Alexandra Park

I forgot my camera, so you’ll have to imagine how lovely the park looked this morning in bright sunshine rather than the forecast “white cloud” promising another colourless day. I’ve spent a couple of those this week, TTVing, RRing and WeBSing in lovely but otherwise silent and birdless woods or in once-lovely but now horribly abused woods in the unseen, uncared-for, malign penumbra of the Via Dolorosa.

So, what a pleasure instead to step from the car into sun and birdsong among which, immediately, was a Blackcap. People in towns see them all winter but we don’t seem to get them out here, so to hear the song was to be suddenly shunted forward two months.

Straightaway there was a Grey Wagtail -the first of half a dozen – paddling in the stream, Robins and Coal Tits singing from all directions and then a Goldcrest flew across into some low shrubs just by the path. When it emerged on top however, at minimum-focus range, it revealed itself as a Firecrest, absolutely indifferent to our presence.

We saw another one later, in ivy beside the Swannery, and eventually a few Goldcrests too. On the Shornden Res were BH and Herring Gulls, a pair of Mute Swans, plenty of Mallards, 2 Coots (slightly exciting at the park) and the 2 pinioned Whitefronts. As I scanned the open sky above the water, I caught sight of an adult Med Gull over the trees. Whether it had flown up from the lake or was just cruising over, I couldn’t tell and it carried on over Bohemia.

Several Nuthatches were in echoing voice and we had great views of them chasing around but the 2 GS Woodpeckers we saw were keeping quiet, as were 2 Treecreepers. This was all against a background chorus of Robins, Blue, Great & Coal Tits and a few Song Thrushes.

We didn’t see much extra up Old Roar Ghyll, but returning towards Bucks Hole Res, dazzled by the low sun, I saw a white bird fly up from the woodland stream. It seemed too enclosed a place for a Little Egret, but that’s what it was, my first for the park, when Martyn luckily spotted it sitting in a tree not too far from the famously foul Night Heron pond.

The Alders around these settling ponds are often a good place to see Siskins, but not today. That is, we could hear them all right, about 20 twittering and hissing along with a few Goldfinches, but found it almost impossible to set eyes on them.  Finally, a Kingfisher called, splashed into the water then settled in the sunlight on a lakeside branch, shuffling round to show off its fabulous colours. Showing Well.

I’ve certainly seen Firecrests in the park before and I think I’ve seen Med Gull there, though maybe not in winter, but Little Egret was new. All three of these were missing from the Atlas list for TQ81A, which now totals 56 species.

I can’t understand why there’s not a regular bird-watching group in the park; it has so many birds, so easy to see, so unbothered by people, it’s so easy to get to, so accessible. Every time I go there, I marvel at the foresight of the Victorian planners who created it, their vision in such stark contrast to what has come since.


7 Responses to “Alexandra Park”

  1. Dave Pankhurst Says:

    I have in the past worked in Alexandra Park. It is a really nice place, Iwas involved in looking after the Trees under Contract with my past employer. Sadly I was made REDUNDANT. Ihave seen some good birds in the park during working hours. Best was YELLOW-BROWED WARBLER Oct 2009.

    • Hi Dave, Pity I never heard about the YBW! With its shelter, varied habitat and proximity to the sea there must be quite a few scarce birds turn up there but there’s no-one there to notice them! I think the Night Heron had been around for a while before it came to Ian S’s attention.

  2. Andy Phillips Says:

    Yes Alexandra Park is a very good spot for birding, I used to go regularly when I lived nearby in Bohemia Road. The best moment being the discovery of the other night heron at Shornden Res, which turned up quite a few years back now. And more interesting the regular flock of off migration shoveler that built up at Shornden every April. And of course kingfishers everywhere, sometimes stopping to fish just a few metres away if you knew where to stand.

    The scarce bird trap of Summerfields Wood Nature Reserve eventually took priority though.

  3. David Bexhall Says:

    Been watching birds on the feeders in the garden for the last couple of days (staying indoors with a headcold), and seeing some of the same species. Proximity to the Park probably has something to do with it. GS woodpeckers are especially fond of Colleen’s special mix of muesli from the back of the cupboard and pre-war lard. Also got a gang of long-tailed tits visiting regularly.
    There’s a robin that seems to be trying to learn how to cling to a feeder and eat like more acrobatic species—is this common behaviour? Blackbirds and thrushes are resolutely earth-bound—such lack of adaptability surely bodes ill for long term survival.


    • Hi Dave, Robins are more adaptable than the bigger thrushes but in the latter case as long as there’s earth to be bound to they should be OK! They have already been around a lot longer than humans and will probably see us out! My Big Garden Birdwatch was a debacle: the sun was too dazzling to see anything in the front garden while the chickens hoovered up all the seed in the back. Needless to say, yesterday the garden was full of all sorts of stuff.

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