26 February 2015

Feedback Fortnight and other stuff...

Feedback Fortnight

Thanks to @simonraper1 for the heads up on this. The City of London Corporation and the Friends of Wanstead Park are looking for comments on the "future of Wanstead Park" and inviting the public to have their say. I assumed this would include the flats, but no we don't have any friends.

Any way in replying to Simon and Wanstead Parklands I said they wouldn't like my input (re habitat destruction etc.) which prompted this reply from WP: "No intention to trash it all! There is likely to be some habitat loss, but also habitat gain.  Wait and see". I have been informed of some positive measures that may or may not happen, but with regards to the first part of the reply which sounds slightly ambiguous.  "No intention to trash it all!" -do they feel they've done too much by mistake? "There islikely to be some habitat loss.." - what more?

Then I had a look at what was proposed



"Wanstead Park is a nationally important historic landscape created around Wanstead House during the 17th to 19th centuries. While the mansion was demolished in 1823, much of its associated landscape survives under four ownerships and is registered at Grade II* - meaning it is a particularly important park and garden of more than special interest - on English Heritage’s Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest.

Since 2009, Wanstead Park has been included in the English Heritage ‘Heritage at Risk’ register
due to concerns that the designed landscape was in poor condition, divided under separate ownership and management, and at risk of further decline."

Two paragaphs in and I don't like the way this heading already...

The Parkland Plan offers the following vision for Wanstead Park:

“Wanstead Park is London’s greatest surviving historic waterscape and one of the country’s most spectacular and ambitiously-designed 17th and early 18th century landscapes. It has the potential to become one of the finest parks in East London -- a unique and stunning landscape combining a sense of wilderness, tranquillity and experience of nature with spaces for fun, entertainment and getting active outdoors. A revitalised Wanstead Park could reveal and celebrate the many unique aspects of its special landscape, welcoming all local people and visitors from further afield.”

It has the potential to become one of the finest parks in East London? Not setting the bar very high then.  Sadly it is one, if not the only one, of the finest parks in East London. Wilderness (as in barren) is the standard of the others.  Tranquil only when it's empty, Christmas Day is usually good.

Individual projects may include:
  1. Restoring the Park’s former landscape unity through coordinated management by the separate ownerships
  2. Improving water management to reduce calls upon scarce aquifer abstraction
  3. Re-lining Heronry Pond to stop water leaks
  4. Providing catering facilities at The Temple
  5. Revealing the shape of the historic water bodies
  6. Improving entrances and better surfaced paths throughout
  7. Enhancing the Park’s biodiversity heritage through the management of its ancient trees, woodland, grassland and water bodies
  8. Promoting research into the Park, its history, management and biodiversity
  9. Restoring views and revealing historic features
  10. Conserving The Grotto as an ‘accessible ruin’.
Point one will be a major sticking point - Wanstead Golf Club, I can imagine how eager they will be to share their greens with all local people and visitors from further afield (and their dogs!).

2. Improving water management: I can see the cost of pumping water from Thames Water's boreholes could be a drain (no pun intended) on resources, but little or no water is pumped from under London for consumption due to it's poor quality. And point 3 is where the problem lies: Heronry leaks like a sieve. More of a problem would be the likelihood of subsidence along its southern edge where it leaves the lake and if it were allowed to continue.

4. Catering facilities at the Temple, a sure fire threat to the Little Tea Shop of Happiness, but a way for the Corp. to make some money!

5. Revealing the shape of the historic water bodies. No thanks they are ugly enough, what we want is to see less behind reeds and restricted access

6. Improving entrances and better surfaced paths throughout. Not one of the Corporation's strongest suits judging by the mud tracks we have since their last improvements

7. Enhancing the Park’s biodiversity heritage through the management of its ancient trees, woodland, grassland and water bodies. Much of the heritage biodiversity has gone: bring back a Rookery, Heronry, Willow and Marsh Tit, breeding Barn Owl, Spotted Flycatcher, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker and we can start talking

The remaining points are of a historical note and are all well and good per se, but are you going to try an re-instate Watling Street as a great historical attraction? No and why?  Too much disturbance of human culture, easier to dig up a field, wood, marsh or lake for the sake of history. 

Priority projects

Additional Partner Organisations include:
Wanstead Sports Grounds Ltd., Environment Agency, London Borough of Waltham Forest,
London Borough of Newham

