It has been a bleak winter but we are perhaps fortunate in being spared the rigours of the weather further north. However bad weather further north brings winter visitors to us and we have been seeing flocks of Redwing. This is a Thrush similar to our Song Thrush but with a red underwing patch and a pale stripe above each eye. There were upwards of fifty birds in Dulwich park in mid January and smaller flocks in the velodrome site and also the woods with single birds turning up in gardens. There are two populations of Redwings that visit us in winter, one from Scandinavia that come in association with the larger and noisier Fieldfares, and the other from Iceland where there are no Fieldfares. We have not seen any Fieldfares this year so one can speculate that these may be Icelandic birds. If they stay into March they may on a fine day give a delightful flock chorus of subsong, not the same as their song on breeding territory which is much more strident, with similarities to that of a Mistle Thrush and not often heard here.

We have had other visitors. A Buzzard took up residence in the woods in December and was regularly seen being mobbed by Crows. It has not been seen in January but as Buzzards are now the commonest raptor nationwide no doubt more will appear. Blackcaps have been seen visiting bird tables. These winter Blackcaps are not the same birds as our mellifluous summer songsters who have gone to Spain for the winter, but are German and east European birds. They are reputed to be aggressive and bullying to others at the bird table (followers of Dad’s army could take note!)

Many of the Tufted Duck that we see on the Dulwich Park lake are winter visitors as also are the Shoveler that are often present. The Shoveler do not come to be fed at the waterside and it can be amusing to see a pair head to tail rotating with their heads down shoveling the lake bottom with their large beaks. We have also had vast numbers of Black headed Gulls this year with over two hundred in Dulwich Park and a few Common Gulls with them that reflect the inclement weather on our coasts.

Of our garden birds this winter the feeding flocks of Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tits have been coming to nut and seed feeders in usual numbers with often one or two Coal Tits, the smallest of the clan increasingly reported in gardens. Robins and Blackbirds are well maintained but Song Thrush numbers seem to be very low and along with our Sparrows we are not seeing many of our seed eating finches and surprisingly that LBJ (little brown job) the Dunnock is for the first year absent from my garden. There does appear to be a problem with the survival of some of our urban passerines.

Finally, however, I have for the first time to report a new resident in Dulwich and this is the Jackdaw, distinguished from other Crows by its smaller size, grey patch on its neck and the “Jack -Jack’ call from which it gets its name. It is surprising that it has not been here before as a breeding bird as it will be familiar to holiday makers as a common bird outside London, particularly where there are old buildings, barns or cliffs or indeed outdoor cream tea cafes. In the countryside they associate freely with Rooks but their reluctance to settle here may be that our abundant Carrion Crows are not good neighbours. We may also lack good breeding sites and Carrion Crows can be voracious egg predators as can be seen in their wars with Magpies. However there is a noisy group of at least six Jackdaws in Dulwich park whose calls compete well with the ubiquitous parakeets.

If readers have more winter records, photographs or comments I will be delighted to hear them and try and include them in my next article.

Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567 )