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HAVANT NATURE NOTES for St Faith's Churchyard in 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016


Mon 20th June

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Cemetery visits on June 18 and 19.

I have now selected and edited the photos I took during my June Cemetery visits (to Havant Cemetery and St Faiths churchyards on Sat 18 June and to Warblington Cemetery on Sun 19 June). The results are shown below.

Starting with Havant Cemetery one of the first things I saw was Chicken of the Woods fungus growing from the heavily pruned old Cherry Plum tree close to the vehicle entrance (after entering from Eastern Road turn right then look on the north side of the tree). The photo below is of the easier to spot specimen on a tree stump on your right as you exit the St Faith's area onto New Lane. To accompany this fungus I have chosen a patch of gelatinus algal growth called Nostoc commune but which I call 'Land-weed' as it is similar to Sea-weeds but growths on land. For more info on this strange but not rare growth see Nostoc Commune.

     

Chicken of the Woods fungus and Nostoc commune alga/cyanobacterium

Next I turned to more familiar flowers left from the Borough Council's sowing of wild flower seed in past years - several species persist where they were sown within the stone frame of graves, making them safe from grass mowing.

     

Common Toadflax and Red Campion growing under a Copper Beech tree

Next are young fruits developing on Cherry and Walnut trees.

     

Cherries and Walnuts starting to develop on trees in the main area

Moving to the St Faith's area I found a small patch of Yellow Rattle which was having little effect on the long grass around it (this species is said to be parasitic on grasses) and I also found a couple of tall stems of Crow Garlic (aka Wild Onion) which only occasionally develop flowers - normally they skip the flower stage and put their energy into developing small bulbils which will eventually drop from the flower head to become separate new plants.

     

Yellow Rattle flowerhead already developing the seed pods which 'rattle' when dry. Also Crow Garlic 'flower heads' developing bulbils rather than flowers

Leaving the cemetery I walked up New Lane to the allotments where several plants of 'Weasels Snout' (aka Lesser Snapdragon) were flowering on the pavement (I could only see a couple of plants left inside the fence) and when I arrived back home I took a shot of the self sown Wild Strawberry plant growing on my driveway and now bearing rich red fruit.

     

Weasel's Snout growing on the pavement outside the New Lane allotments and Wild Strawberry fruits growing in my driveway

After a coffee break I walked to St Faith's churchyard where recent rain was encouraging Umbrella Liverwort (Marchantia polymorpha) to reproduce and extend its hold on the damp, shaded gully along the north side of the church nave. A diagram of the life cycle of this Liverwort can be seen at Liverwort life cycle. This tiny organism produces female organs (the prominent 'palm tree' like umbrellas) and male organs (flat topped umbrellas) and when these are fully developed a shower of rain causes the female umbrellas to develop eggs between the 'ribs' of its umbrellas and the male umbrellas to eject sperm which 'swims' through the water and up the stems of the female umbrellas to reach the eggs. From this union a new 'thallus' (the ground hugging flat 'leaves' which can be seen below the umbrellas) will develop and will eventually generate new 'gametophores' (the scientific name for the umbrellas)

     

A close look at the Umbrella Liverworts and a view of where to look for them

Coming round to the rich grassland south of the church I took a photo of the notice reflecting the recent agreement between the Church Biodiversity Group and the Norse organisation which is responsible for mowing and other maintenance of the Churchyard. This is to be welcomed in so far as it prevents the destruction of the wild flowers which give pleasure to humans visiting the church for relief from the stress of modern life and at the same time supports the biodiversity of the planet. It does not, however, ensure sensitive management of the area unless both parties (Norse and the Church) take an ongoing, active role in both controlling unwanted plant growth in response to day by day natural conditions. 'No mowing' of an area for several months is bound to lead to a loss of biodiversity, giving carte blanche to the 'bullies' of the natural world (coarse grasses, brambles, nettles and shrubs) to crowd out the smaller, more colourful species, while the drawing of lines between areas of sensitive wildlife mangement and the insensitive use of chemicals to control the growth of White Comfrey where the plants cannot be mown (under the metal railings separating the churchyard from the public path along its southern boundary) does not give a good impression of the area being 'sensitively managed'.

     

One of several 'No Mowing' areas and the Ox-eye Daisies it protects

Where the No Mowing agreement does not apply a yellow Welsh Poppy was flowering under the protection of the popular bench seat in the Dewhurst Garden though other natural growth around the bench had been killed off with weedkiller and along the railings separating the Churchyard from the public path connecting Homewell St to South St the mass of White Comfrey plants (which are now past flowering) have been killed off in the same way.

     

A yellow Welsh Poppy seeking sanctuary under the Dewhurst bench and the southern railings which offer no such protection

A final look round the churchyard picked out the prominent bush of wild roses with the still healthy Ash tree (no signs of Ash Dieback so far) dominating the scene plus a fresh branch of Red Oak leaves obscuring the view of the Robin Hood pub on the far side of Homewell Street.

     

The still healthy Ash tree and Dog Rose bush dominating the southern view and fresh leaves of the young Red Oak overhanging Homewell St.

Normally several Wall Lettuce plants would now be flowering on the wall outside Homewell House but recent development here has discouraged them but on my way home I found they now enjoy the protection of the stone flagged 'garden' of the Empire Court flats which have replaced the Empire Cinema which provided East Street entertainment in the 1970s.

     

Flowers and the general structure of the Wall Lettuce plants in the 'garden' of the Empire Court flats

To complete this month's Cemetery Visits I will include my visit to Warblington here although it actually took place on the next day, June 19.

The hedgerow around the Warblington Cemetery extension has plenty of flowering Elder bushes but one flowerhead caught my eye in having very few of its florets open. The following pair of photos show the normal open flowerhead and contrast it with the unusual 'skeleton' flowerhead.

     

Normal and 'skeleton' Elder flower heads

More colourful items seen in the Extension were this fresh Small Tortoiseshell butterfly and a very deep red Poppy

     

Small Tortoiseshell and a deep red Poppy

Reaching the southernmost track across the western block of the old cemetery I found a plant which was not yet in flower but still gave me great pleasure to see it flourishing in profusion along both sides of the tarmac path. This is Round-leaved Fluellen which will soon have tiny, furry backed, brown and yellow flowers - until they appear you can have a foretaste of the pleasure that this plant gives me by seeing a photo at Round Leaved Fluellen. Nearby was a commoner wild flower that is only just starting to open its yellow flowers - Ladies Bedstraw.

     

Round-leaved Fluellen leaves and Ladies Bedstraw flowers.

A fresh growth of Chicken of the Woods fungus attracted me to a elderly ornamental Cherry Tree in which a pair of Green Woodpeckers had made their nest in the past. Later, as I was passing the Toilet block near the entrance gate, I found a colourful clump of Opium Poppies which had sown themsleves into the tarmac of the roadway but were flourishing despite to absence of normal soil.

     

Chicken of the Woods fungus growing above an old Green Woodpecker nesthole and some flourishing Opium Poppies.


Mon 16th May 2016

(Link to previous day’s entry)

Cemetery visits give me ten first flowers, five butterflies and a new site for Hairy Garlic

My monthly visit to the three Havant area cemeteries started with a view of a massive Horse Chestnut tree in full flower at the corner of New Lane at its junction with Eastern Road though my first photo, of a flowering Laburnum tree, was taken in Beechworth Road.

     

Laburnum and Horse Chestnut in full flower

Within the cemetery Common Dog Violets were flowering profusely in the south east and as I moved further north I came on my first plant of Salad Burnet in flower.

     

Common Dog Violets and first flowers opening on Salad Burnet

Still in the north east area I found Black Knapweed (also known as Hardheads) opening its first flower of the year before spotting the much more eye-catching flowers of the two Cockspur Thorn trees against the eastern wall.

     

First flowers of Black Knapweed and Cockspur Thorn

Along the northern wall dividing the cemetery from the allotments the flower buds of Himalayan Giant Brambles were not yet open though the purple flowers of Russian Comfrey could be seen but on the cemetery side of the wall a Holly tree was flowering as one of the Holly Blue butterflies that are now on the wing flew by. Moving on to the wall of the Dissenters section the cascade of apparently lifeless vine hanging over the wall proved to have a few first flowers.

     

First flowers of Holly and the Duke of Argyll's Tea Tree

The St Faith's area had nothing new to offer (though a Speckled Wood butterfly offered me a good photo but closed its wings as I pointed my camera at it) but I did get a picture of Ivy-leaved Toadflax on the outside of its New Lane wall as I headed for the Dissenter's area where the minute flowers of Cleavers (aka Goosegrass) greeted me at the gate.

     

Ivy-leaved Toadflax and the tiny flowers of Cleavers

In the Dissenter's area another inconspicuous flower, Hairy Tare, became another first on my year list while the shaded ground at the back of this area had a more colourful patch of Ground Ivy.

     

My first Hairy Tare flowers and a patch of Ground Ivy in the Dissenter's area.

Walking through the Railway Station forecourt on my way to St Faith's Church I found flowers on two more plants opening their first flowers of year. One of them, White Clover, was a genuine 'first', but the other, Broad-leaved Willowherb, had been seen for the first time two days ago and was mentioned in my previous blog entry.

     

White Clover and Broad-leaved Willowherb in Havant Station forecourt.

Reaching St Faith's I found this was a 'Speedwell Day' with examples of five species in flower - surpisingly I did not spot any Common Field Speedwell which is normally the commonest species. Walking down Homewell Street the Churchyard wall gave me Slender Speedwell and completing my external circuit in South Street I found the deep blue flowers of Grey Field Speedwell flourishing in another crack in the wall and making its first appearance at this site. Also present here were Germander Speedwell, Wall Speedwell, and Thyme-leaved Speedwell.

     

Slender and Grey Field Speedwell in the external walls of St Faith's Churchyard.

While making my external circuit along the path from Homewell St to South St I was pleased to find Maidenhair Spleenwort Fern still surviving on the old wall where Ivy and recent lack of rain have reduced the show of Fern species and in the churchyard I spotted Cut-leaved Cranesbill hiding among the grass

     

Maidenhair Spleenwort Fern and Cut-leaved Cranesbill

This afternoon I cycled to Warblington, starting my visit as usual in the extension where the first things to catch my eye were a couple of Iris flowers, one blue and yellow and the other white and yellow. I think both fitted the description of Spanish Iris (Iris xiphium) of which white flowered varieties occur as well as the bright blue petalled normal form. These were growing in the north east corner of the extension very close to the northern hedge and a little further west along this hedge I came on my first open flower on an Elder bush.

     

Brightly coloured examples of Spanish Iris and the pure white first Elder flower.

In the main cemetery my first surprise was to find Hairy Garlic close to where the machinery for the site is stored - my photo shows the flourescent jacket of one of the staff draped over the bench beside which the plant was growing - for me this species is new for this site. Nearer to the east end of the cemetery I was on the look out for the small tree with the zig-zag trunk and white flowers that I became aware of in August last year on account of its unusual bladder-like seed pods. Today I saw this tree's flowers (which give it the name Carolina Silverbell) for the first time.

     

Hairy Garlic, a new plant for the cemetery, and a first view of the Carolina Silverbell tree in flower

Below is a close up of the flowers I saw today plus a photo of the seed pods which drew my attention to the tree in August last year.

     

I often find the memorials to those buried here of great interest but hesitate to include photos which might intrude on the grief of relatives but the career of one man which I read today is both unusual and can only be remembered with pride. So, omitting the name, this career was stated as starting in the Royal Military Police where he rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant before becoming a Chief Inspector in the RSPCA and finally one of the select Chelsea Pensioners. To follow that I added two wild flower 'first for the year' alongside the southern wall of Warblington Church as I walked back to collect my bike. The first was the unassuming Pineappleweed and the second my first Poppy of the year - I assume it was some garden cultivar with wild Common Poppy in its ancestry.

     

To end a good day I went home via Langstone Pond, where strange but not unexpected gurglings were coming from Egrets on their nests, and then through the 'new Langstone' housing where the tiny yellow flowers of Least Yellow Sorrel (Oxalis exilis) were seen for the first time this year.


Thu 14th April

(Link to previous entry)

My monthly visit to Havant Cemetery and St Faith's chuchyard.

Turning right on entering the cemetery gate from Eastern Road I was confronted by a magnificent display of Primroses but these were flowering last month - this month the striking new display was a combination of Common and Early Dog Violets with the Squill-like Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa forbesii)

     

Massed Primroses and an eye-catching show of Glory of the Snow.

     

Carpets of Common Dog Violets (left photo) and Early or Wood Dog Violets.

My way of distinguishing Common from Early Dog Violets is to look at the spurs which protrude behind the flowers and to show what I mean I took one flower of each species, removed the flower stalks from each specimen before laying the flowers face down so that the spurs (normally hidden behind and below the flowers) are in full view. In the photo below the smaller, darker flower is the Early Dog Violet which not only starts to flower earlier in the year but concentrates its deepest violet colour in the narrower, pointed spur. The larger, paler flower is the Common Dog Violet which has a broader blunter and paler spur (not shown in this photo is that the sides of the spur are almost pure white). A second distinguishing feature mentioned in Stace's Flora is the length of the sepal appendages which are shown in my photo as the narrow green strips grasping the spur where it joins the back of the petals. These are longer in the Common than in the Early Dog Violet. Stace does not mention the groove (or notch) along the spur and my photo shows that both species have this feature though it is more prominent in the Common species.

