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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

MAY:EGGS, NESTS & SPARROW FOOD & SOMETHING WEIRD....

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
Grasses:
  • Barren Brome (Bromus sterilis)
  • Cock’s-foot
  • Common Reed (Phragmites)
Wildflowers:
  • 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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Spring migration finally gets going

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: April 14th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Common Whitethroat Swallow Grasshopper Warbler

After the early promise of Wheatears in mid-March, followed by a handful of Sand Martins and Swallows, and the establishment of territories by Chiffchaffs and then Blackcaps, not much visible bird migration was witnessed in the first few days of April. All that changed on 5th when two Red Kites and six Common Buzzards passed over our area, two more Wheatears appeared on Wanstead Flats and Meadow Pipits continued to trickle north. The trickle became a flood the following day, when 240+ were counted as they flew north. In fact, during the first week of the month alone, more than 420 Meadow Pipits were logged by the Wanstead Birders crew. The 5th also marked the start of a brief Linnet passage, with at least 45 noted moving north. The first Willow Warbler was singing on that date, to be joined by a sprinkling of others in the following week, but doubtless very few will stick around.

Fog on 9th forced single Golden Plover and Green Sandpiper to ground on the Flats, and the first Ring Ouzel of spring was found the following day. However, it was still pretty quiet until 13th when the spring’s biggest day count of Swallows (at least 10, not actually very many!) and another Wheatear were good, a Sedge Warbler at Alex was better and at least three Ring Ouzels (including two bright males, sharing their time between the SSSI and Long Wood) were the pick of the crop. The ‘mountain blackbirds’ delighted plenty of visitors by staying well into the evening.

The following morning Bob found the season’s first Common Whitethroat in the brooms. A short while later, Barry discovered a Red-legged Partridge in the same vicinity, and while I was doing some breeding bird survey work in the Old Sewage Works I heard the unmistakable sound of a reeling Grasshopper Warbler, the first spring record for our area. Later in the morning, three Tree Pipits were seen there and Dan found a male Common Redstart near Davis Lane School in the afternoon. Add to that list a sprinkling of Swallows and you have the recipe for a very good day. Let’s hope there’s plenty more to come.

Tim Harris, 14/4/2015

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The Wanstead Park consultation process: our response

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

Shoulder of Mutton, WP Temple, WP

The Wren Group welcomes the initiative to develop a plan for the Park, and the opportunity to comment on it. While we do not agree with some of the proposals set out in the consultation, there is much to commend others. Our comments on the proposals as they are set out are outlined below, but much will depend on the detail as initiatives are developed. We would wish to be included and consulted as part of the development and execution of details as they arise.

While a vision for the Wanstead Park of the future should seek to draw attention to, enhance and provide interpretation for some of its most important historic features, pushing too far in this direction will damage the unique charm of the Park, as well as its natural history. This is something we have to caution against. On the other hand, some of the proposals actually offer an opportunity to enhance wildlife habitats and improve the aesthetic quality of this well-loved open space.

Priority projects

We will not comment on every proposal, only those where we think important points need to be raised now.

1c. Restore Heronry Pond. Re-line the pond to stop water leaks; restore channels and islands on southern edge; introduce new wetland and marginal habitats along edges of ponds and islands.

We see relining as most important but would like to input into the revision or development of marginal habitats as the detail is crucial to habitat protection and improvement. There are a number of habitat improvements that – while not fitting with the Park’s historical legacy – will improve Heronry and other lakes both for wildlife and for their aesthetic appeal. These include the selective planting of reeds and the creation of one or two tern islands in Heronry Lake.

1d. Create a visitor hub at The Temple.

We agree, subject to detail, but would seek assurances that the tea hut would not be forced to close. This is a local institution!

1e. Conserve the Grotto.

We welcome consolidation of the ruins but feel "access", while promoting visibility with interpretation, should protect the structure from intruders who may cause damage.

1f.Reveal vista along Long Walk (The Glade).

Extension of the long view to the former site of the mansion needs to take into account that nothing of the mansion or its site can be revealed simply by removing vegetation. The mansion would have risen up so high above ground level that it would have formed a focal point. However, none of the mansion above ground remains so its position can no longer be seen. Additionally, the rise in ground levels across the golf club prevents views of even the site from the Park boundary. That said, we do not oppose some limited opening up, subject to retention of significant trees and minimal removal of vegetation to achieve the desired aim. We suggest that some tall marker, for example a pillar, be placed at the mansion site, which could be seen in the long view down the Glade (Long Walk) to enable users to identify the spot from a distance and appreciate the landscape intention. Interpretation boards and special fencing at the see-through point would further indicate the previous vista.

1 g. Open up other views between the Park and the golf course.

The boundary vegetation with the golf course is a very important natural habitat. We do not wish to see this destroyed simply for some possible glances through to the golf course. We do not see the cost benefit creates sufficient benefit and would therefore ask extreme caution be exercised.

1h. Reveal mansion site.

We welcome improved signage and access.

1i.Reveal North Mount and South Mount.

We welcome, subject to minimal reasonable clearance as necessary, work to allow the stabilisation, investigation and interpretation of, and access to, the mounds.

1j. Reveal the Fortifications.

We strongly object to the loss of habitat. We consider benefits to the historic landscape would be minimal. These areas of land and water have developed over many years to be exceedingly important, especially for wintering waterfowl. The Park’s national importance for wintering Gadwall, for example, is in large part a product of this environment.

1k.Improve paths and access within the Park.

We welcome footpath improvements subject to appropriate materials design and drainage. We have no objection to a bridge which may make the Park more generally accessible, subject to detailed design. Access needs to be inclusive and would be significantly expanded by the introduction of natural informal seating throughout the Park to assist those with impaired mobility and encourage contemplation and appreciation of the Park.

