A wet summer unfortunately yields a low number of wildlife reports as many of our inhabitants are less visible, and watchers less enthusiastic. Interestingly, after our major storm at the end of April several people had the impression that their garden birds were less numerous, particularly the Blue and Great Tits which are normally abundant. Given the strength of the storm and the size of the hailstones it not surprising that there should be a casualty rate. Family parties of young Tits in May and June were less in evidence so breeding may well have been disrupted.

However, as the gardeners will have noticed there have been a huge number of aphids this year which has been a bonanza for the Swifts and the "screaming parties" of Swifts exercising their young round our house prior to their departure in August has been a welcome spin-off. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs have clearly done well and have been singing in our gardens right up to July, the population undoubtedly having overflowed from Dulwich Woods. Most welcome, has been the appearance of a Whitethroat as a breeding bird in the Herne Hill velodrome site with the successful fledging of young, from a nest in a patch of brambles. Our one red-listed endangered bird, the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, has also been seen in North Dulwich so hopefully it has bred somewhere locally.

People may have noticed House Sparrows in their gardens, the first for a long time. These birds tend to cluster in limited areas during the winter but distribute a little more widely in the summer when they will take caterpillars. I note they are particularly fond of a wild rose bush in the velodrome site. The Dulwich population is hopefully stabilizing.

In Dulwich we clearly have a great need to maintain areas of rough ground with native plants and some dense cover. This may even mean the encouragement of a few weeds. The Hedge Mustard, otherwise known as Jack by the Hedge, is the main food plant of the Orange Tip butterfly which is such a colourful visitor to our spring gardens. Indeed, the wildlife of our gardens depends largely upon our weeds with couch grass and stinging nettles being the food plants of many of our butterflies. But also the Blackbirds and Thrushes that are so welcome in our gardens may well have bred successfully in protected rough areas rather than our more exposed gardens where they are predated by cats and Magpies. A particularly bad sight I have had was of a fox, precariously balanced on a trellis, helping itself to a nestful of young of young Blackbirds.

A wet year is a bonus for Frogs, Toads and Newts and fine for Ducks. Anyone walking beside the newly restored waterway in Belair Park will have seen the hosts of young Mallard families which have reaped the benefit.

As the autumn migration approaches there will surely be more wildlife to record, so do keep the information rolling. I am particularly keen to hear if Bullfinches, Spotted Flycatchers or Willow Warblers have been seen as these have been in diminishing numbers.

Peter Roseveare, Wildlife Recorder
tel: 020 7274 4567

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