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Wildlife diary and news for July 17 - 23 (Week 29 of 2017)

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Sun 23rd July

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Black Nightshade and Sticky Groundsel are newly flowering.

This morning brought sunshine to contrast with the violent showers of yesterday but the wind was still strong from the west so a ride to Gunner Point meant that I would have a tail wind for the homeward journey. I was not expecting any new plants but before I had reached the west end of St Mary's Road the bare earth of a front garden in which the hedge had reently been 'grubbed out' had grown several plants of Black Nightshade which were newly in flower (just one day later than my first find of it last year). Before reaching this garden I had passed the site of the Giant Viper's Bugloss which was new to me in April, but which I have since found to be fairly common in south Hayling gardens - this morning I spotted two new spikes lurking behind the shops directly opposite the flats where I now live and later found that the 'originals' in St Mary's Road had been cut down (not unsurprisingly as their stout tree-like stems protruded into the road and presented a potential traffic hazard).

I saw nothing new until I had rounded the west end of the Sinah Golf Course and reached the west end of the Beachlands car parks where the thin sandy soil along the northern edge of the carpark area had several freshly flowering plants of what I think was Sticky Groundsel (Senecio viscosus). In the past I have had difficulty in deciding if the plants I have seen quite commonly in Havant Thicket and in Havant were 'Sticky' or 'Heath Groundsel' and had come to the conclusion they were all Heath Groundsel (Senecio sylvaticus) but the plants which I saw today certainly had the greyish, sticky look of the Sticky species and when I checked with my Fitter and Fitter wildflower guide I found their description, which says that Sticky prefers to grow on bare ground by the sea rather than on heathland, and that Sticky starts to flower in July while Heath starts in June, backed the choice of 'Sticky'. However, when I checked the first date on which I had recorded Heath Groundsel last year I found I had seen it on June 4 (agreeing with the Sticky id) but that I had seen it at that date on Sinah Common, equally close to the sea and in the same sandy soil, so I will need a further close look at the plants I saw today!!

My only other observation in the Sinah Common area south of the Golf Course were of fresh green leaves on the Polypody Ferns which surprisingly seem to grow on pure sand (but are presumably based on old buried tree trunks). I assume the fresh green colour and upright stance of these leaves is the result of recent heavy rain.

A quick scan of the internet today told me that the Dwarf Gorse which I was looking for at Sandy Point last Friday has attracted attention at Fairlight near Rye Harbour and that Dodder, which I rarely see on the Hayling Gorse and have not seen anywhere this year, is also to be found there. I was also intrigued to read Brian Fellows comment on the white flowered Thistles (presumably Creeping and Marsh) which are not an uncommon sight everywhere in my experience. Brian seemed to suggest that these might have lost their normal colour as a result of age. I have always looked on these white flowers as a normal colour variation (I think that plants which have white flowers have all their flowers white from when the buds open to when the flowers die) and I thought I would attempt to find a scientific account of the cause but have failed to do so - it would seem that botanists have ducked the question and covered up their ignorance by giving the name 'albiflora' (the latin for white flowered) to the plants which show this variation.

Fri 21st July

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A visit to Sandy Point 'corrects' my identification of one plant and 'invents' an id for another.

This morning I set out on my bike to visit the Sandy Point ex-Hospital grounds where I have in past years found what I thought was Dwarf Gorse flowering in July (when Common Gorse has all gone to seed and will not start to flower until mid-August at the earliest). My identification of the species was based on the date of flowering, when what is genuinely Dwarf Gorse (smaller than Common Gorse and with much less rigid 'prickles') can be found in Havant Thicket, and on the difficulty of accessing the Sandy Point Gorse bushes which are surrounded by a wide sea of Bracken and Brambles, so never subjected to close examination. Today I was determined to find a way to examine the bushes and found a route to one example and was surprised to find that the 'prickles' were much longer and more rigid than I had expected. Making a note of this I returned to the footpath around the outside of the Nature Reserve where I had left my bike and as I was retrieving it I was accosted by the local ecologist, Andy Johnson, who had, to my surprise, remembered my name. When I told him that I had just been looking for the Dwarf Gorse he corrected me and said that this was Western Gorse but that Dwarf Gorse did occur here within the Reserve.

By this time we had reached the edge of the shingle alongside the harbour entrance and Andy reminded me of the rare Sea Knotgrass which grows in the hollows of the shingle, allowing me to find that species for myself. I also found my first Blue Fleabane of the year here before having a look at the half-fenced off area of beach outside the reserve fence where I found a plant that I could not name but which I have tentatively recorded as Argentine Fleabane (Conyza bilbariensis) which I have never knowingly seen before.

The features which led me to this identity were the size and structure of the plants (similar to the Guernsey Fleabane which is now to be found in many places) and two features which separated it from that species - one was its extreme hairiness in all parts, the other was the red colour around the perimeter of each flowerhead (technically described as 'red-tipped phyllaries'). One significant feature which I could not account for in the descriptions of Argentine Fleabane was that all the leaves of the plants I saw were firmly adpressed to the rigidly erect stem of the plant, though I did notice that the tips of each long, linear leaf were starting to curl outwards as if, as the plants developed (none of the flowers showed any sign of turning to seed) the leaves might become more lateral. This id is very tentative but I hope is not as downright wrong as my naming of the Dwarf Gorse.

Tue 18th July

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Cattle Egrets now breeding in Dorset, Devon and Cheshire as well as Somerset
The mega rare Amur Falcon re-appears in Cornwall

The first Cattle Egrets to breed in Britain did so in 2008 when 2 or 3 pairs nested in Somerset, but although some have visited Britain in subsequent winters no further breeding has been reported until this year (2017) when 5 pairs nested in Somerset, 3 pairs in Cheshire and on July 17 the Dorset Bird Recorder announced that 2 pairs have succesfuly fledged 4 young at a private site in Dorset while on July 15 the Devon Birding site published photographs of a family of two adults and at least one juvenile which have presumably come from a nest in that county.

A photo of this year's nest site at Burton Mere in Cheshire is a little surprising as it is in a pine tree - see Cattle Egret nest site.

On July 8 I reported news from Cornwall of the second ever sighting of an Amur Falcon which should breed in northern China and winter in South Africa. The bird was first seen on the evening of July 6 but flew off on the following morning after being seen by a good crowd of twitchers. An unconfirmed sighting of what seemed to be an exhausted bird, described as dishevelled and regularly stopping on the roadside in front of the car from which it was being watched before flying into a tree and out of sight, came on July 10, but it seems that the bird has managed to recover its strength and was seen again, still in Cornwall, on July 17 - in the following photo taken that evening, the bird (a first summer female) appears to be fully recovered ... see the Amur Falcon.

Wildlife diary and news for July 10 - 16 (Week 28 of 2017)

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Sat 15th July

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Great White Egret - a new species for the Langstone-Emsworth shore.

