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Wildlife diary and news for Sep 25 - Oct 1 (Week 39 of 2017)

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Sun 1st October

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A lengthy walk around Mengham and Sinah Common gets my October flower count off with 92 species.
Several toadstools were seen including my first Parasol Mushrooms of the season.
Among my surprises were a yellow flowered commercial rose which has established itself on Sinah Common.

I set out down St Mary's Road from the Gable Head end and almost immediately found Lesser Calamint and Grey Field Speedwell in flower and smelt the strong scent from the otherwise unprepossessing hedging shrub called Ebbinge's Siverberry but I had to wait until I got to South Road before finding some lesss domesticated species such as Butcher's Broom, Black Nightshade, Nipplewort, and Common Field Speedwell. Turning into Hollow Lane, where some Sweet Chestnut Trees had scattered their nuts on the pavement, my flower count had reached 50 when I recorded my newly discovered Dwarf Mallow plant beside Beach Road just before crossing the Seafront Road and finding Pale Flax and Vipers Bugloss in the Beachlands grass east of the funfair. As I was intending to head west I doubled back onto the Sinah Common area where, at the west end of the tall appartment blocks, both Tansy and Japanese Knotweed were flowering beside un-made-up access road before I returned to the common and added Blackberry flowers and the mass of Cocks Eggs south of Staunton Avenue. (The other Nightshade which grows here, the Duke of Argyll's Teaplant, had no flowers left though plenty of the bright orange elongated berries which the commercially minded growers would like to persaude us offer eternal life to those who buy and eat them....

Continuing west to the junction at which the road to the Inn on the Beach leaves the Seafront/Ferry Road I was very surprised to see the bright yellow flowers of the commercial rose called "Rosa Xanthina Canary Bird", which I had only discovered on my Sept 1 search of this area, was once again flowering on the west side of this road junction. For those who missed it last month you can see the photo and details of this plant (note the pinnate leaves and bright yellow flowers) here Heading south down this road to the Inn I turned off on the access road to the public minature putting green, but before I had reached it I had found a wild Dog Rose bush also in flower, and continuing south past the east end of the putting green I added the Pale Toadflax as number 75 on my list.

Turning back east along the shingle beach I only added five more species before leaving the shore to head back home up Webb Lane where I was surprised to find White Comfrey among the last plants of the day which ended appropriately with the only spike of Buddleia flowers seen, having a single Red Admiral feeding from it. With lighter winds and more sunshine forecast for the next couple of days I am hoping to get on my bike and add at least another thirty species to my list by visiting the two extremities of the south of Hayling and making one circuit of the north of the island.

Thu 28th Sept

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A ride to Gunner Point finds Nottingham Catchfly reflowering plus Cow Parsley, a Dog Rose and two autumn fungi.

When I was at Sandy Point last Tuesday Keith Turner told me that Nottingham Catchfly was re-flowering at its only Hayling site, south of the Golf Course near Gunner Point, so this morning's target was to see it for myself, but before getting there I made two other significant additions to my September list of flowering plants, bring the total to 221 species

The first of the unexpected finds came as I was passing the entrance to the Golf Course Maintenance Centre on the south side of Ferry Road and was a single plant of Cow Parsley in full flower, closely followed by a second plant. Then, as the view of the pool of water between the road and the golf course came into view there was the even more unexpected view of a large Dog Rose bush covered with at least a dozen fresh flowers.

Nothing more to get excited about until I was on the south side of the Golf Course, beyond the Pill Box and had reached the first wooden bench where I usually stop for refreshment and just behind which is the small gorse covered hillock on which the Nottingham Catchfly can be found flowering in June (I see this year it was out by May 20). Last time I was here there were plenty of dead plants bearing dry wooden seed capsules but today I could at first see no trace of these (they had probably blown away) but a closer look revealed two young plants, their pale green stems and unopen white flower buds making them difficult to spot among the fresh green of the gorse but giving me enough evidence to add 1 to my count. My close look at the gorse also gave me another good find - at the back of the hillock,under the shade of the gorse, was a substantial troop of small, rich brown fungi which I identified as Lacarria laccata commonly known as 'The Deceiver'. These reminded me that I had already seen one other easily identified fungus on my way - a tall fresh Shaggy Inkcap.

Wed 27th Sept

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Yesterday I cycled to Sandy Point and found the rare Sea Knotgrass at its most impressive but found no new species for September. Today a local walk added three species to the month list.

Yesterday I enjoyed a ride to Sandy Point where the area outside the reserve had a great show of the rare Sea Knotgrass, filling the hollows of the harbour entrance beach outside the reserve with a great display of tiny white flowers, and several of the regular species - Blue Fleabane, Sea Rocket and Sea Spurge - were still flourishing, as were White Melilot and Sticky Groundsel as I came back along the Eastoke Promenade. One garden species which has recently begun to flower, the spiky Yucca, did go on my list and an accidental meeting with Keith Turner outside the reserve told me that the Nottingham Catchfly outside the Golf Course at Gunner Point (which I have never seen flowering after July) is currently having a second flowering which I hope to get on both my September and October lists.

Today a short walk through the Elm Close estate gave me second look at some garden escape plants lining the waste ground alongside the southern entrance road to the estate. I am not clear what they are but am prety well convinced that they must be a member of the Honeysuckle family that I have not come across before, possibly something called California Honeysuckle, but to avoid claiming to have identified the species I have added a 'place holder' entry to my spread sheet under the name 'Elm Close Honeysuckle'. That same walk also added two more species to my September list - one was the extremely common species for most of the year - Hairy Bitter Cress - and the other a shrub used to create dense hedge hedges and give them a strong scent from small white inconspicuous flowers which is called Ebbinge's Siverberry.

Also noticed today was the large 'Daddy-long-legs' Tipula maxima. This one should have been called a Mummy Long Legs as the pointed tip to her abdomen is used for laying her eggs in the ground, which I was not previously aware of.

Wildlife diary and news for Sep 18 - 24 (Week 38 of 2017)

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Sun 24th Sept

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A walk to Hayling Bay brings my September flower list to 214 species including Dwarf Mallow
I also see a moribund Hedgehog in the roadside grass.

A walk to the seaside through the Elm Close Estate this morning took me past a motionless Hedgehog in the roadside grass. Assuming it was another road casualty I gave it a gentle poke with my stick, provoking some movement but no attempt to run off. As it was in no immediate danger, and looked as if it might be young and needing to feed up before going into hibernation, I left it where it was in the hope that it would survive. Also in the estate I found Marjoram and Spearmint flowering as garden escapes and the first bright orange berries of Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus), and on emerging into South Road found freshly re-flowering Musk Storksbill.

Continuing down Westfield Avenue to Beach Road I turned south to the Fun Fair area and found a big display of Dwarf Mallow on the east side of the road just before reaching the Seafront Road roundabout. This was covered with fresh small white flowers and is something I have not seen anywhere for a couple of years at least when I found it on the New Brighton Road just south of Wensley Gardens in Emsworth - before that it used to be a regular sight in the orchards between Prinsted and Nutbourne but has long vanished from there.

Crossing over to the Beach grassland east of the Funfair where the grass has not been cut for some time I was pleased to find Vipers Bugloss fresly re-flowerimg and to see a single flower of Pale Flax where Brian Fellows had discovered it in May (and I had found it on Sep 9 so neither of these were new for my September list). Nothing new on the way home but I was pleased to see a single Common Blue butterfly.

Fri 22nd Sept

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I see my first Brent in Langstone Habour and add five flowering plant species to my September list.

