Sunday, 19 April 2015

WWT Barnes - 25th March, 2015

Weather: Sunny, blue skies. Heavy cloud later, with a light rain shower.

Bird Total: 59

Black-bellied Whistling Duck; Black Swan; Bufflehead; Canvasback; Chinese (Eastern) Spot-bill; Comb Duck; Falcated Duck; Fulvous Whistling Duck; Hooded Merganser; Lesser White-fronted Goose; Magpie Goose; Marbled Duck; Nene Goose; Northern Screamer; Patagonian Teal; Plumed Whistling Duck; Rajah Shelduck; Red-breasted Goose; Richardson's Canada Geese; Ringed Teal; White-faced Whistling Duck; White-winged Duck. Total: 22

Plus: Asian Short-clawed Otter; Grey Squirrel; Water Buffalo.

It was time for my, now, annual pilgrimage to Barnes. This time I had done my homework and avoided the summer. And this time I was accompanied by my good friend and fellow birder, Shane.

I had arrived about 10 minutes or so before opening and, whilst waiting for Shane to arrive, I managed to see several Ring-necked Parakeets, a speciality around the area; a wheezing Greenfinch and a Pied Wagtail, picking its' way over the rooftop.

Wood Duck
Just as the doors opened Shane arrived. Great timing! We entered and paid our fees, while also being informed that there were a few work parties around the Reserve.

That was bad news in itself but it was compounded by at least one Hide being closed and several trails cordoned off. The Summer trail was still closed and we also had to endure several large groups of toddling, noisy school parties.

Fulvous Whistling Duck
All fair enough, but the Reserve management could of at least put this up on their website. And maybe even allowed a 10% discount.....? We would certainly of visited another day had we known all this.

But, we were here and it was a day out and the sun was shining. Well, except for a few very dark clouds and spots of rain around lunchtime. And a little later in the afternoon. I must have a word with Carol and her BBC forecasts.

We decided to walk around the Northern route, encompassing the captive area first, while the sun was still out. The best thing about this place is the fact that you can get really close to some very rare and exotic birds you wouldn't normally see. Especially in this country.

First up were various Geese, including my favourites, the Red-breasted Goose. A pair of Bewick's Swans were close by and then we arrived at the first work party area. The trail here was closed while work was being carried out on the viewing platform.

But it didn't stop us getting some really good close up views of Goldeneye and Smew. Unfortunately, with the trail closed off, we couldn't get as near to the Mergansers; Buffleheads and Canvasbacks as we would have liked.

Then we paid our first visit of the day to the Otter Sanctuary. Only two Asian Short-clawed Otters are here now, the other pair having disappeared. Unfortunately, no one was at home so we moved on.

We stopped off at various areas, seeing plenty of overseas birds, most of which I had seen before, on earlier visits. But there were 2 species that I had never encountered before - Northern Screamers and Plumed Whistling Ducks.

We paid a quick visit around the Wildside area. This was where the Summer route was closed off. There was a helpful sign telling us that it would be open in the Summer.

This particular area comes in to its' own when the Dragonfly season starts. Today it was a little quiet, with only birdsong to accompany us. But we did see a few Chiffchaffs. And then Shane spotted a Sparrowhawk fly over and land in a distant tree. Unfortunately, it was a bit too distant for any decent photos.

We paid a quick visit to the Wildside Hide, one of two Hides in this part of the Reserve. From here we could take in the first views of the Grazing Marsh. The other Hide, the Headley, had one side curtained off, to protect a possible nesting site for a pair of Kingfishers. It was also being used for Schools, so we quickly moved on.

Ferruginous Duck
Parties of schoolchildren were everywhere around this side of the Reserve so, with a very dark rain-cloud approaching us, we decided to break for lunch before heading off around the Southern route.

Whilst eating our sandwiches outside the Cafe we were being slowly circled by various pigeons and starlings, waiting to pounce on any crumbs. But the surprise was a Moorhen, who must have been so hungry it was practically sitting in my lap.

The Pond Zone was for schools only today, while the Sustainable Gardens had looked better. Early in the year yet, I supposed. We also checked into a couple of Hides. But, looking out over the main lake, we didn't see a great deal.

The feeder area provided us with a good view of a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, in amongst all the Finches and Tits.

The dark cloud was still about so we headed for the Peacock Hide. A Black-tailed Godwit had arrived yesterday, together with sightings of Jack Snipe, so I was hopeful of seeing some Wader action today.

Unfortunately, the Godwit had moved on, but there was still a Jack Snipe out on the Grazing Marsh, somewhere. Whilst searching for it, I spotted 3 Redshank nearer in, on the Wader Scrape. There were a few Lapwing and Common Snipe out there as well.

The Hide was quite busy so we decided to move on to the Wader Scrape Hide to see if the Redshank would get closer. But, on arrival, we found that this was the Hide that was closed off, due to more work being carried out. A little frustrating.

From here we took a walk around the woodland area, seeing more Chiffchaff. Cetti's Warblers were being heard all around the Reserve, especially in this area.

Along here, by the trail, were large areas of grassland. It occurred to me that the Reserve could try and put this to good use, by maybe turning it into a wild flower zone. It would certainly look better than just grassy areas.

With not much else about and, still quite early, we decided to head back around the Northern route to check out the areas we had to bypass because of the work parties.

First up was another visit to the Otter area. This time, both Otters were out and about, providing some great entertainment. Surprisingly, there weren't very many other people here to watch.

There were also a few Wetlands of the World areas that were cordoned off earlier, that were now open. Most of the trees were in blossom now, especially Blackthorn and Hawthorn and there were more and more flowers starting to bloom. Daffodils of course, but Lesser Celandine, Primrose and Cowslips were all equally impressive.

Aircraft and Helicopters were continually flying overhead, making a right racket. A reminder of the fact that we were on the Heathrow flight-path.

Then Shane spotted something high in a tree. Looking through my Bins I could see that it was a Grey Squirrel. But it wasn't moving and seemed to have trapped its' neck by a fork in the branches. We feared that it was an ex-squirrel, bereft of life. But no, it started to wriggle free and moved off.

We double-backed and headed for the Visitor Centre. Surprisingly, we had only been here five hours, but my back ached and so I sat down for a breather. Shane spotted a pair of Ring-necked Parakeets in the tree near us and went to photograph them.

I joined him when I could see that there was some interaction between the birds. It looked, at first, like a love-in, but it was more likely that it was a transference of food. Especially as both were females. Mother feeding junior, most probably.

Shane decided to head home, to avoid the traffic and he very kindly gave me a lift back to the Station.

Lots of birds today, well over 80 species seen, with some new ones for me. Sadly, no butterflies and no lizards. Not even any Voles.

A better visit this year, but we gave it 6 out of 10, mainly for lack of information beforehand. It quickly lost another point when we discovered that we had to get a token to get the car out of the car-park.

'To a man, Birders are tall, slender, some bearded, so that they can stand motionless for hours, imitating kindly trees, as they watch for birds.' Gore Vidal