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Wildlife Reports from vsits to the island

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May 17 to May 22 - 2016

Jean and I spent a few days on the Isle of Wight staying with our son, Peter, and his family at Cowes. The weather was rather mixed and I did not have much opportunity for wildlife watching. However, Peter was able to take me to see a couple of interesting things that I had not seen before.

The first was my first ever Greater Butterfly Orchids in Walters Copse near to the Newtown Nature Reserve. Six of them were in flower in the copse. Greater Butterfly Orchid is a rare flower, listed as 'Near Threatened'. It is sparsely distributed on the Isle of Wight. The photo on the left shows a spike of flowers, not fully open. The photo on the right shows an open flower with the distinctive long spur.

Although they were well past their best I was pleased Peter was able to take me to Eaglehead Copse near Sandown to see Toothwort. There were still a lot of spikes on show in the woods, we saw at least 100. This was one of the best.

While walking through Eaglehead Copse my son spotted a young Tawny Owl on the ground, looking quite well and healthy. We were a little concerned for its safety, but were reassured by a wildlife expert that the youngster will almost certainly be able to climb back up the tree.

Jean and I paid a visit to Ventnor Botanical Gardens where it was good to see the Wall Lizards were still present in the despite the change in ownership.


My son, Peter sent me this photo of Toothwort which he took yesterday during a family walk through Eaglehead Copse on the Isle of Wight. Personally, I have never seen this plant and I look forward to going over to the island in the next few weeks while the plants are still present.

The article in the current issue of the magazine 'Wildlife' from the Hampshire Wildlife and Isle of Wight Trust highlights Eaglehead Copse as the best place on the Isle of Wight to see this unusual plant. The Isle of Wight Flora (Pope, Snow and Allen) describes Toothwort as locally frequent in woods on chalk or heavy clay soils and says that Eaglehead Copse can hold over 2,000 plants, in three different colour forms, white (the most common), lemon-yellow and beetroot red. The Hants Flora shows no records in our area at all; most are in North Hampshire.

Toothwort is a member of the Broomrape family which are parasites on various plants and have leaves reduced to scales with no chlorophyll and are hence not green. Toothwort has tubular flowers in one-sided spikes up to about 25 cm which die down quickly after flowering. It gets it name from the flowering spikes which resemble rows of teeth. It is parasitic on mostly Hazel and Elm.

29 June to 3 July - 2015

Kittenocks Meadow - Thursday July 2nd 2015
My son Peter took me to have a look at this privately owned meadow near Havenstreet on the Isle of Wight. There is strictly no access to the site without permission. Kittenocks, in fact, comprises two meadows, plus a small streamside and semi-natural woodland. The whole site is designated a SINC. It was surveyed by the Isle of Wight Natural History Society in 2009. Pete and I did a circuit of the two meadows in about 2 hours, noting the plants as we went. We did not look at the woodland or the stream.

Here is Pete (6 feet plus) standing beside one of the very tall Marsh Thistles
with the meadow in the background

Both meadows were very beautiful with low growing grasses and masses of wild flowers. Most impressive were the orchids, Common Spotted and Southern Marsh plus swarms of hybrids (Dactylorhiza x grandis) which were mostly in the second meadow.

Here is a view of the hybrids on the second meadow

The hybrids were puzzling as they looked like Southern Marsh Orchids, but had spotted leaves. The Isle of Wight Flora indicates that these hybrid orchids are frequent in marshy sites.

Here is a possible Dactylorhiza x grandis flower spike

And a Southern Marsh Orchid (I think) for comparison

The Bird's-foot Trefoils were also puzzling as I think we had both Common Bird's-foot Trefoil and Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil which were tricky to sort out as many were going to seed.

Here is what I think are Common Bird's-foot Trefoil seed pods
The arrangement is what gives the plant its common name

Large patches of yellow flowered Dyers Greenweed adorned the second meadow

Common Vetch (left) was fairly common. Grass Vetchling (right) less common

We found just one spike of Marsh Woundwort just starting to flower

The wild flowers attracted masses of butterflies and other insects. There were literally hundreds of Meadow Browns and Marbled Whites fluttering around and feeding on the flowers. We also saw a Short-winged Conehead - female if that dark spike on the photo is an ovipositor.

