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WEEKLY SUMMARY


Summary for Dec 29 - Jan 4 (Week 52 of 2008 + Week 0 of 2009)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

I will not attempt to pick out the highlights among the many bird sightings but I will draw attention to the entry for Jan 4 on my Diary page in which I have given a few details of the day list totals achieved by some people on their New Year's day outing plus the top Year List totals published by Hampshire birders. My own New Year's Day outing is also described in the Diary entry for Jan 1.

As might be expected there is not much news of Insects or Other Wildlife but we have the first new flowering plant of 2009 - Dog's Mercury found on Jan 3

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: More than 200 were off Dungeness on Jan 1with smaller numbers all along the channel coast

Black-throated Diver: Seen on Jan 1 in Dorset (two off Durlston), Sussex (one at Brighton marina) and in Hampshire (two in the Hurst spit area)

Great Northern Diver: 3 were in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Jan 1 when 3 more were in Southampton Water

Little Grebe: Plenty everywhere on the sea but interestingly I saw none on Budds Farm pools on Jan 1 (though I had ten in the nearby Hermitage stream)

Great Crested Grebe: The flock off the Titchfield/Warsash shore reached a peak of 161 on Dec 24 but on Jan 1 it was up to 181. Over on the Dutch coast there was a flock of 672 on Dec 30

Black-necked Grebe: The full flock of 18 birds in Langstone Harbour were seen by two different observers on Jan 1

Bittern: Hampshire birders saw one still at the Blashford Lakes on Jan 1 while the Dungeness RSPB reserve had 5 on Dec 30

Cattle Egret: One was in the Selborne area on Dec 28 and 29 and another was seen to fly over the Great Salterns area of Portsmouth (Langstone Harbour shore) heading north on Jan 1 when one was seen in the Bergerie Farm area between Lymington and Beaulieu (with a second bird probably nearby)

Great White Egret: Seen at the Blashford Lakes again on Jan 1 after one off sighting of one in the Glynde Reach area of the R Ouse near Lewes on Dec 31

Bewick's Swan: Hampshire still had the family group of three birds at Ibsley on Jan 1 and in Sussex there were 18 in the Arundel area. On Dec 30 a flock of 26 roosted at the RSPB Dungeness reserve

Whooper Swan: The only Jan 1 report was of four at Butterstreet Cove on The Fleet near Weymouth

Bean Goose: The single Avon valley bird was seen just south of Ringwood on Jan 1

Whitefront Goose: Some 45 birds were at Pett Level (Rye Bay) on Jan 1 and Hampshire probably had a family group of 4 at Tundry Pond (west of Fleet) though it was only reported on Jan 2

Barnacle Goose: Just one was seen at Farlington Marshes on Jan 1 (there was also a probable sighting of around 10 Greylag there on Jan 2)

Pale-bellied Brent: The number in Dorset continues to increase - on Dec 31a group of 36 were in The Fleet near Weymouth with and 18 still in Baiter Park at Poole that day. A single juvenile was in Portsmouth Harbour (off Priddy's Hard at Gosport) on Jan 1

Brant: On Jan 1 the Farlington Marshes bird was still present, another single was in the Lymington area, one was in Pagham Harbour and two were in The Fleet at Weymouth

Red-breasted Goose: Still in the Lymington area on Jan 1 and 3

Mandarin: 57 were on Headley Mill Pond in east Hampshire on Jan 1

Pintail: Nutbourne Bay normally has a winter flock of these but this winter they have been scarce there - prior to Dec 31 the highest number seen there was 15 on Nov 6 and on Dec 29 I could see none but on Dec 31 John Goodspeed counted 30 males and guessed there were probably the same number of females making a total of around 60. I was there on Jan 1 and could only see one pair with my telescope.

Shoveler: I was somewhat surprised to see a pair on the seawater of Langstone Harbour on Jan1 and I think others were also seen on the sea elsewhere (probably newly arrived birds driven by cold weather and glad to feed where they could before discovering the local ponds frequented by other Shoveler.

Ring-necked Duck: The bird which moved north to Frithend pond south of Farnham had moved back to Passfield Pond in east Hampshire for Jan 1 and 2

Ferruginous Duck: A genuine pure bred male was on a pond in the Stour valley near Canterbury on Dec 29 (first anywhere in the south this winter) - a good photo can be seen on http://www.kentos.org.uk/Stodmarsh/Decsightings08.htm

Scaup: A male which turned up at Rooksbury Mill in the Andover area on New Year's Day was not only a good bird for any Hampshire site but it was probably the first ever to be recorded there - it was still there on Jan 2

Eider: Three females were in Langstone Harbour on Jan 1

Velvet Scoter: The bird which has been in the east Solent since Dec 22 was still there on Jan 1 and 2 while the full complement of six of these birds was again seen off Pagham Harbour on Jan 2

Smew: Two males were seen on both sides of the Hants/Berks border on the Eversley gravel pits on Jan 1 and 2 but have since moved on

Kestrel: On Jan 1 a Kestrel successfully robbed a Barn Owl of its vole prey by the River Adur north of Henfield and on Jan 2 one was seen to steal a Dunlin from a young Merlin at Pagham Harbour - mugging other raptors seems to be quite a common practice among hungry Kestrels in the winter.

Merlin: A first winter bird was at Farlington Marshes on Jan 1(along with a pair of adult Peregrines)

Great Bustard: A female with wing tag number 28 which was newly released on Salisbury Plain in September was seen in the Wareham area of Dorset on Dec 29 and 30

Avocet: Recent reports from Farlington Marshes have indicated the presence of around 20 Avocet there during December but on Jan 1 Jason Crook reported 32 (maybe 33) present. On that day there were probably 17 in Nutbourne Bay

Golden Plover: A flock of up to 80 birds has been seen on the HMS Sultan playing fields in Gosport during December but on Jan 1 Dan Houghton counted 141 there

Knot: I was not expecting to see Knot in Langstone Harbour on Jan 1 as I have not heard of any there earlier this winter but I saw at least a dozen in the Chalkdock area of Broadmarsh and Peter Raby also saw some there that day while on Jan 2 Jeff Goodridge noted two flocks in the harbour with another 40 seen by Brian Fellows off the west Emsworth shore - these may be birds which have been in the Pilsey area of Thorney Island for some time but are more likely to be new arrivals.

Jack Snipe: Seen at three sites on Jan 1 including one which got up from a wet patch north of Aldsworth Pond (north of Emsworth) to give me a 'probable' (almost certain but could not swear to it with an extremly brief view of a departing bird).

Snipe: I definitely had one of these get up from the 'orchid field' of the Langstone South Moors on Jan 1

Woodcock: Giles Darvill, who lives at Milford west of Lymington, was very surprised, after hearing a loud thump on one of his house windows, to look out and see a dazed Woodcock on the ground - luckily the bird recovered and flew off - this was on Jan 2

Whimbrel: On Jan 1 or 2 wintering birds were seen from Black Point on Hayling, at Church Norton in Pagham Harbour, at the Medina estuary on the Isle of Wight and at Tanners Lane east of Lymington. One was almost certainly in Langstone Harbour but was not seen on Jan 1

Common Sandpiper: One was seen by Peter Raby on the Budds Farm shore of Langstone Harbour on Jan 1

Black-headed Gull: One seen at Worthing (Goring) on Dec 29 already had a full 'black head' while several others were starting to acquire their breeding plumage.

Caspian Gull: One has been seen on both Jan 2 and 3 at Ibsley, just north of Ringwood.

Iceland Gull: One adult was seen over the River Hamble at Curbridge on Jan 1 by Dan Houghton and Mark Rolfe, possibly the same bird seen at Portland on Dec 28.

Sandwich Tern: One was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour, seen from Hayling, on Jan 1

Razorbill: A large number have been heading west along the channel in the week between Christmas and New Year (max count of 750 'auk species' passing Christchurch Harbour on Dec 27)

Barn Owl: A few entries on Hoslist this week have discussed the subject of the first bird seen on New Year's Day but none were as early or as interesting as this year's first bird - a Barn Owl seen by the A27 near Lewes at 4:30 am (neatly topping a claim for another Barn Owl also seen by the A27 in the Worthing area but at 5:30 am)

Short-eared Owl: There have been many reports of these this winter but none from Langstone Harbour until Jason Crook told us of two of them hunting over the RSPB Islands on Jan 1

Kingfisher: As well as the Common Sandpiper seen in the Budds Farm area on Jan 1 Peter Raby also saw a Kingfisher there (I failed to see either when there!)

Woodlark: On Dec 28 18 were seen near the hamlet of Well (near Crondall west of Fleet) and prior to that a few have been seen occasionally in the Hundred Acres fields east of the Meon Valley at Wickham (John Shillitoe advises anyone looking for them to take the footpath north from the B2177 road starting at SU 597106). Back on Dec 22 there were still 9 in the East Park at Stansted.

Rock Pipit: What may be a family group of four birds was seen by me in a ditch just inside the seawall of Prinsted Bay (east of Thorney Island) on Dec 29 and was still there on Jan 1 (look in the first field east of the Prinsted houses)

Pied Wagtail: Brian Fellows reports a pre-roost flock of around 200 birds seen near the Town Millpond in Emsworth on Dec 30 but he has not yet discovered the roost site. I know of no likely site but I am aware that these birds like to sleep somewhere that has artificial heating, e.g. the heated steam pipes of the Fawley refinery or the hot air emerging from e.g. the bakery of a Tesco store - perhaps there is some industrial site in Emsworth, but it is equally possible that the birds are on their way to a chilly roost in Thorney Deeps reeds

Waxwing: During the past week small flocks of up to 30 birds have been reported from nine sites on the south coast, among them were the Warsash Road in the Titchfield Common area, George Street oil depot in Gosport and Park Farm Business Park in Folkestone. On Jan 1 some were heard in Hastings and 25 flew north over Cheesefoot Head east of Winchester

Song Thrush: Several reports seem to indicate a recent influx of 'dark backed' continental birds and I kept coming across them in unlikely places on Jan 1. Most recent was one in my Havant garden early on Jan 4

Redwing: Very few of these around - this week brought just three reports with a maximum count of 10 birds near Arundel. In contrast Fieldfare were reported from many sites with counts of 100+ at Cheesefoot Head (Winchester area) and 250+ at Horton Heath in Dorset.

Blackcap: Brian Fellows had his first garden record of one on Jan 1 (a male) and then had a female on Jan 2. On Dec 28 one was eating Ivy berries in a Worthing garden and another was eating apples in an Emsworth garden.

Long-tailed Tit: Plenty of these around but a report of a pair regularly copulating 'somewhere in Sussex' on Dec 31 was surprising.

Marsh Tit: These are scarce but they were seen at three sites this week

Willow Tit: These are much scarcer nowadays but one was definitely identified by call at Burton Mill Pond near Pulborough on Dec 28 (only two previous reports of the species in southern England this autumn - one at Horsham on Oct 29 and one at Arne in Dorset on Dec 10)

Linnet: A flock of 300 in a stubble field at Neptown (Henfield in the Adur valley) with 700 Chaffinch was unusual for the current winter

Twite: A flock of 13 were reported at the Oare Marshes in north west Kent on Dec 28 and there was a possible sighting in the Keyhaven area near Lymington on Dec 30.

Bullfinch: This species, like the Song Thrushes, may have arrived here from the continent recently as there were quite a few sightings of them in unexpected places on the past few days

Corn Bunting: A flock of around 25 on Cheesefoot Head (Winchester area) on Jan 1 was a good record for Hampshire (I have no Hampshire records since May this year)

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

The only report of insects I have seen on the internet was of Large White caterpillars still feeding on Brocolli plants in the Horsham area on Dec 30. Twenty large caterpillars were approaching the point at which they should pupate but at least two had succumbed to the cold and died.

In my own garden, while breaking the ice on the water put out for birds in my garden, I seemingly disturbed a tiny midge which happily fluttered over the ice cold water

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My January list of flowering plants already has 38 species on it (though two are grasses). Among these are Creeping and Meadow Buttercup, Sweet and Early Dog Violets, and Black Medick

First new plant of the year was Dog's Mercury seen with male flowers near Warren Down cottage in the Forestside area of Stansted Forest on Jan 3.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Fox: At 2am on the morning of Dec 28 I woke briefly to hear repetitive barking from a dog fox somewhere close to my garden - presumably the hard frost has not delayed the onset of their breeding season


Summary for Dec 22 - 28 (Week 51 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Early signs of spring this week include Shags raising their crests in display and a pair of Buzzards in aerial display while a Blackbird has joined the list of songsters. New behaviour (new to me!) came in a report of a Kestrel mugging a Short-eared Owl, but failing to steal its prey, and in a description of 800 Rooks taking a dawn cold bath in a stream at Lymington. Rarities include the first reported Golden Pleasant in Hampshire since 2002, and oddities include a black and white Coot at West Ashling pond. Here in Havant 40 Golden Plover were on the Langstone mud and at Southsea Castle the Purple Sandpiper count increased to 15. More Waxwings have arrived at seven south coast sites.

Moths continue to come to traps and this week I learnt that at least one species that does not normally appear until February (Hebrew Character) has a trick that allows it to take advantage of any warm spells earlier in the winter. Instead of a gradual development of the adult moth throughout the pupation period it becomes fully formed within the pupa at an early stage (late autumn) and can thus emerge as soon as conditions are right.

We have not quite reached the 100 mark with the December flowering plant list but are on 94, and this week added Meadow Buttercup, Common Ramping Fumitory, Dog Rose and Cow Parsley plus Water Forget-me -not, Blue Fleabane and Red-hot Poker as well as the first fully open cultivated Daffodils.

Other wildlife also has news of Great Crested Newts having already having laid their first eggs and Frogs already back in garden ponds. We also have a biology lesson on the development of Swan Mussel larvae.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Great Crested Grebe: The flock off the Titchfield to Warsash shore is normally spread out over a large area and is difficult to count but it had at least 161 birds on Dec 24

Slavonian Grebe: The highest count so far of the flock on the sea off Pagham Harbour was of 28 on Dec 24

Black-necked Grebe: The flock in Langstone harbour was seen south of Budds Mound on Dec 22 when it had 13 birds in a tight line-ahead group. On Dec 26 it was seen again from the Hayling Oysterbeds, the count then being of 12 (on Dec 1 there was a count of 14 from here)

Shag: Birds at Durlston are already displaying, raising their prominent crests.

Bewick's Swan: No recent reports from the Arundel area but there were 11 on Amberley Wild Brooks on Dec 21, probably in addition to 6 at Pulborough Brooks. A family group of three were at the Blashford Lakes on Dec 26 and 27

Whooper Swan: One of these was a surprise visitor to Pulborough Brooks on Dec 23

Black Swan: A passing look at West Ashling pond (west of Chichester) on Dec 23, found only one of these birds on view

Whitefront Goose: Three reports of birds flying east over the Isle of Wight on Dec 26 may have been separate groups of 5, 6 and 7 birds respectively - one may have stayed to be seen at the Bembridge Marshes on Dec 27

Pale Bellied Brent: Ferrybridge at Weymouth had a total of 33 on Dec 27, the biggest group anywhere so far this winter.

Brant: The Farlington Marshes bird was again seen near the reserve building on Dec 22, the Pagham Harbour bird was seen on Dec 26 and the Gosport bird was on the Sultan Playing fields on Dec 27

Red-breasted Goose: The Lymington bird was back again in the Normandy area on Dec 27 after a week in which it seemed to have left the area.

Velvet Scoter: A first winter bird has been on the Solent between Titchfield and Warsash from Dec 22 to 27 at least

Smew: The Dungeness RSPB reserve had six birds (including one male) on Dec 22

Goosander: The number roosting at the Blashford Lakes was up to 85 birds seen leaving at dawn on Dec 23. A new report this week was of five on the Dorset Stour downstream of Blandford in the Shapwick area on Dec 21

Hen Harrier: One was hunting in the Kingley Vale area north of Chichester on Dec 21

Goshawk: After a recent report of one at Ebernoe Common (north of Midhurst) on Dec 17 one was seen over the Lewes Brooks on Dec 23

Buzzard: A pair were displaying in the West Grinstead area near Pulborough on Dec 21

Kestrel: I am aware that Kestrels will 'mug' Barn Owls in attempts to rob them of prey they are carrying, and are sometimes successful but I had not heard of them doing this to Short-eared Owls until Dec 26 when one was photographed making an unsuccessful attempt.

Golden Pheasant: On Dec 24 a female was flushed from Ampfield Woods (north east of Romsey) to become the first to be reported in Hampshire since a single male was seen near Ropley in east Hants in 2002.

Crane: Birdguides reported a party of four Cranes flying south over Lyndhurst on Dec 27 - so far no other sightings of them

Coot: A leucistic bird seen at West Ashling pond (west of Chichester) on Dec 23 had the normally all black plumage of its mantle and wings broken up by a regular pattern of white lozenge shapes

Avocet: Around 20 were seen at Farlington Marshes on Dec 22 (same count reported on Dec 13)

Golden Plover: A flock of around 40 was on the mud east of Langstone Mill Pond on Dec 27 (a flock of 80 appeared on the Sultan playing fields at Gosport that same day)

Purple Sandpiper: A count of 15 at Southsea Castle on Dec 26 was the highest at this site this winter and was one more than a count of 14 made by another observer on that day. On Dec 27 only 12 were seen there

Black-tailed Godwit: A count of 214 at Pulborough Brooks on Dec 27 was by far the highest there this autumn (previous max of 70+ on Nov 30) and easily exceeded the early year maximum of 170+ on Feb 1

Med Gull: A few of these may have flown west in reponse to recent cold weather but the effect so far has been marginal - the number at Pagham harbour is reported to have gone down from 85 on Dec 16 to 60 on Dec 27; on Dec 26 Portland reported 28 passing the Bill while the number at Ferrybridge increased from 28 on Dec 26 to 109 on Dec 27 (though there had been 132 there on Nov 16)

Lesser Blackback: These seem to be moving east in response to the cold - following mid-month reports of passage east over the Isle of Wight a flock of 800+ was at Arlington Reservoir, north of Beachy Head, on Dec 20 while the number coming to roost at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood was up to 2500 at dusk on Dec 23

Glaucous Gull: One at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) n Dec 21 was the first reported in Dorset this winter.

Auks: 316 were seen heading south past the North Foreland in Kent on Dec 25 when 80 were seen off Christchurch Harbour (going east) and on Dec 27 a total of 750 were reported passing Hengistbury Head

Great Spotted Woodpecker: One drumming in a Tree of Heaven 'somewhere in Sussex' on Dec 25 was the fifth to be reported drumming since the first was heard on Nov 19

Waxwing: Since Dec 21 small parties of these have been seen at seven new sites - Folkestone (6 birds), Brighton (5), Firle village north of the Sussex Downs (1 passing), Beaulieu (12 birds stopping a group of racing cyclists in their tracks), Lordshill in Southampton (6), Christchurch Harbour (5 over on Dec 26) and Gosport (16 on Dec 27). The 6 birds at Folkestone on Dec 21 had increased to 27 on Dec 26

Stonechat: A possible sighting reported from Warblington Farm on Dec 27 (on posts of shoreline fence east of Pook Lane)

Blackbird: Song was reported at Bosham on Oct 10 and in the Worthing area on Oct 14 but no further reports until Dec 24 when one was again heard in the Worthing area

Song Thrush: Song reported in the Highcliffe area of Christchurch on Dec 20 and at Emsworth on Dec 23

Blue Tit: These have been singing regularly in the Emsworth and Havant area since Dec 23 (Great Tits have been heard since Dec 10)

Great Grey Shrike: One was seen at a new site for Sussex on Dec 27 (Glynde Reach of the Ouse near Lewes) to become the seventh Sussex site at which there have been sightings this winter. In Hampshire only 3 birds were found in the New Forest survey over the weekend Dec 20/21 and Lee Evans tells us that he is only aware of five different birds currently in the county (all of them in the New Forest).

Rook: I recently learnt of the Rook's winter bedtime routine of congregating on areas of open grassland at dusk and only flying into their roost trees when it is effectively dark. Now, on Dec 27, Colin Allen tells us that he was in the Keyhaven area at dawn and was impressed by a congregation of some 800 Rooks at the mouth of the Avon Water stream in which they were having their morning bathe.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Moths

Double-striped Pug (1862 Gymnoscelis rufifasciata): I was not aware of any Pug species being found in winter but the trapping of one in the Newhaven area on Dec 23 elicited the factg that they can be found in all months of the year.

Hebrew Character (2190 Orthosia gothica): This was also trapped at Newhaven on Dec 22 and was unexpectedly early though the report told me that the species passes the winter as a pupa in which the moth is fully formed at an early stage in the autumn and is thus able to emerge at any time in the winter in response to warm weather.

The Brick (2262 Agrochola circellaris): This moth is normally on the wing in October and is very rarely seen in December though one was trapped at Portland on Dec 22

Caterpillars

Large White: At least one was still eating cabbages in the Seaford area on Dec 23 and on Dec 25 I saw a large patch of Brussels Sprouts in the New Lane allotments here in Havant which had had every vestige of leaf eaten very recently, leaving fresh green midribs with no green leaf around them - this must have happened within the past couple of weeks.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My count of wild plants flowering in December has now reached 94 (excluding several grass species and some dubious records of what look like Wavy Bittercress, having very wavy long stems, but which have less than the six stamens that most Wavy plants are supposed to have)

Meadow Buttercup: One tall and flourishing specimen flowering near the Langbrook Stream in Havant on Dec 22 was an addition to the month list

Lesser Celandine: In addition to the plants already reported by the Lymbourne stream and on south Hayling I found several more in flower on Dec 23 at the junction of Eastern Road and New Lane in Havant

Common Ramping Fumitory: A good addition to the month list found at the New Lane allotments on Dec 25

Early Dog Violet: Included in the list as I have seen at least half a dozen flower buds opening on a clump of self sown plants in my garden this month though birds seen to peck off the petals before they are fully open, leaving the empty calyx.

Dog Rose: I expect to see a few flowers of this in December and on Dec 22 I found two open flowers on otherwise leafless bushes near the mouth of the Langbrook stream (close to the vandalised bench)

Hazel: In addition to the tree overhanging the bus shelter at Langstone the tree by the Hayling Billy Trail at its junction with the path from Grove Road to Lymbourne Road was in full flower on Dec 22

Cow Parsley: One plant beside East Leigh Road (just north of its junction with Southleigh Road at Locks Farm) had six umbels in bud on Dec 25 with the topmost having flowers already open.

Fool's Parsley: I had found just one plant in Havant on Dec 1 but none since so one found by Brian Fellows flowering in Emsworth on Dec 23 was 'almost' a first for the month

Water Forget-me-not: This would probably have continued to flower by the Langbrook stream had it not been cut down during stream clearance at the end of November but it has got on the list now with one re-grown plant flowering on Dec 22

Blue Fleabane: A single plant flowering in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Dec 23 was an addition to the month list.

Red-hot Poker: What must be a self sown plant growing up through brambles near the north end of Church Lane at Warblington has been seen in flower both this year and last. I recorded it in both August and October and now found it again in flower on Dec 27

Cultivated Daffodils: Always eye-catching I spotted three plants in full bloom beside the road to Chichester through Funtington village on Dec 23

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Frog: Three of these, along with three Common Newts, were back in a pond in the Hastings area on Dec 26 (the newts started to return on Dec 15)

Great Crested Newt: Some of these had already laid eggs in water at Romney Marsh, east of Rye Bay, on Dec 26

Swan Mussel: The sight of several hundred large shells exposed by reed cutting on the banks of muddy ditches in the Pett area on the shore of Rye Bay provoked an interesting entry on the RX website from Cliff Dean who wrote: ..

"These large freshwater bivalves lead an uneventful life, nestling in the ditchbed ooze, whence they siphon food from the cloudy waters. Their shell is thin compared with their marine relatives, since it never has to contend with crashing waves. They are able to drag themselves about in the water using their muscular foot, but once dredged onto the banks are doomed to death by desiccation or to be smashed by Grey Herons which always shadow the diggers.

"Their tiny larvae, however, get wafted along in the water by a long thread, a bit like little spiders drifting on gossamer, or clamp onto the fins of passing fish. They remain safely embedded in the fish’s skin until they reach maturity, at which point they drop down into the mud.

"I imagine them to be slow-growing and read somewhere that they can be aged by counting the ridges on the shell (I can’t find any reference to this at the moment). This is not so simple however, since there are thick and thin ridges, but many shells exceed 10cm in length. Since the ditches are managed on a regular basis, I would have thought that they would never have the chance to grow so big.

"Such a large and fleshy animal is obviously appreciated as a food item by some birds, but seems never to be recommended for human consumption. However, Swan Mussel shells have been found among other food debris at a Roman military archaeological site".

Cliff has a link to a review of a new book which may be of interest to some of you and from which he got his info on the life history of the larvae of these Mussels - it is callled "Leeches, Lice and Lampreys: A Natural History of Skin and Gill Parasites of Fishes" By Graham C. Kearn Published by Springer, 2005 ISBN 140202925X, 9781402029257 432 pages. If you visit http://books.google.co.uk/books?id=YAXtYd9gRaQC and enter Swan Mussel in the search box where it says 'Search in this book' you will be able to see the full text of the book on that subject.


Summary for Dec 15 - 21 (Week 50 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Cold weather has brought a mass exodus of seabirds from the North Sea bringing, amongst other species, some 2000 Common Scoter into Rye Bay and increasing the flock of Great Crested Grebes there to over 750 while the number of Velvet Scoter off Pagham has increased to 6 (and, for quality rather than quantity, lovely male Smew have appeared at Rye Harbour and on gravel pits east of Canterbury). At Pagham Harbour the second Glaucous Gull of the winter for the south coast has been seen. Near Lewes a flock of 120+ Corn Buntings has been seen (not too many years ago that number could be expected at Fishbourne near Chichester) and several other passerine species have increased in number (even bringing two small flocks of Greenfinch to the Havant area). A recent increase in bird song has brought reports of Mistle and Song Thrushes, Stock and Collared Doves with Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming, plus Wood Pigeons, Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Blue and Great Tits and even a Yellow-browed Warbler. Reports on the Trektellen European migration website of Osprey, Crag Martin and Blue Rock Thrush led me to discover that one reporting site listed as European (and technically Spanish) is located on the Moroccan shore of North Africa, while at the other end of the spectrum ringers in Estonia spent five whole hours with their nets up but only caught nine birds, all of them Great Tits, and six of those were local birds getting caught repetitively. I was also surprised to see that many Great Skuas are currently in the Mediterranean. Recovery of a dead Lapwing shows that they can live to the age of 21 years.

Several butterfly and moth caterpillars are still actively feeding and the week has brought a major emergence of Winter Moths. On Portsdown an out of season (?) Plume moth was seen this week

Interesting plant news dates back to early October when a fern growing behind a drain pipe near Winchester cathedral was identified as only the third of its species known to be growing in this country (it is a species of Shield Fern from Asia much used by Florists). Locally one plant of Cow Parsley and one of Wayfaring Tree were opening flowerbuds on Portsdown

The only other significant report of the past few days is of the first Common Newt returning to a garden pond but there is interest in the origin of a 'Purple Squirrel' seen at Stubbington.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Cold weather seems to have forced a major exodus of Divers, Auks, Gannets, etc from the North Sea and through the Straits of Dover. On Dec 14 someone on the Worthing seafront counted 40 Red-throated Divers (and one Black-throated) flying west, on Dec 16 the sea off Pagham Harbour had at least 14 going west and on Dec 17 watchers at Le Clipon near Calais recorded a stream of 334 going by (with at least 14 seen from Portland that day). 10 (plus 2 Black-throated) were off Selsey Bill on Dec 18, and on Dec 20 around 15 were on the sea off Christchurch Harbour.

Great Northern Diver: On Dec 14 at least 10 were seen off the north-east of the Isle of Wight (including a raft of seven together off Seaview). The Dorset coast had at least 14 that day.

Great Crested Grebe: The flock in Rye Bay continues to grow. On Dec 14 the estimated count was 500 and on Dec 17 a more accurate count was of 782. A separate flock off Sandwich Bay held 138 birds on Dec 19. No further reports from the Solent off Titchfield Haven since the count of 118 on Dec 11 but on Dec 15 around 20 were off Pagham Harbour

Red-necked Grebe: One was off Pagham Harbour on Dec 14 and 15 with another flying past Christchurch Harbour on Dec 14 and one at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Dec 16

Slavonian Grebe: At least 11 were still off Pagham Harbour on Dec 14

Black-necked Grebe: The number at the Blashford Lakes increased from 2 to 4 on Dec 20 and 17 were in Studland Bay on Dec 19

Fulmar: 13 flew west past Dungeness on Dec 13 with the general exodus from the North Sea and on Dec 16 there were 20 around their nesting cliffs east of Hastings.

Balearic Shearwater: Plenty of these currently in their 'homeland' - on Dec 13 three sites on the south east coast of Spain reported them (1121 seen at Cullera, 592 at Punta de Calaburras and 212 at Cabo Sacratif).

Bittern: Single birds were seen at the following six sites on Dec 14 or 15 - Sheppey (Capel Fleet), Poole Harbour (Hatch Pond), Weymouth (both Radipole and Lodmoor), Rye Harbour (Castle Water) and Pulborough (Chingford Pond which is close to Burton Mill Pond). On Dec 17 two birds were seen at Hatch Pond.

Night Heron: The bird at west Hythe (Folkestone) was still there on Dec 20

Little Egret: A sign of these birds moving from the coast to more sheltered inland sites was reported on Dec 14 when Michael Prior (Head Forester for Stansted Forest) had one perched for several hours in an Oak in his garden at the Rowlands Castle end of Woodberry Lane - this is close to where the Lavant stream flows across Woodberry Lane when it has water in it and the presence of the Egret makes me wonder if this 'winterbourne' stream is now starting to bring water from the hihger ground near Idsworth Chapel north of Finchdean. I see that on Dec 14 the River Arun burst its banks at Pulborough, flooding the nature trail at the RSPB reserve (though the water soon abated). Another inland report is of around 46 going to roost at Arlebury Lake (Alresford area) on Dec 18

Bewick's Swan: 13 were at Amberley Wild Brooks on Dec 15 and 52 were seen at Slimbridge on Dec 18

Whooper Swan: The pair which were staying on Ivy Lake at Chichester throughout the day last week had on Dec 14 resumed their more normal habit of hiding at an unknown location during the day and only flying in to roost on Ivy Lake at dusk

Black Swan: A pair seen in courtship display on the River Avon north of Fordingbridge on Dec 13 (there used to be several feral breeding pairs in the Avon valley above Salisbury but I have not checked the dates or numbers)

Bean Goose: On Dec 8 a single Pink-foot Goose was seen at the Blashford Lakes in the Avon valley after a group of four had been seen intermittently in the lower Avon Valley from Nov 23 to 28. On Dec 14 a single Bean Goose (among 30 Greylags) was seen at the Blashford Lakes, giving Bob Chapman and others sufficiently good views to be sure if was a 'Tundra' (Rossicus) subspecies bird rather than a 'Taiga' (Fabalis). Separation of the subspecies is difficult and relies on slight differences in size and structure - one obvious difference in the amount of orange in the bill is unreliable! To complicate matters for the normal birder who is not familiar with these geese in all their forms it is easy to confuse Bean and Pink-foot though the pink legs (Bean Goose has dull orange legs) are a reliable indicator while the paler mantle of the Pink-foot should be a good indicator in flight. On Dec 19 Lee Evans told us that the Tundra birds seem to have had a good breeding season this year.

Pink-foot Goose: We may not have any flocks in Hampshire but Lee Evans tells us that Norfolk currently has the largest number ever recorded in Britain with around 178,000 birds

White-front Goose: A flock of up to 1500 birds could be expected in the Avon Valley during the 1970s and early 80s but none are expected nowadays so it may be of interest that a flock of 2148 birds was recorded in Holland on Dec 18

Brent Goose: More than 1000 were in Pagham Harbour on Dec 20 with 2 Pale-bellied and 1 Brant.

Red-breasted Goose: Still present in the Normandy area of the Lymington marshes on Dec 20

Wigeon: 700 were in the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester on Dec 18

Gadwall: 53 were on Alresford Pond on Dec 18 with another 15 on nearby Arlebury Lake and a dozen on Northington Grange Lake to the north.

