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Trip to Two Tree Island

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: February 15th, 2016 | 0 Comments

Miscellaneous waders at Two Tree Island lagoon, including Knot, Grey Plover and Dunlin On Sunday 14 February 2016, 10 members of the Group met at West Ham station to catch the 9:13 train to Leigh-on-Sea. Even before we reached the bridge onto Two Tree Island, we had been treated to fine views of one male and two female Stonechats and a close, and surprisingly confiding, Curlew. Once onto the island we headed west to the lagoon at the far end. With the sun behind us, the vivid colours of the assembled wildfowl and waders were brilliant. Highlights included a drake Pintail, two Avocets, and good numbers of Wigeon and Teal. Jan picked out a well-hidden, sleeping Common Snipe before it became apparent that several more were asleep on the adjacent islet. The tide had turned so we were able to watched several flights over Lapwings and Brent Geese relocating over the lagoon, presumably to fields a short way inland. As the tide continued to advance we moved to the estuary hide to watch the drama unfold. First small groups, then larger flocks containing Knot and Dunlin flew up the channel to the south of Two Tree Island, spending some time feeding on the intertidal mud before moving on again. Among them were smaller number of Curlews, Bar-tailed Godwits and Grey Plover. Half the group had to leave before the tide was in full flood. For Jan, Andrew and Nev, who remained, the best was still to come. Andrew described watching "flocks of Knot, which kept breaking apart, wheeling round and round, catching the light". Ringed Plover now joined the spectacle. Back at the lagoon, there were now hundreds of waders belly-deep in water. And a Water Rail we had searched for in vain earlier decided to show itself, twice flying between islets in the lagoon. All in all, a top outing. Thanks to Andrew, Anita, Jan, Linda, Mark, Mary, Nev, Sharon, and Sybil for making the day so much fun. Tim Harris 15/2/2016

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Nature Club – February 2016

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: February 13th, 2016 | 0 Comments

HEDGEHOGS

Hedgehog Cake

Hedgehog expert Barry Chapman told us loads of facts about hedgehogs and how we can help them to survive. There are some on Wanstead Flats and if we ever see any we should let Barry know. They are hibernating now in little burrows and nests in secret places like piles of leaves because it is winter and it would be hard for them to find any slugs and worms and beetles to eat. They need lots of space to roam around on summer nights and so we have to make sure they can get into and through our gardens. We played a game where we pretended to be hedgehogs smelling out worms under the ground, and then we pretended to be predators, foxes and owls, trying to catch hedgehogs in the dark. Then we made spikey chocolate hedgehog cakes. Yum yum.

Handout - Hedgehogs for children

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Nature Club – January 2016

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: February 13th, 2016 | 0 Comments

SQUIRRELS & WINTER TREASURE HUNT

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Squirrels collect nuts like acorns in the Autumn when there are lots about and they bury them in the ground so that they can find them again when it is cold and miserable in the winter and they are hungry. They can smell them out as they have such good noses! We pretended to be squirrels and we hid some chocolate gold coins in the wood in secret places. Then we went back later to find them. This was very hard as we do not have such a good sense of smell! We also spotted a squirrel drey high up in the trees where they go to keep warm and have their babies.It looked like a large football made of twigs and grass.

Then we went on a treasure hunt .We had three different teams and we got points for finding things although it is hard to find flowers and insects in winter.We had to find five different coloured flowers, some seeds, a live insect and a feather around Jubilee Pond. Then we had to identify the flowers and we were very good at naming the flowers. The yellow ones were dandelions, sowthistle, mustard, ragwort and gorse. We found a millipede, a spider, a hoverfly, a snail, a beetle and a woodlouse. The Nutty Team won but we were all brilliant!

