Summary for Sep 29 - Oct 5 (Week 39 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

The first Black-throated Diver of the winter has arrived to join Red-throated and Great Northern in our southern waters and the first Red-necked Grebes have also arrived. A family of Whooper Swans seen on the Isle of Wight could be heading back to the Chichester Lakes for the winter. Both Pink-foot Goose and Pale-bellied Brent are now with us. Radio tracking of two young Ospreys heading south from Scotland gives us the sad news of how one was blown off course by the wind and flew for more than four days out into the Atlantic where its strength gave out - the other bird is safe in France. The first two Purple Sandpiper have been seen and a tractor driver in Sussex was able to get within a few feet of four feeding Jack Snipe without disturbing them. Another close encounter was with a Kingfisher which twice flew into the kitchen of a Herefordshire house, posed to have its photo taken and was tame enough to be picked up by hand and put out of the window. At Rye Harbour the first Long-eared Owl has arrived for the winter and the first Shorelark and Penduline Tit have been seen in Dorset with an even rarer Red-throated Pipit in Hampshire while Kent has had the first Savi's and Dusky Warblers along with repeat sightings of Barred and Radde's Warblers. The entries for Raven and Chaffinch may be worth a look for incidental info.

At least 17 species of butterfly were reported this week (including late news of a Queen of Spain Fritillary found near Chichester). Both Small Copper and Brown Argus have produced fresh generations. Moth news includes three new finds of Clifden Nonpareil

No freshly flowering plant species but I have already found 109 species still in flower during October

Other Wildlife news has a very surprising report of an Otter in the mouth of Chichester Harbour, some notes on Roman Snails in Britain (none in our area!) and of the first find of the rare Red Cage (Clathrus ruber) fungus


(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Following the first of the autumn at Portland on Sep 12 and a second seen off Thanet on Sep 22 we now have three more - one off Christchurch Harbour on Sep 26 and 3 seen off Thanet on Oct 3 and 5 off Worthing on Oct 4

Black-throated Diver: First of this autumn off the north Kent coast on Oct 1 with another seen there on Oct 3

Great Crested Grebe: The autumn flock in Langstone Harbour had increased to more than 40 birds when the Friends of Langstone Harbour walked around the harbour on Sep 27

Red-necked Grebe: First of the autumn were two seen (with a Great Crested) on the sea just off Pagham Harbour on Sep 26

Sooty Shearwater: 18 were recorded off Portland on Oct 4 with at least one seen at Christchurch Harbour. On Oct 3 at least 644 Sooties were seen along the north coast of France along with 295 Balearic Shearwaters and 1389 Bonxies.

Leach's Petrel: Four were seen off Milford (west of Lymington) on Oct 5

Cattle Egret: One in The Fleet area near Weymouth on Sep 28 was only the second report for Sep after one at Brownsea Island on Sep 19

Whooper Swan: A family of two adults with one juvenile were seen at Newtown Harbour (north coast of IoW) on Oct 4. Not sure if these are wild birds or escapes. Maybe they will come to the Chichester Lakes on which we has a family of five from 16 Dec 2007 until 10 Feb 2008 (also present in several previous winters - if these are the same pair each winter I think they were first seen in Jan 2002 and since then have generally been seen only after New Year until they brought young with them for the first time last year)

Pink-foot Goose: First of the winter were four flying over the Thanet area of Kent on Sep 29

Greylag Goose: John Clark found 400 Greylag with 250 Canada Geese during a WeBS count of the Hampshire part of the Avon valley south of Ringwood on Sep 29

Pale-bellied Brent: On Oct 1 one was with a group of 8 Dark-bellied Brent off Titchfield Haven. It is sometimes difficult to see the breast and belly to be certain that you are looking at a Pale-bellied Brent and Bob Chapman gives a useful tip to bear in mind if you only have a rear view of a suspected Pale-bellied bird - he points out that a Dark-bellied bird will show some darker underbelly feathers extending behind the legs whereas a Pale-bellied bird will have nothing but the pure white of the undertail area extending forward to and beyond the legs when seen from the rear.

Pintail: On Oct 3 the number at Pulborough increased to 6 and on Oct 4 the first two genuine winter visitors arrived on the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood

Garganey: Three were still in the Kent Stour valley on Sep 30 with at least one there on Oct 1

Scaup: A juvenile was reported from the Lymington marshes on Sep 27 but has not been mentioned again.

Red-breasted Merganser: In my midweek summary I reported "Late news of what may have been the first three to arrive in Langstone Harbour - three were seen from Farlington Marshes on Sep 25" I now see that I was misled by the entry on John Goodspeed's website on which the previous week's dates had not been updated so I think these birds were in fact seen on Oct 2

Honey Buzzard: Among others one flew over the Itchen valley country park near Eastleigh on Sep 29 and one went over Dungeness on Sep 30

Marsh Harrier: A juvenile was hunting over the Thorney Deeps back on Aug 20 and maybe the same bird was still there on Oct 1. Another was over Pagham Harbour on Oct 2

Common Buzzard: 16 seen over the Hastings area on Sep 27 may have arrived from the continent and also that day a group of six over West High Down on the Isle of Wight were seen to be catching insects on the wing.

Osprey: On Sep 27 one was fishing in Bridge Lake (Langstone Harbour immediately west of Langstone Bridge) and on Sep 28 two were seen over Thorney Island. Latest news is of 3 again seen over Langstone Harbour on Oct 4. Plenty of other reports but worth noting is news that I saw on the Folkestone birding news (but which originates from the RSPB website reporting the progress of two radio tagged Ospreys heading south from Loch Garten in Scotland). One of these (called Deshar) has been at Folkestone from Aug 23 until Sep 26 when it set out across the channel but kept to a course that was too westerly so the bird failed to see the French coast. The official RSPB blog recording this bird's progress said on Oct 2 .. "As promised here are the facts about Deshar's momentous flight. He started to show signs of movement at 9am on 26th September, he started at a course of 220 degrees at a speed of 67kph at 238m above sea level. If he had been at 210 degrees it is likely he would have hit France, I suspect the course was very much due to the weather conditions which showed quite a strong north-easterly wind on that day. He flew for 104 hours non-stop before unfortunately plunging into the North Atlantic Ocean at 17.00 on 30th September, on his 104 hour flight he covered 4,185kms (2600 miles). The satellite data for between 16.00 and 17.00 on the 30th shows that he had changed his course to 62 degrees at a speed of 18kph". The last sentence implies that the bird realised (after more than 4 days non-stop flying without feeding) that something was wrong and had turned back to retrace its course, but it did so only an hour or so before its strength gave out ... The other bird being tracked is called Nethy and on Oct 2 she was perched near a river close to Angouleme in France. To follow her progress go to http://www.rspb.org.uk/wildlife/tracking/lochgartenospreys/index.asp which shows the map position of the bird but you get nothing by clicking the labels on the map - to find out the story click the 'Read More' link below the 'Latest Blog post'

Merlin: One was hunting over the Thornham Marshes on Thorney Island on Sep 28 when another was seen near the Needles on the IoW

Hobby: One was still in the Test valley on Oct 3 and another was seen at Durlston on Oct 4

Grey Partridge: Martin Hampton saw what he was fairly certain was a Grey Partridge in the rough pony field south of Wade Court at Langstone on Sep 28 - while I have not heard of them here before they have been seen on the Warblington Farm fields as recently as last year (and have bred there). I suspect the bird which Martin saw had been released (possibly many miles away) quite recently and had decided not to stay where it was released (wisely if it was released for shooting but may be not so if it was released as part of a well intentioned scheme to reintroduce the species to farmland where no shooting take place)

Common Crane: The two birds which arrived in the Dungeness area on Aug 23 and appeared to have settled there flew off on Sep 14 but were back on Sep 28 and still there on Sep 30 - to see photos of them go to http://www.kentos.org.uk/Dungeness/0809sightings.htm

Avocet: It may be that another wave of these birds is now heading west to winter in our west country. The first wave passing through the Thames estuary area seemed to peak with a count at the Cliffe Pools (on the Isle of Sheppey) of 755 on Aug 1 with no reports of significant numbers there after Aug 4 until Sep 27 when 450+ were reported increasing to 585 on Sep 30.

Golden Plover: A few could be seen on the mud beside the Emsworth Channel when looking from the Thorney seawall near the Deeps on Oct 4. This is one of 8 south coast reports this week but the only substantial flock was of 200 in the Thanet area of Kent on Oct 1

Sanderling: Around 160 were on the Ryde Sands in the Solent on Oct 2 after 100 had been seen there on Sep 23 - maybe these are now staying here for the winter.

Little Stint: Six were recorded at Pulborough Brooks on Sep 30 and Oct 1 but the count was back to 4 on Oct 3. Also on Oct 1 there were three present at Titchfield Haven

Pectoral Sandpiper: In addition to single birds at Pulborough Brooks (still there on Oct 1) and Abbostsbury (last reported on Sep 29) a juvenile was seen at the Selsey west fields on Sep 28

Purple Sandpiper: Two were seen at Brighton Marina on Sep 28. These seem to be the first on the south coast this autumn although one was seen at the Oare Marshes (north Kent) on Aug 5 and three were reported from Thanet on Aug 12

Jack Snipe: One had been seen at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 21 and now a second autumn report comes from the Long Pool near Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) on Sep 29. An interesting report for Oct 4 comes from a farmer at Constantia Manor by the Sussex Ouse north of Lewes - driving his tractor past a muddy pool he was able to get clear and close views of 4 of these birds feeding undisturbed by the very close presence of the large noisy tractor with its human occupant who was unseen by the birds.

Spotted Redshank: One was back in the Emsworth area on Oct 3 but barring across its belly and undertail area showed it to be a juvenile which will not have been here before.

Red-necked Phalarope: In addition to the birds at Portland on Aug 12 and at Farlington Marshes on Sep 16 there is now a report of one at Northward Hill (north Kent) on Sep 26

Grey Phalarope: The first to be reported since Sep 18 was a juvenile off the north Kent coast on Oct 3. On Oct 4 at least six of these birds arrived on the Dorset coast near Weymouth (3 at Abbotsbury, 2 further south in The Fleet, and one at Christchurch Harbour)

Arctic Skua: A surge of Skuas and other seabirds passing west through the English Channel on Oct 4 (the majority being on the French side) brought 24 Arctic Skuas past Worthing and 32 past Portland (probably including 21 seen at Christchurch Harbour)

Long-tailed Skua: On Oct 4 six were seen from Christchurch Harbour with 4 probables seen from Portland and one seen from Sandy Point on Hayling. At least one more was seen from Milford (Lymington) on Oct 5

Great Skua: 15 went past Portland on Oct 4

Sabine's Gull: An adult was seen off north Kent on Oct 3 (with 27 Bonxies and a juvenile Long-tailed Skua)

Lesser Blackback Gull: Following Bob Chapman's estimated of around 10,000 of these coming to roost at the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) on Sep 24 John Clark counted them on the evening of Sep 29 and saw 7,500 with at least 250 Herring Gulls

Sandwich Tern: Ten seen in the Solent off Ryde on Oct 2 and two off north Kent on Oct 3 are probably not intending to winter here though any seen from now on in Langstone or Chichester Harbours may well stay.

Common Tern: Also unlikely to stay with us were four still in Southampton Water on Oct 4 and three flying west over Christchurch Harbour on Oct 3

Guillemot: One swimming close to the shore at the Lymington marshes on Sep 27 was attacked, killed and eaten by a Great Blackback Gull (not untypical of the behaviour of these large rapacious gulls)

Razorbill: One was in Langstone Harbour, seen from the Milton shore of Portsmouth, on Sep 27 and three in Christchurch Harbour on Oct 3

Cuckoo: One was still in the East Grinstead area on Oct 1

Tawny Owl: On Sep 29 I was told that Tawnies could be heard nightly at present in the area of the Hayling Billy Trail just north of the A27 here in Havant and residents in part of Christchurch will also have heard them when three owls were all calling ceaselessly from 3am onwards on the morning of Sep 29. More night-time hooting was reported at Durlston on the night of Oct 3-4. On Sep 27 an owl coming to bathe in a garden pond at Denmead (east of the Meon valley) became inextricably tangled in wires around the pond (presumably put there to deter Herons from fishing). Luckily the owl suffered no serious damage and was released after it had been cut free.

Long-eared Owl: The first report of the arrival of a wintering bird on the south coast comes from Rye Harbour on Oct 3 though the sighting (by Sam Smith, one of the wardens) is only described as 'probable'

Short-eared Owl: Quite a few of these are now coming into souther Britain - nine were found at Portland on Sep 29; two were at Dungeness on Sep 28 when one was seen at Hook (Warsash); and three were at Beachy Head on Sep 27. Back on Sep 26 one was hunting over the Thornham Marshes on Thorney and on Sep 30 Russell Wynn saw one near the Needles on the IoW during a day on which he saw ten species of raptor. Since I wrote that for the mid-week summary there have been three reports from Dorset sites, all on Oct 3, and on Oct 4 one was still hunting over Thornham Marshes on Thorney

Kingfisher: On Oct 4 one was seen flying along the 'canal' which connects the Thorney Little and Great Deeps just inside the seawall. Also on Oct 4 Keith Betton made Hoslist readers aware of a story on the Daily Mail website - this told how a Kingfisher had twice flown into the kitchen of a house in Herefordshire, on the second occasion allowing the owner of the house to take a photo of the bird sitting calmly beside a teapot and then allowing the owner (a retired farmer aged 74) to pick the bird up in his hands and put it out. The farmer said that the bird had been coming to take fish from his garden pond since last November - to see the story with photos go to http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1068549/The-kingfisher-came-tea-Britains-shyest-bird-makes-home-kitchen.html

Turtle Dove: What was probably the last for the year was reported by Portland on Sep 27 (one or two do occasionally winter on the south coast)

Nightjar: Latest report is of one at Portland on Sep 28

Swift: One was seen at Barton in the Christchurch area on Sep 27 and an unspecified 'small group' of them went over Durlston on Sep 29

Wryneck: Latest sighting was of one on Thorney Island on Sep 27

Great Spotted Woodpecker: These have been appearing at coastal sites since July and numbers peaked on Sep 12 when 8 were seen at Sandwich Bay and another 5 at Christchurch Harbour. On Sep 28 one appeared in the Havant area around my home and was heard again next day but not since.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: I had the impression that these remained silent throughout the year other than a couple of months in the early spring but on Sep 21 I reported that one had been heard 'drumming and calling' at Boughton Park (south of Maidstone in Kent) and now Russell Wynn tells us that he heard one drumming in the Brockenhurst area of the New Forest on Sep 14

Wood Lark: One was singing for around 20 minutes somewhere in the Horsham area on Oct 1 so maybe someone will hear one at Stansted...

Skylark: Counts from Christchurch Harbour of 42 moving over on Oct 2 and 28 doing so on Oct 3 show that they are now starting to move to winter quarters (and may well provoke local birds intending to stay where they are for the winter to sing in defence of their territory)

Shore Lark: First to be reported this autumn flew over St Aldhelm's Head in Dorset on Sep 27

Swallow: In most places the supply of these seems to have dried up in the last few days but on Sep 30 Durlston reported them flying over at a rate of 2700 per hour for much of the morning and 250 went over that site on Oct 4

House Martin: Numbers passing over Dorset and Hampshire have dropped off in the last few days but over in east Kent they continue to fill the sky. On Sep 30 Sandwich Bay reported 55,000 going over while Durlston had just 300. On Sep 29 Thanet had 8200 over with another 1700 at Folkestone but only 220 at Christchurch Harbour. Oct 3 brought a massive surge of these birds over east Kent with one estimate of 20,000 going over Sandwich Bay that day when more than 300 flew over Pulborough Brooks and more than 50 flew south down the Test valley. Latest report is of 120 over Christchurch Harbour on Oct 4 (with 200 over the Blashford Lakes that day)

Richard's Pipit: First for the year was at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 29. Breeds far from us in Siberia. On Oct 3 one was flushed from the shore at Climping (mouth of R Arun) and flew west - possibly the same bird was seen at Christchurch Harbour on that day.

Red-throated Pipit: Steve Keen was convinced by its calls that one flew over him at Barton on Sea on Sep 29 - if he can convince others this will be the second record of the species for Hampshire. This species breeds within the Arctic Circle in the extreme north of Scandinavia and Siberia.

Rock Pipit: One at Black Point (Hayling Island) on Sep 27 was the first in our local Solent harbours since March. The species breeds on the Hampshire coast west of Southampton Water and may have done so in the Southsea Castle area of Portsmouth but elsewhere around these harbours it is just a winter visitor.

Yellow Wagtail: Still being seen on Oct 3 when 3 were at Portland and one was at Climping in west Sussex. Another 3 were at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 4

Fieldfare: One had been seen in the Thanet area of Kent on Sep 26 and another has been seen at Sandwich Bay on Oct 3

Song Thrush: A count of 76 at Bockhill (South Foreland in Kent) on Sep 27 was the biggest influx I have seen reported so far although the total number of migrant birds reported this autumn since they started arriving on Sep 13 is at least 440

Redwing: The first autumn migrant that I am aware of arrived on Sep 15 and the total number of birds reported so far is 95

Savi's Warbler: First report for the year was of one at Sandwich Bay on Sep 29. Probably not a long distance wanderer as they breed just across the channel and have bred in Britain.

Barred Warbler: Following one at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 15 and another in Thanet on Sep 18 there has been one at Bockhill (South Foreland) on Sep 26 and 28. This species breeds in eastern Europe but not as far north as Siberia.

Yellow-browed Warbler: By Oct 3 I had seen 16 reports covering 18 birds from sites in east Kent and Portland (but so far none from Sussex or Hampshire)

Radde's Warbler: I have already reported one at Sandwich Bay on Sep 26 but since then I have seen a report of one in the nearby Thanet area on the same day - maybe the same bird, maybe not.

Dusky Warbler: The first for the year was at Bockhill on Sep 26 and 27 - this, like the Radde's Warbler, has probably taken a wrong route and come here after breeding in Siberia.

Wood Warbler: It is unusual to see these on autumn passage but this year there have been 14 reports - the two new ones come from the Test valley near Romsey on Sep 27 plus belated news of one in the Brockenhurst area of the New Forest on Sep 13

Goldcrest: We have seen plenty of reports of these arriving from the continent since Sep 8 but I was surprised to see that there were more than 1000 at Bockhill (South Foreland) on Sep 27 giving a minimum total of 2765 continental birds arriving here for the winter so far. On Oct 4 Southampton Common had 23 Goldcrest and 1 Firecrest

Penduline Tit: One of these landed briefly at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 29 before continuing west (first report for this autumn)

Red-backed Shrike: The one which arrived on Thorney Island on Sep 13 was still being seen on Oct 4 while Sep 27 brought news of three others at Lymington, Sandwich Bay and the Devils Dyke area near Poynings north of Brighton - the one at Lymington was still there on Oct 4

Great Grey Shrike: Three reports so far this autumn, maybe all of the same bird which was seen in the Thanet area on Sep 24 and 25, then at Bockhill (South Foreland) on Sep 26

Raven: John Clark tells us that he has just finished writing up Ravens for the 2007 Hampshire Bird Report and in it he gives a figure of 27 territorial pairs present in Hampshire that year with 11 of them know to have bred, 7 of them successfully raising young.

Chaffinch: No autumn passage reports of more than 100+ on this side of the English Channel so far but the Trektellen.nl website which lists bird sghtings at many north west European sites reports 25,288 Chaffinch heading west through Holland on Oct 4.

To use this website go to http://trektellen.nl/kaart.asp?site=0&taal=2&land=1 for an overview of where the sites are located (on this and other pages of the website select English at the top left of the page) but for latest counts it is best to go to the homepage http://trektellen.nl/ which lists reporting sites in order of the latest report from that site - clicking the date will give you the detail of the report. (To see the figure for Chaffinches find the site named Oelemars in those listed for Oct 4 and then click the date which appears in red) The site has many other facilities to explore.

Brambling: The first of the autumn was seen in Thanet on Sep 17 and so far I have seen 12 reports of sightings in Kent and Dorset before one was seen in Sussex (heading south over Wivelsfield Green near Haywards Heath on Oct 4). No Hampshire sightings so far.

Goldfinch: As usual in the autumn vast numbers of these appear 'from nowhere' and move along our southern coasts. Since Sep 25 the reports I have seen cover a total of around 4982 birds, including one report of 1020 at Sandwich Bay on Sep 29 and 510 over Durlston on Oct 4

Siskin: These have been arriving from the south and moving north since the beginning of September and the latest reports include a count of 719 passing Sandwich Bay on Sep 29 (total for the autumn is close to 20,000)

Linnet: These too started to be report at the beginning of Sep but numbers have picked up since 300+ were reported at Durlston on Sep 29 though so far I have only seen 24 reports of a total of 2491 birds

Hawfinch: A report of 10 seen near the Chichester West Dean woods on Sep 12 was thought to be a possible indication of local breeding rather than migration but news of 2 passing over Durlston on Oct 4 shows that some are now moving (as does a report of a single Bullfinch flying high east over Christchurch Harbour on Oct 1)

Lapland Bunting: One flying over Portland on Oct 2 is the sixth to be reported this autumn (first was on Sep 13) but all reports so far are from Dorset sites

Reed Bunting: Just 19 reports covering a total of 542 birds since the beginning of September but almost half of the birds are in two reports from Christchurch Harbour (126 on Sep 25 and 110 on Sep 29)

Escapees: A Harris Hawk was seen over Thorney Island on Sep 28 and a Fulvous Whistling Duck was at Hook (Warsash) on Sep 29


(Skip to Plants)


Common Darter: A male seen at Budds Farm in Havant on Oct 1

Migrant Hawker: Latest report is of one around Stansted House (north of Emsworth) on Sep 26


17 species still being mentioned in recent reports including ...

Clouded Yellow: One again reported at Durlston on Sep 29 - there must be a resident colony there as there is in Bournemouth

Small Copper: This regularly has a third generation which emerges in October and counts of 13 at both Barton on Sea and at Lymington on Sep 27 confirm this

Brown Argus: Still active at Magdalen Hill Down (Winchester) on Sep 25 and a report of a new brood emerging at Shoreham Mill Hill on Oct 2 (5 seen there)

Common Blue: Still to be seen on Portsdown on Sep 28 and at Durlston on Sep 29

Chalkhill Blue: Seen at Kingley Vale (north of Chichester) on Sep 28

Adonis Blue: 11 seen on Mill Hill at Shoreham on Sep 26 and more than 12 there on Oct 2

Peacock: Most butterflies of species which hibernate to breed next spring go into hibernation very soon after emerging (even if they emerge in good weather as early as the end of July) so there was nothing unexpected when a fresh Peacock was seen to fly down into a cold dark cellar in the Eastbourne area on Sep 28 - a look into the cellar showed that it was joining another five already there and 'fast asleep'.

Queen of Spain Fritillary: Late news of one found at Brandy Hole copse (north west fringe of Chichester) around Sep 12 - I think it was found alive but soon died. (See my entry in last Sunday's Weekly Summary)

Wall Brown: Singles seen at Lymington on Sep 27 and at Durlston on Sep 29 are presumably remnants of the summer brood - there could still be a further brood emerging in October

Small Heath: 1 still flying at Shoreham Mill Hill on Oct 2


Oak Lutestring (1658 Cymatophorima diluta): First of year that I know of in the Newhaven area on Sep 25

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): One more report of a Seaford garden sighting on Sep 26 and another at Worthing on Sep 29 brings the total number of reports for this year to just 41 (covering 45 moths)

Pink-barred Sallow (2273 Xanthia togata): First for the year at Ringmer near Lewes on Sep 27

Clifden Nonpareil (2451 Catocala fraxini): Following the one seen in Hastings on Sep 17 we now have three more reports. On Sep 6 one came to Russell Wynn's moth trap at Brockenhurst in the New Forest and on Sep 25 and 26 there were sightings at two separate places in the Rother Woods (north of Hastings)

Other Insects

Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae): We have heard much of the large colony of these recent invaders from the continent to be found on the sandy cliffs at Hastings but on Sep 30 they get a mention on the Durlston website and have presumably established a foothold there.

Grey Bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata): One had its photo in a Rye Bay website entry for Sep 28

Dark Bush Cricket (Pholidoptera griseoaptera): One still to be seen at Durlston on Oct 4


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Unsurprisingly no new flowerings have been noted in the past week but I have started my winter routine of recording how many species are in flower in each month from October to March and this count was up to 109 by Oct 4 - see my diary entry for Oct 1 for some of the plants seen on that day. Noteworthy species seen so far this month include Early Dog Violet, Weasel's Snout, Green Alkanet, Butchers Broom, Fool's Parsley, Pencilled Cranesbill, Greater Willowherb and Water Pepper


Otter: In the late afternoon of Sep 27 Andy Johnson made a stunning discovery which he described (in an email on Oct 28) in these words - "I finished off an amazing day yesterday by finding an OTTER in Chichester Harbour entrance channel shortly before 7pm. My attention was drawn to it by a swirling mass of gulls over the water, and with mirror-calm conditions it was easy to watch it feeding, diving and generally loitering for over 20 minutes before it became too dark. Viewed from the Lifeboat Station, it was way over on the Sussex side of the channel (and may be worth looking for from that side) approximately half way along East Head. This evening it was back in exactly the same place from around 18.50, although the water was very slightly choppy, making the views less satisfying than yesterday. Nevertheless, it may prove to be a regular event". Andy's news prompted Trevor Carpenter to tell us that, around midday on Oct 28, he too had probably seen the same Otter off the Mill Rythe area of east Hayling (roughly west of Pilsey Island south of Thorney Island) but could not identify what it was (he said it was diving like a small Seal).

In the past I have heard of Otters travelling many miles overland in search of a new river on which to set up territory, and I believe that Otters breed on the River Itchen, so maybe one of them set off downstream to Southampton Water, turned left and headed east through the Solent to reach Chichester Harbour. Maybe this is even the same animal which, on Aug 7, gave Colin Bates so much pleasure when it came out of the River Itchen in the Brambridge (Eastleigh) area and climbed onto the tree branch on which Colin was sitting - perhaps it was then already on its journey south from the Winchester area?

Common Seal: The Friends of Langstone Harbour made their annual 'round the harbour' walk on Sep 27 and one of their rewards was to see three Common Seals in the water off Broadmarsh.

Red Deer: I had thought that September was too early for Red Deer rutting but Russell Wynn tells us that throughout the past month he has heard the bellowing of a Stag (guarding his harem of 17 Hinds from the attentions of a young Stag) in the area of the New Forest south of Brockenhurst where Russell now lives - he says the bellowing can be heard as much as a kilometre away from the Stag.

Fungi: A troop of Parrot Waxcaps has come up on my lawn this week and on Sep 29 when I was walking on the south face of Portsdown I came on a cluster of what looked like oversize cigars standing vertically around 8cm high and having a similar girth (too fat to get into the normal mouth to smoke!). I am pretty sure these are the stems of what are now called Pestle Puffballs (Handkea excipulifomis) - listed in Roger Phillips as Calvatia excipuliformis. I read that the stems of this species can persist and look almost fresh for months after the head of the puffball has done its work and disappeared. New fungi seen at Durlston on Oct 5 include Clathrus ruber (or Red Cage), Dead Man's Fingers (Xylaria polymorpha) and Yellow Brain (Tremella mesenterica)

Roman Snail: This is a non-sighting but it may save others from making the mistake that I nearly made this week. When on Portsdown I came across a very large snail with a light brown colour to its shell hanging from a plant stem and this caused me to wonder if it could be a Roman Snail (Helix pomatia) which is a close relative of the very common Garden Snail (Helix aspersa) but is distinguished from it by being larger and having a light brown colour. My snail book (Land Snails of the British Isles by A A Wardhaugh in the Shire Natural History series) tells me that the Garden Snail shell measures 3 cm in width and is about 3 cm high while the Roman Snail is 4 cm wide and 4 high, and as the snail which I saw measured just over 3 cm in width, and had a much lighter brown colour than the Snails which I find in my garden, and I read that Roman Snails live on chalk grassland, I asked Richard Jones (in charge of the wildlife of Portsdown for Portsmouth City) if Roman Snails existed on Portsdown - his answer was that he had never come across them and that Portsdown is far from the areas where they can be found (but he did not tell me where that might be!).

My next step was to consult Google and I almost gave up on this quest as the main interest in this species (as far as users of the internet are concerned) is that this is the edible 'Escargot' species and it is widely farmed and sold commercially. However, on the third page of the hits listed by Google, I came on a pdf document, written by what was then called the JNCC, describing the status of the species in Britain in response to the EEC directive on the conservation of rare species and this has a map showing the areas in which the snail can be found and gives what was described as a population estimate of 51 (at a guess this is the number to 10 km squares in which it may be found rather than a number of individuals!). The areas mapped are the North Downs (running south of London and east into Kent) and a band stretching from near Gloucester north east towards Suffolk (presumably taking in the Cotswold and Chiltern hills). As single small dot may be in the Salisbury Plain area but there are no signs of the species being found in Hampshire or on the South Downs. If you are interested see http://www.jncc.gov.uk/pdf/Article17/FCS2007-S1026-Final.pdf

Should you ever think you have found a genuine Roman Snail there is one other test to apply, and that is to check if it has an 'umbilicus' (a small depression similar to our human 'tummy button'). Garden Snails do not have one, Romans have a small one (and several other species clearly have one). To look for an umbilicus hold the shell with its top uppermost and look in the centre of the underside (next to the inner side of the 'mouth' of the shell)

Summary for Sep 22 - 28 (Week 38 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

There should be plenty of interest for everyone in this week's entries


(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: One in summer plumage was off the North Foreland in Kent on Sep 22 and another was seen off Christchurch Harbour on Sep 26

Great Northern Diver: One off Portland on Sep 21

Black-necked Grebe: At least two in Langstone Harbour from Sep 21 and singles at Pagham Lagoon and Abbotsbury in Dorset

Leach's Petrel: The very first to get a mention anywhere this year was off Sheppey in north Kent on Sep 22. I am not certain if the observer was confident that he was seeing a Leach's rather than a Storm Petrel - what he said was .. "The best thing was at 1430 I saw a very distant falcon swooping and chasing low over the water, as it got closer I could see that it was a Merlin and later still that it was trying to catch a Leach's Petrel. The Petrel avoided all attacks and eventually the falcon gave up and came in over the Hamlet and the Petrel went back out to sea."

Cormorant: I have not heard of a roost in trees at Ivy Lake, Chichester, but on the night of Sep 24 the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood had a roost of at least 120 birds

Bittern: The first winter visitor to the south is reported to have arrived at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Sep 21and a second was at Radipole (Weymouth) on Sep 24. There were reports of birds booming in the Kent Stour valley from Apr 10 through to June 13 and one was seen flying there on July 28 but no reports since then.

Little Egret: By chance the roost near the Little Deeps on Thorney and the one at Langstone Pond (less than 4 km to the west) were both counted on the evening of Sep 26 with 190 birds at Thorney and 139 at Langstone. Just one of the birds coming from the west towards Langstone ignored the roost there and continued east to Thorney where the presence of a Marsh Harrier roosting at the Little Deeps did not on this occasion disturb the Egrets there.

Grey Heron: There is undoubtedly a certain amount of autumn movement by these birds with most of the reports of high flying birds seen at coastal sites seeming to indicate that some Herons leave us and head south for the winter but when counting the Egret roost at Langstone on the evening of Sep 26 I noticed that (in addition to the expected three Herons in the nearby trees) there was a 'siege' of six Herons in the saltings off the pond - this is the first time I have noticed them there since last winter and I guess they may be birds which have come south to spend the winter in the harbour (though I have no proof that they are not local birds which have been elsewhere locally during the summer).

Night Heron: One flew east over the Black Point area of Hayling on the morning of Sep 28 and continued past East Head. It flew low over the head of Andy Johnson whose attention was attracted to it by a call which he describes as "a "quaack!" - the sort of noise one might expect to hear from a toy duck!"

Brent Goose: By Sep 25 Brent were back on the north shore of Langstone Harbour with 13 in the mouth of the Langbrook Stream just west of Langstone village.

Pale-bellied Brent: First south coast report if of two birds seen among Dark-bellied birds at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 25

Shelduck: Two adults with two juveniles were in the main pool of the Hayling Oysterbeds when it was empty of water at low tide on Sep 25

Wigeon: More than 200 were on the Thorney Deeps on Sep 23 and on Sep 26 Barry Collins gave an estimate of more than 2000 in the eastern end of the Great Deeps

Teal: More than 100 were in the Mill Rythe area of east Hayling on Sep 21

Pintail: Ten were seen flying over Thorney Island on Sep 22

Garganey: A very brief sighting of a small duck at Hook (Warsash) scrape on Sep 23 showed the dull brown (no bright green) speculum in its wing before it disappeared from sight. Since then there have been reports of a female at Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex on Sep 24 and one at Farlington Marshes on Sep 25

Goosander: One was at the Blashford Lakes on Sep 24 but it was probably one that had been breeding locally in the Avon valley (two juveniles had been seen in Christchurch Harbour on Aug 20 and there had been two sightings of an adult female at the Blashford Lakes during June)

Marsh Harrier: On the evening of Sep 23 two Marsh Harriers (a female and a juvenile) were over the Thorney Little Deeps to the consternation of Little Egrets coming to roost there - the Egrets are said to have changed their minds and headed off to the Langstone roost (pity no one was there to confirm the total that night). Another female Marsh Harrier was over the north of Pagham Harbour on Sep 23 and at least one was seen over the Thorney Deeps on Sep 24 with a second over the south of the island. On Sep 26 one again roosted at the Thorney Little Deeps but this time it did not frighten off the Egrets coming to roost.

Hen Harrier: The first to be reported back in the Leaden Hall/Hampton Ridge area near Godshill in the New Forest was seen on Sep 25. This could be the same bird which came in off the sea at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 24 and was seen early on Sep 25 at Barton on Sea. The bird may not stay in the Leaden Hall area as it was being used for low hovering practice by two different helicopters (a problem that has occurred in previous years though letters to the military authorities have achieved temporary relief - no doubt that approach will be tried again but it may have no effect on any non-military offenders)

Osprey: After the peak count of 5 over Thorney Island on Sep 17 there has been a sighting of 4 there on Sep 20 with reports of singles there on Sep 21, 22 and 24. Also on Sep 21 two arrived together over Langstone Harbour and two were again seen there on Sep 25. Other sightings in the last few days have been at Shoreham (over the R Adur), Abbotsbury in Dorset, the Downs near Steyning north of Worthing, and Horsham

Spotted Crake: Single birds were seen at Farlington Marshes in Langstone Harbour and the Oare Marshes in north Kent on Sep 20 but neither has been reported since.

Great Bustard: News of the re-introduction scheme on Salisbury Plain appeared in the Daily Telegraph on Sep 26 after 18 young birds were released ob Sep 25 to join around 20 others that are all that remain of the overall total of 70 that have been released since the start of the scheme in 2004. The males of this large species do not breed until they 4 or 5 years old so the birds released in 2004 were not expected to produce any young until 2008 but one female laid two eggs in 2007 - maybe they were infertile as there has been no news of any young. For this and much more news visit http://www.greatbustard.com/

Sanderling: The first three figure count since July comes from the Ryde Sands where 100 were seen on Sep 23

Little Stint: On Sep 21 around 5 were at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour and 3 were at Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour). Other singles seen this week were at Pulborough Brooks, Ferrybridge and Lodmoor in the Weymouth area, Abbotsbury, and one unexpectedly at Woolmer Pond in East Hampshire on Sep 25

Pectoral Sandpiper: The bird seen at Farlington Marshes on Sep 21 has not been reported again but the one at Pulborough Brooks has been seen daily from Sep 20 to 25. Another bird was at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Sep 24 and 25

Buff-breasted Sandpiper: One was seen well enough for a good identification when it flew low (not once but twice) past Steve Keen at Barton on Sea on Sep 26. (First report for this year)

Jack Snipe: First to be reported this autumn was seen at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 21 with 14 newly arrived Common Snipe

Woodcock: What was probably the first migrant arrival of the autumn was seen in the Brownwich area west of Titchfield Haven early on Sep 27 - Mark Edgeller, who saw it, writes that it "appeared out of the gloom at 7.00, did a couple of circuits over Meon Shore before dropping like a stone into the Haven".

Black-tailed Godwit: On Sep 19 a total of 238 birds in Chichester Harbour were equally divided between the Fishbourne Channel and Colner Creek at Bosham but on Sep 22 (when the tide was lower) a total of 234 were in Fishbourne Creek with just 10 in Colner Creek and 12 in Esmworth Harbour.

Common Sandpiper: Very few now being reported. Latest news is of 2 at Weir Wood in north Sussex on Sep 21 and singles at Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) and Christchurch Harbour, both these on Sep 23

Pomarine Skua: One was around Sheppey on Sep 22 and two were seen at Reculver (further east on the north Kent coast) on Sep 23 - probably part of a mass exodus of Skuas from the North Sea now that the Terns have left.

Arctic Skua: A more substantial indication of this exodus comes in counts of 53 at Reculver, 28 at the Oare Marshes and 24 in the Thanet area, all on the north Kent coast on Sep 23

Long-tailed Skua: More than one seen in the Thanet area on Sep 23

Great Skua: The most impressive count is of 267 of these Bonxies off Reculver on Sep 23 (one flock had 61 birds), with 50 reported from Thanet and 6 from Oare Marshes that day

Little Gull: At least 50 were on the north Kent coast on Sep 23 (36 at the Oare Marshes and 14 in the Thanet area)

Sabine's Gull: Two were seen off Reculver on Sep 23 with another (juvenile) reported at Oare Marshes that day.

Black-headed Gull: First report of gulls following the plough was of around 450 Black-headed on the fields south west of Fareham on Sep 21

Audouin's Gull: A 'possible' reported off St Aldhelm's Head (south of the Purbeck Hills) on Sep 27 - if true this is the first report of the species for the year

Lesser Black-back Gull: Bob Chapman estimates that around 10,000 large gulls (mostly Lesser Blackbacks) came to roost at the Blashford Lakes on the evening of Sep 24. Bob adds that the number is inflated by birds on passage as nothing like this number are present in the winter but this year is not, I think, exceptional - peaks of 6500 on 28 Sep 2003 and 2800 on 26 Sep 2004 were recorded by John Clark for Lesser Blackbacks alone. The peak count at Blashford in 2005 was 5098 and came in October, in 2006 it was 3150 in September,

Sandwich Tern: The fact that most have departed is emphasised in the low counts now being reported. On Sep 23 the only reports were of 27 in the Thanet area, 11 at Oare Marshes. and just 4 seen off Ryde (IoW). On Sep 24 Rye Harbour had just 24. At least two were in Langstone Harbour on Sep 25.

Turtle Dove: Two could still be seen at Portland on Sep 25

Ring-necked Parakeet: Two noisily flew east over Hardham (close to Pulborough) on Sep 22

Cuckoo: One was still to be seen in the Chilling area near Warsash on Sep 21

Barn Owl: One could again be seen hunting over the Thornham Marshes (north east Thorney Island) at dusk on Sep 26

Short-eared Owl: Among several recent sightings one was at Titchfield Haven on Sep 24 and another was at the Thornham Marshes on Thorney on Sep 26

Nightjar: Further evidence of Nightjars choosing strange places to rest when on migration come from the Crawley area where, at dawn on Sep 12, one was seen sitting on the roof of a silver car outside a house at Warninglid - it remained there for 45 minutes after it was first spotted.. Latest report is of one at Durlston on Sep 22

Swift: Late reports of singles over Southampton on Sep 20 and Christchurch Harbour on Sep 23 with one in the Christchurch area near Barton on Sea on Sep 25

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: One is reported to have been heard drumming and calling at Broughton Park south of Maidstone in Kent on Sep 21

Woodlark: Small numbers appear to breed on the Stansted estate north of Emsworth but larger numbers seem to winter there. The maximum reported during the breeding season this year was 6+ on July 28 but 14 were there on Jan 1 this year and 12 have now been seen feeding in the East Park area on Sep 19. Latest report was of at least one at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 26

Skylark: Migrants noted in both the Titchfield and Hastings areas on Sep 21 and on Sep 26 5 flew north up the Test vally over Casbrook Common (north of Romsey)

Crag Martin: On Sep 21 one was seen to circle Beeding Hill (on the west bank of the R Adur north of the Downs) twice before flying east. The BTO Bird Facts webpage says that this species was first recorded in Britain in 1988 (in Cornwall) and that there were only five more records up to 2004 - these came from Wales, Yorkshire, Leicestershire, Kent and East Sussex (one there in 1996). The current bird seems to be the only one in addition to the six listed. The Sussex Bird Report for 1996 gives a different version of the BTO Facts, saying that the 1996 bird was in fact seen on 8 Oct 1995 and that the first for the county was at Beachy Head on 9 July 1988, (the 1989 report adds that this one was two weeks later than the first for Britain, seen in Cornwall)

House Martin: Huge numbers have been seen along the south coast in the past week with significant reports coming from the Barton on sea area (just east of Christchurch) where an estimated total of around 16,000 were seen on Sep 23 (with one pure white bird among them!). The majority of these birds seem to have been following the Avon and Stour rivers south until they meet at Christchurch and the birds then turn east along the coast. Soon after dawn on Sep 23 around 2000 of the birds seen at Barton were thought to have spent the night clinging to local cliffs and this elicited the fact that no one seems to know where House Martins spend their nights when on migration (they certainly do not join the Swallows and Sand Martins in coastal reed beds). One piece of evidence which I observed sometime in the 1980s was of more than 100 spending an autumn night clinging to the vertical face of a brick building here in the Havant area (I saw them as the early sun was just warming the face of the building and observed that the birds appeared unable to take off until they had been warmed for several minutes by the sun). Further enquiries at that time discovered that House Martins also roost in trees and maybe they also settle on the rooves of houses.

