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’.

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.

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