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WEEKLY SUMMARY

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Wildlife diary and news for Mar 26 - Apr 1 (Week 13 of 2012)

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BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: There were still 37 Red-throated passing Dungeness on Mar 30 with singles of Black-throated seen off the Isle of Wight and Splash Point at Seaford during the week with 20 passing Cap Gris-Nez on Mar 31. The biggest count of Great Northern was 7 at Selsey Bill on Mar 27

Grebes: 9 Red-necked were off a Netherlands site on Mar 30 (possibly as many as 22 if we add the reports from 5 Netherlands sites for that day). Two Slavonian were in Hayling Bay on Mar 23 and 25 and one was still off Titchfield Haven on Mar 31. One Black-necked in breeding plumage was still at Eastbourne on Mar 26 but that was the only report from southern England

Bittern: Still reported from five south England sites this week with one at Rye Harbour attempting to boom on Mar 24

Night Heron: Four are probably still present in west Cornwall where the first was seen near St Just on Mar 12 but the party of four that arrived in north Devon on Mar 13 have not been reported since Mar 20.

Cattle Egret: The Kingston Maurward (Dorset) bird has not been reported since Mar 18. On Mar 24 Lee Evans reported one in Berkshire and another in Gloucestershire and on Mar 27 one was seen in the Exe estuary

Little Egret: On Mar 20 two individuals turned up at new inland sites (Weir Wood near Crowborough and Gatwick airport). By Mar 29 a minimum of 8 nests could be seen at the Langstone Pond site and two of the 27 birds present (with the tide out) were in trees on the mainland suggesting that all nest sites on the island were now taken.

Great White Egret: The group of six that have been at a Somerset Levels site since at least Feb 29 were still there on Mar 24

Purple Heron: First reports of these for the year come from the Netherlands and Belgium on Mar 26, 27 and 28

Spoonbill: On Mar 28 one arrived in Pagham Harbour and was still there on Mar 31 when two others turned up at the Farlington Marshes deeps. Others have been moving through the wider Havant area this week - four flew north east over Titchfield Haven on Mar 21, one was in the Warsash/Hook area on Mar 22 when three more flew east along the west Sussex coast and one was also going east off Hastings on Mar 24

Mute Swan: These are at last starting to nest - on Mar 28 an inexperienced pair were building a nest in the Emsworth Slipper Mill pool and on Mar 29 the female of the long established Langstone Pond pair was sitting.

Whitefront Goose: On Mar 27 a flock of 1680 birds was seen at a German site, presumably preparing to fly north, and on Mar 28 there may have been 2165 birds in that area

Brent Goose: Counts of departing birds were 919 on Mar 28, 770 on Mar 29 and 840 on Mar 30 but not all of these geese follow the coast - on Mar 28 a flock of 50 flew high north east over Chichester

Mandarin duck: Pairs of these tree breeding ducks are now searching for nest sites in old trees usually close to water and on Mar 24 a male was seen in a tree near the River Wallington at the north foot of Portsdown. A pair seen on that day in the Lepe country park near the mouth of Southampton Water and on Mar 27 a pair was seen at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood

Green-winged Teal: The male which appears to be paired with a Common Teal was still in the Farlington Marshes area, seen at the 'Deeps' on Mar 30

Mallard: A female was seen with 16 tiny ducklings at a Devon site on Mar 27

Garganey: 15 reports this week including a pair on the Farlington Marshes 'Deeps' on Mar 30

Black Kite: The first report of one in southern England that I am aware of came from the London area on Mar 30

Red Kite: One report (out of the many seen daily everywhere) which cannot be ignored came from the Bedhampton area of Havant on Mar 29. In the air above Peter Raby's home were one Red Kite, 2 Hobbies, 3 Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk were all interacting. As if this was not enough there was another bird which hit the national headlines on the RBA website - an Alpine Swift. These birds were reported just after midday when I was heading home from a walk round the Warblington Farm area and had been attracted to look up on hearing a Buzzard call to see a group of birds interacting high over the distant Northney marina area - the distance and haze looking into the sun made it impossible to see accurately what was going on but I am certain of three Buzzards and one falcon stooping at them - I guessed it was a Peregrine but it could well have been a Hobby (the birds were slowly drifting towards Bedhampton).

Rough-legged Buzzard: There was one confident report of the Arun valley bird as late as Mar 29

Osprey: 15 reports this week with the majority coming from Dorset, Devon and Cornwall but one flew north over south Hayling on Mar 25 and one went north over the Blashford Lakes on Mar 29

Hobby: After isolated reports on Mar 9 and 23 there were two reports on Mar 28 from Dorset and Sussex, two on Mar 29 from Cornwall and Hampshire (the Bedhampton birds) and two more from Hampshire on Mar 31 (Romsey and Ringwood areas)

Baillon's Crake: One in Ireland on Mar 24 was a first for the year in the British Isles and the more unusual for being seen in spring rather than autumn

Coot: The first nest was in use at Emsworth on Mar 25

Black-winged Stilt: One in Ireland (Co Wexford) on Mar 30

Stone Curlew: Two more migrant arrivals this week - on Mar 23 one flew north over the Worthing area, heard calling at 21:25, and on Mar 24 one was seen on the ground at Christchurch Harbour in the early morning

Little Ringed Plover: 18 reports this week including Pagham Harbour and Pulborough Brooks

Kentish Plover: A female at Slapton Ley in south Devon on Mar 30

Lapwing: During a walk round Farlington Marshes on Mar 27 I saw at least 8 birds on territitory though only three were displaying.

Purple Sandpiper: 16 were seen at Southsea Castle on Mar 30

Ruff: 11 reports this week including one at Farlington Marshes on Mar 31

Woodcock: Roding males on the heathland south of Fleet were trying to drive away the competition on Mar 25 and a late departing migrant was put up from a field of Cauliflowers in north Kent on Mar 27

Bar-tailed Godwit: The start of their spring passage was marked by a group of five flying east past Splash Point at Seaford on Mar 25

Whimbrel: Early migrants flew past Splash Point on Mar 17 and on Mar 28 the first report to mention their 'teetering' call came from the Kent Stout Valley on Mar 28

Little Gull: Numbers passing along the south coast are now increasing with 7 seen at Selsey Bill on Mar 23 and 10 at Dungeness on Mar 28. 2481 were at a Netherlands site on Mar 27 as they head towards the Baltic and Siberia to breed

Iceland Gull: The Broadmarsh area bird was still in Langstone Harbour on Mar 31 but one seen at Winchester sewage works on Mar 28 was presumably on its way north

Common Tern: These have been arriving since Mar 17 and 8 reports this week included 25 on the French coast on Mar 28, 5 at Dungeness on Mar 29 when one was at Chichester Ivy Lake. On Mar 30 one was inland at Fleet Pond

Little Tern: Just two reports both from the Netherlands (3 seen on Mar 26 and 1 on Mar 30)

Cuckoo: The first was reported from the Weymouth area of Dorset on Mar 17, a couple (maybe the same bird) were in the Eastbourne area on Mar 20, and a more regular string of reports began on Mar 24 when one was in Dorset and another in the New Forest. Mar 26 saw one on the Sussex Downs and Mar 27 brought two reports, maybe of the same bird, in the Worthing area. The latest news is of one at Bere Regis in Dorset on Mar 29

Scops Owl: One seen on the Scillies (St Mary's) on Mar 25 and again on Mar 26

Eagle Owl: One seen on the roof of a house in the Waterlooville area by day on Mar 29 was clearly used to humans, unlike the wild one seen in northern Norway on Mar 22 by two of the Three Amigos (see http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/2012/03/30/royalty-eagle-owls-and-velvet-scoters-bergen-norway/ ) on their final trip on HMS Liverpool which was back in Portsmouth for its decommissioning ceremony before I saw this post. I rather suspect that the Waterlooville bird had been seen on Mar 27 on a building close to Winchester Rail Station when it was reported as a 'Long-eared Owl'.

Short-eared Owl: Still several around this week but no reports since Mar 29 when two were in the Pagham Harbour area a day after two were seen at Farlington Marshes

Common Swift: One was over Portland on Mar 29

Alpine Swift: One had been reported at The Lizard in Cornwall on Mar 18 and this week one was over Havant on Mar 29 before one was reported over Lundy on Mar 30

Hoopoe: 17 reports between Mar 24 and 29 came mainly from Cornwall but there were sightings on the Isle of Wight and at Weymouth. On Mar 28 RBA News gave a total of 11 birds in the UK

House Martin: Swallows and Sand Martins are now being seen regularly and widely but House Martins are still scarce with a maximum 'flock' of 5 in the Romsey area on Mar 31

Tree Pipit: The first arrival that I am aware of was one in the Scillies on Mar 25 with five more seen in various Dorset sites by Mar 30 when two more were on the Lymington shore

Meadow Pipit: Thousands are currently moving north over southern England each day and they have been heard singing since Mar 27 at Farlington Marshes and Pulborough

Yellow Wagtail: Just five reports so far covering sites in Sussex, Kent, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight (max count only 4)

Red-flanked Bluetail: Just one seen in Ireland (Co Cork) on Mar 26

Black Redstart: Just six new reports this week but including one at the Budds Farm site in Havant on Mar 31

Common Redstart: First of the year arrived at Portland on Mar 28 followed by five more sightings in Dorset and one at Selsey Bill this week

Ring Ouzel: 16 new reports this week including one on Mar 31 at the north foot of Portsdown (Purbrook Heath area)

Fieldfare: Still heading north with a flock of 146 near Ropley in east Hampshire on Mar 27 and 135 in the Timsbury area of the Test valley on Mar 29

Redwing: Still moving north with 31 at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 30

Grasshopper Warbler: Just one report so far of a bird heard singing in the Dorset Winspit valley on Mar 28

Sedge Warbler: First arrival was singing at Rye Harbour on Mar 27 followed by reports from Kent, Dorset and the Isle of Wight (but not Hampshire so far)

Common Whitethroat: Mentioned as having arrived in Lee Evans bulletin on Mar 24 but I still have not seen any dates or sites on the south coast

Garden Warbler: I have only seen two reports, both in Hampshire. On Mar 29 one was heard and seen on Warsash Common and on Mar 30 one was heard singing in competition (and contrast) to a Blackcap somewhere in Fareham

Willow Warbler: Portland reported the first big arrival (at least 100) on Mar 29 and on Mar 30 one was singing in trees bordering the Hayling Billy trail in Havant where it passes Lower Grove Road (Christchurch Harbour had 220 arrive that morning). Regular full song started on Mar 25

Firecrest: Of local interest Martin Hampton reported on Mar 27 that a Firecrest had been singing for the past 10 days in trees bordering the Hayling Billy trail where it passes his house in Lower Grove Road and on Mar 30 he told us it was still to be heard there

Pied Flycatcher: First arrival ( a female) was reported on Mar 28 from the Exe estuary and on Mar 31 Portland had 4 arrivals

Long-tailed Tit: First report of nest building came from south Devon on Mar 17 with another fron the Oare Marshes in north Kent on Mar 18 followed by a photo of a nest at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 29

Great Grey Shrike: A bird on Ibsley Common near Ringwood was reported to be singing on Mar 24 and on looking up the habits of this species in my old P.A.D. Hollom 'Handbook' I read that its harsh alarm note .. 'may become a Magpie-like chatter'. Searching on the internet I found a blog describing song heard in Northumberland last year - there it is described as follows .. 'I never though I would hear a Shrike sing and it sounded nothing like I had imagined. First it sounded slightly like a warbler but kept adding mimicry and sounded like a wader then a bird of prey.' A longer verbal description can be found in http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Grey_Shrike

Woodchat Shrike: First of the year was in Ireland (Co Waterford) on Mar 24

Jay: One at Waltham Brooks (Pulborough) was also described as 'singing' on Mar 28

Serin: One which arrived on the Scillies on Mar 22 was heard singing there on Mar 25

Hawfinch: The saga of the Hawfinches at Eastleigh Lakeside Country Park continues with up to 5 still there on Mar 30. They were first seen there on Feb 24 and the number has varied up to a max of 12 on Mar 16 and 17

Little Bunting: One was caught and ringed at Thurlestone Bay in south Devon on Mar 19 and a second bird was also caught there on Mar 28

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Notable sightings this week:

Grizzled Skipper: First of year at Shoreham Mill Hill on Mar 24 followed by one at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on Mar 27 when three more were found at Rake Bottom on Butser Hill

Clouded Yellow: One nectaring on Groundsel at Portland on Mar 29. As these have at least one permanent colony in Bournemouth and are also known to hibernate in the south of England it is not possible to say if this was a migrant, an emerging resident or even one which had managed to hibernate.

Green Hairstreak: First of the year seen at Beacon Hill, Exton in the Meon Valley on Mar 29 with a second sighting at Magdalen Hill Down next day.

Small Copper: Although the first sighting was on Mar 21 it was not included in last weeks summary. Mar 21 brought a report of one in the New Forest which I at first thought was very early but on checking found that one had been found at Gosport in 2009 as early as Mar 5. This years first has been followed by a 'possible' sighting on Butser Hill on Mar 27 and a definite sighting near Lymington on Mar 28

Small Blue: Seen and photographed on the Isle of Wight on Mar 30

Painted Lady: A 'tatty' specimen seen on Mar 21 in the Rother Woods north of Hastings and one was seen at Prawle on the south Devon coast on Mar 25 - both present the same problem of origin as the Clouded Yellow

Large Tortoiseshell: The identity of one seen in Havant by Brian Fellows on Mar 30 has been confirmed by the presence of extra black patches at the rear of each forewing (unique to Large Tortoiseshell) as well as by the large size which immediately made Brian aware this was not a Small Tortoiseshell (see http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm entry for Mar 31 for a photo). The possibility that there has been a small arrival of these butterflies as migrants is suggested by two further sightings at Newtown on the Isle of Wight - one was seen by Peter Hunt on Mar 27, and when Mike Gibbons came over to the Island to see it on Mar 30 he believes that he saw a different individual from that photographed on Mar 27. Yet another report, from the West Wellow area near Romsey on Mar 29, is more dubious as the list of butterflies in the reporter's garden included a Common Blue which must have been a Holly Blue and this throws some doubt on the reporter's ability to separate Large from Small Tortoiseshell. Further indications of migrant arrivals may be seen in moth reports of Silver Y and Hummingbird Hawkmoths (see moths below) but these are not proven.

Camberwell Beauty: The Mar 28 entry on the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website has a photo of a Camberwell Beauty taken on Mar 22 at the Marley Common National Trust site (close to Fernhurst and Blackdown Hill) by the NT warden. This is more likely to be an escape or release of a locally bred individual rather than a migrant, but who knows?

Species reported this week:

Grizzled Skipper, Clouded Yellow, Brimstone, Large White, Small White, Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Green Hairstreak, Small Copper, Small Blue, Holly Blue, Red Admiral, Painted Lady, Small Tortoiseshell, Large Tortoiseshell, Camberwell Beauty, Peacock, Comma, Speckled Wood

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

Species recorded for the first time this year/season:

0149 Treetop Longhorn Adela cuprella found at Potland on Mar 29 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4505

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0149.php

0485 Schreckensteinia festaliella found in Dorset on Mar 26 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6388

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0485.php

0666 Semioscopis avellanella found at Eridge near Crowborough on Mar 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5714

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0666.php

0899 Violet Cosmet Pancalia leuwenhoekella found at Mill Hill near Shoreham on Mar 30 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6313

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0899.php

0900 Pancalia schwarzella found at Malling Down near Lewes on Mar 30 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5706

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0900.php

1116 Ancylis comptana found at Malling Down near Lewes on Mar 26 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5449

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1116.php

1200 Eucosma hohenwartiana found at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on Mar 30 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=717

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1200.php

1255 Cydia ulicetana/succedana found in Dorset on Mar 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5047

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1255.php

1362 Pyrausta purpuralis found at Mill Hill near Shoreham on Mar 27 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1182

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1362.php

1365 Pyrausta despicata found at Mill Hill near Shoreham on Mar 27 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1356

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1365.php

1366 Pyrausta nigrata found at Mill Hill near Shoreham on Mar 27 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3530

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1366.php

1645 Scalloped Hook-tip Falcaria lacertinaria found in Dorset on Mar 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5279

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1645.php

1660 Frosted Green Polyploca ridens found in Dorset on Mar 30 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5074

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1660.php

1661 Orange Underwing Archiearis parthenias found at Wadhurst near Crowborough on Mar 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=871

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1661.php

1662 Light Orange Underwing Archiearis notha found at Dungeness on Mar 29 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3343

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1662.php

1834 Common Pug Eupithecia vulgata found in Dorset on Mar 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=463

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1834.php

1858 The V-Pug Chloroclystis v-ata found in Dorset on Mar 27 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=156

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1858.php

1883 Yellow-barred Brindle Acasis viretata found in Dorset on Mar 29 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1140

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1883.php

1919 Purple Thorn Selenia tetralunaria found in Dorset on Mar 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5727

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1919.php

2005 Great Prominent Peridea anceps found in Dorset on Mar 27 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4445

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2005.php

2015 Lunar Marbled Brown Drymonia ruficornis found in Dorset on Mar 30 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2848

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2015.php

2019 Chocolate-tip Clostera curtula found in Dorset on Mar 30 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=848

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2019.php

2063 Muslin Moth Diaphora mendica found in Dorset on Mar 27 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4314

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2063.php

2260 Dotted Chestnut Conistra rubiginea found in Dorset on Mar 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3804

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2260.php

2289 Knot Grass Acronicta rumicis found in Dorset on Mar 29 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=72

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2289.php

2306 Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa found on Portsdown on Mar 24 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1731

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2306.php

2425 Nut-tree Tussock Colocasia coryli found in Dorset on Mar 25 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=334

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2425.php

2441 Silver Y Autographa gamma found in Dorset on Mar 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1134

Note that this is a new wave of immigrants - those seen on Jan 18 were 'last years'

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2441.php

2469 The Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix found in Dorset on Mar 26 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5101

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2469.php

Hummingbird Hawkmoth sightings New sightings on Mar 22 in the Bitterne are of Southampton; on Mar 23 in the Totton area near Southampton, nectaring at Daffodils; on Mar 27 at Folkestone, nectaring at Flowering Currant; and on Mar 29 another seen at Folkestone

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Bee Flies: Widespread reports of the common Bee Fly plus sightings of Dotted Bee Fly at Woods Mill (Henfield) on Mar 30 and at Rye Harbour on Mar 24.

Oak Gall Wasp (Biorhiza pallida): First Oak Apples seen on Warblington Farm on Mar 29 - see my diary page for an account of the complex life cycle of the gall wasps which create them

Common Wasp: Queens are now emerging to set up new colonies - please don't kill them as they are very unlikely to harm you and their offspring do a lot of important pest control work

Hairy footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes): These are now active and have been reported on two websites with illustrative photos that seem to show different insects. Graeme Lyons photos at http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/stalker.html show an insect with a long downward pointing proboscis looking as rigid as that of a Bee Fly whereas the photos on the BWARS website ( http://www.bwars.com/Anthophora_plumipes.htm ) pointed to by Brian Banks entry on the RX website (see http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2012/03/25/hairy-footed-flower-bee/ ) show no sign of a proboscis. A search through several sources of information on this species found no mention of the proboscis shown in Graeme's picture though it is clear that this bee mainly visits plants with long tubular flower requiring a long 'drinking straw' to get at the nectar. I did eventually find a photo showing the proboscis (see http://www.flickr.com/photos/23111015@N04/6830537362/ ) and it would seem that, despite the impression given by Graeme's photos that the proboscis is rigid (as in Bee Flies) it must in fact be retractable (like that of a butterfly)

Oil beetle (Meloe proscarabaeus): These get a mention as active at Durlston on Mar 21 and provide an excuse to point you to an excellent photo of the species at http://theweekendbiologist.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/oil-beetles.html As well as looking at the photo do read the text above it describing the life of the young larvae and how it hitches an air flight to the Bees nest in which it will grow up.

More beetles, some extraordinary spiders and a huge millipede: Just some of the things Graeme Lyons has been finding recently. Do visit http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.co.uk/ and try to find out more about the species he keeps finding

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Great Horsetail: The first signs of these were the fertile cones which had started to push up on path edges at Warblington Farm this week

European Larch: The first green leaves had appeared on a tree here in Havant by Mar 29 but with no sign of the Larch Roses still to come

White mustard (Sinapis alba): When on Portsdown on Mar 26 I parked in the unofficial parking area immediately west of Fort Southwick and was puzzled by a cluster of plants growing at the edge of the arable field beside the parking area. From the leaf shape I thought they might be a Sisymbrium species but when the specimen which I took home began to open its flowers I realised that this was White Mustard which might well have been grown on the field and then ploughed in as 'green manure' to increase the fertility of this chalky soil

Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis): I believe that this lovely spring flower is disappearing from our countryside as existing colonies are destroyed - if left more or less undisturbed it can survive but if the colony is cut down or ploughed up it has no means of reinstating itself by e.g. windborne seed. This happened to a large patch on the grass verge beside the Forestside Road running through Stansted Forest where it passes the 'Middle Lodge' close to the Avenue carpark and I have not seen any of these flowers so far this year whereas Brian Fellows has found it at Kingston near Lewes and in the Bridge Road carpark by his Emsworth home.

Chalk Milkwort: Durlston reports this starting to flower on Mar 30

Shining Cranesbill: First flowers seen at both ends of the Pook Lane footbridge over the A27 at Warblington on Mar 29

Wood Sorrel: A great show of flowers in the Longcopse Hill area of the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Mar 30 were my first for the year

Common Vetch: First flowers seen on Portsdown on Mar 26

Black Medick: Last year's flowers had vanished by the end of January and I saw my first new flowers for this year on Portsdown on Mar 26

Wild Cherry: Flowering in the Longcopse area of the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Mar 30

Wild Plum: Also in full flower in the Longcopse area on Mar 30

Flowering Currant: Now flowering at Folkestone so no doubt also to be found locally

Elder: At least one tree bearing open flowers at Farlington Marshes on Mar 27

Ox-eye Daisy: One flower fully open and many in bud on Portsdown on Mar 26

Neapolitan Garlic: One flowering plant found by Brian Fellows on Mar 30 beside the A259 main road through west Emsworth (in a ditch outside No 103 near the Brookfield Hotel)

Wild Daffodil: The usual display could be seen in the West Dean Woods north of Chichester on Mar 27

Arum (Lords and Ladies): Spathes started to open from Mar 29 onward

Early Spider Orchid: Starting to flower at Durlston on Mar 28

Hairy Woodrush (Luzula pilosa): Flowering in the West stoke area at the foot of Kingley Vale on Mar 27

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Fox: Foxes are a regular sight in the meadow between Langstone Pond and Wade Court and normally look very healthy but an extremely mangy specimen was there on Mar 29

Hare: Birders looking for the Rough-legged Buzzard in the Arun Valley near Burpham this week reported many Hares in the fields

Brook Lamprey: A couple of these were seen in the R Itchen at Avington on Mar 24. If you are not familiar with these strange jawless fish have a look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/European_brook_lamprey At the moment they are probably busy moving stones on the river bed to create a spawning bed.

Fish: The first report of a shoal of Grey Mullet in the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth was dated Mar 25 and on that same day the Durlston website commented on numbers of Turbot, Brill, Plaice & Dabs coming inshore after spawning slightly further out in the Channel

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Mar 19 - 25 (Week 12 of 2012)

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BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Red-throated were still heading east past Dungeness with counts of 55 on Mar 16 and 96 on Mar 18 but this passage seems to have died out during the latter part of the current week. One Black-throated and four Great Northern were seen at Selsey on Mar 18 but the only divers getting into the news later in the week were three White-billed which appeared in the Western Isles of Scotland on Mar 22

Grebes: Still attracting interest were single Red-necked off Worthing on Mar 18, in Portland Harbour on Mar 20 and on the north Kent coast (Swalecliffe) on Mar 21. Six reports of Slavonian but the last I know of was of 3 in Carlyon Bay (South Cornwall) on Mar 20 preceded by 4 off Climping near Worthing on Mar 19. Last reports of Black-necked were also on Mar 20 when one was at West Rise Marsh in Eastbourne and 3 were in the Torbay area of Devon

Manx Shearwater: These are presumably now returning to their breeding sites off the Welsh coast but the first report of the species that I have seen is of one at Portland Bill on Mar 19

Night Heron: At least one of the four birds that arrived in Devon on Mar 12 was still wandering around west Cornwal on Mar 23

Little Egret: First definite signs of nesting seen at Langstone Mill Pond on Mar 23 when at least three nests had pairs in them (one pair seen stabbing upwards with their bills at a bird which seemed to have lost its footing and be in danger of falling into the occupied nest). What I think was an accurate count of birds roosting at the site on the evening of Mar 24 was of 70 birds - this no doubt included some of last year's young and others not intending to nest here.

White Stork: These have been arriving at continental sites since Feb 5 with a max count of 39 at a Belgian site on Mar 18 so it is not surprising that one was seen in England (flying south over Redruth in Cornwall) on Mar 22

Glossy Ibis: On Mar 18 Lee Evans told us that there were at least 13 in the UK but this week the only ones I am aware of in southern England are two at Lodmoor (Weymouth) and two in the Kent Stour valley

Spoonbill: The winter flock of around 15 based in Poole Harbour has not been reported since Mar 9 but two of the birds seem to have settled at Lodmoor (Weymouth). Elsewhere reports seem to have been of birds moving around in search of somewhere to settle down, as shown in the latest report of three flying east along the Sussex coast on Mar 22. Three appeared briefly on the Lymington shore on Mar 17 and two were seen at Cuckmere Haven on Mar 19 but do not seem to have settled there and may have moved on to Rye Harbour where three were seen on Mar 20

Mute Swan: Still no definite reports of any having settled on nests but the female at Langstone Mill Pond was once again building up her nest on the evening of Mar 24 though not settling on it

Brent Goose: Counts of 6200 flying east past Dungeness on Mar 16 and 6541 off a Netherlands site on Mar 18 seem to mark the end of the main passage of these geese but no doubt the last few will still be leaving well into April - on the evening of Mar 24 while counting Egrets at Langstone and with the tide at its very lowest I saw more than 100 Brent flying west over Langstone Bridge, probably seeking water deep enough to deter Fox predation during the night

Mandarin Duck: A pair were present at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 17 and on Mar 24 a male was seen (possibly seeking a treehole in which to nest) in a tree near the Wallington River flowing along the northern foot of Portsdown Hill

Wigeon: Around 20 were still to be seen on Mar 23 at the mouth of the Langbrook stream where it enters Langstone Harbour just west of Langstone Bridge

Garganey: Five were present in the Kent Stour valley at the end of last week and pairs were seen this week at Christchurch and at Lymington (possibly the same?) and maybe three were on the north Kent coast at Reculver on Mar 23

Hen Harrier: Still being seen in the New Forest up to Mar 20

Rough Legged Buzzard: The bird in the Arun valley was still present on Mar 21

Osprey: After the first to arrive was seen over Weir Wood reservoir in Sussex on Mar 9 the second (as far as I am aware) came in over the Devon Coast on Mar 21. No news yet from the artificial Osprey nest built last year on one of the old landing lights at the disused Thorney Island airfield!

Little Ringed Plover: After reported arrivals last week at Christchurch Harbour and Lodmoor (Weymouth) another wave of arrivals on Mar 22 brought further sightings at Christchurch and first arrivals at Pulborough.

Lapwing: In recent years these have almost ceased to breed anywhere along the south coast but from 2007 to 2011 a few pairs bred among the ponies on the rough grassland of the Gipsies Plain along the southern edge of Havant Thicket and I assume that insects attracted by the Pony droppings helped to feed them and their chicks (as well as the Rooks from the Rowlands Castle rookery) so I was concerned when visiting the area this week to find that no ponies were present (it seems that at least some of them have been moved to rough grassland, not suitable for Lapwings, to the west of the 'Long Avenue' of trees coming north from the Leigh Park Gardens lake). At first I could see no Lapwings on the old breeding site but I eventually spotted two individuals (far from each other) and now I can only hope, probably in vain, that breeding will continue here.

