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Wildlife diary and news for May 7 - 13 (Week 19 of 2018)

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Thu 10th May

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First new Red Admiral of 2018 plus Common and Small Blue, Brown Argus and Wood White come out to show that summer has started
Experts argue about the origin of a Swallowtail on the Sussex Downs and a Holly Blue lays her eggs on Portugal Laurel
Bitterns start booming and Nightjars churring as Cockchafers become airborne
Is Porpoise a normal part of a Grey Seal's diet?
Do seagull nests have less protection than Bat roosts?
My favourite orchid - Orchis ustulata

It is over a week since I last added to this blog, not because there is nothing worth adding to it but because there is too much and too little time to do it justice (and because of heat exhaustion!)

As a starting point I have chosen Francis Plowman's sighting of a 'very fresh' Red Admiral butterfly in Gosport on May 1 which I feel sure he is right in thinking has only just emerged from its chrysalis after surviving the winter here in its immature forms. Other butterfly species that have just taken to the air are Common Blue (first seen in Sussex on May 6), Small Blue (also first seen in Sussex on May 9), Brown Argus (seen in Sussex and Cornwall on May 6) and finally a Wood White (seen on May 6 in a Sussex wood whose location is being kept secret to protect the location from being swamped by people wanting to see this butterfly in Sussex, rather than the traditional Botany Bay site near Chiddingfold in Surrey).

On May 7 Keith Wilson photographed a continental Swallowtail butterfly at the very top of Mount Caburn near Lewes (see one of his photos here) but the editor of the Sussex butterfly website expressed doubts about it being a genuine immigrant now that there is money to be made from 'farming' such attractive species and selling them as adornments for weddings. Next day however Neil Hulme (Sussex Butterfly guru) strongly defended Keith's opinion that the butterfly he had seen was a genuine immigrant and as far as I know neither party is taking the argument to court. As a sidelight on this argument I see that on May 6 Martin Kalaher watched a female Holly Blue break with tradition by laying her eggs, not on a Holly bush but on a Portugal Laurel which has similar characterics in having small white flowers and glossy green leaves - see photo.

Looking at the bird news I see that Bitterns were heard booming (from as much as a mile away) at Brading marshes on the Isle of Wight during the past week and Nightjars were heard churring at Acres Down near Lyndhurst on May 5 while at Fairlight near Hastings (also maybe flying at dusk but probably found next morning in a moth trap) a Cockchafer was seen on May 8 and a Buglife webpage on it can be seen here.

Also on May 8 one of 25 Porpoises in the sea at Dungeness was killed and eaten by a Grey Seal prompting someone there to Tweet the question "Gruesome scenes off Dungeness this morning with a Grey Seal killing and eating a Porpoise. This rare event was first seen here last year on two occasions. Is it the same rogue seal involved??" Google answers this question with a list of different reports of Porpoises being killed by Grey Seals - you can read the first of the positive replies here. To understand the size difference between the two species the maximum length of an adult Common Porpoise is 1.9 metres and the maximum weight of an adult female is 76Kg (male only 61kg). Grey Seals are about the same length (males 2m, females 1.8m) but are much bulkier (males weigh 233kg and females 155kg).

We have probably all heard of people being refused planning permission to make alterations to property which they own if there is evidence that the property is being used by bats and we know that you are not allowed to cut hedges in which wild birds are nesting so it comes as a surprise to hear that an old factory in north Havant is being demolished while at least 22 pairs of Herring Gull and two pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls are nesting on the buildings. It seems that there is no protection for the Herring Gulls (which have in recent years abandoned nesting on cliffs and moved into our seaside towns, causing various nuisances with their noise, droppings, stealing our food, and traffic problems when the young leave the nests and roam the streets before they can fly - all on a scale which increases year by year) but this official 'licence to kill' does not extend to the Lesser Black-backs giving the authorities a headache when both species are nesting at the same site. As a sideline to this argument over real birds it is interesting to look at what Google has to say about the Hastings Direct Insurance Company which uses the Herring Gull as its 'sales image' - see for youself the response you get to asking Google for Hasting Direct Insurance Reviews.

To end this blog entry on a more cheerful note I have picked another report from the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website which was of Burnt Orchids (Orchis ustulata) flowering at Caburn Bottom (the foot of Mount Caburn a few miles south east of Lewes in Sussex) where a few of these orchids were in flower om May 5. I do not know this Sussex site but I have seen this species growing on Martin Down in Hampshire (where I was born in the Vicarage back in 1931) and this personal connection to the site probably influences my choice of this species as my first favourite. I hope that a look at the 'Wildflowerfinder' webpage illustrating the species will persuade you to add this to your 'must see' list of wild flowers. Although it is not a common species in England it can still be found in Wiltshire (where it is the county flower), Hampshire, Sussex and Kent as well as Berkshire and Yorkshire. To see more photos have a look at the Wildflower Finder webpage.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 30 - May 6 (Week 18 of 2018)

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Wed 2nd May

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Nightjar on the coast at Hook, Stone Curlew at Selsey, plus an Alpine Swift and several Golden Orioles
St Marks Flies and a dead Wasp with a pin through its body and late news of the first Pearl Bordered Fritillary in Cornwall
Half a dozen botanic surprises among the first 63 flowers for my new month list

A brief scan of the internet news told me that the first Nightjar had been seen on May 1st resting on Hook links near Warsash before moving on to its final destination where it may manage to avoid detection for some time before it feels the time is right to start its nocturnal 'churring' and birders feel it is worth exploring the local woodlands to see if they can hear it. Equally elusive was a Stone Curlew seen at Sidlesham near Selsey on May 1 and allowing a distant photo which you can see here. Also present in the Selsey area was a Golden Oriole which sang for about 15 minutes in woodland near Itchenor (2 more were seen at Portland on May 1 and another had been seen at Plymouth on Apr 18). Another good bird on May 1 was an Alpine Swift clearly seen over Compton, just south of Winchester, distinguished by its white belly and large size.

