Kew Gardens

Saturday, May 19, 2012: I got up a bit late today. After breakfast, I headed to Hyde Park, which I birded for a while. Common Sandpiper was a new bird for the trip (and the UK). As is true of many of the parks in London, there were a number of exotic waterfowl present. Most of these are part of the collection, but Canada Goose and Egyptian Goose seem to have established themselves here, as have the Rose-ringed Parakeets.

Once I left the Serpentine (lake), I found that I had no extra time to spare if I wanted to get to my next location on time. I hurried on to Green Park, where there is some construction going. I didn't spend much time there on my last trip, but it seems nice. I came out near Buckingham Palace, then continued along the Bird Cage Walk alongside St. James Park down to Westminster.

Big Ben was tolling 10am shortly before I got to Westminster Pier. There I got a ticket for the Thames River Cruise boat to Kew, plus admission to Kew Gardens. Then I headed down to the boat. They seemed pretty casual about who got on. I took a seat outside so I could get a view as we headed upriver. I had time to get a coke from their bar before we left the dock.

We got a detailed and opinionated description for the entire 1 1/2 hour boat ride upriver to Kew. The Thames is still tidal at that point and he several times pointed out evidence of the tide, including a couple of pubs that cannot be entered through the front door at hide tide. In one case, the door is designed to seal out the water.

The man narrating the trip has apparently spent his whole life working on the river, as did his father, who also helped evacuate soldiers at Dunkirk. He seemed to know every building, larger or small, that we passed. He also pointed out other features such as the outlet of the hidden Tyburn River. Earlier in the day, I had passed the old Tyburn gallows site, which is right by Marble Arch.

I got to Kew around noon or so, and spent about 4 1/2 there. I basically circled around 4/5 of the garden, from the Main Gate counter-clockwise to the Victoria gate. However, I didn't simply walk the perimeter, but kept making various side excursions on the way. I ended up seeing much of the gardens, but not all.

It's quite impressive, and I was surprised to find trees such as Bald Cypress, Giant Sequoia, and Douglas Fir, as well as many that are completely unknown to me. It's well worth a visit, and I might get back there when I am next in London.

Even though it was mid-day, I did add a couple of species to my UK list: Eurasian Jackdaw and Coal Tit. A Little Grebe in one of the ponds was a surprise. Although I knew they were here, I was also surprised to see how widespread the Rose-ringed Parakeets are. They were in all corners of the park, and Hyde Park too.

When I got to Victoria Gate, I decided it was time to head back. It's a short walk to the Kew Gardens station. I took a District line train to Earl's Court, then changed to another that moved me only one stop to High Street Kensington (some trains from Earl's Court go to Edgware Road, but I didn't think it made sense to wait). Then used the Circle line to get to Edgware Road station, which is a block from my hotel.

One thing I've notice about the London Underground is that much of it is not really underground. It is sometimes elevated, especially away from the center of London. Even in the core areas of London, portions of the track are not really underground. The track is often below street level, but even then may not be covered. Indeed, when you walk up the steps to leave the Edgware Road station, you can see the sky through a transparent roof. Of course, there are also deeper levels in some places.

I was also amused that someone asked me for directions on the tube (I did know the answer as I needed it myself). This also happened yesterday on London Bridge (which way to Buckingham Palace, and was it walking distance). This happens to me fairly frequently in strange cities. It even happened once in Tokyo.

I tried the hotel restaurant tonight. It did not go well. They brought the soup and wine, but not the chicken! Didn't even remove the empty soup bowl. After I'd sat there long enough, I left. At least they understood this was wrong and didn't charge me for the chicken. They were willing to refund the whole thing, but I didn't feel right about not paying for what I did have. Besides, the soup was good.

I saw or heard 35 species today, 1 of them new for the trip. That brings my trip total to 189, including 111 lifers. I also added a couple of additional species to my UK list.

Hilton London Metropole, London, England