News of wildlife and other issues

January Spring

The beginning of the new year of 2016, and January continued the trend of what may well prove to be one of the mildest winters in memory. There were frosts, however, plus a day when the sun – and the air – felt so warm that a dog-walker on Wanstead Flats suggested to me that it felt like summer.

There is a big trend nowadays – especially perhaps amongst the bird-watching enthusiasts – of seeing as many species as possible in a given place (or “patch”) or in a time – whether a day a month or a year. There seems to be a competitive element in this, too, but also has given rise to the phenomenon of the “bio-blitz”.

In our local area, there is a year-long scheme called the Wanstead 1000, which aim is to record a thousand species in the Wanstead area in 2016. That shouldn't prove too difficult, given the database and knowledge of the whereabouts of many species that has been built up over the years.

Cherry wp 160119 06756artThe Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group made a start on this on the fourth day of the year by organising a flower-finding walk. A few hardy souls chose to look for plants actually in flower, and chose a few of the more likely habitats to explore. One of these was around Jubilee Pond on Wanstead Flats and another the Green Man underpass system, by the roundabout of the same name.

The Jubilee Pond area was a good choice, as it provides a variety of habitats and has also recently been disturbed, so a collection of plants have taken advantage. Nearby is Dames Road, and roadsides are often good places to look for plants, and the Green Man roundabout is an exceptionally productive area, as it was seeded with all manner of nice flowers during its construction. The results weren't disappointing: about 40 species were found to be in flower. That's certainly a good number to find during an English winter, although when I looked at the list there wasn't much that I hadn't seen flowering during winters before. The ones that I hadn't were Chicory, Field Scabious and Musk Mallow by the Green Man roundabout, and Alexanders, by Dames Road. Here is the list, kindly provided by Tim Harris:

Alexanders, Common Ragwort, Yarrow, Gorse, Smooth Sow-thistle, Dandelion, Common Field Speedwell, Guernsey Fleabane, Canadian Fleabane, Chickweed, Annual Mercury, Wild Cabbage, Green Alkanet, White Dead-nettle, Red Dead-nettle, Hedge Mustard, Hoary Mustard, Scentless Mayweed, Broom, Holly, Bramble, Wood Avens, Sun Spurge, Nipplewort, Common Vetch, Small-flowered Cranesbill, Hedgerow Cranesbill, Chicory, Groundsel, Musk Mallow, Common Mallow, Cow Parsley, Daisy, Hornbeam, Periwinkle sp.

A couple of weeks later, on 19th, Rose Stephens and I walked along the wayleave track between the gardens of the houses in Woodland Avenue in Aldersbrook, and Reservoir Wood in Wanstead Park. This has always been a favourite of mine in early spring, to see some of the first flowers plus associated insects such as hoverflies and bees. There weren't too many insects – some flies, one or two hoverflies, no bees, but there were flowers. Approaching from Park Road, we were greeted by the flowers of a Wild Cherry. Further down the wayleave, Greater Periwinkle, Spring Snowflake and Honesty – all garden outcasts, these. Then White Dead-nettle, its flowers frosted with ice, for it was in the shade and the night had been cold. Snowberry was in evidence, but from its white berries rather than flowers, and tucked into the woodland edge numerous Herb Robert plants with flowers – and just about Herb Bennett, too. Then there was a couple of plants clustered together that were mostly leaves. I was just about to remark that I wasn't sure if they were Pendulous Sedge or perhaps... when I saw the berries and they were...Stinking Iris. Not in flower – just berries again – but these were only the third Stinking Iris I know of in the Park. Now, are these garden outcasts? I have seen an increase in this species near Whipps Cross Hospital, where I believe they have spread from ornamental plantings in the hospital grounds to the woodland edges along James Lane.

Lesser Celandine wf 160125 06797fpMore or less lastly for the flowers that day, I deliberately looked for a particular Hawthorn that grows a fair way in from Woodlands Avenue Road-side. Sure enough, it was easily found because it already had fresh leaves on, and also had flowers. Why this one plant should always flower significantly before other local hawthorns I do not know. It looks to be the Common Hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna. I said more or less the last flowers for the day, for walking home along Wanstead Park Avenue were some of my favourite Ivy-leaved Toadflax, on a garden wall, as well as a non-flowering plant – a liverwort Marchantia polymorpha. These do not have flowers and hence seeds, but in this specimen the leaves were supporting the gemma cups that contain the spores. On 25th January, a cursory look at mosses in the City of London Cemetery showed Grey Cushion Moss and Capillary Thread-moss to be well-endowed with their fruiting capsules.

