Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at the WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes

Mid-week Walk at the WWT London Wetland Centre, Barnes
Peter Hambrook

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Weather: Cold, windy and wet 5C
A hardy band of regulars attended this walk, along with visitor Sarah. While gathering in the car park the usual ring-necked parakeets made their presence known and two Canada geese flew over towards the sports field. The entrance lake held the usual coots, moorhens and tufted ducks, along with a pair of shovelers. Reaching the first hide just as the rain started in earnest, we settled in for a longer stay than usual and scanned the main lake hoping for a distant bittern but without success. As has become the norm this winter the number of wildfowl was way down on what we would usually expect but variety was good, with gadwall, pintail, mallard, more shoveler, teal and a few wigeon present. The shingle islands provided roosting spots for cormorants, lapwings and a few fed-up looking grey herons while gulls were represented by black-headed, herring, a single common and two great-black-backed. The immature herring gulls appeared to have developed a little game and were continuously diving into shallow water and occasionally picking up what appeared to be stones, then flying around with them before dropping them again. A snipe was then spotted on the nearest island and gave good views before flying off to our left and a great crested grebe also put in an appearance.

A brief stop at the feeders came up with a selection of chaffinches, great and blue tits, a long-tailed tit and a coal tit as well as a moorhen trying to get into the feeder cage. The second hide produced much the same as the first, as did the Sheltered Lagoon, which didn't feel very sheltered in the wind and the rain, so it was on to the Peacock hide. Here the resident birders had found a jack snipe out in the open and showing well and kindly pointed it out to us, enabling us all to enjoy it. A scan of the hospital balconies failed to find any peregrines, which were probably on the other side keeping out of the weather. Several fieldfares and a redwing could be seen foraging on the grassy banks between the reserve and the river and a pair of Egyptian geese also appeared.

After lunch in the café we noticed that the rain had stopped, so made our way to the Headley hide where we were told that a bittern had been showing until about three quarters of an hour before. Sadly it stayed out of sight but our scanning did reveal a little grebe diving at the front of the reeds. A visit to the Wildside hide found even the feeders empty of birds but we did add a couple of greylags to the day list. A last ditch return visit to the Headley hide again drew a blank with the bittern, so we headed for home slightly disappointed - but not as much so as Sarah, who still hasn't seen a bittern.
PETER HAMBROOK