Wildlife 2016

Edited by Brian Fellows, this page provides wildlife news from Brook Meadow.
For more general wildlife news from around the local area go to the Emsworth wildlife blog updated daily with reports and photos of local wildlife
at . . . http://familyfellows.com/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm

Water Rail on Brook Meadow
On her regular early morning walk through Brook Meadow, Pam Phillips had the good fortune to see a Water Rail at 7.30am wading south of the S bend amongst the lush vegetation. At the same time, the Kingfisher flew by. What a nice bonus on a dank November morning, indeed. This was, in fact, the first Water Rail sighting on Brook Meadow this year, apart from a possible sighting by Malcolm Phillips had on Sep 7, but without a photo. On the basis of previous years this Water Rail could hang around for a few weeks at least, so please keep a look out. Here is a photo of a Water Rail taken on the river by Malcolm on Brook Meadow a couple of years ago.

Brook Meadow Polypody
Ecologist, John Norton thinks the Polypody that I photographed on the north bridge of Brook Meadow on 16th November is probably not Common Polypody (Polypodium vulgare), but Intermediate Polypody (P. interjectum).


John writes, “As you know Common Polypody is mainly an acid-loving species found in woodland and on mud-capped dry stone walls in the West Country, but Intermediate Polypody is a base-demanding species, and the usual one on old brick walls and other man-made structures (and occasionally on base-rich bark). There is some growing in the drain outside my house, and a few years ago I watched someone remove a lorry load from the roof of a church just down the road from me in Gosport! What gives it away in the photo is the strongly triangular frond shape. Common Polypody is usually almost parallel sided. There are various other characters which are not consistent, but you’ll find details in any good fern book. There is even a remote possibility that it could be the much rarer Western Polypody (P. cambrica), which is even more triangular in shape and likes limestone. If you want to send me a single pinnule with ripe sporangia on, I could check it microscopically for you.”

I had a walk through the meadow on a rather bleak and chilly afternoon. No special observations. I checked the Lumley Stream as usual, but no sign of any Water Vole. The Pepper-saxifrage is still in flower on the east side of the Lumley area. A hoverfly was actively feeding on the flowers – it looks like a Marmalade Fly (Episyrphus balteatus) which typically fly all year round in the south of England and just love umbellifers.


It was a very nice morning for the regular 3rd Thursday in the month work session on Brook Meadow with a good turn out led by Wally Osborne. The main job was cutting and clearing the Lumley area. I went along to take photos and check on wildlife
For the workday report and photos go to . . . http://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/conservation-news/

The Lumley area is probably the most valuable area on the meadow from a botanical view as it houses most of the sedges and rushes as well as flowering plants, such as, Ragged Robin and Pepper-saxifrage. In fact, Pepper-saxifrage was still in full flower on the east side of the area and I made sure this rare plant was avoided by the cutters. Michaelmas Daisies are also putting on a good show immediately behind the Pepper-saxifrage.


The large number of reptile mats that had been scattered around the meadow were collected up during the work session as the survey was finished. The results showed a good population of Slow-worms, both adults and young, but no Common Lizards.

During the cutting two frogs were discovered and were moved to safety to the edge of the area. I also rescued a rather handsome snail from the cutting.


I was interested to see a number of plants still in full flower. In addition to the already mentioned Pepper-saxifrage I found Common Comfrey, Charlock, Guernsey Fleabane and Wild Angelica.




The seed heads of Hemp Agrimony are also showing well on the orchid area.

I also found several grasses flowering on the north meadow, including, very surprisingly, Meadow Foxtail ( usually a spring grass) and Cocksfoot which are shown in the photos below.


Malcolm Phillips had only a short time on Brook Meadow today, but got a couple of good shots: A Red Admiral with broken wing feasting on the Michaelmas Daisies on the Lillywhite’s patch and an adult Slow-worm under one of the mats.



