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:
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.
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:
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:
The Lapwing took to dive-bombing the Coot (Fulica atra), who stood his ground and kept coming back for more:
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:
We weren’t without the other medium-sized green bird though, and soon saw a Ring-necked Parakeet (Psittacula krameri) too:
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:
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:
After 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:
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.