London Wetland Centre

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9 years 3 months ago #8277 by nkgray
nkgray created the topic: London Wetland Centre
Two weeks ago I visited the London Wetlands Centre in Barnes. This is an amazing place sitting next to the Thames, surrounded by suburban office and residential blocks, with Fulham FC’s Craven Cottage just across the river, and literally right beneath the Heathrow flight path. It combines natural wetland with wild waterfowl, artificial ponds with exotic waterfowl from all over the world and some natural woodland areas. It has several bird hides, one of which, the Peacock Tower, is three stories high and boasts a lift! Bird feeders are also placed at strategic points in the woodland to attract the resident species.

To find out more about the centre and to see what you are missing if you don’t spend a half-day there when you are next in London visit http://www.wwt.org.uk/centre/119/london_wetland_centre.html

Here are a few photos to give you a feel for the place.

Some to give you a feel for the proximity of urban development




one of the Peacock Tower bird hide


one to show that the centre is on the Heathrow flightpath!


and here is the artificially created Sand Martin breeding scheme. Each of the holes in the (artificial) bank (centre) leads into a breeding box inside - these are reminiscent of a bank of perspex post boxes, and can be viewed from the other side. Some 95 pairs of Sand Martin bred in the boxes this past summer.


Neil

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  • JGB
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9 years 3 months ago #8288 by JGB
JGB replied the topic:
That bird hide looks amazing!!!!

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  • Johan van Rensburg
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6 years 6 days ago #60722 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: London Wetland Centre
I just returned to South Africa after a visit to London... and, I am pleased to say that I also spent time at the infinitely commendable London Wetland Centre. To really appreciate this facility, one must understand that this is a wetland habitat designed and built from scratch. That makes you appreciate the vision of Sir Peter Scott, the man credited with inspiring a generation of conservationists to turn a disused reservoir into the bird haven it is today. But then, if you look at who the man was whose statue now stands at the entrance to the LWC, this achievement is not surprising at all: an Olympic yachtsman; a popular television presenter; a gliding champion; a painter of repute a naturalist; skipper in the Americas Cup; the son of a national hero (Robert Falcon Scott of the Antarctic who died there when Sir Peter was only 18 months old); the holder of the Distinguished Service Cross for gallantry; the founding chairman of WWF.

It is beyond belief to consider that the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and Thames Water in agreement with Berkeley Homes plc started design in 1985, refined the plan using landscape consultants, and came up with a basic layout that has not changed through the life of the project. Permission for a wetland reserve and visitor facilities covering 40 ha was granted in December 1991. The information brochure one gets at the information centre relates how much work had to be done after Barn Elms was decommissioned as reservoirs in 1994. To lower the water bodies 40 hectares of concrete edged reservoirs were broken up. In a huge recycling project this concrete was used in footpaths, ballast to protect wetland shorelines and to make an artificial deep water reef as a nursery ground for fish. Over 30 different wetlands were constructed, including the planting of over 300,000 aquatic plants and 27,000 trees. 600 metres of boardwalk and 3.4 kilometres of pathway were laid down. Six hides – including two and three-storey ones, 27 bridges and 27 water control sluices are provided, as well as the 2,500 square metre Peter Scott Visitor Centre and state-of-the-art interpretation throughout the site.

Today, as we see the world's natural wildlife areas disappear to make way for "basic human need", the importance of such land preservation projects for immutable nature conservation must be seen as shining examples to be duplicated all over the world as often as one can imagine if we are to pass on to our children a degree of the richness of wildlife we inherited from our parents, now diminishing ever so quickly.

So, now that I got that awe-struck note out of my system, let's get on with the actual experience! Neil enjoyed way better weather during his visit than I did... I just heard the aircraft flying overhead; I couldn't see any as heavy cloud cover also played a huge role in limiting my photographic successes. However, there are some shots that I will be able to doctor into acceptable quality and in a day or so I will be posting them.

