In the midst of this age of lockdowns we may be able to remember the sunny weather of last April and May with those marvelous blossoms, the legacy of which has been a bumper berry crop which has lasted well into winter. This has proved a bonanza for our visiting Redwings which have descended in flocks to gorge on the beanfeast. Hawthorn berries must taste better than Cotoneaster as in my garden they did not embark on the Cotoneaster until the Hawthorn crop was finished. They have now stripped the lot and moved on to pastures new and will probably soon to be seen on the grass in the park or sports fields when they have to revert to worms before returning to Scandinavia.
After my lament in the last issue of the absence of Blackbirds a few have now returned although some may be continental birds that have come in with the Redwings. Apparently continental male Blackbirds do not have the bright golden yellow beaks of Brexit Blackbirds. We will have to wait until we hear how many are singing when they start in February to see the full picture. Starlings alas seem to be absent so perhaps have gone to murmurate elsewhere.
Our most notable new record this winter has been a Hawfinch spotted by Paul Collins in Norwood cemetery in November. Our London cemeteries are recognized as quiet wildlife sanctuaries and this may be particularly so now as our parks are often so full. The Hawfinch is the largest of our finches and perhaps the most difficult to see as their favoured habitat is high tree canopy. Apart from their fine plumage their most distinguished characteristic is their large beak adapted for the opening of tough seeds. The historic record of Professor Peter Branscombe did mention Hawfinches as having been present in our woods in pre-war times and Hornbeam seeds are known to be on their diet which we can provide. There was a national Hawfinch invasion in the winter two years ago but we did not record any here although we could easily have missed them.
The feedback from my zoom talk in December has been interesting. One of the contributors spoke of seeing a massive raptor flying over; neither a Buzzard nor a Kite. A White Tailed Sea Eagle settlement project is taking place on the Isle of Wight and one bird was reported to have gone off piste and took a flyabout around the south east and was observed flying over London. It has I gather now returned to base but we can be reasonably sure that our observer was correct that this was indeed her bird.
Tawny Owls do not often venture out of the woods but Sharon O’Connor reports one calling near the College Road entrance to Lovers Lane. Following on from this a young branching Tawny Owl had been photographed by Harry Rutherford in his College Road garden where it had clearly bred last year. Tawny Owls are very faithful to their territories so they can be expected to return.
One of the additional benefits of my talk was to hear of wildlife expertise in Dulwich. Czech Conroy is an expert on dragonflies and was able to provide new information on the range of dragonflies here. He was able to identify an Emerald Damselfly in the park last summer which was a species new to me amongst a number of others. Hopefully we will be able to do a wider review with him this year. Harry Rutherford who has written in previous issues of the magazine of his experiences with his moth trap has discovered a species of moth new to Britain. It took him three years to get it accepted but after records came up from elsewhere his discovery was confirmed. Jeff Doodson who is now a member of the Wildlife committee also has entomological expertise which will be particularly useful since we have to focus more and more upon insects as key to the survival of our wildlife not least ourselves.
I was interested to learn this week that the Egyptian Geese that we now see regularly in Dulwich Park are in fact ducks and related to the Shelducks that we see on our muddy river estuaries.. This makes sense as readers will observe that the males and females are dissimilar in plumage whereas in true geese the pairs are identical except of course to each other.
Readers may be frustrated in that their hanging bird feeders are being emptied by Parakeets before the Tits get a look in. Peter Grimsdale has developed the illustrated Parakeet Preventer Screen which apparently does the trick which he is willing to share with anyone who has the problem.
The feedback from the zoom talk was most welcome. Please carry on with any more of your records, photos and observations.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder