News of wildlife and other issues

 The Wanstead Flats Fire

Those of us living anywhere in the vicinity of Wanstead Flats, and even much further afield, will probably be aware that there was a major grass-fire on the Flats beginning at about 4pm on Sunday 15th July, 2018. This was severe enough to be mentioned on various news programmes, radio and television, in the London area and elsewhere. It was stated that 225 personnel and 40 vehicles were in attendance to deal with it. This was the largest grass fire ever recorded in the London area and - with 40 vehicles in attendance - one of only three fires in London in 2018 to have as much resources used in dealing with it.

wf fire 180715 183247871wwartViewed from near Alexandra Lake, looking west, the fire at 6.30 pm, blazing behind the Coronation Plantation. I had said just the day before to friends that I was surprised there hadn't been fires earlier. After all, it's an annual event. I have often thought at this time of year – and particularly at weekends – that there ought to be patrols out on the Flats (and in Wanstead Park) warning people against their barbecues, and keeping an eye out for problems in general. That could include litter warnings, too – because even on the news there was the usual explanation that discarded bottles could have caused it. They never mention that matches could have caused it. (cynic that I am). Of course, the City of London (i.e. the Conservators of Epping Forest) resources are just not available, but just look at the cost because they are not. All those fried grasshoppers and cooked snails! And the monetary cost of all that fire-fighting equipment and manpower, the police helicopter flying round and round (and all the pollution from that). There is a health cost, too. I slept (not much) with all my windows closed because of the smoke, and people with lung and breathing problems may well have suffered.

wf fire pails 180716 50610wwartThe day after the fire, and a firefighter carries pails. Not all of the fire-fighting was done with high-pressure hoses!Realising that major damage would have been done to such vegetation as grasses, broom, gorse and the relatively small but increasing area of heather, I was afraid that some of the trees in the copses may have also have been damaged severely, but they seem to have survived okay. The worst tree-damage appeared to be along the west side of Centre Road, presumably where the fire "jumped" the road. I think Long Wood is pretty much okay, but there may be some superficial damage along the southern edge. The Coronation (1953) Plantation also survived. Again, there may be some damage along its northern edge, because the firefighters were still damping or trampling down smouldering patches immediately adjacent, that is to say between the plantation and Aldersbrook Farm Wood (the petrol station trees). That grass is as far east as the fire reached. The football pitches stopped it jumping to the grassland south of Alexandra Lake and beyond.

It looks to me – as has been suggested – that the fire may have begun somewhere between Blake Hall Road and the Fairground site, I estimate somewhere opposite the Belgrave Road wayleave. That means much of the SSSI is just blackened remnants of vegetation, with lots of dead grasshoppers to be seen. Surprisingly, the hedgerow and grass parallel with the track alongside Blake Hall Road has survived. The Heather has not.
wf fire black 180716 50587wwart Scorched earth where the Heather used to be.

The major area east of Centre Road – has been affected just around perimeter of the model aircraft area, but much more so to the east of that, and nearly to Long Wood and across to the Coronation Plantation. As I said, all the copses seem okay. This is part of the Skylark’s main breeding area. Meadow Pipits, too. There were some Skylarks singing. Not all of their nesting territory has been damaged, so they still have a chance next year, though I did encounter one on a track that – even apart from its awareness of me – seemed distraught. And on the day of the fire I heard a Skylark and a Meadow Pipit near Alexandra Lake whilst the fire was blazing further west on Sunday. These may have been displaced individuals. The Skylarks here are a very important population in the London area, and have been decreasing in recent years. The hope is, of course, that there will be enough nesting sites for them next Spring.

All in all, though, fire is a natural phenomena – however it began (probably through some form of human agency) - and although distressing and concerning regarding environment and wildlife, things will recover. It might even do it good – especially if opportunity was undertaken to clear some of the long-remaining litter now exposed. The effect, however, might be profound – especially if it destroys the Skylark and Meadow Pipits's continued habitation

I had a message that Alexandra Lake had been used as a water-supply. It was already low, and I was later told that the fire-service was pumping water into the lake on Monday afternoon, to replenish it somewhat. With regard water, the fire has exposed the ditch that runs parallel to the west side of Centre Road. Blocked pipes/conduits are visible, which presumably should have been taking rain-water off the road. That ditch used to have water in, and was great for mosses etc. It has been abandoned, and hence adds to the drying out of the Flats. I have complained about this for years. Now could be an opportunity to re-dig it, re-establish the drains and get a bit of water back. Doubtless, that opportunity won't be taken.

