Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Monday, December 29, 2008

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christmas interlude

My father and I went to inspect the park on a particuarly cold day, but the sun was shining and we were lucky enough to see the kingfishers at the Downtown Pond, although they were moving far too quickly for me to capture them on film. We also saw a rather lovely heron at Globe Pond. A banging sound from a bird box revealed a great-tit, who had apparently been inspecting the interior for potential accomodation. The views from Stave Hill were good, as usual.

Later on, feeding a friend's cat in Tavistock Tower, I stood and watched the aquatic birds on Greenland Dock - more seagulls than I can remember being here in previous years, great crested grebes and the usual plethora of mallards and coots.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Winter is here

My father and I went to stretch our legs at 2.45ish in the afternoon, yesterday and the overcast sky was already getting dark. It was less of an enjoyable walk than an interesting one. There was nothing much to see apart from squirrels at any of usual haunts, and only Globe Pond rewarded us with some coots and ducks. Even the reliable ivy was completely devoid of insect life.

Quadron and TRUE had both clearly been at work. The Woodland was immaculately tidy, with leaves swept up and dead shrubbery cut back, and there was new clearance and fencing work in the ecological park. Nice to see it being cared for.

My first impression was that the leaves had well and truly fallen, with squirrel drays, bird nests and buildings visible from areas where leaves would have blocked the view only a month or so ago. But seeing the woodland from Stave Hill showed that there were still some patches of brown and orange in the woodland. Canary Wharf, Tower Bridge, the Gherkin and the London Eye were all clearly visible, even against the cold grey sky.

All in all, it looked chilly, damp and desolate. Winter has well and truly set its mark on the place. It was almost dark by the time we arrived home at 3.30.

Today it has rained unmercifully all day.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Kingfishers at Downtown Pond

Wonderful news from Steve Cornish. He has been watching a pair of kingfishers at the Downtown Pond. The photograph is one that he took very recently.

Steve says that the kingfishers have been fishing the pond for over two weeks now after a short summer break. This is now a regular pattern aand Steve believes that the pair feed along the woodlands waterways from early spring until summer then spread their territorial wings further afield when their food source is in abundance.

He has two theories for this pattern. The first is that they come back to Russia Dock Woodland around October or November because the water temperature is slightly higher due to the underground heating pipework feeding the houses around globe pond. this is why we get duck weed problems all year round particularly close to mahogany pond.

His second theory is that the shallower waters in the woodlands are much better suited to kingfishers visual hunting skills during the winter months where smaller fish such has sticklebacks will go into deeper water around the docks.

Brunel's Thames Tunnel slideshow

A lovely set of images have been posted on the BBC website depicting Sir Marc Brunel's Thames Tunnel, an engineering marvel in its day and the first tunnel to run beneath a navigable river. It ran between Rotherhithe and Wapping

The image on the left here is the first of the slides but go to the BBC website for all seven.

One of my earlier Rotherhithe Heritage posts focuses on the Thames Tunnel, if of interest. It also shows one or two rather nice images.

Lost Rothehithe Street


"The western end of Rotherhithe Street and the adjoining streets was, in many respects, the heart of Rotherhithe. Today only Rotherhithe Street (west end) c.1930. Southwark archives.one property remains - No. 41, a house which for many years was offices for Braithwaite and Dean, Lightermen. The buildings to the west of No. 41 up to the Angel Public House were either destroyed by a fire just before the Second World War or by bombing at the start, the buildings to the east by London County Council in the early 1960s.

The riverfront properties had largely been occupied by by barge builders and repairers and before that sail-makers and mast-makers. The historic 'Jolly Waterman' public house also stood here and was in use up until the 1030s."

See the above page for the full story.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Resuming the blog shortly

I suspended the blog whilst I was in Wales with my family, on November 8th, but I will be back in Surrey Quays soon.

I have started updating the blog again, with information from other sources, and hope to be back in the parks in the not too distant future, camera in hand.

Reading Les Butler's blog I don't think that my month-long absence has caused me to miss much, which is something.

The leaf-fall here in Wales is nearly complete, and I would imagine that the case is much the same in London.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Last lot from Friday 31st October

The first photograph is from just beyond the Greenland Dock side entrance to the Russia Dock Woodland, and the rest were all taken in Stave Hill Ecological Park.

Newly cleared track, behind Globe Pond

Ulex europaeus

Detail of previous plant - seed pods

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Penultimate lot from Friday 31st October

Ivy flower

Underside of leaf, with silhouette of fly standing on other surface

Plane tree bark

So far I've been unable to determine which plant this. There are several candidates.

Monday, November 3, 2008

More from Friday 31st October

More photographs of autumn in full swing, minus the leaves!

Spindle Tree
Species: Euonymus europaeus
Family: Celastraceae

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Life in the Eco park ivy hedge on Hallowe'en

Thanks to the ivy hedge there was life, shape and colour to photograph all in one place. I've had a go at updating this page with details about the insects shown but, as with trees, I find it very difficult to tell them apart because the subtleties of the distinctions between them are often just that - subtle.