Malcolm Phillips did not find much of interest on the meadow today, though he did send me this nice shot of a male Common Darter which are simply everywhere at the moment.


I walked over to the meadow this morning. Lovely sunshine, but a chilly easterly wind. I met Malcolm Phillips who had just seen a Grey Wagtail and a Blackbird bathing in the river near the north bridge.


Malcolm confirmed that he would be leaving Emsworth this weekend, so this might be our last meeting. He will be staying with friends in Wales until his flight to Cuba at the end of October.   He told me that his house in Cuba was safe after the hurricane, though there was damage to others in the village. I told him how much we appreciated his help with the wildlife and took a photo of him taking aim with his camera.


We passed by Gooseberry Cottage where the male Mandarin Duck was on the pond with a number of Mallard. Malcolm spotted a Kingfisher fly past.

Finally, we hopped over the wire fence onto the Lillywhite’s patch next to Gooseberry Cottage and stood for several minutes watched the butterflies and many bees that were feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies. We saw at least three Red Admirals, but no Painted Lady today. There were lots of Honey Bees and small Bumblebees, but the best was a large queen Bombus terrestris with a distinctive dirty white tail.



Malcolm Phillips has been very busy with preparations for his move to Cuba. However, he did manage to visit Brook Meadow this morning and got a splendid selection of photos. Butterflies are still feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies on the Lillywhite’s land by the Gooseberry Cottage garden. Here are Red Admiral and Small White.


But best of all Malcolm captured both the underside and the upper wings of a Painted Lady. Painted Lady is a migratory butterfly, but is unable to hibernate unlike, for example, the Peacock, and will perish once winter arrives.


Malcolm also found this Chiffchaff still active on the meadow. Unlike the Painted Lady butterfly it will probably head off fairly soon for the Mediterranean area where it spends the winter. However, a few do tend to hang around provided the winter is not too cold.


Malcolm Phillips had an hour on the meadow today and got several interesting photos, as always. Most interesting was a very furry orange caterpillar which I think is usually referred to as a ‘woolly bear’. However, as pointed out to me by Ralph Hollins a few years ago (October 2011 to be exact), the common woolly bear type caterpillars of the Fox Moth and Garden Tiger Moth have some black hairs giving a two tone appearance and also they go into hibernation early in the summer. Malcolm’s is almost certainly a Ruby Tiger moth caterpillar which waits until the autumn before it goes in search of a hibernation site.
See the UK Moths web site at . . . http://www.ukmoths.org.uk/species/phragmatobia-fuliginosa/


Malcolm also got a female Blackbird eating one of the Rowan berries from the trees on the east side of the north meadow. Caught in the act!


Malcolm also spotted this interesting insect which looks vaguely like the Caddis Fly that he got on Sep 28, though I hesitate to give any pronouncement on this since I thought the last one was a moth! Maybe this one is a moth. Please put me out of my misery someone.


Wildlife observations during work session
Pam Phillips regularly sees two Kingfishers in early morning in the Dolphin Quay area near Slipper Millpond. These birds will have come down river after breeding and will be around for the winter.
During the work session in clearing the orchid area one of the volunteers came across a beautiful Four-spot Spider (Araneus quadratus) which is easy to identify from its round abdomen with four spots on the top. After being well viewed by all the volunteers and photographed by me, it was placed out of harm’s way in the bushes.


While walking around the meadow I noticed several grasses were flowering, including Tall Fescue, Annual Meadow-grass, False Oat-grass and Cocksfoot.


Another Crack Willow tree has come down across the south path, though one can easily get beneath it.
0-0-0-wx697-willow-snapped-smd-bm-02.10.16Malcolm’s news
Malcolm Phillips was on the meadow this morning and stayed around until about 2.30. During that time he saw three Buzzards soaring over the meadow, probably from the Lumley Mill Farm site. Here is one of them.


