Tag Archives: wildlife

Photo of orange butterfly with spots

Burgess goes wild: Butterflies & Moths

Nature under our noses in Burgess Park

by Simon Saville
Chair of the Surrey & SW London Branch of Butterfly Conservation

I suppose that most people don’t think of butterflies when they think of Burgess Park. But they should! Already this year (by late March) I have seen a Small Tortoiseshell, a Small  White, a couple of Commas and a couple of Brimstones.

Over the past few years, I have spotted no fewer than 16 different types of butterfly in the park. On one spectacular sunny July day, I saw more than 160 butterflies of 10 different species, plus a couple of day-flying moths.

Burgess Park has been managed quite sensitively for wildlife, and there are lots of good places for butterflies. Some of them are shown in this map:

Map of Burgess Park showing where butterfly species have been seen

1 – Elm trees, supporting some very elusive White-letter Hairstreaks
2 – Nature area, being redeveloped. This could become a nature hotspot in a few years’ time
3 – The big mounds, home to the Common Blue butterfly
4 – By St. George’s Way
5 – Grassy area with brambles
6 – South-facing slope
7 – Wooded area north of the lake
8 – Grassy area by the lake
9 – Grassy area and hedges between Waite St and Oakley Place
10 – Glengall Wharf, start of Surrey Canal Walk

Photo of orange spotted butterfly

The Comma is a harbinger of spring, often seen in April. They spend the winter hibernating as adults and they reappear as soon as the weather warms up. This one was in the wooded area north of the lake – a favoured spot. The caterpillars used to feed on hops, but now have a taste for nettles and this has helped them increase their range and abundance in recent years. 

Photo of a orange, black and white spotted butterfly

The Small Tortoiseshell also hibernates as an adult. This one was spotted in the middle of the Park by some brambles in April. The caterpillars feed on nettles, so it’s important that we don’t tidy the nettles away! We used to see a lot more of these butterflies. Nobody really knows why they have crashed in numbers so quickly.

Photo of a dark grey butterfly with spots

A Speckled Wood in the Glengall Wharf area in April. They like the semi-wooded areas and enjoy dappled sunlight.

Photo of gold moth

A Sitochroa verticalis moth (this has no English name) on one of the big mounds in June when many of the flowers were in bloom. Also around at that time were lots of Burnet Companion and Silver-Y moths. The latter is a migrant that can appear in London in big numbers.

Photo of pale blue butterfly

One of many Common Blue butterflies seen on the big mounds in June last year. The caterpillars feed on Bird’s-foot Trefoil which is present here.

Photo of flower meadow

The big mounds are often teeming with insect life, a result of the many wild flowers present.

Photo of striped moth

The spectacular Jersey Tiger moth can be seen flying in the Park in July and August. This photo is from Kennington, about a mile away. This used to be restricted to the south coast, but is now spreading rapidly. It can be seen all over south London. Because it is colourful and flies by day, it’s often mistaken for a butterfly.Photo of trees in winter

Elm trees by New Church Road. If you are lucky, you might see pairs of male White-letter Hairstreaks spiralling in mock combat at the top of the canopy.

Butterflies seen in Burgess Park      Larval foodplant

Brimstone                                                      Buckthorn

Comma                                                           Nettle

Common Blue                                              Birdsfoot Trefoil

Gatekeeper                                                   Grasses

Green-veined White                                  Crucifers

Holly Blue                                                      Holly (spring), ivy (summer)

Large Skipper                                              Grasses

Large White                                                  Brassicas

Meadow Brown                                          Grasses

Orange-tip                                                    Garlic Mustard, crucifers

Red Admiral                                                 Nettles

Small / Essex Skipper
(not separately recorded)                      Grasses

Small Tortoiseshell                                   Nettles

Small White                                                 Brassicas, crucifers

Speckled Wood                                         Grasses

White-letter Hairstreak                          Elm

I haven’t seen any Painted Lady, Peacock or Ringlet butterflies in Burgess Park, but I would be surprised if they were not present, as they have been seen at Nunhead Cemetery (3km away). The Painted Lady, which is a migrant species, was also seen at Walworth Garden (1km away). There may be Purple Hairstreaks on the oak trees by Waite Street.