I stayed in Barnes two kilometres away from the Wetland Centre’s main entrance. Being an early riser I arrived more than two hours before the official opening time of 09:30. I then spent my time along the banks of the Thames that borders the LWC on the northern side - annual scene of the world-famous Oxford / Cambridge rowing event, joined by scores of people out for a morning cycle / run, many with a dog or two to keep them company. The sights and sounds (and some birding) are fascinating and soon I found myself having to rush back to the LWC.

By now I had worked up a good appetite and the freshly prepared fare offered at the Centre's cafe hit that hollow spot like a diving Peregrine ramming into a dove!

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6 years 6 days ago #60728 by Doug
Doug replied the topic: London Wetland Centre
Might be visiting the UK next year. You make it sound well worth a visit.


---
I am here: http://maps.google.com/maps?ll=-26.001718,27.985300
Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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5 years 11 months ago #61500 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: London Wetland Centre
This eye-catching gazebo right at the entrance is one of many places where weary legs can be rested.

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5 years 11 months ago #61678 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: London Wetland Centre
It was overcast and November is probably not the best time of year to visit. The drizzle held off, but I had to do most of my photography with a flash extender to compensate for the poor light.

Somehow the flow of people tends to take one to the exibits of various wetland habitats and exotic waterfowl from different parts of the globe, collectively referred to as 'World Wetlands', rather than the wild side, where I actually wanted to go. All the exhibits are connected with safe, hard-surfaced paths throughout making this accessible for all.. I got some good shots of some of the many birds kept here. These colourful birds can get a photographer quite carried away... to the extent that you forget that you are visiting the centre with other birding priorities!



Coscoroba swans are native to southern South America. In the wild, they live an average of 7 years but can reach 20 years of age. In zoos, they can live up to 35 years.

In contrast to other species of swan, Coscoroba swans have a shorter neck and longer legs. Another feature that distinguishes Coscoroba swans from other species is that feathers cover their facial skin, instead of bare skin extending from the bill to the eye. This species also lacks the characteristic basal knob found on all other five species of swans.



The White-headed Duck is a small stiff-tailed duck that breeds in Spain and North Africa, with a larger population in western and central Asia. The bird shown here is female.

These birds dive and swim underwater. They are omnivorous, with vegetable matter predominating. They are reluctant to fly, preferring to swim for cover.

This duck is considered endangered due to a large reduction in populations in the last ten years. Most of this decline is due to habitat loss and hunting, but interbreeding of the Spanish population with the introduced Ruddy Duck is a more recent threat.



This is a male red-crested pochard. They dive, dabble and up-end for their food. There is a large population in Spain with smaller numbers in France, Netherlands and Germany - and occasional wild birds may come to the UK from the Continent. The UK breeding birds almost certainly all come from escaped birds.



The Ferruginous Duck is a medium-sized diving duck that comes from Eurasia. The species is known colloquially by birders as "Fudge Duck". They are migratory and winter in southern Eurasia and into north Africa. These are gregarious birds, forming large flocks in winter, often mixed with other diving ducks, such as Tufted Ducks and Pochards. This is a male bird.



The Hooded Merganser is the second smallest of the six living species of mergansers (only the Smew of Eurasia is smaller) and is the only one restricted to North America.

Although up to 44 Hooded Merganser eggs have been found in one nest, one female probably does not lay more than about 13. Larger clutches result when more than one female lays eggs in a nest.

The Hooded Merganser finds its prey underwater by sight. The merganser can actually change the refractive properties of its eyes to enhance its underwater vision. In addition, the nictitating membrane (third eyelid) is very transparent and probably acts to protect the eye during swimming, just like a pair of goggles.

The Bufflehead is the smallest diving duck in North America. The Bufflehead breeds in ponds and small lakes in Canada and winters in much of the United States. It nests in tree cavities as well as in nest boxes. This is a male bird.



The Common Eider, Somateria mollissima, is a large sea-duck that is distributed over the northern coasts of Europe, North America and eastern Siberia. It breeds in the Arctic and some northern temperate regions, but winters in temperate zones in the south, when it can form large flocks on coastal waters. It can fly at speeds up to 113 km/h.

