Bexley RSPB Foots Cray Meadows 6th December bird walk – report

Ralph and Brenda Todd report on the 6th December Bexley RSPB bird walk at Foots Cray Meadows, which attracted several members new to the group’s outdoor meetings. 28 species were seen including Little Egret, Kingfisher and Gadwall. 

Download the PDF file .

Posted in Bird watching, Foots Cray Meadows, River Cray, RSPB, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

London Assembly green spaces investigation – comments sought, London Green Spaces Friends Group Network submission

The London Green Spaces Friends Groups Network

http://e-voice.org.uk/london-friends-network/

The Future of London’s Green Spaces:

London Assembly Investigation / Inquiry now underway. Evidence and recommendations requested.

Our much-loved parks and green spaces – around 3,000 throughout London – are recognised by all to be essential public resources providing an unparalleled range of vital services and facilities for all sections of our communities, and for nature. But their future is under threat due to Government cuts to local public services. This serious underfunding crisis needs to be addressed and reversed immediately.

The London Assembly has agreed to hold a formal Investigation /Inquiry into this crisis engulfing London’s public parks and green spaces, and what needs to be done. Full details here.

https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assemblys-current-investigations/green-spaces

All those who are concerned on this issue and wish to respond with evidence on the state of London’s green spaces and their views on what should be done to protect, enhance and improve them for current and future generations are urged to respond – initial deadline Friday 9th December (but responses will be accepted after that date).

Our initial draft response, which others are welcome to endorse or adapt, is set out in full below. E-mail submissions should be made to:

<mailto:environmentcommittee@london.gov.uk>environmentcommittee@london.gov.uk

In summary, the Friends group Network is saying that our public green spaces need:

– statutory recognition as a statutory service, with all public green spaces expected to be managed to Green Flag Award standard

– adequate public funding (eg from general taxation or majorinfrastructure budgets)

– effective protection by all tiers of Government

Dave Morris – for the London Green Spaces Friends Groups Network

 

Download the PDF file .

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Harvest Mice – first images of this London rarity in Bexley

Nests of of Harvest Mice (Micronomys minutus) , the UK’s smallest rodent, were first found at Thames Road Wetland in 2014, when 7 were discovered in the course of vegetation management work. None were located in 2015, but another three were come across in 2016. Both still and video images have now been obtained of this elusive species, which has only been recorded in 5 other London Boroughs over the last 20 years. Found in England and Wales, it is now a Biodiversity Action Plan priority species on account of a 71% decline up to the last review in 2007.

A cunning plan to ‘see’ the Mice themselves

Inspired by an article in ‘BBC Wildlife Magazine’ about the work of a PhD student studying Harvest Mice – see 

http://www.moulton.ac.uk/the-college/news-events/news/2015/september/phd-student-investigates-harvest-mouse-conservation

TRW Site Manager Chris Rose, who operates under the umbrella of the Thames21 waterways restoration charity, installed a series of feeding tubes made of plastic drinks bottles in 2016, regularly replenishing them with bird seed, in order to habituate the animals to using known filmable fixtures in their environment. The tubes were situated in such a way as to make it difficult for anything larger and heavier than a Harvest Mouse to gain access. 

Mark2 'safety' design of Harvets Mousefeeding tube, baited with birdssed. 'Escape hatch' at rraer end and raised falp to sto the wind shaking out the seed. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Mark2 ‘safety’ design of Harvest Mouse feeding tube, baited with birdseed. ‘Escape hatch’ at rear in case the bottle comes loose and tips up. A raised flap forward of this  stops the wind shaking out the seed. Fabric sticking plaster taped into the neck aids grip and exit at the mouth end. (Photo: Chris Rose)

At the end of October two Little Acorn camera traps, paid for by Thames21 from grant funding, were set up by Chris, Joanna Barton (Assistant River Cray Project Officer for T21), plus volunteers Ray Hudson who supplied the DIY skills, and Wren Rose who has done the work since of trawling through the camera SD cards and extracting the best imagery.

