Wednesday, 30 September 2009
A lot more rubbish had appeared since my last examination of these North Heath alleyways. This lot had been dumped all over a rather nice white-flowered lilac that I photographed earlier in the year.
I know it's not the Council's fault, but the local environment would be better served by a redeployment of personnel away from incessant grass-cutting and towards clearing up rubbish. In fact it's nearly always the case around here that when taller vegetation is cut back by Council, Utility or railway company contractors, they're very careful to leave all the newly exposed rubbish nicely in situ ...............
Friday, 25 September 2009
A Greater Celandine was in flower by a derelicy building on Alma Rd. A Hop, Herb Robert and Pellitory-of-the-wall were in a garden on Birkbeck Rd.
Tuesday, 22 September 2009
On this occasion I was helping two members of the London Natural History Society, one of whom is a much better botanist than I am, and who had come here specifically to check on the continuing occurrence of various species that are rare within the London boundary for a new publication on the same. My talent, such as it is, is that I have seen enough in the flesh - or books - to be able to pick out from the general mass of vegetation, the odd things that might be more unusual, even if I don't know what they are.
Plants along Ray Lamb Way included this large clump of Tansy, White Melilot, Narrow-leaved Ragwort (Senecio inaequidens), what my learned companion said was Guernsey (not Canadian) Fleabane and False Fox Sedge in a ditch.
Spirit of the marshes - mud and bird footprints
Marsh plants on the river side of the sea wall included this Sea Plantain (above), Sea Aster, Sea Couch, Sea Arrow Grass, Sea Milkwort and Atriplex patula.
Here's a closer view - yes, it really was that red-purple in colour. Also in this rather variable area were two Ribbed Melilot, Hoary Mustard and Greater Sea Spurrey. Although largely hidden under a mat of rank grass, I noticed three plants of what we identified as Wild Celery. I also spotted a solitary Small Copper butterfly.
My companions from the London Natural History Society by the footpath bank just north of the flood gate, where there was an array of colour variants of the Sickle Medick x Lucerne hybrid (see separate posting). In the foreground is Goat's-rue. A bit further along were two patches of pink, semi-double-flowered Soapwort.
The River Darent enters the Thames, with Essex beyond. There were half a dozen Lapwings on the mud here, along with Lesser Black-backed and Black-headed Gulls.
Also seen were a male Common Blue and a Red Admiral.
Several plants were found that we could not identify, so samples were taken to run past various specialists.
There was a range of purple-violets, amongst which there might have been some 'pure bred' Lucerne plants. But here are some pictures of the more extreme colour forms.
Presumed Sickle Medick, though no seed pods for a positive ID at this stage
Stunning deep red-purple flowered hybrid - looked near-black from a few feet away. There were three of these fairly close together.
Both the above were at the southern end of the marsh by the Cray, before the big spoil tips.
White-flowered hybrid with a touch of purple-violet in the more terminal flowers.
Lovely green-flowered hybrid with the more terminal flowers in purple-violet.
These latter two, along with a couple of pale yellow flowered specimens, were just north of the flood control gate on the River Darent, near its confluence with the Thames.
I don't know anything about the genetics of flower colour in these plants, but flower colour can be controlled by a multiplicity of genes, so I suppose it's conceivable that this range of flower colour could arise in first generation hybrids between the two species, especially if the genes are not completely dominant, as would appear to be the case with contrasting colours in the same flower cluster. But it seems more likely that the hybrids are themselves fertile and capable of interbreeding with each other and both parents. I'd hazard a guess and say that might be the route to the green flowered specimens.
At any rate, to my mind these would make very nice late-flowering ornamental plants for garden use, though one might need to grow a number of seedlings and retain the best colours.
Sunday, 20 September 2009
Ivy-leaved Toadflax, Corydalis lutea, Black Horehound, Green Alkanet and also seedlings of Greater Celandine in Nuxley Rd, Belvedere, with more Mouse-ear Hawkweed and some Self Heal in grass at the junction with Grosvenor Rd. Yet more Mouse-ear Hawkweed in All Saints churchyard at the junction with Woolwich Rd/Erith Rd.
