Last year, while we were all busy talking to people about the peregrines that perch on the Tate Modern's chimney, a pair of heavily made-up, dark clad Goths having a romantic picnic behind our trailer were interupted by one of the birds hungrily snatching a pigeon right in front of them! Of course we, armed with telescopes, cameras and binoculars, completely missed it.
On Friday I stopped off on the South Bank on my cycle ride home to ensure all's well for this year's Aren't birds brilliant! Peregrine Watch at the Tate. Sure enough, one of the two birds was there perched high up on the protruding brickwork of the chimney, waiting for us to turn up on July 21 with our kit. It was Misty, the female, which means I still haven't had a chance to see the new man in her life.
Yes, Misty has dumped her old mate and taken up with another peregrine. We'll be having a competition to Name the Daddy when our Abb! opens at the end of this week. Her old mate, Houdini, has escaped unseen so we're also trying to track him down. There are now five pairs of peregrines living wild in London. Their territories are smaller than those of their rural cousins (lots of pigeons to eat). It may be a futile goal but I'm hoping for 12 breeding pairs come the 2012 games.
Today was spent with a dozen year 4 and year 6 primary school pupils on a biodiversity cycle ride across Hackney Marshes, to the Lee Valley Trust's Waterworks nature reserve. They've recently relocated hundreds of newts from the Olympic development site to a specially built pond in the reserve. It's the old Essex Water Filter Beds and there's a huge wooden hide in the centre, surrounded by a different habitat on each filter bed - water meadow, reed bed and pond. The filter beds used to purify drinking water for Londoners but they are now a great site for spotting grey herons, a fast moving kingfisher, grebe, pochard and more than 20 other breeding bird species plus seasonal migrants.
A couple of years ago, sitting at one of the hide windows, I looked down to find a grass snake basking in the sun at my feet. It's one of the best places I know in London for dragonfly spotting, matched only by our Rainham Marshes reserve. It's amazing what thrives on these old industrial sites and introducing school children to our native wildlife is always a pleasure and a delight. I was just worried that the children's parents would freak when we returned them to school with red stains on their hands and around their mouths - not from a cycling accident - but from the blackberries they'd devoured on the walk to the hide.
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