We are always pleased when we receive photographs from readers of their Dulwich wildlife encounters. The accompanying photo contributed by Annette McClay of a female Sparrow Hawk that could be entitled Pigeon Carnage was particularly fine though some may find its subject matter gruesome. Sparrow Hawks are fast and efficient bird hunters and one can be assured that the pigeon did not suffer. Female Sparrow Hawks are noticeably larger than their males and are capable of killing prey as large as a pigeon whereas the males have to content themselves with birds the size of a Sparrow. In survival terms it means that the two sexes by eating different prey do not compete with each other to the benefit of the species. “Sparrow Hawks, Ma’am” was the Duke of Wellington’s solution to Queen Victoria’s complaint of Sparrows in the Crystal Palace. We do not alas have the sparrows any more but he could have offered the same solution for the pigeons, provided he chose females.
This mild wet winter has not so far given a fund of unusual records but some may have noticed up to six Shoveler Ducks that have been oscillating between the Dulwich Park Lake and Bel Aire. The drakes are strikingly coloured with green heads white breasts and a deep maroon belly. They get their name from the large spade like beak with which they filter foodstuff from water surfaces. The different sizes and shape of beaks are among the essential features whereby closely related species manage not to compete with each other. Hence we see the ubiquitous Mallards, when they are not eating bread, upending to reach food growing from the pond bottom. The Shovelers do not appear to be interested in bread partly I suspect they have migrated from climes where bread was not so readily available. They are of course truly wild duck that have like many species been gradually adapting to live without fear in urban environments and like the Black Headed Gulls coming into London for the winter.
A follow up came to the story of the juvenile Egyptian Goose found wandering last year in Alleyn Park. John Ward reported that a pair of Egyptian Geese had nested in the Golf Course and one of the two juveniles had gone missing. We do not know its eventual fate but it was perhaps the Alleyn Park bird.
Last time I enquired whether anybody had seen any Hedghogs. Gladly there has been evidence that they are still alive and well in the allotments and there is evidence of them also in the woods with one venturing into the fortunately safe area of Peckarmans Wood. It is unfortunately less likely that we shall see them in our gardens where there is nearby road traffic.
At the time of writing we are beginning the winter’s first cold snap reminding us that Daffodils out in our January gardens do not mean that the winter is over and the Blackbird singing night and morning in Burbage Road has got it wrong. We may yet have some cold weather driven records and Redwings that were few and far between last year are now coming in to feed on our berry crop.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder
DAWN CHORUS WALK IN SYDENHAM HILL WOOD
Saturday 16 April at 4.45 - 7.00am London Wildlife Trust Free. Meet inside the southern entrance to Sydenham Hill Wood in Crescent Wood Road. More information telephone 07734 599 728
EVENING BIRD WALK IN SYDENHAM HILL WOOD
Thursday 19th May 7.00 - 9.00 pm Guided bird walk with London Wildlife Trust. Free. Meet inside the Crescent Wood Road gate.