  • 1A. Create a unified Plan for Wanstead Park: Complete a plan for the management and restoration of Wanstead Park which secures the support of the four landowners – City of London; Wanstead Sports Grounds Association; Wanstead Parish and the London Borough of Redbridge (with tenants).
  • 1B. Water catchment management: Improve sustainable drainage to all Lakes to reduce abstraction pressure on scare aquifer abstraction from the Groundwater Protection Zone that encompasses the Park.
  • 1C. Restore Heronry Pond: Re-line pond to stop water leaks; restore channels and islands on southern edge; introduce new wetland and marginal habitats along edges of pond and islands.
  • 1D. Create a visitor hub at The Temple: Retrofit building for visitor, café and community uses; restore former pond and introduce new planting to re-create former Menagerie garden.
  • 1E. Conserve The Grotto: Consolidate remains and make accessible as a ruin, and introduce new planting to improve setting.
  • 1F. Reveal vista along Long Walk: Restore view between Mansion Site and Ornamental Waters; clear vegetation along park/golf course boundary and introduce ‘see-through’ fencing to allow visibility between different park ownerships.
  • 1G. Open up other views between the Park and Golf Course: Selectively clear vegetation along sections of the Park and Golf Course boundary and introduce ‘see-through’ fencing to allow visibility between different park ownerships.
  • 1H. Reveal Mansion site: Introduce signage and interpretation; selectively clear vegetation to open up views.
  • 1I. Reveal North Mount (Warren Wood) and South Mount (Chalet Wood): Selectively clear vegetation to reveal form and shape of designed earthworks in Chalet Wood and Warren Wood; carry out archaeological investigation, restore profile (as necessary) and improve accessibility.
  • 1J. Reveal The Fortifications: Selectively clear vegetation and dredge and clear channels to reveal shape ofdesigned islands within Ornamental Water; carry out archaeological investigation and restore profile (as necessary).
  • 1K. Improve paths and access within the Park: Improve main routes from entrances to The Temple and The Grotto; adjust levels around Tea Hut to enable removal of access ramp; re-instate former bridge across Ornamental Water at The Grotto.
  • 1L. Improve all main entrances to the Park: Clear vegetation to open up views; introduce new and improved signage and interpretation; improve path surfaces.
  • 1M. Improve access to Wanstead Golf Course: Formalise permissive, waymarked route from Overton Drive past Mansion site andthrough to Warren Road entrance.
  • 1O. Improve connections with St Mary’s Church: Improve churchyard entrance on Overton Drive as a park entrance; introduce path through churchyard into Golf Course and at Mansion Site.
  • 1P. Improve access and wayfinding from surrounding areas:
    1. From Wanstead Golf Club to Warren Road entrance
    2. To/from Wanstead Underground station
    3. To/from Leytonstone Underground & Leytonstone High Road Overground station
    4. To/from Wanstead Park Overground station
    5. To/from Manor Park station
    6. To/from Ilford and areas west of the River Roding, incl. Coronation Bridge
    7. Investigate potential connections to Roding Valley Way cycle route
    8. Investigate potential connections with Redbridge Underground station via
    9. Eastern Avenue Pumping Station, with new bridge over River Roding and potential parking.
Other items which may form part of the priority projects and which may be progressed through improved management and maintenance and volunteer projects include:

  • 1Q. Improve the integrity and appearance of the historic water bodies: Selectively clear vegetation to open up views and access to water; remove vegetation and fallen trees to re-define edges; manage invasive aquatic species.
  • 1R. Reveal islands in Perch Pond: selectively clear vegetation and dredge and clear channels to reveal shape of designed islands; carry out archaeological investigation and restore profile (as necessary).
  • 1S. Management of The Plain: Manage western area for recreation, and eastern area for nature conservation, including selective removal of encroaching trees and scrub to enhance the acid grassland habitat.
  • 1T. Conserve veteran trees and historic avenues: develop and carry out specialist management.
  • 1U. Improve links with the River Roding: selectively clear vegetation to open up views and access to the river.
  • 1V. Introduce Children’s Play: consider ‘natural play’ opportunities within the Park. 

Longer term priorities
  • 2A. Improve vista along Long Walk: Undertake vegetation clearance to reveal mature trees along edges of Long Walk within park and introduce new understorey planting to create formal edge to woodland; introduce feature as eye-catcher.
  • 2B. Reveal Great Mount: Selectively clear vegetation to reveal form and shape of designed earthworks of the Great Mount on south side of Heronry Pond; carry out archaeological investigation, restore profile (as necessary) and improve accessibility.
  • 2C. Restore views: Clear vegetation in Chalet Wood and Warren Wood to open up lost historic views between key features.
  • 2D. Improve paths and access within the Park: Around The Plain (resurface in gravel) and along both sides of the Ornamental Water from The Grotto to the Amphitheatre and The Fortifications (push back woodland edge to establish grass on both sides of path and resurface in gravel).
  • 2E. Improve all remaining entrances to the Park: Clear vegetation to open up views; introduce new and improved signage and interpretation; improve path surfaces.
  • 2F. Interpret the American Garden: Use ornamental planting to reflect the former American Garden in this part of the Golf Course.
  • 2G. Improve access and wayfinding from surrounding areas:
    1. Introduce connections to Roding Valley Way and Quietway cycle routes
    2. Introduce links via Eastern Avenue Pumping Station.
  • 2H. Improvements to boundaries: Remove or replace boundary fencing and railings as they come to the end of their design life, using designs appropriate for the character and appearance of the landscape. 
Other items which may form park of the longer term priorities and which may be progressed through improved management and volunteer projects include:
  • 2I. Improve access and interpretation in Wanstead Golf Course: clear vegetation to open up vista between Mansion site and Long Walk; open up the cricket club car park to Park visitors.
  • 2J. mproving internal views: remove redundant fencing; thinning and managing vegetation along boundaries.
  • 2K. Management of The Dell: develop management proposals to create wet woodland habitat. [It is already!]
  • 2L. Management of The Plain: introduce grazing to enhance the acid grassland habitat.
  • 2M. Management of Bush Wood: manage vegetation along rides in Bush Wood to open up views along former quincunx avenues – a five pointed geometric pattern of tree planting.

