Wildlife Blog 2021 Jan-Jun

in reverse chronological order
Edited by Brian Fellows


TUESDAY JUNE 29 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Morning visit after rain. Main observations:
Creeping Bent (open panicles)  opposite the Seagull Lane gate.  Here’s one I stuck on the gate post for a photo.
Song Thrush singing strongly from north path.
Ground-elder in flower at the end of the north path towards the corner.
Large Lesser Burdock by the steps. This area has been cut and could be a site for the new Greater Burdock plants?
Curled Dock on the north-east path.
Fresh green leaves of Aspen suckers behind the Rowans.
The recent mowing of the path behind the Rowans has exposed a some Bearded Couch Grass (a rare grass on Brook Meadow) standing tall among the other vegetation. I found this grass here last year too.  That’s a new one for Dan.
Also exposed by the mowing is another Common Ragwort – only the second on Brook Meadow this year. Hopefully, not cut down like the other one!
I spotted an interesting fly and managed to get a photo. Possibly Ichneumon species or Parasitoid Wasp? David, can you advise?  Two views of it.

The Haskins Aspen tree is not looking good with lots of dead branches. The leaves appear to have an infestation of the Aspen Leaf Beetle (Gonioctena decemnotata) The actual beetles were not visible, but the leaves were covered with small black larvae also some pale.
Spikelets of Giant Fescue are just starting to emerge in the regular place just north of the centre meadow.
Selfheal is starting to open on the path round the Lumley area.
No sign of any Pyramidal Orchids.
Corky-fruited Water-dropwort is also out on the west side of the north meadow near the bridge.

FRIDAY JUNE 25 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The first Corky-fruited Water-dropwort of the year is in flower on the north mown circle on the north meadow. A small amount of Jointed Rush is in flower on the southern mown circle. In autumn it would be worth sowing some Yellow Rattle seeds in the two mown circle areas to keep the grasses down.

There’s a nice view of the Hybrid Fescues (x Festulolium loliaceum) looking south from Beryl’s seat along with the two parent grasses – Perennial Ryegrass and Meadow Fescue. **Please do not cut this area.
Creeping Bent – is now appearing around the meadow, all with typical reddish closed up panicles (inflorescences). When the panicles open this grass shows a lovely delicate tree-like structure.
Black Bent-grass – is a much bigger grass than Creeping Bent.  Hence its its scientific name Agrostis gigantea. It is now out in small amounts on the south meadow: on the Bramble path and alongside the main south path.
Several of the large Hemlock Water-dropworts on the south meadow have collapsed on themselves.  This always happens.
The south east corner of the south meadow is very overgrown and is not easy to penetrate. The so-called Great Yellow-cress plants are still showing well, but not in flower. However, despite what the experts says, I am getting more convinced that these plants are in fact the more common Gipsywort. The square stems is the clincher.
I am also doubtful about the previously identified Brooklime in the south east corner area. The only plants I could find were Water Mint – given away by their distinctive aroma.
There is also some Sea Couch in this area. That takes to 25 the total number of grass species recorded on Brook Meadow this year.
While standing on the south bridge my eye was caught by the attractive pattern produced by the long pointed seed pods of Herb-Robert growing beneath the north side of the bridge.

Nore Barn
For a change of scenery, I drove over to Nore Barn this morning, an old haunt of mine, but not been for a while.   Managed to park in one of the new parking bays at the end of Warblington Road.  High tide and calm water. Good place to be!  Great variety of habitats for keen naturalists.  Try it.  Reedbeds, saltmarshes, woods, shoreline, etc.  Our colleagues in the Friends of Nore Barn Woods are doing a great job.
Reedbeds: (no access)
There’s a nice line of Saltmarsh Rushes along the edge of the reedbeds. We have had Saltmarsh Rushes on Brook Meadow, but not for many years. Reed Warbler was singing!!

The reedbeds

Saltmarsh Rush

There’s lots of interesting plants on the saltmarshes as always including Lax-flowered Sea-lavender, Lesser Sea-spurrey, Sea Plantain, English Scurvygrass, Sea Purslane, Grass-leaved Orache and the highly aromatic Sea Wormwood.

The saltmarshes

Lesser Sea-spurrey 

Into the woods where Chaffinches were singing!! Rare birds indeed.  There’s plenty of Timothy emerging in the grassland glades.  Nice low grasses and no Fescues!

Timothy Grass

Brook Meadow
I met Dan on Brook Meadow at 11.30 this morning. The weather was fine and warm.
We had a look around the “Lumley puddle” area near the Lumley gate
I helped Dan to add several grasses to his fast developing Brook Meadow Flora Handbook including Marsh Foxtail, Toad Rush and a bit of Common Couch.  Here’s Toad Rush.
Dan was keen to get a sample of Smooth Brome (Bromus racemosus) which grows only at the northern end of the cross path from the Lumley gate. It shows up well against Dan’s blue jumper.
Later we found a really good growth of Creeping Bent and Timothy at the southern end of the main orchid area on the north meadow – firsts of the year on Brook Meadow. Soon these attractive grasses will be widespread around the meadow.   These take the total number of grasses recorded on Brook Meadow so far this year to 23. Here’s the Timothy.
Dan and I carried out what will probably be a final count this year of Bee Orchids. This was not easy as grasses and other vegetation are burgeoning and the plants are very small and inconspicuous. Here’s the best we could find with 4 flowers.
However, we managed to find 8 Bee Orchids in flower on the Lumley area and another 7 on the north meadow making 15 in total. Not very good!   As shown in the chart, this is well down on the previous two years’ counts but much in line with the average since counts started in 2007.
At last the Great Burnet is in full flower on the orchid area – very late this year.
Honeysuckle is in flower by the Lumley gate and smelling and tasting good according to Dan! This is Japanese Honeysuckle as the berries are black; they are red on the native Honeysuckle.
The first Meadow Browns of the year were on the main orchid area – about a month later than last year!!  Nothing else to note.   Where have they gone?
Dan’s blue jumper proved very attractive to a small fly which stayed on his clothing for several minutes. I have tentatively identified it as a Twin-lobed Deerfly (Chrysops relictus). Maybe it mistook Dan for a deer?

Wildlife observations during work session
Newly flowering: Mallow on the Seagull Lane patch close to the river bank,
Common Knapweed and Oxeye Daisy on the Lumley area.

Reed Canary-grass towering over all else on the Lumley area.

Crested Dog’s-tail grass – several clumps now out on the Lumley area.
Toad Rush clearly visible in the area around the Lumley puddle.

Dark Giant Horsefly
David had an interesting encounter with a large fly which landed on his arm during the clearance of Hemlock Water-dropwort from the Lumley area. I took a photo and sent it on to him for ID. It was an easy identification (for him!).
The wing venation shows it belongs to the Family Tabanidae, the Horseflies. He thinks it is Dark Giant Horsefly (Tabanus sudenticus). The fact that they eyes are touching means it is a male. Females of the Diptera have a distinct gap between them. They are a more western and northern species but do occur elsewhere. Records come mainly from moorland and heathland. The nearest strongholds to us are the New Forest and Surrey heaths.
David added, “It could have bitten me but it didn’t! It did seem a bit dozy which explains why I picked it up so easily”. Thanks David. Good it did not bite you!

Orchid recount
Dan, Jennifer and Brian conducted a recount of the Common Spotted Orchids and the hybrid orchids (Dactylorhiza  x grandis) to check the numbers from yesterday’s count. Here are the revised counts. Last year’s totals are in brackets.
North meadow
Southern Marsh Orchid = 300 (155)
Common Spotted Orchid = 11 (4)
Hybrid orchid = 25 (23)
Centre meadow
Southern Marsh Orchid = 21 (19)
Common Spotted Orchid = 6 (2)
Grand totals both sites
Southern Marsh Orchid = 321 (174) 84% increase
Common Spotted Orchid = 17 (6)
Hybrid orchid = 25 (23)

Bee Orchids –  So far (16-Jun) we have 5 Bee Orchids on the north meadow and 13 on the Lumley area giving a total of 18. We had 29 last year, so we shall count again in a week.
Pyramidal Orchids: are not yet showing.

On the two main sites, Southern Marsh Orchids have shown a massive increase from 174 last year to 321 this year – a 84% increase. This is fantastic news.  Just look how they have increased in numbers since two were planted in year 2007.  We must be doing something right!  We must be getting close to the Fishbourne Meadows numbers??

Orchid count
I met up with Dan, Jennifer, Kathy and Pam on Brook Meadow on a warm but thankfully overcast morning to carry out the annual orchid count. We started on the main orchid area on the north meadow and then continued on the Lumley area on the centre meadow. Jennifer, Kathy, Pam and myself did the counting while Dan tallied the results. The whole process took about an hour.
Dan did the final calculations which showed a big increase in Southern Marsh Orchids up from 174 last year to 315 this year!   Common Spotted Orchids also increased, but hybrid orchids were down. Bee Orchids were down, but there’s more to come. There’s no sign of Pyramidal Orchids as yet.

Dan and I will be doing a recount of the non Southern Marsh Orchids to check on their numbers. Full results to follow.

Hayling Oysterbeds
Peter Milinets-Raby has a new video ‘A Birding site guide to West Hayling LNR (Hayling Oyster Beds).  See . . . https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OE6dfJRj4gA

MONDAY JUNE 14 – 2021
Brook Meadow
It was much too hot for me on the meadow today so I did not stay long and sought out shady bits wherever possible! However, I had some interesting sightings.
I found four new grasses for this year’s Brook Meadow list –  Crested Dog’s-tail and Soft Brome on the southern round mown area on the north meadow

Also – Hybrid Fescue (x Festulolium loliaceum) and Perennial Ryegrass (one of the hybrid’s parents) just south of Beryl’s seat.

These take the total number of different grasses recorded so far on the meadow this year to 19. And there’s more to come!
I saw what must have been a Buzzard flying into the Willows on the north meadow. I did not see it again, so please keep a look out. This is a fairly rare event. Here is a nice shot I got of a juvenile in the trees on Brook Meadow in 2010.
The only butterflies I saw this morning were Red Admirals.

Annual Beard Grass
On my way to Brook Meadow I spotted a clump of grasses growing beside the garages in Seagull Lane that I had not seen before. They had distinctive cylindrical panicles rather like Meadow Foxtail but much softer, silkier and plumper. I thought it could be a Bristle-grass, so I collected a sample to examine at home.   The pointed ligules ruled out Bristle-grass and clearly indicated the grass was Annual Beard Grass (Polypogon monspeliensis).

I have only one other experience of this unusual grass was in June 2016 when Ralph Hollins brought me a sample he had discovered in Hart’s Farm Way in Havant.   My copy of Cope and Gray (in Grasses of the British Isles) says it is a native grass along the coasts of southern and eastern England with a centre around the Solent. It as an annual plant reproducing entirely from seed and requiring bare ground for the establishment of seedlings. Seeds survive for many years and new populations will suddenly reappear at former sites.

Friends of Wildlife visit
I was delighted to welcome six members of the Friends of Wildlife group to Brook Meadow on a fine sunny morning, but not too hot!   This is a long running group of keen amateur naturalists who meet at different locations every Saturday morning throughout the year. They usually make one visit to Brook Meadow each year. I was a member of the group (then named Havant Wildlife Study Group) until about 5 years ago.  I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the group for fostering my passion for and knowledge of wildlife. See the following web page for more information about the group and its history. . . http://familyfellows.com/hwg-index.htm

The group was very keen to see our orchids so we first headed to the main orchid area on the north meadow.

We spent some time wandering around, examining the two main species of orchid, Southern Marsh and Common Spotted, plus the newly discovered hybrid orchids (Dactylorhiza x grandis) – taking great care not to tread on any!!

A hybrid

I also pointed out the rare Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis) which is still not yet in flower – a good two weeks behind.
From there we went over to look at the Rowan plantation of some 20 trees which were donated by this group to Brook Meadow in May 2005 in memory of Gwynne Johnson who was a leading member of the group and a very good friend of mine and of Brook Meadow!

The trees were looking good with berries forming which will soon be shining bright red.

We spent a little time thinking about Gwynne and in particular her passion for grasses and sedges which she passed on to many of us, including me!   Here’s a cracking shot of False Oat-grass from Derek that she would have liked.
In this area, Heather pointed out the first flowering of Hedge Woundwort – with an almost orchid-like flower spike.
From there we made out way down to the Lumley area where a number of tiny Bee Orchids were spotted, mostly along the edge of the path where the grasses were shortest. I pointed out some of the more obvious sedges, including the three-edged False Fox Sedge (Carex otrubae).
By this time we all needed a break, so we headed to the main seat though, as you can see from the photo, the group preferred to sit on the steps!

But for these three chaps
After the break I took them on a little adventure through the wilderness that is the south meadow and down to the south east corner which was flooded with brackish water for much of the winter.
Here we found Sea Club-rush and Divided Sedge plus Celery-leaved Buttercup and what has been identified as Great Yellow-cress (Rorippa amphibia) but looks more like Gipsywort. Best to wait until it flowers.
In this area we also examined Broad-leaved Dock leaves which had been stripped to a lattice structure by the larvae of the Green Dock Beetle (Gastrophysa viridula).

It was here that Heather made an acquaintance with a Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus) which showed bright crimson underwings when it flew. I don’t recall having seen this before.


On the bird front Song Thrushes and Blackcaps were particularly vocal all morning.
We did not hear Whitethroat but they are here somewhere.
A Red Kite was seen flying overhead.
And when we got back to Bridge Road car park Derek spotted 4 Swifts in the sky. Jean and I had two this evening over our garden – the first of the year!

