Trip reports

Mid-week Walk at the Jubilee River 14 November 2018

Mid-week Walk at the Jubilee River 14 November 2018
Mute swan on the weir. (Peter Hambrook)

Sunday, 2 December 2018

Mid-week walk along the Jublilee River from Dorney.
Weather. Bright, sunny and unseasonably, but pleasantly, warm.

The Jubilee River is a flood relief channel which was built to reduce the risk of flooding in Maidenhead, Windsor and Eton. When it was built it was designed to encourage wildlife with low lying islands and lots of reed beds. In summer there are good numbers of warblers and skylarks can be heard singing overhead.
Although this walk has been in the programme for the last few years it was the first visit for a few of the twelve members who congregated in the small car park in good time for this walk. We set off and noticed several goldfinches in the hedgerow alongside the path and the usual corvids. On the water we noted mute swan, canada geese, coot, mallard, gadwell and tufted duck, although the numbers seemed to be lower than in previous years.

We crossed the river at the first bridge and saw teal and moorhen on the ponds to the right and then head the pig-like squeal of a water rail. Although we waited for some time it did not oblige us by appearing. The path between the hedges was very quiet and all we added was blackbird, robin and jay. As we walked over the small hill to the second bridge we saw red kite and kestrel and heard the first of several Cetti's warblers. From the bridge we saw many black-headed gulls and a, clearly much larger, herring gull. A water rail again teased us by squealing and hiding.

As we continued our walk downstream to the first weir we saw a few great crested grebes and around a dozen little grebes, more than on previous visits. They appear to have bred well this summer. Other wildfowl to be added to our list along this stretch of river were pochard, wigeon, shoveler and cormorant. We had being keeping an eye out for winter thrushes and had had a number of "possible redwings". Just above the weir we had a clear sighting of several redwings in a hawthorn bush feeding on the berries.

At the weir there were more black-headed gulls and cormorants. There were also two mute swans standing in the fast flowing water of the weir. None of us had seen this before and it was not obvious why they were behaving in this way.
(Ed: My best guess it that they were grazing on the water weed growing on the weir - note that they were facing downstream to avoid water being forced up their nostrils.)

As we walked towards the new pond that has been created off the Roundmoor Ditch we could hear what sounded like many wigeon. When we got to the pond the only ducks in view were teal, so there must be another hidden area of water where the wigeon were. On the far side of the pond we saw four snipe. After a few minutes another three snipe flew off from quite close to us. Closer inspection revealed another, braver, snipe that was not concerned by our presence. This gave us a good opportunity to observe how well camouflaged snipe are and it almost certain that there were more there than the eight we saw. The only other new bird at the pond for our list at the pond was reed bunting.

As we walked back we commented that the vegetation has matured in the last few years and now provides a good range of habitats for the birds but the additional vegetation makes spotting the more secretive birds more difficult. During the walk back to the car park we saw no new birds but were able to enjoy the sunshine. In summary, it had been a very pleasant walk in amazingly good weather.

STEVE WILLIAMS