Wildlife of Gosport, Hampshire and Beyond!
John Norton's wildlife blog and photo gallery
Welcome to my blog! My aim is to showcase the amazing diversity of wildlife in my home town of Gosport, in the county of Hampshire (on the English south coast) – as well as that of neighbouring counties or other places that I may happen to visit. Gosport is one of the most densely populated urban centres in Hampshire, but within its 27 square kilometres it contains significant areas of semi-natural habitats rich in wildlife. These include a river valley with fen and reedbed, ancient woodland, heathland, acid grassland, saltmarsh and an area of coastal vegetated shingle unlike that found anywhere else in the UK. The urban environment is also surprisingly rich in species and a fascinating habitat in its own right.
Text and images © J.A. Norton unless otherwise stated. Please contact me if you would like use any of these images on your web site or purchase for publication/reproduction. Comments and enquiries to:
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Like July, this was written up in November 2016, so the dates are in ascending chronological order. This month I was finishing off a few surveys and doing quite a bit of local birdwatching. Highlights were finding a nice array of alien plants at the new Alver Valley car park on Cherque Way and finding my second Wryneck for Gosport.
I noticed a few plants of Pale Galingale Cyperus eragrostis at the edge of a kerb near to my house. This species is as an urban weed, though does need fairly damp conditions. See better photos under Cherque Way entry below.
A general walk around the fields to the south of this ancient woodland. The only thing photographed was the attractive liverwort Pellia endiviifolia in a deep, shaded ditch.
A few scenics taken during a visit to assist with a vegetation survey. Inside the castle I found a small patch of the moss Scorpiurium circinatum (no photo), growing on the short-mown and heavily trampled lawn. This appears to be a new Hampshire site for this uncommon, mainly southern species. It is mainly found in limestone areas and on old monuments made of limestone. There are only a handful of other sites in the county. I shall have to return for a better look.
My third visit of the summer to a site to carry out a vegetation survey, mainly of ditch habitat. Hairlike Pondweed Potamogeton trichoides was now dominating one ditch where I hadn't even noticed it on my first visit in June. A lot more Dittander Lepidium latifolium was also in flower now.
To my horror I noticed huge piles of topsoil and turves being stockpiled on one of the Stokes Bay fields. This particular field holds one of the main populations of the nationally Vulnerable Chamomile Chamaemelum nobile in the borough and also has some fine populations of Hairy Buttercup Ranunculus sardous. I made some phone calls and eventually managed to find out that the material had come from Gosport Bowling Club, where they were installing an all-weather surface. The soil was to be used to level off some of the uneven ground. I was initially a bit worried that areas with Chamomile would be buried beneath the soil, and that the imported soil would become overgrown with rank grasses and weeds. However, I think this operation will mainly affect the Hairy Buttercup which thrives in the damper pockets on the site (those being infilled), rather than the Chamomile which grows on the better-drained ground. There is even a chance that the Chamomile could increase in abundance. Hopefully the imported soil will be fairly free of ranker grasses and weeds and will continue to be mown regularly with the rest of the field (which is vital for the continued existence of the Chamomile). I will look at the flora in 2017 to see what happens.
Gosport Borough Council had finally finished work on a new car park this summer to service the west side of the Alver Valley country park, which had been acquired by them following a big housing development in adjacent Lee-on-the-Solent several years ago. I suspect that work on the car park had been delayed due to wet weather in winter 2015/16 since whenever I drove past it it seemed to consist of one big mud bath. I'd been meaning to take a look at the churned over areas around the finished car park for some time and eventually made a brief visit on 17th with Debbie and again on 20th, when Eric Clement also joined us. We recorded a very long and impressive list of plants, including many typical weeds of disturbed ground (mixtures of native species, long established
archaeophytes and more recently introduced
neophytes), the usual bird-seed aliens (including several grasses) and a smattering of aliens typical of dumped garden soil. I won't list them all here, but below are a selection of photos of just a few of them. Some of the photos were taken on my phone camera on 17th so are not great, and when I took my DSLR on 20th it was so gloomy that I had to use flash.
Garden Pansy (Viola x wittrockiana)
Moroccan Toadflax (Linaria maroccana) – another garden species
At the end of a walk with Debbie we noticed a Southern Hawker Aeshna cyanea resting on a Hawthorn hedge. I only had my compact zoom camera with me, which doesn't give particulary sharp pictures, but we were able to approach this individual to within a few inches, so the images are pretty good!
We were dismayed to see that the small meadow next to Bridge Street has not been managed for quite some time. I'm not sure who owns it (possibly a water company who have a pumping station nearby), but in the past it has been regularly mown and supports a good range of wet meadow plants.
A shot of a Common Hawker Aeshna juncea on the wall of the church at Crofton Cemetery. It was high up on the wall, so this time the compact zoom came in useful.
A late afternoon walk around my local birdwatching patch. I had walked the entire cycleway as far as the Portsmouth Harbour shore and then returned by the same route. As I started back along the cycleway out of the corner of my eye I saw a bird flush silently from the ground into the back of a small tree on the other side of a ditch about 5 metres away. I stood and watched for a few seconds but couldn't see anything, which was when I realised this must have been a Wryneck! I'd come across them several times in the past in similar circumstances. When disturbed they find a perch and freeze and can be extremely difficult to see, due to their cryptic plumage. No other medium-sized bird would have remained silent like this. After about five minutes and almost as I was about to give up the bird finally flew up and perched in some Hawthorn trees behind, now about 20m away, but my suspicions were confirmed. I managed to get some record photos but the light was poor and I had the wrong settings on my camera. It perched for only a minute and then flew into the thick scrub behind, never to be see again! This was only my second Wryneck found in Gosport since one at Gilkicker Point on 27th September 2003 (a very similar date; though they can occur from end of August to early October). They are probably annual here but are too easily disturbed by dog walkers before birdwatchers can get to see them. A friend also found one at Gilkicker Fort on 5th September.