A dry March followed by torrential April rainfall and June will have been a disaster for some species and a boon for others. Any bird that nests in a hole was probably alright and also for those high enough in the bushes. The beneficiaries will have been our Blackbirds, Thrushes and Robins which have had an abundance of available worms, slugs and snails and many appear to have been able to raise two broods. Ground nesting birds such as some of our Warblers many have been washed out. We do not appear to have had Little Grebes nesting in Dulwich Park this year, so they may have suffered the same fate.
It has been a real setback too for our butterflies and readers may have noticed an absence of Peacocks, Tortoiseshells and Commas in our gardens with only the occasional Cabbage White. However before the deluge there was a good number of Orange Tips and Holly Blues and we will now have to wait and see if our colourful butterflies return with better weather. Those who walk up Green Dale from East Dulwich Grove will pass an unmanaged field full of Thistles. This on a hot day in July proved to be full of our Grass Butterflies, Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Skippers and an abundance of bees feeding on the thistle flowers. The Vetch growing in this field is, I discovered, a Goats Rue, an uncommon garden escape. Our intended wild areas such as this are still the refuge of much of the wildlife missing from our countryside, and our gardens are the nation’s biggest nature reserve.
In May a Red Kite was seen flying over Sydenham Hill. The last report of a Red Kite was ten years ago, also in May, so this could well have been a migrant bird. The abundant Red Kites to the west of London have not so far penetrated as far as us even though in medieval times they were common in London. They were eliminated in the nineteenth century but have thrived on reintroduction. Buzzards, previously in the north and west, have now spread all over the country and one or two possible sightings over Dulwich have been reported. Hobbys which are summer visitor falcons are regular visitors and may breed nearby.
A Reed Warbler was singing vigorously in the newly established reed beds in Dulwich Park in July. There was no evidence of breeding so this was probably an unmated male, ever hopeful. However its presence gives hope that we may get breeding birds in future years where their elegantly woven nests will perhaps be seen suspended in the reeds.
Swifts are declining but there were screaming parties in July indicating that there has been breeding and there are at least House Martins around Burbage Road although I can only see one nest. There are hedgehogs reported in Great Brownings but not elsewhere recently. There was an unfortunate report of a dead young Great Spotted Woodpecker which made me think of how rarely we see dead birds in spite if what must have been quite a high natural mortality. Most of those we have seen have met with accidents which was probably the fate of this one.
Please maintain your records. They are the substance of my articles.
Peter Roseveare, Wildlife Recorder (Tel 020 7274 4567)