Wildlife News

Edited by Brian Fellows, this page provides wildlife news from Brook Meadow.
But, please note, this is only a small selection of the news.  For a more complete coverage of wildlife news both on Brook Meadow and the local area please go to the Emsworth wildlife blog updated daily with reports and photos of local wildlife
at . . . http://familyfellows.com/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm


OBSERVATIONS  DURING WORKDAY – Sunday 4th February 2018
Volunteer Terry pointed out to me the first Butterbur flower spike beside the main path near the sluice gate.   I found several more just emerging on the large Butterbur area below the main seat.   This is not especially early. In some years I have found them out in January.
I had a little mooch around in the Lumley copse. It is not easily accessible, but OK if you go carefully. I found plenty of fresh growth of Lords and Ladies (Arum) leaves.
There was also, lots of a light green feather moss growing on trees and twigs. I will tentatively identify this as Brachythecium rutabulum, which is one of the mosses that Rod Stern identified during his survey of the site in 2001.   The photo shows fruiting of inclined capsules which are produced on rough reddish stalks in autumn, winter and spring.
I also noticed a few fronds of what I assume is Male Fern.

EARTHSTAR – Saturday  21 October – 2017
While walking on Brook Meadow this afternoon, Rayner Piper found four Earthstar fungi on the east bank of the river just down from the north bridge. He sent me the following two photos. I think they are Collared Earthstars (Geastrum triplex). They are like Puffballs with an outer skin which splits and peels back in a star-like pattern. The lobes surround a thin-skinned inner bag full of spores, which escape through a small opening at the top. They are relatively uncommon and a first for Brook Meadow, so we are grateful to Rayner for spotting them.

I have made a couple short walks through the meadow over the past two days, mainly looking at leaves for insects and spiders and there were certainly plenty of them to see.
I usually do my walks alone, but yesterday, for some of the time, I was accompanied by a delightful family from Hayling Island with two young children who were on a ‘nature hunt’. So I joined them as we walked up the main river path to the north bridge. The young boy, Sebastian, had a very impressive knowledge of the insects we were looking at. It is so good to see youngsters getting interested in the wildlife around them.
Here is a update on my best sightings.
NURSERY-WEB SPIDERS (Pisaura mirabilis) were widespread and fairly abundant on leaves. Most of them were resting on leaves with their front legs stretched out in front of them as shown on the left. On the right is one I caught consuming a small fly prey.

Here is another Nursery-web spider carrying its white bundle of eggs in her fangs. When the eggs are about to hatch she attaches the cocoon to vegetation, spins a silken tent over it and stands guard until the youngsters disperse. Is this getting a bit late in the year for a new brood?
SHIELD BUGS come in a variety of shapes, colours and sizes, which made identification difficult. The green ones were probably nymphs. I am inclined towards Dock Leaf Bug (Coreus marginatus) for the adult brown ones, but not with much confidence. Here are a couple, but there were many more.

As expected there were lots of Meadow Grasshoppers jumping around in the grass and no doubt calling (which I cannot hear!), though rarely stopping for a photo. The larger Dark Bush-crickets are far more steady and photogenic. This looks like a female with its long ovipositor for egg-laying.

There were plenty of hoverflies on the umbellifers. I think this one is Myathropa florea. Honey Bees were also feeding – here is a worker with bulging pollen sacs on Common Fleabane.

Butterflies were relatively scarce though I was pleased to catch up with a female Green-veined White – part of the summer brood which has heavily marked upper wings in and faintly veined underwings (not visible in this photo). I also got a Small White (female?) feeding on Hoary Ragwort. What a valuable plant that for late flying insects of all kinds. The female Small White has a single spot on upper wing.

Here is a very ragged Speckled Wood hardly recognisable and clearly the worse for wear from its battles with weather.
The only plant of special interest was Thyme-leaved Speedwell in flower on the Seagull Lane patch. This is a small but always erect plant with oval leaves up the stem and one or more flowers at the top. It is not a common plant on the meadow; in fact, this is my first record of this year. It is not particularly late as they often carry on flowering into October.
There is a nice crop of Elderberries on the Seagull Lane patch

I had a walk through the meadow this morning in light drizzle. The tent has gone from Seagull Lane patch – removed by Jennifer. Walking down the main river path, I looked closely at the nettle leaves for any insects. Several flowering spikes of Hedge Woundwort were pushing through the dense nettle leaves.
On the nettle leaves I spotted a Harvestman (Daddy Long-legs) with a Nursery-web spider close by.   Several ginger Bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) were feeding on the White Dead-nettle.

Peacock caterpillars
My best find of the morning was a mass of jet black Peacock caterpillars that were feeding on nettle leaves on the west side of the main river path about half way between the north bridge and the S-bend. The nests from which the caterpillars came were nearby with the remains of previous instars still visible. Also prominent were lots of black blobs on the leaves which I assume are the excreta of the caterpillars.

These caterpillars seem quite late as the usual time for the larvae to hatch is May to June. However, I gather pupation and emergence of adults is quite quick, so the butterflies could be on the wing by mid-September. This would give them time to fatten up on late nectar sources before settling down to hibernation somewhere warm and dry, like a garden shed or a hollow tree.

South bridge done?
It looks as if work is finished on the south bridge or has it? Only the eastern approach appears to have been resurfaced, leaving a rather rough area where it joins the bridge itself. Why was this not done at the same time?

SUNDAY 7 August – 2017
The workday volunteers cleared the Jubilee Oak trees on the Seagull Lane patch which were getting engulfed by dense vegetation. The young ones we planted for the Jubilee in 2012 are growing fast. Here is the smallest one (planted by my wife) which is already 6 feet tall.

They all have a good crop of acorns and spangle galls on the leaves.

One of the volunteers told me she had seen three Hedgehogs near the Lumley gate during the past week. I have had two in my garden. Are they doing particularly well this year, I wonder?
Dan told me that David Gattrell had seen a Water Vole with a baby vole at the top of Peter Pond near the Lumley Stream. I did walk over to Peter Pond this morning to check the location of the sighting, but could not find David. In any case, this is very good news as it means we still have Water Voles not far away from the River Ems on Brook Meadow. Please come back!
I was very pleased to find some Prickly Lettuce plants in flower on the edge of the northern experimental cutting area. This is a rare plant on Brook Meadow and our first record for two years. It is not an easy plant to photograph as this attempt of mine clearly demonstrates.
I heard my first autumn song of the Robin.  I got this shot of one singing in August on Brook Meadow a few years ago.
Butterflies seen included Red Admiral, Large White, Comma, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown and Gatekeeper.

For earlier wildlife news go to . . .

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