feb 25. Note that Portland had reported the 'first migrant' on Feb 16 and that others were seen this week in both Poole and Christchurch Harbours

What may well have been the first migrant Chiffchaff was singing on Feb 25 in shoreline Tamarisks at Climping (Worthing area) where they had been no winter sightings and a second Wheatear (after the first in Cornwall on Feb 15) was at Portland on Feb 23. After the 'probables' in Devon on Feb 11 the first definite Sand Martin reports came from the Exeter area (one bird on Feb 23 and two on Feb 24) followed by one at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 25 (the earliest ever previous record there was 5 Mar in both 1997 and 2008). On Feb 22 Cornwall reported its fourth Swallow of the year (after birds reported on Jan 10, 23 and Feb 16)

White-tailed Eagle now at Basingstoke - my guess in last week's summary that the bird from Downton (Lymington/New Milton area) had left England and was the bird seen in the Netherlands on Feb 19 was wrong as the bird turned up on Feb 23 in the farmland around Blacklands Farm by the River Loddon just east of Basingstoke and was still being seen there on Feb 27

Golden Eagles have three reports in this weeks news. On the weekend of Feb 19/20 Falconers were flying them in the Ewhurst area north west of Basingstoke, on Feb 21 one was seen in the Windmill Hill village area near Hurstmonceux north east of Eastbourne and on Feb 24 one was seen in the Danehill area (on the A275 north east of Haywards Heath).

Spring Gull passage was noted in the English Channel on Feb 24 when Christchurch Harbour reported 430 Herring Gull, 275 Black-headed Gull, 65 Lesser Black-backed Gull, 49 Mediterranean Gull including a single flock of 43, and 21 Common Gull all heading east. On Feb 26 a total of 1300 Great Blackbacks were in the Cuckmere Haven area east pf Beachy Head

Bird Song news this week included a report of full song from a Redwing in the Bishopstoke (Eastleigh) area on Feb 23 - others there were in their pre-migration sub song. Loud Blackbird song was heard at both dawn and dusk this week and the first full Brambling song was heard in Chandlers Ford (Eastleigh) on Feb 26 (Blackcaps have been singing in various places since the end of January). On Feb 25 the Devon Birding website had a photo of a Dartford Warbler in full song (I think others elsewhere will have been singing occasionally during the winter).

Insect News highlights

Brimstones emerged in force on Feb 24 in response to warm sunshine with 28 reports for that day including one report from Stansted Forest of 5 males and 1 female. Although one Brimstone had been seen in the Meon Valley as early as Jan 15 I only have 12 reports prior to Feb 24

A single Humming Bird Hawkmoth was seen at Stokes Bay (Gosport), also on Feb 24, hovering over nettles. A few of these moths are known to hibernate in southern England and I assume this one had done so but I hope it found some better source of nectar for its 'breakfast' than nettles.

The Longhorn Beetle Rhagium mordax was the most intriguing species reported this week. The news, from Michael Prior (Head Forester of Stansted Forest), reached me at second hand so I had no chance to query two aspects of the report which puzzled me. The first was the English Name used for members of the Rhagium genus - they are called Pliers Support beetles - and at first I could make no sense of the name but my current guess is that the shape of these beetles antennae (which I am accustomed to call 'Longhorns') has been associated with the shape of a Blacksmiths tool having a similar shape. So far I have established that Blacksmiths tools for handling hot metal do include both Tongs and Pliers and it makes sense that the hot tools would require some device to 'support' them while still hot but not in use - these supports may well have a shape similar to the beetle's antennae but so far I have not discovered a picture of one of a Pliers Support among the websites devoted to selling Blacksmiths tools.

An even more puzzling aspect of the report was its date - the news from Michael Prior said that three of these beetles had been seen 'recently' (i.e. Jan or Feb) which seemed to contradict the statement that the adult beetles are only seen between April/May and July when they emerge from the trees in which they have developed as grubs and divide their time between sex and eating flower pollen. Luckily Philip Butcher has explained to me that the grubs in the trees actually turn into mature adult beetles in the autumn but remain within their wooden tunnels throughout the winter, only emerging in April or May. Thus if you chop down a tree in the winter you may well find an adult 'Black-spotted Pliers Beetle' within it.

Going back to Butterflies I was interested to read that Patrick Fleet (warden of the Magdalen Hill Down butterfly reserve near Winchester) had, during the mass emergence of butterflies on Feb 24, confirmed his hunch that Peacocks use Rabbit burrows as hibernating sites when he saw one Peacock emerging from a burrow and a second sunning itself just outside another burrow.

Plant News highlights

Most interesting to me this week was the discovery of the male flower buds of a Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) tree in Havant Park. I had previously been aware of this tree species as one which was common in the prehistoric record but thought to be extinct in the modern era until it was discovered growing in China as recently as the 1940s. Since then it has been widely planted throughout the world but because it was a relatively new species in England in 1972 when Alan Mitchell wrote the Collins Field Guide to the Trees of Britain which I rely on as my authority that book has little to say about the Dawn Redwood flowers other than to suggest that, in Britain, they only appear infrequently in extra-hot summers (he probably got this impression as the trees which he was able to study where not yet mature).

See my diary entry for Feb 24 for a picture of the male flower buds I found on a tree in Havant Park and one link to a website describing the tree but since then Philip Butcher has given me a better link which is to http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Metasequoia_glyptostroboides - scroll down through a selection of pictures (or use the 'contents' link to 'Flowers and Cones') to find pictures of the flowers (click to enlarge them)

Several other plants started to flower this week including Cherry Plum, Wych Elm, Grey Poplar, Early (or Wood) Dog Violet, and (at Durlston) Herb Robert. Also now coming into full flower here in Havant is Common Whitlowgrass

Other News highlights

Not wildlife, but maybe of interest, is a photo appearing above the Feb 26 entry on the Portland website of the space shuttle about to dock with the International Space Station. See http://www.portlandbirdobs.org.uk/aa_latestnews.htm

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: 81 Red-throated were seen at Dungeness on Feb 20 and 66 Black-throated in the Gerrans Bay area of Cornwall on Feb 22. The single Pacific Diver was still off Marazion on Feb 26

Great Crested Grebe: Most of the large rafts on the sea have now dispersed but 92 were off Peacehaven (Brighton) on Feb 20

Black-necked Grebe: 58 were still at Studland Bay on Feb 19 and 11 were off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 20 with 4 more off south Hayling but this week's reports had a max of 15 in Portland Harbour on Feb 24 with six at Studland on Feb 21 and two still at Blashford on Feb 23

Manx Shearwater: Last week Portland reported the first for this year and this week there were 8 off the Cornish coast on Feb 24

Bittern: Still quite a few with reports from nine sites and a max count of 4 at Hatch Pond (Poole Harbour) on Feb 21 with 3 still there on Feb 26

Cattle Egret: The two birds on the Hants/Dorset border close to Fordingbridge which arrived there on Feb 17 have not been reported since Feb 21

Great White Egret: The group of six that have been at Shapwick Heath (Somerset Levels) since Jan 17 were still there on Feb 24 but the only other report this week is of the Sandwich Bay area bird seen on Feb 22

Flamingo: With Morocco in the news this week I see that 147 Flamingos were seen there on Feb 23 (also 174 Avocet)

Bewick's Swan: Slimbridge announced the departure for Russia of more than 200 on the evening of Feb 26 - maybe including the 4 birds fitted with GPS devices (back on Jan 22) to track if the birds would be endangered by a proposal for a windfarm off the Norfolk coast

Whooper Swan: The family of five on the Barnham Levels near Arundel were still there on Feb 24

Whitefront Goose: The group of 14 were still at Farlington Marshes on Feb 24 and some (probably all) were still there on Feb 26

Brent Goose: Another 140 flew east past Dungeness on Feb 26 but there are still plenty in Langstone and Chichester Harbours though I think numbers here are starting to drop off. On Feb 22 I noticed that all the trees and bushes along the seaward end of the old IBM playing fields at the Langtone South Moors had been removed and maybe this had encouraged some 50 Brent and 6 Canada Geese to fly in and graze.

Red-breasted Goose: The ringed bird on the Lymington marshes was still present on Feb 24

Wigeon: Numbers in Langstone and Chichester Harbours have noticeably diminished, as have those of Gadwall

Teal: Still 100 on the flooded meadow south of Wade Court at Langstone on Feb 26

Scaup: Surprisingly (in view of the dimished numbers of most duck species) there were still 28 Scaup at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Feb 26 (with three at Titchfield Haven on Feb 24)

Smew: The regular two were still at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 26 but the redhead which has been at the Thorney Island Deeps up to Feb 22 seems to have moved to the Farlington Marshes Deeps where one was seen on Feb 24

White-tailed Sea Eagle: See highlights above

Hen Harrier: A ring-tail was seen hunting the Thornham Marshes (by Thorney Great Deeps) at dusk on Feb 20 and maybe the same bird was over the adjacent Cobnor penninsula on Feb 25. During the New Forest survey over the weekend Feb 19/20 seven birds were seen at six sites

Sparrowhawk: These are now more visible as they start to patrol and display over their breeding territories (as do Goshawks, where they occur).

Buzzard: Last weekend's New Forest survey found 36 at 16 sites

Kestrel: The New Forest survey only found one Kestrel, confirming previous evidence of a marked decline in the species

Coot: The large number in Emsworth harbour this winter has not yet dispersed and around 100 were seen as late as Feb 24

Common Crane: 80 were seen at a German site on Feb 21 and 12 in the Netherlands on Feb 22 but thereafter daily numbers on the continent were just ones and twos. On Feb 22 an off course single bird was over the Horsham area

Stone Curlew: The first bird to be reported in Britain this year was at Martin (near Fordingbridge) on Feb 21

Lapwing: These are now returning to breeding territories in large numbers (some 20,000 were on the move in the Netherlands on Feb 26) but some are already back - I saw at least 5 pairs on the Gipsies Plain grassland immediately south of Havant Thicket on Feb 24

Knot: An estimated 2000 were in Chichester Harbour seen from Cobnor Point on Feb 25

Purple Sandpiper: 16 were at Southsea Castle on Feb 26 and larger than usual numbers were at several south coast sites as the departing winter birds move east

Long-billed Dowitcher: The Dorset bird has been oscillating between Radipole and Lodmoor this week - still present on Feb 26

Woodcock: Two at Dungeness on Feb 24 suggests return passage to the continent

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn (Emsworth) bird was still present on Feb 22

Common Sandpiper: Wintering birds were still at Broadmarsh on Feb 22 and on the Itchen in Southampton on Feb 24 with two at Exeter on Feb 23 but a count of five feeding together at Prawle on the Devon coast suggests possible early migrants though they do not normally arrive until April

Med Gull: These are now well established in the Havant area and I heard them over my garden on Feb 23 and saw several on the Gipsies Plain fields at Havant Thicket on Feb 24

Common Gull: A report of an estimated 4000 seen off Chidham Point (south of Prinsted) in Chichester Harbour on Feb 25 was surprising. I assume these were partly birds returning from inland fields to roost in the harbour at night and partly birds on passage joining them.

Great Blackback Gull: Another large count this week was of 1300 of these at Cuckmere Haven near Beachy Head on Feb 26

Sandwich Tern: As migrant birds start to arrive they are appearing for the first time at places where they have not wintered - Dungeness on Feb 20, Durlston on Feb 24 and three at Rye Harbour on Feb 25

Black Guillemot: First I have heard of this year was at St Just in Cornwall on Feb 25

Puffin: Two were off Pendeen in Cornwall on Feb 24 and the first to be seen at Portland was settled on the sea there on Feb 25

Short-eared Owl: The number at the east end of the Thorney Great Deeps rose to 5 on Feb 24

Sand Martin: One was at Exeter (Double Locks) on Feb 23 with two there the next day and Christchurch Harbour had its earliest ever on Feb 25 (previous earliest was Mar 5)

Swallow: Another report from Cornwall of one at Veryan on Feb 22

Meadow Pipit: First report of parchuting song flights comes from Reculver on the north Kent coast where ten were seen on Feb 25

Scandinavian Rock Pipit: It is now possible to pick these out as they acquire summer plumage and singles were seen at Reculver on the north Kent coast on Feb 26 and 27

Waxwing: Another 21 reports from Dorset, Hants and Sussex this week shows they are still with us. A new site was Knowle village just north of Fareham (28 seen on Feb 26) and in Havant 20 were seen on Feb 23 by the Petersfield Road in Leigh Park (just south of the Crossland Road junction)

Stonechat: Still very scarce in southern England but a few sites are reporting returning birds (e.g. a male near the Thorney Little Deeps on Feb 24)

Wheatear: Portland had its first arrival on Feb 23

Blackbird: By Feb 26 at least six birds were heard singing in Havant as I cycled home at dusk and on Feb 27 I heard one early in the morning from my garden

Redwing: On Feb 20 a flock of 100 was in chattering pre-migration subsong at Farnborough and on Feb 23 another chattering flock at Bishopstoke (Eastleigh) had one bird giving its full territorial song

Chiffchaff: A bird singing from coastal Tamarisks at Climping near the mouth of the R Arun was considered to be the first migrant arrival as there had been no wintering birds in the area

Tree Creeper: Three were singing at Burton Pond near Pulborough on Feb 25 (and one was seen in Stansted Forest by the Havant Wildlife Group on Feb 26)

Rook: Portland reported its first spring passage bird on Feb 25

Hooded Crow: One still at Reculver on the north Kent coast on Feb 25

Brambling: First report of full song from a Chandlers Ford garden on Feb 26

Siskin: Song heard from a flock of 30 birds in the Milford (New Milton) area on Feb 21

Lesser Redpoll: Around 70 birds were moving through the Romsey area on Feb 24

Snow Bunting: Three seen on the north Kent coast on Feb 26 when 300 were seen over in the Netherlands

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: Warm sunshine of Feb 24 saw a mass emergence of around 70 butterflies at sites across Hants and Sussex

Red Admiral: Just five sighting this week

Small Tortoiseshell: One seen at Gosport on Feb 17 and another near Exeter on Feb 26

Peacock: 7 individuals seen, all on Feb 24. Two of them were seen to have been hibernating in Rabbit burrows

Comma: Just one seen in the Titchfield area on Feb 24

Moths

March Moth: First of year at Pulborough Brooks on Feb 25

Oak Beauty: Severat Pulborough Brooks on Feb 25 (first of year)

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: One seen hovering over nettles in the Gosport area on Feb 24 had presumably hibernated there

Small Quaker: Several at Pulborough Brooks on Feb 25 were first of year

Common Quaker: First for year in Thanet on Feb 23

Clouded Drab: First for year in Thanet on Feb 25

Grey Shoulder-knot: First for year in Thanet on Feb 26

The Satellite: First for year at Portland on Feb 23

Other Insects

Honey Bee: First out nectaring on Croci on Feb 24

Bombus pratorum: The first report of this Bumblebee from Northiam near Rye on Feb 26

Black-spotted Pliers Support Beetle (Rhagium mordax): See highlights above

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Dawn Redwood tree: Male flower buds found in Havant Park. See highlights above

Common Whitlowgrass: Now in full flower along the north side of Waterloo Road in Havant - well worth seeing

Early (or Wood) Dog Violet: Flowering started in Havant on Feb 26 (see photos on my Diary pages)

Sweet Violet: Although these have been out since Jan 10 a general emergence of flowers at all sites started on Feb 22

Sticky Mouse-ear: Flower buds first noted on Jan 22

Cherry Plum: First flowers open in Wade Lane at Langstone (and no doubt elsewhere) on Feb 26

Cherry Laurel: The upright white candles of flower buds first noted on Feb 22

Wych Elm: First flowers seen on Southsea Common on Feb 25

Grey Poplar: A single old tree in Wade Court Road (Havant) which always flowers early was covered in catkins on Feb 26

Cow Parsley: General flowering seems to have started in Havant on Feb 26

Butterbur: The first male flower spikes were out unusually early at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Feb 21 - the plants had been 'forced' to develop early by being submerged under the waters of the River Ems (I have seen this in previous years at the Racton site where some plants grow immersed in water filled ditches)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: On Feb 24 several were "splashing, porpoising and playing chase" in Langstone Harbour seen from Farlington Marshes

Frogspawn: Lots in Forest track ruts at Stansted Forest on Feb 21

Adder: Warm sun on Feb 24 brought six out to bask at Durlston and several more at Pulborough Brooks

Medicinal Leech: These were starting to become active in ditches on Walland Marsh east of Rye on Feb 25, reminding Brian Banks of how they manage to survive summer drought, being able to revive even when 'dried to a crisp'.


Wildlife diary and news for Feb 14 - 20 (Week 07 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

See relevant entries in the full text below for each of these headlines

Bird News:

Wheatear: First migrant (ignoring the odd report of one in Sussex on Jan 10) was at St Mawes in Cornwall on Feb 15

Sand Martin: In Devon several hirundines (most likely Sand Martins) were reported on Feb 11 - three seen at Totnes and others reported by Radio Devon

Swallow: One seen at Camelford in Cornwall on Feb 16 was a more likely new arrival than the two previous reports from that county on Jan 10 and 23.

Sandwich Tern: The Portland Observatory reported one seen in Portland Harbour on Feb 16 as the first 'proper migrant'

White-tailed Sea Eagle: The bird that was seen almost daily near New Milton in south west Hampshire throughout January seemed to depart on Feb 3 when it was seen flying east (at least as far as Southampton Water). Since then there have been two unconfirmed reports of sightings back in the Lymington/New Milton area on Feb 9 and 12 but this week has maybe brought evidence that it has left England in a sighting of one over the Netherlands on Feb 19

Storks and Cranes returning to the near continent: Last week we reported the first sighting of White Storks back in Belgium on Feb 6 and this week there have been more reports of them in the low countries on five days. Cranes have also started to appear (mainly in Germany) since Feb 12 - they have now been reported on five days in increasing numbers (max 127 on Feb 17)

Oriental Turtle Dove: I was made aware of this species this week by reports of one in gardens at Chipping Norton though I missed news of it in the same area in mid-December. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oriental_Turtle_Dove for pictures and information - it seems that the current bird is effectively a first for Britain as I read elsewhere that the only previous record was of a dead specimen. Another bird initially reported as a possible Oriental Turtle Dove has been seen in Folkestone recently (see http://www.freewebs.com/folkestonebirds/index.htm which has a photo) but that is now thought to be a young bird of our normal migrant species which does occasionally attempt to winter in Britain

Oddities: On Feb 14 a Tufted Duck was seen to catch and eat a 6 inch long fish in the Fort Brockhurst moat in Gosport and on Feb 16 several Brent in a flock of 203 on the sea off the North Devon coast were described as "turning somersaults, end over end on the water". On Feb 15 a flock of 28 Marsh Tits was seen at South Chailey (on the A275 north of Lewes) and on Feb 19 male Bramblings visiting a Chandlers Ford garden (near Eastleigh) were in subsong.

