Hainault Forest Website

Written and Designed by Brian Ecott

NATURE DIARY

November - December 2006

The sun filters through the fog and frost on 20th December on Dog Kennel Hill.

Photo: Francis Castro

Frozen water droplets on a spiders web by the Visitors Centre give it a bejewelled appearance.     Photo: Francis Castro 20.12.06.

Yellow-necked mouse in nest box. 10.12.06.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Large spider Tegenaria sp. present in many nest boxes. The body length was 18mm. Photo: 10.12.06.

Erratic boulder or Sarsen stone by an old oak tree on Havering Park Farm.

 

The first half of November was generally cool, sunny and with clear skies, with the first frost of the winter  on the 1st November. Comma and Red admiral butterflies were often seen in the days up to the 12th November. On the 13th came a series of low pressure areas tracking across the country giving milder temperatures but with rainfall occurring almost on an alternate day basis. A cold, period came with the next high pressure on 16th December which continued to Christmas. A cold frost with fog came on the 20th December and lasted a few days and despite the sun's efforts in trying to break through, the fog persisted, grounding many aircraft causing holiday departure chaos. Walking in the forest was eerie with only vague clues to one's location. Francis Castro, one of Redbridge's Conservation team captured the above pictures on arrival at the office. The year concluded with a return to the warmer wetter weather.

 

One of the tasks in December in Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve is to clear out the old nesting material from the nest boxes ready for the spring. Most of the nest boxes had been used chiefly by Blue tits, and occasionally by Great tits. Some of the boxes needed to be repaired as they are often damaged by Grey squirrels who gnaw and enlarge the entrance hole in an attempt to get to the nestlings. A yellow-necked mouse had taken over residence in one nest box and had added leaves to the blue tit's mossy nest. It had been feeding on holly berries as many empty shells were also present. Yellow-necked mice are larger than Woodmice and are more arboreal in their habits. Many of the boxes contained woodlice and large spiders were often present with sheet webs and tube tunnels. They are related to the House spiders Tegenaria sp. 

 

The surfaced paths in Lambourne wood and those leading round the Woodland Trust's newly acquired land has been completed and the first tree planting took place on the 2nd December with the creation of a hedgerow along the southern boundary with Havering Park Farm. From this boundary under a large oak tree on private farmland an erratic boulder or sarsen stone measuring 1.45m in length can be seen. It is composed of silica cemented sandstone and is very hard and possibly the most southerly of erratics transported by the last glaciation. This and other Essex erratics are described in a paper by Gerald Lucy in the Essex Naturalist, journal of the Essex Field Club, No. 20. Year 2002/3.

 

I have written a paper which was published in this years volume of the Essex Naturalist  No. 23. Year 2005/6 detailing my five years research into galls and entitled "The Galls of Hainault Forest 2001-2005. One hundred and twenty six species have been recorded with several more added this year.

 

During the period, flocks of Long-tailed tits have been seen. Song thrush males have been singing. Goldfinches have been feeding on the seed heads of Teasel on the farm. A bird feeder can be seen from the visitors centre and is attracting a variety of birds. Well worth a look when the centre is open at weekends to see how many species you can identify. On the lake a small flock of Shoveler ducks are again visiting the country park. An occasional Cormorant turns up and the usual water birds are present - Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Tufted ducks, Pochard, Canada geese, a Mute swan family, Great crested grebes and many Black-headed gulls in their winter plumage - i.e. without their black head, just a black spot behind the eye. A Fallow buck was seen jumping the fence from the golf course into Lambourne Wood on the 30th December.

 

Several plants are still flowering especially the White deadnettle. On the Reserve the Black nightshade Solanum nigrum is flowering well. It is a late autumn annual flowering plant related to the potato and tomato and its close wild relative is the Woody nightshade or Bittersweet but Black nightshade is a much smaller plant and doesn't climb like the former.

Black nightshade on Hainault Lodge Reserve.  17th December 2006

 

2006 has been a memorable year which included the Centenery Day Celebrations on the 15th July with the attendance of Lord Carrington, John Buxton, Redbridge's Mayor Ashok Kumar and many guests and local people and saw the dedication of land acquired by The Woodland Trust which considerably enlarges Hainault Forest. Thanks are due to the sheer hard work n of staff and volunteers who made the year so successful.  The comprehensive Centenery Events programme came to an end with the Christmas Decorations Workshop led by Linda Herbert on Saturday 9th December.  Garlands, Wreaths and Table decorations were expertly created by the attendees some of whom are pictured below. A full and varied programme of events for the first half of 2007 by The Country Park, The Woodland Trust and Redbridge's Conservation Team is now available on the What's on Page and will be sent   the mailing list shortly.