Whimbrel: Reports of two flying east past Splash Point at Seaford on Mar 17 and one on Portland Bill on Mar 19 seem to mark the start of Whimbrel spring passage

Mediterranean Gull: The number present around the British coast continues to grow year by year with a consequent growth in the numbers breeding at sites in Sussex and Kent where they were recently uncommon. Last year the highest number which I saw reported as breeding at Rye Harbour was 300+ but this week Barry Yates has co-ordinated a count which shows that a minimum of 547 are already present there this year

Laughing Gull: This north American equivalent of our Black-headed Gull appeared in Cumbria on Mar 18 to become the 279th species on Lee Evans' list of birds seen in the British Isles this year

Sandwich Tern: The first migrants began moving through the English Channel around Mar 1 but there is always some delay before these new arrivals start to enter the Solent harbours and this year the first that I know of in Langstone Harbour were two seen at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Mar 23

Common Tern: The first that I know of this year was seen at Longham Lakes (northern fringe of Bournemouth) on Mar 17 and on Mar 19 the first arrival was seen in the Netherlands

Cuckoo: One was reported in the Weymouth area of Dorset on Mar 17 and another at Seaford in Sussex on Mar 20 (with another - maybe the same bird - at Willingdon (Eastbourne) that day. Hampshire had its first in the New Forest (south west of Burley) on Mar 24

Short-eared Owl: Still being seen on the north Kent coast on Mar 23 and on the Isle of Wight on Mar 21 (possibly also in Parkhust Forest, which is Long-eared territory, on Mar 22)

Alpine Swift: One reported at The Lizard in Cornwall on Mar 18

Hoopoe: Although there had been January sightings in both East Anglia and Cornwall there was then a pause before three recent reports - on Mar 15 one was in Suffolk, on Mar 18 one in the Poole Harbour area and on Mar 23 one at Sennen in west Cornwall

Shore Lark: These are good at hiding from birders and it seems that one at Swalecliffe on the north Kent coast managed to evade detection for 17 days before it was re-discovered on Mar 20

Sand Martin: I have now picked up 40 reports after the first arrived in Wales on Mar 1 - the biggest flock so far was of 45+ birds in the Exe estuary area on Mar 20 (after 17 at Romsey on Mar 18)

Swallow: Only 20 reports of these so far with the only flock (20+) seen on the Devon coast on Mar 21

House Martin: Just one sighting so far from Lundy on or before Mar 23

Meadow Pipit: The number heading north over Portland topped 1000 on Mar 20

Yellow Wagtail: Following the sighting of four in the Arun valley on Mar 11 there has been just one further report of a single bird in the Kent Stour valley on Mar 18

Waxwing: Lee Evans tells us that a flock of four was in an ASDA carpark at Blyth in Northumberland on Mar 18

Black Redstart: Following my thought last week that this could be one of the years in which a lot of these breed in southern England I saw that one was heard in sub-song at Calshot on Mar 18

Wheatear: These continue to arrive but are beginning to cease to attract attention from birders

Ring Ouzel: First for the year was on the Scillies on Mar 14 followed by one in the New Forest near Ringwood on Mar 18, one on the north Kent coast on Mar 20 and another in Cornwall on Mar 21

Fieldfare: Last flock was of 15+ birds in the Fareham (south) area on Mar 20

Redwing: 147 were seen in the New Forest on Mar 17/18 and just 2 were seen on Portland on Mar 20

Mistle Thrush: A pair were collecting food for their young in the Weir Wood reservoir area of Sussex on Mar 19

Willow warbler: First definite report from Cornwall on Mar 14 followed by ten more widespread reports including one singing at Eastleigh Lakeside on Mar 19

Long-tailed Tit: Reports of nest building on Mar 17 and 18

Great Grey Shrike: Still present at 8 sites during the week including one in the Highfield area of Southampton (presumably pausing on passage) on Mar 19. One seen last week (Mar 17) in the New Forest was seen to kill a Dartford Warbler and one in the Linwood Bog area of the New Forest (near Ringwood) on Mar 24 was said to be singing

Little Bunting: One was caught and ringed at Thurlestone Bay in south Devon on Mar 19 and remained in the area until at least Mar 23

Reed Bunting: Of local interest the first to be reported at Langstone Pond this year was singing there at dusk on Mar 24

Escapee: A species of Mynah bird was 'singing' at Glynde near Lewes on Mar 21

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Species reported this week:

Grizzled Skipper (first at Mill Hill, Shoreham, on Mar 24), Brimstone, Large White (second for the year at Folkestone on Mar 22 after one in Sussex on Mar 11), Small White, Green-veined White (first at Folkestone on Mar 22 then one near Henfield on Mar 23), Orange Tip (first in Kent on Mar 22 followed by sightings at Gosport and Henfield on Mar 23 and at Langstone Mill Pond on Mar 24), Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

Species recorded for the first time this year/season:

0006 Common Oak Purple Eriocrania subpurpurella found in Dorset on Mar 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1693

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0006.php

0288 Caloptilia stigmatella found at Woods Mill (Henfield) on Mar 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6614

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0288.php

0451 Ypsolopha mucronella found in Dorset on Mar 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5095

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0451.php

0483 Epermenia chaerophyllella found in Dorset on Mar 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1931

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0483.php

0607 Elachista canapennella found in Dorset on Mar 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6615

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0607.php

0670 Depressaria daucella found at Folkestone on Mar 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1863

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0670.php

1054 Acleris cristana found at Folkestone on Mar 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6435

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1054.php

1633 Small Eggar Eriogaster lanestris found in Dorset on Mar 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2646

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1633.php

1661 Orange Underwing Archiearis parthenias found in Dorset on Mar 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=871

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1661.php

1747 The Streamer Anticlea derivata found in Dorset on Mar 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3924

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1747.php

1750 Water Carpet Lampropteryx suffumata found in Dorset on Mar 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4814

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1750.php

1769 Spruce Carpet Thera britannica found in Dorset on Mar 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=696

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1769.php

1881 Early Tooth-striped Trichopteryx carpinata found in Fareham area on Mar 18 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4768

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1881.php

1888 Scorched Carpet Ligdia adustata found in Dorset on Mar 22 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2221

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1888.php

2091 Dark Sword-grass Agrotis ipsilon found at Folkestone on Mar 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=226

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2091.php

2119 Pearly Underwing Peridroma saucia found at Portland on Mar 18 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=791

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2119.php

2183 Blossom Underwing Orthosia miniosa found in Fareham area on Mar 16 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1308

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2183.php

2185 Lead-coloured Drab Orthosia populeti found in Dorset on Mar 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2668

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2185.php

2186 Powdered Quaker Orthosia gracilis found in Dorset on Mar 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2015

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2186.php

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Bee Fly (Bombylius major): First seen at Rye Harbour on Mar 12 and in my Havant garden on Mar 25. I see it is also known as the Dark-edged Bee Fly and as the Greater Bee Fly

Cheilosia grossa Hoverfly: See http://rxwildlife.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/rxcgrossadsc08256.jpg for a photo of one taken at Rye Harbour on Mar 19 - the accompanying text says - "This distinctive early hoverfly can be seen around the short grassy areas near the viewpoint flying low to the ground as it searches out its host plants, in this case young Spear Thistles." By host plant is meant that on which the hoverfly will lay its eggs - the larvae live within the thistle stems

Eupeodes luniger hoverfly: I think this may be the id of a hoverfly which I saw on a wildflower rich grass bank in the Havant area. In my diary page for Mar 22 I wrote .. "While photographing the flowers a small hoverfly arrived and settled for long enough for me to take in that, in addition to the six yellow 'lunules' on its abdomen the top of its thorax was pure black and the tip of its abdomen was also black (no additional yellow marks). This seems to be Metasyrphus (or Euopedes) luniger though the best picture I can find of that species does have a couple of additional yellow bands at the tip of its abdomen - see http://micropics.org.uk/Syrphidae/Metasyrphus/luniger/metasyrphus%20luniger.htm - maybe I didn't notice them!"

Hairy footed flower bee (Anthophora plumipes): Although I have been aware of this species before I had not realised until now that it had a long proboscis like that on a Bee Fly but downward pointing - see http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/stalker.html for Graeme Lyons photo and description of them seen on the Sussex coast on Mar 23

Pot Beetles: Another discovery for which I have to thank Gordon Jarvis for his Mar 19 entry on the RX website which made me aware of a whole new group of beetles - see http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2012/03/19/pot-beetle/ to add another 20 species of British beetles to your repertoire!

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Eastern Rocket: This is a local speciality of the Portsmouth area and I found my first example on Mar 23 at the Hayling Ferry beach carpark - see my diary for that day for a photo

Cuckoo Flower (Cardamine pratensis): Found flowering in the Lewes area on Mar 24

Thale Cress: The first plant I have seen this year was starting to flower in a Havant carpark on Mar 24

Common Dog Violet: Just two flowers found on the southern edge of Havant Thicket on Mar 24 with others found nearby on the same day by the Havant Wildlife Group

Greater Stitchwort: Two plants in flower in the Locks Farm area of Havant on Mar 22

Sea Mouse Ear: Already flowering in the Gunner Point area of Hayling Island on Mar 23

Least Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis exilis): Just one flower found in Havant on Mar 19

Broom: One bush had started to flower in the Havant Thicket area on Mar 22

Rue-leaved Saxifrage: Plants just starting to flower in the Pallant car park in Havant on Mar 24

Opposite-leaved Golden Saxifrage: This was in flower in the Pett Level area (Rye Bay) on Mar 17 and hopefully can now also be found on the banks of the Pur brook between Purbrook Heath and Widley Walk (northern foot of Portsdown)

Horse Chestnut: The first sticky buds had opened on Mar 19 to reveal both wrinkled baby leaves and a minature flower candle here in Havant

Wood Spurge: Also starting to flower in Havant Thicket on Mar 19

Cow Parsley: The first true spring flowers were seen on a plant in Wade Lane in Langstone on Mar 21

Garden Forget-me-not: Self sown plants of this were starting to flower this week

Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii): A garden escape which flowers each year on the Mill Lnae roadside in Langstone was out on Mar 19

Snakeshead Fritillary: Plants almost certainly planted in the wild had started to flower at the east end of Langstone Mill Lane on Mar 19

Spring Starflower (Tristagma uniflorum): Another garden escape which flowers each spring on Sinah Common (south Hayling) opposite Staunton Avenue was doing so in Mar 23

Green-winged Orchid: The first three flower spikes were showing the colour of their flowers at the Sinah Common site on Mar 23 (photos on my diary page)

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Slow-worm: First report comes from Rewell Wood near Arundel on Mar 23 (see http://colinknight.blogspot.co.uk/ )

Slug Porn: If you go to http://theweekendbiologist.blogspot.co.uk/ and Find (CTRL F) Slug Porn you will see a photo of two slugs (species probably Arion ater) mating and if you want to learn more about this activity between hermaphrodite individuals see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slug and scroll down to the section on Reproduction where you can read about 'Apophallation'

Fungi: Just one species getting a mention this week - Winter Stalkball (Tulostoma brumale) - See http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2012/03/19/not-a-bad-day/ for Chris Bentley's account of his stroll around Rye Harbour with Graeme Lyons on Mar 19 with a photo of this strange 'puffball on a stalk'

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Mar 12 - 18 (Week 11 of 2012)

(Skip to previous week)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: The peak passage of Red-throated moving east past Dungeness occurred on Feb 18 when 644 were reported but there were still plenty around last week on Mar 10 when 284 moved past Pett in Rye Bay in a 30 minute period. This week the maximum number reported along the south coast was just 11 going east past Splash Point (Seaford) on Mar 14. Also this week there were only three reports of Black-throated - one passing Splash Point on Mar 14, two passing Portland on Mar 16, and one at Milford near Lymington on Mar 17 - and just three reports of Great Northern with a peak count of 2 at Selsey on Mar 16

Grebes: No reports of large numbers of Great Crested on the sea this week but there were still 104 off Hove (Brighton) on Mar 11 at the end of last week. This week there were still single Red-necked off Oare Marshes in north Kent and off Dawlish in Devon, both on Mar 13. On Mar 11 at the start of this week there were 3 Slavonian off Worthing and 2 at Selsey with 1 off Lymington on Mar 13 and singles off Worthing and Rye Harbour on Mar 16. The Blashford Lakes had 2 Black-necked (one in full summer plumage) on Mar 16 after singles had been reported at Fowey in Cornwall on Mar 12 and Dawlish in south Devon on Mar 13 - late news is of three all in summer plumage at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 18 (the species has bred in Hampshire, both inland and on the coast, in several past years)

Bittern: Still being reported at 8 south coast sites this week with one of the three birds at Dungeness RSPB starting to boom on Mar 12. In Hampshire the bird which turned up at Fleet Pond on Mar 9 was seen again there in Mar 12 and 14

Night Heron: A major surprise this week was the arrival of four Night Herons in a private garden on the north Devon coast at Woolacombe (near Ifracombe) on Mar 13 with at least two still there on Mar 15. Another bird was found at St Just (north of Lands End) on Mar 12 and it was still there on Mar 14 when a second bird was seen at Polgigga to the south of Lands End. This species may now be a regular visitor to this country - last year there were 29 reports between Apr 8 and Oct 5 from sites in the Scillies, Dorset, Hampshire, Sussex, Kent, Essex, Somerset and Hertfordshire. For photos of the birds currently in Devon go to http://devonbirdnews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/more-woolacombe-night-heron-pics.html

Catle Egret: One has been at Kingston Maurward, by the R Frome just east of Dorchester in Dorset, from Mar 11 to Mar 16 (when it or another was seen near Wareham)

Glossy Ibis: Two have been in the Kent Stour valley from Mar 10 to 13 at least and two more were at Radipole (Weymouth) from Mar 11 to 16 with two more (or maybe the Kent birds) at Brading on the Isle of Wight on Mar 15

Spoonbill: Two have been at Lodmoor (Weymouth) from Mar 12 to 16 at least and two were in the Kent Stour valley on Mar 11 with what was probably one of them at Oare Marshes on the north Kent coast on Mar 13

Mute Swan: The female of the Langstone Pond pair was on her new nest on Mar 10 but may not have laid any eggs yet. Also in the Havant area one of the pair at the Budds Farm pools was investigating a new nest site on Mar 14

Brent Goose: A major surge of departing birds was seen on Mar 15 when 5560 flew east past Dungeness (and 4614 were seen at a Netherlands site). Another 2000 went east past Climping (Worthing) on Mar 16 (when 2162 went past Splash Point at Seaford and 1144 were seen passing Selsey). At least 50 were still in the Broadmarsh area of Langstone Harbour on the afternoon of Mar 17.

Brant: One was with a flock of Brent in the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Mar 13 and 16 (with more than 150 Brent on the second day)

Red-breasted Goose: Last week I was puzzled as to why the RBA national news service was reporting one of these in Hampshire when there were no reports of it in the local Hampshire news but the mystery has been solved. After the bird that had been wintering on the Exe estuary in Devon was last seen there on Feb 19 a bird which I guessed to be the same one appeared on the Lymington shore on Feb 25 and 26 (starting to move east as expected before setting out on its expected passage with normal Brent). The RBA reports of a Red-breasted Goose in Hampshire then started to appear (on Mar 3, 4, 5, 8, 11 and 13) and I have now discovered that the bird was at Needs Ore at the mouth of the Beaulieu River (the private reserve owned by the Beaulieu estate). Birders can get permits to visit Needs Ore but one of the conditions imposed by these permits is that the visiting birders do not publicise their sightings - presumably this is done to avoid the problems of a mass of twitchers descending on the site should some rarity turn up there and also to keep the number of people visiting the site to a minimum at all times. What has happened in this case is that all visitors to the site kept their promise not to reveal the site but thought it safe to say that the bird was 'somewhere in Hampshire' while Lee Evans (who as far as I know had not had a pass to visit the site but had heard about the bird 'on the grapevine' ) mentioned the location in one of his regular news round-ups on the internet. As the bird has not been mentioned by RBA since Mar 13 it is almost certain that the bird has now left that site (and most probably left the country)

Green-winged Teal: A male has been seen at Farlington Marshes since Feb 23 and on Mar 11 it was seen from the Eastern Road bridge at the east end of the Portscreek channel, among a small flock of 33 Teal, showing signs of being paired with a female Common Teal. Wikipaedia tells me that separation of female Green-winged Teal from Common Teal is 'problematical' so it is just possible that this is a female of the Green-winged subspecies - in any case the pair should have no difficulty in breeding though their young might present birders with a problem of identification as the only easy clue to identifying a Green-winged male is the presence of a white vertical stripe on the side of the breast in front of the closed wing. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-winged_Teal tells me that our common Teal is more or less restricted to Eurasia and that in North America the Green Winged is extremely numerous.

Garganey: Seen at 10 sites in southern England this week with a peak count of seven (five of them males) flying in off the sea over Hove in the Brighton area on Mar 14. Hampshire has had one sighting of a male at Keyhaven (Lymington) on Mar 11 and another of a pair there on Mar 18

Scaup: The report of 10 together on the moat of Fort Brockhurst in Gosport on Mar 8 was almost certainly a mistake in identifying the Tufted Ducks which are regularly seen there but there was a more confident identification of a female at the Mill Rythe inlet on the east coast of Hayling Island on Mar 11 and 12 and of a male at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 13

Long-tailed Duck: One which has been in the Christchurch Harbour area since Feb 12 was still there on Mar 16 but a more interesting sighting comes from two of our intrepid Naval Amigos from the Portsmouth area who are now enjoying the cold weather just inside the Arctic Circle of northern Norway - see http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/2012/03/10/birding-around-harstadnorway/

Bufflehead: The female which has been in Cornwall (mainly at Helston) from Oct 26 to Mar 4 has not been reported since but if you want to see what the species looks like go to http://www.pbase.com/raymondjbarlow/image/94830513 and run through the excellent series of photos of the species

Buzzard: Although we can see impressive sights such as a group of 14 Buzzards that were displaying over Pulborough on Mar 11 these numbers are trivial compared to the numbers now heading back to northern Scandinavia after winter. Back on Mar 4 one Netherlands site recorded 94 Buzzards passing, then on Mar 11 a Belgian site reported 149 Buzzards and on Mar 15 a German site had 249.

Rough Legged Buzzard: The bird which has been in the Arun valley since Nov 7 was still there on Mar 15 when she was accorded the name 'Nesta' and we were told she had completed her moult into adult plumage. I wonder if this was the last sighting of her?

Peregrine: The Durlston pair were mating on Mar 16 but on Mar 14 the pair expected to nest in the Paulsgrove area of Portsmouth seem to have had one of last year's young playing gooseberry (sighting of two males and one female near the nest site)

Water Rail: The bird wintering at the Brook Meadow site in Emsworth was thought to have departed when there were no sightings of it on Mar 14 and 15 but it (or another?) was seen 'in the usual place' on Mar 16. An indication that some of these birds are already on passage was seen on Mar 14 when one was seen out in the open on the Lymington Marshes (a sign that the bird is unfamiliar with the site at which it has landed after an overnight flight but its need to feed drives it to search in places where it is unfamiliar with the available cover.)

Common Crane: The peak of the passage bringing birds back to the low countries may have occurred around Mar 6 when one German site reported 1262 birds and a pair which had gone astray and ended up in the Sandwich Bay area of Kent around that date waited for a week but when no others joined them they flew off south on Mar 15 in the hope of finding where they had gone wrong.

Little Ringed Plover: On Feb 29 Lee Evans told us that these had started to arrive but gave no place or date for the first to reach Britain and the the first arrivals for which I know these details did not turn up until this week - on Mar 14 one was at Christchurch Harbour and another at Lodmoor (Weymouth) while two more were seen in the Netherlands on Mar 16

Purple Sandpiper: These were still passing east along the south coast this week with 15 at Southsea Castle on Mar 15 (with 20 there on Mar 17 plus 15 again on Mar 18) and another 15 at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 16

Woodcock: Local birds had started roding in Eartham Woods (near the A29 Chichester to Pulborough road) at dawn on Mar 12

Spotted Redshank: 9 were seen on the Lymington marshes on Mar 13 but it seems that the Nore Barn bird at Emsworth has not been seen there since Mar 9

Arctic Skua: One seen at a German site on Mar 15 was the first I have seen reported anywhere since Jan 15 when one was seen at Spalsh Point (Seaford)

Med Gull: These are well known for spurning seafood and for flying inland to feed, usually on worms. This reputation has been supported this week by sightings of small flocks in inland fields not far north of Havant but also by a sighting of at least one bird joining the Black-headed Gulls eating fast food dropped by people visiting Mick's Burger Bar at the Portsdown Viewpoint carpark - the report mentioned that the Med Gulls were eating Chips but failed to confirm that they were spurning the fish that might be expected with the chips (though not I think at this Portsdown site)

Short-eared Owl: Wintering or passage birds were still being seen this week at nine south coast sites including one at Farlington Marshes on Mar 14

Hoopoe: In January there had been sightings at Lowestoft in East Anglia and at Pendeen in Cornwall but no others until Mar 15 when one was reported in Suffolk

Sand Martin: 19 reports this week with a peak count of 12 at Rye Harbour on Mar 17

Swallow: Only 5 reports all of singles except for a 'few' at Pulborough Brooks on Mar 16

Meadow Pipit: Passage north through England is now well under way (I even heard a hint of song from a party at the Langstone South Moors on Mar 14) but the most memorable report comes from the Devon Birding site - see http://devonbirdnews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/lyme-bay.html for an account of how a fishing boat out in Lyme Bay on Mar 13 rescued both a Pipit and a Redwing from drowning.

Grey Wagtail: Of local interest in Havant this week I not only saw the female of the pair that may be nesting on the Lymbourne stream immediately south of the Havant bypass on Mar 14 but on Mar 17, when by the Hermitage stream in the Stockheath area of Leigh Park, I was on the first footbridge north of Barncroft Way when a magnificently plumaged male flew out from under the bridge (a typical nest site) and let me watch it flycatching along the concrete banks of the stream

Black Redstart: Several reports of birds arriving in southern England off the sea this week - maybe they will cross the channel again to breed on the continent but possibly a sign that we are in for one of those years when many pairs nest here (perhaps choosing sites in the Palmerston Forts around Portsmouth)

Wheatear: I logged 32 reports this week before giving up - one of the last was of 40 birds on Portland on Mar 16 when 4 were seen at Farlington Marshes and one at the Hayling Oysterbeds. A major surge in arrivals started on Mar 15.

Ring Ouzel: First of the year, a male, seen in the New Forest at Vales Moor near Ringwood and Burley on Mar 18

Fieldfare: No reports after Mar 15 but I am pretty sure we have not seen the last of them (and sure enough a flock of 140 was seen at Overton near Basingstoke on Mar 18 when one Redwing was seen at Eastleigh)

Redwing: Also not reported after Mar 16 following flocks of 165 in the New Forest on Mar 10 and 40 in the Stoneham area near Eastleigh on Mar 14. Quite a few were coming north across the Channel on Mar 13 - see http://devonbirdnews.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/lyme-bay.html for the story of the bird rescued from drowning which we have already quoted in connection with the Meadow Pipit that was also recued by fishermen in Lyme Bay

Mistle Thrush: A pair at Weir Wood reservoir in Sussex were collecting food for young in their nest on Mar 10 and the pair seen in the pony field south of Wade Court at Langstone on Mar 14 may have been doing the same.

Paddyfield Warbler: Still present at the Pagham North Walls on Mar 17

Yellow-browed Warbler: The popular bird in Worthing has not been reported since Mar 14 but the Hume's Warbler at Weymouth got two mentions this week on Mar 11 and 16 after not being in the news since Feb 14

Willow Warbler: Chiffchaffs are now singing everywhere and this week brought two possible sightings of Willow Warblers (in Cornwall on Mar 14 and at Splash Point at Seaford on Mar 15). Newly arrived birds that are not singing are difficult to separate from Chiffchaffs but two good indications to look for are wing length and tail dipping. Chiffchaffs regularly dip their tails when feeding but Willow Warblers do not - that can only be a clue, not a clincher, but the length of the closed wing is a more certain id feature. The shorter wing of the Chiffchaff does not project beyond the back end of the bird's body but the longer wing of the Willow Warbler does.

Firecrest: Although a good number have been here through the winter Dungeness reported their first migrant arrival on Mar 9 and there seems to have been a minor surge of reports at costal sites this week.

Tree Creeper: Locally a pair have been seen on Mar 12 carrying nest material behind loose bark on a Poplar tree in Palmer's Copse at Emsworth. Palmers Copse is the narrow riverside belt of trees east of the well used carpark behind the Asda store (and at the southern end of Brook Meadow) and in the Folkestone area of Kent a Short-toed Tree-creeper from the continent was seen and photographed on Mar 10 - see a photo and Lee Evans comment at http://rarebirdsinbritain.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/short-toed-treecreeper-arrives-as.html (scroll down below Lee Evans header photo which I think is of a Zitting Cisticola). More photos can be seen by going to http://www.freewebs.com/folkestonebirds/index.htm and scrolling down to Mar 10 - RBA News tells us that this is the 21st record of the species in Kent and that the only other past British records are of two birds in Essex, two in Dorset and one in Yorkshire.

Great Grey Shrike: Still present at two regular sites this week - one was still at the New Forest Bishop's Dyke area on Mar 13 and the other at Wyke Down (SU 007 156 between Sixpenny Handley and Cranborne in Dorset) - with a third seen to catch a Lizard at Ibsley Common near Ringwood on Mar 18 when the Shatterford bird was also seen)

Rose-coloured Starling: The Hordle bird was still present on Mar 17

Dark-eyed Junco: Still present in the New Forest on Mar 11 (and the Spanish Sparrow was still at Calshot on Mar 13)

Snow Bunting: The Sandy Point birds on Hayling have not been reported since Mar 11 but one was at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 16

Reed Bunting: One was heard singing in Sussex as early as Feb 12 and I keep an ear open for one to announce its return to Langstone Pond though with no luck so far but I was encouraged to see that one had been heard at Mill Rythe on Hayling on Mar 11

Vagrants: A new species for the year was a Rufous-tailed Rock Thrush seen in Cornwall (at Botallack) on Mar 13 and 14

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Species reported this week:

Brimstone (many throughout the week), Large White (just one in Sussex on Mar 11), Small White (appeared on Mar 12 in Dorset, Hants and Sussex), Holly Blue (one in Fareham on Mar 11 and one at Cowes, IoW, on Mar 15), Red Admiral (widespread), Small Tortoiseshell (13 reports this week), Large Tortoiseshell (one unconfirmed report from the Scillies on Mar 10), Peacock (widespread), Comma (widespread)

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

Species recorded for the first time this year/season:

0284 Caloptilia rufipennella found in Kent (Thanet) on Mar 12 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=902

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0284.php

1047 Acleris schalleriana found in Dorset on Mar 15 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5018

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1047.php

1055 Acleris hyemana found in Dorset on Mar 15 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2468

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1055.php

1227 Pammene giganteana found in Kent (Thanet) on Mar 10 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5227

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1227.php

1984 Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum - flying by day at Dungeness on Mar 12, in Dorset on Mar 13 and in a Pulborough garden on Rosemary on Mar 15 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2198

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1984.php

2087 Turnip Moth Agrotis segetum - found at Durlston on Mar 15 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=298

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2087.php

Other Insects:

Pond Skater: The insects which were seen on the Westbrook Stream at Emsworth between Feb 15 and Mar 1 (increasing in number to around 100 on Mar 1) then disappeared but re-appeared on Mar 6 in a different part of the stream where around 10 were seen and they then started to increase till there were 60 present on Mar 11. So far no theory as to what determines these population explosions and collapses but it is known that many of them are winged and so can fly to new sites if the environment becomes unfriendly to them

Bee Fly (Bombylius major): First of the year seen at Rye Harbour on Mar 12

Tawny Mining Bee (Andrena fulva): First seen in Staffordshire by Graeme Lyons on Mar 11

Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum): This species was first seen in England in 2001 but has now spread widely and one was seen by Graeme Lyons in Staffordshire on Mar 11 photos of both these Bumblebees can be seen at http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/ginger-nuts.html

Anotylus rugosus (A species of Staphylinidae or Rove Beetles): Another of Graeme Lyons finds, this time at Woods Mill in Sussex on Mar 14 - see http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/crenulate-side-margins-to-pronotum.html

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Stream Water-Crowfoot (Ranunculus penicillatus): This ceased to flower around mid-October last year and the first new flowers were seen in the Langbrook stream in Havant on Mar 14

Wood Anemone: On Mar 15 quite a few of these were already in flower in Lowtons Copse to the north of Clanfield near Waterlooville

Blue anemone (Anemone apennina): The first flowers appeared on this garden flower in the Havant cemetery on Mar 12 - I suspect that the ancestors of these attractive flowers had been planted on a grave and then dug up and thrown away in a corner of the cemetery under the shade of a Yew tree where they have survived for a good many years, producing attractive blue flowers each spring without any human care.

English scurvygrass (Cochlearia anglica): The first flowers of this species were seen in saltings at Nore Barn on the Emsworth shore on Mar 15

Greater Stitchwort: Having seen flower buds at an early stage on Mar 14 I returned to the south facing roadside site (junction of Southleigh and East Leigh roads in the Denvilles area of Havant) on Mar 18 but found I would have to wait until next week before the flowers opened.

Sticky Mouse-ear: Flower buds seen at more than one site in the Havant area this week but no flowers fully open

Wild Strawberry: First flowers open on a plant growing near Nore Barn at Emsworth on Mar 15

Ground Ivy: First flowers seen in Mill Lane at Langstone on Mar 14 and flowering was widespread by the end of the week

Field Forget-me-not: First flowers seen in Havant on Mar 14 - the flowers were small enough to qualify for this wild species but the bulk of the leaves suggested that this could have been the common garden escape of the cultivated form of Wood Forget-me-not and that the flowers will become larger as they open more fully

Early Forget-me-not: Genuine wild flowers found near the Ferry Inn on Hayling Island on Mar 12 - see my Diary page for a photo

Toothwort: This parasite of Hazel was already starting to flower in Lowton's Copse (north of Clanfield in the Waterloovill area) on Mar 15

Female Butterbur: These scarce female plants by the Langbrook stream at Langstone were starting to flower on Mar 14

Lords and Ladies (Arum): First sheathed flower spikes seen on Mar 14

Wild Bluebells: First seen flowering in Lowtons Copse at Clanfield on Mar 15

Field Woodrush (Luzula campestris): First flowers seen on my Havant garden lawn on Mar 13

Clematis armandii?: What I think was this garden plant was seen on Mar 12 climbing small trees in the hedge of the Wade Court estate, covered with white flowers which I do not recall seeing anywhere before now - hence my attempt to name it.

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Dolphins: Bottle-nosed Dolphins are present in the English Channel throughout the year (two swam west through Hayling Bay on Mar 9 and a pod of 8, including 2 juveniles, was seen off Worthing on Mar 11) and a Common Dolphin was off south Devon on Mar 14, noted as the first seen there this year and this remark sent me off to find out more about these animals. A good source of local information is http://www.glaucus.org.uk/Cetaceaz.htm (part of the Shoreham based British Marine Life Study Society website) and this will introduce you to all the species to be found in British water. The only species I have seen reported this year are the two just mentioned plus a White-beaked Dolphin seen off Sangatte (Calais) on Jan 7

Roe Deer: A buck seen at Durlston on Mar 13 was reported as having 'clean antlers' which I take to mean it had already thrashed the velvet off its new growing antlers. This seems an early date for that (the expected time for this is early May though I see that a buck was seen 'thrashing' at Durlston on Feb 28 in 2009 while in 2007 Durlston reported two bucks still having 'velvet dropping off' as late as Apr 15) but it might be worth keeping an eye out for signs that shrubs and small trees have been used as 'punch bags' by Roe for this purpose - a few years back damage to trees at Brook Meadow in Emsworth was the first indication that Roe were present on that site.

Noctule Bat: First report I have seen is of one flying at Durlston on Mar 10 - seen with several Pipistrelles.

Toad: On Mar 15 both Frogs and Toads were mating in a a pond at the West Sussex Naturalists Trust HQ at Henfield

Grass Snake: A pair were seen mating on the Sussex Downs (Steyning Rifle Range) on Mar 15

Grey Mullet: First report of these comes from Kris Gillam on the Isle of Wight who saw a substantial shoal in Bembridge Harbour on Mar 13

Fungi: The only species making a fresh appearance this week was Glistening Inkcap of which I saw a large cluster at the roots of an old Willow on the banks of the Langbrook Stream at Langstone on Mar 14

ENDWEEK

(Back to start of current Week)


Wildlife diary and news for Mar 5 - 11 (Week 10 of 2012)

(Skip to previous week)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Summer Migrant Arrivals: Details of places and dates given when we come to the species in the summary below but species already with us now include Stone Curlew, Sandwich Tern, Swallow, Sand martin, Wheatear, Little Ringed Plover, Garganey and most recently Osprey and Hobby

Divers: The biggest count of Red-throated moving east past Dungeness was just 62 on Mar 9 while only two southern English sites (Weston Shore on Southampton Water on Mar 4 and Slapton Ley in Devon on Mar 9) recorded single Black-throated. Five sites reported Great Northern including Selsey where 6 were seen on Mar 10

Grebes: Only one report of a large raft of Great Crested still on the sea (200 off Rye Harbour on Mar 9) while pairs were displaying at many sites (including 5 pairs at Chichester Ivy Lake). On Mar 9 single Red-necked were off Ferring (Worthing) and Slapton Ley in south Devon. On Mar 10 both Wembury (Plymouth) and Selsey Bill reported two Slavonian (as had Lymington and Pagham on Mar 8) - on Mar 10 more than 10 were on the sea off Pagham Harbour. On Mar 9 two Black-necked were in Hayling Bay with singles still in the Torbay area of Devon and three at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 10. Also on Mar 10 three birds on passage stopped off at Seaford Splash Point.

