Wildlife News Blog

Edited by Brian Fellows

WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 7 – 2020
As I was watching the river bank north of the north bridge, two ladies came up asking what I was looking at.   We had a chat about Water Voles and I gave each of them one of the new Brook Meadow postcards encouraging them to join the conservation group. They were delighted with them.
I stopped on the main river path to take a photo of a Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum) feeding on a Dandelion. This ginger insect is one of the latest flying Bumblebees.

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

I had a brief glimpse of the blue flash of a Kingfisher flying upstream towards the north bridge. I looked for it, but it was not there.
I went down to Peter Pond where I had a magical experience of a male Common Darter hovering for a few seconds no more than 6 inches from my face.   Southern Hawkers often fly around one’s head, to ‘inspect’ you, but I have never before had a Common Darter this close.


TUESDAY OCTOBER 6 – 2020
I walked through Palmer’s Road Copse this morning constantly looking out for any sign of Water Voles in the river, but there was none. I met Pam Phillips on the south bridge with her old dog which she now has to take out separately from the two younger ones. She saw a Kingfisher flying over the Lumley Pool. I also saw a Kingfisher flying swiftly up the River Ems.
I went over to Lumley Road – this is the view looking south with hedgerow on the right
I stopped to examine the small patch of Privet opposite the drive to house called Argosy which I think it could be Wild Privet though the difference from Garden Privet is not easy to make. I tend to go the for shape of leaves; Wild Privet tends to have smaller and more pointed leaves than the Garden Privet.   Another good indicator is where it is growing; Garden Privet being associated with habitation, cemeteries, parks and gardens whereas Wild Privet is usually found in hedges and scrub.
In addition to the many small shrubs/bushes, there are a number of tall mature trees in the hedgerow: I counted 7 Ash, 4 Oak and 3 Field Maple. These are all viewable from the road. More trees will be hidden within the copse itself. The Ashes will need monitoring for Ash die-back which will make their limbs liable to fall.


MONDAY 5 OCTOBER 2020
Brook Meadow
This afternoon, watched this male Great Spotted Woodpecker for several minutes pecking away at a small branch on the tall willows on the centre meadow.   I assume it was looking for insects.
Small white ‘berries’ are forming on the Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus) on the west bank of the River Ems just south of the north bridge. These will later into autumn turn into bright orange arils, a bit like our native Spindle tree.   This distinctive evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves was first identified on Brook Meadow in 2011 with help from Ralph Hollins. Japanese Spindle is an native to Japan, Korea and China, popular as an ornamental plant in UK and has a number of cultivars with variegated leaves.
The Michaelmas Daisies are now in full flower on the Lillywhite’s patch south of the Gooseberry Cottage garden which are good for attracting butterflies. There were none there today, but it is worth keeping a look out for later flying butterflies including possibly Painted Ladies.


FRIDAY OCTOBER 2 – 2020
I heard a Cetti’s Warbler singing from the scrubby area on the west side of the river south of the S-bend. This often heard, but rarely seen, bird is a regular spring visitor to Brook Meadow but is unusual at this time of the year.
This has been a particularly good year for Cetti’s Warbler on Brook Meadow with 18 sightings/hearings between April and June, sometimes with two and even three birds present.
Nearby I spotted a Chiffchaff working its way through the foliage of the Willow trees. This is probably a bird getting ready to migrate to the Mediterranean for the winter – lucky chap!


WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 1 – 2020
Brook Meadow cards
During this afternoon’s visit to Brook Meadow I met Maurice Lillie who gave me a pack of the excellent new Brook Meadow postcards for distribution. The cards are illustrated by Marian Forster’s beautiful artwork on the front and have information about the group on the reverse. Maurice tells me they have been very successful in attracting new members. I shall distribute some around my neighbourhood.

New Water Vole  raft
Maurice and I went over to Palmer’s Road Copse to see Terry and Dan installing a new Water Vole raft constructed by Terry. They were attaching flotation bottles and will anchor it to a post on the river bank. This is the 4th raft to be installed both on the River Ems and the Lumley Stream. Hopefully, they will provide a refuge for Water Voles and other creatures who use the river.
Walking back to the south bridge after leaving Terry and Dan I was delighted to meet my youngest grandson Joe returning from Bourne School on his bike.

Wildlife observations
Virginia Creeper red leaves are showing well and Black Horehound is in flower in the Seagull Lane patch hedgerow.

A Grey Wagtail was feeding in the low water river south of the north bridge. A regular here.
There is a small cluster of small bell-shaped fungi on the meadow western path a little way south of the north bridge. My tentative identification is Stump Bell Cap (Mycena alcalina)
Speckled Wood butterfly posed for a photo in the warm sunshine.
Alder leaves are well nibbled on the western plantation. This year, the meadow Alders have all been infested by Alder Leaf Beetles (Agelastica alni).

River Ems Crisis
There is some good news for the River Ems where water levels have been very low this summer. According to ‘Border Times’, the new free newspaper for the local area, Bob Taylor chief executive of Portsmouth Water, the company that extracts water from the River, admits to failing to keep water levels adequate. Bob says he will be ‘reviewing the technology’ to ensure it does not happen again.  We shall see . . .


MONDAY SEPTEMBER 28 – 2020
River Ems Crisis
There is increasing concern locally with the low water flow in the River Ems. Although it is  not unusual for the north river on Brook Meadow to run dry during summer, it is unusual at this time of the year. Here is a photo I took today from the north-east corner looking west.

The river bed is completely dry and no water comes through the tunnel under the railway. Likewise the Lumley Stream is also running very low. Our prime concern is to create an appropriate habitat for the return of Water Voles to the River Ems, but that will not take place without suitable levels of water in the river. Maurice Lillie has written to the Environment Agency on behalf of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group asking that this problem be addressed with urgency!
John Millard of Greening Westbourne has issued a call to people living near the River Ems for urgent action to save it. John has set up the Friends of the Ems (FOTE) demanding action to limit the damage to the river and protect it for the future. FOTE are raising these concerns with Portsmouth Water which abstracts water from the Ems valley and with the Environment Agency, which controls abstraction licences.
For more details contact John at . . . greeningwestbourne@hotmail.co.uk

Other observations
I noted several Common Darters around lower stretches of the river which does have water,  many linked ‘in tandem’. In the photo below is a red bodied male basking on the handrail of the footbridge north of Peter Pond. They do so love bridge handrails.
But my best sighting of the day was of a male Migrant Hawker in the reeds where David Gattrell has been digging out a new channel on the west side of Peter Pond. The blue band and yellow triangle on the thorax distinguishes the Migrant Hawker from the very similar Southern Hawker which is more common on Brook Meadow.


SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 27 – 2020
Brook Meadow
Maurice and Nigel did the first rough cutting of the Lumley wildflower area today, Nigel operated the power scythe.
Maurice looked on, pointing out features that could be retained for a while, and taking a few snaps of some plants as they slip into their autumnal state.

Common Comfrey . . . . Hoary Ragwort

Hogweed . . . Wild Angelica

The area around the two Black Poplars was also trimmed. Maurice noted that the eastern Poplar leaves are beginning to turn pale ahead of its fellow like last year.
Maurice says, the wildflower area on the north meadow which was cut a week ago will be ready to rake at the next work session and the Lumley area at the following one. Both areas will need a follow-up cutting after raking.


SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 19 – 2020
I went over to Brook Meadow this morning where Maurice and Nigel were cutting the wild flower area on the north meadow, Nigel using the power scythe and Maurice supervising.

Video clip of the work . . .

This was a fairly rough first cut with several areas left uncut as features of interest and refuges for wildlife. The cuttings would be raked and cleared by volunteers at a subsequent work session.

The cutting revealed an interesting variety of seed heads including Common Fleabane, Great Willowherb, Hemp Agrimony, Hoary Ragwort, Meadowsweet, Square-stalked St John’s-wort, and Wild Angelica.

Other observations during the walk included two Common Blue butterflies over the Lumley area and a baby Woodpigeon (or Squab) seemingly fresh from the nest resting on the ground by the Michaelmas Daisies.


FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 18 – 2020
Brook Meadow
I scattered some Greater Burdock seed heads in the space between the Red Oak and the small English Oak on the Seagull Lane patch on the Seagull Lane patch. These seeds are from plants near the Emsworth Recreation Ground threatened by the Cold Harbour Farm housing development. I have no idea if they will take, but it is worth trying to save this important and locally rare plant.
A Chiffchaff was calling (a soft whistle) from the Crack Willows near the north bridge. It may be staying with us for the winter?
A Grey Wagtail was feeding among the leaf litter in the low water river below the north bridge. This is a regular feeding place for this attractive bird.
A little later, I found another Grey Wagtail on the Lumley Stream trying out Dan’s Water Vole raft. It was not tempted by the half apple.
I stopped for a while to watch insects feeding on the flowers around the Lumley area. I was interested to see a Common Blue butterfly and a Bumblebee feeding together for a short time on a Common Fleabane flower.

The hoverfly Syrphus ribesii was fairly easy to identify with its distinctive markings on the abdomen.

However I had more trouble with fast flying bee/wasp which settled briefly for a photo.  From this angle it looks a bit like a Hornet, though it did not seem large enough in the field. Other ideas very welcome.
The area on the south meadow cleared by volunteers during yesterday’s work session now affords a fine view of the Alder Buckthorn trees from the main south path. A good job well done.
Another strut has come loose on the north bridge (south side) which will need fixing.


SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 13 – 2020
Alder Buckthorns
Visiting Brook Meadow this morning, I met Maurice and Nigel cutting the area around the Alder Buckthorn trees at the north end of the south meadow, Nigel using the scythe and Maurice raking up.  Here they are having a break.

Thirty Alder Buckthorns were originally planted in this area by myself and Ian Brewster of HBC on 16 Feb – 2002. Sadly, the trees were not properly maintained and only 9 remained 3 years later. Another 15 trees were planted on 5 May 2005 making a total of 24.Today,  I counted 8 trees on the east section and 13 on the west section, making a total of 21. So only 3 trees have been lost in the past 15 years, which is not bad! The remaining trees are being very well cared for!
Alder Buckthorns are host plant of the Brimstone butterfly the larvae of which feeds on the leaves. Many of the leaves show signs of having been nibbled probably by the Brimstone caterpillars.
Other news
Nigel went on to mow the northern round area on the north meadow in preparation for the planting of the Snake’s head Fritillary bulbs at the next work session.
Dan collected the updated  signcase display boards from my house this afternoon for installing in the cases on the meadow. Here is Dan collecting a display board on the north bridge.  Thanks Dan.


Sunday September 6th – 2020
Wildlife observations during work session
Blackbird’s nest
Terry drew my attention to a bird’s nest that he discovered during the clearance on the south meadow. The nest was sturdy construction woven with grass and dried mud and firmly attached to a Bramble spur.
The bowl of the nest was lined with grass which identified it as a Blackbird’s nest in contrast to a Song Thrush’s nest which would have a smooth mud inner surface. We left the nest in situ for others to see. The nest is unlikely to be used again as most birds generally make a new nest for each brood.
Fighting Wasps
As I was walking through the centre meadow my attention was caught by a couple of Common Wasps fighting on the ground right in front of me. The focus of the conflict appeared to be a Flesh-fly which one Wasp had caught. I managed to capture some of the fighting which lasted a good couple of minutes on the following video clip. Personally, I have never witnessed this behaviour in Wasps before, though there are a couple of other videos of Wasps fighting on YouTube.


MONDAY AUGUST 24 – 2020
Brook Meadow
I met Maurice Lillie who told me about a fire on the arisings heap on the east side. He thought it was deliberate, though we have had spontaneous combustion in the past. I felt the piles and they were not hot, so probably safe.
I was interested to find a cluster of flowering Cyclamen in a shaded area on the east path near the Aspen. This is a new arrival on Brook Meadow. I suspect it is the ‘Sowbread’ variety Cyclamen (Sowbread) (Cyclamen hederifolium).

This is likely to be a garden escape or throw out – or maybe deliberately planted? In any case, it is a welcome addition to the Brook Meadow flora and we wish it all the best in its fight for survival!   Cyclamen (Sowbread) flowers in autumn whereas other garden cyclamens flower in spring.
A male Common Darter rested briefly on the wooden handrail on the north bridge. They often use the bridges for sunbathing.


MONDAY AUGUST 17 – 2020
I had a late morning walk through the meadow after rain. I started in Palmer’s Road Copse where a Woodpigeon was singing its slightly raunchy five-note song.   This was the only birdsong I heard this morning.
The best bird of the morning by far was a Buzzard which flew down onto the mown area of the north meadow. I was not quick enough to get my camera out before the bird was disturbed by a distant dog walker; it flew off west over the river and I lost sight of it. Buzzards are not an unusual sight flying or soaring overhead, but they rarely actually come down onto the meadow. The last recorded occasion I have of a Buzzard on the meadow was in Feb-Mar 2010 when a juvenile, probably from the nest site on Lumley Mill Farm, was regularly seen and photographed. Here’s a shot I got of the juvenile Buzzard that visited the meadow in February 2010. Please keep a look out.
I saw two Speckled Woods, one in Palmer’s Road Copse and the other near the Lumley Stream. Lovely butterflies which prefer shaded areas. I kept a close look out for Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow which are expected at this time of the year, but no sign of them as yet.
A male Common Darter was resting on the gate of Gooseberry Cottage – the first of the autumn period which they are most prominent. Look for them on the south bridge.

There’s a good crop of Spear-leaved Orache around the “Lumley puddle” which is dry at the present.  Look for the distinctive leaves.
Dan’s Water Vole raft in the Lumley Stream is tipped up again.
There is just one Pepper-saxifrage (Silaum silaus) in flower on the east side of the Lumley area, about 20 metres south of the regular site for this interesting plant. One can see a few stunted plants on the old site, but none are in flower. Grid ref for the new site is SU 75142 06022.  This is one of our meadow indicators.  I hope we are not losing it.

On the path down to the Lumley Stream I spotted a Dead Head Fly (Myathropa florea) resting on a leaf. This hoverfly is fairly frequent on Brook Meadow. It gets it common name from the distinctive skull-like pattern on its thorax.
Also along this path I found several glossy dark blue beetles along the small path down to the Lumley Stream. I thought at first they were Flea beetles, but they did not jump when I prodded them. I realised they were beneath the Alder tree that has been infested by Alder Leaf Beetles (Agelastica alni) which I think is what they are.


FRIDAY AUGUST 7 – 2020
I had a walk from home to Brook Meadow on a very warm afternoon.
The meadow looks dramatically changed following the annual cut of parts of the north and centre meadows.
I stopped to take a photo of a Holly Blue which came to rest on Goat Willow near the Lumley gate. It is a small blue butterfly with tiny black spots on its under wings. One can also see these small butterflies in gardens looking for suitable sites on Ivy or Alder to lay their eggs. They overwinter in chrysalis form.
There is a powdery brown bracket fungus on the end of the felled tree at the northern end of the path through Palmer’s Road Copse. It is called Ganoderma applanatum and is a fairly common fungus on dead trees and can live for many years. It releases billions of spores giving rise to the powdery brown ‘dust’.   Its creamy white under surface can be scratched with a sharp point to leave brown marks – giving rise to its common name of Artist’s Fungus.
On my way home I stopped to admire a fine crop of Guernsey Fleabane on the corner of Palmer’s Road. The inconspicuous flowers comprise mainly unopened disk florets.   It is a recent introduction to this country in 1974 and is spreading rapidly in the south of England, especially on waste ground and along pavements. There are lots of examples scattered around Emsworth.
I also stopped to pick a few stems Stone Parsley from inside the hedge of the garden of St James Church. It is a native plant and late flowering (July-Sept) with tiny white flowers.   It is an attractive plant with finely branched stems and makes a rather nice vase decoration. I placed some on my window desk.


THURSDAY AUGUST 6 – 2020
Annual Cut
It was good to see Martin Cull back on Brook Meadow to carry out the annual cutting of the grassland. Colin and Brian were was present to greet Martin at the Lumley gate.

Colin explained the areas of the meadow to be cut and left Martin to get on with the work. Martin is very experienced and knows the meadow well. He and his father Brian have done the cutting most years from the start of the conservation group in Year 2000.  Here’s a nice photo from my files of a rather youthful looking Martin in November 2004 – his first time on the meadow!
A video clip of Martin at work today . . .

Martin completing the cut of the north meadow this afternoon

Colin and I noted that the river near the north bridge was distinctly cloudy indicating the river digger about Lumley Mill had started up again.  However, the water coming from the railway tunnel was clear.


