Friday 13 January 2023

Big Garden Birdwatch 2023

 Another year, another Big Birdwatch on Hilly Fields. The Friends of Hilly Fields annual bird watching event will take place this year on Sunday 29 January from 10.30 – 12.30. We will be based outside the cafe, everyone is welcome and it's child-friendly.

There'll be a guided walk starting at 11.00 am. Alternatively you can grab a Bird ID sheet from the stall and go around by yourself/selves. Bring binoculars if you can. On the practical side, there'll be stuff for kids to make bird feeders and fatballs with. These can be hung on trees in the park or taken home to your own garden/balcony/window box. And it's all free...

If you do the Birdwatch by yourselves, please remember the basic 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 will collate the results at the end on our Big Blackboard and submit the results to the RSPB.

It's all about helping people to learn a little bit more about birds and how our parks and green spaces are such important habitats for them. It's also about supporting the RSPB as the whole weekend is part of their National Big Garden Birdwatch. And we still have a few copies left of our celebrated Birds of Hilly Fields booklet which will be on sale at the stall – £3.50 all proceeds to the Friends of HF.

So come along. You might see a great spotted woodpecker. You might see a jay. You might see a nuthatch. You'll almost certainly see "the UK's only naturalised parrot"! 

Photo: David Chapman

"What wild creature is more accessible to our eyes and ears, as close to us and everyone in the world, as universal as a bird?" Sir David Attenborough.

Monday 20 June 2022

Red Kite - Bird 52!

A red kite was observed over Hilly Fields on the morning of 25 May, flying over the trees in the north east corner of the park before disappearing further east. Normally we wouldn't count birds which fly overhead without landing as 'park records', but this one was flying just low enough to be mobbed by three crows - our 'avian security guards'. We are therefore adding it to our bird list - the 52nd 'bird of Hilly Fields' to be recorded in the last 15 years.

Credit: eBird

The red kite (Milvus milvus) is a bird of prey and belongs to the same family as buzzards, eagles and harriers. It has a reddish-brown body, a wingspan of almost six feer and can be identified from below its forked tail. In the middle ages, kites were common birds and scavenged on London's streets, but persecution drove them almost to extinction. Thanks to the RSPB and other conservation efforts, numbers have increased and they can often be seen flying over London again, though not at street level! In rural and suburban areas, there have been reports of them swooping down to take chickens or even picnic lunch food. Scavenging again after all those centuries.

Our booklet 'Birds of Hilly Fields' will be on sale at the Hilly Fields Midsummer Fayre this Saturday 25 June. We will also have tote bags, postcards and other items to buy, as well displays of our plans to make the park even better. Drop by and see us at the Friends of Hilly Fields stall.

Sunday 27 March 2022

Dawn Chorus Walk 2022

We will be holding our first dawn chorus walk since 2019 on Thursday 31 March. Meet outside the cafe at 6 am. If you have binoculars, please bring them. We'll do a circuit of Hilly Fields and and identify common bird songs and calls such as those of the blackbird, robin and wren, as well as the song and mistle thrush and the migrant warblers blackcap and chiffchaff if they happen to be vocal. If we're lucky, we might hear a great spotted woodpecker drumming or a nuthatch calling. We'll point out as many birds as we can whether they're singing or not!

In past years, we've been able to extend the walk to include the Brockley and Ladywell cemeteries. With council permission, a member of the Friends Group would admit us at 7am via a gate on Brockley Grove. That seems unlikely to happen this year as the gate was blocked with an earth bank during lockdown and that is still in place. The walk will finish therefore by 7am. If by any chance, we can gain access to the cemeteries, finishing time will be 7.45 approx. People can drop out at any time though if work calls.

Mistle Thrush

We will have a few copies of our Birds of Hilly Fields booklet for sale if anyone has not yet bought a copy. These are £3.50 and all profits go to the Friends of Hilly Fields.

Friday 18 February 2022

Hilly Fields Big Birdwatch 2022 Report

Our Hilly Fields Big Birdwatch on 30 January was the first since January 2020 and we had probably the best ever attendance. It was particularly good to see so many children brought along by their parents and  making bird feeders at the Friends stall or coming round on the guided walk. 

