On the grey, mild and calm morning of Wednesday 6 December, thirteen members gathered in the car park of the Fox & Hounds, Sheffield Bottom, Sulhamstead before setting off to sample the birds on the adjacent Hosehill Lake Local Nature Reserve on a walk which was led by Ken and Sarah White. A good presence of Pochard, mostly males, was just as well, for apart from the odd Grey Heron there was not much on the water. Blackbirds and Song Thrush lurked in the scrub, and Great Spotted Woodpeckers “chipped” from the tree tops. We progressed westwards into Bottom Lane, and along the southern edge of Woolwich Green Lake; this had a lot of Coot – always a good indicator that there will be other interesting birds present. This proved to be the case with more than 20 Shoveler resting and roosting on the far side, and in between a spread of over 35 Wigeon feeding on floating aquatic vegetation, interspersed with Tufted Duck and the occasional Great Crested Grebe. A late-flowering Wild Angelica caught the eye on the ground while Goldcrest & Treecreeper flitted about overhead in the Alder trees.
We continued along Bottom Lane at the foot of a coppiced Ash & Hazel hangar, a perimeter of the Thames Valley Police Training College. Patches of Wood Spurge Euphorbia amygdaloides & Dryopteris sp. are the last vestiges of the ground cover as the now overgrown coppice has canopied overhead, with re-coppicing sadly long overdue. As we turned off the lane and headed north across the flood meadows, a cottage garden was full of Redwing and Fieldfare – all busy stripping off the red berries on a large mature Cotoneaster. As we watched a flock of 8 Egyptian Geese fly overhead, a distant Mistle Thrush was singing, Goldfinches adorned the tops of Alders feasting on the seeds, a female Sparrowhawk circled and glided off, and an occasional Red Kite flapped by.
Waxy red Guelder-rose berries were seen in the hedgerow beside the towpath of the Kennet and Avon Canal and the sun briefly shone through a break in the blanket cloud. The next source of interest was the second Bottom Lane gravel pit, the Fisherman’s Lake. Although it is now screened off by a sturdy wire fence, we still managed to find a good number of smartly plumaged Gadwall, and on the far side of the lake there was a trio of rather dapper Red-crested Pochard; 2 males with their ginger-coloured shaving–brush hairdos escorting a rather plainer plumaged female. Some late flowering Bramble Rubus fruticosa was of particular note on the way back, as were brief views of a Marsh Tit for the tail enders which rounded off a final tally of 47 bird species! A second Sparrowhawk, this time a male, rewarded the early arrivals back at the pub car park, overall a pretty good haul for a local morning stroll.
Report by Ken and Sarah White
Pictures by Ken White and Laurie Haseler