Bittern: These remain numerous this winter with sightings this week at 13 sites (though at least a couple of these were probably just temporary stop-overs on passage like the tiny pond near Edburton in West Sussex where Tony Wilson was surprised to see one twice and Fleet Pond where one seen on Mar 9 was the first for the site since Dec 2004).

Cattle Egret: No further sightings in the Warblington or Thorney Island areas but after a 'possible' sighting from a bus in the Cocking area near Midhurst on Feb 26 one was reliably reported by the RSPB warden at the Isle of Wight Brading Marshes on Mar 5

Little Egret: On Feb 24 the number roosting at Langstone Mill Pond was still at the winter level of 7 or 8 birds but on Feb 29 when I happened to pass the pond just after sunset I found more present (my best estimate was 25) so I tried to make an accurate count on the evening of Mar 10 when I saw 22 birds fly in (and found the Mute Swan already on her nest, suggesting that it would not be long before the Egrets would start nesting as Grey Herons have already done at their Heronries). One other thought about Little Egrets which occurred to me when writing my Diary entry for Feb 29 concerns their habit of moving away from coastal to inland sites during the winter months. Previously I had thought that the main reason for this was that it was more sheltered from winter winds at inland than at coastal sites but I now realise that the length of day plays a significant part - in the harbours high tides prevent the Egrets from fishing for several hours each day and in winter that no-fishing period can be a significant part of the daylight hours whereas at an inland site the water is either available all day (or frozen all day!)

Grey Heron: On Mar 9 there were 21 active nests at the Weir Wood Reservoir heronry in Sussex

Spoonbill: In addition to the flock of at least 14 still in Poole Harbour one settled at the Farlington Marshes Deeps from Mar 6 to 8 at least

Mute Swan: The female of the Langstone Pond pair was already sitting on a new nest at dusk on Mar 10 - the first sitter that I am aware of this year.

Snow Goose: The appearance of a flock of 31 this month first in West Sussex then shortly after in East Sussex prompted Lee Evans to say that these were almost certainly a feral population which breeds at Blenheim Park in Oxfordshire but which each spring and autumn is spurred by a confused migratory urge to go on long distance flights which have taken it in different years to Lancashire, Somerset, Sussex and Kent (and probably many more counties)

Brent Goose: Still plenty on the move with a flock of 200 in the Emsworth area on Mar 8 and around 400 flying in to harbour channels in the Langstone village area at dusk on Mar 10 (my guess was that they had been feeding on inland fields but came to the harbour to avoid night-time predators, or maybe gathering there ready to take of on the next starge of their journey east when the full moon rose to light their way)

Red-breasted Goose: After appearing on the Lymington shore on Feb 25 and 26 I have seen no more reports of this ex-Devon bird on Hants birding sources but the RBA website has put out reports of a bird in Hampshire on Mar 3,4,5, 8 and 10 - I wonder where and what status the bird has?

Green-winged Teal: The bird found by Jason Crook at Farlington Marshes on Feb 23 was still being reported there on Mar 9

Mallard: At least two broods of ducklings have been seen in Hampshire since around Mar 1

Scaup: A report of 5 pairs on the moat of Fort Brockhurst in Gosport was almost certainly a mis-identification of Tufted Ducks

Long-tailed Duck: One being reported at Christchurch Harbour up to Mar 9 is probably the one seen there regularly since Feb 12. A flock of 32 Long-tailed Duck off the arctic coast of Norway can be seen at http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/ and the text reminds us that their display not only involves throwiing their heads back but also giving a loud 'barking' call

Bufflehead: The bird which arrived at Helston in Cornwall on Oct 29 was last seen there in Mar 3 (moving to Redruth on Mar 4 before disappearing)

Smew: No sightings during this week but late news indicates that the one seen on the Thorney Little Deeps on Feb 29 was still around on Mar 2 when it was reported further south along the Thorney west shore to give it a claim to being the last Smew in England this winter

Ruddy Duck: I am pretty sure that quite a few have survived the recent cull and I see that a female was still to be found at a south Devon site on Mar 9

Osprey: The first for the year was seen to fly over Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex on Mar 9

Hobby: The first for the year was seen in the Hordle area of south west Hants on Mar 9

Peregrine: On Mar 9 the Chichester Cathedral male brought a food offering to the female which ate it while perched near the base of the spire. At Shoreham Power Station one bird was seen having a look at the nest box erected for them on the Power Station chimney.

Pheasant: For a bit birdwatching variety see the Blue Pheasant photo taken by Martyn Wilson at http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-7sr5UdNiqrQ/T1OOzJTSfKI/AAAAAAAAAfA/9HgLMDj8rko/s1600/Pheasant+04-03-12+b+db1.jpg

Water Rail: One has been at Brook Meadow in Emsworth since it was first spotted on Feb 15 and has been the subject of a series of photos taken by Brian Fellows which can be seen at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm

Moorhen: In a discussion on Hoslist about when the first Mallard ducklings of the year were seen it was mentioned as an 'aside' that a Moorhem had chicks somewhere in Buckinghamshire around Feb 15

Common Crane: With large number of spring passage birds moving on the near continent since Jan 31 and with a minimum of 1262 seen over one German site on Mar 6 (potential total of 3030 if the counts from 25 sites on that day are added together) it is surprising that more have not crossed the channel to appear over here but the only report I have seen is of two birds flying over the Kent Stour valley (not landing) on Mar 3

Avocet: Plenty of these around including a report of 18 at Titchfield Haven on Mar 3 (I suspect these are the start of the flock that will stay there and breed)

Stone Curlew: After the report of a first migrant heard flying over Birdham near Chichester on the night of Feb 21 there has been at least one other sighting (with photo) of one in a Devon field at Seaton Marshes on Mar 3

Little Ringed Plover: I have not seen the details of any sighting so far but Lee Evans was aware of an arrival somewhere in England on or before Feb 29

Knot: The large flock seen in the Emsworth area of Chichester Harbour from mid January and reaching a peak of 1200 birds on Feb 13 has not been reported since 50 were seen on Feb 23 but there were still 140 on the Pilsey sands for the Mar 10 WeBS count

Purple Sandpiper: None reported at Southsea Castle since 15 were there on Mar 1 but this week has brought new reports of 36 at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 7 and 10 at Shoreham Harbour on that same day

Long-billed Dowitcher: One was reported at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on at least five days between Jan 2 and Feb 2 before moving to the north end of The Fleet for a couple of sightings at Rodden Hive on Feb 3 and 4. It has not been reported since then until Mar 5 when it re-appeared at Lodmoor

Whimbrel: I see that the first passage birds last year were seen at Seaford Splash Point on Mar 12 supporting my thought that a party of six seen in the Netherlands on Mar 9 were this year's first passage birds

Spotted Redshank: The Nore Barn bird at Emsworth was still there on Mar 9 and six were still on the Lymington marshes on Mar 10 but I suspect that current good weather may encourage them to set off on their journeys earlier than ususal. Last year the Nore Barn bird was last seen on Mar 19 (which I recall to be the date on which Richard Williamson always expected the Brent to leave Chichester Harbour)

Spotted Sandpiper: Maybe this has already left Christchurch Harbour - no reports of it since Mar 5

Pomarine Skua: Although I have seen 18 reports of these this winter (mainly from continental sites though singles have been seen at Selsey, Portland, Devon and Cornwall - all in January) a report of one flying east past Climping (nr Worthing) on Mar 7 could be the first sign of spring passage.

Great Skua: Two flew east past Dungeness on Mar 3 and one followed past Splash Point on Mar 4

Sandwich Tern: By Mar 9 there were 60 queuing up for nest sites at Rye Harbour

Puffin: A single bird arrived back at the Portland Bill Auk colony on Mar 3

Short-eared Owl: Still reports from five sites this week but it is pretty clear that many of these birds have now left us and at least one of this week's reports is a sighting of a bird on passage (one at Farlington Marshes on Mar 9 - no previous recent sightings there)

Wood Lark: Song has been heard locally this week from both the Stansted East Park and the area between West Marden and Up Marden

Shorelark: What was probably the last sighting of our wintering birds was in the Seasalter area of the north Kent coast on Mar 8

Sand Martin: First back were two in Pembrokeshire on Mar 1, followed this week by by one at Radipole (Weymouth) on Mar 4, then one at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 6 and then nine at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 8

Swallow: Just one sighting this week - a single bird flying over the Seaford area - following what I am taking as the first normal arrival at Hastings on Mar 1

White Wagtail: Although these do not normally stay and breed on this side of the Channel passage birds have been appearing here since Feb 26 when the first were seen at Portland

Waxwing: After very few reports this winter it is worth mentioning that a party of seven were seen at a German site on Mar 8

Black-bellied Dipper: There is very little to distinguish our resident Dipper species from the Black-bellied form of which one was found in Yorkshire on Mar 6. If you want to know the differences go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/White-throated_Dipper

Wheatear: The first was seen on the Exminster Marshes in Devon on Mar 6 with another at Portland on Mar 7 and three more at Christchurch Harbour on Mar 8, then one at Durlston on Mar 9

Blackbird: A pair were feeding young in a nest at Lewes on Mar 1. A leucistic bird (with bold patches of white in its plumage) was seen - not for the first time - at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Mar 9 and in my Havant garden one male, which seems to have settled here for the breeding season, felt it was being excluded from the food on my bird table by two old bicycle inner tubes which I hung over it some time back with the intention of excluding Wood Pigeons while allowing a Robin access. This week I saw the Blackbird perched on a nearby bush forming a plan - it then flew onto the roof of the bird table, seized hold of one of the inner tubes and dragged it sideways so as to leave a larger gap for it to get into the food area which it has since been visiting regularly.

Fieldfare: Flocks of these and Redwings have been moving through the Havant area on their way north this week - on Mar 3 one of these flocks seen in the fields between Stansted House and the Main Avenue of trees had several Mistle Thrushes in it.

Paddyfield Warbler: The Pagham Harbour north walls bird was still present on Mar 10

Lesser Whitethroat: Mar 3 brought a report of one in a private garden at Saltash on the Devon/Cornwall border. If true I guess this bird has been wintering thereabouts rather then being a very early spring migrant

Yellow-browed Warbler: The bird in the grounds of the PAREXELL business premises in Worthing's Upper High Street was still there on Mar 7 and for those not familiar with the bird's calls I recommend a visit to http://www.youtube.com/v/RJVgUnfjrjg?version=3&f=user_uploads&c=google-webdrive-0&app=youtube_gdata where you can hear a recording made by Graeme Lyons and you can read his account of his visit there in his blog at http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.com/

Coal Tit: First mention of a continental bird this year comes from Christchurch Harbour on Mar 5

Rose Coloured Starling: These do not often turn up in adult plumage and in places that have good public access but one seen near the village Post Office at Hordle near New Milton in south west Hampshire has been showing and singing there from Mar 3 to 9 at least. To save a journey you can see photos of it taken by Tony Tindale from Fareham http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/files/2012/03/R-cS1.jpg and read about the trip at http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/2012/03/04/rose-coloured-starling-at-hordle-hants/ though I suggest you also go to http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/ and see what the other two amigos have been up to in the Arctic Circle off Norway

Hawfinch: The Eastleigh Lakeside Country Park (i.e. the water filled holes from which gravel was dug for the construction of the M27) has had a lucky break recently with up to 10 Hawfinches being seen there from Feb 24 to Mar 9 at least.

Cirl Bunting: The success of the RSPB rescue/re-introduction of a Cirl Bunting population in Devon (and more recently Cornwall) has allowed many people to see these birds but this week the Devon Birding Blog ( http://devonbirdnews.blogspot.com/ ) entry for Mar 9 tells us that the birds are now coming regularly to feeders in at least two private gardens.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Species reported this week:

Brimstone, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell and Comma. Also in this weeks butterfly news is the 'tidying up' of vegetation around the old Gilkicker Fort at Gosport prior to development of the building into expensive flats that will soon be on sale - loss of the vegetation almost certainly means loss of a long established colony of Wall Brown butterflies leaving the Keyhaven area as the only reliable site for the species in mainland Hampshire (though they do still appear unpredictably at several places in the county)

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

Species recorded for the first time this year/season:

0648 White-shouldered House-moth Endrosis sarcitrella found at Folkestone on Mar 8 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1865

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0648.php

2189 Twin-spotted Quaker Orthosia munda found in Dorset on Mar 9 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1940

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2189.php

2243 Early Grey Xylocampa areola found in Dorset on Mar 3 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6184

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2243.php

Also getting their first mentions for the year were two species still in their larval stages

0377 Sallow Clearwing Synanthedon flaviventris galls found on Grey Willows in Dorset on Mar 3 - for photos of the adult moth but not the galls see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=875

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0377.php

For the second of these see the entry for Mar 3 at http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/sightings.html showing the caterpillar (and its dropping) which Michael Blencowe found inside a green pepper (intended for human consumption) when he removed the cellophane wrapping and cut open the pepper - the caterpillar had travelled inside the pepper all the way from Gambia

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Pond Skater (Gerris lacustris): Last week I promised to search out a reason why a population of these grew from a handful to around 100 in the Westbrook Stream at Emsworth between Feb 15 and Mar 1 only to find none there on Mar 2. I do not have a definitive answer but I have discovered what may be a major contributing factor - namely that many of these insects have wings and so could have left the stream without any harm coming to them if they sensed danger or a change in the environment that meant they would be better off elsewhere.

Bloody Nosed Beetles: Both the standard and the Lesser species of this beetle were seen at Durlston this week - several Lessers were on the downland on Mar 9 and a pair of the larger species were mating there on Mar 10

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Lesser Celandine: Brian Fellows points out something that I had not previously noticed - the variability in the number of petals on these flowers. I see that Stace describes four subspecies - two of them are distinquished by developing 'cream coloured tubers' in their leaf axils after flowering is finished and these less common 'bulbiferous' plants are further divided by the number of petals in the flowers (the normal wild bulbiferous plants have 6 to 11 petals, each no more than 5mm long, and are named Ranunculus ficaria bulbilifer; the type developed for planting in gardens have 17 to 26 much larger petals - 4 to 12 mm long - named R.f.ficariiformis). The commoner non-bulbiferous plants are also divided according to the number of petals - R.f.ficaria has 10 to 20 petals 4-9 mm long; R.f.chrysocephalus (meaning 'gold headed') has 18 to 25 petals each 9 to 15mm long.

Green Hellebore (Helleborus viridis): The plants growing under Hazel trees on the north side of Woodlands Lane just before it plunges downhill to Walderton village on its way from Stansted Park were just starting to flower on Mar 8

Hairy Violet: Having read that the first of these was flowering at Durlston on the morning of Mar 10 I went to one of the places that they grow on Portsdown (roughly south of the entrance to the Fort Widley equestrian centre) and found just one plant out that same afternoon (photo on my Diary page) Nearby quite a few much darker flowered Sweet Violets were also out but I did not rely on flower colour but did ensure that the Hairy plant some patent hairs more than 1 mm long and had no 'runners' or stolons

Lesser Chickweed: Flowering at Durlston on Mar 9 but not known (to me) in the Havant area

Spurge Laurel: My first sight of this in flower along the south side of Woodlands Lane on Mar 8 (though some plants which have not been eaten by Fallow Deer may well have been flowering much earlier)

Colts Foot: First flowers found in the QE Country Park near Petersfield on Mar 8 with a second find on the north shore of Pagham Harbour on Mar 10

Early Purple orchid leaves: First leaf rosettes found at the Longcopse site (east end of the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth) on Mar 6

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Fox: Some dogs give the impression of having human intelligence and a photo on the Christchurch Harbour (CHOG) website this week, taken by Alex Hayden, gives you that feeling - see http://www.chog.org.uk/Sightings%20Photos/50Fox-IMG_0022.jpg Sadly not all have that understanding of human ways and when I was on Portsdown in the glorious sunshine on Saturday afternoon (Mar 10) I passed the corpse of a recent road casualty outside Fort Widley - one hopes it was not a vixen which had recently given birth (most cubs are born in March), leaving a litter of young to die in a nearby earth.

Badger: On Mar 6 Badgers at Durlston were clearing out bedding from one of their setts and when I saw this I wondered if this might be a sign that a 'bedroom was being re-decorated in anticipation of the birth of youngsters' but I see they start giving birth in January so this was probably just normal 'spring cleaning'. Also on the subject of Badgers I half-heard something on the radio this morning which I thought was a statement the Natural England were now opposed to a general Badger cull and thought it would do more harm than good (a sentiment that I agree with).

Fallow Deer: A bunch of around 20 Fallow Deer were seen in the Longcopse wood (east end of the Hollybank Woods north of Emsworth) on Mar 4 with one of the deer having a white coat. As with the Grey Squirrels white deer have been present in very small numbers around here for as long as I can remember (and I recall a general feeling of disgust when one white adult was killed by poachers around twenty years ago)

Hare: The first reported sighting of females 'boxing' over-amorous males (to show them that they were not wanted) came from the West Marden/Walderton area north of the Ems valley on Mar 4

Pipistrelle Bat: Recent mild evenings have I think brought bats out of hibernation and I was reminded of this when watching Egrets coming to roost at Langstone Pond on the evening of Mar 10 - as dusk closed in a Pipistrelle came chasing its prey over the seawall and when cycling home up Wade Lane a little later another small bat gave me a surprise when it appeared about a foot in front of me at eye level and barely scraped over my head at a closing speed in excess of 30 mph

Common Lizard: The first report of these out of hibernation came from the New Forest last week on Mar 1 and this week Brian Fellows' website had a report of more than 25 seen in a walk through the Hollybank Wood and adjacent Southleigh Forest on Mar 4

Flatfish: Two species mentioned in this week's news. On Mar 3 a Flounder was seen on the bed of the River Ems at Emsworth, having come in on the tide. This species is normally found in the sea but I read that it is the most tolerant of low salinity of all seafish (though I don't think it will wish to give up the 'freedom of the seas' to remain in the river). The second species mentioned was Plaice - on Mar 6 the Durlston website told us that the 'spring run' of had just started and as far as I can make out this involves the fish in coming into shallow coastal waters after spawning a little further out.

Fungi: Nothing as exciting as the Scarlet Elfcups which were mentioned in last week's summary after appearing at the Blashford Lakes and at Durlston but this week Durlston had Jelly Ear (Auricularia auricula-judae) on Elder trees and Brook Meadow at Emsworth had fresh Turkeytail brackets (Trametes versicolor)

ENDWEEK

(Back to start of current Week)


Wildlife diary and news for Feb 27 - Mar 4 (Week 9 of 2012)

(Skip to previous week)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Migrant Bird Arrivals: On Feb 29 Lee Evans began his 'End of February Review' with the announcement that Stone Curlew, Little Ringed Plover, White Wagtail and Wheatear had already been seen in Britain but without giving dates and places (the first Stone Curlew was presumably the one heard flying over Birdham near Chichester on Feb 21). Leaving aside a couple of Swallows seen in Cornwall on Jan 19 and Feb 1 plus a 'possible' over the Isle of Wight on Jan 25 the first normal migrant arrival was seen in the Hastings area on Mar 1 and the first Sand Martin report was of two seen in Pembrokeshire that day. Mar 1 was also the day on which migrant Sandwich Terns reached Rye Harbour - only three of them but there was no doubt they were not wintering birds when 52 were seen at Dungeness on Mar 2. Of the non-passerines there have been two reports of Garganey with the first being a male seen on Feb 20 on the Dorset River Stour but regarded as 'dubious' and the second being a female in Poole Harbour near Arne on Feb 27 (a third arrival of one in the Netherlands on Mar 3 helps to show that the species is on the move). On Mar 1 Dungeness claimed a Chiffchaff as a migrant arrival but it is impossible to say if it was the first, and while on the subject of difficulty in deciding the arrival and departure dates of Blackcaps Cliff Dean's blog entry for Feb 29 has a link to a BTO ringers blog which shows that at least one of our summer birds did not head south in the autumn but was still to be seen near its nest Suffolk nest site in early December after being ringed there in May (see http://btoringing.blogspot.com/2010/12/whats-going-on-with-wintering-blackcaps.html )

Divers: Dungeness had reported 644 Red-throated moving east on Feb 18, dropping to 226 on Feb 20 but the highest count in the reports I have seen this week was just 22 passing Portland on Feb 26 with only 6 seen there on Feb 29. Single Black-throated were still present this week (one going east at Selsey on Feb 26 and one at the Weston shore in Southampton Water on Feb 29) with one seen in Southampton Water on Mar 4. A few Great Northern were also still around this week with as many as 4 in Weymouth Bay on Feb 29 when another was in Southampton Water and there was a last sighting of one at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 28 after it had been a regular sight there since Feb 5. Locally one was off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 25

Grebes: The raft of 2000 Great Crested off Dungeness on Feb 25 dwindled to 500 on Mar 1 (when 10 were off Worthing along with 2 Red-necked and 10 Slavonian). Earlier in the week there had been 5 Slavonian at Selsey on Feb 26 and 3 in Portland Harbour - with another outside the harbour - on Feb 29. Black-necked were still to be seen at eight sites during the week with a flock of 12 off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 25 and up to four were seen at the Blashford Lakes as late as Mar 2 (the loner on West Rise Lake at Eastbourne was still there on Mar 1).

Black-browed Albatross: On Feb 29 one was seen in the north Atlantic 184 miles south west of the south-western tip of Ireland (Mizen Head), reviving memories of a bird about which I wrote in 2009 that it was thought to have been blown off course in the south Atlantic some 40 years earlier and to have led a lonely life in the North Atlantic ever since - turning up at Gannet breeding colonies around Scotland ever since but never succeeding in finding a mate. He is thought to have been hatched in the early 1960s and if this is the same bird he will now be more than 50 years old with an expected lifespan of 70 years. In 2009 the BBC put out an account which you can see at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/highlands_and_islands/6641021.stm and in July 2010 Lee Evans described a dramatic incident in the bird's life (see http://uk400clubrarebirdalert.blogspot.com/2010/07/yellow-nosed-albatross-new-to-britain.html ) when he was found blocking the driveway of a house in Somerset and was taken to the local Wildlife Rescue centre and later released. In 2011 he seems to have been back on his futile search for a mate, being seen in May off Ayrshire and in September heading south off Yorkshire.

Bittern: Still 14 reports from ten sites this week including news of two at Brading on the Isle of Wight on Feb 26 and for a bit of variety see Cliff Dean's blog describing one seen swimming when he took one of his RX Bird Walks parties to Dungeness ( http://rxbirdwalks.wordpress.com/2012/02/26/swimming-bittern/ ). Probably the most significant reports this week came from the Kent Stour Valley where on Feb 26 seven Bitterns were seen flying high east at dusk and on Feb 29 five more birds were seen doing the same at dusk - the significance being partly in the indication of winter birds leaving southern England but more in revealing the numbers that may have been lurking in the reeds were birders would have been lucky to see more than a couple of them (see http://www.kentos.org.uk/Stodmarsh/Februarysightings.htm ). On Mar 3 one was seen in the reeds on the east side of Ivy Lake at Chichester and Tony Wilson had a surprise when one flew up from reeds around a tiny pond near his Edburton home below the Sussex Downs.

Cattle Egret: Maybe we have not seen the last of these for this winter - on Feb 26 a birder thought he had seen one take off and fly from a field in the Cocking area (near Midhurst) as the bus he was travelling on passed the field.

Little Egret: On Feb 24 I watched the Langstone pond roost over the sunset period but could not record more than 8 birds coming in to spend the night there - much the same number as I have seen there since the beginning of the year - but on Feb 29 when I chanced to be passing the pond at dusk I could immediately see a significant increase in numbers and an educated guess put the count at a minimum of 25 birds. Nest building should begin soon!

Great White Egret: On Feb 29 Lee Evans told us that a group of 8 were then to be seen together at a Someret Levels site (with many others elsewhere in England) and on Feb 26 one was photographed back at the west end of the Thorney Great Deeps where it had been regularly seen between Jan 29 and Feb 11.

White Stork: These have been returning to breeding sites in the Low Countries since Feb 5 but this week it seems that one had a navigational problem and was seen on a Landfill site in Lincolnshire on Feb 29 (though it may have been a local escapee).

Glossy Ibis: Two have been at Radipole (Weymouth) this week and one was seen near Arne in Poole Harbour on Feb 26

Spoonbill: No reports of the flock in Poole Harbour this week but a couple of indications that these birds are moving to (or in search of) breeding sites came from Exminster marshes in Devon where a single bird (ringed FJ9 ) returned in full breeding plumage on Mar 2 and on Feb 29 Christchurch Harbour reported five birds flying east over that site.

Brent Goose: .. and still they come .. on Feb 29 a flock of 2000 dark bellied birds put in an appearance at the Brownwich Cliffs area west of Titchfield Haven while 180 headed off east past Dungeness. Smaller groups can be seen along the northern shores of the Solent Harbours as they pause during their slow move eastward. In Devon the first group of six Pale Bellied birds were seen at Exmouth on Mar 3, presumed to be en route from perhaps the Bay of Biscay towards our west coast before making the Atlantic crossing to northern Canada

Red-breasted Goose: The bird presumed to have come from Devon (last seen there on Feb 19) which arrived on the Lymington shore on Feb 25 was seen again on Feb 26 but there have been no further reports ...

Pintail: There seem to have been more than usual on the south coast this winter (though I cannot produce evidence for this) and there were still at least 40 on the Emsworth West Parade shore on Feb 28 with 50 at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 29, dropping to 32 there on Mar 2

Garganey: When one male appeared on the River Stour just south of Blandford in Dorset on Feb 20 there were doubts about it being a migrant arrival but since then a female has been seen at Arne (Poole Harbour) on Feb 27 and another has turned up at a Netherlands site on Mar 3

Shoveler: Peter Raby filmed 36 feeding on Baffins Pond on Mar 3 and you can watch them at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Vt1X6xzMn0 The technique used is for the birds to form a complete circle swimming around in relatively shallow water - each bird is then able to feed on what is stirred up by the feet of the bird in front of it (if the circle is not complete the leading bird loses out as no bird is stirring up food for it, and it must require either a fair amount of brain power or a lucky chance to realise this). I have seen them doing this in complete circles on more than one occasion but the birds at Baffins had not perfected the technique and were all spinning round more or less at random. Presumably this method of devouring the maximum amount of food in the shortest time is a good way of 'stoking up' prior to making a lengthy passage flight back to breeding quarters.

Hybrid Tufted x Red Crested Pochard: All the Aythya duck species interbreed freely but one of the more unusual products of this can be seen in a photo taken on Feb 29 at Torcross in Devon - see http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-thhpMAKEGPE/T09YPpbdXeI/AAAAAAAABfI/2oVIT4qDJq4/s1600/Red-crested%2BPochard%2Bx%2BTufted%2BDuck%2Bhybrid%2Bm%2BDSC00534.jpg

Long-tailed Duck: One has been in the Christchurch Harbour area from Feb 12 to Mar 1 at least and was even seen across Chirstchurch Bay on Feb 28 by birders at Chewton Bunny on the Hampshire side of the county boundary to the east of Christchurch

Smew: Still six reports this week including a surprise sighting of a redhead on the Thorney Little Deeps on Feb 29

Ruddy Duck: News of survivors of the government sponsored cull (President Assad of Syria is not alone in willfully shooting harmless residents in his country) continue to emerge. We have heard of them surviving in both East and West Sussex and this week I heard that a small group could currently be seen at a Nature Reserve in Nottinghamshire.

White-tailed Eagle: No further sightings of the 'Fox eating Vulture' this week and on Feb 29 Lee Evans concluded that it had returned to the continent (though I suppose that if the Fox had died of poison there is an alternative end to the story)

Goshawk: A pair reported to have been seen displaying in the New Forest on Mar 1

Rough-legged Buzzard: The Arun valley bird was still giving live shows on Mar 1

Water Rail: Another regular performer with a more secretive acting style was the Water Rail to be seen 'behind the dead reeds' at the northern end of Brook Meadow in Emsworth - it was still there on Mar 2

Common Crane: By Mar 3 at least 314 (potentially 525 if reports from five sites are added together) were moving through the Low Countries - unlike the White Stork none seem to have strayed across the Channel so far

Purple Sandpiper: The number stopping off at Southsea Castle as they gradually move east along the south coast varies from day to day but hit a peak of 15 on Mar 1 (Up to 12 'winter residents' had been there on three dates in Jan)

Common Sandpiper: One seen at Broadmarsh (Havant) on Mar 3

Ruff: Another example of birds stopping of on their eastward passage along the south coast came in a report on Feb 29 of two Ruff in a flooded field near the River Itchen at Bishopstoke (east of Eastleigh)

Woodcock: The Eastleigh Lakeside site has been lucky in attracting a wintering bird which has been seen daily from Feb 29 to Mar 3 at least. I have always been opposed to the 'sport' of shooting hungry and exhausted birds, driven from the continent by hard winter weather, as they arrive on our southern shores but it seems that some of the exhausted birds are so weak that they are unable to participate in this sport - this thought provoked by the Mar 1 entry on the Sandwich Bay website ( http://www.sbbot.co.uk/sightings/avian/index.asp ) describing how four drowned Woodcock corpses were found in a short section of the tideline there, probably just a tiny fraction of those that fail to complete their journey to 'safety' here in England. On a personal note I was made aware of this winter 'sport' when ownership of the Tournerbury Woods on Hayling Island changed in the 1980s and my personal permission to explore the woods (given by the previous owner) was revoked by the new, younger, owner who wished to make money out of the 'sporting rights'.

