Canal and River Life: (2) The Waterfowl

These last three months of walking along the River Brent/ Grand Union canal and the Thames have allowed me to follow the development of the natural world from day to day. And the birds that inhabit these spaces have been a fundamental part of that experience. Swans, ducks, herons, moorhens mainly. A few geese too. You catch glimpses of bright green parakeets in the trees, and they make a lot of noise, but they are elusive. Seagulls venture in occasionally, squawking aggressively. I saw a rabbit basking in the sun by the canal one day, but I knew any attempt to take a picture would scare it off. As for the rats… invisible by day, but you know in London you are never far from one. Try cycling the Thames towpath at sunset. It’s a rat extravaganza. And there was an unusually upbeat report on the BBC London news last night showing the seals at Richmond climbing up on people’s kayaks. But we will stick with the birds who live on the water in this blog. They are the main feature.

The Brentford Swans

There’s a family of swans who seem to live by the barges in the approach to the marina and waterside apartments just north of Brentford High Street. Back in May I took these shots.

Last Sunday, I was walking by and saw the same family. The young ones are a lot bigger now.

And on Tuesday, they ventured up-river – the River Brent that is.

Adult  swans tend to be in couples. So the young, when ready, must go somewhere else. The Thames? These photos from Isleworth, near the London Apprentice pub in July would suggest so.

Further up the canal, near Elthorne meadows, from a different family. Classic elegance.

The Moorhens

Perhaps the most humble inhabitants of the canal, being the smallest. But they can be feisty – with each other at least. I’ve seen a few battles for territory over the past months. Lots of aggressive posturing and even some dive bombing. Meanwhile the mallards glide by, taking not a bit of notice. All happens quickly and I never managed a decent photo. The ones below are a bit more serene.

Gathering food for the babies.

The youngsters try a bit of fishing.

Growing fast.


This mother sat on the nest in the next picture for at least a couple of weeks, seemingly unperturbed by all the passers-by on the bridge which passed over this junction between river offshoot and canal. By this time the chicks had hatched. Occasionally when the mother readjusted her position you could see the little heads. I took these shots with the zoom – I wasn’t that close.

An early hatcher from the brood. This lot were were very late though – July. Perhaps a second round?

Setting to work.

The heron of the weir

There are herons scattered around the canal and the Thames. They seem to be solo. This one lingered by a weir on the canal/river for a few days in June, then disappeared. Maybe it got fed up with having its photo taken.

It’s not in this one!

I’m assuming it has its neck wound in because it’s relaxed. Otherwise, maybe it’s a stork!


They are everywhere, and perhaps we take them for granted. But they are good citizens, just getting on with their own thing. And the couples are very loyal to each other. These shots are from May.

This is the same area that was used later by the moorhens in the earlier shot. After the moorhens had left the nest, a mallard took over again for a while. Community use?

Have they had a tiff?

Probably not.

Seagulls and geese

The seagulls come and go, but they like this spot near the M4 bridge. This was from Sunday.

The geese prefer the Thames. This was near Richmond Lock in July.

I count my blessings that I’ve had all of this within walking distance over the past few months.

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. I’ve written a novel called “The Decision”, a futuristic political thriller, and first of a trilogy. I’m also the author of a book on music since the 1970s called “ I Was There - A Musical Journey” and a volume of poetry about youth, “Growin’ Up - Snapshots/ Fragments”. All available on Amazon and Kindle.
This entry was posted in Canal and River life and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Canal and River Life: (2) The Waterfowl

  1. Dood says:

    Fab. It’s smart to have kept these from earlier in the year, so you can see how some of the birds are growing up. Very restful blog to potter through!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s