A Lockdown Glimpse of London Wildlife
While the hustle and bustle of London life has been grounded, the city’s creatures have come out to play! There is actually no more or less wildlife across London now than there was two months ago. It’s just that, encouraged by the relative quiet, the animals are very slightly braver. West End theatres have sat dark. Michelin starred restaurants have remained empty. Museums, galleries, cinemas, bars, nightclubs, cafes, libraries, and more have frozen. All of these destinations make up what’s great about London. So what’s left when it is all on hold? If you know where to look, you can enjoy a revitalising wildlife experience without leaving Central London.
Your experience with wonderful London wildlife begins even before you get out of bed! The centrally located luxury serviced apartments of Knightsbridge or Kensington benefit from tree lined green spaces. So on these warm mornings of early summer, the open windows can herald the breaking dawn, uninterrupted by city noises. The earliest risers are robins and dunnocks. These are quickly joined by blackbirds and song thrushes. Last to the chorus are wrens, tits and warblers. It’s a cacophany, yes – but it’s beautiful. The dawn chorus has always been there; perhaps we need to tune back in to it in the longer term.
There are spectacular scenes of London wildlife if we just look to the skies! Twenty years ago, the capital was devoid of Peregrine falcons. However, thanks to the dedication of volunteers and bird welfare groups, there are now at least 30 pairs of birds present across the city. With quieter streets and skies, you may well get lucky in spotting these birds of prey. Try taking a walk along the Thames and over the Millennium Bridge by the TATE Modern. An established pair nest on the roofs here and with luck you may spy them hunting, or maybe even fledging their next brood!
Kites and Herons
Peregrines are not the only thriving birds of prey in London. Red Kites are a magnificent sight and are flooding back to London, with around 50 sightings a week through the lockdown period! If you find yourself near to water, from the Thames to the Serpentine, watch out for a majestic heron. As London’s waterways have slowly rejuvenated after a polluted 20th Century, herons have returned to the scene. But they’re discreet birds, and are much more likely to be spotted in the quieter St James’s Park that lockdown has brought.
In days gone by, when the original Globe Theatre brought in teeming crowds, the streets of Kensington consisted of fields, woodland and a village. The environment may have changed, but a lot of the wildlife remains, despite the urban sprawl. Fallow deer may be prominent throughout Richmond and Bushey parks, but more central parkland now harbours the non-native Muntjac deer. This very small deer was introduced to the UK 150 years ago and is thriving in Holland Park even being spotted in surrounding gardens!
There are some wildlife species that we’ve got used to seeing across the city. Foxes and grey squirrels have adapted to benefit from human populations across London. But these scavengers have needed to become more and more adventurous without the food supply that tourists provide. So as you walk around Knightsbridge where your favourite luxury serviced apartment is nestled, keep your wits about you. Because you could even come across those more elusive woodland dwellers. Badgers and hedgehogs have become more prominent in recent weeks as they sense the decline in threat from heavy traffic.
If you want to see wildlife populations which have been very quickly impacted by the lockdown of London, look at insects. Beetles, bees and butterflies have surged. So as you enjoy the green spaces of Chelsea, don’t be squeamish but marvel at the amazing Stag Beetle, or vibrant Peacock Butterfly. Most insects follow an annual breading pattern, so a year from now you’re unlikely to spot them again!
We all long for the parts of London that we love to return. We want to attend theatre premieres, eat in Michelin starred restaurants and travel with freedom. While we wait, though, let’s appreciate the overlooked fascination of London’s wildlife.