This morning I cycled north up the Hayling Coastal Path and saw my first Brent Geese of the season on the 'mud islands' off the West Lane fields where the Billy Line comes closest to the water's edge giving an uninterrupted view of the southern part of Langstone Harbour. With the tide not yet fully up the mud islands were not yet covered and no doubt provided an opporunity for the geese to find some eel grass to eat but they also hid some of them from my view so there may have been more than the 30 which I counted. Also here a stream of a similar number of Swallows were flying south but there was nothing else of special interest in the way of birds although I cycled all the way to the old rail bridge before turning back.

The plants which went on my list started with the Common Reeds in the Saltmarsh Lane marsh and I have Brian Fellows to thank for pointing out that these are now flowering when he saw them in Peter Pond at Emsworth on Sep 17. Three more plants were seen in the Oysterbeds area, the most surprising of these was a patch of freshly flowering Travellers Joy (Clematis vitalba) which had, I thought, long gone to seed and earned its alternative name of Old Man's Beard but which seemed to be having a second flowering today. Next surprise was to see just one plant of Marsh Cudweed and also in the Oysterbeds I felt justified in counting Large Flowered Pink Sorrel (Oxalis debilis) which I have seen often enough flowering in gardens where it had been planted but here it must have arrived by non-human means. The last of today's five plants to go on my list was Perrenial Wall Rocket (Diplotaxis tenuifolia) which I saw growing in an unkempt 'garden' on the north side of Station Road in West Town shortly after emerging from the Billy Line. This is not the first time I have considered the large,weedy plants in this 'garden' might be the Perennial verion of this species which, in its Annual Wall Rocket version, is very common here on south Hayling, but it was the first time that I stopped to have a close look at it and took a specimen to check out at home.

Wed 20th Sept

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42 Dark-bellied Brent in Chichester Harbour this morning
Maybe 30 Spoonbills in Poole Harbour
And a Black-necked Grebe at Eastbourne's West Rise Marsh
Now with added evening news .....
More reports of Brent arriving and a mass exodus at Sandwich
The butterfly season is ending
and an alien water weed is choking Pagham Rife

A short update this morning to pass on the news that 42 Dark-bellied Brent (plus 2 Pale-bellied) were seen this morning in the Emsworth Channel area of Chichester Harbour between Mill Rythe and Pilsey. This news was posted on the HOS news website by Andy Johnson who was presumably looking from Black Point on Hayling and saw them on the harbour mud.

Other news seen in a brief scan of the internet is that a Black-necked Grebe had been seen on the West Rise Marshes at Eastbourne (I think this is the first to reach the South Coast) and that Poole Harbour had a possible total of 30 Spoonbills if you add to the main flock of 21 at Middlebere reports of 8 on Brownsea Island and 1 at Lytchett Fields.

Additional news of arriving Brent comes from John Goodspeed who was told of 20 Brent in the Emsworth Channel on Sep 19 (the day before Andy Johnson reported 42 there this morning). Additional reports of them today are of 250 in the Medmerry inlet at Selsey plus 29 flying west past Selsey Bill. In Hampshire today 14 were seen in Portsmouth Harbour and 5 at Brownwich near Titchfield Haven (these 5 were, I think, later seen at Farlington). In Kent 13 were seen at Reculver on Sep 19, increasing to 15, plus 2 Red-throated Divers, today. While these Brent were arriving Sandwich reported a mass exodus of other birds including 100,000 House Martins (in a 3 hour count), 40,000 Swallows and 300 each of Blackcaps and Chiff-chaffs.

With the butterfly season coming to an end I have listed all the species seen in Sussex on Sep 20 plus those seen at Gosport on Sep 19 to give the following Wall Brown, Common Blue, Small Copper, Brown Argus, Peacock, Red Admiral, Comma, Small Heath, Speckled Wood and Meadow Brown in Sussex and Clouded Yellow, Large and Small White in the Gosport area.

And to end today's news of interest as seen through my eyes the Selsey blog made me aware of a plant species that was until now not even in my plant index. Previously I was aware of a British native called Marsh Pennywort (Hydrocotle vulgaris) but today the Selsey website made me aware of Floating Pennywort (Hydrocotle ranunculoides) which has recently been classified as an invasive alien and banned from sale in this country. The Selsey website drew attention to it with a comment that Swans are now having difficulty in swimming on the Pagham Rife and illustrated the problem with a photograph which you can see here

Tue 19th Sept

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The first Dark-bellied Brent have arrived from the continent

Today Trektellen reported a group of four Dark-bellied Brent nearing the Netherlands border with Belgium but much more excitingly they also reported two which had flown on ahead past Le Havre to the area of the D Day beaches north of Caen. After seeing that I found that what I am guessing were the same two Brent had been seen flying east off Fort Gilkicker (just west of the mouth of Portsmouth Harbour) as if they knew they had overshot the Solent Harbours and were heading back east. If you think it is unlikely that the two Brent which had only just reached the Netherlands on Sep 16 would have not only reached Le Havre but then flown north to be seen off Portsmouth on Sep 19 you may be right and the two reported off Gilkicker might have been Pale (or Dark) bellied birds coming from Greenland but regardless of their origin the Selsey report for Sep 19 starts with "the first fifteen Brent Geese of the autumn" flew west past Selsey Bill this morning. In addition to the 15 flying past Selsey Bill there were also 3 which were seen in Pagham Harbour off Church Norton and in Hampshire one was also seen at Lepe (mouth of Southampton Water).

Another immigrant species that could pass un-noticed is Robin. On Sep 16 the Havant Wildlife Group noticed a large number of Robins in the bushes at Farlington Marshes and 15 Robins were seen in Wheelers Bay (Isle of Wight) with 22 seen at St Catherine's Point on Sep 19. Another species just appearing on the south coast is Siskin: the first was seen at Selsey on Sep 17 and the first was reported at Portland on Sep 18. A much more uncommon vistor reported by Portland that day was a Spotted Sandpiper but they had to make a trip to Abbotsbury to see it (the most recent sighting of this species in the Portland area was back in 1974).

As a footnote I increased my September flower count to 203 today by examining a couple of specimens that I had brought home from yesterday's walk. Today I convinced myself they were Grey Field Speedwell and Canadian Fleabane, neither of which I had seen previously this month.

Mon 18th Sept

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A walk to the Mengham Rythe shore brings my flower count to 201
Brent Geese seen at two more Netherlands sites today
Winter wildfowl increase with 70 Wigeon and 40 Shoveler at Pagham and 32 Little Grebe at Pett.

This morning I walked to Mengham Rythe sailing club where the tide was high and I could see across to East Head, Pilsey and Emsworth but with no waterfowl in sight. I did however add 5 species to my September flower count bringing the total to 201 including Greater Celandine, Clematis tangutica (see here for this late flowering climber), and Honeywort (a Mediterranean species which is now being grown in many English gardens with a distictive appearance shown in this photo).

I have not had time today for a full scan of my wildlife internet sites but was able to find from Trektellen that a few Brent were seen today at two Netherlands sites (20 at one and 10 at another). I also saw reports on the SOS website of increasing numbers of wildfowl at Pagham Harbour (70 Wigeon) and Pett Level (32 Little Grebe) while there seems to have been a significant influx of more than 150 Red Admirals at Portland (all three reports for today).

Wildlife diary and news for Sep 11 - 17 (Week 37 of 2017)

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Sun 17th Sept

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A ride to the Oysterbeds area finds the Grey Phalarope still there and adds Hoary Plantain to my plant list.

I see that although I wrote an update to this blog yesterday it did not get posted online so you should read yesterday's blog entry with this one if you are as keen as I am to keep up to date with the progress of 'our' Brent from the Baltic to the Netherlands (which they had reached yesterday) but I still have not heard of any having crossed the Channel.