Moths present include: Jersey Tiger, Six Spot Burnet, Burnet Companion, Silver-Y and Sitochroa verticalis.

All this goes to show what a wonderful place Burgess Park is for butterflies. I know that Southwark Council are keen to make it even better.

Butterfly Conservation has started a ‘BIG City Butterflies’ project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This aims to get people to engage with the green spaces near them and to discover the wildlife that’s under their noses. We’ll be using Burgess Park as one of our key sites in SW London. It’s early days, but you can read more about Big City Butterflies here. 

Graphic of a butterfly

27 March 2019

www.butterfly-conservation.org 

 

 

Lichen on a tree trunk

Burgess Goes Wild: Winter 2019

 

Crows in trees in Burgess Park
By the Bridge to Nowhere – a murder of crows

A murder of crows
Perhaps, if crows were brightly coloured, they would be loved instead of feared. Part of the Corvid family which includes magpies, ravens, jays and jackdaws they are arguably the most intelligent and fascinating of all birds. I have watched them fly off with a chicken’s egg, wash the salt off a chip in a puddle before eating it and mobbing a fox. Set aside an hour to watch this brilliant documentary which will make you view crows in a whole new light. 

Grass tussocks in Burgess ParkJust a piece of unkempt turf on the common that is providing shelter, protection and food for next summer’s butterflies, grass-hoppers and maybe the odd frog.

 

 

 

Burgess Park path 2
Inviting new pathways in the Nature Area in Burgess Park west.

Burgess Park path 3

We don’t hear so much about acid rain these days, but it’s still there, scrubbing clean the tree trunks of moss and lichen, so a treat to see this.

Photo of tree trunk
Lichen on Horse Chestnut bark near the underpass.

Not one organism, but two, a fungus and an alga that can’t live without each other. The fungus provides the structure and the algae make the sugar. There are many different species of Lichen. It’s not feeding on the tree, but is affected by the acidity of the water running off the bark . You will find Lichen on brick and stone, glass, metal ,leather surfaces too.

Lichen is used to make Litmus paper. Dies are extracted and added to filter paper so that it turns red in acid conditions and blue in alkaline. Some lichens contain Usinic acid which is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and attacks cancer cells. Unfortunately, it also damages the liver.

Seed heads

Still some lingering seed heads from last year’s spectacular display in St George’s Gardens. Many seeds have a protective coating and won’t germinate until they have been exposed to frost. This keeps them fresh and hydrated ready to send out new roots into the warm moist spring soil.

photo of fish just caught in the lake

Burgess Goes Wild: The fishing lake

bridgenewBurgess Park fishing lake was redesigned in 2012/13 and opened to the public along with the rest of the park after five years.

Nature and caring people have made the lake as you see it today with reed beds. The very tall reed is Norfolk reed mace. The shorter reeds are Phragmites. We also have Yellow Flag Iris, Bulrush and Water Mint in places.

In 2016 we received 6 rolls of coir matting which were planted with various water plants. These you can see between the bridge and the bird sanctuary. So have fun finding out the rest of the names of the plants for yourselves.

Birds
nesting on the lake
Mute Swans

Waterfowl or birds that live on the lake are Mute Swans, three different types of goose (Canada Goose, Greylag Goose and Egyptian Goose), Coots (black body, white beak and head dress), Moorhens (brown body, red beak with yellow tip), and Tufted Ducks (males – black and white and females – brown).

Parents and babies
Egyptian Geese

Sometimes there are Common Pochard (grey body with reddish head), a pair of Great Crested Grebes (on Burgess lake in July 2018) and also the Little Grebe.

nesting on the lake
Coot

There are many other birds that visit the water to feed – Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Common Tern and different types of Sea Gulls.

