Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Seal of Approval

The view from my balcony. The tidal rise and fall of the Thames at this point is 7 metres. At a high spring tide the water will cover the boardwalk                                            

Recently I spent a few weeks at my old flat in London while attending to some personal business. The flat is near Tower Bridge and overlooks St Saviour's Dock, a tidal inlet some 400 metres from the Thames: the dock is also the mouth of a curious undeground river, the Neckinger.  St Saviour's is flanked on either side by old warehouses now mostly converted into apartments. The picture above is the view from my balcony. Despite the muddy green-brown water, the dock teems with wildlife.  Fish (and fisherman) can be spotted frequently around the junction with the Thames.  Various species of aquaphilic birds have taken up residence outside my window and when the tide is in they are always paddling and flapping around. They ducks are mostly mallards but pochards, wigeon and tufted ducks have all been spotted. Canadian geese are frequent visitors and their distinctive squawking makes them hard to ignore.

What a great place to park your dinghy! Unfortunately there are no moorings on my side of the dock                                                                     

Mallards and tufted ducks. The dock teams with wildlife   -it's an urban version of Tales of the Riverbank                                                                                     

A pair of swans promenade in the dock while ducks paddle respectfully to one side under the boardwalk. In the past, black swans have also graced the waterway 

Several pairs of swans are also permanent residents, moorhens are ubiquitous and seagulls are forever scavenging. Thanks to the sterling work of conservation group Thames 21 the dock now sports a series of "habitat rafts" on which the birds can perch and also lay their eggs.

To me, these stately, pristine, creatures always seem out of place in the murky waters of the dock                  

Canada geese and ducks on the habitat raft. Here they doze, sunbathe, and protect their eggs                        

Eggs! The dock will soon be full of ultra cute ducklings -too bad I wasn't around for the hatching of this batch

Like sentries at the nearby Tower of London, these unflappable fellows conscientiously guard their eggs. Interestingly they seem to regard this duty as a communal obligation and the different species take it in turn to stand watch 

Recently the rafts had a new visitor  -fortunately there were no eggs present at the time although the swans were a bit put out having to play second fiddle to this charming chappie (actually 'he' is probably a 'she').

This Harbour or common seal (Phoca vitulina) came to visit recently. She took over one of the habitat rafts,  much to the consternation of the swans who consider it their property

Basking in the sun: after an hour or so he/she swam off and the swans regained their perch

Now is that a cute face or what?    Who said charisma is overrated?
The phoca photos were taken by St Saviour's resident Julian Cox. I'm grateful to both he and Ruth at The Londonist for granting me permission for their use.

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