Wildlife 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For earlier wildlife news go to . . .

SUNDAY JULY 23 – 2017
I had a walk around the meadow late this morning before the rain set in. The meadow was remarkably dry despite yesterday’s heavy rain. I was OK walking with normal shoes.
Bristly Ox-tongue seems to have had a very good year. It is particularly abundant on the north meadow where it is the dominant species.
Butterbur leaves are now huge in the area below the seat. Well loved by kids as ‘green’ umbrellas.
I had a close look at the two experimental cutting areas on the north meadow where there are now a good number of flowers on show. I will suggest to the conservation group that this experimental cutting strategy could be repeated in other parts of the meadow to uncover seed banks which otherwise might never get the opportunity to grow into flowers in competition with the tall coarse grasses. There were also lots of Meadow Grasshoppers jumping around in the short grass and Bumblebees on the flowers indicating a good wildlife habitat. Of the two areas the southern is the best so I decided to do a count of the more obvious species I could find in this area. The total was 23, nothing special, but good to find. I will continue to monitor.

I spotted two unusual insects feeding on Creeping Thistles near the Lumley area. I have hazarded guesses at what they are, but will check them out with Bryan Pinchen.
The first (on the left in the photo) was a large sturdy looking hoverfly which shot off like a rocket when I approached it. I think it was a Hornet mimic, which I have come across before on the meadow, but which one? It may be Volucella inanis – but it equally well could be Volucella zonaria, or something completely different!
The other insect was a small delicate fly with a black and white bulbous abdomen attached to its body by a thin neck. Again, I am guessing purely on the appearance of the insect, but it looks like Physocephala rufipes. According to the book it is likely to be seen on thistles which it was.

SATURDAY JULY 15 – 2017  Visit from the Havant Wildlife Group
This morning 11 members of the Havant Wildlife Group (including me as leader) assembled in Bridge Road car park Emsworth for the annual walk through Brook Meadow. It was good to meet up with old friends and new members who have joined since last time. Thanks to Caroline for taking the photo.
I have not attended the walks for some years, but they are still going strong under the leadership of Heather Mills. I always publish the walk reports on the web site. Details of the group which was originally started by Ralph Hollins in 1995 can be seen on the dedicated pages at . . . Havant Wildlife Group

Entering Brook Meadow through the Seagull Lane gate we stopped to study the superb painting for the interpretation board done by Marian Forster. The original is on display in Emsworth Museum. Well worth a visit, if only to see the painting.
We also examined the galls on the larger of the planted Oak trees and with the help of Heather identified them as spangle and marble galls. There were also other galls which we were not sure about. We also looked at the other smaller Oaks that were planted as saplings in 2012.


From the north bridge we walked down the new ramp onto the meadow. Several members sampled the aroma from the Meadowsweet.

Heather’s sharp eyes spotted a dead Ringlet in the vegetation near the Lumley area, though some live ones were seen later. (My photo below). We also came across lots of Meadow Grasshoppers jumping around in the grass (photo by Malcolm Phillips a couple of years ago).

At the Lumley entrance we stopped to examine the plants in ‘the Lumley puddle’ (now quite dry), including the tiny but robust Toad Rush which Caroline held up for others to see.
Heather spotted a Song Thrush in the red leaved Cherry Plum tree on the causeway, which I think Fay and others are looking for. We did, in fact, get a much better view of a Song Thrush and a young Robin near the south gate. Photos by Derek.

Heather tried to make friends with the Robin.
We stopped at the main seat overlooking the meadow for coffee break. It just so happened that Debbie Robinson (the group’s secretary) was set up there with sun shade and table conducting a visitor survey. Debbie was delighted to collect several £3 subscriptions from some people who were not members which will help towards maintaining the meadow in good order.
After the break we walked down the new path by the Gooseberry Cottage bund where we came across several Bush-crickets. My photos were hopeless, but Derek got a good one.
On the way back we met David Search who had taken over the visitor survey from Debbie. As David is our resident insect expert, we consulted him about the Bush-crickets. He was not sure at the time, but confirmed later that it was a Dark Bush-cricket. David said something about examining the genitalia which so shocked us, that we all beat a hasty retreat!

David did have some very interesting and surprising news that he had seen two Kingfishers fly across the meadow while he was on the seat. Wow! We were all very envious. Kingfishers in summer are very rare in this area (though common in winter). These may have been youngsters dispersing from early broods further up river.
Coming back along the main path we got a good view of a male Beautiful Demoiselle by the river, which had looked for but missed at the south bridge. My photo.
Visitor survey: 186 adults, 17 children, and 87 dogs went through the meadow between 10am and 5pm.

