It was Open House day in London today; Walthamstow Wetlands, as Walthamstow reservoirs is now apparently being called, was to feature. I assumed that Open House referred to buildings but not so it applies to places too. Jamie P had asked if I would co-lead with him as part of the London Wildlife Trust party. As well as the Open House people also coming along were Thames Water officials, Waltham Forest officers and, as it turned out, a fair few visitors.
I was introduced as the ‘local Bird expert’ and as ‘being here every day’ not quite right on both counts but close enough in comparison to everyone else. I never quite know what to do when guiding non-birders; I mean what are they expecting? Have they been spoiled by David Attenborough and wonder where the swirling flocks of Flamingo’s are? Do they want tame Ducks to swim up to them to be fed? Do they want to see something rare and unusual or just sheer number of species? My fears were allayed when the ‘leader’ explained that the ‘Tree Expert, Buildings Expert and Bird Expert’ would be available for questions. At least now I would know what people wanted.
Most of the crowd were obviously there to get a glimpse of the normally closed off reservoirs, the odd historic building and just to generally take in the scenery but as the morning wore on a number of guests asked Birdy questions which I did my best to answer.
It was decided that we guides should wear hi-vis jackets; maybe this was to scare off any Birds that were still in the vicinity of the 90 strong crowd, if so it certainly had the desired effect. There were a few Birds around but of course they were either miles away, heard only or whizzed out of sight before anyone could get on them.
I had been on the marsh earlier this morning with only 1 Whinchat, 2 Meadow Pipits, 2 Siskin, 25 Teal and a Kingfisher to show for my time. Pete L and Kevin McM had done the Lockwood with only a half dozen flyover Wigeon to report, so it was obviously going to be hard work.
There was a constant flock of House Martins over the site, a couple of Common Terns and a few Meadow Pipits over but nothing much else though the Grey Herons, Cormorants and Mute Swan on the island of the East Warwick proved attractive to many. I think non-birders like big Birds, Birds they can see, rather than someone pointing at a fast disappearing dot and telling them ‘that was a Kingfisher’ which ironically was the first Bird I had after I removed the hi-vis and left the crowd.
No sooner had I got home than Kevin phoned with news that a mob of Greenshank and a Great Northern Diver had just flashed through the Lockwood.Late edit: Steady stream of Swallows past the house this afternoon, then a surprise addition to the house list when a Bullfinch flew over, calling twice.