Edited by Brian Fellows
THURSDAY JUNE 4 – 2020
A chilly morning. Walked round the reserve starting at the Seagull Lane gate.
Notes on wildlife of interest:
Newly flowering on the Seagull Lane patch were Hedge Mustard, Large Bindweed, Nipplewort, Dog Rose, Elder, Common Mallow. Hawthorn berries starting to form on the large bush at the far end of the patch.
Marmalade Fly (Episyrphus balteatus) feeding on the Large Bindweed.
Masses of fruits (‘keys) on the large Ash overhanging the north path – clearly female tree. .
I found another three Southern Marsh Orchids outside the main orchid area taking the grand total to 172.
I also found one more Bee Orchid on the orchid area taking the grand total to 22.
The tall Water Speedwell is flowering well by the path to the Lumley Stream. The length of the flowering spikes suggest it is the hybrid between Blue Water-speedwell and Pink Water Speedwell – namely Veronica x Lackschewitzii. This has been the most common of the Water Speedwells on Brook Meadow.
First Toad Rush of the year on the path to the Lumley Stream.
I could find any Pepper-saxifrage where it usually grows on the east side of the Lumley area. This is worrying as it is one of our meadow indicators and has been with us from the outset. However, it may be buried under the mass of Hemlock Water-dropwort so I shall look again.
A small amount of Soft Brome grass is on the east side of the central path north end through the centre meadow.
Meadow Fescue immediately behind Beryl’s seat – also maybe Hybrid Fescue (x Festulolium loliaceum).
There’s a good growth of Marsh Foxtail grass in the “Lumley puddle” area.
Yet to come on the grasses front are Timothy and the Bent-grasses.
A Cetti’s Warbler was singing loudly from the bushes around the Lumley Stream. We definitely have at least two singing males on the meadow this year. Good!
However, only one Whitethroat has been heard this year – this from the Brambles on the west side of the north meadow. But that one has not been heard for a couple of weeks, so may have moved on. Not good!
The only butterfly seen all morning was a male Common Blue resting on a grass.
TUESDAY JUNE 2 – 2020
Dan, Terry and I spent about an hour on Brook Meadow this morning in the scorching sun searching for Bee Orchids in the two main wild flower areas.
Here are Terry and Dan looking for Bee Orchids on the north meadow.
We found a total of 14 flowering Bee Orchid spikes on the Lumley area and 7 on the north meadow orchid area – all were marked with sticks. We shall continue to look for Bee Orchids, though as the surrounding vegetation gets taller they become increasingly difficult to find.
Here is a particularly nice specimen with two flowers found by Terry.
As shown in the following chart, this year’s total of 21 flowering spikes is slightly below last year’s 25. However, this is still the third best total since counts started in 2007.
Maurice Lillie found another group of 5 or 6 Bee Orchids on the south bank of Peter Pond about two thirds of the way from the bus shelter to the path that goes down to Gooseberry Cottage. Here is Maurice’s photo of a particularly fine one with 4 flowers open and more to come.
Male Banded Demoiselle on the Lumley area.
Bird’s-foot Trefoil – good patch in the centre of the Lumley area. It was here last year for the first time.
I found both Perennial Ryegrass and Meadow Fescue along the north eastern path through the north meadow near Beryl’s Seat this augers well for the rare hybrid of these grasses called x Festulolium loliaceum. – Here is Meadow Fescue (I think)
I was very pleased to meet two visiting naturalists who asked if they could view our Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) which they had seen on our web site. I invited them to step over the twig barrier onto the north meadow orchid area and showed them the location of this rare plant – the only one in this area of South Hampshire. They were most impressed and spent some time taking photos. They also asked about the Skullcap and I directed them to the site of this rare plant on the bank of the Lumley Stream outside the Lumley Cottages.
Here is a photo of a couple of the developing Great Burnet flower heads which I took after the visitors had left.
THURSDAY MAY 28 – 2020
It was very good to see a Norse worker strimming the edges of the north path on Brook Meadow this morning. Maurice was pleased with their prompt response to his request for help.
Meanwhile, Maurice and Tony had cut back the ‘play area’ on the north meadow, creating an open glade for family activities and beneficial for wild flowers too.
A Cetti’s Warbler was singing strongly as usual from the west bank of the River Ems. Hope it stays to breed.
I had the first Meadow Brown butterfly of the year on the main orchid area – the earliest I have ever recorded one on the meadow. Just one with more to come.
The main purpose of my visit was to meet Dan Mortimer to look for and mark Bee Orchids. I had only found 3 on the Lumley area on my previous visit. Today, we found 10 Bee Orchids on the Lumley area and another one on the main orchid area on the north meadow making 11 in total. Here is Dan marking one on the Lumley area a stick.
The Bee Orchid flower spikes are still fairly small with two flowers at the most, so they have a good deal of growing still to do.
Dan and I will resume counting and marking the Bee Orchids next week before the grasses get too high.
Other plant news
Newly flowering on the Lumley area were Red Bartsia, Hedge Bindweed and Common Knapweed – all much earlier than usual on Brook Meadow.
Also earlier than usual was a patch of Crested Dog’s-tail grass on the edge of the path round the Lumley area. Something must be happening this year?!
Photos of Knapweed and Crested Dog’s-tail.
Here’s a nice shot of Wild Angelica on the Lumley area being approached by a Honey Bee.
It was very good to have a visit from Roy and Pam Ewing, mainly to look at the orchids, though I did also point out some grasses and sedges! Roy is the driving force behind the Nore Barn conservation group.
