The Scrubs: A view looking east from Braybrook StreetThe last embers of 2013 are flickering, drawing to conclusion a year of contrasts for my beloved local patch, Wormwood Scrubs.
We have thus far had the joint best year for the most amount of species seen on and over the site - 98. All year we have been aiming for the magical 100 but it seems that we have a glass ceiling. Our efforts have been blighted by a fairly poor autumn despite finding a mega in the shape of a juvenile Common Rosefinch, London's first twitchable example for some three years. Add to that the disappearance of two of our best Scrubbers; one claimed by New Zealand and the other had a baby and emigrated to Suffolk. We are about to loose another to Sweden in January. Our team of birders is about to be severely depleted. We have had birders leave before in previous years and like when Eric Cantona left Manchester United, we still went on to find great birds and good year totals.
Perhaps the biggest threat to the fragile tranquility at The Scrubs has been the announcement this year that the area has come to the notice of a host of entities keen to turn the land immediately to the north into a cityscape that according to the blurb, will resemble Manhattan meeting Canary Wharf. There will be of course, serious implications for The Scrubs and once they start the building things will never be the same again.
I went out today in the vain hope of seeing two more species to add to the site list. I failed miserably. Found a corking and shy male Bullfinch that did its best to hide behind a branch the whole time it was in the open. They are now a bit of a rarity here with only a handful of sightings per year.
The only clean shot that I obtainedI also found record numbers of Reed Buntings near the embankment area. I counted at least 10 birds. Our previous best was around six birds.
A 1st winter male Reed Bunting
Female Reed BuntingIn desperation I examined the sparrow roost at dawn in the hope of discovering a Tree Sparrow - a national scarcity - that has yet to be recorded at The Scrubs although, I was pretty ceratin that I had one fly over one October several years ago. I counted 50 House Sparrows, which is around half of what I would have normally expected. However, amongst them was a weirdly plumaged female.
Strange female House Sparrow with white eyerings
Side profileIt looks like the last couple days of the year are going to be rain filled which will kill off any further opportunities for me to hunt down any new species. Looks like I'm going to have to give up my quest for 100 this year, but given my impending schedule for next year and the general lack of Scrubbers, I have a feeling that we have reached the upper limit of the birds to be expected at The Scrubs.
2014 will be an interesting year.