It is not often that one gets a phone call from the editor of the Dulwich Society Newsletter to state that he had just witnessed murder being committed, but this was the case on a bleak Monday morning in January. He was quick to qualify this to state that it was strictly ornithological and that a large raptor had done a pigeon to death in his back garden, and that he had photographic evidence for proof (in the absence of CCTV). I had in fact seen a raptor harrying birds over the velodrome and felt convinced that this must be a Peregrine Falcon as pigeons are standard Peregrine food. However, as the accompanying dramatic photograph shows this was in fact a female Sparrow Hawk. I was amazed that a Sparrow Hawk would take such a large prey as their usual fare are smaller visitors to our bird tables up to the size of a Blackbird. (It was the Duke of Wellington who famously recommended their use to Queen Victoria to clear Sparrows out of the Crystal Palace). So we still have to await our first visit to Dulwich from a Peregrine. It should not be too long as a pair now breeds on Battersea Power Station (in lieu of a convenient cliff).
Apart from this a mild winter has given few wildlife surprises. Sian Evans has spotted a Little Grebe or Dabchick on the lake in Brockwell Park which is an unusual occurrence so far from their habitual waterways. Few Redwings and Fieldfares have come into Town this year due in part to the exceptional berry crop in the countryside, but a few are tricking in now. A resident reported Redwings in her garden and noted the similarities to the Song Thrush from which it differs by having a striking pale stripe over each eye and a deep red underwing from which it gets its name. I have also seen a wintering Blackcap, normally a summer visitor though the winter birds appear to be visitors from other parts of Europe where they breed.
The main visitors to our feeders have been the stalwart Blue, Great and Long Tailed Tits and Greenfinches with also Great Spotted Woodpeckers which in January are already making their drumming display. The feeders remain an important resource for our garden birds which have been estimated to lose up to a third of their body weight in overnight roosting. Perhaps not so our local Blue Tits which I see heading into my neighbour's roof space at dusk, presumably to take advantage of his central heating. The park watchers continue to see the Ring Necked Parakeets which we can expect to breed this year and by the time this article goes to distribution the breeding season will have started and I shall continue to welcome your reports.
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