Trip reports

Mid-Week Walk at Thorpe Park

Mid-Week Walk at Thorpe Park
Peter Hambrook

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Weather: Dry but rather dull 10C. Wind light.
With the gates opened for us by 09:30 there were already several keen types present when I arrived at about 09:40 and eventually there were fifteen of us, including four visitors, who are always welcome. The Landscaping Team were busy, so inevitably there was a little disturbance around the farm but even so we had redwings and fieldfares flying over while we waited for everyone to arrive. A group of fieldfares and redwings could be seen in a tree across the lake on the old Cemex site, and as we started our walk we found one of each in a tree close by. The main birds visible from the farm were a moderately sized flock of wigeon that kept flying up onto a horse paddock to feed but were a bit flighty and often flew back to the lake when alarmed (I blame the horses). Alan also spotted a couple of grey wagtails on a bit of beach nearby but these also kept moving so were difficult to get people onto.
We followed the internal service road round towards the lake and as we passed some small alders noticed a few small birds flitting about feeding on the cones. These proved to be mainly goldfinches but also at least one siskin. As we reached a more open area where we could view Manor Lake we disturbed a good number of pochard, which paddled vigorously away from us, although they couldn't have been that worried or they would have taken to the air. This flock comprised mainly males, as is usual at this time of year as many females migrate further south for the winter. We also upset some of the cormorants who abandoned their roost on the tern rafts and took to the water. Further out on the lake were plenty of tufted ducks and coots, together with a scattering of great crested grebes, some of which were in breeding plumage, although whether they were late moulting into winter colours or early for the breeding season wasn't clear. The lake-side trees were host to a small party of long-tailed tits. Moving further along, we had a better view of the far reaches of the lake and found a pair of goldeneye, although these were difficult to show to people as they were actively diving all the time. At least two gadwall were also present close to the far shore. Several Canada geese then made their usual noisy arrival, while two herons and three shovelers flew over. These were followed by a sizable flock of lapwing, which had presumably been disturbed from somewhere else on site and flew around for some time, with small groups breaking away, before deciding that there was too much disturbance and flying off to find somewhere quieter.
Heading back towards the farm, occasionally having to stand aside while vehicles well loaded with vegetation (no doubt destined for the compost heap) passed through, I got a brief glimpse of a wren in the lake-side vegetation and we came across a couple of mute swans that we had somehow missed on the outward journey and also a couple of moorhens. The pochards had returned to their sheltered corner and the cormorants were back on the tern rafts and seemed unperturbed by our return, probably because they could see us coming this time and had decided that we were harmless. Back at the farm we found one or two fieldfares along a hedgerow, together with a pair of chaffinches, before we headed for home.
My thanks to the Thorpe Park Landscaping Team for allowing us access to this important site for wintering wildfowl. Hope that we didn't interrupt your work too much.
PETER HAMBROOK