Black-tailed Godwit: Brian Fellows recent 'discovery' that feeding Blackwits regularly 'spurt' out jets of water during the feeding process was at first regarded as dubious by established ornithologists specialising in wading birds but is now gaining recognition and this week Brian received support from a Cheshire birder (Matt Thomas) who had also noticed this activity among birds on the River Dee estuary. See http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/x-black-tailed-godwit-spurting.htm which has a link to Matt's blog at http://deebirder.blogspot.com/ which is well worth checking out for its excellent bird photography and for a picture of the group recently studying waders in Portugal in which three old acquiantances of mine can be seen (Pete Potts, Anne de Potier and Ruth Croger)

Med Gulls: As their nesting season approaches more and more of these stylish (but carnivorous) bird are being seen and heard. On Feb 25 a count of more than 700 in Portland Harbour area set a new county record for Dorset (not sure but I think the record was for the number present in February rather than at any time in the year) and on Mar 1 I saw the first report of the gulls 'following the plough' at the east end of the South Downs (this species does not eat fish or the other items on offer around our harbours but flies inland for worms when it feels hungry - later it can add the chicks of other gull species to its meat-only diet)

Ring-billed Gull: The regular bird at Gosport's Walpole Park/Cockle Pond was still present on Feb 28 and, according to RBA News on Feb 26, was one of just 7 of its species currently in Britain

Iceland Gull: RBA News for Feb 26 gave a UK total of 193 birds (that count had been up to 332 on Feb 19) and one of the birds being seen this week was visible from the Broadmarsh slipway on the north of Langstone Harbour on most days up to Mar 2

Sandwich Tern: Rye Harbour claimed the first arrival of summer birds when three turned up there on Mar 1 but there was no doubt that these were not wintering birds when 52 were seen at Dungeness

Puffin: Not exactly a migrant but the return to Portland on Mar 3 of the first Puffin since last year was noteworthy

Short-eared Owl: Still to be seen at 12 sites this week but one at Farlington Marshes on Mar 2 was probably already on the move as it is the first to get a mention there since Jan 29

Woodlark: Of local interest I am pleased to hear that these are back at a regular site in the West Marden area (seen/heard by John Goodspeed on Mar 3)

Swallow: Andrew Grace saw what I am taking as the first normal migrant arrival of the year at St Leonards (Hastings) on Mar 1

Sand Martin: Two seen in Pembrokeshire on Mar 1 were the first I know of (RBA News)

Grey Wagtail: I had regular sightings of these birds in the Lymbourne Stream beside the Hayling Billy trail in Havant between Nov 19 and Dec 16 but have not seen one there since (my only local sighting in 2012 was at the Homewell spring in the town on Jan 26) so I was interested to see that two birds were back in the Lymbourne Stream on Feb 28 - hopefully they were a pair and will find a nest site nearby.

White Wagtail: The first to be reported in southern England this year was at Portland on Feb 26 followed by one in Cornwall on Feb 28 and one in Kent on Mar 1

Blackbird: Song can now be heard almost everywhere and on Mar 1 a pair were seen carrying worms to young in a nest at Lewes

Fieldfare: Several reports of these moving north in big flocks this week including a sighting on Mar 3 of up to 200 seen in the Ems valley are during a walk from Forestside to Lyecommon (crossing the valley south of West Marden). Also seen during the walk were a smaller number of Redwing plus Buzzards, a Red Kite and two Grey Partridges.

Blackcap: As mentioned in news of migrant arrivals there has been a single question mark placed against the accepted theory that all our breeding birds fly south each autumn while all our wintering birds come and go from Europe. At least one breeding bird ringed in Suffolk in May last year was still close to its nest site in December

Chiffchaff: Dungeness reported one which arrived with other migrants on Mar 1 as a 'migrant arrival' - the first to be publicly claimed as such but almost certainly not the first to fly the Channel this spring

Nuthatch: A pair were seen nestbuilding (?plastering up the entrance of an old woodpecker nest?) on Feb 28

Great Grey Shrike: Still present at four sites this week including what may be a 'new' site at Digden Bottom in the New Forest (by the Dockens Water stream between Mockbeggar and Linwood near Ringwood) where one was found on Mar 2

Rose-coloured Starling: A good find in Hampshire was an adult bird singing 'behind the Post Office' at Hordle close to Christchurch in Dorset on Mar 3 (on Mar 4 the bird was on a bird table in the garden of a house next to the Post Office)

Brambling: Around this time last spring we were seeing counts of 120 from the Romsey area and 80 at the Blashford Lake but numbers have been much lower this winter (peak counts of 86 at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 28 and 40 at the QE Country Park near Petersfield on Nov 8 and around 50 there on Jan 29) and so a report of 10 at the Blashford Lakes on Mar 3 (among some 600 Chaffinch moving north) was noteworthy

Hawfinch: These (and Bullfinches) have been seen in greater than usual numbers this winter and this week a small flock (peak count of 10 on Feb 26) has been seen daily at Eastleigh Lakeside from Feb 24 to Mar 4

Snow Bunting: Three were still near the Hayling Island Lifeboat Station on Mar 1

Escapees: A single Chiloe Wigeon was with a flock of Wigeon in the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Mar 2. If you are not familiar with the species go to http://www.arkive.org/chiloe-wigeon/anas-sibilatrix/image-G90050.html and click any of the 13 images below the main picture to see that thumbnail as the main picture

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Species reported this week:

Brimstone (11 reports), Red Admiral (15 reports), Small Tortoiseshell (9 reports), Peacock (5 reports), and Comma (6 reports) with no more sightings of Speckled Wood this week

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

Species recorded for the first time this year/season

1342 Eudonia angustea found in Dorset on Feb 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5073

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1342.php

1659 Yellow Horned Achlya flavicornis found in Dorset on Feb 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5117

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1659.php

1746 Shoulder-stripe Anticlea badiata found in Dorset on Feb 26 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5631

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1746.php

1852 Brindled Pug Eupithecia abbreviata found in Dorset on Feb 27 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=698

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1852.php

1905 Horse Chestnut Pachycnemia hippocastanaria found in Dorset on Feb 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=764

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1905.php

1947 The Engrailed Ectropis bistortata found in Kent (Thanet) on Feb 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6352

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1947.php

1984 Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum found in Fareham on Feb 26 (Not a first but unintentionally disturbed by Tony Tindale in his greenhouse where it had probably been hibernating) - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2198

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1984.php

2139 Red Chestnut Cerastis rubricosa found in Kent (Thanet) on Feb 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2018

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2139.php

2179 Pine Beauty Panolis flammea found in Dorset on Feb 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5756

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2179.php

2241 Red Sword-grass Xylena vetusta found in Dorset on Feb 28 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2738

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2241.php

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Pond Skater: These started to appear on the water of the tiny Westbrook Stream in Emsworth on Feb 15 (normally they are first seen in March or April) when a dozen were seen. The number increased daily and by Mar 1 there were roughly 100 but on Mar 2 there were none to be seen. There seems to be no normal reason for this disappearance - the insects should remain and breed right through the summer - so there is a mystery still to be solved here. As the stream runs between houses and under a road one possibility is that they have moved to somewhere out of sight though it would be surprising for them all to move together, leaving none in what was clearly an attractive spot for a couple of weeks. Another possibilty would be that they have been washed downstream by a sudden spate due to heavy rain but there has been no such downpour and in any case you would expect a few to cling on to their favoured spot. This brings me to the possibility of 'something nasty' happening to the water which has killed them all off. Hopefully next week will bring some clue to solving this mystery.

Wood Ant (Formica rufa): First report of them out on their nests comes from the Fleet area of noth Hampshire on Mar 1

Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum): This species which only arrived in Britain in 2001 was seen nectaring on Lonicera fragrantissima (Shrubby Honeysuckle) in the Northiam area near Hastings on Feb 29

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris): On Feb 29 Brian Banks told us on the RX website that workers of this species had been active in his Northiam garden for 9 out of the last 10 weeks (presumably having survived since last year)

Early Bumblebee (Bombus pratorum): Appeared in Brian Banks Northiam garden for the first time this year during the past week

Thick-horned Diving Beetle (Dytiscus dimidiatus): This rare diving beetle appeared in Pat Bonham's moth trap in the Rye area on the night of Feb 23. For photos and more detail see http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2012/02/26/a-rare-diving-beetle-in-rye/#more-15384 (entry for Feb 26)

Whirligig Beetle (Gyrinus natator): Active on Mar 1 in John Goodspeed's garden pond on Portsdown

Water cricket (Velia caprai): Apparently this is a relatively common inhabitant of ponds but I was unaware of it until Graeme Lyons mentioned finding it at Woods Mill (Henfield) on Feb 28 - for photo and more info see http://www.naturespot.org.uk/species/water-cricket

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Common Yew: Trees in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery had clearly been shedding pollen for several days when I saw them on Mar 3

Common Fumitory: Flowers still to be found on 'old' plants at Budds Mound in Havant on Feb 27 and on many new plants which have only just sprung up at a development site in Havant, seen on Mar 3

Early Dog Violet: My first sighting of flowers for this year was on Feb 26 on wild plants which have escaped into my garden in recent years. By Mar 3 one flower was to be found in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery where there is usually a massive display each spring but it seems the recent 'tidying up' - raking up of leaves - has removed many of the plants.

Mistletoe: Looking out of the window while at my computer on Feb 29 I realized that I was looking at a plant of Mistletoe developing in a Rowan tree in the next door garden. The colours of the Mistletoe had previously caused it to be overlooked as part of the yellow green lichen which also grows in the tree. Presumable the Mistletoe had been planted by Thrushes which visit the tree for its berries each autumn

Slender Speedwell: What I took to be a first flower of Slender Speedwell just opening in the St Faith's churchyard was seen on Mar 3.

Butterbur: Male plants had started to flower at Brook Meadow in Emsworth back on Feb 16 but I did not have my first sight of the female plants by the Langbrook stream at Langstone until Feb 29 when they were only just becoming visible above the surface

Spanish Bluebell: A single plant also growing on the banks of the Langbrook Stream already had several flowers open on Feb 29

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

The Sky at Night: Two things which happened last night (Feb 3) prompted me to add this item which would not normally feature here. The first was the meteorite which flew south over western England and probably ended up in the Bay of Biscay - this was something I did not see and which is unlikely to recur but which is an excellent example of the excitement that even our light obscured skies can offer. The other was a personal sighting of Jupiter and Venus following the sun down in the western sky which happened to be cloud free when I looked out - a subsequent search found that March 15 is a date to put in your diary as on that night Jupiter and Venus will be 'in conjunction' looking like a single 'star' brighter than any star you have ever seen. Even if it is cloudy that night the display should be nearly as good on nights close before or after that date.

Common Seal: A report of 11 hauled out on the mud near Marker Point on Thorney Island on Feb 29 indicates that the size of the Chichester Harbour colony has not changed much over the last decade. The highest count I can recall was 14 but it has been more usual to hear of counts between 10 and 12 animals (occasionally including sightings of pups) - the variation in numbers is mainly accounted for by the fact that at any one time several of the Seals are away from home on fishing trips taking them into Langstone Harbour or out into the English Channel. Luckily the local population does not seem to have been affected by the disease which greatly reduced the North Sea population during the past few years. Probably the best time to see high numbers in Chichester Harbour is around June when the pups (if any) are born.

Water Voles: If you want to join the increasing number of people enjoying regular sightings of these animals at Brook Meadow in Emsworth go to http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/bm-water-voles-2012.html where you will find a map showing the sections of the River Ems where sightings occur

Brown Hare: First report of Hares 'boxing' comes from the West Marden area of the Ems valley where John Goodspeed saw them on Mar 3

Frogspawn: There has been a widespread increase in reports of Frogspawn during the past week despite the general decline in the number of Frogs during recent years. Most encouraging was news of 'hundreds of mating frogs and spawn' in what I think is a man-made pond (created as a 'balancing pond' to balance the increased weight of many new houses built recently in the Hermitage area east of Peter Pond and Lumley Road at Emsworth). To see these Frogs take the A259 east through Emsworth and turn left into Lumley Road immediately after passing Peter Pond on your left, then turn right into Pagham Close and then left again into Sadlers Walk to find the pond alongside the road on your left where Sadlers Walk bends to the right (mapref for the pond is SU 753 055)

Toad: Although Toad breeding occurs a little later than Frogs the males are already present in one pond at the southern foot of Portsdown.

Newts: These normally return to their breeding ponds in January or earlier so it is not surprising that when John Goodspeed cleaned out the pond at his home on Portsdown this week he found adults of both Common (Smooth) and Palmate Newts present but I was surprised to read that he also found young specimens of both species which had presumably hatched from eggs last spring but failed to complete the transition to adulthood during the year (I assume they could be recognised because they still had external gills). Checking their life cycle on the internet I found that the eggs are laid about now and the tadpoles (called 'efts') very soon look similar to the adults but have external gills which gradually shrink over a ten week period before the young newt breathes air, at which point (normally around August) it leaves the pond. However it seems it is not uncommon for the eft to stay in the pond until next spring and I guess that if this pond was in need of cleaning a low oxygen level in the water (and perhaps a shortage of the tiny animal lifeforms on which the eft feeds) will have delayed the eft's development.

Common Lizard: Adders have been out of hibernation for some time now but it was not until Mar 1 that I saw the first report of Common Lizards - three of them out in the New Forest near the Blashford Lakes

Fungi: Alistair Martin visited the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on Mar 3 and took this photo (below) of Scarlet Elfcup fungi he saw there and on Mar 4 the same species was found at Durlston. Note that the scientific name used by Roger Phillips (Sarcoscypha coccinea) has since been rejected and all specimens found in Britain are now regarded as Sarcoscypha austriaca.

Photo of Scarlet Elf Cups taken by Alistair Martin at the Blashford Lakes site on Mar 3

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Feb 20 - 26 (Week 8 of 2012)

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BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: On Feb 18 Dungeness reported 644 Red-throated heading east and on Feb 19 Cap Gris-nez across the Channel had what were probably an additional 629 but by Feb 25 Portland only reported 2 passing there (though there were 40 off Rye Harbour). No site had more than a single Black-throated (and the Southampton Water bird has not been seen since Feb 12) and by the end of the week no Great Northern were being reported on the south coast (three at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 5 dwindled to just one on Feb 24)

Grebes: A pair of Great Crested on an Eastbourne lake were displaying on Feb 15 (and doing their 'weed dance' on Feb 25) but there were still enough in winter mode to give a count of 1116 at Egmond aan Zee in the Netherlands on Feb 24 (there had been 2833 there on Feb 13) and 200 off Rye Harbour on Feb 25. One Red-necked was last seen in Weymouth Bay on Feb 21 and there were still at least 11 Slavonian off Pagham Harbour on Feb 25 (there had been an extraordinary count of more than 65 there on Feb 20). The last reports of Black-necked that I know of were of 12 still at Feock (Falmouth) with singles at the Blashford Lakes and at Eastbourne, all on Feb 24

Cormorant: With many 'grey-headed' birds now to be seen it is helpful to have a reminder that this feature is not indicative of the continental (sinensis) subspecies. There is no absolutely sure way of separating this subspecies in the field but a photo on the Christchurch Harbour website (above the Feb 25 entry on http://www.chog.org.uk/Pages/Sightings.htm ) shows the best available means of picking out the continental birds (of which this is one). To find out what to look for go to http://www.paxton-pits.org.uk/id.htm

Bittern: Plenty of these still with us - reports during the week from ten sites including up to 4 birds at Hatch Pond in Poole Harbour and at least one at Titchfield Haven. For a photo of the 'best dressed Bittern' (certainly deserving an Oscar) go to the Feb 25 entry at http://www.kentos.org.uk/Stodmarsh/Februarysightings.htm - the accompanying text tells you that this bird maintained this posture for an hour and a half!

Little Egret: A group of 17 feeding together in a cressbed near Pinglestone Farm (just north of Alresford at the head of the River Itchen) on Feb 24 is probably just illustrative of where the coastal Egrets go to in the winter to escape the rigours of the normally chill winter weather on exposed coasts. Certainly a sunset visit to Langstone Pond on Feb 24 found no more than 8 birds coming to roost there (and one of those came flying in from the north rather than the harbours to the south) but it also gave a hint that these birds will soon starting to build nests as six of them arrived in pairs.

Great White Egret: Bob Chapman told us this week that the bird which spends much of its year at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood is currently further up the River Avon in the Fordingbridge area but if you really wanted to see one this week the place to go was a railway level crossing between Faversham and Whitstable in north Kent. To see a series of photos of this bird go to http://www.kentos.org.uk/Seasalter/Febuary12.htm (one showing it in flight gives an interesting comparison with a Grey Heron also in flight, making the Egret look considerably bigger)

Grey Heron: Birds at nests at Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex were said to be 'seemingly egg laying' this week

White Stork: None in this country but three reports of up to six birds in Belgium this week are an indication of spring there (the only earlier mention of Storks from the near continent this year was of 11 birds at a site in the Ile de France area on Feb 5)

Red-breasted Goose: On Oct 18 last year one arrived at Christchurch Harbour with Brent Geese and stayed there for ten days before moving west via Ferrybridge and Abbotsbury to be seen on the Exminster Marshes on Nov 7, staying there (in the Darts Farm area) until Feb 19. Similar behaviour by what I think is the same bird in recent years led me to expect it to start a return journey east this spring, moving along the coast in stages until it reached the Hampshire/Sussex border from which it could be expected to leave the country on its way to the breeding area of the Brent Geese with which it has somehow become entangled. This return journey has now started, bringing it to the Lymington marshes on Feb 25 where it was still present on Feb 26. The question now is whether it will move on to the mouth of Chichester Harbour before making its final departure. Each winter several of these geese are seen in the UK and many of them are escapes but I still believe that the current (unringed) bird which associates with migrant Brent is a genuine wild bird which has been visiting the south coast since Nov 2006 when it was seen in the Weymouth and Poole Harbour areas

Green-winged Teal: A male was found at Farlington Marshes by Jason Crook on Feb 23 and was still there on Feb 25

Garganey: A male has been on the R Stour in Dorset at Shapwick (south of Blandford), seen on Feb 20 and 22. This would be very early for a migrant arrival (they normally arrive in mid-March and Hampshire's earliest was on 2 Mar 2003) and I think the bird's tameness makes it likely to be an escape from captivity)

Red-crested Pochard: A female has been on the Drayton gravelpit lake (east of Chichester) from Feb 18 to 23

'Fudge Duck': A Pochard x Ferruginous hybrid was seen again on the Budds Farm pools in Havant on Feb 23

Hooded Merganser: What is probably the prettiest plastic duck currently on offer was seen at Radipole (Weymouth) on Feb 20. It can be seen in a photo below the Feb 20 entry on http://dorsetbirds.blogspot.com/ (also on that same page there is a photo of the Garganey mentioned above, looking happy in the company of Mallards). The Hooded Merganser has been hanging around Weymouth since it was found as an 'orphan waif' in a storm drain there on 7 June 2008

Smew: This winter's bonanza of these lovely birds is not yet over - on Feb 25 two were still at the Blashford Lakes and another was at Arlebury Lake at Arlesford near Winchester while on Feb 23 the RBA service had reports of 81 birds in the UK as a whole

White-tailed Eagle: In last week's summary I wrote of one being seen at Folkestone on Feb 14 and then eating a dead Fox in a field on Walland Marsh just east of Rye from which it was last seen drifting off to the north. Since then there has been another sigthing at Folkestone on Feb 19 and RBA news of one in Norfolk on Feb 22 plus a possible sighting of one in the Blacklands Farm area near Basingstoke on Feb 23 (this is where last year's Hampshire bird spent 18 days from Feb 24 to Mar 13 before eventually heading east but getting 'cold feet' about crossing the North Sea when it reached to Lincolnshire coast). I hear that a new disease (hopefully not as serious as Foot and Mouth) has been killing off this year's young lambs and that on Feb 21 a birder in the Seasalter area of north Kent found three dead lambs in fields in his 'patch' - this may be bad news for farmers but it must be good news for Eagles!

Rough-legged Buzzard: The Arun valley bird was still to be seen at Burpham on Feb 24

Peregrine: After last week's report of a female back at the Chichester cathedral nest site on Feb 28 the pair were both at the nest site on Feb 19

Water Rail: One has been giving good views on the River Ems at Brook Meadow this week

Common Crane: No sightings in England but it seems that spring passage is now underway with 325 birds seen at a Belgian site on Feb 22

Stone Curlew: After the sighting of a wintering bird in fields southeast of Arundel on Feb 12 what seems to be a good report of the first migrant arrival comes from the Birdham area south of Chichester on Feb 21 when one was heard flying over at 10:15 pm. Earliest migrant arrival in Hampshire is recorded as 5 Feb 2006

Knot: The large number which have decided to feed on the mud along the Emsworth shore this winter reached a peak of at least 900 seen on Feb 20 independently by both Brian Fellows and John Goodspeed. Knot also play a prominent part in a eleven minute video of the birds of the Nore Barn area of the Emsworth shore filmed by Peter Raby and to be seen at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zXgvGdCyJpk&list=HL1329919690&feature=mh_lolz - well worth seeing!

Purple Sandpiper: An indication that these are now making their way east comes from looking at numbers reported recently. The biggest counts during the winter come from Cornwall and this was still the case on Feb 16 when 35 were seen at Penzance. On Feb 21 an unusually large count of 20 birds was reported from Barton on Sea at the west end of the Solent and then on Feb 24 another unexpectedly large count of 21 was made at Brighton marina - I rather suspect that these numbers will not be repeated at those sites (at least not until next winter).

Whimbrel: One seen on a football pitch near Gilkicker Point in the Gosport area on Feb 25 is unlikely to be an early migrant but may well be an indication that one of our south coast wintering birds is feeling the call of spring and moving to new areas in response

Med Gull: In recent years the call of the Med Gull has become one of the really evocative signs of spring and this year the first call that I am aware of was reported at Sandwich Bay on Feb 20 but it was in the second half of the week that the sound became widespread. I heard it myself at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 23 and described the impression it made in my Diary and since then the sound has been heard at sites all along the south coast accompanied by the sight of birds in their immaculate white and red and black breeding plumage.

Common Gull: Another sign of spring here on the south coast is the departure of the Common Gulls and this was marked with a report from Portland on Feb 22 of 200 Common Gulls heading east

Iceland Gull: On Feb 19 the RBA website gave a total of 332 of these in the UK and one of them has been seen regularly from Broadmarsh or at the Budds Farm pools this week

Long-eared Owl: Road kills have revealed the presence of these elusive birds in two unexpected locations this week - one was recovered from the central reservation of the Thanet Way in north Kent on Feb 23 and before that one was found at Overton in the Basingstoke area of Hampshire on Feb 21

Short-eared Owl: Wintering birds were still being seen at six sites this week but a sign of spring movement came with a sighting of one at Portland on Feb 25

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: February is traditionally the month in which these birds reveal their presence by their calls and on Feb 22 one was heard at Weir Wood in north Sussex, another at Paultons Park by the M27 in the Romsey area while a birder at Chandlers Ford got an unexpected garden tick when he heard one over his garden. At Pulborough Brooks the warden (Pete Hughes) heard one drumming for the first 15 minutes of his day when he arrived at 7:30am on Feb 24

Shorelark: The Hayling Oysterbeds bird has not been reported since Feb 14 but I like to think that a report of one seen in Belgium on Feb 17 was a 'good-bye' wave from our special bird

Stonechat: A report of 10 on Portland on Feb 25 probably marks a more general move of these birds from winter to breeding sites

Paddyfield Warbler: The bird was still present in the North Walls area of Pagham Harbour on Feb 25 but on Feb 24 it had changed its habits from searching the reeds for its food to a 'flycatching mode' in which it kept flying up to catch insects now airborne in the warm air.

Firecrest: The first report of this species singing came from the village of Woodlands on the edge of the New Forest east of Lyndhurst on Feb 24 (Goldcrest song was heard as early as Jan 13)

Willow Tit: There are probably only three places where these can still be found in Hampshire and I was very pleased to see that they were still present at one of those sites (in east Hampshire) on Feb 24

Chough: On Feb 23 the SOS News included a puzzling mention of a Chough having been seen in West Sussex but a later report told us that a pair of these birds had escaped from Bird World near Farnham. It seems that the male, which had been seen in a Haslemere garden, has been re-captured but the female is still on the loose.

Crossbill: Local sightings in the Havant area this week include one close to the main carpark by the Stansted Forest main avenue on Feb 23, a group of eight in the Creech Woods south of Denmead on Feb 25 and a single male seen in Havant Thicket that same day.

Bullfinch: These seem to have been unusually numerous this winter but this week's news is of just one bird heard 'singing' at Ardingly near Haywards Heath on Feb 23

Common Yellowthroat: This 'twitchers delight' was still to be seen in Gwent on Feb 23

Snow Bunting: The group of four were still to be seen near the Hayling Lifeboat Station on Feb 25 and a 'new bird' was seen on Feb 22 in the Prinsted area (by the arched wooden bridge taking the shoreline footpath north from the end of Thornham Lane to Prinsted village). An indication that winter birds are now leaving us comes in a report of a flock of 113 seen together at a Netherlands site on Feb 24

Yellowhammer: First report of song comes from Chailey Common near Haywards Heath on Feb 23

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Species reported this week:

Brimstone (at six sites all on Feb 23), Red Admiral (at eight sites during the week), Small Tortoiseshell (one in the North Foreland area of Kent on Feb 23 and another near Henfield on Feb 24), Peacock (just one at Folkestone on Feb 24), Comma (three reports from Sussex on Feb 23 including one in Stansted Forest), Speckled Wood (one at Portland on Feb 21 plus late news of the earliest ever seen in Hampshire from Liphook Golf Course on Feb 15)

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

First sightings for the year/season reported this week were:

473 Leek Moth Acrolepiopsis assectella found in Dorset on Feb 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3332

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0473.php

663 Diurnea fagella found in Dorset on Feb 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1945

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0663.php

695 Agonopterix alstromeriana found in Dorset on Feb 24 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=754

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0695.php

697 Agonopterix arenella found in Dorset on Feb 24 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5763

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0697.php

701 Agonopterix ocellana found in Dorset on Feb 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1458

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0701.php

1054 Acleris cristana found at Folkestone on Feb 25 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6435

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1054.php

1288 Twenty-plume Moth Alucita hexadactyla found at Fareham on Feb 24 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=360

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1288.php

1663 March Moth Alsophila aescularia found in Dorset on Feb 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1873

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1663.php

1925 Small Brindled Beauty Apocheima hispidaria found in Dorset on Feb 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=879

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1925.php

2423 Oak Nycteoline Nycteola revayana found in Dorset on Feb 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5374

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2423.php

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Pond Skater: Being seen in increasing numbers on the Westbrook Stream in Emsworth after their unusually early first appearance on Feb 15

Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax): First to emerge from hibernation was seen at Torbay in Devon Feb 19

Honey Bee (Apis mellifera): First report of these from Edburton on the Sussex Downs on Feb 23

Great Silver Water Beetle (Hydrophilus piceus): Found in the Pevensey Levels ditches on Feb 24 (see Molluscs entry under Other Wildlife - this beetle was one of Graeme Lyons finds when searching for Molluscs)

Saucer Bug: Also see Other Wildlife for this

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides): First catkins seen on the tree in Havant Park on Feb 21

Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis): When I found a single plant in flower in a Havant garden on Jan 24 Brian Fellows said that there was no sign on them in the Chichester Bishop's Palace garden were he has seen them in the past but he has now found a good show of them there on Feb 25

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata): A single battered looking plant which seemed to have survived from last year rather than being fresh this year had a small head of flowers on it in Havant on Feb 21

Danish scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica): At least one roadside plant had tiny flowers here in Havant on Feb 21

Early dog violet (Viola reichenbachiana): Just one flower opening on Feb 26 on plants which have escaped from the wild and established themselves in a crack in a concrete path in my garden

Wild Primrose: On Feb 23 when cycling down the Hayling Coastal Path I stopped to look for these flowers in the shore copse to the west of Daw Lane but could only find the yellow tips of petals on as yet unopen flowers on one plant - I suspect other genuine wild plants in more sheltered inland sites will have been open before this date

Lesser Periwinkle: I had seen one extremely early flower open in Pits Copse on the edge of Stansted Forest as early as Jan 11 but two fresh flowers seen at another regular site beside Southleigh Road in the Denvilles area of Havant were open at a more usual date on Feb 20

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Wood Mouse: Also known as Field Mouse this gentle looking creature does not annoy us by entering our houses and stealing our food though it can sometimes be seen taking a share of food we have put out to feed birds. One allowed itself to be photographed in the Nore Barn woodland on the Emsworth shore this week (see Brian Fellows diary entry for Feb 21 at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm ) but a different aspect of this creature's life style can be seen in a video and a photo taken by Barry Yates at Rye Harbour (see http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2012/02/25/fieldmice-can-be-carnivores/#more-15371 ) which show that they are not averse to flesh eating.

Water Vole: Now that winter is over regular sightings in the River Ems at Emsworth have been renewed and you can follow the reports and photos of them via http://www.brook-meadow.hampshire.org.uk/bm-water-voles-2012.html

Bats: Also now resuming their summer lifestyle are bats and Tony Wilson reminds us of this by reporting regular evening sightings in his Edburton garden at the north foot of the Sussex Downs in the Brighton area

Frogspawn: An indication of the widespread decline of Common Frogs in our gardens is that the species has so far only achieved three entries in my database for this year but the third entry is of the news that the first spawn appeared in the Emsworth area on Feb 21. I mentioned this to a Langstone resident on Feb 23 to be told that in his garden spawn always appeared in a tiny 'kitchen sink' pond but this was then qualified by "but not this year"

Molluscs: Two items caught my attention this week. The first was seen in the 'Winter Watch' TV programme in a piece filmed on the sea shore showing jets of water shooting up several feet into the air as members of a clam-type species ejected the water which they had sucked in and filtered for any food content. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soft-shell_clam for an account of the lifestyle of the Sand Gaper (Mya arenaria) which may be the species involved. The other Mollusc item was Graeme Lyons account of a day 'pond dipping' in the Pevensey Levels ditches in company with Mollusc expert Martin Willing - see http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.com/2012/02/league-of-extraordinary-molluscs.html which will give you a list of mollusc names to follow up. One which I had not come across before and did follow up led me to http://www.microcosmos.nl/bugs2/ilyocoris.htm re the common underwater predator Saucer Bug. If you are thinking of trying to catch one of these bugs you are advised to read how painful its bite can be for a human. If you are puzzled by the mention of a 'staphylinid workshop' at the end of Graeme's blog entry he was off to learn about the Rove Beetles under the guidance of Chris Bentley whose name often appears below Insect items on the Rye Bay website.

Trout: The first mention of these fish that I have seen this year is on Brian Fellows' diary for Feb 25 when several were seen in the River Ems - have these fish only just become large enough to catch the eye or have they been hiding elsewhere in the river and are now coming downstream with thoughts of going out to sea???

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Feb 13 - 19 (Week 7 of 2012)

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BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: I have the impression that many Red-throated were already starting their spring passage this week. On Feb 6 Thorpeness in Suffolk reported a total of 1459 offshore in the North Sea and I wondered if this was the result of fish shoals in those waters and/or birds being driven south by a change in the weather but this week increasing daily movements east at Portland have been described as the start of spring passage. This is backed up by counts of 241 going east off Dungeness on Feb 15 following 146 passing there on Feb 13 when 35 were off Rye Harbour and 16 off Portland. Other diver species were more elusive this week - just 3 reports of Black-throated (the Southampton Water bird plus one off Sandwich and two off Torbay in Devon) and Great Northern were only seen at Selsey (four on Feb 12), Worthing (two on Feb 9) and Christchurch Harbour (one there from Feb 14 to 17) - later reports came from Lymington, Dawlish Warren in Devon and Oare Marshes in Kent

Grebes: A pair of Great Crested were displaying on an Eastbourne Lake on Feb 15 and others were cruising round looking for mates or nest sites (one off Emsworth on Feb 12 and 13) but others were still in winter mode (100+ at Rye Harbour on Feb 13, 2833 at a Netherlands site that day and still 2271 at the same site on Feb 16). The only Red-necked to be reported was in Weymouth Bay on Feb 16 and 17. Single Slavonian Grebes were seen on each side of Thorney Island on Feb 11 and small numbers were seen at five other sites from Worthing to Mounts Bay in Cornwall but nowhere had more than the three birds seen at each of Selsey, Portland Harbour and Mounts Bay. Black-necked were still around in good numbers - ten off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 12 and 16 in Portland Harbour on Feb 13 with one at a 'new site' named as West Rise Marsh in Eastbourne (to be found in TQ 6202 but I only managed to establish that location after various Google searches came up with a 'West Rise Junior and Infant Schools' in the Langney area of the town - I do wish that people who put information on the internet would appreciate that many people who are not privy to informal local place names which do not appear on an OS Map may also wish to know the location referred to!)

