News of wildlife and other issues
November 29th, 2 o'clock in the morning and the rain is pelting down - as it has been for hours.
In Capel Road, from an Oak tree by Wanstead Flats, a Robin is repeating over and over its somewhat subdued winter sounds. Not the full song that we hear in the Spring and Summer, but plenty loud enough and expressive enough to be heard over the rain. The street light is bright, of course, but on such a miserable night what is that Robin doing?!
Paul Ferris, 29th November 2009
Goldeneye revisits Wanstead
So when was the last time? Well the last time I saw a Goldeneye around here was was in November 1977 when a female turned up on Alexandra Lake on 20th and stayed until 24th December.
There have been a few records since: one on the Perch Pond on 9th January 1982, a duck on the Hollow Pond on 17th November and another duck on Eagle Pond on 9th January, both in 1985, but it was that one in 1977 that prompted me to write a little 'poem' about the occurence which is available here, if you can stand it. You'll see that it is based on a rather better-known one by J. Milton Hayes, and I had to use a bit of poetic license to place it away from Kathmandu and nearer to Manor Park - "to the north of E12", get it?
Anyway, suffice it to say that Goldeneyes are not that frequent in these parts, so when I got a report from Jonathan Lethbridge that Stuart Fisher had spotted one on Heronry Pond after a wild night, even I was tempted to go out on an almost equally wild day. In fact, so wild was it that I waited a few hours for a break in the rain before attempting a 'twitch' - and failed to see it. That was on 14th November. The following day - which happened to be the 15th - was much nicer, so I went for what turned out to be a lovely stroll, saw Stuart, saw the duck, photographed it, and returned home happy.
And here is the picture...
Paul Ferris, 15th November 2009
Epping Forest Fungi - the Spitalfields Connection?
The last few years have seen a scarcity of fungi in Epping Forest compared to, say, 10 years ago. This has been remarked on by a number of people that remember not just the variety of species but the number of fruiting bodies that used to be found.
The reasons for this seem unclear: whether seasonal conditions have affected things or perhaps changes caused by climactic changes, or perhaps simply that the Forest has been over-harvested by collectors, particularly in the last few years. Epping Forest regulations state that commercial collection for restaurants and shops is not allowed under any circumstances and, together with collecting without a license, is a byelaw offence that can lead to prosecution.
A licensing system was in operation until recently, but personal observations on the basketfuls of fungi that were seen being carried would suggest that the sheer numbers could not be for home consumption.
Many of the fungi that I observed in such harvests were not edible species, so I deduce that anything was picked, and was sorted out later for edibility. One wonders where these basketfuls of fungi finished up, and who does the sorting?
An article on Radio 4 on 14th November called “Armatrading for Mayor” looked at some of the duties of the Lord Mayor of London, and one part of it particularly caught my attention:
The interviewer – Joan Armatrading - was talking to stallholders at Spitalfields Market. One of the stallholders called over a neighbour – a “Mr Mundo” – and jokingly mentioned that he patrols Epping Forest every morning making sure that people don’t pick the wild mushrooms. The intimation seemed to be that the mushrooms being sold at Spitalfields had come from Epping Forest!
Perhaps a look at the City of London’s own Spitalfields Market, and the provenance of some of the mushrooms on sale there, might be in order here?
Paul Ferris, 14th November 2009
Dartford Warbler on Wanstead Flats
A fungus foray on behalf of the Wren Group led by Tricia Moxey in Bush Wood had to be left as far as I was concerned, having received a call that there was a Dartford Warbler nearby, on Wanstead Flats.
I have never been an avid twitcher, but as far as I know there has never been a record of this species in the area so I decided that at least this warrented a look for myself. Also, I've rarely ever seen a Dartford Warbler.
There were two people already looking for it in broom near the model aircraft field, shortly joined by myself and later a fourth. Its general location was known, and there were a couple of fleeting glimpses, but not for me. However, persistence paid off after two of the group had left, for the bird began to make its scolding sound, albeit from low down and out of sight. Then a possible movement away from us, then in the distance the sound again - and there it was, perched at the top of a hawthorn in classic pose. Not much more than a silhouette, really, but I'm quite happy to have caught sight and sound of this new bird to our area.
Paul Ferris, 31 October 2009
Bat roosts in Wanstead Park
Three unusual bat roosts were erected at the north end of Wanstead Park in early 2008. These are oak trunks, hollow, and split in such a way as to encourage bats to roost therein. They are lashed to living tree trunks, appearing somewhat like gigantic garden canes as if to support the trees! (photos)
These were erected, it is supposed, in compensation for the destruction of natural bat roosts nearby in preparation for Thames Water Authority's pipe-laying operation over the last year. (see here)
As well as these, two others were provided at the same time. One is again a log from a tree, but his time it is strapped above a branch of a living tree that overhangs (and indeed leans towards!) the Ornamental Water at its North-east corner. The other - midway along the golf-course fence - is attached to the side of a tree and looks somewhat like a plastic dustbin.