WEDNESDAY  AUGUST 5 – 2020
Brook Meadow
There are some very tall Prickly Lettuces growing on the northern edge of Palmer’s Road Car Park. They are a bit too far out to claim them for Brook Meadow, but interesting nevertheless. There is a line of sharp prickles along the spine of the leaves from which the plant gets its common name. Not exactly suitable for a summer salad!  I stopped to admire the Sycamore tree along the path through Palmer’s Road Copse close to the Water Vole signcase. It is a huge double-trunked tree with roots partly exposed by the floods. This tree still hosts one of the 7 concrete nest boxes that the conservation group installed on trees in Palmer’s Road Copse many years ago. You can just see the box in the photo. I don’t have record when the boxes were installed. I think most of them have fallen off and broken.

The Guelder-rose along the path down to the south bridge has berries.  Lords and Ladies bright red spikes of berries are hiding in deep vegetation in the copse.

A Hornet mimic hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) was feeding on Hogweed in the copse.
Fool’s Water-cress is in flower in the river above the south bridge. This plant is an umbellifer and not related to the edible Water-cress, though sometimes mistaken for it.
While walking through Palmer’s Road Copse I stopped to chat with Pauline Jupp and her husband (can’t remember his name) mainly about seeing, or not seeing Water Voles. They used to be regular Water Vole spotters in the ‘old days’ and reporting the sightings to me, but no longer alas.  I encouraged them to keep looking as you never know . . . !

I counted 50 Marsh Woundwort flower spikes at the northern end of the Bramble path on the south meadow which just tops the 42 counted last year. So the inadvertent cutting did them no harm! They are now at the end of their flowering season.

The leaves of the Horse Chestnut tree have been seriously affected by some disease which has left them withered, brown and brittle. I don’t know that this problem is, but it seems more than the leaf miner infection which sometimes affects these trees. We need to keep an eye on this tree to see if its health suffers.
Nearby, what looks like a self-seeded Weeping Willow tree is growing well, already 6 ft tall. It is to the south of the parent tree at the north end of the south meadow. This is not an ideal spot for this tree to develop, so the group may consider moving it to another location.
Dan’s Water Vole raft on the Lumley Stream has tipped over again. This happened before, probably caused by Fox.

Tomorrow Martin Cull will be here to carry out the annual cutting of the grassland on the meadow with his large cut and collect machine.   Martin will only cut certain areas mapped out by the conservation group, missing the main wild flower areas which are still full of blossom.


TUESDAY AUGUST 4 – 2020
Brook Meadow
Observations from an afternoon walk through the meadow.
Fresh pile of wood chippings on the Seagull Lane patch, presumably courtesy of Michael Reed.
Lesser Swine-cress – a small clump about 10 metres down the main path from the north bridge with a distinctive ‘cressy’ aroma. My first sighting this year. This is much reduced from previous years.
The River Ems is now running clear from the railway tunnel and the cloudiness is almost gone from further downstream. Have the Environment Agency been made aware of the river digging?
Fine display of Great Willowherb in flower on the east side of the north meadow.

Blackberries are abundant on the bushes at the top of the north meadow. I do not recall them ever being quite this good. I picked a small quantity for a blackberry and apple pie!   But there are masses.
Water Mint is now in full flower with some plants having double flower clusters.
The Rowan berries are still utterly stunning!


MONDAY AUGUST 3 – 2020
Brook Meadow Grasses
I spent an hour or so with Dan Mortimer on the meadow this morning to help him collect grasses for identification and pressing. Here is Dan entering the Giant Fescue.

This is not the best time of the year for grasses which are past their best and in many cases have disappeared completely. However, we managed to find 16 species from the 26 recorded on Brook Meadow this year.   Annual Meadow-grass, Barren Brome, Bearded Couch, Cocksfoot, Creeping Bent, Crested Dog’s-tail, False Oat-grass, Giant Fescue, Marsh Foxtail, Perennial Ryegrass, Reed Canary-grass, Rough Meadow-grass, Tall Fescue, Timothy, Wall Barley and Yorkshire Fog.
For a full list of plants recorded in 2020 on Brook Meadow.
Go to .  . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/plant-lists-2020/


Cloudy river
While Dan and I were looking for grasses we noticed the River Ems north of the north bridge was extremely cloudy.   The cloudy water was coming under the railway bridge from the direction of Constant Springs garden.

We were concerned that this could be pollution. I phoned Colin Brotherston suggesting he might contact the Environment Agency.
Colin e-mailed later to say he had found the source of the cloudy water. There is a bulldozer dredging the channel just above Lumley Mill. Presumably when the dredging finishes the deposit in the river should clear.   Whatever happens, I think the Environment Agency should be alerted to the dredging. Is this allowed in a chalk stream?


Bats on Brook Meadow
Using his bat echo meter David Search has discovered six different species of bat on the meadow since 2016.
Common Pipistrelle bat, Pipistrellus pipistrellus
Soprano Pipistrelle bat, Pipistrellus pygmaeus
Nathusius’ Pipistrelle bat, Pipistrellus nathusii
Daubenton’s, Myotis daubentonii
Brown long-eared bat, Plecotus auritus
Noctule bat, Nyctalus noctula
The following pdf link is to a file displaying some of David’s sonograms of the various species.
Bat sonograms


Cuckoo in Emsworth garden
David Minns had a unique sighting from his small garden in North Street Emsworth on Thursday 30 July. In his words . . .
I was sitting in my garden in the afternoon (a very sunny day) idly listening to sparrows chirping in a buddleia and ceanothus, when they let out a huge shriek of alarm calls. Looking up I could see a larger bird in the bushes, and my immediate thought was Sparrowhawk. However, it didn’t seem to have the right shape for a Sparrowhawk – not bulky enough, especially around the head. A few seconds later it flew off and I could see it was a Cuckoo!
Definitely a first for my little garden (I’ve had Sparrowhawk once in the 14 years I’ve been here, eating a pigeon). Perhaps it was one of this year’s young preparing for its first long migration.
Also to mention that on 18 July I had a Small Skipper – another garden first. Good numbers of more common butterflies this year – or perhaps it’s just because I’ve spent more time looking at them because of the virus.
David, you must have fallen off your chair! That’s the first Cuckoo I have heard of anywhere in Emsworth area this year.


SUNDAY AUGUST 2nd – 2020
Water Vole rafts
Dan and Terry installed a second Water Vole raft in the river close to the first one, near the reeds on the north bend.   Dan already has installed a raft on the Lumley Stream, so that’s three we have on the meadow.
Dan has been using a trail camera to check the visitors to the Lumley Stream raft. The apple bait is regularly taken by a Fox, but there has been no sightings of Water Voles.   Unfortunately Dan’s trail camera became waterlogged, but he hopes to get another one – properly waterproofed!
While watching Dan install the Water Vole raft I noticed a good crop of Gipsywort in flower on the east bank behind the Branched Bur-reeds.

Bats
David Search has examined the bat boxes in Lumley copse and all are intact on the trees where they were installed. He’s waiting for Nik Knight to carry out an examination of the inside of the boxes. David  told me that we have three species of Pipistrelle bats on the meadow, Common, Soprano and Nathusius.

Hoary Ragwort is now in flower on the orchid area and the Lumley area. But there’s no sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars!!
Colin pointed out a fresh growth of Reed Canary-grass in front of the laid Hawthorn hedgerow on the north meadow.


WEDNESDAY JULY 29 – 2020
Brook Meadow
The leaves of all four of the planted English Oak trees on the Seagull Lane patch are heavily encrusted with galls, the worst I have seen. I assume the trees will not be harmed.

Interestingly, leaves of the Red Oak are unaffected. PS.  The planted Oaks are: Jenny’s (largest), the Mayor’s, Brian’s, Tony’s (Red Oak) and Jean’s.
The small flowers of Black Horehound are showing well in among the brambles opposite Tony’s Oak. This is the only location this plant grows on Brook Meadow.
Brown Trout is in the river by the north bend.
Honey Bee on Hogweed flower head carrying incredibly large pollen sacs.

Two long horned beetles with black and yellow wing markings (Strangalia maculata) were feeding on the Wild Angelica flower heads. These distinctive beetles have been regular on Brook Meadow over the years, but this was my first sighting of a couple of years.