Wishing you all a Happy, Healthy and Successful New Year

The Christmas Workshop, Saturday 9th December.

 

September - October 2006

Hainault Forest Country Park was one of 83 parks and open spaces in Greater London and the only one in Redbridge to be awarded the Green Flag for 2006/7 by The Civic Trust.

The Civic Trust, the Country's leading urban environment charity, manages the Green Flag Award scheme.  The Trusts aim is to inspire and promote progressive improvements in the quality of urban life for everyone, and the Green Flag Awards are a key part of that objective.

The award sets the standard  for the very best parks and green spaces in England and Wales, and it is a first for Redbridge.

Councillor Keith Prince, cabinet member for leisure and culture praised the staff of the Country Park for their enthusiasm, and Paul Browne, Manager said that it was the reward for a years hard work and the great work by staff. Geoffrey Sinclair, Woodland Trust Senior Officer paid tribute to the hundreds of people who have nurtured Hainault Forest to make it what it is today.

Paul Browne and Linda Herbert display the Green Flag Award. 6th Sept. 06.

www.greenflagaward.org.uk

 

Around 70 people turned up on a wet Sunday morning for Peter Comber's Fungus foray. 1st October 2006.

The bracket Ganoderma pfeifferi on beech stump on Dog Kennel Hill.

 Members of The Essex Field Club identify fungi. 

28th October 2006.

Parrot Wax Caps Hygrocybe psittacina in grassland on Hog Hill   Photo; 28th Oct. 06.

 Helvella atra  Photo: 28th October 2006

Thanks to Thomas Bardorf (Austrian Mycological Society for the correct identification of this specimen.

 

The wet weather which ended a long spell of dry weather started in the last week of September and encouraged the growth of the fruiting bodies of fungi - the mushrooms and toadstools. Two days of continual rain occurred on the 5 and 6th October. Local mycologist Peter Comber led three forays - on the 30th September in Chigwell Row Recreation Ground Nature Reserve, on the 1st October in Hainault Country Park and on the 7th October in Lambourne Wood on  behalf of The Woodland Trust.  A full list of finds in on the Fungi list page. Over  70  people turned  up on a showery Sunday morning for Peter's annual Country Park walk when 53 species were found including the uncommon Ganoderma pfeifferi described as growing on Oak stumps, although here on Beech. It was good to have a visit from about 20 members of The Essex Field Club led by Jacquey Bunn and Roger Newton and including the County mycology recorder Tony Boniface. Many fungi were collected and taken home to make positive identification, and a full species list of fungi and slime moulds will appear later on the Fungi list page when all the records are collated from the various experts. The short grassland turf on Hog hill produced several species of Wax Cap Hygrocybe sp. fungi including the Parrot Wax cap H. psittacina.

 

I led a group of 30 people on an autumn walk around the forest on the 24th September. It was warm and sunny and we spent time looking at the bumper harvest of fruits. Acorns on English and Turkey oaks were plentiful as was the Beech mast and Hornbeam seed. Hawthorn haws were plentiful, and we also looks at the fruits on Spindle and Purging buckthorn. Crane flies were much in evidence this year flying up from the grassland as we walked through. Both Common and Ruddy darter dragonflies were seen, and the following butterflies were noted - Speckled wood, Small copper, Peacock and Small heath.

 

There have been several firsts for Hainault. On the 4th September I was taking a lunchtime stroll with Francis Castro, one of Redbridge's Conservation team when a White admiral butterfly Limenitis camilla flew along the footpath by Roes Well and settled on a bramble leaf. It is found in Hertfordshire, and North East Essex. A few have been noted in Epping Forest, so perhaps it is expanding its range. Certainly its larval foodplant honeysuckle lianas are present and bramble flowers on which the adult nectars are plentiful. The Red admiral has been flying throughout the period and was still present on the 31st October.

 

The Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis var. succinea which has been getting a lot of bad press recently was found in the Country Park on the 21st October when there were several sightings. It first appeared in the UK in September 2004 and its range is rapidly expanding in the UK and Western Europe. Both the adult beetle and its larva have voracious appetites and will out compete the UK species. It feeds on aphids, the eggs of moths and butterflies, lacewing larvae and even the eggs and larvae of other ladybird species. There are several variant forms of the Harlequin and so far only the variety succinea has been found in Hainault. Look out for the W mark on its head.