     

The left hand photo shows the features distinguishing Common from Early Dog Violets. The right hand photo is of this year's first flowers on Red Campion.

The next new flowers to catch my eye were the bright yellow ones on a Norway Maple tree.

     

Flowers on a Norway Maple tree - striking in close up but less obvious from a distance.

Moving to the St Faith's area I found the catkins on the young Hornbeam tree had opened but there was little else new to be seen here or in the Dissenters section though a poor specimen of a Ragwort was starting to flower on the New Lane wall near the entrance. After leaving the Cemetery to head for St Faith's church I found a much better specimen of this Oxford Ragwort under the railings separating New Lane from the station carpark

     

Hornbeam catkins in the St Faith's area and the first Oxford Ragwort flowers near the disused railway signal box.

The dominant flower at St Faith's today was the White Comfrey now flowering around much of the periphery of the churchyard but I also found Slender Speedwell had started to flower both on the grass and on the wall separating the churchyard from Homewell Street.

     

The mass of White Comfrey and a few flowers of Slender Speedwell photographed from Homewell Street.

Before leaving the site I found one cluster of the tiny blue flowers of a species of Cornsalad (likely to be Keel-fruited but maybe Common Cornsalad - the difference cannot be determined until the plants have set seed). On the way home, walking through the Twittens, I took a final photo of a plant of Beaked Hawksbeard which I first saw and mentioned in this blog on April 7th - I do not expect this to be in flower until May but its flower buds indicate that it may flower well before the end of April.

     

Cornsalad flowering in the churchyard and Beaked Hawksbeard soon to open its flowers in The Twittens.


Sat 19th March

(Link to previous entry)

Full report on this months Cemetery Visits on Mar 16 plus more recent news

Mar 16th was sunny, if not very warm, and I started my Cemetery visits at Havant New Lane where the Primroses planted last year outside the Cemetery Wall at the New Lane/Eastern Road junction were in full flower though they did not show up well in the photo I took so I waited till I was inside the site to set the scene.

     

Massed Primroses within the Cemetery plus one of a few mauve flowered specimens

By March I expect to see a mass of Early Dog aka Wood Violets flowering under the conifers beside the eastern section of the perimeter path but this year I could only find one specimen (though several have already appeared in my own garden) - hopefully they will carpet the ground in April. Another new flower was the first Buttercup to be seen here.

     

The first lone specimens of Early Dog Violet and Creeping Buttercup

Still in the Borough section I found a good show of fresh Blue Anemones planted to enhance a grave, unlike the 'escapees' which I featured last month, half hidden by Ivy and with no obvious association with a particular grave, in the south west corner of the St Faith's section. Throughout all areas Yew trees can be found but each of them is either male or female. Earlier in the winter the females revealed them selves by bearing bright red berries (technically these are called arils as unlike e.g. Blackberries they are not a collection of many soft, sweet globules of fruit, each containing a tiny seed, but have a single large poisonous 'nut' enclosed in a single bright red sweet outer coating designed to attract birds to eat them and then defecate the nuts without having a chance to poison the bird - humans should never attempt to eat these arils as our digestive system will attempt to consume the nut. For more on this subject see Poisonous fruits. The birds have by now stripped the female trees of their arils but the males are now easy to spot as nearly all their branches are laden with hundreds of tiny yellowish sacs of pollen ready to burst open an scatter a clearly visible cloud of pollen in response to any shaking of the branch by the wind or a human hand.

     

Blue Anemones around a grave and a distant view of a male Yew whose pollen sacs give the branches a yellow tinge

In the St Faiths section I found Cherry Laurel in full flower and also took a photo of two small patches of Primroses planted by the Conservation Volunteers last year.

     

Cherry Laurel and Primrose flowers in St Faiths section

In the Dissenters section the Mahonia bush just inside the entrance has at last come into full flower and further inside I found flower buds just starting to open on a Bay tree.

     

Mahonia and Bay tree now starting to flower in the Dissenters section

From the Havant Cemetery I walked to St Faith's churchyard but found nothing new there though the number of Sweet Violets under the big Yew Tree have increased significantly in the past few days and there are now several plants of White Comfrey in full flower.

     

Sweet Violets and White Comfrey in St Faith's churchyard.

After lunch I cycled to Warblington where Serbian Squills had started to flower in the New Burial Area and an ornamental type Apple Tree had opened is first flowers at the east end of the old cemterery.

     

Serbian Squills and ornamental Apple blossom at Warblington

Near the Apple Blossom I took a close up of the pollen sacs on a male Yew tree and when walking back to the Extension to collect my bike I took a final picture of some Ivy Leaved Speedwell showing its tiny, very pale blue flowers growing at the foot of the church wall.

     

Yew pollen sacs and Ivy Leaved Speedwell at Warblington.


Tue 16th February

(Link to previous entry)

My monthly cemetery visits discover the grave of a brave Methodist Minister and add one wildflower to my February list

A hard overnight frost had not been completely cleared from the ground by the sun rising in a cloudless sky when I reached Havant Cemetery this morning but the first thing to catch my attention was the sound of a chain saw disposing of wood which was left on the ground after major 'crown reduction' of two mature trees.

     

Tree surgery in Havant Cemetery letting in more light and enhancing the views.

The trees which had been reduced were alongside the main 'road' into the cemetery from Eastern Road and continuing along that road we come to the Holocaust Memorial where the annual commemoration ceremony was held on Jan 27 and plenty of Remembrance Poppies where still left on the ground - for anyone who does not know about the annual ceremony they can read about it at Holocaust Memorial Day. Continuing north to the wall of the allotments the bright sunlight caught the inscription on a grave with no headstone which I have never before noticed in many years of monthly visits to the cemetery. The inscription told me that this was the grave of a Methodist Minister but what attracted my interest was that he had been awarded both a Distinguished Service Order and a Military Cross, presumably during the First World War, as well as a CBE. If you want to know more about him see George Standing and if you are as unaware as I was about Primitive Methodism see Primitive Methodism

     

The Havant Holocaust Memorial and the grave of George Standing CBE DSO MC.

The main wildlife feature today was birdsong from Great Tits, Dunnocks, Wrens and Chaffinches but noticeable by their absence were the noisy Herring Gulls that will soon be nesting on the rooves of the industrial buildings to the north of the cemetery. There was quite a lot of colour from flowers planted by the graves (Primroses, Daffodils, Crocuses and Snowdrops) but the nearest I could get to wild flowers were the Blue Anemones which look as if they had been thrown away a good many years ago in the south west corner of the St Faith's area though they have lost the bright blue colour they had last month. One other wild visitor that I saw was a single queen bumblebee searching in vain for pollen to keep herself alive through the remainder of the winter.

     

The clump of Blue Anemoness still flowering among brambles at the foot of the wall at some distance from the long neglected headstone in the south west corner of the St Faith's area

On my way to St Faiths I paused at the Prince George St carpark to check on the Common Whitlowgrass which has been much reduced in number this winter and has been more reluctant than usual to flower. My first photo shows a couple of plants at the edge of Prince George St just south of the carpark and the second shows a couple of the few remaining under the fence of the private carpark on the north side of Waterloo Rd where it has been abundant in the last few years.

     

A poor show of Common Whitlowgrass this winter

At St Faiths one of the first plants of White Comfrey was flowering with Crocuses on the West St frontage near the main entrance but a walk round the churchyard found very few flowers - a few Daffodils and Sweet Violets - but nothing of special interest so I took a shot of the church against the sunny blue sky before heading for Warblington Cemetery.

     

Little to report at St Faith's today

I cycled to Warblington along the new cyclepath running along the north edge of the Warblington School playing fields and on the new earth bank within the school fence I noticed a couple of plants of what I am pretty sure (by the size of the flowers) was Common Ramping Fumitory to add to the Common Fumitory I have already seen this month, bringing my February species count to 74. Reaching the Cemetery there was again a shortage of wild flowers and my only worth while photos were of the tall Grey Alder, liberally covered with fresh catkins, growing where the public path to the shore enters the old cemetery at the southern end of Church Lane. In the meadow south of the old cemetery a substantial flock of Brent Geese were feeding and providing a background noise to my visit and to the north of the Extension the cattle were 'standing like statues' in a sea of mud while the usual host of Crows were perched in the tree tops.

     

An impressive Grey Alder in Warblington Cemetery


Havant Cemetery, St Faith's Churchyard and Warblington Cemetery Wildlife Observations on 19 January 2016

(Link to previous entry)

Cemetery visits give me my first Chaffinch song and other surprises.

Despite a hard frost bright sunshine confirmed that this was a good day for my monthly cemetery visits though the frost made me wonder if there would be anything of interest to be found. First visit was to the Havant New Lane cemetery and the first thing I noticed looking over the Eastern Road wall was the naked lady shown below freezing in a corner where she did not even have a grave to ornament. Entering the main gate I realised that there had been an influx of small birds seeking food and shelter away from the open fields and woods - Song Thrushes, Blackbirds, Robins, Great Tits, Greenfinches and Chaffinches could all be seen searching for food and too occupied with hunger to have time for song. Other than occasional blossom on Cherry Plum trees and the Daffodils and Primroses that have been flowering since last month there few fresh wild flowers but I did find one new patch of Snowdrops shown in my second photo.

     

Luckily this naked lady cannot feel the frost which these Snowdrops are making a valiant effort to defy.

After disturbing the Chaffinches from their search of the leaf litter I began to hear them practicing their spring song which I normally do not hear until nearer the end of January and in the St Faith's area I found an even greater surprise in the form of very early, though frost bitten, flowers on the clump of Blue Anemones (Anemone apennina) - last year I did not see these flowers until Feb 26. Near by I also found a lone toadstool which I have not identified but think it may be a Tricholoma species by its white gills. Another 'first flower' found here today was the soon to be much commoner Grape Hyacinth

     

Early Blue Anemone flowers and a late toadstool.

On my way home I did visit St Faith's Churchyard where all I found was a single Sweet Violet hidden among its leaves and a few flowers of Red Dead Nettle and Sow Thistle which I did not photograph.

After some lunch I cycled to Warblington Cemetery where the treetops around the Extension were, as usual, full of Crows keeping a watchful eye out for any potential food and Moles were also being driven by hunger to dig new tunnels in search of earthworms.

     

Crows in the tree tops and hungry Moles underground.

Along the north hedge of the Extension fresh leaves were sprouting on many Elder bushes, one of which was already opening its flower buds. Also in this hedge I enjoyed the sight of Common Alder catkins, as yet still in tight bud, silhouetted against the cloudless blue sky.

     

Very early flower buds on Elder and eye-catching Common Alder catkins seen against the blue sky.

In the main cemetery trees were being pruned and I noticed the memorial to a lady who may be the oldest to rest there - born in 1904 and died in 2008. The only wildlife which caught my eye were the long green catkins of a Grey Alder and to make up for the absence of other interest I photographed the magnificent display of colourful flowers placed on the Cremation memorials.

     

Grey26 Alder catkins and cut flowers on cremation memorials.


Havant Cemetery and St Faith's Churchyard Wildlife Observations on 26 December 2015

(Link to previous entry)

My first Snowdrop in Havant Cemetery and a Sweet Violet in St Faith's churchyard

Boxing Day gave me the chance to make my December visit to Havant Cemetery, where I came on my first Snowdrop, and to St Faith's Churchyard, where a single Sweet Violet flower was the first I have seen this month, and in walking between the two sites I also added Common Whitlowgrass to my flowering list.

Walking along Eastern Road towards the Cemetery entrance I was expecting little of wildlife interest (despite the bold show of Lesser Celandines outside the wall at the corner of New Lane) so I took a photo of a prominent Lichen on the wall (I think it is called Diploica canescens or maybe Buellia canescens but I may be wrong!) and another of a grave onto which what looked like a Reindeer had crashed in the recent strong winds.

     

Lichen on wall and a crashed Reindeer

Inside the entrance gate Daffodils were in full flower below the Conservation Volunteers Interpretation Board and with them my first Snowdrop flower of the winter was in bud.

     

Daffodils and my first Snowdrop bud

Other than Primroses and Daffodils there was little in the way of flowers though some attractive Cyclamens (planted, but now well established) caught my eye. Even the Holly Berries were in short supply, hopefully as a result of having provided Christmas food for birds.

     

Long established Cyclamen and Holly Berries

In the St Faith's area I was pleasantly surprise to find a couple of fungi - one was tiny and bright yellow (probably the last of the Hygrocybe quieta which I discovered here on my November visit) and the other could not be identified as they were only just starting to push up though the soil near the Eastern Road gate but I guess they will soon become prominent and may turn out to be edible Horse Mushrooms or the similar (but not to be eaten) Yellow Stainers. Near these the Conservation Volunteers had earlier this year cleared a couple of small patches of the long grass and planted a few Primroses which were just starting to flower (though I suspect they will have vanished into the grass before the spring of 2017).

