Field Event Reports

Sunday 8 January: Birdwatching walk at Radley lakes

There was a happy group of members and visitors

Leaders: Graham Bateman, David Guyoncourt, Hugh Summers; Abingdon Naturalists' Society

While the weather forecast had predicted a dull, but dry day, the morning dawned with heavy mist and persistent heavy drizzle. The planned walk therefore looked somewhat doubtful. However, a hardy group of 16 individuals assembled around 10am at the eastern end of Barton Lane, Abingdon. Pleasingly there were eight visitors in the group, including two children. The heavy drizzle also abated and there was only one short burst of rain on the walk.

Conditions were wet and slippery underfoot, which determined the route we took. The walk started up the Sustrans track and proceeded to the western side of Thrupp Lake and took a clockwise route around the Lake, back onto the Sustrans track. Most walkers then went back down the Sustrans to the cars, but a couple of people diverted on a short visit to Orchard Lake, the muddiest part of the walk. There were frequent stops on the walk to observe the wildlife and some of the visitors who had not been to the area before benefited as we chatted from the local knowledge of the natural history and history of the site.

Bird life on the first part of the walk was slim, with ubiquitous Robins and Blackbirds being the most obvious. On approaching the Lake, we discovered it was still cloaked in mist, so initially views of the water birds were somewhat restricted. However, this soon cleared and better views were available. We watched Cormorants fishing and sitting in the trees on the islands with wings spread, trying to dry out. Waterfowl were numerous with plenty of Mallard, Tufted Ducks and Gadwall - we later found out from Ben Carpenter (see later) that there were over 150 Gadwall on the Lake, possibly a record. Coot were numerous with some Moorhen, while Blackheaded Gulls continually swooped around the Lake making their harsh 'kree-aaa' calls (a few Herring Gulls were present and unusually a small raft of Lesser-Blackbacked Gulls). Less numerous wildfowl were a healthy number of Widgeon, a few Teal, a couple of Shoveler and a solitary Pochard. There were six or so Mute Swans around, but only a solitary Canada Goose was seen and no Greylags - obviously off feeding in the fields and on the Thames (later that afternoon I saw large V-formation flocks of honking geese passing over Barton Fields seemingly heading for the Lakes). A few of the walkers were lucky enough to see Kingfishers darting across the lake in a flash.

Perhaps the highlight of the trip occurred as we approached the board walk in the northwestern corner of the Lake. A Grey Heron was sitting on the edge of the water, which we first observed through the trees so as not to disturb it. However, as we walked onto the board walk it did not fly away as expected and indeed allowed approach to within a few feet, finally allowing all 16 of us to walk right past it without moving. It was certainly a young bird (it lacked the conspicuous black crown of adults) and looked distinctly 'unwell'. But some excellent photos were taken. Other adult Herons were seen skulking around the Lake.

One of our 'young naturalists', Tao Degroot, discovered the leg and foot of a bird and spent much of the walk eagerly clutching it to take home. The opinion was that this greenish specimen was that of a Moorhen, although Tao hoped it might be that of the much rarer Water Rail. At the 'Sandalls' house we met up with Ben Carpenter (local Naturalist and well known to AbNats as our guide on Bat Walks) who was doing his weekly count of birds on the Lake. Tao eagerly asked him if he could confirm what 'his' leg belonged to and Ben confirmed a Moorhen. Ben then explained to laughter of the group that the scientific name of the Moorhen indeed meant 'small hen or chicken' (Gallinula) with 'green legs' (chloropus), a precise description of this disembodied leg. Ben also told us that the female Goosander that had been around for a week or so was still present - unfortunately despite detailed scanning we could not find it. Orchard Lake yielded Mute Swan, Moorhen, Coot and several Shoveler.

Throughout the walk David Guyoncourt looked out for fungi of which 11 were identified, all found on logs and twigs around the W & N sides of Thrupp Lake - good count for this time of year.

In all, the walk was successful, yielding a good count of birds, and everyone departed content and particularly pleased we did not get soaking wet as seemed possible at the start.

For the record, a later visit to Barton Fields in the afternoon yielded Blue, Great and Longtailed Tits, Geenfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Wood Pigeon and Pheasant around the bird feeders at the eastern end, Song Thrush on the Meadow and Bullfinch in their favourite 'cherry tree' at the western end.

Bird species seen:
Blackbird, Wren, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Longtailed Tit, Kingfisher, Robin, Dunnock, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blackheaded Gull, Herring Gull, Lesser Blackbacked Gull, Wood Pigeon, Jay (h), Carrion Crow, Magpie, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Moorhen, Coot, Great-Crested Grebe, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Widgeon, Teal, Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall.
Fungi identified:
Flammulina velutipes (Velvet Shank), Crepidotus variabilis? (an Oysterling), Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster Mushroom), Nectria cinnabarina (Coral Spot), Postia subcaesia? (Blueing bracket?), Ganoderma australe (Southern Bracket), Daedaleopsis confragosa (Blushing Bracket), Stereum hirsutum (Hairy Curtain Crust), Xylaria hypoxylon (Candle-snuff Fungus), Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail), Ascocoryne sarcoides (Purple Jelly Discs).
AbNats Attendeees:
Chris & Bridget Biggs, Eleanor Dangerfield, Penny & Dudley Iles, David Guyoncourt, Graham Bateman, Hugh Summers.
Suzanne & Donald Dalton, Jaco & Elena Degroot + children Anna & Tao, Jonathan & Jack Noel.

16 in total.

style=The Heron was not really disturbed by our groupThere were several Gadwall on the lake

There was a good group of members and visitorsThe Heron was very co-operativeThere was plenty to see on Thrupp Lake

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