Thursday 5 March 2020

Birthday at LWC Barnes - 1st February 2020

  Whenever I'd celebrated my birthday in the past, though I hadn't really done much for a few years, I'd always turned to a group of school friends to go to the cinema or bowling etc. Now, having found a really good group of people from the wildlife community, outside of school, I thought meeting up at a London site may be a nice way to spend my first day as a 17yo. So on the 1st February, I met James McCulloch and Sian Mercer (who was so dedicated that she'd come down from Shropshire for the day!) at Clapham Junction station, from where we headed over to WWT Barnes to meet Kabir Kaul, Sam Levy and Megan McCleverty. 

    After getting Sam and James tickets, we waited as a group in the observatory of the wetland centre for Megan to arrive. Once she had, we started our slow stroll along the East Route; the first notable bird seen was a Peregrine distantly circling around Charing Cross Hospital, before we moved on towards the WWF Hide. There was no sign of a Bittern, but there were plenty of ducks such as Gadwall and Teal out on the main lake, as well as around 200 gulls. Our first look through these produced an adult Yellow-legged Gull; the group then took flight, returning a few minutes later with a few dozen more gulls. At this point, we got a massive piece of luck. A birder further down in the hide watched an adult Iceland Gull, a bird that had been spending the last few weeks in the area, land on the main gull island about 50 metres away on the main luck. He kindly pointed it out to us, and for the following 10 to 15 minutes we got some pretty good views of the bird out in the open. I managed to get a video of it as it swam about in the flock. Eventually, after settling down on the edge of the island, the gulls once again took flight. There are some pictures of the Iceland below with some useful ID of this stunning 'white-winger.' It was more or less the dream start, with it being a new bird for all of us.

3rd winter Herring Gull

an odd female Wigeon

   We then carried on to the Peacock Tower, where we were stopped multiple times by Cetti's Warblers and multiple ducks. From the Tower itself, we got about looking for Water Pipits, other waders and a Bittern. After failing with all of these for a while, we got lucky with a distant flyby from a Water Pipit at the back of the grazing marsh, whilst a second bird decided to head over to the main lake. Admittedly, the views were woeful and it was a tad disappointing that these were Sian's first 'Wapit' views, but it was still a very nice bird to see. Our main mission of finding a Jack Snipe, a bird that James still has somehow not seen (although I haven't seen one for several years either,) was not successful, although we did come across around 5 Snipe during our scanning. With a backing soundtrack of calling Eurasian Teal and whistling Wigeon (which have the best wintry bird call in my opinion,) it was time well spent in the hide. Just as we were about to leave, a call from the Wildside Hide had us all watch the adult Iceland Gull again as it left the Wildside Hide island and flew over the houses towards the Thames. Urban birding at its best...

Spot the white winger

Birthday lifer! 

ad Iceland Gull

Nicely shows why it's called a 'white-winger.' Quite a big bird, all white wings, pink legs, fairly long wings (primary projection passes tail as shown in other pics,) etc.

ad Iceland Gull wings

little flight

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull
Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Iceland Gull

Sam's awesome Iceland Gull image - I'd have been thrilled with this...

   Our walk back to the cafe for lunch was not without further stops at the Wader Scrape Hide (from where we saw nothing except tears of laughter as I opened some of my presents...) and the WWF Hide, where James happily took a break from the birding to marvel the brownies Megan had brought as a snack. Less proudly, I think it may have been the first time I'd been shushed whilst birding since I was 8! Our lunch was as fun as I expected it to be, and after plenty of hilarious moments we decided to move on to the other side of the reserve. With such strong winds, there was no chance that a Bittern would make an appearance, although 7 Mandarin Ducks and plenty of other ducks such as Gadwall showed nicely. We carried on to the Wildside Hide with time pushing us on, where a female Goldeneye was showing distantly on the Reservoir Lagoon (near the Thames.) In between constant dives, it's intense golden eye (funnily enough) really did stand out. Of course at this point, being me, I realised I'd left my bins (!!!) at the Headley Hide in the excitement of the day, leaving me to be ridiculed (deservedly...)

f Goldeneye coot-watching

Spot the Snipe - a nice pic by James using my camera

Common Gull

Tufted Duck

   Before we headed back to retrieve my bins, we got treated with some close views of a pair of Pintail that swam out in front of us, as well as a showy female Green Woodpecker (all black moustache-stripe show it's a female rather than a male which would have red) feeding on the ground. A final group of around 15 Snipe out hidden in the reeds, avoiding the blustery conditions, saw us out as we headed back towards the Wildside Hide. Once Sian had refound my bins, we made a dash for the Dulverton Hide in the hope that a Bittern may be found, without success. At this point, after a cheeky (terrible) group selfie by Sam, Megan sadly had to leave. However we carried on back to the Peacock Tower for around half an hour in the hope we may get lucky with something else. Other than the Wigeon and a few Stock Doves, there was very little on show.

f Green Woodpecker

f Green Woodpecker

f Green Woodie

m Pintail

pair Pintail

pair Pintail

    By 16:00, we had to leave as Sian had a train to catch to get back to Shropshire. It was without doubt the best birthday I'd ever had; in a time where I've been struggling at school or with my own hobbies, such as my stubborn ankle injury, I couldn't have asked for a better day to step back from work and enjoy birding with some of the best friends I've got. For me, birdwatching has become less about seeing/ticking a bird, but more about the social element as well. Thanks so much to all of them for coming and making the day as great as it was, and I look forward to heading out again soon when spring arrives properly :)

Birding towards late afternoon

Birthday Birding with these 5 legends!

Grazing Marsh - very high water levels

The best birthday party yet :)
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