The onset of a genuine Spring as opposed to the repeated false starts that brought Daffodils out in January has brought with it a few records. Perhaps the most unusual for Dulwich was a Tree Pipit in Dulwich Park. This is a summer migrant which breeds in the lightly wooded heathlands in Surrey which would normally be passed off as a “little brown job” (LBJ) but was recognized by Paul Collins as it was singing its mellifluous song with which he is familiar.

Apart from this, a migrating Woodcock was seen wandering about a Burbage Road garden, the only Woodcock report we have had this year, Willow Warblers have been singing in Belair, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps are establishing territories. A Peregrine has been seen overflying Dulwich as have a few Swallows heading northwards. A pair of Egyptian Geese have nested in a tree near the cricket ground by Gallery Road and taken themselves to Belair where they have been attracting attention, with their family of five goslings.

Of further interest Brimstone butterflies have been seen in gardens more often this Spring. These are one of our only two yellow butterflies and the only one which is a true resident (the other being the Clouded Yellow, an intermittent visitor from the continent and most often seen near the southern coast). The Brimstone like Peacock and Tortoiseshell butterflies hibernates in its adult stage and emerges in the Spring to mate and lay eggs. Our mild winter must have assured a good survival. Tragically, having endured the ravages of winter these butterflies die off as soon as eggs are laid and we do not see them again until the next brood of adults emerges later in the summer. The food plant of the caterpillars is said to be Buckthorn, not common here , so they may be feeding on another plant or shrub.

Dave Clark has been doing regular biennial counts of the Dulwich Park birds. Although each count is just a snapshot of a particular day and perhaps dependent on both seasonal variations and weather conditions, comparison of the years begins to reveal trends. Whereas many of our familiar birds such as Robins, Blackbirds and Blue Tits have maintained their numbers; the fall in the number of Greenfinches is obvious and the number of Song and Mistle Thrushes is worryingly small.

The jury still has to be out on the activities of our Parakeets. We noticed that one of our neighbour’s Horse Chestnut Trees was having a massive fall of its young leaves. Further observation revealed that this tree was being visited night and morning by Parakeets en masse which were gorging on the young flowering shoots on the top half of this tree which is now almost bare of leaves. With the assault later in the year by the Leaf Miner moth this depredation is the last thing that Horse Chestnuts need. Why we wondered was this tree selected for the treatment and not its near neighbour and the only explanation would appear to be that it is being used as a staging post for a flock to gather before flying to roost and this is the last meal of the day. We shall be interested to hear if other tree owners have had similar experiences.

With the Spring migration not yet over we await more records and will have particular interest to see whether our House Martin colony can re-establish and that we will still have our breeding Swifts.

Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (Tel: 020 7274 4567)