Possible aspirations
  • 3A. Further development of the visitor hub at The Temple, Expansion of café venue with associated community uses - oriented towards Menagerie Pond and Temple and on historic axis with Ornamental Water.
  • 3B. Restore avenues: Clear corridor through Chalet Wood to restore view and axis between The Temple area and Ornamental Water (linked with proposals for a potential new structure at The Temple ‘hub’); reinstate avenue planting near Shoulder of Mutton Pond.
  • 3C. Reveal historic features: Potential selective thinning of vegetation to create focal points on bluebell walk to interpret former clearings and features, e.g. using site-won timber from tree clearance to create a labyrinth on the site of the former maze.
  • 3D. Restore views: Restore paths and views through The Grove to the Ornamental Water along lines of former patte d’oie avenues – radiating paths in the shape of a goose’s foot.
  • 3E. Improve paths and access within Park: Around remaining parts of the Ornamental Water and along the southern edge of the Park (resurface in gravel and widen in places) and within Bush Woods; re-align track from Warren Road to Temple.
  • 3F. Interpret Repton Parterre: Use formal planting in this part of the Golf Course to reflect the former early 19th Century parterre garden by Humphrey Repton.
  • 3G. Restore vista to The Basin: Re-locate tennis courts off main axis from the Mansion site to The Basin and restore view; replace boundary fencing along Overton Drive.
  • 3H. Improvements to parking: Potential extension of Warren Road car park up to line of Long Walk (if there is a need for increased parking provision).
By this time, on-going management and maintenance and volunteering activities will be focussed on the upkeep of the Priority projects and Long term priorities.
Next steps

Working together

Following the demise of Wanstead House, the City of London, the London Borough of Redbridge and
the Wanstead Sports Grounds Ltd all intervened to purchase sections of the Park to prevent its further
loss to housing. Now for the first time, all these parties are working as partners on a joint plan to guide the future of the site. Our initial ideas and proposals include the following:

  • Developing a vegetation management plan for the whole Park including, restoring lost views, improving access and habitat management
  • Expanding opportunities for local people to get involved with the care and management of the Park
  • Exploring the potential to develop an apprenticeship scheme in the Park
  • Develop income generation opportunities to help fund a sustainable future for the Park.
  • Reaching the community: We want to encourage more people to visit and enjoy Wanstead Park. We have developed some ideas to achieve this and we would like your thoughts on these as well as suggestions for others.
  • Self-guided walks using information uploaded onto smart phones from Quick Response (QR) codes or Augmented Reality applications.
  • Animated trails and community events for people of all ages and backgrounds, involving experts and artists, to bring the Park’s amazing history to life.
  • Open air cinema and small concerts at The Temple and other managed activity spaces.
  • ‘Pop up’ cafes and catering beside the lakes.
  • Improving and promoting opportunities for private functions, such as weddings and parties to help bring in revenue to fund the Park.
  • Reintroduce boating to the Park, eg on the Heronry Pond.  [No,no, no]
  • Expanding the successful ‘Park Run’ on Wanstead Flats to include the Park.
  • Establish the Wanstead Park Festival as the highlight of the park’s events calendar, building on the success of Music in the Park.
  • Undertaking outreach and promotional activities in the culturally diverse communities beyond the park, such as Ilford, Leytonstone and Forest Gate, to attract a wider audience to the Park.
  • Providing access to the site of the former Wanstead House (within the golf course) so that the general public can find out more about the mansion and also use the club’s social facilities.
  • Encouraging more visitors to enjoy the Grade 1 listed St Mary’s Church by expanding events and guided activities in the Park that link with the church.
What do you think?
  • What makes Wanstead Park special for you? [wintering duck,Water Rail, Kingfisher, Hobby, Reed Warbler, Slavonian Grebe, OK all the birds, butterfly, dragons, OK all the insects, the fungi, the trees, the fish, the amphibians, the reptiles (though not the terrapin), the Wood Mice, foxes, the Tea Shop, and everything that is not dog orientated]
  • What would spoil a trip to Wanstead Park for you? [this happening!]

Please fill out our survey form and help us to shape a better future for Wanstead Park – London’s greatest surviving historic waterscape and planned to become the finest park in East London.