Butterfly enthusiasts are eagerly awaiting the emergence of Pearl Bordered Fritillaries in Sussex but they are not as lucky as their fellow enthusiasts in Cornwall who recorded their first on Apr 29. The only insect news I picked up from Brian Fellows in Emsworth is that the St Mark's Flies were out on May 1. I learnt two new facts about these flies while looking for background info on them: the first is that the females (14mm long) are much bigger than the males (10mm) and the second is that the eyes of the male are divided into an upper and lower half with separate connections to the brain - the uppper half concentrates on looking for females while the lower half keeps an eye on the ground in order to keep hovering over the same point. For a photo of a mating pair see here and for the best info see a Buglife webpage here.

Many St Marks Flies end their short lives (they are only allowed a week on the wing after the best part of a year underground feeding on decomposing plants as larvae since they were conceived in the previous spring) on fishing hooks but I still feel repulsion to the practice of catching insects and sticking a pin through them 'for scientific examination', particularly when the insect is a rarity, as in the case of the Variable Nomad Bee described in this article. We are told that this insect was probably the first ever to reach Sussex and I am glad that the men who sailed from Sussex to explore the world in past centuries were not impaled by the spears of human natives on arrival in countries previously unknown to us.

Yesterday (May 1) my first May walk around the local area gave me 63 flowering plants including the following which I was not expecting. First of these was a flower starting to open on Rhododendrum ponticum. That was followed by Keel-fruited Cornsalad (internet photo here), Lesser Swine Cress (successively closer photos on webpage here), and Greater Celandine in flower (photo here)

The finds which excited me the most were Lily of the Valley which hopefully everyone will recognize without a photo, Salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) - an escapee from being consumed as a root vegetable - photo here. Beaked Hawksbeard (Crepis vesicaria) - a soon to be very common sign of summer - Photo. Finally my best find was Shining Cranesbill (Geranium lucidum) see webpage.

Mon 30th April

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3 new Butterflies, 2 new Dragonflies, and re-introduction of Marsh Fritillaries to Hampshire
Germander Speedwell and Crosswort now flowering
First Curlew Sandpiper, Roseate Tern and Montagu's Harrier
First summer plumage Grey Plover, a Long-Eared Owl at Lewes and a juvenile Tawny Owl 'branching' at Pulborough
Long-tailed Tits feeding from hanging feeders and Hirundines now here in hundreds.

Three new butterflies have been Small Heath in Sussex on Apr 25, a Duke of Burgundy at Noar Hill on Apr 26 and a Large Tortoiseshell at Dungeness on Apr 29. New Dragonflies have been a Blue-tailed Damselfly in Cornwall on Apr 26 and an Azure Damselfly also in Cornwall on the same day. Other new insects have been a Tawny Mining Bee at Rye Harbour on Apr 26 and a Daddy Long-legs at Emsworth also on Apr 26. Perhaps the most significant insect news of the week has been the re-introduction some 1000 Marsh Fritillary caterpillars into a marshy area of north east Hampshire in the hope of many adult butterflies emerging within the next couple of months.

I have only seen reports of two new plant species last week. The first was a good show of Germander Speedwell in St Mary's churchyard here on Hayling, seen by me on Apr 28 - photo here. The second was Crosswort seen on Portsdown on Apr 29 - webpage here.

Bird news includes the first Curlew Sandpipers in Cornwall on Apr 24, the first Roseate Tern in Cornwall on Apr 27, and the first Montagu's Harrier, a male in Dorset on Apr 29. Other first reports have been of the first summer plumage Grey Plovers at Pagham Harbour on Apr 29, a migrant Long-Eared Owl seen near Lewes on Apr 29 and a juvenile Tawny Owl 'branching' in a tree at Pulborough Brooks on Apr 28. Also of interest were two reports from Sussex of Long-tailed Tits eating seed from bird-feeders by hanging on to the feeders with one leg while using the other leg to transfer seeds from the feeder to their beaks - not sure if this is a new technique - photo here. Also this week the number of hirundines has increased greatly in many places - on Apr 28 there were 5000 Swallows over the Posbrook floods near Titchfield Haven with 450 Sand Martins, 550 House Martins and 500 Swifts at the same site.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 23 - 29 (Week 17 of 2018)

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Wed 25th April

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Three species of dragonfly and three more butterflies now on the wing.
Hirundines start to arrive in force along with the first Pom Skuas (and Bee Eaters may be on their way)
Three orchid species now flowering and a new issue of British Stamps

As the list of new summer bird migrants starts to tail off so the list of Damsel and Dragonflies gets under way with first sightings of Hairy Dragonfly in Kent on Apr 20 and the first Banded Demoiselle on Apr 22 following the Large Red Damsel on Apr 4 (after a newcomer to Brtain - a Marsh Bluetail from Senegale - appeared from a Turtle Tank in Wales on Mar 25). Ignoring the latter species here are photos to remind you what these insect look like: for the Large Red Damsel see here; for the Banded Demoiselle see here; and for the Hairy Dragonfly see here. For the home page of the British Dragonfly Society giving you access to latest sightings (under 'News & Events') and full id info on all species (under Dragonflies) go to this page.