Tree Pipit: Peak count of 10 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 24

Meadow Pipit: Around 1000 were grounded at Portland on Sep 23 and a peak count of 2800 went over Christchurch Harbouron Sep 25

Rock Pipit: These are now being seen at coastal sites where they do not breed. One was at Folkestone on Sep 24 and one was at Sandy Point on Hayling on Sep 28

Water Pipit: These too are on the move and the first autumn report was from Barton on Sea on Sep 25

Yellow Wagtail: Still plenty of sightings with a peak count of only 30 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 21. Latest sighting was of 9 in the Sandy Point area of Hayling on Sep 28

Grey Wagtail: Peak count of 14 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 25

Alba Wagtail: Peak count of 155 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 24

Dunnock: Robin and Wren can both be heard singing now and last year Dunnock resumed singing on Sep 22 but I have not yet heard one in full song this year - however on both Sep 24 and 25 I heard continuous sub-song coming from dense shrubs and thought the bird singing might be a Dunnock, and since then I have been told that Dunnock do have a sub-song which is similar to their full song

Robin: A further influx of 150 Robins was found at Sandwich Bay in Kent on Sep 25 and I am pretty sure that thousands of continental Robins are now settled in English gardens for the winter.

Common Redstart: Still plenty of sightings but none of more than 2 birds this week

Whinchat: Peak counts of 16 and 10 both at Portland on Sep 21 and 26

Wheatear: 50 at Portland on Sep 23 and 62 at Thanet on Sep 26 with plenty of small sightings

Ring Ouzel: Ones or twos at ten sites this week including Leaden Hall in the north west of the New Forest and one at a posh housing estate called Glebelands which somehow got planning permission to be built on Ballard Down about a mile south of Studland village - the houses have magnificent views over the sea off the entrance to Christchurch Harbour

Blackbird: A number of these have now arrived from the continent but the only report confirming this comes from the Brownwich area west of Titchfield Haven where two presumed migrants were seen on Sep 21

Fieldfare: First of the autumn was a lone bird in the Thanet area of Kent on Sep 26

Song Thrush: A few continental birds started to arrive in the Hastings area on Sep 13 and others were seen at Dungeness on Sep 14, then in Thanet on Sep 16 and at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 17. On Sep 20 a flock of 10 'nervous' birds was noted in the Sheepcote Valley at Brighton, and on Sep 22 a flock of 13 was at Sandwich Bay with a 'noticeable influx' reported in the Thanet area that day and on Sep 22 we also hear of the first migrants noticed in Hampshire at Barton on sea. By Sep 25 at least 50 were in the Thanet area and 30 were on the Sussex Downs near Cissbury Ring (and I probably saw one at Langstone when counting Egrets coming to roost on the evening of Sep 26)

Redwing: The first of these was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Sep 15, then one was heard flying over the village of Bury by the R. Arun south of Pulborough on Sep 22, and on Sep 24 two birds were seen at Portland and a peak count of 14 was reported from Thanet

Grasshopper Warbler: Latest report is of 2 on Ballard Down in Dorset on Sep 25

Lesser Whitethroat: Latest is one at Portland on Sep 26

Common Whitethroat: Latest is one at Cissbury Ring on Sep 25

Garden Warbler: Two at Portland on Sep 26

Blackcap: Ten at Portland on Sep 26

Yellow-browed Warbler: These have been in the news since one was in the Thanet area on Sep 16 and by Sep 25 Lee Evans weekly bulletin reported a total of 85 in the extreme northern Isles with several more scattered over the country - latest was at West Bay in Dorset on Sep 26 and there are plenty in Kent but I have not seen any reports for Hampshire or Sussex.

Raddes Warbler: One was at Sandwich Bay on Sep 26 one day after the first of the autumn had been seen in Norfolk

Wood Warbler: One was almost certainly seen by the River Test near Romsey on Sep 27 to be the seventeenth reported this autumn

Goldcrest: The first of these winter visitors are coming to us, like the Thrushes, from the south. First report was from Portland on Sep 8 with a total of 30 seen in Christchurch Harbour on Sep 10. Four were seen in the Beachy Head area on Sep 9 but none were noticed at Dungeness until Sep 14 and on Sep 19 around 20 were seen in the Thanet area. On Sep 20 Christchurch Harbour had 43 of them and 10 were at Portland on Sep 23. On Sep 26 Sandwich Bay had a huge influx of 400 birds. From these figures and dates I get the impression that the first wave of continental birds fleeing the oncoming winter head west across mainland Europe until they reach the Atlantic coast of France where some may head bravely out across the ocean to perish unseen but others turn north and cross the channel, not using the short hop across the straits of Dover but heading north from the Cherbourg penninsula on a route that takes them to the English coast between Portland and Christchurch.

Bearded Tit: On Sep 21 Bob Chapman was at the Lymington marshes where he saw a group of 9 'high flying' Bearded Tits setting out on an autumn journey into the unknown, then on Sep 27 another group of 9 were seen flying west over the Brownwich area near Titchfield Haven. These birds were seen making their spring journeys in the second half of March this year but I was not aware that they also did this in the autumn though I have only to look back to 2006 to find a report of birds 'high flying' at Farlington on Sep 18

Great Grey Shrike: The first to be reported this winter was in the Thanet area of Kent on Sep 24 and 25. Out of our area a Lesser Grey Shrike flew in off the sea at Sheringham (Norfolk) on Sep 25

Jay: Although there has as yet been no news of a large scale influx of continental birds there has been an increase in the number of mentions this species gets in birding news since Sep 14 when 23 were noted in the Kent Stour valley. I have seen nine reports since then, including one from Crawley town where someone watching from an office window has seen more than ten birds each day since Sep 19 - they attract attention by busily flying from trees to the ground and back and are thought to be setting up winter stores of food by burying acorns. Two reports from east Kent give counts of 22 at Sandwich Bay and 29 in the Thanet area, both on Sep 25

Raven: These are now established and breeding right across southern England and last winter there was a roost holding 25 of them somewhere in Hampshire but still the influx of birds moving east from the west country continues. Most movements are of one or two birds or perhaps a family group but on Sep 22 a single flock of 13 birds went over Christchurch Harbour (giving a day total of 16 birds there) and on Sep 23 the day total at Barton on sea was 9 birds

Starling: On Sep 22 a night roost of around 2000 birds was reported from the Oare Marshes near Faversham in Kent and John Goodspeed's website has a report for Sep 27 from Baffins Pond in Portsmouth - it says "A spectacular sight can now be witnessed at Baffins Pond. At dusk countless numbers of starlings gather from all points of the compass in an ariel ballet before plummeting down to roost".

Chaffinch: On Sep 25 Christchurch Harbour reported 56 migrants passing over as finch passage gets under way.

Brambling: A maximum of three were seen at Sandwich Bay on Sep 25 and two were in the Thanet area on Sep 24 when another was reported at Folkestone. The first report was from Thanet on Sep 17 and the latest is of one at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 26

Greenfinch: On my way to Langstone on Sep 26 I saw a couple of Greenfinch and realised that it is some time since I recorded these. It seems I was not alone in becoming aware of their return - 14 were noted at Rye Harbour on Sep 13, 12 were at Barton on Sea on Sep 21, and 32 were at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 25

Goldfinch: Although there had been counts of up to 180 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 15 the number of passage birds is now starting to build with 413 at Barton on Sea on Sep 26.

Siskin: Although these have been moving north into Britain since Sep 7 and there had been a count of 650 at Sandwich Bay on Sep 13 there are still plenty more arriving with another report of 600 at Folkestone on Sep 25. I have 53 reports of more than 100 birds so far this autumn.

Linnet: On Sep 25 there were reports of 137 over Barton on Sea and 118 at Christchurch Harbour

Lesser Redpoll: Very small numbers of these on the move so far, just nine reports since Sep 13 with a peak of just 20 birds at Beachy Head on Sep 14 and 15 at Rye Harbour on Sep 26

Common Yellowthroat: One was found on the cruise ship Aurora on Sep 19 and was still there (being fed by the crew) when the ship was in Southampton Docks on Sep 23 (very unlikely to desert the comfort of the ship for the Hampshire countryside). This is a very common warbler species in north America where 13 different races are recorded. Some of the birds which spend the summer in the north of the continent migrate south at this time of year, others in the south stay put. I see the song is described as a "loud wichety wichety wichety wich" which might become rather tiring if the birds were resident here.

Lapland Bunting: One was at Durlston on Sep 25 and maybe the same bird was at Portland on Sep 26 following two earlier reports from the Dorset coast on Sep 13 and 14

Reed Bunting: Although there had been reports of as many as 54 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 15 these are only now starting to become a noticeable component of the autumn passage. Peak count of 126 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 25


(Skip to Plants)


Migrant Hawker: These are still active when the sun permits and on Sep 21 a pair were found mating at Broughton Park (south of Maidstone) in Kent

Common Darter: These will also be around for a little longer and several were seen at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Sep 21


18 species still being reported, among them ...

Brimstone: 15 were seen at Stockbridge Down on Sep 19 and at least 4 were at Old Winchester Hill in the Meon Valley on Sep 20

Small Copper: This is one of the more frequently seen butterflies at this time of year and had eight reports in the period Sep 18 to 21with a peak count of 7 on Stockbridge Down

Common Blue: More than 25 were flying on Castle Hill (between Brighton and Lewes) on Sep 21

Chalkhill Blue: 12 were seen on Old Winchester Hill on Sep 20 with 2 Adonis Blue still on the wing there

Adonis Blue: 4 seen on Castle Hill on Sep 21

Red Admiral: Plenty of these around, especially on banks of flowering Ivy (up to 20 seen on one bank at Ryde (IoW))

Painted Lady: Six reports in the last few days including one from central Portsmouth, one from Horndean (north of Waterlooville) and another from East Meon near Petersfield

Comma: More than 10 were seen at Pulborough Brooks on Sep 21, I think all newly emerged

Queen of Spain Fritillary: News coming via Brian Fellows is that one of these rare vagrants from the continent was caught in Brandy Hole Copse (close to the northwest boundary of Chichester city) around Sep 7 and subsequently died so its remains are availble for inspection! The news reported by Brian was that this was only the second to be found in Sussex since 1969 but when I looked the species up on the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website I could only find reference to one sighting (in the Amberley area south of Pulborough on 18 April 2007)

It is likely that the previous sighting was well before the Sussex Branch had a website though I have a record of one seen in the Ditchling Common area on the 18 July 2006 though on re-checking I should have deleted that record as the photos taken of it showed the experts that it was "a particularly silvery Dark Green Fritillary". To see genuine photos of the April 2007 insects go to http://www.sussex-butterflies.org.uk/species/butterfly/gallery%20rarities.html and scroll down to two relevant photos - a photo of the latest find is promised to appear on Brian Fellows' website when he gets hold of it. Although this species is genuinely rare I have recorded three other reports this century - one on Old Winchester Hill in the Meon Valley on 14 June 2007, one at Gilkicker (Gosport) pn 1 Aug 2004 and one at Portland on 23 Sep 2003. Another one (in Suffolk in June 2003) was found to have been a locally bred escapee.

Meadow Brown: More than 100 were seen both at Old Winchester Hill and Castle Hill on Sep 20 and 21


The Mallow (1745 Larentia clavaria): First report of this species from the Newhaven area on Sep 20

Barred Red (1962 Hylaea fasciaria): First taken at Friston near Eastbourne on Sep 25

Convolvulus Hawkmoth (1972 Agrius convolvuli): Eighth report for the year (fifth from Portland) on Sep 21

Shore Wainscot (2201 Mythimna litoralis): Not the first for the year but when one was trapped on sand dunes at East Head (mouth of Chichester Harbour) on Sep 20 Ivan Lang reminded us that the caterpillars of this species live on Marram Grass

Blair's Shoulder-knot (2240 Lithophane leautieri): First report is from Thanet on Sep 24

Beaded Chestnut (2267 Agrochola lychnidis): Another first at Friston on Sep 25

Clancy's Rustic (2387a Platyperigea kadenii): One at Friston near Eastbourne on Sep 22 was the first for the year

Clifden Nonpareil (2451Catocala fraxini) This rare and beautiful immigrant was found in two different places on two consecutive nights (Sep 25 and 26) in the Beckley Woods (north of Hastings in the Rother district of East Sussex)

Red Underwing (2452 Catocala nupta): One seen near Rye on Sep 23 was the fifth report for the year but this one was flying into a group of Poplar and Willow trees which are the foodplant of its caterpillars

Moth/Butterfly Larvae (9998): A Death's Head Hawkmoth caterpillar was found in a Winchester garden on Sep 19

Other Insects

Colletes hederae (Ivy Bee): The Rye Bay website (go to http://rxwildlife.org.uk/category/hastings/ ) has an entry for Sep 26 which describes the mating behavious of these bees which are recent invaders of Britain and have a thriving colony on sandy cliffs at Hastings. The website entry will allow you to play a video of the mating bees but the copy of Andy Phillips text (below) will give you the main facts ..

Ivy Bees at Castle Rocks, Hastings

Spent a fascinating hour or two yesterday watching Ivy Bees (Colletes hederae) with entomologist Simon Saxton who is researching the bee at Castle Rocks, Hastings. The video below shows some mating behaviour which is quite unusual but a feature of this species mating strategy and other Colletes species that form large aggregations.

When a new female emerges or is dug out by a male she produces a scent that attracts the males that tirelessly patrol the burrows. This scent also seems to rub off onto the successful male and any other attendant males which attracts more males, which pick up the scent themsleves attracting more males etc. producing these mating balls which can become quite large. You can see the successful male at the bottom of the mating ball with his legs tucked tightly into its body and antennae held tightly backwards over the head.

When the mating ball disperses the female flies away from the area with the successful but motionless male attached. This is an example of phoretic copulation where the female carries the male while mating. Quite a bizarre sight watching these mating pairs flying around the nesting aggregation.

It seems that it is not only the scent that attracts males as size also seems to be a cue as Simon has noticed smaller males trying to mate with particularly large males and even a large Dysdera woodlice spider. The variation in the size of males seems to be quite marked in the aggregation at Castle Rocks and Simon is collecting data on this to try and analyse the reasons and whether it is associated with the autumn emergence, and resultant thermoregulation & reproductive strategies of this species.

Orb Web Spider (Araneus quadratus): A less commonly seen but more colourful relative of the Garden Cross spider whose webs block our paths every morning at this time of year was seen and photographed at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Sep 21. See Brian Fellows' diary entry for that day at http://www.emsworthwildlife.com/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Crown Vetch: Still flowering on Sep 22 in the Wakefords Way garden in West Leigh at Havant where it is now established as a 'weed'

Apple blossom: Not something you expect at this time of year but as I was cycling north up the Hayling Coastal Path on Sep 25 and about to go past the gate which prevents unauthorised vehicles going north of the Stoke Bay/Oysterbeds carpark I found myself admiring a small Apple tree covered with fresh blossom growing in the ditch between the shore carpark and the overflow carpark behind the Esso garage

Yellow-flowered Strawberry: Both fruits and flowers can still be seen in Juniper Square at Havant

Green Field Speedwell: I have found Grey Field Speedwell in many places around Havant but on Sep 24 I think I found Green Field Speedwell for the first time on a roadside near the Havant Health Centre

Slender Speedwell: It was good to see this flowering again in the churchyard of St Faith's in Havant on Sep 24

Devils Bit Scabious: I came across a new colony of this flowering by the Lavant stream alongside the Bartons Road playing fields in West Leigh (Havant) on Sep 22

Chamomile: This was still flowering on the grass of Purbrook Heath, where I have found it for many years, on Sep 23 (see my diary entry for more detail)

Butcher's Broom: This normally starts to flower in September and I found the first flower in Havant Park on Sep 23


Common Seal: 11 were seen off Longmere Point on Thorney Island on Sep 24 (14 seen there on Mar 30 and 13 reported on Aug 20). Another count of 11 at Rye Harbour on Sep 21 included a very young pup.

Frog Tadpoles: I was aware that some Tadpoles fail to become Frogs in the year in which they hatched but remain in the pond until the next year but I was not aware of what Brian Banks tells us in an entry for Sep 26 on the Rye Bay website. Brian says .. "The delayed development of common frog tadpoles can occasionally be due to metabollic disorders, such as a defective thyroid gland for instance, but usually the delayed growth is down to over-crowding, and an interesting mechanism that kicks in with a micro-organism called Anurotheca richardsii. These curious cells lie somewhere on the divide between green algae and fungi. They are eaten by tadpoles in early spring, and proliferate in their guts, passing out in the faeces. Now tadpoles are keen on coprophagy, so they then eat the droppings and ingest the cells, and high loads can build up in ponds with a lot of tadpoles. They interfere with the growth rates of the smaller tadpoles, affecting a wide range of species, and can cause their death, so as a result the first animals to spawn in a pond are usually at a competative advantage. Thus common frogs can affect the growth rates of common toad tadpoles, and both species suppress the growth-rate of the rarer natterjack toad, that breeds rather later in the season.

Interestingly such micro-organisms can have impacts on other totally unrelated species. A recent paper has shown that such micro-organisms from Australian tadpoles can affect the development of mosquito larvae sharing the same pond. It really is a complicated world out there where some species can have quite subtle effects on others without our realising.

So, when common frogs are over-crowded the larger tadpoles suppress the growth-rates of their smaller siblings, and as a result you get a trickle of froglets emerging from the pond throughout the summer, until frosty weather kills those that are left. For some reason common toads do not seem to cope so well and if their growth rates are affected they die off and I have never seen the development of this species delayed to the same extent as in the common frog or natterjack toad.

Slow-worm: Another quote from the Rye Bay website this week comes from Chris Bentley who writes .. "I found this young Slow-worm attempting to eat a slug in the Lime Kiln Garden this morning, and making a meal of it as it were. The typically slow movements of the slug were matched by the sluggish gnawing of the lizard, and it all had the feel of some piece of slow-motion film. I watched this gruesome tableau for about ten minutes, by which time the slug appeared no closer to being dispatched". To see Chris's photo go to the RX website but for further info about Slow-worms Chris refers you to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slow_worm (As Chris's entry was for Sep 22 the quickest way to get to it is to use the link http://rxwildlife.org.uk/author/chris/ )

Summary for Sep 15 - 21 (Week 37 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

As it was already past my bedtime when I finished the text below I will omit the usual summary of highlights here and leave the reader to find them.


(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: A flock of at least 27 was in the corner of Langstone Harbour's Chalkdock Lake nearest the east entrance to Farlington Marshes when I was there on Sep 20 - my first large autumn flock

Black-necked Grebe: One arrived at Abbotsbury Swannery in Dorset on Sep 18 and another was new at Pagham lagoon on Sep 19 (others can probably still be seen in the Rye Bay area, the Kent Stour valley and possibly elsewhere so we should be seeing new returns to Langstone Harbour before long)

Cattle Egret: One was being seen regularly in Poole Harbour up to Aug 25 but has not been mentioned since then until now (1 at Brownsea Island on Sep 19)

Little Egret: On the evening of Sep 20 a total of 130 were seen to go into the Thorney Island night roost in trees north of the Little Deep

Grey Heron: Some seven reports of migrants during the past week include 16 passing the Folkestone area on Sep 13 and 15 going southwest over Christchurch Harbour on Sep 15

Spoonbill: Ten seen at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour on both Sep 14 and 19 (with at least three more in the harbour). One has also been present at Titchfield Haven this week

Mute Swan: The family still on the Havant Budds Farm pools have been giving their five cygnets flight training - on Sep 19 one parent ('Dad') was seen to go to one end of the pools while the other ('Mum') took the youngsters to the other end, then told them to 'fly to Dad' which they did, just skimming the water after much paddling

Black Swan: On Sep 16 there were four adults and six very young cygnets (I think all one family) on the West Ashling pond west of Chichester and two adults can still be seen on the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood.

Greylag Goose: Around 400 were in the Kent Stour valley on Sep 15 and on Sep 18 Rye Harbour had 120 plus 350 Canada Geese

Brent Goose: These are now back in force. The first I know of were 4 which reached Kent on Sep 12. On Sep 13 at least 6 were in Chichester Harbour with 48 pausing off the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Sep 14 when there were also reports of around 25 in north Kent, 1 passing Folkestone, 1in Rye Bay, 2 passing Selsey Bill, 1 off Titchfield Haven and 3 in Southampton Water. On Sep 15 I saw 50 in Langstone Harbour (off Saltmarsh Lane on Hayling) and more than 60 in Chichester Harbour off Tournerbury and another 8 were seen in Pagham Harbour. On Sep 16 some were again seen in both Chichester and Langstone Harbours and on Sep 17 the first 10 reached Christchurch Harbour. By Sep 19 there were around 200 in Chichester Harbour off Tournerbury and I heard that the bigger than usual number of early arrivals was due to a failure of the breeding season - with no young to care for the adults can move faster.

Ruddy Shelduck: On Sep 17 two 'probables' were seen at Lodmoor (Weymouth) and on Sep 20 another 'probable' was reported to have been seen from Thorney Island in Chichester Harbour. There have been a number of reports of this species in each recent year but I see that the bird which was present in the south of Langstone Harbour for a couple of winters was there in 2003/4 and 2004/5

Wigeon: Plenty of these now back - around 350 at Pulborough on Sep 15 and the first three in the mouth of the Langbrook Stream west of Langstone village on Sep 18 with four there next day

Teal: The first I have seen on Budds Farm pools were there on Sep 20 (only half a dozen)

Pintail: The first 7 were seen in Pagham Harbour on Sep 5 and by Sep 19 numbers had noticeably increased. On Sep 18 eleven were seen at Hook (Warsash) and on Sep 16 some were seen at Thornham Marshes on Thorney Island

Fudge Duck (Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid): The bird first seen at Farlington Marshes as a juvenile in the autumn of 1999 has subsequently wintered on Budds Farm pools and is now back on the pools for the ninth year (first seen as a 'possible' on Sep 19 and definitely seen on Sep 20)

Hooded Merganser: The young male which has been in the Weymouth area since June is now acquiring adult plumage and made a brief trip to Abbostsbury on Sep 16 but has since returned to its favourite haunt at Radipole (still there Sep 19)

Red-breasted Merganser: A group of 5 flying in Christchurch Bay (west of the Solent) on Sep 13 were almost certainly new arrivals and not summering birds

Honey Buzzard: 35 new reports this week from sites extending as far west as Hardy's Monument (north of Portesham) in Dorset and including two birds over Thorney Island and two more over the Lymington area on Sep 20 (when 6 were logged at Portland)

Marsh Harrier: 25 new reports of this species with birds seen over Thorney Island on Sep 18 (3 birds) and Sep 19

Buzzard: There seems to have been an exceptional southward movement taking an estimated 100 birds over east Kent on Sep 20

Osprey: These have been seen everywhere including one low over the Langstone South Moors on Sep 18 and a peak count of 5 together on Thorney Island on Sep 17

Red-footed Falcon: A confident report on Sep 20 of a female seen from Allington Lane (which crosses the M27 north east of Southampton) heading towards Eastleigh.

Spotted Crake: One has been at Farlington Marshes from Sep 16 to at least Sep 18

Corncrake: Three new reports from Folkestone (Sep 13), Portland (Sep 16) and Christchurch Harbour (Sep 17)

Avocet: By Sep 19 the number at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour was up to 759

Dotterel: New reports come from Christchurch Harbour and Rye Bay on Sep 13, the Selsey west fields on Sep 15, White Nothe headland east of Weymouth on both Sep 16 and 17, Thanet in Kent on Sep 19 and another in the Selsey area (heard only) on Sep 20

Little Stint: 16 new reports from a variety of sites including Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) and Farlington Marshes (peak count of 6 on Sep 18)

Temminck's Stint: One at Sidlesham Ferry on Sep 20 was the first anywhere this autumn

Pectoral Sandpiper: Sep 20 brought singles to both Farlington Marshes and Pulborough Brooks

Black-tailed Godwit: Recent counts show more than 200 at Farlington Marshes on Sep 17 with around 250 in Chichester Harbour on Sep 19/20 (124 in Fishbourne Channel, 114 near Bosham, and 6 in Emsworth Harbour). There are also probably around 50 at Hook (Warsash) and 25 at Pulborough.

Spotted Redshank: This week at least one has been at Farlington Marshes and two on Thornham Marshes.

Red-necked Phalarope: The first definite sighting of the autumn was at Farlington Marshes on Sep 16 (in many years they are seen as early as June, well before the Grey Phalaropes)

Grey Phalarope: This week has seemingly brought the last two of the 71 reports of this species this autumn - the first was at Lymington on Aug 21 and the last in the Cuckmere Valley area on Sep 18

Med Gull: The combined count of two flocks roosting at Pagham Harbour on Sep 19 was 379 birds - thought to be a county record for Sussex.

Black-headed Gull: On Sep 18 one at Hook (Warsash) was seen re-gurgitating food for two juveniles. This is unusual in two respects, one is the late date when I thought all the young would have fledged and left their parents, and secondly in that I recently passed on something which I had only just heard, namely that Med Gulls re-gurgitate whereas Black-headed carry food in their bills (making them more prone to losing food to skuas or other harrying gulls)

Terns: Most have now left and the highest counts I have seen this week have been of 27 Sandwich (Rye Harbour), 21 Common (Christchurch Harbour) with no more than 2 Arctic (Sandy Point on Hayling) and 1 Little (Pagham Harbour)

Black Tern: 18 new reports with 20 seen at Dungeness on Sep 14 when the two White-winged birds were last seen there

Barn Owl: One was seen hunting at dusk over the Thornham Marshes on both Sep 16 and 20

Tawny Owl: These are becoming vocal (probably as a result of youngsters dispersing from their parents and blundering into established territories where they are not wanted). On the night of Sep 13 one was heard in the Billy Line area from a house in Grove Road in Havant and on the same night at male and female were calling to each other in the Pulborough area, while on Sep 19 one was disturbed by day at Christchurch Harbour (perhaps because it had wandered into unfamiliar territory)

Short-eared Owl: Twelve new sightings including one hunting over fields on the west side of Thorney Island on Sep 14

Nightjar: Towards evening on Sep 14 one landed on a garden shed roof in the Eastney area of Portsmouth but took off and flew south as it became dark and on Sep 16 another bird in transit was found at dawn hunting moths in a garden at Patching (north of Brighton)

Swift: 15 new sightings with the last three on Sep 20 (in Kent, IoW and Dorset). The bird at Boughton Park in Kent was seen during an annual 'Big Sit' event when the birder whose patch this is sits in a chair overlooking the site from 5am to 6:45pm and records all the birds seen

Kingfisher: On Sep 19 I had a good view of one flying and then perched at Budds Farm Pools in Havant (I think the first time I have seen one there)

Wyneck: 25 new sightings seems to indicate a good autumn for sighting of this elusive species. Locally one was seen on a fence post by the Langstone South Moors seawall on Sep 18. Also that day four different birds were in the Thanet area of Kent

Skylark: Two flying west over the Titchfield area on Sep 14 were the first indication of this species' autumn movement

Sand Martin: Surprisingly few seen in this week when vast number of House Martins have been on the move. No site saw more than 100 of them.

Swallow: Peak count in a week when thousands were on the move was of 4800 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 16

House Martin: Among the many thousands on the move peak counts were from Christchurch Harbour with 12,000 on Sep 17 and 14,000 on Sep 18. Locally well over 100 passed east over Havant in mid-morning as I went out to bring in my Wheelie Bin after the weekly collection on Sep 17

Tawny Pipit: Singles seen in the West Bay area of Dorset on Sep 13 and in Thanet on Sep 17

Meadow Pipit: Highest count was 1960 over Sandwich Bay on Sep 19

Yellow Wagtail: On Sep 15 around 140 flew east in the evening (presumably to roost at Titchfield Haven) and on Sep 16 Lytchet Bay in Poole Harbour had a flock of 337. On Sep 19 at least 15 were seen in the Llama field at Thornham Farm (Prinsted) where 55+ had been seen on Sep 11

Bluethroat: One at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 17 was the first to be seen this autumn

Black Redstart: The first two reports of passage birds/winter visitors come from Newhaven and Folkestone, both on Sep 16

Whinchat: 60 were seen in Thanet on Sep 15 during the extraordinary fall of migrants there during this week (nearest to this count was a 10+ at Farlington Marshes on Sep 18)

Wheatear: These have not been numerous elsewhere this autumn but Thanet had 200 on Sep 15, 320+ on Sep 17 and 140+ on Sep 18

Ring Ouzel: Just five reports so far this autumn. First was seen on Sep 13 at Chanctonbury Ring on the Downs north of Worthing and three were on the Ventnor Downs (IoW) on Sep 15, Dorset then had one at Durlston on Sep 16 and one at Studland on Sep 17 before Hampshire had its first at the north end of the Titchfield Canal path on Sep 20

Song Thrush: Continental birds are now arriving for the winter. This week brought six reports starting on Sep 13 at Hastings and with a peak count of 16 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 17 - none so far in Hampshire

Redwing: An isolated single was reported at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Sep 15

Mistle Thrush: A flock of more than 30 was seen at Cissbury Ring on the downs north of Worthing on Sep 17

Zitting Cisticola (Was Fan-tailed Warbler and is related to Cetti's Warbler): The following extract is taken from the Swalecliffe (north Kent) website entry for Sep 13 ...

"I heard a short call, uttered twice, too weak for an acro or sylvia, which I did not immediately recognise. As I looked around, I saw a bird alight on the crown of an umbellifer about 50 metres away; through the scope it was an immediately recognisable Fan-tailed Warbler (old school) or Zitting Cisticola (new school)! It flew a short distance before dropping into the grass uttering its now obvious "zit zit" call. I phoned a few people and Birdline SE to get the news out widely and other observers down as soon as possible. I stayed put so as not to disturb the bird and in the 30 minutes before anyone else arrived it called reassuringly several times. As others arrived, I refound it in vegetation beside the brook and then it flew up and over the observers and dropped down again. Shortly afterwards it popped up on the top of a rose bush, where it stayed in full view for several minutes much to the delight of the assembled birders. Over the next three hours it stayed faithful to a small area of grassland apart from one foray over towards the sewage works after which it was lost for about 45 minutes. Although mostly out of sight in the grass, it appeared on the top of bushes or umbellifers and in flight periodically. I'm guessing about 100 birders saw it but, at 12.35 p.m., it took off from the crown of an umbellifer gaining height steadily until lost to sight high over and beyond the sewage works. This is easily the rarest bird to be found here; only the sixth for Britain after one in the county two years ago, two in Dorset in 2000 and two, in Dorset and Norfolk, in the 1970's".

Icterine Warbler: One in Thanet on Sep 17

Melodious Warbler: One seems to have stayed at Portland from Sep 12 to 20 and another was at Sandwich Bay from Sep 16 to 19

Barred Warbler: A juvenile at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 15 and one in Thanet on Sep18

Yellow-browed Warbler: Just one so far this autumn - in the garden of 49 Gladstone Road, Broadstairs, Kent on Sep 16

Goldcrest: 15 reports show that these are now arriving - highest counts have been 20 at Thanet on Sep 20 and 43 at Christchurch Harbour on that same day

Firecrest: Also starting to figure in reports with 8 sightings this week, all ones or twos in Dorset, Kent and East Sussex

Red-breasted Flycatcher: One of these seen in Thanet on Sep 17 (still plenty of Spotted and Pied being widely seen)

Red-backed Shrike: One has been on Thorney Island from Sep 13 to 19 and one other was in the Thanet area on Sep 17 and 18

Corvids: An interesting report of more than 2000 seen in the vicinity of Wildhern village/hamlet not far north of Andover (west side of A343) on Sep 19 - perhaps we will hear more of these?

Brambling: The first single isolated report of the autumn from Thanet on Sep 17

Goldfinch: Autumn flocks are just starting to build up with counts of 150+ at Newhaven on Sep 14, 180 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 15 and 120+ at Hook (Warsash) on Sep 16.

Siskin: Many thousands of these are roaming southern England (though the majority seem to be moving north). Biggest count was estimated at 850 passing Folkestone on Sep 16

Lapland Bunting: First of the autumn was seen on the Dorset coast east of Weymouth on Sep 13 and 14

Ortolan Bunting: Singles seen at two sites on the Dorset coast on Sep 13, 14 and 20

Reed Bunting: This week has brought the first significant counts of this species with up to 54 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 15 (but so far they are not being reported elsewhere)

Escapees: A Fulvous Whistling Duck (probably on an outing from Titchfield Haven) was seen at Hook (Warsash) on Sep 19


(Skip to Plants)


In addition to the Migrant Hawkers and Common Darters that most people will have seen in the recent sunshine three other species were active at Rye Harbour on Sep 14 - Ruddy Darter, Emerald Damsel (Lestes sponsa) and Common Blue damsel


Small Skipper: A late individual was seen on Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on Sep 10

Clouded Yellow: One was in the Gosport area on Sep 13 and another (said to be 'very pale' but only seen in flight) was in the Cuckmere Valley near Beachy Head on Sep 20. These bring the total number of reports for the year which I have seen to just 16

Brimstone: Five recent reports including 15 at Oxenbourne Down near Butset Hill in the Petersfield area on Sep 13

Green-veined White: I saw at least four in the Saltmarsh Lane area of Hayling on Sep 15, including a pair about to mate and a female egglaying

Brown Hairstreak: One still flying at Cissbury Ring north or Worthing on Sep 12 and another near Horsham on Sep 19

Small Copper: Five new reports including a count of 25 at Cissbury Ring on Sep 13

Brown Argus: Last report is dated Sep 13

Common Blue: Ten reports including a count of 36 on Oxenbourne Down on Sep 13

Chalkhill Blue: Three reports but none of more than three insects

Adonis Blue: Also three reports but including more than 30 seen in Mill Hill at Shoreham on Sep 12

Holly Blue: Just three singles

Red Admiral: 17 reports with more than 20 seen at Longstock, upstream of Stockbridge in the Test valley, on Sep 13

Painted Lady: A late surge of five reports between Sep 13 and 16 (all of singles)

Small Tortoiseshell: A more welcome surge of 10 reports with a max of three being seen on Buddleia on Sep 15 (when six species including Meadow Brown were all nectaring in Buddliea in Brockenhurst village gardens). Two were seen on Portsdown on Sep 17

Peacock: Three reports but no sighting of more than 4

Comma: These normally become frequent at this time so 8 reports is not unexpected though a count of more that 60 around the Testwood Lakes in Totton (Southampton) on Sep 12 was exciting

Speckled Wood: The highest count was of around 100 in Friston Forest near Eastbourn on Sep 17 (new brood out)

Wall Brown: A single third brood insect on Mill Hill at Shoreham on Sep 12

Grayling: A late single seen in the New Forest on Sep 13

Other species seen but not mentioned above were Large and Small White, and Small Heath


Twenty-plumed moth (1288 Alucita hexadactyla): First at Ringmer near Lewes on Sep 18

Antigastra catalaunalis (1400): First of year at Portland on Sep 14

Grey Pine Carpet (1768 Thera obeliscata): First for some time at Ringmer on Sep 18

Convolvulus Hawkmoth (1972 Agrius convolvuli): The sixth for the year (that I know of) was at Portland on Sep 14 and two more were taken in Kent (Thanet) on Sep 19

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): Three more reports, all from the Eastbourne area, on Sep 10, 16 and 19

Deep-brown Dart (2231 Aporophyla lutulenta): First on Sep 17 Thanet

Black Rustic (2232 Aporophyla nigra): First at Ringmer on Sep 18

Clifden Nonpareil (2451 Catocala fraxini): First seen on Sep 17 on a factory wall in the St Leonards area of Hastings

Red Underwing (2452 Catocala nupta): One at Ringmer on Sep 18 was the second seen there in ten days

Caterpillars: Another Fox Moth 'Woolly Bear' was seen at Bartley Heath in north Hampshire on Sep 13 and on Sep 15 I heard of the first accidental find of an Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar

Other Insects

Water Scorpion and Water Stick Insect: Both found at Rye Harbour on Sep 15

Volucella zonaria: The fourth of these Hornet like Hoverflies to be seen in my Havant garden this summer was nectaring on Chinese Anemones on Sep 17

Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae): This fairly recent invader of the south coast from the continent is flourishing at Hastings and the bees are enjoyng the newly flowering Ivy.

Dor Beetle (Geotrupes stercorarius): This large black beetle, approaching the size of a female Stag Beetle, likes to burrow into its favourite food (a Cowpat or a pile of Horse manure, and it is probably through this habit that it gets infested with mites giving it an alternative name of Lousey Watchman). This gets a mention after one was seen flying at Bartley Heath in north Hampshire on Sep 13

Long-winged Conehead: Brian Fellows came on a female of this species close to the Slipper Millpond in Emsworth on Sep 15, reminding me that although this species is marked as rarer than the Short-winged Conehead in Michael Chinery's Collins Guide to Insects (published in 1986) the situation has changed since an explosion in the population and range (in Britain) of the Long-winged species during the 1990s - this change is described in the following snippet from the work of David Element which I found via Google..

"This insect is a relatively recent self-introduction to the UK (1931). Originally confined to the southernmost Counties in localised colonies for about sixty years, there was a very rapid population explosion during the early 1990s. The extramacropterous forms (with even longer wings than usual) are believed to develop during periods of population overcrowding. These longer-winged individuals can presumably cover greater distances when seeking out suitable locations for new colonies and they have almost certainly facilitated the very rapid spread of this species in the UK recently in response to the warming climate. This formerly rare and notable insect is now very common! However, the brown forms are comparatively unusual and most of these insects are green".

Great Green Bush Cricket: A female was seen on Portsdown on Sep 17


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Corn Spurrey: One flowering plant seen in the disturbed soil outside the new carpark at the south end of Southmoor Lane in Havant on Sep 20 was an addition to the Corn Cockle, Corn Marigold and Cornflower still flowering there

Fig-leaved Goosefoot: A bank of these plants approaching two metres high were seen on Sep 20 in disturbed ground by the new cycle way along Harts Farm Way in Havant just east of its junction with the approach road to the Broadmarsh Slipway

Ivy: I saw the first bank of this in full flower at Bedhampton on Sep 20

Slender Hare's Ear: Although I did find this flowering on the Thorney Island seawall at the west end of the Great Deeps on Aug 22 I have not seen it elsewhere this summer despite searching both the South Moors seawall and the waste ground between Saltmarsh Lane and the Hayling Coastal path where I found it last year. On Sep 15, forced by flooding of the normal track between the Coastal Path and the seawall west of Saltmarsh Lane onto the bank along the north side of the track, I found myself about to tread on a good cluster of the plants which I had missed on previous visits - they were now past flowering but will be searched for next summer!

Lesser Centaury: This is another plant which I failed to find flowering on Portsdown this summer so I was very pleased, again on Sep 15, to find a plant still flowering on the shingle east of the Sandy Point nature reserve on Hayling (see Diary entry for more detail)

Morning Glory (Ipomea purpurea): The biggest surprise of the week was to find several plants of this in full flower on Sep 20 in disturbed ground beside the new cycleway along Harts Farm Way passing Broadmarsh Coastal Park - look about 100 metres east of the Broadmarsh Slipway approach road.

Bittersweet Nightshade (seaside form): While on the shingle east of the Sandy Point nature reserve I came on a small cluster of small Bittersweet plants that were not prostrate but which had tough leaves and 'looked different' from the normal plants. They had woody bases to their stems but I see that that does not separate them from the normal species. I think they were examples of the seaside variety of the plant (Solanum dulcamara var marinum) and I have some support from the author of the 'Nature Notes from Skye' who photographed very similar plants when visiting Winchelsea in Sep 2005 (go to http://www.nature-diary.co.uk/2005-09-19.htm and scroll down the page)

Bugloss (Anchusa officinalis): I have regularly found this around the edge of the Hayling Island Sailing Club grounds (in 'flower beds' at the top of the ramp up from the causeway) but I found on Sep 15 that it is now flowering by the track leading past the Lifeboat Station into the new carpark extension.

Garden Lobelia (Lobelia erinus): I found the bright blue flowers of this in two unexpected places around Havant this week

Elder: Another surprise on Sep 20 was to find a tree of this in fresh flower almost opposite the Harts Farm Way Amenity Tip

Flowering rush (Butomus umbellatus): When at Baffins Pond in Portsmouth on Sep 18 Brian Fellows found that Portsmouth City have planted this species as part of their face lift to the area around the pond.

Yellow Iris: One plant was in fresh flower at the Langstone South Moors on Sep 19


Humpback Whale: The first ever to enter the English Channel (as far as the experts know) was seen from a ferry heading from Spain to Portsmouth as it passed Guernsey on Sunday Sep 14. This news comes from the Biscay Dolphin Research Programme staff on board the ferry and I saw it in the Portsmouth NEWS on Sep 16

Common Seal: One was seen near Chichester Harbour mouth (from Black Point) on Sep 13 and ten were seen during a walk around Thorney Island on Sep 20

Serotine Bat?: On Sep 14 one of the younger contributors to the Sussex Bird News, Sophie May Lewis, was on the beach at Climping (west of the mouth of the R Arun) when, in her words, .. "a bat flew in off the sea and crash landed in the dune grass. Upon inspection its body appeared to be about 3 inches long with black ears and nose. It hid in the grass obviously exhausted". Sophie took photos and has sent them off to the Bat Conservation Trust for identification but I think the size and black ears and nose make it very likely this was a Serotine. This is the first time I have come across direct evidence of bats crossing the Channel though I was aware that they occasionally do so.

