Hainault Forest Website

Written, Designed and with Photographs by © Brian Ecott

Nature Diary 2013

On the 7th December 2013 Peter Comber and I together with Michael Rumble represented Hainault Forest with a selection of photographs at the Annual Exhibition and Social of The Essex Field Club at The Green Centre, Wat Tyler Country Park, Pitsea, Essex. The Social brings together Naturalists of various specialties, Recorders, Members and Friends. It is an annual culmination of recording work, walks, talks, education, workshops throughout the whole of former Essex boundaries. Its members were active in the creation of the modern Hainault Forest before it was officially opened in 1906.

For more information of the Club website click here: ESSEX FIELD CLUB

Photograph  ©  Michael Rumble.

October 2013

Panoramic view of Chigwell Row Church and The Lake from Hog Hill, showing autumn changes. 26th October 2013

 

Above and below: 

The rare Conifer mazegill Gloeophyllum sepiarium.  It is occurring on most of the Woodland Trust notice boards and was probably imported on the wooden boards when purchased. Present on a few boards in 2012

26th October 2013.

Asexual galls of Neuroterus saliens on stems and petioles of Turkey Oak. The specific name "saliens" means jumping and when detached the larva inside wriggles giving the appearance of a jumping bean. Below - also on leaf midribs.

Mature galls of Hartigiola annulipes on beech. 6th October 2013

Close up of underside of Pear leaf gall Gymnosporangium sabinae.

Photo: Michael Rumble.  8th October 2013 in plantation.

Poplar scalycap Pholiota populnea emerging from the base of a  felled Poplar tree 24th October and 29th October 2013 on Hog Hill.

 Common Puffball Lycoperdon perlatum 26th October 2013

Milk cap shedding milky substance when damaged.

Sulphur Knight  Tricholoma sulphureum in mixed woodland Cabin Hill 26th October 2013  Photo © Ron Andrews

Angels bonnets Mycena arcangeliana on oak stump, Chigwell Row common.

26th October 2013.

The yellow slime mould Fuligo septica var septica growing on an old beech stump. 6th October 2013.

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August - September 2013

 

Sexual dimorphism in birds is shown here in the case of Peafowl. In the breeding season the male peacock develops a magnificent plumage and a huge tail which it can raise and shake to attract the female peahen. The number of eye spots on the tail is something that the peahen will notice. Unfortunately this breeding plumage can come at a cost making it difficult for the Peacock to fly up in a tree to escape from danger.

These colourful photographs of the Peacock were taken on the farm, 27th August 2013. © Michael Rumble.

 

The Common spangle gall Neuroterus quercusbaccarum and the Silk button gall N. numismalis had virtually disappeared in Hainault Forest for the past five years, but returned in force this autumn. Above left shows an oak leaf with hundreds of asexual galls with just one common spangle and one smooth spangle N. albipes. Above is a close up of a mixture of Common and Silk button galls taken on the 6th Sept. 2013. The leaves will fall in the autumn and the galls will overwinter in the leaf litter emerging as a sexual generation in the spring. Most oak galls have these two cycles per year. See Oak galls.

Pictured left is a Comma butterfly Polygonia c-album. The underwing brown colour  give it the appearance of a dead leaf which is a good camouflage.   In autumn it feeds on rotten fruit or fruit that has been cut by wasps making the juice readily available. Here the Comma is feeding on a rotting blackberry. There are two generations a year and this one will overwinter as an adult.

29th August 2013. Photo © Michael Rumble

 

On the Creeping thistle above left are two species of ladybird. There are two Seven-spot ladybirds Coccinella septempunctata and one fourteen-spot ladybird Propylea quattuordecimpunctata. The fourteen spots often merge to form an anchor shape. It is much smaller than the seven spot but like it is a very voracious feeder on aphids. Both species like thistles and other meadow flowers. Photo: 8th August 2013 © Michael Rumble.

Above is one of several species of Tiger moths. This is the Cream-spot Tiger moth Arctia villica britannica. When the wings open the second pair of wings are yellow with black margins to the tips. It is a local species occurring at sites in the southern England and East Anglia.  4th July 2013. © Michael Rumble.

The Ruddy darter male dragonfly Sympetrum sanguineum is pictured on the 14th August 2013 and shows the head and brown thorax and the blood red abdomen. Note the colourful wing attachment on the thorax. © Michael Rumble

 

The Hornet Vespa crabro far left appears to be caught in a spiders web, but the middle picture shows that it feeding on the spiders prey parcels. The Hornet is a large wasp but can be distinguished by its brown thorax and brown-yellow markings. Above, between the compound eyes can be seen three tiny ocelli or primitive eyes. 27th September 2013.

Photos © Michael Rumble.

The worker German wasps Vespula germanica are feeding on Ragwort above. The picture above right clearly shows the primitive eyes or ocelli between the eyes mentioned above in connection with he Hornet. Photos 14th August 2013. © Michael Rumble

 

There has been an abundance of Parasol mushrooms Macrolepiota procera in the horse field this year. Some of the caps had a diameter of 25cms, and they are very tall and easily knocked over. There is a moveable ring on the stem and the stems base is speckled. Many fungi grow in rings, some many metres across and visible in ariel surveys. Below shows a ring centered on a patch of nettles . The ring typically expands outwards over the years as nutrients are used up. Said to be edible and excellent. Photos left © Michael Rumble and below Brian Ecott. 29th Sept. 2013.

 

Below left: Common inkcaps Coprinus atramentarius growing on dung 28th September 2013 © Michael Rumble.

