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 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 coastal vegetated shingle. 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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This monthly summary for December 2016 was compiled in early March 2017, so is just a quick round-up of the more interesting things that I photographed. Being early winter in the UK, I was mainly looking at bryophytes, lichens and fungi this month.
I revisited Warsash Common to look for more lichens on evergreen leaves (see 29th November) and noticed large patches of what I assumed was the same Fellhanera as before on leaves of a Rhododendron overhanging the main stream, close to the previous find (not sure how I missed these the first time). I sent the specimen off to the expert again, and surprising he said they were a different species, Fellhaneropsis myrtillicola, the first Hampshire record (there were numerous small black dots (pycnidia) which allowed identification to be made on microscopic examination of the conidia within). I also posted photos on the Yahoo! lichen newsgroup and Hampshire lower plant specialist Brian Gale replied to say he thought the dots on the leaves
superficially resembled an alga, Phycopeltis arundinacea, a mainly western species which he had seen as far east as Portland in Dorset, but not in Hampshire. Well, the dots weren't this species, but as chance would have it I had indeed collected some other leaves with more distinctly orange-coloured dots. I recovered these from my waste bin and was able to confirm that these did fit this species. So a new alga for Hampshire to boot! Brian noted that this was probably the commonest foliicolous alga in Britain.
A poor shot of the Phycopeltis arundinacea specimen
I then went over to nearby Holly Hill Woodland Park, managed by Hampshire County Council, to look for more lichens on leaves and a reasonably detailed recording session for bryophytes. Recent cold weather and overnight frosts had frozen most of the lake, and combined with sun coming through the mist was perfect for a few arty farty shots. I found the colonies of Rhynchostegium murale on imported blocks of limestone, which I knew about, but also found a nice patch of the uncommon Fissidens gracilifolius on one boulder – unfortunately not photographed.
A Sunday afternoon walk with Debbie mainly to get some exercise. We did a circuit around Titchfield Abbey ponds and found a footpath in the Titchfield Park area where, surprise surprise, some more Phycopeltis arundinacea was found, this time coating Ivy leaves. It was growing in a humid dip, close to a stream.
I couldn't get a decent microscope shot, but this at least shows how attractive this alga is when separated from its substrate.
A quick walk to look mainly for any late fungi. The Royal Navy cemetery as Haslar is the richest site for fungi in Gosport, with about 12 waxcap species and several boletes. One thing we photographed could not be dentified (probably a Mycena), growing in the crevice low down on an Ash tree. Glancing at the first photo you might think it was a few centimetres tall, but no, they were only 2mm! Thanks to Debbie Allan for the photos.
This lichen (a common species), was on the same tree (apothecia up to about 1mm diameter).
We moved on to south Browndown, where I checked up on Gosport's largest colonies of an uncommon moss of acid soil, Acaulon muticum. I took some photos to illustrate the tiny size of this ephemeral species. Each bud-like plant has a single capsule cloaked in the tiny leaves.
This site has some impressive colonies of the calcareous-loving lichen Cladonia foliacea. I noticed some nicely developed podetia with apothecia.
Cladonia foliacea showing white undersides to thallus lobes
Debbie also took a photograph of Gorse mites.
Teamed up with my friend Peter Raby to take a walk around the Warblington area. On arrival Peter noticed that one of a small party of Little Egrets in a cattle field near the church had a yellow bill – it was a Cattle Egret, a relatively rare species, which however often turns up at this locality. It did not overly suprise us to find one, considering there had been a recent winter influx to southern Britain. We were in the car, but as we opened a door to get a better look it flushed and flew into an adjacent field which we knew could not be viewed. We then walked a circuit, not seeing much, and on return saw that the egret was back in the original field. Again, as we got our cameras out it flew, this time for quite some distance to the SE. We parked a little way up the road to check another field, and amazingly there was another one, also in a field with cows. We wondered whether it was the same bird, but it seemed to have different marks on the shoulder (one had a large orange patch). However, we cautiously put the news out as one or possibly two birds to the Emsworth local blog. Surprisingly the main birdwatching fraternity didn't pick up on the birds until a few days later. During the winter more arrived and I believe the highest count was 5 birds.
Cattle Egret (thanks to Peter for the photo)
I had organised a meeting of the Southern Group of the British Bryological Society (BBS) to this nature reserve and education centre run by Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust, a former brickpits and clay works. A good turnout and a very good day out with some interesting finds, including the uncommon Tortula protobryoides (Protobryum bryoides) (used as the logo of the BBS) pictured below, though stupidly I did not immediately recognise it and didn't show it to anyone! It is a very under-recorded species in Hampshire, being seen only four times since the 1950s, including two of my own records from Gosport. Also, Hygroamblystegium varium was found in a small woodland stream and Calliergon lindbergii on the edge of a gravel hardstanding area, both first records for the 10km square since the 1950s. A rather brief look on the sandstone boulders by the education centre revealed a nice patch of fruiting Rhynchostegium murale, new for the 10km square. These boulders were originally taken out of the ground here and are known as
septarian nodules . From these I also collected a small, tufted moss which I thought was a Didymodon species, only to later discover (when I eventually looked at in February 2017) that it was Grimmia trichophylla, a rare species in Hampshire, more at home on acid rocks in the west and north. I will report on this in a later blog.
Tortula protobryoides (the whole plant is less than a centimetre tall)
Jelly-ear on a dead Elder
The photo below was worth showing here; photographed during a survey of a wet woodland site at Bursledon, east of Southampton. Normandina pulchella is a small, leafy lichen which like many others is spreading in southern Britain due to the reduction in atmospheric acid pollution. This one was on the trunk of a birch I think, and as usual for this species, at about head height so often easy to find. The patch is probably only a few cm across.
I travelled to a meeting of the Wessex Lichen Group to this famous New Forest woodland, internationally important for its lichen communities on ancient beeches and other trees. Just a small selection of photographs follows, mostly taken on beech trunks. It was also nice to see the moss Dicranum majus fruiting, and a rare species in Hampshire, Pterogonium gracile.