     

Three fresh white fungi and one old yellow fungus

Just inside the entrance to the Dissenters area the Mahonia aquifolium bush was at last starting to flower and further into the area the Ivy berries were the first I have seen to reach the final stage of their development into large black fruit to sustain birds through the depths of the winter.

     

Mahonia starting to flower and fully mature Ivy berries

Walking to St Faith's churchyard I was coming out of the Prince George Street carpark when I took a photo of the now fully open catkins on a Grey Alder before starting south down Prince George Street where, on its east side, I spotted the first hint of tiny white flower buds opening on a single plant of Common Whitlowgrass.

     

Fully open Grey Alder catkins and tiny flower buds on Common Whitlowgrass

St Faith's churchyard seemed to be devoid of any flowers or other wildlife interest with one exception - under the big Yew tree I found a single Sweet Violet flower. Their usual autumn re-flowering started here on Oct 16 but I have not been able to refind any here since then (I suspect they were mown down in a pre-Remembrance Day tidy-up) - I hope they will be left to flower this time! As a token of the absence of any other flowers I have included a photo of a single Red-deadnettle which was the only other blossom I could find.

     

Sweet Violet and Red Deadnettle


Cemetery Wildlife Observations on 17 October 2015

(Link to previous entry)

A look around both St Faith's churchyard and the Havant cemetery

Spurred on by yesterday's discovery that Sweet Violets were already flowering in the Havant Churchyard I took my camera round there this morning for my regular monthly cemetery visit but before reporting what I found in the Churchyard I have more good news in an email from Nik Knight who walked past the Havant Town Milllpond early this morning and saw two Water Voles in it. In yesterday's notes I said that I thought the Voles had departed as I could see no evidence that they had been eating any of the Water Cress which is abundant in this pond and which seemed to be their main food here. Nik saw one of them this morning collecting grass from the land on the north side of the pond and carrying it down to the water (presumably to eat in the privacy of its burrow). This surprised me as I had thought that they ate a variety of plants but only those which grew in the water. My ignorance of their diet was revealed when I checked what Wikipedia had to say, namely ... "Water voles mainly eat grass and plants near the water. At times, they will also consume fruits, bulbs, twigs, buds, and roots. In Europe, when there is enough food to last water voles a long time, water vole "plagues" can take place. Water voles eat ravenously, destroying entire fields of grass and leaving the fields full of burrows, during these plagues. Ecologists have discovered that normally vegetarian water voles living in Wiltshire, England have started eating frogs' legs and discarding the bodies. This has also been observed at a pond in Lincolnshire. The predation in 2014 was severe and no tadpoles were observed in the pond for the first time in about 8 years.It has been speculated that this is to make up for a protein deficiency in the voles' diet."

When I arrived in the Churchyard the first flower that I saw was a single Daisy so I am beginning my photos with that, closely followed by a couple of Sweet Violets.

 

A single Daisy and two of half a dozen fresh Sweet Violet flowers

Next I turned my attention to the most numerous flowers, those of Ivy, and to the many insects they were attracting. Most of these insects were Honey Bees whose legs were laden with full pollen baskets, but among them were Flies Wasps,Hoverflies and Bumblebees.

 

One of many Honey Bees and a single Chrysotoxum cautum Hoverfly

 

A white-tailed Bumblebee and a small sample of the Yew arils (fruits) which will attract the winter thrushes now arriving in this country

Among the flowering plants there were several examples of Red Deadnettle and one of a newcomer to the site - Prickly Sowthistle.

 

Red Deadnettle and the first Prickly Sowthistle I have seen here

A Cotoneaster bush was laden with small red berries to provide more winter food for birds and Common Polypody (one of the five fern species to be found on the old wall south of the Churchyard) - I have deliberately turned one of its leaves over to show the spore cases holding the seeds which it will release when the rains arrive.

 

Cotoneaster berries and the leaves of Polypody Fern

Later in the morning I visited Havant Cemetery where the most interesting find was of a plant which I believe to be Borage seen over the wall growing in the allotments. To end this visit report I have a picture of a Holly tree, laden with bright red berries, in the St Faith's area.

 

Bright blue flowers of Borage in the adjacent allotments and bright red Holly berries


Havant Cemetery Wildlife Observations on 15 September 2015

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My monthly round of Havant Cemeteries finds Early Dog Violets reflowering, Ivy flowers starting to attract insects, and several fungi including Poison Pie

As the clouds receded and the sun came out I was in Havant Cemetery where Council workers were giving the St Faith's area a much needed grass cut. With these workers was Graham Palmer, the senior Council Officer in charge of their work now that Rob Hill has moved on. I was able to have a brief chat with him after he had finished talking to the mowers to congratulate him on the way the cemeteries are still being mangaged and I gathered that Rob Hill's position is not being replaced but that the functions he performed are being absorbed into the wider remit of Graham Palmer's job.

My own observations started with finds of three new species of Fungi of which I took the photos shown below. I think the first, whose cap felt slimy, was probably Hebeloma crustuliniforme aka Poison Pie. The second species had a brown centre to an otherwise pale cap and white gills which indicated a Tricholoma species, possibly inocybeoides. The third find seemed to be an edible mushroom, probably Agaricus pilatianus but if it is that species it would be poisonous to eat.

   

Fungi under the eastern conifers of Havant Cemetery

Under the conifers lining the eastern peripheral path there is a great show of Early Dog Violets in the Spring but I was delighted to find one of these re-flowering today. My photo of this flower shows the straight and narrow spur which distinguishes this from the Common Dog Violet. At the north end of these conifers a Rowan tree brought more colour to the scene with its mass of red berries.

   

Early Dog Violet flower and Rowan berries

There were planty of other wild flowers still on show both in the Cemetery and over the wall in the Allotments but none of these were new or surprising. Just two more photos taken in the St Faith's section and the Dissenters section respectively are worth inclusion here. First was a fresh Comma butterfly and second came the first Ivy flowers of the autumn opening and attracting Wasps and Flies for whom nectar is becoming scarce as winter draws on.

   

Comma butterfly and the first Ivy flowers of the autumn

Moving on to St Faith's Churchyard I discovered a species of Puffball fungus which I have not seen there before. I believe it is called Scleroderma areolatum. Equally typical of the autumn season was the rich crop of Blackberries covering some of the tombstones.

   

Scleroderma puffballs and blackberries in St Faith's churchyard

My final visit of the day was to Warblington Cemetery where one newcomer among the plants was the small Cyclamen, almost certainly planted to adorn a grave but which has now established itself. I gather that once planted it is spread to new areas by ants which carry the seeds (as they do with Snowdrops) and soon becomes established over a wide area. It gets the name of Sowbread as it is a favourite food of pigs in those woods where the pigs occur. Another seaonal sight here were the red berries on a Cockspur Thorn tree

   

Sowbread (Cyclamen) flowers and Cockspur Thorn berries


Havant Cemetery Wildlife Observations on 18 August 2015

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Signs of autumn in my monthly round of Havant cemeteries

Yesterday I visited the Havant cemeteries where common themes were the first appearances of autumn fungi; developing fruits such as Blackberries, Elderberries and Sloes; and the start of re-flowering of several wild flowers that have not been seen since the spring. I also found a couple of firsts for the year with a show of Cockspur Grass (Echinochloa crus-galli) and Autumn Hawkbit, both in St Faith's churchyard in central Havant. Continuing this theme of autumn this morning brought the first prolonged Robin song here in Havant (following the brief appearance in my garden last Saturday of a Robin - which I assumed to one of this year's young - wearing a 'half grown' red breast)

   

Cockspur grass growing in the south gutter of St Faith's church

The first new fungus was Sulphur Polypore (Laetiporus sulphureus) aka 'Chicken of the Woods' which was growing on a tree in Havant Cemetery that had been reduced to a bare trunk earlier in the year and which was now starting to shoot new branches - to see it enter from Eastern Road and turn right at the first junction to find the tree second on your left. With it is a photo from the internet of the Fairy Ring Champignon species that I found in the short grass of St Faith's churchyear

   

Sulphur Polypore in Havant Cemetry and Fairy Ring Champignon at St Faith's

The next fungus was the massive Giant Polypore (Meripilus giganteus) on the north side of Emsworth Road just after the junction with Meadowands, seen en route to the Warblington Cemetery.

   

Giant Polypore around a old tree stump beside Emsworth Road in Havant

In St Faith's Rose Hips and Elderberries were ripening and at Warblington Sloes had acquired their autumn colour and Alder cones (not edible!) had reached their full size

   

Rose Hips and Elder berries in St Faith's churchyard

   

Sloes and Alder Cones at Warblington

Also at Warblington a small tree in the old cemetery, growing on the north side of the northernmost path near its eastern end, has so far defeated all my attempts to identify it - the most puzzling thing about it are the seed pods which hang from the branches like uninflated green bladders, each having a thin stalk around 2 cm long, then the bladder like seed pod aroud 3cm long ending in a needle-like spike 1 cm long. I assume when they are ripe they will fall to the ground and the spike is intended to hold the bladder in an upright position while it bursts to scatter the seed. Below are my photos to illustrate what I mean

   

Mystery tree overview and leaf shape

A closer view of the seed pods


Havant Cemetery Wildlife Observations on 22 July 2015

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Around Havant Cemeteries and an evening roost count of Egrets at Langstone

My news in this update relates to yesterday (July 21) starting with a visit to Havant Cemetery where Himalayan Giant Brambles were starting to fruit and several butterflies were on the wing - as well as the Comma which I photographed there were many Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns plus at least one Small Skipper.

   

Giant Himalayan Bramble fruit and a Comma butterfly

Two less common observations were of Caucasian Stonecrop in flower and a Wild Rose stem which had been denuded of its leaves by hungry Rose Sawfly caterpillars (not visible as they will already have pupated).

   

Caucasian Stonecrop signs of hungry Rose Sawflies

En route to St Faith's Churchyard I photographed the Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium) plants growing in Havant Rail Station adjacent to the Taxi turning circle. These are now in flower but do not yet have their distinctive knobbly fruit. When I reached the churchyard I found it had once again suffered a very short 'back and sides' haircut leaving no plants for me to photograph though I did find my first flowering Black Nightshade of the year - a very small plant cowering on some steps to evade the mowers.

   

Thorn Apples Black Nightshade in flower

At Warblington Cemetery in the afternoon I parked my bike near the Natural Burial area where Chicory was now the dominant flower but amongst it were several Butterbur plants which looked unlike both the common Lesser Burdock and the less common Greater Burdock. I have not yet come to any firm decision as to their identity but rather suspect they have a foreign source and arrived here in a packet of wildflower seed.

   

Chicory and an unidentified species of Burdock

While still in the Cemetery Extension I found Sloes starting to develop in the hedge before moving to the main cemetery where I encountered a tree bearing 'strange fruit' (not the bodies of lynched negroes but a strangely shaped type of fruit on a tree that I had not noticed as being unusual on past visits).

   

Early signs of a good crop of Sloes and a tree bearing 'strange fruit'

At the west end of the main cemetery Round-leaved Fluellen (Kickxia spuria) was flourishing in places where it could escape the clearance of the path edges and the mowing of the grass

   

Round-leaved Fluellen leaves evading mowing and showing flowers

To end this visit I found two more signs of oncoming autumn in the form of Bittersweet Nightshade with berries changing from green to yellow and then to red plus one newly flowering plant of Black Nightshade

   

Bittersweet Nightshade aquiring coloured berrie and Black Nightshade newly flowering

With low tide co-inciding with sunset and the weather dry but windy I made my second count of Little Egrets coming in to roost at Langstone Pond. My first attempt at a roost count this year (on June 23) found a good number of Egrets in the trees but very few coming to roost and my experience this evening was the reverse. On arrival I found the growth of the reeds greatly reduced my ability to see birds already in the trees and my starting count of birds seen in the trees was less than 30 but by staying on for half an hour after sunset I ended with an arrival count of 52 birds, the majority arriving in the last ten minutes. Most of the young are now fledging and I had a good example of this when two parents arrived at a nest with food which was immediately devoured by the two young in the nest. The youngsters clearly wanted more and pestered the parents so actively that they both flew off with both young also taking wing to follow them. While all this was going on a Magpie had been perched close to the nest, obviously intent on taking any left over scraps (of which it got none).


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 17 June 2015

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In the shaded, damp 'gutter' along the north side of the nave the dull flat leaves of Umbrella Liverwort had just grown their umbrella shaped fruiting bodies prior to creating new plants. Sexual reproduction requires rain for the male 'sperm' to swim to the female organs but asexual reproduction is also possible.

 

Under the shade of the big Yew this dark leaved, yellow flowered form of Spreading Yellow Sorrel was easy to spot while the tiny bright blue flowers of Grey Field Speedwell on the brick paving at the west end of the church were less conspicuous.

 

Also growing on the brick paving were Scarlet Pimpernel and Red Dead Nettle

 

This Dog Rose was in full view from the Dewhurst Garden bench but a closer look was more rewarding

 

A patch of Ox-eye Daisies demonstrates its magic power to repel the grass mowers while a single plant of Goat's Beard finds speedy growth allows it to flower between visits by the mowers (it also has a method of hiding from them by closing its yellow flower at mid-day, earning the alternative name of Jack-go-to-bed-at-noon)

 

These dark blue Self Heal plants have only started to flower this week and the pale blue flowers of Corn Salad, which are not new on the scene, show their preference for a dry habitat

 

Stone walls are not always dry and these plants, including long strands of Maidenhair Fern, grow under a leak in the gutter near the Old House at Home. The drier wall of Homewell Road still manages to support the Wall Rue fern.

