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’.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

28/2/10: Lambeth Walk

Wandered round a bit of Lambeth, including a couple of small parks. Nothing outstanding.

Lambeth High Street Recreation Ground:

Numerous rosette-like probable Umbellifers. Also Parsley Piert.

Pedlar's Park, Salamanca Street:

Probable Crucifers, Pedlar's park

Lots of large unidentified plants that are probably Crucifers. Germander Speedwell.

Hart's-tongue fern and another fern species high up in the brickwork under the railway bridge over Salamanca Street.

Another, small, unidentified fern high up under a bridge at Vauxhall station.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

24+26/2/10: Few 'spots' - apart from Ladybird


- Fox crossed north end of Barnehurst Avenue in daylight.

- 6 House Sparrows in street tree opposite the 'Royal Oak', Northumberland Heath. Chirruping from scrubby gardens both sides of Northumberland Close.

- 2 Collared Doves in Barnehurst Av. as I made my way home.

- 22-spot Ladybird found amongst Geranium macrorrhizum as I was weeding Couch Grass out of it.


- Fox in the back garden in broad daylight, with a hen's egg in its mouth, looking for somewhere to bury it. Foxes have been leaving eggs round the garden for years now.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

21/2/2010: Ducks to water on marshes' flooded fields

The following birds were observed on flooded fields (above - looking towards Littlebrook Power Station and the QE2 bridge) in the 'triangle' between the converging Cray and Darent, north of the A206 (aka Bob Dunn Way - though why anyone would want another example of road-building folly named after themselves or a family member beats me):

- 5 Canada Geese
- Quite a few Gadwall
- Teal
- Some Mallard
- A rather long-necked duck with a rather 'upright' resting posture, with a dark browny-black head and rear of neck, and a long whitish front of neck with a couple of dark spots, plus a dark duck with smaller white breast (both of these eventually took off with a male Mallard and were presumably 'hybrids' with domestic ducks)
- 5 (+?) Shoveler
- 2 Shelduck

- and (slightly) exciting, simply because it's new to me for the area, a male Pintail (Anas acuta).

21/2/10: Cray and Thames Rd wetland birds include 'white heron'

Out with the Thames21 Cray Riverkeepers today. Got wetter walking there in the rain than while clearing litter from the banks and the water by Maxim Rd, Crayford, since it stopped once we'd arrived. The usual lamentable array of plastic bags, bits of polystyrene and drinks cans, plus a chair and some dumped doors.

There were half a dozen or more House Sparrows in a bramble and rose thicket by disused factory premises on the south side of the river. Two Goldfinches landed briefly on shrubs outside the flats.

I noted the following birds along the Cray between Maiden Lane and Thames Rd:

4 Redwing
2 Ring-necked Parakeets
1 Moorhen
2 Great-spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other through a large Willow tree
2 Blue Tits
1 Magpie nest building
3 Mute Swan
3 Mallard

1 Rabbit was also seen.

I wanted to see what was using the Thames Rd wetland (a field deliberately flooded as part of a mitigation scheme for development elsewhere).

Thames Rd wetland looking south to sewer embankment and beyond

Thames Rd wetland looking east towards railway bridge

Walking along the sewer embankment the first birds spotted were 2 Chaffinches flocking with 6 Goldfinch.

There were 2 Coot on the water, a 'normal' pair of Mallard and a normal male and dark companion with a white breast. On the open water at the east end of the site, a male Shoveler floated into view. At one point there were 28 Black-headed Gulls, flown in from the Council dump site over the road, here. A lone Little Egret was spotted foraging for food, with apparent success. It took flight, but came back a short while later, a clear view being afforded for some time.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

18/2/10: Finchley fernery

Up in north London again, this time for Green Party conference.

Walls with one, two or sometimes three small Asplenium/Ceterach species were a common sight back in Bristol, but not here in drier London, so it was pleasing to come across this one-off Asplenium trichomanes-studded wall on Lodge Lane, Woodside Park, Finchley.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

14/2/10: Birds along the DLR - Devons Rd and All Saints

To get home from the Waterworks Nature Reserve I decided to go to Stratford, take the DLR to Lewisham, and the train from there back to Barnehurst.

I got off at a couple of stations in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets in order to see if there was any interesting 'lineside' vegatation (which there wasn't).

However, 13 Linnets settled in a small tree by a scrappy car park behind the Lewisham-bound platform at Devons Rd, and stayed put for quite a while.

