** WILDLIFE BLOG 2021 **

in reverse chronological order
Edited by Brian Fellows


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

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

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


THURSDAY MAY 6 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I checked the Raspberry which is prominent on the east side of the main river path   It is important that the group do not inadvertantly cut this during work sessions.
The small metallic blue Alder Leaf Beetles (Agelastica aini). are back on the solitary Alder sapling on the Lumley area. These leaves are already well nibbled, but I think we should let nature take its course.  They do not have any great effect on the tree.

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


WEDNESDAY MAY 5 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I am fairly sure that the mystery twigs with catkins like strings of miniature Brussels sprouts that I found on the path through Palmer’s Road Copse yesterday are from the tall Western Balsam Poplar trees.

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


WEDNESDAY APRIL 28 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Botanist have confirmed that the mystery plants that have popped up in the south east corner of the south meadow are Great Yellow-cress (Rorippa amphibia). I would estimate about 100 spikes of are currently showing next to a clump of Yellow Flag and close to the Environment Agency flood barrier.

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

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

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

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


TUESDAY APRIL 27 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Glaucous Sedge is now out in the centre of the Lumley area. It is immediately recognisable from its greyish leaves and is quite different from the nearby dense tufts of Distant Sedge.   I marked some with a stick for Dan though they are widespread.   Here’s a photo I got a couple of years ago.
Cetti’s Warbler called from the Lumley Stream by the Lumley area. This is the 3rd hearing of Cetti’s Warbler on Brook Meadow  this spring.
Male Blackcap holding territory in the south east corner of the south meadow. There are at least three Blackcaps singing on Brook Meadow.
A Comma flew through Palmer’s Road Copse.
Yet more Creeping Buttercups in flower on the old Bramble path by the Gooseberry Cottage garden. It will soon be taking over from Lesser Celandines in other areas.
I had a mooch around the now dry south east corner of the south meadow. I found some Divided Sedge, though not in the quantity of the Lumley area. One Cuckooflower is holding out. I am still puzzling over the mat of green leaved plants which I thought were Brooklime but I am now not so sure. They could be Water Mint, though the minty smell is not strong. There are also a number of puzzling fern-like plants pushing up in this area. I shall need to wait to determine what exactly they are.


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

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

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


THURSDAY APRIL 22 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I met Dan Mortimer on the Lumley area as arranged at 11.30 to show him the 4 sedges found so far, namely Divided Sedge, Distant Sedge, Greater Pond Sedge and Lesser Pond Sedge (this latter being on the river bank).   I also pointed out the leaves of Sharp-flowered Rush and Hard Rush, also prominent on the Lumley area. Dan took samples of all these for his plant manual. We also found Distant Sedge on the main orchid area on the north meadow.
It was good to see the Cowslips on the Lumley area which Dan had previously told me about but which I had overlooked – a first for Brook Meadow. Dan has marked them with a stick. I wonder how they got here?
It was a warm morning and we saw 5 species of butterfly: Small Tortoiseshell (my first of the year), Peacock, Brimstone, Small White and Orange Tip.

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


WEDNESDAY APRIL 21 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Lesser Pond Sedge is well developed and in flower on the river bank south of the S-bend.
Lots of leaves of Sharp-flowered Rush on the Lumley area: bright green rounded leaves with well spaced inner horizontal ridges which can be felt be running one’s finger nail down the leaf.
Tufts of Distant Sedge (Carex distans) are now widespread on the Lumley area. Distant Sedge only has one (rarely two) male spikelets at the top of the stem whereas the similar Glaucous Sedge (Carex flacca) usually has 1-3 male spikelets.

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


MONDAY APRIL 19 – 2021
Brook Meadow

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

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


SATURDAY APRIL 17 – 2021
Peter Milinets-Raby visits Emsworth
Peter Milinets-Raby had a family walk around Emsworth this afternoon and got a host of very interesting sightings (as he always does!).
While on Brook Meadow he saw a Buzzard and 2 Ravens flying overhead. This is the first ever Raven sighting for Brook Meadow!   Peter also heard the resident Green Woodpecker plus a Chiffchaff and 3 Blackcaps.
He managed to catch the Mute Swan off her nest on Peter Pond and spied 5 eggs. He also noted a pair of Coot with 2 tiny chicks.
During my regular morning walk I happened to meet David Gattrell as he was cleaning rubbish out of the Lumley Pool. He told me he’d heard Reed Warbler on the pond. But no sign of any Water Voles. However, he did see some large Trout and an Eel.   David thinks the Swan’s nest may be safe from Fox attacks this year as there is a deep channel between the bank and the nest site which s Fox is unlikely to cross.
Over on Slipper Millpond Peter got a shot of the two Great Black-backed Gulls on the centre raft with one bird seemingly sitting on a nest beneath the wire netting.   It will be interesting to see what progress they make in such difficult conditions.

