Saturday, 26 January 2008

All three Woodpeckers ... but I missed pass the parcel

I snuck off from a kids' birthday party at lunchtime to give the Grove my first look of the year and hopefully secure a few Ally Pally year ticks.  

The Grove is the most westerly section of the Park and in part borders onto Muswell Hill. It is a pretty reliable spot for a few species that can be tricky to see elsewhere in the Park, notably Coal Tit and Stock Dove.

I started well with Stock Dove and Goldcrest, both new for the year. A quick walk through the pine belt brought only a Green Woodpecker. However, a calling Nuthatch persuaded me to walk over to the far south-west side of the Grove. Here a small flock of 15 or so Redwing flitted about nervously before heading down the slope.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker showed well, with a further bird heard drumming.

The Nuthatch proved elusive. A bird flew from a tree in which they had bred in previous years and I raised my binoculars expecting it to be the Nuthatch. Instead, I was delighted to see it was a male Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The Lesser Spot showed well for c. 10 minutes, mainly feeding high up in the tall Lime trees that line the main path through the Grove. It was silent, although I thought I heard another bird calling briefly from nearby.

So a 25 minute visit produced all three Woodpeckers. Will Lesser Spot return as a breeding species to the Park? Fingers crossed.


Sunday, 20 January 2008

First Shoveler of the winter

Two male and three female Shoveler finally appeared on the boating pond today - the first of the winter. Alan Gibson also had an Egyptian Goose flying over the pond, a rare bird in the park, while in a garden backing onto the allotments south of The Grove, a Brambling was present.

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

Owls and nightime wildlife

Tawny Owl is the only owl that occurs in the park, but it can be very difficult to find. Midwinter is often a good time to listen out for calling birds after dark, especially on dry, clear nights. Two spot checks at 3am in the park this morning by Dominic Mitchell failed to locate any vocal owls, though good views of a Fox on the pavement in front of the Palace building provided some compensation; so did no fewer than four Robins in the area, all singing males stationed close to bright street lamps, which routinely encourage this species to sing throughout the hours of darkness.

There was, however, some eventual success with owls. Later the same day, John Murray heard a calling Tawny give two hoots at 7.25pm from woodland near the conservation pond, although the bird itself was not visible. (If you want to try listening for owls after dark in the park, the safest bet is to do so from a well-lit area such as the main road, and not within woodland itself).

Elsewhere in the park, today's sightings included the usual trio of Goldcrest, Coal Tit and Nuthatch in The Grove, along with several Redwings and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and another Fox down at the reservoir.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Redwings - lots of them

A brief visit this afternoon in what felt like the first sunshine of the year. Gull numbers were slightly up on last weekend, with Black-headed Gull numbering 129 (plus more than 50 on the Boating Lake), Common Gull 14 (1 on the Boating Lake), but just two LBB Gull. The hoped for Med Gull failed to appear. 

The whole reservoir area was quite flooded after the recent downpours, with the water level at the Conservation Pond too high to make Water Rail seem worth more than a couple of minute's search. 

Instead I headed to the the animal enclosures at the top of the Park, where Bob had seen a Siskin around lunchtime. No sign of the Siskin, but my first Redwing of the year were decent compensation, with 15 or so vocal birds in the area, at one point spooked by a Sparrowhawk. I've always loved to hear calling Redwings - a sound so redolent of Autumn days on the coast when easterly winds have worked their magic. 

I walked back down the hill via the pitch and putt, pausing for a brief chat with Alan (another year tick). Here was a much larger group of Redwing, numbering at least 60 birds, feeding on the lush fairways. I saw another solo bird later in the cricket scrub as the light faded.

My Ally Pally list has now soared to 37, doubtless leaving me firmly in 5th place.


Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Three-woodpecker day!

Alan Gibson did well this morning with a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in trees in the new animal enclosure, on the north side of the park east and down-slope from the boating pond. This is a difficult species to find in Alexandra Park these days, and the first record for some time. Birds are usually easiest to find in early spring, when drumming males (if present) can be more readily located by sound and by sight in the leafless canopy of oaks and elms. Along with Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers also recorded this morning, 8th January will be remembered as a rare three-woodpecker day.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Tuesday 1st January - Wigeon are like buses ...

Happy New Year!

A brief visit coinciding with the last hour of daylight produced a mere 28 species, but two highlights.

Whilst counting the gulls (112 Black-headed, 13 Common, 5 Lesser Black-backed - well down on the numbers this time last year), I came across a female Wigeon on Wood Green Reservoir. This is the third individual in the last fortnight and was successfully twitched by Andrew Gardener. It was still present at dusk.

Andrew and I then checked the Conservation Area Pond for Water Rail - I had seen one here yesterday at dusk. Right on cue one appeared on the edge of the reeds, viewed from the south side of the Pond. It then swam across a channel, disappeared into the reeds and (presumably) met a friend, as one or two were then heard to squeal.

One Dabchick on the bridge reservoir was also of note.

Water Rail and Wigeon had eluded me in 2007 until late December, so all in all an encouraging start to the year.