Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The birds of London, part 1: wetlands

London has a thriving wildlife population for such a busy city. Many birds especially are adaptable enough to thrive even in areas thickly populated by human residents. 

Walking along the canals of East London this spring, we saw ducks, swans, moorhens and other water-loving birds enjoying themselves in the spring sunshine.

London's Canal and River Trust recently turned a stretch of the Limehouse Cut, lined with apartment blocks and industrial buildings, into a rich ecology by planting reed beds along the sides of the canal to protect nests and seasonal insect populations.

Nesting swans

The birds responded enthusiastically and soon there were nests all along the canal.

White ducks

Even fountains not intended for nesting were colonised by courting couples.

Mallard ducks in the fountain at Bishop's Park, Fulham

It's now summer, and our nesting twitterpaters have settled down and are raising families. Fluffy families.

Coot with chicks

Ducklings and goslings, chicks and cygnets...mothers are teaching their fast-growing feather balls how to swim and feed off the algae-rich water.

Summer sunshine is just right for swimming lessons!

Canada geese with half-grown goslings.

The city-bred birds are so used to human presence that they parade their offspring on bike paths and even right underneath construction sites.

Swan family with cygnets sheltering from the hot summer sun.

There are still dangers, though. Hawks and other predators also thrive in London, ready to catch the unwary bird.

(Warning: graphic image)
Do not enlarge if you are disturbed by animal death.

Even so, the waterbirds of London manage not only to survive, but to prosper.

Cormorant, in a Zen-like sunning session

The success of the canal populations gives us hope for a future in which humans help existing ecosystems thrive, instead of destroying them.

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