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

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

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


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

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

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


FRIDAY APRIL 9 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The tall straight trunks of remaining four Western Balsam Poplar trees are now showing up very clearly following the pollarding of the Willows along the eastern edge of Palmer’s Road Car Park. Originally there were five Western Balsam Poplars, but one was felled in 2017.
It was good to see fresh green leaves on the young Elms near the footbridge to the north of Peter Pond. Sadly, these trees will never reach maturity as they are affected by Dutch Elm Disease. Affected Elms only survive about 10-15 years.
The first Oak buds are bursting on young tree on the east side of the north meadow. They are a bit later than usual.
The only butterflies seen today were Peacock and Small White. We should soon be having Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Holly Blue.
Several 7-spot Ladybirds were out on the nettle leaves along the main path.
I also spotted this Drone Fly on a Lesser Celandine flower.

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

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

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


WEDNESDAY APRIL 7 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The interpretation board at the Seagull Lane entrance to Brook Meadow was surrounded by an attractive flowering of Blackthorn blossom. What a fine  entrance to the Brook Meadow reserve.
I waved a ‘Hello’ to two young girls who were having a picnic on the Lumley area. A bit chilly for a picnic, but they were still there when I returned.
A Cetti’s Warbler singing from the Lumley pool – the first one of the year on Brook Meadow.

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


SUNDAY APRIL 4 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Two Blackcaps and 2 Chiffchaffs heard singing on the meadow, from the north path and from Lumley copse. I managed to get a photo of the Blackcap in song surrounded by golden pussy willows on the edge of Lumley copse.
I distinctly heard the churr of a Greenfinch near the Lumley gate, a rare sound indeed these days.
Red flowers are now opening on the large Ash tree on the railway embankment – later than last year.
The first flower spike of Meadow Foxtail grass is now out on the north meadow. Also a bit later than last year.


SATURDAY APRIL 3 – 2021
Brook Meadow
3-4pm Two Chiffchaffs singing, one in north-east corner and other in Palmer’s Road Copse. No Blackcap heard today. They are a bit late this year.
One of the Snake’s head Fritillary flowers in the cut round area on the north meadow has been trodden on, leaving just one on show! There’s no hope for the rest!
I saw a Peacock butterfly struggling in the cold wind. It came to rest partially hidden in grasses
Greater Periwinkle is in flower below the south bridge. The first Spanish Bluebells are now out in Palmer’s Road Copse.
I met my friend Brian Lawrence in Palmer’s Road Copse taking a photo of a Blue Tit entering the nest box on the tall tree by the signcase. Blue Tits often nest in this box.
I had a look for the dead Fox that Lesley Harris discovered in Palmer’s Road Copse during her litter picking session last Thursday. I found the creature still in remarkably good condition and eerily with its eyes open. You might almost think it was alive!
The Fox is located about 20 feet to the right of the central path into the copse in a dip behind a knarled Crack Willow tree about 10 feet from the car park.
Finally, Jennifer Rye e-mailed to say she had seen a 2 foot long Pike in the river below the south bridge this afternoon. This may be a very fine fish but it is also a serious predator of other wildlife in the river, including Trout and any possible Water Voles.   I wonder why I have seen so few Brown Trout this year?
Here’s a shot of a large Pike taken on the River Ems by Mike Wells a couple of years ago. It could be the same one?


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


THURSDAY APRIL 1 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The first Ground-ivy flowers of the year are now out at the far end of the Seagull Lane patch. As far as I am aware, this is the only place they grow on the Brook Meadow site.
I could not resist stopping to photograph a lovely Red Dead-nettle flower – orchid like.

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


WEDNESDAY MARCH 31 – 2021
Butterbur count
Dan Mortimer and I carried out the annual count of Butterbur flower spikes this morning from11am to 1pm. Dan had already collected several long Willow sticks left over from the last work session which we used to mark out sections in the main count area below the seat. The flower spikes in this area were far more extensive than last year and we had to mark 10 sections.   Here is a view of the main Butterbur area below the main seat.

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

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

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

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

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


SATURDAY MARCH 27 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I was pleased to hear my first Blackcap of the year on Brook Meadow from the south meadow near the Gooseberry Cottage hedge. Also a Chiffchaff was singing in the north west corner.
I also found a couple of flowers of the Snake’s head Fritillary on the area on the north meadow where volunteers planted 45 bulbs on Sept 17th last year.  However, I doubt there will be many more coming up as the area has been badly trampled during the lockdown.


