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Birds

Various reports compiled by APOG (Alexandra Park Ornithological Group) can be downloaded at the end of this page.   



Bird watching walks take place in the grounds of Alexandra Park in the Spring and Autumn.  

These are usually organised and led by the Alexandra Park Ornithological Group (APOG)
.  

Dates for future walks can be found under What's On, and full details will appear on the Home page nearer the time.


See Birds - 2014 and earlier for reports of bird-watching walks, talks, and rare sightings before 2015.



The following are notes of some of our recent activities


Autumn 2018 Bird Walk and Ringing Display

Not a huge turn out this year for the walk and unfortunately no rare birds!

We saw plenty of the usual magpies, crows, robins and the noisy parakeets....

Highlights this year were a greater spotted woodpecker in the Grove, starlings and goldfinches near the pitch and putt hut, a great crested grebe on the reservoir and house martins over the reservoir.

Bird ringing was also slow with only a robin being ringed (and the group missed that!).

It's all down to the vagaries of chance - I suppose - and next time, we will be back to a more spectacular list of birds seen.


Spring 2018 Bird Walk and Ringing Display

https://sites.google.com/a/dreamcountry.org/foapk/home/bird-watching/41400865144_a398a700fe_z.jpg
With dry weather, a pleasant surprise, between a dozen and a score of us met up in The Grove Car Park led by Gareth Richards.

We could pick out a few birds singing nearby including Robin, Blue Tit and Blackbird. Moving deeper into The Grove and saw a Stock Dove and a Mistle Thrush on the grass.

Looking around, we heard/saw Blue tits, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Long-tailed tits and even saw Swifts overhead.

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Great tits were seen exiting a nest hole on old dead oak tree. (left)

Walking out of The Grove across the road, we espied a Mistle Thrush and male Blackbird.

After hearing the Goldcrest in The Grove, we were treated to closer sightings of this titchy bird in one of Giant Redwoods.

Walking across the South Slope there was Mallard on the grass and high in a tree a Greenfinch. Approaching the Pitch and Putt, a Blackcap was singing strongly.

We moved on to the Cricket Pitch area where Blue Tit was seen in a willow. A recent good news story is the spread of Sparrows
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(male pictured left) from their stronghold by the junction of North View Road, Newland Road and Nightingale Lane to the Cricket Scrub area.

We had a good explanation of the technique, purpose and legal requirement of Bird Ringing from licenced practitioner, Gerry. 

During this time, a Wood Pigeon perched on nearby hawthorn and the quick eyed saw a Wheatear. Walking off, a Whitethroat was singing in a willow.

By the reservoir, we spotted Herring and Lesser Black-Backed Gulls, Grey Heron and disputing Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

Moving outside to the Filter Beds, a Little Egret flew over and a Grey Wagtail perched on the edge of one of the beds.

Back in the park, a woodpecker high up in a tree.




Dawn Chorus Bird Walk

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On a mild early morning, @Birdbrainuk met up with us at the Park Information Centre. David Darrell-Lambert led about two dozen of us on an exploratory walk to discovery the soundscape of the early morning.

David, referring back to his talk, pointed out the sounds of the birds to be heard at this early hour.

We were treated to the sight of Jays chasing through the trees at the start of the walk. As to the sounds, the loudest sounds came from almost the smallest birds, the Wrens, with their high decibel songs .

The deepest voice came from the Stock Doves and Wood Pigeon as they don't open their mouths so the sound comes from deep down. The highest pitch songs came from the Goldcrests which 
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many of our group could make out. (We gradually lose high frequencies with age.)

Throughout the walk we kept hearing the jaffles of the Green Woodpeckers tracking our movements. 

Jays again came to the fore when they where seen building a nest near the Lower Path (pictured left). We also saw a Crow in a nest. Our walk had taken us down to the Lower Road and back along the Middle Path eventually pigging out on croissants and coffee.