 

New galls are turning up all the time in the forest. I have just written a paper reviewing five years of gall recording in Hainault  2001-5 for the Essex Field Club's journal "Essex Naturalist" due to be published in December. This year a new gall appeared in the UK on Turkey oak induced by the gall wasp Neuroterus saliens. It is present throughout the Mediterranean to Iran and in Central and Western Europe. It has two generations on the Turkey oak. In the spring the sexual generation occurs in the fertile female flowers and resembles a red sea anemone. Some were found on the gall walk on 6th May but were not identified at the time. (See Oak galls page). I went back to the trees on the 15th October and found the asexual generation as tiny 3mm galls on the midribs and petioles of the Turkey oak leaves and occurring on both surfaces.

 

The work on the surfacing of paths for The Woodland Trust, and the erection  of strong fencing and kissing gates is now almost completed in Lambourne Wood and the newly acquired land. This will give better access. The old paths were extremely muddy and almost impassable for most of the winter months and the work will give better access to the area and also to Havering Park. Other work being carried out has just commenced on the Heathland. National Grid are doing repair work to the gas main which runs along the hedge line of the Romford Road. They are aware of the Petty Whin which just about survives there and have taken steps to protect it during the work. A Grass snake has been seen on the Heathland on several occasions and on the 4th September I managed to grab a shot before it sloped off into the heather.

 

On the lake the pair of swans successfully reared their two cygnets. In the previous two years their clutch or Eyrar of seven and six goslings were each year reduced to one survivor. Mallard, Tufted ducks, Pochard, Coot, Moorhen and a pair of Great Crested grebes and a flock of Canada geese have been present throughout the period.

 

Some new staff have been employed at The Country Park and the Woodland Trust have a new Community Officer Glen Mulleady. Plans for next years events programme throughout the Forest are being discussed. Details will appear on the website when formalised.

White admiral Limenitis camilla Photo: Roes Well area 4th Sept. 06.

Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis var. succinea on oak leaf.

Photo: 21st Sept 06.

Galls of Neuroterus saliens on Turkey oak midrib  Photo: 15th Oct. 06.

Grass snake Natrix natrix on the heathland. Photo: 4th Sept. 06.

 

JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY-JUNE   JULY-AUGUST   SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER  NOVEMBER-DECEMBER

July - August 2006

As the month of May turned out to be the wettest on record for many years, so July surpassed itself in breaking all records with the highest temperatures being recorded since records began. On the 4th July it was 31C (88F) and on Centenary Day the 15th it was hot and sunny and by the 17th and 18th it was 33C (91.5F) and a sweltering 36F (97F) on Wednesday 19th July when Gatwick officially recorded 36.3C (97.3F) there were claims of even higher temperatures at unofficial recording stations. Gatwick's record was the highest for 95 years. Drizzle in the nights of the 25th - 27th July brought an end to the hot weather and the whole of August was colder and  changeable with grey  skies,  sunshine, showers and some persistent  rainfall. The rain has

The rare fungus Volvariella bombycina found beneath an ancient field maple in the Angel Car Park  Photos: 16th August 2006.

Redbridge's Mayor Ashok Kumar cuts the cake along with Lord Carrington and John Buxton at the Centenary Celebrations.  It was a very hot and sunny day  Photo: Janet Galpin
Tiny pustule mite galls on the leaves of Field Maple with what appears to be galls on the fruits.  ?New Gall for the UK.    Photo:12th July 2006.

Gall walk on the 30th July 2006 amongst the lime trees.

Buff-tip moth caterpillars stripping oak leaves. Photo: 21st July 2006.

Forest  shield bug (left) photographed 9th July 2006 at Hainault Lodge and the Green Shield bug (right) photographed 25th August 2006 on the newly acquired Woodland Trust land at Havering Park Farm.

Sycamore Tar spot  Photo: 16th August 2006.

Farm visit - meet the animals with Mick Ferguson . Photo: 9th August 2006

 

brought about the appearance of some fungi. Many fallen trees have a fine display of Oyster mushroom, and there have been several instances of  the spectacular yellow-orange Chicken of the Woods appearing. On the 16th August I found a fungus growing at the base of an old gnarled Field Maple in Angel Car Park, Manor Road. Its cap was mushroom-like 12 cms diameter and was covered in fine scales giving it a fluffy appearance. The underside had pink gills and at the base of the stem was a large ragged volva. I showed photographs to local mycologist Peter Comber who identified it as Volvariella bombycina a rare fungus which he had seen only once before in 1954 at Stapleford Abbots.

 

On the 12th July whilst checking for galls in the Forest I came across a Field maple along the Sunnymede path which had the usual mite galls Aceria aceriscampestris on the leaves, and on closer inspection found gall-like structures on the fruits  of which I couldn't find any reference in the literature. I consulted with Gall experts from the British Plant Gall Society and the Natural History Museum. I have since found four trees in the forest displaying these strange galls and hope to have more information regarding the causer at a later date.

