Sunday, 30 August 2015

As good as it gets

Wryneck in Alexandra Park, north London, this morning. This nationally scarce migrant has now appeared in the same area of scrub at the site in four of the last five years. Coincidence? Maybe not ...
Having been away in Scotland last week when autumn migration kicked off in style on my north London local patch of Alexandra Park, the obvious assumption was that I had paid the price of being away from home and missed out big time. Wrong. In fact, having woken up early this morning and decided to give the patch a thrash anyway, I actually hit the big time. This morning's visit was probably my best-ever session in the park, a site I first birded as a teenager in the late Seventies.

Four Common Redstarts included this showy individual (above) and a first-winter male (below).
I'd assumed the Wryneck found by David Callahan last week had now gone, as it was unreported yesterday, so instead focused initially on the good numbers of warblers present. After a while I met fellow patcher Gareth Richards and another local birder, Tony Jakeman, who fairly quickly located the Wryneck in a hawthorn in the 'cricket scrub', just west of the pavilion - result! Gaz, Tony and I then birded the bushes extensively, eventually being joined by Alan Gibson, Paul Rawlins, Henry-Wyn-Jones and others, and between us we racked up a really respectable list for this one small area of the site: four Common Redstarts, single Pied and Spotted Flycatchers, 10+ Blackcaps, three each of Willow Warbler and Common Chiffchaff, two Reed Warblers, single Garden Warbler and Common and Lesser Whitethroats, and two Yellow Wagtails and a Peregrine Falcon overhead. In small urban parks with limited potential, such a list constitutes nothing less than a red-letter day.

The least colourful of today's three Willow Warblers.
From memory, Wryneck has now been recorded in Alexandra Park in the second half of August in four out of the last five years. After last year's bird I tentatively suggested that possibly only one individual was involved, an idea given short shrift by some of my birding friends. They may of course be right; I don't expect Wrynecks live for very long and in any case their appearances here will to some extent be influenced by weather conditions. But now it's happened again, I ask the question again - what's more likely, one Wryneck stopping off at the same regular location on its annual autumn migration (something we know happens in many other species), or up to four different Wrynecks randomly finding the exact same inland patch of scrub in north London at the same time of year in a five-year-period? Discuss.


  1. I would lean towards the same returning bird theory. As with Alexandra Palace, Wanstead has regularly recorded an autumn Wryneck since 2011 but then nothing last year - was the bird simply missed or perhaps now perished? Could it also be possible that the regular autumn sightings of Wrynecks across the North London region are part of a small UK (Scotland) breeding population and not your typical continental drift migrants?

  2. Got to be the same bird, surely... sounds too much of a coincidence to be different ones.



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