This relic of common land to the north of Southampton contains a variety of habitats including grassland, heathland, woodland and lowland bog, and with them a great variety of flora and fauna. The site has two main segments: Emer Bog, an area of mire surrounded by woodland, and Baddesley Common, a mixture of open grassland, gorse and alder and birch woodland.
A good selection of birds of open country and woodland are resident, including Buzzard, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Tawny Owl, Marsh Tit, Skylark, Stonechat, Meadow Pipit, Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer. Birding interest increases in the spring as migrants such as Cuckoo, Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Tree Pipit arrive to breed. Woodlark regularly breed on Baddesley Common, while Nightjar are heard in some years. A evening visit to Emer Bog in spring is likely to produce Woodcock roding over the woods. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is seen sporadically on Baddesley Common but probably doesn’t breed anymore. Hobby is regularly seen in summer, especially around Emer Bog.
Emer Bog itself is somewhat difficult to bird due to the large amount of vegetation and wet ground, however a variety of wetland birds can be seen with patience. Teal overwinter in small numbers and at any time of year one may see Canada Goose, Mallard and Mandarin Duck. Snipe are present in winter, while Water Rail can be heard throughout the year and probably breeds. There is a small reedbed where Reed Warbler sometimes holds territory. Reed Bunting may also be seen around the main bog. Kingfisher and Grey Wagtail occasionally venture to the area from surrounding streams – one on occasion I found a family party of six Kingfishers.
During times of passage, Baddesley Common has proven to be an attractive site for migrant passerines. Wheatear and Whinchat are the most common species, but there are also frequent records of Spotted Flycatcher, Redstart and the occasional Pied Flycatcher. One of the best places to look is along the fencelines from Green Lane towards Emer Bog, especially in the pen at the Emer Bog end of the path. Winter can be a quiet time on Baddesley Common, however flocks of Siskin and Redpoll are likely to be seen in the alders.
There are several points of access onto the reserve. There is space for around three cars to park on Green Lane (SU388219), from where two public footpaths head southwards on to Baddesley Common. Alternatively, there is space for a couple of cars at ‘Bucket Corner’ on Pound Lane (SU402214), from where another footpath heads to Emer Bog. Access to Baddesley Common is also possible from a footpath north out of North Baddesley. Much of Baddesley Common is open access land and it is also possible to roam around Emer Bog to some extent. There is a boardwalk around Emer Bog, however large areas of the site can be very wet in winter and so wellington boots are recommended.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust – Emer Bog & Baddesley Common
Words by Tom Jordan