Dulwich, and in this case more accurately Herne Hill can usually be relied upon to spring a wildlife surprise and this year has been no exception, The appearance of a Grey Partridge in March in a back garden in Half Moon Lane was extraordinary, particularly as the species is becoming rarer as a result of modern farming practices. This bird obligingly permitted photography as it foraged around a recently composted flower bed. It remained for just a day and was last seen heading towards Brockwell Park, but there was no report from the Brockwell wildlife group of its being seen there.
This article could well be entitled "The Game Birds of Dulwich" as on the strength of this report Sandy Alexander remembered the appearance amongst a group of Wood Pigeons at the fourth hole of the Dulwich and Sydenham golf course last May of two Quails, presumably on passage to a suitable cornfield, which repeats my Quail record of a few years ago on the Herne Hill velodrome site. Pheasants have also been reported from time to time, although some have been dead, possibly having literally fallen off a lorry from elsewhere. A Red Legged Partridge has been seen on one occasion in Breakspeare as far back as 1978 at which time Partridges of unspecified species had been seen in the environs of Dulwich Woods. Woodcocks of course from time to time are spotted in Dulwich and these have been traditionally regarded as game. So it appears that all we lack is a Grouse moor!
In other respects the winter, not having given us extremes of weather conditions has not yielded many other unusual reports. Our predominant visitor this winter was the Redwing whose numbers fluctuated and by the time of writing seem already to have returned to their Scandinavian breeding grounds. Chiffchaffs are now once more singing in the woods and some of our gardens and although Siskins have been less in evidence this year, they have been regularly visiting Sandy Alexander's nut feeder. Although I have seen a small passing group they appear to have preferred SE21 to SE24.
People have been continuing to send in records of their garden sightings and it is good to hear particularly about the common birds. Song Thrush records are always most welcome as they are important predators of snails. It has been a diminishing species of late as has, surprisingly, the starling, a much maligned predator of leather jackets. Dick Robinson from Great Brownings sends me his annual report and I was gratified to note that he had seen a Bullfinch. I have not managed to spot one in Dulwich for many years, it once being a regular and colourful garden visitor, if perhaps a little destructive to our fruit blossom.
Off the subject of ornithology, I had an enquiry from a Dulwich resident about a sick Bumble Bee. I had to confess to not having sufficient entomological expertise, but on making an enquiry I discovered that this was usually associated with an infestation with mites. So even bees have their health problems, but not as far as I can tell an outlet for a retired G.P.!
Wildlife Recorder (tel. 020 7274 4567)