Bristly Ox-tongue is now in flower across the meadow, particularly on the north meadow and centre meadow. It is a favourite of mine, with its rough bristly leaves and deep yellow flowers, tinged red. Bristly Ox-tongue is the subject of a poem by Alice Oswald (in the book, ‘Weeds and Wild Flowers’). This unglamorous plant is portrayed as a solitary and curmudgeonly old man, “too shy to speak . . . white hair uncombed . . . enormous jaws, chewing on silence”. All good stuff!
Wild Angelica flower heads are a magnet for red Soldier Beetles.
There is a mass of Fool’s Water-cress growing in the river beneath the south bridge. It is sometimes mistaken for edible Water-cress, but it is quite a different plant. It is an umbellifer and has flowers in white umbels. You can see some flowers on the right of the photo. Its leaves also differ from Water-cress being opposite and slightly toothed.
The Alder sapling that was planted near the Lumley Stream on 20 Aug 2015 now has a good crop of cones. Just after it was planted the tree was infested with the larvae of the Hazel Sawfly (Croesus septentrionalis) which almost stripped all of its leaves. However, it made a good recovery and is now in good health.
I scattered a few Wild Clary seeds from the plants on the Christopher Way verge on the ground in front of the main seat. It will be interesting to see if any come up.
I was delighted to discover a good growth of Giant Fescue on the path through Palmer’s Road Copse, just before the first large Crack Willow going north from the bridge. It has been growing in this very spot for the last 10 years at least and probably much longer than that. This is, in fact, the only place it grows on Brook Meadow that I am aware of. Giant Fescue is the largest of the fescue grasses and is distinguished by its loose drooping panicles and large leaf-like auricles that clasp the stem, as illustrated in the photos.

I was expecting it here. This takes the total number of grasses recorded this year on Brook Meadow to 23, though I have not yet found any Meadow Barley. It is probably here somewhere, but not in great amounts and never easy to find. Enchanter’s Nightshade is also flowering along the path through Palmer’s Road Copse.

SUNDAY JULY 9 – 2017
I went over to the meadow this afternoon mainly to have a look at the Marsh Woundwort that Maurice Lillie found pushing its way through the jungle of vegetation at the top of the Bramble path close to the Weeping Willow. I counted 11 flowering spikes with more to come; we should finish with about 20. Here is one of the spikes I took. Not a good photo, but better ones to come I hope.
I actually met Maurice on the meadow taking photos. He told me about a Beech tree he had discovered in the north-east corner. This is the first Beech to be recorded on Brook Meadow so will be added to our list of trees. It is a fair sized tree growing right next to the large pollarded Crack Willow at the far end of the north path. I have not noticed it before!
Hemp Agrimony is in flower a good 2 weeks earlier than usual. An attractive White Plume Moth was resting on Brambles.

SUNDAY JULY 2 – 2017
Brian’s w
ildlife notes during work session
Birds singing included Blackbird, Wren, Blackcap and Chiffchaff.
I was pleased to see the first Gatekeepers and a Marbled White which takes the total number of butterfly species seen on Brook Meadow this year to 16 (out of site total of 26).


Azure Damselfly in the south east corner.

Broad-leaved Everlasting-pea – has managed to battle its way through the jungle of vegetation on the Seagull Lane patch. This attractive flower has been regular at this location for many years, but as I did not see it at all last year I thought we may have lost it. But, no! Here it is again.
Perforate St John’s-wort – one plant in flower on the edge of the Lumley area. This was my first sighting on the meadow since 2014. Square-stalked St John’s-wort is far more common.
The small Oak sapling planted by my wife Jean on the Seagull Lane patch as part of the Jubilee celebrations in 2012 has been cleared and is looking in very good health. Here’s to the next 300 years!
Tony Browne told me that he thought he saw a Leech while clearing out the Lumley Stream in front of the Lumley Cottages where he lives. Brenda Scott reported seeing a Cinnabar Moth.

Birch Sawfly
My most interesting wildlife sighting of the morning was while I was chatting with Dave Lee – a large handsome insect perched on the gate post at the south entrance . It obligingly crawled onto my hand where I was able to get this nice photo. Neither of us knew what it was, but looking it up in my insect guide I identified it as Birch Sawfly (Cimbex femoratus). Interestingly, there is a Birch tree close to the south gate where I found this insect.
The adult Birch Sawfly is best recognised by the pale band on its shiny black abdomen. Its wings are smoky brown colour with dark brown margins and the antennae are clubbed yellow tipped. The Birch Sawfly is also large; at up to 25mm long, it is the largest British Sawfly. It buzzes in flight, though it did not have a chance to fly. In fact, I had difficulty in getting it off my hand as it clung on tenaciously. Its UK status is said to be local throughout Britain, so not very common.
The solitary larvae feed on Silver Birch leaves between June and September and can grow up to 45mm in length. A black edged bluish stripe runs along the middle of the larva’s back for the length of its body. There is a single row of black dots along the side of the body.

Marmalade Hoverflies (Episyrphus balteatus) – were making good use of the nectar supplied by the Bindweed and Sow-thistle flowers.


Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) – This little fellow with a distinctive white band around its middle (like the Belted Galloway cattle) was so busy feeding on a Hogweed umbel that I was able to get fairly close for a photo.
Cherry Plum and Alder Buckthorn on the causeway both have fruit.

TUESDAY JUNE 27 – 2017
I found my first Spear Thistle of the year in flower on the main path by the river.
I think this handsome fellow is a Volucella hoverfly – a large bumblebee or wasp mimic. The larvae develop in the nests of social wasps or bumblebees where they are scavengers or parasites. The adults are often found on flowers. I think this specimen could be Volucella bombylans which is widespread and common in Britain and is distinguished by its dense hair and feathery antennae.

