Saturday, 25 January 2014

Who said birding in west London was boring.......

A friend from the Sussex county recently asked if I could show him the resident Tawny Owls at Kensington Gardens, so I decided to invite him up and show him some of the other sites in the area too. Sue happily joined us, and with the initial weather forecast promising some sun later on, it looked as if it could be a great day. It was, but I didn't know the Hammersmith Bridge was going to be closed, and the weather forecast was slightly off key.
However we started the morning off at Kensington Gardens. We were there long enough to see the usual suspects, including this Squirrel who was busily collecting up dead leaves.
The male Tawny was on his usual balcony watching the comings and goings around him. Sue and I had seen him before, but Glenn had never seen a Tawny, so even if the rest of the day was in vain, at least one of us got a 'lifer' today.
As always, lots of Blue and Great Tits and Robins were around, happy to fly down to take some tasty hand fed morsel.
We didn't stay long, the next site I wanted to show Glenn and Sue was the London Wetland Centre. We planned on staying there for several hours before going on to the last site of the day. However, our plans changed slightly when we discovered the Hammersmith bridge was closed for maintenance. It meant quite a lengthy diversion around Chiswick, to eventually get us to the LWC.
First bird we saw was the commonly seen Ring-necked Parakeet. Common for us Londoners, but not so for Glenn from Sussex, where the RNPs haven't quite reached that county yet. But they will.
We also bumped into some of the LWC regulars, John, Martin and Michael and walked with them to the best hide on the site. All the usual ducks were visible from the Peacock Tower, including the snoozing Teal and Gadwall pair below.
Apparently we had not long missed a Peregrine having a bath by one of the shingle islands. A lot of the ducks were still spooked, and at one point the Wigeon, Moorhens and Coot below, ran for the water. What they had seen or sensed, was anybodys guess. We couldn't see any birds of prey anywhere.
From the Peacock Tower we also had distant views of one of the Bitterns. There are at least two on site now, possibly more, and they have been showing well. Today they weren't and we had to make do with viewing them through a scope, but at least it was a 'tick' for the days birding. Common Snipe were also seen through scopes, but no sign of the long staying Jack Snipe while we were in the hide.
In the channel outside of the Peacock, we got some nice close up views of a Little Grebe.
And from the WWF and Dulverton hides we watched two Shelducks and a mixture of Lesser Black-backed, juvenile Herring, Common and Black-headed gulls.
As always, Lapwing were numerous, and hunkered down in the chilly wind that had set in.
Another Little Grebe was fishing near the reeds.........
and a beautiful Mute Swan was preening and stretching.
On the walk up to the Headley Hide, a small flock of Long-tailed Tits were acrobatically feeding in the conifers by the Lodge.
From the Headley Hide we watched all the Lapwings suddenly take flight. A Sparrowhawk had spooked them and flew directly into the flying flock. I just wasn't quick enough with my camera, and the only two shots I got were taken through double glass windows. The flock and the hawk soon disappeared from view, so I have no idea if any of the Lapwings was caught.
A pair of wild Tufted Ducks were mixing with some of the captive ducks in the World Wetlands section.
From the Wildside hide, there were a pair of Greylag Geese......
a preening Teal.......
 a washing Wigeon........
and a pair of Shovelers. Bottoms up !
Back at the café we had a quick bite to eat whilst being watched greedily by a couple of Woodpigeons and Jackdaws.
And then we made our way to the last site of the day. The infamous Peregrines at Charring Cross Hospital. Followers of my blog will know how much I love seeing the resident pair, Tom and Charlie. They never fail to make me feel so blessed. We met up with Nathalie (the Peregrines 'Godmother' for want of a better word !) and although Charlie was in situ, we had to wait a while to see Tom. The weather forecast for this time of day, had said it was going to be chilly but with blue skies. Well it wasn't. Big black clouds rolled over us, and you could tell there was a storm coming. There were a few Redwings flitting around our vantage point in the cemetery, and eventually Tom showed up. No great photos of them today. The sky was getting darker and darker, but it was still nice to show the Peres to Sue and Glenn.
Photo of Charlie below with her 'skirts' all ruffled.....
and a very poor silhouette shot of Tom coming in to land.....
We parted company after this. Nathalie made her way home, Glenn got in his car to drive back down to Sussex, and Sue and I made our way back to the tube station for the short trip home. As we got on the train, the heavens literally opened. Heavy rain and lightening. We were lucky not to get caught outside in it.
So not a bad day out racing around west London, and hampered only by the bridge closure and the un-forecast weather. It was great to meet Glenn and show him the Kensington Garden Tawny owl, and I hope when he takes his sons up there, the bird shows as well for them as it did for us. As always, Sue was great company, it was a bonus seeing John, Martin and Michael, and it was lovely to catch up with Nathalie. Good day all round. 

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