What happens next?
Feedback Fortnight is an important part of our work to develop a Parkland Plan that covers the four different ownerships at Wanstead Park.  The findings will be included alongside technical studies to ensure we prepare a plan that meets the different needs as fully as possible. The aim is to have plan in place for work to start in 2016.

Friends of Wanstead Parklands
If you are interested in getting involved further, why not join the Friends of Wanstead Parklands? They hold activity days, talks, walks and more.

More information can be found at:
More information about the Park and our plans is online All the information in this display can be found at:

A lot of clearing of habitat is the conclusion I've reached, how that sits with protecting habitats is hard to imagine.  I like the idea of grazing, but part of me likes this for the fun we will all have with dog owners, but I don't like the threat of clearance at the eastern edge of the plain as this is about the best habitat in the park, which isn't the Shoulder of Mutton.  Common Whitethroat last nested here, and it looks the best bet for a Redstart (Mike M's seen one) and Stu got his singing Nightingale nearby.

There is far too much talk of clearing (what is already very poor) the margins of all the lakes.  We need less access and more marginals, and as for boating - no way! Aint nothing wrong with any of the views in my mind, and not any that willbe improved by seeing the awfulness that man perpetrates - yet nothing on removing the pylons - trees bad, pylons good?

A lot of stuff on how the Corporation might gain a few quid here and there, and this is basically the crux of the matter- the more people that visit the more grants open up - regardless of the cost to the environment, something the rangers have raised concerns with me over.

The whole thing is a re-hash of the proposals put forward and then retracted, for a Heritage Lottery Grant a few years back. Luckily most of it will be forgotten or will be dead in the water, but if like me you are concerned please send your feedback as requested to the link at the top of the page

Funny how the only group that actually does any benefitial habitat maintenance in the place is not mentioned: The WREN group!

There are some good examples of how parks and open spaces can work both for users of the park and to encourage and protect wildlife, they are called the Royal Parks and they use restricted access to help protect and conserve, better that model be used here and elsewhere in parks across London.

Here is what I'd like to see

  • Reed bed expansion to all lakes and some restricted access to lake boundaries
  • Removal on non indigenous lime trees, which are killing bees
  • More policing of forest rules e.g no dogs in any waters of the forest, no fires, no motorised vehicles etc.
  • Creation of ponds in Old Sewage Works
  • Creation of tern islands and floating reed beds
  • Erection of numerous nesting boxes and the culling of Grey Squirrel and brood management of Magpie 

Cost = bugger all

22 February 2015

Fed up with February

February: Enough already!

Me thinks this is the dullest February ever, it has failed every benchmark test that should apply; not cold enough, not enough snow, or warmth, or strong southerly air movements and, consequently, naff all birds.  With an election coming up I say we vote for any party with the imagination to ban it (and June and July).  Having said that it's probably in the "climate-change" deniers UKIP's manifesto (will Lee GR Evans be their environmental minister if they win?), perhaps we should just leave things as they are. Talking of bad things spoilt rich boy George Osborne has been colluding with rich boy Boris Johnson over a new plan for London, which basically looks like they will be trashing any environmentally rich brown field sites for housing and some more insipid open spaces for dogs and gangs of children to loiter in.  They will set up a commission, no doubt backed up by some sketchy scientific surveys, to find land where small hideous housing can help swell London's businesses coffers. No consideration of the huge amount of wasted acreage on industrial plots, like say Ford's in east London, which might need some cleaning up, go for the plots where nature left unchecked has done much of the work for you.

More on that later which may or may not depend on the outcome of the election either way.

 I am with stupid

Yesterday in keeping with things dull, I spent a good few hours waiting for the Ranger Rapid Response team to come and free a Mute Swan that had managed to land in one of the small fenced enclosures by the Jubilee and couldn't get out. It would probably still be in there as only one other person noticed it might be having some trouble, and it would still probably be in there if I had waited for the Rangers.

After calling twice, freezing my nads off and getting thoroughly bored and increasingly angry at the amount of bread, rice and other crap being delivered by ill-informed do-gooders, I kicked the fence in at its weakest point and shepherded the stupid swan out. Actually I waited till there was no one else around before trying this to avert embarrassment if I fell over trying to deliver my deft kicks!

After that conclusion I was at a bit of a loss what to do and with our enthusiastic new colleague, James Heal, covering most of what of I would have (including a Buzzard over east of the Basin) there was very little left for me to cover; Shoulder of Mutton and the Old Sewage Works. It has to be said the parks trees looked fantastic in the setting sun, it is a good park, just a shame there's little good habitat round the ponds bar the Shoulder of Mutton.

