Showing posts from 2015

Goldeneye at Hogsmill Sewage Works nature reserve

A male Goldeneye duck was seen by several members of the Surbiton and District Birdwatching Society from the bird hide  at the Hogsmill Sewage Works lagoon between 26.12.15 - 28.12.15-almost a garden tick for me.  Males look black and white with a greenish black head and a circular white patch in front of the yellow eye. Females are smaller, and are mottled grey with a chocolate brown head. In flight, birds show a large area of white on the inner wing. First nested in Scotland in 1970, and since then birds have been attracted to nest in specially designed boxes put up on trees close to water. In winter, birds from Northern Europe visit the UK.

Monbiot on Flooding

During November, the speaker planned for the indoor meeting of the Surbiton and District Birdwatching Society (SDBWS) was ill and a replacement was sought. Luckily for me, that replacement was Mark Avery, the former director of conservation at the RSPB and campaigner against driven grouse moor shooting amongst other things. It was Mark who inspired me to start keeping a blog from November, 2011 as I was a regular reader (and sometimes contributor to his). He also wrote 'Blogging for Nature' which was a guide written in 2011 with tips as to how to keep your readers interested.
His talk to the SDBWS was based on his campaigns, one of which included our stupidity in losing the once super-numerous passenger pigeon and lessons for the future as our farmland birds disappear. It is his campaign on driven grouse moor shooting that is commented upon here as grouse moor 'management' has been picked up by George Monbiot, as part of the reason for the terrible floods in the north…

The scene from Beverley Park

Two areas of green space along the eastern borough boundary and abutting the Beverley Brook are: Beverley Park; and the Beverley Park allotments.  The park has a friends group, which meets every Thursday morning (according to a notice on the fence). 
Beverley Brook is a SINC or a Site of Importance for Nature Conservation  in Merton,  site reference MeBII05. See the separate post on the left hand menu with further information about the brook.  Some habitat creation can be found along the boundaries especially with the railway lines.  There is scope for further habitat creation and the adjacent  ‘Old Emmanuel (Blagdon Road) Sports Ground’ has been deemed suitable to ‘create new/restore relict flood plain’. Stands of Japanese knotweed were noted on both sides of the river, including some encroachment into the Park. This will need specialist attention to prevent spreading to other areas.
Our visit found evidence of badgers using the pathway along the brook.There are   occasional fresh …

The 'fat bit' of Chessington Wood

Last year, I wrote a post on the southern portion of Chessington Wood, which is in public ownership. However 9 acres of the northern portion along with a 'paddock', formed  part of the Barwell Court Estate until the recent sell off. It has always been  impenetrable with heras fencing erected to ensure non-entry.

There is quite a substantial emphemeral pond, which is marked on the OS map, with a prostrate oak growing through it.

Planning permission (now lapsed) was granted in 2005 for the erection of 7 stables, hay barn and 40m x 20m sand-school.There are signs that the field leading to the road will soon have a road link to the A244 and trees are being felled and burned in the woodland (much like everywhere else in the greenbelt at the moment).

Development and increased flood risk -10 reasons to be concerned

1 Eden Street Redevelopment,
2 (not to be confused with) The Old Post Office (TOPO) redevelopment,
3 The Cattle Market Redevelopment,
4 New student block opposite Wilko,
5 Sury Basin Redevelopment opposite Sainsburys,
6 Thames Side Wharf (behind John Lewis),
7 Redevelopment of the Hippodrome.
8 Gough House
9 Swan House,
10 The Dairy Crest Site

The massive Eden Walk Regeneration plans have virtually no water attenuation plans despite being in Flood Zone 3: Page 13 of the flood risk strategy states that 'resistant/resilient techniques will be incorporated into the development in line with the current recommendations from DEFRA 'Flood Resiliant Development.' This will take the form of  demountable risers/barriers on the shop doors and some of the ground floor residences. see the application here:

Eden Walk Development Application Number 15/13063
Developers: British Land
Finance Deloitte
The Kingston Residents Alliance have selected some very interesting pictures and i…

Seething Wells Filter Beds

The path has been swept, the rubbish cleared, the brambles strimmed, the building secured and the graffiti removed: so is a planning application  imminent?