I came across a nice crop of Wild Carrot on the Lumley area which I have overlooked this year – not recorded for a couple of years.
Nearby I spotted a couple of small plants of the rare Pepper-saxifrage (Silaum silaus). They appear to have largely disappeared from their previous location in the north-east corner of the Lumley area opposite the small path down to the Lumley Stream. Let’s hope they get established again.
It was really nice to meet Josie and her young daughter named Autumn sitting in the shade of a Cherry tree on the northern edge of the north meadow. Josie says they often come over to the meadow which they find so peaceful.


Pygmy Shrew
This afternoon, Debbie brought me a dead shrew that she had found in the drive outside Gooseberry Cottage. The animal was fresh and had no apparent injuries, so it may have just died from natural causes. From the measurements alone (roughly 9cm) it looks like a Pygmy Shrew. A Common Shrew would have been much larger. Pygmy Shrews are seen on Brook Meadow though, sadly, very often deceased, like this one!


MONDAY JULY 27 – 2020
Brook Meadow
The Lesser Burdock plants alongside the path to the north bridge are now in flower; the flowers are rather small for such a large plant. However, one plant appears to be dying, the stem and flowers are withered though the larger leaves look OK. I can’t see what had happened to this plant.

Mugwort is also in flower by the north bridge; the flowers are this plant are also small and insignificant. The leaves are slightly aromatic.

There’s a fine selection of colourful wild flowers on the path round the north side of the Lumley area including Common Fleabane, Wild Angelica, Hoary Ragwort, Hogweed, Red Bartsia, Common Knapweed, Water Mint, Hedge Bindweed and Creeping Thistle.
The large yellow daisies of Perennial Sow-thistle create a slash of colour on the east side of the Lumley area. These are the latest of the yellow daisy species to flower.
The few surviving Strawberry Clover seed heads are ripening quite nicely on the east path round the Lumley area.

River Ems flow
There was a fairly good flow of water in the north river this morning, much better than a week ago when it was completely dry.

The north river is often quite dry during dry weather in high summer. The flow is largely controlled by the sluice gates at Constant Springs. This morning the gates were closed, allowing only a little water to run into the Lumley Stream. With the gates closed, most of the water from the mill goes into the main river that flows through the garden of Constant Springs and into Brook Meadow. The Environment Agency controls this sluice. The outflow at the north bend comes from the garden of Constant Springs and always provides a flow of water to the lower River Ems.


THURSDAY JULY 23 – 2020
Slipper Millpond
There was just one juvenile Great Black-backed Gull on the pond when I arrived at about 12 noon with no sign of the other youngster or the parents which nested on the pond for the 9th year running.  This young bird flew off after a few minutes towards the harbour where I suspect the Great Black-backed Gull family are now located.
All being well, the parents are likely to make occasional trips back to the pond to check out their breeding grounds, but they will not settle again until early next year.
Details of all the Great Black-backed Gull nesting on Slipper Millpond over the past 8 years can be found on the following web link . . . http://familyfellows.com/0-0-0-millpond-great-bb-gull.htm

A good variety of wild flowers are now lining the inside wall of the Hermitage Bridge, including Perennial Sow-thistle, Golden Samphire and Pellitory-of-the-wall.
Dan Mortimer reports a Great Crested Grebe on Peter Pond today.


WEDNESDAY JULY 22 – 2020
I spent a couple of hours on the meadow this morning mainly checking on trees, shrubs and herbs for the Brook Meadow list.
The first call was the north-east corner of Palmer’s Road copse near the recycling bins where I located two substantial Cherry Laurel bushes. These are evergreen bushes with large leathery glossy green leaves. In spring it has flowers in erect clusters but now it just has the first berries forming. This is a garden shrub, but is now well established in the wild, mainly in the South of England.
I had a mooch around the far south east corner of the south meadow where I found Gipsywort in flower for the first time this year – delightful clusters of tiny white flowers. Nearby the highly aromatic Water Mint was also in flower. As I was taking a photo a Green-veined White butterfly came to feed.

At the north end of the Bramble path I counted 37 Marsh Woundwort flowering spikes – slightly down on last year’s total of 42. Some of the plants were inadvertently cut during a work session which probably accounts for the lower number.
I was pleased and relieved to find several fruiting heads of Strawberry Clover developing along the eastern edge of the Lumley area. This is good news for I feared we may have lost them completely following some heavy cutting over the past couple of years.
I had a look at the Elms which are all on the Lumley side of the meadow. All are relatively small sucker trees which never grow to maturity as they are affected by Dutch Elm disease.   The effects of the fungus can be seen easily on small twigs which are gnarled and rutted.

Here’s a view looking up Lumley Road with the hedgerow full of diseased Elms.
We have both Wych Elm and English Elm on the meadow which are not all that easy to separate. I find it best to look for leaf size as Wych Elm has larger leaves than English Elm with a larger number of paired veins. There is a rather good looking Wych Elm with   large leaves overhanging the Lumley Stream south of Dan’s Water Vole raft.

Finally, I checked on the Beech tree in the far north-east corner of the north meadow squashed in between a large Crack Willow tree and the back gate of The Arches house on Lumley Road. As far as I am aware this is the only Beech on Brook Meadow.
As I was walking through Palmer’s Road Copse I was surprised to come across three ladies sitting on fold-up chairs having coffee on the flat surface of the recently laid area by the river bank. I explained to them that this is a nature reserve, but said they were welcome to stay on this occasion. They were very happy for me to take their photo!   Let’s hope this does not set a precedent.
I also met Robert, our regular Norse litter collection man, emptying the litter bin at the south gate. I commended him for his good work on behalf of the conservation group and took his photo.

Water Vole raft news
Dan collected the trail camera from the Lumley Stream which has been in situ for a couple of days.  He says there’s very little activity to report. 2 pigeons drinking in river on the raft. 1 moorhen swimming about. The usual fox taking the apple in the early hours every night. No Water Vole!

Kingfishers are back
While watching Dan’s raft this afternoon Pam Phillips saw a Kingfisher fly by. That was probably a juvenile dispersing downstream marking the end of the breeding season. So we should expect to see more as the autumn sets in.


TUESDAY JULY 21 – 2020
I had a look at the young Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch which were planted in 2012. They look well. Acorns are already forming. Some of the leaves have both Silk Button and Common Spangle Galls on the underside of some leaves.   The galls do no long term harm to the tree.
Walking down the main river path from the north bridge, I noted Raspberry growing in among the Nettles and Brambles near the west side plantation. These plants have been here for many years, though are easily missed in the tangle of undergrowth. The leaves are larger than Bramble leaves and have woolly white underside. The flower buds are white.

One can just make out the distinctive leaves of the Stag’s Horn Sumac tree behind the bushes on the east side of the north meadow. This tree has been with us since the start of the conservation project in Year 2000. It is a North American tree and clearly a garden escape, though it is doing well in the wild!


MONDAY JULY 20 – 2020
Colin and I were delighted to meet up with Una Sutcliffe on the meadow this morning. Una has only recently moved to Emsworth although has already walked through Brook Meadow on several occasions.  Una is an ecologist with a wide knowledge and experience of studying and recording wildlife and so is specially welcome as a new member of the conservation group . She is also the co-author of a book on the natural history of Wimbledon Common (2000), a copy of which she kindly donated to the group. I have the book at present but will pass it on to others.
The three of us had a wander around the meadow, starting at the Lumley area which is important for its sedges and rushes as well as many other flora species.   Una was particularly interested to see a sample of the nationally scarce Divided Sedge (Carex divisa). We went on to the north meadow stopping to examine the drooping panicles of Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea) on the way.
We took the newly opened path round the back of the Gwynne Johnson Rowan plantation and stopped to admire the wonderful blaze of bright red berries.
We had a wander through the main orchid area where all the orchids have gone to seed, but were able to discover a stout spike of a hybrid orchid (Dactylorhiza x grandis).

Other observations
Colin and I had a nice view of a Small Skipper along the main river path. It alighted briefly on bankside vegetation for a photo. I looked closely at the insect’s antennae but the tips were not sufficiently black to warrant a possible Essex Skipper, which we have yet to record on Brook Meadow this year.
In view of the impending Cold Harbour Farm housing development Colin and I thought we should try to get some seeds this autumn from the rare Greater Burdock (Articium lappa) plants which would be destroyed by the access road which crosses the Washington Road path.   This would make a good addition to the meadow’s flora as we already have the more common Lesser Burdock.

