Just received the Autumn 2009 edition of the RSPB's London House Sparrow Parks Project (LHSPP) newsletter, as promised, so here's a summary:
"London's parks and gardens used to be full of house sparrows. These once common birds have seen a terrible fall in numbers and are now hardly seen in the centre of London at all. One reason for this seems to be a poor supply of food - insects and seeds - for them to eat."
The LHSPP has set up a trial of grass and flower mixes in 20 parks across the city and are monitoring them for insects and seeds and to see whether birds use them.
I did ask if the RSPB had considered conducting any of their trials in Hilly Fields - or Lewisham, at least - but they said they wouldn't be working in our area.
The two trials closest to Hilly Fields are Burgess Park and Peckham Rye Park, both in Southwark. Other trials south of the river are in Beddington Park, Cheam Park, Perrets Field, Rose Hill Park east and St. Hellier Open Space, all in Sutton plus Tooting Bec Common in Wandsworth.
The types of plot they are testing are:
"Long grass: the original park grass left long to give insects somewhere to live over winter, and to provide birds with grass seed.
"Wildflower meadows: a mix of native grass and flowers planted to provide seeds, give insects somewhere to live, and also to provide more nectar for insects.
"'Wildlife Seed' plots: a mix of flowers and other plants often found around edges of fields, that should provide a lot of seed and should also be good for insects."
If you'd like more information, you could try the RSPB London Office: 020 7808 1240
For advice on gardening for wildlife, visit Homes for Wildlife