MONDAY MAY 25 – 2020
A very warm and sunny morning. Not too many visitors, so distancing was easy. One young family was having a picnic just north of the main orchid area which was nice to see.
Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing well as well as was the regular Cetti’s Warbler on the west bank. Surprisingly, I did not see a single butterfly.
My main objective was to carry out counts of the orchids. I usually do the orchid count at the beginning of June, but since the flower spikes were already showing well and the surrounding vegetation was still low, I gave it a go. In fact, it was relatively easy and I think the counts of the two main orchids were reasonably accurate. I shall need look for more Bee Orchids which are usually a bit later and difficult to find. I shall also need to look for the Pyramidal Orchid that was on the main orchid area last year.
Today, I counted 147 Southern Marsh Orchids on the main orchid area on the north meadow and another 10 on the Lumley area making a grand total of 157.
This is a record count for Southern Marsh Orchids on Brook Meadow and the following chart shows the good increase in numbers since two plants were initially planted in 2007.
I counted 29 Common Spotted Orchids on the main orchid area on the north meadow and another 2 on the Lumley area making a grand total of 31.
This was also a record number for Brook Meadow though I think there could be a few more that I missed, so I may have another go at the Common Spotteds. The chart shows the steady growth of these orchids over the years.
I found 3 Bee Orchids on the Lumley area – the first of the year so far. They are not yet fully developed and there should be more to come, though finding them in the burgeoning vegetation is the problem. The ones I found today were located south of the single stemmed flowering Hemlock Water-dropwort near the north path. I would appreciate help in looking for these small orchids and their locations need marking. There are more to come!!
Other flower news
Flower buds are developing on the Great Burnet plants in the usual spot on the orchid area. This is the earliest date on record. Just one flowering in Bird’s-foot Trefoil centre of the Lumley area – I found one in the same place last year. Hope it spreads.
Two nice clumps of Lesser Stitchwort are in flower just north of the casual path through the centre meadow parallel with the causeway. Same spot as in previous years.
Smooth Brome grass
There are patches of Brome grasses on the centre meadow, one near the Lesser Stitchwort and another along the path going north through the centre meadow from the seat. They are either Soft Brome (Bromus hordeaceus) or Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus), but distinguishing the two is not easy. I puzzle over them every year, but the key difference is the total length of the panicle (inflorescence) which is longer in Smooth (7-20cm) than in Soft Brome (5-10cm). I examined several samples of the Bromes from this area and they all measured at least 10cm and one was a whopping 20cm (see photo) – this is far too long for Soft Brome and strongly indicates Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) which is the rarer of the two Bromes. That’s good for the meadow!
See Francis Rose’s book – “Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns” for help on grasses, etc.
THURSDAY MAY 21 – 2020
I met Robert the council litter man emptying the bin at the north bridge and congratulated him for a doing a good job on behalf of the conservation group.
I scooped up a handful of fluffy Willow seeds which were floating through the air like soft warm snowflakes.
I did what will probably be a final count of the flowering Ragged Robin plants on the Lumley area which came to 114. This is the lowest count for 5 years.
For full details of the count and all previous counts go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-lists/plant-counts/
I noticed good number of Southern Marsh Orchids on the Lumley area but not fully grown. The orchids on the main orchid area can be easily seen from the paths. The annual orchid counts will be carried out on both areas in a couple of weeks time when the plants are fully developed.
Marsh Foxtail with its characteristic bent stem is now coming up in the area around the “Lumley puddle” .
I was utterly astonished and dismayed to find the solitary Celery-leaved Buttercup in the “Lumley puddle” area had been pulled up and dumped on the ground nearby. Who would have done such a strange and bizarre thing on a nature reserve is hard to comprehend. Fortunately the plant was still fairly fresh and the ground nearby soft enough for me to carry out a rough and ready transplanting job using my walking stick.
I was pleased to find another much smaller Celery-leaved Buttercup plant along the small casual path from the edge of the Lumley area down to the Lumley Stream. It was also at this spot last year.
Also down this path (which incidentally is very good for wet loving plants) were a couple of plants of Wavy Bitter-cress. Its flowers had 6 stamens ruling out Hairy Bittercress which has 4 stamens. The flowers were also too small for Large Bittercress which has been here in the past.
A tall Blue Water-speedwell (Veronica anagallis-aquatica) was in the same area by the Lumley Stream. This too is a regular in this area, though also grows on the main River Ems.
Also at the end of this path to the Lumley Stream are the large leaves of Water Dock which only grows at this spot on the meadow.
The tall ‘Haskins’ Aspen on the east side of the north meadow which I was worried about earlier in spring is now looking like a proper tree with leaves on all branches. It must be a very late leafing tree.
During the walk I heard Cetti’s Warblers singing from three locations on the meadow, south meadow, west bank near old gasholder site and the Lumley Stream. Although it is possible that one or two birds moved from one place to another, my guess is that we have three Cetti’s Warblers on the meadow for the first time ever.
The only butterfly of interest was a Green-veined White – not a very good shot, but the heavily veined underwings are distinctive.
MONDAY MAY 18 – 2020
Brook Meadow grasses
Colin Brotherston and I had a very interesting and productive wander around the meadow this morning mainly looking at grasses to help Colin’s identification of them – always keeping a good distance apart from one another!!
We successfully found most of the common meadow grasses including Annual Meadow-grass, Barren Brome, Cocksfoot, False Oat-grass, Meadow Foxtail, Rough Meadow-grass and Tall Fescue. We also found Red Fescue in the round cut area on the north meadow along with the first Yorkshire Fog of the year. I encouraged Colin to collect some samples of grasses to take home for further study.