On the bank below the flats at the top (north end) of Brook St were Sheep's Sorrel, Gorse, Rosemary plants infested with Rosemary Beetle, a few patches of Sedum acre and Field Madder and several Dwarf Mallow.
Nothing of botanical note by the Streamway stream.
The Mouse-ear Hawkweed, Self Heal and Germander Speedwell, immediatly next to the Brook St retaining wall of the graveyard on the west side of the road, were all still present.
There was a 4 foot square patch of Common Calamint - with relatively large flowers - in short grass by the north east gate to Brook Street recreation ground.
Since it does, at least, stay properly wet, despite a very dry summer, there was lots of waterlogged (thus heavy) mud, which had to be carted away up sloping ground so it couldn't be washed straight back in once it did rain. This made for a slow job - along with the frequent need to dig at a shallow angle to try and avoid 'holing' the clay layer keeping the water in. It didn't help that the clay wasn't at a consistent depth.
Not much in the way of animal life here at this point in time, but our efforts were presided over by a couple of Southern Hawker dragonflies.
'Close-up- showing some of the excavation, and the liquid nature of the mud. Angled branch was put in to provide a dragonfly perching point.
Thursday, 17 September 2009
There were some large burnt areas, presumably due to vandalism.
Flowers were pretty much over, but the seed heads of (probably Black) Knapweed and Wild Carrot remained. The usual suspects such as Horseradish and Mugwort were also present.
I'll have to have a proper look next summer.
Passing under the railway line, there were around 140 Starlings flying back and forth between the Viridor waste disposal site and a telecommunications mast on the other side of the road.
As an access route onto what ought to be a flagship site - being one of the largest swathes of continuously open land in the Borough - the footpath out onto the marshes starts its life as a scrappy, ugly affair, squeezing its way between redundant machinery and spoil heaps on either side.
One is soon confronted with this view. I can't really remember what it was like back in 1979 when I filled oil cans in a now-closed factory nearby in the summer holidays, but it wasn't like this ....
Quite how building up this land fits in with all the official statements about the importance of what little is left of the marshes, and the modern view that we need to be able to buffer floodwater is beyond me.
The path is lined for a long distance on the 'landward' side with a shallow ditch and this ugly bund of what looked to be clay (and perhaps silt), which must be fairly new because it was generally quite sparsely vegetated. One of the plants I did find on it was a single specimen of Fool's Parsley, my third record for the Borough. Also an Opium Poppy, Coltsfoot and a Wild Carrot.
Salad Burnet (front left) was quite frequent along the side of the path.
Also present in some numbers were Fennel plants, here catching the evening sun.
The Salad Burnet, Fennel and plentiful Perennial Rocket provided rich pickings for a tasty, and free, salad.
Wild Clary (Salvia verbenaca) was fairly abundant at the sides of the path too. This was my second location for it in Bexley Borough, but this time it wasn't being prevented from flowering by a mad mowing regime.
Other plants along the riverside path included Sickle Medick x Lucerne hybrids (see separate posting), Goat's Rue, Horseradish, one Musk Mallow, some Black Knapweed, a couple of White Campion, and a modest-sized Swedish Whitebeam in fruit.
Along the lane towards Howbury Fram were English Elm, one Field Maple, Hops and Horseradish.
On the 17th I saw two Grey Wagtails in the deeply canalised section of the Cray by footpath 249 that leads out onto Dartford Marshes along south/east side of the river.
There was a load of Galinsoga sp., which looked paler and less hairy than Shaggy Soldier, so may have been Gallant Soldier, in a car park by shops under the railway arches.
In the river it was great to have shoals of Chubb swimming around ones feet, whilst the biggest fish seen was a large, slow-moving Bream.
Later on I checked out one of the other water courses just south of the Cray and east of Maiden Lane.
Here I found my first 'wild' colony of Parrot's Feather (Myriophyllum aquaticum), seen growing with Fool's Watercress and Water Forget-me-not.
Parrot's Feather is another invasive alien (this time from South America), chucked out of garden ponds (I recognise it because I had some in mine back in the late '70s, before it was more widely recognised as problematic) that, according to NERC, is now established at around 300 sites in the UK.