Today I set out on my bike to visit the Oysterbeds where I hoped that the Grey Phalarope which arrived in the flooded field east of the Billy Line at midday on Sep 15, and was still there at the end of Sep 16, would still be there - and it was, along with several Dunlin and Redshank. Cycling up the Billy Track with the tide high the only bird I saw on Langstone Harbour was a lone Great Crested Grebe though there was a large high tide roost of at least 200 Oystercatchers on the northern bunds of the Oysterbeds that I could see from the Billy Line and no doubt much more if I had gone into the Oysterbeds area but I was more interested in looking for flowering plants alongside the track from the Billy Line to Langstone Bridge which included the Wild Clary and numerous others which I have seen earlier this month - my highlight here was to confirm that a plant which I had seen earlier in the month and thought was Hoary Plantain (which I did not expect away from the chalk of Portsdown Hill) was that species and so deserved to be added to this month's count.

My scan of the internet today found a report from Barry Collins that this summer Little Egrets have for the first time bred on Thorney Island with four pairs fledging 9 juveniles. One item in today's news is of the first Siskin of the winter being seen at Selsey while yesterday Dungeness reported 2000 Swallows and 2000 House Martins passing over - many other sites continue to report high numbers of both species.

Sat 16th Sept

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First Dark-bellied Brent crossed from Germany to the Netherlands today and the first Great Northern Diver was seen in the English Channel.

A brief entry this evening to pass on one bit of news about our Dark Bellied Geese. By using the facilities of Trektellen in different ways to my normal cursory search of what they list as 'Remarkable' reports I have found that the first flock of 157 Dark-bellied Brent reached a German site just south the Danish border from the Baltic Sea on Sep 15, followed by another 66 Brent today (Sep 16), and that 2 of these geese crossed from Germany to a site on the Netherlands coast today, so there is a good chance that some will reach England within the next day or so.

Trektellen records masses of information about hundreds of bird species from many countries (including the Middle East and the east coast of America as well as Western Europe) and to get answers to such questions as where and when have any Brent been seen you have to learn how to operate their complex system to get at the detailed information they have recorded - its no good asking for counts of Brent Geese if it has been recorded under Dark-bellied Brent or Branta species unless you are looking at the reports from a specific site when you will get the full report of everything seen at that site.

Some other migration reports that I have now seen include two report of Pink-foot Geese reaching the south coast - there were 14 of these at Dungeness on Sep 14 and another 11 reached Reculver on the north coast of Kent today (Sep 16). Also today came the first report of a Great Northern Diver at Start Point in Devon and what I think is an early report of Robins arriving for the winter - 15 were seen around Wheelers Bay on the Isle of Wight today. Locally today the Grey Phalarope was still in the flooded field east of the Billy Line near the Hayling Oyster Beds where a Grasshopper Warbler was heard today. Also today a Red-throated Diver flew west past Selsey (there had been earlier reports from Portland and Christchurch Harbour on Sep 11).

Fri 15th Sept

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First flock of Pale-bellied Brent arrive in Devon but no Dark-bellied reported so far
Big increase in winter waterfowl and many passing Grey Phalaropes
First Snow Bunting in the Netherlands
Four more flowering plants including a Primrose bring my September count to 195

On Sep 3 a report of 3 Brent (one of them Pale-bellied) flying south through Chichester Harbour suggested that strong winds in the Atlantic might have driven them south while the same strong winds were holding back the migrant Dark-bellied birds. Still no reports of the latter but Sep 8 brought a report of 3 Pale-bellied birds at Newquay in Cornwall and today (Sep 15) what was described as "a flock of Brent" was seen in the north Devon Taw estuary near Barnstable - I assume these were migrant Pale-bellied Brent.

Numbers of other water fowl are now arriving on the south coast with 40 Wigeon and 8 Pintail seen at Selsey today (Sep 15) when Trektellen reported 384 Wigeon and 1003 Pintail at Netherlands sites. Back on Sep 2 Pulborough Brooks had 120 Teal and 30 Shoveler and the first 6 Red-breasted Mergansers were in the Lymington area on Sep 6 with 1 at Rye Harbour on Sep 10. On Sep 11 the first Red-throated Diver was off Portland with another at Christchurch Harbour.

Many other coastal sites have had Grey Phalarope with a peak count of 8 at Abbotsbury in Dorset on Sep 13 but the most local was 1 on Sep 15 in the flooded area east of the Hayling Billy track near the Hayling Oysterbeds. A more unexpected winter visitor was a single Snow Bunting in the Netherlands on Sep 12.

To end today I have increased my September flower count to 195 with Hops, Thorn Apple and Green Alkanet seen yesterday and a single plant of Primroses in an old part of St Mary's churchyard today.

Tue 12th Sept

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A cycle round the Island brings my September flower count to 191

My main target today was the Green Nightshade in the arable fields at the west end of Northney village but before that I found the first flower on the Butchers Broom growing beside Copse Lane just before reaching the rural industrial units in the Tye Farm area north of Verner Common/Mill Rythe. Branches of this strange plant, with its rigid, prickly leaves that were once used as an abrasive brush for cleaning the wooden blocks on which butchers cut their meat and within the 1980s George Hedley, then farmer of Langstone Dairy Farm, showed me how he used branches of Butchers Broom tied to long poles to clear spiders webs from the roof space of his cattle barns. If you are not familiar with this plant see here for a series of photos and other info. That account of the plant tells you that it is only found in flower from February to August but I regularly find it in flower from September on. Note that it has separate male and female plants - the female plants have large red berries so do not look for the male flowers (which look like minature Passion Flowers and which grow in the centre of what look like spiny leaves but are in fact a type of flower stem known as a cladode) on these female plants. To check for flowers hold the top of a plant stem and bend it over to inspect the 'leaves' without getting scratched by the spiny 'leaf points'.

My next stop was at North Common where white flowered Goats Rue was still flowering to the left of the track immediately inside the entrance gate from the car park and more could be seen behind the first wooden bench you come to (overlooking what was once the enclosed boating lake of the long gone holiday camp but which now fills and empties with the tide). Also seen from this bench were both Stawberry Clover and Rosebay Willowherb to add to my list.

Cycling on towards Langstone Bridge I stopped again where a footpath goes south round the edge of the large arable fields (just before the sharp right hand bend in the road). The corner of the field next to the road is where I expect to find the uncommon Green Nightshade which is distinct from the common Black Nightshade. The first sign of the plant (of which I only saw two today) is that it has slightly larger and distinctly paler - almost yellowish - leaves and its stems are always green - Black Nightshade stems are often black, but the decisive feature is the large size of the sepals which more than cover the top of the berries. For a photo see here. Also seen here was Cockspur Grass and Swine Cress (as distinct from the much commoner Lesser Swine Cress).

Across the main Havant Road and through the waterside carpark I took the waterside path towards the Hayling Billy track but as soon as I emerged from the initial tree cover I was very pleased to see that the two Wild Clary plants were once again freshly flowering on the northside of the path. These, plus Greater Knapweed flowering near the northern entrance to the Oysterbeds, brought my September flower count to 191 and a chance to top 200 before the month is out though my main interest in the immediate future will be the arrival of the Brent Geese.

Wildlife diary and news for Sep 4 - 10 (Week 36 of 2017)

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Sat 9th Sept

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Local walks bring my September flower count up to 182
First Fieldfare in the Netherlands and 9 Pink-foot Geese in Yorkshire as Meadow Pipits start to move south
144 Little Egrets spend the night at Langstone Pond and 8 Great Egrets seen at Dungeness
78 Common Porpoise also seen off Dungeness

Since my visit to Sandy Point on Sep 5 three local walks and one cycle ride have added another 49 plant species to my month list, bringing the total so far to 182. Here are the highlights.

