Nine Cygnets

cygcircleI have been following the progress of the pair of swans at Waddon Ponds for the last two years. I am pleased to report that recently they became the proud parents of 9 cygnets.

cygcuddleThe young cygnets can survive the first day after hatching by being sustained on egg yolk from their shell. By the second day they can swim so as to avoid any intruders. In first two weeks the cygnets will be fed insects that are rich in protein by their parents. Fully grown swans eat only plants but cygnets need to grow quickly to survive.

cygnine

cygcloseparentHerons, gulls and foxes would all eat young cgynets so their parents are alway close by, particularly when resting by the river bank. Adult swans will tolerate humans quite well, but will react swiftly to any domestic animals that venture too near.

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After reading the latest blog from Croydon Central Parks she promptly falls asleep!

It is not only cygnets that can be seen at Waddon Ponds. The mallard ducklings hatched a few weeks prior so are larger than the cygnets at this stage.

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Young duckling.

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Three little ducks

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After a brief shower on a warm and humid day the grass was rich with insects  attracting a large but orderly crowd of birds..

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..until the Canada geese got involved and then there was pandemonium!

 

 

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The Shepherd of Hutchinson’s Bank

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At the open day at Hutchinson’s bank we met a shepherd who tends the sheep and makes sure they are well and have not suffered any injuries. She lives locally and feeds them once a week with a special diet mix and vitamins.

shepmixThe sheep are on loan between May and September as a special arrangement between the London Wildlife trust that owns the site and Croydon Council. By introducing the sheep they keep the grass and the leaves on the bushes short and rotate them onto the next field to continue grazing. When the grass is shorter the vitamin mix helps to ensure the sheep receive sufficient nourishment.

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A sheep’s eye view

sheptendsheepTwo varieties of Sheep can be found on the bank: the Beswick sheep and the Herdwicks.The Beswick sheep with black faces keep their coats in the summer, but they are kept short as they tend to molt when they rub up against the hawthorn bushes . The Herdwick Sheep like to be shorn and they originate from the mountains of Cumbria and were saved from extinction by a certain Beatrix Potter. As the old joke goes: “Was that Harry Potter’s Mum?” A breeding programme was set up by Beatrix and now the wool is popular for use in eco-friendly building insulation. These sheep can also be seen locally at Heathfield.

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Beswick sheep

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A meeting of sheep where there are lots of woolly thinking!

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After indulging in the special extra feed of nutrients it is back to .. more eating!

Hutchinson’s bank is also famous for its butterflies and a wide variety of species were documented on my blog at last year’s open day. I also identified a cricket in the long grasses. Crickets make their noise by rubbing two wings together. The stridulation organ located on the forewing has a large serrated vein that runs along the length of the wing and at the end is a scraper. By rubbing the forewings at an angle they create their chirping sound. The female does not have any serration so is unable to make sound. Can you spot the cricket in the picture below?

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Can you spot the cricket? (hint at the end of the blog)

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signs advising of the presence of sheep and a reminder to keep dogs under control

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If you still can’t find the cricket look closer at the middle of the picture.

 

 

 

 

Dragonflies,damselflies and tadpoles

dragrestSpent a sunny afternoon trying to capture dragonflies and damselflies flying erratically over the pond at Heathfield. At times it did test my patience but after paying closer attention to where they tended to rest, for a few seconds, I was rewarded with the above and following pictures. Fortunately my camera has a 14x optical zoom which makes for better close-ups.

dragbluestillDragonflies spend many years living as nymphs under the water and then for only a few weeks to a maximum of 6 weeks as fully fledged dragonflies. Surprisingly they are carnivores eating midges, butterflies, moths, the smaller damselflies and even other dragonflies.

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damselfly smaller than a dragonfly but bigger then the common fly

Damselflies are smaller than their fellow Odonata the dragonfly. Dragonflies rest with their wings open whereas damselflies rest with their wings closed and their front and back wings are the same size.

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The damselflies courtship is often described as exquisite as they fly together. A mating pair form a wheel shape with  the male clasping the female by the back of the head while the female arches her abdomen to connect with his lower genitals. They may remain in this position for a minute or two but, occasionally for hours while the egg laying process in water based plants  is completed. The larvae are also carnivorous eating all types of smaller insects.