Insect News

Painted Lady: One seen near Titchfield on Feb 14 had probably managed to over winter here like a Red Admiral

Hebrew Character: These moths normally do not fly until March but one was found in Kent on Feb17

Plant News

 

Other News

Humpback Whale: One reported off the Netherlands coast on Feb 16

Common Lizard: First report for the year is of one seen in the bill of a Great Grey Shrike on Feb 12 at a Devon site where the heathland had been burnt. The Lizard had presumably escaped death in the fire by hiding in some underground cavity but on emerging above ground there was no cover to hide it from the eyes of the Shrike

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: Most of the large flocks on the sea have now broken up but Dungeness reported 1710+ on the sea there on Feb 12 - probably a remnant of the 3000+ in Rye Bay on Jan 3

Slavonian Grebe: Still to be seen in small numbers along the south coast - locally one was at the entrance to Langstone Harbour on Feb 18 and then seen in Hayling Bay on Feb 19

Black-necked Grebe: On Feb 14 five were off the Hayling Oysterbeds and seven were in Portland Harbour but the only large count this week was of 32 still in the Carrick Roads at Fowey in Cornwall on Feb 13. At least one was still at the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on Feb 17. Latest news is of nine in Langstone Harbour seen from Budds Mound on Feb 20 - these were in two groups (five and four) and there may be a connection with a group of four seen in Hayling Bay (due south of the Inn on the Beach) that day

Manx Shearwater: First report from the English Channel was of one off Portland on Feb 17

Balearic Shearwater: Another first report for the year was of 20 off the Spanish Coast on Feb 12

Storm Petrel: Yet another first report was of 8 Storm Petrels seen close to the shore at Durlston on Feb 13

Bittern: Latest reports came from Brownwich Pond near Titchfield and from the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood, both on Feb 19 when another was seen near Fowey in Cornwall. On Feb 18 two were in Poole Harbour (Hatch Pond) and one was at the North Walls in Pagham Harbour. On Feb 17 one was seen at Burton Pond near Pulborough and back on Feb 12 one was seen at Ivy Lake (Chichester)

Cattle Egret: These were absent from south coast sites during January and the first report which I recorded was of one near the Fowey estuary on Feb 6. That particular bird was still present on Feb 19 and on Feb 17 two more turned up on the Dorset/Hampshire border beside the Ashford stream less than a mile west of Fordingbridge and they were still there on Feb 20. (My Feb 17 Diary entry gave the wrong location for these as Ashford near Kingsclere in the north of Hampshire)

Bewick's Swan: Feb 16 brought the highest count so far (278) at Slimbridge

Brent Goose: Feb 9 saw 918 more fly east past Dungeness with similar large counts of birds going east at Portland and Selsey, Worthing and Seaford. There is as yet no shortage of Brent in our local harbours (e.g. 520 at Emsworth on Feb 14) but a further 350 going east at Dungeness on Feb 18 suggests that there will be few left in a month's time

Red-breasted Goose: The bird which was to be seen in the Hook/Warsash area from Feb 4 to 6 may have flown to the Isle of Wight where one was seen at the Bembridge Marshes on Feb 11 (though that may have been a local escape from the same source - Flamingo Park - as the two seen there on Feb 3). As there was no mention of the Hook bird (or the bird in the Titchfield area during January) being ringed we must assume that the one which appeared in the Pennington (Lymington) area on Feb 14, and which had a red ring on its right leg (as did the bird seen in the Pilsey area of Chichester Harbour from Oct 1 to 4) was different to the others reported this year though it may have been the ringed bird seen near the Exe estuary in December. This ringed bird in the Lymington area was last reported on Feb 19. The difficulty in following these birds as they move from site to site is compounded when we read the list of 13 individual birds in the UK provided by Lee Evans on Jan 31 (that included a family of 5 birds in Suffolk)

Ruddy Shelduck: Another unsolved problem of identity relates to a bird originally reported as a Ruddy Shelduck at Lymington on Feb 16 but subsequently thought to be a bird of mixed parentage including genes of Australian Shelduck in its inheritance. That story is also complicated by distant flight sightings of a 'Ruddy Shelduck' at the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Feb 12.... was this the same bird that was later seen at Lymington?

Scaup: With most of our wildfowl now on the move it is good to see that a male Scaup has been on the Thorney Island Little Deeps for over a week (from Feb 12 to 19 at least)

Velvet Scoter: A flock of 12 has been a regular sight on the sea off Seaton in Devon from Feb 12 to 19 at least and another group estimated as 12 birds was in Rye Bay on Feb 13

Smew: It would seem that several of our winter visitors have now left us but two were still being reported at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 20 and (on Feb 18) one was still at the Exe estuary in Devon

Goosander: 155 of these were still roosting at the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) on Feb 14 and a pair was still in the Cuckmere valley on Feb 13

White-tailed Sea Eagle: A report of one in the Netherlands on Feb 19 could be a final sighting of the bird that was in the New Milton area of south west Hampshire from Jan 1 to Feb 3 after being seen in the Pulborough area on Dec 11 and then flying west to Titchfield Haven on Dec 12 before disappearing until Jan 1. Since the bird was seen to head east from its winter site on Feb 3 there have been two puzzling reports of it back in Hampshire but I will be very surprised if I see any more reports of it in England.

Buzzard: Although sightings of these are now commonplace throughout southern England (especially at this time of year when they are soaring and diving over their chosen nest sites) my eye was caught on Feb 17 by news of one bird being hit by a van on the road passing the sawmill at Stansted Forest - both its wings were broken and it had to be destroyed.

Grey Partridge: Five reports this week are of pairs seen on their own in unusual locations - I suspect these are not genuine wild birds (which would probably know where to find nest sites and to get to them without attracting attention from bird watchers) but are lucky survivors of the hundeds of reared birds released last autumn and now searching for nest sites without the knowledge they would have acquired had they been hatched in wild nests.

Golden Pheasant: Older birders in the Havant area still remember finding these colourful birds at Kingley Vale (where one could still be seen in 2003) and earlier in the QE Country Park area (where they disappeared in the late 1990s). These memories were roused by reading of three birds seen this week on Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour where they survive (along with Red Squirrels)

Coot: A large flock (estimated as 130 birds on Feb 19) has been in Emsworth Harbour since mid-December (150 on Dec 14 and 186 there on Jan 8). In previous years these birds used to fill the nearby Little Deeps but were not normally seen in the open water of Chichester Harbour - now the situation is reversed but I have no idea of what has brought about the change.

Common Crane: The first to return to the near Continent were two birds in Belgium on Feb 12 with 70 seen on Feb 13. Since then the birds have continued to arrived and latest news is of 127 in Germany on Feb 17

Great Bustard: The two birds which had been near The Fleet (Weymouth) from Jan 20 to Feb 8 become just one seen on Feb 10 and 12 but not reported since - probably now back on Salisbury Plain.

Golden Plover: Feb 14 seems to have seen a surge of birds heading north after wintering south of the English Channel - 1700 were seen on the Isle of Sheppey and another report of an estimated 1200 came from the Oare Marshes near Faversham (possibly the same birds heading for Sheppey and then further north). Smaller flocks have been reported at other sites along the south coast this week (including, on Feb 12, two birds seen on the mud of Chichester Harbour off the west end of the Thorney Great Deeps)

Lapwing: These are also heading back to breeding areas with reports of around 4000 in Belgium on Feb 12 and over 5000 in the Netherlands on Feb 13

Long Billed Dowitcher: The bird that was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) from Jan 3 to 20, and then at Poole Park from Jan 31 to Feb 14, arrived back at Lodmoor on Feb 18. It may be the same bird that turned up at Colliford Lake in Cornwall on Sept 30 but the continuous record of its sightings began at Lodmoor on Nov 8 and includes excursions to Devon in November, then to The Fleet in Dorset in December before going to Poole Harbour in February - after each trip it returns to Lodmoor.

Whimbrel: There seem to have been fewer reports of wintering birds than usual this year but when the Scillies Birding site was updated this week I was surprised to see that 8 birds were present there on Feb 12. One local wintering bird was still in Fishbourne Creek near Chichester on Feb 20

Common Sandpiper: The elusive wintering bird occasionally seen at the mouth of the Hermitage Stream where it reaches Langstone Harbour with the Broadmarsh Slipway on the west and Budds Farm shore on the east was seen again on Jan 20. As far as I know this is the first sighting of it since I saw it there on Dec 11

Med Gull: Feb 14 saw the very first of these back at breeding sites - 7 at the Hayling Oysterbeds and 'several' at Rye Harbour. By Feb 19 the number at the Oysterbeds had risen to at least 12

Leucistic ('white') Gulls: Reports of a genuine Glaucous Gull at Gunner Point on Hayling (east side of Langstone Harbour entrance) this week have been complicated by sightings in the same area of a Leucistic Herring Gull which could easily be mistaken for either an Iceland or Glaucous Gull. What was probably the same leucistic Herring Gull has also been seen at Weston Shore near the mouth of Southampton Water where there has also been a leucistic Black-headed Gull

Caspian Gull: A birder at Pegwell Bay near Ramsgate in Kent reported the presence of six different Caspian Gulls on Feb 18

Slaty-backed Gull: The elusive bird of the Thames estuary rubbish tips which was a first for Britain when it was identified at Rainham on Jan 14 was seen back at Rainham on Feb 16

Sandwich Tern: One seen in Portland Harbour on Feb 16 was described on the Portland website as the 'first proper migrant' to reach Britain this year (as distinct from the various wintering birds that have stayed along the south coast)

Guillemot: A count of 332 seen on the Durlston cliff breeding ledges on Feb 17 was said to be 110 more than bred there in 1994

Razorbill: Also reported in the Durlston news for Feb 17 was a small group of 10 Razorbills on the sea 'touching beaks and cooing'.

Turtle Dove: Very few of these stay in this country over winter but it seems a single juvenile has done so in the Folkestone area this winter, being seen in December and again on Feb 16

Oriental Turtle Dove: See the entry in the Highlights section of this summary for news of what seems to be the first live example of this species to have been on view in this country

Sand Martin: Although not definitely identified as Sand Martins several 'Martins' were seen in Devon on Feb 11

Swallow: One seen at Camelford in Cornwall on Feb 16 could well have been the precursor of our summer birds (whereas the previous sightings in the county on Jan 10 and 23 must be regarded as isolated oddities)

Waxwing: This winter's invasion of Waxwings is not yet over - this week has brought another 20 reports with five on Feb 18 (including a flock of 97 at the Yateley gravel pits on the Hants/Berks border)

Wheatear: First for the year was a female at St Mawes in Cornwall on Feb 15

Marsh Tit: Among five reports of the species this week one count of 6 birds in the New Forest Fritham area on Feb 11 is not surprising but a Sussex report of 28 at South Chailey on Feb 15 is unusual if the birds were in a flock as the report seemed to imply

Penduline Tit: One at Dungeness on Feb 18 - two more had been seen at Rainham in Essex on Feb 7

Raven: Further indications of Ravens settling in Hampshire come in reports of a pair seen mating on Hurst Beach at Lymington on Feb 12 and of a pair displaying over Chilling Barn in the Warsash area on Feb 17. Locally two were seen flying west over The Kench (south Hayling) on Feb 19 while a sighting of ten Ravens heading north over Portland Bill on Feb 12 may suggest that the recent spread of these birds over southern England may be fuelled by immigrants from the south rather than expansion of our own west country population.

Starling: By Feb 15 the massive nightly roost at Thurlestone (south west Devon coast), which had peaked at more than 200,000 birds as recently as Jan 30, had dwindled to a very few birds

Chaffinch: These can now be heard singing almost everywhere as our winter resident population is swollen by birds returning from abroad. On Feb 18 a small influx of 120 arrived off the sea at Sandwich Bay and on Feb 19 the report of the WeBS count at West Wittering in Chichester Harbour included more than 150 Chaffinches.

Brambling: A birder living in Chandlers Ford near Eastleigh reported that several male Brambling coming regularly to his garden feeder were already in sub-song with full song expected from them before they leave in March

Siskin: Large numbers are now heading north through southern England. On Feb 16 an estimated 1400 were in the Low Countries and on Feb 18 650 were seen on the Hants/Berks border near Fleet. Locally Kevin Stouse was pleased to find a flock of 25 (plus 6 Redpolls) in Havant Thicket this week

Bullfinch: These lovely birds are pretty to look at but do not have an equally lovely song - I think their mournful piping calls are better to listen to than the rather chaotic jumble of scratchy notes which serves them for a song but nevertheless hearing the song has some interest for a birder as it is not often heard so a report of a pair seen at the Blackwater Arboretum in the New Forest on Feb 16 with the male singing for a whole 20 minutes is of some interest

Rustic Bunting: On Feb 18 Lee Evans visited Biggleswade in Bedfordshire and had a good view of one which he describes in his blog at http://rarebirdsinbritain.blogspot.com/ - interestingly he says that while in that area he saw some 500 Corn Buntings

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: Late news of one at Pulborough on Feb 8 has been followed by sightings of singles at Andover and Stockbridge on Feb 12, then at Lovedean (Waterlooville) and Washington (north of Worthing) on Feb 17

Red Admiral: Just one sighting near Crowborough on Feb 17

Painted Lady: One nectaring on Winter Heliotrope near Titchfield on Feb 14 is unlikely to have been a migrant (no other coastal sightings) and was I suspect an insect that had managed to overwinter here in the same way that many Red Admirals do

Peacock: Just one seen this week at Steyning in the Worthing area on Feb 17

Moths

Brown-spot Flat-body (Agonopterix alstroemeriana): First for the year in the Thanet area of Kent on Feb 12

Hebrew Character: A very early specimen in Thanet on Feb 17 - the species is normally on the wing in March and April

Other Insects

Blow Fly: A large shiny black fly was sunning itself on a Laurel leaf in my Havant garden on Feb 20. I have not been able to identify it and at first thought it was a large Hover Fly similar to Volucella pellucens or Leucozona lucorum but it lacked the broad white 'waist band' which both of these wear so my searches turned to the Blow Flies such as the 'Blue bottles'. Any suggestions welcome

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Common Yew: Males started to shed their pollen in Warblington church yard on Feb 14

Common Whitlowgrass: The three early flowering specimens at Waterloo Road in Havant suddenly become 60+ on Feb 17

Danish Scurvygrass: Plants lining the Petersfield Road in Havant where it runs past the Havant College site had started to flower on Feb 17

Abraham Isaac Joseph (Trachystemon orientalis): John Goodspeed found this flowering in his Portsdown Hill garden on Feb 17 making me wonder if it can still be found growing 'wild' on Catherington Lith where refugees from the bombing of Portsmouth established makeshift homes and gardens during the war.

Smooth Hawksbeard: This was still flowering in my garden on Jan 9 but had not been seen anywhere by me until a single flower re-appeared in my garden on Feb 18

OTHER WILDLIFE

Fox: These are normally noisy during their mating season in January but maybe that season is later than usual this year as the only report I have seen is of one barking in a Brighton garden at 4:15am on Feb 16

Common Porpoise: Two were seen off the south Devon coast on Feb 16 and on Feb 19 the corpse of one was fund further west along the same coast with its head missing (possibly decapitated by the propeller of a large ship?)

Humpback Whale: One seen off the Netherlands on Feb 16

Fallow Deer: A white buck with an impressive head of antlers was seen somewhere east of the river Arun upstream of Arundel and south of the Downs

Water Vole: The weather is not yet warm enough to bring Water Voles out except for essential food gathering but one was seen at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Feb 15. This is the second sighting for the year at this site - for more info about the site and the species go to http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/bm-water-voles.html

Frog: New reports of Frogspawn this week come from the Cowplain area of Waterlooville on Feb 15, the Ferring Rife area of Worthing on Feb 16 and John Goodspeed's Portsdown Hill garden in Feb 20(first report for the year was on Feb 5)

Adder: Three reports so far of Adders coming out of hibernation to bask in sunshine at Durlston on Feb 14, at Pulborough Brooks on Feb 15 and at the nearby Burton Mill Pond on Feb 17

Common Lizard: First report for the year is of one seen in the bill of a Great Grey Shrike on Feb 12 at a Devon site where the heathland had been burnt. The Lizard had presumably escaped death in the fire by hiding in some underground cavity but on emerging above ground there was no cover to hide it from the eyes of the Shrike

Grey Mullet: A group of five fish seen in the Emsworth Marina water on Feb 12 were thought to be this species. Checking on the season when these fish are likely to be seen I found http://www.fishing-guernsey.co.uk/Species/species.asp?SpeciesType=Grey%20Mullet which says (from the fisherman's point of view) .. "The main season for all of these fish would be between May and February - the larger fish seem to show more in the colder winter months." Another source tells me that their spawning season is from January through to April so these fish may now be coming inshore to breed


Wildlife diary and news for Feb 7 - 13 (Week 06 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

See relevant entries in the full text below for each of these headlines

Bird News:

White Stork: The first to return to Belgium remind us that other spring migrants will soon be here

Brent Goose: Dungeness reports the first major departure of these winter birds on Feb 7

Ruddy Shelduck: One seen at Chichester Harbour entrance on Feb 12 was the first to get into the news this year (as on Feb 5 was a Surf Scoter at Dawlish Warren in Devon which has been lurking there since Nov 27)

Other new(ish) birds in the news this week are the Iceland race of Redwing, Snowy Owl, Northern Harrier, Azorean Yellow-legged Gull, White-billed Diver and Penduline Tit

White-tailed Eagle: Another unconfirmed report of it over the Lymington marshes on Feb 12

Buzzard: Nine were seen 'Sky dancing and Talon grappling' on Feb 6

Black-tailed Godwits may be moving into the Avon valley (but the Nore Barn Spotted Redshank is still at Emsworth)

The 'new to Britain' Slaty-backed Gull in Essex has been refound for the second time

New(ish) bird song this week comes from Rock Pipit, Grey Wagtail, Blackbird, Chaffinch, Redwing (subsong), Goldcrest and Lesser Redpoll

Tree Sparrows may be under a new threat from 'firewood pirates'.

Insect News

Both Brimstone and Peacock butterflies came out of hibernation on Feb 8

The first two species of cross-channel migrant moths have been found at Portland

Wasps and Ladybirds have been brought out of hibernation this week

A Western Conifer Seed Bug was found in the bath of a Portsdown Hill house and was difficult to identify as it does not yet appear in English Field Guides since it only arrived in Europe in 1999 (in Italy with timber from America) and was not seen in England until 2007. It is now widespread in southern England and has started to breed here. More info about the species is on the Natural History Museum website at http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/species-of-the-day/biodiversity/alien-species/leptoglossus-occidentalis/index.html

Plant News

Goat Willow and Cow Parsley were both in flower this week

A couple of new local sites for Mistletoe have come to my attention

Other Wildlife

Frogspawn started to appear this week as Great Crested Newts and Toads returned to the water where they will breed (Toads suffering the usual road casualties)

News story of the week is the account of how Alpacas staunchly defend their young against predators and how they are trained by sheep farmers in America to protect the Lambs from Foxes. This story emerged from a vivid account of watching Alpacas at Prinsted driving a Stoat away from a Rabbit to which it had already given a fatal bite before the Alpacas became aware of it. Read the story for yourself on Brian Fellows website at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm The story begins in his diary entry for Feb 9 with a supplementary entry on Feb 12

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: On Feb 6 and 7 Hampshire birders in the Lymington/Hurst area had a taste of the large flocks of Divers that have been seen elsewhere on the south coast recently. A count of 146 was reported on Feb 6 increasing to 218 next day

White-billed Diver: A bird of this uncommon species was seen on Feb 7 in Shetland. The long staying Pacific Diver was still off Penzance on Feb 7

Red-necked Grebe: On Feb 6 one flew west past Selsey and was then seen off the south shore of Hayling

Slavonian Grebe: One was reported off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 12 and nine were reported at Studland Bay in Dorset on Feb 7

Black-necked Grebe: Three were seen at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 12 but the big numbers remain in Dorset with 70 at Studland Bay on Feb 7 and 56 there on Feb 10. In Cornwall there were 36 at Feock (Falmouth) on Feb 7 and 20+ there on Feb 11

Cormorant: The large flock which has been in Poole Bay (off Bournemouth) for the previous ten days or so seems to have peaked on Feb 8 with a count of 540. A separate count of 270 off Worthing on Feb 9 was probably an indication that the flock of 420 seen off Pagham Harbour on Feb 1 is still in that general area.

Bittern: Reports from nine sites this week show that these birds are still to be found all along the south coast from Kent to Cornwall. Counts of 3 birds came from Poole Harbour (Hatch Pond), Testwood Lakes (Southampton), and Castle Water at Rye Harbour

Cattle Egret: Very few of these around this winter so the arrival of one at Fowey in Cornwall on Feb 6 was welcome - still there on Feb 11

White Stork: The first two reports of returning migrants came from Belgium on Feb 6 and 7 (25 seen on Feb 6 but only a couple on Feb 7)

Brent Goose: Some are reported heading east along our south coast almost daily this week but the movement stepped up a gear on Feb 7 when more than 1000 went east off Dungeness (described on the observatory website as the first major movement of the spring). On Feb 9 the count of Brent flying east at Splash Point, Seaford, was 837 and on Feb 6 a Netherlands site reported 1737 Brent (probably birds from western France rather than England)

Red-breasted Goose: The bird seen along the Solent shore between Titchfield and Warsash since Jan 20 has not been seen anywhere since its last appearance on Feb 6

Ruddy Shelduck: The first to appear on the south coast this year was seen on Feb 12 over the Sussex side of Chichester Harbour entrance by Andy Johnson looking from Sandy Point on Hayling

Gadwall: On Feb 3 a record number of Gadwall were seen on the Budds Farm Pools at Havant but on Feb 8 there were none to be seen there and this pattern recurred at several sites including Emsworth Harbour. Later this week some were back in the area (I watched 10 fly in to the Thorney Little Deeps on Feb 12). Presumably these fluctuations in numbers are a reflection of the wintering population moving east in waves.

