Braeburn Park (LWT) to Churchfield Wood and St. Mary’s Churchyard. Some plants and insects seen on 16th August.

On a warm sunny day at London Wildlife Trust’s Braeburn Park reserve there were fair numbers of butterflies about. Holly Blues were seen across the site. Some male (mostly) and female Common Blues were on the large grassy/scrubby bund to west of the housing estate, with a  few more along part of the wide Marjoram-lined path at north foot of the valley slope. 1 Brown Argus was on the bund, with 1 and very probably 2 also in the Marjoram area, nectaring on the flowers of this plant.

The wide grass 'verge' along this pathway, populated by Marjoram, provides food for Brown Argus and Common Blue butterflies. (Chris Rose)

The wide grass ‘verge’ along this pathway, populated by Marjoram, provides nectar for Brown Argus and Common Blue butterflies. (Chris Rose)

1 fresh Small Heath was on the bund. A Painted Lady was in the ravine. A single Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood were seen. There was a limited number of Gatekeepers and plenty of Meadow Browns. Green-veined and Small Whites were about.

There were 2, possibly 3 Jersey Tiger moths in the ravine and 1, possibly 2 in adjacent quarry, though given the way they seem to fly about randomly there might have only been 2 or 3 in total. 4 Silver Y moths were disturbed on the bund.

The 'bund' at Braeburn, screening the industrial estate from the nearby housing, is good grassland butterfly habitat. (Chris Rose)

The ‘bund’ at Braeburn, screening the industrial estate from the nearby housing, is good grassland butterfly habitat. (Chris Rose)

A somewhat haphazard search for Wasp Spiders on the bund located just two of these colourful arachnids, with much of the grass looking too tall, dense or flopped over to provide ideal habitat.

Wasp Spider at Braeburn (Chris Rose)

Wasp Spider at Braeburn (Chris Rose)

There were a few Migrant Hawker Dragonflies in the air, but not much bird activity.

Upright Hedge-parsley (Torilis japonica), a sort of skinnier, much later flowering cousin of Cow Parsley, was in flower in good numbers at the eastern end of the north part of the site, possibly its only location in Bexley. Bexley rarities such as Marjoram and Wild Basil are, however, getting crowded out by the proliferating non-native Goat’s-rue and Bramble, and LWT could very much do with more volunteers from the Bexley wildlife community to help tackle this and other work.

There was a single Common Centaury on a south-facing sandy bank, a plant I’ve only found at two other Bexley locations, in one of which it has probably been destroyed by an advertising hoarding.

Tree of Heaven and False Acacia along the line of the old A2, provide the threat of additional ‘exotic’ encroachment, though they seem fairly well contained by the habitat conditions at present.

Some tall Tree of Heaven lend an exotic jungle-like air along the old A2 route. (Chris Rose)

Some tall Tree of Heaven lend an exotic jungle-like air along the old A2 route. (Chris Rose)

It was disappointing to note on the path by the A2 up to Churchfield Wood that the seasonally wet ditch beside it is now occupied by a black plastic pipe, presumably to ‘control’ any water.

I hadn’t appreciated it before, but I have now noticed that at least the lower part of the wooded slope has many old coppiced Hazels, mirroring the situation across the A2 at the west end of Braeburn.

A dense array of old coppiced hazels predominate on the thereby heavily shaded west end of the wooded Cray valley slope at Braeburn. (Chris Rose)

A dense array of old coppiced hazels predominate on the thereby heavily shaded west end of the wooded Cray valley slope at Braeburn. (Chris Rose)

Having refreshed my memory about these two sites it very much looks as if the habitats are not suitable for range expansion of Silver-washed Fritillary and White Admiral into these areas from Joydens Wood. The food plants look to be absent in Churchfield Wood as well.

I only skirted the northern margin of the field to the south of Churchfield Wood, but found a fair amount of the London rarity Hare’s-foot Clover, which also occurs on a small part of Braeburn.

Field by the A2, south of Churchfield Wood (Chris Rose)

Field by the A2, south of Churchfield Wood (Chris Rose)

Hare's-foot Clover near the southern margin of Churchfield Wood. (Chris Rose)

Hare’s-foot Clover near the southern margin of Churchfield Wood. (Chris Rose)

There are a few apple trees near the woodland margin, either side of the footpath to St. Mary’s church. Whether from discarded cores or the remnants of previous orchards, they seem to fruit very well.

