Hall Place Hiders make first group visit to Thames Road Wetland

Wildlife photography enthusiasts from the growing Hall Place Hiders group joined Chris Rose, Thames Road Wetland Site Manager, on 21st May for a walk from Crayford Riverside, down to and around the wetland, so as to gain an appreciation of the Cray Valley and its wildlife downstream of their usual haunt. Places had been limited to ten, but in the event five were able to come. Given the narrowness of some of the paths this smaller number turned out to be ideal from the point of view of everyone being able to get the pictures they wanted of the various species seen.

At the wetland itself good numbers of Swifts were seen, a House Martin, female Sparrowhawk, Greenfinch, Whitethroat, Reed Warblers and Cetti’s Warblers and a Male Reed Bunting were heard. There was considerable fledgling Starling action. Butterflies seen were Brimstone, Orange-Tip, Green Veined White, Peacock, Holy Blue, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood. We observed Hairy Dragonfly, Large Red Damselfly, Blue-tailed Damselfly, Azure Damselfly and Banded Demoiselle. Common Lizard were seen sunning themselves and a grass snake that was too quick to photograph! Marsh Frogs were croaking. The nationally scarce Marsh Sow-thistles and extreme London rarity Brookweed were looked at.

Hall Place hiders (left to right) Lisa and Martin Burke, Jean Bufton and Donna Zimmer photographing insects at Thames Road Wetland (Photo: Chris Rose)

Hall Place hiders (left to right) Lisa and Martin Burke, Jean Bufton and Donna Zimmer photographing insects at Thames Road Wetland (Photo: Chris Rose)

Some of the Hiders’ excellent photographs taken on the visit can be seen in 21st and 22nd May posts at their ‘out and about’ Facebook page entitled Bexley Hiders Photography Walks

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1664837523792544/

Another such walk is scheduled for June 6th.

 

Chris Rose. Thames Road Wetland Site Manager.

 

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LWT Water for Wildlife Project Officer visits Thames Road Wetland and Crossness

David Courtneidge, Water for Wildlife Project Officer (South) for London Wildlife Trust came to Bexley on May 20th. He is visiting wetland sites across south London with a mission to select an initial three to focus on for training/recording and habitat improvement events, with a particular focus on Odonata.

He was welcomed at Crayford station by Thames Road Wetland Site manager Chris Rose. They then walked along the Cray to the wetland, where they were joined at the site by Assistant River Cray Project Officer Joanna Barton. It is early in the Dragonfly and Damselfly season, but Azure, Large Red and Banded Demoiselle Damselflies were seen, though the hoped-for Hairy Dragonfly was not in evidence (inevitably, one put in an appearance the day after ….) . Much other wildlife was seen, including low-flying Swifts, Common Lizards and a couple of Grass Snakes.

Chris Rose and David Courtneidge, pictured  at Crossness . (Photo: Karen Sutton)

Chris Rose and David Courtneidge, pictured at Crossness . (Photo: Karen Sutton)

Chris and David then took the train round to Belvedere to visit Crossness Nature Reserve at Erith Marshes. A benefit of this particular journey is that a brief, but panoramic and otherwise inaccessible view of the wetland can be obtained, from the height of the railway embankment.

Thames Road  Wetland, looking west from a passing train, May 20th 2016. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Thames Road Wetland, looking west from a passing train, May 20th 2016. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Whilst waiting for Reserve Manager Karen Sutton, prolonged views of a Kestrel hunting over one of the threatened Borax fields were enjoyed. Both the northern sector and Southern Marsh were traversed, and Azure, Common Blue and Blue-tailed damselflies were seen, along with a female Broad-bodied Chaser.

Karen Sutton and David Courtneidge chat at Crossness. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Karen Sutton and David Courtneidge chat at Crossness. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Chris spotted a variegated Common Reed shoot. A number of plants that are garden escapes were noted along the Belvedere Road footpath, including several Aquilegia in flower.

Variegated Common Reed (Phragmites australis) shoot at Crossness. There is already a variegated form in cultivation, so we won't be making a fortune out of this ..... (Photo: Chris Rose)

Variegated Common Reed (Phragmites australis) shoot at Crossness. There is already a variegated form in cultivation, so we won’t be making a fortune out of this ….. (Photo: Chris Rose)

If a Bexley site is selected, there are a number of reasons why Crossness would be likely to win out over others, including size, having the most Odonata species and a large Friends group to tap into.

 

The project is funded until 2019, so has a much better chance of leaving a lasting legacy than the far too many nature conservation schemes that only get the finance for a year or less. We hope to be seeing David in the area again soon.