A Kingfisher flew past him twice between the S-bend and north bridge, but they were too quick for a photo. But clearly Kingfishers are about as Pam said.
Malcolm also got a Comma on the Michaelmas Daisies – we have not had one of those for a while. He also got what I think is a male Migrant Hawker. This dragonfly tends to fly later than the more common Southern Hawker.


Finally, Malcolm had a look at Peter Pond where he found the male Mandarin Duck posing for a photo. Dan Mortimer whose house overlooks Peter Pond tells me he sees this bird regularly in the morning on the pond. But we have had no further sightings of the female.


Malcolm tells me he will be leaving Emsworth on Oct 16 to make a new life with a new wife and house in Cuba. We wish him well. As I have said before, Malcolm has made an important contribution to wildlife records of Brook Meadow and we shall miss his excellent photos.

Malcolm’s wet news
Malcolm Phillips got very wet on Brook Meadow today, but managed to keep his camera dry to take an interesting selection of photos.

A couple of Bluebottles huddled together. What is going on?
A yellow shelled snail which I think is a Grove Snail, though I stand to be corrected.

A mature female Common Darter. And a perky Robin.

Finally, Malcolm saw yet another Crack Willow live up to its name – this one is on the path through the south meadow.

Brook Meadow
Malcolm Phillips spent the morning on the meadow. Among several photos he sent to me were excellent shots of a female Blackbird and a Chiffchaff.



Malcolm also got a photo what I thought looked like one of the micro moths, but Ralph Hollins and Tony Davis both replied to say the ‘moth’ was, in fact, a Caddis Fly. Ralph added that these flies generally appear at this time of year. Tony said there were very few caddis that he can identify from pictures, so we are stuck with a simple Caddis Fly.


Mandarin Duck
I went to have a look for the Mandarin Duck on Peter Pond that Malcolm Phillips photographed on Sep 21. When I arrived it was standing on the edge of the main raft in the centre of the pond. But this was clearly a male Mandarin Duck in partial eclipse plumage and quite different from Malcolm’s duck which was thought to be a juvenile in eclipse plumage. Here are the two Mandarin Ducks with Malcolm’s on the left and today’s male on the right.


I scanned carefully through all the other ducks on the pond, but they were all Mallards. However, it is clear that we have two Mandarin Ducks on the pond. It would be nice to have a photo of them together.

Michaelmas Daisies
As I came along the path leading to Gooseberry Cottage on the east side of Peter Pond, I stopped to admire the magnificent swathe of flowering Michaelmas Daisies on the patch of land south of Gooseberry Cottage owned by Lillywhite’s Garage.
The flowers were attracting myriads of Bumblebees as well as a Red Admiral. I think this Bumblebee that I captured is Bombus pascuorum which is one of the late flying bees into autumn.


Grass Snake rescued
Paddy Naylor had a large Grass Snake, about four feet six inches long, in her greenhouse in The Rookery. She believed that it had eaten a large percentage of her garden pond fish. Subsequently, it reappeared in her neighbour’s garden, stuck in some anti-heron netting. Its head was caught in the netting as it was trying to retract itself with a frog in its mouth, a combination which was too big for the mesh of the net! Paddy was called to help free it which she did and then took it onto Brook Meadow to set it free on the banks of the Lumley Stream. Let’s hope it lives well there and finds somewhere safe to hibernate.
The first photo shows an attempt to hook the snake out with a stick. The second photo shows part of the “rescue” team admiring their work. From left to right are Paddy holding the snake, Max and Sam (the neighbour’s grandchildren) full of pride. Paddy is quite safe as Grass Snakes are harmless to humans. Quite an exciting day! Thanks to Neil Jepson for the report and Paddy’s next door neighbour, Mr Long for the photos.


WILDLIFE NEWS by Brian Fellows
Weeks 37-38.  Sep 12-25, 2016

Brook Meadow news
Malcolm Phillips continues to roam around Brook Meadow with his camera at the ready and has got some excellent photos over the past two weeks, including some excellent action shots of Chiffchaffs.   Chiffchaffs are regular summer visitors to Brook Meadow and though a few do tend to hang around for the winter provided it does not get too cold.



