US social scientist Kenneth Boulding : ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you are either a madman or an economist’.

Monday, 31 August 2009

31/8/09: Welling Hop stop

I had to go to Welling and back in a hurry, so took the train.

I'd noted the Hop growing on the fence behind the 'up' platform of Welling station a long time ago, but had not previously got off a train here.

There were several Hop (Humulus lupulus) plants on a grassy bank on the opposite side of Station Approach, probably at least five, one a female with cones:

Female Hop plant by Welling station, carrying the cones that are used to impart the bitterness to British beer

There was also a seedling of Virginia Creeper, several Common Toadflax in flower and local staples such as Hogweed, Black Horehound, Mugwort and Rocket sp. There was a patch of Bracken on a bank at the junction with Central Avenue.

There was yet another Hop by the path between the 'Plough and Harrow' public house and the Shell garage on Bellegrove Rd.

Friday, 28 August 2009

28/8/09: Former Sweet Chestnut coppice, Bursted Wood

Bursted Wood is an ancient woodland site, with Ash, Pedunculate Oak and a significant proportion of outgrown Sweet Chestnut coppice that has not been cut for very many years.

Sweet Chestnut (Castanea sativa) in fruit at the eastern margin of Bursted Wood, by Erith Rd in Barnehurst

A good crop of Sweet Chesnuts on the fringes of Bursted Wood

I used to ply here as a kid, even though it was a lot further from where I lived at the time than it is from where I live now. My mates and I used to build 'camps' in the centre of the rings of regrown coppice trunks.

The London Wildweb site description is here:

I've seen the Purple Hairstreak butterflies in the past, but have yet to locate the Slender St. John's Wort.

28/8/09: more Bexleyheath botany - another Hare's-foot Clover site

There was a Black Nightshade in a garden on Woolwich Rd.

A sheet of wooden hoarding had been pulled down to the side of the demolition site at 238 The Broadway, near Church Rd. The next bit will probably get me arrested for trespass, but since I could see an impressive patch of the uncommon London plant, Hare's-foot Clover, in I went to take some photos.

Hare's-foot Clover (centre), an uncommon London plant, growing in a demolition site on the Broadway (Bexleyheath), just over the road from another colony of the species

This location is a short distance away from the colony near the junction of Albion Rd and the Broadway, but the plants there are much smaller in all parts - no doubt due to having been mown down repeatedly by over-zealous Council contractors. It's not hard to imagine that some young persons have mucked about on the demolition site and have unwittingly been the vectors that have transferred seed from one side of the Broadway to the other.

There was a flock of approximately 56 Starlings over Glengall Rd, and several patches of Liverwort with 'parasol' type fruiting bodies along the foot of the east wall of the Royal Mail Office here.

Knopper Galls were on a Pedunculate Oak behind the 'up' platform of Bexleyheath station.

There were some Nipplewort plants in an alley off Pickford Close, and Yarrow and Petty Spurge in front gardens. A Tomato plant was growing between a wall and the pavement at the end of the Close.

Self Heal was noted in a garden on Brampton Rd, and Spear Thistle and Red Valerian outside the closed-down pub on the corner of Shakespeare Rd.

On the other side of Brampton Rd, in the parade of small shops, this Hart's-tongue Fern was pictured growing at the foot of a down-pipe between nos. 211A and 213A. It's an infrequent plant in urban locations in this area, but this is the sort of micro-habitat in which it can sometimes be found.

Hart's-tongue Fern - the extra moisture available at the foot of this down-pipe provides a survivable micro-habitat in an otherwise unsuitable area

There were 2 plants of Goat's-rue in a weedy front garden in Nicola Terrace on Long Lane, whilst this lawn sported a fine mat of Mouse-ear Hawkweed further east:

Mouse-ear Hawkweed in a garden lawn on Long Lane

A large specimen of Greater Celandine was noted in an alley behind the plant shop at the junction of Long Lane and Heversham Rd.

Tuesday, 25 August 2009

21-24/8/09 in the garden

It's all gone a bit quiet in my Barnehurst garden, and I haven't had time to roam the streets for a few days.

The Wood Mouse was seen in the compost bins on the 21st.

On the 22nd there was a Red Admiral in the garden (numbers are reported to be down on previous years), and 4 Small Whites feeding on Lavender round in Barnehurst Avenue.

