The late summer and autumn has not produced many extra records of wildlife sightings in Dulwich. This is not entirely surprising as fine weather enables successful nesting and an easy passage for migrating birds. The migrants will indeed be passing over, mostly at night and radar records indicate that the numbers are often very large. During the Second World War, the interference on radar screens were known as displays of angels until it was recognized that they were looking at bird migration. A weather disturbance will bring the birds down and it is then that we see them in our parks and gardens which are a feeding refuge. And when the numbers are large as with the Willow warblers this year in Dulwich park that I noted in the Spring edition, we describe it as a “fall”. Some of us were lucky also to see a Pied Flycatcher and there was also a Ring Ouzel, both birds that were heading north, hopefully with success. These are birds that can be seen in any year, so it is well worthwhile to keep our eyes open, both in Spring and Autumn.

The Ring Ouzel, known as the Blackbird of the north is a strikingly handsome bird with a prominent white crescent across his breast, and both our species of Flycatcher can be identified by their feeding habit of darting from a favourite perch to take flying insects.

Our gardens are the country’s best nature reserve and offer the chance of survival of our migrating native birds. But also they are the feeding stations for our native bees and butterflies. The Small Tortoiseshell, once one of the most abundant of our butterflies had suffered a catastrophic decline in recent years largely due to inclement summers, and the Peacock butterfly was similarly but less affected. The fine weather this year has produced a remarkable recovery and these butterflies were abundant out of town. They started to appear in our gardens in smaller numbers and hopefully will be with us next year. However the late summer hatching of both these species hibernate often under eaves, in attics or garden sheds so some means of access is useful. They will then appear on fine days in early spring and lay eggs upon the young stinging nettles that we may not have got round to weeding out. Red Admirals and Painted Ladies migrate in variable numbers from Europe and are therefore less of a conservation problem for us, but all will benefit from nectar rich plants, most notably Buddleias, mercifully common as escapee shrubs on our railway sides.

We do have more unusual butterflies in Dulwich, both small and not easily seen. The White Letter Hairstreak, so named after its wing pattern, is nationally threatened partly because the caterpillar’s food plant is the Elm and the Purple Hairstreak  that lives in the high canopy of the Oak trees of the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill woods, is more common but very difficult to spot.. It will be interesting to hear if readers have been seeing some of our more obscure wildlife such as these small butterflies.

Peter Roseveare
Wildlife Recorder
(Tel: 020 7274 4567)