THURSDAY MARCH 25 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I was greeted as usual by the sound of the Green Woodpecker yaffling from the east side of the north meadow. A little later I got a good view of the bird perched in the large Crack Willow tree east of the wild flower area but just missed a photo as it flew off in typical bounding flight.   The Green Woodpecker is certainly the bird of this spring on Brook Meadow. Here is a photo of a male Green Woodpecker taken by Tony Wootton a few years ago.
Blackthorn is now in full flower in the Seagull Lane patch hedgerow.
There are no flowers on the large Ash tree of the railway embankment which we did have last year. Maybe the tree is in trouble, though the black buds look OK.
Dan’s Wild Garlic (Ramsons) in the north-east corner are starting to flower.
Green female catkins are out on the Goat Willow on the east side of the north meadow. The yellow male catkins are also out on the Osiers on the east side of the orchid area.

The Rowans are sprouting.


WEDNESDAY MARCH 24 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Approaching the Brook Meadow reserve from Palmer’s Road Car Park, I was interested to see a small cluster of about 12 white flowering Sweet Violets at the northern entrance to the reserve near the recycling bins. I have seen them before at this spot at this time of the year.
There is a fine clump of Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) in full flower on the flooded river bank. The bell like flowers of this plant have petals with a green spot at the tip. It is badly misnamed as the plant always flowers in spring not summer. This is scarce as a native plant, but far more common as a garden escape which is the origin of this plant. But that’s fine as it is now well established in the wild.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


SATURDAY MARCH 20 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Spring flowers on the Seagull Lane patch: Ivy-leaved Speedwell and Red Dead-nettle by the hedgerow and Cow Parsley on the lane side of the hedge.

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

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

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


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

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

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


WEDNESDAY MARCH 17 – 2021
New signcase displays
This afternoon Dan Mortimer collected the newly prepared signcase display boards from my house.  I had made some changes to the boards from the previous updates:  I painted the background yellow – appropriate for the spring season and I also changed the overall layout of the displays with more pictures and less text.  Below is a photo of the new display for the north gate for example.  The other two boards are larger, with similar layouts.

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

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

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

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


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

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


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


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

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


MONDAY MARCH 1 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Entering by the Seagull Lane gate, I was welcomed by the yaffling call of a Green Woodpecker from the east side of the north meadow.   I have heard this bird on most visits over the past couple of weeks.  It seems well settled.
I was alerted to look skywards by the distinctive calls of Buzzards. Looking up I was delighted to see four Buzzards soaring overhead – the most I have ever seen at one time over the meadow.    Buzzards used to nest locally on Lumley Mill Farm. Alternatively these could be from Hollybank Woods or even Stansted Forest. I pointed my camera skywards and luckily got a shot of the four birds – you can actually see they are Buzzards!
Responding to yesterday’s report by Susan Kelly of a Harvest Mouse in the bushes near the Lumley gate, Pam Phillips also saw a Harvest Mouse (probably the same one ) yesterday high on her Pyracanthus outside the back gate. I had a look around that area this morning, but saw no sign of the Mouse. However, it is in the area so I would appreciate any other sightings with, if possible, a photo!


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


SATURDAY FEBRUARY 27 – 2021
Harvest Mouse
Susan Kelly was watching some birds in a tree at the Lumley entrance to Brook Meadow when she noticed a Harvest Mouse climbing around in the bare branches of the neighbouring tree, about five feet over her head. The trunk was swathed in ivy and brambles, which explains how it got so high. It made off with a fossilized blackberry, then disappeared in the ivy. We do occasionally find Harvest Mouse nests on the meadow, but rarely see an actual animal! Well spotted Susan.
Malcolm Phillips managed to get this photo of a Harvest Mouse on Brook Meadow  in 2014.


FRIDAY FEBRUARY 26 – 2021
Brook Meadow
A sunny and warm day – almost spring like but for a chill in the air.
There is an interesting wigwam type structure in the north-east corner constructed from tree cuttings.
I had my first male Brimstone of the year flying past me on the north meadow – wonderful!
Lots of Lesser Celandines flowering around the meadow along with a few Dandelions.
Lungwort is still flowering well on the causeway. Plenty of flowers on the Cherry Plum tree, but not yet in full blossom.
The first pink flowers of Butterbur are now showing on the area below the seat.


