6 January 2013: A bird walk around the Peep-o-Day gravel pits

Leader: Mike Wilkins

The day was overcast, warm for the time of year, with little wind and good visibility. A group of 18 members met near the rugby grounds at the end of Lanbrick Way at 10.30 am. After outlining our route, our leader, Mike Wilkins, warned of possible flooding here and there. We first checked the 2 old gravel pits close to the Thames.

Typical of the time of year, small groups of wintering duck were seen with the help of 2 telescopes. Despite average visibility and distance we were able to identify parties of ‘diving duck’. About twelve pairs of Tufted duck and seven common Pochard, noting females were In the minority, usual for our region. Dabbling duck included a few Mallard and ten pairs of Gadwall, the males, dull grey with black under tails.

Cormorants and a heron could be seen some cormorants with wings outstretched, in a tall tree, and we watched a pair of Great crested grebe beginning to display despite the female being in winter plumage. We also noted Canada geese, coot, and a kingfisher.
The small sewage works next to the local playing fields emphasised that small birds particularly those with thin bills often winter close to sewage farms where flies and other invertebrates are available on warm winter day. Goldcrest and Chiffchaffs, the latter are mainly early summer visitors, were hard to see but Robins, Pied Wagtails, a female Reed Bunting and a Hedge sparrow were easier to see skulking in the local hedges.
Our walk continued along the lane with other small birds. Chaffinches, a long-tailed tit flock and a wren rehearsing his song stimulated by two local robins.

The fields of rushes were well flooded. These supported good numbers of Teal, always communicating and active. Swans with cygnets born last year were taking advantage of the flooded marshes.
Our circular walk through old lanes and wet fields was enjoyed by all despite ankle deep muddy fields . Two small herds of Roe deer and a grey squirrel were the only mammals seen, but the two hour walk was full of interest and our leader Mike Wilkins anticipated much of what we would see, filling in background information when needed.

Dudley Iles