I had the most beautiful encounter with a family of whitethroat at Papercourt Meadows last Friday. I’d missed the arrival of these wonderful summer migrant birds while I was shut indoors, shielding. What a wonderful and welcoming return for me to one of the local birding sites, being greeted by these gorgeous fledglings! The adults are starting to look rather untidy (pressures of parenthood and the start of the moult!) so I will keep their modesty intact and not share their photos. The fledglings are doing quite well picking insects from the buddleja and brambles, but they’re still demanding plenty of feeds from their parents!
The meadows are looking wonderful! A great variety of grasses and wildflowers that provides such a fantastic habitat for lots of insects and birds. Distant, but wonderful sighting of the kestrel, hovering over the grassland, and so many wrens singing their little hearts out!
A fabulous array of butterflies greeted us too! Peacocks, red admirals, gatekeepers, commas, large and small whites, skippers and absolutely stunning ringlets! They have fabulous false-eye markings and really shimmer in the light.
I shall definitely be returning soon to collect numbers for the Big Butterfly Count for Butterfly Conservation! You can join in the annual citizen science survey HERE. Have a great week everyone!
I’ve been watching the whitethroat at Heather Farm again this week. There are definitely two pairs nesting within a short distance from the carpark and cafe. You can watch them flying across the reeds and singing in the silver birch while sitting outside the cafe enjoying a drink (and maybe a cake!).
Whitethroat from the birdhide
For a closer look, head to the birdhide and look behind you, into the shrubs and up into the birch. There’s another pair in the thicket and reeds by the boardwalk, over the pond, as you enter the wetlands from the carpark.
Whitethroat in shrubs seen from the boardwalk
They’re not the only birds busily building nests or feeding young in these thicket havens. Wrens, robins, dunnock, goldfinch and reed bunting are all sharing these patches, regularly popping up to the top of reeds or shrubs, to join their voices together in a wonderful chorus!
Finding a family of whitethroats (one of our many summer visitors from the warbler family) living next to the bird hide at Heather Farm has been a real treat! They’re actually behind the hide which makes it harder to hide from them. They, however, are very adept at staying hidden even when I can clearly hear them. Often the first clue is the tutting noise from one of the adults as they call the fledgelings out. Eventually one will make an appearance as I keep as still and silent as possible!
The next clue is the rustling and shaking in the brambles. The juveniles are in there somewhere! They eat a mix of insects and berries so are really enjoying feasting on the early blackberries. I watch the trail of movement through the brambles until one of the youngsters finally pops into view!
They don’t see me as a threat as I stay in the shadows of the hide, still and silent. Soon three fledgelings are bustling about on the brambles, before moving up into the branches of the three silver birches in this little grove. They really seem to enjoy the seeds of the birch trees! Two of these trees have been greatly affected by this summer’s heatwave. The seeds have matured early and the leaves have browned as the tree sheds them to conserve it’s dwindling water supply. The birds are easy to spot in the green leaves but utterly camouflaged against the browns, as you can see in my lead image!
Eventually the adults led their brood into the reeds near the boardwalks at the entrance to the wetlands centre. The reeds swayed and shook for a while to show their progress but they were soon well hidden from my sight or that of potential predators. I loved watching the little family and hope to see more of them before the end of the season. The previous morning I had attended a bird-ringing event at the centre, led by Surrey BTO, Horsell Common Preservation Society and The Thames Basin Heath Partnership. We had ringed lots of blackcaps, tits, reed warblers and wrens but the whitethroats had evaded us! It’s wonderful to see the success of this recently created nature reserve growing year on year. Today I’m sharing my camouflaged whitethroat as part of WexMondays.