Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Wednesday 3rd.September 2008

Time for the Bird Survey on West Wickham Common for the City of London . Given how quiet all the birding blogs are finding it , and with a cool breeze , I didn't expect too much . I had a Green Woodpecker on the ground in the first sector , only to be spooked by a bike rider in a fluerescent top . The only other bird if interest in this sector was a Rose Ringed Parakeet . On the corner , heading uphill onto the Common proper , are several ancient Oak pollards . These are trees that were harvested for timber at about 3mtrs. off the ground , because as a Common , animals were allowed to roam , and would eat any regrowth if the trees had been coppiced , cut down to ground level and allowed to regrow , but pollarding allowed harvesting and regrowth , to be harvested again in future years . They are estimated to be over 600 years old , and the constant pollarding meant that the trunks got really large . Some of the trees need help to support their upper branches , and this is done by Scots Pine props . Each one of these ancient trees has it's own 'management plan' , and several are fenced to protect both them and the general public .
A little way up the hill , I came across this fungi on a dead tree . It is Pleurotus ostreatus-Oyster Mushroom . The distance between top and bottom is about 75cm. As can be seen , the local slugs and snails have already started eating from the bottom . Further along the path , a fungi I came across the other day , Amanita fulva-Tawny Grisette , but this time it is possible to see the bag -like volva , from which it erupts out of the ground , which is diagnostic of all the Amanita family , many of which are poisonous . Only the other day , another couple of people were in hospital , having eaten fungi that they thought was safe . Under an Oak tree , I found a young specimen of

Lactarius quietus-Oak Milk-cap , which is very common in Oak woodlands .

As you can tell the birds seen/heard were few and far between , but as I got to halfway , and turning back to the car , three of the Tit family , Blue , Great and Coal put in an appearance . On the side of the path , I spotted a couple of flower heads under the Bramble , and on looking closer saw that they were Sowbread-Cyclamen hederifolium . Looking like the Cyclamen that you find in the garden centre , but this species flowers before the leaves and also has a five sided throat , whereas the Cyclamen has a round throat and flowers after the leaves . I have seen them in the area before , but in larger numbers .

On the heathland part , at the top of the plateau , where clearance work and heather re-introduction has taken place , was a Small Copper , trying to warm up in the early sun. Around this plateau , are some ancient earthworks , believed to date back to the Iron Age , and thought to have been a fort . Although now with all the vegetation , it just looks like a ditch . Starting downhill now on the last sector , and a jumping insect catches my eye . I think it is a Common Field Grasshopper . Grasshopper rather than Cricket because of the length of the antennae , and Field rather than Meadow because the wings are as long as the abdomen .With the car in sight , I had the best bird sighting , a male Blackcap , skulking in the Bramble . The full survey turned up 15 species , which for a small site , I consider not too bad .

I did visit another couple of sites later , but will write them up tomorrow , as it doesn't look like I shall be out much over the next couple of days .

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