Apple tree on footpath towards St Mary's church. (Chris Rose)

Apple tree on footpath towards St Mary’s church. (Chris Rose)

A colourful Vetch drapes the footpath fence, looking back to the edge of Churchfield wood. (Chris Rose)

A colourful Vetch drapes the footpath fence, looking back to the edge of Churchfield wood. (Chris Rose)

A Southern Hawker Dragonfly further along the path conveniently settled on the cemetery hedge and allowed an extremely close approach. The last two coloured rings on the abdomen are complete rather than broken as in the Migrant Hawker.

Southern Hawker Dragonfly on St. Mary's cemetery hedge. (Chris Rose)

Southern Hawker Dragonfly on St. Mary’s cemetery hedge. (Chris Rose)

Harebell, now a very rare plant in London, prospers in a few Bexley Borough churchyards, including having a modest showing in St. Mary’s. I can’t help feeling that some modest changes to management regimes could significantly grow the numbers of this very attractive plant.

Harebell in St. Mary's churchyard, Old Bexley (Chris Rose)

Harebell in St. Mary’s churchyard, Old Bexley (Chris Rose)

Good swathes of Tansy survive along the footpath below the south side of Bexley railway station, though they seem rather more overgrown with other species than I recall them being last time I looked.

Tansy, an occasional plant in Bexley, flourishes on Mill Meadow by the footpath to the south side of Bexley station. It is in the daisy family and has slightly domed clusters of bright yellow flowers that lack ray florets ('petals') . (Chris Rose)

Tansy, an uncommonl plant in Bexley, flourishes on Mill Meadow by the footpath to the south side of Bexley station. It is in the daisy family and has slightly domed clusters of bright yellow flowers that lack ray florets (‘petals’) . (Chris Rose)

 

Chris Rose

Posted in Bexley, Butterflies, Churchfield Wood, Invasive species, Invertebrates, London Wildlife Trust, Plants in Bexley, Recording, vegetation management, Volunteering, wild flowers | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

It’s Gold on former Thamesview golf course for Mike Robinson

Mike Robinson’s find of six Golden Dock (Rumex maritimus) plants in late July, at the former Thamesview golf course to the west of Crossness, has now been confirmed by Dock expert Geoffrey Kitchener of the Kent Botanical Recording Group.

Very infrequent in Bexley, and on the Kent Rare Plant Register, an identification check was made because of the propensity of Docks to hybridise.  It is an annual species of seasonally wet, often fairly bare places, the sort of habitat that tends not to persist for very long. The previous record was of a couple of plants spotted by Chris Rose at Marlborough Park in mud by the Shuttle a few years ago, where it has not been seen since.

Thamesview golf course. Golden Dock habitat picture. (Mike Robinson)

Thamesview golf course. Golden Dock habitat picture. (Mike Robinson)

Golden Dock at Thamesview golf course (Mike robinson)

Golden Dock at Thamesview golf course (Mike Robinson)

Another close-up of a Golden Dock seed head (Mike Robinson)

Another close-up of a Golden Dock seed head (Mike Robinson)

 

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Wasp Spider boom at Thames Road Wetland

There is an unusually large number of Wasp Spiders (Argiope bruennichi) at Thames Road Wetland this year, something first noticed by Jason Steel a week ago when he counted 32. Yesterday I managed 38, though I wouldn’t say this was the result of a thorough search, just an attempt to beat Jason’s figure. The species was first found at the site a few years ago but has not been spotted again for some time.

The animals are inhabiting a general area of approximately 964 square metres, giving an average of 1 per 25.4 sq m. However, the actual density in the most suitable parts of the habitat is much higher, with it being possible to find several quite close together. All the webs, which have a distinctive zig-zag weave below the centre, are amongst longish fine grasses, and appear not to be in areas dominated by dead herbaceous  material. This may be because the spiders are seeking prey such as Grasshoppers, one of which was seen to be rapidly pounced upon and wrapped in silk when it made the mistake of  jumping into a web.

Wasp Spider at Thames Road Wetland (Photo: Chris Rose)

Wasp Spider at Thames Road Wetland.  The zig-zag weave below the centre, called the stabilimentum, can be clearly seen. Its function is not understood. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The zigzagweave below the centre of the web, called the stabilimentum, is distinctive, but its function is not understood. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The same Wasp Spider from a slightly different angle. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The Wasp Spider was first recorded in the UK in the 1920s, but has become more prominent in recent years, and has been recorded from various parts of Bexley including Erith Marshes (Crossness), Grasmere allotment site  and Streamway.

