I am aware that in writing an article in October, a time of great change in our wildlife populations, winter will have arrived by the time the Newsletter is published and many seasonal changes will have passed. But at the time of writing the flocks of winter thrushes are arriving from Scandinavia and both Fieldfares and Redwings are to be seen mostly at the tops of trees where they briefly stop in transit for elsewhere. Those remaining will come down from the Hawthorn berry feast and once finished will start to rake the fields for invertebrates. The Redwing can be heard often in the dead of night giving a thin high pitched “zee” call as they pass over.
Much of the October movement of our small birds, typically Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches and Pied Wagtails happens by day with also the occasional Meadow Pipit and Skylark. They move through so quickly that it is often only by flight call that you are aware of their passing. The summer migrants mostly migrate at night and it is only by chance that you wake and find them missing. Indeed most of our House Martins had disappeared by mid September, a little earlier than usual, perhaps reflecting a shortage of insect food life.
Migration time can produce oddities. Surprising, was a call from Mr Robinson of Great Brownings who reported a Lapwing on a rooftop. Lapwings are of course countryside birds of open fields, so finding itself in Great Brownings it had few options, but it must have been extremely uncomfortable.
However, the most amazing event came at a weekend at the end of August when Audrey Lambert phoned to report that on two consecutive mornings she had seen five Nutcrackers in Lings Coppice. She could scarcely believe her eyes, thinking at first that they might be Mistle Thrushes but with time and a good view she was able to look them up in her reference book and confirm that Nutcrackers they must be. Nutcrackers are birds most closely related to Jays and Magpies resident in central Europe, mostly in coniferous forest. They are slightly smaller than a Jay, dark brown and white speckled all over, emitting a call if anything harsher than a Jay if that be possible. They tend to occur in this country very occasionally in the autumn in so called eruptions when they are observed in numbers. However the last eruption was in 1969 and there were no other records of Nutcrackers this year, so Audrey’s record was exceptional. The saving grace was that they departed after her two observations so she was spared the ordeal of the descent of hordes of twitchers.
Winter will hopefully bring a new crop of records, perhaps none as spectacular as a Nutcracker, but it is always worthwhile keeping an eye on berry trees for a Waxwing which occur from time to time, the last one seen in Rosendale Road a year or so ago.
Wildlife Recorder (020 7274 4567)