Butterflies are also increasing in number of species with the first Wall Brown aka 'Wall' seen at Portland on Apr 20; the first Small Copper at Dungeness on Apr 21; and the first Dingy Skipper seen somewhere in Sussex also on Apr 21. Reminders of what they look like can be found by going to the full list of all British species and clicking on the species name here. While on this page you can also use it to get info on Moth species by clicking on the 'Butterflies and Moths' tab in the page header line and selecting 'A-Z of moths'.

Several people have recently commented on the low numbers of summer migrant birds they have seen so far, particularly the few hirundines, but that now seems to be changing with a report of 400 mixed hirundines over the Blashford lakes on Apr 24. This flock included at least 50 Swifts and on the same day 60 House Martins were seen over the Fishlake reserve on the northern edge of Romsey in the Test Valley. Another bird eagerly anticipated at Selsey by contenders for the crown of 'Pom King' is the Pomarine Skua of which the first of the year was reported at Dungeness on Apr 22 with two more reports (which may have been the same bird) on Apr 24 when one was seen at Portland and another at Seaford in Sussex. Not yet seen in Britain is the Bee Eater which always attracts a lot of attention when it does arrive - a report on Trektellen of 515 seen in Corsica on Apr 24 suggests that they are on their way.

In addition to the mass of Green Winged Orchids now flowering at Gunner Point on Hayling the first five Early Spider Orchids were seen at Beachy Head on Apr 22 and on Apr 23 the first Early Purple Orchids were flowering in Warnham Nature Reserve at Horsham. For a photo of an Early Purple showing its blotched leaves and woodland habitat see here and for some of the many names for this species ("Priest's Pintel" was new to me) see here. The Early Spider Orchid is uncommon in Britain but grows on chalk at several south coast sites from Kent to Dorset. The photos I have chosen to illustrate it were taken in France but include one (the last in the series) of an 'Ant-lion' species that I had not come across before (and am unlikely to do so in England!). For this see here.

While thinking about plants I had another look at the BSBI News website (http://bsbipublicity.blogspot.co.uk/ ) and picked out a story about a new issue of six British Postal Stamps that became available on Apr 19 and illustrate wild species which have been re-introduced to Britain after becoming extinct in the wild. The species are Osprey, Large Blue butterfly, Beaver, Pool Frog, Sand Lizard and Stinking Hawks-beard (Crepis foetida). The last of these has been re-introduced to coastal shingle at Dungeness and Rye Harbour and appears on the £1.55 stamp which you can see here.

Mon 23rd April

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This entry covers two days. On Sunday Apr 22 I walked north to Mill Rythe, then followed Manor Road south to Higworth Lane, and came home across the Church fields. On Monday Apr 23 I walked south west to circle Sinah Common and come home from the Beachlands grass.
Sunday gave me ten new plants including Herb Robert, Spotted Medick and Thyme-leaved Speedwell plus my first Swallow and several Speckled Wood butterflies
Monday gave me Wall Speedwell, Ribwort Plantain, Round-leaved Cranesbill and a new site for Early Forget-me-not

On Sunday I took the path north along the west side of Tournerbury Golf Course from Tournerbury Lane to Mill Rythe, along which at least half a dozen Speckled Wood butterflies were enjoying the sunshine in which a Buzzard glided south and a single Swallow flew north. On the ground I noted my first Lilac and Yellow Corydalis flowers in gardens and Herb Robert in several uncultivated places.

On the north side of the roundabout where Church Road and Manor Road start and Havant Road ends the roadside grass had a mass of Spotted Medick and I also found my first Thyme-leaved Speedwell. Nothing new noted until I turned into Higworth Lane to follow the path through the Caravan Park where trimming of the hedges had caused Hawthorn bushes to open many of their flowers. Crossing the Church Fields I found the many buttercups had at last folded down their sepals to allow me to be sure they were Hairy Buttercups.

In St Mary's church grounds I was greeted by a Norway Maple in full flower and before reaching home I had seen the first of several Bay Trees in flower and added Charlock and Prickly Sow-thistle to my list. I had also noted several Arum (Lords and Ladies) unfurling their spikes.

On Monday I walked west to Hayling Park but took a new route around its east and south sides, finding not only a fresh showing of Annual Mercury and the delicate catkins of several Pedunculate Oaks (Quercus Robur) but also my first Wall Speedwell showing its tiny blue spikes of unopen flowers. From the south west corner of the Park I took the exit leading south to Bacon Lane which I followed west to Staunton Ave and then headed south to Sinah Common to walk west through the golden mass of Gorse. Here I found Ribwort Plantain in flower before reaching the access road to the Inn on the Beach. Crossing this road just north of the access road to the Mini Golf Course I found several plants of Round-leaved Cranesbill in flower, confirming their identity by the broad circle of white in the base of each flower below the pink tips of the petals.

