Monday, 6 May 2013

April Bird Survey: Springtime Song

Sue and I did our monthly bird survey on 30th April - a warm sunny morning with just a slight chill here and there to remind us of the cold winter not long left behind. Most of the trees were in leaf, the cow parsley was beginning to flower and the birds were in full springtime song. Blackbirds, Robins, Wrens, Great Tits and Chaffinches could be heard abundantly around the park and we also saw and heard at least three male Blackcaps. There were brief glimpses of the Jay, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Goldcrest and we spent some time trying to get a clear view of a silent warbler that was flitting about high in the branches of a leafy tree. In the end, we concluded that it was probably a Chiffchaff. The only regulars that were missing were Goldfinches and Mistle Thrushes though they have both been seen and heard since.

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs are the only warblers we seem to get on Hilly Fields and only the Blackcap stays around for the summer. Those we saw would be spring migrants, recent arrivals and will already be in the throes of nest building and breeding. The wintering Blackcaps will by now have returned to central Europe. Blackcaps are just a tiny bit smaller than House Sparrows and it is only the male that has a black cap; the female's being a sweet chestnut brown. Often, though, the easiest way to spot them in the bush is by the white downy breast. You will hear them singing at this time of year though not as often as the songbirds I've mentioned above. Their song is very attractive, starting in a scratchy stuttering manner and becoming more "fluting" towards the end. Here's an example:

Our final tally was 19 species: 8 Blackbirds, 3+ Blackcaps, 3+ Blue Tits, Chaffinch, 5 Feral Pigeons, Great Spotted Woodpecker, only 1 House Sparrow (unusual), 2 Long-tailed Tits, Ring-necked Parakeet, 4 Starlings, 3+ Wrens, 2+ Carrion Crows, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, 4+ Great Tits, Jay, Magpie, 6+ Robins, 3+ Woodpigeons. This is one of the few months in which the Feral (or 'London') Pigeon has outnumbered the plumper Wood Pigeon (the one with the white collar). The House Sparrows must have been out and about. We have now recorded 41 different bird species at Hilly Fields since the Bird Champion Project began in 2007 and I will publish the full list in our next post or you can read our report on the Lewisham Nature Conservation website here. The most recent new sighting was a Lesser Black-backed Gull seen here in splendid isolation near the cricket pitch on 20th April:

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