The amazing wildlife of Wandle Park pond


By - Wednesday 13th June, 2018

If you think of Croydon as a barren urban wilderness, you’re very much mistaken


Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

In 2012, after decades channelled underground, the river Wandle was re-surfaced to flow through the park to which it gives its name. The remodelling of the landscape also created a pond. It’s here that I recently captured these images of some of the wild creatures with whom we unknowingly share our town, and the plant life that grows around us.

This photo (above) shows a grey heron – ardea cinerea. These birds eat fish along with small mammals like voles and amphibians, and sometimes ducklings. After harvest, grey herons can sometimes be seen in fields, looking for rodents. It is a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

These are male mallard ducks – anas platyrhynchos. They eat seeds, acorns and berries, plants, insects and shellfish. Their UK conservation status is amber, which means that although they are not critically threatened, their UK breeding population is in moderate decline according the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). They are a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

Beautiful pink and white waterlilies – nymphaea – are now blooming on the pond. These aquatic perennials flower in the summer. To grow successfully they need calm, still water away from disturbance by waterfalls, fountains or pumps, and full sunshine, making the quiet of the Wandle Park pond and the slow flow of the river ideal.

Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

Here is the far-less strikingly patterned female mallard with her ducklings. After laying her last egg, the female starts to incubate. She sits on her eggs very tightly, and her brown plumage blends her perfectly to the background. She rarely leaves the nest apart from short breaks to feed and stretch her legs.

Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

The shot is of a mallard chick. This one wasn’t left alone – the rest of the family was just out of shot. Mallards’ eggs hatch about twenty-eight days after beginning incubation. This takes about twenty-four hours. The ducklings stay in the nest for at least ten hours while they dry and get used to using their legs. Then, usually in the early morning, the female leads them to water. The sooner the ducklings get to water to feed, the better their chances of survival.

Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

Here is a female mallard preening herself. The mallard is the commonest and most widespread duck in the UK, even making its home in urban wetland habitat such as Wandle Park. Mallards may be resident breeders or migrants. Many of the birds that breed in Iceland and northern Europe spend the winter here.

Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

Here is the dramatic-looking black moorhen with her red bill – callinula chloropus. This female has four chicks. Moorhens eat water plants, seeds, fruit, grasses, insects, snails, worms and small fish. Their UK conservation status is green – a safe level. They are still, however a protected species under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

Photo by Peter Ball, used with permission.

This is a lovely shot of the four moorhen chicks currently living around Wandle Park pond. Their mother is just out of the picture. It is to be hoped that the whole family can grow up undisturbed in the busy city centre park.

Peter Ball

Peter Ball

Peter Ball moved to Croydon three years ago. He's a mathematician and former full-time communard hippie, architectural draftsman and planning technician for the Peak District National Park. Nowadays he's a partner in a translation company and a computer consultant. 'Quite conventional and boring sort of bloke', although his description of himself, is not the view of others.

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  • blath8@googlemail.com

    Gorgeous photos, thanks Peter :-)

    I was delighted to see a juvenile newt last week when the Conservation volunteers did some pond dipping, along with some interesting bugs like a water boatman and a water snail. There seem to be plenty of damselflies around too, and of course a few bats. There’s a lot of wildlife out there when you look for it.

  • Ian Young

    Loved the article. The pond is very productive for such a small area of water. I was amazed to see the heron the other day!