Braeburn Park (LWT) update

Reserve Manager Shaun Marriott reports on developments at London Wildlife Trust’s Braeburn Park site in Crayford, and the sighting of a Red Kite there:

We’re continuing the Weds and Thurs workday slots over the next weeks, mainly working on both of the acid grassland slopes to thin out broom and encroaching scrub on the boundaries (mostly buddleia, bramble and overhanging trees). The area with hare’s foot clover has been opened up more. On the other slope, off Galloway Drive, we have found several bee orchid leaves peeping through along the ridge, following a third year of clearance work, it’s looking good and hopefully the ground disturbance will produce more.

There’s been a lot of changes made in various areas, mainly from Galloway through to the sand banks at the SW end, where we have opened up the main path, slope around the playground and the sand banks themselves. There are now around six dead hedges on site, one of which is in a new area designated for a forest school which will be starting very soon.

Creating a dead hedge at Braeburn Park.

We’re getting a lot of goldfinches and starlings in the trees around the Galloway end of the playground grass slope and a red kite was spotted recently over the sand banks.

The priorities at present are the acid grassland (leaving the majority of gorse) and some mowing of the paths further down into the reserve.

There is a corporate workday on 7th March but anyone interested in getting out to help will be welcome of course, I just need prior notice as usual, even the day before is fine.

We meet at the tool shed for all the workdays at around 10.30, but volunteers can meet on site at a time after that if preferred, they just need to contact me to find out where we are and not just turn up. We are usually packing up by 4 – 4.30pm, depending on weather and light conditions.

We will also be starting the butterfly transect and other surveys once I have worked out dates. Again, anyone interested in helping with these can contact me.

“Shaun Marriott” <smarriott@wildlondon.org.uk>
Mob: 07710194268

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Bexley RSPB Joydens Wood visit report, 25th January 2018

Four Buzzards, a Treecreeper and five Siskins in glorious sunshine were the highlights of Bexley RSPB’s Joydens Wood field meeting this week. Joydens straddles the London/Kent border and most of it is on the Dartford side. Judging by reports – or the lack of them – none of the woodland falling within Bexley seems to get much attention from bird observers, especially compared to the marshes, and that includes the relatively large Lesnes Abbey Woods, so it is good to see this habitat being looked at. 

Download the PDF file .

 

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Former Council HQ site scheme: bizarre on biodiversity and conflicted on cars

Bellway has submitted its finalised scheme for housing on the old Council HQ site on the Broadway. There are a number of welcome nods to sustainability but still too many contradictory elements falling short of what should be done. The usual claim is made that the development will improve biodiversity over what exists at present. It is stated that the planting will be largely indigenous and of local provenance, yet none of the 9 tree species listed are native, and only four of nine ‘herbaceous’ species are (a rather bizarre mix of native ancient woodland ground flora – with no statement as to sourcing), plus a handful of sun-loving exotics, not one of which will deliver much wildlife benefit.  This goes against the recommendations of its own ‘Ecology report’. Although living roofs are promised, a step forward, these are not going to recompense for the size and nature of the current ‘brownfield’ expanse, and some of this roof space will be covered in decking. Overall, the plans deliver too much sterile hard-surfacing. None of this will help feed the House Sparrows which roost next to the adjoining multi-storey car park, and which should be shielded from as much disturbance as possible during construction, given their decline in London.

The former Council office site. Already some of the vegetation looks to have been cleared. In a classic ‘tick box’ exercise reptiles, hugely unlikely to have been found here, were surveyed for, but invertebrates – for which living roofs could provide some useful habitat if designed right, were not. (Photo: Chris Rose)

View looking west showing ‘open mosaic’ conditions, which can attract heat-loving invertebrates. Bexley has thus far made no contribution to the London Plan target for such habitat, and is intent on destroying more of it at Crossness. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Five of the seven mid-sized London Planes still standing on the Broadway side of the site will now get the chop. As usual the Council’s mantra that these sorts of things can be addressed through the planning system means that anything vaguely natural actually gets treated as having little or no worth at all if it stands in the neat-and-tidy way of developers. 

Five of the seven London Planes will get the chop. There are better wildlife trees, but at least these are already a decent size. Bellway says they need thinning out now. In addition its new tree planting will be 100% non-native, so no great improvement there then …. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The opportunity to have a zero-carbon development at the heart of the Borough’s ‘capital’ has been fluffed. Instead Bellway will pay the Council for not hitting that benchmark. We are interested to see what mechanisms are used and what projects are going to be implemented by Bexley’s leadership to ensure that the £675K promised is spent on serious energy-saving measures elsewhere in our area. For this sum it could actually build a few zero-carbon/Passivhaus homes to prove to itself that this standard is indeed possible, even in this part of the world. Yes, we are nearing the end of the second decade of the twenty-first century …

The warm words on sustainable transport, given the well-connected location, are undermined by a sales prospectus plugging the ‘ease’ of getting to the likes of the M25 and Bluewater by car, illustrating that companies still have a better understanding of ‘green spin’ than the comprehensive green approach now needed.

These and other issues have been addressed in more detail in the Bexley Natural Environment Forum submission to the planning department on the scheme, reproduced below.

 

Download the PDF file .

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Free public lecture series on fungi

The Birkbeck College, University of London, Free Lecture Series this Spring is on fungi. The college is close to tube stations. The programme may be of interest to some followers of ‘Bexley Wildlife’, so details are provided below:

The World and Nature of Fungi

Ecology and Conservation Studies Society, Birkbeck Free Lecture series. Spring 2018: six Friday evenings:  9th February to 16th March, 18:30 to 20:00. Birkbeck, University of London.

Fungi are ubiquitous. Between 100 thousand and 120 thousand have been described and the total species is estimated to between 1.5 to 3.6 million.  They are more numerous than vertebrates and plants, and just a little fewer than invertebrates.

Fungi have rigid cell walls and mostly don’t move, like plants, but, like animals, they are not photosynthetic, produce extra-cellular enzymes and store compounds like glycogen.  They are in a separate kingdom, the Eumycota, and molecular studies suggest they are monophyletic.  The Eumycota include the familiar macro-fungi, the Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes;  but also some less well known groups of micro-fungi  and moulds, the chytrids, Mucor and its relatives and the Glomeromycetes (which are mycorrhizal).  Others once considered to be micro-fungi, like Saprolegnia, Pythium and Phytophthora, are now not, partly because they have cellulose cell walls. They are more closely related to diatoms and brown algae.

 Many fungi consume plant remains (leaf litter and dead wood) and sometimes animal remains.  Many are parasites, on plants (herbs to trees, including crops) and on animals (from insects to man), and some even parasitize other fungi.  Some saprophytic and parasitic species cause damage to our materials and buildings.

Many fungi live in mutualistic relationships with algae (as lichens), with land plants (mycorrhizas) and with animals (e.g. leaf-cutter ants, some termites).  Many micro-fungi may simply live in plants without fitting any of the above categories. They are termed endophytes. 

Fungi are eaten by many invertebrates, including mites, beetles and molluscs.  We have many uses for fungi, in antibiotic production (penicillin), in fermentation (beer and wine), for the production of industrial enzymes, and as pesticides. 

Fungal forays collect the fruiting bodies of edible species (chanterelle, blewit, field mushroom, etc.), but can also be very useful in generating records of the fruiting of fungal communities at specific sites.  Some foray data collected over many decades has shown changes in the timing of fruiting linked to climate change.

Fungi are obviously of great importance, yet their study at universities is poorly covered, it seems appropriate that this series shall be looking at some aspects of the world and nature of fungi.

9th February Recording fungi in the 21st Century – the challenges and problems for both enthusiasts and professionals. Geoffrey Kibby, Associate Researcher Mycology, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew; author of many guides to mushrooms and toadstools..

