Thursday, 23 December 2010

Merry Christmas!

I was in the park on Tuesday (21st) not expecting to spot many birds so I was quite pleased to see 7 species (Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Great Tit, House Sparrow, Magpie, Starling).  Only a couple of most of them, but several Sparrows.

The snow had melted and become a little slushy but the base of it was icy and a little tricky to walk on in places. Keith, the park-keeper, had salted the paths but it hadn't yet made any appreciable effect.

Hilly Fields in melting snow
Over beside the school I spotted a bird box I'd not seen before.  How did I ever miss it?  It's so obvious!

Bird box beside Prendergast
Work had started in ernest at Prendergast and the workers village was being erected by a crane that could be seen, I'm told, a couple of miles away.

Prendergast construction starts
Don't forget, we will once more be taking part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in Hilly Fields on Saturday 29th January 2011.  I hope to see you there.

With visits to and by family and friends I'm unlikely to be in the park again this year, so
Merry Christmas and
Happy New Year

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Autumn views

After rediscovering the House Sparrows, I wandered around the park enjoying the autumnal air.
Cliffview Road side of park
Near the tennis courts I discovered a spot where at least four London landmarks can be seen between the trees - the Shard, the Gherkin (Swis Re), Canary Wharf and the Dome (O2)

Four London landmarks

The Sparrows Return

Great news, the House Sparrows are back.  I counted ten in the hedge behind Cliffview Road last Wednesday (10 Nov), that's my first sighting of them in Hilly Fields for three months.
Male House Sparrow in Cliffview Road hedge

Female House Sparrow in Cliffview Road hedge

Saturday, 30 October 2010

Feeder rehung

Good news:  The birdfeeder has been rehung on its new bracket made, I hear, by Fred.  The photo was taken on Monday 25th.
Birdfeeder on new bracket
As for the birdlife... on my last three brief visits I've seen a total of 7 birds (magpies and woodpigeon), the 20+ House Sparrows that congregated in the tree at the bottom of my garden have completely disappeared! However, a friend at the other end and other side of Cliffview Road now sees a dozen in her garden almost every day.
There've been House Sparrows in our garden every day for the last 6 years at least; it saddens me that they've moved away but we still get Blue Tits, Great Tits, Robins, a Greater Spotted Woodpecker and, new to our garden, Long-tailed Tits.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Only six birds in two hours!

As “Bird Champion”, even during Nick Bertrand's walk and talk yesterday, I was keeping an eye open for birdlife.  I hoped to see a lot in two hours but, although I heard Carrion Crows, I only spotted three Magpies, two Woodpigeons and one Jay.  I think 3 birds/hour is my worst ever.

Possible woodpecker nest

While talking about a Maple tree, Nick spotted a hole in it which could have been created by a woodpecker (see photo).
In my own garden, which backs onto the park, I haven’t seen any House Sparrows at all for over a month

Trees in an urban park

Yesterday afternoon’s event was organised by Chris McGaw, Rivers and People Project, who introduced Nick Bertrand of the Creekside Centre. Nick give a talk and walk around Hilly Fields on “Trees in an urban park”. These are my mental notes from this session.

Horse Chestnut leaf miner moths
First topic was the leaf miner moth that’s turning Horse Chestnut leaves brown, then Nick spotted the young Elm trees not far from the gate. Sesile Oak, English Oak and Turkey Oak are all found around the park. One such Oak, near the Bothy, had an unusual gall on it that Nick photographed for later identification.
[8 Oct update from Chris: "We think the unusual gall may be the Hedgehog Gall (Andricus lucidus) which has only established itself in the UK in the last 20-30 years."]
Then we learnt how London Plane survives pollution by shedding its bark.
Young Elm and Nick Bertrand
Chris helping Nick photograph an Oak gall
At the top of the park is a Poplar, this one is fastigiate – with branches pointing upwards – as are most of the Hornbeam in the park. In the west field is a Crack Willow which, I learned today, is so named because its twigs snap off noisily. There’s also quite a few Maple trees, I think the one Nick described was a Silver Maple.