We have had some technical issues, the first of which is a basic limitation of the devices, in that they are designed to capture big animals at some distance, not tiny Mice a couple of feet away. The second is that we set them up to take an initial still and then trip to video. The video should continue for some time longer than the few seconds per clip we have got to date. If anyone is familiar with this make of camera trap and can offer advice on fixing this problem, please get in touch. Meantime we have set them to video only.

Harvest Mice take the bait and appear on-screen

The birdseed in the various feeding tubes has repeatedly been reduced to husks, and Harvest Mice have now appeared in front of the cameras. The following are some of the best images obtained so far. They are undoubtedly the only ones ever taken to date of Harvest Mice in Bexley, possibly the only ones of the animal itself in London – certainly in the last few years – and may be the only film of wild Harvest Mice in the capital.

Harvest Mouse in corner of filming 'stage'. Taken by camera trap 27th October, 2016.

Harvest Mouse in corner of filming ‘stage’. Taken by camera trap 27th October, 2016. 

Harvest Mouse climbing up to feeding bottle at dusk on 17th November 2016. Camera trap in night-time mode.

Harvest Mouse climbing up to feeding bottle at dusk on 17th November 2016. Camera trap in night-time mode.

Video clips of Thames Road Wetland Harvest Mice (large files, will take some time to download to your computer for viewing):

harv-mouse-video-clip-9th-nov-2016-imag0145

harvest-mouse-cam-1-trw-17th-nov-2016

The status of Harvest Mice in London

Few records exist, and those that do are largely of nests or of a dead animal. According to Greenspace Information for Greater London (GiGL), the London biodiversity records centre, Harvest Mice have only been recorded from 6 London Boroughs since 1996 – Bexley once before, Bromley twice (Churchill Plantation, Hang Grove Farm), Barking and Dagenham twice, Barnet twice, Havering four times and Redbridge five.  Unsurprisingly, with the exception of Barking and Dagenham, these are all on the periphery of London. Prior to the TRW nests of 2014 there had been no (reported) London records since 2010.

Where did the TRW animals come from, and when?

Aerial photographs from the late 1930s and during the war suggest that TRW did not provide suitable habitat for Harvest Mice at that time, and an early 1980s photo shows an overgrazed field similarly devoid of the necessary vegetation structure. Although it was better by the mid 2000s, the extensive work to create the wetland in late 2007 would probably have resulted in the loss of any Harvest Mice that might have been present at that time.  

Colonisation (or recolonisation) could have come from one of three possible sources: 

i) From the south along the railway line to Dartford.

ii) From a separate population on Stanham Farm, including the River Cray margins,  to the south of TRW

iii) Over the Thames Road railway bridge from Crayford Marshes. The previous Bexley record was of either a single nest or a single animal (it is not stated which) in the reedbed at the Erith saltings by the Yacht Club, made in 2007. There could still be a population spread across Crayford Marshes,  and this may have at one time been continuous with any animals that survived south of the road. The road itself has, however, long been of a width that research says Harvest Mice would not cross at ground level.  

A fourth though probably unlikely alternative is that a female was dropped alive by a predatory bird.

Six of the seven nests found in 2014 were spread along a linear feature over quite a distance, with a seventh some way away on the other side of a waterbody. This suggests the species may have already been present at TRW for a year or two, although the nature of the vegetation management up to that point suggests that if nests had been present in previous years, at least one or two would have been found.  

Habitat and behaviour

The name Harvest Mouse is suggestive of an animal that is confined to or very strongly associated with arable farmland, but in practice wetland with reedbed is an important habitat type for the species. At TRW occupancy appears to be greatest in an area over shallow water with a mix of dense Sedge bed, a moderate amount of Common Reed and adjoining grasses on a bund by a ditch. Reedmace on its own, which is a major component of the site’s vegetation, does not appear suitable for nest-building.