 

The last two paragraphs show the potential of Hainault Forest to come up with rarities and new discoveries. Species new to science have been discovered in nearby Chigwell Row Woods and it only requires dedicated field naturalists - professional, amateur and novice to come along and find them.

 

The mass of toad spawn reported in the lake on the 31st March led to a mass exodus of toadlets from the lake on the 5th July when following overnight rain it was virtually impossible to walk on the Hainault Oak path due to swarms of the tiny creatures on the path and in the surrounding grassland.

 

I led a public Gall walk on the 30th July as part of the Centenary Celebrations and 24 people turned up and were soon searching bushes and turning over leaves and finding an array of galls for themselves. On the way back a large bat was seen flying along the edge of the lake at 1 pm in the afternoon. This is an unusual sighting and could possibly have been a Daubentons bat which have been recorded there on Bat Walks.

 

Butterflies have had a good season this year with Brimstone, Orange tip, Red admiral, Small tortoiseshell, Peacock, Green-veined white, Holly blue, Common blue, Large and Small skippers. July started with many Meadow browns and as the blackberries ripened it coincided with large numbers of Gatekeepers. Small heaths and Small coppers appeared occasionally but the Speckled wood appears to be in small numbers this year. Standing on Cabin Hill on Centenary Day for the Woodland Trust walk I was aware of the presence of many tiny Purple Hairstreak butterflies flying around the crowns of the many oak trees. They have had an exceptionally good year and I managed to photograph one feeding on bramble on the 30th July and again on 1st August on Burdock.

 

Voraciously feeding caterpillars of the Buff-tip moth Phalera bucephala were found on an oak tree on 30th July. They are large hairy yellow and black caterpillars which feed during July to October when they pupate in the soil to emerge as moths in late May - August the following year.

 

The Lake and the forest ponds have given good sightings of Dragonflies and Damselflies. On the lake edge on the 20th July Black-tailed skimmers were seen with one egg laying. Common blue and Blue tailed damselflies were seen. On the same day at Roes well and Sheepwater were Brown hawkers, Emperors, Ruddy darters and large numbers of Azure damselflies, with the addition of Broad-bodies chasers at Sheepwater. On warm days in late August Brown hawker dragonflies could be seen swarming over the grassland areas on Cabin Hill.

 

It has been a good year for Shield bugs. They like to bask on leaves in sunny weather, but will slowly run and hide under the leaf if they detect any movement, such as a camera lens focusing on them. They are flat bugs and good fliers which have a shield-shaped body and feed mainly on plant sap. Both the Forest bug Pentatoma rufipes and the Green shield bug Palomena prasina and its nymphs or instars have been found throughout the period. They overwinter and the Green shield bug turns bronze coloured on hibernation, emerging green again in the spring.

 

There has been a heavy crop of blackberries this year ripening from late July onwards. Sloe, Hawthorn, Elder Rowan, Beech and Hornbeam which did poorly last year have good crops of fruits and seeds. The English oak has a heavy crop of acorns and there are less Knopper galls which wiped out the acorn crop last year. Conkers will be few this year as the Horse chestnut is suffering badly with the Leaf miner moth Cameraria ohridella infestation. The leaves of Sycamore are beginning to show shiny black patches on the leaves at this time of year. This is called Tar spot and is caused by the fungus Rhytisma acerinum. The leaves may fall slightly earlier than normal  but it does not appear to be detrimental to the trees.

 

The popular "Meet the Animals" farm visit led by Michael Ferguson on the 9th August was a huge success and children were able to touch and feed the animals. The goats, sheep and donkeys and Dexter cattle were fed and the Tamworth pigs stroked. Rabbits - Lion head and Lop-eared were handled and Paxo the stag turkey displayed his magnificent wattle. The children were able to see and feel the Barn owls and Little owls at close quarters and Mick in his usual way answered questions and gave many facts about the animals. The animals often provide children from the urban environment with their first contact with farm animals.

 

 

Mike Dennis a well known local ornithologist died in August 2006 aged 57 His funeral was held at Corpus Christi, Collier Row on 22nd August where there was a great gathering of family, friends, colleagues and pupils from Mawney Road School where he had taught for many years, and was much respected for his teaching skills and enthusiasm. His interests were varied and included music, and he was involved in serving and reading at Corpus Christi Church. He was an avid birdwatcher and he had amassed data going back forty years. His data helped the RSPB in acquiring Rainham Marsh as a Reserve. He was a contributor to the London Natural History Society's London Bird Report and the Essex Bird Watching Society's publications. Mike was senior editor of The Tetrad Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Essex  published in 1996.  His local patch included Havering, Hainault Forest and Fairlop Waters, and at the Centenary celebrations Mike displayed posters and charts of his Hainault Forest records.

