Category Archives: Plants and Animals

Bogbean barrier protects islands

When Fleet Pond was dredged in 2012 the silt was used to create islands around the lake.  The idea of these islands was that they would become reedbeds, which help to improve water quality and are fantastic habitats for a variety of wildlife, especially birds.

Reedbed growth did not happen on all the islands. Geese and other waterfowl accessed where they could and grazed on all the young shoots coming through. This resulted in several barren islands, with scrub rather than reedbed growing, as pictured below.

The Fleet Pond Society Island team came up with a rationale to encourage native aquatic and marginal species, that it was necessary to protect new growth from geese and other waterfowls. The FPS Island team’s rescue plan was to plant Bogbean.

The team’s experience was that Bogbean, a native species found in many areas around Fleet Pond, provides a protective ‘buffer zone’ for the target species of plants to grow.  Geese are reluctant to enter dense beds of Bogbean.  The team has used this technique in several other areas around the Pond where reedbeds have been in decline due to grazing.

Firstly, any Willow and Alder scrub growth had to be removed from the island, as shown below.

Bogbean was then harvested from Hemelite Bay and transferred out to the islands by boat. The rhizomes were spread across the islands.

The team was delighted that the Bogbean took, and recent photos (below) show how the plant has become well established in beds on several islands.

In places Reed and Reedmace are now growing amongst Bogbean (pictured below), showing that the Bogbean has been a successful ‘buffer zone’ against geese and other wildlfowl.

Picture credits – John Sutton

Late Summer and Early Autumn Birding Highlights

The Summer heatwave continued through much of August with temperatures well above average and rainfall well below. September delivered the more expected changeable conditions and by the end of the month, the weather had turned seasonally autumnal. Thankfully, this summer’s hot weather did not produce a notable algae bloom, but instead an abundance of Lesser Pondweed, Potamogeton pusillus, and mats of this aquatic plant could be seen right across the pond’s surface. This was a very welcome development, likely ensuring that the pond’s water oxygen levels remained at a good level throughout the period and provided a boon to wildfowl.

Late Breeding News

Contrary to my last report that our breeding Pochard failed to raise any young this year, a female promptly reappeared in late July with one ‘adolescent’ young (pictured below) which I am glad to say successfully fledged.

Further good news came in August with two pairs of Great Crested Grebe successfully hatching and raising a total of three young, with a third pair suspected of nesting unsuccessfully. (Grebe pictured below)

So, the trend of late breeding at the Reserve since 2016 continues. The final tally on our breeding Tufted Ducks was an incredible 23 pairs, successfully raising between 70-80 young; probably representing well over 25% of Hampshire’s entire breeding population at the moment.

Autumn Migration

Southbound Autumn migrants were apparent from mid-July onwards. Multiple sightings were made of Green Sandpiper from mid-July into early September, with a high count of three on July 30. Other migrant waders included a Northern Lapwing frequenting Sandy Bay between August 1st – 5th and the first Common Snipe of the Autumn on August 4th. Other early movers included a count of 110 Common Swift heading over southeast on the evening of July 29th.

Passerine migrants started to pick-up in early August and the MoD Fields adjoining the Reserve’s eastern boundary proved to be particularly productive.  Notable post-breeding counts included 27 Whitethroats on August 4th and a record 16 Stonechats on August 12th. Scarcer migrants observed around these fields included a Tree Pipit (pictured below) between July 29th – August 1st.

A juvenile Dartford Warbler and a Pied Flycatcher on August 12th, and a Grasshopper Warbler (illustrated below) on September 3rd, the latter particularly noteworthy.

Whinchats (illustrated below) put in several appearances in early September with two on 3rd, three on 8th and one on 10th while Goldfinches were abundant suggesting a productive breeding season, with a peak of 150 on September 8. On the Reserve itself, a vocal male Cetti’s Warbler reappeared in the Brickworks Corner on September 3rd with two reported on October 19th.