Have a look at these pages to help you identify the waterfowl on Burgess Lake.

Underwater

There is as much that lives underwater as above. The most common plant seen is Blanket Weed, next is Najas Minor which is growing in the non-fishing side of the lake, and some patches of Silk Weed out towards the middle of the lake. The lake bed is made up of areas of mud, rubble and rubbish that have been covered in silt. In the pockets of silt can be found Bloodworm (larvae of the non-biting Midge – the little flies you see over your head sometimes) Dragonflies, Damselflies and other types of water insect, too many to list.

Friends of Burgess Park will be pond-dipping by the lake on Saturday 21 July, 4.30 to 6pm as part of London’s National Park City Week. Come and join us.

photos of fishermen with the fish they have caught
Fishermen at Burgess Park lake
 Fishing

There are many fish in the lake. Carp is the main species found, Tench is next, then Bream, Roach, Rudd, Perch, Dace and Catfish. Carp can be divided into sub species Common, Mirror, Linner, Fully scaled, Ghost and Koi.

When fishing at Burgess Park lake you must have a rod licence before you fish. You will need to purchase a day ticket from the council web site. The Environment Agency, Southwark Council officers and community wardens come around regularly to check on licences.

While fishing you will need to have a landing net 36 inches minimum and unhooking mat as there is a chance of a large carp or more.  You must fish from the swims only. Swims 1 to 6 are concrete. There is a dirt area at the side to put up a shelter and they are on the school and toilet side of the lake. Swims 7 to 10 are on the other side of the lake and are dirt covered.

If you’re lucky and catch a fish then you must return all fish back to the water. 

 

 

 

Photo of Albany Road and Wells Way

Burgess Goes Wild: March 2018

Unleash your wild side

Find out more about the wildlife in Burgess Park over the next few months.

Saturday 28 April  Find out more about the bird spotting by the lake

All through June we doing #30DaysWild #wildaboutburgess part of the London Wildlife campaign. The perfect excuse to share your favourite photos @BurgessPk.

Saturday 21 July – 4.30 to 6pm Pond-dipping by the lake. Part of London’s National Park City Week.

Chumleigh Gardens

Daphne Odora
Daphne odora

In a corner of the English Garden you’ll find Daphne odora. As the name suggests, it has a gorgeous perfume.

Spot the frogs in the pond. There is some frogs spawn and probably more to come. Creep up slowly and you may hear them croaking. The tadpoles will emerge over the next 21 days. At first, they stick themselves to plants digesting the remaining egg yolk in their guts, then they swim about feeding on algae. As they grow, their diet expands to include other pond life and even plant material which they grind up with tiny teeth. By 12 weeks, they look like tiny frogs and at 16 weeks, they assume their adult shape and can leave the pond.

photo in Chumleigh Gardens
The Wattle tree which I think is Acacia gunii is just about to burst into bloom.

Between Chumleigh Gardens and St George’s Church

Alder trees

These are native trees that are usually found in boggy ground. Tap one of the yellow catkins and you will see a puff of pollen. These are wind pollinated plants that don’t need insects to fertilise them though you may see bees collecting the protein rich pollen to feed to their larva.

close-up of catkins
Alder tree catkins

There are male and female flowers on the same tree. The female flowers are much smaller catkins which develop into cones. You will find brown cones from last year still on the trees. The leaves are round with a notch cut out at the tip and the bark has small holes in it.

Alder trees fix nitrogen into the soil, so add to the fertility.

Because they grow in boggy conditions, their orange coloured timber will not rot in water so it was used in the foundations of Venice and for water pipes. Above ground, it will quickly rot.

Siskin, Redpol and Goldfinches eat the seeds, several moths feed on the leaves and the bark is used in medicine.

The Dry Garden

Close-up of purple flowers
Hellebore flowers in The Dry Garden behind St George’s Church