It would be interesting to hear whether this apparently exceptional number of individuals is a freak event or is matched by increased numbers elsewhere in the Borough.

Chris Rose, Volunteer Site Manager, Thames Road Wetland

 

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Some recent Bexley butterfly photos by Mike Robinson

 

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New rarity – Britain’s ‘largest’ fly, the Hornet Robber – found at Thames Road Wetland

Jason Steel, a leading local wildlife photographer, has captured a picture of the rare Hornet Robber Fly (Asilus crabroniformis), at Thames Road Wetland.

Hornet Robber Fly at Thames Road Wetland, 6th August 2016 (Photo: Jason Steel)

Hornet Robber Fly at Thames Road Wetland, 6th August 2016 (Photo: Jason Steel)

According to Buglife, this predatory species, which protects itself by resembling a Hornet, is thought to now breed in only 40 isolated sites in the UK. In any event it is thought to have declined by around 25% between 1980 and 2000 and is now a UK Biodiversity Action Plan species. It is said to be ‘arguably’ our largest fly at over an inch long.

https://www.buglife.org.uk/bugs-and-habitats/hornet-robberfly

Females lay their eggs on cow, horse or rabbit manure, with both the latter two being present at the wetland site.  The larvae are thought to dine on dung beetle grubs in the ground beneath.

Livestock medications, overgrazing (which reduces insect prey for adults) and lack of dung are thought to have driven the decline in numbers.

We will now look at whether any changes to site management are needed to assist this species. It would appear that suitable conditions  are already present and will need to be maintained.

Jason said’ I was at the Thames Road Wetland site yesterday (6th August) looking for bugs to photograph. This is the first time I’ve been down there for a month.

I counted 32 Wasp Spiders in the grass by Thames Road. I also saw 4 Hornet Robber Flies. I only managed to get close enough to one of them for a photo. This is an impressive specimen though. I reckon it was 35mm+ in length.’

Chris Rose, Site Manager

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Bexley Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation review saga – two and a half years later and still no sense of urgency

Bexley Natural Environment Forum continues to press Bexley Council on the long-overdue sign-off on the 2013 review by the London Wildlife Trust of the Borough’s existing and potential new Sites of Importance for Nature Conservation.

The fact that the deadline for public comments on the  final draft was almost two and a half years ago says everything about the value the Council attaches to nature in our Borough, as does the outcome of several recent planning decisions that will negatively impact SINCs and species in serious decline.

The latest correspondence over this long-running saga is set out below. There is still no target date for wrapping this up despite the fact that we are now over 20% of the way through the nominal lifetime of the document. It is not true to say – as the Council claims here –  that any departures from the draft recommendations will be merely due to errors and ‘technical’ issues and are somehow ‘apolitical’ and, by implication, unquestionable. The reality is that we know that a political decision has been taken to reject LWT’s proposal that the Borax fields be incorporated into the Erith Marshes SMINC and to keep it designated for employment (although up to 2010 the Council had a policy of seeking opportunities to increase the size of the SMINC area here) . There has also been a dispute over one of the best parts of Crayford Rough, which the Council has sanctioned building on, despite the 2004 and 2013 mapping showing it was within the SINC boundary, with LWT apparently believing this to be the case also. There is no visible ecological difference between one side of the line and the other. Meanwhile we wait to see whether the Council retains Erith Quarry as a Grade 1 SINC, which would in our view be a face-saving manoeuvre given that the planning committee voted unanimously to build over 70% of it and the important reptile population has been shovelled into a remnant that is half the size required based on the measured population density.  A further test will be whether the recommendation to promote ‘Crayford agricultural and landfill’ (at the south end of Crayford Marshes) from Borough Grade 2 to Grade 1 has been accepted given the massive Roxhill rail-road depot proposal looming over it.

Given that SINC status is an important consideration in making planning decisions, these matters are NOT politically neutral in effect – or at least shouldn’t be, though tell that to the planning committee. Given its voting record over the last two years most of its members don’t presently think that SINC designation means very much, and Council officers have thrice declined to define what, in their policy on the matter, is meant by ‘significant impact’ on such sites, thereby rendering planning decisions where this consideration applies both opaque and essentially unaccountable.

Erith Quarry, a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, is a woodland edge/ scrub site that could potentially support Nightingales - but not if Bexley Council agrees to the plans to build over most of it. If Lodge Hill can't be protected, what chance sites like this?