 

I still have not been able to name the ornamental fruit tree which grows adjacent to the Red Oak. The second photo is of Wall Lettuce growing on the low wall outside the front door to Homewell House


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 15 May 2015

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Since last month's visit the Lime trees around the southern and eastern boundaries of the churchyard had been drastically pruned. One result has been growth of fresh leaves around the base of each tree. Last year I commented that the sweet nectar from the flowers of these trees attracted hordes of Aphids whose sticky excretions not only annoyed anyone who had parked their car below one of the trees but more recently the Aphids had attracted unwanted foreign immigrants in the form of Harlequin Ladybirds (which not only eat Aphids but have also noticeably reduced the number of our native Ladybirds which are available for pest control assistance to gardeners plagued by Aphids on their Roses). I wonder what effect this temporary reduction of Lime tree flowers will have on the immigrant Ladybirds and the Aphids.

 

The grass near South Street had several species of Speedwell in flower of which the commonest and easiest to recognize by its deep blue flowers is Germander Speedwell but I also found a good example of Slender Speedwell which has paler flowers at the end of long straggling stems snaking their way through the grass bearing leaves looking more yellowish than green, almost as if had been sprayed with weedkiller.

 

Passing the Ash tree on the southern edge of the churchyard I wondered if its current sparse showing of leaves was the result of Ash Dieback disease which is now affecting these tree all over Britain but hopefully it is just the result of weather conditions earlier this year giving the tree a late start. If there is truth in the old saying "If the Ash puts out its leaves before the Oak then in summer we'll have a soak; if the Oak before the Ash then in summer we'll have a splash" then this year will have a hot, dry summer with just a splash of rain. Moving towards the Red Oak near the Robin Hood pub I passed a smaller tree which I have never been able to name. On this visit it was covered with clusters of reddish flowers already developing into small fruits and these suggest to me that it is a species of ornamental Pear Tree.

 

Leaving the churchyard by the gate onto South Street I turned right and spotted, among the relatively large Daisies in the close mown grass, a couple of much smaller flowers. The tiny dots of blue in the top left of the photo are small specimens of the wild Field Forget-me-not and the equally small yellow dots in the bottom right are Lesser Trefoil. The second photo shows another pale flowered Speedwell. Unlike the pale flowered Slender Speedwell which creeps along the ground this Thyme-leaved Speedwell has an erect (if short) stem.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 9 April 2015

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I started today's visit with a walk along the path from Homewell Street to South Street and the first thing I noticed on the old stone wall beside the path was a plant of Keeled Cornsalad just starting to open its tiny blue flowers. Stopping to photograph it I also noticed that the refurbishment of Homewell House, which had included scraping all vegetation from the brick wall outside the main door of the house, had not stopped the Wall Lettuce which I used to enjoy seeing here from finding a way to continue growing from the wall despite the re-pointing of the old crevices - hopefully this plant will be in flower next month

 

From South Street I re-entered the churchyard and found the garden version of Wood Forget-me-not already in flower near the War Memorial. Under the massive Yew Tree at the west end of the Church the first of many plants of White Comfrey was in flower

 

Near the Comfrey only a few Sweet Violet plants were still in flower but nearby I picked one of several plants of Slender Speedwell that was half hidden in the grass and placed it on a tomb stone to photograph it, showing the long stemmed pale blue flowers and the small, roundish leaves growing from the long plant stem which weaves its way through the grass without raising its head into the air.

 

My last two photos were of flowers and leaves opening on a couple of ornamental trees planted near the Homewell Street boundary of the church yard


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 17 March 2015

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Walking from Havant Cemetery to St Faith's I found my very first plant of White Comfrey in flower beside Eastern Road and took this photo of it as a reminder that the many young plants of this same species that are now growing in St Faith's churchyard, shown in the second photo, will soon shoot up and put out their white flowers.

 

The highspot of this month's visit was to find the great mass of Sweet Violets which grow under and around the massive Yew at the west end of the churchyard had at last started flowering. The first photo here shows just a small part of the carpet which they provide while the second photo gives an impression of their beautiful colour in close up

 

Other than the Daffodils and Crocuses there was little else to be seen in the churchyard today so I am finishing with the best Crocuses I could find and rounding this entry off with a photo of the 'Pussy Paws' seen on a Goat Willow tree seen in The Twitten on my way home.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 10 February 2015

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Last November the need to tidy the churchyard in preparation for Remembrance Day resulted in close mowing of the large patch of Sweet Violets which were already starting to flower under the big Yew Tree. The first photo shows that the Violets are still looking severely battered around the Arum plants (which were hiding their bulbs underground in November) so the best thing about today's visit was that I found the first of this years Violet flowers opening here today (some time after they have started to flower elsewhere). The second photo shows both this flower and the stonework which protected it from the mover in November.

 

The first photo here shows the general absence of wild flowers (not even a Daisy among the grass) but several birds were in evidence. The usual tame Robin approached me in the hope of food, House Sparrows were present in the shrubs and a small flock of Goldfinch were singing from the big Ash tree. Best of all was the purring "Crooo" song of a Town Pigeon - the first I have heard this year. The second photo shows one of the resident male Blackbirds busy searching for food on the ground.

 

This Red Deadnettle was the only wild plant which I found in flower and the only other sign of spring was these leaf buds on the Common Lime trees - hopefully there will be more to see next month!


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 11 January 2015

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As I was preparing to photograph the wall lichens shown below this friendly Robin came to see what I was doing and shown with it is a Grey Wagtail seen later searching for food in Homewell Street and showing little fear of my presence. In both cases I suspect hunger had overcome their natural fear of humans.

 

These colourful Lichens seemed to be a new addition to the old wall close to the entrance to Homewell House but had probably been made more prominent by recent rain. The green and grey species shown here sometimes appeared separately on the stone but were sometime mixed though they seemed to avoid the brickwork where a pinkish species took over (see below)

 

I had recently been lamenting the apparent loss of the Wall Lettuce plants whose footholds in crevices in the brickwork has been filled with mortar during the refurbishment of Homewell House but the lichens which are now taking over the brickwork are providing a good alternative.

 

These shots of Red Dead Nettle and Field Speedwell were the only wild flowers I found in the churchyard

 

To end my visit I recorded the red colour on the shoots and buds of the Lime Trees and I also recorded a reminder of how pleasant a place this is in central Havant to have lunch and a break from shopping in such a pleasant natural setting.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 6 December 2014

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Maidenhair Spleenwort and the spring bulbs

When I arrived this morning the sun was shining from a clear blue sky after a frosty night and I had little hope of seeing anything to excite me in the way of wildlife. I began by walking down Homewell Street and then along the path to South Street and my hopes were lowered even more when I saw that the cracks in the brickwork outside Homewell House which have 'always' provided a foothold for Wall Lettuce plants have now been sealed with mortar as the renovation of the house nears completion but on entering the churchyard from South Street and turning right towards the rear of the War Memorial my hopes were rekindled by the first sight of these Spring Bulbs starting to shoot up.

 

Sunlit Church with traces of frost in the shade

Returning to the area south of the Church the warm sunlight on the buildings contrasted with the frost still coating the grass still in the shade. Plenty of berries were developing on the Ivy to feed birds later in the winter and the red Cotoneaster berries were already available to them but neither birds nor Squirrels were to be seen on this chilly morning.

 

Contrasting types of lichen

With little else of interest to record I thought I would make another attempt to at least understand the different types of lichen and took these two photos of very different types of lichen but I still do not dare to reveal my ignorance by attempting to name them!

 

New growth of Violets and Spring Bulbs

A careful search for any new Sweet Violet flowers to replace those that had been mown at the beginning of last month failed to find any but there signs of regrowth of the plants to re-assure me that no permanent damage has been done. Even better was the discovery of another patch of spring bulbs starting to come up on the north side of the Church near the War Memorial


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 10 November 2014

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The Church on a dull day with close mown grass

Before reaching the Church today I was hoping to find a good display of Sweet Violet flowers. I had seen the first of the season here on Oct 25 and since then have seen several more in the Churchyard and others elsewhere such as Mill Lanes in Langstone, so with the recent mild weather I was expecting at least a dozen flowers but it would appear that with Remembrance Day this week-end the order had gone out to remove all living things from the churchyard so that we could concentrate on celebrating death. The result is that for the first time since I started making this monthly record of natural life and beauty in the centre of Havant the only photos I was able to take were the three which appear in this month's record, all showing a scene of close mown grass devoid of wild flower interest.

   

The west end of the Churchyard with more close mown grass

This shot does reveal one natural aspect of the churchyard in November and that is the absence of leaves on the Red Oak tree.

   

More close mown grass under the big Ash Tree.

This shot also shows a new feature of the site - the completion of the new building on the Homewell House site.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 14 October 2014

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Wall Lettuce survives wall maintainance while Ivy-leaved Toadflax escapes disturbance

Re-pointing of the wall ouside the front door of Homewell House required the clearance of everything growing on the brick wall but within a few weeks the leaves of the Wall Lettuce plants have already regrown while further along on the stone wall the flowers of Ivy-leaved Toadflax have not been disturbed.

   

The plain leaves of Hart's Tongue Fern do not normally attract attention but a look at the underside of those leaves shows they are well prepared to take advantage of autumn rain to spread their spores and help with the growth of new plants

   

I did not recognize the fly in the first photo but saw it had an unusual orange-yellow abdomen before it flew of. A search of Google Images came up with the second photo which seemed to be a possible match with the name Graphomya maculata and after correcting a spelling mistake on my part (name now correctly spelt) I find it is a common and distinctively marked fly which is widespread in England but only the males have the yellow abdomen (which is usually flecked with black)

   

I noticed a curled leaf on one of the churchyard Lime trees and inside its protection was the now abandoned pupa from which the Ladybird which was also enjoying the shelter of the leaf had presumably emerged. Hopefully the Ladybird will find a more durable shelter for its hibernation period. The final photo for this month was a self sown Cyclamen growing in the churchyard illustrating how this Mediterranean species is finding the British climate increasingly to its taste


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 15 September 2014

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Rose hips and a Red Admiral

The flowers on this wild rose bush have now given way to the Rose Hips which will ensure a future for the rose species but the flowers have not yet opened on the Ivy which is providing a sun-bed for this fresh Red Admiral butterfly.

   

Wall Cotoneaster and autumnal leaves on the Red Oak

The small red berries on this Cotoneaster are already providing food for some birds as the Red Oak tree cuts of the supply of sap to its leaves, causing them to lose their green colour as the work of photosynthesis shuts down for the winter.

   

Ox-eye Daisies enjoying a secnd flowering as the first Field Mushroom appears

Fresh wild flowers are now in short supply as lower autumn temperatures encourage this Field Mushroom to spring up and take their place.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 14 August 2014

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Ladybird, Wasp and a Spider Web trapping builder's dust

My first photo today was taken on the Lime Tree overhanging the Church Notice Board facing West Street and the Wasp was one of very few I have seen so far this summer but the Ladybird (a Harlequin) was one of several seen on this same Lime tree. The Spider web was found on the wall by Homewell House and may have been abandoned by its creator when it caught more builder's dust than edible insects

   

Autumn fruits

These seasonal fruits provided some of the brightest colour on a day when wild flowers were few

   

Burnet Saxifrage contrasted with Yarrow

The churchyard is an unexpected place to find Burnet Saxifrage which is more commonly found on Downland. Do not confuse it with the common Yarrow in the right hand photo - the main difference is in the many feathery leaves on the Yarrow stem where the Saxifrage has almost leafless stems

   

Two types of Lichen on tombstones

I have not learnt to name Lichen species but can see that the left hand photo contains several species while the right hand one is mainly populated by a single different species while the photos below show at least two more species

   

Two more varieties of Lichen

The ability to survive severe treatment is well illustrated by the white lichen apparently thriving on the steps outside the west door of the church where it must have been trampled by many wedding parties being photographed over the years as well as by heavy booted grass mowers plus casual visitors such a myself. The fourth photo shows a species able to raise the edges of its growth in the absence of trampling

   

Immature acorns fallen from the young Red Oak

Before leaving I made a personal discovery while walking down Homewell Street outside the churchyard wall. Under the Red Oak whose large leaves were photographed from inside the churchyard I noticed numerous rather attractive small acorns which I assume are a first attempt by this young tree to reproduce itself - I guess these acorns will remain on the tree longer and become fuller in shape in future years, especially if there is more rain while they are developing


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 15 July 2014

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Harlequin Ladybird larva and Hoary Willowherb

My visit to the churchyard today started with two unexpected finds. On the leaf of a Common Lime tree was the larva of a Harlequin Ladybird, distinguished from the young of other Ladybird species by the solid orange surround to the black rectangle on its back. We welcome most Ladybirds as their diet is limited to Aphids but the Harlequins are omnivorous, eating many of our native insects (including Ladybirds) to the point of extinction. The species only arrived in Britain in 2004 but is already the most frequently seen Ladybird (previously it arrived in North America in 1988 and has since spread across the whole continent). The other photo is of Hoary Willowherb apparently growing on tarmac with the aid of run-off rainwater - you may just see the mass of whitish hairs clothing its stem and giving it its English name.

