“I am but mad north–north–west; when the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.”
We saw no hawks today, but we got a good view of ‘handsaws’ – or hernshaws – young herons, and a bird the sight of which might have given Hamlet reason to doubt his sanity – parakeets.
Monk parakeets, to be precise. 21st Century London boasts thousands of parakeets, but the vast majority are rose-ringed parakeets, with a sprinkling of co-roosting Alexandrines. Only in one isolated spot – Mudchute Park on the Isle of Dogs – can you find monk parakeets.
These birds were the object of our ride today – a quick spin from Catford to Greenwich via Manor House Gardens, then through the foot tunnel and into Mudchute Park. We didn’t know exactly where to look for the parakeets, but went to the City Farm, and there, in a tree above the pygmy goats, opposite the Gloucester Old Spots and Light Sussex chickens, we caught our first glimpse of them.
It was the first of many. Unlike rose-ringed parakeets, who nest in tree-holes, monks build vast communal nests of twigs which they deliberately cut from trees with their secateur-like bills. They were building very assiduously today, and we got lots of excellent views of their behaviour on the woody banks to the south of the farm.
As we left the park, Molecule Man noticed some memorials at the edge of the allotments to the east of the farm. They were rather poignant personal tributes to local people including air raid wardens Johnny Hills and Frank Bernard Kemp, who were killed when their shelter received a direct hit during the Second World War.
By this point, evening was drawing on, and we’d worked up a thirst, which we slaked at the Gun in Coldharbour, then cycled home, pleased to have got another “tick” for the “London Borough Challenge” (Tower Hamlets).
I have a backlog of trips to write up – a ramble up the River Lea, taking in parts of Waltham Forest and Hackney, and a walk from Highgate Wood to Shoreditch, along the Holloway Road in Islington. But that will have to wait until next week – I’m off to Lisbon for the weekend.