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pond skater: their splayed feet create surface tension so they can walk on water

Dragonflies rely on freshwater so the small Heathfield pond by the bridge is relatively unpolluted. The larger Heathfield pond by the driveway and next to the storage garage and the disabled car park near the front of the house had few dragonflies but many tadpoles. Their life-cycle is more familiar as they first grow back and then front legs with their tails eventually disappearing when they become frogs or toads

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could not resist including one more shot of a departing dragonfly!

 

 

 

 

Chick Lit at Waddon Ponds

moor baby pair

moorhen chicks

The recent wet weather has not prevented the moorhen chicks from leaving the nest to explore their new surroundings. The mother took advantage of the man-made nest to lay her eggs. She usually has batch of 5-8 eggs and incubation takes around 3 weeks. The young fledge after 40 days and stay close to mum as I witnessed when my camera zoomed too close to the young birds. In fact when under prolonged threat the parents will often fly to safety with their young holding onto them.

moor mum

moor stepsBoth the moorhen and the coot, seen below, have set up camp on the this stretch of the pond near to the spring, as it is sheltered from the vagaries of fluctuating water levels by the bridge that funnels water slowly through to the main area of the pond.

moor home tea

coots

moor night outYou will notice the lone egg in the coot’s nest. Is this one the mother has forgotten to hatch? It might be left deliberately as the egg may not be hers, as around 15 per cent of all eggs are laid by other female coots intruding the nest. The incumbent coot is very clever though and can count eggs and reject any ones that do not match the distinct coloring of their own brood. I will have to monitor developments closely and bring you any new updates.

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raised water level on the river Wandle

The recent downpour of water on monday has caused the levels of the Wandle to rise quickly, as seen on this measuring stick close to the Richmond Green bridge just downstream of Waddon ponds. I have been unable to determine the unit of measurement being used, it is not feet as the depth of the water is too shallow as shown by receding water levels in my later picture. It is not inches or centimetres and I found one reference to fathoms to measure water levels. Sounds reminiscent of the tv series “Voyage to the bottom of the sea”, hardly relevant to this stretch of the Wandle! Nevertheless the depth was sufficient for some birds to take shelter on the bank or among weeds on raised ground.

moor river fast

the black coloring of the water is tyre run off from nearby roads

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mallard takes shelter on the bank

moor refuge

moor sticks

By Tuesday,yesterday, water levels had returned to normal.

moor river lower

moor egyptian

moor egypt pair

No sign of the Egyptian ducks laying eggs they both look rather disinterested.

moor swan

No sign of any cygnets either but this has not stopped the swan from chasing off other ducks even on the other side of the pond from the nest.

 

 

Nesting Swans at Waddon Ponds

nest swanEvidence of Spring can be found at Waddon Ponds, where the swan has been busy building its nest. The male will assist in the construction unlike most birds, with the nest being about a metre across and away from land predators. Here the nest is tucked in front of a willow tree. An egg will be laid every 24 hours and as last year they had 10 cygnets this should take about a week and a half (assuming all eggs hatch) when the incubation process will start. Then about six weeks later the cygnets should appear. Ok, I know you can’t wait that long so here is a picture of some of the cygnets from last year.

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Cygnets from last year 2017

I noticed that a Canada Goose had taken residence in one of the man-made nesting boxes usually designed for the smaller coots and moorhens. Canada Geese like swans mate for life and the eggs are incubated by the female for about a month while the gander stays guard outside. When I called the gander was nowhere to be seen but a flock of pigeons seemed to be standing guard nearby. The goslings can swim within 24 hours of being born.

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Not much headroom for the goose

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No room for the moorhen who is thinking “get out of my box!”

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pigeons standing guard over the resident Canada goose

No signs that the ducks are nesting although they have paired off. I noticed that the drake is protecting his “girl” not only from any lone males but also from other nearby couples!

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keep clear we are a couple

 

Conduit lane – What’s in a name?

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Conduit lane (reverse angle)

Conduit lane is located at the junction of Coombe Road and Coombe Lane and is equidistant between Lloyd Park and Coombe Lane tram stops.