Following yesterday's headline news of Avocet as a new breeding species at Farlington Marshes (which I see also gets a headline in today's Portsmouth NEWS) Peter Raby today recorded two Great White Egrets in the saltmarsh off the Warblington shore between Langstone and Emsworth - as far as I know the first ever sighting of the species in this area which has been my personal bird-watching 'patch' from 1980 to 2016. These two birds were just passing through the area, and the species has been seen at least once at the Thorney Deeps (in 2012), but can be expected to become a more frequent sight in Britain in the same way that Little Egrets have gone from a single bird in Chichester Harbour in 1975 to being now common wherever water and wetlands can be found throughout the British Isles.

I used to believe (with tongue in cheek) that we should be grateful to Saddam Hussein for draining the Iraq Marshes and thus forcing the Little Egrets to seek new homes, inducing a 'pressure wave' among European Egret populations which forced that species to cross the Channel. A scientific paper published in British Birds magazine in 2013 tells a similar story about the Great White Egret, which was by then already becoming a moderately frequent visitor to Britain and had bred for the first time at Shapwick Heath in Somerset in 2012. Today a look at the reported sightings of the species in Britain on the Birdguides Website shows sightings at eight sites in seven different counties all on the same day (July 15) - see the Birdguides recent reports page. To get some idea of how numbers in Britain have increased recently see another internet report of a single bird causing excitement when it flew over Lincolnshire in 2006 on the UK Safari web page.

Fri 14th July

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Avocet now breeding at Farlington Marshes

This will be a very brief entry as my only personal news is of six Swifts checking the roofs of the taller buildings across the road from the flats where I am now living, under the eaves of which three or four pairs of House Martins have nests with young in them, during a brief high speed visit at mid-day yesterday. Hopefully those Swifts will return to nest in those buildings next year ....

Much more significant is the news from Farlington Marshes in the Solent Reserves Blog posted on July 12 by the Reserve Warden telling us that more then one pair of Avocets have, for the very first time, nested and hatched young somewhere on the reserve. I think the Solent Reserves blog tells us four pairs have attemtped to breed at Farlington this year though the majority of the eggs and young have succumbed to predation by Crows and Buzzards, but at least four juveniles appear in a photo and may survive to adulthood. Have a look at the Solent Reserves page for yourself by visiting the Solent Reserves blog.

The use of Langstone Harbour as a regular wintering site for 50 or more of these birds in recent years will have made an increasing number of Avocets aware of the potential of the site for breeding, and the earlier than usual arrival of some 13 post breeding birds there on July 8 this week suggests that Langstone Harbour is becoming a more popular site for non-breeding Avocets.

This news of another breeding site for Avocets has made me look back at the history of the species in this country and I find (from an RSPB site aimed at children) that "Avocets used to breed along the coast from Sussex to Yorkshire, but regular taking of adults and eggs for food, egg collecting, taxidermy and other pressures eventually led to their disappearance as a British breeding bird in 1842. There was then a gap of almost 100 years before they bred again, in Ireland in 1938. But, in 1947, four pairs were found breeding at Havergate Island and Minsmere, both in Suffolk and have continued to breed here in increasing numbers ever since".

Thu 13th July

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First autumn Whinchat and first juvenile Cuckoo on the wing
Pantaloon Bee and Flecked General at Rye Harbour

Recent bird news is of the first autumn Whinchat back at Rye Harbour yesterday (July 12) when the first fledged Cuckoo that I am aware of was flying over Pagham Harbour. Another report which caught my eye was of 10 Cattle Egrets at Abbotsbury in Dorset, also on July 12. On the insect front all the Purple Emperor fans are imminently expecting their 'god' to disappear, but on July 12 there were still 24 of these magnificent butterflies to be seen at the Knepp estate near West Grinstead in Sussex. Armchair worshippers of the species can still enjoy a glimpse of it on last Sunday's Countryfile TV programme by visiting http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b08y72pv/countryfile-northants - to see this section of the programme copy and paste the preceding address into your internet viewer, then scroll forward 51 minutes to the start of the section on butterflies.

The most interesting report which I read on the internet today (July 13) came from Chris Bentley, the entomologist at Rye Harbour, and reports his sightings of two unusual insects. The first he mentions is the 'Flecked General' (Stratiomys singularior), one of the flat-bodied, brightly coloured but weak flighted 'Soldier Flies' of which I found a good photo at Flecked General. The second was a sighting of what he calls a Pantaloon Bee (Dasypoda hirtipes). He includes a photo of one of these Bees on a Common Toadflax flower which you can see in his Rye Harbour report but I found a more interesting account of the species (plus Bee Wolves) from Minsmere at Pantaloon Bee activity at Minsmere.

Mon 10th July

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First flowers of Tansy, Pale Toadflax, Guernsey Fleabane and Stone Parsley
Plus Blue Globe Thistle brings my July total to 168.

After a short visit to the Hayling Health Centre after lunch I set out for Sinah Common to see if the Pale Toadflax had survived the clearance of the patch of Gorse under which it had been sheltering for years after I discovered it there some ten years or so ago (I understand that there had been no known site for this species on Hayling since the 1930s). Before reaching that area I walked through the carpark behind the Methodist Church at the east end of Hollow Lane where Guernsey Fleabane was starting to flower - this species of Conyza seems to have ousted the Canadian Fleabane which was dominant in southern England forty years ago but over recent years Guernsey Fleabane has usurped its dominance.

Ignoring Common Fleabane with its broad yellow flowers the group of Fleabanes with small Groundsel-like flowers which I am likely to come across nowadays are three. Commonest is the Guernsey species which stands around a metre tall, has a greyish, hairy look, and displays its flowers in an inverted pyramid. All its features are illustrated by photos on the website at Guernsey Fleabane. The Canadian species is less densely hairy and thus looks greener. It is also more columnar in structure - you can see a similar set of photos of it at Canadian Fleabane. Blue Fleabane, a much smaller species with blue flowers, can be found along the Havant to Portsmouth cycleway where it passes Chalkdock (between Broadmarsh and Farlington Marshes) and at the bridge end of the Hayling Billy rail pier at Langstone - for photos from the internet see Blue Fleabane.

Continuing west along Hollow Lane I came on quite a lot of Stone Parsley already starting to open its tiny white flowers on a tall structure of almost leafless solid stems - see Stone Parsley.

From the Beachlands roundabout I walked west along the Sea Front road until close to Staunton Avenue where I turned south down an unmade roadway separating the tall buildings I had been passing from a group of individual houses and in this alley way I found a large clump of Tansy plants already in flower - for photo see Tansy in flower. From here I continued out onto the open Sinah Common but turned west to follow a track along the outside of the garden fences and soon found one garden from which a cluster of Blue Globe Thistle (Echinops bannaticus) had escaped and were in fresh flower - see Blue Globe Thistle. Shortly after this the gardens ended and Staunton Avenue came into view and the north end of the last garden fence was swamped with a mass of the strange Nightshade species called 'Cock's Eggs' (Salpichroa origanifolia) plants, so called because the flowers look like tiny white chicken eggs.

