Edited by Brian Fellows
in reverse chronological order
MONDAY FEBRUARY 15 – 2021
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.
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.
FRIDAY FEBRUARY 5 – 2021
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!
THURSDAY FEBRUARY 4 – 2021
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
FRIDAY JANUARY 29 – 2021
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.
THURSDAY JANUARY 21 – 2021
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.
TUESDAY JANUARY 19 – 2021
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.
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.
THURSDAY JANUARY 14 – 2021
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.
WEDNESDAY JANUARY 13 – 2021
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!
TUESDAY JANUARY 12 – 2021
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
MONDAY JANUARY 11 – 2021
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 elaeochroma – an 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.
FRIDAY JANUARY 8 – 2021
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
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 . . .