Woodpeckers are back at the Cemy.

Thursday 30th October 2014.

Track leading to the Mausoleum.

I took Scruff for a refreshing walk around Highland Road Cemetery at midday, seeing it was very mild and sunny. Walking around in a t-shirt at this time of year seems crazy, but I understand the warm temperatures will disappear over the weekend. The balmy conditions brought out a lot of insects around the Cemetery, which can only spell good news for the birds.

Toadstools growing near the main entrance.

With a lot of the leaves off the trees, I felt there is always a chance of something good floating about in this little hamlet in the middle of Portsmouth; although, to be honest, though there was no stonking rarity like the Eastern Crowned Warbler in Teeside today, it was still enjoyable to see both Great Spotted and Green Woodpecker within the Cemy at the same time. A couple of Goldcrests could be heard calling to one another, but they eluded me today.

The Green Woodpecker was pretty elusive within the Cemy.

The only thrushes seen were Blackbirds, but again, there were good numbers of first winter birds throughout the Cemy (15+ at least). I heard a lot of Redwing flying over Southsea last night, whilst checking the moth box, but none seemed to have settled in the Cemy. The usual Blue and Great Tits could be seen but it will not be long before the first Coal Tits start reappearing. Corvids were everywhere, notably Carrion Crows, Magpies and at least four Jays.

Wasps making the most of the flowering Ivy.

Squirrels were literally everywhere and the albino one was seen again among the gravestones. Scruff even managed to chase the poor thing, but trust me, he is not agile enough to ever grab one! They are simply too fast for him. I mentioned the abundance of insects earlier, as Hoverflies and Wasps were in good numbers; the latter feeding on the flowering Ivy. There were quite a few clumps of Toadstools present of one I think is called the Yellow-staining Mushroom; however, the Council have been cutting the grass by the look of it earlier this week and quite a few clumps had been mown over.

First winter Blackbird posing nicely.

As I was leaving the Cemy, after seeing a couple of Brent Geese fly over a week ago, a flock of 18 birds flew low overhead in a V formation, heading southbound towards the Solent. In Hampshire today, the Franklin’s Gull reappeared on Blashford Lakes, pleasing all those Hampshire listers (except me!). For all those Moth enthusiasts (which included me, ofcourse), a Death’s Head Hawk-moth was found at the Durlstone Lighthouse overnight, near Swanage, Dorset; just after having an Oleander Hawk-moth the week before! Back in West Sussex, Selsey Bill had a nice fall of Black Redstarts and there was a Snow Bunting on Pagham Spit this morning.

Adult and first winter Blackbird foraging on the ground.

This Drone Fly, Eristalis tenax, was resting on the Holly Tree in my garden today.


Redpolls over the garden.

Thursday 30th October 2014.

Rusty-dot Pearl.

Emptying out the moth box this morning, after last night’s rain, proved a little frustrating. Two decent looking moths flew out before I could get a good look at them, with one perching high up near the roof of the house. Even through binoculars, the angle was too acute to get a decent look of it and it did look good for something unusual.

However, I did find one Rusty-dot Pearl and a Feathered Ranunculus (the former was outside the trap by the back door) and at least 6 Light-brown Apple Moths were present along with 4 Emmelina monodactyla.

While drinking my coffee, I just stood by the back door within the garden for twenty or so minutes, simply watching the visible migration overhead. Flocks of Meadow Pipits, Linnets, Goldfinch and Greenfinches were all passing through in sizeable flocks. A Grey Wagtail and Pied Wagtail passed overhead also and somewhere north of my garden, an adult Chiffchaff was heard to sing. Our local Robin was happy to perch high up on our neighbour’s tree, singing his heard out and a Wren was ‘churring’ nearby. My first Redpolls of the Autumn flew overhead also, a pair heading eastbound over the rooftops, calling in doing so.

Feathered Ranunculus.

Of late, I read that a Pallas’s Warbler was found in Bluebell Wood; the Oak Coppice by the Severals at Church Norton earlier this week, but it looks as though it was a one day bird. There are some nice photos of it on selseybirder.blogspot.co.uk. Also of note, a Franklin’s Gull had been found over Blashford Lakes earlier this week and reappeared in front of the Hides a few days later.

