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 email@example.com
A new report out this week says water voles are making a comeback after their population slumped 90%.
Just this last Wednesday I saw one - photo on the right - chewing on a fresh green leaf at our Rye Meads nature reserve in the Lee Valley. It was right by the path and didn't seem at all worried about the cooing crowd of a dozen of us straining against the handrail for a closer look.
I'd gone there expecting to see a kingfisher, so the watervole was an unexpected sight. Rye Meads has a pair of kingfishers nesting in a specially built bank and they're on their second brood so far this year. Sadly I didn't get to see one. Give it a week or two and the parents will be out and about seeking food for their chicks.. right now they're sitting on eggs so are less active.
Our peregrine falcon webcam has been mistaken by the four chicks as a toilet, so views are a little smeared right now. They've developed their flight feathers and will soon be evicted by their Mum and Dad; sent packing to find their own territory. If you've enjoyed watching the pere-cam, let us know so we can decide whether to repeat it next year.
The peregrine season's not wholly over though. From 17 July until 12 September we'll be at the front of the Tate Modern by the Millennium Bridge showcasing the pair that perch on the Tate's chimney. There's no webcam but we will have our telescopes to see the birds up close.. or should that be pere-scopes? We'll be there every day from Noon till 7pm and will have recorded clips from the Vauxhall perecam to share with visitors too.
This coming week marks a new era for us in London. We're launching our first ever swift survey in the Capital. In partnership with the Mayor of London Boris Johnson and London Swifts, we're asking people to record swift sightings. There's an online form with a nifty location finder to pinpoint where swifts are spotted and where they nest.
Swifts are another declining species but data on them is hard to come by. They spend almost their entire lives up in the air. They rarely come down to ground and if, for any reason, they do land, their legs are too weak to launch them back into the sky. That's why they nest in nooks and crannies around the roolines of buildings. All they have to do to fly is fall out the nest.
Swifts will be with us in the UK until August, maybe September. They'll then migrate back to sub-Saharan Africa over our winter. This is when we can all make a difference to help restore their numbers by putting up nestboxes. The problem is that we're removing their nest sites as we all try to save energy by insulating our homes. Filling the gaps where heat escapes is good from an environmental and financial point of view, but it's denying swifts the sorts of places they nest.
Before we start to fully address this, we want to now where swifts are. If you spot a swift,or more likely a little gang of them, please do add the details to our survey form.
This is actually a good example of what our Letter to the Future is all about. This petition is about spending wisely now to benefit biodiversity. If you're doing up your home, ensure the improvements are good for nature, good for your bank balance and for your ecological footprint. Getting this long-term view across to politicians looking for short-term spending cuts is a tough one. That's why we need your signature to show there is strong public support for this sustainable approach.
I was around Old Spitalfields near Brick Lane this week asking people to sign our Letter to the Future. Almost everyone I spoke with was happy to sign. I had a great chat with one man who agreed with the motives behind Leter to the Future, but was reluctant to sign as he felt politicians won't listen. He did sign after we'd talked it all through; as I said to him, if you don't ask, you don't get.