** WILDLIFE BLOG 2021 **

in reverse chronological order
Edited by Brian Fellows


MONDAY OCTOBER 18 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Small mammals were the main observations of interest during this morning’s mooch around Brook Meadow.
Moles are becoming active as they extend their burrows in preparation for winter. While walking the path round the back of the Rowan plantation I stopped to watch a Molehill actually rising. Mike Probert had similar experience recently.
I came across a couple of dead shrews. A Pygmy Shrew was on the path round the Lumley area and what I think was a Water Shrew – from its black coat and silvery white underparts – on the path through the south meadow.
Pygmy Shrew

Water Shrew

These tiny creatures are rarely seen on Brook Meadow and then almost always dead. We have several records of Pygmy Shrews over the years, the last one on 29-Jul last year by Debbie Robinson.   Water Shrews are much rarer and we have to go back to 30-Apr 2008 for our last definite sighting by Patrick Murphy of a dead one on the main river path.

While walking round the main meadow I busied myself listing late flowering plants of which I found 21 including 4 grasses.    Cow Parsley is now in flower on the main river path just south of the steps to Frank’s seat – it could be the first flowering of the new season.
Here is my list: Annual Meadow-grass Black Horehound   Bramble,   Bristly Ox-tongue Cocksfoot Common Comfrey Common Nettle Cow Parsley   Creeping Thistle Dandelion False Oat-grass, Hedge Bindweed Hemp Agrimony Hoary Ragwort Hogweed Large Bindweed Michaelmas Daisies Perennial Sow-thistle Tall Fescue White Dead-nettle Wild Angelica.

Someone has made an early start to workday jobs with  strimming of the river bank near the north bridge.   A good job well done.


WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 13 – 2021
Nore Barn
It was such a perfect morning for birdwatching, so cleaned up my old telescope and drove to Nore Barn where I was fortunate to get a space at the end of Warblington Road. Perfect. The only problem was the tide was right out so there were no birds!!
However, I enjoyed scanning across the mudflats and finally spotted my first Brent Geese of the year – about 50 of them flying over the far Emsworth channel.  Soon they will be assembling in big numbers in the harbour and along the shore line.  I look forward to their evocative grunting calls.  Here’s a flock in flight that I took a few years ago at Nore Barn.

PS There’s been no definite sighting of the famous Spotted Redshank as yet this year.  Its regular feeding companion the colour-ringed Greenshank is present and waiting for his friend the Spotted Redshank to turn up – for the 18th year running!!   There has been a Common Redshank in the stream area as a distraction so take care!

For full history of the famous Spotted Redshank see . . . http://familyfellows.com/x-spotted-redshank.htm

Leaving the scope in the car, I had a walk through the woods where Jackdaws were seemingly everywhere, calling loudly, ‘jack, jack, jack’.   This fits with reports on the HOS Going Birding site where Andy Johnson and others have recorded large flocks of several hundred Jackdaws flying over the Hayling Island area in the last few days and these must be some of them. They must be on migration.
I had a quick look around the large field to the north of the path to Warblington Church where the big crop of Sweet Corn has been harvested. I found a good growth of Redshank and what smelt like Scented Mayweed around the edge.

The yellow flowers of Autumn Hawkbit were dotted around the fields west of the Nore Barn Woods, single stemmed and close to the ground.
Coming back along the path north of the woods I came across a very nice patch of Hairy Garlic (Allium subhirsutum) which I was not expecting close to the wire fence near the western end of the path. There always used to be a patch of Hairy Garlic at the other end of the path closer to the town, but that disappeared years ago. Its lush green and hairy leaves are quite distinctive.   This is a fairly rare plant in the local area and one which Ralph Hollins always used to get quite excited about.

I stopped to take photos of some Black Bryony on the main hedgerow with its trailing strings of red berries and still glossy leaves.


SUNDAY OCTOBER 10 – 2021
Hedgehogs in garden
I have been putting out Hedgehog food on a small tray on the patio in our back garden over the summer and autumn.     I position the trail camera pointing at the food tray and have been delighted at the variety of visitors I get. As well as Hedgehogs and the inevitable cats, I sometimes get a young Red Fox and a Wood Mouse.
Over the past couple of weeks I have been regularly getting a couple of Hedgehogs each night and am getting to know them well. They arrive just after dark (about 7pm) and stay around for most of the night on and off up to about 3am. They come down a narrow passage at the side of the house onto the patio. I reckon they wander around the garden when off camera.
I am fairly sure they are mother and hoglet. The hoglet has a mark on its side is always submissive in the presence of the adult mother.   For a short period I had the male (father), mother and hoglet together on camera, but there has been no sign of the male for a few weeks. I gather this is normal as the male takes no part in caring for the young.

Video clip of mother and hoglet taken yesterday . . . https://youtu.be/77Tu6zeKcBw

Here’s a male Hedgehog taken on 24-Sep-2021 . . . https://youtu.be/BzTBnqNMOIg

Video clip of Red Fox in garden on 05-Oct-2021 . . . https://youtu.be/lznoefwyVOw

An earlier visit from the same Fox?  . . . https://youtu.be/593xgggOmU0


FRIDAY OCTOBER 8 – 2021
Nore Barn
Prompted by Anne de Potier’s sighting of the regular colour-ringed Greenshank at Nore Barn yesterday I decided to go over there this morning by about 11am to check out the stream for possible Spotted Redshank. The tide was rising to high water at about 13.30 and conditions were good, calm water, no sun and tide rising. The first Spotted Redshank last year was at Nore Barn on this very day last year – seen by Susan Kelly.
As I expected the colour-ringed Greenshank G+GL was showing very well in the stream, but was feeding all alone. There was no sign of its regular feeding companion the Spotted Redshank.  The Greenshank’s rings show up well in these photos: Left leg green with red on the ‘ankle’.  Right leg: green over lime.

Here’s a link to a short video clip of the Greenshank in the stream . . . https://youtu.be/mMXctFMHqJ8

I stayed for about an hour but nothing else turned up apart from a Common Redshank on the edge of the saltmarshes. This Redshank is another regular on the stream and is easily mistaken for the Spotted Redshank particularly by non-birders.
It was good to stop for a chat with Chris Berners-Price and his wife Lyn walking their dog near the stream. Chris tells me he’s given up driving the Solar Boat after 17 years and intends to spend more time sailing his own boat!   He is still hoping to see the Goshawk in Southleigh Forest. He promised to keep in touch if he sees the Spotted Redshank. We will keep our fingers crossed for the return of our famous and well loved bird to Emsworth for the 18th year running.
For the full history of our famous Spotted Redshank please go to . . . http://familyfellows.com/x-spotted-redshank.htm

Warblington
From Nore Barn I drove over to Warblington Church to check on the Glossy Ibis in the large field east of the cemetery extension. There was no sign of the Ibis, but I was interested to see some Burdock plants with seed heads in flat-topped clusters. These are probably Greater Burdock (Articium lappa); the heads of Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus) would arranged along the stems not clustered at the top as in Greater.
I was pleased to meet up with Peter Milinets-Raby when I got back to the Warblington car park. Peter had just completed a  round birding walk from Warblington to Langstone and back. He told me I had just missed the Glossy Ibis which was in the farm field at 11.30, but flew off to Langstone where it settled in the flooded pony field in company with Teal. Peter thinks the Ibis will probably remain as there as it is a good food source.


WEDNESDAY OCTOBER 6 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Nice sunny morning for a walk through the meadow. A Peacock butterfly rested on Brambles on the north meadow in warm sunshine, but it did not reveal its brightly coloured upper wings, only its dark underwings.
A male Common Darter perched on the handrail of the footbridge north of Peter Pond. They love bridges and handrails, presumably because of the warmth.

Bank Voles
Dan Mortimer called to me to stop as I was passing his house on Lumley Road. He was excited to show me a video on his phone that he got of some small mammals underneath one of the reptile mats on the north meadow.   I could not see them clearly enough for identification on the video, but decided to have a look at them myself on my way home. With my camera at the ready I lifted the mat gingerly and, hey presto, two tiny voles ran across the space. I managed to get some quick shots of one of them as shown here. From its chestnut brown coat, prominent ears and relatively long tail this must be a Bank Vole. A Field Vole would have a greyish coat and shorter tail.
Later Dan provided the following still from the video showing 3 voles.

There was also a small nest of dried grass under the mat. In line with their name Bank Voles often nest in holes in a bank, although these voles clearly found the corrugated ridges of the mat a good substitute.
Bank Voles are most likely permanent residents of Brook Meadow, though they are rarely seen. Our last sighting was in 2016 when Malcolm Phillips got a photo of one near the south bridge. Here is Malcolm’s photo.

Dan’s sighting was the first I am aware of successful breeding of Bank Voles on Brook Meadow. Bank Voles are highly productive breeders, having up to 5 litters each year with 4 or 5 babies in each one. However, most of the young are lost to predators or just die before they reach maturity. Their diet consists of seeds, berries, nuts, fruit and green plants.


TUESDAY OCTOBER 5 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I had a really enjoyable walk through the meadow this morning. The ground was surprisingly dry despite last night’s heavy rain, except for puddles in the usual places. It was good to see all the litter bins emptied. Many thanks to Robert our Council litter man.

