A wet summer has probably favoured more wildlife than it has harmed, particularly our amphibians, and the accompanying photograph should designate it as the year of the frog. But it has also been the year of the slug, with a preponderance of the huge brown ones. Downpours can flood out birds nests but the evidence is that most of our breeding birds have done well and that the young, once fledged, can find plenty of food. In fact drought can be one of the biggest hazards of wildlife survival as worms go deep and soft skinned invertebrates can die of desiccation before being eaten by nature's predators.
Butterflies can be a casualty of wet weather as most will preferentially fly in sunshine but warm moist nights favour moths. Moths are perhaps the most unseen gems of our wildlife and it is possible to find many of our most spectacular moths in Dulwich including Privet, Poplar, Eyed and Lime Hawk moths. However the surprise of the year was the discovery of a Jersey Tiger Moth by Jan Koris in her garden in Stradella Road, enabling her son to take a striking photograph. Realising that this was not a normal occurrence, I did a little research into this moth. It is common throughout southern Europe and as its name implies there is a substantial population in the Channel Islands. It first appeared on the English mainland in 1855 and established itself in Devon with a few records along the southern coastal counties as far as Sussex. I enquired from Malcolm Bridge, who is a local expert, and he informed me that an unexpected colony had appeared in the area of New Cross (a far cry from Jersey!) and it had been seen in Peckham before our record in Dulwich. It is possible that some eggs had been left by a collector, but the key fact is that the caterpillars feed on Dandelions and Mints, commonly available, and overwinter as caterpillars rather than chrysalides (pupae). A cold winter would presumably wipe them out, so yet another feature of global warming comes to Dulwich. It is to be hoped that we shall be rewarded by seeing more of them in coming years if global warming is to stay with us. In November another rarity was observed; a Hummingbird Hawk Moth visited a garden in Dulwich Village
At the time of writing in late October, all our trans -continental migrants have departed and if one looks skywards local migrants such as Pied and Grey Wagtails can be seen passing overhead as well as occasional Skylarks and Meadow Pipets although it is necessary to know their flight call to identify them. Tawney Owls are calling at night around Alleyn Park, having presumably bred in Dulwich Woods, and Little Owls are calling around Burbage Road. Following my last report of the scarcity of Hedgehogs, I now hear that they are plentiful around Great Brownings. The Little Grebes have taken up residence in Dulwich Park lake, so their breeding may hopefully become an annual occurrence, and the first of the winter's Shoveler Ducks has arrived.
I shall look forward to more of your records.
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