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’.

Monday, 28 February 2011

28/2/11: Danson Park delights

Birds in the park today were:

2 Stock Dove amongst a group of Wood Pigeon, 2 (+?) Common Gull amongst lots of Black-headed Gulls foraging on sports pitches, 6 or so Greenfinch pecking at buds high up in Poplar trees, 1 Redwing, 5 Cormorant, 4 Tufted Duck, 2 Mute Swan, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 1 Grey Heron, 29 Canada Geese, 2 Egyptian Geese, Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, c25 Starling, Carrion Crow, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tits and Ring-necked Parakeets.

There was a cold breeze in the air which made lingering a bit unpleasant, and for the first time in a couple of weeks the binocular-focussing fingers were getting a bit numb!

28/2/11: Shooting the garden Fox

Shot with a camera, of course .... Another 'apologies' for the quality job, as these pictures were taken with the mobile phone cam through a double-glazed window, and then enlarged a bit, affecting both crispness and contrast.

Anyway, here's the current 'owner' of this Barnehurst manor, always a rather well-fed looking individual. It's come very close to me when I've been out in the garden, but that's been when it was intent on taking its usual route around the place and I'd been standing there already. I think if I'd gone out of the back door on this occasion to try and get a closer view it would have run away.

Monday, 21 February 2011

21/2/2011: Northumberland (Heath ....) / Erith - golden Gorse and booming bird

There was a Common Gull on North Heath Recreation Ground.

In Erith Cemetery (east side) were circa 40 Redwing making quite a lot of noise, but being quite skittish, 5 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, 2 Magpie, 2 Blue Tit, 1 Great Tit, Blackbird and lots of Wood Pigeon. There were about 70 Starlings in Poplars between the cemetery and Carlton Rd.

I went a little further up Brook Street to Hollyhill Open Space, first because I could hear a Song Thrush there, and second, because I wanted to check whether the Gorse were wild single-flowered plants, or the double-flowered cultivar which I'd previously found the ones by Gravel Hill at Hall Place North to be.

The Song Thrush was singing from a copse at the foot of Hollyhill, but I couldn't get a visual on it. The song was echo-ing within the valley, making it sound very loud indeed, and even more difficult to get a precise fix on the bird's location. There's a good chance it was the same individual heard singing from the Brook Street allotment site recently.

The Gorse, in a stony, apparently weeded 'shrub bed' was all single-flowered, and had recovered from the burning a couple of years ago. At this time of year the way huge numbers of Common Stork's-bill carpet the ground really stands out, and I was able to spot some of the Bird's-foot (Ornithopus perpusillus), which I knew was also listed as being present on the site. Both the latter species are classed as 'notable' for London.

The site as a whole is decribed as 'former heathland' in the 2004 draft 'Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation in Bexley', which raises questions and possibilities in respect of the Council's existing and re-written Heathland Biodiversity Action Plan. This talks about increasing the amount of heathland in the Borough, but in immediate practical terms, or any site-specific prescription for future action, fails to look beyond extending that within Lesnes Abbey Wood.

Edge of the Gorse bed on Hollyhill Open Space, looking south across the eastern section of Erith Cemetery. The three blocks of flats in the right distance are near the southern end of Brook Street.

Looking east-south-east over the Gorse bed at Hollyhill Open Space, across the land-filled and re-greened Erith Quarry site to the right beyond the houses. There's a glimpse of the River Thames in the distance, just left of centre, whilst the church spire in the centre of the picture is that of Christ Church, Erith.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

13-19/2/11: Barnehurst bits and pieces

13/2/11: First Common Frog active in my garden.

16/2/11: Common Frog croaking on Grasmere allotment site. 7-spot Ladybird found.

18/2/11: White-cheeked Blackbird seen in the garden again.

19/2/11: Fox after dark on Barnehurst Avenue by the electricity sub-station.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

16/2/11: First 'local' Song Thrush in years ....

There was a Dunnock and a Collared Dove in my Barnehurst garden today.

A Brown Rat was seen in Bursted Wood.