FRIDAY JUNE 11 – 2021
Pete Potts visits
This morning it gave me very great pleasure to welcome my good friend and ecologist Pete Potts to Brook Meadow for his very first visit. Pete was ranger on Hayling Island for many years, but is probably best remembered for his pioneering work in colour ringing of Black-tailed Godwits and Greenshank to learn more about their migratory behaviour.
Pete parked his car inside the Seagull Lane gate (thanks Dan for the loan of the key). We stopped to view the beautiful Marian Forster pictorial map on the interpretation board before crossing the north bridge and walking along the north path and through the north meadow.
Pete was ‘blown away’ by the wonderful array of orchids on the main orchid area. It is astonishing to think all these flowers came from just two Southern Marsh Orchids planted in 2007 by Nigel Johnson. I was sad to hear from Pete that the Southmoor orchid field has been badly damaged by flooding from the sea.  I vividly recall counting thousands of orchids on that site.
Pete was similarly impressed with the Lumley area which has fewer orchids, but lots of other things of botanical interest, including Ragged Robin, Bird’s-foot Trefoil and lots of sedges and rushes.   Pete approved of our policy in digging out the Hemlock Water-dropwort which is invading this valuable Lumley area. He thought this invasive plant appeared to be on the increase generally.

Finally, I took Pete through the long grasses in the far south east corner of the south meadow to show him the Celery-leaved Buttercup and the newly discovered Great Yellow-cress (Rorippa amphibia) which Pete and I both thought looked just like Gipsywort. Maybe it is? Let’s wait until it flowers.
Pete was particularly taken by the leaves of Broad-leaved Dock which had been stripped almost clean by some ravenous small black grubs which are the larvae of the Green Dock Beetle (Gastrophysa viridula).

On the bird front, both Song Thrushes and Blackcaps were in good voice this morning. Pete also spotted two Whitethroats on the north meadow, one carrying food which is very good news as these regular migrant birds have been particularly elusive this year. Pete was also interested to hear Reed Warblers singing on the south meadow which he thought may be birds coming from Peter Pond onto the meadow for food.
As for insects, butterflies remain scarce, though we did see a fresh Red Admiral which perched for a photo. We also saw Beautiful Demoiselle and Azure Damselfly.

Towards the end of the walk, we were both feeling a bit weary, so we headed for the main seat where we enjoyed a chat while enjoying the panorama of our beautiful meadow.

Such a pleasant visit. Thanks for coming Pete.


Signcases updated
Dan came round to my house at 11am as previously arranged to collect the four signcase boards the displays of which I had spent the past few days updating.   I followed Dan over to  Brook Meadow and watched him give each of the signcases a thorough clean before installing the new displays.

In the meantime, I had a little wander around the meadow to look at the orchids which are looking quite splendid. Here’s close-ups of our two main orchids, Southern Marsh and Common Spotted.

Dan and I discussed when and how to count the orchids.  We agreed next week would be the best time when most of the flower spikes will be showing. We shall need 3 or 4 volunteers to carry out the count, moving in a line across the orchid areas and counting each species separately. Dan agreed to sound out volunteers for next week.
After Dan had finished doing the signcase at the south gate we had a little mooch around the far south east corner of the south meadow which is one of our prime botanical spots.   I pointed out three new plants Dan wanted for his Brook Meadow Flora Handbook, namely, Celery-leaved Buttercup, Reed Canary-grass and Sea Club-rush. Brooklime and Great Yellow-cress are yet to flower.

We were stopped in our tracks by the sight of several Broad-leaved Dock leaves which had been stripped by some voracious small black grubs. I discovered later that these grubs were the larvae of the Green Dock Beetle (Gastrophysa viridula). This is one of about 250 species of leaf beetle which feed on the leaves of plants. This one specialises in Dock leaves of which fortunately we have in abundance on Brook Meadow.

Green Dock Beetles
The life cycle of the Green Dock Beetle:   Breeding season is from March to October. It has 2 to 4 broods per year, with the last brood hibernating as an adult. The female lays over 1,000 eggs, laying them in clusters of 20 to 45 on the underside of the food plant’s leaves. The eggs are oval in shape, and are cream to yellow, turning orange prior to hatching. After about 3 to 6 days, the larva hatches from the egg. It varies in colour from greenish grey to dark brown. Its body is segmented, and will reach a length of 8 mm. Young larvae drop to the ground if disturbed while feeding; older larvae secrete a substance which repels competitors from eating the food plant leaves. After three instars, the larva pupates in a burrow about 2 cm underground. The adult emerges 6 to 9 days later.

Brook Meadow
A very hot morning on the meadow. There’s still nothing much in the way of butterflies, though I did see a Red Admiral flying plus a regular Speckled Wood in Palmer’s Road Copse.
Other insects of note included a pair of mating Azure Damselflies.  In mating the male (all blue) clasps the female (greenish) by the neck and she bends her body underneath to his reproductive organs. This is sometimes referred to as ‘the mating wheel’.
Video clip . . . https://youtu.be/MJ7reUWXWkQ

I also noted my first Swollen-thighed Beetle (Oedemera nobilis).
While I was in the south east corner of the south meadow I watched a Stretch Spider building its orb web in the deep vegetation. There was another Stretch Spider nearby which provoked a bit of a skirmish.
Sea Club-rush is out on the south east corner of the south meadow. Despite its name it is classified as a sedge. That takes the total number of sedges recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 12.
I looked closely at the Bittercress flowering on the casual path down to the Lumley Stream. I have considered Large Bittercress in the past, but I am fairly sure it is Wavy Bitter-cress – confirmed by 6 stamens in the flower. No photo.
There are a few small plants of Brooklime are in flower in this area.

Hermitage Millponds
Maurice Lillie reports the first Bee Orchid on the south bank of Peter Pond in the same location as the very tall multi bloomed one last year.
The swan family have ventured into Slipper Mill Pond, probably not their first but certainly my first sighting. They could be in conflict with the resident pair, if they are still present?

MONDAY JUNE 7 – 2021
Seagull Lane
I went over to the meadow this morning with the object of counting the Ragged Robin plants, though as always happens I got easily distracted by many other things on the way.
My first distraction were the weeds growing along the edges of Seagull Lane.

Today I added Procumbent Pearlwort and Field Madder to my Seagull Lane list. While I was examining the plants a householder came out for his bins and we had a nice little chat about the value of weeds. I asked him not to pull them up. I’m sure he thought I was crackers.

Brook Meadow
Next stop was Brook Meadow and the Seagull Lane patch where I made my way along the freshly cut western path by the hedge. There is a fine growth of False Oat-grass – almost head high.

Young acorns are now clearly visible on the Oaks. I was surprised to see a few bright pink flowers of Pink Sorrel in the dense vegetation beneath my Oak tree. Garden escape for sure.

I stopped to have a look at the orchids on the main orchid area on the north meadow and what a beautiful sight they are, pinks mixed in with the yellow of Meadow Buttercups and Yellow Rattle. I found one hybrid orchid (Dactylorhiza x grandis) which I measured at a whopping 19 inches tall.
I am surprised by the continued absence of butterflies, despite the rising temperature. I did not see a single one during today’s visit. I only had one Bumblebee – a rather dozy B. terrestris I think.
I finally got to Lumley area where I proceeded to carry out a count of the flowering Ragged Robin plants.  This is quite a late count and many of the plants are past their best.  Here’s a nice one I found to photograph.
I counted a total of 168 Ragged Robin plants. Later this afternoon Dan counted 177, so I split the difference and made it 173.   As shown in the chart, this year’s count is a fairly average one, not high and not low, but well up on last year’s count of 114.

For more on the Ragged Robin counts go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/plant-counts/ragged-robin-counts-2/

During the count I came across another Bee Orchid in flower which I marked with a stick. Dan counted 6 Bee Orchids in total this afternoon on the Lumley area.  Good news!

I was interested to see the pure white Common Spotted Orchid that was here last year. I also stopped to admire three clumps of bright yellow flowering Bird’s-foot Trefoil – about 2 weeks later than last year.

SUNDAY JUNE 6th – 2021
Orchids on Brook Meadow
During the work session we had a visit from a couple of very keen ‘orchid hunters’ named Jim and Dawn from Worthing. They had come over to Emsworth especially to see our orchids, having seen the news on our wildlife blog.

They were most impressed with the quality of the Southern Marsh Orchids and admired some very fine Common Spotted Orchids. They asked to see the hybrid orchids which were showing very nicely. To cap it all, Dawn found the first Brook Meadow Bee Orchid of the year near the path round the Lumley area. Well done Dawn!

FRIDAY JUNE 4 – 2021
Brook Meadow
There are several patches of Water-starwort floating in the river in Palmer’s Road Copse.
There are several species of Water-starwort which are very difficult to identify.  Fortunately, thanks to our friend Andy Powling we do have a good identification of the actual species in the river which is Blunt-fruited Water-starwort (C. obtusangula).  Andy identified this during his survey of the River Ems on 13 June 2005. This ID was subsequently confirmed  by BSBI Recorder Martin Rand on 3 July 2005.  Here is a close up of the plants . . .
I noticed the first signs of Meadow Fescue on the path below Beryl’s seat and some further south at the start of the north-east path. This is where we can expect to see the Hybrid Fescues (x Festulolium loliaceum) a little later.

Slipper Millpond
I could only see one Great Black-backed Gull chick along with its parents on the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. The other two chicks from the original brood of 3 may have been hidden, but I fear the worst!
Sea Club-rush is in full flower on the west side of the pond. Despite its name this is a sedge!   We do sometimes find some in the south east corner of the south meadow on Brook Meadow.

Brook Meadow
Three new flowers for this year’s list: Shepherd’s Purse by the Seagull Lane gate, Germander Speedwell opposite my Oak on the Seagull Lane patch and Black Medick on the southern mown circle on the north meadow. Here’s the Speedwell.

This takes the total number of herbaceous plants recorded on Brook Meadow so far this year to 84. Last year’s total was 129, so there’s some way to go.
Two new butterflies were on the wing: Small Copper on the south mown circle and Holly Blue on the centre meadow. Only the Copper stopped for a photo.

That takes the number of butterfly species recorded on Brook Meadow so far this year to 10. I am missing Large White and Green-veined White. Skippers and Browns should be out soon. Generally this spring has been a poor one for butterfly sightings.

I also had an interesting small spider on a web in the nettles on the main river path. It had a thin silvery abdomen, very long legs and appeared to be eating a small prey. After some research I narrowed it down (I hope) to a Common Stretch Spider (Tretagnatha extensa).

This spider gets its name from its habit of stretching its legs out in front and behind to produce a stick-like effect. This makes it difficult to detect among vegetation.   It is fairly common and widespread throughout Britain.  A new sighting for Brook Meadow! Here’s a short video clip of the spider on its web.  Video link . . . https://youtu.be/nbWtb8H4qXU

Talking of spiders I have yet to see any Nursery-web spiders (Pisaura mirabilis) which are usually prominent at this time of the year on nettle leaves. Has any one seen them?
Also on the nettle leaves was a small 14-spot Ladybird though I did not count the spots!
I don’t know what that brown object is which appears to be attached to the Ladybird??

Brook Meadow
I met up with Dan at 11am on the meadow as arranged. It was jolly hot, so we sought the shade whenever possible.   I pointed out some plants to Dan that I had noticed while coming along the cross path to the Lumley gate. One was Yorkshire Fog which is now emerging generally – just run your fingers down its stem to feel the silky smoothness. No other grass feels like this!
Dan also took samples of Marsh Foxtail, Common Spike-rush and Amphibious Bistort from the wet area just north of the “Lumley puddle” for his Brook Meadow Flora Handbook.
Here’s Dan entering the Amphibious Bistort
This photo of the Marsh Foxtail shows well its characteristic stem with sharp bends.

I was especially pleased to find Smooth Brome grass (Bromus racemosus) – first of the year – on the northern section of the cross path. Smooth Brome is rare grass on Brook Meadow and not easy to distinguish from Soft Brome (Bromus hordeaceus). One way is to measure the total length of the panicle (inflorescence) which is longer in Smooth Brome (7-20cm) than in Soft Brome (5-10cm). I did not have a measure with me at the time but this photo of the grass on my hand indicates an inflorescence of about 13cm.
Coming onto the meadow by the Seagull Lane gate I noted a good crop of Wall Barley growing around the gateway.  This takes to 13 the total number of grasses recorded so far on the meadow this year.  There’s more to come.
We had a look at the main orchid area on the north meadow where we noted the first signs of red flower buds on the Great Burnet (Sanguisorba officinalis), a good 2 weeks later than usual.
We also saw lots of Orchids, with good numbers of Southern Marsh Orchids and a few rather pale and puny Common Spotted Orchids. In sharp contrast the hefty hybrid orchids (Common Spotted Orchid x Southern Marsh Orchid – Dactylorhiza x grandis) stood out prominently in the northern part of the orchid area. The orchids should be ready for counting in a couple of weeks time.  Here’s a hybrid orchid coming along nicely.
After I left Dan I had a welcome sit down on a willow trunk padded with moss in a shady glade at the back of the ‘play area’.

