Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at the London Wetland Centre, Barnes

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Weather: Warm with sunny periods 21C

Apart from reasonably uncongested roads, a bonus of this visit was an easterly wind - meaning that we were spared the usual noise from the continuous stream of airliners heading for Heathrow.

Although this visit was timed with departing summer visitors in mind, it was actually early arrivals of winter visitors that were more obvious, with good numbers of teal and wigeon and a scattering of pochard, pintail, gadwall and shoveler. Lapwing too were much in evidence and even a snipe showed itself in the open long enough to get telescopes trained on it. One of the local peregrines attracted a lot of attention from the resident crows and we were spectators to a spectacular chase that lasted some ten minutes before the peregrine realised that it had definitely lost the element of surprise and returned to its perch on the hospital's upper floors. Not to be outdone, a hobby then made an appearance, ruining at least one dragonfly's day and managing to cruise around without a corvid escort. Fortunately the few house martins that were still present managed to keep out of its way.

Of the residents, several little grebes were seen as well as a couple of their great crested relatives, while a young green woodpecker hunted for food on the grazing marsh. The grey herons were largely sitting around doing nothing in particular, as were the cormorants. Gull numbers were quite low and were mainly black-headed, plus one herring and what looked like a common (it was asleep and hiding the main recognition features). Passerines were rather thin on the ground but several Cetti's warblers were heard, as was a robin, while chaffinch and great tit were around the feeders. Non-native birds were the noisy ring-necked parakeets and three Egyptian geese. Barnes is a good site for dragonflies but this late in the season only southern hawkers and common darters were noted.

A brief visit to the Asian short-clawed otters feeding session on the way back to the cars revealed that even if a keeper has some interesting information to pass on he can rapidly lose his audience's attention if he delivers said information in a monotone.... Sadly, there are now only two otters remaining out of the 3-4 that used to be here.

PETER HAMBROOK