Pintail: The cold weather seems to have brought more of these into Hampshire with 75 at the Blashford Lakes on Dec 14 (previous high count of 24 there on Nov 16). A count of 70 in the Avon village area downstream from Ringwood, also on Dec 14, may have been additional but these birds may roost at Blashford. Outside Hampshire high numbers in November (e.g. 150 in the Pulborough area on Nov 17) may have decreased as Dec 15 brought a count of only around 50 at Pulborough Brooks (though the November WeBS count included birds in the Amberley area)

Ring-necked Duck: The bird which was found at Passfield Pond in east Hampshire on Dec 10 was still there on Dec 17

Common Scoter: The exodus of birds from the North Sea (and Baltic?) seems to have brought lots of Scoter into Rye Bay giving an estimate of 2000 there on Dec 17

Velvet Scoter: A single bird was first seen in the Selsey area on Nov 22, increasing to 2 off Pagham Harbour on Dec 9, then 4 on Dec 15 and now 6 on Dec 16

Goldeneye: A pair, with the male throwing his head back in courtship display, was off the Warblington shore on Dec 16 and four Goldeneye (seemingly all females) were seen off Langstone on Dec 17. By Dec 18 three birds had penetrated to the top of the Fishbourne Channel near Chichester

Smew: A single female had been at Dungeness RSPB since Nov 10. Recent cold weather brought two to Rye Harbour on Dec 13, increasing to five there on Dec 17 (with a magnificent male among them). On Dec 20 at least one male was on the Seaton Pits near Wickhambreaux east of Canterbury.

Goosander: The number of these has increased dramatically with a count of 72 leaving the Blashford Lakes roost at dawn on Dec 17

Osprey: An unexpected December report among the European birds recorded on the Trektellen website was a sighting of one at Melilla in Spain for Dec 13 - however when I checked the location of Melilla I found that (although it is a Spanish town) it is located on the north coast of Africa in Morocco.

Avocet: The winter flock in Nutbourne Bay (just east of Thorney Island) had increased by three to 21 on Dec 18. Latest news of the Farlington Marshes birds was a count of around 20 on Dec 31 but the weather was foul that day and there may well have been the 25 seen there on Nov 23

Golden Plover: The highest count of the winter so far (3500+) comes from Pegwell Bay in the Thanet area of Kent on Dec 16. In Hampshire the usual winter flock has appeared on the Downs north of the Itchen at Alresford (around 150 seen on Dec 15) and the flock on the Lymington marshes was around 400 on Dec 17. A couple of birds seen off Langstone on Dec 17 were presumably part of the Chichester Harbour flock which was estimated at 400 birds over Thorney Island on Oct 31 and 350 on Dec 5 - these birds feed as individuals on fields by night, coming together to roost by day at different places depending on the state of the tides and the locations where they were feeding the previous night so it is not unusual for one or two birds to fail to rejoin the main flock on a particular day (especially when it is misty)

Lapwing: The biggest flock I had seen reported so far this winter up to Dec 19 was of 2000+ birds in Pegwell Bay (Thanet) on Dec 16 - presumably local numbers there swollen by birds fleeing continental cold - but on Dec 20 Pegwell Bay had 8200 Lapwing. An entry for Dec 19 on the Rye Bay website reports the finding of a dead bird on the shore at Winchelsea - a ring on its leg (put on when the bird was a chick) showed it to be 16 years and 5 months old (adding that the oldest ringed bird so far was 21 years and 1 month old).

Jack Snipe: An SOS walk party at East Head (mouth of Chichester Harbour) on Dec 16 had good views of one flying over them on Dec 16 and on Dec 20 one was seen at Herbury Gore (close to Langton Herring) on the shore of The Fleet north of Weymouth

Black-tailed Godwit: Still quite a few at the coast. On Dec 18 more than 50 were in Nutbourne Bay and another 29 at Nore Barn (west end of Emsworth shore). On Dec 20 a flock of 190 was in White's Creek (off Pagham village on the south east edge of Pagham Harbour) and 800 were roosting at the Blashford Lakes.

Great Skua: I think of these as northern birds and was surprised to see a count of 50 at Punta de Calaburras on the south east coast of Spain on Dec 13 with another 3 off the Moroccan coast on the same day

Med Gull: The flock at Pagham Harbour numbered 85 on Dec 16, an increase on the 50+ reported there in October. Elsewhere the most recent high count was of 130 at Sandown (IoW) on Nov 17 and 132 at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) on Nov 16. I have heard no more of the flock of 270+ reported in the Thanet area of Kent on Oct 17

Ring-billed Gull: The regular winter bird at Gosport was still there on Dec 14

Lesser Blackback Gull: A flock of more than 70 was on the Ryde sands (IoW) on Dec 14 after a count of 60 at Sandown (IoW) on Dec 13 while a flock of more than 800 was at the Arlington Reservoir in the Cuckmere valley north west of Beachy Head on Dec 20

Glaucous Gull: An adult bird was among the Great Blackbacks at Pagham Harbour during the WeBS count on Dec 14. Other than the one seen several times at Lymington at the end of November this current bird seems to be the first on the south coast this winter.

Great-blackback: An entry for Dec 15 on the SOS website read.. "A mating pair of Great Black-backed Gulls spotted near Hove Town Hall yesterday. Quite majestic in flight!" Not sure if the word 'mating' should be taken literally or not.

Kittiwake: 330 flew west past Dungeness on Dec 13 as part of the exodus from the North Sea

Sandwich Tern: Reports of wintering birds seen in the past few days come from Chichester Harbour (two in the Emsworth Channel off Thorney Island on Dec 14), Portsmouth Harbour (one in Forton Lake at Gosport on Dec 13), Poole Harbour (one at Poole on Dec 15) and Kent (one in Pegwell Bay on Dec 16).

Guillemot: More than 300 off Dungeness on Dec 20 - maybe coming this way?

Collared Dove: I did not record these singing between Sep 9 and Nov 6 with only intermittent song heard until Dec 9. One was heard in Sway (new New Milton) on Dec 11 and on Dec 19 many were singing in Emsworth. Song was also heard from a Stock Dove in the Way area on Dec 18 and from a Wood Pigeon here in Havant on Dec 17

Barn Owl: One was hunting over the Thornham Marshes on Thorney Island on Dec 14

Long-eared Owl: The roost at Rye Harbour was up to 4 birds on Dec 19

Kingfisher: On Dec 20 one was seen perched on a low branch above the Hermitage Stream close to where it flows under Purbrook Way in Leigh Park.

Great Spotted Woodpecker: One had been heard drumming in Southampton (Tanner's Brook near the General Hospital) back on Nov 19 but it is only now that other birds have felt the call of spring with birds drumming at Sway (New Milton) and Climping (mouth of R Arun) on Dec 11 and one heard in the Highcliffe area of Christchurch on Dec 20

Crag Martin: A count of 57 on Dec 13 was a surprise entry on the Trektellen website until I discovered these were seen at Melilla (a Spanish town but located on the North African shore of Morocco. The same site also recorded 3 Blue Rock-thrushes on the same day.

Waxwing: In addition to the single bird that has been in a Petersfield residential street from Dec 11 to 16 a couple more have turned up in Sussex, one in the Hove area of Brighton on Dec 15 and another at Seaford on Dec 16. Since then one has been showing well in the Muscliffe Lane area of north east Bournemouth. (This bird also caused me to discover, when trying to find out where Muscliffe Lane was, that the Streetmap.co.uk website has recently been significantly improved and now does something that several people have been keen to see - it gives the location of the street or place in several forms including OS Grid Reference format as well as Lat and Long, plus the nearest Postal Code)

Dunnock: I heard one of the Emsworth birds singing on Dec 16 but have not heard of others yet in song elsewhere in our area.

Mistle Thrush: Two more birds heard singing - one at Sway (New Milton) on Dec 18 and another at Highcliffe (Christchurch) on Dec 20

Blackcap: A couple of wintering birds (male and female) arrived back in a Cosham (Portsmouth) garden last week to enjoy the home-made cake baked specially for them each winter, and on Dec 15 three new arrivals at Portland were thought to have only then reached England from the continent.

Yellow-browed Warbler: The bird at the Newlands Farm fishing lakes (south of Fareham) was still present ot Dec 18 at least and is reported to have been singing there on Dec 17

Great Tit: I am amazed at the amount of discomfort and boredom that some birders will endure in pursuit of their hobby - the Trektellen website has regular reports from ringers in the Matsalu National Park in Estonia (located north of the Gulf of Riga) and on Dec 13 the birders there had their nets out for just over 5 hours, catching just 9 Great Tits and nothing else. What's more 6 of these birds were re-captures, presumably residents in that area as when the nets were put out again a few days later the only birds caught were these same 6 which were already ringed.

Raven: One being seen regularly commuting over the Stansted estate last week may be attracted to the area by the prospect of taking some of the new born lambs and/or piglets that should soon be appearing in the Ems valley near Racton or the nearby Funtington area pig fields.

Starling: Two reports on Dec 20 of the large pre-roost flocks giving their spectacular evening performances. 5000+ birds were seen over the New Lane area of Keyhaven (Lymington marshes) and 'vast flocks' were seen at the village of West Knighton to the south east of Dorchester

Greenfinch: During the last year Greenfinch seen have to have gone from being the commonest of the finches to the rarest so the sight of two separate small flocks (each of around a dozen birds) seen in the Emsworth and Havant areas on Dec 16 was noteworthy.

Bullfinch: Three sites have reported 'many' of these birds in the past week - the Houghton area of the Test valley (just south of Stockbridge) was one (on Dec 14) and the others were Old Winchester Hill in the Meon Valley (Dec 19) and Durlston (Dec 20).

Hawfinch: These are currently being reported in several areas where I have not heard of them in the past - latest is a group of up to seven birds on Bookham Common near Leatherhead in Surrey. Birds continue to be seen at the Testwood Lakes site (Totton, Southampton)

Yellowhammer: Breeding birds in southern England seem to have been in short supply this year but they have probably now been supplemented by winter visitors from the continent to give several reports of flocks. On Dec 14 'many' were seen in the Houghton area of the Test Valley (just south of Stockbridge) and on Dec 15 'many' were seen in the Abbotstone Down area north of Alresford. More specifically there were more than 10 at Old Winchester Hill (Meon valley) on Dec 19

Little Bunting: An elusive bird which one observer has come across more than half a dozen times in the Old Basing area east of Basingstoke since late October was reported again on Dec 12. The observer, who lives in the area concerned and has more opportunities than other birders to find the bird in an area of large and densely vegetated private residential gardens, is respected by those birders who know him but who has been accused by those who do not of being a 'stringer'. This last observation in particular aroused dis-belief as the bird was said to have been 'seen' at 4.25pm on a winter afternoon when the light would have faded, but it has now been pointed out that the observation was based on a close encounter during which the bird was identified not by sight but by call.

Reed Bunting: These too have started to be reported in good numbers. On Dec 14 there were many in the Houghton area with the Yellowhammers and on Dec 17 a flock of around 30 was in a stubble field in the Lymington area. On Dec 16 I had one female in the Conigar Point field at Warbington for the first time this winter.

Corn Bunting: Two were seen near Longmere Point during a walk round Thorney Island on Dec 14 when a flock of more than 55 was reported from the Lewes Brooks area immediately south of Lewes town - on Dec 16 this flock was reported to have increased to more than 120 birds of unknown origin.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Clouded Yellow: No sighting of the butterfly but on Dec 6 Mike Skelton found a caterpillar feeding on Bird's Foot Trefoil at the Boscombe cliffs in Bournemouth.

Large White: Caterpillars still feeding on Brocolli at Corhampton near the Meon Valley on Dec 17

Moths

White Plume moth (1513 Pterophorus pentadactyla): One active on Portsdown on Dec 17 was maybe not this species as the Hants Moths website shows sightings centre around June with none earlier than Apil and none later than October. One possible species (though greyer in colour) is Adaina microdactyla which is said to be .."Locally common amongst hemp-agrimony Eupatorium cannabinum, especially when the plant is growing in drier localities". Another possibility is Emmelina monodactyla which can be found in all months and is said to be .. "Common to abundant throughout. The imago hibernates and comes to light early in the year. The larva is polyphagous on bindweeds Calystegia and Convolvulus, knotgrass Polygonum aviculare and other herbaceous plants".

Winter Moth (1799 Operophtera brumata): Although the first of these was recorded on Nov 19 there was a mass emergence in the Newhaven area on Dec 18 with 240 recorded there that evening

Northern Winter Moth (1800 Operopthera fagata): Also reported at Newhaven on Dec 18 was the first and so far only specimen of this species but the Northern species is regularly found in the south and is easily distinguished as being much larger than the normal Winter Moth

Pale Brindled Beauty (1926 Apocheima pilosaria): This normally emerges in February but an early specimen was found at Edburton (north of the Downs near the R Adur) on Dec 16

Caterpillars of both Treble Lines and Large Yellow Underwing were still feeding in the Newhaven area by night on Dec 16

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My count of wild plants flowering in December has risen from 84 last week to just 86 this week (with an additional three grass species flowering during the month)

Holly Fern (Polystichum tsus-simense): This was neither flowering nor seen in December but I have only just picked up the report from Martin Rand's Hantsplants website ( http://www.hantsplants.org.uk/news.php ) which says about this Fern .. "Fern guru from the Natural History Museum Fred Rumsey spotted a small plant of Tsus-sima Holly Fern (Polystichum tsus-simense) behind a leaking drainpipe in The Square, Winchester in early October. Fred writes: "I have seen it on two walls in London but am aware of no other records for this...yet! The fronds are used by florists and I think it more likely to have originated from spores from a wedding guests buttonhole than from a garden plant given its proximity to the cathedral. It’s still young and is reasonably hardy and somewhat protected from cleaning operations being behind a pair of drainpipes in a small recess...it will be interesting to see how long it survives!" It is growing with some small plants of Black Spleenwort (Asplenium adiantum-nigrum) and could easily be overlooked at this stage". Further investigation on my part took me to the BBC Gardening website where I read .. "Common Name: Holly fern (or Korean Rock Fern) Genus: Polystichum Species: tsussimense Skill Level: Beginner Exposure: Partial shade, Shade Hardiness: Hardy Soil type: Well-drained/light, Clay/heavy, Moist Height: 50cm Spread: 50cm

"Holly ferns are one of the hardiest ferns around and are ideal for evergreen colour in shady spots in the garden. This particular species is neat and lowgrowing, and has pale green fronds with dark veins and stems. The leaves acquire a silvery sheen as they age, but this simply adds to the plant's interest. To grow successfully, the plant need partial to almost full shade in moist soil with good drainage. A native of the Far East, it's becoming rare in the wild due to over-collection by plant growers, so check with retailers that the plant has been grown legitimately".

This species is not yet recorded in Stace's Flora.

Tamarisk: This was added to the December list on Dec 16 when I found a few fresh flowers on trees along the Warblington shore

Cow Parsley: Not included in the flowering list but will hopefully be added soon as I found a well grown plant with white showing in its flower buds on Dec 20. It was found beside the A3 London Road climbing Portsdown behind a Bus Shelter just north of Chalkridge Road

Wayfaring Tree: A shrub with a few flower buds starting to open (but not in flower) found by the Churchillian pub on Portsdown on Dec 20. This supports an entry on the Durlston website for Dec 5 noting .. "The early blooms of a Wayfaring Tree as it comes into flower - the pink and white heads noticed in the thick scrub".

Field Madder: This was flowering in the Warblington Farm arable field behind Conigar Point on Dec 16

Knapweed: Single plants of both Greater and Black Knapweed were still in flower on Portsdown on Dec 20

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: One was again seen in Pagham Harbour on Dec 15 (one also here on Nov 30)

'White' Squirrel: On Dec 17 John Goodspeed had a report of a 'White Squirrel' having been present for at least six weeks in the densely built-up area of Southsea around the Kings Theatre. I see that these white furred creatures were seen in the historic dockyard and in the Victoria Park area of Portsmouth in November 2007 while in 2005 an 'albino' was twice reported in Southsea during May and in June of that year a pair of 'albinos' bred in the Farlington area of Portsmouth giving birth to three young (two of them white and one grey). In Jan 2005 John reported that someone living in the Widley residentia area of Portsdown had seen a Fox catch a White Squirrel and then bury it in a flower pot!

'Purple Squirrel': A photo in the Portsmouth NEWS for Dec 19, taken at Meoncross School in Stubbington (south of Fareham), shows a vaguely 'purple' Grey Squirel climbing an Oak tree. This is an independent school taking children from pre-school age to 16 years and I wonder if some older pupils may have been taking an extra-curricular course in 'mobile graffiti' using their spray cans to target this animal. Another possibility is that the Squirrel has been bathing in a local pool into which a purple dye has accumulated as a result of its use by the local Water Company to trace leaks (this practice once produced some startling pink and green Black-headed Gulls whose photos also appeared in the same paper mnany years ago)

Common Newt: A very early report of a Newt returning to a garden pond on Dec 15 for the start of the breeding season comes from the Northiam area of the Rother valley north of Hastings

Wall Lizard: A very late sighting of a Wall Lizard in the Boscombe area of Bournemouth was dated Dec 6


Summary for Dec 8 - 14 (Week 49 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

A flock of 118 Great Crested Grebe off Titchfield Haven is a good count for Hampshire but nowhere near the flock of 1600 near Dungeness in winter 2002-03. A town garden near Bognor recently had an exhausted Gannet and a similarly weak Little Auk in it. The Whooper Swans on Ivy Lake at Chichester are now easier to see as they have been sleeping on the water throughout the day. East Hampshire has a rare Ring-necked Duck on Passfield Pond (and Petersfield has had 3 Waxwings on street tree berries). A single House Martin was still at Weymouth this week. Dunnock are singing in Emsworth and Fieldfares are back in the Nutbourne orchards. Somewhere in Hampshire there may well be a night roost of 25 or more Ravens and in West Sussex there are probably far more breeding Firecrests present in the summer, but migrating south in the winter, than the birds which get much more publicity around coastal sites in the winter months. And finally we have a new bird to look out for - a Bengal Eagle Owl (smaller version of the more frequent escapee and stone statue species).

Common Darter dragonflies were seen at both Lymington and Frensham (Surrey) on Dec 6 while both Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies were still flying this week.

Lesser Celandines and Hazel catkins are both now flowering and a Common Dog Violet was also seen in a Havant garden while what are probably cultivated Primroses were flowering in Brook Meadow at Emsworth.

The Emsworth Brook Meadow nature reserve is proud to announce the arrival of Rabbit on their species list while Molehills are popping up everywhere. A more unexpected report is of 20 Dolphins riding the bow wave of a yacht in the far from tropical waters of the North Sea off the Goodwin Sands this week

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Diver species: All three regular species can be seen along the south coast in small numbers. Highest count this week was of 8 Great Northerns in Studland Bay near the mouth of Poole Harbour on Dec 13, and on Dec 7 five of these divers were in the Solent off the Ryde/Fishbourne area of the Isle of Wight, but one visitor to Sheppey in the Thames estuary on Dec 10 reported seeing 87 Divers (including at least one Black-throated) during his visit.

Great Crested Grebe: The number in Rye Bay was up to at least 360 on Dec 8 - on reporting this the RX website added that in the winter of 2002-2003 a huge flock of 1600 birds was in this general area (though that record count was from an area just east of Dungeness). Locally a good sized flock is once again building up in the Solent off Titchfield Haven with a count of 118 there on Dec 11.

Slavonian Grebe: A flock of these is accumulating off Pagham Harbour where in past years there have been more than 30. This winter I have seen a count of 13 on Nov 26 and now 22 on Dec 11

Black-necked Grebe: No further reports from Langstone Harbour where 14 were seen on Dec 1 but there has been a increase of the number in Studland Bay at the mouth of Poole Harbour - 13 were there on Dec 2, then 17 on Dec 6 and 21 on Dec 7, increasing to 25 on Dec 13

Gannet: Storm driven birds are occasionally found in an exhausted condition far inland (I once recovered a Gannet from the River Wallington in the Waterlooville area) but a find of one exhausted Gannet and a similarly distressed Little Auk both in the same coastal town garden at Middleton-on-sea (adjacent to Bognor) on Dec 13 was surprising!

Shag: 34 of these were seen off Christchurch Harbour on Dec 13 after Durlston had reported (on Dec 12) that many of the Shags there already had their breeding crests.

Spoonbill: At least 13 are still in Poole Harbour (seen in the Arne area on Dec 10)

Whooper Swan: The pair at Chichester are easier to see this winter - whereas in previous winters they only used the Chichester lakes as a night roost this winter they have remained on Ivy Lake during the day (at least between Dec 10 and 13) - they are likely to be seen sleeping in the south east corner of Ivy Lake throughout the day.

Pale-bellied Brent: The flock of up to 28 birds that was in the Ferrybridge (Weymouth) area at the end of November may be moving to Poole Harbour where 6 were seen in Poole's Baiter Park on Dec 12, increasing to 18 there on Dec 13

Brant: One was seen by the Thorney Great Deeps (west) on Dec 12 and on Dec 9 two separate birds were seen in Pagham Harbour

Red-breasted Goose: The Lymington area bird was still at Normandy on Dec 11

Shelduck: The number in Chichester and Langstone Harbours is still increasing - no total available but 26 were on the Emsworth west shore on Dec 8 plus 35+ on the Warblington shore on Dec 10

Ring-necked Duck: A first winter male was reported at Rye Harbour on Nov 16 and a female was in Poole Harbour on Dec 7. The young male may have flown west as it or a similar bird was found on Dec 10 by Mike Wearing at Passfield Pond (in the Bramshott Court area near the B3006 between Liphook and Bordon in East Hants) - it was still there on Dec 13

Eider: The number on the sea off Titchfield Haven was up to 12 in October and 13 in November but has now increased to an estimated 30 birds there on Dec 11

Velvet Scoter: Two were seen off Pagham Harbour on Dec 9

Smew: One has been at the Dungeness RSPB reserve from Nov 10 to Dec 1 at least but now others are being seen - on Dec 10 a redhead flew over Sheppey and one Dec 13 two redheads appeared at Rye Harbour

Goosander: In addition to the large flock (max count of 41 so far this winter) which roosts at the Blashford Lakes, and spreads out by day to numerous sites in the New Forest and Avon Valley, there appears to be another smaller group based in the Southampton area - no one has identified their roost site but up to two birds have been at the Eastleigh Lakeside Country Park from Nov 26 to Nov 30, then on Dec 7 a group of 7 birds were on the River Test in the Broadlands estate area at Romsey and on Dec 9 one was on a fishing lake at Newlands Farm near Stubbington (south of Fareham). On Dec 13 one was seen in the west Solent from Hurst Castle (maybe one of the Avon Valley birds?) and on Dec 12 John Clark found at least 52 in the Hants/Berks border area (Yateley and Moor Green)

Water Rail: Of local interest here in Havant the bird seen on Dec 5 feeding in the Lymbourne stream where it runs between the Hayling Billy trail and the Wade Court property was seen again towards dusk on Dec 8 in roughly the same area (south of the footbridge and close to where a channel runs into the Wade Court property to bring water to the Chinese Water Garden feature)

Coot: More than 50 were in the Emsworth Harbour area on Dec 8 as frost drives these birds from inland waters to the coast. A similar flock of Moorhens can now be seen in the damp pony field beside the Lymbourne stream south of Wade Court

Avocet: The winter flock in Nutbourne Bay of Chichester Harbour had risen from 16 on Dec 1 to 18 on Dec 9

Golden Plover: Around 275 were on the flat fields of Newlands Farm (between Fareham and Stubbington) on Dec 7 while on Dec 8 the Lymington Marshes had a flock of 363.

Knot: A group of 11 were on the Emsworth shore on Dec 8 - the first seen there this winter - but on Dec 13 only 100+ were seen in Pagham Harbour where there had been around 400 on Dec 3

Little Stint: One seen where the River Lavant, coming from Chichester, flows into the Fishbourne Channel on Dec 9 was the first I have heard of reported in Chichester Harbour this winter since one was seen from Thorney Island on Aug 31 - there is usually a small group of them in the West Wittering area.

Ruff: One seen on the Lymington Marshes on Dec 8 was the first reported in Hampshire since Oct 11 when one was at the Blashford Lakes. Over in Kent there were 26 on Sheppey on Dec 10 (up to 30 there at the end of September)

Black-tailed Godwit: Around 325 came to roost at the Blashford Lakes on Dec 7, probably after feeding in the Avon Valley south of Ringwood, and on Dec 8 there were only 164 on the Lymington Marshes (where there had been 432 on Dec 5). Locally there was a flock of 120 in Nutbourne Bay on Dec 9

Spotted Redshank: One was in the Thorney Deeps wader roost (with 14 Greenshank) on Dec 12 and two were in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour on Dec 9. In Poole Harbour seven were seen in Lytchett Bay on Dec 13

Pomarine Skua: One seen leaving the west Solent past Hurst Castle on Dec 13 seems to have been the first seen on the English side of the Channel since October (though there have been odd sightings of singles on the French Side of the Channel and from north and east Kent)

Little Gull: A sighting of 6 at the mouth of Pagham Harbour on Dec 13 was the first along the English Channel coast (west of Dungeness) since one was at Lymington on Nov 8

Little Auk: A report of one apparently healthy bird flying over the sea off Christchurch Harbour on Dec 11 has been followed by an extraordinary report of a sickly/exhausted bird found in a coastal garden at Middleton-on-sea (adjacent to Bognor) on Dec 13. Making this latter find even more bizarre was the presence of an oiled/exhausted Gannet with the Auk in the same garden.

Long-eared Owl: Away from the Isle of Wight where this species replaces the Tawny Owl (absent from the Island) Long-eared Owls are very rare in southern England as breeding birds but do occasionally make themselves 'available' to birders in coastal winter roosts in which several birds will sit motionless throughout the dayling hours before coming out to hunt after dark (unlike the daylght hunting Short-eared Owls). So far this winter I have only seen one report of a bird in Hampshire (at the Lower Test reserve) and that was an unconfirmed sighting by a fisherman. By Dec 11 there were at least three birds at Rye Harbour and on Dec 12 at least five birds were seen at Conyer on the north west Kent shore between Sittingbourne and Faversham (across the Swale from Sheppey)

Great-spotted Woodpecker: One heard drumming in the Climping area near the mouth of the R Arun on Dec 11 - this is not the earliest to do so (that was one in central Southampton on Nov 19)

House Martin: One reported at the RSPB Lodmoor reserve at Weymouth on Dec 13

Waxwing: Three birds were feeding on berries in the residential area east of Petersfield town centre on Dec 11 and on Dec 12 six of these birds were near a school and church in Botley village on the River Hamble

Dunnock: More than one has been heard singing in Emsworth on several days since Nov 26 but so far the habit does not seem to have caught on elsewhere

Fieldfare: 27 were seen in the trees around the apple orchards at Nutbourne (east of Emsworth) on Dec 9 and there is a fair chance of them staying there to feed on apples left lying on the ground.

Yellow-browed Warbler: One has been showing well for birders in trees around the fishing lakes at Newlands Farm between Fareham and Stubbington from Dec 12 to 14 at least - most visitors have also seen the Firecrest there (see below)

Firecrest: One at Newlands Farm south of Fareham from Dec 7 on, and another in the Hook Lake valley near Warsash on Dec 9, were good local sightings. On the subject of Firecrest there was an interesting contribution to the SOS website on Dec 7 by Bernie Forbes who wrote .. "In my experience, the past few years have seen a remarkable increase in Firecrest records, mainly as a breeding species in West Sussex. In the preferred habitat the density of Firecrest breeding may be as high as 2/4 pairs per hectare. This habitat is normally non native conifer plantations where the density of breeding birds can be high. They have also been recorded breeding in areas of deciduous trees such as mature oak and beech with plenty of ivy and holly in the nearby environment. Firecrest appear to be spreading east, we have recorded them in the breeding season nearly as far east as the A24 trunk road which runs north in the county and up to the Surrey border. This may place the current breeding populations in the many 100's. It is strange that the regular coastal and favoured wintering sites within the county do not really reflect this increase in breeding numbers. My guess is that many of them migrate south to winter."

Willow Tit: One in the Arne area on the west of Poole Harbour on Dec 10 wasonly the ninth I have heard of in southern England this year

Hooded Crow: One seen on the Isle of Sheppey on Dec 10 was the first I have heard of this winter and brings back memories of youthful birding along the north Kent coast in the late 1940s when I was at school at Canterbury

Raven: In May of this year John Clark told us that there had been a winter roost of 25 Ravens somewhere in Hampshire last winter. That number was equalled in a report from Seaford in East Sussex on Apr 17 this year and on Nov 25 there was a report of 26 at Tarrant Rushton airfield in Dorset - these facts were recalled when reading of 20+ Ravens at Tarrant Rushton on Dec 12

Hawfinch: These are back at the Mercer's Way wintering site in Romsey - at least 4 were seen there on Dec 7. Other current reports, showing the widespread presence of small groups of these birds, are from Purse Caundle near Sherborne in Dorset (3 on Dec 7), Testwood Lakes at Totton by Southampton (3 on Dec 9), West Park nature reserve at Burgess Hill near Haywards Heath (1 seen on Dec 10) and a count of 12 going to roost at the Blackwater Arboretum in the New Forest on Dec 10. Latest report is of 8 seen in Silver Birches by the disused railway line running through the south west of the New Forest at Long Slade Bottom (north of Sway) on Dec 13

Snow Bunting: None in Hampshire since the Hayling Island bird on Nov 4 but on Dec 9 there was a flock of around 40 on Sheppey and another 14 at Sandwich Bay in Kent

Escapees: The Portland website entry of Dec 11 started with .. "There was a very unexpected start to the day when we received a call from a member of the public reporting an owl - claimed to be a Short-eared Owl - that had been seen standing on parked cars and a garden wall at Easton; on going to investigate we discovered that the bird was a very tame eagle owl that we were able to pick up and bring back to the Observatory." On Dec 12 the website carried an excellent photo of the bird with the caption saying .. "We thought the bird looked very small in the field; in the hand it turned out to be way below the range of a 'normal' Eagle Owl (wing length ca380mm and weight ca1100gm; in European Eagle Owl these figures ought to be in the region of 440-500mm and 1500+gm) and further information has revealed that the bird is a Bengal Eagle Owl." The diary for that day included .. "Spending most of the day trying to get rid of a Bengal Eagle Owl that nobody seems to want isn't conducive to getting much birding done"

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Common Darter: Last week I passed on a report of a sighting of one on the Lymington marshes seen on Dec 6 and now I read of another being seen on the same day at Frensham Little Pond in Surrey

Butterflies

Red Admiral: Two seen in Peacehaven near Brighton on Dec 7

Peacock: A garden in the Lewes area had one nectaring on Heather on both Dec 4 and 5, then on Dec 6 a visitor to a DIY store in Crawley found one in a sorry state (probably just rudely awakened from attempted hibernation among a stack of pallets). After taking the insect home and giving it a more suitable winter hideaway it looked a lot 'happier'.

Other Insects

Buff-tailed Bumblebee: Several were taking nectar from Mahonia plants in Stanley Park at Gosport on Dec 7

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My December list of wild plants in flower currently has 84 entries, the best being:

Lesser Celandine: One plant with several flower buds, two of them fully open flowers, was seen beside the Lymbourne stream at Langstone on Dec 10. More Celandines have been seen in flower on the roadside of Bound Lane in south Hayling - maybe even a few days earlier than those which I saw.

Bittercress: Both Wavy and Hairy Bittercress have been seen flowering this month

Common Dog Violet: One flower (with blunt, white spur) seen on an isolated plant in a Havant garden on Dec 9

Hazel: Catkins fully extended with anthers showing on a tree which always flowers early and which overhangs the bus stop on the main road from Hayling just north of Langstone High Street.

Primrose: Some were flowering at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Dec 10 but these were probably winter flowering cultivars planted by Havant Borough rather than our native wild Primroses

OTHER WILDLIFE

Dolphin: When I imagine these swimming in the bow wave of a yacht I picture the scene in a tropical setting so I was surprised to read (on the Planet Thanet website) of 20 Dolphins accompanying a yacht returning from France to Ramsgate off the Goodwin Sands on Dec 7

Mole: Brian Fellows comments on a recent increase in the number of fresh molehills to be seen everywhere - I am not sure what is the primary cause of this but among the factors are the easier digging conditions in wet soil, the need to create new tunnels to escape from those that have become waterlogged, the need to search for more food in order to survive the winter cold and (perhaps not effective yet) the springtime need to search out a mate (each network of tunnels is normally occupied by a single mole but at least once a year the males must briefly find and invade the tunnels of a female - and she in turn will then have to create a nest chamber)

Water Vole: Another sighting in the River Ems at Brook Meadow on Dec 7 and on that day two others were seen in the disused canal running through Romsey past the end of Mercer's Way (the site which attracts Hawfinches each winter)

Hare: Pete Durnell reminds us that Normandy Marsh at Lymington still has a population of Hares but has no Rabbits. I can remember Hares being present at Farlington Marshes, and more recently seeing them on Eames Farm fields when visiting the Thorney seawall at the west end of the Great Deeps but I believe they are now extinct at both these coastal sites

Rabbit: A couple of these seen in Emsworth's Brook Meadow on Dec 8 were apparently the first ever recorded on the site!