FRIDAY MAY 28 – 2021
This morning Jean and I had an interesting walk round the Lumley circuit going up Mill Lane and returning via the fields behind Westbourne Avenue. The weather was fine and perfect for walking.
Going up the hill past Lumley Mill we stopped to take a photo of a fine young Caper Spurge growing against a fence opposite the Flint Cottages. Not yet in flower, the plant has dark green leaves arranged in neat ranks up the stem. It is an ancient introduction to Britain from Europe and is often grown in gardens which, no doubt, is where this plant came from.
Along the track to the A27 bridge, we had an interesting encounter with a young lady cutting Cow Parsley who told us it was for her horses!   I have never heard of this before, but she said her horses loved the plants.
A little further along this track towards the bridge we were very surprised to discover what looked just like strings of red currants on a small Oak tree. These must be the same currant galls that I also noted on male catkins on the Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch on Brook Meadow on May 19, but far more abundant.
We made another interesting Oak tree observation along Mill Lane towards Westbourne. Some of the small Oak trees close to the millstream had very large fleshy leaves, certainly much larger than standard Oak leaves. One leaf I measured was almost 9 inches long.  I have not ruled out Sessile Oak leaves, but the leaf stalks were short. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the largest oak leaf ever documented was 41 centimeters (16.14 inches) long and 28 centimeters (11 inches) wide. It was found in Barry’s Bay, Ontario, Canada, in October 2010.

The fields from Westbourne to Emsworth were gloriously carpeted with Bulbous Buttercups (reflexed sepals) as far as the eye could see! Here’s a view looking north with Westbourne Avenue gardens on the left. You can just make out the spire of Westbourne church on the horizon.

Brook Meadow today
Dan Mortimer had a little wander on the meadow this afternoon. He counted at least 95 Ragged Robin and more on their way. Also, at least 10 orchids on Lumley area and quite a few on the main orchid area including some possible hybrids. I shall be meeting Dan on the meadow on Tuesday morning for another look around. This warm weather should bring the flowers out and butterflies maybe?

Brook Meadow
I went over to Brook Meadow to meet Dan as arranged at 11am. The morning was fine with a chilly northerly breeze and occasional bursts of truly warm sunshine. I had almost forgotten what sun felt like – pure joy!
Leaves of Giant Fescue are showing clearly in the same spot as last year opposite the east side arisings dump.  The flowers (spikelets) will come later.
There’s still not many signs of the orchids. We found 2 Southern Marsh Orchids in partial flower on the Lumley area and two on the main orchid area. They are so late this year. The spotted leafed orchids, probably hybrids, are just starting to show pink petals.
There’s a large Horse Chestnut tree in flower on the east side of the north meadow behind the Aspens; it appears to be on the Brook Meadow site, so it’s ours!
We found some first of the year plants along down the new path created by the Environment Agency to the Lumley Stream: Hairy Bittercress, Thyme-leaved Speedwell, Wood Sedge and the infamous Three-cornered Garlic!

Thyme-leaved Speedwell

Three-cornered Garlic

As there are so many insects that lie unseen on the meadow, Dan and I thought it might be a good idea that if the group had a sweep net to carry out an insect survey. Maybe David could advise.
We were pleased to greet two members of the Portsmouth Cycling Club who were doing a recce of the meadow in preparation for a wild flower walk they were organising for their group. The lady was familiar with the Brook Meadow wildlife blog and keen to learn about the flora of the meadow.
We were also pleased to greet a group of children with teachers from Glenwood School in Washington Road. By coincidence Dan and I had been on the meadow for their last visit a few weeks ago. They asked permission to play a game called ‘Manhunt’ in which some children hid in the long grass while others tried to find them. That was no problem, though we asked them to keep clear of the Lumley area. They had great fun. After the game one lad came running over to us with a stem of grass in his hand. He was really chuffed when I told him that he was the first person this year to find this particular grass on the meadow – called Yorkshire Fog.   He ran back to share his glory with his classmates. Now that’s what I call learning about nature!  Here’s Dan making a note of the new grass!

TUESDAY MAY 25 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I had a walk through the meadow this morning – some of the main paths were wet and puddly after heavy rain in the past few days.
I had a look in the play area by the north bridge and was very surprised to find some buttercups with reflexed sepals. There are two possibilities for this: Bulbous Buttercup or Hairy Buttercup. I shall need to examine the plants again later.
I had a mooch around the main orchid area where the first pink petals of the orchids are just starting to show – a good two weeks later than last year. Probably the hybrid.

Red Clover is the regular distraction flower.
Yellow Rattle is out on the Lumley area along with a tiny stunted pink orchid which I have marked with a stick.  Both about 2 weeks later than last year.
In the same area as the orchid and Yellow Rattle is a patch of tiny delicate Forget-me-nots which could be Early Forget-me-not (Myosotis ramosissima). Suggested by the PlantNet app. If confirmed this would be a first for Brook Meadow.
I counted 42 Ragged Robin flowering plants on the Lumley area which is similar to Dan’s count of 40 yesterday. More to come.
The first Common Spike-rush of the year is out in the usual spot just north of the Lumley puddle. I had a look for the rarer Slender Spike-rush (Eleocharis uniglumis) in the centre of the Lumley area, but I could not find any. That means 9 of the 13 sedges on the Brook Meadow list have been recorded this year so far.
I had a look at the Gipsywort plants on the west bank in Palmer’s Road Copse. Having seen these plants which are now fairly tall, I am sure the plants identified as Great Yellow-cress in the south east corner of the south meadow are not Gipsywort.
I happened to meet Dave Mead an old birdwatching friend from the past in Palmer’s Road Copse.   Dave had come over from Portsmouth on the bus to have a walk around the meadow, so we walked together for a while.  He spotted a Long-tailed Tit nest in the brambles by the signcase but I could not find it. However, I did spot a female Beautiful Demoiselle on the reeds – my first of the year. Dave said the concrete nest box in the tall Sycamore tree was occupied by Blue Tits. He had also seen a couple of Treecreepers in Palmer’s Road Copse a couple of weeks ago. We listened for Reed Warblers in the reeds on Peter Pond but did not hear anything.

MONDAY MAY 24 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The best find of the morning was three flowering plants of Celery-leaved Buttercup in the far south east corner of the south meadow. I am a little reluctant to publicise these plants in view of what happened last year when a solitary Celery-leaved Buttercup in the Lumley puddle area was pulled up and dumped on the ground nearby. However, I feel this year’s plants are fairly safe and out of the way in the south east corner which is usually very wet. Fingers crossed!
I also noted the first Divided Sedge in this area.
The plants I have previously identified as Great Yellow-cress in the far south east corner are growing well, but alarmingly are more and more getting to look like Gipsywort!! I shall really need to wait for flowers to be fully certain!   Much the same applies to the Brooklime plants nearby though I am fairly certain of their identification.

Hermitage Millponds
A Great Crested Grebe snoozing on Peter Pond was good to see!
There are several plants of Purple Toadflax (not yet in flower) standing tall on the south side of Peter Pond by the metal crash barrier.

Great Black-backed Gulls
Looking from Slipper Road I could see 3 Great Black-backed Gull chicks on the centre raft of Slipper Millpond being tended to by one of the parents, presumably the mother. The father was on the pond nearby and later joined his mate on the raft.

One can’t help but admire these birds which have successfully bred on the pond for the 10th year running despite the very determined efforts of the Slipper Millpond Association to deter them.
Here’s a nice little video I captured of mother and chicks.  https://youtu.be/96RssgNnVRA

SUNDAY MAY 23 – 2021
Great Black-backed Gull chicks
I went to Slipper Millpond to check on the Great Black-backed Gull chicks that Pam Phillips reported yesterday. The weather was chilly with a strong blustery wind, whipping up waves on the normally calm millpond.   However, I could just make out two chicks next to their mother under the wire netting on the main centre raft. So, they have actually succeeded in breeding successfully on the pond for the 10th year running despite the determined efforts of the pond association to deter them. What determined and resolute birds they are. Well done!
Now the big problem for the adults will be getting sufficient food to the chicks through the wire netting.
Here is a shot of the raft showing the two little bundles of fluffy chicks beside their mother.

SATURDAY MAY 22 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I had a late morning walk to Brook Meadow. I happened to meet Colin Brotherston at the south bridge. We had a chat about the Three-cornered Garlic outside the Seagull Lane gate which can be very invasive in gardens. We agreed that it posed no threat to the flora of the meadow and could remain untouched. We also discussed the removal of Hemlock Water-dropwort from the Lumley area which is progressing well. Other Hemlock Water-dropwort plants around the meadow can remain unhindered.

After leaving Colin I walked along the north path. I checked Beech tree in the far north-east corner of the north meadow next to a pollarded Crack Willow which looks healthy. It is as far as I am aware the only Beech on the Brook Meadow site.
Waling down the east side of the north meadow I was pleased to see leaves starting to appear on the Aspen trees including the large Haskins Aspen. These trees are always very late to leaf.   I noted several Aspen suckers in front of the trees north of the Rowan plantation.
Buds are starting to develop on the Common Spotted Orchid (or Hybrid?) plants on the main orchid area.

Great Black-backed Gulls
Pam Phillips tells me that the Great Black-backed Gulls which have been nesting on Slipper Millpond have hatched chicks despite the efforts by the Pond Association to deter them. Pam couldn’t see how many chicks there were but there was grey fluff on the nest.   Pam also reports Canada Geese goslings on the field behind the Westbourne church hall. The pair of Canada geese have nested there before.

Brook Meadow
Following recent heavy rain the meadow is burgeoning with life!   The north meadow is ablaze with Meadow Buttercups.

Other observations:
Bittersweet – flowering by the Seagull Lane gate.
Rough Hawk’s-beard – or Beaked Hawk’s-beard – outside the gate?? I need to check.
Hoary Cress – in flower on Seagull Lane patch .
Yarrow – leaves on the Seagull Lane patch
Cleavers – tiny white flowers are open.
False Fox Sedge – first of the year on east side near the site of the Giant Fescue.
Ragged Robin – I counted three Ragged Robin flowers.  Lots to come hopefully.
Alder Leaf Beetles – c100 on the Alder sapling on the Lumley area. That Alder is worth having for the beetles alone!
Brian’s Oak on the Seagull Lane patch is full of leaves, but the Mayor’s Oak planted at the same time is a bit sparse. Here’s a shot of mine.
Flowers: Both sexes are on the same tree. Male catkins in bunches on last year’s growth. Female flowers 1-5 tiny reddish flowers on erect stalk from new shoot. The male catkins have now largely withered on my Oak. The female flowers are just discernable but will later develop into acorns hopefully!
I noted two types of berry like galls on my Oak: pale Oyster Galls on the underside of leaves and rose coloured currant galls on the male catkins.

TUESDAY MAY 18 – 2021
This morning I walked from home through Palmer’s Road Copse and down to Slipper Millpond.
I met Phil and Ute Wilde in through Bridge Road car park. Ute was pushing Phil in the wheelchair. I had to introduce myself to Phil as he did not recognise me at first. However, when I gave him one of the cards with Marian Forster’s pictorial map of the meadow his face literally lit up and said, ‘Ah Brook Meadow’. Here’s a little reminder of Phil working on the meadow a few years ago.
Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were very active in Palmer’s Road Copse near the south bridge.
There’s a good display of Soft Brome and Wall Barley grasses on the grass verge at the eastern end of the path behind Lillywhite’s Garage.
Lesser Swine-cress and Lesser Sea-spurrey are now both in flower at the start of the western path on Slipper Millpond close to the wall of Brendan Gibb-Gray’s house. They are regular here. You can smell the Swine-cress.

Red Fescue grass is out on the western path with its distinctively angled leaves.
Spikelets of Sea Club-rush are out on the west side of the pond.
The Great Black-backed Gull is still sitting on the centre raft inside the wire netting. Hatching should be fairly soon. While I was present its mate flew in with some morsel of food but remained outside the wire netting.
The swan pair which had their nest washed away by the high tide a couple of weeks ago were just swanning around the pond as if nothing had happened. Try again next year.
Over to Peter Pond where Red Fescue was out along the edge of Lumley Road and it was red!
The swan family with 6 cygnets still intact were sailing around the pond.
Grey Sedge is out on Lumley Road opposite El Rancho. It can go on the Brook Meadow list.
Sadly, the Wood Sedge outside the last cottage before The Arches sadly is much too far for Brook Meadow. But this does confirm that the mystery sedge by the Black Poplar on Brook Meadow is certainly not Wood Sedge. I am coming round to the opinion that is a poorly developed Lesser Pond Sedge.
Greater Celandine is out with delicate yellow flowers just past the footbridge near the sluice at Lumley Mill.
Finally, I came across a Slow-worm slowly making its way across the path from the end of Seagull Lane to the railway bridge. I think it came from Brook Meadow so I will add it to our list.

MONDAY MAY 17 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Dan and I met at 11am as arranged to have a mooch around the meadow. The weather was fine for the first half an hour or so, but then the heavens opened and we got caught in an almighty shower. Standing in the centre of the Lumley area we both got thoroughly soaked as there was nowhere to shelter from the heavy rain.   Finally, we both crept home like drowned rats. But we did have some nice wildlife finds, including the first Common Sorrel, Red Clover, Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill, Common Mouse-ear and the first Ragged Robin of the year. Here’s a shot of Dan logging some plants before the rain came.
Here’s a few notes about the plants we logged and other observations.
Common Sorrel – is quite abundant on the centre meadow (centre section). This is an early flowering member of the dock family, usually before the main docks. It has reddish flowers in loose whorls on short side branches. Male and female flowers are on different plants (dioecious).   The upper leaves clasp the stem.
Red Clover – This attractive plant is just starting to open its flowers. It has three distinctive leaflets each marked with a white chevron and has a red stalkless flower in the centre. White Clover has a slightly different pattern on its leaves and its white flowers are on long stalks.
Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill – The distinctive well cut leaves of these plants have been showing well around the meadow for some time. This morning we were pleased to find a nice showing of the plant’s tiny pink flowers. Here’s a nice little cluster.
Common Mouse-ear – This is a tiny white flowered plant easily overlooked. Not to be confused with other white flowers with notched petals, such as Chickweed and Lesser Stitchwort. It gets its name from the softly hairy leaves vaguely resembling the ears of a Mouse!   It is not common on the meadow.
Meadow Foxtail grass – now in full flower around the meadow displaying it pinkish anthers.
Ragged Robin – I was hoping we might find some early Ragged Robin flowers on the Lumley area and hey presto we spotted one on the northern edge of the Lumley area just before rain drove us off. Like everything this year it is a bit later than usual, but let’s hope there is more to come. I would anticipate counting before the end of this month. See the results from previous years at . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/plant-counts/

Common Spotted Orchid – leaves are now showing very prominently in the main orchid area. Ore maybe they are the Hybrids (Dactylorhiza x grandis)? Let’s hope for a good flowering again.
Field Horsetail – has two stages of growth: in spring cone bearing stems are produced and then in summer green usually branched stems without cones. We are now seeing the second stage of growth with small tree-like green plants springing up mainly on the orchid area and the Lumley area.

