I can hear the jays, I've seen the blackbirds pecking the food scraps on the bird table, seen chaffinch on the hawthorn and watched swifts overhead, but house sparrows and tits are still conspicuous by their absence from my urban garden.
It's not much at present, we only recently moved in but there are big plans to create a wildlife haven in my patch of inner London. My old home only had an overshadowed concrete patch too small to swing a mouse in, let alone a cat! The attraction of my new home was that there is light and space outdoors for me to pretend I have a nature reserve and for my children to have space to play - and for my partner to sit-down in the sun and read the papers. Okay, it's a vision of the urban idyll that may never come to pass, but I can have a stab at it, can't I?
Moulting is underway. That's why I'm missing some of the garden birds I should be seeing, others have cleared off for a holiday in the food-rich suburbs or countryside. My main blackbird vanished for a while, but he's back looking trim and neat. Here in east London we've been busy picking fat juicy blackberries before the insects get at them. I'm always amazed at how soon they ripen here and I'm conscious that the birds lifecycles do seem a little out of kilter with the early fruiting.
So, this is the frontline of conservation in London; the urban garden. This is where individual actions can and do make a difference. London is a big green city full of public spaces but it's our gardens, allotments, window boxes and balconies that join it all together and allow wildlife to move around the Capital; aided of course by canal, rail and road verges.
London's gardens have taken a bit of a batterring though. We've lost land equivalent in size to sixteen times that of the Olympic development just through decking, hard landscaping for patio's and car parking and back garden developments. This is an enormous loss of land in such a small area. No wonder our urban wildlife is feeling stressed and numbers of starlings and house sparows have dropped. Most of my garden is laid to concrete paving slabs at present, not by choice. One day there will be a nice lawn that drifts off into wildflower meadow with boundary hedges and maybe a water feature. It will be a space I share with as wide a variety of birds, insects and plants as I can manage to squeeze in to this tiny patch.
Back in the really exciting world, the peregrines have been well-behaved down at the Tate Modern and only went absent for one day last week. The rest of the time they've been on show for everyone to see. They are spectacular in their size and power. Everyone who's stopped to look at them, through our telescopes set-up by the Millennium Bridge, has expressed either surprise or wonder that they should be so content, sitting high up on the Tate's chimney, with all the hustle, noise and movement of London-life all around them.
Soon we'll be naming the male peregrine that our female, Misty, has taken up with. Watch this space to discover whose entry is drawn from the hat of suggestions. Will it be witty and wry, silly or something plain. Next week we'll find out! Bookmark this page, NOW.
If you'd like to help us at the Tate by volunteering, them please contact Jo Bunner in the RSPB London Office on 020 7808 1260. If you'd like to help but don't have much free time, you can volunteer to help with our fundraising. Call Susan Sutton on 020 7808 1260. Email us at: email@example.com
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