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Save our Skylarks!


The Wren Group, in conjunction with the City of London, has produced a new leaflet explaining the key role that dog-walkers can play in conserving our valuable breeding population of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. Wanstead Flats has the only significant populations of these ground-nesting birds within a seven-mile radius of the centre of London, but the numbers are becoming alarmingly small. Everyone agrees it is important that we do everything in our power to keep these songsters in our manor. Disturbance during the breeding season, between the beginning of March and August, could reduce the number of young our ground-nesting birds manage to raise. Since the life expectancy of a Skylark is just two years on average, our population could disappear if breeding productivity is low. Dog-walkers are sometimes unaware that when Rover or Scruffy charges through the areas of long grass to the east of Centre Road, or just south of Alexandra Lake, he or she could be inadvertently disturbing a female Skylark on the nest or a brood of Meadow Pipit chicks. For this reason, dog-walkers are being asked to keep their dogs on the leash and on the paths running through the signed long-grass area during the breeding season.

A group of Skylark-friendly dog-walkers are handing out the leaflets to explain the campaign. In addition, on Saturdays 1 March, 15 March and 29 March there will be a walkover of the area where the Skylarks nest to show dog-walkers what they look and sound like. Forest keeper Thibaud Madelin and members of the Wren Group will lead the walks. Meet at the Centre Road car park at 10:00. The walks will last for about an hour.

If you would like some leaflets, please text Tim on 07505 482328

Photos: responsible dog-walker Nayna with her dog Casper (T Harris); Skylark (J Lethbridge)

 

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wrengroup

Posted on:
February 28th, 2014

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Looking Good in Bush Wood


So often ignored, Bush Wood really does deserve more attention. Providing a green link between the north-western extremity of Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park, its mix of sweet chestnuts, oaks, hornbeams and stands of holly combine to form a kind of ‘magic forest’ sandwiched between Bushwood (the road) and Belgrave Road. Recent habitat management work carried out by the BARA practical work team (under the guidance of forest keeper Thibaud Madelin) has – among other things – removed invasive saplings and bramble scrub from the kidney-shaped pond. The pond already looks better, and with the recent persistent rain actually looks quite like a pond! It should certainly launch plenty of amphibians and damselflies into the world this spring.   The first week of the new year witnessed plenty of bird activity in the wood, with a Mistle Thrush, Song Thrushes and Stock Doves particularly vocal. Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been drumming and I saw a pair of Green Woodpeckers displaying to each other. This is a sight worth seeing, with the male and female facing each other and swaying their heads from side to side. A Woodcock was disturbed by runners on New Year’s Day and other woodland birds include a usually elusive Firecrest (maybe there’s more than one?) in the holly, at least two Nuthatches and a couple of Treecreepers. The last two species were once regular breeders in Wanstead Park but sightings have been few and far between in recent years, while breeding has not been confirmed for many years. We’ll be keeping our eyes on these birds, hoping that they re-establish themselves as residents.

  Why not pay the wood a visit? It can easily be accessed on foot from Bush Road, an alleyway from Belgrave Road, Bushwood and the playing field between Harrow Road and Lakehouse Road. One word of warning: wear boots because it is muddy at the moment.

Tim Harris

Nuthatch and Treecreeper by Nick Croft

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wrengroup

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February 27th, 2014

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Preparing Chalet Wood


Beneath a canopy of brown, orange and even mauve leaves, the Wren Group practical work team finished the bramble clearance in Chalet Wood, in preparation for next spring’s bluebell display. This annual ritual ensures that visitors can enjoy the best possible show of these ever-popular flowers. While we were at work someone presented organiser Peter Williams with a Hedgehog she had found in an exposed position on a track, and Peter duly found a well-brambled corner of the wood in which to place it. This was the last practical work Sunday of the year, but we will reconvene on Sunday 5 January 2014, probably to clear scrub on the old sewage works site. Also planned for early 2014 is a session to clear invasive pennywort in Perch Pond. Watch out for details! Sharon Payne

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December 8th, 2013

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Wanstead Gadwall enter the record books


