Monday 23 January 2017

Birding the desert

I went birding in Canary Wharf last week. In just under one hour I completely smashed it. I birded it into the ground. I went to the four corners of the estate, I looked at the river and the docks, I looked at the green spaces, I had one eye on the sky. The result? 20 species. 20…..and that includes a Pigeon.

I knew it was hard having done it before, but it appears to have got harder. As this is notionally a birding blog in theory read by birders, and on the basis that all birders love a good list, or in this case, a list, let me give you the rundown of what those 20 species were.

2 Grebes (Little, GC)
2 Wildfowl (Canada Goose, Mallard)
2 Rails (Coot, Moorhen)
4 species of Gull (GBB, LBB, Common, BH)
2 flavours of Pigeon (Pigeon, Woodpigeon)
2 Corvids (Crow, Magpie)
4 Passerines (Blackbird, Robin, Blue Tit, Goldfinch
+ Heron and Cormorant

This takes my Canary Wharf 2017 list up to 21, as I had previously seen a Peregrine which I missed today.  Meanwhile my Wanstead patch list is on 65. How pathetic is this place? I could go almost anywhere else and see more birds in less time, and that is very depressing. I shall persevere though, I do not give up easily on anything. Well, apart from exercise and not eating.

However have you noticed the first bird I listed? Little Grebe. I’ve been birding here long enough, on and off, to know a good thing when I see it and this is monster. There were in fact two, bobbing about close in to the dock wall near that crappy hotel on stilts. Blink and you would have missed them, but I am a birder and birders eke these things out. In all of my forays over the years I’ve seen Little Grebe only once before. I wouldn’t say this latest sighting took my breath away exactly, but birding is all about location location location, and in a location as barren as this you take what you can get.

In all their glory, ahem
An interesting tactic could be to get here early, before the 100,000 people that work here. Might I then get the odd Redwing or Fieldfare, or something left field? It’s difficult at this time of year though as round here work starts well before the sun comes up. Perhaps something to consider in the spring for some of the arriving migrants? What price a Wheatear* on one of the river paths?

*Not long now....


  1. I half considered suggesting a re-run of the Crap Patch Challenge from a few years back. In preparation I did a few trips round TB/City Hall in the first couple of weeks of the year and with no little effort I scraped together some 20 species - very nearly identical to your list.

    Then I decided not to suggest it. Too depressing.

    1. I too mooted it and then didn't. I am glad I didn't as I am already fed up with it, so congratulations on a sensible decision.

  2. My two best Canary Wharf birds are Kingfisher (seen quite regularly around North Dock and Crossrail Place) and Yellow-legged Gull (adult seen once in Billingsgate Market in 2015).