A summer of varied weather has probably been good for our breeding birds. There are good numbers of juvenile Blackbirds and Robins to be seen and families of Goldfinches proving that their recent influx is being sustained. Having mentioned in my last bulletin that I had not seen a Bullfinch in Dulwich for years, I was delighted to hear that a fine male Bullfinch was seen in the Rosendale allotments. Indeed, as a habitat, allotments are prime areas with plentiful food and not many cats which remain the scourge of our young garden birds. I would now be interested to hear if anyone saw Spotted Flycatchers in the summer as they used to breed regularly in Dulwich Woods and appear in gardens with their families, but are now, alas, rarely seen here. Although not spectacular in appearance they have the delightful habit of using a single perch as a base to catch insects.
In the last issue I voiced the hope that Little Grebes (Dabchicks) might nest again in Dulwich Park. The good news is that there were two pairs which both fledged two young. Sadly, we think that one of the young birds may have perished but at the time of writing three birds are still successfully being fed. Dave Clark has photographed one of these nests for this issue. Little Grebes are nationally quite common but normally breed in rural waterways rather than urban sites. Clearly the refurbishment of the lake has provided them with a good food source of small fish, crustaceans and insect larvae. They are a much more a water bird than our common Moorhens and Coots and rarely come on land, diving both to feed and escape from intruders. Indeed, their feet are set so far to the rear of their bodies that they cannot move successfully on land. The nests float on the surface of the water and are usually constructed of water weed. Whenever they leave the nest they can be seen diligently covering their eggs with weed to prevent predation. Readers may have observed that when the young hatch, a parent will carry them on its back while the other parent forages for food. When they get bigger and are able to start diving for food themselves, a parent may give refuge under a wing. They are a welcome addition to Dulwich ornithology and their chattering contact calls a new sound for the park.
One special plea we in the wildlife committee would like to make. It is reported that House Martins nationally are not doing too well; perhaps due to unfavourable conditions in migration or their winter quarters. We in Dulwich have some thriving, if not large colonies and would like to be sure that those of us who have House Martin nests under their eaves do not let painters and decorators destroy them as they will be reused year after year. One of my house painters painted our House Martin’s nest magnolia and I never saw them again.
I shall look forward to any bulletins that readers may have, that could relate to unusual sightings of birds, animals or insects together with photographs, if obtained.
Wildlife Recorder (020 7274 4567)