The Pale Toadflax was now in flower - see internet photo at Pale Toadflax photo - in the ex-Gorse patch at the south east corner of the Mini Golf course (along the northern edge of the patch bordering the public path following the southern boundary of the Mini Golf course) and after that I had only one unexpected find on the way home. That was of a couple of plants of Moth Mullein in fresh flower at the pavement edge of Alexandra Ave as I made my way from the Sea Front road back to Hollow Lane. This species is easily distinguished from other Mulleins by having single flowers on relatively long stalks, as can be seen in the internet photo at Moth Mullein flowers.

My apologies for taking two days between starting to write this blog entry and finally getting it online - my only excuse is TV exhaustion caused by the concurrence of Wimbledon and the Tour de France!

Wildlife diary and news for July 3 - 9 (Week 27 of 2017)

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Sun 9th July

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Autumn bird passage warms up as summer butterflies take wing
A colourful moth at Portland and Little Terns thrive at Ferrybridge.

The first report of post breeding Avocets back in Langstone Harbour, where we have come to expect a sizeable flock to spend the winter, came yesterday (July 8) when a flock of 13 settled to roost in the harbour. Also yesterday the male Ruff that has been there through the summer was joined by a female, newly back from breeding, and other signs of autumn passage this week include a report on July 6 of seven Shelduck flying east over Weymouth, heading for their moulting grounds on the wide sands off the north German coast. Also on July 6 a small flock of 10 Common Sandpipers dropped in at Sandwich Bay and back on July 2 a flock of 9 Little Ringed Plovers arrived at Lytchett Fields in the Poole Harbour area. Also on July 6 the first Black Tern of the autumn was at Blashford Lakes while the Brading Marsh RSPB Reserve on the Isle of Wight seems to have acquired a new resident Bittern, reported there on the first four days of July. Also in the bird news is a statement on the Portland website that the Little Tern breeding colony at Ferrybridge (Weymouth) is continuing to increase its breeding success thanks to good management and a great team of volunteers.

The first Silver Spotted Skipper and Brown Hairstreak of the year were both recorded in Sussex on July 7 while a Swallowtail was reported in Devon on the 5th but with no proof that it was a genuine migrant - last year a sighting of a Swallowtail in Emsworth during November led me to discover that at least one firm in Hampshire was apparently making a profitable business out of breeding these and other Butterfly species for release at Weddings, Funerals, and the like - see their commercial website at Butterflies for sale. To end this blog on a more non-commercial note here is a photo of a moth found in the Portland moth traps earlier this month - see Light Crimson Underwing moth at Portland

Sat 8th July

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Golden Samphire, Sea Lavender, and Red Bartsia now flowering
Amur Falcon in Cornwall

On Wednesday (July 5) I cycled round the north of Hayling in uncomfortable heat which had brought Red Bartsia (webpage) into flower on North Common where Strawberry Clover was already developing the fruits after which it is named. Sea Lavender was out on the Northney saltings and one garden which I passed had flowers on a huge Woolly Thistle (webpage) while on July 6 one of the Three Amigos, whose website has taken me round the world following their Portsmouth based naval careers, gave me an off duty view of a lovely Marsh Helleborine on the Welsh coast - see Mark Cutts photo.

Among my other 'first sightings' on my July 5 circuit was Golden Samphire, seen on the west side of Langstone Bridge opposite the road to Northney, but I have to acknowledge that Brian Fellows had seen it in flower in the Emsworth area on June 29. That, plus other plants which I have seen in flower this week, bring my July flower total to 159.

Other firsts for the year which I have picked up from the internet this week include the second ever British sighting of an Amur Falcon (at Porthgwarra in Cornwall on July 6). Sometimes called an Eastern Red-footed Falcon Wikipedia tells us .. "this species breeds in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern Africa". The Rare Bird Alert website stresses the rarity of this sighting on July 6 by saying .. "Exceptional news this evening of a female Amur Falcon discovered in Cornwall at Porthgwarra. Only the second British record following the male present in East Yorkshire at Tophill Low from 14th September-15th October 2008 but misidentified as a Red-footed Falcon throughout its stay. Since the first for the Western Palearctic was identified in Italy at Straits of Messina, Sicily on 29th April 1995 there have been further records in Italy (1997 and 1998), Greece (2003), Sweden (2005), Hungary (2006), Azores (2011), Faeroes (2015), Kuwait (2010, 2012, 2015 and 2016), Cyprus (2016) and Romania (2016 and 2017), with three of these between late June and early July." For the Cornwall Birding report, including a video of the tired bird under camera fire from the crowd of twitchers and the time of its disappearance see the Cornwall Birding webpage.

Mon 3rd July

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A short walk brings my wild flower count to 141 including my first Hoary Willowherb, Welted Thistle, Water Figwort and Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil of the year.

After a morning appointment at the Hayling Health Centre I walked home via the east end of Mengham Lane, then north up a narrow path and through a new housing development to the Legion Field and my flat on Elm Grove. Before reaching the footpath the gardens and roadsides gave me Rose Campion, newly flowering Montbretia (Crocosmia) and Yellow Corydalis and a late flower on Ground Elder plus Greater Periwinkle, Scarlet Pimpernel and Nipplewort. The footpath was lined with masses of Wood Dock and when I turned into the new housing a pond and ditch created to drain the site, but currently dry, had been planted with wild flowerseed which gave me an unexpected Welted Thistle, Common Toadflax, lots of Wild Radish and some Common Fumitory. A further footpath along the west end of the Mengham Junior School site gave me Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil, and when that emerged into the Legion Field I found Water Figwort (with its winged, square stems) flowering in a dry ditch at the end of Hawthorn Grove Road with the tiny white flowers of Japanese Spindle nearby. Last to go on my list was a single plant of Hoary Willowherb growing by the pavement of the road taking me back to Elm Grove.

Wildlife diary and news for June 26 - July 2 (Week 26 of 2017)

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Sun 2nd July

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Two sunny days on Hayling give me 124 flowering plants
My finds include a new-to-me Rose and my first Wasp Spider and Marbled White

My search for the plants flowering in the new month took me east to Sandy Point by cycle on Saturday morning, then around the fields behind St Mary's church on foot that afternoon before today's cycle tour of the Sinah area out to Gunner Point this morning. I have now entered my finds in my spreadsheet which gives me a total of 124 plants in flower including one garden escape Rose cultivar that I have not come across before. As I was turning left from the access road to the Inn on the Beach and the western car parks to follow the Ferry Road towards Gunner Point I noticed a large rose bush, around 8 foot high and at least that wide but almost lost among the gorse and other vegetation on the west side of road I had just come up. A close look showed me that its simple flowers were around 2 inches across and yellow in colour while it's leaves were pinnate, and with the help of Google I found a good match in a cultivar of Rosa xanthina called 'Canary Bird' on account of its yellow flowers. The internet also gave me numerous photos which agreed with what I had seen and I selected the following image to show you what I saw - see Rosa xanthina 'Canary Bird' - though what I saw had only a few flowers and they were a paler shade of yellow, perhaps because this is an early flowering cultivar nearing the end of its flowering season. When I am next at this site I will look for the large, dark maroon coloured hips that are a feature of this cultivar.

