Trip reports

Date with Nature Walk, 3 July, 2021

Date with Nature Walk, 3 July, 2021
David Flain

Wednesday, 7 July 2021

A cool, damp morning greeted our group of 10 as we set off from the car park, but through the morning the sun came out and waterproofs were peeled off. The first bird we heard was a lively Wren which then showed itself, still singing loudly, on a tree trunk by the bridge over the Emmbrook.

Walking alongside Black Swan Lake we saw several Sand Martins darting over the water, their breast bands visible as they flew past. These had presumably come from the sand martin bank at Lea Farm. On the pontoon at the sailing club a perky Grey Wagtail was seen adding to its beakful of insects, before departing to feed its hungry brood. It was to be the first of several brightly coloured yellow, and also greenish birds seen during the walk.

Just before entering the Bittern hide a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets flew in, and were seen on the feeders with their exotic green colours glowing in the shade of the overhanging trees. A male Reed Bunting was on the ground near the feeders. As we left the hide a juvenile Green Woodpecker shot past us in his distinctive undulating flight pattern.

Walking on the western side of Black Swan Lake with scrub on both sides of the path we saw an adult male Greenfinch perched on a bare branch in the full, strong July sun, making a convenient photo opportunity. In the next tree a pair of Stock Doves had landed, and the strong light clearly showed up the birds iridescent bottle green colours on their necks. To produce an iridescent effect, the microstructure of the birds feathers break up beams of light - but if the bird turns just a fraction of an inch, the colours may vanish. This refraction of light works like a prism, splitting the light into rich, component colours. As the viewing angle changes, the refracted light becomes visible in a glowing, shimmering iridescent display (famously seen in many hummingbirds).

Locating singing birds is now harder with trees and bushes in full foliage, a Dunnock evading us but we eventually picked out a Chiffchaff. We spent several minutes trying to work out whether a singing warbler was a Blackcap or Garden Warbler, but the rich tones indicated Blackcap, which conveniently showed itself as confirmation.

The breeding season may be getting towards the end, and the birdsong decreasing as a consequence, but we did enjoy watching an adult Great Crested Grebe on White Swan Lake, with its three chicks in close attendance. The youngsters had the typical stripey 'humbug' head and necks and waited patiently as their parent dived frequently for their food. This may be considered the quiet season for birds but everyone enjoyed good views of 40 different species, as well as seeing many blossoming wildflowers and a few butterfly species.

Alan Moore