Bio-blitzing the Park – 5 October 2014

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The day dawned frosty, but with hardly a cloud in the sky by 10am it was warm and sunny as people assembled in Wanstead Park for the Wren Group’s first bio-blitz. The Lakehouse moth-trap had already delivered nine species of moths, and the efforts of Bob, Dan, Debbie and Tim had produced a good selection of birds on Wanstead Flats, including a party of Skylarks that had deserted their breeding area and returned to their winter feeding quarters – on the other side of Centre Road! Other birds found on the Flats during the day included a Stonechat and Linnets, but there was no visible migration of note.

Back at The Temple, after a showing of four of the moth highlights – Black Rustic, Shuttle-shaped Dart, Pink-barred Sallow and Lunar Underwing – Derek took charge of the pond-dipping session in Perch Pond, while Gill, Cathy and Jackie led a group listing invertebrates, plants, lichens and fungi in Chalet Wood. David scoured the Park for birds, while Rose went off in search of anything of she could find. A large Signal Crayfish and several Perch ended up in pond-dippers’ nets and four species of dragonflies were seen over and around Perch and Heronry, including a very late Black-tailed Skimmer. Good numbers of Red Admiral butterflies, along with a few Large Whites and Speckled Woods – and a lovely, fresh Small Copper – were on the wing over The Plain. Cathy picked up a Buzzard soaring over The Glade and a few minutes later it drifted south over The Plain. Unusually these days, both Treecreeper and Nuthatch were recorded: Cathy heard the latter calling in Chalet Wood, while Dan saw a Treecreeper in Bush Wood.

A selection of interesting aquatic invertebrates was showcased at The Temple. These included an extraordinary squeaking water beetle, probably Acilius sulcatus, and a Great Water Boatman, Notonecta glauca. As the afternoon wore on, people were still trying to add new species but we called it a day at 3pm. With various people working on the identities of mystery bugs and lichens, we hope to have a comprehensive list in a few days’ time. My hunch is that we’ll top 150 species for the day.

Thanks to the City of London for letting us have use of a room at The Temple, and thanks to the 30 people who took part, particularly Cathy and Derek, who travelled all the way from Reading. Judging by the positive feedback, there will be more bio-blitzes to come!

Tim Harris