Thursday, 16 February 2012

A winter visitor in the park

The other day I went for a walk in the park near my office – Sunny Hill Park in Hendon for my lunch break, not an unusual event in itself.

What was unusual was one of my sightings in the park – a Fieldfare, no less. I have been on the lookout for these all winter but had been out of luck so far. The severe weather that we had until last week gave me hope as these birds usually only wander into urban areas when they have to in order to find food, but so far I hadn’t seen any this winter.

And then … there it was, perched in a tree next to the path, pecking away at some berries. I had to look twice, and without the aid of binoculars. At first I assumed it was a Song Thrush, but there was something not quite right about that deduction. I ruled out a Redwing because, well, there was no visible red patch on the flank and no clear white strip over the eye. Stepping a few yards along, I got a better look at the head. Yup, I thought, that’s grey. So is the rump for that matter. And the tail is dark. Could it be … well, there’s no-one else around to confirm it. But I’m confident in my judgement here. Fieldfare!

And then off he flew. And I walked off with a spring in my step.

Other sightings in the park included Starlings, Robins (plenty of these), Great Tits, Carrion Crows (plenty of them too) and gulls of the Herring and Black-headed varieties.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

South of the River

As someone who has been raised and now lives and works in North London, I usually have no reason to venture south of the Thames. Today, though, I was visiting relatives in Richmond which, it turns out, is a lovely part of the world. Richmond Park in particular is an area with much birdwatching potential – indeed, as vast open spaces in London go, it’s up there with the Heath. Naturally, I took the binoculars with me. After all, you never know what’s going to turn up.

After lunch, we went for a walk along the Thames and through part of the park. I’d like to mention at this point that the view from the top of Richmond Hill, looking out to the west over Glover’s Island and Twickenham, is glorious.

Weather-wise, it was a lot milder than it has been in London for much of the past two weeks (‘mild’ is a relative term at the moment – it was three or four degrees Celsius). Blue and Great Tits were there to be seen and heard in abundance, while along the River itself I saw Black-headed Gulls, Mallards and the odd Coot. In the trees by Petersham Nurseries, I spotted a couple of Redwings in the trees.

There are a lot of Robins to be seen and heard at the moment. They must be marking out their territories ahead of the breeding season. I must be getting better at identifying birds by their song as I just think ‘Robin’ as soon as I hear that ‘tic-tic’ sound.

Most abundant of all, though, were the Ring-necked Parakeets. Walking though Richmond Park shortly before dusk, the air was filled with the very distinctive sound of these birds as they sorted out their roosting arrangements.

All in all, a lovely day’s walk and some good sightings. Nothing out of the ordinary, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Something to listen to

It seems I’ve been watching wildlife programmes fronted by Simon King for many years – I can remember Bird Brain of Britain back in the 80s, and more recently I have enjoyed watching shows like Springwatch and Autumnwatch. I found out about his new podcast via the medium of Twitter – it’s him describing what he sees as he goes for an early morning walk. Worth listening to – I hope he goes on to do more.