Malcolm has also got some cracking photos of butterflies which are particularly attracted to the Michaelmas Daisies which are now out on the meadow. Peacock, Red Admiral, Small White, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue are currently prominent with the occasional Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady.Here is his montage of butterflies.


Of the other insects Meadow Grasshopper, Long-winged Conehead, Crane-fly and Common Darter have also been spotted along with both 4-spot and Garden Spider.


Mandarin Duck
In the past week Malcolm Phillips got a photo of an unusual duck on Peter Pond. It had a mottled chest, grey head, pinkish bill and narrow white ‘spectacles’ and white chin.


Following some discussion with others on the blog it was agreed that the bird was most likely to have been a juvenile male Mandarin Duck in eclipse plumage. I think Dan Mortimer may have seen this bird earlier in the week.   Pity it was not a male in full plumage as there would have been no doubt about that.   As far as I am aware, this is the first Mandarin Duck sighting in Emsworth since a female turned up on Emsworth Millpond in January 2012. I recall we had a long staying male Mandarin Duck on Peter Pond many years ago, not sure when exactly.

WILDLIFE NEWS by Brian Fellows
Weeks 35-36 – Aug 29-Sep 11, 2016

Brook Meadow news
Malcolm Phillips has been roaming around the meadow on a daily basis with his camera looking for interesting wildlife. It is amazing what he manages to find. This week his sharp eyes spotted what he thought at first was a Water Vole swimming in the river. But sadly, the long body, long ears and pointed nose all indicated it was a Brown Rat. We have had no Water Vole sightings on the river this year.


On Sep 5, Malcolm also saw a large Pike in the river just north of the south bridge which he estimated to be a good 18ins long – the first Pike sighting we have had on Brook Meadow since October 2015. I must admit hoping we had seen the last of these large and fierce predators in the river which we could have contributed to the disappearance of our Water Voles.


Malcolm also got a nice shot of a male Blackbird consuming red berries on our Rowan trees on the east side of the north meadow.


But butterflies have been his speciality and has got excellent images of Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Clouded Yellow, Common Blue, Small Copper, Speckled Wood, Comma, Green-veined White and Holly Blue which are all on the Emsworth blog.



On Aug 3, Malcolm got what appeared to be two Small White butterflies mating, but Ralph Hollins explained that the behaviour of the female in flattening her wings and raising her abdomen in Malcolm’s photo was a sign that she had already mated and was rejecting the advances of the male.


Weeks 33-34 – Aug 15-28, 2016

Malcolm Phillips
Regular visitors to Brook Meadow will have missed the familiar figure of Malcolm Phillips over the past 6 months. Well, he has been on holiday in Cuba and while he was there he got married to an attractive Cuban lady! Congratulations Malcolm. I have seen photos of his wife and the house that they have been renovating in Cuba and cannot help but be envious. He hopes to obtain Cuban citizenship so he can move out there. We shall certainly miss Malcolm’s excellent photos, but wish him well in his new life. He may even be persuaded to become our special Cuban wildlife correspondent?

Brown Argus
Since his return from Cuba, Malcolm has been roaming around the meadow, snapping anything that looks interesting. On Aug 26 he got a blue butterfly that I thought at first was a brown female Common Blue. But Ralph Hollins informs me that the total absence of blue in the wings and the presence of dark spots in the centre of the forewing clearly indicated that it was a Brown Argus.


To see the photos showing the differences go to http://www.ukbutterflies.co.uk/species_similarities.php and scroll down to the relevant section. This was only our 4th ever sighting of a Brown Argus on Brook Meadow –
Malcolm also had one on 29-Aug last year.

Dead Mole
On Aug 26, Malcolm also found a dead Mole on the ground, apparently unharmed.


