Carry on Reporting your Hedgehogs!

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: August 18th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Hedgehogs Map (Click on the map to examine it in detail)

Last month we asked you for your sightings of one or our most loved but endangered Mammals, the Hedgehog. We have received some good information which will not only help us understand how our Spiky pals are populating the areas surrounding and including the Wanstead Parklands it will be added to the National Recording System. If you are interested in sharing your sightings with us, all we need is the street name/location you saw the Hog, the quantity and whether it was alive or dead. Please send your sighting(s) to the Wren Wildlife Facebook page or

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Report your Hedgehogs!

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: August 10th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Hedgehog In the 1950s it was estimated that there were more than 30 million Hedgehogs in the UK, but that figure has fallen dramatically. No one is quite sure why the decline has taken place but the continued intensification of agriculture is undoubtedly a big factor, and the fragmentation of habitats in urban and suburban areas is also likely to be an issue. Badgers have also been blamed - they seem to get blamed for most things, but as we don't have any in East London I can't see them being a problem around here! The sad truth is, though, that numbers have fallen by about 30 percent in the UK since 2002 and there are likely to be fewer than 1 million left. I went several years without seeing a Hedgehog in our little patch of East London but this year there has been a seeming increase. This year individuals have been seen at the City of London & Manor Park Cemeteries, in the Old Sewage Works, unfortunately squashed on Aldersbrook Road (near Brading Crescent) and in several back gardens in Windsor & Belgrave Road on the Lakehouse Estate, also in Lorne Road, Forest Gate. In order to get a better idea of how this charismatic spiky mammal is faring locally we are asking people to send their sightings to Barry Chapman, who will coordinate records and send them to We will map the sightings and update you occasionally via the Wren Group Facebook page. Wouldn't it be great if we could chart a turnaround in their fortunes. Please provide details of where and when you saw your Hedgehog and also if alive or dead (all records help) to Barry Chapman via email: or on Twitter: @wansteadwomble.

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Wanstead Breeding Bird Survey

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: August 5th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Wanstead Breeding Bird Survey(Click on the map to examine it in detail) A team of local birders - members of the Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group and the Wanstead Birders group - spent nine weeks this spring surveying the territories of 25 species on our local patch. Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park were covered pretty comprehensively, as was Gilbert's Slade. The species covered were Stock Dove, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Common and Lesser Whitethroats, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch and Reed Bunting. Almost 1,200 territories were found and mapped. Some proved a whole lot harder to survey than others, and some - Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Reed Bunting spring to mind - hardly troubled the scorers! On the other hand, there were no shortage of Wrens (found to be the commonest species surveyed), Robins, Great Tits or Blackcaps. This is the map for five, key grassland species Skylark and Meadow Pipit, scrub specialists Lesser and Common Whitethroats and an old favourite that seems to be doing pretty well on the patch, Song Thrush. Next year we hope to do some of the areas left uncovered this year, including the City of London and Manor Park cemeteries and Leyton Flats. Any volunteers very welcome. Thanks to James Heal for producing the very fine map. Tim Harris

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Bioblitz target blown away

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: July 8th, 2015 | 0 Comments

