A Blustery Day at Walthamstow Wetlands

Dear Readers, does anything dance quite like a weeping willow? There weren’t many people at Walthamstow Wetlands today, what with the threat of rain and the windy weather, but the path between reservoirs 2 and 4 was open (it’s often close to protect nesting birds), and the willows were covered in catkins.

I love the way that the stems blow in the wind. The trees remind me a bit of great green mammoths.

Weeping willows love water, and so often they’re planted in the wrong place – they can take over a damp garden, sucking up the groundwater and causing all sorts of urban problems. But here, they are in their element, and  these are majestic specimens, each one with its own character.

I was walking with a friend who is laden with many troubles, but these trees stopped both of us in our tracks. For a few moments, both of us were speechless (which is unusual for us, believe me). This is what the natural world can do – it somehow reaches through our cares and worries, and shows us something else, something that is timeless and that shows us that life carries on even when our own worlds are falling apart.

Further along the path, we see an island where the cormorants are nesting. Again, this part of the reserve is cut off for much of the year.

Look at those enormous nests! Interestingly, until 1981, cormorants were almost exclusively coastal breeders. Then, a small population were found nesting in the trees at a site in Essex, and since then they’ve expanded their range across many sites in southern England. Coastal populations tend to have all their chicks at the same time, presumably to overwhelm predators so that at least some survive. At sites such as Walthamstow Wetlands, however, the breeding season is much more spread out, as predation is less of a risk (probably one reason for choosing an island site, where there’s less danger from foxes and cats) but availability of food might be more of a problem, so it makes sense for the nestlings to be at different stages of development.

Judging by the size of the nests, I’d say that they’re built up over a period of years. In very dense nesting sites, the volume of droppings can be a problem – eventually, the chemicals in the guano can kill the nesting trees. Maybe some enterprising person could harvest it for fertiliser once the nesting season is over.

Anyhow, at this point it started to rain in earnest, and so we retraced our steps and headed home, slightly damp but definitely refreshed. I can’t wait to visit again!

5 thoughts on “A Blustery Day at Walthamstow Wetlands

  1. Ann Bronkhorst

    Harvesting guano from island nestsites could be a new venture for Bugwoman. Checklist: boat, ladder, trowel, bucket, clothes peg for nose …


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