In early spring when hormones start flowing some of our local Mallards disperse around the area and appear in unlikely places, often being led by ducks pursued by multitudes of drakes. This year a saga arose in Alleyn Road when a limping duck arrived in the garden of Dr. Jan Welch in Alleyn Road. Perhaps the duck’s disability was such that she could not achieve lift off but she decided to stay put as the Lame Duck of Alleyn Road. She was visited by various drakes but as the accompanying photo showed there appeared to be a favoured male and we speculated that perhaps they might even achieve a family. However this was not to be so, but with the leg recovered they have decided that they are on to a good thing and have taken up more permanent residence to the extent of being able to challenge the cat. We await further bulletins.
On a more serious note we have had some interesting records the most unusual being a Crossbill in the grounds of the Picture Gallery. Crossbills are not easy birds to see as they spend their lives at the tops of pine trees where their beaks are adapted to extract the kernels from pine cones. They are obviously not resident in Dulwich but may be amongst the small birds that overfly us without the possibility of identification.
Little Owls have been seen again in Belair Park and tawny Owls are still breeding in the woods. A Red Kite has been once again seen overflying so it is perhaps only a matter of time before they become resident in this part of London. Of the summer migrants the short haul birds such as Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are maintaining their populations but the long haul migrants are in trouble. Swifts are fortunately still breeding here in small numbers in older houses but unfortunately our House Martins failed to turn up in May. I thought we had lost them completely but a pair arrived in late June and at the time of writing there are six birds in the Burbage Road colony. This is a far cry from the number of over fifty just a few years ago. This may partly relate to migration hazards or to the difficulty of building mud nests in dry years.
However, some of our resident birds are having a better year. There are sizable flocks of juvenile Goldfinches and Greenfinches flying about and also Starlings, which need to be mentioned as they have also been declining in recent years. With last year’s good breeding of Blackbirds there were bigger numbers of singing males giving morning and evening concerts. Hopefully this will be sustained when the song starts again next February.
As to other wildlife there are still a few Hedgehogs in Dulwich despite the national decline. We are encouraged to leave passage holes in our garden fences to keep them off the streets. It would be useful if readers could let me know of where they have seen Hedgehogs so that we can encourage protection. I rather suspect that as well as losing them from accidents with traffic they may also fall prey to our large numbers of foxes. It does not seem so far to be a good butterfly year in Dulwich, but there were a few Peacocks and Tortoiseshells and Brimstones early on, so we will need to wait for the results of the summer hatch.
Please continue to send your records both of unexpected wildlife and the anecdotes of unusual encounters and I am happy to give help with identification difficulties. The plumage of juvenile birds can be confusing and not always illustrated in the books.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (Tel: 0207 274 4567)