Summary for Dec 1 - 7 (Week 48 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

I must admit to having a heavy cold this weekend so I will leave you the job of picking out the sightings which interest you!

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: These are far more numerous than the other diver species though we do not see large numbers in central south England (I believe they can still be found in hundreds in some Cornish bays in the winter). I was reminded of this when reading of a total of 122 flying west along the north Kent coast on Dec 5, while on Dec 6 a much larger number flew west through the Straits of Dover on the Frech side - 485 were seen from Le Clipon in the Calais area with 5 Black-throated among them

Black-throated Diver: The last report of the bird which was at Forton Lake (Gosport) from Nov 15 appears to have been on Nov 23 though it may have stayed as one was seen in the north of Portsmouth Harbour near Pewit Island (mouth of Fareham Creek) on Dec 6

Great Northern Diver: Up to three were seen in the mouth of Chichester Harbour throughout November along with two Red-throated (ongoing) and one Black-throated (on Nov 17 and 18 only). On Dec 6 one was seen in Fareham Creek.

Little Grebe: More than 52 were present at Cuckmere Haven (between Beachy Head and Seaford) on Dec 1 - other coastal flocks will be building up now inland waters are starting to freeze over'

Great Crested Grebe: On Nov 23 a flock of 25 was on the sea off Climping (west side of the mouth of the R Arun) and on Nov 26 a flock of 22 was on the sea off Pagham Harbour. The largest current flock off our coasts seems to be one of 60 birds off Sandwich Bay on Dec 5 after the arrival of 39 there on Dec 5

Red-necked Grebe: No south coast reports this week but I read that birders in the Kent Stour valley were excited to see one there on Dec 6 but as soon as they got their bins on it it vanished in a flurry of water - seemingly dragged under and eaten by a large Pike

Black-necked Grebe: The first report of a winter flock back in Langstone Harbour that I am aware of was of 14 seen from the Oysterbeds on Dec 1 by Jeff Goodridge (last year 13 were there on Nov 17 but in 2006 the first flock - again 14 - was seen on Dec 1)

Fulmar: We have already reported that around 10 birds were back near their nest cliffs at the South Foreland in Kent in Nov 29 and I now see that they returned to the Folkestone area on that same day though the first news of them back at Cliff End (east of Hastings) did not come until Dec 1. On Dec 6 Cap Griz Nez across the Channel reported 36 of them.

Balearic Shearwater: Although none of these have been reported along our south coast since Nov 25 the Pointe de Hoc site in Normandy reported 26 there on Dec 6

Gannet: On Dec 6 there were 3445 at Pointe de Hoc in Normandy and 5400 at Cap Griz Nez near Calais

Cormorant: On Dec 6 watchers at Christchurch Harbour watched a flock of 128 Cormorant approaching them from the south but the birds veered off to the north east and seemed to head for Barton on Sea in Hampshire (no entry on Steve Keen's Blog since Dec 3 at this time)

Bittern: What seems to be the first to be reported at Titchfield Haven (or anywhere in Hampshire) this winter was there on Nov 29. Birds are now back at several regular winter sites in other counties but I was interested to be reminded, by a report on Dec 1 from Burton Mill Pond (west of Pulborough) of their habit of climbing the reeds (grasping two different stems, one with each foot) to escape ground based predators (e.g. Foxes) during the night while they are asleep.

Cattle Egret: One was seen to fly east over the Romsey area on Dec 3, low enough to see the colour of its bill and other characteristics separating it from a Little Egret, but it was not seen to land

Bewick's Swan: These have been arriving in southern England since Nov 6 and by Nov 30 the number on the R Arun just north of Arundel had increased to around 24 and on the night of Dec 2 a group of 8 (probably newcomers) roosted at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site

Whooper Swan: Although the first arrivals of this species were seen on the Isle of Wight on Oct 4 numbers up to now have been lower than those of Bewick's with a peak count of just 4 seen in East Sussex on Nov 16. The latest news, however, includes a group of 12 coming in off the sea near Portland on Dec 1 and a separate sighting (on Nov 30) of the first two back at Ivy Lake in Chichester - these were seen there again on Dec 2, 4 and 5 - the report on Dec 4 says that they were seen, not on Ivy Lake, but near the Caravan Park entrance (Vinnetrow or Peckham Lakes). It seems that one pair have been wintering in the Chichester/North Mundham area each winter since 2002, and in the 2007-8 winter they brought 3 youngsters with them after having one youngster in the previous winter (but seem to have none this winter). They only use the Chichester Lakes as a night roost.

Black Swan: On Dec 2 one was seen on the R Itchen near Northam Bridge in Southampton and on Dec 5 one was on the Widewater lagoon at Worthing

Black Brant: Martin Gillingham tells us that the regular bird at Farlington Marshes can usually be seen close to the reserve building

Red-breasted Goose: Still present in the Lymington marshes on Dec 5

Pintail: Twelve were back for the first time this winter on the Emsworth shore

Velvet Scoter: A female or young bird was in the mouth of Chichester Harbour (seen from East Head) on Dec 5 and on Dec 6 four were seen near Calais on the French coast.

Goldeneye: By Dec 4 five of these were seen in Fareham Creek

Peregrine: What was probably one of the birds which nested this summer on a ledge of the Paulsgrove Chalkpit (south face of Portsdown) was flying around that site on Dec 3 and on that same day Graham Roberts published news that one of the Peregrine chicks he had ringed in the Chichester Cathedral nest in July 2007 has now converted to Catholicism and is based on the Roman Catholic cathedral in Cambridge

Water Rail: On Dec 5 one was feeding openly by day in the Lymbourne stream at Langstone - it was under overhanging branches just south of the public footbridge over the stream

Avocet: The flock at Nutbourne Bay (east of Thorney Island) continues to increase with 16 seen there on Dec 1

Ringed Plover: Of local interest two were seen on the Emsworth west shore for the first time this winter on Dec 6 and on Dec 5 four were on the shingle at the mouth of the Langbrook stream by the Langstone South Moors at high tide - also the first there this winter

Knot: On Dec 2 around 200 were at Newtown Harbour (IoW) and on Dec 3 there were around 400 in Pagham Harbour - in both cases a considerable increase in numbers previously reported for these two sites this winter

Purple Sandpiper: On Dec 2 Southsea Castle had 3 birds on show and Brighton Marina had 8 but neither was anywhere near the flock of 47 in a high tide roost in the Thanet area of Kent on Dec 1. On Dec 4 the number at Southsea jumped to 10 birds (beating the count of 8 there on Nov 6)

Black-tailed Godwit: By Nov 30 Pulborough Brooks had a substantial winter flock of more than 70 birds (presumably birds fleeing the winter cold in the harbours). The rate at which the birds are moving inland is indicated by counts of 35 there on Nov 25, 52 on Nov 27 and now 70+ on Nov 30. This movement inland was also marked on Nov 28 by the first report of a flock of 100 birds in the Avon Valley near the Avon Causeway. The fact that many are still on the coast is shown by a peak count of 432 on the Lymington shore on Dec 5

Little Gull: I have not heard of any in southern England since Nov 25 when two were seen in north Kent but on Dec 6 Cap Griz Nez near Calais reported 61 of them

Lesser Black-back Gull: More than 2500 roosted at the Blashford Lakes (Ringwood) on the evening of Dec 6

Great Black-back Gull: More than 220 were seen at Cuckmere Haven near Beachy Head on Dec 1

Sandwich Tern: Three different birds were seen in the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Dec 1

Winter Doves: Unlike the two 'white doves' (presumably from a local dovecot) which appeared in Brian Fellows' Emsworth garden on Nov 28 a flock of 30 Collared Doves which turned up there on Dec 2 (and a flock of around 70 Stock Doves seen in the Sandown area of the Isle of Wight on Nov 30) were presumably long-distance refugees from cold weather.

Ring-necked Parakeet: I would not be surprised to read of night roosts of a thousand or more of these in the London area but (while I knew some were based on Kent) I was surprised to read of more than 470 going to roost in the Thanet area on Dec 1

Eagle Owl: There is a possibility that an escaped Eagle Owl is in the Tadley area (west of Basingstoke) after a non-birder contacted the Hampshire Wildlife Trust to say that he had recently seen a very large owl there. (Such escapes are not uncommon)

Long-eared Owl: On Dec 1 a driver on a road just north of Chichester (Lavant area) saw an owl in the roadway and not only stopped but found the owl so weak that he could pick it up and place it on the verge off the road. This good Samaritan then phoned a birder he knew (Andrew House) who went to the rescue, found the bird (a Long-eared Owl) still immobile, and took it to the Brent Lodge Wildife Rescue centre where it has some chance of recovery though Andrew says it was so emaciated that it may well be unable to recover.

Richard's Pipit: One seen at Sandwich Bay on Dec 2

Waxwing: On Dec 1 a single Waxwing was found feeding on ornamental tree berries close to the main south Hayling shopping centre, delighting many birders who came to see in on both Dec 1 and 2. Surprisingly this seems to be the very first time the species has been seen on Hayling Island

Dunnock: After one had been heard in full song at Emsworth on Nov 26 two of them were heard there on Dec 2 - these are the fourth and fifth reports of Dunnock song I am aware of this winter - soon they should be heard daily everywhere

Ring Ouzel: A very late bird was found in the Kent Stour Valley on Nov 30. Many years ago I saw one wintering in the New Forest but that is very unusual (and unlikely to happen in the cold of East Kent!)

Song Thrush: One heard singing in Emsworth on Dec 2 was the sixth to do so in southern England this winter but these reports are at widely separated dates and show no sign of the general outburst of song we can expect sometime this month. Another was heard in the Billy Line trees near my garden on Dec 5 after searching for food in my garden.

Mistle Thrush: During November I usually hear at least one burst of Mistle Thrush song in my home area but until Dec 1 I had not come across any of these birds for months so I was pleased to see one in the Warblington School Playing fields that day. (I have seen just three reports of song in November on Nov 9, 11, and 12 but all miles from Havant!)

Blackcap: Winter birds are back in some gardens, e.g. one feeding on Honeysuckle berries in a Romsey garden on Dec 2 (first seen there this winter). The first such report came from a Locks Heath garden near Fareham on Nov 11 followed by one in a Northiam garden (Hastings area) on Nov 12

Great Grey Shrike: A newcomer was at the Pannel Valley nature reserve near Rye on Dec 6

Hawfinch: On Nov 30 I read a very surprising report that four of these birds had been seen several times recently at the Testwood Lakes site at Totton (west of Southampton) - making the news more intriguing was the statement that they were usually seen in a tree (near the site Visitor Centre) which has Mistletoe growing on it - the birds are said to turn up around 9am daily and to stay there until mid-afternoon (when they presumably fly off to roost elsewhere).

Yellowhammer: Until this week the highest count I had seen reported this autumn (since Sep 1) was of around 20 on winter stubble near Pulborough on Oct 28 but we now have a count of 28 at Sandwich Bay on Dec 1

Escapees: A sprightly looking sunlit Cockatiel was perched in a tree above the entrance to St Faith's Church in Havant, attracting the attention of the Saturday shoppers when it called, on Dec 6.

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Common Darter: An extraordinarily late sighting of one on the seawall at the Lymington marshes on Dec 6 - the last I know of before this was one at Gosport on Nov 19

Butterflies

Red Admiral: Just four of these are the only butterflies I am aware of this week - one was seen at the Queen Elizabeth country park on Dec 2 and on Dec 4 I saw one for myself in the centre of Havant - elsewhere one was in the Eastbourne (Herstmonceux) area on Dec 3 and another in Lewes town on Dec 4.

Large White caterpillars were seen in the Seaford area on Dec 1 (marching from the allotments where they had been eating cabbages to climb six feet up to the roof of a garden shed to pupate). At Northiam (north of Hastings) a Speckled Wood pupa was found when dead grass was being cleared.

Moths

Buttoned Snout (2480 Hypena rostralis): One found indoors in the Thanet area of Kent on Dec 3 - these moths appear in August and then normally hibernate in IOctober to breed next spring

Other Insects

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis): This American insect was new to Britain in 2007 but this year there were ten reports of it at seven sites in October and now another single has been found at Portland on Dec 5

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

In the first week of December I have recorded 79 plants in flower but one is to be discounted as a grass (Wild Oat) while two more were strictly garden flowers (Druce's Cranesbill and Honeywort) so the real total is around 76 - perhaps it is actually 75 as I find difficulty in believing the report from Durlston of Ground Ivy in flower. Good records this week were of Brackish Water Crowfoot still flowering in the Homewell spring pool in central Havant and of just one flower remaining on an otherwise dead bush of Perennial Wallrocket on the rail line in Havant. Several plants still flowering were the result of wildflower seed sowing by Havant Borough near their Southmoor Lane depot (Corn Marigold, Corn Cockle, Cornflower and Autumn Oxeye plus a new plant of Sweet Alison) while across the road from that sowing both Pellitory of the Wall and Storks Bill were still out

OTHER WILDLIFE

Dolphin species: On Dec 5 a birder on the shore at Splash Point (just west of Beachy Head) found what he described as a dead Dolphin washed up but went on to say that the corpse was only around 70 cm long which sounded too small for any Dolphin or Porpoise until I guessed this was a youngster, perhaps only born this summer. An adult Porpoise is likely to be at least 135 cm long, a Common Dolphin measures at least 180 cm and an adult Bottle-nosed Dolphin should be 280 cm. However all these creatures take several years to reach maturity - for a Bottle-nosed the process takes 12 years and a Porpoise takes 3 years (presumably the Common Dolphin is somewhere in between). A weak youngster is quite likely to have been washed up in recent storms and once stranded on the beach it would suffocate as it is unable to expand its ribs against the increased pressure of gravity when out of water.

Common Seal: One in Pagham Harbour on Nov 30

Water Vole: One seen swimming in the River Ems at Brook Meadow (Emsworth) on Dec 2 was the 153rd observation of the species recorded at that site this year and will probably be the last, though as these animals do not hibernate one might be seen again making a foray to restock the larder which they keep for winter sustenance within their burrows where they spend the winter months

Bat species: One seen in daylight (3:30pm) flying into a thatched roof in the Hook/Warsash area on Dec 6

Fungi: More fresh specimens of Field Blewit had come up in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Dec 5 and as I was walking up the northern of the Billy Trail on my way to the cemetery I had a further look at a tuft of yellowish fungi which I had seen earlier in the week and thought were young Honey Fungus. This id had been questioned by John Sawtell who thought they were what was shown in his book (a recent publication called the Dorling Kindersley Pocket Nature: Fungi - the first book to use the 'new English Names' proposed by the British Mycological Society) - this book called the species 'Sheathed Woodtuft' (Kuehneromyces mutabilis) which I found translates to Galerina mutabilis which can be found in Roger Phillips. I now agree with this id. Other finds this week have been the first Sulphur Tuft to be found in my garden and yet another outburst of fungi had appeared by Dec 5 on one of the woodchip piles beside the Billy Trail in the Langstone area - a large species of one of the Ascomycetes which I call 'bedpan fungi' from their shape and general appearance - the bowl of the largest specimen I found was 10 cm across and led me to guess it was Peziza vesiculosa or Blistered Cup


Summary for Nov 24 - 30 (Week 47 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Three Little Egrets searching for worms in the wet ground of the pony fields north of Wade Court at Langstone were the first I have seen in winter mode and a Tawny Owl has been seen in the north end of the Billy Trail behind Fairfield School. A Whooper Swan at Farlington Marshes was, I think, a first for the reserve - three more arrived in the Ringwood area and probably came with a small wave of Bewick's Swans. A Merlin and 13 Avocet were both seen by the Havant Willdife Group at Nutbourne on Nov 29. Single Iceland and Glaucous Gulls (and a Night Heron) are the first to reach southern England this winter and other rarities include a Pallas' Warbler on the Isle of Wight and two unusual Shrike species in Lincolnshire and the Hebrides. Fulmars, Guillemots and Rooks have all been checking up on their nest sites this week. With approaching 1200 Waxwings now in the UK we may soon find some settling in Hampshire. Both Dunnock and Song Thrush are expected to become regular songsters any day now.

Large White and Red Admiral butterflies are the only ones still flying and only one new moth species is in this week's news

The list of wild plants seen flowering in November has reached 157 (excluding Grasses) with four new species added this week (Ornamental Cherry Trees have also started to flower in gardens but these are not included in the count)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Black-throated Diver: On Nov 28 watchers at Selsey Bill saw three of these fishing and five more flying west as well as two Red-throated and two Great Northern on the sea

Little Grebe: The flock in Christchurch Harbour numbered 22 birds by Nov 26 but no recent local reports from Broadmarsh or Portscreek

Red-necked Grebe: Two were in Studland Bay on Nov 28 when one was among 15 Great Crested on the sea off Ferring (Worthing)

Slavonian Grebe: A flock of 13 were on the sea just off Pagham Harbour on Nov 26 along with a flock of 22 Great Crested Grebes

Fulmar: On Nov 29 around 10 were cruising off the South Foreland prospecting for nest sites

Sooty Shearwater: One seen off Portland on Nov 23 was the first I have heard of since one at Dungeness on Nov 1 (regular autumn reports of them ceased on Oct 24)

Bittern: Reports from five sites this week (none in Hampshire) include a sighting at Burton Mill Pond near Pulborough on Nov 29

Night Heron: One at Hythe in Kent on Nov 22 and 23 only (near where the Green Heron was seen from Oct 26 to Nov 10). This new bird was reported as a Black-crowned Night Heron but I see that is just the full modern name for a regular Night Heron

Little Egret: On Nov 28 I saw three searching for food in the pony fields north of Wade Court at Langstone - the first I have seen looking for food in wet soil inland this winter

Glossy Ibis: Lee Evans tells us that the Ibis which has appeared at Lytham St Anne's in Lancashire for the past two winters is back again for this winter

Bewick's Swan: There has been a widespread arrival of these in the past few days. Nov 24 brought news of 15 flying west along the north Kent coast, on Nov 25 there were 2 at Pulborough and a family of 4 were at Ibsley on the Hampshire Avon, and on Nov 26 there were 14 on the River Arun near Arundel with 30 more pausing en route at Dungeness RSPB reserve. The family at Ibsley this week may have been there for some time as a pair with two cygnets were there on Nov 6 (first arrivals in the south of England as far as I know). Latest news is of 18 on the R Arun just north of Arundel with one family having 5 cygnets.

Whooper Swan: One turned up at Farlington Marshes on Nov 24 (I think a new species for the reserve) and delighted several people but I have not heard any more of it since then. A similar passing visit was made to the Blashford Lakes at Ringwood by three of these Swans on Nov 23

Pinkfoot and Whitefront Geese: Four of each were near the Avon causeway over the R Avon on the Hants/Dorset border on Nov 24. The Pink-feet were still in the area on Nov 28 and the latest report of the White-fronts was on Nov 29

Brent: The flock at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) numbered 2300 on Nov 28 with 16 Pale-bellied and 2 Brant

Red-breasted Brent: The bird on the Lymington Marshes was still there on Nov 29 but moves around and several people have failed to find it.

Pintail: The WeBS count on Nov 15 found 27 Pintail on the Thorney Island Deeps but a sighting of just two there on Nov 26 was none the less exciting

Velvet Scoter: One female flew east past Selsey Bill on Nov 23 and what was probably the same bird was on the sea off Pagham Harbour on Nov 26 (maybe it will stay around there for a bit)

Smew: The first of the winter was reported at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Nov 10 but since then I have seen no other reports other than what was probably the same bird at Dugeness on Nov 26

Goosander: 34 were roosting at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 24, the biggest gathering so far this winter in the south of England. Most of these fly out to smaller ponds in the New Forest (and probably in Dorset too) during the day and I suspect that the bird seen on Hatchet Pond near Beaulieu on Nov 28 and 29 spent the night in between at Blashford. Others of the group spend their days on the River Avon (e.g. 3 in the Fordingbridge area on Nov 27). Over at Eastleigh Lakeside two redheads were seen on Nov 26 with at least one there on Nov 29.

Merlin: A brown-backed female or young bird perched in trees near Nutbourne Bay was one of the highights of the walk there by the Havant Wildlife Group on Nov 29 (regular sightings of this species around Langstone and Chichester Harbours compare favourably to the sighting of a total of just two birds in the many New Forest heathland sites covered by birders seeking Great Grey Shrikes on the weekend of Nov 22/23)

Avocet: A flock of around 26 birds was in Langstone Harbour close to Farlington Marshes on Nov 7, then 22 were there on Nov 14 and 25 were still there on Nov 23. In Chichester Harbour the small flock in Nutbourne Bay continues to grow from three birds on Nov 14, then six on Nov 21 to thirteen birds on Nov 29

Stone Curlew: A recent RSPB Press Release tells us that the number breeding in this country reached 351 pairs during the past summer, achieving the target of 350 pairs which the RSPB thought would not be reached until 2015 - however the abandonment of Set Aside and more intensive farming in future years may once again see these birds having less chance of breeding in this country

Sanderling: A flock of 225 on the Ryde Sands (IoW) on Nov 26 was the highest count for the Island so far this winter (some of these birds may well show up in high tide counts on the Gosport and Portsmouth shore during the winter)

Woodcock: More of these are arriving from the continent. On Nov 21 three were flushed in Stansted Forest, on Nov 22 one arrived at Dungeness, on Nov 23 one came in off the sea at Worthing, on Nov 24 one was seen at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood, on Nov 25 one arrived at Portland and on Nov 26 one was at Warnham nature reserve at Horsham.

Black-tailed Godwit: Some of these are now feeding in the Avon valley. On Nov 28 more than 20 were in the Ibsley area and with that news was a report that 92 had roosted overnight at the Blashford Lakes 'recently'. On Nov 28 a flock of around 100 was seen in the Avon Causeway area

Iceland Gull: The first to be seen in southern England this winter was a first or second winter bird off Reculver on the north Kent coast on Nov 24

Glaucous Gull: The first reports of these which I saw this winter came from Holland on Nov 22 (four or five birds) and now one has been seen several times on the Lymington shore this week

Sandwich Tern: Four were seen in Portsmouth Harbour (off Priddy's Hard at Gosport) on Nov 22 - the observer assumed they were late migrants but I suspect they will be staying for the winter. Two others were seen in Poole Harbour on Nov 28

Auks: On Nov 23 watchers at Selsey Bill saw 83 mixed Razorbills and Guillemots heading west while Portland Bill reported 400 of them passing that day. On Nov 24 another 75 were seen from Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. This influx of birds brought a report of around 250 crammed onto the breeding ledges at Durlston Head in Dorset on Nov 28 with more than 150 there on Nov 29 - like the Fulmars reported above apparently checking out their nest sites at the South Foreland these Guillemots are not intending to nest at the moment!

Ring-necked Parakeet: A group of six were seen in the Studland area of Dorset (just west of Poole Bay) on Nov 21 and 29. This is the first report I have seen of this colony this year - on 5 Dec 2007 we were told that there were less than ten birds left there out of a larger colony which was mentioned in a BBC news item dated 22 Mar 2007 in which a resident of Swanage said .. "There has been a small flock of these in Studland Dorset for the past 10 years. They make for locals' fruit trees in the summer, especially the plums - rumour has it a couple escaped from captivity and have set up home by the sea."

Tawny Owl: On winter nights in the 1970s I frequently heard Tawny Owls calling from the Billy Trail trees at the foot of my garden in Havant but have not done so since then - maybe I will hear one again as this year two people have told me of hearing them further down the Billy Trail in the Grove Road area and this week I was told by one dog walker of a close encounter with one when she was passing the Fairfield School 'conservation area' a few days ago

Short-eared Owl: Another close encounter with an owl was described by Andrew House when he visited Pagham Harbour on Nov 29 and came within thirty feet of a Short-eared Owl dozing on a fence post within a similar short distance of passing people and dogs

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Although there is always a possibility of confusion between the common Great Spotted and the now rare Lesser Spotted in sightings reported by inexperienced birders a report of one being seen on Nov 25 in a garden in the Hermitage area of Emsworth near Lumley Mill comes from an area where quite a few old apple trees survive from the orchards that were to be found here not too many years ago.

Swallow: Nov 22 brought reports from three coastal sites and the latest was a single at Portland on Nov 24

Waxwing: Lee Evans' weekly summary of national bird news on Nov 25 reported a total of over 1150 of these birds scattered around the country (mainly in the north and east with 650+ of them in the Glasgow area). Although he does not mention any as being in southern England outside Kent there has been a flock of around a dozen in the Southampton area in the past week and on Nov 26 a flock of around 25 flew over Romsey (these were only probables seen flying over fast)

Dunnock: Full song was heard from one bird in Emsworth on Nov 26. I heard partial song from one in Havant on Nov 19 and song has been reported from Durlston on Oct 27 and and from a Kent site on Nov 12. Last winter fairly regular song started on Dec 3 after three earlier reports on Oct 4 and 14 as well as Nov 27

Blackbird: An all white male (with yellow bill) was seen at the Lower Test reserve at Southampton on Nov 29 raising a question as to whether continental birds are more prone to such aberrations than are our regular breeding birds - no answer so far to that question!

Song Thrush: Full song heard in Emsworth on Nov 27 - these, like the Dunnocks, should become daily songsters very soon now (last year they were heard daily from Nov 20)

Pallas' Warbler: One was in the Isle of Wight Staplers' area (a 'suburb' on the east side of Newtown) on Nov 26

Yellow-browed Warbler: One was in a Rowlands Castle Woodberry Lane garden on Nov 22

Rare Shrikes: Lee Evans' national bird news for Nov 25 reports the presence of two species that I had not heard of until then. A probable Brown Shrike (Lanius cristatus) was visiting gardens in north Uist (Outer Hebrides) and a subspecies of Southern Grey Shrike known as a Saxaul Shrike (aka Steppe Shrike - Lanius meridionalis pallidirostris) was in Lincolnshire.

Great Grey Shrike: Only three of these were found in a survey of their New Forest sites last week end - a subsequent report of one at Pitcher's Knowle (just east of Hampton Ridge) on Nov 29 was probably one of the three already reported (the one at Ogden's Purlieu could easily have moved a couple of kilometres north east to the new site). Dorset, however, may have acquired a new bird with one at Troop Heath (not far south of Turners Puddle) on Nov 29

Rook: Although these do not normally return to their Rookeries until February, 48 of them were back at their nests at one north Kent site on Nov 25 (like the Fulmars and Guillemots they may feel it necessary to make sure their breeding sites are still available!)

Brambling: The first three figure count for southern England this winter came from the Chichester West Dean woods on Nov 26 when the flock there was estimated at 100 Brambling

Bullfinch: A flock of more than 15 seen at Durlston on Nov 28 was more surprising to me than the 100 Bramblings

Hawfinch: 10 were found in the Chichester West Dean woods on Nov 25 and more than 20 were counted at the New Forest Blackwater Arboretum roost site on the afternoon of Nov 27

Escapees: On Nov 27 a Harris Hawk was seen at Burgate Manor Farm by the R Avon just north east of Fordingbridge and on Nov 29 another was seen in a roadside tree by the A326 in or near to Totton (Southampton)

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Butterflies

Large White: Five were seen in the Newhaven area on Nov 22

Red Admiral: Two were seen egglaying in the Newhaven area on Nov 22 after one had been in a Waterlooville garden on Nov 19. Since then Nov 25 brought reports of singles seen at Magdalen Hill Down near Winchester and from Brighton town.

Moths

Mottled Umber (1935 Erannis defoliaria): Several reports of this recently but the first of the season seems to have been claimed by Pulborough Brooks on Nov 26

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

157 sems to be the final count for the plant species which I have found or heard of during the month of November - this figure excludes at least six grass species seen in fresh condition and bearing flower spikelets

Dark Mullein: One plant flowering beside the Harts Farm Way/A27 westbound slip road at Broadmarsh on Nov 25

Water Figwort: One in full flower in the spillway of excess water pouring from the Bedhampton water works into the Hermitage Stream on Nov 25

'Wild Garden Forget-me-not': These are common wild flowers, looking like Wood Forget-me-not but actually deriving their ancestry from garden cultivars, are now firmly established in the wild. I found a cluster of them starting to flower on Nov 25 in the ditch between the A27 and the cycleway along the north side of the Langstone Technology Park.

Oxeye Daisy: These can still be found flowering in several places (e.g. St Faith's Churchyard in Havant) as can the much taller and larger Shasta Daisies, but the plants still flowering among the 'sown wildflower seed plants' along the southern end of Southmoor Lane at Brockhampton do not fit the description of either species and I think they are a different species called Autumn Oxeye (Leucanthemella serotina) though I will have to check them more closely before I can be sure.

Three-cornered Leek: Several plants growing under the roadside hedges of gardens lining Warblington Road at Emsworth (where they have long flourished untended by any gardener) had started to flower by Nov 26 and on Nov 28 several pink flowered ornamental Japanese Cherry trees were flowering in Havant gardens (the latter are not counted as wild flowers though the former are!)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Hedgehog: At least two reported as still active in the past few days - one in Waterlooville (where it has been fairly mild) and one in East Kent (where it must have been much colder though the animal may have gone into hibernation and then been disturbed)

Summary for Nov 17 - 23 (Week 46 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: 60 of these were seen at one Dutch site on Nov 22 and 11 were seen off the north Kent coast on Nov 21 showing a signifcant increase over the ones and two reported so far

Black-throated Diver: The Gosport Forton lake bird has been seen there daily from Nov 15 to 20

Little Grebe: Winter flocks of 20 or more can be seen in the Langstone Harbour area in most winters, particularly off Broadmarsh and in the east end of Ports Creek and a report of 100 already present in the Thames estuary off the Kent coast suggests it maybe worth checking out the local sites - on Nov 20 Jeff Goodridge saw more than 20 off Broadmarsh

Red-necked Grebe: One was in Pagham Harbour on Nov 21 (one had been seen there on Sep 26 but has not been reported since then)

Slavonian Grebe: One or two have been reported recently at each of several sites (Lymington, Poole Harbour, Portland Harbour, etc) but a count of 7 in Pagham Harbour on Nov 22 is the highest count so far and probably reflects a recent influx (worth checking out Langstone Harbour)

Storm Petrel: One seen off the Dutch coast on Nov 22 was the first I have heard of anywhere since Oct 7

Leach's Petrel: Up to three seen from three sites on the Dutch coast on Nov 22

Gannet: More than 500 were feeding off Dungeness on Nov 21 when at least another 100 were off the north Kent coast

Bewick's Swan: Although one Dutch site recorded 156 of these on Nov 11 very few have been reported in southern England so far. The only reports I have seen have been of a family group of four at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 6, two new arrivals at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Nov 14 and a total of 6 at Pulborough Brooks on Nov 17

Whooper Swan: Up to Nov 16 the highest count of these I am aware of in southern England was a pair with one cygnet seen on the Isle of Wight on Oct 4 with a single bird in north Kent from Oct 20 to Nov 2 and one in the Weymouth/Abbotsbury area of Dorset on Nov 9 and 16. Nov 16 also brought a report of four flying over the Cuckmere valley in Sussex and Nov 22 brought a count of 16 from the Dutch coast

Red-breasted Brent Goose: The single bird on the Lymington Marshes was still there on Nov 22. Two new facts about it are firstly that its association with Canadas may be a result of its feeding habits rather than a negative indication of it's genuineness as a migrant coming here from Siberia with the other Brent - Alan Lewis tells us that the Red-breasted birds, like Canadas, do not eat the Eel-grass and other marine vegetation which the normal Brent prefer to feed on until the supply is exhausted (driving them to feed on land), but are eaters of land grasses only. The second piece of news is that this bird has probably been here since Oct 31 although the majority of birders were only aware of its presence from Nov 6 (the early sighting is attributed to the eminent Eddie Wiseman)

Ruddy Shelduck: One was seen at Pulborough Brooks on Oct 7 with no more reports until Nov 17 when two distant birds (probably of this species) were seen during WeBS counts on that day. Two 'probables' had been seen at Lodmoor (Weymouth) on Sep 17 and there was a distant sighting of one on Thorney Island on Sep 20

Shelduck: Counts of 500 and 394 respectively at two Dutch sites on Nov 22 may presage the arrival of more birds on the southern English coast

Mandarin duck: Until Nov 16 the highest number of these ducks recorded on Warnham Mill Pond at Horsham had been 18 but on Nov 16 the highest count figure shot up to 47

Pintail: The WeBS count of the Arun valley area covering Amberley Wild Brooks and Pulborough Brooks found 150 Pintail there on Nov 17. No other site has reported 50 or more this autumn and the only counts to reach or exceed that number were all at Pulborough on Oct 7 (just 50 present), Nov 13 (estimate of 100) and the Nov 17 count - since writing that in mid-week there has been a report of 89 at Christchurch Harbour on Nov 22

Ring-necked Duck: The only report of this species that I have seen was of a first winter male at the Kent end of Scotney gravel pit near Rye on Nov 16

Ferruginous x Pochard hybrid: One turned up at Rye Harbour on Nov 17, thought to be the same bird that was there last winter. The Budds Farm 'Fudge Duck' here in Havant was reported by myself on Sep 20 but neither I nor anyone else has reported it so far since then!

