The community website for Forest Hill and Honor Oak, London SE23
Events | Features | Forum | Local Books | Contact

Forum Archive
Spring is in the Air

Author Message
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Sunday, 11 March, 2007 - 09:18 pm:   

After a wonderful spring weekend, and finding a newt in the garden, I thought I would have a look for something about SE23 wildlife, and found this terrific resource, courtesy of Ken.

According to this site tawny owls breed on the railway embankments between to FH and New Cross, and there are pipistrelle bats living in Peckham Rye park.

Has anyone else any interesting finds? (I note the parakeets are becoming such a common sight that only visitors stop and point).
Joined 31-10-2006
Posted on Monday, 12 March, 2007 - 08:33 pm:   

We spotted a Red Admiral butterfly over the weekend and also a flock of seven redwings. Neither species are rare but it seemed a little strange to see insects you associate with summer and birds who visit us in the winter on the same day.

The Devonshire Road Nature Reserve and the other reserves along the railway line are indeed a local treasure but don't underestimate the wildlife value of your own garden. If you are prepared to ditch the block paving, decking and slug pellets and let the grass grow a little longer you can have your own nature reserve.

For more information you should read "No Nettles Required" by Ken Thompson which is simply the best book on wildlife gardening.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 12 March, 2007 - 08:54 pm:   

Interesting that Les mentions 'Ken' and ' newts' in the same post- I recall that Ken was a ' famous' newt fancier many years ago according to his first autobiography and still has a keen interest in small reptiles and similar fauna.

Talking about wildlife gardening, we left our back garden grow as it pleased last year, largely at first because we thought it would stop the ground drying out in the hot weather, and then because our lawnmower broke down ( more accident than design therefore )- however there were quite few animals about, including little frogs,( despite our having no pond) and hedgehogs - we hope the hedgehog is hibernating somewhere and will come back again this year. It is nice to have this in London as a result of being ' lazy' gardeners who don't care much about a manicured lawn. We also have a large range of herbs such as rosemary , lavender and bay, which attract bees and butterflies , all of which are so easy to look after. All nice to come home to after a hard days graft plus commute.
Joined 09-04-2005
Posted on Monday, 12 March, 2007 - 09:53 pm:   

The parakeets loved my crab apples. They completely stripped the abundant crop in my front garden in about 2 weeks in January. Even though I am not a visitor it was quite a sight!
Joined 07-12-2003
Posted on Monday, 12 March, 2007 - 11:02 pm:   

Dear Roz

Mon amie, if you do not have a pond, they are not frogs, they are toads. I've got toads in my back garden. They eat slugs, do not give you warts if you touch them (nor turn into a princess if you kiss them) and are generally useful little beasts. Leave some cover around so they can have some safe places to hibernate in the winter.

I saw a hedgehog crossing Bellenden Road in the 1970s, but I haven't seen one in London for years, so I think you are truly blessed.
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Monday, 12 March, 2007 - 11:09 pm:   

Wow - I wondered what the parakeets feed on and hadn't thought of crab apples. I have visions of a huge flock coming down and stripping the tree in a few hours.

I've noticed a good number of jays this year, I real reminder of childhood in Gloucestershire.

Also the Old Camberwell cemetary (accessible off Honour Oak Road) has a terrific overgrown section (like Nunhead) which was alive with butterflies last weekend in the spring (erm seemed a bit warm for March, I wonder what July will be like) sunshine.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 - 08:00 am:   

Where can you see the parakeets? I have never seen any.
Joined 09-01-2007
Posted on Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 - 08:49 am:   

I think the parakeets tend to move around. I saw 3 or 4 flying around at the back of Devonshire Road over the railway lines. They were there for a couple of days a week or so back, but I haven't seen them before or since. Also used to regularly get a hedgehog in the garden a few years back. He/she used to filch our cats KittyKat and would hibernate under our shed. heven't seen any for years though.
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 - 01:00 pm:   

Often see the parakeets on the top of Horniman hill.
Joined 18-07-2005
Posted on Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 - 01:27 pm:   

I'm sure I saw a piece on a local news show a few years ago about those parakeets. I think they initally took up residence around Richmond a number of years ago (an escape from a private collection?) and have been gradually moving east.
Joined 30-03-2005
Posted on Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 - 09:37 pm:   

