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A Seabird Colony in a City. Preston’s tern colony, Lancashire, England

Preston’s tern colony, with Paul Ellis

Right in the middle of the City of Preston in Lancashire there is a thriving Common Tern colony at Preston Dock. The dock is owned and maintained by Preston City Council who have collaborated with the Fylde Bird Club (FBC) www.fyldebirdclub.org to encourage the terns to nest here. There are over 130 pairs of Common Terns and 4 pairs of Arctic Terns nesting on wave breakers in the dock. The closest nests are so near to the public path around the dock that chicks and eggs in the nests can be seen without binoculars.

The site, which is now used as a marina, is 9 miles from the sea but is connected to it by the River Ribble. The Albert Edward Dock, to give it its full title, opened in 1892 when it was the largest single dock in Europe. It is an enormous artificial lake measuring 3000 by 600 feet. There are rows of wave breakers floating in the water that protect the moored boats by damping out waves in windy weather. However, these wave breakers also provide islands for the terns to nest on.

Common Terns have tried to nest on the wave breakers since 2008 but originally struggled owing to a lack of suitable nesting material. In 2011 FBC took action by providing artificial nest sites using recycled tyres and gravel. Preston City Council supported the work and provided a boat to ferry Club members out to the wave breakers. Every year since, more nest materials have been provided by FBC and Preston City Council have worked alongside Club members. FBC Chairman, Paul Slade, designed and made the first wooden nest box, which proved highly successful. FBC and local schools have now made 170 such nest boxes. They provide eggs and chicks with shelter and protection from predators. The RSPB have actively supported the project, offering advice and holding public engagement events on site to show people the birds.

As if the colony itself was not interesting enough, the background of 79 individual birds is known. Using telescopes, local birders have managed to read the metal BTO leg rings that were fitted when the birds were nestlings.

The headlines are:

4 birds are over 18 years old

Most were ringed at Shotton on the River Dee, North Wales, others are from Rockabill (Ireland), Teesside, Anglesey, Surrey, Aberdeen and Orkney.

The record traveller was ringed in Namibia in March 2011 and has been seen at Preston Dock for the last four summers.

This year there is a bird wearing a Belgium ring but we have yet to hear where it was ringed.

Although the dock is huge it doesn’t contain much suitable food for the terns. They mostly commute to the sea hunt for food and they also fish along the nearby River Ribble and the Lancaster Canal. The birds are so close to the watch point that a variety of sea fish, fresh water fish and crustaceans can be identified when the birds return.

The Terns arrive back at the colony in late April and stay through August before departing for their winter home off the coast of West Africa. The first chicks hatch during the second week of June and can fly by the end of the month. However, the season is protracted and many pairs start nesting later.

The tern colony is a great amenity that attracts many visiting birders and photographers. The great features of this site are the unmatched close views, ease of access, it’s always ‘open’, no need for hides, no disturbance is caused to the birds and it’s free! The colony also attracts a lot of passing interest from the general public which helps spread the conservation message and promote a wider appreciation of wildlife.

How urban nature hooked me in

by Evan Landy

My passion for nature did not originate within towns and cities. My first love was for the sea. Misty mornings with the soft sound of waves lapping against the shore and distant whale exhalations awoke me to the joy and wonderment of nature. In my late teens I moved to and lived by the sea for five unforgettable years before returning to the bright lights and big smoke of my home: London. I returned slightly despondent about what I felt was sure to be a lean few years in terms of wildlife encounters. How very wrong I was.

Back in the city, I developed an interest in birds which transcended into a much more all-round approach to wildlife watching. My breakthrough moment came when I happened across a nesting pair of Eurasian Hobby in a very urban setting. As I walked along the nearby river, I developed a passionate interest in what had brought them there: their dragonfly and mayfly prey. Butterflies were next, followed by wildflowers and bees – I was utterly hooked. The more I knew, the more I wanted to know and the beauty was seeing things on a small scale in a little patch of wild London I could claim to be my own.

WILD BLOOMSBURY

When I got a job at University College London (UCL) I set out to with a slightly different objective: to share the joy of urban wildlife with others. Set in the heart of London, Bloomsbury must be one of the most urban university campuses in the UK but this fact didn’t put me off. The university is dotted with lovely green squares, large London Plane trees and an increasing number of green roofs. These green spaces are sandwiched between old buildings, the type with those perfect nooks and crannies for birds to nest in. Two years ago, I started recording bird life on campus and when others got involved we found, to our delight, there was much more wildlife than we thought.

Every two weeks, at dawn, a group of dedicated staff and students now gather to walk and record the wildlife around campus. We have found some remarkable wildlife and seen some outstanding behaviour. Primarily surveying the bird life, the group have recorded close to 40 species along the 1km or so transect we walk. Some of the species are the hardy and common British species: the Great Tit, European Robin and Eurasian Magpie amongst those seen on every walk. There is usually a rarity or special sight on each walk. Memorable encounters have included close up Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Grey Wagtails, a grounded Eurasian Woodcock and once, shockingly, a Firecrest in Russell Square!

Conservation Group

One of the benefits of wildlife watching in the urban environment is that you can get very close to nature. Binoculars are almost redundant on our walks as we stroll past singing Common Blackbirds just feet away and Grey Squirrels will often follow us, hoping for a charitable handout of a nut of some kind. In addition, walking the same route for several years has allowed us to note some clear changes in the birds we are seeing. The mild winter of 2015-16 yielded very few overwintering migrant birds, but 2016-17 was colder. Several weeks of ground frost and we were inundated with Redwings feeding in roadside rowan trees, and one of our dedicated spotters even spotted a flock of Bohemian Waxwings on his way to campus from King’s Cross. The chitter-chatter of European Goldfinch, rare when we started the walks is now a guaranteed sound alongside the rather harsher bark of the Ring-necked Parakeet.

The stars of the show, however, have always been two little falcons. Towards the end of our walk we approach a brutalist architecture building with tall protruding towers. Most people walk by and see an interesting building – or not – depending on opinion. I, however, walk past every day and have eyes only for the top of the towers in the hope that the Common Kestrels are visible. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the kestrels on my first day at UCL, swooping around the crowded streets. However, they were here, and thriving. We have seen them mating, raising young, hunting worms amongst picnickers and fighting off Lesser Black-backed Gulls twice their size. It lifts ones spirit immensely to see them every day and is the perfect antidote to the constant hustle and bustle going on around you.

NOT COUNTING OUR CHICKENS

Of course all this comes with a warning. It would be remiss of me to talk about London birds without mentioning the House Sparrow. Sadly, despite hours of searching we have never seen so much as a tail feather of a House Sparrow anywhere on campus. This serves as a stark reminder as to the more serious side of our walks. As we count what many may consider common birds, we must remember that what is common now may not be common tomorrow. We must learn from the plight of the House Sparrow and ensure that the local community are able to enjoy this little slice of wildlife in the city for years to come.

Evan Landy (e.landy[@]ucl.ac.uk)

Urban birds: Tails of the Unexpected

with Paul Brook

Common Kingfisher

It was my lunch break and I was walking by the river to the optician’s in town when a low-flying turquoise flash zipped over the water and into a bush on the far bank. And there it sat, possibly on its own lunch break – a Common Kingfisher, poised to plunge.

It obligingly whizzed off and took up another perch further along the riverbank heading in the same direction as me. I got to admire its rich orange chest and belly. I could clearly see its white chin too – brilliant!

The beautiful little bird carried on flitting from bush to bush until it ran out of scrub to perch on. It had reached the concrete section of riverbank in York city centre, only 100 yards or so from the National Railway Museum, one of the city’s busiest attractions.

It was that very museum that gave me my greatest urban birding moment a couple of summers ago. Holding up my six-year-old son to get a better view from an open carriage on a replica of the famous Rocket locomotive, I spotted a small grey bird on the platform ahead, bobbing its tail. It looked like a wagtail but it intrigued me – there were no obvious wagtail markings. When that bird flew off, my eyes must have nearly popped out and my mouth was probably hanging open.

Its tail was bright orange – a Black Redstart! It flew over to the rooftop of an old warehouse across the track. I’d only seen one once before in my life, when I was a child and had no idea they could be found in my home city.

Black Redstart – female

These two examples are what I love about urban birds. Encounters with them are little moments of magic in a frantic world. And they’re often close encounters (close encounters of the bird kind?), allowing us to pause our lurching from one place to another and appreciate their colours, their voices, their character. I’ve often been stopped in my tracks by the alarm call of a wren, the hedge-top song of a Dunnock or a European Robin along an alleyway or back street on my way into town.

You don’t have to go far to discover other small pleasures in urban birding – the fluffy yellow Greylag goslings near a bus stop for instance, or the first summer-plumaged Black-headed Gull of the year heralding the coming of spring.

Urban birds inspire the imagination. When two Peregrines took up home on York Minster, the city’s most famous landmark, they took on the status of instant icons. The local news programme came to film them and while they were at it they went to see the Pied Wagtail roost right in the middle of the city. The magnificent spectacle of the Peregrines and the wagtails could easily be overlooked if we spent all our time marching along and forgetting to look up, but these moments enrich our lives.