August 23rd saw this second generation Snout moth at the window after dark:

On the 24th there were two Silver Y moths.

It's now been 2 or 3 days since any Gatekeepers were seen in the garden, though there is still a modicum of Speckled Wood action.

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

19/8/09: Mining Bees and new Broom at Bursted Wood, Martens Grove fruitfulness

I counted in excess of 300 nests of what appear to be solitary mining bees on the sunny, shallowly sloping bank between Erith Rd and Bursted Wood. The pale, sandy, excavated soil shows up strongly against the short turf. Despite watching carefully I only saw one bee enter and exit its single entrance hole, and it looked like a slightly over-sized Honeybee.

Mining Bee nests on bank between Erith Rd and Bursted Wood

Closer view showing single entrance holes

Being a fan of heathland and heathland plants I was pleased to count 13 young Broom plants (some pictured above) by the slip road to the hospital site. There had been 3 larger plants here, but these suddenly died a couple of years ago after some idiot agency killed off a wide strip of vegetation up to the wood margin. Quite why is beyond me, as being on the outside of the bend it wasn't impeding driver sight lines. I guess trimming back the bramble shoots now and again was just too much bother ........

A closer examination of a weedy corner on the Long Lane Texaco forecourt revealed three plants of Catmint (Nepeta cataria), rather than the one reported in a previous posting.

There were 2 Painted Lady butterflies flitting around the car park behind the Naval Volunteer pub on Queens Rd, Bexleyheath.

I cut back to Barnehurst via Martens Grove, where good crops of Blackberry, Rose, Dogwood and Sloe fruits were in evidence, along with a Speckled Wood and a Meadow Brown butterfly.

Dogwood fruit, Martens Grove

Sloe fruit, Martens Grove

Monday, 17 August 2009

17/8/09: Barnehurst BAP priority species

Three national Biodiversity Action plan priority species today.

Grasmere allotment site:

Insects: Several Gatekeepers, 1 x male Common Blue, 30+ Dock Squash Bugs on the Rhubarb patch and 1 x Common Darter Dragonfly - my first of the year.

4 Common Lizards (BAP priority species) on my Dad's plot - 1 adult and 3 small 'baby' animals. One of the latter was basking on one of the tyres I salvaged from rubbish dumped over the boundary fence by irresponsible neighbouring home-owners. The other 3 were basking on bits of rubble, again 'recycled' from material found on site. One of these babies had already lost the whole of its tail. It would be interesting to know what it is that predates the lizards here.

My Barnehurst Garden - 2 more BAP priority species:

I was delighted to find 2 Slow Worms together under one of my dry-vegetation-covered-with-black-plastic piles, specially constructed to attract and allow easy examination of this species.

In addition, the first Common Toad seen here for quite some time was in the garden, a 3" body length individual being found after dark in my new greenhouse .

Thursday, 13 August 2009

13/8/09: Barnehurst Golf Course/Mayplace Rd East/Perry St

There were recently emerged baby Common Toads in my brother's garden on Mayplace Rd East, near Crayford Manor House. Toads had bred in his pond this year, although it isn't especially large. Amphibians larvae had benefitted fron a fault with the filter, which had emptied the pond and killed the larger fish.

A plant of Common Calamint was spotted growing out from under a hedge at the entrance to the Manor House lodge, my third record of it in Barnehurst.

Earlier, I had seen a Comma butterfly on Barnehurst Golf Course. There was a Holly Blue and a Painted Lady along the Perry St perimeter.

An unidentified Hawker Dragonfly species was repeatedly checking out the Hawthorn hedge along the northern margin of the site. There was a good show of Bird's-foot Trefoil flowers along the base of the hedge by the path on the south-facing side.

About 20 House Sparrows flew out of a bramble thicket down behind Taunton Close.

A couple of Black Knapweed growing in shadier positions were still in flower. Others in full sun had gone to seed. A new record for me on this site was a couple of Spindle shrubs in a 'clearing' behind the line of Field Maple down towards Old Manor Way. It wasn't clear whether these were planted or not. A 2' 6" specimen appeared to be self-sown.

