Weekend Field Trip, WWT London Wetland Centre, Sunday 17th March 2024

Group visits to this urban wetland are always popular, with a visit in mid-March offering the prospect of finding early migrants along with lingering winter wildfowl. Twenty-one members made the trip on a day that started damp with rain gradually giving way to sunshine.

Our first view of the reserve was from the Observatory overlooking Main Lake. From here we could see a range of wildfowl – Tufted Duck, Pochard, Mallard, Greylag Goose, Egyptian Goose, Gadwall, Shoveller, Moorhen, Coot – and on a muddy spit were Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Grey Heron and Cormorant. Just beyond the spit, a female Goldeneye could just be seen, briefly surfacing before abruptly diving.

Making our way outside to the West Route, we stopped to look at a pair of Ring-Necked Parakeets inspecting the brick nest boxes, intended for Swifts, set high in the walls of the Observatory. A Song Thrush, several Chiffchaffs, Great Tits, Blue Tits and a Cetti’s Warbler were seen and or heard on the way to the Headley Hide, which also overlooks Main Lake. Here we had a better view of the Goldeneye along with Stock Dove and Lesser Black-Backed Gull. Then on to the Wildside Hide where we added Wigeon, Teal, Great Crested Grebe, Mandarin Duck and Reed Bunting to our list before returning to the centre for lunch.

After lunch, we took the South Route, stopping briefly at the Dulverton Hide then quickly on to the WWF Hide where a Bittern had just been seen. Much scanning of the reed bed opposite the hide proved disappointing, as is often the case with Bittern where sometimes you are lucky but more often you are not. We did, however, find a Yellow-Legged Gull along with Herring and Common Gull. Moving on to the Peacock Tower, a Green Sandpiper could be seen moving quickly, picking up insects from the mud on the wader scrape. Less active were Snipe, easily overlooked but for diligent searching.

The return path took us to the Wader Scrape Hide where the Snipe were a little easier to see. As we were about to leave, a female Sparrowhawk flew onto a nearby wire fence, enabling close views and three Sand Martins, among the earliest of migrant birds, appeared over the Peacock Tower opposite.

Back at the reserve centre, a Grey Wagtail on the restaurant roof and a Kestrel flying over the car park, were seen by some, rounding off yet another good day trip to this wetland reserve.

Doug Burr