Some of the group with Nick beside fastigiate Poplar
Below the playground is a Beech competing with a London Plane. Past the school are several Hawthorn and then we ventured into the wood to find a Blackthorn, identified by its sloes. Finally we went down to Eastern Avenue where there are more Ash including one whose leaflets are larger and golden, I think Nick said it’s an American variety.
[8 Oct update from Chris: "Looking at my tree books, American Ash seems like the correct ID"]
Is this an American variety of Ash?
I enjoyed it so much that the time just flew by. I do hope Chris can organise more events around Hilly Fields, it’s a great way to get to know and appreciate your local park.

Friday, 3 September 2010

Hilly Fields Walk on October 6th

There'll be a walk in Hilly Fields, organised by Chris McGaw, On Wednesday 6th October.  Here's an extract from his flyer:
For information on this, or any of the other nine walks during September and October, click the "Rivers and People Project" link on the right.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Cricket pitched up, Feeder dropped

Farmers' Market

During a brief visit to the Farmers' Market on Saturday I noticed that our bird feeder in the quiet garden was hanging loose on its chain. It's a shame that this feeder has proved accident prone; I do hope Glendale re-fix a bracket for it soon.

Bird Feeder
Strange blue tree nearby

The park was pleasantly busy, and the cafe too - I hope it stays beyond the summer holidays – but all this action kept the birds at bay. There were a dozen house sparrows, three magpies, three carrion crows and a solitary woodpigeon. I did hear blue tits and goldfinches in the Cliffview Road hedge, but couldn’t spot any of them.

On Monday I had a very pleasant cup of tea at the café while watching work start on the new cricket pitch.

Cricket Pitch
A park busy with summer activities kept the birdlife hidden once more but I did spot five feral pigeons, three magpies and a couple of carrion crows. House sparrows and great tits (probably) sang in the Cliffview hedge.

Friday, 30 July 2010

New Cafe and Green Flag

At long last I managed some quality time in the park today, about an hour in all.

The first thing I noticed, to my horror, was a large truck driving across the grass.  Having been stopped on more than one occasion by people complaining about Glendale vans on the grass, I expect this truck will attract complaints too.
The playground was busy, as were all the tennis courts and the table-tennis too.  I've rarely seen the place so well used before 10am, but little birdlife.  Just a few Carion Crows and Woodpigeons on the north, soon-to-be-cricket-pitch, field.  Down in the meadow south of the school: nothing.  Alongside the road west of the school: nothing. 
I didn't venture east of the school, but returned to Keith the park-keeper's office to get birdfeed for the feeder in the quiet garden; very quiet, no birds there either.  However, along from the garden at the back of Cliffview Road I heard Blue Tits, Greenfiches and a Parakeet.  Couldn't spot any on them!

Keith told me the new cafe beside his office will be a regular feature throughout the school holidays, so I took myself off there and had a very decent cup of tea in a real mug for £1.

Later I bumped into friends out for a stroll and walked down past the bowling green with them; no birds there either.

This morning hasn't been a good time for birds in the park; it was probably too busy for them, but back home in Cliffview Road there were Greenfinches, House Sparrows, Blue Tits, Great Tits and a Woodpigeon around our feeder where we've also seen a Great Spotted Woodpecker early every morning for the last week.

Oh, yes!  I nearly forgot to mention...  Hilly Fields received its Green Flag award on Wednesday

Friday, 16 July 2010

Windy morning

This morning was the first chance I've had since my holidays to get
into the park.

Unfortunately the strong wind kept almost all the birds hidden. Just
a solitary Woodpigeon and a single Magpie showed themselves in the
north and east fields, and I heard a Goldfinch behind Cliffview

I think I saw evidence of a boundary marked around the north
field, presumably for the new cricket pitch.

Just for the record, the birds of the Scottish Highlands were noticeably
different this year. There were Hooded Crows and Pied Wagtails
everywhere we went, and lots of Sparrows too.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Evening Birdsong Guided Walk

Twelve of us joined Chris McGaw (Rivers and People Project) for an excellent guided walk around Hilly Fields this evening.  At times the wind kept the birds quiet but we did hear and see 15 species:

Heard (but I didn't see)
  • Blue Tit
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Great Tit
  • House Sparrow
  • Robin
  • Wren
Heard and seen
  • Blackbird (1)
  • Carrion Crow (2)
  • Chaffinch (1)
  • Goldfinch (1)
  • Magpie (5)
  • Mistle Thrush (2)
Seen (but I didn't hear)
  • Starling (7)
  • Woodpigeon (15)
  • Sparrowhawk (1)
Yes!  The Sparrowhawk is back.  At around 20:00 it flew from Vicars Hill direction along the rooftops of Cliffview Road.  It all happened too fast for a photo, but here's a couple I took earlier of a Mistle Thrush on a nearby tree and our party watching it.