Other new flowers for the year were Musk Mallow, Rock Samphire, Fennell and Sea Holly, while two which have been flowering profusely but are now difficult to find in flower are Common Gorse and the Tree Lupins at Gunner Point. Two unexpected finds were a tiny cluster of Bell Heather plants behind the Beach huts east of the Sinah Common skate park (I have never before seen Bell Heather here other than at the one site on the Golf Course south of the Kench) and another tiny cluster of Wild Thyme growing south of the Golf Course. Not yet in flower, but not lost in the clearance of Gorse west of the roadside cafe just north of the Inn on the Beach is the colony of Pale Toadflax that has for years had its only Hayling Island site among the Gorse.

Among the butterflies seen on Sinah Common today was a fresh Marbled White which gave me a first (by no means the first for the year - they have been on the wing for over a month) but probably blown here from perhaps Portsdown by the north westerly wind. Yesterday I had two spider finds in the grassland behind St Mary's church, firstly of at least two Wasp Spiders (Argiope bruennichi) and secondly several 'Nursery Tents' created by Pisaura mirabilis spiders to provide a sheltered home for their young to hatch out (for some time the mother spider will have carried her egg sac around with her but that way of life is not practical when lots of tiny spiderlings are free to roam under their own steam so the mother provides them with a roof over their heads and a fixed place where she can guard them).

During the coming weeks I will hopefully find many more interesting species in the rest of Hayling Island as well as continuing to comment on the wildlife reports I see on the internet.

Fri 30th June

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Albatross in the North Sea
Common Fleabane, Golden Samphire, Mugwort, Teazel, Ladies Bedstraw and Chicory start to flower
Insect news with a focus on caterpillars

On May 19 I reported the first sightings for this year of a Black Browed Albatross seen off the Yorkshire coast and said that there had been almost annual sightings of single Albatrosses in British waters since 1860. This week the Rare Bird Alert website tells us that one of these birds has spent the last winter on the German coast but is now moving north, being seen off Bempton Cliffs in Yorkshire on June 28 and continuing north past the Scottish border to the Bass Rock area in the mouth of the Firth of Forth on June 30. My guess is that he (?) is once more hoping that he can find a mate among the Gannets nesting on the Bass Rock though he is almost certain to fail to arouse any 'love interest' among them. For last years top Albatross story read how one landed at Minsmere in July 2016. Local bird interest is of a pair of Pintail in eclipse plumage back at Farlington Marshes on June 29.

Turning to wild flowers Brian Fellows found Common Fleabane and Golden Samphire flowering in Emsworth on June 29 before taking a walk round the Hayling Oysterbeds on June 30 where he had the first Ladies Bedstraw, Teazel, Chicory and Mugwort in flower.

Graeme Lyons latest blog entry has some interesting caterpillar photos which can be seen in his blog entry for June 28 but I think that a couple of photos on the Dungeness website for June 29 are equally eye-catching. See a Puss Moth caterpillar and a Buff Arches moth.

Wed 28th June

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Toadlets emerging from ponds and Godwits back from Iceland
Ring-necked Parakeets in Plymouth, Black Swans in Southampton and a Bottle-nosed Dolphin in Portsmouth Harbour
Local sites for Purple Emperors plus news of Southern Hawkers, Common Darters and Volucella Hoverflies.

On June 27 the Devon birding news included a mention of Froglets leaving the'Silent Pool' at Chambercombe Manor near Ilfracombe and on June 17 the Christchurch Harbour news mentioned Natterjack toadlets leaving their watery birthplace and I thought these were worth a mention in my 'Wildlife News' but I will leave it up to my readers to decide if they wish to pursue the stories of paranormal goings on at Chambercombe Manor by asking Google what it knows about 'Paranormal activity at Chambercombe Manor'. Here I will revert to wildlife news with a report from Bob Chapman at Blashford where on June 28 he saw a flock of 20 Black-tailed Godwits in full breeding plumage which he considered to have just returned from Iceland.

While scanning the Devon Bird news I saw that more than 30 Ring-necked Parakeets had been seen in Plymouth's Central Park on June 25 and I think this marks a significant increase, which appears to be confirmed by a report in the local press last September saying that the number to be seen in Central Park had grown from 11 in April 2016 to 30 in September 2016 (this included 3 birds with blue rather than green plumage) and the current report shows that numbers are still growing. To read the article in the Plymouth Herald see here. Following the news of a Black Swan family with three cygnets recently hatched on Ivy Lake at Chichester I see that the family which has been breeding for several years at Southampton's Riverside Park currently has 5 'well grown' cygnets while Portsmouth Harbour had a Bottlenosed Dolphin on its Gosport shore on June 24.

The location of the Purple Emperor 'assembly point' in Southleigh Forest has been revealed by Roy Symonds in the June 26 entry on the Hampshire Butterfly website as SU 743 086 (not far north of the Emsworth Common Road opposite the north end of Hollybank Lane). I am not sure of the place where they are regularly seen in Havant Thicket but believe it to be in the Bells Copse area which is in the southwest of that woodland. Among other insect news I see that the first sighting of a Southern Hawker dragonfly was on June 14 near Arundel while the first Common Darter was reported in Berkshire on June 13.

To end this blog entry here is news of four members of the Volucella genus of Hoverflies. The first of the four, Volucella zonaria, was seen at Portland on June 17 and can be seen at here. Very similar in appearance is Volucella inanis and this can be compared to V. zonaria here. Volucella Pellucens is featured here. Finally Volucella bombylans was seen in Brook Meadow at Emsworth by Brian Fellows on June 27 and Brian's photo can be seen here.

Mon 26th June

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Returning shore birds and other bird news
My first Prickly Lettuce and Square-stalked Willowherb
plus a possible name for a garden shrub that has been puzzling me for weeks.

Reports of 12 Curlews in Pagham Harbour on June 23 have been followed by a count of 95 Redshank at Farlington Marshes on June 24 and 80 Curlew there on June 25 all indicate that these two species have joined the Green and Common Sandpipers returning from their breeding quarters. Similar news from Norfolk on June 23 is of the first returning Red-throated Diver while over in the Netherlands 6 Red-breasted Mergansers were back today (June 26).

Other bird news features an Alpine Swift over Lodmoor (near Weymouth) on June 24 which you can see in this photo. Nearer home on June 24 a pair of Black Swans were seen on Ivy Lake at Chichester with three newly hatched cygnets and while thinking of them I remembered that on June 13 Christchurch Harbour reported the hatching of six Mute Swan cygnets of which three were of the white 'Polish' form as can be seen in this photo. Still on the same theme the Selsey blog for June 25 has a report from the Drayton Lakes at Chichester where (to quote Owen Mitchell) " I was pleased to see the first two broods of Pochard with their respective mothers; hopefully there will be one or two more such broods to follow of this nationally rare breeding bird."