16th February Old trees and fungi and biological continuity. Ted Green, Founder President of Ancient Trees Forum, honorary lecturer Imperial College, University of London, Vice President of the International Tree Foundation and Conservation Consultant to the Crown Estate, Windsor.

23rd February. Fungal symbiosis with plants. Martin Bidartondo, Reader in Molecular Ecology, Imperial College London & Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

2nd March. Tackling emerging fungal threats to animal health, food security and ecosystem resilience. Matthew Fisher, Professor of Fungal Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London

9th March. Opportunistic fungi and damage to heritage buildings and collections. Sophie Downes, Birkbeck Biology.

16th March. Ash dieback. Maryam Rafiki, Researcher, Jodrell Laboratory, Kew.

 

Further details, including the programme & venue, will be posted at

http://www.bbk.ac.uk/geography/our-research/ecss/free-public-lectures

or email:

ecssoc@gmail.com

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Bexley RSPB Danson Park field trip report, 14th November 2017

Pochard and Little Egret were the highlights of the visit, the report of which was provided to us soon afterwards by the authors but the posting of which has been held up by computer and other issues at ‘BW’ HQ …. 

Download the PDF file .

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Braeburn Park (LWT) update – more volunteers/wildlife surveyors welcome …..

London Wildlife Trust’s reserve manager Shaun Marriott provides an update on progress and future work plans at the Braeburn Park site, by the railway in Crayford. Besides hands-on habitat management, Shaun is looking for people to monitor birds, do butterfly counts and run bat walks ……… 

Braeburn Site Manager Shaun Marriott on his way to the Badger Group’s stand at last year’s open day. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Shaun says:

‘This Thursday (2nd November) we are hosting a bonfire event which runs from 3pm until 7.30pm, inviting local residents to come along to eat a few freshly cooked sausages and have a drink as we burn off brash piles that have accumulated by the playground area.

This follows a lot of scrub clearance and pushing back of the treeline on the lower part of the slope (by the playground) in order to extend the grassland area substantially, hopefully to see more grasses and wildflowers there next year (if the Goat’s rue doesn’t get there first). 

Braeburn park offers a variety of habitats for plant, butterfly and other insect species. Targeted scrub clearance maintains open sunny areas like this. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The pyramidal orchids that were discovered around here last year, re-emerged this summer, with some bee orchids along the main track towards our recently installed bug hotel. 

We’ll be running a workday there on Wednesday and on the Thursday to continue opening up the stretch of small trees which eventually lead towards Galloway Drive. 

The bonfire event is hopefully going to attract several locals so that we can explain our plan and maybe gain a few extra volunteers too.

The workdays will continue on the following Wednesdays and Thursdays into December, with the possible exception of Weds, 15th November, when I have to be at a LWT All Staff meeting elsewhere. If possible I’ll arrange for Graeme Jefferson, a local resident and committed volunteer, to run a workday on that day. Our best days in recent weeks have been Thursdays, with three new volunteers from the local Crayford area joining up.

Main tasks that we’ll be focusing on, in addition to the work above, are:

Rotational mowing of all tracks running below the ‘Sand Cutting’ valley

Scrub clearance (bramble and buddleia) on the banks above the Sand Cutting

Thinning out of scrub on the north-facing slope of the Sand Cutting

Felling of false acacia trees along the old A2 road bed

Planting up of gaps in the higher tree line of the slopes above the playground

Mowing of dense bramble on the acid grassland slope on the NW side of Galloway Drive

Clearance of scrub regrowth in the large cleared/open area between the railway line and bottom of the Sand Cutting

Continuing a dead hedge along the tree line of the scalloped edge where we’re currently opening up the slope by the playground and further along the track

Improve seasonal interpretation at various points

Install a few more benches

Build a bee wall below the sand banks, where these are currently being eroded by actions of motorbikes

Install steel chicane/barrier at Lower Station Road to prevent motorbikes from entering Braeburn here

Next Spring I’d like to see the butterfly transect set up and running, along with laying out of refugia for reptiles at various points, organising basic surveys which families can also take part in.

