Tuesday, 5 March 2013

February Bird Survey

26 February: such a cold overcast day that I approached Hilly Fields with low expectations, only to hear a Dunnock singing in the Vicars Hill border as soon as I got there. Joined by Sue and Tony, we started off on our usual path alongside the Veda Road back gardens with Great Tits calling almost non-stop from the trees and bushes. Around the corner, a pair of Jays were screeching to each other from opposite ends of the little wood. Shortly afterwards, I managed inadvertently to flush one out of its hiding place and saw it land on the other side of Eastern Road before flying back over the wood to find its mate. The trees along the road also revealed a pair of Greenfinches, a brief sighting of a Mistle Thrush, a Magpie evidently building a nest there and a flurry of Goldfinches twittering around the high branches before shooting off elsewhere. So much activity! It seemed as if the birds were saying: "we have business to conduct whatever the weather". Greenfinches, by the way, are known for the so-called "wheezing" call they make when trying to attract a mate, although it always sounds like a sneer to me. Have a listen to this RSPB recording...

Greenfinches: credit DJS Photography
A few minutes later, we saw two Mistle Thrushes driven out of a tree beyond the playground by a group of noisy Crows. On the north field, another tree held about 30 Starlings going through their repertoire of sound effects while a flock of 30+ gulls was spread around the cricket pitch and along the slope. The great majority were Common Gulls (Sue counted 30) which has been the trend since the start of the year, a reversal of the usual Black-headed Gull dominance and unusual for an Inner London park. After that, it was so cold and drizzly on the high ground that we headed quickly for the Cliffview Road border where there were rather more House Sparrows than usual - up to 10, I would say (as reported by "Hilly" in the comments on the previous post) - and then back uphill to the sanctuary of the cafe. A good morning, though, despite the elements with 18 species seen or heard including 12 Wood Pigeons and small numbers of Robins, Blue Tits, Blackbirds, Parakeets and a Chaffinch in addition to those birds already mentioned.

Common Gull on Hilly Fields
The other news is that a few days before our survey, Sue saw a pair of Collared Doves on Hilly Fields which is another "first" for the site, at least during the time that we've been recording. These birds have a softer look about them than the Feral Pigeon which they resemble from a distance, as well as a black ring around the neck. Although numbers in London have increased considerably since 1995, they still seem fairly uncommon in the Inner Boroughs. You'll know if you've heard one though. In fact, you'll wish you hadn't. Their insistent three note cooing makes the Wood Pigeon sound almost lyrical.

Collared Dove: credit Hawk Conservancy Trust

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