Record autumn for wildfowl

With this summer’s bloom of Lesser Pondweed right across the Pond, it turned out to be another record autumn for wildfowl and their ilk. Gadwall numbers steadily grew over the period with a July high count of 47 eclipsed by 68 on August 8th, and then a record count of 94 on October 1st. Likewise, Shoveler numbers grew as the Autumn progressed from three at the end of July to a peak count of 70 on October 22nd.  Such numbers were unthinkable just a decade ago. Teal were present but continued at a low level, with the high count of 27 on September 9th, while Tufted Duck registered a respectable 45 in both September and October and Pochard peaked at five on October 11th.  Scarcer wildfowl included an eclipse drake Garganey from August 4th to September 18th, single female Pintails on October 7th and 20th, and multiple reports from of Wigeon from September 2nd onwards, including four on October 20th.

Coot numbers were also elevated with a record count of 202 on September 18th.  Last autumn’s Pink-footed Goose (illustrated below),

presumed to be the same individual, returned on August 30th, keeping company with Greylag Geese, flying in at dusk to roost and departing at dawn. Roosting geese numbers peaked on September 6th with 280 Canada Geese, 270 Greylag Geese and 20 Egyptian Geese present on August 1st. Single Little Grebe’s were reported in July and September and Cormorant number peaked at 24 on September 25th.

Other unexpected migrants in September included a sub-adult female Marsh Harrier, passing through west low over the Pond on the 9th and four Raven over north late in the afternoon on th 27th. Visible migration counts were limited this Autumn but did include movements of 510 (Barn) Swallow and 310 House Martin over southwest on the afternoon on September 27th, with three Sparrowhawks over with them. The only notable early Autumn roost was of 260 Jackdaws on October 3rd.

As we head into the winter months and the days grow shorter and the weather colder, expect higher roost numbers.  Good birding!

William Legge

Contributing Observers: Arun Bose, Edward Butler, John Clark, Andrew Drever, N Hayward, William Legge, Sarah Slingo and Graham Stephenson.



In contrast to 2021, our 2022 Spring and early Summer weather was rather settled and drier, sunnier, and warmer than average. Persistent high pressure enabled a summer heatwave to build and by mid-July the reserve sizzled with record-breaking temperatures reaching almost 40°C on July 18th and 19th. Birding-wise it was an active few months with Spring migration followed by another productive breeding season and several records broken.


Fleet Pond’s Summer migrants and breeders arrived largely on schedule in April, including (2021 first arrival dates in parentheses) the first Reed Warbler on 13th (14th), Common Tern on 15th (16th), Garden Warblers on 24th (26th), Sedge Warbler on 25th (21st) and the first two (Common) Swifts of season on 27th. Whilst exiting winter migrants included a singing Brambling on April 7th-8th.

Hirundines were rather scarce throughout, but were supplemented by sporadic influxes of migrants. Spring high counts included 80 Swallows feeding over the Pond on April 27th, 30 Sand Martins on May 1st and 50 House Martins on May 25th while Swifts peaked at 70 on May 11th.

Scarcer migrants included a flurry of waders early on the morning on April 23rd, with a Ruff that circled the Pond unsuccessfully attempting to land on the central islands before leaving northwest. A Greenshank also left northwest that morning, while the first Common Sandpiper of spring was present, with others recorded on April 25th and May 18th.

A credible report was received of a flock of 15-20 Whimbrel circling the Pond early on May 2nd. The flock eventually left northeast, and two further singles were seen on May 4th, one heading over northeast and a second dropping into the central islands.

The only spring record of Oystercatcher was a single heading over northwest on May 16th. Notable migrant gulls and terns included two single Little Gulls briefly on April 22nd (single adult pictured below), a prelude to a flock of 16 (15 adults and a 2nd CY) that dropped in briefly on the evening of April 23rd. The latter represents the highest count of Little Gulls ever recorded in the northern half of the county.

At least four Mediterranean Gulls (3 adults and a 2nd CY) were encountered on and off in April and into early May, but sadly none stayed to breed although one of the adults appeared to be paired with a Black-headed Gull! (single adult Mediterranean Gull pictured below)

Terns were few with Common Tern the only species sighted. Lesser Black-backed and Herring Gulls were a regular sight, with a noteworthy record of 14 of the latter roosting on April 6th. Migrant wildfowl included several sightings of Common Shelduck, a single present on April 27th, two over southeast on April 28th and a flock of four on May 16th.

A singing male Common Redstart (illustrated above) encountered in woodland adjoining the East Marsh on April 23rd, was a rare spring sighting while the only Cuckoo of the spring moved through the reserve northbound on May 18th.

