Trip reports

Weekend walk at Testwood Lakes

Saturday, 27 January 2018

As Testwood Lakes Nature Reserve is new to the growing list of reserves visited by the Group a brief introduction may be useful. The reserve is run by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust and the centre attracts many school visits from Southampton and the surrounding areas, with ponds, streams and woodlands offering a great introduction to nature for the young visitors. During excavations around the lakes on the reserve, Bronze Age remains were discovered and a reconstruction of a primitive dwelling makes an attractive outdoor class room. (Although facilities in the centre are geared to the young and small, staff toilets are more conveniently sized!)

Despite several of our members being involved in the Garden Watch at Wisley and with a discouraging weather forecast, an intrepid group of five made their way from Surrey and set out to explore the area.

While we were assembling in the car park a green woodpecker flew across and posed in surrounding trees, and the feeding station in front of the centre hosted blue tits, greenfinches and a goldfinch. Setting off across the meadow towards the hides redwing were seen in nearby bushes and trees and two buzzards flew overhead and into surrounding woods.

From the path towards the hides we had a good view of a peregrine overhead and in surrounding woodland there was a brief glimpse of a treecreeper. We then spent a few minutes watching an active nuthatch in bushes surrounding a pond.

The spacious Heron Hide at the north end of the reserve looks out over the reed lined Meadow Lake. Among a good selection of ducks, shoveler and mallard were the most numerous. Tufted duck, gadwall, pochard, teal and wigeon were also present while great crested and little grebes and coots were also visible. A single mute swan was lurking among the reeds but sadly there was no sign of the great white egrets that had been present a few weeks earlier.

We then moved on to the two-tiered Sand Martin Hide, so called because of the large wall with nesting holes which is well used in the summer months. From here there is a view over the so-called scrapes. On a long bank a flock of lapwing were gathered with a single heron. A large flock of wigeon were on the lake with a solitary female stonechat on a nearby fence.

The heavy drizzle had eased up as we walked back towards the centre and birds seen around the path and adjacent fields included wren, goldcrest, robins, starlings and a mistle thrush.

On the larger Testwood Lake there was a large flock of gulls, mainly black-headed but with a few herring gulls and common gulls as well as three great crested grebes and a pair of little grebes nearby.

Heading back to the car park a white rump seen briefly turned out to belong to a male bullfinch which then posed for us in the bushes for several minutes. This once common species has become harder to find recently and this excellent sighting made a good finale to our morning.

By this time the rain and wind had intensified and refuge and toasties in a nearby hostelry was very welcome.

To the south of the reserve there is a large marshy area and the River Test flows down towards Southampton Water and the Docks. A small car park by the old bridge gives a good view up the river and into a network of creeks and islands.

With the tide low, large flocks of wigeon and Canada geese had gathered on the islands and exposed shores and two redshanks flew from a mud bank and up river. By this time the rain was horizontal and the wind howling, so the two remaining members of the group decided it was time to give up and head home.

The lakes and marshes form an extensive area offering opportunities to observe a wide variety of wild life throughout the year. It was unfortunate that the weather cut short our time spent in the area but although there were few unexpected species on view on the day, this is certainly an area worth further exploration.
Legh Langston