Sunday, 5 December 2010

STOP PRESS Bewick's Swans cap an amazing week

A rare sight in London, these Bewick's Swans grace the park on
3 December. For more images see
The unprecedented severe weather at the end of November and beginning of December saw an extraordinary range of locally rare birds recorded in Alexandra Park.

The run began with a flock of about 20 Pintail seen passing north-east over the Palace on 30 November. The next morning, with extensive snow and ice cover, a large movement of Lapwings was underway, with two flocks of about 50 and 40 birds especially notable and more than 110 birds in total. Other species fleeing the hard weather that morning included Reed Bunting (very rare here in recent years), Meadow Pipit, Skylark and Fieldfare, but the star birds were 10 or so Waxwings which flew east low over the filter beds towards Wood Green - a long-awaited first reord for the park.

With freezing conditions continuing on 2nd December, a first-winter Kittiwake over the reservoir was the next surprise, being just the second-ever to be recorded. In the afternoon, with this partially ice-free water body drawing birds from a wider than usual catchment area, a young male Common Goldeneye also appeared there. But this relatively rare visitor was firmly outdone the next morning when, at first light, a herd of seven Bewick's Swan's (three adult-types and four juveniles) was found on the reservoir. Another second record for the park, the birds showed very well and attracted keen visitors from elsewhere in London until they flew off north at 10.30 am.

Meanwhile, the long-staying Firecrest in the Conservation Area continues to survive the sub-zero conditions, and with a minor thaw setting in both Common Snipe and Woodcock appeared on 4th. With the first Treecreeper sighting for many weeks (also 4th) and further freezing weather forecast, Alexandra Park could yet produce many more exciting birds before the year is out.