Friday, 2 June 2017

All Change

Time has passed so fast in May with daily changes on the new roads that I've not been able to keep up with nature observations.  Looking at my photos, of which there are hundreds, I find they were mostly taken to report rubbish and other matters to the council and contractors.  This post therefore is mostly for the benefit of my distant friends who don't live locally yet follow this blog faithfully.  So I hope you get a picture of the changes to the landscape.  In this picture is the newly dug section of stream, and beyond the bridge is the original channel.  Recently, I stood on this attractive wooden bridge between 9.00pm and 10.00pm and observed bats flying around me, just as they used to do.  According to the survey done in 2010 these are common pipistrelle.

Looking in the opposite direction towards the Parkside Link bridge showing the black poplar just peeping over the fencing.  Lots of cyclists, including me, have been enjoying the wide, sloping cycle paths alongside the roads.  The crossings are wide and spacious too, good for pedestrians and cyclists.

This is the Parkside Link and bridge over the stream.  The doggy bin is a marker for where the hedge used to be and where it should be replanted.  Remember this?

I wonder how long it will take to grow back to this? 

A forest of lampposts lines the NCN6 cycle path alongside the stream, beyond which is the borrow pit then the M1.  Photo taken from the bridge over the stream. 

As nature takes over, I fear a lot of items like this cone discarded by the contractors will just become part of the new landscape, or get buried under topsoil being prepared for planting trees, wildflower meadows, shrubs and scrub plants. 

Red admiral loves this sunny brick wall, but it needs flowers to feed on.  The wildflower meadows promised have still to be sown.  Is your garden butterfly friendly?
Broomrape on Shanly fields.  It lives on other plants and doesn't make its own food, hence the lack of green.  It is an unusual plant and I saw a lot before the digging started. 

An early morning view of the group of black poplars, with Blows Down behind and an inviting footpath. This has not changed, though a hedge has gone which means the houses on Pastures Way are now more visible.  There are still a few small spots like this where the camera may select a familiar favourite view without new sights intruding. 

With all three new roads open, one might hope the end of the works might be in sight but far from it, the landscaping has a long way to go, the large areas of topsoil asking to be planted up with trees and shrubs to screen the future developments and existing housing from the roads.  

Saturday, 8 April 2017

March into April

Spring is busy on the borrow pit and along Houghton Brook.  A pair of Canada geese have dropped into the borrow pit and a little ringed plover is back again.

On the adjacent field I saw six skylarks chasing around the Kane digger and this one stopped to pose for me.  At least they are free to nest for a few more years as HRN1 is not going to be built there yet.  It is a relief to know that I will still hear the song of the skylark when I walk by the stream.  I couldn't imagine life without it.

A beautiful combination of yellow pussy willows and white blackthorn in the hedge.

I wish the whole length of the stream looked as clean and healthy as this spot, but sadly that's not the case.  However, a recent clear-up by the contractors has made an improvement and I hope it will now stay clear of visible rubbish at least.  Under water there is more to be cleared and the new spring growth covers other items.  New visitors to the stream include a moorhen, and the mallard seemed very relaxed when I snapped him.  I long to remove the plastic sack in the background.

I've also seen a muntjac and a fox down by the stream.

There is an update on the Luton Lea project including Houghton Brook which you can read on the River Lea Catchment website on the link below: 
This blackcap may have over-wintered and I have heard chiff-chaffs as well.  I do miss the willow warblers though that used to sing from the copse by the bus-link.  I heard lots in the Chalk Pit though, a wonderful place to hear birds singing and to video them because it's so quiet.  Once the Woodside Link is open it will be too noisy to video bird song there.
We shall just have to wait and see how the traffic affects the wildlife.  I welcome comments from your own observations.  The landscaping will continue for some time yet with more trees to be planted and grass to be sown along with wild flowers.  When the Parkside Link is finished the hedge will be replanted.  The embankment of the road next to the stream will be planted with bushes and it should look very attractive when completed and old and new have grown together.  I still can't bring myself to change the title picture of this blog.  Perhaps when the bushes begin to grow up to hide the fence, the hedge on the Parkside Link regrows, and newly planted trees mature to fill in the gaps. 

Friday, 10 March 2017

March Sightings

It's a very long time since I've spotted one of these, a mistle thrush, so I was delighted when it flew over and landed close by for me to appreciate it's beautiful speckled breast.  It is perched on the edge of the new section of Houghton Brook at the end of Parkside.

Then a pair of stonechat, first observed here by me in 2014, came to pose on  the Bellcross Homes land.  These are such handsome birds and I hope they stay.

Below three linnets are perched on a fence as the power lines have been removed.  They were chattering non-stop!

A new path over a drainage ditch enables one to see the planting that has been going on recently on the embankment of the Woodside Link, and bordering the cycle/footpath along the stream.  I also saw three kites and a kingfisher!

Lastly, a closer look at the drainage ditch revealed frogspawn, lots of it!

I have also taken photos of the rubbish in the stream, both contractors' and from the public and will not post them here to spoil your pleasure.  But have sent them to the appropriate place to be dealt with. 

