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wrengroup

Posted on:
January 10th, 2019

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Dragons on the Wing


Ruddy Darter

Ruddy Darter – Kathy Hartnett

Whilst walking along the east end of Perch Pond on 7th August, I stopped to investigate both the plants along the pond’s bank, and to watch the various dragonflies and damselflies flying along there. There were several of the various ‘blue’ damselflies, a Brown Hawker, a female Emperor Dragonfly (egg-laying), but the only one I managed to photograph was a red darter.  Closer examination showed it to be a Ruddy Darter, which is less abundant than the similar looking Common Darter.  The most obvious distinctions are that the Ruddy Darter’s waisted abdomen is more of a blood-red colour, whilst the Common Darter’s is a slightly paler orange-red, and is not a waisted shape, ie it is more straight.  Also the RD’s head is red, whilst the CD’s is brown; and the RD’s legs are black, whilst the CD’s are brown.  There are a few more ID distinctions, but to see them you would either have to look more closely at the creature – perhaps via binoculars – to observe its different markings, or study any photographs which you have taken later, and check them with a field-guide.

Two days later I found another Ruddy Darter, this time on Shoulder of Mutton Pond. A Black-tailed Skimmer and an Emperor were both ‘patrolling’ there, and there were several of the ‘blue’ damselflies.  Some of the blue damselflies looked decidedly shorter – and they turned out to be Small Red-eyed Damselflies, a fairly recent colonist in the UK.

Kathy Hartnett

 

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wrengroup

Posted on:
August 12th, 2014

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Butterfly hunting at the Olympic Park


Clouded Yellow

Clouded Yellow – Kathy Hartnett

Over the last couple of years, I have focused more on looking at butterflies, so today I visited the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, to see what I could find there of these beautiful creatures.  Conditions were butterfly-friendly, ie very sunny and hot, with lots of wildflowers still in bloom for them to visit for their fill of nectar.  During my afternoon at the park, I noted 5 Meadow Browns, 20 Gatekeepers, 2 Peacocks, 1 Red Admiral, 14 unspecified ‘Whites’, and 200+ Common Blues – definitely the most frequent butterfly-ers of the day!

However, my ‘star butterfly spot of the day’ was a Clouded Yellow – my first time seeing this particular butterfly, and by the end of my visit, I had seen 11 in total.  The only other yellow butterfly I had ever seen before was the Brimstone, but the Clouded Yellow is quite different – a deeper, ‘buttery’ gold kind of colour.  The Brimstone is a much paler yellow.  According to one of my butterfly guide books : “The Clouded Yellow is a well-known but unpredictable migrant to Britain, and occasionally arrives in huge numbers.  However, most years only a few arrive from the Continent.”  So, although not rare, it seems it is fairly uncommon to see.  It certainly made my day to see it, or should I say, them!

Kathy Hartnett

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wrengroup

Posted on:
August 4th, 2014

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Bat Night on Perch Pond


Pipistrelle in flight

Pipistrelle

On 31 July 2014, a Thursday evening, the group met at the Tea Hut at 20:30 for a Bat Walk in Wanstead Park. This was a little early, even damselflies were still about and the birds going to roost, but it was felt best to meet while it was still light rather than have people stumbling about in the dark. At about 21:00, there being no activity on Heronry Pond, the group of 29, aged between <1 and 70+, walked over to the dam at Perch Pond, bat detectors at the ready. A few minutes later a signal was received in the 20-25Khz range and shortly thereafter a Noctule was sighted about 50m up over the trees bordering Perch Pond, flying in front of the clouds that were lit by the waxing crescent moon. At about 21:30 things really began with the arrival of at least two Daubenton’s skimming the surface of Perch Pond in the moonlight, followed by the arrival of at least four Soprano Pipistrelles. At around 22:00 the Common Pipistrelles arrived and the group settled down on the dam to watch and listen to the show until at 22:30 when it was decided to call it a night and the group returned to the Tea Hut and hence home.

A really interesting and enjoyable way to spend an evening. Not only because of the bats but also just being quiet in Wanstead Park as it grew dark, with the clouds reddened by the moon after the sun had set gradually fading into the gloom. Hard to believe that Canary Warf is less than five miles away.