The parakeets are in residence at Lewisham Crematorium.
Joined 04-02-2007
Posted on Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 - 10:30 pm:   

Hi All
I work close to Kew Gardens on the river in West London and there are lots of parakeets along that stretch of the river, they nest in the gardens apparently so maybe they are beginning to venture to SE23. They are lovely and it beats the sight of a load of street pigeons I guess!
Joined 26-02-2006
Posted on Tuesday, 13 March, 2007 - 10:57 pm:   

I remember the first morning that I spotted a parakeet - thought I was dreaming when a green blur shot past me! But infinitely better than pigeons. There are a family of blue tits which have been nesting behind my boiler for the past two springs too... I've seen a couple around in recent days, I wonder if they're moving back in.

The garden at the back of my house is split so that the basement flat has a small garden. The original freeholder though kept the bigger part of the garden in the hope that he might one day get permission to build on it but it's now a completely overgrown wilderness with foxes living in it and a large array of birds/insects/butterflies around.
Joined 31-10-2006
Posted on Wednesday, 14 March, 2007 - 08:43 am:   

Tragically, under current planning laws, gardens are classed as "brownfield" which makes it much easier for developers to get planning permission to cover them in concrete, block paving and roads.

In fact developers love building on garden land because unlike true "brownfield" sites gardens are rarely contaminated by past industrial use. This means that there are no clean up costs involved and profit can be maximised.

This is one of the reasons why the Bell Green site in Sydenham was given over to superstores rather than housing.

There are a number of campaigns ongoing to try and change the law and the London Wildlife Trust is planning a new campaign for later this year.

In the meantime if you are concerned about the situation you should write to Jim Dowd, our local MP, and Steve Bullock, Mayor of Lewisham and SE23 resident.

You can also write to your local councillors - although they can't change the law they can influence the local planning process to make sure that the planners don't just roll over every time a developer applies to build on garden land.

In fact there are plenty of existing planning rules that can be used to protect gardens from development but at the moment there appears to be no real appetite for applying them.

In the meantime you should try and keep a record of the wildlife that you see and in particular protected species like stag beetles and bats. This way you will have something to submit to the planners if an application for planning permission is lodged.
Joined 26-02-2006
Posted on Wednesday, 14 March, 2007 - 09:08 am:   

Interesting Woody.

This particular garden falls into Southwark's area. The owner of it has applied in the past (but not in the last 10 years) to build a property but has been turned down each time.

I shall try to keep a record and encourage my neighbours to do the same - just in case he tries again. Thanks for the advice.
Joined 26-04-2006
Posted on Wednesday, 14 March, 2007 - 11:52 am:   

The Forest Hill Society Newsletter (the next edition of which will be dropping through members' letterboxes this weekend) has a regular column about the non-human inhabitants of SE23. In this issue, coincidently, we're looking at the Common Toad, which should help Roz identify the amphibian presence in her exciting-sounding garden. In December's issue, we explored the world of the stag beetle. On our list for future editions of the Newsletter are lizards, bats and parakeets. So, if you have "personal experiences" of interesting wildlife in your gardens, please let me know at
Forest Hill is something of a hotspot for biodiversity in Lewisham thanks to the remains of ancient woodland and a range of green spaces dotted amongst the houses. We're very lucky!
And if you'd like to find out more, do please join the next Forest Hill Society social event which takes place on 15th April at the Devonshire Road Nature Reserve at 2pm. Nick Pond, who's in charge of nature conservation in Lewisham, will be giving a guided tour and passing on tips for encouraging biodiversity in our gardens.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 16 March, 2007 - 10:24 am:   

I think I saw a rogue parakeet on Sunderland Road this morning. Any other sightings?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 16 March, 2007 - 10:44 am:   

They regularly sit in the tall trees behind/to side of the Christian Fellowship buildings
Joined 04-03-2005
Posted on Friday, 16 March, 2007 - 11:13 am:   

Posted today on the Sydenham Forum by Big Ben:

While we're on the subject of Mayow Park, the Friends of Mayow Park are having a bird walk in the park tomorrow morning from 7-9.30. We went on a similar walk a couple of years ago and it was fabulous - a chance to spot all those parakeets in the trees!
Joined 31-10-2006
Posted on Sunday, 18 March, 2007 - 07:24 pm:   

