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’.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

20/3/10: Three Borough trek for birds and botany

Went to a London Natural History Society meeting on Tooting Bec Common in Wandsworth, billed as an opportunity to try and see all 3 native Woodpeckers. Like several other members present, I had yet to see the Lesser Spotted species, which is uncommon in the capital .

I may as well say at the outset that despite much craning of many necks to look at the top-most branches of mature trees, we didn't see our elusive target - though a couple had reportedly been observed here several times in January and February.

We did see several Great Spotted Woodpeckers and 2 Green Woodpeckers, however. A Nuthatch was spotted. There were Ring-necked Parakeets. 2 Goldfinches were noted. A Stock Dove, Starlings and Redwings were feeding on the ground.

On or by the lake were around 16 Tufted Duck, 1 male Pochard, a Mute Swan, an Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Coot and Moorhen.

Plants included Gorse, Silver Birch, Cow Parsley, Viola odorata, Common Reed, Ribwort Plantain and some Coltsfoot coming into flower. In one area there were the winter remains of a number of Wild Carrot and Black Knapweed. A large stand of Broom occured in one spot.

Coltsfoot coming into flower by the lake on Tooting Bec Common

A progressive attitude to the sometimes maligned Gorse, here growing up against a building by a main road

2 Jay were seen in the woodland on Tooting Graveney Common, south of the athletic ground.

After the meeting ended, I decided to head east to Streatham Common in Lambeth. I took the tube from Tooting Bec to Balham, and the overground from there to Streatham Common station then walked up Greyhound Lane.

The open grass included plants such as Ox-eye Daisy, Creeping Buttercup, Lesser Celandine, Yarrow, Ribwort Plantain and Spotted Medick.

The attractive bark of a London Plane on Streatham Common, made more so by the trunk being wet on one side and still dry on the other

Fungus on an old log

Large clump of Butcher's Broom in the wooded area of Streatham Common

The increasingly wooded area to the east threw up several Beech saplings, Oak, one small Stinking Iris (probably a garden 'escape'), a large clump of Butcher's Broom, one clump of Snowdrops (well away from roads and houses) and two small non-native Mahonia aquifolium. There was Bracken and a small amount of Gorse in more open areas.

Birds included Ring-necked Parakeets, Robin, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit and a female Chaffinch. At the bottom of the wood, near what looked like an old estate 'lodge' 2 Stock Doves were sitting in a tree.

Around the Norwood Grove 'mansion', a couple of Greenfinches and a Nuthatch were seen.

Noticing a splash of green at the far end of Christian Fields road I went to take a look Norbury Park (off Green Lane) in Croydon. Unsurprisingly this was your typical over-mown swathe of grass, though 38 Carrion Crows and some Wood Pigeons were finding it to their liking.

I decided to head for Crystal Palace Park via the next-nearest 'green target', Biggin Wood.

Biggin Wood, Croydon - a suburban survivor

This exhibited the usual features of a small, heavily-used suburban woodland, with an apparently limited flora. The ubiquitous Ring-necked Parakeet was present. A few Lords and Ladies were coming up near the eastern Covington Way exit, and there was a lot of Lesser Celandine emerging here next to a small stream. The variegated garden form of the native Yellow Archangel was beginning to take hold in this area also.

Lamium galeobdolon 'Variegatum', the commoner of the variegated 'garden forms' of the native Yellow Archangel, starting to take hold at the eastern end of Biggin Wood, by the stream

The long road Waddington Way was selected as my route north-east. The grass verges here displayed species such as Creeping Buttercup, Creeping Cinquefoil, some Spotted Medick and, at a couple of locations, Sorrel (Rumex acetosa).

The park opposite the east end of Waddington Way has a horseshoe of woodland round it.

Fungus in woodland between Spa Hill and Beulah Hill, Croydon

As as Streatham Common there were a number of self-sown Beech saplings. A couple of leggy Gorse and some Bracken was in amongst the trees. Up towards Beulah Hill there was a stretch of Lesser Celandine, this population being characterised by little greyish mottling, but a strong black stripe along the central leaf vein.

I took Church Lane towards Crystal Palace but soon turned left down Sylvan Hill to get off the main road, noting Corydalis lutea in a wall. At the end of Sylvan Rd I was tempted by a park entrance, and decided to look at the signboard. This indicated that there was a lake at the far end, which I figured I could get to in time to check out any birds before it got dark and before the park gates got locked. It was now 17.59, but still fairly light, and I was delighted to see a Pipistrelle bat species fluttering overhead, repeatedly circling a play area and coming within about 18' of me - the best view of a bat I've had in a while, and the first I've seen this year.

The Crystal Palace plan ditched, I hurried to South Norwood Lake, a fairly featureless expanse of water with an island but not much interest in terms of surrounding vegetation, much of which was rather thin 'amenity planting'. There were Moorhen, Coot, Mallard, 3 Mute Swan, about 15 Tufted Ducks, 20+ Canada Geese and, rather surprisingly, I thought, two Great Crested Grebe.

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