Below right: Giant polypore Meripilus giganteus growing at the base of a beech stump 29th September 2013 © Brian Ecott

Finally below, a beautiful picture of a Small tortoiseshell butterfly Aglais urticae nectaring on bramble flowers. It is found February to October hibernating as an adult in trees and buildings. Photo © Michael Rumble.

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July 2013

Swallow with chicks in farm shed in 1985. Photos above © Vic George. Vic was a former ranger at Hainault Forest Country Park

and the pictures are from his archive.

Juvenile swallow awaits return of parent. Note the wide mouth, and also the development of the red throat and under parts.

Juvenile swallows awaiting return of parent with food.  

Parent swallow (centre) returns with food which is exchanged in flight.

 

Michael Rumble captured many images of juvenile swallows being fed in flight  by the parent birds outside the pillared barn near the office. The parent bird can be seen in the centre of the family in the picture above. The adults have a forked tail whereas the juveniles tail is triangular, displaying a row of white marks across the tail feathers, pictured left.

It prompted me to recall a set of images that warden Victor George, now retired had taken of the young nestlings in 1985 in one of the animal sheds. Vic lived in the cottage near the main gate for many years until his retirement. The cottage was neglected and then vandalized beyond repair and demolished a couple of years ago. Fortunately Vic left me his archives and photos which I have uploaded above.

There are flocks of Jackdaws in the Country park, nesting in the poplars and other old trees around the farm. This pair are nesting in the chimney of the old forge in the farm yard and I think is a wonderful picture by Michael Rumble. Incidentally I wonder how many forge buildings there remain in Redbridge.

This has to be the picture of the month. A juvenile Pied wagtail sitting on a metal gate on the farm. Somebody must love him.

Young Pied Wagtail on gate. Photo © Michael Rumble 25th July 2013

Two juvenile swallows. Note the white patch on each of the tail feathers.

 All the 2013 pictures of swallows are © Michael Rumble 20th July 2013.

Jackdaws nesting on forge chimney. Photo © Michael Rumble 25th July 2013

Not to worry Mum's here with some juicy flies. © Michael Rumble

 

The Grey squirrel photographed here is on the base of an oak tree, a foot or two from the ground. From here it can look whether it is safe to jump to the ground and forage for acorns on raid a waste bin but if a threat is there - mainly dogs - it can quickly turn and climb the tree to safety. The tail on the Grey squirrel is very sparse of hair, and the ears are rounded with no hair tufts unlike it's cousin "Tufty" the red squirrel. Incidentally the last Red squirrel that I remember seeing in Hainault Forest was in the early nineteen-fifties.

Most of the wild flowers this year were lost and there was a void of insects which is tragic because the bee population is not doing well and the numbers have halved throughout the country. It is important that we do all we can at Hainault to restore the balance  next year. One plant that did well this year was the bramble. The wet spring and the late summer sunshine produced a bumper crop of blackberries. These are favourites with many birds and small mammals such as mice and voles.

Wasps have worried some people particularly around the Global Café. The question is often asked "What use are Wasps?" Wasps have chewing mouthparts and can break the skins on blackberries which makes the juices available to many other insects such as hoverflies, butterflies, bees and other flies. Wasps play their part in the complex food webs that allow other economic species to exist.

Left is a Bumble bee Bombus terrestris nectaring on Bramble. It is one of a few common species seen in the forest. Also nectaring on bramble flowers is this Small tortoiseshell butterfly Aglais urticae captured in the photo by Michael Rumble. Whilst looking at a Bramble patch I spotted a few White admiral butterflies Ladoga camilla basking in the sunshine on bramble leaves. Over the past five years it has been regularly seen at Roe's well and now at a new site at the back of the lake near to the aerial play area. As I was preparing the July webpage an e-mail from local naturalists Chris and Margaret Gannaway came with a message and photographs that they has seen White admiral near The Camelot - again on bramble. Although early August I felt it was useful to include it on the July page. Note the beautiful pattern on the underwings. The foodplant is honeysuckle (often browsed by Muntjac deer in Hainault) so that it is important to retain any honeysuckle lianas hanging from trees well out of the reach of the Muntjac.

Grey squirrel. Photo © Michael Rumble 17th July 2013

Bumble bee © Michael Rumble 20th July 2013

Small Tortoiseshell butterfly © Michael Rumble 24th July 2013

White admiral butterfly 10th July 2013

White admiral butterflies © Chris and Margaret Gannaway 10th August 2013

The Small skipper and Essex skipper butterflies are very fast fliers and it was not until 1888 that the Essex skipper was recognised as a new species. So similar are the two species that close viewing is necessary. One feature is the rusty brown underside of the tip of the Small skipper's antennae, see the picture far left and the enlargement left where the antennae are clearly seen. The uncoiled mouthparts can be seen probing the Knapweed for nectar. The Essex skipper has black tips to the antennae.

Small Skipper butterfly on knapweed  22nd July 2013

The Gatekeeper butterfly far left is a common butterfly in the summer months often on bramble. Note the large dark patches on the centre of the forewings. These are scent glands denoting a male.

The woodlice left are two of the common five species to be found under logs and damp places. Left in the picture alongside is the Common Shiny Woodlouse Oniscus asellus and right the Common Rough Woodlouse Porcellio scaber.

Gatekeeper butterfly   24th July 2013

Woodlice under log on horse field 15th July 2013

 

 

Two superficially similar day flying moths found in the summer months in grassland are the Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae and the Six-spot burnet Zygaena filipendulae. The bright red colours acts as a reminder to would-be predators that they are very distasteful. The papery pupal case of the Burnet is found on grass stems

Cinnabar moth © Michael Rumble 9th July 2013

Six-spot Burnet moth 22nd July 2013

 

The larvae of the Cinnabar moth are striped yellow and black and are found on their food plant Common ragwort Senecio jacobaea. They feed at the top of the plant and reduce it to a short stalk before marching on to the next plant. The caterpillars are immune to the poisonous Ragwort.