We found some of the more common sedges and rushes, including Divided Sedge and Distant Sedge, plus Glaucous Sedge and Sharp-flowered Rush on the Lumley area and Hard Rush on the orchid area. We noted a good number of Ragged Robin flowers on the Lumley area which I shall count sometime this week. We also saw several Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids coming into flower on the main orchid area on the north meadow plus some Common Mouse-ear and the first Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill of the year.
My best find of the morning was a substantial plant of Celery-leaved Buttercup in the “Lumley puddle” area near the Lumley gate.
Its flowers feature a large fruiting head circled by weak looking petals. This is an uncommon plant on Brook Meadow, though tends to pop up somewhere every year. It is an annual, so it comes from spreading seeds.
In the south meadow we stopped to chat to a visiting bird watcher who told us he had only recently moved to the area. Colin gave him a Brook Meadow leaflet and encouraged him to join.
This chap told us he had just seen a male Beautiful Demoiselle. Earlier in the walk we had seen two blue damselflies – probably Azure Damselflies though they did not stop long enough for close examination.
Colin noticed what must be a self seeded Holm Oak sapling just north of the south bridge on the west approach.
Finally, a major highlight of the morning for us both was to hear a Cuckoo calling for several minutes from the direction of Lumley to the east of the meadow. This was the first Cuckoo to be heard from Brook Meadow since 2013. It was particularly welcome to Colin who had been to Thorney Island twice without hearing one.
Other birds heard were Cetti’s Warbler from the south meadow, Song Thrush from Palmer’s Road Copse and the usual Whitethroat from the brambles on the west side of the north meadow.
On the way home through Palmer’s Road Car Park we stopped to admire a magnificent Prickly Sow-thistle plant growing against a metal fence.
FRIDAY MAY 15 – 2020
Whitethroat was singing from the bramble bush on the west side of the north meadow, but no sound of any other as yet.
Cetti’s Warbler was singing from south meadow. One of two on Brook Meadow.
Maurice’s signs on the Lumley area are good idea – they ask walkers to use the cut paths around the wildflower area.
Ragged Robin count was 85, so gradually rising. The final count will be next week.
Found my first Southern Marsh Orchid on the Lumley area.
Grey Squirrel in Palmer’s Road Copse. Unusual.
Colin Brotherston reported Brown Trout in the river under the south bridge.
THURSDAY MAY 14 – 2020
Whitethroat singing from the bramble bush on the west side of the north meadow. No sound of any other Whitethroat as yet, though they may arrive later.
The first orchids of the year are just starting to flower on the orchid area of the north meadow: 3 Southern Marsh Orchids and 3 Common Spotted Orchids. There may well be others so tread carefully if you go looking! Not much to look at but they will get bigger!
Shots of Maurice and Dan at work . . .
PS The Great Black-backed Gulls have two chicks on Slipper Millpond
MONDAY MAY 11 – 2020
The casual paths through the meadow have been carefully trimmed by Maurice and Nigel. It is now possible to walk right down the Bramble path on the east side of the south meadow thanks to Nigel’s mowing. This used to be my job many years ago and I do recall getting badly scratched by the thorns.
Water Voles – There are plenty of promising looking holes in the river bank in Palmer’s Road Copse, but no sign of a vole.
Whitethroat – just one singing from the brambles on west side of north meadow
Common Blue (male) butterfly – 1st of the year on north meadow.
Demoiselle (female) – 1st damselfly of the year on the Lumley Stream. It could be Banded or Beautiful Demoiselle.
Newly flowering plants: Wild Angelica (south meadow), Bittersweet, Beaked Hawk’s-beard and Smooth Sow-thistle (all outside the Seagull Lane gate). Yellow Flag in south east corner.
Spear Thistle – There is a massive plant (not yet in flower) on the edge of the path from the end of Seagull Lane.
Ragged Robin – I counted 47 flowering plants on the Lumley area – up from 20 on 6th May.
Hairy Sedge (Carex hirta) – first of the year on the experimental cut area on north meadow. Very pleased to find this one which I sometimes miss.
Remote Sedge (Carex remota) – two tufts now flowering at the start of the path through Palmer’s Road Copse from the south bridge.
SUNDAY MAY 10 – 2020
Aspen tree – on the east side has leaves, but they are still sparse. I am not completely happy with the state of the tree, but let’s see how it goes.
False Oat-grass – is opening its spikelets along the main path – very much earlier than in previous years!!
Ground-elder – in flower on the north path – also much earlier than in previous years. Everything is early this year.
WEDNESDAY MAY 6 – 2020
The large Ash tree on the railway embankment which overhangs the north river has a large branch heavy with leaves and ‘keys’ that we need to keep an eye on.
Many Ash trees have been affected by Ash die-back disease which makes them liable to lose branches. In Westbourne a large branch of a similar Ash tree has fallen onto the millstream. In Stansted Forest, Michael Prior has been obliged to fell several large Ash trees on the estate due to Ash die-back disease.
View of grasses on the north meadow
Red Fescue – on the northern experimental area north meadow
Ragged Robin – 20 counted on the Lumley area – more to come
False Fox Sedge – first spikes on the Lumley area and the centre meadow.
Common Spike-rush – first on the centre meadow
Elder – flowering for the first time this year on north path, a bit earlier than usual.
Yellow Rattle – flowers just opening on the orchid area.
Gipsywort – new crop in the flood overflow channel in the south east corner of the south meadow. The leaves are nettle-like.
Field Horsetail – I checked the fresh crop of Horsetails growing beneath the Weeping Willow on the south meadow. The verdict was Field Horsetail on both tests: 1. Pull and twist the stem reveals a central core in Field Horsetail but not in Marsh. 2. Field Horsetail has 8-12 stem ridges whereas Marsh has less than 8.
