SPARROWHAWKS & PEREGRINES at Alexandra Palace RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 28 January 2024 – Report

Sparrowhawks and Peregrine Falcons were the most notable birds for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch at Alexandra Palace Park, North London, on Sunday 28 January 2024.

NW LONDON RSPB GROUP were out in force to set up the RSPB Information & Sales Stall at the highly recommended Lakeside Café. Despite a chilly start, with a slight cold wind on the exposed front terrace of the Palace, the day was bright and sunny at 12c, with a little warmth in the midday sun. (Kinlocheve, Scotland recorded its highest January temperature at 20c).

Soon after our arrival, a Peregrine Falcon was heard calling and spied briefly perched at the rear of the palace complex. Having managed to view the same perched bird from a different angle it took flight when the presumed female effortlessly soared overhead. Later, both falcons alighted on the palace mast, male uppermost and the larger female below blending in with the lead grey metal structure. Eliciting the ‘wow’ factor from members of the public invited to view them through fixed telescopes.

The boating lake was quieter than usual with five (a male plus two pairs) Northern Shoveler and two (a pristine adult male and an interesting winter plumage female – no red eye) Common Pochard. Two pairs of argumentative Egyptian Geese and the honking of five Greylag Geese and 14 Canada Geese were the most vocal wildfowl.

Ivy covered trees near the boathouse attracted at least four Redwing to the ripening berries. The high fat content of Ivy berries is a vital nutritious source of protein for over-wintering birds.

Exploration of the green fenced “Bunker” (map ref: 299 902) area (for possible Firecrest) revealed a calling and drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker and a secretively perched male Sparrowhawk, soon joined by a larger grey brown female. Both birds showing white feather flecking on their backs.

The Event was supported by the Friends of Alexandra Park (Stephen Middleton) with assistance from the Alexandra Park & Palace Charitable Trust and the Lakeside Café’s helpful staff. A big thank you to our own RSPB stalwarts – Bob, Marian, Fay, Sue, Frank, Haydn, Robin & Barbara, and especially Clare for running the RSPB Sales & Information Stall.

Species list: 14 Canada Goose, 5 Greylag Goose, 4 Egyptian Goose, 5 Shoveler, 14 Mallard, 2 Common Pochard, 27 Tufted Duck, 97 Feral / Rock Dove, 5 Wood Pigeon, 2 Moorhen, 13 Coot, 48 Black-headed Gull, 3 Common Gull, 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Peregrine Falcon, 4 Ring-necked Parakeet, 2 Jay, 2 Magpie, 5 Carrion Crow, 1 Coal Tit (SM), 3 Blue Tit, 5 Great Tit, 2 Long-tailed Tit (SM), 1 calling Nuthatch, 1 Common Starling, 2 singing Song Thrush, 4 Redwing, 4 singing Robin, 2 Pied Wagtail, 1 singing Goldfinch. Total = 31. (BOURC British List – issue: 11 December 2023)

Bob Husband, RSPB Group Leader