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
MONDAY JUNE 3 – 2019
Riparian identification course
Report by Brian Fellows
Today, along with about 20 other people, I attended a one-day riparian plant identification course organised by Sarah Hughes, the Community Wildlife Officer for Chichester District Council. The course was led by ecologist, Bruce Middleton and covered the identification of common waterside plants among many others.
We started at Tuppenny Barn at 10am for a talk by Bruce followed by a survey of some of the plants in the pond on the site. We then went over to Brook Meadow for lunch followed by a walk around the meadow with commentary from Bruce finishing at 3pm. The weather was fine and warm and the day was a great success. I was pleased to be helpful in providing specialised local knowledge of Brook Meadow, particularly regarding orchids and sedges. Here are a few of my memories of the day with photos.
In the afternoon we all went onto Brook Meadow where I guided the group to a nice shaded area by Beryl’s seat for lunch. Most of the group sat on the ground. It was very pleasant with birds singing and the grasses swaying in the breeze.
Bruce is holding up an Aspen leaf from a tree on the east side of the north meadow behind the Rowan plantation. The reason why the leaves of Aspen rustle in the slightest breeze is due to the flattening of the leaf stems making them very flexible.
Bruce pointed out the leaves of a Hop plant just to the right of the tall Aspen tree which is a new addition to the meadow plant list. An escape from a nearby garden, maybe?
One of the attendees who was an entomologist pointed out a large Tree Bumblebee nest (Bombus hypnorum) in a hole in the last Crack Willow along the north path going towards the north-east corner. She thought it could have over 100 bees in it, but unlike Wasps they pose no threat to people provided they are left alone.
Bruce pointed out the heart-shaped petals of the flowers on the Dog Rose on the north path.
We saw two male Demoiselles chasing one another at the north bend. I did not see their wings so not sure if they were Banded Demoiselles or Beautiful Demoiselles. We get both species on Brook Meadow.
Another new plant for our year list was Raspberry the leaves of which were seen by Bruce in the brambles just south of the western plantation. The leaves are downy white underneath – not shown in this photo.
We stopped briefly at the north bridge where Bruce gave Dan some advice about planting Common Reed rhizomes.
Bruce spotted Water Figwort in flower on the river bank opposite the Bulrushes.
With half an hour left, I was delighted to take the group around the Lumley area where Bruce was most impressed by the range and abundance of our sedges. Here he is examining a sample of False Fox Sedge.
Finally here is a shot of the group admiring the Bee Orchids, which were easily seen from the path.
THURSDAY 21 March 2019
I carried out a second count of the Butterbur flower spikes on Brook Meadow during the work session. I could see immediately that there were far more than last time and so it turned out.
The work group kindly provided me with suitable long twigs with which I could section off the main Butterbur area for easier counting. I did the first count last Friday 15 March which was very low in comparison with previous years, so I decided to do a repeat. Well, I was thoroughly justified as today’s count revealed a considerable increase in the number of visible flower spikes from 415 to 794 since the previous count. The largest increase by far came from the main area immediately below the seat which went up from 352 to 704. Here is a view of the main Butterbur area.
As shown in the chart below this year’s count is higher than the last three years but roughly the same as that in 2014 and 2015, but all are well below the all time record of 1,150 in year 2013. This will be my final count as the flower spikes are now getting difficult to see as the surrounding grass and other vegetation grows rapidly.
Colin Brotherston and I had the pleasure of hearing a Cetti’s Warbler in full voice coming from the bushes on the west side of the river close to the observation fence. This was my 3rd hearing of this distinctive song bird this month which indicates a male singing to establish territory and attract a mate. Let’s hope it succeeds and so establish it as a breeding bird for Brook Meadow.
Cetti’s Warbler has, in fact, been fairly regular spring visitor over the years to Peter Pond and the Lumley Stream area of Brook Meadow, though we missed out completely last year. Our best year was 2010 when one was regularly heard and seen from April through to June and even photographed. Though very easy to hear, Cetti’s Warbler is a notoriously difficult bird to see let alone photograph. Here is a nice shot taken by Malcolm Phillips of a Cetti’s Warbler on Brook Meadow in January 2016.
