Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Staines Reservoir on Tuesday 8th September 2015

Mid-week Walk at Staines Reservoir on Tuesday 8th September 2015
Photo of a Sand Martin, taken at Arundel, by Peter Hambrook

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

Weather: Overcast but dry and fairly warm with little wind. 15C
Six of us took part in this short walk along the causeway at the reservoir. The north basin has been drained for about six months now and this has given the vegetation a chance to establish to the level of damp moorland. Despite rumours that refilling would begin this month this does not appear to be the case as a lot of maintenance work was going on along the northern shore and the northern pumping station, with piles of rocks suggesting more is still to take place. The south basin water level was still fairly low after a very dry early/mid-summer.
A quick scan from the top of the slope revealed the usual crowd of coots and eclipse plumage tufted ducks and a few equally drab mallards and these were accompanied by black-headed gulls in winter plumage. In the distance could be seen good numbers of hirundines feeding up before their long migration and when we reached the causeway it wasn't long before they were all around us, feeding on the flies that always seem to accompany a visit here in the warmer months. This enabled us to identify all the common hirundines - house martins and swallows in fairly equal numbers plus a smattering of sand martins for good measure. These were a lot easier to separate when a goodly proportion of them decided to take a break and landed on the top of the railings not too far from us. Also along the causeway were a family of pied wagtails that seemed to take exception to the odd linnet that strayed into their patch.
Down in the rampant weeds we found a large flock of at least 70-80 linnets, and it was while looking at these that Martin picked out a winter-plumaged whinchat. This then lead us to a female/immature wheatear that was feeding nearby and also a common whitethroat briefly. This rough area also seemed popular with the local carrion crows.
A scan of the far reaches of the drained area, where there was still a little water, revealed quite a few teal, several grey herons, a pair of Egyptian geese, a pair of mute swans and two shelducks. A trio of cormorants then flew in, but we failed to find the normally resident black-necked grebes, nor did we see a single wader.
If you are planning a visit, be aware that the western access to the causeway appears to be blocked off while maintenance work is in progress.
PETER HAMBROOK