Scaup: A count of 150 at a Dutch site on Nov 22 may herald the arrival of more in southern England where the highest count I have seen has been of 9 at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Nov 20

Eider: Two have been in Chichester Harbour and were included in the Thorney Island WeBS count for the weekend of Nov 15/16

Velvet Scoter: On Nov 21 one was seen in north Kent and two more were at Dungeness while Nov 22 brought a female to Selsey Bill and a count of 8 at one Dutch site

Goldeneye: A few are now to be seen in our Solent harbours - on Nov 15 two were seen in Chichester Harbour from Thorney Island, on Nov 16 three were in Pagham Harbour and on Nov 17 more than one was in Southampton Water. By Nov 20 a dozen were seen from Broadmarsh slipway in Langstone Harbour and 57 were reported from on Dutch site

Smew: Nowadays Smew are rare winter visitors to Hampshire (e.g.one day visits to the county by single birds in 2004 and 2006, though they are still regularly seen in Kent and East Sussex) but I have a personal interest in them as from Feb 1981 to Jan 1987 they turned up and stayed through each winter on the Portsmouth IBM Lake when I was working at that site where they had the status of 'garden birds' which could be viewed in any lunch time stroll round the lake. Although I no longer expect to see one for myself I still take a keen interest in all reports of the species and so am pleased to report that the very first of this winter was a female at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Nov 10

Goosander: The redhead seen from West Wittering on Nov 15 had been present since Nov 14 according to Barry Collins. Birds now moving around and not yet settled for the winter gave a surprise inland sighting of 3 at Warnham Mill Pond at Horsham for the night of Nov 21 to 22 (when they left at dawn)

Hen Harrier: These are now widespread in southern England and two ringtails were hunting over Thorney Island on Nov 14 (probably the same two which had been seen there on Nov 9)

Buzzard: On Aug 25 and 27 there were sightings of at least 32 Buzzards congregating in one field at North Baddesley near Romsey and I assumed this was a temporary congregation caused by recent harrowing of the field which would have made earthworms easy pickings for the birds but perhaps there are other factors causing a more permanent cluster of Buzzards here as 16 were seen in the same field on Nov 16

Rough Legged Buzzard: One seen at a Dutch site on Nov 22

Common Crane: Two which landed near the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Nov 17 were also seen at Sandwich Bay and in Thanet that day. They are said to be different birds to the pair which spent the whole month of September at the Dungeness reserve

Avocet: Three were seen at Nutbourne Bay, just east of Thorney Island, on Nov 14 and by Nov 19 a group of ten were there. A small long-staying group (up to 8) were seen there both last winter and the previous winter so there is a fair chance that these birds will stay around through the winter. Elsewhere at least 756 were in Poole Harbour on Nov 18

Ringed Plover: Prior to Nov 19 I had only had one sighting of these in the Langstone/Emsworth/ Northney area this winter (just 5 on the Warblington shore on Oct 6) but on Nov 19 I found more than 20 in a high tide roost in Northney marina area. On Nov 15 a total of 39 were recorded in the Thorney Island WeBS count.

Lapwing: The flock at Pulborough Brooks was estimated at 900 birds on Nov 17 and on Nov 19 there were 500+ at Rye Harbour while over on the near continent one site had around 6900 on Nov 16

Knot: These are now back in full winter strength - I have already reported that (on Nov 11) 230 were in Pagham Harbour and on Nov 15 the Thorney Island WeBS count found 600 (presumably on the Pilsey Sands, along with 140 Sanderling)

Dunlin: The Thorney Island WeBS count found 15,000 of these on Nov 15/16

Woodcock: Reports of singles at four sites (Sandwich Bay. Thanet, Rye Harbour and Bognor) between Nov 17 and 21 indicate a new wave of arrivals from the continent. The bird at Nyetimber in the Bognor area was typically out of its normal habitat, being flushed from a garden vegetable patch and flying into a house window before making its escape

Black-tailed Godwit: Wet weather and oncoming winter may have influenced these birds' movements recently. They normally move inland to feed in wet grassland with the coming of cold weather but recent rain (softening the ground and bringing worms to the surface) may have hastened this movement in the past week or so. A large number of them seem to have moved from Chichester Harbour mud to grassland north of Pagham Harbour and a few have gone inland as far as Pulborough Brooks (just 2 there on Nov 17 but up to 18 on Nov 19 and around 20 on Nov 21).

Bar-tailed Godwit: The WeBS count at Thorney Island on Nov 15/16 found 500 Bar-tails and on Nov 20 there was a block of 142 on the north Kent coast

Whimbrel: At least one wintering bird is at Thorney Island (Nov 15) and two were on the Lymington shore on Nov 16 (the Church Norton bird has not been reported since Oct 31)

Spotted Redshank: 5 were on the Lymington shore on Nov 16 and the regular bird at Nore Barn (Emsworth) was joined by a second on Nov 21 - another single was in Nutbourne Bay east of Thorney Island on Nov 21

Grey Phalarope: Six sites reported this species on Nov 21 and 22 - two birds were seen on the north Kent coast and as many as five at one Dutch site

Little Gull: On Nov 22 four Dutch sites reported counts of 37, 80, 93 and 100 respectively

Kittiwake: A lot of these are on the move down channel at the moment - on Nov 21 a north Kent site reported 208 heading west and on Nov 22 400 were recorded on the Dutch coast

Glaucous Gull: None reported in southern England so far but watch this space as Nov 22 brough four birds to one Dutch site

Sandwich Tern: One seen at Christchurch Harbour on Nov 18 may have decided to leave our shores but a number are likely to remain in Langstone and Chichester Harbours - no recent reports from Langstone Harbour but Chichester Harbour has had sightings of 5 off Thorney Island on Nov 14, 3 at Nore Barn west of Emsworth on Nov 15 and a peak of 7 seen from Thorney on Nov 16

Black Tern: A very late bird seen on the Dutch coast on Nov 22 (the last one before this was on Sep 20!)

Puffin: One in Poole Bay on Nov 20

Wood Pigeon: The peak of their autumn passage is probably now over but 3185 went west over Christchurch Harbour on Nov 19 when at least 1000 were put up from feeding in the Hayling West Lane fields (south of Daw Lane) by the sound of a gunshot

Great Spotted Woodpecker: One was drumming at Tanners Brook near Southampton General Hospital on Nov 19

Skylark: Full song was heard on Nov 19 from one over Bembridge Down on the Isle of Wight and another was singing at Northney (Hayling Island) on Nov 21

Swallow: Portland reported 5 on Nov 18 and 2 on Nov 19 - on Nov 16 there were reports from the Isle of Wight, Kent and Sussex. Latest sightings were on Nov 22 when one was in the Prinsted area (east of Thorney Island) and another in the Cuckmere valley of East Kent

House Martin: 5 were seen at the South Foreland in Kent on Nov 16 and 1 was at Horsham on Nov 20

Pied Wagtail: More than 1000 were seen coming to roost in the shopping centre of Tunbridge Wells in Kent on the evening of Nov 20. There are probably many other smaller roosts going un-reported - maybe the birds are again using the Havant Teso site?

Waxwing: Here in southern England Waxwings have been seen at two places this week - on Nov 19 three birds were seen in an Andover industrial estate and on Nov 20 at least one was in the Lordshill area of Southampton with around 12 in the same area on Nov 22

Dunnock: Although one was heard in full song at Portsmouth on Oct 9 I have only seen two reports of song since then (at Durlston in Dorset on Oct 27 and at Boughton Park in Kent on Nov 12). I heard my first attempt at song from one in the Langstone area at dusk on Nov 19.

Wheatear: The last I know of in southern England was at Lymington on Nov 9 but this week one was reported from a Dutch site on Nov 22

Ring Ouzel: A late migrant was on Thorney Island on Nov 14

Song Thrush: First song was heard at Havant on Nov 13 and at Singleton north of Chichester on Nov 14 followed by reports from Lymington on Nov 19 and Pett (Rye Bay) on Nov 22

Blackbird: One trapped at Portland on Nov 17 had been ringed in Sweden

Lesser Whitethroat: On Nov 19 one was seen and heard at Barton on Sea (west of Lymington) and has aroused a lot of interest as it was almost certainly a vagrant from the east - the most likely vagrant here at this time of year would be one of the Siberian race (Blyth's Lesser Whitethroat) but the call suggested it was a central Asian bird (grouping of races known as 'halimodendri') and it may have been an even rarer Desert Whitethroat. Another bird was seen in The Fleet area near Weymouth, also on Nov 19. I have seen two other November reports this autumn, both from Kent (and one of these was possibly a vagrant of an eastern race, not one of our summer birds) but the last of these was seen on Nov 6.

Yellow-browed Warbler: Quite a few of these are in southern England at present and I may have heard and seen one moving east along the southern side of the A27 near the Langbrook stream on Nov 18 but it wouldn't stop to give me a good look (the sharp 'dog-whistle' like call was the main evidence of its identity)

Chiffchaff: Birds heard singing on Oct 17 at Durlston, on Nov 9 at Christchurch Harbour and on Nov 19 in central Southampton

Bearded Tit: The arrival of six new birds at Christchurch Harbour on Nov 19 shows that their autumn movements are still ongoing

Marsh Tit: These have become rarities this year but maybe a few have come over from the continent as this week has brought reports of 3 seen on the downs south of Amberley and more than 10 seen at the Warnham Mill Pond reserve at Horsham

Jay: The single Jay which appeared in my garden on Nov 10 has been back on both Nov 17 and 19 and was seen nearby on Nov 22 There are no oak trees anywhere around here so no acorns to attract Jays - this bird seems to feed on Rowan berries which it finds in the grass.

Jackdaw: A flock of 175 seen flying west over Southampton Water early on Nov 22 were assumed to have come from a local woodland roost but in past years there has been much evidence that Corvids from a huge winter roost in the Gosport area travel daily as far as the New Forest to feed

Corvids: More evidence for a large night roost of Rooks and Jackdaws, this time in the New Forest, comes from a fascinating report of more than 200 birds plummeting to earth on a grassy New Forest 'lawn' on Wilverly Plain at dusk on Nov 22 and remaining on the ground until it was dark. One person commenting on this said that these birds are known to plummet down to pre-roost gatherings on open ground and will almost certainly have flown into trees after it gto really dark to spend the night in safety (without anyone seeing where they went - that final comment is my own addition!)

Brambling: A flock may be building up in the Chichester West Dean woods where more than 15 were found on Nov 16. On Nov 18 at least 10 Brambling were among 200 small birds feeding on Sunflower seeds at Longwood Warren (near Cheesefoot Head east of Winchester)

Twite: Up to 21 of these were seen in the Thanet area of Kent on Nov 7 with 7 in the same area on Nov 20. In Hampshire one was seen by several people at Lymington on Nov 22

Hawfinch: Five reports this week including an interesting report of one at Woods Mill by the River Adur in Sussex said to be 'feeding in Hawthorns' - if they will eat Haws they might turn up almost anywhere.

Greenfinch: Large flocks of these used to be an autumn feature of our harbour shorelines but this year the only substantial flock seems to be on the beach at Shoreham where around 150 were seen on Nov 5 and 110 were counted on Nov 15

Snow Bunting: Just two reports this week - a very tame male on the seafront at Goring (Worthing area) last reported on Nov 16 and the ongoing flock in the Reculver area of the north Kent shore (15 birds there on Nov 17)

Corn Bunting: One of three birds at the Oare Marshes in north Kent was singing on Nov 12. More recent reports are of 14 at Tarrant Rushton in Dorset on Nov 16, with 5 at The Burgh (downs south of Amberley) on Nov 19 and another 5 at the Lewes Brooks on Nov 20. Latest news is of 88 at Sandwich Bay on Nov 19, 16 at Rye Harbour on Nov 21 and 12 at Maiden Castle in Dorset on Nov 22

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Emperor: One still flying in the Seasalter area of north Kent on Nov 15

Common Darter: One flying in the Gosport area on Nov 19 (seen by the Apple Dumpling bridge over the River Alver)

Butterflies

Clouded Yellow: At least one was photographed at Portland on Nov 16

Brimstone: One seen in the Old Burghclere lime quarry nature reserve west of Basingtoke on Nov 19

Red Admiral: Ten reports this week with a peak count of 8 in the Gosport area on Nov 19. Gosport is said to have had the highest temperature anywhere in Britain this week. A least two of the insects at Gosport were of the bialbata form which has a small white spot in the red band of each forewing

Peacock: Two seen at Yew Hill south of Winchester on Nov 19

Comma: Singles seen at two sites in Sussex on Nov 16 and 19

Speckled Wood: Just one seen in the Gosport area on Nov 10

Moths

Carnation Tortrix (0985 Cacoecimorpha pronubana): This gets a mention after a report of one in Gosport on Nov 16

Winter Moth (1799 Operophtera brumata): First report of this season from the Newhaven area on Nov 19

Scarce Umber (1933 Agriopis aurantiaria): Another new species which has been seen at several sites this week (including the first ever for Portland on Nov 19

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: On Nov 14 one was in a Thanet garden and anoter was seen in a garden at Kingston near Lewes on Nov 16 - both were first of the year for their observers!

The Herald (2469 Scoliopteryx libatrix): Said to the the 'Herald of Winter' the first was seen in leaf litter by day at Sway near New Milton on Nov 20

Caterpillars: More than 1000 Large White butterfly caterpillars were devouring brassica plants at a Seaford allotment on Nov 19 - unusal at this time of year but probably the offspring of a late wave of migrant butterflies. Although it is difficult to stop the damage to the plants (destroying the caterpillars would most likely damage the cabbages) it is likely that many of these caterpillars are already carrying seeds of their own death as the eggs of various predatory insects may well already have become larvae devouring the host caterpillars from inside - three likely predators as named as Apanteles glomeratus, Compsilura concinnata, and Pteromalus puparum

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My November list of plants still in flowers now has 155 species listed. Additions this week have been Yellow-horned Poppy, Sweet Violet, Wood Avens, Ploughman's Spikenard, Common Poppy, Black Knapweed, Dove's Foot Cranesbill, Procumbent Pearlwort, Sea Aster, Burnet Saxifrage and Yellow-wort - for more detail see my Diary entries

OTHER WILDLIFE

Polecat: There is good evidence that these have been breeding in Hampshire for some years (I recall reporting a find of a lactating female found dead a roadside) so a roadside casualty seen closely by several observers beside the A326 where it passes Hythe on its way to Fawley on Nov 22 is further evidence - one significant part of the observation distinguishing Polecat from Ferret was the dark 'mask' of fur around the eyes.

Water Vole: A late sighting of one at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Nov 16. Water Voles do not hibernate but are less active in the winter (when they are not breeding) and make less frequent outings from their burrows during the winter though they have to come out occasionally in order to collect food which they take back to the burrow, not coming out again until they run out of food.

Hare: In a discussion about species which are declining in Hampshire Trever Carpenter told us that, although they have declined throughout the county, he still sees them fairly often on the north slopes of Portsdown and in the Meon Valley

Bat species: On Nov 15 and 16 several people mentioned in messages to HOSLIST that they had seen several bats flying in the early evening before it was dark. As one or two said that the bats they saw were large in size it is likely that these were Noctules or Serotines, both of which are large and tend to fly before it is dark.

Terrapin: At least one was still 'sunning itself' on an island in Baffins Pond at Portsmouth on Nov 20 - should the winter become really cold these creatures will go into underwater hibernation, burying themselves in mud, sealing their orifices, and closing down their metabolic system

Fungi: A fresh ring of Field Blewits had come up in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Nov 21 along with two or three other species that I could not identify with confidence though I think one was Tricholomopsis platyphylla (Roger Phillips page 44) on account its white spore print


Summary for Nov 10 - 16 (Week 45 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

The story of a Great Northern diver found on a road in Kent provoked a series of stories of waterfowl landing on wet roads during night-time after mistaking them for rivers. A big flock of Knot is now in Pagham Harbour and the regular 'tame' Spotted Redshank has returned to the Emsworth shore where three wintering Sandwich Terns were also seen. A Desert Wheatear has been seen in Kent where a late (possibly wintering?) Whinchat has been reported - other rarities in Kent have been a Radde's Warbler and a Penduline Tit. Many winter thrushes are now in southern England and a Song Thrush in full song in my Havant garden was probably newly arrived from Europe. Also singing this week were Mistle Thrush, Corn Bunting, Robin, Wren and Dunnock.

A Clouded Yellow butterfly at Portland was a surprise as was a Common Darter dragonfly still flying on Nov 12

The number of wild plant species seen in flower this month is now up to 130 and includes a Buddleia still attracting butterflies

Yet another white coated Grey Squirrel has been seen in the Portsmouth area, while fungi are still attracting a lot of interest - Shaggy Pholiota in a Langstone Village roadside being the latest good find

Late News

Nov 16: A scan of reports from Dutch sites for today found news of 2 Velvet Scoters (a few have been seen off Kent and Dorset since Oct 29) and of 46 Red-throated Divers at one site. Many Geese are now being seen - max counts at any one site were Greylag - 1989, Whitefront - 935, Pinkfoot - 931, Bean - 329 and Barnacle - 391. The ranger's log for Durlston mentions that the first Horse Mushrooms were found there today

Nov 15: A female Goosander off East Head in Chichester Harbour was the first the Ewan Urquhart has seen there in 20 years of WeBS counting. At Dungeness 7 Swallows flew south and at Emsworth Tufted Duck were starting to return to the Town Millpond (but only 9 so far)

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Black-throated Diver: One was showing well in the land-locked Forton Lake at Gosport on Nov 15, seen from the Millenium Bridge taking people across the mouth of the lake to the Explosion Museum at Priddy's Hard

Great Northern Diver: Latest news is of at least three (maybe five) in Southampton Water on Nov 14 when another four were in Weymouth Bay and two in nearby Portland Harbour - so far this winter they seem to be more numerous than the Red-throated Divers. On Nov 12 a Great Northern was released into the wild at Rye Harbour after having been found a few days earlier on the Ashford bypass in Kent by a motorist whose car had gone over the bird without injuring it (it went between the wheels after flattening its neck along the road surface as it would do instinctively if under attack from a predator while on the surface of the sea). The motorist was able to pick the bird up and put it in the boot of his car (luckily without being stabbed by the bird's bill - the bird must have been in a pretty bemused state!) and it was taken to the RSPCA who checked it out, found it was undamaged, and then released it. No time of day is given for the initial find but I guess it was very early morning as I have heard of other cases of waterfowl mistaking wet roads for rivers when flying by night and crash landing on them. This theory is backed up by the following responses I have already received after circulating news of this current incident on the Hoslist news group ....

Paul Winter recalls 2 Mute Swans landing in Rosebank Close, Rownhams (Southampton) on 15/01/1995. Glynne Evans says... "some years ago, in early morning, I found a freshly-dead Tufted Duck on a wet road about 3 miles from nearest water. It could of course have been carried some distance having hit a vehicle elsewhere, but my guess at the time was that it had tried to land on the wet road in the night - and then been hit". Tim Doran tells me ..."I recently went on one of the pelagics out of Kaikoura on east coast of south island New Zealand. Hutton's Shearwater is an endemic which nests on scree slopes in the Kaikoura mountains that are just inland. The skipper of the boat mentioned that in the past - at night - he had found young Hutton's Shearwaters sat on the main road (highway 1) that runs north/south down the coast and he assumed they had seen the tarmac on the way down to the sea and thought it was water. Fortunately traffic isn't too bad - it is New Zealand - and he said he was able to pick them up and place them on the side of the road before they got squashed". Another response came from Richard Coomber who says ..."Years ago I was driving towards Southwold, Suffolk, and I found a live Little Auk in the road, so I stopped, picked it up and took it down to the sea. I was afraid that one of a number of gulls might have a go at it, but no, it paddled away strongly calling all the time. Within a minute another flew in and landed beside it and the two swam off together!" (This happy scene clearly impressed Richard as one of the high spots of his birding despite his wide experience as a tour guide for naturalists)

Great Crested Grebe: The winter flock in Rye Bay (which had some 700 birds in it at the end of January this year) is now building fast and a further 150 birds went past Dungeness towards the bay on Nov 11

Fulmar: These now breed at several places along the south coast and there was a peak count of more than 100 off Portland on Aug 13 as they and their young were dispersing at the end of the breeding season. Since then none have been reported at Portland until a single was seen on Nov 14 (hailed as the first back there) and I guess this means they will soon be seen back at their breeding sites to make sure no one takes possesion of their chosen nest sites though it will be several months before they claim those nest sites for use (strangely enough, having guarded the sites for many weeks they all vanish for a few weeks immediately before nesting - maybe they go off to good feeding areas to feed up before breeding?)

Leach's Petrel: One went past Sandwich Bay in Kent on Nov 5 and two probables were seen in Christchurch Bay from Milford on Sea on Nov 10

Shag: Stormy weather on Nov 10 brought a report of 45 Shags being seen off Christchurch Harbour but I am not sure if this was an exceptional number for the area or if the birders (having nothing better to see) decided to count the Shags that are regularly present there.

Green Heron: The bird at Hythe in Kent has not been reported since Nov 10

Bewick's Swan: These were seen from five different sites in the Netherlands on Nov 10 or 11. At one site in Holland (called Kwintelooijen) the count was of 156 birds - maybe they will stay there, maybe some are heading our way. (Counts at the other sites were 8, 26, 27 and 38)

Bean Goose: 2 were seen at Sandwich Bay (with 14 Pinkfoot) on Nov 7 and a total of 10 (Tundra birds) were in the Kent Stour valley on Nov 10

Barnacle Goose: Nov 10 brought a count of 3139 of these geese from Eemshaven in Holland

Brant: One seems to have been in The Fleet area near Weymouth since Oct 25 (still there Nov 15), another at Pagham Harbour from Oct 25 to Nov 14, one arrived in Langstone Harbour on Nov 5 and was still there on Nov 15, and on Nov 11 a regular winter visitor was back on the HMS Sultan playing fields in Gosport, still present on Nov 15.

Red-breasted Goose: The bird at Lymington was still there on Nov 15 when (perhaps to its discredit) it was associating with Canada Geese.

Shelduck: Brian Fellows saw 42 in the north of Langstone Harbour on Nov 14 when he walked from Broadmarsh to Farlington Marshes.

Teal: The flooded area of the pony field north of Langstone Mill Pond had a full winter complement of more than 80 birds on Nov 14

Mallard: These are common enough but on Nov 4 a Kent birder was impressed to find 700 of them on a small lake on which no one can remember ever seeing more than 10 before. The site is called Lake Louisa near Hawkhurst in Kent and it is not far from a large reservoir at Bewl Bridge - maybe the birds had been displaced from the reservoir by activity (shooting?) there but it is possible that they were migrants unfamiliar with the area and had just put down there for a rest.

Pintail: An estimate of 100 at Pulborough Brooks on Nov 13 was the first 3-digit figure I have seen this autumn

Scaup: A female was reported to be in Nutbourne Bay east of Emsworth on Nov 14 - as I do not recall hearing of Tufted Duck in that bay there is less liklihood of confusion with a white-faced female of that secies

Eider: The Eemshaven site in Holland which had attracted over 3000 Barnacle Geese on Nov 10 also had 642 Eider that day

Long-tailed Duck: A female was seen in Pagham Harbour on Nov 9 (where one was previously reported on Nov 2) and an adult drake turned up for the first time on the Blashford Lakes on Nov 14 (feeling hungry after its flight and consequently spending most of the day under water!)

Red-breasted Merganser: Three were off Langstone village on Nov 14 - the first I have seen there this winter

Goosander: The flock in Pagham Harbour had increased from 5 on Nov 5 to 7 on Nov 14 and at least 4 were still at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 15 (no doubt more can be seen there at dusk as they return from feeding sites to roost)

Ruddy Duck: Five ween at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 15

Marsh Harrier: A juvenile was over the Lower Test marshes at Southampton on Nov 8 and a female was over the Arundel Wildfowl Trust reserve on Mar 12

Hen Harrier: Two ringtails were seen near the Thorney Island Great Deeps on Nov 9

Rough-legged Buzzard: One reported at Sandwich in Kent on Nov 11, seen hovering near the bird observatory

Merlin: The bird which I heard and saw in the Warblington Farm area on Oct 31 was probably there again on Nov 14 though this time I only heard the calls when I was at the shore end of Wade Lane

Common Crane: No news of any in southern England since Nov 6 (when one was in south Devon) but on Nov 10 the Eemshaven site in Holland had 7 migrants passing through.

Avocet: Around 26 were at Farlington Marshes on Nov 7 and 22 were there on Nov 14 when 6 were still at Sidlesham Ferry (Pagham Harbour)

Golden Plover: Although 1200+ had been reported on the north Kent coast back on Oct 17 and Rye Harbour had 900 on Oct 18 the first counts to exceed 1000 birds at south coast sites were not recorded until Nov 14 when Rye Harbour had 2500+ (with 1500 there next day)

Knot: The number in Pagham harbour was up to 230 on Nov 11

Black-tailed Godwit: There were still around 500 at Oare Marshes in north west Kent on Nov 12 and on Nov 14 Farlington Marshes had at least 300 though there were few on the Langstone to Emsworth shore that day (one lone bird was feeding in the wet grassland of the field north of Langstone Pond that day)

Spotted Redshank: The 'tame' bird which regularly winters in the Emsworth area and can generally be seen on a falling tide close to the shore, feeding in the stream which flows out at the east end of Nore Barn wood, was seen by Brian Fellows for the first time this winter on Nov 8 (but may have returned several days earlier)

Ring-billed Gull: The Gosport bird was still present at the Cockle Pond on Nov 15

Sandwich Tern: 3 (almost certainly intending to stay through the winter) were feeding off the Nore Barn shore of Chichester Harbour on Nov 15

Long-eared Owl: This week's news has reports of them at Reculver (north Kent coast) on Nov 7, 9 and 12, at the Southampton Lower Test marshes on or before Nov 8, and one hunting at dusk at Newhaven on Nov 12

Short-eared Owl: The first to be reported this autumn at Farlington Marshes was seen there on Nov 15

Swallow: Still being seen daily up to Nov 15 when Rye Harbour had 3 and Portland had 5

House Martin: Very few recent reports but three were seen near the South Foreland in Kent on Nov 15

Whinchat: One was still to be seen at Seasalter on the north Kent coast on Nov 7

Desert Wheatear: Several birders in Hampshire have been trying to turn recent sightings of normal Northern Wheatears (none reported since Nov 9) into more unusual species (Desert or even Isabelline) but none have succeeded so far but they can draw hope from confirmed sightings of a Desert Wheatear at Sandwich Bay from Nov 7 to 11. Desert Wheatears have been seen during November in recent years - in 2005 one was at Hayling Bay on Nov 13, in 2006 one was on the shore at Bexhill near Hastings from Nov 1 to 4, and in 2007 there were two in Britain during late November (Norfolk and Yorkshire)

Fieldfare: On Nov 7 more than 500 flew west along the north Kent coast and on Nov 12 well over 500 were with a similar number of Redwings feeding on berries in the Itchen Valley country park on the northern fringe of Southampton

Song Thrush: These continue to pour into Britain from the continent and at dawn on Nov 13 one was celebrating its arrival by blasting out its full song at the end of my garden in Havant. My bird was still singing on Nov 14 when another was heard in full song at Singleton (north of Chichester)

Mistle Thrush: One was singing in Brighton on Nov 9, another at Ringwood (Blashford Lakes) on Nov 11, and another in mid-Kent (Boughton Park) on Nov 12

Garden Warbler: A late bird at Portland on Nov 14

Radde's Warbler: One reported from the Thanet area of Kent on Nov 2, probably a new bird though one had been in the same area on Sep 26 and another not far along the Kent coast on Oct 12

Bearded Tit: On Nov 15 an estimated 15 birds were in the reeds at Farlington Marshes

Long-tailed Tit: A count of 38 at Bockhill by the South Foreland in Kent was almost certainly of migrants - if thousands of Goldcrests make it over the Channel or right across the North Sea there's no reason why smaller numbers of Long-tailed Tits should not do so

Penduline Tit: One seen in the Thanet area on Nov 8

Great Grey Shrike: One seen in Buckherd Bottom (by the A31 in the New Forest) on Nov 15 may well have been the same bird that was on Bratley Plain on Oct 25

Jay: A surprise addition to our garden bird list for this year was a young Jay seen on the lawn during pouring rain on Nov 10, apparently feeding on fallen Rowan berries - I assume it was young as it seemed small in size and was still growing its bright blue badge of wing feathers (several of these were still partly sheathed in their 'cellophane wrapping')

Greenfinch: These remain few in number but it seems that some have flown in to southern England for the winter. The flock of 150 at Shoreham Harbour on Nov 5 remains the highest count to date but the latest news has four more reports - 50+ in a Horsham garden on Nov 11 and three reports for Nov 12 from Barton on Sea (38 birds), Durlston (20+) and the Itchen Valley country park (more than ten birds)

Twite: Five seen at Sandwich Bay on Nov 8 and 60 seen on Nov 10 at Eemshaven in Holland have been followed by a report of two on the north Kent coast at Oare Marshes on Nov 12

Crossbill: Of local interest only I watched 10 fly north east over Havant Thicket on Nov 12 - there was a report of 56+ there on Aug 27 and I saw up to 10 on Aug 30 but since then have seen no reports either from there or Stansted Forest.

Snow Bunting: The south Hayling bird at Eastoke Corner carpark has not been reported since Nov 4 but may well still be around - latest news is of one showing well on the Worthing seafront at Goring on Nov 15. More may be on their way as a flock of 20 was seen on the north Kent shore on Nov 14

Corn Bunting: At least one heard singing in Kent on Nov 12

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Common Darter still flying at Gosport on Nov 12

Butterflies

Clouded Yellow: Reported at Portland on Nov 12 and again on Nov 15 - not sure if this was a vagrant or if there is an established colony there as there now is in both Bournemouth and at Durlston

Brimstone: Male seen on Nov 12 on Portsdown and at Mill Hill behind Shoreham

Red Admiral: No surprise to see 8 reports of these from Sussex, Hampshire (my garden) and Dorset between Nov 9 and 15

Peacock: Reports from Northiam in the Rye Bay areaon Nov 12 and from Romsey on Nov 14

Comma: Just one report from the Lewes area on Nov 12

Speckled Wood: Seen at Gosport and at two Sussex sites all on Nov 12

Moths

Several species seen this week, including the first record of The Sprawler (2227 Brachionycha sphinx) coming to a Sussex trap on Nov 12

Other Insects

A Hawthorn Shield Bug came to a Susex moth trap on Nov 12 and a small ground beetle with bright green elytra had to be rescued from a water bowl on my garden bird table

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

130 species found in flower in the first half of November

Additions to the list during this week included Lesser Spearwort, Smooth Tare, Crown Vetch, Tormentil, Cow Parsley (or was it Hemlock?), Sharp-leaved Fluellen, Hedge Woundwort, Field Woundwort, Wood Sage, Buddleia, Devil's Bit Scabious, Canadian Fleabane, Shasta Daisy, Marsh Thistle, and a Hieracium species. My query concerning the Cow Parsley is that I did not see it for myself and it appeared to come from an area of Broadmarsh where I regularly see Hemlock (and have been expecting it to flower)

Also seen at Langstone Mill Lane on Nov 10 was a leaf rosette of a Bee orchid plant, something I do not normally find until December

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common Seal: Observers at two sites commented on the excellent visibility on the morning of Nov 15 - at Durlston they claimed to be able to see field boundaries on the Isle of Wight (some 16 miles to the east) with the naked eye and at Bockhill near the South Foreland in Kent they were able to see more than 60 Common Seals hauled out on the Goodwin Sands at low tide

Grey Seal: One seen in Southampton Water on Nov 15

Muntjac Deer: I would have some difficulty in being sure that braking noises heard in or near a residential area did not come from a dog but one was confidently claimed to have been heard from a house in Midhurst on Nov 11

Grey Squirrel: A white squirrel was seen in a Bedhampton garden in Havant on Nov 10. The incidence of white-coated Grey Squirrels in the wider Portsmouth area is much higher than could be expected by chance and it seems that they may eventually become commoner in that area than the normal grey-coated (in parts of East Anglia this has already happened with black-coated variants)

Fungi: In my latest Weekly Summary I mentioned that Brian Fellows had found a troop of large fungi in the Nore Barn woods by the shore west of Emsworth and I suggested they were Clouded Funnel but on Nov 11 Brian had a further look at them and found that many of the caps were as much as 30 cm across which strongly suggests they are the less common Giant Funnel (Leucopaxillus giganteus). Since then I have seen them and tend to agree with Brian though they lack two of the diagnostic features of Giant Funnel in having relatively flat (not funnel shaped) caps and in having up-turned (not down-turned and in-rolled) rims to the caps. Back in my garden the show of waxcaps continues (I have never seen so many Meadow and Snowy Waxcaps on the lawn) while the number of Hairy Earth-tongues is now approaching 100. A late addition to the week's list was found on the afternoon of Nov 16 - a lovely cluster of Shaggy Pholiota (Pholiota squarrosa) - now called Shaggy Scalycap - at the foot of a small ornamental tree in roadside grass outside 22, Southbrook Road at Langstone. Also seen nearby on the roots of a tree by the Lymbourne stream was Candlesnuff fungus


Summary for Nov 3 - 9 (Week 44 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Red-necked and Slavonian Grebe are newly back in local waters and the first Bewick's Swans have chosen Hampshire for their first appearance of the winter. The wild geese are also back on the south coast with news of Bean, Pinkfoot, Whitefront and Brant as well as the 'childless' Brent but pride of place goes to a Red-breasted Goose at Lymington. No new duck species for the winter but this week has brought the first solid evidence of returning Long-tailed, Velvet Scoter, Goldeneye and Goosander plus a count of 70 Red-breasted Mergansers in Chichester Harbour. Southsea Castle and the Bembridge Foreland both had their first Purple Sandpipers this week and here in Havant I saw my first Common and Green Sandpipers for the winter (as well as a flock of 40 Stock Doves on the Warblington Farm fields). Others have enjoyed a Snow Bunting and three Black Redstarts on the south Hayling shore and away from our southern counties more than 700 Waxwing are back in Britain (see latest news below)

Only four butterfly species have been reported so far in November but both Migrant Hawker and Common Darter dragonflies have been seen, as has the first December Moth

At least 108 plant species have been seen in flower in the first 9 days of November. Among them is Spotted Medick which I have not recorded since July and Yellow-flowered Strawberry which has had flowers in every month of the year so far. Perhaps the most significant flower of the week was the first Winter Heliotrope blossom of the new season - its early flowering alongside the main road into Havant being assisted not only by an early frost but also by the warmth and noxious (to us) emissions from the busy traffic on the road.