As I have mentioned in a previous blog the Coombe Estate covered around two hundred and fifty acres  and the water supply came from Coombe Wood. It was fed by three channels or conduits that ran in the nearby lane, and so it was called Conduit lane. Simple right?

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Coombe House (now the Chateau restaurant)

There were also two large water tanks in the garden of Coombe House that powered a Lewis Church organ . Imagine if you wanted to carry out your ablutions. “Sorry darling you can’t have a bath right now I am playing the organ!”

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Garden nurseries (disused)

Many years later at the end of Conduit Lane the council garden nurseries opened in 1964 . It provided plants for all council parks and gardens for many decades until the service was privatised a few years ago. I made a trip to the end of the lane to photograph the old nurseries.

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a sign of the (old) times

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The black and yellow “space hopper” is a force field. Any trespassers that walk past this line break a beam that sends a signal to the remote security team

The section of Coombe Wood Garden that runs next to Conduit Lane and parallel to the old nursery site is very steep. The path was recently cleared and opened to the public.  Please take care around the steep slopes and only proceed if you are sure of foot. I tried to negotiate the inner bend as every athletic fan knows the inside lane is the quickest. However, in my case the gradient on the outer edge is more suitable for passage around this area. It is a bit like floating a stick on the inside bend of a river, it might appear shorter but it often gets stuck with sediment so that water on the outer bend flows quicker.

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Steep section of Coombe Wood Gardens adjacent to the old nurseries and land belonging to Royal Russell School

Running alongside Coombe Woods is the Royal Russell School. It was originally located in Russell Hill Road, Purley about two miles away. The school and the road were named  after their original President the former Prime Minister Lord John Russell  in 1855. The foundation stone was laid by the then Prince of Wales in July 1863, although the school did not add the title of Royal until 1953 its centenary year. The old Purley site became the location of the Thomas Moore School.

Back to the schools current location the whole area was known as The Ballards Plantation after the landowner and this included Heathfield. Ballards Way is the road that runs next to Heathfield and the road into Heathfield House is Riesco Drive named after the last owner of the house.

name horsesAt the end of Riesco Drive is  a private road leading to Heathfield farm. The horses are wearing blankets for the same reasons that we used to in bed, because they may be feeling under the weather. Who could blame them with the extensive rain we have been having. By the way, if you ever thought of getting a horse drunk and why would you, then please do not bother? They are used to eating a large amount of oats so could manage copious amounts of alcohol. Remember that if you are thinking of spending a “night on the hooves!”

 

Coombe Wood Gardens in the snow

snow frontI thought I would revisit my most viewed blog of last year. Little did I expect that it would have snowed recently, transforming the scenery into a winter wonderland for the last time, we hope, this year.

snow pond

snow path conifer

rockery

Coombe Gardens is divided into areas the rockery, the woodland, the pond, the ornamental , summer and winter gardens, plus the snow garden. Ok I made up the last one but the original design was meant to be a garden for all seasons.

snow house

summer-house in need of warmth

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sundial in the ornamental garden

The Coombe Estate  stretched from Coombe Road to Park Hill and included Coombe House, Wood,  Farm and Coombe Lodge. As two restaurants now exist on part of the site I was confused over their original locations.  The lodge now a Beefeater would have been separate from the main house in the same way that up the road the lodge is separate to Royal Russel (School) House as the Heathfield lodge is to Heathfield house and the lodge at …well you get the idea.

snow chateau

The Chateau (rear view)

The main Coombe House was built-in 1898 and is now the Chateau restaurant, known locally for years as the Chateau Napoleon. It originally had twenty rooms and an adjoining stable block that was built out of sight in a gravel pit. Croydonians of a certain vintage will remember that after the council bought the property, horses were used by the park rangers to patrol the local area. The stables have long since been disused and they were converted into disabled toilets and storeroom with a cafe at the far end next to the house. Enclosed by high walls it provides a nice sun trap and also renders it difficult to obtain a mobile signal should you wish to frustrate the younger generation.

