Sunday 5 December 2010

The best patch in London?

At the London Birders drinks, a very serious affair where the conversation borders on the academic, and little or no alcolhol is consumed, I was able to congratulate Gary J on seeing 100 species at East India Dock Basin this year. It got me wondering if EIDB is in fact the best site in London. Obviously that can't be quite true - Wanstead is peerless after all - however it is also about a hundred times as large, and possibly more than that. EIDB is truly tiny, a few acres at most. Probably half of this is the old entrance to the docks, the basin. This is tidal, the lock gates don't work as they used to, and as the years pass becomes more and more silted up. The rest is dominated by a very small copse of mature trees, perhaps a couple of tennis courts worth, and then the lock gates themselves and some paving around the basin. Indescribably small, probably one of the smallest of all London's worked patches, if not the smallest.

So it is a minor miracle that Gary has seen 100 species there this year. That's what I got in Wanstead last year, and I haven't had that many more this year. A handful of dedicated patch-workers bird the site, and even have a blog where they maintain sightings and dream up red-top post titles like Rook and Roll. A hundred species? OK so they have a bit of river, which always helps, and they're at the bottom of the Lee Valley corridor, but nonetheless, square metre for square metre, it has to be the most productive patch in London by a country mile.

I used to work in Canary Wharf, and on the rare occasions where I actually got some time for lunch, I used to pop down to the dock for some much-needed anti-office R&R. It's minutes from Canary Wharf, the skyline is dominated by the shining glass towers, and just opposite is the Millenium Dome or whatever it is now called. I became a different person when I stepped through the gates. Work left behind, binoculars raised, I was a birder again. My site total is a paltry 67, and my best yearlist was 58 in 2008. I'd made three visits in 2009 by the time I got made redundant, and so bowed-out at 37. I'm ashamed to say I've only returned once since then, in search of Black Redstart for my London year-list this year. I spent an hour or so checking the copse and the yard adjacent to the dock where I'd seen them before but there was no sign. As I was on the point of giving up, I bumped into Nick T, who took me straight to the regular bird that was hanging around the Reuters building. Local knowledge.

Anyway, just thought I'd mention it. Depending on how the job-hunt goes, I could easily find myself back there for part two of my glorious career in finance, and to have it as a bolt-hole would be no bad thing.

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