Kingfishers have returned to parts of south west London in a sign things are returning to normal.
Carpenter Guy St John, 54, has been watching and photographing kingfishers along the banks of the River Wandle in south London regularly for six years.
But for the last nine months, there has been no sign of the elusive blue bird.
St John said: “There was a breeding pair earlier in the year, but there was so much foot traffic and so many dogwalkers, it was untenable for them to be there. They need peace and quiet.
“They were driven away, which was an unhappy side-effect of lockdown. But now they’re back and ready to go again, which is a sign of things returning to normal.
“I knew why they’d gone, but I knew they would be back.”
St John, who also performs maintenance around the area in his spare time, including installing perches for the birds and clearing away debris and rubbish, shared the news via a tweet.
He added that kingfishers have been long-term residents of Merton, and that footpaths in the borough are overgrown and full of wildlife, but in lockdown the undergrowth was trampled back by walkers, affecting the environment and its inhabitants.
Capturing photographs of kingfishers is very time consuming and expensive but, according to his partner Kim, has become St John’s obsession.
He has visited the river almost every weekend for the last four years and has spent thousands of hours trying to get a good shot.
However, it is not all about the photographs, but the full experience of sitting by the river and being in nature that keeps St John coming back.
He even visits in winter when temperatures are below zero, as kingfishers are active all year round.
St John said: “I feel very privileged to have seen them in their life cycles as they’re shy birds.”
Exact locations of the kingfisher sightings are not being revealed to help project the birds.
So, if you’re ever walking by the River Wandle, keep your eyes peeled for a blue flash, and your ears open for their distinctive whistling sound.
But remember, conceal yourself well and of course, respect your surroundings.
Featured image credit: Guy St John