Canary Wharf is well known for attracting world class businesses and retail brands, but what about large numbers of rare, migrating birds?
That is the thesis eminent urban birder David Lindo hopes to prove over the next two months with the Canary Wharf Migrant Bird Project.
The project, which is endorsed by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the British Trust for Ornithology, will see bird watchers head to Canary Wharf over the coming weeks to find and document bird species present in the famous business and shopping district.
The theory, originally developed by Ken Murray, Charles Fentiman and Andrew Middleton is that the lights of Canary Wharf’s iconic towers could be a ‘navigation aid’ for significant numbers of migrating birds having made land fall on the east coast, heading south through the Wash/Ouse Washes/Lea Valley then touching down in Canary Wharf’s parks, on top of office buildings or in the surrounding waterways.
Canary Wharf has over 20 acres of parks and landscaped plazas and one of the UK’s highest concentrations of ‘green roofs,’ covered in sedum moss and other plant life. It has over 1,000 trees and is surrounded by docks which are teeming with fish, nesting birds and even a resident seal.
“This survey will hopefully shed further light on the effects of night lighting, urban parks and bird migration,” says Lindo.
“In the last two years birds such as nightingales have been sighted in Canary Wharf parks; this is virtually unheard of in urban London. The hope is that exceptional numbers of birds will be found, as previous studies have indicated.”
The study runs until 31st October. A previous pioneering study by Murray, Dusty Gedge and Andrew Middleton found 37 species of migrant birds, at least half of which can be classified as nationally uncommon or rare. Birds that are more frequently sighted at Canary Wharf include the endangered Black Redstart, Peregrine Falcons, Herons, Cormorants, Herring Gulls, Common Terns and Moorhens.
Throughout the study Canary Wharf Group plc, the developer and owner of the Canary Wharf Estate, is leaving the lights on in the pyramid on top of One Canada Square, Britain’s tallest building, between midnight and dawn. The lights are usually turned off to conserve energy.
Eleanor Fenton, Environmental Projects Manager at Canary Wharf Group plc says: “We have nearly 100,000 people coming to Canary Wharf to work everyday, but most are unaware that above and around them is some of Britain’s rarest wildlife.”
“We’ve placed a big emphasis on environmental regeneration in recent years, including increasing the amount of green space and putting in place a Biodiversity Action Plan. As Canary Wharf continues to grow rapidly, it is vital we remain attentive to our environment. It is a source of pride that we are making Canary Wharf a little more green every year.”
Tim Webb, Communications Manager for the RSPB in London says: “David Lindo and the Canary Wharf Group are breaking new ground here. Every new discovery helps us hone our conservation knowledge to further improve London’s environment.”
Paul Stancliffe, British Trust for Ornithology, says, “We are delighted to be associated with this project. Over the next few weeks 5 billion birds will be migrating from northern Europe to warmer climes further south. Many of these will pass through the UK. We know that in the past birds migrating at night were attracted to the light of lighthouses but we don’t know to what extent they are attracted to the light from our cities buildings. The results from this innovative survey could help to shed some light on this.”
The United Nations has declared 2010 the International Year for Biodiversity.