Moles, of course, spend most of their lives burrowing underground, but in summer when the ground is very dry they will come onto the surface to seek food, ie worms, which go deeper than Moles are able to burrow. Malcolm’s Mole could be a young animal that chanced its luck on the surface, but succumbed to the forces of nature. Does anyone have a better explanation?

Weeks 31-32 – Aug 1-14, 201

There is a forest of Hoary Ragwort on the orchid area at the moment; a good and attractive plant and an excellent source of nectar, but not a Cinnabar caterpillar in sight. Are they scarce this year?   Hoary differs from Common Ragwort mainly in its thin pointed leaflets.


I was interested to see several red flower spikes of Amphibious Bistort – a plant which seems to flower very rarely, at least here on Brook Meadow. There are, in fact, two forms of Amphibious Bistort: the terrestrial form which we have on Brook Meadow and an aquatic one which grows in water and is far more likely to flower. The aquatic form flowers on Petersfield Lake.


Sadly, the Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea which for many years has struggled through the mass of vegetation on the Seagull Lane patch to show its bright red flowers, has failed to show up this year.

However, the lemon scented Balm has made it through the tangle of nettles and brambles in Palmer’s Road copse on the edge of the car park.

Hornet Mimic Hoverflies
On Aug 8 I spotted a large colourful insect on a Hogweed flower head in Palmer’s Road Copse, which I thought was a Hornet. I subsequently learned that it was a Hornet Mimic Hoverfly (Volucella zonaria) – living up to its name very successfully!  A day later I saw another one feeding on one of the large flower heads of Wild Angelica growing near the fence that the Environment Agency has erected at the bottom of the south meadow. I was not fooled this time, but Ralph Hollins told me this one was a different Hornet Mimic Hoverfly called Volucella inanis. As well as being smaller than the earlier insect, Ralph pointed out several other differences.  Here are the two for comparison:


Volucella zonaria


Volucella inanis

For a summary of differences . . . . . http://www.opalwestmidlands.org/volucella_hovers/Volucella.html  Keep a look out for them on the south meadow of Brook Meadow. They are very photogenic.

Emsworth wildlife blog – updated daily with reports and photos of local wildlife is at . .

Weeks 29-30, – July 18-31, 2016
by Brian Fellows

Brook Meadow flowers
The meadow is currently a glorious sea of white, pink, yellow and purple with Great Willowherb, Hogweed, Great Willowherb, Common Fleabane and Creeping Thistle all well in flower.   Other less prominent late flowering plants to look out for are Lesser Burdock, Hemp Agrimony, Red Bartsia, Wild Angelica and Timothy grass. Hoary Ragwort is abundant on the orchid area this year and has only just started flowering in the past couple of days. It can be easily distinguished from Common Ragwort from its narrow leaves with thin pointed lobes.   Meanwhile, if you walk around the east side of the Lumley area you will come across the strawberry-like fruits of the aptly named Strawberry Clover – but not for eating! What a beautiful meadow we have right in our midst. Unfortunately, our small crop of Marsh Woundwort was a victim of the flood defence work of the Environment Agency, but it should come again next year.   There is still plenty out on the wayside north of Emsworth Railway Station.

Alder Buckthorn
On July 29, I met Pam Phillips on the causeway where we stopped to admire the fine crop of berries on the Alder Buckthorn trees, some red and some black. These will provide excellent nourishment for our resident birds over the winter (if they last that long). I recall well planting the original 15 saplings in 2005 with Ian Brewster (of HBC) and my friend Ron Clarke who was over from the USA on a birding trip. We lost a few trees over the years due to poor management (my fault!), however, the remaining trees have done very well and need no help from us any more. The leaves are also a vital food source for caterpillars of the Brimstone butterfly.
Talking about berries, I see Blackberries are also ripening, though they won’t really be sweet enough to eat for a while.