 

Paul Ferris, 16th July 2018

wf fire engine 180716 50585wwartLooking NW towards Long Wood. The plants in the foreground are Fireweed.

wf fire fighters 180716 50589wwartThe day after the fire, firefighters were still damping and stamping down smouldering patches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

wf fire engine gorse 180716 50586wwartBurnt ground where there had been some nice Gorse patches. Long Wood stretches across the backgound

wf fire roadside 180716 50612wwartThe blackened edge of Centre Road, looking North. The ditch can be seen

Bees and Honey

A couple of days ago, on 13th June 2018, I walked across Wanstead Flats after meeting with Tony Morrison, the Wren Conservation Group’s newsletter editor. We hadn’t been discussing newsletters or editing, nor anything to do with wildlife or conservation, but rather the sad closure of our local bus-stop, courtesy of Newham Council. It is not only wildlife that can suffer cuts.

wf alex filming 180614 generalcWe wondered what was going on down by Alexandra Lake, and I went to the few people there, who had chucked a bicycle into the lake and were erecting some structures which seemed to relate to an abandoned children's playground. I asked them what they were doing, and “Filming” was their answer, but for what film they wouldn’t say. They assured me that they had a license from the Conservators of Epping Forest, so that must be alright.

Strolling back home on a track across the rough grassland just south of the sand-hills that give the lake its alternative, if local, name – i.e. the Sandhills Pond – I was enraptured (if that isn’t too spiritual a term) by all the forms of grasses, the yellow flowers growing amongst them, the other-coloured ones too, and the sound of a skylark ascending not so high into the heavens (if that isn’t too poetic and spiritual a description) that I could stand and watch as well as listen. It was just one of those nice days and gentle experiences.

The following day the whole area was “swamped” with vehicles and personnel. The rest of the film crew had joined in. Tony said to me that “there were more vehicles in the area than on the M25...!!!”

wf alex filming 180614 crewcWith disgust and sadness I sent a brief email to Tim Harris, Chairman of the Wren Group. It said little more than “Skylarks yesterday, film crew today.”

Unexpectedly, and shortly after, I received a phone call from Martin Newnham, Head Keeper for Epping Forest, just checking on my observation and confirming that they had been given permission to film there. I explained that that was rather unfortunate, as the skylark I’d seen the day before might not be too happy. I certainly wasn’t too happy, and I’m not even a skylark.

Then followed a rash of emails, primarily sent to Tim, who copied them on to me. More and more people seemed to be getting involved. I responded to one from Geoff Sinclair – Head of Operations – in which he stated that the film crew “are in an area…. well away from the ‘Skylark nesting area’."

wf alex filming 180614 seesawcI felt I ought to respond to this and explained that although well away from the main nesting area, this relatively small patch has for years provided a nesting area for one pair. Also, that it wasn’t just the skylarks that might be disturbed, but because of the nature of the soils there (sand and gravels) there were other aspects at risk, including plants and mining bees.

Both Tim and I were saddened, disappointed and concerned that after years of providing information about habitats and wildlife to the Conservators of Epping Forest, this seemed to have been disregarded in favour of income. Bees and Honey.

Well, it is easy to turn ones disappointment into a rant. Perhaps that’s why for a good few years now I have (almost) stopped banging my head against a solid Forest wall. That hurts.

