Wednesday, 29 July 2009
1 Painted Lady in the garden today, plus 2 Old Lady moths and a Large Yellow Underwing yesterday, the moths found resting in a pile of clutter under the kitchen window.
The first one was spotted by me, on the upper side of an Ivy leaf in a scrappy little car park above the west end of the station on Sternhold Avenue. The second was first noticed by another member of the group I was with, sitting on Lime, just over the other side of the railway line by a slip road to the rail depot off Drewstead Road.
I was in Streatham to help with a South London Botanical Institute
survey of some waste ground in the area. This didn't turn up a great deal of interest, the most notable specimens being some 'escaped' Erigeron karvinskianus, Campanula persicifolia and Leycesteria formosana on Blairderry Rd, the latter two behind the closed cinema, a non-native, but unidentifiable Clematis on the railway embankment and a Wall Lettuce in a garden on Drewstead Rd.
Sunday, 26 July 2009
Proceeding eastwards, there was a patch of Tall Melilot (Melilotus altissimus) in the sloping river wall.
Two new records for me within Bexley were found round the 'bay' at the east corner of the Chandlers Drive complex.
Marsh Woundwort (Stachys palustris) was growing on the riverbank, and although I haven't seen it in Bexley Borough before, I suspect plants I saw by the Ravensbourne in Lewisham the other week were, in fact, this species, but I wasn't botanising at the time. The pinkish-purple flowers are reasonably large for a Labiate and are attractively patterned in white.
There were also some clumps of Sea Aster here.
In a crack between the pathway and the substantive 'sea wall' to the inland side was a run of Skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata), another Labiate, and a species I've never seen before. The flowers are bright blue with a white centre to the lower lip.
Some 21-25 Swifts were wheeling over the modern riverside houses here.
A Heron was sitting on the long wooden jetty at Erith.
The triangle of land between Bexley Rd and Fraser Rd, mentioned in a previous posting, was surveyed again. From the Bexley Rd side there was a very poor, stunted, Mahonia aquifolium, suckering Lilac, a couple of Viburnum tinus and lots of Robinia pseudoacacia 'saplings', plus some Laburnum.
I then doubled back and went down Fraser Rd in order to get back up to Northumberland Heath via Birch Walk.
This 'detour' yielded a lot of Feverfew and a number of Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) - a new species for me in Bexley - above the retaining wall. The latter used to be grown commercially to produce a soapy liquid for washing wool and may be an escape from cultivation generally, and also at this particular site.
A single plant of Fool's Parsley (my second record of it in Bexley) was spotted in disturbed ground under an advertising hoarding where the road levels out.
The bank at the western end of the large warehouse-like retail outlets just before Birch Walk was carrying a large number of strongly-growing White Melilot (Melilotus albus), the largest stands I've ever seen, along with some Coltsfoot. Fading light meant I only got some rather poor, fuzzy, pictures. On the bank behind these buildings is an area of Gorse and Buddleia, which today also had a good show of Wild Carrot.
A party of Long-tailed Tits kept themselves well hidden amongst the leaves.
On the houses side of Parkside Rd., adjacent to the wood, there were 12 Sun Spurge. A Japanese Honeysuckle had got into the mix by the gate opposite Halt Robin Lane, where there was also a lot of White Bryony.
I found one bent and buckled Caper Spurge in fruit on the wood margin between the ends of Ashburton and Gordon Roads.
It is said not to ripen fruit too well in this country, and to spread mainly by suckers.
One of the specimens is found in the heathland area, and is pictured here, including a branch carrying fruit. Unfortunately someone (who, one suspects, didn't know what they were doing) has 'tidied' around the base of the multi-stemmed plant by cutting several thinner stems close to the ground.
The fruit - called chequers - is edible, but is supposed to be bletted (allowed to become 'over-ripe'), after which it is claimed that they taste like dates.
The cluster of 3+5 thinnish stems across the centre of the picture are the Wild Service Tree
Leaves and fruit
There appears to be some debate as to whether the public house name 'Chequers' is of Roman origin, with a checker-board pattern signifying a place that also provided banking services, is derived from the game checkers (draughts) played on such a board or the name of the friut of this tree (which one reference I've found says has in the past been used to flavour beer).
At any rate, here's an old (closed) pub called the 'The Chequers', not far from Lesnes Abbey Woods, on Picardy Rd., Belvedere ....