I didn't have much hope for the Old Sewage Works, which can be very hit and mainly miss. The Roding was high and very brown and generally not very appealing so I slowly made my way to the Manor Park allotments where the Aldersbrook springs from the cemetery.  Here, as the stream splits with the main part passing behind the allotments, is probably the best place to find Water Rail.  One scurried sway as I approached with a second bird calling from the arm of the stream that acts as an overflow channel for the Roding. Teal are usually in here too and, sure enough, a smart male sailed further up the channel as I looked. With the conspicuous absence of golfers it was quite peaceful in the fading light, which means of course Woodcock time. I returned to the spot just below the sluice and waited. Standing higher up the bank I faced west and didn't have to wait too long before the familiar stumpy silhouette came in from the north and did a bit of circling before pitching down behind the brambles on the golf course. With Josh's record from Bush Wood last weekend, we have at least two wintering birds.

7 February 2015

Third time lucky, bingo!

For the last three weekends I have been freezing my toys of an evening in a selection of the park's finest niches.  The plan, you see, to see a Woodcock. Whilst that project was running I also thought I might grab a Tawny giving it some hoot.  Three weeks and no show, to wit no owl. After my first attempt I moved operations down to the old sewage works, here I got a Woodcock plonking itself down on the golf course before Christmas, which appeared the best course of action.  Week two and nada.  Week three and I am just about to lose the feeling in my bum from sitting on the concrete apron of the sluice, when the porky wader did the right thing and hurled itself across the darkening skies and on to the 12th hole (a par 4).  Excellent, job done and all that.  Time enough to wreck the exuberence of a tick and stand around in Bush Wood for a non-playing-the-game owl.  Bastards!

A long day, but reasonably enjoyable even with the dearth of birds at the moment. There is, however, something in the water of the Jubilee.  Today 17 Shoveler and about 30 Black-headed Gull were feasting on water ever small pond life is thriving in the new lake.  Having been following the Grumpy Ecologist's fine and informative blog, this comes as no surprise.  It's called kick-arse perturbation, or when an old pond gets a drastic makeover.  First movers flourish, until a balance is restored.  It is actually nice to see gulls actually working for a living rather than hanging about waiting for handouts.

Meanwhile the hideous extent of the CoLC's removal of broom from the NE corner of the SSSI shows that while they may have the best intentions in the world in removing invasive scrub for other slower spreading acid heathland plants to have a chance, they are completely forgetting about what needs the shelter and food the brooms provide(d).  So the Common and Lesser Whitethroats will lose out in the summer (again), and winter foragers will just have a few days before anything that's fallen of the cut vegetation is gone.  So Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, House Sparrow to name but a few have lost.

It's immaterial as the broom will  be back, as will the birch they coppiced last weekend, as they have neglected to remove the stumps, and very few other plants will be able to take advantage of the opportunity. So a bit of a waste of time, again. But of course more room to throw sticks, balls and other stuff for dogs and it certainly opens up the SSSI for all. We appreciate how well that worked in the old sewage works after they put in a new metalled path, but that, to be fair, was some twat at Redbridge Council who came up with that stupidity.

3 February 2015

A little dusting of white powdery stuff sets you up for the day...

... and immediately we have cold weather movement. A Lapwing!

One Lapwing

A solitary plover

One more than for most of last year

but still just one

it's a start

I was moved to song....

I met Bob down by the Esso Copse
Where he kindly bought me a medium black americano
We walked with our drinks to our favourite pond
where we saw a bird we're are equally fond
El-oh-el-aye Lapwing  la-la-la-la Lapwing

Well I'm not the world's best birding guy
But when I heard that bird it was quite nearby
Oh my a Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing
Well I'm not dumb but I can't understand
Why it was just one, but bet there's more to come
Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing

Well we drank it in as it danced in flight
Even Richard managed to get a sight
It picked me up and filled me with glee
And said dear boy there'll be more, you'll see
Well I'm not the world's most passionate guy
But when I saw that plover I almost fell in love-a

With the Lapwing
La-la-la-la Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing
Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing

I flushed it away
As crept to where it lay
I tried to crawl on the floor
I got down on my knees
Then I looked at it and it saw me

Well that's where I wanted it to stay
So I could snap some images away of my Lapwing
La-la-la-la Lapwing
Birds will be birds and dogs are turds
It's a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lapwing
La-la-la-la Lapwing

Well I left home just an hour before
And I'd hadn't had a tick for days before
But Lappy smiled and took me by the hand
But once flushed it refused to land

Well I'm not the world's best birding man
But I know I am glad my patch is Wanstead
And so to tomorra
La-la-la-la Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing
Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing la-la-la-la Lapwing

Ray Davies helped with this

1 February 2015

January: The road to perdition

One down, eleven to go.  Bet you can't guess what the best bird of January was (which may well be 2015's best bird)? And secondly, how many pictures are to follow of that bird? (Note: all good images of the Slavonian Grebe provided by Shaun Harvey and Tony Brown)

Obviously the answer to the first was the strange black and white duck that was present on Heronry for much of the month, before ice took a grip on the lake, leaving just small patches of open water and a Little Grebe not for sharing.  As for question 2, you'll have to count them yourself, but there could easily have been more.  Popular, photogenic little bird, and have we said first for the site?

But then January came back with a vengeance and it became a grind.  Cold weather brought nothing of interest and even those birds you would expect have been exceedingly thin on the ground.

