Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Walworth Garden Farm & The Tower Of London

Today I visited Walworth Garden Farm in the London borough of Lambeth. The farm is a local Charity and Social Enterprise that has been in operation since 1987. They provide environmental education, training in horticulture, garden maintenance services, workshops and courses including beekeeping.

Next spring Froglife will be working with the farm to provide free 'Wildlife Workshops' for the local community.

They have a great wildlife area, the pond has a new dipping platform and is about to have a clear out and some new planting next year. Apparently, it is teeming with Smooth Newts, can't wait to deliver our workshop next spring and see the newts!

 The rest of the wildlife area looks good with log piles, a number of native plants and a place for me to sit!

Loved this butterfly seat

What an interesting tree, is it a monkey puzzle?

They won the Green Flag Award, I'm not surprised!

All these courses and they are all FREE

They have constructed an eco-apiary with a bee observation hive, although the glass could do with a wipe. So fascinating though, I could have watched the bees all day!

As I had to change underground lines at Bank, I decided to take a late lunch and have a look at the poppies at The Tower Of London, I walked from Bank it is easier. I'd forgotten it's half-term, and it was heaving with thousands of visitors, literally thousands! I couldn't get as close as I would have liked, but so pleased to be able to witness this truly awesome memorial.


Look at all those people!

Don't miss the major art installation 'Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red' at the Tower of London, marking one hundred years since the first full day of Britain's involvement in the First World War. Created by ceramic artist Paul Cummins, with setting by stage designer Tom Piper, 888,246 ceramic poppies will progressively fill the Tower's famous moat over the summer. Each poppy represents a British military fatality during the war.

The poppies will encircle the iconic landmark, creating not only a spectacular display visible from all around the Tower but also a location for personal reflection. The scale of the installation intends to reflect the magnitude of such an important centenary creating a powerful visual commemoration.

Remember, remember… the toads this November

As they do every November, Froglife are reminding people to thoroughly check their bonfires for wildlife before lighting them …

At this time of year, toads, frogs and newts are all looking for somewhere safe and frost-free to see out the winter. A big pile of logs, leaves and twigs may be the ingredients for a perfect bonfire, but they’re also an ideal hiding place for amphibians, hedgehogs and all sorts of other garden inhabitants.

Here are a few tips to make help make your celebrations more wildlife-friendly:

  • Collect your wood and other bonfire materials in a separate place to where you’ll be having the bonfire, and move them just before you want to light the fire, ideally as late in the day as possible.  If you’re going to an organised event you could get in touch beforehand and ask if they need any help searching for uninvited guests!
  • If you do come across any animals, just transfer them to a similar habitat in another part of the garden.  They may be a little disorientated but the disturbance won’t do them any harm.
  • Just before lighting, have a last check through with a torch and then ensure the fire is only lit from one side so anything left within has the chance to escape.
  • Try to burn only clean, untreated wood on your bonfire, with no nasty varnish, paint or plastics so you don’t release toxic chemicals in the smoke
  • You could create a permanent log and leaf pile specifically for frogs, toads, newts, lizards, hedgehogs and other creatures to hide in over winter in a quiet corner of the garden.  Other wildlife-friendly features include compost heaps and rockeries. Find out more here.

Don’t forget if you do spot any amphibians or reptiles to use our Dragon Finder App to help identify and record your sightings!

So, have fun this fireworks night but remember what might be buried in your bonfire!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Pulbrough Brooks RSPB Reserve

I joined the local RSPB group in Havering on their coach trip to Pulbrough Brooks yesterday. Nestled in the sheltered Arun Valley within the South Downs National Park. This nature reserve boasts a great variety of habitats including wetlands, woodland, and heathland. Pulborough Brooks is home for a wide range of wildlife, and provides a fantastic day out for people of all ages.

Walks lead through hedge-lined paths to viewing areas and hides where the views can be quite spectacular. The meadows are now starting to flood and already beginning to teem with ducks, geese and swans.

The heathland restoration project and the woodlands now have roving flocks of feeding birds including a variety of tits, crests and finches. And, now that the trees are shedding their foliage they were much easier to see.

The welcome could not have been any warmer, with staff & volunteers welcoming us to the reserve, the birds were not bad either! Pretty much our first species seen was Nuthatch with two feeding on the well stocked feeders around the visitor centre. A variety of tits also, including, blue, great, coal & long-tailed along with both Greenfinch and Chaffinch.

 I couldn't resist taking some shots of the House Sparrows which were around the cafe's veranda area.

female House Sparrow

male House Sparrow
Stepping out of the visitor centre and onto the reserve the view is impressive!