I started my regular lunchtime walks into town as a means of getting fresh air and exercise, and to help me manage stress and depression, which I found myself experiencing a few years ago. The uplifting birding experiences on those walks provided welcome distractions and moments of pleasure that took me away from the dark world inside my head.

Birds are what turn a walk to buy a sandwich into an adventure – a voyage into the unknown. You never know what you might see, whether it’s an unexpected bird in an unlikely place, or a close-up view of a familiar feathered friend.

As Forrest Gump’s momma nearly said: “Birding is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re gonna get“.

South Gare, Cleveland

The UK is a beautiful place. Let me go on record for saying that. And it’s not just the classic beauty spots that I’m referring to but also the places that some people bypass and dismiss. I’m speaking about places like my beloved Wormwood Scrubs in West London – a site that never ceases to amaze the casual visitor who is totally unaware of the treasures to be found. These places are often look the mostly unlikely in which to enjoy the wonders of British nature.

I would put South Gare in that category. Situated on the southern side of the mouth of the River Tees in Redcar and Cleveland this little spot is sandwiched between industry and working class humanity. It is a beautiful area in my eyes and looks like a pretty decent location for birding. Indeed, the records go on to testify its birding credentials. The beach attracts waders and the sea is a good place for scanning for divers and other seabirds. It has also had more than its fair share of rarities including Roller, Common Rosefinch and Greater Short-toed Lark.

My two hour stroll around did not result in any rarities, but that wasn’t the point of my visit. Aside from the obligatory raucous Herring Gulls I enjoyed great views of Sanderling, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Ruddy Turnstone plus passerines like Common Stonechat, Pied Wagtail and Meadow Pipit.

This area of the British coastline is certainly worth a second and a third glance.

Birding Newcastle

with Keith Gunning

Newcastle’s most famous city birds are undoubtedly the Kittiwakes that nest on the Tyne Bridge, thirteen miles from the sea. It is the most inland colony in the world. You can look over the parapet into the eyes of a Kittiwake just a few feet away, whilst four lanes of traffic roars past behind you.

I have lived in Newcastle City Centre on and off since 1981 in a flat in Leazes Terrace, overlooking Leazes Park. The peanut feeder attached to the window attracts Great, Blue and Coal Tits, House Sparrow, Eurasian Greenfinch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Chaffinches and Eurasian Robins hop around on the window ledge picking up what is dropped. A nestbox on another window ledge has provided a home to generations of Blue Tits.

The boating lake within Leazes Park supports Mallard, Coot, Moorhen, Mute Swan and both Pied and Grey Wagtails. Canada Geese have appeared in the past couple of years and now breed. Tufted Duck used to just overwinter but they are now resident. Winter visitors include Pochard and Goldeneye. Grey Heron appear from time to time and are mercilessly mobbed by the resident Carrion Crows. During the spring and summer Common Tern fly in to fish.

There is a damp, scrubby area at the north end of the park where there are Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Spotted Flycatcher were present every summer in the 80’s, then suddenly they disappeared. Happily, I saw one again last year.

The park is also an excellent place to see both Daubentons and Pipistrelle bats. Stand by the lake at dusk on a warm summer’s evening and the bats will swoop down to pick insects from the cloud that form over your head.

Newcastle United’s football stadium adjoins Leazes Park. A couple of seasons ago during an evening match, the floodlights attracted a passing Woodcock that crash-landed on the pitch in front of 50,000 fans. It was apparently released unharmed the next day.

On the northern edge of the city centre is the Town Moor, 900 acres of pasture protected from development by an ancient act of Parliament. There are fantastic views of Tyneside and Northumberland from Cow Hill and you can also see Skylarks, Grey Partridge and Common Linnet.

Jesmond Dene is a wooded valley that runs through the suburbs of Jesmond and Heaton. There are Eurasian Nuthatch here and you won’t see them much further north than this. As well as the usual garden/woodland birds, I’ve seen Common Kingfisher and Common Bullfinch and once, many years ago, a Hawfinch.

There are some birds you never expect to see in the city and I suppose the Northern Lapwing is one of these. For the last two springs I’ve watched a pair of these birds display over a small piece of waste ground in Byker, wedged between a council estate the Siemens turbine factory and the greyhound stadium. The nearest farmland must be at least five miles away.

What about the future?

Red Kite have been introduced into Gateshead’s Derwent Valley, just a few wingbeats from Newcastle and they are thriving. If these magnificent birds are to re-establish their historical role as urban scavengers, then Newcastle is the city where it is most likely to happen.

