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Head of Great Tit

Annual Burgess Park bird count

In any other year, in the last weekend of January the Friends would be joining residents and parks groups around the country to take part in the RSPB’s annual bird survey for the Big Garden Birdwatch; this year however, things are very different, and with current guidelines restricting park users to essential activities only, that sadly won’t be possible.

It’s vital that all those coming into the park at this time do so within the rules, and that they in turn remain respectful in giving the appropriate space so that other people who need to use the park may also do so safely. Thank you.

But even if we’re not getting around quite as much as we’re used to, thankfully the birds still are! And if we’re not stopping by the park, what instead are we likely to see coming to rest our balconies or hear twittering from among the hedgerows?

Great tit image and description

Well, if you missed his session back in May of last year, friend of the Friends, ornithologist Dave Clark hosted a superb introduction to birdsong specially designed to help in identifying species you might be lucky enough to find in and around our park. So if you’re looking for somewhere to start genning up on your ID skills, or you fancy a bit of a refresher as we look forward to the spring, we’ve updated our original presentation so that now it can be enjoyed with audio clips from home – open Birdsong at Burgess to begin.

Dave’s also put together some background on our local gulls, which species we’re likely to see in London, and how there’s no such thing as a ‘seagull’ – read all about it on the Friends website.

Or take a virtual walk through the park with a Burgess soundscape, recorded by the Friends in mid-summer to remind ourselves of what we can look forward to when we can return, with sounds of birdsong and children playing.

Burgess goes wild: Gulls

Gulls in winter

by Dave Clark, Ornithologist

The abundance and species of birds change with the seasons and at Burgess Park this is as true as anywhere in the country. Take a special look at the lake during the winter where the number of gulls and cormorants increase.

We commonly call these grey/black and white birds – seagulls – but they are actually coastal and inland birds and consist of several species, look out for these four different birds during the winter:

Black headed Gull: The smallest one – look out for the red bill and legs.
Common Gull: Not as common! as the others, a bit bigger with a white head
Herring Gull: Much bigger with a large yellow beak and pink legs
Lesser Black-backed Gull: Like a Herring Gull but black rather than grey wings and yellow legs
Litter pick volunteers load a rubbish truck

Tackling rubbish behaviour one bottle top at a time

Mother and child at litter pick morning

Litter picks are every Monday morning, 7.30-9.30am and Thursday evening session 6.15-8pm. Both weekly litter-pics continue until the end of September.

FOBP provide litter-picks, gloves and bags or bring your own. Come along to any session, meet-up at Chumleigh Gardens picnic benches.

Our first session was 20 July and between 12 and 20 people have come along at each session, 50 people have done 92 volunteering litter-picking sessions. Some people have come to lots of sessions and others just to one or two but it all helps. Together we’ve picked up bags and bags of rubbish and just as importantly loads of the little stuff that gets missed; bottle tops, cigarette ends, shiny metallic balloon confetti and broken plastic cutlery.

The FOBP litter-pick is helping the park gardeners after the week-end and improving our park for wildlife. With people from the community involved and some stronger messages from the council about the unacceptability of leaving rubbish we hope to make a small difference this summer.

Volunteer collection rubbish

During the summer you can’t have missed the photos and images of rubbish left in open spaces across the country, including Burgess Park. Parks have never been so popular, but for our gardeners it has just meant mountains of rubbish to collect every morning.
With many people complaining about the rubbish Friends of Burgess Park set up a regular weekly litter-pic session. We are so grateful for the fantastic help from Burgess Parkrun and Southwark Good Gym volunteers.

Come and join Burgess Park Team Zero Waste or get in contact if you have any suggestions for reducing litter at friendsofburgesspark@gmail.com.

Susan, Monica, Sam, Paula.

Postcard people and parks need sunshine

Don’t put Burgess Park in the shade

Burgess Park west (running from Wells Way to Southampton Way) is under threat.
New developments are planned all along the southside of the park on Parkhouse Street.

35-39 Parkhouse view from Burgess Park with planned buildings

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tall developments along Parkhouse Street
will block the sun

The 10 storey high blocks (about 30m) will be north facing and cast long shadows across the park. In the winter mornings the shadows will be over 100m long and reach to the main Surrey Canal path. In the summer, shorter shadows will still reach across the wildlife area, about one third the width of the park.

Overshadowing from multiple buildings* will change the character of the park. It will have a negative impact on green space, biodiversity, and people’s health and well-being.

Postcard back Jan 2020 v2Southwark Council needs to make clear in their planning policy and discussions with developers that they are taking seriously the cumulative impact of tall buildings along the park boundary.

Very little will grow in the deep shade from buildings. Some plants thrive in light shade, but wildflowers and pollinators need full sun throughout the day.