A superb male Southern Hawker dragonfly perched for a photo on the edge of the new track in the south meadow on July 26. Butterflies are scarce, though Speckled Woods are fairly numerous in the shaded area of Palmer’s Road Copse. I got photos of one showing both its upper wings and its less commonly seen under wings.   The grassland is alive with Meadow Grasshoppers.
There are hoverflies of the species Volucella pellucens on the meadow. One actually landed on the back of my hand and gave me a sharp nip. I gather hoverflies don’t bite, but this one did!

Weeks 25-26, June 20 – July 3, 2016
by Brian Fellows

Brook Meadow news
I have been looking for Water Voles regularly on the Lumley Stream where I saw the last one on June 4, but without any luck. I am also monitoring a few likely looking burrow holes on the east bank of the main river in Palmer’s Road Copse, but have seen nothing there either.   But I shall persevere!

Beautiful Demoiselles are particularly numerous on the meadow this summer, particularly around the waterways, males with all blue wings and females with deep brown wings. Strangely, we are not seeing many Banded Demoiselles, which until a couple of years ago were the dominant demoiselles.

Butterflies are still relatively scarce, though only today I saw Red Admiral, Comma, Meadow Brown and Ringlet. The Ringlets are easy to spot with their dark brown upper wings and conspicuous ‘eyes’ with white centres on the under wings. Look for them on the orchid area. Marbled Whites and Large Skippers are also out, soon to be followed by Small Skippers.

Plant news
Meadowsweet is now flowering well and smelling strongly along the path on the east side of the north meadow. It is lovely to walk along this path.

The bright red flowers of Great Burnet on tall stems stand above the rest of the grasses, etc on the orchid area. I counted 62 plants which is about the same as last year. So, the big increase from when they were first recorded here in 2013 has clearly slowed down.

Just before the workday coffee break, I had a look for Meadow Barley on the centre meadow where I have found some in previous years. I quickly located a small patch and showed the workday volunteers for their interest. Dan immediately went of looking for it, though he came back with Tall Fescue and Yorkshire Fog.   Meadow Barley is quite a scarce grass on Brook Meadow and I always have a job finding it.   That takes the total number of grass species (not counting sedges and rushes) recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 27. There are a few more still to find.

Sharp-flowered Rush is now widespread on the Lumley area, more so than I have seen it before. You can’t miss it. I first saw this plant on the meadow in June 2009 and it has expanded rapidly since then to become a dominant plant of the area. The greyish leaves of Common Fleabane are also all over the Lumley area and we await the bright yellow flowers which provide such a welcome splash of colour in late summer.

Weeks 23-24, June 6-19, 2016
by Brian Fellows

Visit from the SW Natural History Society
On Thursday June 9, I led a walk through Brook Meadow for about 15 members of the SW Natural History Society which is based in Devon. This group had previously visited Emsworth in May 2009 when we had the vast invasion of Painted Lady butterflies, but there was nothing as exciting as that this time. In fact, we saw very few butterflies during the whole afternoon. However, we did see lots of other interesting things, including masses of wild flowers, grasses and sedges.
Jennifer Rye met the group in Palmer’s Road Car Park at 2pm and gave an introduction to Brook Meadow and the work of the conservation group. When Jennifer had finished I took the group onto the south meadow where we examined the interesting crop of Hairy Buttercups and Celery-leaved Buttercups, which were new for some members.


We made our way to the Lumley area where I pointed out Divided Sedge, which was primarily responsible for the meadow getting its SINC status. We also looked at some of the other sedges and grasses along with the Ragged Robin and the Bee Orchids which attracted much attention. The group were also very impressed with the main orchid area with its rich variety of wild flowers, including Southern Marsh and the Common Spotted Orchids. I was thanked by the group for leading the walk on such a lovely afternoon. A generous donation was made to the conservation group.


Brook Meadow news
There have been no further sightings of Water Voles on the Lumley Stream following the little spate in May and early June. This is not entirely surprising as the stream is hidden in vegetation except at the bridge north of Peter Pond. But, let’s hope they are breeding and that any youngsters will disperse across the meadow to the main River Ems where the main population of voles existed until last year.