1l. Improve all main entrances to the Park.

We welcome improvements to the Park’s entrances and consider that entrances and boundary treatment/features should be specifically designed to "signify" the special historic and natural elements of the Park rather than off-the-peg treatments.

1m, o and p.Improve access to Wanstead Golf Course, improve connections with St Mary’s Church, and improve access and wayfinding from the surrounding area.

We welcome all proposals to improve inter-linkages but would add a request for a permissive path around The Basin, which is an important area for nature, especially winter wildfowl. Views of The Basin from Overton Drive could be improved, and the historical relevance of the lake interpreted.

1q. Improve the integrity and appearance of the water bodies.

Whilst we welcome removal of invasive species, we would like to see more detail regarding what is proposed in the way of selective removal of vegetation. Again, natural habitat is a key feature of the Park and should not be destroyed without very good reason.

1r. Reveal islands in Perch Pond.

We support some dredging and maintenance to the immediate east of the dam where silting has occurred, but oppose the destruction of trees and other vegetation on the islands to reveal a former landscape at this point. Again, this area of wet woodland, small though it is, provides an important wildlife habitat.

1u. Improve links with the River Roding.

We agree to selective creation of access.

1v. Introduce children’s play.

We support appropriately designed and located children's play.

Longer terms priorities

2a. Improve vista along Long Walk.

We welcome the maintenance of the edges to Long Walk (The Glade) so that there is no further encroachment of vegetation onto the grass swathe, but we oppose the replacement of natural vegetation with formal planting. While it is a worthy aim to remove some of the scrub growth alongside the grassland, it should not be the intention to remove it all. The slightly ‘wild’ environment of the Park is one of its charms, not least in this area.

2b. Reveal Great Mount.

We consider this to be a low priority.

2c. Restore views. Clear vegetation in Chalet Wood and Warren Wood to open up lost historic views.

This would destroy habitats with a devastating effect. We would strongly oppose.

2d. Improve paths and access within Park.

Agree, subject to controls on dog behaviour on pathside grass. There is a danger that this will become an unhealthy dog toilet which will not only be unappealing but which will offset the positive effects (wild flowers growing the grass, with associated butterflies etc) through increased nutrient inputs. Again gravel path construction needs to be robust and have good drainage.

2j. Improve access and interpretation in Wanstead Golf Course.

A permissive path to The Basin would be welcome.

2k. Management of The Dell.

We very much welcome raising the water levels a little in The Dell.

2m.Management of Bush Wood: manage vegetation along rides in Bush Wood to open up views along former quincunx avenues.

We disagree, as this would unnecessarily destroy habitat.

Possible aspirations

We do not see the need to increase parking as there is plenty of on-street parking available on all sides of the Park and it would introduce a modern, alien feature into an area where natural habitat and historic character should be promoted. The CoL should also be encouraging the use of public transport and bikes to access the park and include cycle racks at secure locations.

We also wish to emphasise that for it to work any capital project requires a commitment that it will be sustained after the initial works by on-going revenue expenditure and/or voluntary contribution and work. To that end the CoL should have in place a works and maintenance strategy so that work by the CoL and various voluntary groups is coordinated toward agreed ends and on a day-to-day basis.

A Word copy of this response can be downloaded here: WPplan 2014 Response

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Spike in Shoveler numbers

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

Shoveller - DGAs expected, the coordinated waterbird counts for the Wanstead Park lakes, Hollow Pond (Whipp's Cross) and Eagle Pond (Snaresbrook) conducted on Sunday 8 March for the British Trust for Ornithology showed that most of our wintering wildfowl have now gone. That said, a count of 56 Gadwall in the Park is still an impressive figure, even though it is less than 15 percent of the maximum at the start of the year. Eleven Pochard still lingered on The Basin, but there was little else of note in the duck department - apart from the Shoveler count. For the second March running, Debbie noted a spike in numbers at Eagle Pond, with 24 birds, and there were 17 in the Park. Even excluding the two birds that Anne-Marie noted at Hollow Pond, that makes a very respectable total of 43, the highest count of winter, suggesting that these birds are assembling prior to leaving for continental Europe. Maybe they are part of a slow eastward passage in anticipation of moving off to breeding grounds? We simply don't know, but it will be interesting to see if they stick around (unlikely) or if the pattern is repeated next year. Otherwise, there are clear signs that Little Grebes will be nesting again at The Basin and Shoulder of Mutton Pond (as well as Alexandra Lake), and both The Basin and Heronry Lake had a brace of Great Crested Grebes. A Kingfisher was briefly glimpsed by Perch Pond and James picked up two Little Egrets on the River Roding. Thanks to All this data provides a valuable resource for the BTO, so thanks to Kathy, David, Bea, James, Andrew, Haydn, Saci, Debbie and Anne-Marie for giving up their time on a Sunday morning. Tim Harris 10 March 2015

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Scrub clearance in the Exchange Lands

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: March 1st, 2015 | 0 Comments

004   A bright, sunny morning with a blustery wind saw a dozen Wren volunteers clearing bramble scrub in the Exchange Lands, between the River Roding and the City of London Cemetery. We do this activity every year to maintain the balance between grassland and scrub in the area. Both habitats are important habitats for insects and birds, but left unmanaged the whole area would become covered with brambles and we would lose the grassland wildflowers, several butterfly and moth species and birds such as Green Woodpecker. This was the last weekend practical work of the winter; birds are now starting to nest and we want to avoid disturbance. Tim Harris, 1 March 2015  

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