Scaup: On Feb 10 there were still 33 at Abbotsbury in Dorset and the single male that had appeared on the Thorney Little Deeps on Feb 8 was still there on Feb 12

Eider: The flock off East Head in Chichester Harbour which numbered 37 on Jan 31 had increased to 40 on Feb 1 and had 52 birds on Feb 8

Surf Scoter: An adult female has been wintering at Dawlish Warren in Devon since Nov 27 and was still there to be ticked on Feb 5 by Lee Evans on his tour of west country birding sites last weekend (as was the Hooded Merganser at Radipole)

Smew: The Thorney Deeps bird has not been seen since Feb 8 and one of the two birds that were at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 1 has disappeared but several of the other wintering birds may still be with us. On Feb 8 the Dungeness RSPB site was still reporting 8 birds and the Longham Lakes at Bournemouth still had 3 while on Feb 11 singles were still at the Blashford Lakes and West Bexington in Dorset

Red Breasted Merganser: As usual as the birds start to move east we see big 'flotillas' along the south coast and this week brought a report of 100+ off East Head in Chichester Harbour on Feb 8. On Feb 5 there were 84 in Portland Harbour and on Feb 8 I saw 16 at the mouth of the Langbrook Stream at Langstone.

Goosander: There were still 155 at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 9.

White-tailed Eagle: Regular sightings in the Downton area near New Milton ceased after Feb 2 and there was no confirmation of a claimed sighting over New Milton on Feb 9 though there has been a further claimed sighting over the Lymington marshes at midday on Feb 12 when three observers visiting from Reading saw what they thought was the Eagle - I would be happier to hear a report from locals who have seen the bird before.

Buzzard: On Feb 6 a group of 9 over the Amberley Wild Brooks area near Pulborough were watched 'sky dancing and talon grappling' in the spring sunshine of that day

Great Bustard: The two birds spending a winter holiday by The Fleet in Dorset from their enforced stay on Salisbury Plain were both seen in the Moonfleet area on Feb 8 but only one was there on Feb 10

Avocet: Lee Evans visited Arne at the start of his west country tour on Feb 5 and 'click counted' 818 Avocets there. There were probably around 500 in the Exe estuary this week (count for Feb 3) and at least another 100 in north Kent (103 were there on Feb 11)

Purple Sandpiper: Another good count of 14 was made at Southsea Castle on Feb 12 (16 were there on Jan 15) but highest count this week was of 42 at Penzance on Feb 6

Black-tailed Godwit: A count of 61 at the Blashford Lakes in the Avon Valley on Feb 12 suggests that these birds have started moving into the Avon Valley as they normally do at this time of year

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth should stay there until well into March but it had not been reported since Jan 30 so I was pleased to see it on Feb 12

Med Gull: Two further small hints that these birds are starting to leave their coastal winter sites and return to the inland areas where they will be seen as they pair and feed prior to nesting came this week. At Pagham on Feb 9 half a dozen of the gulls were in roadside fields on the way to Church Norton and on Feb 12 four birds were on public grassland at Southsea

Slaty-backed Gull: The bird which was a first for Britain when it was found at the Rainham Marshes (east London) on Jan 14 remains very difficult to find but has been reliably reported on Feb 3 at Pitsea Landfill site in Essex and now has been seen again on Feb 6 at Hanningfield Reservoir (still in Essex)

Yellow-legged Gull: I was puzzled by news that on Feb 9 an Azorean Yellow-legged Gull had been found near St Just in Cornwall but a little research seems to tell me that this is a sub-species (Larus michahellis atlantis) of the normal Yellow-legged Gull more regularly seen along our south coast.

Sandwich Tern: The first migrant arrivals should be with us soon but it is always difficult to distinguish them from birds that have been wintering here (though the migrants do have two distinctive habits - one is that they stick to the coast (not entering harbours) and the other is that they keep moving, hopefully leaving a trail of sightings along the coast. This week brought the first report that might have been of migrants - two were seen off Splash Point at Seaford on Feb 9. No wintering birds have been reported east of Brighton this winter but two birds seen at Selsey Bill on Feb 6 and assumed to be birds wintering in Chichester Harbour could (despite wintering here) have felt the call of spring and set off eastward.

Snowy Owl: First to appear in the UK this winter turned up on the Isle of Lewis on Feb 8. With it was another long distance traveller, a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus hudsonius).

Little Owl: There is a good chance of seeing these owls in our area either at Hook (Warsash) or at the West Dean Woods (north of Chichester) but for locals in the Havant area it would be good to have the re-assuarance that the birds based at Warblington Farm are still there so I was pleased, when walking south down Church Lane on Feb 11 and passing the old Black Barn at the farmyard, to hear a brief burst of loud calls coming from inside the barn as if something had briefly disturbed a Little Owl sleeping there.

Long-eared Owl: Birders normally have little friendship for dog walkers but there is an exception to every rule and an entry on the Oare Marshes website for Feb 8 describes an afternoon visit to the Oare reserve (on the north Kent coast near Faversham) which would have had little bird interest had it not been for dogs. The entry says .. "A male Marsh Harrier hunted over the west side of the reserve, but there was not much else until a pack of beagles started hunting the area west of the Ferry Inn on Sheppey. They flushed a Long-eared Owl roost, and there were 5 or 6 Long-eared Owls flying in all directions. Then they disturbed a Short-eared Owl on the foreshore which flew around for quite a while"

Short-eared Owl: One was still to be seen in bushes near the eastern security gate giving access to the military part of Thorney Island on Feb 9 and another was seen at Bransbury Common near Andover on Feb 8 - both these sites have been good for seeing the species in past years and I suspect there will be more sightings at both before the owls finally head north

Kingfisher: Of local interest on Feb 8 I disturbed a Kingfisher from a perch over the Langbrook Stream where it runs past the Langbrook Close houses not far south of the Langstone Technology Park approach road.

Rock Pipit: These seem to have started singing this week with reports from the Portsmouth Dockyard on Feb 7 and from Durlston on Feb 10. Those birds may well be intending to stay and breed here but others that have wintered here are probably already on return passage - at least that was what I thought on Feb 8 when walking along the South Moors shore at Langstone seeing (in addition to a close view of what I assumed was the regular winter bird still there) three more newcomers to the site which I assume were just passing through.

Grey Wagtail: Another report from Portsmouth Dockyard on Feb 7 is of the first Grey Wagtail song of the year (two birds were seen so maybe they will nest there). On Feb 8 a smart female was seen on the Lymbourne stream here in Havant

Waxwing: I think the number of sightings is at last starting to diminish though looking just at today's (Feb 13) Hampshire sightings I see there were 40 in Farnborough, 15 in Totton and 25 at New Milton

Blackbird: I am aware of three early reports of song on Jan 14 in Hollybank Woods, Jan 18 at Brighton and on Jan 24 in the Cosham area of Portsmouth but I think the season for general singing started on Feb 10 with a report from Devon followed by hearing the birds myself here in Havant on Feb 11 and 12

Redwing: One of the sure signs that Redwing are about to leave us is when they gather in trees and all burst into their Starling like communal sub-song - this was heard on Feb 6 from a flock of some 50 birds in the Rackham woods near Pulborough. An unconnected piece of information came on Feb 10 when a message on Hoslist made me aware that there is a distinctive Iceland subspecies of Redwing (Turdus iliacus coburni) - Wikipaedia tells me that .. "The Redwing has two subspecies:

T. i. iliacus, the nominate subspecies described by Linnaeus, which breeds in mainland Eurasia.

T. i. coburni described by Richard Bowdler Sharpe in 1901, which breeds in Iceland and the Faroe Islands and winters from western Scotland and Ireland south to northern Spain. It is darker overall, and marginally larger than the nominate form."

Goldcrest: The first report of song that I have seen came from Durlston on Feb 8 followed by one from Lavington Common near Pulborough on Feb 10 and this is supported by Tony Gutteridge who this week told me he had heard their song 'recently'.

Penduline Tit: Two of these (first I know of for the year) were at the Rainham Marshes in east London on Feb 7

Tree Sparrow: The Ash Tree in which the last pair to be seen at Warblington Farm nested some 20 years ago is still standing and I am pretty sure that lack of nest sites is not the only or major cause of this species vanishing from southern England but nevertheless it is worrying to hear from Sean McMinn on the RX (Rye Bay) website that while driving around the lanes on the Walland Marsh (east of Rye) he has noticed recently an increasing number of roadside piles of sawdust which he believes to be the result of an increased demand for fire wood as fuel prices escalate and certain people are finding it profitable to collect 'free' wood from the countryside and sell it on. On these marshes, where Tree Sparrows still breed, there are few trees and if this practice continues it could well drive the Sparrows away for lack of nest sites.

Chaffinch song: The first I know of was heard at Durlston on Feb 3 with Brian Fellows hearing one in Emsworth on Feb 6. I think I heard one distantly on Feb 7 but definitely found one in full song at Warblington on Feb 11

Lesser Redpoll: Another 'first song' report is for Redpoll in the Pulborough area on Feb 8

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Sunshine and warmth on Feb 8 brought out the first real wave of spring butterflies

Brimstone: Five sightings on Feb 8 including a female at Cove (Fleet) and males at Kingley Vale near Chichester, Rockford Common near Ringwood, Leigh Park in Havant and Bexhill near Hastings

Red Admiral: Another five reports for dates from Feb 3 at Lee on the Solent to Havant on Feb 9

Small Tortoiseshell: One at Durlston on Feb 8 but as this one was found in a house it could have been roused by factors other than the external temperarture

Peacock: Two genuine outdoor sightings, both on Feb 8, at Kingley Vale and Ventnor on the IoW

Moths

Portland reports the first two species of cross Channel migrants

White-shouldered House Moth: In a Thanet (Kent) house on Jan 30

Winter Shade: First of year near Haywards Heath on Feb 8

Rush Veneer: One of the two migrant species in the Portland trap on Feb 12

Brown Plume (Emmelina monodactyla): First report from Thanet on Feb 7

Mottled Grey: First report from Portland on Feb 8

Spring Usher: First was at Fareham on Feb 9 with one in Thanet of Feb 10

Dark Sword-grass: First migrant of the year at Portland on Feb 10

Dark Chestnut: First of year in Thanet on Feb 10

Other Insects

Common Wasp: Several Queens seen in the Chailey Common area near Haywards Heath on Feb 8 along with several unspecified Bumblebees

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris): I saw what I think was this species flying at Langstone on Feb 8

7-spot Ladybird: I saw one in a Langstone High Street garden on Feb 8 when several Ladybirds were out at Chailey Common

Western Conifer Seed Bug: One found in John Goodspeed's bath at his Portsdown Hill home on Feb 9 - see more info in Highlights section above

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Winter Aconite: Flowers seen in the 'Woodland Burial' area of the Warblington cemetery extension on Feb 11 may not have been wild but were nevertheless welcome

Sweet Violet: By no means the first of the year but the first general outburst of fresh flowers was seen in St Faith's churchyard on Feb 11

Yellow-flowered Strawberry: A single flower seen in Juniper Square on Feb 8 was the first I have seen this year (though it could not be re-found later in the week)

Mistletoe: I learnt of two new sites for this during this week - one was in a Bridge Road garden in Emsworth where the plant was in flower, the other was in the old cemetery at Warblington where it was potentially under threat from tree management/hedge cutting currently taking place there

Goat Willow: The very first tree to put out golden anthers on its 'Pussy Paw' catkins was seen at Southmoor Lane in Havant on Feb 8

Cow Parsley: Also seen on Feb 8 a single plant was flowering in Wade Lane at Langstone

Green Field Speedwell: The first flowers I have seen this year were growing as weeds in a Langstone High Street garden on Feb 8 - I saw another plant flowering in Pook Lane at Warblington on Feb 11

Elder: Leaves were well developed in hedgerow trees at Warblington on Feb 11

Daffodil: First flowers on cultivated plants had been seen in Emsworth on Jan 31 but I did not see any for myself until Feb 12

OTHER WILDLIFE

Stoat: See the headline item above about Alpacas defending a rabbit from a Stoat

Sika Deer: 24 (including 4 males) feeding on Poole Harbour saltings at Arne on Feb 5

Frogspawn: The first of four reports I have seen this week came from Northiam (north of Hastings) on Feb 5. Next was from Fareham on Feb 8, then Devon on Feb 10 and finally north Kent on Feb 11

Toads heading for breeding ponds: Also in the Northiam area Brian Banks found the first six road casualties on Feb 10 after Toads had started to cross roads on their way to breeding ponds

Great Crested Newts: Common Newts had started to re-appear in garden ponds in the Rye area on Jan 12 but the first Great Crested Newts were not seen in Walland Marsh ditches until Feb 7 and had probably only been there for a couple of days

Fungi: Nothing much to report though I did find Black Bulgar in the Nore Barn woodland at Emsworth on Feb 12


Wildlife diary and news for Jan 31 - Feb 6 (Week 05 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

See relevant entries in the full text below for each of these headlines

Vagrants - Killdeer on Islay, Black Kite in Devon and Cornwall, and the Slaty-backed Gull re-located at a Thames rubbish tip but the Hampshire White-tailed Eagle has gone

West Sussex has its first Hooded Crow since 1986

Havant local news - Bittern at Bedhampton (with Common Sandpiper) and Egyptian Goose new to Sinah Gravel Pit

78 Black-necked Grebe at Falmouth and 35+ Slavonians off Pagham

700 Red-throated Divers leave the English Channel

Where have all the Little Egrets gone?

Whitefront geese join the spring exodus from southern England

Black-tailed Godwits return to the Exe estuary, Med Gulls to Portsmouth area and Woodlarks to Stansted Forest

Fresh bird song - Blackcap song in Hastings, Mistle Thrush in Havant and Marsh Tit at West Dean Woods plus Chaffinch at Durlston (and more Chiffchaffs plus a second Woodlark singing - first was heard on Jan 26)

Raven and Long Tailed Tit nest building as Dorset has a record count of 181 Ravens in a night roost (and Devon Starling roost tops 200,000)

More than 200 House Sparrows in a small Sussex town (after 185 in Romsey)

First Daffodil and Three-cornered Leek flowers among many Celandines, Snowdrops and Croci

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Large numbers of Red-throated reported during the past week especially around Kent. 225 headed east along the north Kent coast on Jan 29, 407 were off Reculver on Jan 30 and 516 were seen there on Jan 31 when Dungeness had the peak count of 700 heading east. Only 6 reports of Black-throated (with a max count of just three in south Devon) and only two reports of Great Northern (one off south Devon on Jan 31 and one in Poole Bay on Feb 5). The Pacific Diver was still in the Penzance area on Feb 3

Great Crested Grebe: Winter flocks on the sea may now be dispersing as only one substantial raft was reported this week (off Bournemouth with counts of 430 on Jan 31 and 424 on Feb 2)

Red-necked Grebe: One was seen in Hayling Bay (southern shore of the island) on Feb 1 and 3, a different bird was off Dungeness on Feb 1 and across the Channel at Sangatte (Calais) on Feb 3. What was probably a third bird was around Portland on Jan 29, off Bournemouth on Jan 31 and Feb 5 while a fourth bird was in Torbay (Devon) on Feb 2

Slavonian Grebe: Seen in small numbers along the south coast from Dungeness to Portland during the week with 7 at Studland Bay (Dorset) on Feb 1 but with a winter peak of 35+ off Pagham Habour on Jan 31 (where 13 had been seen from Selsey on Jan 29)

Black-necked Grebe: 76 were still in Studland Bay on Feb 1 (80 had been there on Jan 25) but this week a new flock of 78 was reported from the Falmouth area in Cornwall (off Feock at the head of Carrick Roads) where 40+ had been seen on Dec 7. In Langstone Harbour 13 were off the Oysterbeds on Jan 30 and 7 were reported there on Feb 1. I had my first there on Feb 3, probably driven closer to me on the shore by the activity of two Oyster dredgers in the Langstone Channel

Sooty Shearwater: One unseasonal bird had been seen off Portland on Jan 26 (and another off Flamborough Head in Yorkshire on Jan 27) before two were seen off Portland on Feb 5 this week

Gannet: I have not detected any concerted movement in the many reports of large numbers of Gannets in the Channel but on Feb 2 Portland reported the 'start of spring passage'

Bittern: Still numerous with 17 reports this week from 12 different sites. Peak count was 6 at Rye Harbour Castle Farm and of local interest was a sighting of one flying over the A27 in Havant where it crosses the Hermitage Stream - I think it was flying north and landed somewhere in the Bedhampton Mill area though there is no reed bed there

Little Egret: Numbers to be seen along the coast are always at their lowest at this time of year - many of them probably do fly south across the channel and the few which remain are more likely to be seen inland searching streams and wet meadows for food but the species never deserts us in the way that summer migrants do. The best way to monitor their presence is to check their night roosts at dusk and dawn as there is no certain way of predicting where they may be seen by day as they tend to roam from place to place and spend little time at any one place. Although the number roosting at Langstone Mill Pond during the winter may now be less than a dozen it will soon start to increase again and I see that 20 came out of the Rye Harbour roost on Feb 3. By day there is often one or two to be seen in the pony fields north of Wade Court at Langstone and this week Brian Fellows' garden in Emsworth was twice visited by an Egret hoping for fish in the small Westbrook stream which borders that garden.

Great White Egret: The colour ringed bird was seen at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood on Feb 1 but I believe that a second, unringed, bird is also present there though I don't know how obvious the rings are (Tony Wootton took a picture of one there on Feb 2 which can be seen on Brian Fellows website and that seems to show something around the 'knee area' of the right leg - is that the 'ringed' bird?). The Sandwich Bay bird is also still around as are the flock of five or six birds on the Somerset Levels.

Bewick's Swan: 16 were still at Harbidge near Ringwood on Feb 4 and 40 were on the Arun near Arundel on Feb 5 when 10 were seen at Pulborough Brooks

Whitefront Geese: 227 of the 557 birds that were at Slimbridge on Jan 30 left that night and on Jan 31 Rye Harbour reported 85 flying over. Also on Jan 30 Dorset reported 46 flying over Weymouth Bay and another group of 5 over the Poole area. On Feb 3 there were still around 70 at Cuckmere Haven and on Feb 4 Farlington Marshes had 14

Brent Goose: More of these have been heading east this week. 175 flew past Dungeness on Jan 29 and 25 flew east at Splash Point (Seaford) on Jan 30. On Jan 31 Dungeness again reported 175 going east and on Feb 5 60 flew east off Ventnor (IoW) and 34 were seen passing Selsey. Those which have not yet set out on their spring journey are feeding up (for the first time this winter I found some 600 in the Warblington field adjacent to Pook Lane on Jan 31) and when the local flocks get airborne (even if not going anywhere distant) they chatter excitedly among themselves in a way that you do not hear earlier in the winter.

Black Brant: In addition to the regular couple in the Weymouth area one was at Farlington Marshes on Feb 3 when another was still at Fishbourne Chanel near Chichester

Red-breasted Goose: The presumed wild bird which has been on the shore west of Titchfield Haven since Jan 20 was not reported after Jan 30 and was thought to have moved on but it re-appeared on Feb 4 a little further west in the Hook/Warsash area and was still there on Feb 5. Also reported this week (on Feb 3) were two of these birds in the north east of the Isle of Wight near the Flamingo Park wildfowl collection from which they almost certainly came (though I have not heard of this species there previously). On Jan 31 Lee Evans listed some 18 birds of this species that he knows of currently 'loose' in Britain (including a pair with 3 juveniles in Suffolk)

Egyptian Goose: This week's reports are of 4 at Farlington Marshes on Feb 1, 2 at Benbow Pond near Midhurst on Feb 3 and 2 at Tundry Pond near Fleet on Feb 2 but of local interest one was seen on Feb 3 at Sinah Gravel Pit (south Hayling) - maybe a first for that site.

