Bethnal Green Nature Reserve – 2022 invertebrates review

Set a couple of blocks back from a busy inner city A-road and tucked up against the back of a Sixth Form School is a little patch of greenspace that is the Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Often overlooked, this volunteer run space offers a little patch of tranquility in the heart of Bethnal Green. I have volunteered here on an ad hoc basis over the year helping with woodland management, pond restoration, turning compost, and whatever else needs attention. This has been a great way to spend a Saturday morning – getting my hands dirty and chatting with other local people who have a stake in the space.

It has also been a perfect place for me to explore my growing interest in invertebrate macro photography and I’m keen to revisit the site again in early 2023 to see what else I can unearth there. There was very little knowledge of the invertebrates living at and using this site with no records submitted to the local environmental records centre. Without any formal recording plan and following the site’s ethos of ‘tread lightly & do no harm’ I have now added 152 invertebrate records across 82 species for the site. And I’m sure this has only scratched the surface.

I was also lucky enough to be invited to spend a few days with some of the site volunteers looking at the different habitat types and the invertebrate assemblage types that are found here. Below are photos taken by the volunteers at these various events.

A series of half-day-long events were organised to explore the invertebrates of Bethnal Green Nature Reserve. Attendance was fantastic and I would like to thank everyone who came along and participated – even those who were a little less keen on our invertebrate neighbours than some others. We looked at nocturnal, pollinating, pond, and leaf litter & soil-dwelling invertebrates. I certainly had a fantastic time and I believe that the volunteers now all have a greater consideration and appreciation for the invertebrate life that is found here. I think this is exemplified by the video below of a Willow Emerald Damselfly (Chalcolestes viridis) captured from the edge of the pond, which was shared in a WhatsApp group by one of the volunteers.

This is a good start. There’s a lot more to be done here in terms of understanding the invertebrate fauna of the site, but there is a willingness, even an eagerness, to do so. I hope that I will be able to support and attend more of these activities over the coming years while we get to know this little urban oasis and all of its many inhabitants better.

To help with this I have now created an iRecord activity where future records from the site can be entered so that they are all kept together and start to build a clearer impression of all the life here as seen and recorded by the people who love and use the site.

Author: Gino Brignoli

Currently employed as FSC BioLinks Project Officer for London, I am coordinating invertebrate-focused place-based volunteer training and delivering a range of recording project activities across London. I am also developing and delivering online training courses and content focusing on invertebrate taxonomy, field ID and ecology through a virtual learning platform. You can find out more about the project here. Previously ant genomics and evolution Research Assistant at Queen Mary University of London. With a keen interest in ecology and entomology, I have volunteered with the Lepidoptera department and Soil Biodiversity Group at the Natural History Museum, and on the Thorn to Orchid and Water for Wildlife projects with London Wildlife Trust.

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