Chris Rose

Posted in Bexley, Crossness Nature Reserve, Dragonflies and Damselflies, London Wildlife Trust, Thames Road Wetland | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cory Environmental Trust declines to answer awkward questions over Borax fields ‘hypocrisy’

As part of the ongoing ‘Save our Skylarks’ campaign, the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve recently wrote to the head of the Cory Environmental Trust, the body that dispenses grants from the company’s landfill tax breaks for, amongst other things, ‘Protecting the environment, and conserving or promoting biological diversity’, pointing out the contradiction between the activity of the Trust and its parent company’s proposals for the Borax fields next to Crossness Nature Reserve.  The Trust has now punted the matter back to Cory’s Head of Planning and Development for London without reply. He in turn has simply referred to Cory’s ‘Supplementary Ecological Report’ to Bexley Council rather than addressing the key issues. This second report fails once again to take into account red-listed Ringed Plover breeding, and promises no adequate ‘mitigation’ for the loss of breeding habitat for this species or red-listed Skylark at the site.

Save our Skylarks demonstrators line up for the photoshoot with Cory's incinerator in the background.

Save our Skylarks demonstrators line up for the photoshoot with Cory’s incinerator in the background.

FoCNR has sought constructive dialogue with Cory throughout, but has been stymied by less than full and frank disclosure over their plans at an initial meeting, and slow or inadequate responses to its questions since.

The full text of the letter follows:

26th April

Dear Mr Gerstrom,

Re: Cory Environmental/RRRL Planning Application Norman Road/Crossness – London Borough of Bexley.

Last week my wife and I visited the Thurrock Thameside Nature Park managed by Essex Wildlife Park. We were immensely impressed with the nature park and also the magnificent Visitor Centre – possibly the best in South East England. You will be aware that Cory Environmental Trust has their name emblazoned across the top of the Centre – and why not? You should be proud of the partnership you have with Essex Wildlife Trust. The other thing that stood out for us was the number of skylarks (a UK red data species) that were in the air singing – almost certainly more than we’ve seen at any other single site for many, many years.

Here, across the river in Bexley we have just three sites with breeding skylarks: one inland with one pair (hanging on despite pressure from dog walkers), one on the Crayford Marshes with 6 or 7 pairs (currently under threat from a major development) and two fields on the Erith Marshes at Crossness (also now under threat from development by Cory Environmental).

These are the only two fields where the skylark breeds within the larger complex of marshes/paddocks and fields.

I am not sure if you are aware that Cory Environmental/RRRL has entered a planning application to Bexley Council to develop two, four storey Data Centres on the two plots of land adjoining the highly regarded Crossness Nature Reserve. These two plots are vitally important for wildlife with both being the only nesting sites for skylark, ringed and little ringed plover amongst a variety of other wildlife.

At the outset I wrote, on behalf of the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve, to the Director of RRRL Mr Pike to seek clarification of rumours that were circulating at the time. Mr Pike passed me to the Head of Planning and Development, Richard Wilkinson, who I met on site in January and have had some communication with since (see attached communication with Mr Wilkinson for a more detailed understanding of our objections). Despite an early indication that he would continue to communicate with me and giving assurances to a local forum that he would do so I have failed to elicit a response to a letter I sent on 6th March which he acknowledged and said he would respond to (I have sent three reminders). His most recent response only informed what we already knew – Bexley Council had passed the application asked for more work.

The purpose of me writing directly to you is that it seems quite bizarre to myself and the Friends that whilst Cory Environmental Trust in Britain sets out very comprehensive and demanding criteria to be met by applicants for grants from the Trust, especially environmental grants, Cory Environmental (whilst not seeking a grant from the Trust) can seemingly ride rough shod over such criteria and destroy what is known to be valuable habitat for breeding, feeding and foraging species. It also seems incomprehensible not to mention hypocritical, as I’ve said in my letters to Messr. Pike and Wilkinson that a company that boasts a strap line “At Cory Environmental the environment is not only in the name, it’s at the heart of everything we do” is then prepared to blindly go ahead destroying places that are important for wildlife and enjoyed by large groups of the community.

We are now aware that Bexley Council has asked Cory Environmental for further information which is not a surprise given that they only carried out two, one day, ecological assessments both outside the breeding season (September and October we are led to believe) and their findings were woefully inadequate demonstrating either a total lack of professionalism or arrogance. There are so many issues but I appreciate that is not your concern.

