Wormwood Scrubs > January 2010 Scrubs Report
January 2010 Sightings at Wormwood Scrubs
January 2010 will be remembered principally for the extreme wintry weather that we all experienced in Britain. It was bitterly cold for days on end and The Scrubs was under snow cover for prolonged periods. Classic cold weather movement was much in evidence with the numerous Redwings and Fieldfares being the most obvious signs. However, a mammoth count of 50 Skylarks during one morning session was a further indication of the severity of the weather conditions. Birds were literally scratching around for food and were often quite approachable.
Unlike many sites in London (and indeed the UK) we didn't come across any wayward Woodcocks — despite searching. Although we did miss a trick, as this plump woodland wader is a night feeder and what we should have done was to have shown up after dark to see if any were feeding out on the open snow.
It was the best January on record when it came to the variety of species, the best bird being our returning Mediterranean Gull, but it was also a great opportunity to see some usually flighty species at fairly close quarters. More disturbing though was the apparent demise of our resident Stonechats. These insect eaters are particularly sensitive to cold winters and no doubt will have suffered tremendously across the country. We can only hope that our Stonechats managed to move to another area to find easier food and did not perish on our beloved patch.
Woodcock — victim of the freezing weather (D. Lindo)
Contributors: Rob Ayers, Mathew Bournat, Charlie Farrell, David Jeffreys, David Lindo, Roy Nuttall, Anders Price et al.
A couple of birds were recorded during the month.
The occasional singleton was reported with two separate birds noted on the 7th.
Small numbers were noticed with 6 on the 25th being the most.
The pair watched displaying on the 24th were officially the first reported since October 2009.
Only one bird was seen on the 26th.
One was flushed from the grassland on the 9th.
Due to the sometimes harsh conditions numbers of this common gull fluctuated quite a bit with most birds noticed overhead. Over 180 were counted on the 7th.
At least 45 were overhead on the 7th and 60 appeared on the 21st.
Our wintering adult made another appearance on the 18th on the football pitches having originally being discovered there in November last year.
Quite a large count of c.60 was seen on the 7th.
Around 20 were counted on the 7th.
This massive gull is quite a scarcity here as they are essentially more coastal than the other large gulls. A pair headed northwest over Lester's Embankment on the 31st.
At least 100 were in the vicinity on the 7th.
At least 400 birds left their Braybrook Street roost on the 7th.
The bird seen on the 15th must have made a pretty sight as it flew across the snow-clad landscape. It or another was seen on the 27th and a bird was heard calling loudly from Scrubs Lane Wood on the 31st.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
A bird was seen on the 17th; meanwhile a pair were watched cavorting together on the 27th.
Our largest ever count of this decreasing farmland species occurred during the absolutely freezing morning of the 7th when at least 50 birds were seen. This number included around 20 birds that were roving around, of which 11 were feeding on the snowy field north of the prison.
Thereafter, these larks were seen infrequently in ones and twos.
The average count for this hardy little bird was around 10 but at least 20 were seen on the 7th and 15th.
A few birds were reported through the month with 4 being the most on the 17th.
As in December, small numbers were noted with a maximum of 5 being the limit.
Very few were seen during January with 5 seen on the 17th perhaps the highest count.
Around 5 birds were seen along the northern edge of Scrubs Lane Wood and Chats Paddock on the 7th.
Very small numbers were noted.
Hungry flocks were readily seen especially during the freezing weather. Up to 40 birds were regularly sighted.
A singleton was seen on the 26th and a pair was on the grass together near the northwest corner the following day. This bold thrush is an early nester and in days of old was often referred to as the ‘Storm Cock’ due to its habit of singing from the exposed tops of trees in all weathers early in the year.
Around 40 flew over on the 7th. When the snows came this active winter thrush along with their Redwing cousins became much more prevalent. At least 120 were around on the 15th with at least 100 feeding on the snow in the company of 20 Redwings.
At least 20 were counted on the 7th.
Normally during the height of winter our smaller birds evaporate to more welcoming abodes like the plentiful neighbouring back gardens filled with tons of free food that's often replenished on a daily basis. So 6 on the 7th was a big count.
At least 10 birds were encountered on the 7th.
A small troop of 8 was noticed moving along Lester's Embankment on the 7th and perhaps 10 were seen at the same location on the 31st.
Around 20 birds were counted on the 7th.
At least one bird was calling, flying around Central Copse on the 31st.
There are certainly far fewer crows around than there used to be. In 2006 there were nearly double the 80 or so that were seen this month.
Around 40 were drifting around on the 7th and 31st.
At least 12 were seen near Braybrook Street on the 26th.
Although there were probably more around than met our eyes, only two were seen on the 26th and around 5 on the 31st.
The first returning birds appeared on the 26th when at least 2 birds were encountered.
On the 27th, 3 were discovered in a birch tree in Martin Bell's Wood. The observer specifically identified them as Lesser Redpoll due to their brown appearance and small size. The other similar species is the Mealy Redpoll, which is marginally larger, colder brown looking and is far, far scarcer.
At least 5 unidentified Redpolls (probably Lesser) were flying around Central Copse on the 31st.
A singer was heard on the 15th and around 8 were in Central Copse on the 31st.
Our winter population peaked at around 15 on the 7th. By the end of the month several males were displaying along Lester's Embankment.
This beautiful finch is a bit of an enigma here at Wormwood Scrubs. Nationally they were considered a pest species during the 60s and early 70s. At The Scrubs during the 90s they were almost guaranteed to be seen all year round. But since then they have slid off the scale, ceasing as a regular breeder in 2008 and are now seen only a few times a year and predominantly during the winter.
A bird whistling from Chats Paddock on the 7th was the first to be positively registered since January 2009.
A single bird was heard calling from the grassland on the 7th.
2010 Year List
- Grey Heron
- Canada Goose
- Black-headed Gull
- Common Gull
- Mediterranean Gull
- Herring Gull
- Lesser Black-back
- Great Black-back
- Feral Pigeon
- Wood Pigeon
- Rose-ringed Parakeet
- Green Woodpecker
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Meadow Pipit
- Pied Wagtail
- Song Thrush
- Mistle Thrush
- Great Tit
- Blue Tit
- Long-tailed Tit
- Carrion Crow
- House Sparrow
- Lesser Redpoll
- Reed Bunting
43 species thus far (36 species in January 2009 & 40 in January 2008)