The Shuttleworth Swiss Garden is teeming with wildlife, both on the ground and in the air, thanks to a rich collection of heritage trees, some of which are over 200 years old, and the garden’s ponds and proximity to the Serpentine Lake and a County Wildlife Site designated woodland. Over the last few years, a large variety of birds have been recorded by keen bird-watcher and garden volunteer Huw Lewis, who has provided the garden team with lists of his seasonal observations, as well as running popular bird song walks in spring.
The bird species seen in a typical year will consist of some which are resident the whole year round and others that come and go according to the timing of their breeding cycle. A number of species are migrant birds, for instance summer visitors such as the swallows, martins and warblers. Other species visit the Swiss Garden and surrounding area outside the breeding season. These include the so called “winter thrushes” (Redwing and Fieldfare) which fly in from Scandinavia and maybe some wildfowl such as some of the ducks and geese.
Look up, and you might see birds of prey flying overhead. Species include Buzzard, Red Kite, Kestrel and Sparrowhawk. Look out also for the commoner crow species. Crows are not all the same colour – the Magpie and Jay are colourful crows! If you are lucky you may see or hear the largest of our crows, the Raven, which utters a very distinctive “cronk”.
Resident birds include the geese on the Serpentine Lake which often come in to the Swiss Garden, including Canada Goose, Greylag Goose and Egyptian Goose. Resident ducks will include Mallard but also look out for Tufted Duck and Gadwall especially on the Serpentine Lake. Here, in the tall trees and waterside bare branches on the opposite side of the lake, in the narrow section leading up to the parkland, there is often a Grey Heron and a Cormorant or two.
Listen out for the two Woodpecker species often heard here, namely the Great Spotted Woodpecker and Green Woodpecker along with a number of common and well known species including Robin, Dunnock, Wren and also warblers, especially the Blackcap and the Chiffchaff – these are nearly always initially located by their songs and calls which are well worth getting to know – you will only hear these two species and most other warbler calls and songs in the spring and summer.
Other important and common species that you will encounter are the various species of Tits including Blue, Great, Coal and Long-tailed Tit. Also the Finches, including Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Linnet, the Thrushes including the familiar Blackbird as well as the Song Thrush and the Mistle Thrush and of course the Pigeons and Doves (which are really the same family) including the Wood Pigeon, The Feral Pigeon, The Collared Dove and the Stock Dove if you are lucky.
Apart from gulls and the Mute Swan, the other mainly white bird species which you may see over the Serpentine Lake in late spring and summer is the Common Tern. This is a lovely, elegant and very agile bird species that catches small fish by diving into water-keep an eye open for it!
And don’t forget, although not truly wild, our magnificent Peacocks, Snowy and Storm, are also to be found in the Swiss Garden and provide a lovely splash of colour at any time of the year.