A short walk round the Legion Field and Tournerbury Lane area close to my flat on June 25 found my first flowers on Prickly Lettuce and Square Stalked Willowherb. It also took me past a garden in Tournerbury Lane where a tall shrub with large yellow flowers and long, glossy pinnate leaves has puzzled me since I first saw it in April. The flowering of the Bladder Senna bush on the east side of the Kench which I saw on June 17, and the fact that the Bladder Senna has at least one other species (Colutea orientalis) of the same genus which is grown in gardens, has given me some hope that the mystery plant in Tournerbury Lane may be a cultivar of Colutea orientalis .....

Wildlife diary and news for June 19 - 25 (Week 25 of 2017)

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Fri 23rd June

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Recent highlights

Looking through the recent reports while I have been 'offline' I thought this photo of a Roe Doe with two young Fawns in Pagham Harbour was worth sharing. A more unusual sight at Farlington Marshes recently has been this male Ruff in all his breeding finery. The Ruff is very unusual here at this time of year but several other wader species are already starting to return from breeding - not yet back at Emsworth's Nore Barn is Spotted Redshank but singles in summer plumage have been seen at the Exe estuary in Devon on June 21 and at Pett Level in Sussex on the 22nd. Other returning waders have been a Wood Sandpiper at Brading (IoW) on June 16 and a Common Sandpiper on the River Arun on June 21 with another at Eastleigh Lakeside on June 23. Several Green Sandpipers have been reported since one was at Sandwich Bay on June 9 (where a Greenshank was back on June 19). Also possibly returning migrants were 4 Whimbrel which flew past Portland on June 19.

The Elegant Tern which spent June 7-9 in the Hampshire side of the mouth of Chichester Harbour before moving to Pagham Harbour on June 10 was last seen there on June 20 before arriving at Brownsea Island in Poole Harbour on June 21 where it was still to be seen on June 22. Not yet in southern England a count of 331 Little Gulls in the Netherlands on June 19 marks their return from breeding in northern Europe. Nearer home the expected evening screaming parties of Swifts have been reported since June 18 and on June 17 the first departing Sand Martins were seen at Farlington Marshes (and at Eversley in north Hampshire). Reflecting on spring arrivals the Portland website on June 16 said that, based on their ringing totals for the years since 2010 .. "the Willow Warbler was the big winner this spring with a total nearly twice as high as the recent spring average". To see the figures for other spring migrants go to Portland blog for June 16.

To end the bird news I see that a Woodchat Shrike was at Abbotsbury in Dorset on June 2 and a Red-backed Shrike was seen in Devon on June 5 but the Isle of Wight has had a Lesser Grey Shrike in the Bembridge area on June 21 and 22 when this photo was taken by Derek Hale - Lesser Grey Shrike.

Lots of butterflies are currently flying with Purple Emperor seemingly having a great season with local sightings from both Havant Thicket and Southleigh Forest while the Knepp Estate near Horsham in Sussex claims a UK record count of 148 seen there on June 22. At the other end of the scale a single Camberwell Beauty at Findon (north of Worthing in Sussex) on June 17 is the only report I know of so far this year. An eye-catching Leopard Moth was in Barry Collins moth trap in Leigh Park, Havant on both June 19 and 21 and his report included a link to a species summary which you can see at Leopard Moth details. Another unusual moth seen at Portland on June 19 was a Lunar Hornet Moth. Also seen recently Portland on June 17 was the Hornet Mimic hoverfly (Volucella zonaria). The first report of Glowworms came from Parkhurst Forest on the Isle of Wight on June 17 and also from Newtown on the Isle of Wight came news of 4 Wasp Spiders for which I have two links - the first is an overview of the Argiope Bruennichi species while the second shows the size difference between the male and female.

Thu 22nd June

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Windows update and Computer Hardware failure take me off-line.

Last week a major update to my Windows 10 system apparently removed the files which hold this blog and it took me several days to discover where they were. Then on Monday of this week I suffered a major hardware failure in that the 'hub' which connects my system to the internet 'died'. Today Virgin Media replaced the 'hub' and I am at last able to update this blog.

Although there is less wildlife news to report currently than was the case during the peak of the spring migrant season I will need a day or so to catch up with what has been reported on the internet while I was unable to access it so I will limit this update to the above brief explanation of my silence but I must also pass on a comment that I received from Peter Raby concerning the Starry Clover which I featured in my last update before disaster struck. Peter pointed out that I was wrong to assume that the plants which he and John Norton found on Browndown during their recent 'Pan Species Listing' effort in the Gosport area were 'casuals' as the species has been established there since at least 1998 when John Norton first pointed it out to Peter. John also tells me of a second rarity which they saw at Browndown - that was Early Medick (Medicago praecox).

Wildlife diary and news for June 12 - June 18 (Week 24 of 2017)

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Fri 16th June

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Purple Emperor, Gatekeeper and Heath Fritillary now on the wing
Buff-breasted Sandpiper arrives in Dorset as an Osprey flies south
Starry Clover is a new plant for me and Boletus luridiformis is a colourful fungus in Waterlooville.

The first Purple Emperor for Sussex this summer was seen on June 15 by Matthew Oates at the wildlife-rich Knepp Estate near Horsham in West Sussex (though one was reported from Surrey on June 11). Another first which we are all likely to see in the near future is the Gatekeeper (or Hedge Brown) which first came to my attention on the Reculver (north Kent) blog entry for June 13 but had been seen in both Berkshire and Cambridgeshire on June 1. A third butterfly species which I have only just heard of on the Reculver blog, but which has been on the wing since May 10 (seen in Devon), is the Heath Fritillary. I have a special interest in this species as the site where it was seen in north Kent this week is the Blean Woods on the hilltop north of Canterbury, and these woods bordered the playing fields of my school in the late 1940s so the butterfly (and its food plant, Common Cow-wheat) were among my personal wildlife 'stars'. For more info about the Heath Fritillary see the Butterfly Conservation page on the species and for background on the Knepp Castle estate see a West Sussex countryside re-wilding success story.

The birding headline today for me is the arrival on June 15 of a Buff-Breasted Sandpiper at the Lytchett Fields bordering Poole Harbour in Dorset. Some years ago I remember watching one of these birds on the Hayling Golf Course but the best I can do to give you a feel for the look of this bird is to provide a link to an American YouTube clip at American conservation of the Buff-Breasted Sandpiper. Another item of bird news that caught my attention today was a report from Sam Smith at Rye Harbour saying that .. "An Osprey in flight over the Beach Reserve at 04:30 am was an unexpected record for mid June, the bird headed straight out to sea and eventually disappeared in the early morning haze." I guess this was a young bird with no family attachment to keep it here until its young have fledged but its departure does make me wonder if the Ospreys that have been seen around Poole Harbour since the end of May (initially just one bird but recently two, of which one has a ring showing it is a male hatched at Rutland Water in 2015) are intending to start breeding in Poole Harbour next year??

