Field Meeting Reports
Staines Reservoir Sunday 13th January 2019
Six hardy souls had gathered at the bottom of the west ramp to the causeway shortly before being joined by a party of seven enthusiastic post-graduate students from the Silwood (Ascot) campus of Imperial College. Their arrival significantly reduced the average age of our group, by more than a few degrees!
Talking of degrees, we were in some doubt about the weather forecast, the exposed nature of the top of the reservoir and the lack of any shelter in the event of precipitation. The temperature itself was a very reasonable 10deg C but the 19 mph NW’ly wind could well make a difference over the next couple of hours. The light was good, so armed with ‘scopes’, binoculars and a selection of telephoto lenses we set off, but not before logging a flock of 200 Starling, four Fieldfare and a couple of Redwing feeding on the grassy slopes of the adjacent KGVI Reservoir.
Thankfully the west bank of Staines Reservoir itself provided a good wind-break and most of the waterfowl were sheltering here in calm water and good light. We had excellent close-up views of a group of 50 Wigeon grazing on the causeway bank near the south tower. A raft of c.300 Pochard was loafing alongside a group of 30 Tufted Duck, and in both cases the birds were predominantly males. Other duck species included small numbers of Mallard, Shoveler, Gadwall, Goldeneye and Teal, but given the relatively mild weather so far this winter it is perhaps not surprising that numbers were low.
Gull species and totals were also very low with only a handful of Black-headed, Herring and Common present. A huddle of Cormorants occupied one of the tern rafts and a Grey Heron was hunched up below the bank. A lone Moorhen decided to swim out into the middle of the south basin, a brave but out-of-character decision for this normally edge-hugging species.
A Red Kite flew the full length of the causeway directly towards our party at about head height and a few million pixels were fired in its direction. Other raptors included a distant Peregrine and a Sparrowhawk. We were unable to locate any Black-necked Grebe although we ‘identified’ a distant Small Grebe (new species?) and were pretty confident it was not a Little Grebe, but by this time the increasing wind was having an impact on us and small ‘white horses’ were beginning to appear. A parcel of eight Linnet rounded off the visit by bringing the total to 28 species.
It was good to see new faces, and to exchange stories, experiences and ID skills amongst the group. Hopefully the Silwood students will accept our invitation to join the Club on future field trips. Needless to say Penny ensured that they departed with the latest issue of Birding Surrey and a list of forthcoming outings. (I bet there was a membership form tucked in there somewhere!).
The London Wetland Centre Barnes – Saturday, 15 December 2018
I led the field trip here last year (2017) and in 2017 we started off with one of the highlights namely a Sparrowhawk sitting on the fence by the car park. This time (2018) not a bird highlight (and quite a few people would probably not think of it as a mammal highlight either) but a very smart looking Fox trotted past us next to the fence as we were waiting in the car park before entering the Wetland Centre.
At the start of the day it was dry with good visibility but it was pretty chilly. Five hardy souls turned up, which was great, with the forecast being that it would rain later that morning.
After entering the Centre we were told that the Bittern had been seen from the Headley hide so we went off there soon after we had gone into the Observatory, by the entrance, in order to check out what we could see (and warm up!). From this Observatory we had nice views of Lapwing sitting on the island plus Tufted Ducks, Mallard, Cormorants and Grey Heron
Then off to the Headley hide where the usual Saturday morning volunteer was present with a telescope plus views of the Bittern. This was my second-best view ever of Bittern. The Bittern was not in the open but only about a foot back into the reeds so was visible and everyone was extremely pleased with the good views. For one of the participants it was a lifer so that made it even better!
We were also able to see Pochard from that hide and a bird feeder is also just outside the hide where Dunnock and Greenfinch gave us good views.
We then went off to the Wildside hide where we had been told that Goldeneye had been seen in the last couple of days. Despite searching very carefully we could not find it nor could we see any Snipe (on the last field trip we had had good views of Snipe from this hide). However on the way to the hide I got a very brief view of Reed bunting (although not everyone else did so)
We then made our way over to the Peacock Tower. On the way I heard a Green Woodpecker but we did not see it and, surprisingly, there were no views of Grebes on the lakes that you pass where there are normally good views of both common Grebe species. When we got to the Peacock Tower there were some distant views of a Bittern but the highlight, although not everyone saw it, was seeing a Water Pipit which was very mobile on the scrape. Despite searching hard we failed to find either Snipe nor Jack Snipe but we did manage to find the Pintail, a pair of Shelduck plus Great Crested Grebe.
By this stage there was some light rain falling and we agreed we had found everything that was visible and it was time to call it a day. By the time I got back to my car the heavy rain had started so we had timed it well.
In all some 42 species were seen and, in my opinion, it was a very successful field trip especially with the great views of the Bittern from the Headley hide.