Some of the many birds seen and heard on our walk.
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Blackbird
Song Thrush
Robin
Chiffchaff
Blackcap
Nuthatch
Grey Heron
Stock Dove
Wood Pigeon
Carrion Crow
Magpie
Jay
Green Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Dunnock
Great Tit
Blue Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Goldfinch
Chaffinch
Greenfinch
Goldcrest
Wren
Parakeet



Talk: Birds and Their Song

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On a beautiful warm evening it was a pleasure to welcome back David Darrell-Lambert, Birdbrain (link to his website), to give a talk on our birds, their song and why they sing.

The talk was fully booked with not spare seat in the house...

We were told of the different types of sound that birds make:

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Songs
 are to attract mates and declare territories to other males. It is normally only the males that "sing" - exceptions include the robin and the dunnock.

Alarm calls warn of predators or other unwelcome intrusions.

Contact calls help the birds to keep in touch with other members of a group or a mate.

In his usual lively style, David, gave us a top ten of bird songs to listen out for which included Robin, Blackbird, Wood Pigeon, Carrion Crow and revealed that even if we think that we don't know any bird sounds - we all recognise some of them and have a basis to start learning more.....


October Members' Walk, 2017

We stuck to our time! A one hour walk around the Boating Lake to look at the birds on it and a few around it.


What did we see? (picture by Nick Bryant)

Four species of duck, our resident MallardsTufted Ducks and Pochards together with - newly arrived for Winter - Shoveler duck (below).

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This was perhaps the highlight as they had only been reported for the first time yesterday by one of the avid birders Bob Watts.

We looked at probably the hardest ID question - the difference between the female Pochards and female Tufted ducks. The males of these birds are much easier to identify.

We also contrasted the Moorhens and Coots.

There were Herring Gulls and Cormorants near the middle island, but all around the lake were Black Headed Gulls - not so black headed in their Winter plumage.

Canada Geese tracked us around and both Feral and Wood Pigeons were clearing up around the lake.


Autumn Bird Walk and Ringing Display September 2017


On Sunday 10th September, approximately 20 (relatively) early risers gathered in the Grove car park and set off in the cool morning air in search of bird life. There we saw many coal tits, a single nuthatch and a stock dove – a beautiful bird with an iridescent, bottle-green band on the back of the neck.

We headed up the corridor of trees towards the old oak tree, where our excellent leader, Gareth, with some cunning “pishing” (mimicking of calls) certainly had the attention of the birds in the vicinity, and they descended the trees out of curiosity.

Walking across the Park towards the football field, we stopped to look for the peregrine falcon which usually perches on the
television tower, but unfortunately was not there.

We made our way to the ringing point. Gerry has been ringing birds in Alexandra Park for 10 years, and only one year has he not managed to net a bird for us. This year Gerry netted a robin, a young blackbird (still moulting with a yellow gape) and a wren (which had been ringed earlier in the year). Gerry explained how a robin can be aged by the colour on the inside of its upper mandible, and also that, for their size, juvenile blue tits are the most aggressive of birds.

We walked back towards the pitch and put course, and Gareth spotted, very high in the air, what he thought was might have
been the peregrine, but in fact was more likely to have been a hobby. The suspense of it all.

As we rounded the pitch and put, Gareth spotted some familiar visitors – green woodpeckers – three of them, settled near the 2nd tee. These are lovely birds for us to routinely have in the Park.

Finally, we made our way to the Boating Pond where Gareth needed to carry out a count of the birds on the Pond. Gareth was delighted because we spotted three large pink swans and a red dragon, floating serenely on the water, just returned after a long migratory flight from the Sunshine Garden Centre.
A very enjoyable and informative event. Many thanks to Gareth and to Gerry.

Report by Theo Gatward











Spring Bird Walk and Ringing Display May 2017

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Our gallant Bird Walk leader was on the injury list, but still managed to lead us around - many thanks, Gareth.

We met up in The Grove as usual and went off in search of something special....

There we saw quite a few Stock Doves which although being quite common are often overlooked - they are the size of a Feral Pigeon with dark eyes. (picture taken on another occasion)

Jay, Magpie and Crow all to be seen and we heard the thin voice of a Coal Tit. A Blackcap was heard and a Swift was seen flying overhead.

The high pitched song of the Goldcrest was noticed by the group together with the not so pleasant noise of a Ring Necked Parakeet.

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Walking across Alexandra Palace Way up on the Palace was one of our big highlights of the walk, a Peregrine on the South Western Tower. (pictured) We later saw a Peregrine flying around the BBC mast which was probably the same bird.

Continuing our walk towards the Ringing Site we saw Mallards flying by and heard Chiffchaff and Green Woodpecker.

At the Ringing Point, Gerry was quite excited about catching a common bird. Two male sparrows had been caught in the mist net and we saw one of them being ringed. Sparrows are a common, but have been a big long term decline and have up until a few years ago been limited to the Southern edge of the Park. They are now starting to reconquer territory.

Other birds ringed were wren, blackbird (which had been previously caught last Spring) and most impressively a massive Carrion Crow.

After the ringing session we walked to the reservoirs where Herring Gull, Great Crested Grebe, Coot, Canada Goose and others were seen together with a small flock long-tailed tits.

We then wandered around to the Wood Green Reservoir filter beds where we were pleased to see a juvenile Grey Wagtail.





Rapturous about raptors, Jan 2017

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We were thoroughly entertained and informed by David Darrell-Lambert when he gave a talk about identifying raptors at the Park Information Centre on the 26th of January. He showed us straightforward ways to identify theses fascinating birds, which can be a real challenge when all you catch is the occasional glimpse far up in the sky.

Using images of pairs of similar sized birds, such as kestrel and sparrow hawk he pointed out simple distinguishing features like the black wind tips of the kestrel versus plain brown wings of the sparrow hawk, or different flight patterns: the kestrel frequently hovers with rapid wing-beats while the sparrow hawk flies with a ‘flap-flap-glide’ pattern.


As a point of interest, the word ‘raptor’ comes from the Victorian scientific name for birds of prey, which in turn derives from the Latin word meaning ‘plunderer’, or someone who seizes and carries away. That is pretty much what birds of prey or 'raptors' do - they seize, or grab their prey and carry it away.

Autumn Bird Walk and Ringing Display, September 2016

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A good crowd of some 25 people including a lot younger people showed up at The Grove Car Park. Gareth took us into The Grove to listen out for Spotted Flycatchers and Nuthatches. Crows were present as well as a good view through Gareth's Scope of a Stock Dove on top of tree. This bird is the size of a Feral Pigeon, but has a different song and dark eyes. 

Plenty of Magpies swooping across the Park as we made our way towards the Pitch and Putt. The Pitch and Putt is the place to see Green Woodpeckers and Mistle Thrushes and they didn't disappoint. Starlings were, however, the most numerous residents.

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Gerry, the Bird Ringer, had earlier caught and ringed a blackbird, but unfortunately for the first time ever had nothing in the mist net by the time we arrived. 
The problem was spots of rain and more importantly the wind which made the net too visible to tempt in any of feathered friends.

One side attraction interested the children, a Wasp Nest underground with many black and yellow insects going in and out.

Wandering over to the reservoir, there were Herring and Lesser Black-backed gulls as well as Great Crested Grebe and a Heron (pictured).




Spring Bird Walk and Ringing Display, May 2016


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The usual early morning meet-up in The Grove Car Park at 8am proved a bit of a challenge for some... Only about 7 people there, but 10 minutes later a good crowd of 20 including some keen youngsters wandered into The Grove to listen for the first birds.

Gareth led us off and soon we were listening to a Nuthatch singing stridently. This was clearly seen by all. At the place Wood Pigeon, Magpies and Blue tits were espied. 

Admiring a flowering Norway Maple as we left The Grove, the group walked towards the pitch and putt.

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On the way a Sparrowhawk was seen being mobbed by some parakeets (pictured) and we were told that this had not been seen before in the Park. A kestrel was also seen flying off towards the Palace.

At the Pitch and Putt, there were plentious Starlings feeding on the grass together with the odd Mistle Thrush.