I had another look at the Bent Grasses that I discovered yesterday in the south meadow, on the Bramble path next to the Gooseberry Cottage bund. The size of the grass up to 100cm with panicles about 20cm leaves me in no doubt that is Black Bent (Agrostis gigantea), the largest of the Bents. Its large size probably allows it to survive among the tall vegetation along this path. It also has flat furrowed slightly rough leaves and long toothed ligules. I have found it in this spot in previous years, but nowhere else on the meadow. Like many other plants this year, the flowers are about 2 weeks earlier than before.
On the left is Black Bent with closed panicle and on the right with open panicle

Hard Rush is also flowering
Butterflies were fairly numerous after the heat wave over the past few days. They included dozens of Meadow Browns plus my first Ringlets and Large Skippers of the year. The Ringlets are not easy to separate from the Meadow Browns, but generally they are smaller and darker. I managed to get photos of them both, though not brilliant. The next butterflies to appear on the meadow should be Gatekeepers and Small Skippers in a week or so.

It was really much too hot for a person of my age to go wandering around, but I needed some wildlife therapy, so I had a very gentle afternoon walk through the meadow, seeking shade wherever I could find it. I sat for a while on the main seat which was in the shade and nice and cool contemplating our beautiful meadow.

There is a nice display of the hybrid grass called x Festulolium loliaceum right in front of Beryl’s seat on the east side of the north meadow. Right beside it are its two parent grasses, Perennial Ryegrass and Meadow Fescue. Here is Meadow Fescue.
Walking down the old Bramble path on the east side of the south meadow. I came across a nice growth of one of the Bent-grasses, but I have not decided which one. Most of the panicles were not open, which suggested Creeping Bent. The first of the year on Brook Meadow.
There is a mass of Water-cress now growing in the river, hiding most of it from view. The area north of the S-bend contains some particularly tall plants. Blamey, Fitter and Fitter say it can grow to 60cm or more. Some of these were certainly more.

FRIDAY JUNE 16 – 2017
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to replace the pictorial maps in the three signcases which had faded in the sun.
While I was there I had another look for the Meadow Barley grass which I found in the centre meadow last year, but it was like looking for a needle in a haystack! Pam Phillips was passing at the time and came over to have a look, but soon gave up. I always have a problem finding this attractive grass on Brook Meadow and in some years completely fail to find any. I shall continue to search! The only reliable area I find it locally is in the north west corner of Emsworth Recreation Ground.

While looking for the Meadow Barley I was stopped in my tracks by this simply gorgeous Small Tortoiseshell butterfly resting low in the grasses. This will be one of the first of the summer brood. The over wintering generation will have gone by now
Meanwhile, over on the Lumley area, the Creeping Thistle flowers continue to attract a myriad of insects, including this white Crab Spider, probably a female Misumena vatia.
Down in the south meadow I came across a female Demoiselle. This is probably a female Beautiful Demoiselle which we have seen a lot of on the meadow this summer, though one can never be too sure as the insect is very similar to the female Banded Demoiselle.
A Song Thrush was singing strongly in the south meadow, the first I have heard for a while. Maybe, nesting is finished?

Beautiful Demoiselles were in flight at two locations. Two males were sparring near the north bend in the river and a male a female were chasing each other below the south bridge. Interestingly, this damselfly appears to have taken over residence on Brook Meadow from the previous dominant Banded Demoiselle which are now rarely seen.
Male Beautiful Demoiselle by the south bridge
The only butterflies I saw this morning were Meadow Browns.
I had several firsts of the year. Celery-leaved Buttercup in the “Lumley puddle” area north of the Lumley gate. Last year we had a magnificent crop of Celery-leaved Buttercup (about 100 plants) on the new path by the Gooseberry Cottage bund, but there is none there this year. Toad Rush is also well out in this small almost permanently wet area.
Timothy grass is out on the centre meadow just below the main seat, but no sign yet of Meadow Barley.

Great Willowherb is flowering – the earliest date I have ever recorded it on Brook Meadow. Soon much of the meadow will be adorned with the pretty pink flowers. Creeping Thistles are flowering well on the Lumley area and are extremely attractive to insects. Long may they prosper.

Some of the Dock leaves along the path through the south meadow have been severely nibbled by some insect, leaving a pretty lace-like effect. What could have done this?

Also, one of the Wild Angelicas in the south meadow has completely collapsed revealing a network of stout red stems. Wild Angelica is flowering a good 2 weeks earlier than usual.

A very windy morning for my walk through the meadow. Some birds are still singing, though many like Robin will now have gone quiet during nesting. Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Whitethroat, Wren and Blackbird were all singing.
Swollen-thighed Beetles (Oedemera nobilis) – just love the large white trumpet flowers of Hedge Bindweed. In this shot on the left two males look as if they are facing up to one another. Note: only the male has the swollen thighs. On the right is a hoverfly – probably Syrphus ribesii – feeding on a buttercup.

Hedge Woundwort – is now flowering generally around the meadow. It has very attractive flower spikes, almost orchid-like in quality. Creeping Thistle is almost there with buds ready to burst into red flowers on the Lumley area.

Ground-elder is in flower alongside the path in the north-east corner of the meadow. I think this is the only place where this interesting plant can be seen flowering on the Brook Meadow site.
As an umbellifer it boasts clusters of white flowers, rather like Hogweed, but the leaves are totally different. It is a well known troublesome weed in gardens, but is welcome here on Brook Meadow Nature Reserve. It is not a native plant, but was probably introduced during the Roman period as a vegetable rather like spinach. The name comes from the similarity of its leaves to that of the true Elder.

Remote Sedge – is now showing spikelets on the path through Palmer’s Road Copse near the south bridge end. This is the only place you can see this interesting sedge on Brook Meadow, though there are masses of it in Hollybank Woods.