Keith Gunning
kagunning@hotmail.com

Birding Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens

with Des McKenzie

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

Birding in East London

with Andy Maguire

Having lived and birded in East London for over thirty years I have witnessed a tremendous number of changes in the birdlife of the area – unfortunately not all for the good.

House Martins over Chrisp Street

There used to be huge swathes of derelict land especially close to the River Thames from St Katherine’s Dock in the west (c3 miles from central London) out to Dagenham and Rainham Marshes in the east. However, as a result of the vast amount of ongoing development during this time the majority of wastelands that used to support large numbers of House Sparrows, finches and other insectivorous birds no longer exist resulting in the subsequent huge population declines of several bird species.

Yet despite these losses the area still has some important assets that help keep it a lively and interesting place to watch birds.

The first major feature is the River Thames that along with some other important watercourses act as magnets for birds.

Grey Wagtails inhabit the lower end of the Grand Union Canal in the west near Limehouse Basin. Sharing this stretch are Grey Heron, Common Kingfisher, Mute Swan, Eurasian Coot, Common Moorhen, Mallard, Great Crested and Little Grebes.

As well as Great Cormorant navigating the canal and River Lea, Black- headed and Common Gulls are regular winter visitors, Great Black-backed Gull are seen all year round with Common Tern, hirundines and Common Swifts in summer. Pied Wagtail are the typical canalside birds and Eurasian Siskin have been regular winter visitors in Shandy Park and Harford Street in Stepney.

Victoria Park has a good selection of waterfowl including plenty of Mallard, Northern Shoveler, Common Pochard and Tufted Duck. Finches and woodpeckers inhabit the woods and gardens whilst Fieldfare and Redwing are regular in winter together with the resident Song and Mistle Thrushes. Stock Dove are also regular as are summer visitors including the common warblers, Spotted Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear and Black Redstart.

The Lea Valley, as much of east London, is a good place to find migrants. One spring I co-found a male Common Redstart on the Grand Union Canal and I have regularly seen Whinchat in autumn on Wanstead Flats and at Barking Marsh.

Just east of the Grand Union Canal is Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park that contains a considerable amount of woodland. This gem has Common Kestrel and breeding Eurasian Sparrowhawk, lots of nesting Great Spotted Woodpecker and at least two pairs of Green Woodpecker. This is also a local haven for Eurasian Jay and large numbers of other woodland birds with the occasional Firecrest.

The Isle Of Dogs is one of the country’s few refuges for the Black Redstart. This is another bird that benefited from the destruction of East London caused by the bombing during WW2. It’s amazing how common this “rare” species becomes as soon as you cross the English Channel. The other spectacular Docklands bird is the Peregrine that breeds at a growing number of sites in the area and can be seen throughout East London.

At the southern end of the Isle Of Dogs is Mudchute Farm, the largest city farm in Europe. It has a good mix of open pasture, scrub and woodland hosting very large numbers of European Greenfinch as well as European Goldfinch and Common Chaffinch. Common Whitethroat breed and Sedge Warbler inhabit the reed beds over on the west side of the farm.

Further east is the beach by the Thames Barrier Park where the occasional wader such as Common Redshank can be found with Common Teal and Common Shelduck offshore. Barking Creek and Barking Marsh, until recently, had breeding Northern Lapwing that incidentally can often be seen roosting on the grassy areas at the east end of the London City Airport Runway. Numbers of Whinchat can be found on Barking Marsh in autumn with regular Common Stonechat throughout the year, the latter much more common further east at Rainham Marshes RSPB Reserve.

Coming back into the Borough of Newham and Redbridge, Wanstead Flats still has good numbers of Common Skylark and Whinchat that turn up in the autumn. Canada Geese spend their days on the ponds and fly off to roost on the reservoirs in the Lea Valley. Further north at Wanstead Park are plenty of Common Whitethroat and possible Eurasian Bullfinch.

This has been a brief personal tour of some of the sites I know in East London. There are many others to explore such as the Upper Lea and Walthamstow and Tottenham Marshes where you can see Reed Bunting and in the winter a possible passing Short-eared Owl.

Andy Maguire

Holland Park, London

with David Jeffreys

If you were travelling westwards along either of two major routes out of London, you would probably see the well known open space of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens. But you might well miss the lesser known, little urban jewel of just over 21 hectares (53 acres) that is Holland Park.

