Wormwood Scrubs > March 2010 Scrubs Report
March 2010 Sightings at Wormwood Scrubs
Joy and Pain…
After a fairly joyless and ultra cold opening two months of 2010, March was a turn in the right direction, although it still started bitterly cold. Towards the end of the month Spring certainly felt as though it had managed to pry open Winter's vice-like grip on the Scrubs terrain and our mental resolve.
Also visits from us Scrubbers were well up on last month with a few new faces appearing from behind binoculars — a sight that is always welcome here. The birders who hadn't graced the hallowed turf for a while would have noticed several differences in the landscape. There is now a play area situated on the green adjacent to Braybrook Street replete with enormous poles and climbing frames that to date have not been frequented by any kids.
Also, the grassland area has been almost entirely bordered by a strip of ploughed ground. The idea here, which is being implemented by Groundwork London and the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, is to plant a low hedgerow that will contain some Blackthorn amongst other bushes plus a strip for wild flowers. Not all users of the park were enamoured with this project and a small militant section have taken to pulling up planted vegetation and labelling The Scrubs Birders as Satanists for instigating this reforestation. Although we were consulted, we certainly were not the instigators.
Both Chats Paddock and Martin Bell's Wood have undergone some fairly extensive brush clearance to provide areas of light for our resident elusive Common Lizards. The work has been met with a certain amount of reserve by the Scrubs' faithful as some of the crucial Common Whitethroat nesting habitat has been cleared away. It remains to be seen what effect the clearance will have on our breeding bird populations.
Speaking of birds, March was yet another month to be scribbled into the record books. The bird of the month was a Woodcock (or three) that appeared out of nowhere. These birds are normally associated with hard weather in London so this bird(s) was either on passage or had been around for a while sitting out the previous months' snows.
Our errant Mediterranean Gull made a brief appearance and we recorded our earliest ever passage Rook, Northern Wheatear and Willow Warbler. Other migrants were decidedly late or absent. Finally, we appear to have acquired a new breeding species in the shape of possibly two pairs of Reed Buntings that have taken up territory in the grassland. These birds are ground nesters too, so we hope that they fair better than our ill-fated Skylarks of 2009.
Let's see what April brings.
Woodcock (M. Flowers)
Contributors: Charlie Farrell, David Jeffreys, David Lindo, Roy Nuttall, Anders Price et al.
Last month we erroneously claimed the absence of any birds seen at The Scrubs. In reality, they were clearly overlooked.
This month a few were seen most days; however at least 13 were seen on the 14th, which included a flock of 11 heading over in ‘V’ formation. This was our largest count for some time.
Sole birds flew over the western end of The Scrubs on the 14th and 15th whilst two went southwest on the 23rd.
A pair headed east over Lester's Embankment on the 14th, 5 flew over on the 16th and a further 4 were counted flying over on the 24th.
Our first reports in 2010 of this feral goose referred to individuals flying over on the 1st and 25th.
The big count this month was 9 on the 10th.
The odd bird (or three) was seen flying over during the month and amazingly these were the first birds to be reported in 2010. A dog walker reported a pair found taking a mid-month stroll near the football pitches.
Sightings were few and far between this month and usually involved soaring birds.
Somewhat of a scarcity here now, this once common falcon's fortunes have definitely changed. Very few sightings were reported — a worrying state of affairs.
Perhaps the surprise of the month, a bird flew low out of Central Copse in a leisurely fashion on the 23rd and dumped down along the southwestern edge of the grassland literally feet away from an unsuspecting dog walker. Its head and neck were visible briefly in the shortish grass before the bird melted away.
It or another was flushed at very close range (almost underfoot) in Chats Paddock on the 28th. It headed off east appearing to land just outside the paddock in Scrubs Lane Wood south of the Back Passage. A subsequent search resulted in nothing — which is no surprise as these birds are totally cryptic once on the ground. Later, it or another headed west along the embankment in loose association with a Wood Pigeon before branching off northwest towards Harlesden.
If these records relate to just one bird then it would be our second ever record following the bird that flew over Central Copse in November 2007.