FRIDAY MAY 14 – 2021
Wildlife observations
Yellow Flag is now flowering in the Lumley Pool.

I stopped to take some photos of the superb Whitebeam tree full of white blossom, at the entrance to Palmer’s Road Car Park.

While waiting outside the back door of Emsworth Surgery for my regular injection and blood test I was interested to find a very nice growth of Wall Lettuce near the entrance. It was not in flower but has unmistakable shaped leaves.  Not a common plant locally.
I was pleased to see the Mute Swan pair on Peter Pond with their 6 healthy cygnets. Well done!

Dan’s plant handbook
Over the past year or so I have been helping Dan to get to grips with the identification plants of Brook Meadow, particularly the grasses and sedges. This morning, Dan invited me to his house in Lumley Road to have a look at the handbook he has assembled. It is a very impressive piece of work with plant samples, photos and notes about the plants, all laminated in a large folder. It is a work in progress and I look forward to helping Dan more in the coming year.  Well done Dan.
While I was at Dan’s house he pointed out three magnificent ancient and gnarled Field Maple trees in his back garden. Dan thinks they are over 200 years old!

Trail camera sightings
Dan reports that the new trail camera  is working well. All the apples have been eaten but no actual sightings. Dan thinks it was a Moorhen which has been around the most days.  A pair of Mallards are around most days mainly morning. Grey Heron had three visits always early morning. The pen Swan and her 6 cygnets visited twice, once in the early morning and once in the afternoon.  He has a lovely photo of her carrying 3 of her young on her back.  A Pied Wagtail was on the feeding station Wed lunchtime.

THURSDAY MAY 13 – 2021
Brook Meadow
False Oat-grass just emerging on the main river path opposite the dead hedge fence. Other grasses in this area include Rough Meadow-grass and Cocksfoot.
I can see Maurice’s collection of Sycamore saplings in the south west corner of the south meadow near the south bridge – 20+ counted. There are several more mature Sycamores in around the south bridge and in Palmer’s Road Copse. I can’t see the need to plant any more!  They do not need any help from us!
Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major) – is native to the Mediterranean area, but grows very well in the wild in this country. A good example of its vigorous growth can be seen below the south bridge where there is a mass of luxuriant leaves with just a few flowers dotted here and there. It is often used in gardens as a ground cover and you can see why.
The first Wood Avens are in flower on the path through Palmer’s Road Copse, a week or so later than usual.
Garlic Mustard leaves vary a lot in size and shape. There is an especially good growth of the large rounded basal leaves of Garlic Mustard along the Palmer’s Road Copse path near the signcase. The more familiar stem leaves are smaller and more pointed and have white flowers.

Great Yellow-cress
I had the following note from Hampshire ecologist John Norton about the discovery of the Great Yellow-cress (Rorippa amphibia) in the south east corner of the south meadow Grid Ref: SU 75144 05889 . . .

That’s a nice (re)find. In the past I’ve done surveys of rivers and canals and I got to be very familiar with the young leaves of Greater Yellow-cress, after initially being very puzzled by them like you. I’ve never seen much of it in Hampshire.

Brook Meadow
Rough Meadow-grass is now emerging in Palmer’s Road Copse and on the south meadow.
I also noted Wall Barley on a grass verge in Palmer’s Road – not on the meadow yet.
The two Dryad’s Saddle fungi on the pollarded Crack Willow are growing at quite a rate. They are now twice the size when I first noted them. This is a good time to see them as they get eaten by grubs and other wildlife.
Stream Water-crowfoot is now in flower on the river north of the south bridge.
Blackcurrant (Ribes nigrum)
The small fruit bush noted by Maurice Lillie on the south meadow is Blackcurrant. If you are walking North from the South Gate take the first diagonal grass path on your right and a few paces on your left you will see the currant bush.
This is a first for Brook Meadow and may have been recently introduced onto the meadow. Nevertheless, it is very welcome if it can establish itself among the natives. As it is a single plant I think we should resist picking the fruit so as to allow it to flourish naturally. Grid Ref: SU 75109 05945

Blackcurrant is a native plant in the UK where its preferred habitat is Alder and Willow carr and wet woodlands.   However, it has long been grown as a commercial crop and is popular in private gardens from where it no doubt escapes into the wild.
Alder Leaf Beetles are still feasting on the small Alder on the Lumley area. The leaves are taking a battering, but it will survive.
I had another look at the mystery sedge with the long dangling female spikelet in front of the western Black Poplar tree. I am inclined towards Wood Sedge but not sure.
A Sycamore sapling has been planted on the river bank near the north bridge by Nigel and Maurice.  Maurice tells me it was dug up as part of their excavations for topsoil.

In fact Maurice found about thirty young Sycamores of various heights on the west side of the South Meadow which is a minimal interference area. That is a veritable forest in the making.

MONDAY MAY 10 – 2021
Brook Meadow
It was nice to see three young families using the mown play area on the north meadow.
I met Dan as arranged at 11.30am to look for grasses. I showed him the Cocksfoot and Tall Fescue which he had previously missed. Here is some fresh Cocksfoot grass.
We also found some Rough Meadow-grass not quite open but with a distinctive sharp ligule for identification.  It is early days for most grasses.
I gave Dan some Water Bent which I found in front of the first garage in Seagull Lane.  It has nothing to do with water!   This is a fairly common grass on pavements, though has not been seen on the meadow.

A Whitethroat was singing from the tall Crack Willow tree on the west side of the north meadow.   This was exciting as it was my second sighting of this summer visitor this spring, so let’s hope it remains for breeding. We did not have one last year.
The Rowans are now showing white with flower buds about to burst. Soon they will be full of blossom.
Just in front of the first Black Poplar I came across an mystery sedge with a long stalked drooping lower spikelet. My first thought was Wood Sedge or maybe a Lesser Pond Sedge. Or even Glaucous Sedge. I will need to keep an eye on it.
I happened to come across a lone and lonely St Mark’s Fly which should have been swarming around April 25th, but I did not see any at that time. Maybe too cold for them this year.

To clear up the uncertainty to the location of the Raspberry (Rubus idaeus) plants on Brook Meadow, I showed Dan their location on the east side of the main river path opposite the large flowering Bay tree on the west river bank.   The two plants are about 6 feet apart.  I do not recall having seen any fruit on them.  Dan marked the two plants with pieces of string for future reference.

Raspberry is a native plant of this country and is common and widespread in woods, scrub and heaths. The Brook Meadow plants probably had their origin from a local garden many years ago, but since they have now established themselves with no outside assistance I think it’s fair enough to accept them as a legitimate part of the flora of the meadow. The Raspberry plants were first identified on the meadow by Bruce Middleton during a nature walk organised by Sarah Hughes on June 3rd 2019.

SUNDAY MAY 9 – 2021
Brook Meadow
An afternoon visit to the meadow.  A pleasantly warm afternoon!   I stopped to chat to several visitors and encouraged them to join the group, giving them one of the splendid Brook Meadow Conservation Group cards with the map on the front.  This is such good publicity for the meadow.  Here are a few wildlife observations.
Wintercress is coming up on the Butterbur site and along the north path.  Its yellow flowers are yet to open fully.
There’s a healthy Common Ragwort on the north path. This is a scarce plant of Brook Meadow, but is invaluable as food for the Cinnabar moth. Please don’t even think about pulling it up!!!
The first Common Mouse-ear is out on the orchid area.
This splendid Peacock butterfly was feeding on Dandelions.
My most interesting sighting of the afternoon was a small green moth with black patches which almost disappeared into the long grasses. It turned out to be fairly easy to identify – for a moth that is – as a Green Carpet Moth (Colostygia pectinataria). Our only other sighting of this moth on Brook Meadow was nearly 20 years ago on 22-Aug-2002.
It has nothing to do with carpets as its caterpillar feeds on Hedge Bedstraw.  This plant is not present on Brook Meadow which probably explains its scarcity on our site. It is fairly common in the UK.

Brook Meadow
The rain relented so I set off for Brook Meadow armed with my iPhone and PlantNet app which I really enjoy using even though I already know most of the plants tested.   However, I am still puzzling over a mystery plant with fresh green leaves on the edge of the path leading to the tool store. The app suggests Wild Parsnip or Fool’s Water-cress but with little confidence. I will keep an eye on it.
I counted 22 Cuckooflowers on the main orchid area, plus another 15 on northern edge. I reckon there are over 50 flowering plants on the meadow as a whole, which is more than previous years.
Overnight rain has brought the meadow to life!   Everything is burgeoning. I noted two new grasses just starting to emerge, Tall Fescue on the centre meadow and Cocksfoot on the main river path. Both a good two weeks later than usual.

A good number of 7-spot Ladybirds are on the nettle leaves on the main river path. Here’s a photo of one where you can actually count the 7 spots.
I was pleased to see the leaves of Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill on the causeway – not yet in flower – just west of the Cherry Plum tree. This is a relatively uncommon plant on Brook Meadow.

Peter Pond
At least two Reed Warblers were singing from the reedbeds on the west side of Peter Pond.
There are several clumps of Sea Mayweed where David Gattrell has been digging out the channel. Not yet in flower.

Late Cygnets news
Dan Mortimer reports that the Mute Swan family on Peter Pond is down to 6 cygnets from the original 8 that were hatched. However, that is more than enough for the parents to handle. Better than last year when they lost the lot!   Peter Bullen sent me this delightful photo of the family with their 6 cygnets on Peter Pond today.

FRIDAY MAY 7 – 2021
Hollybank Woods
Jean and I had a very pleasant walk round the eastern section of Hollybank Woods this morning. The paths are very well trodden and many new ones have been opened up during the lockdown so walking is good though it’s easy to get lost unless you are familiar with the woods. We did a circuit of the eastern woods to take in the two main sites for the Bluebells which were wonderful.

I was pleased to discover two woodland regulars in Wood Melick and Southern Wood-rush on the main central path. There’s lots more still to come with a bit of rain and warmth. Everything is so late this year.
We came across a cluster of what I think are Agrocybe praecox fungi along the main central path.   I gather they are edible, but I only collected one for identification purposes.

They are the same family as the Agrocybe cylindracea which used to grow in some abundance on Brook Meadow in the early days of the conservation group (2000-2005). I have not seen any for over 15 years. They were very tasty when fried and I had several good snacks from them.  Here’s a shot of a nice cluster taken in 2005.

Brook Meadow
I checked the Raspberry which is prominent on the east side of the main river path   It is important that the group do not inadvertantly cut this during work sessions.
The small metallic blue Alder Leaf Beetles (Agelastica aini). are back on the solitary Alder sapling on the Lumley area. These leaves are already well nibbled, but I think we should let nature take its course.  They do not have any great effect on the tree.

The larger Alder tree near the Lumley Stream is as yet untouched. Both beetles and their larvae feed on Alder leaves.

Brook Meadow
I am fairly sure that the mystery twigs with catkins like strings of miniature Brussels sprouts that I found on the path through Palmer’s Road Copse yesterday are from the tall Western Balsam Poplar trees.

Looking up, one can see hundreds of these female catkins among the foliage of the trees.  Twigs clearly blew down in the stormy weather.
The small tree by the path maybe a Plum (Prunus domestica). There are some undeveloped fruits on the tree. I shall need to check that when fruits are due.
There’s a couple of superb examples of Dryad’s Saddle fungus growing on a pollarded Crack Willow on the edge of Palmer’s Road Car Park about 10 metres south of the north entrance.
Other observations
Coming along the drive past Gooseberry Cottage I noted the first Common Vetch and the first Germander Speedwell of the year.

TUESDAY MAY 4 – 2021
Brook Meadow
A very windy morning after last night’s rain. I tried out a new app on my iPhone called ‘PlantNet’ to check various plants on this morning’s walk, some I knew already and some I was not totally sure about. It was surprisingly accurate!!
I first tried the app on a shrub with yellow flowers and holly like leaves at the entrance to Palmer’s Road Car Park.  This was correctly identified as Mahonia (Berberis aquifolium). A good start.
I next tried the app on a small tree on the west side of river path through Palmer’s Road Copse with fresh green leaves and racemes of green rounded ‘fruits’, rather like tiny Brussels sprouts.  There were lots on the path blown by the wind.  The app suggested Black Poplar (Populus nigra) with ‘fruits’ as female catkins.  See next day entry for correction to this.
I ventured onto the wet west bank of the river immediately opposite the large pollarded Willow which leans over the path.  Here I found a good patch of leaves of Gipsywort, Bittersweet and some very large Water Mint which really smelled of mint. All checked on the app. The app came up with an alternative common name Bergamot Mint (Mentha aquatica).

I checked some of the twigs that had been blown down from the very tall Lombardy Poplar near the south bridge.  App says Lombardy Poplar correctly!
I had another look at the Brooklime plants in the south east corner of the south meadow which I have been uncertain about. The app gave me extra confirmation and reassurance that they are Brooklime and not Water Mint.
There’s a good display of Creeping Buttercups along the old Bramble path on the south meadow.

