Friday, 21 February 2014

Unplanned visit to the London Wetland Centre

I knew I wanted to get out and about today, but my shoulder was so painful last night that I decided to wait and see how I felt this morning, rather than make any plans that I might have had to cancel.
Once the codeine had kicked in, I decided to spend the afternoon at the London Wetland Centre, somewhat unwisely as not only had I forgotten it was school half term, I also forgot that Hammersmith Bridge is closed for maintenance.
The usual 283 'duck' bus is not allowed to go across the bridge but for some reason both the 72 and 209 are, so I hopped on one of them and got off at The Red Lion pub.
I don't mind seeing kids at the Wetland Centre, so long as they aren't running around the hides.
Sadly today that is what the majority of them were doing, so I spent a lot of my time dodging in and out of hides and trying to avoid the noisiest families (there were at least six families that were letting their children run riot).
At the feeder station by the Explore play ground, there used to be two hanging feeders next to two ground ones, but both hanging ones have now been put behind the ground ones, so not only do you have difficulty trying to see what birds are on the hanging feeders, getting a photo is near on impossible unless you shuffle to the left and try to grab a shot through reeds and branches. I managed to get just one poor shot of a Great Spotted Woodpecker before a couple of kids came running along screaming and shouting and spooked it off.
From the Peacock tower, I saw four distant Snipe, a good number of Widgeons, a few Shoveller, Teal and Gadwall, the usual Mallards, Moorhens and Coots, three Heron, lots of gulls, and finally a Bittern (thanks Maryann for spotting it). It was showing on and off, so I stayed put hoping it would maybe fly or climb higher up the reeds. It done neither, and below was the best photo I could get with my 300mm zoom lens.......
This was taken from the Peacock looking over to the WWF hide. The bird above was to the left of the hide, but another birder soon saw another Bittern in the reeds to the right of the WWF hide, and reports were coming in of another Bittern that was being seen in the reed bed directly opposite the Dulverton hide. So there are at least three Bitterns on site at the moment, with sightings of a possible fourth seen from the Headley hide.
By the time I got to the Headley the fourth Bittern had gone deep into the reeds, so I consoled myself with watching a pair of Cormorants.
I could have stayed there, sitting on a nice comfortable chair, for some time, but its an 'educational' hide now so several kids and their parents were coming in and talking loudly.
I took a slow walk back to the Peacock and came across a Great Crested Grebe in the channel outside. He was alone but looking quite magnificent. Crouched down low on the bridge I managed to get several shots as he got nearer and nearer.
I decided to take a chance for my last hour there. Knowing that there were two Bitterns in the reeds either side of the WWF hide, I perched myself in there, hoping I just MIGHT get a shot of one or both of them flying across the lake at roost time. Well it didn't happen, the warden came round just before dusk to lock up, and I had to leave.
My last photo is of a beast of a bird, a Black-backed gull that came into roost right in front of the WWF hide.
It was a fairly good few hours, and I apologise if I upset any parents with my comments about the kids. But at the end of the day the Wetland Centre should be a Nature Reserve first and a kids playground last. Not one adult apologised or tried to hush their screaming children today, no kids were told not to run around the hides, no kids were removed from the hides. It made for a bit of a trying day especially when you consider the WWT had put on special events for half term to keep the kids occupied, and has its own playground on site. So it's not the kids I blame, it's the parents.
It wasn't all bad though, I did get to see John, Michael and Maryann today, and saw three separate Burt Bitterns. 

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