Take off time for our local birds

When the swirling tide ebbs leaving the foreshore empty except for the interesting morsels left behind which our local bird life loves to explore (picking over drains down by the waterline needs expertise to avoid the sea-like lapping waves encompassing them) – both the black-headed terns and Canada geese compete with local pigeons.

It’s been a joy to see the arrival in the Spring time of goslings in very close convoy behind their parents – a regular, quick count is necessary to see if they have survived the rigours of the ever-changing tideway.  Heaven only knows where they find suitable nesting ground far enough away from the damaging effects of ship wash – perhaps they nest amidst the abandoned wharves which have sprouted enough cover from invasive intruders.  But each year we marvel as they parade between their feeding grounds, taking advantage of an occasional nap on the foreshore pebbles, mum always – or is it dad? – on the lookout while their brood are dozing – a necessary precaution indeed!


However, the seasons pass and yesterday’s low water provides an ideal sandy strip – just the place to practise take offs and landings.  Both the gull and goose families cooling their feathers in this heat wave, cavorting and swimming topsy-turvy, exposing their ever-expanding tums – fresh, feathering fluttering by as they show off to the other families who come to see what it’s all about;  a quick inspection, and off they are on their own sweet ways.

The sense of exploration, especially swimming cross river, leaves me aghast as speedy ferries flash past as they make their hazardous journey.  Soon they will take to the wing having flapped and flopped in attempted flight.  With their tried practices over, they will be up and away to God knows where, leaving us concerned spectators more at peace.  We know that great gatherings will take place up in the park later in the year, or on the heath with its ponds.  Let’s hope the rain tops them up.

The gulls are amazing as they cavort up and back the splash way, showing off to their seniors as well as their own sprightly chums, many who take it easy way down river riding the wavelets before they change their mind and fly to pastures new.  It’s a regular commute all year round – either up to town with its fast food outlets overspills, or down amongst sand pits and quarries which line the broadening estuary with its extensive marshlands running into the actual ocean with its swathes of sandbanks to the land of vast new wind farms which glitter in the haze.

Late at night one can still see the gulls on the move, swimming in vast flotillas.  It doesn’t seem to matter which way they are travelling and the tide rally sweeps them along.  Only Canary Wharf’s bright reflections reveal their passage as we draw the curtains and blinds prior to our static snooze ashore at home.

Lastly I have to report news of twilight raiding parties into the Isle of Dogs – a squadron of squawking, green cockatoos weave their way cross river – is it a reconnaissance flight to see how many nesting sites are available for their expanding population?  Or are they just showing their colours for a later invasion – they certainly like to chatter as they twist and twirl into the great unknown.  Perhaps they have heard that Canary Wharf is full of their more yellow cousins – dash it all, it’s now controlled by ‘Songbird  plc’.

PS – Our resident cormorants are a bit scarce – perhaps they are exploring new breeding grounds down by the seaside?

About RiverWatch returns

Peter Kent shares his Thames riverside studio viewpoint

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