London

Central

Big Ben’s starlings

On 12 August 1949 a flock of starlings landed on Big Ben and caused it to stop. Read

Aesculapian snakes in London

A population of Aesculapian snake (now Zamenis longissimus), native of France and south-eastern Europe is living in and around Regent’s Park near Regent’s Canal in London[10] and said to number up to 30. It is suspected this colony may have been there some years, undetected. Another larger colony has been living for some years in the vicinity of the Welsh Mountain Zoo near Conwy in North Wales Read

Camley Street park

Lovely documentary about this wild corner of the capital Read

The Natural History Museum

Collection of historical posters here Read

Hippos and elephants in Trafalgar Square

From an article in BBC Wildlife by George Monbiot (June 2015):

“When Trafalgar Square was excavated in the 19th Century, the river gravels were found to be stuffed with bones. Most of the large ones belonged to hippos: Hippopotamus amphibius, the same species that still lives in Africa. The diggers also found the remains of elephants, rhinos, giant deer, aurochs, hyaenas and lions. (Yes, there were lions in Trafalgar Square, long before Sir Edwin Landseer got to work). In other words, like almost everywhere on earth, both on land and at sea, we had a megafauna. Megafaunas are the default state of most ecosystems” Read

Disappearance of sparrows

In 1925, ornithologist Max Nicholson counted 2,603 house sparrows in Kensington Gardens in what the UK’s first scientific bird census,. In 2000 he returned to the square now aged 96 together with a team of volunteers. They spotted just 8. Today as of 2016, you are unlikely to see any. The study graphically illustrates the collapse of house sparrow populations in London and across the country. Here

One of the very few places in central London where you can still see sparrows is London Zoo, where they feed on the zoo animal’s food and the insects which flourish here though as Stephen Moss mentions in his Wild Kingdom they have also somewhat oddly also turn carnivorous, noting he “once watched them enter the vultures’ cage at feeding time to consume morsels of raw red meat.

Frost fairs

The great chronicler of Restoration England John Evylyn reported in January 1684 in his diary that 

The frost continuing more and more severe, theThames before London was still planted with booths in formal streetes, all sorts of trades and shops furnish’d and full of commodities, even to a printing presse, where the people and ladyes tooke a fancy to have their names printed, and the day and year set down when printed on the Thames; this humour tooke so universally, that ’twas estimated the printer gain’d £5 a day, for printing a line only, at sixpence a name, besides what he got by ballads, &c. Coaches plied from Westminster to the Temple.”

On 4 February Evelyn repaired to his garden at Sayes Court, Lewisham “where I found many of the greenes and rare plantes utterly destroyed. The oranges and mirtills very sick, the rosemary and laurels dead to all appearance, but ye cypress likely to endure.

Weatherwatch. The Guardian

South

The home of Charles Darwin

Down House was the home of Charles Darwin. You can visit the study where Darwin wrote ‘On the Origin of Species’, and stroll through the gardens that inspired him. Read

Stag beetle loggery at Kew Gardens

Stag beetle loggery, Kew Gardens. The giant model of a beetle is an educational exhibit with the aim of providing a home for these saproxylic insects Photo by David Hawgood Read

Stag beetle stronghold

London is national hotspot for stag beetles, including here at Richmond Park, whose presence was instrumental in the Park’s designation as a National Nature Reserve Read

William Blake

William Blake visit to Peckham Rye in the,1760s had an influence on his imaginative and creative development. He claimed to have seen visions, including one of “a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars” More here

Centre for Wildlife Gardening

The remarkable Centre for Wildlife Gardening in a back street in Peckham gives practical advice to city gardeners and has a nature trail for kids. Read 

O2 dome

The quaysides also witnessed butchered whales brought back from the Arctic: the O2 dome sits over the site of a whale rendering plant, as if capping its dark past. Phillip Hoare

North

Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal (Hamstead Heath)

Pondlife: A Swimmer’s Journal. Al Alvarez, poet, literary critic, poker player and rock climber, is 73 when the book opens, 82 when it stutters out, and in his nine-year account of his dips in the ponds on Hampstead Heath, the cormorants, swans, coots and heron are just as important as the affable lifeguards, his fellow regulars and Alvarez himself. In one entry, a hawk goofs around on the thermals, “enjoying the sunshine like everyone else”. Read

Weasel on the back of a woodpecker

Amateur photographer Martin Le-May took this meme-creating image of a weasel on the back of a green woodpecker here at Hornchurch Country Park The Guardian here discusses how the image is an example of the changing art of wildlife photography Read

Wormwood Scrubs parakeet roost

More than 1000 ring-necked parakeets roost communally in trees in Wormwood Scrubs park every night. Here

Links

Wild Capital: wildlife tours in London