The last email I received, also addressed to Tim, was a very understanding one from Geoff Sinclair. I was really pleased to receive that, because in effect it was an admission and apology for getting things wrong in licensing that film shot, and a "thank you" for bringing the matter to his attention. In addition, Geoff suggested that, following this incident, it might be in order to investigate how things might be done better in the future, particularly – perhaps – taking local knowledge into account.

wf alex filming 180614 plinthc By Friday the massed personnel, vehicles, broken swing, abandoned bike and filming frame were all gone. There were a couple of holes (too big to have been made by mining bees) where a see-saw once stood, some flattened grass and some cigarette butts. Of course, those may have been left by any visitor. But also left behind was a very apt artefact. It was a plinth – looking like stone but actually, I think, wood – which had a plaque on it. This read (word for word, spelling for spelling) This nature preserve was made possible by the generous donation of THE GLENGROVE HOUSE MEMORIAL TRUST. Well, fancy donating a jammy Glengrove House Memorial Trust to the Forest! And it has spread out some grass, too. Hold on: there are the mining-bees, and then there is fly-tipping...

And what of the Skylarks? I didn’t hear them on a visit the day after, but that doesn’t mean that they are not there. However, during 2009 and 2010 Thames Water Authority installed an underground pipe-line intended to carry water from a bore-hole in the Old Sewage Works (Aldersbrook Exchange Lands) to the Redbridge Water Treatment works near Redbridge roundabout. This involved using a large machine named the Longborer to create a horizontal bore to carry the pipe, under the south arm of the Ornamental Water and across the Plain. Now, up until then there had annually been a pair of larks nesting on the Plain. Apart from here there isn’t much else of a suitable habitat in Wanstead Park for Skylarks, so just one pair had enough room for a territory. After the disturbance caused by that boring, the Skylarks have never returned to the Park. It takes only one disturbance to finish things off.

And the title of the film? Tim suggested it might be called “The Lark Descending”?

 Paul Ferris MBNA, 15th June 2018

 

 WFlatsFilming 002c

WFlatsFilming 003c

WFlatsFilming 001c

Photos by Paul Ferris and Tony Morrison

Microscopic organisms

introductory picThese include a variety of organisms observed under the microscope, and which do not necessarily fit into any of the groups separately dealt with on the website. In many - if not most - instances I do not have the expertise to offer a confident identification. In fact, I may be way off!

I have listed them (below) in scientific order as far as I have been able. Each is referred to by its scientific name - but rarely down to Genus and Species. I have included a common name, either by which it may be more commonly known (e.g. 'a rotifer') if it has one, or at least something to which it may be referred.

The photographs have been labeled with the date photographed, and the location. All of the photographs were taken by myself. Click on the name in the first column (Species or Order) for a photograph, or CLICK HERE for the first in the series of photographs. There may also be pop-up notes available. (click on 'Notes' at the bottom left corner)

I haven't yet included thumbnails for photos, just a sequence of larger-scaled images.

 

Microscopic Organisms

Species or Order
Common Name Type of Organism (inc. Class)
Location and Date of find
Protozoa
Amoeba sp. Amoeba Amoebozoa Capel Road garden, 10/12/2015
Centropyxis (aculeata) Testate Amoeba Amoebozoa Harpenden Road garden, 01/01/2018
Chaos sp. Amoeba Amoebozoa Capel Road garden, 10/01/2018
Difflugia sp. Testate Amoeba Amoebozoa Capel Road garden, 11/01/2018
Actinophrys sp.
Sun Animicule Heliozoa Harpenden Road Pond, 09/04/2018
Heliozoa (Order) Sun Animicule Heliozoa Capel Road garden, 03/12/2015
Amphileptus sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Ciliophora Capel Road garden, 09/04/2018
Colpoda sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Colpodea Capel Road garden, 19/11/2015
Paramecium sp. Unicellular Ciliate Oligohymenophorea Capel Road garden, 02/12/2015
Colpidium sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Oligohymenophorea Capel Road garden, 02/12/2015
Vorticella sp. Stalked Ciliate Oligohymenophorea Capel Road garden, 27/11/2015
Vorticella sp. Stalked Ciliate Oligohymenophorea Capel Road garden, 12/01/2018
Carchesium sp. Colonial Ciliate Oligohymenophorea Capel Road garden, 15/11/2015
Urocentrum (turbo) Free-swimming Ciliate Oligohymenophorea Perch Pond 27/01/2018
Caenomorpha medusula Free-swimming Ciliate Heterotrichea Northumberland Ave. garden, 27/01/2018
Stentor sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Heterotrichea Capel Road garden, 09/04/2018
Stylonychia sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Hypotrichea Capel Road garden, 17/11/2015
Euplotes sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Spirotrichea Capel Road garden, 10/12/2015
Strombidium sp. Unicellular Ciliate Oligotrichea Capel Road garden, 02/12/2015
       