FRIDAY APRIL 30 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Interestingly, the bonfire site on the Seagull Lane patch has just two plants growing there: Hoary Cress and Creeping Thistle. Presumably they are the only plants tolerant of the ash habitat though both are also coming up in other parts of the Seagull Lane patch.
My Oak sapling has leaves sprouting and flower buds. The other Oaks are not far behind!
Good to see Crack Willow leaves and catkins out. The trees are all female clones, so only female catkins.
Meadow Buttercup is now in flower on the patch with more to come no doubt.
Barren Brome grass is in flower with distinctive long floppy panicles for the first time this year at the far end of the patch where the small path goes down to the river. Barren Brome only grows on the Seagull Lane patch on Brook Meadow.
There’s a very good growth of Lesser Burdock leaves along the western edge of the patch by the hedgerow.
Not surprisingly, there’s no sign of Greater Burdock seeds which I scattered near the north of the patch last autumn. There’s far too much competition. However, I do have a few healthy plants which I have nurtured at home for  future planting.
I think it would be useful to carry out a survey of the plants on the Seagull Lane patch for the records. Any offers?

Shining Cranesbill
I was surprised and delighted to find an excellent growth of Shining Cranesbill on the narrow alleyway that cuts between St James Road and Victoria Road behind North Street.   This alley is not well used, but is worth a visit if you are walking that way just to see the plants. There is also some very nice Ivy-leaved Toadflax in flower on the walls.
Shining Cranesbill is one of the Geranium family along with Herb-Robert, Dove’s-foot Cranesbill, Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill and others. They all have pink flowers, but Shining Cranesbill is distinguished by its glossy green leaves. You just can’t mistake it.  The leaves are better than the flowers!   The name ‘Cranesbill’ comes from the resemblance of the seed pods to the bills of Cranes.   The whole plant often turns bright red.

Here’s a close-up of some of the Shining Cranesbill plants along the alleyway
In my experience Shining Cranesbill is a scarce plant in our local area. I am only aware of one other location in Emsworth (ie path from Bellevue Lane to Christopher Way), though there may well be lots of others hidden away in alleys and pavements. It is fairly widespread across the country, but is usually described as ‘occasional’ in plant reports, ie not often seen.
It is basically a plant of walls, pavements, roadsides and other suitable human habitation. It is a native plant though some could be garden escapes. As far as I am aware Shining Cranesbill is not a standard garden plant, but if they do get established in the wild then fair enough, for me they are wild flowers!

Cuckoo is here
Pam Phillips heard the first Cuckoo of the year while walking down the Wickor Bank on the west side of Thorney Island today. Thorney Island is usually the best place to hear these increasingly rare birds. Maybe one will pay us a visit on Brook Meadow – it has happened in the past!

Brook Meadow
Botanist have confirmed that the mystery plants that have popped up in the south east corner of the south meadow are Great Yellow-cress (Rorippa amphibia). I would estimate about 100 spikes of are currently showing next to a clump of Yellow Flag and close to the Environment Agency flood barrier.

Close up of three Great Yellow-cress plants.
View of the location of the plants.
A  view of the whole south east corner area from the concrete flood channel.
The appearance of these Great Yellow-cress plants is an exciting event as the plant has not been seen on the Brook Meadow site for 30 years.   It was last formally recorded during a Hampshire Wildlife Trust survey in 1991. It was not recorded in subsequent ecological surveys in 1998 and 2006. The plant is scarce in Hampshire.
Great Yellow-cress (Rorippa amphibia) is described as a perennial herb of emergent vegetation along the edges of streams and rivers, by lakes and ponds and in other swampy ground. It often grows in sites which are flooded in winter and where some water remains in the summer, and is usually found where the water is calcareous and eutrophic. Seed set is often poor, possibly because plants are highly self-incompatible, and spread is mainly by fragmentation of mature plants. (Plant Atlas).

Other observations
Smooth Sow-thistle in flower against a wall in Palmer’s Road Car Park.
Pink flowered Common Comfrey on the river bank below the observations fence.
More Herb-Robert are now in flower in the south east corner.
As Maurice Lillie says there are 2 Cuckooflowers now open in the south east corner area.
There are another 7 Cuckooflowers on the Lumley area and a cluster of 15 on the north edge of the main orchid area on the north meadow making a total of 24.

Slipper Millpond
The Great Black-backed Gull appears to be sitting on a nest and probably brooding eggs on the centre raft underneath the wire netting cover.

The Mute Swan is snug on her nest on the east bank.
A Coot is sitting on a ‘tower’ nest on the east side of the pond.
There’s a good flowering of Musk Storksbill on the triangular grass verge where Lumley Road meet the main A259.

Brook Meadow
Glaucous Sedge is now out in the centre of the Lumley area. It is immediately recognisable from its greyish leaves and is quite different from the nearby dense tufts of Distant Sedge.   I marked some with a stick for Dan though they are widespread.   Here’s a photo I got a couple of years ago.
Cetti’s Warbler called from the Lumley Stream by the Lumley area. This is the 3rd hearing of Cetti’s Warbler on Brook Meadow  this spring.
Male Blackcap holding territory in the south east corner of the south meadow. There are at least three Blackcaps singing on Brook Meadow.
A Comma flew through Palmer’s Road Copse.
Yet more Creeping Buttercups in flower on the old Bramble path by the Gooseberry Cottage garden. It will soon be taking over from Lesser Celandines in other areas.
I had a mooch around the now dry south east corner of the south meadow. I found some Divided Sedge, though not in the quantity of the Lumley area. One Cuckooflower is holding out. I am still puzzling over the mat of green leaved plants which I thought were Brooklime but I am now not so sure. They could be Water Mint, though the minty smell is not strong. There are also a number of puzzling fern-like plants pushing up in this area. I shall need to wait to determine what exactly they are.

FRIDAY APRIL 23 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Today’s main observations
Oak saplings on the Seagull Lane patch are showing definite signs of leaf burst.
Leaves of Great Burnet are now showing well on the main orchid area.
Pendulous Sedge is well in flower along the path through Palmer’s Road Copse.
May blossom is just starting to come out around the meadow, a bit later than usual.
Garlic Mustard is in flower on the edge of Palmer’s Road Car Park, a bit later than usual.
The three large Cherry Laurel bushes are in full blossom with erect spikes of white flowers behind the recycling bins in Palmer’s Road Copse.
The pretty pink flowers of Herb-Robert are now out on the small path behind the industrial units in Palmer’s Road.
A few stems of what looks like Japanese Knotweed are coming through on the path behind the units, but they no problem to us or anyone in this location.
There are several open spathes of Lords and Ladies revealing the erect spadix on the edge of Palmer’s Road Copse by the car park – later than usual.
Cow Parsley is coming into flower all around the meadow.
The first Creeping Buttercup of the year on the old Bramble path by the Gooseberry Cottage garden.
Two Speckled Wood butterflies were chasing around in Palmer’s Road Copse. I saw another one later on the south meadow. These butterflies are shade lovers.

Hoverflies are now active. I managed to photo this one (Syrphus ribesii) at rest on a leaf.

The first Large Red Damselfly of the year on the old Bramble path.

Brook Meadow
I met Dan Mortimer on the Lumley area as arranged at 11.30 to show him the 4 sedges found so far, namely Divided Sedge, Distant Sedge, Greater Pond Sedge and Lesser Pond Sedge (this latter being on the river bank).   I also pointed out the leaves of Sharp-flowered Rush and Hard Rush, also prominent on the Lumley area. Dan took samples of all these for his plant manual. We also found Distant Sedge on the main orchid area on the north meadow.
It was good to see the Cowslips on the Lumley area which Dan had previously told me about but which I had overlooked – a first for Brook Meadow. Dan has marked them with a stick. I wonder how they got here?
It was a warm morning and we saw 5 species of butterfly: Small Tortoiseshell (my first of the year), Peacock, Brimstone, Small White and Orange Tip.

We spoke to several people visiting the meadow, all thought the meadow was a lovely place to walk and were very appreciative of the work of the volunteers.

Brook Meadow
Lesser Pond Sedge is well developed and in flower on the river bank south of the S-bend.
Lots of leaves of Sharp-flowered Rush on the Lumley area: bright green rounded leaves with well spaced inner horizontal ridges which can be felt be running one’s finger nail down the leaf.
Tufts of Distant Sedge (Carex distans) are now widespread on the Lumley area. Distant Sedge only has one (rarely two) male spikelets at the top of the stem whereas the similar Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca) usually has 1-3 male spikelets.

Cuckooflowers are now out on Brook Meadow; today I counted 7 on the Lumley area and a clutch of 11 at the northern edge of the orchid area among the nettles.  We are unlikely get get many more than this.
I discovered a dead Bumblebee on the Lumley area. It had a dark body and a ginger tail. Possibly queen Bombus lapidarius.
Hermitage Millponds
Reed Warbler was singing from reeds of Peter Pond opposite Gooseberry Cottage.
Mute Swan nests: one on the east side of Peter Pond with 6 eggs and another on east side of Slipper Millpond with 5+ eggs. So we are doing well on the swan front this year, but beware of Mr Fox who took the Peter Pond eggs last year.
Great Black-backed Gull sitting and tending to a possible nest inside the wire netting on the centre raft.  Will they make it despite the attempts of the pond association to stop them?
A pair of Canada Geese flew onto the pond while I was there, presumably the pair that has nested on the pond for the past 4 years. But there’s no room for them this year!

MONDAY APRIL 19 – 2021
Brook Meadow

My son William paid us a visit today and I invited him for a walk around Brook Meadow. He was truly impressed with the standard of the meadow and the excellent work of the volunteers. A selfie on the seat . . .

We stopped to look at the sedges on the Lumley area and I spotted the first Distant Sedge of the year in spike.  Divided Sedge was abundant.
As we were walking through Palmer’s Road Copse we stopped at the grassy platform on the river bank and immediately caught sight of a large Pike gently swimming in the water below us. It was the biggest Pike my son had ever seen and was probably the same fish as previously reported by Graeme Edmondson, Jennifer Rye and Pam Phillips. It certainly was a whopper!   I did not have my camera, but both I and William took photos and a video of the fish with our phones. The photos were not clear but here is my son’s video.

Peter Milinets-Raby visits Emsworth
Peter Milinets-Raby had a family walk around Emsworth this afternoon and got a host of very interesting sightings (as he always does!).
While on Brook Meadow he saw a Buzzard and 2 Ravens flying overhead. This is the first ever Raven sighting for Brook Meadow!   Peter also heard the resident Green Woodpecker plus a Chiffchaff and 3 Blackcaps.
He managed to catch the Mute Swan off her nest on Peter Pond and spied 5 eggs. He also noted a pair of Coot with 2 tiny chicks.
During my regular morning walk I happened to meet David Gattrell as he was cleaning rubbish out of the Lumley Pool. He told me he’d heard Reed Warbler on the pond. But no sign of any Water Voles. However, he did see some large Trout and an Eel.   David thinks the Swan’s nest may be safe from Fox attacks this year as there is a deep channel between the bank and the nest site which s Fox is unlikely to cross.
Over on Slipper Millpond Peter got a shot of the two Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft with one bird seemingly sitting on a nest beneath the wire netting.   It will be interesting to see what progress they make in such difficult conditions.

Peter also noted a young Great Black-backed Gull on the pond (maybe one of last year’s brood visiting home) along with 6 Mediterranean Gulls and a Common Gull.

Peter saw a handsome male Grey Wagtail singing by the entrance to the western path on Slipper Millpond. He said the bird looked very cagey as if it might have a nest in the area. Brendan Gibb-Gray whose house overlooks the pond at this point is probably familiar with this bird.
There was also another Grey Wagtail in Victoria Road by the Westbrook Stream. He got this nice photo of the bird on a house TV aerial. That’s probably the bird that I sometimes see bobbing away in the stream in Bridge Road car park.
Talking about Bridge Road car park I saw the first Cuckooflowers out on the grass wayside, but very few among the rampant growth of Cow Parsley. I can’t believe I used to count several hundred on this verge only a few years ago. The verge badly needs regular maintenance.

Finally, Peter counted 45 Mute Swans milling around beneath Emsworth quay at the bottom of South Street.  I wish they would go back onto the millpond.

MONDAY APRIL 12 – 2021
Cetti’s Warblers
Today I heard two Cetti’s Warblers singing on Brook Meadow, one from Lumley copse and the other from the river bank near the north bridge. At least one and sometimes two birds regularly visit Brook Meadow at this time of the year, but I am not sure if they breed. They sing their name very loudly – ‘cetti-cetti-cetti’.   Their song is frequently heard, but they are secretive birds and difficult to see. However, we have had a number of excellent photos of them over the years like this one from Tony Wootton.
Cetti’s Warblers are essentially Mediterranean birds, but are an increasing resident especially in S Britain. They first bred in Britain in 1972. They are particularly frequent on Thorney Island.
Plant news
There are several fresh rosettes of Common Spotted Orchids with distinctive dark spotted leaves now out on the main orchid area on the north meadow.

Divided Sedge is now widespread on the Lumley area. The tall brown spikes of Greater Pond Sedge are also out near the Lumley Stream.