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overhead view of the cafe

The woodland garden can be reached by following the footpath towards the back. As the sun started to melt the snow the effect was quite dramatic, but please no more snow this year!

snow wood

snow landscape

snow steps

About twelve steps going down

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Wonderland at Waddon Ponds

signThe new widened entrances, signage and gates at Waddon Ponds have been completed. New seats and the ubiquitous cycle stands have also been fitted. The new equipment seems to be enhanced by the snowy scenery.

sign entrancesign seatIt amazes me how birds have the energy to fly in this weather. As birds flap their wings on the downstroke the energy applied is twice the force needed to counteract gravity, whereas on the upstroke no force is exerted. The total effect is to just counteract gravity so that no wasted energy is used to maintain flight. Useful when birds need to conserve energy in this cold weather. The exceptions are seagulls that when cruising act more like aeroplanes. They apply force to their outstretched wings even on the upstroke.

seagull in flight

a cruising seagull

snow duck

snow feet

A coot on one leg

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tracks of a Coot

Water fowl like to keep warm by occasionally lifting one leg up into their feathers. This prevent any incidence of frostbite. As their leg muscles are located higher up in their body and their feet are connected by tendons, they require less heat to keep the foot warm. This prevents the duck from losing body heat through their feet.

snow gull

snow egyptian

Egyptian goose

If you are feeling chilly then this fact may keep you warm : the weather in the Sahara at this time of year is around 24 degrees. You may ask what is the Egyptian goose that hails from just south of the Sahara doing at Waddon Ponds then at this time of year? The Egyptian goose was considered to be a sacred bird but many Europeans who visited the area regarded it as an ornamental bird. Ferrel populations became established in Europe and now the bird can be seen in pairs in our local parks.

snow heron

snow swan

snow house

An abandoned bird house used for breeding can provide refuge in the cold weather

snow gulls group

snow bridge

 

Tree years at Pinewoods

log signAcross from Addington Hills and just above the Sandrock Pub is a narrow entrance to the Pinewoods. A thin tract of land that due to the typography runs alongside the roof tops of the adjacent houses.

log housesAlong the route I met a muzzled dog that seemed to have a particular fascination with me . The lady owner explained he was not interested in me but could smell the deer, apparently at dusk they appear in the pinewoods from the adjacent scouts camp. Perhaps the Does are on a Stag night!

log foggy

The extensive foliage and lake in the grounds provides an ideal setting for the deer. The camp runs many scouting activities and Chief Scout, Bear Grylls, has paid a visit. Please note there is no access to the camp from Pinewoods.

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big log

The Pinewoods runs downhill to more open ground where some clearing of dead wood has taken place as you can see from the photograph. It is widely known that the rings on a tree indicates its age. Bear in mind that trees produce a two colored ring in one year. The thinner strip is the phloem that transports the products produced from photosynthesis to the rest of the tree. The thicker strip is the xylem that carries the water around its system. The rings are thicker during warmer years.

log top

How old was this tree? I have no idea but I would guess at least sixty years old! Pine trees on average can live for 100-200 years.

The sign on a footpath was confusing as it seemed to be contradictory: the top part of the sign said access allowed whereas the lower part said no right of way.

log sign

It might be because there is no automatic right of way through the forest but that the footpath outside the woods, that runs at the back of Shirley High School, is a through  route.

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Footpath at the back of Shirley High School

Regardless of the signs meaning, David Wechsler the Chief Executive or Town Clerk of Croydon was in post until 2007 when he retired. His claim to fame was that he brought the trams to Croydon. I suppose if there were no trams there would be no blog according to my strapline.

Sunken garden at Heathfield

liz sunken gardenRaymond Riesco who owned Heathfield until his death, whereupon he bequeathed the grounds to the council, was both a keen gardener and horse owner. In the 1920’s he had a large win on a horse called Arthur’s Choice  and used the money to install oak panel staircase in the house and employ  landscape gardeners to design the sunken and walled gardens around heathfield.

liz sunken long

On an unsually sunny day a visit to Heathfield showed the joys of spring with snowdrops, primroses and other hardy perennials making an appearance.

liz snowdrops

liz pansies Raymond Riesco once planted a cedar tree as a surprise present for his wife’s birthday. I’m not sure I would find a pot big enough but perhaps something smaller might be appropriate!

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The cedar tree in the background

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lavender bushes line the side of the path.

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Entrance to the Orchard and Croydon Ecology Centre. I don’t think the sheep are at home.

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Oh yes they are, Sam says hello!