For me the best bird of the day was found by Mike as we all took in the view, he found a small gem of a bird in the bushes right beside the centre. A cracking little Firecrest which showed well before moving around to the pond where it was lost to view.  Amazingly, Mike picked up either the same bird or a second Firecrest in the woodland later in the day, nice one Mike!

From Nettley's Hide this male Pheasant showed well and there was a small herd of Fallow Deer, which were delightful to watch.

male Pheasant

Fallow Deer
 The large area of wet grassland bordered by the River Arun to the west and River Stor to the north held good numbers of wildfowl. In amogst the Greylag and Canada geese flocks, we found two Bar-headed Geese and a smart Red-breasted Goose. All three birds are certainly feral and probably originated from collections, they were great to see though.

Bar-headed Goose

Also around the pools were Lapwing, a small group of Black-tailed Godwits, two Ruff and a single Greenshank. I've visited Pulbrough Brooks a few times, but have never walked around the woodland and heath area. Today I put that right, and again there were some great views.

Also, in Black Wood there were lots of fungi, some of which you can see below. I am no expert on fungi, so it was good that the RSPB had placed interpretation beside a number of the fungi.

Turkeytail - This is a bracket fungus or polypore it grows in tiled or tier layers. The concentric multicoloured rings on this fungus resemble the tail of a wild turkey.

Turkeytail Trametes versicolor

Common Rustgill - There were lots of these rusty-coloured spores amongst the conifer debris. They start off umbrella shaped then flatten out and the margons go wavy.

Common Rustgill Gymnopilus penetrans

Common Rustgill Gymnopilus penetrans

Scleroderma citrinum, the Common Earthball, is similar in appearance to a warty potato. Acid soils, especially on the compacted paths in forests, are its main habitat. The colour of these probably poisonous members of the (artificial rather than taxonomically-related) group of fungi known as gasteromycetes or stomach fungi varies from light ochre to mid brown, but usually there is a lemon-yellow tinge, especially to the upper surface. For this reason another of its common names is Citrine Earthball.

Pseudoboletus parasiticus (synonym Xerocomus parasiticus) is unlikely to be confused with any other species, because it occurs only with the Common Earthball, Scleroderma citrinum. It is a rare bolete, and most of the earthballs you come across are not accompanied by this dull-looking fungus. At one time thought to be parasitic on the earthballs, these boletes are now believed to do little or no damage to their 'partners'
Scleroderma citrinum, the Common Earthball with Pseudoboletus parasiticus growing on it

Thursday, 16 October 2014

RSPB Rainham Marshes - A Great Day Out

A great day at Rainham today. Started by watching the river and immediately spotted the two Black Terns opposite the reserves centre. They were feeding along the shore line as the tide receded, well pleased they were still here and even more pleased to see not one but three Great Skuas.

They would sit on the river and let the outgoing tide carry them down river, then fly back up and start all over again! They would have the odd sortie chasing gulls and as one came closer I fired off a few shots.

A small group of Lapwings flew overhead and showed nicely against the blue sky.

 Counted three Wheatears along the foreshore and this one posed nicely

This very pale pipit (two images below) also popped out along the foreshore, and after a bit searching and patience I managed a few shots, pretty sure it is an oddly coloured Meadow Pipit. There were lots of Meadows and a few Rock Pipits all along the foreshore.

I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time for this Clouded Yellow, a kind lady saw it settle and put me on to it. I have seen a number this autumn all flying, and they are pretty quick for a butterfly, so pleased to see this one settled.

Counted five Stonechats around the reserve today, none posed quite close enough for decent images, but they were great to see.

The image below I think captures some of the essence of this reserve. Great wildlife to the backdrop of electricity pylons and a passing hi-speed train, would I have it any other way?  Probably not :-)

The image below, hinted at what might happen next! The Peregrine on it's usual distant pylon was plucking it's prey. I took a shot knowing I would have to crop it heavily, I put my camera away and used my scope to watch it. I then noticed the second bird on the opposite horizontal strut (you can just see the bottom half of it in the image). It was a female Sparrowhawk, and she wanted the Peregrine's catch. She flew across to beside the peregrine, it immediately mantled to protect it's prey, and after a few seconds it flew pursued by the hawk. It soon outpaced her and she gave up the chase, a brilliant, unexpected encounter!

Another this time female Stonechat to finish with.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Rainham Landfill Site

This morning I took Coco our dog for a walk around and on the landfill site!

There is now a footpath which runs up and over the eastern end of the landfill, and the views are brilliant. To be fair the path has been open for sometime now, but this is the first time I've walked it.

looking east down the River Thames towards the QEII bridge.

looking north across the reserve towards the A13

looking north towards the A13

The RSPB Visitor Centre
 Plenty of Skylarks at the top along with meadow pipits.

 A Red Admiral enjoying the spells of sunshine on the flowering Gorse.

a Grey Heron flies by