In April, Sydenham Hill Wood’s volunteers were at last rewarded for surviving an extreme winter in the Wood. January saw historically wet workdays, and for those not wearing decent wellies it was the case of sodden socks and shoes. But in the space of a couple of weeks the warm early spring weather had dried up most of Sydenham Hill Wood’s famously muddy and waterlogged pathways. Butterflies have appeared in good numbers and diversity, with the early Brimstone (the butter-coloured fly) cutting across the margins of sunny glade and shadowy wood, Peacocks have sunned themselves on the warm soil of the footpaths, whilst Commas and latterly the Speckled Wood have made their first forays of the year. Most strikingly, a Buzzard has been observed duelling with embattled Carrion Crows over the clearings of the Wood, as well as the Gun Site Allotments. The African migrants, Chiffchaff and Blackcap made their returns to favoured hedges on the 20th and 13th of March respectively.
Volunteers completed the final part of the three-year-long Ambrook and Dewy Pond restoration project in the final quarter of the financial year by installing a pond dipping platform and attractive palisade gate by the Dewy Pond in Dulwich Wood. The project was funded by the SITA Trust and the Dulwich Estate. This will enable school groups to enjoy pond dipping activities in a safe and comfortable manner. Volunteers have also tried their hand at pond dipping, conducting two dusky amphibian surveys of the Dewy Pond. In March, common frogs were observed in their highest numbers (6) for some years, a direct biodiversity enhancement from the restoration of the Dewy Pond. Eight smooth/palmate newt (only identifiable in the hand) were observed swimming amongst the aquatic vegetation.
Perhaps the most historically unique wildlife news is of the arrival of a new breeding bird for the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Woods. In the crevice of a y-shaped sessile oak in the Dulwich Wood borders near the entrance to Cox’s Walk a pair of Jackdaws have made a nest. This is the first time in over 60 years that the birds have nested in the area. Records from 1874-1909 regard the ‘daw’ as a rare visitor to Dulwich. The Dulwich jackdaws (also being spotted on the Village playing fields) are symbolic of the fluctuations amongst bird populations, especially after such steep declines in viable habitat for many wild creatures. Some visitors lament the appearance of the Ring-necked Parakeet in our local parks, woods and gardens, but it should be remembered that their long term presence is by no means assured.
In April we conducted a bat roost survey of the boxes installed throughout the Wood. Our resident Bat Ecologist, Huma Pearce, joined the workday to take bats from their roosts, to weigh them, measure their wingspan and to return them to their dwelling unharmed. Leisler’s bat and Soprano Pipistrelle were found, including 13 pipistrelles in one box. This could be a potential maternity roost and is a huge fillip for those who have given so much time and energy working to protect and promote bats in the Wood.
London Wildlife Trust’s conservation activities have not been contained merely to woodlands. In March, volunteers teamed up with the Dulwich Society to plant more than 20 metres of native hedgerow in the grounds of the Edward Alleyn Club on Burbage Road. This will boost local Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens and butterflies in need of food and shelter in the years to come.
Daniel Greenwood (Conservation Project Officer, Sydenham Hill Wood, London Wildlife Trust)