Oak Processionary Moth - Pesticide Spraying
In early April the eggs of the invasive insect pest, Oak Processionary Moth, start hatching. The eggs are laid on the twigs of oak trees and the young caterpillars emerge as the weather gets warmer and the leaves on which they feed unfurl. The caterpillars may cause extensive defoliation of the host tree and also carry toxic hairs which can pose a serious threat to human and animal health. Early season management of this challenging pest includes targeted pesticide spraying in some areas of the park. Much of this takes place at night to minimise inconvenience to park users. However, day-time spraying is sometimes necessary, particularly where ground conditions are unsuitable for night-time working. Please avoid the proximity of the spraying operation and follow any instructions given by the ground crew accompanying the spraying rigs.
Ticks and Lyme Disease
Ticks are small, spider like insects that attach themselves to humans, dogs and other animals to feed on blood. Whilst the risk is very low, they can transmit diseases including Lyme disease. Ticks cannot fly or jump but instead they cling onto tall vegetation and wait for their host to brush past. During spring, summer and autumn ticks are more numerous, more active and the park vegetation such as bracken is in ‘full frond’. Park visitors are advised to guard against tick bites by avoiding tall vegetation (especially if wearing shorts) and by staying on well worn paths. Insect repellent can also be used. Check yourself after walking in the park and remove ticks immediately. If concerned, you feel unwell or a rash appears, consult your GP immediately. For more information, please see the Royal Parks website or visit the Information Centre for an information leaflet.
There are water fountains either inside or near to all the park toilets. During the winter the external fountains are turned off to avoid pipes freezing and leaks occurring, which would otherwise cause local flooding and ice. Turning them on and off rather depends on the weather. The park can often be a few degrees colder than the forecast temperature for London and additional frost pockets occur in still air and in sheltered locations at the bottom of hills. It’s not unknown for frosts to occur in May or September but generally the park's fountains are turned on at least from Easter to October half term. This winter they were only turned off from January to mid March.
Summer Migrant Birds
April brings migrant birds such as Willow Warblers, Black Caps and Chiff-Chaffs to the park. The call of the Chiff-Chaff is onomatopoeic - so the name sounds like the sound of the birds' call. The other such bird we are all familiar with is the Cuckoo, but we are far more likely to hear Chiff-Chaffs as they are more abundant and call with such enthusiasm that they really are the little migrant that heralds the arrival of spring. Other birds to look and listen out for include Wheatears in the bracken and grassland and Terns over the Pen Ponds. A little later in the year we can expect to see and hear Sand Martins and Swallows return to the park.