Trip reports

Dinton Pastures

Dinton Pastures
Peter Hambrook

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Weather: Bright with sunny periods but a cold easterly wind 7C.
Despite the rather steep new parking charges for the main car parks, nine of us gathered for this walk at a site once visited regularly by our group but somewhat ignored of late. It is an area of old gravel workings, close to Reading and the M4/A329M junction, which has been converted to a popular country park, and is managed by Wokingham Borough Council. It is host to large numbers of wildfowl during the winter months.
We began our walk at the duck feeding area where there is a good view of much of the Black Swan Lake, which was covered with hundreds of black-headed gulls, with a few common gulls present as well. Also to be seen was a good selection of ducks, although in fairly small numbers. These included wigeon, gadwall, mallard, pochard and tufted, while geese were represented by the usual Egyptian, Canada and greylag. Great crested grebes were also present and some appeared to be paired-up ready for the breeding season, although we didn't get to see a courtship display. Good numbers of mute swans, many of them last year's young, appeared to be living amicably together, which isn't always the case. We noticed one close to us that had blood on its head and wings and appeared rather subdued, putting its head on its back from time to time. A closer look revealed what appeared to be a mark just behind its eye and we wondered if it had been shot with an air rifle. Unfortunately there was no official presence on site to report this to and even on checking the web site when I got home I could not find any contact details. The bird had disappeared when we checked on the way back to the cars so perhaps it wasn't badly hurt.
We headed down the east side of the lake without coming across anything new except the odd cormorant and briefly scanned Sandford Lake before heading across the road to the nature reserve at Lavell's Lake, hearing a green woodpecker en route. Here there are two hides, the first of which gives a good view over the lake and has a large feeding station next to it. This held the usual blue, great and long-tailed tits plus reed buntings, chaffinches, goldfinches, dunnocks, pheasants and a great spotted woodpecker. Viewing the lake we added teal to our duck count plus the usual coot and moorhen and, this being the M4 corridor, several red kites graced the sky to the north. We then walked along the length of the lake, coming across a quite obliging wren on the way, before reaching the second hide which looks out on a more secluded corner of the lake. All we managed to add here was a grey heron but the lovely teal were a bit closer.
Crossing back over the road, we viewed Sandford Lake from the far end but, apart from a number of cormorants, an immature herring gull and a little egret in a tree, it was more of the same. We did however have a buzzard low overhead, with a carrion crow in attendance. Walking back towards the car park someone picked out a treecreeper close by and eventually everyone had a good view of this as it flew from tree to tree hunting for food. A look at White Swan Lake found it quite empty, possibly due to several fishermen being encamped around the edge, but we enjoyed a good view of a song thrush which was pulling worms out of the ground in good numbers almost without trying. Our final treat of the day was a group of around ten redwings which were busily feeding on an area of grassland not far from the car park, together with two more song thrushes and a few blackbirds and robins. Fortunately, song thrushes do seem to still be doing well at this site, probably because of the damp conditions for most of the year.
March is always an in-between month with winter visitors fast diminishing in numbers and summer arrivals yet to make an appearance but we saw over forty species and enjoyed a dry, if slightly draughty, walk. If you are thinking of visiting, there are lay-bys close to Lavell's Lake where you can park without charge and the whole area can be rewarding in spring once the summer migrants are in.
Peter Hambrook