Hoverflies mating – Helophilus pendulus (Sun Flies) on south meadow.
Cetti’s Warblers – two singing well, one from south meadow and one from west bank.
Late News: Dan Mortimer reports that the Swans on Peter Pond appear to have abandoned their nest and no eggs are visible. They pair are aimlessly swanning around on the pond. It is not clear what has happened as there is no sign of disturbance.
MONDAY MAY 4 – 2020
The large Ash tree on the railway embankment which overhangs the north river has masses of leaves and ‘keys’ and looks very healthy.
Several Aspen saplings with red leaves have come up on the east side of the north meadow behind the Rowans and close to the ailing Aspens. They must be self-seeded or suckers?
Shield Bug – on a leaf by the Ash – Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus).
Silverweed leaves – wet and shining silvery on Lumley area
THURSDAY APRIL30 – 2020
This morning four volunteers led by Maurice Lillie completed the twig barrier around the main orchid area on the north meadow. As most of the nearby tree cuttings had already been used in the earlier session, volunteers had to carry material from the south meadow.
The final result is a fairly sturdy ‘natural’ barrier which should serve to deter any encroachment and damaging trampling of this highly important area for wild flowers.
Nigel mowed the two paths through the Seagull Lane patch which had become very overgrown. The power scythe being cleaned after use.
One Whitethroat singing from the Brambles on the west side of the north meadow north of Frank’s seat.
Two Cetti’s Warblers are currently singing on Brook Meadow; one from the west bank of the river between the S-bend and the north bridge and the other near the river in Palmer’s Road Copse.
Ten Cuckooflowers are now out on the orchid area along with several others on the centre meadow.
Yellow Rattle leaves are now showing all over the orchid area.
White flowered Common Comfrey on the orchid area. Purple flowered on the Lumley area.
The first two Ragged Robin flowers of the year are out on the Lumley area. There has been just two previous April sightings of Ragged Robin on 28-Apr-2009 and on 26-Apr-2011.
First Red Clover on the centre meadow – another early flowering.
The large Aspen tree on the east side of the north meadow south of the Rowan plantation is still looking very barren of leaves, though a few can be seen sprouting from higher up. The other Aspens behind Beryl’s seat are similarly barren, so maybe this species is particularly slow in leafing?
Two early grasses are out on the Seagull Lane patch – Barren Brome with its delicate dropping panicles and Rough Meadow-grass with long pointed ligules.
Video clip of the Barren Brome beneath Brian’s Oak tree
Lots of Ground-ivy on the Seagull Lane patch this year.
On the path near the hedgerow on the west side of the Seagull Lane patch there is a patch of enormous Lesser Burdock leaves
Nearby is a Teasel plant with leaves forming a water-retentive cup where they meet the stem.
Red-tailed Bumblebee with all black body nestling in a buttercup. Probably Bombus lapidarius worker.
MONDAY APRIL 27 – 2020
A Whitethroat was singing from the Brambles on the west side of the north meadow. This is a regular Whitethroat nesting site.
Two Cetti’s Warblers heard singing, one from the river on the west side of the north meadow behind the plantation. The other in Palmer’s Road Copse by the observation fence. It is possible that this was the same bird that flew from one place to another!
5 Blackcaps singing, two in Lumley copse, two in Palmer’s Road Copse and one on the west side of the meadow.
Grey Wagtail feeding above the river in Palmer’s Road Copse.
Stock Dove calling from Palmer’s Road Copse.
Two Moorhens were on the river probably nesting.
The large Hawthorn at the far end of the Seagull Lane patch is in full blossom and aromatic.
Horse Chestnut in flower on the south meadow near the Weeping Willow.
Hemlock Water-dropwort flowers almost open which is very early.
Common Sorrel – not fully out on the west side of the centre meadow.
Yellow Flag – First of the year on the river bank below the south bridge.
Divided Sedge in abundance on the Lumley area
SATURDAY APRIL 25 – 2020
The large Aspen tree south of the Rowan plantation looks rather poorly with no leaves and some clearly dead twigs and branches. However, there are a few leaf buds starting to open, so where’s there’s life there’s hope!!
In sharp contrast the Rowans are full and leaf and white blossom, predicting a good crop of berries for the birds. Gwynne Johnson in whose memory the Rowans were planted in May 2005 would be very happy to see them in such good health and well looked after!
There is a nice crop of Wintercress in flower for the first time this year on the Butterbur area immediately below the main seat.
Tufts of Tall Fescue are now prominent across the meadow with panicles of spikelets leaning over.
THURSDAY APRIL 23 – 2020
Protecting the orchid area
Four volunteers responded to the request from Maurice Lillie to form a small work group to erect a twig barrier around the main orchid area on the north meadow from 11am to 12 noon this morning. This job is regularly done at this time of the year to protect the delicate orchids and other flowering plants that grow in this area from trampling. This job is particularly important this year since during the period of coronavirus lockdown there has been an increased use of this area by walkers, resulting in a casual paths being made right across the area.
Maurice constructed four notices pinned to posts which he hammered into the ground at equal distances around the area.
These notices said ‘Regeneration of wildflower area. Please use other footpaths’. These notices were designed not only to direct walkers away from the area, but also to remind them of the conservation value of protecting this special area.
While Maurice was preparing the notices, the other four volunteers set about gathering up twigs and small branches of which there was an abundance. With these materials they constructed a temporary ‘fence’ or barrier right around the special wildflower area to deter any wayward walkers who had not seen the notices!
