This Autumn has been quiet and in contrast to my last report there have been few outstanding or unusual records. So, perhaps it is the moment to reflect on some issues concerning the present state of our wildlife However one notable report was of a flock of “thrushes” in late September. Were they early Redwings? In fact the description eventually drew us to the conclusion that they were Blackbirds, probably juveniles more usually seen singly or in pairs on our lawns. What of course is not often recognized is that there is considerable migration movement of Blackbirds in Autumn as occurs with the Scandinavian Thrushes that visit us in the winter. Many of our so called residents are in fact partial migrants and those that we see in winter are not necessarily the same individuals as on our summer lawns.

Staying with Thrushes, several of my column readers have commented that they never see a Song Thrush these days. In fact there are still Song Thrushes about but there are perhaps half the number that we remember in the 1980s.

Their primary food source is snails which they characteristically smash out of their shells on favourite stones or “anvils”. It may be that slug pellets that the gardeners use are the problem but other factors have come into play. Our gardens are generally good feeding stations but well kept gardens may not be ideal nesting sites. Nest predation from Cats, Magpies, Crows, Jays and even Foxes is an increasing problem and open cup nests in a well kept bush are easy pickings. Even nest boxes are not entirely safe as Great Spotted Woodpeckers will enlarge the entry hole to get at the young Tits. We are probably therefore having to rely on untended areas such as our railway tracks to provide the cover for nest protection, which may not provide us with the numbers in our gardens that we have been used to.

I did observe a nest drama with the arrival of a Crow to raid the next door Magpie nest. The agitated pair summoned up the local Magpie mob which proceeded en masse to assault the Crow. However he proved to be too strong for the lot and there were no baby Magpies this year. It is a jungle out there.

Our House Sparrows are in continuing difficulties. In spite of the documented white Sparrow in Acacia Grove in the last magazine there is continuing loss of colonies. The problem appears to be poor fledging success. Whereas House Sparrows for most of the year are seed eating scavengers, when fledging their young they are dependent on a supply of soft invertebrates as food source. By clearing our aphids and small caterpillars of our roses we may be depriving them of their most valuable resource. Similar issues arise with some of our Butterflies. Given the great recovery of Tortoiseshells outside London I would have liked to see more of them here with gardens full of nectar and Buddleia shrubs everywhere. However we need the appropriate food plants for the caterpillars, namely Stinging Nettles, not everybody’s favourite garden plant.

So in conclusion if we are to sustain our biodiversity we are going to need more of a wildlife gardening movement to go with the horticultural successes that we see all around us.

Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (Tel:0207 274 4567)