David Giddings

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wrengroup

Posted on:
July 31st, 2014

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An explosion of spring


Nature always finds new ways to surprise. On Sunday 14th April winter finally relinquished is icy grasp and it was great to be walking around without a thick coat for the first time in months. A group of Wren group members gathered in warm sunshine in Wanstead Park to conduct the last waterbird count of the 2012/13 winter season. Our first impression, looking out over Heronry lake, was how empty it was. Yes, there were lots of Coots on their stick-island nests. And yes, there were small groups of Tufted Ducks, the males resplendent in their black-and-white plumage, and loafing Mallards. But gone was winter’s flock of Pochard. And gone, too, were the record-breaking numbers of Gadwall that we’d grown so used to seeing. It did not promise to be a particularly dramatic count! But first impressions can be wrong. David had already seen two Brimstone butterflies by the time he joined us, and as we were walking around the old sewage works an Orange Tip flew past. We weren’t able to get good views of this early-season species but were luckier with several Commas in the area cleared by the practical work team during the icy months. Andrew had had the foresight to bring a camera and managed to get some nice shots of one of this species nectaring on some brilliant yellow Coltsfoot. As we worked our way up the eastern side of the Ornamental Waters we saw several more Commas and the day’s butterfly variety was added to later with a Peacock near Shoulder of Mutton. &amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; At the southern end of the Ornamentals a large mass of frog spawn got us all peering into the water. Sure enough there were several Common Frogs, some in amplexus, and at least two Common Toads. Then I heard a call of “Bat!” as Linda, Andrew and David saw what was probably a variety of pipistrelle flying through the trees. After an all-too-long winter in hibernation, bats are now desperately hungry and will emerge during the day to feast on any flying invertebrates. Not to be outdone, Pam saw a medium-sized fish, which she later identified as a young Perch. &amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; By this time we had successfully worked our way through all the classes of vertebrate animals. (Earlier, two sunbathing Red-eared Terrapins were spied on a log at the western end of Perch pond. OK, they’re not native to the UK but they’ve been here a long time and I think they’re still of interest.) &amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; Despite all these distractions our focus on waterbirds remained. Although we made no dramatic finds, we discovered that 16 Gadwall and seven Shoveler remained on the park’s ponds and lakes and that Little Grebes were paired up at both ends of Heronry and on Shoulder of Mutton. Also, that the Great Crested Grebes remained on the former lake. There was other bird interest, too. Three Swallows flew over during the course of the morning; we were able to watch a pair of Sparrowhawks displaying over Warren Wood; and a Common Buzzard, closely attended by Carrion Crows, drifted south over the Glade. &amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; All in all, a great morning to be out and about. It’s amazing what a splash of warm sunshine can do. &amp;amp;amp;amp;nbsp; Tim Harris Picture: Comma on Coltsfoot by Andrew Spencer STOP PRESS: 15 April: 27 Wheatear, 5 Common Redstart, 3 Whinchat, Ring Ouzel on Wanstead Flats.

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wrengroup

Posted on:
April 14th, 2014

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The Jolly Waders


(Kathy) P1230981

On Sunday 2 March members of the Wren Group practical work team
donned waders and life-jackets to clear areas of Floating Pennywort
(Hydrocotyle ranunculoides) from the western end of Perch Pond. This
aquatic plant, which grows on the surface of the water, is actually
quite attractive, so why bother? Well, it is not a native species but
adapts very well to conditions in the UK. It is capable of growing up
to 15 metres from the side of a lake in a single growing season
(that’s an astonishing 20cm per day) and up to 50cm thick. Smothering
the surface of a water body, that inevitably means the ecology of the
lake, pond or ditch is dramatically altered. Other plants will be
crowded out, surface-feeding birds are denied a water surface to
dabble in, and invertebrates in the water beneath are denied light.

(Kathy) P1230990The plant is a native of North America but, being popular with the
aquatic nursery industry, has colonised many other parts of the
world, including South America and much of southern Europe. Although
warnings about the risk of colonisation were apparently voiced as
long ago as 1936, it first really began to spread in the UK after
being sold for garden ponds in the 1980s. Floating Pennywort is not
an easy plant to remove. Its fine roots grow from nodes and unless
these are picked from the water they will simply re-grow. This is an
example of good old-fashioned hand-removal being more effective,
certainly in small areas of infestation, than mechanical methods,
which can simply spread the plant to other areas.

Contractors brought in by the City of London Corporation had cleared
some large areas of the plant in late January, but we were able to
tackle some of the smaller clumps in the area near the tea hut. We
will now be on the lookout to see where it re-establishes itself,
since complete eradication is well nigh impossible. Having said that,
work carried out to remove it from Heronry Lake a few years ago does
appear to have been a complete success.

Tim Harris

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wrengroup

Posted on:
March 3rd, 2014

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