Bullfinches in Bromley

Bullfinch are resident in the UK and are found in woodland, scrub and orchards. They are sometimes seen in gardens especially those connected to a patch of thick scrub or woodland by thick hedgerows. UK bullfinches tend not to move more than a few kilometres during their lifetime and form strong, lasting pair bonds so they are often seen in pairs throughout the year. Adults feed on berries and seeds such as dock, nettle, ash, birch and bramble. They also eat buds in spring which has led to their persecution in the past. They nest in thick scrub, dense hedgerows and scrubby woodland 1-2 metres above ground. The nest is a loose structure of twigs, lichens and moss, lined with hair and fine roots. 4-5 eggs are laid in April/May, then incubated for 12-14 days by the female who is fed by the male during this time. When the eggs hatch both parents feed the chicks on insects. Young fledge at 12-18 days and the adults often have a second brood. In winter residents can be joined by the slightly larger relatives from northern Europe. Records for Bromley borough in 2017 were all from rural areas or near to parks which included areas of woodland and scrub. These included Lilly’s Wood, the Cudham and Downe Valleys, Darrick Wood, Keston, Jubilee Country Park, Scadbury Park, a garden adjacent to Chislehurst and Walden Recreation Grounds, near Crofton Woods/Parkfield Recreation Ground and in South Norwood Country Park. The bullfinch survey will continue and it is hoped there will be further records particularly from the Elmstead Woods/Sundridge Park area, Monks Orchard/Park Langley area and along the Rivers Ravensbourne and Cray.

Threats to bullfinch

·         Loss of nesting sites: reduction of scrub & hedgerows, over-trimming of hedges, tidying up

·         Reduction in numbers of insects for developing young.

·         Loss of seeds and berries due to loss of hedgerows, scrub and too frequent hedgerow trimming.

·         Reduction in availability of ‘weed’ seeds eaten by adult birds due to loss of rough grassland and herbicide use (tidying up again).


According to the British Trust for Ornithology breeding bullfinch numbers fell by more than 50% 1970- 2000 (BTO). UK numbers have been slowly improving, but there are few records for Bromley. Those received in 2017 are mainly from rural or semi-rural areas or adjacent to open spaces with hedgerows and scrub. Further records are needed, so surveying will continue in 2018, but some measures can be put in place.


Measures to help Bullfinch in Bromley

1.       To increase nesting sites and improve numbers of seeds and insects for adult and young bullfinches, promote wild areas in your local park, school and sports grounds and garden, plant hedgerows of native species and maintain some areas of bramble scrub. Native plants generally support more insects than non-native species.

2.       Link wild areas via thick hedgerows.

3.       Decrease pesticide and herbicide use and encourage others to do the same.

4.       Feed birds in your garden.

5.       If you have a cat, keep it indoors between dusk and dawn and use a collar with a bell or ultrasonic device.

6.       Send your records to bromleybiodiversity@gmail.com




Toads are in trouble!

Common Toad Bufo bufo  

Common toads spend the winter lying dormant in places such as compost heaps, beneath log piles or in crevices in walls, sometimes coming out to forage for invertebrates. They are generally nocturnal and emerge from ‘hibernation’ on damp, mild nights when the temperature is above 5 degrees Centigrade. In the Bromley area this is typically in February but will vary from year to year. When they are mature enough to breed (2-3 years old) they return to the pond where they were originally spawned. Males often start to move first and will wait around the pond for females to arrive and then climb on their backs. When they are returning to ponds many are killed on roads. Toadspawn is laid in long ribbons around pond plants in deeper water than frogspawn. Toadlets leave ponds in large numbers over a few days in summer. Toads spend most of their lives on land, living in scrub, woodland, beneath hedgerows or in coarse grassland feeding at night on insects, worms, slugs  and other invertebrates.

According to Froglife, toad populations in south-east England have fallen by more than 68% since 1986.

Threats to Toads

·       Loss of suitable ponds

·       Loss of suitable terrestrial habitat (scrub, rough grassland, hedgerows, walls with crevices)

·       Habitat fragmentation: death on roads

·       A decline invertebrate prey

·       Pesticides (indirect effect: decline in invertebrate numbers, direct effect: build up of pesticide within toads from having eaten poisoned invertebrates).


The following measures could help toads in Bromley:

1.     Plant more native species in gardens and encourage others including schools and sports grounds to plant hedgerows of native species and leave areas of grass uncut during the summer. This would help to increase prey items available for toads because the invertebrates they eat tend to be adapted to live on native species rather than exotic plants. 

2.     Decrease pesticide and herbicide use and encourage others to do the same.

3.     Have a wild area in your garden or local park with some scrub, a log pile and a pond.

4.     When toadlets are emerging from ponds stop cutting or strimming grass in this area for a week or so until they have disappeared.

5.     Consider  contacting Froglife regarding helping toads cross roads: see www.froglife.org/what-we-do/toads-on-roads

6.     Continue to send records to bromleybiodiversity@gmail.com