   

Vervain

This single plant of Vervain grows just inside the churchyard wall about halfway along Homewell Street. The left hand photo is of the whole plant (easily overlooked!) and the second photo is a close up of one stem

   

Wall Lettuce and Spreading Yellow Sorrel

These Wall Lettuce plants were growing by the front door of Homewell House and phootographed through the temporary wire screen and the Yellow Sorrel was at the foot of the Church wall on the south side of the tower.

   

Polypody and five other Fern species

The old wall along the footpath joining South St to Homewell has one unmissable clump of Polypody Fern in which I have turned one of the leaves upside down to show the developing spores in their orangey sporangia. Nearer South Street water from a leaking gutter has 'given birth to' a more interesting but less obvious collection of five different Fern species - this photo contains what seems to be a young Male Fern with the long blade of a Harts Tongue Fern above it and both Black and Maidenhair Spleenwort plus Wall Rue below.

   

Umbrella Liverwort and Black Nightshade

Following the north wall of the church down the nave area there is a shaded and often damp area of brickwork where it would seem that nothing of interest is likely to grow but today I found a patch covered with the broad flattened green leaves of a Liverwort species currently attracting attention by holding up a number of what resembled umbrellas with spikes protruding from their rim. I did not recognize what they were but a little research told me they were a fairly common species called Marchantia polymorpha or the Umbrella Liverwort which comes in two sexes. The spiky umbrellas indicate a female plant while the umbrellas of male plants lack the spikes (see a photo of one at http://bobklips.com/bobs_website/Marchantia-polymorpha-males.jpg). After that excitement I had another when I reached the newly refurbished Dewhurst bench and found the first flowering plant of Black Nightshade that I have seen this year (something I usually find among the stubble of harvested fields in August).

   

General impression of the current state of the churchyard

To help put the above observations in perspective here is a photo showing the clear blue sky and another giving a an impresssion of the hot sunshine and welcome shade of the trees.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 11 June 2014

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Children enjoying the sunny churchyard

Today the hot sun had brought a new species of 'wildlife' to the churchyard - these delightful babies were probably there for the convenience of their father but were obviously happy to be there. The school children may or may not have been interested in the War Memorial to which they were heading but at least one girl was finding interest in the grassy bank

   

Necessary grass mowing underway

The day before this visit I had noticed the whole churchyard was waist deep in grass and tall 'yellow daisies' (mainly Catsear) and when I arrived mowing was well under way with a motor mower backed up by strimmers to clear the bits that the mower could not reach. I watched one Red-tailed Bumblebee stocking up on nectar while it could but even when the mowing is complete some sources of nectar will remain and there will be plenty of alternative sources in the surrounding streets and gardens for the week or so before the supply in the churchyard is restored. Regular mowing also extends the period over which the plants are encouraged to put up new growth.

   

Wall Lettuce about to flower and Adria Bellflower in bud

The corner of the churchyard where the path from South Streeet arrives at Homewell outside Homewell House had two plants of interest - on the low wall outside the big house one of several plants of Wall Lettuce had already put up a tall flowering stem on which delicate yellow flowers will soon appear, and within the churchyard, at the foot of the brick corner post, one bud of the bright blue Adria Bellflowers that take shelter here could already be seen.

   

Polypody Fern with Willowherb and Ivy Leaved Toadflax

Further east, nearing South Street, the most prominent of the five Fern species that grow on this wall is the Polypody at the top of the left hand photo. A small plant of Harts Tongue Fern also appears in the photo and the inconspicuous Wall Rue is always somewhere to be found but in the present dry weather it is less easy to find Maidenhair Spleenwort and Black Spleenwort

   

Lichens, Wall-Rue and Procumbent Pearlwort

By this time the mowing of the grass was complete so there was seemingly nothing of special interest to photograph as I walked up Homewell Street towards West Street at the end of my visit. Then I noticed tiny examples of Wall Rue Fern and Procumbent Pearlwort on the external wall of the churchyard and took a couple of photos featuring them in the centre of each shot. To show the two plants off I would normally have focussed on a small area around them, thus enlarging the image of the plant, but that would have been to ignore the splodges of yellow and white which appear all over the brickwork (and which most people would ignore as 'lifeless litter' - perhaps windblown paint or powder) so I am using this opportunity to remind people that these patches of colour are complex lifeforms which we call Lichens that have been on this earth longer than humans (indeed longer than anything we would recognize as a 'living creature') and have managed to survive for millions of years by sticking to two principles - firstly, don't go in for a complicated life style, and secondly if there is something necessary to your life which you cannot obtain directly from the environment around you do not have any moral scruples in finding another organism which can provide that ingredient and take that organism into perpetual slavery working to supply your need.

Lichens are form of Fungus and can extract most necessities for their life directly from whatever happens to be around them (the ground, the air, or a more complex lifeform) but they do not have the ability to photosynthesize - i.e. to use sunlight to transform one natural material into another - which is essential for life. We as humans also lack this ability but make up for it by killing and eating other creatures whose bodies contain the 'products of photosythesis' which we need. One 'fault' with our solution to the problem is that we have to go on killing plants and animals daily if we are not to starve. In the early course of evolution on this planet a group of fungi developed what some might see as a morally better solution - rather than adopt a policy of perpetual killing they chose to enslave creatures (Seaweed like Algae) that could perform Photosythesis and allow them to live in permanent prison cells on condition that they provided the Fungus with the 'products' they could not obtain in any other way.

At least 600 species of Lichen are known to exist in Hampshire and naming any of them requires microscopic examination so I am not competent to name what we can see on this wall but I can nevertheless admire them for their different approach to survival and for their success in being infinitely longer established on earth than any other living thing.

The Church at the centre of life in Havant

This final photo reminds us that, whatever our personal religious beliefs, the church acts as a major focus for human life in Havant. Not only is it at a central location which we must all regularly pass by but it still provides the mechanism for registering the turning points in our lives (births, marriages, funerals and memorials to remind us of our past). Another vital element provided by the church is here symbolised by contrast of the living green trees on the left with the arid commercial buildings on the right. To me this photo summarises the myriad of intangible links that bind our community together in a way that could not be achieved without the physical focal point of the church building, the green plot around it where nature can survive, and the human organisations (represented here by the teacher with her class) which operate as a community thanks to the focus provided by the church (both the physical building and its green surrounds and the church staff and volunteers).


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 14 May 2014

(Link to previous entry)

   

Black Medick and Spreading Yellow Sorrel.

The churchyard was still showing signs of recent severe mowing but smaller plants were begining to make a comeback and the first that I noticed as I walked down Homewell road was this mass of tiny yellow flowers known as Black Medick but it was not until I had made a circuit of the southern boundary and was on South Street that I noticed a second new flower, also coloured yellow, which is Spreading Yellow Sorrel

   

Beaked Hawksbeard and Mouse-ear Hawkweed

Many species of 'yellow flowered daisies' have English names which include 'Hawk' (e.g. Hawkweeds, Hawksbeards, Hawkbits) and this inclusion of 'Hawk' is also found in the scientific name 'Hieracium' which is said to be a Latinised version of the Greek word for a hawk (Hierax) but so far I have been unable to discover what it is about these plants that suggests a connection with Hawk birds. The two examples of this group of plants which I found in grass along South Street near the War Memorial were the relatively tall, multi-flowered, Beaked Hawksbeard and the much smaller single flowered and downy stemmed Mouse-ear Hawkweed. One thing that I do know about these names is that 'Beaked' refers to the fact that when the tall Hawksbeard goes to seed each of its minute seeds has, in addition to the feathery 'parachute' that will carry it through the air, a noticeable horny beak-like extension between the top of the seed case and the base of the parachute (the seeds of other species of Hawksbeards do not have this 'beak')

   

Wall Lettuce and Polypody Fern

The low wall outside Homewell House has, for many years, been the only place in central Havant to find Wall Lettuce so I am glad to see that the current building works have not destroyed its home here. By next month it should have put up its long thin flower stalks and opened a cluster of tiny yellow flowers. Further east along the main wall the dull green of last years Polypody Fern leaves have been been joined by a good show of fresh new leaves which do not yet bear the 'spores' that will create the next generation. I have included the underside of an old leaf to show the colour difference and the reddish sporangia (spore pods) that will eventually develop under the new leaves.

   

Red Oak tree and House Sparrow nest site

The young Red Oak tree at the west end of the site is now an impressive sight with its large, fresh, leaves and after recording its presence I watched a House Sparrow enter its nest under the Church roof just below the chimney for the building's heating boiler. Further up on the Tower three Jackdaws were clinging to the wall close to their entrances to nests somewhere within the Tower.

   

Masterwort(?) umbellifer at Havant Rail Station

On my way from my Havant Cemetery visit to St Faith's today I came on two items of botanical interest which I am including here. The first was seen as I was passing the Taxi rank at Havant station on my way to Havant Park. This tall (2 metre high) umbellifer is one of a group of nine growing in a small flower bed within the station (photgraphed through metal fence railings) at the westend of the station buildings. In previous years this same flowerbed has had crops of the poisonous Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium) and this year has this crop of exotic umbellifers which may be a variety of Masterwort (Peucedanum ostruthium) but more interesting than their identity is the question of how they and the Thorn Apple plants arrived in this small flowerbed which is hardly visible to passengers on the platform and is not used for growing ornamental plants to brighten the station. Masterwort is not found in Hampshire as a wild plant and I have never seen it in cultivation but the overall look of the plant and in particular the shape of the lower leaves seem to fit the description in the floras.

   

Eastern Redbud tree flowering in Havant Park

Continuing through Havant Park towards St Faith's I was on the eastern boundary path passing the Tennis Courts (an area with some massive old London Plane trees, a Dawn Redwood tree and what I think is some form of Amelanchier (or Mespil)) when I spotted the bright pink of blossom on another planted specimen tree which I have never noticed before and which fits the description of an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis), adding to the botanic interest of a walk in Havant town.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 15 April 2014

(Link to previous entry)

   

The Violets had been mown but other plants had survived

It was a surprise to find that the carpet of Violets under the big Yew had disappeared during recent grass cutting but they will return and many smaller wild flowers had escaped the mower blades in hollows or the shelter of stones. In the left hand photo some White Comfrey had been saved by suckers round the trunk of a Lime tree and in the right hand photo Thyme Leaved Speedwell was protected by the Homewell wall.

   

Also surviving were Field Madder and Dove's Foot Cranesbill

The tiny Field Madder flowers were growing where the steep grass slope down from the West Street graves meets the tarmac around the church wall and the Dove's Foot Cranesbill was in a natural hollow in the main grassland south of the church. Both will spearhead the speedy return of wildflowers to this much appreciated natural haven in the centre of town

   

Cornsalad and Ivy-leaved Toadflax on the Homewell House wall

One place where it was business as usual for wild flowers was the wall and path from South Street to Homewell where the metal fence along the south of the churchyard made the difference between death and survival for the host of White Comfrey plants which grow there - plenty of them were on the 'safe' side and will grow back into the churchyard. On the wall the only threat to plant life was the lack of rain over the past few weeks but that is unlikely to become a killer in the normal British summer! The Cornsalad plant in the left photo is one of several sub-species separated only by the shape of their tiny seeds but here in Havant it is more likely to be Keel-fruited than Common Cornsalad. The flowers in the other photo are of Ivy-leaved Toadflax.

   

Nipplewort and Ivy-leaved Speedwell on the Homewell House wall

Nipplewort is the only species that was not present last month and is just starting to flower throughout the Havant area while the Speedwell has been out everywhere since the last week of January but is still managing to look fresh here


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 13 March 2014

(Link to previous entry)

For this visit I started by walking from West Street along Homewell, leaving the crowd of people, the shops they had come to visit, their 'busy-ness', noise and litter, for the sunshine, colour and peace of the churchyard on my left and the quiet of the elderly buildings on my right. In my first photo there is a tiny glimpse of the West Street shops seen beyond the deep shade cast by the old Yew but the second focusses on the mass of Sweet Violets in their own quiet world, surrounded and protected from human 'busy-ness' by a living ring of Daffodils and the more permanent defence of tombstones and the bricks of the churchyard wall.

   

Views from Homewell

Further south along Homewell the Daffodils and Violets gave way to smaller and genuinely wild flowers not planted by humans. First I came on a pretty Slender Speedwell flower and then an even smaller Field Forget-me-not

   

Slender Speedwell and Field Forget-me-not

Along the path following the old wall from Homewell to South Street I found a common but mostly over-looked wildflower with even smaller flowers - the Ivy-leaved Speedwell - and towards South Street I found a Bittercress plant which I thought last month might be Wavy Bittercress and so new for the churchyard but I have recently come across similar plants scattered across the Havant area and now believe they are an aberrant form of the normal Hairy Bittercress which the recent abnormal weather has caused to grow much longer and wavier flower stems than it usually does.

