New micro moth for the year in the garden.

Tuesday 3rd May 2016.

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Esperia sulphurella in my garden.

Back to work today and thankfully, another dry day and fairly warm, also. On my travels today, I saw a Red Kite over the countryside north of Portchester, as it drifted slowly over a large field. By the Portchester Crematorium, a Blackcap was singing deep within vegetation and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen near the Garden of Remembrance. Starlings were hawking insects high over the trees, doing their hardest in mimicking Bee-eaters!

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Jim Walker kindly emailed over this photo of a male Ruff he took during his trip to Wales recently.

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Same bird different angle.

When I got home, a nice cold drink was savoured while I sat in the back garden. A small moth eventually landed close by and it turned out to be my first Esperia sulphurella of the year; a really attractive micro moth. The temperature is supposed to be warming up this week, so I shall put the moth box on tonight.

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Honeybees were in good numbers on the plants this morning at Portchester Crematorium.

Nightingales at Marlpit Lane, but for how long?

Monday 2nd May 2016.

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The Willow Warbler with an odd song.

I picked up John Goodall this morning at 7am and took the drive north to Old Winchester Hill. We could see as we were driving through Clanfield that the low cloud was going to be a problem and on reaching the car park, visibility was down to around 30 feet! We took a chance and took Scruff with us to walk around a couple of hundred yards and made the decision to go to Marlpit Lane instead. At least it might be a little brighter down there and the Nightingales might be present.

Willow Warbler with the odd song.

Walking back to the car park, we came across one of the those Willow Warblers that likes to add the Chiffchaff song to its repetoire. I did manage to grab some video footage of the bird as it sang in the small tree close by.

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Nightingale at Marlpit Lane.

On reaching Marlpit Lane, near Woodmancote, just inside the West Sussex border; even John was surprised on how much of the area is now going to be used as a refuse dump. Sadly, all the brambles will most likely be grubbed up over the coming months but for now, there were plenty of birds to look at. Our time here was cut short by an Eastern European security guard kindly asking us to leave the area as it is now private, but before hand, we had come to see the Nightingales.

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Despite the rain, the Nightingale was in full song and showing well.

It didn’t take long to find an individual and it showed very well on an exposed small tree, singing its little heart out (see video). John was low on ‘year ticks’ and we notched up both Common Whitethroat and Sedge Warbler for him. A Common Buzzard was drifting overhead and a Green Woodpecker put in an appearance, flying over the scrub. Unfortunately, there was no sign of any Turtle Doves this morning as the rain came down and so we made our way back home.

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Common Buzzard passing over.

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Brambles in bloom but for how long will they be here?

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Double-striped Pug by the backdoor this morning.

Before I ventured out this morning, I had the moth box overnight as it seemed a little warmer and a total of 6 moths were present: 3 Light-brown Apple Moths, 2 Tachystola acroxantha and a single Double-striped Pug.

The Nightingale singing at Marlpit Lane this morning.

‘Shortie’ a lovely surprise at the Marsh.

Sunday 1st May 2016.

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Whimbrel dozing in the harbour this morning.

I was up with the lark (excuse the pun) this morning and I decided to take a walk around Farlington Marshes and also take Scruff for a long awaited walk as well. One couldn’t wish for better weather today with unbroken sunshine and virtually no wind. The tide was slowly ebbing when I arrived and the harbour was still as a sheet of glass. I could only see one car in the car park which looked as though it belonged to three lads waiting by the viewing platform near the Lake. They were not birders, which was suspicious?

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My first Wheatear of the year at last.

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Another Whimbrel in the harbour from the harbour wall.

Today was one of those Spring days when you thought anything could turn up. Three more year ticks were seen on my walk round the reserve and one, was totally unexpected. Walking past the Bushes area, good numbers of Linnets were seen on or around the footpath. Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Common Whitethroat and Cetti’s Warblers were all heard singing and a pair of probably newly arrived Swallows zipped overhead and circled a few times before disappearing north.

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The Short-eared Owl over the Point Field.

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And again.

