Members of the Wren Wildlife Group are hoping to find 1000 different kinds of plants and animals in the Wanstead area during 2016. Chair Tim Harris reports on progress so far.
Before dawn on New Year’s Day, while many were sleeping off the excesses of a few hours earlier, Wanstead’s birdwatchers (well, some of them) were on a quest to see how many species they could find during the day. And what a start to the day they had! Intrepidly working through the mud and puddles of Bush Wood, Bob Vaughan had inadvertently flushed a woodcock and seen a firecrest before it was properly light. Not far away, on Wanstead Flats, Josh Selfe tweeted that he’s seen an owl fly up from a patch of broom. Sure enough, it soon reappeared, being mobbed by several crows: a short-eared owl, a local rarity. With a start like that, it was unlikely that things could get any better, and much of the day was spent finding those birds that are either resident on our manor, or which just drop in for the winter. However, just when the light was beginning to go, and people were thinking of resting aching limbs after a day in the field, Jono Lethbridge and Nick Croft found a lesser spotted woodpecker by the Basin on Overton Drive. This diminutive woodpecker hadn’t been seen in our area at all in 2015! The day’s total of 69 bird species was the best ever achieved on New Year’s Day. Two days later, Nick had a tantalisingly brief view of what is likely to have been a great snipe – an incredibly rare bird in this country – close to Alexandra Lake. Unfortunately, it didn’t give him time to photograph it as it flew off east so we will probably never know for sure.
Three days later it was the turn of the botanical team to see what they could find. The Botanical Society of Britain and Ireland runs a survey at the start of each year to see how many plants are in flower. With incredibly mild weather through December continuing into January, this was likely to mean a few flowers, but nothing could have prepared us for what we discovered on the bright and sunny morning of 4th January. Yarrow was flowering in many places, yellow splashes illuminated some of the clumps of gorse and the pale blue flowers of green alkanet were appearing here and there. With some careful searching, scarcer blooms were found, including both Guernsey and Canadian fleabane near Jubilee Pond, where some flowering alexanders were attracting a number of very unseasonal hoverflies. Wood avens was in flower by the garages behind Belgrave Road and two different types of crane’s-bill were seen under the Green Man roundabout, where there was also some flowering musk-mallow. A hornbeam tree in Bush Wood was carrying a fine display of catkins. All eight members of the botany crew were amazed at the variety of flowering plants on show: no less than 37 species in total.
One can expect to find fungi throughout the year, but in early January they are usually pretty thin on the ground. Not this year, though. If plants and birds were leading the way in terms of diversity, the fungi representation was not too shabby, with a nice array of colours, including the spectacular yellow brain fungus.
So, scores on the doors as of 12 Jan: 220, made up of 103 plants, 76 birds, 24 fungi and miscellaneous others. Expect the miscellaneous ‘others’ to start making up ground in the spring.
Please post any sightings on the Wren Wildlife Group’s Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/WrenOrg/ or tweet to @wrenwildlife.
Pics: Flowering Quince on Wanstead Flats; Turkey Tail fungus in Bush Wood.