People and parks both need sunshine

Burgess Park west was created in 2018/19 with a £3.5m make-over taking out New Church Road, putting in a playground and extending the wildlife area. The new walkways through the wildlife area are already popular with children, walkers and runners bringing back into use a previously closed-off, no-go area. This is the squeezed middle of the park, less than 200 meters wide, so the extra usable space is really welcome

The wildlife will take a few years to become established. But the evidence from other areas of the park is that the mix of small woodlands, meadows and native bushes attracts and encourages a good mix of plants, insects, butterflies and birds. Sometimes this habitat mix is called scrubland. Often in planning reports it is implied as having little value. That might be the case in places with lots of green space but here in Southwark our patch of green space is important to many, many people.

Inner city green space is vital for people

People who live both nearby and further away use Burgess Park. Since the re-landscaping of 2012, user numbers have gone up and up. It is one of the major parks of the area. As Southwark’s population grows it will be very difficult to make more large, green spaces where children can run freely, play rounders and football. We must look after and keep green spaces for future generations.

Burgess Park has a vital role to play for local people. Around Burgess Park the new Aylesbury area is being built, taller blocks are planned along the Old Kent Road and the new residential developments along Parkhouse Street mean that many more people will use Burgess Park. We want the park to provide high quality green space with different landscapes for people to use and enjoy.

The real value of green spaces for people is easily overlooked

BAME respondents were twice as likely as white respondents to use parks and green spaces for team and individual sports and to meet friends.

  • Parks and green spaces are estimated to save the NHS around £111 million per year based solely on a reduction in GP visits.
  • Statistics from Revaluing Parks and Green Spaces, Fields in Trust, 2018 

* FOBP Shadows from tall buildings report, 2019

Find out more
Photo of bird with open beak

Burgess goes wild: Sparrows, Starlings, Whitethroats, Warblers

From Africa to the Old Kent Road

by Dave Clark, Ornithologist

10 years ago I did some bird surveying for the council at Burgess Park and last week I had a revisit. Wow I was impressed! Blown away by the positive changes that have occurred in the interim. 

photo of plants
Burgess Park meadow

Wildflower and meadow areas buzzing and singing with life, amenity grassland merging seamlessy into nature friendly areas. People working out with butterflies dancing around their feet.  No inaptly named so-called ‘eco-zones’, just a park working with nature.  All this in an urban area close to the centre of London.

The beloved Cockney House Sparrow which has lost 60% of its urban population since the 1970s is thriving here, not just picking up scraps from around the cafe but flitting amongst the meadowlands for live food for their hungry chicks.  

photo of bird on a branch
Whitethroat

I found at least 30 (last time just a pair) and to put this into some kind of context there are no Sparrows in Peckham Rye Park nor Dulwich Park.  Similarly the Starling population, compared to  other local urban spaces, is abundant. This lovable roguish street urchin of a bird, once so common it was deemed a pest, has suffered 66% losses since the mid-70s and is now a red-listed species, i.e. a species of highest conservation concern.

What was really exciting was finding seven different breeding territories of birds that had flown all the way from Africa. Five male Whitethroats busily displaying amongst the meadows and two Reed Warblers, guess where – in the reeds surrounding the lake. Both of these species travel from the Sahel, a region between the Sahara desert and the Savanna, to breed here in the UK. To find them so close to the centre of London is uncommon and a pleasure. The scratching sound of the Whitethroat and the gurgle of the Reed Warbler is deeply resonant of the exoticism of a faraway continent. Their joyous life affirming songs showing that nature can survive despite what obstacles we throw at it.

photo of bird on a reed
Reed Warbler

Well done, you should be proud. Burgess Park is an example of what can be achieved in an urban inner city area when ecological concerns are placed at the forefront of the agenda and not left at the bottom of the priority pile. Nature does not pick nature reserves. Nature is all around and can flourish with some care and attention. Praise should be given to Greg and his gardening team for being a large part of this environmental success despite having only limited resources and despite having to battle the conflicting interests that public parks bring.

So is this just a nature lover banging on …

Er … nope … the maintenance and improvement of the health of urban green spaces is paramount for all of us not just nature. 80% of us live in cities for a start and we also know that access and proximity to nature is beneficial to our physical and mental well being, reduces stress and reduces crime. By making nature more visible and audible the easier it becomes for people to engage with it.  Engagement with nature not only brings joy but also increases our care for our environment.

We can deny nature but we can’t get away from it, it’s the air we breathe, the food we eat, the water we drink. It’s incumbent on all of us to maintain its health.

Well done again!

 

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. 

 

 

 

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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/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!

http://diamondgeezer.blogspot.co.uk/2010/10/earls-sluice.html

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: friendsofburgesspark@gmail.com

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