Among 'Other Wildlife' fungi take a prominent place - finds include the Wood Cauliflower fungus, more than 50 Hairy Earth Tongues on my lawn and a good collection of fungi in roadside grass at Beacon Square in Emsworth

Latest news (not included in the week's summary)

Nov 7

Waxwing heard trilling over Donnington (nr Chichester) at 9pm in darkness and light rain (so we have had at least one so far!)

Nov 8

Four Swallows seen from the Portsmouth seafront

Nov 9

Red-breasted Goose still at Lymington

175 Sanderling on the Eastney foreshore at Portsmouth

Serin going north over Sandy Point (Hayling) and a Red-necked Grebe was in Chichester Harbour sometime during the past week

Single Goosander in Southampton Water

Mistle Thrush singing in Brighton - first of the autumn

Chiffchaff singing at Christchurch Harbour

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Black-throated Diver: Red-throated and Great Northern have been in our southern waters since Oct 11 (when the first Red-throated was at Christchurch with Great Northerns arriving around that date) but the first Black-throated to be reported west of Dungeness was not seen until Nov 1 at Christchurch Harbour with one off Portland next day

Great Crested Grebe: A flock of 42 was at Rye Harbour on Nov 4 and on Nov 6 Cliff Dean told us that the expected winter flock in Rye Bay was starting to build up - on Jan 29 this year 691 were reported there.

Red-necked Grebe: One seen on the sea off Hurst Spit on Nov 7 seems to be the first in Hampshire waters this winter though one was at Dungeness as early as Aug 17 with more recent reports from there of 2 on Oct 17 and 3 on Nov 3 (see latest news section above)

Slavonian Grebe: Three were seen in Chichester Harbour from West Wittering on Nov 6 and the first two had reached Dorset on Nov 7 (seen in Studland Bay)

Black-necked Grebe: One of these was being reported at the Pagham Lagoon from Sep 19 to 24, probably staying until Oct 12 after which there were no more reports from there until now when there is a report of one there on Nov 4 (has it been there all the time?). This bird was seen again on Nov 6 when it was found both on the lagoon and also in the nearby White's Creek. Another indication of new arrivals in the south is that the single bird reported at the Blashford Lakes from Oct 25 to 31 had become two birds on Nov 2. Another increase has occurred in the Studland Bay area where a maximum of 4 were reported up to Oct 27, becoming 5 on Nov 1 (on that day there was also a report of 5 in Poole Harbour). On Nov 5 there 9 in Studland Bay, then 10 on Nov 7

Sooty Shearwater: One past Dungeness on Nov 1

Leach's Petrel: Two, maybe three, in the Sheppey area on Nov 1 and one off Thanet on Nov 3

Bittern: Singles reported at Dungeness RSPB on Oct 30 and at Rye Harbour on Nov 2. One was at Radipole (Weymouth) on Nov 7 - maybe the one that was first reported there on Sep 24.

Green Heron: Has been at Hythe from Oct 19 to Nov 4 at least

Spoonbill: 15 in the Arne area of Poole Harbour on Nov 1 and 2 at Brownsea Island on Nov 2

Bewick's Swan: A family of 2 adults with 2 cygnets were at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 6 - although we have had sightings of Whooper Swan in southern England since Oct 4 these are the first Bewick's to be reported along the south coast.

Bean Goose: The first of the autumn was over Thanet on Nov 4 and a second (Tundra bird) was over Dungeness on Nov 6

Pinkfoot Goose: At least 33 over north Kent on Nov 3 and another 21 on Nov 4

Whitefront Goose: On Nov 3 there were only 14 at Slimbridge but 54 were there on Nov 4 after small parties had been seen passing over various sites including 31 over Barton on Sea on Nov 4. Other sightings on Nov 4 included 3 going north east over Sandy Point on Hayling, 1 which touched down in the Lymington area, 1 at Lodmoor in Dorset and 42 flying west over Thanet. On Nov 3 there were 100 at Pett on Rye Bay and 90 were recorded over Sandwich Bay. Since then I have heard of 3 going north west from Farlington Marshes on Nov 5 when 7 were seen at Christchurch Harbour, then Nov 6 brought 21 over Dungeness and on Nov 7 Rye Harbour reported another 16

Snow Goose: One with Canadas at Lee on the Test south of Romsey was almost certainly a feral Hampshire resident

Brent Goose: A major wave of these came into the English Channel area on Oct 31 (2729 passing the French Normandy coast) and Nov 1 (around 1000 seen at the Kent South Foreland with smaller numbers elsewhere). On Nov 2 a flock of 634 was off Ryde (IoW) and by Nov 4 a flock of 286 were in Emsworth Harbour. Although a very few juveniles have come with these new birds it is clear that there has been an almost total failure to hatch young this year. In Chichester Harbour only 7 young may have arrived . In Langstone Harbour Jason Crook tells us that by Nov 5 there was more than one family group to be seen and at least one family has 4 juveniles but he estimates that the percentage of young to old is unlikely to reach 1% even when the remainder of the birds eventually arrive. In the Lymington area a total of 5 young among around 400 birds was seen on Nov 1 and on Nov 5 there were 7 juveniles among 280 Brent at Wittering in Chichester Harbour (these may be in addition to 4 young seen in the Harbour earlier)

Pale-bellied Brent: By Nov 2 the total to be seen in Dorset had not increased above the 17 reported in The Fleet on Oct 31. The first Hampshire bird was one at Lymington on Nov 5, reported again on Nov 7

Black Brant: One newly arrived bird was seen off Broadmarsh in Langstone Harbour on the morning of Nov 5 and one was seen in Pagham Harbour on Oct 25 when one arrived at The Fleet in Dorset (increasing to 2 there on Oct 31, both still there on Nov 2)

Red-breasted Goose: One arrived on the Lymington shore on Nov 6 and was still there on Nov 9 - a superb colourful bird which has delighted many birders though the jury is still out as to whether it is a genuine wild bird or an escape from a wildfowl collection (it could well be wild but its tolerance of close human presence on some occasions - one birder said it came within 'bread throwing distance' - and its association with Canada Geese on some occasions - though it is generally with Brent - would indicate a captive or feral origin)

Wigeon: Although thousands had been seen at the Thorney Deeps as early as Sep 26 they are only just starting to show up on the Emsworth shore where 3 were seen on Oct 16, increasing to 5 on Oct 31 and now 40 on Nov 4. Local counts on Nov 6 were of 400 in Nutbourne Bay and 580 in Pagham Harbour.

Pintail: A count of 15 in Nutbourne Bay on Nov 6 shows that these too are reaching winter numbers now

Pochard: There may have been a wave of these moving to winter quarters around Oct 20 (24 were seen at the Chichester lakes on Oct 18 and a count of 1762 was reported from a Dutch site on Oct 22) I did not see any at the Budds Farm pools until Oct 27 (when a token 3 were there). This shortage may soon change as Bough Beech in Kent reported 44 on Nov 2 and Rye Harbour had 59 on Nov 4

Tufted Duck: Large numbers of these may be expected in the next few days after a report of 88 at Rye Harbour on Nov 4 - the counts of these and of Pochard at Rye Harbour were the first I have seen from that site this autumn (presumably these numbers were a significant increase of what was already there)

Scaup: One reported on Pagham Lagoon on Nov 4 and one at Dungeness on Nov 5

Long-tailed Duck: First of the autumn was at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Oct 31. Nov 1 brought sightings of singles at Poole Harbour and Thanet, and Nov 2 brought four reports - one near the mouth of Pagham Harbour, one passing Christchurch Harbour and maybe being the one seen at Lodmoor (Weymouth), plus two seen in the Thanet area. The only bird regularly reported after Nov 2 is the one at Abbotsbury

Velvet Scoter: The earliest this autumn was off north Kent on Oct 29 and by Nov 2 there had been 7 reports, the latest being of one at Christchurch Harbour on Nov 1 and three off Thanet on Nov 2

Goldeneye: First reports for this autumn were on Oct 31 when a female was off West Wittering and two appeared at the Blashford Lakes. By Nov 3 a superb male was among two females at Christchurch Harbour while Nov 4 brought a lone male to Rye Harbour. The number at the Blashford Lakes increased to 4 on Nov 5 and to 5 on Nov 6

Hooded Merganser: The young male bird of unknown origin which appeared at Weymouth on June 6 is still there, though now resplendent in adult plumage. He only gets a mention this week through the arrival of an adult female (probably a genuine wild bird) in Fife (Scotland). I wonder what the chances are of it pairing up with out Weymouth bird?

Red-breasted Merganser: A count of 70 seen in Chichester Harbour from the Wittering area on Nov 6 is another sign that wildfowl are now with us in full winter numbers (though no doubt many are still on the move).

Goosander: This week's reports are of a young bird unexpectedly landing on a small pond near the Sandwich Bay observatory on Nov 3, of two at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 5, with five in Pagham Harbour that day, one over Christchurch Harbour on Nov 6 and one on Southampton Water on Nov 9

Osprey: The last report of one in southern England came from the Lewes area on Oct 25 but Lee Evans' bulletin of national bird news on Nov 7 said that a juvenile was still present in Suffolk

Grey Partridge: On Nov 4 a total of 126 were found at The Burgh (downs south of Pulborough) with one covey having 40+ birds. In view of the statement (back on Oct 12 when around 60 were seen) that none are either released or shot on the Duke Of Norfolk's estate I can only assume that Partridges released elsewhere have heard of sanctuary here and have flown in to take advantage of it.

Common Crane: One was seen in flight on Nov 2 in the Albourne area near Hurstpierpoint (north of Brighton) and seen to land in a tree - the long staying pair at Dungeness RSPB have not been reported since Oct 1 and this is the first I know of in southern England since then. Most recent news (from Lee Evans) is of one in South Devon on Nov 6

Golden Plover: 200+ still in Pagham Harbour on Nov 2 and 100+ on the Lymington shore on Nov 5 and 6. Inland a flock of 80 flew through the Whitsbury area (just north of Fordingbridge and not far from Martin Down) during the past week

Sanderling: 177 were on the west sands at Ryde (IoW) on Nov 2 and on Nov 4 a flock of 424 were seen in the Thanet area of Kent

Purple Sandpiper: These have been reported from nine different sites between Nov 2 and 6. One of the reports was of 6 at Southsea Castle on Nov 4 (first there as far as I know) with 8 there on Nov 6. Another local first was of 2 at the Bembridge Foreland on Nov 6. A count of 39 in Thanet on Nov 2 may well mean that more are on their way.

Jack Snipe: On Nov 1 two were seen flying in off the sea at St Catherine's Point (IoW) and one was seen at East Head in Chichester Harbour on Nov 3 with 2 there on Nov 5

Woodcock: A definite increase in the number of arrivals from the continent between Nov 2 and 5 with a minimum of 12 reported from seven sites including one at Sandy Point (Hayling) on Nov 4 and one at Eastleigh Lakeside Park on Nov 3 (a new species for that well recorded site). Six arrived in the Thanet area on Nov 2 and another six came in to Portland on Nov 5

Green Sandpiper: I have 100 records of these for this autumn but I did not see one for myself until Nov 4 when one flew noisily downstream at Bedhampton in Havant to pitch near Bedhampton Mill

Common Sandpiper: I also saw one of these on the Langstone Harbour shore on Nov 3 - it was near the mouth of the Hermitage Stream at Broadmarsh and will probably remain there through the winter.

Grey Phalarope: Three new sightings bring the total of records that have gone into my database this autumn to 97 (covering a possible 193 birds). One was at Oare Marshes in north Kent on Nov 1 and one was at Dungeness from Nov 3 to 6, maybe moving on to appear at Rye Harbour on Nov 8

Little Gull: We rarely see more than half a dozen in the Langstone Harbour area but elsewhere they must be almost as common as our Black-headed Gulls based on the report of 297 passing Cap Griz Nez in France on Oct 8 and of 96 seen on Nov 2 off the north Kent coast

Common Gull: The history of a colour ringed Common Gull seen recently on the south Hayling shore shows that it was hatched some 100 miles south of Warsaw in Poland in May 2004 and was then seen at Farlington Marshes in Oct 2004 since when it has regularly returned to the Hayling area each winter.

Sandwich Tern: I do not think these normally winter in the Rye Bay area so one seen at Rye Harbour on Nov 3 was probably a late migrant

Little Auk: One had been seen flying past Bournemouth on Oct 20 and now one has been reported at Dungeness on Nov 1 and another at Portland on Nov 2

Stock Dove: A flock of around 40 was seen in the second Warblington Farm shore field east of Pook Lane on Nov 8 - in recent winters flocks of up to 140 have been attracted to these fields for lengthy stays

Wood Pigeon: It seems as if the main autumn movement died down at the end of October but on Nov 3 more than 6000 flew north over Dungeness

Collared Dove: I had not hear one singing since Sep 9 until Nov 6 (when I heard a brief burst from one bird) but they have not yet resumed regular song

Short-eared Owl: Plenty still arriving here for the winter - in this week's news I have seen nine reports including one recording the arrival of 5 at Portland on Nov 4 and late news of 4 on Sheppey in Kent on Nov 1. On Nov 7 three flew in at Durlston but one was so exhausted by its journey that it was forced to the ground by Crows and then killed and eaten by a Peregrine. On Nov 7 two were seen at the Thornham Marshes on Thorney Island where one seems to have been present since Sep 26 (maybe since Sep 14 when one was near Wickor Point on the west side of Thorney).

Common Swift: Lee Evans reports the presence of one in north Yorkshire on Nov 6 but the latest in the south of England this year remains the one in Dorset on Oct 22

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: One was said to have been seen in the grounds of The Rowans hospice at Purbook Heath (Waterlooville area) on Nov 3

Shorelark: Other than an isolated report of one flying over St Aldhelms Head in Dorset on Sep 27 the first two reports of the winter come from the South Foreland in Kent on Nov 2 and Sandwich Bay on Nov 4 (possibly the same bird)

Swallow: Still being reported on Nov 7 when three were at Seaford near Beachy Head and one was at Durlston (also seen Nov 9)

House Martin: At least one seen somewhere on each day from Nov 1 to 7 with one in Hampshire at Barton on Sea on Nov 6 and one at Durlston in Dorset on Nov 7

Tree Pipit: One at Portland on Nov 6 was the first to be reported since Oct 17

Rock Pipit: Two were back at Southsea Castle on Nov 6 and I had one at Nutbourne Bay on Nov 7

Water Pipit: The first to be reported in Hampshire this autumn was a single at Barton on Sea on Sep 25. The next relatively local sighting was at Bembridge (IoW) on Oct 31 and on Nov 6 two or perhaps three were in the Lymington area

Yellow Wagtail: Still one to be seen at Bockhill (South Foreland) on Nov 2

Grey Wagtail: Most of these have now settled into winter quarters but a pair flying together at Bedhampton on Nov 4 were of interest as the male was uttering phrases of his spring song

Waxwing: During a recent Autumnwatch TV programme Bill Oddie muttered something about there being 'lots of Waxwing' in northern and eastern parts of Britain but the only information that I had been able to discover until the end of this week was that there were 14 at a place called Lintrathen in Scotland on Nov 3 while on Nov 4 two were at Spurn Point, one was seen at Dungeness and three in the Thanet area. Summary counts for October from the Trektellen site show 48 in Germany and 46 in the Netherlands while Nov 1 to 5 showed 22 in the UK, 19 in the Netherlands and 11 in Germany. Hardly the thousands of a Waxwing irruption so far! Having written that for my mid-week summary the picture changed dramatically with Lee Evans' latest national bird news published on Nov 6 - he gives us a list of 21 sites in Britain with a total of 737 Waxwing between them. None however in any southern counties other than Kent - the sites named by Lee range from Essex, Cambs and Oxon north to the Orkneys and the only site with more than 100 birds was in Scotland (Aberdeenshire). Viewers of the last Autumnwatch programme on TV were treated to close views of half a dozen birds on the Farne Islands (there are no trees there but the National Trust warden had erected artificial trees made of driftwood and fixed apples to them and the Waxwings passing over the islands could not refuse the offer of rest and food). PS see latest news at head of Summary for news of one in the Chichester area on Nov 7

Wren: These do not often appear as winter arrivals from the continent but there were at least 40 at Sandwich Bay on Nov 2 with 33 there next day

Robin: With the influx of Wrens at Sandwich Bay on Nov 2 were 80 Robins with 30 at the South Foreland and 51at Dungeness the same day. More than 100 were seen in the Thanet area on Nov 4

Red-flanked Bluetail: In my weekly summary last Sunday I said that the finder of this Mega rarity at Ramsgate on Nov 1 was the local known only by the pseudonym of 'Gadget' but subsequent entries on the Planet Thanet website reveal that it was first seen by two other birders - the finder seems to have been called Andrew Lawson and his companion was none other than Richard Bonser who was a student at Southampton University a few years ago and who gave the unofficial name of Larus argentatus bonserii to a leucistic Herring Gull which has been a feature of Southampton Water over several winters (not sure if it still turns up there). The Bluetail was still at Ramsgate on Nov 2 but has not been reported since. Proof that it was not the only one in Britain cames from Lee Evans who, on Nov 6, reported two in Britain (one in Lincolnshire and one in Norfolk). He also reported a Bluethroat in Aberdeenshire.

Black Redstart: I have now seen 63 reports of this species (with a potential total of 155 birds involved) this autumn but until Nov 4 I had not heard of any on south Hayling - on that day Andy Johnson referred to the presence of 3 along the Eastoke promenade. Nov 4 brought news of 7 at Dungeness, 4 at Portland. 3 along the Eastoke Promenade on south Hayling and 2 at Shoreham Fort but I think these birds have not yet settled and I hear that the Hayling birds could not be refound - maybe they flew across the Solent as 3 were seen near the Needles on the Isle of Wight on Nov 5 and on Nov 6 Southsea Castle had 3.

Wheatear: On Nov 6 one was still at Barton on Sea and another was at Southsea Castle.

Ring Ouzel: Several have been seen each day from Nov 1 to 7 with a maximum of 6 at Folkestone on Nov 2. Locally there were singles at Church Norton on Nov 2 and on Nov 5

Blackbird: These are now arriving in hundreds - 200 at Sandwich Bay on Nov 2, around 400 at Portland on Nov 3 and 300 in Thanet on Nov 4

Fieldfare: Nothing on the scale of the 4,500 near Canterbury on Nov 1 but latest news does have a count of 600 at Reculver on the north Kent coast on Nov 4

Song Thrush: 100+ at Portland on Nov 4 with smaller counts at 9 other sites between Nov 1 and 4

Redwing: 700 at Sandwich on Nov 4 with 400 at Portland on Nov 3

Mistle Thrush: These remain very scarce with peak counts of 6 at Dungness on Nov 2 and 4 at Portland on Nov 5

Dartford Warbler: An indication that some of these are moving through areas where their normal gorse habit is not available came from a report of one skulking in a field of Cauliflowers in the Thanet area on Nov 2

Lesser Whitethroat: One seen in the Thanet area on Nov 2 was claimed as a representative of one of the eastern races (see Collins Field Guide)

Garden Warbler: One of these also seen in the Thanet area on Nov 4 and an even later one was photographed at Andover on Nov 6

Blackcap: A count of 300 at Beachy Head on Sep 12 probably marked the peak departure of our summer visitors though there were still more than 80 at Durlston on Sep 27. Most counts during October were of 3 or less birds so a report of 10 at Portland on Nov 5 stands out and may indicate the start of our winter visitors arriving from central Europe

Pallas' Warbler: The first to be reported this autumn was in the Thanet area on Nov 2. No more sightings in southern England but on Nov 6 Lee Evans listed 9 sites from Norfolk north to the Orkneys which each had single birds

Hume's Leaf Warbler: One of these Yellow-browed Warbler look alikes was claimed at Sandwich Bay on Nov 2 and another (only 'possible') was on the Isle of Wight seen near St Catherine's Point on Oct 31 and at Sandown on Nov 2

Dusky Warbler: One claimed at Thanet on Nov 2 (just one previously this autumn at the South Foreland on Sep 26&27). On Nov 6 Lee Evans also listed one in Norfolk and one at Spurn Point

Goldcrest: On Nov 4 Thanet had more than 250 and Sandwich Bay had 200+

Firecrest: Plenty of these around but the autumn's peak count so far was 17 at Sandwich Bay on Nov 2

Marsh Tit: Now that these seem to have become rarities the presence this week of 2 in the Chichester West Dean Woods and 1 at the Blashford Lakes may be newsworthy.

Jay: These have at last started to arrive from the continent in serious numbers with 20 at Durlston on Oct 28 and 50+ in Thanet on Nov 2

Raven: The Havant area seems to be one of the very few places not to have regular Raven sightings so a sighting of one over the East Head area of Chichester Harbour, flying towards Hayling Island on Nov 5, is of local interest

Starling: 3000 were seen to fly in off the sea at Thanet on Nov 2 and another 550 flew in to Portland on Nov 4 with several similar reports of birds arriving at other coastal sites (Barton on Sea had 209 on Nov 4 and 674 on Nov 5)

Serin: One flew over Christchurch Harbour on Nov 6

Greenfinch: There are by now a few more around which have arrived from the continent and a report of around 150 feeding as a flock on the shore near Shoreham Harbour on Nov 5 is encouraging news after this autumn's dearth of the species. The next highest count was of 42 at Barton on Sea on Nov 4 when 30 were seen at Christchurch Harbour

Goldfinch: In contrast to the low numbers of Greenfinch none of the 11 counts of Goldfinch I have seen for the Nov 2 to 6 period is less than 160 with counts on Nov 3 of 2300+ at Dungeness and 1500+ at Durlston (Sandy Point on Hayling had 997 on Nov 4, along with 121 Siskin and 131 Linnet)

Twite: First to be reported in southern England this winter was one at Dungeness on Nov 3 (on Nov 6 Lee Evans reported one at Rainham Marsh in the London area)

Lesser Redpoll: On Nov 4 there were more than 250 (maybe 400) in Buchan Country Park at Crawley. On the same day 313 arrived at Sandwich Bay and 170 were seen in Thanet

Common (or Mealy) Redpoll: On Nov 2 there was a total of 5 birds at 3 sites in East Kent

Hawfinch: Four were seen in the Chichester West Dean Woods on Nov 5

Snow Bunting: On Nov 3 one appeared at the Eastoke Corner carpark on south Hayling and it was still there on Nov 4. Thoughts that this was one of the two which have been at East Head on the Sussex side of Chichester Harbour entrance were refuted by an increase in the number at East Head from 2 to 3 on Nov 3 (three still there on Nov 6). Elsewhere during the Nov 2 to 4 period one new bird was seen to fly in off the sea at the South Foreland on Nov 2 and the number on the north Kent coast increased to at least 9

Little Bunting: Nov 1 brought the fourth recent sighting of one in the Old Basing area east of Basingstoke - so far all the sightings have been made by one experienced birder and confirmation by others is made difficult as there is a lot of private property in the area where the bird can escape attention

Corn Bunting: More than 15 were in the Sussex Ouse valley between Southease and Rodmell on Nov 2 with a few still to be seen on the Sussex Downs near the River Arun on Nov 4

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Migrant Hawker: A very late individual was still flying sluggishly at Rye Harbour on Nov 4. This was not the last for the year as one was active at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 7

Common Darter: At least one of these seen at the Blashford Lakes on Nov 7

Butterflies

Just four species named in recent reports

Large White: Just one seen in Gosport on Nov 2

Red Admiral: Of 18 seen in the most recent reports 13 of them were dotted around the Gosport area on Nov 2 and one was active at Ringwood on Nov 7

Small Tortoiseshell: One seen in a Havant garden on Nov 2

Speckled Wood: After one at Gosport on Nov 2 there were three seen on Nov 7 (two seen at Portland and one in the Kingston area near Lewes)

Moths

Caloptilia rufipennella (0284): First mention for the year in a Thanet area trap on Nov 3

Scrobipalpa costella (0819): First I have heard of this year taken at Pagham Harbour on Nov 4

London Dowd (0874 Blastobasis lacticolella): First at at Thanet trap on Nov 3 This species was previously called Blastobasis decolorella

December moth (1631 Poecilocampa populi): First report from the Newhaven area on Nov 3

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

108 species recorded in flower so far in November, including ...

Annual Wall Rocket: Found flowering in more than one place around Havant on Nov 3 and 4 (not seen in October)

Perennial Wall Rocket: Still flower on the rail lines at Havant on Nov 6

Thale Cress: One plant seen in Havant on Nov 5 (not seen in October)

Early Dog Violet: Three flowers have appeared on self-sown plants in my Havant garden at the end of the current week

Musk Mallow: Still flowering in Nov 3

Tufted Vetch: More than one plant still flowering on Nov 4 by the cycle way alongside the A27 near Broadmarsh

Melilot: Both Ribbed and White species flowering at Broadmarsh on Nov 4 (neither seen in October)

Spotted Medick: Flowering in Havant St Faith churchyard on Nov 6 for the first time since mid-July

Yellow-flowered Strawberry: Just one flower (among a lot of fruit) seen in Juniper Square on Nov 3 - I have recorded this species flowering at this site in every month of this year so far.

Stone Parsley: More than one fresh plant flowering this month.

Wild Parsnip: Not reported in October but flowering at Durlston on Nov 1 and at Broadmarsh on Nov 4

Greater Mullein: Another species flowering at Broadmarsh on Nov 4 but not seen in October

Hybrid Water Speedwell: Another species not seen in October but flowering in the Hermitage Stream at Bedhampton on Nov 4

Field Scabious: Reported as flowering at Durlston on Nov 5

Common Fleabane: Although I had seen this as late as Oct 8 I was very surprised to see one plant still flowering on Nov 4

Golden Samphire: Just one fresh plant with a single new flower seen at Nore Barn (Warblington shore) on Nov 8

Winter Heliotrope: First flowers of the new season seen beside Park Road South in Havant (outside the demolished Texaco garage) on Nov 3

Chinese Mugwort: This species never flowers before October and this year I failed to see it at the Broadmarsh cycleway site in October but found it flowering (most flowers already over) on Nov 4

Slender Thistle: More than one plant still flowering beside Southmoor Lane on Nov 3

Greater Knapweed: Still flowering at Durlston on Nov 5

Mouse-ear Hawkweed: Flowers seen on Nov 3 in St Faith's churchyard in Havant where they started re-flowering on Oct 21

Wild Oat: One heathy fresh plant seen by a Havant roadside on Nov 3 but not included in the flowering count as none of the many spikelets were open

OTHER WILDLIFE

Daubenton's Bat: At least one flying low over King's Pond at Alton around dusk on Nov 4 so they are not yet in hibernation

Common Newt: Some months ago (late summer) when clearing grass in a corner of my garden I found a torpid Newt which had presumably climbed the brick wall from my neighbour's garden where there is a healthy pond. Having interrupted the creature's rest I put him back in some dry grass which I then put inside a glass jamjar which I left lying on its side (without a lid) in a secluded and hopefully frost free situation under shrubs. I mention this now as on Nov 3 the Durlston website records an observation of a very lethargic Common Newt seen 'walking sluggishly' across a path. I have no idea when Newts normally go into hibernation (I believe most remain active after they have left their breeding ponds until around October) but I guess this one was leaving it a bit late if others seek repose before the summer is over.

Fungi: In addition to the five species of Waxcap and the Yellow Club, Orange Mosscap and most recently the Hairy Earth Tongues seen in my garden so far this year I think I have failed to mention that I have some very small Jew's Ears (now called Jelly Ears) growing on dead Buddleia wood. They have been present for some time but this week did bring a good find outside the garden - another example of the Hairy Earth Tongue (Trichoglossum hirsutum) found in the grass of St Faith's churchyard here in Havant on Nov 3. On Nov 4 I also found Fairy Ring toadstools in the Bedhampton area . In the Emsworth area a specimen of Wood Cauliflower fungus (Sparassis crispa) was found on Nov 3 in the hedgebank of Long Copse Lane. On Nov 8 I had a look at the grass verge outside 15, Beacon Square in Emsworth where Brian Fellows had found good examples of Fly Agaric recently - when I got there the single Fly Agaric which he had photographed as a round headed 'bud' had grown into one of the most perfect specimens of this charismatic toadstool. It was, as expected, growing at the foot of a Birch tree and on the other side of the same tree was another fungus that lives in a symbiotic relationship with Birch, the Brown Birch Bolete (Leccinum scabrum) which was also in perfect condition with pale brown cap, white pores which did not change colour when pressed, and a whitish stem with black flecking (outside 17 Beacon Square were three older examples of this species in which the cap had cracked into a crazy paving pattern and the pores had become a dirty pale yellowish colour). Back with the Fly Agaric were other fungi including Spotted Toughshank and Poison Pie which I could identify and at least two others that I could not. One troop of medium sized, rich brown coloured caps with 'crimping' around the edge, looked to be Brown Rollrims but a closer look showed that the gills were not decurrent and the nearest I have come to naming these is Lepista irina. The other un-named species was a tiny grey Mycena with a white edge to its conical cap and resembled photos of M. oortiana (also called M. archangeliana) or the commoner M. galopus, but both these species grow on twigs and wood debris whereas this appeared to grow from the grassy soil.


Summary for Oct 27 - Nov 2 (Week 43 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

The arrival of visitors on Sunday afternoon when I should have been working on this summary means I am late in completing it and do not have time for either writing a Highlights section nor listing any late records so you will have to work through the list unaided and pick out the bits that interest you.

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Divers: Great-Northen, Black and Red-throated are all being seen along the south coast, usually singly but with reports of up to 4 Red-throated off the Normandy coast of France on Oct 31

Slavonian Grebe: A single bird has been seen off the Lymington shore from Oct 9 (latest report on Oct 30) but the only other bird that I have heard of was one at Dungeness on Oct 10

Black-necked Grebe: The only birds being reported currently are 4 in Studland Bay (Dorset) and 1 at the Blashford Lakes though there are probably 2 or more in Langstone Harbour and perhaps some at the Dungeness RSPB reserve

Balearic Shearwater: There has been a lot of concern expressed about the status of this species but all the reports this autumn show that it is far more likely to be seen off the coast of southern England than is Manx Shearwater. One illustration of this comes from the totals of the two species seen by Russell Wynn (of the Southampton Oceanographic Centre) when he was sea-watching from the extreme south west tip of Cornwall (Gwennap Head near Porthgwarra) from Oct 4 to 17. He had 182 Balearics against just 22 Manx). Looking at all the observations that I have recorded along the south coast from Aug 1 to Nov 1 I have a total of 993 Balearic to 573 Manx though for this year to date overall I have 1852 Balearic (highest count was just 66 off Portland) on Aug 30 to 42494 Manx (this includes a single report of 25,000 west past Portland on May 1) and so I think that the recent figures really reflect the fact that we are on a route chosen by the relatively few Balearics while the great mass of Manx commute between the open Atlantic and the Welsh coast without normally entering the English Channel.

