Grasslands of St James’s Park
The lake edge areas have been carefully cut in a manner that will help to provide cover for small mammals whilst still providing habitat for invertebrates through to the beginning of autumn. This is the reason for certain patches of residue being left at intervals around the lake edge.
The wildflower meadows on the East and North lake edges have reached their full potential and have supported large communities of pollen vectors throughout the early summer. Comma butterflies, gatekeepers and honey bees are among the most regularly spotted species. Additionally the wildflower sewn headlands next to the footpaths behind St James’s Park Cafe bloomed spectacularly this year and demonstrate how areas that are not subject to regular footfall can quickly establish as rough grassland. Despite being small, these patches act as pollen resource for vectors.
Another excellent example of rough grassland that has done well this summer as a result of low footfall and long hours of sunlight is the coronation meadow area in Green Park. A thick sward interspersed with annual flowers is a throwback to an era when commoners frequented Britain. They would have used rotational grazing as a resource for stock whilst preventing areas from scrubbing over too densely.
The heat wave that has occurred throughout the British Isles has greatly influenced filamentous algae growth on the lake. The bloom appeared within the space of a few days and covered 80% of the open water. The structure of filamentous algae is similar to candy floss and it becomes very thick and dense. We made the decision to use an amphibious weed removal vehicle to control the algae which has been successful so far. Filamentous algae are harmless and actually a lot of the dabbling species will eat it.
Two full broods of mute swans have made it through the spring and are now at a size that gives them more safety from predators. The Ross’s snow geese have a single chick which is now gaining its white plumage and becoming more confident in its surroundings. A pair of bar headed geese has two well developed chicks.
There have been three breeding pairs of pochard, each with a substantial brood of ducklings. Pochards are not frequent breeders in Britain; with fewer than 600 resident pairs, the St James’s pairs are relatively significant. Several pairs of tufted duck have also been successful this year. Herons have attempted to nest on Duck Island throughout the summer with the dominant pair on the lake continually collecting nesting material and landing cautiously on the nest. The Greylag geese also did exceptionally well this year with at least 10 large broods.
The pelicans have been indulging in the enormous quantities of fry spawned in the lake over the early summer. The trio can regularly be seen corralling shoals into the shallows where they take turns to thrash their bills through the water.
Migrant warblers have proliferated St James’s park this summer, with multiple reed warblers nesting in the established reed beds. Chiff chaffs can be heard calling all around the park and black caps can be observed flitting amongst some of the dense vegetation at the lake edge.
A very rare sighting (and potentially first) of a little egret was made by one of our local birding experts back in early July. The Egret actually spent some time quite near to the resident pelicans and initially the birder had to double take at the seemingly tiny new Pelican. Egrets rarely nest in Britain and generally do not get spotted so far from the estuary environment. They are superb anglers, sometimes disturbing the sediment with a foot to spook prey items out of the depths.
Other top sightings have been a confident dog fox and a kestrel near to the leaf yard opposite cockpit steps. The dog fox made multiple appearances during large ceremonies at Horse Guards Parade Ground and featured quite heavily on social media.