Karen Sutton provides an update from Crossness LNR at Erith Marshes about the latest issues, wildlife and public events at the site ……..
Crayford Marshes success, and Cory’s plans that will impact Crossness Nature Reserve:
Back in 2016, many of you who opposed the Cory Data Centre plans on the Cory Fields at Crossness – the Save Our Skylarks campaign – may recall a tandem development threat to nearby Crayford Marshes where Roxhill were proposing to build a ‘Strategic Railfreight Interchange’ scheme on Green Belt-designated open land and subsequently threaten the breeding habitat of Skylark and Corn Bunting. Many of you will remember completing petition letters alongside those for the Cory development. Following a lengthy Public Inquiry examining the scheme, the Secretary of State has just announced that he has refused the scheme! This is an amazing result and demonstrates that there can be successes where wildlife-threatening planning applications are concerned. Unless successfully challenged in the courts, this decision is final and is of course fantastic news for those of us that value our diminishing open spaces and associated wildlife.
Unfortunately, we lost the case for Cory Environmental to build on the Cory Fields (Borax Fields) at Crossness back in 2016, where at least two pairs of Skylark appear to be breeding again this year, so we will unfortunately see the development of two, four-storey data centres here, but the Crayford Marshes result does give us some hope in the fight against Cory’s most recent plans to build the ‘Riverside Energy Park’ (REP) (another waste incinerator squeezed between their existing Norman Road waste incinerator and Crossness Nature Reserve) immediately north of the West Paddock and east of Sea Wall Field.
Save our Skylarks demonstrators lined up for a photoshoot with Cory’s existing incinerator in the background.
Due to the size of the REP proposal, this also goes before the Planning Inspectorate who has begun examining the case. The hearings start at the beginning of June, and on 4th June, the Examiner will undertake Accompanied Site Inspections, including a visit to Crossness NR to look at the impacts. On the evening of 4th June, the first Open Floor Hearing is scheduled to take place at 18:30 at the Belvedere Community Centre, DA17 6AA. This will be an opportunity for the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve to attend and voice their concerns to the Examining Inspector so do please go along and have your say. The 5th June will see an Issue Specific Hearing on Environmental Matters which takes place at 10am at the Slade Green Community Centre, DA8 2EL.
Again, the fact that the Roxhill development was declined at Crayford Marsh, does give us hope that the Cory plans will also be rejected, so all objections to this scheme are incredibly valuable.
Return of the Water Voles (and subsequent temporary disruption):
Many of you will remember that we suffered an unfortunate pollution incident in December 2017, and that last year saw a massive clean-up operation. In order to protect the Water Voles residing in our ditches and reedbeds, we began a rescue operation that saw nearly 60 Water Voles captured and taken into captivity while the clean-up took place. Some of these Voles were released elsewhere as part of other conservation projects and where the Crossness Voles would help diversify the gene pool, while others underwent a captive breeding programme for future release back to Crossness. I am pleased to report, that following the results of surveys to be undertaken this week, the Voles will be released back in to the Protected Area week beginning 20th May.
Following the results of the above-mentioned Water Vole surveys in the Protected Area of the nature reserve, an altered strategy has now been proposed. It seems that the few remaining Water Voles that evaded capture at the time of the pollution incident, have done incredibly well and there are field signs everywhere! This could indicate that they have reproduced and there is a larger population present, or it could be that fewer Voles have simply expanded into the more widely available habitat. With the uncertainty of which scenario is at play here, and the fact that Water Voles are very territorial, it has been decided that only 15 Water Voles will be returned to the Protected Area, and that a hard-release option will now take place (as opposed to the soft-release previously mentioned). All Voles will now be released directly into the reedbeds on one day (it was decided that if there are many territorial Voles already present, they will harass new Voles in pens and so a hard-release is now a better option for their welfare). We are investigating the possibility of releasing the remaining Water Voles at another of our Thames Water sites on the north of the Thames.
So there will be a lot of activity on Monday (20th May) when there will be the Water Vole ecologists, plus a number of Thames Water and Environment Agency personnel around, so I apologise now for the disturbance to visitors. On the same day, the Water Vole fencing that is currently bounding the southern section of the Protected Area, will be removed. Again, a bit of disturbance, but it will be nice to see this removed finally!
Work coming up:
I don’t have dates yet, but at some point soon, there will be some flushing through of culverts on the Southern Marsh and at the bottom of the Nature Reserve. As a separate contract, there will also be a small boardwalk installed by the pedestrian bridge at the Bridge Meadow (east) end of Crossness Southern Marsh to deal with the section of path that repeatedly floods (where stepping stones are currently placed).
This work will start on 28th May, so expect some minor disturbance as a result of this.
