Following the dramatic reports of Sparrow Hawk kills of pigeons in previous articles comes the sad tale of a Collared Dove in Ron and Pat Kidd's garden in Half Moon Lane, caught and plucked on 31 July with photographic evidence. We don't have too many Collared Doves in Dulwich so cannot really have spared this one. They are much less intrusive than the ubiquitous Feral and Wood Pigeons, although the monotony of their calls can grate (sometimes depicted by the words "It's awful, it's awful"). One other dove made its appearance this summer, the easily overlooked and very shy Stock Dove about five of which took advantage of the closure of the velodrome to feed on the central grass. They probably are resident here in the cover of our woodlands, distinguished from the Wood Pigeons by their smaller size, blue-grey colouration and an emerald green area on each side of the neck. It was the first time I had definitely seen them in Dulwich but perhaps I had simply missed them over previous years.
Our Dulwich birds this summer appear to have had a good enough year. House Martins and Swifts clearly bred well with sometimes over 50 of each species to be seen at one time. A Whitethroat and two or three Blackcaps nested in the velodrome site, House Sparrows once more returned to our gardens and a good number of Blackbird, Great, Blue and Long Tailed Tit families are now feeding in flocks together with the occasional Coal Tit. There was also a report by Mr and Mrs Harrod who live nearby of Nightingales singing in Sydenham Hill Woods, though by the time I went to listen it was past their singing season. The year also yielded a surprising number of Goldfinches which clearly successfully bred although these are now much less in evidence. The endangered Lesser Spotted Woodpecker was once more seen in College Road and both the Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been visiting our gardens regularly, the Green Woodpeckers being partial to ants.
The Wildlife Group of the Dulwich Society asked David Clark and myself to conduct a survey of birds in Dulwich Park during the breeding season and we made a prolonged visit on the morning of May 17th. We found a total of 32 species but probably counted half the birds present as it was evident that most of their better halves were sitting on nests. Most numerous were Robins and Blackbirds with respectively 36 and 38 territories representing twice that number of birds. We counted seven singing male Song Thrushes which I estimate must be 50% down on past times, but twelve singing male Chaffinches was a larger number than I expected. Ring Necked Parakeets are becoming a regular feature of the park. We counted five and I see a regular party of six or more commuting between Dulwich and Brockwell Parks and Brian Green tells me that they have taken up residence in hole in a tree next to his garden.
Butterfly numbers fluctuate from year to year and this year I saw fewer Orange Tips than usual. But the wild area of the velodrome carried significant numbers of Gatekeepers, Meadow Browns, Speckled Woods, Large and Small Skippers, Common and Holly Blues with both Red Admirals and Tortoiseshells breeding in the nettles. These insects are clearly the residual population from more rural times and if we wish to retain them we will need to keep this as a wild area.
Ian Holt of the London Wildlife Trust tells me that they have been trapping and surveying the Bats of the Dulwich Woods on which I hope to report next time. In the meantime keep giving me your reports and any photographs that you may have taken.
Wildlife Recorder (tel: 020 7274 4567)