Trip reports

The London Wetlands Centre, Barnes. 22nd January 2020

The London Wetlands Centre, Barnes. 22nd January 2020
Common Snipe at Barnes on 22JAN20. (Steve Williams)

Wednesday, 5 February 2020

Weather: mild, for the time of year, but murky.
The 42 hectare wetland visitor centre in Barnes was built on part of the site of four disused reservoirs. Work began in 1995 and over the next five years more than 300,000 water plants and 27,000 trees were planted and 600m of boardwalk and 3.4km of pathway were laid before the centre opened in May 2000. The centre was awarded "Site of Special Scientific Interest" status in 2002 due to the number of over-wintering shoveler and gadwall.

On entering the reserve the twelve of us were directed to the Observatory where we all had very good views of a very obliging common snipe in the grass no more than three meters from the glass. It seemed completely oblivious to the number of people admiring it from such a short distance. Out on the main lake were mute swan, Canada goose, mallard, tufted duck, coot and on the islands cormorant, feral pigeon, black-headed gull, starling and lapwing.

We eventually left the warmth of the Observatory and made our way to the Dulverton hide. Here we saw more species of duck including gadwall, shoveler, pochard and two distant pintail. On the islands out in the main lake there were four further species of gull, greater and lesser black-backed, common and herring. A grey heron flew past being mobbed by crows and then some of our party spotted a sparrowhawk as it flew past just in front of the hide.

The feeders on the way to the WWF hide yielded blue and great tit, chaffinch, greenfinch, great spotted woodpecker, robin, dunnock, grey squirrel and a very large brown rat. The WWF hide and the sheltered lagoon provided nothing new so we made our way to the top of the Peacock Tower where David Panchaud, one of our group members, was on duty.

We added teal, wigeon and greylag goose to our list before David spotted a water pipit and we all had very good views of it. David also showed us the island where snipe had been seen earlier in the morning. Eventually a snipe, with a short bill, was spotted there, but before positive identification could be made it flew to a neighbouring island. Careful examination of this second island revealed two snipe. Identification of a jack snipe is much easier when you see one alongside the much larger and longer-billed common snipe. The jack snipe remained visible, albeit sometimes partially behind vegetation, for long enough for us all to get a good view.

The party now divided into two groups, which turned out to be fortuitous. One group had lunch in the hide overlooking the wader scrape and the rest returned to the centre. The returners spotted long-tailed tit and goldfinch on their way back and the hide diners saw chiffchaff, redwing, jay and green woodpecker.

After lunch the hide diners popped into the Dulverton hide at just the right time to see a bittern. They rang the rest of us to let us know and we all made our way as quickly as possible to the hide to be greeted with the birdwatcher's least favourite phrase "you should have been here ten minutes ago". Yes, the bittern had disappeared back into the reeds. The next fifteen minutes were spent trying to create a bittern from the pattern of reeds close to where it was last seen. Eventually the bittern reappeared, fortunately quite close to where we were looking and we did all get a reasonable view, especially as it flew off. That sighting marked the end of our visit.

Those of us who were amongst the last to leave the reserve again met David who told us a little owl had been seen in a holly tree in the playing field opposite. Having scoured the wrong tree for some time we eventually found the right tree and the little owl which seemed to observe us with some disdain.

Thanks to all those who came on the walk. The next walk is at Farlington Marshes on the 27th February. Good boots and warm clothing essential.

Steve Williams