The mudflats within the harbour held several Whimbrel and on my walk round, I must have counted at least 20+ birds; with some individuals allowing me a reasonable close approach, which is not the norm for these relatively shy birds. The Lake area held a few waders, notably Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank and a single Greenshank, but no Garganey hiding away close to the reedbeds. Reed Warblers and Common Whitethroats were seen singing by the Lake and a male Reed Bunting flew over.

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Sedge Warbler in the Point Field.

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Med and Black-headed Gulls on the reserve.

On passing the three lads and moving south along the footpath, I clocked my first Wheatear of the year, a nice male bird. In all my years of birding, I have never failed to see a Wheatear in April, but it took till today for me to eventually see one. And of course, when one comes, like buses, more will follow as I found three more, all females which were out in the fields. Happy days. At this time of year, anything can turn up and you could of knocked me over with a feather when a Short-eared Owl flew out of the grass within the Point Field. The bird rose up, flew around my head and then eventually flew south over the harbour, being hotly pursued by several Gulls. To say I was chuffed with my photos is an understatement!

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Reed Warbler by the Deeps.

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Tufted Duck on the Deeps.

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One of many Common Whitethroats seen this morning on my walk around the reserve.

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Meadow Pipit by the sea wall.

Also within the Point Field, there were at least two singing Sedge Warblers and at least three Common Whitethroats. Displaying Meadow Pipits were holding territory here along with several pairs of Linnets. A pair of Little Terns passing overhead was also a nice surprise as they flew off west and a Sandwich Tern also passed by heading east. Nearing the Deeps, I scanned the area thoroughly for anything interesting and a pair of distant Wheatears kicked off things nicely. Redshanks and a few Black-tailed Godwits in summer plumage were the only waders present and wildfowl included several Mallard, a pair of Tufted Duck and good numbers of Shelduck were present. I did see a very young Lapwing, recently hatched I dare to say, scampering about on the short grass, but I do fear for its safety as I saw a dog Fox later on my walk round in the fields near the main reedbed.

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A female Wheatear in the fields.

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Shelduck on the water within a very still harbour.

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Little Egret in a reflective mood near the Blockhouse.

The Bushes area was good enough to take a walk through with Scruff, however, we had the discomfort of the bloody Cattle chasing us. No matter in trying to scare them off, they still were very inquisitive about Scruff and I didn’t take any chances as hurried back to the main footpath and out of potential harms way. Before the incident with the cattle, I found a Common Sandpiper on the Stream area near the Information Building, which was my second of the year. A few Black-tailed Godwit were present but not a great deal else, so I made my way to the Bushes area. I was nicely surprised by a Lesser Whitethroat singing by the footpath, which allowed me superb views as I was right underneath it. While checking this bird, three Swifts and a Swallow flew high overhead heading north.

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Common Whitethroat by the Blockhouse.

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Grey Heron flying behind the Info Centre.

On entering the Bushes area, a Common Buzzard took off from its perch and disappeared over the reedbed towards the fields. I really didn’t get a chance to thoroughly check the Bushes due to them pesky Cows and I was sweating a bit from my jog to the harbour wall. On reflection, it was a good morning with three more year ticks under my belt and that sighting of the Short-eared Owl was amazing to say the least.

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The Common Sandpiper on the stream.

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Male Lesser Whitethroat singing by the Bushes.

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Several Wrens were seen this morning, including this one in full song.

Three more year ticks on the Southsea seawatch.

Saturday 30th April 2016.

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There must be something good out there among the ships?

My mate John Goodall text me last night to see if I fancy a seawatch from Southsea seafront in the morning and I gladly excepted. The only downside is setting the alarm for 5am! I awoke to a clear sky this morning and after grabbing all my warm weather gear and a flask full of coffee, I headed down to the seafront behind the Pyramids to our usual seawatching shelter.

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My first Gannet of the year flying over the Solent.

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Little Tern over the Solent.