The eider's nest is built close to the sea and is lined with the celebrated eiderdown, plucked from the female's breast. This soft and warm lining has long been harvested for filling pillows and quilts, but in more recent years has been largely replaced by down from domestic farm-geese and synthetic alternatives. Although eiderdown pillows or quilts are now a rarity, eiderdown harvesting continues and is sustainable, as it can be done after the ducklings leave the nest with no harm to the birds.

The brown bird is the female.

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5 years 11 months ago #61970 by Johan van Rensburg
Johan van Rensburg replied the topic: Re: London Wetland Centre
I have a handful more shots of exotics that I can post...



This is what the female hooded merganser looks like.



I understand that the Common Goldeneye is one of the last ducks to migrate south in fall from their summer range where they breed in northernmost portions of the U.S. north to Alaska. They are hardy and tollerant of cold nasty weather and will often winter as far north as open, ice-free water permits.

The wings of Common Goldeneyes produce a whistling sound in flight, leading to their nickname of "Whistler."

The oldest known Common Goldeneye in the wild was 18 years, 5 months old.



This is a young Common Goldeneye female. Female Goldeneyes tend to winter farther south than males.

After leaving the nest ducklings are unable to recognize their mother and will sometimes join the brood of another female.



The smew is a small compact diving duck that can be seen in the southern parts of England from December to March when they migrate to less severe climate during the Northern winter. This female smew, however, was part of the exotic exihibition at LWC. Its range covers most of northern Europe and Asia.



The Yellow-billed Pintail is looks a bit like our yellow-billed ducks. They are widespread across South America and is found in freshwater lakes, rivers, marshes, coastal lagoons, flooded meadows and on sheltered coasts where it feeds on seeds, roots, grasses, algae,aquatic plants, as well as aquatic invertebrates.

So, that is what I "shot" at the exotic section of the LWC. In spite of me kinda getting "lost" and my birding intentions being diverted, I enjoyed the mornings play with these very colourful exhibits.

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5 years 11 months ago #61974 by nkgray
nkgray replied the topic: Re: London Wetland Centre
Johan,

I'm glad someone else has discovered the charm of this birding gem just on Central London's doorstep - and for anyone else wishing to visit and worried about how to get there just check out London Transport on the Internet. A combination of "Tube" and bus drops you literally at the entrance to the centre.

I've now been here 8 times in the past 4 years, and at different times of year. Each time there is something new, as the exotic bird displays are changing continually. My last trip a few weeks ago added Ross's and Lesser White-fronted Goose, and American Black Duck. The Magpie Goose, Demoiselle and European Cranes, Australasian Shoveler and New Zealand Brown Teal have all moved on.

Lesser White-fronted Goose


Ross's Goose


American Black Duck



It's quite strange to see our own Southern African duck species as "exotics", yet I've managed better photos of some than back here in SA. Some SA birds like the Egyptian Goose and Little Egret have established themselves as stable breeding populations in the past few decades.

Cape Teal


Egyptian Goose - fighting males, each with a beakful of the other's feathers


For me the attraction is this mix of exotics and wild birds, with the changing seasons producing changing bird populations. Summer sees breeding Sand Martin, and winter a very good chance of Eurasian Bittern, while spring and autumn have numerous species of visiting or passage Arctic migrants. I've added UK lifers in Eurasian Bittern (winter), Sand Martin (summer), Coal Tit, Goldcrest (both all year), Fieldfare, Redwing and Smew (autumn/spring migrants), while walking the "Wildside" of the centre.

Feeders attract the smaller wild birds such as Great and Blue Tits, Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Chaffinch, as well as the unwanted Ring-necked Parakeet, Britain's newest declared "pest" - which ironically I still have not seen here at home.

Long-tailed Tit


Ring-necked Parakeet



So next time you are in London add an extra day. The £9.59 entrance fee is money well spent!

Neil

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