Leach's Petrel: Perhaps half a dozen of these were off the north Kent coast between Oct 31 and Nov 1, being seen at three different sites

Green Heron: The bird which was first reported on Oct 25 (but is thought to have been present since Oct 19) was still showing well by the Royal Military Canal in the West Hythe area of Kent on Oct 31. This vagrant from America is a new species for Kent and (I believe) only the eighth ever seen in Britain (though the BTO Bird Facts website gives only three records - first in Cornwall in 1889, then one in Yorkshire in 1982 and one in Lincolnshire in 2001). At least one more was in Anglesey on Nov 2005 (see an excellent photo at http://stevenround-birdphotography.com/Green%20Heron.htm )

Spoonbill: 15 of these were in the Arne area of Poole Harbour on Oct 28, probably in addition to the one at Brownsea Island shown this week on the Autumnwatch TV programme (18 were reported at Brownsea on Oct 11, easily beating the maximum of 12 in Poole Harbour last February)

Mute Swan: It would seem that the Langstone Pond pair which have had six cygnets with them until recently now only have five but I am not sure if the sixth is defunct or has just gone off on its own.

Whooper Swan: One was still at the Oare Marshes in north Kent on Oct 29 but a few more may be on their way as 4 were reported passing Hamburg on Oct 29

Black Swan: One seen at the Oare Marshes in north Kent on Oct 31 was a newcomer there (perhaps feeling the call of its antipodean spring and moving in search of a mate?)

Bean Goose: No reports from southern England but I see that 25 were seen passing the Belgian coast on Oct 31

Barnacle Goose: A total of 977 went past one Belgian site on Oct 30

Dark-bellied Brent Goose: A report of 209 passing Dungeness on Oct 28 marked the start of a large second wave of birds arriving for the winter. The peak of this wave reached southern England on Oct 30 when the following counts were reported - Sandwich Bay had 1862, Dungeness had 1700 and Reculver on the north Kent coast reported more than 1000 flying west. On Oct 31 more than 1500 were reported from the West Wittering area (not sure if these were new or were the flock of around 1400 that was first seen there around Oct 18) and an additional 2729 were seen off Normandy (presumably heading for the French Atlantic coast). New arrivals in southern England on Oct 31 included 375 at Sandwich Bay, 330 at Dungeness and 223 on the north Kent coast. Nov 1 saw an estimated 1000 at the South Foreland in Kent and 581 in the Thanet area (North Foreland). Nearer home Nov 1 brought 5 juveniles (in a flock of around 400) to the Lymington area and 1 juvenile in the first flock of 98 birds to arrive in Emsworth Harbour

Pale-bellied Brent: Although there have been 11 reports of this species since the first on Sep 25 all have been of single birds or families until Oct 31 when a flock of 17 was at Abbotsbury in Dorset. Maybe this flock are the first representatives of the Canadian birds coming via Ireland and overshooting to France. Certainly most of the previous reports have been of birds seen among Dark-bellied Brent and on Oct 25 a family seen in The Fleet near Weymouth consisted one Dark and one Pale parent with 4 mixed juveniles.

Brant: On Oct 25 single birds were seen at Pagham Harbour and in The Fleet near Weymouth. On Oct 31 two Brant were reported to be in The Fleet

Shelduck: These are now returning from their moult - on Oct 28 a count of 21 flying west over north Kent coast was reported and on Oct 29 I saw 26 on the Northney shore of Hayling with others at the Oysterbeds and the mouth of the Langbrook stream. Also on Oct 29 17 went west past north Kent and 13 went past Dungeness, and on Oct 31 there was a count of 34 passing the Normandy coast of France

Wigeon: On Oct 29 there were still some 100 of these in the Langbrook stream mouth area where I counted 102 on Oct 25. Also on Oct 29 there were some 800 in the Thorney Deeps and on Oct 31 Sandwich Bay recorded another 119 (with 236 passing the French coast) while on Nov 1 there were 100 at Yarmouth on the Isle of Wight

Pintail: Some 50 had reached Pulborough Brooks by Oct 7 and 27 were reported at Dungeness on Oct 10 but there have no other significant counts until Oct 31 when 34 were reported at Oare Marshes on the north Kent coast and one Dutch site had 61 passing

Pochard: Three at the Budds Farm Pools here in Havant on Oct 27 were the first I have seen this autumn.

Scaup: A juvenile male was in the Lymington area at the end of September and this week there has been an adul male there on Nov 1 with a report of one at Sandwich Bay on Oct 30 and another flying past Portland Bill on Nov 1

Goosander: These too are now arriving in the south to supplement the few that stayed to breed on the Hampshire Avon. On Oct 27 there were 14 redheads roosting at the Blashford Lakes and on Oct 28 one was seen briefly in Pagham Harbour before flying north.

Eider: A report of 5 males on the north Kent coast (and one at Dungeness) on Oct 31 may show that these are starting to come south for the winter.

Long-tailed Duck: The first two reports of these for the winter come from Abbotsbury in Dorset on Oct 31 and Thanet in Kent on Nov 1

Velvet Scoter: The first of the winter was off north Kent on Oct 29, then on Oct 31 one was seen off Sandwich and another went past Christchurch Harbour. By Nov 1 there were three off Thanet and one was again seen at Christchurch

Goldeneye: After an odd sighting in the Lymington area on Oct 9 there were no reports until Oct 31 when a female was seen in Chichester Harbour from West Wittering and another turned up at the Blashford Lakes near Ringwood. On Nov 1 two flew east past Barton on Sea (east of Christchurch) and maybe the same two were seen passing Christchurch Harbour

Red-breasted Merganser: Although a few of these have been seen since the end of August only one of the 32 reports up to Oct 29 was of more than 5 birds (the exception being a count of 15 in Portsmouth Harbour on Oct 22). Oct 30 brought a report of 15 off Sandwich and on Oct 31 there were two reports (12 at Oare Marshes and 15 at Seasalter - both on the north Kent shore), and on Nov 1 11 were seen in Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight

Goosander: Winter birds started to reach the south coast on Oct 25 when 19 were seen at the Blashford Lakes with at least 14 still there on Oct 27. On Oct 28 a single redhead was in Pagham Harbour and on Oct 30 a flock of 16 was reported on the continental shore

Honey Buzzard: A late bird was seen over the Horsham area on Oct 28

Marsh Harrier: These are numerous throughout the year in Kent but I thought it worth noting that on Nov 1 a total of 12 were seen in the Kent Stour valley with five of them hovering low over reed beds trying (unsuccessfully) to catch some of the Starlings roosting there.

Buzzard: These are now moving over the near continent to escape the coming winter and on Oct 31 one Dutch site had 34 passing over it.

Merlin: I had some local excitement when what I am almost certain was a male Merlin was hunting over the Warblington Farm fields on Oct 31 - see my Dairy for that day for more detail

Water Rail: Despite the small wings and dangling legs which must make long distance flight a difficult business many of these move long distances to winter quarters and on Oct 28 Steve Keen almost certainly saw a 'non-resident' bird at Barton on Sea near Christchurch - it was seen nowhere near the small ponds in that area but clambering about in bramble bushes! A good many years ago at this time of year I found the corpse of one below the glass walls of the IBM buildings at Portsmouth - it had probably decided to stop off at the small lake by the main reception entrance but had been deceived by the reflection of the lake in the glass walls and had crashed into them, breaking its neck.

Common Crane: Their migration over the continent is not yet over - two were seen over Holland on Oct 30 and 6 on Oct 31

Golden Plover: These are getting more common in the Hampshire and West Sussex area. On Aug 30 a flock of 78 were seen in the Stockbridge area of Hampshire and on Oct 31 some 400 were seen from West Wittering airborne over Thorney with another 50 over the Selsey west fields.

Knot: On Oct 31 there were 30 in Pagham Harbour seen from Church Norton

Purple Sandpiper: None have been reported at Southsea Castle yet this autumn but four were seen at Folkestone on Oct 28 after three had been seen at Newhaven on Oct 26 (Last week I wrongly reported this sighting as being at Brighton Marina). Last year there were sightings of passing birds at Southsea on Aug 15 (!) and Oct 21 but the regular winter reports there did not start until Nov 14. On Oct 30 1 was seen at Sandwich and another at Portland, then on Oct 31 2 were at Bockhill (South Foreland in Kent)

Woodcock: Continental birds will now be feeling the onset of winter and be coming over here - several reports provide some evidence for this. One bird was recorded at Dungeness on Oct 27 and another was flushed from a hedge bottom on the Isle of Sheppey on Oct 28. Since then Oct 30 brought reports of 2 at Bockhill (South Foreland) (though one of these was then taken by Peregrine) with another three seen at Dungeness that day. On Oct 31 singles were seen at Reculver (north Kent) and at Portland.

Black-tailed Godwit: A flock of 40 were feeding on the mud of the main pool of the Hayling Oysterbeds as the tide fell on Oct 29 - maybe the first back here this winter?

Grey Phalarope: During the Oct 4 to 17 period when Russell Wynn was at Gwennap Head (tip of Cornwall) he saw a total of more than 65. More recently one was at Chesil (Portland) on Oct 27, then on Oct 29 there were probably three birds on the north Kent coast and finally one was at Normandy (Lymington) on Oct 30

Kittiwake: Some 440 of these flew west past Dungeness on Oct 28 - the largest number reported on the south coast since last March

Common Tern: A late bird was off Dungeness on Oct 25

Arctic Tern: One off north Kent on Oct 31 may have been the last of the departing migrants

Stock Dove: Small numbers of these are now moving west with the Woodpigeons. On Oct 21 32 were seen in the Kent Stour Valley, on Oct 25 there was a count of 39 from a site in Holland, and now more than 25 have been seen at Barton on Sea on Oct 28. Numbers increased on Oct 31 with 29 over the Selsey area and 65 at Christchurch Harbour

Woodpigeon: The autumn passage seems to have started in earnest in southern England on Oct 25 when some 3000 went west over Hastings (and on that day a count of 27,056 was recorded in Holland). Oct 28 brought counts of 6300 from Barton on Sea, 3000 from Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour, 1870 from the Bournemouth area and 1685 from Christchurch Harbour. On Oct 29 Steve Keen at Barton on Sea recorded the highest count reported in southern England this autumn with 9385 (one of them being an albino!)

Skylark: Their autumn passage has been fairly muted so far with the highest recent count in southern England being 337 at Barton on Sea on Oct 28 (though one Dutch site reported 2756 on Oct 22 and there was a report of 1894 over West Bay in Dorset on Oct 17)

Swallow: Reports continue to come in daily but the latest I have seen was of 3 over Christchurch Harbour on Nov 1 (with one over Barton on Sea)

House Martin: Latest is one at Portland on Nov 1

Richard's Pipit: One flew west over Barton on Sea on Oct 28

Rock Pipit: One was back on the South Moors shore at Langstone on Oct 27, giving me close views as it perched on driftwood

Scandinavian Rock Pipit: Two were reported at Pagham Harbour on Oct 26

Grey Wagtail: The expected winter birds have now returned to Havant. I have heard several overhead this month and on Oct 29 I saw one back in the Lymbourne stream (they do no breed there, though at least one pair still breeds on the Hermitage Stream at Bedhampton). Although they do not nest away from fast running streams you are now as likely to hear them over the centre of Havant as by the Lymbourne stream during the winter months.

Waxwing: Just one bird reported so far though not in England - one was seen over the Hamburg Marina in Germany on Oct 31

Dunnock: The first and so far only report of one singing after their moult came from Durlston on Oct 27

Red-flanked Bluetail: I have never seen a report of this species before and at first I thought someone had mis-spelt Bluethroat but the name is correct (the French name is translated as 'Red-flanked Nightingale' which gives a better indication of what sort of bird is being described). The report I am referring to is of a bird seen at Ramsgate on Nov 1 when one of the regular Thanet birders (who delights in the pseudonym of Gadget) braved the dismal rainy morning for a walk round his local patch to be rewarded with a 'Mega'. I believe that less than 20 birds of this species have ever been recorded in Britain though they may become more frequent as this is the third for this year (one was in the Orkneys in September and another in Norfok in October) and three were also found last year (all during October in Scotland, Yorkshire and Wales)

Wikipaedia has this to say about the species: "The Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus), also known as the Orange-flanked Bush-robin, is a small passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family Turdidae, but is now more generally considered to be an Old World flycatcher, Muscicapidae. It, and related species, are often called chats.

"It is a migratory insectivorous species breeding in mixed coniferous forest with undergrowth in north Asia to the Himalayas and western China. Red-flanked Bluetails winter in southeast Asia.

"The species' range is slowly expanding westwards through Finland. It is a very rare but increasing vagrant to western Europe, and there have been a few records in westernmost North America.

"The Red-flanked Bluetail nests near the ground, laying 3-5 eggs which are incubated by the female.

"It is slightly larger in size than the European Robin. As the name implies, both sexes have a blue tail and reddish flanks. The adult male has dark blue upperparts and white underparts. Females are plain brown above and have a dusky breast.

"The male sings its melancholy trill from treetops. Its call is a typical chat "tacc" noise."

Blackbird: We should soon be seeing more of these in our gardens as numbers arrive from the continent. On Oct 30 Dungeness recorded 170, Christchurch Harbour had 160, and at least another 75 were seen in Kent. On Oct 31 Portland had 100, Dungeness had 55 and Beachy Head had 50 with 35 at Christchurch. Then on Nov 1 the number at Portland was up to 150 ....

Fieldfare: Oct 28 seems to have brought another influx of birds from the continent with several reports from Kent, in particular 1620 flying west over Reculver on the north coast and another 1200+ were reported there on Oct 30 when 60 were seen at Bransbury Common near Andover. Latest news includes a count of around 4,500 in the Kent Stour valley on Nov 1

Song Thrush: These are also arriving daily, the highest recent reports being on Oct 30 when 450 were at Dungeness and 160 at Bockhill (South Foreland).

Redwing: Reculver also had 948 of these on Oct 28, when Thanet reported 1047, and on Oct 29 there were 1026 passing Reculver. Oct 30 brought 900 to Dungeness and in Dorset 400 were seen near Weymouth on Oct 31. On Nov 1 the Kent Stour Valley had an estimated 2800

Mistle Thrush: These remain very scarce both here and on the continent but Dungeness had 15 on Oct 30 when another 11 were seen at the South Foreland. Highest count so far was of just 34 at a Dutch site on Oct 31

Red-breasted Flycatcher: One had been seen in Thanet on Sep 17 and now another has spent a day at Dungeness on Oct 27

Bearded Tit: A small party of four birds were seen to fly high from the east into reeds at Christchurch Harbour before later continuing westwards.

Marsh Tit: In central southern England these seem to be following Willow Tit into virtual extinction but I see that the Warnham reserve at Horsham had more than 7 Marsh Tits and 1 Willow Tit on Oct 29. I have also been told that there was no scarcity of Marsh Tits in the Wye valley by someone who was there last week

Great Grey Shrike: A 'new arrival' was one at Heyshott Common near Midhurst on Nov 1

Jay: Still no reports of any large numbers on the move but a report of 20 at Durlston on Oct 28 was clearly an increase on the local resident population.

Starling: Following a report of 26,000 passing over one Dutch site on Oct 25 there has been an arrival of around 20,000 at Dungeness on Oct 28 followed by 4,000 there on Oct 29 and 1,700 on Oct 30 when 700+ came in off the sea at Portland and another 1,100 arrived at Durlston. On Oct 31 Dungeness had another 2,200 and that evening a swarm of around 17,500 came to roost at Brighton's West Pier

Greenfinch: These continue to be in very short supply with a peak recent count of just 30 at Durlston on Oct 27 and a continental peak of only 32 passing Hamburg in Germany on Oct 31. So far this autumn I have only seen two counts of over 100 birds, both at Durlston (220 on Oct 6 and 112 on Oct 10)

Twite: None reported yet in southern England but Oct 31 brought a second report from the continent where 1 was seen on Oct 11 and 7 on Oct 31

Mealy Redpoll: Christchurch Harbour reported one on Nov 1

Bullfinch: A count of 17 at Durlston on Oct 28 shows that a number of these are on the move along with the thousands of Chaffinch and Goldfinch being reported everywhere.

Snow Bunting: It seems that at least 9 of these had arrived in southern England between Oct 9 and 27, the last being one over Christchurch Harbour on Oct 27. Since then a couple turned up at East Head in Chichester Harbour on Oct 29 and were still showing well on Oct 31. Also on Oct 29 I think 3 arrived on the north Kent coast with another at Dungeness. Here in Hampshire the first was seen at Barton on Sea on Nov 1

Yellowhammer: These remain very scarce so a flock of around 20 seen on winter stubble near Pulborough on Oct 28 was by far the highest count of the autumn in southern England (the only other report exceeding 10 was of 10+ also near Pulborough back on Sep 21)

Little Bunting: Three unconfirmed recent reports of one in the Old Basing area near Bsingstoke in the week prior to Oct 31 have not so far led to any definite report

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Common Darter: 11 still active in the Gosport area on Oct 31

Butterflies

In addition to some interesting recent reports from Gosport just seven species have been seen so far this week (Large White, Small Copper, Red Admiral, Small Tortoiseshell, Peacock, Comma and Speckled Wood)

Clouded Yellow: One was seen on the Gosport shore at Stokes Bay on Oct 22

Green-veined White: One at Gosport on Oct 17 may well be the last for the year as may be other late reports from Gosport given below

Common Blue: One at Gosport (Gilkicker) on Oct 22

Holly Blue: Two in the Haslar area of Gosport on Oct 16

Small Copper: Still to be seen at Cissbury Ring north of Worthing on Oct 29

Red Admiral: A good number were flying on Oct 27 - there was a report of 13 in the Ferring area west of Worthing and I saw half a dozen in the Havant area. At least 12 were reported on Oct 31

Painted Lady: One in Gosport on Oct 18

Small Tortoiseshell: One at Beachy Head on Oct 28

Peacock: Four at Ferring (Worthing) on Oct 27

Comma: One at Gosport on Oct 27

Speckled Wood: Still active in the Gosport and Lymington areas on Oct 31

Other Insects

Volucella zonaria: One of these hoverflies was on Ivy at Durlston on Oct 28

Drone Fly: This smaller and commoner hoverfly was seen at Durlston on Oct 30

Yellow Dung Flies: Still swarming on cowpats at Warblington farm on Oct 31 along with one Common Wasp

Field Grasshopper: One still 'singing' at Durlston on Oct 27

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

My final count of wild species reported in flower during October was 211

Yellow-horned Poppy: Both this and Sea Kale have been extending their range around the shores of Langstone Harbour and until now I thought that the Poppy flowering on shingle just south of Stoke Bay was the furthest north that could be seen but on Oct 29 I found one in flower just south of the Hayling Oysterbeds

Crown Vetch: A few flowers still to be seen on the plants beside Wakeford's Way in Leigh Park on Oct 28 were a new addition to the October list

White Bryony: White flowers seen on this at the southern end of Southmoor Lane outside Budds Farm on Oct 27 were also new for October

Wild Parsnip: No report of this in October but it was listed at Durlston on Nov 1

Rock Samphire: Another species which I had not seen flowering in October until Oct 27 on the South Moors sea wall

Wild Thyme: Not reported in October but list at Durlston on Nov 1

Tufted Forget-me-not: A lot of this was flowering at the Langstone South Moors on Oct 27 so I was surprised to see it was a newcomer to the October list

Devil's Bit Scabious: Just one flower seen on the South Moors on Oct 27 shows that the species can still be found there

Bilbao Fleabane: Having 'discovered' this in Havant last week further searching this week makes me wonder if I have not been mis-identifying lots of this as Guernsey Fleabane for a long time!

Chicory: During the summer a great mass of this was flowering at the Warblington Cemetery extension after wildflower seed had been sown in the previous year but the mass of plants was mown down in September so it was not until Oct 31 that the species got onto the October flowering list as a result of just three plants having partially regrown and opened a few flowers

Red Hot Poker: This also just got on the October list on Oct 31 when some self sown plants growing among brambles alongside Church Lane at Warblington were seen to be re-flowering.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Minke Whale: Russell Wynn from the Southampton Oceanographic Centre spent Oct 4 to 17 at Gwennap Head (the extreme south west tip of Cornwall a few miles south of Land's End) where, in addition to birds, he saw a Minke Whale as well as many Common Dolphins and Porpoises and some Basking Sharks (but only two Grey Seals)

Fungi: Larger species are now appearing in addition to a good show of Meadow, Parrot and Snowy Waxcaps with Orange Mosscaps that continue to cover my lawn. To avoid confusion I will break this week's finds down by species.

Black Earth Tongue (Trichoglossum hirsutum): This also started to appear on my lawn on Nov 1. It is uncommon but has appeared on my lawn in just three of the forty years that I have lived here - as it has almost certainly persisted under the ground throughout the forty years and has only felt the need to show itself above ground in three of those years it may well be that its supposed rarity is due to its reluctance to show itself!

Fly Agaric: The first to be reported locally were growing on roadside grass in Beacon Square at Emsworth on Oct 29 (some had been found in Kent on Oct 9)

Tawny Funnel: A fresh troop found in Warblington Cemetery on Oct 31

Field Mushroom: Two buttons found in Warblington Cemetery on Oct 31

Magpie Inkcap: An fine fresh specimen found in the Sling area of Stansted Forest on Oct 31 by Brian Fellows

Leafy Brain (Tremella foliacea): Also found in Stansted by Brian Fellows on Oct 31 - this uncommon relative of the Yellow Brain fungus looks similar in shape but has none of the yellow colour (it varies from a very light to a very dark brown colour) and is said to be commonly found on Beech and Brian found it on a fallen Beech trunk.

Beech Woodwart (Hypoxylon fragiforme): Lots of this also found by Brian on the same fallen Beech trunk on Oct 31

Lepiota leucothites: A couple of these large, all white, toadstools found on Oct 27 at the Langstone South Moors (under the planted shrubs between the Havant vehicle depot and the new gravel path from Southmoor Lane)

Field Blewit: A ring of these had re-appeared in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Oct 28 (I saw them here in March this year)

Weeping Bolete (Suillus granulatus): A substantial troop of these found at the south end of Langstone Bridge on Oct 29 - they were under Monterey Pines on the west side of the road almost opposite Northney Road and when I identified them as this species I resolved a long standing problem as I had found the same species in past years by the IBM Lake at Portsmouth where they also grow under Monterey Pines but I failed to identify them at the time. One of the identifying features is that they exude tiny drops of 'oil' from the top of the stem.

Poison Pie (Hebloma crustuliniforme): A fresh troop of these was also under the same pines by Langstone Bridge on Oct 29

Agrocybe rivulosa: This recently discovered species which is now abundant on woodchip piles throughout Britain is still putting up fresh specimens on the chip piles beside the Billy Trail in the Langstone area

Oak Mazegill: Several good specimens found in Stansted Forest Pond Copse area during the previous week (around Oct 23) by Michael Prior


Summary for Oct 20 - 26 (Week 42 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Four reports of Whooper Swan along the south coast all seem to relate to wild migrants. This may turn out to have been the worst season for Brent goose breeding success this century. Local sightings around Havant include the first local flocks of Golden Plover and Bar-tailed Godwit and the first returning Shelduck plus a notable increase in Wigeon and Brent numbers. The first live Little Auk of the year has been seen off Poole, a very late Swift has been seen in Dorset, and a Hoopoe has appeared near Pulborough. On the Isle of Wight the first Melodious Warbler for ten years made a brief visit and the New Forest now has two Great Grey Shrikes back for the winter. Among massive autumn passage counts of Raptors, Pigeons, Jackdaws and Finches the two species with the smallest counts both here and in Europe remain Greenfinch and Yellowhammer

Insect news includes a tiny burst of Painted Lady reports and a further report of this years new 'bug' species (the Western Conifer Seed Bug which first reached Britain last year and has been seen all along the south coast this autumn)

Plant news includes what seems to be a newcomer to the Havant area (Bilbao Fleabane) which I had never seen until I came across it in the Havant Town Hall carpark this week. I was also pleased to find Treacle Mustard for the first time this year

Other Wildlife has thoughts on the technique of 'feigning death' among animals (sometime to escape death and sometimes to get within striking range of prey). Several new fungal finds are listed but nothing spectacular.

Late news not included in the summary below:

A Green Heron has been near Hythe in Kent since maybe Oct 23 (great pictures on the Rye Bay website)

On Oct 26 a Snow Bunting at Selsey and 3 Purple Sandpipers at Brighton Marina

Also a Grey Phalarope at Portland and a rumoured rarity (Northern Flicker) in the built up area of New Milton

On Oct 25 a Black Brant at Pagham and 4,000+ Woodpigeons west over the Sussex Downs

Also maybe 2 Sabine's Gulls at Portland and another Black Brant on The Fleet near Weymouth

If you were not at the Sussex Wildlife Trust HQ on Oct 25 you missed the workshop entitled "Identifying difficult moths by their genitalia"

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Sooty Shearwater: Ten were off Portland on Oct 23 when one was seen at Dungeness. These are the first to be seen since the start of October when an amazing count of 644 passing the Brittany coast was reported on Oct 3

Leach's Petrel: On Oct 20 one was seen from a cross channel ferry just four miles south west of Durlston

Cormorant: Fishermen in Britain often call for a cull of these birds which can be numerous but I don't think we ever have reports of them in the number recently seen in Holland on Oct 22 where 1593 were reported at an inland site called De Hoekse Sluis (Bergambacht)

Cattle Egret: A search for the group of four that were in fields north of Pagham Harbour from Oct 8 to 16 has failed to find them, adding to the likelihood that the group of four seen at Rye Harbour on Oct 22 and 23 is the same group which then moved on again to an unknown destination

Little Egret: The number using night roosts in the south of England peaks in the autumn after birds and their young arrive back on the coast after breeding, and around now the number drops off as many of the birds begin to move inland to sites where they will spend the winter away from the exposed southern shores. Reports are now starting to show that this may already be happening (but not everywhere). On Thorney Island the number using the roost close to the Little Deeps was 190 on Sep 26 but had dropped to 170 on Oct 21 while at Rye Harbour the roost had 49 birds on Sep 19, then 42 on Oct 3 and 44 on Oct 22 but was down to 24 on Oct 23 and back up to 46 on Oct 25.

Whooper Swan: In past years I have assumed that reports of birds in the south of England are likely to be escapes from Wildfowl collections but their appearance at this time of year, and at coastal rather than inland sites, does increase the chances that they are genuine wild migrants. So far this autumn I have heard of a pair with a single juvenile at Newtown Harbour (Isle of Wight) on Oct 4, then a single bird at Scotney Court near Rye, and now one at Seasalter on the north Kent coast on Oct 20 where it stayed until at least Oct 23. On Oct 24 another bird arrived at Abbotsbury in Dorset from the south

Pinkfoot Goose: Just one report this week of three birds flying south over the South Foreland of Kent on Oct 22

White Front Goose: Since Oct 6 there have been numerous reports of these at sites on the near continent but none of these sightings have exceeded 106 birds until Oct 22 when a total of 580 were reported in southern Holland followed by another count of 183 there on Oct 25. In Britain I have only seen two reports so far - 20 birds at Sandwich Bay on Oct 19 and on Oct 22 a single bird arrived at Abbotsbury in Dorset (staying to at least Oct 24).

Brent Geese: Although the peak counts in our Solent Harbours occur in the period from November to February the first birds now arrive in mid-September with numbers increasing rapidly during October. This year, however, October numbers in Langstone Harbour seem to be the lowest this century (peak October counts for Langstone for the years 2000 to 2006, taken from the Hampshire Bird Report, are 3326 for 2000, then 3800, 1340, 930, 2634,1024, and 1269 for 2006). I cannot find a figure for 2007 but this year the count so far is around 600. Similar October peak figures for 2000 to 2006 for Portsmouth Harbour are 1121, 208, 397, 73, 646, 72 and 112 with a report of 528 there in Oct 2007 and 259 this year. As there is no indication that continental sites are faring better than Britain it does seem that there may have been more of a crash in Brent numbers this year than a simple breeding failure would account for. One tiny bit of local info which I was not aware of is that a group of 5 birds had returned to the Langstone village shore (east of the bridge) by Oct 18 and has remained there.

Since writing the above for my mid-week summary I gather that a flock of around 1400 adult birds (but no young) had arrived in the mouth of Chichester Harbour in time for the WeBS count on Oct 18 but this information did not reach me until Oct 23 and I have not heard of any other major increase in numbers elsewhere.

Shelduck: It seems that the first few birds have already returned from their summer moult on the north German coast. Newtown Harbour on the IoW reported a count of 20 on Oct 22 (the only recent report I have seen from there was of just 2 adults with 2 juvenile on Sep 25). Maybe the first indication of the return was a report of 5 flying south past the South Foreland in Kent on Oct 6 after 43 had been seen in Pegwell Bay on Oct 1 (though I had no means of knowing if they were new arrivals there). Locally 5 seen at the mouth of the Langbrook Stream at Langstone on Oct 25 were probably newcomers.

Wigeon: These have been returning in large numbers since mid-September but a count of 102 at the mouth of the Langbrook Stream at Langstone on Oct 25 was the first major arrival I have personally noticed.

Teal: More local news - on Oct 24 a flock of around 30 were to be seen for the first time this winter on the small area of the rough meadow immediately north of Langstone Pond which regularly floods in winter but has been dry until now. I also noticed on that day how colourful the drakes now are as they come out of eclipse.

Green-winged Teal: One was still at Farlington Marshes on Oct 22

Pochard: Both Pochard and Tufted Duck have failed to return to southern England in any significant numbers so far but may be this is about to change as Oct 22 suddenly brought a massive increase in the number being seen in Holland with 1762 Pochard and 2012 Tufted Duck recorded at one site in the south of Holland that day

Red-breasted Merganser: Since the first bird returned to our south coast on Sep 10 there have been some 20 reports, mainly of single birds with the highest count being just 5, but that could be about to change with a report on Oct 22 of 15 Mergansers in Portsmouth Harbour

Sparrowhawk: At this time of year we hear of small number of migrants at coastal sites in southern England but we may forget that in central and eastern Europe and in Scandinavia the coming cold weather requires them to follow their prey on migration if they are not to freeze and starve. I was reminded of this by counts of Sparrowhawks passing three sites in Holland on Oct 25 - the numbers reported were 11, 19 and 66. Counts of Buzzards moving through Holland on that day came from four sites reporting 14, 21, 25, and 79

Osprey: At least one was still in Langstone Harbour Oct 22 (the last reports from other sites were from Poole Harbour on Oct 16 and the west Solent on Oct 18)

Golden Plover: More than 200 have been in Pagham Harbour since Oct 16 and by Oct 22 a flock of 148 were at Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight with 52 at nearby Yarmouth on the same day (probably the same flock of 50+ reported on the Lymington shore on Oct 11) but the only report any substantial flock in the Chichester or Langstone Harbour area that I have heard of so far was a passing flock of 20+ in the Prinsted area (east side of Thorney Island) on Sep 19 so it was frustrating not to have a scope with me when I was at Langstone on Oct 24 and saw what was almost certainly a flock of 50 on the Northney shore (they were not there when I brought my scope with me on Oct 25!)

Little Stint: Latest sightings of what must by now be wintering birds were of one on the Lymington shore on Oct 21and one at Pulborough Brooks on Oct 23 when at least two remained at the Oare Marshes in north-west Kent

Pectoral Sandpiper: One was in the Kent Stour valley on Oct 18 and 19

Curlew Sandpiper: On Oct 21 one was seen at Christchurch Harbour and four were at the Oare Marshes

Purple Sandpiper: The first to be seen at Christchurch Harbour this winter was there on Oct 21, increasing to two birds on Oct 24 and 25. Other than a couple of very early reports from Kent in August , and one of two birds at Brighton marina on Sep 28, this is only the fourth I am aware of this autumn (so far none in Hants)

Bar-tailed Godwit: My 'possible' sighting of around 20 on the Langstone-Warblington shore on Oct 6 seems to have been confirmed by a sighting of 82 birds there on Oct 21. This is the first flock I am aware of in Hampshire this autumn though there was a single bird on the Lymington shore on Aug 6 and may have been other reports of ones or twos that I have ignored.

Mediterranean Gull: I expect to hear of large wintering flocks in the Pagham Harbour area and around Bembridge Foreland, and good numbers have already been reported at Pagham (379 there on Sep 19) and Bembridge (87 on Oct 13), but I was surprised to hear of more than 270 of these gulls in the Thanet area of Kent on Oct 17. Other flocks occur on the Dorset coast and at Badminston Common in the southern New Forest.

