Ravens nest in Lake

Pair of Ravens at their nest, Lake cliffs © DD

Pair of Ravens at their nest, Lake cliffs © DD

Dave Dana, a member of the Society, contacted us in April with this message.

“Some members will already be aware of the Ravens’ nest at Lake cliffs. Although you can only look up to the nest, you can still see the comings and goings of the adults but you can’t see the nestling(s) yet. Yesterday (Friday 13th April) both adults were away from the nest for about 40 minutes, suggesting that the chick(s) now need both parents to feed them.

The viewing location is on the Sandown to Shanklin revetment near the 9th breakwater from Sandown Pier. There is a solitary green shed behind the sleepers. The nest is about 50 metres south of the shed. It’s about six metres below the top of the cliff. There are Fulmars there as well. It’s not far from the path that comes down from the Heights Leisure Centre area.”

The site is inaccessible and the welfare of the pair and their chicks appears to be assured, so we thought it might be of interest to local residents and visitors.

The Isle of Wight Helleborine refound

Isle of Wight Helleborine © CP

Isle of Wight Helleborine © CP

(from the Bulletin, February 2006)

The Isle of Wight Helleborine is an enigmatic orchid. It was so called because, when originally found near Ventnor in 1913, it was thought to be a new species. It doesn’t seem to have been seen again until the 1930’s in Bonchurch Landslip and then in 1951 when Dr Laidlaw’s father found a specimen at St Lawrence. By that time, it was recognised that the plant was not unique to the Island, but found in scattered localities in England, Wales and Ireland. It became known as the Green-flowered Helleborine. The plant persisted at St Lawrence until around 1959, but there have been no further confirmed Island records until now.

During a particularly hot spell of weather in August 2003, a visiting botanist, Peter Jupp, found an unusual Helleborine close to the footpath in Eaglehead Copse, a Wildlife Trust reserve. He thought it could be Narrow-lipped Helleborine. The plant lasted a very short time in the heat but I sent photographs to the referee, Professor Richards at Newcastle University. He considered that it could well be a specimen of Green-flowered Helleborine.

It did not reappear in 2004, but in August 2005 Peter Jupp was on holiday here again and he alerted local botanists to the fact that it had reappeared. Again photographs, together with a single pickled floret, were sent to Professor Richards. He was able to confirm that this was indeed Green-flowered Helleborine and was, moreover the same type which was originally found at Ventnor in 1931, now known as Epipactis phyllanthes var. vectensis.

So, after an absence of 44 years, the Isle of Wight Helleborine has reappeared on the Island. It is a plant which has a habit of appearing and then disappearing, only to reappear years later somewhere else, so we must enjoy this special Island plant whilst we can.

Colin Pope

An interesting Mayfly larva from Lukely

Either Ephemera danica or E. lineata © KM

Either Ephemera danica or E. lineata © KM

A mayfly larva has been found by Keith Marston at Plaish in the Lukely Brook on 7th May 2006.

There have been no previous records of mayfly larvae of this genus from the Lukely Brook. It is not possible to speciate the animal from the photo, but it is likely to be either Ephemera danica or Ephemera lineata.
Mayfly of this genus have been recorded from the Eastern Yar near Newchurch (Herbert to KM, pers. comm).

NB There is another species of mayfly larva on the photo Ephemerella ignita

Hard Shield Fern refound after 133 years

Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum) Brighstone Forest© MB

Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum) Brighstone Forest© MB

2006: Hard Shield Fern (Polystichum aculeatum) has been discovered growing in an apparently natural situation in Brighstone Forest, by Paul Stanley.

The only confirmed record for this species as a native until now has been that of Fred Stratton and F.J.Hanbury from a hedgebank opposite the Sun Inn at Calbourne on the 15th of August 1871. In Hampshire it is described in Brewis et al., (1996) ‘The Flora of Hampshire’ as “Very locally frequent” and is found on “Banks in dry woodland and shady stream-gullies, mainly on basic soil”. There are old unconfirmed records from the Island and these are discussed here.

By-The-Wind-Sailor (Velella velella) strandings 2006

By-The-Wind-Sailor (Velella velella) © RT

By-The-Wind-Sailor (Velella velella) © RT

Fierce storms in 2006 brought plenty of visitors to the Isle of Wight at the end of November and during the first week of December. However, these will not feature within Tourist Board statistics! These were oceanic visitors cast ashore along much of the south coast of England. An extraordinary number of the floating hydroid Velella velella (L.), or “by-the-wind-sailor” were washed up all around the coast of the Isle of Wight with specific records from Compton, Totland, Ventnor and Gurnard. Perhaps even more interesting was the fact that this was the third mass stranding since 2002. Hitherto, the species was regarded as a very occasional visitor and the only previous records for the Isle of Wight are in 1986 and 1925.

The strandings on our beaches in 2002 and 2003 occurred in early summer and the animals were quite small, being only 20-30mm across. Those stranded in late autumn of 2006 were much larger reaching 50-80mm. Predators of Velella include Sun Fish (Mola mola), now a relatively frequent sighting along the coast, and a violet sea snail (Janthina janthina), which makes a float rather like bubble-wrap. This striking species was found washed up during the earlier strandings but I have had no reports on this occasion.

Also stranded in recent gales were many Goose Barnacle (Lepas anatifera) attached to wood, bottles and other structures. If you find these again, check to see whether a small Columbus Crab (Planes sp.) is living amongst them. Several were found in Dorset.

Dr. Roger Herbert, Marine Recorder