Trip reports

King George V Reservoir Walk on 19th Jan 2020

King George V Reservoir Walk on 19th Jan 2020
Grey Wagtail taken by Ivor Hewstone

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Thanks to Rich for this write-up:

The start of the year is one of the most rewarding times to visit any reservoir for bird watching with our resident wildfowl being joined by winter visitors from Northern Europe. It can also be challenging weatherwise especially if there are strong winds blowing but luckily on our morning conditions were perfect, with the sun shining and the water was calm at this Thames Water site.

Walking along the elevated grass ridge that surrounds the basin we scanned across the far side, here several pylons in a line stand out on the horizon. On one of these pylons sat a Peregrine Falcon, we have seen them hunting over that side before on previous visits, so it's always worth a check to see if these predators are around.
We'd met some birders in the car park when we arrived and they mentioned that they had seen the Hooded Merganser that had been recently reported. It was not long before we found this North American member of the sawbill family diving for fish. It was a either a female or may well have been a juvenile male as both have very similar plumages but as with all these ducks from across the Atlantic it's difficult to say whether it was a genuine vagrant or just an escapee from a local wildfowl collection but none the less still an impressive looking bird especially when it had the crest fully raised.

We noted the usual large flocks of Tufted Duck and Coot which numbered in their hundreds as well as a decent count of Great Crested Grebe (this site is recorded as supporting nationally important numbers) and some birds were already showing signs of their summer head plumes.
Then came the winter 'specials', we spotted a distant male Scaup asleep on the water, these diving duck move south for the winter and many head to our coasts but some birds do also turn up on these inland waters. We carried on scanning the rafts of Tufted Duck and feeding amongst them was a handsome male Smew, its lovely white plumage and black mask making this bird stand out in the flock which is unusual in itself as they are more often seen on their own rather than mixing with other duck.

Good numbers of Goldeneye were seen and some males were even displaying by throwing their heads back and pushing out their white breasts to the on-looking females. Another Scaup was picked up and this time with better views as it dived for food. Several Gadwall were present as were decent numbers of male Pochard, females are seen in winter in Britain but many also spend the cold months further south down in Europe .
Courtship also begins early in the year for the Goosander and the pair we saw were even seen copulating, these birds would more than likely be moving northwards within the next two months to actually nest and rear young.
Flocks of Meadow Pipit occasionally rose up in front of us before disappearing again to feed in the grass and Linnet were also seen perched on some wire fencing. Looking over towards the Lippitts Hill area our group were treated to great views in the scopes of a Buzzard sitting in a tree for some time and in a nearby field, three Lapwing fed with some Canada Geese. The sunshine triggered a Song Thrush to start singing and a Sparrowhawk was also briefly seen flying over. On the return route back, a Grey Wagtail flew up from the water's edge and our last bird seen for the morning was a female Kestrel perched up on a boat mast which kept an eye on us all as we left the car park.

Total number of different bird species seen: 49

If you click on the link below (, it should take you to the Facebook post for this walk where you can see additional photos.