First Pratical Work of the Autumn

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: October 4th, 2016 | 0 Comments

img_3017 img_3019 img_3022 img_3026 img_3031 During the first practical work session of the autumn huge pile of brambles were removed from Chalet Wood to assist the bluebells in coming through in the Spring. Several small froglets rehomed and a large skull with upper part of spine unearthed too.

Read More

Nature Club – September 2016 – Pond dip and Bird Song

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: September 27th, 2016 | 0 Comments

img_5782 img_5777 A lovely warm day again. We listened to some recorded bird songs we were likely to hear around Jubilee Pond like coot and mallard and were pretty good at guessing which was which. We found guessing the swan's song quite difficult! Then we went pond dipping and found a lovely fat leech, lots of waterboatmen and dozens of pond snails. The pond snails had clear sacks of eggs attached to themselves and to pondweed. We also saw some small red-bodied dragonflies called common darters flying around. We had a great time on the swings too. Then we went to investigate the six large mystery holes which have appeared in the little wood by the changing rooms. We will have to do more detective work to find out who made them.....

Read More

Nature Club – August 2016 – Grass Art and Grasshoppers

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: August 31st, 2016 | 0 Comments

5566: Grass art people 5556: Summer flower crown What do you do on a warm dry August morning? You go hunting minibeasts in the long dry grass! We looked especially for crickets and grasshoppers, the Olympic champion jumpers of the insect world. If they were the same size as us they could jump a whole football pitch in three jumps- that's about 30 meters per jump! We tried it ourselves but we weren't nearly as good. We found lots of late summer flowers in the grass and made wreaths for our hair out of bindweed flowers. We made doll figures out of the long dry yellow grass stalks, tied their arms and legs with raffia nad gave them clay faces with mini apples for eyes. They looked like the corn dollies people used to make after the harvest. 8 children today.

Read More

Wanstead’s Botanical Bonanza

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: August 3rd, 2016 | 0 Comments

Plants were always going to play a big part in the Wren Group’s quest to find 1,000 species within the Wanstead area in 2016. They have not disappointed. The year got off to a very good start, with many plants in flower in the churchyard of St Mary’s on Overton Drive and around Jubilee Pond in early January. And a wet spring contributed to fine shows of many flowers in May and June, with micro-sites such as the wayleave behind Belgrave Road coming into their own.

The areas that proved the most productive were Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Flats, of course, but within these were some real gems, notably the SSSI and the bank at the west end of the brickpit. Parts of the wonderfully managed City of London Cemetery were excellent also, but the real stars were the Old Sewage Works and the Green Man roundabout – both of which had displays of Bee Orchids in June. The Old Sewage Works also had a few Pyramidal Orchids in July.

Bee Orchid

Other flowers which seem to have a good spring and early summer include Heath Bedstraw, Grass Vetchling and Meadow Vetchling on Wanstead Flats, and Yellow Rattle flowered for a second year running in the SSSI. After a tip-off from Kathy Hartnett, Paul Ferris identified a specimen of Italian Eryngo by Jubilee Pond at the start of August. Where has this, previously unrecorded, plant come from? A couple of months earlier Sharon Payne had identified Sulphur Cinquefoil on Bush Road. Again, the provenance of this specimen is anyone’s guess.

Meadow Vetchling Grass Vetchling

As of the beginning of August well over 400 plants have been noted, including a number of mosses. Many grasses remain unidentified, and many more mosses won’t be recorded until the damp days of autumn. Why not take a look at the linked list and see whether you can add any species to it? Please let us have a note of the location, date and whether the plant was in flower. Salsify

Tim Harris

Read More

Nature Club – July 2016 – Woodlice and other minibeasts

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: July 31st, 2016 | 0 Comments

5286: Making woodlouse homes Did you know that a woodlouse has 14 legs? And that we used to swallow them live to cure a tummy ache? That's why some people call them pill bugs. We did an experiment to find out where they prefer to make their home and found out that they prefer being in the dark and they like being damp too. They are not very waterproof like us and dry up quickly and have shells like lobsters. Like worms they are Nature's Recyclers as they like to eat old decaying leaves and wood. So next time you see a woodlouse, don't tread on it, it is doing a useful job! Then we went round Jubilee Pond which looked very pretty in the sunshine with lots of wild flowers out. We had a go at catching butterflies and other creatures such as crickets and ladybirds with our sweep nets in the long grass. We got a bit hot and thirsty and fed the ducks with some proper duck food pellets. 9 children today.

