Sunday, 17 November 2013

Bitterns, Voles and lots of ducks at the London Wetland Centre

Compared to yesterdays brilliant blue skies, today was very dull and cloudy. Even with the low cloud cover, it was still chilly. The lack of sun light made taking any photos very challenging today, but at least I got to catch up with some old birdy mates.
First stop was to search for the Bittern from the Headley Hide.  It was from this same hide back in February 2010 that I was privileged to get some fantastic photos and close up views, of one of the Bitterns (my favourite one is my banner photo on this blog).
 In anticipation I grabbed a comfortable seat, and scanned the reeds on my left, waited, scanned the reeds in front of me, waited, scanned all the reeds again, waited, and well I'm sure you get the picture. Joe joined me and we done it all again. Then a lady sitting by the right hand side windows called out she could see a Bittern, and she was right. He was all the way over the other side.
This is not a Bittern, but it was the only bird catching fish amongst the reeds on the left.
That brown thing in the middle of the photo, IS a Bittern, honestly.
I can hear Oscar D laughing from here :)
As was later explained by my old friend Oscar, an expert Bittern-whisperer, the water level is currently so high, that the Bitterns have ignored their old perches and are finding new favourite spots around the site. This was demonstrated by a Heron seen in the same area in the reeds on the left, that was up to its body in water. Also the fact the Cormorant I saw (above) was fishing there, gives an indication of how deep the water is. So getting a decent photo of the Bittern (there are reportedly two on site) was not going to happen today.
Else where on site, I saw several Green Woodpeckers.
And lots of Blackbirds. Some had all black beaks, which generally indicates
 they are European migratory birds.
European migratory Blackbird
Native Blackbird
The Egyptian Geese were loud today, and doing a lot of displaying.
Of course there were plenty of ducks around. There are great numbers of Mallards and Tufted Ducks, and some winter visitors are appearing too.
male Shoveler
male Teal
male and female Teals
resident Little Grebe
male Gadwall
male and female Wigeons
Outside the Dulverton Hide is a small established reed bed surrounded on all sides by pathways.
I glimpsed movement there as I walked passed, stopped and managed to grab a very poor photo through the reeds, of a lovely Water Vole. Sue B joined me soon after and while we were watching the rippling water hoping for another vole sighting, there was a loud noise from within the reeds.
 A Water Rail ! I've heard them do that 'pig squeal' noise before, but it was Sues first time. Despite walking around the reeds and scanning with our bins, we couldn't find it. However we did flush up a small chestnut brown coloured little bird, and after describing it to my birdy mates, we think it was probably a Cettis Warbler.
Little Water Vole
The bird feeder area was really busy. There were Great Tits, Blue Tits, Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Robins and a solitary Great Spotted Woodpecker. In the trees around the area there was also a large flock of Long-tailed Tits moving through. There were reports of Redpolls and Siskins on site today, but I wasn't lucky enough to see them.
Very poor photo of GSW on the feeders.
From the Peacock tower I took a couple of photos to show just how dreary the weather was.
The low cloud made it almost misty at times.

above, Headley Hide as seen from the Peacock Tower

and below, the Dulverton Hide, as seen from the Peacock Tower
So bird-wise, not quite what I was hoping for on this visit, but company-wise it was great to catch up with old friends. A few years ago I used to go to Barnes at least once a week, now I'm caught up with my local patches it's turned into once every couple of months. But its still nice to get a warm welcome from my birdy mates there, so thank you Philip, John, Therese, Joe, Oscar, Sue and Martin, and it was nice to briefly see Michael and Laurence the lizard man, again too. 

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