I am not sure what, if any influence you will have over the company but in the absence of any positive responses, the local Friends and wider community are getting very frustrated. The local press are taking an increasing interest and whilst we thought we had a line of communication open we were happy to look positively on Cory Environmental. Now that we have seen the extent of the development plan and lack of communication I can see the issue becoming quite an embarrassment to both Cory Environmental and possibly the Trust. It is just another irony that many of us interested in the natural environment can applaud the grant funding Cory Environmental Trust gave to another local Bexley site, in conjunction with Froglife – the splendid, forward thinking introduction of ponds to improve habitats for amphibians and invertebrates at East Wickham Open Space. Yet just four miles away Cory Environmental are destroying rare and important habitats for schedule 1 and red data species.

I understand a significant number of objections have been sent to Bexley Council who have asked Cory Environmental to carry out more work on the application in light of those objections. However, the main thrust of the objections, as I understand it, is that this development should not go ahead at all and I am hoping, on behalf of the 300 Friends and the wider community that Cory Environmental Trust in Britain might agree with us.

Thank you for your consideration,

Yours Sincerely, Ralph Todd(on behalf of the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve) London Borough of Bexley.

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The big Bexley butterfly questions for 2016

There is plenty of scope for and pleasure to be gained from watching and photographing butterflies in the Borough over the forthcoming months, but on the basis of recent records, here are some suggestions for targeted work to increase our knowledge of these insects and their status in Bexley.

The Marbled White (Melanargia galathea). Is this species now on the march in south-east London, and will it get a foothold in Bexley in the next few years? When Mike Robinson found one at Hollyhill Open Space on 24th June 2015 this appeared to be the first ever (modern, at least) sighting in Bexley. It was also seen there the next day by Chris Rose. But this was quickly ‘trumped’ twice. It transpired that Ralph Todd had seen one at Crayford Marshes on 4th June 2015 but had only got a fuzzy photograph and had not kept it. If either of these insects was a fertilised female there’s a chance the species could be seen at these sites again in 2016, as well as wanderers elsewhere. It was also discovered that John Archer had seen one at Erith Marshes, on the Thames path near the original Crossness sewage works, on 7th July 2010. The latest LNHS butterfly count data for London (2014) says the Marbled White figure was the highest since reliable information for the species first became available in 1997. A LNHS Journal report on the butterflies of Blackheath /Greenwich Park states that it was seen there in 2012 and then 2014, and that it was also seen at Greenwich Ecology Park in 2014. In 2014 it was also recorded in Jubilee Country Park, Bromley.

Marbled White at Hollyhill open space in June 2015, a species that appears to be spreading nationally, and with two sightings in Bexley during that year, could potentially get a foothold here too. (Photo: Mike Robinson)

Marbled White at Hollyhill open space in June 2015, a species that appears to be spreading nationally, and with two sightings in Bexley during that year, could potentially get a foothold here too. (Photo: Mike Robinson)

Will there be a wandering Wall (Lasiommata megera)?

Wall Brown. Richard Winston

Wall Brown. The species disappeared from Bexley and London some 20 years or more ago, but has recently been seen at Rainham and Swanscombe marshes (Photo courtesy Richard Winston)

This is a Section 41 species of principal importance under the NERC Act in England (widespread but rapidly declining). Populations in London fell rapidly from the 1990s. It used to be fairly frequent in my Barnehurst garden north of the railway station in the 1980s, at which time there was no sign of the Speckled Wood. Now the opposite is true. One was seen at Rainham in 2011, and there is a report that 2 were seen on May 8th 2016 at Swanscombe marshes. The Thames-side fringes of the Borough offer the best, if very slim, prospects of finding one.

The Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus). There is concern that although the overall range of this species appears to be stable, numbers of colonies have disappeared. It is very uncommon in London. It is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority for further research.

In recent years it has been recorded on the ‘rough’ at Barnehurst Golf Course, where counts would be invaluable, and at Crayford Marshes where Moat Lane joins the Darent path. Uncut parts of Footscray Meadows, East Wickham Open Space and maybe the north-east corner of Crayford Rough look to be possibilities, but GiGL has no record of it at these sites. It may just be that no one has looked (at the right time). Are there other places where it may be found in Bexley?

Small Heath. Richard Winston

Small Heath. (Photo courtesy Richard Winston)

Joe Johnson established in 2015 that the Silver-washed Fritillary (Argynnis paphia) occurs on the Bexley side of the border with Kent. But has it made it made it over the road into North Cray Woods and up to Churchfield wood or beyond?