Please pick up any rubbish you happen to drop and take it home to dispose of in the proper place.  All litter spoils the pleasure of the countryside for other people and endangers wildlife, as well as blocking the flow of water in the stream and risking causing flooding.  Please don't spoil this beauty.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

A Walk Along Houghton Brook from Parkside to the Village Green

The star of this post is the grey wagtail.

Older male grey wagtail showing darker yellow on breast and white throat.  The tail was wagging so vigorously that it was hard to take a picture without it blurring, so here's a video as well.  Note that when the magpie calls in the background, the tail slows down and then freezes till he's sure he's not under threat.  The same happens on the second video of a different bird when crows are cawing.



Robins, wrens and blackbirds were all feeding in the stream as well.

The beautiful outlines of trees along Windsor Drive are best viewed from the other side of the football field to see them in all their grandeur. The field borders the stream and emerging from the hawthorn scrub this view is always awe-inspiring.

Here the banks will be enhanced by new planting in the spring and summer.

This section running through Parkside is opposite an area of Hawthorn scrub, the last refuge for wildlife driven away by the Woodside Link.

An informal crossing where the banks are lowest.  This area is also left undisturbed in case of flooding.  The undergrowth is already beginning to show green because of the mild weather.

Wow the catkins are early this year!

The twigs of the black poplar will soon be showing signs of colour as their red catkins come out.  The fence posts now show how high the fence will be and high-sided lorries will show above that, hiding half the tree. 

If spring does come early, don't miss it! 

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

November Observations

I found this hedgehog on the Shanley Land (Bellcross Homes) having died of exposure to the cold after the grass and scrub was cleared.

I disturbed this common frog on my patio while clearing up for the winter and watched as his skin changed colour to blend in with the terracotto flower pot - amazing!  I tried to tempt him with this slug but he wasn't interested.  I hope he's hunkered down somewhere safe and manages to find his way back to the stream come spring.

I have no pictures for the best sightings this month: reed bunting, egret and.... kingfisher!  The reed bunting was beside the borrow pit, and I flushed out the egret and kingfisher as I approached the stream.  I stood spellbound for the few seconds it took for that streak of brilliant blue to dart from the bank of the stream under my feet into the willows on the other side.  There are lots of holes in the bank where the roots of the willows create shelter for all sorts of creatures.  As I crept along the bank the egret rose gracefully into the air.  This section of stream gives good shelter from prying eyes because of the brambles of willows.  It's a pity the cycle path and lampposts are so close as the habitat is now less protective.  The footpath on the north bank has been marked out and I hope they don't remove the vegetation that gives shelter to many creatures at this sensitive spot, including water voles.

As the roads are completed, the landscaping will be put into place, trees planted, paths surfaced and wildflower seed sown and it will be good to see the area restored to greenery, and to get safe access to monitor the water voles next March. 

Monday, 10 October 2016

October update

This young grey wagtail is perching on top of a lump of clay on the edge of the borrow pit.  I wonder if it is one of the brood of the pair I see every year at the source of Houghton Brook in Houghton Hall Park?  There were also pied wagtails darting around yesterday, amongst the usual gulls and a swan.  I gather the pit will be drained and then lined with top soil before being filled with water again. 
The foot/cycle path along Houghton Brook is under construction and lighting is in place.

On the Parkside Link, once again it's 'hedge today, gone tomorrow'.  All that remains is the doggy bin.  The digging of storm drains demanded the removal of the hedge but I have been assured that it will be replanted.  I hope so because it provided a safe route for wildlife between gardens and the stream.  The tall sycamore on the east side of the Parkside Link was removed because its roots were in the way of the construction of the road. 
Squirrels still play in the trees on the west side and I have heard, but not seen, hedgehogs.  Something has been using my hedgehog hole cut in the fence but I can't tell what.  I have had more mice than usual in my garden this summer and I'm pleased to say the frog has also found its way back though it didn't sing... not much to sing about if you are a frog and the landscape is changing all around you. 
As I write, work is starting on the new fence on the east side of Parkside Link. 

Sunday, 18 September 2016

Something Fishy...!

Catch the fishy!  More fun than any computer game, watch out for sticklebacks in this video filmed in Houghton Brook just east of the M1.  You see the shadow first.

Why not go out on a sunny day and see them live?
Other News
Work on the road seems to be focussed on the M1 bridges at the moment and the top end of the road is being surfaced but doesn't appear to be progressing very fast elsewhere.   
I have made enquiries about the distance of the foot/cycle path from the top of the bank of the stream, supposed to be minimum 2m and if possible 3m, as it has measured less than that in places.  From a distance I can see lampposts have been installed along the cycle/footpath as well as the road.  That feels like truly the end of 'countryside' and the beginning of 'urbanisation'. 
The site of another housing development east of Houghton Park Estate borders on the stream so I am monitoring those plans as well. 
Do come if you can to the meeting about the Community Orchard on Saturday 24th September at Sandringham Hub 2.00-4.00pm.