   

Ivy-leaved Speedwell and aberrant Hairy Bittercress

Jackdaws and Town Pigeons could constantly be heard and seen flying around and entering the church tower where they will be nesting but I could not get any pictures to illustrate their presence. As to their numbers all the evidence I have is that at least once each day I see a cloud of around 50 birds in the air above the church area. At ground level today there was a strange absence of small birds - no Robins singing, Sparrows chattering or Blackbirds hunting for worms - I guess this means they are all involved in domestic duties and keeping a low profile to avoid revealing their nest sites.

Before ending I must make it clear that the most numerous form of wildlife seen in the churchyard today were the self-sown White Comfrey plants now coming into flower. Although they can be found in every part of the site I have chosen to illustrate their presence with a photo of some of the many growing among the metal railings along the southern boundary - these railings are the secret of their success, protecting them from mowing and thus providing a secure base from which they can continue to scatter their seeds across the site.

   

White Comfrey and view of the Homewell houses illustrating the warmth and peace of the churchyard


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 13 February 2014

(Link to previous entry)

This visit was made on the only day this week when it was not raining so the blue sky is not typical of the very wet and windy month. The first two photos, of a couple of Crocuses and a rapidly increasing show of Sweet Violets, were all that I was expecting to find but, as I will describe below, the visit gave me three unexpected and exciting observations.

   

Fresh Crocus and Sweet Violet flowers

The first surprise was to hear the 'chuckling' calls made by Herring Gulls at their nests, causing me to look up to the roof of the building at the junction of South and East Street where half a dozen Gulls were taking a close interest in a part of the roof as a prospective nest site

   

Herring Gulls prospecting for nest sites

In recent years several species of large gulls have started to nest on the rooves of buildings rather than on cliffs and last year Herring Gulls nested on house rooves in Havant and Emsworth while several pairs have used factory rooves in the West Leigh industrial estate for several years. Should they settle in central Havant there are bound to be complaints about noise (from 4am to dusk), droppings, and aerial attacks on both people and pets (especially when baby gulls have fallen to the ground and their parents endeavour to protect them from danger). The gulls can even kill humans if their nest material blocks the flues of gas boilers.

   

Red Deadnettle and Groundsel plus a first for the site - Wavy Bittercress

There was little more to see in the way of wild flowers until I left the churchyard and started along the path from South Street to Homewell. Here, just below the well established leaves of Polypody Fern on the stone wall, I found a plant not yet in flower but whose leaves and long, wavy, flower stems told me it was Wavy Bittercress, a plant not normally found in towns though not uncommon along wet woodland paths. To confirm the identity of this plant I checked the number of stamens in one of its flowers which was just opening: the very common Hairy Bittercress which can currently be found everywhere, and which never has flower stems as long and 'wavy' as this plant, normally has four stamens whereas Wavy Bittercress normally has six - this plant had four! Stace's 'Flora of the British Isles' does recognize a hybrid between the two species but indicates that it has only been found in Wales. My guess is that this is a 'sport' caused by excessive rain and this opinion has been given further support by finding a similar plant in my own garden

The third and final surprise came as I was putting away my camera and preparing to leave. Glancing up I saw something I have only seen once before this year - a male Sparrowhawk hurtling by just above head height in the hope of taking some small bird unawares and carrying it off for supper, or maybe as an advance Valentine's Day token of love for the female to which he will already be paired.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 20 January 2014

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The first thing to catch my eye today was a Jackdaw perched on the gold flag set against the clear blue sky above the church tower with another Jackdaw nearby on the tower 'battlements'. I don't think these birds were a pair but two individuals from the half dozen or more pairs that will nest in the tower later in the spring.

   

Jackdaws probably intending to nest in the Church Tower

Also seen and heard on the Church roof were a Wood Pigeon and a Collared Dove (the latter singing) and both may be intending to nest in the Yew trees. Down at ground level two, possibly three, male Blackbirds were avidly searching for food in the grass and the absence of females suggested that they may well already be sitting on nests while a Robin which I saw perched on a tombstone was later seen on the ground fully absorbed in singing to what I assumed to be already his mate though seemingly taking no interest in his song. The Robin song that is currently heard everywhere is loud and far-reaching but this bird was directing a much quieter and more continuous song at his mate who was only a few feet from him and clearly directing the song at her

   

Blackbirds and Robins also likely to be nesting in the churchyard

   

A female Robin showing little interest in the passionate song of a male

Other than the Sweet Violets under the big Yew the only flower showing its colour was Red Deadnettle but another much less eye-catching flower that will soon be flowering is Ivy-leaved Speedwell - I found several plants but none had flowers so I have included one that I found elsewhere in Havant next day (Jan 21) when I had no camera so took it home to photograph there.

   

Red Deadnettle and Ivy-leaved Speedwell

A little more colour could be seen in the orangey shoots on a Common Lime tree while below it and the big Yew the number of Sweet Violets is now increasing

   

Colourful shoots on a Lime tree and more Sweet Violets


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 20 December 2013

(Link to previous entry)

I started this visit with a look at the wall of the path from South Street to Homewell where recent rain had encouraged fresh growth of both moss and lichen. My first photo is of the moss which I think is Hypnum cupressiforme sending out strands of new growth over the bare brick wall of The Old House at Home and the second is of a patch of the same moss whose spread has maybe been restricted by patches of a lichen which has already claimed ownership of the surrounding brickwork and has forced the moss into sending up seedpods to allow the wind to spread its seed over the surrounding 'enemy'.

   

Moss adopting two different strategies to extend its hold on the wall

Further along the wall I found further evidence of the fight between moss and lichen - here there was 'hand to hand combat' with the lichen species forced to send up fruiting 'cups' to get the better of a different moss species. Moving from the shaded wall surface to the sunlit tombstone of John Bulbeck (1750 - 1824) and his wife Kitty (1761 - 1892) it seemed that the warmth of the sun had prevented either moss or lichen getting a foothold on the carved stonework.

   

Fruiting cups of lichen in the shade and a cleaner surface of a sunlit memorial to John Bulbeck

There was little in the way of wild flowers to be seen but there were plenty of leaves of White Comfrey of which I found the first flowers earlier this week by the Brockhampton Stream suggesting that my next visit to the church will also find them here though my second photo (of flowers) here was not taken until April last year

   

White Comfrey leaves (and a photo of this plant in flower taken last April)

I ended this visit with a splash of colour from a Sweet Violet under the big Yew and an intruiging 'pseudo Blue Plaque' which which has recently appeared on the churchyard wall facing West Street - a similar plaque was seen at the corner of West Street and Homewell reading "Sylvia Plath never bought a loaf of bread here" and I think this refers to some of her poetry in which she compares a swelling loaf of bread to her own pregnant body though I fail to see any connection with the churchyard.

   


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 22 November 2013

(Link to previous entry)

   

Setting the scene for this visit - a glimpse of the White Hart pub and a view of the big church Yew

The sun was shining when I arrived at the church for this visit and in the absence of wildlife interest I took these views of the church showing the White Hart pub to the east and the churchyard Yew Tree to the west

   

Jackdaws on the Tower - one entering the bell chamber where it probably nested

Although difficult to see the only obvious active wildlife was Jackdaws and Pigeons on the Church Tower. Photos below show the only flowers to be seen today.

       

Other than a Pot Marigold in the Dewhurst garden these three flowers were the only wild flowers seen on this visit

Even the Ivy had ceased flowering except for one or two flowers and despite the sunshine the chill northerly wind meant that not a single insect was attracted to the nectar

Since my October visit I have made two discoveries relating to the ferns growing on the wall of 'The Old House at Home' bordering the footpath running along the southern boundary of the churchyard - see below

   

Fern discoveries thanks to an overflowing gutter - the new patch, Black Spleenwort and (from the old patch) Intermediate Polypody

Shortly after my October visit I noticed a new patch of ferns growing on the wall of the path along the southern perimeter of the churchyard, seemingly the result of water dripping onto the wall from guttering of the 'Old House at Home' buildings and I have confirmed with the South Hampshire Plant Recorder (Martin Rand) that this patch includes Black Spleenwort, a fern species not previously found in Havant. It also includes young specimens, not yet identified, of what look like Scaly Male Ferns which do not normally grow on walls and which would normally be much bigger. When corresponding with Martin Rand he asked me to send him a specimen of the Polypody Ferns which grow prominently further west along the wall and which I have pictured on previous visits, most recently on Sept 21. He thought they might be the uncommon Southern Polypody and needed to see the developing 'seeds' hidden below the fronds and on this current visit I took a photo in which one frond was turned upside down to show these very colourful 'sori' (seed pods). Martin tells me these show that the species growing here is Intermediate Polypody - the commonest species in this area.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 17 October 2013

(Link to previous entry)

When I arrived at the Church there seemed to be little of wildlife interest so I started by taking four general views of the area to set the autumnal tone but during the circuit to get these pictures I spotted a single Sweet Violet flower unexpectedly out ten days earlier than the first appeared last year - more on that later but first the four scene-setting views.

   

   

Four aspects of the Church and Churchyard in autumn sunshine

The single Sweet Violet flower was under the big old Yew close to the wall of Homewell street where there will be hundreds on show before Christmas. More violet colour was present in the leaves of an Elder as it drained the Chlorophyll from its leaves before dropping them and going into winter mode - no doubt a chemist would be able to tell us what chemicals were left in the leaf, and what part they had played in generating vital foodstuffs for the tree during the summer when their presence had been concealed by the dominant green of the Chlorophyll. Also in the shots below is one of the only fungus - a Field Mushroom - seen today.

       

First Sweet Violet, autumnal Elder leaves and a single Field Mushroom

The flowers below were seen outside the churchyard. The Yellow Corydalis and the Ivy-leaved Toadflax on the stone wall south of the church area and the Red Deadnettle in its setting of fallen leaves from the Red Oak in the Homewell street gutter.

       

Yellow Croydalis, Ivy-leaved Toadflax and Red Deadnettle

An unusual sight which I may not see again was visible over the Homewell House wall where Archaeological investigation work is being followed by the construction of new buildings and in the churchyard I noticed a pink lichen (which I cannot name) on several tombstones

   

Signs of construction work in Homewell House grounds and Pink Lichen in the churchyard

The bench in the Dewhurst garden is now a popular place for a snack lunch and a welcome break from daily work but is also a good place for keeping an eye on the churchyard, especially the many birds which visit or fly over. Pot Marigold flowers give colour to the area as do the Wall Cotoneaster berries nearby.

   

A view of the Dewhurst Garden area and the nearby Wall Cotoneaster berries


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on 21 Sept 2013

(Link to previous entry)

The highlights of todays visit were a very tame Robin, an unexpected toadstool, an equally unexpected species of grass, and a single bright red leaf from a Virginia Creeper which had appeared from an unknown source on the ground just inside the South Street entrance between the time when I came in that way and the time when I left, perhaps as a sign of divine approval on my visit. The photos showing these and other things seen today can be seen below but I will begin with photos of ferns, refreshed by recent rain, taken last Monday when passing along the path from South Street to Homewell.

   

Polypody and Maidenhair Spleenwort Ferns

   

Harts Tongue and Wall Rue Ferns

These four Fern species can be seen all year round on the flint wall of the footpath running along the southern boundary of the churchyard but the recent rain has given them all a new lease of life and I have never seen such a healthy display of Polypody. I guess these are Common Polypody but three 'look-alike' species are found in Britain, two of them in Hampshire, and the only way of separating them is to look under the leaf fronds at the russet-brown sori - the spore bearing organs which have a yellow outer ring in the very rare Southern Polypody (having said that the purists divide Common Polypody into several forms and distinguish hybrids between them!). Polypodies do not have roots and attach themselves to various substrates (principally Oak trees and old Walls but they can be found on the sandy soil near Gunner Point south of the Hayling Golf Course).

   

Spreading Yellow Sorrel and Scarlet Pimpernel

These two tiny flowers caught my eye but were by no means the only wild flowers still to be seen

   

Red Oak leaves and Elder Berries

Had the drought persisted these Oak leaves might well have acquired the red colour which give the Red Oak its name but their large size and shape make them attractive even when green. Looking in my book on trees (by Alan Mitchell) to confirm that this non-native species comes Canada and the New England area of North America I found that it is only one of 45 Oak species to be found in northern Europe nowadays.

   

Red Oak tree and tame Robin

While I was in the south west corner near the Red Oak I noticed a friend walking along Homewell eating a sandwich and while we were chatting a tame Robin landed close to us, hoping for a share of the sandwich. He quickly swallowed a few breadcrumbs and then posed for the above photo. I had no such luck with filming another small bird, a migrant Chiff Chaff, that was rapidly moving through the trees uttering its single note call. For much of the time I could not see it but it did appear just above my head for long enough to confirm its identity.

   

Syrphus ribesii Hoverfly on Ox-eye Daisies and Wasp on Ivy flowers

Although there was no sunshine the air was warm and brought this smart Hoverfly to the nectar of the Ox-eye Daises which always flower here much later than elsewhere and several wasps were enjoying the autumn nectar of Ivy blossom though that too is marginally later here - on my way to the Church I passed Ivy on which all the flowers were open and a mixed mass of insects were feeding - here the wasps were mainly cruising round unopen flowers, getting little reward for their effort.