The reedbeds are once again alive with the sight and sound of Reed and Sedge Warblers, which is always nice. A Cuckoo is still being seen and heard in the Protected Area, and I’m really pleased to report that Bearded Reedlings appear to be breeding again. Two birds have been seen taking nest material to different locations. This is particularly good news, because they bred for the first time in the Protected Area reedbeds in 2017, but then the pollution incident would have prevented them from returning to the same area to breed in 2018. Flocks were seen frequently in the Island Field reedbeds around the period of the rare Penduline Tit presence, and breeding therefore hopeful, but it is really good to see confirmed breeding activity of this wonderfully attractive species.
Male Bearded Tit at Crossness, February 2019. Photo by Jean Bufton.
Lapwing appear to be breeding again on the West Paddock following breeding success last year. In the past week or so, there have been some interesting sightings here. As well as two Lapwing on nests, and a Little Ringed Plover in the paddock, two Redshank have been seen displaying, and last week even saw a Knot and a Whimbrel!
Bees and butterflies are busy. A Green Hairstreak butterfly was seen last week, and some of the scarce Brown-banded Carder Bees were recorded at the end of April. I saw my first dragonfly of the year on 30th April, but it was too high and distant to identify it. At that time of year, it was most likely a Hairy Dragonfly, but I’ve also been reliably informed that Vagrant Emperors have been reported here and there in the UK since 20th April, having been pushed up by a Saharan dust storm.
I also saw a Mottled Shieldbug, a scarce and rather large species, first recorded in the UK in 2010 and found in the London area. It seems to be establishing itself in south London particularly, so it is rather fitting that it has now been recorded at this south-east London reserve. There’s also tonnes of mating Hairy Shieldbug around too.
Mottled Shieldbug (Rhaphigaster nebulosa) at Crossness. First found in the UK in the London area in 2010. Photo: Karen Sutton.
We have a number of community events coming up, that you are welcome to attend. All I would ask is that you book a place please so that I know who to expect and who to cater for where refreshments are provided – thank you:
- Sun 2nd June, 10.30-4pm – Crossness Engines Trust Steam Fair, Bazalgette Way, Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ – This isn’t my event, so no need to book with me for this one. Simply turn up on the day to see the world’s largest working rotative beam engine in steam, as well as new stationary engines, scale traction engines and scale steam lorries.
- Tues 18th June, 10.30am – Crossness Southern Marsh butterfly walk – join us at the vehicle gates on Bazalgette Way (Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ) for a walk across the marshes with Mike Robinson. Mike is an active member of the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve scheme and has developed a keen interest in Lepidoptera. Light refreshments provided on site at the end of the walk.
- Thurs 4th July, 10.30am – Crossness Nature Reserve butterfly walk – join us at the vehicle gates on Norman Road (Belvedere, DA17 6JY) for a walk across the nature reserve with Mike Robinson. Mike is a keen Lepidopterist and an active member of the Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve scheme. Light refreshments provided in the bird hide.
- Fri 12th July, 21:00 – Bat survey walk with Andy Warren and Nina Egleton of Cotswold Wildlife Surveys and Derek Gow Associates respectively. This event is hijacking a formal survey that we have commissioned and so will be a little more formal than the bat walks that I usually lead. This walk will follow a transect route through both the nature reserve and southern marsh. This repeats some surveys that were commissioned last year in response to the pollution incident that we suffered, and as well as Common and Soprano Pipistrelle bats, they also picked up Leisler’s Bat, and three rare Nathusius’s Pipistrelles, so this could be an interesting, but late event. Gates will open at 21:00 for a prompt 21.30 start. It is difficult to provide an exact finish time, but I would estimate finishing around 23.30-0:00. No refreshments will be provided for this event.
- Thurs 18th July, 10:00am – Guided midweek walk of Crossness Southern Marsh and Crossness Nature Reserve – Primarily aimed at the many new members we’ve had of late, but regulars are welcome too – join me at the gates under the red flyover on Bazalgette Way (Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ) for an introduction to the sites, the wildlife and the management that takes place here. Please bring a packed lunch. We will stop for lunch in the bird hide half way through the walk.
- Tues 6th Aug (tbc) – Bee Walk with Rosie Earwaker of Buglife. A walk across the southern marsh and nature reserve learning how to identify bee species and other invertebrates. Details, including date, are to be confirmed, but it is currently expected that this will be an afternoon event, starting at the southern marsh vehicle gates on Bazalgette Way, however these details will be confirmed nearer the time. Refreshments provided in the bird hide part way through the walk.
- Sat 24th Aug, 10:30am – Guided weekend walk of Crossness Southern Marsh and Crossness Nature Reserve – Primarily aimed at the many new members we’ve had of late, but regulars are welcome too – join me at the gates under the red flyover on Bazalgette Way (Abbey Wood, SE2 9AQ) for an introduction to the sites, the wildlife and the management that takes place here. Please bring a packed lunch. We will stop for lunch in the bird hide half way through the walk.
Karen Sutton, Biodiversity Team Manager, 07747 43958