Michael McCarthy: Try as you might, you can't keep nature out

Nature Notebook

Share
Related Topics

Some time in the next three months,
The Independent is due to move from Canary Wharf, the mini-Manhattan in London's East End where we have been located for just over 14 years, to the very different setting of Kensington High Street on the western side of the capital. It has to be said that Canary Wharf, as a location, will not be much missed. Its post-modern steel and glass towers are no more than functional: they seem to embody both the flashy glamour and the heartlessness of that now discredited religion, financial services.

I personally have found Canary Wharf hard to like for a different reason: it is lifeless. I mean, literally. Between the two entrances of the Jubilee Line tube station, for example, there is a garden, which is attractively laid out, with a long lateral fountain imitating a mountain stream. Yet I've never seen a butterfly there; I've never seen any insect; I've never seen a bird; I've never even seen a "weed", by which I mean a wild plant which had come in of its own accord. It might be superficially pleasing to the eye, but the human control of this site is rigorous; nature and its essential wildness is nowhere allowed. I hate it.

However, nature is hard to repress completely, and as Canary Wharf is part of the Isle of Dogs, surrounded by the Thames, the birds that are always part of the river are sometimes on view, from coots to cormorants, from terns to great crested grebes. This week I realised the neighbourhood bird fauna is actually far richer than I imagined, as my colleague Sean Huggins, a birdwatching Indy sub-editor, has begun a list of all the bird species he sees on the Isle of Dogs in 2009. and has already reached a total of 45.

Some are astounding. Great spotted woodpecker! Sparrowhawk! Woodcock! Or perhaps that should be, woodcock!!! A bird that symbolises the deep woodlands of autumn, in sight of the heartless glass towers! It just goes to show that wild things are there much more than we think, even in the cities, but we sometimes need the skill to see them.

Sean's a better birder than I will ever be; and as he lives on "the island", as the locals say, he'll be able to complete his year-list.

One finch in Fulham

This column's last foray into urban wildlife referred to the number of bird species which could be observed from Craven Cottage, the Thameside-ground of plucky premiership stalwarts Fulham FC (Come On You Whites!). It is a pleasure to report that the column in question has now been reproduced word for word in the club's fanzine, One F in Fulham (don't dwell on the title). One feels a certain unaccustomed element of football credibility. One is chuffed.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Chemistry Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£85 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chester: Job Opportunity for Secondary ...

English Teacher

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Group: [ Megan Smith 22/09/2014 17:00:...

Foundation and KS1 Teacher

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Foundation and Key Stage 1...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The racist abuse of Mario Balotelli on Twitter is disgusting, but it can be stopped

Anna Jonsson
A survey by Which? found that some of the UK’s biggest airports, including Heathrow, left travellers the most agitated  

Third-runway momentum is gathering. We need to stop it in its tracks

Mary Dejevsky
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments