Even in the heart of a city, it’s possible to go bird watching, and London, one of the most populous cities in the world is no exception. From elegant swans swimming on the capital’s many ponds and canals, to flocks of chattering Cockney sparrows that are sadly in decline, you’re never far from a bird to spot.
Some of the best places to go bird watching in London are in one of the eight Royal Parks. And to help inspire the next generation of bird watchers, the Royal Parks charity has enlisted the help of The Urban Birder, David Lindo, to host a series of bird watching walks this summer.
The Royal Parks charity is responsible for managing and protecting Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, St James’s Park, The Green Park, The Regent’s Park and Primrose Hill, Greenwich Park, Richmond Park, and Bushy Park, as well as other important green spaces in London, including Brompton Cemetery and Victoria Tower Gardens.
It aims to improve the parks sustainably so that everyone, now and in the future, can enjoy the natural and historic environments the spaces have to offer. It costs around £45m a year to manage the parks. The charity raises around 80 per cent of this money itself, with the remaining 20 per cent coming from the UK government.
During June and July, the charity will be running a series of 2-hour sessions for bird watching beginners to explore the different habitats of the parks and the birdlife they support. Binoculars will be provided so participants can get excellent close-up views of the birds they spot.
The Royal Parks’ Biodiversity Manager explained, “Many people growing up in a city will not have had the opportunity, the equipment, or the know-how to take up this activity. These free sessions aim to make bird watching more accessible, and if they prove popular, we hope to repeat them in future years.”
Numerous studies have shown that getting close to nature and wildlife is good for people’s mental well-being. Research has also found that learning about nature is one of the best ways to encourage people to want to care for and protect it.
David Lindo is a broadcaster, naturalist, photographer, and writer who grew up in Wembley and has been bird watching since he was 5 years old. He has been named by BBC Wildlife Magazine as one of the most influential people in wildlife, and in 2015 launched a campaign to find Britain’s national bird which was won by the robin. He is also the Vice-President of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust and Honorary President of the Colombia Bird Fair.
He has a particular passion for urban birds, believing them to be easy to engage with, and travels the globe to encourage others to take up urban bird watching
He said, “Birding is not just for those who live in the countryside as there is an amazing array of birds to be found in the capital. All you need to do is look up!”
The bird watching sessions are part of the Royal Parks charity’s mission to encourage visitors to observe wildlife in its natural habitat, rather than feeding or touching animals, and in particular, its new Help Nature Thrive Initiative. All activities run as part of the initiative will be free to attend thanks to support from the People’s Postcode Lottery.
As well as joining one of the bird watching sessions, visitors are being invited to connect with nature by taking part in self-guided wildlife trails and other events such as Roadshows and Discovery Days.
Alongside David Lindo, the bird watching sessions will be run by Tony Duckett, the Royal Parks’ Conservation Officer, who has worked for the parks for 45 years and whose passion for birds spans six decades, and Julia Holland who runs a bird watching club on behalf of the Friends of Greenwich Park.
To help visitors discover and identify various species of birds found in the Royal Parks, the charity has recently released a set of beautifully illustrated bird spotter sheets for each park. And to encourage visitors to seek out the different species and at the same time hone their photography skills, they are hosting a bird watching photography competition. To enter and be in with a chance of winning a pair of binoculars, entrants need to take a photo of one of the birds included on the bird spotter sheets.
To find out more about the bird watching tours and to book a session visit the Royal Parks website. Places are limited so people are being asked to register their interest online, and if there is more interest than spaces a ballot will take place.