For more about the Wild Service Tree see:
In the garden by the information centre there was a Small White butterfly, two Large Whites, one Peacock and two Painted Ladies.
I recognised Wall Rue (Asplenium ruta-muraria) on the ruined Abbey walls, as this is very common on walls in Bristol (but not around Bexley). A fellow volunteer identified the other, more prolific, fern here as Black Spleenwort.
Up at the work site the Heather was coming into flower, and will look good generating a purple haze over the next few weeks.
An unusually low-flying Purple Hairstreak settled briefly on a leaf, and there was a solitary male Common Blue.
The son of one of the volunteers found a dead Common Shrew (a species I have to admit I've never seen before), and a few inches away a Vole or young Wood Mouse, down one of the nearby paths. Neither showed signs of obvious injury and it occurred to me later that they may have been dropped out of an owl's nest.
Later on, I saw a Holly Blue in 'Byway 7' (Leather Bottle Lane), now effectively a rear alleyway behind Elstree Gardens, bordering the north side of the wood east of the Abbey. There were also around 20 plants of Greater Celandine here.
Saturday, 25 July 2009
- 1 x Peacock butterfly, possinly the same one as the other day
- several Gatekeepers, including a mating pair
- 1 x Speckled Wood
- 1 x Greenfinch (the first for a while)
- 1 x Dunnock
- 3 x 22-spot Ladybirds on an Aquilegia plant. This species eats fungi (mildew) on the soil surface or on low-growing plants.
A good site for helping identify Ladybirds is:
And then there was a male Smooth Newt, found hiding out in a plastic sack amongst stones being kept to put in the foundations when repairing terracing in this hillside garden. The species has been seen in a pond next door, but this is the first one in my garden for a very long time.
Friday, 24 July 2009
A younger Fox, with a tidy, pale-tipped tail, walked through the garden in daylight.
Had only 6 hours of juice per 24 hours, and couldn't get an internet connection.
Shops, banks and Post offices have shut, even if they had saleable goods, because of a reliance on various electrical appliances.
Apart from a general over-dependence on power-driven kit, one of the lessons from all this ought to be that there needs to be not just a major shift to renewables, but also an emphasis on decentralised production and distribution networks - including, of course, serious investment in solar water heating and photovoltaics on residential and business premises.
On the plus side, the near-daily whine of power tools round here ground to a halt (no sign that any of the work that goes on involves insulation, fitment of solar panels or digging up concreted-over gardens anyway ....), but on the down side, every time the power came on or went off there was a cacophany of burglar alarms, some so ridiculously and anti-socially loud they must have been audible half way across the Borough.
Anyhow, we're signed up to an 80% CO2 cut (90% is probably needed) and what we've just had is 3 days of a 75% cut just in the electricity component of our largely fossil fuel driven energy mix. And major problems ensue. What if this had happened in winter?
The 'major' parties in Westminster can be relied upon to fiddle while the planet burns and people live in fuel poverty. See this for what a handful of Councillors of the right political persuasion can get done:
Yes, Huddersfield (West Yorkshire), free insulation and solar power capital of the UK.
Thursday, 23 July 2009
And this Old Lady moth (Mormo maura) was found in the lounge this afternoon. It's a locally distributed species whose larvae feed on Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), and other shrubs and trees.
Monday, 20 July 2009
16/7 - 1 in the shrub bed above the road on Gravel Hill
17/7 - 1 on plot 16, Grasmere allotments, Barnehurst
18/7 - 4 on one Buddleia bush, Ridge Rd., Winchmore Hill in Enfield
20/7 - 1 on Buddleia in my Barnehurst garden
The sad fact of the matter is that 4 Peacocks in one garden at one time wouldn't have been 'news' when I was a teenager back in the 1970s ......
Sunday, 19 July 2009
The Park is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance Grade II. The most interesting part, from a wildlife point of view, is Parkland Walk, which borders the railway line along the western margin - running along the eastern side of the East Coast Main Line. It is a Local Nature Reserve and an Ecological Corridor.
A report and pictures of some of the flora follows. It's a pity nothing is made of the wildlife value in the park guide downloadable here:
According to the Management Plan that is also available here 'The Parkland Walk Local Nature Reserve is a footpath and cycle path running along the disused railway line from Alexandra Palace to Finsbury Park. [It] has been completely re-landscaped as part of the [park] restoration project. The area underwent complete site clearance and infill and mounding was achieved using the dredged material from the lake. A new footpath and cycle path was ..... constructed and native trees, meadow grasses and flowers were introduced.'