UK Bat species survive the winter by hibernating but in other parts of the world there are species which migrate 1000 km or more (like birds) to warmer climes when winter arrives, and our hibernating species are well equipped for lengthy flights so crossing the channel is not unknown.

While looking for information on this subject I came across a piece on the BBC website concerning Bats and Wind Turbines which told me ...

"Bats are at risk from wind turbines, researchers have found, because the rotating blades produce a change in air pressure that can kill the mammals. Canadian scientists examined bats found dead at a wind farm, and concluded that most had internal injuries consistent with sudden loss of air pressure. Bats use echo-location to avoid hitting the blades but cannot detect the sharp pressure changes around the turbine".

Common Lizard: Many of this year's young were seen on Bartley Heath near Fleet in north Hampshire on Sep 14 but the observer did not mention if they were identified as young just by their size or their colour - I know that when the young are newly born around mid-summer they can be almost black in colour but I do not know when they acquire adult colour (which itself can be variable!)

Terrapin: At least one of these long living carnivores was still to be seen at Baffins Pond in Portsmouth on Sep 18 - it probably was a household pet dumped in the pond when it began to eat its owners fingers.

Common Necklace Shell (Natica alderi): A photo on the Rye Bay website (Sep 20) shows the characteristic broad furrow made by the foot of this mollusc as it moves over wet sand 'feeling' for buried shellfish. When it finds one this carnivore drills a neat hole in the top of the prey shell and sucks out the contents. The website also has photos of several molluscs killed in this way.

Netted Dogwhelk (Nassarius reticulatus): Another carnivorous mollusc which Barry Yates says preys on Barnacles (my Reader's Digest book says it is also a carrion eater)

Fungi: On Sep 17 Brian Fellows found a cluster of Shaggy Parasol (Macrolepiota rhacodes) beside the approach road to the Broadmarsh slipway and distinguished them from the commoner, taller Parasol Mushroom by the scaly flakes on their caps and by the reddening of the flesh when cut with a knife. There was no sign of them when I went to have a look (roadside grass mowers had been at work)

Summary for Sep 8 - 14 (Week 36 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

First Brent seen in Kent, first Red-throated Diver at Portland and first Red-breasted Merganser at Christchurch. At least 128 Little Egrets in the Langstone Pond night roost. More Dotterel and Grey Phalaropes this week with a good show of Sabine's Gull sightings on the River Itchen in Southampton. Another unusual bird is an Alpine Swift, plus both Icterine and Melodious Warblers, Red-backed and Woodchat Shrikes. One observer suggests that Hawfinch have been breeding to the north of Chichester.

Very little Insect News though a huge Indian Moon Moth was a surprise find at a Sussex Moth Trap

Plant news has the start of Common Gorse flowering after the summer break (also the first autumn Cow Parsley flowers). More unusual was Pencilled Cranesbill at Havant Bus Station and more Small Melilot near Langstone. On south Hayling I saw Pale Toadflax for the first time this year

Other Wildlife news is nearly all of fungi, including the first Parasol Mushrooms and more Waxcaps


(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: First of the autumn seen off Portland on Sep 12

Sooty Shearwater: After having 29 of these on Sep 5 the count at Dungeness was down to 16 on Sep 6 (there had been 34 off Portland on Aug 18). Among eight new reports this week there is one from Sandy Point on Hayling on Sep 10 (when the count at Portland was up again to 19)

Storm Petrel: A late report of one going east off St Catherine's Point (IoW) on Sep 5

Shag: Still none reported in Langstone Harbour but one was in Shoreham Harbour on Sep 9 and one was off Sandy Point (Hayling) on Sep 10. I see that an exhausted juvenile was on the beach near the South Foreland in Kent on Sep 6.

Little Egret: At least 128 went into the Langstone Pond night roost on the evening of Sep 13 (another dozen or more could have arrived after I stopped counting at dusk). As most of the birds arrived from the Langstone Harbour direction my guess is that this roost is in addition to the one on Thorney Island (where Barry Collins had 151 birds on Aug 27) with Langstone taking the Langstone Harbour birds and Thorney taking those from Chichester Harbour. There may be additional night roosts for Chichester Harbour in Tournerbury Wood on Hayling, at Oldpark Wood east of Bosham, and possibly in the Thorney Island village churchyard trees.

Great White Egret: This returned to the Blashford Lakes on Aug 16 and stayed there until Aug 24 but then vanished until it was back at Blashford on Sep 8 and was still there on Sep 12

Spoonbill: Four were new at Titchfield Haven on Sep 11 and at least one was there next day. (No reports of the six in Poole Harbour since Sep 6 though three juveniles flew west over Dungeness on Sep 9 and one was new to the Moonfleet area near Weymouth on Sep 10)

Mute Swan: The five juveniles with their parents on the Havant Budds Farm Pools were exercising their wings on Sep 12 and looked as if they should now be able to fly.

Brent Goose: Four newly arrived birds were seen in Pegwell Bay (near the North Foreland in Kent) on Sep 12 and this matches the first arrivals last year (four at Dungeness on Sep 12) so maybe some are already in Langstone Harbour (last year 24 birds were first seen there on Sep 13)

Shelduck: Four juveniles seen on the Farlington Marshes Deeps by Kevin Stouse's walk party on Sep 7 are (so far as I know) the only ones in Langstone Harbour at the moment.

Wigeon: Further reports of returning birds come from the Lymington Marshes (29 birds on Sep 7) and Christchurch Harbour (12 birds on Sep 3 and still only 12 on Sep 9). As the return speeds up a count of 20 at Pulborough Brooks on Sep 10 became 65 on Sep 12 when there were over 90 in Pegwell Bay (East Kent), another 65 on the north Kent coast at Swalecliffe with 86 in Christchurch Harbour

Gadwall: There were at least 10 on Budds Farm Pools on Sep 7

Teal: At least 31 could be seen in the Lymington area on Sep 7 and 27 were back at Hook (Warsash) on Sep 9. At Pulborough Brooks a count of 82 on Sep 1 had doubled to around 180 on Sep 10

Pintail: No big counts yet but 3 were back at Hook (Warsash) on Sep 9. By Sep 10 four had reached Christchurch, on Sep 11 five flew west past Folkestone and on Sep 12 another three flew west off the north Kent coast.

Garganey: A late bird was on the stream at Farlington Marshes on Sep 8 and a single drake was at the Brading Marshes (IoW) on Sep 7. On Sep 10 Christchurch Harbour recorded 5 and one was still in the Thanet area of Kent on Sep 12

Shoveler: Around 10 were at Budds Farm pools in Havant on Sep 7 when 4 were seen at Hook (Warsash) and 3 in the Titchfield Haven area. The birds at Budds Farm seem to have moved on but on Sep 10 Pulborough Brooks had around 20

Pochard: Two birds at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 8 is the only report for September that I have seen so far

Eider: The number on the sea off Lymington had risen marginally to 23 on Sep 7

Red-breasted Merganser: The first of the autumn to reach Christchurch Harbour was there on Sep 10 (no more news of the three seen flying up Southampton Water on Aug 30)

Honey Buzzard: Sep 1 saw one fly past St Catherine's Point (IoW), on Sep 8 four were seen going over Brighton with maybe a different single bird over the Adur at Shoreham, and Sep 9 one perversely flew north at Dungeness.

Marsh Harrier: On Sep 7 one was over the Brading Marshes (IoW), on Sep 8 a total of 12 flew over Dungeness,and on Sep 9 singles were seen at Hook (Warsash), Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) and the Selsey West Fields

Sparrowhawk: Following the extraordinary passage of 52 Sparrowhawks over Dungeness on Aug 23 a count of 11 there on Sep 8 was nothing special (six more were seen on Sep 10). Locally I had a brief glimpse of one vainly trying to catch a Swallow over Fort Widley on Portsdown - by its small size I guess it was a juvenile male which had not yet learnt not to waste its energy.

Osprey: 25 new reports of passing birds between Sep 7 and 12. On Sep 7 one was seen at Titchfield Haven, another on the RSPB Islands in Langstone Harbour and another at the head of Southampton Water. On Sep 8 two were seen in Langstone Harbour and on Sep 11 two were again seen at Thorney Island and maybe a third flew low over Itchenor. One flew over Sandy Point on Hayling on Sep 10 when there was evidence of a bird commuting back and forth between Titchfield Haven and Newtown Harbour on the IoW

Hobby: Dragonflies and hirundines continue to attract several of these to the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood where a family group has a youngster still occasionally heard begging for food

Quail: We don't often hear of these at this time of year but on Sep 11 one was surprised on Round Hill at Steyning (north of Worthing) and gave a short 'quip' note in place of the normal 'wet-my-lips' song

Spotted Crake: The only one getting a mention this week is at the north Kent Oared Marshes - seen on Sep 11

Coot: At this time of year a large number of Coot leave inland waters and move to the coast (presumably as an insurance against the possible freezing up of the inland waters) and I have often seen the Thorney Little Deeps crowded with them but until this week (Sep 7) I had not seen a mass of around 100 on the Budds Farm Pools (by Sep 12 the number here had thinned out to around 40)

Dotterel: Last week I passed on Lee Evans news of juveniles having been seen at Slimbridge and on the Scillies (on or before Sep 1) and now we have another juvenile in our south coast area (on the downs above Rottingdean near Brighton on Sep 8). Since then one has been seen in Dorset on Sep 11 at the White Nothe headland between Weymouth and Lulworth Cove followed on Sep 13 by one roosting with 41 Golden Plover at Rye Harbour

Golden Plover: Flocks of up to 400 birds have been regularly seen in Kent and East Sussex since the beginning of August (and Christchurch Harbour has had two singles on Aug 8 and 18) but there have been no reports from Hampshire or West Sussex until now - on Sep 7 singles were seen at Farlington Marshes and at Pagham Harbour and on Sep 8 there was one at Cuckmere Haven (west of Beachy Head)

Knot: I think a couple of these have been in Pagham Harbour since Aug 5 (at least) but it was not until Sep 9 that I saw the first report of a flock of 30 back there, increasing to 40 on Sep 12. At least 10 were at the Lymington Marshes by Sep 10

Ruff: On Sep 7 two were at Titchfield Haven and four were in fields west of Pagham Harbour (the Oare Marshes in north Kent had 23 on Sep 7 and 27 on Sep 12).

Black-tailed Godwit: A substantial winter flock can normally be found in the north west corner of Portsmouth Harbour including Fareham Creek and on Sep 7 a flock of 55 was in the middle section of the Creek (first report for this winter). The only reports I have seen from Titchfield Haven this autumn have been 12 birds on Aug 26 increasing to 78 on Sep 7

Grey Phalarope: This autumn has brought an unusually high number of these to the south coast and they have been seen at 17 different sites in the period Sep 7 to 12. The majority of sightings were of single birds but Christchurch Harbour, Church Norton, Lodmoor, Bournemouth (Branksome Chine) and Hook (Warsash) all had two while Chesil Cove on Portland had four and the new Bracklesham RSPB reserve (west of Selsey Bill) had five.

Pomarine Skua: On Sep 7 Marc Moody and others on the Lymington shore had a very unusual sighting of a flock of 10 of these birds heading west out of the Solent (where they had presumably been sheltering from stormy weather) along with 7 Arctic Skuas.

Long-tailed Skua: Following three sightings of singles at Portland and Dungeness on Sep 5 and 6 another juvenile was seen at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Sep 6

Med Gull: The first big autumn assembly was of 140 birds at the Selsey West Fields on Sep 9

Sabine's Gull: I think we have had a very unusual surge of sightings of this species recently. I have recorded 15 separate reports this autumn, 9 of them (6 different birds) in the period Sep 6 to 9. On Sep 7 two birds flew west out of the Solent (seen by Marc Moody and others with the 11 Pomarine Skuas) but perhaps more exciting was the juvenile which turned up in Southampton Water off the mouth of the River Itchen on Sep 7 and was still nearby (at Riverside Park beside the Itchen in the Bitterne area of Southampton) on Sep 12

Lesser Blackback Gull: Their autumn passage is now under way - on Aug 31 a flock of 60 was seen roosting in the Cuckmere Haven area near Beachy Head, on Sep 7 a group of 16 went southwest over the Brading Marshes (IoW), and on Sep 8 a group of 20 flew high west over Ventnor Downs (IoW)

Little Tern: Although the majority of these have left us there were still 17 at the north Kent Oare Marshes on Sep 12

Black Tern: Reports from nine sites in the past few days with a peak count of 67 at Dungeness on Sep 11 and locally counts of up to 14 at Chichester Ivy Lake, also on Sep 11

White-winged Black Tern: The juvenile which has been at the Dungeness RSPB reserve since Aug 31 was still there on Sep 12 after being joined by a second bird on Sep 11

Guillemot: One was lingering off the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Sep 10 and on Sep 12 one ventured into Christchurch Harbour

Turtle Dove: Twenty could still be seen together at Oare Marshes (north Kent) on Sep 7 and on Sep 12 one flew west at Barton on sea (west of Lymington) and another was logged at Portland (late birds can still be expected in October and a very few may winter here)

Short-eared Owl: Latest sightings are of singles at Rye Harbour on Sep 10 and at Portland on Sep 12

Nightjar: One was seen hawking moths around street lights in Seaford on Sep 10

Swift: Six sites have had September sightings so far - the peak count was 3 birds in the Sussex Ouse Valley upstream of Lewes on Sep 8 (other reports on that day were of singles at the Balshford Lakes, on the Isle of Wight, and at Cuckmere Haven). Only one later sighting so far - two birds at Portland on Sep 12

Alpine Swift: One was seen for an hour flying around the village of Fittleworth (west of Pulborough) on Sep 7. The only other bird seen this year was the one that was around County Hall in Lewes from May 28 to 30.

Wryneck: Sightings this week were at Brighton (Sheepcote Valley) on Sep 7, Cuckmere Haven on Sep 8 and Pagham Harbour on Sep 9. The Pagham bird was seen again on Sep 11 and the latest sighting is of one at Portland on Sep 12

Tawny Pipit: After a five day gap in sightings at Portland one was again seen there on Sep 10

Tree Pipit: A mass exodus on Sep 8 bought reports of 43 at Durlston, 29 at Portland, 15 at Christchurch Harbour, 11 at Dungeness and 10+ at Luccombe Down (IoW). Christchurch Harbour had another surge with 28 there on Sep 12

Meadow Pipit: There is no doubt that these are now on the move with counts of 120+ at Hastings on Sep 7 and 225 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 8 plus smaller numbers at four other sites (including Portland which commented on their first autumn movement 'of several hundred birds' on Sep 8). Sep 12 brought the highest counts so far - around 400 on the Selsey West Fields, 370 at Christchurch Harbour and 120 at Dungeness

Rock Pipit: The first winter bird had returned to the Rye Bay shore (where they do not breed) on Sep 10

Yellow Wagtail: Reports from 12 sites with peak counts of 200 coming to roost on the north shore of Pagham Harbour on Sep 10, 108+ at Cuckmere Haven and 127 at Christchurch Harbour, both on Sep 8 (when I saw and heard one fly over me on Hayling). On Sep 11 a flock of more than 55 (many of them juveniles) was in the Llama field at Thornham Farm just west of Prinsted village in Chichester Harbour.

Grey Wagtail: Plenty of these on the move with a peak count of 23 at Portland on Sep 8

White Wagtail: 11 were at Portland on Sep 7 when at least 1 was seen at St Catherine's Point (IoW)

Common Redstart: Peak count of 12 at Cissbury Ring (north of Worthing) on Sep 8

Whinchat: Peak count of 30 at Portland on Sep 12

Stonechat: Portland claimed a single bird of the Caspian 'maura' race (with less orange and more white on the breast and belly) on Sep 9

Wheatear: These have been trickling through everywhere but on Sep 7 there were 120 at Portland (the first count to exceed the 70 that were at Portland on Aug 23 - the peak spring count there was 150+ on Apr 26)

Icterine Warbler: One at Portland on Sep 12

Melodious Warbler: One at Portland on Sep 11 staying over until Sep 12

Lesser Whitethroat: One was singing at Seaford on Sep 8

Blackcap: 200 were recorded at Beachy Head on Sep 8 with 300 there on Sep 12

Wood Warbler: On Sep 10 one was at Ditchling (north of Brighton), on Sep 12 one was in the Church Norton area of Pagham Harbour with another at Durlston on Sep 12 bringing the total of autumn passage sightings this year to 15

Chiffchaff: One sang briefly as it passed my Havant garden on Sep 8 and another was heard on Sep 13. The first big count of birds at the coast was 250 at Beachy Head on Sep 12

Goldcrest: These are just beginning to figure in reports of migrants - Portland announced their 'first of the autumn' on Sep 8 and four were seen at Hope Gap near Beachy Head on Sep 9. Since then a flock of 30 has been seen at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 10

Firecrest: One was on the Sussex Downs above the River Arun on Sep 7 and two more singles were at Durlston and Beachy Head on Sep 8

Red-backed Shrike: A juvenile was seen near Honer's Farm (north of Pagham Harbour) on Sep 10 and was still there on Sep 11

Woodchat Shrike: One was at Portland on Sep 11 and 12

Starling: As autumn numbers start to build a flock of 2000 seen at the north Kent Oare Marshes on Sep 10 included one albino bird

Chaffinch: A flock of around 30 were bathing/drinking at a puddle in the Hayling Coastal Path when I distrubed them on Sep 8

Siskin: These are now starting to arrive with us for the winter. I have 21 reports for Sep 7 to 12 over an area stretching from north Kent to Dorset with peak counts of 197 at Sandwich Bay and 188 at Christchurch Harbour (both on Sep 12), and smaller flocks of 50+ on the IoW on Sep 8 and 52 at Dungeness on Sep 11

Linnet: Rye Harbour had a flock of 150 on Sep 13

Hawfinch: 10 were seen somewhere south of the Chichester West Dean Woods on Sep 12 - the report suggest that this was an early date for migrants and the birds might have been local breeders.

Ortolan Bunting: After several reports from Portland and one from Brighton there are further reports from Portland of up to two birds there on Sep 8 and 9 plus one at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 10

Corn Bunting: A count of 20 in the Steyning Round Hill area north of Worthing on Sep 11 was encouraging


(Skip to Plants)


No reports this week


Only 14 species mentioned this week and the only one which caught my attention was of 41 Adonis Blues seen on Malling Down near Lewes on Sep 8


Agriphila latistria (1307): a Pyralid which I have not encountered before was trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Sep 11

The Vestal (1716 Rhodometra sacraria): Another first in the Thanet area on Sep 11

Channel Islands Pug (1855a Eupithecia ultimaria): A good record from Dungeness on Sep 10 (I have only seen one other record - from Pagham Harbour on July 12)

Convolvulus Hawkmoth (1972 Agrius convolvuli): Another good record from Portland on Sep 10 - fifth record for the year since the first on Aug 21

Setaceous Hebrew Character (2126 Xestia c-nigrum): I seem to have missed recording any this spring so the first to go into my database was a report of autumn insects (38 of them) trapped in Sussex on Sep 8

Cosmopolitan (2208 Mythimna loreyi): First report is from the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Sep 9

Centre-barred Sallow (2269 Atethmia centrago): The first I know of was trapped at Ringmer near Lewes on Sep 7

Lunar Underwing (2270 Omphaloscelis lunosa): Another first at Ringmer on Sept 7

Orange Sallow (2271 Xanthia citrago): First of year in Thanet on Sep 11

Marsh Mallow Moth (2363 Hydraecia osseola): A less common first trapped at Rye on Sep 8

Frosted Orange (2364 Gortyna flavago): First in Thanet on Sep 11

Red Underwing (2452 Catocala nupta): This has already been seen at Rye Harbour on Aug 14 and 30 but another report from Ringmer on Sep 7 is newsworthy

Plumed Fanfoot (2488a Pechipogo plumigeralis): This species had been reported in Thanet back on July 17 but the current report from Dungeness on Sep 10 was the second ever to be seen at that site

Fox Moth caterpillar: These 'woolly bears' are not uncommon at this time of year as they show themselves in the open while searching for a place to pupate - on Sep 8 I almost ran over one with my bicycle on south Hayling

Exotic Moths - a huge Indian Moon Moth was a surprise visitor to a moth trap at Friston near Eastbourne on Sep 8


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Yellow Horned Poppy: Most of these are well over but I still found two in fresh flower on Hayling on Sep 8

Corn Cockle: The 'wildflower seed' plants sown on soil lining Southmoor Lane in Havant outside the new carpark at the southern end of the road were still flowering on Sep 7 (along with Corn Marigold and Cornflower plants)

Nottingham Catchfly: I missed seeing these in flower on south Hayling this summer but on Sep 8 I saw several dead plants with seed cases.

Green Amaranth: One plant still flowering in Juniper Square at Havant on Sep 11

Pencilled Cranesbill: After coming across this for the first time in roadside grass at Pook Lane in July I was pleased to find two more plants covered with flowers on waste ground at Havant Bus Station on Sep 9 (see Diary entry)

Common Gorse: I found the first flowers I have seen since May 12 when cycling down the Hayling Coastal Path on Sep 8 - before long all the gorse bushes will be turning yellow again.

White Melilot: I found some flowering by the entrance to Langstone Harbour on Sep 8 and was reminded that I have only seen it once before this year (at the Hayling Oysterbeds in June)

Small Melilot: After finding this on waste ground at the junction of Southmoor Lane and Penner Road on July 28 I found a different plant freshly flowering nearby on Sep 7

Lucerne: Still flowering on the Hayling seawall in the Saltmarsh Lane area on Sep 8

Cow Parsley: First 'second flowering' for this year was found by Brian Fellows at Nore Barn west of Emsworth on Sep 10

Cocks Eggs: The Sinah Common colony was flourishing and covered with flowers on Sep 8

Duke of Argyll's Teaplant: Flowers on a bush at the Langstone South Moors were the first I have seen since July 20

Moth Mullein: Flowers were still open on Sep 10 on plants at Prinsted where I had first come across the species on July 4

Pale Toadflax: Two plants had fresh flowers at their only Hayling Island site on Sep 8

Apple Mint: Lots of this flowering on the earth banks around the Fort Nelson carpark at the west end of Portsdown on Sep 12

Spearmint: Flowering at the southern end of Southmoor Lane in Havant on Sep 7

Tufted Forget-me-not: A second outburst of flowering on the Langstone South Moors on Sep 12

Common Comfrey: Lots of fresh flowers around the Fort Nelson carpark (Portsdown) on Sep 12

Sheep's Bit: Several plants of this were still flowering at south Hayling on Sep 8

Blue Fleabane: Still flowering on the old north pier of the Hayling Island rail line on Sep 12

Tansy: I had my first sight of this in flower on south Hayling on Sep 8 when the flowers were nearly over

Yellow Flag: New flowers opening on one plant at the Langstone South Moors on Sep 12


Stoat: A message from a Sussex birder reporting birds seen at Cuckmere Haven (just west of Beachy Head) on Sep 9 includes an observation of a Stoat killing a Rabbit.

Bottle-nosed Dolphin: One seen off Portland Bill on Sep 7 was the first I have seen reported since June 16

Fungi: In addition to the three species of Waxcap which I have mentioned before (Meadow, Butter and Slimy) my lawn currently has a small show of the tiny but very colourful species now called Orange Mosscap (Rickenella fibula) which is shown by Roger Phillips under the name Mycena fibula. Stephan Buczacki lists it as Mycena fibula but gives four synonyms for the genus (Rickenella, Omphalina, Omphalia and Gerronema). Also in the lawn by Sep 13 were Parrot Waxcaps and a second round of Blackening Waxcaps. On Sep 12 the first Parasol Mushrooms were found in the Rye area and can almost certainly be found locally around the Havant area.

Summary for Sep 1 - 7 (Week 35 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

As we get into autumn proper our winter wildfowl are starting to return - Wigeon, Teal and Pintail are all newly back at some sites. The Black Swans kept on West Ashling pond near Chichester have once again demonstrated that their biological clocks are still set to antipodean time by hatching a brood of six cygnets at this time of year. Plenty of raptor news but I like the story of the Peregrine using the rising tide to catch a Godwit. Sightings are claimed for both Spotted and Little Crake and there have been reports of Dotterel at two southern sites. Grey Phalarope were commonplace this week but sightings of Sabine's Gull and Forster's Tern were definitely one-offs. Autumn Wrynecks have included a relatively long stayer on Thorney Island

It has not been a good week for insects but it is good to see a few reports of Small Tortoiseshell (even if one was carried off by a Hornet to feed the latter's larvae). There has also been an interesting report of a full grown Swallow-tail butterfly caterpillar being found eating carrot tops in Kent but the most exciting insect news is of three large Western Conifer Seed Bugs arriving on the south east coast on the same night (only one had ever been recorded in Britain before their arrival)

Autumn rain has brought second flowering of many plants but Ivy is the only one to be new at this time of year. Local interest comes from a find of a rare alien grass (Yellow Bristle-grass) in the centre of Havant while the only Sickle Medick plants in Hampshire are now close to extinction

As might be expected news of Fungi is picking up and this week I have added two new species to my personal repertoire but the big animal story is of a Wood Mouse eating the legs of a Chaffinch.


(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: A pair were seen with 3 very young juveniles on Ivy Lake at Chichester on Sept 2. The number on the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood continues to increase - on July 6 Bob Chapman reported 45+ there, on Aug 16 he told us of 105 and on Sep 6 he saw at least 114

Black-necked Grebe: On Sep 1 two turned up at Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex, probably only stopping briefly in transit. At the RSPB Dungeness reserve there were said to be four present on Aug 28 and a further report on Aug 31 spoke of 'several' there. The four that were at the Blashford Lakes on Aug 17 have not been mentioned again so I do not know of any currently in Hampshire though the one present in Langstone Harbour at the start of August may still be there.

Sooty Shearwater: Singles were seen at Dungeness on Aug 29, 30 and Sep 1 (when one was also seen off Portland) and on Sep 5 there were 29 there. Keith Betton's monthly round-up of Hampshire bird news for August includes a report which I had not seen before of one in Hayling Bay on Aug 13 (first Hampshire report for the year?). Latest reports are of 1 passing Durlston and 2 off Portland on Sep 5, with one going west past Selsey on Sep 6

Balearic Shearwater: The day total of these recorded at Portland on Sep 1 was 66, beating the previous high day counts of around 50 on Jan 13 and 60 on July 4

Storm Petrel: One was off Portland Bill on Sep 6 - the first seen anywhere since Aug 18

Gannet: More than 330 flew east past Milford at the west end of the Solent on Sep 5 when Dungeness recorded 316

Shag: Two were close in at Selsey Bill on Sep 5 and on Sep 6 Christchurch Harbour had one inside the harbour while ten flew west off Ventnor (IoW) - maybe we will soon see one back in the Langstone Harbour entrance

Grey Heron: Dungeness reported a high count of 13 birds passing through on Aug 31 but I am not sure if they were coming or going (probably the latter?)

Spoonbill: The group of six young birds was still in Poole Harbour on Sep 6 but it would seem that more are arriving in the south of England as Poole Harbour had 8 of them on Aug 31 and Pagham Harbour had 3 feeding in the water off Church Norton that day but they flew off when the water rose. Interesting news from Scotland (via Lee Evans) is of a family group of 5 birds on the River Dee at Kirkcudbright on Aug 30 - the begging behaviour of the young seemed to indicate that the parents had bred locally in Scotland.

Black Swan: Brian Fellows has heard that one pair of the birds kept on West Ashling pond ( west of Chichester) now have six young cygnets (these birds still work to their antipodean biological clocks and breed in our autumn)

Greylag Goose: An impressive count of 319 came to roost at Pulborough Brooks on the evening of Sep 1

Canada Goose: An even more impressive (and highly undesireable) count of 814 arriving at Pulborough Brooks to roost on Sep 1

Shelduck: Adults do not normally return from their distant moult grounds until near the end of September so I am not sure why 2 adults arrived at Christchurch Harbour on Aug 31 - they must have come from somewhere nearby

Wigeon: The first are just starting to return from breeding in other countries. 3 were seen at Dungeness on Aug 31 and on Sep 1 the 2 birds that have been at Pulborough Brooks through the summer suddenly become 6 and then increased to 7 on Sep 2. On Sep 3 Christchurch Harbour aquired 12 new birds and on Sep 6 there were 13 in the Eling Great Marsh area at the head of Southampton Water

Teal: These too are returning to Pulborough - at the end of July there were 15 there with no higher counts until Aug 16 when the total jumped to around 40 (and then to 160 on Aug 18). I think most of those travelled on and now a second wave has brought counts of 59 on Aug 30 and 82 on Sep 1 with Dungeness reporting 20 passing on Aug 30 and 30 there on Aug 31

Pintail: The first of these are also arriving - Christchurch Harbour reported 3 flying in from the sea and going north on Sep 1 (remarking that these were the first of the autumn there), and on that same day Pulborough Brooks had 3 which I have not seen reported there during the summer. On Sep 3 a single bird flew west past Dungeness and on Sep 5 there were 7 in Pagham Harbour (described as the first of the autumn there).

Garganey: These will not be with us much longer but on Sep 1 there was still one at Rye Harbour

Honey Buzzard: Of the 38 reports of this species that I have logged since the first flew over East Sussex on Apr 24 the first 16 were of spring passage (up to June 4), then there were 7 reports in June or July that may have been breeding birds (interestingly we were told by Lee Evans that he knew of 63 occupied territories in the UK), and the last 15 have been of autumn passage starting on Aug 16 and 13 of these 15 have been reported between Aug 29 and Sep 1. The first of these was of a bird flying north west over Sandy Point (Hayling) on Aug 29 which sounds as if it were going in the wrong direction but I suspect it had reached the coast and found the conditions were not ideal for crossing the Channel and so decided to go inland again to take a break from its journey.

Marsh Harrier: Keith Betton's summary for August includes a report of one at Farlington Marshes on Aug 23 and this has been followed by several local sightings, three of them on Aug 31 when one was over the Thorney Island Deeps and two over Titchfield Haven (what was probably one of these was seen over the Stubbington area south of Fareham). Interestingly there seems to have been a peak in their passage that day with 5 seen over Dungeness.

Montagu's Harrier: Also on Aug 31 Christchurch Harbour had a probable sighting on a Montagu's. Another probable was flushed from long grass in Eridge Park near Crowborough on Sep 6 - the report said the bird was seen .. "Gliding on well raised wings, its upper plumage was very dark, but perhaps made darker by recent heavy rain" - but I am not sure that raptor experts would think this sufficient to distinguish Montagu's from Hen Harrier. My understanding is that all Harriers raise their wings high in flight and the illustrations contrasting ringtail Hen and Montagu's in Keith Vinicombe's 'Bird Identification' show very little difference in the dark colour of the upper plumage and rely on the longer, slimmer wings with three prominent primary 'fingers' to pick out Montagu's from a Hen Harrier whose broader wings show four 'fingers'.

Goshawk: Butterfly hunters on Round Hill at Steyning (north of Worthing) on Aug 30 had good views of a passing female Goshawk

Sparrowhawk: Five migrants were over Dungeness on Aug 30 and six were reported there on Aug 31

Osprey: I think there were three over Thorney on Sep 1 (one seen on the Thornham Marshes landing lights and two seen over the north west of the island near the sea wall) and on Aug 31 singles were over Farlington Marshes and Titchfield Haven. Latest local reports are of one seen from Farlington Marshes on Sep 3 and over the Thorney Deeps on Sep 5 with one reported at Titchfield Haven on Sep 6

Merlin: Keith Betton's August Summary shows that the bird which has returned to Farlington Marshes was a regular sight there from Aug 26 on while the sighting of one on Aug 17 may have been of a transient bird.

Hobby: Increasing numbers seen at the coast probably indicate that some of these birds are already departing (though it may be that they are only at the coast to prey on the passerine migrants which are now there in large numbers). On Aug 30 four Hobbies were at the Lymington Marshes and on Aug 31there were four at Dungeness. The latest report I have seen is of one over the Thorney Deeps on Sep 5

Peregrine: Martin Gillingham describes how, when he was at Farlington Marshes on Sep 3, he saw a Black-tailed Godwit narrowly escape being taken by one of two Peregrines. The Godwit took refuge under the hull of a boat resting on the mud but the Peregrine seems to have known that the tide was rising and so perched on the boat until the rising water forced the Godwit out from under the boat to become 'easy pickings' for the Peregrine.

Spotted Crake: These are usually seen at Farlington Marshes each autumn and the presence of one in north Kent from Aug 16 to 26 made it likely that one was seen at Farlington on Aug 28 but no one other than the unknown finder on that day has been able to re-find the bird there.

Little Crake: On Aug 31 Kris Gillam had a distant view of one at the Hersey nature reserve (north east coast of the Isle of Wight) but that also has not been seen again

Dotterel: No local sightings but on Sep 1 single juveniles were at two southern sites (Slimbridge and Scilly) according to Lee Evans

Lapwing: No large flocks have yet reached the Solent Harbours but on Sep 2 a flock of around 200 was seen in the Twyford area just south of Winchester by a passing motorist

Knot: These have now reached Kent in large numbers - 114 were reported at the north Kent Oare Marshes on Sep 1 after a count of 87 there on Aug 31. On Sep 5 a flock of 10 were seen in Pagham Harbour but elsewhere (e.g. Lymington and Christchurch) only ones or twos are being reported

Sanderling: There were reports of 30 at Dungeness on Aug 16 and 30 at Ryde sands on Aug 18 but otherwise no double figure counts this autumn until Sep 6 when there were around 40 at Christchurch Harbour

Little Stint: One was seen on Thorney Island on Aug 31, another was at Farlington Marshes on Sep 3 and one was at Keyhaven (Lymington) on Sep 6.

Pectoral Sandpiper: One was at Coward's Marsh (just north of Christchurch) on Sep 4 and moved to Christchurch Harbour after being flushed by a Hobby - latest report at the Harbour is dated Sep 6

Curlew Sandpiper: Recent local sightings have been three at Farlington Marshes on Sep 3 and two at Church Norton (Pagham Harbour) on Sep 6

Grey Phalarope: There seem to be more than usual passing through this autumn. Since the first was seen at Lymington on Aug 21 I have noted 30 reports with 20 of them since Sep 3. One showed well at Sidlesham Ferry from Sep 3 to 6, two or more were at Keyhaven on Sep 6 when another two were at Titchfield Haven and yet another two were seen at Church Norton.

Pomarine Skua: In addition to sightings at Dungeness and Portland this week one was seen inside Pagham Harbour on Sep 5

Arctic Skua: Plenty of these about with a peak count of 66 at Dungeness on Sep 5

Long-tailed Skua: Singles seen in the Portland area on Sep 1, 5 and 6

Little Gull: Peak count was 11 at Dungeness on Sep 5 when a first winter bird was seen in Southampton Water

Sabine's Gull: A juvenile flew east at Selsey Bill on Sep 6

Lesser Black-back Gull: We haven't heard much about their autumn passage so far but some 60 were seen roosting in the Cuckmere Haven area near Beachy Head on Aug 31

Forster's Tern: Occasional vagrants of this north American species reach Britain at a rate of around one a year and until now I have never heard of one on the south coast but on Aug 31 there was a confident report of one flying east past Hill Head (Titchfield Haven area). It was seen by Mark Palmer who commented on its 'classic face mask and very pale wingtips'. No one else seems to have picked it up yet.

Little Tern: On Sep 5 the Portsmouth NEWS carried RSPB Warden Chris Cockburn's report on this summer's breeding success on the Langstone Harbour islands. This showed that Little Terns built only 11 nests on the Islands (compared to 29 at the Oysterbeds) but no chicks fledged at either site. In addition to the normal depredation from Foxes and high tides a major cause of the Terns lack of success was the lack of room for their nests after 4886 pairs of Black-headed Gulls (plus the Mediterranean Gulls and other terns) had taken up virtually all the available space on South Binness island. The RSPB had done their best by clearing vegetation to make more nesting space, and had put up an electric fence to deter foxes, but in the end the number of gulls was the chief obstacle to Little Tern breeding success.

Black Tern: These are now reaching the peak of their autumn passage bringing counts of 7 seen at Sandy Point (Hayling) on Aug 29 and 13 at Ibsley Water (Ringwood) on Aug 31 (in Kent they probably consider the peak to have occurred on Aug 6 and 7 when there were up to 141 Black Terns off Reculver on the north coast while counts at Dungeness have been 58 on Aug 16 and 35 on Aug 24). There have been 31 reports of Black Terns in this week's news - most reports were of three or less birds but on Sep 5 the count at Dungeness was 27

White-winged Black Tern: A first winter bird has been at the Dungeness RSPB reserve from Aug 31 to Sep 6 at least

Turtle Dove: I think most of these have now left but one was still at Portland on Sep 4

Cuckoo: A young bird was in the Gilkicker area near Gosport on Aug 31

Short-eared Owl: Portland has now had three returning birds (on Aug 23, 28 and 31) and others were at Pagham Harbour on Aug 23 and at Seaford near Beachy Head on Aug 31

Swift: 10 were recorded at Dungeness on Aug 31 and Durlston has had the only September bird so far (a single on Sep 1)

Wryneck: Twenty reports so far this autumn with the first at Farlington Marshes on Aug 28. On Aug 30 there were singles at Portland, Durlston and two separate ones in the Brighton area (one of them seen eating ants on the patio of a suburban garden the Hangleton area of Hove). On Aug 31 one appeared on the 'NRA track' joining the Thorney Island Main Road to the seawall near the Little Deeps and remained until Sep 5. Another was in the Stubbington area south of Fareham on Aug 31. Since then there have been sgihtings at Pulborough Brooks, Cuckmere Haven near Beachy Head and Reculver in north Kent

Tawny Pipit: One arrived on Portland on Sep 1 and was still there on Sep 5

Tree Pipit: 20 were on Portland on Aug 31

Yellow Wagtail: The biggest flock of passage birds so far was 300+ at Rye Harbour on Sep 1. Hampshire had a reasonable share in this with a count of 72 at Sandy Point (Hayling) on Aug 31 when there were around 50 on the Isle of Wight (West High Down) and 125 at Dungeness

White Wagtail: Portland recorded 11 on Sep 1, presumably birds that have crossed the channel in the wrong direction and will have to make the return journey south in a few days

Whinchat: Three were seen by a group of birders walking around Thorney Island on Aug 31 when there were four in the fields south of Fareham and north of Stubbington (and a peak of 8 in the Seaford area)

Pied Flycatcher: Other than the spring bird which spent a day on the Pook Lane shore east of Langstone on Apr 6/7 I have seen no reports of Hampshire sightings until now when Keith Betton's August Summary lists singles at Sandy Point (Hayling) on Aug 23 and 31

Long-tailed Tit: An interesting report of more than 75 at Rooksbury Mill (Andover) on Aug 31 - not sure if there was a typing error here.

Rook: A report of around 250 in the fields between Fareham and Stubbington on Aug 31 may well mark the start of the large winter corvid roost which has occurred in each of many recent winters with the birds spending the night somewhere in the Elson Wood area on the north west shore of Portsmouth Harbour and commuting west each morning to feed in sites as far away as the New Forest and then trooping back each evening.

Rose-coloured Starling: One has been seen regularly at Portland from Aug 31 to Sep 2.

House Sparrow: A good show of what I call 'Corn Sparrows' with 135 House Sparrows seen in open fields between Fareham and Stubbington on Aug 31

Chaffinch: See the entry for Wood Mouse in Other Wildlife for an unusual observation of the mouse eating a dead Chaffinch.

Ortolan Bunting: Two of these have been at Portland from Aug 29 to Sep 2

Escapes: At Pulborough Brooks on Sep 2 the wildfowl were said to include both a juvenile female Australian Shelduck and an adult male Cape Shelduck (presumably both had flown up river from the Arundel Wildfowl reserve)


(Skip to Plants)


Red-veined Darter: The only report in this week of atrocious weather is of a Red-veined Darter seen on the Lymingotn Marshes on Sep3


27 species reported this week, including the following ...

Silver Spotted Skipper: A very good count of 75 at Old Winchester Hill in the Meon Valley on Aug 30 (though I see there were 78 here in early Sep last year and 107 in August)

Clouded Yellow: One seen in the Pevensey Levels area near Eastbourne on Aug 30 was only the 14th report for the year (and the third for August)

Brimstone: Another good count of 60 at Old Winchester Hill on Aug 30

Painted Lady: Four reports this week - 1 in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 31, one at Shoreham on Sep 1 and another at Durlston that day, plus one on Stockbridge Down on Sep 3

Small Tortoiseshell: Seen at eight sites this week with the highest count for the year (12 in the Ramsgate area of Kent) on Aug 31. Sadly I see that one specimen seen at Steyning in West Sussex was taken by a Hornet as food for Hornet larvae and thus will not be seen again next spring

Marbled White: Having said in last week's summary that these were not being reported from anywhere other than Durlston since mid-August I am glad to see that one was seen at the mouth of the Beaulieu River on Aug 30


Olive Tree Pearl (1408 Palpita vitrealis): First report for the year from the Friston Forest near Eastbourne on Aug 29 - this micro is given its new English name in recognition of its liking for Olive Trees around the Mediterranean - not common in Britain

Ancylosis oblitella (1467): First record for the year from Portland on Aug 30

Small Dusty Wave (1707 Idaea seriata): First record from Ringmer near Lewes on Aug 30

Large Thorn (1911 Ennomos autumnaria): First for the year in an Edburton village garden (north of Brighton) on Aug 31

Buff Ermine (2061 Spilosoma luteum): This moth does not normally have a second generation but a very fresh specimen trapped at Brighton on Aug 31 suggested that at least one had not waited until May of next year to emerge

Hedge Rustic (2177 Tholera cespitis): First for the year in an Edburton village garden (north of Brighton) on Aug 31

Flounced Rustic (2353 Luperina testacea): First of year seen in Brighton on or just before Sep 5


Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio machaon): A caterpillar which had eaten several carrot tops in a Margate (Kent) allotment was identified as a mature larva of the Swallowtail butterfly - its parent had presumably flown over from the continent as a migrant

Vapourer moth (Orgyia antiqua): The small caterpillars of this moth have a fascinating display of colouful skin and hairs which can be seen in a photo on the Rye Bay website at http://rxwildlife.org.uk/category/all-latest-news/insects/moths/ (click the 'Read the rest of this entry' link to see a close up photo). The photos show why this is one of a group called Tussock Moths (with a row of toothbrush like tufts or tussocks of hair on the caterpillars)

Other Insects

Hornet: One gets into the news by taking a Small Tortoiseshell butterfly at Steyning in West Sussex on Aug 30 and another was seen killing Bumblebees on Aug 31

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis): Yet another insect starting to invade Britain. Three of these very large Squash-bugs arrived on the night of Aug 31 (two found at Dungeness and the third in a moth trap at Hastings) to become the second, third and fourth records for the species in Britain. A search of the internet for more info came up with the following from an Italian website (Entinfo) ...