Off towards the Cricket Scrub and Gerry's Ringing demonstration

This was rudely interrupted by an intriguing wild life encounter....

A Kestrel was seen hovering over the ditch on the edge of the cricket pitch. It then dived down and caught a rodent. However, just as it was trying to make its getaway in came a Carrion Crow and harassed it causing the bird of prey to drop its prey and flee. Link to a slideshow of the encounter.

We saw a Long Tailed Tit and Dunnock up close and Gerry explained the Ringing procedure, why it is done and why how it is done to cause negligible stress to the birds.

The last few of us wandered to the reservoir where we spotted a Cormorant drying itself, a Heron on the distant bank and Herring and Lesser Black Backed gulls together with Canada Geese and a Great Crested Grebe.

Another successful morning, thanks to Gareth and Gerry.

Big Garden Birdwatch, January 2016




RSPB NW London Group set up a stall by the Boating Lake Cafe (thanks to Ahmed Yener). 

After persistent drizzle early on, the weather dried up and visitors came to find out their local birds, the RSPB and the Big Garden Birdwatch. 

RSPB members went around the lake and further afield to see what was on the wing or scrubbing around for food. Common, Black-headed and Herring gulls were seen on the Boating Lake and the Winter migrants, the redwings were seen in a nearby field. 

Back in the Boathouse, tea towels, mugs etc. were sold to happy punters and we had visit from electric bicycle rider. (pic)


Swift Talk by Edward Mayer, January 2016



Edward Mayer
of the Swift Conservation Trust gave an engaging talk on Tuesday, 26th January.

He started with explanation of how to tell the difference between 4 commonly confused rapid insect-catching fliers, Swallow, Swift, House Martin and Sand Martin, explaining the difference in colour, nest location and where they can be seen.




Edward then continued with a few facts about swifts saying.......

They are some of our oldest birds, having been around for something like 49 million years.

They are faithful to both their mates and their nests, returning to the same sites every year (more on that in a bit). They prefer older buildings, returning to the UK from Africa in April/May to their small holes in eaves, gables or upper walls and feeding on harmful flying insects.

They are famous for their ‘screaming parties’ which, once experienced, are never forgotten.

They do everything in the air except for nesting because of their short legs, including mating, feeding and drinking.

But they are now in trouble because a combination of new building techniques and materials, as well as insulation of older buildings, is excluding them from returning to their past nests. Between 1995 and 2012 there was a decline of 38% in numbers in the UK as a whole, 52% in London and 47% in southeast England.

We can help in a number of ways, such as ensuring we don’t destroy existing nests during building work, adding nest boxes to our houses, monitoring what’s happening in our areas with building works and joining local networks to support laws to protect these extraordinary birds. Find out more at www.swift-conservation.org.

Late Summer Bird Walk 2015


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On glorious sunny morning we met in The Grove Car Park to the sound of parakeets hoping to catch sight of some interesting feathered friends that had been seen over the last week or so.

The walk started in The Grove with a walk to the Veteran Oak around which we saw Coal, Blue, Great and Long-tailed tits as well nuthatches and goldcrests. 

We then walked towards the Pitch and Putt course where we were promised mistle thrushes and green woodpeckers, but herring and black-headed gulls, wood pigeons and starling were what was seen. Determined Gareth Richards, our walk leader, looked again and there was a green woodpecker as promised.

We then made our way towards the cricket scrub where a wryneck had been seen up until Thursday. Unfortunately no luck this time.

Arriving at the Ringing Demonstration, Gerry Rawcliffe gave an informative talk on the reason and technique of Bird Ringing with just a single juvenile male blackcap on show. A little egret interrupted our group by flying directly overhead then just as we were about to leave a magpie flew into the net.

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We moved a short distance away to see Spotted Flycatchers (pic) and Chiffchaffs by the cricket nets before moving to the reservoir to see if the illusive kingfisher was still around. No luck, but there were coots, great crested grebe and a cormorant which was perching on a post.

We had a call from Gerry saying more birds were ready for ringing. The sun had gone in and rendered the mist net less visible. We returned to see a robin, a dunnock and the star of the show, a juvenile willow warbler -  all were duly processed. 

