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, 30 May 2010

30/5/10: Lesnes Abbey, Erith marshes, Franks Park - plants, damselflies, birds and bats

Red Campion and Yellow Rattle were in flower on the Lesser Calamint bank at Lesnes Abbey. Fellow Lesnes Abbey conservation Volunteer Tristan showed me the Crosswort he had found deep in the grass here, which was in flower. I had never seen this species before.

Common Blue Damselflies were by the ponds here, on the west side of the Abbey, close to Abbey Rd.

Yellow Archangel was in flower in the wood.

In the afternoon I walked out to the sea wall at Crossness.

On the 'southern marsh' part of Erith marshes, south of Eastern Way, 1 Whitethroat was seen, 2 Swift, a Heron and a flock of 30 Starlings. There was a male Azure Damselfly along shrubbery at the foot of the road bank.

There were around 17 individual plants of this showy, possibly non-native, Spurge which I have yet to identify, close to where the footpath passes comes out onto Eastern Way.

On banking along Eastern Way itself, towards the junction with Yarnton Way, was this splendid show of Common Poppy (Papaver rhoeas), some with very strong black basal blotches, others with none.

And this superb display of Ox-Eye Daisy flowers.

The new Crossness Sewage works in the distance, beyond Flag Iris and Reeds.

Only my second record of Shining Crane's-bill (Geranium lucidum) in Bexley Borough. Several plants were found on the river side of the hedge between the sea wall and the golf driving range just west of the old Crossness works.

Birds along the foreshore included 7 (possibly 9) Common (probably) Terns, 50 starlings, 38 Shelduck oppositte new Crossness, about 8 Gadwall in the outfall area and 2 Greenfinch in Elder. A Fox was seen towards the incinerator.

Heading back towards Belvedere a Kestrel was seen near an old factory.

There were two young Foxes at dusk on Halt Robin Lane.

Cutting across Franks Park, heading towardd Brook Street, there were 2 small Bats towards the Fox House Rd exit onto Erith Rd, and another near the exit itself.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

29/5/10: Lee Valley Park - Cheshunt for Cornmill Meadows

A London Natural History Society meeting, primarily for Odonata, starting out at Cheshunt railway station. The weather started out OK, but turned against us, though it did mean that later on the insects we did find stayed put while we got photographs.

Early on we got Common Blue, Blue-tailed and Azure as well as a Large Red-eyed Damselfly, the latter a new species for me.

Having only recently found Yellow Vetchling (Lathyrus aphaca) for the first time, I was pleased to come across a small amount at the outset of this walk.

This male Banded Demoiselle was one of several seen close to water

A Cetti's Warbler was heard. We found a Large Red Damselfly. Spindle, Wayfaring Tree and Guelder Rose have been planted as hedging ,

This male Hairy Dragonfly had been grounded on flowering Spindle by light rain

Tufted Vetch, Bush Vetch and Red Campion were amongst the plants seen

This Perennial Cornflower (Centaurea montana) was a 'garden escape', despite being some distance from any habitation. Several Agrimony were later found.

At the Cornmill Meadow area there was a female Hairy Dragonfly, a Pheasant, a Snipe, Shoveler, a Swallow and a Little Egret. I saw one of what appeared to be two Cuckoos.

A colourful red and black Froghopper on Horseradish was later identified as Cercopis vulnerata.

We tried to make up for the lack of Odonata action by trying to get pictures for identification of the two or maybe three species of Cranefly, but none would settle, despite the conditions.

A short-cut on a public footpath back towards Cheshunt in reality involved a long trek on a very narrow track through a field of wet Rape on horribly sticky clay soil.

Back at the various lakes 60-70 Swifts (more in the distance) and a few House Martins zoomed overhead. A Jay was later seen.

Friday, 28 May 2010

28/5/10: Baby Slow Worm and Damselfly in the garden

This sub-1 year-old Slow Worm under a rock at the top end of the garden is an encouraging sign of ongoing breeding in the area :-

My Bird's-foot Trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) plants, raised from seed collected on the local golf course, were looking in fine fettle today and are good for Bees :-

There was also a Blue-tailed Damselfly in the garden today as well as a couple of Long-tailed Tits, and 7 Ring-necked Parakeets were seen in the Silver Birches down the hill.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

26/5/10: Death on the Nile (well, okay, the Cray)

Strangely, I hadn't noticed this large Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) - now in flower - before, though it is only a few metres from the Cray Riverkeepers' yard on the riverbank.

A poisonous plant, occasional to locally frequent in south and east England, this is my first ever record of it.

