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Woodberry Wetlands: lessons for Wanstead Park?


Woodberry Wetlands
On Thursday 5 October a group organised by Epping Forest Operations Manager Geoff Sinclair visited the Woodberry Wetlands reserve in Stoke Newington. As well as Geoff, the party included chief ecologist Dr Jeremy Dagley, conservation arborist Richard Edmonds and other Epping Forest representatives. Several members of the Friends of Wanstead Parklands and Wren Group also attended.

Although Woodberry Wetlands is a very different site to Wanstead Park, the purpose of the visit was to discuss how elements of the landscape planning for nature might be relevant there.

Geoff Sinclair said beforehand –

“Broadly speaking, issues that are of interest are:

Enhancing the biodiversity value of lakes – especially how to improve the pretty hard lake margins on a couple of our lakes.
Managing invasive weeds: Floating Pennywort, Crassula etc.
Managing Blue Green algae.

More strategically, we have four lakes linked to the River Roding that to date we have tended to think about in terms of heritage rather than biodiversity. We are looking for steers on the sort of strategic biodiversity priorities that we might consider at Wanstead Park”.

Woodberry Wetlands
The group was met by David Mooney of the London Wildlife Trust, who outlined a number of ideas that could be relevant in Wanstead Park, particularly how reedbeds had been created, benefitting birds, fish, dragonflies and amphibians.
Woodberry Wetlands
Also of interest, given that the “Parkland Plan” for Wanstead Park is nearing completion, were David’s comments about the Woodberry Wetlands site’s “business model” including the role of grant-aid and other forms of fundraising.
Woodberry Wetlands
David said that a key factor was the on-site café, which was managed in-house. It contributed no less than £95,000 per year, of which nearly half came from sales, but the majority from events.
Woodberry Wetlands
David emphasised the role of volunteers in maintaining Woodberry Wetlands. As well as people who carried out day-to-day practical work, these included a number of high-profile ambassadors, such as actress Alison Steadman and historian Tom Holland.

Gill James, a member of both the Friends and the Wren Group said afterwards that the visit had been “really useful” and “given us all plenty of food for thought”.

Staff from Epping Forest and members of the Wren Group and Friends of Wanstead Parklands are now going to mull over some of the practical lessons from Woodberry Wetlands. One medium-term outcome may be the establishment of a reedbed at the western end of the Heronry Pond.
Woodberry Wetlands
Woodberry Wetlands was opened by Sir David Attenborough in 2016, having previously been known as Stoke Newington East Reservoir. The wetlands are the result of a proposal by the London Wildlife Trust to enhance the reservoir for wildlife and open it up so people can access a high quality, natural space in a densely built-up environment.

Copied, with permission, from Friends of Wanstead Parklands.

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October 7th, 2017

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Nature Club – November 2016 – A Rainy Day



Today it rained ALL morning. We made a giant spider’s web with Charlotte in the middle. Then we made leaf art : we rubbed the undersides of dried leaves ( the veins show more on the undersides) to make beautiful leaf skeleton pictures. Then we played Big Bingo. Menuo was a very good caller and Ruduo won the game.

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December 12th, 2016

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


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

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May 24th, 2016

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Redbridge Group of the London Wildlife Trust Survey


Please take part in the survey described below – it will only take a few minutes and is vital if we are to maintain and improve our open spaces in the Borough for nature.

Please get as many people as possible to participate and press all the nature buttons including greenlinks that they can it is a very simple survey and will only take 10 minutes at most.

The link will take you to the Redbridge Local plan 2015-2030 page,(which may be of interest) the open space consultation survey link is about buried halfway down the page which links to SurveyMonkey.

Many Thanks

Chris Gannaway for the Redbridge Group of the London Wildlife Trust

The London Wildlife Trust is company limited by guarantee registered in England and Wales 1600379 and registered charity number 283895. Registered Office: Dean Bradley House, 52 Horseferry Road, London, SW1P 2AF

Open Space Assessment Online Consultation Survey Questionnaire

Redbridge Council is updating its information on how open spaces are used in the borough. This information will supplement existing evidence including the Open Space Study and Playing Pitches Strategy.
The update involves the completion of a short online consultation survey questionnaire, which will provide the Council with a better understanding of how the borough’s open spaces are used, which parks are used most frequently, users’ satisfaction with current provision, the modes of travel used and distances travelled to open spaces.
To participate in the survey, please go to:
Open Space Assessment Online Consultation Survey Questionnaire

The online questionnaire can be accessed between 4th April and 1st May 2016.
If you have any queries please do not hesitate to contact the Planning Policy Team on 020 8708 2748.

