Stooping carefully, I see what I have. Two wings, legs, breast meat partially removed. I lift the remains and look around. No sign of the head. Only the perfect woodcock form spread into my hand.
Picture the urban scene. The chimney with a plume of bush, not smoke. The stuttering guttering, become plant container. The rubble filled wasteland temporarily knotted with growth.
Scientists have been knee deep in the Thames since April, waiting for the eel migration to begin. This species was one of the first to return to London after the river was declared biologically dead in the 1960s.
It was a grey November afternoon, I walked the leaf-lit street, I sent slender letters. I took to the Rye with adventure in mind, where dogs scattered tame, and their walkers strolled aimlessly along.
In this increasingly gentrified, decreasingly bohemian corner of Mother Hackney, Abney is the emerald eye of Stoke Newington’s battleship-grey storm – an isolated, semi-natural oasis in a desert of concrete and clay.
Big Ben strikes 4.45am and a juvenile peregrine falcon sweeps into the air from the clock tower. A small anchor shape silhouetted against a just lightening city sky, it flies over to the north side of the Palace of Westminster.
Gulls pass over from the marshes and across the Thames to the south. A deceit of lapwings exit too, their flappy black wings belying their compact shape when grounded. The tide bubbles audibly against concrete.
Our starting point is Hackney Downs and our route is by way of water. We pass through a park plated with gold leaf and join the canal via a set of phantom gates, made by the lattice shadow of a wrought iron gasholder.
Little owls aren’t common in London but they can be found, mainly on the city’s outer edges. These types of owls are crepuscular, which means they’re most active at dusk and dawn.
There’s something extra special about the wildlife and wild places found within a city sprawl. The fact a range of creatures can survive and thrive in such a seething, heaving place as London is brilliant and reassuring.