Here’s the Greater Burdock plants a couple of years ago


SUNDAY JULY 19 – 2020
Blunt-fruited Water-starwort – There are several patches of this floating plant in the river north of the south bridge. They can be best viewed from the newly constructed observation area.

Identifying Water-starworts is difficult, but during his survey of the River Ems on 13 June 2005, botanist Andy Powling discovered what he thought was Blunt-fruited Water-starwort (C. obtusangula) – which is less common than Common Water-starwort. Andy pointed out that it had floating rosettes and spoon-shaped leaves, strongly veined above with 3 distinct veins. Andy’s identification was subsequently confirmed by Martin Rand on 3 July 2005.

Fool’s Water-cress – in flower above the south bridge, its white flowered umbels are distinctive.
Greater Plantain – the long flower spikes are bursting out with reddish anthers.

Stone Parsley – tiny white flowers on plants near the south gate.


Special work session – Saturday 18th July 2020
Report and photos by Brian Fellows
Maurice Lillie called an impromptu work session for 10am this morning to deal with two trunks of a large Crack Willow that had fallen onto the small Hazel copse near the north bridge. Five volunteers responded to Maurice’s request: Nigel, Terry, Dan, Reg and Pam. They set about trimming off the smaller branches of the two trunks to relive the pressure on the Hazels and removing the cuttings to a pile nearby.   I took photos of the work.

The fallen Willow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cutting the fallen tree back

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Job finished

The cutting work revealed a good number of Mossy Willow Galls. I counted a total of 14, though there could well have been others that I missed. Some of the galls were quite large, up to 4 ins (10cm) wide, and ball shaped, resembling, Maurice thought, a Long-tailed Tit nest. This gall is an abnormally distorted catkin and is probably caused by a virus or phytomplasma, though the precise nature of the causer has not yet been identified.

More wildlife observations
A Small Copper was flying around on the north meadow settling briefly on the ground for a photo. This is the first of the summer brood, though they can have a third brood later in the year.
This takes the total number of butterflies recorded so far on the meadow to 19, with just Painted Lady and Clouded Yellow hopefully still to come of the regulars.
A Ringlet was fluttering around on the north meadow. First recorded this year on 26-Jun. Here is a quick photo.
Lots of Meadow Grasshoppers were jumping around in the long grasses. Here is a male – distinguished by longer wings than the female. Neither sex of this insect flies.

Timothy grass is now in full flower with anthers displaying.
There is a veritable forest of Bristly Ox-tongue in flower at the northern edge of the north meadow.
Hoary Ragwort is not yet in flower and there’s no sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars


THURSDAY JULY 16 – 2020
Wildlife observations during work session
Giant Fescue
Brian was most excited to discover a very good patch of Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea), a tall grass with characteristic loose nodding panicles beneath tall Crack Willow trees at the start of the path going north from the centre meadow at Grid Ref: SU 75085 06079. This grass is rare on Brook Meadow and has previously only been seen in a small amount in Palmer’s Road Copse.

Giant Fescue is native in the British Isles and is widely distributed in Europe and temperate Asia. It is a grass of woodland, preferring shady shaded habitats, as in the present case.  Giant Fescue regenerates mainly from seed, so we could expect a spread of this interesting plant in future years.

Other observations
Lesser Burdock – the first flower is opening on the Seagull Lane patch.
Song Thrush – singing loudly on east side of north meadow.
Pam reported a Rabbit on the east side of the north meadow near to the ailing Aspen tree.
There is no further news from the Water Vole raft on the Lumley Stream. Dan says the apple was not taken last night.
Dogwood – present with green berries in the north-east corner where the conservation group were clearing arisings.


WEDNESDAY JULY 15 – 2020
Dan’s night camera
I met a very excited Dan having just collected his night camera from the Lumley Stream site by the Water Vole raft. Dan baits the raft with pieces of apple, hoping to tempt Water Voles.

Dan was delighted to tell me that the creatures caught on the camera so far included bats, moths, a fox, a dog, a cat, a Mallard, a Moorhen and a Woodpigeon. There was no Water Vole but this is early days and Dan is determined to persevere.   This is a brilliant idea of Dan’s which should in time provide a fascinating insight into the normally unseen night time wildlife of the meadow.
PS Dan thinks a Fox is taking the apple from the raft.

Other observations
Alder Buckthorn berries ripening on the trees south of the causeway.I am fairly sure we have a few Strawberry Clover flowers surviving on the edge of the path around the Lumley area.

I counted 22 flowering Marsh Woundwort spikes with more to come.


MONDAY JULY 13 – 2020
A very pleasant summer morning for my daily mooch around the meadow.
On Saturday Maurice and Nigel did some clearing around the meadow using the power scythe. Responding to Debbie’s Committee comment about the abandoned appearance of Seagull Lane Patch when approaching from the gate, they mowed the ‘grass ‘ on both sides of the path, carefully avoiding the Lesser Burdock plants which are a feature of this entrance and will soon be in flower.
On the same day they completed the mowing the east path behind the Rowan plantation which opens up the view of these splendid trees which are currently covered in bunches of bright red berries. This view is quite spectacular and should not be missed!
They also did various other clearing jobs around the meadow, all necessary to maintain our fine looking Local Nature Reserve. Well done, chaps.
Thanks to Dan for replacing the wrong sized south gate signcase window. Unfortunately only with the old window which has black tar around the edge. A new window is need. Is the group ordering new signcase windows?
No change in the Water Vole raft. Will Dan put fresh apples on it?

The north river has pretty well dried up which is not unusual at this time of the year though it will be no attraction to Water Voles. Andy Rothwell made that point in his last Water Vole survey that the variability in the water levels in the river is the major reason for the absence of Water Voles.
The river is clogged up with Branched Bur-reed and really needs a good clear our this autumn.
The Haskins Aspen which leafed very late this year does not look good. The leaves are sparse and it has lots dead twigs.

In contrast, the self-seeded Aspens further north look very healthy.

I was interested to find Mossy Willow Gall growing on one of the Crack Willow branches overhanging Palmer’s Road Car Park. This gall is an abnormally distorted catkin and is probably caused by a virus or phytomplasma, but the precise nature of the causer has not yet been identified.
A Blackcap was calling as I walked past the brambles near Frank’s seat. The bird flew up into a nearby tree where it revealed itself as a female, probably with a nest in the Brambles.
Other birds singing included Song Thrush, Woodpigeon, Wren and Stock Dove in Palmer’s Road Copse.
Newly flowering plants: Enchanter’s Nightshade – on the centre path from Palmer’s Road Car Park into the copse, Common Field Speedwell and Knotgrass on the edge of kerbstone. On the path to the south bridge Red Campion is in flower and
Guelder-rose has berries ripening in clusters. Pineappleweed by south signcase,

Enchanter’s Nightshade  . . . . Guelder-rose

Black Horehound – now in flower amongst the Brambles on the Seagull Lane patch, opposite Tony’s Red Oak tree. It’s leaves resemble Nettle but are non stinging.

Marsh Woundwort is flowering nicely at the top of the Bramble path. Reduced in numbers this year. I counted 14, but maybe more to come.
Lords and Ladies berries hiding in Palmer’s Road Copse.

 


Bat survey
David Search completed a bat survey of the meadow and surrounds at the weekend, which was the first of the year. He writes . . . “Obviously due to Covid, I didn’t do a survey in the spring. However, based on this survey, the area remains good and results consistent with previous years. This survey generated 17 records with 4 species recorded; namely Common, Soprano, Nathusius’ Pipistrelles and a species of Myotis which is probably Daubentons! As I’ve said many times, the meadow is vital for bats!”


FRIDAY JULY 10 – 2020
The fruits (keys) of Field Maple are now prominent in the hedgerow just inside the Seagull Lane gate.
Several Bumblebees were feeding on the now open Teasel flowers in the Seagull Lane patch. They included Bombus terrestris (white tail) and Bombus hypnorum (ginger) aka Tree Bumblebee.

There seems to be a lot of Stone Parsley on the Seagull Lane patch this year, not yet in flower. The leaves of this plant have a distinctive oily smell when crushed.
Corky-fruited Water-dropwort is in flower on the northern of the two mown circular area in addition to those plants on the west side of the north meadow south of the north bridge.
Butterflies seen this morning include Common Blue, Small Skipper (first of year) Marbled White (on the Lumley area) and a stunning Red Admiral. I have now recorded 18 of the 21 regular butterflies on Brook Meadow so far this year. Yet to come are Small Copper, Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady.