I now followed the boundary of the Mini Golf Course west to the boundary of the real Golf Course where I turned south and then east around the 'Pitch and Putt' course. Along this eastward section much Thrift was now in flower and when the gorse closed in on both sides of my path I started to see clumps of Sea Campion in flower but saw no sign of the rarer Shepherd's Cress (Teesdalia nudicaulis) which used to grow here many years ago. I now re-crossed the road to the Inn on the Beach with the intention walking on along the edge of the shingle beach south of the beach huts but before reaching those huts, while still close to the 'bike park' in which young cyclists hone their skills of jumping and balancing on their bikes, I found a new to me patch of Early Forget-me-not in the very short grass at my feet. That was a good find, but the only new plant that I saw before reaching home.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 16 - 22 (Week 16 of 2018)

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Sat 21st April

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This entry covers both a ride up the Billy Line from West Town Station to Langstone Bridge in hot sunshine on Friday, Apr 20, and a ride to the Gunner Point area on a cloudy but dry Saturday.
On Friday the new plants were Greater Stitchwort and English Scurvygrass plus a mass of Oil-seed Rape flowering in the fields and the annual sight of a Pear Tree flowering alongside the old rail line, presumably the result of a Pear core being thrown out of a train window
I also saw my first Orange-tip butterflies and heard the song of a Lesser Whitethroat (sounding very similar to the calls of Whimbrel passing over Langstone Harbour
On Saturday I not only found 40 Green-winged Orchids already in flower but also found Spring Beauty, Early Forget-me-not, Spring Vetch, Bur Chervil and at least five other species

Friday's ride up the Billy Line started with a good show of Greater Stitchwort and the expected show of white from English Scurvygrasss in the saltings as I neared the Oysterbeds. Everywhere there was lots of Common Dog Violet and my first sight of Bracken standing tall and unfurling its leaves. There was also plenty of Bird song including my first Lesser Whitethroat whose repetitive rattle sounded very similar to the distant 'seven whistles' of Whimbrel passing over Langstone Harbour at the same time.

Saturday was cooler with no direct sunlight but was more rewarding in the way of flowers starting with a brief glimpse of the orange pink of Tartar Honeysuckle as I passed the driveway into the Sinah Gravel Pit (it grows on the west side of the metal archway over the entrance to the area and when in full flower looks like this photo. I did not stop for this but as I was passing The Kench I was stopped by a sight that I was not expecting here, the first flowers of Spring Beauty (Claytonia perfoliata) for which I have found this photo. While looking at these plants growing on the west side of the gateway into the golf course opposite The Kench I noticed some much smaller Forget-me-not type flowers growing less than a couple of inches high around the low wooden stakes designed to stop cars parking on the narrow grass roadside - these were Early Forget-me-not (Myosotis ramossisima) which can be seen in this photo. A little further on, before turning off the Ferry Road, I saw a plant of Bur Chervil which was already in flower - although of the same family as Cow Parsley the smaller, more compact and yellowish plants with much smaller flowers make it easy to distinguish then - see this webpage.

Only now did I turn into the harbour entrance carpark where I saw just one example of Hedge Mustard near the cafe - for a photo see here. My next stop was after passing the sailing club, using the first break in the Tamarisks to reach a sheltered grassy area shielded by Tamarisks on the seaward side and, on the landward side, the first remnants of the sand dunes which build up further south (though attempts to preserve them from erosion by fencing them off with six foot high wire fences have been unable to stop the determined onslaught of holiday makers, principally those seeking secluded places to practice nude sunbathing. Here, in the foothills of the sand dunes, I always look for the tiny Spring Vetch (Vicia lathyroides) which stands less than an inch high, and today I was successful in finding three flowering plants of which this photo may give you some idea.

Returning to the open beach I continued round the south-west corner of the Golf Course and headed for a bench, near some small trees close to the Golf Course boundary fence, where I usually stop for refreshment. This bench is in the centre of a large area in which thousands of Green-winged Orchids will flower in May but already I was able to count 40 flowering spikes as I approached the bench - see this webpage. Before leaving this area, while still heading east along the southern fence of the Golf Course and before reaching the 'kink' in the fenceline, I saw two flowers growing from the long grass at the foot of the Golf Course fence which gave me the strong impression that they were Small Scabious but I reserve judgement as this seems too early for that species. One last new flower of which I have no doubt came much later when I was back in Hollow Lane - this Annual Wall-Rocket - see its distinctive flowers and read about the nasty smell of its crushed leaves here.

Thu 19th April

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The hot weather of the past few days has produced a good list of notable sightings starting on Apr 16 the hatching of the first Lapwing chicks at Pett Level on the shore of Rye Bay. Also that day RBA reported the first Penduline Tit of the year in Hertfordshire and a very fresh Painted Lady was photographed at Folkestone - link here. This was followed by sightings of Clouded Yellows (of which the first was reported in Devon on Apr 7) at Folkestone on Apr 17 and at Portland (with another in Kent) on Apr 18. On Apr 19 the first Green Hairstreaks appeared at two sites in Sussex.

On Apr 17 bird news included the first Turtle Dove in Sussex, a Dotterel in Norfolk and a Greater Spotted Cuckoo in Kent (if you want to know what that looks like see here.

On Apr 18 a male Golden Oriole was seen in the Plymouth area and the first Spotted Flycatcher was flying in to the Isle of Wight and at dusk Jason Crook watched 48 Black-tailed Godwits heading high north east over Portsdown Hill towards Iceland. Lastly on Apr 19 the first passage Wood Sandpiper was at Pulborough Brooks and 2 Swifts were seen over Uckfield - not the first which I have as 2 Swifts over Hastings on Mar 29 followed by two over Mersyside on Apr 4 and one over Alresford on Apr 11.

