Surrey Docks/Quays

From Londonbirders

Website/Map: [1], [2]

Sited along the Eastern edge of the Inner London sector at Rotherhithe (Surrey in Inner London and London Borough of Southwark) and easily accessable via public transport with Canada Water on the Jubilee line being the closest underground link.

Surrey Commercial Docks aka Surrey Quays were working as such with varying degrees of intensity between the years 1696 and 1969 (when they basically closed for business) due to changing economic factors and lessening waterborne commercial trade.

Historically this area is rich and Rotherhithe was the place in 1620 where the pilgrim fathers set sail in The Mayflower. In 1696, the family who owned the land (the Howland's) commenced work on the construction of the world's largest (at that time) commercial wet dock. By the mid 1700s the area had become home from home for Arctic whalers with the dock acquiring the name Greenland Dock. During the 1800s further small docks were constructed to meet the needs of riverine traffic from as far afield as Scandinavia, the Baltic and Canada with many of the smaller docks taking the names of these places.

During WWII the docks took enormous air-raid damage and subsequently fell into a rapid economic decline, finally shutting the doors for trade in 1969.

The whole site was left to its own devices over the next decade, 90% of the docks were infilled and general dereliction ensued. The remaining bodies of open water are still present today; Greenland Dock, South Dock, the remains of Canada Dock (Canada Water), Norway Dock and Surrey Water.

In 1981, the London Docklands Development Corporation instigated a programme of redevelopment which resulted in the construction of over 5,000 new homes, South Dock converted into one of London's largest marinas and Canada Water, along with the infilled Russia Dock and an old timber pond, being converted to nature reserves.

The two nature reserves on the Rotherhite peninsula are both managed by the Trust for Urban Ecology; Lavender Pond Nature Park is a tiny 2.5 acre site at the northern tip of the peninsula, created in 1981 on the remnants of an old timber pond and comprises some open water, reeds and alder (in fact the whole Rotherhithe area is exceedingly plentiful in alder). The other reserve is Stave Hill Ecological Park; sited near the centre of the peninsula and 5.2 acres in extent. It is a patchwork of woodland (including alder, birch and willow), some scrubby areas, grassland and little wetland spots. There is also a small working farm toward the north of the peninsula.

Add to this the tidal Thames bordering the northern tip and there's some decent scope for bird finding.

Species here have been noteworthy and Surrey Docks can claim records of both American Wigeon (the only accepted, though contentious, London area records to date) and Aquatic Warbler. The area has also had exceptional (in modern day terms) Inner London breeding records of species such as Red-legged Partridge, Little Ringed and Ringed Plover, Lapwing, Yellow Wagtail and Reed Bunting and presently it is the most reliable site in the Inner London sector to watch breeding Common Tern (one or two pairs most years).

Good finds in the last decade or so have included Shag, Ring-necked Duck, Scaup, Guillemot, Nightingale (a very difficult Inner London bird to connect with), Black Redstart and Firecrest. Latterly however, Surrey Docks have become undeservedly under watched.


PatchList 2006 Running Total

As at May 31st my total for this site stands at 55 species, as follows:

Mute Swan ~ Greylag Goose ~ Canada Goose ~ Teal ~ Mallard ~ Pochard ~ Tufted Duck ~ Sparrowhawk ~ Great Crested Grebe ~ Cormorant ~ Grey Heron ~ Moorhen ~ Coot ~ Black-headed Gull ~ Common Gull ~ Lesser Black-backed Gull ~ Yellow-legged Gull ~ Herring Gull ~ Great Black-backed Gull ~ Common Tern ~ Feral Rock Dove ~ Stock Dove ~ Woodpigeon ~ Swift ~ Great Spotted Woodpecker ~ House Martin ~ Grey Wagtail ~ Pied Wagtail ~ Wren ~ Dunnock ~ Robin ~ Blackbird ~ Song Thrush ~ Redwing ~ Mistle Thrush ~ Reed Warbler ~ Common Whitethroat ~ Blackcap ~ Chiffchaff ~ Willow Warbler ~ Goldcrest ~ Long-tailed Tit ~ Blue Tit ~ Great Tit ~ Jay ~ Magpie ~ Carrion Crow ~ Starling ~ House Sparrow ~ Chaffinch ~ Greenfinch ~ Goldfinch ~ Siskin ~ Linnet ~ Lesser Redpoll.

Site Visits :

Jan : 2 / Feb : 0 / Mar : 1 / Apr : 1 / May : 2.

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