I'll end today with news a rare species of Clover that was seen in Gosport on June 10 during the Pan Species Listing 'field day'. The species is Starry Clover which is described in Stace's Flora as .. "Introduced but naturalised since at least 1804 on shingle at Shoreham in Sussex but seen infrequently as a casual elsewhere in south Britain." The find at Gosport was presumably one of the casual appearances of the species, but for the fullest description we have a lot of information on the British Marine Life Study Society website at its page on Starry Clover. An interesting feature of this plant is that it only develops its striking star shaped calyx segments in its fruiting stage so the flowering clover looks very different from the fruiting stage.

Maybe as a result of recent heavy rain and warm air a large and coourful fungus called Boletus luridiformis has appeared in Waterlooville and you can see a photo of one example of this species at Boletus luridiformis.

Thu 15th June

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A cycle ride round north Hayling on June 14 adds
Fragrant Agrimony, Goats Rue, Pale Flax, Slender and Milk Thistle plus Rosebay Willowherb to my flower list
while the first Musk Orchids are seen in Sussex and Jellyfish swarms beach in Devon.

Cloudless sunshine and a light southerly wind made yesterday's cycle ride up the Billy Trail, across to Northney and home via Daw and West Lanes, a pleasnt and rewarding outing. I joined the Billy Line at Saltmarsh Lane and immediately saw lots of Agrimony in flower with just one Bee Orchid where there used to be up to a hundred (no doubt the unseen 99 spikes are building up their strength underground for a future display). Before reaching the Oysterbeds I stopped to look for Dyer's Greenweed (this was in flower in north Kent on June 10) but saw none though there was plenty of Pale Flax and Rosebay Willowherb flowering in the stretch preceding the gate to the Oysterbeds carpark. Along the shore path from the carpark to the lagoon hundreds of Slender Thistles were in flower and on turning up the slope to the viewpoint above the lagoon I was pleased to find around a dozen Milk Thistles in flower. Best of all, at the top of the bank, both Common Centaury and Yellow-wort were in flower.

Moving on I passed my first Greater Knapweed before turning right off the Coastal Path towards the main road, passing two spikes of Wild Clary and my first Hedgerow Cranesbill before crossing the road and heading for North Common where white flowered Goats Rue was just starting to flower. Parking my bike outside the reserve I waded through waist high vegetation to see the Goats Rue before following the regular path north to the edge of the marina pool where the Fragrant Agrimony was starting to flower and proving its identity by the strong fragrant smell of a crushed leaf (none of its flowers had yet dropped their petals to reveal the down-turned outer spines which form a 'skirt' round its spiny burs). Before leaving the reserve and riding home I had a close look at several white flowered 'wild roses' and felt confident that I could separate these Field Roses, only now starting to flower, from the common Dog Rose which has been out for some time. To learn the differences between the two species have a look at this website describing the Field Rose

Back at home I found more wild flower news on the internet. In particular I saw that Dyer's Greenweed was flowering at Reculver in north Kent as shown in this photo taken on June 10. Also seen at Reculver on June 11 was Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea. A third flower which I have not yet come across on Hayling is the Corn Cockle, and while looking for a suitable photo to use here I came across this story in The Guardian newspaper for August 2014 telling how the Telegraph paper had been accusing the BBC of trying to poison the nature loving gardeners of England by offering free packets of wild-flower seed to its Countryfile viewers - well worth a 'corn-chuckle provoking' read at Killer episode of BBC Countryfile.

Also seen in West Sussex on June 10 was this Musk Orchid and on Saunton Sands in Devon this mass stranding of Moon and Barrel Jellyfish was photographed

Wildlife diary and news for June 5 - June 11 (Week 23 of 2017)

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Sun 11th June

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First White Admiral, White Letter Hairstreak and Small Skipper.
Dark, Great and Moth Mulleins in flower as are Pyramidal, Fly and Lizard Orchids.
9 Brent summering at Fishbourne plus a Green Sandpiper already back from breeding.
Stag Beetles emerge from the woodwork and a dead Hedghog shows the species still exists on Hayling.

The first Silver Washed Fritillaries and Ringlet for this summer got a mention in my previous blog and we can now add Small Skipper (seen in Sussex on June 7 with a photo showing the uniform bright orange of its upper surface) and a White Admiral (seen in Southwater Forest near Horsham on June 10). Also now appearing are fresh Small Tortoiseshells which we can expect to see flying until the first frost of winter whereas we expect the flight period of the White Admiral to be limited to the single month of July, though in several recent years a second generation of White Admirals has been seen in late September, and I have been investigating these differences in the flight time of different species.

We are interested in the time of year at which a particular butterfly species can be seen flying but in fact all our butterflies are present throughout the whole year in one of four stages of development - egg, caterpillar, chrysallis and adult form. The experience which a particular species has encountered over the years of its existence determines how its year is split up between the four stages: the White Admiral spends around 9 months as a caterpillar but a warm dry autumn will allow the caterpillar to feed more and reach the adult stage during the autumn rather than waiting for the spring; the Duke of Burgundy spends nine months as a Chrysallis and is unlikely to survive if something causes it to emerge from its chrysallis at a time of year when Cowslips are not available as food for the caterpillars - note that the Holly Blue also spends most of its year as a chrysallis but because it's caterpillars can feed on both Holly (in the spring) and Ivy (in the autumn) it can be seen on the wing from early spring to late autumn; the Chalkhill Blue spends most of its year as an egg, only hatching in the spring when the Horseshoe Vetch on which it feeds is available - by mid-summer when it has had time to become an adult and to lay the next generation of eggs the Vetch has withered, forcing the egg to wait over winter until a fresh crop of Vetch is available. During all four development stages the insect can be influenced by the environment in which it finds itself, and in the adult stage it can respond to changes in the environment by migrating from an inhospitable location to one that may give it a better chance of survival.

Turning to wild flowers three species of Mullein have impressed me in the past few days with two of them being seen as I cycled along the south coast of Hayling on June 10 when one of my objectives was to revisit the group of Mulleins that I had seen on June 4 beside the Ferry Road just west of the access road to the Golf Clubhouse - in my blog for that day I said that they were probably Twiggy Mullein, a species I am not familiar with, mainly because I thought it too early for Dark Mullein, but today's visit showed they were Dark Mullein and that id was supported by the appearance of a single Dark Mullein planted in the garden around the flats where I now live and seen by me for the first time today. Before reaching the Dark Mulleins I saw my first Great Mullein for the year growing on Sinah Common seen from Ferry Road and shouting its identity by both its size (probably three times the height of the Dark Mulleins) and by the greyish/hairy tinge to its leaves. To see these features have a look at this Wildflowerfinder website page The third species, Moth Mullein, had been seen seen by Brian Fellows in Emsworth on June 7.