The Wren Group’s bio-blitz exceeded all expectations. From Monday 22 June a number of group members – including Kathy Hartnett, Nick Croft, Rose Stephens, Paul Ferris, James Heal and myself – were doing recce work for the weekend ahead, and recording species as we went. James neared the end of his survey of the trees of Bush Wood, finding 26 species, Kathy found and Paul confirmed the presence of Yellow Rattle in the SSSI and Rose found a scarce Black-rimmed Hunchback fly, Ogcodes pallipes. These discoveries set things up nicely for the weekend of concentrated events, starting on the evening of 26th with a bat walk in Wanstead Park, led by Keith French and Andy Froud. Four species were detected, although a Myotis species could not be identified to species level. A good proportion of the 70 people who attended the walk came across to the Temple enclosure, where five moth traps were running. Anthony Harbott, Graham Smith, Martin, Jono Lethbridge, Tom Casey, Nick Croft and myself rushed around like mad things checking each trap in turn for interesting visitors. Ironically, some of the best of the bunch weren’t even in the traps but persisted in flying close to the observers around the Temple steps. Three or four Leopard Moths took star billing, but also of note were four Red-necked Footmen, not previously recorded in our area. Single Poplar and Elephant Hawkmoths also delighted the observers, as did Tom’s Stag Beetle. The focus of attention shifted to Wanstead Flats the following morning. Thibaud erected the City of London’s gazebo by Centre Road car park and this became our nerve centre. Just as the previous evening, the weather stayed fine, with plenty of sun and no rain. Tricia Moxey and Gill James, ably assisted by Kathy Hartnett and Iris Newbery, led walks in the morning and afternoon respectively, searching for interesting plants and invertebrates. No one was disappointed and as a bonus, our two local ground-nesting birds, Skylark and Meadow Pipit, performed territorial song-flights. Arguably the rarest find of the weekend occurred during the afternoon – a high-flying Black Kite picked up by Nick Croft over the Old Sewage Works. The bird climbed still higher while Nick was watching it, and no one else was able to pick it up. This species is notoriously difficult to get past the rarities committee, but Nick thinks he has enough on it to see it accepted. Meanwhile, back on the Flats, Diptera (fly) expert Jeremy Richardson worked hard to find dozens of these surprisingly beautiful insects, concentrating on the area around Angell Pond and the copses. Fellow entomologists Tristan Bantock, Jim Flanagan and Sarah Barnes concentrated on the Coleoptera (beetles) and Hemiptera (true bugs) and found plenty besides. Between them, the trio amassed a total of 179 species, including Psallus anaemicus, a bug associated with Turkey Oak which has only recently been detected in the UK; Antherophagus silaceus, a beetle; and Mecinus janthinus, a toadflax-feeding weevil. Also noteworthy was the discovery of a Toadflax Brocade moth larva; the adult of this species was first recorded earlier in the summer. On Sunday it was back to the Park. You might be forgiven for thinking that no one would turn up for a 5am dawn chorus walk – but 20 attendees would prove otherwise. Nick Croft led the early birds from the tea hut around the Old Sewage Works and across to the Shoulder of Mutton pond. Not surprisingly there was no repeat of the previous day’s Black Kite, but a good selection was seen – or heard – nonetheless. One of the Shoulder’s Reed Warblers eventually went into chatter mode. Natalie and Jean opened the tea hut at 7:30 so we could have a welcome cuppa and some breakfast. Nice work, guys! At a more sensible time, Nicola Cunningham had designed some creative activities for children and, ably assisted by Forest keeper Alison Tapply, Bev Poynter and others, the children made a beautiful floral sculpture. Tricia’s morning walk produced Flowering Rush (in flower) on the muddy margins of the Ornamental Water, and Mark Thomas’s repeat search after lunch discovered Great Yellow-cress in the very same area. David Giddings and Kathy Hartnett offered their knowledge and support on these walks. More watery activities were led by Derek McEwan, donning his wellies to lead bouts of pond-dipping in Shoulder of Mutton and the Ornamental Water. Among the highlights were the larvae of six or seven kinds of damselfly and dragonfly and an impressive Horse Leech. In late morning the weather finally let us down and rain probably dampened down the number of people taking part in the afternoon’s activities – even if it didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those taking part. At least 210 people participated over the course of the weekend; without the Sunday lunchtime rain I’m sure that figure would have surpassed 250. As for the species totals, we’d set a target of 400 and that was blown out of the water. As I write there are still some scores to come in, but as things stand, these are the totals, arranged by the main groups: Plants and mosses: 182 (and set to rise higher) Invertebrates: 354/355 Lepidoptera (moths and butterflies): 107 Hemiptera (true bugs): 82 Coleoptera (beetles): 65 Diptera (flies): 43 Hymenoptera (bees and wasps): 13 Odonata (damselflies and dragonflies): 9/10 (one larva is still under consideration) Other invertebrates: 35 Vertebrates: 89 Fish: 6 Amphibians: 3 Reptile: 1 Birds: 70 Mammals: 9 TOTAL: 625/626 species and still rising Tim Harris, 7 July 2015

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Wildflower Walk

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: June 20th, 2015 | 0 Comments

On a warm Tursday evening on 17th June 2015 the annual WREN Wildflower Walk took place in the Exchange Lands adjacent to Wanstead Park with about 30 walkers. As always when such a walk is led by someone as knowledgable as Tricia Moxley it was both interesting and informative. To a background of birdsong, Chiff Chaffs being particularly vocal, she led us from the Riding Stables on a circular route through the area pointing out and discussing the common (e.g. Bramble, Mallow, Dog Rose), the pretty (e.g. Creeping cinqfoil, Everlasting Pea) and the ominous (e.g. Hemlock, Giant Hogweed). Finishing appropriately for an old sewage works with Biting Stonecrop.