"In North America the nearctic Leaf-footed conifer seed bug Leptoglossus occidentalis is considered a severe pest of conifer seed orchards, and it sometimes causes serious alarm when large numbers of adults suddenly invade houses looking for overwintering sites.

"This insect was never recorded for the European fauna, but in 1999 it was first collected near Vicenza (northern Italy). Up to now several specimens were observed in different localities of northern Italy.

"Adults are 9 to 18 mm long, females being larger than males."

For a picture of the specimen which Andy Phillips found in his Hastings moth trap go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/wildhastings/2813195575/ Andy says that the species is now spreading through Europe and that the first for Britain was found at Weymouth in 2007


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Saltwort and Frosted Orache: Both these shore plants can normally be found at Sandy Point on Hayling but I could not find either of them this year. Both were recorded in the Thanet area of Kent on Sep 1

Shining Cranesbill: The plants in the Pook Lane area of east Havant wre having a substantial second flowering on Sep 5

Pencilled Cranesbill: The plant on the grass verge of Pook Lane (north of A27) in east Havant was also having an abundant late flowering on Sep 5

Sickle medick (Medicago sativa ssp. falcata): This uncommon plant occurs as a native in East Anglia and is occasionally found elsewhere in south east England. In 2003 a single cluster of plants was found on Portsdown to be the only Hampshire example but the cluster has diminished and this year just one small plant was flowering on Sep 1

Ivy: Although one bush had flowers in Havant on Aug 19 it was not until Sep 5 that I was able to find several flowering plants on the same day

Stone Parsley: I have not seen this in flower since the end of July so a freshly flowering plant on Sep 5 was a surprise

Hogweed: I have not seen this in flower since the end of July so a freshly flowering plant on Sep 5 was a surprise

Weasel's Snout (or Lesser Snapdragon): 20 or more plants were flowering well in the New Lane allotments on Sep 3

Harebell: Still a good show on Portsdown on Sep 1

Perennial Sunflower (Helianthus x laetiflorus): This garden escape has established itself on the east side of the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth and was flowering there on Sep 4

Yellow Bristle-grass: A single plant of this was flowering in the centre of Havant on Sep 1 not far from my only other find of the species in 2004 - see Diary entry for Sep 1 for more detail


Wood Mouse: A photo in the Hampshire Bird News for Sep 5 showed a dead Chaffinch lying on the ground with a Wood Mouse gnawing at its wing. The message describing the scene said that the Chaffinch had flown into a house window and broken its neck when fleeing from a Sparrowhawk and that the mouse had then appeared in broad daylight and started to gnaw at one of the bird's legs (the sound of the gnawing being audible several feet away by the observer who was then able to take the photo without apparently frightening the mouse). My guess is that the mouse had been poisoned and was desperately seeking an antidote and I base this on having read in the past of sheep on some Scottish Island, where the food available to them is deficient in some essential minerals, eating the legs off life tern chicks for the same reason that cattle lick salt blocks. The poison might well have dulled the senses of the mouse, accounting for its lack of fear of the photographer's close approach, and the gnawing of the bird's leg and wing bone, rather than any attempt to get at its flesh, matches the action of the Scottish sheep.

The photo can be seen at http://ph.groups.yahoo.com/group/hoslist/photos/view/d8b2?b=1 and if you click 'Large' against the VIEW option above the picture you can clearly see the damage the mouse has done to the bird's right leg. The orangey tinge to the mouse's upper fur, and the contrast between the colour of that upper fur and the white fur under its body, show that this is a Wood Mouse (a House Mouse would be grey all over). Had it been a Yellow-necked Mouse I think you would see, at the top of the mouse's right leg, the start of the yellow bar running across its breast.

Fungi: On Aug 31 Nik Knight found a cluster of White Spidles (Clavaria fragilis - was C. vermicularis) on his lawn at Langstone and when I was on my way to see him on Sep 2 I found a new addition to the many fungi on the new wood chip piles beside the Billy Trail in the Langstone area - clearly a Peziza species, I eventually decided it was P. ampliata which is not listed in my older Fungus books but is pictured in Michael Jordan's more recent book and which was the closest match for colour, size, shape and other characteristics as well as being listed as occurring on wood chippings. As I had not heard of this species before I checked the list of records of it that is available on the internet through the British Mycological Society's Fungus Recording Database in which I found several recent finds of it had been in Hampshire.

Sep 5 started well with two new fungi in my lawn - one that I have seen in previous years (Meadow Waxcap) and one that I have never seen before which I am pretty sure had the unattractive new English Name of Slimy Waxcap and which has at least two scientific names - Roger Phillips and Stephan Buczacki list it as Hygrocybe unguinosa but Michael Jordan has it as Hygrocybe irrigata. Later that morning I found a fresh and exuberant growth of Giant Polypore in the 'twitchel' path running east from Lymbourne Road to Wade Court Road

Summary for Aug 25 - 31 (Week 34 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

151 Little Egrets went to roost on Thorney this week as their numbers reach an autumn peak. Three Red-breasted Mergansers appeared 'out of the blue' in Southampton Water near where the Carrion Crow flock now numbers 250 birds. Honey Buzzards are now starting to move south and a second Hen Harrier has returned to southern England. Near Romsey the harrowing of a large field has brought 32 Buzzards to search for worms in the exposed soil. The week has brought two reports of Corncrake and a possible Pacific Golden Plover as the first Short Eared Owls return for the winter. A Nightjar flying across a floodlit cricket pitch at Brighton livened up the game and the first three Wryneck have arrived on the coast to be seen by day. Autumn rarities include Tawny Pipit, Melodious Warbler, Red-backed Shrike and Ortolan Bunting. Robins have suddenly become extremely common this week as continental birds arrive. Tree Sparrows are breeding in increasing numbers at Dungeness and a substantial flock of Crossbills has been in Havant Thicket

Not a specially good week for dragonflies or butterflies but a Camberwell Beauty is of interest and a small emergence of Small Tortoiseshells gives hope that they will still be seen next year. Moth interest includes both Convolvulus Hawk and Red Underwing plus an Elephant Hawk which 'overslept'. Other insects include a reminder of Snail Killing Flies and why they are so called

Very little in the way of new flowers though I did see my first Devil's Bit Scabious but my personal best find was a plant of Blue Pimpernel

A Leopard Slug was a lifetime first for me as was a fungus called Thelephora penicillata (Spiky Earthfan?)


(Skip to Insects)

Black-necked Grebe: The first that I have seen reported on the north Kent coast this autumn was at Cliffe Pools on Aug 29. At the Dungeness RSPB reserve, where two returned as early as July 29, the number had increased to four by Aug 28

Sooty Shearwater: Singles have been seen at St Catherine's Point (IoW) on Aug 24 (when 5 were seen at Portland), and at Dungeness on Aug 29

Storm Petrel: One was seen off Fort Victoria (IoW - across the Solent from Lymington) on Aug 13 - the reason for the lateness of this news is that Kris Gillam has been offline for a few weeks but now has a new website - you can get the address from my Links page

Shag: These re-appeared off Christchurch Harbour at the end of their breeding season as early as July 8 but maybe there is a further movement now occurring as 5 flew north over Dungeness on Aug 24 and a first winter bird was on the sea there on Aug 26

Little Egret: Barry Collins saw 151 birds enter the night roost in trees just north of the Thorney Little Deeps on the evening of Aug 27

Mute Swan: The Langstone Pond pair still have all six of their cygnets with them and on Aug 29 I saw them at Langstone and found another pair with two cygnets across the water in the Northney marina. In the past (more than five years ago) a pair nested each year on the saltings in the marina area but I don't think this pair had nested here this year.

Greylag and Canada Goose: The flock of Greylag at Pulborough Brooks was estimated to have 260 birds on Aug 18 but by Aug 24 that had gone up to 300+ (along with 324 Canada Geese). In Hampshire on Aug 20 around 150 Greylags were on Tundry Pond (west of Fleet) with around 440 Canadas. Another big flock of around 380 Canadas was seen in the Chilling area (between Warsash and Titchfield) on Aug 29 and 114 of them were roosting at Christchurch Harbour on the night of Aug 27/28. A smaller flock of 90 birds was seen near the village of Kingsley, east of Alton, on Aug 27

Shoveler: These are gradually returning to the sites where they will spend the winter - the figures for the Isle of Wight Brading Marshes reserve are probably typical with just 2 there on Aug 10. 6 on Aug 16 and 11 on Aug 24

Red-breasted Merganser: Three were seen flying north up Southampton Water off Hythe on Aug 30 - I assume these have been summering here unobserved until now - in recent years the first to arrive for the winter are not seen until after mid-September and the first flocks do not appear until late in October

Pochard: Not many of these back yet but one was an unexpected sighting on the Lymington marshes on Aug 26 and another single at the Blashford Lakes on Aug 24 seems to have been a newcomer there

Ruddy Duck: A report of a male displaying to a female at the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) on Aug 24 was the first mention of the species there since January (when at least 10 were present) but I don't know if this is because the birds were not worthy of mention in the intervening months or whether the current news is of newly returned birds

Honey Buzzard: A cluster of five reports between Aug 27 and 30 seems to show that autumn passage has started for this species - as three of these reports are from Kent the birds concerned there probably came from Scandinavia. Four reports were of singles (one on Aug 29 was over Ventnor Downs on the IoW) but on Aug 30 three different birds were over Beachy Head

Marsh Harrier: Of seven new reports this week the Isle of Wight had two birds at Brading Marshes on Aug 24 and Titchfield Haven had one on Aug 30

Hen Harrier: An immature male was over the Elmley Marshes in north Kent on Aug 27 following the ringtail seen at Dungeness on Aug 17

Buzzard: An intriguing observation at North Baddesley (east of Romsey) on Aug 25 was of 28 or more Buzzards together on the ground in a single field. A return visit to the field on Aug 26 could only see 8 but 32 or more were there on Aug 27. I know that Buzzards often resort to catching earthworms on the ground and maybe the large number were attracted there because a good supply of worms or other invertebrates was to be had there (e.g. after spraying slurry on the field) and I have now heard that this field has been cleared and harrowed and is thus the only extensive area of bare soil for miles around

Osprey: Twenty new reports in the latest news show that these are now streaming south though some are pausing on the coast. The bird which arrived at Titchfield Haven on Aug 16 was still being seen on Aug 29 and the one which reached the Lower Test Marshes on Aug 16 was still there on Aug 27. On Aug 25 there were two in Poole Harbour - increasing to three on Aug 26. Some time around Aug 21 one landed briefly in an old Sweet Chestnut tree in the Stansted Forest East Park (from where it would have its first good view of Chichester Harbour and the distant open sea as it came south)

Kestrel: One which flew south over Christchurch Harbour on Aug 25 was probably intending to cross the Channel.

Merlin: One was at Farlington Marshes on Aug 30, maybe the bird which arrived there on Aug 18, and others were at the Lymington Marshes on Aug 25, at Selsey West Fields on Aug 28 and at Christchurch Harbour on Aug 28. Portland has had sightings on Aug 26, 27, 28 and 29.

Hobby: On Aug 24 at the Seven Sisters Country Park near Beachy Head a Hobby was seen to catch a Swallow and then disappear with its prey into long grass from which it did not emerge for at least five minutes so presumably it was eating the Swallow on the ground - the observer thought this was unusual and expected the Hobby to take its prey to a plucking post (but if the Hobby was on passage it would not be familiar with the local environment and not know where to find a suitable perch). On Aug 23 a family party of two adult and one juvenile Hobbies were seen near Storrington (south of Pulborough) with one of the adults carrying a Collared Dove it had just caught (quite a large catch compared to the usual dragonfly prey!) A third recent observation was of a Hobby chasing but failing to catch a Swift over the shore at Climping (mouth of R Arun)

Corncrake: One was reported on the Dorset news to have been seen at Christchurch Harbour on Aug 23 and one was heard at Portland on Aug 30

Common Crane: The two birds which arrived at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Aug 23 were still there on Aug 29 - on Aug 25 they were seen 'dancing' on more than one occasion.

American Golden Plover: The summer plumaged bird which arrived on the Kent coast at Pegwell Bay on June 1 and subsequently moved to the Elmley Marshes was still there on Aug 23.

Pacific Golden Plover: One is claimed to have been at Newtown Nature Reserve on the Isle of Wight on the evenings of both Aug 26 and 27 but I have no further details.

Grey Plover: Although the first local returnee was off Thorney Island on Aug 15 and two were in Emsworth Harbour on Aug 22 the first summer plumage birds to be reported in Langstone Harbour only got a mention on Aug 30 when a flock of 24 were on mud off Farlington Marshes

Ruff: A female (Reeve) was seen from the Titchfield Haven Canal Path on Aug 26 and another was at Brading Marshes on the IoW on Aug 24 but here in Hampshire we are unlikely to see these birds in numbers to compete with the estimated 30 that were at the North Kent Oare Marshes on Aug 21. Having said that I see that Ruff are very unpredicatable in their movements and Birds of Hants records several large congregations of them - in Sep 1980 there were 47 at Keyhaven and in Feb 1976 an influx brought 350 of them to Hampshire with 225 of them in the Lymington area.

Black-tailed Godwit: The flock at the north Kent Elmley Marshes reached a count of 960 birds on Aug 26

Spotted Redshank: These are currently being reported from several south coast sites and one was at Farlington Marshes on Aug 27 while Aug 25 brought news of one at Sidlesham Ferry already in winter plumage

Grey Phalarope: The juvenile which turned up in the Lymington area on Aug 21 appears to have moved on during Aug 25 after being seen there that morning. Luckily it only flew to Titchfield Haven where it was seen Aug 27 and 29. A 'possible only' sighting came from the Weymouth area on Aug 27

Arctic Skua: Dungeness recorded 25 on Aug 24 and 35 on Aug 29

Long-tailed Skua: A 'probable' was seen off Ventnor on Aug 25 by Kris Gillam (whose old website of Isle of Wight bird news has been out of action for some time but he now has a new site which you can reach via my Links page). If the id was correct this would be the fourth reported on the south coast this year - the first was off Dungeness on May 2

Common Gull: On Aug 27 Steve Mansfield found a total of 39 on the Warblington Shore east of Langstone showing they are now back in force

Caspian Gull: A probable was seen by the Itchen in Southampton on Aug 26 but this has since been discounted

Roseate Tern: As usual at this time of year the movements of all tern species can cause confusion - in the mornings a lot of them are seen moving west as if leaving us, at midday they can be seen loitering or fishing as if resident at various places in the Solent, but in the evening they head back east to roost for the night just inside the entrances to Portsmouth and Langstone Harbours. This probably accounts for reports of 2 Roseate Terns at Titchfield Haven on Aug 27 and in Langstone Harbour entrance that same evening (among at least 700 Common Terns also roosting there)

Black Tern: Numbers of all tern species are starting to diminish but there was still a count of 35 Black Terns off Dungeness on Aug 24. Locally one was at Titchifeld Haven on Aug 26 (with a juvenile off Lymington that day) and one was over Ivy Lake at Chichester on Aug 28 with three over Newtown Harbour (IoW) on Aug 30

Wood Pigeon: Following reports of large flocks enjoying the unharvestable rain-flattened grain in Kent fields last week I am pleased to see that a flock of 1000+ in the Chilling area (west of Titchfield) were on stubble (so hopefully the farmer got his share of the valuable crop)

Turtle Dove: No local news but as these are leaving us there were reports of 14 on wires at the Oare Marshes near Faversham on both Aug 23 and 26 with 5 still there on Aug 28 (three were at Portland on Aug 29)

Ring-necked Parakeet: I am still very dubious about Parakeets invading Hampshire in any strength but another single bird was reported at the Blashford Lakes on Aug 24 to bring the number of reports from Hampshire sites to seven for this year. The first three were isolated reports in March, April and July but three of the last four were all on Aug 16 (at Lymington, Botley Woods and Bere Farm near Portsdown) and these could have been sightings of the same bird as could the Blashford Lakes one.

Cuckoo: A juvenile was seen at Pagham Harbour on Aug 23 and this has been followed by singles at Sandwich Bay in Kent, Seaford in East Sussex and at Portland, all on Aug 28

Barn Owl: Two were seen by day in the Titchfield Haven area on Aug 26 (and since then I have heard of newly fledged young in Kent on Aug 23 - last year I was surprised to hear of juvenile Barn Owls still being fed by their parents at the end of November)

Short-eared Owl: The first report since May 10 came from Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) on Aug 23 when a second new arrival was at Portland. Since then another has been at Portland on Aug 28

Nightjar: Several people watching floodlit 20/20 Cricket at Hove on the evening of Aug 25 saw a Nightjar fly across the pitch (some initially thought it was a large bat)

Swift: Still being seen daily with a major movement on Aug 28 bringing a count of 150 over the Seaford area with 24 there on Aug 29 when three flew over Langstone villge in the evening. Three more were over Southampton Water on the morning of Aug 30 with one over Christchurch Harbour.

Hoopoe: One has been at a farm near Dungeness from Aug 20 to 27 at least

Wryneck: Aug 30 saw the first of the autumn reaching the south coast - one at Portland, one at Durlston and one in the Sheepcote Valley behind Brighton

Great Spotted Woodpecker: A presumed migrant was found clinging to a groyne (probably a wooden one!) on the beach at Pett near Hastings on Aug 23. On Aug 29 one was at Portland and four flew high south over Christchurch Harbour

Sand Martin: A flock of around 1000 birds was feeding in the Dungeness area on Aug 25 along with 300 Swallows

Swallow: These are now being seen on the move along the whole of the south coast - on Aug 29 there were some 2000 over Dungeness

House Martin: Although the bulk of these leave us much later at least 100 flew south from Christchurch Harbour on Aug 29

Tawny Pipit: The first autumn bird was heard flying east over Christchurch Harbour on Aug 30

Tree Pipit: Fourteen reports in the week's news show a marked increase in departing birds

Meadow Pipit: A group of six near the shore at Climping (mouth of R Arun) on Aug 26 may have been a first sign of their autumn passage. On Aug 28 an influx of 35 birds was noted at Sandwich Bay and on Aug 29 the number were said to be noticeably increasing in the Hastings area

Yellow Wagtail: 22 or more were at Farlington Marshes on the morning of Aug 27 when another single flew over the Warblington shore east of Langstone. Bigger flocks were 100+ at Climping on Aug 24 and 200+ at Rye Harbour on Aug 25. More recently there was a count of 200+ at Climping on Aug 30 with 50+ in Pagham Harbour, 50 on the Lymington shore and 40 at Portland. Locally Aug 30 brought a sighting of one in the Warblington fields with cattle and an unspecified number at Farlington Marshes

Grey Wagtail: Of local interest one flew over my Havant garden on Aug 27 to be the first 'winter bird' back here and on Aug 30 there were 10 migrants at Portland.

Wren: One re-started singing near my Havant garden on Aug 22 and is now heard daily

Robin: I have heard occasional autumn song since July 22 but since Aug 22 (when 50 migrants were reported at Beachy Head, presumably arriving to winter here) the frequency of song has increased and on the morning of Aug 28 (Thursday) three birds were singing at different points around my back garden and another was in my neighbour's front garden. Next day I cycled to north Hayling and heard at least one Robin in every 100 metres of suitable habitat - they have since thinned out but by Aug 30 I noticed that at last one Robin in my garden has ceased skulking and sits openly on various perches around the lawn, flying down when it sees some insect in the grass.

Whinchat: These are now widespread along the coast and on Aug 27 two were seen at Farlington Marshes where the first was reported on Aug 18. Portland had 8 on Aug 28 and there were 10 on the Lymington marshes on Aug 30

Wheatear: Portland recorded 55 on Aug 28

Mistle Thrush: A family group of 5 seen in the Chilling area (west of Titchfield) on Aug 29 is worth noting nowadays

Melodious Warbler: One at Portland on Aug 30 was only the third I have heard of this year.

Wood Warbler: One at Christchurch Harbour on Aug 29

Firecrest: These are not a common sight in autumn but one was seen at the Ringwood Blashford Lakes on Aug 24 following sightings at Climping on Aug 22 and Ballard Down on Aug 17. Since then there has been one at Portland on Aug 29

Spotted Flycatcher: Michael Prior tells us that two pairs nested around Stansted House this year but they have now left. British Wildlife magazine this week told me that monitoring of Flycatcher nests with cameras in an RSPB study has shown that birds (principally Jays) and domestic Cats are the main predators of Flycatcher nests - Squirrels, which have often been blamed for the decline of the Flycatchers, are not a major predator.

Coal Tit: I suspect that these have been singing in woodland for some time and I was reminded of this by hearing one in a neighbour's garden on Aug 26

Blue Tit: One of these also sang briefly in my garden on Aug 30

Red-backed Shrike: A juvenile was in the Sheepcote Valley at Brighton on Aug 30

Carrion Crow: A flock is present at Weston Shore on Southampton Water throughout the year but it reached a peak count (for this year) of around 250 birds on Aug 29. Last year the number of birds was up to 500 on Sept 16

Starling: A flock of around 250 was in the Bushes area of Farlington Marshes on Aug 30 - I expect to see much larger flocks in many places before long

House Sparrow: Mark Rolfe found a total of 102 in Oxley's Copse on the south west fringe of the Fareham built up area on Aug 26 - maybe a first indication of what I call 'Corn Sparrows' - House Sparrows which leave their urban environment at this time of year and join together in large flocks to feed on harvest grain.

Tree Sparrow: Good news from Dungeness - nest boxes put up a couple of years ago attracted 7 pairs to nest in 2006, 12 pairs in 2007 and 25 pairs have bred there this year

Siskin: A flock of 9 was seen at Sherford Bridge (just north of Wareham in Dorset) on Aug 26 - maybe the first arrivals coming here for the winter as I have not seen a mention of the species since June 15.

Linnet: A flock of 40 on the Climping shore on Aug 24 with 60+ at Rye Harbour on Aug 25

Crossbill: 17 reports from many different sites in the latest news but the only two which are of more than 11 birds are of 56+ in Havant Thicket on Aug 27 (with some still there on Aug 30 at least) and around 50 passing over the Ventnor Downs (IoW) on Aug 29

Ortolan Bunting: On Aug 29 one was seen at Portland and on Aug 30 there were two at Portland and one in the Sheepcote Valley at Brighton

Escapes: On Aug 27 a Demoiselle Crane was seen at Kingsley village in east Hampshire but this is an escape which has been regularly seen in Surrey (near Godalming) since mid-May


(Skip to Plants)


Southern and Migrant Hawkers, Ruddy and Common Darters were all on the wing


Down to just 27 species seen this week, including ...

Small Blue: The first brood tailed off in the third week of June as normal and there is then normally a gap in sightings until a short burst of second brood sightings around the third week of August but this year second brood sightings started on July 4 and have continued until now - the latest report being of one seen on Portsdown on Aug 24 where there were also sightings on July 16 and 22.

Painted Lady: Just three new sightings, two singles on Aug 21 at Brockenhurst (New Forest) and near Rye, plus one at Titchfield on Aug 24

Small Tortoiseshell: Five reports between Aug 21 and 24 covered a total of 12 insects including a record sighting of 5 at Rye Harbour on Aug 22

Camberwell Beauty: Belated news of one at Newhaven on Aug 18 - third report for the year after one on the Isle of Wight in February(!) and another at Crawley on July 21

Marbled White: Still being seen at Durlston on Aug 30 at least two weeks after all other sites have ceased to report the species


Horse Chestnut Leaf Miner (0366a Cameraria ohridella): The damage which the larvae of this recent invader does to the leaves of Horse Chestnut can be seen everywhere but I was interested to see that hundreds of the moths could be seen when driving along the A303 near Thruxton (Andover) on Aug 21

Chequered Fruit-tree Tortrix (0969 Pandemis corylana): First report of this from Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Aug 24

Peach Blossom (1652 Thyatira batis): First of second brood out at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Aug 24

The Gem (1720 Orhtonama obstipata): First for the year at Portland on Aug 23

Sharp-angled Peacock (1890 Semiothisa alternaria): First of second brood out at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Aug 24

Convolvulus Hawkmoth (1972 Agrius convolvuli): Two at Reculver on the north Kent coast on Aug 24 were the fourth report for the year. The first was also in Kent on Aug 21 followed by reports from Portland on Aug 21 and 22

Elephant Hawkmoth (1991 Deilephila elpenor): A pristine specimen was trapped at Mill Hill on Aug 24 where the normal flight period for the species ended on July 16. Although this moth does not have two generations per year some of the caterpillars which pupated last year, and which normally emerge in the next June, take longer (like this one) to emerge.

Jersey Tiger (2067 Euplagia quadripunctaria): The first to be reported was seen in the Thanet area of Kent on July 27 but one seen by the Titchfield Canal path on Aug 26 was still in super condition.

Beautiful Gothic (2226 Leucochlaena oditis): First for the year trapped at Portland on July 25

Feathered Brindle (2230 Aporophyla australis): First for the year trapped at Portland on July 25

Feathered Ranunculus (2255 Eumichtis lichenea): First for the year trapped at Portland on July 25

Red Underwing (2452 Catocala nupta): A pristine example at Rye Harbour on Aug 30 was the second report of the year (first also at Rye Harbour on Aug 14)

Other Insects

Picture Winged Fly (Campiglossa plantaginis): This is one of many similar species and is restricted to seaside sites where the larva can feed in the flowerheads of Sea Aster plants. A photo of one appeared on the Rye Bay website when it was seen there on Aug 26

Snail-killing Fly (Coremacera marginata): One of these found in the Rother valley north of Hastings on Aug 23. Snail Killing Flies are so called because their larvae parasitise snail species.

Green Tiger Beetle: This brightly coloured hunter of heathland gets a first mention on Aug 23 when one was seen in Sandgate Park at Storrington (south of Pulborough)


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Imperforate St John's Wort: Several plants flowering in Havant Thicket on Aug 30 were the first I have seen this year

Many Seeded Goosefoot: Seen for the first time this year in Havant on Aug 28

Blue Pimpernel: Although this is only a colour form of Scarlet Pimpernel, not a separate species, I was delighted to find a plant in flower at North Common in Hayling on Aug 29. I cannot remember coming across this form ever before but on July 10 this year I was told that it regularly appears in an east Havant garden

Apple of Peru (Nicandra physalodes): First reports of flowering for this year come from two sites in the Hastings/Rye area on Aug 26

Borage: Several plants have re-appeared and are flowering beside Park Road South in Havant outside Dolphin Court in a patch that had been cleared of its botanic interest not long ago

Blue Fleabane: I came across this in flower for the first time this summer on Aug 29 though I am sure it has been out elsewhere, unseen by me, for a long time.

Devil's Bit Scabious: Well out in Havant Thicket by Aug 30 where I saw it for the first time this year.


Common Dolphin: Only two sightings of which I have seen reports so far this year - a single Dolphin was off Selsey Bill on May 22 and I see two were off Ventnor (IoW) on Aug 10

Common Seal: On Aug 27 two were seen together in Langstone Harbour just off 'the Point'

Grey Seal: One was in Rye Bay on Aug 29

Hedgehog: Droppings in my garden on Aug 30 strongly indicated the presence of a Hedgehog. Earlier this summer I heard that one had been seen in a neighbour's garden and the presence of many large slugs (mainly Arion ater with the orange fringe to its sole) would make this an excellent Hedgehog restaurant

Slow-worm: The Rye Bay website reported the first appearance of young Slow-worms for this year on Aug 27

Leopard Slug (Limax maximus): This is, I think, Britain's largest Slug and is certainly very distinctive with its large size (up to 10cm long). I had never seen this species until I came on one in Havant Thicket on Aug 30. See my diary entry for Aug 30 for more detail and an account of their unusual sex life.

Fungi: A good selection this week including one that I had not come across before, Thelephora penicillata, which I found in Havant Thicket on Aug 30. Again see Diary entry for that day for more detail. Two other firsts for the year found that day were False Death Cap (Amanita citrina) and Common Earthball (Scleroderma citrinum). At the same site were several Blackish-purple Russula, and on the Hayling Billy Trail in Langstone on Aug 29 there were still many Agrocybe rivulosa on the piles of wood chips, Rather past their best by now were Giant Polypores in Havant Park and in Wade Court Road

Summary for Aug 18 - 24 (Week 33 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week the first Red-necked Grebe, Spotted Crake, Grey Phalarope, Merlin and Hen Harrier of the autumn have been seen on the south coast and an astonishing total of 34 Sooty Shearwaters were recorded at Portland. Two young Goosanders were thought to be the result of local breeding and Dorset seems to have had its first Ruddy Ducks of the year. An unusually large passage of raptors over Dungeness included 52 Sparrowhawks and 41 Kestrels and in a different report I learnt of Hobbies mugging Barn Owls for their prey (and also of a Sparrowhawk refusing to accept the carcase of a Green Woodpecker which broke its neck by flying into a fence instead of allowing the Sparrowhawk to catch it). Other good birds this week have been a Sabines Gull and two Cranes arriving in Kent. A sad story for farmers comes from Kent where hundreds of Woodpigeons and Collared Doves are gobbling up flattened grain crops

A second example of a Beautiful Demoiselle wandering well outside its normal area come from Portland the week's new moths include both Convolvulus Hawk and an even rarer migrant - Rosy Underwing. Other insect news has introduced me to new species of Robberfly and of Ichneumon while the much commoner Oak Bush Cricket and Harvestman 'spider' are new on the scene

The week has also introduced me to a new umbellifer called Longleaf (not found in Hampshire) while I have at last found Slender Hare's Ear in flower. Among the normal events I have recorded the first flowering of Ivy and the appearance of Green Amaranth while a remark on a Kent website leads me to believe that we will in future find Ivy Broomrape in new sites

Among the Other Wildlife is credible news of Water Voles climbing trees and less credible news of a Red Squirrel in the Portsmouth area. My own finds include Pointed Snails still living on Thorney Island and several new fungi while others have seen the first Stinkhorn and a good specimen of 'Chicken of the Woods'.


(Skip to Insects)

Red-necked Grebe: The first to be reported on the south coast since May 2 was at Dungeness on Aug 17

Black-necked Grebe: A party of four (thought to be three adults and one juvenile) appeared on the Blashford Lakes on Aug 17 but the birds were not there next day so had presumably flown on. Two which have been in the Kent Stour valley since at least Aug 10 were still there on Aug 23

Sooty Shearwater: I had seen just 8 reports of this species, all sightings of singles, prior to Aug 18 when an astonishing total of 34 were seen off Portland with 18 there on Aug 19 but only one was seen on both Aug 20 and 21

Manx Shearwater: Whatever was responsible for bring the Sooty Shearwaters to Portland on Aug 18 also brought 137 Manx and 37 Balearic

Storm Petrel: One of these was also blown to Portland on Aug 18

Cormorant: Now that the breeding season is over these are back in winter mode and on Aug 19 the roost trees at Titchfield Haven held at least 24 birds at dusk while on Aug 22 there were 23 at Brading RSPB reserve on the IoW (presumably roosting)

Cattle Egret: These too are back from breeding to give a count of 13 at Radipole Lake (Weymouth) on Aug 16 but they have not been reported there since. On Aug 17 one was seen at Dungeness and another on the Dorset coast near Swanage (this one may have gone on to Poole Harbour where one was seen on Aug 19). Latest news is of one at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Aug 21

Little Egret: I see that Sandwich Bay had a site record count of 79 there on Aug 17 when 19 were well inland at Paxton Pits by the A1 road north of Bedford. On Aug 23 the number leaving the roost at dawn (which had been 74 on Aug 15) had risen to 91

Great White Egret: The regular bird which returned to the Blashford Lakes on Aug 16 was seen there again on Aug 17, 19 and 20

Grey Heron: One was seen swallowing a Grass Snake which it had just caught at Pagham Harbour on Aug 22

White Stork: Two of these were in West Sussex over the R Ouse near Lewes from Aug 18 to 20 at least (and another was at Dungeness on Aug 20)

Spoonbill: A juvenile flew west over Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) on Aug 17 and on Aug 22 the group of 6 were still in Poole Harbour. The two which arrived at the Lymington marshes on Aug 11 were still there on Aug 23

Shelduck: These seem to have better breeding success inland than on the coast - I was reminded of this by a report on Aug 18 of 5 juveniles with one adult on Alresford Pond near the source of the R Itchen

Wigeon: It is sometimes difficult to separate newly returned birds from the few that have stayed here for the summer but on Aug 18 one was said to be a new arrival at Christchurch Harbour

Gadwall: On Apr 25 only one was seen at Hook (Warsash) near the mouth of Southampton Water and on July 26 there were 18 there so a count of 50 on Aug 22 represents a big increase

Teal: Around 160 were back at Pulborough Brooks on Aug 18 and more than 50 were at Sidlesham Ferry Pool on Aug 17

Common Scoter: A big movement west through the straits of Dover took place on Aug 16 and 17 with 525 passing Dungeness on Aug 16 and 378 seen there on Aug 17 while the counts at Folkestone were 200 and 240 for those two days.

Goosander: Two juveniles seen at Christchurch Harbour on Aug 20 were thought to be the result of nearby breeding (Avon valley?)

Ruddy Duck: Six seen at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Aug 17 were the first to be reported in Dorset this year according to my record of reports

Marsh Harrier: A total of 12 flew south over Dungeness on Aug 23 (an exceptional passage of raptors was reported there that day - the Dungeness observatory website entry for that day reported "The main feature of the day was an excellent passage of raptors during the morning and early afternoon. The best of the birds were a Buzzard and 12 Marsh Harriers but the most remarkable feature was the total of 52 Sparrowhawks followed by 41 Kestrels, a Hobby and four Peregrine Falcons". Locally one Marsh Harrier was seen at Titchfield Haven on Aug 19, a single juvenile was hunting over the Thorney Deeps on Aug 20 and three of these birds were over the Selsey West Fields on Aug 22.

Hen Harrier: A single juvenile male stayed on the south coast until June 15 but none have been reported since until a ringtail was seen at Dungeness on Aug 17

Sparrowhawk: See the report of 52 migrants over Dungeness in the Marsh Harrier entry above. Locally the loud screams for food which are made by juvenile Sparrowhawks which still expect 'room service' from their parents could be heard on Aug 11 from trees where Mill Lane at Langstone reaches the South Moors - they had come from a nest in one of the Mill Lane gardens

Buzzard: As family groups join together in the autumn counts increase and on Aug 22 more than 20 were over Pagham Harbour and on Aug 23 14 were seen over Luccombe Down on the IoW

Osprey: One had settled at Titchfield Haven from Aug 16 to 23 at least and another was at the Southampton Lower Test marshes from Aug 16 to 21 but radio tracking shows that some birds don't dawdle on their journey south. A report on the SOS website tells us .. "The Scottish Osprey 'Beatrice' recorded by satellite at Rackham (near Pulborough) at 12 noon yesterday crossed the channel two hours later and last night was on the north French coast. The Osprey 'Logie' left her site (in Scotland) last night to begin her migration. This is the bird which stopped over at Ardingly Reservoir on her return to Scotland last year". In Chichester Harbour one was over the Emsworth channel on Aug 20 and maybe the same bird was seen over Thorney Island on Aug 22

Kestrel: See the report of 41 migrants over Dungeness in the Marsh Harrier entry above

Merlin: What is probably the first to return to Langstone Harbour after the breeding season was at Farlington Marshes on Aug 18. Another was at Portland on Aug 22 and two more females were seen on Aug 23 in the Hastings and Seaford areas

Hobby: Plenty of these are still with us and among them was one seen by Michael Prior twice on Aug 12 in the Forestside area north of Stansted Forest. A very unusual report of one came from the Horsham area on Aug 17 - it was seen to 'mug' a Barn Owl carrying prey back to its young and to carry off the prey to feed its own young. This form of piracy is known to be practiced occasionally by Kestrels against Barn Owls (I once saw it for myself at Amberley Wild Brooks) but it seems to be unknown (until now) for Hobbies to do it. In response to that report from Horsham Phil Jones, warden of the Pannel Valley nature reserve near Rye Bay, told us that he too had seen both Hobby and Kestrel steal prey from Barn Owls in the past couple of years. He went on to say that both Falcons flew towards the Owl, turned upside down and used their talons to wrest the prey out of the Owl's talons as they passed underneath it. (My personal observation of a Kestrel going for a Barn Owl at the Amberley Wild Brooks was of a much more aggressive mugging with the Kestrel flying straight at the Owl and crashing into at top speed with feathers flying from both birds - in that case the Kestrel was not very succesful, coming away with no more than a piece of the skin of the vole)

Quail: Two were reported on Aug 22 at Tarrant Rushton in Dorset

Spotted Crake: The first report of the species for this autumn comes from the Oare Marshes on the north Kent coast where one was first seen on Aug 16 and was still there on Aug 23

Common Crane: Two flew over Dungeness on Aug 23 and appeared to land nearby

Ringed Plover: On the morning of Aug 18 Owen Mitchell sat seawatching on a stone wall by the shore at Climping (between Bognor and Littlehampton) for about an hour but when he decided to move on he noticed a 'dead bird' on the ground inches from his feet. He picked it up for a closer look and in doing so realised that it was warm, alive, and watching him - it was a fledged juvenile Ringed Plover obeying its instinct to 'freeze' when danger threatens. After Owen had taken its photo and returned it to the spot where he found it he started to back away whereupon, in Owen's words .. "it suddenly flapped and fluttered weakly, scrambling over my feet and leaving a large deposit on my boot as a momento, before taking flight and heading for the beach".

Kentish Plover: A 'probable' was reported at the north Kent Cliffe Pools on Aug 20 (no more has been heard of the juvenile that was at the Lymington Marshes on Aug 10)

Golden Plover: Between Aug 16 and 21 several reports from the Oare Marshes in north Kent tell of between 300 and 400 Golden Plover there but the count was down to 82 on Aug 23.

American Golden Plover: One seen at the Oare Marshes on Aug 16 may have been the individual which has been in that area since July 30

Grey Plover: Brian Fellows saw his first summer plumage bird back in Emsworth Harbour on Aug 21 (the very first local report of a returning bird came from Langstone Harbour on July 27)

Lapwing: Around 220 were at Pulborough Brooks on Aug 18 (the only recent report from there was of around 50 present on July 23). At Rye Harbour there were 300 on July 31 and at Sidlesham Ferry there were 140 on Aug 6

Sanderling: A flock of 30 were on the Ryde sands on Aug 18, the highest count I have seen this autumn other than the large number which moved west on July 24 to give a count of 125 on the Hayling Bay shore

Ruff: 30 or more were at the north Kent Oare Marshes on Aug 21

Black-tailed Godwit: A few juveniles were back in Hampshire (at the Blashford Lakes) as early as Aug 3 and by Aug 13 the majority of 49 birds at Pulborough Brooks were juveniles but it was not until Aug 18 that Martin Gillingham reported that a few juveniles has started to return to Langstone Harbour (being seen at Farlington Marshes) - a couple of juveniles had been seen by Southampton Water on Aug 17 and 16 juveniles were seen at Christchurch Harbour on Aug 22

Bar-tailed Godwit: These should start to reach us in Hampshire during September and so far I have only seen three reports of substantial flocks, all in Kent. On Aug 6 Seasalter (on the north Kent coast) had 141 with 180 there on Aug 18, while Folkestone had 120 flying west on Aug 16. Last year the first local report (other than an isolated sighting of 50 near the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 24) was of 90 near West Wittering in Chichester Harbour on Sep 3 and it was not until Sep 20 that a flock of 120 were on the Pilsey Sands (Thorney Island) with 341 there on Sep 30. In 2006 there was a similar pattern with an isolated flock of 70 off north Hayling on Aug 12 but the main arrival occurring on Sep 14 and 16

Greenshank: A first wave of returning birds brought 39 Greenshank to north Kent on July 29 and 36 to Sandwich in east Kent on Aug 3. Now a second larger movement has brought 67 to the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Aug 17 with 25 at the Pett Pools on Rye Bay that day and 14 to Farlington Marshes on Aug 18 (there will have been a smaller number of birds at all these sites since July, and maybe more at some favoured sites such as Thorney Island, but I suspect everyone will be seeing increased numbers from now on). Latest news is of 27 at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour on Aug 23

Grey Phalarope: The first of the autumn on the south coast was at the Lymington marshes from Aug 21 to 23 and the 'second equal' was on the east shore of Thorney Island (Thornham Marshes area just south of Prinsted), also on Aug 21

Sabines Gull: One had been seen at Dungeness on Jan 4 this year and the second was off Bournemouth on Aug 12. Now we have a third report of an adult in the Thames Estuary (Sheppey area) on Aug 22

Common Tern: A major movement took 1185 west past Dungeness on Aug 16, along with 256 Sandwich, 58 Black and 38 Little Terns

Roseate Tern: Singles were in the Titchfield Haven area on Aug 17 and 23

Little Tern: On both Aug 16 and 19 the north Kent coast had counts of around 50 Little Terns

Black Tern: These too are now passing through in good numbers - on Aug 16 Dungeness recorded 58 and on Aug 17 the Oare Marshes in north Kent had 25 while Bewl Water in north east Sussex had more than 40. In Hampshire one was at the Blashford Lakes on Aug 19 and 20, and on Aug 23 one was at Titchfield Haven

Wood Pigeon and Collared Dove: Farmers are likely to suffer significant financial loss this summer after wind and rain have flattened their crops - even if the grain can be picked up by combine harvester there will be a large fuel bill for drying it out to reach the acceptable moisture limit for milling grain. Many birds however are rejoicing in the easy pickings they can take from flattened grain (which they could not 'harvest' had it remained standing). On Aug 21 two entries on the Planet Thanet website highlight this - one writes of some 400 Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves descending on flattened crops in that part of Kent, the other gives a count of 220+ Collared Doves on such grain (I think these are two different flocks)

Turtle Dove: A report of 14 Turtle Doves seen together at the north Kent Oare Marshes on Aug 23 probably indicates that the birds were gathering together prior to departure though I cannot be sure of this

Ring-necked Parakeet: On Aug 16 Trevor Carpenter had a probable sighting of one in the Botley Woods north of Fareham and on Aug 23 he definitely saw one at Bere Farm in the valley of the Wallington River west of Portsdown but I do not share his view that this marks the start of an invasion of Hampshire by these birds - for years the Parakeets have existed in thousands in the London area but have never shown a real interest in spreading out into Hampshire though one or two birds venture into the county briefly in most years.

