November Sightings at Wormwood Scrubs

Best ever birding month: Woodlark, Water Pipit and Ring Ouzel

(From Newsletter sent by David Lindo)

Happy New Year to Everyone!!As Novembers go, this has been the best ever by far. We had an almost full complement of Scrubbers working the patch plus an array of visiting birders that came to marvel at our finds.Although we had some great birds, it was interesting to note that they were all not totally unexpected.

The Brent Geese were inevitable at some time in the future as they often start showing up in the London area from November.

Our second record of Red-legged Partridge was welcomed, although there have been rumours about the existence of partridges on The Scrubs for years amongst some of our dog-walking colleagues.

Mediterranean Gulls
are now at least biannual and are often seen for several days. Once again, November is the prime time for this handsome gull.

And Peregrines are now almost expected. We recently learnt that a female seen over The Scrubs recently was potentially identified as a female that was born on the south coast, moved to London and now possibly breeds on Charing Cross Hospital, Fulham.But there were three birds discovered during the month that really got the pulses going.

Our first Water Pipit was perhaps the most surprising although we have always half expected them – and of course, this time of year is great for them in the London area.

The very confiding Woodlark that took up residence for a few days near Chats Paddock proved to be a draw for visiting birders and most of the regular Scrubbers. It was our third record with all the previous birds seen in – you guessed it – November.

Finally, our collection of Ring Ouzels were arguably the best birds of the month. There was something pretty amazing about having up to 2 of these montane birds spend nearly 2 weeks at a site surrounded by habitation and within site of central London. That’s pretty special.

Also of interest this month were 2 more Hedgehog records on the 5th and 8th when animals were heard snorting in the Chats Paddock undergrowth. A Budgerigar was on the loose on the 7th whilst nearby on Grand Union an Egyptian Goose cruised.

Contributors: Rob Ayers, Kim Dixon, Pete Dixon, David Jeffreys, David Lindo, Des McKenzie, Roy Nuttall, Anders Price, Neville Smith, Russell & Yvette Spencer, Nick Tanner et al.


The usual paltry numbers were recorded.

Brent Goose

A skein of 5 flew overhead from the north on the 8th - which was a total surprise. The birds were originally picked up a little bit earlier and further north by birders at Horsenden Hill, Greenford. This was our first record ever of these arctic geese.

Canada Goose

The maximum count was of 10 birds seen on the 2nd.


The odd bird was seen occasionally.


Our first multiple sighting occurred on the 7th when a pair was seen drifting over Lester’s Embankment by a couple of visiting birders.

Red-legged Partridge
For the second time this year, a bird was flushed from the main path in Chats Paddock on the 3rd.

Single birds were flushed from the grassland on the 5th, 14th and the 22nd.

Black-headed Gull

Reasonable numbers accumulated on the football pitches during the month beginning with around 30 on the 2nd. Around 100 were drifting around on the 8th though the peak count was of around 200 on the 22nd.

Mediterranean Gull

A glorious winter plumaged bird was picked out amongst the melee of gulls on the football pitches on the 16th. It stayed for 3 days.

Common Gull

Quite low numbers were recorded during November with a peak of 15 on the 22nd. In November 2008 we were treated to a maximum count of just 20 birds.

Herring Gull
Low numbers were encountered with just 15 on the 8th being the most. Large gulls are a bit of a scarcity here.

Lesser Black-back

The usual small numbers sailed overhead.

Great Black-back

Singletons of this rather scarce giant were detected on the 14th and the 19th.


Late October to early November is the classic time to witness the sometimes vast movements of Woodpigeons heading over from the northeast as they head presumably to the Iberian peninsular. This year the numbers have been disappointingly low, a situation reflected across the whole of London. At least 400 birds headed over on the 2nd. Our largest flock of the month occurred on the 4th when some 1,200 winged their way over and around 200 went over the
following day.

Stock Dove

At least 3 birds were associated with the Woodpigeon movement on the 8th.

