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Wanstead 1000: Off and running

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: January 14th, 2016 | 0 Comments

Quince Turkey Tail
Members of the Wren Wildlife Group are hoping to find 1000 different kinds of plants and animals in the Wanstead area during 2016. Chair Tim Harris reports on progress so far. Before dawn on New Year's Day, while many were sleeping off the excesses of a few hours earlier, Wanstead's birdwatchers (well, some of them) were on a quest to see how many species they could find during the day. And what a start to the day they had! Intrepidly working through the mud and puddles of Bush Wood, Bob Vaughan had inadvertently flushed a woodcock and seen a firecrest before it was properly light. Not far away, on Wanstead Flats, Josh Selfe tweeted that he’s seen an owl fly up from a patch of broom. Sure enough, it soon reappeared, being mobbed by several crows: a short-eared owl, a local rarity. With a start like that, it was unlikely that things could get any better, and much of the day was spent finding those birds that are either resident on our manor, or which just drop in for the winter. However, just when the light was beginning to go, and people were thinking of resting aching limbs after a day in the field, Jono Lethbridge and Nick Croft found a lesser spotted woodpecker by the Basin on Overton Drive. This diminutive woodpecker hadn’t been seen in our area at all in 2015! The day’s total of 69 bird species was the best ever achieved on New Year’s Day. Two days later, Nick had a tantalisingly brief view of what is likely to have been a great snipe – an incredibly rare bird in this country – close to Alexandra Lake. Unfortunately, it didn’t give him time to photograph it as it flew off east so we will probably never know for sure. Three days later it was the turn of the botanical team to see what they could find. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland runs a survey at the start of each year to see how many plants are in flower. With incredibly mild weather through December continuing into January, this was likely to mean a few flowers, but nothing could have prepared us for what we discovered on the bright and sunny morning of 4th January. Yarrow was flowering in many places, yellow splashes illuminated some of the clumps of gorse and the pale blue flowers of green alkanet were appearing here and there. With some careful searching, scarcer blooms were found, including both Guernsey and Canadian fleabane near Jubilee Pond, where some flowering alexanders were attracting a number of very unseasonal hoverflies. Wood avens was in flower by the garages behind Belgrave Road and two different types of crane’s-bill were seen under the Green Man roundabout, where there was also some flowering musk-mallow. A hornbeam tree in Bush Wood was carrying a fine display of catkins. All eight members of the botany crew were amazed at the variety of flowering plants on show: no less than 37 species in total. One can expect to find fungi throughout the year, but in early January they are usually pretty thin on the ground. Not this year, though. If plants and birds were leading the way in terms of diversity, the fungi representation was not too shabby, with a nice array of colours, including the spectacular yellow brain fungus. So, scores on the doors as of 12 Jan: 220, made up of 103 plants, 76 birds, 24 fungi and miscellaneous others. Expect the miscellaneous ‘others’ to start making up ground in the spring. Please post any sightings on the Wren Wildlife Group’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/WrenOrg/ or tweet to @wrenwildlife. Pics: Flowering Quince on Wanstead Flats; Turkey Tail fungus in Bush Wood. Tim Harris

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Wallasea RSPB Reserve Awayday

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: December 3rd, 2015 | 0 Comments

Wallasea

Visit to Wallasea RSPB Reserve Awayday on 29 November 2015

Mute Swan Brent Goose Shelduck Eurasian Wigeon Eurasian Teal Mallard Shoveler Pheasant Cormorant Little Egret Tufted Duck Grey Heron Kestrel Moorhen (Canewdon) Coot (Canewdon) Ringed Plover Golden Plover (heard only, Nick) Grey Plover Lapwing Dunlin Common Snipe Black-tailed Godwit Curlew Greenshank (Nick) Redshank Black-headed Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull Herring Gull Woodpigeon Skylark Meadow Pipit Robin (Canewdon) Jackdaw Carrion Crow Magpie Starling Linnet Reed Bunting

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Reptiles in the Exchange Lands

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: November 3rd, 2015 | 0 Comments

