Just over 150 years ago, Alexandra Palace Park was opened as a Victorian leisure park, with 196 acres of woodland, open grassland, formal gardens and a boating lake. The 'Peoples Palace' sits up high in north London and has spectacular panoramic views of the city and its incredible skyline. I know that it might appear strange, to some, that we get some great bird watching opportunities but trust me, we get some 'megas!'
Since the age of 9, I've been very lucky to be part of a local birders group, who, excuse the pun, took me under their wing. Over the years, they have shared their knowledge, experience and passion of birding and in return have used my younger eyes & ears to spot for them.
One of my most memorable times was when I was off school, recovering from an appendectomy. Feeling kind of miserable for myself, I sat up in bed, gazing out of the window. I'm rather lucky that I have a good view of the boating lake and my mood was quickly lifted when I thought I saw something rather special. I grabbed my binoculars, checked what I thought I had seen and then yelled to my mum to come quickly. I swiftly put on my clothes and we sped off to get close to the lake. Were my eyes deceiving me? "Quick Mum, call Dom, I've got a smew!'
Within moments, word was out that I'd found this rare winter visitor and birders from all around excitedly arrived. It was simply brilliant and with cameras clicking furiously, we all captured the female duck as it repeatedly dipped in and out of the lake, diving for fish.
The Ali Pali birders
On another occasion, I was out with a couple what are affectionately known as, the 'birding blokes'. We were near to the cricket ground, surveying the scrubland close by. Then miraculously something caught our attention. A small sparrow like bird was on the ground. We focussed our binoculars and were amazed to see that it was infact a wryneck, sitting on the grass. At first there was some doubt, as the grey colouring with brown mottling are common in many birds. It was only when we could clearly see the dark band of brown, running down from the back of the head, that our hopes were confirmed.
In my garden, which is adjacent to the park, I get some terrific birds. These have included; fire crest, yellow browed warbler and even a peregrine falcon. My favourite of all though, has to be the bird that, in 2010, made my Christmas Day complete...the redpoll. The freezing conditions were ideal and with niger seed feeders full, at one point I counted 23 fabulous finches, including both lesser and mealy varieties.
So next time you're in this wonderful part of the country, please take a moment to look up, down and all around....you never know what you might see!
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