At All Saints some small birds were high in some trees a little way away, but remained obscured by lots of branches and unfavourable light. Fancying from glimpses that at least one of them was a Goldfinch, I decided to exit the station and try and get a better look. Persistence was rewarded with 6 Redwings and a slightly larger 'thrush', which I took to be a Song Thrush, feeding on the grass in All Saints (East India Dock Rd.) churchyard on the Montague Place side. There were at least 7 Goldfinches high up in some large London Planes, hanging on and apparently feeding from the globular fruits - something I've not seen before.

Shortly thereafter a good view was had of 11 Goldfinches feeding on the ground in the churchyard, by the base of a tree, whilst there were still at least a few others up in the aforementioned Planes.

Spotted Medick and a Barbarea sp.('Winter Cress') were noted on a mounded 'raised bed' at the junction of East India Dock Rd and Cotton St.

There was a Mute Swan on the water just past Greenwich DLR station.

14/2/10: Valentine's Day bird-watching

Another well-led London Natural History Society bash, this time to the Waterworks Nature Reserve and Golf Course in the Lea Valley

the Lea Valley Riding Centre over the road, and Walthamstow Marshes.

The former includes a ring of old filter beds allowed to reach various stages of succession, from largely open water, to increasing amounts of reeds, wet meadow and Willow carr. There is a circular walkway in the middle, ringed by a bird hide 'wall' with lift-up flaps and viewing 'windows' opposite each bed.

Before entering the site proper, two Sparrowhawks were seen overhead, and a Grey Wagtail was by the canal.

On the filter beds, great views were had of Teal (the males have some fantastically cream feathering), Snipe, Shoveler, Little Grebe and Green Sandpiper. A Cetti's Warbler was heard (not that I would have known that's what it was without the leader saying so), ditto Water Rail.

Unprepossessing grass and horse-trampled fields in the Riding Centre were awash with large numbers of Redwing and Fieldfare, also a few Mistle Thrushes. Here we also had good views (through another members' telescope) of a Little Owl well camouflaged in a big old Willow tree and a pair of Stock Doves, both 'firsts' for myself.

Apart from a Kestrel, there wasn't anything of note on Walthamstow Marsh South.

Plant-wise, the stand-out was the large amount of Tansy bordering the canal channel, at both the Filter Beds and Riding School sites.

A worthwhile trip to a location well-served by buses, and a reasonable walk from Clapton railway station.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

3/2/10: Clandestine ops in Erith

OK folks, this post contains some pictures and wildlife records from a Metropolitan Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. But it's a former landfill site, fenced off and supposed to be out of bounds. In reality loads of holes have been made in the fence and that rather useful Google Earth thingy shows the place covered with trackways. I couldn't resist a bit of a look because when I was about 11-13-ish and my Dad had an allotment (site long-closed) next to it, it was still an old quarry and I used to go down there to find newts in the ponds. I won't name the place, but if you're squeamish, look away now. And I'll wait for a heavy knock on the door .....

Before we get to that, here are pictures of a Gorse-covered bank at the foot of Birch Walk, behind warehouse-type retail outlets on Fraser Rd - there's a lot of Buddleia got in there too - and a patch of Wood Sage.

There's also some Hart's-tongue Fern on what appears to be a filled-in arch over what may have been a bridge over a railway line out of the quarry. This is an infrequent plant in these relatively dry parts.

Site X (there was plenty of evidence of other people having indeed been on here lately, including trailbike tyre tracks) was dominated by Hawthorn scrub, with quite a lot of Roses. There was a large swathe of Spanish Broom (Spartium junceum) in one area, and another plant with a smaller specimen growing under it, some considerable distance away. This non-native must have got here as seed. There were also a number of Pyracantha shrubs. 3 Fennel were sprouting close to one another. Dried seedheads indicated the presence of Wild Carrot, Black Knapweed and Teasel.

Animals seen included a Fox and - as firsts for me in the local area for some years - a Goldfinch and a Chaffinch.

Spanish Broom on a former landfill site in Erith

Pyracantha is established here too

Fennel re-sprouting here early in the season

Monday, 1 February 2010

1/2/2010: Redwings turn over old leaf

Walked through Bursted Wood on my way to Bexleyheath.

At the west end of the wood a distant, and obscured, view was had of about 8 Redwings jumping about and tossing the deep leaf litter around in their search for food. The supplies of berries in trees and shrubs has presumably run out.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen, along with the usual Great and Blue Tits, Wren, Carrion Crows, Magpie, Wood Pigeons and Ring-necked Parakeets.