On Sep 6 I walked north up Church Road and across the fields to the Maypole pub, then south to the Mill Rythe shore before continuing south down the footpath towards Mengeham House and returning home through the new housing served by St Benedict Road. Highlights of this walk were the Field Pansies still flowering in the field south of the Maypole pub and the mass of Chicory on the Mill Rythe shore - at the Havant Road edge of that shore field I was pleased to find Black Bindweed and in the new estate at the southern end of this walk I came on Greater Birdsfoot Trefoil.

On Sep 7 I walked down to the Hayling Bay shore where, before reaching the shore, the sheltered roadside of Webb Lane gave me two large clumps of Ivy in full flower and attracting a cloud of insects including one Volucella zonaria. On the shore I looked for the two spikes of Autumn Ladies Tresses which I had found on Aug 21 in the grass close to the bare shingle and close to the Beachlands railway terminal. No sign of them but being close to the Beachlands building I followed its weedy edge north towards the Seafront Road, crossing the sandy cycle track which runs east to Eastoke Corner. Turning east to search the area between this cycle track and the road I had gone no more than 150 yards from the Beachlands buildings before I came on something which Brian Fellows had found on May 6 and which I had been looking for ever since - a small patch of Pale Flax which I have previously only found in the Oysterbeds area on Hayling Island. One other thing that surprised me in this part of Beachlands was the large amount of escaped Garden Asparagus to be found here. One other surprise came on the north side of the Seafront Road as I was heading home - a small patch of Common Fumitory at the pavement edge.

On Sep 8 I made a much smaller extension to a shopping trip to add a roadside garden escape Lobelia plant and a much more eye-catching Passion Flower creeper (Passiflora caerulea) on the fence around some allotments. I also found some Thale Cress which I had not already listed this month. If you are not familiar with the fruits of the Passion Flower you can see a photo showing a flower with its large fruits looking like large yellow plums (which can be eaten but are tasteless and full of seeds) here.

Today (Sep 9) I got my bike out and rode to Gunner Point and back. My first find was a cluster of freshly flowering White Campion growing in the roadside ditch of Ferry Road just east of the Golf Club entrance road. Next came the expected Bell Heather still flowering just within the Golf Course opposite the Kench. Turning south at the Ferry roundabout the Tamarisks around the sand dunes were in full flower but after turning east south of the Golf Course there was no sign of the many Autumn Ladies Tresses which had been abundant here on Aug 19 - in searching for them however I found quite a few surviving Sheep's Bit plants still retaining their bright blue flowers and I also noticed how fresh and bright green were the leaves of the Polypody fern that grows here. The last flowering plant to be added to the month list was was Thrift (Armeria maritima).

A few items which have caught my eye on the internet start with two entries on Trektellen - the first tells us of a single Fieldfare in the Netherlands on Sep 4 and the second reports 9 Pinkfoot Geese at Humanby in North Yorkshire on Sep 8. Much more significant for us on the south coast is the start of the departure of the Meadow Pipits which have spent the summer here. The first report of significant migration came from Portland on Sep 6 when at least 250 moved south and on Sep 7 the count was over 500.

This time of year sees the highest counts of Little Egrets night roosting at Langstone Pond as those which have nested or fledged there are joined by others on the move from elsewhere in search of their own place to spend the winter. On Sep 1 Peter Raby counted the Egrets arriving to roost from an hour before sunset until it was too dark to see them and recorded 144 coming in but a few years ago when I made similar counts my peak result was over 220. At Dungeness on Sep 3 a count was made of 8 Great White Egrets which is I think the biggest site total for this species so far. Another big total for Dungeness was of 78 Porpoises offshore on Sep 1 but that may have been because the sea was exceptionally calm on that day, making it easier to count them.

Tue 5th Sept

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Sandy Point area brings my September plant count up to 133
Baird's Sandpiper in East Sussex as shorebird flocks start to arrive
Late Cuckoo in Dorset, White Storks in Sussex and Goshawks in Hants and Sussex

On Monday (Sep 4) I cycled to the mouth of Chichester Harbour and added 25 species to my September flower list including Spanish Broom, Greater Sea Spurrey, Sea Holly, Sea Rocket, Blue Fleabane, Western Gorse, Red Campion and Marsh Thistle. I also included Ivy in the list when I found a mass of it on the northern fence of the Sandy Point reserve with all the individual flower buds having separated from the tight mass of the undifferentiated flower heads seen last week - they may not have yet opened their flowers to feed the insects but will do so in a very few days. Arriving back at my flat I was surprised to see one open flower head on White Comfrey in the car park where I keep my bike - this brings my September count to 133.

With most of my plant hunting complete I was able to resume my scanning of the internet and immediately noticed that the number of shorebirds arriving to spend the winter with us had shot up or had started to do so. On Sep 1 a flock of 30 Ringed Plovers had arrived at Newtown Harbour on the Isle of Wight. On Sep 2 Christchurch Harbour had 14 Wigeon and there were 3 Pintail, 30 Shovelers and 120 Teal at Pulborough Brooks with 120 Black-tailed Godwits plus 4 Ruff in Pagham Habour along with a flock of 9 Spotted Redshank (which became 10 on Sep 3). Also in Pagham Harbour on Sep 3 there were 200 Redshank and on Sep 4 Poole Harbour had 328 Dunlin.

Other significant counts from Poole Harbour on Sep 2 were of 30 Spoonbills (I think this is the first count of that many there) and there was also a late Cuckoo there. Even more significant was the arrival of a Baird's Sandpiper in the Cuckmere area of East Sussex on Sep 3 - this is only the 8th to be seen in Sussex, and the first since 1996. For a photo of the bird see here.

To end today with signs that two species are 'trending' as Buzzards have done during my birding life in Hampshire, going from 'never to be seen east of the New Forest' to an every day sighting (on Sep 1 a flock of 16 in the sky over Firle on the Sussex Downs was hardly unusual). One of the two species I have in mind is the White Stork: on Aug 26 I noted that one had been seen over Bedhampton in Havant and on July 27 I included a link to a paper describing a project to introduce White Storks to the Knepp Estate in Sussex - that project has, I think, been responsible for several Stork sightings over Sussex but recent sightings on the Sussex coast seem to indicate that some Storks are arriving here of their own free will. On Sep 2 two of these Storks were seen at Beachy Head and 2 (maybe the same birds) were seen on the roof of the Rustington ASDA store while on Sep 4 two were seen a few miles further east in a field behind a different ASDA store at Ferring. The second species which is gradually becoming a more frequent sight is Goshawk which not long ago could only be seen in the Acres Down area of the New Forest but has recently been seen in Southleigh Forest and at Blackdown on the western border of Sussex but has also been reported from Lepe near Calshot (all these sightings were within the current month of September).

Wildlife diary and news for Aug 28 - Sep 3 (Week 35 of 2017)

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Sun 3rd Sept

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September plant count starts with 107 species including an unexpected Lesser Calamint
New address for Sussex Bird sightings

On Sep 1 I cycled to Sinah Common, then up the Coastal Path (Billy Line) to Langstone Bridge, returning home with a tally of 86 plant species in flower. On Sep 2 I went to my eldest son's 60th birthday party at his home near Bristol where the garden had the first Enchanter's Nightshade I have seen this year (not included in my Hayling count!) and the first Hornet I have seen this year came to join in our Barbecue (presumably its domestic duties are now over and it is free to roam until the first frosts terminate its life).

