Trip reports

RSPB Bexley Group Field Trip - River Shuttle and Bexley Park Woods - Thursday 5 November 2015

Thursday, 5 November 2015

It was a dull, drizzly morning but 22 Group members/Friends of the Shuttle joined Brenda and I for a wander along the River Shuttle (or, as we were informed, known as Bourne River in earlier times) from BETHS Grammar School into Bexley Park Woods and back again. Against a backdrop of a tractor mowing the playing fields, two large rugby squads from the school warming up and the traffic on the A2 introductions were made and suburban birding was underway.

Well, I say birding but sadly that was stretching it a bit. No one had told the birds we'd come out in poor weather to see them. A small flock of blue/great and long-tailed tits flitted over as we gathered but from then on avian life was thin on the ground (and in the trees).

There were few birds but as many of the group had not undertaken this walk before or visited the woods there was much to discuss and information to impart - enhanced by the presence of many of the volunteers who help keep this river clear of other people's rubbish.

Part way along, adjacent to Love Lane allotments, a grey wagtail posed nicely on some willow reinforcements along the river bank. We also noted the Council's attempt some years ago at a kingfisher bank that sadly has been allowed to disintegrate and become overgrown. Another exposed bank looked ideal for bee-eaters but that was just over enthusiastic fantasising by the leader.

The occasional wren, robin or chaffinch made a brief appearance or utterance but the jolly socialising amongst the group didn't seem perturbed by this. A few moorhen fed alongside the river and jays were active amongst the trees. We learnt that a single jay can bury some 5000 acorns (for food at a later date) in their lifetimes - hence the occurrence of tiny oaks in many gardens. Some had a very close encounter with a grey heron as it flew low over part of the group.


After about an hour we crossed the Blendon Road into Bexley Park Woods - the fabulous autumn colours of the oaks, hornbeam, silver birch amongst other trees was stunning as was the leaf litter on the ground. Again birds were noticeable by their absence apart from the ever present ring-necked parakeet.

We were able to see some of the work of the Friends and especially that of group member/Friend - Duncan Devine who is known to many for his bird box building skills and about 16 of them have been erected in a section of the woods. We learnt that on Saturday last a small team had gone around checking for successful nesting (10 out of 16), cleaning out and repairing the boxes in readiness for next year. It seems as might be expected blue tit and great tit were the main users of the boxes.

As we continued our walk Brenda pointed out a few species of fungi, mostly bracket and bonnet types. We could also see evidence of past coppicing in the woods - a practice if reintroduced would greatly enhance this charming woodland for wildlife.

We finally exited the woods and made our way back along the Shuttle following the route we'd earlier walked. Despite a lack of birds I think it fair to say that everyone had enjoyed what turned out to be a rain free walk along a river little know by most and to see the woods in such glorious colour.

Thank you to the Friends of the Shuttle for their attendance and input see http://www.bexleywildlife.org/category/friends-of-the-shuttle/ for more information.

Birds seen/heard: grey heron, moorhen, black-headed gull, woodpigeon, ring-necked parakeet, grey wagtail, wren, robin, goldcrest, long-tailed tit, coal tit, blue tit, great tit, jay, magpie, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch.

Ralph and Brenda Todd