On behalf of The Royal Parks a Happy New Year to all our visitors!
Depending on the seasonal temperatures the snowdrops (Galanthus) will start to emerge in Birch Glade – they are located by the stream. Native primroses (Primula vulgaris) are already flowering on the banks near Fishers Field. Many of these primroses have been planted by the Friends of Bushy and Home Parks.
With the leaves off the trees their skeletal shapes can be seen in all areas of the Gardens – it is worth looking at them to enjoy the varied shapes. The dogwoods (Cornus) in Canada Glade are still worth looking at this month as the red and gold stems stand out in the low winter sunlight.
The annual programme on Rhododendron ponticum removal is planned to start this January and will run on to March, just before the nesting season.This is part of a nationwide objective to eradicate this invasive species. The area that was cleared last year will be re-planted in the next month or so with a variety of moisture loving trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants.
With another year over and the new one just beginning, hopefully you will have recorded some interesting birds in the park last year.
If you visited the park on a regular basis, recording over 100 species should have been easily achieved. If there were some glaring omissions from your list, you could make it your aim to connect with those species this year. Hopefully last year's blip will not be repeated and the species will not join the ever increasing list of birds that are in decline in the United Kingdom.
The species causing most concern at present is the lesser spotted woodpecker, down to 1 pair in 2013. If the weather remains reasonably mild and the lakes do not freeze over, waterfowl numbers on Heron Pond may build up. There isn't a large variety; the regulars being mallard, pochard, tufted, red crested pochard and coot. Most winters a few shoveler and gadwall will appear.
Checking the ponds and streams first thing in the morning is best, before something unusual is flushed by park visitors. Goosanders, the largest of the sawbills, now no longer visit the park but were once annual winter visitors. However one could quite easily drop in as birds winter on some of the reservoirs and gravel pits that are not many miles away.
If there is a cold snap in south-east England then checking the areas where the bracken grows may reward you with a sighting of a dartford warbler or that other heathland species the stonechat.
For more bird news check out www.regentsparkbirds.blogspot.com which also covers Bushy Park
Gadwall (Anas strepera)
A species of duck of the family Anatidae. A large number can be seen in Bushy Park this winter feeding on Heron Pond. The gadwall is a scarce-breeding bird in the United Kingdom, for this reason it is Amber listed. During the winter months thousands of birds from mainland Europe arrive, giving the impression that it is more common than it actually is. The gadwall is a quieter duck than the mallard, except during its courtship, when drakes can then be seen and heard chasing the females through the skies above their chosen breeding areas. It usually feeds by dabbling for plants with its head submerged. It nests on the ground, often some distance from water. The drakes are not brightly coloured being a mixture of grey, black and white, the duck is very similar to a mallard but is slightly smaller.