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Nature Notes: Towpath Treasures
Regular readers will know that one of my favourite wildlife walks takes place along the Thames towpath at Kingston, from Canbury Gardens to Raven's Ait.
Whatever the weather or season, the river and immediate surrounds are rich in a variety of birds and fish. Much of the action occurs where the little Hogsmill river empties into the Thames, their waters blending into a brownish-black colour with silt in suspension. Fish are attracted to the spot and they in turn bring in great crested grebes and cormorants which dive for them.
From a distance, cormorants appear a dull black, their flight reminiscent of pterodactyls but when swimming, in a decidedly waterlogged fashion their plumage reflects a beautiful iridescent greenish-blue (see photo).
Gulls, mainly black-headed with a few herring and lesser-black-backed congregate in force and harsh competition breaks out as bread is thrown to them, demonstrating incredible aerobatic skills snatching tit-bits in mid-air. Swans are there in large numbers with mallard, coots, tufted ducks and Canada geese.
Peering over Clattern bridge, large chub can be seen noseing into the swift current. A heron often perches on a tall building adjacent while a peregrine occasionally zooms up onto the Guildhall weathervane.
Upstream along the Hogsmill, grey and pied wagtails flit along and a kingfisher may flash past.
So much to see and come springtime, swallows, terns and monster carp add to the spectacle.