Orchid counts
I had a look at the orchids in on the north meadow (orchid area) and the Lumley area this afternoon. I don’t think there will be any more Southern Marsh or Common Spotted Orchids in either area. Both species are now generally well past their best, but it has been a good year for them both with record counts.  As for Bee Orchids, the conservation group discovered several more of these in both areas during Sunday’s work session. However, with the grasses and other vegetation growing fast I think it will be difficult to find any more. So, here are what I think will be the final counts for 2017 with the north meadow and Lumley area counts in brackets: Southern Marsh Orchid 31 (26 and 5), Common Spotted Orchid 16 (9 and 7), Bee Orchid 12 (9 and 3).
For full details of the orchid counts over previous years with charts go to . . .

Other Brook Meadow observations
Great Burnet – flowering and attracting insects on the orchid area. However, there seems to be far less of this attractive plant than in previous years. I could only see a single cluster of about 10 plants near a Meadowsweet. Last year I counted a total of 62 flowering plants.

Meadow Vetchling – flowering for the first time this year on the Lumley area with the added bonus of a male Common Blue butterfly feeding on its flowers. This is a rare plant on Brook Meadow.

Common Knapweed and Red Bartsia are also just starting to flower on the Lumley area. They should be very prominent in a few weeks.
Plicate Sweet-grass – This delicate and attractive grass is showing better than I can ever remember seeing it along the new path on the east side of the south meadow by the Gooseberry Cottage bund. My vote goes for this as the grass of the year for Brook Meadow.

Meadow Brown – I had my first Meadow Brown of the year on the Lumley area. Here it was sheltering from the strong wind.
Small Tortoiseshell – I happened to come across this beautiful butterfly sheltering from the strong winds in the long grasses near the ground.
Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens) – I found two specimens of this attractive hoverfly on the meadow this afternoon, both feeding on the flowers of Hemlock Water-dropwort.
The name “pellucid” literally means translucently clear because , apparently, if you catch this hoverfly in a certain light you can see right through its middle! It gets its common name from its black and white colouring, though my fun name for it is Belted Galloway after the cow with a white band across its middle! The larvae of Pellucid Hoverflies live inside the underground nests of common wasps.

I went over to do a last count of orchids before I go away for a few days. Southern Marsh Orchids 31, Common Spotted Orchids 16, Bee Orchids 3. All these counts are well up on previous years, but for the Bee Orchids, though there must be more of these to come, if we can find them in the long grasses!  Here is a double flowered Bee Orchid today
Ragged Robin flowers are now going over, so I will use the count of 135 on May 20 as my final count for the year. This year’s count is fairly good, just a bit down on last year, but well up on some earlier bad years.
Great Burnet flower buds are turning bright red,
Cetti’s Warbler was singing from the east side of the north meadow.

Malcolm is back!
I had heard news Malcolm Phillips was back in town so I was not at all surprised to get an e-mail from him this morning with an attachment of several photos taken yesterday on Brook Meadow. Sorry, I missed him as I was in Chichester for the day. He says he was only in Emsworth for a few days to get some papers sorted out before he returns to his new home and family in Cuba, but he hopes to get the internet in his house out there, so he can keep in touch and send us a few photos. We shall look forward to that.
Looking through Malcolm’s made me realise how much we had missed him, not just for his pictures, but for his sharp eyes for small wildlife. Three of the photos were firsts of the year for Brook Meadow.
Best of all was this recently emerged immature Broad-bodied Chaser. Its flight season lasts until early August, so there is plenty of time to get further sightings of this beautiful dragonfly as it matures.
Malcolm also got our first Beautiful Demoiselle of the year – a fitting name for this lovely female with brown wings and green body.

Malcolm managed to catch up with a White Plume Moth. I think these are the tiny white moths which can be seen fluttering around in the low grasses and flowers on the orchid area and very difficult to photograph.

THURSDAY MAY 25 – 2017
I went over to the meadow on a very warm, or should I say hot, morning. Coming to the end of Seagull Lane I noticed that the entrance gate to Brook Meadow that had been damaged has now been repaired and so the kissing gate works again, just in case you are interested in these things.

Passing through the gate, I turned left and walked along the casual path by the Jubilee hedgerow which is kept cut by the group for access to this area which is largely left unmanaged. Broad-leaved Docks can grow remarkably tall if they need to; some in this area are a good 7-8 foot tall. Blamey, Fitter and Fitter give their height as ‘1m or even 2m’ but these are taller than that.
I passed several large Teasels along this path which had their ‘water tanks’ full to the brim despite the absence of recent rainfall.

These so-called water tanks come from rain collecting in a water retentive cup where the leaves come together at the stem. It is thought that the plant absorbs water from these tanks, which is a useful strategy for very dry weather. It is also thought that insects falling into the tanks and drowning provide extra nutrients for the plant. Thus, Teasels are sometimes referred to as ‘protocarnivorous’. The water tanks also provide a barrier to small insects climbing up to the flowers. It is interesting to reflect on how apparently ‘simple’ plants like Teasels have evolved such clever strategies to assist in their survival. Clearly, those that did not evolve this strategy have not survived!
I missed the annual snowfall of Crack Willow seeds which cascade down onto everything at this time of the year. Here are some I found this morning already covering a bed of nettles.