The Orange ladybird has a long latin name Halyzia sedecimguttata  which really refers to its sixteen spots or blotches! It's habitat is among the leafy trees.

Cinnabar moth caterpillars 21st July 2013

   

 

The strange larva seen here on a grass stem belies the fact that it will change into a Seven spot ladybird after a short change into a pupa. Ladybird larvae can be identified using keys found online.

Seven-spot ladybird larva 24th July 2013

 

 

Aphids are feeders on plant sap. Here are Green aphids and Black aphids on thistles. Ants are often seen feeding on the sap which the aphids excrete. Black ants can be seen amongst the black aphids and the food will be taken back to the colony.

Green aphids on thistle © Michael Rumble 17/7/13

Black aphids on thistle 21st July 2013

 

 

The Glittering Green flies  Poecilobothrus nobilitatus are seen walking over liquid mud at Sheepwater. They show a metallic green in certain light. A male (top left in far left photo) is flapping his wings to attract the females feeding here. The wings are large with a brown patch and a white tip. The larger the wings, the larger the male,  making it more attractive to a female. Shown left  - a male has been selected and attempts to mate.

Glittering Green fly.  Sheepwater. © Michael Rumble  25th July 2013

 

Pictured far left is a small Ichneumon fly on Spear thistle. The female has a long ovipositor or egg-laying tube which can be used to bore into its prey, often caterpillars.

Pictured left, also on the head of a Spear thistle is an uncommon species of Tephritid fly - a female Terellia serratulae. Its larvae cause galls on thistle heads. Seen in the picture is the short ovipositor used to deposit eggs into the thistle flower head. Thanks to Del Smith Dipterologist recorder for the Essex Field Club for identification.

Small Ichneumon fly ? Lissonota sp. 25th July 2013

Tephritid fly on thistle near lake. 23rd July 2013

 

Hoverflies on Field rose 6th July 2013

Musk mallow by the main entrance 1st July 2013

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June 2013

Tristar and VC10 in Fly-past over Hainault 15th June 2013 to celebrate The Queen's Official Birthday. © Michael Rumble

Small Longhorn beetle  Grammoptera ruficornis  on Ox-eye daisy © Michael Rumble

Oak Weevil  Curculio glandium on nettle ©M.R.

Soldier beetle Cantharis rustica  on nettle leaf 18th June

 

 

 

 

For this month's page I am starting with photographs of Invertebrates (insects, spiders and molluscs) that have been photographed in the Country Park during the month of June. To appreciate the fine detailed pictures they should all be viewed at high magnification like the small Longhorn beetle Grammoptera ruficornis feeding at the centre of an Ox-eye daisy taken by Michael Rumble (©M.R.). The orange spot on its abdomen is a pollen  grain. 

 

The identity of the Oak weevil Curculio glandium pictured below it is based on detail of the antennae. I am pleased with the detail of the Soldier beetle Cantharis rustica which I photographed from the side on a nettle leaf. Nettles are a good starting point when searching for and photographing insects.

 

Although smaller, the rest of the 30 images are larger than life-size  The black and yellow wasp beetle Clytus arietis is a long-horn beetle and not a very good mimic of the German wasp Vespula germanica pictured next to it. The wasp is chewing wood fragments from a post which it will convert to paper pulp to construct its nest. The three spiders illustrated are crab spiders and the first two are colour forms of the White death spider Misumena vatia. They hide in flowers and catch the unsuspecting victim as it visits a flower. The third spider is the Common crab spider.

 

The white lipped snail is a small snail very variable in colour and pattern. It is closely related to the larger Black lipped snail. In the picture the white collar can be clearly seen.

 

Two weevils are illustrated. Oak Weevil Curculio glandium on nettle, and previously part enlarged above. The Green weevil Phyllobius pomaceus has a green sheen but can lose the green as it ages.

 

 

The two red Cardinal beetles are distinguished by the head colour red or black, and can bee seen flying occasionally. They prefer a sunlit bank of nettles  on which to rest.

 

There are several "blue" damselflies seen around the lakes and ponds in the forest and golf course and they need to be identified correctly. Another problem is that the females often differ in colour and markings to their male counterparts.

 

Below are three of many hoverflies seen in the forest on leaves and flowers. Some can be very flighty. Some are very similar and identification depends on markings on the thorax and abdomen and leg colouring. Xylota has black femurs and the rest of the leg is yellow. The Batman hoverfly was mentioned on the May page.

 

The Garden tiger moth Arctia caja  caterpillar is very hairy the upper hairs are black interspersed with long white hairs and the under hairs are a beautiful russet colour. It is also known as the Woolly Bear and its long hairs can be an irritant if handled. The caterpillar-like larva of a sawfly on a willow leaf has the normal three pairs of insect legs near the head but six pairs of prolegs seen clearly in the picture. True caterpillars only have 5 pairs of prolegs. Also shown is the Oak sawfly larva Periclista sp. with its black two pronged hairs.

 

Ladybirds can be very varied. Two very small ladybirds are the two-spot and the 14-spot. The two-spot ladybird Adalia bipunctata featured here is the typical form. The 14-spot ladybird  is  very  variable in its pattern

Propylea quattourdecimpunctata has several spots merged giving it the appearance of having an anchor mark on its wing cases. Both ladybirds feed on aphids.

.

