Wormwood Scrubs > May 2008 Scrubs Report
May 2008 Sightings at Wormwood Scrubs
May started fairly interestingly with both a Peregrine and a Hobby seen flashing through. These impressive falcons are always a pleasure to see, though this is no doubt not a feeling shared by many of the smaller birds of The Scrubs. For the second spring in a row there were absolutely no Common Redstarts to seen frequenting the bushes fuelling up before continuing their journeys. To be fair, this spring there were very few of these absolutely gorgeous birds reported anywhere in London.
The middle part of the month was generally quiet and the local breeders were largely settled attending to domestic chores such as raising nestlings. Oddly, a male Pheasant was discovered by a dog walker, strutting around on the edge of Scrubs Lane car park next to Martin Bell's Wood.
This country gamebird is a bit of an enigma to us. They are recorded almost annually (normally in the depths of winter) and most of The Scrubs birders have never caught up with one, despite them being rumoured to stick around for weeks on end. They are not renown for their aerial prowess — so where do they come from? It's our very own Bodmin Beast — a phantom that only reveals itself to the lucky few.
The 25th, the date of the London Natural History Society walk at The Scrubs, will go down in local birding folklore as yet another example of the old adage: anything can turn up anywhere at any time.
Picture the scene. It's 9am on a wet Sunday morning. While being lashed by the rain you're seriously questioning why you ever got interested in birds in the first place. Then a small miracle occurs. Through soaked optics you watch a Cuckoo fly out of the trees in Martin Bell's Wood and do a grand circuit over your head before heading off north. Elation! You decide there and then that never again will you take any notice of the weather conditions when getting out of bed to go birding.
What tornado? I'm going birding!
Ring-necked Pheasant (D. Darrell-Lambert — www.birdbrainuk.com)
Contributors: Mathew Bournat, Kim Dixon, David Jeffreys, David Lindo, Roy Nuttall et al.
The normal low counts were had this month unlike in May 2007 when slightly higher numbers that usual were encountered with 13 being the maximum. We could only scrape 5 together on the 6th.
A few singletons were seen flying over during the month. The best numbers were 2 on the 14th and 3 together on the 21st.
The usual small flocks we noticed going from A to B. Over 27 birds flew by the prison on the 30th.
Up to 3 birds were seen occasionally throughout the month.
The occasional marauding individual was occasionally seen sweeping over.
The usual pair was seen all through the month. They ranged throughout the site and not just along Lester's Embankment and the grassland. One was watched making a half-hearted swoop at a Greenfinch on Lester's Embankment on the 7th. On the 30th 3 birds were noted.
One of these glorious summer visiting migrants circled Chats Paddock on the 7th. On the 25th we were delighted to see one chasing a parakeet along the north-east corner of Scrubs Lane Wood before heading over to the cemetery. It is thought that there may be a pair breeding somewhere locally as sightings have been pretty frequent this spring, including records from the cemetery itself.
These magnificent predators are becoming more of a regular occurrence at The Scrubs in parallel with their increase in London. One flew over Chats Paddock on the 6th, much to the annoyance of the local Starlings. A probable male flew swiftly over Chats Paddock again from the south east on the 25th.
A male was reported mid month along the edge of Scrubs Lane car park and Martin Bell's Wood by a dog walker.
An early returning bird was watched in pouring rain flying past Central Copse on the 25th. This abundant gull is usually absent between the close of April til mid-June.
Our first ever May record occurred on the 6th when an adult was seen near the prison. Normally, this gull departs our playing fields by late April for their breeding grounds returning in October.
As per usual for this time of year, numbers climbed dramatically with most birds being immatures. On the 29th at least 45 flew over from the north-west in dribs and drabs but on the 30th over 90 birds were seen, which was the most in our airspace for some time.
Small numbers were noticed on most days as they commuted from east to west and vice versa.
A couple birds were seen as they transported themselves overhead. This attractive seabird is probably traverses our site far more regularly than what records suggests.
At least 6 birds were present on the playing fields near Chats Paddock on the 25th and 4 were with the Wood Pigeons on the 30th.
Young birds abounded during the month and at least 60 adults were noticed on the 25th.
We are well into Collared Dove season when sightings become more frequent, although remaining sporadic at the best of times. Singletons were reported on the 2nd, 29th and 30th with 2 on the 11th.
Our first bird of the season and the first since 2006 was briefly seen darting off to the east on the 25th. Its small size (smaller and more compact than a Collared Dove), dark plumage and speedy direct flight with ‘flicky’ wingbeats were diagnostic.
For the third year in a row we added this enigmatic bird to our year list. A lone bird suddenly flew out of some trees in the pelting rain on the southern edge of Martin Bell's Wood on the 25th. It was a totally unexpected and quite late by our standards because our recent records have been in late April/early May.
Interestingly, there have been quite a few May records of Cuckoo in the London area that leads us to two questions: was there a late passage of Cuckoos across London this spring and has The Scrubs been the regular recipient of this spring migrant for many years before we finally noticed them two years ago?
Numbers of this supreme aerial master began to build from the 2nd peaking at over 100 birds swooping over the grassland on the 25th.
Alarmingly, on the 25th over 40 birds were counted along Scrubs Lane Wood in broad daylight with over 50% being youngsters.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
There was no change from last month with perhaps a couple of pairs ‘knocking’ around.
One headed north with a Swallow on the 7th.
We continued to receive passage birds on a daily basis that involved at least 30 birds including around 4 birds that stayed to hawk insects over the grassland on the 25th. It is so rare for these birds to stop at The Scrubs to enjoy the insect delicacies that we can offer.