We have been somewhat surprised by the extent to which the Harvest Mice have been active in daylight. This may be  to do with fattening up for winter (though they do not hibernate) or possibly avoiding competition/interaction with Wood Mice and Rats, though we do have one poor quality night-time photo where a Harvest Mouse is climbing up to a feeding bottle which appears to have a Wood Mouse already in it.  

Is the population growing or declining?

We cannot determine this on the basis of current information. Small mammal numbers can fluctuate greatly for a variety of reasons. Autumn is a good time to try and get film because numbers of animals will be at their highest post-breeding, and before winter mortality.

Predation pressure will largely be coming from Foxes, and possibly Weasel (one was ‘captured’ by one of the cameras recently, establishing a new site record). A very occasional domestic Cat is seen, though none in the main Harvest Mouse area. Whilst birds of prey frequently overfly the site, the main prey of the species seen are other birds.

Other rodents

The cameras have also recorded Wood Mouse. The following pair of images shows the difference between Wood Mouse (left) and Harvest Mouse (right) , particularly in the size of the ears:

Wood Mouse (left) and Harvest Mouse (right). (Comparative image created by Wren Rose)

Wood Mouse (left) and Harvest Mouse (right). (Comparative image created by Wren Rose)

The local Brown Rats have also proven themselves rather more acrobatic than expected:

Brown Rat examining Harvest Mouse feeding bottle at Thames Road Wetland.

Brown Rat examining Harvest Mouse feeding bottle at Thames Road Wetland.

Further study and conservation

It is clearly important to try and maintain and build numbers of the mice at this location, in which there is an area of relatively low wildlife interest that could be made more suitable for them by using ‘spare’ shrub suckers from elsewhere on the  site to create a low grass-edged hedgerow.

The nature of the site would make it a good one for any student interested in pursuing a more detailed project about Harvest Mice to work on. It would also be invaluable to establish the distribution of the species across the wider local landscape. Please contact Chris Rose on chrisrose@gn.apc.org  if you are interested.

Thus far the Mice, and several other rarities at the wetland, will have benefitted from the fact that although the whole site – which falls within a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation – is open to the public, the location and layout of it has meant that in practice very few people wander round unaccompanied and therefore the amount of disturbance and random trampling is minimal, and there are no dogs being allowed to run amok. This state of affairs needs to be maintained. Guided tours are run for time to time for those who are interested.

This first Harvest Mouse nest was found at Thames Road Wetland in 2014 (Photo: Chris Rose)

This first Harvest Mouse nest was found at Thames Road Wetland in 2014 (Photo: Chris Rose)

Chris Rose. Thames Road Wetland,  Thames21 (volunteer) Site Manager. 

Posted in Bexley, Biodiversity Action Plan, Harvest Mouse, Mammals, Raptors, Recording, Reedbeds, SINC, Thames Road Wetland, Thames21 | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Lesnes Abbey Woods Conservation Volunteers – December and January events

The volunteer group that does conservation management work in Lesnes Abbey Woods has published its latest schedule of events which run up to the end of January 2017. Events are free and take place from 12 – 3.30pm. No particular skills or great levels of fitness are needed. Meet at the metal picnic table nearest the new visitor centre. For more information please contact Tristan Boulton. Telephone: 07450 552 825 Email: lacv@hotmail.co.uk. Web: http://www.lacv.btck.co.uk/

 

Sunday  11th December

Wildflower Enclosure 3 scrub control to help the bluebells to flourish

Sunday  8th January

Management of the rare Lesser Calamint area including preventing the area from scrubbing over.

Sunday  22nd  January

Holly and rhododendron control near Conduit Pond.

London's only colony of Lesser Calamint occurs at Lesnes. (Photo: Chris Rose)

London’s only colony of Lesser Calamint occurs at Lesnes. (Photo: Chris Rose)

____________

Posted in Invasive species, Lesnes Abbey Woods, vegetation management, Volunteering, wild flowers | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Opportunity to comment on our Green Spaces – before Bexley’s Conservatives sells them all?

London’s Green Spaces Investigation

Start date: 07 November 2016

End date: 09 December 2016

Please note that the submission deadline for this investigation is 9 December 2016.

