News of wildlife and other issues
Green Tree-frogs at Snaresbrook?
The account below of Green Tree-frogs in Snaresbrook was taken from 'The Essex Naturalist', Vol.1. 1887
It is suggested that the species may have been Hyla arborea, the European Tree-frog, which is native to Europe excluding Britain, Ireland, Spain and Portugal. The Editors' comments are interesting: they don't seem to have persisted!
Locally, we only seem to have Common Frogs Rana temporaria (as well as Common Toads Bufo bufo), although not too far away - certainly at Rainham Marsh - there are other non-native frogs living and breeding quite happily. These may be Marsh Frogs or Edible Frogs, and maybe Pool Frogs as well, but as these seem to interbreed quite frequently there is some uncertainty!
Paul Ferris, 21st April 2012
Exchange Lands Cycle Path update
Work to lay the surface of the Roding Valley Way shared-use track through the Exchange Lands started during the first half of April - a very wrong time for such disturbance to be taking place. (see here for previous article) Already many birds had started nesting in the vegetation alongside the route - birds like Long-tailed Tits would have made use of such areas, Common Whitethroats - one of the specialities of this area - had just started to move in and Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps were vigorously singing during a Wren Group migrant bird-watch walk there on 15th. It may have been that bad weather had delayed a proposed start, but this disregard of the wildlife aspect of the area in favour of a cycle route is typical of the attitude in general towards our environment.
A couple of weeks ago there was an article on Radio 4 that talked about just how rare Lesser-spotted Woodpeckers are. The CIty of London Corporation - in their efforts to protect people from branches of trees falling on heads - had just had the tops lopped off the very trees that had provided nesting places last year for this species and Little Owls on Wanstead Flats! Also on Wanstead Flats - and for reasons that I cannot think of lest it be stop people tripping on uneven ground - the rough grassland around one of our rare Creeping Willow shrubs is now being mown - leaving it isolated in a lawn. In Wanstead Park, the area that is being mown for recreation and picnic purposes (I suppose) seems to be expanding and I fear that it will at some time encroach upon one of the Park's rarities - the Harebell. Swings and roundabouts, anyone?
On a more positive note - I hope - the Skylarks on the Flats will soon be nesting and signs should be up advising dog-walkers of this, encouraging them not to let their dogs run loose over those areas. Similarly, in Wanstead Park the Bluebells of Chalet Wood are becoming very flowery, and the signs that were put up at the access-points to that wood asking to avoid trampling and not to pick, should have gone up. Those Bluebells are a victim of their own success, with bluebell walks already organised, individuals and families going to enjoy them and photographers going to photograph them. Let us hope that the tepee-builders don't have too much impact this year; the trampling caused by this fun-activity is seriously detrimental to the development of the plants and should be discouraged. I really think that we should even go to the extreme of erecting temporary fenced routes for people to follow - no more than low, roughly constructed single-log barriers - to act more as psychological barriers than physical ones. Might be able to make some good use of those felled or fallen branches?
Paul Ferris, 17th April 2012
Invertebrates in April
The first notable insect in my garden on 1st April was a Speckled Wood butterfly - albeit they had been seen during March. There were a number of bees about and also hoverflies, including Melanostoma scalare, Eupeodes luniger, Eristalis tenax and a Syrphus species - probably torvus. The night (1/2 April) was cold, and the moth catch in Capel Road was just two Hebrew Character, and in Lakehouse just one Hebrew Character. On 2nd April in Aldersbrook Exchange Lands was one Peacock and a number of small White butterflies (at least five). These were not necessarily Small Whites, although probably, and certainly one was a Green-veined White. The moth catch on 2/3rd April was the usual two Hebrew Characters (it's a kipping place) plus a new moth for this year - a Satellite. This moth has a distinct mark on each wing, which looks a little like a planet with two orbiting satellites - or perhaps like a flying saucer!
On 10th April, two Speckled Wood butterflies were circling each other in a courtship ritual in my garden. I wasn't able to put the trap out until 10/11th, and the catch that night was one Hebrew Character, one Early Grey, two Clouded Drab. The night of 11/12th produced one Hebrew Character and one Clouded Drab, which I recognised as the same individual as one of those caught the night before. Only one Hebrew Character on 13/14th. On the 14th, a male Orange Tip butterfly was seen in Wanstead Park during a BNA walk.
It may be noticed that the name "Hebrew Character" seems to be cropping up a lot, and indeed one, two, and up to four have occured on almost all nights since 1st March. I suspect that the one or two may have been the same individuals who have just found the trap irresistable. Even on the cold nights in mid-April, one was present - the only moth again on 15/16th.
Between 15th-20th, there was a lot of rain and lowish temperatures at night, so the moth trap was not put out. A day-time reprieve from rain, together with some sunshine and temperatures just reaching 13.C. brought out a blue butterfly - probably a Holly Blue - in my Capel Road garden as well as three species of ladybird: a Harlequin, a 7-spot and a few 22-spot. There were also a selection of hoverflies including Syrphus and Eristalis species, a Zebra Spider and a Pisaura spider.
Putting the moth trap out in Capel Road on 20/21st resulted in a nil catch. The daytime on the 21st was much brighter than of late, and on entering Wanstead Park I immediately saw a few Longhorn Moths Adela reaumurella - albeit not doing their usual dance amongst the leaves, but just sitting still. There was quite a bit of insect activity around the patch of Yellow Archangel by Reservoir Wood, however, with numbers of bees including the Hairy-footed Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes very active (click here). On 22nd, another visit to the Park added the tiny Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner moth to this year's new entrants, with a few on the trunk of a horse chestnut, of course. Butterflies seen were a Green-veined White, an Orange Tip and a Speckled Wood.
The poor weather during the day and night resulted in a nil catch in the Capel Road trap overnight on 24/25th, but the Lakehouse trap caught one Early Grey, one Twenty-plumed Moth, one Light Brown Apple Moth, and two Brindled Pug. A Brimstone came to light but didn't enter the trap.
On the evening of the 25th a moth trap was set up in the grounds of the City of London Cemetery as a trial. The weather was bad, with rain and cool temperatures, so not unexpectedly the catch was nil.
List of Invertebrates recorded in April for the first time this year, in order of appearance:
Speckled Wood - 1st April, garden
hoverfly Melanostome scalare - 1st April, garden
hoverfly Eupeodes luniger - 1st April, garden
hoverfly Syrphus sp. - 1st April, garden
hoverfly Eristalis tenax - 1st April, garden
Green-veined White - 2nd April, Aldersbrook Exchange Lands
moth Satellite - 2/3 April, garden
Orange Tip - 14th April, Wanstead Park
22-spot Ladybird - 20th April, garden
Longhorn Moth Adela reaumurella - 21st April, Wanstead Park
Hairy-footed Flower Bee Anthophora plumipes - 21st April, Wanstead Park
Horse-chestnut Leaf Miner - 22nd April, Wanstead Park
Twenty-plumed Moth - 23/24 April, Lakehouse moth trap
Light Brown Apple Moth - 23/24 April, Lakehouse moth trap
Brindled Pug - 23/24 April, Lakehouse moth trap
Brimstone - 23/24 April, Lakehouse garden
Paul Ferris, April
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
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