Monday 18 April 2016

Rose-ringed or Ring-necked Parakeets

April 14 2016 Walton-on-Thames Surrey UK

I left Gloucestershire (pronounced Glostershire) for Surrey and made my way to the upscale town of Walton-on-Thames. Walton is south of Heathrow airport and within commuting distance of London and home to some pricey real estate. $500,000 might get you a 2 bed apartment and for a cool million a semi-detached home could be yours. Most detached homes are in the $2-7 million range and it gets more expensive downstream the nearer one gets to the capital. However the upside is that the River Thames runs through it and there is an abundance of green space, riverside pubs and for the adventurous Canal Narrow boats. to rent. 
Note* I don't have any affiliation with aforementioned link. From London a network of canals spread across the UK, a narrow boat is one of the best ways to experience the UK.

During the 19th century the population of great-crested grebe, the largest of the grebe family dropped to 42 pairs, partially due to the trade of their head plumes. Recently five thousand pairs have been recorded during annual UK bird counts. I saw just one pair and single bird along the river.

Great-crested Grebe
Indeed there were more Egyptian geese than grebes, Originally introduced from Africa in the17th century but nowhere as common as the parakeet. The Egyptian goose related to ducks more than geese, breeds in tree holes and in old crow nests.
Egyptian Goose and goslings

Long-tailed tit.

One of the most unusual inhabitants of the town and for that matter the whole region and increasingly the whole of the UK is the rose-ringed parakeet. Originating from S. Asia and Africa the species now numbers into the tens of thousands.

Rose-ringed or Ring-necked Parakeet.
It seems so odd to be looking at a robin or a blue tit one moment and then watching a flock or twenty or more parakeets darting across the sky the next. You can hear them before you see them and it seems almost every willow tree along the river has a nesting pair. The colourful and exotic looking birds find the British climate just right, so much so that they have become a pest. Farmers are beginning to tire of them, in some fruit growing areas large flocks descend on orchards and strip the crop bare in one sitting. Not only that, in some locations thousands roost in the same trees every night, homeowners describe the squawking noise they make as a 'dreadful din'  One roost at a nearby rugby club in Esher contains up to 7000 birds each night. Cavity nesting birds like woodpeckers are losing out too.

Greater Spotted Woodpecker
Cavity nesting species like the greater spotted woodpecker have suffered most from the parakeet population explosion.

Yesterday, my first day after my tiring journey saw me up bright and early. Luckily for me the local park is just behind my son's home. First sighting was a greater spotted woodpecker gouging out a nest site in a maple tree. There were very few birds around and no warblers anywhere just a smattering of jays, magpies, wood pigeons, heron, jackdaws, wrens, chiffchaff, dunnock, long-tailed, blue and great  tits but little else. As full list is at the end of the blog. I find it surprising considering the time of year, the amount of insect life and the budding trees. However, there were plenty of parakeets to keep me interested. Whoever released the first pair into the wild could have never realized the far reaching effect the birds would have on indigenous species. They have even out nested the starlings and that's no mean feat.

A female parakeet exits a nest site while the male surveys his domain from above.  

As I was setting up to photograph a woodpecker an elderly gentleman approached me and related a story about the 1951 movie African Queen starring Humphrey Bogart. Sorry to spoil the illusion but the river scenes were shot not in Africa but on the Thames at nearby Shepparton Studios. After the movie was wrapped-up, some bright spark decided it was a good idea to release six pairs of parakeets into the wild.
Even so, as far back as the nineteenth century parakeets were documented wild in London but never to the numbers now encountered. Lately parakeets have been spotted as far north as Edinburgh Scotland. Stories about the birds abound, even guitarist icon Jimi Hendrix got into the act and is reported to have released several parakeets into wild, he must have been stoned!


A lucky shot.

As I walked along the banks of the Thames it is clear that birds have left their mark on local culture (see below) the other pub is if course, yes you guessed it...The Swan.

Even the local pub has got in on the act.

Below is a link to blog about London's parakeets by somebody who can actually articulate their thoughts rather than one who wishes they could!


Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, England, GB
Apr 17, 2016 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Protocol: Traveling
3.0 kilometer(s)
37 species

Graylag Goose  12
Canada Goose  4
Mute Swan  34
Egyptian Goose  4     5 gosling
Mandarin Duck  1
Gadwall  2
Mallard  12
Great Crested Grebe  3
Great Cormorant  1
Gray Heron  1
Common Buzzard  1
Eurasian Coot  5
Black-headed Gull  6
Herring Gull  1
Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)  5
Common Wood-Pigeon  22
Eurasian Collared-Dove  1
Great Spotted Woodpecker  1     Building nest hole over 3 day period
Rose-ringed Parakeet  13
Eurasian Jay  3
Eurasian Magpie  6
Rook  22
Carrion Crow  1
Common Raven  1
Barn Swallow  1
Eurasian Blue Tit  4
Great Tit  6
Long-tailed Tit  4
Eurasian Wren  3
Common Chiffchaff  1
Eurasian Blackcap  3
European Robin  4
Eurasian Blackbird  4
Song Thrush  2
Dunnock  1
Common Chaffinch  3
European Goldfinch  3

John Gordon
BC Canada

1 comment:

  1. Fantastic I know those parakeets are invasive but they sure are pretty love the little tit photo too