Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Barnes WWT

Mid-week Walk at Barnes WWT
Photo of a hobby, taken by Peter Hambrook at Lakenheath in June 2015.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Weather: Cool and partly cloudy 17C

A select band of six of us met at Barnes on a, happily, dry morning after several days of very heavy rain.

As we started to move towards reception a large group of Canada geese flew over the car park, with an accompaniment of a handful of noisy ring-necked parakeets. A mute swan and her two cygnets had taken up residence under the statue of Peter Scott and seemed quite happy alongside two rather less attractive statues of the species. Overhead were the first of many house and sand martins that we were to see during our visit.

A quick stop in the main observatory allowed us a good view across the reserve and we found a fair selection of ducks, mainly in eclipse plumage, which challenged our identification skills. We managed to find lots of mallards and lesser numbers of gadwall, tufted duck, teal and shoveler. Also good numbers of starling, lapwing and the local flock of feral pigeon. Les then picked out a common sandpiper on the closest island. A large gull on a breeding raft caught our attention. It was too dark on the back to be a herring gull and had bright yellow legs but didn't appear to be dark enough on the back to be a lesser black-backed. We had thoughts of yellow-legged gull but without a field guide to hand we never firmed up on this.

Heading for the first real hide we found it deserted so had a choice of seating. Out in front of us were more ducks plus a great crested grebe and two little grebes. Plenty of black-headed gulls were also visible, still with quite a few sandy brown and white youngsters amongst them. 

Moving on to the next hide we found ourselves closer to a lot of immature gulls, most of which appeared to be lesser black-backed, of which there were several adults around as well. At this point Ken spotted a raptor on the far side of the reserve and we were soon all onto a hobby which was hunting dragonflies - and also no doubt eyeing up the hirundines as well.

Moving towards the Peacock hide we stopped at the feeding station which held chaffinches, greenfinches, great tits and a single coal tit. Another lake held a few duck and a great crested grebe with a half-grown chick, still very fluffy and with a stripy head. A movement caught my eye and we were soon looking at a green woodpecker clinging to the side of a tree. Overhead a rather late swift and a swallow were busy feeding up before continuing their migration and a Cetti's warbler called from nearby bushes.

The Peacock hide was also surprisingly quiet and again we had our choice of lookout points. Apart from another common sandpiper, which gave good views, we also found plenty of grey herons and carrion crows around plus a surprising number of immature wood pigeons. Out on the marsh was a group of Highland cattle doing their best to keep the undergrowth under control.

We returned to the centre for lunch before sallying forth again towards the Wildside. I had managed to find a great black-backed gull whole noshing my sandwiches in the observatory but we didn't manage to see it from the hides. We did see a group of cormorants resting on a shingle island but little else before reaching the Wildside hide.

From here we found a few pochards but the snipe remained elusive until a group of young cattle decide to go for a mini stampede through the marsh. After scattering ducks, Canada geese and the occasional heron ahead of them they eventually put up a snipe which flew around frantically until dropping back to earth in a safer area. Finally we came across a flock of small birds moving through the bushes and this contained mainly willow warblers plus long-tailed tit and blue tits. A walk back around the 'Summer Route' provided an Emperor dragonfly and lots of young moorhens but nothing else of note.

We didn't find many migrants apart from the hirundines but it was a pleasant stroll during a dry interlude in a rather wet spell of weather.
Peter Hambrook
Photo of a hobby, taken by Peter Hambrook at Lakenheath in June 2015.