Guided Birding Walk at Walthamstow Wetlands – 3/2/2024

Last updated on: 04 February 2024   |    
A Kingfisher perched on a branch. (Graeme Hutchinson)
Kingfisher (Graeme Hutchinson)

A morning stroll around this urban nature reserve provided brilliant views of both a Peregrine and a Kingfisher, plus nesting Grey Herons as well as the expected ducks, geese and noisy Ring-necked Parakeets. In all we saw or heard 37 species.

Having met outside the Visitor Centre for this urban nature reserve managed by the London Wildlife Trust, we headed out to see what birdlife we could find. While the reserve is managed by the Wildlife Trust, the series of reservoirs are still owned by Thames Water and used to supply water to London.

Almost immediately, a Song Thrush was calling loudly from a tree to the right of the path, with a Greenfinch “wheezing” somewhere in the distance. However, before we could get on to either bird, the undulating flight of a Great Spotted Woodpecker heading for a closer tree distracted us. While not everyone managed to see it while it clung to the trunk, it obligingly circled round the group before flying off. The Song Thrush had meanwhile moved further back out of sight but continued to call.

Squawky Ring-necked Parakeets flew past and landed briefly on a post to our right before heading on their noisy way. We passed lots of Canada Geese feeding on a grassy bank to our right. They seemed oblivious (though of course they weren’t) appearing to ignore the Parakeets and us, not to mention the numerous cyclists and runners passing by.

A little further along, we were able to admire both Pochard and Tufted Duck on the reservoir to our left as well as several Mallard closer in by the edge. A Grey Heron landed in one of the trees behind where the ducks were swimming, the first of several we saw but more on that later. We also saw Mute Swans, two adults and a juvenile (still with quite a bit of grey in its feathers), presumably a cygnet from last year. A couple of Little Grebe were diving near the left end of the island but were too distant for good views.

Lots of Blue and Great Tits were calling from various bushes accompanied by the odd Chaffinch, Robin and Wren. From the hide near the Copper Mill Tower, we were able to add Shelduck and Cormorant to the day’s tally and a little further on a small flock of Long-tailed Tits passed us as we made our way along the path.

Continuing a little further, we were rewarded with one of the highlights of the day: a Peregrine perched in a dead tree. While it was some way off, the pale breast seemed to glow in the morning light and was visible to the naked eye. Looking through binoculars, and even more so through a scope, enabled us to really see the markings on the breast, not to mention the bright yellow bill and talons. We spent some time admiring the Peregrine but eventually had to drag ourselves away.

Peregrine (Graeme Hutchinson)
Peregrine (Graeme Hutchinson)

More Long-tailed Tits passed us busily feeding but our attention was drawn to a lone Egyptian Goose calling loudly from a dead tree on an island to our right. These geese are tree nesters, so while many of us are more used to seeing geese at ground level, an Egyptian Goose (or Mandarin Duck for the same reason) standing high up in a tree is perfectly normal.

Scanning through the tree tops we also saw at least two occupied Grey Heron nests. In at least one, two birds were visible, one standing guard and another hunkered down low in the nest. Herons (and egrets) are early nesters and late winter/early spring is in many ways the best time to view their nests – as spring progresses foliage tends to obscure the view.

Making our way back past the Visitor Centre, we crossed over the A503 (fortunately there’s a pedestrian crossing or we might have had a long wait) to look at the northern half of the reserve. More Tufted Duck were loafing on the water and behind them a Cormorant was perched on a low outcrop drying its wings.

Birding at Walthamstow Wetlands (James Aylward)
Birding at Walthamstow Wetlands (James Aylward)

This side of the reserve proved to be rather quiet, but we did see several Moorhen feeding in the shallow water near a weir. A little further on, having climbed up some steps to look at the highest reservoir, we were able to compare Black-headed Gull with the larger Common Gull. Before descending to begin retracing our steps, we also saw an immature Herring Gull perched on a buoy.

Making our way carefully down a steep path, we found three pairs of smart grey Gadwall. We saw little else of note, until just after the weir (with the Moorhen), where one of the group spotted a Kingfisher sitting on a fence on the far side of the stream.

Kingfisher (Graeme Hutchinson)
Kingfisher (Graeme Hutchinson)

The bird flew a little way to the left but then perched on some branches over the water, so everyone was able to see it. As it moved around, we were treated to excellent views of the bird from all angles: the lovely orange front, blue back with that bright “electric” blue stripe down the middle – stunning! If that wasn’t enough, we got to watch it fishing successfully (twice!). Being close enough to watch as it turned the fish in its bill, so that it could swallow them headfirst, was a great note to finish on.

Trip Summary

DestinationLWT Walthamstow Wetlands, Waltham Forest
DateSaturday, 3rd February 2024
WeatherOvercast, 12℃, Wind: 6mph WSW
No. of attendees18
LeaderJames Aylward
No. of bird species37
Species List
Black-headed Gull, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Cetti’s Warbler, Chaffinch, Common Gull, Coot, Cormorant, Egyptian Goose, Feral Pigeon, Gadwall, Goldfinch, Great Crested Grebe, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Greylag Goose, Herring Gull, Kingfisher, Little Grebe, Long-tailed Tit, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Peregrine, Pochard, Robin, Ring-necked Parakeet, Shelduck, Song Thrush, Starling, Tufted Duck, Woodpigeon, Wren.

Trip report by James Aylward

2 Comments

  1. Eamon Gorman on 9 February 2024 at 3:58 pm

    Hiya. Sounds great. Would love to join you if there are further events.

    • James Aylward on 11 February 2024 at 5:00 pm

      Hi Eamon, We do indeed have further trips coming up. See our Eventbrite page for details of all our currently published events. James

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