The large Red Oak tree planted by the Wilkinson family in November 2012 in memory of Tony, who was a long standing and valued member of the Brook Meadow Conservation Group, is looking good with its large leaves showing well against the clear blue sky. A fitting memorial to a sadly missed colleague.

The three standard English Oaks, which were planted at about the same time in the area, are also doing very well. Very much things for the future!

On the north meadow I discovered a new group of 4 quite small Common Spotted Orchids just north of the ‘official’ fenced orchid area. They have been here in previous years – Grid Ref: SU 75060 06161. Another 5 were on the main orchid area, plus another 7 on the Lumley area, makes a grand total of 16. There could be more coming. The spikes are now developing nicely as this photos shows.

As for Southern Marsh Orchids I think we are coming to the end of their season. The flowers are still looking good, but I could not find any new ones and the overall count remains at 34 with 29 on the orchid area and 5 on the Lumley area. Late news: Jennifer Rye tells me she found another 2 Southern Marsh Orchids just south of the edge of the orchid area.

I was delighted to meet Lesley Harris walking through the meadow by the Lumley area. She said how she was missing the meadow, but caring for her seriously ill husband was a full time occupation. We had a chat about the orchids and she went off to the north meadow to have a look at them. Come back soon, Lesley. We miss you.

Meeting Lesley brought me a stroke of good fortune. Almost immediately she had left, I went a little way onto the Lumley area and came across the first Bee Orchid of the year! It had one flower open, but there’s more to come. I put two sticks by it so that it would not be accidentally trodden on. This was the earliest Bee Orchid I had ever recorded on Brook Meadow. I had a look around for others, but no sign of any.

As the weather was so warm, I was expecting to see lots of butterflies, but alas, the only ones I saw were a Red Admiral and this Speckled Wood which perched conveniently for me to take its picture.

Finally, I was delighted to meet a group of school children with their teachers who had walked from Thorney Island to have lunch on Brook Meadow. I introduced myself as from the Brook Meadow Conservation Group and the children asked questions about the group and the meadow. I gave their teacher a copy of our leaflet and said it was lovely to see so many children on the meadow and that they were always very welcome. They kindly posed for a quick photo by the south gate. Oh that other schools could follow their example as we have such a beautiful and interesting meadow to share with them.

SATURDAY MAY 20 – 2017
I went over to the meadow this morning mainly to do further counts of orchids and Ragged Robin which are both flourishing.
I counted a total of 31 Southern Marsh Orchids in flower with 26 on the main orchid area in the north meadow and a further 5 on the Lumley area. This is a new record, beating last year’s total by 10. I will continue to monitor the orchids as more will probably pop up in time. I have marked the location of each of the orchids with small sticks.  However, if you do go looking please take great care where you tread.  If you see others not marked please let me know their location.
There was no sign of any Common Spotted or Bee Orchids which usually flower a bit later.  Here is a pair of Southern Marsh Orchids just emerging on the Lumley area

I counted a total of 135 Ragged Robin plants in flower, with 110 on the Lumley area and a further 25 on the main centre meadow. This is approaching last year’s total of 154 counted on May 28, so I will do a final count in about a week’s time.

I also noticed that Common Spike-rush is out in the usual spot just north of the Lumley puddle. I have not checked for the Slender Spike-rush on the main Lumley area.

There is a fine growth of Hairy Buttercups on the new path near the Gooseberry Cottage bank in the south meadow. To confirm its identification I pulled up a single plant which revealed a root structure with no sign of a bulb which would have indicated Bulbous Buttercup. As the ground was very wet and soggy I was able to replace the plant, hopefully without too much damage.

Sadly, there is no sign of the Celery-leaved Buttercup that grew so well with the Hairy Buttercup in this area last year. I have no explanation for this as there were many plants here last year that appeared to be seeding.
There is also a splendid growth of Plicate Sweet-grass (Glyceria notata) along this path. This interesting grass is far more abundant in this area than anywhere else on the meadow.

Nearby, a Cetti’s Warbler was singing from the bushes just inside the garden of Gooseberry Cottage. This is the second time I have heard it at this location this spring. A sign of nesting?

Thursday 18 May 2017
Observations made during this morning’s work session
I looked around the orchid area on the north meadow very carefully, being watchful about not treading on any emerging orchids, which is so easy to do as you often can’t see the flowers until you are right on top of them. I was pleasantly surprised to find that more Southern Marsh Orchid flowers had opened since my last visit a couple of days ago.

I counted a total of 21 flowering spikes in the protected orchid area with another one on the Lumley area making a grand total of 22. This is already betters last year’s total by one and I am confident there are more to come. I have marked them all with small sticks. I did not see any other orchids species.
Stream Water-crowfoot and Water-cress are in flower in the River Ems.
While looking for orchids I spotted two Common Blue butterflies fluttering from one buttercup flower to another – our first Common Blues on Brook Meadow this year, though I saw many others on Portsdown Hill last week.

There are several clumps of a very delicate fungus growing on the wood chippings near the HQ tool store. There are also some on the grass immediately in front of the main seat.

I believe they are the same fungi that we had earlier in the spring (see blog for Mar 17) which Dan Mortimer identified them as Hora Cap (Panaeolus rickenii). The following photos show a cap and gills in more detail.


There is a huge quantity of fresh ‘keys’ on the large Ash tree that overhangs the north path. I don’t recall having seen them quite as prolific as this. Interestingly, some of the branches of this tree appear to be dead with no leaves, but the tree as a whole looks in good shape.

