Mosses and Liverworts
Different species of mosses and liverworts can be found in different habitats within the Site and because they grow better in the damper conditions from October to March, they are easier to find at this time of year. These very simple green plants are thought to have first evolved about 400 million years ago, long before ferns or higher plants, and have no true 'leaves'. What may appear to be leaves are simply plates of tissue, often only one cell thick. They have no conducting tissue either, though often anchored by thin, colourless or brown threads called rhizoids. They absorb water over their entire surface and therefore need to live in a moist environment; during dry weather they either die or become dormant. In the winter, damp conditions encourage the growth of male and female parts to these plants, the male spermatozoids have to swim to the female archegonia in the surface water. Resulting spores are shed from capsules often raised above the rest of the plant to aid dispersal.
Fieldfares and Redwings
Redwing and fieldfare can be seen in the site feeding on berries such as hawthorn or searching the grassland for spiders and small insects. These birds, both members of the thrush family, have flown here from cold, icy Scandinavia and will stay for the winter, often feeding and roosting together in flocks.
Some ivy in the site may still be flowering in early November, providing a rich supply of nectar for insects very late in the year and the berries that follow are food for hungry birds. Holly blue butterflies whose caterpillars eat ivy flower buds are now hibernating as chrysalis beneath its bark. Darwin wrote how the rootlets of ivy turn away from the sun enabling them to find a support to which they can anchor and so aid the plant in climbing. He also traced the zig-zag courses of young ivy plants as they curved towards a north-east window, observing how the stems of young plants a few inches high bent away from the light at right angles to it in early summer, but in the beginning of September turned back towards the sun.
Wax Cap Fungi
These brightly coloured fungi are found growing in unimproved grassland, kept short through grazing or mowing, and are often associated with moss. Many of the species in the Site are rare in Europe as well as the UK, as are some of the other grassland fungi growing with waxcaps. These include fairy clubs (clavarioid fungi), earth tongues (Geoglossaceae) and species of Enteloma. They fruit in November and occur at several places within the Site, most importantly on the lawns at Down House which support a waxcap flora of regional, possibly national importance.
Amphibians, reptiles and mammals will be hibernating now if the weather has turned cold. Their heart and breathing rate slows and they become torpid. During 'torpor' they need very little energy to maintain life and so long as the temperature remains low and steady they will remain in this state. Danger may come to them if there are spells of warmer weather, causing their metabolic rate to rise which uses up more energy in the form of fat reserves. To protect themselves against variations in temperature dormice insulate themselves inside special winter nests at ground level, while some bat species hide in the crevices of underground caves where the temperature remains steady at 4-6 degrees C. Hedgehogs make themselves nests in dry leaves and sleep for the winter, so if you’re having a bonfire remember to check the bonfire heap for hibernating hedgehogs if it has been lying around for a few days.
If you do find a hedgehog please enter the record on the Record your sightings page because we need to have some idea of how many hedgehogs are living in Bromley and where they are, so that we can try to improve things for what appears to be a declining species in this area and has therefore become the subject of a Bromley Biodiversity Action Plan.