News of wildlife and other issues

Two New Species for the Area

A casual walk in Wanstead Park recently found two species that have not, to my knowledge, been recorded in the study area before.

The first was a ragwort, a few plants of which were spotted on the embankment separating the Heronry Pond from the Perch Pond. This has recently been worked upon, and new soil laid down. It wasn't surprising to find a variety of plants introduced with the soil, or making use of the new conditions.

The plant - obviously a ragwort - looked somewhat different from the usual two around here, which are Common and Oxford Ragworts: it had narrower leaves.

A trawl through the reference books showed it to be Narrow-leaved Ragwort Senecio inaequidens. It comes from southern Africa and is now found across Europe. Stace (1997) stated that it was naturalised on a sandy beach in Kent, and that perhaps it would soon spread. It is now widespread in the London area. The photo taken at the time is available here.

The other new record was of the German Wasp Vespula germanica.Two of these appeared to be coupled on vegetation near Bullet Hill, by Northumberland Avenue. In this case, a photograph was used latterly to identify the species. The photo is available here.

Paul Ferris, 3rd October 2009

Recollections of a 50's childhood in the Wanstead area.

I spent my childhood in the 50's exploring the wildlife in the Wanstead area, and lived just a hundred or so yards away from Wanstead Flats. I now live on a Nature Reserve in Dorset and being remote from your area I find your website a wonderful resource.

I spent most of my spare time on Wanstead Flats, in Wanstead Park, Bush Wood, the Hollow Ponds, Green Man Pond and the Cat and Dog Pond on Wanstead Flats. And there was that wonderful pond by the Quaker Meeting House. These last two ponds were rich in amphibians. I am sure there were Great Crested Newts about then; I only saw two, but of course thousands of  common newts.

We saw fallow deer in Wanstead Park, Bush Wood and very rarely on Wanstead Flats. The skylarks were very common then and Kestrels were a rare treat. Some friends boasted they saw Sparrow Hawks.

I remember the yearly barrage balloons used by the TA for practice several times a year. There were hundreds of slit trenches, bomb craters and concrete gun emplacements, later used for organised motorbike scrambling meets.

They were wonderful times, made only bearable in my "exile" in Dorset by the fact that we have two species of deer, badgers, foxes, buzzards, peregrines, hobbies and even one merlin, plus the occasional nightjar, wood duck etc. in our own garden.

 

In trips to the Serengetti Plain I always commented that it was like Wanstead Flats - but the feeling there is exactly the same.

R B

Red Kite

Jennifer Charter reported that at around 10am on 24th September she saw a Red Kite being chased by a crow. This was above Northumberland Avenue, right next to Wanstead Park. We have had occasional sightings of Kites in the area in more recent years; they seem to be increasing around the north of Epping Forest so it is worth keeping your eyes open for more around here.

Paul Ferris, 28th September 2009

No Bats and a Little Owl

Tim Harris and I had planned to begin a survey of the bats around the Heronry Pond on 15th September. We began the survey as planned, but aborted half way because of the continuing hard rain that had started just as we did. So - no bats. However an encounter with a Forest Keeper (dry in his vehicle) gave us a report of a Little Owl that he had seen on the main track between the Kiosk and the Temple. As this is the first report I've had of a Little Owl in Wanstead Park - perhaps worth noting.

Paul Ferris, 16th September 2009

Bird report for Saturday 12th September

On Saturday 12th September I met up with Tim Harris and saw the following birds: Up to 4 Spotted Flycatchers,  4 Whitethroat, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 2 Whinchat, 13 Meadow Pipit, 1 Tree Pipit, 1 Garden Warbler, 22+ Dunnocks (there seemed to be some kind of Dunnock passage going on, I saw two lots of six together, 3 other birds flew off high north and I saw another flying high over east later), 8 Skylark, 3 Blackcap, 11 Chiffchaff, 24+ Swallows over and 2 Kingfishers on the Heronry Pond.

On Sunday the highlight was an immature Yellowhammer with 2 Reed Buntings in the open area near Long Wood on Wanstead Flats. Also present were 1 Whinchat, 2 Spotted Flycatchers, 36 Meadow Pipit, 1 Tree Pipit, 7 Blackcap, 1 Lesser Whitethroat, 9 Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and 2 Yellow Wagtails over.

Stuart Fisher