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Purple hairstreak on bramble leaf.   Photo: 30th July 2006.

Female Purple hairstreak on Burdock leaf. Photo: 1st August 2006

 

May - June 2006

May turned out to be the wettest for many years, and the season got off to a late start with the Oaks and Ash trees just coming into leaf in the first week. On the 21st May the Forest was very wet and slippery underfoot with pools of standing water everywhere. June However was drier and some hot days were to be had especially at the end of the month, I was holidaying in a boat around the western isles of Scotland where the weather was totally different from London. We had deep depressions giving rain, gales, heavy seas and swells and low temperatures. Visibility was very poor. Being away for most of June this diary entry is mainly about the month of May in the Forest.

 

Only two cygnets were born to the pair of Mute swans this year.  

A brood of swans is known as an EYRAR.           Photo:  28th June 2006

Two of the chicks hatched on the farm.  Photo: 2nd May 2006.

There were several broods of Canada goose goslings this year. This family photographed on the lake on the 15th May 2006.

This Coot chick was calling to be fed on 28th June 2006.

Oak apple galls were common this year. These were photographed on an oak tree near the Hainault Oak entrance. 15th May 2006.

Slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon on an old elder log. 6th May 2006.

Cuckoo Flower or Lady's Smock provides an excellent display opposite Foxburrows Cottages in May. Photo: 13th May 2006.

Field Madder  one of several new plants to be recorded in the forest this year. It was growing on the kerb edge near the main entrance. Photo: 13th May 2006.

Rabbit showing signs of Myxomatosis with swellings around the eyes.  Photo: 29th June 2006. Plantation.

The pair of mute swans hatched only two cygnets this year, although the Canada geese produced several goslings which could often be seen feeding in crches guarded by several adults who would hiss in an attempt to frighten away members of the public who got too close. A chicken went missing on the farm and on the 1st May proudly led her family of chicks out of Connie's kennel where she had secretly hatched them. Presumably Connie was allowed to share her kennel with the chicken!

On the 6th May Members of the British Plant Gall Society, and The Essex Field Club visited the Forest, and we were honoured to have Michael Chinery, author of many insect and natural history books, with us. Several galls not recorded previously in the forest were noted including a Truffle gall on the roots on a young sapling oak in Latchford meadow. Galls are fascinating objects to study and over 130 different ones have been identified in the Forest over the past five years. Why not check out the Gall pages among the photographs on this site. I will be leading a walk for beginners on Sunday 30th July starting at 10.30am - 1pm. meeting at the visitors centre.

During the walk on the 6th May two members Jacquey Bunn and Roger Newton found and identified a slime mould Enteridium lycoperdon growing on an old elder log. They are not Fungi but belong to the Kingdom Protozoa, and in the Phylum Myxomycota. They are composed of millions of microscopic amoeba like cells which are present in the forest soils and which have come together to form a large mass some 3-4 cms across. Initially jelly-like the mould hardens, ripens and breaks up releasing millions of spores which continue the cycle. Another species was noted in the March -April diary and hopefully they may have their own web page in the near future.

A change in the mowing regime opposite Foxburrows Cottages which I have been advocating for the last three years has proved worthwhile in that a fine display of Lady's Smock or Cuckoo flower appeared at the beginning of May. It is an annual and the grass requires a very early cut, and then left until the plant has seeded in late June. It used to be very noticeable on the Common in past years but the Woodland trust's mowing regime there needs a slight alteration to get it back in profusion.

A few new plants have been noted for the first time this year. The tiny Field Madder Sherardia arvensis with its pinkish four petalled flowers was found growing along the kerb edge near the main entrance on the 13th May. It is closely related to the Goosegrass or Cleavers which clings to clothing and is a garden pest. On the 29th May on a wet patch near the Camelot at Lambourne End a small patch of Bog Stitchwort Stellaria uliginosa was found, and growing and flowering in the mud at the edge of Roe's Well on the 28th June were several plants of Hoary willow-herb Epilobium parviflorum.

Comma, Peacock and a male Brimstone butterfly were in flight on the 2nd May which was sunny with a cool breeze, and on the 5th which was hot and sunny these were joined by male and female Orange Tip, Speckled Wood, Green-veined White and a female Brimstone. On the 7th May on the Spring walk attended by some 30 people, eggs of the Orange Tip butterfly were shown laid singly in the heads of the Garlic mustard plant. The Lady's Smock mentioned earlier is also a food plant for this species. Small Copper butterflies were seen on the 13th May. They lay their eggs on Sorrel and other dock leaves. By late June the Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Small and Large Skippers and the Small Heath were noted.