John joined me almost immediately after my arrival at 6am and it wasn’t long before we were enjoying good numbers of Terns passing through. I notched up three year ticks this morning, whilst John notched up a few more. Numerous Sandwich and Common Terns were feeding offshore and passing by in both directions over a very calm sea and visibility this morning was superb. We were soon treated by two flocks of Little Terns passing though west, fairly close in and were both a year tick for both John and myself. I first heard them calling and then watched them drift past.

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Common Terns heading west.

Another year tick went through when I picked out a flock of 6 Arctic Terns fairly close in, but they were too quick for me to grab a photo. I was hoping for a Black Tern this morning but no diamonds I’m afraid and I wonder if the Stokes Bay boys managed one? No Skua’s went through for us, but our first Gannet of the year certainly did. It or maybe a second bird flew past first east then west.

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Sandwich Tern.

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This female Sparrowhawk flying in was a nice surprise.

Two raptor species were seen this morning which included a Peregrine first thing, which flew low over the water towards one of the Forts and before we left, a female Sparrowhawk flew in off the sea (see photo). Johns first Swift of the year flew in off the sea as did a Yellow Wagtail, while other passerines included two Linnets flying west and a Meadow Pipit flying east. Other sightings included a probable Grey Heron flying north east, but too distant to ascertain whether it might be a possible Purple Heron (bugger!) and 8 Shelduck flying east. Up to 6 Whimbrel were counted, though all going west bar one which was heading towards the Isle of Wight.

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Rock Pipit below the Castle.

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Two of the six Purple Sandpipers below the Castle.

By 9.30am, we decided to call it a day but not before taking a look from Southsea Castle to see if the Purple Sandpipers were still present. Thankfully, they were as we found up to 6 birds feeding on the concrete embankment. Also present was a single Rock Pipit; another year tick for John. A lovely morning and great to catch up with John again.

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Purple Sandpipers on the rocks.

A Common Sandpiper during a Falconry exhibition.

Sunday 24th April 2016.

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Tawny Owl being put out for display.

It was part two down Blashford Lakes today, as I made my way again to take part in the Falconry display my wife had bought for me for my birthday last year. With an hour to kill, I yet again made my way to the Visitor Centre to have a look around the area. I had a quick chat with a member of staff to see if I could check out their moth box, but there was a young naturalists meeting at 10am and therefore, the moth box was reserved for them. Grumble!

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Some of the photographers present in the Cadmans Pool photo shoot.

A Nuthatch showed well again on the feeder as more cars started to arrive and so I took a short walk into the woodland. Not a great deal was in front of the Woodland Hide but a few Siskins were still lingering around as was a Chiffchaff in front of the Hide. A walk south produced both Reed and Sedge Warbler in full song, but none were seen. Quickly checking my watch, I noticed it was just after 9.30am and so I hot footed it back to the car. A couple of Swifts were heard overhead near the main road as I made my way to the Falconry Centre.

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Not just birds of prey caught my attention. This confiding Mallard chick was close by.

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Canada Geese on the Pond with their brood.

It was a 10am start and after showing a young lady my ticket, she ushered me to the Café where we were given instructions (around 15 of us) to follow a chap somewhere deep within the New Forest. In fact, it was near Bolderwood we drove too, to a small car park called Cadmans Pool. I had followed a large transit van which held the birds they were going to show us, but it wasn’t going to be a flying display. In fact, it was more of a photographers outing as most of the guys present, which included 6 women, laden with some very expensive cameras and long lenses. I did have to laugh a lot of them didn’t have a clue in what species of raptor they were actually photographing! Hardly any of them actually spoke to me and to spend nearly four hours with such self centred people, it was just a shame especially with the weather being so kind to us with bright warm sunshine at times.

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A Willow Warbler in full song.

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This male Kestrel enjoyed the sunshine also.

If I was to be honest, though the birds (Tawny Owl, Barn Owl, Common Buzzard, Peregrine and a Merlin) were all beautiful and I took a fair few photos of them, I was soon getting rather bored and I was more interested in the local wildlife and birds in the vicinity. In fact, I even picked up a year tick when I first heard the distinctive call of a Common Sandpiper. I found the bird by the waters edge, watching me as I walked down beside the small pool close by, to take a few photos of the bird. Just goes to show, expect the unexpected.

