Last year we put a camera trap up in our garden in South London. It’s a pretty typical garden and we haven’t done anything special to attract wildlife – other than a couple of bird feeders. We wanted to see what was around us and get a bit more of an insight into the lives of the wildlife on our doorstep. This blog post sets out some of the things we’ve found!
The first things we caught on camera were ring-necked parakeets – you can see a video of them here. Each morning they descend on the garden in a burst of green feathers and loud squawks. Taking over the bird feeder and pushing everything else to the side. It’s fascinating to watch them using their beaks and claws to manoeuvre themselves around the feeders. At one point they even managed to remove the metal lid so they could fit their whole heads inside!
These exotic-looking birds are not native to England and it’s not entirely clear where they came from. Rumour has it they were released by Jimi Hendrix in the Summer of Love or Katherine Hepburn when filming The African Queen. Whatever their origin, they’re able to cope with the cold British winters, especially in parks, gardens, and orchards where food is reliable. With a population of more than 8,000, they’re mostly found in London and the South East but are spreading rapidly. There’s even parakeets as far north as Sefton Park in Liverpool.
The other conspicuous visitors to the feeders are the goldfinches. Once the parakeets are done the goldfinch family sweep in and start noisily tucking in. It’s amazing how much these small birds can put away – and how much mess they make! While we’ve had the camera trap we’ve seen two broods raised so there’s now around 10 to 12 of them arriving every morning. They share the feeder (reluctantly) with other songbirds including blue tits, great tits, and robins. While a similar size these are much shier than the boisterous goldfinch and only flit on to the feeder when they’re allowed. You can see a video of them here.
It wouldn’t be London without pigeons! There are two types we’ve found in the garden – common pigeons and the larger, prettier wood pigeons. Both types arrive a bit later in the morning and wait for the goldfinches to feed. Being too big to land on the feeder, they position themselves underneath and hoover up the seeds scattered by the messy goldfinch family. Once full there’s one particular wood pigeon who likes to spend the day sitting on the fence basking in the sun. You can see a video of her panting on a hot day here.
It’s not just birds in the garden. The other main visitors are a family of grey squirrels. You can see a video of one patrolling the fence here. Early last year they set up a nest and there are now three baby squirrels wreaking havoc across the garden. Whether it’s gnawing on garden furniture, nipping the heads off flowers, chasing away the pigeons, or gorging themselves on peanuts they’re a constant source of chaos. We’ve tried installing ‘squirrel-proof’ feeders but somehow they always manage to acrobatically reach the food inside.
Aside from the usual cast of characters we also get a whole range of other visitors occasionally popping up on the camera. Whether it is starlings, robins, or woodpeckers there’s always something new and surprising. One night, while we were asleep, we even got some footage of an unexpected nighttime visitor. You can see the video here.
Having a camera trap set up in the garden has really brought the lives of its inhabitants to life. And given us a new appreciation for the wildlife around us. If you want to see more check out our Instagram page every Monday where we post the latest news from camera traps around the world.