Hainault Forest Website
Designed by © Brian Ecott
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.
mouse in nest box. 10.12.06.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
on Hainault Lodge Reserve. 17th December 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
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 Trust’s 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
The award sets the
standard for the very best parks and green spaces in
England and Wales, and it is a first for Redbridge.
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.
Around 70 people
turned up on a wet Sunday morning for Peter Comber's Fungus
foray. 1st October 2006.
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.
Photo: 28th October 2006
Thanks to Thomas
Bardorf (Austrian Mycological Society for the correct
identification of this specimen.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Limenitis camilla Photo: Roes Well area 4th Sept. 06.
Harlequin ladybird Harmonia axyridis
var. succinea on oak leaf.
21st Sept 06.
Neuroterus saliens on Turkey oak midrib Photo: 15th
Natrix natrix on the heathland. Photo: 4th Sept. 06.
JANUARY - FEBRUARY
MARCH - APRIL
July - August 2006
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
31°C (88°F) and on Centenary Day the 15th it was hot and sunny and by the 17th and 18th it was 33°C (91.5°F) and a sweltering
36°F (97°F) on Wednesday 19th July when Gatwick officially recorded
36.3°C (97.3°F) 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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
Purple hairstreak on
Photo: 30th July 2006.
Purple hairstreak on Burdock leaf. Photo: 1st August 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
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
Photo: 13th May 2006.
Rabbit showing signs of
Myxomatosis with swellings around the eyes. Photo: 29th June 2006.
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 crèches 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
Spittle bug Cercopis
vulnerata on Hedge Parsley stem.
Photo: 15th May 2006.
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
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
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
Photo: 9th March.
Lycogala terrestre on hornbeam stump near Sheepwater.
Photographed 14th April.
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.
an owl pellet at the workshop on 1st April 2006. Photo:
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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.
pile on Hainault Lodge Nature Reserve.
MARCH - APRIL
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.
Second of the Centenary Events Programme - a Guided walk around
Hainault Lodge Local Nature Reserve on 19th February, led by John
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
The trees stand stoically in fine
Airborne droplets hesitate in
then gather together on
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
The ground is no longer
It does not glug in all
Now it repels, forces puddles
to wait, before being absorbed or evaporated.
Water in streams and ditches
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
disturbing decaying leaves on
Musty smells from mycelium
pervade the moist atmosphere
(and nasal membranes!)
fresh spring leaves emerge cautiously from hornbeam and
to challenge the patchwork of
hardy winter greens.
The dark green gung-ho holly
has grubby dust on last years glossy foliage,
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
Birds and squirrels are fled
to secret places and
even whinging squeaks about
the weather do not betray their presence.
Splashes, squelches and