US social scientist Kenneth Boulding : ‘If you believe exponential growth can go on in a finite world, you are either a madman or an economist’.

Thursday, 30 December 2010

30/12/10: Waxwings ten a penny in Teddington

OK, I'm not a 'Twitcher' and wouldn't travel to Shetland - or even halfway across London - in the hope of being able to pick a rare Gull out of a crowd. But Waxwings appealed, and I'd never previously seen one. So I'd been keeping my eye on the London Bird Club wiki, especially the reports of Waxwings hanging out in Balham several days running, as the given location was just up the road from where the Green Party HQ used to be.

There were none to be seen when I arrived, but it was obvious they must have been in a couple of well-berried trees in some grass outside a couple of small blocks of flats. These had now been commandeered by a couple of Blackbirds. A small flock of birds did whoosh over, catching me by surprise - they didn't sound right for Starlings. Maybe it was them, They were heading in the direction of the other local street they'd been reported from, but no luck there either.

Armed with a new report from Teddington, fresh in this morning while I was on the move, did I try there or pop down to Tooting Common in the hope of seeing my first Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, then head north to the site of some Waxwing sightings in Finchley, now possibly past its sell-by date? I opted for the former - there was a decent number of birds, they'd been seen a very short while ago and I only had to go back up to Clapham Junction, then back out again towards Shepperton.

I was in luck. Just as I approached the Teddington location (well, Fulwell actually) at a bout 13.45, a number of birds descended on a garden then, disturbed by something flew back up into a tree on the other side of the street. A couple of other binocular-toting individuals confirmed that I was in the right place. There, up in the top of a very large tree, its branches spreading out over a main road, were some 50 Waxwings, for the most part nonchalantly preening themselves and showing off their distinctive profile with that swept-back' tuft of crown feathers. It can't have been more than about 10 minutes before they all took flight after someone slammed a car door, and although I wandered around for a bit to see if I could find them again, and came back past the original location, that was that. The benefits of mobile internet access, a £7.50 travelcard (so that's 15p a Waxwing) and a stroke of luck on the timing. For the record, what had attracted them to this particular spot was a rather small pink-fruited Rowan, right by a front garden wall and the pedestrian pavement.

Of course I noted down a few plants here and there whilst I was out and about. There was a small colony of Annual Nettle by an old telephone exchange in Balham, and Lesser Celandine leaves showing by a housing estate on Balham Hill.

This Antirrhinum was in flower on a railway bridge in Fulwell, despite the two lots of snow and sub-zero temperatures recently. The brickwork also sported a number of Greater Celandines.

And next to the bridge was this stand of Euphorbia, probably E. lathyris, Caper Spurge.

Three Stinking Iris were along a footpath by Fulwell Golf Course, and didn't appear to have come from any deliberate plantings.

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