Sandwich Tern: A single bird going west at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 24 was probably a late passage bird

Common Tern: One of these flew west past Christchurch Harbour on Oct 25

Arctic Tern: Two first winter birds were still to be seen on Dungeness on Oct 22

Little Auk: One is reported to have been off the Canford Cliffs (Poole) on Oct 20. Other than a dead bird found on the Hayling shore on Feb 17 this is the first I have heard of anywhere this year

Stock Dove: These are beginning to join the great flow of Woodpigeons - on Oct 21 a total of 32 were seen over the Kent Stour valley and on Oct 25 a total of 13 went over Barton on Sea while in Europe that day there were three reports of passage with counts of 9, 12 and 39 birds

Wood Pigeon: Oct 22 brought several reports of large scale movement on the near continent including one report of 5922 birds over a site on the Belgian/Geman border. The highest local count remains that of 950 birds over Sandy Point on Hayling on Oct 18. Since writing that Oct 25 has brought an increase in numbers with 1000 going over Christchurch Harbour in this country while four sites on the near continent reported counts of 1314, 2700, 18,028 and 27,056 respectively

Common Swift: One seen over Kingstone Lacy in Dorset on Oct 22 is that latest so far.

Hoopoe: One was seen in a garden in the village of Thakeham near Pulborough on Oct 20. This is the first I have heard of since one was in the Dungeness area at the beginning of Sept

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker: Mark Wagstaff saw one fly across Newgate Lane (running south from Fareham to Lee on the Solent) when his car was stuck in traffic near the Peel Common sewage works on Oct 21

Skylark: Still not much passage over southern England where the highest count this week is of 86 over the north Kent coast on Oct 23. No other site has reported more than 33 on this side of the channel but on Oct 25 one Dutch site had a count of 1112 with two others reporting 849 and 820 respectively.

Sand Martin: A single late bird was seen at Durlston on Oct 25 along with 40 Swallows and 10 House Martins

Black Redstart: No local reports from South Hayling yet but on Oct 21 one arrived in central Brighton (outside the RSPB office) and on Oct 22 at least two (probably three) were there.

Common Redstart: A late departing bird was at Maiden Castle near Dorchester in Oct 19

Whinchat: My remark last week that the bird seen on the Langstone South Moors on Oct 13 might be the last of the season was refuted when one turned up at the Dungeness RSPB reserve on Oct 18. (This may not be the end of the story as back in the 1980s at least one wintered in the Hilsea Lines pony fields at Portsmouth)

Wheatear: Latest so far were two near the Needles on the IoW on Oct 25

Ring Ouzel: Singles were in north Kent and at Portland on Oct 24

Blackbird: Counts of 60 at Sandwich Bay on Oct 19 and 25 at Reculver on the north Kent coast on Oct 24 were presumably of migrants just arrived from the continent.

Fieldfare: The big influx of Fieldfare and Redwing already reported for Oct 17 continued on Oct 18 when some 1000 Fieldfare went over the Stour Valley in Kent

Redwing: Around 1000 of these also flew west over the Stour Valley in Kent on Oct 18. Since then there has been a count of 894 over Andover (also on Oct 180) and among other sightings was one of 2 Redwing over Fareham Creek on Oct 21

Melodious Warbler: One seen in the West High Down area near the Needles on the Isle of Wight on Oct 19 is said to be the first recorded on the Island for ten years.

Yellow Browed Warbler: Latest report is of one on the Lymington marshes on Oct 25

Spotted Flycatcher: The last of these are normally recorded in the first half of October so a sighting of one 'somewhere in Sussex' on Oct 21 was notable though the latest ever for Sussex is recorded as Nov 18 (the Hampshire latest is Oct 29 back in 1961)

Bearded Tit: Some are still on the move as six flew over Dungeness oon Oct 21

Red-backed Shrike: One was seen in the Medway valley upstream of Chatham on Oct 21 and was still there on Oct 23

Great Grey Shrike: One has been in the Leaden Hall area (north west of the New Forest near Godshill) since Oct 12 and a second arrived in the Bratley Plain area of the New Forest (on the north side of the A31 about 2 miles north east of Picket Post) on Oct 25

Jackdaw: This autumn's unusual (?) Jackdaw passage which saw more than 1000 going west along the Hampshire coast on Oct 18 has continued with counts on Oct 22 of 232 over Barton (east of Christchurch) and 690 over Christchurch Harbour (at least 19 Rooks also went west over Christchurch Harbour that day). Another 270 Jackdaws went over Christchurch Harbour on Oct 25

Starling: Many have already reached southern England and on Oct 19 Bockhill (South Foreland in Kent) recorded another 690 coming in but perhaps there are a lot more to come as on Oct 22 five sites on the near continent saw more than 1000 going over with the biggest count being 24,861 over inland Holland though that was exceeded by one count of 26,000 on Oct 25

Tree Sparrow: Oct 18 saw counts of 13 at the South Foreland and 34 at Sandwich Bay. On Oct 24 a lone bird was found among finches near Henfield in the Adur valley and on Oct 25 two were reported going over Christchurch Harbour

Chaffinch: These continue to be the most numerous of the autumn passage birds though the highest new count in southern England this week is just 936 over Swalecliffe on the north Kent coast whereas two Dutch sites on Oct 22 recorded 13,322 and 28,182 respectively. Since then numbers have decreased and on Oct 26 the highest continental counts I have seen were of 1400 and 1123. Proof that quite a few of these continental birds end up in Britain comes from a count of 1860 going west along the north Kent coast on Oct 23

Brambling: On Oct 22 one site on the Belgian/German border reported 176 Brambling but the highest count in England so far is that of 36 over Andover on Oct 18 though we now have one of 23 at Durlston on Oct 25

Serin: I have only seen two reports (both of single birds) since the start of September - one was at Durlston on Oct 13 and now we have one at the South Foreland on Oct 18

Greenfinch: These continue to be in very short supply everywhere. Since the beginning of September only two reported counts from any site (including those on the continent) have been over 100 (both at Christchurch Harbour where 220 were logged on Oct 6 and 112 on Oct 10). Reports for Chaffinch over the same period show 56 counts of over 100, 36 over 500, 31 over 1000 and 6 over 10000 (highest being 28182). Here in Havant it was quite a surprise to hear two trilling to each other in St Faith's churchyard on Oct 21

Crossbill: Plenty of these still around but of local interest a family group of 4 were feeding near the Hundred Acres carpark in the West Walk woods at Wickham on Oct 22 (so far no one has reported any in Stansted Forest). On Oct 24 a flock of 13 were in the Itchen Valley country park near Eastleigh and on Oct 25 there was a report of 44 from a Dutch site

Bullfinch: Highest count so far this autumn has been of 12 at Durlston on Oct 25

Hawfinch: More of these now seem to be moving with counts from European sites on Oct 22 of 20, 21 and 14 birds with another site having 18 on Oct 25

Lapland Bunting: One at Bockhill (South Foreland) on Oct 18 (14th report from southern England since Sept 13)

Snow Bunting: Three flew in off the sea at the south Foreland on Oct 22 and on Oct 23 one was at Durlston (5th report from southern England since Oct 9)

Reed Bunting: A count of 42 at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 22 is one of the highest counts in England this autumn (though Christchurch Harbour had 67 on Oct 8, 56 on Oct 6 and 70 on Oct 2 with 110 on Sep 29 and 126 on Sep 25)

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Southern Hawker: Just one new sighting on Oct 22 of one still flying at Stubbermere Pond alongside Southleigh Forest.

Butterflies

Ten species seen recently - 8 of them still active on Oct 22 plus the last Common Blue on Oct 11 and Small Heath on Oct 19

Common Blue: Late news of what is probably the last sighting of one on Oct 11 at East Dean (Eastbourne)

Painted Lady: A late burst of four sightings - on Oct 21 one was seen on the northern edge of Lymington near Brockenhurst and another was at Portland, then on on Oct 22 one was noted at Newhaven and another at Hooe village in the Pevensey Levels

Small Heath: None since Oct 19 when one was seen on Stockbridge Down (west of Winchester)

Moths

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: Latest single at Ropley (near Alton) on Oct 17

The Brick (2262 Agrochola circellaris): First I know of this year trapped at Ringmer near Lewes on Oct 21

Yellow-line Quaker (2264 Agrochola macilenta): Another first at Ringmer on Oct 21

Barred Sallow (2272 Xanthia aurago): The first I know of, but already worn, at Rye on Oct 19

Clifden Nonpareil (2451 Catocala fraxini): Fifth for this autumn with the earliest taken in the New Forest area on Sep 6 and the other four all found in the Rye Bay area

Other Insects

Great Green Bush Cricket: One still active on Portsdown on Oct 18

Western Conifer Seed Bug: The eleventh report of this new invader comes from the sitting room of a house in the Thanet area of Kent on Oct 22 reminding us that one of the main reasons they are unpopular in their American homeland is their habit of invading houses to seek winter comfort (over there thousands sometimes try to force their way into one building). The other reason is the damage done to Lodgepole Pine and other conifers by their larvae.

Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi): On Oct 24 one could still be seen at Durlston attached to the coat of a dog (worrying the dog's owner who was told that while these spiders will kill insects as large as a Great Green Bush Cricket they are no threat to dogs or humans). On the morning of Oct 25, after night time frost, a very large specimen was photographed at Rye Harbour coated with frost as it clung to a fence post.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

The number of plants found flowering by myself and others since the start October is currently 201

Love-in-the-mist (Nigella damascena): Normally I would dismiss this as a garden flower but plants which have been growing untended in gravel outside the Havant multi-storey carpark entrance for several years, and have just (Oct 21) started re-flowering, deserve a tick in my October flower list (subsequently this has also been seen flowering in Emsworth)

Brackish Water Crowfoot (Ranunculus baudottii): Two fresh flowers on the growth in the Havant Homewell spring on Oct 21- the first I have recorded since May

Treacle Mustard (Erysimum cheiranthoides): Several plants found still having a few deep yellow flowers (but obviously at the end of their lives) in a field by Stubbermere Pond on the east side of Southleigh Forest on Oct 22

Hybrid Campion: Just one pale pink and white flower seen in the East Park at Stansted on Oct 22 with White Campion flowering close to it

Green Amaranth: A single tall stem found in an arable field in Stansted East Park on Oct 22 with Cockspur Grass close to it.

Cut-leaved Cranesbill: In most summers this is one of the more abundant species but my perception is that it has almost been a rarity this summer so I was pleased to find a plant in flower on Oct 22. I see that I have only 11 records of it this summer since the start of May and two of those came from Brian Fellows.

Fluellen: Both Round- and Sharp-leaved plants were found in flower in the Stansted area on Oct 22 and later in an arable field at Warblington

Wall Speedwell: I found a mass of the tiny, deep blue flowers of this in the arable field by Stubbermere Pond on Oct 22 (the first I have recorded since July 20)

Changing Forget-me-not: At this time of year many plants can show uncharacteristic features (especially when at the very end of their lives) so I may be wrong in listing one plant I found at Stubbermere on Oct 22 as Changing Forget-me-not but of the last four flowers left all were very small and two were almost white in colour while the other two were pale blue

Viper's Bugloss: Still flowering on Portsdown on Oct 18

Harebell: One flower still to be seen at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Oct 19

Bilbao Fleabane: A single plant found in the Havant Town Hall carpark on Oct 25 was the first I have ever knowingly seen - see my Diary entry for that day for more detail

Goat's Beard: Just one flower seen at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Oct 21 (the first I have heard of since mid-May)

Mouse-ear Hawkweed: Two fresh flowers in St Faith's churchyard in Havant on Oct 21 (the first since June 23)

OTHER WILDLIFE

Stoat: A very interesting story from Brian Fellows who got it from an Emsworth resident who described how her cat had caught a Stoat and presented it to the lady concerned as an apparently dead 'offering' but when the lady laid an old coat over the Stoat prior to picking up the body to bury it the aforesaid Stoat suddenly came back to life and shot off into cover.

Earlier this year we heard a similar story of a Ringed Plover chick of which I wrote in my summary for Week 33 "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".

More than one animal species uses the technique of feigning death both to avoid attack and in the case of the second link below as a means of attracting prey within striking range of a predatory fish (see http://www.geocities.com/brisbane_insects/FeigningDeath.htm and http://www.springerlink.com/content/q88l145175r52388/ plus http://www.arkive.org/grass-snake/natrix-natrix/image-A7228.html) but I have never heard of Stoat using this technique and I am wondering if the animal concerned was really a Stoat (could it have been a less aggressive Weasel?). I suppose the cat may have taken the Stoat by surprise and leapt on it from behind - maybe temporarily throttling or semi-paralysing it by pinching a nerve in its neck but I am pretty sure that in any face to face confrontation the Stoat would have inflicted more damage on the cat than the cat could inflict on it.

I will never forget one instance of the way in which a Stoat will stand its ground against anything that gets in its way - this was many years ago when the grass along the sides of the Billy Trail was being cut (not with noisy strimmers but with an old fashioned Scythe). I only saw the Stoat after it had been killed by the Scythe, but even in death the animal had its teeth bared in gruesome snarl of defiance against the mower.

Field Vole: Another anecdote from Emsworth in a similar vein. During grass cutting at Brook Meadow on Oct 19 one Field Vole was killed and three of their breeding nests were exposed (one of them sadly still having half a dozen babies in it which did not survive). Last year a disused Harvest Mouse breeding nest was found (on Dec 16) in a different part of the meadow (one had previously been found there in Oct 2004).

Frogs and Toads: During the same grass cutting session at Brook Meadow both Common Frog and Common Toad were disturbed from the long grass but neither came to any harm. Maybe indicative of Frogs moving to winter quarters I also disturbed a large Common Frog while cutting long grass at the edge of my lawn on the previous day (Oct 18). Oct 23 brought a report of a Marsh Frog seen at Monkton on the north side of the Stour valley in the Thanet area - I was aware that Marsh Frogs could be found in the Walland Marsh area east of Rye Bay but did not know they were in the Stour Valley

Slow-worm: These are now going into hibernation but a sluggish specimen had to be helped out of harm's way on a downland track in the Sompting area near Worthing, also on Oct 19

Fungi: Three new finds by the roadside of Wade Court Road (on the site of old tree stumps) here in Havant on Oct 25 were Honey Fungus, Weeping Widow and Spectacular Rustgill (in my Diary entry I expressed doubt about the latter but a second look at it has convinced me that it is a small specimen of Gymnopilus junonius). Earlier on that day I found my first cluster of Glistening Inkcap at the foot of a tree planted beside Southbrook Road in Langstone. On Oct 24 I found Shaggy Inkcap and Garland Roundhead (Stropharia coronilla) beside the A259 between Havant and Emsworth and on Oct 22 I found Bell-shaped Mottlegill in Stansted East Park


Summary for Oct 13 - 19 (Week 41 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Highlights:

Birders are still waiting to see if Dark-bellied Brent Geese will have any young with them - there is some evidence that this year's breeding was a total failure but a family of Pale-bellied birds with three young has brought up the question again. This week's 'specials' include Green-winged Teal, Olive-backed Pipit, Radde's Warbler, Penduline Tit, a late Swift and a possible return of last winter's White-tailed Eagle which chose to fly from a nest in Finland to winter at Andover. A more definite expected returnee is a Ring-billed Gull at Gosport. Autumn passage has acqured several new species this week - Wood Pigeon, Jackdaw, and Skylark plus masses of Redwing, Fieldfare and Chaffinch. The week's oddity was a Blackbird in full song. Signs that winter is now close at hand come with the first Great Grey Shrike in the New Forest and the first Snow Buntings in southern England.

16 butterfly species have been reported during the week and there is a mention of a study into the decline of the Small Tortoiseshell as a result of parasitisation by larve of a fly that only appeared in England in 1998. Among Other Insects we have up to date news of a large bug now invading the south coast (Western Conifer Seed Bug which can be 2cm long and is a pest in America, devastating tree plantations in the summer and invading houses in the winter). We also have comment on several 'nasty' alien spiders and an extra-ordinarily long legged harvetsman species.

Flowering plants seen in October now total 180 with our largest native Sedum (Orpine) among the finds. A good list of fungi has been found this week and there are notes on Wild Boar and late basking Adders

Late news not included in the summary below:

Snow Bunting at Selsey West Fields on Oct 19

4 Cattle Egrets at Rye Harbour on the morning of Oct 19 may be the group from Pagham Harbour

Another Yellow-browed Warbler was spotted at Fareham on Oct 19 in Oxleys Coppice

Great Grey Shrike at Ambersham Common near Midhurst and another in Ashdown Forest, both on Oct 18

Rose Coloured Starling at Dungeness on Oct 18 (also another Black-throated Diver there)

24 Pochard at the Chichester Gravel Pits on Oct 18 may have been new arrivals (or been there for yonks?)

The continuing movement of Wood Pigeons and Jackdaws (as well as Redwings and Fieldfare) is noted at several sites but a count of 1010 Jackdaws west over Southampton Water on Oct 18 is worth noting.

Sandy Point on Hayling also saw 846 Jackdaws head west overhead with 950 Woodpigeons on Oct 18

Back on Oct 13 Sandy Point had its first Hawfinch and on Oct 18 two Hawfinch were seen at Noar Hill near Selborne

Durlston news for Oct 18 included .. "Lots of Bullfinches down in the gully with 3 spotted flying out to sea!"

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Cattle Egret: The group of four which arrived in the Pagham Harbour north fields on Oct 8 were still there on Oct 16 but had moved to the Chalder Farm area

Spoonbill: The number in Poole Harbour increased to at least 18 when this number was seen at Brownsea Island on Oct 11

Pale Bellied Brent: Two were seen at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 25 and one was off Titchfield Haven on Oct 1 but now we have a family party of five seen at Portland on Oct 14 and this has provoked an interesting interchange on the Hoslist message board concerning two factors. The first concerns the breeding success of the Dark-bellied Brent during the past summer and involves the accuracy of a report from people who were in Siberia looking at the breeding Brent this year - they report an almost total failure of breeding there and this is backed up by the fact that no young have yet arrived on our coasts but people are now saying that relatively few Brent have reached us so far and there could be lots of young among those still to come (families with young are always the last to arrive). It could well be that the Brent did raise young in other parts of Siberia which the observers did not visit - we will have to wait and see. This question was raised because the Pale Bellied pair that have just been seen had three young with them and (while the great majority of Pale-bellied birds come to us from the Canadian arctic to spend the winter in Ireland and the northwest coasts of Britain with a few overshooting to the northwest coast of France which brings them over our area in passing) some Pale-bellied birds breed in Spitzbergen and come south via the North Sea. If geese can breed in Spitzbergen, some people argue, others can breed in Siberia, but I think everyone can see that it is impossible to produce a convincing argument based on the evidence of one family that has bred successfully in one place and apply it to prove breeding success for other families nesting hundreds of miles from them. The second factor being discussed concerns the origin of the few Pale-bellied birds we see on the south coast each winter and again I think the numbers are insufficient to argue a case either way - what is needed is evidence from ringing and radio tracking. Whatever conclusion we reach for the origin and route used by the majority of Pale-bellied birds there will still be the vagrants and the 'cross dressers' which decide, e.g. to pair up with a bird of the 'other tribe' to produce the hybrid or intergrade specimens we regularly see each winter. Since writing this for the mid-week summary there have been two more reports of Pale-bellied birds, both on Oct 16 when two were seen in a flock of Dark-bellied birds passing Dungeness and a single was seen at Christchurch Harbour.

Wigeon: Some 400 were in Nutbourne Bay of Chichester Harbour on Oct 15 along with 100 Teal and 7 Pintail

Green-winged Teal: One of these has been at Farlington Marshes since at least Oct 13 up to Oct 18 but there is no proof of its origin - did it fly across the Atlantic or just from some local wildfowl collection?

Garganey: One was still to be seen in the north of Pagham Harbour on Oct 16

Pochard: The first to be reported arriving back on the Isle of Wight were three seen on the Sandown boating lake on Oct 14 - so far I have seen no evidence of new birds reaching Hampshire to supplement those already here

Scaup: Keith Betton's monthly summary of Hampshire Birds for last month reports that a young male was present in the Lymington area throughout September

Hooded Merganser: The bird ar Radipole (Weymouth) was still there on Oct 17

Red-breasted Merganser: On Oct 18 one was seen in the south of Langstone Harbour near the Kench and another flew west offshore

Honey Buzzard: A late migrant flew over Winchester on Oct 13

Red Kite: Confirmation that this rapidly expanding species has been breeding in Hampshire (sporadically from 1995 and regularly from 2003), with nine nests known to have been built in 2008 of which five each produced two young, comes from Keith Betton. In addition to the birds introduced from Spain to the area of the Chilterns which have moved south into Hampshire with their British born young Keith tells us that quite a few birds (12 between 2003 and 2005, two of them hving paired and bred in the county) have been released into the wild by the Hawk Conservancy (sited near Andover) - presumably the result of captive breeding there. He also tells us that in the early months of 2006 as many as 60 of these Kites shared a common night roost somewhere in northern Hampshire.

Rough-legged Buzzard: Following the first report for this winter of one coming in off the sea at Sandwich in Kent on Oct 8 there is now a sighting at East Dean (north of Chichester) on Oct 12 though it was posted by someone whose name I do not recognise as being an expert in raptor identification (and Common Buzzards are notoriously variable in their plumage). A claim by a Hampshire birder to have 'definitely' seen one over Cheesefoot Head near Winchester on Oct 18 was queried by several people and answers to their questions made the claim less definite. Two useful websites for identification of genuine Rough-Legged Buzzards came out of this interchange - they are http://www.hawkandowl.org/Species/DiurnalBirdsofPrey/Rough-leggedBuzzard.htm and

http://www.hawk-conservancy.org/priors/rlbuzzard.shtml

Osprey: Latest local reports are of one at the Thorney Deeps on Oct 15 and one in Langstone Harbour on Oct 18

Hobby: More or less daily sightings were still being reported up to Oct 14 when one was seen at Hastings

Eagle species: On Oct 16 a 'White-tailed Eagle' was anonymously reported to have been seen in the Andover area, arousing hopes that the bird that came from Finland to spend last winter in the Andover area has returned

Grey Partridge: A total of 62 were seen on the Sussex Downs in the area known as The Burgh south of Amberley on Oct 16 and this seems to indicate that they are breeding freely there as Bernie Forbes recently told us .. "With reference to the Grey Partridge sightings around The Burgh, as far as I am aware, no Grey Partridges have been artificially reared here. They are all wild nests, with help from the wildlife management of the 3 farms under direct control of the Norfolk Estates. Red-legged Partridges are reared and released on an annual basis (as are Pheasants). At the present time the estate have a ban on hunting Grey Partridge, although this may change in the future with the welcome rise in their numbers".

Avocet: The count at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour was up to 900 on Oct 11 and 905 on Oct 17 while a count of 175 at the Elmley Marshes in north-west Kent on Oct 14 probably indicates there are more still to move west for the winter.

Golden Plover: The majority of these are still in Kent and East Sussex (710 at Dungeness RSPB on Oct 13 and 900 at Rye Harbour on Oct 18 with 1200+ at the Oare Marshes in north west Kent on Oct 17) but large flock are starting to come our way - by Oct 14 there were 330 at Maiden Castle in Dorset and on Oct 16 there were 220 in the north of Pagham Harbour.

Wood Sandpiper: A late passage bird appeared at the Oare Marshes in northwest Kent on Oct 13

Grey Phalarope: One flew south over the Thanet area of Kent on Oct 16

Common Tern: A late bird was seen at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 16 and this was the only report during the past week

Arctic Tern: What may have been the same first winter bird was seen at Dungeness on Oct 13 and 16 - other than these the only Terns getting a mention this week are a few Sandwich Terns that may well stay throught the winter

Ring-billed Gull: The first to be reported anywhere this autumn was at Gosport on Oct 12, probably the same bird that has been wintering there since 2003/4 (and may have been at other Hampshire sites since it was a first winter bird in 2001 though that conjecture is speculative)

Puffin: The two which were unexpectedly seen off Portland on Oct 10 may still be around as two were seen in Poole Bay (south of Bournemouth) on Oct 13

Wood Pigeon: These had started to move on the continent a week or so ago and more than 1700 were recorded at the South Foreland in Kent back on Oct 6 with another count of 1141 from Holland on Oct 11. This week 100 were over Dungeness on Oct 16, then Oct 17 brought the first hint of movement to Hampshire with 25 seen heading west over Barton on Sea (west of Lymington) with 186 over Christchurch Harbour that day and more than 300 going west over Andover on Oct 18

Swift: Maybe one of our departing summer visitors had a sudden fear that it had failed to turn off the gas at its summer residence and came back to check on Oct 14, being seen heading east over Gosport and then over Edburton village (north of Brighton) that day.

Wryneck: The bird which turned up at Farlington Marshes on Oct 9 was still there on Oct 13

Wood Lark: Birds were singing at two Sussex sites on Oct 15 and 16 and during the week birds were seen at six different coastal sites

Skylark: These also are on the move with a massive count of 1894 on Oct 17 at West Bay (far west of the Dorset coastline) while on Oct 18 22 were seen heading west over Gunner Point on Hayling and 18 went over Andover

Swallow: Still plenty around at the start of this week with 1600 (along with 950 House Martins) recorded at Durlston on Oct 14 and 200 still to be seen there on Oct 17

Richard's Pipit: Brief sightings of single birds at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 12 and at Durlston on Oct 13 could well have been the same bird

Olive-backed Pipit: This is a common bird in Asia which normally flies south to Indonesia in our winter but which occasionally turns up here (at least 286 British records). It looks a little like a Tree Pipit but has a more olive-green back and normally feeds on the ground. One was reported by Durlston on Oct 13 and maybe that bird went on to be seen in Yorkshire on Oct 15.

Rock Pipit: The presence of 4 in Gosport on Oct 12 is an indication that they should now be starting to appear around the shores of Langstone and Chichester Harbours

Yellow Wagtail: What may have been the last of the autumn was seen at Barton on Sea on Oct 17

Black Redstart: These are starting to reach us for the winter - five were at Dungeness on Oct 12 and three at Portland on Oct 13 with one at Durlston on Oct 14. On Oct 16 one was at Church Norton in Pagham Harbour and another was at Newchurch on the Isle of Wight

Whinchat: One seen on the Langstone South Moors on Oct 13 may prove to be the last of the autumn

Stonechat: A count of 28 on Round Hill near Steyning (north of Worthing) on Oct 11 was followed by one of 14 at Durlston on Oct 13, probably indicating a major arrival of the birds that will winter on our south coast

Wheatear: Singles on the Kent and Sussex coast were the only reports on Oct 16, showing that these are now in very short supply

Ring Ouzel: These, however, are still coming through at the rate of one a day showing the flow of this species is still ongoing

Blackbird: Subsong was heard in Bosham village near Chichester on Oct 10 and (at around that date) from one in the Worthing area and by Oct 14 the Worthing bird was heard in full song (probably a one off performance not to be repeated until next Spring)

Fieldfare: These started to pour into southern England on Oct 17 with many reports including one of 1400 going west over Thanet in two hours. They were still ariving on Oct 18 with 150+ on the north Kent coast and 76 over Andover

Redwing: Coming in with the Fieldfare but in much greater numbers - on Oct 17 one observer reported 5000 an hour passing over Thanet and 700 were noted at Sandwich Bay. On Oct 18 the count at Andover was 894

Mistle Thrush: These are now almost down to endangered species status so reports from three different sites on Oct 17 were good news (on the Isle of Wight 6 went over Newchurch and 2 were seen at Wootton Bridge with another three at Christchurch Harbour

Yellow Browed Warbler: These are now widespread in southern England and this week brought reports of singles from seven sites including one near the visitor centre at Pagham Harbour on Oct 16

Radde's Warbler: One was in East Kent on Sep 26 and another is now reported from the Reculver area on the north Kent coast on Oct 12 where it was watched for a full morning before vanishing

Wood Warbler: A late bird (the first to be reported since Sept 30) was said to be in the Studland area of Dorset on Oct 17

Bearded Tit: Two reports of birds seen in flight on their autumn dispersal come from the Yarmouth area of the Isle of Wight on Oct 11 and from Sandwich Bay on Oct 14. On Oct 17 at least two flew over a modern housing estate in the Margate area of Thanet to give one birder a very unexpected garden tick when he heard them pinging overhead.

Marsh Tit: Numbers of this species have declined greatly in the past year or so and the sight of one at the Blashford Lakes on Oct 16 was picked out as notable by Bob Chapman

Penduline Tit: Two new reports from Sandwich Bay (a definite sighting on Oct 13) and the West Bay area of the Dorset coast (a probable only on Oct 14)

Red-backed Shrike: The Lymington bird has not been reported since Oct 11 but may have moved to the Isle of Wight where one was reported to be at Wootton Bridge on Oct 15

Great Grey Shrike: The first reports from the New Forest for this winter probably refer to one bird in the north west area close to Godshill on Oct 12, 13 and 17. Dorset had its first at Hartland Moor (west of Poole Harbour) on Oct 17

Jay: A trckle seem to be arriving for the winter with a maximum count of 12 in Thanet on Oct 17 when 9 were seen at Dungeness.

Jackdaw: Last week counts of up to 500 were being reported on the near continent and on Oct 17 movement was apparent here with a count of 143 west over Barton on Sea while on Oct 18 south Hayling had 210 west over Gunner Point.

Chaffinch: The thousands moving over the near continent last week have started to appear here. Durlston had 212 over on Oct 13, 325 on Oct 14 and 185 on Oct 16 with smaller numbers being noted at other sites

Brambling: Several reports of 12 or less from a variety of sites but the peak count for the week was of 36 at Andover on Oct 18

Serin: Just a single report of one bird at Durlston on Oct 13

Greenfinch: Still in very short supply - just five reports of the species this week with the highest count being 38 at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 17

Goldfinch: Still many moving along the coast with a peak count of 685 at Durlston on Oct 14 (and 320 at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 17)

Siskin: Still plenty around with peak counts of 340 at Durlston on Oct 13 and 294 there on Oct 14 (but only 92 there on Oct 17)

Linnet: Durlston had a report of 1415 on Oct 13 and 1290 on Oct 14 decreasing to 170 on Oct 17

Lesser Redpoll: Peak count for the week was 210 at Sandwich Bay on Oct 17 with 107 at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 16

Bullfinch: These do move around in the autumn but never in huge flocks so a group of 11 at Durlston on Oct 16 was exceptional

Lapland Bunting: The only report for the week was of one at Durlston on Oct 14

Snow Bunting: Late news of one on the Isle of Sheppey in the Thames estuary on Oct 9 with another single heading west at Durlston on Oct 13 (these are the only reports that I know of so far this winter)

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Southern Hawker: Four seen at Brading Marsh on the IoW on Oct 12

Common Darter: Four pairs seen egg-laying in tandem at Brook Meadow in Emsworth on Oct 12 with other still flying in Kent on Oct 16

Butterflies

16 species mentioned in this week's reports

Clouded Yellow: One seen in Chichester on Oct 13 was only the 21st report I have seen for the whole year.

Brimstone: Plenty of these being seen recently, though quickly disappearing as they discover good sites for hibernation

Green-veined White: One report of a fresh insect on Buddleia in Crawley on Oct 9

Painted Lady: One at the Brading Marshes (IoW) on Oct 12

Small Tortoiseshell: Two seen at Crawley and two Longstock (Test valley near Stockbridge) on Oct 12 and 13. In Sussex a number of caterpillars were collected in the Ferring Rife area of Bognor and were bred in captivity as part of a scheme to study the impact of the Sturmia bella fly which lays its eggs in Tortoiseshell caterpillars which die as the fly larvae eat them up. The fly has only reached us from the continent in recent years (first found in 1998 on Peacock caterpillars in Hampshire) but is thought to be the main cause the of recent dramatic decline in numbers of Nymphalid butterflies, principally the Small Tortoiseshell. A good photo of the fly can be seen at http://bedsflorafauna.blogspot.com/2008/09/sturmia-bella.html

Dark-green Fritillary: A dubious but possible report from Durlston on Oct 11

Wall Brown: A fresh female found in a greenhouse at Crawley on Oct 9

Moths

15 species get their first mention for the year (to my knowledge) in the latest reports

Caloptilia elongella (0282): First taken at Pagham Harbour on Oct 12

Cochylimorpha straminea (0936): First taken at Pagham Harbour on Oct 12

Acleris sparsana (Tortrix) (1041): First taken at Pagham Harbour on Oct 12

November Moth (1795 Epirrita dilutata): First trapped at Ringmer near Lewes on Oct 12

Feathered Thorn (1923 Colotois pennaria): First seen at Park Corner Heath near Eastbourne by day on Oct 12

Autumnal Rustic (2117 Paradiarsia glareosa): First at Durlston on Oct 12

White-speck (2203 Mythimna unipuncta): First at Portland on Oct 15

Green-brindled Crescent (2245 Allophyes oxyacanthae): First at Durlston on Oct 13

Merveille du jour (2247 Dichonia aprilina): First at Ringmer near Lewes on Oct 12

Oak Rustic (2246a Dryobota labecula): First at Durlston on Oct 12

Flame Brocade (2251 Trigonophora flammea): First at Portland on Oct 11

Dotted Chestnut (2260 Conistra rubiginea): First at Pulborough Brooks on Oct 13

Red-line Quaker (2263 Agrochola lota): First at Ringmer near Lewes on Oct 12

Dusky-lemon Sallow (2275 Xanthia gilvago): First at Pagham Harbour on Oct 12

Golden Twin-spot (2428 Chrysodeixis chalcites): First at Hastings on Oct 12

Red Underwing (2452 Catocala nupta): Sixth report for the year of this lovely large moth comes from Ringmer near Lewes on Oct 12

Other Insects

Hornet: One report from the Thanet are on Oct 11 but I suspect quite a few males are now roaming the countryside on their 'death leave' (freed of domestic duties rearing young) and not able to survive the winter as the females do. I had a good view of one enjoying the sunshine, resting on a bramble leaf in the Hollybank Woods at Emsworth on Oct 17

Cluster Fly (Pollenia rudis): I also had an encounter with some flies that may have been of this species in the Hollybank Woods on Oct 17 - see my diary entry for that day for more detail

Harlequin Ladybird: I suspect that many people will have found these on the walls of their houses, seeking a warm place to spend the winter, on recent sunny afternoons but I have only seen one quantitative report from Tony Wilson at Edburton (north foot of the South Downs). On Oct 12 he found 600 on the walls of his house compared to similar counts taken at similar dates in previous years of 400+ in 2007 and just 50 in 2006.

