News of wildlife and other issues
Early invertebrates in 2012
Perhaps with the sighting by Tim Harris of a few Red Admiral butterflies on Wanstead Flats on 26th February, Spring could be thought to be near. I was in Bournemouth - so missed the early butterflies locally but had already seen the hoverfly Eristalis tenax as well as a number of Harlequin and some 7-spot Ladybirds all sunbathing on rhododendron in Wanstead Park on the same day, 23rd February. Tim put out a moth trap in his garden near Bush Wood, on the night of 23/24th February and caught an Angle Shades moth and two Small Brindled Beauty moths. The Angle Shades is a particularly attractive moth, and the Small Brindled Beauty is a species which I haven't recorded in the area before. On 26/27th February there was a Satellite moth in the trap and on 28/29th the catch was Pale Mottled Willow, Common Quaker and Small Quaker. I managed to get my trap set up at about midnight on 29th Feb/1st March, but as I missed the evening flight only caught one moth: a Hebrew Character. Tim caught 1 Hebrew Character, 2 Common Quakers, 1 Small Quaker and two new moths for the area - an Oak Beauty and a March Moth.
The 1st March was a fine day, with temperatures up to around 15.C. A walk to the City of London Cemetery enabled me to spot a Brimstone butterfly by Alexandra Lake - interestingly in the same location as my first Brimstone last Spring. As with that one, this year's made just as rapid an un-photographable getaway, as did the Red Admiral some half hour later in the Cemetery!
The moth trap was set out at dusk on 1st March, and I looked forward to what may have been in it in the morning. It should be noted that these traps catch the moths live, and they can settle quite cosily into supplied egg-boxes, to be examined in the morning and carefully released so as not to get bird-eaten! Overnight temperatures in my garden - which is situated between Wanstead Flats and Manor Park Cemetery - fell to 5.C, and it was mostly cloudy. Only two moths were present in the morning, and both were Hebrew Character, Tim Harris' trap in the Lakehouse area had Pale Brindled Beauty, Small Quaker and the Plume Moth Emmelina monodactyla - a slightly better catch which may have been influenced by the fact that it is a new trap and my trap-light is old. This could mean that it does not have the attractive pull of a younger model.
On 2/3 March the temperature dropped to about 5.C, and the haul was two Hebrew Character and another new species, the Dotted Border (see here). Another cool night on 3/4 March - with temperatures between 7.4 and 9.C. and the the trap not being set until 9pm - accumulated three Hebrew Character and one Small Quaker.
The night of 4/5th March was cold, wet and windy, and I did not set the trap. At least the 5/6th was dry, The temperature during the evening and night was about 5.C., and the fact that the egg-boxes contained - once again - two Hebrew Characters proved that they were using it as a hotel! The 5/6th proved me wrong, as no moths were recorded, nor did I have any on 6/7th, though Tim's Lakehouse garden trap had four Small Quakers.
The 8th March was a sunny day with temperatures of about 10.C. at mid-day. A short visit to the City of London Cemetery saw three species of hoverfly - including the Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus and an Eristalis species, a few bees and quite a lot of Pine Ladybirds, most of the preceding on the leaves of rhododendron. In Wanstead Park too, bees were to be seen including an Andrena species, possibly Andrena fulva.
My overnight 8/9th moth catch was nil - not helped by setting the trap late at 10.30. The temperature was higher: down to 7.C. Tim's trap did better, with 2 March Moth, 2 Common Quaker, 1 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker and 2 Hebrew Character. 9/10th saw temperatures down to 9.C., with a fairly calm night. The result was one Hebrew Character and one Common Quaker. Tim's catch was 9 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Early Grey, 1 Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana.
10/11th was warmer still and in the evening darkness when most of the moths would have been flying was about 11.C. Four Hebrew Characters, a Light Brown Apple Moth Epiphyas postvittana and two March Dagger moths Diurnea fagella (see here). There were also two Ichneuman flies of the same species in the trap. These are parasitic insects related to wasps. In the Lakehouse trap were 5 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 2 Hebrew Character, 1 Oak Beauty. A Red Admiral butterfly was reported from Wanstead Flats on 11th.