22 species were recorded which is not a record breaker, but still a healthy total. Surprisingly, the highest individual total was the Common Gull of which 22 were counted on the north field. Despite its name, this bird is usually outnumbered by the Black-headed Gull which in winter is the most common gull in London and the UK. Next highest were the Starlings at 16 and Goldfinches at 12. 

Common Gull left, Black-headed Gull right

At the other end of the scale, a single Greenfinch and Redwing were seen. It was good to catch sight of the Nuthatch pair who hopefully will be breeding in the park again this year. We had a good view of them on the Lane during the guided walk. Sadly, no Great Spotted Woodpeckers turned up this year, nor did we see any Song or Mistle Thrushes (though a Song Thrush was seen and heard on the Lane on 1st January).

Greenfinch at Hilly Fields
Thanks are due to Rachel who masterminded the stall as usual, to Sue, Judith, Conrad and Lawrence who helped on the guided walk, to Lee the parkie who lugged stuff around for us, to the cafe for all their support and to Debbie who volunteers with the London Peregrine Partnership and brought along two fine displays of bird feathers for the stall. 

For early risers, we'll be doing a dawn chorus walk on Thursday 31 March, starting from the cafe at 6 am. And in the meantime, our Birds of Hilly Fields booklet can be bought from the cafe or via this link.

Saturday 5 February 2022


 Wake up the trees! Join us at Hilly Fields Wassail on Saturday 12th February, 2022. 3pm in the orchard. 

That is just beyond the stone circle.

Please bring your own mug if you can. We'll have Wassail (mulled cider) and hot spiced apple juice to share. 

The orchard maintenance session will take place at 10-30 until 12.30 in the morning. If you wish to join us, it would be helpful to contact us: email

Wassail Hilly Fields

Thursday 13 January 2022

Hilly Fields Big Birdwatch 2022

 Pleased to say that the Friends of Hilly Fields are going ahead with the Big Birdwatch this year after last year's lockdown. The event will be held on Sunday 30 January from 10.30-12.30 and is timed to coincide with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch which takes place that weekend.

If you want to come along to Hilly Fields, the Friends will have a stall outside the cafe. You can either pick up a Bird ID form from there and go round by yourselves or join the guided walk at 11.00. If you have binoculars, please bring them.

There will also be children's activities including a bird quiz and bird feeder making. Children are welcome to come on the walk.

If you go round by yourselves, please hand in your results at the stall afterwards.  The basic rules are: (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 will collate the results at the end on our Big Blackboard and submit to the RSPB.

And finally we will have copies of our much-praised Birds of Hillyfields booklet on sale for £3.50 if you haven't yet bought one. All proceeds go to the Friends group. 

Hope to see you there.

Tuesday 7 December 2021

Sparrowhawk On The Fence

 Thanks to whoever shared this photograph on the Cliffview Road WhatsApp group last month. It shows a male sparrowhawk sitting on a fence in one of the gardens that back onto Hilly Fields. If you look closely, you can see a mouse or vole held between its talons. Proof that these marvellous birds of prey do prey in the gardens that border our park. And that they don't just prey on sparrows as their name suggests.

We have a similar photograph of a male sparrowhawk in our Birds of Hilly Fields booklet along with the following description: 'A woodland predator, it has evolved great skill in flying fast around and between trees and usually succeeds in catching prey through the element of surprise. Its extra long toes also help to catch birds in flight. The male is smaller than the female and has a less fierce, almost dopey look. It has a reddish barred chest and grey back, whereas the female has grey-brown barring to the chest, a white stripe over the eye and brown back.' This photo was taken in 2015 by Keith Ward in his Cliffview Rd back garden.

Our booklet has sold well, but copies are still available from the Hilly Fields cafe or online from where you can either buy it alone for £3.50 or in various deals with tote bags and other items. Ideal gifts for Christmas and all profits go to the Friends of Hilly Fields.

At the moment, the RSPB still intends to hold their annual Big Garden Birdwatch event at the end of January: 'Simply count the birds you see in your garden, from your balcony or in your local park between 28 and 30 January 2022.' Last year we had to cancel our Big Birdwatch event, but hopefully we will be able to hold it again on Hilly Fields on Sunday 30 January with the usual display table outside the cafe, ID sheets, activities for kids and a guided walk. More details next month.