River Shuttle and Bexley Woods bird walk report. 5th November 2015.

RSPB Bexley Group Field Trip – River Shuttle/Bexley Park Woods – Thursday 5th November 2015

A dull, drizzly morning but 22 Group members/Friends of the Shuttle joined Brenda and I for a wander along the River Shuttle (or, as we were informed, known as Bourne River in earlier times) from BETHS School into Bexley Park Woods and back again.

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Walk attendees. (Photo: Brenda Todd)

The River Shuttle (Photo: Brenda Todd)

The River Shuttle (Photo: Brenda Todd)

Against a backdrop of a tractor mowing the playing fields, two large rugby squads from the school warming up and the traffic off the A2 introductions were made and suburban birding was underway. Well, I say birding but sadly that was stretching it a bit – no one had told the birds we’d come out in poor weather to see them. A small flock of blue/great and long-tailed tits flitted over as we gathered but from then on avian life was thin on the ground (and in the trees).

Long-tailed Tit (photo: Donna Zimmer)

Long-tailed Tit (Photo: Donna Zimmer)

Few birds but as many of the group had not undertaken this walk before or visited the woods there was much to discuss and information to impart – enhanced by the presence of many of the volunteers who help keep this river clear of other people’s rubbish.

Part way along, adjacent to Love Lane allotments, a grey wagtail posed nicely on some willow reinforcements along the river bank. We also noted the Council’s attempt some years ago at a Kingfisher bank that sadly has been allowed to disintegrate and become overgrown – another exposed bank looked ideal for bee-eaters but that was just over enthusiastic fantasising by the leader.

Grey Wagtail (Photo: Ralph Todd)

Grey Wagtail (Photo: Ralph Todd)

The occasional wren, robin or chaffinch made a brief appearance or utterance but the jolly socialising amongst the group didn’t seem perturbed by this. A few moorhen fed alongside the river.

Moorhen (Photo: Ralph Todd)

Moorhen (Photo: Ralph Todd)

Jays were active amongst the trees – we learnt that a single jay can bury some 5000 acorns (for food at a later date) in their lifetimes – hence the occurrence of tiny oaks in many gardens. Some had a very close encounter with a grey heron as it flew low over part of the group.

Grey Heron (Photo: Ralph Todd)

Grey Heron (Photo: Ralph Todd)

After about an hour we crossed the Blendon Road into Bexley Park Woods – the fabulous autumn colours of the oaks, hornbeam, silver birch amongst other trees was stunning as was the leaf litter on the ground.

The group admiring autumn leaf colour in Bexley Woods (Photo: Brenda Todd)

The group admiring the river and autumn leaf colour in Bexley Woods (Photo: Brenda Todd)

Again birds were noticeable by their absence apart from the ever present ring-necked parakeet. We were able to see some of the work of the Friends and especially that of group member/Friend – Duncan Devine who is known to many for his bird box building skills and about 16 of them have been erected in a section of the woods. We learnt that on Saturday last a small team had gone around checking for successful nesting (10 out of 16), cleaning out and repairing the boxes in readiness for next year. It seems as might be expected blue tit and great tit were the main users of the boxes.

Bexley bird box supremo Duncan Devine examines a BlueTit nest from a Bexley Woods nest box. (Photo: Ralph Todd)

Bexley bird box supremo Duncan Devine examines a Blue Tit nest from a Bexley Woods nest box he made. (Photo: Ralph Todd)

As we continued our walk Brenda pointed out a few species of fungi, mostly bracket and bonnet types.  We could also see evidence of past coppicing in the woods – a practice if reintroduced would greatly enhance this charming woodland for wildlife.

We finally exited the woods and made our way back along the Shuttle following the route we’d earlier walked. Despite a lack of birds I think it fair to say that everyone had enjoyed what turned out to be a rain free walk along a river little know by most and to see the woods in such glorious colour. Thank you to the Friends of the Shuttle for their attendance and input see http://www.bexleywildlife.org/category/friends-of-the-shuttle/ for more information.

Birds seen/heard: Grey heron, moorhen, black-headed gull, woodpigeon, ring-necked parakeet, grey wagtail, wren, robin, goldcrest, long-tailed tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, jay, magpie, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch.

Ralph and Brenda Todd

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1 Response to River Shuttle and Bexley Woods bird walk report. 5th November 2015.

  1. Heather says:

    I spent the first 16 years of my life in Knoll,Bexley and Shuttle River was a favourite area to play. We jumped from bank to bank – walked along the edge of the alottments all the way to Blendon Road then back through Lovers Lane as it was then called. We caught tadpoles. There was no rubbish at all and the water was very clear and clean. That was from about 1945 to 1960 when my family decided to move to New Zealand. I have lovely memories of this area. There was lane at the end of the road which went over a bridge with a very big tree next to it, the lane continued to the Rochester way. At this stage it was not tar sealed and was still a lane bordered by big trees. Very attractive. We big Elm Trees at the end of our garden,loads of fruit trees,chickens and my Mother also kept bees.We spent hours down by the Shuttle Brook. Wonderful.

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