On Saturday 7 December a count of all Wanstead Park’s lakes produced a combined total of 307 Gadwall, a new record for the site. This comes just 10 months after the record was last broken, on the February WeBS count when Wren Group counters noted 258. With both Nick Croft and Dan Henessey reporting 200-plus of this subtly beautiful dabbling duck on the Park’s lakes during early December, it seemed right to cover all the lakes. About 150 were on Heronry, with small numbers on Perch, the Ornamental Waters and The Basin. Up to 1,700 pairs of Gadwall breed in the UK, but the winter population (October to March) swells to 25,000 as continental birds migrate to this country to avoid the freeze further north and east. As recently as 2009 the December total in the Park was only 111, so something is happening to encourage more of these ducks to visit us. They seem to have taken a liking to those parts of our lakes with overhanging vegetation, presumably because this offers them added protection. Favoured areas include the south side of Heronry Lake, the west end of Perch Pond, around the islands in the Ornamental Waters and around the fringes of The Basin. Our local wintering birds are quite easily spooked, usually swimming away – though rarely flying – if approached. What is gratifying to know is that we have more than 1 percent of the nation’s wintering Gadwall. This makes Wanstead Park a site of national importance for the species!

Tim Harris

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December 7th, 2013

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The Annual Fungus Foray


On 20th October the Wren Group Fungus Foray in Bush Wood was led – as is traditional – by Tricia Moxey. Fortunately the timing was impeccable and the walk took place between two bands of heavy rain, meaning that although the forest was appropriately damp to be looking for fungi the people were not and the occasional shafts of sunlight made the forest a beautiful place to be on a Sunday morning. As always when Tricia leads a walk it was both informative and entertaining for the 25 people (and one dog) who attended. There were, however, distinctly fewer fungi than on the same walk, in the same area at about the same time last year. For example, where last year there was a carpet of Brown Deceivers this year there were only a few and where, under some trees, there had been a large number of Cloudy Agaric, this year there were none. In part this was because the grass had not been cut and was therefore long and hence effective in hiding fungi, but otherwise the reason is unclear. However, still they ranged from the very small Eyelash fungus to a large bracket fungus. There were also Brown Deceivers and Funnelcaps as well as a number of others that Tricia identified. Altogether, it made a most enjoyable walk.

David Giddings

Bottom picture-Fairy bonnets by David Giddings , top picture – Candlesnuff fungus by David Giddings

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wrengroup

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October 20th, 2013

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Practical work team make a splash


 

October 6th came as a gloriously bright and unseasonably warm sunny Sunday, the perfect day to be out and about in Wanstead Park.  For nine Wren Group members it proved a particularly fun morning, boating across the Ornamentals to Lincoln Island and removing brambles and the like that threatened flowers that grow there, especially the daffodils. Planted some years ago, the daffodils, though not wild, are a joyous and unexpected herald of spring. As Edmund Burke said “all that is necessary for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing”. Though I wouldn’t call brambles evil, keeping them under control is necessary to prevent them destroying the habitat of other species. Having the boat also provided the opportunity to remove some branches that had fallen into the water and which add to its silting up. Practical work helps maintain an accessible and interesting Park with a variety of species and habitats. But it also brings personal rewards – fresh air, exercise, companionship and a sense of achievement. And, with nature all around, there is always something new to learn, see and enjoy. Last Sunday this included many Common Frogs (Rana temporaria), Common Toad (Bufo bufo) and Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) which have made the island their home. If you come along to a practical work session be assured you can choose to make whatever contributions you wish. As a non-swimmer, I stayed on the bank, explained the group to passers by and took some pictures.

Jackie Morrison

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Posted on:
October 6th, 2013

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October 2011 Was a Great Month for Bird Migration


The Wanstead Flats visible-migration (viz-mig) watchpoint on every day bar eight in October, providing an invaluable indication of the species and numbers of migratory birds passing through our area. With some species, these may be birds that will stay in our area for a while, or possibly the whole winter. Others were bound for more
distant winter domiciles. The figures given below for some of the more interesting figures are totals of counts made each morning. Most mornings the counting got underway before dawn.

Woodlark 3 (probably only one bird involved)
Swallow 17
House Martin 16
Meadow Pipit 379
Common Redstart 1
Whinchat 2
Northern Wheatear 13/14
Ring Ouzel 2
Blackbird 200
Fieldfare 441
Redwing 567
Song Thrush 101
Chaffinch 391
Linnet 141
Siskin 124
redpoll sp. (presumed Lesser Redpoll) 290
Goldfinch 112
Common Crossbill 10/11
Yellowhammer 2

Most of these birds were fly-overs but some, notably the chats, were temporarily settled.

If you would like to know more, please contact Tim Harris on 0208 989 5453.

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akis

Posted on:
February 21st, 2012

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