Field Trip to Staines Reservoir 10th January 2016

It was a great relief that anybody actually turned up for this field trip, given the awful forecast for Heathrow that morning and following the torrential rain overnight. As we gathered at the west end of the causeway, we became aware that we were virtually surrounded by towering embedded cumulonimbus, which didn't bode well. Having got this far though we decided to press on, despite the lack of any shelter and the very real chance of suffering exposure and frost-bite in strong SW'ly winds! As it happened we did manage to stay dry and at one stage were even blessed with a spell of sunshine.

Our jolly 'flock' of 20, was made up of 12 (m) six (f) and pleasingly two (imms). This included all skill-levels ranging from those attending their first SBC field trip to those with considerable experience, and the exchange of chat and assistance was spontaneous. One of our number was 'road-testing' her first telescope, just purchased prior to a bird tour to see the wintering birds of Japan & two others came armed with the most enormous telephoto lenses I had ever seen. Over the next two-and-a-half hours we scanned, 'scoped' and scrutinised everything on both the north and south basins of the reservoir. I had already made it quite clear, especially to those who had been on Robin Stride's Pagham field trip last October, that we were unlikely to see 93 species here. and indeed we didn't! However we managed a list of 27 species, the highlights being Black-necked Grebe, Scaup (3), Pintail (m), Goldeneye, and Wigeon (but certainly not the 298 seen four days earlier). It was particularly pleasing to see so many Pochard (probably in excess of 200) as this species has been in serious decline in UK over recent years. My theory for this is that during the spring/summer of 2015 when the north basin was drained, many plants became established in the mud and gravel bottom which then went on to seed prior to the re-flooding in the autumn. Pochard and Tufted Duck particularly thrive on submerged seed, and this abundance of food probably accounted for these significant numbers, though not the 'several thousands' that were seen here after similar 'draining' events in the 1970s to 1990s.

Other species seen included good numbers of Tufted Duck, plus Shoveler, Gadwall, Great Black-backed Gull, Red Kite and Meadow Pipit. The Great Northern Diver, if it was still there, evaded us throughout. A 'cool' morning's birding, in more ways than one, but we all returned home dry.

Hugh Evans

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