Monthly Archives: May 2018

Lime tree flower closeup

Burgess Goes Wild: May 2018

Linden blossom time

Photo of Lime flowers
Lime or Linden blossom by N P holmes [CC BY-SA 3.0 (
Any day now, the Lime trees (Common Lime or Linden, Tilia Europea) will come into bloom. They perfume the air with one of the most delightful scents of summer. Walk along the main avenue by the tennis courts, especially in the evening and enjoy. This tree wants to attract bees and moths to pollinate it, so gives off most scent in the evening. The flowers are not showy, but worth examination as they are grow directly out of a leaf-like structure; this acts like a helicopter later on in the year when it separates from the tree and floats away to spread the seeds.

Lime blossom produces lovely honey and bees also collect honey dew to add to their honey. Honey dew – that sticky stuff on car windows is what the greenfly pass, they eat enormous quantities of sap to gain small amounts of protein and excrete the surplus sap.

Many types of moth and their caterpillars also feed on the heart shaped leaves and the nectar, Lime Hawk Moth being the most spectacular. May and June are the time to find them on a warm evening.  It’s worth looking in lime trees outside the park as the park trees are kept trimmed at the base, look for a tree with arisings (Twigs growing from the base.) and you may spot a caterpillar with a spine on its tail. You may also find some strange red things on the tops of the leaves, lime nails which are produced by tiny mites.

As a child, I used to place a leaf over my pinched index finger and thumb, then pop it with the palm of my other hand – goes off like a paper bag.

Cravat carved from Lime Wood by Grinling Gibbons. © Victoria and Albert Museum
Cravat carved from Lime wood by Grinling Gibbons © Victoria and Albert Museum

Lime blossom is made into many perfumes, cosmetics and medicines. You can easily make a tea from them to treat a cold but the flowers must be freshly opened or they become narcotic. You preserve them by drying them so that they are available to use all year.

The inner bark layer is very fibrous and is used to make paper and fabric in Japan. The timber is soft and almost grainless so easy to carve. The Cravat by Grinling Gibbons will be on display at the Lost Treasures of Strawberry Hill in Twickenham, 20 October 2018 – 24 February 2019.

Butterflies and bogs

The nearby mounds are a good place to spot butterflies at this time of the year. There are several small blue butterflies which are difficult to distinguish, the one called ‘Small Blue’ has a sooty, dusty blue appearance, so I didn’t spot that one, there were either common blue or holly blue. The mounds are not mown, so the clover is able to bloom and provide food for butterflies and other pollinators.

Photo of sedge flowers
Pendulous Sedge by AnemoneProjectors [CC BY-SA 2.0 (]
See how the vegetation changes on the mounds. At the base, the plants are bigger and you will find clumps of sedge. This plant seeds itself all over the area and tells us about the soil and terrain. It is a plant that likes poorly drained or even boggy soil and Burgess Park can get quite boggy. if it were not for the Thames Barrier, it would be subject to flooding as it is quite low lying and used to be on the banks of The Earl’s Sluice (One of London’s lost rivers). This ran from Ruskin Park to Rotherhithe cutting across a corner of the park by the junction of Albany Road with Camberwell Road. It now feeds into the sewer system, what a shame!

Pendulous Sedge (Carex Pendula) looks like a grass, but feel the stem. It is a most unusual triangular shape with sharp edges, almost like something engineered. Find some grass to feel the difference.

Do send in your nature observations to:

photo of Egyptian goose and gosling

Burgess Goes Wild: Learning about Waterfowl

On a drizzly Saturday morning in April, Burgess Park was bright green with new growth on trees and shrubs. Despite the terrible weather the Friends of Burgess Park were finding out how much people knew about the birds on the lake; their names; what they eat and the problems of feeding bread to the ducks.

Most people could name a few of the species we have on the lake  but did not know that feeding bread is bad for the birds’ health, pollutes the water and encourages rats.

We tested out lettuce as one of the alternatives to bread. At first the geese and coots ignored it but after a while and a few pecks the Hooper geese ate lots. They like small pieces of lettuce and the smaller birds like it quite finely shredded.  Some were eating out of one of our volunteers Tom’s hands.

Regular dog walkers told Susan about the lone pair of swans who for the last three years have laid a clutch of eggs, but none have hatched. This year there are five pale blue eggs in their next, so we will have to wait a few weeks to see what happens this year. Fingers crossed there will be some baby cygnets wandering around soon!

Park users made a number of suggestions about what they would like to see:

  • Signage explaining about the wildlife on the lake
  • Temporary signs when food like rice is left for the birds
  • Some system for swapping bread for alternative bird food

As well as educating people about what should and shouldn’t be fed to birds, we also undertook a waterfowl bird count. Despite the awful weather, there were still a lot of birds. Here’s what we saw:

2 Carrion crows

4 Coots

4 Canadian geese

5 Mallards

6 Moorhens

17 Egyptian geese

3 Greylag geese

17 Swifts

6 Tufted ducks

2 Starlings

3 Green parakeets

2 Swans

1 Carp

1 Herring gull

Download the WATERFOWL ID sheet

This was the first of several events we have planned under the theme of ‘Burgess Goes Wild.’ Check out the events page for more information.


Coot makes an ingenious nest


Nesting Swans

Egyptian Geese
Egyptian Goose Family