Dear Readers, it has been a difficult start to the year for several of my friends, including the person that is usually my buddy when we visit Walthamstow Wetlands. My friend is off looking after her mother, who is in her nineties, and is trying to sort out carers, finances, and all the many, many things that go with trying to look after someone you love when you normally live several hundred miles away. And so, this Saturday I went for a walk to see what was going on, but my heart goes out to my friend, and I hope that soon she’ll be back and we’ll be exploring together again.
You might not think that there’s much going on at this time of year, but just look at this board, showing recent sightings!
However, don’t get too excited because we saw none of these on this visit, though I was very pleased to see whatever chose to show itself.
First up were some very fine hazel catkins. I think the ones in the bottom photo look like little people, but maybe it’s just me.
Signs of spring are everywhere in spite of the gloom – I love the new growth on the weeping willow reflected in the reservoir.
And you can tell that it’s spring when the coots are getting antsy, and bobbing around like rather ferocious black shuttlecocks.
The gorse is in flower, as it usually is (isn’t the saying that when the gorse isn’t in flower, kissing’s out of fashion?)
And look at this tiny critter! It’s a little grebe (otherwise known as a dabchick), and it lives up to its name by being only about half as big as a tufted duck. I spoke to one of the London Wildlife Trust volunteers, and she said she thought this species was her favourite – so little and so determined. Here one minute and gone the next, they have been called ‘floating rabbits’ because in better photos than these, they have a fluffy tail.
The better-known great crested grebe was also about – these birds are such a success story, and are much commoner than they were when I was growing up in the 60s. Such elegant birds!
A pair of Egyptian geese were getting very over-excited, and defending their territory against all comers, including the much larger Canada geese. I
There was a female pochard…
and lots of tufted ducks, including this female…
and a tree full of cormorants…
and great tits were much in evidence, along with robins and blue tits and long-tailed tits and all manner of tiny birds.
I thought that this bird (please excuse the blurry photo) was a great egret (and in fact there was one on one of the islands, but it was keeping a low profile). However, the black beak means that it’s a little egret. It didn’t look all that little from where I was standing, but it’s hard to judge sometimes.
So there is a definite sense of life stirring and of the pace picking up. I wasn’t sure if this coot was gathering material for a nest, and neither did s/he – when s/he got to the side of the lake she dropped the leaves, picked them up and dropped them again, before having a half-hearted nibble.
I love the Wetlands at this time of year – there are interesting reflections everywhere, like this one of a willow with its new growth…
..or this one of the Coppermill building.
And here’s a visitor who probably isn’t very welcome. I love cats, but there’s a lot of vulnerable wildlife here. Hopefully this feline is just popping in for a look around.
I’ve been having one of those low weeks – winter feels never ending sometimes, we’re in the throes of year end at work and the news is as sombre as ever. But there is much to be said for getting out into nature in order to get some perspective.