Little Owl: These birds like to lead a very settled life and hardly move when they have found a site offering tree cavities for nests and roosts, plus a good dung heap around which they can feed on beetles and worms, but each autumn some youngsters have to leave home and find their own territories and at this time the Owls can turn up in odd places. In the past I have more than once heard of them in open grassland by the sea (at Farlington Marshes and Thorney Island) and this year someone has seen a couple in a similar situation in the Seven Sisters Country Park near Beachy Head. I think the birds just roam around looking for a new home but are reluctant to fly across water when they reach it.

Nightjar: Most of these arrive and leave without ever being seen at the coast but one Nightjar was seen on Aug 17 in a wood on Ballard Down near Swanage on the Dorset coast

Swift: Maybe bad weather has prolonged the time which baby Swifts had to spend in the nest this year (developing more slowly than usual on account of having to wait longer than usual for their parents to return to the nest with food) - at any rate there have been several reports of young still in their nests well into August this year whereas I believe they have all left nests in the south of England by the end of July in normal years. In Cosham (Portsmouth) the nest boxes on Graham Roberts' house produced 6 young from 3 nests but the last youngster did not leave until Aug 13. Swifts were still around nests in Horsham on Aug 14 and on Aug 15 babies were still in south Dorset nests near Swanage. Fledged birds are still being widely seen - on Aug 17 there were sightings at seven sites including counts of 121 at Sandwich and 250 at Folkestone. Reports on Aug 19 were of 28 on the north Kent coast, 4 over Titchfield Haven, 4 over Runcton Lake at Chichester and 3 over the Bembridge area of the Isle of Wight. On Aug 23 there were 20 at Dungeness, 10 at Portland, 3 at Christchurch Harbour and one over Luccombe Down on the IoW

Green Woodpecker: On Aug 23 one broke its neck flying into a fence when trying to outfly a Sparrowhawk that was chasing it - the Sparrowhawk did not take advantage of a corpse that it had not killed!

Great Spotted Woodpecker: There have been several indications of long distance movement recently including 5 at Dungeness on Aug 23

Sand Martin: Around 200 were over Runcton Lake at Chichester on Aug 19 and 200 went over Dungeness on Aug 23

Swallow: Christchurch Harbour birders detected the start of Swallow passage on Aug 22 when 100 flew over that site and on Aug 23 Dungeness had 500 passing over.

House Martin: A movement of 100 over Christchurch Harbour on Aug 22 (increasing to 200 there on Aug 23) was also taken as the start of passage.

Passerine departure: This has stepped up a gear this week with the following birds being reported at coastal sites (with the peak count of each given in brackets). Tree Pipit (25), Yellow Wagtail (66), Grey Wagtail (8), White Wagtail (2), Nightingale (1), Common Redstart (3), Whinchat (8), Stonechat (5), Wheatear (70), Grasshopper Warbler (3), Sedge Warbler (14), Reed Warbler (30), Lesser Whitethroat (10), Common Whitethroat (200), Garden Warbler (3), Blackcap (8), Wood Warbler (1), Chiffchaff (11), Willow Warbler (100), Firecrest (1), Spotted Flycatcher (25), Pied Flycatcher (1)

Yellow Wagtail: 66 reported with cattle in the Hook (Warsash) area on Aug 23 when an uncounted flock was also with cattle at Titchfield at around 60 were at Rye Harbour

Whinchat: One bird seen on Culver Down at Bembridge (IoW) as early as July 4 was thought to be already leaving us and a string of reports from coastal sites where they do not breed started on July 13 with a male at Pulborough Brooks. They are now being seen all along the coast and on Aug 18 one was seen at Farlington Marshes.

Stonechat: One of these was also at Farlington on Aug 18 but as a good number of these breed along the south coast it is difficult to pick out the migrants.

Mistle Thrush: A flock of more than 15 was in the North Mundham area south of Chichester on Aug 21

Common Whitethroat: More than 100 were at Beachy Head (Whitbread Hollow) on Aug 17

Willow Warbler: One was heard singing as it passed through the Horsham area on Aug 17 but I see it was not the first to do so on autumn passage as birds had been heard at Christchurch Harbour on July 21 and 23

Pied Flycatcher: The big movement of migrants on Aug 17 brought both a Pied and a Spotted Flycatcher to Pagham Harbour

Hawfinch: The first to get mentioned in reports since June 9 was seen at Christchurch Harbour on Aug 17


(Skip to Plants)


Beautiful Demoiselle: Following the recent unexpected appearance of one at Brook Meadow in Emsworth (outside the area in which the species is normally found) I see that on Aug 23 a similar 'wanderer' turned up on Portland Island where they have never been recorded before


Brimstone: A major emergence on Aug 15 brought a count of more than 40 nectaring on Wild Basil at Shipton Bellinger near Andover

Brown Hairstreak: Just the odd few seen at sites such as Noar Hill recently but Shipton Bellinger had around 25 on the wing on Aug 15

Common Blue: Emergence of the summer brood gave a good count of 38 at Noar Hill on Aug 17 with 31 seen at Old Winchester Hill in the Meon Valley that day while Horsea Island (close to the latest proposed site for Portsmouth football ground) had more than 20 on Aug 16

Chalkhill Blue: Around 500 were seen on Old Winchester Hill in the Meon valley on Aug 17

Adonis Blue: More than 30 were seen on Bonchurch Down near Ventnor (IoW) on Aug 16

Painted Lady: Two more isolated reports of singles, both on Aug 22 - one at Crawley and the other at Pagham Harbour

Peacock: 22 were counted on Stockbridge Down on Aug 15

Comma: Of six caterpillars in a Peacehaven garden near Brighton two pupated on Aug 23

Dark Green Fritillary: Two of these were still flying at Stockbridge Down on Aug 15 and one was seen at Noar Hill as late as Aug 20

Silver Washed Fritillary: Singles were seen on Aug 17 at Noar Hill near Petersfield and in the Beckley Woods near Hastings

Wall Brown: 17 were out on the Steyning Rifle Ranges near the Adur valley on Aug 15

Marbled White: One could still be seen at Durlston on Aug 21


Ash Bud Moth (0449 Prays fraxinella): First reported in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 16

Cochylis dubitana (0964): First reported in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 17

Zeiraphera isertana (1165): First reported in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 16

Dusky Peacock (1891 Semiothisa signaria): One was recorded earlier this summer in the Rother Woods near Rye Bay. The UK Moths website says of it .. "A species that until recently has been regarded as an occasional immigrant, there is now known to be an established breeding population in Kent".

Convolvulus Hawkmoth: The first two reports for this year came from Portland and Thanet (Kent) both on Aug 21 with another reported at Portland on Aug 22

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984): One seen in the Portsmouth area in the week preceding Aug 11 when one was also seen at Rye Harbour

Scarce Bordered Straw (2400 Helicoverpa armigera): First for the year at Thanet in Kent on Aug 21

Rosy Underwing (2453 Catocala electa): A very good record for the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Aug 21 - this is only the 8th to be found in Britain

Other Insects

Brown Heath Robberfly (Machimus cingulatus): This species is new to me but is apparently not a great rarity in southern England. A photo of one with a Hoverfly it had just caught was on the Rye Bay website on Aug 17 - it was said to have taken the prey to a feeding post and turned it so that the sun shone full on its belly (cooking its food?)

Volucella inanis Hoverfly: One clearly seen resting on a leaf in my garden on Aug 21 - slightly smaller, yellower and with less broad black bands than the V. zonaria I have had in the garden earlier this summer.

Diolcogaster alvearia: This insect also features on the Rye Bay website with a photo of what is described as a 'cocoon mass' of its larvae. The insect concerned is a Braconid Wasp (type of Ichneumon) and the parent had chosen a moth caterpillar (thought to be a Willow Beauty) to be the food supply for its young. I am not sure of the details of the parasitisation process but the picture shows a mass of cells (looking a bit like honeycomb or the artificial 'nests' you can buy to encourage the breeding of other wasp species) packed tightly together in a mass of a semicircular shape. I understand that the perimeter of the semi-circle was formed by the arched body of the caterpillar, and that such masses are not uncommon in privet hedges. You can see the object for yourself by going to http://rxwildlife.org.uk/?cat=20 and scrolling down to the entry for Aug 18 headed 'Mystery Cocoon'.

Oak Bush Cricket (Meconema thalassinum): The first report of this small insect which is often attracted to the lit windows of houses came from Durlston on Aug 17

Harvestman species: The first of these spider like insects was also found at Durlston on Aug 17. These are not true Spiders but come under the Order Opiliones. There are around 27 species found in north west Europe and one of the commonest is Leiobunum rotundum which can be found almost anywhere at this time of year.


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Early Dog Violet: I was surprised to find three flowers out on the plants in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Aug 23

Green Amaranth: Several small plants were flowering at the roadside in Juniper Square (Havant) where I found them last year - I noted then that they grow where the council grass mowers park their vehicle and assume the original seeds came on one such vehicle

Shining Cranesbill: A single flower seen on Aug 19 shows that the plants in east Havant which were sprayed with weedkiller in the spring have recovered enough to think of an unseasonal second flowering

Ivy: The very first flowers of the year seen in Havant on Aug 19

Longleaf (Falcaria vulgaris): An entry for Aug 16 on the Planet Thanet website mentioned that 'Longleaf is still flowering' and this was the very first time I had ever come across the name of this plant so I checked it out and found that it is an umbellifer which has been introduced to eastern England and can be found on grassland in Kent and East Anglia. We are not likely to find it in Hampshire in the near future.

Slender Hare's Ear: I have at last found this tiny umbellifer in flower this year on the north west Thorney seawall on Aug 22

Ivy Broomrape: A yellow form of this appeared a few years ago on the slopes of Portsdown above Portchester in woodchip mulch around newly planted shrubs at a newish housing estate and this year the normal form was found in similar circumstances at the Tesco store site in Havant so I was interested to read (again on the Planet Thanet website) that 'Ivy Broomrape is continuing to spread' in that part of Kent. I wonder if the woodchips used in these places contained chipped Ivy wood?


Stoat: Most of us will have seen families of young Stoats indulging in exuberant play on film but very few get the opportunity to do so in real life - on Aug 20 one such youngster was seen at Rye Harbour and Barry Yates managed to attract its attention and draw it to within a few feet of him by 'squeaking' (sucking the back of his hand to make a sound like a rabbit in pain) so that he could get a still photograph of it which can be seen on the Rye Harbour website.

Common Seal: On Aug 20 a total of 13 were hauled out on the shore of Thorney Island in Chichester Harbour (the only previous report of that colony for this year was of 14 there on Mar 30) and on Aug 23 there were 21 seen at the Oare Marshes in north Kent

Water Vole: On Aug 22 Brian Fellows was asked if Water Voles ever climbed trees by someone who had just seen an animal which he thought was a Water Vole in one of the trees overhanging the R Ems at Brook Meadow in Emsworth - a check on an authoritative text book on these Voles showed that they do occasionally climb as high as 2.5 metres to get at the leaves.

Red Squirrel: Young Grey Squirrels often have quite a reddish tone to their coat, leading to claims of Red Squirrel sightings in places where the Red Squirrels are now extinct. This may or may not have been the reason for a motorist driving along the Havant Road past the Forty Acres farm fields just west of the A3M to claim that on Aug 22 he and his wife had both seen a Red Squirrel dash out into the road ahead of them (but luckily to turn back and vanish into the roadside grass). I think further proof is needed - the real test of Red Squirrel is not so much the colour of the fur or the smaller size but the presence of ear tufts which the Grey never have.

Hare: There seem to be fewer of these in the Havant area each year but Michael Prior saw two in the Stansted East Park on Aug 16

Grass Snake: On Aug 22 one was seen vanishing down the throat of a Grey Heron the Pagham Harbour area

Pointed Snail (Cochicella acuta): On Aug 22 I proved that the colony of these which has existed on the Thorney Island seawall opposite the west end of the Great Deeps is still going (though I only saw three live specimens in a very brief search)

Fungi: As anticipated the recent rain has brought out more fungi including the first Stinkhorn of the season, seen in the grounds of the Rowans Hospice at Purbrook (Waterlooville) on Aug 19. On Aug 20 a crop of tiny bright orange, greasy, toadstools suddenly appeared in the grass of my garden lawn and I think these are Hygrocybe ceracea (Butter Waxcap) while on Aug 18 I found both Fairy Ring Champignon and Brown Rollrim while walking round Havant and on Aug 19 came on Horse Mushrooms in roadside grass at Warblington. Since writing that for my mid-week summary both Blackening Waxcap and what is probably Snowy Waxcap have appeared on my lawn. This week also brought a photo on one of the Kent birding websites (for Boughton Park south of Maidstone) of a fresh Chicken of the Woods (or Sulphur Polypore) though it was tentatively named as Blushing Bracket (which it certainly was not!)

Summary for Aug 11 - 17 (Week 32 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

This week brought news that both Black-necked Grebe and Red-breasted Merganser have been summering in Langstone Harbour but perhaps more exciting was news of the return to the Blashford Lakes of the Great White Egret which has spent its autumns and winters there since 2003. A more surprising item was the news that Cackling Canada Geese have a breeding colony at Southampton but more genuine surprise items were reports of a Red-necked Phalarope at Portland and a Sabine's Gull flying past Bournemouth. Marsh and Barred Warbler are also in the news and the subject of 'white winged Crows' is again up for discussion

The only real news of insects in the weather this week is of a Monarch butterfly visiting a Burger van in Kent, though one of my favourite moths (Red Underwing) also made its debut for the year

Small Teasel and Slender Hare's Ear were welcome additions to the year's flowering list but Japanese Knotweed was not so welcome

Perhaps the most surprising find this week was of a toadstool that was new to science in 2003 and has spread rapidly across the whole of Britain, even to the Billy Trail in Havant. Also in Other Wildlife are comments on the strange lifestyle of a snail that insists on maintaining its habit of breathing through gills submerged in water but chooses to live in very dry land habitat


(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: 105 of these could be seen at the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on Aug 16

Black-necked Grebe: John Goodspeed has been told that one was present on Aug 11 near the Broadmarsh slipway where the Hermitage Stream enters the north of Langstone Harbour east of Farlington Marshes. The bird was said to have been in summer plumage and present both morning and afternoon and since then Chris Cockburn (Langstone RSPB warden) has told me it has been around for some time and was still to be seen in the Chalkdock Channel on Aug 15. Two other recent sightings have been at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on July 29 (where I think more than one was seen) and in the Kent Stour valley east of Canterbury on Aug 10 where 2 (possibly 3) were seen.

Fulmar: More than 100 flew west past Portland on Aug 13

Cory's Shearwater: One or two were reported off Portland on Aug 13 but I am slightly dubious about the id as Martin Cade (observatory warden) commented that the sightings were by visitors and that regular observers there have not seen them

Sooty Shearwater: Since the 'possible' sighting at Portland on July 6 three more have been seen. One was at Dungeness on July 25, one off Folkestone on Aug 1 and now one off Portland on Aug 10 and another there on Aug 13

Storm Petrel: A single was seen from Portland on Aug 13, a month after the last previous sighting anywhere in the Channel (off Durlston on July 14)

Cattle Egret: One reported in Poole Harbour on Aug 10 was the first in Dorset (where sightings were more or less daily up to June 1) since July 18 when one was at Radipole (Weymouth). The only other recent sightings have been at Pagham Harbour on July 19 and at the north Kent Oare Marshes on July 24

Little Egret: Numbers have increased at most south coast sites in the past week as birds and their young come back from breeding. Rye Harbour reported a roost count of 74 on Aug 15 (double the 36 that were there on July 31 and the highest count there this year after 48 in February). Also on Aug 15 Chris Cockburn told me had had seen at least 50 on the Langstone RSPB Islands that day.

Great White Egret: One arrived at the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on Aug 16, probably the bird which has regularly spent the autumn and winter months at Blashford since 2003

Storks: A possible sighting of a Black Stork came from a motorist on the M3 near Basingstoke on Aug 13 but on Aug 14 there were two more reliable reports of a White Stork, firstly south of Salisbury and then in the New Forest

'Polish Swans': A pair of Mute Swans has raised 8 cygnets at Lymington this year, four of them having the white down and pink feet of the genetic variant known as Polish Swans. This variant is uncommon but widespread and this year two cygnets hatched in Emsworth marina in July were of this form, as was an adult bird seen in Emsworth on Apr 28 and identified by the pink colour of its feet. A Polish cygnet was hatched at the Emsworth Peter Pond nest in 2005 but subsequently disappeared while a different Polish type cygnet was hatched on Budds Farm pools that year.

From the Hoslist discussion about the Lymington family I learnt that "Polish swans were given their name when they were imported from the Polish coast on the Baltic sea, into London around about 1800. Mistakenly thought to be a new species they were given the name Cydnum immutabilis (Changeless Swan)" as, unlike normal Mutes, they have white down as cygnets and hence do not change colour from brown to white as they reach maturity. The quote continued .. "The polish mute swan is a pure white version of a mute swan. The legs and feet are a pinkish-grey colour instead of the usual black colour. A pigment deficiency of a gene in the sex chromosomes is what causes the whiteness. When a female Mute swan inherits only one melanin-deficient chromosome she will be a polish swan, whereas the male of the same parents will be normal. If the next generation is produced by two of their offspring, the brood will contain numbers of both polish and normal cygnets of either sex".

Cackling Canada Goose: Following the report on Aug 1 that a small flock of these 'half-sized' relatives of Canada Geese are based and are breeding at the Royal Victoria Country Park at Southampton we now have news of a more normal sighting of a single bird among a flock of normal Canada Geese at Pagham Harbour (North Walls) on Aug 16

Shelduck: A single juvenile was with a single adult at the mouth of the Langbrook Stream immediately west of Langstone village on Aug 16. From 1 to 3 pairs of adults had been seen at this site between Apr 15 and June 30, and may have nested on the South Moors or over at the Oysterbeds, but the current birds are not necessarily of local origin as there have been no reported sightings there since June 30

Teal: Numbers are now increasing at Pulborough Brooks where around 40 were present on Aug 16

Pintail: These too are now returning with reports of three at Rye Harbour on Aug 14 and 4 there on Aug 17

Red-breasted Merganser: On Aug 15 Chris Cockburn told me that a female has been summering in Langstone Harbour (as in several recent years) and has been seen off west Hayling

Honey Buzzard: One flew east over the Blashford Lakes on Aug 15 if I have rightly interpreted the reference to it by the intials 'HB' (I find the random use of home-made abbreviations for the names of species can be confusing and do wish people would use the standard BTO codes - that for Honey Buzzard is 'HZ')

Montagu's Harrier: A lucky observer at Hengistbury Head (Christchurch Harbour) who continued to watch the sea on Aug 16, after other watchers had become bored with the lack of sightings, was rewarded with the sight of a ringtail Montagu's Harrier being mobbed by three Arctic Skuas

Sparrowhawk: A group of six flew west high over Christchurch Harbour on Aug 15 as their autumn dispersal gets under way

Osprey: Single Ospreys were seen at three sites (Dungeness, Titchfield Haven and the Southampton Lower Test Marshes) on Aug 16 as their rate of departure speeds up

Hobby: The first to be seen at Portland since June 8 (last arrival there) was seen (presumably departing) on Aug 16

Kentish Plover: A juvenile was seen at the Lymington marshes on Aug 10

Golden Plover: Although no more than ones and twos have been seen in central southern England so far there has been a sizeable flock at the Oare Marshes on the north Kent coast since 156 were there on Aug 6 and the flock had increased to 226 birds by Aug 11. On Aug 14 the flock at Oare was up to around 400 and the number at Rye Harbour had increased from 44 on Aug 9 to 268 on Aug 14

American Golden Plover: The summer plumage bird which was reported to be at the north Kent Elmley Marshes on July 30 was apparently still there on Aug 13 (though I have seen no reports for the intervening period)

Grey Plover: Around 20 were seen in Pagham Harbour on Aug 14 -these might have been non-breeding birds that have been there through the summer but on Aug 16 a flock of around 40 birds in summer plumage was seen near Selsey Bill flying along the shore towards Pagham so it is well worth keeping an eye open for these 'Silver Plovers' in our harbours before there plumage degenerates.

Purple Sandpiper: The single bird seen at the Oare Marshes on Aug 5 was regarded as very early but there was no surprise expressed in a report of three in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 12

Black-tailed Godwit: The flock at the north Kent Oare Marshes which was estimated at 900 birds as early as July 17 has varied in number but was estimated to have reached 1000 on Aug 7 and was around 800 on Aug 14. A report from Pulborough Brooks on Aug 13 gave a count of 49 birds and said they were 'mainly juveniles' - the first mention of the arrival of juveniles was of just two youngsters with their parents at the Blashford Lakes on Aug 3 and the only other mention of juveniles back in Hampshire is of another two on the shores of Southampton Water on Aug 17. Over on the Isle of Wight the biggest flock, which had been of 42 at Yarmouth on Aug 2, increased to 104 at Yarmouth on Aug 16

Green Sandpiper: These currently seem to outnumber Common Sandpiper all along the coast - 17 were at Sandwich Bay on Aug 15 and at least 15 were at Pulborough Brooks (with 4 Wood Sandpiper but only 2 Common) on Aug 16 with 10 at the Southampton Lower Test that day.

Red-necked Phalarope: A Phalarope seen at Portland on Aug 12 was not seen closely but was almost certainly Red-necked rather than Grey. This seems to be the first autumn Phalarope seen anywhere on the south coast so far this autumn.

Pomarine Skua: Two were seen from Portland on Aug 15, the first reported in the Channel since 3 at Dungeness on Aug 9

Med Gull: A flock seems to have settled on the east Dorset coast with reports of around 100 in Studland Bay on Aug 11 followed by more than 40 on Ballard Down near Swanage on Aug 16. On Aug 15 there were 60 on the Selsey West Fields.

Sabine's Gull: One was reported flying east past Branksome Chine in Bournemouth on Aug 12 (the only other report of the species I have seen this year was at Dungeness on Jan 4)

Stock Dove: A flock of up to 80 was seen on Thorney Island on Aug 15 while a report from Thanet in Kent speaks of 'hundreds of Wood Pigeons' dropping into fields with flattened cereal crops - it would seem that the pigeons are on their autumn journeys already

Ring-necked Parakeet: What may have been the same bird flew over the Botley Woods north of Fareham on Aug 16 before distracting the attention of an umpire at a game of cricket at Pennington near Lymington that day.

Cuckoo: A juvenile was on the West Sussex shore at Climping on Aug 15

Swift: Still being seen daily up to Aug 16 at least when 36 flew over Weymouth and 24 went over the Lower Test Marshes near Southampton. On Aug 14 four Swifts were still being seen around a nesting area while on Aug 15 one nest in Dorset still had unfledged young in it

Kingfisher: I am told that one was back at the regular winter site by the Brockhampton Stream (adjacent to Budds Farm) at Havant on Aug 15

House Martin: On Aug 17 I was puzzled to see four House Martins repeatedly flying up to a possible nest site under the apex of a gable on new flats at the southern end of Beechworth Road in Havant as if visiting a nest. As I pass this building daily and have never seen House Martins anywhere near it before my best guess is that a couple of pairs have had their nest knocked down elsewhere and are desperately seeking a replacement site. It would not be at all unusual for them to build a new nest at this time of year as they regularly have several broods between May and October.

Departing passerines: The following species have all been reported at coastal sites where they do not breed during the past week (a peak count, if any, is given in brackets after the species). Swift (31), Sand Martin (200+), Tree Pipit (20), Meadow Pipit (12), Yellow Wagtail (56), Nightingale (1), Common Redstart (1), Whinchat (5), Wheatear (25), Grasshopper Warbler (2), Sedge Warbler (25), Reed Warbler (20+), Lesser Whitethroat (14), Whitethroat (132), Garden Warbler (6), Blackcap (23), Wood Warbler (1), Chiffchaff (3), Willow Warbler (210), Spotted Flycatcher (2), Pied Flycatcher (1)

Marsh Warbler: One reported at Sandwich Bay on Aug 15 - not known if it was departing from Britain or a vagrant from the continent

Barred Warbler: A possible sighting on the Isle of Wight near Totland on Aug 16

Lesser Grey Shrike: The bird that arrived at Hartland Moor (west of Poole Harbour) on Aug 2 was still there on Aug 15

Carrion Crow: In addition to the very occasional bird with white patches randomly distributed on its plumage many Crows are regularly seen showing what appears to be a white stripe longitudinally along the wing and only visible in flight. A birder unfamiliar with this phenomenon raised the question of its cause on the SOS website this week and several people responded with the fact that the aberration is quite common and has been growing in frequency over the past 20 or 30 years.

Two other responses included one from myself saying that I had once found the corpse of a bird with this aberration and could see that (in that case, but maybe not every case) that there was no white pigment involved. What had happened was that when the bird had last moulted the new feathers (which are always - in all birds - enclosed in a 'cellophane wrapping' as they emerge from the bird's flesh) had failed to lose the cellophane wrapping around a mid-section (about 1 cm long) of each primary and secondary feather. This meant that the black barbs of the feather could not 'unfurl' in this section, leaving a line along the length of the extended wing where you could see through the wing, and this (with the reflection of light from the 'cellophane') gave an impression of a white band. It also meant that the bird did not get as much lift from its wing as it normally would, so birds with this aberration flapped their wings faster and flew slower than their normal companions.

One of the other Sussex birders who commented on this phenomenon appears to think that my account may be true as he agreed that the aberration is more commonly seen immediately after the birds have undergone their autumn moult - which is why the subject has come up at this time of year. In most cases the unwanted cellophane will disappear in time due to abrasion and preening.

Linnet: Autumn flocks are now forming - 40+ were seen at Rye Harbour on Aug 14 and more than 100 birds in several flocks were seen feeding in harvested Rape fields near Lewes on Aug 16


(Skip to Plants)


Migrant Hawker: A mention of many seen in the Pegwell Bay area of east Kent on Aug 10 probably indicates the arrival of migrants from the continent to supplement our home bred insects and maybe one of these migrants reached my Havant garden in a brief spell of sunshine on Aug 12 and has been seen several times since.

Golden Ringed Dragonfly: What was only the fourth report of this species for the year (the first was on June 30) came from an unexpected site near Faccombe in the hills north east of Andover on Aug 12


Despite the weather 33 species were seen in the past week, among them ...

Clouded Yellow: Still no invasion of migrants but the species has established a few resident colonies on the south coast in recent years, one of them must be at Durlston where the species has been reported regularly from Apr 16 to Aug 15. Another colony is on the Bournemouth coast but I have not seen any reports from there this year though I suspect the butterflies are surviving.

Brown Hairstreak: A few continue to be seen at Noar Hill and Pulborough Brooks but the good news this week was that they had been seen flying at a new site near Steyning in West Sussex on Aug 6

Small Blue: At least 10 were seen at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on Aug 11. No more than 3 of the first brood were reported there this year and the appearance of 10 second brood insects pays tribute to the work of conservation volunteers in removing scrub and restoring downland habitat over recent years.

Painted Lady: A sighting of two different individuals at Pagham Harbour on Aug 10 drew a comment from the editor of the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website - he said .. "These are only the third and fourth Painted Ladies of August in what is a poor year for them so far". These may have been part of a small surge of migrants that caused a report of 10 in the Thanet are of Kent on Aug 7

Dark Green Fritillary: One was still flying at Friston Forest near Eastbourne on Aug 13

Silver Washed Fritillary: Still reported from three sites this week with 10 counted in woodland near Faccombe (north east of Andover) on Aug 12

Marbled White: These are near the end of their season but at least one could still be seen in Dorset on Aug 15

Ringlet: One was still flying at Stockbridge Down on Aug 11

Monarch: The first of these massive migrants was seen on a Buddliea bush 'behind the Burger Van' at Pegwell Bay in Kent on Aug 14


Orthotelia sparganella (0470): The first was trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 10

Cyclamen Tortrix (0993 Clepsis spectrana): The first was trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 8

Dichrorampha alpinana (1274): The first was trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 10

Endotricha flammealis (1424): First trapped at Ringmer near Lewes on Aug 11

Barred Rivulet (1804 Perizoma bifaciata): The first was trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 8

Plain Pug (1842 Eupithecia simpliciata): The first was trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 11

Great Dart (2094 Agrotis crassa): Not the first by a long way but a good find in the Portland trap on Aug 15

Langmaid's Yellow Underwing (2110a Noctua janthina): Although one had been trapped in Thanet back on July 17 one trapped at Pagham Harbour on Aug 6 was a first for that reserve

Red Underwing (2452 Catocala nupta): An exciting first in the Rye Harbour trap on Aug 14


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Hairy Vetchling: Still flowering at its only Hampshire site (top of the Broadmarsh 'ex-rubbish-tip' mountain at Havant on Aug 15 with plenty of seed for next year's plants

Slender Hare's Ear: Seen and photographed in flower at Rye Harbour on Aug 14 but not found on the South Moors at Havant this week (the Thorney Island site not yet visited)

Japanese Knotweed: Starting to flower by the Brockhampton Stream in Havant on Aug 15

Small Teasel: Flowering on Aug 11 at Racton in the Ems valley - the only site I know for it in the Havant area


Snails: Two species of local interest in the Havant area have been reported recently in the Durlston news.

One is Pomatias elegans which I have previously known as the Round-mouthed Snail and which is one of only two British land snail species that still retain the gills of a marine mollusc and get their oxygen from water. All other land snails have evolved to be air breathing and are classified as Pulmonata (meaning that they have lungs) while Pomatias is classified with the marine molluscs in Prosobranchia (having gills which must be submerged in water). As Pomatias elegans is perverse enough to choose to live in dry friable soil (in the Stansted Forest site where I have found it this is chalk which has been broken down into very small fragments) it has to go to great lengths to preseve the water supply which it keeps within the mantle cavity in its shell and it does this by burrowing into the loose soil and only coming out at night or on wet days. As the soil in which it burrows is itself dry the snail has to seal its shell to prevent water loss and it does this by having the equivalent of a 'bath plug' in the 'sole of its foot' - when it retracts its body into the shell this plug is the last thing to be drawn in and it exactly fits the opening in the shell to make a perfect seal. From this habit some people have named it the 'Trapdoor Snail' but this is confusing as there is another snail given that same English name - it is a mollusc originally from Japan but now widely available in Britain and world wide to people who keep fish as 'pets' - the snail is a very effective cleaner of algae from their fish tanks, so if you put Trapdoor Snail into Google you will be presented with many opportunities to buy this Japanese snail but will not find any mention of Pomatias elegans.

The other uncommon species currently found at Durlston, but which I could not find on my most recent visit to the only local site where I have regularly found it in recent years (on the seawall bank at the west end of the Thorney Island Deeps), is Cochlicella acuta which I know as the Pointed Snail. This is a land snail but is generally found in dry situations close to the sea (thousands could be found on the land reclaimed from Portsmouth Harbour to build the M27 around 1970 but as the land lost its salinity the species seems to have died out there) and unlike the Round-mouthed Snail which burrows out of site during hot days this Pointed Snail is most easily found on hot dry summer days when it has to climb anything it can find to get off the ground (where it would fry!) into slightly cooler area just a few inches off the ground.

Fungi: Evolution is still and at work and its workings are still a mystery - this message was brought home to me on Aug 15 when I came on a massive display of fungi growing on piles of wood chips where trees have been cut down along the Billy Trail in the Langstone area. At first I could not name them but after taking a few samples home and checking on the internet I am pretty certain that the fungus is Agrocybe rivulosa, a species that seems to have appeared from nowhere as recently as 2003 on piles of wood chips throughout the length and breadth of Britain. The only argument I can think of to account for the widespread appearance of this new species 'out of the blue' is a combination of the relatively new practice of machine chipping of tree and garden waste, generating large piles of chippings, and climate change factors which make those piles 'hotbeds' for fungal growth. All you need then is for one or more existing species of fungus to land on a few of these piles and to respond to the new and favourable habitat in way that generates a 'new species', followed by windborne dispersal of the spores giving the new species a foothold in the new piles. (That is purely my guess at what has happened).

The species has been named Agrocybe rivulosa and it grows in dense clusters. The caps are at first conical and white (with a tendency to have radial grooves near the rim of the cap) but they soon acquire a faint orangey tinge to the colour and become flat with a diameter of around 10 cm. The stems are white throughout and grow to a height of around 10 cm with a thin floppy ring. The mushroom like gills soon become dark brown and have lots of spores that are almost black. These gills are remote (they do not join onto the stem so there is a small gap all round the top of the stem before the gills start). The new species is said to be related to Agrocybe cylindracea. Pictures of the new species can be seen on the internet at:




Just two other new species so far this week - a small troop of Collybia dryophila (Russet Toughshank) has appeared under trees at the end of my garden and one Red-cracking Bolete appeared in the Billy Trail area behind my house

Summary for Aug 4 - 10 (Week 31 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Great Shearwater became a new species for my database this week (seen at Dungeness) while Lessser Grey Shrike in Dorset, Collared Pratincole at Farlington Marshes, Long-tailed Skua at Selsey, Dotterel at Portland and Bee-eater on Hayling are exciting new reports. Swifts are now becoming a rare sight but Black Terns have been seen in huge numbers (at least in north Kent). Also this week I have learnt something about Heron nests and Barbary Partridges while we have news of a very early Purple Sandpiper and a late singing Song Thrush

The identity of a Damselfly seen at Emsworth last week remains a mystery but there are no surprises among the butterflies. Best moth was a Bedstraw Hawk at Portland and it is left to a Bog Bush Cricket in Sussex and a Lesser Marsh Grasshopper on the Emsworth foreshore to add some spice to the week's news.

Perennial Wall-rocket was added to my Havant area plant species list this week and Narrow-leaved Water Plantain has re-appeared in Emsworth where it was first discovered in 2006. This week's first flowerings include Creeping Yellow Cress and Tansy and an interesting hybrid between Marsh and Hedge Woundwort has been found near Petersfield

Other Wildlife news has a sad coda to the story of last week's Northern Bottle-nosed Whale but also news of the first Common Seal pup and the start of the autumn fungus season. Best of all is the story of how quiet observation of wildlife brought an Otter within five feet of the observer without the Otter detecting a human presence.


(Skip to Insects)

Fulmar: 4 flew west past Selsey on Aug 5 and 1 was seen at Portland on Aug 8 but the interesting news came from Rye Bay that day when a pair were seen with two chicks (presumably now away from their nest) at Cliff End east of Hastings

Great Shearwater (Puffinus gravis): One was seen close in at Dungeness, heading south, on Aug 2. I have not previously come across a report of this species in the area I cover but I see it is not uncommon in the east of the Atlantic in autumn months as it heads south to breed (during our winter) in the south Atlantic. After breeding it heads north up the west side of the Atlantic then turns round to come down the east side where several of them are currently being seen off Cornwall - Lee Evans' latest bulletin of national bird news says .. "A handful of CORY'S and GREAT SHEARWATERS were noted off Cornwall and Scilly at the weekend (Aug 2/3), with a WILSON'S PETREL identified amongst 250 Storm Petrels from a short pelagic (3rd)".

Gannet: Plenty of these in the channel on Aug 3 when Christchurch Harbour reported 400+, Portland had 143 and Selsey had around 100 (with 87 off Worthing)

Cormorant: An unusual sight of two flying high south over my Havant garden late in the day on Aug 7, maybe just returning to the sea from fishing local inland waters but maybe on a long journey

Grey Heron: I was aware that Herons will nest on the ground if there are no trees as on some Scottish islands but I was surprised to hear from Derek Hale that Herons nest on the ground among reeds in two places on the Isle of Wight. Derek seemed to imply that ground nesting is a habit of continental Herons whereas British birds use the trees but my old books on bird nests say that they will nest on the ground, in low bushes or in trees without reference to their 'country of origin'. Another piece of information given in one of these books is that established Heronries are bult high in the tree canopy whereas single nests are built at a lower height.

White Stork: One was back in the Avon valley near Ringwood on Aug 6 and 7

Canada Goose: Two reports show that flocks of these geese are now on the move (suppressed autumn migration?). On Aug 6 a small flock of 23, with a pair of Barnacles among them, was on the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth and a bigger flock of 306 was on the Arlington Reservoir in the Cuckmere Valley near Beachy Head

Mallard: These non-stop breeders had three families on show at Langstone Mill Pond on Aug 8. The oldest ducklings were as large as they get before acquiring feathers (seven of them including one in pure black down suggesting Tufted Duck parentage), the middle family were not seen clearly but the youngest family was of nine tiny ducklings.

Pintail: The bird which was reported as a very early arrival at the Blashford lakes (Ringwood) on July 27 has subsequently been found to have a plastic tag indicating that it came from a wildfowl collection

Eider: 16 were in the west Solent off Lymington on Aug 6, the highest count I have seen from there since mid June when 19 were present

Marsh Harrier: Single juveniles were seen at Pulborough on Aug 4 and on the Lymington marshes on Aug 8.

Montagu's Harrier: A ringtail was seen at Reculver (north Kent coast) on Aug 3

Golden Eagle: What was probably a long-term escapee in the Hastings area was seen at Ashburnham Place near Battle on Aug 5 before it flew off north west.

Osprey: In addition to the bird seen fishing in Langstone Harbour on July 30 I see that Keith Betton's summary for July of birding in Hampshire has three sightings of an Osprey in Chichester Harbour, seen from Hayling, on July 4, 10 and 15 (presumably a non-breeding bird that went no further north), The most recent sighting was of one heading south over the Lower Test marshes near Southampton on Aug 3

Barbary Partridge: At least 5 Red-leg Partridge were seen in the Seaford area of East Sussex on Aug 8 and with them were more than 40 Barbary Partridge (some still in a cage, the others seemingly having escaped from it). Barbary is one of three look-alike species which may be encountered as game birds in Britain - the main feature to look for when identifying them is the dark collar which separates the white throat from the breast plumage. Red-leg has a high collar with a solid black band running high across the throat and the solid black becomes a streaked black 'neck shawl' running down over the breast. Chukar has the solid black collar only with no dark streaking below it. Barbary also has a neat black neck collar (not running down onto the breast) but this is stippled with white dots in the lower half of the black collar

Avocet: The only news of breeding at Titchfield Haven that has managed to leak out into the public domain was a report of four chicks seen there on May 24 so a report of up to 18 birds seen there sometime in July (in Keith Betton's July summary) may just reflect early autumn passage. North Kent could boast a few more last week when 755 were reported on Aug 1 at the Cliffe Pools (north of Rochester on the Isle of Grain) but these had diminished to 450+ on Aug 4. An indication of birds on the move was the appearance of a flock of 34 at Dungeness on Aug 9

Collared Pratincole?: Two, maybe three, Pratincoles were reported to have been seen at Farlington Marshes on the evening of July 31 (two together at the Deeps and one seen later over the main lake). These would be the first in Hampshire since one was definitely at Farlington Marshes (also seen around the Deeps) on 1 May 2005 (that was the third Hampshire record)

Kentish Plover: The bird seen briefly at Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) on Aug 1 may have flown west to give a possible sighting at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour on Aug 3

Dotterel: The first autumn passage bird was seen at Portland on Aug 8 more than a week earlier than the previous earliest autumn bird there

Golden Plover: The first flocks of the autumn were seen at The Midrips (Rye Bay area) on Aug 2 (45 birds) and at Sandwich Bay on Aug 3 (35 birds mostly in summer plumage). Since writing that for my mid-week summary a count of 156 has been reported at Kent Oare Marshes (north of Faversham) on Aug 6 and Rye Harbour had 44 on Aug 9

Curlew Sandpiper: On Aug 2 the Sidlesham Ferry pool (Pagham Harbour) had 3 birds as did Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour while another single was at The Midrips (Rye Bay)

Purple Sandpiper: A bird still in summer plumage was a surprise sight at the north Kent Oare Marshes on Aug 5

Black-tailed Godwit: Adult birds in summer plumage have been back from Iceland since around June 28, and flocks of up to an estimated 900 birds were back at the Oare Marshes (near Faversham in Kent) on July 17 (with 710 reported at Northward Hill, also in north west Kent, on July 22) but the first explicit mention of juvenile birds having arrived from Iceland had not caught my eye until Aug 3 when a group of seven birds at the Blashford Lakes were reported on Birdguides as having two juveniles among them. Maybe a new wave of returning birds had just arrived as a flock of 300 was reported at the Elmley Marshes (on Sheppey) that day - further evidence for new arrivals came on Aug 4 when the number of birds in Emsworth Harbour shot up from around 20 birds to 66 (though these may have come from Langstone Harbour where there were 170 birds at Farlington Marshes on Aug 1). Among recent reports is one of an estimated 1000 birds at the Oare Marshes on Aug 7. Locally the flock in the Hook/Warsash area was up from around 50 on Aug 2 to 121 on Aug 6

Bar-tailed Godwit: A flock of 141 at Seasalter on the north Kent coast on Aug 6 was the first report of more than 100 since May 2 when the last flock of 600 on spring passage was at Dungeness

Turnstone: A report of more than 50 seen briefly on the beach near Selsey Bill on Aug 3 may presage an increase in local numbers (though they may just pass through). On Aug 5 I saw the first autumn three figure count with 130 at Seasalter on the north Kent coast.