There’s no sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars on the Hoary Ragwort.
The Water Vole raft is cleaned off completely with no sign of any apples.
I searched in vain for Meadow Barley on the centre meadow, but there’s no sign of it.
Two Swifts flying over the meadow.

Bearded Couch
I have been puzzling over a grass which has been exposed by the recent cutting of the track behind the Rowan plantation by Brook Meadow volunteers. With its close-set arrangement of spikelets at the top of the stem it is similar to Common Couch (Elytrigia repens). However, it has long awns (up to 10mm) as shown in the following photo.
The presence of these awns strongly suggests Bearded Couch (Elymus caninus) which would be a new grass for the Brook Meadow list. Although Common Couch also can have awns these are only up to 4mm – according to Cope and Gray ‘Grasses of the British Isles’. So this is good news for the Bearded Couch identification.
One important difference between the two Couch grasses is the presence of far reaching underground rhizomes in Common Couch which are not present in Bearded Couch. I have not been able to check this feature as the grasses are buried deep in other vegetation and I cannot get to their roots. I will try again later.
Common Couch grass is uncommon on Brook Meadow, but we do have some on the east side of the Lumley area but it is only shortly awned.
The addition of Bearded Couch takes the total number of grass species recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 26.

I searched in vain for Meadow Barley on the centre meadow, but there’s no sign of it. I have not seen this attractive grass on the meadow since 2016 and fear we may have lost it for good. But I will leave it on the list just in case. Meadow Barley is one of our old meadow indicators.


NEWSLETTER No 99  Apr-Jun 2020
Colin Brotherston has prepared and distributed printed copies of the  current Newsletter for those members who do not enjoy the benefit of internet access. The previous one in April was prepared but could not be printed.
All the Newsletters going back to 2016 can be accessed on this web site by going to . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/newsletters/


WEDNESDAY JULY 8 – 2020
Teasel is in flower on the Seagull Lane patch.
Acorns are starting to form on the northern most (and smallest) young Oak.
The undersides of leaves of some of the Oaks are covered in spangle galls. Such galls are fairly common on Oaks and do no lasting harm to the tree. They are caused by gall wasps which lay eggs on the leaves; when the eggs hatch the leaf tissue swells up around the grubs to form galls. There are several types of spangle galls; I think these are Common Spangle Galls – which are produced by Neuroterus quercusbaccarum wasps.

The Environment Agency have been cutting the track on the east side of north meadow and down to the Lumley Stream.
This cutting opens up the Rowans which are now sporting large bunches of red berries.
The newly planted Buddleja in front of the Black Poplar is in flower.
The apples have all gone from the Water Vole raft. Taken by what?
Marsh Woundwort flower spikes are developing well on the south meadow, despite some having been inadvertently cut by volunteers during a recent work session.

I captured this Bumblebee (B. Terrestris) feeding on Hogweed flower head. Most likely to be one from the nest by the Lumley gate that Maurice noted – see report below.

Couch grass (awned) is on the path behind the Rowan plantation in front of the Aspens. Surprisingly, this is a rare grass on Brook Meadow.
I found a single stem of Giant Fescue beside the path through Palmer’s Road Copse right opposite the open area where the river bank has been reinforced.
That takes to 25 grass species (from 28 regulars) recorded so far this year on Brook Meadow.

Extra news
Maurice Lillie reports two items of news.
1.  “There is an active Bumblebees’ nest beside the Lumley Gate. Like many people, it had not occurred to me that Bumblebees nested in the ground. It is an eye-opener to stand and watch them coming and going.”
2.  “Another Crack Willow tree has shed a substantial piece of itself. It is close to and actually part of that which fell last week. David McVittie jumped to my call for help and in about half an hour we had cleared the path and piled the debris for a future clearance task.
Quite by chance, the lovely Pam arrived and took a picture of the volunteers.”

Before the clearance

Maurice and David  during the clearance

After the clearance


MONDAY JULY 6 – 2020
A Comma butterfly was basking in the warm sunshine on the gravel path in Palmer’s Road Copse.
Water Figwort is coming into flower beside the path through Palmer’s Road Copse.
I think some of the apples that Dan put on the Water Vole raft yesterday have been nibbled and some removed completely. I wonder what took them?
There is a nice comparison of Perforate St John’s-wort and Square-stalked St John’s-wort on the northern edge of the Lumley area. The former is bushy and branched whereas the latter is more erect with few branches.

Slipper Millpond
I could only see an adult Great Black-backed Gull on the centre raft. The two youngsters may have been snuggled down in the vegetation.
Crow Garlic with sprouting seed heads on the east side of Peter Pond.


SUNDAY JULY 5 – 2020
Conservation Work session
The first official volunteer session since the start of the C19 restrictions.
See full report and photos at . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/


FRIDAY JULY 3 – 2020
A few observations from today’s visit.
Bracket fungus (Ganoderma?) on the felled tree trunk at the start of the path.
I met Maurice Lillie and we  stopped to inspect a small attractive flower which I think is Hedge Woundwort.
False Brome grass (Brachypodium sylvaticum) on the edge of the path through Palmer’s Road Copse. First one I have seen in this location.
I had a mooch on the west bank where I found the large leaves of  Water Dock
Red Admiral – fresh from summer brood on the main river path.
Signcases – This afternoon Dan collected the three newly prepared display boards from my house and installed them in the signcases on the meadow. Here’s Dan fixing the board in the signcase at the north bridge.

Unfortunately, the window of this signcase had been badly scratched by a dog’s paws. Dan did his best by giving it a good clean, but some of the displays are obscured and I think the window will need replacing. Dan also needed to do a repair job in replacing the rubber seals on the south gate signcase.

Regarding the Water Vole raft on the Lumley Stream Dan tells me that the apple he put on the raft has been nibbled!   Maybe by a Water Vole??


Slipper Millpond
Great Black-backed Gull family on the centre raft – one adult and two juvenile. The adult flew up and half-heartedly ‘buzzed’ me as I was taking photos from the east side.
There was also a Great Crested Grebe on the pond. 
Perennial Sow-thistle – good display on the east wide of Slipper Millpond.
Two pairs of Mute Swans eyeing each other at Chequers Quay, one pair on Slipper Millpond and the other pair on Dolphin Lake.
The other pair of Mute Swans was on Peter Pond. So we have three pairs of swans in Emsworth this year, but no cygnets.


THURSDAY JULY 2 – 2020
It was good to see the path behind the Rowan plantation mown. This was done yesterday by Maurice and Tony. It certainly opens up the Rowans which are now covered in bunches of orange and red berries.

They also mowed the track down to the Lumley Stream which opens up the north side of Lumley copse where a Dog Rose is currently in full blossom.

I also noticed a large Ash tree on the north edge of the copse which looks in good health. We now need to open up the extension of the Rowan path which is currently overgrown.
Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are still singing around the meadow, but alas no Whitethroat this year.
This morning Maurice phoned me to say that August 8th is the 90th birthday of Beryl who donated the seat on the east side of the north meadow. As I was passing, I stopped to chat to a couple who were sitting on Beryl’s Seat. They introduced themselves as Lesley and Adrian, local artists who regularly exhibited in the Emsworth Arts Trail. They were delighted for me to take their photo which I said I would pass onto Beryl with their good wishes.
I was pleased to see the Water Vole raft on the Lumley Stream upright again with a fresh piece of apple. Dan told me it had been tipped up by unknown agent.
The Horse Chestnut near on the south meadow near the Weeping Willow appears to have been attacked by some sort of infection. It does not look like leaf miner.
Marsh Woundwort just emerging on the south meadow – not full in flower.

I met Lesley Harris with her litter picker and bag. She told me she had been collecting litter regularly during the lockdown period when the meadow has had a large number of extra visitors. Astonishingly, today Lesley collected 22 beer cans and 5 bottles from the area around the main seat. Clearly, the local lads are responding to Boris’s instructions about lockdown easing! Lesley you are an unsung hero!


MONDAY JUNE 29 – 2020
A windy morning for today’s walk through the meadow. I had a chat with Robert from Norse who was emptying the litter and dog bins near the north bridge. I congratulated him from the conservation group for doing a good job.
There’s a good patch of white flowered Corky-fruited Water-dropwort in amongst the tall grasses on the north meadow. They can be easily seen from the western path going from the north bridge. The flower head is similar to Yarrow.