Great Green Bush Cricket: This was one of a set of 11 species (the complete set of those to be found at Durlston) all seen at Durlston on Oct 11

Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis): Reports of 'first finds' of this bug from Rye Harbour on Oct 12 and Portland on Oct 13 follow one from the Newhaven area on Oct 11 and that was preceeded by finds of two at Dungeness and one at Hastings, both on the night of Aug 31, and these seem to mark the first general invasion of our south coast by this large (up to 2cm long) bug. Steven Teale, who made the Newhaven find, has just posted the following on the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website - He writes .. "You may recall that on the night of 11th October I recorded a Bug of some sort. I have now identified it as a Western Conifer Seed Bug (Leptoglossus occidentalis). It belongs to the Coreidae family of Hemiptera and is native to North America, where it is a pest of trees such as Lodgepole Pine. It was introduced to Italy in 1999 amongst shipments of timber from North America and has since spread across Europe, arriving in the UK in 2007, where it was recorded at Weymouth College. This first recording was made early in the year, which may lead to suggestions that it is able to overwinter here. At least two other sightings have been made in recent weeks, both in Kent. These sightings are all likely to be migrants that have flown across the Channel. The species is described as a public nuisance that will invade houses in large numbers when searching for suitable overwintering sites, evoking images of the Harlequin Ladybird. However, with the WCSB measuring in at up to 20mm, those Harlequins look the better option! " A later report is of one found in the Worthing area on Oct 14 and there are references to recent finds at Portsmouth and on the Isle of Wight for which I do not have details

Poisonous alien spiders: You may have seen news of two species on BBC TV recently, with the news bulletins giving the impression that the spiders concerned have only just reached this country whereas Segestria florentina (a large black spider which builds 'tube webs' in crevices of brickwork and is aggressive towards humans which approach it) has been known in Britain since at least 1984 (it is recorded as being present in Britain in Dick Jones' book published in that year and I heard of it being a nuisance in Gosport at least ten years ago). The other species (Steatoda paykulliana, which the BBC call the False Black Widow but my researches find at least two other species have been given that same name!) had also appeared in Britain in 1980, though the first two arrivals were fairly harmless males and it is the females which are now established here that are a real problem in that their bite could be dangerously poisonous to humans A male of a closely related species (Steatoda nobilis - one of the three bearing the False Widow name) was found at Rye Harbour for the first time on Oct 12.

Long-legged Harvestman (Dicranopalpus ramosus): This species of Harvestman is uncommon but had been found in Cornwall, Hampshire , Sussex and Essex when Dick Jones wrote his Country Life guide to Spiders in 1984, and has no doubt spread since then. I have never seen it nor heard of it until one was found at Rye Harbour on Oct 12. One reason why it is not often seen is that it spends most of its time sitting motionless on walls and tree trunks but if you do come across it it is unmistakeable with a typical Harvestman type body with fantastically long legs (the maximum body length of a female is 6mm but the leg length can be up to 5 cm). It also has 'pedipalps' - it's equivalent of arms and hands - that are as long as the whole body and with these it can reach out a grab passing prey without having to move its legs which are splayed out, at right angles to the body, flat along the surface on which the insect is positioned.

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

Lesser Spearwort: Found by Brian Fellows flowering on the Langstone South Moors on Oct 13 this was one of several additions to the Oct flowering plant list for which the total currently stands at 180 species

Pale Flax: Still flowering at Durlston on Oct 15 and possibly seen in the Bosham area east of Emsworth on Oct 17 by Brian Fellows who is unfamiliar with the species and thinks that the flowers he saw were more likely to be left-overs of a commercial crop as they were lining the edges of an arable field.

Early Dog Violet: Still several flowers in the Havant Eastern Road cemetery on Oct 14

Field Pansy: A new addition to the October list on Oct 14, just one plant among the Cornflowers, Corn Marigolds and Corn Cockles still flowering in Southmoor Lane in Havant

Procumbent Pearlwort: I was surprised on Oct 17 to see flowers on the moss like bed of Pearlwort in a flower tub outside my front door where the plants have been present all year without any flowers!

Rosa rugosa (Japanese rose): This is not a flower that I would normally comment on as it has generally been planted with local council funding to 'brighten up waste land' or has been sown by birds eating the large tomato sized 'rose hips' but it is probably the right answer to a query as to the name of a plant flowering on the Langstone South Moors shore this week

Tormentil: I was pleased to see this still flowering in the Hollybank Woods on Oct 17

Orpine (Sedum telephium): Also found when visiting the Hollybank Woods on Oct 17 was a cluster of plants which I at first thought were garden chuck-outs of the common Ice Plant (Sedum spectabile) as they were found at the side of the Emsworth Common Road close to a car pull in area well known for fly tipping but a specimen taken home had the alternate leaves of the natve woodland Orpine (not the opposite or whorled leaves of Ice Plant) and other characteristics. The native plant can be found not far away in Stansted Forest (Lyels Wood area).

Holly berries: No flowers but I was surprised to find all the berries already bright red in the Hollybank Woods on Oct 17

Cow Parsley: Brian Fellows had found this re-flowering as early as Sep 10 this autumn and found more on Oct 17 near Bosham

Common Heather (Ling): Still flowering on Oct 17 in Hollybank Woods

Weasel's Snout or Lesser Snapdragon (Misopates orontium): Still flowering at the Havant New Lane allotments on Oct 14

Yellow Flag: The plant on the Langstone South Moors which was in bud on Sep 12 was coming to the end of its flowering on Oct 13

Green Bristlegrass: Found by Brian Fellows on Oct 16 flowering where it was seen last autumn in arable fields of the East Park at Stansted

OTHER WILDLIFE

Wild Boar: On Oct 16 one was seen devouring acorns in woodland near Newick, a small town on the A272 east of Haywards Heath. I was aware that colonies of these animals are now established on the Sussex/Kent border, in Dorset, Devon and the Forest of Dean but I had not heard of them in this central area of Sussex. There have been one off reports from Surrey and Hampshire but I think these, and the current report, probably refer to single animals rather than colonies (and some reports may be mistaken sightings of unusual breeds of domestic pigs)

Adder: These will soon be vanishing underground for the winter but at least on female was basking in sunlight at Pulborough Brooks on Oct 16

Fungi: My own visit to the Hollybank Woods (north of Emsworth) on Oct 17 found very few species though I did come across on small white poisonous species that was new to me called Inocybe geophylla (White Fibrecap) along with one clump of Collybia maculata (Spotted Toughshank) and isolated individuals of several other species including the delicate Crepidotus variabilis (Variable Oysterling) growing on dead bracken stems (I usually find it on dead brambles) and the white tips of Candlesnuff starting to show on a couple of old logs. I did better in Southmoor Lane on grass close to Budds Farm here in Havant on Oct 14 when I saw troops of Shaggy Inkcap and what I think was Melanoleuca melaleuca plus singles of Stropharia coronilla (Garland Roundhead) and Panaeolina foenisecii (Brown Mottlegill). On my lawn here in Havant Meadow and Parrot Waxcaps are still coming up with Yellow Club, Orange Mosscap (Rickenella or Mycena fibula) and other small unidentified species. Brian Fellows had a very good find in the Bosham area east of Emsworth on Oct 17 when he came on a clump of Pholiota squarrosa (Shaggy Scalecap) and in the Thanet area of Kent Gymnopilus junonius (Spectacular Rustgill) was seen on Oct 11. A foray in the Hollybank Woods on Oct 19 added Amethyst Deceiver, Clouded Agaric and Shaggy Pholiota to the list seen at that site this month


Summary for Oct 6 - 12 (Week 40 of 2008)

(Link to previous week’s summary)

Slavonian Grebes have arrived on the south coast and all three common Diver species have been seen this week. Four Cattle Egrets have been seen near Pagham Harbour and a Rough-legged Buzzard has been seen in Kent. Golden Plover flocks can now be seen in Hampshire and a late Wryneck has been at Farlington Marshes. Masses of departing summer visitors and arriving winter visiters have been reported but the first Grey Cheeked Thrush ever seen in Dorset stole much of the limelight. The first Twite of the autumn has been seen across the Channel where millions of Chaffinch are on the move.

A late Emperor Dragonfly was seen in sunshine that brought out 18 butterfly species. Also in the Insect news is good evidence that predators which normally take butterflies will not touch any of the White species. A report of a Robin's Pincushion gives a link to what could be a useful website called 'Bugs and Weeds' and other sources have been used for my speculation about the sex life of spiders

Some very unexpected flowers are being seen this month (Wood Anemone and Grass Vetching among them) but the high spot for me was a find of a plant that I cannot yet identify (possibly related to Green Nightshade) and near this find the Prinsted Moth Mullein (or its successor) is just starting a new flowering

Sightings of Roe Deer tied in with a Radio programme showing that it is now possible to contract the nasty Lyme Disease in a suburban garden without going to the New Forest. The first Fly Agaric and Shaggy Inkcap finds mark another stage in the autumn show of fungi which gave me my first sight of Porcelain Fungus this week

BIRDS

(Skip to Insects)

Red-throated Diver: Six were seen at Dungeness on Oct 2 and singles have since been seen at Christchurch Harbour, Milford near Lymington, Seaford near Beachy Head and Bockhill near the South Foreland in Kent. On Oct 6 the Trektellen website reported a count of 20 off Terschelling (the outermost of the ring of islands outside the Waddenzee on the north coast of Holland) and on Oct 8 Cap Griz Nez near Calais reported 5 more.

Black-throated Diver: On Oct 6 one was off the South Foreland and on Oct 7 one was seen at Dungeness while on the continent 8 were seen from Cap Griz Nez on Oct 8

Great Northern Diver: Just one new continental sighting from Cap de la Hague in Normandy on Oct 4 and one off Portland on Oct 9

Slavonian Grebe: First report of the autumn was of 2 off Lymington on Oct 9 (still there on Oct 11). The only other report is of one at Dungeness on Oct 10

Black-necked Grebe: On Oct 5 two appeared in Studland Bay for the first time this autumn and on Oct 6 the number in Langstone Harbour had increased from two on Sep 21 to three

Sooty Shearwater: Recent sightings on the British coast included six birds off Portland on Oct 7 (when another one was off Seaford) but looking back to Oct 3 the total seen off Roscoff in Brittany was a huge 644 (the highest count on the British side has been 34 off Portland on Aug 18)

Balearic Shearwater: The six recent counts off the British coast included a peak of 6 off Portland on Oct 6 but over on the other side a massive 295 were seen from Roscoff on Oct 3

Storm Petrel: On Oct 5 one was seen at West Bay in Dorset and on Oct 7 another single was off the north Kent coast

Leach's Petrel: On Oct 5 there were three separate sightings of a single bird off Dorset (maybe the same bird) plus four seen from Milford on Sea (west of Lymington), then on Oct 7 two were seen at Christchurch Harbour and another one was off the north Kent coast

Bittern: Two at Dungeness RSPB site on Oct 9 (one of them seems to have moved to Rye Harbour for Oct 10)

Cattle Egret: Four appeared on the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Oct and were still there on Oct 9

Great White Egret: The bird at the Blashford Lakes was last reported on Oct 11 while over in Holland on Oct 8 nine were seen at one site and eleven at another

Spoonbill: One was still at Titchfield Haven on Oct 5 but on that day Brownsea Island (where there had been ten at the end of September) reported just one

Mute Swan: By Oct 8 the cygnets on Budds Farm Pools here in Havant were looking nearly as white as their parents but the Langstone cygnets were still very much brown on Oct 6

Pink-foot Goose: 28 were in the Kent Stour Valley on Oct 8

White-front Goose: A flock of 106 was on the Dutch/Belgian border on Oct 8 with counts of 34 and 44 at two other continental sites that day

Wigeon: On Oct 5 a total of 287 flew west over the Kent Stour valley along with 18 Pintail. More than 1200 Teal were present in the Stour valley that day.

Pintail: By Oct 7 the total at Pulborough Brooks was up to around 50

Garganey: Three were still present in the Kent Stour Valley on Oct 7

Goldeneye: One was seen in the Lymington area on Oct 9 but I suspect this may have been the bird that was at the Blashford Lakes in July rather than an early arrival

Honey Buzzard: The last report I am aware of was of one seen over two sites in Kent on Oct 8

Hen Harrier: Of 11 reports so far this autumn there have been three from Kent, three from Dorset, three from Hampshire and two from Sussex. Latest sightings were from Alresford Pond near Winchester on Oct 10 and the area north of Christchurch on Oct 11

Rough-legged Buzzard: First of the autumn is a confident report of one appearing from the sea at Sandwich Bay on Oct 8

Osprey: Two could still be seen at Farlington Marshes on Oct 10 with one over Pagham Harbour on Oct 9 and two at the Thornham Marshes (Thorney Island) on Oct 5

Hobby: None reported since Oct 9 when singles were at Poole and Rye Harbours

Ringed Plover: A count of 128 at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 5 indicated new arrivals and on Oct 6 I saw a group of five on the mud east of Langstone village for the first time this autumn

Dotterel: One reported in the Thanet area of Kent on Oct 6 was the thirteenth to be reported this autumn

Golden Plover: Flocks are now starting to appear in Hampshire with 15 seen in the Alresford area near Winchester on Oct 10 and more than 50 at Lymington on Oct 11 (when 238 roosted at Rye Harbour)

Little Stint: Ten south coast sites have reported the presence of singles this week, including Titchfield Haven, Farlington Marshes and Lymington

Pectoral Sandpiper: The bird at Puborough Brooks was last reported on Oct 7 and new birds have turned up in the Kent Stour Valley on Oct 7 and at Lymington on Oct 11

Black-tailed Godwit: So far this winter the Fishbourne Channel has been the best place to see these birds in Chichester Harbour with counts there of 145 on Sep 13, 124 on Sep 19 (when 114 were in the nearby Bosham area), 234 on Sep 22, 250 on Sep 23, 86 on Sep 29, 90 on Oct 7 and now a peak of 334 on Oct 10

Bar-tailed Godwit: A distant group of about 20 birds seen on the tideline east of Langstone village on Oct 6

Whimbrel: One seen at Farlington Marshes on Oct 6 will presumably stay in Langstone Harbour for the winter

Wood Sandpiper: The first to be reported anywhere since Sep 14 was in Christchurch Harbour on Oct 8

Red-necked Phalarope: One at Dungeness on Oct 7

Grey Phalarope: On Oct 5 one was seen at Sandy Point on Hayling Island and another on the Lymington marshes, on Oct 6 one was found freshly dead at Portland and on Oct 7 one was at Lodmoor (Weymouth) and two at Christchurch Harbour. I have now seen 88 reports of this species for this autumn covering a total of 118 birds, the latest being by the River Frome in Dorset on Oct 11

Long-tailed Skua: On Oct 5 it was thought that four separate birds were in the Hurst area west of Lymington and by Oct 8 I had collected 19 reports of the species for this autumn, covering 35 birds

Great Skua: Oct 7 brought a count of 46 birds seen at Portland while over on the French coast Gatteville in Normandy recorded 282 of them on Oct 4

Little Gull: Milford on Sea (west of Lymington) had a good total of 10 birds on Oct 7 and on Oct 8 Cap Griz Nez near Calais recorded 297 of them

Sabine's Gull: On Oct 7 Christchurch Harbour had a juvenile and Miford on Sea had two more bring this autumn's total of reports to 23 covering some 29 birds

Sandwich Tern: We have not seen the end of the migrants yet - on Oct 7 Dungeness recorded 70 passing while Cap Griz Nez across the Channel recorded 144 that day and another 33 were off the Dutch coast on Oct 11. A few Commic and Arctic Terns are also still passing but the last date I have for Little Tern is Sep 15 and for Black Tern is Sep 20

Puffin: Two off Portland on Oct 10 were the first I have seen reported since July 21

Short-eared Owl: Singles seen at eight coastal sites this week with one appearing inland at Woolmer Pond near Alton in east Hampshire on Oct 7

Kingfisher: On Oct 6 I was told that there had been two recent sightings of one back at Langstone Mill Pond and on Oct 9 one flew over Peter Pond at Emsworth

Wryneck: A late bird turned up at Farlington Marshes on Oct 9 and was still there on Oct 11

Woodlark: Birds have been heard singing over sites at Silchester (north of Basingstoke) and at Cuckfield (near Haywards Heath) but the singles seen in Britain are overshadowed by the large number moving west on the continent. Peak count was of 125 flying over central Belgium on Oct 8 but other counts that day were of 51, 29, 26, 23, 9 and 5 while on Oct 11 one site in the south east of Holland reported 63

Skylark: No significant reports from British sites on Oct 8 but over on the continent on that day twelve different sites reported a total of around 2500 birds on the move and on Oct 11 nine continental sites reported a total of around 1500 birds. No British site has yet reported more than 100 birds while peak continental counts have been around 500.

Swallow: Latest counts were reported on Oct 11 when Christchurch Harbour had 220 and Durlston had 150

House Martin: A birder on the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Oct 8 happened to point his binoculars at the skies and only then realised that there were around 200 high flying hirundines milling around overhead (mostly House Martins). Latest counts on Oct 11 are of 56 over Christchurch Harbour and 50 over Durlston

Meadow Pipit: On Oct 5 Barton on Sea recorded 1305 going south and on Oct 6 Christchurch Harbour reported 3470 doing the same, then on Oct 8 one site in Holland reported 1032

Richard's Pipit: Singles seen at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 5, Folkestone on Oct 9, Pagham Harbour on Oct 9, and a site on the Dutch coast on Oct 11 (a Red-throated Pipit was also seen at the latter site on Oct 11)

Yellow Wagtail: 6 were still in the fields north of Pagham Harbour on Oct 8

Dunnock: Just one report of full song so far this autumn - at Milton Common in Portsmouth on Oct 9

Robin: At least another 44 arrived from the continent on Oct 6 to be recorded at Bockhill (South Foreland)

Black Redstart: Six were in the Folkestone area on Oct 9 and one was at Portland on Oct 11 (first of the autumn at that site)

Departing summer visitors: The following all get a mention in the reports for the past few days .. Common Redstart, Whinchat, Wheatear, Ring Ouzel, Reed Warbler, Melodious Warbler (one at Barton on Sea on Oct 8), Lesser Whitethroat, Common Whitethroat, Garden Warbler (including one at Westbourne near Emsworth), Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Pied Flycatcher.

Grey-cheeked Thrush: One caught and ringed at Portland on Oct 8 was not only the first ever at that site but also a first for Dorset. Further investigation shows that this species breeds in Canada and Alaska and then migrates to South America. 47 have now been recorded in the UK since the first was identified on Fair Isle in 1953, most of them found in October. Prior to this one at Portland there was one on the Scillies in Oct 2007, one in Hertfordshire in Nov 2005 and one in Norfolk in Nov 2004

Blackbird: On Oct 10 one was heard in subsong at Bosham by Brian Fellows

Song Thrush: On Oct 6 15 arrived at Bockhill (South Foreland) and 11 at Sandwich Bay but this is trivial compared to the number now moving west in Europe (on Oct 8 one site in Holland recorded 3159 and two other sites both recorded well over 1000 that day while on Oct 11 there was a peak count of 2421 on the Dutch coast). Also on Oct 11 I am pretty sure I heard one giving a short burst of song in the Prinsted area near Emsworth (as soon as I registered the sound I stopped to list but of course the bird then went silent!)

Redwing: These started to reach the south of England on Sep 15 and a total of 38 were seen at Dungeness on Oct 4. On Oct 7 a flock of more than 20 flew over Aldershot and on Oct 8 they began to be seen in hundreds at many continental sites with a peak count of 1846 at one site in eastern Holland. On Oct 11 a site in the Zeeland area of south west Holland had a count of 6000 (though no other site reported more than 365 that day)

Mistle Thrush: With very few now breeding in southern England a count of 21 in the north west of the New Forest (Hampton Ridge area) on Oct 11 was encouraging though I suspect these may have been long distance travellers passing through

Dartford Warbler: Several were singing in the autumn sunshine in the New Forest on Oct 11 when one seen at Beachy Head was probably one of this year's young already dispersing

Yellow-browed Warbler: One trapped on the Isle of Wight on Oct 6 was the nearest to Hants so far

Goldcrest: On Oct 9 more than 200 were at Portland with at least 180 at Christchurch Harbour but we have not the last of them yet as on Oct 11 a site on the Dutch coast recorded a total of 430

Coal Tit: It is now some time since continental birds started to appear in Britain for the winter but more are yet to come as on Oct 11 one site on the Dutch coast had 600 passing through while other sites that day reported counts of 415, 234 and 175

Blue Tit: Now moving west in Europe with a count of 193 at one Belgian site on Oct 8 (with 367 Great Tits at the same site that day). By Oct 11 the peak count of Blue Tits in Holland was over 3000 with another site reporting 1500

Great Tit: Peak count in Holland on Oct 11 was 1267

Red-backed Shrike: The birds on Thorney Island and at Lymington were both present on Oct 5 but not reported since, but new ones have turned up in the Swanage area (Oct 8 and 9) and at Lymington (Oct 9 to 11)

Jay: No substantial indication of movement on the continent - highest counts of just 26 and 23

Jackdaw: On Oct 8 Steve Keen noted 21 passing over Barton on Sea near Christchurch and on Oct 11 several continental sites were reporting large numbers on the move (counts of 564, 437, 417, 239 and 170)

Tree Sparrow: Counts of up to 89 were recorded at 10 European sites on Oct 8 and a peak of 66 on Oct 11

Chaffinch: Huge numbers now moving through northern Europe with a peak count of 13,475 at one Belgian site (east of Brussels) on Oct 8 when two other sites reported 13,000 or more and another had just over 12,000. They were still moving on Oct 11 when the peak count was 6000 and others were 4877, 4069, 2996 and 2522

Brambling: Just three more arrived in south east England on Oct 6 with counts of up to 57 at eleven European sites on Oct 8, increasing on Oct 11 to 356, 204, 130 etc

Greenfinch: Remarkably few being seen this autumn - until 220 were seen at Christchurch Harbour on Oct 6 the highest count reported in southern Britain this autumn was just 35 (near Titchfield Haven on Sep 27). On the continent numbers are equally low with 57 being the highest count reported on Oct 8 and only 41 on Oct 11

Goldfinch: The very large numbers seen around English coastal sites recently are not reflected in any continental reports. Counts of 900 at Dungeness and 700 at Sandwich Bay on Oct 10 might be considered to be arrivals from the continent but continental reports for that period show figures of 10 birds or less ...

Linnet: These suddenly started to appear in southern Britain on Oct 4 when some 500 were reported at Portland and on Oct 6 Christchurch Harbour had 1120. On Oct 8 counts of up to 500 were being recorded at European sites and on Oct 11 at least three continental sites had figures close to 250

Twite: The only report since last March is of a single bird in Belgium on Oct 11

Lesser Redpoll: Numbers remain low with Dungeness recording the highest recent figure of 80 on Oct 6 though on Oct 9 Sandwich Bay had 321 with 260 there on Oct 10

Hawfinch: A total of around 25 birds reported from continental sites on Oct 8 plus Oct 10. On Oct 10 more than 6 birds were seen at the traditional New Forest roost site in the Rhinefield area

Lapland Bunting: Oct 6 brought one to Dungeness and two to Christchurch Harbour

Ortolan Bunting: One at Durlston on Oct 8 was the first reported since Sep 20 (also at Durlston)

Reed Bunting: The highest count of migrants at British sites this autumn has been 126 at Christchurch Harbour on Sep 25 but on Oct 11 the total reported at the few continental sites which I checked was over 500 birds

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

Migrant Hawker: One over the Brockhampton stream alongside Budds Farm in Havant on Oct 8

Emperor: One still flying at Durlston on Oct 11

Common Darter: One in the Hollybank Woods north of Emsworth on Oct 9

Butterflies

18 species mentioned in recent reports, including ...

Silver Spotted Skipper: One which had been late to emerge and had done so in weather that did not allow its wings to expand and dry in sunshine was found as a cripple, unable to fly, at Beacon Hill in the Meon Valley on Oct 3

Brown Argus: One seen at Gosport on Oct 2

Holly Blue: One flying in Brighton on Oct 9

Painted Lady: One seen in Gosport on Oct 1 brings the number of reports I have seen so far this year to 66 involving 84 butterflies

Small Tortoiseshell: One seen near Crawley in Sussex on Oct 9

Wall Brown: Late specimens seen on Oct 9 both at Durlston and in the Cuckmere valley area near Beachy Head

Moths

Hummingbird Hawkmoth: One seen in a Langstone (Wade Court) garden on Oct 2 and two more seen in Thanet on Oct 10 brings the number of reports I know of for this year to 43 involving some 48 insects

The Vapourer (2026 Orgyia antiqua): The females of this species are wingless but the pheremones sent out by one of them attracted several males to her in the Thanet area on Oct 10

Ruby Tiger (2064 Phragmatobia fuliginosa): This gets into the news on account of being eaten by a Spotted Flycatcher at the Testwood Lakes (Totton, Southampton). This bird was observed over the course of a week devouring every insect that flew past it other than White butterflies (which it never attempted to catch). This backs up something I heard recently to the effect that White butterflies have a nasty taste which deters predators from eating them.

Other Insects

Robins Pincushion gall wasp (Diplolepis rosae): Most people recognize one of these galls when they see one but they may not know much about the life history of the gall wasp involved. Info about this (plus other galls and a variety of other insects) can be seen at http://www.bugsandweeds.co.uk/galls%20p1.html

Ivy Bee (Colletes hederae): These are again mentioned in Durlston news on Oct 9 with the remark that they have been present there for several years since they began to arrive from the continent

Harlequin Ladybird: On two recent sunny afternoons I have seen numbers of Ladybirds flying in to land on the walls and window-frames of my house here in Havant in search of a way into the house in order to hibernate there and on Oct 8 a similar scene was reported from the Lewes area in Sussex where the invaders were said to be Harlequin Ladybirds

Garden Cross spider: The sight of two spiders on the same web in my garden on Oct 7 sent me to investigate the mating, cannabilistic and parasitic habits of some spider species - see my diary entry of Oct 7

PLANTS

(Skip to Other Wildlife)

166 species found in flower during this month so far, including those seen by Brian Fellows and others

Wood Anemone: A single plant flowering in Kent on Oct 9

Pale Flax: Flowering at Durlston on Oct 10

Sweet Violet: Three fresh flowers in St Faith's churchyard in Havant on Oct 11

Lesser Stitchwort: Flowering on the Holly bank Woods at Emsworth on Oct 9

Tree Mallow: Reported by Brian Fellows on Oct 9 (I had a quick look at the plants by the Slipper Mill Pond in Emsworth but could see no flowers though a garden plant of Lavatera was flowering in a nearby garden)

Cut-leaved Cranesbill: Also found by Brian Fellows on Oct 9

Common Vetch: Another addition to the list for October by Brian

Grass vetchling: Perhaps the most unexpected flower for October - reported at Durlston on Oct 10

Strawberry Tree: The tree growing alongside the Slipper Mill Pond at Emsworth was recorded as flowering by Brian Fellows on Oct 9 (and seen by me on Oct 11)

Verbena bonariensis: A single plant found flowering in a roadside location at Broadmarsh (far from any garden) was a surprise on Oct 8

Green Nightshade??: Visiting the market garden plot at Prinsted (SU763054) on Oct 11 (where I have recorded Green Nightshade in past years) I saw a plant similar to those seen there in the past and notably having many patent white hairs on its stems but having flowers that were mostly of a pale blue colour (similar to those of Borage and unlike the dark blue of Bittersweet) and not showing any berries. To confuse the issue one cluster of flowers was pure white (I think on the same single plant as the blue ones) and the flowers looked to be longer than those on Black or Green Nightshade (more like some Fuchsia flowers). My investigations so far have not come to any conclusion though Leafy Nightshade (Solanum sarachchoides) is a very remote possibility. More likely this is either a hybrid between Green Nightshade and Bittersweet or maybe the result of 'something in the soil'. Although I could get within a few feet of the plant it was within a wire fence which precluded a close look or examination and I had to do my best with my binoculars!

Moth Mullein: The single plant growing near the farmyard entrance close to the Prinsted Market Garden Plot (or its successor) had just started a new flowering when I was there on Oct 11

Borage: Still flowering close to where cars exiting the multi-storey carpark emerge onto Park Road South in Havant

Golden Samphire: I have not come across any flower since Sep 25 but Brian Fellows found some in the Emsworth area on Oct 9

Blue Fleabane: Still flowering by the cycleway from Broadmarsh to Farlington Marshes on Oct 8

Shaggy Soldier: Masses in flower at the Prinsted Market Garden plot on Oct 11

Butcher's Broom: When I first found this in flower on Oct 2 I had to search hard among the prickly 'leaves' (which are actually the flower stems) to find a single flower - by Oct 7 it was easy to spot several flowers without touching the plant.

OTHER WILDLIFE

Common or Harbour Porpoise: Five seen off the North Foreland in Kent on Oct 5 were only the third group to be reported on the websites I visit this year - the previous report was of 2 off Ventnor (IoW) on July 6 and before that 1 was off Portland on May 6

Common Seal: Five were hauled up on a sand bank in Langstone Harbour on Oct 6 - I think this is the highest number I have heard of being seen together in Langstone Harbour (as opposed to Chichester Harbour which has a residen colony of over a dozen of these Seals).

Roe Deer: These have been regularly seen on the big north Hayling fields since Dec 2004, growing in numbers to at least 12 in the spring of 2007 and with another sighting of 12 on Jan 21 this year. On Oct 6 a bunch of four were seen, one of them being this year's kid to show the number is probably still increasing. Recent sightings in the northern part of Thorney Island show that they are also established there.

Lyme Disease: A Radio 4 programme this week told us that the old view that this dangerous disease could only be contracted in the New Forest (by walking around in shorts so that Deer Ticks could attach themselves to you skin as you brushed against Bracken) is no longer true now that Deer are present even in suburban gardens. The message is that you should go to your doctor for treatment after having any tick on your flesh - especially if it causes a noticeable rash

Fungi: Golden Spindles (my mistake - these were actually Yellow Club or Clavulinopsis helvola) appeared for the first time this year on my garden lawn on Oct 9 and a walk around the Hollybank Woods north of Emsworth that afternoon gave me my first sight of Porcelain Fungus for this autumn - also seen in those woods were several False Death Cap (Amanita citrina), Yellow Russula (new name for this is Ochre Brittlegill), Sulphur Tuft, Buttercap and Common Earth Balls. In the Thanet area of Kent on Oct 9 both Fly Agaric, Shaggy Inkcap and Amethyst Deceiver were all seen and are the first I have heard of.


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

BIRDS

(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

INSECTS

(Skip to Plants)

Dragonflies

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

Butterflies

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

Moths

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

PLANTS

(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

OTHER WILDLIFE

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)


To see Summaries for July to September 2008 go to JUL-SEP SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for April to June 2008 go to APR-JUN SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for January to March 2008 go to JAN-MAR SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for October to December 2007 go to OCT-DEC SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for July to Sept 2007 go to JUL-SEP SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for April to June 2007 go to APR-JUN SUMMARIES

To see Summaries for Jan, Feb and Mar 2007 go to JAN-MAR SUMMARIES


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