Birding Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens (open dawn to dusk) are located in the heart of Inner London (City of Westminster and Inner London Sector) and are easily accessible by the many public transport routes that take in the general area.

Both sites, though technically separate, are contiguous and are divided from each other by West Carriage Drive (the bridge). The home to the original Crystal Palace, Speaker’s Corner, Kensington Palace, The Serpentine Gallery, George Frampton’s much loved Peter Pan sculpture, the Albert, Hudson and Diana Memorials, The Speke Monument and Physical Energy, plus many famous concerts and events, the site (as with many within Inner London), is heavily utilised by the general public.

Habitat comprises many old horse chestnuts and limes (particularly in Kensington Gardens), open and amenitised grassland dotted with wooded enclosures, more formal areas, small patches of rough grassland, a lake (The Serpentine in Hyde Park and The Longwater in Kensington Gardens) and The Round Pond (also in Kensington Gardens), long known for its model boat sailing on Sundays.

Some good local birding can be had with a bit of luck and much regular watching. The 625 acres (combined) have had a lengthy birdwatching history reflected in a species list that stood at 188 (in 2008). There is no waterfowl collection here though the occasional bird turns up attributable to one of the nearby collections (St. James’ Park and Regent’s Park).

Early morning is always best for birding purposes, before any disturbance kicks in, and interesting local/London species to have so far occurred have included: Bewick’s and Whooper Swan, Garganey, Long-tailed Duck, Common Scoter, Goldeneye, all three sawbills, Red-throated Diver, Red-necked, Slavonian and Black-necked Grebe, European Storm and Leach’s Storm-petrel, Little Egret, Northern Gannet, European Shag, Red Kite, Osprey, Merlin, Peregrine, Water Rail, Corncrake, Pied Avocet, Sanderling, Little Stint, Bar-tailed Godwit, Eurasian Whimbrel, Eurasian Curlew, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Arctic Skua, Mediterranean Gull, Little, Ring-billed, Yellow-legged, Iceland and Glaucous Gulls, Kittiwake, Little and Black Tern, Guillemot, Razorbill, Little Auk, Turtle Dove, Short-eared Owl, European Nightjar, Hoopoe, Shore Lark, Woodlark, Blue-headed Wagtail, Common Nightingale, Grasshopper and Marsh Warbler, Firecrest, Red-backed Shrike, Hooded Crow, Twite and Snow Bunting. The vast majority of these species are unlikely to be found on any ad-hoc visit and many of the more interesting records are from past decades. However, regular watching should repay with uncommon local species now and then.

Residents and regulars include the most significant Inner London population of Mute Swan (occasionally numbering 100+), Mandarin, Gadwall, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard, Tufted and Ruddy Duck, Little and Great Crested Grebe, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Kestrel, Stock Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Little and Tawny Owls, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, Song and Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Long-tailed and Coal Tit and Eurasian Nuthatch and Common Treecreeper. Migrant breeders include House Martin at the periphery of the site and Blackcap. A fair range of passage migrants can be expected annually such as Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Skylark, the three regular hirundines, Tree and Meadow Pipit, Yellow and White Wagtail, Common Redstart, Whinchat, Northern Wheatear, Fieldfare, Redwing, warblers (including the occasional Wood), Spotted and Pied Flycatcher (the former no longer breeding), Jackdaw, Brambling, Siskin, Lesser Redpoll and Reed Bunting.

Furthermore, in most years there are records of species such as Eurasian Wigeon and Northern Pintail, which regularly pose questions regarding origins. Some examples are undoubtedly wild, others less likely to be so. There are also regular records of Red-crested Pochard that are always considered to be of dubious provenance.

All in all, the site is a typical, though well managed, urban park – but with a bird list that certainly holds its own.

Des McKenzie

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