While attempting to photo a Small Copper butterfly on the Heathland and while looking through the viewfinder I suddenly realised that a Grass snake was basking beneath the butterfly. With a split second to decide which to photograph both vanished!

Spittle bug Cercopis vulnerata  on Hedge Parsley stem.

Photo: 15th May 2006. Reservoir site.

The warm weather brought out many minibeasts including Squash bugs on the brambles, the day flying immigrant moth Silver Y, Orange and Pine ladybirds, Crane flies or Daddy-long-legs, St. Marks flies and Soldier beetles. One interesting colourful bug was found on Hedge parsley on the old Reservoir site. It is a Spittle bug Cercopis vulnerata related to the Froghopper larvae which enclose themselves in plant sap during development. Its red and black colouration is striking. It doesn't appear to have an English name.

Rabbits have been building up numbers in the last few years, and there has been much damage to young trees and saplings where the bark is being removed. This is especially the case in the Hainault Lodge Reserve. Over the past few weeks several reports of rabbits suffering from a myxomatosis-like disease have been noted.

Preparations for the Centenery fun day on the 15th July have continued throughout the period. Elderly local people have been interviewed and videoed to get their memories of the Forest and a book has been written by the author Lynn Parr which will be available on the day. There will be exhibits by the Conservation team, Redbridge museum and local organisations, sports training events, carriage rides, and other rides around the Forest, a dog show, walks, music throughout the day and a Concert by Redbridge Music School which will be attended by Lord Carrington and Lord Buxton. Something for everyone.

 

JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY-JUNE   JULY-AUGUST  SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER   NOVEMBER-DECEMBER    

March - April 2006

A walk around the Nature Trail led by Linda Herbert on 22nd April.

   

Ewe lamb born to the Norfolk Horn sheep (foreground) on 7th March  was photographed at three weeks old. 26th March 2006.

Yellow brain fungus Tremella mesenterica on old willow twig. 

Photo: 9th March.

Slime mould Lycogala terrestre on hornbeam stump near Sheepwater. Photographed 14th April.

Wood anemone Anemone nemorosa Photo: 5th April 2006

Toad spawn in the lake 31st March 2006.

FALLOW DEER slots in the mud on Hog Hill. When the deer walks it places its hind foot where it forefoot  has just left, giving a double hoof mark. This is referred to as a register.

Katherine dissecting an owl pellet at the workshop on 1st April 2006. Photo: Francis Castro.

The weather for the period has been more like the March winds and April showers of yesteryear. There have been bright sunny but cool days with showers, cool windy days and some overnight frosts. The season is somewhat later than we have recently been used to expect and the Ash has been later flowering and is just coming into leaf. The English and Turkey oaks are not yet in leaf. Bluebells which were well out last year will be at their best about the second week in May.

 

The programme of walks continues. The Lower Plant walk led by myself on 12th March attracted about 20 people and we looked at Mosses, Ferns, and Lichens. The Equinox walk on the 18th March was led by Daphne Gilbert and attracted 20 people. Daphne pointed out the bright yellow Coltsfoot growing by the lakeside. 65 members of the West Essex Ramblers turned up for an afternoon walk on Good Friday which I led. we walked around the whole forest area and noted the Hornbeam catkins, the Wood sorrel and several species of butterfly including a male Brimstone. Linda Herbert of the Country Park staff led a walk around the Nature Trail which was attended by twenty adults and children.

 

On the farm a ewe lamb was born to a Norfolk horn sheep  on the 7th March. On the 28th March a ewe lamb was born to a Jacobs sheep and a ram lamb born to a Badger face sheep.

 

Fungal forays always take place in the autumn, but fungi are always present and some appear at other times of the year. A jelly-like orangey fungus appeared on an dead willow twig in the plantation, and was identified as the Yellow Brain fungus.

 

The slime mould Lycogala terrestre appeared on an old hornbeam stump near Sheepwater on the 14th April, and likewise another near Roe's well. The colonies felt like jelly and were salmon-pink in colour. Slime moulds were thought to belong to the Animal and Fungi Kingdoms at various times but now belong to their own Kingdom of Protozoa. A week later the slime mould had become hard and bronze coloured, and some had split open and spores were being liberated.

