Messing about on the river: Lewisham’s waterway wildlife gains national attention on BBC’s The One Show

Lewisham's rivers are home to rare wildlife Pic: Jim Linwood

Lewisham’s rivers are home to rare wildlife Pic: Jim Linwood

The BBC’s One Show came to Lewisham this week to film the wildlife which is teeming in the borough’s increasingly clean waterways, including rare kingfishers.

They were guided by local wildlife photographer, Tomos Brangwyn, who has been photographing wildlife since he was a child growing up in Lewisham. In recent years he has turned his attention to taking pictures of kingfishers living in London’s network of concrete water channels.

The rarely-spotted birds have been making a home for themselves on the Rivers Quaggy and Ravensbourne, by Lewisham Station.

Brangwyn said “I wanted to document the way that Britain’s most colourful resident bird had found an unlikely refuge in drab, litter-strewn concrete channels that people rarely associate with wildlife. Far from just survive, kingfishers were thriving. They had adapted to using concrete pipes as nest holes and had come to tolerate the bustle and hubbub associated with city life.”

The BBC’s film crew and presenter Mike Dilger had to wait a while by the river in Lewisham, dressed in full camouflage, to spot a kingfisher, but they finally did. Watch the clip which was broadcast on Monday this week, here.

“It took many weeks of close observation to predict where the kingfishers would come and land,” said Brangwyn, of his own photoshoots trying to snap the birds. “Each individual would have a favourite fishing perch and these were often bits of discarded rubbish like metal pipes and shopping trolleys, anywhere that would give the bird a good view down on to a shoal of fish.

“I hoped that I could show the striking juxtaposition between the astounding beauty of the kingfisher and the brutal, concrete nature of their home. It had been manipulated and curtailed by man to every possible extent, yet somehow, wildlife still managed to thrive.”

The film shoot comes in the same week as work has started on a Hackney reservoir to create a new nature reserve, and last month a photograph of a goose in Tower Hamlets won the top prize at The British Wildlife Photography Awards.

In the UK, there are fewer than 5,000 breeding kingfisher pairs. They almost exclusively eat fish, making them extremely vulnerable to the effects of waterway pollution caused by agricultural run-off and chemical spills. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the population of kingfishers has been falling since the 1970s, although this may be starting to improve in some areas as rivers, particularly urban ones, get cleaner.

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