Grass Snake A group of Wren Group members, with support from the City of London Corporation, set out to find which reptile species were present in the Exchange Lands (Old Sewage Works) between the Empress Avenue allotments and the River Roding. At the beginning of September, some 40 roofing felt refugia were laid in the area by Thibaud Madelin and Alison Tapply. The felts were about 60 x 60 cm in size. Most (30) were placed on open grassland or at the margin of grass and hawthorn or brambles in the western section of the Exchange Lands, with the other 10 in the lower part of the area, closer to the River Roding. Some of the latter were in some very long grass though others were sited on shorter grass close to the cycle way running to the bridge over the river. The rationale of using dark-coloured felts that absorb the sun’s heat is a tried-and-tested method. Once warmed by sunshine the felts become attractive to reptiles needing to increase their body temperature, since they are ectotherms (cold blooded). However, this method assumes that there is someone on hand to check the felts as they get warm – rarely the case with only a small team of volunteers doing the checking. Occasionally reptiles may be found under a refuge early in the morning, having spent the night there, or at dusk. It is worth noting for the future that the felts in the longer grass rarely became warm because of the shading effect of the grass, and this was reflected in there being no observations in that area. The felts were checked from 4 September to 30 October. During September they were checked, on average every other day when conditions were mostly dry. There were some wet spells during the month when it wasn’t felt to be productive to check. In October the refugia were checked, on average two or three times per week. If more volunteers had been available, the checking could have been more regular.

Findings

Despite anecdotal evidence of Slowworms from people working the adjacent allotments, none were found. Neither were any Common Lizards seen. However, a good number of Grass Snakes, both juveniles and older animals, were noted between 4 September and 15 October. Grass Snakes were seen under six different refugia, with three juveniles under a single felt on 6 September being the most found on any one date. Breaking the observations down week by week, the following pattern emerges: Sept week 1: 4 juveniles Sept week 2: 7 juveniles Sept week 3: 1 young adult Sept week 4: 1 young adult Oct week 1: none Oct week 2: none Oct week 3: 1 young adult Oct week 4: none

Conclusions

Grass Snakes are apparently thriving in the Exchange Lands and, since juveniles were found under four felts (in two clusters of two, which were some distance apart), it is safe to assume that they bred in the area. It is hoped to have more refugia set out in the area in spring 2016, with the aim of getting more information on the status of Grass Snakes and – who knows – find a Slowworm or two. Thanks to all those who helped with the checking, especially Gill James, and also to Barry Chapman, Nick Croft, Kathy Hartnett, James Heal, Thibaud Madelin, Sharon Payne, Rose Stevens, Alison Tapply, and Bob Vaughan.

Tim Harris

 

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Fungi Walk in CofL Cemetary

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: October 29th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Purple Brittlegill fungus Apricot Club Black Earth-tongue On Sunday 25th Tricia Moxey led about 15 Wren members and supporters around the City of London Cemetery in search of fungi. Tricia had been a bit worried that the variety there might not be great, but her fears were unfounded and at least 20 different types were found, exhibiting an amazing array of colour: white, beige, yellow, orange, scarlet, purple and black were all represented. Several differnt kinds of bristlegills and waxcaps were found, along with Yellow and Apricot Clubs, Clouded Agarics and others. Kathy Hartnett took some great pics, of Purple Bristlegill, Apricot Club and one of the Black Earth-tongues, which Tricia had not seen before. It was a hairless variety but its exact identity has not yet been agreed.

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A tutorial in trees

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

Tree Tutorial

Gill James and Jackie Morrison gave a fascinating tour of some of Wanstead Park's trees this afternoon, 18 October. 35 Members of the Ferndale Area Residents Association, the Wren Group and Friends of Wanstead Parklands enjoyed hearing about sweet and  horse chestnuts, oaks, hazels, birches, poplars, yews and the Plain's single, inappropriately placed Wellingtonia. A bonus was provided by groups of Wigeon and Gadwall loafing on the Shoulder of Mutton Pond and the Ornamental Water. Thanks to all who came along and made it a fun afternoon.

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Nature Club – September 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: October 7th, 2015 | 0 Comments

SEPTEMBER: THERE BE DRAGONS!

dragonflies dragonflies

A fine morning, great for dragonflies ! Eleven children today. We made some fantastic model dragonflies, some with sycamore seedcases for wings and plantain heads for bodies. Dragonflies are champion fliers- they can even fly backwards and they are hard to catch as they zoom around so fast. They are also very special as they were flying 300 million years ago and some of them were a lot bigger than we see nowadays. We did see some big ones -probably southern hawkers- flying over Jubilee Pond but there was no way we could catch them for a better look.

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Nature Club – August 2015

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

AUGUST: INSECT HOTELS

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

JULY: POND-DIP & BUTTERFLIES

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

JUNE: BIRDS & BUGS

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 email:bazchaps@icloud.com

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