I started off on the recently cleared Seagull Lane patch, such a pleasure!

All the planted Oaks look healthy apart from the Mayor’s Oak (the first of the small ones) which has had very sparse leaves this year.  This is in sharp contrast to Brian’s tree (the second one) which has a very good growth of leaves. Interestingly, this latter tree retains its leaves over winter (called marcescence) though I am not sure if this is relevant to summer leaf growth.   Jean’s Oak at the north end of the patch is the smallest of the three and a bit lopsided at the top, but otherwise looks OK.   PS Jean’s tree was smaller than the others when planted.

Mayor’s Oak                                                        Brian’s Oak

Jeans’ Oak
This year all the Pedunculate Oaks have been plagued by leaf galls which look bad, though I am assured they do no harm to the long term health of the trees. Interestingly, Tony’s Red Oak which is native to North America is unaffected and the leaves are perfectly clear of any galls. Clearly, there is a ecological relationship between our native Oak and the galls and they do not fancy the American tree.
There are very few acorns on the trees.   Many have already dropped and some are diseased. Definitely a poor year.
I found at least three sprigs of Hornbeam growing in the hedgerow.   Were these included in the original planting?  Also, in the hedgerow young pale Hazel catkins are out but not yet open. This should occur before Christmas maybe.

The Slow-worm has gone from mat No 5. No other mat sightings this morning.

I happened to meet Kathy who told me that Joey Scanlon of HBC will be coming to inspect the fallen Crack Willow tree on the north river. Meanwhile, the north path is perfectly clear for walking, thanks to sterling work of Kathy and Debi on Sunday’s workday.
The fallen tree has created a splendid tangle of branches, twigs and leaves. The main trunk hangs over the river, but is not blocking the flow.
One of the leaves of the Lesser Burdock by the steps in the north-east corner has been completely stripped by what I don’t know, but I suspect snails.   Meanwhile, the burrs stand up tall but are best given a wide berth as they can be a devil to get off your clothing.

Fresh grass flowers are now coming up particularly on the northern part of the north meadow including Cocksfoot, False Oat-grass and Tall Fescue. We often get a new flowering of grasses at this time of the year.

False Oat-grass                                                            Tall Fescue

I had a look around the southern mown area on the north meadow where I was stopped in my tracks by a superb Small Copper butterfly with bright orange wings spotted black, nestling in the long grasses.   As it is so fresh this butterfly is likely to be one from a late 3rd or 4th brood. Small Copper is regular on Brook Meadow each year, though never more than one at a time. Its eggs are laid on Common Sorrel and Dock of which we have plenty on the meadow!  The only other butterfly I saw this morning was a Red Admiral. They have been so common this year.

I always take the path around the back of the Gwynne Johnson Rowan plantation to admire the wonderful display of bright red berries which adorn the trees. Some of the trees have already been stripped of their berries by local birds and the rest will be gone come winter.   But what a show!
I stopped to examine the leaves on the tall Haskins Aspen tree south of the Rowan plantation. The leaves are attached by long slender stalks (petioles), which are laterally flattened allowing the leaves to tremble in the breeze. I am still a bit concerned with the health of this tree, though it has done OK this year.
A cluster of Cyclamen in flower has come up in the same place as last year – on the side of the path south of the Haskins Aspen. They were clearly planted at this spot, but if they come up each year so much the better!
There was a stunning Hornet mimic hoverfly on the flower head of Hogweed – what a beautiful insect and totally harmless!

Michaelmas Daisies are just starting to flower on the east side of the Lumley area near the Lumley Stream. The flowers are attractive to late flying insects so it’s worth while keeping an eye on them over the next couple of weeks.
There’s a good patch of Hard Rush on the centre meadow north of the red-leaved Cherry Plum tree. The stems are thin and straight and have ridges which can easily be felt with your finger nail. They will flower next spring and summer.
The tall seed pods of Greater Plantain are now very prominent around the meadow. They are often referred to as rat’s tails for obvious reasons.


MONDAY OCTOBER 4 – 2021
Seagull Lane patch
This morning I had a walk around the Seagull Lane patch which is looking very smart after the clearance of excess grass and other vegetation by volunteers during yesterday’s work session. The young Oaks stand out handsomely and the hedgerow is also taking shape though there is more work to be done.
This set me thinking how good it would be if this patch was like this all the year round and not covered in rampant head high vegetation as it is for much of the year.   It needs fairly regular mowing through early summer to late autumn to keep the large plants under control.  With the power scythe closely accessible this should not be too difficult to arrange?   It should then be possible to view the young Oaks as proper trees and also to examine them closely without having to wade through masses of nettles, brambles and bindweed. These trees are our pride and joy and surely should not be hidden away as they are at present for half the year!!
Such a policy of regular clearance would also provide ready access to tend to the hedgerow. More importantly, regular mowing would provide a decent habitat for the development of small wild flowers which at present do not get a chance once the jungle of brambles, nettles and bindweed get moving.  That could be really exciting!!

Slow-worm
I often check the reptile mats if I pass one on my walk and today I was pleased to find a Slow-worm snugly curled up under mat No. 5 on the Seagull Lane patch. I took a quick photo before replacing the mat; it did not move and was not disturbed. The dark stripe down its back suggests it is a female.

Butterbur leaves
The huge leaves of Butterbur which cover the main meadow below the seat are being nibbled and wilting, collecting Willow leaves in attractive patterns as they fall.

Ichneumon wasp?
David Search comments on the photo taken on Brook Meadow yesterday:
David says . . . “Your photo certainly looks like Hymenoptera and perhaps Ichneumonidae but could be a different family. It’s another example of another very difficult group to identify and that’s with having a specimen to hand. There’s something like 2,400 species in the British Isles and in many cases, there isn’t the ID material available. I have just one species from this family that I identified from the meadow but was fortunate that I had the material.”

Tufted Ducks on Slipper Millpond
While walking over the Hermitage Bridge I was interested to see four Tufted Ducks swimming and diving in Slipper Millpond – the first of the winter. Tufted Duck used to be common on the town millpond in winter but I have not seen any there for some years. Let’s hope for a good Tufted Duck winter!   They are delightful diving birds, males black and white, females brown. All with prominent tufts on the back of their heads.  The light was not too good today, but the shape is unmistakable.


TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 21 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Here’s a few observations from this morning’s mooch around the meadow. Lovely warm autumn weather continues.
The north river is flower very nicely with a steady stream of water producing a gentle rippling sound as it runs over the pebbles in the river bed. Let’s hope this continues in the future.
John Millard of Greening Westbourne is certainly optimistic in view of the Environment Agency’s plans to review Portsmouth Water’s pumping licence from the River Ems.
For more details go to . . . Greening Westbourne Campaign

I noticed some grasses freshly flowering around the meadow including Cocksfoot, False Oat-grass, Tall Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass, Wall Barley and Annual Meadow-grass. This fresh burst of life from grasses is usual in the autumn.

I stopped to admire the hanging panicles of Tall Fescue and Giant Fescue on the centre meadow.

There’s a fresh growth of Hard Rush on the centre meadow north of the Cherry Plum tree.
The fire from the burnt motor bike has left a scorched patch of ground in the centre of the centre meadow. It will be interesting to see how long this area takes to regenerate and with what plants.
The owner of the burned out motor bike dumped on the meadow over the weekend has relocated it outside the Seagull Lane gate at the end of Seagull Lane.  I suppose this is now the council’s responsibility to remove it?
There are still masses of Common Fleabane in flower on the meadow so I picked a few for my window display along with some rat’s tails (Greater Plantain) for contrast.


MONDAY SEPTEMBER 20 – 2021
Brook Meadow
A few observations from this morning’s pleasant walk through Brook Meadow.
A pair of Common Darters mating in tandem near the Lumley gate.
A male Migrant Hawker flying high in the willows.  Not a common visitor to Brook Meadow

The long narrow leaves of the Osier Willows shining green on the east side of the north meadow.
The leaves of the Rowans are falling leaving bunches of bright red berries exposed in the autumn sunshine.
I had a little rest on my favourite log seat on the ‘play area’ near the north bridge.  Cheers!


Trail camera sightings
report from Dan on last week’s sightings from the cameras
Camera 1 – 1st image 2206 – 14/09/21
A few sightings of Moorhens and Mallards swimming around
A small greyish / brown bird on the raft ,which I could not identify .
I sent Brian a photo of it and he thought it was either a Greenfinch or possibly a Chiffchaff .
last image 2225 – 19/09/2021
Camera 2 – 1st image 0407 – 29/08/2021
A blackbird perched on the branch by the feeding platform –
A rat sniffing around in the evening –
A squirrel eating the fruit a couple of times
The small fox in the evening checking out the scene
Moorhens still enjoying the fruit
last image 0437 – 19/09/2021


Dumped bike
I happened to meet the owner of the burned out motor cycle on Saturday.  The bike was stolen from the car park.  He stood the bike upright and said he would remove it from the meadow – which he subsequently did.


FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 17 – 2021
Greater Celandine
On my visit to Brook Meadow this morning I planted two clumps of Greater Celandine plants on either side of the young Oak tree that I planted on the Seagull Lane patch in 2012.  See the red arrows on the photo below.
I have nurtured these seedlings from seed collected from threatened plants at the end of the path from Seagull Lane near Lumley Mill. I thought it worthwhile to give them a home on Brook Meadow. I have more which I shall plant out in due course.
Greater Celandine is not rare, but fairly uncommon in the Emsworth area, so it would be a pity to lose them. Greater Celandine is a member of the Poppy family and totally unrelated to the more common Lesser Celandine. All they have in common is the yellow flowers. Greater Celandine was introduced way back in Roman times as a medicinal plant and is now well established in the wild.
PS It was good to see the Seagull Lane patch looking so good after yesterday’s workday clearance.

Small fungi
I spotted a clump of small fragile fungi with pale caps and thin stems at the start of the riverside path through Palmer’s Road Copse near the south bridge. My tentative identification is Pale Brittlestem (Psathyrella candolleana) previously recorded on the meadow in July this year.

Council litter men
I was pleased to meet Robert our Council litter man together with colleague Chris doing his regular collection at the north entrance. I commended them on their valuable work and emphasised how grateful were the conservation group for their efforts. They commented that the amount of dog waste in the bins had greatly escalated over the pandemic period with the increase in dogs as pets.

Dumped motor cycle
I had a phone call from Dan this morning with the news that there was a burned out motor bike with helmet dumped on the centre meadow below the main seat. Dan subsequently reported the vehicle to 101 – the non emergency Police number. He thinks other people will have also reported it. The sooner it is removed the better.

First Painted Lady
Jean and I were just settling down for an afternoon cup of tea in the garden when, hey presto, there appeared a quite stunning Painted Lady feeding on the Michaelmas Daisies. I quickly got my camera, but I knew the insect would be around for a little time having discovered such a good source of nectar. What a beautiful insect, glorious. Probably one of this year’s brood. Now to see one on Brook Meadow!!
Painted Lady is a migrant butterfly originating from North Africa where numbers build up each spring leading to annual outbreaks. They swarm across the Mediterranean and northwards in countless thousands (millions). A few regularly reach us in Britain (sometimes there is an influx) and breed, but the offspring do not survive as they are unable to hibernate and cannot survive the British winter.


THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 16 – 2021
Wildlife observations during work session
Slow-worm
Dan got quite excited when he discovered a Slow-worm under one of the reptile mats that he has been putting out.
There’s been no sign as yet of the two Grass-snakes that were translocated here on Sep 9th.

Oak tree health
The Oak trees planted on the Seagull Lane patch are not looking all that good. They all have a leaves affected by spangle galls and acorns with Knopper galls.

There are very few acorns and many of those are splitting.   Some of the leaves on Brian’s Oak are affected by powdery mildew.  These need to be removed.


Cattle Egret
Watch this fascinating video of a Cattle Egret picking flies off a cow’s nose on Warblington Farm from Peter Milinets-Raby – the Cattle Egret man par excellence!
. . . . https://youtu.be/KopgwrdXwoE


THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 9 – 2021
Grass-snakes
I had a phone call from my friend Romney Turner to say she had an excess of Grass-snakes in her garden and would we like two young ones for Brook Meadow? I said yes and asked her to put the two young snakes in the undergrowth near the Lumley Stream where the habitat would be right and they would be reasonably safe from predators.  I sent Romney a map showing the location for the snakes.
Romney added . . . “I turned right through the Lumley gate and let them go so they would smell the water but also have grass and undergrowth to live their best lives. Hope they grow and are seen sometimes. I will watch your newsletters and have a look myself from time to time. I do however expect them to roam widely across the reserve as they have in my garden”.
Although we have had sightings of at least one Grass-snake in the past year these from Romney will be a good addition to our wildlife.
Romney sent me a photo of one of the young Grass-snakes which shows clearly the characteristic yellowish marks almost encircling the neck and black bars along the flanks.
I would be very grateful to hear of any sightings of these wonderful creatures. Maybe Dan will catch them on his trail cameras?

Other news
Maurice Lillie reports that he and Nigel had some spare time on Wednesday morning so they decided to complete the mowing of the Seagull Lane patch which was started on Sunday.   The arisings need to be raked at the next workday.
Maurice also completed the construction of the hibernaculum on the river bank in the far north-east corner of the Seagull Lane patch. He hopes it suits some of the reptiles that we believe inhabit that patch. I am sure it will.
I was interested to see a close comparison of the leaves of Holm Oak and Holly just opposite the south gate. Young Holm Oak leaves are noticeably spiny, like Holly, when young, but become less so as the tree grows.


MONDAY SEPTEMBER 6 – 2021
Signcases – autumn updates
Dan collected the four display boards with the autumn updates from my house at 11am and proceeded to install them in the signcases on Brook Meadow. This is a good system and we work well as a team. Dan always gives the signcases a thorough clean before installing the boards. Here is Dan cleaning the signcase in Palmer’s Road Copse.
Here are the new displays though they look so much better in situ.
North bridge
Lumley Gate

South gate

Palmers Road Copse


WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 1 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Purple Loosestrife is now in flower on the river bank south of the north bridge. Although Purple Loosestrife is a native plant it is widely grown in gardens and frequently escapes. However, these plants on the river bank on Brook Meadow are well established and thus can be safely called ‘wild’.  We also sometimes see it on the south river near the south bridge, but not this year.
Prickly Lettuce has managed to grow through the tangle of grasses and other plants on the north meadow close to the north bridge steps. Prickly Lettuce is an introduction to this country, first recorded in the wild in 1632 and still spreading!   It is the ancestor of the familiar salad lettuce.
Long-winged Conehead feeding on a Dandelion. I suspect this insect was not sampling the plant’s nectar, but rather nibbling the petals. Bush-crickets are omnivorous creatures eating other insects as well as plant material.
Wasp Spider (Argiope bruennichi) was on a web on the orchid area. There are two step-like vertical stabilimenta in the web that help to stabilise the web.
Hoary Ragwort is now in full flower on the north meadow and on the Lumley area, but there’s still not sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars.
Pepper-saxifrage leaves are showing nicely in the north-east corner of the Lumley area, but no flower stem.
Marsh Woundwort is showing very well at the northern end of the Bramble path on the east side of the south meadow. I counted a total of 97 flowering spikes of which is the highest I have ever recorded and almost double that 50 counted last year. This plant is a roaring success!

Finally, here is Dan collecting one of the signcase display boards all four of which he delivered to my home for me to do the autumn update.


MONDAY 30th AUGUST – 2021
The Emsworth Show
It was good to see the annual Emsworth Show back on the road at the New Church site as last year’s 2020 show was cancelled due to the Covid lockdown. The Brook Meadow Conservation Group had their usual stall manned by several volunteers, including Debbie, David, Terry, Tony, Dan and Colin.
For the full report with photos go to . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/emsworth-show/


MONDAY 23rd AUGUST – 2021
Brook Meadow
I met Dan Mortimer as arranged at 11am for a mooch around the meadow.
He was excited to tell me the news of the Weasel caught on one of the two trail cameras on 20-Aug. Weasel is a very rare sighting on Brook Meadow – the last one reported was on 01-Dec 2017 by Mike Probert.  Here is the photo.
We examined the single Strawberry Clover plant with fruit on the path round the Lumley area. We agreed that it would be good policy to trim back the Michaelmas Daisies by about a foot this winter to give the Clover plants which remain in that area a chance to develop in the spring.
The leaves of at least two Pepper-saxifrage plants are present in the north-east corner of the Lumley area, but there’s no sign as yet of any flowering stems. I think this small area could  be cut more regularly to give this delicate plant a chance to grow. It is at present overwhelmed by more vigorous plants.
In the Lumley copse Dan and I stopped to examine to abundant growth of leaves of Greater Pond Sedge. Its leaves are strongly ridged or keeled unlike the perfectly flat leaves of Yellow Flag growing nearby.
Dan and I then went to the south east corner of the south meadow looking for Sea Couch to add to his Brook Meadow Handbook. We did not find any though we did enjoy the strong smell of Water Mint as we tramped though. Appropriately, we spotted a pretty Mint Moth which is attracted to these plants.


THURSDAY AUGUST 19 – 2021
Wildlife observations during work session
There is a huge bush of Russian Vine (aka Mile a Minute) on the edge of the Seagull Lane path. It has not escaped onto Brook Meadow as yet.
A  fine display of Perennial Sow-thistle on the Lumley area mixed with Wild Angelicas which are magnificent this year.


WEDNESDAY AUGUST 18 – 2021
Brook Meadow walk
Red roots of the Crack Willows are showing prominently in the north river.
I love walking through the enclosing avenue of nettles on the main path.
Bindweed has formed an unusual arch on the centre meadow where it has climbed up and over two tall Hogweed plants.
The open inflorescences of False Oat-grass are showing well on the main river path.

Hoary Ragwort plants are in full and glorious flower, but there’s still no sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars.