Amblyptilia acanthadactyla, and a male March Dagger (Diurnea fagella). On 21st the first Small White butterfly was reported, close to Angell Pond on Wanstead Flats. The Lakehouse catch on 22/23rd was: 13 Common Quaker, 1 Early Grey, 1 dark-form Chestnut. Butterflies were reported on the warm Saturday of the 24th : Peacock and Red Admiral in the Aldersbrook Exchange Lands and Small Tortoiseshell and Speckled Wood near the Cat and Dog Pond on Wanstead Flats. Overnight on 24/25th a moth trap was set in Richard Oakman's garden in Grosvenor Road, Wanstead and produced 2 Common Quaker, 2 Hebrew Character and 1 Early Grey. At Lakehouse on 26/27th the catch produced 12 individuals of 4 species: 7 Common Quaker, 3 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Hebrew Character, 1 Early Grey. There were also additional reports of Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, Peacock and Speckled Wood at the weekend from the Park and the Flats. My catch in Capel Road on 27/28th was just two Hebrew Character, and on 28th there was the first Holly Blue butterfly of the season. Overnight (28/29th) in Capel Road produced 2 Hebrew Character, 2 Common Plume and one Muslin Moth - early for this species. In Lakehouse Road were just 3 Small Quaker. The Capel Road catch on 29/30 was 4 Hebrew Character, 1 Muslin Moth, 1 Common Plume, 1 Clouded Drab (male). The last is a new species for the area, and because it was somewhat lacking in distinct patterning, took a while to identify. It was easier when it woke up and spread itself a bit!The next night was cooler again with temperatures down to 6.C. and the catch at Capel Road was a meagre Hebrew Character and a single March Dagger Moth. The latter is well known for its tendency towards melanism - that is sometimes occurring in a darker form than is normal. This is said to be due to the moth being a trunk-rester (it rests on tree-trunks!) and the darker forms have less chance of being seen by predators and thus tend to survive to pass on the genes that lead to the darker colouring. That said, my examples were of a somewhat in-between colour. Only one moth in the trap on 12/13th: an Angle Shades. The next night - 13/14th - hovered around 7.C. from dusk to dawn, and I wasn't surprised at a single cold Hebrew Character being my catch. However, in the Lakehouse garden the catch was quite impressive : 1 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 2 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Hebrew Character, 2 Early Grey and 1 Small Brindled Beauty (dark form). The last few days had been dull and cool, and there were few insects to be seen generally, although I did notice the first Pond Skater (Gerris sp.) in my small garden pond. The Lakehouse catch on 14/16th was: 6 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Hebrew Character, plus a hoverfly Epistrophe eligans. The Capel Road catch was 2 Common Quaker and 2 Hebrew Character. Temperatures the day before (15th) reached 18/19.C. and bees and a Red Admiral Butterfly were much in evidence in the C. of L. Cemetery, and overnight temperatures were >9.C., slightly warmer than of late and perhaps reflecting the slightly more numerous catches. On 16/17th temperatures dropped from 10.C. in the evening to 8.C lowest overnight. Tthe Capel Road catch was 5 Hebrew Character and 1 Common Quaker. and a Plume Moth Amblyptilia acanthadactyla. The Lakehouse catch was 4 Common Quaker, 2 Small Quaker, 1 Twin-spotted Quaker, 3 Hebrew Character and 1 Common Plume. On the 19/20, Tim's catch was as follows: 5 Common Quaker, 2 Small Quaker, 2 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Light-brown Apple Moth, 1 Tawny Pinion. On 20/21st: 2 Common Quaker, 3 Small Quaker, 2 Twin-spotted Quaker, 1 Early Grey, 1 Common Plume, 1 Beautiful Plume,
On Wanstead Flats on 30th March, many of the "volcanos" produced by mining-bees Andrena sp. were evident along the dry track on the Flats adjacent to Capel Road and by Alexandra Lake. Also by the Sandhills were the first Bee-flys (Bombylius major). In the Capel Road moth-trap on 30/31st were 2 Hebrew Character, 1 Muslin Moth and the first Double-striped Pug of the year. At Lakehouse Road the catch was 5 Common Quaker, 3 Hebrew Character, 2 Early Grey, 1 Brindled Pug, 2 White-shouldered House Moth (648) and one micro which could be Agonopterix heracliana? For the last night of March, in Capel Road were just 3 Hebrew Character. The day had been warm enough but the night-time tempereatures remained at about 6.C.
