19 June 2016

Patch Silver

Last night the news broke that Tim's Patch BioBlitz had already achieved the magic 1000 spp, with still half the year left! Big up to all the many contributors to this impressive effort.

A bit of sun today, so all fired up, I went out to find elusive many-legged little things with no expectation of avian joy. Stared at a fast black Damselfly on SoM, but with no settlement, no idea. There was a perched Common Blue Damselfly on the path.

A tiny froglet hopped bravely across nearby. On approaching Heronry the bouncy flight and silvery plumage of a bird that had come in to fish the quiet end. My first Common Tern for two years! It went back to the middle of the lake and fished for five or so minutes.

 However after a successful dive it flew off towards the Basin.

This thrill must have woken me up a bit, as a Hobby then flew straight past. On returning towards domestic duties I saw a large green Dragonfly flying quite high to the east end of Reservoir Wood, probably a female Emperor. There was a tiny Common Blue Butterfly up there too. The Patch keeps delivering such extraordinary diversity - get out there.

18 June 2016

Remember me when I am gone

London has ambitions of being the first City National Park, which while being a worthy proposal in reality appears as empty as our other "great" national parks.  For them a special designation has had to be created because unlike parks around the world which hold important and vital ecosystems our parks lack much of an ecosystem at all.  They are purely cosmetic constructs offering views of a landscape created by damaging sheep farming and the shooting industry. 

What about London though–true it had a very high proportion of open spaces for a city off its size, but these are a mixed bag of the good and predominantly the bad.  We have huge acreage of gardens, but these are on the way out as landlords, rather than foot the bill for maintenance, concrete over plots, while private households go for the extra room outside (as pushed by gardening make-over programming) with decking and imported non-native planting.  Trees are being butchered and removed everywhere.  Our best ecosystems–old brownfield sites with little or no protection–are being devoured by housing or worse a theme park.  While the land grab goes on the few remaining gems are under increasing pressure from a growing population who treat open space as their own, with little regard for local rules in place to ensure we can all enjoy the space and what they hold. And more and more of them have dogs.  On top of that you have fly-tippers and other anti-social activities that these open spaces encourage, not that the land owners encourage them they just lack the resources or perhaps will to do anything about them. Even a benevolent act like feeding the birds in parks can have wider implications for the health of the birds and water ecosystems, while what may be the last benefit of our European Union membership may be the fining of the government for missing air quality targets in London.

Add all this up and it means a diminishing amount of bio-diversity in the capital, so indeed London would fit in well with our other rubbish "National Parks". If we can't halt the decline and are not prepared to put in serious effort to reverse the decline the proposal just becomes a publicity stunt.

Take for example our Skylark, a bird synonymous with the countryside which had been doing not so badly in our urban sprawl, but now is in terminal decline and with Barking Bay, Swanscombe Marsh threatened, the birds are being pushed out.

On the flats we just have 8 birds, with 5 of them singing males.  We blame all users and management of the flats, the dog walkers (not willing to change their routines) blame foxes and crows–and true enough the crows will take young given the opportunity and they are more intelligent than most of  visitors to the area, just waiting to make their move when birds are spooked from hiding. It doesn't help that the huge amount of food dumped by the ponds is sustaining this massive corvid population, and some idiots actually feed them in the grassland itself, in amongst the breeding larks.

So remember me when I am gone.

5 June 2016

When little avian is happening

It got a bit warmer today and where there was no life it now teemed.  Millions of micro moths rising up from every form of perch as you walked around, most presumably the invading Diamond-backed Moth.  In the SSSI Longhorn Moth were out in large numbers dancing in the air as the St Mark's Fly had the last time it was warm.

Took an hour or so before the first butterfly caught my eye, a Painted Lady in the SSSI, but as the day grew progressively warmer I ended up with around 10 species (including a second Painted Lady in the OSW), with the Small Copper and Common Blue the most striking of the lot.

The post has little to do with birds, there were very few, but the shear abundance and variety of the insect and to a lesser extent the plant life that we have on the patch is truly amazing, and wonderful.  I enjoyed myself immensely–though my ignorance is equally immense.  I hadn't planned on being out so long, but when I got home I realised I had been out for 13 hours.  I also realised I never want to come back as an insect: everything wants to eat you, lay their eggs in you and step on you (I apologise for every snail I terminate in this way) and very few appreciate your beauty and form.  I have found a favourite beetle and a bee.  One bearing the golden and black of the old Wolverhampton Wanderers (and Cambridge United) football strip (my teams of choice when I cared about it) and the bee the black and white markings of my beloved Belted Galloway.

It's June and there may well be more of this

 New favourite: Black and White Bee

 New faourite beetle: Wasp Beetle