The capital’s green spaces can offer environmental, physical, mental, social and economic benefits for Londoners.

Due to cuts in local authority budgets, however, the quality and accessibility of our green spaces, and their associated benefits, are now at risk. 

The Environment Committee is investigating the management of London’s green spaces, at a time when funding is decreasing and sustainability is key.

The Committee aims to influence the Mayor’s upcoming Environment Strategy and other relevant policies and programmes through this investigation.

Topics for consideration include;

  • Best practice models of green space governance and management
  • The benefits of green space and natural capital
  • Promoting green infrastructure thinking across London
  • The barriers to improving green space
  • Ways of encouraging multifunctional use of green space (currently used and un-used), such as the installation of Sustainable Drainage Systems

 Get involved

The Committee welcomes contributions from members of the public, volunteers, community governance, charity and private management as well as public sector management. Find out more by reading the investigation Scoping Paper.

Submissions should aim to address the areas outlined above, and any other issues that may be important for the investigation to cover.

To contribute, please send submissions by 9 December 2016 using this link https://www.london.gov.uk/about-us/london-assembly/london-assemblys-current-investigations/green-spaces

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Any local experts on the Thames wildlife?

I am from the landscape department in Greenwich University where are we are doing a landscape and social research study of Erith town centre and its surroundings. 
 
I am particularly interested in the ecology around the river Thames in this area – the mudflats, salt marshes and Crayford Marshes in particular. 
 
I am hoping to conduct a short interview with someone local to the area who is knowledgeable about the ecology, wildlife and birdlife in this place.
 
I see from your website that there are a number of wildlife groups in Bexley – would you be able to point me in the direction of someone who might be interested, or do you know if there is a particular group for Erith or Crayford Marshes whom I could contact?
 
Many thanks,
 
Maddy Gunn
Posted in River Thames | Leave a comment

Thames21 River Cray and Thames Road Wetland events for Nov-Dec 2016

See schedule below. All welcome. Learn new skills. Meet new people. See interesting wildlife.

Download the PDF file .

 

Posted in River Cray, Thames Road Wetland, Thames21, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Bexley RSPB – report of Danson bird walk, October 27th

An illustrated report from Ralph and Brenda Todd of birds seen on the Bexley RSPB walk around Danson Park on 27th October:

Download the PDF file .

 

Posted in Bird watching, Danson Park, RSPB | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

New plant records for Bexley, including one for ‘botanical Kent’

Rodney Burton, author of the most recent London flora, has written to report a number of interesting plant finds in Bexley, and there has subsequently been a new species for the whole of the Kent botanical recording area located in the Borough, which falls within Vice-county 16, West Kent.

Two tufts of Luzula pilosa, not seen during a 2010 survey, but recorded some years previous to that, were found in Bexley Park Woods during a LNHS meeting on April 30th 2016. Also a single tree of Salix x erhartiana, of which all trees in Britain are male and appear to have been planted. Rodney would be interested in any information which might indicate how long ago in the case of this specimen.

Salix x erhartiana in Bexley Park Woods (Rodney Burton).

Salix x erhartiana in Bexley Park Woods (Rodney Burton).

On 14th May Rodney found numerous plants of Upright Chickweed, Moenchia erecta, on the hill at Hall Place North. This is a scarce plant in Britain, but is very small and only really noticeable for 5 weeks a year. It is still on Dartford Heath, was at Blackheath many years ago and is found in a few large London parks.

Moenchia erecta, Upright Chickweed. A nationally scarce plant now found at Hall Place North. (Rodney Burton)

Moenchia erecta, Upright Chickweed. A nationally scarce plant now discovered at Hall Place North. (Rodney Burton)

Rodney has also found a third site in the Borough for Corky-fruited Water Dropwort, this time in the Little Mascal Farm area.

