Global warming gave us a searingly hot summer and a major drought through the natural breeding season of most of our small birds, and it would seem to have affected some species more than others. Populations should have doubled or quadrupled by autumn to withstand the expected losses in the coming winter. Blue and Great Tits and also the Long Tailed Tits appear to have fared well but House Sparrows seem to have suffered yet another setback. They are dependent upon caterpillar type food to feed their young and if this is not available in sufficient quantity the young will not survive. The previously well established colony around the Burbage Road Surgery has disappeared, not helped by the over-zealous pruning of the Forsythia hedging that had been their cover.
Of our summer migrants Blackcaps were abundant, probably because they will take a broad variety of food whereas Chiffchaffs, which are insect dependent, were less in evidence. Usually in late September and October they can be seen feeding in the company of Tit flocks before they migrate south, but this year very few were to be seen. House Martins, which were in short supply in early summer, clearly did very well and when a Sparrow Hawk paid a visit I saw 50 or more take to the air. Where they have built new nests these should be left through the winter to enable early breeding next year. (My house painter painted a House Martin's nest white one winter and they never used it again!). I noticed also that House Martins were often to be seen flying around the Horse Chestnut trees so they may be taking the micro-moths which are so devastating to our Chestnuts.
The Dabchicks that were nesting on the Dulwich Park lake were unfortunately not successful but have been seen there subsequently so may well try again next year. And there is good news about the Editor's Mandarin Ducks. They moved from his garden to Belair and have now moved on to the Dulwich Park lake where the male is in all his finery. He is not always easy to see as he tends to hide around the island, but people should look out for him as he is one of the ornithological jewels.
I had a report from Patricia Hole in early October that she looked skywards and saw what she thought was a flock of cranes. This is not as fantastic as it may seem as it followed a day of bad weather and as the normal migration route is from Scandinavia to Spain via northern France they could well have been diverted. I would be very interested to know if anyone else has seen them. Paul Bradbeer is good at finding rarities when he revisits Dulwich and telephoned me to say that he had seen a Firecrest. We do have a population of Goldcrests, the smallest British bird and often difficult to see, although those with good hearing can pick up its very high pitched song. The Firecrest is equally difficult but brighter and a good tick for a twitcher.
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