Other eye-catching species appearing this week have been the Pyramidal Orchids which will be dominant on Portsdown for much of the summer - these were first noted by John Goodspeed as appearing on Milton Common in Portsmouth on June 7 and a good photo can be seen here.. A less common orchid was seen at Fairmile Bottom by the A29 northwest of Arundel on June 10 - this was a Fly Orchid.. Also getting its first mention this week, though seen at Camber on Rye Bay on June 3, was a Lizard Orchid.. Less prestigious, but a significant marker of the change from Spring to Summer, was my first finds of Restharrow, Hare's Foot Clover, White Melilot, Black Horehound and Rough Chervil (the second of the three Cow Parsley look-alikes, succeeding Cow Parsley and preceding Hedge Parsley) - these were all seen during my ride to Sandy Point on June 10. Also seen during that ride along the busy Seafront Road, near its junction with Chichester Avenue, was the corpse of a Hedgehog - the second corpse seen in this area during the couple of months I have been here.

More reminders of the advancing season came with a report on June 9 from the Sandwich Bay bird observatory in Kent of what they described as the first Green Sandpiper to return after its short absence for breeding elsewhere - one or two pairs do breed in Scotland but normally the species breeds further north and is only seen in southern Britain from July to March. Another species not normally seen here in June is the Brent Goose but a few of these do stay through the summer so a count of 9 in the Fishbourne Channel of Chichester Harbour on June 4 was not unexpected, nor was the summering flock of 142 Mute Swans seen with them.

The past week has brought several reports of Stag Beetles from the Emsworth area and no doubt they are appearing elsewhere after spending from three to seven years underground feeding on rotting wood. To learn more about them go to the website of the People's Trust for Endangered Species about Stag Beetles at for photos and facts and to discover how you can help save these magnificent Beetles from extinction. The 'antlers' of the male immediately identify it but if you see what looks like a female with much smaller 'mandibles' (see both sexes in the photo on the PTES website) but with a black coloured and rough-textired 'shell' - not shiny and with no hint of the rich brown of the male's 'shell' - you are probably looking at a Lesser Stag Beetle for which you can find a photo here.

Fri 9th June

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Black Squirrels in the Portsmouth area.
News of an Elegant Tern and a potential Quail invasion.
First Silver Washed Fritillary and Ringlet.
Scorpion Fly feeding habits and a rare Fiery Clearwing.

For years there have been occasional sightings of 'Grey Squirrels with all black fur' in the area north west of Portsmouth and the first such sighting that I have heard of this year comes from the Purbrook Heath area on June 4 via John Goodspeed's website. This spurred me to find out more about these animals but, as in previous years, I have not been able to find any facts on which scientists agree, so here are the 'facts' that I have read on the internet.

The story seems to have started in the Victorian era when the only Squirrels to be found in the British Isles were the Red species until our passion for interfering with nature led to the introduction of two new species from north America - the first to arrive was the Grey Squirrel followed by Eastern Fox Squirrels which ARKIVE says are very variable in colouration, ranging from reddish-brown to grey or black, often with a white nose and ears, and black forms of this species seem to be the origin of our Black Squirrels which are well established in East Anglia after a Victorian landowner introduced them to his estate at Letchworth in Hertfordhire - the first escapee was noted in this area in 1912 but the Black form has since spread as shown on the map of sightings published in the Daily Mirror on 12 March 2015 - see map of Black Squirrel sightings published in 2015. At that time the number of Black Squirrels in Britain was estimated to be at least 25,000. A photo of two of them can be seen at Black Squirrel photo.

Also in the recent news with reports starting on May 25 from Sussex, Hampshire and Dorset are Quail. Birders hearing the distinctive 'Wet my lips' calls were at first suspicious that these might be escapes from farms where they are kept to supply restaurants with Quail Eggs, especially as the first was heard by a dog walker in allotments on the northern fringe of Brighton, but the number of reports from a wide area along the south coast at this time of year (when migrants arrive to breed), make genuine migrants the more likely source. If you have never heard these birds have a listen to recordings available on the Xeno-Canto website - click the following link which will take you to the first page of information about the selected species, then scroll down to the start of a list of recordings of that species, then select the reording you want to hear by clicking the standard triangle symbol at the start of a line of information describing that recording. The link to the recordings of the selected species is to recordings of Common Quail calls. To use Xeno-Canto to hear recordings of other species scroll up to the top line of the web page and enter the name of your chosen species in the Search Box.

On June 7 an Elegant Tern was seen with half a dozen Sandwich Terns in the Fishery Creek area of Chichester Harbour (west of the Sailing Club on Black Point at the harbour mouth). The same bird was seen again off Sandy Point on June 9. This species breeds in dense colonies around the Gulf of California and is very rare anywhere else in the world and can be confused with the slightly commoner Royal Tern but it seems that the bird seen in Chichester Harbour was a known colour ringed individual, one of at least three that have taken up residence in Europe - see Elegant Terns in western Europe.

On June 7 the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website reported the first sighting of a Silver Washed Fritillary whose photo can be seen at Silver Washed Fritillary in St Leonards Forest near Horsham. Another first (a Ringlet) seen in Sussex on June 6 has its photo at a Ringlet in Kithurst Meadows on the Downs south of Pulborough Brooks. Also seen in Sussex on June 4 was a Scorpion Fly robbing a spider of its prey - the original photo is not very clear but this form of piracy is described on the Naturespot webpage (Life history section) at Scorpion Fly photos and info.

Finally for today a reminder that tomorrow (June 10) will see Graeme Lyons (the Sussex Wildlife Trust Ecologist) attempt a marathon 24 hour challenge to his fellow 'Pan Species Listers' to see the greatest number of species in one day. Before giving details of that here is his Blog entry for June 6, the last day of a visit to Jersey, in which he finds a Fiery Clearwing - the rarest of the Clearwings. Read all about it at Minstrel Bug, Fiery Clearwing and Tawny Loghorn Beetle on Jersey. No more rarities in Graeme's latest Blog entry but it does tell you how you can support Wildlife Conservation in Sussex by sponsoring his attempt to see 1000 species in 24 hours on June 10 - see an attempt to see 1000 species in 24 hours.

Wildlife diary and news for May 29 - June 4 (Week 22 of 2017)

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Sun 4th June

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A ride to the Ferry Inn brings my June flower list to 121 species.

Today's target was the coastal area west of the Beachlands centre and my starting point was Sinah Common south of Staunton Avenue where I found both Cock's Eggs and Duke of Argylls Teaplant in flower. Both are members of the Nightshade family, the former getting its name from the small white egg-shaped flowers that can be seen in this photo of Cock's Eggs (Salpichroa origanifolia), and you can learn more about the latter from this webpage about the Duke of Argyll's Teaplant. Also starting to flower here was my first plant of Heath Groundsel for the year.

Crossing the Common to the sandy ground between the beach huts and the sea I found Yellow Horned Poppy, Sea Bindweed, English Stonecrop and Sheep's Bit, all of which have featured recently as firsts for the year, plus Viper's Bugloss which was new for the year today and which can be seen at Viper's Bugloss webpage.

