There must be some strange ornithological magnetism about the lower end of Gipsy Hill as notwithstanding the fall of a collapsed Hen Harrier last May in Oaks Avenue, in October a Brent Goose landed on the Paxton Green roundabout, took a walk down Gipsy Road before heading off in a south easterly direction. Unlike the ever present Canada Geese the Dark Bellied Brent Goose is a winter migrant from arctic Russia which comes in huge numbers to our estuaries. This bird had clearly overshot, perhaps in a high wind. Having found its way from Siberia it should have be able to back track to the Thames estuary. An amused reader suggested that perhaps it was seeking treatment from the Health Centre or the Vet further down the road, but the appearances are that it needed no more than migratory counselling. But to my knowledge it was the first record for a Brent Goose in Dulwich.
Another unusual record was of a Long Tailed Tit with a white head seen in Sydenham Hill wood, a record that got as far as Derwent May’s Nature Notes Column in the Times. The record was remarkable because the Scandinavian subspecies of the Long Tailed Tit has an all white head, and this is never recorded in the UK. However a Long Tailed Tit is no Brent Goose and it is difficult to imagine how such a delicate little bird could have made it across the North Sea. So we may have to conclude that this was a leucistic variant from our own breeding stock, comparable to the white Sparrow we described last year.
However other stronger little birds do make it, most notably now, east European Blackcaps, a pair of which were seen in Gardner Thompson’s garden. These can be a confusing identification as although the male has a black cap the female has a chestnut brown cap which will of course help Blackcaps to identify each other, but raises difficulties for the amateur ornithologist . One has to blame the confusion on a male bias amongst the taxonomists who select these names. The summer Blackcaps are now in Spain.
About thirty Dulwich residents took part in the winter walk in Sydenham Hill Wood with Daniel Greenwood in early December and were rewarded by a fine day and a good selection of our winter woodland birds including Redwings, Nuthatches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Goldcrests. Up to four Firecrests have been recorded there this winter which have become a regular winter sighting and probably our rarest regular visitor. But apart from the above records the winter has not at the time of writing proved severe enough to bring in the large flocks of Redwings and Fieldfares that often appear. But the colder weather of this January may change this and amongst the smaller birds we may see Siskins, Redpolls and even a Brambling. There has sometimes been a drake Shoveler in Bel Aire and this too is a regular winter visitor that complements the many Mallards. I will as ever welcome the records of anything that may be seen and am happy to help with identification problems.