Thursday, 31 December 2009
On Boxing Day 4 Long-tailed Tits came within about 6' of me as they fed unconcernedly in Forsythia branches above my head. A pair of Blue Tits flitted about on the sidelines sounding annoyed - or maybe expressing some safety concerns about my presence. The resident Robin has started to come within a couple of feet of me whilst I have been doing things like making sure my clumps of Snowdrops will be able to get through the mat of ground-covering Lesser Periwinkle, and turning a compost heap. It briefly did a passable impression of a Humming Bird before concluding that a spent Schizostylis flower stem did not provide a stiff enough landing platform.
There were 3 Wood Pigeons in the garden on the 27th.
On the 31st, taking a detour back from the shops, I saw a flash of green on the ground by the small car park at the west end the old Pitch and Putt course by Bursted Woods. I've never seen any of the local Ring-necked Parakeets on the floor before, so concluded - correctly - that it must be a Green Woodpecker. This it turned out to be once I had a good view of it foraging along the edge of the small bloc of trees here, from a vantage point about 30' away. Blue and Great Tits were also in evidence. A Magpie was nearby, and so were two Grey Squirrels. Two actual Ring-necked Parakeets were low down in a tree by the road up to the school.
Some fresh green leaves of Alexanders (a yellow-flowered umbellifer introduced by the Romans as a food plant) were picked by the hospital path and added to my evening meal, but had a disappointingly weak flavour. I shall cook them a bit less next time - and try some raw ......
Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum), usefully comes back into leaf in the autumn, as seen here on the southern margin of Bursted Woods, by the hospital entrance.
Saturday, 26 December 2009
On Boxing Day 4 Long-tailed Tits came within 6 feet of me, foraging above my head in a Forsythia. 2 Blue Tits sat on the fringes off the action sounding annoyed - either at the Long-tails, or warning them they were taking too big a risk going that close to what they saw as a potential predator. Blackbirds have been thin on the ground hereabouts lately, but a male was around today.
Thursday, 24 December 2009
There was an adult Rosemary Beetle on a Lavender on Long Lane.
Coral Spot fungus was noted on dead Sycamore by the railway fence just east of Bexleyheath station, where some of the Silver Birches still carried a surprisingly large number of leaves - not only on trees adjacent to street/pathway lights.
2 Pied Wagtails were hopping about on the flat roof and in the gutter of the rear extension of Bar 2, at the junction of Pickford Rd and Crook Log. 2 Redwings, my first of the season, were spotted in a large tree in an adjoining rear garden.
A Greater Celandine was growing by 57 Lion Rd.
7 Euphorbia seedlings, looking like Caper Spurge, E. lathyris, were noticed in a 'building site' of a garden at the junction of Erith Rd and Long Lane.
12 Black-headed Gulls were perched on roof ridges and TV aerials in Rudland Rd.
Around 35 Starlings took to the air near the west end of Merewood Rd, and 13 Ring-necked Parakeets flew over towards Bursted Woods.
Tuesday, 22 December 2009
More Gorse can be seen along the fence line on the wooded slope on the east side of Erith Rd as it climbs to Northumberland Heath.
On the 21st, 28 Starlings were counted in the Horse Chestnut and Silver Birch just down the hill from where I live.
On the 22nd, there was a lone Pied Wagtail in Horsa Rd, possibly the same one seen not far from here on the 19th. 2 Blue Tits were in a tree by the alley between Northumberland Park and Horsa Rd.
9 Black-headed Gulls were seen wheeeling over, and taking scraps from a garage roof behind Hengist Rd.
2 Collared Doves were spotted in a large tree at the end of the alleyway between Hengist Rd and Brantwood Avenue.
As seen from Oakdene Rd, 21 Wood Pigeons could be counted sitting in the trees in the woodland behind the Catholic Church on Bexley Rd. A couple of Feral Pigeons landed on a roof.
There were plenty of Starlings and House Sparrows to be seen and heard in back gardens and hedges adjoining Brook Street recreation ground. Around 11 House Sparrows were flitting in and out of the hedge around the bowling green here. 4 Carrion Crows were nearby.
Saturday, 19 December 2009
17th - enjoyable evening at the 'Bear and Ragged staff' in Crayford town centre to mark the 'end of season' for the Cray riverkeeper volunteers. Making my way back across Barnehurst Golf Course some time after midnight, two foxes were seen near Perry St. playing in the several inches of snow that had come down whilst we were in the pub. A Poplar tree had come down onto the 'rough' wildlife area. Lots of fox tracks were seen along the local roads.
