Dave Dawson’s natural history notes for 25th June 2016:-
I delayed my count so that it fell within the time window for co-ordinated goose counts across the Wandle Valley as part of the background for understanding their numbers. The Canada Goose is flightless for two to three weeks at this time of year, when it’s moulting. Few try to breed in the park, but many immature birds and failed breeders from across the surrounding area of London come at this time of the year, finding ideal conditions to moult. I counted 63, which is close to the long-term average June count of 66. None of them was obviously young of the year, suggesting that breeding had been even worse than usual. My 31 years data show no statistically significant trend in Canada Goose numbers here, so all attempts to reduce their numbers through local action have been ineffective. The 67 Egyptian Geese was a record number. The Egyptian was first recorded in 2003 and has increased steadily since then and there were 63 Greylag Geese, including 18 young of the year. The Greylag arrived in 2001 and has increased greatly since. Clearly the goose problem is multiplying, with three species now occurring in large numbers for the moult, two of which are still increasing.
There was just one brood of three Mute Swan cygnets, confirming that the other 35 are youngsters, not yet ready to breed. Numbers remain well above the long-term average, if substantially lower than the 56 birds this time last year. The 28 Coots was close to the long-term average, so the effect of the waterweed boom seems to be over. Swifts continue to visit the lake to feed on insects in much the same numbers as over the last 30 years. There’s no evidence that swifts have declined, as people uniformly suggest elsewhere: counts are so variable that it’s easy to imagine a spurious trend and my long-term study allows detection of the signal behind that noise. At 04:45 there were 65 Herring Gulls standing around in the middle of the public park. They all left with the arrival of dog walkers at around 07:00.
There was not much bird song, although many wrens were singing, perhaps in preparation for their second clutch. A single Chiffchaff was singing in Horse Close Wood, probably a failed breeder now’s too late for this summer migrant to lay. Usually they sing until egg laying and are then too busy nesting to sing.
We are in the gap between spring and summer wild flowers, but it was nice to see a flower on a Dog Rose in the tree planting area. The Cuckoo Flowers near the Home Park Road steps are now over. The “wildflower meadows” have not been seeded this year, leading to an interesting mix of native species and survivors of the exotic, horticultural annuals regenerating from natural seeding last year. Only two of the native species are also tall annuals: Prickly Oxtongue and Nipplewort. Most are perennial meadow plants: Ribwort, Rough Meadowgrass, Cat’s-tail, White Clover, Creeping Thistle and Curled Dock. These will surely take over should the areas not be rotovated and re-seeded again. It would be interesting to manage these areas as a meadow, with a single annual cut in late summer to see how they develop, but fashion is likely to dictate otherwise! Dare I suggest also the creation of cornfield annual areas, as these parts of the public park were in arable rotation in Capability Brown’s park? This would link to the past and be an alternative to the odd horticultural mix of the “wildflower meadows”? And, an interesting pair of anecdotes. A small clump of Opium Poppy is growing beside the tube line security fence, not enough to crop! A greater risk to health is the Foxgloves growing on the steep bank up to Home Park Road.