Wildlife News (current)

Edited by Brian Fellows, this page provides wildlife news from Brook Meadow.
Please note, this is only a small selection of the local wildlife news.  For a more complete coverage of wildlife news both on Brook Meadow and the local area please go to the Emsworth wildlife blog which is updated daily with reports and photos of local wildlife
at . . . http://familyfellows.com/0-0-0-wildlife-diary.htm

THURSDAY 20 December 2018
Wildlife observations during the workday
Song Thrush and Great Tit were singing strongly for the first time this winter, along with the regular Robin. I also heard a short burst from a Blackbird. The best find of the morning was a perfect Song Thrush nest which was revealed during the trimming of the laid Hawthorn hedge near the west side plantation. We all admired its perfect round structure, well laced with small twigs and lined smoothly inside with mud. Song Thrushes do not line their nests with grass, moss, etc, as do most other birds.

Finally, The Winter Heliotrope flowers are now at their best along the river bank.

A Note on Winter Heliotrope
Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) is in the same family as Butterbur (Petasites hybridus), both of which we have on Brook Meadow. Unlike Butterbur which is native to this country, Winter Heliotrope was introduced here in the early part of the 19th century from North Africa.   This accounts for its winter flowering, whereas Butterbur flowers in the spring. It is thought that Winter Heliotrope was introduced partly for its early pollen and nectar for bees as it its flowers are highly aromatic. It quickly escaped into the wild and is now firmly established in this country.
Winter Heliotrope is dioecious, with male and female flowers being borne on separate plants. However, as with many alien arrivals in the British Isles which find themselves in a less than optimum environment, Winter Heliotrope was not able to flower properly and has never produced seed in the wild. It reproduces entirely vegetatively through its long rhizomes, an ecological strategy which has enabled it to spread and multiply.
The complete absence of female plants in the British Isles is puzzling. Maybe female plants could have been selectively removed when they were introduced in the early 19thC order to promote the fragrant male plants which have pollen and nectar to attract to bees.   Female plants have no scent, pollen or nectar. The propagation and spread would not have been hindered by this sexual selection as they reproduce very well vegetatively, without the need for sex!
Stace and Crawley: ‘Alien Plants’ state ” . . .as far as we are aware female plants do not occur anywhere in Europe, either wild or cultivated,. It seems highly like that is a native of North Africa and alien in the whole of Europe”. P.259.

A couple of things got my attention as I walked round the meadow on this fine and chilly morning. Firstly, the two young Oak trees on the Seagull Lane patch that retain their brown leaves over winter are looking quite magnificent. The first tree was planted about 10 years ago by Jenny Smith in memory of her husband and is now a substantial size.

Jenny’s Oak

The second one was planted by me during the Jubilee celebrations in 2012.
Interestingly, the Oak tree planted by the Mayor of Havant on the same occasion has shed all its leaves, as has the tall Red Oak planted in memory of Tony Wilkinson.

Brian’s Oak

Most Oak trees lose their leaves in winter, but some like the two on this site, retain theirs. This is called marcescence which also affects Beech. Apparently, it does not harm the tree and may provide an advantage in the early years of the tree’s growth in making it less palatable to browsing animals.

Osier leaves

Regarding leaves it is also interesting that the Crack Willows on the meadow lose their leaves quite early in autumn, while the Osiers and the Goat Willows keep their well into winter.
Also of note on the meadow at present, is the continued late flowering of both Hogweed and Wild Angelica while Meadowsweet seems to go on and on.


Wild Angelica




It was also good to see the first Winter Heliotrope of the winter

Wildlife observations during work session from Brian

It was good to see the first pale Hazel catkins on the bush above the north bridge – contrasting nicely with the bright orangey coloured leaves.
Hogweed and Meadowsweet are still flowering well. I also saw some Hedge Bindweed out on the Seagull Lane patch.
Kathy pointed out some interesting fungi growing on an old Willow log beside the south path. I have tentatively identified them as follows: Grey Polypore which is a fairly common fungus growing in tiers on dead wood
On the same log were some Bonnet Bell Cap which again grows in clusters on fallen logs.
During the clearance of the south east corner volunteers reported an aniseed smell, which suggested Fennel.   There is an old record of Fennel on the Brook Meadow list, but it has not been seen for many years, so I removed it from the list. However, I will keep a look out in the spring.

I had a look at some of the Ash trees on the site for any signs of Ash die-back.  The very large Ash tree on the railway embankment which overhangs the north path looks a little sad with no leaves and rather wizened seed cases.   One of the younger self seeded Ash saplings on the north path also looks unhealthy with dead crinkled up leaves.  But the disease should be easier to identify in the spring when new leaves should grow.

Sad looking Ash tree

The Aspen tree growing on the edge of the copse on the east side of the north meadow currently has beautiful yellow leaves, which shiver and rustle in the breeze.

Aspen glowing in sun

Nearby, the Rowan berries which were so prolific a few weeks ago have now mostly been stripped by local birds.  While I was there a pair of Blackbirds came to help themselves to some of the remaining berries.  It will be good to have a path right round the plantation which is planned for the future.

Blackbird taking Rowan berries

The self-seeded Alder sapling in the middle of the Lumley area is looking healthy.
I spotted a Red Admiral flying near the Rowans and a Buzzard was briefly flying over the Seagull Lane patch at the start of the work session.   I saw a Sparrowhawk fly over Lumley copse.

Self seeded Alder

There was nothing special to report on the wildlife front. The yellow
flowers of Common Fleabane and Hoary Ragwort (see photos below) are still brightening up the scene. I noticed a number of grasses re-flowering including False Oat-grass
(lots), Cocksfoot, Tall Fescue, Perennial Ryegrass and a solitary Yorkshire

While I was watching a 4-spot Spider on its web near the main river path, a small fly came into its web and quickly wrapped up.

SUNDAY OCTOBER 07th – 2018
Wildlife observations during the work session During the cutting of the dense vegetation on the Lumley area a young self-seeded Alder sapling was discovered, probably from the Alder sapling that was planted nearby a few years ago and which has grown well. It was decided to leave it and see how it develops.
A Bumblebee with a bright ginger thorax came to rest on the sleeve of Martha, Jennifer’s granddaughter who had come along to help. It is probably Bombus pascuorum, which is noted for flying late in the year.

The only butterflies I saw were Speckled Woods. I also discovered a female Common Darter sunbathing.

Common Darter female


I think I also had a Southern Hawker flying around me, but it did not stop for closer study.
I noted a good number of late flowering plants, including Common Fleabane, Hoary Ragwort, Wild Angelica, Hogweed, Common Comfrey (pink and white flowered), Creeping Thistle, Red Clover, Perennial Sow-thistle and , best of all, Meadowsweet.


Meadow sweet


Brook Meadow
I had a very relaxed stroll around the meadow with my camera on this warm autumnal morning, the sort John Keats must have had in mind when he penned his ‘Ode to Autumn’. I wonder what Keats would have done with a digital camera. Probably not written such good poetry.
On my way I stopped to admire this view . . .

Follow link to the blog for some memories…


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