The walk starts at the Stroud Green Road gate by the railway bridge. Here a probably 'self-sown' Fig (Ficus carica) was holding its own against planted Berberis.
Looking north across characteristic vegetation of Mugwort, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Yarrow, Ox-eye Daisy and Clovers.
Many of the other species found are common components of vegetation assemblages around where I live in Barnehurst (SE London), including Field Bindweed, Ribwort Plantain, Teasel, White and Red Clover, Lesser Trefoil, Black Medick, Spear Thistle, Evergreen Alkanet, Bristly Ox-tongue, Old Man's Beard, Broad-leaved Everlasting Pea and Creeping Cinquefoil.
LASHINGS OF LEGUMES
This Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) might be self sown, or may have survived removal of some shrubs due to anti-social behaviour problems (there's a reference to this development in the Management Plan). There's a patch of Comfrey behind it on the left. Contrast the bank with the mown grass beyond.
At the top of the bank above this were three plants of Tufted Vetch (Vicia cracca)- the largest seen here to the right of a Creeping Thistle.
A highlight, given I've been looking out for it everywhere I've been lately (with no success hitherto), was this solitary specimen of strongly red-purple flowered Zigzag Clover (Trifolium medium), growing amongst White Clover and Bird's-foot Trefoil.
This Tall Melilot (Melilotus altissima) was only 6" high, presumably struggling in very poor soil.
Inside the railway fence, heading north, were several Goat's-rue (Galega officinalis).
At the far north end of this part of the site, on a bank to the right of the footbridge over the ECML, that accesses the continuation of the closed Alexandra Palace branch, were several Lucerne, this one growing next to Weld.
Also here was a fine patch of Common Toadflax
Other species found in very small numbers included Silverweed, Black Knapweed (2 - but may have been more that were not in flower and thus overlooked), Musk Mallow (a few inside the railway fence) and this Vervain (only one found - a very wiry plant that doesn't show up well in the photo).
More typical was Yarrow against a backdrop of Mugwort and grasses, with Ribwort Plantain seed heads - a pleasing symphony of green and white.
If you find yourself at Finsbury Park with an hour to spare, go and have a look.
Thursday, 16 July 2009
There were 14 Starlings on the communications mast on top of Bexleyheath fire station.
Walking along Rudland Rd I noticed that a gull floating overhead seemed to be snapping at something several times over. Was it out of annoyance at getting ants in its face, or was it catching them?
It looked like Starlings definitely were catching them. Both here, and on Barnehurst Rd, quite a number of individuals were making short, jerky, purposeful flights off of TV aerials and looked like they were feeding in mid-air. I can only assume they were eating the ants, but have never noticed this behaviour before.
When I came out onto Barnehurst Rd there were about 24 Swifts in two groups over the south end, flying very low over the road and houses. I have seen a significant number of these birds in this location on a couple of occasions. The first time they were flying so low that a couple only narrowly avoided crashing into the top deck of a bus.
Further down the road I stopped to see if I could get a video clip of the low-level aerobatics on my mobile phone, but no sooner had I taken up position than they all vanished.
On reaching the junction with Hillingdon Rd., I again scanned the sky. This time there were about 70 Swifts at a great height, flying over the area between Northall Rd and Hillingdon Rd.
At 8p.m., standing on my compost bins - from which ants were also taking flight - I was looking south from my garden with a pair of binoculars. A swirling band, now numbering around 120 Swifts (it's difficult to get an exact count!) made a magnificent sight away beyond the Bexleyheath railway line. There is surely something about the airflow that, not for the first time, favours congregation here. And must be no co-incidence that this record number came together just when the ants took to the sky en-masse.
There was a Small White and a Comma butterfly in the front garden.
On the 15th Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood were seen. And a newly-emerged froglet.
A couple of Rhododendron Leafhoppers (Graphocephala fennahi) - originally a native of the USA - were spotted. Good photos here:
On the 16th a Grey Squirrel ran along the outside windowsill as I sat at my computer by the window.
A Large White, Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood were seen.
A Dock Squashbug (Coreus marginatus) was found on a Rhubarb plant (a dock relative).