There were also hundreds of Burnet Moths, both 5-spot (left) and 6-spot (right)
, mainly clearly just emerging from their chrysalis

Here is a complete list of plants noted during our walk round the meadows. N = 58 species.
The final column shows those which were also found during the 2009 Natural History Society survey.
There are a few plants we recorded that the 2009 survey did not ie Black Medick, Cat's-ear, Compact Rush, False Fox Sedge,Meadowsweet and Spear Thistle



2009 Survey

Black Medick

Medicago lupulina



Prunus spinosa


Bramble sp

Rubus ulmifolius



Hypochaeris radicata



Dactylis glomerata


Common Bent

Agrostis capillaris


Common Bird's-foot Trefoil

Lotus corniculatus


Common Fleabane

Pulicaria dysenterica


Common Knapweed

Centaurea nigra


Common Sorrel

Rumex acetosa


Common Spotted Orchid

Dactylorhiza fuchsii


Common Vetch

Vicia cracca


Compact Rush

Juncus conglomeratus


Corky-fruited Water-dropwort

Oenanthe pimpinelloides


Creeping Bent

Agrostis stolonifera


Creeping Buttercup

Ranuculus repens


Creeping Cinquefoil

Potentilla reptans


Creeping Thistle

Cirsium arvense


Curled Dock

Rumex crispus


Dog Rose

Rosa canina


Dyers Greenweed

Genista tinctoria


False Fox Sedge

Carex otrubae


False Oat-grass

Arrhenatherum elatius


Field Bindweed

Convolvulus arvensis


Field Horsetail

Equisetum arvense


Glaucous Sedge

Carex flacca


Grass Vetchling

Lathyrus nissolia


Great Willowherb

Epilobium hirsutum


Hairy Tare

Vicia hirsuta


Hard Rush

Juncus inflexus



Crataegus monogyna


Hedge Bedstraw

Galium mollugo


Hoary Ragwort

Senecio erucifolius



Heracleum sphondylium


Hybrid Orchid

Dactyllorhiza x grandis


Lesser Stitchwort

Stellaria graminea


Marsh Thistle

Cirsium palustre


Marsh Woundwort

Stachys palustris


Meadow Buttercup

Ranuculus acris


Meadow Foxtail

Alopecurus pratensis


Meadow Vetchling

Lathyrus pratensis



Filipendula ulmaria


Oxeye Daisy

Leucanthemum vulgare


Pedunculate Oak (seedlings)

Quercus robur


Red Clover

Trifolium pratense


Ribwort Plantain

Plantago lanceolata



Prunella vulgaris



Potentilla anserina


Smooth Brome

Bromus racemosus


Smooth Tare

Vicia tetrasperma


Southern Marsh Orchid

Dactylorhiza maculata


Spear Thistle

Cirsium vulgare


Square-stalked St John's-wort

Hypericum tetrapterum


Sweet Vernal Grass

Anthoxanthum odoratum



Phleum pratense


Tufted Vetch

Vicia cracca


White Clover

Trifolium repens


Yorkshire Fog

Holcus lanatus


Other observations

Sea Slater
While we were all walking along the promenade of West Cowes the girls spotted a large wood louse type creature scuttling over the concrete foreshore towards the sea. It was much larger than the common wood louse one finds in gardens and it moved much faster.

I had a look in my Collins Guide to Insects by Chinnery when I got home and located it as Sea Slater - Ligia oceanica. Wood lice are land-living crustaceans of the order Isopoda and have seven pairs of walking legs. Most are scavengers among dying vegetation as are Sea Slaters on the rocky shores.

Water Bent
I was on the look out for any pavement grasses like I recently found in Emsworth and I found a good growth of Water Bent in a neglected front garden in St Mary's Road Cowes.

The Isle of Wight Flora describes Water Bent (Poypogon viridis) as 'A rare but increasing casual grass of waste ground'.

 ISLE OF WIGHT - May 2013

Jean and I were on the Isle of Wight from Wed May 8 to Sun May 12 visiting Pete and Julia and Lily and Iris in Cowes. The weather was not good while we were there, but I managed to get to a few of my favourite spots.