Corky-fruited Water-dropwort seeds were originally sown in this area by the conservation group in 2015. The plants were first seen in flower last year and now again this year, so it looks as if they are established. There is as yet no sign of Meadow Barley the seeds of which were sown at the same time.   In search in vain on every visit for Meadow Barley but have not found any as yet.
Other plants newly flowering: Selfheal, Great Willowherb, Bristly Ox-tongue, Perennial Sow-thistle. Common Knapweed and Red Bartsia is doing well on the Lumley area.
Orchids on the main orchid area have now gone to seed with the exception of the Pyramidal Orchid which still looks good framed by two white trumpets of Hedge Bindweed.
Sharp-flowered Rush is now in flower on the Lumley area, though this year it is struggling against the burgeoning Hemlock Water-dropwort.
There’s plenty of Creeping Bent-grass now out around the meadow, some with closed inflorescences and others with open ones displaying the grass’s delicate panicles.

There is a fine growth of Timothy grass just south of the orchid area on the north meanorth meadow

Butterflies were having a hard time in the strong winds. I saw some Meadow Browns and Ringlets, but none stopped for photo. However, I came across a wonderful Marbled White sheltering from the wind deep in the grasses on the centre meadow. First of the year on Brook Meadow.
There was an unusual fly on a Creeping Thistle flower which I think might be the Bumblebee mimic – Volucella bombylans
Meadow Grasshoppers were hopping around the grassland wherever I walked. Here’s one I managed to capture on camera. This one looks like a female from its short wings. It is the only British grasshopper that does not fly!
I came across a Black Ant hill on the centre meadow.
I checked the Water Vole raft that Dan and Terry erected on the Lumley Stream. The two pieces of apple had disappeared eaten I wonder by what?
The fallen Crack Willow between the north and centre meadows makes a fine feature. It is good to know it safe and will be retained.


FRIDAY JUNE 26 – 2020
Much cooler today. Lots of people on the meadow this afternoon, though I went in places they do not go!   I had my first Ringlet of the year on the edge of the Lumley area – the 15th butterfly species so far.

There’s a good growth of Smooth Brome with extra long panicles on the path round the Lumley area.

I found several examples of Black Bent-grass along the Bramble path.
The long inflorescences on the Blue Water-speedwell on the path to the Lumley Stream suggests it is the hybrid with Pink Water Speedwell – Veronica x Lackschewitzii.

There is a new Water Vole raft anchored in the Lumley Stream with a couple of pieces of apple on it. Interesting. I will keep an eye on it.


TUESDAY JUNE 22 – 2020
I went looking for a mystery yellow crust that Jennifer Rye had noticed and photographed on some leaves on the north meadow. “On the western side of the first path southwards in the North meadow after the steps from the bridge, just over half way to the corner of the orchid area”. Despite her clear directions I could not find it. However, I will have another look another day.
While looking for Jennifer’s mystery I noticed that 6 of the large tree stumps had been moved from Frank’s seat to an open site on the north meadow north of the main orchid area. Its looks as if two of the stumps had been used for portable BBQs. A practice to be discouraged I think.
The first Large White was flying.

Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea – Coming back through Seagull Lane patch I spotted something which I certainly was not expecting – the bright pink flowers of Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea poking out of the forest of tall nettles.  This is the best shot I could get.  Hopefully, it will climb higher.

This climbing plant has been an attractive feature of the Seagull Lane patch for many years, but I I really thought we had lost it since it had not shown itself since 2017. But amazingly, it has managed to fight its way through a jungle of bramble and nettles. Plants are certainly tough!


FRIDAY JUNE 19 – 2020
Orchid tutorial
Five volunteers (Colin, Dan, Maurice, Pam and Kathy) attended a specially organised orchid tutorial led by Brian, the aim of which was to examine and identify the various orchids on the meadow. We focused in particular on the recently discovered Southern Marsh x Common Spotted hybrid orchids called Dactylorhiza x grandis. There was no problem in finding the hybrids, 23 of which were clustered together in a small area to the north of the main orchid area on the north meadow. Here is Colin with Pam and Kathy examining some specimens.
We spent some time in examining the hybrid flowers which were similar to the standard Southern Marsh Orchids and had spotted leaves like those of Common Spotted Orchids.

Here is Colin taking a close look with Dan looking on.
We found plenty of standard Southern Marsh Orchids but very few Common Spotted Orchids. However, as hybrid orchids are fertile they are no longer dependent on the presence of the parent plants and are a self-sustaining community. This may account for spread and the gradual rise in numbers over the past few years as shown in the following chart. Note: these hybrid orchids were originally counted as Common Spotted Orchids.
We went down to the Lumley area where we were pleased show the Bee Orchids to a young family who were visiting Brook Meadow for the first time.


Other observations
I met two Norse workers clearing the litter and dog bins and conveyed the thanks of the conservation group for their sterling help in keeping the meadow clean and tidy. They were pleased to pose for a photo: Steve and Robert (whom I have met previously).
A Large Skipper butterfly paused for a photo on leaves on the river bank south of the north bridge. Large Skipper is distinguished from the Small Skipper by its well marked upper wings. Small Skipper always emerges later than the Large.
Broad-leaved Dock is looking very fine on the north meadow with its red flowering spikes

Close-up of the flowers

Clustered Dock is in the same area. A small area of Jointed Rush (Juncus articulatus) is present at the start of the north-east path. Oxeye Daisies are in flower in the centre of the Lumley area. A rare plant on Brook Meadow!
Colin and I stopped to examine the newly emerged Timothy grass on the north meadow orchid area – soon it will be widespread around the meadow.


TUESDAY JUNE 16 – 2020
Volunteers Work Session
For full report and photos go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/


MONDAY JUNE 15 – 2020
Creeping Thistle – just starting to flower. About the same as last year.
Teasel – buds, but not in flower.   Pools of water in the wells made by the leaves and stems.
Creeping Cinquefoil – on north path.
Stone Parsley – in the hedge on the Seagull Lane patch. Not in flower.
Buddleja – A young sapling has been planted in the cleared area in front of the west side  Black Poplar.  I see no great harm in this, though it not really what we want on the meadow.  Celery-leaved Buttercup – four plants flowering on the small path to the Lumley Stream
Pink Water Speedwell ?? – Two tiny plants on the small Lumley path .

Timothy – is now starting to show its cylindrical panicles on the orchid area just south of the Great Burnet. Soon it will be out in several areas of the meadow. A beautiful grass.
Meadow Browns – vary a lot in colour density, some very dark others quite light.
The male (on the left) has dusky brown wings with a small white pupilled black eyespot. The female (on the right) has a prominent light patch on its forewings and a larger eyespot.

Water Vole – My neighbour reported seeing a Water Vole in the millstream at Westbourne. That could be good news for us further downstream.


SUNDAY JUNE 14 – 2020
Orchids update
I met Dan Mortimer at 3pm on the orchid area on Brook Meadow. Following a little instruction on how to identify a hybrid orchid (a) from its spotted leaves and (b) from its Southern Marsh Orchid type flowers we set about identifying and counting the hybrid orchids.   The hybrids are larger and sturdier than the parent plants which makes them easier to pick out.  This is a shot of one of the bigger hybrid orchids.
We counted a total of 23 hybrid orchids all in a small part of the northern section of the orchid area.  This is where I had previously counted about  the same number of Common Spotted Orchids!   Obviously, one and the same.  We found 4 normal Common Spotted Orchids on the orchid area.  Here is a shot of Dan identifying the hybrid orchids
We had a look at the Lumley area where we found no hybrid orchids, but did note the presence of the two well-known Common Spotted Orchids, one pale and one pure white which brings the revised total of Common Spotteds on Brook Meadow to 6 for this year’s count with 23 hybrid orchids making up the difference.
It seems likely that the increase in Common Spotted Orchid counts from 2017 can be attributed to the growth of hybrid orchid numbers. To take account of this I have revised the chart for Common Spotted Orchid counts, assuming a steady number of 7 plants from 2017-2019.
Here is a new chart for the hybrid orchids starting in 2017.