Shelduck: A report of the 'first back' at a north Hampshire site (Welshman's Pool) on Feb 6 indicates that some Shelduck are returning to breeding grounds well away from the coast

Gadwall: A count of more than 50 on the Budds Farm pools in Havant on Feb 3 was probably a site record as was a count of 140 on newly flooded fields by the River Rother north f Hastings that day

Pintail: Still plenty around. On Feb 1 there were 110 on the River Ouse at Piddinghoe (south of Lewes) and on Feb 3 the Fishbourne Channel at Chichester had 74

Eider: 16 had been recorded on Jan 22 at the mouth of Chichester Harbour, 37 were thereabouts on Jan 31 and 40 off East Head on Feb 1

Smew: One was still on the Test at Romsey on Jan 31, one was at Abbotsbury in Dorset in Jan 31 and it was probably seen again off West Bexington on Feb 2 and 3 , a redhead was still at Topsham (Exe estuary) on Feb 2, one was still at the Blashford Lakes on Feb 1, several were still at the Dungeness RSPB site on Feb 4 and 4 were at the Longham Lakes (Bournemouth) on Feb 5 when 5 were seen in Belgium

Red Breasted Merganser: A count of 120 on the sea off Bognor on Feb 2 is a good hint that their spring passage has started

Goosander: 200 were still at the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) on Feb 1 but the unexpected sight of one on the sea off Worthing on Jan 29 is also an indication of spring movement

Black Kite: On Feb 1 one was seen over Slapton in Devon and on Feb 3 one was flying west over St Austell in Cornwll

White Tailed Eagle: The bird which has been in the extreme south west of Hampshire from Jan 1 to Feb 3 seems to have left the area that day, flying east over Lymington and being seen over Hythe on Southampton Water at noon but not reported since

Grey Partridge: The Havant Wildlife Group found 5 in field on the Chidham/Cobnor penninsula (east of Emsworth) on Jan 29

Great Bustard: The two escapees from Salisbury Plain which have been in the Moonfleet Area north of Weymouth since Jan 22 were still there on Feb 4

Avocet: The Poole Harbour winter flock now has 1200 birds which were seen off Arne on Feb 2. The Exe estuary flock of 500 were seen at Topsham on Feb 3

Ringed Plover: Two isolated birds which I saw on Feb 3 on the south Hayling shingle near Gunner Point may have already been on their intended breeding territory

Killdeer Plover: A lone bird which tuned up on Islay in the Scottish western isles on Jan 31 become the 246th species to have been seen in the British Isles so far this year according to Lee Evans - it did not stay.

Little Stint: One was seen at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 3 and the regular bird in the Fishbourne Channel area was again there on Feb 5

Long-billed Dowitcher: The bird which was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) from Nov 8 last year to Jan 20 this year moved to Poole Park on Jan 31 and has stayed there until Feb 5 at least

Black-tailed Godwit: The birds which were absent from the Exe estuary in Devon last week were back this week (300 there on Feb). Pulborough had 100 or more throughout the week and Poole Harbour had 1500 on Feb 2

Whimbrel: The wintering bird at the north end of Southampton Water was seen again at Eling Great Marsh on Feb 5

Common Sandpiper: The bird wintering in the Hermitage stream where it reaches Langstone Harbour at Broadmarsh was seen again on Jan 31

Mediterranean Gull: Still no sign of a major return to breeding areas though one was seen over Portscreek (northern boundary of Portsea island) on Feb 2 and at least one was in the Gosport area on Feb 5

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was seen at the Cockle Pond on Feb 4 and 5, another was at Radipole (Weymouth) on those two days and a first winter bird was at Poole Park on Feb 5 while Cornwall had one at Par (St Austell Bay) on Jan 30

Slaty-backed Gull: The bird seen at Rainham Marshes on Jan 13 to become a 'first for Britain' was still there on Jan 14 but disappointed some 1400 Twitchers who arrived there on Jan 15 (Saturday). On Feb 3 it was refound at the Pitsea Landfill site on the Essex marshes but is still frustrating the twitchers as there is no public access to this busy and dangerous site

Sandwich Tern: Sightings at the entrance to Chichester Harbour on Jan 31 (one bird) and Feb 1 (two birds) were almost certainly of wintering birds but one seen at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 5 raised the possibility that it was an early migrant (though singles were seen in nearby Poole Harbour on Jan 1, at Studland on Jan 14 and again in Poole Harbour on Jan 16)

Auks: Many remain at various places along the south coast including 5000+ feeding on Sprats in Poole Bay (off Bournemouth) on Jan 31 and still there on Feb 5. Dungeness reported 4000 on Feb 1

Guillemot: More than 300 summer plumaged birds were on the breeding ledges at Durlston on Jan 31

Razorbill: Also at Durlston on Jan 31 were 16 Razorbills cooing, necking and making their 'butterfly' display flights. Not yet in breeding mood some 11,200 Razorbills were seen off Durlston on Feb 1

Little Auk: The single bird seen off Flamborough Head in Yorkshire on Jan 27 was in Scarborough Harbour on Jan 30 and 31

Barn Owl: A couple of weeks ago we reported several cases of Kestrels attacking Barn Owls that were hunting by day and stealing their prey and Jan 30 there was a similar case observed at Brading Marsh on the IoW

Tawny Owl: Someone on night shift at Ashurst (between Southampton and Lyndhurst) heard six different Tawnies calling around 3am on Feb 6

Long-eared Owl: On Feb 1 one was found injured on the road between Newhaven and Lewes and a rescue attempt resulted in the rescuer having a finger pierced by the bird's talons before it was secured and taken to St Tiggywinkles hospital in Buckinghamshire

Short-eared Owl: Two which were seen in bushes at the east end of the Thorney Great Deeps on Jan 22 became three on Jan 25 but only two were to be seen there on Feb 5. Others, also presumably on their way north after wintering across the Channel, were seen at Beeding on the River Adur on Jan 30 and at Arne in Dorset on Feb 3

Kingfisher: Local sightings this week have been at the Leigh Park Gardens lake in the Staunton Country Park north Havant on Feb 3 and at the mouth of the Hermitage Stream at Broadmarsh (Jan 31)

Woodlark: Three were back in the Stansted Forest East Park on Jan 31 and one was singing at a New Forest site on Feb 3 when another was heard calling over Ambersham Common near Midhurst

Shorelark: Three were still on the north Kent coast at Reculver on Feb 4 and another two were at Sandwich Bay on Feb 3

Rock Pipit: A flock of 15 were by the Fishbourne Channel at Chichester on Feb 3 (probably having got together for company on their spring passage)

Waxwing: 19 reports this week with a peak count of 190 in the Waitrose carpark at Yateley in north Hampshire on Feb 1

Stonechat: Five reports this week indicate some birds are returning to their regular haunts

Blackbird: Isolated reports of song on Jan 14 and 17 have not yet turned into the start of spring song but at midday on Feb 6 I thought I heard another attempt at song somewhere not too far from my Havant garden (the strong wind in the trees made it impossible to be sure)

Mistle Thrush: First song was heard from the Staunton Country Park on Feb 3 and a single bird was in one of the Warblington Farm fields adjacent to Pook Lane on Jan 31 (hopefully a sighting of a flock of 11 at Sandwich Bay that day was not a sign that the few we have in southern England this winter are about to re-cross the Channel and leave us)

Blackcap: First two reports of full song come from Hastings on Jan 30 and the Cuckmere valley on Jan 31

Chiffchaff: After the first two reports of song on Jan 25 another bird was heard singing at Coldwaltham (Pulborough) on Feb 3

Long-tailed Tit: A pair were seen carrying nest material in the Chandlers Ford area near Eastleigh on Feb 4. Over in Kent 7 of the white headed northern species were still present on Feb 2 (5 at Dymchurch and 2 at Sittingbourne)

Marsh Tit: First song heard in the West Dean Woods north of Chichester on Feb 5

Willow Tit: Although near extinction in Hampshire I see that two birds were seen at Bodmin Moor in Cornwall on Jan 30

Corvids: When I was young the rule of thumb for distinguishing Rooks from Crows was that if there were many seen together they must be Rooks and if there was only one or two they were Crows but the situation has radically changed with the long term decline in Rook numbers and the unstoppable increase in Crows. This is emphasised this week by a count of 300 Crows together at the Weston Shore on Southampton Water (and smaller flocks on shores around our Solent Harbours) and the absence of Rooks from many areas (I did not get the species onto my year list until Jan 21). However Valentine's Day is getting near and that is when it is said that the Rooks start their nesting and so become noisy and numerous around the Rookeries which they still use (unlike many others which they have abandoned). On Jan 29 the Havant Wildlife Group were visiting the Chidham area east of Emsworth and had a welcome surprise when they found more than 200 Rooks there which may may have come from one or both of two surviving large Rookeries - one in Oldpark Wood on the Bosham side of the Fishbourne Channel about 3 km to the south west of Chidham, the other around Hambrook House which is about the same distance north of Chidham.

Hooded Crow: One or two have been present on the north Kent coast through the winter since Oct 21 but this week has brought news of one seen on Feb 5 in West Sussex (where the species is very uncommon) on Highdown Hill just north of Worthing and west of Durrington. This seems to be the first seen in Sussex since 1986 and only about the 20th record in the county since 1900

Raven: These are now settling in southern England in large numbers. On Feb 3 the winter night roost in Dorset (in woods close to Minterne Magna which is a few miles north of Cerne Abbas which in turn is halfway between Dorchester and Sherborne) had a record of 181 birds. Further west in Devon on Jan 31 a pair were carrying nest material to the sea cliffs near Budleigh Salterton (east of the Exe estuary). Locally on Jan 27 four birds flew over Stansted Forest (near which a pair is known to have nested a few years ago)

Starling: The night roost numbers on the southwest coast of Devon at Thurlestone peaked on Jan 30 with an estimated 200,000 birds

House Sparrow: After last week's report of 185 in a small area of Romsey on Jan 26 the small town of Camber near Rye in East Sussex has staked its claim to be our 'Sparrow Town' with a count of 200+ on Feb 1

Chaffinch: These normally start to sing before the end of January but this year the only report of song which I have seen so far comes from Durlston on Feb 3

Corn Bunting: Just two reports of singles in Hampshire this week - one at Cheesefoot Head near Winchester on Jan 30 and one at Teglease Down near Old Winchester Hill on Jan 29

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Just two reports of Red Admirals make up the whole of this week's insect news - one was seen somewhere in Sussex on Jan 30 and the other in Emsworth on Feb 3

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

A report of the first flowers on Three-cornered Leek at Durlston on Feb 3 is the only news of 'wild' plants but here in the Havant area the week brought the first cultivated Daffodil flowers and good displays of Snowdrops and Croci

OTHER WILDLIFE

Seals: Seven Common Seals were seen in Langstone Harbour from the Portsmouth side (Great Salterns) on Jan 31 and a Grey Seal was reported in Newtown Harbour (IoW) on Feb 1. Over in the Thanet area of Kent 11 Common and 3 Grey were seen on Jan 31

Grey Squirrel: My garden has almost daily visits from a single Grey Squirrel but on Feb 2 four came together with much chasing about the lawn - may be a sign of activity increasing with spring?


Wildlife diary and news for Jan 24 - 30 (Week 04 of 2011)

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Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

American Purple Gallinule: In Devon on Jan 24 a very unusual bird was found dead in a garden on Dartmoor - this was an American Purple Gallinule (Porphyrio martinica), only the third ever to be recorded in Britain. Back in Nov 1958 one was found in the Scillies and in April 2008 the second turned up at Old Warden in Bedfordshire. You can see a photo of the current find at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/_z6ighXZ8E7s/TT37FLVyOrI/AAAAAAAAD8k/SEOShhbO1Jg/s400/American-Purple-Gallinule1.jpg and I read that this American species must be distinguished from the southern European species (the Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyrio) of which 68 have reached Britain. You can see a photo of this latter species at http://timescolumns.typepad.com/stothard/2011/01/porphyrio-porphyrio.html

Swallow: A very early bird had been seen in Cornwall near Truro on Jan 10 and this week what was probably the same bird was seen on Jan 23 near the Saltash Bridge over the River Tamar. Another report of another very early bird (a group of three Little Ringed Plover at Lymington on Jan 28) is unconfirmed and probably was a sighting of our resident Ringed Plovers). More believable was a Lesser Whitethroat seen at Ramsgate in Kent on Jan 28 though that has probably been wintering here while the Swallow is perhaps more likely to be a migrant with an out of synch biological clock

Wind farms: Two of these feature in this week's news, one already in action on the Walland Marshes just east of Rye where it is said to be having no harmful impact on birds is described in the Bewick's Swan entry in the Bird section below. The other is a proposed wind farm off the Norfolk coast and is also described in the same entry

GPS neck collars on birds: These also get two mentions in this week's Summary - see Bewicks Swan and Red-breasted Goose entries below

Jakes Bones: On a lighter note you may be as amused as I was (when investigating the subject of when Roe Deer start to grow their new antlers) to have a look at this blog purporting to be the unaided work of a nine year old boy - see http://jakes-bones.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-roe-deer-antlers-grow.html

Ginger and beetles: After drinking a nightcap of Whiskey and Ginger Wine I put the glass into my kitchen sink but did not wash it up and before heading upstairs to bed I noticed that one of several Ladybirds which are currently flying around inside the house (suffering the penalty for invading the house in the autumn and then being awoken from hibernation by the central heating) had settled on the glass and was seemingly enjoying a ginger flavoured drink. Next day Radio 4 had a piece about how an entomologist studying Stag Beetles had discovered that the only way he could trap these beetles was by baiting his traps with Ginger which, he said, smelt to the beetles of the rotting wood they were seeking in order to lay their eggs. Putting two and two together I am wondering what other insects we can attract with ginger.

Spring flowers: Lesser Celandines and Snowdrops were not new this week but are now becoming widspread and one flower which was out for the first time here in Havant was Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila verna).

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Black-necked Grebe: Last week I reported that Dorset was claiming a new record flock size with 74 of these Grebes seen together at Studland Bay on Jan 18. This week that claim has been upped with a count of 80 there on Jan 25

Bewick's Swan: In Hampshire the number to be seen at Ibsley on the River Avon near Ringwood rose to 16 on Jan 29. This is the highest count in the Avon valley since 2004 when 23 were present and shows a welcome upswing since the nadir of just 10 birds in 2008 but for those whose pile of Hampshire Bird Reports runs back to the 1970s it as a poor shadow of counts in the mid 1980s which peaked with 314 in Feb 1988. To add to the possible causes of decline in this species is a proposal to build a wind farm off the Norfolk coast through which these birds (which fly low on migration) may have to travel so on Jan 22 the WWT staff at Slimbridge caught 29 of the Bewick's currently there and fitted 4 of them with GPS neck collars to record the route they take when the return to Siberia. Also in the news is a herd of 71 Bewick's which feed on the Walland Marshes a few miles east of Rye - interestingly this area of those marshes (around a place called Little Cheyne Court) is also the site of a new windfarm whose promoters take pains to point out that it attracts large numbers of wildfowl and has not injured any of them - the windfarm which went into operation in Nov 2008 is 2.4 miles east of Rye, has 26 Turbines spread over a large area, and was built by Npower at a cost of £590 million

Whooper Swan: In recent winters what was probably a single family of Whoopers have used the Chichester Lakes as a night roost, flying off to spend the days at some unknown site between Chichester and Pagham. They have not been seen at Chichester this winter but this week they may have been located in an area called Barnham Levels which has until now escaped the attention of birders. The area lies east of the A29 London to Bognor road and south of the main rail line running through Barnham and the birds (5 Whooper's, 1 Bewicks and 1 Black Swan) have been found in the area around SU 9502 accessed via paths from Barnham Court at SU 956035.

Black Swan: The one found at the Barnham Levels on Jan 28 and 29 is probably the same bird seen on Jan 20 on the River Arun near Ford village and on Jan 23 on the Thorney Island Little Deeps

Whitefront Goose: In addition to the 71 Bewick's Swans present at the Walland Marsh windfarm there were 420 Whitefronts, 73 Barnacle geese, 300+ Greylags, 330 teal, 80+ Shoveler, 50 Pintail, 6000 Lapwing, 600 Golden Plover, 300 Dunlin plus 1 Hen Harrier and 1 Merlin - these numbers were put on the RX website by someone called Sean McMinn whose role in theWindfarm project I do not know

Brent Goose: Although it will be some weeks before there is any major departure of our wintering birds a number of reports of Brent flying east in small numbers continues to show that thoughts of migration are stirring in their minds. First indication of this movement came on Jan 10 with three birds flying east past Splash Point at Seaford in Sussex followed by 26 heading east off Portland. On Jan 24 Durlston reported 5 heading east and Jan 26 brought two reports (3 off the south Devon coast and another 5 off Worthing)

Red-breasted Goose: The unringed bird which appeared in the Solent between Warsash and Titchfield Haven on Jan 20 (and was still there on Jan 29) has now been shown to be not the unringed bird of the two that have been in the Exe estuary since Oct 7 as they were both still there on Jan 23. The species is also in the news this week on account of its endangered status (upgraded in 2007) - the BBC showed a British WWT team working in Bulgaria with the local equivalent of the RSPB to monitor the movements of these geese around Dobruja (their main wintering area) by attaching GPS neck collars to six birds out of the 6,000 currently present there (this number is expected to rise to 'tens of thousands' soon)

Shelduck: One or two pairs have nested at the Budds Farm pools site in Havant in recent years and on Jan 25 I saw a single bird there for the first time this year. A further visit on Jan 28 did not see any Shelduck (but did find the first pair of Canada Geese there with similar intentions)

Mandarin Duck: 5 of these colouful birds were seen at Fishlake Meadows by the River Test just north of Romsey on Jan 25 and three were seen there on Jan 26. These ducks nest in tree holes and could easily have been missed as they were in trees, not on water.

Gadwall: We have seen many reports of this species (mostly in much larger than expected numbers) this winter but maybe they are starting to leave us - this thought comes from the Sandwich Bay observatory where a flock of 43 were reported for the first time on Jan 28 - maybe birds on their way east and about to leave England.

White-tailed Sea Eagle: This bird was still in the Downton area near New Milton in south west Hampshire on Jan 29 and may be about to become more widely know as on Jan 28 a BBC team were filming it for the Inside Out regional programme shown in the South on Monday evenings at 7:30pm (possibly on Jan 31 but probably in a later edition). I am interested in seeing the Eagle but much more interested in getting one step nearer to unravelling a longstanding 'Who's Who' mystery relating to a group of Hampshire birders. For a couple of years or more email messages on Hoslist have carried references to the members of this group under pseudonyms which mean nothing to me but it seems that some of this group were involved in the BBC operation and will appear in the film - the Hoslist message giving this information appeared to reveal that the real names of some of the group are Simon Ingram, Steve Piggott, Tim Parminter and Nigel Jones but not who has which pseudonym - so far I have cracked the identity of 'Celine Dion' (Steve Piggott) and 'McCain' (Steve Keen who was not with them on the BBC outing - also not with them was Mark Halligan aka 'Flashlight') and I can guess that the 'Geingemeister' is Simon Ingram but the identities of 'Paris Hilton' and 'Rihanna' remain to be solved

Merlin: Last week we commented on the habit of some Kestrels following hunting Barn Owls and 'pirating' their prey. This week I noticed that the list of birds using the Little Cheyne windfarm area on the Walland Marshes east of Rye included the phrase 'Hen Harrier with its attendant Merlin' and am wondering if Merlins follow Hen Harriers and steal their prey in the same way - another currently unsolved mystery

Great Bustard: The two escapees from Salisbury Plain which turned up on Jan 20 in the Moonfleet area of the Fleet north of Weymouth were still thereabouts on Jan 28

Avocet: The Exe estuary has become known as a good place to see Avocets in the winter and on Jan 26 I see there were 580 of them in the Topsham area. Other big flocks reported this winter were at the Oare Marshes in north Kent (113 on Jan 5) and Poole Harbour with 450+ on Nov 28 and 867 on Oct 17

Little Ringed Plover: An unconfirmed report of three seen on a mud flat at Lymington on Jan 28 seems likely to be a misidentification of a group of Ringed Plovers. Little Ringed Plovers normally return in March (earliest ever dates are 29 Feb 2008 for Hampshire and 6 March in Sussex). They are also more likely to turn up at places like quarries than to be seen on mud flats.

