Barn Elms 25 November 2023

The run of dismal weather came to a welcome end with a bright, still but very cold morning that enticed no less than eighteen members to attend the walk at the WWT flagship reserve. Several screeching Ring-necked Parakeets adorned perches around the entrance yard while the feral pigeons seemed more numerous than ever. The south path produced a perched Kestrel and a female Reed Bunting. First stop at the Dulverton hide quickly brought views of a Bittern sunning itself in the reeds at the far side of the lake. On the water were plenty of Gadwall, Shovelers and Tufted Ducks. Among them were spotted a female Goldeneye, a couple of Pochard and a Great Crested Grebe. A few Egyptian Geese flew in to complement the numerous Canada Geese. The feeders proved to be under-used with just a few Great and Blue Tits and Robins visiting them. The woodlands were similarly underpopulated with none of the usual finch flocks but the explanation soon came apparent when a female Sparrowhawk streaked past. The scrape hide offered two Grey Herons posing beautifully in the clear light while the lack of Teal was rectified by a small snoozing flock. A Wren bounced around the reeds in front of the hide while a very distant pipit caused some head-scratching about its identity. Meanwhile an eagle-eyed member had focused on a closer bird that was much more easily identified as a Water Pipit. From the Peacock Tower a second Bittern was glimpsed by some in a brief flight towards the Wildside Hide. Small numbers of Wigeon grazed on the marsh but a Snipe provided the main entertainment as it played hide-and-seek with its admirers among the reeds. After lunch the Wildside beckoned and proved to be productive. The usual array of Black-headed and Herring Gulls was supplemented by singles of Common and Lesser Black-backed Gull. Chiffchaff, Long-tailed Tit, Stonechat and Greenfinch were found. The rarest of wonders, a visible Cetti’s Warbler, was also seen while the cast was completed by a Stock Dove and a Green Woodpecker. The final sighting list of 48 was no more than the group deserved after the seemingly endless weather travails of the autumn walks programme.

Barn Elms

A dull and drizzly morning greeted the eight members who assembled on the banks of the Thames in this showpiece WWT reserve. In truth the weather improved only slightly over the day but the ready availability of hides made for enjoyable birdwatching despite the conditions. First stop was the observatory; a limited number of birds were on show including a grey heron, several pochard, great crested and little grebes and a cormorant fishing close to the edge of the lake. The star sighting though was a female goldeneye that kept viewers on their toes with constant dives. Then it was off to the Dulverton hide where the goldeneye was topped by not one but two bitterns no more than a couple of feet apart on the edge of the reeds across the lake. Other species were limited with a startled flock of thirty-plus lapwings and a few common gulls being the pick. The feeders too were sparsely populated with just a handful of great and blue tits with single of chaffinch and dunnock. The Peacock Tower proved more productive; a juvenile sparrowhawk perched near the sand martin bank allowed excellent scope views. Numerous teal and gadwall grazed across the scrape in the company of shovelers and, surprising for the time of year, only four wigeon. The woodlands around the sheltered lagoon provided a great spotted woodpecker and a feeding flock of finches, mainly goldfinches but a few lesser redpoll too. Lunch near the entrance was enlivened by a flock of thirty redwings accompanied by a single greenfinch in the poplars. The wildside walk delivered a rare view of a Cetti’s warbler; typically several had shouted from concealed perches during the walk but this one recklessly forgot itself and allowed a glimpse of its chestnut plumage and upturned tail amid the bushes. The wildside hide produced final new sighting of lesser black-backed gulls and a green woodpecker on the grazing marsh. One last reward was waiting at the Headley hide; one of the bitterns was now showing there at closer quarters. It proved to be a most enjoyable day with a creditable species list of fifty.

Barn Elms 28 November 2021

Thirteen members gathered at this acclaimed WWT reserve on a bright but bitterly cold morning. Numerous parakeets were squawking loudly around the courtyard. From the impressive range of photographic kit present it was clear that a bittern was urgently needed. Fortunately that came quickly at the Dulverton hide. From there we had a clear but rather distant view across the main lake to a bittern among the reeds on the north side while a female goldeneye conveniently swam right in front of us. A second bittern sunning itself at our second stop, the WWF hide, was much closer and offered superb opportunities for our expert photographers who later circulated some stunning shots. Common snipe were on the grazing marsh near the Peacock Tower and on the lake. Over 70 lapwings were the only wader representatives present. Additional water birds included two shelducks, numerous Egyptian geese, gadwalls, a pochard, great black-backed gulls, numerous shovelers, teal, wigeon and just one each of little grebe and great crested grebe. A water pipit on the grazing marsh flew away before our ID discussion concluded but expert views solicited later established its identification. Total species seen totalled 41, excluding collection birds such as red-breasted geese and wood ducks – beautiful and very striking – but captive in the World Wetlands area.