Erith Quarry, currently a Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, but Bexley Council has agreed to plans to build over most of it. 

 

Relevant correspondence:

Subject: RE: SINC review sign-off?

From:    “Luckhurst, John” <John.Luckhurst@bexley.gov.uk>

Date:    Fri, July 15, 2016 3:03 pm

To:      “chrisrose@gn.apc.org” <chrisrose@gn.apc.org>

Cc:      “Councillor Bailey, Linda” Linda.Bailey@bexley.gov.uk>,          “Councillor Slaughter, June” <June.Slaughter@bexley.gov.uk>,          “Thomas, Ben” <Ben.Thomas@bexley.gov.uk>, “Taylor, Mark” <Mark.Taylor@bexley.gov.uk>,  “Ray Gray, BNEF

———————————————

Dear Mr Rose,

I refer to your email to Ben Thomas and subsequent email to Councillor Bailey. This is a response to both emails.

The LWSB meeting has now examined the process for producing the SINC document and the finalising of this SINC document is underway. This will be undertaken as soon as possible but will be subject to the availability of staff resources and other work priorities.

It is not our practice to specify changes between draft and final versions of evidence base documents as these are technical documents where changes arise from factual errors or technical matters and processes.

Kind Regards, John Luckhurst, Strategic Planning and Growth, London Borough of Bexley,

—–Original Message—–

From: chrisrose@gn.apc.org [mailto:chrisrose@gn.apc.org]

Sent: 14 July 2016 19:12

To: Councillor Bailey, Linda, Cc: Thomas, Ben; Luckhurst, John; Taylor, Mark; Councillor Slaughter, June

Subject: SINC review sign-off?

Dear Councillor Bailey,

SINC review saga.

Since we have not had an acknowledgement of, nor a reply to, the e-mail set out below within the Bexley Council customer services target of 5 working days, and given that the relevant webpage still shows no indication that the review has been signed-off (http://www.bexley.gov.uk/article/12495/Sites-of-Importance-for-Nature-Conservation), perhaps you can appraise us of the current situation, including what happened at the LWSB if, indeeed, the document has actually got that far, and your projected timetable for publication of the final version. A response to the point about flagging up any changes made would be most welcome.

Thanks, Chris Rose. BNEF

—————————- Original Message ——————–

Subject: SINC review sign-off?

From:    chrisrose@gn.apc.org

Date:    Sat, June 25, 2016 6:29 pm

To:      ben.thomas@bexley.gov.uk,  “Luckhurst, John” <John.Luckhurst@bexley.gov.uk>,  mark.taylor@bexley.gov.uk  Cc:  ray Gray, BNEF, “june.slaughter@bexley.gov.uk” <june.slaughter@bexley.gov.uk>

——————————————————-

Dear Ben,

There still no sign of finalised SINC documentation on the Council SINC info webpage, and although I’ve Googled various formulations of words about this, nothing is coming up. Maybe there’s something buried in some committee papers somewhere. Anyway, can you tell us what the latest is on this? We were under the distinct impression that it was going to the LWSB in May and would have been done and dusted by now.

In relation to this, will there be a written statement by the Council as to any departures that have been made from the Dec 2013 document? As you know, other ‘stakeholders’ have not been party to whatever issues Bexley has had with this (except by accident – see Crayford Rough boundary) and it would obviously be helpful to ourselves and others to have a list of any recommendations that were not accepted or that were amended, rather than having to compare the 2013 and final documents line by line.

Thanks, Chris Rose, Vice-chair, Bexley Natural Environment Forum

_________

Chris Rose

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Cemeteries are haven for Harebell and other uncommon plants

Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) , a rare plant in London, and other species that are uncommon in the capital or Bexley,  such as various low-growing clovers, Trailing St. John’s-wort, Changing Forget-me-not and Ivy Broomrape find a haven in the Borough’s cemeteries where the ground has not been fertilized, weed-killed or re-sown with sports turf grasses.

These Harebells were photographed in Christchurch cemetery, Bexleyheath, by Mike Robinson on 29th July.

Harebell group Mike R

Harebell close-up Mike R

_______________

 

 

 

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Lesnes Abbey (Woods) Conservation Volunteers issue programme of August/September events

This Lesnes Abbey (Woods) Conservation Volunteers group, which maintains and enhances the woods for wildlife meets at 12 noon at the picnic tables by the Lesnes visitor centre every second Sunday. No particular skills are needed to get involved, there is no membership fee and new recruits are always welcome.