Birds currently still singing on the meadow include Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Whitethroat, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chaffinch and Woodpigeon. All seem to be doing well.   Fresh molehills have appeared on the north meadow, a good sign of underground breeding activity.

On the flower front, the Southern Marsh Orchids have done well this year with at least 21 magnificent spikes which is a new record. Seven Common Spotted Orchids were counted which was the same as last year. However, only 6 Bee Orchids have been found, all on the Lumley area, whereas last year we had 29 in total.   There may well have been more hiding away in the dense vegetation.

Young Thomas Irons sent me a photo of an orange coloured spotless Ladybird which I thought was just newly emerged from the pupa.   Ladybird wing cases are soft and pale orange at first, but harden quickly and develop their familiar colour pattern. However, Thomas kept this particular insect in his “Ladybird World” discovery container for two days, where it remained spotless, before being released back to its original place on the meadow. Can anyone throw any light on this little mystery?

My favourite plants on Brook Meadow at this time of the year are the grasses which are looking quite magnificent swaying in the breezes. I have recorded 23 different species so far this year with more to come. Tall Fescue, Rough Meadow-grass, Yorkshire Fog, Cocksfoot and False Oat-grass dominate the grassland. These are all very fine in their way, but they can’t compete with the swathes of Reed Canary-grass that tower above everything else. Among the less common grasses found this past week was Smooth Brome with long drooping panicles – on the diagonal path across the centre meadow. I also found Meadow Fescue and the hybrid with Perennial Ryegrass, called Fescue xFestulolium loliaceum – on the path in front of Beryl’s seat on the east side of the north meadow.   Please don’t mow this area!   On the Lumley area Jointed Rush and Sharp-flowered Rush are now in flower joining the abundance of sedges which have been out for some weeks.

Weeks 21-22, May 23 – June 5, 2016
by Brian Fellows

Water Voles are back?
While perusing the plants on the side of the Lumley Stream on June 4 I spotted a fresh Water Vole burrow hole on the east bank. Almost immediately, a Water Vole appeared swimming downstream and stopped on the bank outside the hole. I was in luck. This was my first Water Vole of the year. It may have been the same animal that Carole Checksfield & Paul Seagrave and Chris Akass had seen from the Lumley Path footbridge a week or so ago. Fortunately, it remained on the bank while I gingerly got my camera out and took a few snaps. After a couple of minutes, it swam a little way downstream and disappeared into another hole on the same side of the stream. Let’s hope there is a breeding pair to produce a new generation of voles to fill the gap left on the River Ems. Photo on blog.

Brook Meadow flowers
The orchids are coming along well. Southern Marsh Orchids are now looking very fine and photogenic; we have 17 so far including three on the Lumley area, mostly marked with twigs. The first Common Spotted Orchids are also out. And only today Maurice Lillie spotted 4 Bee Orchids on the Lumley area. I suspect there will be more provided we can find them. Also in the main orchid area the first of the oval-shaped red Great Burnet flowers are now showing along with hundreds of Yellow Rattle flowers.

Meanwhile, Ragged Robin has had a good year on the Lumley area. I counted 154 flowering plants this week which is the best count since 2012. I have no idea why numbers of this delightful plant vary so much from one year to the next. There is no change in the habitat or the management of the area.

Painted Ladies
Butterflies have been very scarce this cold spring, but the warm weather today saw a mini influx of Painted Ladies. I saw one flying across the Lumley area during the work day on Brook Meadow this morning. It did not stop, but it was unmistakable with it light brown colouring and strong flight. Then this afternoon I had another one in the garden, feeding occasionally on Red Valerian flowers. I managed to get a nice photo of it which you can see on the blog. Robin Pottinger also reported seeing one in his Southbourne garden. So, is this the start of an invasion like we had in 2009?


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