Saturday, 17 March 2018

Dawn Chorus Walk

The next Dawn Chorus Walk will be held on Thursday 29 March. Meet outside the cafe at 6 am for a walk around Hilly Fields and the Brockley and Ladywell cemeteries. Listen to the birds greeting the dawn, see the birds and, depending on weather conditions, see the sunrise. You'll feel so much better for it.


Birds we should definitely hear include Great Tits, Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Robins and Wrens. Birds we may hear include Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Dunnock, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Goldfinches and Starlings. We'll be finished by 8 am though people can get away whenever they need to. Hope to see you there.

Blue Tit

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Redwings

Redwings have been seen twice this week on Hilly Fields, twittering in the trees and feeding on the ground near the stone circle. I counted circa 40 birds on Monday afternoon and Rachel saw a similar number this morning.


Redwings are members of the Thrush family, as are Blackbirds, Fieldfares and of course the Mistle Thrush and Song Thrush (and, further north, the Ring Ouzel). Redwings get their name from a red patch under the wing which can clearly be seen in my photos but isn't always visible. The stripes around the head are a more reliable ID feature, particularly the creamy white stripe over the eye. They have a similar spotted breast to other thrushes. Their twittering is a form of 'subsong' which the dictionary describes as 'an unstructured, often rambling vocalisation of low volume'. I couldn't have put it better myself.


Most of the Redwings seen in Southern Britain are migrants from Scandinavia. They arrive in autumn and feed on fallen fruit and berries. They get through the winter mainly on a diet of earthworms and depart in early spring. It's unusual to see so many on the ground in Hilly Fields, but they would have been frustrated by last week's snow and are making up for it now. They'll also be 'feeding up' for the flight home. The 'subsong' is usually a sign that they're thinking of departure and also of courtship when they get back. It's lovely to see and hear them. Let's hope they return in similar numbers in the autumn.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Big Birdwatch 2018: the Results

Thanks to everyone who came along to this year's Big Birdwatch event on 28 January. The weather was reasonably kind to us - mild, no rain and not much wind either. As usual we ran a stall outside the cafe where children made fat balls for the birds and we took two groups around the park on bird spotting forays. By the end of the event, we had recorded a very healthy 23 species on the Big Blackboard.


The stars of the survey were undoubtedly the two Great Spotted Woodpeckers who drummed on tree trunks by the lower Vicars Hill entrance for most of the morning. Lots of people saw them and 'Have you seen the woodpeckers?' was a regular refrain as we walked around. This is the time of year when the drumming can be heard and it is almost exclusively made by the Great Spotted variety of the woodpecker clan. The Green Woodpecker rarely drums and sadly the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is now quite rare. The main purpose is to establish their territory before the mating season begins in earnest. Interestingly, we couldn't see a red patch on the back of either bird's head which means that they were females possibly trying to attract a male. Let's hope they were in luck!

Pic: Rebecca Simmons
The final tally was as follows: 40 Starlings, 24 Black-headed Gulls, 11 Woodpigeons, 8 Robins, 7 Feral Pigeons, 5 Blackbirds, 4 each of Blue Tits, Common Gulls, Goldfinches, Great Tits and Ring-necked Parakeets, 3 each of Crows, Long-tailed Tits and Magpies, 2 each of Chaffinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker and 1 each of Collared Dove, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Stock Dove and Wren. The results will be forwarded to the RSPB.

Pic: Rebecca Simmons
Many thanks to Rachel as always for running the stall, to Judith from Glendale for the bird seed, to Sue for leading one walk and Lawrence for helping with the other, to Rebecca for her photos of the 'pecker' and to ranger Lee and the cafe for their support. Next Big Event is the Dawn Chorus walk on Thursday 29 March at 6 am. See you all there!

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Big Birdwatch Event: 28 January 2018


It's time for the annual Big Birdwatch event on Sunday 28 January organised by the Friends of Hilly Fields. This is held to coincide with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on the same weekend and the aim is to count the number of different birds seen in the park. As before, we'll have a stall outside the cafe with activities for children such as making fatballs to hang from the trees. We'll also have bird ID sheets that you can use if you wish and our blackboard on which we'll aggregate all the reports that people provide. The event runs from 10.30-12.30.


There will be a guided bird walk around the park at 11.00 am or you can go round by yourselves. If you do the latter, please observe the RSPB rules:

(i) only count the maximum number of each species that you see at any one time (to avoid duplication); (ii) don't count birds that fly over without stopping - only birds within the park.

We hope to see you there.

Ps. If you want some bird spotting practice, see if you can put the names to the birds below, all photographed on Hilly Fields during 2017. Some are obvious, some perhaps not so. In different order, the birds are Collared Dove, Dunnock, Jay, Ring-necked Parakeet, Robin and Starling.