At the time of writing we are in the grip of our coldest winter for years which will hopefully have resolved by the time this article is read. However the extremes of weather are bringing a surge of winter visitors into town perhaps to avoid the rigours of the rural low temperatures. Most noticeable are the large numbers of Redwings which are descending from the tops of trees to devour the remaining berries of our gardens and these are increasingly being accompanied by that other northern thrush the Fieldfare, distinguished by its light blue head and rump. The Siskin, a northern Canary like finch has also appeared, and this will be seen on nut feeders and can be distinguished from the much more common Greenfinches by its smaller size and yellow green plumage. More unusual has been the appearance of Redpolls which are small Linnet like finches that do not usually come to feeders, but may be seen on the birches in Dulwich park where they feed in groups and can easily be mistaken for Tits which often accompany them along with Siskins. These were very regular in the eighties but have been only very sporadic since then. A Blackcap which is usually one of our regular summer breeding visitors has also been seen and these birds are not our own breeders but a population from eastern Europe that has started to use the UK as a winter site in preference to following our breeding population into Iberia.
There have been some very unusual records, Most notable was five birds in the area close to the velodrome which had the appearance of Dotterels. These are very rare and quite colourful Plovers that breed in small numbers on the high Cairngorms in Scotland but also in larger numbers in Scandinavia. If seen in the south of England they are normally on their Autumn migration and the target of multiple twitchers. The more common winter plover in the south of England is the Golden Plover which we could see on our playing fields in cold weather, but these have a more drab brown appearance in the winter and the description given to me of the plovers seen more nearly matched the plumage of Dotterel in the reporter’s bird book. Another first record for Dulwich was a Peregrine, seen to take a Wood Pigeon in Sydenham Hill. Peregrines have been becoming more common and now have entered cities including London to nest on high buildings from where they feed on the copious supply of feral pigeons. We have not had a previous record but it was perhaps a matter of time before a report appeared.
In my last report I recounted the saga of a Sparrow Hawk that ate our female Great Tit and compelled the male to bring up their young on his own. There was alas a sad sequel. We came one day to find a dying young male Sparrow Hawk upon our patio that had clearly hit our window in pursuit of more prey. The impact must have been very great. It is not unusual for birds to hit windows and stun themselves but they usually recover and if you find a stunned bird simply picking it up and warming it in your hand is often sufficient to enable recovery. But this was a case of the “biter bit”.
If this winter continues as it has started there will undoubtedly be more records which I will be happy to receive for the next report.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder ((020 7274 4567)