Tue 17th April

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The past week has seen our harbours emptying of Brent Geese (a report of 579 heading east past Seaford Head on Apr 15 was probably the last such count for this spring) and our coastal waters bringing more reports of Terns (large numbers of Common and Sandwich Terns are now here and the first Little and Black Terns are passing along the coast). At the same time our resident breeding birds are beginning to show signs of getting on with their job - the first Mallard family of 8 ducklings was been seen on a Southampton Park lake and a family of 7 Black Swan cygnets is now to be seen on the Ivy Lake at Chichester, while the Mute Swans which had laid 8 Eggs in an Emsworth nest and lost them all to high tides are already building a second nest near to the first while the Langstone Mill Pond pair of Swans, while protected from flooding by the seawall around their pond may have lost one egg to an inquisitive Mallard poking around in the nest before the Pen swan had finished laying her full clutch and settled down to full time incubation (their way of ensuring that all the eggs, which have to be laid one per day, all get the same amount of incubation and thus all hatch out within a day). Back on Apr 12 the Little Egrets were already busy with their nests near the North Wall of Pagham Harbour but those intending to nest at Langstone had not started to do so. Now, on April 17, at least 6 nests are already occupied at Langstone and around 10 more pairs are showing a strong interest in acquiring nests.

Other birds of interest have been seen in Devon and Cornwall in the past week including three species of Heron (Night, Purple and Squacco) plus Alpine Swift, Red-rumped Swallow and a Sub-alpine Warbler. Several Hoopoes have turned up on this side of the Channel (including this one which arrived at Portland on Apr 15 to show off to gathered photographers - see here) and the list of 'first arrivals' includes the first Garden Warbler at Portland on on Apr 16 and the first Black Tern at Dungeness on Apr 15. Locally our first Little Tern was seen passing Sandy Point on Apr 6 after 5 had been seen together at Stokes Bay on that day but the first seen in this country was in Cambridgeshire on Apr 4. Two other unexpected appearances deservere a mention - first is a Black Kite seen over Crowborough on Apr 16 and the second was a Reeve's Pheasant seen on Graffham Down the same day - see the photo here.

Turning to Insect news there is a late report of the first Green Veined White butterfly seen in Sussex on Apr 3 plus two more timely reports of a Grizzled Skippper at Mill Hill (Shoreham) on Apr 14 and the one we have all been waiting for, Orange Tip, which appeared in both Hampshire and Sussex on Apr 14 but was first reported in Somerset on Apr 3. There is also an early report of a Painted Lady at Folkestone on Apr 16 (following an isolated sighting of one in Sussex on Mar 6).

Two other insect reports deserve a mention. One comes from Chris Bentley at Rye Harbour and features a blind, colourless type of Woodlouse which spends its life searching for and eating Ant droppings in the bottom of Ant nests. Most of us are unlikely to ever see one of these but its good to know they are there to do the equivalent of 'cleaning up after your dog' and in case you do ever see one you should be grateful to Chris for telling you these creatures are not real ghosts and mean you no harm. You can see Chris' photos with his short article here. The other report comes from the Reculver section of the Kent OS website which reports that on Apr 16 some 20 Black Oil Beetles were seen along a short section of the North Kent shore. Here is a link to their photo of one of these beetles - see here - and if your appetite to know more about this group of beetles has been whetted here is a link to a Buglife id guide to the Oil Beetle life cycle.

I started writing this on Apr 17 but did not finish it that day so it is now Apr 18 so I will limit further delays and end with a brief account of this afternoon's walk during which I added the folowing to my month list of flowers on my way to the southern end of Staunton Ave, then back across the east end of Sinah Common and home via the Elm Close Estate. On my way out I saw Sweet Alison and the first flowering of Garlic Mustard. In Bacon Lane I found Yellow Archangel, then on Sinah Common I added Doves Foot Cranesbill, Sheep's Sorrel, and lots of Sticky Mouseear. Back at home, listening to the Channel 4 TV News, I was delighted to hear live Nightingale song from Kent, even if the news story concerned the likelihood that when we leave European protection of our countryside house building is very likely to take precedence over the protection of habitat for wildlife that has already been brought to the verge of extinction by human activity..... Another bonus from the TV this eveing came at the end of the 'Britain in Bloom' programme on BBC 2 at 6:30 featuring Shrewsbury -almost at the end of the programme we were shown a live, wild Night Heron which suddenly appeared in full view on the mass of flowers in a public park.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 9 - 15 (Week 15 of 2018)

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Sat 14th April

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A long walk gives me 12 new flowers, 3 butterflies, Brown Tail moth caterpillars and lots of bird song

On what turned out to be the best day of the spring so far I set out with the limited objective of identifying the large tree with yellow flower spikes and pinnate leaves that I had seen yesterday in a garden close to my home but too distant from the nearest access to see clearly. Today I brought my binoculars and the detail that I saw enabled me to name the tree as a Mimosa called Acacia Dealbata which I find can grow to a height of around 50ft, much taller than the young Mimosa trees I had seen in Havant in the past. While in the 'Legion Field' from which I had been studying the Mimosa I also found one of the Buttercups which had puzzled me recently by looking like either Bulbous or Hairy Buttercups but not having the downturned sepals which both those species should have and so forcing me reluctantly to decide that they were Meadow Buttercups. Today the sepals were downturned and what's more the whole plant showed the hairiness that allowed me to name it as a Hairy Buttercup - I hope that the same will prove to be true of the many Buttercups in the Church Fields and on the Beachlands grass when they have had the same length of time to 'mature'. Before leaving the Legion Field area and heading south on the rather muddy footpath to the Mengham House area I found two flowering plants of Wild Radish (one with whits flowers, one with yellow) to add to my list of 'firsts' and nearby I found another first, a Holly Tree liberally covered with unopen flower buds - later in this walk I found two more.

