Wildlife Adventures on the Thames

Watch Out Watch Out Seal About

On our Tandem return Kayak paddle from Chiswick Pier to Albert Bridge we had quite a lot of wildlife encounters. Myself and Andrea tried to get hold of a tandem kayak (it was an incentive to divert her from her other sports of climbing and horse riding). Covid-19 and the inactivity of these kayaks has resulted in the wildlife taking advantage. So the kayaks have had a new lease of life, literally home to a colony of pigeons.

We followed some basic safety precautions. Sprayed all plastic, metal handled with disinfectant I brought. We both wore surgical gloves.

Enforcer John with his powerful new (s/h plastic gun recycled from the Thames) Wait till I find the suction pad arrows!!

We noticed a nesting couple of pigeons in the dancer WW kayak, when we got the large tandem down, there was an additional couple of pigeons who refused to abandon their new home and were quite indignant at our callous, inconsiderate and selfish behaviour. I tried to dislodge them, but as the tide wait for no one, well not even pigeons, and I did not feel it was my duty to murder them. I used my paddle in vain.

Pigeon Squatters – “We are not leaving” CPCC will have to get the bailiffs
Pigeon nest and eggs hearty breakfast for seagulls.

We put the damn heavy boat back and reached for the second tandem no small feat. The crowd of pigeons which eyed us suspiciously from thepontoon and bridge like vultures should have forewarned us. The second tandem had also got two pigeons, which were easier to dislodge. Clearly our kayaks have become a community nesting ground. Sadly I then found a nest with two eggs (one of which had cracked while we turned it over). I put the nest and eggs on the pontoon (I later saw they had been destroyed by possibly seagulls as there was no yoke) and we headed off. Feeling a bit bad that we had broken up a family (Though I won’t be attending their funeral, pigeons are not my favourite wildlife). 

NOTE: CPCC might want to maybe consider some humane measures (netting?) to reclaim our boats!!

It was surprisingly chilly as we set off and I was glad I had put my dry suit on (must be getting soft!). Having lost a fair bit of time as we had got there kitted out for 9.45, so it was 10.15am before we headed off > (ret) 13.30 – Paddled with not much help from the outgoing tide but a wind was becoming quite powerful went from gusts of 24 knots to 27 at least it was westerly so we had plenty of help.

Just as we left the pontoon, and reached to the right of Chiswick eyot, I thought I spied a large shape and some red blood on a fish, there was a large amount of splashing, as we neared it became apparent it was a seal who had waited for the low tide to hunt and ambush his prey, in this case it was a massive 20” fish (I was unaware we had such large fish).

Seal with massive fish
Any Ideas what is going on?
Are there two shapes (note the whiskers protruding)? – We should have a wildlife quiz night! Grey seal or harbour seal?

Within seconds it had been decapitated by the seal from one of the visible fins it looked like a Perch. I was sadly not with my long lens or a very wieldy boat in fact in the most cumbersome and largest so it was a challenge to photograph it. Each time we neared it, the seal grabbed its prey and dragged it underwater and against the tide knowing it was hard for us. After various loops, I managed a few difficult snaps (sad I did not have my trusted Nikon). It felt like cat and mouse, the seal even swam under the boat. From some of them it seems there may be two. But feedback appreciated whether grey seal or harbour seal?

The rest of the trip was less eventful, we had not got long before the tide slacked off and reversed direction and we reached the Albert bridge by now against an increasing tide.

Andrea sporting the new range of enforcer suction pad shooting arrows gun. If you see some ammunition floating in the Thames let us know!

We came back past Fosters Architects and pulled in next to an old Thames barge boat a testament to a past era. I had been on board years ago and taken a lovely photo of two teddy bears hanging form the mast.

Attrato the Thames Barge stand sentinel of a bygone era where it ruled the building development behind designed by Fosters tried to oust it but luckily failed. What philistines!
Thames Barge still being used.
Barge used to transport hay (or coal) in their heyday (no pun).

We pulled in for a nice well-deserved picnic of sandwiches, fruit and muesli bars. We waited for the tide to become more powerful, dodged a couple of massive barges, which are increasing outside Putney and the football grounds. The wind became pretty powerful and unfortunately was against us so that if we stopped paddling it carried us backwards. It also began to rain.

Very few boats on river, at least no scullers and only a pair of kayakers shielding from the wind and rain, which had become more pronounced.

1 thought on “Wildlife Adventures on the Thames”

  1. Hi John great pics of what I presume is the same grey seal we spotted recently near Kew bridge eating a good sized bream. Seems to be eating another one as can’t see perch stripes and it’s a deep bodied fish. We saw a smaller harbour seal the same day at Brentford so it seems there is plenty of fish attracting predators upriver.
    Didn’t get your great shots as my camera battery died at just the wrong time so great to see yours.
    Like you I’ve also disturbed pigeon nests and eggs on floor incidents at pier, but then pigeon isn’t an endangered species and they just lay more as long as they have a good food supply, so no shortage of them.
    Keep posting thouse good pics,

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