Back on Ferry Road to continue west I was taken by surprise by a roadside cluster of plants with large, bright yellow flowers which I did not recognize so I took a sample which enabled me to identify them as Sulphur Cinquefoil. A short distance further on, just west of the approach road into the Golf Course, I came on another cluster of plants which were clearly Mulleins, growing where I had seen them in past years, and I am fairly certain that they are specimens of Twiggy Mullein.

Reaching the northern fringe of the Golf Course south of The Kench a hedge of Wild Privet was newly in flower, as were two recent 'firsts' which I had noted on May 25 - Bell Heather and garden Asparagus. Lacking the energy for the full circuit round the south of the Golf Course I turned for home after ticking off the first Tree Lupins that I saw in the harbour entrance carpark.

Fri 2nd June

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My June diary starts with 97 flower species plus my first Swifts and a Meadow Brown butterfly.

Yesterday I walked west from St Mary's Church to the Saltmarsh Lane seawall, then south down the Billy Line to West Town Station and home via Hayling Park and St Mary's Road.

Before reaching the church I found a new 'weed' for the year growing from the pavement and jotted the name Redshank on my pad though I see that since that name appeared in my 1997 edition of Stace's Flora (When it was listed as 'Redshank (Persicaria polygonum)' it had already been re-named to 'Redleg (Persicaria maculosa)' in the Fitter & Fitter book printed in 2003. Whatever name you give this species I hope you can recognize it in this photo.

Reaching the Church distinctive 'screams' made me look up to the base of the steeple, which a line of six Swifts seemed to be checking out as a potential nest site (perhaps where they bred last year or they themselves hatched). They did not linger here but had given me another tick on my bird year list. The Churchyard also gave me a first for my plant list with a cluster of Stinking Iris newly in flower. We are all familiar with the bright orange seeds of this species but a Daily Telegraph article may add to your background info - see Stinking Iris photo and background info.

Emerging from the Churchyard into the open fields which once formed Rook Farm I decided to explore the periphery of the northern section of these fields and was almost immediately rewarded with the bright yellow flowers of Yellow Meadow Vetchling - see photos. Nearby was a large cluster of Salsify flowers and here is a photo of the plant in flower but this is not just grown as an attractive flower as it has tap roots looking like those of a Parsnip but with a delicate taste that gives it the name "Oyster Plant".

Also in this area Wild Blackberries were starting to flower (including those which I can name as Dewberries) while among the grass Field Bindweed was in flower. A little further on a brown butterfly opened its wings to show me the small patch of orange around it's eye and thus confirm that it was my first Meadow Brown - see Meadow Brown photo

I had now completed the northern circuit and was back on the path connecting the church to Higworth Lane and I took advantage of the picnic bench (presumably provided by the owners of the large caravan park) to pause for a drink and add Borage and Broom to my flower list. Continuing along the path through the caravans I passed my first Hedge Bindweed flowers and when I reached Higworth Lane I found a cluster of Hedge Woundwort in flower - for a reminder of this plant see a webpage about Hedge Woundwort. Next came a much less attractive 'first' - Ground Elder on the east side of West Lane with a much more exciting 'first' - Broad Leaved Willowherb on the west side at the junction with Saltmarsh Lane.

From the Saltmarsh Lane seawall I had the impression that Langstone Harbour had been drained of water by the monthly Neap tide but luckily that had not sucked away the special plants growing on the seawall, principally the Bastard Cabbage which was now clothed in it's 'Chianti Bottle shaped' seeds - see a webpage showing both flowers and seeds. Also flowering on the seawall was my first Lucerne with its distinctive blue flowers - see Lucerne flowers. Also here I came on my first Lesser Stitchwort - see Lesser Stitchwort.

From the seawall I followed the south side of the woodland back to the Billy Line with the incessant rattling accompaniment of Lesser Whitethroat song and at what was once West Town station I found the hedge was crammed with flowering plants of both Bittersweet (aka Woody Nightshade) and Japanese Honeysuckle. In case you are unfamiliar with the latter here is a photo of the Japanese plant showing how, unlike our native Honeysuckle, which has a single flower cluster at the end of each 'vine', this has smaller clusters of flowers growing from several of the terminal pairs of leaflets.

Back at home I found a copy of the June edition of the Hayling Islander local free paper in my letter box with the top story on its front page being that Havant Borough Council had refused a planning application for the development of the Rook Farm fields - no doubt a revised application will eventually succeed in changing the use of these fields from 'Free Public Access', with its implications for wildlife which I have attempted to describe, to 'Commercial Housing Development', with its much needed implications for providing homes for our ever growing human population, but the current decision should give us another year with Skylarks singing over the flower rich grassland (with Havant Borough(?) paying for the maintenance of the pathways through the grass and control of the encroaching scrub).

The morning of June 2 saw me continue my wildflower search with a walk south through the Mengham built-up area to the Hayling Bay beachland. This added a good number of garden flowers (including Welsh Poppy, Dotted Loosestrife, French Cranesbill and Foxgloves) but also found my first Knotgrass, Bucks Horn Plantain, Red Campion and Parsley Water Dropwort growing in the roadsides.

Across the Seafront Road I found Bird's Foot Trefoil, Ox-eye Daisies and Sea Kale and on my way home found both Opium and Oriental Poppies, Silver Ragwort and Perennial Cornflower as well as the inevitable Seaside Daisies (Erigeron glaucus) and I will end with a photo of this plant in flower.

Mon 29th May

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First Emperor Dragonfly and Ruddy Darter, also first Marbled White, Meadow Brown, Large Skipper and Silver Studded Blue.

Hampshire had an early Emperor Dragonfly in Botley Woods on May 16 but they are now being seen more widely as the similar Hairy Dragonfly approaches the end of its season in July. Tbe bodies of Hairy Dragonflies are blackish with two coloured spots on each segment while the body of an Emperor lacks the spots and is green on a female and normally blue on a male, both sexes having a bright green thorax. Over on the Isle of Wight the first Ruddy Darter was seen on May 25 before any Common Darters have been seen.

Equally signicant were the first appearances by Marbled White (on Portsdown on May 25) when the first Large Skipper was seen in Sussex, followed by the first Meadow Brown in Sussex on May 28 and today (May 29) despite light rain in Sussex the first Silver Studded Blue was creeping around in the heather!

Among the bird news which has recently caught my eye has been the first appearance in Britain of a female Red-Necked Phalarope, seen in Northumberland on May 24 after completing her duties as egg-layer in several nests built by her male partners - egg-laying is her only parental duty - everything else has to be done by the male. Also on May 24 the Selsey website told us that 16 pairs of Little Terns were nesting this year at Church Norton while here in Langstone Harbour the RSPB Warden (Wez Smith) told Brian Fellows on May 22 that around 40 Little Terns (some 20 pairs) were nesting on the RSPB Islands out in the harbour.


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