SUNDAY MAY 12- 2013

Walter's Copse

Jean and I had a fine walk through Walter's Copse with Pete and Lily and Iris. I had forgotten how good this woodland was. Bluebells were looking fine in the woodlands and there was also lots of Bugle (no doubt about its identification) along with a few Early Purple Orchids and Wood Spurge. We went a little way onto the saltmarshes where English Scurvygrass and the first Thrift were in flower.

We met a couple looking for the Large Tortoiseshell which had been seen in Walter's Copse again. They thought it could have been over wintering, but it might have been released by enthusiasts. The girls were great and loved racing around and picking flowers and leaves.

Heath Wood-rush

I as particularly pleased to find another new Wood-rush for me along the main track. It was in tufts and much taller than Field Wood-rush with straight stiff stems and larger hairier leaves. I tentatively identified it as Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp. multiflora), though some of the inflorescences were very compact which reminded me of Dense-headed Heath Wood-rush (Luzula multiflora ssp congesta).


Northwood Cemetery

Pete, Jean, Lily and Iris and I walked round Northwood Cemetery this morning. We saw lots of wild flowers among the graves and the girls made a nice collection. The cemetery has a beautiful setting to be buried. I found more Southern Wood-rush with an open V-shaped inflorescence. This plant is certainly common on the Isle of Wight. Other interesting flowers included Bulbous Buttercup, Wood Anemone, Common Dog-violet, Primrose, Bluebells, Bugle (not Self-heal), Green-winged Orchids (just a few), Common Sorrel, Common Stork's-bill, Common Mouse-ear, Meadow Foxtail, Sweet Vernal Grass.

I realised that I had been identifying Bugle as Self-heal. I'm sure the plants we saw at Newtown Nature Reserve yesterday were Bugle as were those at Northwood Cemetery today. I was mistaken in thinking that Bugle was purely a woodland plant, but it also grows on grassy places. Also, Self-heal has violet flowers not blue and it does not flower until June.

FRIDAY MAY 10- 2013

Newtown Nature Reserve

Jean and I stopped at the Newtown Nature Reserve mainly to have a look at the Green-winged Orchids on the main meadow, but there were hardly any out. We went round the meadow, but could only find 8 flower spikes where as there are usual several hundred.

In fact, there was surprisingly little growth of plants on the meadow at all. Flowering plants included Self-heal, Meadow Buttercups and Common Sorrel. The only grasses I could see were Meadow Foxtail and Sweet Vernal Grass, plus Glaucous Sedge and Field Wood-rush. Lots of Alexanders was out on the roadside verges.

Fort Victoria Country Park

Jean and I walked part of the way around the nature trail which was very good for ferns including lots of fresh Hart's-tongue Fern unfurling.

There was a good flowering of Sanicle on the edge of the man path. Other plants of interest included Wood Sedge, Wood Speedwell and Wavy Bitter-cress.  


Borthwood Copse

On our way to Sandown, Jean and I stopped off for a walk through Borthwood Copse. This is a small mixed decidious ancient woodland with lots of Holly and Honeysuckle. It is owned by The National Trust and is a big dog walking area. It is said to have Red Squirrels, but we did not see any. There was a good showing of Bluebells and Wood Anemones but not special. However, we found some patches of Wood-sorrel with its distinctive trefoil leaves, though the flowers were not open at the time. Pope says Wood-sorrel is very local on the island in ancient woodlands.

Southern Wood-rush

More interesting, was the Wood-rush which I found growing in several locations in small tufts. The plants grew in small tussocks and the inflorescences were branched which I think rules out the common Field Wood-rush. One possibility is Southern Wood-rush (Luzula forsteri) which Rose says has a rather V-shaped inflorescence and which Pope says is particularly frequent on the island. In fact, I have found some previously in Ventnor Botanic Gardens on 25-May-10. The other possibility is Great Wood-rush (Luzula sylvatica) which Pope says is present in Borthwood Copse, where it is responding to recent management and 'plants are springing up in many new clearings'. However, the plants do not seem large enough for that.


Keeled-fruited Cornsalad

As we walked down St Mary's Road in Cowes, I noticed a front garden that was completely covered with Cornsalad, growing on what looked like broken slate. An amazing sight.