   

Lepiota leucothites white toadstool and part of a Fairy Ring

The churchyard soil, mostly undisturbed for many years, allows fungi to become established and spread their underground threads over large areas and thus, as soon as conditions become right for the unseen underground fungus to put up its fruiting bodies (toadstools) in the hope of getting the wind to spread its spores to new sites, it starts to do so here. There were probably half a dozen clusters of Fairy Ring Toadstools, none of them forming complete 'rings' but distinguished by numbers growing in close association in lines following the underground presence of the fungal body as it moves through the soil collecting chemicals which it often exhanges for the products of photosynthesis which it gives and gets by attaching to the roots of plants whose bodies are mainly above ground. The Fairy Ring toadstools are small, of various shades of light brown, and have a distinct 'hump' (called an 'umbo') in the central part of the cap. Quite distinct from these were a few pure white all over, chunky toadstools with fleshy rings round the stem where the edges of the cap separated from the stem as the cap expanded from an initial egg shape into the umbrella shape necessary for the spores to drop from the gills and be carried away by the slightest of breezes before they reach the ground. The species found here is called Lepiota leucothites and the Mycologists who want to get more people interested in their subject and have given 'English Names' to many species call the Lepiota family 'Dapperlings' and I think you will agree that this is a neat and 'dapper' toadstool.

   

Cockspur Grass plant and flower head

This grass has several names but scientifically it is known as Echinochloa crus-galli and originates from tropical Asia from where is has spread worldwide, thus becoming a contaminant of crops grown for bird seed which is its usual origin in England. This is the first time I have seen it in the church yard but in past years it has regularly appeared in the gutter of Homewell below the churchyard wall on which people in the street have but seed for the birds. To quote Wikipedia it is .. "considered one of the world's worst weeds, reducing crop yields and causing forage crops to fail by removing up to 80% of the availabl soil nitrogen".

   

Marsh Thistle leaves on church wall and a sign from heaven (Virginia Creeper leaf of unknown origin)

I am not sure where this small door at the east end of the church (south side) leads but it has a very unusual guardian in the form of this Marsh Thistle plant which is normally found in damp ground - I have not seen it on a wall before so I thought I would capture it for the record. Near it on the ground, with no obvious origin, was the brightly coloured leaf from a Virginia Creeper and it gets in here as a fitting ending to my visit, lifting my spirits as a visit to church should do.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on Aug 19 2013

(Link to previous entry)

This morning (Aug 17) I visited St Faith's churchyard and found that on top of the summer die back of flowers the whole area had just been strimmed, removing what flowers had been there a couple of days ago. Nevertheless one of my photos, of a Ladybird on a Lime tree leaf, did rouse my interest when I set about trying to identify the species.

I already knew that identifying Ladybirds is not just a matter of counting the spots since the number can vary widely within any one species (and there are 46 species to be found in Britain although only 26 of them look like traditional Ladybirds) and the background colour can also vary from red to black and on to yellow. I also knew that within the past decade we have been invaded by a new and vicious Harlequin Ladybird species (whose appearance can also vary widely from individual to individual) which delights in eating our native species rather than munching up Aphids but I had not realised that there was a national shortage of Ladybirds this summer, leaving gardeners helpless in their fight against Aphids and Blackfly. This seems to have been serious enough to make it a newsworthy subject to both the Daily Mail and the Telegraph which tells us the problem started when last year's heavy rainfall 'washed out' the supply of Aphids and Greenfly which in turn saw many Ladybirds die of hunger. This year many fewer Ladybirds than normal have been seen and when I found one this morning I not only realised how few I have seen this year but also, now that I am pretty sure it is a Harlequin, that it is 'the wrong sort of Ladybird'.

Harlequin Ladybird on Lime Leaf - but where are our native species?

Searching for wild flowers I found just two Clover species (Red and White) which seemed worth recording but colourful fruits were appearing on the big Yew tree and there was further evidence of the imminence of autumn from the first tiny buds of flowers on Ivy.

   

Red and White Clover still flowering - just!

   

Yew tree fruit and Ivy buds as the year moves towards autumn


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on July 17 2013

(Link to previous entry)

With the current heatwave now well established my first photo, looking from the north door of the church towards the West Street Post Boxes, shows the expected parched ground with nothing much in the way of wild flowers other than abundant 'yellow daisies' (mainly of the species called Cat's Ear on account of a supposed resemblance of the soft hairs on its leaves to those around the ear of a cat which seems to thrive in drought conditions).

Cat's Ear 'daisies' enjoying the current drought.

One area managing to escape the direct force of the sun was the foot of the north west section of the church wall and here I found one of the less common Willowherbs called Epilobium obscurum (Short-fruited Willowherb)

 

Short-fruited Willowherb at the damp shaded foot of the Church wall

Rounding the west end of the Church I took a photo of the young Red Oak which partially obscures the view of the Homewell cottages and then one of a Bumblebee feeding from the Cat's Ear flowers. The jet black body and red 'tail' of this insect easily identify it as Bombus lapidarius but on looking at the photo I began to have doubts as to whether this was a Bumblebee after all - the photo shows both back legs of the insect and any self-respecting Bumblebee should show a load of pollen in the 'pollen baskets' which it carries on its back legs as food supplies for the larvae being raised back in the nest. This insect seems to have bare legs and to be consuming all the pollen it can find to satisfy its own hunger so I am wondering if this insect is in fact Bombus rupestris, a common Cuckoo Bee which dresses to mimic B. lapidarius so that it can infiltrate the nest which that species has created, lay its 'look-alike' eggs in the nest and leave the true Bumblebees to feed and raise its 'cuckoo' young. One other indication that this mght be a Cuckoo Bee is that it was operating on its own where genuine worker Bumblebees would normally work in groups.

 

Red Oak tree near Homewell cottages and possible Cuckoo Bee enjoying nectar

A little beyond the Red Oak was the plant which pleased me most being the first of its kind which I have seen this year. In my first photo of it you can see half a dozen white 'umbels' of flowers seemingly hanging in the air with just one thin stem and no obvious leaves but the second photo, looking down to the base of the plant, shows the diagnostic leaf shape of Burnet Saxifrage basal leaves - there are some leaves further up the stems but they are small and finger like, suggesting the tendrils of a climbing plant. I found these plants in the same place last year and while they are uncommon in Havant they are not difficult to find in chalk grassland such as on Portsdown

 

Burnet Saxifrage plant and its distinctive basal leaves

Burnet Saxifrage flowers

Moving to the southern edge of the churchyard the most eyecatching plant was Wall Lettuce with a mass of yellow flowered plants growing both on the low wall outside Homewell House and on the church side of the footpath where three other plants caught my eye. The most prominent of these was Large Bindweed whose white trumpet shaped flowers had the added attraction of faint pink 'candy striping' suggesting some hybridisation with the much less common Hairy Bindweed in which the pink striping is much bolder (I have not found this growing nearer to Havant than on the slopes of Portsdown above Paulsgrove but the faint hybrid form can also be seen in the Havant Eastern Road Cemetery). Low to the ground below the Bindweed a cluster of Hedge Woundwort was displaying its mauve flowers and soft hairy leaves while even less conspicuous were the softly hairy stems of Hoary Willowherb.

 

Wall Lettuce flowers and a cluster of these plants on the low wall outside Homewell House

 

Hybrid version of Greater Bindweed and a cluster of Hedge Woundwort plants

 

Flowers and softly hairy stem of Hoary Willowherb

My last photos of this visit were of the large Ash tree half way along the southern boundary which looks to me to be different from the many Common Ash trees to be found in hedges and woods, the principal difference being in its smoothly rounded structure. I did wonder if it might be one of the Fine-leaved Ash trees which are commonly planted along roadsides (as in Selangor Avenue at Emsworth) but it is clearly not that species. I will continue to investigate but for the moment I must regard it as Common Ash

 

As yet unidentified species of Ash Tree and its leaves


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on June 17 2013

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As a month had passed since I last brought my camera here I paid a brief visit St Faith's churchyard today though I did not expect much as I knew the grass had been cut recently but I also knew that young Jackdaws had just flown from their nests in the Church tower. Last week parent Jackdaws were harrying Crows which might see the young Jackdaws as a tasty meal and their aerial chases and 'verbal abuse' could be seen and heard even over my home a good 300 metres from the church. The danger to the young birds was obvious when I happened to pass the church during that week and saw one newly fledged youngster looking lost and helpless on the ground. Today a pair of adults attracted my attention by their calls and I got a photo of them perched on the church weather vane while on the ground I could only see a heap of black feathers. To make up for this tragedy I discovered a new (for me) flower species growing at the foot of the brick 'corner post' of the churchyard in the corner nearest the Homewell spring. This will have arrived here as a windborne seed from some garden planting of Campanula portenschlagiana, a native of Dalmatia known in English as the Adria Bellflower. The final photo of this brief series emphasises the temporary lack of wild flowers as a result of grass cutting though some Ox-Eye Daisies remain as do a few Dog Roses using a grave stone as their support.

 

 

Photos from St Faith's Churchyard.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on May 16 2013

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The first two photos this month show tiny flowers that have recently opened and whose colour most people will overlook. Both manage to survive in barren situations where they take advantage of the absence of taller competitors though they can struggle upwards to get their share of the sunlight when necessary. First is the very common Dove's Foot Cranesbill (the name Cranesbill is used for a number of plants that have long, pointed seed pods resembling the bill of a Crane or Heron, and the 'molle' part of the scientific name 'Geranium molle' refers to the softly hairy feel of the leaves but I have no idea of the origin of the 'Dove's Foot' name - it has nothing to do with the many pigeons around the church!). The second photo is of Field Madder, here growing on the bare tarmac near the north west corner of the church, and having little in the way of roots from which the red dye can be derived in places where the Wild Madder (from which the dye was normally extracted) is absent as in most of Hampshire other than the New Forest shores and the Isle of Wight. My photo does not do justice to the mauve colour of the flowers.

The third photo is of Soft Brome aka Lop Grass and is included to typify the wide variety of grasses that will peak in June. The last photo in this set is another indication of a plant that will soon be all too common - Elder - seen here just coming into flower. Both the flowers and the forthcoming Elderberries have a range of culinary uses.

        

The plants in this group all grow on walls, all but the second (Wall Rue) were on the southern pathway wall while it was on the Homewell Street wall and is all fresh growth. First photo is of Hart's Tongue Fern which has both fresh green leaves and withered leaves from last year. Third photo is of the flowers of Ivy-leaved Toadflax and is currently a very common, but very pretty, sight around Havant as is the Yellow Corydalis shown in the fourth photo - this was introduced to Britain in the sixteenth century from the southern foothills of the Alps and was first recorded as a self sown wild flower here in 1796 since when it has spread to become almost a weed but nevertheless a very pretty one adding colour to some barren situations.

        

The first two photos here are both of Cornsalad which has several species that can only be separated by looking at their seeds (these are probably Keel-fruited Cornsalad which is commoner here than Common Cornsalad). The plant growing in grass gives you a better view of its structure but the mass of plants on the wall is more typical. This plant has a very brief lifespan but its numbers give it a good chance of devloping seeds that will survive until next year. Wikipedia tell us that it is a very good source of several vitamins and in France it is still grown as a food crop: its name indicates that it was once such a common weed in Wheat fields it was gathered as a food supplement but I have never tried it.

My last two photos capture the first appearance in the Churchyard for this year of two very common small yellow wild flowers:- first is called Black Medick because its seeds are jet black and presumably have some medicinal property that may have been known to Dr Dewhurst but not to me or even to Wikipedia though it is a well known forage crop for animals; the second is called Spotted Medick from the black spots on its clover-like leaves (the spot on the nearest leaf is hidden by a shadow) and its scientific name of Medicago arabica hints at exotic medical uses that I cannot ascertain!


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on Apr 17 2013

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My first photo is of a clump of common Daisies showing how pretty their buds can be and my third photo is an almost equally common plant, what I call a Garden Forget-Me-Not whose ancestry is with the uncommon Wood Forget-Me-Not which was cultivated and sold in garden centres, then grown in many gardens before escaping into the wild to become one of our commonest 'wild flowers'. In between these two is a genuine rarity, Rue-leaved Saxifrage (Saxifraga tridactylites), which I find each year on old walls in and around the Pallant Carpark (the Hampshire Flora suggests you have to go west to Portchester or Southwick village to find it). I have never seen it in the churchyard before and found this single specimen on the inner side of the raised bank separating the church from West St, about half way between the main entrance to the church and the War Memorial.

        

The four photos in this row are all of Speedwell species found on todays visit. First is the abundant Ivy-leaved Speedwell distinguished by its early flowering, inconspicuous small whitish or pale blue flowers, and its overall hairiness. Second is a poor photo of what is normally the commonest of the Speedwells (Common Field Speedwell). Next is the least common of the four, Slender Speedwell, though it thrives in the grass of the church yard and likes to form dense patches with large, pale blue flowers, so it is not easy to overlook where it does occur. Finally we have Wall Speedwell which I found, as the name implies, growing from the wall facing South Street though this example was growing from the grass above the wall.