List of Invertebrates recorded in February and March in order of appearance:
Comb-footed Spider Enoplognatha ovata - I4 February, Wanstead Flats
hoverfly Eristalis tenax - 23 February, Wanstead Park
Harlequin Ladybird - 23 February, Wanstead Park
7-spot Ladybirds - 23 February, Wanstead Park
Angle Shades moth - 23/24 February, Lakehouse Estate
Small Brindled Beauty - 23/24 February, Lakehouse Estate
Red Admiral - 26th February, Wanstead Flats
Satellite moth - 26/27 February, Lakehouse Estate
Pale Mottled Willow - 28/29 February, Lakehouse Estate
Common Quaker - 28/29 February, Lakehouse Estate
Small Quaker - 28/29 February, Lakehouse Estate
Hebrew Character - 29/1March, Capel Road
Oak Beauty - 29/1March, Lakehouse Estate
March Moth - 29/1March, Lakehouse Estate
Brimstone butterfly - I March, Wanstead Flats
Honey Bees Apis mellifera - I March, City of London Cemetery
Red-tailed Bumblebees Bombus lapidarius - I March, City of London Cemetery
Buff-tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris - I March, City of London Cemetery
Tree Bee Bombus hypnorum - I March, City of London Cemetery
Pine Ladybirds, Exochomus 4-pustulatus - I March, City of London Cemetery
Zebra Spiders - I March, City of London Cemetery
Wolf Spider (Lycosidae) - I March, City of London Cemetery
Pale Brindled Beauty - 1/2 March, Lakehouse Estate
Common Plume Moth Emmelina monodactyla - 1/2 March, Lakehouse Estate
Dotted Border (see here) - 2/3 March, Lakehouse Estate
Marmalade Hoverfly Episyrphus balteatus - 8 March, City of London Cemetery
Eristalis species - 8 March, City of London Cemetery
Andrena species, possibly Andrena fulva - 8 March, City of London Cemetery
Twin-spotted Quaker - 8/9 March, Lakehouse Estate
Early Grey - 9/10 March, Lakehouse Estate
Light Brown Apple Moth, Epiphyas postvittana - 9/10 March, Lakehouse Estate
March Dagger moths Diurnea fagella (see here) - 10/11 March, Capel Road
Ichneuman fly - 10/11 March, Capel Road
Oak Beauty - 10/11 March, Lakehouse Estate
hoverfly Epistrophe eligans - 13/14 March, Lakehouse Estate
Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla - 16/17 March, Lakehouse Estate
Tawny Pinion - 19/20 March, Lakehouse Estate
Beautiful Plume, Amblyptilia acanthadactyla - 20/21 March, Lakehouse Estate
Small White butterfly - 21 March, Wanstead Flats
Peacock - 21 March, Aldersbrook Exchange Lands
Small Tortoiseshell - 24 March, Wanstead Flats
Speckled Wood - 24 March, Wanstead Flats
Holly Blue - 28 March, Wanstead Park
Muslin Moth - 28/29 March, Capel Road
Clouded Drab - 29/30 March, Capel Road
Double-striped Pug - 30/31 March, Capel Road
Brindled Pug - 30/31 March, Lakehouse Estate
White-shouldered House Moth (648) - 30/31 March, Lakehouse Estate
Agonopterix heracliana? - 30/31 March, Lakehouse Estate
for invertebrates in May, click here
for invertebrates in June, click here
Paul Ferris, March
The Roding Valley Way comes at last - work to start on shared-use path through the Exchange Lands
On Tuesday and again today, I walked alongside the Roding, on the top bank above the river through what was once a sewage farm. Now it is part of Epping Forest, and to my mind is one of the nicer parts of the whole of the Wanstead area. On Tuesday there were six Teal, a Heron and a Grey Wagtail - which was feeding by the fresh-water outlet (known as the sluice) about midway along the whole Roding stretch of the Exchange Lands. The river here is a pleasure, with gentle meanders, a deep-pool near where Water Voles once could be seen, a breeding place for Banded Demoiselles, and who knows - a visiting place for Otters!