There are over 1,600 species of tiny moths or micro-moths in the UK and one is illustrated above. Pyrausta aurata is feeding on the disc florets of the Ox-eye daisy. Next to it is a Macro-moth,  the Yellow shell moth Cryptogramma bilineata with its intricate coloured pattern. Not strictly a day flying moth it readily flies when disturbed.

 

Before becoming mature adults many insect nymphs moult several times. Their exoskeleton cannot expand  and with their continued growth their skin splits and a later stage (instar) emerges. Here is a photo of a nymph of the Speckled bush cricket - note the very long antennae approx 5cm.  For adult see here.

 

The small Cranefly or Nephrotoma needs closer examination of its thorax pattern to identify to species. It is one of three True flies (Diptera) illustrated.

 

Large numbers of Green-bottle flies Lucilia sp. can be seen sunning themselves on any patch of vegetation. They are a major contributor to Fly strike in sheep where the eggs are laid in wounds and the resultant maggots cause loss of hair and poor health in sheep. Sheep are normally dipped or sprayed early in the season to prevent attacks from flies.

 

The Snipe fly Rhagio scolopaceus also found on nettles often presents itself on a leaf pointing downwards - hence the upside down fly - although not in this picture. From its resting place it can fly up and catch insects in flight.

 

The medium sized Scorpion fly Panorpa communis is not a True fly has a patterned wing. Nettles are a good place to find them. The end of the abdomen in males is the genitalia and it is shaped like a scorpions tail (see also the inset). The females abdomen is pointed. Scorpion flies are of course harmless.

 

The Forest shieldbug Pentatoma rufipes nymph, like the Speckled bush cricket undergoes a series of moults or instars before becoming an adult. See here.

 

Lastly another example of a Long-horned beetle Rutpela (Strangalia) maculata. When at rest on brambles, hogweed etc. it is very easy to photograph and identify. When flying it superficially resembles a wasp with very long legs flitting from flower to flower and feeding on pollen and nectar. 

 

Wasp beetle Clytus arietis 27th June  ©M.R.

German wasp Vespula germanica collecting wood.

 White death spider Misumena vatia 20 June ©M.R.

 Yellow Misumena vatia on foxglove 23 June

Common Crab Spider ©M.R.

White lipped snail Cephaea hortensis 30th June

 Oak Weevil Curculio glandium on nettle  ©M.R.

Green weevil Phyllobius pomaceus 14th June ©M.R.

Cardinal beetle Pyrochroa coccinea 17th June

 Cardinal beetle Pyrochroa serraticornis 25th June

 Blue-tailed damselfly male Ischnura elegans 19th June  ©M.R

Common blue damselfly male Enallagma cyathigerum by the lake 19th June ©M.R.

Batman hoverfly Myothropa florea  ©M.R.

Hoverfly Dasysyrphus venustus 17th June 

Hoverfly probably Xylota segnis on leaf 8th June

Garden Tiger caterpillar 30th June ©M.R.

Willow sawfly larva 12th June   ©M.R.

 Oak sawfly larva  on oak leaf. 8th June

Two spot ladybird Adalia2-punctata 17th June 

14 spot ladybird Propylea 14-punctata 25th June

Micro-moth Pyrausta aurata 19th June   ©M.R

Yellow shell moth Cryptogramma bilineata 30 June.

 Crane fly  Nephrotoma sp.   24th June

 Speckled bush cricket nymph  25th June

Green bottle Lucilia sp. on hawthorn 30 June ©M.R.

Scorpion fly Panorpa communis ©M.R. 14 Jn.   

Snipe fly Rhagio scolopaceus 19th June. 

Forest Shieldbug nymph or instar   30 June

Longhorn beetle Rutpela maculata 30 June

Bee orchid Ophrys apifera. Above right the orchid is showing a pollen sac (pollinia) hanging. 27th June 2013 © Michael Rumble

 

Every June the Queen celebrates her Official Birthday with the Trooping of the Colour. The ceremony finishes with the Queen and members of the Royal Family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. We are fortunate that the flight path of the Fly Past passes over Hainault Forest en route to the Palace. Pictured above is the Tristar and VC10 pictured by Michael Rumble. For the rest of the images click here.

 

The management of a Country Park, unlike that of an urban park requires careful planning with little visible return for investment for several years. Last year I wrote of the success of one project started in 2005 by the lake. It is now 8 years on and this year has seen the emergence of Bee orchids in this spot - a fitting reward for forward planning.

Although it is important to to have plenty of short grassland for games, family picnics, kite flying, running etc. it is also necessary to keep areas of long grass for wildlife to exist. Bees are having a hard time with numbers down 50%. They are important pollinators for our crops along with thousands of other insects. Hence the array of photographs shown above. These areas of long grassland have gradually been introduced into our urban parks despite opposition in the early days. In the long run biodiversity can be a huge benefit to the health and well being of Redbridge folk.

 

The long grass (pictured left) under trees provides a refuge for small mammals and a number of butterflies and moths lay their eggs in such areas and is good management.

 

The hedge alongside the path to the Romford Gate, known as Alice's hedge was a task given to Alice Greenacre one of the Country Park wardens about six years ago. It is now bearing fruit with Guelder rose, Dogwood, and Hazel becoming a feature. Historically Hazel was virtually absent in Hainault Forest with only a couple of trees left. A Hazel grove was introduced 10 years ago and this is now producing hazelnuts for small mammals, squirrels and nuthatches. At about the same time a grove of Small-leaved lime was planted. This represents a tree that was widely endemic in southern England.

 

We were sorry to see Linda Herbert's post at Hainault lost due to austerity measures. Linda had been the first point of contact for enquiries, events and  business for over 18 years. She was responsible for organising an annual list of walks, talks and events. She was a hands-on person and many people will remember her annual Christmas workshop and also as a walks leader from the beginning of Redbridge Walk to Health.  Personally I found her very supportive of what I have tried to do at Hainault as a volunteer. Fortunately Linda has accepted a post at The Town Hall dealing with events and bookings. We wish her well.