Chris Rose spotted a single plant of Urtica membranacea, an annual Mediterranean nettle,  in a planter outside the Prince Albert pub on the Broadway, Bexleyheath, and just over the road from the Council HQ, on 3rd September 2016. The identification has been confirmed by Rodney Burton and by Geoffrey Kitchener of the Kent Botanical Recording Group. Both believe it is the first record in the wider Kent botanical recording area, which as well as the administrative county of Kent, extends into south-east London and encompasses the London Borough of Bexley.

Urtica membranacea, thought to be the first ever record in wider Kent, has popped up opposite the CouncIl offices in Bexleyheath. (Chris Rose)

Urtica membranacea, thought to be the first ever record in wider Kent, has popped up opposite the Council offices in Bexleyheath. (Chris Rose)

Posted in Bexley, LHNS, Plants in Bexley, Recording | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Erith Quarry – work begins without Bexley Council’s promised consultation on biodiversity ‘management plan’

Bexley Council has failed to fulfil its written undertaking to consult Bexley Natural Environment Forum and London Wildlife Trust, prior to construction works beginning, about the biodiversity management plan for what little will be left of the important Erith Quarry wildlife site, previously approved for housing by the planning committee. This despite it being sent a reminder about the matter over a year ago.  The ‘developer’, Andersons, cannot be entirely absolved from blame as its representatives were present when this ‘offer’ was first made by a council  officer at the original planning meeting in March 2015, and two of its ‘ecologists’ had met with BNEF officers before that to hear about the many objections and concerns regarding its plans.

Following reports in the local media that ‘development’ is now underway (since confirmed by observation), the Council has been chased up about this yet again, but more than two months after we were told that the e-mail had been forwarded to ‘the Development Control team who are responsible for managing the …. process’ there has still been no reply.

We are now writing to Bexley Council about this again, copying in Chief Executive Gill Steward, seeking an assurance that such a management plan has been submitted at all, given that it was a formal condition of approving the planning application that one be signed off by Bexley before any work was done, and asking again about the consultation upon it.

Erith Quarry - most of which will now be built on. Bexley Council has failed to deliver on its promise to consult over the biodiversity management  plan for the remaining fragment before 'development' commenced. (Google Earth)

Erith Quarry – most of which will now be built on. Bexley Council has failed to deliver on its promise to consult over the biodiversity management
plan for the remaining fragment before ‘development’ commenced. (Google Earth)

Once again it is proving extremely difficult to get any kind of sensible engagement with Bexley Council on wildlife matters. Not only do replies rarely materialise within a reasonable period, never mind within its own response time target,  but we rarely get straight answers to straight biodiversity questions, and multiple e-mails have to be sent to get anywhere at all.

The chain of correspondence is set out below. Neither Bexley Council, nor the ‘developer’, has bothered to address the entirely reasonable questions also submitted by BNEF about ongoing reptile impacts and related courses of action – in particular:

  • whether the animals have been let out of the small area they had been corralled into over 2 years ago yet
  • the fact that the small 3.25ha area to be left unbuilt on is half the size required according to the measured population density
  • the fact that uncaptured animals have now had two full breeding seasons to reproduce again so that a further round of capture and removal is necessary to avoid charges of illegal ‘deliberate killing and injury’ of protected species.

We are pressing the Council and ‘developer’ again on these matters.

The war against Bexley's reptile populations has continued since the Erith Quarry decision, with no data-backed assessment whatsoever being made to determine whether planning decisions fall foul of the Council's supposed policy of opposing significant impacts on protected and priority species.   (Photo: Jason Steel)

The war against Bexley’s reptile populations has continued since the Erith Quarry decision, with no data-backed assessment whatsoever being made to determine whether planning decisions fall foul of the Council’s supposed policy of opposing significant impacts on protected and priority species. (Photo: Jason Steel)

The Erith Quarry ‘development’, in which over 70% of a Grade1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation will be built on, was approved unanimously by Bexley’s planning committee in March 2015, with the Council’s biodiversity officer claiming that there would be no loss and a net gain for biodiversity as a result.