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The Common Sandpiper by the pool.

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The male Redstart that showed well, eventually!

A juicy male Redstart entertained while I was there and was teasing me at times as I tried to get the perfect photo of this colourful bird. After many attempts, the bird soon came down much lower in the branches and posed nicely in the sunshine. A Willow Warbler also performed nicely and allowed me a close approach by the Willows and Beech Trees. Both Blackcap and Chiffchaff showed well as did a pair of Marsh Tits which soon flew off deeper in the woodland. A Woodlark was in full song nearby towards the main road and eventually, I managed to grab a few photos of it perched on a gorse bush. A lone Swallow flew high over as did a Common Buzzard, which sped off west over the heath.

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Peregrine posing.

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Female Merlin.

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Common Buzzard.

On the pond behind us, both Mallard and Canada Geese had their young in tow and the former had one little duckling walking up the bank of the pond towards me until the adult called it back. A Bee Fly popped down in front of me but before I could get a photo, the bugger flew off! One thing I will say was that the large chap that was running the photographic session was quite friendly and very informative on the local birdlife in the area. I did say to him that I was under the impression that we were going to fly the birds but he said that this was just a photographic session. Never mind, at least it was sunny and warm as the day wore on and there was plenty of sightings to keep me amused.

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Just gorgeous.

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The Woodlark on the heath nearby.

I found out later today that a male Citrine Wagtail was found by a single observer at South moors, then flew off towards Tesco in Havant. Such a shame the bird didn’t linger but that is so typical of spring overshoots. Also, a couple of Pied Flycatchers were seen in Hampshire today. Keep those eyes peeled everyone.

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I have yet to see a wild one this year, but this gorgeous bird will have to do for now.

Blashford produces more year ticks.

Saturday 23rd April 2016.

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Hebrew Character at Blashford Lakes.

I made a bit of a cock up this morning, thinking that I had my Falconry flying event this morning at Ringwood, but it turned out that it is tomorrow instead. What a plank! The wife had to be up early for work this morning and so I got up with her and eventually made my way down to Ringwood. Timing wasn’t my strong point this morning so I made my way to Blashford Lakes as I had an hour to kill.

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Common Quaker at Blashford Lakes.

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This moss caught my attention behind the Visitor Centre, especially the trumpet like things growing out of it.

To say it was a cold start to the morning was a serious understatement as I ventured outside to check a near empty moth box. All I had to shout about was one Early Grey and one Common Plume. Whoopedoo! Amazingly, the moth box at Blashford Lakes was also just as quiet with just 3 Hebrew Character and a worn Common Quaker; which just goes to prove how poor the moths have been so far this Spring in Southern England.

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Swifts over the Tern Hide.

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Lapwing in front of the Tern Hide.

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Common Terns over Ibsley Water.

I thought I would quickly check the woodland in the car park and got close views of a pair of Siskin and a Nuthatch near the feeder. My first Garden Warbler of the year was singing nearby and I caught a quick glimpse of it before it flew deeper into the woodland. I then had a quick look out of the Tern Hide overlooking Ibsley Water and notched up my first Swifts of the year. At least 20 birds were flying around with numerous Swallows and Sand Martins among them. Around 15 Common Terns were over the water but no sign of the recent Black Tern (four were reported on Posbrook Floods yesterday and still one this morning, apparently).

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Nuthatch on the feeder by the Visitor Centre.

When I arrived at the Falconry site near Poulner, one of the staff told me that it was tomorrow that my ticket was valid, though she kindly gave me a free cup of coffee. Feeling a bit of a twat, I then headed off to Blashford Lakes again and made my way straight for the Woodland Hide. From here, Siskins were still abundant in the trees and on the feeders, but there were no sign of any Bramblings. A Treecreeper showed well nearby as it climbed a Silver Birch tree behind me. After a short while, I decided to walk up to the Ivy South Hide for a check on the water.

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Siskins and Greenfinch in front of the Woodland Hide.