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


THURSDAY FEBRUARY 25 – 2021
Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn
It was good to see the famous Spotted Redshank feeding among the seaweed at Nore Barn this morning at 12.30pm – about 2½ hours after high water. It was feeding alone, no sign of the colour-ringed Greenshank anywhere. These two birds usually, but not always, feed together. I could not resist getting a few photos and a video clip of the Spotted Redshank to add to several hundred I have in my files.
Video clip . . . .

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

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

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


WEDNESDAY FEBRUARY 24 – 2021
Slipper Millpond
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls was on the as yet unnetted north raft when I passed by this morning. However, I fear the Pond Association will soon be covering this raft as well as the other two to prevent the large gulls nesting.   One can just discern a small collection of twiggy material to the right of the standing gull in the photo which might be the start of a nest. This is the time when nest building has begun in previous years, so watch this space!


MONDAY FEBRUARY 22 – 2021
Slipper Millpond
I was not surprised to find the centre raft had also been netted, like the south raft, to discourage the nesting of the Great Black-backed Gulls.

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


SUNDAY FEBRUARY 21 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Spring like weather on Brook Meadow this morning, such a change from the freezing conditions and strong winds of recent days. The birds were in good voice: a Green Woodpecker was yaffling from the east side, Robin singing everywhere, plus the occasional Wren, Great Tit and Woodpigeon. The first Primroses are just coming out on the north bank. Lesser Celandines struggling to open on the Butterbur area in front of the seat. There’s no sign of any flowers on the Butterbur spikes as yet, the frost must have slowed them down. Counting the Butterbur will be hard this year with lots of dead grasses and other plants strewn over the area. Lungwort is remarkably still in flower on the causeway despite the hard frosts. The first white blossom is now showing on the Cherry Plum on the causeway.

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

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


MONDAY FEBRUARY 15 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Spring like weather on Brook Meadow this morning, such a change from the freezing conditions and strong winds of recent days. The birds were in good voice: a Green Woodpecker was yaffling from the east side, Robin singing everywhere, plus the occasional Wren, Great Tit and Woodpigeon.
The first Primroses are just coming out on the north bank. Lesser Celandines struggling to open on the Butterbur area in front of the seat. There’s no sign of any flowers on the Butterbur spikes as yet, the frost must have slowed them down. Counting the Butterbur will be hard this year with lots of dead grasses and other plants strewn over the area.
Lungwort is remarkably still in flower on the causeway despite the hard frosts. The first white blossom is now showing on the Cherry Plum on the causeway – a bit later than usual.
Hermitage Millponds
Two pairs of Mute Swans are established on the two ponds, the regular nesting pair on Peter Pond and a new pair on Slipper Millpond. There is bound to be some friction between the two pairs before nesting. Here’s the Slipper Millpond pair.
The pair of Great Black-backed Gulls appear to have taken up residence on the centre raft. The south raft where the large gulls have nested for the past 4 years has been netted by the Association to prevent gulls nesting there, but the centre raft where they have nested in the past is not netted. It will be interesting to see what happens when/if the pair of Canada Geese which have nested on the centre raft return.

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

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


FRIDAY FEBRUARY 5 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The weather was fine and warm, spring like, for this morning’s walk through the meadow. The ground is still very wet and muddy with lots of large puddles requiring boots to negotiate.
I could not resist taking a photo or two of the hanging yellow Hazel catkins which adorn the hedgerow on the Seagull Lane patch. The tiny red female flowers are also visible.
I had a look around the main Butterbur site north of the main seat which is actually fairly dry. Once I had got my eye in I managed to find a good number (20+) of Butterbur spikes freshly emerging from the ground. This is fairly early for the spikes, though I have known them out in January.   They are quite hardy so will not be affected by the forecasted cold weather.
It will be interesting to see how well the Butterbur do this year as the area above the seat is heavily overgrown with last year’s grasses.
The weather was so warm that I actually sat on the seat briefly to admire our meadow glowing in the winter sunshine. Beautiful!


THURSDAY FEBRUARY 4 – 2021
Brook Meadow
There was fairly steady light rain/drizzle for my walk this morning. Entering by the Seagull Lane gate, I was pleasantly surprised to see Terry at work transplanting some of the young sucker Blackthorns that had popped up near the western hedgerow into the top of the river bank – a much more suitable spot for them, provided they take.
Terry also pointed out the hefty new ‘Mark 2’ Water Vole feeding platform which he had constructed from timber planks and with two Domestos bottles as floats. He and Dan will be installing it on the Lumley Stream to replace the old one which has fallen to bits. Let’s hope the Water Voles are taking note of all this activity and will make an appearance this coming year.
It was extremely wet and muddy on the main meadow, so I kept to the paths. I was pleased to see the first reddish-blue flowers of Lungwort (Pulmonaria officinalis) on the causeway near the Alder Buckthorn plantation.

