News of wildlife and other issues

Reptiles in the Exchange Lands

by Tim Harris

During 2015, 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 juvenilesGrass snake OSW GJ 3776

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, November 2015

The Coronation Footbridge over the River Roding

The footbridge over the River Roding from Ilford into Wanstead Park known as the Coronation Bridge was originally built in 1902 in the form of a “rustic” footbridge. It was officially opened on 21st June that year, and an Edwardian postcard appears shows people reading a notice posted on the Ilford side of the bridge. The sides of the bridge can be seen to be composed of diagonally crossed wooden branches. The bridge was rebuilt to some extent in later years – possibly the 1960's as I seem to remember (just) the original form. However, it has been closed since 2012, meaning that an easy access between Ilford and the Park – and indeed the only access – has been denied to pedestrians for too many years.

wp coronation bridge old artThe Coronation Bridge near the time of its opening in 1902There is still a way from Wanstead Park Road in Ilford via the recreation grounds and the Park by way of a nearby concrete bridge. Although this is perfectly satisfactory for cyclists - and indeed constitutes part of the London Cycle Network and the proposed Roding Valley Way - it is a poor substitute for pedestrians, who have to make a considerable detour just to get into Wanstead Park, with no indication that this is even possible.

The bridge is owned by the London Borough of Redbridge, and is managed by Vision Redbridge Culture and Leisure, which is a Charitable Trust. The bridge was closed by officers from the Borough's Highways & Engineering Service following an inspection. This revealed the bridge to be unsafe. Although the structure is apparently sound, the deck and deck railings are in need of replacement.

wp coronation bridge 150520 5864artViewed from the Ilford side - barred to pedestriansIn early 2013 L.B. Redbridge stated that they were looking into having the bridge repaired as soon as possible, but that there was no funding within internal budgets for this. When it was asked whether external funding could be used to help finance the repair of the bridge, it was stated that as the bridge could not be used by cyclists due to the no-cycling regulations within Wanstead Park, no funding could be found. In other words, there was funding available for cyclists but not for pedestrians. This seems to illustrate quite well my concerns that pedestrians are increasingly being disadvantaged in favour of cyclists.

In March 2015 the Wanstead and Woodford Guardian said that following £105,000 of funding from the Mayor of London's Big Green Fund the Coronation Bridge would be reopened as part of the improvements to be made to open spaces along the River Roding. I wonder how long it will be before this happens?

 

Paul Ferris, 20th May 2015

Lake-side clearance by Ornamental Waters

Apart from reports of some new or interesting wildlife observed in the area, unhappily some of the other articles that I post on Wanstead Wildlife tend often to be of a complaining nature – difficult access, unwelcome clearances, and the like.

wp ow 150430 5398artThe banks of the Ornamental Waters - where it has been cleared...I was happy to find when I walked along the bank of the Ornamental Water from the bottom of Florrie's Hill towards the Cedar Tree and the Glade that a stretch opposite Lincoln Island had been carefully cleared of the vegetation that had encroached along the bank so much so that the water was difficult to see.

Last December, together with Tricia Moxey, we had an on-site meeting with Geoff Sinclair, who is Head of Operations for Epping Forest. One of the aspects we discussed with him was the possibility of opening up the view of the lake by selectively clearing vegetation – much of which was willow and alder. See here for that report

This has been done for quite a stretch, and what a difference it makes! Now what I perceived to be a somewhat claustrophobic and dark stretch, with Warren Wood on one side and the vegetation lining the lake on the other, is a walk with the channel of the lake between the bank and Lincoln Island clearly visible. Trees have been left spaced at decent intervals.

wp ow 150430 5400art...and where it hasn'tHowever, the clearance only stretches so far. The section that I would have started with is still as-was. This is that stretch right opposite the channel between Lincoln Island and Rook Island, which looks down towards the Fortifications and often has a nice selection of ducks, geese, swans, herons and cormorants to be seen – from the couple of metres gap in the trees!

Beyond that, opposite Rook Island and heading towards the Cedar Tree, I note that some relatively small bits of tree-pruning has been done, but not clearance. I was particularly pleased to find one plant – a rather special one considering its location - has also been spared. This is a London Plane tree that grows on the bank. Why it is unusual – for there are some lovely London Planes in the Park – is that this one almost certainly self-seeded there, and self-seeding is rare with London Planes. The ones we see are usually planted.

 

 

Paul Ferris, 30th April 2015

Don't say I didn't warn ya!