 

A tiny patch of  Wood anemone produced one flower this year. It would be good to see this spreading once again and forming a carpet in the woodland areas as it does in Blake's wood, Danbury and Garnetts wood, Barnston, Essex where there have been spectacular displays this year. Other early spring flowers noted were Coltsfoot on 9th March, Lesser celandine and Cherry plum 2nd April, Early dog violet, Barren strawberry and Wood sorrel on the 3rd April. Wood sorrel Oxalis acetosella has been very noticeable this year throughout the ancient woodland. The removal of some of the under-scrub has probably helped let some light in. Greater stitchwort was out on the 21st April in the grassy rides and clearings.

 

A queen bumblebee Bombus lapidarius was seen searching for possible nest sites on the 5th April at Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve. It is an all black bee with an orange tail end. Bee flies were out flying on Easter Monday. Butterflies noted during the period were Red admiral on 31st March, Comma and Small tortoiseshell on the 5th April, male Brimstone on the 14th April and Peacock butterflies on the 17th April.

 

Over a hundred batches of Frog spawn were seen at Roe's well on the Equinox walk on the 18th March. On the 31st March which was windy, sunny and showery. Thousands of pairs of toads were present around three sides of the lake all spawning. The spawn which unlike the frog is laid in strings was being deposited on willow twigs which had fallen into the lake during pollarding of the willows. It was a spectacular sight and one rarely seen. School children and adults marvelled at the sight and the sheer numbers involved. The photograph shows some of the spawn when a twig was lifted out. The following day no toads were seen, only the spawn.

 

Jackdaws are nesting in the country park and have been present in flocks throughout the winter. A Common buzzard was seen flying over and heard mewing on the 13th March. Several cock pheasants have been calling in the woodland and at Hainault Lodge. On the lake a pair of Pochard have been present, also a pair of Great crested grebe. The pair of Swans are nesting and Shoveller ducks are frequently seen.

 

Fallow deer tracks and slots were seen along the footpath at the top of Hog Hill and they are becoming more common in the ancient woodland at Lambourne. Muntjac deer tracks are present everywhere and were particularly noticeable in the woodland area between Roe's well and Sunnymede The tiny Muntjac is doing a lot of damage to the bluebells and young trees which it feeds on.

 

Francis Castro, of the Redbridge Conservation team organised an Owl Pellet workshop on the 1st April in the Hainault Room. Francis and myself explained the procedures involved in dissecting the pellets and the identification of the small mammal remains. The Little owl is present in the Country Park and many pellets were collected and examined. Analysis of pellets is one way to monitor the small mammal population of an area. Discarded bottles become a death trap to small mammals - they can squeeze in but not out. One bottle found at Hainault Lodge and examined during the workshop contained the remains of eight Common shrews and  five Bank voles.

 

The work party which meets every Sunday morning at Hainault Lodge have been clearing an area of Holly to allow four coppiced Hazels to benefit from the light. These hazels had been "lost" due to the holly encroaching. There is much damage to the trees on the Reserve possibly due to the numerous Rabbits or possibly Muntjac eating the bark. Recent surveys of Chigwell Row woods and Lambourne Woods have shown the importance of dead wood in the environment. Several nationally important species have been recorded. At the Lodge log piles are being built to encourage beetle life especially the Stag beetle.

 

 

 

Log pile on Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve.

 JANUARY - FEBRUARY   MARCH - APRIL   MAY-JUNE   JULY-AUGUST  SEPTEMBER-OCTOBER   NOVEMBER-DECEMBER  

January - February 2006

The First of the Centenary Events Programme - a Tree Identification walk on the 29th January led by Brian Ecott.

Thirty eight people turned up for the Tree Identification walk, which I led on a bright, sunny but very cold Sunday morning on the 29th January. This was the first event of an impressive Centenary Events Programme compiled by Linda Herbert, Support Officer at The Country Park's Office. In identifying the trees particular attention was given to the appearance of the leaf buds, whether they were positioned opposite or alternate to each other on the twigs, and their shape and colour. We concentrated on the common trees of the forest - London plane, English and Turkey oaks, Silver birch, Beech and Hornbeam, Ash, Black poplar, Elder, Alder, Lime, Sycamore and Field Maple. Some people including children collected twigs and an identification sheet was given to all participants.

The Second of the Centenary Events Programme - a Guided walk around Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve on 19th February, led by John Carter (left).

Butcher's Broom fruit. Photo: 10th January 2006.

Coot by Hainault Lake. Note the lobes on the toes. Photo: 8th Feb. 2006.

 Paddy feeds the swans on a very cold Friday 24th Feb 2006.

On the 19th February the second event of the Centenary Events Programme was a guided tour around Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve. Despite the cold grey day 15 people attended and were led by John Carter, Chairman of the Havering and Redbridge Wildlife and Countryside Group, who help manage the Reserve in conjunction with the Conservation Team of Redbridge Council. John explained points of interest and the work being carried out by members and volunteers on most Sundays mornings throughout the year. The Lodge has more Hazel Corylus avellana than the whole of the rest of Hainault Forest, and the mass of male catkins were seen hanging from the branches.

