Barnes & Chelsea
Sunday, May 20, 2012: Even though I was up by 6, I got a fairly late start today. There was a reason for this. My first location would not be open until 9:30.
London Wetland Centre at Barnes
I walked over to the Edgware Road tube station at about 8:45. I took the westbound Hammersmith and City line to Hammersmith. I walked across the street to the bus station and found my way to stand K, where the 283 bus is based. This bus takes you to the Wetland Center itself, but only if it is open. My timing was perfect, and I got the first bus that actually goes to the wetlands.
The 283 bus is a single-decker bus, unlike some of the other lines there. This may be because it crosses the Hammersmith Bridge, which has a low weight limit (also true of the Albert Bridge). Yesterday, on the boat to Kew, we saw that the piers of one of these now tilt the wrong way due to subsidence, and heard how heavy traffic on it used to make the deck dangerously low for boat traffic. Even with the weight limits, there can be problems for the boats at high tide.
The wetlands are on an old reservoir site. Peter Scott, son of the polar explorer, was the leader in getting the old reservoir turned into a nice wetland area. He is apparently also responsible for the fact that they have a waterfowl collection, something that is a bit unusual in a prime birding location.
One of the docets described some of the more interesting places to go. I was particularly interested in the fact that Cetti's Warbler is found there, and she described its behavior a bit. I started by scanning from the central observatory area, and then headed out along the south route. Pretty soon I had added Northern Lapwing to my UK list. There were a number of them around. Common House-Martin was also in evidence, and also new for the UK.
I got good looks at Eurasian Reed-Warbler and Reed Bunting. A feeder complex yielded Jay, Great and Blue Tits, and Chaffinch. They have nesting Bank Swallows (Sand Martins) there, and a nest cam that lets you see the chicks. That was new for my UK list, as were Gadwall and Common Shelduck. In fact, I had seen Gadwall yesterday in Hyde Park, but was unsure about its status there (wild or not?). At the London Wetland Center, there was no question.
I noticed a interesting song. Listening to a recording through earbuds revealed this was the hoped for Cetti's Warbler. However, it moved around a lot and other than a glimpse in flight, I could not get a look at it. I ended up continuing to the Peacock observation tower (no peacocks there). From it I added Common Redshank and Barn Swallow to my UK list. There's a great view of this portion of the wetland complex.
I started returning by another trail, when I heard the Cetti's again. I doubled back, but again got only glimpses. My second pass through the area didn't turn it up. I heard it call again. It usually gives only one or two phrases, then shuts up and flies. By now I was getting better at tracking it and guessing where it would go. Finally, I got in the right position, and it flew into the shrubs next to me. I got only a couple of short looks, but was glad to finally see the Cetti's Warbler. This was particularly good as it is a new bird family for me (Cettiidae).
I returned to the center and headed out the west path. The waterfowl collection was more interesting than expected. I also noticed that a lot of Tufted Ducks and Mallards were hanging out there. I heard, but did not see, another Cetti's Warbler.
Returning to the center again, I had lunch, and then caught the bus back to Hammersmith. Rather than returning to the hotel, I took the District Line to Sloane Square in Chelsea. One guidebook described a 4-mile walk through Chelsea and Battersea Park, and I started following the directions.
I very quickly found I would have to improvise a bit. The Chelsea Flower Show uses the grounds of the Royal Hospital, and access to their gardens was cut off. I continued on past the hospital and cut over to the Chelsea Embankment as soon as possible (not very soon). Then I walked back toward the Chelsea Bridge, where I would rejoin the recommended path.
Battersea Park is on the other side, and extends all of the way to the Albert Bridge. The recommended path went to the Pagoda, then away from the river, returning after going through another garden. After crossing the Albert Bridge (back to Chelsea), I followed a circuitous path through the maze of side streets. I'm glad the guidebook had a good map. I finally came out on King's Road, and walked it back to Sloane Square. From there, I caught a Circle Line train to Edgware Road.
I found 46 species today, including 1 lifer. That brings my trip total to 190, including 112 lifers. I also added seven additional species to my UK list, plus the Cetti's Warbler.
Hilton London Metropole, London, England