Migrants flock to London each year. In the summer birds and insects migrate from the south. In the winter, many birds head here from north and east of Europe to escape the cold. Yesterday I dealt with the immigrants that come and stay in London, both the wild ones and the human. Likewise migrants, both non-human and human, come and go.
Of all the birds that visit here, Swifts are probably one of the most appropriate for a National Park City, the majority of which is made up of buildings. Swifts are totally aerial. They only come to rest on terra firm when they breed. I, however, do not have a London image of a Swift. Nor do I have an image of a House martin in the capital. These travel vast distances to get here. they come from as far as South Africa crossing two continents.
The warblers cross the Sahara and Southern Europe to get here too. On #Blackheath and elsewhere in the capital you will find Whitethroats, Lesser whitethroats and Willow warblers. You will also find Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps. These also spend winter the here, there numbers augmented with birds from Northern and Central Europe.
We can marvel at how birds navigate the skies to get to our city. However, the insects that do are even more tenacious. The Painted lady comes from North Africa, it’s migration spurred by over population in its home range. Each year they cross over to Europe and head north. They are the only butterfly to have ever been recorded in Iceland! They feature in a video I made a few years ago to promote the Big Butterfly Count. This year I have only seen one, feeding the other day on a bush in a street by the Royal Standard in Blackheath.
Unfortunately they are not able to survive our winters. Another rare site in London, over the last few years, has been putting in an appearance. The Long-tailed butterfly is a migrant too. One turned up in Tower Hamlets cemetery the other day. I have never seen one here, but I will be looking for them wherever I see Sweet pea. This beauty in gardens and growing wild is their favourite food plant.
Exotic and a daytime flyer the Hummingbird hawkmoth arrives from the continent each year. I have only seen a few in the capital. To my great surprise I encountered one on a green roof in Camden once. They lay there eggs on Lady’s bedstraw. As I was planting some on a new roof at the Alexandria and Ainsworth Estate, an adult appeared. This just proves that green roofs as part of a green infrastructure strategy for London should be part of the National City Park agenda. The commonest migrant moth though is probably the Silver-Y Moth. In parks and roadside, heaths and commons you are sure to find these amongst the tall grass.
London’s Nature reflects London’s Population.
The courage and determination of insects to brave the Gibraltar and Dover straits is equal to the trials of many humans do actually make it here to – whether legally or illegally. In these fractious times, where migration and immigration, is sadly all too a mouthpiece of the nastier side of this country, London would be a far worse place without them. Migrant nature enhances our capital, migrant people help drive our economy.
So let us celebrate both.