I think we know why Siskin numbers are way down thanks to a record crop of cones on spruce trees in their forest domains, could this account for the lack of Redpoll? It's been a poor year nationally for Mealy, but Lessers are mighty thin on the ground here too. We would expect a few more Reed Buntings than the one regular male that we have (Tim managed two on one WEBs count) and the last few years have usually offered up a flyover Yellowhammer. Fieldfare and Redwing numbers are way down and some of my colleagues have yet to score Fieldfare for this year.  This after a supposed record crop of berries, where are they?  In Wood Pigeons that's where! Song and Mistle Thrushes are already singing, which is about bang on, but I've seen Blue Tit doing their fluttering flights and inspecting holes, so for many the weather is still mild enough to think of spring stuff.

The Chiffchaff seen before Christmas has not yet been refound, which is a bit annoying when numbers of up to 30 birds have been seen in the Colne Valley over the other side of London. Bob did stumble upon a Blackcap down the road from his gaff, in a garden, and that's where they probably all are - on fat balls!

Even gull numbers are way down. The Great Black-backed Gull again favoured the worms on the Brick pits field for a number of days in the month, but would soon move on after the human and dog traffic became unbearable.  Very few Lessers around, and only a handful of Herring and then mostly immature birds. Valentino has yet to report in.

The freeze that finally did for the Slav, also hit duck numbers and finally pushed out the Wigeon, though one male stoically sat it out on a shrinking basin. In the park both the Heronry and Perch have been devoid of Gadwall, who now favour the Ornamentals, Basin and Shoulder of Mutton (even numbers on the Alex are only just managing double figures), so we won't be hitting any new records any time soon. As for any rarities, the mild weather in Europe has restricted the source, there appear to be very few Smew, Goldeneye and Goosander anywhere in the country let alone in the capital.

Bush Wood, our hope for things cresty and creepy, has been dire.  Bob or Dan did get a Treecreeper on one day, but Stu's Snaresbrook remains the best place in the vicinity to find Firecrest.

Raptors have also disappointed: Kestrel and sprawk can't even be counted on as a given, though we've had two records of Peregrine, but no Buzzard. Josh picked up a calling Tawny Owl early one morning, but things are looking bad again for the Little Owl - it's roosting hole appears to be filled with leaves and bits of rubbish, suggesting that squirrels are now using it as a larder.

Better news on the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker front as a further sighting was notched up in the churchyard on Overton Drive by "Net-day" Keith and with many more birders in the park for our star bird, possible sightings have been noted.  Possible too was that a Woodlark was on the Police Scrape in the company of one our Skylark's; discernibly smaller and bouncier flight - it was just a silhouette...

Our one representative wader, a Common Snipe, lurks somewhere in the SSSI or Cat & Dog, while the wait goes on for the year's first Woodcock.  Also absent from the list is Little Egret; the Roding's too high, too dirty, which would also account for the lack of Kingfisher sightings for the second half of the month, especially with the park's waters frozen over. As per usual finding any of our Water Rail after the new year becomes a major undertaking, high water levels again have pushed the SoM's birds out, but the Aldersbrook remains the best bet for this elusive bird, while there have been two sightings on the Roding (one the wounded bird pictured below).

Whatever! Just abut 40-days before Wheatear return, but that could be a very long time if nothing interesting happens.


Wanstead Flats: Fieldfare, 3 Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Kestrel (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: Wigeon, Great Crested Grebe, Siskin, Nuthatch (Wanstead Birders)


Wanstead Flats: Bullfinch, 3 Lesser Redpoll, 5+ Linnet, 4 Pochard, 3 Shoveler, Kestrel, 5+ Mistle Thrush (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe showing ridiculously well on Heronry (Nick Croft per SF), 2 Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, 2 Teal, Kingfisher, 2 Goldcrest, Siskin, Wigeon, Fieldfare (Wanstead Birders)


Wanstead Flats: 22 Linnet, 2 + Lesser Redpoll, f/juv Bullfinch, 5 Pochard, 3 Shoveler, Little Grebe (Jub), Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe - showed down to 2 feet in the morning but then spent most of the afternoon on the southside of Heronry, Little Grebe, 30 + Gadwall, 2 Teal, 3 Pochard, 6 Shoveler (Heronry and Shoulder of Mutton only), Meadow Pipit, Treecreeper (Bush Wood), Water Rail (The Aldersbrook) (Wanstead Birders et al)