All volunteers took great care at all times to maintain appropriate ‘social distance’ from each other (ie. at least 2 metres) in accordance with government guidelines.
Here are four of the volunteers at the end of the session. Good work lads.
There are at least 8 Cuckooflowers on the orchid area. Not quite as prominent are Common Mouse-ear with hairy leaves and stems.
Several of the Rowans are now in full blossom and attracting bees. Crack Willow catkins are now out around the meadow. All our Crack Willows are female.
This St Mark’s Fly rested for a while on a nettle leaf. There are plenty still in flight.
The large Aspen tree on the east side of the north meadow south of the Rowan plantation continues to give some concern. This tree which was planted in commemoration by the Haskins family in Dec 2005 remains completely leafless, though it has many unopened buds.
There are several other semi-wild Aspens on the eastern edge of the meadow further north which are also without leaves, but one has a good crop of catkins. Does anyone know what, if anything, might be the problem here?
MONDAY APRIL 20 – 2020
Common Spotted Orchid – There are several rosettes with spotted leaves on the orchid area.
Ribwort Plantain – in flower on the orchid area. Meadow Buttercups – in the same area.
Common Comfrey – with purple flowers on the centre meadow.
Cuckooflowers – Just two flowering plants, one on Lumley area and one on centre meadow.
Field Horsetail – Plants with green sterile stems are prominent on the orchid area and the Lumley area.
Sycamore tree – in Palmer’s Road Copse has dangling flowers.
St Mark’s Flies – still abundant
Cetti’s Warbler – top of south meadow
Kestrel – There has been no sign of that juvenile Kestrel over the past 2 weeks. I think it must have moved on elsewhere.
River level down – so the path through Palmer’s Road Copse is not flooded.
Water Voles – I scan the river banks in Palmer’s Road Copse but no sign of Water Voles or burrows.
SATURDAY APRIL 18 – 2020
Two Whitethroats were feeding in the brambles north of Frank’s seat. The first of the year and the earliest since Apr-12-2011. One with a very white throat and the other one duller. Male and female? Adult male has grey head and white throat. Female lacks the grey head and throat is duller. This is the male.
TUESDAY APRIL 14 – 2020
Cocksfoot grass out on the Seagull Lane patch.
The bushy Yew on the east side of the north meadow has buds – females?
There’s no sign of any leaves on the Aspen which does not look very good?
Definite Glaucous Sedge on the Lumley area.
Cetti’s Warbler singing from Lumley gate area.
Lumley Stream flowing strongly.
Creeping Buttercup on south meadow Bramble path
Common Comfrey flower buds visible.
Lords and Ladies open on Bramble path and in Palmer’s Road Copse
River Ems flooding the path through Palmer’s Road Copse.
Lungwort flowering on the causeway.
Brown Trout in river 50 yards below the north bridge
SUNDAY APRIL 12 – 2020
The young Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch are now leafing up nicely.
Leaves are also out on the large Ash tree of the railway embankment.
The two extra Ransoms (Wild Garlic) plants planted by Dan Mortimer in the north-east corner are both in flower and looking good.
Meadow Foxtail – is widespread in the north north meadow.
Horse Chestnut – in full leaf on the east side of the north meadow behind the Rowans.
Hairy Bittercress with 4 stamens behind the Rowans.
There’s a young sapling with fresh leaves on the edge of the Lumley copse near the Black Poplar which from the leaves I would guess is a Hazel. Planted?
Another Bee-fly. So common this year.
The Black Poplars are dropping masses of small green capsules which I’ve seen in the past. These are seeds.
There are several dense tufts of Distant Sedge on the Lumley area.
There is also Glaucous Sedge with greyish leaves.
Cetti’s Warbler singing in the corner of the Lumley area
Nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) on the nettles on the main path.
Yellow 22-spot Ladybird on nettles.
SUNDAY APRIL 5 – 2020
A very pale Green-veined White on the Seagull Lane path towards the bridge. The early spring brood tends to be faintly marked.
The first male Orange Tip by the observation fence. Also Peacock and Brimstone.
Ground-ivy in flower on the Seagull Lane patch.
Pendulous Sedge in Palmer’s Road Copse.
SATURDAY APRIL 4 – 2020
Three Blackcaps and two Chiffchaffs were singing on the meadow.
Cetti’s Warbler singing north of Peter Pond.
Cow Parsley just starting to flower on the main path.
Three-cornered Garlic (Allium triquetrum) is in flower in the regular spot outside the Seagull Lane gate entrance. This is the only place that this interesting plant (but unloved by gardeners) grows on the meadow.
A pair of Craneflies appeared to be either mating or fighting. The first photo shows the fly on the right approaching the fly on the left, which from its pointed abdomen looks like a female. The second photo show the pair in a brief but vigorous skirmish with legs flailing and wings whirring. Both insects seemed OK at the end, so my guess is that it was mating. I am not sure of the species, but from the wing venation my guess is Tipula vernalis (not T. maxima).
The first dark brown spikelets of Divided Sedge (Carex divisa) are out for the first time this year on the Lumley area. This is a few days earlier than usual. Soon they will be abundant.
I tracked a small pure white butterfly busily feeding on the Lesser Celandine flowers on the Lumley area. I was puzzled at first, but I think it must be a particularly pale Small White. The first brood of Small Whites in spring is much more faintly marked than later broods.
WEDNESDAY APRIL 1 – 2020
This morning’s observations:
There was plenty of bird song on the meadow this morning, mostly Robin, Wren, Woodpigeon with at least two Chiffchaffs and two Blackcaps – one by the Lumley gate and the other in the scrub behind the Rowan plantation. There was no sign of our friendly Kestrel.
