Although at the time of writing the south east is having to recover from drought, the middle part of the summer was wet enough for the ground feeding birds such as Blackbirds and Robins, whose first broods may have failed due to the dry spring, to achieve some success with second broods. Hence there were some juveniles to be seen in our gardens in late summer, with some but not many young Starlings as compared with past years. But this summer illustrates that drought, almost as much as cold, can be a hazard for our wildlife and a birdbath is potentially as valuable as a feeder.
There has been discussion as to whether the rapid growth in population of Parakeets is presenting a danger to our native wildlife by use of available nest holes, and a paper in the British Journal of Ornithology magazine from Belgium suggested that there was damage to their population of Nuthatches from use of available nest sites by Parakeets. We do have a small population of Nuthatches which may be seen in Dulwich Park and the woods and sometimes coming into our gardens using nut feeders. For those unfamiliar with them they are an attractive Starling size bird with blue grey wings and back and a rusty orange breast. They are not always easy to see but have a quite loud fluty call and are notable in that they are the only tree trunk climbing bird that can turn round to go downwards. Woodpeckers and Tree Creepers can only go upwards and have to fly back to the bottom of a tree trunk to start again. So far the British populations of hole nesting birds seem to be unaffected by these green alien Parakeets and they will hopefully have to be absorbed as part of our accepted fauna, as indeed are urban foxes and feral pigeons, whose ancestors were the Rock Doves of north west Scotland. But if you are an unreformed alien hater a visit to the delightful Mandarin Ducks in Belair might change your mind.
The most notable records this year were Hobbys This small falcon is a summer migrant and both single birds and a family of three were seen in August and September giving the impression that they may have bred locally. They do now breed in good numbers in the south of England and as they are partial to House Martins to supplement their usual diet of dragon flies they may come into town for a gourmet meal. They are immensely aerobatic and the sight of a family of Hobbys hawking dragon flies and eating them on the wing is one of our spectacles.
Even more unusual was a Grey Partridge in Pond Mead off Half Moon Lane. We did have another in Half Moon Lane a few years ago. Grey Partridges are not common these days in their natural habitat of cornfields so what these birds were doing in Half Moon Lane is anyone’s guess.
Of wildlife other than birds to report Hedgehogs diminishing nationally and not recently reported in north Dulwich are still to be found in and around College Road. They need to be able to transfer between back gardens, otherwise too many stray on to the road and get run over. So garden fences need gaps.
Peter Roseveare Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)