A topsy turvy summer with drought in the early part and rain later has had its effect on our wildlife. In my last article I expressed the hope that our Blackbirds, Thrushes and Robins would manage more than one brood. As it happened the ground was excessively dry and worms were in short supply, so we noticed fewer than usual fledglings in our gardens. Tits on the other hand, dependent on small caterpillars in the tree canopies appear to have done very well and replaced population losses of the severe winter. There has also been success in some of our now small House Sparrow populations and Goldfinches are plentiful in our gardens. Blackcaps are plentiful again this year and Whitethroats are colonising areas of waste ground and are clearly now one of our breeding birds.
Swifts have returned in their usual small numbers and at the time of writing are exercising their young before their regular departure in the first week of August.
There has been some anxiety nationally about our House Martin population as they seem to be in trouble on their winter grounds. Our nesting population is undoubtedly smaller than in former years but there are at least five nests in Burbage Road and hopefully they will manage more than one brood before their departure in late September or early October. The one sad note is that the Little Grebes in Dulwich Park have failed in their nesting attempts this year. They make floating nests and are therefore susceptible to water level changes. Hopefully they will do better next year.
Once again Jersey Tiger moths have appeared in our gardens. They are a new addition to our fauna and are surprising people who are unused to day-flying moths, particularly as spectacular as these, and when butterflies are in short supply.
I get numbers of calls from people who are puzzled by what they see. Male Sparrow Hawks which have blue/ grey backs and wings can be mistaken for Hobbies or Merlins. Fledgling birds particularly Blackbirds and Robins can present a confusing appearance. Robins in London have a habit of singing at night and were perhaps the Nightingales of Berkeley Square, and even the mellifluousness of the Blackcap can tempt people to suspect something more exotic. I am always happy to advise on your observations so do keep the records and calls coming.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)