At the southern end of the muddy path I came on my first two sheathed spikes of 'Lords and Ladies' (Arum maculatum). No more finds till I was nearing the east end of Salterns Lane and on the roadside grass at the junction with Salterns Close I found a sunlit patch of Ground Ivy and outside one of the nearby houses were two flowering specimens of Snakes Head Fritillary. Taking the narrow path leading to the Mengham Rythe seawall I found a patch of Wavy Bittercress plants.

Nothing new along the seawall but as I was nearing the Fishery Lane Holiday Camp area I noticed incipient flower buds on well grown plants of Hoary Cress and after crossing the neck of land to come out on the Fishery Creek shore I began to see long reddish catkins on the ground but could not see the trees from which they had fallen until I came on a small forest of trees which looked as if they were dead, covered with long grey catkins and having whitish bark similar to, but not having the slender upright stance of a birch. Back at home I soon established that these trees were not dead but were normal for Aspen trees which I have never come across before at this stage of their spring flowering. Moving on towards the head of the creek after passing the lake the water's edge below the path I was on became crowded with a mass of white blossom which I assume was Common Scurvygrass rather than the English Scurvygrass which is the only species other than Danish Scurvygrass that I have ever come across.

Before leaving the Holiday Camp area I had a close view of a single Small Tortoiseshell butterfly to add to the Peacock I had seen near the Sailing Club and the assumed Small White seen distantly earlier in the day. Trudging home from Eastoke Corner, near the roadside pavement of the Beachlands grassland between Bound Land and Webb Lane, I stopped for a close look at the many 'nursery tents' of Brown tail moth caterpillars which up to today had seemed totally lifeless (and too tatty and wind battered to support any life) and saw at least one minute caterpillar moving inside one of the tents. So far there is very little greenery growing on the bushes over which the tents are strewn but I suspect that the coming week of warm weather will see many caterpillars 'rising from the dead' to breakfast of the leaves that are now just starting to grow on these bushes.

Turning north to head home I had one more plant to add to my list, seen in a St Leonard's Avenue garden. I do not know its proper name but call it 'White Garden Oxalis' as it seems closely related to the Oxalis family and has just started to open the many white flowers which thickly cover the otherwise barren front garden of this house.

Fri 13th April

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Wood Warbler at Lodmoor and Wryneck in the Scillies on Apr 10
Swift over Alresford and Brambling singing at Eastleigh on Apr 11
50 Teal competing for a synchronous diving medal at Medmerry on Apr 12 and a Black Swan posing for a beauty prize with seven cygnets at Chichester on Apr 13
First Large White butterflies seen at Brighton on Apr 11
Honesty flowering on Apr 11 and Cuckoo Flower on Apr 12
Water Vole seen near Pagham Harbour North Wall.

The first Wryneck of the spring was reported in the Scillies and the first Wood Warbler was at Lodmoor in Dorset, both on Apr 10. The first Common Swift had been reported from Merseyside on Apr 4 followed by 2 Alpine Swifts at The Lizard in Cornwall on Apr 5 but the first Common Swift in southern counties was not seen until Apr 11 at Itchen Stoke upstream of Alresford. Also on Apr 11 a Brambling was heard singing at the Eastleigh Lakes - this is a song I have never heard but as far as I can make out from the Xeno-Canto recordings it consists of repeated single 'wheezing' notes which you might mistake for a Greenfinch.

On Apr 12 several pairs of Little Egrets were busy nest building at Pagham Harbour Owl Copse and a flock of 50 Teal at Medmerry were putting on a show of synchronous diving - the first time I have heard of them as diving but maybe they are getting ready to compete in the next Commonwealth Games? Also on Apr 12 the female Black Swan which recently hatched 7 cygnets at the Chichester Lakes was posing for a family photo which you can see here.

The only new butterfly to emerge since my last post has been the Large White with two individuals appearing on Apr 11, one at Coldean Woods by the A27 north of Brighton and the other at Ferring, just west of Worthing. Also on Apr 11 I added a couple of flower species to my April list with Honesty flowering in St Mary's churchyard and the bright white flowers of Clematis Armandii climbing a tree in a South Road garden. Two more species went on my list on Apr 12 with the slender green flower buds of an Ash tree bursting out of their knobbly black casings and the delicate catkins opening on a Silver Birch, while in Emsworth Brian Fellows found the much more attractive flowers of Cuckoo Flower. Sadly he did not have the pleasure of seeing the Water Vole which was reported from the North Wall of Pagham Harbour that day.

Tue 10th April

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The first Nightingales are here and Turtle Doves are crossing the Mediterranean
Swallows and Martins now being seen in hundreds
Little Egrets return to their nests and Rooks fight a rearguard action against their decline
Holly Blues and Speckled Woods start to appear along with the first Bluebells
I find a name for a shrub that has puzzled me for 50 years and a Beaver takes a stroll along the Kent shoreline.

The first Nightingale was singing at Newhaven on Apr 5 and on Apr 9 Trektellen reported that 8 Turtle Doves had got past the guns on Malta and had reached Corsica. Other arrivals have been the first migrant Common Sandpiper on Portland on Apr 7, a Savi's Warbler at Eastbourne on Apr 8, and a Woodchat Shrike in the Scillies on Apr 9 (when I heard my first Blackcap 'singing in the rain' here on Hayling).

