Squint for bats and critters along the River Brent
There’s lots of ivy around at the moment, and invertebrates love feeding off this plant. Right now, the Virginia creeper ivy that’s draped over the walls around Brent Cross Shopping Centre is turning red, but when the ivy flowers it’s a really good nectar source for lots of different insects. If you find ivy, you can see life. The River Brent is in line for improvement over the next few years, but it remains an important wildlife corridor between habitats around London. The river is home to the little egret, a distinctive white heron with a dark beak.
If you go to the Brent River at dusk, look out for bats: the common pipistrelle and the soprano pipistrelle are the most likely ones to find in Brent because they are slightly more tolerant of light. The bats tend to come out just after sunset, while it’s still light – just around the time you might be heading to the pub. When the weather turns colder, bats hibernate not to be seen until the following spring.
The River Brent runs along the south side of Brent Cross Shopping Centre; catch sight of the birds from Prince Charles Drive.
Spot berries and birds along the streets
There’s a lot of apples on trees, and blackberries and rosehips in bushes right now – autumn is a great time of year in terms of visible wildlife. Look for these around the parks and along the Clitterhouse Brook, but you can see berries in trees and shrubs just by walking along the street as well. These attract starlings and other common birds like crows, robins, blackbirds and woodpigeons. Holly and cotoneaster have red berries which pigeons like to eat.
Look for these in areas that aren’t managed so intensely, like roadside verges, along railway lines, and by fences in vacant lots. You’ll find that nature has colonised areas where you might not expect it, like along the edges of construction sites. There’s a funky plant called common mullein, which grows two metres tall; that’s great for invertebrates and thrives in these kinds of spots.
Any street will do, but the roads along the rail line from Hendon to Cricklewood (soon to include Brent Cross West station) have rich pickings.