Trip reports

Walk at Waterworks NR and Middlesex Filter Beds

Walk at Waterworks NR and Middlesex Filter Beds
Mike Langman (

Saturday, 18 January 2014

On Tuesday 14th January, we had an excellent talk by the two Lee Valley Rangers responsible for the Waterworks Nature Reserve, Middlesex Filter Beds and Walthamstow Marshes. Now, on the following Saturday at 8.30am, one of them, Gavin Johnson, was waiting for us in front of the Waterworks Visitor Centre ready to guide us around this local patch.

We were greeted by the screeching of Ring-necked Parakeets flying over (Gavin later told us there was a roost of over 100 birds nearby). The weather was overcast but luckily dry so we set off to one of the largest hides in London offering close-up views across a series of filter beds, each with its own unique character. The route was interesting as we used paths not open to the public - the advantage of going with the Ranger with appropriate access keys!
A Redwing was seen by some in the woodland near the boardwalk, along with Magpies (they can occur here in very large numbers), Wood Pigeons and Blackbirds plus the song of Wren and Song Thrush. The filter beds had a variety of water birds including good numbers of Teal looking extremely smart.

Gavin unlocked a gate allowing us to take a short cut to the Middlesex Filter Beds - normally the access to the Waterworks NR is restricted to the entrance near the Visitor Centre (via the bridge over the Lee Flood Relief Channel). This protects the area - the only one in the Lee Valley where dogs are not allowed.

A rather squelchy walk to the area of the Middlesex FBs but SO worthwhile as the Firecrests which have been around for some considerable time here, were indeed present. Not the easiest birds to spot as they are very mobile and flit from place to place but everyone at least glimpsed them. They seem to have a liking for the evergreen Holm Oaks along the River Lea and sometimes hover at the edge of the leaves - fantastic.

We made our way back to the Visitor Centre where Gavin left a happy bunch of people. Some of us had a tea & cake stop before deciding to carry on our birding by crossing Lea Bridge Road and inspecting the paddocks by the Riding School. Great views of nearly all the Thrush family - we had Fieldfares, Redwings, Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds all in the same telescope view, great for comparing their relative sizes, with a perched Song Thrush.

A Kestrel obligingly perched on the roof of the Riding School building and as we were watching it, a couple told us they'd seen Stonechats on Walthamstow Marsh near the Bombcrater Pond. We couldn't resist as it has been harder and harder to find local Stonechats in recent years so we set off. We were not disappointed and watched a male and female Stonechat perching and dipping down for food only yards away with excellent views through the telescope when they perched up. This was a new bird for one of our party so a satisfying way to conclude the walk.