Tales from the Riverbank

By Helen Jeffries – FFON’s London Correspondent.

Having unexpectedly got an extra day off on Easter Monday I set out in the freezing cold for a bracing walk along the Thames – across one bridge, along the Embankment, back across the bridge, and so home. While still on the bridge I saw two male mallards swimming down the river – I’ve not seen ducks that often on the Thames, so that was a treat. Frequently there have been cormorants, but I wasn’t lucky enough to see one today. What I did notice was the birds flying lower than usual and being able to hear the sound of their wings.

It’s amazing the change in the weather since Easter Day – the wind overnight has been so strong there were fallen twigs, leaves and pieces of blossom everywhere. Even with a grey sky, the view towards the Houses of Parliament is magnificent, but a little sombre; suitable for these sombre times. Lightening the mood were a trio of pigeons – there really is nothing melancholy about pigeons with their weird waddling walk. Two gentleman pigeons making up to a lady pigeon by fluffing up the feathers of their necks. Each was clearly convinced that he was the finest pigeon in London and determined that the lady should know it too.

I had hoped to be able to get down to the south side foreshore but the tide was in, and also the building works for the Thames Tideway Super Sewer have made some of my favourite places inaccessible. There was only a small amount of foreshore visible and it had been taken over by a flock of herring gulls who’d found somewhere to perch. There was a large number of both adults and juveniles (I’ve always thought them rather cute despite their chip-stealing habits) – I noticed several of them seemed to have chosen to stand on the larger pieces of rock rather than the pebbles – possibly its more comfortable to their feet. They must have been feeling the change in the weather down by the cold water.

Turning back towards home across Westminster Bridge I was reminded of Maxwell Knight’s injunction in “Be a Nature Detective” to look out for animal tracks. I spotted a beautiful set of prints in the north foreshore mud and following it only a few metres I was rewarded with the sight of a goose! I think Maxwell Knight’s approach was probably more skilled, but the thought was there.

Along the north shore there are lots of public gardens with flowering shrubs – the flower scents seem very intense at the moment. Maybe it’s the lack of traffic and reduced competing other smells. I also find myself noticing the flowers more – they’re often quite small but with amazing shapes. I found this oddly fern-shaped pink flower on one shrub – does anyone know what it is? (Note: someone does know, see comment below).

By Helen Jeffries – FFON’s London Correspondent.

5 Thoughts

  1. The flower looks so exotic. Thank you for sharing your adventure – I am just about to go for my hour’s exercise so I shall be on the look out for both the exotic and the common – both equally valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A very nice account, Helen.

    Maxwell Knight would be proud; not just because you tracked a goose but because he (MK) was a close friend of Richard Fitter who wrote the book “London’s Natural History”

    (New Naturalist Series No. 3), first published by Collins in 1945, the year that the Second World War ended. In the 1940s they must have done similar journeys to yours this morning – in the middle of a previous national emergency.

    John and Margaret Cooper


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