On my way there, I managed to see my first Sedge Warbler of the year singing deep within vegetation by the footpath and too difficult to grab a photo too. A couple of Reed Warblers were singing in the reedbeds nearby and Blackcaps seem to be everywhere. Even a Cetti’s Warbler got in on the act as well as a couple of Chiffchaffs showing well in the Willows. A few Common Terns were showing well from the Ivy South Hide but little else as I then made way along the footpath back to the car park. My second Garden Warbler of the morning then materialised, singing close to the footpath but again, proved difficult to photograph as it was active searching for insects in between singing.

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Chiffchaff in the Willows.

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You can just make out this singing Garden Warbler among the brambles.

My first Dog Violets of the year were on show and several clumps of Cowslip were on the footpath as was the Bluebells. A quick check on Birdguides revealed no rarities on the south coast and so I made my way back home, with three more year ticks under my belt. Interestingly, I met a lady ‘birder’ who was deaf, yet had a good conversation with here nonetheless. Though she has adapted to here hobby, can you imagine a world where you couldn’t hear the bird song any more?

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Dog Violet.

A few more year ticks added.

Friday 22nd April 2016.

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This Whimbrel took off quickly but soon settled again distantly within Langstone Harbour.

It was a wet old day today, with a cold easterly blowing and really not a good day for working in, but I persevered nonetheless. I had the opportunity in having a quick look on Chichester Gravel Pits around lunchtime, watching the Hirundines and Terns buzzing over Ivy Lake in the rain with a lovely lady called Sue Henderson. If you are ready this Sue, it was lovely to meet you.

But I shall kick off with yesterday evenings sightings down Farlington Marshes. Faced with another boring load of rubbish on telly (apart from the brilliant Paul O’Grady in Borneo programme), I took Scruff with me to walk the perimeter around the reserve. It was overcast when I arrived and a keen wind blowing from the north west, but at least I had my fleece on (thankfully!). Earlier today, the reserve hosted a pair of Spoonbills and a couple of Wheatears, but there were no sign of them tonight, sadly. Also today, a flock of 10 Pomarine Skua’s passed the Hampshire coast and 9 of the birds passed Selsey Bill around 9.30am this morning.

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I found this recently dead Carrion Crow by the Bushes area last night on Farlington Marshes.

Back on the reserve, as I passed the Bushes area, there were a good number of warblers in song, which included Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Blackcap and fortunately, I got to see at least three Common Whitethroats this evening, which were my first of the year. The tide was out within Langstone Harbour and I was lucky enough to watch a Whimbrel fly off and land distantly from the seawall (see photo).

On reaching the Lake, there was a good variety of waders present which included a Spotted Redshank in near summer plumage feeding right at the back. A flock of 12 Dunlin were also present as well as Black-tailed Godwits, Redshank and at least one Greenshank. I checked the fields for any Wheatears but I couldn’t find one, which was disappointing. There were plenty of Lapwings out in the fields and it will be interesting on how many are breeding on the reserve this year. I am sure we will find out soon. A lone Brent Goose was by the Willow Pool as was a pair of Gadwall and Shoveler.

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Waders on the Lake which included Spotshank, Black-tailed Godwit, Redshank, Dunlin and Greenshank.

The Point Field held several Linnets and the occasional calling Cetti’s Warbler but nothing else of note. I had seen a Common Buzzard earlier, perched on a bush near the Scrape and now the bird was flying low over the island towards islands, which in turn put up all the nesting Gulls. A male Kestrel flew overhead and headed off into the fields. The Deeps didn’t hold anything exciting bar a few Tufted Duck and a Little Grebe, but again, no Wheatears. Passing the Blockhouse, a good number of Rabbits were out in the fields including a couple of the black ones, which attracted a Fox which ran towards the brambles close to the footpath.

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An adult Little Grebe fishing by the Sluice gates.

As I neared the Info Centre, a large flock of Hirundines were present and on closer inspection, they were mostly Swalllows, but they also contained at least two Sand Martins, which were also new for the year for me. Close by, at least two Reed Warblers sang in the reedbed and behind the Info Centre, a distant Sedge Warbler could be heard singing within the line of brambles near the main road.