Bittern: Reported at 11 sites this week with a peak count of four at Hatch Pond in Poole Harbour

Cattle Egret: The bird which disappeared from Warblington after Feb 6 was probably the one seen at Newhaven on Feb 7 but that one did not stop to chat and there were no more reports until Feb 9 when RBA News wrote of 'one in Hampshire' with no further details. Then on Feb 12 there was a definite sighting near the Thorney Little Deeps but the sighting was of a bird flying off in the direction of the Warblington Farm. I have heard nothing of the bird since then but on Feb 14 I walked to Warblington in the hope of seeing it - sadly this walk co-incided with the onset of a virulent bug which struck without warning as I was crossing the field next the cemetery, causing me to become so giddy that I fell over and could not get back on my feet without the help of kind people who summoned an ambulance to take me home! (Six days later I am feeling fine and the giddiness has gone but I still feel reluctant to venture far from the toilet facilities in my house!)

Great White Egret: The bird which was seen in the Thorney Great Deeps area from Jan 29 to Feb 11 has not been seen again this week

Glossy Ibis: 12 reports this week come from eight different sites and (as with the previous two species) indicate the restlessness which comes with spring. The places where they have been seen most regularly are Thurlestone Bay in south Devon (south west of Kingsbridge) and the Wareham/Weymouth area of Dorset (two separate birds moving around) but there has also been one at Cuckmere Haven in East Sussex, another on the Exe estuary in Devon and another in the Kent Stour valley. More locally the SOS website has an entry (dated Feb 11 but posted on Feb 17) reporting a bird photographed in a garden at Barnham (between Bognor and Arundel) on Feb 5 (on the SOS report click 'more' to see the photo)

Brent Geese: My records for last year show the last two reports of departing winter birds to have been dated May 5 when two flew east past Selsey and 13 moved past Splash Point (east of Brighton). The last report of more than 100 was also from Splash Point on Apr 19 when 117 were seen and Dungeness reported 169 passing on Apr 2. Also last year the first three to set off east did so on Jan 10 with a second party of three leaving on Jan 16. This year departure started on Jan 14 but with a much more substantial party of 365 seen passing Dungeness followed by many reports of birds moving east in the next few days (e.g. 1150 east off Sandy Point on Hayling in 2 hours on Jan 15) and the loss of substantial numbers from our south coast as well as the passage of birds from e.g. the south west coast of France is bound to mean there are fewer still to come along our south coast but I will be very surprised if we are not seeing late departures passing us well into April so cries of 'have they all gone' are a bit premature when we find none on a particular shore where there was a flock only yesterday. What we must expect from now on is the erratic pattern of sightings at any one site that results from the birds bunching into large flocks for company on their long journey - one day that flock will land in your area and you may see several hundred busily feeding (either on the shore or in fields), then for one or more days you may find none in your area until the next combination of weather and flock route brings another 'invasion' of your site. Mention of the weather brings in another factor affecting the length of stay of a passage flock at a particular site - if all is well the flock will fly each night and stop off to feed each day but bad weather can hold it in one place for several days while the more permanent barrier of winter frost can delay the birds for many days or weeks as they approach the arctic circle.

Red-breasted Goose: The Exe estuary bird was last reported on Feb 13 but it is also mentioned in RBA News for Feb 18

Shelduck: January is normally the peak month for wintering Shelduck in the Solent Harbours but this year the Jan 14 WeBS count for the Thorney Great Deeps recorded only 58 birds while an informal count on Feb 15 recorded 107 there - it is likely that the additional birds have moved west from eastern sites in reponse to the recent cold snap.

Pintail: Unusually high counts at local sites are also most likely to be the result of hard frost in eastern England which has brought reports of 110 birds on Oare Marshes in north Kent on Feb 9, 60 birds in Christchurch Harbour on Feb 12, 54 in Emsworth Harbour on Feb 14 and 40 birds in Ashlett Creek near Fawley Power Station (on Southampton Water) on Feb 17

Long-tailed Duck: During January it would appear that the only birds on the south coast were either in Cornwall or at Dungeness but on Feb 12 one turned up at Christchurch Harbour and has remained there to Feb 18 at least

Surf Scoter: The long-term winter resident female at Dawlish Warren (Exe estuary in Devon) was still there on Feb 14 but there is a second bird (a first winter male) which was seen in the Penzance area of Jan 13 and 14 but which has not been reported again until Feb 16

Smew: This has been a good week for 'Smew twitchers' with 18 south coast sites reporting them though a report of 5 flying east over Birling Gap (Beachy Head) on Feb 17 is probably a sign that the bonanza is coming to an end. Peak count was of 21 at Dungeness RSPB on Feb 13 (when Rye Harbour had another 7). One at Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough was an addition to the site's bird list. Sadly none seem to have come closer to Havant than the one on Pagham Lagoon from Feb 9 to 13

Ruddy Duck: At least one pair were still together at a south coast site this week

White-tailed Eagle: On Feb 8 two were reported at one Netherlands site and on Feb 14 one was still at the same Netherlands site but it looks as if the other flew west to be seen for a full five minutes at Folkestone that day before continuing west. No more reports until Feb 16 when it was re-discovered (maybe as a result of a farmer reporting that a Vulture was eating a dead Fox on his land) in the Walland Marsh area on the Kent/Sussex border near the A259 east of Rye. The only photos that I am aware of that were taken then were the work of Martin Casemore and can be seen on his blog at http://ploddingbirder.blogspot.com/2012/02/eagle-has-landed-in-sussex-as-well.html The story so far ends here with Martin's last words being .."the Eagle was high overhead thermalling before eventually moving off north."

Rough-legged Buzzard: The Arun valley bird has not been reported since Feb 16 and may well have left

Peregrine: Local news is that the female Peregrine was back at her nest site on Chichester Cathedral on Feb 18

Grey Partridge: Three birds, seen in the Thornham House field (in which Alpacas could be seen until last year) which lies between the house and Prinsted Bay, were presumably exploring the possibilities of nesting there but whether they are genuine wild birds which have inherited the skills necessary to evade the attentions of Foxes (and the Stoat which was prevented from pursuing its Rabbit hunting by the Alpacas on Feb 8 last year) or are cage raised birds which managed to 'get away' when released last year there is no way of telling (my bet would be on the latter)

Water Rail: In my experience Water Rails are only seen in the open in two circumstances - one is during a hard frost when they are forced out of cover by the need to search for food, the other is when they are on passage between summer and winter quarters when they spend the nights flying but drop into cover during the day and as they are unfamiliar with the site where they happen to land at dawn they are often driven into the open by unexpected disturbance or the need to search for food (there is of course a third way to get them out into the open as was recently demonstrated at Pulborough Brooks - you scatter sufficient tasty food items around a patch of open ground adjacent to the thick cover in which the Rail is know to be present). Several sightings this week are probably the direct or indirect results of hard weather - on Feb 11 one was seen crossing the NRA track linking the main road on Thorney to the western sea wall, on Feb 12 one was seen in the cemetery at Crofton old church in Gosport, on Feb 14 one was seen in an open ditch in a field between Mill Rythe sea inlet and the approach road to the Mill Rythe Holiday Camp on Hayling Island, and lastly there were sightings of a bird in the River Ems at Emsworth on all three days from Feb 15 to 17.

Stone Curlew: A 'one day wonder' reported on the SOS website on Feb 12 was a sighting of a Stone Curlew by two birders in open fields between Angmering and Poling. I have recorded the location as TQ052046 where one of two footpaths between the two villages crosses the 'Black Ditch' mentioned in the report (but I may have picked the wrong path!). In last week's Summary I wrote of this sighting before it got into my recording system (which is what brought it up again today - and it's worth a second mention) .. A report for Feb 12 on the SOS website gives a confident account of a Stone Curlew watched for 10 minutes in a field at TQ 051047 near Angmering (south east of Arundel) and then seen to fly a short distance south, apparently landing in another field but not seen again there. Although Stone Curlews are among the earliest migrants to arrive (around mid-March) I would guess that this bird may have been wintering here as was assumed for the bird found in a Hayling Island stubble field on Feb 5 in 2006 which stayed there for five days. There have been Hampshire wintering records in Dec 1972 and Dec 1974 and assumed early migrant records for Feb 25 in 1938 and Feb 28 in 1960

Ringed Plover: Reported as 'starting to display' on Feb 17 at Reculver on the north Kent coast

Lapwing: Reported to be displaying on the Exminster Marshes in Devon on Feb 14

Knot: Numbers on the mud off Nore Barn (west end of the Emsworth shoreline) peaked at around 1200 birds on Feb 13. Normally any Knot are rarities here - this year a few seen in the first week of Jan grew to 115 on Jan 16, then to 250 on Jan 26, 350 on Feb 3, 610 on Feb 4, 950 on Feb 9 and 1000 on Feb 11 before the peak count of 1200 on Feb 13 after which counts more or less halved (though up to 700 were there on Feb 17)

Woodcock: After the peak count of 67 at Sandwich Bay on Feb 8 as birds streamed out of Europe, to avoid starvation as hard frost made their food unobtainable, there were still counts of 15 at Dungeness on Feb 9 and 13 there on Feb 10 . Back at Sandwich staff at the Bird Observatory were doing their best not to disturb the exhausted birds but still put up 16 on Feb 11 while on Feb 12 13 were seen at Reculver on the north Kent coast where 22 were seen on Feb 13 - many, many more are still scattered over southern England which has saved their lives.

Black-tailed Godwit: Brian Fellows website entry for Feb 17 (see http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm and scroll down) includes a set of photos of Black-tailed Godwits engaged in 'close combat'. When I first saw them I assumed the birds were mating in the same violent way that Mallards do (which regularly results in the drowning of females whose heads are forced under water for too long) but it seems that others see this as pure aggression with no sexual intent. I wonder if it is possible to determine the sex of a Godwit by its winter plumage or body structure?

Whimbrel: One was heard calling in the Emsworth Channel west of Thorney Island on Feb 11

Spotted Sandpiper: The bird which was first seen at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 1 was still there on Feb 18. Another was seen again near Plymouth where it has not been reported since Jan 14

Grey Plover: The first report of one showing the black of its breeding plumage comes from Chichester Harbour on Feb 14

Med Gull: Flocks are now building up along the south coast and Feb 8 brought a count of 440 present at Ferrybridge (Weymouth/Portland). Still to come is the first report of that magical sign of spring - the bird's 'kee-ah' call

Little Owl: Two reports this week of sightings in the Hayling Oysterbeds area on Feb 11 and 16 - keep your eyes open

Woodlark: Although there have been reports of song during the winter I think the birds now believe that spring is here. On Feb 16 four birds were present and singing at Longdown (south of the Totton to Lynhurst road on the last minor road before the New Forest starts) while on the same day song was heard in Broadwater Forest near Crowborough as a reward for conservation volunteers who had just finished restoring the bird's habitat.

Skylark: Also now in song generally with several reports for Feb 15 followed by one for Thorney Island on Feb 17

Shorelark: No reports from the Hayling Oysterbeds since Feb 14 - it may still be there but it could be that the warmth of Feb 15 told it to depart. (One was seen in Belgium on Feb 17 - our bird en route home?)

Waxwing: Feb 15 brought news of two birds seen in a private garden at Torquay (no further news)

Fieldfare: For those who have not seen these during the winter the Kent Stour Valley had a massive roost from which 7800 birds emerged on the morning of Feb 12. Best count of Redwing this week was from Worthing where 120 were seen on Feb 16

Paddyfield Warbler: Still in the Pagham North Walls area on Feb 14

Goldcrest: I heard my first song from trees by the Billy Trail old rail line where it runs behind my house on Feb 18

Spanish Sparrow: The Calshot garden bird was last reported on Feb 12

Crossbill: One male was in 'full and continuous song' at Petworth on Feb 16 and a flock of ten birds in the New Forest on Feb 12 were seen to be collecting nest material

Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas): Twitchers were trekking to Gwent in Wales on Feb 17 to see this colourful bird which is only the 8th to be recorded in Britain. See Lee Evans' blog at http://rarebirdsinbritain.blogspot.com/ for good photos of the bird and other details

Dark-eyed Junco: Still to be seen at Hawkhill Inclosure off Beaulieu Heath in the New Forest on Feb 16

Reed Bunting: These are now returning to breeding areas and have started singing their uninspiring songs

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

The surprising news this week is that four butterfly species have all decided that, starting on Feb 15, spring is here. That day brought first sightings of Brimstone (one at Burghclere near Newbury, the other at Weavers Down at Longmoor near Petersfield), Peacock (one at Godshill on the Isle of Wight, the other on Feb 17 at Portland), Red Admiral (one in central Portsmouth, one in Waterlooville and a third on Feb 16 at Broadstairs in Kent), and finally Feb 16 brought a Speckled Wood (one flying around in Gosport to beat the previous earliest emergence in Hampshire, 9 March 1992, by a clear three weeks).

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

First sightings for the year/season reported this week were:

1052 Acleris umbrana found at Shaggs near East Lulworth in Dorset on Feb 15 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5427 but note that the Hantsmoths site has no photo of this rarity

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1052.php

1524 Emmelina monodactyla found at Shaggs near East Lulworth in Dorset on Feb 16 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=592

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1524.php

1930 Oak Beauty Biston strataria found at Broadwey in Dorset on Feb 16 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2639

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1930.php

1960 Early Moth Theria primaria found at Plumber near Cerne Abbas in Dorset on Feb 17 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6078

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1960.php

2188 Clouded Drab Orthosia incerta found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Feb 16 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1979

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2188.php

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

This week Graeme Lyons has taken up the practice of 'tussocking' which involves finding a nice thick dry tussock of grass (preferably surrounded by wet ground), cutting it at ground level, holding it upside down over a white sheet, then shaking hard to see what falls out. Such tussocks form ideal winter shelter for all sorts of 'minibeasts' (especially when surrounding wet ground forces anything living there to seek 'high and dry' ground) and the practice has enabled him to increase his 'all species' lifetime tick list substantially. (Even if you are not a specialist but are trying to interest children or amateur wildlife groups in all the things they are missing when they walk through the sort of habitat in which grass tussocks grow this sport is clearly a winner - getting the children to see how many different creatures they can catch before they disappear off the white sheet would clearly get their attention and interest and there is no need to be able to name the species - just to point out the different groups - Spiders, Beetles, Caterpillars, Bugs, etc - and the variation in appearance between the members of each group should be enough to get the children thinking about how we differentiate species and why those differences occur). For details of some of Graeme's finds see his blog at http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.com/

Lesser Bloody-nosed Beetle: First sighting of these for the year came from Durlston on Feb 16 - I suspect they could not be found on Portsdown on a warm day

Pond Skater: Another very early sign of spring was the discovery on Feb 15 by Brian Fellows of a dozen Pond Skaters already active of the surface of the Westbrook Stream which runs past his Emsworth garden. Normally these would not be seen until the end of March at the earliest

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Cherry Plum: First flowers were at last open on trees at the south end of Southmoor Lane in Havant on Feb 13

Ivy-leaved Speedwell: Another first flower found in Havant on Feb 13

Butterbur: Already in flower at Emsworth (Brook Meadow) on Feb 16 about a week earlier than last year

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Water Vole: Although these do not hibernate they spend the winter months mainly in the shelter of their burrows, only emerging occasionally and briefly to collect vegetable matter to chew while they ponder the mysteries of life, the universe and all that. In past years they did not emerge from this monastic mode of life until late March or April but on Feb 15 Brian Fellows listed several recent sightings of them in the R Ems at Brook Meadow including one incident which he himself saw in which two Voles engaged in a prolonged fight from which the one contestant, which he saw closely, emerged with torn and blood-stained fur. Those unfamiliar with Water Voles might assume the animals fighting were males but this species is very matriarchal and a senior female holds a territory which stretches for around 130 yards of the riverbank, marking her boundary with latrines. During the winter she will share her burrow with both her own daughters from the previous year and sometimes with unrelated males but as soon as spring arrives all the lodgers are sent away (by force if necessary) and the dominant female then starts to raise the first of up to five litters (each of 3 to 7 pups) for which she needs the services of a male who plays no other part in family life (males have their own territories which can stretch for 130 yards, overlapping those of two or three females). The current fighting observed at Brook Meadow is presumably part of the 'end of winter house clearance' but may include an element of a senior daughter trying to oust her mother and to take over the running of the 'family business' - it is unlikely that a male was involved.

Hare: Another early sign of spring was seen in the Arun river valley area near Burpham, also on Feb 15, when birders seeking the Rough Legged Buzzard saw six Hares active in the fields.

Frogspawn: Frogs have been back in breeding ponds for some time now (my first record for this year was a local report of them on Jan 24) but I had seen no reports of spawn until the end of the recent cold snap which brought news of spawn seen in a Waterlooville pond on Feb 18

Adder: Although there have been at least five reports of Adders out sunbathing on the cliffs at Durlston since Jan 8 (and one from the Rother Valley in East Sussex on Jan 28) a further report of them out at Durlston on Feb 12 during the cold snap was surprising.

Common Starfish (Asterias rubens): We recently heard of various sea creatures being washed up by storms in the Rye Bay area but on Feb 15 the Devon Birding blog mentioned a massive wreck of Starfish in the Budleigh Salterton area (Exe estuary) and the entries for Feb 15 included an eye-catching photo by Martin Cox of what I think to be a Black-headed Gull holding a Starfish in its bill with all five arms of the star symmetrically displayed around the bill and a vacant look in the gull's eye as if unable to decide which of the five arms should go down first. To see it go to http://devonbirdnews.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2012-02-17T14:42:00Z and scroll down the the Feb 15 entry

ENDWEEK

(Back to start of current Week)


Wildlife diary and news for Feb 6 - 12 (Week 6 of 2012)

(Skip to previous week)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: A count of 1459 Red-throated off Thorpeness on the Suffolk coast on Feb 6 was impressive but the best we could do on the south coast was a report of 134 seen in Rye Bay off Pett Level on Feb 9 (that did not claim to be an exhaustive count) and a count of 24 off Worthing on Feb 11. Locally the Eling Black-throated remained at the head of Southampton Water and one was seen close in at Sandown Bay on the Isle of Wight on Feb 9 (Derek Hale's website directed me to http://wightvogels.blogspot.com/ for a photo of the bird and this made me aware that Kris Gillam is still providing a blog featuring the more exciting aspects of birding on the Isle of Wight). Great Northern were still scattered in small numbers along the south coast and on Feb 5 a White-billed re-appeared in Orkney (last seen around Jan 10 in Shetland)

Grebes: 318 Great Crested were seen in Rye Bay from Pett on Feb 9 and 133 were off Torbay in Devon on Feb 5 but for numbers the Netherlands had 3000 all together at one site on Feb 9. Single Red-necked were in the mouth of Southampton Water, at Weymouth Bay and Shell Bay (Studland) in Dorset, and in the Kent Stour valley during the week with a peak of 11 at a Netherlands site on Feb 11. Slavonian were seen at eight sites during the week with a peak of three off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 9 (three also seen in the Fleet in Dorset as well as in the Scillies) but the peak was 5 off Pagham Harbour on Feb 4. Black-necked were more widespread (11 sites) and more numerous (62 in Carrick Roads at Falmouth, 18 in the Dorset Studland area and 13 off the Hayling Oysterbeds)

Fulmar: First reports of these back on breeding cliffs in the Brighton area (from Feb 5) and at Flamborough Head in Yorkshire)

Cormorant: This species rouses strong feelings both for and against among birders and fishermen and I am sure both would be excited by the sight of 16,000 birds at one Netherlands site on Feb 5

Bittern: Two birds have been seen on several occasions at the Blashford Lakes but Feb 5 brought the first report of three there (matching counts of three in Poole harbour/Hatch Pond both this week and back in January) but the new report which caught my eye this week was of one at the east end of the Sinah Gravel Pit lake on Hayling on Feb 9. Another first (at least for this year) was one at Shinewater Lake in Eastbourne on Feb 10 followed by 3 there on Feb 11

Cattle Egret: The last sighting of the bird at Warblington here in Havant was on Feb 6, followed by a sighting at Newhaven in Sussex on Feb 7 (that bird not refound) so I concluded that the Thorney/Warblington winter visit was over but I then saw that RBA had a report of one in Hampshire on Feb 9 (with no further confirmation of that sighting I am assuming it may have been a case of mistaken identity). P S The following report was on the SOS website as I completed this summary. Dated 12 Feb it read .. After dipping out on the Great White Egret that had been seen earlier, we instead lucked into a CATTLE EGRET in the field next to the car parking area on the Thornham Lane junction. It then flew off NE at 12.20, presumably back across the border to Warblington. (A & P Bowley).

Great White Egret: The Great Deeps bird on Thorney Island was seen on both Feb 5 and 7 but on neither occasion was it at the west end (once seen from the Guard Post on the main road and once from Thornham Lane). Another bird was at Folkestone up to Feb 11 at least and two were seen together at Sutton Bingham on the Dorset/Somerset border close to Yeovil on both Feb 6 and 10

Grey Heron: Some had been seen back at their nests at Weir Wood reservoir in East Sussex as early as Jan 25 and this week we have a further report of birds at their nests at Powderham on the Exe estuary on Feb 5

Glossy Ibis: 13 birds were still in Glamorgan on Feb 9 but the only other current reports are of a single bird seen regularly at Thurlstone in South Devon and a second hand report of one at Barnham in West Sussex on Feb 11

Brent Goose: 1360 were still on the Lymington Marshes on Feb 7 followed by reports of 850 in the Brownwich area west of Titchfield Haven on Feb 7, 414 in Cams Bay near Fareham on Feb 8 and 300+ on the Thorney Great Deeps on Feb 9. The WeBS count at Wittering in Chichester Harbour on Feb 11 recorded only 500 birds with the comment that the number was very low for February.

Black Brant: One in The Fleet near Weymouth on Feb 5 and one on south Hayling fields on Feb 9

Red-breasted Goose: The Exe estuary bird was still there on Feb 10 when another was still being reported from Suffolk

Mandarin Duck: A sighting of 15 on an unfrozen pond near Kingsley in East Hampshire on Feb 4 reminded me that large numbers of these can be seen on some Hampshire waters - the 2010 Hampshire Bird Report gave counts of 80 at Headley Mill Pond (nr Newbury) in Jan 2010, 36 at Liss Forest in East Hants in Sept 2010 and 34 at Sowley Pond near Lymington in that same month. Another current winter gathering of 35+ was reported at Buckfastleigh in Devon on Feb 10

Ducks at Chichester Lakes: On Feb 10 Andrew House visited the Chichester Lakes and reported that .. "Estimates were difficult, but conservatively there were 800 Shoveler - 400 on Westhampnett Pit and another 300 on Ivy Lake, plus others scattered about on other pits, 500+ Gadwall spread around the pits, 200+ Pochard, 500+ Tufted duck, 50 Teal and 100 Mallard, and too many Coots to count!

Goldeneye: A total of 37could be seen in the north east of Langstone Harbour from Budds Mound on Feb 10

Hooded Merganser: The bird of unknown origin that appeared at Weymouth on June 2008 was still in that area on Jan 2 this year but has not been reported since. This week RBA report that one was seen somewhere in Kent on Feb 10

Smew: On Feb 5 a count of 216 was reported from one Netherlands site and on Feb 7 RBA reported a total of at least 115 in the UK including 34 in Norfolk. In southern England the Testwood Lakes near Southampton have had 3, the Vyne Lake near Basingstoke has had 2 and one has been at the Pagham Lagoon while one has flown as far west as Bodmin Moor

Stone Curlew: A report for Feb 12 on the SOS website gives a confident account of a Stone Curlew watched for 10 minutes in a field at TQ 051047 near Angmering (south east of Arundel) and then seen to fly a short distance south, apparently landing in another field but not seen again there. Although Stone Curlews are among the earliest migrants to arrive (around mid-March) I would guess that this bird may have been wintering here as was assumed for the bird found in a Hayling Island stubble field on Feb 5 in 2006 and staying there for five days. There have been Hampshire wintering records in Dec 1972 and Dec 1974 and assumed early migrant records for Feb 25 in 1938 and Feb 28 in 1960

Golden Plover: A flock of 490 seen on the Hayling Island West Lane fields on Feb 4 has not been reported since so probably consisted of birds pausing briefly on a long journey to the south west in the hope of escaping cold weather. This week there were 300 at Newhaven and 800 at Rye Harbour on Feb 7 with 1000 at Maiden Castle near Dorchester in Dorset on Feb 9

Knot: The exceptionally large numbers feeding in the Emsworth/Warblington area increased to 930 on Feb 5 and remained at around 950 to Feb 10 at least

Black-tailed Godwit: The Christchurch Harbour (CHOG) website on Feb 9 recorded an observation of a Crow killing a Black-tailed Godwit for no apparent reason. The Godwits there were said to always be wary of Crows but this interaction between the species is not something I have heard of elsewhere or observed here in Chichester Harbour where there are often groups of both species exceeding 100 of each.

Curlew Sandpiper: One was found dead on the beach at Sandwich Bay on Feb 7 (very unusual for the time of year)

Woodcock: Large numbers have been pouring into southern England to escape the low temperatures on the continent and there have been several sightings in unusual locations such as the one that was seen under a streetlamp in an urban Sussex street by someone who woke at 4am on Feb 6 and looked out of their window. Feb 6 brought a count of 61 to Sandwich Bay bird observatory followed by 47 there on Feb 7 and 67 on Feb 8. Dungeness had 15 on Feb 9 but the majority of the 38 reports I have seen this week were of one or few birds well away from birding hotspots

Med Gull: Pre-breeding flocks are now starting to build up in the expected places with more than 95 around Pagham Village on Feb 9 and 440 at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) on Feb 8

Shore Lark: Still present at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Feb 11

Waxwing: A report of two seen in Hill Head village (adjacent to Titchfield Haven) on Feb 6 has not been followed by further sightings.

Continental Thrushes: Cold weather on the continent has brought many into southern England. Reculver on the north Kent coast had a flock of 60 Blackbirds on Feb 6, the Kent Stour valley had 2000 Fieldfares on Feb 5 (locally a flock of 15 were in Havant on Feb 8), more than 50 Song Thrushes were seen together in the Kent Thanet area on Feb 7, 22 reports of Redwing during the week included included 250 at Petworth near Pulborough on Feb 9 after 150 flew west over Thanet on Feb 5 (when more than 30 were in north Emsworth)

Blackbird song: One heard in my Havant garden at dusk on Feb 6 and another heard at dawn on Feb 8 in Brian Fellows' Emsworth garden.

Paddyfield Warbler: Still being seen at the Pagham Harbour north walls up to Feb 12 at least

Firecrest: Goldcrest have been seen in the small Nore Barn woodland at Emsworth for some time but this week there have also been two sightings of a single Firecrest there on Feb 10 and 11. In Devon Abbotsbury still had more than 7 on Feb 4

Corvid roost in Gosport area: On Feb 10 Peter Raby spent an hour at dusk counting corvids entering their long established winter roost in Elson Wood (SU 593030) on the northwest shore of Portsmouth Harbour. There is no public access to the wood which is within the securely defended naval armaments depot known variously as the Bedenham/Frater or Defence Munitions site but Peter was able to watch the birds from Aerodrome Road (to avoid arrest by the military police it would be as well to check in at their guard post before loitering with intent to watch birds from anywhere near the perimeter of the site!). His counts were of 1689 mixed Crows and Rooks plus 201 Jackdaws and 106 Magpies

Rook: These are now returning to their rookeries and on Feb 6 I noted at least 20 pairs around the nests at Northney (SU 729 036) on Hayling Island (casual count while cycling by) with others back at the Emsworth Rookery (SU 740 062 in trees behind council flats at the east end of Victoria Road) on Feb 9

Snow Bunting: It would seem that continental temperatures have fallen too low even for Snow Buntings with the result that 40 emigrants appeared on the beach at Sandwich Bay on Feb 7. Locally the small group of 4 which flew from East Head on the Sussex side of the Chichester Harbour entrance across to the Hayling Island lifeboat station area on Feb 2 were still there on Feb 9

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Species reported this week:

Late news of a single Red Admiral seen in Gosport on Jan 28

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

672 Parsnip Moth Depressaria/pastinacella heraclei woken from hibernation on Feb 4 when logs were brought into a Dorset house - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1832

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0672.php

The only other report this week was of Fox Moth caterpillars sunning themselves on South Dartmoor in Feb 7

Other Insects:

No reports this week

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Greater Periwinkle var Oxyloba: The first flower of this variant which has deep blue propelle shaped petals was out in Daw Lane on Hayling Island on Feb 6

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Earthworms: Thanks to a mention of them on the Durlston website this week I was introduced to the Earthworm Society of Great Britain and to Earthworm ecology via http://www.earthwormsoc.org.uk/earthworm-information/earthworm-information-page-2 where the Worm Kingdom is divided into four groups - Compost Earthwoms, Epigeic Earthworms, Endogeic Earthworms and Anecic Earthworms. The first group are the fast working converters of plant waste into soil (you buy pack of them to start your compost bin and providing you keep supplying them with organic matter they provide a self sustaining supply of baby worms to support the soil producing process without further 'fuel'). There are three main species in this group which can be recognized by having an overall rich red-brown colour which on closer inspection can be seen to be divided into alternating brown and pale bands along the length of the body.

Epigeic worms are divided into at least ten species which live in leaf litter and do not burrow into the soil. Their colour can vary from rich brown to pale whitish but they never have the banded/striped colour pattern of the Compost worms

Endogeic worms live in and eat soil and come in a variety of colours (mostly pale) while the Anecic worms (also known as Lob worms) are leaf eaters and make vertical burrows, coming up at night to grab a leaf and pull it down into their burrow - as they are slow workers you can often find the ends of the leaves still sticking up vertically above the soil when you go for an early morning walk (especially after a rainy night). To increase their pulling power they swell their tails until they become jammed in the tunnel, leaving the head end free to pull the leaf down into the burrow, These Anecic worms are the largest and strongest species and have dark brown bodies, darkest at the head end and paler at the tail. They excrete what's left of the chewed leaves in 'worm casts' that can be found on the surface near the entrance to their permanent burrows.

