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’.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

8/12/10: Charmed by Goldfinches whilst ditch digging at Thames Road Wetland

I was the only Riverkeeper volunteer out today, so went off and did some more solo ditch-digging at Thames Road Wetland, while Ashe Hurst stayed at the yard and got the equipment store tidied up. Another feet freezing day, despite three pairs of socks, though the sun came out so I did warm up properly in the end.

Snow was still on the ground on most of the site, bar the south-facing Thames Roads bank, and there was little in the way of free water - even the surface of the 'lake' was iced over.

The TRW 'lake' completely iced over

There hasn't actually been much precipitation lately and, as I'd hoped, the melting snow had had the effect of wetting the 'soil' and making it more workable. Some of the more stony ditches were therefore deepened a bit further.

A new ditch was started in an area with more 'proper' soil and less stones, and an adjoining one was deepened. These should be quicker to get to a decent depth, creating more substantial adjacent banking in the process. This will create a variety of microhabitats, and better cover for various species on this otherwise very flat and thinly-vegetated part of the site.

More soil, less toil - this new ditch in less stony substrate was much quicker to dig. As I do more work on this project, the whole lot should end up looking a lot more 'natural' and less trench-like .....

Proceedings were enlivened by a charm of some 25+ Goldfinches wheeling over the site and flitting between trees and shrubs on the eastern section of the Sewer Pipe Embankment.

Ignominious end - the River Wansunt disappears into this pipe taking it under Thames Road and sundry industrial units. Thankfully, a more enlightened attitude prevails these days, and a number of rivers are being opened up again, partly in response to the realisation that restoring natural flood alleviation capacity is the best way forward.

A glint of sunlight on a frozen ditch on TRW

As dusk started to close in and I headed back to the yard, two dumpy birds with long bills were inadvertently flushed from the west end of the site. A good side view was had of one as it flew low over the Reedmace and quickly dropped out of site. The other flew off, circled round at quite a height, and some way off over the other side of Thames Rd, before coming back. Heading towards me, so that I could see its pale underside, it must have realised I was standing there and it banked away again. I concluded from size and behaviour that these were Snipe (as opposed to Jack Snipe). I think I must have seen one or two last winter, but hadn't had such good sightings.

A London-bound train flashes over Thames Road rail bridge as the reflections of street lights stretch across the ice-covered 'lake'.

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