     

The photos above start with another view of Slender Speedwell and end with my orginal find of Wall Speedwell hanging from the South Sreet wall. In the centre is Ivy Leaved Toadflax whose leaves have persisted on the Homewell House passage wall through the winter but which is only now starting to flower for this year.

  

One plant whose flowers are now starting to appear all over the Churchyard is the White Comfrey. which was limited to one or two examples during the winter. Here to end today's round up is one young specimen with as yet unopen buds and another already covered with flowers.


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on Mar 18 2013

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These Winter Aconites were a pleasant surprise during today's visit to the chuchyard, as were the Hellebore and Cyclamen flowers shown below. This is only the second time I have seen Winter Aconites in Havant (the other find was several years ago in a West Street garden). The Hellebore is also a new find for me in the Churchyard and is of the type known appropriately as a 'Lenten Lily', more specifically as (I think) the hybrid Hellbore named 'Harvington Apricots'. The small Cyclamens were less impressive but added to the interest around the Dewhurst Garden were all three species were found.

  

Near the above flowers I found a pile of Woodpigeon feathers indicating a recent visit by a hungry Sparrowhawk which, after plucking its victim, must have carried the body off to eat somewhere where it was less likely to be disturbed. I have included a close up of one of the feathers showing (by the complete state of the part which would have been in the pigeon's flesh) that the kill was by a hawk which pulls the feathers out and not by a Fox or other animal which would bite the feathers off leaving a blunt end.

  

Three commoner flowers indicating the advance of spring are shown below. The first is a shot showing Daffodils screening the West Street postbox, the second is one of the many White Comfrey plants that abound in the churchyard though few are in flower so far, and the third is one of the garden Forget-me-not cultivars which are very common escapes (this is only the second example I have seen this spring)

  


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on Feb 20 2013

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Although daylight hours are increasing plant growth is hampered by overnight frost and chill winds by day, nevertheless some species are in flower. Along the pathway south of the churchyard White Comfrey has flowers on several plants with the best example shown above alongside the Crocus flowers which brighten the West Street frontage

   

Two less conspicuous flowers which were featured last month, but which are still flowering, are Red Dead Nettle (here hiding among the rapidy growing Daffodil leaves) which was found in the southwest corner next to the tree at whose foot Ivy-leaved Speedwell still has not fully opened its flowers

   

Moving along the west side towards the big Yew Tree we find the number of Sweet Violet flowers has increased massively in the last month but a photo of the whole patch does not do justice to the flowers so I have picked out two small samples, one including the first Daffodil to start to open its flower and the other giving more prominence to the colour of the Violets.

   

Moving to the wall south of the churchyard I am very pleased to see that development of Homewell House appears likely to leave the old wall untouched. I know little about the Mosses, Ferns and Lichens that grow on it but I am using this survey as an opportunity to learn about them and I think the Moss in the first photo above is called Homolothecium sericeum. The second photo is definitely of a Polypody species of which there are three plus numerous hybrids but my guess is that this is the Southern Polypody (P. cambricum) not because we are in the south of England but because it prefers a less acid environment than the commoner species (P. vulgare). The third photo is of Maidenhair Spleenwort plus (in the bottom right corner) some Wall Rue.

   

These last three photos are, I think, all of the same Lichen species which is starting to develop its 'fruiting bodies' and I believe it may be one of many species of Cladonia but I desperately need an expert to guide me as I find the books and internet sources confusing as they usally have illustrations and descriptions of species at a different stage of development to the specimen I am looking at!


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on Jan 17 2013

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With snow expected tomorrow I had a look at the churchyard today and was surprised how much interest there was. On the stone wall of the path along the south of the area Ivy-leaved Toadflax had a few flowers and four Fern species were in good health (Polypody, Harts Tongue, the more delicate Maidenhair Spleenwort, and Wall Rue). Below them one plant of White Comfrey still had flowers outside the metal railings while inside young plants of the species could be found in abundance.

   

   

Near the South St entrance I was surprised to find Common Chickweed in flower (my first of the year) but not to see Daisies. A little further towards the War Memorial Field Madder showed two white spots where the mauvish flowers will open and just west of the main entrance Parsley Piert was looking elegant at the edge of the tarmac.

     

Climbing up to look for Sweet Violets under the Yew I found a good choice of flowers and nearby saw the Arum Lily leaves that will later acquire a fertile spathe sometimes call the 'Parson in the Pulpit'. Near the Homewell wall both Red Deadnettle and Groundsel were flowering in close company.

   

A sign of Spring was seen in fresh leaves sprouting from Elder bushes and another which most people would not notice were the stems of Slender Speedwell in the grass behind the Dewhurst Garden bench. On my way to St Faith's I found Herb Robert flowering in Town Hall Road .....

   

.... and on my way home I photographed Common Whiltlowgrass flowers in Waterloo Road, Hairy Bittercress already flowering on a wall and Mistletoe on a tree in Fairfield School grounds

   


Wildlife in St Faith's Churchyard on Oct 23 2012

This is the first in a series of articles intended to provide background information for a booklet describing all aspects of this small plot of land. The satellite view shows the church at the centre of the town where North, East, South and West Streets meet. A walk round the church, starting from the crossroads, takes you west along the pedestrian precinct which was busy with the regular Tuesday market when I went there on a much duller day than is shown in the photo. At west end of the frontage, where a massive Yew tree grows, I turned south down the road (also now pedestrianised) called Homewell, passing the Robin Hood pub on my right and following the west wall of the churchyard on my left (this wall is nearly two metres tall to hold back the soil of the church graveyard which has gradually risen above the natural ground level as more and more bodies were buried there in layers above each other to contain them all within the consecrated ground). Before entering the area containg the Homewell Spring pool (just off the bottom of the photo) I turned left along the old stone flagged path leading from Homewell House to the Old House at Home pub on South Street. The path is only separated from the churchyard by a fence of metal posts but on its south side is a high flintstone wall which I regard as being part of the wildlife area on account of the ferns and other plants that grow on it. Halfway up the South Street frontage (where you can just see the dark shape of an Irish Yew in the photo) is an entrance into the church and this is where I started today's perambulation of the churchyard during which I took photos of every plant that I came across in order to show that even as winter closes in there is a great variety of non-human life to be found here - I recorded a total of 33 wild flower species, 4 ferns, 1 toadstool, a small group of Wood Pigeons feeding on grass seeds and 1 Grey Squrrel. Although most of the flowers were common species I was pleased to find one (Burnet Saxifrage) that I have not seen anywhere for over a month.

Most of the species which attracted my attention would not have registered at all with a non-naturalist and my first photo, taken from South Street looking into the churchyard, may illustrate this.

To my eye this photo contains three species in flower to start off my list but it requires closer photos to pick out these in order to name them

 

First we have the sharply toothed leaves and yellow daisy flowers of Smooth Hawksbeard (ignore the unnamed plant pushing up through the leaves), next is a plant from the Dock family whose red flower stems give it the name of Redshank, and third is Red Dead Nettle

 

Turning into the South Street entrance the earth bank on my left was heavily shaded by the Irish Yew but this plant of Nipplewort was enjoying the absence of competition for the soil (Google tells me that the flower buds of Nipplewort were thought to resemble nipples. It was therefore expected that its use would help to heal sore nipples. This theory was known as 'The Doctrine of Signatures' which came into medicine in the sixteenth century and held that God marked everything he created with some form of sign which would help to direct healers towards finding their cures for ailments.)

Moving north around the east end of the church the next thing I saw were some tiny plants of Field Madder with flower buds that might open into mauve flowers if the sun shone on them and nearby was another 'yellow daisy' species whose leaves, and the way that its narrow stem runs smoothly into the base of the flower without the sudden widening found in similar species, identify it as Autumn Hawkbit.

 

Coming round to the north face of the church I found Common Field Speedwell and then, at the foot of a tombstone just west of the main entrance from West Street, the tiny dew-spangled leaves of Parsley Piert which hides its flowers in minute pockets attached to its stem. Near it was the very common Self-heal.

 

In the northwest corner, under the shade of the Yew tree Yellow Oxalis and Wall Speedwell were present but neither had enough light to open their flowers although this single flower of Creeping Buttercup was very happy with its situation

 

I was now standing under the Yew tree and could not omit it from my photographic record and here I have balanced its might with a single Daisy but by Christmas the first flowers of the massive carpet of Sweet Violets which covers much of the bare ground here should be out .

 

Emerging from the shade of the Yew I found myself confronted with a superb bush of Ivy in full flower on my left and the leaves of an even lovelier Red Oak straight ahead, framing a view of Homewell House

 

At this time of year the Ivy flowers are one of the few sources of nectar available to the host of insects whose lives will soon be terminated by frost and although I did not get photos of them I saw several Drone Flies (Eristalis tenax - a hoverfly which does in fact manage to hibernate, as do the queens of other insect species) and just one Common Wasp. The fly in the middle picture is one of a group called Flesh flies, including Blue and Green-bottles, which search for rotting flesh as food for their young. The adults do not have teeth but suck up liquids through a tube (which can just be seen in this picture) but when they find flesh they make sure their young get at it as quickly as possible so they lay living larvae (maggots) rather than eggs which would take time to hatch. The third photo here is, I think, of very young Canadian Fleabane plants.

 

 

Above the mass of Ivy Flowers grew an Irish Yew which has very similar fruit to that of the Common Yew. These fruits are not berries enclosing multiple seeds, nor drupes which is the name for the fruit of plums and the like in which a 'stone' is totally encased in edible flesh - these fruits are called arils and have a (very poisonous) stone inside a soft, sweet flesh which is open at the outward end. Thrushes in particular love the flesh and the stone passes safely through their bodies to fall to the ground with a dollop of bird dropping to aid its growth - humans should never eat them!

 

This 'yellow daisy' is called Cats-ear from its soft and slightly furry leaves (shown in the central photo) and on the right we have a Sow-thistle in flower

 

By the top of the wall along the Homewell Street frontage is a good place to look for wild flowers as it gets light through most of the day and the first two plants I found taking advanatage of this were Scarlet Pimpernel and Yarrow whose white flowers merge into the greyish white of a Lichen on the wall

 

Also growing beside the wall was a plant of Fool's Parsley and the second photo shows two features which help to identify it from other white flowered umbellifers - from the top of the main stem long thin green 'leaves' hang down but these are not called leaves but are bracts. Above them multiple flower bearing stems (called rays) grow outwards to support the clusters of flowers and where the rays end you can see more green bracts hanging down - to make the botanists life simple and to avoid confusion these are called bracteoles and this plant species is unique in having this combination of bracts and bracteoles

 

Here, not in the sequence of my walk round, are the two highlights (for me) of today's visit. The left hand picture is, I think, of Burnet Saxifrage just coming into flower - something that I have not seen here before and have not seen anywhere for more than a month (the books say it does not flower after September). Despite its name it is not a Saxifrage nor is it a relative of the Burnet Rose but it is a fairly common umbellifer found on chalk downland. I hope to have more to say about after my next visit. The right hand picture is of an even more untimely flowering of Goosegrass (aka Cleavers from the insistence with which its burs stick to your clothing) growing through the metal fence of the church yard to overhang the steps leading down into South Street from the path along the southern boundary.

 

Here I have included a couple of rubbish photos just for the record of species seen. On the left, holding one flower in front of the black painted metal fence post, is Broad-leaved Willowherb and in the centre (with no apparent stem to support them) are the yellow flowers of Wall Lettuce growing on the wall of Homewell House with the flowers of Ivy-leaved Toadflax (third photo) nearby.

 

These three photos are of White Comfrey growing out over the path along the southern fence and I have included the close-up of flowers and leaf stems in admission of being wrong when identifying similar plants seen elsewhere as being White Comfrey when they are in fact white flowered specimens of Common Comfrey. Features which identify White Comfrey and which are not present in Common Comfrey are (a) the shape of the calyx teeth and (b) the absence of decurrent wings running down along the main plant stem from the leaves. The central photo above shows small calyx teeth - the points of the green caylx protruding over the white flower petals - while the photo of Common Comfrey flowers below shows long calyx teeth curling up from the petals. The right hand photo above shows no hint of a 'wing' running along the main stem from its junction with a leaf whereas the photo below shows a significant 'wing' above the stem.

 

While still in the south of the site I have four Fern species to add, all of them being found on the flintstone wall (although the photo of Wall Rue was taken on the Homewell Road wall)

 

Here are the two commonest species to be found in a town setting - on the left is Harts Tongue, on the right is Wall Rue. Below are two less common species - on the left is Maidenhair Spleenwort and on the right is Common Polypody, neither of which, as far as I know, occur elsewhere in Havant Town though they are not uncommon

 

Last but one in this list is a fungus (toadstool) found growing on the open grass south of the church close to where I found a similar fungus a week earlier. I am pretty sure the one I found today (see photos below) is a smaller version of the earlier find which I identified as Melanoleuca melaleuca using Roger Phillips popular book but since that book was published in 1983 this species name seems to have vanished from the science of mycology and a visit to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanoleuca_melaleuca ) will give you some idea of the endless argument between experts in this subject as to the naming and classification of fungal species.

 

And finally ...