If, like me, you have ever wondered why worms sometimes have what looks like a bandage round their bodies halfway along them have a look at http://www.earthwormsoc.org.uk/earthworm-identification/earthworm-identification-page-1 which will show you that this structure is called a 'saddle' and does not go all round the body but to find out the purpose of this structure you have to visit http://www.cocoon.org/cocoon-articles/earthworm-cocoon.shtml and read about earthworm reproduction (all worms are hermaphrodite and when sexually mature separate pores in the body exude eggs and sperm, the saddle then moves forward along the body, gathering up the eggs and sperm - the saddle continues to move forward until if comes off the head of the worm to become a 'cocoon' in which up to 20 baby worms develop - some worms can repeat this process up to 70 times in a year) Another thing that I have learnt is that the burrowing worms have tiny bristles on each segment to assist in gripping the sides of the burrow when moving through it.

For photos of eleven of the 26 species of British Earthworms see http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/other-invertebrates/earthworm-slideshow/ and if you want to pursue your interest visit http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/other-invertebrates/british-earthworms/index.html

Fungi: Just one species caught my eye this week when walking past a couple of dying Horse Chestnut trees in Havant Park close to Market Parade. These whitish brackets run up the sides of the trees and are a I think young specimens of Trametes gibbosa which have not yet acquired the greenish colour to their topsides which come from the growth of algas as the brackets age.

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Jan 30 - Feb 5 (Week 05 of 2012)

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BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Red-headed were seen on the move all along our south coast this week with a peak count of 400 going east off Dungeness on Feb 3. Maybe some of the Black-throated thought it was time to head south, bringing a peak count of 36 from Jersey on Feb 4 (though the Southampton Water bird remained there going no further south than Mayflower Park before returning to Eling). Maybe also on their way south were a group of 8 off The Lizard in Cornwall on Jan 28 though 7 were still nearby at Gerrans Bay on Feb 2. Great Northern were in the minority this week with a peak of just 5 off Jersey on Jan 29 when 4 were seen at Selsey.

Grebes: More than 2000 Great Crested were off Dungeness on Jan 29 after last week's peak of 2500 there on Jan 27. Single Red-necked were reported at Studland Bay on Jan 28 and in Southampton Water on Feb 4. Selsey Bill had 5 Slavonian on Jan 29 while Hampshire had just one off Lymington on Feb 4. Two Black-necked were off Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 29 when another two were off Calshot in Southampton Water and 11 were in Portland Harbour but the big flock of 40+ were still off Feock near Falmouth, also on Jan 29

Shag: One was near the Hayling Ferry on Jan 29 but may not be there much longer as on Feb 2 a couple of birds were seen bringing nest material to the cliffs at Durlston

Cattle Egret: The Warblington bird was still pressent on Feb 1 but has not been reported since.

Great White Egret: The bird which was first seen at the west end of the Great Deeps on Thorney Island on Jan 29 has been seen there again on both Feb 2 and 3. Also on Feb 2 two different birds were at Radipole (Weymouth) and other singles were seen during the week in Kent and Cornwall.

Glossy Ibis: Although one has been at Bembridge on the Isle of Wight from Jan 20 to Feb 4 at least and others have been reported this week at Wadebridge in Cornwall, Lodmoor in Dorset and the Stour Valley in Kent, these birds have been heading to Pembrokeshire in Wales where 23 were seen together on Feb 2 when a UK Total of 30 birds was listed by RBA.

Spoonbill: At least 15 (maybe 25) were in the Bideford area of North Devon on Jan 29 while a separate flock of at least 11 (maybe 15) was in Poole Harbour and one was still in the Plymouth area roosting on Drake Island.

Canada Goose: Plenty of these still to be seen in large flocks but at least one pair had flown off to claim a nest territory on Budds Farm pools at Havant on Feb 1

Brent Goose: Although spring passage of birds leaving their winter quarters has been underway fairly continuously since mid January (365 east past Dungeness on Jan 14 with 1150 going east past Sandy Point on Hayling on Jan 15) we can expect to see small flocks still passing at the end of March and into April and the variation in numbers seen at any one site currently shows the effect of birds making relatively short overnight flights to settle and feed in different areas each day. Another reflection of this movement was shown on Feb 3 when a single Brent (which had presumably lost contact with the flock with which it was travelling) touched down for no more than 30 minutes at Alresford Pond (well north of Winchester up the River Itchen) before resuming the search for its travelling companions. PS - the bird apparently gave up the search and returned to the pond where it appeared settled on Feb 5

Red-breasted Goose: It would seem this has not yet felt the urge to move east and it was still on the Exminster Marshes near Exeter in Devon on Feb 3

Pintail: A flock of 76 were in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Feb 1

Wigeon: The number at Rye Harbour on the morning of Feb 4 had shot up to 900 while over in the Netherlands one site had a count of 3242

Teal: Rodden Hive (on the Fleet in Dorset) had an estimated 1100 on Feb 3

Smew: Numbers have shot up following the great freeze in central Europe. In southern England the number at Dungeness reached 17 on Feb 3 when there were 3 on the Testwood Lakes near Southampton with two more further west at Blashford and Longham Lakes. In the Netherlands there were at least 26 on Feb 3, 55 on Feb 4 and 159 on Feb 5 (possibly around 350 if we add all the Trektellen reports for that day together). In Hampshire 2 were reported on Feb 5 at a new site (the Vyne near Basingstoke).

Marbled Duck: A new species (albeit a presumed escapee) reported on Feb 4 was a single Marbled Duck on the lake at Petworth near Pulborough. The only report of this species which I saw last year was of one on Arlington Reservoir in Sussex from July 3 to 9 and I see that one was thought by some to be a wild vagrant which had been 'grounded' after injuring its left leg. The species does have seven small breeding colonies in Europe including sites in Spain and Italy and at least one turns up in the UK in most years.

Rough-legged Buzzard: The long staying bird in the Arun valley near Burpham was last reported on Jan 30

Dotterel: The single bird which was found with Golden Plover at Dungeness on Jan 25 was last reported there on Jan 30

Golden Plover: Although there have been the usual large flocks of these birds in the Chichester Harbour area since last August the only reports from the west side of Hayling Island have been of a recent fly over flock and one small flock of around 20 birds on the Langstone village shore on Dec 3 so a sighting of some 40 birds in fields on the east side of the coastal path close to West Town Station by the Havant Wildlife Group on Feb 4 was significant. PS Tim Lawman, who lives close by, saw 490 Golden Plover on the West Lane fields on Feb 4 so perhaps the 40 seen from the Coastal Path brought the total to over 500?

Knot: The birds which have taken to feeding on the Emsworth shore this winter reached a peak count of 510 on Jan 29 though there were around 350 there on Feb 3. After writing this I see that Brian Fellows had over 600 there on Feb 4

Little Stint: The long staying bird in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester (usually seen where the R Lavant flows into the channel) was still there on Feb 1

Long-billed Dowitcher: Two which turned up at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Jan 2 were not seen there after Jan 12 but on Feb 2 one was again at Lodmoor and on Feb 3 one was reported at Rodden Hive (only 5 miles north west of Lodmoor)

Woodcock: The cold weather has brought the usual burst of sightings in unexpected places including one which flew into a building at the Gunwharf Quays in Portsmouth on Feb 2 and was taken to Brent Lodge animal hospital by John Goodspeed. Further local sightings on Feb 3 were at Sandy Point on Hayling and in the St Ann's Hill cemetery at Gosport while Feb 4 brought one to Oxley's Coppice on the southwest fringe of the Fareham built up area. Also on Feb 4 three birds arrived at Rye Harbour and 10 were seen at one Netherlands site that day.

Bar-tailed Godwit: A flock of more than 225 were seen in the Sword Sands area of Langstone Harbour on Feb 2 by an observer looking from the Eastern Road into Portsmouth.

Spotted Sandpiper: Up to Jan 29 there had been regular reports of a juvenile in the Lyme Regis area of Dorset and an adult in the Chew Valley Lake in Avon but since then I have only seen reports of one which arrived at Christchurch Harbour on Feb 1 and was still there on Feb 4

Wood Pigeon: An eggshell on the ground under a nest near Petersfield on Feb 1 was probably the mark of an inauspicous birth for a featherless squab to appear in this world but Collared Doves have also been indulging in similar folly with reports of an eggshell found in the Winchester area on Feb 1 after earlier young managed to fledge from a Southampton nest on Jan 23

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: One was drumming at Fleet Pond in north east Hampshire on Jan 29

Woodlark: Song heard at a New Forest breeding site on Jan 29

Shorelark: The Hayling Oysterbeds bird was still present on Feb 4

Swallow: After the sighting of one at a Cornish sewage works on Jan 19 there has been another sighting at Camborne in Cornwall on Feb 1

Rock Pipit: There are several local sites in the Havant area where I expect to see these birds each winter but this month we seem to have added a new site at Nore Barn at the west end of the Emsworth shore. I first saw one there on Jan 14 and it was seen again there on both Feb 2 and 3 with Brian Fellows getting photos of it on the lattter day. Several features distinguished it from Meadow Pipit without a close look at its plumage (the call is quieter and more 'fuzzy' and when put up it tends to fly low and pitch nearby where a Meadow Pipit would climb steeply into the sky making sharper calls before disappearing into the distance) but for completeness it would be nice to know if it was of the 'petrosus' or 'litoralis' subspecies and recent discussion has brought out a simple rule by which you can start to separate the races merely by the habitat in which you find them - 'petrosus' tend to be found on rocky shores, 'litoralis' on softer shores typical of the Solent harbours. To go further you need a good look at the bird (and Brian Fellows has a couple of photos of the Nore Barn bird in the Feb 3 pages of his Diary at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm ) Before looking at the photos you can learn what to look for from a page on the Christchurch Harbour website at http://www.chog.org.uk/Features/Rock%20Pipit%20February%202008.htm which tells you that the standard petrosus birds have rich brown upperparts (including the nape) where litoralis birds are greyer with a hint of blue; petrosus also has a bolder eyestripe extending behind the eye and tends to have blacker legs (litoralis legs can be light brown to reddish); finally at this stage try to check the colour of the outer tail feathers which are likely to be white on petrosus and 'dirtier' on litoralis. None of these features are absolute guides - plumage varies with time of year and from bird to bird (having learnt a rule from one source the illustration in the next source you look at is likely to contradict it!)

Waxwing: It seems unlikely that we will see these in the numbers that we did last winter (when Romsey had 262 birds on Jan 7) but quite a few arrived here from October onward (though in very small groups) and by Dec 10 Lee Evans told us that the total in the UK was just 70 birds and that they were all in Suffolk. Since then I have seen one final report for 2011 of just 3 birds in a Waitrose carpark at Newark (Notts) on Dec 22. This year Lee Evans upped his estimate of the birds in Suffolk to 100 on Jan 2 and that has been followed by news of 1 in the Netherlands on Jan 13, then one flying from Surrey into Sussex (heading for Crawley) on Feb 3 with another report of one bird in the Netherlands on Feb 4

Ring Ouzel: Back in the 1980s I once saw one that was wintering in the New Forest and it seems that one has been doing so in Sussex this winter but the only clue to its current whereabouts is that it was photographed in a garden somewhere near Chichester in the last few days of January (the photo proves its id)

Black-throated Thrush: The only report of the species for this winter comes from someone who saw it on Feb 2 during a seven hour walk from Killarney in Ireland to to an unspecified remote spot high in a mountain area - he suggests that it is not worth the effort of making the trip to try to refind it!

Fieldfare: The current cold weather has brought a significant increase in sightings of winter thrushes but as yet they are not being forced into our towns and gardens. Some of this week's reports have been of 220 at Badminston Common near Fawley in the New Forest on Jan 28, 700 near Firle on the Sussex Downs on Jan 29, 250 at Burpham near Arundel on Jan 30 and 300+ in the Beckley Woods north of Hastings on Jan 31 with 75 at Swanmore in the Meon Valley on Feb 1

Redwing: The highest counts this week have been 200 at Swanmore in the Meon Valley on Feb 1 and 100 in the Petworth area on Feb 3

Paddyfield Warbler: One was found by the Pagham North Walls on Jan 30 by Ivan Lang (one report suggests that it may have been in that area since November) and it was still there on Feb 4 (after vanishing for a day on Feb 3). Ivan Lang is also in the news this week for keeping his job as Pagham Harbour reserve warden after the management of the site was transferred from West Sussex County Council to the RSPB on Feb 3

Great Grey Shrike: What appears to be a 'new' bird has been seen at Glynde village near Lewes from Jan 28 to 31 and on Jan 29 one was seen at another new site on Great Litchfield Down just east of the A34 north of Whitchurch

Chough: A sighting of 4 on The Lizard in Cornwall was reported on Jan 28 and another of 2 birds was made at Newquay on the north coast of Cornwall on Jan 31 - I'm not sure of the significance of these reports but guess they may be birds returning to breeding sites after wintering elsewhere.

Brambling: Cold weather seems to have brought a few more into southern England with reports of a big flock on Black Down near Haslemere, a flock of around 50 to the QE country park near Petersfield, and 20+ in the Petworth area

Common (Mealy) Redpoll: Two were seen at Fleet Pond in north east Hampshire on Jan 29

Common Crossbill: A reminder that these birds start breeding at this time of year to take advantage of the early stages of the growth of fir cones to feed their young before the cones become too woody comes with a note from twitchers seeking the Parrot Crossbill at Black Down near Haslemere who heard many of the Common Crossbills singing (the song is said to be like that of Greenfinch intermixed with Crossbill 'Chups'

Parrot Crossbil: Reports of this rarity have continued to Feb 2 at least though I am not sure if the purists have accepted the bird as full blooded Parrot - if it is accepted it will be the first to be seen in Sussex since March 1870

Snow Bunting: The appearance of four birds close to the Hayling Island Lifeboat station at Sandy Point on Feb 2 presumably means that the birds previously at East Head just across the water have moved from Sussex to Hampshire (and remained there)

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

0688 Common Flatbody Agonopterix heracliana found at Tincleton (between Wareham and Dorchester in Dorset) on Jan 24 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=755

This was just one of 18 species trapped at Tincleton on Jan 24 and is one of two which appear here by right of being new for the year as far as my records are concerned.

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0688.php

1934 Dotted Border Agriopis marginaria found at East Lulworth (in Dorset) on Jan 25 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3940

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1934.php

1984 Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum found by day at Chickerell (in Dorset) on Feb 1 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2198

This is not a first for the year - one had been seen at Portland on Jan 18 (also by day) - and both could be migrants but are more likely to be insects which attempted to hibernate here (some of the species do hibernate successfully) but which had been disturbed or warmed up too early

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1984.php

2182 Small Quaker Orthosia cruda trapped at East Lulworth (in Dorset) on Jan 23 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=347

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2182.php

2236 Pale Pinion Lithophane hepatica trapped at Chickerell (in Dorset) on Jan 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2448

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2236.php

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Marsh Marigold (Caltha palustris): Two plants flowering at the Langstone South Moors site on Feb 1

Common fumitory (Fumaria officinalis): Still flowering on Budds Mound in Havant on Feb 1

Danish scurvygrass (Cochlearia danica): Not yet flowering but the first roadside leaves were seen on Feb 1 and a liberal scattering of road salt plus sufficient precipitation to moisten the ground should bring the plants into flower when the cold snap ends

Great Herb Robert (Geranium reuteri): Still no word from the experts but the plant assumed to bear this name was still flowering in Havant on Feb 1

Red clover (Trifolium pratense): Common enough for most of the year but noteworthy to find it flowering on Feb 1

Small nettle (Urtica urens): Still flowering and in a healthy state on Budds Mound in Havant on Feb 1

White comfrey (Symphytum orientale): The only genuine 'first flower' for the year found this week. Several plants flowering beside the small stream taking the water from the Homewell spring in Havant down through 'The Parchment' housing to join the Langbrook Stream

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Deer: On Feb 1 Fallow bucks were seen sparring at Pulborough Brooks. As the rutting season is now over and Fallow will soon be casting their antlers (in April or May) I assume this is either a reflection of friction brought on by overcrowding in this population or perhaps just playfulness. Down at Durlston the Roe Bucks already have their new antlers 'in velvet' and will have cast last year's antlers before Christmas

Squirrels: Neither Grey nor Red Squirrels hibernate though they do build winter dreys in which to shelter from bad weather and they are less often seen in winter months though on Feb 2 seven Red Squirrels were seen together at Binstead on the Isle of Wight. On the mainland there was another report of a 'white' Grey Squirrel from Frogmore Lane in Waterlooville (at the Horndean end where it is not uncommon to see two at a time)

Adder: A report of one out sunbathing in the Rother valley woods north of Hastings on Jan 28 was not unexpected (after a series of such reports from Durlston recently) but frosts since then make a further report from Durlston on Feb 3 more noteworthy

Frogs: Following news last week that Frogs were already back in at least one Waterlooville pond I see this week that they were present in a Cosham pond at the foot of Portsdown on Feb 3

Beach life: A survey of beach litter in the Rye Harbour area this week found (in addition to the rubbish) egg cases of Thornback Ray, Blonde Ray, Undulate Ray and the bodies of many Green Sea Urchins washed up by recent storms

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Jan 23 - 29 (Week 4 of 2012)

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In this week which celebrates the 70th anniversary of Desert Island Disks I wonder how many of you know that the unforgettable signature tune was inspired by the view over the sea from Selsey to Bognor? If you cannot believe that Bognor could inspire anyone to compose such a pleasant tune have a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/By_the_Sleepy_Lagoon Birders familiar with the east shore at Selsey will no doubt have seen the plaque commemorating the association of the vew with the tune.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: No big numbers this week (max 7 Red-throated off Portland on Jan 25) but at least one of these was still in Langstone Harbour on Jan 23 and another in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Jan 24. The Black-throated was still at the head of Southampton Water at the start of the week and two Great Northern were in Poole Harbour on Jan 26.

Great Crested Grebe: Although 1000 had been seen flying east off Dungeness on Jan 14 last week the reports this week showed that many had remained in the Dungenesss area with more than 1000 seen on Jan 25 and 2500 on Jan 27

Slavonian Grebe: Just two on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Jan 25 with just one in the Lymington area this week

Black-necked Grebe: Two were still to be seen off the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 28 and the high count for the week was of just 14 in Portland Harbour on Jan 22

Cormorant: For fans of this species there was a parade of 127 on the saltings near the mouth of Pagham Harbour on Jan 27 but those who travelled to Dungeness to see them at work on Jan 25 could have counted 725

Cattle Egret: The Warblington Farm bird was still in the area on Jan 28

Little Egret: Passing Langstone Pond soon after sunset on Jan 24 I could only see 7 (possibly 8) there in the leafless trees. Having seen more than one bird already sporting long breeding plumes it will not be long before the numbers based here will increase significantly.

Great White Egret: One flew over Fleet Pond in north Hampshire on Jan 23 when one was also unexpectedly seen on the beach at Rye Harbour but more regular birds were seen at Dungeness and Sandwich Bay later in the week. No reports from the Blashford Lakes since Jan 9

Late news - see Brian Fellows website ( http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm ) for a photo of a Great White Egret seen on Jan 29 at the west end of the Thorney Great Deeps

Grey Heron: These early breeding birds were already back at nests at Weir Wood reservoir on Jan 25 - the report was of 7 birds but I'm not sure if they were singles or pairs.

Glossy Ibis: One was seen at Christchurch Harbour on Jan 24, 25 and 27 but I have no idea where it spent the rest of its time (the only other sites at which they have been reported in southern England since Jan 1 have been in the Kent Stour Valley, Devon and Cornwall)

Bewick's Swan: A flock of just over 30 remains in the Arun valley with another 6 in the Hampshire Avon valley near Ringwood but this week's news is the first report for the year of a flock on the Romney Marshes in Kent - it comes from Dungeness where a flock of more than 50 flew in to roost on the evening of Jan 27

Cackling Canada Goose: One of the 'half size' Canada Goose races put in an appearance at the Lower Test Marshes near Southampton on Jan 27

Brent Goose: There were still around 1500 in the West Lane fields on Hayling Island on Jan 23 when another 1191 were reported in the Titchfield area but by Jan 26 I could only find 300 in the area between Langstone and Emsworth. Flocks heading east past Dungeness were recorded as numbering 2262 birds on Jan 25 and 1030 on Jan 26

Late news - see Brian Fellows website ( http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm ) for news of a large flock of around 900 birds which appeared on the Emsworth western shoreline on Jan 29

Black Brant: One seen in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 22

Red Breasted Goose: The Exminster Marshes bird was still with Brent in Devon on Jan 21

Pintail: Larger than usual counts of 15 at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 23, 19 at Christchurch Harbour on Jan 25 and around 50 in Langstone Harbour on Jan 28 probably indicate an eastward movement of these birds during the week (though there had been 129 on the Thorney Great Deeps back on Jan 14). There is some support for this in a report from Dungeness of 37 Wigeon on their way east on Jan 25

Fudge Duck (male hybrid Ferruginous x Pochard): Seen again on Budds Farm pools in Havant by Richard Ford on Jan 29

Sparrowhawk: An increase in sightings this week may be the result of birds starting to patrol the boundaries of their breeding territories - one doing so over Havant close to my house gave me my first year-list tick on Jan 28 (the bird was probably a female as it flew in a level and leisurely fashion at a fair height - not the roller coaster territorial flight of a male)

Rough-legged Buzzard: The Arun valley bird was still present near Burpham on Jan 27 when seven birds were reported by RBA to be still in the UK

Grey Partridge: Also in the Burpham area on Jan 27 these Partridges were reported to be 'singing and calling in most fields'.

Common Crane: One was in the Frome valley between Wareham and Dorchester (near Bovington) between Jan 20 and 25, making a trip downstream to visit the Arne area on Jan 22 (but not I think as far east as Rye Harbour where one was overhead on Jan 23)

Dotterel: The first report for the year is of one among a flock of Golden Plover at Dungeness on Jan 25 and 26

Knot: 250 Knot feeding in the Nore Barn area (west end of Emsworth shore) on Jan 26 was a record count for the area

Late news - see Brian Fellows website ( http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm ) for news of a record count of around 510 Knot on the Emsworth western shore on Jan 29

Black-tailed Godwit: Also at Nore Barn on Jan 26 Brian Fellows counted 148 Godwits and noted that many of them were exhibiting the 'water squirting' behaviour which he sees and photographs regularly but which none of the experts on the behaviour of these birds has noticed (and so cannot explain).

Lesser Yellowlegs: On Jan 26 Lee Evans made a birding trip to the south coast which included a visit to Burnham on Sea in Somerset to see the Lesser Yellowlegs which has been there since at least Jan 1

Spotted Sandpiper: On Jan 26 Lee Evans also reported the continuing presence of two of these - an adult at Chew Valley Lake in Avon and a juvenile in the Lyme Regis area of the Dorset coast

Grey Phalarope: I thought their autumn passage had finished on Jan 12 when one was seen at Splash Point on the East Sussex coast but Jan 27 brought a further report of one on the Netherlands coast

Wood Pigeon: Listening to Radio 4 farming programme early on Saturday morning I heard a farmer (I think based in Northamptonshire) saying that his Rape crop was flourishing in the mild weather and that he had been surprised that it had not been damaged by Woodpigeons which seemed to be finding plenty to eat in the hedgerows - I hope that does not mean that when the impending cold period does reach us there is nothing left in the hedges for the winter Thrushes.

Little Owl: A phone call from Nottingham asking for confirmation that the sounds which the caller was imitating were indicative of a Little Owl heard near his home reminded me that it was on Jan 11 last year that I heard the pair that reside in the Stoke Common area (across the Hayling Coastal path from the Oysterbeds) calling to each other as they re-established their bonds and territory. So this is a good time to keep your ears open for them.

Hoopoe: A report of one on a waste tip at Pendeen in Cornwall on Jan 25 was unexpected

Swallow: Another unexpected report was of one Swallow seen over sewage works at Helston in Cornwall on Jan 19 and that was followed by a second report from the Brading area of the Isle of Wight on Jan 25 (though this was reported as possible only)

Shore Lark: I was delighted to see the Hayling Oysterbeds bird on Jan 23. I gather it has been there since at least Jan 11 and was still there on Jan 28

Rock Pipit: Song heard on Jan 25 at both Portsmouth Dockyard and Durlston

Grey Wagtail: Also singing in Portsmouth Dockyard on Jan 25 and seen in central Havant flying up from the Homewell spring pool to perch on a roof top (likely to breed in that area)

Mistle Thrush: The bird which I saw in the field north of Langstone Pond on Dec 31 was heard singing and seen there on Jan 25

Spanish Sparrow: The Calshot bird was still present on Jan 28

Common Crossbill: Several recent sightings in Havant Thicket this week - if you are not familiar with the look of Norway Spruce (cigar shaped) cones after they have been stripped by Crossbills see my photo on my Diary page

Dark-eyed Junco: No reports from Hawkhill Inclosure off Beaulieu Heath since Jan 24 but a sighting was claimed on Jan 29 from a new site in Bolderwood (some 7 km north and 11 km west of Hawkshill Inclosure)

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Species reported this week:

Red Admiral: Three reports this week, all from Sussex

Peacock: One found on Jan 24 in a garage at Coldwaltham near Pulborough. It was fluttering around a striplight which had just been switched on and when the doors were open it flew out into the daylight

Moths:

I have not heard of any new species for the year seen this week

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Yellow Dung-Fly: One seen by Brian Fellows on Jan 25 on a Hogweed umbel in Brook Meadow at Emsworth (hoping for other smaller insects to be attracted there as prey)

Western Conifer Seed Bug: This large insect is now established in Britain and one turned up at the Portland Bird Observatory on Jan 23. Last year the majority of sightings came between August and October but one was found in John Goodspeed's house on Portsdown as early as Feb 9

Spider Silk: Just in case you have managed to miss the recent TV programs showing how the extraordinary qualities of spider silk (strength, light weight and natural colour) have been harnassed for human advantage here is a brief run down on what I have learnt about the subject.

First there is the beauty of the cape now on show at the V & A Museum. For a picture of the Cape and a very brief explanation of how it was created see http://www.newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2012/01/the-science-of-the-spider-silk.html and for the video which was broadcast on BBC News see http://abcnews.go.com/International/video/million-spiders-produce-golden-cape-15430504

That silk for that cape was produced by real spiders in Madagascar but it will never be practical to collect the silk directly from spiders so the second approach has been to extract silk-making genes (the silk is a protein) from the spiders and transfer them to silkworms, causing the silk which they spin into their cocoons to have the qualities of spider silk. Once a genetically modified species of silkworm (and the moth of which the silkworm is the larva) have been established the better quality silk can be obtained by the age old traditional method of silk making. It would seem that this technique still has a long way to go but I guess we will get there in the end. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-16399257

The third approach was the subject of a BBC Horizon programme and you can see a short video clip summarising the project at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00nc1ng The technique shown in this episode is to introduce the spider silk protein gene into otherwise normal goats and then to extract the silk from the goats milk by some secret technique which can be turned into an industrial process with the silk output only limited by the milk supply

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Winter Aconite: This is the time of year when this lovely member of the Buttercup family flowers in many places where it has been naturalised (including the Bishop's Palace Gardens at Chichester) and I was reminded of this by seeing a single flower in a neglected garden in Havant's West St on the north side almost opposite the junction with Brockhampton Road on Jan 24

Field Pennycress: Both flowers and seeds could be seen in the roadside grass of Juniper Square in Havant on Jan 26

White Melilot: One plant still flowering on south Hayling on Jan 23

Blackthorn: The flowers which were out on Jan 1 on the Langstone shoreline between Wade Land and Pook Lane were still to be seen on Jan 26

Cherry Plum: Also on Jan 26 many buds were starting to open on trees in Pook Lane and one bud on a tree at the junction of Pook Lane with the shore was clearly showing the white of its petals

Three-cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum): First flowers for the year were found by Brian Fellows on Jan 24 in the Beacon Square roadside at Emsworth (close to the entrance to the allotments)

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Hedgehog: In a normal winter any Hedgehogs which had not gone into hibernation before Christmas would probably be dead by now but when I was cycling up Staunton Avenue from the south Hayling beach on Jan 23 I saw one very much alive and searching for worms or other food in the broad grass strip alongside the road. It was certainly not as big as these animals can be but looked big enough to survive if it could find food, though by the fact that it was searching in broad daylight I assume it was very hungry.

Frog: The first report of these 'active in a garden pond' came on Jan 24 from the Waterlooville area adjacent to Havant - not sure if 'active' means 'mating'

Adder: Adders were first reported to be basking in sunshine on the cliffs at Durlston on Jan 8 and a report of 'more than one' basking there on Jan 28 is the fourth such report for this year.

Heath Snail (Helicella itala): In last week's summary I wrote of Graeme Lyons' current interest in Snails and by co-incidence when I was cycling round south Hayling on Jan 23 I came on a small collection of the small whitish discoidal snails having one or more thin black bands suggesting the name 'Mint Humbug' snails which I have always used for them. That name is not very helpful as there are in fact two very similar species that are both common on the chalky soils of southern England and I learnt last summer that the way to separate them is to look at the underside where there is a gap (called an umbilicus or 'belly button') in the centre of the whorls of the shell. In one species (Heath Snail) the umbilicus is wide (around one third of the whole width of the shell) and in the other (Striped Snail, Cernuella virgata) it is much smaller. Both species are variable in size though not exceeding 18mm across. Sadly I had forgotten this when I saw these snails and so I have assigned them to the species which I found to be the commoner last summer!

Mice and Rats: On the early Radio 4 Farming programme on Saturday morning I heard that an effect of the recent mild weather has been to generate a plague of mice and rats on farms.

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Jan 16 - 22 (Week 3 of 2012)

(Skip to previous week)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Mild weather has not only encouraged Brent geese to start their spring passage early but has also produced a similar re-action in some seabirds. Birling Gap at the inland end of Beachy Head saw 81 Red-throated Divers flying east overhead on Jan 16 followed by another 62 on Jan 17. A similar hint of eastward passage was seen at both Portland and Christchurch Harbour, while a report of 1097 of these divers at a Netherlands site was probably the result of arrivals from the west. The winter resident Black-throated Diver was still in the Eling area at the head of Southampton Water on Jan 16 and three Great Northern were at the mouth of Southampton Water that day - one was in Langstone Harbour off the Milton shore on Jan 20

Great Crested Grebe: We have not heard much this winter of the very large rafts of these that are normally seen in the Rye Bay and Dungeness area but Jan 14 brought news from Dungeness of 1000 Great Crested already heading east with another 500 seen there on Jan 18

Red-necked Grebe: Two were seen off Newhaven on Jan 14 with one off Dungeness on Jan 16, one off the mouth of Langstone Harbour on Jan 17 (when it or another was also seen off the Gosport area from Gilkicker Point) and on Jan 18 one was seen in Shell Bay at Studland.