Silver-washed Fritillary at Joyden's Woods, showing the silver washing to the undersides of the wings from which the common name is derived. (Photo: Ralph Todd)

Silver-washed Fritillary at Joyden’s Woods in 2015, showing the silver washing to the undersides of the wings from which the common name is derived. (Photo: Ralph Todd)

The White Admiral (Limenitis camilla). GiGL has a record of this woodland species from Gatton’s plantation in 2003, but the status of that record is ‘unverified’. The species increased dramatically in the 1920s, but has declined significantly in the UK in the last 20 years for unknown reasons. The London Natural History Society received sightings of this species from only three sites within the capital for 2014. On June 24th 2015 Ralph Todd and Ian Stewart spotted a White Admiral on the woodland edge of a ride bordering Chalk Wood, having also seen the species in Joydens Wood somewhere near the margin of Bexley. This strongly suggests that it occurs inside the Bexley border, but much of the boundary with Dartford (Kent) in this area falls within woodland so it can be difficult to be sure which side of of the line one is on. It is hoped that the White Admiral can be unequivocally confirmed as a Bexley butterfly during 2016.

How many more sites does the White-letter Hairstreak (Satyrium w-album) occupy? Until I went looking a few years ago they were only known in Bexley from the North Cray Wood area (Footscray Meadows) and the Council had a Biodiversity Action Plan for them, which it dropped as it didn’t do anything about it … I then found the species at three other sites, by targeting areas with good amounts of Elm: Moat Lane by Slade Green, Barnehurst Golf Course (west end – have yet to be sure they’re on the elm patch at the east end too) and on trees between the railway and hospital access road on south side of Bursted Woods.

White-letter Hairstreak, showing why the scientific name includes w-album (white w). Pictured at Footscray Meadows by Mike Robinson.

White-letter Hairstreak, showing why the scientific name includes w-album (white w). Pictured at Footscray Meadows in 2015 by Mike Robinson.

Other Elm patches I’ve looked at, not very thoroughly, and seen none are:

North margin of Franks Park in Robin Hood Lane area / north east edge of Martens Grove woodland / Burnt Oak Lane, Sidcup, golf course edge – massive amount of Elm here all along the roadside / along south margin of ‘woodland’ by Lamorbey lake, next to the school /Watling St – London Rd at junction with Martens Av /ridge on west side of old Larner Rd estate (may no longer be accessible due to rebuilding work) / south side of Rochester Drive footbridge over the A2, leading to BETHS school bridge over the river Shuttle.

Other areas of Elm I’ve noted but not found time to watch at relevant times are:

By the closed road bridge over the railway at the foot of Avenue Rd, Erith / Iron Mill Lane, Crayford, by St. Paulinus school / scattered patches of Elm along footpath 106 by the River Cray between Crayford and Barnes Cray Rd / bottom of Colyers Lane (Slade Green end) / Whitehall Rd on the west side of Slade Green station, by the ‘rough’ here (not far from Moat Lane so looks a good bet).

Brown Hairstreak (Thecla betulae). Tristan Boulton of LACV thinks he may have seen one in the playpark by Lesnes Woods in 2014, a year in which there were a handful of records from the southern fringes of London. It may have benefitted from the planting of Blackthorn, the larval foodplant, in new hedges.

What’s the true distribution of the Brown Argus (Aricia agestis)? The species is rather easily confused with the female Common Blue, so it may occur at more sites than we currently think.

As always, it’s worth keeping an eye open for wandering or vagrant species that wouldn’t normally occur in Bexley.

With regard to monitoring population trends, it is hoped that formal transect counts will be set up at Crossness and Braeburn Park shortly, and volunteers will be needed to help with these.

To get involved and to stay in touch with the latest butterfly news in Bexley follow:

https://www.facebook.com/BexleyButterflyandMothGroup/

Chris Rose

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Lizard species in Bexley – there could be one in your garden, or both on your allotment site ….

With Bexley one of the three best Boroughs in London for our declining reptile species, but the Council repeatedly approving building on their prime habitats – all the while making lazy, complacent and unsubstantiated claims that their populations will not be negatively affected – Joe Johnson’s latest spotlight sheds a timely light on our local Lizards.

Download the PDF file .

 

Posted in Bexley, Bexley Council, Common Lizard, development threat, Reptiles and Amphibians, Slow Worm | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Lots of wildlife activity at Thames Road Wetland, but another motorcycle dumped in the water

The first Odonata of the year were in evidence at Thames Road Wetland on May 12th, with a Large Red Damselfly and a few Azure Damselflies seen. Three or four different Peacocks and a Brimstone butterfly were spotted, along with a Silver Y moth.

A Chiffchaff was around, and a Cetti’s Warbler called repeatedly. At dusk there appeared to be two of them, and a Song Thrush also chimed in. There were several pairs of Reed Warblers calling or flitting around, some of which came quite close while I was doing some vegetation management work and setting up Mark II Harvest Mouse lures.