Great Grey Shrike at Woolmer Pond.

Sunday 26th October 2014.

Woolmer Pond looking north from the east side.

I spent another three enjoyable hours birding this morning with John Goodall at Woolmer Pond, where we found a few nice birds and some interesting Toadstools on our walk round. Arriving around 8.30am, we walked anti clockwise by the perimeter fence and noticing the flags were down, we made our way to the east side of the Pond. It was overcast this morning, however, there was no wind and it was very mild once more.

Purple Brittlegill.

While walking along the damp path leading to the east side of the Pond, a flock of Linnet passed over containing around 40+ birds and several Meadow Pipits took flight. A Green Woodpecker took flight and a male Kestrel soared low over the bracken to land briefly on a dead tree in the distance to soon fly off towards the A3. Apart from the distant roar of the A3 in the distance, all was very quiet. The occasional flock of Wood Pigeons would fly over and singles of Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and a few more Meadow Pipits were seen as we reached the east side of the Pond.

Always distant, the Great Grey Shrike showed well at the back of Woolmer Pond.

We were in luck as I picked up the call of a Dartford Warbler somewhere within the bracken. After a short while, the bird gave itself up and flew across the top of the bracken but it gave the briefest of views, darting from one clump of bracken to another. Nevertheless, a year tick for John. I was also busy checking the ground for Toadstools and came across quite a variety on our walk.

Yet another very distant photo of the Shrike.

As we neared the Forest, a female Stonechat flew quickly past us and landed some distance away on a small Silver Birch. A pair of Siskins flew overhead and up in the conifers, both Goldcrest and Coal Tit were abundant, busy searching for food in the treetops. Walking through the Forest to the clearing on the other side, I found several species of Toadstool that caught my eye. But, identifying them is a whole new ball game as a lot of them look very much alike. Although, Sulphur Tuft, Honey Fungus and Purple Brittlegill were seen.

Any idea's?

A good scan over the heathland on the east side of the Forest was rather unproductive. Hoping for a quartering Hen Harrier, we made do with a distant female Sparrowhawk being mobbed by a couple of Crows. So we soon walked back through the Forest to join a birder, Andy Stocker, who was doing a ‘vis mig’ count. He kindly told us that there was a Great Grey Shrike present in the scrub to the north from where we stood and eventually, the bird was picked up perched on posts. A superb bird, this was my second sighting of this species this year, having seen one earlier last winter. We watched it dive down to the ground several times to catch a beetle or insect, however, it was quite distant from where we stood. The bird soon flew off east and landed in a tree in the distance.

Honey Fungus.

On the way back to the car park, good numbers of Titmice and Goldcrests were seen in the trees and a Jay was quite confiding, high up in a tree. Several more Toadstools were seen and photographed. This morning’s moths included the long staying Red-line Quaker (although it flew off by midday), Blair’s Shoulder-knot, Angle Shades and a Pale Mottled Willow.

Jay with an acorn in its mouth.

Yellow-browed Warbler on Farlington Marshes.

Saturday 25th October 2014.

Cypress Carpet. Another year tick.

It was supposed to be a sunny bright morning today but a thick veil of cloud over the south coast put paid to that nonsense! I was meeting up with John Goodall again this morning at Farlington Marshes for a nice walk around the reserve, but a quick look at my moth box first thing this morning, revealed virtually all of yesterday’s moths still present by the back door plus one extra – my first Cypress Carpet of the year.

Sun rays beaming down on Langstone Harbour.

I met up with John at 8am this morning by the reserve entrance and slowly made our way towards the Lake area. It was low tide within Langstone Harbour but still very mild for this time of year as I was noticeably, well overdressed for the walk. I really didn’t need to wear a fleece under my Belstaff Jacket this morning! The overhead cloud didn’t help with photography today as most of my distant shots were simply awful.

Drake Pintail among the Teal on the Lake.