Sixty Acre Wood Chessington

Sixty Acre wood formed part of the Barwell Court estate up until earlier this year. This majestic ancient woodland, borders Fairoak Lane in Chessington. The initial woodland compartment west of the National Grid Sub-station is known as Jubilee Wood (this should not to be confused with the council owned Nature Reserve, of the same name, which is east of the sub-station).  A National Grid wayleave is present throughout these  woodlands and managed by UK Power. The wayleaves are coppiced on a 3-5 year rotation offering a rich habitat mosaic and are important for viviparous lizards.
 The woodland  slopes down a steep gradient towards plantation woodland at its western extent (at the Surrey county boundary along the A3). It is predominantely hazel and sweet chestnut coppice, managed in traditional ways.  A woodsman operates near the CWoA overflow car park and cuts hazel faggots and operates a charcoal burner.
Sixty Acre wood offers the most well developed woodland floor of any woodland i…

Flood risk Lower Marsh Lane

Where are the borough's flood defences?

Well according to Strategic Flood Risk Assessment commissioned by the council in 2008 (Jacobs) our main flood defences are the Hogsmill Sewage works, Beverley Brook and the Manor Park and Berrylands Railway Embankments. Jacobs noted that housing should be avoided in Zone 3a (1144 houses currently). There are 57 properties identified in Zone 3b, which is floodplain (Town centre). The Jacobs report presumably went onto inform the Core Strategy 2011, which underpins our Local Development Framework for the borough. The two main policies of interest are:
Policies CS1, CS2, DM1-DM4 2 Manage and reduce fluvial and surface water flood risk in the Borough by ensuring flood risk strategies are kept up to date, guiding new development to areas of low risk where possible and requiring mitigation measures such as Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems. Where development is required within flood risk zones such as Kingston Town Centre, mitigation measures …

Tolworth Brook

Ever wondered where all the gunk thrown into  Tolworth Brook ends up? What stops the leaves and rubbish ending up in the sea? Well meet the council staff who work  on a constant rolling programme, raking out the debris and piling the 'muck' on their truck.  They take the rough with the smooth and enjoy being followed by grey wagtails as they uncover their invertebrate food. Occasionally  they may act as saviours to tumbled-in wildlife, such as a family of fox cubs, which went to Wildlife Aid, Randalls Road, Leatherhead earlier in the year. 
The council are able to close the 'gates' along the various stretches to isolate any build-ups of garden rubbish. This makes identification of  regular deposits easy to identify so the perpetrators can be 'visited'.
This stretch of the brook is found at King Charles Road as it crosses into Alexandra Park, Berrylands and onto its confluence with the Hogsmill at Elmbridge Meadows. See the left hand page tab  or see here for t…

Tolworth Court Moated Manor

There are several posts on Tolworth Court Farm Fields (Local Nature Reserve), but until now a portion of the site known as Tolworth Court Moated Manor (TCMM) across the busy A240 has only been mentioned in passing.The south west boundary of TCMM is Kingston Road (A240) and the south eastern boundary is the fence-line running along the River Hogsmill. Old Kingston Road forms the north west boundary and Kingston University playing fields border the site to the north east. The site is roughly square with an area of approximately 2.7ha. The moated island on which the manor complex would have stood is on the very edge of the site to the south. The north and east arms of the moat are still in evidence, the latter having been excavated and is managed as a pond. 
A barn, near the gated entrance, has a relatively new roof but no walls and has a Barn Owl box installed by Lower Mole Project. The boundaries are largely fenced with earth bunds along Kingston and Old Kingston roads installed by …

Autumn at Seething Wells

Numbers of duck will be increasing  from now and all through the winter months. This week several species  were widely distributed and not just confined to three or four of the filter beds. My records show that December through to February can see the greatest numbers of tufted duck and actually achieved a total of 43 birds during the winter of 2013. Yesterday there were already twenty five birds.