The Mark II Harvest Mouse lure (foreground), to be baited with birdseed, is only supported by dead Reed stems, which should increaserge cahnces that usage indicates continued presence of the sopecies, compared with the Mark I version in the background, underslung on a bent over Willow branch, which may have been easier for Wood Mice to get into. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The Mark II Harvest Mouse lure (foreground), to be baited with birdseed, is only supported by dead Reed stems, which should increase the chances that usage indicates continued presence of the species, compared with the Mark I version in the background, underslung on a bent over Willow branch, which was utilised but may have been easier for Wood Mice to get into. (Photo: Chris Rose)

There was some brief calling from what sounded like a male Reed Bunting. Two Swifts were overhead for a short while. At one point a loose group of 37 Carrion Crows flew over the site heading for their night roost.

The main ditch at Thames Road Wetland. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The main ditch at Thames Road Wetland. (Photo: Chris Rose)

An adult Common Lizard was disturbed when I removed some litter, and Marsh Frogs were calling.

There was one Cuckoo Flower in bloom, and the Bird’s-foot Trefoil is now in flower on the flat area next to Thames Road.

I was dismayed to spot a sunken motor scooter in the east ditch, but was able to get hold of the front wheel. It wasn’t too heavy so I was able to get it out single-handed. There has  been a spate of such vehicles dumped in the Wansunt and lower Cray over the last 18 months or so, and this latest incident will be reported to the police as well.

For local criminals waterways in the lower Cray area have become the dump site of choice for stolen motorbikes and scooters. (Photo: Chris Rose)

For local criminals waterways in the lower Cray area have become the dump site of choice for stolen motorbikes and scooters. (Photo: Chris Rose)

In addition, some halfwit had dumped a shopping trolley in the Wansunt next to the sewer Pipe Bridge by the wetland. This will have to be got out on a future occasion.

Chris Rose. Site Manager. 

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Hive of House Sparrow activity

May 11th: There were some 15-19 House Sparrows along Mill Road, Northumberland Heath.

Mill Road, Northumberland Heath, a House Sparrow hotspot. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Mill Road, Northumberland Heath, a House Sparrow hotspot. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Another 39-42 were counted across Northumberland Close, Bexley Road, Brook Street, Barnehurst Av, Fairford Av/Appledore Av and Coniston Rd. Birds were seen going up under the eaves on two of these roads.

Chris Rose

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Dawn Chorus Bird Report from Lesnes

Download the PDF file .

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Swifts back over Barnehurst

There were thirteen or fourteen Swifts back at their usual haunt over Northall Road yesterday evening (May 4th), between Barnehurst railway station and the golf course. This is a known breeding area.

A hastily grabbed and digitally-zoomed mobile phone photograph of Swifts sreaming over Northall Road, Barnehurst, on May 4th 2016.  (Chris Rose)

A hastily grabbed and digitally-zoomed mobile phone photograph of Swifts screaming over Northall Road, Barnehurst, on the evening of May 4th 2016. (Chris Rose)

The ‘Bexley Wildlife’ team and Bexley Bird Report compiler Ralph Todd would welcome sightings and counts from around the Borough, and more definitive news of nesting sites, over the summer.

Swifts are seen at Crossness on Erith Marshes, and a nesting site on nearby houses has been reported to us. There is often a largish aggregation over Nuxley Road in upper Belvedere, but we don’t know where they nest. A small number of birds can sometimes be seen over Northumberland Heath where there is at least one, and possibly two nesting locations.

Swifts have used nest boxes in Bexleyheath on a private dwelling near the new Council offices, and in Sidcup. There have been a few nesting in Bexley village.

Groups of Swifts have also been seen in the past over  the top of Hall Place North, and feeding low over the Hall Place flood overspill meadow. There are often a few around the Perry Street Farm/Thames Road/lower Cray/Thames Road Wetland area. Swifts are generally ‘in residence’ over Danson Park lake, but in which buildings do these birds nest?

We wonder how many larger ‘groups’ there are in the Borough, how widely they roam and whether they exchange members …….

Chris Rose 

Posted in Barnehurst, Bexley, Bexleyheath, Danson Park, Hall Place, Hall Place North, Recording, Sidcup, Swift | Tagged , | 3 Comments

What is going on next to Sidcup Railway Station?

Following tree cutting, construction seems to be starting this morning, 5th May.

After tree cutting, trackway construction starts in the woodland next to Sidcup Railway Station. What is going on?

After tree cutting, trackway construction starts in the woodland next to Sidcup Railway Station. What is going on?

Posted in Sidcup, Sidcup Railway Station | 3 Comments