Chris (8th from the left) will be taking more bird-oriented walks around the park in the future and I'll give notice of these events in this blog.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Playground opens

Hardly a bird in the park today because it was the last day of Brockley Max and the new childrens' playground was opened by Sir Steve Bullock.  Here are a few photos I took of the opening ceremony and Rachel Mooney showing the plans to Sir Steve.

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Sculptures and Blue Tit nest

Driving to the Dawn Chorus walk at 5 o'clock this morning I noticed the new sculptures in the park, so I resolved to take a closer look before catching up with my sleep.

There's one in Hilly Fields Crescent and another at the lower end of Montague Avenue and I took a couple of photos for the blog.

What surprised me as I returned from Montague Avenue was the number of Glendale vehicles in the park.  At one point I could see nine of them, and that was just on one side of the hill!  Then it dawned on me (excuse the pun), this morning there was to be a Green Flag inspection so the park was being cleaned and tidied, paths swept, grass cut, seats repaired, sandpit raked etc.  I do hope it's successful.

On passing the tree on the corner of the playground beside the tennis courts, I spotted a Blue Tit's nest,  a parent was frequently to and fro, probably with food for young.

Another Waterlink Way Dawn Chorus

We're lucky Chris McGaw was pursuaded to repeat his dawn chorus walk of Waterlink Way today.  On the plus side it was 8 to 10 degrees warmer this morning than three weeks ago, on the other hand we started half-an-hour earlier!

Nine of us managed the 5am start, three had been on one of Chris' other dawn chorus walks whereas six were new to the experience. 
Birds we heard (but I didn’t see):

  • Blackcap *
  • Blue Tit
  • Cetti's Warbler *
  • Chaffinch
  • Chiffchaff *
  • Great Tit
  • Greenfinch
  • House Sparrow
  • Lesser Whitethroat *
  • Reed Warbler *
  • Robin
  • Song Thrush *
  • Stock Dove *
  • Swift
  • Whitethroat *
  • Wren *
Birds I saw and heard
  • Blackbird
  • Carrion Crow
  • Dunnock
  • Goldfinch
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker
  • Greenfinch
  • Magpie
  • Moorhen *
  • Ring-necked Parakeet
  • Starling
  • Woodpigeon
Birds I saw (but didn’t hear)
  • Collared Dove *
  • Feral Pigeon
  • Grey Wagtail *
  • Jay
  • Kestrel
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Mallard *
* Birds never seen (by me) in Hilly Fields

Being warmer than last time I was able to take a few notes about some of the birdsong, I just hope I can remember them for future reference:
  • Cetti's Warbler: an explosive metallic song;
  • Blackcap: like a speeded-up blackbird;
  • Chaffinch: a bowler running up to the crease with a final flourish;
  • Wren: piercing with a trill near the end;
  • Dunnock: an even sounding warble like a wren but with no trill;
  • Greenfinch: a wheezing sound;
  • Robin: song is sad, alarm is a tick-tick;
  • Whitethroat: a non-musical scratchy warble;
  • Woodpigeon: 5 notes with stress on the 2nd;
  • Collared Dove: 3 notes with stress on the 2nd;
  • Stock Dove: a cyclical series of notes.
I didn't stay for the cup of tea and chat at the end as there was to be a Green Flag inspection of Hilly Fields park later and I wanted to be there if I could.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Waterlink Way Dawn Chorus

I'm a night owl, not an early bird, so to ensure that I got to Sainsbury’s in Bell Green by 05:30 I had to stay up all night.  That's how, yesterday morning at 5degC and in a northerly wind, I met Chris McGaw and seven others for his Dawn Chorus Walk along Waterlink Way. Chris runs the Rivers and People Project for Lewisham Council and his birdsong identification skills are amazing.

