Bats, birds, bold foxes and stargazing: is nature reclaiming the city of London?

Written by Helen Jeffries – our London correspondent.

Since the clocks went forward I’ve been seeing some beautiful dawns as I walk to work through deserted London. Because a lot of central London architecture uses glass walls, the dawn catches the glass and blazes in reflected pinks and yellows.

It feels strange to go out in the dark, but its brought its own benefits.  Walking through Vincent Square at 6.30am last week in the dawn light I saw a fox very close up.  It walked across the grass of the square, through the railings without even appearing to notice them (no pause to squeeze through) and across the pavement right in front of me.  I had imagined a fox would be larger – maybe I thought it would be more like a dog.  Really it was no bigger than a cat and also looked rather thin with some rough patches on its fur. Possibly there’s less rubbish from fast food around at the moment for it to feed on.  It crossed the road and went off through some railings into a mews.  I wonder where it can sleep during the day?  It does seem strange that a medium-sized wild animal can just disappear in the centre of a crowded city.  I hope I’ll see it again.

I’ve spotted another night time animal when standing outside to clap the NHS at 8pm on a Thursday.  I had never realised before, but bats must live in my block of flats.  I saw one flit past quite close – it didn’t seem afraid.  Although a similar-sized flying creature, bats seem so different to birds – maybe it’s the silence or the fact that they come so close.  Looking out of my window last night (to find out why there was shouting going on!) I saw another flying around.  Like the fox – where on earth can it be during the day?

A final night-time oddity – I’ve lived in central London for over 10 years and always until now accepted that I could probably see the Moon and Venus occasionally but none of the other stars because of light pollution. Looking out last night, I saw a sky full of stars.  Maybe there’s just less light pollution at the moment, but it is a very strange thing that the birdsong seems deafening and the stars dazzling now the people aren’t around.

Although we don’t currently have an invasion of goats, it does feel as if nature is reclaiming the city.

By Helen Jeffries – our London correspondent.

Helen Jeffries is a civil servant currently working on the health sector response to COVID-19.  She is based in central London where she is able to walk to work and observe the natural world in the city, inspired by Maxwell Knight’s “Be a Nature Detective”.

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