Nature Club – August 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: September 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments


All together Pond Dipping

Where do insects go in the winter? There are lots of bees and wasps and ladybirds and other insects buzzing about now it is summer but when it gets colder there are no flowers and so no food. Many insects will die but some will hibernate and wake up again next spring. Where do they hibernate? They look for somewhere cosy and dry! So we went on a stick safari to find some suitable material for insect homes. We found lots of hollow stems of grasses and reeds. Then we made our insect hotels. Some were made out of upside-down plastic drinks bottles stuffed with hollow stems. Some were made from pieces of wood which we screwed together to make little houses. We stuffed them with lots of cosy leaves, sheeps wool, old decayed bits of wood, and hollow stems and reeds. Some already had insect lodgers in them! Our homes looked very inviting so we will put them somewhere sheltered in the garden and hope for the best.

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Nature Club – July 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: September 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments


Sesame Street Monster eats butterfly

Eight children today and a special visitor, Minakshi, and a lovely new helper, Charlotte. The sun was shining and there were hundreds of little brown butterflies flitting around the nettles and grass (Small Skippers).We had fun chasing them with our nets. We also found two large brown ones ( Meadow Brown & Speckled Wood) and a large white one ( called a Large White!) Then we did a Ducks Picnic. Ducks should not eat too much bread as it is bad for them so we laid out a pondside buffet at Jubilee Pond for them to choose from: grapes, carrot, lettuce, peas, birdseed, a fatball, and some mealworms. The ducks and swans were quite fussy and went for the seedy things and mealworms and not the veggie things! Then we took our nets and waded into the pond where it is shallow. We found lots of tiny things such as small fish, big fat leeches, mayfly larvae, and a perfect tiny bivalve shell. We saw big Emperor dragonflies swooping about and we saw a mother tufty duck with four tiny ducklings which she was protecting from a gull which was trying to snatch up a duckling for its dinner. Every time the gull swooped down, the ducklings disappeared under the water and in the end the brave mother duck flew up and chased the gull away. Then we sat down at one of the picnic tables by the Pond and had a mini-picnic and the custard creams disappeared in a flash. Last of all we spotted some scarey yellow and black striped caterpillars on the ragwort. They will magically turn into something quite different next month. Do you know what?

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Nature Club – June 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: September 21st, 2015 | 0 Comments


We had 7 children (Holly, Menuo and Ruduo, Nils, Ruby, Clementine and Anya the vicar's daughter). Jane and Tim were there and two mums stayed too. To start with we looked at some patterned feathers, tried to work out how they 'zip' up, and drew them. Ruby brought an abandoned robin's nest complete with old eggs (she donated it to Nature Club). Tim's game on bird migration was great fun and we learned a lot. Some birds make amazing journeys. We walked through the long grass to the Cat and Dog pond, looking for bugs en route.There were some huge tadpoles and we spotted lots of baby frogs. Tim identified some moths for us. Then back for refreshments and more feather sketching and bug identification. Time seemed to fly by.

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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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