I had also gone, for the first time, along the footpath to the east of Perry St, by Perry St Farm, that leads to Ashurst Close. The most noteworthy things were some 20 Common St. John's Wort, several Crow Garlic (Allium vineale) and 5 White Campion.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

12/8/09: Joydens Wood - more botanical 'firsts'

I took a long 'detour' up Parsonage Lane and through Joydens Wood, on the way home from Foots Cray Meadows to Barnehurst, first skirting the southern margin of the wood before heading north, then broadly north west to come out by the Keeper's Cottage - proceeding from there to Vicarage Rd in Bexley village.

This generated some species completely new to me, as well as some that I hadn't found in or adjacent to Bexley Borough to date.

In fact the wood straddles the border between the London Borough of Bexley, and the Borough of Dartford in Kent. Planted with Corsican Pine, it was owned by the Forestry Commission, but is now in the hands of the Woodland Trust:

Plantation Pines with Silver Birch and Bracken. There were limited numbers of Gorse and Broom at various locations along my route

Wide, often well-lit rides, with damp - sometimes ditched - margins, supported a varied array of herbaceous species

Immediatly upon entering the wood I noticed a considerable amount of Brooklime spilling over the pathway, a feature that was to prove typical of the rides I followed. An early 'spot' of a species new to me was this grey-leaved Marsh Cudweed, of which there were a few plants in each of a couple of locations.

There was a fair amount of Greater Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus pedunculatus) in several places. This has more flowers per head, is hairy, has hollow stems and a looser, more rambling habit, when compared with Bird's-foot Trefoil (L. corniculatus). Another plant I've not come across before.

This Wood Ant's nest was spotted close to a path.

This plant is the native Golden Rod (Solidago vigaurea), not to be confused with the very different-looking Canadian version that has naturalised in many places.

A one point there was a couple of yards of this Lily-of-the-valley, in fruit, lining the edge of a ride.
A single plant of Betony was noticed hidden amongst other vegetation on a ditch bank, a new Bexley (borders) species for me.

There were a few patches of Water Mint (Mentha aquatica) and Upright Hedge Parsley (Torilis japonica), these species seen mingling together here. The latter was another first for me in this part of the world.

This Guelder Rose, with some fruits, was growing at the edge of a ride towards the north-west corner of the wood, and was the only specimen I came across.

Some of the other species noted along the margins of the rides were Thyme-leaved Speedwell (1), Self Heal, Wood Spurge, Wood Sage, Common Figwort, Enchanter's Nightshade, Coltsfoot and both Tufted Vetch (1) and Bush Vetch (several close together, all in one particular location), these being only my second records of these latter two species in the vicinity of Bexley Borough.

I'm sure there's plenty more of interest to find, and will endeavour to visit again in the not too distant future.

12/8/09: Bexley village and North Cray give me two new Borough records

Parsonage Lane, North Cray, heading east towards Joydens Wood

English Elm in hedges. Black Horehound. Some Ground Ivy. Couple of patches of Dogs Mercury. Several Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris). Some Perennial Sow Thistle. Hedge Woundwort.

This large clump of Common Fleabane, making a fine sight by the Lane, is my first record of the species in Bexley Borough. Since there was no sign of any others in the vicinity, I suspect it came in with the young hedging plants it was growing between.

There was a splendid show of Wild Carrot in flower on undeveloped ground at the west end of Vicarage Rd., opposite where the long lane from the Joydens Wood Keeper's Cottage finally joins it.

St. Mary's Churchyard, High St, Old Bexley

The churchyard boasted some Greater Celandine and Pellitory-of-the-wall.

On the inside of the wall, by the High St., were 2 Hart's-tongue ferns and 2 Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria).

Of greatest interest was this single specimen of Maidenhair Spleenwort (Asplenium trichomanes) (pictured below), my first record of this species in the Borough. It was fairly common in walls around where I lived in Bristol, but then it was generally rather wetter down there .....

12/8/09: Cray clean-up - plastic ain't fantastic

River Cray, Foots Cray Meadows, south of Bexley village.

I spent four hours today with Riverkeeper Ashe Hurst, and 3 other volunteers, clearing plant debris and litter trapped in the weir under the arches of Five Arches bridge. This event was part of the Thames21 programme. See here for other events across London:

I used to muck around here, and on the Cray at Hall Place when I was a kid. After listening to the obligatory Health and Safety talk I couldn't help thinking it made the fact I've managed to survive so many years sound like something of a minor miracle. Then it was into a chest high wading outfit and lifejacket.