Deadly Nightshade (Atropa belladonna) in flower by Footpath 106 on the River Cray

26/5/10: Along Thames Road and down at the Wetland - Goatsbeard and Marsh Frogs

The grassy-leaved Composite Goatsbeard had come to relative prominence today, specimens being seen in flower in Eversley Avenue, along parts of Thames Rd and in a couple of gardens on Crayford Way :

Goatsbeard in flower in a shrub bed on Thames Road

A single plant of Sainfoin, which I haven't seen in this location before, was noted in flower in the interesting 'weedy' areas around the Perry Street roundabout. 6 White Campion were also in flower here.

Another attempt was made to get some photographs of the Marsh Frogs at the wetland, but they jump into the water as soon as disturbed (which is before you see them) and don't re-surface for ages. When they do, the slightest movement causes them to quickly submerge again. This is the best shot I got .....

Marsh Frog (Rana ridibunda) at the Thames Road Wetland site

There was a fair amount of Odonatan activity. A female Hairy Dragonfly was seen ovipositing along this channel:

This channel between narrow banks at Thames Road Wetland sees Dragonfly and Marsh Frog activity

Blue-tailed Damselfly on an old Reedmace stem at TRW

A Large Red Damselfly perches on a Creeping Buttercup flower at TRW

Large numbers of Blue-tailed Damselflies were along the north side of the site, below the Sewer Embankment. There was also a male Banded Demoiselle here, the first of this species that I've seen within the TRW 'bowl' proper. Lots more Blue-tails and a number of Azure Damselflies were on the Nettle/Comfrey bank between the deep water part of the site and the Wansunt. Some Water Boatmen of Notonecta sp. were seen, along with a small fish (though no fish have been deliberately introduced to the waters here).

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

25/5/10 - Garden damsel, allotment Lizard

Azure Blue Damselfly in my Barnehurst garden today.

Chiff-chaff heard on Grasmere allotments, where a Common Lizard was seen. Long-tailed Tits were in neighbouring gardens.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

22/5/10: Thames Road Wetland - crash chaos

A quarter past 7 p.m. on a sunny May evening, and all looks peaceful at Thames Road Wetland

Now road traffic accidents aren't a typical threat to nature conservation work, but a delivery lorry had managed to career off the Thames Rd at an improbably sharp angle, had demolished part of the wooden fence, gone up the bank and flattened a traffic sign in the process .....

Elsewhere on the site - predominantly the south and east banks - the waterside was rimmed by a broad yellow band of Creeping Buttercup.

Slender Thistles (Carduus tenuiflorus), common on the bare soil areas of the site, were coming into flower, as here:-

There were 2 Rabbits in the bowl of the TRW itself. A teneral (freshly-emerged) Large Red Damselfly was on the Sewer Embankment, as was a modest-sized Common Lizard. 4 Whirligig Beetles were on the canalized River Wansunt. There were 2 largish Geese on the wet fields south of the Sewer Embankment. My notes (including orange bill) suggest Greylag or Bean, but I'm not great on goose ID.

22/5/10: Maxim Rd Cray clean-up / Crayford Rough insects

A Cray Riverkeepers clean-up session off Maxim Road today.

Wading upstream picking up plastic and rubbish (old tiles mainly) off the river bed.

Marsh Thistles by Maxim Rd.

Chinese Mitten Crab by the gated bridge off Maxim Rd. A Large Red Damselfly was seen. Also 4 male Banded Demoiselles flitting about like butterflies - I got my face to within 5 inches of one as it sat on a leaf. Spotted a Peacock Butterfly on the bank.

Semi-double white rose, a relic of cultivation on the derelict industrial site over the river from Maxim Road

I later explored Crayford Rough for the first time (between this industrial area and Hall Place)

The attractive grassy scrubland of Crayford Rough

Highlights here were:

1 x male Orange Tip Butterfly

2 x Common Blue Butterfly

1 x Green Hairstreak Butterfly (my first record of it in Bexley Borough)

1 x Green-veined White Butterfly

2 Whitethroats foraging

Several Apple type saplings

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

19/5/10: Danson Park - orchid surprise

I don't recall going to Danson Park (on the Bexleyheath / Welling border) since I was a sixth-former (1978-ish ....), so was interested in checking out the wildlife situation over there.

Much of it is formal/heavily mown grass, but there is now a largish, fenced-off wildlife area with a jungly array of tall trees and other vegetation largely surrounded by water.

Wildlife area, Danson Park

Expanse of mown grass - a representative of a Friends Group wrote to me saying they were lobbying the Council to create meadow areas

I was pleasantly surprised to find a lone Common Spotted Orchid. I went back some days later with my mate Jonathan Rooks who is involved with Bexley Heritage Trust who oversee Danson Park, and he got a GPS fix on it. By this time it had been somewhat chewed up, by the resident Geese, we thought.

Common Spotted Orchid near Danson Park lake

Other plants noted included:

Bulbous Buttercup


Spotted Medick


Water Mint


Fool's Watercress

1 x Barbarea sp.