I counted 56 flower spikes of Marsh Woundwort at the top of the Bramble path on the south meadow. More to come?
Yippee!  I found two ripe seedheads of Strawberry Clover on the path at the far side of the Lumley area. I really thought we may have lost them, but they’re hanging in there!
However, the poor old Pepper-saxifrage seems to have given up. There’s no sign of any flowering stems and I could not find any leaves.
There were two Meadow Grasshoppers resting on reptile mat No 30 on the north west path. Appreciating the warmth? Nothing underneath. Here’s one of them.
Hermitage Millponds
There’s a good show of Golden Samphire and Sea Mayweed on the inside of the Hermitage Bridge.
We seem to have two Mute Swan families. One pair with 2 cygnets on Slipper Millpond and the regular family with 4 cygnets on Peter Pond.


SATURDAY AUGUST 14 – 2021
Brook Meadow
There are several Knopper Galls forming on the acorns on the Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch. Most of the acorns are unaffected.  It’s a good crop.
I was surprised to see what looks like leaves of a Hornbeam tree poking out of the hedgerow on the western edge of the Seagull Lane patch – a new plant for the Brook Meadow tree list!!  Was Hornbeam planted in that hedge?
Unbelievable!   The single plant of Common Ragwort has been removed from the north bridge where it was growing happily and causing no trouble to anyone.  Tut tut.
The spikes of Bulrushes are now showing on the west bank of the river.
Alder Buckthorn berries are black and ripe on the south meadow, but are not for eating!   Apparently, they will give you a bad tummy ache. But birds like them!
I counted 42 Marsh Woundwort flowering spikes struggling through the rampant vegetation at the northern end of the Bramble path with a few more to open. So we are about the same as last year when 50 was counted.
There are some magnificent Wild Angelica plants particularly on the south meadow.


Death of Ralph Hollins
News has just reached me that Ralph Hollins a prominent local naturalist and good friend of mine has died aged 90. Ralph was an extraordinary polymath who kept extensive records of wildlife in Havant and surrounding area and made them available through his website and nature notes.  Fortunately, I have saved all Ralph’s ‘Nature Notes’ from 1997 to 2018 which are a wonderful treasure trove of observations, thoughts, opinions, etc. I think it would wonderful to publish these notes as a archive for all to read as Ralph’s own web site closed down 3 years ago when he was poorly and moved away. More on this later.
On a personal level Ralph was my wildlife mentor and guru, as he was I am sure to many others.  I owe my own development as a local naturalist to Ralph more than anyone else.  He was a devoted local patch naturalist and had an intimate knowledge of the wildlife in and around his home town of Havant.  He knew everything!
Ralph was always interested in Brook Meadow and made many visits over the years with me and with other naturalists to study the great variety of plants that grow here.  He was a great help to me in identifying various aspects of wildlife and has made significant contributions to our plant records.  Here is a shot of Ralph in centre with two top botanists studying the plants on Brook Meadow on 4th June 2012.

I would like to open a tributes page on this web site and would welcome thoughts, memories, etc of the great man.


TUESDAY AUGUST 10 – 2021
Brook Meadow
The meadow is gradually drying up after the recent deluge but there are still many very wet spots to be negotiated. Here’s a few observations from this morning’s walk:
Plenty of acorns on the young Oaks on the Seagull Lane patch.
Shining green Holly leaves on the Seagull Lane patch hedgerow.

Myathropa florea hoverfly on the Seagull Lane patch. Note the distinctive pattern on the thorax.

Two Hornet Mimic hoverflies, one of the Seagull Lane patch and the other on the south meadow.   These are large and slow moving insects allowing for close observation.

Hoary Ragwort is in flower on the orchid area and the Lumley area. Two weeks later than usual. No sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars.
Good show of bright yellow flowers of Perennial Sow-thistle on the Lumley area.
Pepper-saxifrage is struggling on the east side of the Lumley area. A few leaves showing, but no tall growth as yet.
I disturbed a Red Fox on the butterfly path around the Lumley area. It disappeared into the copse before I could get my camera out. However, I did notice some distinctive Fox poo on the path. This was the first Fox sighting on Brook Meadow since 2019.
The first Common Darter on the Lumley area. It looks like a female/juvenile. Soon the red bodied males will be prominent near the two bridges.
The path behind the Rowan plantation is magical with trees laden with bright red berries already attracting local Blackbirds. Gwynne Johnson would have loved this.
I spotted my first summer brood Brimstone butterfly hiding on the Rowan plot.
I am enamoured with the wonderful Hemp Agrimony in full flower growing by the curved wall in the north-east corner of the meadow.
For Dan’s attention, there’s a apple tree on the north path to the east of the cherry trees with a good crop of apples hanging over the brambles. Blackberry and apple pie, of course.
The north river was making an attractive rippling sound over the stones.


FRIDAY AUGUST 6 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I picked my first ripe Blackberries of the year from the bushes at the north end of the north meadow. Lots more to come.
Orchid seedheads are prominent on the orchid area. From the size of this one I would guess it was a hybrid orchid.
Wild Angelica is in flower generally. Here’s a shot of some on the north meadow orchid area.

Hoary Ragwort is not yet in full flower – much later than usual.
Red Admirals are still widespread on the meadow (and elsewhere). This one was sheltering from the strong wind. But I have yet to see a Painted Lady!
I watched a large Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) tucking into the flower head of Common Fleabane. Here’s a short video of the insect . . . https://youtu.be/HbKvndWQS-w

Helicopter
As I was walking across the north meadow I stopped to watch a air ambulance helicopter pass overhead. Then it circled back and hovered over the meadow right where I was standing!   As it was planning to descend I quickly moved out of the way and watched it slowly come down onto the newly mown area of the north meadow not far from where I was standing. A slightly scary experience!!
Here’s a short video I made before getting out of the way!   https://youtu.be/OjAD2igIHuY

It remained on the ground for about 5 minutes before taking off and flying west. No one got out.

On my way to the meadow I noticed two ambulances with lights flashing parked on North Street outside the Opticians which were still there when I returned over an hour later.   Maybe the helicopter was responding to this emergency, though the paramedics did not get out. We had air ambulance helicopter on the meadow last year during a workday (01-Nov-2020). On that occasion paramedics did get out to attend to a patient in a nearby road.


WEDNESDAY AUGUST 4 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I had quite a profitable mooch along the edge of Palmer’s Road Copse by the car park finding three new plants for the 2021 Brook Meadow list. These take the Brook Meadow herb list for 2021 so far to 150 species. This is a big increase on the 129 recorded in 2020, but there is a large observer factor in this increase as I have made more visits this year and have been more vigilant in recording everything.
New plants in Palmer’s Road Copse are:
Scarlet Pimpernel – First sighting since 2013.
Balm (Lemon Balm) not recorded for a few years. Two clumps. Very lemony smell when crushed.
Redshank – with dark blotches on the leaves and pale flowers, but no red stems. Last recorded in 2018.

There is a large Prunus tree in the north-east corner of the car park behind the Salvation Army clothing bins with large round red fruits. From the large size of the fruit my guess is that it is some type of cultivated Plum (Prunus domestica).  Maybe Dan will be interested?
Other firsts for this year mostly on the car park:
Common Field Speedwell – on the edge of Palmer’s Road Car Park
Smooth Hawk’s-beard – Lots of this in flower – Dan please note!
Enchanter’s Nightshade – good flowering along the centre path from the car park.
Traveller’s Joy – In flower behind the bottle banks.

Water Mint – is in flower in the south east corner of the south meadow – on left in photo.
Great Yellow-cress?? –  The earlier identification of the mystery plants in the far south east corner of the south meadow as Great Yellow-cress is incorrect. I had a look at the plants today which have clusters of tiny white flowers forming at the base of the leaves. They are clearly Gipsywort. We also have this plant on the west bank of the river in Palmer’s Road Copse.

I noted this Black and Yellow Longhorn Beetle (Strangalia maculata) on Hogweed.  This striking insect is a regular on Brook Meadow.  It tends to stay still for you to get a good look.

Work for the litter crew: three black bags of rubbish dumped in the bushes just south of the centre path.


MONDAY AUGUST 2 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I met Dan on the meadow at 11am this morning mainly to collect some samples of plants for his Brook Meadow Flora Handbook. These were:
Meadow Barley – rescued from the north circle before the annual cut.
Lesser Swine-cress – from the main path by the river.

Pale Persicaria and American Willowherb – from the Seagull Lane path. 

We had a look at the three apple trees in the hedgerow at the far end of the Seagull Lane patch. Using the plant app on my iPhone we established that two of the trees with small apples were Crab Apple (Malus sylvestris) and the other with larger slightly rosy apples was Cultivated Apple (Malus domestica).

I have just learned that the official common name for the shrub on the west bank of the river just south of the north bridge which I have been calling Japanese Spindle is Evergreen Spindle (Euonymus japonicus). This distinctive evergreen shrub with glossy green leaves and tiny white flowers was first identified on Brook Meadow in 2011 with help from Ralph Hollins. In autumn it bears orange fruits (arils) which last through winter.   It is native to Japan, Korea and China. It is popular as an ornamental plant in UK and has a number of cultivars with variegated leaves. Here’s a view of the flowers taken today from the opposite bank


SATURDAY JULY 31 – 2021
Brook Meadow
A few observations from this morning’s walk around Brook Meadow.
Lesser Burdock is in flower.
Acorns are forming on my Oak on the Seagull Lane patch. Also some Knopper Galls.