Rose-ringed Parakeet
We seemed to have stepped back into time and are now recording post 2006 numbers with daily totals being as low as just two birds.

Green Woodpecker

A bird or two was sometimes seen or heard during the month.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

This common woodpecker was a near daily sight.


At least 4 birds flew over on the 2nd.


Wormwood Scrubs’ third ever record of this much lauded songster was first registered on the 13th by our long-staying American honorary Scrubber, Anders Price. He initially found the Woodlark at 8:45am in the short grass near Chat’s Paddock just behind the noticeboard. He noted its small upward crest, distinctive facial markings (strong white eye stripe) that reached around the neck to meet at the nape and its smallish size.

It then flushed about 50 feet east to the edge of the path beside Chat’s Paddock, at the verge of the patch of grassland there. It allowed quite close approach (30 feet) so as the small black and white boxes on the leading edge of the folded wing were clearly visible. The crest was often raised, but when lowered its head was smoothly round looking. When seen in flight against a background of trees or shrubs, the white tail tip was distinct as were the white markings on the forewing.

It lacked the white tail sides or white trailing edge to the wing that a Skylark would show. This individual had a few grayish looking feathers on it’s lower back which may have been caused by wet plumage. The flight was the typically bounding style of this species. As the bird strongly favored the short grass of the paths for feeding, it was constantly disturbed by dog walkers and led all who came to twitch it on a merry chase around the grassland. Our special visitor was last seen on the 15th when it also briefly frequented the football pitches.

Meadow Pipit

At most, 20 birds were to found or rather, flushed from the grassland during the month.

Water Pipit

Another first for The Scrubs, this interesting species was heard on the 5th calling as it flew low over the heads of three observers waiting in Chats Paddock to catch sight of the semi-resident Ring Ouzel. Its call note was had the same tone of a singular Meadow Pipit call – perhaps not as hard and deep as the similar sounding Rock Pipit. As it circled over it was noticed that it was fairly brown looking and not dark like a Rock Pipit. It was totally feasible for this species to turn up at The Scrubs at some point, especially given that several were residing at the London Wetland Centre at the time – not a million miles away. It was a welcomed site tick.

Pied Wagtail
This familiar wagtail was rather scarcely seen at The Scrubs during the period. Around 5 birds were noticed on the 4th.


At least 3 birds were in Chats Paddock on the 8th.


Not many counts were made of this common bird during November due to the distraction caused by long staying Ouzels and wandering Woodlarks. At least
4 were counted in Chats Paddock on the 8th.


These perky birds were plentiful on The Scrubs with at least 7 chasing each other in Chats Paddock on the 8th.


At least 2 birds were at large in the grassland, but as suspected, these birds are almost certainly part of a larger group wintering over a far bigger area than just Wormwood Scrubs itself. To prove that point up to 4 birds were recorded on the 12th.

Song Thrush

Quite a few birds were noticed during the month. Interestingly, some were very flighty, almost like Redwings perhaps indicating that they too were migrants. They were especially noticed whizzing around Chats Paddock whilst we staked out our temporarily residing Ring Ouzel. At least 12 were encountered this way on the 8th.


At least 30 birds were seen on the 2nd including around 25 in Central Copse and on the 6th. Aside from that a few were seen on practically every visit.


Small numbers were seen on most occasions but the most recorded were around 40 on the 12th.

Ring Ouzel

A flighty female no doubt a residue of last month’s mini invasion was discovered feeding on rosehips in Chats Paddock on the 2nd with around 15 almost as wild Blackbirds. These birds were probably also Scandinavian migrants and the ouzel may have travelled with them. Typically, she didn’t allow close approach and headed off towards Central Copse at a rapid rate of knots.On the 4th, two nervous ouzels were seen in Chats Paddock. The following day a single bird was briefly seen haring its way out of Chats Paddock towards Central Copse. It was later seen in Chats by around 10 visiting birders. The female was still lurking on the 7th and was finally seen on the 8th. This is by far the longest staying Ring Ouzel record in The Scrubs’ history. It begs the question: is this a more regular occurrence than previously imagined
only coming to light on this occasion because we were consciously looking for them?


