Cormorant movement over Forest Gate

 (the following article was written in 1979, having observed the regular flights of cormorants over Forest Gate)


On numerous occasions – mainly during the winter months – Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) may be seen flying over Forest Gate in the London Borough of Newham. These may be single birds or small groups of two to six, and usually just after dawn and around duck. The dawn birds are usually flying south-east and those at dusk north-west.

 It is reasonable to suppose that these birds originate from the colony at the Walthamstow Reservoirs and are feeding by the Thames, but their actual feeding place has been a matter of some speculation. However, reading through 'The London Naturalist' (No. 56, 1977) I came across an article primarily about marine animals in the Thames (Andrews – Fauna of the Thames in 1976) that includes the following...”It may be significant that the (Beckton) gas works shoreline is regularly visited by a group of up to 15 Herons (Ardea cinerea), Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo) and several Great Crested Grebes (Podiceps cristatus) which can be seen taking fishes from the water there - “. Now, Herons may also be seen flying over Forest Gate and often in the direction mentioned, though less regularly so than the Cormorants. We also know that Herons often visit Wanstead park. Unlike the more varied flight-path of the Herons, the Cormorant's is remarkably constant. Though the may be seen sometime further north or south, usually they will pass over the vicinity of the junction of St. George's Road and Green Street. If a line be drawn on a map from Walthamstow Reservoirs to the Thames at Beckton Gas Works it will be seen that this line passes almost exactly through that part of Forest Gate mentioned.

 Sometimes, more particularly in the evenings, Cormorants have been observed over Wanstead Flats and heading vaguely west, but over Leytonstone they are seen to veer again towards the reservoirs. These, I may assume are birds that – satisfied with a good days fishing – have decided to take the scenic route home. That is, from Gallions Reach, up the River Roding, having a look at Wanstead Park or the City of London cemetery, and then across Wanstead Flats towards home. Much like the more casual Heron, this.

There are also irregular movements of Cormorants flying either to or from the Thames or the Reservoirs at other times during the day, but the morning and evening flights seem to be a regular occurrence.

 Paul Ferris, December 1979