The overall orchid counts are not affected.  It is just the matter of reinterpreting most of the Common Spotteds as Hybrids.  I hope that makes sense.
Here is the final chart for the Southern Marsh Orchids which continue to expand year by year.  We shall soon be catching up with Fishbourne Meadows!!
And finally, the Bee Orchid counts.
Finally, Dan expressed keenness to help out with the orchid and other plant counts in future years. That’s good though I would rally like a few others to get involved as well.


SATURDAY JUNE 13 – 2020
Hybrid Orchids
I am grateful to Martin Rand (BSBI Recorder for South Hants) for checking these blog reports and for making suggestions and corrections. Martin is a good friend of Brook Meadow and has visited the meadow on several occasions and has made significant contributions to our list of flora.
One point made by Martin is that our orchid counts have overlooked hybrids between the Southern Marsh and the Common Spotted Orchids – called Dactylorhiza x grandis. He says these hybrids can be quite common wherever there is a good population of the parents, as on Brook Meadow. Martin points out that the two orchids showed in the photo on the blog for May 25 – as seen below – which I had called Common Spotted Orchids certainly have spotted leaves, but the flowers were more like those of Southern Marsh Orchids.
Following Martin’s communication I went over to the meadow this morning to see if I could find any hybrids.  The orchids are now generally past their best and are being engulfed by burgeoning vegetation.  However, I managed to find 16 hybrids in one small area in the northern part of the orchid area.  I had previously counted these orchids as Common Spotted without really looking closely at the flowers.
Here are the spotted leaves and flower spike of one such plant. The flowers are clearly those of a Southern Marsh Orchid.

This photo shows the flowers of a Common Spotted Orchid for comparison.

I originally counted 29 Common Spotted Orchids on the main orchid area on May 25th which clearly is not longer correct.
Although there are both Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids on the Lumley area and the main centre meadow I found no hybrid orchids on either area.

Other observations
The Pyramidal Orchid is developing well on the orchid area and Meadowsweet is in flower on the north west path close to the Rowan plantation.

Large Skipper – first of the year was flying on the orchid area.
Cetti’s Warblers were singing from the west bank and from Palmer’s Road Copse.
Hybrid Fescue (x Festulolium loliaceum) is growing well just south of Beryl’s seat.  This is a rare grass so please do not mow this area.


THURSDAY JUNE 11 – 2020
Volunteers Work Session
For report and photos go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/


Wildlife Observations June 11 –  from Brian
Jackdaws were flying over the meadow, calling as they went.
Green Woodpecker called.
A Coal Tit came down to drink at the river in the north-east corner.
Cetti’s Warblers were singing from three areas of the meadow: west bank of river, south meadow near Lumley gate and north Palmer’s Road Copse.   These are all regular Cetti’s Warbler singing spots this year and I am fairly sure it was not simply one bird moving from one location to another. Here’s a photo of the west bank site.

A Red Admiral was the only butterfly seen.
A female Beautiful Demoiselle was resting on vegetation on the north path. The female Beautiful Demoiselle is distinguished from the female Banded Demoiselle by its brown wings.

There’s a nice clump of Common Knapweed flowering in the centre of the Lumley area.
Creeping Cinquefoil in flower on the main river path.
Water Forget-me-not is in flower on the path through Palmer’s Road Copse.
There are lots of both Gipsywort and Water Mint on the low west bank in Palmer’s Road Copse. Not yet in flower.
There is a fine flowering of Bramble in the north west corner of the north meadow – augers well for a good crop of Blackberries.
There is another young Ash tree in the south east corner of the south meadow near the public footpath. It looks fairly healthy but for a few dead branches. Ash Die-back could be an issue.


WEDNESDAY JUNE 10 – 2020
Volunteers Work Session
For report and photos go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/


MONDAY JUNE 8 – 2020
I heard two Cetti’s Warblers on Brook Meadow today, one from the west bank and one from Palmer’s Road Copse. It is almost like being in Mallorca!
But sadly there was  no sound of Whitethroat. I think the one we had earlier on the north meadow has moved on. So we have none on the meadow this year.
I pursued a Meadow Brown hoping for Ringlet, but no luck. I have also yet to see a Skipper.

Common Knapweed is in flower on the Lumley area and attracting a white-tailed Bumblebee – probably Bombus terrestris.  Also there was a Bumblebee mimic fly (Volucella bombylans) with a distinctive red tail.

The orchids are gradually being buried under an advancing growth of surrounding vegetation, particularly Bindweed.
Red Bartsia flowering well on the Lumley area.
I am a bit concerned about the Pepper-saxifrage on the east side of the Lumley area. There are a few leaves but no upright plants as yet. However, there’s still time as the plant normally does not flower until August.
There are now five Celery-leaved Buttercups in flower on the path down to the Lumley Stream from the Lumley area, having escaped the attentions of the buttercup vigilantes.
Grasses abound everywhere and looking for one or two is tricky!   I looked everywhere for Meadow Barley, but without luck. Also no sign of Timothy or the Bent Grasses, but they will come.
Reed Canary-grass is now fully open in the south meadow. Its inflorescences have an attractive reddish tinge.
I was pleased to find Spiked Sedge on the Lumley area and Sea Club-rush in the south east corner for the first time this year. This takes the total number of Sedges (Carex) on the meadow to 13.

An appreciative visitor
Jill Stanley visited Brook Meadow this morning, having not been in the orchid season for a couple of years, and says what a joy it was!
“So many beautiful orchids – I gave up trying to count them! At that point I hadn’t read your blog about them, but I found both the Pyramidal orchids, and the white Common Spotted orchid on the Lumley meadow. They were all so glorious to see, including all the other wild flowers, and it was hard to tear myself away when it was time to come home. Thank you to you and the volunteers who do so much to maintain this lovely piece of nature in the heart of our town.”

Other news
Keith Wileman got this photo of a pair of 6 spot Burnet Moths mating on Hampshire Farm today.


SATURDAY JUNE 6 – 2020
Orchids
Maurice Lillie took the following photo of a Pyramidal Orchid which Dan Mortimer recently found on the Lumley area. This is our second Pyramidal Orchid on Brook Meadow – the only other one is on the main orchid area on the north meadow – also found by Dan. Dan has also found more Bee Orchids – he’s our prime orchid spotter!
Maurice took photos of two other orchids on the Lumley area which puzzled him as they were very pale and one was completely white. Jennifer also wrote to me about these pale orchids. They are in fact fairly common variants of the Common Spotted Orchid which vary a lot in colour density, some being very bright pink and others, like the ones in Maurice’s photos, very pale or even pure white. If you look closely you will see the basal leaves have dark spots on them – from which the plant gets its name.


FRIDAY JUNE 5 – 2020
Orchids
This morning I went over to the meadow to check on the possible Pyramidal Orchid that Dan Mortimer found yesterday on the main orchid area on the north meadow. The plant was still small and Dan’s photo was a bit blurry however, there is no doubt that it is a Pyramidal Orchid – the first of the year.   Here is a better photo of the plant.

We have had one Pyramidal Orchid recorded in roughly the same area since 2018.   Pyramidal Orchid always flowers a bit later than out other three orchids, so there is time. Dan tells me he has found another one on the Lumley area which I have yet to check on.
Dan also found a few more Bee Orchids to add to our year list which now stands at a total of 27, beating last year’s total by two, but still two down on the record count of 29 in 2015. But keep looking as there may well be more hiding away.

Grasses
Meadow Fescue grasses are now growing well around Beryl’s seat and at the start of the north west path in the north meadow. Also present are Perennial Ryegrass with hints of the Hybrid Fescue (x Festulolium loliaceum) also present.

Hermitage Millponds
Two pairs of Mute Swans were confronting each other near Chequers Quay, one pair on Dolphin Lake and the other pair on Slipper Millpond. The Slipper Millpond pair would be defending their nesting territory, though they did not nest successfully on the pond this year.
The other pair of Mute Swans was on Peter Pond where their nesting also failed this year following an attack on nest and eggs by a Fox.

The two Great Black-backed Gull chicks were on the south raft along with one parent.
Tree Mallow is in full flower around Slipper Millpond and Wild Carrot is just coming into flower.


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
Bee Orchids
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.

Other observations
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)

Visiting Naturalists
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.
Bee Orchids
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.

Orchid counts
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.

Wildlife observations
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
https://youtu.be/5pRlW5PEyrM

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
Wildlife observations
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
Wildlife observations
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.
Wildlife observations
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
Coronavirus lockdown
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
Brook Meadow
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


Butterbur count
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.

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