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David Lindo

The world's top 5 urban birding spots


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18th February 2012

Legendary Urban Birder David Lindo shares his favourite places for spotting birds in the city

I explore the world’s cities in pursuit of urban birds and other wildlife and I am yet to find a city that lives up to the popular misconception that there is no wildlife to be found in urban centres. There is nature everywhere, even in the heart of the most concrete of urban jungles; we just have to look up!

In my travels I have come across some fantastic little known urban birding spots.

1. Tower 42, London

Set in the heart of London’s Square Mile and towering over 600 feet above the busy streets of the capital, this impressive vantage point is great for observing migration.

During spring and autumn common buzzards and red kites sometimes share the same airspace as the resident peregrines. When there is little in the way of bird activity you can always admire the stupendous views of the city.

2. Ballona Wetlands, Los Angeles

Pronounced as ‘bi-yowna’ this 1,087 marshy ecosystem is my favourite patch in the City of Angels. Situated very close to LAX and only a 30 minute drive from Hollywood, the birdlife at this coastal site can be incredible, with an array of waders, ducks, terns and gulls to be seen. Some of the birds can be seen at ridiculously close range like ring-billed gulls sitting rubbing shoulders with brown pelicans.

Although the adjacent beach can sometimes resemble the set on a Baywatch episode if you arrive during the heat of the day you can still come across mixed loafing flocks of gulls and terns. Ballona Wetlands is a truly special place.

3. Wachirabenchathat Park, Bangkok

Also known as Suan Rot Fai or the Railway Park this is an amazing bit of urban paradise that despite being well-visited by the locals still harbours some fantastic birds.

You will not fail to see the ubiquitous tree sparrows hopping on the lawns among the handsome Asian pied starlings as they search for tidbits. During the winter glorious Indian rollers turn up adding a gorgeous splash of royal blue as they lazily flap from tree to tree.

4. Harakka Nature Centre, Helsinki

I love this island! Literally a few minutes ferry ride from the city centre this urban nature reserve is rich in flora and fauna. It was a military base with very restricted access until 1989, now it hosts several visitor centres manned by very friendly staff.

During the summer expect to see large breeding populations of common gulls and plentiful wheatears.

5.Tjörnin, Reykjavik

Smack bang in the middle of town, this park would hardly seem to be a centre of birding excellence. However, despite consisting of small areas of ornithologically uninteresting manicured parkland its lake is surrounded by a relatively undisturbed marshland. This is the ingredient that makes this place so special, as it is a breeding ground for several species including snipe.

Exquisitely graceful Arctic terns are abundant breeders in the tufted grasslands and the lake attracts panoply of waterfowl including the elegant long-tailed duck.

Urban Birder'The Urban Birder', David Lindo is a one-man ornithological phenomenon. He is a regular on TV and radio, has a flourishing website and blog plus writes for a host of magazines including BBC Wildlife, Bird Watching and the RSPB's Birds. For more information, visit his website.

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