Slavonian Grebe: One was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on both Jan 17 and 20

Black-necked Grebe: The only big count this week was of 45 in the Feock area north of Falmouth but up to 17 were reported in Langstone Harbour by birders drawn to the Hayling Oysterbeds by the Shorelark. Portland Harbour had 13 on Jan 21.

Cormorant: If you are a fisherman who thinks that these birds are long overdue for a cull have a look at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-tnzWgADpXCo/TxsZtZYrYBI/AAAAAAAAANo/rRn2V2MaDwU/s400/cormorant%2526perch.jpg for a very greedy bird about to consume a large Perch

Cattle Egret: The Hampshire bird was still near Warblington Church on Jan 22

Glossy Ibis: Devon is still producing daily reports of these, not only from the Exminster and Thurlestone Marshes but surprisingly two were at the Crediton Tesco store on Jan 17 (I wonder what special offer had attracted them there?). RBA News records an unusual observation of 5 together on Eigg in the Scottish western isles on Jan 20

Spoonbill: Still 15 in Poole Harbour at Brownsea Island on Jan 15

Bewick's Swan: Still up to 32 on the River Arun in the Burpham area and 6 at the Blashford Lakes

Whitefront Goose: 24 (plus 20 Greylags) with the Bewick's at Burpham and another 12 upstream at Pulborough

Brent Goose: Still plenty here for the Jan 15 WeBS counts (well over 1500 in Chichester Harbour) but lots more passing east - Sandy Point on Hayling records 1150 moving east in 2 Hours on Jan 15 (noting that they were approaching the Hampshire coast from the south west, passing south of the Isle of Wight, not via the Solent, to re-inforce the likelihood that these early passage birds come from the west coast of France). On Jan 16 701 headed east over Birling Gap on Beachy Head and on Jan 19 27 went past Portland with another 60 passing there on Jan 21

Black Brant: One was with Brent in fields south of Daw Lane on Hayling on Jan 16

Red-breasted Goose: The Exminster Marshes bird was still present in Devon on Jan 21 and the Essex bird was reported on Jan 16

Mandarin Duck: When I heard the report of a Mandarin Duck being seen on Emsworth Town Millpond on Jan 7 which could not subsequently be found there by Brian Fellows, while one was found on Jan 8 at Southampton Common, I guessed that the Emsworth bird had moved on to Southampton (though I now see that the Emsworth report was of a female and the Southampton one of a male). Now, on Jan 17, Brian has found the female at Emsworth (and a male, maybe the Southampton Common bird, has been seen again on Jan 19 on the Itchen at Mansbridge south of the Itchen Valley Country Park) - it all goes to show how easily these distinctive ducks can escape attention, especially when it comes to breeding. I see from Brian's website that a pair were photographed in Stansted Forest last spring where they could easily have nested in the old boating lake area that is hidden from the public and has lots of cover among the reeds and willows that cover most of its surface as well as more substantial trees that cound provide nest holes. The Aldsworth pond area and the stream which carries its overflow down towards Westbourne also provide much suitable cover with trees around it to provide suitable nest sites for these tree nesting ducks.

Eider: 50 were seen on Jan 15 in the Milford area (Christchurch Bay) where a similar number have been present since mid-November, sometimes coming into the shelter of the west Solent. Although up to 25 were in the east Solent towards the end of last year there have been no reports of them there this year and there have been only 2 in the Hayling Bay/Chichester Harbour area

Smew: No reports from the Blashford Lakes since Jan 7 and only one was at the Longham Lakes (Bournemouth) this week (Jan 21) where these was a pair on Jan 7. There were still five (including one male) at Dungeness on Jan 18

Red Kite: One was seen in the Stansted Forest area on Jan 21 by a car driver passing through

Rough-legged Buzzard: The bird in the Arundel area near Burpham was still present on Jan 19 and one was at Oare Marshes (north Kent) on Jan 21

Red Grouse: Three were seen on Dartmoor (their only foothold in southern England) on Jan 14

Common Crane: One seen flying over the Bovington area of Dorset on both Jan 20 and 21

Avocet: The Langstone Harbour winter flock numbered 34 in Broom Channel (west of Farlington Marshes) on Jan 17 - the peak count there this winter was 36 on Dec 24. In Devon the Exe estuary flock was more then 520 on Jan 14 (and the Devon Bird News blog at http://devonbirdnews.blogspot.com/ has its current 'header' an impressive photo of this flock taking off and looking more like the result of a violent pillow fight rather than a flock of birds! Can you spot the single Godwit in the picture?)

Knot: On Jan 14 the WeBS count of these in the Pilsey area south of Thorney Island was an unsurprising 340 (the count there on 15 Jan 2011 was 4000) but a flock 150 on the mud off Nore Barn (only 4 km north of the Pilsey area up the Emsworth channel) was unprecedented. On Jan 20 a flock of 100 was on the Milton shore of Langstone Harbour.

Little Stint: One was still in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour on Jan 16

Purple Sandpiper: 12 were seen at Southsea Castle on both Jan 9 and 18 with 9 there on Jan 19 when Christchurch Harbour had 26

Ruff: 8 were seen on Amberley Wld Brooks area south of Pulborough on Jan 16

Black-tailed Godwit: Last week I wrote that Brian Fellows and at least one other observer had taken more photos of these birds using their long bills as water pistols to squirt long streams of water during their feeding process and that this process was unknown to 'experts' who had no explanation for it. This week Brian again took photos of birds at Nore Barn to the west of Emsworth exhibiting the same behaviour.

Whimbrel: It would seem that there are at least three of these wintering in Chichester Harbour - two were seen at Wickor Point on the west shore of Thorney Island during the Jan 14 WeBS count and one was in the Fishbourne Channel at the other end of Chichester Harbour on Jan 16

Rare Gulls in Britain: On Jan 21 RBA News published the following totals of reports they had received - it said .. "Rare and scarce gulls continue to dominate the headlines, with the Ross's Gull still present in County Down, Bonaparte's Gulls in both County Antrim and Couunty Cork, eight each of both Ring-billed and Caspian, 19 Kumlien's, 46 Glaucous and 302 Iceland Gulls noted around Britain and Ireland today". Locally two of the Iceland Gulls are thought to be based in the Canber Docks area of Portsmouth

Razorbill: Six reported to be in the Chichester Harbour entrance on Jan 22

Eagle Owl: On Jan 14 one escaped from the Totnes Rare Breeds Farm in Devon and may now be spreading terror among pet owners fearing their cats will fall prey to it. This reminds me of a similar escape some years ago here in Hampshire when the police lured the owl back into captivity by offering one of their Alsatians as prospective prey to the hungry and vicious bird - later we learnt that this cunning plan had been hatched when the bird's owner said that, while in capivity, the owl had become good playmates with his own Alsatian and would probably come down to renew acquantance with a similar dog.

Shore Lark: The bird which was first spotted around the Tern Island lagoon at the Hayling Oysterbeds on Jan 16 was still showing well there on Jan 22 - it seems the best chance of seeing it is by looking at the southern end of the island from the 'bus shelter'. This bird could have been there undetected for some time and I think it was found by birders in the area to see the Warblington Cattle Egret

Swallow: First report for the year is of one over the sewage works at Helston in Cornwall on Jan 19. Also from Cornwall comes a report of a Buff-bellied Pipit at Wadebridge on Jan 18. Another unexpected report for January is that one of the Desert Wheatears was still to be seen in Yorkshire on Jan 21

Black Redstart: The Peregrines have not yet returned to Chichester Cathedral to nest and in the meantime a smart male Black Redstart was seen there on Jan 19 by David Parker

Blackbird: Full song was heard in Wisborough Green near Pulborough on Jan 17 and here in Havant on Jan 18

Chiffchaff: A total of 15 were counted at Eastleigh sewage farm (on the west side of the River Itchen close to the big railway works) on Jan 14. Before the modernisation of the Budds Farm works here in Havant it was not unusual to hear reports of 20 or more there in the winter - the 1995 Hampshire Bird Report says that on 28 Dec 1995 there were at least 25 (and possibly as many as 50) wintering there, constituting a Hampshire record.

Blackcap: Last week a male was heard singing on a Ramsgate (Kent) allotment and this week another has been singing in Devon (this male had a female with him)

Penduline Tit: Two seen at a Somerset site on Jan 15

Spanish Sparrow: Still at Calshot on Jan 22

Brambling: A flock of 15 in the New Forest on Jan 17 this week made me check on other sightings in Hampshire this winter and I see this is the biggest flock other than an isolated report of 40 in the QE Park near Petersfield back on Nov 8 (a couple of days after a flock of 162 had been reported at Durlston so I assume the 40 were part of an influx that quickly dispersed away from the south of England)

Greenfinch: A reflection on the amount by which numbers of this species have been reduced by disease in recent years is that one did not get onto my yearlist until Jan 22

Dark-eyed Junco: Still at Hawkhill Inclosure (Beaulieu Heath area of the New Forest) on Jan 19

Yellowhammer: A flock of 30 on Gander Down (east of Winchester) is not as surprising as a sighting of one in Southsea Castle feeding with a Rock Pipit on Jan 22

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies:

Red Admiral: Only one reported sighting this week - on Jan 15 at Battle near Hastings

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

The following were new for this year out of the species reported during the week:

464 Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella found at Thanet in Kent on Jan 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5084

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0464.php

1025 Winter Shade Tortricodes alternella found at Folkestone in Kent on Jan 21 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6172

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1025.php

1061 Lichen Button Acleris literana found at Folkestone in Kent on Jan 20 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=692

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1061.php

1862 Double-striped Pug Gymnoscelis rufifasciata found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 17 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=123

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1862.php

1984 Hummingbird Hawk-moth Macroglossum stellatarum found in a building at Portland in Dorset on Jan 18 (I assume it was hibernating and not flying around though this is not stated) - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2198

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1984.php

2237 Grey Shoulder-knot Lithophane ornitopus found by night at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 16 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5016

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2237.php

2441 Silver Y Autographa gamma found at Preston in Dorset on Jan 18 (presumably one that has been here for some time and not a new migrant) - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1134

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2441.php

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Nothing to report this week

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Few reports from me this week as I have been confined to barracks clearing 40 years of rubbish from my loft in order to qualify for free loft and cavity wall insulation under the current government scheme

Stinking Hellebore (Helleborus foetidus): This is my guess at the id of garden escape plant found by Brian Fellows in Emsworth on Jan 20. Brian was deterred from using this id as his flower book said the plant was rare but I think that it is only rare as a native species that has persisted at the same site for many years without human assistance whereas the same species is commonly planted in gardens and can then escape. See Brian's photo at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-186-hellebore-dolphin-20.01.12.jpg

Red campion (Silene dioica): A couple of flowering plants seen in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Jan 22

Hollyhock (Alcea rosea): On Jan 16 Brian Fellows website carried news of flowers seen recently, though not by him and among them I was interested in the find of a Hollyhock in the village of Compton (north of West Marden in the natural continuation of the Ems valley)

Primrose: What may well have been wild Primroses were seen flowering in Westbourne churchyard by the Havant Wildlife group on Jan 21

Dark mullein (Verbascum nigrum): A plant of this was a very surprising find in a council planted flowerbed near Southsea Common on Jan 19

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Badger: Here in the Havant area we were very much made aware of Fox predation of young birds in nests on the RSPB Langstone Harbour reserve islands last summer and defences against predators invading the nesting areas at Rye Harbour are currently being reinforced with electric fencing plus wire mesh fencing with its base extended along the ground to prevent a tunnelling predator from coming up into the reserve as soon as it has passed under the fenceline. More difficult to protect is the shoreline against seaborne attack (though similar fencing can be deployed above the high tide level where so doing does not deter the birds and an irregular marshy shoreline does not make it impractical) and the Rye Harbour warden has been made aware of the need to defend his seaboard this week by seeing photos of a Badger swimming out and around the end of their fenceline. For the video of the swimming Badger and a photo of their way of deterring tunnelling under the fenceline (not by burying the base of the fence but by extending it along the ground) see http://rxwildlife.org.uk/2012/01/18/swimming-badger/#more-15303

Weasel: One sighting at Seasalter on the north Kent coast on Jan 17

Hare: Three seen running around Margate cemetery on Jan 14 - perhaps already feeling that March was here?

Snails: Graeme Lyons latest blog entry at http://analternativenaturalhistoryofsussex.blogspot.com/ on Jan 21 shows that he has now turned his attention to snails to boost his 'all species' life list (currently he is on 3745). He lists eight species whose shells he found today, one of them being the Plaited Door Snail (Cochlodina laminata) which I have not come across so far and this has roused my own interest to get out looking for it (at 16mm long it should be possible to spot it from a reasonable distance) and http://www.molluscs.at/gastropoda/terrestrial/clausiliidae2.html gives me a good idea of what to look for - although that article is written by a continental author the species can be found in England, usually in woodland and my own 'snail bible' (the Shire Natural History booklet on Land Snails of the British Isles by A A Wardhaugh) usefully lists confusion species in each of the species descriptions.

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Jan 9 - 15 (Week 2 of 2012)

(Skip to previous week)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: The number of Red-throated heading south is not up to the peak of 2358 seen off Suffolk on Jan 2 but there were 643 to be seen off Cap Gris-Nez on Jan 8 and 365 off Dungeness on Jan 13 with 31 going west past Splash Point (west of Beachy Head) on Jan 7 and and 39 passing Selsey on Jan 8. Locally Sandy Point on Hayling had 6 on Jan 8. Sangatte (Calais) was the only site to exceed 10 Black-throated with 11 there on Jan 7 followed by 9 off Hersey on Jan 8. The ine which has settled in the north of Southampton water was still to be seen off the Eling area on Jan 14. Peak count of 9 Great Northern was off Penzance in Cornwall on Jan 13 while two were off Pagham Harbour on Jan 7 and 10 and one was near Langstone Harbour entrance on at least Jan 8. A single White-billed off Shetland on Jan 10 was the first I ahve been aware of for the year

Red-necked Grebe: Eight reports this week including one off Sandy Point (Hayling) on Jan 8 when 2 (maybe 4) were off the French coast. One has been in the Studland/Weymouth area of Dorset and there is probably still on off the Exe estuary in Devon

Slavonian Grebe: A winter flock can often be seen off Pagham Harbour and 23 in the Selsey area on Jan 8 may have settled off Pagham. One remains inside Chichester Harbour off West Wittering and two were off Lymington on Jan 7 with three reported in Poole Harbour off Arne on Jan 13

Black-necked Grebe: 10 were in Portland Harbour on Jan 10 and 13 but there were no reports from Studland or Poole Harbour though the Falmouth flock in Carrick Roads near Feock was up to 50+. In Hampshire one was off Calshot on Jan 13

Bittern: Reported at seven sites this week including one at Titchfield Haven, two at the Blashford Lakes, one at Burton Mill Pond near Pulborough and a possible on the Isle of Wight near Brading Marsh (low booming heard by Derek Hale on Jan 10)

Cattle Egret: The Warblington bird was definitely present in Jan 12 and I understand it was seen on Jan 14 though neither it nor any Little Egrets were to be seen when I was there around 2pm (maybe with the tide approaching high the Little Egrets had gone to roost at Langstone and the Cattle Egret had joined them?)

Glossy Ibis: Still present at Wadebridge in Cornwall on Jan 13 when two birds were in Devon at the Exe estuary and the southern tip of the county at Thurlestone. (RBA was still reporting a total of 13 in Britain on Jan 14)

Spoonbill: The 15 strong flock in Poole Harbour was still to be seen off Arne on Jan 13

Brent Goose: This week brings two signs that these geese are getting restless to be off. The first is that they are taking longer flights to inland feeding places - Brian Fellows found a flock of 600 on the open fields west of Southbourne village which he believes were commuting there and back from the Emsworth western shore (about 3 km each way - not very far in terms of the journey they are about to undertake and less than half the distance they have been known to travel while still with us when a big flock was found feeding in the Watergate Park fields (SU7811) north of Walderton in the Ems valley). The second and more obvious sign is that those birds which are untrammelled with young to shepherd back are already flying east - on Jan 14 Dungeness watched a total of 365 Brent flying east in 14 flocks, a fortnight earlier than last year when the first such report from Dungeness was on Jan 29.

Black Brant: On Jan 12 one was in a big flock of Brent in fields between the Langstone Harbour shore and the Hayling Coastal path at its south end at West Town station

Red-breasted Goose: The Devon bird was still on the Exminster Marshes on Jan 13 but I will be keeping my eyes open for reports of it (and the Brent it is associating with) moving east. In Dec 2006 one was wintering in Poole Harbour and flew east to Lymington on Jan 26, then set off east again on Jan 31 when it was seen at Park Shore near the Beaulieu River mouth before appearing on south Hayling on Feb 17 and West Wittering on Feb 24 before disappearing after Feb 28. Perhaps the same bird spent the winter of 2007/8 in the Chichester Harbour area, being last seen at Black Point on Mar 6. In Oct 2008 it arrived back in the Lymington area where it stayed until 4 Feb 2009 before re-appearing in the West Wittering area on Feb 14 where its last sighting was on Mar 8. In the autumn of 2009 it was in Devon (Exeter area from Oct 28) and it seems to have stayed in Devon until Mar 4. The picture in autumn 2010 was at first confused by a bird of the same species (but subsequently seen to have a red ring on its leg to indicate captive breeding) appearing on Pilsey Island (Chichester Hbr) at the start of October before the 'genuine ' bird appeared at the Exe estuary on Oct 7 (more confusion was caused by another bird appearing at Rye Bay on Dec 26 with further sightings in the Warsash and Isle of Wight in early 2011 though there was a bird in Devon until Mar 4. Autumn 2011 saw one arrive with Brent at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 18 before moving to Devon on Nov 7 (though this was said to be a first winter bird) and it is this bird that is still on the Exminster Marshes.

Mandarin Duck: An annonymous report of a drake on the Emsworth Town Millpond on Jan 7 was not seen by Brian Fellows or anyone known to him but the sighting received some support from another one off report in a similar urban situation at Southampton Common on Jan 8

Ferruginous Duck: What seems to have been accepted as a genuine adult male that arrived at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood on Dec 30 was still there on Jan 12 but has not been reported since. Interestingly it was on Jan 12 that I had my first sight for the year of the 'Fudge Duck' (Pochard x Ferruginous hybrid) for the year at the Budds Farm pools. The bird which I and one other birder who was equally unfamiliar with the niceties of Aythya hybrids saw was (we agreed) unlike a female Tufty, it was keeping company with a male Pochard (surprisingly it looked smaller than the Pochard when seen side by side though the way in which it 'rides high in the water' suggests that it is larger than a Pochard or Tufty when seen on its own), and it seemed to have a single feather tuft (maybe a single moulting feather?). It seemed to have worn plumage and showed no reddish ferruginous plumage but it did have the very large and prominent white undertail patch which picks it out.

Ruddy Duck: A BBC news item ( see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-12603625 ) dated 1 Mar 2011 says that the government sponsored scheme to eradicate this species from the UK had by then killed 4,400 of the birds (which came to Britain from the USA in the 1940s) in response to a request from Spain to eliminate the birds before they interbred with the White-headed Ducks that are endemic to Spain. An article in the Guardian dated 7 Feb 2010 ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/feb/07/ruddy-duck-cull-waste-money ) takes the 'anti cull' side and says that the cull had by then cost British taxpayers 4.6 million (6,200 birds killed at 740 per bird). Another paper published in August 2010 ( http://www.unep-aewa.org/news/news_elements/2010/ruddy_duck_update_2010.htm ) claims to represent DEFRA's official stance at that time and says that the original feral population of some 6,000 birds in Jan 2000 had been reduced to just 200. So far this year I have heard of two sightings of live birds (one in West and the other in East Sussex) but I suspect that many more are surviving as there is an unofficial agreement among birders not to report sightings in case they attract the government gunmen and in any case it must be virtually impossible to eliminate this or any other species of bird that is as wary and secretive in its breeding sites as this one. It will be interesting to see how the cost of the project is regarded in future government planning in view of British financial vicissitudes and the rapid decline of Spain in the political estimation of other European countries

Water Rail: Anna Allum, assistant warden at Pulborough Brooks, has recently provided a great attraction for visitors by regularly scattering meal worms on the grass in front of the main viewing window at the reserve visitor centre to attract a wintering Water Rail out of the nearby reeds and the Rail has now become semi-domesticated, spending much time in the open in full view of the window. By Jan 14 I was amused to see that Russ Tofts describes this bird's behaviour in the following words .. "Meanwhile the plastic, radio-controlled Water Rail(!) was driven around outside the big window at Pulborough" Another aspect of this species behaviour was seen by me when visiting a normally undisturbed section of the Langbrook stream at Langstone on Jan 12. Normally able to take advantage of its thin body to thread its way through reeds or other dense vegetation without giving away its presence by disturbing that vegetation, the bird needs to be familiar with its surroundings in order to achieve this trick. My sighting however was firstly of the bird flying downstream (perhaps disturbed by my sudden appearance and not knowing where to hide) and then crashing down into bankside vegetation and continuing to move about until it felt safe. My guess is that this bird was already on its spring passage and had only just arrived at this stream where it was trying to find food for the next part of its journey on which it would be setting out when darkness fell. Normally I expect to see these 'out of their element' passage birds at the end of March so if I am right this was another manifestation of the false spring weather.

Common Crane: Six sightings of wandering Cranes in southern England this week. On Jan 6 one flew west over Farlington Marshes and another was seen over Corfe Mullen in Dorset. On Jan 7 one was over Broadsands in the Torbay area of Devon and on Jan 8 one was over Penzance in Cornwall with another sighting there on Jan 9 followed by one over St Buryan (a few miles west of Penzance) on Jan 10

Avocet: 25 seen at Nutbourne Bay (east of Thorney Island) on Jan 12 and reports from Farlington Marshses of 28 on Jan 10 and 30 on Jan 14

Knot: Plenty still on mud to the west of Emsworth (90 on Jan 13) and in teh Church Norton area of Pagham Harbour (200+ on Jan 7)

Little Stint: One remains in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour and can usually be seen when the tide is not too high where the Lavant River flows into the channel

Long Billed Dowitcher: Two of these seen to have settled in the Lodmoor area at Weymouth since Jan 2 and were there on Jan 12

Black-tailed Godwit: For some unknown reason the birds which have been numerous in the Nore Barn area west of Emsworth suddenly vanished between Jan 2 (94 present) and Jan 12 (100 present). This was probably a result of the changing tide times which prevent the birds feeding in the best places when they are covered by deep water (if alternative feeding grounds are availble at those times the birds would be foolish not to move to the alternative sites). Another unknown aspect of their behaviour is something that Brian Fellows first noticed when looking at photos he had taken of some birds on 25 Oct 2011 which showed jets of water being shot out of the bills of the birds as if the bills were powerful water pistols. Since then he and at least one other Blackwit enthusiast have observed this behaviour on three other occasions including more photos taken by Brian on Nov 24 and Jan 14. Brian has referred these photos to wader experts but so far no one else seems to have observed the phenomenon or have a conclusive answer to why they do it - my simple minded view is that, having taken up water in securing their prey they want to get rid of the water before swallowing the prey and variations on this are that they only get rid if the water when it has an unusual taste (maybe pollution, maybe the unfamiliar taste of fresh water when the birds are accustomed to more saline water).

Whimbrel: Wintering Whimbrel are a regular occurrence in Chichester Harbour and elswehere along the south coast and one site at which one has been reported seven times since the beginning of October is the old boating lake (just east of Northney Marina on Hayling) which was once part of the Northney holiday camp before that was abandoned and modern houses replaced a small part of its area. The boating lake was only separated from the sea by a narrow earth bank and this bank was long ago broached by the sea, making the pool an attractive sheltered area for duck and waders to feed and roost. On Jan 10 I went there in the hope of adding Whimbrel to my year list and immediately saw a single Whimbrel-like bird with a hooked (not gently curved) bill and a hint of a crown stripe but a close look suggested that the bird was too big, and the bill too long, to be a Whimbrel while I have since discovered that some Curlew do show a faint crown stripe. The clincher was was the bird I was looking at had no eye stripes (supercilia) so, while this is no proof that a Whimbrel does not regularly appear there, I could not add this bird to my list as a Whimbrel

Grey Phalarope: Still being seen in late autumn passage (?). This week three reports come from the near continent and one was seen briefly at Splash Point near Beachy Head on Jan 12

Pomarine Skua: Contrary to my old belief that Pomarine were the least common of the Skuas in the English Channel they are currently much more frequently seen than Arctic or Great. Four reports this week include one of an adult with full spoons (twisted tail feathers) at Broadsands in Torbay, Devon, and a party of 8 birds off the Netherlands. In contrast there were just two reports of single Arctic Skua and four reports of Great Skua (though one sighting was of 23 birds off Cap Gris-Nez on Jan 7)

Iceland Gull: On Jan 8 RBA news told us that there were currently 187 Iceland Gulls in the UK and one of these has been roosting at night in the Camber Dock area of Old Portsmouth

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: February is usually the month with most reports of these elusive and rapidly vanishing birds as it this then that they are most likely to be detected by their calls but it is encourging to see that birders are already starting to find them and this week you can have the second hand pleasure of seeing a pair of them in photographs taken in Clowes Wood south of Whitstable on the north kent coast - see http://www.kentos.org.uk/Seasalter/Jan.2012.htm In Sussex one was seen in Buchan Country Park near Crawley on Jan 8

Wood Lark: I used to believe that these birds all left their heathland breeding sites and headed to coastl places like plant nurseries for the winter but this week I see two reports of them singing at New Forest breeding sites where they have been singing

Skylark: The first report of Skylark song for the year comes from north Kent on Jan 11 though I am pretty sure they have been heard but not reported elsewhere

Rock Pipit: This week brings confirmation from both John Clark and Lee Evans that the majority of Rock Pipits seen in Hampshire during the winter are probably of the Scandinavian race which favours coastal saltings and shuns rocky coasts though it is difficult to confirm this until later in the spring when they acquire a pinkish tinge to their breasts. I wonder if the birds often seen (and I think breeding) in the Southsea castle area are the exceptions to this rule? Perhaps the 2010 Hampshire Bird Report, due to arrive in the post during the coming week, will give us more clues than the 2009 one does.

Waxwing: Last week Lee Evans told us that all those currently in Britain were to be found in Suffolk and this week the only additional information is that one has been seen in the Netherlands on Jan 13

Mistle Thrush: I have been lucky enough to hear this bird singing again (after hearing one from my garden last week) - this time the song was prolonged and was heard in the Stansted Groves

Whitethroat: A very vague report from Devon hints that one was wintering in a garden close to Plymouth over the Christmas period

Blackcap: A definite report of one singing in an allotment at Ramsgate in the Thanet area of Kent on Jan 11

Goldcrest: Song reported at Durlston on Jan 11

Spanish Sparrow: Since Jan 9 birders have been going to Calshot village on the south east fringe of the New Forest to see a Spanish Sparrow which has probably been living there quietly since last spring (certainly since early December) and may have 'fathered' several hybrid offspring. The facts about the bird remain vague but the villagers have been extemely welcoming to the birders, opening up the village hall for them, providing food and drink for them, and in many cases inviting them into their houses for better views of the bird. The birders for their part have been generally well behaved and have contributed to charity by putting money into collecting buckets for the Naomi House Childrens Hospice and for the BTO. For a BBC video of the bird, the twitchers and the local habitat go to http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-16515456

Chaffinch: I usually hear these starting to sing in the last week of January but this year I heard one in Stansted Forest on Jan 11 and I see that one was heard at Durlston on Jan 13

Siskin: These have been less numerous than usual so far this winter but on Jan 12 David Parker saw some in the larches along the northern edge of Stansted Forest across the road from Forestside Church - at least one male Crossbill was with them

Twite: Another unusual report this week - two were seen in an Eastbourne town garden on Jan 8

Dark-eyed Junco: The bird at Hawkhill Inclosure (north side of Beaulieu Heath in the New Forest) was still there on Jan 14

Lapland Bunting: Relatively few seen so far this winter but a newly arrived flock of 20+ on The Lizard in Cornwall on Jan 10 may mark the start of more arrivals as the weather turns colder

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies:

None this week

Butterflies:

Red Admiral: 17 reports this week, seemingly all of newly emerged individuals which are unlikely to breed successfully and so will reduce next summers numbers

Small Tortoiseshell: Lee Evans reports that several were seen in the New Forest when he was there on Jan 11 and two more were reported anonymously at Pagham Harbour on Jan 12. These reports reminded me that overwintering Tortoiseshells were once a common sight, often disturbed by humans from their garden sheds or from little used visitors bedrooms in their houses, until the arrival in this country of the parasitic fly Sturmia bella in the late 1990s - see http://www.ox.ac.uk/media/science_blog/090310.html This fly lays its eggs on nettle leaves where they are eaten by the Tortoiseshell caterpillars- the fly larvae develop inside the caterpillars and eat them from the inside. I am hoping that a few sightings of the butterflies overwintering may be a sign that a parasite:prey balance may now be achieved where by the fly has succeeded in killing do many Tortoiseshells that there are none left to take up the fly eggs, thus reducing the number of new flies and so reducing their ability to harm the butterflies. This cyclic balance between parasite and prey has long been established in the relation between the Holly Blue butterfly and the wasp called Listrodromus nycthemerus

- see http://www.butterfly-conservation.org/gallery/3513/parasitism.html for 'The story of the Holly Blue'

Camberwell Beauty: On Jan 7 one of these was found in a Lee on Sea garden west of Gosport and the finder carefully moved it to his garden shed where he hopes it will hibernate in peace and emerge in the spring. That this can happen is proved by the fact that late immigrants arriving here in the autumn of 2006 are known to have hibernated successfully and emerged in 2007

Peacock: Just one sighting in the Worthing area on Jan 7

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

Dummy entry

461 Ypsolopha ustella found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 8 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5036

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0461.php

819 Scrobipalpa costella found at Portland on Jan 8- see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2763

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0819.php

998 Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana found at Plumber in Dorset on Jan 6- see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4388

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/0998.php

1045 Rusty Birch Button Acleris notana found at Tincleton in Dorset on Jan 6 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3452

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1045.php

1050 Elm Button Acleris kochiella found at Folkestone on Jan 19 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2413

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1050.php

1395 Rusty Dot Pearl Udea ferrugalis found at Portland (first immigrant of the year) on Jan 9 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=181

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1395.php

1497 Plume Moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla found at Portland on Jan 9 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6337

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1497.php

1498 Plume Moth Amblyptilia punctidactyla found at Portland on Jan 9 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2677

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1498.php

1631 December Moth Poecilocampa populi found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 6 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1100

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1631.php

1760 Red-green Carpet Chloroclysta siterata found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 8 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4948

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1760.php

1775 Mottled Grey Colostygia multistrigaria found at Portland on Jan 9 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=6191

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1775.php

1917 Early Thorn Selenia dentaria found at Portland on Jan 9 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3537

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1917.php

1926 Pale Brindled Beauty Phigalia pilosaria found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 6 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5098

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1926.php

1932 Spring Usher Agriopis leucophaearia found at Folkestone on Jan 10 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5099

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1932.php

1935 Mottled Umber Erannis defoliaria found at Shaggs in Dorset on Jan 5 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=212

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1935.php

2119 Pearly Underwing Peridroma saucia found at Chickerell in Dorset on Jan 8 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=791

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2119.php

2187 Common Quaker Orthosia cerasi found at Tincleton in Dorset on Jan 6 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=3947

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2187.php

2190 Hebrew Character Orthosia gothica found at Tincleton in Dorset on Jan 6 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2001

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2190.php

2256 The Satellite Eupsilia transversa found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 6 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1797

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2256.php

2258 The Chestnut Conistra vaccinii found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 2 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1105

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2258.php

2259 Dark Chestnut Conistra ligula found at Chickerell in Dorset on Jan 6 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1112

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2259.php

2264 Yellow-line Quaker Agrochola macilenta found at East Lulworth in Dorset on Jan 7 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1106

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2264.php

2306 Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa found at Punchknowle in Dorset on Jan 7 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1731

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2306.php

2321 Dark Arches Apamea monoglypha found at Broadwey in Dorset on Jan 1 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=52

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/2321.php

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Yew Bud Gall Midge (Taxomyia taxi): Not the insect but the galls which it creates as nurseries for its young - galls of the same name covered one Yew tree seen in Havant Thicket on Jan 8. See http://www.bugsandweeds.co.uk/galls%20p1.html#TaxoTaxi for photos of the gall

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Coastal Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens): The tiny male flowers on the massive Redwood trees in the Stansted Groves were shedding masses of pollen when touched on Jan 11

Field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense): A single new flowering plant was a surprise find in Havant's Juniper Square on Jan 12

Great Herb Robert (Geranium reuteri): This plant found in a Havant alley last November was still flowering on Jan 12 but we are no further with having it identified. It is thought to be G. reuteri but the English name given is my own invention!

