Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Hilly Fields Big Birdwatch 2013

After much rain beforehand, the sun came out just in time for our Big Birdwatch on Sunday 27 January. The event was well attended with some people taking a bird ID sheet and going round the park by themselves while others joined our guided walk. The birds were a little quieter than usual but between us we
clocked up a respectable tally of 21 species as indicated below. Particularly good views were had of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers and the Long-tailed Tits in the garden next to the Bothy, while the Common and Black-headed Gulls provided the highest numbers.

Meanwhile, back at the cafe, the Friends of Hilly Fields set up stall and provided activities for the little ones including the making of many suet balls and popcorn strings. If they eat everything that was hung from nearby trees, the birds will be too fat to fly for the next few days. Jason from Tlon Books came along too and sold copies of the appropriately themed children's book Brenda's Bottom and Her Birds by local author Clare Stanhope.

Thanks to Terry for helping to lead the guided walk, to Rachel and Andrew from the Friends and Judith from Glendale for running the stall and the childrens activities, to Phil for the work of art that was the blackboard (until we spotted more birds than he had room for), to Lee - the ever-helpful parkie from Glendale - and to Fred for letting us take over half the cafe terrace. Next event: the legendary Dawn Chorus Walk sometime this spring!

Incidentally, if you did the Birdwatch with young children this weekend, whether at Hilly Fields or at home, you can download a certificate for them from the RSPB website: http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/certificate_tcm9-335163.pdf  It opens in Adobe Reader which allows you to insert a name and make it look more official. You should also be able to get your printer (look under Properties) to add a touch of colour.

Finally, Colm dropped by to report that he'd seen 14 Fieldfares in the West Field the previous day - a day too early for our Birdwatch but we will add the sighting to Birdtrack, the national recording scheme that we use regularly. Fieldfares are thrushes and winter visitors from Scandinavia, usually found in flocks. They stand erect, grey heads, yellow bills, speckled breasts with a yellow-orange tint and brown backs and wings. Fieldfares are often seen at SE London locations including Ladywell Fields, but this is a first for us since we've been recording. They are a nomadic species flying to wherever they can find food, so now that they've found Hilly Fields, let's hope they return in future!

Fieldfare  [photo John Richardson, Old Man of Minsmere blog]


  1. Hi, I just stumbled upon this blog, not knowing that someone regularly watched Hilly Fields. Thought you might like to know that on 13th Oct last year I saw a Short-eared Owl over the park for approx 5 mins before it drifted off east. It or another had flown over Barnes WWT earlier that day.

  2. Thanks, Gavin - this is really interesting. Could I just ask: what time of day? Was it looking around (hunting)? We're in the process of putting our records on Birdtrack - do you mind if we add this in your name as a casual record? Do you live locally to Hilly Fields? Thanks again...

  3. Hi Tom, just checked my notes and it was at 12:15. Not hunting but being mobbed by crows, gained height and went east. I'm in Forest Hill, so not far away and just happened to be in the park waiting for my girlfriend to finish running! Was very surprised as it was the first bird I saw! Absolutely no problem re birdtrack, i'll keep an eye on the blog and let you know of any other sightings in the future.

  4. Thanks Gavin, Sounds quite dramatic. I've checked the London Bird Club Wiki for 13 Oct and they record it as being "mobbed by gulls etc" at the Wetland Centre. I guess that's what you get for being a day flying owl! I'll post forthcoming events on here and you must come over and see us sometime...

    1. That sounds rather exciting, feeling a little sorry for the owl. I've just seen a bird of prey on the cherry tree behind Cliffview/by the bothy. I think it was a sparrow hawk. Feathers were rather puffed up. Just when I was getting excited about the increased numbers of sparrows coming in the garden.

  5. Yes, Sparrowhawks are named after their favourite food, although they'll eat any small bird. Males will go for anything up to thrush size, females will even tackle pigeons. They've nested in Brockley Cemetery for at least the last two years so they are seen around the area from time to time.