Today I was expecting a dry morning so went for a walk round the Church Fields to add to the flower count made on Friday but before reaching the Church I came across a cluster of Lesser Calamint plants just outside the entrance to the last house on the east side of St Mary's Road before it reaches the junction with Elm Grove/Church Road. The house does not have a garden, just a concrete parking place delimited by a brick wall on its south side and these strongly mint scented plants were growing out of a crevice between the concrete and the brickwall but getting sufficient nutrition to grow 20 cm tall with a 12 cm spike of its distinctve flowers.

In the Church Fields I had another surprise when I found a patch of Alsike Clover, the large white flower heads becoming suffused with the red colour which is limited to the base of the flowerhead when young but which spreads upwards with age. Another unexpected find in the fields were a couple of fresh flowers of otherwise defunct Salsify plants. After leaving the Church I crossed to the east side of Church Road and found both Yellow Corydalis and Japanese Knotweed in full flower in gardens close to Tournerbury Lane.

Tomorrow is forecast to be dry but dull with a moderate south-westerly wind which should blow me and my bike to the Chichester Harbour entrance to pick up a few more plant species but I am not expecting to see any migrant Brent until the following week (around Sep 11) though I see in the HOS sightings that Andy Johnson saw three Brent fly south through Chichester harbour today. One of the three was a Pale-bellied bird reminding me of the small flock of these which arrived in the north of Langstone Harbour on Sep 10 in 2016 - the strong winds which are currently slowing the Brent coming to us from the east may be pushing on the Pale-bellied birds coming south from Greenland and driving them further east than usual.

The report of possible migrant Brent in Chichester Harbour caused me to click on my Bookmark for the SOS sightings page but I found that the whole SOS website has been re-vamped and that to see the recent sightings I had to edit my bookmark to take me to https://www.sos.org.uk/recent-sightings. This did not give me any further reports of migrant Brent but did give me an intriguing photo of the roof of the ASDA store at Rustington (just east of the mouth of the River Arun at Littlehampton). Perched on the ridge of the roof were two White Storks - you can see the photo here.

Wed 30th August

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The Brent will be back soon

Those Brent Geese which, because of old age or other incapacity, stayed with us through the summer will nevertheless have undergone the annual moult which leaves all adults of the species flightless for several weeks in July and August. During the moult they will hide away from predators and from our eyes but when this is complete they will feel the same urge to migrate as the rest of the population and this has given two recent local reports - a lone bird in Emsworth Harbour on Aug 20 and three together on the Pilsey Sands on Aug 24. In past years these re-appearances of summering birds plus mi-identified sightings of other Goose species (assumed to be Brent because the observer is expecting to see the returning migrants at this time) so I tend to ignore such reports unless there is some evidence to confirm the birds as migrants (either the number of birds or their behaviour or the co-incidence of reports from several sites).

In 2013 an isolated report of a single Brent seen from Black Point at the mouth of Chichester Harbour on Sep 10 was unlikely to have been a migrant (up to a dozen summering birds are usually in Chichester Harbour and another five or six hide away in Langstone Harbour) but a report of three at a Netherlands site (where the geese do not spend the winter) on Sep 19 was possibly a genuine report of migrants. In 2014 an erroneous report of a large flock of Brent seen on Aug 25 was caused by the presence of at least one of our summering birds having used its post-moult recovery of flight to join a flock of Canada Geese - I think the first migrants reached us on Sep 12 in that year. In 2015 a flock of 100 Brent in Langstone Harbour on Sep 11 were definitely migrants (and a flock of 14 had arrived in the Netherlands on Sep 5). In 2016 an additional possibility was introduced when 10 Pale Bellied Brent turned up in Langstone Harbour close to the South Moors (appropriate for birds which must have arrived over land) - the normal place to see the first migrants that have arrived from the English Channel is the south part of Chichester or Langstone Harbours and they are only likely to land when there is a high tide in the early morning following their overnight flight, allowing them to land at a safe distance from possible land-basd predators. These reports from the past few years indicate that the time to look for the first migrants is the second week of September on a day with a morning high tide.

During my research on the subject of Brent Goose migration I came on a useful document written from the perspective of an Essex birder but well worth reading by anyone interested in the three Brent species (Dark-bellied, Pale-bellied and Black Brant). At the very end of this document is a map of the route they take between their breeding grounds in Siberia and the British Isles. A link to the document is here.

Wildlife diary and news for Aug 21 - 27 (Week 34 of 2017)

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Sat 26th August

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A walk round Fishery Creek and Mengham Rythe
Common Seal 'Rookery' on Pilsey sands
White Stork over Bedhampton, Black Redstart at Titchfield Haven and Red-backed Shrikes at Stubbington and Lymington
Honey Buzzards over Beachy Head and Montagu's Harrier at Cuckmere plus 65 Teal at Pennington.

Warm sunshine and a light wind saw me exploring a new route round the local area with no particular target species. I set out for the shore via St Leonards Avenue where I found a Hummingbird Hawkmoth taking refreshment from Red Valerian - this moth is being seen in increasing numbers along the south coast recently with a count of 16 at Dungeness on Aug 22. I then used the footpath from the south end of St Margarets Road to cross Mengham Lane and Selsmore Road and head down Bound Lane to the Seafront where I turned east to find a single bush of Common Gorse in full flower. I thought this might be the first of many but despite passing many more on the Mengham Rythe shore I could not find another flower though a bright yellow patch on one Gorse bush there raised my hopes but a closer look showed the colour came from a Clematis tangutica creeper climbing over the bush - for a photo of this garden plant see here.

Before reaching Mengham Rythe I cut round the back of the Eastoke Corner area via St Andrews and Harold Road to cross Rails Lane into St Hermans Road from which I took the footpath which follows the edge of Fishery Creek around the campsites and continues along the Mengham Rythe shore from which you can look across Chichester Harbour to the Pilsey Sands which got a mention in Brian Fellows blog yesterday in connection with the Common Seals that use the sands as a 'rookery' (a term used to indicate the breeding area of a species - not just Rooks but also colony-forming seabirds and marine mammals. Brian gives a link to the Chichester Harbour Conservancy website section on Seals but this fails to make the point that we are privileged to have the only breeding colony of Common Seals anywhere on the south coast and that the number in the colony has been increasing annually since the 1980s if not before. In 2009 the Hampshire Wildlife Trust fitted five of the Seals with GPS tracking collars which provided the data for the map of their journeyings shown in this trace (I suspect that some of the long straight lines which appear to show the Seals crossing land areas are the result of the mapping program 'joining up the dots' where some of the data is missing). The Chichester Harbour website also seems to underestimate numbers in saying that 18 is the maximum number recorded at any one time when reliable evidence from Barry Collins gives a maximum count of 30 on the Pilsey sands on 24 July 2015 and 28 were there on 31 Aug 2014.

For a final source of information on Common Seals see this pdf from the Mammal Society.

A local highlight on Aug 26 was the sighting of a White Stork over Bedhampton while on Aug 27 Titchfield Haven had what appears to be the first immigrant Black Redstart of the winter. On Aug 25 single Red-backed Shrikes were seen at both Stubbington (south of Fareham) and in the Lymington area.

To end today's news a male Montagu's Harrier was seen at Cuckmere on Aug 25 and a female flew east over Dungeness on the same day. We may not see those birds but a report of 65 Teal in the Lymington area on Aug 25 is a sign that we will all be seeing them in the near future.

Mon 21st August

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Autumn Hawkbit, Asparagus and Sowbread help to lift my August flower total to 135
The first autumn Ospreys reach Thorney Island
Marsh Harriers breed for the first time at Titchfeld Haven
Among our departing migrants a Nightjar stops off on Hayling and the first autumn Merlin is seen at Selsey
First signs of Ivy flowering and maybe also Lesser Centaury.