Read More

Nature Club – June 2016 – Earthworm Watch and Minibeast Hunt

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: June 30th, 2016 | 0 Comments

5099: Looking for earthworms More Citizen Science for our young scientists! We took part in a national survey of earthworms called Earthworm Watch by looking at earthworms on Wanstead Flats and seeing what kind of soil we have. We dug a hole in a recently cleared patch of earth where some tree had been cut down. It was very hard as it had probably never been dug before and had tree roots and lumps of yellow clay. Ruduo was a terrific digger. Then we carefully sifted through the dark brown surface soil we had dug out and found 6 pale coloured surface- feeding worms, one of which had a 'saddle' which told us it was an adult. Then we poured a mustard powder and water mixture in the hole to see if there were any deep-living worms down there at the bottom. Worms don't like this, so they come out. Mustard must be too hot for their taste, but it does not hurt them. We saw two more longer and darker worms appear! We also did a test with a few of drops of vinegar to see if the soil fizzed. It did not so we learnt that it was not a limestone soil. We could squeeze handfuls of soil in to sausage and patty shapes which told us it was not a sandy soil but a clay soil. This is typical of the soil in the Thames Valley area where we live. We also went looking for minibeasts amongst the lovely waving flowering grasses and found some beautiful spiders carrying their young in egg sacs between their spinners. We identified them as a wolf spider and a nursery web spider. 7 children today.

Read More

Bio-Blitz 2016

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: June 20th, 2016 | 0 Comments

We are pleased to announce the second midsummer bio-blitz on the weekend of 24-26th June. The programme includes leisurely nature walks, children's activities and more specialist quests for specific creatures in Wanstead Park and on Wanstead Flats. All events are free. The itinerary is as follows (though please note that poor weather may force the cancellation of some activities):


21:00: Bat walk, led by Francis Castro, assisted by Mirza. Meeting point: tea hut, Wanstead Park. We will use bat-detectors to locate and identify feeding bats.

22:00-midnight: Moth-trapping in the grounds of The Temple, led by Graham Smith, Anthony Harbott and Tim Harris. Meeting point: The Temple, Wanstead Park. Light-traps will be used to attract a variety of these nocturnal insects.


10:30-12:30: Nature walk on Wanstead Flats, led by Tricia Moxey. Meeting point: gazebo by Centre Rd car park A leisurely walk to look at wildflowers, butterflies and Skylarks.

12:00-16:00: Fly Quest, led by Jeremy Richardson Meeting point: gazebo by Centre Rd car park People can join Jeremy as he searches for some of the unusual hoverflies and flies of Wanstead Flats.

14:00: Nature walk, led by Jackie Morrison and Gill James Meeting point: Jubilee Pond car park A gentle walk looking at grasses, wildflowers and insects.


05:00-07:30: Dawn Chorus walk, led by Nick Croft and James Heal Meeting point: the tea hut in Wanstead Park Join the Wanstead Birders as they search the Old Sewage Works, the banks of the River Roding and Wanstead Park for our breeding birds.

10:30-12:00: Nature walk in Wanstead Park, led by Tricia Moxey Meeting point: gazebo by The Temple A leisurely walk to look at wildflowers, trees and butterflies

11:00-12:30: Pond-dipping in Shoulder of Mutton Pond, led by Derek McEwan Meeting point: gazebo by The Temple The pond holds an astonishing variety of invertebrate life. Nets are provided but please bring wellingtons!