Along Streamway (Northumberland Heath/Erith), leading to Brook Street, a Song Thrush was heard, calling from trees between the allotment site and the Erith Cemetery west side, the first I've heard anywhere in this area for ages.

Birds seen along this valley, with its stream, small amount of woodland, grass, Willow and Alder were 1 Redwing, 6 Ring-necked Parakeet, 5 Blue Tit, 1 Great Tit, several Wood Pigeon, 7 Starlings, a Blackbird, Robin and circa 11 House Sparrows in various hedging.

There was some Viola odorata in the wooded section opposite the houses, but this was probably a garden escape. Some Lesser Celandine was noticed here also.

Monday, 14 February 2011

14/2/11: Waxwings in London Borough of Bexley

The London Bird Club wiki was listing Waxwing sightings in Russell Close, Bexleyheath, and at Bourne Mead, opposite the playing fields at Hall Place, during the past couple of days, and I couldn't resist seeing the species in my home Borough after three lots of sightings elsewhere in the capital this winter.

I therefore set off on one of my indirect sorties to Bexleyheath Broadway .......

At Bursted Woods and former the Pitch and Putt course (Barnehurst) were 2 or 3 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, Ring-necked Parakeets, Wood Pigeons, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Carrion Crow.

No sign of Waxwings in Russell Close, but there was a large Cotoneaster stripped of berries, and another still laden over the road.

At Martens Grove (Bexleyheath): 2 or 3 Redwing, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1 Blackbird, 2 male Chaffinch, 8 Goldfinch feeding on the ground, Ring-necked Parakeets, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robin, Magpie, and Carrion Crows.

Bourne Mead (Crayford) - off Bourne Rd, opposite Hall Place playing fields: great - the Waxwings were still there, camped in a tree above a heavily berry-laden Cotneaster, with individuals intermittently coming down to feed. I counted around 30 birds resplendent in the late afternoon sun and, when they finally flew off south east, beyond railway line, there may have actually been around 40 birds in total. 150 had been reported yesterday.

A serious birder was a few yards the other side of the Cotoneaster, with a large zoon lens on a DSLR. He turned out to be a local chap, but said he hadn't managed to get any particularly good photos.

Hall Place North (Bexleyheath): 22 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, Great Tit, Wood Pigeons. 28 House Sparrows in the hedge of the adjacent school. 18 Ring-necked Parakeets over the north end of Gravel Hill.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

12/2/11: Grey Squirrel prefers purple .....

A visit to Holland Park this sunny afternoon, with a couple of nature-loving friends.

Not much to report on the wildlife front, but the plethora of Crocuses in the grass were pretty battered, something I put down to the depradations of a gaggle of Peacocks. On watching a bit longer, another culprit came to light. One of the Grey Squirrels was selecting the purple-flowered Dutch Crocus blooms, pulling them off, chewing the bottom ends (presumably for the nectar) and then discarding the rest.

Since I have a modest display of Crocuses planted in my own lawn, I'm relieved that the two incumbent Greys here have yet to adopt this behaviour - and I sincerely hope they never do .... !

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

8/2/11: Chasing Waxwings round the Emirates

I was at a meeting in our new Green Party HQ off Old St/City Rd today, so I followed up reports of Waxwing outside Arsenal Football Club's Emirates stadium, and I got to see 5 in Drayton Park road before they took off for somewhere else. That's my third lot this winter. Of course this had to be the day a bunch were also reported from Bourne Rd in my home Borough of Bexley .......

The Waxwings were just over the road from Islington's Gillespie Park Nature Reserve, which I'd never been to before, so I had a look round. There was a Song Thrush singing on the other side of the railway line as the light began to fade.

Earlier in the day I'd wandered round Bunhill Fields burial ground on City Road, and found a colony of Claytonia perfoliata (called Miner's' Lettuce and various other vernacular names), a non-native species I've not seen before, though I soon discovered that its presence here has been previously recorded.

Claytonia perfoliata, Bunhill Fields burial ground, City Road, London

Friday, 4 February 2011

3+4/2/11: Perry St farm / Is horse grazing a problem at TRW?


Today I was down near Thames Road Wetland for a meeting with two fellow members of Bexley Natural Environment Focus Group to discuss our collective response to the Council's draft Biodiversity Action Plan re-write.

