The second Beast from the East has put Spring on hold for a few days. It has been a mainly mild winter but the two very cold snaps in February and March have had a big impact on local wildlife.
The mild December persuaded the Egyptian Geese on Surrey Water to raise a very early brood. it was an unwise move and the goslings all perished. The geese tried again in early March and the brood of 9 young all appeared to be doing well until a pair of Great Black Backed Gulls appeared on the scene. They stalked the family ominously for a day or so and then ate all 9 young. The adult pair look to be trying to raise a third brood. Hopefully by the time these hatch the Gulls will be on their breeding grounds so the young will have a greater chance of survival
|Great Black-backed Gull|
Southwark council have recently installed Tern Rafts on Surrey Water.These have been built locally and paid for by Cleaner, Greener, Safer funding. Common Terns have bred on Surrey Water in the past but not for the last three years. Lets hope these rafts prove attractive when the birds return from Africa in late April, and that Rotherhithe once again becomes London's most central breeding place for these beautiful birds.
|Tern raft on Surrey Water|
On Surrey Water, the Peregrine Falcon has made occasional visits to the top of the gas holder before heading back over the river
|Male Peregrine Falcon|
|Male Peregrine Falcon|
On Canada Water, the pair of Great Crested Grebe have been displaying around the nesting site. They have had a few run-ins with the Swans and local Herring Gull, but it looks likely they will occupy the same nesting site as in previous years, at the library end. Not too concerned it seems by all the building noise and the clatter of skateboards.
|Great Crested grebe|
|Great Crested Grebe|
Its been a mixed year in Stave Hill and Russia Dock woodlands. The cold weather brought in some unusual birds; a Dunlin which was seen struggling in the snow in February and a Woodcock was occasionally seen in the woods near the Stave Hill entrance. The Firecrest was present in December, then absent in January and February but popped up again in mid March. A female Kingfisher was regularly seen in January and February, but disappeared with the snow and probably has headed off to its breeding grounds now.
|Kingfisher on favourite perch on Downtown Pond|
|Kingfisher on Downtown Pond|
The Sparrowhawk has been soaring overhead; a good sign that it may bred again in Russia Dock Woodland this year. The Great Spotted Woodpecker has been drumming very loudly, using nestboxes and streetlights to amplify the call.
|Sparrowhawk soaring over Stave Hill|
In February largish groups of Redwing and Fieldfare passed through Stave Hill. These are birds that over-winter here and return to Scandinavia in the Spring to breed. The Redwing are quite difficult to see in the woodland; the Fieldfare tend to perch out more and make a very obvious clattering call. However, both were very easy to see on the Bacon's College sport field, digging for worms in the damp soil. A pair of Mistle Thrush are busy nest building in the conifers by the stream and above the picnic tables in Russia Dock woodlands and a beautiful Song Thrush is regular present by the Stave Hill entrance. On one day all four types of Thrush were all in view in this area.
On 10 March, the frogs and toads returned to Spawn in the small chalk pond in Stave Hill. At one stage there were at least 10 frogs contributing the large amount of spawn at the edge of the pond.
|Frogs in the Chalk Pond at Stave Hill|
As the weather warms up in the next few weeks Rotherhithe wildlife will come into its own. The winter visitors will all have departed, breeding will be in full swing for the the resident birds and the summer visitors such as Chiffchaff and Blackcap will fill the woods with song. The Snake's-head Fritillary, Primrose and Cowslips will be in blossom and butterfly and other insects will emerge from hibernation. The varied and rich habitats of the the Rotherhithe peninsula support a truly amazing diversity of urban wildlife.