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.


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


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


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


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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