Sunday, February 03, 2008

Trip to London - WWT & Musuems

We've been threatening to visit some Museums in London for absolute ages... and finally decided and booked a weekend down in the smoke, last weekend. We used airmiles to book a 3 star hotel near Baker Street, and got a small dusty room, but hey it didn't cost anything, with earplugs in it wasn't too noisy and it's well located for transport, etc.

We'd decided in advance that first thing Saturday we'd head down to the WWT reserve at Barnes, a nature reserve developed from some exhausted gravel pits. We could tell we were approaching the nature reserve as a Cormorant flew over the bus (the tube line being closed for engineering works). Seeing a Cormorant flying in London just makes you smile :)

In fact we did a lot of smiling. The reserve is an Oasis of life in a concrete desert, so you can't help but keep smiling. As we approached the reserve we heard a most unusual call and we really struggled to place it, that was until a small group of Ring-necked Parakeet flew out of the nearby trees and into the reserve.

On arrival we found out that quite by chance it was World Wetlands Day (http://www.wildlifetrusts.org/index.php?section=environment:water:world%20wetlands%20day). On entry, we checked out the captive birds. You can tell they're captive as most of them have half a wing missing, typically the left wing, so they can't fly away, that and most of them are on the wrong continent! There's a gate in the surrounding electric fence that leads to the 'wildside'. Almost immediately we came across a mixed group of Siskin and Mealy Redpoll, feeding in some trees. I was delighted as the light was excellent and we could get quite close, leading to what I believe are some quite decent pictures, this first a male Siskin:


















A female Siskin, feeding upside down:














This next photo illustrates the plumage differences between male and female very clearly:













As always click on any picture for a close-up view. Feeding with the Siskin was a small group of Mealy Redpoll, a bird we've seen much less frequently. This is a female:
















And here a male, showing the red 'cap' and breast plumage clearly:



















On and around the reserve waters were plenty of wildfowl and other birds including Mallard, Tufted Duck, Great Crested Grebe, Grey Herons, Great Cormorants, Lapwings, Moorhens and Coots. Also common were Shovelers, including this drake, photographed from one of the hides:











And this duck (I just clipped the tail unfortunately):














A Little Grebe, passed close in front:














As we reached the end of the 'Waterlife' section, having given up hope of seeing the Rose-ringed Parakeets close-up, we stopped at the feeding station, and lo-and-behold three of them, each on a nut feeder, I guess this is how they make it by in our inner cities?














We left the WWT reserve after a very enjoyable and pleasant morning, next time we're in London we'll make a point of heading over there again. The afternoon was spent in the British Museum, which was alright if you like that kind of thing. Sunday morning we went to the Natural History Museum, which was much more 'us', as was getting there at opening time. By the time we left at lunchtime it was absolutely heaving, so we were glad to escape.

The building itself is stunning both outside and in:

The exhibits are fascinating, especially the dinosaur section and the mammals, including the whales, huge animals! We definately preferred the Natural History museum, which I guess confirms us as Philistines :)

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