A new year’s resolution was to revisit my most successful blog from a few years ago to see how the view from the Addington Hills has changed. There was no Saffron Square and no “Walkie Talkie” building as you will see later. I took pictures from right to left, covering Croydon first and then moving towards the City.
My new years resolution is to take my camera on even the shortest walk as you never know what you might see. On New years day I was richly rewarded by having the rare opportunity to photograph an albino squirrel and an egret within 500 yards of each other.
I was walking downstream from Waddon ponds when I spotted an Egret fishing in the shallow waters of the Wandle near to Guy Road, Beddington. Usually they are very shy birds and fly away as soon as they detect any human presence. Perhaps because there were few pedestrians and little traffic on the nearby road, the bird seemed unperturbed and spent at least twenty minutes while i was in the vicnity, sourcing his dinner.
I believe this bird maybe a little egret due to its yellow feet. The little egret is a member of the heron family and was once hunted for its feathers to festoon hats, driving the birds into extinction in Britain. Since the 1950’s thanks to new conservation laws and measures to clean up its habitat, including rivers like the wandle, numbers have increased and are no longer a cause for concern.
On the other side of Guy Road near to the new footpath heading to Beddington park I saw this Albino Squirrel. This had caused excitement amongst other walkers who had also taken out their cameras and smartphones to grab a picture.
The chances of an albino squirrel are estimated to be one in a 100,000 although other sightings in Surrey over the last year indicate that they may not be as rare as these figures suggest. Nevertheless this a genuine albino squirrel due to its red eyes, other squirrels may turn white due to a genetic illness, known as leucism, but they keep their black eyes.
Sadly albino squirrels may not survive for long as they lack the traditional grey camouflage to protect them from predators.
On my return journey I was pleased to again see the Egret who had continued fishing despite the fading light. Overall a good start to the new year and may I wish my readers a happy and healthy 2018.
Here is my take on the 12 days of christmas featuring the plants and animals that I have seen and included in my blog over the last 12 months. I have also provided a link to each post should you like to read more.
One the first day of christmas my true love sent to me..
On the second day..
On the third day..
On the fourth day..
On the fifth day..
On the sixth day..
On the seventh day..
On the eighth day…
On the ninth day…
On the tenth day..
On the eleventh day..
On the twelfth day..
And a Happy New Year to all my readers.
A sunny day in winter is as rare as tickets to the new Star Wars movie . Plus my daughter let me borrow her Canon PowerShot 14x optical zoom ( better than my 5x) so I hot footed it down to Waddon Ponds to capture the action.
When I was small boy my mum told me that the sight of seagulls inland meant there was a storm at sea. All I can say is that most days there must be a storm at sea as there are always gulls at Waddon Ponds. They seem to permanently inhabit the perches meant to guide the Kingfishers through the water channel when hunting for fish. Unfortunately, the idea never took off with the Kingfisher and the only time you will spot him is on the information board.
Of course Gulls are such a common sight inland nowadays that they are referred to as urban gulls. They find rich pickings in the discarded food packets that tend to be left behind on our streets and hang about over refuse centres. They nest at the top of office blocks and houses safe from their usual predators like foxes so that more gull chicks survive. It is estimated that there are 100,000 breeding pairs of urban gulls in our towns and cities.
Besides the gulls the swans and the herons were out enjoying the winter sunshine too.
The Croydon Water Tower is a grade 2 listed building built-in 1867 to provide clean water to the expanding population. It stands 125 feet high and was designed by Baldwin Latham, the borough engineer, in a Norman terracotta style.
The tower has a 30 foot diameter and cast iron girders supported a high level tank containing up to 40,00 gallons. A further tank of 94,000 gallons was situated in the basement. The top of the tower was 292 feet above sea level and this provided the necessary gravitational force to provide water to all of Croydon.
The site was discontinued in 1923 and replaced by a new reservoir on higher ground at Addington Hills. Both the tanks in the tower have been removed. There is a plaque marking the site as part of Croydon’s heritage, but it has long since been covered by vegetation. The metal fence keeps out any unwanted visitors.
The Canadian singer Susan Jacks sang about the Tower in 1973, it was called “Build a Tower” with an accompanying video of the Park Hill site. She was married to Terry Jacks who had a worldwide hit with “Seasons in the Sun” in 1974.
To see the Susan Jacks video Build a Tower that shows a clearer view of the Water Tower.
Park Hill itself is located only five minutes from East Croydon tram and rail station and provides an oasis of calm from the hustle and bustle of commuters and shoppers. With the recent announcement that Westfields have had their latest plans approved to build central Croydon’s mega shopping centre, it will be even more important to preserve this area.
A recent late trip to Waddon Ponds ponds was undertaken with the light fading fast. As the light dimmed the chatter from the birds in the trees grew exponentially. I knew birds sang in the morning but I wasn’t as aware that they also sang at dusk.
They sing in the late afternoon to tell other birds they are regrouping in the trees at night to sleep, as there is safety in numbers from predators. It is like calling the family together for the evening meal, but not everybody arrives at once so they make many calls to their fellows to say I am here please join me for a soirée.
It is usually the male birds that sing and it can take a lot of energy. So they will often leave the trees for a quick feed and then return in numbers. I tried to capture their flight patterns but with the poor light and only my compact camera the results, as you can see, are not so effective.
Birds roosting in trees at Waddon Ponds include starlings, rooks and the ubiquitous parakeets. Water birds will sleep sitting or standing up in the water, They often stand on one leg to keep warm. If you have been following the progress of the two cygnets then you will be pleased to know they are still with their parents and would now be unlikely to be evicted from the family home before xmas. But come the new year and with the adults swans thinking of nest-building, it will surely be time for cygnets to move out on their own.