TUESDAY MAY 16 – 2017
I found six Southern Marsh Orchids in flower, 5 on the orchid area and 1 on the Lumley area. I have marked them all with sticks, so tread carefully! We had 21 Southern Marsh Orchids last year, so there will be more to come. There was no sign of any other orchid species, ie Common Spotted and Bee.

I did another count of Ragged Robin plants in flower. Today I counted 87 on the Lumley area plus another 17 on the main centre meadow giving a grand total of 104. Last year we had 154 by May 28, so I will give it another week or so before doing a final count.
See previous counts at . . . http://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/plant-counts/
Brooklime is in flower on the path down to the Lumley Stream. Silverweed is now out on the centre meadow.

Birds singing included two Blackcap, one Chiffchaff and two Whitethroat – one from the brambles in the north west corner and one from the bushes near Beryl’s seat.

FRIDAY MAY 12 – 2017
I found my first Southern Marsh Orchid of the year in the usual spot on the orchid area. I have marked it with a stick. It is only small so take care when looking for others. No sign of any others at present.

Yellow Rattle is now generally in flower. A ginger Bumblebee was feeding on the flowers of Yellow Rattle – probably Bombus pascuorum.

In the same area, Great Burnet leaves are now prominent, but no flowers as yet. The tiny white flowers in this area are Common Mouse-ear.

False Fox Sedge is now well out in the Lumley area. Grey Sedge is another newly flowering sedge on the side of Lumley Road, bringing the total number of sedges recorded so far on Brook Meadow to 8 with more to come.

I counted 60 Ragged Robin plants in flower on the Lumley area and on the centre meadow.

Whitethroat – I heard three Whitethroat singing from different locations today, two on the north meadow, one on the west side and one on the east side; also one around the causeway which I managed to get a distant shot of at the top of the Cherry Plum tree.

Cetti’s Warbler – These have been scarce on Brook Meadow over the past couple of years. So, I was especially pleased to hear one singing loudly at the northern end of the south meadow. I am fairly sure Cetti’s Warbler has bred on the meadow in past years, the last being in 2015 when Malcolm Phillips got the following photo of one carrying food for nestlings.

There were not many butterflies apart from Peacock, Holly Blue, Orange Tip and Small White. I thought about Green-veined White, but opted for male Small White as the wings were not sufficiently veined.

The specially protected wild flower area in the centre of the north meadow is currently a sea of buttercups, both Creeping and Meadow. No sign of any orchids as yet.

I had several flowering firsts of the year as follows.
Yellow Flag – now fully open at the southern end of the old Bramble path. The other Yellow Flag plants are yet to flower. Cut-leaved Crane’s-bill – in flower generally around the meadow. Earliest date on record.

Common Sorrel – out on the centre meadow. Lesser Stitchwort – in the same spot as in previous years, centre meadow north of the causeway. About a week earlier than before.

False Fox Sedge – is showing for the first time on the Lumley area and the centre meadow. It is about the same time as last year, but getting earlier. I have now recorded 7 of the 15 sedges on the Brook Meadow list, so still some way to go.
Ragged Robin – 36 flowering plants counted plants on the Lumley area. It is too soon to do the annual count.

SUNDAY MAY 7 – 2017
Yellow Rattle is now flowering on the orchid area and on the Lumley area. This is my earliest flowering date on record for this plant.
I counted 18 flowering Ragged Robin plants on the Lumley area which is an increase on my last count. There are more to come.

Of the grasses Tall Fescue dominates much of the meadow at present. It is such a graceful grass with panicles that hang down on one side.
The Oak sapling that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch 5 years ago is now twice as tall as me and currently is full of leaf and looks very healthy.
The fresh leaves of Hoary Ragwort are now emerging on the orchid area where we shall get a fine display of yellow flowers and a good source of nectar in later summer.

FRIDAY MAY 5 – 2017
Walking around the meadow this morning I had a few firsts. The first Ragged Robin flowers are now emerging on the Lumley area. I counted just 5 open flowers, though more to come. This is the second earliest date on record for Ragged Robin – the earliest being 28-Apr-09. I also found the first Yellow Iris flower just starting to open at the southern end of the south meadow near the signcase. This is about the same time as last year.


The first Hairy Buttercups were in flower along the new path on the east side of the south meadow created by the Environment Agency flood defence work. They were present for the first time last year and its was good to see them up again. There was no sign of the Celery-leaved Buttercups that also appeared in this area last year. Let’s hope they also come back.
I also found what looks like Plicate Sweet-grass (Glyceria notata) growing near the Hairy Buttercups. This is not a new plant for Brook Meadow, but is new for this area.

It was good to see the Gwynne Johnson commemorative Rowans full of white blossom on the east side of north meadow.

The tall trees with yellow male catkins on the east side of Palmer’s Road Car Park are White Willows. The Crack Willows on Brook Meadow are all female with green catkins.

MONDAY MAY 1 – 2017
Sadly, the Long-tailed Tit nest on a tree in the south meadow which was first discovered by Mike Wells on April 10 has been predated. It was in a very exposed position and clearly vulnerable. This afternoon, I found the top of the nest had been removed and fresh feathers scattered around which must be the remains of the chicks. I hope the two adult birds survived the attack. As to the predator, my guess is Great Spotted Woodpecker which is a common resident on the meadow, though it could have been Magpie, Carrion Crow or even Sparrowhawk.