Little Stint: The Fishbourne Channel (Chichester Harbour) bird was seen again on Jan 29 at the mouth of the Lavant river

Purple Sandpiper: 11 were at Southsea Castle (Portsmouth) on Jan 28 with 10 at Portland that day (and 28 at Penzance in Cornwall on Jan 26)

Black-tailed Godwit: These birds are at the best of times very mobile and will fly long distances, often for no very apparent reason but probably spurred by lack of food or bad weather where they happen to be (or inherited memories of better feeding at other sites as the seasons change - e.g. causing them to move from coastal mud to inland grassland as the latter becomes wetland after heavy rain). On Jan 25 a flock reported to have 967 birds suddenly appeared on the Fishbourne channel near Chichester (but immediately dispersed) but down in Devon on Jan 26 a count of 203 was said to be only a quarter of the number expected on the Exe estuary at this time of year (and a high tide visit there on Jan 23 found none at all provoking the comment .."I guess they moved south during the cold weather." .. which I guess means that they were thought to have reacted to the cold by flying across the channel to France)

Mediterranean Gull: A report of 26 on the Lymington shore on Jan 29 is the first mention of these birds away from their winter flocks (at Weymouth and Pagham Harbour) and may be an indication that they are starting to move to breeding areas such as Langstone Harbour

Razorbill: Maybe these too are heading for breeding areas - Durlston reported 12,000 flying east in an hour on Jan 25 increasing to 20,000 per hour on Jan 27 but dropping back to 2,200 on Jan 28

Kingfisher: Of local interest in Havant was a sighting of a Kingfisher perched on a tree overhanging Langstone Mill Pond on Jan 25

Woodlark: First song of the year was heard on Jan 26 at Paulton's Park by the M27 south of Romsey

Swallow: We have already reported a sighting of one near Truro in Cornwall on Jan 10 and maybe the same bird is now heading east into Devon as one was seen on Jan 23 only a few miles west of the River Tamar

Pied Wagtail: On Jan 27 a winter roost of 492 birds was seen in the Waitrose carpark at Petersfield

Waxwing: Still many reports from which I will pick out three - on Jan 24 one was seen on its own 'drunk and incapable of flight' in the Fairlight area at Hastings - it seems that these birds do sometimes get intoxicated by eating berries that are starting to ferment - and on Jan 28 one was even more incapable of flight after flying into a window at Rustington (Worthing) and breaking its neck. Finally I see that on Jan 29 Waitrose got on the list of supermarkets whose carparks have attracted the birds (60 at Yateley in north Hampshire while at nearby Stratfield Saye the Waxwings were enjoying Mistletoe berries at a humble Farm Shop)

Dipper: First song heard on Jan 28 from a bird near the well know 'Steps Bridge' over the River Teign in Devon

Lesser Whitethroat: On Jan 28 one was seen at close range as it emerged from a garden conifer in Ramsgate (Kent)

Chiffchaff: First reports of song came on Jan 25 from the Woolston area of Southampton and the Hove area of Brighton

Goldcrest: A recent increase in sightings in the Havant area may be a sign that the many birds which crossed the Channel or the North Sea in the late autumn to winter with us are now on the move eastward

Magpie: On Jan 29 a total of 160 Magpies were seen going into a night roost near Hatch Pond in the north of the Poole Harbour area

Raven: On Jan 21 I thought I heard the 'Prk,prk,prk' call of a Raven when I was in the north east of Stansted Forest so I was interested to see that on Jan 24 Michael Prior reported a group of 4 Ravens flying over this area

Starling: The Thurlestone Bay roost (south west coast of Devon) is estimated to have had 150,000 birds on the night of Jan 29

Rose-coloured Starling: The Cornwall Birding website reported on Jan 28 that two juveniles had been in a Penzance garden for more than three days (with a photo showing one which had already acquire much of its adult plumage)

House Sparrow: Encouraging news of a total of 185 of these rarities found in a small area of Romsey on Jan 26

Greenfinch: I did not find a single Greenfinch until Jan 19 (shortly after a group of around 20 were seen in the Worthing area) and this week they have been turning up in many places (presumably arriving from abroad). Here in the Havant area they can now be heard wheezing and singing every day

Crossbill: These are notoriously early breeders so is not unexpected that one was seen feeding a juvenile already out of the nest in the West Dean Woods north of Chichester on Jan 25

Vagrant: An American Purple Gallinule was found dead on Dartmoor on Jan 24 to be only the third ever recorded in Britain (more about it in the Hightlights section)

Escapees: Brian Fellows' website at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm has photos (scroll down to his Jan 23 entry) of the Black East Indies ducks which he first came across on the (south Hayling) Lakeside Holiday Village pond last autumn and which are now resplendent in a brilliant glossy green plumage. He has also managed to name a newly introduced goup of Minature Silver Appleyard ducks which have more recently been added to the collection on this pond

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Just one Red Admiral sighting this week on Jan 25 at Whippingham on the Isle of Wight and the observation in my own house of a Ladybird sipping Ginger Wine - see the entry about Ginger and Stag Beetles in the Highlights section

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Willdife)

New flowerings this week have been of Common Whitlowgrass (Erophila Verna), Hairy Bittercress and Common Mouse-ear. Near to flowering is a regular first to flower Goat Willow tree whose Pussy Paw catkins had lost their leathery outer covers by Jan 25 and had revealed their silver hairy look but not yet put out any of the golden anthers that will soon attract early bees. Also newly flowering on Jan 24 were garden escape Lungwort flowers and newly emerged from the ground by the Langbrook stream in Havant were plants of the unusual Giant Butterbur and female plants of normal Butterbur (both seen Jan 28)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Weasel: When Lee Evans came to Hampshire on Jan 23 to see our Eagle he included in his trip report a sighting of a Weasel seen carrying a Shrew. This reminded me that I have heard in the past that Shrews, unlike Mice, are not eaten by animals such as Cats which often catch them as prey and this is borne out in my experience as I have several times found the bodies of Shrews but not Mice left lying on the ground where they have died. The most likely explanation for this is that some Shrews have glands which create a strong poison that can kill animals much larger than they are (the glands are situated at the base of their teeth and the teeth have groves down which the poison runs). This is true of our Water Shrews but I am not sure if it applies to the Common and Pygmy Shrew species - in trying to find out I did discover that Moles have a venom which acts as an anaesthetic, allowing them to stockpile worms which they have caught (keeping them alive and edible, but immobile, until the Mole needs them as food) and that the Australian Platypus has a 'claw like organ' on its back legs through which it delivers a lethal poison to its prey. I also discovered that these animal poisons have been experimented with as a possible treatment for cancer. All very interesting but not telling me if the Weasel eventually ate and benefitted from the Shrew it had caught

Porpoise: On Jan 28 a dead juvenile Porpoise was found on a Thanet (Kent) beach and was the second to be found there recently. The cause of death was not known but I did wonder if it had been the victim of Dolphins which are known to kill the smaller Porpoises apparently for 'fun' (as a Cat will play with and kill a Mouse). Back in August I wrote .. "Bottle-nosed Dolphins: A boat trip off the Sillies saw more than 70 of these on Aug 14. Elsewhere I read this week of a group of Dolphins surrounding and attacking a Porpoise off the Welsh coast and further investigation indicates that this is not uncommon. The Dolphins do not kill the Porpoises for food (though dead Porpoises washed up on the shore often show marks of Dolphin teeth on their bodies - these are inflicted during the 'gang bullying' of the Porpoise until it drowns). A Californian source describes Dolphins killing Porpoises and then dragging the dead bodies to the boats of Marine Life researchers (interpreted by the article as a way of getting the humans to dispose of the corpses so that they do not pollute the Dolphins environment and not a intentional way of aiding the research!). No one knows why the Dolphins attack the Porpoises but the behaviour has been likened to the way in which one group of Chimpanzees will kill another group for no apparent reason. Packs of dogs also exhibit similar behaviour and the Californian experience could be likened to the way that some domestic cats bring their kills home to present them to their human owners. I hear that Dolphins will also gang up on and kill Sharks."

Roe Deer growing new antlers: On Jan 27 Durlston had the first report for the year of a Roe Buck with antlers covered in velvet and in checking the normal date for Roe to cast their antlers and start growing a a new set (in December) I came across a blog supposedly written by a nine year old boy which others may find of interest - see http://jakes-bones.blogspot.com/2010/05/how-roe-deer-antlers-grow.html

Brown Trout covered with fungal growth: Tony Tindale (one of the Three Amigos) recently (Jan 23) found an 18 inch long Brown Trout in the Titchfield Canal which was covered with fungus - maybe this was just the result of old age but more worryingly - particularly as a second fish in a similar condition was seen a little way upstream - it could be the result of pollution. Read Tony's account and see his pictures at http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo/18324/Diseased+Brown+Trout+and+Marsh+Harrier+along+Titchfield+Canal.html


Wildlife diary and news for Jan 17 - 23 (Week 03 of 2011)

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Highlights

(Skip to Birds)

New Dorset record for Black-necked Grebe: On Jan 18 the count of Black-necked Grebe at Studland Bay in Dorset shot up to 74 (with 11 Slavonian also there) to set a new county record thus stealing the title of 'preferred wintering site for Black-necks' from Hampshire. Birds of Hampshire (published in 1992) begins its account of the species by saying .. "The main locality for Black-necked Grebes is Langstone Harbour. This site regularly holds at least 30% of the British wintering population (which is estimated at 120 birds based on the 1981 Winter Atlas). The highest count was 58 on 17 Nov 1957 ..." My own recollection is that at the start of the 1990s we expected the peak count for Langstone Harbour to be around 40 each winter but I see that by 1995 the highest count was only 30 and by 2000 it had fallen to 16. The 2009 Hampshire Bird Report shows the high count then was 18 so this years peak of 23 on Jan 2 was better than average but that is probably a reflection of an increase in the total number wintering in Britain (though BTO Bird Facts still quotes the 1981 figure of 120 birds) rather than a preference for Langstone Harbour by the birds (in any case the count of 23 was a 'one off' resulting from unexplained movements between south coast sites)

Judging sizes: See my entry for 'Odd Geese' in the Bird section below to try your skill at judging the relative sizes of three different geese in a photo on Brian Fellows website diary entry for Jan 22. You can see the photo directly at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-479-white-goose-fm-CV-22.01.11.jpg The relative sizes are, I think, an important factor in identifying the species concerned

Do Brent Geese have emotions? The following observation was sent to HOSLISTon Jan 21 by Dave Ryves after he had visited the Meon Shore (sea front just off Titchfield Haven). In Dave's own words ...

"At Meon Shore this morning I was returning to my car after walking along the cliffs when I watched a group of Brents flying close to the shore on the rising tide. When they reached the Beach huts, where some fishermen were, they flew right in to the lines entangling 2 birds which were brought crashing into the water .At this point some of the remaining birds turned round and returned to their trapped companions. 1 bird freed itself fairly quickly and flew off with some of the others but the other was quite distressed as the fisherman tried to reel it in. In the mean time a group of 5 birds landed nearby concerned at the distressed birds predicament. Eventually it freed itself but at first appeared injured and not able to fly but did manage to join the others who were swimming nearby. After about 5 minutes it had recovered enough and the whole group took off and continued on their way. Although it is possible that they were family groups,(at the time I was more concerned at rescue than checking whether they were adult or juvenile) I was most surprised at their obvious concern over their injured companion and at how they remained with it until it had recovered enough to continue."

Is the Red-breasted Goose currently on the Solent shore wild?\ It's a great sight and a good tick but its difficult to decide if the bird in the Warsash-Titchfield area this week is a genuine wild migrant that has been faithfully returning to the south coast for each of the last four winters or not - some of the facts are given in the main Summary below

Bird song: Song Thrushes can now be heard daily and the single Blackbird heard in the Emsworth area on Jan 14 was matched by one in Brighton on Jan 18. Another addition to the list of songsters was a single Black Redstart heard at St Ives in Cornwall on Jan 16

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Although 28 Red-throated Divers moved west past Selsey Bill on Jan 15 I think a few of these birds are starting to think of heading back to their breeding grounds (Portland reported parties of 16, 18, and 21 heading east up Channel on Jan 17, 18 and 20). Up to 4 Black-throated were off Selsey during the week and one was inside Chichester Harbour (seen from Black Point) from Jan 15 to 18 at least). Few Great Northern were reported (max 2 off Selsey on Jan 15 and one off Puckpool (IoW) on Jan 17).

Grebes: On Jan 19 a raft of 170 Great Crested were on the sea at Bexhill and on Jan 22 more than 400 were reported to be moving rapidly west off Worthing. Reports of Red-necked Grebe were more numerous than usual - of the eight reports I picked up all were of single birds. One was seen around Sandy Point on Hayling on Jan 17 and 18 and maybe the same bird was seen from Selsey on Jan 15 and 16. Another was in the Weymouth area (Portland Harbour and The Fleet, both on Jan 16) and Dorset had another on Jan 22 (near Arne in Poole Harbour). Cornwall has its own bird resident in Carbis Bay (Hayle Estuary area St Ives on the north coast). A single Slavonian Grebe was seen in Chichester Harbour off the west end of the Thorney Great Deeps by Barry Collins and others on Jan 21 and was still there on Jan 22. On Jan 16 up to 25 Slavonians were seen from Selsey Bill, up to 16 of these were inside Chichester Harbour on Jan 17 (with 2 others across the water at Puckpool Point (IoW), and on Jan 18 more than 13 were still to be seen in Chichester Harbour. Elsewhere 6 were off Lymington on Jan 16 and 11 were in the Studland Bay area on Jan 18. Also on Jan 18 Studland Bay set a new Dorset record with a count of 74 Black-necked Grebe. Langstone Harbour also seems to have have had a small influx of these birds this week giving a count of 10 off the Oysterbeds on Jan 22.

Fulmar: More signs of these birds getting into the mood for breeding came this week when a dozen pairs were seen demonstrating their atachment to each other in the Brighton area on Jan 19

Great Shearwater: One seen at Flamborough Head (Yorkshire) on Jan 21 was unexpected at this time of year

Bittern: These remain more numerous than ususal this week with sightings reported at 13 sites, 3 of them having 3 birds each (Blashford Lakes and Testwood Lakes in Hampshire and Hatch Pond in Poole Harbour)

Great White Egret: For some time (based on numbers regularly reported in the Low Countries) I have been expecting a mass invasion of southern England by Great Whites similar to the invasion by Little Egrets in 1989 and maybe we have a sign of that invasion starting this week with a report of 5 arriving together at Ham Wall in Somerset on Jan 17 and increasing to 6 there on Jan 21. This flock may be the result of several birds already in Britain all coming together at one site (the long term resident in the Folkestone area has not been reported since Jan 16 but the Sandwich Bay bird was still there on Jan 22) One bird which made a one off appearance at Burgate on the Hampshire Avon just north of Fordingbridge on Jan 17 hasn't been reported again and may have gone to Ham Wall (which is about 4 miles east of Glastonbury).

Bewicks Swan: The number at Slimbridge has now passed the 300 mark with 337 there on Jan 17. Plenty of other sites still have Bewicks including one described in the SOS News as 'Betley Bridge' which does not appear in their Gazeteer - I believe it to be the bridge over the R Arun some 1500 metres north of Henfield along the disused rail line and close to Great Betly Farm

Black Swan: On Jan 20 one appeared with Mutes on the River Arun south of Arundel (not far from Ford prison).

'Odd Geese': Brian Fellows website at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm on Jan 22 carries a report from Colin Vanner with a photo of a couple of 'odd geese' which he saw at Farlington Marshes. Brian is hoping to get an expert identification of them from Jason Crook but it is worth having a look at the photo as an exercise in judging the sizes of birds. If you assume that the bird in the forefront of the picture is a Canada Goose with an unusual facial plumage then the white goose close to it (and clearly bigger than it) cannot be a Snow Goose (which would be noticeably smaller than a Canada) but if you look at the Canadas in the background the unusual one in the foreground is clearly smaller than they are (making it possible for the white goose to be a Snow Goose - well maybe!). Having made my own guess at the relative sizes of the birds my inexpert guess is that the funny faced Canada is a Barnacle with some Canada parentage bur retaining the size of a Barnacle while the white goose is a leucistic Greylag.

Snow Goose: The RBA (Rare Bird Alert) website on Jan 20 mentioned that a 'Lesser Snow Goose' had turned up in Somerset and I was intrigued as to what a Lesser Snow Goose might be. I have come across Greater Snow Goose before and it turns out that some people refer to what I call a Snow Goose as a Lesser to distinguish it from the Greater. To add to the confusion I also discovered that there are two forms of the scientific name for the Snow Goose. My Collins Bird Guide gives it as Anser caerulescens but Wikipaedia gives it as Chen caerulescens. Another thing that I learnt from Wikipaedia is that, as well as being a common escape from Wildfowl collections, with the birds appearing in ones and twos anywhere in Britain, there is now an established feral colony of them in Scotland

Red-breasted Goose: Each winter since 2006-7 a Red-breasted Goose has arrived somewhere on the south coast west of Hampshire in the late autumn, joined a Brent flock (not necessarily arriving with them) and after Christmas it has gradually moved east along the coast to end up near the entrance to Chichester Harbour from where it has disappeared at the time that the Brent are leaving. Although there is no absolute proof I am convinced that the bird currently in the Warsash-Titchfield Haven area is a wild bird repeating the behaviour pattern of previousr winters but this winter birders in Devon (where what I believe to be this bird arrived in early October, was seen to be unringed, and settled with Brent at Topsham on the Exe estuary) were persuaded by the arrival of a second, ringed, bird in the same area that both were local escapes and hence they have not reported its presence there - had they done so, and indicated when it left the area, it would have been easier to judge whether the unringed bird which has appeared this week on the north east Solent shore (between Warsash and Titchfield Haven) might be the one from Topsham. (Note that the urge to compile New Year's Day lists did elicit news that one was still in the Exe estuary area on Jan 1) We can still keep an eye on the current bird and see if it follows tradition by moving to the Hayling/Wittering area in February and then flying off towards Siberia from there in early March. To add to the confusion this year a ringed bird was seen in Chichester Harbour from Oct 1 to 4, another (I think unringed) was at Pett Level (Rye Bay) from Dec 26 to 31, other singles were at Dungeness on Dec 2 and at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Dec 5 and at Shinewater Lake at Eastbourne on Jan 16.