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Nature Club – December 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: February 13th, 2016 | 0 Comments

ROBINS AND TREE DECORATIONS

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Seven children today for our seasonal celebration. First we visited the birds on Jubilee Pond and took them some presents in the shape of peanuts, fresh grapes and fatballs. This was all gratefully hoovered up by the swans, tufted ducks, pochard, mallard and lots of Canada geese. There was also a cormorant there diving to catch fish. Some of these birds are migrant birds which come from far up north where the water is now frozen so they can't find food in winter.

Then we dressed a tree! We chose a little apple tree and draped its branches with the bunting we had made by tying things like feathers, bunches of dried yellow grasses , and branches with red and white berries on to pieces of coloured wool. All these things will rot in time as they are all natural so we can leave them on the tree.

The last thing we did was make some robins with pine cone bodies and plane tree seed heads and we stuck on wings and a red breasts. The robin is a popular bird because it is so friendly to humans but not to other robins which might try to invade their territory to steal their worms!

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Wanstead 1000: Off and running

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: January 14th, 2016 | 0 Comments

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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Wallasea RSPB Reserve Awayday

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: December 3rd, 2015 | 0 Comments

Wallasea

Visit to Wallasea RSPB Reserve Awayday on 29 November 2015

Mute Swan Brent Goose Shelduck Eurasian Wigeon Eurasian Teal Mallard Shoveler Pheasant Cormorant Little Egret Tufted Duck Grey Heron Kestrel Moorhen (Canewdon) Coot (Canewdon) Ringed Plover Golden Plover (heard only, Nick) Grey Plover Lapwing Dunlin Common Snipe Black-tailed Godwit Curlew Greenshank (Nick) Redshank Black-headed Gull Lesser Black-backed Gull Herring Gull Woodpigeon Skylark Meadow Pipit Robin (Canewdon) Jackdaw Carrion Crow Magpie Starling Linnet Reed Bunting

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Reptiles in the Exchange Lands

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: November 3rd, 2015 | 0 Comments

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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Fungi Walk in CofL Cemetary

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: October 29th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Purple Brittlegill fungus Apricot Club Black Earth-tongue On Sunday 25th Tricia Moxey led about 15 Wren members and supporters around the City of London Cemetery in search of fungi. Tricia had been a bit worried that the variety there might not be great, but her fears were unfounded and at least 20 different types were found, exhibiting an amazing array of colour: white, beige, yellow, orange, scarlet, purple and black were all represented. Several differnt kinds of bristlegills and waxcaps were found, along with Yellow and Apricot Clubs, Clouded Agarics and others. Kathy Hartnett took some great pics, of Purple Bristlegill, Apricot Club and one of the Black Earth-tongues, which Tricia had not seen before. It was a hairless variety but its exact identity has not yet been agreed.

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A tutorial in trees

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: October 19th, 2015 | 0 Comments

Tree Tutorial

Gill James and Jackie Morrison gave a fascinating tour of some of Wanstead Park's trees this afternoon, 18 October. 35 Members of the Ferndale Area Residents Association, the Wren Group and Friends of Wanstead Parklands enjoyed hearing about sweet and  horse chestnuts, oaks, hazels, birches, poplars, yews and the Plain's single, inappropriately placed Wellingtonia. A bonus was provided by groups of Wigeon and Gadwall loafing on the Shoulder of Mutton Pond and the Ornamental Water. Thanks to all who came along and made it a fun afternoon.

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Nature Club – September 2015

Posted by:wrengroup | Posted on: October 7th, 2015 | 0 Comments

SEPTEMBER: THERE BE DRAGONS!

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A fine morning, great for dragonflies ! Eleven children today. We made some fantastic model dragonflies, some with sycamore seedcases for wings and plantain heads for bodies. Dragonflies are champion fliers- they can even fly backwards and they are hard to catch as they zoom around so fast. They are also very special as they were flying 300 million years ago and some of them were a lot bigger than we see nowadays. We did see some big ones -probably southern hawkers- flying over Jubilee Pond but there was no way we could catch them for a better look.

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