London is full of life and greener than many think. This blog is a celebration of the nature of our Capital and a snapshot of the RSPB London team's work. Visit us weekly or sign up for our RSS feed to keep up to date on events, comment, campaigns and news.If you've got news of London's nature that you'd like to share, contact the RSPB London team on 020 7808 1260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
House sparrows, grey herons and sparrowhawks appear to have been the birds that raised most interest in London this past week.
A friend of a friend mentioned a website where a few people had been chatting over the appearance of a sparrowhawk in someone's garden. It had caught and eaten a pigeon and they were concerned that it had left a "feathery mess" on the lawn. They were worried that more birds of prey would be "introduced" in to London to reduce pigeon numbers.
While hawks are brought in by commercial firms, no one is bringing wild birds of prey into the Capital. It's illegal without a licence and there's no need. We already have a healthy number of birds of prey and they aren't making much of a dent on pigeon numbers. They only catch what they need to eat. So those chatroom concerns can now be put to bed.
Then there's a Croydon newspaper that wanted to know more about herons after a reader sent in a photo of one on a rooftop. We've got several healthy urban heronries. They are quite mobile so one bird will be seen across many gardens or parks over the course of a day. Look out for them around reservoirs, lakes, canals, gravel pits and an standing water where they can catch fish.With their long legs, long necks and pointy beaks, they are easily spotted.
House sparrows remain one of London's most talked about birds. They should be our most common garden bird along with starlings. But, you'd be hard pressed to spot a single one in the centre of the Capital. Soon we'll be showcasing a small colony on the Southbank at Bernie Spain Gardens.The sad fact is, that this colony is now pretty much isolated. There are few green areas nearby that they can use to link them to other colonies. We're hopeful we can do something about that but it's a race against time. They need to meet birds from other colonies to increase their long-term odds of survival.
I know many people make mental links between increased sparrowhawks and decreasing sparrows, but you'll just have to trust me when I say that research has found no correlation between the rise of predator and the decline of prey. What has had an impact on all three species is the quality of the world around them. It's slowly moving towards what it should be, having been blitzed by badly planned old developments and pollution.
The UK Government's just adopted new EU criteria for measuring the quality of our waterways [The Water Framework Directive]. Under the old system [General Quality Assessment] more than 70% of the UK's waterways are in good or fair condition. Under the new system, 80% stink. The new system takes the condition of plants and wildlife in to account while the old one foused on the amount of sewage and bugs in the water. So we're now getting a clearer picture of our surroundings.
A lot has been done to clean-up our waterways, now it's time to move up a gear. Like most conservation work, this costs money. The big question to ponder in chatrooms this coming week should be: "Will the new monitoring system come with cash attached to carry out improvements that will bring benefits to us all?"