There was snow on the ground on both these occasions - so no golfers on the Ilford bank and on both days nobody else at all -so perhaps it was not surprising that the Heron was there again on Thursday, still a Teal, and this time a Smew and a Goosander. The latter are wary birds - not so used to disturbance as even the Herons are - and even my presence disturbed them. Goes to show, perhaps, what might use the river here if it were not so disturbed?
But disturbed it will be after the snow has gone, for the long-dreaded work on the shared-use path is to be started as soon as conditions allow - probably within the next few days. After that, the presumably more people will start using the path, and the majority will almost certainly be cyclists. I say long-dreaded, for it was quite a few years ago now that I was engaged in discussion at the early stages of these proposals, and asked that instead of the path through the sewage works - now more often known as the exchange lands - be used, the exisiting route known as the Bridle Path alongside the east boundary of the cemetery be upgraded as a cyclist's alternative. This wasn't to be, as it was perceived that it wasn't such a pleasant route and there were boundary and upkeep issues relating to the London Boroughs of Newham and Redbridge. So the City of London allowed it over Epping Forest, and I'm sad that they did without consultation - however meaningless that seems to be in so many cases.
As it happened, I walked the bridle path between the cemetery fence and the exchange lands on Tuesday. Albeit there was a fair bit of snow on the ground, it was a pleasant enough walk, marred only by the problem of re-accessing the sewage works site where the path bears sharp left at the corner. I must say, that stretch (ie towards the Aldersbrook Estate at Empress Avenue) is not so pleasant because of its narrowness and how rutted it is. The prior bit, though, I still maintain is nice enough as it is wide and green - the tree-cover actually gives it that! But that is a matter of opinion. At least this time it was walk-able - when I tried it some while back it was in such a state of non-management as to be all but impassable.
The proposed route gives better views, I have been told, which makes it better for the shared-use path - which is part of what makes it a pleasure to be able to walk there without (at present) having to give way to cyclists and joggers! But that is a bit selfish, I know. However - it may not be so apparent to multi-path users - and a good example of this is along such paths as exist along London's canals and the River Lee - that a minority (which includes myself) actually find it both dangerous and tiresome to have to move (or even be shoved) aside by faster-moving traffic. What I was suggesting is an alternative.There is at present a relative tranquillity of the top bank of the river way through the wilderness area (as it is sometimes called on City of London maps).
The fact that over the last few days - from my own visits and from those of bird-watchers - so much wildlife activity in and adjacent to the river may have something to do with the weather itself, but may well also reflect that since there aren't even golfers on the opposite bank at the moment, the wildlife has been less disturbed. Today there was Smew, Goosander and six Teal - plus Herons and lots of Wrens feeding down by the water. I suggest that increased traffic after the path is put through will decrease the wildlife which is generally there, not to speak of the birds and animals which make use of the vegetation adjacent to the path in the exchange lands.
So, in effect, how I read it is that because LBN and LBR cannot decide ownership and costs for maintenance of the existing path, (the Bridle Path - though it isn't one), it is easier to put it across Forest Land with no installation or maintenance costs to the Epping Forest Conservators, and to have LBR maintain it? The existing path through the exchange lands is easy to walk on and past experience as a cyclist suggests to me that there would be no trouble cycling on it as is. Hence, I see a lot of money being spent on upgrading something that doesn't require it except in so far as it is to be known as a shared-use path and hence must take on a different 2.5 metre character - to the detriment of wildlife and presumably a minority of people who like it as it is. So much for wildlife - so much for minorities and ambiance. However, I have been told that the work to be undertaken is a slight widening at some points and a soft resurfacing, so perhaps at least in that respect things won't be so bad.
