Spring came later this year with near zero temperatures lasting until the end of March. I had the unusual sight of frogs swimming in my pond under ice; a feat that I had no thought possible. However, the downside of this was that their spawn did not appear to be viable, so I hope other Dulwich frogs have been luckier.
But by mid-April spring had come in a rush, and all the buds in waiting burst into galaxies of colour and the spring bird migration was under way. At the time of writing Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are singing in our woods, parks and gardens, I have seen a steady northern passage of Swallows and House Martins passing through and I have heard both Willow Warblers and Lesser Whitethroats singing. Swallows require more rural areas to breed than we can offer although we will keep some of the House Martins. Lesser Whitethroats and Willow Warblers have bred around Dulwich in the past but have become less common and probably do not breed here now, although we can be hopeful. But the Common Whitethroat, which has not yet arrived, has started to breed in small numbers and I await its more forceful scratchy song to announce its presence.
The most spectacular spring migrant was seen by Bill Lees in Dulwich Common bordering the golf course and this was a Ring Ousel. This is otherwise known as the Blackbird of the north and breeds on the hills and moorlands of Scotland, north England and Wales, but a few are seen on migration in the south. It is larger than a Blackbird and has a striking white crescent across its breast that makes it instantly recognisable and is a special bird to see around here.
Another rather special bird seen by Audrey Lambert in her garden was a fine cock Brambling, a winter visitor that had stayed late into April. The bonus was that it was now in its fine breeding plumage with a black head, bright orange rust breast and shoulders and a white rump. Bramblings, like Chaffinches do not moult into their breeding plumage, instead, the dowdy tips of their outer feathers wear away, revealing their spectacular plumage as previously concealed under garments. This makes a spring sighting of a Brambling very special.
This article could not pass without the mention of an American Robin that appeared in Peckham this winter. Of course this was not truly a Dulwich bird but will have triggered a horde of twitchers to see it before it finally disappeared or succumbed. These are common birds on the other side of the Atlantic and are the same size as Blackbirds, but were called Robins by the settlers on account of their red breasts. I guess such an occurrence in Peckham could have been a gift for a Del Boy episode.
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