Our first stop was the Pool River immediately behind the store. Within just a few minutes the number of birds whose song Chris had identified was into double figures. If you ever get the chance to join one of his dawn chorus walks, don’t hesitate.

Most of the birdsong was heard on the first half of the walk, by the time we arrived at the confluence with the Ravensbourne River the sun was up and many of the birds had quietened down. We finished at the environment centre, whose name I forget but it used to be the southbound waiting room of Ladywell station, for a very welcome hot drink, biscuits and fruit. I returned by 75 and 181 buses to pick up my car. At 05:15 it took 10 minutes to drive there, at 08:20 it took 40 minutes to drive home!

Birds we heard (but didn’t see):
  • Cetti's Warbler *
  • Chaffinch
  • Chiffchaff *
  • Collard Dove *
  • Dunnock
  • Greenfinch
  • House Sparrow
  • Lesser Whitethroat *
  • Reed Warbler *
  • Song Thrush *
  • Woodpigeon
  • Wren

 Birds we saw and heard
  • Blackbird
  • Blackcap *
  • Blue Tit
  • Carrion Crow
  • Great Tit
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Magpie
  • Mallard *
  • Moorhen *
  • Ring-necked Parakeet
  • Robin
  • Starling
  • Whitethroat *

Birds we saw (but didn’t hear)
  • Feral Pigeon
  • Grey Heron *
  • Herring Gull *
  • Jay

* Birds never seen (by me) in Hilly Fields

Forgive me for posting info unrelated to Hilly Fields, but it IS a local birdy blog!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch results 2010

The national results for the Big Garden Birdwatch showed that smaller-bodied birds are more susceptible to the cold and suffered from the length and depth of last winter.

The top 20 birds in Greater London gardens were:
On our birdwatch we didn't see any Collard Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Wren or Jay but we did spot a Common Gull, a Redwing and a pair of Mistle Thrushes.

For more on the BGBW results, click here.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Mistle Thrush nesting again

Walked through the park on Easter Sunday morning on my way towards Crofton Park and an hour or so later returned from the direction of Ladywell.  It was cold and windy so, sensibly perhaps, not many birds about and not many people either, although I did spot the park keeper at a distance.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a pair of Mistle Thrush feeding beside the Cliffview Road path as I usually find them on the other side of the park.  There were no House Sparrows in the Cliffview hedge either, perhaps because part of it has been cut even lower than before.

Wandered over to see what progress had been made on the playground and hapily found a Mistle Thrush nesting in the very same fork of the tree as last year.  It's plainly a good spot for them even though it must be the busiest junction in the park.

Total haul?  Blackbird (1), Chaffinch (3), Feral Pigeon (2), Goldfinch (1), Mistle Thrush (3), Starling (3)

I also met one of our friendly dog-walkers who'd seen a woman picking daffodils in the park and a Glendale van leaving tyre tracks along the grass verge.

On the positive side, I was pleased to see the brambles that hung over the fence along Vicars Hill were cut right back just a couple of days after the last Friends of Hilly Fields meeting.  It's nice to know they make a difference!

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Last of the Redwing?

I was pleasantly surprised to fine a pair of Redwing in the East Field yesterday.  It's the furthest east I've seen them in Hilly Fields as they're usually in the West Field or the Meadow.  As winter visitors they'll be off to Iceland or Scandinavia by the end of this month, so let's enjoy them while we can.  Hopefully they'll return to Hilly Fields this October.

Another rare visitor to the East Field was a Mistle Thrush, usually seen around the school or south-west of it.  Along with Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Blue Tits, House Sparrows, Black-headed Gulls and a Common Gull it was pretty busy along the eastern perimeter of the park.

Rather poor photos snatched with my pocket camera show the Redwing foraging in the grass and Mistle Thrush in a tree

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Why there are so many Redwing this year

Here's a link to an interesting article on why there are so many Redwing wintering in the UK this year.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Two more species sighted on Big Garden Birdwatch

We were so lucky with the weather being dry, bright and sunny with little wind.  However, it was only just above zero.  Last year's 20 species record was not beaten, but we did sight three species not recorded in Hilly Fields for over 2 years (see below).
There were a good number of visitors and I took parties of five or six at a time around the park to see what we could find.