Nearing the Lake, a male Stonechat showed well perched on a nearby bramble, one of many that were seen today, which probably run into double figures. Robins were virtually everywhere, with nearly every bush holding one, while overhead, both Skylark and Meadow Pipit were passing through in good numbers. Still no visible Thrush flocks passing overhead yet, but I expect that to change as the winter draws nearer. The hour goes back tonight, so tomorrow will get darker early, something I think is a total waste of time, personally.

Little Egret preening by the Sluice gates.

The water level of the Lake was at its lowest I have seen for some time and several birds took full advantage of this. Though I never took my scope with me, I could see several Common Snipe feeding at the far end of the Lake. The water held good numbers of Teal and Mallard, plus also a pair of Pintail. Reed Buntings were flying about over the reedbeds but no sign of any Bearded Tits. Out in the harbour, Brent Geese and Teal were feeding on the mudflats, while the sad calls of Grey Plover could be heard somewhere within the harbour.

Canada Geese flying towards the reserve from the east.

A small Rail could be seen on the south side of the Lake along the water’s edge, but it flew across a small stretch of water before I could ID it. So, walking up to the viewing platform, we managed to get another sighting of the bird, but I soon ruled out Spotted Crake, when I saw its bill properly – a juvenile Water Rail. A female Sparrowhawk was seen flying low over the fields to the south of the Lake then she landed on a fence post. Shortly afterwards, a male Kestrel also landed on a fence post behind the reedbeds. A Kingfisher took flight from below us and rounded the reedbed on the lake and disappear.

There was a lot of activity overhead when we neared the Point Field, with flocks of Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Linnets and even Reed Buntings all passing south. A pair of Grey Wagtails and a Pied Wagtail also flew over. The reserve held at least 100+ Canada Geese within the fields with more flying in from the harbour. Among these, John and I found two Grey Lag Geese feeding with them by the Deeps along with the two Canada / Barnacle hybrids and the pure white Canada. The Point Field held good numbers of both Stonechat and Robin, and the occasional Cetti’s Warbler burst into song. Out in the harbour, looking towards the islands, we found our first Red-breasted Merganser of the Autumn, preening by the water’s edge, until it started feeding by the shoreline.

Wigeon on the Deeps

The channel between the islands held at least a dozen Great Crested Grebes but little else of note. The Deeps was also fairly quiet, but at least a dozen or so Reed Buntings were flying around the reedbed. I don’t think I have ever seen so many of this species at once! We bumped into another birder who was walking his Westland Terrier (sorry, I didn’t know his name), but he told us that he had seen a Short-eared Owl by the Golf Course on Hayling Island several times this week.

Teal and Black-tailed Godwit on the Stream near the Info Centre.

As we neared the Info Centre, we noticed that the homeless chap was still residing in there as we walked on to check the Bushes before going back to our respective cars. John was yapping away about something, when I suddenly heard the distinctive call of a Yellow-browed Warbler! Hurrying my pace, I quickly tried to locate the bird which was calling continuously; then all went quiet. Waiting for a few minutes, the Yellow-browed suddenly popped up on top of the tallest tree and showed well enough for John to spot it. It turned out to be a ‘lifer’ for John as the bird disappeared for a while, but I refound it within the tree in front of us. It then flew back in to the bushes to join a flock of Long-tailed Tits, where it was skulking within the brambles and virtually impossible to get a decent or any photo. John had to be back home early, so we made our way back to the car park. What a great bird to bring up my 200th species for the year.

Red-line Quaker now on my life list.

Friday 24th October 2014.

My first ever Red-line Quaker.

A good start to the morning with a ‘lifer’ by the moth box today. I decided to put the moth box on overnight and was beginning to regret it when the rain started to come down about 11pm. The weather forecast for Friday was poor, with heavy rain coming through the south and when looking outside this morning through the back door, it looked as though there was going to be nothing within the moth box.

My first Blair's Shoulder-knot of the year.

While drinking my first cup of coffee of the morning, I was looking out of the back door, checking the birds in and around the garden. Despite the rain, a couple of Meadow Pipits flew over and by the garden, a female Chaffinch flew up to the top of a neighbour’s tree, but was soon pushed off by a stroppy Robin! Four Blue Tits were around my feeder and was soon joined by a Great Tit. A male Sparrowhawk, with prey in its talons, flapped low over the rooftops, heading westbound to devour its breakfast. All this in a space of 5 minutes! Later in the morning, a Chiffchaff was heard calling in the neighbouring gardens.