This was followed by five Common Pochard, which is a fairly recent visitor and a personal record for this site.Too early for visiting lapwing, but as soon as the night temperatures start to fall, they will come into roost and will be seen at both extremes of the day. The site is characterised by its Dabchick (or little grebe) and it was a bit of a shock to see them in winter plumage after such prolonged sunny weather!

Kingston Cemetery

Members of the Kingston Biodiversity Network (including the recently appointed Biodiversity Coordinator, Marina Pacheco) met with Howard, the Superintendent of Kingston Cemetery to discuss ways in which the biodiversity of the site can be promoted. In particular, the formation of a comprehensive nature trail was discussed. 
This is the culmination of several years of recording at the cemetery including: the flora, initially identied in the London Ecology Handbook 1992; breeding and winter birds; monitoring of bats, by members of the London Bat Group; as well as identification of the fungi. 
Comprehensive data collection has resulted in the conclusion that the cemetery is worthy of a higher nature conservation designation (it is currently a Site of Local Importance  and perhaps should be a Site of Borough Importance).
Fungi identification resumed two weeks ago and will continue for the remainder of the year. Two species not previously found in the cemetery were indentified during a wa…

Bat Casualties in July

During spells of  wet weather in the summer bats can find it difficult to get out to feed. If this occurs over several evenings they can quickly lose condition. 
This week it has started to rain at dusk, just at the time bats emerge to forage around local parks and gardens. This male common pipistrelle was found near to the Fishponds along the Ewell Road in Surbiton suffering from dehydration.
Hopefully he will regain condition and pass his fitness test by the weekend to be released on his home patch. 
If you find a grounded bat please put it in a box (with a few holes) and a small amount of water in a lid. Please use a glove (as per photo) to gently handle it. Then call the Bat Conservation Trust, 0345 1300 228, who will arrange for someone to come and collect it.

Hedgehog Footprint Traps

I haven't found any hedgehogs in my garden this year using the usual methods (listening at night, camera traps, looking for scats) so I have made some footprint traps similar to the ones we used last year at Home Park. Hedgehog footprint traps are very easy to make from A1 sheets of Correx board and if you share a batch of 5 boards with someone they are very cheap.

Required: A1 sheets of black Poster or Correx board
3 cable ties per footprint trap
A4 paperSpongetex Small dish/pot lidPoster paintDog or catfood
Fold the board into three even sized panels. Pierce 3 holes either side (long side)

In the middle segment secure half a spongetex either side of an A4 sheet of paper;
Cut Spongetex or J-cloth into two and secure in place;
Squeeze paint onto spongetex
secure cable ties;
Place food in small jam pot lid in centre; and
Locate along hedgerow where there may be a faint animal run

 The footprints are easy to match with those on websites eg the Mammal Society. Let me know if you see a…

More about city lighting....and it's effects on urban species

Hale et al have just published another interesting paper that found that even for the most common species of bat in urban areas, lighting can act as a barrier to movement, so the fine-scale positioning of lighting can be critical. Gaps in tree lines should be narrowed and light levels minimised. Also, bats seem to cross in the darker parts of gaps, implying that lighting has additional costs/risks that the bats are trying to minimise see here:   Gap crossing thresholds for urban bats This and similar papers can be downloaded from the Lights and Wildlife Yahoo Group.

With this in mind,  consider the effect of urban densification and light pollution on the town centre neighbourhood by the Old Post Office development proposed by St George with its 19 storey glass towers. Many species reach a tipping point when the amount of built surface rises above 60% of the built environment.This is less for some of the bird species we see around the Fairfield. The light pollution from this developm…

eDNA testing for Great Crested Newts

Last year  eDNA testing kits were made available for the first time to test for  the presence of Great Crested Newts (GCN) in ponds. The procedure had been trialed in several European countries for a range of species: the GCN, European Weatherfish, Common Spadefoot toad. The technique involves taking water samples from ponds and testing for traces of the species DNA in the water. GCN  DNA in water degrades within 20 days, so a positive result shows that the species has been present recently.