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April 6th, 2016

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Report your Hedgehogs!


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 http://bighedgehogmap.org. 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: bazchaps@icloud.com or on Twitter: @wansteadwomble.

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August 10th, 2015

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A tale of two waterbirds


Gadwall

Moorhen

Counters

 

Counting waterbirds on a monthly basis can be a bit of a slog at times. For a start, it takes several hours to get around all the lakes in Wanstead Park, let alone those on Wanstead Flats. The weather may be cold and wet, the paths muddy and sometimes not very much has changed since the previous month. Counting gulls on Wanstead Flats is particularly frustrating, regularly producing the classic situation where – close to the end of logging a large loafing roost of Common Gulls, 583, 584, 585 … a dog charges through the middle and disperses the lot. Right, where was I? 1, 2, 3, 4 …

Despite this, the numbers produced provide useful information for the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), helping them to evaluate which species are faring well and which are in trouble. Locally, we have a team of tireless counters, so during the winter months not only Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats but Eagle Pond (Snaresbrook) and Hollow Pond (Whipps Cross) are covered. We also now have an almost complete record for the months of autumn, winter and early spring stretching back to January 2009. That makes it possible to look at trends and, maybe, draw some conclusions. Combined counts for Wanstead Park, Wanstead Flats and Eagle Pond can be compared now over seven WeBS counts. Systematic counting has only recently restarted at Hollow Pond, so a comparison cannot be made including that site. Browsing through the figures, trends for two birds jumped out at me: those for Gadwall and for Moorhen. Figures for the recent WeBS count produced record January numbers for both species.

The ‘Gadwall army’

The main concentration of Gadwall in our area is on Alexandra Lake and the lakes of Wanstead Park, all waters where there is plentiful weed for these ducks to eat. Numbers at Eagle Pond rarely exceed single figures. The rate of increase was slow and irregular in the first years of the sequence: 40 in January 2009, 24 in January 2010, 101 in January 2011 and 88 in January 2012. During these years, the peak counts were respectively 111, 86, 137 – and this is where things really start to lift off – 200+ in December 2012. Since then, the rise of the ‘Gadwall army’ (as former Wren newsletter editor Steve Swaby has dubbed it) has been seemingly inexorable, with 363 in December 2013 and 459 in December 2014. The 422 counted in January 2015 was the highest-ever January count, and the biggest count on a WeBS day.

Gadwall was a pretty rare bird in London not that long ago. According to Andrew Self (The Birds of London, 2014), the average wintering population in London was only about 100 in 1970. Wanstead Bird Reports from the late 70s and early 80s mark it out as a local rarity. However, by the end of the century the London winter population was around 2,500, and Self describes an average of 600 in the Lea Valley in recent years. The peak count (at the time of publication of his book) he lists was 453 at Cheshunt GP in December 1989. A larger share of London’s birds is now wintering in Wanstead, but there is no obvious reason why. Clearly there is a plentiful supply of weed on which the birds can feed, and maybe the growth of weed in our lakes has made it easier for these attractive dabbling ducks to feed by upending. Whether other factors are involved – such as an increase in the continental populations from where most of our birds originate, or problems with the food supply at locations where they previously wintered – is not clear. One thing is certain, we should enjoy the phenomenon while it lasts because like pretty much everything in nature, numbers go down as well as up. Cutting of the weed in The Basin later this year may well impact on the numbers that lake can support next winter.

