A note from our environmental and ecology adviser, Dave Dawson
In late summer, most plants have finished flowering and are setting fruit, but this is the season for waterside plants. Unfortunately, clearance operations in the brook this year mean that species like Trifid bur-marigold and water dropwort are not to be seen. Watercress and Purple loosestrife have survived the clearance work and are the only plants to be seen in the downstream end of the brook. A notable recent observation was Dog’s mercury in Horse Close Wood. This species is an ancient woodland indicator, and it suggests that woodland may have been in the area before the early eighteenth century, when it was first shown on a map.
Birds are quiet also, but there are waterbird families still being raised on the lake: Great-crested grebes, Coots, Mallards and, of course, the pair of Mute swans all have growing youngsters. In the early morning, before the gates are opened, there are still large numbers of geese (Canada, Greylag and Egpytian) eating the mown grass for their breakfast. Flocks of Starlings and Woodpigeons are also there. These move off to the golf course, athletics stadium and lake when dogs disturb them after gate opening. In late August, there were some 25 Pied wagtails to be seen chasing after insects on the mown grass. This species can be seen in the park in every month of the year, but numbers rise into the autumn as residents are joined by migrants passing through. Another migrant to look out for, probably on the dam, is the Common sandpiper. Most of these are seen in Spring, but a few in late Summer as they pass through on their way to and from breeding areas further north. Sadly, once disturbance arrives, they make off to less disturbed places.