Pomarine Skua: Selsey Bill had its second of the autumn on Aug 5 (the first was an immature which went by on July 20). Dungeness has had four sightings this autumn and Portland had had two more.

Long-tailed Skua: Selsey also had its second autumn record of this species on Aug 5 after the first on July 27 - Selsey is the only site to report this species so far this autumn.

Med Gull: When I saw that there had been a flock of 86 on the Ryde sands on Aug 5 I thought this might have been the first large flock away from the breeding sites but a quick check showed that a flock of 56 had been seen at a pig farm near Hambledon near the Meon Valley on July 14 and more than 174 had been seen at a favoured gravel pit site at Badminston (near Fawley in the New Forest) on July 2

Black-headed Gull: The relatively large number of these (together with Common Terns) breeding at the Hayling Oysterbeds this summer has been a prime cause of the failure of the Little Tern nests there but now, long after the Little Terns have left, something caused the majority of the gulls and Common Terns to suddenly desert the nest islands on the night of Aug 4/5 - at the moment the cause remains a mystery.

Common Gull: Very few Common Gulls are in our area at the moment since the majority of them nest at sites north of the Scottish border - a few have been back since July 6 but these first returnees are usually all adult birds so I have been surprised to see two reports of juveniles already with us. The first was at Christchurch Harbour on July 22 and the second at the Hayling Oysterbeds (where it was photographed by Brian Fellows) on Aug 5. These reports raised the possibility of breeding on the south coast so I have looked back to what I wrote in reponse to a report of a pair seen mating at Rye Harbour on June 9. That entry read ....

"A photo on the Rye Bay website showing a pair of Common Gulls mating at Rye Harbour on June 9 led me to check how many pairs of this species nest in southern Britain and I find that my previous impression that virtually none nest in England south of the counties adjacent to the Scottish border is more or less correct. The latest seabird survey in the years 1998 to 2002 discovered 6 pairs in north Norfolk, 20 pairs in Suffolk and 11 at Dungeness in Kent. Older sources speak of breeding at Anglesey in Wales from 1963 onwards and a survey in 1969-70 found one pair in East Sussex. The Rye Harbour pair in the current photo may have mated but have not yet built a nest so I think that my impression that you have to go to Scotland to see Common Gull nests is still more or less correct".

Black Tern: All species of tern have been on the move westward in the past few days but the reports that have impressed me most have been counts of Black Tern from the Reculver area of north Kent where 139 were seen on Aug 3 increasing by two to 141 on Aug 4 - I cannot recall ever having heard of such large numbers of this species in southern England before. Sadly the number close to where I live has been less impressive - just singles at Selsey Bill, Southampton Water and the Blashford Lakes.

Long-eared Owl: On Aug 5 one turned up at Dungeness where it was seen by day and on Aug 7 one gave a great display of hunting well before dusk at St Helens near Bembridge on the Isle of Wight

Swifts: A flock of 60 moved south over Havant on Aug 6 (with others seen over Portsdown that day) - these were the only Swwifts seen around Havant since July 30 but plenty are still in southern England. On Aug 3 Reculver reported more than 500, Folkestone had 45 and Christchurch Harbour had 38. On Aug 4 Dungeness reported 350 and one flew down the River Test at Southampton. Twelve more sightings have been reported from other places in the south from Aug 5 to 8

Bee Eater: Keith Betton's summary of July birding in Hampshire reported one seen/heard on the Hayling Coastal Path on July 14 though there have been no other sightings in southern England since June 13. On June 6 I met Alistair Martin by chance in the Havant Waitrose store and asked if he knew about the sighting - his reponse was that it was his observation though he had not been over-confident of it at the time ....

Great Spotted Woodpecker: This species is well known for its tendency to migrate over large distances so it is not surprising that one was seen at Dungeness on Aug 4 and we should not be surprised that Brian Fellows found one in his Emsworth garden on Aug 3 (new to his garden list)

Woodlark: A flock of 14 was seen in the area of Black Down north of Midhurst on Aug 3

Passerines on the move: Birds seen on the move during the past week (with a peak count for each species) have been Sand Martin (280+), Swallow (400), Tree Pipit (1), Meadow Pipit (20), Yellow Wagtail (18), Grey Wagtail (1), Nightingale (1), Common Redstat (2), Whinchat (few), Wheatear (12), Grasshopper Warbler (3), Sedge Warbler (43), Reed Warbler (8), Lesser Whitethroat (8), Common Whitethroat (50), Garden Warbler (5 on Old Winchester Hill in the Meon valley), Blackcap (4), Wood Warbler (1), Chiffchaff (7), Willow Warbler (163 at Christchurch Harbour), Firecrest (1 on Old Winchester Hill on Aug 4), Spotted Flycatcher (few), Pied Flycatcher (1)

Song Thrush: Still singing at dawn and dusk in Crowborough on Aug 5 but none reported anywhere else

Mistle Thrush: Not too many years ago it was not uncommon to come across flocks of 20 or more roaming the countryside at this time of year but nowadays I was quite surprised to see a report of 12 in Boughton Park (south of Maidstone in Kent) on Aug 1

Lesser Grey Shrike: One has been on Hartland Moor (west of Poole Harbour in Dorset) from Aug 2 to 9 at least. A first for this year. Last year one was in Dorset on Apr 11 and another was reported in the Eastbourne area on Aug 26. Unlike the Great Grey Shrikes which come from the north to visit us in winter this will have come from the south (probably around the Mediterranean).

Starling: A flock of around 2000 was roosting in reeds at the Oare Marshes (north Kent) on Aug 7 and no doubt similar flocks will soon be seen elsewhere

Linnet: First autumn flock of around 50 was reported at Seasalter on the north Kent coast on Aug 6

Crossbill: Still being seen widely with reports from 9 sites between Aug 2 and 9. Biggest flock was of 30+ at Patcham (north of Brighton) on Aug 6

Yellowhammer: One had been seen carrying nest material for a second brood at Boughton Park (Maidstone) on July 26 and now another has been seen doing the same at Old Winchester Hill in the Meon Valley on Aug 3. One was still singing on Portsdown on Aug 6

Corn Bunting: A flock of more than 30 was in the Seaford area near Beachy Head on July 30


(Skip to Plants)


Southern Hawker: Surprisingly few reports this summer - I have only recorded 8 sightings since the first on June 13

Emperor: Similarly few reports this summer

Banded Demoiselle: Still being seen at Brook Meadow in Emsworth up to Aug 7

Beautiful Demoiselle: The jury is still out on the identity of a damselfly seen and photographed by the River Ems at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Aug 3. Prior to that date there have been regular sightings of Banded Demoiselle at this site but none of Beautiful Demoiselle and that is backed up by distribution maps which show that Banded can be found anywhere in southern England whereas Beautiful can be found in Sussex east of the Arun valley and in Hampshire west of Fareham but not in the gap between these two boundaries. The mystery damsel looks exactly right for a male Beautiful (neither the colour nor the pattern is right for either sex of Banded) but the mystery deepens as when it was photographed it was perched on a leaf just above the water with its abdomen curved down into the water as if egg-laying, and from this it was assumed to be a female though the position of the tail may have been accidental (no substantial proof of egg laying has reached me).

The photographs I have seen show distinct 'anal claspers' at the tip of the abdomen and these are male only attributes used for grasping the female during mating - females may have two small points protruding from the end of the abdomen but do not have the curved 'claspers' of the male

As the flight period for Beautiful ends in late August (and for Banded in September) it may be assumed that the real business of mating and egg-laying is now over, and this completion of procreation duties may have left a Beautiful free to fly off from its normal haunts to end up in Brook Meadow.

One other factor concerns a difference in the habitat preferred by the two species for their egg-laying - Banded are said to go for "unpolluted slow-moving muddy bottomed rivers or canals" while Beautiful are said to prefer "clean, moderate to fast flowing stream with gravel or silt bottoms" but I have no information as to what the river was like where the mystery insect was seen, nor if it was in an area normally favoured by Banded Demoiselle.

A final aspect of the reported egg-laying is that it would normally occur immediately after copulation with the male remaining nearby to ensure that another male does not interfere with his female until she has laid the eggs (some dragonfly species remain in tandem througout egglaying but not so with these two species). The egg-laying process lasts for up to 30 minutes for Beautiful (and females of this species rarely submerge) while Banded can take up to 45 minutes and the females often submerge completely during the process.


33 species reported in the past week's news which shows the end of season for the Fritillaries and Marbled Whites is imminent while Chalkhill and Adonis Blues, Wall Browns, Graylings and Silver Spotted Skippers are now flourishing. There were three reports of Silver Washed Fritillary and even one of a female Purple Emperor but I doubt either species will be in next week's news. Still no arrival of Clouded Yellows but 10 Painted Ladies were seen in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 7 and the only report of a Small Tortoiseshell also came from Kent


Orange Swift (0015 Hepialus sylvina): First trapped at Pagham Harbour on Aug 5

Eucalybites auroguttella (0297): First seen in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 7 by day

Ypsolopha scabrella (0455 Ypsolopha scabrella): First trapped at Pagham Harbour on Aug 6

Pied Smudge (0462 Ypsolopha sequella): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

Vine Moth (0955 Eupoecilia ambiguella): First trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 4

Calamotropha paludella (1292): First trapped at Pagham Harbour on Aug 6

Pediasia contaminella (1323): First trapped at Portland on Aug 8

Pediasia aridella (1324): First trapped at Rye Harbour on Aug 5

Chequered Pearl (1358 Evergestis pallidata): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

Pale Straw Pearl (1388 Udea lutealis): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

Palpita vitrealis (1408): First trapped at Portland on Aug 6

Synaphe punctalis (1414): First trapped at Pagham Harbour on Aug 6

Trachycera suavella (1438): First trapped at Dungeness on Aug 8

The Mocha (1676 Cyclophora annulata): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

Small Scallop (1712 Idaea emarginata): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

The Chevron (1755 Eulithis testata): First trapped at Dungeness on Aug 5

Wormwood Pug (1830 Eupithecia absinthiata): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

Bordered Pug (1839 Eupithecia succenturiata): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): Two more singles seen on Aug 6 at Portland and Dungeness

Bedstraw Hawkmoth (1987 Hyles Gallii): The first of these uncommon migrants had been seen at Rye Harbour on July 16 but it was not until July 31 that the second turned up at Portland

Gypsy Moth (2034 Lymantria dispar): First trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 6

Archer's Dart (2085 Agrotis vestigialis): First report of this coastal (sandhill) species comes from Dungeness on Aug 1

Turnip Moth (2087 Agrotis segetum): First report from Ringmer near Lewes on Aug 4

Dog's Tooth (2159 Lacanobia suasa): First trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 4

Marbled Beauty (2293 Cryphia domestica): First trapped at Shoreham on Aug 5

Straw Underwing (2303 Thalpophila matura): First trapped in the Horsham area and at Pagham Harbour on Aug 6

Double Kidney (2311 Ipimorpha retusa): First trapped in the Horsham area on Aug 6

Lesser Common Rustic (2343a Mesapamea didyma): The id of this, trapped at Ringmer on Aug 4, was 'possible only'

Rosy Rustic (2361 Hydraecia micacea): First trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on Aug 4

Bulrush Wainscot (2369 Nonagria typhae): First trapped in the Horsham area and at Pagham Harbour on Aug 6

Brown-veined Wainscot (2371 Archanara dissoluta): First trapped at Portland on Aug 8

Webb's Wainscot (2373 Archanara sparganii): First of year at Dungeness on Aug 1

Other Insects

Volucella zonaria: This Hornet sized Hoverfly was back on my garden Buddliea here in Havant on Aug 6 where I also saw it on July 30 (first sighting was at Rye Harbour on July 26). On Aug 7 two were seen at Durlston

Lesser Marsh Grasshopper: These are known to frequent sea shore vegetation but Brian Fellows was surprised to find them on Aug 2 around the edge of Emsworth Harbour on shingle and driftwood away from any vegetation

Bog Bush Cricket: This uncommon insect was found on damp heathland on Aug 3 near Black Down in West Sussex between Midhurst and Haslemere


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Perennial Wall Rocket: In my Diary entry for Aug 4 I said that I was fairly certain that a plant growing on the edge of the railway track just west of the Havant Signal Box, and seen from the railway carpark south of the track, was Perennial Wall Rocket rather than the common annual species and I have since been back and confirmed the id on the basis of the shape, colour and position of the leaves as well as the large flowers and the angle between the stem and the flower/seed pedicels.

Creeping Yellow Cress: My first sight of this in flower for the year was in Havant Park flowerbeds on Aug 4 (alongside the path connecting the railstation forecourt to the park)

Pencilled Cranesbill: Still flowering in roadside grass by Pook Lane in east Havant on Aug 9 where I first found in on July 10

Wild Angelica: There have always been some plants in Brook Meadow at Emsworth but this year the number has increased to around 200

Autumn Gentian (or Felwort): I had recorded the first flowering of this on July 28 at Durlston but I now hear it was out on Portsdown on July 23

Lesser Centaury: First report of this comes from Stockbridge Down on Aug 4 though no doubt it has been out, unreported, on Portsdown before now

Marsh Woundwort hybrid with Hedge Woundwort: These two species are known to hybridise but I had not come across an example until Martin Hampton sent me a photo of one of several plants he had found growing by the River Rother east of Petersfield on Aug 7 - I hope Martin will send his photo to Martin Rand for confirmation (or otherwise!) of my guess at the plant's identity

Tansy: This was found flowering at Emsworth by Brian Fellows on Aug 9 - it has probably been out at other sites before this but this is the first report I have seen for this year.

Chicory: This was still flowering in the new cemetery extension at Warblington (where I had seen it on July 10) when Brian Fellows was there on Aug 8

Narrow-leaved Water Plantain: This had started flowering in the Westbrook stream at Emsworth by July 20 but at that time it could not be found in the original site alongside the Bridge Road carpark where it has now been re-found on Aug 2.

Autumn Ladies Tresses: These had first been reported in Emsworth on Aug 1 and are now flowering on Portsdown (seen Aug 6) and at Durlston (Aug 7)

Cockpur Grass: Found in Havant on Aug 4 flowering in the gutter of Homewell Street (west end of St Faith's churchyard) where bird seed has fallen by accident.


Otter: On the evening Aug 7 Colin Bates went to a quiet stretch of the River Itchen near Eastleigh in the hope of seeing a Barn Owl (which did not show) but as he sat quietly on a low branch of a riverside tree a Robin bathed in the water, then sat to dry its feathers on the same branch on which Colin was sitting. A lttle later an Otter clambered out of the water and onto the same branch, coming within five feet of Colin without detecting his presence - the first wild Otter Colin had ever seen and almost certainly the closest he will ever come to one

Northern Bottlenose Whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus): Just to complete the story given in my last Weekly Summary. A couple of emails and the Monday edition of the Portsmouth NEWS told me that the Whale left the Langstone village area under its own power, then headed under Langstone Bridge and out through the mouth of Langstone Harbour on the ebb tide. It did not get far as it then beached on the Winner sands, and it was here that the lethal injection was given (to avoid further suffering to an animal with liver failure proved by earlier blood tests), after which the whale was towed back to the Langstone Harbour entrance and brought ashore on the Hayling Island public carpark south of the Ferry Inn. Somehow it was manouvered into a waste disposal lorry and taken to places unknown for further analysis and disposal.

Field Vole: These must be scurrying around unseen in rough grassland wherever you go but few are ever seen so a daytime sighting of one at Brook Meadow on Aug 7 is worth a note. Field Voles are not as common as Bank Voles from which they can be distinguished by having greyer fur (Bank Voles are reddish) and shorter ears than Bank Voles. Field Voles also prefer damp tussocky grass while Bank Voles like drier places and are good climbers.

Common Seal: At Pegwell Bay in Kent on Aug 6 a Common Seal pup hauled itself out of the sea onto the beach - I wonder if any have been born in Chichester Harbour this year?

Hare: Very few are left in our area but on Aug 2 one was seen in the Wallington River valley in the Boarhunt area upstream from Fareham.

Fungi: With the current wet ground and warm air there should be a good show of fungi in the coming week but the only reports this week are of a big Giant Polypore at the base of a Beech tree in Wade Court Road (east Havant) and a troop of Mycena type 'bell caps' on wood chips in Palmers Road copse alngside Brook Meadow at Emsworth

Summary for July 28 - Aug 3 (Week 30 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Little Egret numbers are now increasing as breeding colonies disperse - the Thorney Deeps night roost is back in business with 98 birds but the Langstone pond roost has not been abandoned. The Slipper Mill pond at Emsworth has a new species on its check list (Barnacle Goose) but more interestingly I hear that there is a breeding flock of the 'half-size' Canada Geese (Cackling Canada Goose) at Southampton. Although Ospreys have been moving south for some time this weel brought the first report of one in Langstone Harbour. Both Kentish and American Golden Plover are in this week's news as is the first summer plumage Grey Plover back in Langstone Harbour. The second Long-tailed Skua of the year has been seen off Selsey and large flocks of Terns can now be seen all round our coasts (including Black Terns and a surprise appearance of 13 juvenile Little Terns close to the Oysterbeds where breeding failed this year). Our breeding Swifts have now left and both Nightingale and Pied Flycatcher have joined the list of departing summer visitors now being seen at the coast. Also new this week are the first Goldfinch flocks on thistle seed and the first 'winter' corvid roost.

Downland butterflies now include peak numbers of Chalkhill Blues, Silver Spotted Skippers, Grayling and even Wall Browns with second brood Adonis Blues and Dingy Skippers. For moth enthusiasts there are reports of Gymnancyla canella (whose larvae eat prickly Saltwort on sandy beaches), Dusky Hook-tip, Least Carpet, Oblique Carpet and Brown Scallop plus a speciality of the North Downs called Straw Belle and another species restricted to extreme south east oak woods - Clay Fan-foot. Another rare migrant is the Scarce Chocolate-tip. Among other insects are two large Hoverflies and a Hornet in my Havant garden with two more Bush-cricket species first appearances.

Two uncommon plants went onto my Havant area list for the first time this week (Small Melilot and Hieracium trichocaulon) and Brian Fellows discovered a seaside variant of Bittersweet Nightshade. Both Autumn Gentian and Autumn Ladies Tresses are now out but it looks as if Buttonweed (which has been growing at Bedhampton for about ten years) will be extinct in Hampshire next year. Finally I read that Oxford Ragwort is 'the only really posionous Ragwort species'

Other Wildlife has something to report this week with the sad fate of the Northern Bottlenosed Whale which came from the depths of the Atlantic to die of kidney failure a few yards off Langstone Mill Pond


(Skip to Insects)

Black-necked Grebe: More than one seems to have been on the Dungeness RSPB reserve on July 29 but the only info I have seen is that 'Black-necked Grebes' in the plural were included in a list of birds present at the reserve alongside Common Sandpipers. This seems to be the second report of birds returning from the north (the first having been one that was at the Blashford Lakes for one day only on July 5)

Cory's Shearwater: Three were reported at the Portland end of the Chesil bank on July 29 (two had been seen at Selsey on July 20), and singles were seen off Dorset on July 31 and Aug 1

Sooty Shearwater: One was off Folkestone on Aug 1. Only two earlier sightings this autumn - a possible off Portland on July 6 and a definite off Dungeness on July 25

Balearic Shearwater: Seen daily this week along the channel from Portland to Dungeness with a peak count of 10 at Dungenesss on July 27

Cormorant: With the breeding season over three birds were back on rafts in the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth on July 27

Cattle Egret: The bird that was at the Sidlesham Ferry Pool on July 19 has not been seen there again and the only current report is of one turning up at the Oare Marshes near Faversham in Kent on July 24

Little Egret: Numbers everywhere seem to be increasing. On the evening of July 30 the roost at the Thorney Great Deeps held 98 birds and this suggested to me that the Langstone Pond trees might have been abandoned as a night roost but a quick check on the evening of Aug 2 showed that at least 20 birds were present (probably more than 50) and at least two were seen to fly in from the east (i.e. the Thorney direction). A group of 8 sitting out the morning high tide at the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 29 were probably birds that would, for the past couple of months, have been tied to the nests at Langstone Mill Pond but which are now free to hang out where they like - this post breeding dispersion is the main cause of the increases everywhere though many of the birds are dispersing from nests on the continent and thus genuinely increasing numbers in southern Britain. At Rye Harbour the night roost, which had been down to 20 birds in May and June, was up to 36 birds on July 31

Great White Egret: One is reported to have flown past St Catherine's Point on the Isle of Wight on July 27 and another flew south over Reculver on the north Kent coast on Aug 1

Black Swan: On July 31 one of a group of three which had been present with the huge flock of Mute Swans in Christchurch Harbour was found dead but no cause of death was given.

Canada Goose: These are now flying again after their summer moult - evidence for this comes from a flock of 80 seen from Farlington Marshes on Aug 1

Cackling Canada Goose: There are several different species/races of small sized Canada Goose of which the occasional single individual is seen among a flock of the larger birds but it was news to me that a whole flock of the smaller birds can be seen on the 'duck pond' at the Royal Victoria Country Park on the shore of Southampton Water. Ian Watts referred to these birds in a HOSLIST message on Aug 1 saying that the flock has two juveniles among it.

Barnacle Goose: Two of these made a brief visit to the Slipper Mill Pond at Emworth on Aug 1 - a new species for that pond!

Shelduck: These duck seem to have had a poor breeding season locally this year - the only juveniles I have heard of in Langstone Harbour were two seen on July 10 flying east over the Hayling Oysterbeds in a flock of adults and now four juveniles seen on Aug 1 on the Farlington Marshes Deeps. The usual two pairs of adults were seen on the Budds Farm pools in April but after April 22 no more than one pair was seen there and they have had no young that I am aware of. I think the same lack of success has been true in Chichester Harbour as on July 27 Ed Rowsell went searching for youngsters but could only find one group of 8 which I think contained some adults,

Mandarin: It would seem that these are spreading and increasing in numbers in our area - one item of recent news is the sighting on Aug 1 of an adult with two juveniles at a site where they have not been seen before in the Roayal Victoria country park at Southampton

Pintail: Bird of the day at the Blashford Lakes on July 27 was a single Pintail - the first I have seen mentioned anywhere since Apr 20

Garganey: One was seen at Farlington Marshes on July 30

Red-breasted Merganser: A summering female was seen off the Lymington shore on July 30

Speckled Teal: The number of these 'escapees' in the Lymington area has gone up by five after one of the pairs resident there brought off a brood of young this year (Great Crested Grebe also bred for the first time in the Lymington area this year)

Buzzard: A second hand report from the Southampton area tells of one bird of a nesting pair being set on and killed by a gang of Magpies

Booted Eagle: One is rumoured to have been seen in the Christchurch area on July 28

Osprey: One was seen to catch a fish in the Broom Channel of Langstone Harbour (between Farlington Marshes and the Eastern Road) on July 30 and two Ospreys were together in Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight on July 31

Kestrel: Three seen hunting together at Rye Harbour on July 27 were thought to be a family party with one youngster learning the trade from its parents - something we may see almost anywhere in the near future.

Avocet: These are presumably now leaving their breeding sites and moving to winter quarters bringing a report of more than 60 at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour on July 29 and over 100 there on July 31. The number at the Cliffe Pools in the Thames estuary peaked at 680 birds on July 29

Kentish Plover: One paid a very brief visit to the Sidlesham Ferry Pool at Pagham Harbour on Aug 1. The only previous report of this species this year was of a female at Church Norton (also in Pagham Harbour) on Apr 28

Golden Plover: A few reports this week - five were in the Thanet area of Kent on July 24, four were at Rye Harbour on July 31 and a single juvenile re-appeared at Christchurch Harbour on July 28 (four days after it was first seen there)

American Golden Plover: A confident report of one in summer plumage at Elmley Marshes on Sheppey (north Kent) on July 30

Grey Plover: The first to return to Langstone Harbour in summer plumage was seen by Jason Crook at the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 27 in a flock of 32 birds

Little Stint: First autumn bird in southern England seems to have been one at the Oare Marshes near Faversham on the north Kent coast on July 24 with another at the nearby Cliffe Pools on July 26. On July 27 one had reached Rye Harbour and another was nearby at the 'Midrips' near Lydd. Locally a juvenile was at Farlington Marshes (by the stream) on July 29 when another arrived at the Dungeness RSPB reserve and four could then be seen at the Cliffe pools

Pectoral Sandpiper: One was at Sandwich Bay on July 29

Curlew Sandpiper: Latest sightings are of 2 or 3 at the Oare Marshes in north Kent on July 24, three reports on July 27 (1 at Keyhaven, 2 at Brownsea Island and 8 at the 'Midrips'), with two more reports on July 28 (1 in the Kent Stour valley) and July 29 (2 at the Sidlesham Ferry pool). By July 30 the count at the Elmley Marshes on Sheppey was 20 and on July 31 there were 4 at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour

Black-tailed Godwit: The only large flocks in the latest news are of 100 birds in the Lymington area on July 29 (when 32 were at the Sidlesham Ferry pool) and of 170 at the Farlington Marshes lake on Aug 1

Wood Sandpiper: The period from July 27 to Aug 1 has brought sightings from eight sites including one bird at the Sidlesham Ferry Pool on July 29

Turnstone: There have been a few around through the summer but numbers are now increasing - locally five were seen at Broadmarsh on July 25 and seven were at the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 31 (one was in Emsworth Harbour on July 28)

Long-tailed Skua: One flew west past Selsey on July 27 - only the second report of this species for the year after one at Dungeness on May 2

Yellow-legged Gull: A flock normally builds up at the head of Southampton Water at this time of year and an estimated 40 birds were there on July 27 (the only previous report from there is of 7 seen on July 9)

Kittiwake: A count of 164 at Dungeness on Aug 1 was the highest anywhere since April

Sandwich Tern: Very large flocks of terns can be seen close offshore at many coastal sites at this time of year and I noted the details of one such observation at Sandwich Bay on July 31 when 1060 Sandwich were with 474 Common, 4 Roseate , 12 Little, 6 Arctic and 1 Black Tern. A dusk count on the north Kent coast on July 29 recorded around 1500 mixed Terns including at least 11 Black Terns

Common Tern: These are the most numerous species currently in our area. On July 30 there were more than 1200 off Titchfield Haven and on July 31 an evening count of birds in Langstone Harbour seen from The Kench gave an estimate of 1500. On Aug 1 Dungeness had 1400 birds

Little Tern: Despite the failure of the Hayling Oysterbeds site to rear any young this year 13 juveniles were seen there on July 31 among a flock of 60 Little Terns.

Black Tern: Autumn passage just starting - there had been an isolated report of two birds at the Blashford Lakes on July 25 and now we know of two at Dungeness on July 27 and two more on the north Kent coast (Reculver) on July 29 when the number at Dungeness was up to 6. By Aug 1 there were around 20 off Reculver (north Kent), 7 at Sandwich Bay, and 1 at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour

Swift: On July 30 one pair of Swifts still seemed to have some attachment to my part of Havant but it seems pretty certain that the other three pairs have severed their ties with us and have joined the great throng of Swifts in the sky. On July 31a stream of 350 Swifts flew over south Hayling and on Aug 1 just one was seen over Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight but by Aug 3 there had been no more sightings here in Havant and the saga of the Swifts is over for another year.

Later in the autumn we will express no surprise when we see an apparently endless stream of Swallows moving east or west along the coast, feeding up and waiting the right time to cross the channel, nor do we express surprise when we see signs that large shoals of fish have turned up off our shores, attracting Gannets and others to feed on them, but some birders still seem to have difficulty in imagining the lifestyle of a Swift (which, to my mind, has very much in common with a fish - the only difference being that the Swift operates in the unbounded air while the fish roams the unbounded water).

Two observations of Swifts this week seem to fit in with my idea of the Swift lifestyle, which is based on the ability and freedom to roam the skies, usually high up and out of our sight, but which involves a lot of social interaction.

The first observation was of a flock of around 100 Swifts 'milling around' in the sky above Alton on July 28 - these birds may have been there to feed on a hatch of insects, but at this time of year I can imagine they were occupied in a variation on the screaming parties of birds around nest sites earlier in the season when (so the theory goes) young birds come down to interact with the older breeding birds on their nests in order to learn the ropes of the nesting procedure before they have to practise them in the next year. At this time the interaction between the free-flying 'shoals' which have come down from the upper air and the breeding birds could be imagined as being a form of 'passenger pick up' giving any birds that have been breeding, plus their young, the chance to join a 'shoal' which will operate as a unit through the coming months of migration and winter.

The second observation came from the Lee on the Solent area near Gosport on July 27 when several flocks, each of around 50 birds, were seen diving low over pools of water to skim the surface and drink water as Swallows do. As Swifts seem to avoid flying through cloud they presumably have to acquire their water intake from such pools, and I am surprised that we do not hear of this activity more often - it just goes to show how little we know of their lifestyle!

Kingfisher: I have noticed a few people recently expressing surprise (and delight) at seeing Kingfishers and I guess the surprise comes from seeing the birds in new places. That would tie in with the expected movement of this year's first brood of young, and perhaps some adults which have failed to breed, back to the coast so it is probably worth keeping an eye and an ear open for them from now on at the places where we expect to see them in the winter.

Yellow Wagtail: The first was heading south at Dungeness on July 11 and since then very small numbers have been reaching our south coast but on Aug 2 Rye Harbour reported the first sign of a major departure are the birds began to gather in large numbers on shingle banks close to the shore

Robin: On July 28 I was passing Wade Court at Langstone when I heard my second burst of autumn song from a Robin - the first was heard nearby (but almost certainly from a different bird) at dusk on July 24 - this one was heard at midday. I am still hearing the occasional 'ticking' from birds around my garden area, but so far not as frequently as daily and the birds are still keeping well out of sight.

Departing passerines: The following species have been reported as migrants from coastal sites in the week starting July 28 (some peak counts given in brackets after the species). Nightingale, Common Redstart, Wheatear, Grasshopper Warbler (20), Sedge Warbler (23), Reed Warbler (9), Lesser Whitethroat (7), Common Whitethroat (16), Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Wood Warbler (singles at three sites - heard singing at two of them), Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler (29), Pied Flycatcher (singles at two sites)

Bearded Tit: A pure white bird was seen amongst others at Seasalter on the north Kent coast on July 29

Corvid roost: The first report of a post breeding corvid roost comes from the Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough where around 500 Jackdaws spent the night with smaller numbers of Crows and Rooks on July 28. This reminds me of an impressive sight which I watched a few years ago in the section of the Fishbourne Channel between Dell Quay and the Chichester Yacht Basin - while watching Egrets coming to roost at dusk in Oldpark Wood at around this time of year I was impressed on several evenings by vast flocks of Corvids assembling around the water channel prior to flying into some night roost nearby.

Goldfinch: The first two reports of large flocks on thistle seed came on July 30 from the Crowborough area (70+ birds) and on Aug 1 from Christchurch Harbour (80+ birds)

Crossbill: Reports from 8 different sites this week including a flock of 32 on the west side of Poole Harbour on July 29

Ortolan Bunting: A 'possible' sighting on July 27 at Chapmans Pool in the Dorset coast close to St Albans Head


(Skip to Plants)


36 species mentioned in new reports for the past week, including ....

Silver Spotted Skipper: By July 28 these were out in good numbers

Dingy Skipper: A second brood had started to emerge at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on July 26

Brimstone: A count of 15 at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester on July 25 shows that next year's butterflies are now emerging - in the past I used to imagine that these insects would fly around until late autumn chill drove them into hibernation but I now understand that they will find a hideaway and enter the 'long sleep' within a few days of emerging despite the current sunshine and availablility of food. This is clearly a good strategy to limit any damage that they could incur before hibernation, keeping them fresh and fit for breeding next spring.

Brown Hairstreak: The first had been seen on July 22 and three more were reported from somewhere in Sussex on July 27. One was out at Noar Hill on July 31 and two were seen at Pulborough Brooks on Aug 1

Chalkhill Blue: Now at the peak of their numbers - on July 25 Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester had 243 while a site close to Friston Forest (Eastbourne area) had over 1000.

Adonis Blue: The first of the summer brood was seen at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on July 26 and three more were seen at Newtimber Hill (also in the Brighton area) on July 28

Painted Lady: Ones or twos seen at six sites in the past few days (the only Clouded Yellow was one at Durlston). On July 31 six were found in the Thanet area of Kent and four were seen at Dungeness.

Large Tortoiseshell: Two more sightings of singles in Sussex - on July 23 one flew north up the Adur valley and on July 28 one was seen at Newtimber Hill (maybe following the A23 north?). We now have five reports in July to add to the seven between the Jan 27 and Mar 14.

Wall Brown: July 26 brought reports of 6 from the Lymington marshes and 12 from Mill Hill at Shoreham with another 3 seen at Cissbury Ring (Worthing) on July 27

Grayling: 22 were found on Windover Hill north of Eastbourne on July 26


Monochroa palustrella (0737): Trapped at Rye Harbour on July 29 - first there for ten years

Acleris aspersana (1043): First trapped in the Thanet area of Kent on July 31

Mint Moth (1361 Pyrausta aurata): Several can now be seen daily around flowerng herbs in my Havant garden since July 27

Sitochroa palealis (1370): First at Dungeness on July 27

Trachycera advenella (1439): First at Dungeness on July 29 (reported as Numonia advenella)

Oncocera semirubella (1441): First at Dungeness on July 27

Gymnancyla canella (1464): First at Dungeness on July 29. A local species of sandy beaches where the larvae feed on Saltwort or Atriplex species

Merrifieldia baliodactylus (1512): First found in the Thanet area on July 31 (a white Plume moth)

Barred Hook-tip (1647 Drepana cultraria): First in the Friston area near Eastbourne on July 24

Dusky Hook-tip (1649 Drepana curvatula): First at Dungeness on July 26 (only found in Britain as a rare migrant)

Least carpet (1699 Idaea vulpinaria atrosignaria): First in the Friston area near Eastbourne on July 24 (also at Dungeness on July 27)

Oblique Carpet (1719 Orthonama vittata): First at Dungeness on July 25 (only fourth record for the site)

Brown Scallop (1791 Philereme vetulata): First in Thanet area of Kent on July 27 (very rare in that area)

Haworth's Pug (1813 Eupithecia haworthiata): First in the Thanet area on July 30

Tawny Speckled Pug (1838 Eupithecia icterata): First at Dungeness on July 31

Dusky Thorn (1914 Ennomos fuscantaria): First in the Rother Woods near Rye Bay on July 29

Straw Belle (1967 Aspitates gilvaria): First in the Thanet area onJuly 31. In Britain this is only found on the North Downs of Kent and Surrey

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): Singles at Dungeness on July 27, at Longstock by R Test on July 28 and three seen at Newtimber Hill (By A23 north of Brighton) on July 28

Scarce Chocolate-tip (2018 Clostera anachoreta): First in Thanet area of Kent on July 28 (rare migrant - Red Data Book resident in Britain at Dungeness only)

Black Arches (2033 Lymantria monarcha): First in the Friston area near Eastbourne on July 24

Round-winged Muslin (2035 Thumatha senex): First in Thanet area of Kent on July 27

Jersey Tiger (2067 Euplagia quadripunctaria): First in Thanet area of Kent on July 27

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (2111 Noctua janthina): First in the Friston area near Eastbourne on July 24

Copper Underwing (2297 Amphipyra pyramidea): First in the Friston area near Eastbourne on July 24

Old Lady (2300 Mormo maura): First in Pamber Forest (Basingstoke) on July 22 but seen by night nectaring on Buddliea in Chandlers Ford area (Eastleigh) on July 23

Lesser-spotted Pinion (2316 Cosmia affinis): First in Thanet area of Kent on July 28

Slender Brindle (2335 Apamea scolopacina): First in the Friston area near Eastbourne on July 24

Ear Moth (2360 Amphipoea oculea): First somewhere in Sussex on July 27

Clay Fan-foot (2494 Paracolax tristalis): First trapped in the Rother woods near Rye Bay - a species restricted to oak woods in south east England

Other Insects

Scaeva pyrastri Hoverfly: First seen on Portsdown on July 30. This large hoverfly has white chevron markings on a black abdomen.

Volucella zonaria Hoverfly: This large and boldly marked Hoverfly (Hornet size and colour) was first reported at Rye Harbour on July 26 and on July 30 I had a close view of one on Buddleia in my Havant garden

Hornet: One of these also in my garden on July 28 working around flowers on a Snowberry bush that were attracting other small insects.

Speckled Bush-Cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima): First reported at Durlston on July 30

Great Green Bush Cricket (Tettigonia viridissima): This has been full size since the beginning of July and on July 30 seven were found on Portsdown by conservation volunteers

Grey Bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata): First reported at Rye Harbour on July 26

Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi): A full grown female was found and photographed by Brian Fellows at the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 29


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Californian Poppy (Eschscholzia californica): For the past couple of summers some of these have brightened the edges of an alleyway opening off The Pallant street alongside Waitrose store in Havant and on July 28 I came on a new clump in the roadside grass of Southmoor Lane

Dittander: This is a close relative of Hoary Cress which is abundant in the Portsmouth area but Dittander cannot be found anywhere in Hampshire and I have to cross the border into Sussex to see it as I did on July 29. It grows in profusion alongside the Fishbourne Channel but was mostly over when I went though I did see a few fresh specimens

Indian Balsam: Lots of this flowering by the Hermitage stream at Bedhampton on Aug 1

Corn Cockle: Within the past few weeks a 'crop' of this has grown up in recently disturbed soil alongside Southmoor Lane bordering the newly created carpark at the extreme south end. I am puzzled by the origin of these plants but maybe they are something to do with Havant Borough Council whose offices are adjacent (I doubt they were planted by the travellers whose vehicles were parked by the roadside here a little while ago!)

Knotted pearlwort (Sagina nodosa): A photo of these plants (see the Rye Bay website) recently found on the sandy margin of a gravel pit at Rye Harbour shows how large and prominent are the flowers of this species, making identification easy should I ever come across it here in south east Hampshire (which is unlikely!)

Marsh Mallow: I am reliably told that these flowers are now out along shore margins of the small oakwood to the west of Cobnor Point in Chichester Harbour

Least Yellow Sorrel: I found masses of this flowering in the Southbrook Road area of 'new' Langstone on July 28 and at the same time allayed my worries that some of the plants beside the footpath there do not have the pure green leaves of the species - there were quite a few coppery leaved plants but these definitely came from an admixture of the larger and commoner Yellow Oxalis or Procumbent Yellow-sorrel. On that same day I found two new small colonies of the plant in flower at other sites, so it is perhaps not as uncommon as I thought.

Small melilot (Melilotus indicus): A surprise find on July 28 of one small bush of this plant growing in rough ground alongside Southmoor Lane at the west end of Penner Road (north side). I had previously only seen this plant at one site (the IBM North Harbour site) where it flourished for a few years in the 1980s, then vanished.

Narrow-leaved Bird's Foot Trefoil: Flowering at Farlington Marshes on Aug 1 (first report though it will have been out for months)

Hawthorn: Berries already turning red ....

Yellow Flowered Strawberry: Still flowering in Juniper Square where it now also has a lot of bright red fruit - a week or so ago I found one of the fruits was 'hard as a bullet' but on July 28 the fruit was edible but almost tasteless.

Purple Loosestrife: In full flower by the Hermitage stream at Bedhampton on Aug 1

Corn Parsley: Now in flower and seen alongside Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on July 29

Pepper Saxifrage: I gather from Brian Fellows' comments that this was in flower at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on July 28

Fennel: First flowering seen in Farm Lane at Nutbourne on July 29

Water Dock: The prominent flowers on the huge plants at the north end of Langstone Mill Pond were first noticed by me on July 28

Water Pepper: Flowering by the Hermitage stream at Bedhampton on Aug 1

Amphibious Bistort: Flowering at the Fishbourne Channel meadows on July 29

Autumn Gentian (or Felwort): Flowering at Durlston on July 28

Bittersweet: I learnt from Brian Fellows that this common Nightshade has an uncommon variant form (not a subspecies as stated in Fitter, Fitter and Blamey) which grows on the seashore and which he is fairly certain he has found on the shingle of Stoke Bay (immediately south of the Hayling Oysterbeds). He took a photo of it on July 29 showing that the plants have one of the required features of this variant in that they are prostrate on the ground and is checking if they have the other required feature of having succulent leaves.