Monday, 14 September 2009
I hadn't previously noticed that this tree behind the Bexleyheath station 'up' platform is a Sessile Oak - leaves a bit broader and glossier than Pedunculate Oak, plus stalked leaves and unstalked (sessile) acorns as opposed to unstakled leaves and stalked (pedunculate) acorns.
Male Hop in flower by Station Rd. and Bridge Rd. junction at the east end of Bexleyheath station.
This Virginia Creeper could be spreading out of an adjoining garden, but I am increasingly finding apparently 'self sown' wild plants. This specimen is starting to take hold on a bridge just east of Bexleyheath station, and is smothering a large part of the cutting side in the background.
This fruiting Ribes sanguineum (left), a non-native ornamental, has established itself on the railway cutting side by Station Rd., between Glengall Rd. and Church Rd.
There was also as pristine Red Admiral , 4 juvenile Common Lizards and an adult that had recently lost the whole of its tail. I wish I knew what predates the species here.
Thursday, 10 September 2009
for events listing. More recruits always welcome.
On the Tuesday we spent a bit of time watching an Environment Agency team electro-fishing a sample length of the river to see what species were present, and to measure all the fish caught. Amongst other things, a fair-sized Pike was observed. Later we did some wading and measuring just north of the upriver bridge in Crayford town centre for the installation of flow deflectors (there were some fine patches of Liverwort just above the waterline on old stonework here). The purpose of these is to help clear the build up of silt under one side of the bridge, and to provide areas of differing water speed to create a greater variety of conditions for wildlife.
On Wednesday we heaved a large number of lorry tyres dumped on the bank by Crayford industrial estate across the river, then down a footpath to a skip. After that it was a case of wading up and down the river picking litter, including quite a lot of cans etc. embedded in the riverbed. A selection of clothing prompted speculation about the likelihood of a dead body or two ....... There were also several plastic bags-worth of takeaway establishment menus that had been dumped in riverside vegetation, presumably by deliverers who didn't bother to do what they were paid for.
A Chinese Mitten Crab was found under the bridge arches at the upstream end of Crayford Riverside Gardens in a bag containing a rotting display stand of some sort. Thought to have arrived in ship ballast, this species burrows into riverbanks, eventually causing their collapse along with any reeds or other vegetation above, which can diminish suitable habitat for endangered Water Voles.
Whilst cleaning up the river, water plants such as Watercress, Brooklime, Water Mint, Water Forget-me-not, Fool's Watercress and Water Figwort were seen.
My favourite plant in this sort of habitat - for the name at least - is Trifid Bur-marigold, of which there was a lot at the Waterside gardens. It looks rather like a Dahlia on a diet, but with rather less conspicuous flowers.
Non-native Giant Hogweed and Himalayan Balsam are troublesome invaders along the Cray, and concerted attempts are being made to eliminate the former and limit the latter.
After all the work, I did a fair amount of additional wildlife recording in the vicinity of the river.
Along Footpath 106 by the river, 'behind' Crayford Way, a pristine Comma, Red Admiral, Painted Lady and Small White were all feeding on the same smallish Buddleia, a sight that wouldn't have merited a mention in my childhood when it was commonplace. A couple of Geranium pyrenaicum were also noted.
I then headed downriver from Maiden Lane towards Thames Road.
A fabulous stand of Purple Loosestrife by the Cray between Maiden Lane and Thames Rd
A rather late-flowering specimen of Dittander (Lepidium latifolium) - with the narrow leaves, foreground - a fairly uncommon Crucifer, seen not far from the Thames Rd bridge
Dittander was once cultivated. Young leaves can be eaten raw or cooked and are said to have a very hot cress-like flavour and may be used in small quantities in salads. The roots can be grated and made into a horseradish substitute.
Various larger Dragonflies were seen but I couldn't get a close enough view for a positive ID. I did, however, get to see my first Brown Hawker (though it's quite a common species) at close range when a female stopped, apparently to lay eggs, on a bit of rotting log emerging from the water up near the Thames Rd bridge.
