Campus Wildlife | November 2018

Autumn will soon give way to Winter,

An autumn leaf against a stormy sky

and the weather has certainly turned cooler. The Annual nationwide fireworks displays, given, I understand, to celebrate the eve of my joining the University on 6 November last year, are over. So what did October bring?

We didn’t see many long distance migrants but there was still plenty of action.

The Gulls are back. Early most mornings the Froebel playing fields are host to around 100 gulls, generally 4 or 5 Common Gulls and occasionally a Lesser Black-backed, but mostly an even split between Black-headed and Herring Gulls:

Black-headed Gull
Black-headed Gull
Herring Gull
Herring Gull

In Winter the Black-headed Gulls have white heads, with black ‘headphones’. The others all have streaky grey, instead of their summer white heads.

Herring Gull
Herring Gull, Digby Roof

One of the highlights of October is the profusion of Jays. These beautiful birds are actually members of the crow family, in spite of their bright colours. They’re also much shier than the other common species of crow, so I was very lucky to get some shots of a Jay on the ground:

A Jay on the ground

In spite of their striking looks, they are easily overlooked, though during the whole of October, I rarely went outside without seeing at least one Jay flying by. They tend to fly around at treetop level. Look for a bird shaped a little like a Magpie, but with a shorter tail, broader wings and a whitish rump.

As well as the Jays and Magpies, we’ve currently got another unusually coloured crow. There are several Jackdaws spending time on the grass between Cedar and the Montefiore Diner. One of them is partially leucistic and has a lot of white patches (a Jackpie perhaps?).

Leucistic Jackdaw

Many of our water birds are still away, and the lakes are both currently subject to disturbance.  Digby was cleaned out a while ago, but still sees an occasional Heron.

Digby Heron
Heron at Digby

The building works around the main Entrance are also disruptive, though the resident pair of Egyptian Geese don’t seem to be too troubled.

Egyptian Geese
Egyptian Geese

Nor do the Grey Squirrels and Crows, though there are fewer Jackdaws around at Digby than usual. This Squirrel at Digby might want to watch out for its lunch!

Grey Squirrel (left) with Carrion Crow
Grey Squirrel and Carrion Crow

The Mole activity I spotted last month is now behind screens erected around the Harvey building, where there is more construction work ongoing.

Back to the lakes: the larger lake at Froebel is currently being cleared, too.

Pond clearing at Froebel
Pond clearing at Froebel

Our pair of Swans are still on Froebel Lake, and a Heron and 3 Egyptian Geese are regular here. Around a dozen Mallards and Moorhens are still around the lake, but most of the Coots are still away.

There was a single Tufted Duck at Froebel early in October, but no sign of the many young from Digby and no sign of Canada Geese since 11 September, other than a flock of 40 birds that flew over on 17 October.

No Shovelers have appeared yet. Last year the first arrived on 14 November, so they may arrive soon.

Blackbirds haven’t been far away. Like many birds in early Autumn, they’ve probably been skulking quietly while moulting. I’ve heard the occasional bird, but they’ve only just begun to make public appearances again in the last week or two.

Robins and Tits have been around as usual. At this time of year very few birds are singing, Robins are the birds you’re most likely to hear singing, though a Wren gave a short song a couple of weeks ago in the Old Orchard.  A Great Tit gave a little chorus of ‘teacher! teacher!’ last week, more like Hermione Granger than Taylor Swift, maybe, but still technically a song.

Great Tit amid Autumn leaves at Digby
Great Tit and Autumn leaves at Digby

A few Nuthatch are about and the first Goldcrest of this Winter put in an appearance on the 16th.


Although a resident, the Goldcrest along with the similar, but more spectacular, Firecrest has the distinction of being our smallest bird and they are the only warblers more likely to be seen in Winter than Summer. Though Firecrest are not exactly ‘likely’ to be seen, being much the rarer.  Unlike the marginally larger and phenomenally loud Wren, they sadly both have voices that are beyond my hearing range, though are quite vocal.

There have been few Thrushes around, apart from a small group of Song Thrush and the flock of 13 Mistle Thrush back in September.

On the Winter Thrush species, I’ve seen very few Redwing this Winter. They are usually abundant on Campus by late November. I have seen quite a few Fieldfare in the London area, though they visit Roehampton less frequently than their smaller cousins.

Some romantic news on our other wildlife:

The Garden Spider featured last month has been receiving amorous advances from a much smaller and unsurprisingly cautious male.

Garden spiders
Garden Spider courtship

The male spent over an hour making tentative advances, not surprising, given that female spiders are infamously apt to give a whole new meaning to the term ‘a romantic dinner’.

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