I was interested to see the Oak sapling that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch for the Queen’s Jubilee in 2012, which retained its leaves over the winter period, is now almost leafless. The Oak sapling nearby planted on that occasion by the Mayor of Havant did not retain its leaves over the winter period.
The retention of dead leaves by trees over winter is called marcescence. This strategy adopted by some, but not all, deciduous trees is thought by botanists to confer an advantage to a tree by increasing the time available its leaves to remain photosynthetic and by reducing nutrient losses associated with dropped leaves. So, ‘my Oak’ seems to have the right idea!
Meadow Foxtail is now fairly widespread on the north meadow with some spikes starting to show anthers.
The Rowans on the east side of the north meadow are now in good leaf and showing the first fruit buds. Shall we have another good crop of berries like last year?
The large Grey Willow tree on the edge of the Lumley copse is looking quite splendid covered with male yellow ‘pussy willow’ catkins. The Grey Willows on Brook Meadow are mostly male, while the Goat Willows are female.
I watched a white-tailed Bumblebee (probably B. terrestris) busily doing something among the grasses on the Lumley area – maybe making its nest?
I spotted a small cluster of bright blue Forget-me-not flowers snuggled in among the roadside vegetation along Lumley Road. From their location and the presence of copious erect hairs on the leaves I guess they are Wood Forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) which is a common garden escape. But no matter, it goes down on my Brook Meadow list for this year.
MONDAY MARCH 30 – 2020
This morning’s observations:
The north bridge is now clear of fallen trees thanks to the sterling work of Maurice and Nigel.
This is the Crack Willow that caused the trouble just north of the bridge, much loved by generations of children for dangling legs over the river. Photo by Maurice Lillie.
The large Ash on the railway embankment which overhangs the north path is now covered with clusters of dark red female flowers. No sign of any leaves as yet on the Ashes, nor on the Oaks.
The brown spikes of Greater Pond Sedge are now emerging on the Lumley area. This is always the first of the sedges to show itself.
The juvenile Kestrel showing its distinctive diffusively streaked breast was on its favoured Black Poplar perching tree surrounded by yellow catkins.
Here’s a short video clip of this new star of the meadow, allowing, as it does, remarkably close human approach! We will have to start calling it ‘Kes’.
The silver-greyish leaves of Silverweed are now prominent on the Lumley area.
THURSDAY MARCH 26 – 2020
I had my daily ‘Boris walk’ on my own this morning which gave me more opportunity to have a close look at some things. There were very few people about, so there was no problem in social distancing.
A Chiffchaff was singing in the north west corner of the meadow, as yesterday, but no Blackcap. That very early Blackcap yesterday was probably passing through.
The large Ash tree on the railway embankment is decorated with bunches of what seem to be flask-shaped female flowers. I was concerned about this Ash last year, but it now looks very much alive!
The Rowan trees on the Gwynne Johnson plantation are now sprouting leaves shielding forming flower buds.
Both yellow male and green female catkins are now open on the Grey and Goat Willows respectively. The yellow catkins were attracting lots of insects in the warm sunshine. I spotted Comma and Peacock butterflies. A yellow Brimstone fluttered past, but did not stop for a photo!
Also feeding on the catkins were Bee-fly and Drone Fly. That’s not a much of a photo of the Bee-fly, but you can see its long proboscis sticking into the flowers as it hovers.
The new track cut by the Environment Agency down to the Lumley Stream has a good selection of Primroses of various colours. While I was there I said hello to Kath over her garden wall in Rose Cottage – well distanced.
The large Weeping Willow tree is a splendid sight at the top of the south meadow – thanks are due to Brian Boak for this fine addition to the meadow flora.
The Lumley Stream continues to flow strongly with an attractive babble.
The cones of Field Horsetail are now showing on the north meadow orchid area and the Lumley area. Moorhen is a common resident of the river.
TUESDAY MARCH 24 – 2020
Note from Colin Brotherston Chair of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group
As a result of the lockdown on social contact and movement announced by the British Government yesterday there will be no scheduled work sessions on Brook Meadow until the social situation returns to normal.
There is no restriction to anyone accessing the meadow for recreation purposes within the parameters laid down by the government.
Just a little piano piece from the delightful Alma Deutcher to raise the spirits in these troubled times . . . https://youtu.be/kR3T9OjoxSM
MONDAY MARCH 23 – 2020
It was such a beautiful spring morning for an early walk – early for me that is – 10am!. With the need for social distancing in mind, I did the 5 minute walk from home along a deserted street to Brook Meadow where other people were there walking dogs, etc. Keeping to the rules, we all steered well clear of one another, giving cheery ‘Good Morning’ greeting as we passed. It was just like wartime. It did my heart good to see a couple of young lads with fishing nets on the river bank. Here are a few pictures to remind one of the beauty of the place. The south path is now dry but for a few puddles at the southern end.
The main river path is also good. The grassland is drying out, though remains very boggy in parts.
Looking across the north meadow I could just detect a tinge of green of on top of the tall Crack Willows.
The sign in the signcases was a stark reminder of good intentions
My main objective this morning was to do a final count of the Butterbur flower spikes. Today I took my time and found most of the spurs, though many were quite tiny and partly hidden amongst the burgeoning vegetation, whereas others were large and getting old and worn.
As I suspected, the total count of 198 was way down on recent years which have been consistently over 500; last year’s count was 794 and the all time record was 1,150 in 2013. As shown in the following chart, this year’s total was the lowest I have ever recorded over 20 years of counting.