Yarrow is in flower around Tony Wilkinson’s tree.
There are three Apple trees with fruit in the hedgerow at the top of the Seagull Lane patch.  Are these Crab Apples?
I stopped to admire a very nice rounded seedhead on a Creeping Thistle – not noticed this before.
The Rowans are loaded with berries.

Teasel in flower on the Environment Agency path down to the Lumley Stream.

Hoary Willowherb right next to the Teasel.
A sprig of Montbretia is flowering on this path – no doubt from Kathy’s garden next door, but we will have it for our list. Not seen it on Brook Meadow for some years.
There’s a cluster of very tiny toadstools on the ground – I think they maybe be  Pale Brittlestem (Psathyrella candolleana).


HURSDAY JULY 29 – 2021
Annual cut
It was so good to see Martin Cull back on the meadow with his trusty red tractor to carry out the annual cutting of the main meadow.

Martin was greeted at the Lumley gate by myself and Colin Brotherston at 10.30. Colin and I had our traditional photos taken with Martin and the tractor.

Then Colin explained to Martin the areas that needed cutting in accordance with the management plan.

Martin started on the west side of the centre meadow. He then headed to the north meadow to cut the northern section of that area. Finally, he returned to cut the southern part of the centre meadow, tidying up paths as he went.

Here is a video of Martin cutting the north meadow . . . https://youtu.be/bJYWss6Wfjs

A view across the freshly cut north meadow
Martin left at about 5pm. We wished him well and hoped to see him again next year!
Martin knows the meadow well and does such a good job. He, and his father Brian before him, has been involved in the annual cutting of Brook Meadow for the past 20 years. We are very grateful for their work and commitment.

Wildlife observations
The flower spikes of Marsh Woundwort are now emerging from the jungle of vegetation in the usual place near the Weeping Willow on the south meadow. There are lots more to come so please do not cut this area until flowering is over.
There is (or was) a small group of toadstools on the grass verge outside the tool store on the Seagull Lane patch. I think they are called Pleated Inkcap (Parasola plicatilis). I have seen them there before. They don’t last long as the caps quickly decompose.
I noticed several Demoiselle damselflies along the Bramble path on the south meadow. I think this is a female Banded Demoiselle; a female Beautiful Demoiselle would have brown wings.

I was surprised to see a Holly Blue butterfly fluttering low around the puddles on the main path through the south meadow, clearly attracted by the water. It rested awhile on the path where I got this shot. Holly Blues usually fly high, above head height.
Colin brought along a stem of tall grass from his garden. I used the plant app on my phone to identify it as Foxtail Bristle-grass (Setaria italica) – possibly originating from bird food seed.


WEDNESDAY JULY 28 – 2021
Palmer’s Road copse
I had a good mooch around the edges of the car park adjacent to Palmer’s Road Copse.
The bottle banks in the north-east corner of the car park are full to overflowing.
Next to one of the recycling bins  Prickly Lettuce in yellow flower for the first time. Lesser Burdock and Lesser Swine-cress are also in the same space – marked with arrows on the photo.

I was interested to come across this unusual Arum type plant in the dark area behind the recycling bins. My plant app named it as Spotted Calla Lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica) – clearly a garden escape but a first for Brook Meadow.   Let’s hope it establishes.  I shall look out for its large white spathe.
There’s several eye catching clumps of small yellow flowers of Smooth Hawksbeard along the edge of the car park.  These small yellow daisy plants also occur on the two round mown circles on the north meadow.

The Whitebeam tree at the entrance to the Car Park has bunches of greenish berries which will soon ripen red.

Other observations
On my way from home I spotted a plant called Apple of Peru in flower on the pavement outside house number 18b Victoria Road. It is a garden escape – member of the Nightshade family. I love pavement plants!
The fallen limb of one of the two Weeping Wych Elms at the west entrance to St James Churchyard has been cleared. Interesting and unusual trees.


SATURDAY JULY 24 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I had a walk along the path from the end of Seagull Lane as far as the railway arch. The hedgerow on the east side of the path forms the boundary of the Seagull Lane patch of Brook Meadow. I found two plants which have not been recorded on the Brook Meadow list for several years.
American Willowherb – close to the railway arch. Introduced from N America in 1891 this plant has spread rapidly in the wild and is now one of the commonest small Willowherbs. This is the one you often see on pavements.
Pale Persicaria (Persicaria lapathifolia) – a nice surprise to see this plant on the edge of the path. This is in the same family as Redshank, but has green stems and pale flower spikes.

American Willowherb . . . . . . .  . . . Pale Persicaria

These plants take the number of herbs recorded on the Brook Meadow site this year to 154 and still counting.

Other plants of interest on this path included Lesser Burdock flowering for the first time, but not fully out as yet, Pineappleweed along the path (which I can never resist having a smell of) and yet more Black Horehound in the hedgerow.
Coming to the north bridge one can’t really miss the clump of Mugwort which is now ‘in flower’ though that’s about as far as it gets in terms of flowers. However, the plant’s leaves have an interesting smell when crushed.
Spear Thistle is in flower on the Environment Agency path north of Lumley copse down to the Lumley Stream – it is 3 weeks later than last year.
Rowan berries are ripening fast on the Gwynne Johnson plantation on the east side of the north meadow.  Gwynne would be delighted to see these!

Finally, I had an interesting encounter with this little chap near the main seat. Young Robin,  so tame and perky. Good to have met you.


FRIDAY JULY 23 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I made an early afternoon visit to Brook Meadow for a change. The weather was fine and much cooler than the past week, thank goodness. There were hardly any other people on the meadow. I had another look at the two mown circles on the north meadow which are always interesting.
On the north circle I discovered a small Willowherb with a single pink flower with 4 deeply notched petals. The stem and leaves were covered with soft whitish hairs strongly suggesting Hoary Willowherb (Epilobium parviflorum). This is new plant for Brook Meadow taking the year’s total flowering herbs to 153 – a large increase on the 2020 herb total of 131.
On the south circle I was delighted to see a couple of Common Blue butterflies.  They were flying low over the ground, unlike Holly Blues which often fly high.  Here’s one that stopped for a quick photo.  This just shows the underwings.
These Common Blues take my Brook Meadow butterfly list for this year to 19 species. All we need now to complete the list of ‘regulars’ is a Painted Lady. A Clouded Yellow would be a real bonus.
I also saw several Small Skippers during my walk plus one Large Skipper. The strong oblique scent mark on the wing of the Small Skipper on the left shows it to be a male. The faint pattern on the wings identifies the Large Skipper on the right.

As usual Meadow Browns and Ringlets were numerous. Here’s a Ringlet that stopped to show us how it gets its name.
A Willow branch has toppled over on the play area on the north meadow – a nice feature, so maybe leave it be?
I cleared a lot of  litter from around the main seat, no doubt the remains of lunch from  youngsters. I was helped by a kindly passing dog walker. Thanks. There was also litter around Beryl’s seat which I did not clear.


Grass-snakes?
During the repositioning of the trail camera on the Lumley Stream earlier this month, Terry Lay told me he spotted a Grass-snake swimming in the stream. Interestingly, on July 16 I saw what I thought was an Eel swimming beneath the bank of the north river, but on reflection this could well have been a Grass-snake!   We have had no record of a Grass-snake on the Brook Meadow site for over 10 years.
The only photo of a Grass-snake swimming that I have on my files was taken by Tony Wootton at Blashford Lakes in 2011.


THURSDAY JULY 22 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I had to take the car into Lillywhite’s Garage for its MOT at 8.30 this morning.  So, I walked back through Brook Meadow a little earlier than is usual for me. I really enjoyed it,  cooler than later and very quiet.
I spent a some time mooching around the two mown circular areas on the north meadow.   These areas are valuable as they allow smaller plants to emerge and flower which would not have had a chance in the main grassland.
The best find of the morning was a nice patch of Meadow Barley (Hordeum secalinum) on the east side of the north circle, though  the grass’s inflorescences are starting to go over,.    Dan there’s enough for you to take a sample for your Flora Handbook. It is very likely that these plants are from seeds sown on this area by the group in 2015. This sowing also included Corky-fruited Water-dropwort which is flowering nearby. They have taken so long to come through.
I was also pleased to find samples of Smooth Hawksbeard (Crepis capillaris) on both the circular areas.   I did not record this plant last year. Look out for its relatively small yellow daisy-type flowers.   While I was looking a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus) arrived to sample the  Hawksbeard flowers.

This summer I have found these two mown areas have been particularly good for Small Skippers. I saw at least 4 there today – here’s photos of two of them.

I also had my first Gatekeeper of the year, but it did not stop for a photo. Like others, these common brown butterflies are a good 2 weeks later than usual. But soon they should be flying everywhere.   Gatekeeper  takes the total number of butterfly species I have recorded on Brook Meadow so far this year to 18. But I am still missing Common Blue – hopefully, it will come out with the Fleabane.
Meanwhile, Red Admirals seem to be having a good season. I see them on every visit to the meadow and in my garden and elsewhere. This stunning fellow was on the gravel path leading to the north bridge.
I spotted the first Common Fleabane in flower – about 2 weeks later than usual. Soon its bright yellow flowers will be lighting up the meadow everywhere, and it’s a great source of nectar for late summer insects.
Also, the single plant of Common Ragwort is in flower on the south side of the north bridge, but no sign of any Cinnabar caterpillars.
I had a look at the Oak tree on the Seagull Lane patch that I planted in 2012. Some leaves are covered with tiny spangle galls. That is no problem, but I was a little concerned to see a few leaves with the same powdery mildew that I found on the small Oak on the east side of the north meadow. However, the tree looks in fine fettle and has a good crop of acorns developing. And I keep talking to it!

