Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Staines Moor

Mid-week Walk at Staines Moor
Peter Hambrook

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Weather: Fine, dry and fairly sunny but a cold NW wind 15C
Ten of us took part in this walk, including first-timer Brenda. It was pretty quiet at first, with only the regular meadow pipits and three kestrels attracting our attention. A lone stock dove then flew past and a single sand martin appeared, hawking insects over the river. A flock of birds in the distance proved to be cormorants and large groups of starlings gathered around the cattle, presumably feeding on insects disturbed by them. We reached the far side of the open ground and headed for the more sheltered footpath leading through the bushes to Stanwell Moor, passing what appeared to be a small tortoiseshell butterfly braving the cool conditions. Almost immediately on leaving the moor a Cetti's warbler loudly announced its presence from reeds a few feet away, but as usual did not show itself. Walking further down this narrow path did not reveal much bird-life except the usual tits and two little egrets, but several speckled wood butterflies were on the wing. We stopped as the path ahead was starting to look rather muddy and then two raptors appeared and we were soon watching a kestrel (the fourth of the morning) being pursued by a sparrowhawk. As, apart from this, it was very quiet, we retraced our steps. The egrets had been joined by a third bird plus a grey heron, a male pheasant flew past and a bit further on a group of chiffchaffs was found flitting through the bushes.

Returning to the open moor we checked-out the bushes at the northern end without finding anything, so headed back down the western bank of the Colne. A few large gulls could be seen over the nearby reservoir, along with some hirundines. At this point things improved dramatically. The sun came out, house and sand martins started hunting over the river, a 'wagtail' glimpsed by Steve, amongst the starlings by the cattle became three adult and one juvenile yellow wagtails,then Ron spotted a wheatear fairly close by, which showed well. While looking at this, Alan S. spotted a brown bird with a prominent supercilium, which proved to be a whinchat. These, and the martins whizzing around us, made for a very enjoyable experience, while nearby a bullock standing in the river added a Constable-esque touch. Some also saw a reed bunting in this area. Continuing our return track we spotted three linnets and as we followed their direction of flight we came across a substantial flock of goldfinches going the other way. Another chiffchaff was found just before we reached the cars, so what started as a rather slow day eventually came up trumps.
Peter Hambrook.