Sunday August 7 – Wildflower Meadow

Controlling the more aggressive species that threaten to engulf the wildflowers. Sunblock is recommended.

Sunday August 21 – Heath

Keeping the bracken and brambles in check to encourage the heather. Again sunblock is recommended.

Sunday September 4 – To be arranged. Probably a walk but perhaps we could decide on the day.

Sunday September 18 – Fountain Pond

Clearing some of the more vigorous species to allow more room for the frogs and newts. Bring your wellies!

____________

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Some plants of Gatton’s Plantation, 23rd July 2016

Gatton’s Plantation is an oblong piece of woodland lying to the east side of Cocksure Lane (from which access can be gained through a wooden gate) and the north side of Parsonage Lane. It is separated by a narrow strip of horse-grazing fields from Joyden’s Woods to the east and is managed by the Woodland Trust.

The tree cover is extremely dense, yet there is a well-developed understorey and groundcover helped, one suspects, by the limited amount of pathways and absence of any large grazing animals. There are a number of large Turkey Oaks and quite a lot of Elm along the Parsonage Lane margin, which would be worth checking for White-letter Hairstreak butterflies.

Parts of the main path were quite damp on what was my first ever my visit and there were Rushes present, along with Square-stemmed St. John’s-wort which favours such conditions, and only occurs in a handful of places in the Borough.

Square-stemmed St. John's-wort in Gatton's Plantation. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Square-stemmed St. John’s-wort in Gatton’s Plantation. (Photo: Chris Rose)

There was also a single plant of Hairy St. John’s-wort, which is also found at Braeburn Park and on the sewer pipe bank by Thames Road Wetland.

Hairy St. John's-wort by damp main track in Gatton's Plantation. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Hairy St. John’s-wort by damp main track in Gatton’s Plantation. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Wood Spurge, an ancient woodland indicator species, was present.

There were a number of gone-over flower heads of Wood Spurge in evidence. (Photo: Chris Rose)

There were a number of gone-over flower heads of Wood Spurge in evidence. (Photo: Chris Rose)

A yet-to-be-identified Mint was enjoying the moist conditions.

Unidentified, possibly hybrid, Mint. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Unidentified, possibly hybrid, Mint. (Photo: Chris Rose)

There was a single plant of Spurge Laurel (Daphne laureola), which I have yet to see anywhere else in Bexley.

Spurge laurelp at gatton's Plantation (Photo: Chris Rodse)

Spurge Laurel at Gatton’s Plantation (Photo: Chris Rose)

The native Honeysuckle was also present, larval foodplant of the White Admiral butterfly, two of which were seen in the glades here, and also plenty of Violets, larval foodplant of the Silver-washed Fritillary, which was not found (though the plants were in very shady places). There were also some good patches of Greater Stitchwort.

 

Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) in the plantation. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) in the plantation. (Photo: Chris Rose)

There are coppiced glades either side of the central pathway in which most of the butterfly activity can be found.

Gatton's Plantation glade in the late afternoon sun. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Gatton’s Plantation glade in the late afternoon sun. (Photo: Chris Rose)

More of interest could doubtless be found on a longer visit, with time to explore away from the main central pathway.

(Chris Rose)

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Concern over public footpath maintenance around Crossness

Dear Friends of Crossness Nature Reserve,

I have been getting a lot of complaints about the state of Footpaths 1 and 2 between the nature reserve and southern marsh/Eastern Way, and Footpath 2 that runs east-west from the nature reserve to Belvedere Road.

Unfortunately, these are public footpaths and as such are managed by Bexley Council and their grounds maintenance contractors. I have contacted Bexley numerous times about getting these paths cut, but without success. Since the paths haven’t been cut at all this year, it will be no surprise that they have all but disappeared (see photos attached).

Unfortunately, I do not have the resources to cut Council footpaths, and with just my two volunteers, we are having a big enough battle keeping our own paths cut. I hate that they are in this state and impeding access, for which I am really very sorry, but could I encourage you to direct your frustration at Bexley, as Public Footpath owners, rather than myself please.

The general Bexley number is 020 8303 7171. The chap in charge of footpaths in the north of the borough is Tony Morris and he can be contacted at Antony.Morris@bexley.gov.uk.

Once again, apologies for the condition, but I’m really hoping that the Council’s grounds maintenance contractors will address this asap.

Kind regards

Karen Sutton – Biodiversity Team Manager

Posted in Crossness, Crossness Nature Reserve | 1 Comment