The photographs below at the above-mentioned ivy hedge were all taken on Friday. Only a day later today was grey and cold and had precious little charm about it. I had the both the honour and the deep regret of accompanying one of my closest friends to Heathrow to wave him away to a new life in the U.S.. As we sat at the bar having a farewell drink I looked out through the window and saw that snow was falling on Terminal 3. It was very pretty for a moment but by the time I had regretfully delivered Rory to Departures, and left the Terminal to locate the tube station, the snow had metamorphosed into to an absolute downpour of rain. The deluge didn't let up for the rest of the day.

The seven day forecast is not a happy one but hopefully there will be a few dry moments in the coming weeks when I can trundle over the road with the camera and see what's going on. Failing that, Les Butler seems to be far more resilient than me and his blog (see menu right) has some absolutely stunning recent photographs.

Ivy flower
Hedera helix

Shield Bug, but it's difficult to tell which one.
Coreus marginatus?

Phaonia valida (possibly - insects aren't my strong point!)
A specie of horsefly

I'm not even taking a rough guess on traying to narrow this one down!

Dung fly

More than slightly out of focus, unfortunately
Les Butler has much better examples on his blog, one of which can be found on a recent post by clicking here. It is accompanied by many other really lovely photographs.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallowe'en sunshine

I have no idea whether it was warmer today or on the 29th, which was the last time that I braved the cold. It was impossible to judge because I was wearing so many layers that I looked like a bright pink toffee-apple, on a blue-grey stick, all woolly jumpers and ski jacket with a couple of skinny denim-clad legs sticking out of the bottom. Not a pretty sight, but I was warm.

The first thing that I noticed was that Quadron had done a brilliant job of managing the leaf situation. The leaves had colonized the pathways and, although very pretty, they were somewhat slippy and made it difficult to see where some of the paths actually went. The tidy-up job left enough leaves to look thoroughly autumnal, but removed any potential hazards. Most of the leaves in that area are from the plane tree family (platanaceae) and offer a glorious autumn colour display.

A tree stump just at the start of the winding path that leads from the Greenland Dock underpass (a former lock) has a large family of fungi growing out of it. My parents, who are great edible toadstool collectors, would be able to identify it on the instant but all I can say with certainty is that you wouldn't want to collect it for a fry-up. Wide dark brown saucers with a layer of film coating them hid, on closer inspection, a revoltingly slimy soup which was attracting insect life.

I saw one or two others visitors, but not many had braved the cold. Most of the other walkers had dogs with them and there was only one woman with a pushchair and a single jogger. Even the birds were somewhat lacking. The pigeons were out in force but apart from them I saw nothing more than a few sparrows, a robin and some blackbirds. Even the ducks and coots were hiding out, with only a handful lending their presence to the day on the Downtown Pond.

Quadron, TRUE, or a combination of both have been busy in all areas of the parks, and I noticed that a new track had been cleared where the Globe Pond stream meets the footpath that circles behind Globe Pond.

At the Downtown Pond there were some deep blue-black berries (possibly Aronia melanocarpa?) and a few bravely-surviving blue zephyr flowers but the main plant to take hold at the moment is the moss, which is rampant. The moss has the most marvellous bright green shades, brilliant in the sunshine, carpeting great areas. The other thing that I noticed everywhere, perhaps only because other distractions are now missing, were the lichens on various tree branches.

Most of the berries are going over, although some brave rose hips and others are still contributing their colours to the autumnal kaleidoscope. Some of the plants appear to be coming into winter bud, and I was lucky enough to notice some white pearl-like globes which may be U.S. imports called snowberries (Symphoricarpos albus). Let me know if they are something else, but that is the only description of leaf and fruit that appears to fit.

If I hadn't climbed the small rise beyond the butterfly sanctuary I wouldn't have had many photographs to show for my outing. I only had the macro lens with me, and I hadn't found much to point it at, but surveying the world from the rise I realized that the ivy hedge on the path climbed over a wall which was now, due to TRUE's clearences, visible and accessable. I went to have a look and found that it was absolutely covered with wasps and some flies. The flowers of the Ivy (Hedera helix) are spherical with tiny flowers radiating out on stalks, of which there will be more photographs in the next few days.

Wasps are not my favourite insects because although they are lovely to look at I've been stung a few times and BOY it hurts. Sticking my lens into close proximity, with my head only a few inches behind seemed like a mad thing to do, but in the end I scarcely noticed the buzzing and flying. The wasps were fully focused on the ivy flowers, moving between them with absolutely no interest in macro lenses with strange women on the end. There was a sharp breeze so getting the insects in focus was a challenge but I got one or two shots which weren't too bad.

It was a marvellous outing. The colours continue to be gorgeous. I'll post more photographs from today over the next few days.