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Bio-Blitz Itinerary

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: May 25th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Friday 26 June

21:00. Bat Walk. Meet outside the tea hut, Wanstead Park.

Keith French and Andy Froud, authors of “Social Calls of the Bats of Britain and Ireland”, will lead a walk in Wanstead Park in search of pipistrelles, Noctules, Daubenton’s and other bats. Bring a torch and suitable clothing for an evening walk. Duration: approx. 90 minutes

22:00. Moth-trapping. Meet outside the Temple, Wanstead Park.

Several local moth enthusiasts will have their light traps fired up to attract some of the great array of moths to be found in Wanstead Park, hopefully including a hawkmoth or two. Bring a torch and wear appropriate clothing for an evening activity. Duration: approx. 3 hours, so you can do the bat walk and then look at the moths!

Saturday 27 June

10:30. Wanstead Flats Wildflowers and Bugs. Meet at the Centre Road car park, Wanstead Flats.

Local botanist Tricia Moxey will lead a walk through the site of special scientific interest to the west of Centre Road in search of the area’s special wildflowers, insects and other invertebrates. Hopefully a grasses expert will also be on hand to point out the amazing variety of grasses in the area. Duration: approx. 90 minutes.

11:00 to 15:00. Wanstead Flats Grass-sweeping. Near Centre Road car park, Wanstead Flats.

Join Dr Tristan Bantock and his team of insect specialists as they scour the grasslands for day flying moths, beetles, flies, weevils and other invertebrates. Expect some unusual finds. Duration: several hours.

14:00. Wanstead Flats Larks and Butterflies. Meet at Centre Road car park, Wanstead Flats.

Local naturalist Gill James will lead a walk through the unmown section of Wanstead Flats in search of singing Skylarks, grassland butterflies and wildflowers. Hopefully a grasses expert will also be on hand to point out the amazing variety of grasses in the area. Duration: approx. 90 minutes.

Sunday 28 June

05:00. Dawn Chorus Bird Walk. Meet outside the tea hut in Wanstead Park.

Leading birder Nick Croft leads the crack-of-dawn walk around the park to listen to the sounds of the dawn chorus, see a new generation of young birds and maybe encounter a surprise or two. Duration: approx. 2 hours 30 minutes. The tea hut will open specially for refreshments at 07:30.

11:00 to 15:00. Children’s Art Installation, Nature Table and Quiz Trail. Outside the Temple in Wanstead Park.

Fun, and some challenges for younger nature enthusiasts. There will also be an opportunity for children and adults to enter their nature photographs for a photo gallery. Young children should be accompanied by a parent or carer.

11:30. Wildflowers and Trees of Wanstead Park. Meet outside the Temple, Wanstead Park.

Tricia Moxey will lead a walk around the park to learn about some of its special trees and wildflowers. Duration: about 90 minutes.

11:30. Pond-dipping in Shoulder of Mutton Pond. Meet outside the Temple, Wanstead Park.

The park’s lakes hold a surprising amount of aquatic life, from large fish to tiny invertebrates, including dragonfly larvae. Watch Derek McEwan as he catches an endless array of life-forms from the Shoulder of Mutton lake. Duration: about 90 minutes.

14:00. Pond-dipping in Alexandra Lake. Meet outside the Temple, Wanstead Park.

Derek shifts his pond-dipping activities from the park to Wanstead Flats. Duration: about 90 minutes.

14:00. Wanstead Park Butterfly and Wildflower Walk. Meet outside the Temple, Wanstead Park.

Mark Thomas, ably assisted by Kathy Hartnett, wander around the park in search of butterflies, flowers, dragonflies and more. Duration: about 90 minutes.

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Nature Club – May 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: May 24th, 2015 | 0 Comments


IMG_2805 IMG_3365 IMG_3379 We had a good look at an old sparrows nest which was made of grass twisted round and round & we listened to the chirpy sparrow song- cheep cheep! The parent sparrows can eat seeds, but their babies are too little for this and need to eat insects. We saw lots of sparrows hunting in the long grass for caterpillars and insects and flying back to their nests in the hedges and buildings nearby.So we went on an insect hunt with a big net and caught lots of tasty bugs. We also played the sparrowhawk game. Sparrowhawks hunt and eat small birds like sparrows. We took turns being the sparrow hawk and the rest of us were trees with sparrows in them and we had to throw the beanbag sparrow back & forth & hope the sparrowhawk did not catch us! We looked at how our tadpoles were doing after two months in the Cat and Dog Pond. They now have little back legs and long tails. The reeds are now very high. And we found something very strange in the pond - a little tube made of tiny sticks stuck together with a hole in the middle. Inside was a little insect called a caddis fly, which walks around with its own portable home-made house stuck together with silk like spiders make.

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Canvey Wick awayday

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: May 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Canvey Island P1300649

Half a dozen Wren members visited the Buglife reserve of Canvey Wick on Sunday 17th May. This brownfield site was going to be developed as a refinery, but the development was never completed and it is now reverting to a more natural state. We were blessed with sunny, dry weather, though the fresh breeze probably suppressed some flying insect activity. Over a hundred species were noted, including 50-odd species of plants (listed below), some of which are not familiar in the Wanstead area. Mary Holden found one of the day’s highlights: several Great Crested Newts in a ditch, which we were able to watch while we were having our lunch. Large Red Damselflies and at least one Hairy Dragonfly also frequented this ditch, with Azure Damselfly being seen nearby.

Parts of the site are very sandy and it was in one such area that two Latticed Heath moths were found, with a frustrating glimpse of a passing butterfly that I suspect was a Wall in the vicinity. Several other butterfly species included Green Hairstreak. Paul identified a specimen of Canadian Fleabane growing on a sandy hill; this was a plant must of us had never noticed before. Although not in flower, the presence of good numbers of Common Spotted Orchids was also exciting.

A few Barn Swallows were seen, although it wasn’t clear whether these were birds nesting nearby, or late migrants passing through. A pair of Cuckoos remained all the time we were there; given the number of Reed Warblers (a host species) singing in the Phragmites-lined ditches, they may be tempted to stick around.

Thanks to Paul for resolving many identification conundrums, for Kathy for compiling the list and taking the photographs, and for Pam, Mary and Gill for their keen eyes and good company.

Plants noted: Trees:

  • Ash
  • Silver Birch
  • Willow species
  • Barren Brome (Bromus sterilis)
  • Cock’s-foot
  • Common Reed (Phragmites)
  • Birdsfoot Trefoil
  • Biting Stonecrop (Sedum acre)
  • Black Medic
  • Black Mustard
  • Bramble
  • Bristly Ox-tongue
  • Broad-leaved Pea / Everlasting Pea
  • Bulbous Buttercup
  • Canadian Fleabane (the groundsel-looking plant on the sandy hill)
  • Cleavers / Goosegrass
  • Common Spotted Orchid
  • Common Vetch
  • Common Field Speedwell (Veronica persica)
  • Cow Parsley
  • Creeping Buttercup
  • Creeping Thistle
  • Cut-leaved Cranesbill
  • Daisy (Bellis perennis)
  • Dandelion
  • Dog Rose
  • Elder
  • Fennel
  • Forget-me-not (possibly Field Myosotis arvensis)
  • Goat’s Rue
  • Great Mullein
  • Groundsel
  • Hairy Tare
  • Hawthorn
  • Herb Robert
  • Hogweed
  • Horsetail species (probably Common, Equisetum arvense)
  • Lesser Stitchwort
  • Mallow
  • Nettle
  • Ox-eye Daisy
  • Pink Garden Oxalis (Oxalis, possibly articulata)
  • Ragwort species (possibly Common)
  • Red Dead-nettle
  • Ribwort Plantain
  • Rosebay Willowherb
  • (Round-leaved Wintergreen?)
  • Shepherd’s Purse
  • Snow-in-summer / Dusty Miller (Cerastium tomentosum)
  • Sow-thistle species
  • Spanish Bluebell
  • Spotted Medic
  • Teasel
  • Tufted Vetch
  • Wall Rocket (Diplotaxis species)
  • Water Crowfoot species
  • Wild Carrot
  • Yarrow
  • Yellow Flag Iris