My rather younger partner and I were tasked going into the arches and picking out litter - before those below raked out the plant debris from the downstream side and dragged it to the bank. One thing the H+S warnings had glossed over was the back-ache resulting from being bent over at an uncomfortable angle for rather a long time !

Given the birds on the lake, it was rather ironic that our first find was a concrete duck with its head missing. Apart from a number of decomposed tennis balls, most of the litter was bits of plastic wrapper and plastic bags. Some of it had become distinctly green and was both hard to spot and a fiddle to extricate from the piles of sticks and bits of reed. Definititely not fantastic. In fact a real pain in the ar*e.

Once we'd finished the job, I had a proper look round, and was pleased to see that a significant proportion of the meadows are now being left unmown.

A short distance upstream from the bridge was a large clump of Hemp Agrimony, my first find of the species in the Borough.

Five Arches bridge on the River Cray, looking downstream, with Hemp Agrimony front centre

There was also quite a lot of Gypsywort, with its whorls of flowers at the leaf nodes (above).

The highlight was seeing my first ever Banded Demoiselle (Calopteryx splendens)damselflies. Pictures here:

By wading in the river I was able to get close views as they flew along the edge of a bed of Reeds and Great Reedmace (pictured below). There were 2 or 3 males with their superb purple-patched wings, which really show up the flight action. I also witnessed one take up a copulating position with a female.

Banded Demoiselles were active along the margin of this reed bed to the right of the bridge.

The reed bed (above) had 'bays' in it, which appeared to be attractive to these insects.

Plants in the meadows included Silverweed, Spotted Medick and this rather distinctly 'candy-striped' specimen of Field Bindweed.

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

11/8/09: Painted Lady latest .....

Painted Lady numbers doubled to 4 in my garden today, all feeding on the Buddleia out front.

There were also 4 Gatekeepers feeding on Marjoram together out back.

Monday, 10 August 2009

10/8/09: Barnehurst foxes - up close and personal

On the 9th, I was fiddling about at one end of the triple compost bins when I heard a rustling. Looking up, there was 'black-topped tail' standing on top of the lid of the far bin in broad daylight, and only a few feet away.

Tonight, just as I was going out into the front garden after dark to look for moths on the Buddleia, I saw a fox heading down the road. It didn't appear at the next gap in the wall, and I could hear some quiet cat-like mewing. So I crept up to the gate. There were two of them grooming themselves in the middle of the street, 6-7' distant, blissfully unaware of my presence.

10/8/09: More North Heath alley action

From the three alleyways between Brook Street and Bexley Rd (London Borough of Bexley):

Painted Lady butterflies were seen 4 times, far enough apart that they probably represented at least 3 different individuals.

There were a number of Small Whites, feeding on Black Horehound flowers, and flitting around Wall Rocket.

A species of Dragonfly (probably one of the Hawkers) was seen, but wouldn't settle so I was unable to get an ID.

On the botanical front there were 3 Potato plants in various places, some 6 specimens of the related Black Nightshade, several Lesser Burdock, a group of 3 Sun Spurge and a number of Perennial Sow-thistles along the foot of a wall.

Another Composite I've got a grip on is Hawkweed Ox-tongue, pictured here:-

The Caper Spurge was now covered in seed pods, and has a touch of rust disease:-

6-10/8/09: Barnehurst garden catch-up


- Couple of Painted Ladies on both 6/8 and 9/8.
- 1 x Holly Blue on both 6/8 and 8/8, in the latter case spending some time on variegated Holly 'Golden King', but didn't appear to be laying eggs.
- 4 x Gatekeeper in back garden on 9/8, up to 3 feeding on the best of my Marjoram plants, which from experience elsewhere seems to be a favourite of this species.
- 1 Speckled Wood 9/8.

Moths (lit window after dark - 3 new records* as I continue to develop my ID capability):

- 1 x Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing* (Noctua janthe) on 8/8 :-

The toothed margin to the dark area on the forewing (towards the bottom in this picture) distinguishes this species from the immigrant Langmaid's Yellow Underwing.

- 1 x Setaceous Hebrew Character 9/8 :-

- 1 x Brimstone Moth 9/8.