Blue water speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica): This pure species has been all but eliminated from south east Hampshire by an aggressive hybrid between it and Pink Water Speedwell but Brian Fellows has found some of the true species at Farlington Marshes on Aug 1

Brooklime: This was flowering in May and June with some still to be seen on July 10 but on Aug 1 it had started a second flowering in the Hermitage stream at Bedhampton

Gipsywort: Flowering by the Hermitage stream at Bedhampton on Aug 1

Oxford Ragwort: I was interested to read on the Durlston website that Oxford Ragwort is 'the only really poisonous Ragwort species' - so far I have no further information to back this up.

Buttonweed (Cotula coronopifolia): See my diary entry for Aug 1 - it seems likely that this species will be extinct (as a wild plant) in Hampshire by next year but one or two plants were still flowering by the Hermitage stream at Bedhampton on Aug 1. According to Stace it was first recorded in the county in 1991

Mugwort: I saw flowers on this common plant for the first time on July 28. The plants have been in bud for several weeks but as soon as the flowers open the plants lose the glistening white silkiness of the buds and look as if they were at the end of their flowering - this is an effect of the flower petals being small and unexpectedly brown in colour.

Creeping Thistle: I noticed a 'field full' of thistle seed (which should soon be attracting flocks of Goldfinches) for the first time on July 28

Hieracium trichocaulon: This is the probable name of a 'new to me' microspecies of Hawkweed which I discovered by chance among brambles on rough ground alongside Southmoor Lane (north side of Penner Road) on July 28. The plants stood over a metre high and had multiple long branches coming off the main stem at 45 degree angles, giving the overall look of a many branched candelabra, all the stems and branches being thickly covered with short white bristle hairs. I know there are at least 260 microspecies of Hieracia but my plant agreed very closely with the description and illustration of H. trichocaulon (in the Tridenta section) given by Stace

Common Water-plantain: Plenty of this flowering by the Hermitage stream at Bedhampton on Aug 1

Violet Helleborine: Shortly after my visit to Stansted Forest on July 25 to look for this plant at two known sites, and my total failure to see any at either site, John Goodspeed has acquired photos of plants in flower under the prominent oak in compartment 22B, which is where I looked!

Autumn Ladies Tresses: These had appeared in a north Emsworth garden by Aug 1 - not sure if they were actually in flower but they should be very soon

Blunt-fruited Water-starwort (Callitriche obtusangula): I have long been familiar with what I believe to be the Common water starwort (Callitriche stagnalis) which fills many wet ruts in the rides of Stansted Forest and similar places (though I have never given it much attention!) but I had not come across the Blunt-fruited species until it was mentioned this week by Brian Fellows as growing in the shallows of the River Ems at Brook Meadow in Emsworth.

Green Bristle-grass (Setaria viridis): Another first for the year for Brian Fellows who found this growing from ' pavement cracks' or the like in St James Road at Emsworth on July 31


Northern Bottlenosed Whale (Hyperoodon ampullatus): Late in the day on July 31 one of these whales entered the mouth of Chichester Harbour and would be rescuers succeeded in turning it round and sending it back out to sea but overnight (high tide at midnight) it returned to the harbour and on the morning of Aug 1 it was re-discovered grounded on mud just off Langstone Mill Pond. At some stage an intrepid vet managed to get a sample of the whale's blood and this showed that the whale had kidney failure and would die within a few days so the decision was taken to give it a lethal injection and this was done late on Aug 1 after which the whale's carcase was towed out of the harbour (not sure where it ended up).

This species lives in the deep water of the north Atlantic, feeding on squid in the ocean deeps, and is not normally found nearer land than the 1000 metre contour line but they have beached on the coasts of most countries around the British Isles and the North Sea (even occasionally in the Baltic) but not in the warmer waters of the Mediterranean.

Unlike the huge, flat-headed, whale species which filter krill from the water with baleen plates this is one of the toothed whales which typically have domed heads and chew large fish and squid with their teeth, Northern Bottlenosed Whales can grow to 9.5 metres long and are found in small schools of 4 to 10 animals. They are said to be able to dive to 4,000 feet and to stay underwater for up to 2 hours but a normal deep dive takes no more than 20 minutes. When at the surface they breathe once or twice a minute, sending up a 3 foot high spout and making a noise that can be heard a long way off.

Summary for July 21 - 27 (Week 29 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Cattle Egret have bred in Britain this year (according to the BBC) and both Little and Great White Egrets are currently coming north to Britain (while Grey Herons fly south!). More national news is of at least 63 pairs of Honey Buzzard breeding in the UK and latest Godwit news comes from Iceland. Many wader and duck species are now reaching us for the winter and many passerine summer visitors are already starting to leave. A minor high point this week was the resumption of Robin song as large Tit flocks start to roam the countryside.

One new dragonfly is the Emerald Damsel but new butterflies are Silver Spotted Skipper and Brown Hairstreak with an isolated Camberwell Beauty for rarity. A long list of new moths includes the large Old Lady and the Oak Eggar while among the new Grasshoppers and Bush Crickets the Other Insects section includes a giant Ichneumon and the first of the dramatic Wasp Spiders

A surprise among new flowers was a good show of Early Dog Violet - more seasonal newcomers were Upright Hedge Parsley, Ling Heather, Wild Basil and Marjoram with Sea Aster on the shore and Dwarf Thistle on the downs. Both Broad-leaved and Violet Helleborine are starting to flower


(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: Now returning to the sea from inland breeding sites where they were last seen in numbers in early March. 10 were in the Langstone Channel off the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 22, a week earlier than last year when 12 appeared off the Oysterbeds on July 28

Cory's Shearwater: Two flew past Selsey Bill on July 20, the first to be seen anywhere other than a 'possible' sighting of a single bird off Portland on July 6 and 7.

Sooty Shearwater: One was off Dungeness on July 25. This year's only previous sightings were singles off Dungeness on Jan 1 and 2 and off the Isle of Wight on Feb 3 plus a 'possible' off Portland on July 6

Balearic Shearwater: I think the day total for Selsey Bill on July 20 was as high as 23

Cattle Egret: I heard on Radio 4 that breeding has been confirmed in Somerset (not Cornwall) this year bringing the species a step closer to being declared a British resident

Little Egret: On July 20 three Egrets flew in from the south to Portland Bill and on July 21 the number reported at Christchurch Harbour shot up to 58 from zero (none reported there earlier in the year and no count of more than 5 anywhere in Dorset since Feb 6 when 55 were roosting at Radipole - I'm pretty sure that I have omitted a number of counts, but also sure that I have not omitted any large or significant numbers). These figures tell me that the usual autumn surge in Egret numbers is now starting and that at least some of the increased numbers come from abroad.

Great White Egret: Two of these arrived at Portland from the south on July 23

Grey Heron: A group of seven flew south out to sea at Christchurch Harbour on July 26

White Stork: It seems that the bird seen in the Avon valley on July 19 has been on the move ever since - on July 20 it flew over Christchurch Harbour, on July 23 it went over Southampton and on July 24 it was back in Dorset in meadows at Wool in the Frome valley west of Wareham

Black Swan: A pair flew in to the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood on July 20 and were still there on July 25. Discussion of them on Hoslist revealed that quite a few birders are not aware how widespread feral pairs of this species are - I have reports of them at 13 different sites this year, not including two sites where I am pretty sure they can still be found (a breeding pair on Benbow Pond east of Midhurst and a single female on the Test at Romsey)

Greylag Goose: On June 30 a pair were at Pulborough Brooks with 4 tiny goslings and on July 21 a flock of 83 geese were at Pulbororough - presumably intending to settle in their for their summer moult. (This reminds me that no one has yet mentioned being annoyed by the presence of large flocks of Canada Geese littering the ground with their feathers and droppings while tearing the grass out by the roots so that coarse weeds can grow instead). Since writing the above in mid-week I see that I was wrong in assuming the Greylags would settle at Pulborough - on July 25 there was a further report of 115 at Pulborough with the comment that these geese gather at Pulborough but then fly south to roost (or graze?) at some unspecified site. As we are now near the end of July I guess it is possible that the geese have completed their summer moult and these reports are a reflection of their re-gained power of flight? In Hampshire a flock of more than 120 were at Tundry Pond (west of Fleet) on July 26

Shoveler: Reports of various duck species are increasing from a number of sites but it is difficult to tell which of these birds are newly back and which have been there through the breeding season. Of 9 new reports of Shoveler this week one (of 15 birds offshore from Sandy Point on Hayling on July 24) must be of birds on the move back to winter quarters.

Pochard: A report of 8 'new in' at Weir Wood reservoir near Crowborough on July 23 also indicates the arrival of winter visitors.

Goldeneye: Another returning bird was a juvenile (?) Goldeneye which arrived at Ibsley Water near Ringwood on July 24

Muscovy Duck: I see that one of these oversize ugly ducklings turned up (of its own volition or was it dumped by human hand?) at the Town Millpond in Emsworth on July 21 and was still there on July 26

Honey Buzzard: Having mentioned in last week's summary that a pair had been breeding within thirty miles of Havant this summer I see that Lee Evans has just told the Hoslist e-group that at least 63 pairs of Honey Buzzard held territories in Britain this summer with pairs that could be seen from public viewpoints in Norfolk and in Yorkshire (the latter viewpoint also gave views of up to seven Goshawks, some of them juveniles)

Sparrowhawk: On July 23 Brian Fellows went to see what he was told by the 'Friends of Nore Barn Wood' was a Kestrel nest in the wood with at least one of three juveniles still in the nest (two were thought to have fledged earlier). When he got there Brian found that the nest was in fact that of a Sparrowhawk showing that these birds are continuing to nest in these trees as they have done in past years

Red-footed Falcon: On the lovely sunny evening of July 22 Christian Melgar was walking on Steep Down north of Lancing when a male Red-footed Falcon flew towards him and banked to let the evening sun highlights its diagnostic features. Christian adds .. "A superb bird and totally unexpected especially considering the large spring influx into the UK which seemed to result in Sussex being left out!"

Quail: One was accidentally flushed from long grass beside Pagham Harbour on July 24

Avocet: The four young which hatched in the Selsey West Fields on June 24 left the nest area on July 14 and temporarily disappeared.. On July 18 one of the parents turned up at the Sidlesham Ferry pool and stayed there July 23 when the four youngsters joined it and on July 26 all six birds were at the Ferry Pool

Golden Plover: After several reports of small groups back in Kent and East Sussex a single juvenile turned up at Christchurch Harbour on July 24

Sanderling: Fair sized flocks are now back on the south coast with around 125 seen on the Hayling Bay shore (chased by a Peregrine) on July 24 and another group of 60 on the Climping shore east of Bognor on July 25

Curlew Sandpiper: A summer plumage bird at 'The Midrips' pits near Lydd in Kent on July 20 was the first to be reported since a couple were at the Cliffe Pools on the Thames estuary on June 18 and 19 - I guess they marked the end of the spring passage and the current report marks the start of autumn passage. Since writing that in mid-week there have been sightings at Farlington Marshes (July 23 and 26), Sandy Point on Hayling (July 24), Lymington marshes (July 26) with three seen together at the Pett Pools on Rye Bay on July 25

Dunlin: A count of 215 at 'The Midrips' (near Lydd airport on the Romney Marshes) on July 20 takes us from the first few returnees into the mainstream of autumn passage. The Sidlesham Ferry pool also had just over 100 birds on July 23 and 24

Black-tailed Godwit: Pete Potts has just reported on his most recent trip to study these birds on their Icelandic breeding grounds and his main message seems to be that global warming is having its effect. Pete says .. " In summary it seems to have been another early season and further advanced by a week to ten days on last year following good weather since I think middle of May. Consequently we struggled to ring many godwit chicks, however we did manage to ring 54, this is our lowest total since 2004". He goes on to say .. "The weather was incredible, much sunshine and temperatures up to 19 and frequently 15-16 in NW Fjords which felt hot and is warm by Iceland standards. We had rain on just 2-3 days. In some parts of Iceland they had not had rain for 10 weeks and many of the rivers were very low and some almost dried up. The Snaefellsnes glacier looks smaller than ever and will I am sure be gone in 10-20 years perhaps if global warming continues at this rate". Back in southern England the Godwits seem to be at their highest concentration in the Thames estuary area with a count of 710 on July 22 at Northward Hill (north of Rochester) in Kent. Locally there were more than 120 to be seen from the Farlington Marshes seawall on July 25 when the Hook area at Warsash had 41 and the Sidlesham Ferry pool had 31 with around 20 in Emsworth Harbour and 13 in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester.

Curlew: Substantial flocks are now to be seen locally - 45 at the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 22 and 54 in the Fishbourne Channel on July 26 with smaller number anywhere you go.

Redshank: No shortage of these but a count of 200 at the Farlington Marshes lake on July 25 was the first count of over 100 this month

Greenshank: A substantial group of 21 returning birds were on the isolated grassland/saltmarsh between Oldpark Wood and the Fishbourne Channel almost opposite the Chichester Yacht Basin at high tide on July 22 - incidentally I learnt from Ed Rowsell's report of these birds that that distinctive grassland is called Bowling Green saltmarsh. Not all the birds are on the coast - there were 16 at the watermeadows of the Nation Trust property called The Vyne near Basingstoke on July 25

Wood Sandpiper: We have already had one of these at Lymington on July18 and 19 but this week brought two of them to the Sidlesham Ferry pool (Pagham Harbour) on July 25 and 26 while another was in The Fleet area of Dorset on those two days

Common Sandpiper: No shortage of these now but a local sighting of 5 in Fareham Creek on July 21 is worth noting.

Pomarine Skua: The first to be seen from Selsey Bill since May 21 was an immature bird flying by on July 20 - this seems to be the third autumn bird after one at Dungeness on July 6 and two off Portland on July 13.

Med Gull: One was among the gulls 'anting' over my garden on July 20 but a more interesting report on that day came from Nutbourne Bay where five adults and nine juveniles were together on the water. At a guess these will have come from nests in Langstone Harbour and it bears out something which I did not know until Chris Cockburn (Langstone RSPB warden) told me last week - unlike Black-headed Gulls which take no interest in their offspring after they have fledged the Med Gulls are more caring parents and stay with their young for some time.

Common Gull: I have now seen seven reports of these back on the south coast since the first at Sandown on the Isle of Wight on July 6 but I did not expect my first sight of one to be in the air over my garden on July 20, among a flock of 'anting' Black-headed and Med Gulls.

Lesser Blackback Gull: Experience shows that this species is much more likely to be seen on inland fields than at the coast in the Solent area and a report of 26 at the Anton Lakes at Andover on July 20 confirms this.

Tern roosts: An autumn speciality which attracts some birders is the monitoring of the large number of terns which fish in the Channel (or Solent) by day and spend their nights at a few preferred night roosts just inside the mouths of the Solent Harbours and at other points on their autumn passage route. I was reminded of this by a count of 315 Sandwich and 107 Common Terns in Christchurch Harbour on July 21. I also see that there were more than 1000 Sandwich Terns in the Rye Harbour roost on July 26

Black Tern: The first mention of this species since June 28 comes from Ibsley Water at Ringwood where two were present on July 25

Guillemot: Two birds that were on the sea off Selsey Bill on July 22 may have split up as on July 23 one was in Chichester Harbour (off Cobnor Point) and the 'other' was seen off Titchfield Haven. The two were back off Selsey on July 24.

Razorbill: On July 20 a pair of Razorbills were seen off Selsey Bill accompanied by a small juvenile indicating local breeding at an unknown site (possibly the Isle of Wight?)

Cuckoo: None heard since July 15 but this week brought reports of one in the Rowlands Castle area on July 21 (sitting on the Woodberry Lane field gate taking the public path south to Havant beside the railway) and another flying along the shore between Bognor and Littlehampton on July 26

Swift: 8 birds (4 breeding pairs) were still to be seen over east Havant at dusk on July 23 and on July 20 they were attracted down from the heights (where they are assumed to spend their days) in mid-afternoon to join a flock of gulls catching insects in the air above the houses. Maybe on other days they spend their days roaming widely in company with many other breeding and non-breeding Swifts to generate the regular reports of large numbers seen at various widely separated sites - on July 19 Dungeness reported 1000; on July 20 430 were over the Andover area, 250+ over Shoreham, and 500 over Dungeness; on July 21 Dungeness reported 3000+ and 100 were over Ferrybridge (Weymouth). Latest news is that at least seven birds were still over east Havant on the evening of July 26

Woodlark: More than six were still in the Stansted East Park area on July 22

Sand Martin: I assume that the reports of birds passing over coastal sites are (unlike the Swifts which just seem to be circulating over a wide area) of birds leaving us and heading south. These reports started with 27 birds over Dungeness on June 24 and rose to 800+ over Sandwich Bay on June 29 with 2600 there on July 14 - by July 22, when 3000 flew over Dungeness, a total of around 11,000 birds had left us.

Swallow: The first indication of these birds leaving us came on July 22 with a count of 200 over Portland and 45 were flying east along the shore at Sandy Point on Hayling on July 24 when another 32 were reported on the Sussex coast (Hope Gap near Beachy Head)

Robin: These were to be seen and heard everywhere up to June 24 when they suddenly vanished with neither sight nor sound of even one bird until July 22 when I heard the familiar 'ticking' from my neighbour's garden and later saw an adult bird briefly on my lawn. The single bird re-appeared equally briefly on the lawn on July 23 and 24, and as I predicted in my mid-week Summary the first song was heard on the evening of July 24. I am pretty sure this annual disappearing act marks the birds summer moult when the pressure from their hormones to attract a mate, defend a territory and feed young suddenly ceases, but once the need to grow new feathers becomes less important the need for food during the winter causes them to re-assert themselves and to claim and defend a winter feeding territory.

Blackbird: Another sign of approaching autumn is the gathering of Blackbirds to feed on both Rowan berries and fallen apples in my garden - up to half a dozen birds come and go in the Rowan with no apparent territorial disputes and three or four juveniles spend their day on the lawn.

Departing summer passerines: The first two reports of departing Tree Pipits came on July 24 (at Durlston) and 26 (Hope Gap near Beachy Head). Yellow Wagtails are now being reported daily at coastal sites with a count of 11 at Dungeness on July 25. Among other species now starting to be seen along the coast in areas where they have not been breeding are Common Redstarts, Whinchats, Wheatears, Grasshopper and Garden Warblers, Sedge and Reed Warblers, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, Grey Wagtails and Spotted Flycatchers. All these species are starting to appear on the coast, though the majority are not yet moving and some are just starting new broods. One sign of autumn that I noted was Willow Warbler song heard at Christchurch Harbour on July 21and Wood Warblers have been seen 'on the Hayling Billy line' (I guess this means on Hayling) on July 21, at Sandwich Bay on July 22 with song heard at Andover on July 23 and at Petworth on July 26

Tit flocks: Bob Chapman at the Blashford Lakes on July 20 noted the first autumn movement of small birds in a loose flock containing Goldfinches, Chiffchaffs, Blackcaps, Spotted Flycatchers and Tree Creepers as well as the Tit species after which we name such feeding flocks

Crossbills: The six days from July 20 to 25 brough twenty four new reports of Crossbills on the move over an area from Rye Bay to Poole Harbour (including a couple of birds in the Botley Woods on July 22). July 23 brought the first news of a flock of around 100 in Alice Holt Forest near Farnham but no other reports were of more than 12 birds.

Yellowhammer: One Kent birding website had a photo of a male Yellowhammer carrying a beakful of nest material on July 26 as they start their second broods

Corn Bunting: A report from Steep Down (north of Lancing and Worthing) on July 22 speaks of many birds including juveniles seen there.


(Skip to Plants)


Southern Hawker: One was briefly in my Havant garden on July 26

Migrant Hawker: Many have now emerged from local ponds - not sure if any migrants have arrived

Common Darter: Many of these have also emerged by now

Emerald Damsel (Lestes sponsa): First report for the year from Dungeness on July 24


38 species seen this week including ...

Silver Spotted Skipper: First for the year at Beachy Head on July 24 with others at Newtimber Hill north of Brighton on July 26

Wood White: A few of these were reported from the usual sites on the Surrey border near Horsham between May 21 and June 1 but a report of 3 seen in the Plaistow area on July 21 indicates the emergence of a second brood - I think this is quite common on the continent but only occurs occasionally in Britain in warm summers

Clouded Yellow: Still no invasion - I saw seven reports during April and May and now we have a report of 2 at Portland on July 12 followed by 1 at Hastings on July 16 and one at Durlston on July 24

Large White: These have become more numerous in the recent hot weather

Brown Hairstreak: First report from the Eastbourne area on July 22

Purple Hairstreak: More than 123 were seen in public open spaces in Totton (Southampton) on July 22

Brown Argus: Plenty of these were seen in May but the last of the first brood was seen at Stockbridge Down on June 30. Now we have the first report of the second brood - four seen on Malling Down near Lewes on July 21 with reports from three other sites on the following three days

Chalkhill Blue: More than 100 seen on Old Winchester Hill (Meon valley) on July 22 and 200+ at Stockbridge Down on July 23

Holly Blue: No great numbers yet but second brood fresh insects seen at eight sites this week including Emsworth and Havant

Purple Emperor: Their season is coming to an end but on July 21 two females at the Southwater woods (Horsham) decided to drown their troubles by drinking too much sweet tree sap and became incapable of steady flight - they were last seen clinging to leaves with which they had collided as they tried to fly off

Painted Lady: Unlike the Clouded Yellows this species is becoming more common with 12 reports during July, five of them on July 21 and 22.

Large Tortoiseshell: In July these are proving to be as common migrants as Clouded Yellows! After one was seen near Eastbourne on July 14 two more turned up on July 21 at Crawley and Durlston (where I think it was seen from July 19).

Camberwell Beauty: A tatty specimen spent several hours at a site near Crawley on July 21 but could not be refound later


Ectoedemia decentella (0020): First on July 25 in Thanet

The Triangle (0174 Heterogenea asella): First on July 23 in Thanet

Bucculatrix thoracella (0273): First on July 25 in Thanet

Horse Chestnut leaf miner (0366a Cameraria ohridella): Looking at local Horse Chestnut trees on July 20 I could not find one whose leaves were not affected by the mining of this moth's larvae but their efforts do not seem to have affected the trees or the size of the Conkers that can now be seen in good numbers. The moths are now on the wing with a report of 65 in one trap on Thanet on July 25

Willow Ermine (0428 Yponomeuta rorrella): First at Portland on July 25

Cochylis atricapitana (0966): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Orthotaenia undulana (1087): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Bactra furfurana (1110): First at Portland on July 24

Eudemis profundana (1113): First at Portland on July 25

Cydia splendana (1260): First at Portland on July 24 (more than 78 in one trap)

Codling Moth (1261 Cydia pomonella): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Cydia amplana (1262): First at Portland on July 25

Marbled Yellow Pearl (1357 Evergestis extimalis): First reported at Rye Harbour on July 21

Starry Pearl (1359 Cynaeda dentalis): First reported at Rye Harbour on July 22

Anania verbascalis (1382): First at Portland on July 25

Conobathra tumidana (1435): First at Portland on July 24

Dioryctria sylvestrella (1454b): First at Pagham Harbour on July 21 (rare migrant first found in Britain in 2001)

Phycitodes binaevella (1483): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Oak Eggar (1637 Lasiocampa quercus): First at Pagham Harbour on July 24

Small Fan-footed Wave (1702 Idaea biselata): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Dark Spinach (1749 Pelurga comitata): First at both Portland and Pagham on July 24

Small Rivulet (1803 Perizoma alchemillata): First at Pagham Harbour on July 24

Maple Pug (1812 Eupithecia inturbata): First at Horsham on July 25

Cypress Pug (1855 Eupithecia phoeniceata): First at Dungeness on July 22

August Thorn (1912 Ennomos quercinaria): First at Horsham on July 25

Canary-shouldered Thorn (1913 Ennomos alniaria): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Lunar Thorn (1918 Selenia lunularia): First at Portland on July 24

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): Number of immigrants is now increasing with 16 reports in July, ten of them between July 19 and 24 including one seen on the Hayling Coastal Path on July 20

Hoary Footman (2045 Eilema caniol): First at Horsham on July 25

Pigmy Footman (2046 Eilema pygmaeola): The first report came from Rye Harbour on July 21 (though this moth was said to have been seen 'recently' before that date)

Four-spotted Footman (2051 Lithosia quadra): First trapped in the St Leonard's area of Hastings on July 20

White-line Dart (2081 Euxoa tritici): First at Pagham Harbour on July 24

Beautiful Yellow Underwing (2142 Anarta myrtilli): First in Pamber Forest (north of Basingstoke) on July 22

Southern Wainscot (2197 Mythimna straminea): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Star-wort (2217 Cucullia asteris): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Reed Dagger (2290 Simyra albovenosa): First at Portland on July 25

Old Lady (2300 Mormo maura): First in Pamber Forest (north of Basingstoke) on July 22

The Olive (2312 Ipimorpha subtusa): First at Horsham on July 25

Cloaked Minor (2341 Mesoligia furuncula): First at Pagham Harbour on July 24

Large Wainscot (2375 Rhizedra lutosa): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Fen Wainscot (2377 Arenostola phragmitidis): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Small Rufous (2379 Coenobia rufa): First at Pagham Harbour on July 22

Dewick's Plusia (2436 Macdunnoughia confusa): First in the Thanet area of Kent on July 23 (also at Portland on July 25)

Other Insects

Rhyssa persuasoria: Females of this large Ichneumon Fly have a long needle-like ovipositor with which it bores deep into wood to lay its eggs on the skin of a Horntail (aka Wood Wasp) grub. Unlike those parasitic insects which lay their eggs within the host, and whose larva eat the insides of the host, Rhyssa is described as an ecto-parasite implying that its eggs and larvae remain outside the host but which (like a blood sucking tick on your skin) still cause harm to the host.

Carpenter Bee (Xylocopa violacea): The first of these large brightly coloured migrant bees with brightly coloured (violet) wings was seen at Dungeness on July 22

Stag Beetle: Although the first surge of reports of these came between May 26 and June 19 there has been another sighting of a female on July 19 at the Testwood Lakes (Southampton) - these beetles can survive until autumn frosts kill them off though they are normally predated by Crows, Magpies or cars well before then.

Glow-worm: 30 of these were seen on Portsdown in the Fort Purbrook area on the night of July 26

Grasshoppers: Search of the grass at Durlston on July 26 found three grasshopper species (Common Field, Common Green and Stripe-winged)

Short-winged Conehead (Conocephalus dorsalis): An adult female, complete with the long rapier like ovipositor (with which she cuts a slit into a plant stem before allowing one or more of her eggs to slide down the tube within the ovipositor to a safe place within the plant stem), was found in Brook Meadow at Emsworth on July 20 (first report I have seen this year)

Long Winged Conehead (Conocephalus discolor): Found at Durlston on July 26 - I believe it is this species rather than the Short-winged Conehead which has greatly extended its range in recent years and can now be found far inland away from coastal marshes

Grey Bush-cricket (Platycleis albopunctata): First reported find at Durlston on July 26

Roesel's Bush Cricket (Metrioptera roeselii): First report for the year comes from Dungeness on July 20

Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi): First report came from the Isle of Wight (Newtown Harbour) on July 24 and on July 25 I found seven of them in a cluster on the north side of the main avenue at Stansted Forest


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Sea Rocket (Cakile maritima): Flowering at Black Point on Hayling on July 22 - surprisingly this is the first entry for the year in my database though this plant is normally flowering in June (and I seem to recall seeing that Brian Fellows had already found it this year)

Hairy St John's Wort: Looking very similar to the Square Stalked St Jphn's Wort of marshy places found earlier this species of dry woodland was flowering in Stansted Forest on July 25

Trailing St John's Wort: I only saw this for the first time in Stansted Forest on July 25 though it has probably been flowering for some time

Early Dog Violet: I was very surprised on July 20 to find a good number of flowers open on the plants in the Havant Eastern road cemetery where they were flowering from Jan 31 to Apr 11

Corn Cockle: Some of these are reported to be flowering on disturbed soil alongside Southmoor Lane in the Brockhampton area of Havant - I am pretty sure they will have been introduced (either accidentally or by sowing wildflower seed) as I do not think this area has ever been cultivated as arable fields.

Upright Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica): My first sight of this flowering was in Stansted Forest on July 25

Burnet Saxifrage: The first flowers had been reported at Durlston on July 14 and I found quite a few plants flowering in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on July 20

Rock Samphire: This has certainly been in flower for some time but I did not record it until July 22 on the Hayling shore

Sea Holly: This had only recently started to flower when I was at the Sandy/Black Point shore of Hayling on July 22

Sea Knotgrass: This was already flowering at Sandy Point on Hayling when I was there on May 22 and the plants were still covered with fresh flowers on July 22.

Ray's Knotgrass: I have always been uncertain about the identification of this plant but am pretty certain I found some flowering on the shore outside Sandy Point on July 22

Russian Vine: This was in full flower locally by July 20

Ling heather: Just starting to flower in the old Hospital Grounds at Sandy Point on Hayling when I was there on July 22

Rottingdean Sea-lavender (Limonium hyblaeum): This was flowering at Rye Harbour, where it has only recenlty become established, on July 22. It is also long established at Rottingdean but is apparently only native to the Scilly Isles in Britain.

Dark Mullein: This must have been flowering for some time but my first find of it was at Stansted Forest on July 25

Common Hemp Nettle: Also first flowers seen in Stansted Forest on July 25

Wild Basil: Flowering in Stansted on July 25

Marjoram: Masses in flower at Stansted on July 25

Hoary Ragwort: This was starting to flower at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on July 23

Sea Aster: First flowers seen by the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour on July 26

Hemp Agrimony: Flowering at Langstone Mill Pond on July 24

Dwarf Thistle: Flowering at Durlston on July 25

Narrow-leaved Water Plantain: This can still be found in the Westbrook Stream at Emsworth and one plant had started to flower on July 20

Broad-leaved Helleborine: 130 plants counted along Sheepwash Lane at Hazelton Common (north of Waterlooville) on July 23 - presumably some of them in flower

Violet Helleborine: Flowers in bud on plants at one Stansted Forest site (but no plants to be found at two other sites on the estate where they have been seen in recent years)


Nothing of significance this week

Summary for July 14 - 20 (Week 28 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Waders have now been moving for some time but this week we begin to see our summer passerines starting to leave us with Wheatear and Willow Warbler newly back at coastal sites and Redstart, Whinchat, Yellow Wagtail and Great Spotted Woodpecker also on the move. Bird news also includes some thoughts on the life of a Swift (and the death of a Sparrowhawk). Going back to the shore birds Snipe are now appearing on the shore, as are small groups of Golden Plover, and Hampshire has its first autumn Wood Sandpiper. Oddities include an unseasonal Great Northern Diver and a 'blonde' baby Cormorant in a nest at the Blashford Lakes

The first Migrant Hawker and Ruddy Darter dragonflies are now airborne and a rare Lesser Emperor has been seen in Kent. A total of 35 butterfly species were reported in the week including an unexpected new Grizzled Skipper among the summer broods of Green Veined White, Holly Blue, Small Copper, Wall Brown and Common Blue. A Large Tortoiseshell and a Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth were surprises in Sussex where Grayling are now on the wing. Best moth was probably a Bedstraw Hawk at Rye Harbour but Kent has news of a Yellow V Moth previously only found in the Scilly Isles and of Small Ranunculus (until recently extinct in Britain). An unusual observation in the New Forest was of Brown China-Mark moths 'walking on water'

At Havant Thicket Dwarf Gorse was flowering earlier than expected, as was Black Nightshade in Havant. Other new summer flowers include Clustered Bellflower and Common Valerian, Ploughman's Spikenard and Carline Thistle, Sneezewort and Water Mint. Also reported was Violet Helleborine but it was not clear if it was yet in flower.

Other Wildlife has the first sighting of a Basking Shark in our central part of the Channel plus a find of a rare Devil's Fingers fungus near Midhurst


(Skip to Insects)

Great Northern Diver: One was seen off Christchurch Harbour on July 16, a very unusual date for the species (I think it was flying east). Another unusual recent report was of a Red-throated Diver off north Kent on July 1.

White-billed Diver: For twitchers looking for a summer holiday a summer plumaged adult White-billed Diver was on offer in the Orkneys (South Ronaldsay) on July 14

Storm Petrel: The recent spate of sightings seems to have dried up with just one new report of three Petrels off Christchurch Harbour on July 14

Gannet: On July 15 more than 300 were off Selsey Bill as they had been on July 11. On July 19 the number off Selsey was thought to exceed 500 and another estimated 500 were fishing off Christchurch Harbour that same day. Perhaps more unusual was the sight of 140 off the north Kent coast at Seasalter on July 18, when around 250 off the west Solent

Cormorant: Bob Chapman has a real 'ugly duckling' on offer at the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood - in a Cormorant's nest there the only youngster is a pale leucistic specimen, not the standard black

Cattle Egret: In early April there are said to have been 33 of these in Britain (19 together in Cornwall and possibly breeding) but nothing has been heard of any of them since June 1 (other than an unconfirmed report of one at Farlington Marshes on June 23) but now we have a report of one flying south over the Dorset coast at Swyre Head (another name for Durdle Dor, just west of Lulworth). Since that report in mid-week I have heard of one being seen at Radipole (Weymouth) on July 18 and another being seen flying away from the Sidlesham Ferry pool (Pagham Harbour) on July 19

Little Egret: While checking details of the Northward Hill reserve on the RSPB website I noticed that the site is supposed to have the largest breeding colony of Little Egrets in Britain (50+ pairs nesting with 150+ prs of Grey Heron). Not sure of which year that claim refers to but I see that a flock of 77 Egrets was on the shore of the Swale estuary at Oare Marshes north of Faversham, a long way east of Northward Hill on the Isle of Grain near Rochester. Here in Hampshire I gather that there are three Egret breeding sites (Elson Wood at Gosport, Langstone pond, and another un-named site). Locally 37 birds were at Langstone pond sometime during July 16 and I counted 28 juveniles (and no adults) at Langstone Mill Pond during low tide on the evening of July 17 (presumably all the adults were away fishing, as they normally would be, but the youngsters have not yet plucked up the courage to leave) - this number of young helps to validate my guess of up to a dozen pairs having bred there this year.

Grey Heron: Latest report of a Heron forcing an oversize meal down its throat come from Pulborough Brooks on July 16 when one caught and (eventually) swallowed a near full grown Mallard duckling (whose legs were seen to be still desperately paddling away as they vanished from sight)

White Stork: One was seen in the Sopley area north of Christchurch and just south of the Avon Causeway on July 19 by a taxi driver taking a fare to Bournemouth airport - the driver could not stop for a better look but others have since reported the bird to be staying in the area

Spoonbill: On July 14 Lee Evans reported a total of 18 birds currently in Britain (including 7 in Poole Harbour and 6 at Cley in Norfolk with singles elsewhere). One of the singles was on the Lymington shore on July 19 carrying colour rings showing that is the same bird that was there from Mar 11 to May 10, but it is a different bird to that which was at Lymington on July 5. On July 19 all seven birds were still in Poole Harbour and another juvenile was at Brading Marshes on the IoW having arrived on the Island on July 18

Pochard: Quite a few of these remain to breed in southern counties but a report of three pairs arriving at Weir Wood reservoir in north Sussex on July 15 and of two birds flying west along the north Kent coast on July 18 seems to show that birds that bred abroad are already returning.

Honey Buzzard: A sighting of two passing over a garden in the Thanet area of Kent on July 18 suggests that autumn passage may now be underway. I also hear this week that a pair have bred this year to the north of the Sussex Downs not too far from the Hampshire border

Sparrowhawk: I have just been sent a really gruesome picture of a juvenile Sparrowhawk which had come to a very nasty end in a local Havant garden. The sender suggested the hawk had flown into something and broken its neck, fallen to the ground, and then had its heart neatly removed though a hole drilled into the back of the hawk - possibly the work of a Magpie. The pictures show the hawk on the ground, wings outstretched and neck twisted back so that the beak rested on its back just in front of the gaping bloody hole through which part of its innards had been removed. I could not come up with a better suggestion but I did add a quote from a recent contribution to the Hoslist internet newsgroup (not, I think, applicable to a suburban garden in Havant but nevertheless interesting) which emphasised the fact that all raptors are in the business of killing other birds. The quote came from Lee Evans, and read ..

"Some raptors do a lot more damage to bird populations than some people realise and perhaps none more damaging than Montagu's Harriers. Once a male Montagu's finds a nest (perhaps of Corn Bunting, Yellow Wagtail, Meadow Pipit, Grey Partridge or Woodlark) and is feeding young, he returns time and time again until he has taken each and every nestling. I have observed this behaviour on many occasions, particularly of the pairs that nest near me in the Home Counties. Yellow Wagtails have been virtually wiped out from my area.

Northern Goshawks are even more dangerous and totally obliterate bird populations in a radius of a nest site. Not only do they take many fledglings, they also kill many adult birds that stray into their territory (not for food, but for territorial reasons) and do not tolerate Eurasian Sparrowhawks. Last year, I witnessed a Goshawk blind and scramble a female Honey Buzzard to the ground in the New Forest, the buzzard never seen again and presumed killed".

Peregrine: I think the pair which breed on Chichester Cathedral normally adjourn to Pagham Harbour after the young have fledged but a reported sighting at Pagham on July 19 seems to show that the family has split up by now (and maybe reveal the cause of the spilt). At the start of June there were four young close to fledging in the cathedral nest and I have heard no more of them until this report of a family of two adults and two juveniles seen together at a kill on the shore of Pagham Harbour on July 19 - the report claimed that a dominant juvenile drive the adult male off the kill, and this may suggest that the observer was mistaken and that the four birds were all juveniles which may have stayed together while the adults have left them to enjoy a well earned rest from family squabbles.

Avocet: A pair has bred this year at the Selsey West Fields RSPB reserve in West Sussex - the pair hatched four chicks on June 24 and the young left the nest area on July 14. The first pair to breed in the county in recent years did so in the West Wittering area in 1996 and a second pair nest at Sidlesham Ferry in 2003 - this year's pair are only the third to do so

Golden Plover: A returning adult was seen in the Thanet area of Kent on July 15 but the first flocks are not expected on the south coast until mid-August - having written that in mid-week I see that a flock of 12 arrived in the Thanet area of Kent on July 17, and on that same day there were three at the Pett Pools and another four at Rye Harbour

Lapwing: A sudden influx brought 750 to Sandwich Bay on July 16 and 30 were at Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour) on July 19

White-rumped Sandpiper: Lee Evans latest bulletin of rarity news lists one as being at Minsmere in Norfolk for its third day on July 13

Pectoral Sandpiper: One at Elmley Marshes (Sheppey) on July 13, another at Swineham Point in Poole Harbour on July 17 to 19 and a third report from Dungeness RSPB reserve on July 20

Common Snipe: The last report of the 'winter' came from Christchurch Harbour on May 1 and the first to arrive back on the south coast was seen at Christchurch on July 17 with 'first back' reports from the Lymington area and Pulborough Brooks both on Jly 19

Black-tailed Godwit: Another Thames esturary reserve at which Blackwit numbers have been building up recently is Northward Hill on the Isle of Grain north of Rochester. Counts there have been 352 birds on July 10 and 430 on July 13 with a count of 425 on July 15 at the Oare Marshes north of Faversham. Since writing that in mid-week Oare Marshes has reported a dramatic sighting of 900 birds all put up by a Peregrine on July 17. In Hampshire a flock of 120 was back at the Lymington Marshes on July 16 while a flock building up at Sidlesham Ferry had grown to 36 birds on July 19 - also seen on that day were 14 birds at Pulborough, four of those flying on south to show that they regard Pulborough as a staging post and not a destination.

Redshank: By July 17 a flock of 80 were back in Emsworth Harbour with another 72 at Sidlesham Ferry

Lesser Yellowlegs: Lee Evans current rarity list shows one of these in Suffolk on July 13 plus a Terek Sandpiper in Cumbria that same day.

Wood Sandpiper: The first autumn bird in Hampshire was at Lymington on July 18 and 19

Mediterranean Gull: These are well known for preferring to feed inland rather than at the water's edge on the coast, and so now they are free of domestic duties at coastal nests many can be found inland by day - John Shillitoe found a flock of 56 feeding at a piggery in the Hoe Cross area near Hambledon (Meon Valley) on July 14

Common Gull: Four were back at Fishbourne on the Isle of Wight by July 18

Roseate Tern: One has been at Rye Harbour from July 13 to 15 while others have been seen at Titchfield Haven on July 13 and Selsey Bill on July 15. By July 16 three birds were at Brownsea Island in Pooles Harbour and by July 19 there were two (maybe three) at Titchfield Haven.

Little Tern: It would seem that these have now abandoned attempts at breeding and are heading back south. All tern species use the entrances to our Solent harbours as good places to spend their nights when on passage and by July 13 up to 140 Little Terns had been recorded at Black Point on Hayling (with a bonus of a single juvenile being seen passing Hayling Bay on July 17 - where did that one come from?)