There it was – gone. Just like the view from Aldersbrook Road, opposite the shops at the Parade, the view from the south side of the Shoulder of Mutton Pond will – I predict – go the same way.

wp som 150423 5148artThe Shoulder of Mutton PondOn a visit on 21st April 2015 to what I think is one of the nicest locations in Wanstead Park – the south side of the Shoulder of Mutton pond looking across towards Wanstead – I realised just how much willow had grown up along the shore-line. Much more – and it won't take long – and in-leaf, the view will soon be all-but gone.

wp 150421 5111artScalped through to the soil below - this should be a wildflower meadowContinuing on the theme of disappointments in management, walking along the north side of Heronry Pond – towards the Park-proper with the golf-course to the left – one of the finest bits of grassland in the park has just about gone, too. It used to be quite fine grass – never very high – and with a nice selection of flowering plants that gave colour, and food and breeding habitat to loads of insects including Burnet Moths. Whilst the track was being re-surfaced in 2010 the grass was inevitably used instead by bikes, prams, walkers, dogs and joggers. It still had a chance to recover after the “new” track was re-opened; all it needed was a disincentive log to be strategically placed either end of the area, but although I asked the Forest to do this it didn't happen. They know best, and now they even know it is best to scalp the area into a lawn. I could swear at this point: what the hell do you need a scalped lawn there for? (See here)

Just a few metres further on – on either side of the fence that separates the Park from the Park-lands – all the insect-favoured bramble scrub has been removed. All of it. Just like most has been removed from the other insect-favoured scrub near the top of the Glade, from just behind the Grotto, from what will be the bicycle/pedestrian Roding Valley Way at Whiskers Island, and of course- not scrub but herbs – annually by the east end of Perch Pond. And why was all the scrub and trees removed by Epping Forest Conservation Volunteers from the crater just south of the keeper's lodges. Surely that was only doing harm by acting as a nesting place for birds and a resting place for insects?

wp 150421 5113cAn unnecessary path-closure in Chalet WoodOne more. Chalet Wood is looking good right now with its becoming-famous bluebells. I do think the path-edging that I have been suggesting for years has been successful and most people who I speak top agree. There are aspects of the way it has been done that I am not fully happy with – too much scrub has been cut down on the east edge, for example. And since Gill and Alan James and myself – primarily – laid out its pattern in 2014 (see here) others have been in there and changed things a bit. Desire-line paths have been blocked, particularly that which runs between a sward of Wood Anemones. Though this may have been done with the intention of enhancing those delicate flowers, I fear it will have the opposite effect, as the desire to use the path – and indeed to look at the flowers either side of it – may just encourage people to walk over them. There are signs this is already happening.

So – back to the Shoulder of Mutton and its willows. I mention that now like I mentioned the potential problems with Floating Pennywort in Perch Pond and New-Zealand Pygmyweed in Alexandra Lake years ago. Both those issues were ignored, now the problems are extreme. Something could be done about willow encroachment now, perhaps, but if not – well, don't say I didn't warn ya.

Paul Ferris, 22nd April 2015

Additions to species list in 2015

for 2014 additions, click HERE

for 2016 additions, click HERE

for 2017 additions, click HERE

for 2018 additions, click HERE

* in some cases the entry was made some time after the species was found. This may be due to a new identification or a previous mis-identification.