Animalia
Gastrotricha (Phyllum) Hairyback Gastrotricha (Phyllum) Capel Road garden pond, 13/01/2018
Chaetonotus sp. ? Hairyback Gastrotricha (Phyllum) Capel Road garden pond, 18/01/2018
Nematode (Phyllum) Nematode Nematoda (Phyllum) Capel Road garden, 27/11/2015
Rotifer (Brachionus ?) Rotifer Rotifera (Phyllum) Capel Road garden, 28/11/2015
Brachionus sp. Rotifer Rotifera (Phyllum) Capel Road garden, 29/11/2015
Habrotrocha sp. Rotifer Rotifera (Phyllum) Capel Road garden, 08/11/2015
Keratella sp. Rotifer Rotifera (Phyllum) Capel Road garden, 23/03/2018
Ploima (Order) Rotifer Rotifera (Phyllum)
Capel Road garden, 01/12/2015
Macrobiotus sp. Tardigrade (Water Bear) Tardigrada (Phyllum) Capel Road garden, 18/12/2017
 
 
For other groups of microscopic organisms, particularly algae, use the listing below or the more extensive one to the left.
 

Additions to species list (2018)

for 2014 additions, click HERE

for 2015 additions, click HERE

for 2016 additions, click HERE

for 2017 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, or even a simple omission! The original find-date is is indicated within brackets.

All examples found by myself unless otherwise indicated. Please note that many of these identifications are tentative, and have not been verified.

 

