Thursday, 20 March 2008

A Visitor's Guide to Nonsuch Park

This is a breif visitor's guide to the park, giving details on directions, access and birding at Nonsuch Park.

General

This is a large park in the middle of Cheam, parts are wilder than others and this park gets large numbers of dog walkers during all day light hours. The site does however occasionally turn up locally interesting birds. It is made up of long and short grassland, woodland and scrub. There are a couple of small ponds. The site has only been watched seriously by me for the last year so more is to be found out about its birdlife, particularly its migrants in spring and autumn.

Directions

From the T junction in Cheam continue west, along your right hand side you should see the park behind the trees. Where there is a turning in the road, there is a momument, turn into the park here for the Cheam car park next to Nonsuch High School. For the two Ewell end car parks follow London Road along Stoneleigh heading towards or from Ewell, the two car parks should be obvious, easily spotted by monuments and gates.

General Birds

82 species have been seen here including passage migrants such as Hobby, Northern Wheatear and several warbler species (a Dartford Warbler has been seen here in the past). The site has resident Little Owl and a pair of Teal winter most years on the small ponds at the South-West end. A variety of Warblers can be found in the areas of scrub. Among the locally scarce birds seen at the park Lesser-spotted Woodpecker, Woodcock and Dartford Warbler stand out. Ring-necked Parakeet are common and Green Woodpecker are often seen here. There is the usual mix of common woodland species found in the woodland areas.

Access

At many times some paths are very muddy and some may find these impossible to deal with. Some areas of the park are too rough for people with wheelchairs or walking disabilities etc. If unsure stick to the main paths.Warning: ND3 (see Key Areas) can be flooded, particularly around winter and once you've got in it can be tricky to get out as the gate letting you out onto the concrete path is often surrounded by deep water, observers have been trapped on this effective 'island' for about half an hour in the past!
There are three car parks around the site. One next to Nonsuch High School for Girls (if this is full continue down 'The Ave', passing the main car park and turn first right before the gate, continue until you turn right towards the stoarage buildings and there is a car park there, do not continue straight on and park in front of the mansion house; and you should reach the car park, can be accessed from the A232 (Ewell Road) . The other two can be accessed from London Road running along Stoneleigh.

Opening

The gates open just before dawn and close just after dusk, the official closing time is obviously displayed at the car parks.

Facilities

There is a cafe serving snacks, hot and cold drinks etc and there are toilets near the mansion house.

Key Areas

The no-dogs areas throughout the park are undoubtedly the best for any slightly unusual birds and most previous interesting finds have been here. These areas are clearly visible as they are fenced off and labelled as no-dogs areas. It is recommended that you scan the areas from the gate before you enter and look for birds in the productive hedgerows that surround these areas because, as you know, any shy migrants or birds of interest will fly away.
The gardens are well worth a look and hosted a long-staying juvenile Hobby in August/September 2007. The gardens are a no dog no cycle area too, and because of this and the woodland, open areas and the mansion house in this area, it is probably one of the best areas of the site, if not the best.
The 1st no dogs area that you come across if you come through the park from the Cheam end, or 'ND1', as it is known is the best area for Green Woodpeckers in the summer, other than this it has little of interest (in February 2007 a Lesser-spotted Woodpecker was in a tree in this area). The second no dogs area from Cheam or 'ND2' is also good for Green Woodpeckers but wins over ND1 in having regular Fieldfares and Redwings on the ground here. A Northern Wheatear stayed here for a day in the autumn of 2007, though this species may be more regular than thought.
The final of the no dogs areas, 'ND3' is just south east of the eastern Ewell end car park and this under watched area hosts Fieldfares and Redwings during the winter, Pied Wagtails are regular and large numbers of Carrion Crows gather here. Be warned this can be a tricky area, there are huge puddles around winter and once you get in, particularly if you crossed the dyke near the ponds onto this side of the park earlier on and are heading east, it can be extremely difficult to get out without having to walk a long way back to where you crossed over before. Ring-necked Parakeets, which are found throughout the park, come here to drink when the area is flooded.
All woodland around the site hosts common woodland species and the areas of scrub, particularly behind the huge, over grown hedgerow running parallel to 'The Ave' (the big concrete path around the edge of the park) after it turns and runs along the end of the path (this area is often very over grown with nettles and it is recommended that you come with the appropriate protective clothing if you are planning to tackle the closing gaps in the hedge to access this area), are good for Warblers and other species. Perhaps easier areas of scrub to access include those around Warren Farm (South of the park) cross 'The Ave' and go through the woods and you should end up there. Around the edges there are some areas which are good for Warblers in the summer and Stonechat in the winter.
There are few other habitats to be found at the park but the Mansion house sometimes has Pied Wagtail on it and the ponds just north of ND2, across the dyke are worth a look for resident breeding Moorhen, occasional Mallard and a pair of wintering Teal. Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail have been seen here. The huge open area, which has long grass in the summer is good for Kestrel, and the juveniles are very confiding in August letting you get extremely close to them. Gulls are found at any area with short grass in the winter and the flocks are worth scanning for any interesting species. The best area for Gulls is Cheam Park, just north of ND1 and through the woods, where there are playing fields towards the more north-easterly side of the area. Here Gulls numbers are nearly always well into the hundreds and football games often concentrate the Gulls into one area. This area is good for Green Woodpecker too. For trip reports from this site visit http://nonsuchbirder.blogspot.com/.

If you have any questions about the site please email nonsuchbirding@surfbirder.com

David Campbell 20th March 2008

3 comments:

Gallicissa said...

You have been tagged by me. See:
http://gallicissa.blogspot.com/2008/03/sri-lanka-frogmouth-in-nest.html

David Campbell said...

I've tagged some people now

Pip said...

Excellent! I may extend my South West London birding territory to this park.