Crystal Palace Park was established in the 1850s to house elements on display from the Great Exhibition held in Hyde Park in 1851. The main building (which burnt down in a fire in 1936) sat on the ridge of the highest point in South London (109m above sea level), facing Eastwards across parkland about 1km square. This park has seen - and continues to see - significant public use for events as well as jogging, dog-walking, picniccing etc. However, if one can avoid the crowds, it retains considerable interest for birdwatching.
The park has three key areas for birders. The highest parts (up to Crystal Palace Parade) comprise terraces set out under the old Crystal Palace itself. Grassy areas are complemented by overgrown bits which have never been repaired since 1936. These areas are important for fly-overs and seasonal migration, because of the height of the area. Overgrown patches provide cover for Greenfinch, Song Thrush, Whitethroat and tits. Spring and Autumn migration usually produce hirundines and various birds of prey, as well as e.g. Wheatear, warblers.
Most of the park contains wide open spaces of grassland, interspersed with a very wide range of mature trees. Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Great Spotted and Green Woodpeckers enjoy these areas, joined in the Summer by Blackcap and Chiffchaff. Woodland by the farm area by the station hosts Mistle Thrush and Treecreeper.
The Penge/Anerley part of the park contains two significant lakes. The lower lake is a boating lake with pedalos, and contains the usual range of ducks (Mallard, Tufted Duck, also Shoveler in Winter). Canada and Egyptian Geese both breed, whilst the resident (except early Summer) Black-headed Gulls are joined by Herring & Lesser Black-backed (which roost on nearby Homebase, in Penge) and the occasional Common Gull. The upper lake is shallower and has many nooks and crannies around the dinosaur statues installed by the Victorians. Coot and, in particular, Moorhen, thrive here, but it's also worth looking out for Grey Wagtail on the shorelines and Swift overhead.
The total park list is around 75 species. This includes several one-offs, plus infrequent sightings of the less-common woodland species, such as Firecrest, Tawny Owl and Sparrowhawk. However, intensive watching during 2020 also found Nightingale, Meadow Pipit and (on a pedalo!), Common Sandpiper (last seen in 2008). Lesser-spotted Woodpecker was heard drumming and alarm calling for 20mins in oak trees along the Eastern edge of the park on 1st October 2015 but was not seen; Long-eared Owl was heard calling on several occasions during June 2017.
(right: the dinosaurs give all sorts of opportunities for interesting bird pictures)
Crystal Palace Parade bus station (SW corner) routes 3, 122, 157, 202, 249, 358, 410, 432, 450.
Crystal Palace rail station (S side): half-hourly Victoria - Crystal Palace - London Bridge; half-hourly Victoria - Crystal Palace - West Croydon; half-hourly London Bridge - Tulse Hill - Crystal Palace - Beckenham Junction; every 15 minutes East London Line Highbury - Canada Water - Crystal Palace.
Thicket Road (E side) bus route 354.
Penge High Street (NE corner) bus route 176.
Cafes in the park, near Penge gate, also at Crystal Palace station.
Public toilets also near Penge gate