Sunday 26th November 2017 saw the first of our Society winter walks. 15 hardy souls braved the icy winds at North Willen Lake and were well rewarded.
We met at the Willen Pavilion car park on the west shore of the lake and began by looking at the veteran ash tree near the lake edge. Martin Kincaid explained how The Parks Trust has managed the decline of this tree and the recent discovery of bats roosting in it.
We then walked clockwise around the lake, stopping at times to look at the many species of duck among the huge group of coots (cootarium!) on the water. A single female Scaup, among a group of Tufted Ducks, was probably the pick, with good numbers of Teal, Mallard, Wigeon and Gadwall also spotted. We also found some nice specimens of the fungus Clitocybe geotropa on the grassy banks. When we reached the Flood Control structure, Mark Strutton shared his experiences of seeing otters here on several occasions in 2016. The animals are still active here and we were able to pick out a track from the lake edge, across the redway and down to the River Ouzel where we also found several piles of otter spraint and a slide down into the river!
At the bridge between the north and south lakes, we added 4 Little Grebes to the list and a Kingfisher was spotted shooting low across the water. We also admired a very tame Little Egret roosting in willow at this point. Ann Strutton managed to spot a group of 6 Goldeneye bobbing about on the South Lake at this point, and we did our best to see them between their frequent dives.
On the approach to the bird hide we spotted a Chiffchaff (there seem to be more than ever around this autumn) and hazel catkins. Form the hide itself we added Pochard and Shoveler to the wildfowl list bringing our duck total to nine species. However, waders were thin on the ground with just a single Lapwing observed. A single Greylag was the only goose we saw – obviously there were easier pickings on the South Lake.
The main target for today’s walk was the starling murmuration and we quickly marched around towards the Peace Pagoda to take position and wait. The first group of about 50 starlings appeared right on queue at 3.50pm and within five minutes they were swarming over the lake. Although there were probably no more than 2,000 birds (a pretty modest number) they put on a fine display as the sun set and for those who had not witnessed a starling murmuration before it was a memorable experience. A singing Cetti’s Warbler was a bonus at this point. The starlings finally settled in the reed beds at around 4.15pm at which point we said our goodbyes and retired for the evening, happy but in need of thawing out!
Report by Martin Kincaid