Friday, 10 November 2017

Birds and trees of the Great North Wood - a guest blog

Today, November 3rd, I saw my first Redwing of the winter, in our garden in Forest Hill. It was scratching for food at the base of a Hawthorn tree, which is one of its favourite food sources at this time of year: the other is the Rowan or Mountain Ash, and its interest in both trees is of course their berries.

Redwing - Image courtesy of
Click on image for larger version
The Redwing is a small Thrush which has a prominent white stripe through its eye and a reddish mark beside its chest, which is part of its red underwing - hence the name Redwing. They come from Scandinavia and most winters there is a small flock of Redwing which fly between Forest Hill and the woods on Sydenham Hill in search of berries.

Both Forest Hill and Sydenham Woods are part of what used to be called the Great North Wood, an ancient oak forest which was first recorded in 1272, but may go back to the last Ice Age (go here to read more on the London Wildlife Trust website). Native Hawthorn and Rowan (Mountain Ash) would have been part of that forest then as they are today. But today it is possible to plant varieties of Rowan and Hawthorn which are better suited to the pavement setting and in this way we can attract woodland wild life from what remains of the Great North wood into our streets and into our everyday lives.

The most exotic Scandinavian winter visitor in search of berries is the Waxwing, which is often seen in hedgerows close to the East Coast, but only rarely in London. Sadly we not very likely to see Waxwings in Lewisham this winter, but there will be a day, and often it is a sunny day, when the berries on a tree close to your house will be just right and Blackbirds, Thrushes and maybe a Redwing will descend to gorge on those berries. It is a wonderful moment, a time to pause, to watch and then maybe to consider planting a Hawthorn or a Rowan.

Stuart Checkley
Guest Blogger, from a garden somewhere in Forest Hill

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