Wild Urban Falcons and Meadows

A lifetime ago, it seems, a commuter colleague (whose knowledge of London extended from the train to his office, the inside of a taxi and the sandwich shop),  told me, how he could see foxes, rabbits, squirrels and birds a short horse ride away from his home in the country.   I told him that in West London where I live, I can see those animals and birds through the window from my sofa!   Foxes are as common as dogs if more impertinent, squirrels have buried acorns in my window boxes (and tried to run up my leg!) and, as the London Wetlands is about half a mile away, as the crow flies, all manner of birds soar, sing and squark overhead.

This last couple of months, it has been an extra deep joy to learn that there are fledgling Green Peregrine Falcons on top of Charing Cross Hospital which has given that building (hardly the epitome of pulchritudinous perfection!) an entirely different energy when I look at it now.   I used to avert my gaze and imagine the grey building disappearing.  Here is Mother falcon (the male is a tiercel) with prey and one juvenile on the ledge shown in this fantastic photograph kindly given to me by Hugo, a keen photographer of owls, kestrels and falcons at the Leg O’ Mutton conservation area also nearby.

From the ground, I’ve had the enormous privilege of watching the young falcons trapeze through the air in formation overhead in the lush Margravine Cemetery, watch them pass prey to each other as they learn how to fly and survive; observe highly amusing activity through impressive telescopic equipment as the birds perch outside the windows of the hospital; and enjoyed much closer scrutiny from Simon King’s live webcam.    Here is Simon’s site where the birds may be seen in all stages from when they were just balls of fluff in the nest box!   



I learned from these passionate birders that I met, who were keeping vigil until the GPFs learned how to fly, that falcons must swoop to catch birds in the air whereas kestrels dive and can catch a mouse on the ground.  The normal habitat of falcons is cliffs hence the nesting on tall buildings; but, because of their wing design and when they are still learning to be in the air, they are in danger of crashing into low buildings in urban environments.  

This divine face above photographed by Natalie on her site Fulham and Barnes Peregrines :  http://www.fabperegrines.org.uk/  fell about 15 floors to the ground last year!   Instinctively, even though they can’t fly at that stage, they can flap a bit and don’t weigh much so it wasn’t hurt.  One of the hospital guards placed his glove there which the young peregrine clutched like a security blanket until Natalie was contacted and took the young bird safely back up in the hospital lift!   Just look at that heavenly face!  “What do we do now?”  It makes me smile every time I look at it.

Wild Urban Meadows

An old map shows that, 200 years ago, before any of our Victorian houses were built,  this whole area was a huge market garden because of the underground springs located here. 

Thanks also to the Friends of Margravine Cemetery, the cemetery has been allowed to grow wild and free (probably my two favourite words!) with winding grassy, peaceful paths, so that meadows of cornflowers, dog-eye daisies, red and orange poppies and so much more provide a feast for the eyes, replenishing heart and spirit.    

This most pleasing practice has spread to other cemeteries and grassland, as seen above in Bishop’s Park and below next to Barnes Pond.      What is amazing then, is that other plants decide it is safe to grow there again.    For example, there are now brambles in Margravine when they have not been seen there before in our lifetime.

Furthermore, a beautiful friend who sprinkled a packet of wild flower seeds in her garden has now found that Bee Orchids have arrived in her garden meadow – which Kew Gardens have established as an official Bee Orchid site due to their rarity.    Amazing things happen!

Just look at this buckled fence I found near the Thames as the tree decides where it will grow!   Its energetic blueprint was established pre-seed and and its perfect proliferation unstoppable.   Nature will always be the most powerful, awesome force.     Nature is also the force without and within which enables us all to flourish, no matter what.

With Solstice Tree Blessings



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