Angle Shades.

When I noticed it considerably brighter outside, I switched the moth box light off and checked around the box. I found a very interesting looking moth perched at the base of the Conservatory door and looked good for Red-line Quaker, although I have never seen one before, except in photos. Close by, my first Blair’s Shoulder-knot of the year was perched on the fence post and above this, an Angle Shades was present. This was a lot better than I expected as I searched the surrounding area for more moths, but all I could find were Light-brown Apple Moths, which were everywhere.

My second Blair's Shoulder-knot of the morning.

The only macro I found in the moth box was another Blair’s Shoulder-knot, but two in one day wasn’t a bad result. Several more Light-brown Apple Moths were present within the box and nearby, I found two ‘Plume Moths’ – Emmelina monodactyla and Amplyptilia acanthadactyla.

I was tempted into a moth ‘twitch’ today, as the Oleander Hawk-moth had reappeared overnight at Durlston Country Park, near Swanage, Dorset; and was going to be shown to the public all day today. But, low and behold, I have a midday visit to the Dentist to have a tooth out! Bugger! I would of loved to of seen this migrant rarity of moths too. On the back of Hurricane Gonzalo yesterday, there was a plethora of rarities in the UK. A Black-billed Cuckoo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Hermit Thrush, Grey-cheeked Thrush and Chimney Swift were all found and God knows whatever else will get discovered as the days pass. The Yellow-billed Cuckoo was still present at Porthgwarra, Cornwall, this morning.

Siberian Stonechat climbs onboard my Hampshire List.

Wednesday 22nd October 2014.

The 1st winter Siberian Stonechat from the Meadow Hide. The bird remained distant and had to be digiscoped.

I have not got Siberian Stonechat on my Hampshire List, so today, I wanted to put that right. After seeing my son in hospital, I took a drive down to Titchfield Haven, paid my entrance fee and took the pleasant walk along the boardwalk to the Meadow Hide to view the bird. I have seen several Siberian Stonechats over the years, but it is only recently that they have been given full species status, along with Caspian and Stejneger’s Stonechat (one turned up on Portland last year). This was to be my 290th species of bird in Hampshire.

Its pale plumage clearly defined it by the nearby Stonechats.

It was an overcast day, with the threat of rain, but the winds of Hurricane Gonzalo had now gone, leaving behind a much calmer day for a spot of birding. The walk to the Meadow Hide produced a couple of confiding Goldcrests in the trees overhead and a female Blackcap came down to a pond to bathe for a while.

I took this photo of the bird using my bridge camera.

The new Meadow Hide, only recently opened, has attracted its admirers and some lucky soul came across a very pale Stonechat among the 17 or so Stonechats present here over the weekend. Thankfully, the 1st winter bird remained faithful in front of the Hide, but always remained distant, frequenting the edge of a reedbed. Getting a half decent photo of the 1st winter Siberian Stonchat was going to be challenging as it was on the move quite a lot and my best photos were digiscoped.

The new Meadow Hide.

This male Stonechat was one of many present early afternoon.

The bird still drew a nice crowd within the Hide and one chap kept a running commentary on the location of the bird, which was handy if you looked away for a while. I counted at least 10 Stonechats present in the vicinity, with many perched on the nearby boundary fence. To be honest, I was only really here for the Siberian Stonechat and didn’t check the nearby fields, although other birders said little had been seen here today.

Toadstools growing on a fallen log.

A few Common Darters were flying by the boardwalk and at least one Migrant Hawker dragonfly was seen. I did come across a clump of interesting Toadstools growing on a fallen tree stump, but no idea what species it was. Earlier this morning, the only moth within my moth box was a Light-brown Apple Moth. However, just inside the back door, a Feathered Ranunculus was perched on the wall. I am going to persist with the moth box into November as there are certain species that come out as winter approaches.

A flock of around 10 very confiding Turnstone were feeding by the roadside.

A nice close up of this smart bird.