Tim Harris, 19 May 2015

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Nature Club – March & April 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: April 27th, 2015 | 0 Comments

March - Foxes and Frogspawn

We often see foxes in our gardens and roads so we found out a few amazing facts about them & drew some nice pictures. Three fox facts: Did you know that a fox can run at 30 mph? And its hearing is so good it can can hear a watch ticking at 40 metres away? And foxes use 28 different types of calls to communicate with each other? Then we examined some fresh frogspawn. It was very gooey like soft jelly amd had little black spots like eyes.We drew it. Will it look the same when we come back next month? We went to see it in the Cat and Dog Pond and we saw a heron flying away. Maybe it had been eating the frogspawn.. There were lots of dead frogs lying about which maybe were worn out after laying all that frogspawn. We looked at a pretty newt with an orange tummy and made drawings and models of it. Then it went back in its pond in Gill's garden...

April - Flower Bombs and more Frogspawn

In April the flowers in the little wood near Harrow Road are a riot of blue and white comfrey and green alkanet.These are flowers which come out in early spring before the leaves on the trees emerge and make the ground under the trees too dark and shady for flowers. We took apart some tulip flowers to find out what the bees are doing when they visit flowers. We found where the pollen is which the bees collect and we found next year's seeds at the bottom of the flower which the bees pollinate. Then we went a threw some flower bombs! These are clay pots which are full of wildflower seeds. You throw the pot, it breaks and the seeds scatter, and the pot dissolves in the rain later. We did a map of where we threw them so we can go and look in the summer and see if any thing grew. We had another look at the mass of frogspawn wriggling madly in the Cat and Dog Pond. The jelly we saw in March has collapsed and the baby frogs now have bodies , heads, tails and gills to breathe through, but no arms or legs yet. We will look again in May to see what they do next!

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Spring Whinchats in Wanstead

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: April 23rd, 2015 | 0 Comments

Whinchat Whinchat

After seeing this pristine-plumaged Whinchat on an unmown strip between blocks of football pitches on Wanstead Flats on Saturday morning (18 April) – and after Nick Croft’s great photos of the bird (which appear with this article) - I was inspired to look back over our spring records.

To put things in context, this gorgeous bird winters in sub-Saharan Africa and breeds in uncultivated, often damp, areas in north-west, northern and eastern Europe – though sadly no longer in London, where the last confirmed breeding was at Rainham in 1989. Pairs have certainly summered in that area since then, but for Wanstead its status is of a passage migrant in autumn and to a lesser extent in spring. Returning birds are regularly seen in some numbers in late August and September, when Wanstead Flats is one of the best London sites (with a peak count of 13 in 2009). Notably also, autumn birds tend to stick around for a few days.

Spring migration is much more of a rush and passage dates are more tightly concentrated. When trawling back through old bird reports I was surprised to find years when no spring birds had been seen at all, though we are hampered by a very incomplete set of local records. In the years 1976-81, during which there were published records, the only migrant noted in spring was a male on 8 May 1977. The recent picture is healthier, though whether that represents more individuals stopping off here on their way north – or simply much better observer coverage – is impossible to say.

One thing is clear: the male Whinchat found at the western end of the Flats by Dan Hennessey on 16 April is the earliest record we’ve had in the recent sequence of reports, dating back to 2009. Indeed, it could be the earliest record ever. It is also an exception to the rule of thumb that passage locally is pretty much confined to the last week of April and the first week of May. Assuming Dan’s individual and the bird found at the eastern end of the Flats two days later were the same (and they may well not have been), there have been five April birds and eight in May, with the latest being a male near the broom on the Flats on 11 May 2012 and a female in the same area on the same date in 2014. There have been seven males, three females and three unspecified. The best recent springs were 2012 and 2014, with at least three birds each, though there’s still plenty of time for that total to be matched this year! And the best places to look are on and around the broom south of Long Wood, in the SSSI and in the scrubby grassland opposite the Golden Fleece. And here’s to plenty more!

Tim Harris, 22/4/2015

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