Small flowered cranesbill (Geranium pusillum): Another unexpected find in Juniper Square on Jan 12

Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha): This Australian emblem tree was shedding its yellow flowers in Havant Park at the entrance to the underpass taking you under Park Road North on Jan 13

Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus): The bright orange red seeds of this plant are now fully exposed on most bushes as the thin secondary 'wrapping' splits and falls away

Hazel: Ros Norton was the first to discover the small red female flowers during the Havant Wildlife Group outing to Fareham Creek area on Jan 14

Silk Tassel Bush (Garryia elliptica): The very long (up to 30 cm) silvery catkins can now be seen on this ornamental garden plant

Common Alder: Now starting to open its catkins

Dogs Mercury: I found the first single flowering plant of the year in Pook Lane on Jan 1 but by Jan 14 many plants could be seen there

Hemlock Water Dropwater: I came on the first flowering plant I have seen this year in the Langbrook stream on Jan 12 (the first of the season was flowering in the Hermitage stream on Dec 27)

Lesser Periwinkle: A pleasant surprise was to find one single flower among the 'million' plants covering the ground of Pitts Copse near the Stansted Groves on Jan 11. Subsequently I found many flowers on what seems to be a garden cultivar of the species in central Havant (from the junction of West Street and Park Road South walk north through the 'Boys Brigade Garden' and as soon as you have passed the solicitors office you will see the plants on your left before your reach the Carphone Warehouse shop).

Grey Field Speedwell: Another unexpected flower found on Jan 14 on the north side of the A259 Havant road coming west from Emswortth

Field Woundwort: One fresh plant with opening flower buds seen in a Warblington Farm field on Jan 14 (a less fresh plant of Field Madder in the same field also had some flowers)

Green Alkanet: Plants in Juniper Square which had no flowers and seemed to be dying back last week had new flowers on Jan 12

Giant butterbur (Petasites japonicus): Several plants already in flower on Jan 12 in the 'waste land' beside the Langbrook Stream immediately north of the now unused bridge connecting the old Langstone Dairy Farm to the South Moors

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Fox: As I was walking from Warblington Church to Nore Barn across the big field a sudden disturbance of the birds around the dung heap along the northern border of the field attracted my attention and gave me an amusing view of a very colourful and healthy looking Fox playing 'cat and mouse' with the birds. Both parties knew there was little chance of a kill being made though I am sure the Fox would have enjoyed catching a large and brightly coloured cock Pheasant which gracefully yielded its position as 'king of the castle' on the dungheap to the Fox which was last seen sitting on the highest point with the birds continuing to feed around the base of the heap (but keeping slightly more than one Fox leap from it. Another aspect of Fox life is that we are now well into January when they mate and announce the fact by loud midnight cries - so far I have not heard of these being heard.

Weasel: This is probably the best time of year for seeing these small, speedy hunters as the cold makes them more hungry and brings them out in daylight in an environment when there is minimum cover to conceal them. I had a typical view of one hunting in Havant Thicket on Jan 8 though all I saw was a distant streak of something crossing the brod track a long way ahead of me followed by a small dark 'something' bobbing its way through long grass beside the track before disappearing into the cover of bushes. A birder in the Whitstable area of north Kent was luckier - he had just got out of his car in the Wraik Hill carpark (somewhere around TR 097636 - perhaps where the OS map marks 'Elysian Fields'?) when he saw a Weasel making its usual mad dash around the open carpark and he was able to get a photo of it when it made one of its sudden stops - see the Jan 8 entry on http://www.kentos.org.uk/Seasalter/Jan.2012.htm

Roe Deer: Further evidence of their occasional visits to Brook Meadow at Emsworth was found on Jan 6 in the shape of a 'slot' (a Man Friday like single footprint) indicating that one had come through the arch allowing the Seagull Lane to Lumley Mill track to come south under the railway into the Brook Meadow area - perhaps we will soon have more positive indications of their presence if a buck decides to sharpen his antlers by 'thrashing' you trees in the reserve as they have done in the past.

Mole: Many fresh molehills can now be seen in many places where the Moles (made hungry both by cold weather and the need to feed up prior to breeding) have been able to widen old tunnels and create new ones after rain has softened the ground

Water Vole: These do not hibernate but do spend more time 'indoors' in winter months chewing on vegetation they stock up during occasional excursions into the outside world so it was not unusual for Brian Fellows to see one out in the River Ems at Brook Meadow on Jan 12 - nevertheless it was the first sighting to be reported there this year.

Bank Vole: I had an equally lucky chance sighting of one in Havant Thicket on Jan 8 - my only evidence for its identity was the rich brown tone of its fur (Field Vole is greyer)

'Albino' Grey Squirrel: To show that the Portsmouth area does not have a monopoly on 'white squirrels' one was reported in the Thanet area of Kent on Jan 10. While thinking about colour variation in Grey Squirrels I thought I would check I would check on the status of the long established Black Squirel population in the St Albans area of East Anglia and I was interested to see that they are apparently thriving and spreading - see http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-11444893 for picture (ignore the picture of Bill Oddie!) and more detail. One thing I learnt from this is that there is also a thriving black population in the USA. As an aside I often see Black Rabbits among the wild population and I gather that they were actively introduced into medieval rabbit farms called Coneygarths (hence Coneygarth Point on the Warblington shore) to help catch poachers - presence of a black Rabbit in a peasant's possession was taken as proof that he had poached it). Another sideline on this was that the black rabbits were sometimes called 'Priest Rabbits' on account of the colour of their 'vestments'.

Bats: Another facet of our (to date) warm winter is that on the night of Jan 9 two unspecified bats spent some time hawking moths around a moth trap in Blean Woods near Canterbury

Adder: Another manifestion of the warm winter is that on both Jan 8 and 11 adders were seen out basking in sunshine at Durlston on the Dorset coast

The 'Emsworth Tube Worm' (Ficopomatus enigmaticus): Brian Fellows has interesting news and photos of these unusual inhabitants of the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth in his entry for Jan 12 at http://www.emsworthwildlife.hampshire.org.uk/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm Although these creatures have been present in the pond for many years they are currently in the news as the coral like 'tubes' which are homes for the worms have encrusted the sluice gates, preventing them from closing properly and thus allowing the water to drain from the pond when the tide is out and the sluice gates should form a tight seal to retain the water. It is well worth reading a Defra paper on the subject of these worms at http://jncc.defra.gov.uk/page-1700 which tells me they were unkown in Britain until 1922 (when they spread north from the Mediterranean) but they then spread rapidly round our coasts with Emsworth being one of the 'hotspots' for them until the numbers there crashed in 1986 (something I was not previously aware of). It would seem they have now recovered from that crash and Brian saw at least 200 of their colonies scattered around the Mill Pond on Jan 12, while the evidence of the sluice gates shows that these colonies are spreading and in each place that they settle the colony is growing. The species flourishes where fresh and saline water mixes and among the factors contributing to their success are lack of competition (no similar species) and the ease with which the larvae are able to grow in the usually 'closed' pond (rather than in a river situation where they would be swept out to sea before they could settle and start building their own permanent home)

Fungi: Little to report this week but I see that Durlston has recorded 'Blistered Cup' (Peziza vesiculosa) on wood chips and when I was on the 'Selangor path' forming the eastern border of Warblington Farm on Jan 14 I collected a specimen that I did not recognise and which I think (from a very faint pink spore print) is an Entoloma species (though these are not usually seen after autumn gives way to winter)

ENDWEEK

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Wildlife diary and news for Jan 2 - 8 (Week 1 of 2012)

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BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: On Dec 29 Dungeness recorded 115 Red-throated flying west followed by 130 on Dec 31 when Thorpeness in Suffolk reported 5669 of them - this site went on to report 1552 of them on Jan 1 and 2358 on Jan 2 and 1330 on Jan 3, then 1452 on Jan 6. By Jan 4 there were 40 off Hartland Point on the north coast of Devon showing that these birds are also coming south down the west coast. Best count in central southern England was 21 off Portland Bill on Jan 6. Jersey in the Channel Isles had the highest number of Black-throated (16) but Hampshire birders have been able to see one off Eling Great Marsh at the head of Southampton Water where it has been lurking since around Dec 20 up to Jan 6 at least, and one or more have been seen at Selsey Bill on Jan 1 and 6. The highest count of Great Northern has been just 5 in Weymouth Bay on Dec 31 and there was one at Selsey on Jan 1 and maybe the same in Chichester Harbour off Ella Nore on Jan 6 while Langstone Harbour has had up to three in the Hayling Ferry area

Great Crested Grebe: The usual winter flocks in the Dungeness/Rye Bay area are now building up with with counts from Dungeness of 1260 on Jan 1 and 1300+ on Jan 2

Red-necked Grebe: This week's reports are of four birds - one in the Torbay area of Devon, another off the Exe estuary, one in the Studland area of Dorset and one off the French coast near Calais at Le Clipon

Slavonian Grebe: On Jan 1 there were 4 in the Selsey area and one in the mouth of Southampton Water and on Jan 6 there was at least one in the Wittering area of Chichester Harbour

Black-necked Grebe: 8 were seen in the north of Langstone Harbour on Jan 1 and 6 were there on Jan 5 but the big numbers remain in the Studland area of Dorset (22+ on Jan 4 and 45 on Jan 3). An equally big flock remains at Falmouth with 43+ recorded in Carrick Roads on Jan 6 (when just one was in Hayling Bay)

Shag: Singles (probably from the Isle of Wight breeding population) are now to be seen off Southsea Castle and in the Langstone Harbour entrance while 4 were at Selsey on Jan 1

Cattle Egret: The bird which moved from Thorney Island to Warblington Fam on Dec 18 was still there on Jan 7 when it had moved east of the church and was seen from the new Cemetery extension

Great White Egret: The spread of these from the near continent into Britain seems to be gathering pace - on Dec 28 Lee Evans thought there was a total of 15 in this country but on Jan 2 he revised that number up to 21.

Snow Goose: There have been up to three 'white geese' with the Canada flock on Farlington Marshes earlier this winter but these birds have been similar in size to the Canadas and were almost certainly leucistic Greylags. I have not seen any metion of these since the beginning of December but on Jan 2 Colin Vanner took a photo of a very different 'white' goose there - in his photo the bird appears to be only half the size of a Canada included in the picture and has black markings in its plumage. The size seems to fit Snow Goose and the black could be an aberration of the black primary feathers of a Snow Goose (though those are normally hidden until the bird spreads its wings). Whatever its origin this is almost certainly not a genuine wild Snow Goose!

Red-breasted Goose: The bird on Exminster Marshes was still there with Brent on Jan 2 and I will be interested to see if it moves east as the Brent start to leave.

Shelduck: The number on the Langstone to Emsworth shore doubled this week with more than 45 seen at the Langstone end on Jan 3 and at least 33 seen in the Emsworth area on Jan 5

Pintail: A count of more than 320 at Pulborough Brooks on Jan 2 must have been a great sight

Blue-winged Teal: The single bird at the Longham Lakes on the fringe of Bournemouth was still there this week but the Green-winged Teal that has been in the Kent Stour Valley may be on the move as one was seen at Sandwich Bay on Jan 4

Eider: We may soon be seeing more of these along the south coast of England after a flock of 1100 was reported at a Netherlands site on Jan 6

Surf Scoter: The bird at Dawlish Warren (mouth of Exe estuary) was still there on Jan 7 as was the Bufflehead at Helston in Cornwall. Another very long staying exotic bird, the Hooded Merganser which was found as a tame unringed and full winged youngster cowering in a storm drain at Weymouth on 5 June 2008 was still to be seen at Radipole on Jan 2 this year

Smew: The redhead at the Ringwood Blashford Lakes was seen on Jan 1 and is probably still there but the number at the Longham Lakes at Bournemouth increased to 2 on Jan 4 when a drake joined the redhead there. In addition to those in the Dungeness and Rye Harbour areas a redhead was seen in the Kent Stour valley on Jan 7

Ruddy Duck: Although the number in southern England has been greatly diminished by DEFRA's hit squads one bird was still to be seen in East Sussex on Jan 2 and another was in West Sussex on Jan 7. I suspect that quite a few other sightings have been suppressed in the interests of the safety of the birds and I doubt that the policy of eradicating the species will ever be fully successful

Red Kite: The annual HOS walk to view the winter roost at Ashley Warren in extreme north Hampshire (not far east of where the A34 leaves the county) saw 78 birds airborne around the roost on Jan 7 - the total using the roost could be well over 100. I wonder when our government will start paying gunmen to rid us of these pests?

Rough Legged Buzzard: The Arun valley bird in the Burpham area near Arundel was still to be seen on Jan 5 and another probably based on Sheppey was seen from the Oare Marshes at Faversham on Jan 7 but the Folkestone bird has not been reported since Dec 23

Grey Partridge: I have long been aware that the majority of birds that are seen in the south of England have been raised in captivity and released, as I have thought up to now, with the altruistic intention of re-establishing a wild population but this week the Devon birding site introduced me to a new thought when a birder who was very surprised to come across a couple of birds in south Devon wondered if their presence was the result of a release by Falconers as potential prey for their birds.

Reeve's Pheasant: On Jan 1 Robin Attrill saw two males of this species near Shalfleet on the Isle of Wight but did not include them in his excellent NYD birdlist of 109 species

Common Crane: Just one report this week of a bird seen in flight over the Torbay area of south Devon on Jan 7

Avocet: The only precise counts from our local area this week are of 24 in Langstone Harbour (Broom Channel) on Jan 2 and 1 at Titchfield Haven that day. On Jan 1 I saw four birds at Nutbourne Bay but the rain meant that there may have been more there which escaped my notice while the only report from Pagham Harbour is from the Muppets birdrace team (Bernie Forbes and Owen Mitchell) who just ticked their presence on Jan 6 when another three were at Christchurch Harbour

Golden Plover: Among several reports this week is one of 400 birds at Maiden Castle in Dorset on Jan 2

Knot: A count on Jan 2 of 46 on the mud off Nore Barn at the west end of the Emsworth Shore was high for the location

Little Stint: One was still in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Jan 5

Purple Sandpiper: There were 12 at Southsea Castle on Jan 2 and 20 in Christchurch Harbour on Jan 3

Long Billed Dowitcher: Two of these appeared at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Jan 2 and were still there on Jan 4

Black-tailed Godwit: The number on the Emsworth shore which was up to 94 on Jan 2 plummetted to just 5 on Jan 5 while the count at Pulborough Brooks rose from 135 on Jan 2 to 250 on Jan 6. This does not mean that the Emsworth birds flew to Pulborough but it does indicate the rapidity with which this species responds to changes in their environment. The Emsworth birds may have left because they sensed they had nearly exhausted the food available to them in the mud at Emsworth and/or they were not enjoying the strong winds in the exposed harbour. Equally likely they were happy with the conditions in the harbour but sensed that heavy rain would have brought thousands of earthworms to the surface of grassland in low-lying inland areas and that they would benefit from moving to places where there was more food more easily available and with less wind to contend with. Another reflection of the opportunism that is essential to the survival of bird species is that immediately the Blackwits left the Emsworth shore a large flock of Redshank moved in - their shorter bills mean that they do not contend for the same food items that the Blackwits are after but the absence of the Blackwits must make it easier for the Redshanks to feed without having to give way to the larger birds.

Grey Phalarope: At least three of these were still passing through the Netherlands and one was off the Yorkshire coast this week

Pomarine Skua: One was at Selsey on New Year's Day (hopefully spotted by one of the candidates for this year's Pom King award) but on Jan 5 one Netherlands site had 39 of them (and if there was no double counting between the 8 sites which reported them that day there were 78)

Arctic Skua: Only one report picked up by me this week, a single seen at Sangatte (Calais) on Jan 6

Great Skua: One at Selsey on Jan 1 and 45 at Sangatte on Jan 5 (potentially 172 at the 11 sites reporting the species)

Little Gull: Only one reported this week (at Weymouth) though recent counts from the French coast were of 240 on Dec 30 and 104 on Dec 31)

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still to be seen on Jan 6 but it was just one of eight reported in the British Isles this week including another adult at Radipole (Weymouth)

Caspian Gull: One was still being seen at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 6 (9 reported in the British Isles by RBA) and another was at Dungeness.

Iceland Gull: Now plenty of these with RBA reporting 120 around the British Isles. One was in Portsmouth Harbour on Jan 2 and another at Shoreham on Jan 5

Glaucous Gull: 48 reported in the British Isles on Jan 6 but the only one in the south seems to be the one at Dungeness which has been there right through 2011

Kittiwake: 27 at Selsey on Jan 1 and at least one at Southsea Castle on Jan 2 but if you want to see one take the ferry from Dover to Calais - the count at Sangatte on Jan 6 was 12135 (maybe 27746 if you took in three other sites that day)

Sandwich Tern: On Jan 1 there were 6 in Langstone Harbour (Milton shore) plus 3 in Poole Harbour and Jan 2 saw two near Black Point in Chichester Harbour, two more in the Hill Head area west of Gosport and one at Pett in Rye Bay. More unexpectedly there was a single Common Tern at a Netherlands site on Jan 4

Guillemot: Jan 1 saw more than 1000 at Dungeness with at least one at Selsey and on Jan 2 one was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour with one in Langstone Harbour entrance on Jan 4

Razorbill: 3 were at Selsey on Jan 1 and 3 at Black Point in Chichester Harbour on Jan 2 while on Jan 4 there were just over 500 across the Channel at Sangatte

Black Guillemot: The single Tystie remained off Portland this week

Little Auk: At least 2 were off the Netherlands on Jan 6

Ring-necked Parakeet: The colony in the Thanet area of Kent had at least 600 birds seen at a Ramsgate roost site on Jan 5 - no news of the Swanage colony this year but the only report last year was of 2 birds there on Jan 24 - maybe they moved east as 2 were seen in Lymington on Feb 3 with another seen there on Dec 30

Barn Owl: Although these are thought to have had a good season in 2011 I can only find two sightings of them this week - one in the Kent Stour valley and the other at Rye Harbour (Tawny and Little Owls appeared in several reports)

Kingfisher: I get the impression that there are fewer wintering birds in our area this winter and the only two reports of them I have seen this week have been of two birds at Gosport Anglesey Lake and one by the Hamble at the Bunny Meadows (Warsash)

Woodlark: One was singing at Iping Common near Midhurst on Jan 2

Waxwing: Lee Evans suggests that there are only around 100 birds currently in Britain and that they are all in Suffolk

Robin: Brian Fellows has two birds in his Emsworth garden which by Jan 6 were coming to food without showing aggression to each other and this is almost certain proof that they are already paired and may already be nesting

Desert Wheatear: These birds are normally found in semi-desert habitat in Africa, Arabia and parts of India throughout the year so it is not clear why two them seem to have settled in to Northumberland and Yorkshire but they were still there on Jan 2 (I think that at least one of them has been in the country since early November)

Blackbird: The mild weather caused at least two birds to give full song this week - one was heard in Chichester in (I think) daytime while one which I heard in Havant was singing just after sunset (the time of day when I have normally heard the first song of the year in February)

Redwing: On Dec 24 Brian Fellows website mentioned that the current BTO News had told him that there are two subspecies of Redwing - those that we normally see in winter in England are Turdus iliacus iliacus which breed in Eurasia while the other subspecies is T. i. coburni that breeds in Iceland and the Faroe Islands and which moves south down our west coasts in winter, being seen in Scotland, Wales and Ireland and going as far as northern Spain. The cobuni birds are marginally larger and noticeably darker in their plumage and these were almost certainly the birds seen on the Exminster marshes in Devon on Jan 2 where four birds seen feeding on the ground were at first taken to be all Fieldfares until a closer view showed that two of them were Redwing looking as large as Fieldfares and having a dark plumage similar to the Fieldfares

Mistle Thrush: Not many years ago I would regularly hear Mistle Thrush song from my garden through each winter and spring as my garden was on the boundary of two territories - one to the north centred on the the Eastern Road Cemetery and the other to the south near the Havant old Town Hall. In 2002 I heard the song almost every other day from mid January to mid March and I heard it less often in each year to 2008 but I have not heard it here at all in 2009, 10 and 11 so I was very pleased to hear one on Jan 7 this year (I fear it came from a bird just passing through and trying to summon a mate where none was to be found)

Siberian Chiffchaff: On Dec 31 one was identified by its calls to be at Newlands Farm between Fareham and Stubbington and this caused me to check on the criteria for separating Siberian (tristis) birds from both Scandinavian (abietinus) and regular Chiffchaffs (collybita) - if you feel the urge to do this have a look at http://www.ntbc.org.uk/siberian%20chiffchaffs.html

Goldcrest: I still do not have this species on my year list but I see that two were seen in the Nore Barn woodland at Emsworth on Jan 6 though I will probably come across one in the trees lining the Billy Trail in Havant before too long

Bearded Tit: Another bird still not on my personal yearlist but they are still present in the Thorney Little Deeps and the Farlington Marshes reeds and should reveal themselves in the near future if high pressure brings one or two of those still, sunny days. Some were seen at the Little Deeps on Jan 6

Marsh Tit: I was very pleased to hear their calls and see at least three birds among a tit flock in Stansted Forest just east of Forestside church on Jan 2

Willow Tit: I am very unlikely to come across this species in south east Hampshire nowadays but I am pleased to see two reports of them in south Devon this week

Brambling: No big flocks yet but on Jan 4 there were at least 10 at Barrow Moor in the Rhinefield Arboretum area of the New Forest seen by birders after the Hawfinches coming in to roost and 2 were seen in the West Dean Woods north of Chichester on Jan 6

Twite: Two were reported to have been seen in the Rye Harbour area on Jan 2 (the first I have heard of in southern England since a report of 5 at the Oare Marshes in north Kent on Dec 10)

Hawfinch: While at the New Forest Hawfinch roost at the end of his Jan 5 tour of Hampshire birds Lee Evans learnt that a peak count of 44 Hawfinch had been recorded there last month (Dec 2011) with up to 28 noted already this month

Dark-eyed Junco: The bird in the Hawkhill Inclosure area of the New Forest (about 3 km west of Beaulieu village on the north side of the road heading to Brockenhurst) has provided the biggest pull for twitchers in the last couple of weeks. It was first seen on Dec 24 and has been provided with an ample supply of seed since then. To get an impression of the bird and its location go to http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/amigo/ and scroll down through the entry about the Siberian Chiffchaff at Stubbington to that about the Junco seen on Jan 6

Snow Bunting: The birds at East Head in Chichester Harbour were still there on Jan 6 the Worthing Widewater birds were present on Jan 7. I have also seen reports of singles at Portland on Jan 2 and Christchurch Harbour on Jan 6

New Year Birdrace results

Most birders have a competitive spirit and want to get their 'year lists' off to a good start as soon as possible in the year even if the competition is not against other birders but just against their own inertia (who wants to get up earlier than usual and carry on searching for more birds in the wind and rain we had on this New Year's Day). A secondary reason for getting a good list is that it can be used to raise money for good causes through sponsorship on the basis of so many pence for every species seen. In recent years an informal set of rules has evolved to govern the 'sport' and one of these rules is that the race need not be run on Jan 1 but on the day within the first week of the year that is likely to give the best results so it is necessary to wait for the end of the week before all the results are in but I think I now have the counts achieved by most of those willing to publish them and the numbers I have seen are ...

Score / Day / County / Team Name / Comments

121 / Jan 1 / Hants / Ornitholidays (Nigel & Phil Jones) / Beat the existing county NYD record of 120 set in 2009

116 / Jan 1 / Hants / Nicorettes

116 / Jan 1 / Hants / Chavsisters

109 / Jan 1 / IoW / Robin Attrill

106 / Jan 1 / Hants / Ovenreadies

103 / Jan 5 / Sussex / Bald Eagles (Richard Ives )

97 / Jan 7 / Sussex / 'First Winters'

96 / Jan 6 / Sussex / Muppets (Bernie Forbes & Owen Mitchell)

90 / Jan 1 / Sussex / Russ Tofts

84 / Jan 2 / East Sussex / Ashdown Men

81 / Jan 1 / IoW / Derek Hale

72 / Jan 1 / East Hants / John Norton & Peter Raby

69 / Jan 2 / Sussex / TQ01ers / team of 7

67 / Jan 2 / Sussex / Cuckfield Cuckoos / The Crabtree family including Eleanor aged 13 and a half

59 / Jan 2 / Sussex / Henfield Fab Four

54 / Jan 1 / East Hants / Steve Mansfield / by cycle around Alton

52 / Jan 1 / Langstone area / Havant Wildlife Group / 15 people on foot

49 / Jan 1 / Sussex / L & F Dray

48 / Jan 1 / Hants & Sussex / Ralph Hollins / by cycle from Broadmarsh to Nutbourne Bay

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies:

No reports

Butterflies:

Brimstone: One seen near Andover on Jan 2 - earliest ever spring emergence?

Red Admiral: Eight reports with sightings in Kent, Sussex and Hampshire (including one in Havant Garden Centre). Also seen on Dec 29 were many active caterpillars feeding on nettles beside the Sussex Ouse

Small Tortoiseshell: Another 'first of year' from Pulborough on Jan 6

Peacock: Another 'first of year' seen near South Chailey in Sussex on Jan 2

Moths:

Selected sightings this week:

Note - I assume that readers are as ignorant of moths as I am and so I attempt to provide background info about each species through links to sources of expert knowledge. For each species two links are given. The first is to the UKMoths entry for that species giving one or more photos (if more than one thumbnail is shown clicking it will cause it to replace the large image) plus background info at the national level. The second is to the HantsMoths entry giving similar information at the Hampshire county level - clicking the Phenology, etc boxes gives charts relating to records in the Hampshire database and the meaning of the colours in the Flightime Guide can be found at http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/flying_tonight.php Finally note that a Sussex Moths site is under development at http://www.sussexmothgroup.org.uk/

1053 Acleris hastiana found at Portland on Jan 1 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=5580

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1053.php

1799 Winter Moth Operophtera brumata found at Portland on Jan 1 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=1813

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1799.php

1640 The Drinker Euthrix potatoria caterpillar found hibernating on a Blackthorn twig (with no shelter from the elements) at Harting Down near Peterfield on Jan 4 - see http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=2149 and also see photo in the entry for Jan 4 at http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/sightings.html

For the HantsMoths info go to http://www.hantsmoths.org.uk/species/1640.php

Other Insects:

Selected sightings this week:

Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris): A queen was seen gathering nectar at Clanfield (north of Waterlooville) on Dec 24 - not unusual as Queens semi-hibernate through the winter - but more unusual was the sight of a worker also gathering pollen at Northiam in the Rother Valley area north of Hastings on Jan 4 (implying that there was still an active nest with grubs to be fed at this time of year)

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My personal New Year list of flowering plant species is now up to 70, not all of them listed here!

Marsh Marigold: At least one flower seen on the Langstone South Moors on Jan 3

Common Whitlowgrass: Flower buds starting to open in Waterloo Road, Havant on Jan 5 - see my Diary page for photo

Herb Robert: The normal plant was seen in flower in Havant on Jan 5 when I also took more photos of the as yet unidentified Geranium species also growing in Havant - see my Diary pages for more detail and photos but the suggestion from Martin Rand (south Hants plant recorder) is that I have found a specimen of Geranium reuteri which has only started to appear in Britain in the past few years and consequently is not listed in my 1997 edition of Stace's British Flora.

Spotted Medick: First flowers seen in Havant on Jan 7

Cherry Laurel: One white 'candle' with open flowers seen on Jan 4

Thyme-leaved Speedwell: Just one tiny flowering plant spotted in my garden lawn on Jan 6

Field Madder: Flowering in roadside grass in Havant on Jan 7

Grape Hyacinth: One plant with opening flowers seen under a roadside hedge in Havant on Jan 7

OTHER WILDLIFE

(Skip to Endweek)

Bats: These do occasionally emerge from hibernation on warm days during the winter for a brief fly around, enabling them to defecate and prevent a dangerous build up of waste products in their bodies but a birder's report from the Clennon Valley at Torquay in Devon seems to suggest there have been more regular sightings there of what are thought to be Daubenton's bats as if they have not yet settled into full hibernation

Fungi: Little to report this week but I have noted three observations. On Jan 1 the Havant Wildlife Group found Jelly Ear (aka Jew's Ear) in Pook Lane at Warblington. On Jan 3 I was at the footbridge over the Langbrook stream at the west end of Mill Lane in Langstone where several clusters of fungi have been visible for some time on a branch of an Elm tree overhanging the water and submerged under the highest tides. On that day the tide was out, enabling me to get into the (very muddy) stream bed and collect a sample which immediately showed me the distinctive black velvet stems under the egg-yolk yellow caps telling me these were Velvet Shank, not Brick Caps which I had previously suggested in the absence of a sight of the stems. Finally, walking round the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Jan 7, I found a cluster of Wood Blewitts which have come up in the past week, easily differentiated from Field Blewitts (also called Blue Legs) by the fact that the bright lilac blue colour was in the gills, not the stems or caps.

ENDWEEK

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