Chris Rose, BNEF lead on Erith Quarry

________________

Subject:          RE: Biodiversity management plan, Erith Quarry.>From:          “Luckhurst, John” <John.Luckhurst@bexley.gov.uk>

Date: Wed, August 10, 2016 11:32 am>

To: <chrisrose@gn.apc.org>

> Dear Mr Rose,

> Thank you for your below email, which I have now forwarded onto the Development Control team who are responsible for managing the planning application process.

> Kind Regards John Luckhurst

> Strategic Planning and Growth, London Borough of Bexley,  Civic Offices, 2 Watling Street, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7AT

> —–Original Message—–

> From: chrisrose@gn.apc.org

> Sent: 08 August 2016 12:23

> To: Hambrook, Fiona

> Subject: Biodiversity management plan, Erith Quarry.

> Dear Fiona,

> I sent the following  last Friday. I had an auto response from the Steve Bell address saying he is no longer with Bexley, and another from Ben Thomas’s saying he is away until 22nd August but to contact yourself in the meantime. I hope you are able to assure us that ‘development’ work has not started before we have been consulted, as promised, on the biodiversity management plan, and that you can give us some idea when we will be and also address the other issues raised.

Thanks. Chris Rose, Bexley Natural Environment Forum

_____________

Dear Mr. Bell,

Reference your e-mail of 8th September 2015

>> On the issue of the management plan to be submitted in relation to the ecology area, I am aware that the applicant’s ecology consultant is currently working on this but this has not yet been submitted for approval. I can confirm that you will be consulted together with LWT when it is submitted for approval.

it was being claimed on a locally-run blog (at the end of July) that construction works of some sort have begun (though I haven’t had time to go and look myself). According to condition 33, details relating to the provision and management of the proposed ‘ecology area’ were to have been provided to and approved in writing by Bexley Council prior to ‘any work’ > being undertaken on the site.

Have ‘development’ works begun? Has any such plan been submitted and signed off?

If so, we have not been consulted about any such plan. If works have not begun and there has been no plan submitted yet then what is your best estimate of the timescales/dates for such consultation, and what will the process be?

We note with concern that two breeding seasons have passed since the developers’s agents corralled large numbers of reptiles into an area of 1ha, with a view to then letting them out into the meagre 3.25ha area of the site that is being spared from destruction.

– Can someone confirm whether they have indeed been set ‘free’ into the 3.25ha area yet?

– Will you confirm that 3.25ha is less than half the amount of suitable habitat required according to their own site population density calculation (which excluded juveniles), and tell us what is going to be done to rectify this?

– We contend that since the developer’s agents will not have captured every last animal, those outside the artificial fence will have increased in numbers in the meantime such that a destructive search will not be appropriate, and any ‘development’ works without a further round of captures will leave those responsible open to legal action on a deliberate killing and injury charge. What advice is Bexley Council giving appropriate persons about this?

– Given that Bexley Council has a so-called policy of protecting and enhancing biodiversity, and that according to DEFRA this includes populations and not just lists of species, and given the attacks on several other reptile habitats since the Erith Quarry approval, the sensible thing to do in these circumstances would be to capture ‘surplus’ animals outside (or even inside) the exclusion fencing and use them to found new populations elsewhere. We might be willing to support that. Unfortunately in order to justify an expedient and bodged translocation from the Howbury site to an unsuitable part of East Wickham Open Space (and contrary to national guidelines) the Council now has a document saying that there are no suitable unoccupied reptile habitats in the Borough, though we are not entirely convinced that that this is the case.

If it is, then it is surely time to stop voting to destroy all or significant parts (Crayford Rough being the latest example) of the ones we have and to ALSO look at changing vegetation management regimes elsewhere.

Will the Council take a proper look at what it is going to do about this rather than hiding behind the unsubstantiated mantra that there will be no significant negative biodiversity impacts (where significant is nowhere defined) from these various developments?

Thanks, Chris Rose.

Vice-chair, Bexley Natural Environment Forum.

___________________

Posted in Bexley Council, development threat, Erith Quarry, Reptiles and Amphibians | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment