Winter Bird Life


Although wildlife on the Commons is generally quiet at this time of year, the bird life continues to be of great interest, with the arrival of many winter migrants particularly the thrushes such as Redwing and Fieldfare.  The former usually take up residence on the Common, searching out hawthorn and rowan berries while the larger Fieldfares are often just seen passing overhead.

The Common also attracts wintering finches such as Siskins and Redpolls with a flock of twenty of the latter being seen on the last bird walk. Look closely at the tops of birch trees or the alder trees at Queensmere to see these acrobatic seed eaters.

This autumn we have also had regular sightings of Meadow Pipit and Stonechat, particularly in the areas of long grass on The Plain. These are generally birds moving through as well but as to where they have come from or are going to is still somewhat of a mystery. 

Some really good news is that there have been two separate sightings of a Firecrest in the holly to the east of Putney Vale Cemetery, and several other people have reported hearing, if not seeing, this elusive bird.  The Firecrest is distinguishable from its more common relative, the Goldcrest, by a bold white supercilium (stripe) above each eye. They really like the dense cover of holly and ivy that some parts of the Common offer and do seem to be on the increase.

Influx of Hawfinch

You may have seen or read in the national press about the influx of Hawfinch into the UK this year. 

The UK’s largest finch, the Hawfinch is noticeable because of its large and powerful bill, which is capable of exerting up to 48 kg of force and cracking open cherry stones.  It spends a lot of time in the tree canopy, often amongst flocks of other birds, and its shy nature means it is often missed and is likely to be under-recorded. 

However, it is a scarce breeder in the UK and although small numbers of migrant Hawfinches can be seen every autumn, this year there have been exceptional numbers recorded across the UK.  Experts aren’t clear on why there has been such a large irruption this year, but there are reports of the much larger populations in Eastern Europe having had a good breeding season prompting the dispersal, or that their food sources (seeds from Beech and Hornbeam and hips and haws) have failed.  Or possibly a combination of both. 

Disappointingly we have yet to see this magnificent bird on the Commons, despite reports of them being nearby so do please keep an eye out and let us know if you see this elusive bird.