 

It is not often that "new" plants are added to the species list for Hainault Forest. I forced my way into a thicket on the Common and discovered a couple of healthy plants of Spurge laurel Daphne laureola. It is a plant associated with chalk land but the Common has suitable areas of chalky boulder clay from the last glaciation. For a full list of plant species click here.  All parts of the plant are toxic to humans, but not birds.

 

Wild Celery Apium graveolens flowered by the waters edge at the outfall of the lake. It is a member of the Apiaceae formerly called Umbelliferae or Umbrella plant. It is a plant of brackish water usually by the coast yet seems to thrive here. It is an biennial.

There are a few plants of Three Cornered Leek Allium triquetrum. It's stem is triangular hence its common name. The bell like white petals have a green stripe down the middle. It can be found inside the entrance to the forest on Hoghill, near the bus stop.

The new swans produced two cygnets this year although only one has survived.

Courtney of the Essex Kite Group is often seen on the grassland flying his kites. The flying fish seem to be popular. To see more click here.

 

 

CONNIE the farm dog who sadly died on 28th April was known and loved by many current and former staff, volunteers and visitors to the farm. She was a rescued Lurcher dog and was at least age 13+

Group of Bee orchids

The long grass left under the trees on the grassland supports a myriad of invertebrates and a refuge for small mammals that would otherwise be lost. 17th June 2013.

Linda Herbert moves on. 30th June 2013

Spurge laurel Daphne laureola 7th June 2013  New find.

Dogwood Thelycrania sp. in hedgerow on path to Romford Gate 13th June 2013

Guelder rose Viburnum sp. in hedgerow on path to Romford Gate  13th June.

Wild celery Apium graveolens by the lake outfall  29th June 2013

Three cornered leek Allium triquetrum Hog Hill entrance 3rd June 2013

Swan pair with cygnet  17th June 2013

Flying fish of the Essex Kite Club 3rd June

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May 2013 

Tortrix moth caterpillars dropping to the ground on the ends of gossamer threads were being investigated by black ants- 31st May.. Right:  Tortrix moth.

Three butterflies seen in May 2013. Speckled wood 5th May. Small white 6th May. Small copper 31st.

Swallows just arrived by the farm. 5th May 2013.

 

The Weather warmed up a bit towards the latter half of May and there was a rapid response to a late spring. Pictured on the 3rd of May at the lake, the trees were just coming into leaf with the Oaks just in leaf by the 31st.

On the 31st May I was sitting on a chair in the shade of an oak tree when i noticed Tortrix moth caterpillars

Butterflies continued to be seen on warm days including the Small White,  Small Copper and Small Heath. This tiny butterfly closes its wings and manoeuvres itself to get the maximum warmth from the sun. One butterfly continues to be seen is the Speckled Wood. This tiny butterfly is often seen sunning itself on bramble and sunny positions on trees although it favours dappled sunshine in woodland glades and rides.

I spotted some Swallows flying about on the 5th May and a couple perched on a dead tree by the farm. Later in the month they were seen swooping over the grassland catching insects. Their mud nests are attached to the underside of rafters in farm buildings. There has been plentiful mud available this month.

An old standing oak provided a suitable nesting site for the wild honey bee and many workers were entering into the deep recesses to tend the Queen and help with cell building, egg and pupal care, collecting food.  Each has responsibilities for the wellbeing of the colony including defense, cleanliness and temperature control.

A pair of Longhorn beetles Anaglyptus mysticus were photographed mating on a leaf. Their abdomen is a brown and black colour with a white chevron pattern and a white tip. The name 'longhorn' refers to the long antennae which are very noticeable. They were plentiful on warm days in May.

Hoverflies were about on sunny days. There are many species of Hoverfly and they are found most months of the year. The so called Batman hoverfly Myothropa florea gets its name from the pattern on the middle section of the thorax (arrowed red). With a little imagination and squinting a logo of Batman appears. Many hoverflies have similar pattern on their abdomens but it is the batman that clinches it.

Walking amongst the short grassland turf of the acid grassland near the top of Cabin Hill a strange phenomena was noticed. Many of the stems of Fescue grass had a white patch on them starting at a node and continued upwards for about 2-3cms. By searching the web I found that this was caused by a Claviciptalean fungus Epichloë festucae. Its life history is very complex and involves microscopy, chemical analysis and belongs more to the world of researchers, mycologists and molecular scientists.

The heavy rains in April muddied the water in the lake and enquiries of contractors at the lake confirmed the fact that no frogs or toad or their spawn had been seen this year at the lake. Frogspawn had been seen at Roe's well. Surprisingly on May 5th many small tadpoles were at all points around the lake, and were probably Toad tadpoles as masses of toad spawn has been seen regularly each year in the lake.

The lake has been looking good this year. All around the outfall end of the lake the yellow iris has been in flower.

The path side edges in the Country Park have been looking good this year. Two banks of Dog violets gave an impressive display on the 12th May 2013 and combined with the general biodiversity give a good impression of a good management team led by Mr Paul Browne. It is important that personnel have a good knowledge of what a task involves and create healthy habitats that are suitable for wild flowers and subsequently  for insects and birds that feed on them. Bees are low in numbers this year and crops rely on them for pollination. More on this in the June page.

Another example of good management is to be found in the Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve where a team of volunteers led by the Redbridge Conservation Team Rangers have created a series of ponds which are important in providing  habitats for the Great Crested Newts which are found in the area and were monitored before and following the creation of the Redbridge Cycle Centre alongside.