Some Daffodils are already in flower, in gardens and on Wanstead Flats roadside edge for example - but these are not wild ones. Non of the flowers mentioned here, to my mind, are really spring flowers, just plants that have happened to flower very early. However a flowering Lesser Celandine on Wanstead Flats on 24th January is truely a spring flower, and next day's glorious display of the native Early Crocus in the City of London Cemetery - introduced or not, but certainly naturalised - was another. Spring is just a flower away – or already here, come snow or what may.

Does any of this, perhaps, put a climate-change perspective on something I wrote back in 1978, or is it just weather?

 

January Spring

January.

Dreary early morning rise.

Lifeless pre-dawn trudge through rain-soaked suburban streets.

Saturated concrete slabs reflect mock-moon street lights;

And occasional pollarded plane-trees – still dripping –

Imitate the night’s incessant drizzle.

Somewhere behind the cloud-curtain the sun rises;

Unseen until noon, hanging low over the house-tops.

A soft south-west wind succeeds the rain-clouds;

And a clear sky cleverly depicts a still-distant spring.

Between the last and the next cloud-belt,

A single, leafless flowering cherry displays a few flowers,

And a pigeon coos and fan-tails to its mate.

For a few moments - fooled with mirages of summer –

Life returns.

And the streets are trod with a lighter tread.

Paul Ferris. 25th January 2016

Additions to species list (2016)

for 2014 additions, click HERE

for 2015 additions, click HERE

for 2017 additions, click HERE

for 2018 additions, click HERE

This is a list of species newly entered (or shortly to be entered) onto the website. Clicking on the species name should take you to a photograph if one is available.

* 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. The original find-date is is indicated within brackets.

