Have we scared the Wapping Kingfisher away?

A week has now passed without any sightings of Kevin the Kingfisher. The worrying possibility is that in our enthusiasm to see such a wonderful bird we have scared it away.



Our Wildlife Rangers have carried out dawn patrols every day but with no success. Information that a kingfisher, possibly female, has also been seen at the Shadwell Basin end of the canal around 24th December was followed up but again no sightings.

It may be that Kevin has just got bored and flown off. But kingfishers are highly territorial so maybe not.

Or the worst case scenario is that the level of interest in him has led to his normal routine and environment being disturbed and he has left Wapping.

If this is the case then Love Wapping takes full responsibility.

Having said that this morning I listened as someone proudly explained to me how their partner got within six feet of Kevin the Kingfisher to take a photo on their mobile phone.

Which is a pretty *!?!!!**g stupid thing to do.

Wildlife welfare comes first

Anyone with any interest in seeing or taking photos of wildlife must always remember that the welfare of wildlife comes before anything.


The ideal place to view any birds in the canal opposite Tobacco Dock, especially a kingfisher or the Grey Heron,  is the raised area by the two pirate ships. This is in fact better than standing on the canal path as it gives you a view over a wider area.

It also means you are less likely to be trampled on by runners.

Even when viewing from the raised area please try to be quiet and move slowly so as not to scare the rarer birds. The photographs of Kevin you have seen on Love Wapping and in the papers where taken with a great deal of caution, a very long lens, and often moving one step at a time.

The photo of Kevin that was published in The Times on Boxing Day was one of four decent photos taken over a period of five hours on Christmas Day. Why does it take so long to take so few pictures? Because wildlife welfare comes first and if a photo can’t be taken from a reasonable distance away from the subject then the photo does not get taken.

Urban wildlife is, by its very existence, pretty tolerant of humans. But getting as near as possible to a kingfisher and then shove a mobile phone in its face is not on.

In contrast Mr Burns the heron is oblivious to the runners zooming past him only three feet away at times – but then he is a lot bigger than Kevin. And the heron will also fly off if disturbed.

Balancing act

Whatever the reason for the disappearance of Kevin this raises a fundamental issue, that of balancing the desire for people to see wildlife with the need to simultaneously protect wildlife.

If people are unaware of amazing creatures like kingfishers and grey heron on their doorstep then they will not understand the need to enhance their environment, take action and make the lives of birds and other animals a little better.

But if in our enthusiasm to tell and show others our feathered residents we scare them off what do we achieve? There are no easy answers but advice is being sought on this issue from the Tower Hamlets council ecology team. They are the professionals, we are just guessing.

Meanwhile please take care when viewing the wildlife we do have.

See this previous post for more information about our plans for a Wapping Wildlife Habitat.


One thought on “Have we scared the Wapping Kingfisher away?

  1. Thanks for raising this issue. I really hope Kevin hasn’t left us. I’ve been lucky enough to spot Kevin but using binoculars! You can get some reasonable ones on eBay and they help protect the privacy of the wildlife. If he comes back we should all look out for him and try and keep our distance. Fingers crossed someone sees him again soon.

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