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

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

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


For recent news on the Spotted Redshank at Nore Barn go to the special web page
http://familyfellows.com/x-spotted-redshank.htm


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

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


TUESDAY JANUARY 19 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The first Cow Parsley of the year is in flower on the north path on Brook Meadow.   The first of many.  We shall have to wait several weeks for the wonderful avenue of aromatic lace along the main river path.
I came across what looks like worn Dryad’s Saddle fungus high on an old pollarded Crack Willow tree on the edge of the car park.
Dryad’s Saddle emerges in spring-summer and rarely lasts through the winter.   I was too late with this specimen which is just hanging on and has lost all of the vigour of a fresh fungus.
Dan Mortimer also found a well worn Dryad’s Saddle on the ground by a tree opposite where he and Terry were building the raft in the river a few months ago by the South bridge. I will look for that one next time.
While in Palmer’s Road Copse I noticed that the nest box on the tall Lombardy Poplar tree by the south bridge was dislodged. This is one of the concrete boxes that the group installed in Palmer’s Road Copse many years ago. It would need a ladder to reach it. It could be a hazard to walkers if it fell.


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

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


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


THURSDAY JANUARY 14 – 2021
Brook Meadow
This morning I discovered another fungus growing on the rotting logs in the cleared area on the south meadow. This one is pure white and jelly-like to the touch. My first thought was a slime mould, but thanks to help from the Facebook group I can confirm that the fungus is  White Brain Fungus (Exidia thuretiana).   Shows best in wet weather in autumn and winter. Pure white when wet, drying to almost invisible. Occurs in most of Britain but in most areas it is uncommon.

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


WEDNESDAY JANUARY 13 – 2021
Brook Meadow
11.30-12.30 – Observations during this morning’s walk through the meadow.
Turkeytail fungi  (Trametes versicolor) – Small bracket fungi arranged in tiers on a large log on the side of the north path. This is a fairly common fungus on Brook Meadow.
Hazel catkins – are now open on the east side of the north meadow. Note the small red female flowers.
Disc Lichen (Lecidella elaeochroma)- I was interested to see that the lichen with lots of black spots on the young Ash trees is also present on the bark of the Rowans on the Gwynne Johnson plantation.

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


TUESDAY JANUARY 12 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Following up yesterday’s observation of the Japanese Spindle on the west bank just south of the north bridge, this afternoon I spotted several clusters of orange arils on the shrub. Arils are the fleshy covering that some trees create over their seeds. Yew berries are also arils.
Several of the Alder Buckthorn trees have a splendid growth of lichen on their trunks. There are two main species. 1. the pale green shrubby growth which grows widely on Willows in the Lumley copse – possibly Ramalina calicaris. 2. a fleshy blue-green lichen also widespread over the meadow – possibly Parmotrema perlata.
I also noticed plenty of mottled Lungwort leaves in the Alder Buckthorn area, probably from the regular plants on the causeway.
Another interesting find was a cluster of black finger-like fungi with white tips growing on one of the rotting logs on the cleared area in the south meadow. They could be Dead Man’s Finger, but the white tips are puzzling. The image closely resembles one called Holwaya mucida – no common name.
The fungi are on the nearer of the two logs


MONDAY JANUARY  11 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Good to meet up with Maurice Lillie who was doing a tree survey on the Seagull Lane patch.
At his request we had a look at the bushy green shrub on the far west bank of the river below the north bridge which I am fairly sure is Garden Privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium). This is as far as I am aware the only site for this plant on Brook Meadow. There is a small amount of Wild Privet (Ligustrum vulgare) growing in the hedgerow along the west side of Lumley Road opposite the house named ‘Argosy’.

We also noted the evergreen shrub Japanese Spindle (Euonymus japonicus). This distinctive evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves was first identified on Brook Meadow in 2011 with help from Ralph Hollins. In autumn it has bright orange arils, a bit like our native Spindle tree.   Japanese Spindle is an native to Japan, Korea and China, popular as an ornamental plant in UK and has a number of cultivars with variegated leaves.

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

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

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


FRIDAY JANUARY 8 – 2021
Brook Meadow
During this morning’s walk through the meadow I was pleased to meet up with Terry who, armed with a clipboard, was conducting a tree survey.

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

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

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

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


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

For Wildlife News Blog for 2020 go to . . .
https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/meadow-blog-2020/

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