I wonder why, though, did the City of London press ahead with this without any consultation that I was aware of, when with regard aspects such as signed walking routes in a few areas of the Forest, and how to spend £170,000 on Wanstead Flats, they did consult?
Well, it'll all settle down eventually; it'll probably look quite nice in there when that has happened, and it will open up a through-route to a few more people. I shall be using the shared-use path because it will be marginally easier to walk on than it is now, but it won't be the same.
For more on the Old Sewage Works site (the exchange lands) click here
Paul Ferris, 9th February 2012
Roding Valley Way in Aldersbrook Exchange Lands
I was sorry to hear - although not surprised - that the City of London Corporation appears to have submitted to pressure from the cycling campaign and the London Borough of Redbridge to allow the Roding Valley Way to pass through Aldersbrook Exchange Lands - the old sewage works site.
Early in the 2000s, together with local resident Don Kinnibrugh, I accompanied a surveyor who was working on behalf of LBR (I believe) on a visit to the Exchange Lands and nearby areas to look at possibilities for the route. We agreed that it would be a shame and unnecessary to route the proposed RVW through the site of the sewage works because of the increased disturbance to the area caused by channelling bicycles through there.
If this had been the only option, then it would be understandable, but an existing parallel route was - it seemed - a realistic alternative. This was the route known locally as "The Bridle Path" which runs alongside the City of London Cemetery fence. This would have meant that an existing and pleasant route for both pedestrians and cyclists be maintained (which it rarely is) and an alternative, primarily but not exclusively, for pedestrians remain un-surfaced in the Exchange Lands. In addition it may have been possible to open the fence by the NE corner of the cemetery, which would give access to and from that part of the Bridle Path into the area of the old sewage works known as "Redbridge Field", routing the surfaced track alongside that area's boundary hedge and thus give the track a junction with the east-west route. An opportunity for increased and alternative access and routes has been missed. It might have been argued that whoever owns Redbridge Field (and it seems to be uncertain who does!) may not have agreed, but if this were so then the route could have veered north-east at the corner to access the Exchange Lands just for the northern stretch.
As it was, the stretch of the Roding Valley Way from near Little Ilford towards Wanstead Park was created along its own orientation, destroying a nice piece of "meadow land" by the Alders Brook in the process, and its orientation by the Exchange Lands was pre-emptedly aimed right at the old gates to the sewage works instead of by the existing Bridle Path. This - as I understood - was before the City of London had accepted that the route would pass across their land here and thus necessitating the change in surface now proposed. In addition, a year or two ago, signposts were erected between Redbridge Roundabout and Aldersbrook Exchange Lands showing the RVW route as established, when indeed it was not!
The existing track across the exchange lands
Prior to pylon-work being undertaken in 1994 this track had something of the feel of a grassy country track. When brick-rubble was laid to provide access and support for heavy vehicles, it was left in a rough state with ankle-twisting bricks protruding from the surface. Only in the last few years have these virtually disappeared to provide the sound surface that we see in the photograph taken in 2010. It also gives something of the feel of the country-like atmosphere it once had.
Now it is proposed that it be disturbed again to complement the cycle-oriented Roding Valley Way,
Now it is proposed that a surfaced track be laid from where the existing RVW track ends at the old gate and at precisely the point where Epping Forest begins across the Exchange Lands following existing routes as far as the existing east-west hard-surfaced track near the concrete bridge across the Roding.
I feel disappointed that the City of London Corporation seems to have bowed to pressure from LBR and the cycling lobby at the expense of the aesthetics, the ecology and ambience of the area and allowed these changes to be made. I think that the existing surface is perfectly satisfactory for pedestrians, horses and indeed cyclists and requires no upgrade. On the other hand, many parts of Wanstead Park are a no-go area right now for me (as a pedestrian) because of the abominable condition of the paths which - even without re-surfacing - could be made more easily, comfortably and safely passable simply by clearance and slight widening.
