Trip reports

Shrewsbury Park Walk - 24th March 2018 for Friends of Shrewsbury Park

Male green woodpecker feeding on ground

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Shrewsbury Park Walk - 24th March 2018
Led by Stuart Banks (RSPB Bexley) and Kris Inglis (Friends of Shrewsbury Park).
What a difference a week makes! After last Saturday's walk in a blizzard, the weather may have been grey and damp but it felt positively tropical compared to the minus temperatures we had experienced in the last few weeks. As a result, 20 people turned up for a walk around Shrewsbury Park SE18, a place many of us hadn't visited before.
We entered the path off Garland Road and hadn't walked more than a few steps when a sparrowhawk flew above us, being harassed as usual by a smaller bird obviously keen for the predator to fly as far away as possible. In the tops of the trees many blue tits could be seen flitting between the branches. Great tits could be heard singing alongside a lovely tune from a woodland favourite, the blackbird. As we continued along the path that narrowed and became very muddy we could hear birdsong all around us. The trees were bare, but the grey skies made it difficult to distinguish the small silhouetted woodland birds that popped into view. A distinctive call was heard as we reached the end of the path signalling a chiff chaff was most definitely nearby. Despite it being so close it took a while to see it but those at the front of the group did manage a glimpse before it took flight, leaving those at the back (who were still struggling up the muddy path!) unfortunately missing out on this warbler. A flock of long tailed tits were slightly more obliging and perched in trees above our heads, providing a good opportunity to see these wonderful little birds that weigh less than a £1 coin.
As we approached the end of the path and into the open, a small flock of around ten birds could be seen at the top of a very large tree. Despite binoculars and a zoom camera, it was difficult to make them out against very dull skies. Goldfinch and chaffinch were noted as probable and a blackcap was also spotted. Subsequent photos, albeit it quite poor, showed at least some of them to be redpolls. It would have been nice to get nearer to view them more clearly but of course they saw us coming and disappeared over the hedges.
Once past the trees, the noisy parakeets were a common sight and found in nearly every tree. A pair put on a frisky display and if all the others follow suit, there will be several more in the next few months! However, despite the call of the parakeets drowning out many sounds, our first robin was spotted singing our arrival into the open fields. There was much excitement when the distinctive drumming of the great spotted woodpecker rang out from the trees immediately in front of us it seemed. We eventually spotted it (excuse the pun), where it provided great views of its drumming skills for a few minutes before it decided it had to be elsewhere and flew off to audition in another part of the woods. It was briefly replaced by a mini version in the form of the nuthatch but views were very brief!
Some of the group departed at this point, but those of us that were left crossed the fields to investigate any birds that might be hiding in the hedges. Two robins were proudly displaying, a dunnock and blue-tit could be seen quite clearly and the beautiful song of the chaffinch rang out from the hedgerow. Starlings and sparrows flew above us onto the tops of the nearby houses and wood pigeon, feral pigeons and magpies were ahead of us hopping around the field. Just as we thought we had reached our total number of species for the day, a rather obliging green woodpecker flew in and landed a few feet in front of us! It foraged in the grass totally unfazed by us and providing several minutes of uninterrupted viewing. The excitement of the group, many whom had not seen a green woodpecker before, was palpable and lovely to see!
Nearing the end of the walk, we made our way past the London boundary sign (of interest to history buffs) and back onto the path where we had started our walk. Blue-tits could be seen exploring the nest boxes and the blackbird sang us out of the woods, much as he had sang us in!
Despite it being a grey day, the walk was highly enjoyable with many of us agreeing the park is definitely worth a revisit.
For more information on other walks and planned activities in the park, please visit the Friends of Shrewsbury Park website and support your local green space.
Total species seen 23:
Blackbird, blackcap, blue tit, chaffinch, chiffchaff, crow, dunnock, feral pigeon, goldfinch, great spotted woodpecker, great tit, green woodpecker, long tailed tit, magpie, nuthatch, parakeet, redpoll, robin, sparrow, sparrowhawk, starling, wood pigeon, wren
Article and photos by Nicky Wilson.
(With thanks to Sandra Houldsworth for the comprehensive list)