Additionally, to get some information about bat species that are present and to organise some bat walks for the public, along with moth trapping and bird reporting.

To get involved contact Shaun at: smarriott@wildlondon.org.uk

 

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In bad weather for birding, rarely recorded Treecreeper is highlight of Bexley RSPB meeting at Lamorbey

Poor visibility hampered viewing at Bexley RSPB’s meeting at Lamorbey Park on 26th October, but Redwing were heard, with one eventually seen. The best sighting was of a Treecreeper, a bird only rarely recorded in the Borough. 

A pdf of Ralph and Brenda Todd’s report follows …….

Download the PDF file .

 

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Golf course second haven for Heather in Bexley

Bexleyheath Golf Course, running downhill from Mount Road to the A2, is a Borough Grade 1 Site of Importance for Nature Conservation, almost certainly on account of harbouring the only Heather (Calluna vulgaris) in Bexley outside of Lesnes Abbey Woods, along with some other uncommon acid grassland plants. A private site, I was fortunate to strike up an online conversation with club member Martin Cunningham, which resulted in an escorted visit on October  2nd, since it transpired that he was interested in discussing ways of increasing the amount of Heather growing here. Donna Zimmer joined us to look at the bird potential.

Part of the Heather stand at Bexleyheath Golf Course (Photo: Chris Rose)

There was a good number of healthy Heather plants, apparently resulting from occasional light trims, but they were all in a relatively modest area on a west-facing slope, with a few young Broom, plus Bird’s-foot Trefoil, Sorrel, Sheep’s Sorrel and Wood Sage.

Young Broom plants amongst the Heather. (Photo: Chris Rose)

There is a strong stand of Broom elsewhere on the eastern margin.

Stand of Broom on Iris Avenue side of the site, looking towards the clubhouse. (Photo: Chris Rose)

Of the other SINC-cited species, a small amount of Harebell was flowering in a wall at the north end of the site, where there was also some Ladies Bedstraw. Climbing Corydalis is said to have occurred, but without a precise location it will need a proper search on a future visit. 

London rarity Harebell (Campanula rotundifolia) flowering on a retaining wall. (Photo: Chris Rose)

The fairways, their margins and around the bunkers were strangely lacking in flowering plants, being (superficially at least) almost pure grass. It wasn’t clear how that has come to be the case, but at any rate there are really only a few small ‘islands’ of acid grassland at present.

It was quiet on the bird front, despite several areas of good mature tree cover, though Jay and Green Woodpecker were seen.

Central copse of mature trees. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Jay at Bexleyheath Golf Club. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Green Woodpecker by one of the greens. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

A large patch of flowering Ivy had attracted a Red Admiral, but rather surprisingly there was no sign of any Ivy Bees. 

Red Admiral near an Ivy patch on the golf course. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Quite a few fungi were in evidence following recent wetter weather.

(Photo: Donna Zimmer)

(Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Chris Rose photographing a fungus. (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

(Photo: Chris Rose)

 

We hope to be able to take another look around the site in future. In particular, Climbing Corydalis is found at only two sites in the Borough at present, so it would be good if it could be re-found here.

The club has a (non-playing) social membership for £57 pa + VAT

http://bexleyheath-golf.com/membership/

Chris Rose and Donna Zimmer

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Bexley RSPB’s 19th September Crayford Marshes bird walk report

Avocet, Wheatear and Marsh Harrier were amongst the species seen on this well-attended Crayford Marshes bird walk organised by Bexley RSPB, a report of which appears below, thanks to leader Ralph Todd. 

Download the PDF file .

 

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‘Birds and us’ – free lecture series, Birkbeck, University of London

The following free lectures, organised by the Ecology and Conservation Studies Society, covering bird conservation, research on birds and birds in human culture, may be of interest to ‘Bexley Wildlife’ followers. They are being held at Birkbeck, University of London, across Friday evenings in October and November.

Download the PDF file .

 

 

 

 

 

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