Becoming A Twitcher: Part IV

…in which I become an urban twitcher!

Since my move to London, I have had very little time for indulging my burgeoning interest in British birds. However, that doesn’t mean that I haven’t seen plenty of them! In fact, London is a veritable smorgasboard of bird-spotting opportunities.

I once again found myself surrounded by house sparrows while staying with some friends down in Hither Green for the first few weeks, as well as the rather more exotic ring-necked parakeets (Psittacula krameri) that have colonised the city in recent years. The birds have been recorded in London since 1855, and from an initially small population of escaped or released pet birds, have grown to a UK population of well over 30,000 individuals today. There has been something of an explosion in recent few years – the population is growing at an estimated rate of 30% per year, and exact current numbers are unknown (the next London survey is being conducted in October by Project Parakeet, a research group run by Imperial College London, and they are asking for volunteers to take part. In case you’re interested).

Another invader to be seen in the Hither Green area is the Canada Goose. They are known to be aggressive birds, as well as greedy, and are not the most popular colonists of this country. However, I was willing to forgive the birds in Manor Park, because their chicks were incredibly cute!

I am now living in Canada Water, which, as the name suggests, provides plenty of opportunities for spotting water birds! On Canada Water itself (a small freshwater lake representing the remnants of a dock that was closed in the 1970s and redeveloped) there is an abundance of waterfowl, including mallards, tufted ducks, coots and moorhens. There is also currently a pair of mute swans raising a monster brood of eight cygnets! (All of which are visible in this picture, as well as a few nosy mallards! And the obligatory London pigeons in the foreground)

I’ve seen a lot of breeding birds lately (’tis the season, after all!). On Greenland Dock, just across the way from Canada Water, there are platforms set up for use by the local birds, and this year’s residents included a coot and a great crested grebe (the pictures were taken a couple of weeks ago, and the birds have now left the nests. Apologies for the weird colour, but they were taken in the evening!).

Possibly the most interesting (least common, anyway!) find so far has been a cormorant, also on Greenland Dock. I don’t think I’ve seen one in the wild before (if you can call Surrey Quays ‘the wild’!). Here he (/she?) is, looking nice and regal, as only a diving bird can (it’s because their legs are placed so far back on their bodies – it gives them a very upright stance)…

So, what have I learned in the last few weeks? That London is teeming with birds that aren’t pigeons! Yes, it’s teeming with them too, but there are plenty of other feathered wonders to behold if you look in the right place. Which seems to be anywhere and everywhere you look, as so many species have adapted to and colonised this weird, alien, urban environment.


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