Buck's-horn Plantain

Birds included:

Around 23 Starlings

3 Ring-necked Parakeets

Several Long-tailed Tits

1 Great Tit

1 Blue Tit

3 Tufted Duck

1 Chiff-chaff (heard)

1 Robin

Several Canada Geese

6 Coot

3 Moorhen


1 Mute Swan

1 Grey Heron

4 Swifts

14-19/5/10: Barnehurst miscellany - from Jay to Pignut

14/5: Jay seen from train window in cutting just west of Barnehurst station. An infrequent species in the area. Brooms in flower towards Bexleyheath. Very dark-flowered Lilac before Falconwood (most 'escapes' are pale-flowered forms).

15/5: Holly Blue butterfly in the garden, Wood Mouse in the compost heap. The native Broom deliberately planted in the garden is flowering well.

18/5: Holly Blue in the garden again. An adult Common Frog after dark.

19/5: Brown Rat on edge of old Pitch and Putt course by Bursted Wood. Several Swedish Whitebeam saplings (from street tree seed, no doubt) in the wood. Thyme-leaved Speedwell and a couple of the umbellifer Pignut (where the grass hasn't been cut around Daffodils) in the grassy area between Erith Rd and the hospital turn-off, Bursted Wood.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

12/5/10: Islington to Richmond to Waterloo by rail

Some notes about plants along the lines ....

Upper Holloway Station (Islington)

Species on the bank behind the eastbound platform included Russian Comfrey, Black Medick, Common Vetch, Geranium dissectum, Geranium robertianum, Spear Thistle and Oxford Ragwort.

There were several Wall Lettuce behind the westbound platform.

A distant (for the magnification) binocular view of some white-flowered Comfrey beyond the publicly accessible part of the westbound platform strengthened my view that it was probably White-flowered or Soft Comfrey (Symphytum orientale). A closer glimpse out of the train window as I headed west confirmed this opinion. It is said to be common in southern and eastern England, but other than my own plants at home, and one seen in Bristol, I don't recall coming across it much. What was likely another specimen was seen just east of Hampstead Heath station.

At Brondesbury Park there was a large amount of Japanese Knotweed behind both platforms. A row of Greater Celandine was just outside Willesden Junction.

There was Hop, Garlic Mustard and Green Alkanet just west of Kew Gardens station.

Between the lines heading east out of Richmond were Laburnum and a Broom.

Several Lilac graced the lineside between North Sheen and Mortlake.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

11/5/10: The benefit of keeping off the grass

Here's a picture from The Dell playground, by Barnes Cray Rd, showing the effects of not cutting the grass while the planted daffodil foliage dies off naturally. Note the attactive swathe of Bulbous Buttercups, compared to the relative sterility of the surrounding closely mown areas. There's a lot of scope around the Borough - and indeed around the country - for more of this. Come on Bexley - less manicured lawns, more wild flowers .......

11/5/10: Vandalism and incompetence at TRW!

The Thames Road Wetland was created as part of a 'mitigation' deal in respect of a brownfield re-development nearby at Maiden Lane. Hibernacula creation was part of the spec, but we'd given up on this. But lo and behold, no sooner had I accepted an invitation to be TRW 'Project Manager' than the contractors gave my 'boss' Ashe Hurst a couple of days notice (with no consultation about methodology) that they were going to do the intallation after all.

Ashe asked them to leave my lizard basking installations alone (see 10th March posting) and pointed out that I had recently discovered Star of Bethlehem on part of the south-facing bank.

So what happens? 1 of the 5 basking structures disappeared completely (presumed buried) and 3 were scattered about, including one nowhere near the 'hibernacula'.

Here's the scene shortly afterwards:

So ....

i) All three 'hibernacula' (part-buried piles of bricks) were embedded in the south-facing slope. In my view constructing hibernacula where there will be the greatest swings in temperature is the wrong thing to do. I haven't looked into it, and there may not be much research anyway, but logic suggests that hibernating species are not going to want to be caught out by being 'woken up' during the winter by a short burst of 'artificially' warm conditions. IF I HAD BEEN CONSULTED I would have asked for these structures to be put on the east bank, for this and other reasons

ii) Gratuitous destruction of basking sites I'd spent some hours gathering material for and working on - thanks (not)!

iii) Star of Bethlehem have died back, but probably a third of the population destroyed. Thanks again (not)

iv) The bricks were said to be used ones. If so they had clearly been cleaned up and were in good nick. Most looked suitable for re-use in building work. On the other hand a pile of demolition rubble was available down at the site for which TRW was created in 'mitigation', so whose lack of imagination and joined-up thinking was responsible for not using that instead?

Moral - don't work with amateurs.

11/5/10: River Cray / Thames Road Wetland

Another river clean-up bash today.

4 Chiffchaffs heard along By-way 105. A male Blackcap later seen by the Willow Carr here, and a Wren on the north bank of the river.

