Birds on the Wall

The company of birds during the time of Covid.

A bench in Victoria Tower Gardens by the Thames in Westminster, has been a place of refuge, a place for slowing down and pausing for reflection during the time of Covid and its lockdowns. And one of the pleasures has been the company of birds, only occasionally lured to the wall in front by the offer of food…
With the gradual cleaning up of the Thames since it was declared “biologically dead” in the 1950s, life of all sizes has come back to the river, which among others has attracted a greater variety of birds. Here are photos of some that have come to sit on the embankment wall nearby, sometimes in the hope of food, often just to look. Some are easy to identify, others difficult, so with the help of friends, and links to useful sites, hopefully you’ll find information if you need it.

Immature gulls waiting in line

A number of birds seemed to like the angled shape of the top of the wall and would sit there for longish periods of time, often relaxed, sometimes semi-dozing, but always watchful.

A relaxed, recently fledged crow looking comfortable on the top of the wall
Slightly peeved looking gull resting on the embankment wall. One of the many types of gull to be seen along the Thames
Contented Egyptian goose adapting to the shape of the wall
A “youngish drake Mallard duck” keeping a beady eye on me

Food offered anywhere in the vicinity is always likely to attract attention, sometimes very loud and insistent attention.

Angry bird: immature gull demanding to be fed
Very angry bird, warning off others, claiming its stretch of wall
Recently fledged magpie meekly asking for food from a nearby parent

If you’re sitting quietly, birds will often stay close by looking at you. If you’ve got your lunch or tea with you, they might be there hoping for a share but sometimes there doesn’t seem to be a particular reason. Special moments of calm, over-riding all else.

Patient pigeon standing on one foot
A ringed Black-headed gull
A gentle-looking, undemanding, immature gull

Then there are those that suddenly spot you as they’re walking along.

Smart turnaround by a Black-headed gull
Crow doing the Lambeth Walk
Egyptian goose, giving me a look
A heart-warming moment of trust

No small birds came to the section of the wall close to the bench where we were, though parakeets often made themselves heard, camouflaged among the plane tree leaves above. In certain settings, some of these birds are rightly regarded as pests but they’re doing no harm here, rather they’re joining with London pigeons to mop up some of the crusts and crumbs left by people picnicking in the park. And they’re always good company.

End Notes
Thanks to Chris Dodson and Ian Young for their help
You can follow 4th generation Master Thatcher Chris Dodson @c_dodson_thatch
and Ian Young, photographer with a particular interest in birds @ianyoung33 You can also see his blog, about birding and mental health on Anxious Birding
And thanks to NS for company and patience.