I happened to meet Ruth Roberts for a chat.   She said she had not seen any Yarrow on the meadow this year.  So I directed her towards to the Seagull Lane patch where there is a fine crop in full flower close to Tony’s Red Oak and backed up by some Black Horehound.
Also in this area berries are forming well on the large Hawthorn bush at the north end of the Seagull Lane patch.

Finally, I had a nice chat with Robert who is our regular Norse litter man as he was emptying the bins at the north bridge. He’s a nice friendly chap and says he loves coming over to Brook Meadow. Robert deserves praise for the good work he’s doing for the meadow. Another Sid, maybe?


WEDNESDAY JULY 21 – 2021
Brook Meadow
It was very hot again. I went along the north path which is well shaded. In the far north-east corner by the curved wall  I found a fine clump of Hemp Agrimony almost in flower. A very nice plant.
Over to the main orchid area where I saw the first Cinnabar caterpillars of the year on the Hoary Ragwort, quite small at the moment but they will grow thanks to the lush leaves of the Ragwort.
I could also just make out the first sign of yellow flowers on the Common Fleabane. Soon this area will be a blaze of yellow with Ragwort and Fleabane.
Two bright Commas were flying around on the south meadow. This one rested briefly to show its underwing identification.
I used the new handrail on the east side of the south gate. Thanks HBC
From the new grassy observation area I could clearly see three small Brown Trout in the river. Has the Pike gone? Electrocuted by the mystery box maybe??

Mystery box
I met Maurice walking his dog on th meadow.  He told me that the mystery green box has gone! He has spoken to Southern Water and they know nothing about it neither do the Environment Agency. He said he would check with HBC to see if they had removed it.   Here’s a photo of the space where the box was. Relatively undisturbed!!
Later Maurice sent round an email confirming that bin had not been removed by HBC.
So, the box has gone, but the mystery remains. Who put it there and why? And who removed it? We have the makings of an detective novel here!


TUESDAY JULY 20 – 2021
Mystery box
On this morning’s walk I decided to have a closer look at the mystery box that has recently appeared on the river bank in Palmer’s Road Copse. As Maurice described yesterday, the box is sturdy and heavy and has a blue cable coming from it into the river.

A label on the box indicates it is produced by a company called Emiter (www.emiter.co.uk) . This is not fly tipping as the box has been deliberately placed in position. I hooked the end of the cable out of the river with my walking stick and discovered it had a metal nozzle attached to the end with three holes presumably to allow water in. Maybe it is some sort of device for taking water samples from the river?  Surely, the Environment Agency know something?

Other observations
While in Palmer’s Road Copse I saw a male Beautiful Demoiselle and a Azure damselfly over the river. What beautiful creatures.

I was interested to see another small growth of Giant Fescue (Festuca gigantea) growing on the west end of the south bridge. I have seen it in Palmer’s Road Copse in previous years, but never on the bridge itself.
There is a very fine tall Prickly Lettuce (6-7 feet) on the west side of Peter Pond, but not yet in flower. Look out for its tiny yellow flowers. We rarely get Prickly Lettuce on Brook Meadow.
The  Brown Hawker dragonfly was still hawking over the north channel on Peter Pond. No chance of a decent photo with my basic point and shoot camera alas.
Coming back home along Bridge Road my attention was caught by a startling array of yellow flowers that I was not familiar with growing beneath the main Beech hedgerow alongside the car park. They are called Stinking Tutsan, not native, but long established in this country.   The plant gets its name from the unpleasant aroma given off when the leaves are crushed.


MONDAY JULY 19 – 2021
Brook Meadow
It was another very hot morning. I went slowly, stopping frequently in the shaded areas. I came across a Hornet Mimic hoverfly on a bramble flower near the Lumley gate. They are so tame and easy to photograph.
Even better was a large brown dragonfly hawking over the Peter Pond channel south of the footbridge. It never stopped, so was hard to get a decent photo.  I think this has to be a Brown Hawker (Aeshna grandis) – apparently a fairly common dragonfly in the south over lakes and channels, but this was my first ever sighting of one!!

My picture is on the left. On the right is what the insect really looks like.


Mystery bin
I came back through Palmer’s Road Copse where I was surprised to see a large green metal bin on the low river bank close to the ‘Deep Water’ sign. There was no obvious sign of any damage to vegetation in the area, which made me wonder how it got there.
I emailed the group and Maurice Lillie went down to have a closer look and the mystery deepens.  The object it has an “Emmiter” on both sides, a 20mm diameter armoured electrical cable coming out of the bottom of a side panel and into the river about 2 metres long with no obvious destination.  On one side there are two warning signs “DANGER 400 Volts.
Maurice called the police on 101 and the officer decided that it sounded like fly tipping and should be reported to the Council. Maurice reported it to Customer Services HBC who hopefully will be dealing with it.
However, as Jennifer points out this is no simple act of fly-tipping, as whoever did it took a good deal of trouble to position it where it is next to the river. You can follow the trail they took as she did.  A fly tipper would have just dumped the bin on the edge of the wood next to the car park and scarpered.  So what is it?


SUNDAY JULY 18 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Hottest day of the year!! I walked very very slowly through the meadow, seeking shade at every opportunity. Gosh it was hot.
Good to see butterflies are responding to the heat wave. I had  Red Admiral on the Buddleja outside the Seagull Lane gate. Despite it enormous blossoms this plant does not really live up to its popular name of butterfly bush.
All the White butterflies were in flight on the Seagull Lane patch, Large White, Small White, Marbled White and a Green-veined White – a first of the year for me!   Meadow Browns and Ringlets were on the main grassland, but still no Common Blue or Gatekeeper!

Following Reg’s note concerning the state of the Rowans on the east side of the north meadow, I checked them  this morning.  I thought they looked in good nick. True, the leaves are starting to brown, but this is to be expected as summer progresses towards autumn. Rowan is a deciduous tree which loses its leaves over winter. However, the trees have a great crop of berries which are already ripening – providing a great source of food for local birds.
Common Knapweed appears to be flowering more widely on the meadow than in previous years.  Also, I found the first Marsh Woundwort in flower at the top end of the Bramble path on the south meadow, the first of many.   Last year I counted 50 flower spikes.


SATURDAY JULY 17 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I stood for some while on the south bridge watching 3 male Banded Demoiselles fluttering and chasing over the river, their blue wings creating a dazzling display over the green river weed. I pointed them out to several people passing, all of whom were delighted to see them.

Here’s a snap I got of one of them when it came to rest on a leaf.

I picked up a large dark coloured feather on the path through the south meadow. It had a brilliant glossy blue and green sheen when held up to the light. Unmistakably, from the tail of a Magpie. Superb! I did not realise until I looked it up that the Magpie’s tail contains 12 feathers of varying lengths. This one was about 21cm – one of the longer ones. Birds usually shed their feathers in sequence during moult, so I trust this particular bird will not be too hampered by its loss. A new feather will soon grow in its place.
The young Oak on the east side of the north meadow just north of the Rowans has the same white powdery mildew on its leaves that I noticed on some of the Oaks along the shore at Nore Barn yesterday. I gather this is caused by a common pathogen called ‘Oak powdery mildew’ which is not fatal for the tree, but can affect its health by preventing leaf photosynthesis.   So we shall need to keep an eye on it.
The berries are ripening nicely on the Rowans on the east side of the north meadow. They will soon be ripe enough to provide a feast for the local birds.
Birds singing this morning were Blackbird, Song Thrush and Blackcap.
Stone Parsley is just about in flower next to the south gate.
Pineappleweed is also prominent and smelling good by the south gate.


FRIDAY JULY 16 – 2021
Nore Barn
This morning, in warm summer weather, I had a lovely walk round the Nore Barn area.  I first mooched around the saltmarshes . . .
where I found both Common Sea-lavender and Lax-flowered Sea-lavender along with Grass-leaved Orache, Saltmarsh Rush, Sea Purslane, Sea Plantain and Lesser Sea-spurrey.

Here is the Lax-flowered Sea-lavender  so called because the flowers spread down the stems.  In Common Sea-lavender the flowers are clustered at the top of the stem.

From there I walked along the shore where I looked for, and found, my first Golden Samphire in flower with lots more to come.

A little worryingly, along the shore  I noticed that the leaves of some of the Oaks along were coated with a whitish powder. I gather this is caused by a common pathogen called Oak powdery mildew. This is not fatal for the tree, but can affect its health by preventing leaf photosynthesis.

Finally, I made my way through the cool of the woods with Blackcaps singing melodiously all around. All very peaceful.

In the woodland my eye was caught here and there by the red ruby gems of Selfheal (as good as an orchid?) and the less showy Enchanter’s Nightshade.