This month, several ponds in sout-west London were tested by members of the Surrey Wildlife Trust who have been trained to take the samples. This includes ponds in Richmond and Bushy Park as well as a pond in LB Merton. It is necessary to book a slot for analysis with University of Loughborough. We await the results. While we were looking we found some smooth newts (pictured below).

Norfolk Light Pollution Conference, UEA June, 2015


Kingston University Sports Ground Tolworth Bat Survey

Twenty students and members of the public became Citizen Scientists at the University Sports Ground, Tolworth last night, in order to study the bats at the site. By splitting into two teams and locating ourselves at opposite ends of the site, we were able to discern  more about the local bat population than would a traditional linear bat walk. 
For example, Team 1 situated near the site entrance, had the first bat a common pipistrelle recorded at sunset + 35 minutes. But Team 2 had to wait much longer for bat activity and had to return to the southern hedge boundary in order to find any activity. Unfortunately, heavy rain earlier had an affect on the temperature and insect activity, thereby reducing the about of prey available for bat foraging. Bat passes, including those of a soprano pipistrelle were limited to the boundary hedgerow and oak trees. However we were treated to the activity and calling of a pair of tawny owls. 
One of the participants had some interesting tales about th…

New lights at Kingston University, Knights Park campus.

The Hogsmill river at Kingston University's Knights Park campus, is an important site for bats. We have undertaken several bat walks in the past and this year (not for the first time) bats been seen flying  in the daytime, during the rising spring temperatures. However light spillage onto the water has always been of concern. The bright, white lights, have covered much of the water surface in front of the cafe/bar area. This has an effect on many species including plants and insects. Hundreds of insects stuck to the wall of the building attest to a light attraction or the 'vacuum' effect of  the light as it 'sucks' the insects  out of the surrounding habitat. 
The university has installed modern new lighting, which is 'warmer' on the colour spectrum, and will be less attractive to insects. The lights are more 'directional', which means there is less spillage onto the water. But they are actually brighter where the light is needed and when used only…

Kingston Biodiversity Network

The quarterly meeting of the Kingston Biodiversity Network was held at the new Quaker Meeting House, Fairfield East in their wonderful new building.  
Here we heard from Kingston's  Greenspaces Manager regarding the updated Greenspaces Strategy 2015-2018, which will include some of the documents we have been compiling over the last two years. This  includes the Habitat Action Plans for Open Water, Woodland and Grassland. It also has a statement on lighting and there was some debate on the topic of unwanted light spillage from members of the audience. 
Karen Harper spoke about the London Invasive Species Initiative and made clear the distinction between 'invasive' non-native species, which cause harm to the environment such as Japanese knotweed and Giant hogweed and 'non-invasive', non-native species, such as Little owl, which cause no harm.
Lastly Tom Hooker, the Chair of Surbiton Wildlife Group (see previous post) spoke to us about the group's aspirations to f…

Surbiton Wildlife Group at Claremont Gardens

We held a wildlife walk at Claremont Gardens, Surbiton for 25 Brownies from the local pack, with assistance from a member of the recently constituted Surbiton Wildlife Group (thanks to Stephanie).  This centred around the main attraction, which is the pond.
A bat walk was initiated as it grew dark and twenty participants from the Wildlife Group, were able to hear bats echolocating, whilst using bat detection equipment. 
Although late in the evening (sunset + 30 minutes) common pipistrelles finally arrived to drink and feed over the pond. In fact it was here that two bats spent a lot of their evening foraging over the water. 
Surbiton Wildlife Group wish to improve the pond area, which is partially dry, and have submitted an application of  £10k  to Aviva now online for VOTING! Once you have registered on the site you have 10 votes to use. If they receive sufficient votes to beat other projects in the same category, the project goes through to a final judging phase. Please send it a…