I thought I heard a cuckoo yesterday in the Devonshire Road area, is that possible?
Joined 07-06-2006
Posted on Sunday, 18 March, 2007 - 09:41 pm:   

Well we regularly get a green woodpecker feasting on ants and stuff in our garden, so anything is ossible
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 08:10 am:   

Have to say that what we saw in our garden was most definitely a frog, not a toad. It may have come from someone elses pond,as we don't have one but a frog it certainly was. Is it possible to create a child proof water feature of some kind to encourage more frogs?
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 09:53 am:   

I've heard the woodpecker too, up near the church that is in mid-conversion.
Joined 09-04-2005
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 01:42 pm:   

I keep a large saucer in the garden which has shells and bits of rock in it. I keep it topped up with water. Every year there is a frog or two living in it. This morning I noticed it has a large supply of frogspawn.
Joined 31-10-2006
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 01:59 pm:   

The wildlife gardening book "No Nettles Required" by Ken Thompson is partly based on a study of gardens in Sheffield. One of the findings was that a container the size a window box filled with water and four bits of pond weed made a big difference to the biodiversity of the garden where it was located. Too small for fish but the results seem to echo Bigjulie's experience and something that size would also be pretty safe for kids.
Joined 24-01-2007
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 05:18 pm:   

I'm always amazed at the amount of wildlife in my small back garden. Regular visitors are the bluetits, great-tits, sparrows, blackbirds, robins and of course the inevitable pigeons, squirrels, mice and foxes. We occasionally get jays, wrens, mistlethrush, frogs, and I have seen a parakeet once. Also there is a heron that often swoops over the gardens, a wonderful sight. Earlier in the year I saw a large stag beetle and recorded it on 'The Great Stag Hunt' website - And the garden is always full of leafcutter bees - great pollinators - which we have encouraged by providing little nesting boxes for their eggs to overwinter in. Its fun to watch them cutting a little circle of leaf and flying up to the boxes to lay their eggs.
Joined 19-05-2004
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 05:59 pm:   

We've had parakeets on Horniman heights for donkeys years - check out Kelsea Park in Beckenham for a flock of herons as well as parakeets.

Plenty of magpies as well, which are blamed by some for the decline in the number of smaller birds.

Whilst there is all this interest, any views why my tadpoles die each year. Cleaned the water, added plant life, etc. A few years ago we had a lot of dead frogs as well due to a virus, but thought they would havd developed an immunity.

Posted on this before but not a lot of interest!
Joined 13-12-2006
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 07:33 pm:   

I don't know about your wrigglers, Baggy, but we had a mistle thrush singing lustily nearby yesterday morning. They're also known as Stormcocks for their tendency to sing before and during stormy weather - and after he'd done his business in the morning we stayed indoors and watched wave after wave of hail, sleet and snow batter the town.

Mind you, I'm an ex-Forest Hiller now living in Kendal. Is this sort of thing allowed, or should I pipe down in my virtual Northern Fastness?
Joined 31-10-2006
Posted on Monday, 19 March, 2007 - 10:16 pm:   

According to "No Nettles Required" studies by the British Trust for Ornithology have shown that there is no link between the decline in the number of songbirds and the increase in numbers of magpies and sparrowhawks. As for the frogs I am not sure although I know that it isn't good to add tap water to an established pond as the chlorine can kill the pond life.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Tuesday, 20 March, 2007 - 11:37 am:   

I was thinking about making a joke about noticing an increase in the number of great tits in Forest Hill since the specialist bra shop opened, but that would just be crass and probably lead me to being barred.
Joined 23-02-2005
Posted on Tuesday, 20 March, 2007 - 02:21 pm:   

Similarly I was thinking that we could not possibly entertain the idea of the common toad in the newly gentrified Forest Hill, but I decided to keep it to myself. Whoops.
Joined 28-01-2004
Posted on Tuesday, 20 March, 2007 - 09:39 pm:   

This is just one-upmanship now, but I saw a peregrine falcon from my office in NW1 on Friday. I read on the BBC website that a pair nest on ledges to the South of Regent's Park. There are others on Tate Modern, Battersea power station/wreck, and the Tate & Lyle buildings in docklands. Impressive birds - I've seen kestrels in London before (I'm pretty sure they must nest on my building) but this was special.
Joined 24-01-2007
Posted on Monday, 14 May, 2007 - 08:24 pm:   

