Friday, 6 April 2012

March Bird Survey

Our latest bird survey of Hilly Fields took place on Friday 30 March. It was a lovely warm sunny morning but in general bird numbers were down. The Black-headed and Common Gulls which were very much in evidence in February have all departed, although this is a seasonal change to be expected. The Common Gulls will have gone up north to breed while the Black-headed Gulls are likely to have headed out towards coastal areas. The reduced number of other birds is probably linked to the onset of the breeding season.

We saw or heard Great Tits, Blue Tits, Robins, Carrion Crows, House Sparrows,  Wrens, Starlings, Wood Pigeons, Jays (2) and one each of Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Magpie, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Ring-necked Parakeet and Chiffchaff. It was great to hear the Chiffchaff singing in the little wood. A number of these do over-winter in the UK, but this bird - like the two which Sue heard last autumn - was probably a resting migrant as they've been arriving back in the UK since early March The song of the Chiffchaff is easy to identify once heard - a succession of between 8-14 staccato notes. If you're unfamiliar with it, try listening to this recording and then let us know if you hear the song in the park.

It wasn't surprising to hear only one Parakeet as their breeding season starts earlier than most. The count which took place at the Hither Green Cemetery roost on 1 April was well down on previous quarterly counts - a sign that the females are staying on their nests to incubate the eggs. We heard only one solitary Goldfinch (no sign of the usual flock of 16 or so which frequents upper Eastern Road and the trees around the school building), while the highest number of Starlings seen was 5 compared to 80 counted during the RSPB Big Birdwatch event on 29 January. However, if you have binoculars or can get close enough, the Starling has a fine iridescent plumage at this time of year.

The Mistle Thrush was absent altogether, surprisingly. I paid several visits to Hilly Fields in the first half of the month and saw it on each occasion, singing its beautiful dreamy song from the top of a tall tree. I also heard the Great Spotted Woodpecker drilling (and several other people have mentioned hearing it) and on one occasion tracked it to the wood where it was sitting high in a tree preening itself. Lets hope that both these birds have found suitable companions and are in the process of multiplying!

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