A memorably warm and dry June and July contributed to a successful breeding season for birds in Upper Dulwich Woods, and in the neighbouring gardens. August was wetter, but by then, according to the RSPB, many species had fledged their second or third broods. The August rains may well have encouraged even more insect life upon which many birds depend during the warmer months. But too late for the half-dozen or so Swifts that had nested in the eves of the Victorian houses at the top of Jasper Road: they departed on their migration south at the end of July. Swifts are a bird of conservation concern; their numbers have declined dramatically in the past 10 years, so it is a real privilege to see them in South Dulwich.

Unfortunately, no Hirundines were seen in the vicinity of Upper Dulwich Woods, though over the Crystal Palace Parade and into the park there were both Swallows and House Martins. The abundance of natural resources all the way up the food chain attracted the common Corvids to the Woods: Carrion Crows and Magpies are bold and easily observed. Jays are more elusive; their screech is more often heard than the bird seen. However, I watched, fascinated, as one very agile Jay chased a recently fledged Great Tit through the understory pursued by a flock of anxious adults. Jays are opportunist feeders and with hungry mouths to feed, small birds are welcome protein sources. And speaking of predators, I spotted both Kestrel (another once common bird now on the Amber List) and Sparrowhawk - the latter superbly adapted to woodland hunting.

As summer turns to autumn, and many species migrate south to warmer climes, the native birds are left to enjoy Upper Dulwich Wood alone, for a few weeks at least. Amongst them are Goldfinches, three species of titmouse, Nuthatches, Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Thrushes, Wrens, Pigeons and non-migratory Chiff Chaffs. Winter visitors from Scandinavia and Continental Europe will later join them. In recent weeks the climbing ivy has come into flower, and as winter approaches this is a vital late source of nectar for the struggling honeybee, Apis mellifera, as they prepare for hibernation; it was good to see bees at work in October. This year must have delivered a bumper honey harvest for Village beekeepers.

On a gloriously warm and sunny early September evening Brian Green hosted a “Bats, Buildings and Bubbly” event at the Golf Club, and beyond into Dulwich Woods (the larger and better-known local woodland that stretches from Sydenham Hill Station, via the Dulwich and Sydenham Hill Golf Club, almost all the way to the Horniman Museum). Brian talked knowledgeably about the history of the Woods and the surrounding countryside, from its time as a possible Roman fort through more recent employment as farmland to the present day leisure and conservation usage.

According to the London Wildlife Trust wardens who guided the forty of so nature enthusiasts in search of early evening bats, Dulwich Wood is designated an ancient woodland; it formed part of the Great North Wood (“Norwood”) and at some point, centuries earlier, would have been part of the same forest as Upper Dulwich Wood. We were able to locate only one of the five species of bat regularly seen in the Wood by sound - via the very expensive ultrasonic bat detectors that the Wardens carried. Nevertheless, we had good views of woodpeckers and a Sparrowhawk was seen overhead, its characteristic flight pattern - flap-flap-glide - making it easy to detect, even without binoculars.

Bjorn Blanchard