Thursday, 28 August 2008

Good news, bad news

The good news is that the feeder got topped up today as Wendy was back from her holiday in the west country. To avoid these access problems in the future, Wendy has moved the feed and pole to another room; one that Lawrie at the cafe has the key for.

The bad news (for us) is that Wendy is leaving at the end of next week. I'll be sorry to see her go as she's been so very supportive of the birdwatch project, even 'phoning or texting me when she discovered the feeder empty. I wish Wendy every success and happiness in her future venture down south.

Community Sports and Fair still very active. Only birds seen were about a dozen House Sparrows in the hedge behind Cliffview Road.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Access problems

Now that I've caught up with events since this project started, all blogs from here on should be reasonably current.

Yesterday I'd arranged to show Rachel the trick of recovering the feeder for refilling, but there was no park keeper available so we couldn't get into the office where the long pole and feed are kept. Wendy, we knew, was on holiday but we did expect a temporary keeper to be available. Have to try again tomorrow.

Meanwhile, only saw 4 crow and 2 woodpigeon.

Today I tried again. Lawrie, who runs the food stall on the top path, knows everyone and is a mine of information so I asked him. There's no keeper today either, but while I was there Lawrie received a text from Wendy saying she'll be back tomorrow.

We must find a better way of getting to the birdfood, or a better place to keep it.

Community Sports and the Fair are both very active today. Only 4 crow and a solitary magpie.

Year-to-date sighting summary

Whenever I'm in the park, even if it's just a short visit to the Farmers' Market, I note the birds I see for Lara's spreadsheet, results of which are posted on the park notice boards.
I also report the same sightings to BirdTrack and the stats below are from these records
(1 Nov 07 to 26 Aug 08).

Species (no. of visits) Max Count

Blackbird (12) 3
Black-headed Gull
(2) 60
Blue Tit
(10) 3
Carrion Crow
(17) 6
(5) 2
Feral Pigeon
(5) 2
(4) 2
Great Spotted Woodpecker
(1) 1
Great Tit
(5) 1
House Martin
(1) 2
House Sparrow
(23) 30
Long-tailed Tit
(11) 2
(6) 2
Mistle Thrush
(2) 2
Ring-necked Parakeet
(10) 3
(10) 2
(2) 7
(19) 5

e.g. Up to 5 Woodpigeon were seen on 19 separate visits

The 60 Black-headed Gulls were in the NE field, where the fairs are
held, on 21st January this year. Over 50 were still there a week later.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker was in the flower garden on 21st
November last year. I haven't seen him in the park since, but often
hear him.

For the last week a Great Spotted Woodpecker has visited
the peanut feeder in our garden every morning and evening.

On 12th August a solitary House Martin was feeding on the wing in the
flower garden

The 30 House Sparrows were in the hedge on the Cliffview Road side of
the park on 28th December. This doesn't quite match the 50 seen
August last year, but a significant number all the same.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Feeder with Bling

Friday 26th October 2007: The first bird is seen on the feeder: it's a Blue Tit. A few days later, another: a Great Tit this time.

Many more birds found the feeder and became regular visitors over the next three months until, on 1st February 2008, it was stolen. This couldn't have happened at a worse time for the birds, as food is difficult to find at this time of year, and it greatly disappointed a party of local school children who'd come on a special visit that very day just to see the feeder!

So, Glendale now had to get a new feeder and some means to make it more secure. Meanwhile, Gordonbrock students drew several different bird species for the bird champion sign which was soon to be produced and another local school – Prendergast, I think - made 13 bird boxes for the park.

The beginning of April 2008 saw the hanging of the first bird-feeder with bling – a stout and shiny chain to secure it to the tree (see photo). It's a little higher than before so we now have a special extended pole to recover the feeder for refilling.

Early May Chris (RSPB) donated four nest boxes, suitable for House Sparrows or perhaps Blue Tits. He advised us that the boxes are best sited on the North-East quadrant of a tree or building (and out of vandals reach!)

While on an early morning House Sparrow survey Chris saw a Mistle Thrush with nest material in a tree quite close to Wendy's office, just a few yards along and to the right of the path towards the school. Learning this, I ventured into the park a little later and found a pair in the same tree. They were in the same tree the following day too (see photo), but I haven't seen them since. Perhaps they chose a different nesting site.

Chris visited again early June 2008 and donated a bag of seed.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Early Sightings

During the weeks before the feeders were hung, I visited the park several times to record the birds. They were mostly short visits of under half-an-hour and all on the Vicars Hill / Cliffview Road side of the park. The maximum recorded were:

Blackbird 1
Black-headed Gull 2
Blue Tit 1
Carrion Crow 3
Feral Pigeon 9
House Sparrow c50
Woodpigeon 21

This photo Taken near the top Vicars Hill gate shows where we found circa 50 House Sparrows.

Chris from the London House Sparrow Project visited the morning of 10 August 2007 and I mentioned counting in excess of 18 there the previous day, so we ambled into the park and there they were! It took a bit of counting as they're forever flitting from branch to branch.

Friday, 22 August 2008

Hanging the feeders

19 October 2007

My contact with Chris was vey useful as the RSPB kindly donated a feeder, some birdfood to get us started and advice on where to site the feeders.

We met park-keeper Wendy, Lara and her colleagues from Glendale and first identified a tree quite close to Wendy's office from which to hang the feeder donated by Chris.
This is beside a busy path which could discourage feeding, however it does have suitable places nearby where birds can perch to check the coast is clear before feeding.

The main feeder was hung in the Flower Garden, between the Bothy and the Bowling Green.

Each site had its own advantages and disadvantages.

This site is peaceful but there's no nearby perching, the closest bush being holly which is too prickly for them. Howevery, we were hopeful that they would soon be using these feeders.

Sadly, the very next morning the RSPB donated feeder was gone!

How I got involved

Late 2004

Took part in the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch counting the maximum number of each species of bird in the garden over a one-hour period and reported a particularly large number of House Sparrows: 22.

Subsequently I received a letter from Chris Orsman (RSPB) asking for further details of how we, and our neighbours, feed the birds.

February 2005

Chris visited and invited us to be a site in the London House Sparrow Project. This is experimenting with supplementary feeding at a number of sparrow colonies, providing live mealworms for the sparrows to feed to their young. We are to be a control site (no live food). Chris makes several visits each year to survey our garden and the immediate neighbourhood.

December 2005

On one of his wildlife walks in Hilly Fields, Mike Keogh admired the green roof of my garage which can be seen from the park. I introduced myself and mentioned Chris and the London House Sparrow Project. That labelled me as a birder!

July 2007

Some eighteen months later Glendale and Lewisham Council are starting a new Bird Champion Project, which aims to survey the park for different bird species and involve the park users in the park’s biodiversity. To this end Lara Al-Jabi asked Rachel Mooney for a Bird Champion for Hilly Fields Park. The rest, as they say, is history.