A bird flew out of the grassland on the 8th. It or another was flushed at close quarters on the 14th. These birds were the first March records since 2008.
Numbers began to dramatically dwindle towards the end of the month with the majority of the remaining birds being around 12 immature birds. The 130 or so birds that were loafing on the pitches on the 7th was a good gathering and the 200 plus on the 14th that were mostly in flocks heading southeast was also good to see. On the 21st, our largest count was guesstimated to be at least 600 with around 400 or so of them overhead.
Last year on the 1st March, 600 birds simultaneously took flight from the football pitches and their shimmering wings made for a gorgeous spectacle.
This species was less prevalent at The Scrubs this year, than this time in 2009. Then we were averaging 50 per day; this year 55 was exceptional on the 21st with a daily average closer to 30 birds. By the end of the month we were struggling to see any with the last bird seen being a 2nd year bird with the other gulls on the pitches on the 28th.
Our on-and-off wintering bird was sighted on the football pitches on the 26th, this time in near full summer garb.
As the smaller gull species dissipated this big gull became more numerous with a peak count of 50 seen on the 21st and 24th.
The 10th was unusual as it was the first time ever that this species was not recorded. It may have been just an oversight but usually even when we are not looking we still manage to bump into a few. Thankfully, every other day was back to a normal service day with the 21st scoring over 20 birds.
This usually scarce gull was sighted a more times this month than any other previously. It involved an adult watched flying northwest on the 16th, a 1st winter bird overhead on the 18th and another adult on the 23rd and finally, a pair that headed northwest on the 28th.
Obviously a locally scarce resident, this endearing pigeon is most certainly overlooked. It was fairly frequently seen in ones and twos flying over and the three on the 14th that included an individual consorting with a Wood Pigeon heading northwest was the most seen.
Several pairs had begun nesting during early March in Chats Paddock, along Lester's Embankment and other sites around The Scrubs. Usually at least 60 birds were counted on site with more birds seen commuting overhead, though over 200 birds heading northeast on the 14th was exceptional.
A bird whizzed through on the 19th whilst two singletons passed overhead on the 21st followed by another on the 28th.
Varying numbers were seen noisily leaving their roost during the month. Up to 600 left their Central Copse roost at sunlight on the 21st and the 30th.
Last year we didn't record a ‘Yaffle’ until early March. This year was no different with the first bird noticed on the 1st; thereafter they were regularly heard and less frequently seen in the Martin Bell's Wood area. We suspect that they are breeding in the vicinity.
Interestingly, Green Woodpeckers used to be seen all year around until 2007. Since then they have tended to disappear for a lot of the winter to reappear in late February/early March.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
We have perhaps two pairs in the area with one firmly based in the east in Scrubs Lane Wood and the other ranging from Chats Paddock.
A male was drumming on a CCTV camera by the Channel Tunnel sheds on the 21st creating an amazingly loud and resonant sound.
Singletons flew over on the 10th, 21st and at least 3 were seen and heard over the grassland on the 19th. Of those birds, the ones that were seen displayed the fluttery ‘I'm having a look around’ flight; a piece of behaviour that could possibly be associated with nesting activity.
Of course, this time last year we were eagerly hoping for our first breeding record whilst we stood over guarding a tenuously settled pair. Of course, the outcome of our vigil as disappointing, as the birds eventually abandoned their attempt due to persistent disturbance.
Fairly healthy numbers lurked in the grassland with estimates made of upwards of 25 birds involved.
Our largest flock of the year graced us on the 1st when 12 birds were counted. There was at least one bird to be seen on most days.
Up to 6 were seen in the grassland area alone on the 14th with 8 in total seen elsewhere on site on the 16th. On the 23rd, at least 10 were counted.
At least 6 birds were noted around the Lester's Embankment area on the 7th and 10th and 10 were counted on the 14th, 16th, 19th and 21st. The peak count was of 16 on the 23rd.
A conservative count of 8 birds was made on the 14th and at least 12 were noted on the 16th.
The first bird of the spring, a gorgeous male, showed up in the grassland along the ‘Forbidden Path’ that dissects the main Meadow Pipit breeding area on the 18th. This harbinger of Spring preceded our previous earliest record set in 2006 by some 8 days.
This early bird started a small flood of 6 birds — more so far than any other year bar 2006 when 42 were recorded throughout the Spring period. Bear in mind also that in an average Spring (March – May) we record around 5 birds. So we really are doing well.
A female was seen briefly on the 16th making it the first of this species to be seen here this year. A male was also discovered in the grassland near Chats Paddock on the 23rd. Our small wintering population has well and truly been wiped out.
At least 10 were noted on the 16th.
A roving group of around 40 birds remained in our woodland areas through the month although on the 7th at least 70 were counted.
A singleton was feeding on the mown grass at the Old Oak Common Lane end of The Scrubs on the 16th, 21st and 28th fuelling speculation that there is a breeding pair in the vicinity.
A reasonable gathering of about 30 birds was on the grass of the Linford Christie Stadium on the 14th hanging out with a party of Redwings. The only other records for the remainder of the month was a singleton heading west with a solitary Redwing on the 23rd and a flock of 21 on the 24th.
Up to 30 were seen on most visits.
Our first returning bird sang briefly from either Chats Paddock or the adjoining Scrubs Lane Wood on the 30th. It was our second ever March record following a bird found in 2007 and the earliest ever, beating the 2007 bird by one day.
Our first returning singing birds were discovered on the 14th when 2 birds were heard. Last year they showed up on the 1st so this year's birds were nearly 2 weeks late.
Around 10 were noted on the 16th.
Most of the birds seen this month were travelling around in pairs (and sometimes, curiously, in threes). Males were observed doing their cute little butterfly-like display flight, a piece of behaviour that's seldom discussed.
At least 20 were noticed on the 16th.
The troop mentality is definitely not in their blood right now as they concentrate on nest building and other family affairs. Nearly all birds were seen in pairs and at least 10 birds were at large on the 23rd.
At least 20 were seen getting up to no good on the 28th.
Ultra unobtrusive, these beautiful crows were barely reported. The only known record was a pair in Chats Paddock on the 29th.
Up to 3 birds were seen or heard on most visits.
Our earliest ever spring bird was reported on the 1st when an individual flew over Martin Bell's Wood. We normally expect to see this rustic crow flying over during April.
The maximum count was of around 200 on the 21st, which included around 100 birds rising from the northern side of the Channel Tunnel sheds, but sometimes daily counts dropped as low as 40 birds as on the 14th.
Last month's large flocks (well, at least by our standards) had largely disappeared leaving behind no more than 30 birds, apart from on the 14th when 40 were counted.
Small numbers were in and around their Braybrook Street stronghold during the month.
It seems like similar numbers of males are holding territories again this year with up to 5 singing at various points of The Scrubs.
The males are moulting into their summer garb so are still fairly drab looking. Up to 12 birds were counted on the 3rd.
These beautiful finches tend to favour the older trees in Scrubs Lane Wood, where up to 12 were counted on the 14th.
There was a lot of activity along Lester's Embankment with several males wheezing away and launching themselves into their peculiar bat-like display flight.
It looks as though we may be hosting up to two males holding territory in the grassland — an unprecedented event.
2010 Year List
- Grey Heron
- Mute Swan
- Canada Goose
- Black-headed Gull
- Common Gull
- Mediterranean Gull
- Herring Gull
- Lesser Black-back
- Great Black-back
- Feral Pigeon
- Stock Dove
- Wood Pigeon
- Collared Dove
- Rose-ringed Parakeet
- Green Woodpecker
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Meadow Pipit
- Pied Wagtail
- Grey Wagtail
- Northern Wheatear
- Song Thrush
- Mistle Thrush
- Willow Warbler
- Great Tit
- Blue Tit
- Long-tailed Tit
- Carrion Crow
- House Sparrow
- Lesser Redpoll
- Reed Bunting
56 species thus far (55 species in March 2009 & 56 in March 2008)