I am sorry to have to say that I despair of "the Corporation's" policies with regard to the use of their land by the sometimes conflicting requirements of pedestrians, cyclists, horse-riders and nature. On the other hand, I was pleased that I was contacted by the Conservators to advise me of this and to ask if I knew of any particular species that might be present in order that they might be protected. My thoughts are that sometimes it is not only the wildflowers and animals that require to be protected, but the place itself.
Paul Ferris, 5th January 2012
A Solstice Frog and a Red Admiral
Apologies for the slide-show photographs being a bit sparse this month; must be the time of year...
However, I've been asked about the relevance of the Solstice Frog, not yet about the Red Admiral - but both are a bit unseasonal. The Solstice Frog was an early-evening encounter returning from a Solstice-themed walk from the Eagle Pond to the River Lee, appropriately enough on 21st December. There is an historically anomalous strip of land called the Walthamstow Slip that runs from just by the Birch Well close to the Eagle Pond as far as the River Lee - a distance of nearly three miles. The aim of the walk was to follow this strip of land as closely as possible - considering that buildings such as Whipps Cross Hospital have now been built across it - on shortest day of the year. Starting from the Birch Well was in itself somewhat significant - or at the very least felt so - because of course springs of water - for that is what it is - are magical places which have always been important in human imagination, though we may tend to forget that these days.
On the 21st December, at the Winter Solstice, if you were to look along the line of the Walthamstow Slip towards Hackney Marsh and the River Lee, if it weren't for the houses (and the trees) in between, at 3.56pm on that day (clouds and weather conditions also coming into the equation) you would see the sun set. It is quite remarkable, I think, that the alignment of this strange strip of land happens to be at about 240° (ie SW), which is the same as the setting sun on just that day!
We looked at the well, thought about its significance and walked across Leyton Flats and through side-streets near the hospital to reach Leyton Green. Capworth Road is very close to the Slip and on the same alignment, and - albeit we were a bit early for the true sunset - on that long view towards Hackney Marshes we had the pleasure of the clouds lifting to reveal the orange glow of a descending Sun. We arrived at the river just at sunset to end our Solstice walk.
Now to the frog. My way home was via Bush Road, in between the north and south portions of Bush Wood, in the dark of course. There on the pavement, facing that somewhat busy road, was a nicely light-coloured frog. If it had continued the way it was facing there is a good chance that it would have soon been an ex-solstice frog, and even sitting there in broad night-light, it was threatened by human feet. I made a rescue, and went home, content with a nice walk, a nice sunset and a frog-rescue.
The Red Admiral - like the frog - was a creature you would less expect to see during these dark-days of the year, but Jennifer Charter was pleased to see one flying around quite strongly by Reservoir Wood on another day which has significance to many at this time, Christmas Day.
However, whoever or whatever you may celebrate at this time of year, we should all perhaps celebrate the fact that outside of our doors, the wildlife goes on and it is not just Robins that are so much in evidence, but sometimes quite unexpected creatures.
Paul Ferris, 26th December 2011
The Flowers of Wanstead Area - a presentation by the Wren Conservation Group
On Monday December 12th 2011, the WREN Conservation and Wildlife Group organised an illustrated talk on "The Flowers of the Wanstead Area" at Wanstead House Community Centre.
This was an illustrated talk by two local naturalists - Tricia Moxey and myself. The talk by Tricia Moxey covered a broader picture of the south of Epping Forest, describing something of the topology, man's influence on the area, the history and the natural history
This was followed by my talk, which concentrated more on the flora of the Wanstead area and so encompassed that area which is covered by 'Wanstead Wildlife'. This looked at some of the specialities of the area, some newcomers, some that people may well be aware of such as the bluebells, and some which they may not such as the Duke of Argylle's Tea-tree! It was hoped that this brief look at our local flowers may encourage people to get out and look for what we have for themselves.
Paul Ferris, 24th December 2011
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