From Pope's Isle of Wight Flora I assume this is Keeled-fruited Cornsalad which they say is common and widespread over the island, whereas Common Cornsalad is a rare plant of cultivated and disturbed ground. Interestingly, Rose (p.428) says Common Cornsalad is the commonest Cornsalad, though from what Eric Clement told Ralph Hollins, the default Cornsalad species in Hampshire is V. carinata (ie Keeled-fruited Cornsalad) and not V. locusta (Common Cornsalad). Keeled-fruited Cornsalad is so-called after its deeply grooved and keeled fruits.

ISLE OF WIGHT April-May 2011

GURNARD PINES - April 30 - May 6, 2011

Jean and I had a family holiday on the Isle of Wight visiting my son and his family. We rented a self-catering chalet for a week at the Gurnard Pines holiday centre just outside Cowes. Our chalet was very pleasant and quiet, positioned near the edge of Raffins Copse. No dogs were allowed on the estate due to the presence of the protected Red Squirrel. I would highly recommend this place.


I erected a sunflower heart seedholder on a pine tree outside the chalet and scattered seed on the ground. We had a variety of birds during the week, including Blue Tit, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Robin and Mallard. The Woodpigeon discovered a way of reaching the seeds by perching on a nearby branch and leaning across to the holder.

Red Squirrel

However, best of all was to have regular visits from a Red Squirrel to the seed holder. Each morning, as we had breakfast, we had the great pleasure of watching the squirrel through the chalet window. It would also be there at various other times during the day. Typically, the squirrel would hang upside on the holder, seemingly sucking seeds from the small exit holes. While doing this, it showed its white underparts and also revealed a penis, indicating the animal was a male.

On two days running the squirrel managed to dislodge the seed holder onto the ground from where it has easy access to the spilt seeds. Clearly, it was a regular around the chalets as it would race around others in the same area.

Young Rabbits were also regular around the chalets.


Saturday April 30. My son Peter (as Manager of the West Wight Landscape Partnership) is involved with four important heathland restoration projects in co-operation with the Hampshire Wildlife Trust. He and I visited two of them, Bouldner Copse and Ningwood Common. The other restoration sites are at Mottistone Common and Brightstone Common. In all these areas extensive tree clearance has taken place to restore valuable heathland habitat which is scarce on the Isle of Wight.

Bouldner copse

Bouldner Copse is a large woodland with a heathland area close to the cliffs overlooking The Solent. The heathland area is being extended through tree clearance. HWT is also planning to take over some old MOD buildings to develop an education centre.

Ningwood Common

Ningwood Common is close to Bouldner Copse but further inland. Most of the plants I found on Bouldner Copse were also on Ningwood Common, though generally in greater numbers. Restoration work has been taking place here over many years and the area is more well established.

Heath Violets

Most of the ground was bare earth on the restoration sites, particularly Bouldner which has been more recently worked on. There are some interesting heathland plant specialities, including Heath Dog Violets (Viola canina) with yellow spurs and dark blue flowers and the rare Pale Dog Violets (Viola lactea) with very pale flowers - the first time I have seen these Violets.

Tormentil was fairly widespread. Common Milkwort was occasional. Gipsywort was growing beside the pond in the woodland. Compact Rush and Glaucous Sedge was widespread, plus some Distant Sedge.

Here is a Pale Dog Violet

Common Yellow Sedge

Most interesting was a small tuft of sedge that I found in the centre of the Bouldner heathland area. Each stem had a cluster of female spikelets beneath a single male spikelet, with a pair of bracts rising above the inflorescence. After much deliberation (consulting Rose, The Flora of the Isle of Wight, and the BSBI handbook on sedges), I eventually decided on Common Yellow Sedge (Carex demissa).

The plant is recorded in the 'Isle of Wight Flora' in the Bouldner area, but in that book is referred to as Carex viridula whereas in Rose and the BSBI book it is Carex demissa. I will ask Pete to pass my plant list and photos onto Richard Grogan the HWT manager of the site for him to check them with his records. I will also check on the sedge with Island Ecologist Colin Pope.


We came across interesting butterflies near the cliff edge at Bouldner. I saw the first fly past, an orange brown colour, certainly not a Comma, more like a Fritillary. When one finally settled the distinctive white pupilled eye spot ruled out Fritillary and indicated Wall Brown. This I confirmed later from the photos. Bouldner is ideal habitat for the Wall Brown with large areas of sun baked bare soil.