On a damp morning I walked to the Hayling Beachlands shore to check on a second site for Autumn Ladies Tresses near the Beachlands railway station but found just two spikes though the walk was not wasted as I added several more plant species to my August list which I may have previously overlooked, such as Honeysuckle and Japanese Honeysuckle plus Autumn Hawkbit and Mouse-ear Hawkweed, to bring the month total so far to 135. Also added today were two which I would not have overlooked had I seen them on previous outings - these were Garden Asparagus (not in a garden!) and the Cyclamen which goes under the strange name of Sowbread because wild pigs are said to enjoy digging up and eating the bulbs. In case you are not familiar with the last two here are photos from the internet: first is the Asparagus in flower and second the Sowbread. While in the Sinah Common area with it's mass of Gorse bushes I kept my eyes open for this but could not even re-find the one bush on which I had seen a few flowers on Sept 3 so I have had a look back at my diary for recent years and see that last year I saw my first flowers after the summer 'recess' on Sep 11, in 2015 the first were seen on Oct 25 and in 2014 the first date was Sep 7 so I should not be expecting to see them until sometime in September at the earliest.

The number of Ospreys visiting Britain increases each summer but yesterday (Aug 20) the first departing visitor was seen at Thorney Deeps where one or more usually hang around for several weeks before crossing the channel. What was almost certainly the same bird was seen further south in Chichester Harbour from Black Point on Hayling Island. So regular are Osprey visits to the Thorney Great Deeps in both spring and autumn that artificial nest platforms have been built for them on two of the (now disused) aircraft landing lights but so far none of the passing Ospreys have used them. A similar scheme to attract Ospreys to nest in Poole Harbour has been launched this year and you can read about it here. The Dorset scheme has a good chance of success with a report of 8 Ospreys in the Arne area of Poole Harbour on Aug 21.

Last Saturday's Portsmouth NEWS told me that a pair of Marsh Harriers had bred at Titchfield Haven this summer, only the second breeding of the species ever recorded in Hampshire and the first for the Haven. Here is a link to a very similar article in the Southampton Daily Echo. So far I have not discovered when or where the only other Hampshire breeding was recorded.

Two other reports of departing migrants which I saw yesterday came from Sandy Point on Hayling where a Nightjar was seen 'flying around' at dusk on Aug 20, and from Selsey where what I think is the first incoming Merlin was seen at Marsh Farm on the same day. I assume this was a continental bird arriving to spend the winter here.

On Sunday (Aug 20) I walked to the Saltmarsh Lane seawall in another vain search for Slender Hare's Ear but the outing was not fruitless as both Hops and Ivy were starting to flower (the Ivy showing tight unopen balls of flower buds). At the seawall I picked one of many Centaury plants in order to do some research at home on what to look for in order to separate Lesser from Common Centaury. My previous experience of Lesser Centaury has been on Portsdown Hill where the plants are tiny and the flowers are a deeper red than Common Centaury but when I got out my standard Floras (Clapham, Tutin and Warburg 1975 edition, Clive Stace's New Flora of the British Isles 1997 Second Edition, and Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland by Fitter, Fitter and Blamey published in 2003) I discovered that Lesser Centaury plants can be up to 20 cm tall and, if the plant has branches, they will be at wide angles with the lowest branching from about half way up the main stem to form an open inflorescence. They favour damp grassland near the sea and the flowers are not necessarily of a deeper red than Common Centaury (they can be white). Stace's key says they usually do not have a basal leaf rosette at flowering time but the Fitter's stress that they do have one at flowering. My specimen, which I had pulled up by the roots, had no basal leaves and had 'nornal' pale red flowers, had a main stem 10 cm long and a widespread, diffuse inflorescence on two pairs of branches as well as the main stem. I cannot be certain of its specific identity but am guessing that it is Lesser Centaury based on its height and diffuse branched structure plus the complete absence of any basal leaves. If nothing else counting it as an additional species makes up for failing to find the Slender Hare's Ear!!

Wildlife diary and news for Aug 14 - 20 (Week 33 of 2017)

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Sat 19th August

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At least 300 Autumn Ladies Tresses flowering at Gunner Point
And Japanese Knotweed starting to flower close to Hayling Garage in Church Road.

Despite a strong headwind and the possibility of a sharp shower from the skirts of Hurricane Gert I cycled to Gunner Point this morning in the hope of seeing Autumn Ladies Tresses and was amply rewarded without getting wet.

Traffic was busier than usual along the Ferry Road passing The Kench and the carpark of the Ferry Inn was jam-packed with vehicles including lots of Police and Fire Engines which I later discovered were the result of Aug 19 being a "999 Awareness Day". I did not stop to find out what was going on but before writing this blog a scan of the internet indicated that this was the third such annual event during which several emergencies were being staged including an explosion on the Hayling Ferry in mid-Channel involving the rescue of casualties and a car engine fire in the car park. One thing which I did see was a vintage double decker bus being used to ferry people throughout the day from the popular Beachlands Amusement Park to and from the Ferry.

Heading south from the Ferry Inn I continued past the Ferry Sailing Club and the sand dunes until the track veered round to head east. Walking over the grass on the seaward side of the main track I came on the first orchids in the grass close to a small area of bare shingle surrounded by grass. At first I saw few orchids looking similar to this but as I started to count them I found that more appeared with every step I took. I now started to head north to a bench near the Golf Course fence (and in the centre of the area where in late March and April thousands of Green Winged orchids flower) and was surprised that the Ladies Tresses continued to appear until I was within 50 yards of the bench. I stopped counting the spikes when my tally had reached 300 but estimate that the total was probably 500 or more which is more than I would expect to see on Portsdown.

As dark clouds were still threatening to rain on me I rode straight home but later in the day I had to go food shopping and so walked to the Co-Op at the junction Tournerbury Lane and Elm Grove, crossing over Tournerbury Lane to the Hayling Garage on the north side of which an abandoned house has lots of Japanese Knotweed growing in its 'garden'. Today, for the first time, this Knotweed was showing incipient flower buds and so has been added to my August count of flowering plants bringing the total to 120.

Wed 16th August

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A walk around the Eastoke area of Hayling finds Thorn Apple flowering
39 Black Terns plus 1 White-winged Black Tern in Chichester Harbour
Clifden Non-pareil moth lives up to its name
Autumn Gentian now flowering in Sussex as Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillars go underground to pupate.

This morning I walked to the bend near the east end of Southwood Road (before the long straight section leading to Sandy Point) to check out an ancient memory of having once seen Autumn Ladies Tresses flowering there in a neglected garden. No such luck today but en route a garden on the west side of Rails Lane (just north of the junction with St Hermans Road) gave me a couple of newly flowering Thorn Apple plants which I have never found on Hayling Island before. If you are not familiar with this plant see the photos and botanical description here. To get an idea of the lengthy historical and world-wide reputation this plant has have a look at this Wikipedia article.

Two other things that I noticed while out this morning were my first Clouded Yellow butterfly, which I think reflects a general increase in the number currently crossing the channel, and a similar sudden increase in the number of Sticky Groundsel plants currently flowering along the landward edge of the shingle in the Eastoke corner area.

Other people's observations which I have picked up from the internet in the past few days start with a report from Barry Collins that he had had a Clifden Non-pareil moth in his Leigh Park moth trap on Aug 14 and I see that he is not alone in enjoying the sight of this large moth whose English name says that it is without equal in the moth world - the following write up in the Independent newspaper of another recent sighting will give you a feel for the repect in which moth-enthusiasts hold the species, see here. Much less rare, but equally likely to grip the attention of anyone seeing it at this time of year when it is full grown and making itself visible as it comes out of the camouflage of the food-plant among which it has been hidden and shows itself in the open as it searches for a place in which to pupate underground, is the Elephant Hawkmoth caterpillar which you can see here. The report which caught my attention (but not this photo) came from Henfield in Sussex on Aug 14.