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Brent Goose by the Willow Pond.

I decided not to walk through the bushes area as I know that it was going to be boggy still and I didn’t want to risk Scruff getting filthy. I was happy with tonight sightings and also pleased to get a few more year ticks inboard my year list. However, I am way down on this time last year, but I was self-employed then and had more free time.

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Cowslips growing near the Deeps on the reserve.

On the way home from work yesterday, from the car, I watched a male Sparrowhawk give chase to a small passerine along Fratton Road. The twists and turns the hawk made were breathtaking as it eventually flew off over the rooftops, still chasing its prey.

This morning, the moth box revealed just two moths: an Early Grey and a single Light-brown Apple Moth. At lunch time today, I spent 15 minutes overlooking Ivy Lake in the rain and enjoyed the company of Sue Henderson, who allowed me to look through her scope at the Common Terns and Hirundines. At least 50+ Swallows were present with smaller numbers of both House and Sand Martins (the former being year ticks). Sue had earlier seen two Swifts here but I couldn’t locate any. She also said that there were many more Swifts over the Westhampnett Pit. While checking the 20+ Common Terns for anything rarer, my first Yellow Wagtail of the year flew over and headed low south towards the fields, which was a real bonus. A Cetti’s Warbler sang behind us and a Chiffchaff was in full song too nearby, but I didn’t linger too long as I was by now getting quite wet and had to go off onto my next job.

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One of the black Rabbits on Farlington Marshes.

By the Oaks Crematorium today, there were sightings of Great Spotted Woodpecker, Common Buzzard, Nuthatch and Skylark. The Firecrest was heard singing again this afternoon, but I still couldn’t see the bugger! Today, 4 Black Terns were on the Posbrook Floods, Titchfield and a trickle of Arctic Skuas through the Solent. Hopefully, I might catch up with a Skua or two soon. I have added a few photos taken by Dave Levy from his trip to Minsmere this week (the lucky man!).

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Barn Owl at Minsmere by Dave Levy.

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A male Dartford Warbler at Minsmere by Dave Levy.

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A male Black Redstart at Sizewell by Dave Levy.

Yet another new micro for the year!

Wednesday 20th April 2016.

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Mompha epilobiella. This tiny moth was hard enough to photograph, even using the macro on my Bridge Camera struggled. I used my iphone for this photo.

A small micro was flying about my kitchen yesterday and this morning, I relocated it by the back door and quickly grabbed it and after a long time researching it the books and the internet, I conclude that this was a Mompha epilobiella. I had one of these last year and if anyone out there thinks different, please email me.

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This is Ivy-leaved Speedwell which was growing in Highland Road Cemetery last week and kindly ID’d by Geoff Farwell.

I didn’t put the moth box out last night, thinking it was going to be really cold, especially with that easterly wind blowing. During my working hours today, I heard the Firecrest singing again within the woodland by the Oaks Crematorium, Havant. Around lunchtime, I counted at least 10 Common Terns on Ivy Lake, Chichester Gravel Pits, but I couldn’t find any Hirundines overhead or over the lake. I didn’t have any optics with me though as work had to come first.

Another new micro moth for the year.

Tuesday 19th April 2016.

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Tachystola acroxantha.

I actually reached double figures in and around the moth box this morning, though the vast majority were Light-brown Apple Moths. There were 6 in all and one similar one which I have sent a photo to John Langmaid to ID for me. My first Tachystola acroxantha of the year was present this morning, perched on one of the windows and there was two Early Grey and one Angle Shade. I also found my second Double-striped Pug of the year.

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Mating Spadgers.

I was awake around 5.30am and I could hear a Goldcrest calling in the back garden as well as the singing Blackbirds. While checking the moths, a pair of Mediterranean Gulls flew west and our local House Sparrows were busy mating on our rooftop!

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Light-brown Apple Moth?

Again, quiet on the moths.

Monday 18th April 2016.

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Early Grey on the back window.

As the main headline states, all was very quiet again regarding my moth box. There were none inside it but two Early Greys, one Angle Shades and my second Beautiful Plume were present today.

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Angle Shades.