White-winged Black Tern: One has been at Rye Harbour on July 14 and still there on July 19 (it may have been there since July 12)

Puffin: Just one was seen from Portland on July 15, the first to get a mention on the south coast since one was off the Purbeck coast on June 14 though a very few do breed there and 5 were seen from a boat trip round Durlston Head on May 30. Thereafter Portland reported singles on July 16 and 17 with 2 seen there on July 19

Cuckoo: Two birds were still to be heard calling on the north Kent coast as late as July 17

Swift: Looking back through my records since 2000 to try to measure the apparent decline in the number of local breeding Swifts I realised how difficult it is to get an overall measure of their breeding success. Unlike most bird species where the parent birds stay around the nest area and can with luck be seen going towards the nest carrying material or food, and whose offspring will usually be seen in the nest area for a few days after fledging if they have not already been seen or heard in the nest, Swifts leave very few clues as to exactly how many nests they have in an area, and very few people ever see a juvenile Swift well enough to distinguish it from an adult.

There was an exception to this this week when one youngster failed to get airborne at the first attempt and ended up on the ground - once there the short legs and long wings make it impossible to get airborne but this one was lucky enough to be rescued and spent a night in a cardboard box before being thrown up into the air next morning - that was all that was needed.

The first difficulty in evaluating Swift breeding success is that, while we may see and hear Swifts dashing around our houses, their speed of entry to their nest is such that you are very unlikely to see one actually enter a nest, and even if they are carrying food for young it is not easy to see the swollen throat which is the only clue. Another confusing factor is the ability of the young and eggs of this species to survive the absence of the parent birds for two or more days during periods of bad weather (giving the impression to a regular watcher that the nest has been deserted) - and when the young do emerge from the nest you have at most a couple of seconds from the time they appear at the entrance to the nest to the moment when they have flown out of sight (never to touch the ground again for perhaps their first two years during which they feed, sleep and eventually mate on the wing).

Their skill, speed and stamina at flying allow them to think nothing of crossing the channel to collect food to bring back to any young, and this same habit of wide-ranging flight introduces other complications in assessing breeding numbers. It is my understanding that, during the summer months when the Swifts are in northern latitudes, the great majority of the birds are at all times somewhere in the air above us, only coming down to the heights at which we can see and hear them in special circumstances. I suspect that non-breeding birds can normally find enough insect food above 3,000 metres, and will only come down when they are aware of a particular feast available in e.g. a wetland where flies are just emerging en masse, though inquisitive youngsters in their pre-breeding year will also come down to find out what their elders are up to down at their nests, giving rise to the screaming parties we see on some evenings (doubling or trebling the number of apparently breeding birds that we see on more normal evenings).

Two of the new reports I have seen this week were of (i) a screaming party of at least 16 birds high over my garden on the evening of July 15, matching (ii) a report of 18 birds over Emsworth that same evening, apparently increasing the number of 'local birds' at each site from a maximum of 8 seen so far this year to a new figure of 18. One interpretation of this was that the increase was due to the fledging of local young, another was that the additional birds had just 'dropped in' from above to interact briefly with one group of breeding birds in Havant and then with another group in Emsworth (the interaction being in the 'screaming').

Other reports during the week show the large numbers of birds circulating above us - on July 17 a stream of 730 flew southwest over Thanet and 120 went over Dungeness; on July 18 Sandwich Bay estimated 2000 birds over there with 200+ over Reculver (north Kent) and 870 over Dungeness. In the past I recall reading how one Hampshire birder happened to be gazing skyward with his binoculars at this time of year and suddenly realised that the whole sky from horizon to horizon held a broad line of Swifts all moving in the same direction but so high up that he would never have been able to see them with his naked eye. I suspect the reason that most of the reports of large numbers on the move come from coastal bird observatories is because the birders there are continually scanning the skies for migrants whereas the majority of other birders don't spend their time scanning empty skies.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: The appearance this week of 'out of place' birds at Portland, Dungeness and Reculver on the north Kent coast shows that post breeding dispersal is under way.

Yellow Wagtail: Dungeness started to report these passing over on July 11 and by July 18 they had been seen moving on five days with a peak day count of 10 so far

Robin: When did you last see a Robin? Their song ceased locally on June 24 and I do not have any record of seeing one (or even hearing it 'ticking') since then. I am pretty sure there are plenty of them still around but keeping a very low profile during their moult. Last year their song ceased locally on June 19 but I heard one singing briefly at dusk from July 4 onwards with several singing their autumn song by the end of the month so it may be worth a stroll around at dusk when the strong winds die down next week.

Common Redstart: A juvenile had been seen moving south in the Avon valley on July 12 and July 19 brought two separate sightings of birds on the Sussex Downs, already moving south

Whinchat: Just two birds have been seen on the coast since the beginning of June - one turned up on the Isle of Wight on July 4 and now a second has been seen at Amberley Wild Brooks (south of Pulborough) on July 13. Since writing that in mid-week passage birds have been seen at three more sites on July 16 and 18

Wheatear: What seems to have been the first migrant to be spotted on the south coast this autumn was a bird at Durlston on July 18

Willow Warbler: Portland reported the first bird back at the coast there on July 15 with three present by July 18 when both Durlston and Dungeness had their first passage birds. On July 19 a group of 8 were seen on the Sussex Downs.

Willow Tit: These are effectively extinct in most of Hampshire though there are (probably) a few pairs still breeding in the north of the county. Last year at least three pairs were breeding at Hurstbourne Common near Andover and there were also reports from the Hannington and Overton areas west of Basingstoke. This year we heard of one bird singing in the Test Valley near Mottisfont on Apr 11 and now (July 14) an experienced birder has been surprised to come across two family groups within a couple of miles of each other, also near Basingstoke but in unlikely territory just east of the M3 Popham interchange (though not far from the Candover valley)

Crossbill: Numbers seem to be increasing with a report this week of a flock of 40 or more seen on July 14 going over the village of Ashurst (on the edge of the New Forest as you head from Totton to Lyndhurst). In Sussex two smaller flocks were seen on July 13 - 17 near the coast at Seaford and 9 over the Downs south of Pulborough. Ten more reports have been made from July 16 to 19 with numbers ranging from 1 at Portland to 11 at Folkestone, 16 at Arne and 18 over Thanet.


(Skip to Plants)


Southern Hawker: Early reports were of one emerging locally on June 13 and of two seen on the Isle of Wighton June 24 but July is the month in which they become more commonly seen and we now have reports from the Hastings area on July 1, from Sandwich Bay on July 8 and from Langstone on July 11

Migrant Hawker: Although some of this species do reach us as migrants I think the majority nowadays emerge from English ponds but we may have started their season with a mixture of these modes - the first report came from Sandwich Bay (migrants?) on July 13 but on July 14 a fresh exuvia (discarded larval skin) found at Rye Harbour showed that the species had started to emerge there.

Lesser Emperor (Anax parthenope): A report from Sandwich Bay on July 12 was the first for the year (and a new species for that site). Both my recent Dragonfly Books (Steve Brooks, published 1997, and Dan Powell, published 1999) say that there are only three British records for this normally southern European species (all found in 1996 and 97 in Gloucestershire, Cornwall and Cambridgeshire). Since then a search of the internet shows that one was found in Ireland in 2000 and that the British National Biodiversity Network now has reports of the species from nearly 100 Ten Km squares scattered across Britain (north to the Lake District and with at least one in south Wales). It is known to have bred in Cornwall but other reports are treated as vagrants.

Ruddy Darter: First for the year at Sandwich Bay on July 10


35 species reported in this week's news

Grizzled Skipper: These are normally over by the end of June so the sighting of a fresh individual a Durlston on July 12 was of special interest

Green-veined White: A very fresh specimen in my garden on July 16 was a reminder that the summer brood are now due out though reports seem to show that they have been emerging since the start of July. Since writing that in mid-week I see that this species appeared at four other sites in July 16 including a count of 10 in the Boarhunt woods north west of Portsdown

Purple Hairstreak: A count of more than 30 in public open spaces within Totton (Southampton) shows how important such urban spaces are for wildlife - only one rural site could match this count during this summer and none have exceeded it

Small Copper: Although fresh specimens have been reported sporadically since June 13 the real start of the summer brood seems to have been on July 16 with reports from four different sites including a count of 10 at Stockbridge Down

Common Blue: The first two of the second brood appeared at Roydon Woods (Lymington) on July 16

Chalkhill Blue: July 16 also brought out many of these with more than 50 being seen on Stockbridge Down

Holly Blue: One in Brian Fellows' Emsworth garden on July 14 must have been a fresh summer brood insect and these may have started to emerge as early as June 20 (when one was seen after a three week gap in reports).July 15 saw several fresh specimens at Shoreham and more were reported from four sites on July 16

Painted Lady: A small run of recent reports started with a sighting on July 8 (Thorney Island) and continued with one at Durlston on July 12, Pulborough Brooks on July 13, and then with three reports on July 14 (two seen in Havant Thicket, one nearby in Cosham, and one at Testwood Lakes at Southampton) but none since ...

Large Tortoiseshell: One clearly seen and photographed at Windover Hill (north of Eastbourne) on July 14 but not seen again since - presumably a migrant.

Comma: Most people will have seen these recently but a mass emergence of more than 33 at the Southampton Testwood Lakes on July 10 is worthy of note.

Dark Green Fritillary: A report of more than 50 seen at Martin Down on July 14 shows that there are plenty currently on the wing, and on that same day I almost certainly saw one flying over the Gipsies Plain south of Havant Thicket - several Silver Washed Fritillaries were seen in woodland glades but their relatively slow, floating flight is unlike the high speed dashing 'tiger like' flight of the similar looking butterfly seen racing over the grassland.

Heath Fritillary: There may be a difference of opinion between butterfly enthusiasts in Hampshire and those in east Kent where one was so keen to see a single rare and elusive White Admiral that he complained about "having to wade through swarms of tatty Heath Fritillaries" in the Blean Woods near Canterbury before seeing just one White Admiral.

Wall Brown: One seen at Durlston on July 16 was the first I have seen mentioned anywhere since June 4, and as such probably the start of the summer brood. Since that report there have been two more sightings at Durlston and at Edburton Hill on the Sussex Downs

Grayling: The first report for the year came from Durlston on July 4 with no others until July 11 when 8 were seen on the Browndown shore (west of Gosport) followed by a report from Portland on July 12 and from New Forest heathland on July 14 - it should now be worth looking for them on south Hayling when the sun shines. July 16 brought reports from two New Forest sites and from Windover Hill near Eastbourne (where Sussex people celebrate an annual Grayling festival that seems to have got mixed up with rites associated with the Holy Grail).

Gatekeeper: These have been slow to get going this summer but the sunshine on July 14 at last brought them out in good numbers (I even had the first in my garden!)


Yellow V Moth (0277 Oinophila v-flava): This moth is at its northern limit in southern Britain and while it can be found outdoors in the Scillies it is normally only found indoors (after hitching a lift) elsewhere here so one found in Thanet (Kent) on July 16 was exciting

Caloptilia hauderi (0295 ): Also found in Thanet on July 16 - this and all following moths are firsts for the year unless otherwise stated

Acrocercops brongniardella (0313 ): Also found in Thanet on July 17

Argyresthia goedartella (0411 ): Also found in Thanet on July 16

Yponomeuta sedella (0431 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 13

Aethes rubigana (0946 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 13

Cochylis flaviciliana (0963 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 15

Cochylis molliculana (0964a ): Trapped at Pagham on July 16

Cnephasia conspersana (1019 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 15

Epiblema foenella (1183 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 14

Pammene fasciana (1236 ): Found at Thanet shortly before July 15

Agriphila straminella (1304 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 16

Agriphila geniculae (1309 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 16

Eudonia mercurella (1344 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 13

Brown China-mark (1345 Nymphula nymphaeta): Not a first (that was seen on June 7) but an interesting report of these moths deliberately choosing to rest on the surface of a small New Forest stream. Andy Barker, who saw them, wrote on the Hamshire Butterfly Conservation website .. "A particularly interesting aspect of their behaviour was that on several occasions they were seen to land on the surface of the water, out of choice. They would rest "pond skater style" for periods of up to at least a minute, before taking off again. Usually when moths get in water they're in trouble, but for this attractive pyralid it is clearly light enough that it doesn't break the meniscus of the water and has wings that don't easy get water-logged".

Ebulea crocealis (1385 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 14

Yellow Pearl (1396 Mecyna flavalis): Found in hundreds on July 16 at Windover Hill north of Eastbourne though a great rarity elsewhere

Gold Triangle (1413 Hypsopygia costalis): Trapped at Pagham on July 13

Trachycera marmorea (1440 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 13

Pempelia genistella (1443 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 15

Euzophera pinguis (1470 ): Trapped at Pagham on July 13

Sussex Emerald (1672 Thalera fimbrialis): Four more examples of this coastal rarity were seen on the Dungeness shingle on July 13

Small Blood-vein (1690 Scopula imitaria): Trapped at Pagham on July 15

Chalk Carpet (1731 Scotopteryx bipunctaria cretata): Seen at Windowver Hill by day on July 16

The Fern (1782 Horisme tersata): Trapped at Dungeness on July 15

Channel Islands Pug (1855a Eupithecia ultimaria): Trapped at Pagham on July 12

Tawny-barred Angle (1893 Semiothisa liturata): Trapped at Portland on July 16

September Thorn (1915 Ennomos erosaria): Trapped at Pulborough Brooks on July 15

Narrow-bordered Bee Hawkmoth (1982 Hemaris tityus): Seen in a Brighton garden on July 18 (98% certain!)

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): As with the Painted Lady butterflies there has at last been a slight indication of a migrant influx with reports from points scattered along the south coast from Eastbourne to Durlston on July 12, 13 and 15

Bedstraw Hawkmoth (1987 Hyles Gallii): One at Rye Harbour on July 16

Buff Footman (2049 Eilema deplana): Trapped at Pulborough Brooks on July 15

Langmaid's Yellow Underwing (2110a Noctua janthina): Trapped in Thanet on July 17

Small Ranunculus (2165 Hecatera dysodea): Trapped at Thanet on July 14 - this was extinct in Britain until recently but is now being found where its larval foodplant (lettuce) in grown in Kent

The Clay (2193 Mythimna ferrago): First for the year reported at Durlston on July 16

Tree-lichen Beauty (2292 Cryphia algae): Trapped at Thanet on July 16

Marbled Green (2295 Cryphia muralis): Trapped at Pagham on July 15

Svensson's Copper Underwing (2298 Amphipyra berbera): Trapped at Pulborough Brooks on July 15

Scarce Silver-lines (2421 Bena prasinana): Trapped at Pulborough Brooks on July 15

Plumed Fanfoot (2488a Pechipogo plumigeralis): Found at Thanet on July 17

Other Insects

Glow-worm: At least 20 were seen in Havant Thicket on the evening of July 16


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Traveller's Joy (Old Man's Beard): First flowers open in Havant on July 15

Annual Wall Rocket: First flowers open in Havant on July 15

Halberd-leaved Orache (Atriplex hastata): This common species described under this name by Francis Rose has now been re-named Spear-leaved Orache (Atriplex prostrata) and the original is delared to be illegal. Whatever its name it is now starting to flower in so far as any Goosefoot does 'flower'.

Dwarf Gorse: I do not expect to find this in flower until August but several plants were in flower on July 14 when I visited the Havant Thicket area.

Yellow-flowered Strawberry: The plants in the roadside grass of Juniper Square in Havant had several bright red (but rock hard) fruits as well as a few yellow flowers on July 15

Stone Parsley: Several plants had their first tiny white flowers open in Havant on July 15

Burnet Saxifrage: First flowers reported by Durlston on July 14

Pepper Saxifrage: Also flowering at Durlston on July 14

Lesser Water Parsnip: Plants in the Lymbourne stream where it passed Wade Court at Langstone were in full flower on July 19

Black Nightshade: One plant flowering in Havant St Faith's churchyard on July 15 was the first for the year (ignoring the oddity at Warblington flowering in the winter)

Water Mint: First flowers at Emsworth on July 18

Clustered Bellflower: First report comes from John Goodspeed who found it on the Sussex Downs at Kingley Vale on July 11

Common Valerian: First flowers also seen at Kingley Vale on July 11

Canadian Goldenrod: First flowers of plants long established in the wild at Emsworth seen on July 15

Ploughman's Spikenard: First report of flowering from Durlston on July 17

Canadian Fleabane: Unlike the Guernsey Fleabane which never seems to stop flowering I noticef fresh flowers on Canadian Fleabane for the first time on July 15

Sneezewort: Several plants flowering on the Gipsies Plain at Rowlands Castle on July 14 - probably had been out for at least a week.

Woolly thistle (Cirsium eriophorum): One of these huge plants was in flower at Durlston on July 17

Carline Thistle: Another first from Durlston on July 17

Hawkweed (Hieracium ) species: Two apparently different types, both with many leaves up the stem but with varying degrees of hairiness, in the Havant Thicket area on July 14

Orange Hawkweed (aka Fox and Cubs): Fine examples flowering by the gateposts of the entrance gate to the Havant Thicket carpark on July 14

Violet Helleborine: First report of (presumably) flowering plants comes from the Ebernoe Common church site north of Midhurst on July 12


Basking Shark: The first to be reported at Portland this year was seen there on July 15

Fungus: A superb fresh example of Devil's Fingers (Clathrus archeri) 'stinkhorn type' was photographed in the Midhurst area on July 13 (Photo can be seen on Brian Fellows' website at http://www.emsworthwildlife.com/0-101-devils-fingers-midhurst-TW-13.07.08.jpg ). This is a different species from the similar Red Cage (Clathrus ruber) - C. archeri opens into a 'red starfish' whereas C. ruber forms a lattice cage. In the USA C. archeri is given the name Octopus fungus but in Britain, where it is thought to have arrived in 1914 from New Zealand in a cargo of military supplies for the First World War, it is called Devil's Fingers (use this name to see pictures of it in Google Images - that set of pictures includes one of a human hand making an unusual two finger gesture which seemingly goes by the same name!). I think this is the first time Clathrus archeri has been found in our area but Clathrus ruber has been found in the past on the Isle of Wight and several good specimens came up in a Cosham garden in Nov 2006 (and one opened at Durlston in May 2007)

Summary for July 7 - 13 (Week 27 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

High winds have increased the sightings of Storm Petrels and Shearwaters (including possible Cory's and Sooty) along the Channel coast as winter birds start to show there (e.g. Wigeon, Common Gulls and Shags). The winds also seem to have scattered Black-tailed Godwits returning from Iceland but large flocks are now starting to assemble in our harbours. New passage birds include Black-necked Grebe and Wood Sandpiper, and departing migrants include Golden Oriole. Something I learnt from this week's news is that some juvenile Shelduck appear to accompany the adults to their moult area on the north German coast. Recent news includes some interesting comments on the contrasting breeding success of Little Terns and Mediterranean Gulls. There is also some good news of Corn Buntings, at least in Sussex.

Moth news includes the emergence of the dreaded Brown-tail and good news of Scarlet Tigers doing well in Eastbourne gardens when they were thought to be extinct in the county's countryside. Local butterfly news has the first Painted Lady of the year to be seen on Thorney Island (though others have been seen sporadically elsewhere) while two Clouded Yellows have been seen at Portland and a minor influx of Silver Y moths has been noted in Kent. The Hastings area continues to boast of its success with providing habitat for insects that are uncommon elsewhere in Britain. Among other insects we have news of the appearance of adult Grasshoppers and Bush Crickets (including the Great Green which may be found on Portsdown)

Plant news includes a find of Least Yellow Sorrel growing through tarmac in a tiny Emsworth urban garden and Pencilled Cranesbill in Havant roadside grass near where Blue Pimpernel is said to be a common garden weed. A mass of flowering Chicory and a plant of Phacelia tanacetifolia were good finds in Warblington cemetery extension with Dropwort flowering in the uncultivated Warblington farmhouse garden The first Autumn Hawkbit is a sign of the passing season.

Other Wildlife includes a Thresher Shark and a Sunfish off Portland and a couple of Hares successfully 'crossing the road' during the Silverstone Grand Prix


(Skip to Insects)

Black-necked Grebe: A summer plumaged bird was seen on Ibsley Water at Ringwood on July 5 but could not be found there next day so presumably it had just stopped off for a rest on its autumn passage journey to an unknown destination - the last report of one at this site was on Mar 21.

Cory's Shearwater: There were unconfirmed reports of one off Portland on both July 6 and 7. On July 6 there was also a report of two 'possible' Cory's off Worthing

Sooty Shearwater: One of these was also reported off Portland on July 6 but not confirmed

Manx Shearwater: Plenty of these around all week with a peak of 330 seen from Portland on July 7 and 20 as far east as Dungeness

Baleric Shearwater: Also seen daily with a peak count of 30 at Portland on July 7

Storm Petrel: Watchers at Christchurch Harbour logged 75 or more passing on July 8 when at least two were seen from Sandy Point on Hayling - that was just the high point of continuing daily sightings of these Petrels and of Balearic and Manx Shearwaters

Gannet: Peak count of 680 off Dungeness on July 12 but more than 300 off Selsey Bill on July 11

Shag: Several were newly back from breeding to be seen at Christchurch Harbour on July 8 and singles were reported at Selsey and Dungeness during the week

Little Egret: Numbers in coastal roosts increase at this time of year as adults and juveniles leave their nest sites. Rye Harbour commented on this but the numbers leaving that roost on July 10 were only 27 against a minimal count of 20 there on May 24. Also on July 10 the high tide count at Langstone Pond was at least 28, including at least 5 juveniles - I guess these were all birds that have bred there but now none are around nests in the trees - they were either around the pond edge or on the adjacent pony field.

Grey Heron: Some minor post-breeding dispersion with reports of singles going south across the Channel from both Christchurch and Portland on July 12.

Spoonbill: The last report of a group of five in Poole Harbour was on June 28 after five or six had been regularly seen there from May 5 to June 15. It seemed they had dispersed but on July 12 a group of 7 were reported there - the bird which showed up on the Lymington shore on July 5 was probably one of this group which have now re-united.

Shelduck: The majority of these have probably now left for their summer moult on the north east German coast. Reports of 544 at the Cliffe Pools (southwest of Sheppey in the Thames estuary) and 400+ there on July 7 probably indicate that this RSPB reserve acts as a staging post where some birds assemble before crossing the North Sea. I suspect that our South Coast birds have a different route but nevertheless feel the call to move at the same time - in Langstone Harbour Jason Crook noted parties of Shelduck flying purposefully east over the Hayling Oysterbeds on both July 8 (12 birds) and July 10 (27 birds including 2 juveniles). I had previously assumed that only adults made this journey, the young remaining here in groups made up of the young of several different pairs with just one or two adults left as 'supervisors' - this does happen but I suppose that Jason's evidence shows that it depends on when the young were hatched with only those too young to make the jounrney staying here.

Wigeon: July 6 brought the first two reports of Wigeon returning from breeding - one was at Pett Level on Rye Bay and the other in the Kent Stour Valley

Hooded Merganser: The first summer male bird which unexpectedly appeared in the Weymouth area on June 6 was still there on July 12 and can be seen in the Radipole area of the town.

Grey Partridge: Two pairs on the Susex Downs south of Amberley have had a good breeding season - they had 21 young birds between them on July 7

Quail: Two birds first heard by the River Arun in the Pulborough area on July 7 were still there on July 11

Avocet: On July 5 a total of 305 birds were present at the RSPB Cliffe Pools reserve on Sheppey in the Thames estuary and on July 8 there were 140 at Elmley Marshes (also on Sheppey) - not sure if these were part of the flock from Cliffe.

Black-tailed Godwit: Many Iceland birds are now back (around 250 summer plumaged birds on the Lymington shore on July 7, and I guess the flock of 330+ at the Oare Marshes near Faversham in north Kent on July 4 were of the same origin), but it seems that the high winds of the past few days have scattered some of the birds which are turning up in small groups at unexpected places. On July 5 two arrived at Dungeness and one at Ibsley Water at Ringwood, On July 6 two summer plumaged birds were 'new' in the Kent Stour valley, one was at Rye Harbour and twelve were at Pulborough Brooks. July 7 saw one at Worthing and four struggling west against the wind over the Adur at Shoreham with three more turning up in Christchurch Harbour. On July 8 three were seen at Pulborough Brooks and on July 9 a birder sheltering from the wind in his car at Pett Level near Hastings watched two parties of six and four birds fly in to join a party of six already there.

Since the above was written for my mid-week summary the first birds have arrived back in the Emsworth area (24 on July 11) and around 50 were seen at Slimbridge on July 10. As usual with these birds they remain flighty and will move unpredictably between sites - the 250 that were at Lymington on July 7 had disappeared by July 11 (increasing depth of water in the pools there may have made it difficult for them to feed) - 11 of these 250 may have formed a small group flying east over the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 11.

Whimbrel: Passage now increasing with 16 new reports this week

Redshank: The presence of 20 birds in Esmworth Harbour on July 11 indicates a return to the sort of number seen there in winter months

Wood Sandpiper: Although a single bird was in the Kent Stour Valley from June 5 to 13 autumn passage seems to have started in earnest with birds at both Dungeness and Radipole (Weymouth) on July 5.

Common Sandpiper: These are now widespread along the coast with a peak count of 11 at Christchurch Harbour on July 8

Pomarine Skua: The first to be reported since June 5 was off Dungeness on July 6

Great Skua: After only four Bonxie sightings on scattered dates in June we now have four sightings in the three days July 6 to 8 at sites ranging from Portland and Christchurch to Ventnor (IoW) and Dungeness

Mediterranean Gull: One of the gulls breeding at Rye Harbour has a colour ring (Red 47K) showing it was hatched in Hungary in 2002 and has been at Hayling Island for some time in 2004 and was back there in March 2007 before heading for Pett Level (Rye Bay) in April 2007. This year it has settled to nest at Rye Harbour and now has one fledged chick. Barry Yates comments that it is unusual for any bird to nest at a site hundreds of miles from where it was hatched (this is one of the features allowing the great extension in range of the species in recent years). Barry also commented on another significant feature of Med Gull behaviour adding to their breeding success - unlike other gulls and terns which carry food to their young held in their bills (from which they can easily lose it to Skuas or other gulls) the Med Gulls swallow the food and their young then have to extract it from their throats.

Black-headed Gull: A leucistic bird with pure white plumage all over other than red bill and legs was photographed in the centre of Portsmouth on July 10 and has been in that area for some time

Common Gull: Single adult birds were back at Sandown (IoW) on July 6, at Durlston on July 9 and at both Weymouth and Christchurch Harbour on July 10 - the forerunners of many we will soon see all along the south coast

Yellow-legged Gull: The first juveniles were seen at Dungeness on July 9, maybe the progeny of the few birds that new breed in Britain

Sandwich Tern: Some 300 pairs have raised 450 chicks at Rye Harbour despite the parent birds losing much of the food intended for their young to Med Gulls which have learnt that waiting among the Tern nests is easier than flying to find their own fish.

Roseate Tern: Passage is picking up with singles in Poole Harbour on July 8, at Christchurch Harbour on July 11 and 3 at Dungeness on July 12

Little Tern: Last week the Hayling Oysterbeds still had one Little Tern chick on the brink of flying but when Brian Fellows returned to the Oysterbeds for his turn at wardening on July 8 there was not a Little Tern in sight and he learnt that as soon as he left on July 1 the one chick vanished - its parents returned with fish for it but could not find it and themselves left the area. Unlike the Med Gulls (see above) which have developed survival strategies resulting in a significant expansion of their numbers and range the Little Tern species is unable to cope with the problems that confront them when breeding and in my view human efforts to protect their nests, eggs and young do nothing to solve the problem that is in their genes and behaviour - Lee Evans tells us that wardens at the Yarmouth Little Tern colony have even tried putting wire cages over the chicks to save them from Kestrel predation while allowing the parents to feed them through the bars of the cage, but to no avail (I do not know the details of this scheme but I can see many problems with it including the inablity of the parents to shelter their chicks from rain or cold nights).

Cuckoo: A juvenile at Rye Harbour was close to fledging on July 10 so we may expect to see young birds almost anywhere in the next month or so

Swift: Widespread reports of birds heading south, apparently leaving a wet and windy Britain, included counts of 1500+ heading south on July 6 but that was matched with a report of 500 coming in off the sea at Worthing that day. Locally no birds were seen over Havant between July 7 and 11 but one or two have been seen on July 12 and 13.

Sand Martin: Daily reports of these leaving Britain since June 29 with a count of 500 at Dungeness on July 11 - I think these are genuine departures.

House Martin: The few local breeding birds had the first of their young airborne over my garden on July 12 - previously two or three adults were seen on most days but July 12 brought 5 birds over and twice I saw what I assumed to be a youngster being fed in mid-air.

Yellow Wagtail: A report of more than 50 at the Elmley Marshes on Sheppey (north west Kent) indicates that some still breed in southern England. Another report from Dungeness on July 11 indicated that at least one bird was already leaving us.

Common Redstart: A juvenile seen at the Blashford Lakes on July 12 was presumably already leaving us

Golden Oriole: The last reports of arriving migrants were on June 8 and now, on July 1, the Dungeness RSPB reserve reports the first female heading south

Corn Bunting: A winter flock of up to 52 birds was seen at Cheesfoot Head near Winchester from January 9 to 12 and this was followed by two more reports (from the Fareham and Andover areas) in March but since then the only report of Corn Bunting in Hampshire that I have seen was of one heard singing at Old Winchester Hill in the Meon valley on May 23. Unlike their apparent demise in Hampshire it seems that reports from Sussex have actually increased this summer - I have 16 reports of them since April 1, including reports from Chidham and the Funtington area both close to the Hampshire border. Latest encouraging news is of an estimated 10 territories in a small area of the Downs south of Amberley on July 7

American Robin: A second hand report of one in a garden close to the Southampton Docks on July 8 could possibly be of a ship-borne arrival (but could equally be a case of mistaken identity caused by the reddish tinge of a juvenile Blackbird's plumage)


(Skip to Plants)


Brown Hawker: The first to emerge were reported at Rye Harbour on June 23 but the first to be seen in Hampshire (at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood) was not reported until July 6

Golden Ringed dragonfly: One found near Rye Bay on July 5 was at first thought to be unusual (far from the nearest known site for the species in the Ashdown Forest) but a look at the recent book on The Dragonflies of Sussex shows that there are several established colonies in the Rother Valley/ Hastings area (and during the period immediately following their emergence most dragonflies range widely and far from water before returning to breeding sites)

Red-veined Darter: Proof that some larvae had survived the winter at Rye Harbour came on June 30 when one exuvia (empty larval case) was found there. Four insects seen at Sandwich Bay on June 26 may have been cross-Channel vagrants but could also have emerged at a British site


30 species named in recent reports including a hint of migrants with Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady (plus several migrant moths)

Clouded Yellow: Two at Portland on July 12 were the first seen anywhere since May 22

Purple Hairstreak: No reports of these forming clouds round the tops of oaks so far but there were sightings at five sites including one on a Gorse Bush on the west side of Pagham Harbour on July 5

White-letter Hairstreak: Brighton still has a few Elms that have not succumbed to the beetle-borne fungus that has killed these trees elsewhere and so (with the help of the local Fire Brigade's 'cherry picker' high lift platform) 24 of these butterflies were found there on July 5

Purple Emperor: The Vyne National Trust property north of Basingstoke is not, so far as I know, a regular Purple Emperor site but on July 8 a lady called Anne Brewerton had one in view there for 30 minutes during which time it even landed on her shoe!

Painted Lady: One was seen on Thorney Island on July 8 by Barry Collins, the first of the year for our local Havant area but the sixteenth report since April 27 when two of these butterflies were seen at Portland. July 12 brought another sighting at Durlston.

Marbled White: One was seen on July 8 in a Langstone garden near Wade Court where there is no established colony but this is not unusual for these strong flying butterflies (especially taking recent strong winds into consideration) but it did remind me that this species are well adapted to extending their range since the females, unlike those of many other species which carefully select the plant on which to lay eggs, just fly over an area of grassland and scatter their eggs in much the same way that a damaged bomber plane might jettison its bombs without any thought of a particular target. Another was seen on the same day away from a regular site - it was on the western fringes of Chichester beside Clay Lane.

Grayling: The first has already been reported at Durlston on July 4 but so far there has only been one other report (from Portland on July 12)


Six-belted Clearwing (0382 Bembecia scopigera): Not new (first seen in Thanet area on June 26) but on July 5 reported to be flourishing along the coast around Hastings despite being rare nationally

Syndemis musculana (0986): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Grey Tortrix (1020 Cnephasa stephensiana): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Light Grey Tortrix (1024 Cnephasia incertana): First at Pagham Harbour on July 4

White-triangle Button (1037 Acleris holmiana): First somewhere in Sussex on July 8

Acleris forsskaleana (1036): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Strawberry Tortrix (1039 Acleris comariana): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Rhomboid tortrix (1042 Acleris rhombana): First at Pagham Harbour on July 4

Crambus perlella (1302): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Catoptria falsella (1316 Catoptria falsella): First in Thanet area of Kent on July 7

Water Veneer (1331 Acentria ephemerella): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Ringed China-mark (1348 Parapoynx stratiotat): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Dark Bordered Pearl (1356a = Evergestis limbata): First at Friston near Eastbourne on July 10

Dark Marbled Tabby (1403a = Duponchelia fovealis): First somewhere in Sussex on July 8

Orthopygia glaucinalis (1415 Orhtopygia glaucinalis): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Large emerald (1666 Geometra papilionaria): First at Shoreham on July 10

Shaded Broad-bar (1732 Scotopteryx chenopodiata): First in the Thanet area of Kent on July 8

Phoenix The (1754 Eulithis prunata): First at Shoreham on July 10

July Highflyer (1777 Hydriomena furcata): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Dark Umber (1792 Philereme transversata): First in the Thanet area of Kent on July 9

Lead-coloured Pug (1814 Eupithecia plumbeolata): First in the Thanet area of Kent on July 8

Yarrow Pug (1841 Eupithecia millefoliata): First in the Thanet area of Kent on July 10

Clouded Magpie (1885 Abraxas sylvata): First somewhere in Sussex on or before July 8

Hummingbird Hawkmoth (1984 Macroglossum stellatarum): One in Friston Forest near Eastbourne on July 5 was only the eleventh of the year (since Feb 10) and has been followed by one other at Edburton (north of Brighton) on July 12 but no sign of a mass invasion so far

Brown-tail (2029 Euproctis chrysorrhoea): Our unwelcome but irrepressible friend first took wing at Pagham Harbour on Jul 1

Scarce Footman (2047 Eilema complana): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Scarlet Tiger (2068 Callimorpha dominula): When three were found flying in Friston Forest on June 28 they were hailed as a new addition to the Sussex county moth list but publication of this news in the local Eastbourne newspaper has brought numerous reports of this moth having been seen in various places within the town of Eastbourne (the reports are substantiated and seem to indicate that this species has abandoned the Sussex countryside for its urban gardens)

Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (2110 Noctua fimbriata): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Least Yellow Underwing (2112 Noctua interjecta): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Double Square-spot (2128 Xestia triangulum): First somewhere in Sussex on or before July 10

Orache Moth (2304 Trachea atriplicis): First at Friston near Eastbourne on July 10 (uncommon migrant)

Lunar-spotted Pinion (2319 Cosmia pyralina): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Reddish Light Arches (2323 Apamea sublustris): First at Edburton (north of Brighton) before July 12

Crescent Striped (2325 Apamea oblonga): First at Rye Harbour on July 12

Double Lobed (2336 Apamea ophiogramma): First at Pagham Harbour on July 4

Rosy Minor (2342 Mesoligia literosa): First in the Thanet area of Kent on July 8

Common Rustic (2343 Mesapamea secalis): First at Pagham Harbour on July 1

Small Dotted Buff (2345 Photedes minima): First somewhere in Sussex on or before July 8

Dusky Sallow (2352 Eremobia ochroleuca): First somewhere in Sussex on or before July 10

Silver Y (2441 Autographa gamma): A small influx reported in the Thanet area of Kent on July 9

Other Insects

Myathropa florea hoverfly: One seen on the umbel of a Danewort flower in Havant on July 10

Andrena thoracica solitary bee: Thriving at coastal sites around Hastings though lost from most inland heat sites

Soldier Beetle (Cantharis livida): First report from Brook Meadow in Emsworth where several were seen on July 8

Harlequin Ladybird (Harmonia axyridis conspicua): One found in Brook Meadow on July 10 - this form of Harlequin beetle is mainly black with two big red spots plus the 'white cheeks' which are a feature of most Harlequins

Meadow Grasshopper: Adults found at Durlston on July 10

Great Green Bush Cricket: First report of adults from the Lydden area of Kent on July 4, then heard singing at Durlston on July 10

Dark Bush Cricket: Adults found on July 10 both at Durlston and Brook Meadow in Emsworth


(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Square-stalked St John's Wort (Hypericum tetrapterum): This was flowering in the marshy SSSI at Warblington on July 10 and at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on July 12 - my thanks to Brian for unknowingly correcting my wrong identification of the Warblington plants which I put down as Hairy St John's Wort without checking (Hairy grows in dry places, Square-stalked in damp meadows)

Corn Cockle: The 'wildflower garden' at the south end of Lymbourne Road in Havant now has a great show of these

Ragged Robin: Plants still flowering at Warblington on July 10 included one with pure white flowers

Red Goosefoot: Starting to 'flower' on July 10 along with Common Orache and Sea Purslane

Marsh Mallow: Flowering at Rye Harbour on July 12 and so probably to be found on the west side of the Cobnor penninsula in Chichester Harbour under the oak wood close to Cobnor Point.

Pencilled cranesbill (Geranium versicolor): I found a plant of this flowering in the roadside grass of Pook Lane (north of the A27) on July 10, the first time I have come across this species. No doubt originally of garden origin this had established itself in the roadside grass where it is regularly mown, so not as large a plant as it would be in a garden - luckily I came on it when there had been sufficient time since the last mowing for it to put up flowers

Least Yellow Sorrel: A very good find on July 5 by Brian Fellows of plants growing up through tarmac in the 'garden' of a house on a busy Emsworth road. Brian Fellows took a photo contrasting this species with the common species Procumbent Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis corniculata) side by side, bringing out the three significant points of difference used by botanists to separate the species (1 Overal size of plants, 2 Flowers of Least are borne singly - in the common species they are usually in twos, 3 Leaves of Least are plain light green in colour, those of the common species are often brown or bronze) Looking at these photos has made me want to revisit the two sites where I have found what I believe to be the Least species - at both the plants satisfy the first two criteria but do not have the pure green leaves (maybe they are a garden cultivar?)

Alsike Clover: I came on this for the first time this year flowering in the Warblington area on July 10

Hairy Vetchling (Lathyrus hirsutus): Plenty of this flowering on the Broadmarsh 'mountain' (its only Hampshire site) on July 11 after it started to flower there on June 7 this year.

Rowan: Berries now ripening on all tree - the first to be bright red were seen on July 11

Blackberry: The first fruit were edible by July 10 on what I believe is known as the Himalayan Giant species which flourishes by the Hayling Billy trail in Havant

Dropwort: This plant has probably been flowering at various downland sites (including Catherington Down in our area) since mid-May but the first mention of it comes from Durlston on July 9. On July 10 I came on a cluster of plants flowering in the uncultivated 'garden' of the Warblington Farmhouse in Church Lane.

Horse Chestnut: By July 10 the conker cases on trees in the Havant area appeared to be full size but the leaves on nearly every tree are very badly damaged by the larvae of the moth Cameraria ohridella which has spread through Europe in recent years and reached Britain as recently as 2002 but is now to be found everywhere.

Wild Angelica: Flowering in Brook Meadow at Emsworth on July 10

Amphibious Bistort: A pink raft of these flowers on a pool in the Brede High Wood area (Rother Valley near Rye) on July 6 is the first mention of this species in flower this year

Blue Pimpernel: I have not yet personally come across this plant growing in the wild but on July 10 I was told of a garden in the Warblington area of Havant where it is prolific and has come up there for many years

Phacelia tanacetifolia: On July 10 I came on a couple of plants in flower in the Warblington cemetery extension where it was presumably introduced with last year's sowing of Wildflower seed.

Teazel: Although reported to be in flower at Durlston on June 24 there have been no other reports of it until the first local sighting at the Hayling Oysterbeds on July 8

Corn Marigold: Single flowers were seen on July 10 at two places where wildflower seen was sown last year - the Lymbourne Road 'triangle' and the Warblington cemetery extension

Chicory: A large mass of plants is now flowering at the east end of the Warblington cemetery extension, presumably after being successfully introduced there last year

Autumn Hawkbit: First flowers found in Havant on July 10

Lesser Hawkbit: This had started to flower at Durlston on July 4 and I found the first local examples at Warblington on July 10


Common (Harbour) Porpoise: Two seen off Ventnor on July 6 were only the second report of the year after a single was seen off Portland on May 6

Long-tailed Thresher Shark (Alopias vulpinus): First report for year is of one off Portland on July 12. Used to be called Common Thresher and is still sometimes called Fox Shark this one was probably after Mackerel. One caught by a trawler off Cornwall in Nov 2007 was 5 metres long and weighed 568 Kg to set a British record

Roe Deer: These usually have a single kid but one seen at Durlston on July 12 had twins with her

Sunfish (Mola mola): These large fish with the shape of a round dinner-plate swimming on its edge are not uncommon nowadays in the western end of the Channel and the first I have heard of this year was seen from Portland on July 9

Cuttlefish: Plenty of Cuttlefish 'bones' washed up on the Warblington shore on July 10 but the earliest report this year came from the north Kent coast on May 29 when 160 were counted in a 200 metre stretch of beach.

Hare: Any Formula One enthusiast watching last week-end's Silverstone Grand Prix on July 6 will have seen two different Hares out-running the racing cars which left the track in the rain and disturbed the Hares from their trackside vantage points

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