Notable raptors included a series of sightings of Peregrine Falcon in April and May, the first Hobby of spring on May 1st and a loose flock of 21 Red Kites heading over southwest on May 23rd. A Great White Egret observed at the Coldstream Marsh on April 9th was the first record of 2022.

June and the Breeding Season

It is turning out to be another good year for breeding wildfowl at Fleet Pond, particularly for Gadwall and Tufted Duck, a testament to the continued better water quality and the prevalence of horned pondweed. Tufted Duck took top honours with a record breaking 22 broods and 80-100 young hatched, with approximately 50 of these on course to survive, and represents the highest breeding density for the species in Hampshire at the moment

Mallard and Gadwall logged 18 and eight broods respectively, the latter a Fleet Pond record, although survival rates were mixed for both.  Three pairs of Common Pochard were present and two broods seen but sadly none of the young are thought to have survived while a pair of Shoveler was suspected of breeding unsuccessfully. Three pairs of Great Crested Grebes were in residence but as of the time of writing no young have yet been seen.  A pair of Mute Swans are on course to raise five cygnets and at least three pairs Greylag Geese bred with the parents quickly leading their young to the Little Pond via the tunnels below the railway line, never to be seen again.

Other breeding successes included at least 100 pairs of Black-headed Gulls on the Central Islands, seven Grey Heron nests of which five raised at least 10 young, and a juvenile Water Rail seen at Sandy Bay on July 7th confirming successful breeding. Intriguingly, Little Egrets were present throughout the season with one individual prospecting a suspected nest site, but sadly nothing progressed.

Passerines included at least two Sedge Warblers and 20 Reed Warblers in territory within the Reserve’s reedbeds as well as a single Cetti’s Warbler territory. Garden Warbler territories numbered three while Whitethroats continue to do well with multiple territories at the MoD Fields as well as pairs at the Coldstream and Fugelmere Marshes.  However, Blackcap, a common breeder within the Reserve, appeared to be in lower numbers than 2021 and no Firecrest territories found in the Brookly Wood this year, their favoured trees concerningly felled. On the positive side, a pair of Grey Wagtails bred at the Little Pond while a Willow Warbler was seen collecting nesting material at the Dry Heath in late April. (pictured below)

Subsequent sightings in June suggest breeding occurred at this site, the first such breeding of Willow Warbler at the reserve in more than a decade.

Post Breeding and Early Autumn Migrants

Late June heralds a change of seasons in the birding calendar, as early breeders begin their southbound migration and other species disperse widely from their breeding sites. Activity started early this summer with the first Teal noted on June 21st followed by a male Shoveler on July 3rd.  Returning waders chipped-in with a series of sightings of Common Redshank; a single present on the evening of June 28th (illustrated below), a flock of three circling the central islands early on June 30th which left southwest and another flying over west on July 2nd.

A confiding adult Little Ringed Plover (pictured below) graced Sandy Bay on June 29th and 30th while the first Common Sandpipers of the Autumn (two) appeared on July 3rd and single Green Sandpipers on July 7th and 12th. A Great White Egret arriving from the east early on July 6th will hopefully be the first many over the coming months.

Little Egrets (illustrated below) continued to prosper with a high count of 11 roosting on the evening July 11th. A build-up of post-breeding Starling roosting in the Central Islands was noted again this summer with 100 noted on June 1st quickly expanding to over 800 by June 29th and 1,100 on July 1st.

With autumn migration now starting to build-up steam, the next few months will ensure there is plenty to find and see at Fleet Pond, so do remember to bring your binoculars.  Good Birding!

William Legge

Contributing Observers: Abel Barker, Arun Bose, Ed Butler, John Clark, N Hayward, Cathy Holden, William Legge, Nikki Palmer, and Graham Stephenson. 

Photograph credits: William Legge

Illustrations: RSPB


Spring and early summer birding highlights – early April to end of June

It was a busy spring bird-wise, a consequence perhaps of the pandemic restrictions on people movement, Fleet Pond had some of the best observer coverage for some years. Those birders fortunate to live within walking distance only too happy to escape their homes for the permitted daily exercise to indulge their passion and witness spring migration in progress.