Coming through to the open glade in the woodland was like opening the curtains on a stage lit with sun and colour.  I stopped to admire Yarrow, Meadow Vetchling, Perforate St John’s-wort, Lesser Stitchwort, Agrimony, Hogweed, Creeping Thistle, Creeping Bent and Timothy.  This photo does not do the St John’s-wort justice. 

My camera cannot cope with the delicate panicles of Creeping Bent grass, but here’s some Timothy standing erect like soldiers’ rifles.


THURSDAY JULY 15 – 2021
Wildlife observations during the work session
I noticed several Ringlet butterflies  fluttering around the grassland this morning. I managed to capture this one with a damaged wing. There were many more Meadow Browns. But no sign of a Gatekeeper as yet.
I spotted an Eel swimming close to the bank on the north river opposite the steps. Our first reported sighting of an Eel for several years.
There is (was) another Common Ragwort just coming into flower close to the Cherry trees at the north of the north meadow.  This plant was inadvertently cut down during the mowing of the Blackberry path during the work session, but I managed to get a picture first! Below
The first small pink flowers on Great Willowherb are now starting to come out – a good 2 weeks than usual.  Soon they will be all over the meadow.

Square-stalked St John’s-wort is now in flower – yellow  flowers – on the Lumley area, a bit later than usual.
Jennifer reported seeing a small Brown Trout in the river north of the north bridge. I saw one in the river near the south bridge recently too.  So that Pike has not eaten them all!

Terry reported having seen a Common Lizard scuttle across the path during the orchid count on 16th June. This is the only reptile of any sort reported on Brook Meadow this year. Let’s hope we shall see more of these delightful creatures once the new translocation takes place.

New volunteer Patsy sent me photos of two attractive tall plants with yellow flowers that she saw on the south bank of Peter Pond near the roadside. They are in fact  Moth Mullein (Verbascum blattaria) which have been coming up regularly in this location for several years.  It is an introduced plant to this country, but the Flora of Sussex describes it as scarce in West Sussex,  occurring mainly on disturbed and waste ground, roadsides, churchyards, etc.  So good to see it well established on Peter Pond.


WEDNESDAY JULY 14 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I made two visits to Brook Meadow today, once in the morning and again in the afternoon. And I am delighted to announce that butterflies are back after several weeks of scarcity.
Meadow Browns were numerous and widespread.  I also managed to sort out a couple of Ringlets to add to this year’s butterfly list and the first Small Skippers.   This is the latest date I have ever recorded the first Ringlet.

I saw Marbled Whites on both my visits on the Seagull Lane patch and on the north meadow – they are doing well this year and singles of Red Admiral and Comma.
The total number of butterfly species recorded on Brook Meadow this year so far is 16. There’s more to come. Still missing are Common Blue, Green-veined White and Gatekeeper which should be out fairly soon. One can just hope for Clouded Yellow and Painted Lady.

On the plant front, Marsh Woundwort is present in the usual spot on the south meadow at the top of the Bramble path but not yet in flower.
There’s plenty of Orache leaves in the south east corner of the south meadow, but these are tricky to identify. I think they are mostly Spear-leaved Orache but I there are some leaves with distinctly toothed edges which may be Fat Hen or even Nettle-leaved Orache – that would be a new one for Brook Meadow!
There’s no flowers as yet on the Great Yellow-cress in the south east corner if that is what it is. So, watch this space!!
Also in the south east corner, I found some buttercups with reflexed sepals which I strongly suspect are Hairy Buttercups (Ranunculus sardous) which like this type of wet habitat. We have already had Celery-leaved Buttercup in this area which was flooded for much of last winter.


Railway Wayside
If you walk up the access ramp to the north of Emsworth Railway Station you will get a nice surprise when you reach the top.  Just over the white railings there is a wonderful crop of about 100 flower spikes of Marsh Woundwort. This site has always been good for this very attractive orchid-like plant, but this is the first time I have seen so many at the top of the ramp. They must have migrated there from their original location near the new bike store which is is totally overgrown.
Great Willowherb is also in flower near the Marsh Woundwort. Neither of these plants is in flower on Brook Meadow yet.
This wayside  badly needs management as trees are progressively taking over. This is a shame as this was such a promising site for wild flowers when the Friends of Emsworth Waysides took it over in 2012.


FRIDAY JULY 9 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I met David Search during this morning’s visit to Brook Meadow. He was preparing a map of locations for the placement of 60 reptile mats on the meadow. As we were chatting Barbara, a Brook Meadow volunteer, happened to walk past so David explained to both of us that we were due for another translocation of Slow-worms and Common Lizards from a local housing development site. That is good, though let’s hope we actually get see some of the creatures. The mats should help as the creatures snuggle beneath them for warmth. But recent translocations have led to no actual reptile sightings.
David also told me about a recent bat survey he had carried out on Brook Meadow which produced several varieties of Bat including Common and Soprano Pipistrelles in Lumley copse and Daubentons in the tunnel under the railway at the north-east corner of the meadow.
I suggested to David that he might consider carrying out an insect survey on the meadow. It just so happened that he had his sweep net in his bag so he volunteered to give me a short demonstration of its use on the grasses of the north meadow.

He caught a few small green bugs which he potted to identify at home. For what it is worth my bug app came up with tribe Stenodemini for this chap, but that does not mean anything to me.
Here’s a video clip of David at work on the north meadow
https://youtu.be/z3K3kl-218g

Other observations
Two new plants now in flower on the Seagull Lane patch are Yarrow and Black Horehound. The leaves of Black Horehound is a member of the same family as Common Nettle (Lamiaceae) and its leaves could easily be mistaken for stinging nettle but they are ‘dead’ and do not sting.

The Red Arrows flew overhead as I was on the Seagull Lane patch. A first for Brook Meadow?  They went over too fast for a photo.


THURSDAY JULY 8 – 2021
Brook Meadow
A fairly brief visit to the meadow this morning.
Common Orache (?) – at the end of Seagull Lane opposite the metal gate to the Seagull Lane patch. Not sure of the ID.
Common Ragwort – on the south side of the north bridge next to a clump of Common Polypody. Only our second example of this species on Brook Meadow.
Song Thrush (juvenile?) – perched on a bush on the west bank in front of the grey metal fence.
Juvenile Song Thrushes are very similar to adults, but this bird’s behaviour of constant wing flicking suggests a juvenile.  Here’s a video clip of the bird in action
Go to . . . https://youtu.be/1w5ygLxsSsU


WEDNESDAY JULY 7 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Here’s a few wildlife observations from this morning’s walk around Brook Meadow.
My highlight of the morning as our first Marbled White butterfly of the year on the Lumley area. Oh by golly, what a stunning insect this is. My favourite.
Butterflies in general remain scarce on the meadow apart from Meadow Browns. I have yet to see Small Skipper, Common Blue and Ringlet. Gatekeepers should be out any time now.

I checked the Hemp Agrimony on the main orchid area which has small reddish buds forming, but these are quite unlike the large white buds on the ‘mystery’ plants in the river south of the north bridge which I am reliably informed are also Hemp Agrimony. Strange business this??

The greyish plants of Hoary Ragwort are now prominent on the main orchid area. Note their distinctive leaves.  These plants should soon be in yellow flower.
The delicate panicles of Creeping Bent with a slightly pinkish hue are now widespread on the meadow.

Giant Fescue is also fully in flower in the usual spot between the centre and north meadows.

While on the Lumley area I noted the first Red Bartsia and the first Wild Carrot of the year with more to come.
The first Perennial Sow-thistle is now out on the Lumley area close to the isolated Alder. This is the largest of the yellow daisies and the latest to flower. There are others around Peter Pond.
Pepper-saxifrage leaves are now showing on the edge of the path on east side of the Lumley area. Pepper-saxifrage is one of our meadow indicators and a rare plant, so it is important not to mow this path for the time being. I could not find any Strawberry Clover.
Blue Water-speedwell is in flower at the end of the small path down to the Lumley Stream.
I was stopped in my tracks by a tall red flowered Dock with Bindweed clambering up it.
Finally here is a short video clip of Tall Fescue grasses swaying gently in the breeze on the north meadow which I hope you find relaxing. https://youtu.be/MvulZrjXYvo


TUESDAY JULY 6 – 2021
Brook Meadow
I had a walk through Brook Meadow this morning dodging the rain showers. When the rain stopped and the sun came out, it was warm and glorious; birds were singing and grasses waving in wind.
I noticed some mystery plants with white flowers that I had not noticed before growing in the river about 20 metres south of the north bridge.  The plant ID app was no help, so I posted it on the Facebook ‘Wild Flowers’ page and got the answer – Hemp Agrimony. Its pink flowers have not yet opened and the white ‘flowers’ are in fact buds.  I just did not expect to see Hemp Agrimony in the river like this.
Right next to Hemp Agrimony is a tall Water Figwort with small red flowers.
Creeping Thistle is also in flower generally around the meadow – 2 weeks later than usual. This is a very good plant for insects.
The enormous Butterbur leaves dominate the area immediately below the main seat. What a magnificent plant!   They take your breath away.
I stopped on the causeway to admire the berries which are ripening on the Alder Buckthorns. I took a few sprigs from a branch that had snapped in the wind for my window display, so there was no damage to the healthy trees.

