OPENED IN 1869, Finsbury Park is a vital green ‘lung’ encapsulated within the metropolitan sprawl of London town. It may seem an unlikely retreat for a birding walk, but, with a dawn start and spring migration under way, it could throw up one or two surprises. Within the 110 acres is a small deciduous wood, avenues of mature trees, formal gardens, an ornamental lake, open playing fields and parkland, plus an old aquifer that formerly supplied fresh drinking water to the City from Hertfordshire, now known as the New River. The American gardens by the lake is a good spot for a chance of a scarce migrant, and it is where I once noted Black Redstart and also Spotted Flycatcher. As with many London green spaces, the raucous calls of Ringnecked Parakeets are omni-present, while the humble House Sparrow is a rarity. Kestrel and Sparrowhawk can occur anywhere and hunting Peregrines are often recorded. On an easterly air-flow, an early morning ‘viz mig’ (visible migration) is worth setting your alarm clock for, and Swift numbers can be spectacular following a spell of rain. I have also noted Hobby and Red Kite passing overhead in spring. The lake is a magnet for tame wildfowl. A full range of facilities are available around the lakeside complex, including a superb café, but if you find that’s not to your liking, then nearby Green Lanes has an unparalleled array of eateries from around the world. Check along the aquifer for Coot, Moorhen, Grey Heron, Grey Wagtail and a chance of Green Sandpiper. The ball park pitch can attract passage Common and Black-headed Gulls and occasionally a Mediterranean Gull.
1Mature scattered trees attract passage Blackcap, Chiffchaff, and occasionally Willow Warbler. Resident species include Ring-necked Parakeet, Jackdaw, Jay, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers, Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits.
2From the hill, look out across the city, to see birds on the move; possibly wagtails, thrushes, finches, hirundines, and as the season progresses, Swifts. The ornamental lake supports a large collection of wildfowl, plus gulls, Grey Heron and Cormorant.
Grey Wagtail Ring-necked Parakeet