18th - making its now traditional Christmas-time appearance (or perhaps it's just inconspicuous when the leaves are still on the trees), the 'local' Great Spotted Woodpecker was noticed making its way up the main trunk of the large Horse Chestnut a couple of gardens down the hill from mine in Barnehurst. I rushed indoors to get some binoculars, and took a while to relocate it on my return. This time it was hammering away at a dead Silver Birch, slightly obscured by the Chestnut.
19th - Late morning and an adult Fox was out in the sun and the snow in the next garden up the hill. It ran off with its rear left foot kept lifted off the ground. Hopefully it's a temporary injury. Several House Sparrows were seen in Northumberland Heath, including 7 in a scrappy hedge by the car park behind the Co-op. They allowed an unusually close approach. A single Pied Wagtail was seen in Northumberland Close.
Friday, 11 December 2009
5 Grey Squirrels, two Blackbirds and a Robin were seen in Martens Grove.
There were still some fungal fruiting bodies about:
There were a couple of Nipplewort in flower on this bank.
A little further up Watling St., towards the Broadway, there were a load of Three-cornered Leek (Allium triquetrum) in a fenced area just beyond the above-mentioned bank.
Several Starlings and House Sparrows were seen along Woolwich Rd.
Thursday, 10 December 2009
A Fox was later seen at the junction of Northchurch Terrace and Lawford Rd.
There was - until recently - another flowering-sized specimen at the top of the incline from the defunct tracks to the Bricklayer's arms goods complex, just west of the point at which the London Bridge lines cross the East London Line. This appears to have died or been destroyed.
On 28/11/09 when travelling from Euston to Bolton, I spotted a flowering Pampas Grass on railway land under the Scrubs Lane overbridge, just east of Willesden station (and a second inside the railway fence just north of Levenshulme in Greater Manchester).
Elsewhere in London, I have also seen this grass between the railway lines at the west end of Acton Main Line station, Ealing (two plants, from memory) and another on 'waste' ground in the West Ham area.
I also recorded a couple of seedlings on a former garage site on Gloucester Rd., Bristol, the identification being supported by the opinion of a profesional botanist who lived nearby.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
At the foot of the tube line embankment, on the south side of the overbridge just south of East Finchley station, by some gabions, was a Geranium pyrenaicum in flower, and several Geranium lucidum. There was some Self Heal in the roadside grass verge.
In a long-grassed area in front of Park House, just north of the bridge, were Yarrow, Creeping Cinquefoil, Cow Parsley, Herb Bennett, and several Sorrel.
Friday, 13 November 2009
site, with pointers to some new resources and 'lines of argument'.
In particular, I have drawn attention to the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment's very good new booklet 'Grey to Green', which argues that green infrastructure does not receive anything like the investment or management that goes into grey infrastructure, and that this should change dramatically given the multiple benefits and climate change mitigation value that would result.
It is downloadable here:
Much of it is applicable to local authorities, and should be of interest to current and aspiring green-minded Councillors.
Monday, 9 November 2009
Toadstool-producing species in woodchip, front garden on Erith Rd, south of Bursted Wood. This may not be native - there are an increasing number of reports in 'British Wildlife' magazine of exotics growing out of this sort of material.Rather distant view of a mass of fruiting bodies in a lawn near the junction of Long Lane and Erith Rd
Small 'toadstools' in the short grass immediatly behind the 'up' platform, Barnehurst station, 4th November
Two species of fungi in the short grass immediatly behind the 'up' platform, Barnehurst station, 4th November
Fungus in former street tree site, Windermere Rd, 7th November
Fungus on old coppice stump, Bursted Wood, 7th November
Thursday, 29 October 2009
In the light of this development, Margot made a subsequent visit and counted over 100 individuals of this annual plant. I can also report (4/11/09 update) that the herbarium specimens collected at this site were held up as the highlight of the plant material exhibited at the London Natural History Society's AGM / Flora of London Project talk which I attended.
A photo of this species, taken in East Sussex, can be found here:
Sunday, 25 October 2009
Friday, 23 October 2009
Monday, 19 October 2009
Water plants on the riverbank included Water Cress, Water Figwort and Flag Iris, also an Alder seedling.
There was a white-flowered Michaelmas Daisy (Aster novi-belgii) and some Coltsfoot.
Also present were Buck's-horn Plantain, Spotted Medick, Yarrow and Cow Parsley.