A regular lady visitor to Brook Meadow (with white earphones) who happened to be passing at the time asked if she could have some. I said ‘yes by all means’ and she was dead chuffed!   I remember planting 30 Alder Buckthorns in this spot in year 2002, just 2 years after the group got going. We lost a few in the intervening years and added a few more, but the survivors are magnificent. I wonder if the Brimstones lay their eggs on them?

Walking up Lumley Road as far a Rose Cottage I noted good crops of Feverfew, Nipplewort and False Brome grass with its dropping panicles. False Brome also grows on the north path on the meadow.
Off Brook Meadow I noted Perennial Sow-thistle and Wild Carrot in flower on the side of Peter Pond.


SUNDAY JULY 4 – 2021
Wildlife observations during workday
Greater Burdock planting

During the work session Colin planted the 4 Greater Burdock (Articium lappa) plants that I (Brian) had nurtured from seeds rescued from plants threatened by housing development on the site west of Emsworth Recreation Ground.

Here’s Colin with the small plants in wheelbarrow.

They were planted on the area of ground immediately west of the tool store where there is already a well established Lesser Burdock (Arctium minus). Nigel cleared a tangle of Common Nettles using the power scythe and Colin raked up the arisings.

The ground was in fairly good condition and Colin was able to dig holes for the new plants without much difficulty.

All four plants in place

We already have several Lesser Burdock plants on Brook Meadow but none of the rarer Greater Burdock which is the reason for the planting.

Meadow Barley
My most exciting discovery of the morning was two spikes of Meadow Barley (Hordeum secalinum) on the northern mowed circle on the north meadow quite close to some Corky-fruited Water-dropwort.   I scour the meadow for Meadow Barley every year, but rarely manage to find it. So today’s discovery was good!   This, in fact, was our first record of Meadow Barley on Brook Meadow since 2016.
I think the plants discovered today may have been from seeds sown on this area by the group way back  in 2015. This sowing also included Corky-fruited Water-dropwort which appeared two years ago in this area. These seeds clearly take a long time to germinate!   I recall Common Knapweed seeds were also sown on the same occasion, but they have not appeared (as yet).

Other observations
Butterflies remain very scarce on the meadow, but I did see my first Large Skipper of the year – about 3 weeks later than usual. I have yet to see Small Skipper.
I also had a male Meadow Brown – photo on the right.

A male Beautiful Demoiselle (male) posed for a nice photo.
Then later A tiny Marmalade Hoverfly also stopped briefly for a photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Great Burnet flower spikes are shining bright and red on the north meadow orchid area.
Meadowsweet – is also out and smelling good (so I am told)

Common Cat’s-ear – is out on the northern mown circle.
Many flowers are now going to seed including Southern Marsh Orchids and Yellow Rattle which is rattling!
It was good to see Giant Fescue in flower in the usual spot north of the centre meadow.
Sharp-flowered Rush is also flowering on the Lumley area along with Hard Rush.

I was surprised to see a large number of Bumblebees flying around the edge of the path north of the north bridge. I surmise their nest had been disturbed in the workday path cutting. Generally Bumblebees are placid creatures but can get angry when their nest is damaged. Here’s a short video clip of the activity . . . https://youtu.be/xtKI4UQy_pk

Sadly, the lone plant of Common Ragwort on the north path was again cut during the path clearance and is now in a very sorry state.   But it is still living and should survive.
I was very pleased to see that the patch of Remote Sedge on the path through Palmer’s Road Copse was spared in the workday path clearance.
It was good to see a small Brown Trout in the river in the copse. Brown Trout have been scarce this year – possibly due to the presence of a large Pike in the river?


SATURDAY JULY 3 – 2021
Hampshire Farm
Jean and I had a very pleasant walk around the circuit of the Hampshire Farm Reserve in North Emsworth this morning.  There is a good car park and walking is easy on good paths. Highly recommended. There were masses of very attractive flowers, including Oxeye Daisies and Common Knapweed and many other remnants of the wild flower sowing by the Redlands Grange developers. Here’s some views we recorded as we walked round.

Oxeye Daisies and Teasels

Common Knapweed and Bent grasses
Common Ragwort and Oxeye Daisies

The Musk Mallow flowers were particularly impressive.  This one was against the wire fence around the pond.  Note Westbourne Church spire in the background.

The bright shining red flowers of Grass Vetchling also caught our eye, like red pearls in the long grasses.   We stopped to examine a delicate Flax flower, no doubt from long ago cultivation.

On the insect front there were lots of Meadow Browns, but little else apart from two cracking Marbled Whites which I managed to capture on a Common Knapweed. A 6-spot Burnet Moth was also on Knapweed.

We stopped for a rest and a quick selfie on one of the many very comfortable black seats – the same as we have  on Brook Meadow.


THURSDAY JULY 1 – 2021
Brook Meadow
Observations from the past two days:
Yesterday, I was on the meadow with Dan who collected samples some grasses for his Brook Meadow flora handbook.   We looked for Black Bent-grass along the Bramble path in the south meadow. Here’s a shot of the large panicle (20cm) on Dan’s shirt.
We also collected a sample of Bearded Couch grass on the newly mown path around the Rowan plantation.
In the same area, I discovered what I reported as Common Ragwort in yesterday’s report is in fact Hoary Ragwort.   Silly me.
I added the following plants missing from this year’s list: Creeping Cinquefoil on the steps behind the main seat, Lesser Swine-cress on the gravel path just south of the north bridge and Square-stalked St John’s-wort behind the Rowans, though there is bound to be more of this on the two wild flower areas.   These take the total number of herbacious plants plants recorded on Brook Meadow this year to 129 species with more to come.

Today I was pleased to see the first flowering of Meadowsweet on the river bank in the Seagull Lane patch – a good 2 weeks later than usual.
A few Bee Orchids are still looking good on the main orchid area on the north meadow, but are not easy to find.  There’s no sign of Pyramidal Orchid.   The main crop of Southern Marsh Orchids is going to seed.
I caught sight of a pair of Meadow Browns flying while locked tail to tail in mating. I managed to get the following shot when they came to rest.   The female is above and the male with a black spot on its underwing is below. Butterflies generally remain very scarce.


Mystery fly update
David Search gave his verdict on the mystery fly I had on the Brook Meadow on 29 June.

David says . . . “I’ve had a look at your photos of the insect but it is impossible to identify it correctly. Even with a specimen, it can be difficult, if not impossible. It’s clearly Hymenoptera and I would probably say Ichneumonidae. That’s as close as I can get.
I have one record of a species of ichneumon from Brook Meadow that I caught in July 2014, namely (Ophion obscuratus) and illustrates how difficult it can be. I only identified this by getting specialist reference material from the curator at the Natural History Museum. I was fortunate as this species was covered in his works. I’ve since found other species in the meadow that I couldn’t identify simply because I can’t get ID material for certain families, sub-families etc., and in some cases, the material doesn’t exist! It’s a very difficult group to identify so you can’t do it from photos alone!”


Shieldbugs
Maurice Lillie forwarded a photo of a Shieldbug taken by Robert Hope who thought it might be a 5mm Sciocoris Shieldbug, possibly new for Britain!!
David Search thinks it was probably a nymph Tortoise Shieldbug (Eurygaster testudinaria), probably a 1st or 2nd instar! We await further installments on this one!

Maurice also sent another photo, this time of a pair of Shieldbugs taken by Wendy Moore, a neighbour of his and recent new member of BMCG.

David Search confirmed Wendy’s bugs were both Tortoiseshell Shieldbug (Eurygaster testudinaria) again. The bugs were on a spike of False Fox Sedge (Carex otrubae).
Wendy said the photo was taken on Brook Meadow yesterday late afternoon. She gave directions as follows: Go down the slope into Lumley puddle, take the main path, and about 10m ahead there is a slightly less-dense patch of vegetation with False Fox Sedge visible on the left. There was at least one more Shieldbug in that same area.
Wendy asks a couple of questions which are best directed at David:
1. Is False Fox Sedge one of its preferred plants?
2. Are the differing colours of the Shieldbugs indicative of sexes or is there natural variation across the species?
3. Is this a visitor or native to the UK?
David answered Wendy’s questions as follows:
1. One of my books lists rushes and sedges as forming much of their diet.
2. Regarding sex, colour is not indicative as many bugs can be quite variable in colouration and, for example, you would have to look at the genital plates underneath to separate sexes. These may also be diagnostic in confirming the species.
3. It is a native species and is very common across S. England. There is another closely related species, Eurygaster maura, but I think environment in Brook Meadow isn’t suitable whereas E. testudinaria prefers tall grassland and damp habitats.


Local birdwatching sites
These short guides to local birdwatching sites by Peter Milinets-Raby
on YouTube may be of interest:

Langstone Mill Pond . . . https://youtu.be/gaBw0PYIgIc

Hayling Oysterbeds . . . https://youtu.be/OE6dfJRj4gA

Warblington and Nore Barn . . . https://youtu.be/BfG_rPnYq9g


Wildlife blog for Jan-Jun 2021 go to . . .
https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-news-archives/wildlife-blog-jan-jun-2021/


 

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