Various native shrubs have been planted in plastic tubes here, but some of the species do not naturally occur in the local area. Rather than doing this and covering the mound with bark chip, which is inevitably slipping away, it would probably have been better - and certainly cheaper - to have left it to get overgrown naturally!
I then surveyed and took quite a lot of photographs of the 'field' bordered by the Cray, Thames Rd, the Slade Green to Dartford railway line and the Sewer Pipe embankment. Thames 21 will be tasked with monitoring and managing this, after it was excavated to below water table level, landscaped for Water Voles and planted up with lots of Great Reedmace, sedges and rushes as a mitigation measure for loss of land to housing nearby. But I'll do a separate 'feature' on this site another time.
I also had a distant view of what was almost certainly my first Little Egret, just west of the railway line in a water body in the field south of the Sewer Pipe embankment.
At that time there was a lot of bare earth along the verges with numbers of (Sea) Beet and 'cabbage' (Rape?) plants. I also found a single Common Fumitory.
On this occasion some Common Toadflax was still in evidence. There was a very large number of Wild Carrot seed heads on the site of the former Engineer's 'encampment' by the Perry St roundabout. Ox-eye Daisy was on a bank between the houses on Shearwood Crescent. Also half a dozen Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea), pictured below. This plant seems a lot less common in the north east of Bexley (this being my first record of it in the Borough as far as I can recollect) than its near relative Weld.
Wild Mignonette (Reseda lutea) flowering on a bank by Thames Road.
The area around the eastern end of Crayford Way was good for Starlings and House Sparrows. There were 16 Starlings on TV aerials at the Thames Rd end of Iron Mill Lane and 48 (possibly including some of the former by now) on roofs at the Crayford Way end of Mill Place. There were around 30 Sparrows (apparently finding food on the ground) at the end of an alleyway at the eastern end of Crayford Way, and more than 26 in an Escallonia by a bird feeder at 170 Crayford Way.
The alien Rosemary Beetle, a spreading alien that damages Rosemary and Lavender, was spotted on Lavender in Crayford Way. I have previously recorded it in several loactions in Barnehurst and Bexleyheath.
Sunday, 6 September 2009
There was a Goat's-rue, several Sloe and a small tree with sweetish, round, miniature Plum-type fruits. A mixed group of Blue and Long-tailed Tits was active in Elders. A Heron was on a drainage channel bank.
Turning right at the junction of Footpaths 1 and 2 (opposite the Crossness gate, near the Wind Pump) I crossed the bridge over another drainage ditch and was delighted to find my first ever Strawberry Clover (Trifolium fragiferum). There were approximately three square yards of it covering the verge by a field gate.
Strawberry Clover - so-named because of the swelling red seed heads - growing on Erith Marshes
This Marsh OR Golden Dock (below - I am still working on identification from sample material collected) was nearby, along with Hoary Cress, Creeping Cinquefoil, Common Toadflax, Common St. John's Wort, 5 Tall Yellow Melilot and Sea Beet.
The Strawberry Clover was close to the track leading to this wildlife observation 'hide', from which one has a great :-( view of the new waste incinerator under construction. According to http://www.wastexchange.co.uk/detailNews.phpsc?doc=/GARWER/DOCS/news/98C-375-D77 'Once built, the facility at Belvedere will recover 62MW of electricity from an average of 585,000 tonnes of waste each year, brought in by barges on the River Thames from central London. Up to 85,000 tonnes of material can also be brought in by road each year under the planning consent.'
In other words a vast tonnage of resources will be sent on a one way trip to oblivion, and put beyond the scope of re-use by anyone alive today. It will also undermine recycling efforts by locking Councils into contracts to supply large amounts of material to burn for years to come. We are supposed to be impressed by a claimed thermal efficiency of 27%. There is no sign of a combined-heat-and-power link up. Oh, and don't we now realise that marshland is needed to accomodate flood water? So here we are, another grand example of the sort of crazed, disjointed, mid 20th century approach to economics and the environment that still hold sway in the parties currently represented in Westminster.