The important relic heathland based on glacio-fluvial sands is split in two by the Romford Road. That on the opposite side to Hainault Forest is managed by Epping Forest Country Care Team. In the winter of 2006/7 the then leader of Country Care Paul Hewitt and Dr Kenneth Adams of Essex Field Club met and discussed the restoration and enhancement of the heathland. Top soil and leaf litter were scraped off and by May 2007 a few of plants of Lousewort Pedicularis sylvatica had appeared and seeded. In successive years the numbers have increased and this year a large area of the Heathland was carpeted with hundreds of plants. Country Care and its band of loyal hard working volunteers are to be congratulated on the heathland flora returning and the conservation of the Dwarf gorse Ulex minor.

Wild bees with nest in an old oak tree. 6th May 2013

Mating pair of longhorn beetles Anaglyptus mysticus  31st May 2013

Batman hoverfly Myothropa florea 27th May 2013

Fungus Epichloë festucae on Fescue grass stems 13th May 2013

Right: Spring Vetch 27th May 2013.

Tadpole around the lake 5th May 2013

Above: Yellow iris found around the lake outfall  31st May 2013.

Path side bank of Dog violets - an example of good management. 12 May 13.

Part of a vast array of Lousewort on the heathland at Chigwell Row Recreation Ground Reserve - another example of good management practice, This time by the Epping Forest Country Care Team.  27th May 2013

A view of All Saints Chigwell Row and Woodhenge above the lake 3rd May 2013

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March - April 2013

White Brain fungus Exidia thuretiana on fallen hornbeam. Photo © Daniel Britton, Latchford Meadow 25th March 2013. Identified by Peter Comber.

Broken drain at Latchford meadow where the subsoil has been washed away to reveal a mass of tree and plant roots, giving the scene a cave-like mystery. Alongside the drain was a Hart's tongue fern Asplenium scolopendrium below. Both photographs © Daniel Britton 25th March 2013

Outflow at the Lake on 18th March 2013

 Coltsfoot by the lake flowering 18th March 2013

Silver birch,        Willows                 2 Beeches at back              Hawthorns foreground                 Grey poplars                                            Oaks at back                      Hornbeam, Gorse foreground.

Serpentine mine of micro-moth Stigmella aurella in bramble leaf. Commonly found. Photo 7th April 2013

Ivy-leaved speedwell Veronica hederifolia 18th March 2013

 

The month of March was very cold and dull with temperatures often below zero. Although days of sunny but cool weather occurred on the 4th and 5th March, and there was a period of light snow 22nd - 24th March, the meteorological Office announced that March had been the coldest since 1962. The weather continued cold and wet until 14th April when a record temperature of 25°C was recorded. This date seemed to mark the beginning of Spring in the forest with bright, windy and showery weather.

Daniel Britton found and photographed a jelly fungus which was later identified by local mycologist Peter Comber as White Brain fungus Exidia thuretiana and was found on a fallen Hornbeam branch at the back of Latchford meadow. A broken drain made an interesting photograph and Daniel found a Hart's tongue fern alongside. This fern prefers ditches and damp places. Apart from Lambourne Wood which drains into the River Rom the rest of the water from the Country park, Chigwell Common, Latchford meadow, Hog Hill all flows into Hainault Lake, then tunneled into Seven Kings Water in Fairlop Waters eventually into the River Roding near Barking. It was unfortunate that nobody picked up this fact when surveying for an Olympic Site which has left local park users one year of an unsightly 35 acres of rubble and having to pay car parking charges for the privilege. Just one of the Olympic Legacies!

One of the first flowers of the year was Coltsfoot Tussilago farfara whose flowers appeared around the lake outfall  on the 18th March three days before the Spring equinox. Coltsfoot flowers first and when the flower dies down the coltsfoot shaped leaves appear. The other flower was Ivy-leaved speedwell Veronica hederifolia which appears on path and woodland edges especially near Woolhampton Way path

The trees are coming into leaf at differing times in April with the hawthorn one of the first. Blackthorn flowers before the leaves appear - see picture below. By the end of April  the Ash is in flower but it has yet to leaf along with the oaks. Photographed 30th April 2013

On many bramble leaves strange snakelike (serpentine) shapes can be seen. These are caused by a micro-moth grub which lives between the leaf  tissues. In the photograph the grab started life as an egg laid in a vein in the top left hand of the picture. When it hatches it burrows in the leaf and as it grows so the mine enlarges where it pupates until it is ready to hatch at the middle right of the picture. The pattern of mines and the pattern of the droppings (frass) in the mine help with the identification of the moth species. For more details see leaf miners.

The mud that we have had over many months gives an opportunity to look for tracks and signs of mammals. Pictured is the slot of a Muntjac deer. The trails and slots can be seen everywhere this winter although the animal is rarely seen. It often gives the impression of a fleeting glance of a medium size brown dog running through the scrub. This and other tracks can be seen here.

The arrival of spring means spring cleaning in many households, and notwithstanding in the home of the Badger or Sett. Here in the picture is a mound of loose soil and old bedding (mainly hay). Badgers are very clean animals and unlike the Fox do not contaminate their home with old food and droppings (scat). They dig a toilet at a distance from the sett.

I heard the first cuckoo call on 30th April. A pair of Mandarin ducks were seen on the lake. The first brood of Canada Geese were seen on the 22nd April and numbered 5 goslings and a week later a second brood of 4 appeared. It was reported that while watching this brood one was dragged under the water by what appeared to be a Pike. While walking down Retreat path I noticed a fluttering under a bush which turned out to be an injured Nuthatch. I managed to get a grab shot showing its delicate feathers before leaving it to recover.

