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London Calling


Being an old Clash fan, I've always wanted to have an excuse for a post tittle like this! And though Joe Strummer has left us now, I am sure he would have enjoyed the trails around this unique piece of habitat! The London Wetland Centre, owned and run by The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, is located close to our capital city, next to the River Thames and is renowned as being the best urban wildlife areas in Europe. Today was my second visit, the first being in 2003, when I visited with my birding and ringing friend Susan Frost. Luckily, the 26 mile drive went smoothly this morning, taking just 40 minutes from my home town of Woking. I would not want try it on a week day though....traffic!

Mandarin Duck
On arrival my first bird as I got of the car was Ring-necked Parakeet. These birds have now colonized many areas in the south-east of England. The entrance fee for an adult is £10.55, so for anyone living local or wanting multiple visits should just pay the £36.00 annual membership; which allows free entry everyday to all the WWT reserves. Good to join anyway, and support their great work. After ogling some of the native and not so native permanent residents, such as Red-breasted Goose, Brent Goose, Barnacle Goose, Hooded Merganser and Eider, I made my way around the Wildside area of the main lake. Moorhen and Coot were abundant and still feeding young. Other species such as Tufted Duck, Little Grebe and Grey Heron were also in good numbers. Some Mandarin Duck got me excited and though unlikely to be tickable at this location, I did get some really good looks.

Spotted Flycatcher
On a small trail between the Field Lab and the Wildside hide, I got my first year tick of the day: Cetti's Warbler. Its explosive and unique song chorused from the reeds and though I didn't see the bird, which is par for the course, I did get to listen for a good five minutes. My next tick of the day came about ten minutes later when I bumped into another birder who had just found a Spotted Flycatcher. We both watched for a while and located a second bird. With the decline of this species over the last ten years, any sighting is good but this was a great bird for the location. Once I had scanned and had my fill of the Wildside, I headed back toward the visitor centre and out around the east side. There is no loop trail, so once you have birded one side you need to back track. There are five hides around this side and I made a visit at each, finishing up at Peacock Tower which looks over both the Main Lake and Wader Scrape. Waders themselves were in short supply, with only Lapwing and Ruff being present. There was a good selection of gulls to look through with Black-headed Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull (year tick), Great Black-backed Gull and a single Yellow-legged Gull. Ducks seen from the hides included Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Mallard and Tufted Duck. My total for the site was 37 species, of which 3 were year ticks. All in all a pleasant mornings birding and I look forward to returning in the winter; in search of a Bittern!

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