Another interesting plant seen scattered around in Hainault Lodge, Hainault Forest and in neighbouring Epping Forest and other ancient woodland areas of Southern England and Wales, is Butcher's Broom Ruscus aculeatus which belongs to the Lily family. It is evergreen and prickly giving the impression of a small holly bush. As its name suggests it was used used in butcher's shops to scour the chopping blocks in earlier times. What appear to be leaves are in fact flattened stems which have a spine on the end, and the flowers and berries are borne in vestigial leaf axils in the centre of these flattened stems, known as cladodes.

 

On the lake the usual birds have been seen - Black-headed gulls, Cormorants, Pochard, Tufted ducks, Mallard, Mute swan pair and one juvenile, Moorhen, Canada geese and three Indian runner ducks. Shoveler ducks have varied from 1 - 7 pairs and are winter visitors. It has a long, broad spoon-like  bill, and the

Shoveler pair.

male has a white breast and chestnut colour side and yellow eyes. The bill filters plankton on the surface of the water and when viewed from a distance it appears that the ducks are swimming in circles with their heads down. The birds will also feed on insects and weeds.

 

Another interesting bird on the lake is the Coot. Normally present in a large sociable group during the winter months it become a fiercely aggressive during the breeding season. With head down it will swim fast to a potential rival and if a fight ensues the two birds will balance on their tails in the water and use their wings and feet in combat. It is a fast swimmer under water collecting water weeds and molluscs for food. It's feet are not webbed like ducks, but have lobes on each toe which help it to push through the water. When the feet are brought forward the lobes fold backward to offer least resistance.

 

Jackdaws have been in large flocks on the grassland and in the trees on the farm, and on the 21st January a Treecreeper was seen climbing up one of the oaks on the farm. On several occasions Greater-spotted woodpeckers have been heard drumming and seen on the old oaks around Sheepwater. A pair of Kestrel hunt over the grassland areas and are often seen hovering.

 

 

The weather has been varied. January started with rain and was overcast but for most of January and up to mid February it was alternating between very cold, crisp, bright, frosty weather and milder damp days. The Atlantic depressions could not quite shift the high pressure area over us hence the varied weather. The wet weather finally set in on the 13th February when there was two or three days of drizzle with some heavy overnight rain, leaving most of the forest paths very muddy. On the 22nd February easterly winds brought very cold weather and some sleet showers. On most days, Paddy can be seen  down by the lake feeding the ducks, geese and swans even in the cold, wet and wintry weather.  Sarah White who works for The Woodland Trust and also volunteers, can often be seen picking up rubbish in the wooded areas. She penned the following poem in 2004 which sums up her thoughts of a typical February day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hainault Forest 17th February 2004 Its Wet

 

 The trees stand stoically in fine February drizzle.

  Airborne droplets hesitate in windless air,

  then gather together on delicate branches,

  before gaining confidence to drop to earth.

  Moisture clings to soft clothing and exposed hair of determined walkers,

  boots shooshing through drooping grass and sucking mud.

 

  Gentle drizzle matures into steady, unremitting rain.

  Tiny rivulets flow down twisted trunks and fill ancient crevices

  making miniature transient pools.

  The ground is no longer thirsty.

  It does not glug in all available wetness.

  Now it repels, forces puddles to wait, before being absorbed or evaporated.

  Water in streams and ditches gathers momentum

  and hurries to find the lake.

 

  Clattering rain creates concentric circles like colloidal fractures on obsidian pond.

  Unlike stone, they are not sealed and static,

  but form and reform until the last drop falls from overhanging branch.

  Massed raindrops fall from burdened branches

  disturbing decaying leaves on forest floor.

  Musty smells from mycelium threads,

  pervade the moist atmosphere (and nasal membranes!)

 

 Delicate fresh spring leaves emerge cautiously from hornbeam and   hawthorn

  to challenge the patchwork of hardy winter greens.

  The dark green gung-ho holly has grubby dust on last years glossy foliage,

  tenacious, summer-shade tolerant ivy shines boldly in subdued spring light,

  and velvet moss positively glows despite dull day.

  Rough and ready bramble leaves left from autumn

  have bloody blotches as if they had pricked themselves

  on their own thorns

 

  No sounds today from woodland fauna.

  Birds and squirrels are fled to secret places and

  even whinging squeaks about the weather do not betray their presence.

  Splashes, squelches and torrential rain

  reign supreme!

  Its wet.

Sarah White.