Gadwall: The unusually large number of Gadwall along the south coast this winter brought a record count of 72 to Emsworth Harbour on Jan 16 and 99 (not necessarily a record) to Thorney Island for the Jan 21 WeBS count

Scaup: A flock of 20 were in Poole Harbour on Jan 1 but seem to have moved to Abbotsbury by Jan 7, increasing to 23 on Jan 11. They were still at Abbotsbury on Jan 17 but on Jan 18 a flock of 18 turned up at the entrance to Chichester Harbour after which they seem to have split up. On Jan 19 two were seen off Worthing and on Jan 21 one was in Chichester Harbour (included in the Thorney Island WeBS count) and on Jan 22 nine were back in Dorset near Arne in Poole Harbour

Eider: On Jan 18 a flock of 16 Eider were in the mouth of Chichester Harbour (probably from the flock of 20 to 30 seen off Pagham Harbour on Jan 4 and 8) and they were still in the harbour on Jan 22 when 16 were seen from West Wittering during the WeBS count

Smew: In last week's Summary I conjectured that the Smew which had appeared in the Thorney Great Deeps west area on Jan 10 might have come from Romsey as the long staying bird there had not been reported since Jan 9 when I came to write last week's Summary on Jan 16. Since then reports of the Romsey bird have continued (last sighting was on Jan 22), as have reports of the Thorney Island bird which seems to be wide ranging. It has been seen at Thorney on Jan 16 and on Jan 20, 21 and 22 but also on Jan 22 what I assume was the same bird was seen off the Hayling Oysterbeds (does that mean it has left Thorney?). Also on Jan 22 Smew were still being reported at the Longham Lakes (Bournemouth) - where up to five have been seen together, Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) and Romsey. One was also seen at the Chichester Drayton Lake on Jan 20

Red-breasted Merganser: As spring approaches the number in our harbours increases and the Jan 22 WeBS count found 44 off Pilsey to the south of Thorney Island

White-tailed Sea Eagle: I have seen no reports of the Lymington area bird since Jan 19 when the bird briefly crossed into Dorset to be seen in the Highcliffe area - maybe that was a sign that it is becoming restless and has moved elsewhere?

Marsh Harrier: The young male at the Thorney Little Deeps was still being seen up to Jan 22 when what may have been a second bird for the site flew north over the southern tip of Thorney Island. Over in Kent the night roost in the Stour Valley reeds east of Canterbury had 23 Marsh Harriers emerging from it on the morning of Jan 15 and here in Hampshire single birds have been seen at Titchfield Haven and Lymington this week

Hen Harrier: A ringtail was hunting over Thornham Marshes (Thorney Island) on Jan 20. Others seen that day were a ringtail at Kingley Vale (north of Chichester), a male at Pulborough Brooks and a female going to roost in reeds at Alresford Pond near Winchester

Kestrel: With an increase in daylight hunting by Barn Owls (feeding up for breeding?) comes a report of a Kestrel tailing an Owl and stealing its prey as soon as the owl rose from the ground carrying its vole. I have seen this behaviour at Amberley Wild Brooks many years ago and on Jan 19 the SOS Mid-week Walk party at Beeding Brooks on the River Adur also saw a succesful 'pirating' of a Barn Owl's prey by a Kestrel and later in the same walk they saw a different Barn Owl hunting with an attendant Kestrel perched on a nearby hedgerow and keeping a close eye on the owl

Red-legged Partridge: A recent increase in sightings of both Red-legged and Grey Partridge seems to be the result of the Partridges spreading out over the countryside and searching for nest sites. A good example of this came on Jan 22 when a dog walker on the embankment footpath beside the River Arun in or near the Pulborough Brooks reserve flushed a pair of Red-legs which would not have been there when part of a winter flock

Grey Partridge: Recent sightings on Thorney Island (5+ near the Little Deeps on Jan 10 and a flock of 10 near Thornham Point on Jan 20, plus reports from both north and south Kent this week) are also probably the result of the birds moving from winter quarters to potential breeding areas.

Great Bustard: Two of the wing-tagged birds from Salisbury Plain have been seen in the Moonfleet area of 'The Fleet' north of Weymouth on Jan 20 and 22

Golden Plover: A flock of 350 was seen in the Pilsey area of Thorney Island on Jan 15 and the Jan 22 WeBS counts there and at West Wittering produced counts of 279 and 205 birds respectively (not sure if these were two separate flocks or different views of hte same birds)

Knot: The Jan 22 WeBS count at the Pilsey Sands (south of Thorney Island) recorded 2500 Knot where there had been 4000 on Jan 15. On Jan 18 I was somewhat surprised to see a small flock of 15 fly low over my head when I was on the Thorney seawall near the Little Deeps and to note that the birds appeared to land on the flooded field near the Thorney Main Road. Not long afterwards Caroline French saw the Marsh Harrier through her telescope flying low over the same area carrying prey (a moderately long-billed wader) in its talons and we guessed that it had taken one of the Knot.

Little Stint: One remains by the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester - last seen on Jan 22. (Over in north Kent two were seen at the Oare Marshes on Jan 21)

Ruff: The Jan 16 WeBS count at Christchurch Harbour recorded 12 Ruff. In Hampshire there is just one on the Lymington Marshes this week

Long-billed Dowitcher: The Lodmoor (Weymouth) bird was still present on Jan 20

Black-tailed Godwit: No recent reports from the fields north of Pagham Harbour this week (760 there on Jan 10) but there was a high count of 235 in Christchurch Harbour on Jan 15 (maybe associated with birds feeding in the Avon floodplain south of Ringwood?) and on Jan 20 there were 163 at Yarmouth on the IoW. On Jan 22 the flock in the Fishbourne Channel (Chichester) area was estimated to be between 300 and 400 birds

Bar-tailed Godwit: On Jan 15 there were 1100 on the Pilsey Sands south of Thorney Island and the Jan 22 WeBS count found 800 there (on both occasions one bird was in full summer plumage)

Whimbrel: One wintering bird was in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 20 and 22 but none were recorded in the Thorney WeBS count this week

Spotted Redshank: On Jan 22 the usual bird was at Nore Barn west of Emsworth, another was in the Fishboure Channel and two were seen at West Wittering

Greenshank: The Jan 21 WeBS count on Thorney Island found 19

Pomarine Skua: One was off Portland on Jan 16 - there were also four reports of Great Skua at various sites during the week

Med Gull: There were 295 in the Weymouth area on Jan 22 (no other substantial counts anywhere recently)

Lesser Blackback Gull: An unusual count of 205 at Christchurch Harbour on Jan 22

Kittiwake: Larg numbers have been moving west down the English Channel this week. 520 went past the South Foreland and 145 were seen off Christchurch Harbour, both on Jan 15 when Selsey Bill reported 203. On Jan 18 more than 500 went west off Dungeness and on Jan 21 Durlston reported 720

Sandwich Tern: On Jan 15 one was seen at Bembridge Foreland, on Jan 16 one was in Poole Harbour and on Jan 17 three were seen from Black Point on Hayling

Auks: 15,000 went east off Portland in just 45 minutes at dawn on Jan 20

Barn Owl: Seen by day at seven sites this week (including Beeding Brooks where one had its vole stolen by a Kestrel - see above). On Jan 19 a pair were seen together entering a barn in the Kingsclere area north west of Basingstoke. At Hook (Warsash) a regular pair of Little Owls were also seen together on Jan 19.

Short-eared Owl: On Jan 22 two were seen on Thornham Marshes near the east end of the Thorney Great Deeps and a third bird flew in from the south to be seen over the Pilsey area. Three others were seen by the River Adur during the Jan 19 walk around Beeding Brooks

Woodlark: Two seen at Coates Common (near Pulborough) on Jan 17 suggest that these birds are starting to return from coastal winter sites and we may soon hear their lovely song over breeding territories

Scandinavian Rock Pipit: As they develop the plumage which helps to identify them the first report of one this year comes from Christchurch Harbour on Jan 21

Water Pipit: A flock of 31 were in the Kent Stour valley on Jan 15

Waxwing: Plenty still around with a top count of 122 in the Chineham area of Basingstoke on Jan 17. Fareham had 60 at Whiteley on Jan 20 while Southampton, Totton, Micheldever (Winchester) and Broadstone (Poole) all recorded between 50 and 55

Black-throated Thrush: The RBA website has a late report of one at Woking in Surrey on Jan 9

Brambling: On Jan 15 there was a report of 1000 Brambling in the QE Country Park near Petersfield and on Jan 17 there were 600 on nearby Butser Hill. Another good flock was of 70 birds in Nigel Jones' garden beside the 'Straight Mile' of the Romsey to Winchester road on Jan 21

Linnet: A flock of 225 was reported at Wootton St Lawrence near Basingstoke on Jan 22 and a single Twite was in the Thanet area of Kent on Jan 19

Snow Bunting: Last report of the pair near Prinsted on the Chichester Harbour shore was dated Jan 18

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Brimstone: One seen on the ground (but alive) by the River Meon at Soberton on Jan 15 was thought to have been blown out of its hibernation site (perhaps in Ivy) by the strong winds

Red Admiral: Four sightings this week at Brighton, Gosport, Southampton and Portsdown Hill

Peacock: One seen in the Rye area on Jan 16 was thought to have been disturbed from hibernation

Moths

Winter Moth: One seen in Stoke Village on Hayling Island on Jan 14 and some 20 seen along roads in the Horsham area on Jan 16

Mottled Umber: A couple of these also seen in the Horsham area on Jan 16

Early Moth: The first seen this year was in the Thanet area of Kent on Jan 19 (found on a doorstep)

Other Insects

Drone Fly: What was reported as the first Hoverfly of the year, seen in Rowland Wood near Eastbourne on Jan 16, was probably this species which does hibernate and is usually the first to be seen

Buff-tailed Bumblebee: An over-wintering queen was seen at Gosport on Jan 21 (and an unidentified Bumble Bee was flying with the above Drone Fly)

Seven spot Ladybird: Two were seen in the compost heap of a Rye area garden on Jan 16 (probably aroused from hibernation when dumped there with garden rubbish after a first attempt at cleaning up the garden)

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

The only significant item of plant news this week has been the find of a single open Lesser Celandine flower in Havant on Jan 20. On Jan 15 came the first sighting of female flowers on Hazel (seen in the Chichester area) and on Jan 17 male catkins were open on a Grey Alder in a Havant carpark

OTHER WILDLIFE

Nothing exciting this week. A couple of Porpoises were seen off the South Foreland on Jan 16 and two Seals were off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 19 (reported as Grey Seals but much more likely to be the Common Seals that are based in Chichester Harbour and regularly seen in Langstone Harbour). One Red Squirrel was seen in Binstead (IoW) on Jan 19 and on the mainland I noticed a couple of very common Fungi (Deceiver and Coral Spot)


Wildlife diary and news for Jan 10 - 16 (Week 02 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

Highlights

Signs of Spring: On Jan 10 a Wheatear was seen on the Sussex Downs and on that same day what may have been the first three Brent Geese to start their journey back to breeding grounds were seen flying east along the Sussex coast. On Jan 11 a Pipistrelle bat was flying at Durlston, on Jan 12 Newts started to arrive back in breeding ponds and on Jan 13 a Water Vole came out of its burrow in the bank of the River Ems to gather new supplies of food

That Eagle again: This week's new twist to the story involves the BBC, Lee Evans, a friendly gamekeeper who shoots rabbits, foxes and woodpigeons and my own guesswork. I may be wrong!!

Slaty-backed Gull (Larus schistisagus): It's not every week that a new species is added to the British List - this one turned up at Rainham Marshes in London on Jan 14

Year listing in Hampshire: Keen birders who have recently been out trying to get a good start to their 'Year Lists' will be interested to see what they are up against this year in the unofficial competition to achieve the longest Year List for birds seen exclusively in Hampshire. The 2010 winner of this competition was Andy Johnson (the freelance ecologist who lives near Sandy Point on Hayling Island) with a score of 225 species. He was closely followed by Dan Hoare with 224

Sustainable Living: On Saturday night, Jan 15, a BBC Nature Film about the South Pacific shown on BBC 4 (part 1 of 6 called 'Ocean of Islands') made me aware of something that I did not previously know by contrasting the attitude of humans to their environment on two different islands. Most of us will be aware of how the inhabitants of Easter Island caused their own extinction by cutting down all the trees on the island (mainly for use as 'rollers' to move the giant statues - to whose creation they accorded the highest priority - from quarry to display site) and by exterminating the seabirds that were their main source of food. What I did not know is that the human population of one much smaller island (totally isolated from all other humans so having to survive without any external supplies) has managed to survive by (a) self discipline to ensure they maintain the populations of birds and other food sources on which they rely and (b) human ingenuity and adaptability. As an example of the latter we saw them catching fish without hooks or nets - they use small pieces of Octopus meat as bait to get the fish to swim close enough to be caught with their bare hands, kill the fish with their teeth before putting it in a bag and freeing their hands to catch another fish.

That population problem: I have for long believed that all attempts to 'save the planet' (while we must make them if only to prolong our own survival and enjoyment of the natural world) are doomed to failure in the face of our inbuilt instinct to breed and, aided by technology that allows us to live longer, multiply exponentially. Two things this week have caused me to think that our imminent doom is not certain. One was the survival of the Pacific Island population quoted above (maybe we can find ways to control our sex drive and to live according to what our brains tell us is necessary for the survival of our species). The other was a 'population expert' saying on the radio that population growth will bring its own solution - that out of famine and war a 'new and rational' human species will evolve - I am probably misquoting this 'expert' but maybe the idea of setting up 'seed banks' and preserving the DNA of animals so that they can be used by the 'new rational humans' to restore the natural world is not an impossible dream (in fact I think it is much more possible than the idea of humans ever 'translocating themselves' to other planets)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: The Dungeness Observatory website was not updated from the New Year until this week but it now shows that the huge movements of Divers along our south coast in the first few days of 2011 were seen there as an eastward movement (more than 2,600 Red-throats went east on Jan 2 followed by 2,000+ on Jan 3 when more than 500 went east past Bockhill at the South Foreland). I interpret this to show that the huge numbers of birds which fled west from the North Sea during the cold weather of December found themselves overcrowded and underfed in the English Channel and were only too glad to move back into the North Sea.

Pacific Diver: The lone bird was still being seen off Marazion (near Penzance) on Jan 13

Black-necked Grebe: The report of 23 off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 2 has not been repeated but 6 were still there on Jan 11. Studland Bay in Dorset has been the site with the biggest flock this winter and reported more than 60 on Jan 9 which I thought might be the peak number but looking back I see there were 65 there on Dec 6 and 59 on Dec 10

Fulmar: So far this year these birds have been back at breeding cliffs at three Sussex sites (Seaford, Newhaven and Cliff End at Hastings) and at Durlston in Dorset. Three were seen at Freshwater (IoW) on Dec 24

Sooty Shearwater: Not normally seen along our south coast at this time of year but two were seen off south Devon on Jan 1 and again on Jan 10

Cormorant: I think a southward movement from the North Sea past the Thanet area of Kent was unusual. On Jan 10 a total of 76 come over from the North East and 169 moved south on Jan 13

Bittern: New sites at which Bitterns were seen this week are the Testwood Lakes near Southampton, Filsham Reed Beds between Hastings and Bexhill and Shinewater Lake at Eastbourne. The number at Burton Mill Pond near Pulborough was thought to be up to 5 on Jan 11 and Rye Harbour had 4 on Jan 13

Glossy Ibis: No reports of the Berkshire bird since Jan 9 but a new one appeared at Dungeness on Jan 10 and was still there on Jan 13

Brent Goose: Until the last couple of years winter resident Brent Geese in Sussex have been restricted to the Chichester and Pagham Harbour areas but this winter sightings in East Sussex appear to have increased. However I do not recall seeing reports of them resident anywhere in the stretch from Brighton to Eastbourne and so a report of three flying east past Splash Point at Seaford on Jan 10 could indicate that Brent are beginning to feel the call of spring and to move east. (Last winter passage started on Jan 21 with 400 flying east past Dungeness and the 2009 Sussex Bird Report quotes 30 Brent flying east past Seaford on 30 Jan 2009 as being the first sign of migration for that year)

Wigeon: Another possible sign that winter wildfowl are starting to leave is a report of 320 Wigeon flying east past Dungeness on Jan 8 and this gets very faint backing from my own observation of a drop in numbers at the mouth of the Langbrook Stream (Langstone South Moors) on Jan 13 (only 6 there whereas there had always been at least 20 since Oct 16)

Gadwall: On Jan 15 a flock of 72 Gadwall set a new record for Emsworth Harbour and on that same day Heather Mills, reporting for a Havant Wildlife Group party visiting the Chichester Lakes, spoke of 'the most Gadwall I have ever seen anywhere'

Mallard: On Jan 13 Brian Fellows' website carried an observation of a group of 4 Mallards in the Emsworth Town Millpond repetitively diving as part of a grooming (wash and brush up) process. I know that Mallard ducklings, when they are too small to reach down to feed on weed below them using the normal adult 'dabbling' process, will dive freely and deeply to get at the weed for themselves but it is uncommon for adults to do so and I wonder if these birds had picked up some parasites which they could not rid themselves of by the normal grooming process on the surface?

Pintail: Good numbers of these around at the moment (e.g. 150 at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 13) giving us a chance to enjoy the complex plumage of the males. If you want to admire this in close up have a look at http://www.rxwildlife.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/pintail-closeup.jpg

Smew: In most recent winters Smew are only to be seen in southern England in Kent and East Sussex but this winter they have been reported in every southern county from Cornwall to Kent. This week on Jan 10 one was seen at the Thorney Deeps (possibly the long staying bird on the Test at Romsey which was last reported there on Jan 9). We have also had good numbers peaking with 14 at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Jan 5 but we are unlikely to beat the count of 425 at a Netherlands site on Jan 11

Red Kite: On Jan 8 Keith Betton led a group to the winter roost site for this species near Ashley Warren (only a few kilometres east of the A34 and just over ten kilometres due west of Basingstoke). They saw 60 Kites there. On the same day one was seen over Westbourne village just north of Emsworth and five were seen at Singleton to the north of Chichester and not far from the West Dean Woods where another three were seen

White-tailed Sea Eagle: This continues to be seen daily in the neighbourhood of Downton village near the coast in the extreme south west of Hampshire and it has not been deterred by Pheasant shooting in its chosen area It has also been welcomed by the local gamekeepers and land owners, as have the many 'twitchers' who could easily have aroused animosity from the locals by driving along the narrow roads seeking somewhere to park. On Jan 9 Lee Evans made the trip from his home in Amersham (Buckinghamshire) and describes his experience in a HOSLIST message.

He says that after several hours of failing to spot the bird he .. "rechecked a number of salient watchpoints but after drawing a blank we extended our search. As luck would have it, we were flagged down by a gamekeeper who was well versed with its behaviour and we accompanied him on a walk across a muddy field.....

He took us to Ashley Clinton (big country house with farm) and an unmarked track heading NW from SZ 259 939 in Angel Lane. We had only been walking a few minutes when the huge bird appeared from the south and drifted towards us before dropping down behind a belt of trees just west of Sansomes Cottage. Over a period of ten minutes (1132-1142 hours), the eagle appeared three times - briefly alighting in a tall Oak tree SSE of Ashley Manor Farm. We were treated with some fabulous flight views as the bird wheeled around and kept fairly low to the ground - always keeping an eye on our position. It had favoured this area the day before and had been feeding on dead Rabbits, Red Foxes and Woodpigeons. The day's shoot had seen the bird on at least five occasions during the day, the gamekeeper said. It eventually drifted out of sight behind the belt of trees and could not be relocated. The tail was quite seriously abraded (presumably from feeding on the ground) and the flight feathers were also slightly broken and twisted in the secondaries and inner primaries. Otherwise, the bird was very dark brown, particularly about the head, with a dark tail (with some white linings apparent on the upper feathers) and a pale bill."

I was particularly interested in the bird's diet as described by the gamekeeper. I assume that the Foxes and Woodpigeons were all corpses which had been shot and if these are being left out for the Eagle this would account for it's continued stay there. It also helps to answer another question - Brian Fellows tells me that the BBC (South Today on Friday 14 Jan) showed a photo (sent in by a viewer) of the bird on a garden lawn surrounded by the feathers of its prey and without seeing the picture my first assumption was that someone unfamiliar with birds had sent in a picture of a Sparrowhawk plucking a pigeon in a small suburban garden. If the picture was in fact of the Eagle on the no doubt spacious lawn of Ashley Clinton House and the feathers in question came from a recently shot Woodpigeon which had been left out for the Eagle then the story makes a lot more sense.

Buzzard: Of local interest only I was at the Budds Farm Pools here in Havant on Jan 10 when a Buzzard flew in low from the east and perched on a lamp-post on the north side of the pools where I have seen one in the past devouring some corpse on the ground.