Grasses out include Meadow Foxtail, Cocksfoot and Tall Fescue. Creeping and Meadow Buttercups are also flowering. No sound of Whitethroat as yet.
A good lady was collecting litter in Palmer’s Road Copse, where a fellow was also doing us a good turn in removing some of the Crack Willow logs.
I managed to capture the image of a fly with spotted wings resting on a leaf near the river in Palmer’s Road Copse. I think is a Scorpion Fly – probably a female of a Panorpa species. It is so-called because the male abdomen is often up-turned like a scorpion’s tail, but it does not sting! The main diagnostic feature is the downward extension of the head to form a stout beak.

On the left is today’s fly and on the right is one I got a couple of years ago.

Wildlife observations during workday
Several butterflies were noted during Wally’s transect, including Speckled Wood, Small White, Orange Tip, Holly Blue and Small Tortoiseshell. So far this year a total of 9 species of butterfly have been recorded on Brook Meadow.
I photographed a ginger Bumblebee, probably Bombus pascuorum, feeding on the apple blossom on the Lillywhite’s patch near Gooseberry Cottage.
Flowers showing well at the moment include Common Comfrey (purple flowers on the river bank), Cuckooflowers (general), Ribwort Plantain (north meadow) and Garlic Mustard.

I checked on the Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca) on the Lumley area as I needed to eliminate the possibility of Carnation Sedge which is also glaucous and grows in this type of habitat. However, the Brook Meadow sedge has two indications of Glaucous: 1. the leaves are dull green above and glaucous beneath whereas in Carnation Sedge both side are glaucous; 2. the points of the leaves are rounded, whereas they would be three-side in Carnation.
Greater Pond Sedge and Distant Sedge are also showing well on the Lumley area, but there is no sign of False Fox Sedge as yet.

Pendulous Sedge is now well in flower along the path through Palmer’s Road Copse. I hope the group do not cut this attractive plant again under the belief that this will discourage it. It won’t.
The two remaining Black Poplar trees, three of which were originally planted in November 2004 in memory of Frances Jannaway’s mother, make a fine vista with new leaves, from the area near the seat.

The green female catkins are now showing well on the Crack Willows around the meadow. All the Crack Willows on the meadow are females.
Here are some of the logs from the Western Balsam Poplar that was felled in Palmer’s Road Copse by tree surgeons yesterday. I think the brown showing in the cut logs indicates the disease that the trees were felled for.
I am still looking out for Water Voles, but with no success. However, though there are several likely looking holes on the banks of the Lumley Stream, but they are probably all old ones.

I had a close look around the Lumley area where I found a good number of tufts of Distant Sedge in flower for the first time this year. The most surprising find was several plants of Glaucous Sedge in the centre of the Lumley area – for the first time ever on Brook Meadow. The most distinctive feature of this sedge is its greyish green leaves.
Distant Sedge . . . . . . Glaucous Sedge

I must admit I usually associate Glaucous Sedge with chalk grassland, like Portsdown Hill, though I see from Rose’s book (“Grasses, Sedges, Rushes and Ferns”) that it is also common in meadows and fens, so it is not entirely unexpected on Brook Meadow. Looking through my records I see that Glaucous Sedge was also recorded during a HBIS Survey in Sept 2006 by Joel Miller. However, since it had not been seen by anyone since then I I had removed it from the records.
Addendum:  Could the Glaucous Sedge be Carnation Sedge?

Tree surgery
I spoke to the Cedar Tree Surgeons (contracted to Havant Borough Council) who were trimming off branches overhanging Palmer’s Road Car Park. It seemed a strange time in the year to do this with birds nesting nearby.

Their main task was to fell the very tall Western Balsam Poplar tree close to the entrance to Palmer’s Road Copse. They explained the tree was rotten inside and had to be felled as it was unsafe with the car park and footpath so close. There are, in fact, four other Western Balsam Poplar trees in the copse, all with very tall straight trunks.
Western Balsam Poplar in centre to be felled

Wildlife guided walk on Brook Meadow
I led a guided walk on the meadow this morning attended by nine people, including Faith Ponsonby (Mayor of Havant) who organised the walk. We met in Palmer’s Road Car Park where I pointed out the Brook Meadow interpretation board with the lovely painting of the meadow and its wildlife by local artist Marian Forster.

I did a fairly quick tour around the meadow, starting at the south bridge where I found the first Herb-Robert in flower.

We looked for Trout, but none was in view. We went through the south meadow and then onto the causeway from where we had a fine view across the main grassland. The group were impressed with the greening Willows and and the two tall Black Poplar trees. One member correctly identified the Butterbur. We carried to the north meadow where I pointed out the Rowan plantation and the orchid area.

We went across the north bridge to see the group’s tool store.

I stopped from time to time during the walk to point out wildlife of interest and answer questions. We heard several Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs singing. We saw lots of Ladybirds on the nettles and a Nursery-web spider which I took a photo of.

I distributed Brook Meadow Conservation Group leaflets to everyone at the end.

I had a walk through the meadow this morning, much chillier than yesterday. I put two new ‘Brook Meadow in Spring’ displays in the signcases, one about Ragged Robin and one about summer bird visitors.
I managed to get nice shots of male and female Blackcaps ‘flirting’ in the trees on the west bank near the old gasholder site. I was not quick enough to capture them together.