Quite a few sooty, dark-billed and skittish birds were around the site, especially in sheltered, berry-laden areas like Chats Paddock. At least 15 loosely accompanied our long staying Ring Ouzel on the 2nd increasing to around 20 the following day and on the 8th.


The bushes adjacent to Braybrook Street was the locality where a singing individual was discovered by a visiting birder who had come looking for our
temporarily residing Woodlark on the 13th. This singer remained until the 15th with an additional bird being found in Chats Paddock on the 14th.

Great Tit

At least 10 were buzzing around in Chats Paddock on the 8th.

Blue Tit

At least 20 birds were noticed during an ouzel stakeout in Chats Paddock on the 8th.

Long-tailed Tit

Around 24 were counted on the 23rd.


Mostly singletons were seen throughout the month, though 2 were spotted on the 22nd.


The usual gatherings of around 20 birds were reported throughout the month.


2009 been a great year at The Scrubs for this small crow, they seem to becoming more commonly seen these days. The peak count was around 8 birds on the 2nd.

Carrion Crow

There has been a discernable decrease noted since the summer thus the average count was of around 120 birds. This time last year saw numbers averaging out at about 200 birds.

Roughly 200 birds were roaming around on the playing fields during the month often in the company of gulls. Over 400 were counted on the 22nd.

House Sparrow

Birds were often heard from Braybrook Street, their mainstay area.


At least 30 birds were involved in movements that occurred on the 4th and 5th. Otherwise, small numbers were noted on most visits.

At least 12 were at large in Central Copse on the 27th.

Around 22 were counted on the 23rd.


At least one bird was heard uttering its wheezy call overhead on the 4th.


A singleton was watched calling as it flew over Chats Paddock on the 4th.

Reed Bunting

Our tiny wintering flock of perhaps up to 3 scarcely seen birds persisted in the grassland. A male was heard calling and seen over the grassland on the 2nd.

Compartments within Wormwood Scrubs

Martin Bell’s Wood – formally known as the Southern Paddock is situated on the south eastern corner close to Scrubs Lane.
Scrubs Lane Wood – the strip of woodland on the eastern edge of the site running the length of Scrubs Lane to the east and along the northern edge to Chats Paddock in the west.
Chats Paddock - will also be known as the main lizard habitat.
Lester’s Embankment – marks the north western border of the Scrubs and is also referred to as ‘the embankment’. Now named after Lester Holloway who
in the 80’s unsuccessfully campaigned to stop British Rail developing on the Scrubs.
North West Corner – the western edge of the Scrubs.
Braybrook Woods – the woodland strip running along the southern edge from Braybrook Street up to and including outside the prison along the
southern parameter.

2009 Year List

Cormorant, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Greylag, Brent Goose, Canada Goose, Egyptian Goose, Mallard, Shoveler, Tufted Duck, Common Buzzard, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Peregrine, Hobby, Kestrel, Red-legged Partridge, Lapwing, Snipe, Black-headed Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-back, Great Black-back, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Stock Dove, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Short-eared Owl, Swift, Rose-ringed Parakeet, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Skylark, Woodlark, Swallow, Sand Martin, House Martin, Water Pipit, Rock Pipit, Meadow Pipit, Tree Pipit, Richard’s Pipit, Pied Wagtail, Grey Wagtail, Yellow Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Black Redstart, Song Thrush, Redwing, Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush, Ring Ouzel, Blackbird, Grasshopper Warbler, Reed Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Cetti’s Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, Dartford Warbler, Willow Warbler, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Linnet, Redpoll, Siskin, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Reed Bunting

94 species thus far

(96 species in November 2008 & 86 in November 2007)

December 29, 2009

Related links
Related Links

Woodlark photographed in Spain (Photo: S Daly)

Wormwood Scrubs Map

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September Sightings at Wormwood Scrubs