Sunday 17 December 2023

Where has the water gone?

Another dismal Saturday morning attempting to see birds in Wanstead, probably made even worse by my marathon blogging of South Africa, full of incredible memories of colourful birds.  The Flats were dreadful, the Park a little better. I don't often go to the Park, but there was a decent range of Ducks on Heronry. Well below peak numbers in years gone by, but 12 Pochard were a big number these days. Going back a few years I have a high count of 60 in 2012, and plenty of counts in the 30's and 40's before that. Something must have happened around that time as after 2012 the highest counts are of 20 in January 2013 and 15 in September 2014. January 2015 then has a record of 12 birds, but that is the last double-figure count since yesterday. That is what I call a decline.

Gadwall exhibit a similar decline locally. Ten years ago I could regularly count 70, 80, 100+ birds in the Park. Yesterday there were 25. Part of the reason for the decline in Ducks might be a decline in water. The following photos show the current state of the Canal on the Ornamental Waters. It might need renaming....

The 'Canal'

The OW has (had...) two arms that stretch north and south from the the central feature, the rectangular Canal. Just to the south is the Grotto. Broadly the arms follow the course of the Roding, which was diverted a long time ago onto its current course. The northern part began to lose water, dry out and increase in vegetation some time ago, but the Canal and the southern section were still OK until relatively recently. Back in 2015 there were 34 Wigeon on the Canal, a local record number. I had actually thought that this was more recently than eight years ago, so maybe the deterioration has in fact been slower, but nonetheless look at it today. Wigeon? Hah! 

The whole of the Ornamental Water now looks like this, overgrown, and with a few residual pools here and there. Talk about being left to rot by the land owner. Not saying that this is an easy job, but still, year after year of doing nothing (the pump at the northern end has been out of service for what, five years, a decade?) and this is the result. It's likely to be an expensive fix, but perhaps more expensive now rather than if it had been dealt with it when it started becoming a problem. We've all been there I suppose. I just checked the latest accounts of the Corporation of London - it seems expenditure outstrips cash income, but nonetheless this is not an organisation that in seems in any great financial peril - balance sheet assets are £1.3bn, and they increased by 10% in the 2021-22 tax year. The Director of Open Spaces earns £116k year. I reckon whoever that is should come and have a look at it!


  1. Ok, so it could be slightly more open (ha!) but I think you can safely add Limnaecia phragmitella to the site list and Penduline Tit surely won't be far behind it!

    1. I have all but given up mothing. When I retire there will no stopping me, I will just be this crazy hobbyist.

  2. I feel for you... we're currently in Spain and not only can you bird in comfortable weather, the light is stunning and the colours of the birds correspondingly so. Not looking forward to heading home today