WWT London Wetland Centre – Part 1 – Wild birds

I’ve split my post on the WWT London Wetland Centre into two (three if you include yesterdays Shrike special), the wild sightings, and the stocked animals. First up, what we saw in the wild parts of the reserve.

Obviously the big news was the Red-backed Shrike (Lanius collurio), but as I’ve covered that extensively already, I’ll leave that out today. Plenty more to see though!

Having previously visited the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust site at Martin Mere I knew what excellent sites they manage. But with all the awards and praise the London centre has had, I was optimistic of a good day out. I wasn’t disappointed.

Sadly I didn’t have my camera out in the cafe, which isd a shame as we had a very friendly Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) climb on our table and start drinking the milk. There were plenty of “Don’t feed the birds” signs, but he was paying no attention.

We opted for the South route in the morning, going through the beautiful planned gardens. No lizards or snakes out basking, but the air was full of Swifts (Apus apus) shrieking. Another distinctive sound was the electric rambling song of Reed Warblers (Acrocephalus scirpaceus). Every bed seemed to have one chattering away, and they were reasonably obliging for photos. Sadly the best image I got the bird had its back turned:

Reed Warbler. You'll have to trust me on this.

Reed Warbler. You’ll have to trust me on this.

But I did manage a couple of shots with it facing the right way, just hard to get clear through the reeds:







Reed Warblers weren’t the only birds in full voice. Cetti’s Warbler (never actually spotted!) and Chiffchaff followed us around, and we saw Blackcap too.

In fact, it wasn’t just the birds singing. Possibly the loudest song came out of the many ponds dotted about the reserve, and were soon traced back to these glorious Common Frogs (Rana temporaria):







On the main lagoon there was impressive drama from two unlikely combatants.

"In the red corner..."

“In the red corner…”

2 of 3 lapwing chicks, with sleeping Tuftie

2 of 3 lapwing chicks, with sleeping Tuftie

A female Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), busy guarding her three chicks, was not impressed by the encroachment of a neighbour. Suddenly, she was up, startling the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) awake:

One startled duck

One startled duck

The cause of her alarm wasn’t a bird of prey, it wasn’t a corvid or heron that might also take her chicks. It was this unlikely foe:

Squaring off

Squaring off

The Lapwing took to dive-bombing the Coot (Fulica atra), who stood his ground and kept coming back for more:

SONY DSCSONY DSCSONY DSCAt one point the Lapwing was so wound-up she even went for a Canada Goose! Eventually the Coot got the message and stayed away.

Birds-of-prey were thin on the ground, but there was a beautiful kestrel patrolling the reserve:







We headed off towards the Sand Martin (Riparia riparia) bank, though the nearest hides were closed for refurbishment, and for the benefit of the breeding martins. On the way we had a sudden flash of green coming up from the path. This being London, I immediately thought “Damned Parakeets!” as we’d heard plenty flying about. Happily, it was something much better:

SONY DSCA glorious Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis), allowing us a brief, welcome view.

We weren’t without the other medium-sized green bird though, and soon saw a Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) too:

SONY DSCI’m very mean about parakeets in this country, but the truth is I love seeing them. I just worry that they’ll have a negative impact on native birds that look for similar nest sites (holes in trees).

On the subject of ‘things that are green’ this Green Shield Bug (Palomena prasina) was impressive too:


We went to the wader scrape hide for a look at the Sand Martin bank, but getting a picture proved near-impossible:

SONY DSCRedshank and Common Tern were also spotted here:

SONY DSCWe followed the return loop back to the cafe, also clocking a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) singing high in the trees:


Near the cafe we caught a Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) cleaning up the debris, and ignoring the old rule about not talking with your mouth full:

SONY DSCAfter a decent lunch in the cafe we headed round the West route. This was dominated by the Red-backed Shrike, and that aside I took far fewer pictures of wild species here.

Water Vole and Blackcap were seen, but not snapped. There were some good opportunities to catch a very relaxed looking Tufted Duck:

SONY DSC SONY DSCAnd a mildly-surprised Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) with goslings:

SONY DSC SONY DSCFrom one of the hides we spied a magnificent Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea):

SONY DSCPlenty of birds had chicks with them, including Moorhen:

"Wow, my feet are huge!"

“Wow, my feet are huge!”



"What does my reflection tast of?"

“What does my reflection taste of?”

And Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis):


With that and a final look at the Shrike, we headed off for our bus back to the hotel. There was time to stop in the shop too, were I was tempted into buying the Helm Identification Guide for Tracks and Signs of Birds of Britain & Europe. At £24.99 it was a bargain, and for a good cause. It’ll be coming with my to Scotland tomorrow.

I’ve not mentioned every bird we saw, leaving out the likes of Reed Bunting, various gulls, swallows, Gadwall, Pochard and many common tits. I can highly recommend the reserve, it’s a fantastic visit.

Later today I’ll put the second part up, focusing on the birds and mammals they keep in captivity at the Centre.

This entry was posted in Amphibians, Birds, Mammals. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to WWT London Wetland Centre – Part 1 – Wild birds

  1. Pingback: WWT London Wetland Centre – Part 2 – Captive birds and otters | Why watch wildlife?

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.