Moorhen success

Another success story, though much less dramatic, concerns Moorhens. Again, January WeBS figures for the years 2009-2015 show a consistent increase: 20, 21, 35, 44, 2013 figure lost by a careless recorder!, 66 and 80. And maximum counts for those years were as follows: 47, 56, 35, 65, figure unavailable, and 78 in 2014. Judging by the number of juvenile Moorhens seen on our lakes in recent autumns, I believe this increase can be put down to local breeding success. The species nests in emergent vegetation, where they are better protected than Coots’ nests, which are exposed stick islands, easy pickings for Lesser Black-backed Gulls. With the highest-ever January WeBS count for the species this year, I reckon we could be in for another bumper breeding season.

Tim Harris 19/1/2015

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January 20th, 2015

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Rainham Marshes visit 11 January 2015


WREN Awayday Rainham Marshes
One of the most evocative sights of a chilly winter’s day is that of hundreds of Lapwings climbing into a bright blue sky, their underwings glinting brightly in the sun as they turn. This was something we witnessed several times on the Wren Group awayday to Rainham Marshes RSPB reserve on Sunday 11 January. The morning began with a beautiful Redwing perched up nicely near the visitor centre and the afternoon ended watching a roost of 25 Redshank on one of the stone barges near the Tilda Rice Factory (a lyric from a Morrissey song?). I love the juxtaposition of industrial and green landscapes, and this stretch of the Thames, with the former grazing marshes of Rainham and Aveley on one bank and the smoking stacks of Belvedere and Erith on the south shore have this mix in bucketloads.

It was a day for watching ducks in their most brilliant plumages: Wigeon, Teal, Pintail, Shoveler and Mallard. A day for walking the boardwalks with the occasional rather subdued burst of Cetti’s Warbler song as accompaniment. And a day for looking in vain for Bearded Tit and Water Rail … Respite from the bitter wind came in the large new hide at the west end of the reserve, where two Stonechats performed well for the group. Before some of the group broke ranks and walked along the Thames path in search of pipits, a female Marsh Harrier rose to quarter the marsh to the west and a Kestrel passed overhead. The Thameside walk produced scant rewards – very poor views of one Rock Pipit – but it was a pleasant-enough diversion. Then it was back to the visitor centre for hot drinks before a final stop at the stone barges. The combined ‘day-list’ was 56 species, but it’s not about numbers; it’s about sharing time with like-minded people and enjoying nature in the heart of an industrial landscape.

Thanks to Dave, David, Don, Eleanor, Gill, Hannah, Kathy, Linda, Nayna, Peter, Rosie for making the day so enjoyable.

Tim Harris 11/1/2015

Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Common Teal, Mallard, Pintail, Shoveler, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Pheasant, Little Grebe, Cormorant, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Marsh Harrier, Kestrel, Moorhen, Coot, European Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dunlin, Common Snipe, Redshank, Black-headed Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Feral Rock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Rock Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Dunnock, Robin, European Stonechat, Blackbird, Fieldfare, Redwing, Mistle Thrush, Cetti’s Warbler, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Linnet, Reed Bunting.

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January 11th, 2015

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Rare grebe drops in


Slavonian Grebe - KHOn Saturday 3rd January Nick Croft found a winter-plumaged Slavonian Grebe on Heronry Lake, in Wanstead Park. The bird – which is intermediate in size between Little Grebe and Great Crested Grebe – is still present at the time of writing. It has been diving almost constantly for small fish with, it has to be said, a great deal of success. This bird represents the first record for the ‘local patch’ of Wanstead Park and Wanstead Flats and has helped local patch-listers get the year off to a great start. In a national and European context, Slavonian Grebe is a scarce species. The British Trust for Ornithology puts its UK population at around 30 breeding pairs, while the estimate for Europe is between 4,800 and 8,000 breeding pairs. In the period 2004/5 to 2008/9 the population wintering around British coasts averaged just 1,100. A few birds are known to spend the winter months off the coasts of Essex and Kent and it is likely that this bird was displaced from coastal waters by the stormy conditions between Christmas and New Year. Will it stay? Probably not, but if it does we’re in for a real treat because the breeding plumage is spectacular and gives the birds its North American name, Horned Grebe.

Other interesting sightings in the first few days of the year include a probable Woodlark with the Skylark flock on the western part of Wanstead Flats and a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in St Mary’s churchyard, Overton Drive.

Tim Harris, 7/1/2015

Slavonian Grebe pic: Kathy Hartnett

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January 7th, 2015

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