I checked out Perry Street farm from Gascoyne Drive on the way there. There were 5 Pied Wagtail. A minimum of 133 Starlings were in and around a Bramble thicket in the middle of a field. Most of the birds could only be seen in silhouette, and there were probably others hidden from view.

Something must have spooked the Gulls roosting on the industrial redevelopoment site on Thames Rd., down near the 'Jolly Farmers' public house, as a huge 'cloud' of something like 200 birds took to the sky.

At Thames Rd Wetland there was a male Chaffinch, male Blackbird, a Robin, 3 Mallard and a couple of Coot. 3 Blue Tits seemed to be finding something to eat amongst the Reedmace seed heads.

Very close (8-10 foot) views were had of 2 brown 'Warblers', also foraging in the reedmace. They had a light eye stripe and light grey underparts. I am advised that these would have been Chiffchaffs, a new record for the site.

Long-tailed Tit and 2 Collared Doves were along By-way 105.

On the way to the 'Bear and Ragged Staff' in Crayford for a post-meeting drink with one of my BNEFG colleagues, we spotted 2 Grey Wagtails in the town-centre Riverside Gardens.


Some management work at TRW today.

I had been concerned by the impact of horse-trampling in the 'Brookweed zone', noted on the 3rd. Horses aren't supposed to be on the site, but every now and again someone puts them out there. Said person(s) even renewed the barbed-wire fence that keeps them on the east side of the Wansunt. Except that there were also fresh droppings and hoof-marks along the Thames Rd bank of the larger part of the site, to the west of the Wansunt. This section is not completely fenced and therefore horses could potentially get onto Thames Rd and cause a serious accident .........

Anyway, the fact of the matter is that the Brookweed survived grazing activity by up to 3 horses last winter before I knew it was there, so I guess in the long run this process might conceivably be beneficial. But still, this is where I regret not having made the time to count and map Brookweed rosettes last season. If I'd done so I'd be in a position to start making a proper assessment. Taking a 'better safe than sorry' approach (given that I can hand-weed the Brookweed zone to reduce competition from more thuggish plants anyway), I wove bits of cut Bramble stem through the Rushes around which the Brookweed grow. Time will tell if this will work.

There's no indication that the feeding itself does anything other than take out the tops of the Rush clumps (see picture below), and this may give the Brookweed more early season light. But the trampling pressure is clearly pretty significant - and might be the main explanation for why most Brookweed appears to grow hard up against the bases of the Rushes where there is less of an impact.

Horse-trampling and Rush grazing in the 'Brookweed zone' at TRW

I also did some more work on extending a deepening my 'dune and ditch' system east of the Wansunt, part of a process of increasing cover and micro-habitat variations to encourage invertebrates and help Common Lizards colonise more of the site. As part of this endeavour I re-arranged the piles of Reedmace pulled out last year into a 'dead hedge', piling up bits of rubble at intervals to provide Lizard basking sites. The Reedmace will rot over time, but if we keep adding to the linear 'heap', a low banking will eventually be created.

Pulled Reedmace being used to create a 'dead hedge' to provide more cover for small creatures of various sorts in the exposed eastern end of the TRW

There had been around 20 Goldfinches along By-way 105 earlier in the day, and there was a female Pochard on the Cray here.

Around 28 Teal were on the water in the farm fields south of of Thames Rd Wetland.

On the way home, there were about 43 House Sparrows in the roost hedge on Thames Rd, by the 'Imagination' building, and a further 36 or so in the tree they use on Perry Street roundabout.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

1/2/11: Barnehurst Bird's-nest fungi

These Cyathus (family Nidulariaceae), are known as bird's nest fungi, since they resemble small bird's nests filled with 'eggs' - technically known as peridioles - which contain reproductive spores. They often grow on woody debris, as here, where there were unrotted twigs in material dug out of my compost heap and used to grow some Cabbages in a large pot.

The above picture was taken on 13th December with the 'eggs' still in place

This shot was taken on 1st February, by which time the 'eggs' had all been splashed out of the cups by raindrops.