Monday, 3 January 2011

Bittern and more at London Wetland Centre WWT

Up to six Bitterns have been seen at the London Wetland Centre WWT recently. This bird lurked near the WWF hide.
When the children were younger we occasionally took them across town to the WWT's showcase centre at Barnes. This wasn't just a birding trip on my part poorly disguised as a family day out: it is a genuinely enjoyable place to take children, especially small ones. The journey, at least by car, is less fun, and it once lasted 1 hour 40 minutes to travel the relatively short distance to Barnes from Muswell Hill. Undeterred by that memory, today I took Ava, now aged 11, back to reacquaint her with the joys of the WWT. It proved a good move.

What I like about the London Wetland Centre is that it successfully combines opportunities to watch exciting birds in an urban environment with the up-close experiences that are so important in ensuring children get something from their visit. Collections are not everyone's cup ot tea, mine included, but short of acres more space (which is obviously impossible at Barnes) it's hard to see how they might be done better.

Ava was probably impressed most with the groups of Red-breasted Geese and the Common Eider in the first pen, and sketched a drake eider with more finesse than I've managed in years:

Drake Common Eider by Ava Mitchell, aged 11.
The artist at work in the Headley Hide.
But she also enjoyed the wild birds, from a distant but impressive Bittern watched from the Peacock Tower to numerous flocks of Tufted Ducks in front of the hides. We also saw c35 Eurasian Wigeon, a drake Pintail, small numbers of Shoveler and many more Eurasian Teal, a Water Rail swimming along the edge of a reedbed and about 10 Siskins in one of the alders. All this within's a very long stone's throw of central London.

This male Siskin was one of a flock of 10 at the London Wetland Centre ...

... and good views were had of females too.
Oh, and it took just 33 minutes to get there today. Note to self: time the next visit for a cold bank holiday when the roads are empty.

The London Wetland Centre WWT reserve, looking back from the Peacock Tower.

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