I was quite surprised not to find any birds at all in the South Field, Meadow or West Field (compared with two days ago) and very few around School area.  Sports were being played in the North Field so none were spotted there either.  The vast majority were to the south of the Stones Field and east of the East Field (i.e. along the Cliffview Road hedge).
This is the result:

Blackbird (2)
Blue Tit (2)
Carrion Crow (3)
Chaffinch (3)
Coal Tit (2) - First sighting
Common Gull (1)
Dunnock (1) - First sighting
Feral Pigeon (2)
Goldfinch (2)
Greenfinch (2)- First sighting
Great Tit (3)
House Sparrow (11)
Long-tailed Tit (2)
Magpie (2)
Mistle Thrush (2)
Redwing (1)
Robin (1)
Starling (1)
Woodpigeon (4)

[Correction on 01/02/2010: The Dunnock was previously omitted from this list (my error), and today I've seen one in my garden, a mere 50m from where we spotted it on Saturday.]

Long-tailed Tit

We are all indebted to Vicki Wheeler, Nature Conservation Officer, for organizing the event - especially the tea, coffee and biscuits which were certainly needed after wandering around the park in such cold weather.  With Vicki's help, our younger visitors made birdfeeders from pots, lard and birdseed to take home and hang up in their own gardens.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

A Murmuration of Starlings

This afternoon there were close to 200 birds in the park:

Blackbird (3)
Carrion Crow (3)
Feral Pigeon (1)
Great Tit (3)
House Sparrow (15)
Magpie (2)
Redwing (c40) - yes, really, circa forty Redwing in the west field!
Robin (1)
Starling (>110) - competing with the Redwing for food.
Woodpigeon (3)

Sorry for the poor quality, but here's a photo of about 150 Starlings and Redwing.

How many will you see during Saturday's Birdwatch?

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Hedge trimming continues

There's a noticable change to the park as you walk along the Cliffview Road side of the park because the trimming of the boundary hedge down to a metre or so is continuing.

This must make a huge difference to the amount of light those houses receive in the afternoon.

I'm also happy to report that we now have a new supply of birdfood. The feeder was filled sometime during the last week, for which the birds and I are grateful and Vicki (Nature Conservation Officer) supplied more feed yesterday.

The feed we've used to date was black sunflower seed, but the feeder in the quiet garden has been filled with a birdseed mixture, probably one of the no-mess mixtures. It'll be interesting to see if that attracts more birds than black sunflower seed alone.

Monday, 18 January 2010

"...there were 20 or so birds..."

In response to Hilly’s comment [see Brisk Walk, 1 Jan] about 20 mid-brown birds, larger than a sparrow and smaller than a thrush, pecking at the grass: my guess would be either Redwing or Fieldfare.

Both are common winter visitors, both flock, both eat worms, both are brown-ish.

The Redwing is midway between House Sparrow and Mistle Thrush in size, whereas the Fieldfare is nearer to the Mistle Thrush.

My money is on the Redwing [top pic] because its red underwing patch could be hard to see without binoculars, whereas the grey head and black tail of the Fieldfare would probably be more obvious.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Brisk Walk

Had a brisk walk in the park before lunch and saw:

Blackbird (2)
Blue Tit (3)
Carrion Crow (1)
Common Gull (2)
Feral Pigeon (4)
Goldfinch (2)
House Sparrow (6)
Robin [heard but not seen]
Starling (5)
Woodpigeon (1)

The wind was cold and reached every part of the park, so I didn't linger.

New Year

Well, there's another Christmas behind us. This was no less hectic than previous. Some would say it's my own fault for marrying into a regular cycle of Christmas, wedding anniversary, wife's birthday and New Year all one week but, to be honest, it is a great week.

Miraculously I did find some quality time in Hilly Fields too, on Boxing Day. Sadly, not many birds did, just the usual smattering of sparrows, crows, woodpigeon, blue tit and magpie plus several starlings, some of which were occupying nests near the tennis courts.

Please note that the next RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch will take place the last weekend of January and we will be in Hilly Fields on Saturday 30th January from 11am with activities for everyone