Monday, 13 July 2009
Sunday, 12 July 2009
This time I checked out the uncut field on the east corner of Church Manor Way, ringing with the sounds of a less usual type of grasshopper/cricket, whose whereabouts I just couldn't pin down, even though some sounded like they were outside the fence.
There were the usual suspects for the area such as Creeping Thistle, Common Mallow, Common Ragwort, Mugwort, Rocket and Field Bindweed, but also Wild Carrot, a clump of Horseradish and several Teasel.
Most distinctive were a couple of patches each of sprawling, floriferous legumes, one type with clusters of yellow flowers and one with strongly red-purple flowers. They were just a bit too far inside the fence to be able to get hold of and have a proper look, and I didn't have my binoculars. But the short of it is that my initial determination is Sickle Medick (Medicago sativa), a totally new species for me. Subspecies falcata is native to East Anglia but has been introduced elsewhere. Francis Rose ('The Wild Flower Key') says it hybridises with Lucerne to produce plants with flower colours extending to purple-black. It so happens that there are Lucerne plants just up the road, in a strip of land between Lower Road and Bronze Age Way.
Hybrid (foreground) between Sickle Medick and Lucerne (???)
My primary objective had been to photograph the Ivy Broomrape (Orobanche hederae), in St John the Baptist Churchyard, Erith, at the junction of West St and Lower Rd. I'd visited two weeks ago, having read in the past that the species occurs here, but my mobile phone was out of juice at the time so I hadn't been able to take any pictures. I did, however, count some 378 flower spikes - and that almost certainly wasn't all of them.
Ivy Broomrape occured in three places near where I lived in Bristol, but here the flower spikes were sometimes feet from the nearest bit of Ivy, coming up in grass between graves.
According to the London Wildweb website, 'ivy broomrape [is] a nationally scarce species, [here] growing on Atlantic ivy (Hedera helix ssp hibernica); this is thought to be a recent colonisation from a nearby native population.'
Now in flower, I was able to confirm that an umbellifer under the gate by the Scout hut on St. Fidelis Rd was Fool's Parsley (Aethusa cynapium), with its distinctive narrow bracteoles hanging down from the partial umbels. This is another of those species described as 'common' that doesn't crop up very often, and it's the first time I've found it in Bexley.
There was a plant of Shaggy Soldier in the road gutter at the end of Pleasant View.
This extensive, dense webbing, was draped over Cotoneaster at the bottom of Stonewood Rd, with no obvious occupants - but I didn't take a particularly careful look.
The narrow bank at the foot of Bexley Rd, high above the descending Fraser Rd, had an interesting flora, and there were hints of past cultivation before, one suspects, it was deemed too dangerous to continue.
There were about nine violet-blue-flowered plants of Viper's Bugloss (a better view to confirm ID was achieved with binoculars on 26 July), a new Bexley record for me, plus lots of Opium and Common Poppy, 'feral' cabbage type plants, some white-flowered Red Valerian and an unidentified (presumed non-native) grass with very large seed heads.
Opium Poppy seed heads
Viper's Bugloss (Echium vulgare) with Prickly Lettuce
An interestingly 'exotic' grass
One of two clumps of Rue (Ruta graveolens) in flower, in what looks like an abandoned garden in the raised 'triangle' of land at the junction of Elstree Gardens and Abbey Rd.
Traveller's Joy/Old Man's Beard (Clematis vitalba) in flower along 'Footpath 10' off the south side of Abbey Rd.
A Hop plant was either side of the end of St. Augustine's Rd, and there was a Black Knapweed and Red Campion in flower in the clinic grounds, though they look like they may have been deliberately sown/planted.
Around Belvedere station: Remains of Long-headed Poppy (Papaver dubium) still present - white latex when first found two weeks ago - by fenced redundant bike rack area by the London-bound platform.
The rough grassy area opposite the south side of the station offers Gorse and Common Reed in close proximity.
There were several Smooth Tare in the grass here.
A reed-filled ditch is to be found by both sides of the line behind the platforms. On the south side, along the footpath towards the B+Q warehouse were several Hop plants and a number of Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica), an introduced species.
Angelica by Belvedere station
Goat's-rue (Galega officinalis)
In/by ditch, east side of B+Q warehouse:
There is a very large amount of Horseradish between the ditch and the fence of Belvedere Infant School/Community Centre and Mitchell Close.