Butterflies are appearing with the warmer, sunny weather. The first was a Comma Polygonum c-album on the 15th April 2013 followed by Red admiral Vanessa atalanta and Peacock Inachis io on the 22nd, Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria on the 29th and male Orange tip Anthocharis cardamines on the 30th.

One of the first insects to appear is the Bee-fly Bombylius major. There have been several sightings since the 20th April 2013. It is a Fly although it superficially mimics a bee. It has a long proboscis which makes it look scary, but its mouthparts are for probing flowers for nectar. It is often seen hovering and when at rest its two wings have a brown leading edge, with white on the hind part. It is one of the first pollinators of flowers where its long proboscis (almost as long as its body) can get to the nectar at the base of the flower  thus helping to transfer pollen from flower to flower.

Michael Rumble photographed a Jay in the woodland as it foraged for acorns. Like all members of the Crow family the Jay is very intelligent. It buries acorns in the autumn for a winter food reserve. Here the Jay is seen on the 18th March searching for its cache. Although there appears to be a randomness in the hiding and recovery of the acorns, it shows that it is well able to find them and those that remain hidden produce oak saplings that may contribute to woodland survival.

The orange lichen Xanthoria parietina has been spectacular this year. Because of the long winter months and little cover the orange has developed well and has been very noticeable on Elder, Willows and all acid rich barked trees. Lichens are strange plants. A fungus and a alga live in partnership (symbiosis) with the fungus contributing nutrients and the alga photosynthesizing (producing sugars in sunlight). This relationship produces fertile spores. The use of a lens or magnifying glass shows lichens to be very structured in close up, often showing the fruiting bodies. Searching tree bark and branches can be very rewarding. See some of the lichens that were found in November here. Also pictured below is Physcia ascendens where the ends of the branches are "hooded". Daniel Britton took the picture of the lichen Evernia prunastri which is about the size of a golf ball and can be found hanging from Hawthorn branches in the Woodhenge glade at the back of the lake.

For about six months the Blackthorn or Sloe Prunus spinosa has been dormant. It is found on the edges of the woodland areas and scrubby areas often associated with Hawthorn Crataegus monogyna. The collective dirty black appearance of Blackthorn gives rise to its name, although in sunshine there is a hint of a purplish sheen.  In  mid-April the hawthorn came into leaf and the Blackthorn took on a white mantle at the end of April. There is a mass of  blossom and the leaves will follow by late May.

The wet winter has seen the Lady's smock or Cuckoo flower Cardamine pratensis appearing in areas where it has not been recorded before. It is usually found in a hollow opposite Foxburrows cottages and on the Dog-free picnic area, but in addition it has been recorded around the lake, in a patch on the amenity grassland and along the Oak path from New North Road. These areas have been particularly wet this year and may have given life to some long dormant seed.

Towards the end of April there was a sudden surge of plants flowering including Red deadnettle, Wood spurge, Cowslip and Silver-leaved yellow archangel.

Muntjac deer hoot print or slot in mud on path  7th April 2013

Entrance to a Badger sett - note the bedding thrown out. 10th April 2013
Injured Nuthatch by Retreat path. 15th April 2013
Bee-fly Bombylius major along the Oak path 26th April 2013
Jay (above)  Photos © Michael Rumble  18th March 2013

Above and left Lichen Xanthoria parietina on elder.

Notice the saucer shaped fruiting bodies above.. 7th April 2013

Lichen Physcia ascendens on nutrient rich trees. 7th April 2013

Lichen Evernia prunastri on nutrient rich trees near lake.

Photo © Daniel Britton  11th April 2013

Blackthorn or Sloe flowers before coming into leaf. Path back of lake 30th April.              

Red deadnettle Lamium purpureum 29th April 2013

1. Wood spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides near Woodhenge 

2. Cowslip Primula veris Wild flower meadow left of entrance gate. 

3.Yellow archangel Lamiastrum galeobdolon argentatum Woolhampton Way

4. Cuckoo flower aka Lady's smock Cardamine pratensis Lake edge

All flower pictures above taken 29th April 2013

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January - February 2013

Mud and Rubble -  view towards 2nd car park of the amenity grassland  28th February 2013

Many locals are not happy with the situation left at Hainault following the Olympics. Many people and groups are staying away and finding amenities elsewhere. Where are our local Councillors? Why should people pay car parking fees to be greeted by 40 acres of wilderness, rubble, mud and rubbish. The restoration is a major task. ALL rubble has to be cleared from the site first and roads removed. The clay covering this area has no stones in it and is ideal for children playing on the grassland. Any rubble left or buried on site will become a hazard and a safety issue. We were rollercoasted into this situation with no knowledge of the site by the planners and consultants of the watershed here, clearly marked on the maps. Snoozebox have trashed our amenity grassland. Our own hay crop was lost last year and probably this and subsequent years due to the Olympics.   Our plight here is not newsworthy. Vision and the Redbridge Council have cut the annual budget again with more key staff losses. No statements are given as to the Forests future either through the local Papers, Public meetings or through Redbridge Life. No walks, no events. All we have is SILENCE. I believe that the Redbridge Council and Vision have forgotten their part in all this - that the forest was given to the public forever in 1906 and entrusted to the local authorities to fulfill their pledge to care for it. At least we have new gates to stop the fly-tippers adding to our misery.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Snow on heathland above, and left the path to lake from Retreat Path.

21st January 2013

Above and inset: Fewmets (droppings) of a female Fallow deer (doe) together with urine in snow on path near lake.  24th January 2013.

