London. A sprawling metropolitan city that over 8 million people call home. But, did you know that it is also home to an interesting array of wildlife?

Aside from the numerous pigeons and the black mice that inhabit the underground tube system (Don’t believe me? Look at the tracks next time you’re waiting for a tube, I guarantee you’ll see one), London has a plethora of wildlife. In the 2 years that I’ve lived here I’ve seen: deer; herons; woodpeckers; tree-creepers; startling amounts of parakeets; and so many more – all without going travelling beyond the tube system.

Cities can be crawling with wildlife opportunities during the day, but what about as night draws in? With the night tube in effect over a large portion of London, it’s never been easier to explore London after dark.
Now, picture the scene: you’ve recently moved to the city, it’s dark, it’s late, and you’re on your way home from work when a noise in the bushes catches your attention. You stop. And wait.

Then, out of the bushes comes a fox, he stops in the road, looks around and saunters straight towards you. He passes right by, close enough that you can see the texture of his red fur and the details on his black tipped ears. He walks straight past, you turn and watch as he disappears down the road you’ve just come from.

That, was one of my first wildlife encounters after moving to the city.

It was also my first experience of a fox (bar a glimpse of a narrowly missed tail one foggy night just after passing my driving test – but that’s another story). One would think that, growing up in the countryside I would have more experience with wildlife close-encounters, however, in reality, countryside wildlife tends to run long before you get anywhere near. By contrast, city animals, particularly foxes, seem to have this air of indifference regarding humans and have no qualms about walking past you in the street, allowing for some incredible close-up encounters.

My next night-time wildlife encounter in the city was less spontaneous, more planned, although still with a fair amount of luck.

I met Tess at a dinner after a zoological society talk on hedgehogs When she said that she worked with the Royal Parks hedgehog heroes, I was immediately interested and jumped at the chance to help out.
Fast forward a few months, and I found myself setting off to Regents Park at 11 o’clock at night to join a mass group effort in tracking down hedgehogs. Regents Park holds the only remaining population of hedgehogs in central London so it’s vital that the population is monitored and recorded.

We were fortunate for a warm night, however, it was still October, so I layered up, stuck my head torch on and prepared to traipse around Regent’s Park for the next 4 hours in search of a creature no bigger than a football in a park roughly the same size as 200 football pitches – I do sometimes wonder how I get myself into these situations…

As it turns out, we were in luck and within minutes we had our first hog. Unfortunately, he didn’t seem to be as thrilled about the encounter as we were and remained curled into a tight ball through his entire check-up. Whilst we were measuring him, some of our group spotted another hog nearby, thankfully this little fellow was as curious about us as we were about him, and not only made taking our measurements a breeze but made for a few good photos too.

I couldn’t tell you how many hedgehogs our group found that night, but I can tell you that the whole team found 25 individual hedgehogs across the whole night. A hedgehog hunt well done I do believe.

After handing in our data I trekked across London to home. I made it back to my street around 5am as the birds were waking up, just in time to see a fox slinking across the grass, no doubt making his own way home after a long night as well.

Next time you’re in the city keep your eyes and ears peeled, for you may be surprised at what wildlife you find, particularly after the sun goes down.

About the Entry

Aimee Renwick

I grew in North Yorkshire, very close to the North Yorks moors and have always enjoyed getting out of the house and involved with nature. I’m a keen nature photographer and what started as a way to showcase my photos soon expanded into writing about the experiences that went along with them. I enjoy writing about my life and wildlife experiences in the city, most often as a volunteer with the Wildlife Trust, as I want to show people that living in the heart of a big city doesn’t mean giving up your connection to nature.

  • Site name | Aimee Farndale
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  • Why should someone visit your site? Stories and guides on urban wildlife, current conservation and animal welfare. Tips and reviews on getting involved with, and learning about, your local wildlife.
  • Entry TitleUrban Wildlife: A City After Dark
  • Entry Number | 85

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