London is the most biodiverse region in the UK, home to some nationally important populations of wildlife — and that was highlighted at last night's London Is Wild discussion at Conway Hall.
There was barely a mention of the species we usually associate with the city — foxes, pigeons or rats — as urban birder David Lindo, bat expert Kate Jones, London Wildlife Trust's Matthew Frith and author Helen Babbs championed cormorants, sung the praises of stag beetles, and debated the dubious delights of parakeets.
The panel shared their favourite wildlife-spotting parts of London, from Wormwood Scrubs to Regent's Canal, and explained you can find flora and fauna in the most unexpected spots — such as building sites and even the top of Tower 42, from where David said he has seen six peregrine falcon territories.
Wildlife can be spotted in other unusual spots, such as at Canary Wharf where there's a small park used by smokers from the nearby offices, but also by a surprisingly large variety of migrating birds who use the lights from the area as a landmark.
London may be massively biodiverse, but that doesn't mean the creatures and plants are secure — the increasing amount of building which aims to control wildlife spots doesn't give space for nature to work in its own way. Helen said we need to make London more spongy, by not concreting over green spaces and creating more space for nature.
It's not just the animals that will benefit from this. Kate explained people's well-being and mental health is improved by having contact with nature and having easy access to green space.
What came through loud and clear is that no matter where you are, if you just open your eyes, you can see the abundance of wildlife and plants around you in London. Look up, look down, and look closer — it's all there waiting for you to discover it.
Disappointed you missed the talk? You can listen to it here: