30 Jun 2007

Trip Report (Part 5): WWT London and 24 Hours in Berkshire and 6 Lifers!!

Peregrine's Birding Facts The Little Ringed Plover first bred in Britain in 1938

I left Minsmere and headed to London to stay the night with my best friend Jeremy Pollard and his wife and two children. I spent the bank holiday walking around the city which was great as no people around. The following morning I headed off to Barnes in West London where the Wildlife and Wetlands Trust (WWT) London Wetland Centre is situated - one of the largest created wetland reserves in a capital city in the world. I have to say I was enormously impressed. You just dont expect to find a place like this within a city as big as London. I walked around the site and saw my first Little Ringed Plover from the three story Peacock Tower. I had always wondered if I saw one whether I would be able to distinguish it from a Ringed Plover, but they are chalk and cheese the orange eye ring is very distinct indeed. I have a soft spot for the Little Ringed Plover because believe it or not if it hadn't been for one I wouldnt be in the job I am now!!! There was a report of one at the Belfast Harbour Reserve in May 2006 which I went to see and it had gone by the time I got there. Having dipped on it I went to get myself a coffeee in Belfast where I bumped into John Elliot the owner of Clements Cafe chain and he asked me if I would be interested in working for him.

After walking around the site I had a very good lunch in the Water's Edge Restaurant from their salad bar. Probably one of the better salad bars that I have been to. So a big thumbs upto the WWT catering at Barnes.

After lunch I headed out of London to Crowthorne in Berkshire. I was staying with Patrick Crowley and his wife Peggy. I first met Patrick when he contacted me earlier in the year through my blog about where to Bird in Northern Ireland over a weekend. He came over with a group from the Wokingham and Bracknell RSPB Group. The story of their visit is here.

After dinner we headed out to a nearby wood where we met up with Ken White, Anna Hawkins and Trisha Frith all members of the local RSPB group and all had visited Northern Ireland. We were there ostensibly to see if we could hear and possibly see a Nightjar a bird I had never seen. The first thing we came across was a pair of Hobby calling to each other you can hear it here They were flying to a clump of trees in which they were nesting. Hobbies tend to nest in old crows nests. We then heard the distinct sound of the Nightjar churring away. Then another sounded in the distance; we headed towards it and were really close to the sound but couldn't see it. It was by now getting darker and darker and was threatening to rain. Then one flew over the ride we were standing on, it had the very distinct white bars at the end of its wings denoting that it was a male. He flew to a tree and then out of site. However he kept reappearing and at one point flew low over our heads, making a sort of clapping sound with its wings. Absolutely Brilliant. This with the Hobbies really made my day. I am really looking forward to seeing one again and I will be taking midge repellant with me the next time!!

The next morning Patrick and I headed to the woods behind the "Royal Military Academy Sandhurst" RMAS (Where Prince William and Harry recently passed out of as officers as did my father 55 years ago and where I failed to get into 25 years ago). We were here to see the Dartford Warbler another bird I hadn't seen before. The area is Lowland Heath a now fast disappearing form of countryside due to property development.( J E !!) The first thing that Patrick heard was a a Tree Pipit and then we saw it another lifer.Unfortunately not close enough for good photos. Then we made our way to an area where Patrick thought the Dartford Warbler might be. It wasnt long before this this little beauty popped up and sang away.

So far four new lifers in twelve hours. On the way off the heath we heard and saw a Blackcap. Then we went to Swinley Woods, It is owned and managed by the Crown Estate and comprises over 2600 acres of woodland across gently undulating hills. Although now mostly a modern plantation of Scots Pines, the area was once part of Windsor Forest. It was here that we hoped to see a Firecrest. No Luck even though I would say I could hear them.

Then we drove to some lakes where we were looking for a Nightingale.As we walked around the lake we heard a Garden Warbler singing alongside us in a tree where I was able to get a reasonable shot. They are your classic LBJ (Little Brown Job) in fact the main distinguishing feature of this warbler is that they don't have any!

In the far distance we saw a Kite coming towards us but it veered away which was a shame as I hoped to get a shot of one on my trip. Not that much further along the path was a Nightingale singing. It has to be one of the sweetest sounds a bird can make. They are very good at hiding in the deepest part of the bush and so I was quite lucky to get a photo even if it was facing away from me.

After successfully seeing these two birds we headed towards the Thames just above Henley. On the way we suddenly found four Kites thirty feet above us in the middle of a village. We stopped and I managed to get a few shots. They had wing tags on .

Patrick later found out that the Kite with the yellow 2 wingtag had been tagged in the Chilterns in 1999. You can look at the site regarding them here UK Red Kite Reintroduction Programme

We arrived at a Pub near the Thames and before we had lunch went for a walk alongside it. We saw another Kite and we also some Ring Necked Parakeets which were making a racket. They are Great Britain's only naturalised parrot. Despite large numbers of parakeets living in the wild for a long time, they only started to breed in 1969 in Kent, south-east of London. since then the population has steadily increased and currently numbers over 4,500 birds.
There was also a recent hatch of mayfly and as I like to photograph birds in flight I thought I ought to try a Mayfly in flight!!

After a good pub lunch we headed back to Crowthorne and I said my goodbyes and headed onto my in-laws in North Dorset.

Patrick and Peggy thank you very much for putting me up and driving me around it was a brilliant 24 hours.


brdpics said...

Dude- that flight shot of the mayfly is killer! Nicely done.

savannah said...

lovely post and how kind (and informative) of you to include a sound site!

Anonymous said...

I love your blog and your pictures - you have many good ones - that looks like a Kildeer on top - we have a lot of them here. You have some wonderful bird captures and I really enjoy your site.