Although a sprinkling of snow occurred before Christmas, the main fall in January happened on the 21st January and lasted for about a week. A second fall was on the 11th February which rapidly cleared. Temperatures were seasonally low and it was not unusual for a snow flurry to happen but not settle. Although it was cold, the clear skies on the 17th - 19th February ensured that we had brilliant sunshine.

Pictured above are two scenes in the forest - the heathland near Chigwell Row  and a path to the lake gave the impression how things were. Michael Rumble captured scenes of the public placing in the snow and the animals coping on Foxburrows Farm. These are shown below at the foot of this page in Snow extra.

The snow brings the opportunity to look for animals tracks and signs. At the back of the lake was some droppings and urine - pictured left. The droppings were pointed at one end and rounded the other - see inset. These are characteristic of a female fallow deer or Fallow doe and the urine at the same spot confirms this. The male Fallow buck's droppings are pointed, but not so rounded and they are concave at the other end. There are special names for animal droppings or scat and animal detectives who look out for this are scatologists. Fallow droppings are correctly called Fewmets. More details of how to be an Animal Detective can be found on the HOME PAGE.

At the turn of the year hazel catkins become noticeable. They are the male flowers and will mature and shed cloud of pollen in the wind. On the 17th February the female flowers were noticed and are red appearing at the base of the catkins and elsewhere on the twigs. It is the female flowers that will catch the pollen and will produce the familiar hazel nuts in the autumn. Another early flower is the Snowdrop which was found flowering on the 19th February on Hog hill. .

Several birds feed around the café including chaffinches, pied wagtails and robins. This Robin (left) ventured into the café and was skilfully caught by the Country Park Manager, Paul Browne.

The resident swan pair vanished during the Olympics and a pair of very young birds in their first year as adults have recently appeared on the lake. The male or cob goes into a threatening mode if you approach too near, standing at his full height with his head and beak pointing skyward. It will be interesting to see if they will breed this year. A comparison between the sexes can be made by looking it the base of the bill. The cob has a pronounced knob and the female or pen has a much smaller one. Michael Rumble has captured a close up of the cob which is no longer an ugly duckling and he looks as if he knows it!

                        .......A flock of swans spied him there and very soon agreed
                        You’re a very fine swan indeed!

                        A swan? Me a swan? Ah, go on!
                        And he said yes, you’re a swan
                        Take a look at yourself in the lake and you’ll see
                        And he looked, and he saw, and he said
                        I am a swan! Wheeeeeeee!

Also magnificent is the photograph of the drake Mallard. Here Michael has captured the green sheen on its head. Many birds are now developing their spring plumage for the breeding season. The males are generally brighter coloured. The females need to be a more drab colour as they need to blend in with their surroundings while incubating their eggs. During February the flock of Black headed gulls have now got their "black" heads which in fact are dark brown.

When the lake freezes over the waterfowl can succumb to the predation of foxes. It generally happens that an area of the lake remains open water when their is a large concentration of birds gathering together. Pictured below is one such stretch of water where Canada geese, Mallards, Coots, Moorhen gather.

The farm has to function 365 days a year despite the weather when transport breaks down and schools close. The three Meercats have thick winter coats and look in top condition, as do the rabbits. The Mangalitza pigs have thick coats, the goats look well and a credit to the staff who do a magnificent job keeping fresh water available even when all the pipes are frozen. Food and bedding are also very important. Hay and straw has to be bought in for food and bedding.

Jess Burnett is a volunteer at Hainault. She is also an artist. On a rare sunny day in mid February Jess was found painting a fox portrait on an old churn. The churn will be a feature on the Foxburrows Farm.

 

Above: Robin held by Country Park Manager Paul Browne after being caught in the Global café.

Photo © Michael Rumble 5th February 2013.

Left and below: Hazel catkins ready to shed the pollen and the female red flower and buds which

will develop into Hazel nuts in the autumn. 17th Feb. 

Cob and Pen mute swan, Compare the base of their bills,

Male mute swan's threatening pose, the female looks on. The lake. 18th February 2013

Snowdrop flowering on Hog Hill 19th February 2013  Photo © Michael Rumble

No longer the ugly duckling. A young cob male mute swan in his second year. Photo © Michael Rumble 19th February 2013 

Mallard drake. The sun has highlighted the green sheen of the head feathers. Photo © Michael Rumble 4th February 2013

The lake. Photos © Michael Rumble 19th February 2013

Rabbits in the sunshine.  Photo Michael © Rumble 5th February 2013. Mallards, Canada geese, coot and Moorhen find some open water in the frozen lake.  24th January 2013

Volunteer and artist Jess Burnett decorates an old churn with a portrait of a fox. 17th February 2013.  Hay delivery  Photo Michael © Rumble 5th February

Meercat with thick winter coat. Photo © Michael Rumble 5th February 2013.

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January 18th Snow Extra

Although a light covering of snow occurred in Hainault on 5th December last the first real snow of the winter happened on 18th January and lasted for several days. The Country Park was closed to cars for safety purposes as the road wasn't clear for vehicles for three days and there were many families enjoying the snow on the slopes of Hoghill as above. Photo © Michael Rumble

The Global café had sledges for sale but one child with parent had a very up market version.  Photos © Michael Rumble

On the farm the Mangalitza Hairy Pigs must have welcomed their thick coats. This rare breed originates from Hungary and Austria.

Photo © Michael Rumble

The Muscovy duck isn't phased by the snow but the Meercats are cautious.  Photos © Michael Rumble

The robin and pied wagtail hunt in the snow around the café  Photos © Michael Rumble

Another view of Hoghill.  Photo © Michael Rumble

Horses forage for grass in the snow on the farm.  Photo © Michael Rumble