I did manage to get a photo of the nesting pair of Long-tailed Tits together near their nest. I think they were aware of my presence, so I did not stay any longer than necessary for the photo. I think it is best not to publicise the exact site at present.

Walking down the main river path I could not resist sharing with you a view of the river south of the S-bend.

It was here I spotted the first Cocksfoot spike of the year on the meadow.

From the south bridge I spotted a small Brown Trout swimming in the river, not up to the standards of Malcolm Phillips, but I was pleased with it.

MONDAY APRIL 10 – 2017
I spent the morning preparing the displays for the signcases and then went over to the meadow in the afternoon to update the three cases. It went well though I was variously interrupted/delayed by people and wildlife, but that was fine.
As for wildlife I spotted this ginger Bumblebee feeding on White Dead-nettle. It could be a queen Bombus pascuorum. B. hypnorum is possible, though I did not see a white tail which this species would have.

I pondered over the Pond Sedges growing at the top of the river bank next to the dead hedging. I had not seen them this far up the bank before, but I am sure they are the same species as grows on the river side immediately below them, ie Lesser Pond Sedge. I checked on the Pendulous Sedge that is in flower along the riverside path in Palmer’s Road Copse, but the spikes of that plant are hanging and quite different from the river bank ones. Lesser Pond Sedge . . . . . . . . Pendulous Sedge

I checked the Long-tailed Tit nest which Mike Wells told me about last week. It is still intact and I saw a bird entering it while I was there. The entrance hole can be clearly seen in the photo.

Two large Crack Willows have been felled in Palmer’s Road Copse. They were old and unsafe and too close to the public footpath for comfort. The work was done by Council contractors.

I met Mike Wells at Slipper Millpond who told me he had just seen a pair of Long-tailed Tits building a nest on Brook Meadow. We both went over to the meadow where Mike showed me the nest which was on a tree in the south meadow, but he asked me not to publicise the exact location of the nest so as to prevent disturbance. Good point. I will keep on eye on the nest as it could easily be predated by Magpies or Crows. Here is a selection of the photos that Mike took of the nesting activity.

I had a pleasant stroll through Brook Meadow this morning. Sunny, but still with a chill wind. Lots of bird song. I counted 6 Blackcaps (2 in Palmer’s Road Copse, 1 by Lumley gate, 1 in Lumley copse, 1 on the west side of the north meadow and 1 in the brambles close to the north path) and 2 Chiffchaffs. Others heard included Wren, Robin, Great Tit, Woodpigeon and Stock Dove.
I found a fine Cow Parsley in full flower by the observation fence in Palmer’s Road Copse and further along the path the first Spanish Bluebells. Brown spikelets of Lesser Pond Sedge are out on the river bank below the south bridge.
There are several promising-looking holes in the east bank of the Lumley Stream, viewable from the casual path down to the stream from the Lumley area. But no sign of any Water Vole activity.

A white butterfly was fluttering around on the Lumley area. I managed to get a quick shot of it when it came to rest on the ground. Its white wings would seem to indicate a male Small White, the first brood of which in spring may have pure white wings with no marking. I also had a beautiful Small Tortoiseshell on the north meadow, probably the same insect that I saw here on Sunday.

I also spotted a Harlequin Ladybird in this area – my first of the year. There were several 7-spots about.

There are lots of Goat Willows with female catkins on the east side of the north meadow behind the cutting tip.

I had my first Distant Sedge of the year, not on the Lumley area where I was expecting to see it, but on the north edge of the orchid area. Grasses are starting to flower. I noted both Meadow Foxtail (photo below) and Tall Fescue were out on the north meadow.

I spoke to the Norse litter collector loaded up with bags praising him for doing a good job. He was standing in for our regular litter man – William the black chap – who was off today.

I had a look around the Lumley area for any signs of sedges. I did find the first brown spikes of Greater Pond Sedge which continue to spread across this area – see left side photo below. There are also many spikes of Divided Sedge – the earliest I have ever recorded them on the meadow. The silvery leaves of Silverweed continue to develop, though the flowers will not be out yet.

Walking down the new path on the east side of the south meadow created by the flood defence work around the Gooseberry Cottage garden, I came across several fresh plants of Wintercress with flower buds not yet open, but I am not sure what variety of Wintercress.

A couple of Comma butterflies were chasing each other around the Lumley area. I managed to get a quick shot of one, showing its distinctive ‘comma’ on the underwing. I also spotted this 7-spot Ladybird sunning itself.

The weather was cloudy, but otherwise fine. The paths on the meadow are drying out nicely and boots are not needed. Here are a few observations with photos.  I looked closely at the various leaves that are now coming up, including Broad-leaved Dock, Bristly Ox-tongue (left in photo) and Spear Thistle (right).

I gather the red spots and blotches on the dock leaves are caused by a fungus.

There is a fine blossom on the Cherry Plum on the causeway almost forming an archway with the yellow Gorse.

The long brown catkins on the Alders are now ripe and looking very good, hanging like decorations.

The small bright red  male Alder catkins which will develop into cones are also prominent.

On the east side of the north meadow, the Osier male catkins are already showing some yellow pollen.

Several quite well grown Butterbur spikes are now up in the area below the seat.

Lesser Celandines are now popping up around the meadow, a real sign of spring. Snowdrops are flowering along the Lumley Path, probably garden escapes.


For earlier wildlife news go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news/wildlife-news-2016/

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