The crucifer Barbarea sp. (above) in flower here (and another by Footpath 106)

2 Caper Spurge (Euphorbia lathyris) in flower on the river bank by Footpath 106

Thames Road Wetland (TRW) looking north

TRW site species noted today included:

A pair of Dunnock
2 Coot and 2 young
Good (and first) views of Reed (or Sedge) Warbler here, amongst the Reedmace. Have got a sound recording which I need to run past an expert for a definitive ID .....
Harlequin Ladybird
Water Figwort

Lots of Slender Thistle
Bird's-foot Trefoil in flower
The poppy Papaver rhoeas (white sap)
Buck's-horn Plantain
Geranium rotundifolium

On the Sewer Embankment:

Lilac in flower
Common Stork's-bill

and this Greater Celandine in flower .......

Sunday, 9 May 2010

9/5/10: From Sidcup to Hall Place North, via the Shuttle

Long walk back home from a celebratory Bexley Green Party post-election meal in Sidcup High Street. We got badly squeezed almost everywhere - but hey, we've got our first MP.

Some of the 'usual', but less frequent Bexley grass verge suspects along Station Rd - Buck's-horn Plantain, Bird's-foot Trefoil, Self Heal and Spotted Medick.

A Stinking Iris (possibly 'self sown') behind Sidcup station 'up' platform.

Hurst Rd - a Hart's-tongue Fern on Holy Trinity church, Lamorbey, and Thale Cress in the yard.

Field Madder in flower in a verge at the corner of Greenwood Close.

Pleasing sight of a mass of Cuckoo Flower in the lawn of a garden on Hurst Road - such a change from the usual car-parking / standard 'planting' / excessive mowing.

A Greater Celandine in the grounds of Hurst Community Centre.

Bexley Park Wood - good view of a Green Woodpecker. Bush Vetch (below) in flower by the River Shuttle near Parkhill Rd. Also here were Wood Dock and Hedge Woundwort (appears infrequent in the parts of the Borough I've botanised so far).

Bush Vetch (Vicia sepium)

Riverdale Rd alongside the River Shuttle

4 Long-tailed Tits were chasing each other in Riverdale Rd. Alder and a bunch of plants common to the Borough were along the river.

There were Greater Celandine in two gardens on Love Lane, and at least 7 Ranunculus acris - apparently the less common of the three common buttercup species hereabouts - outside the Royal Mail office on Bourne Rd.

At the bottom of the steps down from Bourne Rd to the A2, on the Hall Place side, was a lot of Danish Scurvy Grass. Further along the edge of the A2 were a lot of Geranium pyrenaicum , and a long strip of Tansy - again only occasionally found in these parts - north of the crossing of the River Cray. Also a Fennel.

The scrubland east of the A2 and south of Hall Place and the railway line from Bexley to Crayford - one map I have labels this as 'The Old Orchard'

This red-purple leaved garden cultivar-derived Prunus was just finishing flowering here

4 Rabbits were seen on this site today.

The Common Fumitory had been weeded out of the Hall Place shrub beds by over-zealous gardeners. What harm was it doing? There was a patch of Mouse-ear Hawkweed at the bottom of the Hall place North slope, near the tree line by Bourne Rd.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

8/5/10: Back in Barnehurst

A few pictures from Barnehurst on the way home from the Oxleas Woods meeting.

Barnehurst station footbridge from Hornbeam Lane. The Lilac and a couple of other plants appear to be remants of an old horticultural planting

A carpet of Bluebells in Bursted Woods

Dogs Mercury and Bluebells

The yellow-flowered umbellifer Alexanders on the southern edge of the wood, near the entrance to the railway footpath - the leaves are edible cooked or raw, and have a strong/less-refined celery-like flavour

8/5/10: Oxleas Wood

A strong turnout on today's London Natural History Society field meeting, starting from Falconwood railway station.

This Yellow Archangel, now more often seen in it's variegated form as a garden escape, was seen in woodland on the east side of Rochester Way, heading north away from Falconwood railway station. Unfortunately there were several Giant Hogweed plants here.

There was a Star of Bethlehem, identified as subspecies umbellatum, near the junction of Rochester Way and Welling Way.

A single plant of Tellima grandiflora, the sweetly-scented Rhododendron luteum and the garden form of Solomon's Seal were other 'exotics' found.

Having not been in these woods for around 30 years since (I think) I was stunned by the number of Wild Service trees (Sorbus torminalis) a very uncommon species, especially near Shooter's Hill. In some places it was the dominant tree, at least at medium height.

Hypericum maculatum was found along one of the woodland edges.

We had some grass/sedge experts with us and a number of species were identified including Luzula forsteri , L. pilosa, L. sylvatica, Remote Sedge, Wood Sedge, Wood Millet and Wood Melick,