Wild Wanstead


From small spotty-eyed drone flies to a rare jumping spider and pink moth, chair of the Wren Wildlife Group James Heal reports on some of the highlights of the recent bioblitz in Wanstead

The Wren Wildlife and Conservation Group is 50 years old this year. Fifty years of helping to promote and protect the wildlife of the Wanstead area and its surrounds, and helping to bring the people of east London closer to the wildlife that can be found on their doorstep.

One of the most popular activities of the Wren Group in recent years has been an almost annual ‘bioblitz’, a range of family-friendly wildlife surveys and walks to get a snapshot of what flora and fauna can be found here.

On the last weekend of June, we spent a day each on Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park. Saturday 25 June started very early, with an ‘almost dawn chorus walk’. Several people set their alarms to walk into Bush Wood to listen to the birdsong at 5.30am. Chiffchaff, blackcap, song thrush and blackbird serenaded us as we walked, but a highlight was a singing reed warbler, not in a reed bed where they are more usually found, but in a rose bush.

A few hours later, a larger group joined us for a walk on Wanstead Flats. Amongst other things, we found green-eyed flower bees (Anthophora bimaculata), small spotty-eyed drone flies (Eristalinus sepulchralis; pictured here) and yellow 22-spot ladybirds (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata – try saying that after a few sherries!).

Later in the day, we were joined by spider expert David Carr. The conditions weren’t great for spiders as, despite the warmth, it was windy and the branches we were checking were clear. However, David’s eagle eye spotted the tiny, nationally scarce jumping spider Salticus zebraneus on a tree in one of the Flats’ plantations. This is a stripy, zebra spider and is closely related to its more common and similar but larger cousin Salticus scenicus, which you may well find in your homes and gardens (one to look out for). 

Later that day, we put out two moth traps near the Temple in Wanstead Park. The next morning was another very early start to check the traps. The highlight was a beautiful salmon pink and black moth called a rosy footman (Miltochrista miniata) – the first time it has been found locally. Later in Wanstead Park, we watched the macabre sight of beewolf wasps (Philanthus triangulum) carrying paralysed honey bees down to their nest holes in the ground to feed their larvae.

We were also joined by local school children to do some pond dipping, where the kids marvelled at being able to hold a young newt in their hands. The day ended watching and listening (using electric sonic detector technology) to bats near Perch Pond.

If this brief snapshot whets your appetite, do join the Wren Group to find out about more wildlife activities coming soon.

For more information on the Wren Wildlife Group, visit wnstd.com/wren