Species Common Name Type of Organism Date of find or entry* Found by:
Linum usitatissimum Common Flax Plant 19/10/2018  
Stictopleurus sp. ? a bug Insect 17/10/2018 (04/06/2016)  
Reduvius personatus Assassin Bug Insect 15/10/2018 (11/07/2008)  
Nezara viridula Southern Green Shield Bug  Insect 11/10/2018  
Trachemys scripta scripta Yellow-bellied Slider Reptile 01/07/2018  
Lepidium ruderale Narrow-leaved Pepperwort Plant 25/06/2018  
Seioptera vibrans a picture-wing fly Insect 06/06/2018  
Corvus frugilegus Rook Bird 14/05/2018  
Ankistrodesmus gracilis (poss.) Colonial alga Alga 24/04/2018 (18/04/2018)  
Spirostomum sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 20/04/2018 (23/03/2018)  
Eudorina sp. Colonial alga Alga 18/04/2018  
Gonium sp. Colonial alga Alga 18/04/2018  
Cosmarium sp. Desmid Alga 16/04/2018 (13/01/2018)  
Chydorus sphaericus Crustacean Crustacean 15/04/2018  
Urocentrum (turbo) Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 15/04/2018 (27/01/2018)  
Euplotes sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 09/04/2018  
Actinophrys sp.
Sun-animicule Protozoan 09/04/2018  
Stentor (coeruleus) Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 09/04/2018   
Coelastrum sp. Colonial alga Alga 09/04/2018  
Cyprid Crustacean larva Crustacean 09/04/2018  
Chaetonotus sp. ? Hairyback Gastrotriche 18/01/2018  
Amoeba sp. Amoeba Protozoan 31/03/2018 (10/12/2015)  
Euglena sp. Euglena Flagellate Alga 29/03/2018  
Keratella sp. Rotifer Protozoan 18/03/2018  
Caenomorpha medusula Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 27/01/2018  
Ploima (Order) Rotifer Protozoan 27/01/2018 (18/12/2017)  
Habrotrocha sp. Rotifer Protozoan 27/01/2018 (01/12/2015)  
Brachionus sp. Rotifer Protozoan 27/01/2018 (08/11/2015)  
Ostracod (Class) Seed Shrimp Crustacean 27/01/2018 (08/04/2016)  
Vorticella sp. Ciliate Protozoan 26/01/2018 (27/11/2015)  
Stylonychia sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 25/01/2018 (17/11/2015)  
Strombidium sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 25/01/2018 (02/12/2015)  
Paramecium sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 25/01/2018 (02/12/2015)  
Colpoda sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 25/01/2018 (19/11/2015)  
Colpidium sp. Free-swimming Ciliate Protozoan 25/01/2018 (02/12/2015)  
Carchesium sp. Colonial Ciliate Protozoan 25/01/2018 (15/11/2015)  
Heliozoa (Order) Sun-Animicule Protozoan 24/01/2018 (03/12/2015)  
Nematode Nematode Roundworm 24/01/2018 (27/11/2015)  
Cladocera (Order) Water Flea Crustacean 24/01/2018 (12/11/2015)  
Peridinium sp. Flagellate Alga 23/01/2018 (19/11/2015)  
Nitzschia sp. Diatom Alga 23/01/2018 (29/11/2015)  
Diatom Diatom Alga 23/01/2018 (01/12/2015)  
Gymnodinium sp. ? Flagellate Alga 22/01/2018 (27/12/2017)  
Cylindrocapsa sp. Green Algae Alga 22/01/2018 (18/12/2017)  
Volvox sp. Globe Algae Alga 22/01/2018 (17/12/2017)  
Cladophora sp. Green Algae Alga 22/01/2018 (09/10/2015)  
Gastrotricha (Phylum) Hairyback Gastrotriche 13/01/2018  
Vorticella sp. Ciliate Protozoan 12/01/2018  
Difflugia sp. Testate Amoeba Protozoan 11/01/2018  
Chaos sp. Amoeba Protozoan 10/01/2018  
Phacus sp. Euglena Flagellate Alga 08/01/2018  
Navicula sp. Diatom Alga 08/01/2018  
Diatom  Diatom Alga 08/01/2018  
Diatom Diatom Alga 08/01/2018  
Achnanthes sp. Diatom Alga 08/01/2018  
Achnanthes sp. Diatom Alga 08/01/2018  
Cyclops (Nauplius) Water Flea larva (Nauplius) Crustacean 06/01/2018  
Cyclops Water Flea Crustacean 06/01/2018  
Centropyxis sp. (possibly C. aculeata) Testate Amoeba Protozoan 01/01/2018  
Closterium sp. Desmid Alga 01/01/2018  
Cosmarium sp. Desmid Alga 01/01/2018  
Cymatopleura sp. Diatom Alga 01/01/2018  
Cymbella sp. Diatom Alga 01/01/2018  
Desmidium sp. Desmid Alga 01/01/2018  
Euglena sp. Euglena Flagellate Alga 01/01/2018  
Navicula sp. Diatom Alga 01/01/2018  
Pediastrum sp. Green Algae Alga 01/01/2018  
Trachelomonas sp. Euglena Flagellate Alga 01/01/2018  
Scenedesmus sp. Green Algae Alga 01/01/2018  
Scenedesmus sp. Green Algae Alga 01/01/2018  
Spirogyra sp. Green Algae Alga 01/01/2018  
Staurastrum (natator) Desmid Alga 01/01/2018  
Staurastrum sp. Desmid Alga 01/01/2018  
Ulothrix sp. Green Algae Alga 01/01/2018  
Ulotrichales (Order) Green Algae Alga 01/01/2018  
Uroglena sp. Colonial Algae Alga 01/01/2018  

 

top

Stuart Monro

On 7th September, Stuart Monro, filmmaker and founder of the campaign for Wanstead Park, died at his home in Wanstead. His funeral was held at the City of London Crematorium in Manor Park on 22nd September 2017, and was attended by more than 160 people.

After the funeral many of those who had come to pay their repects made their way to Wanstead Park, a place that Stuart loved and where much of his filming of historical, social and ecological issues was done. It struck me, as we stood quietly for a short while and the Sun grew lower in the sky, that the Autumn Equinox was a fitting time for a funeral - and that Stuart may also have appreciated and even been amused by that!

There is a fitting tribute to Stuart on the Friends of Wanstead Parkland's website at  http://www.wansteadpark.org.uk/news/large-gathering-in-farewell-to-stuart-monro/

Paul Ferris, 25th September 2017

 Stuart Monro