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Canary Wharf is a 'petrol station' for some of the most rare migrating birds

PUBLISHED: 10:00 09 October 2010

Ken Murray with urban birder David Lindo

Ken Murray with urban birder David Lindo

Archant

IF YOU think Canary Wharf's bird population is limited to just a few pigeons, think again.

Sedge warbler

In fact, bird-watching enthusiasts consider the financial district to be a haven for some of the rarest migrating birds in the UK.

Over the last 10 years, species such as the nightingale, the red-backed shrike and the song thrush have all found their way to the bright lights of the city.

“I suppose you could call Canary Wharf the petrol station for birds migrating south,” said expert Ken Murray, who has been watching the skies for the last decade.

“This is a migrating hotspot and effectively London’s first inland lighthouse,” he revealed. “I realised this was something big when I started seeing some scarce migrants, which turned into extremely rare birds and then we were seeing species that have yet to be ascribed.”

Canary Wharf serves as the ideal pitstop for birds migrating south to Africa from northern Europe. They navigate through Britain after arriving in the Wash and the tall buildings and dock waters are perfectly situated to replenish their food supplies for the long onward journey.

Indeed, wildlife is more plentiful than you’d think in Canary Wharf, with 20 per cent of the land taken up by landscaped parks, plazas and walkways and most skyscrapers boasting ‘green’ roofs that provide insects for the food chain.

There are regular sightings of birds such as the black redstart, peregrine falcons and herons, and there have been 37 species of migrant birds recorded – at least half of which are classed as uncommon or rare.

Despite this, spotting the likes of the booted warbler is a difficult task, not least due to their diminutive size and the fact they lurk in one of the 1,000-plus trees on the estate.

“It’s tough enough for me to spot them, never mind members of the public,” said Ken. “I might spend four or five hours waiting just for a 30-second glimpse.

“But they are there if you look close enough, I saw a nightingale in Jubilee Park and there was a red-backed shrike just outside Citigroup. It’s an amazing feeling to catch sight of one.”

With the migration season about to begin, and around five billion birds heading south for winter, urban birder David Lindo has launched the Canary Wharf Migrant Bird Project to establish just how many feathered friends are above us.

The scheme, which runs to October 31, will look at how many birds are attracted to lights from the city buildings and should prove the theory that the wharf’s iconic towers are functioning as navigational aids as well as business centres. “In the last two years birds such as nightingales have been sighted in Canary Wharf parks; this is virtually unheard of in urban London,” added Lindo. “The hope is that exceptional numbers of birds will be found.”

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