Pike in river
Pike have been resident in the River Ems on Brook Meadow for many years and there has been much concern that their presence in the river could be one factor in the disappearance of Water Voles.
Ominously, this year there have been three more sightings of a large Pike in the river. On 23-Mar Graeme Edmondson saw a 14-16″ Pike lying in ambush close to the river bank north of the north bridge. Then on 03-Apr Jennifer Rye saw 2 foot long Pike in the river below the south bridge. Finally, yesterday 11-Apr, Pam Phillips saw what was probably the same Pike beneath the south bridge and she added, “it is big”!
Here is a big one taken a few years ago by Mike Wells.
Maurice Lillie wrote to the Environment Agency asking for advice with regard to rehoming the Pike, which is a known predator of Water Voles and other inhabitants of rivers.
Mike Soltysiak from the Environment Agency replied to say he had spoken with the fisheries team who are very reluctant to advise removing the Pike. During the last twenty years their surveys have noted the presence of Pike between Emsworth and Westbourne, and it’s likely that removing this Pike will just open up a niche for another.
He added that Pike are apparently far more likely to eat other Pike than Water Voles. And this Pike is unlikely to be a cause of Water Vole population decline at Brook Meadow. Further, legally, the Pike could not be moved without a health check, other than to another section of the Ems, from where it could easily make its way back to Brook Meadow.
So it looks as if we are stuck with the Pike and will have to learn to like it! It is, after all, a very fine fish and is part of the ecology of river systems.
PS Ted Hughes wrote a poem in praise of the Pike which might help one to appreciate its value.

Brook Meadow
The tall straight trunks of remaining four Western Balsam Poplar trees are now showing up very clearly following the pollarding of the Willows along the eastern edge of Palmer’s Road Car Park. Originally there were five Western Balsam Poplars, but one was felled in 2017.
It was good to see fresh green leaves on the young Elms near the footbridge to the north of Peter Pond. Sadly, these trees will never reach maturity as they are affected by Dutch Elm Disease. Affected Elms only survive about 10-15 years.
The first Oak buds are bursting on young tree on the east side of the north meadow. They are a bit later than usual.
The only butterflies seen today were Peacock and Small White. We should soon be having Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue.
Several 7-spot Ladybirds were out on the nettle leaves along the main path.
I also spotted this Drone Fly on a Lesser Celandine flower.

For Dan’s attention: There are a few Meadow Foxtail spikes out on the ‘play area’ by the north bridge.
It was nice to see a group of 5 youngsters having a picnic on the north meadow.

Hermitage Millponds
The pair of Mute Swans was tending to their nest on the east bank of Peter Pond when I passed this morning.

One Great Black-backed Gull was standing on the edge of the centre raft on Slipper Millpond. They are determined creatures, but sadly I feel they will not be able to nest on the wire netted rafts. .

Brook Meadow
The interpretation board at the Seagull Lane entrance to Brook Meadow was surrounded by an attractive flowering of Blackthorn blossom. What a fine  entrance to the Brook Meadow reserve.
I waved a ‘Hello’ to two young girls who were having a picnic on the Lumley area. A bit chilly for a picnic, but they were still there when I returned.
A Cetti’s Warbler singing from the Lumley pool – the first one of the year on Brook Meadow.

Hermitage Millponds
The pen swan was sitting high on her substantial nest on the east side of Peter Pond. The second swan was also sitting on its nest on the east side of Slipper Millpond. There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond, though a pair of Coot were making hay on the centre raft in their absence.
A pair of Mediterranean Gulls was on the west side pond.

Brook Meadow
Two Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs heard singing on the meadow, from the north path and from Lumley copse. I managed to get a photo of the Blackcap in song surrounded by golden pussy willows on the edge of Lumley copse.
I distinctly heard the churr of a Greenfinch near the Lumley gate, a rare sound indeed these days.
Red flowers are now opening on the large Ash tree on the railway embankment – later than last year.
The first flower spike of Meadow Foxtail grass is now out on the north meadow. Also a bit later than last year.

Brook Meadow
3-4pm Two Chiffchaffs singing, one in north-east corner and other in Palmer’s Road Copse. No Blackcap heard today. They are a bit late this year.
One of the Snake’s head Fritillary flowers in the cut round area on the north meadow has been trodden on, leaving just one on show! There’s no hope for the rest!
I saw a Peacock butterfly struggling in the cold wind. It came to rest partially hidden in grasses
Greater Periwinkle is in flower below the south bridge. The first Spanish Bluebells are now out in Palmer’s Road Copse.
I met my friend Brian Lawrence in Palmer’s Road Copse taking a photo of a Blue Tit entering the nest box on the tall tree by the signcase. Blue Tits often nest in this box.
I had a look for the dead Fox that Lesley Harris discovered in Palmer’s Road Copse during her litter picking session last Thursday. I found the creature still in remarkably good condition and eerily with its eyes open. You might almost think it was alive!
The Fox is located about 20 feet to the right of the central path into the copse in a dip behind a knarled Crack Willow tree about 10 feet from the car park.
Finally, Jennifer Rye e-mailed to say she had seen a 2 foot long Pike in the river below the south bridge this afternoon. This may be a very fine fish but it is also a serious predator of other wildlife in the river, including Trout and any possible Water Voles.   I wonder why I have seen so few Brown Trout this year?
Here’s a shot of a large Pike taken on the River Ems by Mike Wells a couple of years ago. It could be the same one?

Hermitage Millponds
Pen Swan brooding her eggs on the east side of Peter Pond with her mate in the water nearby. Dan’s last count was 4 eggs I think. She may have more.
The Swans on Slipper Millpond have also nested on the east side of that pond, but perilously close to the road. I think this could be a young pair trying for the first time.
One of the Great Black-backed Gulls was on the southern edge of the centre raft with its mate on the water nearby. They are very determined birds!   As far as I could see the gull on the raft was outside the wire netting and not sitting on a nest. Maybe there is not enough room for one?

Brook Meadow
The first Ground-ivy flowers of the year are now out at the far end of the Seagull Lane patch. As far as I am aware, this is the only place they grow on the Brook Meadow site.
I could not resist stopping to photograph a lovely Red Dead-nettle flower – orchid like.

Brian’s Oak planted in 2012 always retains its leaves over winter, a strategy called marcescence. But it is now losing them fast in preparation for the new season. Its buds look very healthy and almost ready to burst!
Two Snake’s head Fritillary flowers are open on the west side of the round cut area on the north meadow. We planted 45 bulbs on this patch last year, but the area has been heavily trampled during the lockdown and I fear others may not have survived. A Bumblebee happened to visit one of the flowers just as I was taking a photo. A ginger coloured species, probably Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum).
I don’t think I have seen Field Horsetail cones quite so abundant as they are this year on the main wild flower area.
Some of the Butterbur flower spikes are quite magnificent, standing above the burgeoning background vegetation.
The Environment Agency path behind the Rowans and down to the Lumley Stream has a glorious mixture of semi-wild spring flowers including Primroses, Daffodils, Snowflakes and Wood Forget-me-not (garden variety). I also noted the first tiny white flowers of Hairy Bittercress – having flowers with 4 stamens to distinguish them from Hairy Bittercress which has 6 stamens.
The two tall Black Poplar trees now have catkins. But there’s no sign of any flowers on the large Ash tree on the railway embankment.
The green leaves of Divided Sedge (Carex divisa) have been visible for a few weeks on the Lumley area, but today I found the first brown spikes.   Very soon they will be all over the area.
The Ransoms (Wild Garlic) planted a couple of years ago by Dan in the north-east corner of the north meadow are now in flower!
Finally, David Minns who lives in North Street very close to Brook Meadow emailed to say he had a Red Kite flying over his garden yesterday.  How exciting.  Then today my wife and I also saw a Red Kite in the sky from our garden in Bridge Road.  These two sightings certainly deserve a record on the Brook Meadow bird list!

Butterbur count
Dan Mortimer and I carried out the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes this morning from11am to 1pm. Dan had already collected several long Willow sticks left over from the last work session which we used to mark out sections in the main count area below the seat. The flower spikes in this area were far more extensive than last year and we had to mark 10 sections.   Here is a view of the main Butterbur area below the main seat.

We each counted the spikes in each section, Dan used his counter to count while I just counted in my head, as I always have.

We counted each section separately and compared our counts after each section which were generally very close, within 5, and sometimes even exactly the same!   The flower spikes were much easier to see and count thanks to the clearance of dead Reed Canary-grass in the area by volunteers at the last work session.  The main Butterbur area was liberally sprinkled with bright yellow Lesser Celandine flowers which contrasted nicely with the more robust Butterbur spikes.

Dan and I also counted the flower spikes on the other subsidiary Butterbur areas, on the causeway banks near the Lumley gate, along the river bank near the sluice and on the upper part of the south meadow.

As shown in the chart this year’s total number of Butterbur flower spikes of 651 is a whopping increase over last year’s low total of 198 spikes and is much in line with the counts of 2016, 2017 and 2018. Last year’s exceptionally low total raised concerns that Butterbur may be on the way out, but after today’s count I think we can say with some confidence that Butterbur is back!
As in all recent years the vast majority (91%) of the Butterbur spikes were on the area immediately in front of the main seat with relatively few on the subsidiary sites at the east end of the causeway (39) and on the river bank and south meadow (15). Interestingly, this has not always been the case for in the early years before 2010 the majority of spikes were in what we now call the subsidiary sections. The large increase since 2010 has been due to the spread of the Butterbur plants onto the main meadow below the seat.

Other observations
A Blackcap was singing from Lumley copse, so good to hear – the first of the year. Goldfinches were also particularly vocal this morning with their twittering songs.
The brown spikes of the two Pond Sedges are now out. Lesser Pond Sedge on the river bank opposite the Bulrushes and Greater Pond Sedge in the Lumley Stream area.
Field Horsetail cones are now widespread on both the Lumley area and the main wild flower area on the north meadow.

Brook Meadow
I was pleased to hear my first Blackcap of the year on Brook Meadow from the south meadow near the Gooseberry Cottage hedge. Also a Chiffchaff was singing in the north west corner.
I also found a couple of flowers of the Snake’s head Fritillary on the area on the north meadow where volunteers planted 45 bulbs on Sept 17th last year.  However, I doubt there will be many more coming up as the area has been badly trampled during the lockdown.

Brook Meadow
I was greeted as usual by the sound of the Green Woodpecker yaffling from the east side of the north meadow. A little later I got a good view of the bird perched in the large Crack Willow tree east of the wild flower area but just missed a photo as it flew off in typical bounding flight.   The Green Woodpecker is certainly the bird of this spring on Brook Meadow. Here is a photo of a male Green Woodpecker taken by Tony Wootton a few years ago.
Blackthorn is now in full flower in the Seagull Lane patch hedgerow.
There are no flowers on the large Ash tree of the railway embankment which we did have last year. Maybe the tree is in trouble, though the black buds look OK.
Dan’s Wild Garlic (Ramsons) in the north-east corner are starting to flower.
Green female catkins are out on the Goat Willow on the east side of the north meadow. The yellow male catkins are also out on the Osiers on the east side of the orchid area.

The Rowans are sprouting.

Brook Meadow
Approaching the Brook Meadow reserve from Palmer’s Road Car Park, I was interested to see a small cluster of about 12 white flowering Sweet Violets at the northern entrance to the reserve near the recycling bins. I have seen them before at this spot at this time of the year.
There is a fine clump of Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) in full flower on the flooded river bank. The bell like flowers of this plant have petals with a green spot at the tip. It is badly misnamed as the plant always flowers in spring not summer. This is scarce as a native plant, but far more common as a garden escape which is the origin of this plant. But that’s fine as it is now well established in the wild.

The Daffodils are well in flower in the copse with several colour variations.
David Minns saw what he is fairly sure was a Chiffchaff in the trees just outside the garden of Gooseberry Cottage on South Meadow. This follows my hearing a Chiffchaff singing from Lumley copse yesterday. The next migrant to arrive will be Blackcap – so listen out for its rich mellifluous song.

Other wildlife observations
The pen Mute Swan was off the nest on the east side of Peter Pond when I passed this morning, but no eggs were visible from the bank, having been covered with a mixture of straw and feathers. A sensible precaution!
There was still no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls on Slipper Millpond which probably means the wire netting covers that the Association erected over the nesting rafts has had it intended effect. Sadly I feel that is the end of the long nesting history of these magnificent birds on Slipper Millpond – nine years producing a total of 16 fledged youngsters. That’s pretty good.  Goodbye.  It’s good to have known you!
Please see their special web page for the history of the nesting and lots of photos and videos.
Go to . . . http://familyfellows.com/0-0-0-millpond-great-bb-gull.htm

There are just a few flowers remain of the relatively scarce Musk Storksbill on the triangular grass verge where Lumley Road meets the main A259. Before the recent resowing of this verge Musk Storksbill was abundant.
The usual mass of Greater Periwinkle (Vinca major) was in flower just before the gate to the Lumley Mill House.
Two sluice gates were fully open and one half open at Constant Springs. Good flow of water.
I was very pleased to see some fresh leaves of Greater Celandine on the side of the path leading to the sluice gate bridge despite the recent tidying-up of this path. I look forward to seeing its delicate yellow flowers in early summer.

MONDAY MARCH 22 – 2021
Brook Meadow
A fine spring morning with a slight chill in the air. I saw three butterflies this morning, two male Brimstones and a Peacock. The Brimstones never rest, but the Peacock did – so I was able to get a photo.  What a beauty!
I also saw what I am fairly sure was a Small White. It was fluttering over the bramble bushes near the north path.   This is fairly early for Small White, but not totally unusual.
I looked along the river north of the north bridge where Pike had been seen, but I saw nothing, no fish of any type.
A Stock Dove was calling from Lumley copse – that is unusual for that area.
I could hear the mewing calls of several Mediterranean Gulls flying over the meadow.
The flood waters have large gone from the south east corner of the south meadow leaving the patch of Brooklime nicely exposed. I look forward to seeing its small deep blue flowers in May.