- 1 x female Light Brown Apple Moth* (Epiphyas postvittana), said to be an accidental introduction from Australia in the 1930s on 9/8:-

- 1 x Yellow Shell*, 10/8.

- Plus 3 Large Yellow Underwing on Buddleia 10/8, two here and one next door.

Other insects:

Vine Weevils, Lacewings, 1 x 7-spot Ladybird and 1 x Harlequin.


- 1 x Dunnock 6/8.
- 3 x Blue Tit on Norway Spruce 9/8.

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

5/8/09: Slugging it out in the garden

Never let it be said that I stick solely to the cuddly stuff .......

3 Great Grey / Leopard Slugs (Limax maximus) in the garden over the last two days, and a large Red Slug (Arion ater rufus) yesterday.

On the cuter side, there was a Wood Mouse in one of the compost bins this evening.

5/8/09: And then there were four

Having been AWOL for some time, there are now 4 Collared Doves hanging around my garden. Much of the malingering appears to be due to the attitude of two fledglings, both of which can fly, but seem rather disinclined to do so, even when I suddenly hove into view at the top of the garden steps while they're sitting on a wooden frame by the compost heaps.

One in particular seems way too trusting. My mobile phone cam is relatively wide-angle and this shot was actually taken with the device held only a couple of feet from the bird. It has also been cropped and enlarged a bit .....

A distinctly unfazed Collared Dove fledgling in my Barnehurst garden lets me get real close ...........

Monday, 3 August 2009

3/8/09: Painted Lady numbers rocket - to 6 (or 7)

- 1 on house wall here in Barnehurst
- 2 in long cul-de-sac of Upland Rd., Bexleyheath, by OTBS (building supplies)
- 2 by Erith Rd entrance to former Woolwich Building Society offices
- 1 (probable) Hillingdon Rd, Barnehurst
- 1 still active at Barnehurst station at 19.22

3/8/09: Barnehurst and Bexleyheath botany

Knopper Galls on Pedunculate Oak on the north edge of Bursted Wood indicates that there is a Turkey oak nearby, as the gall wasp responsible needs both species.

Dogs Mercury was noted by the south east corner of Bursted Wood school field, where a Fox was out and about in daylight following the hedge line.

Within the hospital grounds here was a small patch of Mouse-ear Hawkweed (Pilosella officinarum), which I've so far only found in small amounts in a few scattered loactions in the north west of Bexley Borough.

There was a plant of Black Nightshade in Lavernock Rd.

A number of Robinia pseudoacacia saplings were growing under a hedge in the graveyard of St. John's, Bexleyheath.

The usual assemblage of plants for closely mown grass was in evidence aroound the youth club at the junction of Oakhouse/Highland/Albion Rds, including Buck's-horn Plantain, along with some 'relics' of cultivation such as Sedum (probably album) and Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias). There were 3 White Campion. Also Hoary Cress in a nearby shrub bed.

If I'm to add to my lists and make them more comprehensive for given sites, I need to get my head around Compositae. So I got the book out on some tall, distinctive-looking specimens on a 'raised bed' on the south side of Albion Rd. There were several plants, and they were identified as Perennial Sow-thistle (Sonchus arvensis).

Perennial Sow-thistle, Albion Rd, Bexleyheath.

There were a couple more on Watling Street, outside the former Woolwich Building Society premises. There was a single specimen of Meadow Buttercup (Ranunculus acris) in flower on the Erith Rd side, a species that appears to be infrequent hereabouts.

A mosaic-variegated Sycamore sapling was growing out of the hedge round Gravel Hill Primary School (I saw another in a hedge round Russell Park some weeks ago)

Spotted Medick was amongst the species in the grass verge on Epsom Close, and there were two specimens of Sun Spurge on the 'island' in Midfield Parade, Barnehurst. A heather, in flower, was growing out of a split old sack of compost (presumably peat) outside the hardware shop here.

Thyme-leaved Speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia) was noticed in flower in a lawn on Hillingdon Rd, only my third or fourth record in the Borough of Bexley.

I'd recorded the Himalayan Balsam in a front garden by the path off Northall Rd to Barnehurst station last year, but the collapse of the brick wall since now revealed Common Calamint, a couple of plants of which had now seeded into the wall/tarmac crack along the edge of the public side of the path. This is my second record of the species after finding a few in Martens Grove recently.