Sunday, 22 December 2013

Sunday at the London Wetland Centre with the Birthday Girl and special guests, Tom and Charlie

Today was Gina's Birthday, and after much discussion last night, we decided to spend it at the London Wetland Centre. We had to take into consideration several factors:
1) It was Gina's Birthday 
2) I was 'on call' from work 
3) It was Gina's Birthday 
4) the weather forecast was showers and sunshine 
5) It was Gina's Birthday
Why does Gina's Birthday warrant three mentions ? Because somewhere along the line today, a cheeky alcofrolic drinky had to be included. I also had the work mobile, so a location where I could sit and take notes had to be considered. And finally the weather forecast was showery but with some sunshine. Therefore by elimination, the London Wetland Centre with its hides to shelter in, the benches to sit on and the café to sneakily drink brandy in, was today's choice of venue.
There aren't many berry bushes at Barnes, and the few that we saw today were heavily guarded by Blackbirds. The one below was slowly and surely picking off his choice of the ripest ones.
Around the Lagoon Walk, we found a large flock of Goldfinches in pretty much the same place as we saw them last weekend.
You can tell it's been a mild wet few days, there was a nice little cluster of fungi growing on the bench by the Wader Scrape Hide. Not often you see that in December.
We had only just got onto the first floor of the Peacock Tower when someone called out 'peregrine'. A quick glance to my right and I caught sight of one swooping down low over the water in between the Peacock and Wader Scrape hides. Seconds later another one swooped up from one of the islands. They could be none other than Tom and Charlie, the Fulham and Barnes Peregrines. After last weekend of popping over to see them at their usual nesting site, this time they had come over to see me !! Or was it the Birthday Girl they wanted to surprise ?
 Any way it was all over in seconds. I managed to grab just eight hastily shot photos, and only three came out. After a quick text to Nathalie (Tom and Charlies 'mentor') to let her know where they were, I tried to work out who I had captured in my first photo. As it's a back shot, it's very hard to tell.
 I sent the photo to Nathalie when I got home and even she couldn't say for certain. But you can tell who is who in the second and third shots. Charlie is the majestic large bird on the right of both pics, with Tom on the left hand side.
Don't get me wrong, Tom is just as majestic as Charlie, but size wise, Charlie wins every time.
Also from the Peacock Tower we caught a very brief glimpse of a Water Rail along the reeds edge, and a very very distant view of a Bittern (well done Martin for spotting that Burt).
On the way back to the café there was a solitary male Shoveler in the pond by the bird feeders. There were great numbers of Shovelers all over the site today, but this one was on his own and soon flew off when I expressed too much interest in him.
After a rather nice lunch (LWC are finally offering jacket potatoes on their menu. About time !)
and a couple of cheeky sneaky large brandy and cokes, we went round to the Wildside.
The Birthday Girl and I have a long-standing joke about identifying gulls with all their various winter plumages, so it came as light relief when we straight away saw a couple of Lesser Black-backed amongst the Black-heads on one of the shingle islands viewable from the Wildside Hide.
And then on the other shingle island we found a Common Gull. Nice to get a size and leg colour comparison against the Black-heads.
On the flooded marshes there were three Herons. It's a crap photo but I just liked the way they looked like they were in some sort of conference.
In the heated Headley Hide there was no sign of any Bitterns, but a fishing Great Crested Grebe was pointed out to me.
A couple of Herons had an altercation, and as they chased each other a Carrion Crow
decided to join in......
There wasn't much else to see around the Wildside, and we had been told a Jack Snipe had been visible on and off from the Peacock Tower, so we decided to make the best of the last hour of daylight and trotted off round there.
Before we made it, my work phone rang and as we were near to the Wader Scrape hide, we dived in there so I could take some notes. Luckily it was empty, so while I sorted out the work issue, the Birthday Girl scanned the area and soon came up with not one, but two Common Snipe just on the edge of one of the flooded islands nearest to the hide. By this time, that side of the island was in shade, but I managed to grab a few shots before a dabbling Teal spooked the pair of Snipes and all three birds scarpered in different directions.
So all in all not a bad day. The weather held out and the only time it rained was when I was on the train coming home. We managed to get our alcofrolic drinks, mopped up by a reasonable lunch and, as always, had a good giggle, plus we saw some nice birds with the obvious stars being Tom and Charlie.
So Happy Birthday Gina. Cheers (says me, on my second glass of wine) and here's to many more.
P.S - other people of note seen today - Phillip, John, Joe, Martin, Michael, Burty, Nathalie, Maggie, Laurence and one of my blog followers, another John, and his lady friend (sorry I forgot your name !)
and a P.P.S from last weekend, I forgot to mention Gill K, a friend I've known for a few years via my Flickr account. Nice to see ya again :)

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