Butterbur grow in several areas of the meadow, but the largest drop was in the largest area immediately below the main seat which fell to 147 from 704 last year. The smaller Butterbur sites, on the river bank, south meadow and east causeway were much the same as before.
So what has happened? There has been no special conservation work on the main Butterbur area which could account for this change. Weather is an obvious cause. This winter has been warm and wet, but I can see no obvious reason why this should disadvantage our native Butterbur (Petasites hybridus) – which are all male plants and which propagate and spread though underground rhizomes. If anyone has any idea please let me know.
SUNDAY MARCH 22 – 2020
The leaning Blackthorn on the Seagull Lane patch which conservation volunteers righted during the past week is leaning over again, presumably blown by the strong winds. Maurice tells me that volunteers will have another crack at righting it, but it is a heavy tree and the roots have loosened. Not an easy task.
Maurice, Terry and Nigel were working when I arrived this afternoon, continuing the clearance of scrub from the west bank of the river on the Seagull Lane patch. This is a big job.
I tried to carry out a Butterbur count, but it was hard work finding the flower spikes in the burgeoning vegetation. My impression that numbers are well down this year. I shall try to do a final count in a few days.
The flooding on Brook Meadow has subsided and the south meadow is open again. There are still a few big puddles on the main path, but access is fine.
I walked back through Palmer’s Road Car Park where I found a bright Comma butterfly basking in the warm sunshine on the edge of the car park.
Dan Mortimer delivered the three signcase display boards to my house. My job is now to update the displays for Dan to replace them in the cases later next week.
THURSDAY MARCH 19 – 2020
Brook Meadow workday
There was a good turn out of volunteers for the special ‘coronavirus work session’ organised by Colin Brotherston. Colin had previously outlined the conservation group’s position regarding volunteering on Brook Meadow during the coronavirus crisis. Everyone appreciated this and were keen to get on with some physical work on the meadow as a release from the doom and gloom in the news. The volunteers spaced themselves about 2 metres apart for the group photo – three more arrived after the photo had been taken.
For the full workday report with more photos go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/
TUESDAY MARCH 17 – 2020
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning and down to the Hermitage Millponds, keeping well clear of other people! Lots of dog walkers on the meadow. I am the only one without one! Here are a few of my observations.
Meadow Foxtail – The first spikelets of the year are now out on the north meadow (though not yet in full flower with anthers). Meadow Foxtail is always the first of the grasses to flower on Brook Meadow in the spring, but Mar 17th is exceptionally early even for Meadow Foxtail. Looking back through my records I find this is the earliest ever date for the appearance of Meadow Foxtail spikelets since I started recorded in Year 2000.
Butterbur – Many of the Butterbur flower spikes on the area below the main seat are now well developed, but many are still in bud stage. So I will delay the annual count of the flower spikes for a few more days, though I can’t leave it too long as the surrounding vegetation is also growing fast and threatens to envelop the flower spikes making them difficult to count. Last year I did the count on Mar 22.
Black Poplar – The two large Black Poplar trees on the edge of the Lumley copse are now covered in thin yellow-green catkins which I think are female; apparently male catkins would be fatter and red.
These two Poplars were planted on the meadow in November 2004 in memory of Frances Jannaway’s mother are probably hybrids, but I am not sure which hybrid. The Collins Tree Guide has a section devoted to Black Poplar hybrids, some of which are female clones and others male clones. Of the female clones I am tempted to go for ‘Florence Biondi’ (p,158) on the basis of its description as straight stemmed, graceful with fairly sparse foliage denser at the crown, but I could be wrong!
Queen Bumblebee – I watched for a few minutes a large black Queen Bumblebee with a bright red tail exploring the rough grassland on the on the edge of Lumley copse, presumably looking for a suitable site for a nest to lay eggs. I took a few photos and managed a video clip.
Identification – possibly Bombus lapidarius which Bryan Pinchen says is one of the most common species, being widespread across most of the country. Queens emerge in March and April and nests produce workers from May to August. The worker is a similar colouration to the Queen but much smaller. I will check the ID with Bryan.
Lumley Stream – Continues to flow swiftly. A video clip taken from the edge of the Lumley area.
MONDAY MARCH 16 – 2020
I walked over to Brook Meadow to look for signs of spring in wildlife. On entering the Seagull Lane gate I encountered Maurice and Terry from the conservation group working to straighten the Blackthorn tree on the west side of the Seagull Lane patch that had been partly blown over in the wind.
As Maurice said . . . “My old climbing rope that lives in HQ was useful but even with our combined strength, (Terry’s 90% and my 10%) we needed greater pulling power. Our friend Steve in Artec Engineering came to the rescue with two adjustable webbing ratchet ties and after a lot of head scratching we pulled the tree at last to an acceptable position.”
Well done, chaps.
The two workers were being closely watched by a Robin first from the handle of a fork pushed into the ground and secondly from the dark ash remains of a bonfire.
I had another look at the Ash flowers on the north path which I am fairly sure have a mixture of male and female parts as shown in the following photos. Here is the whole flower cluster with the female styles and stigmas sticking up above the coral-like male anthers which split open to release pollen. In fact, pollen can be seen sticking to various parts of the flowers.
Here are two photos taken through the microscope with the male flowers on the left and the female flowers on the right.
I was delighted to see two butterflies heralding the onset of spring, a male Brimstone and a Small Tortoiseshell, neither of which stayed still for a photo.
FRIDAY MARCH 13 – 2020
There was a positively spring-like feel to Brook Meadow when I visited this afternoon. The sun was warm, the birds were singing and it felt as if the meadow was coming to life!
