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Rare species making Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park their home, report shows

PUBLISHED: 07:00 24 September 2020

The brown banded carder bee is one of the rare species reported at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Picture: Sam Ashfield

The brown banded carder bee is one of the rare species reported at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Picture: Sam Ashfield

Sam Ashfield

Rare plants and animals including the streaked bombardier beetle, black redstart, sand martin and brown-banded carder bee have made a Newham park home, a report shows.

There are 10 different habitats at the park including meadow and wetlands. Picture: LLDCThere are 10 different habitats at the park including meadow and wetlands. Picture: LLDC

Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park’s biodiversity action plan, is published about every five years, sets out the long-term environmental management of the site.

The park’s first plan in 2008 outlined proposals to create 10 new habitat types including wildflower meadows, woodlands, and wetlands. It also aimed to weave together the needs of wildlife and locals.

Twelve years later and the latest report finds that the park is a haven for rare species, both flora and fauna.

Ruth Holmes, from the London Legacy Development Corporation which manages the park, said: “We are thrilled the landscape that has been created as part of the regeneration supports so many rare species.

The Streaked Bombardier Beetle is another species reported at the park. Picture: UELThe Streaked Bombardier Beetle is another species reported at the park. Picture: UEL

“The [biodiversity action plan] helps to protect these vital plants, bugs and birds, which has such a positive impact on the communities using the park.”

Six “schedule one” birds have been recorded at the park. These birds are among the most protected in the UK.

Kingfisher, black redstart, Cetti’s warbler, fieldfare, redwing and peregrine falcon have all been spotted.

In addition, more than 1100 invertebrate species have been recorded, including 91 with a significant conservation status, meaning they are nationally scarce.

Reed buntings have been spotted at the park too. Picture: Martin Le MayReed buntings have been spotted at the park too. Picture: Martin Le May

Other species include the streaked bombardier beetle, which is so rare it was once thought to be extinct until a small number were discovered in east London about 15 years ago.

These beetles are found on brownfield habitats across the park. The beetle defends itself by spraying a boiling mixture of chemicals at predators.

The black redstart is one of Britain’s rarest birds. Numbers in London grew during the 1940s as sites left derelict by the Blitz offered them the ideal breeding habitat, giving them the nickname ‘bombsite bird.’

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The sand martin only spends part of the year in the park. They are summer visitors, arriving in April or May, and then leave by mid August, to start their journey back to Africa.

The brown-banded carder bee is a ginger coloured bee that nests in long grass. It depends on a variety of flowers like clover and knapweeds that are found in wildflower meadows. The species has declined rapidly with the loss of meadows, but it can be seen from May onwards in meadows and grasslands across the park.

Eels were once abandoned in the Thames, but numbers of European eels have dropped dramatically since the 1980s, making them one of our most critically endangered species.

European eels have been found in all four of the park’s waterways, but not in significant numbers.

Reed buntings are one of the park’s conservation success stories as there are few records of these rare birds on the site before the park was built.

Since the wetlands and reed beds were created, there’s been a steady increase in numbers with reed buntings breeding at the park every year since 2013.

Park Champions, the volunteers who help run the area, have played a key role in managing the habitats.

In total, they have scythed more than 13,000m2 of grasslands and managed invasive species along 2km of river corridors.

The restoration of waterways was a major part of the project to create habitats at the park. It involved the re-profiling of banks and channels that had seen centuries of intensive use.

More than 300,000 wetland plants were grown and planted to create the wetland.

A total of 150 bat boxes, 525 bird boxes, and two otter holts were introduced with more than 48 hectares of habitat created to date.

Catherine Norris, biodiversity manager at grounds maintenance firm id Verde, said: “It has been great to see the development of the park.

“I’ve seen first-hand the benefits that the Green Infrastructure has had for our visitors and volunteers, and the value of parks for people and wildlife.”


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