Wanstead Flats: probable Woodlark east over fairground with Skylark, decidedly smaller and different flight to the other lark, shorter tail and more rounded wings, didn't call and not refound [Woodlarks are usually solitary & no call...it could have been anything. Its not unusual for Woodlarks to associate with Skylarks (S.Robinson) Have to agree. Out of breeding season, certainly not unheard of for Woodlark to associate with other congeners (D. Barrett) I agree I have seen them with Skylarks in winter before (SF). In the autumn of 2011 we had a Woodlark associating with Skylark for several days - found by SF himself (NC) Well it's hard to respond to a 'gang' - but good luck with the record], 8 Skylark,1-2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 20 Linnet, 3 Lesser Redpoll, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, 2 Fieldfare, singing Mistle Thrush, 5 Pochard, 7 Shoveler, 15 Gadwall, Little Grebe, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Richard Rae); Kestrel (Ian Stewart)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry (Tim Harris); still present and showing very well on south side of Heronry c11.30 to myself and several other visiting birders, also 2 Egyptian Geese on cricket pitch by golf course, 8+ Shoveler, Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Mistle Thrush on cricket pitch, 6+ Goldcrest, Jay (Ian Stewart); Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in churchyard off Overton Drive (Keith Marchant)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest , 3 Goldcrest at roost spot, Lesser Redpoll, 2 Redwing, Great Crested Grebe, 2 Pochard, 2 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 5 Pochard, 21 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 2 Egyptian Goose, 2 Meadow Pipit, Grey Wagtail, 4 Pied Wagtail, Skylark, 20 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Common Snipe (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, 42 Gadwall, 9 Shoveler, 6 Pochard, Egyptian Goose, Kingfisher, Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Richard Rae)


Wanstead Flats: 25 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, m Bullfinch, 7 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 7 Pochard, 14 Gadwall, Shoveler, 4 Little Grebe, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Richard Rae).

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, Little Grebe, 9 Shoveler, 2 Teal, Water Rail, Coal Tit, Grey Wagtail, 4+ Redwing, Kestrel (Nick Croft); Wigeon still one on the basin (Dan Hennessy)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Firecrest, Nuthatch, 3 Green Woodpecker, Sparrowhawk, 2 Great Crested Grebe, 146 Coot (Hollow and Eagle), 17 Moorhen, Lesser Redpoll, Stock Dove, singing Mistle Thrush, 4 Song Thrush (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe 5th day on Heronry (Tony Brown)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Firecrest, Coal Tit, 4 Shoveler, 2 Gadwall, Redwing (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: Peregrine Falcon, 2 Linnet, Bullfinch, Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, 2 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose (Nick Croft/Richard Rae)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe on Heronry, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Great Crested Grebe (The Basin), 390 Gadwall, 16 Pochard, 12 Shoveler, Sparrowhawk (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: Great Black-backed Gull, 16 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, 18-41 Linnet, 5 Skylark, 3 Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail, Little Grebe (Nick Croft/Tim Harris)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still (BirdGuides); Kingfisher (Conrad Ellam); 2 Great Crested Grebe, 3 Little Grebe, 213 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 1-2 Wigeon, 14 Pochard, Egyptian Goose, Redwing, Kestrel (Nick Croft/Jonathan Lethbridge).


Wanstead Flats: 35 Linnet, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting, 7 Skylark, 4 Meadow Pipit, 3 Pied Wagtail, 3 Great Black-backed Gull, 3 displaying Stock Dove, 3 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, Kestrel, 2 Sparrowhawk (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, 1st winter Great Crested Grebe plus 2 adults on the basin, 4 Little Grebe, Wigeon, 200+ Gadwall, c 20 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 16 Pochard, 6 Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk (Wanstead Birders)


Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 1-2 Firecrest, Lesser Redpoll, Meadow Pipit, drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, singing Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk, 2 Shoveler, 4 Great Crested Grebe (including a pair displaying) (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: singng Mistle and Song Thrushes, Reed Bunting, 3 Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still present (via Twitter), immature Great Crested Grebe, 2 Little Grebe, 41 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, 10 Pochard (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 19 Gadwall, 3 Shoveler, f Pochard, 3 Teal, Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Kestrel, Pied Wagtail (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe Heronry Pond 15.00 still Wanstead Park Avenue end (Barry Jones); Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, 42 Gadwall, 11 Shoveler (Nick Croft); also drake Teal and Kingfisher (Robert Callf)


Wanstead Flats: 21 Gadwall, 8 Pochard, 6 Shoveler, 2 Teal, 2 Little Grebe, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit, 4 Pied Wagtail, Redwing, Sparrowhawk, Great Black-backed Gull (Bob Vaughan/Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry, Great Crested Grebe, Little Grebe, 360+ Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 6 Pochard, Wigeon, Redwing, 2 Goldcrest, Siskin (Nick Croft/Jono Lethbridge)


Wanstead Flats: 20 + Linnet, 5 Shoveler, 4 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, Little Grebe, Great Black-backed Gull, Kestrel, Common Snipe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe present but elusive on south side of Heronry, 43 Gadwall, 5 Pochard, 8 Shoveler (Nick Croft); SG still north side of Heronry Lake 1620 (Dominic Mitchell via BirdGuides)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: 2 Firecrest, Coal Tit, 4 Gadwall, Shoveler, 3 Great Crested Grebe, 2 Greenfinch, 3 Greylag Goose, 53 Tufted Duck, 2 singing Song Thrush (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 500 Common Gull, 17 Goldfinch, 4 Linnet, 2 Reed Bunting (T Harris)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry Pond (Wanstead Twitter); 11 Ring-necked Parakeet (over north & 2 pairs inspecting tree holes), 4 Stock Dove, 2 Teal & 100 Gadwall - both on Ornamental Water (Tony Kennelly)


