explore 9 to 12
explore 9 to 12
Eyes on the skies
During your visit, don’t forget to look up. The open skies above the Wetlands are a rare sight in crowded London, and can be good for wildlife-watching, especially birds of prey.
Raptors are drawn to the Wetlands by an abundance of prey. Sparrowhawk and kestrel are regularly seen hunting overhead and the local peregrines also use nearby pylons as a convenient perch and plucking post.
During migration in spring and autumn other raptors may also pass through, including common buzzard, red kite, marsh harrier, hobby and, if you’re very lucky, osprey. On warm summer evenings at dusk bats emerge from their secret roost sites to feed on insects over the reservoirs. At least seven species have been found at the Wetlands to date, including the rare Nathusius’ pipistrelle – a small migratory bat from Europe.
Remember, it often pays to keep your eyes on the skies... and for a real birds-eye view of the Wetlands, visit the Coppermill Tower.
A unique view
Stop a while and experience a view with a difference. Urban, industrial and natural features meet here at the Wetlands to create a unique environment.
The busy railway connects London to East Anglia, with countless trains passing the wide expanse of the operational reservoirs. On the city skyline you can see landmarks such as Canary Wharf, the Gherkin and the Shard. To the south-west you can also see local landmark Springfield Park.
Yet despite these reminders of our urban environment, you may also begin to notice the peace of the Wetlands and the wildlife that thrives here. The water’s surface reflects the changing mood of the wide open sky. The birds carry memories of other places far away, from Africa to the Arctic.
Watch the skies, watch the water, and enjoy the moments of solitude and connection this unique place gives us.
Reedbeds for life
We’ve planted almost two hectares of new Phragmites reedbeds, which you can see along the reservoir verges and around the islands.
As this habitat matures over the next decade it will attract even more wildlife. In summer look out for breeding reed warblers, reed buntings, moorhens and resting dragonflies. In winter the reeds may be sheltering an elusive water rail, snipe or, if you’re very lucky, even a bittern.
Stay a while and watch the reedbeds, you may see something special.
The islands on Reservoir 5 are easy to see thanks partly to the cormorants splashing it with a thick layer of white guano (also known as bird poo).
Cormorants began nesting at the Wetlands in 1991 and the colony grew rapidly to a peak of 360 nests in 2004. At least 159 nests were recorded in 2015, but they can be difficult to count. How many can you see today? As well as cormorants, Reservoir 5 is also of particular importance to wintering shoveler and gadwall. These ducks roost and forage in sheltered, undisturbed areas at the back of the reservoir, often intermingling with teal.
A pair of kingfishers can often be seen here too – they have a nest-hole on the island. Next door on Reservoir 4, tufted ducks gather in large flocks during late summer and early autumn. The ducks shed their flight feathers simultaneously, and are flightless until these have regrown.
The tufted ducks form closely-packed rafts in excess of 600-strong during this moult period, and are susceptible to disturbance. This is why access to these reservoirs is restricted so that we don’t disturb these special birds.