Taking the left fork as Footpath 2 headed up onto the sea wall, there was a Fennel plant, and then an extensive patch of Cypress Spurge (Euphorbia cyparissias), seen here in the foreground with Crossness Sewage Works to the west (another patch was found further east):
This white-flowered Sea Aster (Aster tripolium) was in full flower still, whereas the usual blue-flowered specimens were largely running to seed.
There were, to me, surprising numbers of Wild Carrot on the bank on the river side of the sea wall, not too far above the high tide line. There were several mats of Sickle Medick sprawling over the footpath on the river side of the fence by the 'Tech Guys' and 'Currys' warehouses (sort of contiguous with the site where I previously found the species off Church Manor Way - see post of 12/7/09). Unfortunately it was now too dark to get a photo.
A few interesting plants were growing on a somewhat bare, 'weedy' corner by Wolvercote Way near the aerial walkway, including Sun Spurge, a young Cucurbit plant of some sort and this possible Scotch Thistle seedling.
There were a lot of Marsh Yellow Cress plants growing on the walkway itself, with small auricles at the leaf bases.
A Black Knapweed and some Silverweed were noted by paths towards a field of horses - in which there were some 57 Carrion Crows and a Kestrel overhead - just west of Southmere Lake.
A solitary male Common Blue Damselfly was seen in a dry ditch.
This Wild Parsnip was pictured near the base of the Green Chain Walk signpost.
Red Clover clumps, tending to have stronger leaf markings than is sometimes the case, dotted a strip of land cut for hay, immediatly south of Eastern Way.
There were lots of Wild Roses sporting quite a lot of Robin's Pincushions, caused by a Gall Wasp (Diplolepis rosae).
Saturday, 5 September 2009
A Pyracantha noted on the bank between the overground lines and Underground depot at New Cross, and another between the running lines just south of Horley station.
Rather strangely, there was a strip of Common Reed at the *top* of a low cutting just south of New Cross Gate station.
Some Gorse just before Honor Oak Park.
Patch of Silver Birch and a couple of Gorse near Selhurst Depot.
Lots of Clematis vitalba north of Reedham. lots of Ash south of Reedham and on to Salfords.
Tall Horsetails just south of Three Bridges, and a few Heather in flower a little further on. Lots of Silver Birch kicking in south of this station.
Several Broom a bit north of Hayward's Heath, with Hemp Agrimony just south of the station (one plant of this seen earlier at Horley).
Common Toadflax and Ox-eye Daisy around Wivelsfield.
Big patch of Hemp Agrimony south of Burgess Hill.
Several Purple Toadflax just north of Hassocks station, also one Gorse, and a couple of Pine saplings in the ballast immediatly south of the station. More Hemp Agrimony further to the south of it - plus further stands a little north of Preston Park.
Some Red Valerian just outside Brighton station on the west side.
Hove: 4 Black Nightshade at the foot of a street tree near the station. Corydalis lutea and Ivy-leaved Toadflax in front gardens on Norton Rd. Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) in the wall of St. Andrews Church, Church Rd., and Common Mallow and Ground Ivy in the churchyard.
Thursday, 3 September 2009
This female, which is much larger and more exotic-looking than a male of the species, was disturbed when I was clearing some grass, weeds and dead Phacelia tanacetifolia stems from around some irises on my Dad's plot on the Grasmere Rd allotment site in Barnehurst. If there was a web, I inadvertently destroyed it.
Female Wasp Spider on Barnehurst allotment site
At least 7 (and possibly more) different individual Common Lizards on my Dad's allotment at the Grasmere Rd site in Barnehurst today.
A sometimes blustery cool breeze, and the odd bit of dark cloud, were enough to lower the temperature to a level at which the Lizards needed to come out and bask quite a bit. The two salvaged car tyres again proved popular, with a record-equalling 4 animals using one, and 2 using the other. Here are some pictures of them (taken on a 3MP mobile phone cam, without good close focussing - so some have been cropped and enlarged ......).
As usual, the majority of the Lizards seen (5 out of 7) were on the banking below the main path, either side of the steps
Two adults on tyre, one to right trying to be inconspicuous