Species Common Name Type of Organism Date of find or entry* Found by:
Apion frumentarium Red Rumex Weevil a beetle 05/11/2015 Rose Stephens
Agrochola macilenta Yellow-line Quaker a moth 28/10/2015 Tim Harris
Trombidium holosericeum Velvet Mite a mite 08/10/2015 Paul Ferris
Lestes viridis Willow Emerald Damselfly a damselfly 06/09/2015 Gill James/Tim Harris
Gymnosporangium sabinae Pear Rust a fungus 27/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Dysdera crocata Woodlouse Spider a spider 23/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Caloptilia rufipennella Small Red Slender a micro moth 22/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Parornix devoniella Hazel Slender a micro moth 22/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Cryptoblabes bistriga Double-striped Knot-horn a micro moth 22/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Autographa pulchrina Beautiful Golden Y a moth 15/07/2015 Tim Harris
Cosmia pyralina Lunar-spotted Pinion a moth 15/07/2015 Tim Harris
Chryphia muralis Marbled Green a moth 11/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Cydalima perspectalis Box Tree Moth a moth 10/07/2015 Tim Harris
Synanthedon vespiformis Yellow-legged Clearwing a moth 10/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Synanthedon andrenaeformis Orange-tailed Clearwing a moth 06/07/2015 Paul Ferris
Bembecia ichneumoniformis Six-belted Clearwing a moth 04/07/2015 Tim Harris
Rhinanthus minor Yellow Rattle a flowering plant 21/06/2015 Kathy Hartnett
Psychoides filicivora Fern Smut a micro moth 19/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Nemophora fasciella Horehound Longhorn a micro moth 19/06/2015 Kathy Hartnett
Phyllonorycter platani London Midget a micro moth 17/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Deraeocoris flavilinea ? a mirid bug a bug 17/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Rhynchites aequatus Apple Fruit Weevil a weevil 17/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Calocoris (Grypocoris) stysi a plant bug a bug 17/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Parhelophilus frutetorum? a hoverfly a hoverfly 17/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Apamea remissa Dusky Brocade a moth 13/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Ectoedemia decentella Sycamore-seed Pigmy a micro moth  13/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Panurgus sp. (Furry?) Panurgus a mining bee 13/06/2015  Paul Ferris
Herminiina grisialis Small Fan-foot a micro moth 13/06/2015  Tim Harris 
Abrostola triplasia Dark Spectacle a moth 13/06/2015  Tim Harris
Tethea ocularis Figure of Eighty a moth 11/06/2015  Tim Harris
Formica cunicularia ? an ant an ant 08/06/2015 Paul Ferris 
Xanthorhoe spadicearia Dark-barred Twin-spot Carpet  a moth 05/06/2015 Paul Ferris 
Heliothis peltigera Bordered Straw a moth 05/06/2015 Tim Harris
Argyresthia spinosella Blackthorn Argent a micro moth 04/06/2015 Tim Harris
Chrysoesthia drurella Flame Neb a micro moth 01/06/2015 Paul Ferris
Clogmia albipunctata an owl midge a fly 01/06/2015  Paul Ferris
Caloptilia alchimiella Yellow-triangle Slender a micro moth 29/05/2015  Tim Harris
Agonopterix arenella Brindled Flat-body a micro moth 27/05/2015  Tim Harris
Dichrorampha montanana Spike-marked Drill a micro moth 25/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Dichrorampha sequana Square-spot Drill a micro moth 25/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Onthophagus sp. a Dor Beetle a beetle 25/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Glyphipterix simpliciella Cocksfoot Moth a micro moth 25/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Tenthredopsis sp. (litterata ?) a sawfly a sawfly 25/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Tachypodoiulus niger White-legged Snake-millipede a millipede 25/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Taphrina pruni a fungi gall on blackthorn a gall 25/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Ancistrocerus trifasciatus a potter wasp a wasp 24/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Philodromus (albidus) a crab spider a spider 21/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Philodromus dispar a crab spider a spider 10/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Pheosia tremula Swallow Prominent a moth 07/05/2015 Tim Harris
Roeslerstammia erxlebella Copper Ermel a micro moth 04/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Hypera postica ? Clover Leaf Weevil a weevil 04/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Harpocera thoracica ? a mirid bug a bug 02/05/2015 Paul Ferris
Andrena (haemorrhoa?) Early Mining Bee a bee 23/04/2015 Paul Ferris
Drymonia ruficornis Lunar Marbled Brown a moth 21/04/2015 Tim Harris
Bibio lanigerus a March fly a fly 09/04/2015 Paul Ferris
Ichneumon stramentarius an ichneumon wasp a wasp 08/04/2015 Paul Ferris
Orthosia populeti Lead-coloured Drab a moth 05/04/2015 Tim Harris
Empoasca vitis ? a leafhopper a bug 23/03/2015 Paul Ferris
Drosophilidae (family) a fruit fly a  fly 23/03/2015 Paul Ferris
Sitticus pubescens a crab spider a spider 20/03/2015 Paul Ferris
Amaurobius fenestralis a lace-weaver spider a spider 18/03/2015 Paul Ferris
Deraeocoris lutescens  a mirid bug a bug 14/03/2015 Paul Ferris
Tibellus sp. (obllongus) a crab spider a spider 12/03/2015 Rose Stephens
Ozyptila sp. a spider a spider 12/03/2015 Rose Stephens
Euophrys frontalis a jumping spider a spider 10/03/2015 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Rhyzobius litura a ladybird a beetle 10/03/2015 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Dromius linearis a ground beetle  a beetle 10/03/2015 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Nabis rugosus Common Damsel Bug a bug 10/03/2015 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Mocydiopsis attenuata a hemipteran bug a bug 10/03/2015 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Drymus sylvaticus a groundhoppe a bug 10/03/2015 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Asiraca clavicornis a planthopper a bug 10/03/2015 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Acleris ferrugana / notana a micro moth a micro moth 05/03/2015 Paul Ferris
Asellus aquaticus Water Slater a crustacean 27/02/2015 Paul Ferris
Tomocerus sp. a springtail a springtail 27/02/2015 Rose Stephens
Entomobrya sp. (multifasciata?) a springtail a springtail  27/02/2015 Rose Stephens
Ceratopognidae (family) a biting midge  a biting midge 24/02/2015 Rose Stephens
Tomocerus minor a springtail a springtail 17/02/2015 Rose Stephens
Blaniulus guttulatus Spotted Snake-millipede a millipede 10/02/2015 Rose Stephens
Gelis sp. a parasitic wasp a parasitic wasp  31/01/2015 Rose Stephens
Collembola (family) a springtail a springtail 29/01/2015 Paul Ferris
Psychodidae (family)  an owl midge a fly 27/01/2015 Paul Ferris
Psychodidae (family) an owl midge a fly 27/01/2015 Paul Ferris
Swammerdamia pyrella Little Ermel a micro moth 06/08/2013* Paul Ferris
Dichrorampha petiverella Common Drill a micro moth 19/07/2011* Paul Ferris

 

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