Next came a blackbird and then the real thrill - a spotted flycatcher to round off the catch. The birds were carefully measured and weighed before being released back into the wild. 

All in all, it was another very successful day and special thanks going to Gareth Richards of the Alexandra Park Ornithological Group and Gerry Rawcliffe of British Trust for Ornithology. 


More pictures from the Walk


Dawn Chorus Bird Song Walk led by David Darrell-Lambert - March 2015

5:30am was Rendez-vous time for the first ever Friends of Alexandra Park Dawn Chorus Walk. Too early? Not for about 25 of us inspired by the Bird Song Talk by David Darrell-Lambert the previous week.

David started the walk by explaining that the loud song of the wren in the Car Park was too early and normally they start a bit later, but that birds don't always follow the rules.... More typical for that time of the morning were the Robins and Song Thrushes pouring out their songs.

Blackbirds were also singing, but took a dislike to us and every time we approached a little closer to listen they quietened down.

Crows were the next to be heard along with Canada Geese and Magpies. David pointed out that some of the sounds that we were hearing were songs, some were "contact calls" and other alarm calls.

He suggested concentrating on the songs, but then to listen out for alarm calls especially if they were coming from more than one bird as that might indicate the presence of a predator in the area.

After an hour, some people were becoming a little disappointed by the lack of different birds. David explained that on dull days the later birds start singing later still and, just on cue, soon after that a whole new batch of different bird song and c
alls stretched our ears.

Green Woodpeckers, Goldfinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Mistle Thrush (maybe), Hering Gulls, Redwings were among the birds adding to the chorus.

We wandered towards the Nature Pond on the off-chance of spotting a Water Rail, but no just Mallards, Coots and Moorhens.

Walking back towards The Grove, after a good view of a Jay (pic) we heard and spotted Goldcrests in a Giant Redwood tree before getting great sightings of both Stock Doves and Nuthatches (pic) near the Garden Centre entrance.

After this successful walk we thanked "Birdbrain", invited him back next year and retired to the Park Information Centre for Tea and Croissant (and to warm-up).



Bird Song Talk - March, 2015

A packed Park Information Centre were treated to a brilliant talk from David Darrell-Lambert , chair of the Ornithological Section of the London Natural History Society, in February.

David demonstrated different bird songs, how they are made up, what type of songs/calls there are and where and when they are made. He played sound recordings and also used some graphics for those so inclined.

He concentrated on the more common birds - e.g. blackbird and wood pigeon, but in case we got too complacent David went on to highlight the difference between a goldcrest and a firecrest song.

He held the audience enchanted for an hour and a half. Starting young, a three month old was absorbing the sounds together with some of us of a slightly more advanced age.

His key mantra was to use whatever is best for you to remember a bird song and don't try to learn too many at once.




Family Bird Walk Spring 2015

Hoping for a nice day we met up in The Grove Car Park. A few pictures of birds that we hoped to see were passed around and we were impressed with the knowledge of the younger members of the party.

We walked into The Grove seeing Wood Pigeon and Magpies and then hearing and seeing the Nuthatches up in the trees. We were then summoned quickly to the bird ringing sight as a bumper crop awaited us.

Gerry Rawcliffe demonstrated his bird ringing and explained its purpose. He was not always thanked for his work and the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Magpie were intent on drawing blood! (pic) 

The full count was 3 Robins, 2 Blackbirds, a Blue tit, a Long-tailed tit, a Magpie, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Whitethroat (10!).

The children were happy to see the birds up close and to help let them fly away afterwards.



Reports of bird-watching walks, talks, and rare sightings in 2014 and earlier can be found here.


APBirdReport2011 is a report of birds in Alexandra Park, produced in 2011.
 
APOG Systematic Apr13 is the Systematic Report produced in 2013.

Migrant birds in Alexandra Park details which birds can be spotted in which parts of Alexandra Park at certain times of the year.
 
Bird Report 2006 is a longer document which is packed with detail about birds in Alexandra Park.