There was no sign of the Gorse, Broom or Wood Spurge that can be seen below, on the cutting bank on the north side of the railway line just west of Falconwood station.
The most interesting find was a circa 6 foot tall Wild Service Tree (Sorbus torminalis) and two small seedlings very close by, though there was no sign of a mature tree. Perhaps there is a specimen in the mixed plantings along the side of the A2 on the other side of the railway line, from which the seed might have come? But three together, of different size, seemed odd - unless they were suckers of a long since disappeared adult. There were also a number of Swedish Whitebeam.
Three Wild Service trees - a sapling and two apparent seedlings - growing in close proximity in Eltham Park North
Beside the Swedxish Whitebeam , other non-native trees were Sweet Chestnut, mature Turkey Oak and some Norway Maple seedlings.
Nice bracket fungus on an old sawn log
The 'field' at the western end of the side, immediatly north of the railway line, had clearly been managed so as to allow a large circle of long grass and herbs to develop over the summer, bisected by a wide mown path with a circle at its centre. Plants found here included a couple of Black Knapweed, Ribwort Plantain, Sorrel, Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) and Bird's-foot Trefoil.
There were Mallard and 5 Moorhen in and around the pond beyond, and from here, fine views towards Canary Wharf and central London bathed in the afternoon sun.
19/10/09: Lots of Turkeys and no Falcons at 'wood, and more unsympathetic vegetation management ....
Turkey Oaks (Quercus cerris) tower over the platforms at the west end of Falconwood station on the Bexleyheath line. Given the unsympathetic vegetation mangement highlighted below, it's ironic that the billboard advertises rare wildlife on another continent
Closer view of Turkey Oak
This substantial Swedish Whitebeam (Sorbus intermedia) on the bank behind the 'up' platform could have been planted or self-sown
The vegetation at the foot of the bank behind the 'up' platform has been so hard strimmed that bare earth is exposed
The even steeper bank behind the 'down' platform had been treated the same way, despite the 'ducting' meaning that the vegetation would have to get pretty long to flop right over onto the platform surface and pose any sort of hazard - and in the dry summer we've just had it wouldn't have taken more than a basic trim or two to make sure this didn't happen
Annoyingly, this 'modern' (=lazy) approach to vegetation management is also practiced at Barnehurst , Bexleyheath and Erith stations, possibly more. If all this bare earth was about fostering rare burrowing bees or wasps etc. I might be persuaded, but the cynic in me sees it as yet another example of a fetishistic obsession with 'tidiness' and an over-the-top approach to 'health and safety'. Moreover it can only lead to more rapid erosion of the banking, and lots of dirt being washed onto the platform for someone to sweep up.
Oh yes, and what else do we find - the standard 'jobsworth' finish so beloved of public and private 'utilities' whereby the vegetation is trashed but the trash is left firmly in plain sight. And in this case some of it looks suspiciously like asbestos.
For the record, the other species within the station area included those typical of the Bexleyheath line such as Hazel, Perennial Rocket, Hogweed, Cow Parsley, Mugwort, Black Medick and Purple Toadflax.
Blue Tits, Long-tailed Tits and a Wren were also seen.
Saturday, 17 October 2009
On Heathfield Rd Ivy-leaved Toadflax was in flower by the gates of the warehouse next to St. John Vianney church, and there were several Greater Celandine by the church hall.
Thursday, 15 October 2009
Saturday, 10 October 2009
As the invertebrate conservation charity Buglife have made clear, brownfield sites can be extremely valuable for wildlife
I was less surprised by the fact these sites weren't being worked on, given the current 'economic climate'. So yes, there are positive things about a 'recession'.
What is a 'recession'? According to the BBC the UK economy is in recession when it experiences two successive quarters of what is known as "negative growth". For this to happen, the total amount of goods and services produced by the UK - known as gross domestic product (GDP) - would have to contract on a quarter by quarter basis for a total period of six months.
Welcome to the wacko world of Westminster party extinction economics. Has our pile of existing material wealth suddenly vanished? No, but you would think so given the screaming headlines. Is it a good idea to consume more and more resources at an ever faster rate when the UK is living a three-planet lifestyle already, and according the the New Economics Foundation the world went into ecological debt for the year in September. Er, no. But according to Gord, Dave and Nick THERE IS NO ALTERNATIVE. But that's because they've got everyone on the same debt-laden treadmill, so if too many people wise up and stop guzzling the goods all of a sudden a load of people become unemployed and the whole system starts to unravel. And never mind that GDP is an extremely gross measure, including all manner of damaging activities as 'positive' economic activity.