A single bird hawking high over Lester's Embankment on the 30th in company of some Swifts was our only spring record.
Now that the breeding season is in full swing we estimate that there are probably 3 pairs in residence in the grassland. These birds are notoriously hard to count this time of year — a situation confounded by the fact that they often land yards away from their nest and then walk the rest of the way, so it's hard to suss where the nest is.
Birds were still noticed displaying which is something that they usually do up until the end of the month. On the 25th at least 2 birds were seen with food destined for their growing nestlings.
A male flew across the Hammersmith Hospital car park on the 29th fuelling thoughts that they may well still be breeding in the vicinity.
At least 3 birds were singing on the 25th.
No counts were made this month, but at least 4 were noticed on Lester's Embankment on the 30th — a gross underestimate.
A count of 12 singing males was had on the 25th, indicating that we have a very healthy population of this nationally scarce thrush.
At least 20 birds were counted on the 25th.
This bland looking warbler has a history at The Scrubs of showing up periodically on passage during month, typically singing for a few days them disappearing. We have never proved them to breed here and we rarely see them between July and early August.
A bird was discovered singing on the 2nd in Heron Copse' (the most northerly copse on the eastside), another sang from Chats Paddock on the 6th and 7th the same date that another bird was discovered singing from the north-west corner of Lester's Embankment. A final bird was seen on the 11th.
We estimate there may be as many as 8 singing males holding territory around the park, which is roughly equivalent to last season's total.
As per usual for this time of year our nesting birds slip beneath the radar. We think that there are 5 pairs at large and at least 4 of them were singing on the 2nd. One of them was still singing on the 25th.
Some of these birds were also glimpsed during the month including a bird watched taking food to its nest.
At least 14 singers were counted around the site, which was a couple more than last summer but a far cry from the 22 singing males that we recorded during the summer of '05.
Following on from April, the odd singer was discovered around the site during the month, particularly along the northern edge. As with Garden Warblers, we have never recorded this warbler breeding here to date, but we get males stopping to sing almost every year. So far nobody has actually clapped eyes on any of our spring 2008 visitors yet.
A male was heard quietly singing in Chats Paddock on the 25th making it the earliest spring bird here ever.
This riparian songster has a very interesting history with us here at The Scrubs. We normally see this unobtrusive bird during autumn migration when a couple are usually detected (however, in 2006 nearly 10 birds were found). During the 'spring' we get the odd bird in full song hidden in the middle of a bush, miles from any reeds in the middle of June.
Now, if in the middle of June you happen to find a brownish and fairly nondescript little bird that fits the description of a Reed Warbler singing from deep within a bush, your heart should begin to race because the chances are that you may have discovered an extremely rare Marsh Warbler!
But strangely, our June birds always seem to be bona-fide Reed Warblers. Two singers were uncovered in mid and late June last year and one of them aroused a lot of interest as it was singing a slightly strange song and appearing to look a bit more rufous than usual. Will this year finally be the one when we find a real Marsh Warbler?
The possibly lonesome male in Martin Bell's Wood sang into the last week of May. On the 7th, another singer was discovered by the Community Centre, on Braybrook Street and a third singing bird was discovered in the north-west corner on the 11th and it sang until the month's end.
As with its cousins, the Sedge and Garden Warblers, we don't know if they ever breed here.
The number of singers seemed to remain constant throughout the month with up to 4 birds noted.
No counts were made this month and only ‘a couple’ were seen on the 25th.
Around 10 birds were counted on the 25th.
At least 10 were counted on the 5th.
At least 18 were counted on the 25th.
Our only known nesting pair continued to go about their business in the woods just outside Chats Paddock.
Following an absence last month, 3 birds were recorded on the 11th with a singleton on the 14th.
At least 100 birds were hanging around on the 25th.
Around 50 birds, mostly juveniles, were flocking in the grassland on the 25th.
As usual for the summer months, our resident sparrows began to radiate around the area and birds were seen in the northern edge of Scrubs Lane Wood and as far east as Lynford Christie Stadium. The first youngsters were watched being fed on the 6th.
Aside from our regular pair in Central Copse, a singer was found in the northern portion on Scrubs Lane Wood on the 7th and another by the Community Centre on the 25th.
At least 20 birds were at large mostly along Lester's Embankment, though there were a few over to the east along Scrubs Lane Wood.
Perhaps 4 pairs are breeding in Scrubs Lane Wood.
The usual numbers were cavorting along Lester's Embankment during the month.
A pair was glimpsed briefly in Scrubs Lane Wood on the 30th. Are they breeding?
2008 Year List
- Great Crested Grebe
- Grey Heron
- Mute Swan
- Canada Goose
- Tufted Duck
- Black-headed Gull
- Common Gull
- Mediterranean Gull
- Herring Gull
- Lesser Black-back
- Great Black-back
- Common Tern
- Stock Dove
- Wood Pigeon
- Collared Dove
- Turtle Dove
- Short-eared Owl
- Rose-ringed Parakeet
- Green Woodpecker
- Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Sand Martin
- House Martin
- Meadow Pipit
- Tree Pipit
- Pied Wagtail
- Northern Wheatear
- Song Thrush
- Mistle Thrush
- Ring Ouzel
- Garden Warbler
- Lesser Whitethroat
- Common Whitethroat
- Sedge Warbler
- Reed Warbler
- Willow Warbler
- Great Tit
- Blue Tit
- Long-tailed Tit
- Carrion Crow
- House Sparrow
- Reed Bunting
- Little Bunting
81 species thus far (73 species in May 2007 & 78 in May 2006)