Boundary Estate 4 – Naturally: Wildlife Notes
The Boundary Estate is a relatively green oasis in the middle of one of the most built-up areas of London. Although land is at a premium and buildings continue to spring up in every available space, we’ve got an amazing array of wildlife that shares our part of the city. We hope to highlight a few of the things we’ve noticed and have put a little guide of the more common birds you may see. If you want to add anything, please feel free to contact us!
The Boundary Estate is fortunate to have lots of mature trees, including London Plane and Broad Leaved Lime, along its streets and at Arnold Circus, making the estate a haven for a surprisingly varied wildlife population. The ivy that grew on the trees on Arnold Circus was removed during the recent renovation – much to many residents dismay and against some advice – causing the loss of a great habitat, nesting sites and cover for some of our resident wildlife. Happily there is still a large bank of ivy in the Shiplake/Wargrave Houses courtyard. The residents ‘take back’ of some of the communal garden areas and the great take-up of planters, filling the courtyards with a fantastically varied selection of flowers, herbs, shrubs and small trees, has done much to make the estate an even better home for wildlife. Trees for Cities have played their part too, planting Flowering Cherry, Field Maple and Azarole trees along the few streets that previously had none before, and residents have helped no end by planting a great range of fruit trees – Cherry, Pear, and Fig are some we’ve spotted – as well as nectar-rich shrubs like Buddleia, Red Valerian and Lilac, all great for attracting the wide range of butterflies, moths and bees, and many other insects many birds depend upon for survival.
Foxes are regularly seen around the estate, although they are more often heard, with their screeching cries that can be pretty scary in the middle of the night, whilst bats wheel about the estate buildings and treetops feeding on moths and other insects! Squirrels have taken up residence within the past ten years, and have become so established that they’ve bred and spread out of their original site on Arnold Circus to make drays in trees on other parts of the estate. Like every other part of London we’ve got rats and house mice living amongst us and, although they’re unpopular, they are food for the foxes and some birds. Amongst the most beautiful and awe-inspiring sights that can be seen on the estate is a kestrel hovering overhead, or you might spot one perched on a rooftop watching for prey over Arnold Circus.
Holly Blue, Small Tortoiseshell, Red Admiral, and Large (or Cabbage) White Butterflies, as well as others, are often seen flitting about the estate in summer, as are many species of moths. The most noticeable ones are the White Ermine, Peppered and Buff Tip, but the most spectacular that has been seen is the Elephant Hawk Moth feeding at dusk on Red Valerian flowers. Ladybirds, Wasps, Bumble and Honey Bees are a common site together with our fair share of other creeping – and flying – six and eight legged creatures, necessary and tasty food to other, often cuter, wildlife!
Birds are increasingly common on the estate, not just numerous pigeons but an ever-expanding group of other birds who now nest and raise chicks here. Here’s a little guide to help you recognise some of them.
The Blackbird male is easily recognisable being completely black, but the female can often be mistaken for a song thrush. The adult is 25cm long. They feed on worms, insects, spiders, fruit and berries.
The Blue Tit has a blue cap, white face, blue wings and tail and a yellow belly. The adult is 11-12cm long. They feed on seeds, nuts, insects, and spiders.
The Bullfinch has black head, grey wings and black tail and a rosy pink face and belly. The adult is 14-16cm long. They feed on insects, seeds and berries.
The Chaffinch has a grey head, brown back, dark brown wings and tail and a brownish-pink face and belly. The adult is 15cm long. They feed on caterpillars, insects, seeds and berries.
The Coal Tit has a black head, white face, grey back, darker grey wings and tail, and a buff belly. The adult is 11-12cm long. They feed on insects, spiders, seeds and nuts.
The Crow (Carrion Crow) is one of the larger, more easily recognisable birds we see on the estate. It is glossy blue-black all over and the adult is 47cm long. It feeds on scraps, road-kill, invertebrates, eggs and grain.
The Great Tit has a black head, white face, green back, blue wings and tail and a yellow belly with a black band down the centre. The adult is 14cm long. It feeds on insects, seeds and nuts.
The Greenfinch is olive green all over, with yellow stripes on its wings. The adult is 14-15cm long. It feeds on seeds, nuts and berries.
The Jay has a pinkish-grey body, white chin and rump, an iridescent turquoise-blue flash on its wings and a black tail. The adult is 35cm long. It feeds on insects, eggs and baby birds.
The Kestrel has a blue-grey head, reddish-brown back and wings spotted black, (the outer part of the wings are darker brown), a buff, black spotted belly and a blue-grey tail tipped black. The adult is 35cm long with a wing span of 65-80cm. It feeds on small mammals, small birds, beetles and earthworms.
The Magpie has a glossy black head, back and breast, white shoulders and belly, iridescent blue-black tail and wings, with white wingtips. The adult is 45cm long. It feeds on seeds, insects, eggs and baby birds.
The Pied Wagtail has a black head, back, breast, wing and tail with white face, belly, wing- and tail-edges,. The adult is 18cm long. It feeds on flies, insects and seeds.
The Robin Redbreast has a brown head, back, wings and tail with a red breast and white belly. The adult is 14cm long. It feeds on insects, spiders, worms, seeds and berries.
The Song Thrush has a brown head, back, wings and tail with a dark-spotted off-white belly. The adult is 23cm long. It feeds on worms, slugs, snails, insects, fruit and berries.
The Swallow has a glossy blue-black head, throat and back, a rust-red chin, brown wings and a buff belly. The adult is 19cm long. It feeds on flying insects.
The Swift is dark brown and can seem black. The adult is 16-17cm long. It feeds on flying insects.
The Wren is rusty-brown with dark bars on the wings and tail. The adult is 9-10 cm long. It feeds on insects and spiders.
Feeding birds, especially in winter, is a great thing to do. So that rats and other vermin aren’t encouraged, try to use bird feeders or hang the food from trees and shrubs. Try leaving shallow containers of water all year round – not only do birds need it to drink, they’ll use it to wash in too!
The RSPB website has a huge array of images and information, as well as great advice on which foods to use to attract the widest variety of birds.
Another useful website is London Wildlife Trust
wildlife photos taken from various open-source websites.