Also on Aug 14 an impressive flock of 39 Black Terns plus one White-winged Black Tern were seen by Andy Johnson from Black Point in Chichester Harbour. Another bird sighting which caught my attention was what I think was the first Yellow-browed Warbler of the autumn, seen at Fawley on Aug 10.

Wildlife diary and news for Aug 7 - 13 (Week 32 of 2017)

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Sat 12th August

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A cycle ride around Hayling via the Billy Line and Northney finds Vervain, Black Nightshade and probable Green Nightshade.

This morning I cycled up the Billy Line from West Town station, making my first stop at the Saltmarsh Lane seawall where I could see no hint of Slender Hare's Ear (which was flowering in 2014 on July 22). My next surprise find came as I was passing the copse at the north end of the West Lane fields - a single plant of Vervain but nothing else new until I had passed the Oyster Beds and left the rail track for the path which connects it to Langstone Bridge. Here, just after leaving the rail track, I saw two plants of what looked very like Hoary Plantain in full flower but which I have never seen before away from the chalk of Portsdown and so am dubious of my own judgment. A little further on I stopped to look for the Wild Clary where both Brian Fellows and I have seen it in a new site on May 22 and June 15 this year though when I looked for it in July I could only see dead reamins of the plants. Today it was again in flower with three flowering spikes where I had only seen two in June so perhaps we will see it here again next year.

Crossing the main road I continued past the Northney Hotel and round the next blind bend, stopping outside the start of the houses to have a look into the big arable field which has a public path running around it. In past years I have found a lot of Green Nightshade growing here and am pretty sure I saw two plants today, but they only had flowers, no berries yet and it is these which distinguish Green from Black Nightshade. I could be sure of at least two new plants here - Black Bindweed and Swinecress (as distinct from Lesser Swinecress which is common eveywhere).

Fri 11th August

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Red Hemp Nettle found near Lewes after a 30 year search.
Using the BSBI interactive mapping system to help locate rare plants.

On Aug 7 Graeme Lyons visited the Sussex Wildlife Trust reserve at Malling Down, just north east of Lewes, to carry out a routine grazing assessmemt, but while he was there he had a look for Red Hemp Nettle (Galeopsis angustifolia) which has not been recorded there since 1987. He has looked for it in vain several times in the past but today he found 17 plants in flower and took this photo of it.

To see what else Graeme had to say read his full blog entry here. My interest in his find was that it introduced me to the interactive map system used by the BSBI (Botanical Society of the British Isles) which you can access online to discover the location of any rare plant and to see how BSBI records have diminished (or perhaps increased) over the years since 1930.

Before introducing you to the mapping system (very inadequately as I do not understand much of what is involved) I have been experimenting with it for two plant species that have attracted my attention this summer - Wild Clary (Salvia verbeneca) and Giant Viper's Bugloss (Echium pininana) - and one cannot expect the BSBI to have records of plants which they would classify as the work of man, nor of 'casuals' which are the result of seeds arriving in an area where the species did not previously occur by non-human means (being carried by animals, wind, water, or unintentionally attached to human vehicles). So before deciding what can be expected of any plant mapping system it would be wise to read how a botanist clasifies plants as being 'established' in an area - see this account of how to determine the 'status' of a plant species given by Wildflowerfinder.org.uk.

If you now feel qualified to judge what to expect from a plant mapping system why not have a go at using the BSBI system? The first step is to go online to http://bsbi.org/maps. This will bring up a map of the British Isles with no plant sites shown because the species (taxon) name has not been entered. To see where Wild Clary is established enter its taxon which is Salvia verbeneca. This will show records for the whole of the British Isles in six colour coded bands with pre-1930 as the oldest and 2010 onward as the latest. To see south coast records move the south coast area to the centre of your screen, revealing the + and - controls at the bottom right of the screen. Now use a combination of the + control and re-positioning of the map to bring the south coast area you are interested in into view. You will probably see that some records are marked with a 2x2km square, others by a 10x10km coloured square, these latter are pre-2000 records which only had a 10km square reference so to tidy up the screen you are seeing look to the top right of the screen and click the control which specifies records for 2000-2009 and 2010 onward. This will bring up a bigger control specifiying six different date bands and you should now click the small box to the right of each of the four oldest date bands, thus turning off the records for those bands. Now click anywhere on the screen which is not part of a control, causing the date band control to disappear and you will be left with a neat distribution map including one record in the Havant area which was reported by Brian Fellows several years ago at the north end of Christopher Way.

You will no doubt have had difficulty because you can not see the BSBI map screen while you are reading what I am saying about it so I suggest that before trying to look at the BSBI screen you highlight the previous paragraph of this blog entry and COPY and PASTE it into a non-internet document that will remain static on your screen alongside the BSBI mapping screen - I have WORDPAD for this sort of function but you may have to use something like WORD to keep my blog on your screen alongside the BSBI map screen.

Wed 9th August

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Autumn Ladies Tresses flowering at Beachy Head on Aug 9
A second Long-tailed Blue has arrived in Sussex
Tree Crickets are settling in at Dungeness
Water Voles are back in Emsworth with Weasels at Warblington
Grayling butterflys can still be found on Hayling Island
A new subspecies of Grass snake for Europe makes no difference to us in Britain.

I am hoping to find Autumn Ladies Tresses flowering on Hayling Island before long and was much encouraged to see a photo of them coming into flower on Aug 9 (see this photo from the "JFC's BIRDING website focussing on Beachy Head. Also from Sussex comes news that the second Long-tailed Blue butterfly of the season has flown over from the Continent to be seen at Southwick on Aug 8 (see my blog entry for July 27 if you are not aware of the potential permanent invasion of this country that may result).

Another ongoing invasion of this country which started in August 2015 is that of the Dungeness area by Tree Crickets and which I am reminded of by a count of 30 Tree Crickets there on Aug 5. Before 2015 these Tree Crickets had no foothold in Britain but could be found in Jersey. Dungeness also has a colony of Sickle-bearing Bush-Crickets which was first recorded in this country (at Hastings) in 2006.

Coming back to matters nearer home I am delighted to see that two Water Voles have recently re-appeared in Peter Pond at Emsworth after being unseen since last year. To make up for that absence a Weasel has been photographed in Warblington cemetery with this result. Here on Hayling a party of butterfly enthusiasts visited the Sinah area on Aug 6 and, when passing through the narrow section of road between the overgrown pond on the north edge of the Golf Course and the buildings that were abandoned when the proposal to turn The Kench into yet another marina was turned down (in the 1980s) by the County Council, they saw a single Grayling butterfly flying by. I used to see these each summer sunning themselves on the shingle in the gorse of the heath that covers the area south of the Ferry Road opposite the Sinah Warren entrance but was fearing that they were now extinct there. The butterfly hunters not only showed that Graylings can still be found there, but in the same general area found three lovely Red Underwing moths which also remind me of the 1980s when one of the duties of Hampshire Wildlife Trust committee members was to deliver the Trust's monthly magazines to members homes. I still remember finding a Red Underwing moth on one Hayling member's house wall in the Sinah Lane area and I will pass on that delight to you with a photo of the moth here.