It was particularly good to hear the mellifluous tones of a Blackbird wafting across the north meadow for the first time this spring. Dunnocks were busily displaying to each other. A Goldcrest and a small flock of Long-tailed Tits were busily feeding in the Cherry Plum tree on the causeway. Here is a Goldcrest photo I dug out of the archives that Malcolm Phillips took on Brook Meadow a couple of years ago.
One bird that did stay still for a photo from me was the resident female/juvenile Kestrel perched in a Black Poplar tree.
The leaning tree with roots partly exposed on the west side of the Seagull Lane patch is a Blackthorn not as I previously thought a Prunus.
CORRECTION: My thanks to David Search for pointing out that Blackthorn is a Prunus! Prunus spinosa. I should have said it was not Cherry Plum (Prunus cerasifera ‘Pissardii’)
It is now in full blossom with attractive white flowers.
Leaves are now starting to emerge on the Hawthorns on the Seagull Lane patch. Leaves on Hawthorn always precede the blossom, whereas in Blackthorn it is the other way round.
There is a good stack of logs near the river from the work of Maurice and Terry earlier in the week.
As I walked along the main raised path, it was good to hear the rippling of the river which is still flowering swiftly.
The river is still bubbling over the sluice gate forming a stream of water down the south path which remains closed, but is not seriously flooded.
I was amused to see a pair of Mallard clambering over the sluice gate.
The Butterbur flower spikes are growing fast, but so is the surrounding vegetation which will soon cover the flowers. So I shall have to do my annual count of the Butterbur spikes very soon while they are visible.
The Osiers on the east side of the north meadow are always the first of the pussy willow catkins to show.
Reminder: Dan and I will have to update the signcases in the coming week.
MONDAY MARCH 9 – 2020
While on Brook Meadow this morning, I came across Maurice Lillie and Terry Lay on the Seagull Lane patch collecting up sawn logs and branches from the recent tree surgery to create a log pile. Here is Terry at work.
I stopped to admire the interesting patterns of rings and cracks that had been created on the sawn stumps.
I had a closer look at the bracket fungi growing on a fallen Crack Willow tree on the river bank that Terry had alerted me to previously. I am fairly sure they are good examples of Common Ganoderma (Ganoderma adsperum) – now renamed Southern Bracket (Ganoderma australe).
Maurice and Terry had already placed some of the sawn Willow stumps in an attractive circle in the area of Frank’s seat and the Cherry trees on the west side of the north meadow.
The river is still running very high and is brimming over the sluice gate into the south meadow which remains impassable without boots.
Here is a view of the river looking north from the observation fence – the banks are nicely clear of excess vegetation for the time being, though this will change with the growing season.
FRIDAY MARCH 5 – 2020
What a difference a day makes! I went over to the meadow on this bright and sunny morning mainly to have a look for the fungi that Terry Lay found while he and Maurice Lillie were making a dead hedge along the west river bank in the Seagull Lane patch a couple of days ago. By chance, Maurice was on the meadow when I got there, so we looked together for Terry’s fungi. Despite a good deal of scrambling and searching we failed to locate any fungi on the west bank of the river.
However, looking across from the east bank of the river, I could clearly see at least four bracket fungi on a fallen Crack Willow. From a distance, I am fairly sure they are Common Ganoderma (Ganoderma adsperum) – now renamed Southern Bracket (Ganoderma australe). We have had these large very woody bracket fungi on the meadow before, though not often, so Terry’s was a good find.
Here is a shot looking across to the west bank with the arrow pointing to the fungi.
Here is a close up of the four of the fungi.
Walking along the north path I was very pleased to see the black flower buds on the large Ash tree with purplish male flowers starting to show. I do not recall this tree flowering at all last year. Maybe this is a sign of the tree’s good health? I shall keep an eye on it.
As for the younger Ash saplings along the north path, some of them appear to be dead or dying from Ash die-back disease.
Maurice told me that Michael Reed had been on the meadow a few days ago to cut off the large Crack Willow trunk that had been leaning low over the path which meant one had to duck down to avoid cracking one’s head. The photo shows the path now has a nice clear run with the offending branch removed.
The river is now running very high after yesterday’s deluge and as can be seen in the photo the water was topping the sluice gate and streaming onto the south meadow. The two chaps wading through the flood are from the Environment Agency and they had just placed ‘Footpath Closed’ signs at the two ends of the main south path and padlocked the south gate. Maurice has asked them for a key so we can open the gate once the flood subsides. Last time there was a flood the gate was closed for a long period after the water had gone. Here is a shot looking south . .
Here is a shot from the south gate showing the ‘Footpath Closed’ notice and the padlocked gate.
SUNDAY MARCH 1- 2020
Brook Meadow Workday
There was a turn out of 10 volunteers for this morning’s first work session of the new month.
See the following page for a full report with photos and videos . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/
SATURDAY FEBRUARY 22 – 2020
During a stroll through Brook Meadow this afternoon I was very pleased to get a good view of a female/juvenile Kestrel hunting. Kestrel is a fairly common bird around the meadow, but this was my first sighting of the year. The following photo and video clip shows the bird perched in a tall Crack Willow tree, peering down, looking for sign of prey. I saw it drop down a couple of times, though seemingly not catching anything.
Video clip of the Kestrel . . .
I searched around the main Butterbur site below the central seat and managed to find a few spikes starting to flower. I shall be doing my annual count of this striking plant in about a month.
Walking along the causeway towards the Lumley gate I stopped to admire the glorious while blossom on the Cherry Plum tree which does not seem to have suffered from being severely cut back by conservation volunteers during the winter. The white blossom contrasts nicely with the yellow of the Gorse.