Well here, for the historical record, are the havens I came across before we 'recover' (albeit not our senses) and most probably build all over them .........
Brownfield site, Union St (south side of the London-Bridge-Waterloo railway, line which is on the viaduct above). Note some kind of art installation (?) looking like so many bracket fungi growing out of the brick wall. I quite like it!
Brownfield site a bit further west along Union St, again on the south side of the London-Bridge-Waterloo railway line.
The flora of these sites included several Tree of Heaven (see below) and typical plants for such places such as Buddleia, Canadian (or Jersey?) Fleabane, Annual Mercury, Woody Nightshade, Pellitory-of-the-wall and Oxford Ragwort. All that rubble would be great for reptiles, in the somewhat unlikely event there are any in the vicinity.
What the Americans would call a 'vacant lot' at the corner of Risborough St and Union St., with the ghostly outline of former buildings plainly visible. I couldn't resist getting the name of the bar in the shot. And although you can't read it without enlarging the picture, the upper advertising panel on that end wall says 'Rose Brand Fine Teas'.
Perennial Wall-rocket made an appearance here, along with Herb Robert, Black Horehound, Creeping Thistle and Purple Toadflax but ........
Large site on the east side of Blackfriars Rd, on the north side of Burrell St. , through a gap in a gate. According to an official notice posted on the hoarding, the TfL-granted licence for it to remain in place had expired on 31st May ...........
On which note, it seems to me that several of these sites were not dangerous to the public (unless ridden with toxic chemicals), and probably less so than crossing the road. It would be good if some people at least were allowed in to sow or plant things that would enhance them for wildlife, even if just for a year. I suggest that amongst other things the annual Phacelia tanacetifolia, the best bee attracting plant I've ever grown (sold as a green manure), could usefully be employed. In my experience you just sow and grow. It will self-sow itself thereafter, is not mown down by molluscs, reaches a good size and can provide flowers over a long period. It is ornamental-looking enough to keep the public happy. A few 'portholes' in the hoardings would allow anyone interested to have a look.
Going back to the Chinese Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima) mentioned earlier, this is an increasingly common and invasive non-native in this part of the capital. It grows quickly and reproduces from prolific wind- and water-dispersed seeds and from numerous root suckers that allow it to re-sprout vigorously from cut stumps and root fragments.
Here is one in fruit:
Fruiting Tree of Heaven by Waterloo station
Red Cross Park on Redcross Way has a nice pond, a wildflower mini-meadow under development, and some 'European new wave' type plantings of perennials and grasses.
I saw one of the species of Darter dragonfly on this boardwalk by the pond, but couldn't get close enough for a certain ID as to which one.
Native water plants here include Marsh Marigold (centre top) and Bogbean - which will have beautifully fringed white flowers (the thing that looks a bit like a Broad Bean plant, bottom).
A number of seedlings of Meadowsweet and of the non-native ornamental grass Stipa tenuissima had 'escaped' into the crack between the pavement and the outside face of the garden's boundary wall.Mint St park had varous formal elements like the clipped Box in the foreground and stepped grass area beyond.
The flower beds had an eclectic mix of garden ornamentals like Lavender, Cotton Lavender, Sage, Rosemary, hardy Geraniums, Asters and Japanese Anemone and natives such as Teasel and Common St. John's-wort, plus self-sowing garden herbs like Lemon Balm and Borage.
There was a single Common Stork's-bill in some thin gravel.
Further on it was good to see street trees in what might be considered less promising locations.
I would rather see areas of grass like this - frequently mown to within an inch of its life - formally or guerilla-gardened than 'sanitise' brownfield sites, since the latter can be much more valuable for wildlife.
There was a stand of Bracken in a park on Ufford St.
Waterloo Rd park, Lambeth, at the junction of Waterloo Rd and Baylis Rd. The large plant on the right is Thorn Apple (Datura stramonium) , an introduced 'weed' from central and south America in the Potato family which, being highly poisonous, was presumably not planted here deliberately.
One end of the park has a stream with water plants such as Water Mint. The other had the cut-down remains of a man-made meadow, with what looked like a very similar mix to the one at Hall Place, Bexley, namely species such as Bird's-foot Trefoil, Black Knapweed, Ox-eye Daisy, Lady's Bedstraw and Sainfoin. There was also the remains of some kind of Primula, plus Red Clover, Hemlock, Wild Carrot, Musk Mallow, Hop and a single plant of Gorse.