Finally for today an item of what we might well call Fake News. This is something that I came across in the Devon Birding News after it had been on the BBC and in several newspapers all of which were greatly excited that Britain, famed for having just three species of Snake, now had four species. Before saying any more let me make it clear that Devon Birding was trying to expose this 'fake news' for what it was - a scientific study relating to the Grass Snake species (Natrix natrix) in relation to Europe as a whole - not to the isolated British Isles. The study distinguishes two sub-species, the true Grass Snake (Natrix natrix) which has a smooth greyish coat, and the Barred Grass Snake (Natrix helvetica) which has dark barred markings along the length of its body. For photos see here for the True Species and here for Barred. This changes nothing for Grass Snakes in Britain - with very few exceptions they are all of the helvetica subspecies.

Mon 7th August

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The Tree of Heaven comes with a warning from PLANTLIFE,
the Chinese Lacquer Tree comes with a medical 'health and safety warning'
but mowing the Langstone South Moors brings unspecified good news plus the find of a Harvest Mouse nest.

On July 30 the Emsworth Wildlife Diary included an impressive photo, taken by Chris Oakley, of two Trees of Heaven growing appropriately in the grounds of the Emsworth Waterside URC Church on Bath Road at the north end of the Town Millpond, but before everyone gets over-enthusiastic about the height, rate of growth, and golden flower petals which rain down from these trees at this time of year I should say that when I was living in Havant one of these trees grew in a neighbour's garden and I was made aware of the reason's why they are regarded by botanists as unwelcome aliens to this country. Those reasons are set out below but before coming to his article I have learnt something new about the species from Chris Oakley's comment that they have sycamore like seeds which my neighbour's tree did not have and further research now tells me that the species is bi-sexual, the Emsworth trees being female and so producing seeds which need to be fertilised by the Havant male tree (unless the Emsworth pair are of opposite sexes).

Now for the argument against these trees as it appeared in the Independent Newspaper in October 2014. To read it in full go to the article from The Independent.

Another tree which one should be wary of planting in your garden is the Japanese Lacquer Tree (Toxicodendron vernicifluum formerly Rhus verniciflua) whose sap is used to create the Lacquer which coats various items of oriental woodwork that you may have seen on the BBC Antiques Roadshow. If, for some reason, you do want to grow this tree in your garden read an article from Gardeningknowhow.com.

Another reason for being aware of this sap is that it causes a very nasty form of dermatitis and is present in several plant species, especially in the US where it is said to account for 50 million cases of dermatitis annually, particularly among Forestry workers. For more info see a Wikipaedia article.

Finally some interesting news from the Hampshire Wildlife Trust Solent Reserves blog which has recently been updated to describe a massive clearance by volunteers of the Langstone Southmoors Orchid Field during which a Harvest Mouse nest was discovered, looking as if it had been in use this summer. This blog is all the more welcome for the hint that the management of Southmoors will be enhanced in the near future - details to be announced on this blog.... For the blog entry, including the photo of the Harvest Mouse nest see the Solent Reserves Blog entry.

Wildlife diary and news for July 31 - Aug 6 (Week 31 of 2017)

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Sun 6th August

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Another strange tale of insect parasitism

My previous blog resulted from reading about the parasitic insect Gasteruption jaculator on the Dungeness Bird Observatory website and today my interest in insect parasitism has been re-aroused by the Hampshire Butterfly Conservation Society website on which, on Aug 2, Peter Eeles reported his findings during a visit to Pamber Forest where he found a White Admiral caterpillar that had been parasitised by an Ichneumon insect which had laid its eggs in the caterpillar. Peter photographed the caterpillar, now carrying incontrovertible evidence that that seven parasite larvae had completed their full term within the caterpillar, eating its flesh, and had then emerged to metamorphise into the adult form of the Cotesia sibyllarum parasite without killing the caterpillar which was still carrying on its normal (?) life as if nothing ha happened. Before going any further have a look at Peter's photo of the Caterpillar showing it still feeding on a Honeysuckle leaf with the cocoons in which the Cotesia larvae have completed their change to adult insects still attached to the caterpillar's back - see evidence for survival of the White Admiral caterpillar. Also read this account of Charles Darwin's reaction to how the Cotesia family of Ichneumon parasites treat their prey - showing that the caterpillars survival was not accidental.

A second group of insects which Charles Darwin thought to be one of God's favourites (because he had created so many of them) were the Beetles and one group of these - the Rove beetles - gets a mention in the Sussex Butterfly Conservation website on Aug 4 when it was found during a search for Silver-spotted Skippers (the skippers like to land on dry cowpats, the Beetles like to lurk underneath them). The beetle species in question is Platydracus stercorarius which has a web-page of its own at a distinctive Rove beetle.

Thu 3rd August

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My August flower hunt has been hampered by high winds and heavy rain limiting my current total to 88 species including a surprise find of Harebells covering a garden lawn.

Luckily the first day of the new month was dry and sunny allowing me to find 77 plants in flower during a walk through back roads to the Inn on the Beach and back along the coast. The only newcomer to my year list was Canadian Golden Rod in a garden and I was surprised to find one bush of what must have been Common Gorse in flower about a month earlier than expected. This bush had been cut down to ground level and I wonder if the flowering was the plant's response to the prospect of imminent death!

After being confined to barracks yesterday by rain it was good to get out again for a short walk which explored the new route made possible by connecting the recently built housing between the Legion Field and Mengham House with the Mengham shopping centre through the north end of St Margarets Road. This route gave me my first sight of three plants that I have not previously seen on Hayling - the first was Greater Celandine in Palmerston Road, the next was Harebell with plants covering the front lawn of one of the St Margarets Road bungalows, suggesting that turf had been imported from Portsdown to create this lawn, and the third was what I call Wood Avens but others call Herb Bennet growing at the edge of the Legion Field. Hopefully the sunny but still very windy forecast for tomorrow will allow me to get on my bike and visit the Sandy Point area and perhaps on Sunday to check out the Billy Line and Northney areas.

As a change from my interest in plants my regular browsing of the internet came across a mention of a parasitic wasp which had been seen at the Dungeness Bird Observatory - to see the original entry go to Dungeness Bird Observatory News for July 29. Both the name of this insect and its elongated shape (designed to be able to lay its eggs in the most difficult to reach places that the larva of the insect species on which it preys will have been laid by their mother) attracted my attention, the more so when I read that this predatory insect flies around with its long abdomen and ovipositor held roughly vertical above its body, not straight out behind it as appears to be the case in the first photo. I then discovered that these features had also caught the attention of a professional writer for the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust who had chosen it as his subject for 'Species of the month' in their monthly managzine. So I will leave you with a link to what he wrote, which I hope will interest some of you, especially if your interest in bees and wasps has already moved you to create a 'Bee Hotel' which may well attract the attention of this strange predator as well as the bee larvae on which it preys. The link is to GWCT Species of the Month.

Mon 31st July

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I find an Indian Bean Tree flowering near my 'back door' and add a few more flower species which I have overlooked during July bringing the total to 208.

By chance I took some bottles to the bottle bank en route to the local shops today and that meant going out of my back door rather than the front and along a short stretch of St Mary's Road before re-joining Elm Grove and in that short stretch I found two new plants for my July list. The first was an Indian Bean Tree (Catalpa bignonioides), easily recognizable by its large heart shaped leaves and distinctive flowers (like a multicoloured white Horse Chestnut) - for a photo see this one from the internet.

Not content with that find I crossed the road to find myself looking at a couple of plants of Canadian Fleabane standing out from the many examples of Guernsey Fleabane that are common here on Hayling by having greener leaves with less hairs on them and a smaller, more cylindrical, upright overall shape.

Back at home I added to my Spreadsheet two garden plants which I have seen recently, but not included in my July list: the first is what I know as the Potato Vine (Solanum jasminiodes) - see for a photo from the internet.. The second was the well known Tobacco plant (Nicotiana) - see for a photo.


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