Everywhere seems to be ablaze with yellow and gold at the moment.  We have gorse blooming on the heathland, primroses in the hedgerows, lesser celandine and marsh marigolds in damp areas and of course the ubiquitous cultivated daffodil. 

Another yellow flower to look out for at this time of year is Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara), one of the fleabanes. It is a common plant throughout the British Isles and can be found on hard, bare places - waste ground, roadsides, gravel, dunes, low sea cliffs or river banks.  This particular, rather battered looking specimen was recently photographed on the exposed shingle of Hurst Spit.  Good clumps can be seen on the left hand verge of the road to Efford Recycling Tip.

Coltsfoot is a low-lying plant which flowers from February to April.  For the moment, only the flowers can be seen - the broadly heart shaped leaves, which are downy underneath, will appear much later.

The stems of Coltsfoot are stout and have many overlapping fleshy scales which can be purplish and woolly.  Like the dandelion it has both disc and ray florets.

Coltsfoot has a stout underground rhizome, so benefits from a store of food laid down the previous summer. This enables it to appear early and in harsh, inhospitable places.

Coltsfoot was valued in the past as a medicinal plant, useful for treating coughs and other chest complaints.  Its common name comes, perhaps, from the leaf shape.


Walk report : Culverley 12th March 2021

We set out in the car in absolutely torrential rain, and right on cue, it cleared, and the sun came out when we arrived in the car park. We set off down the track which didn’t seem too muddy at first and immediately were accompanied by a lovely chorus of bird song. We spotted Redwing, Chaffinch, Marsh Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker. We also started to notice little bits of red on the ground, mixed among the leaf litter. On closer inspection we saw that they were acorns that had split open and started to germinate. 

Their flesh was turning a rich magenta red. (Having never noticed this before we researched on getting home but could find nothing to explain this except to report that acorns are rich in tannins which may account for the colour. We wonder if the germination process causes them to be released like this and they become oxidised on exposure to the air?) Then we started to find the going difficult with deep mud. Stopping to look with binoculars or to take photos resulted in being glued to the ground. We persisted and found Nuthatch, Treecreeper and more and more mud and eventually had to abandon the route we were intending, turn around and retrace our steps. On the way back we found even more mud. Or, to be more precise, Glynis found more mud. Just as I was about to say “I wouldn’t step there”, she stepped there and went down into the liquid mud up to her knees. 

I pulled her out, took the photo that had to be taken and made our way back. A final reward for our efforts was seeing a Firescrest flitting in the holly shortly before we got back to the car. Then we managed to bring a very muddy Lymnater back home to be hosed off in the garden! Just to confirm that this walk is not advised at present, not least because of the conditions but also because of newly fallen trees over the path in several places. Glynis and Robert Payne 

23 March Talk: The Knepp Wilding Project

Our next Zoom speaker will be JILL BUTLER whose subject will be ‘The Knepp Wilding Project.: Is it Good for Wildlife?’

The Knepp Estate in West Sussex has been wilding for about 15 years - the transition has been from intensive milk production to extensive pastoralist.  

Jill Butler is a specialist in ancient wood pasture and she will talk in particular about the wilding of trees and shrubs and the soil.  She will be showing how this has turned some aspects of ecology upside down, indicating a better way to regenerate biodiversity for the future. It promises to be a fascinating talk.

A Sunday Walk on the Marshes

To mark what should have been the last Sunday birding walk of the Lymnats' 2020/21 winter programme here is a "snapshot" of Lymington - Keyhaven seen on a frosty March morning by a solitary walker - a total of over 60 species:

Mute Swan; Canada Goose; Dark-bellied Brent Goose; Shelduck; Wigeon; Gadwall; Mallard; Pintail; Shoveler; Teal; Tufted Duck; Red-breasted Merganser; Pheasant; Little Grebe; Great Crested Grebe; Cormorant; Spoonbill; Little Egret (including JN, still on Normandy); Grey Heron; Marsh Harrier; Moorhen; Coot; Oystercatcher; Avocet; Ringed Plover; Grey Plover; Lapwing; Dunlin; Snipe; Black-tailed Godwit; Turnstone; Curlew; Common Redshank; Spotted Redshank; Greenshank; Black-headed Gull; Herring Gull; Great Black-backed Gull; Mediterranean Gull; Woodpigeon; Pied Wagtail; Meadow Pipit; Wren; Dunnock; Robin; Stonechat; Blackbird; Song Thrush; Dartford Warbler; Great Tit; Blue Tit; Magpie; Carrion Crow; Starling; House Sparrow; Goldfinch; Chaffinch; Greenfinch; Linnet; Bullfinch; Reed Bunting. Heard only: Cetti's Warbler.

Amongst the flowers seen were Colt's Foot, Red Deadnettle and Gorse. Those of the Willow were particularly attractive to the Bullfinches. The head of a Seal (presumably a Common Seal) broke surface twice very briefly). Three separate groups of Roe Deer nearly totalled double figures.


9 March Talk: New Forest Rivers

The speaker at our next meeting will be Naomi Ewald, the National Co-ordinator of the Freshwater Trust. Naomi will be giving an illustrated talk showing the hidden gems of our local rivers. All our indoor meetings are currently being held online via Zoom. Talks start at 7.15 pm and are about an hour long, followed by the opportunity to ask questions.