The two large Black Poplars are now decorated with thin yellow-green catkins which I think are female flowers; I gather male catkins would be fatter and red. I think these two Poplars which were planted on the meadow in November 2004 in memory of Frances Jannaway’s mother are hybrids, but which hybrid they are I am not sure.
The Collins Tree Guide has a section devoted to Black Poplar hybrids, some of which are female clones and others male clones. Of the female clones I am tempted by ‘Florence Biondi’ (p,158) from its description as straight stemmed, graceful with fairly sparse foliage denser at the crown, though I could be wildly wrong! I will investigate further and will check the catkins as they develop, just in case I have got the sex wrong. Here is a close-up of the Black Poplar catkins.
I posted the query onto the Facebook page ‘Wild Flowers of Britain and Ireland’ and received the following reply from Mike Crew.
“It is still a little early but they do look like female catkins. Give them another few days to be sure. If you get a windy day you might find some on the ground. I would advise getting full leaf details later in the year, too, so that you have the whole suite of characters to work with. Some woody plants require several visits to determine an identification.”
I thanked Mike for his helpful reply and confirmed that I would continue to monitor the catkins to see how they develop and also examine the leaves closely.
THURSDAY 21 February 2019
Wildlife observations during the workday
Lots more fresh Molehills along the paths on the north meadow.
Pam Phillips reports having seen a Water Rail just where you got through the gate from Nore Barn Woods towards Warblington. But she has not seen one on the River Ems on Brook Meadow at all this winter. Dan Mortimer told me there are two regular Water Rails on Peter Pond, but they do not stray onto Brook Meadow. Here is one taken in 2017.
Bird song on the meadow this morning included Robin, Dunnock, Great Tit and Wren, though I have also heard Blackbird and Song Thrush in the past week. .
A pile of Woodpigeon feathers on the grass north of the causeway is clear indication of a Sparrowhawk kill.
The perennial Summer Snowflake (Leucojum aestivum) has started to bloom showing pretty white drooping flowers with green tipped petals. This badly misnamed plant, which typically flowers in later winter and early spring, is probably a garden escape, though Summer Snowflake is a scarce native in some areas.
The green flower spikes of Butterbur are now starting to show in the area below the main seat with one or two already showing pink flowers. This is good to see, but they are not particularly early as in some years I have seen them out in January.
For all counts of Butterbur see . . . https://www.brookmeadow.org.uk/wildlife-lists/plant-counts/
There are several clusters of Lesser Celandines in the Butterbur area, one flower I noticed having 11 petals! The number of petals on Lesser Celandine plants varies between 7 and 12 (Blamey, Fitter and Fitter. p.24), though those with 7-9 petals are the most common.
Also in the Butterbur area is a fallen Hogweed with an attractive flower head of pink and white flowers.
There is a nice contrast of the white and yellow blossoms on the Cherry Plum and Gorse on the causeway near the Lumley gate.
The young Alder tree near the Lumley Stream is attractively decorated with large hanging red-tinged male catkins surrounded by clusters of bright red female catkins which will soon develop into this year’s cones.
Also present are clumps of last year’s gnarled brown cones.
During the bonfire, we were interested to see a small tree construction close to the Oak tree which had an upright branch decorated with dead grass. We thought it most likely to be the creation of half term holiday children. Nice one.
The Yew on the east side of the north meadow has grown into a substantial bush. It has been there for many years though clearly has been cut back at some point to produce a bush.
The tall stiff rounded green leaves of Hard Rush are prominent in patches on the centre meadow.
Finally, I was interested to see that an area of the land just south of Gooseberry Cottage, which I usually refer to a the Lillywhite’s patch as it is owned by the garage, has recently been cleared. This is where the large patch of Michaelmas Daisies grow which are an important nectar source for butterflies and other insects in the autumn. I trust they will grow again.
For more wildlife news go to . . . 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.
MONDAY NOVEMBER 26 – 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was also good to see the first Winter Heliotrope of the winter
THURSDAY 15 NOVEMBER – 2018
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.
SUNDAY 4 NOVEMBER – 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
THURSDAY OCTOBER 18th -2018
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.
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.
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 14 – 2018
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…