Firecrests in the Cemy.

Monday 20th October 2014.

You can just make out that this is a Firecrest, that I found in the Holm Oaks.

Again, there seemed to be a lot of activity within Highland Road Cemetery early this morning and I came up trumps with at least one Firecrest within the Holm Oaks. I could hear several Goldcrests calling away within the trees, then I heard the distinctive call of a Firecrest, but it took a while to find it. Eventually, it gave itself up, feeding in a leafy branch of one of the Holm Oaks, however, it was very difficult to photograph and hardly staying still long enough for a decent photo. Nevertheless, a good year tick here and only the third seen here for me personally. I was pretty sure that a second bird was calling behind me, but was not visible.

Looking up at a Goldcrest.

It was a sunny morning, with a breezy south easterly keeping the temperatures just right. The tail end of Hurricane Gonzalo is supposed to hit the UK tonight, with strong gales forecasted. Overhead, Linnets, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Goldfinch flew over as did good numbers of both Skylark and Meadow Pipit.

The albino Squirrel showing itself again.

The usual Jays were present with at least three seen and Magpie numbers have increased. A pair of Goldcrests were seen in the conifers in the south west corner and at least four were in the Holm Oaks area as well. A Chiffchaff was seen briefly also in the Holm Oaks and another called near the Mausoleum.

I spent most of this morning looking up into the trees. This 1st winter Blackbird was just above my head.

Still no sign of the Green Woodpecker of late, although it can disappear now and then. Most of the leaves have no fallen off the trees and it is quite crunchy underfoot.Squirrels are everywhere, looking for places to store their nuts for the winter and the albino Squirrel was showing well today in the centre of the Cemy. Locally, in Hampshire today, the 1st winter Siberian Stonechat was showing well from the Meadow Hide at Titchfield Haven. Jim Walker went to see it yesterday and also sent me photos of a Sparrowhawk and a Stonechat he saw there. John Goodall staked out the south side of the Iron Age Fort at Old Winchester Hill yesterday and came up trumps with several sightings of a Ring Ouzel.

Male Stonechat at Titchfield Haven. Photo by Jim Walker.

The moth box, this morning, held just a single Common Marbled Carpet and a Feathered Ranunculus.

Female Sparrowhawk over Titchfield Haven. Photo by Jim Walker.

Silver Y & Feathered Ranunculus in moth box this morning.

Sunday 19th October 2014.

Silver Y.

I had the moth box on last night and this morning there were around 14 moths present, of which, 12 of these were Light-brown Apple Moths! There were probably more around but the only macros present were a Silver Y and a Feathered Ranunculus. There was also some kind of wasp present, which I posted some photos on the Facebook UK Insects page for an identification.

Ichneumon Wasp within the moth box this morning.

While checking the moths, there was some ‘vis mig’ going on, which included a couple of Meadow Pipits, a flock of around 20+ Linnet moving east and a pair of Grey Wagtails moving north. Busy day today, which includes seeing my son in hospital this morning, so I am not sure if I am going to get any birding in. I am on the lookout for a new pair of walking boots as the sole of one of my boots was nearly off yesterday!

Feathered Ranunculus.

A wet afternoon on Old Winchester Hill.

Saturday 18th October 2014.

Where are the birds? A soaked John down by the Copse.

John and I took a walk over, or should I say under, Old Winchester Hill this afternoon. However, the weather was certainly not kind to us as persistent heavy drizzle took hold during our walk as we descended down the Hill into the valley below, hoping for a Ring Ouzel or two. Unfortunately, any bird was a bonus as the windy wet conditions took hold.

Dead Man's Fingers growing out of an old bough of a tree within the Copse. It was so dark in the Copse that the photo didn't come out very sharp.

So, during a wet miserable walk down into the valley and into the copse below, all we could muster on the bird front was a single Green Woodpecker, 1 female Sparrowhawk and a Meadow Pipit! We did find a Red Admiral butterfly flying around over the short grass and a few Toadstools were present also. Within the Copse, similar to when I last walked through here, I found some Dead Man’s Fingers; a particularly ugly looking fungus that protrudes like black swollen fingers from a rotting bough of a dead tree. There was also some small dainty little Toadstools growing from fallen branches, but I have no clue what species they are.