Species Common Name Type of Organism Date of find or entry* Found by:
Eupteryx (florida ?) a leafhopper Bug 18/06/2016 Paul Ferris
Lygocoris pabulinus Common Green Capsid Bug 18/06/2016 Paul Ferris
Heriades truncorum Large-headed Resin Bee Bee 24/04/2016 (20/07/2015) Rose Stephens
Hoplitis (Osmia) spinulosa Spined Mason Bee Bee 24/04/2016 (11/07/2015) Rose Stephens
Nomada lathburiana Lathbury's Nomad Bee Bee 20/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena dorsata Short-fringed Mining Bee Bee 20/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Valerianella locusta Common Corn Salad Flowering Plant 18/04/2016 Roger Snook
Andrena (wilkella ?) Wilke's Mining Bee Bee 14/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Osmia bicornis Red Mason Bee Bee 13/04/2016 (11/04/2007) Paul Ferris
Nomada fucata Painted Nomad Bee Bee 13/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Nomada marshamella Marsham's Mining Bee Bee 13/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Lasioglossum lativentre Furry-claspered Furrow Bee Bee 12/04/2016 Rose Stephens 
Nomada goodeniana Gooden's Nomad Bee Bee 12/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Piezodorus lituratus Gorse Shield Bug Bug 12/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Halictus tumulorum Bronze Furrow Bee Bee 11/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Lasioglossum albipes Bloomed Furrow Bee Bee 11/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Geomyza tripunctata ? a picture-wing fly Fly 09/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena (chrysosceles ?) Hawthorn Mining Bee Bee 08/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Nomada fabriciana Fabricius' Mining Bee Bee 08/04/2014 Rose Stephens
Andrena labiata Red-girdled Mining Bee Bee 08/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Nomada flavoguttata Little Nomad Bee Bee 05/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Lygus (pratensis) ? a mirid bug Bug 02/04/2016 Paul Ferris
Phyllobius pyri Common Leaf Weevil Beetle 02/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena nigroaenea Buffish Mining Bee Bee 02/04/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena clarkella Clark's Mining Bee Bee 03/04/2011; 31/03/2016 Paul Ferris; Tim Harris
Discomyza incurva ? a fly Fly 31/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Aglaostigma fulvipes ? a sawfly Fly 25/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Lasioglossum morio Green Furrow Bee Bee 25/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena nigroaenea Buffish Mining Bee Bee 25/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Platycheirus albimanus a hoverfly Fly 25/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Zoropsis spinimana ? a spider Spider 25/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Podops inuncta Turtle Shieldbug Bug 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Zora spinimana ? a spider Spider 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Trichosirocalus troglodytes a weevil Beetle 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Peritrechus geniculatus a ground bug Bug 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Lasioglossum calceatum Common Furrow Bee Bee 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Lasioglossum malachurum ? Sharp-collared Furrow Bee Bee 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena (bicolor ?) Gwynne's Mining Bee Bee 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena nitida Grey-patched Mining Bee Bee 19/04/2006; 22/03/2016 Paul Ferris; Rose Stephens
Andrena minutula ? Common Mini-miner Bee 22/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Tachyporus hyponorum a rove beetle Beetle 12/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Stenocranus minutus a leafhopper Bug 12/03/2016 Rose Stephens 
Eremocoris fenestratus a ground bug Bug 12/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Cinara piceae an aphid Bug 12/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Suillia variegata a fly Fly 11/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Caloptilia stigmatella White-triangle Slender Moth 11/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Andrena flavipes Yellow-legged Mining Bee Bee 11/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Blaniulus guttulatus Spotted Snake Millipede Myriapod 03/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Pemphredon inornata a wasp Wasp 03/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Monacha cantiana a snail Mollusc 03/03/2016 Rose Stephens
Leocarpus fragilis Eggshell Slime Mould Slime Mould 27/02/2016 Rose Stephens
Schizophyllum commune Split Gill fungus Fungus 27/02/2016 Rose Stephens 
Trochulus hispidus Hairy Snail Mollusc 18/02/2016 Rose Stephens/Paul Ferris
Acericerus heydenii a leafhopper Bug 18/02/2016 Paul Ferris/Rose Stephens
Phaonia (pallida) Orange Muscid Fly Fly 11/02/2016 (18/03/2015) Paul Ferris
Pterocomma populeum Poplar Bark Aphid Aphid 10/02/2016 Rose Stephens
Ideocerus sp. a leafhopper Bug 10/02/2016 Rose Stephens
Dorytomus (dejeani ?) a weevil Beetle 10/02/2016 Rose Stephens
Tetragnatha (obtusa ?)
a spider Spider 09/02/2016 Rose Stephens
Trentopohlia (abietina ?) an alga Alga 07/02/2016 Paul Ferris/Rose Stephens
Drosophila suzukii Spotted-wing Drosophila Fly 07/02/2016 Kathy Hartnett/Rose Stephens
Empoasca decipiens a leafhopper Bug 03/02/2016 Rose Stephens
Zygina nivea a leafhopper Bug 30/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Dorytomus (dejeani ?) a weevil Beetle 30/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Luffia (ferchaultella?) Virgin Smoke Moth 30/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Lonchoptera (lutea or bifurcata) a fly Fly 28/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Xanthogramma citrofasciatum a hoverfly Fly 26/01/2016 (24/05/2014) Paul Ferris
Angelica archangelica Garden Angelica Flowering Plant 26/01/2016 (16/05/2009) Paul Ferris
Polydesmus angustus Flat-backed Millipede Myriapod 25/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Euscelis incisus a leafhopper Bug 25/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Eupteryx decemnotata Ligurian Leafhopper Bug 25/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Tomocerus longicornis a springtail Collembola 25/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Pterocomma pilosum Hairy Willow Bark Aphid Bug 24/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Dicyrtomina saundersi a springtail Collembola 24/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Clausilia bidentata Two Toothed Door Snail Mollusc 24/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Longitarsus dorsalis a flea beetle Beetle 10/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Longitarsus sp. (flavicornis) Ragwort Flea Beetle Beetle 05/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Puccinia smyrnii a gall (on alexanders) Gall 04/01/2016 Rose Stephens
Mangora acalypha Cricket-bat Orb Weaver Spider 04/01/2016 Rose Stephens

 

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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