The second was a small green butterfly which looked like a Holly Blue, but when it settled it was clearly green. The only green butterfly I knew about was the Green Hairstreak, which a photo subsequently confirmed. Heathland is also the habitat preferred by the Green Hairstreak.

Other insects

Several Small Heaths were seen on Ningwood Common.

The fly-like moths with very long antennae Adela reaumurella were swarming around the shrubs near the cliff edge at Bouldner.

Large Red Damselflies were mating on the 'original pond' in the woodland at Bouldner.


Monday May 2. I spent this morning (a very windy one) with members of my family looking around Newtown Nature Reserve. I have visited this lovely reserve on several previous occasions, but not in early May.


The main meadow towards the harbour had hundreds of Green-winged Orchids in flower and a fine sight they were too. However, not so many I suspect as Hayling beach. I spotted one white-flowered orchid. Also, in flower were Yellow Rattle and Bird's-foot Trefoil.

On the eastern meadows the large clumps of Dyers Greenweed were showing well, but not yet in flower. I also saw my first Lesser Stitchwort flowers of the year. I was surprised to see a large number of pink-flowered Bugle plants among the standard blue flowers, something I have not seen before. They looked rather like orchids.

I could just make out some of the plantain-like flower spikes of Mousetail in the usual spot near the cattle trough in the field east of the Old Town Hall.

The long flower spikes of Sea Arrowgrass were standing tall in the saltmarshes beneath the boardwalk to the harbour hut.


The only bird of special interest was a Lesser Whitethroat singing from a hedgerow, my first of the year. There was no sound of Nightingale in its regular place on the old High Street. I could just make out Common and Sandwich Terns on the islands in the harbour, but it was much too windy for a good view.

GOLDEN HILL - May 3, 2011

Tuesday May 3. Golden Hill in Freshwater is another heathland restoration project which is being funded by the West Wight Landscape Partnership. I had a look around this morning. Large areas of scrub clearance on the top of the hill have taken place since my last visit last summer, though there is still a long way to go before it approaches the stage of restoration achieved at Bouldner Copse and Ningwood Common. Interestingly, a series of concrete steps have been revealed by the clearance on the south side of the hill, no doubt associated with the military fortifications.


There is Gorse in plenty but little other obvious evidence of heathland flora. Plants of interest in flower included Silverweed, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Bugle (including some pink-flowered previously found on Newtown Nature Reserve) and Common Dog-violets, but no Heath Dog Violet.

I found one Early Purple Orchid in flower beneath an Oak tree. It was good to see patches of Dyer's Greenweed on the southern side of the hill. Ferns (probably Male Fern) and Hard Rush were widespread, plus some Compact Rush and Distant Sedge. There is an area of open grassland on the west side of the hill with masses of Rosebay Willowherb yet to flower


I heard my second Lesser Whitethroat of the year.

OSBORNE HOUSE - May 4 2011

Wednesday May 4. Jean and I walked round the grounds of Osborne House this morning. The walled garden was interesting with its huge plants of Prince Albert Rhubarb allowed to go to seed.

Another striking plant was Fox-tailed Lily with its long white flower spikes. The grassland was peppered with the pale yellow daisies of Mouse-ear Hawkweed and the white umbellifers of Pignut. Green-winged Orchids were scattered here and there.


Jean and I had a walk along the cliffs at Shanklin in Mediterranean weather. The flowers were excellent.

Lots of Musk Stork's-bill (?) and Oxeye Daisies were in flower along the top of the cliffs. I saw my first Yarrow of the year in flower and also a white flowered Red Valerian, which apparently is quite common, though I do not recall having seen one before. Soft Brome, Barren Brome and Red Fescue were the main grasses, with a few deep red flowered Cocksfoot.

Great Quaking Grass

However, my best plants of the day was a luxurious growth of Great Quaking Grass which was growing at the foot of the cliffs near the stalls. In 'The Isle of Wight Flora' (p.181) it is said to be "Generally recorded as a non-persistent casual, but it is well established and increasing in cliff top sandy grassland at Lake Cliffs". Just in case these plants are not recorded I will tell Botanical Recorder Colin Pope about them.