The wintering Dartford Warbler was last seen on March 1st. On the 4th a Red Kite perched briefly in a tree and was the first of 18 sightings this spring of this expanding raptor. That is as many records as the whole of 2011. The importance of the Park as a stopover for Stonechats, as well as a wintering area, was emphasised by the 33 birds present on the 6th, perhaps the highest number ever recorded in the Park in spring and indeed in the London area. All had gone by the next day apart from a lone female which lingered in the bracken of Lawn Field. This area, already recognised as important for passage birds and breeding Reed Buntings, produced a remarkable series of Wheatear records with at least 32 seen there this spring, along with 9 Whinchats. These migrant chats used to favour the old riding ring on The Bog and the cattle enclosure. But the removal of the former and the early opening of the latter probably caused their shift to Lawn Field.
The first Chiffchaff was present on the 13th along with 50 Redwings. The rarest bird of the spring was the Rock Pipit found on the shoreline of Upper Pen Pond that was recently cleared of Rhododendron: Another addition to the growing list of species using this undisturbed area and only the second record for the Park- the first being in 1949. The first of two Short-eared Owls flew through on the 24th. Brambling, Bullfinch, Pheasant and Rook were also noteworthy. Two Firecrests were seen and heard at the beginning of April. The 6th was a day of raptor passage with 4 Peregrines, 2 Red Kites and 9 Buzzards observed. Meadow Pipits were also on the move with 74 recorded. The first Willow Warbler of the spring was heard on the 10th and contrasted with a Fieldfare, the last of the wintering Thrushes.
The middle of the month saw the arrival of a few more species, including Whitethroat, Sedge Warbler, Common Tern and most notably two Redstarts. A male Ring Ouzel was found on the 15th along with a male White Wagtail– the Continental form of Pied. A Cuckoo called on the 21st, the first of at least four this spring and another male Ring Ouzel was found. Typically elusive it stayed at least a couple of days. A perched Peregrine was an unusual sight. Four Green Sandpipers on the 22nd- including three in a flooded bunker on the golf course- was a surprising occurrence.
An unseasonably stormy day on May 6th resulted in a mass arrival of 200 Swallows over the Pen Ponds. A flyover Shelduck was the highlight of the Spring Bird Count on the 9th which produced 72 species and was a good effort considering the unpromising weather conditions. A couple of Greenland Wheatears, the larger version of the form that breeds in the U.K., paused on the 22nd on their long journey north. This sub-species performs one of the longest transoceanic crossings of any songbird- 4,500 miles from sub-Saharan Africa to its breeding areas in Greenland and North-east Canada, via the North Atlantic. Any undisturbed area of suitable habitat on the way is clearly important for somewhere to rest and refuel.
J. Wilczur, May 2015
The last Wheatear of the spring was seen on June 3rd and, given the date, was probably one of the north-western forms. Two adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls on the 13th were unusual in that they were on the ground at Broad Field- perhaps they were the pair that bred in Kingston? A Black Tern at Upper Pen Pond on the 14th was the seventh record for the Park, the last being in 1993. A once regular migrant, but a rarity now, was the Turtle Dove that sang briefly at Holly Lodge on the 17th- the first for five years. There were four records of Red Kites and up to four Buzzards in a day, including a distinctly pale bird which was seen on a few occasions.
Black-headed Gulls continued to be present at the Pen Ponds perhaps indicating future breeding- they are normally absent during summer. This may cause conflict with the summering Common Terns as it seems to have done at Barnes Wetlands.
Little Egrets were a feature of July with a single on the first, a party of six flying over on the 20th- the largest flock ever seen in the Park- then a juvenile at the Pen Ponds from the 21st which stayed into autumn. Six Sand Martins were also seen on the 1st with 20 on the 24th. The first “autumn” wader was a Common Sandpiper on the 7th with another on the 24th. Siskins were surprisingly early returners with 19 on the 9th. Other returning migrants at the end of the month included Teal, Garden and Willow Warblers. A few more Red Kites were seen in July as were Peregrines including an adult and juvenile mobbed by a Hobby on the 24th.
J. Wilczur, October 2015