Holland Park was in private hands until not long after the last war and originally laid out for the enjoyment of its occupants: hence the variety of its habitat. This now consists of woodland in the north (including a Wildlife – or “Nature” – Reserve to which the public has only limited access), formal gardens and lawn elsewhere and a sportsfield to the south. There are two ponds in the Wildlife Reserve, Lord Holland’s pond (next to his statue) in the woodland, the Kyoto Garden pond, an ornamental pond in the Iris Garden and another in the Youth Hostel grounds. Although surrounded by typical urban roads and architecture, it is a place where several bird species flourish and is well worth a visit by the urban birder. But get there early if you can (it opens at 7.30am) in order to beat the crowds attracted there at all seasons in fine weather.

You should find the regular garden birds in evidence in most parts of the park, i.e Common Blackbird, Song Thrush, Chaffinch, European Greenfinch, European Robin, Blue and Great Tits, Dunnock and Wren all of which breed there. There are seed feeders in the central Dutch (or “Formal”) Garden which are popular with the tits, European Robins and finches. They are also unfortunately attractive to squirrels, Rose-ringed Parakeets and Feral Pigeons, although new designs of feeder are continually being sought to deny these last three access.

Great Spotted Woodpecker sometimes use the feeders and breed in the northern woodland. European Goldfinch, absent from the park for several years, made a welcome return as occasional visitors in 2006 and you might be lucky and see one or two. Long tailed Tit and Goldcrest can be seen in the woodland where they also breed, as do Carrion Crow, Eurasian Jay and Magpie. A Firecrest was reported in the autumn of 2005 in the walk from the North Lawn to Lord Holland’s statue. The Coal Tit, a comparative rarity in many London parks, is nearly always present and probably breeds.

The sportsfield attracts, among others, Mistle Thrush, Wood and Feral Pigeons, all breeders in the park, also Common Starling that breed nearby. Stock Dove may occasionally be seen in this area as well as in the Wildlife Reserve. In winter, flocks of Redwing have habitually fed here in the early morning but the mildness of the winter of 2006 seems to have deterred them. Other winter visitors to the sportsfield are Lesser Black-backed, Herring, Black-headed and Common Gulls.

The main Wildlife pond (visible from the entrance gate which, incidentally, is an excellent vantage point for birding), Lord Holland’s pond and the Kyoto Garden pond each supports a pair of Common Moorhen, although they move from one to the other and elsewhere in the park. They have bred regularly but with varying degrees of success over the years, being vulnerable to predation from squirrels, rats, foxes, a terrapin in the Wildlife pond and – worst of all – children who throw stones. For good measure, unsympathetic pruning has deprived them of some of their habitat. This is sad because, despite being common wherever there is water in many parts of London, they are such delightful, jaunty creatures that somehow epitomise the wildness of birds despite their urban environment.

Mallard too, although fairly regular visitors, have had very mixed fortunes in breeding: there was probably one successful brood in 2006 (“probably” because it is not certain they were born in the park although happily seven ducklings survived to maturity). Unfortunately, in most parks there is conflict between the gardeners and the supporters of wildlife in which the gardeners seem all too often to gain the upper hand. Holland Park is no exception.

Eurasian Sparrowhawk occasionally visit to hunt, usually in summer and rather more rarely, Common Kestrel. A pair of Tawny Owl have probably bred but seeing “Tawnies” during the day is pretty unusual. Other occasional visitors are Green Woodpecker, Pied and Grey Wagtails (look for them on the Kyoto Garden waterfall) and, rather more frequent, Grey Heron that may be seen on any of the ponds in early morning after a frog or newt – or even one of the ornamental fish. Look up and you may well see Great Cormorant flying to Kensington Gardens and in spring and summer, the amazing Common Swift.

In spring, this little patch is the unlikely host to the cheerful Common Chiffchaff and mellifluous Blackcap. The Blackcap is a regular breeder whilst the Chiffchaff sadly hasn’t for the past two years. A Sedge Warbler was seen on a single occasion last summer, bearing out David Lindo’s famous motto “You never know what’s going to turn up!” Talking of which, a trio of Egyptian Geese on the sportsfield one rainy day last year and two pairs of Mandarin in March this year.

Happy birding in Holland Park!

David Jeffreys

Pompey Birding

Happy New Year everyone!!

Sorry it’s taken so long to make contact but I’m back for another year of great birds in fantastic locations – God willing.

Today, I was spending time in Portsmouth, Hampshire a city that I have birded in before a few years ago.

I took a random walk along the coastline of this island this morning to eventually end up at Milton Common on the east coast. It was a bright though cold morning with plenty of birds around including the classic Oystercatchers, Curlew, Grey Plover, Ringed Plover and Dunlin.