Other local wildlife news
The Cherry tree outside Gooseberry Cottage is a stunning sight – covered in white blossom
. . . and attracting Honey Bees. Here’s one with huge pollen sacs that I caught in flight.
There was no sign of the Great Black-backed Gulls anywhere on the rafts or pond when I passed by this morning. Have they given up the battle?

Spotted Redshank
As I have not been able to get over to Nore Barn as often as I would like during lockdown I have asked Susan Kelly to keep a look out for the Spotted Redshank on her daily walk. It should be leaving us shortly for its migration back to its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia and I always try to get a final sighting date.
Susan last saw the bird on 15 March and since then she’s only been on the shore at very low tide, so would not expect to see it. She has been marking sightings on the calendar and has asked a couple of other people to keep a lookout. Thank you, Susan.
Here’s a link to the Spotted Redshank web page with all the records

Peter Milinets-Raby has made several recent visits to Nore Barn and on Saturday (Mar 20) managed to get the video footage he needed of the Spotted Redshank to finish his movie – “Birding the Warblington and Nore Barn area.”   Here is a link to Peter’s fascinating movie, about a typical wander around the area in March. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BfG_rPnYq9g

Brook Meadow
Spring flowers on the Seagull Lane patch: Ivy-leaved Speedwell and Red Dead-nettle by the hedgerow and Cow Parsley on the lane side of the hedge.

Also, the first Field Horsetail cone is up on the Lumley area.
Green Woodpecker yaffling from the east side of the north meadow – I hear this bird on every visit to the meadow.

Swan nest update
Dan tells me that the swan on the nest on the east side of Peter Pond currently has 3 eggs, not four as previously reported.   Dan will keep an eye on the nest from his bedroom window and report and further laying, etc.

Harvest Mouse update
Pam Phillips saw her friendly harvest mouse again today.
Pam says . . . “I saw him (her) at 12 noon-about the same time as last week. This time it was running down the garden fence but stopped before the end and spent several minutes climbing up and down the fence and up the stems of a climbing rose. I don’t think it left the garden but went behind a shrub. I tried to get a photo but it was too quick. I am now glued to the windows.” Can someone get a photo?

FRIDAY MARCH 19 – 2021
Hermitage Millponds
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the main centre raft when I walked round Slipper Millpond this morning. They had clearly found a way through the netting, so it will be interesting to see if they manage to make a nest. When it comes to nesting birds are determined creatures.

There were two Mediterranean Gulls on the pond and others calling overhead.
The two Mute Swans were on the water on Slipper Millpond. Maurice Lillie tells me they are nest building on the east side of the pond.
Meanwhile over on Peter Pond the pen Mute Swan was snug on her nest on the east side with her mate on the water nearby. Dan Mortimer thinks she is sitting on 4 eggs.

Other local wildlife news
The Goat Willow in the north-east corner of Bridge Road car park is a magnificent sight in full blossom with hundreds of bright yellow pussy catkins.
Ivy berries are ripe on Brook Meadow – just right for birds.

New signcase displays
This afternoon Dan Mortimer collected the newly prepared signcase display boards from my house.  I had made some changes to the boards from the previous updates:  I painted the background yellow – appropriate for the spring season and I also changed the overall layout of the displays with more pictures and less text.  Below is a photo of the new display for the north gate for example.  The other two boards are larger, with similar layouts.

While preparing the displays I came across an interesting poem by DH Lawrence called ‘Enkindled Spring’ which conveniently was in three stanzas, so I included one stanza in each signcase. Here’s the first one as a sample:
This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

Dan took the three boards over to Brook Meadow in his car and installed them in the main signcases, having previously washed and cleaned the cases thoroughly. Here he is at work on the case at the north bridge.  Dan does a much better job on them than when I did them on my own.

Wildlife observations
A Blackbird was singing for the first time year from Palmer’s Road Copse. I also heard another one when I got back home in Bridge Road. They often start up together at this time of the year. They will probably be singing their wonderfully relaxed and lyrical song right through to the summer. The best time to hear the song is usually at dawn and dusk, though they do sing all day. My favourite songster.   Here is a nice picture I got of a male Blackbird on the meadow a few years ago.
I fully expect to hear Chiffchaff singing its monotonous but evocative ‘chiff-chaff’ song before the end of March. Chiffchaffs are usually the first of the migrant songbirds to arrive. They have less far to travel than the others, just from the Mediterranean area, though I am sure at least one bird has spent the winter on Brook Meadow. I hope it found enough to food.

The pen Mute Swan was tending to its nest on the east side of Peter Pond when I passed by this morning.  One egg was clearly visible, but Dan was excited to tell me there were two eggs in the nest – he can see them from his bedroom window lucky chap!   I am still a bit concerned about the location and height of the nest, but we shall have to wait and see how things turn out. Fingers crossed!

MONDAY MARCH 15 – 2021
Brook Meadow
There’s a nice clump of Daffodils on the Seagull Lane patch near the entrance. They come up every year. Probably a garden throw out. The Oak sapling that I planted in 2012 which retained its leaves overwinter is now starting to shed its leaves in preparation for the new season.

A Dunnock was singing well for the first time this year. A Mistle Thrush was singing strongly from the Lumley Road area – not on the meadow.
Large Queen Bumblebees are moving low over the ground, no doubt looking for suitable nesting sites.
While I was walking along the north path, a Kingfisher flew up river heading towards tunnel under the railway. How exciting!   A Grey Wagtail was bobbing around the twigs on the edge of the river near the tunnel.   This is the best shot I managed to get.
Gorse is now well in flower on the causeway. When Gorse is in flower kissing is in season apparently.

Swan nesting on Peter Pond
The Mute Swan pair has begun nesting on the east side of the pond.  For the last few years they have nested in the tall reeds on the west side of the pond, but last year they lost all their eggs to Mr Fox which might explain the new site. The nest looks well made, but it could be vulnerable to high spring tides. The nest is also rather close to the road.  Dan Mortimer whose house overlooks the nest will be keeping a close watch. He thinks the pen bird is sitting on one egg already.

Slipper Millpond
The Mute Swan pair on the adjoining Slipper Millpond were on the water near the bridge so no obvious signs of nesting. I suspect this may be a young pair, in which case we should not expect a nest this year.

The installation of wire netting over the three rafts on the pond seems to have had the desired (though not necessarily desirable!) effect of deterring the Great Black-backed Gulls from nest on the pond. There was a pair of Herring Gulls on the water this morning, but they will not be attempting to nest.

Brook Meadow
Entering by the Seagull Lane gate, I was welcomed by the yaffling call of a Green Woodpecker from the east side of the north meadow.   I have heard this bird on most visits over the past couple of weeks.  It seems well settled.
I was alerted to look skywards by the distinctive calls of Buzzards. Looking up I was delighted to see four Buzzards soaring overhead – the most I have ever seen at one time over the meadow.    Buzzards used to nest locally on Lumley Mill Farm. Alternatively these could be from Hollybank Woods or even Stansted Forest. I pointed my camera skywards and luckily got a shot of the four birds – you can actually see they are Buzzards!
Responding to yesterday’s report by Susan Kelly of a Harvest Mouse in the bushes near the Lumley gate, Pam Phillips also saw a Harvest Mouse (probably the same one ) yesterday high on her Pyracanthus outside the back gate. I had a look around that area this morning, but saw no sign of the Mouse. However, it is in the area so I would appreciate any other sightings with, if possible, a photo!

Slipper Millpond
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls seem to have settled down on the north raft though there’s no clear sign of any nesting activity.
However, the Mute Swan pair were definitely engaged in what I would call ‘play nest-building’ in the reeds on the west side of the pond – much too close to the western path for safety.
I could not resist taking a shot of the two monstrous houses that have sprung up at the top of Chequers Quay.  I gather they are up for £2.5 million each!   At least the Lord Raglan pub is right next door which must be worth a million or two.

Harvest Mouse
Susan Kelly was watching some birds in a tree at the Lumley entrance to Brook Meadow when she noticed a Harvest Mouse climbing around in the bare branches of the neighbouring tree, about five feet over her head. The trunk was swathed in ivy and brambles, which explains how it got so high. It made off with a fossilized blackberry, then disappeared in the ivy. We do occasionally find Harvest Mouse nests on the meadow, but rarely see an actual animal! Well spotted Susan.
Malcolm Phillips managed to get this photo of a Harvest Mouse on Brook Meadow  in 2014.

Brook Meadow
A sunny and warm day – almost spring like but for a chill in the air.
There is an interesting wigwam type structure in the north-east corner constructed from tree cuttings.
I had my first male Brimstone of the year flying past me on the north meadow – wonderful!
Lots of Lesser Celandines flowering around the meadow along with a few Dandelions.
Lungwort is still flowering well on the causeway. Plenty of flowers on the Cherry Plum tree, but not yet in full blossom.
The first pink flowers of Butterbur are now showing on the area below the seat.

Slipper Millpond
The Great Black-backed Gulls are still on the north raft which has not been netted. 

Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn
It was good to see the famous Spotted Redshank feeding among the seaweed at Nore Barn this morning at 12.30pm – about 2½ hours after high water. It was feeding alone, no sign of the colour-ringed Greenshank anywhere. These two birds usually, but not always, feed together. I could not resist getting a few photos and a video clip of the Spotted Redshank to add to several hundred I have in my files.
Video clip . . . .

The bird should be with us for another couple of weeks or so before it starts back on its long journey to its breeding grounds in Northern Scandinavia. Our last sighting is usually towards the end of March, though last year it was still present on April 4th which is exceptional.
For full details of the history of this amazing bird
go to . . . http://familyfellows.com/x-spotted-redshank.htm

While I was at Nore Barn, inevitably the Spotted Redshank was disturbed by a dog chasing into the water. But, as always, it returned to its preferred feeding ground when the dog had gone. I did have a quick word with the owner about her dog chasing birds which I think she responded to as later I saw the dog being led away on a lead!   When you can it’s worth having a friendly word with dog owners to help them appreciate the importance of the birds.

Dave Long, Seasonal Ranger, Bird Aware Solent posted a piece about the Emsworth Spotted Redshank on Facebook. Here’s the link . . . https://www.facebook.com/434721193397035/posts/1524534101082400/?sfnsn=scwspmo

Slipper Millpond
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the as yet unnetted north raft when I passed by this morning. However, I fear the Pond Association will soon be covering this raft as well as the other two to prevent the large gulls nesting.   One can just discern a small collection of twiggy material to the right of the standing gull in the photo which might be the start of a nest. This is the time when nest building has begun in previous years, so watch this space!

Slipper Millpond
I was not surprised to find the centre raft had also been netted, like the south raft, to discourage the nesting of the Great Black-backed Gulls.

The north raft is at present clear, but will no doubt follow suit. The Pond Association has tried netting the rafts before (in 2014) but the gull found a way around the wires and managed to nest. The netting this time looks more substantial so we shall see what if anything happens. There was no sign of the gulls this morning, but I am sure they will be back.
Interestingly, on the same occasion a handsome Great Crested Grebe was swimming and diving on the pond, once coming very close for a nice photo.

Brook Meadow
Spring like weather on Brook Meadow this morning, such a change from the freezing conditions and strong winds of recent days. The birds were in good voice: a Green Woodpecker was yaffling from the east side, Robin singing everywhere, plus the occasional Wren, Great Tit and Woodpigeon. The first Primroses are just coming out on the north bank. Lesser Celandines struggling to open on the Butterbur area in front of the seat. There’s no sign of any flowers on the Butterbur spikes as yet, the frost must have slowed them down. Counting the Butterbur will be hard this year with lots of dead grasses and other plants strewn over the area. Lungwort is remarkably still in flower on the causeway despite the hard frosts. The first white blossom is now showing on the Cherry Plum on the causeway.

Hermitage Millponds
Two pairs of Mute Swans are established on the two ponds, the regular nesting pair on Peter Pond and a new pair on Slipper Millpond. There is bound to be some friction between the two pairs before nesting.
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls appear to have taken up residence on the centre raft. The south raft where the large gulls have nested for the past 4 years has been netted by the Association to prevent gulls nesting there, but the centre raft where they have nested in the past is not netted. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the pair of Canada Geese which have nested on the centre raft return.

Emsworth Harbour and millpond
A large flock of Mute Swans has been milling around the quay over the past few days. They are not easy to count, but today I counted 44 including about 10 juveniles. This is not a resident flock and I suspect they have come from Fishbourne or maybe Langstone.
Meanwhile, over on the town millpond three Cormorants were perched on the sailing club jetty hanging out their wings to dry. All of them had definite signs of breeding plumage.
I was surprised to see no sign of the resident pair of Mute Swans which are usually so vigilant in defending their territory from outside invasion. Maybe they have gone elsewhere for nesting grounds as there’s no where on the millpond for them to nest. It is possible that they are the new pair that have turned up on Slipper Millpond – a far more favourable site for nesting except for the close proximity of the Peter Pond pair.

Brook Meadow
Spring like weather on Brook Meadow this morning, such a change from the freezing conditions and strong winds of recent days. The birds were in good voice: a Green Woodpecker was yaffling from the east side, Robin singing everywhere, plus the occasional Wren, Great Tit and Woodpigeon.
The first Primroses are just coming out on the north bank. Lesser Celandines struggling to open on the Butterbur area in front of the seat. There’s no sign of any flowers on the Butterbur spikes as yet, the frost must have slowed them down. Counting the Butterbur will be hard this year with lots of dead grasses and other plants strewn over the area.
Lungwort is remarkably still in flower on the causeway despite the hard frosts. The first white blossom is now showing on the Cherry Plum on the causeway – a bit later than usual.
Hermitage Millponds
Two pairs of Mute Swans are established on the two ponds, the regular nesting pair on Peter Pond and a new pair on Slipper Millpond. There is bound to be some friction between the two pairs before nesting. Here’s the Slipper Millpond pair.
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls appear to have taken up residence on the centre raft. The south raft where the large gulls have nested for the past 4 years has been netted by the Association to prevent gulls nesting there, but the centre raft where they have nested in the past is not netted. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the pair of Canada Geese which have nested on the centre raft return.