Also on Apr 9 75 Swallows were hawking flies over the Blashford Lakes and on Apr 10 200 Swallows, 100 House Martins and 50 Sand Martins were over the Brading Marshes on the Isle of Wight with a Whitethroat and a singing Reed Warbler in the vegetation. On Apr 8, before their numbers started to increase, one birder in Devon watched a pair of Swallows flying round his garage, where they have nested for the past 15 years, and concluded that they had reached their journey's end. An even more impressive piece of good news from Emsworth, where Rook numbers have been declining since the 1980s, was that four pairs had decided to put up a fight against eviction from the area and had built nests in the Nore Barn wood where they have not nested before. The only other Rookery in Emsworth only has 17 occupied nests this year, reflecting the continued decline. Another bit of news from the local area on Apr 10 is a report of the first Little Egret returning to the Owl Copse nest site behind the North Wall of Pagham Harbour - no such news of the expected 30+ Little Egret nests at the Langstone Pond site where the Grey Herons now have a new 12th active nest.

Two new butterfly species are now emerging: sometime last week, around Apr 8, the first Holly Blue was seen in Cosham at the southern foot of Portsdown and today (Apr 10) the first Speckled Wood was flying near Hailsham in Sussex (ignoring one unseasonal report from the London area on Jan 25). Another insect report of Johann's Bibio, a species I am not familiar with, came from Chris Bentley at Rye Harbour on Apr 9. For his report and photos click here. For info on the Colletes bees which he also mentions see here - note that the term 'oligolectic' means that the insect only gathers pollen from the named plant.

Today I made a determined effort to find the name of a shrub which has grown in my garden hedge for the 50 years that I lived in Havant and has recently started to flower in other gardens here in Hayling. I have always assumed that the shrub is a species of Laurel, differing from Cherry Laurel only in having blotches of white on its green leaves and in having tiny brown flowers instead of long white flower spikes. For a photo of the standard Cherry Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus) see here and for its red, cherry like but very poisonous berries see here. The plant which has puzzled me for so long is called Japanese Laurel (Acuba japonica) and you can read the article which solved my puzzle here.

To end today here is a photo taken on the shoreline of Sandwich Bay of a totally unexpected Beaver strolling along the beach - see here.

Wildlife diary and news for Apr 2 - 8 (Week 14 of 2018)

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Sun 8th April

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A mass of Wild Strawberries and Wood Anemones in St Mary's churchyard
Roadside Dog's Mercury and Field Woodrush on a garden lawn
The first Yellow Wagtail in Sussex, Grasshopper Warbler in Kent and a Pied Flycatcher at Portland plus a Cuckoo in Hampshire
First Green-Veined White in Kent
Sand Crocus in Devon
A Rainbow Lorikeet from Commonwealth Games country in a Farnboough garden
Savi's Warbler singing at Minsmere and an American Bittern in Suffolk

Yesterday (Apr 7) I extended my route to the local shops through St Mary's churchyard where I found a mass of Wild Strawberries in flower (presumably originally planted on a grave but now covering a large area near the road to the left of the southern entrance) and a smaller colony of Wood Anemones still restricted to one grave plot. Encouraged by these unexpected finds I continued west across the Church Fields, enjoying two Skylarks in full song, and stopping to have a close look at the many Buttercups now flowering - these are not new here but I have been puzzled by their identity and had tried to make them into Bulbous or Hairy Buttercups but as none have downturned sepals and all show no sign of 'Creeping' I am forced to conclude they are Meadow Buttercups which have had their growth restricted by years of mowing to adapt the fields to public amenity grassland as also found on the Beachlands grassland.

Reaching Manor Road I turned right and walked to the roundabout where Church Road starts to head south but before reaching that I found two large clumps of freshly flowering Dog's Mercury which were my first for the year. After turning south down Church Road I added another first with Field Woodrush (aka Good Friday Grass) on a garden lawn.

Back at home the internet gave me another unexpected report from Dawlish Warren in Devon (their only site in that county plus one other in Cornwall) of dozens of freshly flowering Sand Crocus with a photo that can be seen here.

Turning to the reports of newly arrived Bird Migrants I see the first Yellow Wagtail was seen at Goring in Sussex on Apr 7 and the first Pied Flycatcher was at Portland on the same day (and had its photo taken. Also on Apr 7 a Savi's Warbler was singing at Minsmere. On Apr 8 the first Grasshopper Warbler was heard near the Medway in Kent.

Not a summmer migrant but an unusual vagrant (a first for Suffolk) was an American Bittern at the Carlton Marshes nature reserve on Apr 7. Wikipaedia says the American species (Botaurus lentiginosus) "is a large, chunky, brown bird, very similar to the Eurasian bittern (Botaurus stellaris), though slightly smaller, and the plumage is speckled rather than being barred." Another species which I have not heard of in this country before is the Rainbow Lorikeet which was seen in Farnborough on Apr 7. This is a very colourful Parrot species of which I found this photo that you can see here. It is native to Queensland in Australia where it is regarded as a pest by fruit growers and I hope this one is recaptured (or dies) before it becomes a pest over here.

Just one new butterfly, the Green-Veined White, was reported at Folkestone in Kent on Apr 6.

