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24 May 2010

London Area Birds

I recently had a work trip to the London, UK area, and had about 2/3 of a day to get out and check the local wildlife. It was a generally successful day with 52 bird species seen, along with a handful of butterflies and a banded damoiselle.

First on the itinerary was Wraysbury, near London Heathrow airport. This spot has some wooded areas, sparser shrubs and grass areas, and a couple of large ponds. We spotted 32 species of birds, two butterflies (who would not stop for a photo), and a banded damoiselle:

Banded Damoiselle

One of the highlights of this stop was seeing a group of Red Kite fly by. Red Kites were nearly hunted to extirpation, but have been re-introduced to southern England and are quickly re-establishing themselves. This group was soaring very high, so photos were not exactly riveting.

Red Kite Flying

This Blue Tit was one of the more colorful birds at Wraysbury:

Blue Tit

The Blue Tit was typical of many of the passerines that were seen - very difficult to photograph either because they are so active (non-stop moving), or so well hidden.

There were a group of bird banders at Wraysbury collecting data and placing identification bands on birds. Here is a Common Whitethroat, which was probably the most common species of the day:

Common Whitethroat


And a Sedge Warbler:

Sedge Warbler

I was surprised to learn that much of this area has Ring-necked Parakeets breeding in the wild. Like Peach-faced Lovebirds in the Phoenix area, these are descendants of escaped birds, and form small gregarious flocks. Unfortunately, I didn't get any photos.

Next, we visited Staines Reservoir. There was quite a group of Black-headed Gulls at the Reservoir. Here is one fly-by gull:

Black-headed Gull

Tufted Duck, Shellduck, numerous Mute Swan, Pied Wagtail, Common Coot, and a few other species were also seen.

Last on the agenda was a trip to the London Wetlands Centre. This is a man-made habitat consisting of numerous interconnect ponds, wooded areas, and even a martin habitat.

The Lapwings loved the small islands around the ponds:

Lapwing

There were a handful of Great Tits in the shrubs nearby:

Great Tit

And a Long-tailed Tit:

Long-tailed Tit

The Grey Herons in England look a bit like the Great Blue Herons of the Americas:

Grey Heron
Grey Heron

There were numerous Moorhens around the wetlands. The Moorhen is the same as the Common Moorhen seen in the US, but for whatever reason these Moorhens seemed much more tame.

Common Moorhen

Unlike the Moorhen, which is the same species as seen in the USA, the Robin in Europe is totally different:
Robin

In the middle of the wetlands is a large observation tower. This made for a great spot to look for waders and other birds that tended to stay further away. Unfortunately, by mid afternoon the clouds were building up and it was beginning to sprinkle a bit. This combined with the distance made for some difficult photography. None-the-less, there were a few indentifiable photos:

Common Redshank:
Common Redshank

Pied Wagtail:

Pied Wagtail

Tufted Duck:
Tufted Duck

And on the way out of the preserve, this Jackdaw posed nicely:

Jackdaw

Thanks to Bill Haines for taking me to the above "hotspots".

For my quick trip I purchased the inexpensive Gooders Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Ireland (Field guides). I really liked its compact size and its month-by-month abundance chart for every species covered. I highly recommend this field guide for those planning some light to moderate birding in London, or anywhere in the UK.

For serious birding across Europe, the "Collins Bird Guide" is the most widely recommended. This field guide is available in the USA as Birds of Europe: Second Edition (Princeton Field Guides). It is much larger than the Gooders guide mentioned above, and covers the entire continent. Many consider this guide to be one of the top field guides in production today.

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