On the friday we went to Hyde Park. Having never been, I didn't know what to expect, but it was pretty nice. Parts of it were typical London park, with massive swathes of amenity grassland scattered with London Plane and other parkland trees. However there were a few other interesting areas, including the lake, patches of scrub and woodland and areas of mature oaks and horse chestnuts amongst rough grassland.
Almost immediately on arrival I heard the unmistakeable call of the Ring-necked Parakeet. This was quite exciting at first as you don't get many up here, and London is noted for them, but by the end of the day they were almost as common as the Pigeons and Squirrels, and a bit annoying!!! Not a problem though, they are wonderful birds and it is still exciting to see them in such a strange setting. Parrots aside, there was actually a good range of birds to be seen on the park. Common garden birds were present such as blackbirds, robins and hordes of Blue and Great Tits. I even managed to get a Coal Tit while we were picnicing, only my 3rd this year. Walking towards the lake presented more birds, with flocks of Goldfinch and Starling in the trees behind the cafe, and my first Bumblebee of the year was seen flying amongst the crocuses and snowdrops. On the lake itself there were lots of tame(ish) wildfowl, with geese swans and black headed gull making up the majority but further out were several Common Gull and hidden around the island, a few Pochard, Gadwall and Red-crested Pochard.
The path on the northern bank of the lake eventually passes through rough grassland, with scrubby woodland on the lakebank side of the path. This habitat continues round the other side into Kensington Gardens. This seemed more like typical parkland I'm used to with many mature oaks and other trees attracting quite a lot of wildlife. Mistle thrush, Nuthatch and Greenfinch were soon added to the list. There were small flocks of parakeets calling loudly from every group of trees. A Blackbird provided entertainment for walkers heading towards the Albert memorial, having a bath in a puddle where paths made a crossroads, showing no regard to the passing humans whatsoever. A similar habitat existed to the north of the park, where we added Jay and Great Spotted Woodpecker to the list. Its amazing to see such species in central London! On the way back, retracing our steps from earlier, we were treated to close views of a Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Redwing, one of each species, feeding close together, before being disturbed by a dog walker. grr.
I was quite impressed then, by Hyde park. For a park so close to the centre of london, its amazing how long you can go without bumping into someone else, and even at its busiest it wasn't too bad. The mix of habitats was nice and made for a nice walk, and i clocked up a respectable list of 38 bird species.
After a pleasant evening of food, theatre and beer, we woke up at our hotel and went for a massive veggie fry-up, before making the journey across the Capital to Barnes to visit the London Wetland Centre. I've wanted to visit this reserve for a long time, so was quite excited as we walked down the south bank of the Thames, even though it was beginning to rain. Parrots greeted us, welcoming us into the attractive entrance to the reserve with several ponds leading up to the front door (complete with coots, tufties and shovelers!). We had a look in the observatory, which was a little bit weird, a bit like a leisure centre, but quite impressive. The views across the reserve were magnificent and one can see the birds using the water from the comfort of a heated building. From here there were quite a lot of commoner wildfowl and several Lapwing, but everything else of interest seemed to be a bit further away.
We left the visitor centre and made our way towards the hides overlooking the rest of the reserve. Along the way there were quite a lot of interesting features, but these weren't so impressive on a cold wet winters day, a return summer visit i am sure would be much more exciting. There didn't seem to be much in terms of songbirds or anything else but parrots along the paths, making it not really seem like a nature reserve, but I suppose it is a restored reservoir, so i can't really expect too much.
This opinion differs once you enter the hides however, as there is plenty of wetland habitats to have a look at, and the amount of waterbirds is incredible when you think that you are half an hours tube ride from King's Cross! The view from the first hide revealed several small islands and a little reed fringe to the right. From here we saw several Teal, lots of Tufted Ducks and quite a few Lapwing, some at relatively close range. While scanning the fringes of the islands, I came across a Snipe, which was preening near the water's edge. This was exciting, but not as exciting as the BITTERN that flew by when I was trying to point the Snipe out to Michelle. It must have been in the reed fringe, and flew briskly across the front of the hide, before flying over the main lake towards the distant reedbeds, being mobbed by gulls as it went. This is the first Bittern I've seen since early 2011, as so many times they have eluded me in Notts, so it was a fantastic sighting. I think this speaks volumes for the efforts of WWT, that within spitting distance (maybe) of fulham FC, you can see such elusive wetland birds such as Snipe and Bittern. pretty amazing really!
We then took a soggy walk across to the Peacock Tower hide, a three floored octagonal hide, and headed straight upstairs. The sightings book said there'd been birds such as Hobby, Dodo and other such things seen, but obviously didn't see any of these. However there were loads of wildfowl, which is fitting, including near to 100 Teal, dabbling and grazing on the flooded marsh. Several small flocks of Wigeon were seen to be grazing too and there were also some shovelers and Gadwall about too. Obviously these lagoons aren't too deep as there weren't any deep divers such as Pochard or sawbills. 2 more Snipe were seen on the marsh, but despite scanning for some time, there were no other waders sadly. To top the day off however, one of the species I was hoping to see flew in to join the teal, 4 Pintail!!! These are birds which again seem to constantly elude me in Nottinghamshire, and i've only ever seen them once, asleep, at Frampton Marsh a couple of years ago. These however were awake and showed extremely well, so i was extremely happy to see them in all their glory.
Before leaving we enjoyed a very tasty bit of cake in the cafe, and then had a wander round the captive wildfowl enclosures. This was good but the light was failing and I was near-frozen. A return visit is needed i think! 33 species were seen today but on a better day i'm sure 50 would not be impossible! I think it was just over 50 species for the whole weekend. Not bad at all to say i didn't go out of transport zone 2!!!