When I retired to my bed last night after a great day out with the Barnes Birds at Rainham, my feet were aching, my knees were sore and I was shattered. I had made no concrete plans for today but I half wanted to get to Barnes (the London Wetland Centre) to catch up with some friends. When I woke up at 6am this morning, the weather was very overcast, and cold, and chilly. So, I thought to myself, I'll stay in today then. No point in going to Lake Farm either in this weather, I knew the Reed Buntings would be hunkered down in the hedgerow, and there wouldn't be a lot else around as the site is so exposed. Mulling over my first coffee of the day I had second thoughts and checked the sightings at Barnes. A solo Black-tailed Godwit was around plus Bearded Tits had been heard 'pinging'. Stay in or go out ? Stay in the warmth with cat cuddles and a good book, or go out, catch up with some old friends and maybe get a photo of Black-tailed Godwit, which I hadn't managed to get a decent photo of for a few months. The Godwit and old friends won. I got washed and dressed and layered up with my hat, snood and gloves and made my way to Barnes.
When I got there I found Philip, John, Therese (my old friends) and Joe were enjoying a cuppa in the cafe. Phillip volunteers at Barnes so if you ever visit on a Sunday, head for the Peacock Tower between 11am and 2pm and look out for the Guide in the Hide - that's our Phillip - feel free to give him some grief, he gets lonely up there sometimes hehehehehe.
I hadn't seen any of this crowd for some weeks, so after a brief catch up, John then told us about the good views of Brambling and Siskins he had seen at Warnham Nature Reserve a few days earlier. Ive not seen a Brambling this year, and Joe had never seen one, and so when John suggested we pop down there for a couple of hours, Joe and I nearly bit his hand off ! Godwit versus Brambling ? Sorry, no competition ! Poor Phillip had to stay behind to honour his volunteer duties, but John, Therese, Joe and I shot off without a guilty glance (sorry Phillip but you know how it is mate x)
It took just over an hour to get from the London Wetland Centre to Warnham Nature Reserve. And I was so glad I decided to go out this morning. What a wonderful place ! From the minute you park up, you can see the site has been very carefully managed and maintained.....not for humans, but for what matters, the wildlife. I've added a link to their website after my photos. All I can say is, after meeting several staff members and volunteers, this is a nature reserve that is purely built on dedication. The staff are well informed and more than happy to share their knowledge with you. Not one of them cut us short or tried to move on, they happily stood in the cold wind chatting to you, and pulled up a seat to chat to you inside the small but well equipped cafe, even though you could see they were obviously busy. I thought the staff at Rainham were great, but that's a managed RSPB site, Warnham depends almost entirely on donations. My £1 entry fee was very well spent !
The bird feeding area was definitely the high-light of my short visit. I really like the one at Rainham, I like to see natural wood being used in its setting but the Warnham one is spectacular. A hide stretches about 20 feet all around one side of the feeders. Lots of trees are incorporated withing the feeding area, so its a photographers dream. The birds perch on the trees and branches and log stumps before either going to the feeders or feeding on the floor. Because you're hidden by the hide, some of the birds are literally feeding on the floor just feet away from you.
This was just a flying visit, I don't think we were there longer than three hours. I had to be dragged away from the bird feeders to have a brief and quick stroll around some of the rest of the site. This is a place where you can easily spend a whole day, and still feel you've missed out on something.
The food in the cafe was delicious and very reasonably priced considering everything was made while you waited. The soup that John and Therese had, was home made and presented beautifully. Joe and I had paninis, and they came with enough salad and home made coleslaw, to ensure you didn't need a big dinner later that day.
Also in the cafe area are three enclosures containing Harvest mice. Two of them are for breeding, and one is for the youngsters before they are released back into the wild at a nearby farm. While we were there today, the staff were also busy setting up a webcam on a Herons nest, with a screen showing the nest in the cafe.
I really cant wait to go back there for a full day (or even two if I decide to stay overnight in nearby Horsham). Between John and the staff at Warnham, Ive been told where are the best places to see Treecreepers and Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, where the best dragonfly ponds are, where the Hobbys like to hunt in summer, where the best walks are around this beautiful site and I already know where to get a great cup of coffee and a decent warming meal. And the cake portions are so generous that one slice apparently feeds two !
So here are a few of my favourite photos from today. I got the Brambling and Siskin, and more.
|female Siskin and male Lesser Redpoll|
|male Redpoll in full plumage|
|Lesser Redpoll - female ?|
Brilliant day out even if it was short and sweet. Huge thanks to John for suggesting it, and using his own petrol to take us there, and refusing petrol money. Big thanks to Therese for making me laugh as always and being such great company. And congratulations Joe, on getting your first Brambling.