Grey Partridge: It is some time since I have seen a report of Grey Partridge on Thorney Island but on Jan 10 Martin Hampton from Havant was lucky enough to see five or more close to the main Thorney Road where it passes the Little Deeps (in addition to seeing the Smew on the Great Deeps, a Barn Owl hunting over the Eames Farm field north of the Deeps, a Peregrine overhead, Whitefront Geese on the ground and hearing the calls of Bearded Tits and Water Rails)

Coot: In past winters the Little Deeps on Thorney Island would be regularly crowded with Coot but for some reason they have kept away from this site this winter and have chosen to stay on the sea water in Emsworth Harbour. On Jan 8 Brian Fellows made a record count of 186 in the Harbour.

Ringed Plover: These have been in short supply this winter and I still do not have one on my year list - it seems I was unlucky not to visit the Langbrook stream mouth on Jan 11 when Tony Wooton from Emsworth went there and photographed 15 Ringed Plover coming in to land on the shingle which they occasionally use as a high tide roost. Tony also got a photo of the Rock Pipit which has been resident here since Oct 28 but which I have also failed to see (though I have heard it) this year

Little Stint: The Fishbourne Channel (Chichester) bird was still there on Jan 11

Purple Sandpiper: 15 were seen at Southsea Castle back on Nov 9 but the first sighting of them there for this year was of 16 on Jan 14

Long-billed Dowitcher: The long staying bird at Lodmoor (Weynmouth) was still there on Jan 15

Woodcock: An unusual report from somewhere in Sussex on Jan 11 is of one which had become trapped in the 'chicken wire' of an abandoned Pheasant pen in woodland

Green Sandpiper: This species has been seen at the Langstone South Moors site since Sep 11 but until Jan 10 I did not know there were two birds present at this site. On that day I thought I had seen two birds there and this was later confirmed by Martin Hampton who told me he had seen two there sometime between Christmas Day and the New Year

Slaty-backed Gull (Larus schistisagus): On Jan 14 the identity of a bird at the Rainham Marshes in London was confirmed as being this species making it a 'first for Britain'. The species only breeds on the west coast of Alaska but does wander widely during the non-breeding season. As it looks very like the Great Blackback it may well have visited Britain before but not been identified as a stranger - I think you have to see the underside of the wing to confirm its true identity.

Barn Owl: This is one of two times of year when Barn Owls can often be seen hunting during daylight hours - at present the main reason for being out by day is a combination of weather restricting the times at which hunting is possible, the difficulty of finding prey when snow is on the ground, and sheer hunger plus the need to build up strength for the coming breeding season. The other season is in mid-summer when the hours of darkness are reduced and growing young require much more food to be brought back to the nest. Whether my reasoning is right or not there have been four reports of daytime hunting that I have seen this week. On Jan 9 two owls were hunting in the Amberley/Houghton area south of Pulborough Brooks; on Jan 10 owls were hunting near Sparsholt in the Winchester area and on the Eames Farm fields north of the Thorney Island Great Deeps, while on Jan 11 one was hunting around Fort Nelson at the west end of Portsdown.

Little Owl: These too are now becoming more visible as they enter their mating season. On Jan 11 I was lucky enough to hear two calling to each other in trees east of the north end of the Hayling Coastal Path (just north of the Oyster Beds) and on Jan 9 one was heard in the Reculver area of the north Kent coast. Also this week another sighting of the owls at Staple Ash Farm on the edge of the West Dean Woods near Chichester was reported

Tawny Owl: Also becoming vocal as they establish and defend territories I am hoping to hear one soon in the area north of the Havant bypass (A27) between Wade Court Road and the Hayling Billy Trail where Martin Hampton tells me he has already heard them this year.

Kingfisher: Of local interest I have just been told of a sighting of one on Jan 4 on the posts lining the outflow of the Lymbourne stream between Langstone Mill and the Royal Oak pub

Skylark: The only report of Skylark song that I have seen this year comes from the Scotney Court area on the east shore of Rye Bay on Jan 9

Swallow: An 'interesting' report for Jan 10 on the Cornwall Birding website is of a single Swallow being seen by a driver on the A390 road some 6 miles north east of Truro - note that this is the same day when a Wheatear was seen on the Sussex Downs

Waxwing: Before anyone screams at the thought of yet another long list of reports of these birds I will limit myself to two unusual reports this week. On Jan 9 John Clark tells us that a 'new techinque' was employed (no detail given - maybe some military secret way of analysing aerial photos?) to give a count of 778 birds at the army's Aldershort North Camp where traditional methods of counting the birds in a photograph gave a maximum of only 703. The other report comes from Nigel Jones in Romsey who obtained details of the progress of a single ringed bird he saw there. It was ringed in Aberdeen on Oct 31, flew 480 km SSW to be seen in Oswestry (Shropshire) on Dec 1. It then flew 234 km SSE to appear in Romsey on Dec 17 before heading 100 km NE to be seen in Brentford (London) on Jan 12. They don't half get around!

Wheatear: The 'white arse' of one was clearly seen typically moving just ahead of a walker on Newmarket Hill above Woodingdean (Brighton) on Jan 10. Was it a first migrant or a wintering bird (both possible but both unlikely - earliest ever arrival date in the latest Sussex Bird Report is Feb 13 while Hampshire had one on Feb 6 in 1989)

Blackbird: First local report of song for the year comes from the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth where Brian Fellows heard one on Jan 14. There had been one earlier report from Durlston in Dorset on Jan 3 where the ranger's daily diary mentioned 'numerous Blackbirds singing in the half-light before sunrise' but I could not make up my mind at the time whether this was full song or something akin to the subsong that flocks of Redwings make just prior to departure at the end of winter (or even the various noises which Blackbirds tend to make as they go to roost at night). From past experience I would not expect widespread general Blackbird song to start until we are in February though there may be more isolated songsters before then.

Song Thrush: General and widespread song has been heard more or less daily in the Havant area since Jan 11 though I see one bird in the Rye town area was in full song at dawn and dusk on Jan 9 and partial song was reported at Durlston on Jan 2. In recent years I have usually heard Song Thrushes singing regularly before Christmas and I am told that at least one bird has been heard singing for some weeks in the Langstone area

Mistle Thrush: With the increasing rarity of this species it was good to see one on Jan 11 in the meadow south of Wade Court at Langstone. Hopefully a pair will breed there in the coming year as they have in most recent years

Jackdaw: Around 1800 were seen on the evening of Jan 9 flying east over the Eastleigh area, presumably heading for the presumed large corvid roost in the Gosport area though there have been fewer reports indicating such a roost this winter (On Oct 20 294 Jackdaws went over the Milton area of Portsmouth and on Oct 25 another report from Milton was of 724 birds, then on Nov 30 some 250 went over the Hill Head area near Titchfield Haven)

Crow: Further evidence that this species finds the seashore is the best feeding ground come from Swalecliffe on the north Kent coast - a flock of 118 were on the beach there on Jan 10. Whenever I visit the shores of Langstone or Chichester Harbour one of the regular sights (except at high tide) is of one or more Crows flying upinto the air and dropping shellfish in the hope of breaking the shells on shingle.

Hooded Crow: A single bird turned up at Dungeness on Oct 21 last year then moved to Bockhill (South Foreland) on Oct 24 before settling down on the north Kent coast at Reculver from Oct 28 until now (last report on Jan 14)

Raven: Reports of these birds, which are now becoming commonplace all along the south coast, get closer to my garden air space each week. On Jan 15 what may have been the same bird passed over Mike Collins house on the northern fringe of Leigh Park here in Havant and was seen 15 minutes later over the Nore Barn woodland on the west fringe of Emsworth, probably heading on to Thorney Island (if it followed a direct line through the two points where it was seen that would take it down the Emsworth Channel and over Marker Point, the south west tip of Thorney).

Starling: Recent estimates of roost sites include 53,000 in Poole on Jan 2, then 5,000 at Eastbourne Pier on Jan 12, and finally 110,000 at Thurlestone Marsh on the southwest coast of Devon (some 7 miles north west of Prawle Point, the southern tip of Devon)

Brambling: So far this winter there have been few reports of large flocks of Brambling - between Nov 29 and Dec 12 there were sightings of around 500 in the QE Country Park near Petersfield, then 200 in the Burley area of the New Forest, 322 in the Romsey area and 700+ at the RSPB Powderham reserve on the Exe estuary in Devon but these all seemed to disperse rapidly with no reports of more than 40 in the second half of December. This week, however, has brought news of more flocks - on Jan 7 there were estimated to be some 500 Brambling in a 1000 strong finch flock at Petworth in Sussex and on Jan 15 Cliff Dean came on an isolated tree containing an estimated 400 Brambling on the North Downs above Ashford in Kent. Best count in Hampshire was of 50 Brambling in the Ashley Warren Kite roost area near the A34 in the extreme north of the county on Jan 8

Snow Bunting: Also on Jan 8 but in the south west of Hampshire at Keyhaven near Lymington there was an exceptional report of 50 Snow Buntings though it did include some Lapland Buntings. Other than a flock of 90 on the Suffolk coast on Dec 12 the only other report of more than 25 seen together was the flock of 28 which flew over the Chichester Lakes area on Dec 18

Corn Bunting: At least one was present on Thorney Island on Jan 9 when it was photographed at the southern tip of the island. Back on Jan 5 there had been a flock of around 60 in Pagham Harbour and on Jan 4 a flock of 73 was seen by the R Ouse south of Lewes

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Three butterfly species were seen this week with Red Admirals flying at Fareham, Emsworth (Nore Barn wood), and Eastbourne on Jan 9 and at Milford near Lymington on Jan 11. A Peacock also appeared at Cuckmere Haven on Jan 9 and a Small Tortoiseshell made an involuntary appearance in Sussex on Jan 8 when it was found on the underside of a sofa being moved downstairs.

One new moth for the year appeared during the week - a single example of The Chestnut found in a Kent Thanet area trap on Jan 8

Nothing to do with British Insects was something that I learnt from the BBC TV film about Pacific Islands shown on BBC 4 on Jan 15. We all know from the Galapagos Islands how evolution can lead to strange developments in isolated communities but I had never before seen pictures of the carnivorous caterpillars which have evolved on one South Pacific island. These disguise themselves among the foliage of plants and wait for an insect to land close enough to be caught by a sudden twist of the caterpillars body and a lunge with its feet which evolution has equipped with the equivalent of daggers that grip and kill the insect.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

I found 26 plant species in flower this week including Blue Fleabane on the Langstone Bridge roadside and just one Alder catkin to join the Hazel catkins that are now covering some trees with male catkins (I am wondering if these early flowering trees are brought on by having street lights shining on them through the night). At the Chichester Lakes the Havant Wildlife Group also found the tiny red female Hazel flowers open on Jan 15

OTHER WILDLIFE

Water Vole: Although Water Voles do not hibernate they are rarely seen during the winter months so the first sighting of one in the River Ems at Emsworth on Jan 13, gathering food to replenish the stocks in its burrow, was a welcome indication that at least one has survived the winter.

Grey Squirrel: Another sign of spring came in Havant on Jan 10 with two of these Squirrels chasing each other up the trunk of a mature Scots Pine

Pipistrelle Bat: First report of one on the wing this year came from Durlston in Dorset on the night of Jan 10 to 11

Newts: Brian Banks keeps a close eye on activity in his East Sussex garden pond (Rye area) in which a single Common Newt has been present since Nov 14. A slight rise in temperature and humidity on Jan 12 suggested that it was worth checking the pond for the arrival of other Newts and a nocturnal inspection of the water revealed the presence of three more Common and one Palmate Newt. Tiny air bubbles still adhering to their bodies showed that they had only been back in the water for a few hours (these bubbles soon vanish after a short period of underwater life)

Fungi: The first report of Yellow Brain Fungus came from Durlston on Jan 13. Jew's Ear was also seen there and in Havant (along with a good show of 'Turkey tail') this week


Wildlife diary and news for Jan 3 - 9 (Week 01 of 2011)

(Skip to previous week)

Highlights

New Year Bird 'races'

The highest scoring teams that I am aware of are

Simon Ingram (Hampshire) 117

Nigel Jones (Hampshire) 115

Richard Ives (Sussex) 113

Steve Piggott (Hampshire) 113

Barry Collins (Thorney Island) 101

Rob King (Sussex) 100

Owen Mitchell (Sussex) 95

John Norton (Hampshire) 95

Derek Hale (Isle of Wight) 91

Unusual numbers of Divers, Swans and Geese

A total of around 2000 Red-throated Divers were in Rye Bay on Jan 3

Re-appearance of White-tailed Sea Eagle

The bird which disappeared on Dec 12 near Titchfield Haven has re-appeared on the west Hampshire coast near a village called Downton (not the village of the same name on the River Avon in Wiltshire)

Winter wild flowers

Hazel catkins are starting to open and the first Snowdrops have been seen

Winter Butterflies and Moths

The first butterfly (a Peacock) has been seen

Bird Song

Robin, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Goldfinch and several Tits (Blue, Great and Coal) have been singing for some time with Wren heard occasionally. An indication of others joining them soon came from a dawn walk around at Durlston on Jan 3 when 'numerous Blackbirds' and (on Jan 2) one or two Song Thrushes were heard. Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been drummng since Dec 14 and Cetti's Warblers have uttered occasional bursts of song since Dec 27 while Starlings are regularly heard

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Exceptional numbers of Red-throated were seen in Kent and Sussex on Jan 2 and 3. Counts at Bockhill (South Foreland) were given as 363 and 500+ on those days and a total of around 2000 were estimated to have been moving through Rye Bay on Jan 3. There was no equivalent increase in numbers of Great Northern or Black-throated. The single Pacific Diver was still off Marazion (Penzance) in Cornwall throughout the week

Great Crested Grebe: The number in Rye Bay on Jan 3 was estimated as 3100, exceeding the highest count from the continent (2286 off the Netherlands on Jan 2). The Hampshire raft off the Titchfield area was reported as 143 on Jan 3, Sussex had 150+ off Bexhill that day and there were more than 1300 in Rye Bay while Dorset had 205 seen from Christchurch Harbour on Jan 2. There were a couple of reports of mutual displays between birds on the sea during the week.

Red-necked Grebe: Singles were seen on the sea off Hampshire (Milford), Sussex, Dorset, Devon and Cornwall during the week.

Slavonian Grebe: 23 were reported off Pagham Harbour on Jan 2 and there was a dubious report of 16 in Portland Harbour (though most of those were identified as Black-necked by other observers)

Black-necked Grebe: The highest count reported off the Hayling Oysterbeds in the autumn was 13 on Nov 22 but on Jan 2 that shot up to 23 and became the biggest flock reported on the south coast this week (no report from the Studland area of Dorset so far this year - 38 were there on Dec 31)

Bittern: These remain unusually numerous with reports totalling 21 birds at 11 sites during the week

Great White Egret: On Jan 1 RBA reported a national total of 6 birds maybe not including the 'resident' colour ringed bird at the Blashford Lakes which was only reported once (on Nov 8) after it ceased to be a regular sight on Oct 20 until it re-appeared on Jan 7

Glossy Ibis: The bird which was first seen at Hungerford in Berks on Dec 9 was still there on Jan 7 but there have been no reports from Devon so far this year

Mute Swan: I am not sure how many Swans have been in the Emsworth area this winter (pretty sure the total will have increased since the count of 23 in November) but this week there are three less after a dog owner was seen to be urging his dog on in a fight in which one Swan was seen to be killed (and another two corpses seen in the Town Millpond this week may well have been killed in the same way)

Bewick's Swan: Last week we mentioned the flight of around 100 Bewick's seen on Dec 31 at several places across West and East Sussex. From the reports then available it seemed that the birds had mysteriously appeared in the Worthing area and equally mysteriously disappeared in the Rye Bay area. Since then a significant increase in the number grazing the Walland Marshes east of Rye by day and roosting at the Dungeness RSPB reserve by night seems to confirm that the mass flight did settle on the Walland Marshes but we still have two possibilities as to their origin. The first theory is that they arrived from the continent in the Worthing area but that is not consistent with new evidence that they were seen very early in the morning heading west in the Rother valley area north of Hastings and suggesting that they came from the Walland Marshes and were out on a long distance circular day trip. My own guess (partly based on the wide variation in numbers reported at different place along their route and a new report of some seen to come in off the sea as well as the Rother Valley sighting) is that something caused many Bewick's Swans to get 'itchy feet' that day and that while the majority probably did make the complete round trip they also picked up (and maybe dropped off) a number of birds en route (some of them happening to be from the continent) with the result that the party which arrived back was larger than that which set out.

Black Swan: The first mention of this species for the year came on Jan 2 when one was seen on the Blashford Lakes

Pinkfoot Goose: The singleton which was on Farlington Marshes on Jan 1 flew east to Thorney Island on Jan 2 along with 30 Whitefronts and it was still in a field south of the Thorney Great Deeps on Jan 5. Pinkfoot is a hard-weather rarity in Hampshire though large numbers occur each winter in Norfolk and more northerly counties (e.g. 230 at a Nottinghamshire site on Jan 2)

White-front Goose: Reported from nine southern sites this week with a peak count of 135 in the Kent Stour Valley and 115 at Amberley Wild Brooks. Four were at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 4 but no flock has settled in the Ringwood area as it used to do each winter up to the 1990s

Snow Goose: Three appeared at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 5 - probably escapees

'Swan Goose': One hybrid between a Swan and a Goose (probably a Greylag) was with 37 Greylags at the Lewes Brooks on Jan 2

Canada Goose species: Two 'small' Canada geese were at the Pennington Marshes (Lymington) on Jan 3

Barnacle Goose: On Jan 3 there were 80 at Rodden Hive on the Fleet near Weymouth, 60 at Pennington (Lymington marshes), around 80 at Cuckmere Haven near Beachy Head, 110 at Scotney Court (Rye Harbour) and 130 at Pett Level on Rye Bay plus no doubt many others that did not get a mention on the internet that day so there were probably well over 500 in southern England during the past week. It is very unlikely that these were all local escapees and I feel sure that most if not all were wild birds

Brant: Just two birds were reported this week, one at Pagham Harbour (north fields) and the other at Pett Level

Red Breasted Goose: The Exminster Marshes bird in Devon (believed by Devon birders to be an escapee) was seen on Jan 1 but I haven't seen a mention of the Pett Level bird since Dec 31

Mandarin Duck: Eyeworth Pond near Fritham in the New Forest was in past years the place to find a good number of these colourful birds but the place to see them nowadays is Passfield Pond on the northern fringe of Woolmer Forest in east Hampshire - around 50 were present on Jan 4 when Eyeworth had just 2.

Ruddy Duck: On Jan 3 I saw a pair of these (and was told that another two were also present on the same lake) so the shooters have not yet succeeded in eliminating these birds.

White-tailed Sea Eagle: Last week I reported that the bird which appeared at Amberley Wild Brooks on Dec 11 and disappeared somewhere not far west of Titchfield Haven on Dec 12 had re-appeared near the coastal village of Downton west of Lymington on Jan 6 and it has since been seen daily in that area up to Jan 9 at least. For pictures (including one flying close to a Buzzard for size comparison) see http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo/18179/White-tailed+Eagle+in+Hampshire.html

Avocet: 35 were seen at Farlington Marshes on Jan 6 when 22 were still present at Nutbourne (east of Thorney Island)

Knot: On Jan 2 more than 500 were present at Pilsey (south of Thorney Island)

Little Stint: One was at the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 6 (and another was in the Seasalter area of the north Kent coast on Jan 4)

Long-billed Dowitcher: The bird which was first seen at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Nov 8 was still there on Jan 7

Spotted Redshank: I did not get this species onto my year list until Jan 4 at the Emsworth Nore Barn site but when I did I got two for the price of one and the second bird has been seen there each day since though the original resident bird is not entirely happy with the second bird intruding on its feeding area - at first it chased the intruder off but seems to be more tolerant of its presence as time goes by

Ring-billed Gull: The regular bird was still at the Gosport 'Cockle Pond' on Jan 6

Iceland Gull: One of just seven in the UK was at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 1 and 2

Wood Lark: At least one of the 8 Woodlarks seen in a ploughed field near Apuldram church by the Fishbourne Channel at Chichester on Dec 26 was still in that area on Jan 2

Waxwing: Still plenty to be seen with Beverley Gardens in Romsey having around 260 on Jan 7 (a county record flock size of 382 was set in Southampton during the 2004/5 influx). In the Havant area the flock near Waitrose in Waterlooville which had 49 birds on Jan 2 was down to just 20 on Jan 7 and another flock of 40 birds was seen at Lulworth Close on Hayling Island (at its junction with Church Road just north of St Mary's Church) on Jan 3 only. A flock of 68 birds has been in Bournemouth this week and Alton has had 49 birds.