The weather wasn’t too shabby either with a truly glorious April followed by a May and June that a good summer would be proud of. Temperatures were one degree above average, hours of sunshine broke records and precipitation was particularly scarce in April and May.

Waders fly through

So, what of the birds? April produced a slew of good migrants; proceedings started with the surprise and noisy arrival of two Avocets early on April 4 (illustrated above). Fortunately, they landed on the islands near the Lions’ View and spent the rest of the day sleeping and preening, preparing for their onward journey. This is only the second record of Avocet at Fleet Pond (the last on May 11, 2015) and as with the previous record, these two were only present for the one day – but at least they landed!

Their appearance heralded an impressive stretch of larger migrant waders that included totals of nine Black-tailed Godwits, circling flocks of four on April 6 and five on April 8 pictured below by Evelyn Auld;

16 Bar-tailed Godwits (illustrated below) one of which landed briefly on April 16, and flocks of ten and five that flew east on April 28 and May 5 respectively; 16 Whimbrel (with a total of 14 on April 18, of which four landed on islands and singles flew north on April 19 and 24); a Curlew passed over on April 24; and two Greenshank (April 25 and May 28). Other more expected shorebirds included Redshank (April 21), flyover Oystercatchers (April 18 and 21), Common Sandpipers on ten dates between April 18 and May 31, pictured below by Chris Marney, including counts of two on May 7, 15 and 16, and Little Ringed Plovers on eight dates including two on April 12.

Visiting migrants

Our usual summer migrants and breeders arrived in force in the first few weeks of April. The first Swallows and singing Blackcap of the spring seen on 4th, House Martin on 6th, Reed Warbler on 8th and Whitethroat on 9th, and later in the month, the first Swift on 16th, Garden Warbler on 22nd and Cuckoo on 24th.  However, numbers of hirundines (swallows) disappointed, with peak counts of only 50 Swallow, 40 Sand Martins and lower numbers of House Martins.


Migrants terns were well represented with the first Common Tern of season being reported on the early date of April 5, followed by a flock of 18 on April 18, and up to three present from early May onwards but no breeding was attempted. More unexpected were sightings of a Sandwich Tern on April 6, three Black Terns on the evening of April 17 and 11 Arctic Terns on April 28. Migrant Little Gulls included two adults on April 6, four on 13th and a single on 18th.

Flyover migrants

Persistent early morning coverage yielded a good variety of scarcer spring flyover migrants, mostly heading north or northeast. These included a Shelduck on April 25, eight Yellow Wagtails, two records of Raven and good numbers of raptors including one of the highlights of the spring, a female Marsh Harrier which passed through low over Clearwater Island early on April 13 (illustrated below) causing havoc with the nesting Black-headed Gulls as it drifted off northwestwards.

This is first sighting of Marsh Harrier at the reserve since May 2010.  Other raptors included a high count of seven Red Kites drifting over south on May 9 and several sighting of Peregrine, Hobby and Kestrel.

Breeding Seasons Update

With spring migration largely complete by late May, attention turned to surveying the Reserve’s breeding birds. As with last year, a number of ‘Schedule One’ were present but none are thought to have bred successfully.

One or two Mediterranean Gulls flirted with the Black-headed Gull colony on Clearwater Island in April and towards the end of May but they were just believed to be prospecting. A Firecrest was heard singing in Brookly Wood again but only on the one date, while a male Cetti’s Warbler took territory in reedbeds at the Station Car Park corner and was present until at least May 30.

A pair of Shoveler did breed (illustrated above) a female being seen with one small duckling on May 17. Unfortunately, this youngster did not survive while a second pair of Shoveler appeared in early June. While the outcome was disappointing, the presence of Shoveler breeding for the first time at Fleet Pond is to be welcomed and hopes are high they will return to try again next year. Shoveler is a rare breeder in Hampshire with fewer than five pairs breeding each year, mostly from the protected coastal marshes, so their breeding at Fleet Pond is a positive development.

Other wildfowl had better success with at least eight pairs of Tufted Ducks raising around 13 young, and two pairs of Gadwall raising at least two young. Two broods of Egyptian Geese and one brood of Greylag Geese were seen but the young are not thought to have survived, while a pair of Mute Swan are on course to raise two cygnets. One pair of Great Crested Grebe bred successfully with two young seen in early July and estimates of the Black-headed Gull colony on Clearwater Island suggest at least 150 pairs nested with 150 young on course to fledge.

