The Coves, located a mere minutes from downtown London, is a subwatershed of the Thames River and an excellent place to observe nature. This area is one of the city’s sixteen ESAs, and even though the majority of the land making up what is known as “The Coves” is privately owned, unique birds and wildlife are readily observed from within the public areas. One of the public areas that has produced great views for me recently is the north pond between Springbank Drive and Greenway Park. There are houses backing onto the pond on both the east and west side, so please be aware of and respect private property. To access this area, turn onto Greenside Avenue from Springbank Drive. Parking is permitted on the east side of Greenside Avenue or there is a large lot on the right hand side further up the road.
The pond itself and the area that surrounds it is home to a variety of wildlife species. Birds, reptiles, butterflies, dragonflies, and mammals can be seen in the area. Water in the pond is fairly shallow and during low water times large mud flats form, making perfect habitat for shorebirds and herons. This past week while birding in the area Great Blue Herons, a Solitary Sandpiper, and a Great Egret were observed. The best views of these birds were from the bridge on Springbank Drive looking north across the pond. Songbirds were prevalent in the trees surrounding the pond, as were birds of prey. Red-tailed Hawks and Cooper’s Hawks were seen flying over the meadow next to the pond and adjacent soccer field. Ospreys were also frequently seen flying up and down the Thames River in search of fish. Waterfowl species on the pond included Mallards and Wood Ducks. Several Painted Turtles were seen basking on rocks and logs around the pond.
Cove Trail across Greenside Avenue from the pond is an excellent place to see songbirds, butterflies and White-tailed Deer. Monarchs, Red-spotted Purples, Cabbage Whites, Clouded Sulphurs, and various Hairstreaks were among the butterfly species observed. Three dragonfly species were also counted: Twelve Spotted Skimmer, White-faced Meadowhawk, and Common Whitetail.
With shorebird migration getting underway, look for a greater variety to frequent the mudflats of the pond. In previous years, Greater and Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated Plovers, Killdeer, and Spotted Sandpipers have been observed feeding on these mudflats in preparation of their long flight south.
Walking trails on the south side of Springbank Drive are also available to nature lovers. The Thames Valley Trail Association is having an open, guided hike this coming Sunday August 24, 2014 for anyone not familiar, but wishing to become so with this area. More information on the hike can be found here.
The Coves is a great place for birding, and many interesting and unique views can be observed especially when it comes to shorebirds, waterfowl and wading birds. During migration, this area is popular for not only shorebirds, but warblers and other songbirds too. Familiarizing yourself with The Coves will likely lead to a few species being crossed off your life list.