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’.

Thursday, 31 December 2009

31/12/09: Green end to year for my Barnehurst bird list

On Christmas day the following were seen in the garden - Blue Tit, Great Tit, Robin and, at dusk, a large Fox.

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

25 + 26/12/09: Birds of a feather

On Christmas Day there was a Great Tit in the garden, as well as Blue Tit. The Robin came as close as 2 feet away. A large Fox was about at dusk.

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

24/12/09: Bexleyheath miscellany

5 Long-tailed Tits were seen foraging along the southern margin of Bursted Wood. A Great Tit was along the path between the hospital and the railway. 37 Starlings flew overhead.

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

22/12/09: North Heath's 'heath' and Barnehurst's Wood in the snow

Glorious Gorse!

I was delighted to see this Gorse (Ulex europaeus) bush in full flower at the end of the shrub bed by the Sussex Rd car park in the Brook Street recreation ground. I suspect a lot of Park Keepers /contractors would have long since hacked this out. Well done for leaving (or maybe even planting) this reminder of the area's heathland history.

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.

The most compact and strongly-growing specimens are at the south end (at the right side of the previous picture) where they get more sun and are less shaded by trees.
Bursted Wood is on the west side at the bottom of the hill. Here are 'specimen' trees on the former pitch and putt course.

Bursted Wood's northern margin from the former pitch and putt course.

21 + 22/12/09: Barnehurst and North Heath Birds to the fore

With herbaceous plants gone over and buried under snow, more attention has been paid to the local birdlife.

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

15-19/12/09: Old headbanger's back, plus a Pied Wagtail

15th - did some conservation work on the banks of the River Cray for the first time in a couple of months. It was noticeably colder, and the frost stayed put, down here in the valley, compared with 'up the hill' in north Barnehurst. The stink of traffic fumes along Thames Rd was palpable, kept low to the ground by the cold air. There was an unbelievable accumulation of plastic and other rubbish part-buried in the soil where rank vegetation had been removed along a section of riverbank. Civilization. Allegedly. Helped coppice some rather large willow - which involved hanging on the end of a long rope with four other people to stop the trunks crashing down across the river and being hard to get out again.

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

11/12/09: Bursted Wood, Martens Grove and eastern Bexleyheath

There were 11 Carrion Crows on the former Pitch and Putt course next to Bursted Wood.

5 Grey Squirrels, two Blackbirds and a Robin were seen in Martens Grove.

There were still some fungal fruiting bodies about:

Bracket-type fungus on dead log, Martens Grove

Large fungal fruiting bodies by dead stumps, garden on Park Grove

More fungi by tree stump, grassy bank on Watling St, opposite end of Park Grove

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

10/12/09: Hackney nightlife

Met up with an old friend from Scotland who, until recently, I hadn't seen for years. She was off to Copenhagen - via London - with members of Scotland FoE. We all eat in a Vietnamese restaurant on Englefield Rd. I noted several adult Rosemary Beetles on a Rosemary bush outside the front door.

A Fox was later seen at the junction of Northchurch Terrace and Lawford Rd.

10/12/2009: Cortaderia colonisation

From a moving train window on 10/12/09, I managed to get this blurred picture of the Pampas Grass (Cortaderia - most probably selloana) growing by the railway, just east of Kidbrooke station, on the north side of the line.

'Wild' Pampas Grass near Kidbrooke railway station

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

8/12/09: Finchley Geranium fest.

A Hop plant was noted in an overgrown 'garden' next to 227 Archway Rd.

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.