For the second year in a row, a pair of Cuckoos were present throughout May while estimates of summer warblers and other passerines territories in the reserve included four Garden Warblers, 13 Blackcaps, four Whitethroats, ten Chiffchaffs, 25-30 Reed Warblers and four Reed Buntings. Other good news included the return of breeding Sedge Warbler, with two territories in the reedbeds on the west side of the Reserve, and a pair of Stonechat observed with three young on the Dry Heath on May 27. Neither of these species have bred at Fleet Pond this century, so their return is a positive development. A further four pairs of Stonechats were noted at the adjoining Wood Lane Heath and the MoD Fields east of the reserve, so they seem to be having a productive year.

Post Breeding Dispersal and Autumn Migration already

I know that June is early-summer in our human calendar, but for birds mid-June can mark the first stirring of autumn migration as non and unsuccessful breeders head quickly back south to their wintering grounds. So it was this year, with the first migrant wader being logged on the early date of June 13, a Green Sandpiper seen at the Coldstream Marsh. It was followed by a Curlew over west on June 20, a Redshank on June 28 and the first ‘autumn’ Common Sandpiper on June 30. Four unseasonal Pochard were present on June 20 while post-breeding roosting flocks started to develop early with an impressive murmuration of Starlings, peaking at 1,600 on the evening of June 15 and up to 100 Jackdaws throughout.

All in all, it was a packed few months and now, with autumn migration underway, there is plenty to discover. Good Birding!

William Legge

Contributing Observers: Evelyn Auld, David Buckler, E Butler, John Clark, Andrew Larkin, R O’Conner and Graham Stephenson.

Photographs – copyrights as named.



Butterflies And Wildflowers At Fleet Pond

The butterfly for May, the Orange Tip (credit, Wikipedia)

With the arrival of the warm weather, many readers will doubtless be taking walks round the Pond.

Whilst doing this, it’s interesting to try to identify any butterflies and wildflowers seen along the way. Fortunately, members of Fleet Pond Society (FPS) have written a fascinating series of articles on these topics that you might find interesting and helpful.

Peter Martin, President of FPS, has written quite a few butterfly posts that have proven to be very popular. Here are two examples:

Butterflies Around The Pond – Have You Seen Any?


“Although over 30 different species of butterfly have been recorded at Fleet Pond, some may not be easily seen as they tend to stay in the areas in which they bred.

Westover Road – Speckled Wood: Where the path starts at the end of Westover Road towards Wood Lane there are patches of bramble which, when in flower, provide a good nectar source for the Speckled Wood. This is a butterfly that likes areas dappled with sun and shade and it is most noticeable when settled on bramble with its wings wide open. As it has several generations, it can be seen from March until September.”

Butterflies At The Pond – 2013

Extract (Butterfly Of The Month: May – The Orange Tip; see picture at top):

“Although a few may have been seen during April, May is the month when there are often lots of Orange Tips flying around Fleet Pond. The footpath from Avondale Road alongside the Brookly Stream is often a good place to see them (see map on About page above). Like a large number of insects and animals, nature seems to make the male of the species more colourful and this is particularly true of the Orange Tip.”

In addition, Michelle Salter has written a wonderfully illustrated series of articles on some of the wildflowers that can be seen around the Pond at different times of the year, see:

Keep An Eye Out For These Attractive Flowers

Here’s an extract (from the post May Wildflower Watch):

Bogbean at Hemelite Bay

“The pretty, white flowers of Bogbean have been appearing along the edges of the reedbeds at Hemelite Bay. Bogbean is a creeping aquatic perennial that grows along the sides of lakes, ponds or slow-flowing rivers. Often forming large colonies, Bogbean plants help to protect the greenery of the reedbeds against damage from Canada Geese.

Bogbean flowers

The flower buds of Bogbean are rose-pink and open up into feathery white stars as the petals are fringed with white threads. The plant has distinctive three-lobed shiny leaves raised on long stalks to avoid shade. The leaves of Bogbean have been used to flavour beer, giving the plant the alternative name of ‘bog hop’.”

The wildflower photographs are courtesy of Michelle Salter.