Thursday, 12 February 2015

January 2015 - Wormwood Scrubs Sightings

Interpretation Board (Paul Thomas)
It’s been a long time since a monthly report was written about the birds of this internationally known and now threatened patch of green nestled in urban west London. But the hope is that over the next 12 months you will see a story unfolding. This story will feature the day-to-day (or at least, visit-by-visit) avian goings-on at The Scrubs. There will be mentions of interesting behavioural notes, estimates of flock sizes, territories held and of course, inexplicable disappearances and appearances.

We began January 2015 as we left it in December 2014. With fewer regular observers than what we have had in many years and consequently, fewer species being seen. We ended last year on around 82 species, our lowest year list in over 10 years. Of course, it’s not just about the number of species we end up seeing, but with less active observers means that there is more chance of missing scarce regulars like the legendary passage Ring Ouzel. It remains to be seen how 2015 will pan out.

If you choose to visit the hallowed turf this year, please don’t forget to let us know what birds you encountered. It’s always good to hear about other people’s birds – just don’t make them too rare!

 Overhead view of The Scrubs
 The habitats
Our trusty groundsmen have been an invaluable source of information for the past 20 years or more. They are the guys that are on The Scrubs everyday doing their work. But whilst they work they look up.

They are normally first on the scene when our early Wheatears show up and are the ones to tell us about all the Buzzards and Peregrines we have missed. Last year, we recorded around four Red Kite sightings. But according to these guys, there were a spate of Red Kite sightings throughout the summer indicating that they are far more regular over The Scrubs than what we realise.

Let the journey commence.

Contributors: Rob Ayers, Andy Cameron, Charlie Farrell, Nick Gibson, David Jeffreys, David Lindo, Des McKenzie, Roy Nuttall, Bob Still, Paul Thomas et al.

A singleton headed over on the 17th.

Canada Goose
Our only report was of five grazing on the grass within Lynford Christie Stadium on the 1st.

Egyptian Goose
A single bird headed through on the 2nd and became our earliest E-goose to be seen during a calendar year. We normally expect to see these exotics flying over during the late summer.

A singleton was occasionally seen hunting over the grassland during the month often accompanied by attendant angry crows.

One was watched repeatedly stooping at the assembled crows on the pitches by the groundsmen in early January.

A single female was observed on the 20th.

Black-headed Gull
We experienced good numbers of this common gull during the month. At their peak there were at least 200 birds mostly on the sports pitches.

 A Black-headed & Common Gull duo
Mediterranean Gull
Our first record for two years appeared on the 18th. It was a winter adult found in the afternoon with some Black-headed Gull. It did the classic Med Gull thing of being slightly aloof. When the flock it was associating with was flushed by dog walkers it flew south of the prison whilst the other gulls simply circled around and landed a few metres from where they were originally flushed.

It was reported again on the 26th feeding on the sports pitches.

Common Gull
The peak count for this regular winter visitor was c22 on the 2nd.

Herring Gull
Low numbers were noticed during the month. No doubt there were more birds floating overhead that were plainly missed. The best count was around 20 on the 27th.

Lesser Black-back
We rarely record large numbers of this rather attractive larid. No count exceeded six birds.

 A rack of gulls
Wood Pigeon
No amazing counts were made during the month with around 40 birds being the norm.

Rose-ringed Parakeet
At least 1,000 were seen most mornings after leaving their roost in Scrubs Lane Wood. Nearly 3,000 were watched coming into roost on the 18th.

Green Woodpecker
A bird was calling regularly from the western end of the site throughout the month.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
A pair was at large in the western end of The Scrubs throughout January.

Meadow Pipit
Our wintering population varied from day-to-day peaking at around 16 roving birds on the 2nd.

Pied Wagtail
Occasional birds were seen and heard flying over during the month.

A couple singers were heard on the 17th.

Spring came early when a couple of threesomes were seen displaying to each other on the 18th. The best count was around eight on the 27th. 
 A Robin holding territory
The peak count of 14 was had on the 17th.


A male has been wintering on the grassland for a least the past month. It was not always easy to catch sight of however, despite being not particularly shy.
Our wintering male Stonechat
Song Thrush
Up to four birds were seen during the month with at least two singers in full voice.

Braybrook Street was the main epicenter of our Redwing sightings this month. At least six were located on the 17th.

Mistle Thrush
This, the largest thrush in the UK, is a real scarcity at The Scrubs. We normally expect to see the occasional family party during the late summer. Two were seen on the 2nd.

It has to be a harsh winter before we start to see this regal thrush in any numbers. On the 17th at least six were with Redwings and an additional individual was seen later.

At least 10 were seen per visit throughout the month. The maximum number was 15 on the 17th.

Great Tit
Small numbers were seen during the month. The peak count was 10 on the 18th.

Blue Tit
A good count of 13 was made on the 17th and 16 the following day.

Long-tailed Tit
Small numbers were seen during the month, never more that four birds.

At least 10 were seen throughout January.

One was noticed on the 20th.

Carrion Crow
Around 100 birds was the average figure found throughout the month.

No huge numbers this month with the peak count being around 25 birds found mostly on Braybrook Street.

House Sparrow
Away from their Braybrook Street stronghold sparrows are still very much a rarity on our patch. At least 10 birds were found around the community centre and Braybrook Wood on the 16th and the 18th.

At least two pairs have set up territories in Central Copse and around the cottage in the western end. Four birds were in Central Copse on the 27th.

A small number were present during the month with eight being the most on the 17th.

Small numbers were seen during the month mostly situated along Lester’s Embankment.

Reed Bunting
A female wintered during the month. A male was found on the 17th.

2015 Year List

1. Cormorant
2. Canada Goose
3. Egyptian Goose
4. Kestrel
5. Peregrine
6. Sparrowhawk
7. Black-headed Gull
8. Mediterranean Gull
9. Common Gull
10. Herring Gull
11. Lesser Black-back
12. Wood Pigeon
13. Rose-ringed Parakeet
14. Green Woodpecker
15. Great Spotted Woodpecker
16. Meadow Pipit
17. Pied Wagtail
18. Wren
19. Dunnock
20. Robin
21. Stonechat
22. Song Thrush
23. Redwing
24. Mistle Thrush
25. Fieldfare
26. Blackbird
27. Great Tit
28. Blue Tit
29. Long-tailed Tit
30. Magpie
31. Jay
32. Carrion Crow
33. Starling
34. House Sparrow
35. Chaffinch
36. Goldfinch
37. Greenfinch
38. Reed Bunting

38 species thus far

(31 species in January 2014 & 50 in January 2013)

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