Twite: One in an Ashurst garden (by the road from Southampton to Lyndhurst) on Jan 8 was unusual

Crossbill: Also unusual for the location at this date was a Crossbill at Christchurch Harbour on Jan 2

Snow Bunting: A pair which were first seen on Dec 31 on the seawall between Prinsted and Nutbourne (just east of Emsworth) was still there and showing well on Jan 7 at least

Cirl Bunting: By Jan 6 a pair had crossed the River Exe from the area of Devon where the population has been increasing to an area near Budleigh Salterton where they are 'new'

Escapes: On Jan 2 two Australian Shelduck and one Paradise Shelduck were seen on Petworth Park Lake in the Pulborough area and on Jan 3 a Yellow-crowned Amazon (Amazona ochrocephala) was seen at Preston Park in Brighton

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

One butterfly (a Peacock) was seen in a New Forest (Cadnam) garden to become the first to be seen free flying this year - sadly that honour almost certainly carries a death penalty. Presumably the butterfly was disturbed from its hibernation site and did not emerge voluntarily.

Three moths which came to a light in a Thanet garden on Jan 2 were December Moth, Winter Moth and Pale Brindled Beauty. On Jan 4 a Mottled Umber was in a Fareham garden - see http://www.surfbirds.com/blog/amigo/18154/Mottled+Umber+-+first+moth+of+2011.html for a photo

The first report of a Bumblebee for the year comes from Nik Knight who saw it in Warblington cemetery on Jan 2 though not closely enough to identify the species. Another insect on the wing this week in swarms at my head height and getting into my open mouth and eyes while cycling on a couple of occasions seem to be species of a group called Trichoceridae (variously called Winter Crane Flies, Winter Gnats or Winter Midges)

Also seen on the Rye Bay website on Jan 7 and 'news' to me was an account of the significant damage being done to insect populations by the use of Neonicotinoid pesticides Find out more about this problem (which is thought to be the major cause of the disastrous crash in numbers of Honey Bees) by visiting http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neonicotinoid and read about proposals for a ban on these pesticides (which the British government deny to be responsible for the decline in Honey Bees) at http://www.i-sis.org.uk/honeybeePesticideBan.php This is obviously a complex and politically charged subject but one to be aware of If you want to sign the petition to ban these chemicals go to https://secure.avaaz.org/en/save_the_bees/?cl=895562980&v=8114

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

With warming temperatures plants are already starting to flower Hazel catkins are opening on the tree above the bus shelter in the layby on the main road to Hayling at the end of Mill Lane in Havant and on a tree in the Lymbourne Triangle 'wild flower garden' in Havant where the path from Grove Road crosses the Billy Trail on its way to Lymbourne Road.

Snowdrops were seen flowering in Warblington cemetery on Jan 2 by Nik Knight

The leaves of the Lesser Celandines under the bank of the Lymbourne Stream just south of the A27 Havant bypass are growing fast but no flower buds are visible yet.

Seen in my garden on Jan 9 with just one flower was Smooth Hawksbeard

Another bit of botanic news comes from the Durlston website and reports that the progress of 'Sudden Oak Death' (the work of the fungus Phytophthophora ramorum ) is speeding up. To find out more visit the Forestry Commission website at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pramorum

OTHER WILDLIFE

Otter: One seen with prey in Christchurch Harbour on Jan 5 was an unexpected observation

Porpoise: Several sightings of small groups (up to 4) off the south Devon coast. Single Dolphins have been seen with them on some occasions but no hint of the Dolphins attacking the Porpoises

Muntjac: A single report of one being seen on Jan 2 in the area between Fareham and Titchfield does not name the observer or give any further detail. While I am sure there are Muntjac in our local area they are very rarely seen (more likely to be heard barking) and it is possible for an observer who has not seen this species before to mis-identify a small Roe deer as a Muntjac. Even if seen at a distance when the difference in facial markings, tusks and antlers cannot be seen Muntjac can be distinguished from Roe by their 'hunchback' stance (the back of a Roe is straight and level where the Muntjac back is curved, being higher towards the rear of the body than it is over either front or rear legs). There is also a 20cm difference in height at the shoulders - Roe height ranges from 65 to 75 cm, Muntjac is 48 to 50 cm high. If you can find footprints the 'slots' of a Roe are just over 10cm long where those of a Muntjac do not exceed 3cm. The Forestry Commission website has an excellent PDF for identification of all deer species at http://www.forestry.gov.uk/pdf/fcpn6.pdf/$FILE/fcpn6.pdf

Squirrels: Despite the cold weather both Grey and Red Squirrels were seen this week (Red at Shanklin on the IoW)


Wildlife diary and news for Dec 27 - Jan 2 (Week 52 of 2010)

(Skip to previous week)

Highlights

Red-throated Divers moving along the coast in exceptional numbers

Shags have begun nesting and Cormorants are in breeding plumage

There are more Bitterns at more sites in southern England than usual

On Dec 31 a herd of maybe 100 Bewick's Swans blazed a trail across the Sussex skies from Worthing to Rye Bay - it must have been an impressive sight and sound but left no clue as to its origin or destination

The White Tailed Sea Eagle which disappeared near Southampton Water on Dec 12 may well have re-appeared on Jan 1 in the Hordle (New Milton) area

The Great Bustard first seen in the Portland/Weymouth area from Dec 23 to 27 has re-appeared in the Avon valley/Christchurch Harbour area from Dec 30 to Jan 1

Christmas entertainment by escaped birds was in the form of a singing Budgie on the Isle of Wight and a Golden Eagle in Sussex

The Raven night roost in Dorset had 147 birds on Dec 31 and Dorset also has a single winter Dipper near Dorchester

Two sightings of Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers in Hampshire show they are not extinct in the county and four reports of Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming since Dec 14 shows they think spring has come - also showing that Tawny Owls are not yet extinct within the Havant builtup area was a sighting in a Netherfield Close garden

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: From Dec 25 to Jan 1 very large numbers have been moving along the south coast (sometimes east, sometimes west). On Dec 25 100 were seen off Worthing, on Dec 27 there were 66 off Selsey Bill, on Dec 30 more than 138 went past Christchurch Harbour and Dungeness reported 400 going west. On New Years Day 242 went past Newhaven

Black-throated Diver: These were also on the move but the peak counts were of just 5 passing Christchurch Harbour on Dec 30 and 5 off Newhaven on Jan 1

Great Northern Diver: These were not obviously involved in the movement and the highest count was of just 4 going west at Selsey on Dec 27. On Dec 30 one was seen by the Mulberry Harbour section in Langstone Harbour

Great Crested Grebe: On Dec 25 a raft of 250 at Christchurch Harbour were said to be mostly new arrivals. On Dec 26 there were 189 in the Solent off the Brownwich Cliffs (prev high count was 158). Other big rafts in England were 160+ in Rye Bay on Dec 31 and 163 at Torbay in Devon while Thanet in Kent had 190+ on Dec 28. Across the Channel 2294 were at a Netherlands site on Dec 29. On Jan 1 I had difficulty in finding one in Langstone Harbour but there had been a raft of 25 near Portchester Castle in Portsmouth Harbour

Red-necked Grebe: Singles were seen off Worthing on Dec 26, off Portland on Dec 27 and Portchester Castle on Dec 29. New Year's Day brought one to Selsey Bill

Slavonian Grebe: More than 14 were reported on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Jan 1 and 3 were seen near the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Dec 30 while Studland Bay had 4 on Dec 31

Black-necked Grebe: There were no formal reports from Langstone Harbour this week but I heard a verbal report of 2 off the Oyster Beds on Jan 1. Elsewhere Portland Harbour had 15 on Dec 28 and Studland Bay had 38 on Dec 31

Cormorant: The sea off Bournemouth was reported to have 800 on New Year's Day when I saw my first in full breeding plumage at Budds Farm in Havant

Shag: On Dec 30 one was seen flying in with nesting material to the Durlston Cliffs

Bittern: Being seen in larger than usual numbers at more sites than usual. The Dungeness RSPB reserve claims to have had 11 on Dec 27 and 28, Radipole (Weymouth) is thought to have had 5 on Dec 26, Rye Harbour claims 4 on Dec 30 while Pett Level had 3 on Dec 31. Sites claiming two birds are the Exminster Marshes in Devon, Hatch Pond in Poole Harbour, Burton Mill Pond near Pulborough, Pagham Harbour North Walls on Jan 1 and Christchurch Harbour on Jan 1. Singles were at the Chichester Lakes (Vinnetrow), Blashford Lakes, Fishlake Meadows at Romsey, Lodmoor (Weymouth), Titchfield Haven, Pagham Lagoon and Arundel Wetlands Reserve

Great White Egret: New birds appeared at Keyhaven (Lymington) on Dec 27 and at Mottisfont (R Test north of Romsey) on Dec 31 Little Egrets have become scarce at coastal sites - not known if the birds have flown inland or south across the Channel

Bewicks Swan: On the morning of Jan 1 there were 317 at Slimbridge (previous high was 275 on Dec 24) and no site that I am aware of has lost a substantial number of birds so it is puzzling to know the origin of a substantial herd of at least 84 and possibly 100 Bewick's which flew east along the south coast (and presumably on across the North Sea though they may have settled in the Romney Marshes north of Dungeness) on Dec 31. They were first reported over the Worthing area around 10:30am and last seen over Pett Levels soon after midday. One report says there were 2 Whoopers among them. Many years ago I heard and saw a flypast of some 35 Bewicks going east low over Warblington Church at the end of one winter and I can still clearly remember hearing their non-stop bell-like calls long before the birds came into sight flying in an unbalanced V formation (4 birds on one side of the leader, 30 on the other) only some 100 feet up - a flight of 100 birds would be a dramatic sight and sound.

Wild Geese: In winter we expect lots of 'plastic' wildfowl to appear at many wetland sites but this past week has brought even larger numbers and variety of species to our south coast as genuine wild birds flee the unusually cold weather. Most numerous have been White-fronts (flocks of 400 up to 570 in Kent) and Barnacles (140 at Sandwich Bay and 128 at Slimbridge) but we have also had a few Pink-foots (max 7 at Scotney Court near Rye) and there have been two reports of Bean Geese (max 12 at Sandwich Bay). Farlington Marshes has its share of the influx - in addition to the usual masses of Canadas and Brent it had on New Year's Day 15 White-fronts, half a dozen Barnacles and a single Pink-foot.

Brant: One was in the Yarmouth area of the Isle of Wight on both Dec 26 and 27 with Brent and 100 Barnacles. The only other reports are of one that turned up in the Pett Level area on Jan 1 and one seen in the Climping area near Littlehampton on Jan 1

Red-breasted Goose: One arrived at Pett Level on Dec 26 and was still there on Dec 31. There has been no report of the Exe estuary bird since Dec 12

Ruddy Shelduck: On Dec 27 three were in the Hook area near Warsash and a single was in the Pagham Harbour North Walls area

Wigeon: Vast numbers (uncountable thousands!) are currently present at every potential site along the south coast

Gadwall: A count of 46 in Emsworth Harbour on Jan 1 set a new record for that site and typifies the recent spread of these duck on the south coast

Pintail: On New Year's Day I saw more than a dozen at Farlington Marshes while Nutbourne Bay had more than I have ever seen at one site. On Dec 26 I see that there were 264 at Exmouth in Devon.

Fudge Duck (Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid): Without entering into the discussion as to whether some or all of the birds reported in the Langstone Harbour area are pure bred or hybrid one was reported at Farlington Marshes on Dec 30 and another/the same was at Budds Farm Pools on Dec 31

Scaup: The number at Abbotsbury in Dorset was up to 27 on Dec 28 and on Jan 1 there were 20 in Poole Harbour. Locally there was a group of 6 in Paulsgrove Lake of Portsmouth Harbour on both Dec 30 and Jan 1 (with a different bird in Fareham Creek). Another singleton was in Pagham harbour on Jan 1

Velvet Scoter: Four were off the Climping shore (near Littlehampton) on Jan 1

Smew: The single bird at the Chichester Lakes was still there on Jan 1 and new birds were in Pagham Lagoon and in Poole Harbour that day. Dungeness RSPB had a peak count of 14 on Dec 28 and the number at the Longham Lakes (Bournemouth) increased to 4 on Dec 30. Another new bird arrived at Mottisfont on the R Test on Dec 27, remaining to Jan 1

Goosander: The number roosting at the Blashford Lakes had increased to 140 on Dec 26 but shot up to 231 on Dec 31 (a separate count of 54 that day on a different lake from the main flock may have been in addition)

White-tailed Eagle: The bird which flew from Amberley Wild Brooks to Titchfield Haven on Dec 12 has not been seen again in 2010 but there have been further sightings in the Netherlands on Dec 18 and 20 and now another bird has turned up in Hampshire on Jan 1. It is described as a juvenile (as was the previous bird which also had no wing tags) and was found perched in the Hordle area of the west Hampshire coast before it took off and circled the area for 20 minutes, then flew north west towards New Milton. No further sightings so far. My guess is that this is the same bird that vanished on Dec 12.

Buzzard: Of local interest I watched a Buzzard flapping slowly over the Hayling Billy Trail just north of the A27 in Havant on Dec 27 and later that day saw two perched close to each other on a dead tree in the field boundary half way between Wade Lane and Pook Lane south of the A27. Another Buzzard was an unexpected tick on my New Year's Day bird list when I saw it perched on a fence post at Farlington Marshes.

Water Rail: Also of local interest John Goodspeed's website carries a report of one seen in the central stream of Warblington Farm on Dec 26. On Dec 28 two at a Devon site were said to be 'singing' to celebrate the thaw - unlike the pig-like squealing we normally hear from Water Rails their 'song' is described 'Kik-kik-kik-kik' becoming faster and turning into a trill

Great Bustard: What was probably the same bird that was seen at Portland on Dec 24 after appearing in the area of 'The Fleet' (north of Weymouth) on Dec 23 was seen again at Langton Herring still in the Weymouth area on Dec 27. It then moved to Harbridge in the Ringwood area on Dec 30 before flying south to Christchurch Harbour on Dec 31 (see the CHOG website for a series of photos) and on Jan 1 it spent most of the day at Cowards Marsh (on R Avon just north of Christchurch) before flying south. This is of course an escapee from the Salisbury Plain re-introduction project - last winter more than one escaped and some returned to Salisbury Plain after a lengthy holiday

Avocet: 34 were present at Farlington Marshes on Dec 27 and a similar number were there on Jan 1 though they eluded me after being dispersed by a Peregrine. Also on Jan 1 Christchurch Harbour had 12 and Nutbourne Bay had 13

Knot: Around 80 were on the Emsworth western shore on Dec 29 but only 20 were seen there on Jan 1. At the west end of the Solent in the Hurst/Milford area there were more than 100 on Dec 28 and the Hook/Warsash shore had 33 on Jan 1 but nothing like the 7000 on the north Kent coast at Seasalter on Dec 27

Purple Sandpiper: Brighton Marina had 24 on Jan 1

Whimbrel: Wintering birds were seen at the Fishbourne Channel on Dec 28 and Eling Great Marsh (head of Southampton Water) on Dec 27

Spotted Redshank: The Emsworth Nore Barn bird was still showing on Jan 1 and on Dec 27 there were 8 on the Lymington marshes

Green Sandpiper: The Langstone South Moors bird was seen on Dec 31 and on Jan 1 one was seen in a muddy channel of the Farlington Marshes area north of the A27. On Jan 1 others were seen in Fareham Creek, the Lower Test Marshes, the Timsbury area north of Romsey and the Weston shore of Southampton Water (two seen there)

Grey Phalarope: One was still at Newlyn in Cornwall on Dec 29

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was on the Cockle Pond on Jan 1

Lesser Blackback Gull: On Dec 27 exceptional numbers were recorded at Christchurch Harbour (275) and on the Adur at Shoreham (175+) where there were also 125+ Great Blackbacks

Iceland Gull: A young bird was at the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) on Jan 1

Kittiwake: 754 flew west past Selsey Bill on on Jan 1

Sandwich Tern: None were seen in Chichester Harbour from Dec 16 to 30 when 2 were off Black Point and probably the same 2 were off Selsey Bill on Jan 1 (when one was seen in Poole Harbour)

Auks: 2125 flew west past Selsey Bill on Jan 1. On Dec 31 Portland reported Razorbills going west at the rate of 6000 and hour and that day Durlston had more than 300 Guillemots on its cliff ledges. On Dec 26 a single Little Auk was in Torbay (Devon) and on Jan 1 there were two separate reports of a single Puffin flying west at Selsey

Tawny Owl: One was heard and seen in a Havant Netherfield Close garden (south of Emsworth Road and west of Wade Court Road)

Great Spotted Woodpecker: The first report of drumming came from the Hook (Warsash) area on Dec 14 and since then drumming has been heard at the Blashford Lakes, in the Hove area of Brighton and at Salehurst by the River Rother north of Hastings

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Two Hampshire sightings of this rarity - one in the Aldershot area on Dec 26 and another with a Tit flock near Lymington on Dec 28

Wood Lark: On Dec 26 a flock of 8 were feeding in a ploughed field near Apuldram church close to Fishbourne Channel

Grey Wagtail: One appears to be semi-resident in the Lymbourne Stream passing Wade Court here in Havant and seems to find sufficient food there but a less lucky bird turned up in a north Emsworth garden on Christmas Day looking sick and starving - it stayed for three days being feed with meal worms and was restored to health by Dec 28

Waxwing: While waiting for a bus at a New Road bus-stop across the road from Havant College on Dec 25 Jason Crook found up to 74 Waxwings feeding from a berry tree overhanging the bus shelter and these birds remained in that area for five days. Another flock spent some time by the Southampton Road where it passes Paulsgrove Lake (Port Solent access channel) and yet another appeared in the Waterlooville Waitrose carpark on Dec 30 and was still there on Jan 1. Hayling Island West Town (which had already had one visit from Waxwings between Dec 17 and 23) had another visit on Dec 27

Dipper: Dorset had one in the Cattistock area (north west of Dorchester) on Dec 26

Raven: The night roost in the Cerne Abbas area of Dorset increased from 102 birds on Dec 5 to 147 on Dec 31. Among sightings this week were two over Kingley Vale (north of Chichester) on Dec 27

Tree Sparrow: One was seen with Yellowhammers at Sidlesham (Pagham Harbour) on Dec 29

Snow Bunting: A pair have been seen by the seawall path from Prinsted to Nutbourne on Dec 31 and Jan 1 but the reports give no clue as to where to expect them.

Escapees: On Dec 24 a singing Budgie was seen and heard by the path from Freshwater to Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight and on Dec 30 the Golden Eagle which has been seen in the Ashburnham Place area near Hastings very occasionally for a year or more was spotted again

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

The only report this week was of Winter Moths being attracted to the lit windows of the Portland Observatory on Dec 29

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

The frost and snow left little flowering - on Jan 1 I only noticed Common Gorse and Red Dead Nettle looking fresh plus some Daisies looking wilted

OTHER WILDLIFE

SEAL: Two reports both presumably of Common Seals but not stated. One was in the mouth of the Cuckmere Haven channel near Beachy Head on both Dec 30 and 31 permitting people to approach within 5 yards. The other report was of two Seals in Stoke Bay (the windsurfers launch place immediately south of the Hayling Oysterbeds) on New Year's Day

BROWN HARE: Two were seen above Whale Chine (north west of St Catherines Point, IoW) on Dec 31

FUNGI: Just one report this week of Velvet Shank seen on Dec 27 on a tree trunk leaning over (and at high tides submerged in) the Langbrook Stream where Langstone Mill Lane meets the South Moors (a yard or so downstream from the footbridge).


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