The walk back was just as wet and uphill too, but we took our time. We bumped into Dave, a regular here (who keeps an eye out in the car park for anyone thinking about breaking into the cars, then calls the police), who told us that a Ring Ouzel had been seen on Thursday and Friday near the fields. The only thrush species seen on our wet walk today was a single Song Thrush flying over the hill.

These tiny Toadstools were growing on the side of the Hill.

A report of a possible Siberian Stonechat at Titchfield Haven yesterday was confirmed this morning, when it was rediscovered as a 1st winter bird. I just might have to go and have a look at it tomorrow morning if it is still around for a good year tick.

Jack Snipe jumps onto my year list.

Saturday 18th October

Mallard on the Little Deeps at dawn.

A dawn start over Thorney Island with John Goodall this morning, started the weekend nicely. The incredibly mild temperature has carried on into the weekend, but the threat of rain was always there this morning, however, fortunately, it didn’t materialise on our walk down the west side of Thorney Island. Scruff came along with us, as he sniffed every bush and post that came his way. Surprisingly, I haven’t heard of any interesting records of late on Thorney Island, so I was hoping we could turn up something unusual. The morning remained overcast with heavy cloud cover, which put paid to any decent photos.

Wigeon over the harbour.

The tide was up within Emsworth Harbour, but before we reached the sea wall, a look along the footpath revealed a showy Cetti’s Warbler in the brambles, but very little else. Climbing the sea wall, walking south, we checked the harbour for anything interesting and also within the fields to our left. Brent Geese are now here in force as skeins of Geese (including a flock of Canada Geese) were flying around the harbour and island. Wigeon were passing overhead in large flocks. We found a drake Wigeon sat in the reeds by the creek below us and although it was moving its head alright, maybe it had fallen foul of wildfowlers? While watching the Wigeon, a Water Vole swam across the creek, but quickly dived under the water and never seen again. The first I have ever seen here.

Curlew, Greenshank, Cormorants and a Great Black-backed Gull by the Great Deeps.

Out in the harbour, a flock of around 30+ Turnstone were jostling about trying to get comfortable on someone’s moored boat. Curlew, Redshank and Godwit were seen on the island in the distance and over the water, at least four Sandwich Tern were seen of which some came quite close to where we stood. A nice surprise was a winter plumaged adult Arctic Tern which flew past us, but too quick for a photo. Another surprise was a Jack Snipe which flew overhead and out over the harbour towards the islands. Its small size and bill ticked all the boxes for Jack Snipe, my first of the year, from the Common Snipe. A couple of Common Snipe were seen flying near the Great Deeps.

Not an awful lot on the Little Deeps, but the light was very poor here as the sun was now rising over the fields. A few Little Grebes could be seen along the reed fringes and a couple of Reed Buntings flew into the reedbed. Along the footpath, a large flock of Linnet were feeding on the thistle heads. A female Sparrowhawk, flying low over the fields to our left, then turned and headed straight towards the Linnets, but, although she landed briefly on the footpath, she was unsuccessful in grabbing one. Another Sparrowhawk, this time a male, was seen earlier soaring high over the harbour until flying off north.

Sandwich Tern fishing over Emsworth Harbour.

The Great Deeps held at least 6 Greenshank and a Curlew as well as a large flock of Cormorants. A Shag was feeding offshore within the harbour but no sign of any Golden Plover. Several Skylarks and Meadow Pipits flew over while we stood on the sea wall overlooking the Great Deeps. The walk back was rather quiet, although the calls of Bearded Tits were heard on the Little Deeps, but we failed to see any. Rain looked imminent as the wind was pushing the clouds in our direction, so we hurried our pace back towards the car.

A male Linnet feeding on the seeds by the sea wall.

When I got home, Geoff Farwell text me to say he was birding at Mount Down again, near Winchester. He had seen at least 220 Redwing by 10am and also 3 Ring Ouzels. Depending on the weather, John and I are meeting up this afternoon to explore Old Winchester Hill again.

Brent Geese flying over the island.