Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at Bushy Park

Mid-week Walk at Bushy Park
PETER HAMBROOK

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Weather: Clear and sunny after early rain but a cold NW wind 16C
A select band of four of us took part in this walk. While waiting for the off we were entertained by the roaring of a red deer stag nearby, fit young things doing their workouts and the driver of a swish white 13 plate Porsche who was photographing his vehicle from all angles - possibly prior to trying to sell it. We were waiting for a passing feral pigeon to put down a deposit ..........

Having decided that nobody else was going to turn up, we headed out, keeping a watchful eye on the aforementioned stag and finding a young grey heron in a nearby ditch, while a grey wagtail flew overhead. The first pond held the usual selection of birds, with several pairs of gadwall being of most note. The stag had by now crossed a bridge (never seen one do that before, they usually wade across) to the side of the pond that we were on and was standing by the exit from the car park that we had just used, thereby causing the wary to give him a wide berth. Moving to the next pond, the usual red-crested pochards were in residence along with several tufted duck, including four or five youngsters and, just before we moved on, a little grebe flew in - not something you see very often. We also had the first of several views of a kestrel hunting for a late breakfast and in the distance a pair of battling stags could just be seen over the bracken. Ron then spotted a mistle thrush in a bush ahead of us and a pair of shovelers patrolled the lower end of the pond.

Following the rill down to the final pond, we noticed several large carp in the clear water. Under nearby trees several fallow deer were resting, including an all-white one, and some of the ring-necked parakeets were making their presence known. The final pond, as usual, held little of note except a couple more herons, one at the top of a willow. Turning left, we headed across a more open area of grass and bracken, some of the latter showing signs of having been severely thrashed by the antlers of stags working themselves up for battle. Birds were a little scarce here but we came across a stonechat, several green woodpeckers and a jay, while small birds overhead appeared to be meadow pipits and possibly also linnets. A very large party of fallow deer in a variety of sizes, and colours from all white to dark brown, had gathered under the trees nearby and every now and again small groups would run across to swell their numbers. Doubtless things would be a lot more lively when their rut started later in the month. We crossed the main road through the park and while passing some tall trees found ourselves in the middle of a flock of small birds that contained blue, great and long-tailed tits plus a treecreeper. Next we headed for another open area en route to the Wooded Garden. This open area proved to be fairly empty of birds apart from a few groups of jackdaws investigating a particularly interesting patch of grass and the occasional goldfinch flying over.

Entering the Wooded Garden, we decided to walk along the river in the hope that it would be more interesting. First up was a song thrush and then several dragonflies, mainly common darters but with one or two hawkers, either migrant or common - they never came close enough to find out. The river held only mallards and the occasional moorhen but sunny spots of bankside vegetation attracted red admiral and large white butterflies and even a very late flying female meadow brown (initially misidentified by me as a gatekeeper, which would have been exceptional). After getting slightly confused by the maze of paths in this area we came across one glade, well away from water, which held a grey heron, presumably on the look-out for voles or mice. Eventually we found our way to the second area of this part of the garden which is slightly more cultivated. More jays were busily collecting acorns here and the ponds held a mandarin and a pair of Egyptian geese along with more mallards, some of which had dubious ancestry.

Leaving the Wooded Garden, we came across a particularly successful large red deer stag that had gathered a sizeable group of hinds. These were lying contentedly on a small mound while he roared his challenges to a group of some six younger males nearby, none of which seemed inclined to accept. It was then a short walk back to the cars before heading home past the Diana Fountain and a large party of black-headed gulls and Canada geese.
PETER HAMBROOK