This weekend saw a united Team Sausage head for the WWT London Wetland Centre. We were there to kill two birds with one stone (not literally of course!) As the smart half of the team was conducting her academic research I took the opportunity to spend the day birding at the centre.
It was an almost cloudless, sunny Saturday in Barnes and although this location is a lot more family oriented and a little more contrived than either my local patches or reserves like Otmoor, there was plenty to make the trip worthwhile.
I indulged just the once in a captive species with the Asian short-clawed otters. I have only had rare glimpses of Otmoor’s resident otters but could not resist snapping a sitting duck…err otter:
Back to the birds though and we headed to the wader scrape hide. The skies were full all day of Swifts catching insects, and the amount of water here was providing a well stocked larder for them.
With a Grey Heron surveying the scrape, I was pleased to see a healthy amount of activity going on.
The above Redshank had at least two chicks scuttling around the scrape, and the Sand Martin bank was a hive of hirundine activity.
From here we made for the all mod cons of the Headley Hide. Huge windows, comfy seats, scopes and bins already installed, I have never seen a hide like this before. It was more of a viewing gallery than a hide and I really missed the smell of damp wood and decaying mud you usually get in hides at reserves. However, considering the nature of the reserve and its varied demographic, it makes perfect sense to have a facility like this. I hope future birders get bitten by the bug in places like this and go on to stand in chilly huts or windy open spaces in November.
The views from the hide were bright, clear and expansive and offered an excellent opportunity to grab another Grey Heron:
The Wildside area was quiet for me, despite the calls of several Sedge Warblers being audible, the reeds and sedge were too dense to hope for much of a sighting.
Late spring however means there are plenty of young around and this Mute Swan was nursing it’s cygnets around, warding off a very noisy and aggressive Coot along the way:
Woodpeckers took my eye next as I went back toward the scrapes; this Great Spotted using all it’s agility to raid this feeder:
And I just missed catching this Green Woodpecker in flight. Although not a great pic, I have included it to show how well this bird is camouflaged in the spring bloom of the trees:
The path leading to the Wader and Scrape Hide was being criSs-crossed with Long-Tailed Tits and they presented a real test for photographing. Never staying still for long and making the most of the cover, they would show, spin around a branch or two then as soon as I had focus they were gone again. A game of much patience was played out, with both members of Team Sausage attempting to stalk the smallest of the Tit family.
On we went to the triple storied, Peacock Hide (with a lift as well!). Here we would enjoy the highlight of our day.
Something caught my eye and I thought it was a gull dropping dead in mid-flight and hitting the water. As I stared at the impact zone, Lazarus the gull came into clearer view and made his real identity clear. A Common Tern, diving for fish and climbing high to start another run. Although I have seen these Terns before, mostly at Otmoor and also on the rafts here at Barnes, to be able to watch one hunting was more than a little special.
Being on the third floor of the hide offered great views of the surrounding water but it was being at eye-level of the Tern as it hovered that made it all worthwhile. I’ve seen them swoop and skim the reedbeds at Otmoor before but this one was hovering above the water like a nautical kestrel before diving at a considerable velocity into what seemed to me to not be particularly deep water.
We watched half a dozen sorties as the bird surveyed, hovered and dove again and again. Undoubtedly the highlight of the day and made all the easier by being able to observe it from almost a birds-eye height.
All in all a good day of birding. Barnes has some great facilities for families, some luxurious hides and enough “wild” birds to keep us occupied for the day.
Next week should see a return to the local patches.