Black-bindweed (Fallopia convolvulus) on fence by derelict service station on Lower Rd. There were also two Wild Carrot and several plants of one of the tall yellow-flowered Melilot species (too far from the fence to be able to identify).
Common Toadflax - some of the several plants along the Lower Road fence, at the top of the bank above Battle Rd.
And then into Erith .......
Before going into the woods I took this picture of the invasive alien Azolla filiculoides (seen here with Lesser Duckweed) on the lower pond.
Next to the pond was a small specimen of Celery-leaved Crowfoot in flower, and a couple of patches of Silverweed (Potentilla anserina). I saw a Hummingbird Hawkmoth nearby.
The meadow parallel to Abbey Rd was a-buzz with grasshoppers and still colourful, with Lady's Bedstraw, Corn Marigold, Cornflower, Wild Carrot and Musk Mallow in flower.
Thamesmead above bleached grass seedheads
Way better than all that over-mown grass !!
Saturday, 11 July 2009
There were three small-sized Skippers flitting about around the top of the plot feeding on Lavender and Red Clover. Two were positively identified as Essex Skippers.
Two small Black Bindweed plants were noted, along with several Scarlet Pimpernel seedlings. A White Campion was in flower.
Bexleyheath railway line: Two Wild Carrot plants were in flower behind the Bexleyheath 'down' platform. Having caught a fleeting glimpse of what I thought were Caper Spurges (Euphorbia lathyris) on the low bank north of the line between Welling and Falconwood, I was able to concentrate harder today and got a positive ID - despite the speed of the train. There were about half a dozen plants close together, and another couple further along.
There was a large clump of non-native Chrysanthemum maximum in flower on the bank between Charlton junction and Blackheath station. I hadn't notice dthis before. (At least one of the two plants of this species that were behind the 'down' platform at Barnehurst is still there, though these might have been planted a long time ago).
Lewisham: In the Cornmill Gardens area by the River Ravensbourne were a couple of Goat's-rue (Galega officinalis). In a 'wild' zone at the foot of Hilly Fields, by Adelaide Avenue, there were, besides the usual Creeping and Spear Thistles, and Red and White Clovers, several clumps of Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare), which I've previously only seen under cultivation in gardens. Ladywell Fields, to the east of Ladywell station, is taking on a more naturalistic aspect around a new, artificially re-created, meandering river channel - part of a scheme to free the river from the 'straight jacket' it had previously been put into.
See the London Rivers Action Plan:
Friday, 10 July 2009
The flora is typical of other alleys in the area, including Black Horehound, Common Mallow, White Clover, Mugwort, Hoary Plantain, Bramble, Japanese Knotweed, Herb Bennett, Knotgrass, Hedge Mustard, Smooth Sow Thistle, Nipplewort, Creeping Cinquefoil, Stinging Nettle, the grasses Hordeum murinum, Lolium sp. and so on. There was also a stand of Bracken.
Whilst I was photographing this unusual alleyway denizen - Himlayan Balsam - an Essex Skipper butterfly landed on a tall grass stem next to me and I was able to see the diagnostic black undersides to the antennae.
Small Tortoiseshell - you'll be lucky to see one hereabouts these days
Then came the highlight - this Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae), now a very rare sight, especially in the South East.
I did see another a couple of weeks ago at Lesnes Abbey. And, from memory, only one in each of the last couple of years in Bristol. The severe decline may be due to climate change, exacerbating a parasitoid fly problem.
There were two Sun Spurges, a species that tends to be found fairly infrequently and usually only a very few plants together at any particular location. Here they were amongst a load of Annual Mercury by a small electricity sub-station.
The flora of short-mown grass outside the Hovis Bakery on Belmont Road included Red and White Clovers, Buck's-horn Plantain and Knotted Hedge Parsley.
This Field Madder was in a crack in paving on York Terrace.
There was a good show of Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas) and Opium Poppies (P. somniferum) around the electricity sub-station on St. Paul's Rd, as there has been for at least a couple of years now. My suspicion is that someone threw some seeds in there to brighten up the bare ground, but I could be wrong. At least they're relatively safe from the strimmer brigade!
Another new record for my garden (found at the lounge window after dark) was this Swallowtail Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria), still fairly yellow, and thus a freshly-emerged individual. There was also a Silver-Y moth.