Fri 6th April

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Of the 178 bird species for which I have seen reports in April only 8 were first reports of summer migrant arrivals (23 species of which had already been seen in March, including an isolated report of a Cuckoo in Kent on Mar 11 which I have also included in the April list). My April migrant arrival list has Sedge Warbler and Common Redstart on Apr 3, Little Tern in Cambs on Apr 4 (plus Stokes Bay and Sandy Point in Hants on Apr 6), Reed Warbler in Lincs and Common Whitethroat in Surrey also on Apr 4, and three species on Apr 6 - Cuckoo and Whinchat in the New Forest and a Tree Pipit in Gloucs.

Also in the news are the first two Dragonfly sightings of the year. One was the expected appearance of a Large Red Damselfly in Kent on Apr 4, the other was a very unexpected report of the first appearances of a new to Britain Marsh Bluetail (Ischnura senegalensis) reported as emerging from a Turtle Tank in which it was presumably imported to this country - for these and all further dragonfly reports see here.

Other insect sightings included one new for the year butterfly, a Small White seen in Brook Meadow at Emsworth and Hailsham in Sussex on Apr 5, and the first Bee Fly (Bombylius major) seen at Reculver in North Kent on Apr 5 and reported with a photo which you can see here.

New flowers seen by me on Apr 1 during a local walk here in south Hayling included what appeared to be wild Bluebells in a garden and Common Dog Violets on a road verge. Other gardens had Blue Anemones (photo here) and Lungwort (photo here). A cycle ride to Gunner Point on Apr 5 found the first small leaves of Green-winged Orchids on the beach and masses of Blackthorn and Goat Willow flowers and fewer Cow Parsley flowers lining the Ferry Road plus my first Slender Speedwell on the Ferry Inn roundabout. Before reaching home I added Creeping Comfrey (photos here). While out shopping later in the day I found the eye-catching Small-leaved Kowhai (Sophora microphylla) was in full flower in a small garden on the north side of Tournerbury Lane just west of its junction with Beech Grove (photo here).

Wildlife diary and news for Mar 26 - Apr 1 (Week 13 of 2018)

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Thu 29th March

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First Stone Curlew flies over the Isle of Wight
A Hooded Crow on the Kent Coast near Dover
Canada Goose with 'Angel Wings' in Devon
First Small Copper butterfly reported in Sussex on Mar 14

The first Stone Curlew of the year was reported on Mar 27 flying north east over Lowtherville, part of Ventnor on the Isle of Wight. This brought back vivid memories of my first sighting, many years ago, of this enigmatic bird which flew in to the rubbish dump which then existed between Port Solent and the M275 heading down into Portsmouth. This large brown owl-like bird dominated the sky as it flew low overhed, then vanished from sight as it settled into a heap of rusting car exhausts to rest after its cross channel journey. That day also brings back memories of seven sunlit Garganey also resting on the lake at the foot of the rubbish heap after completing the same journey.

Another bird bringing back memories of my schooldays at Canterbury in the late 1940s is the Hooded Crow which was a fairly regular winter visitor to the north Kent coast at Whitstable where school friends used to take me to visit their parents and to do a spot of birding. One of these was reported on Mar 26 on the south Kent coast east of Dover.

Coming up to date the Devon Birding Website taught me two things in connection with a report of a small subspecies of Canada Goose seen on the River Exe flowing though the centre of Exeter on Mar 28 suffering from 'Angel's wing'. The first thing that I learnt was that this subspecies, which I knew as a 'Cackling Canada Goose (Branta canadensis minima)' was added to the British List in 2016 under the name Cackling Goose (Branta hutchinsii) and the second was a description of the Angel's Wing deformity which affects various water birds that are fed with too much white bread - for a fuller description and a photo of the result see here.

With nothing new reported on the Hampshire or Sussex Butterfly Conservation websites I turned to the BC National website's list of first reports of all butterfly species seen this year in Britain (at https://butterfly-conservation.org/52/first-butterfly-sightings-2018.html) which included a report of a Small Copper seen in Sussex on Mar 14 this year which has not been mentioned on the Sussex site. This brings the number of butterfly species seen in Britain so far this year to 9.

Mon 26th March

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First Hobby in Hampshire on Mar 25 and another on Mar 26
First fledgling Chaffinch out in Sussex on Mar 25
Today Redwings were singing their 'goodbye' song but no Fieldfares were reported
First Wall Lizards seen at Shoreham Fort
An outburst of butterflies including 30+ Brimstones

The first Hobby to reach Britain this year was seen near the mouth of the Beaulieu River in Hampshire on Mar 25 and another was reported (with slightly less confidence) at Bramshill in north Hampshire on Mar 26 though there have been no reports of any dragonflies for them to eat so far. An RSPB website tells me that they eat small birds as well as insects which may be bad news for the first fledgling Chaffinch which left it's nest in the Heathfield area of Sussex on Mar 25.

Yesterday I could find no reports of Redwing - today that has been reversed and no Fieldfares have been seen while some of the Redwings reported were singing that chattering song that is only heard when they are about to leave.

A dozen Wall Lizards were seen at Shoreham Fort on Mar 26 and one posed for a photo which you can see here.

A slight increase in temperature has brought more butterflies with a notable increase in the number of Brimstone on the wing. One report from the Broadwater Warren nature reserve near Crowborough on Mar 26 said that there were so many there that the observer gave up counting after seeing 30 and this outburst even gave Brian Fellows one Brimstone in Brook Meadow at Emsworth.


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