Wanstead Flats: Common Snipe (Richard Rae)

Wanstead Park: Slavonian Grebe still on Heronry Pond at 1245 close in to the island (Alastair Dent); it was there earlier too 11.30-11.45 along with Kingfisher, Little Grebe, pr of Shovelers (Alan Hobson); 407 Gadwall, 26 Shoveler, 32 Pochard, 3 Great Crested Grebe, Siskin (Tim Harris and Wren Group).


Wanstead Flats: 7 Shoveler, 7 Pochard, Egyptian Goose, 14 Linnet, Reed Bunting, Redwing, Kestrel, Great Black-backed Gull, 2 Meadow Pipit (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: No sign Slavonian Grebe on an all but frozen Heronry, Little Grebe, Peregrine Falcon, 48 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 8 Skylark, 2 Pied Wagtail, 19 Linnet, 3 Pochard, 3 Shoveler, 13 Gadwall, 6 Redwing (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park:
Wigeon, 42 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, Grey Wagtail (Nick Croft/Mike Messenger)

Leyton Flats/Snaresbrook: Nuthatch, 76 Tufted Duck, 4 Gadwall, 5 Shoveler, 3 Green Woodpecker, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker (drumming heard), m Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, 5+ Redwing (Stuart Fisher)


Wanstead Flats: 12 Gadwall, 10 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, pr Teal, Little Grebe, 24 Linnet, 2 Redwing, 6 Mistle Thrush, 5 Skylark, Sparrowhawk, Snipe (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: Goldcrest, Nuthatch, f Sparrowhawk in garden (Bob Vaughan) Mike Messenger had 2 Snipe flushed from the Heronry sometime in December


Wanstead Flats: 11 Shoveler, 15 Gadwall, 5 Pochard, 2 Egyptian Goose, Reed Bunting, Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: 41 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 10+ Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 30+ Goldfinch, 15 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 11 Redwing, 8 Fieldfare, c5 singing Song Thrush, singing Mistle Thrush, 12 Shoveler, 2 Pochard, 8 Skylark (Nick Croft/Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: 12 Gadwall, 3 Fieldfare (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 20+ Goldfinch, 15 Linnet, Reed Bunting, 13 Gadwall, 6 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, Little Grebe, 3 Stock Dove, Common Snipe, 7 Skylark (Nick Croft)

Wanstead Park: possible Firecrest (Bush Wood), Coal Tit (Bob Vaughan), Water Rail with neck wound on Roding (appeared well considering), 189 Gadwall, 17 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, Little Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Bullfinch, 10 + Goldfinch, Stock Dove (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats: 14 Meadow Pipit, 12 Linnet, 30+ Gadwall, 5 Pochard (Bob Vaughan)

Wanstead Park: Tawny Owl heard calling 07:00 Bush Wood (Josh Selfe); Blackcap (Bob Vaughan)


Wanstead Flats: 30+ Goldfinch, 5 Linnet, Lesser Redpoll, Reed Bunting, 7 Skylark, 2 Meadow Pipit, 8 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 12 Gadwall, 2 Egyptian Goose, Stock Dove, Common Snipe (Nick Croft).

Wanstead Park:
Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, 15+ Chaffinch, 2 Goldcrest, 48 Gadwall, 2 Pochard, 7 Shoveler, 2 Little Grebe, 5+ Stock Dove (Nick Croft). 

Snaresbrook Crown Court: Firecrest, Lesser Redpoll over, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Redwing, 2 singing Song Thrush early am (Stuart Fisher).


Wanstead Flats: up to 10 Skylark, Pied Wagtail, 19 Linnet, 20+ Goldfinch, 6 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 3 Pochard, 12+ Tufted Duck, 2 Stock Dove, large immature hawk through scattering the gulls (probably large female Sparrowhawk) (Nick Croft)

Wanstead: Nightingale Lane regular M Blackcap on feeder & singing last 2 days.(G.Gram)


Wanstead Flats: 11 Skylark, Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, 24 Linnet, 2 singing Chaffinch, m Reed Bunting, 4 Mistle Thrush, 8+ singing Song Thrush, 12 Gadwall, 7 Shoveler, 5 Pochard, Kestrel (Nick Croft)


Wanstead Flats:
8 Meadow Pipit, 8 Skylark, 25 Linnet, 2 Fieldfare, 8 Mistle Thrush, 12 Gadwall, 4 Shoveler, f Pochard, Kestrel, Goldcrest (Wanstead Birders)

Wanstead Park: 215 + Gadwall, 23 Shoveler, Pochard, 14 Redwing, Goldcrest (Nick Croft/Dan Hennessy)