Kitchen Birdwatcher: Everybody Needs Good Neighbours…

How many of you can bird watch while you’re doing the washing up? I can, and it’s fascinating! It was while scrubbing away at a particularly recalcitrant baking tray one afternoon that I looked up and saw a magpie with a beakful of twigs flying into the tree on the embankment across the railway tracks.

Then a second twig-laden magpie came in, and I realised they were building a nest – so I kept watching them. And I’ve been watching them ever since. In this post, I’d like to introduce you to some more of my local wildlife (and update you on the Toon Magpies, of course!). It’s time to meet the neighbours…

All photos from the wonder that is Wikimedia Commons. Click through on any pic for more info and licensing details.

The Pidge Family

A wood pigeon at City of London Cemetery and Crematorium
A wood pigeon at City of London Cemetery and Crematorium

The Pidge Family are Wood Pigeons. Pidge himself has become a regular visitor to my kitchen tree over the last year or so, especially on rainy days when he will come and snuggle up in the crook of a branch with his feathers all fluffed up in an attempt to keep dry.

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Kitchen Birdwatcher: Blue Tits and Toon Magpies

Autumn colour 2018

Yes! The magpies made it through! I am delighted to report that all went well for the brave little magpie pair whose progress I was following from my kitchen window back in the spring, and there is now a large gang of youngsters squawking noisily round the neighbourhood

They are now officially known as the Toon Magpies thanks to my friend Jim, who is a Newcastle United fan (for non football readers, United play in black and white striped shirts, are nicknamed the Magpies, and their fans are known as the Toon Army).

As a result, Jim has decided to name the young magpies after his favourite players and managers from the club. This means we have Sir Bobby [Robson], Rafa [Benitez], Shola [Ameobi], [Alan] Shearer, Speedo [Gary Speed] and more…

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Kitchen Birdwatcher: The Magpies’ Nest

The Kitchen Birdwatcher’s essential kit

I live in west London, right under the Heathrow flightpath, and my flat backs on to a fairly busy railway line that sometimes sees traffic at all hours of the day and night. Noisy, yes, but still a great place to live because (and this may surprise some people) of all the wildlife in the area. There is a perhaps surprising amount of green space nearby, creating perfect habitats for numerous creatures – you’ll find a small park and various allotments (some in use, some derelict) within a block or so of my flat, and the railway line itself is flanked by trees and other greenery.

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Urban Wildlife: Bat Facts

Recently, I’ve been spending a fair bit of time at the Kew Bridge Eco-Village in west London. This fascinating project aims to create a sustainable community garden on an acre or so of derelict urban land which has been the subject of a now decades-old planning wrangle between the prospective developer, local residents and the borough council.

Sitting empty, unused and unloved on the banks of the Thames for almost two decades, the site was soon taken over by Mother Nature, and the eco-village is now home to an amazing array of wildlife, including bees, butterflies, ladybirds, foxes, a rare type of biting spider (!), as well as several neighbourhood cats who have obviously viewed the site as their very own private feline fiefdom for almost as long as it has been derelict.

I first visited the eco-village back in the summer, when the whole area was covered in the familiar pink of patches of rosebay willow-herb and the vivid purples of newly-seeded buddliea bushes, as well as any number of other, more curious and less common plants and herbs – all of which attract wildlife of all kinds, even on such a resolutely urban patch of land as this.

However, despite the fact that they are becoming more and more common in urban areas, and that the eco-village provides an ideal habitat for them, there is one species I have yet to see there – bats.

Everyone has their favourite animals, and bats are definitely one of mine. Not only are they remarkably cute little creatures (they are, honestly!), but they also play a crucial part in the maintainance of a green and healthy environment, which makes them doubly cool in my eyes. They really are extraordinary – and extraordinarily important – animals.

So here are a few fascinating Bat Facts to explain precisely why that is…

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The Dead Parakeet Sketch?

Those of you who have followed this blog across the internet from its old home may well be aware of my slight obsession with the green parakeets that live wild in large flocks across parts of London and south east England. Not everyone does, but I absolutely love them – for their noisy, colourful, unmissable cheerfulness in this grey and often miserable city. They make me smile.

I was first told of their presence in London about ten years ago, and my initial reaction was one of complete disbelief until I saw a small flock of them noisily squawking their way over my parents’ back garden one summer afternoon. I was then intrigued enough to do a little research on these colourful birds, and soon realised that, for them, living in London must be the equivalent of a tropical holiday in comparison to their native environment. It may surprise some that these birds, whose natural home is among the foothills of the Himalayas, happily thrive in such an urban environment as London, but they do – and to such an extent that there is now talk of a cull to reduce their numbers, despite the fact that they are, at present, protected by law.

For those who have not yet encountered these brightly-coloured and noisy birds, you probably soon will; particularly if you live in south east England – it is estimated that there are currently 30,000 of these Ring-necked (or Rose-ringed) parakeets living wild across south-west London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent, and the RSPB further estimates that their numbers will increase to at least 50,000 by next year.

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