A Post Heatwave Walk at Walthamstow Wetlands


Cormorants on the island in Reservoir One

Dear Readers, it’s easy to forget that Walthamstow Wetlands is still a working reservoir, providing drinking water to 3.5 million Londoners every day. I am always impressed by the way that the world of water provision and the world of nature sit together so comfortably here – people always seem to be accepting when paths are closed because heavy machinery is being moved around, or when you aren’t allowed to access an area because birds are nesting. On Reservoir One there were the usual greylag geese, tufted ducks, cormorants and great crested grebes, but also the common terns and at least six species of dragonflies hawking over the water. These last were too fast for me to photograph, but it was lovely to see them nonetheless.

Out on the paths, the Canada geese seemed a little bereft now that most of their goslings have left home, but I did see something I’d never seen before – the geese were munching on the blackberries, and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying them. Has anyone else ever seen this? I think of Canada geese as being grazers first and foremost, but maybe they’re developing a sweet tooth(beak). We wandered along slowly behind this pair so as not to hassle them into flying on such a warm day. We must have looked quite a sight as we dawdled along behind them.

The gulls seem to have the right idea, relaxing on these bits of reservoir ephemera and surveying the scene to see if there was anything exciting going on. The answer was clearly ‘no’. I think that they’re lesser black-backed gulls, but gull id is tricky at the best of times so feel free to correct me.

Then something rather lovely happened. On my way out, I’d mentioned to my friend that birds would like to feed on the knapweed seedheads that were along the path. On the way back, a flock of goldfinches descended and started to feed, just as I’d hoped. It makes up for all those times when I’ve announced that an animal is likely to do a particular thing and then they do exactly the opposite. Yet another reason to fill my garden full of knapweed I think.


I was very pleased to see some hemp agrimony around the wetlands, and even happier to see this chap on the way out – a hornet mimic hoverfly, Volucella zonaria. What a handsome insect this is, and one that has benefited from climate change – once only found on mainland Europe, now it can be found all over the south of England. It’s our largest hoverfly and although it looks quite imposing it is, of course, completely harmless. What a splendid way to end our leisurely walk!

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