For the full history of the Great Black-backed Gulls nesting on Slipper Millpond
go to . . . http://familyfellows.com/0-0-0-millpond-great-bb-gull.htm

Emsworth Harbour and millpond
A large flock of Mute Swans has been milling around the quay over the past few days. They are not easy to count, but today I counted 44 including about 10 juveniles. This is not a resident flock and I suspect they have come from Fishbourne or maybe Langstone.
Meanwhile, over on the town millpond three Cormorants were perched on the sailing club jetty hanging out their wings to dry. All of them had definite signs of breeding plumage.
I was surprised to see no sign of the resident pair of Mute Swans which are usually so vigilant in defending their territory from outside invasion. Maybe they have gone elsewhere for nesting grounds as there’s no where on the millpond for them to nest. It is possible that they are the new pair that have turned up on Slipper Millpond – a far more favourable site for nesting except for the close proximity of the Peter Pond pair.

Brook Meadow
The weather was fine and warm, spring like, for this morning’s walk through the meadow. The ground is still very wet and muddy with lots of large puddles requiring boots to negotiate.
I could not resist taking a photo or two of the hanging yellow Hazel catkins which adorn the hedgerow on the Seagull Lane patch. The tiny red female flowers are also visible.
I had a look around the main Butterbur site north of the main seat which is actually fairly dry. Once I had got my eye in I managed to find a good number (20+) of Butterbur spikes freshly emerging from the ground. This is fairly early for the spikes, though I have known them out in January.   They are quite hardy so will not be affected by the forecasted cold weather.
It will be interesting to see how well the Butterbur do this year as the area above the seat is heavily overgrown with last year’s grasses.
The weather was so warm that I actually sat on the seat briefly to admire our meadow glowing in the winter sunshine. Beautiful!

Brook Meadow
There was fairly steady light rain/drizzle for my walk this morning. Entering by the Seagull Lane gate, I was pleasantly surprised to see Terry at work transplanting some of the young sucker Blackthorns that had popped up near the western hedgerow into the top of the river bank – a much more suitable spot for them, provided they take.
Terry also pointed out the hefty new ‘Mark 2’ Water Vole feeding platform which he had constructed from timber planks and with two Domestos bottles as floats. He and Dan will be installing it on the Lumley Stream to replace the old one which has fallen to bits. Let’s hope the Water Voles are taking note of all this activity and will make an appearance this coming year.
It was extremely wet and muddy on the main meadow, so I kept to the paths. I was pleased to see the first reddish-blue flowers of Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) on the causeway near the Alder Buckthorn plantation.

Lungwort has distinctive white blotched green leaves in winter and flowers in early spring. It is basically a garden escape though is now well established in the wild on Brook Meadow. Apparently, it was first introduced into gardens in Great Britain from Central Europe in 1597 and has been recorded in the wild since 1793. Clearly it has settled in well in this country and is welcome!

I came across another interesting plant – Italian Lords-and-Ladies (Arum italicum ssp italicum) on the river bank in Palmer’s Road Copse just north of the south bridge. This differs from the more common Lords and Ladies or Cuckoo Pint (Arum maculatum) in having broad triangular dark green leaves with contrasting cream white veins.   You can’t miss it. Like the common Lords and Ladies it has a spike of (poisonous) bright red berries in late summer.   Italian Lords-and-Ladies has grown in this spot on the river bank in Palmer’s Road Copse for many years, though I have missed it over the past couple of years and feared we may have lost it. Good to see a good growth of it this year.
Italian Lords-and-Ladies is another well established garden escape. It was cultivated in Britain by 1683 and was known in the wild by at least 1905. It is popular in gardens, and its distribution is probably increasing. It has a Mediterranean-Atlantic distribution.

While looking at the Italian Lords-and-Ladies I spotted a good number of what I am sure are Brooklime plants nearby.   We have another large growth of Brooklime in the south east corner of the south meadow – an area which has been constantly under water this winter. I have not seen these on the river bank before.

For recent news on the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn go to the special web page

Palmer’s Road Copse signcase
This morning Dan Mortimer collected the new display board from my house for installation in the signcase in Palmer’s Road Copse. This new display replaces the old Water Vole information display which is now out-of-date; there have been no Water Vole sightings on Brook Meadow for over 4 years. I made this display of more relevance to the copse, with details about the birds, but including a short piece on the demise of Water Voles. Dan gave the signcase a good clean before installing the new board. It looks good.

Brook Meadow
While walking through Palmer’s Road Copse I found the fallen Dryad’s Saddle fungus previously mentioned by Dan. It is at the base of a large Crack Willow tree from which it had fallen and immediately opposite the newly reinforced section of river bank. It is a large heavy fungus still identifiable as Dryad’s Saddle. I took photos of both the upper and lower surfaces.

I recorded the last fresh Dryad’s Saddle on the west bank of the river below the S-bend in May 2018.  This is how it looks when at its best.  A truly magnificent fungus.
Someone sent me a photo of the first Snowdrops of the year on Brook Meadow -they were on the south meadow opposite Gooseberry Cottage.

Brook Meadow
The first Cow Parsley of the year is in flower on the north path on Brook Meadow.   The first of many.  We shall have to wait several weeks for the wonderful avenue of aromatic lace along the main river path.
I came across what looks like worn Dryad’s Saddle fungus high on an old pollarded Crack Willow tree on the edge of the car park.
Dryad’s Saddle emerges in spring-summer and rarely lasts through the winter.   I was too late with this specimen which is just hanging on and has lost all of the vigour of a fresh fungus.
Dan Mortimer also found a well worn Dryad’s Saddle on the ground by a tree opposite where he and Terry were building the raft in the river a few months ago by the South bridge. I will look for that one next time.
While in Palmer’s Road Copse I noticed that the nest box on the tall Lombardy Poplar tree by the south bridge was dislodged. This is one of the concrete boxes that the group installed in Palmer’s Road Copse many years ago. It would need a ladder to reach it. It could be a hazard to walkers if it fell.

Hermitage Millponds
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was back on Slipper Millpond this morning, no doubt prospecting the site for their nesting this year. One was on the south raft and its mate on the water. I gather the Slipper Millpond Association are intending to erect some sort of barricade on the rafts to deter the gulls from nesting for what would be their 9th year. The association tried this before with no success, the gulls found a way around the barriers.

The small trees on the south bank of Peter Pond by the main road are covered in yellow-green lichen. One of the trees has the same black dot lichen (Lecidella elaeochroma) that is so prominent on the Ash trees near the main seat on Brook Meadow.

Love is in the air!
Finally here is a shot of a pair of lovey dovey Woodpigeons on our garden wall that have been taking a great interest in one another this past week.

Brook Meadow
This morning I discovered another fungus growing on the rotting logs in the cleared area on the south meadow. This one is pure white and jelly-like to the touch. My first thought was a slime mould, but thanks to help from the Facebook group I can confirm that the fungus is  White Brain Fungus (Exidia thuretiana).   Shows best in wet weather in autumn and winter. Pure white when wet, drying to almost invisible. Occurs in most of Britain but in most areas it is uncommon.

The finger shaped fungi that I found on the other log on Jan 12 are now confirmed as Candlesnuff Fungus – (Xylaria hypoxylon).
It goes on fruiting on stumps and fallen branches through late autumn and winter with white spores, then in spring it loses the white tips and sends out a different form of black spore for a few weeks. Common and widespread in Britain
I can also confirm that the small white fungi on a rotting log at the side of the north path on 06-Jan are Smoky Polypore (Bjerkandera adusta). The common name ‘Smoky’ comes from the greyish colouring on an otherwise white cap.
All three are new additions to the Brook Meadow fungi list.

Brook Meadow
11.30-12.30 – Observations during this morning’s walk through the meadow.
Turkeytail fungi  (Trametes versicolor) – Small bracket fungi arranged in tiers on a large log on the side of the north path. This is a fairly common fungus on Brook Meadow.
Hazel catkins – are now open on the east side of the north meadow. Note the small red female flowers.
Disc Lichen (Lecidella elaeochroma)- I was interested to see that the lichen with lots of black spots on the young Ash trees is also present on the bark of the Rowans on the Gwynne Johnson plantation.

This so-called Disc Lichen grows well on smooth barked trees like Ash and Rowan, but not on rough barked trees like Willow and Oak. It is a common pioneer species on smooth-barked trees and fences, often forming large mosaics among other lichens. It is an example of a Crustose lichen – these are thick or thin crusts that are firmly attached and cannot be removed without part of the substratum.
Bat boxes – I was interested to see two bat boxes that I had not noticed before in the north-east corner of the Lumley copse near the Lumley Stream.   Are these new ones? The 6 boxes erected in July 2018 were in the centre of the copse.
The two boxes on each side of the tree are of differing designs. One is a woodcrete bat box with two entrances, one at the rear against the tree trunk and one at the front. Bats can creep in by the rear entrance and leave by the front. The other box is a maternity roost box with plenty of space inside for young bats to roost in.
David Search comments: These 2 bat boxes on an oak tree in the NE corner near the Lumley stream are part of the 6. There are only 4 near the centre of the copse. It wasn’t that easy to find suitable trees and boxes were positioned with different aspects!

Brook Meadow
Following up yesterday’s observation of the Japanese Spindle on the west bank just south of the north bridge, this afternoon I spotted several clusters of orange arils on the shrub. Arils are the fleshy covering that some trees create over their seeds. Yew berries are also arils.
Several of the Alder Buckthorn trees have a splendid growth of lichen on their trunks. There are two main species. 1. the pale green shrubby growth which grows widely on Willows in the Lumley copse – possibly Ramalina calicaris. 2. a fleshy blue-green lichen also widespread over the meadow – possibly Parmotrema perlata.
I also noticed plenty of mottled Lungwort leaves in the Alder Buckthorn area, probably from the regular plants on the causeway.
Another interesting find was a cluster of black finger-like fungi with white tips growing on one of the rotting logs on the cleared area in the south meadow. They could be Dead Man’s Finger, but the white tips are puzzling. The image closely resembles one called Holwaya mucida – no common name.
The fungi are on the nearer of the two logs

Brook Meadow
Good to meet up with Maurice Lillie who was doing a tree survey on the Seagull Lane patch.
At his request we had a look at the bushy green shrub on the far west bank of the river below the north bridge which I am fairly sure is Garden Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium). This is as far as I am aware the only site for this plant on Brook Meadow. There is a small amount of Wild Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) growing in the hedgerow along the west side of Lumley Road opposite the house named ‘Argosy’.

We also noted the evergreen shrub Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus). This distinctive evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves was first identified on Brook Meadow in 2011 with help from Ralph Hollins. In autumn it has bright orange arils, a bit like our native Spindle tree.   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.

I had a mooch around Lumley copse which is flooded in parts from the Lumley Stream which is running full and fast. I was interested to find a single crown of Male Fern which I had not recorded previously.
I also came across a tangled bush of Holly which is fairly uncommon on the meadow.

I found some interesting lichen growing on the young Ash trees near the main seat.  It has  tiny black spots neatly arranged in horizontal rows on the main trunk.

I am informed by experts that this is Lecidella elaeochromaan early colonist of smooth barked trees like Ash and is widespread and very common. It is not harmful to the tree and is unrelated to Ash Die-back disease.

Brook Meadow
During this morning’s walk through the meadow I was pleased to meet up with Terry who, armed with a clipboard, was conducting a tree survey.

Terry pointed out the Holm Oak sapling that he had previously mentioned to me in an email and which I had not found. It is about 1 metre in front of the mature Pedunculate Oak tree on the east side of the north meadow near the bonfire site and much smaller than I imagined – not much more than 6 ins tall. I placed a small Crack Willow branch to mark its presence.

Interestingly, the Willow branch is thickly coated in a variety of mosses/lichens – which I need to get to grips with!

I had a wander around the Lumley copse where several of the trees were coated with a bushy green-grey lichen. My tentative identification is Cartilage Lichen (Ramalina farinacea) which is common throughout the country and occurs in a variety of habitats.

I had another look at the white bracket fungi on the willow log on the north path. A possible alternative ID to Smoky Polypore is Trametes bracket fungus – possibly Fragrant Bracket. I will continue to investigate.

JANUARY 6 – 2021
Brook Meadow
There’s some small white fungi on a dead log at the side of the north path. My tentative identification is Smoky Polypore (Bjerkandera adusta).
The fungi are right opposite a rather fine Hogweed with two umbels having pink flowers.
I came across a good number of fresh dug molehills on the north meadow.   Here is a collection around Frank’s seat. This is the season for Moles to dig new tunnels and we often see them in January.
Dense fresh green moss is carpeting branches of Crack Willow trees. How wonderful to see such fresh growth when all else is dying. I believe this moss is Rough-stalked Feather-moss (Brachythecium rutabulum) which is common on Brook Meadow.
Here’s a nice mossy twig that I took home for further study and display.
I was really delighted to get a good sighting of this Song Thrush perched overhead on a Crack Willow tree on the south meadow. It was not singing, but soon will be I reckon.
Robin song was everywhere around the meadow. I also heard the first tentative notes of the sub song of a Great Tit – it too will soon be heralding spring with its distinctive ‘teacher, teacher’ song.
There is an exceptionally good growth of Winter Heliotrope on the river bank between the S-bend and the north bridge.

For Wildlife News Blog for 2020 go to . . .



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