Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Birding In The London Rain

I think I actually prefer going to the London Wetland Centre in the rain on summer weekends.

It's a guaranteed cheerful-banker whatever the weather but it's usually packed with young families enjoying picnics on sunny Sundays.

Nothing wrong with that, of course - we've been going with our two for years - but sometimes you just want to wander from hide to hide in a bit of peace and quiet and concentrate on the wildlife.

On Sunday I felt like I was the only person there. It rained steadily all afternoon - from the minute I left the house for the 15-minute cycle ride until the minute I got back looking like one of the Water Vole specialities - but all that did was keep the crowds away and dampen the noise of the Heathrow jets overhead.

Little Grebe
The whole place was green and glistening: it was invigorating to puddle past the mooching captive birds in the World Wetlands exhibits then along the summer route through the network of ponds, meadows and reedbeds in the Wildside part of the reserve.

Empty hides meant I could faff about trying and failing to get a decent photo of one of the dozens of F1-quick Swifts without disturbing anyone.

Then a soggy amble to the opposite end of the reserve gave me a chance for a solo sit to watch and snap the Sand Martins flying to and from their nests in the purpose-built sandbank: Sand Martins raising their young across the river from Craven Cottage - fantashtic, as Fulham's new Dutch manager Martin Jol might say.

Sand Martin
And all the time you're surrounded by dripping Grey Herons, Mallards, Parakeets, gulls, Lapwings, grebes, Moorhens, Coots and House Martins with plenty of time to hone in on the rarer visitors - a Green Sandpiper was among the highlights on Sunday.

The main downside of the rain was the lack of decent insects on the wing. The place is usually teeming with dragonflies and butterflies when the sun's out in June.

But there's always next weekend.

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