11:00-12:00: Gastropod quest, Old Sewage Works, led by Penny and Nick Evans. Meeting point: gazebo by The Temple A look at the variety and lifestyles of our snails and slugs.

13:00: children's activities in Temple Garden, led by Gill James, Anita McCullough, Jane Cleall. Simple treasure/scavenger hunt, a nature table, mud painting, plus drawing and painting found items with Anita McCullough

14:00-16:00: Nature walk with Ferndale Area Residents Association, led by Tim Harris Meeting point: Ferndale Rd (Wanstead Flats end) We will walk through Bush Wood, cross into Wanstead Park and pass Reservoir Wood and Shoulder of Mutton pond, before finishing at the tea hut, looking at wildflowers, trees, butterflies and birds along the route.

14:00-15:3: Pond-dipping in Shoulder of Mutton Pond, led by Derek McEwan Meeting point: gazebo by The Temple Another chance to look at the aquatic invertebrates of the lake with an expert tutor. Wellington essential!

Read More

London’s third-ever Blyth’s Reed Warbler on Wanstead Flats

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: May 24th, 2016 | 0 Comments

Nick Croft, a WREN member, discovered London's third-ever Blyth's Reed Warbler on Wanstead Flats almost exactly two years ago. The paper he wrote detailing the amazing find is in the London Bird Report. For further details: London Bird Report: Blyths Reed Warbler by Nick-Croft

Read More

Nature Club – May 2016 – Pond Dip and Water Survey

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: May 23rd, 2016 | 0 Comments

Studying pond dip finds Retrieving  ph strip

Images: GJ - Retrieving a ph strip. Studying pond dip finds.

We followed up the Clean Water Survey we did on our two ponds in March when we tested for water pollution. This time we thought about what wildife we might find in Spring in our ponds and we looked at some sedge plants, dried up yukky deadfrogs, some live toadlets, water snails and even a newt borrowed from Gill's pond to remind us what to look for. We did three tests on Jubilee Pond as part of the national OPAL survey. First we tested to see how clear the water was by collecting the pond water in a plastic bottle and working out if we could see the spots on the Opalometer disc in the bottom. The water was nice and clear and slightly green. Then we tested to see if the water was acid or alkali by dipping ph test strips in the pond and seeing what colour they turned. They turned greeny-blue, which told us that the water was not too alkaline which is good for wildlife. Finally we did our pond dip! It was quite cold and we only found small things such as beetles, lots of water boatmen, tiny bugs or fleas, and damselfly larvae and other larvae, which told us that the pond was a good place for wildlife and has a high Pond Health Score. The ducks, swans and geese already knew this as there were lots of them there and they hadn't done any of the tests! We had thirteen children today and several parents too.

Read More

Nature Club – April 2016 – London Pigeons

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: May 23rd, 2016 | 0 Comments

Jubilee Pond pigeons Drawing pigeons

Images: GJ - Jubilee Pond pigeons. Drawing pigeons.

Today we took a closer look at a very familiar bird: the pigeon! We looked a two bird's eggs to compare their sizes and worked out that the larger white one was a pigeon's egg. Then we looked at pictures of different kinds of pigeons, some of which we might see in the garden like the wood pigeon and the collared dove- and we listened to their songs ( 'two teas please Louise....') and Anya told us about when she dissected and ate a ( cooked) wood pigeon! We saw an amazing film of a huge flock of racing pigeons being released on Wanstead Flats. Then we went out and found our own flock of pigeons near Jubilee Pond , chose one pigeon ( they are all different) and carefully drew it. Our pigeons were called Alphie, Mr Hoo, Sharon, Polly, Jimeela, Honko and Percy. Then we went to find where they roost at night- it was easy to find the roost under the railway arches because of the piles of poo underneath! Then, because it is spring, we planted some dwarf bean seeds in pots to take home to grow and, we hope, eat one day.

Read More