So here we are diving headlong into July and guess what? It’s still raining and is forecast to continue doing so for much of the next month. Given that I spend so much of my time outdoors this is starting to get beyond annoying and is turning into something of a farce. I know British summers are legendary for their unreliability when it comes to the weather, but seriously? It’s got to the point that I can barely sit still at work such is my yearning to be striding across some remote area of our countryside. At times like this drastic actions are called for, so on Sunday we headed all the way east to London’s WWT reserve. And it rained there too!
It’s not quite as bad as I make out as we did at least get a couple of breaks in the weather including the one above that rather handily coincided with our arrival. It was short lived however but there were plenty of hides to shelter in when the downpours came. Being the middle of summer (supposedly) the birds were pretty restricted in number and variety, but there was some nice quality on offer after a bit of hunting. Young Lapwings and three Common Tern chicks show just how quickly this site has become an important wildlife habitat, whilst a pair of Egyptian Geese were unexpected and probably have very suspect origins. They could fly though so they are going on my list. Over the pools there were plenty of Swifts, House Martins and Sand Martins with the occasional Sedge Warbler making an appearance, not to mention the overflying Ring-necked Parakeets that lend a hint of the exotic to this urban metropolis. All were repelled by the sight of my camera though until we found a family of Mute Swans. The parents were looking after five cygnets and I defy anyone to call them “ugly ducklings”.
Coot and Moorhen fledglings on the other hand almost look as if they were made for such a title. This is a face only a mother could love.
Grey Herons were very numerous which was nice to see after their marginalisation back home at the hands of Little Egrets. One youngster was particularly tame and was happy standing to attention mere feet away from the public. We chose a spot nearby to sit and eat our lunch, a decision which ended up having very unexpected consequences. Just as I was tucking into my apple (who am I kidding, it was an apple pie) a Water Vole popped out of some reeds and swam five meters or so before disappearing back into the undergrowth. I couldn’t believe it as it’s been years since I last saw one. Hopefully it will keep its distance from the Heron as I’d hate to be on the receiving end of that beak.
A little later and we witnessed an Eel that had fallen foul of another Grey Heron. Going on past experience I expected a longer battle between the two, but after a quick stab it was down the hatch in a matter of seconds.
Further signs of breeding could be seen all over the reserve with young Linnets, Robins, Great Tits, Blue Tits and even a Jay showing at various points. Even the main welcome centre was a hive of activity with Jackdaws nesting in light fittings, Feral Pigeons hanging perilously onto thatched roofs and this Starling chick poking its head out from a small gap in the brickwork. The parents were making regular visits with food and removed several faecal sacks whilst we watched, but I never did manage to catch one at the nest itself.
Back to the water and a pair of Great Crested Grebes were showing definite signs of mating. One of the birds in particular was acting aggressively towards everything in its vicinity, including us on a low bridge over the water. We got a few tantalising seconds of the mirroring dance display that this species is so famous for, but sadly that was all. If you visit over the next couple of days though you could be in for a real treat.
That pretty much wraps things up on the bird front but tomorrow I shall have a post covering a more reptilian aspect of the reserve. Stay tuned.