I also noticed a large carp or is it a trout in the far pond away from the birds? There was a little more light in this area so I was able to capture the dark black fish against the dark bottom of the pond.
The fish seemed to be on its own so how it got there must remain a mystery as there is no friendly fish ladder from further downstream into the ponds. Perhaps a bird took the fish egg and transported it or it might have been a family pet that had outgrown its fish bowl and was surreptitiously deposited into the ponds.
Currently the entrance to the ponds at Mill lane is closed as paths and entrances are being improved. I will of course keep you updated with developments.
On my usual walk in Bramley Bank, I encountered this sign warning of a nearby Hornets nest. They had taken advantage of a large hollowed out tree to make a nest for the winter.
Hornet stings are more painful than your average wasp, because a hornet sting contains acetylcholine that attacks the central nervous system. Hornets can sting more than once as the sting mechanism is not barbed like bees. The European hornet sting is milder than their Asian counterpart. If you are allergic to insect stings then you should not walk any further, please retrace your steps back towards the entrance of the woods.
To get you closer to the action Central Parks used their five times optical zoom (not very close to be honest) on their standard compact camera to take the above pics. By standing still away from the nest, the few hornets that were about continued their daily movements to and from the nest without being interested in me. Don’t wave you arms around, stand between their flight path to the nest and of course don’t disturb or look up into the nest!
Should hornets sting your clothes this will release pheromones that encourage further hornets to visit you. Perhaps, this is why hornets get their bad reputation. But it was a cold day, few visible hornets and then the rain came down between the sunshine to give a gentle rainbow once I had cleared the woods.
The heron whose pond is about a hundred meters from the hornet’s nest continued fishing for his dinner unperturbed.
Back in May 10 cygnets were born to proud parents at Waddon ponds. Now just five months later only two cygnets remain with their parents and I managed to catch up with them on an unusually warm day for mid October.
To remind you of how small the cygnets were I have included a photo from my previous blog “ten cygnets”
On average cygnets stay with their parents for about six months before the parents push them away, forcing them to depart the ponds and find a flock of swans to join. At around four years of age they will find a mate and in turn have cygnets of their own.
Today though with the unseasonably warm weather there was no evidence of the swans pushing off the remaining cygnets they were all too busy preening themselves.
Interestingly, there are new information boards around the ponds informing visitors of the different species of ducks and mammals you can find at Waddon ponds and warning of the dangers of dumping unwanted aquatic pets in the water. I include a selection of the boards for your information.
The annual visit to the orchards at Heathfield to participate in free apple tasting got off to an inauspicious start when it began raining heavily. Fortunately a gazebo had been set up to protect the picked apples from the elements, so we began the tour by tasting a selection of the organic apples, all varieties of which were on sale after the tour.
Mick the volunteer orchard manager used his apple corer tool and knife to slice the apples into numerous segments and offered them to the group while he explained the history of Heathfield house and the development of the gardens that I have documented in previous open days
Fortunately the rain abated, so Mick showed us the mock-up beehive he uses to explain to children on school visits how the bees populate the hive. The ground floor is the assembly room where the male bees do the “waggle dance” to attract the females to the hive. Mick added it might not be to the same standard as “Strictly”, but it seems to have the desired effect. One queen, 200 boys to keep her company and the rest are female worker bees, including some princesses. They all congregate at the first floor for a networking event.
The second floor houses the layer of honeycombs which can take three months to fill with nectar and honey. In a good year, like last year, 3 lots of layers were added to match production. The top box is reserved for the nursery where the queen bee lays four thousand eggs a day. A hive can hold up to thirty thousand bees.
As the queen bee gets older she is challenged for supremacy of the hive by the princess bees. The queen usually triumphs so the defeated princess will release pheromones that will attract up to half of the hive to leave with her and find a new home. The bees will swarm to a nearby tree before scouting for a new residence. Heathfield will alert the beekeeper that a new hive is required urgently and so grow the local bee population. The boy bees will then mate with the new queen and die.
No chance of any bees swarming today so we moved onto the various trees in the orchard. The quince apple bears a remarkable resemblance to a pear, but the quince skin is hard and very bitter, a deterrent to eating it raw as it would give you a nasty stomach ache. Please always cook a quince. The American Mother looks like a cherry and the Lanes Prince Albert sounds like royalty .
Once tours of the orchard have been completed, all the apples can be picked and juiced in good time for the apple day at Heathfield on Sunday 1st October.
At the recent Biggin Hill Festival of Flight the red arrows flew over Addington. How do you photograph aircraft flying at up to 600 mph with a basic camera with 5x optical zoom? The answer is not very easily as you can see from the photo below.
I positioned my camera in the lower part of the picture hoping to anticipate when the arrows would appear, all I got was the vapour trail!
The white vapour is produced by injecting diesel into the hot exhaust at 400 degrees centigrade. This gives five minutes of white vapour. The red and blue colours are made by mixing dye with the diesel to provide one minute of each colour.
Addington Park itself is across the road from the Gravel Hill tram stop. The park was acquired from the Addington Palace estate in 1930. The Palace was used as a summer-house by the Archbishops of Canterbury in the 1930 and the enclosed Palace is still standing today at the upper end of the Park, though it is not visible from the park. The Palace is not open to the public but its grounds contain a public golf course. I am sure the pilots got a good view!