City of London conservation management project sees twitchers spot rare breeds in Wanstead parks

Jono Lethbridge photographed this Winchat in Wanstead
Jono Lethbridge photographed this Winchat in Wanstead

A record number of bird species have been spotted in two London parks.

Twitchers recorded 135 different bird species at Wanstead Flats and Wanstead Park in east London in a wildlife conservation report published last week.

The Wren Group and Wanstead Birding bloggers, who compiled the report, spent thousands of hours at the green spaces, accumulating the data for conservation management use by the City of London Corporation, which runs the Wanstead sites as part of Epping Forest.

Although the sites are a relatively small area, it features a wide variety of habitats: mature woodland, grassland, hawthorn and broom scrub, small copses and both permanent and ephemeral pools, which attract a wide variety of birds.

In addition to breeding specialities such as Skylarks, Meadow Pipits and Common Whitethroats, the scrubby areas of Wanstead Flats especially have a seemingly magnetic attraction for migrant birds during spring and autumn.

Highlights in 2013 included record numbers of Wheatears and Common Redstarts in spring, and Pied Flycatchers in autumn. The area is also particularly good for Whinchats and Spotted Flycatchers, which break their autumn migration to Africa to linger awhile and fatten up before the long journey south.  London rarities also showed up, including Stone Curlew, Wryneck and Barred Warbler.

Wren Group chairman Tim Harris, said the combined area was one of London’s most coveted sites.  "In spring and autumn it is one of the best places in London for migrant songbirds - and the results speak for themselves."

City of London Corporation’s head of conservation at Epping Forest, Jeremy Dagley said the detailed report was very valuable to the Corporation.

He added: "The records of Skylarks allow the City Corporation to monitor the impact of our grassland management strategy and to focus our efforts on this ground-nesting bird by engaging with people visiting the Flats, in areas where Skylarks nest, to try to reduce disturbance to them. It is great to see Wanstead put on the nature conservation map of London in this way."

Wanstead Flats – a former royal forest – and Wanstead Park - a 57ha Grade II listed park – are located in the southernmost portion of Epping Forest and were acquired by the City of London Corporation in 1880. The sites attract over 600,000 visits a year.

The Wanstead Bird Report is available online.


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