Just to revive the nature topic but on a less positive note - has anyone else got problems with rosemary beetle? Apparently they are quite a nuisance this year. My beautiful rosemary bush was practically eaten bare by the awful things before I realised what the problem was, and I have since noticed it in quite a few other people's gardens. It said in the Guardian at the weekend that they are becoming quite a nuisance in London and the South East due to the mild winters we are having. So if your rosemary (or sage or lavender) is looking a bit poorly take a closer look. The beetles are very shiny and actually quite pretty looking.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Monday, 14 May, 2007 - 09:07 pm:   

Are these beetles like ladybirds but black all over? If so then we have them too and I have lost a few plants this way. Any idea how to get rid?
Joined 04-02-2006
Posted on Tuesday, 15 May, 2007 - 07:29 am:   

Yes they are all over my lavender. Any recommended ways on how to deal with them Jane?
Joined 24-01-2007
Posted on Tuesday, 15 May, 2007 - 08:57 am:   

They are a bit bigger than ladybirds and have a very shiny colourful shell. You often seem to find them in pairs at the moment (for obvious reasons). You can spray the plants with something like derris (which is organic but pretty potent) but I don't like to use sprays so I have been laboriously picking them off one by one and squashing them! When you try and pick the beetles off they tend to drop to the ground so its best to have a container of some sort underneath to catch them. The problem though is not so much the beetles but the little grubs, which are a grey brown colour and attach themselves to the stem of the plant and so much harder to spot.
If anyone else has any tips on dealing with them I'd love to hear it!
Joined 24-01-2007
Posted on Tuesday, 15 May, 2007 - 08:59 am:   

Here is a link with a picture of the dreaded things: beetle.asp
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Wednesday, 16 May, 2007 - 01:14 am:   

Yip, thats what we have. And I thought the mediterranean herbs such as rosemary were foolproof!
We have just lost a 40 year old hydrangea bush due to the drought last year when it became infested with white stuff and has subsquently just died despite being watered with a can ( our neighbours remember it being planted)- hope not to lose any more. Will need to read up on this to see how we can prevent any more plant deaths in our herbs at least, as they do make the summer for us.
Joined 24-01-2007
Posted on Wednesday, 16 May, 2007 - 02:06 pm:   

I do hope that you manage to save your plants Roz. Since I've started the battle against the beetles my rosemary bush is looking much better and has even produced some new growth, but I have a feeling it's an ongoing fight as I check it every few days and still find one or two. I thought that mediterranean herbs would be great in the garden with all the dry weather we are now having, but hadn't counted on this. I guess that the beetles don't have any natural predators here if they have come from Europe. It will be such a shame if we lose our herbs, as not only do they look pretty I also use them a lot in cooking.

I think I may be getting a bit beetle obsessed as I keep peering at rosemary bushes in other people's gardens and spotting more - people will wonder what I'm doing....
Joined 26-04-2006
Posted on Wednesday, 16 May, 2007 - 05:22 pm:   

Agghh, I have them too! Just on my lavendar at the moment and none that I can see on the rosemary. I don't mind if they destroy the lavendar but I draw the line at my herbs.
Joined 17-03-2005
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 08:42 am:   

Can you buy anything to get rid of them, such as other insects that will eat them, similar to the organic measures you can buy?
Joined 24-01-2007
Posted on Thursday, 17 May, 2007 - 02:48 pm:   

Not that I am aware of, I've only heard of the sprays. Anyone else?
Joined 21-12-2005
Posted on Friday, 18 May, 2007 - 10:14 am:   

Thanks for posting about this. I had a look at my lavender and rosemary plants last night and found some beetles - will be spreading the word among my neighbours. Could we have an article about the beetles in the next FHS newsletter?
Joined 12-02-2007
Posted on Tuesday, 22 May, 2007 - 05:08 pm:   

Not so much a spring phenonmenon but the definate arrival of Summer... the Swifts have returned from their winter migration and kept us highly entertained on Saturday night - swooshing past us whilst we ate dinner in the garden... sheer magic!
Joined 09-04-2005
Posted on Monday, 18 June, 2007 - 01:48 pm:   

Saw a great spotted Woodpecker in Sydenham woods last week.