Category

Surveys

Wanstead Park Water Levels


John Robinson has been charting changes in water levels in Wanstead Park since 2012. Here’s his graphic representation of what’s been happening.
Wanstead Park Pond Levels

  • Click on the Chsrt to examine it in more detail.
  • The bottom (x) axis is the number of days since recording began
  • The level in Perch varies seasonally as one would expect and it is currently at a normal level for the time of year.
  • The level in Heronry is very variable, presumably as a result of periods of pumping and periods without. The recent fall in water level is clearly linked to an absence of pumping over a long period as the City of London tried to get the level down to do the work on the dam. Pumping has now restarted. There appears to be no record of when pumping has taken place and by how much.
  • The level in the Ornamental Water has fallen over the last couple of years because there has been no input from the southern end and because water is continuing to seep away through its unlined bottom. A licence has been applied for to pump from the River Roding but we have no news as yet.

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Posted on:
March 14th, 2016

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Wanstead 1000: Off and running


Quince

Turkey Tail


Members of the Wren Wildlife Group are hoping to find 1000 different kinds of plants and animals in the Wanstead area during 2016. Chair Tim Harris reports on progress so far.

Before dawn on New Year’s Day, while many were sleeping off the excesses of a few hours earlier, Wanstead’s birdwatchers (well, some of them) were on a quest to see how many species they could find during the day. And what a start to the day they had! Intrepidly working through the mud and puddles of Bush Wood, Bob Vaughan had inadvertently flushed a woodcock and seen a firecrest before it was properly light. Not far away, on Wanstead Flats, Josh Selfe tweeted that he’s seen an owl fly up from a patch of broom. Sure enough, it soon reappeared, being mobbed by several crows: a short-eared owl, a local rarity. With a start like that, it was unlikely that things could get any better, and much of the day was spent finding those birds that are either resident on our manor, or which just drop in for the winter. However, just when the light was beginning to go, and people were thinking of resting aching limbs after a day in the field, Jono Lethbridge and Nick Croft found a lesser spotted woodpecker by the Basin on Overton Drive. This diminutive woodpecker hadn’t been seen in our area at all in 2015! The day’s total of 69 bird species was the best ever achieved on New Year’s Day. Two days later, Nick had a tantalisingly brief view of what is likely to have been a great snipe – an incredibly rare bird in this country – close to Alexandra Lake. Unfortunately, it didn’t give him time to photograph it as it flew off east so we will probably never know for sure.

Three days later it was the turn of the botanical team to see what they could find. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland runs a survey at the start of each year to see how many plants are in flower. With incredibly mild weather through December continuing into January, this was likely to mean a few flowers, but nothing could have prepared us for what we discovered on the bright and sunny morning of 4th January. Yarrow was flowering in many places, yellow splashes illuminated some of the clumps of gorse and the pale blue flowers of green alkanet were appearing here and there. With some careful searching, scarcer blooms were found, including both Guernsey and Canadian fleabane near Jubilee Pond, where some flowering alexanders were attracting a number of very unseasonal hoverflies. Wood avens was in flower by the garages behind Belgrave Road and two different types of crane’s-bill were seen under the Green Man roundabout, where there was also some flowering musk-mallow. A hornbeam tree in Bush Wood was carrying a fine display of catkins. All eight members of the botany crew were amazed at the variety of flowering plants on show: no less than 37 species in total.

One can expect to find fungi throughout the year, but in early January they are usually pretty thin on the ground. Not this year, though. If plants and birds were leading the way in terms of diversity, the fungi representation was not too shabby, with a nice array of colours, including the spectacular yellow brain fungus.

So, scores on the doors as of 12 Jan: 220, made up of 103 plants, 76 birds, 24 fungi and miscellaneous others. Expect the miscellaneous ‘others’ to start making up ground in the spring.

Please post any sightings on the Wren Wildlife Group’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/WrenOrg/ or tweet to @wrenwildlife.

Pics: Flowering Quince on Wanstead Flats; Turkey Tail fungus in Bush Wood.

Tim Harris

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January 14th, 2016

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Reptiles in the Exchange Lands


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.

Findings

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

Conclusions

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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Posted on:
November 3rd, 2015

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Carry on Reporting your Hedgehogs!


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 email:bazchaps@icloud.com

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August 18th, 2015

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Wanstead Breeding Bird Survey


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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August 5th, 2015

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Bird Surveys


Breeding bird survey

The Wren Group and Wanstead Birders will be conducting a full breeding bird survey of Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park during May. Dates have yet to be decided but if you are interested, please contact Tim Harris (tharris@windmillbooks.co.uk or 07505 482328)

House Martin survey

We have also signed up for the BTO’s House Martin survey, which will cover urban parts of our area. If you would like to report nest-building activity in the boroughs of Newham, Redbridge or Waltham Forest, please get in touch – Tim Harris (tharris@windmillbooks.co.uk or 07505 482328)

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Posted on:
February 27th, 2015

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