Sunday, March 15, 2009

Walthamstow Marshes, east London - 15th March 2009

The first warm, sunny, truly spring-like day of the year and a social obligation to see friends in Walthamstow, hence a walk through Springfield Park, over the Lea Navigation, and along Coppermill Lane. At the point where the Filter Beds end and the residential area begins - and behind razor-wire fences along the canal - a Willow Warbler burst into song, a couple of metres in from the fence. One of those out-of-the-blue chance finds, and wholly unexpected this early in the month. A few more phrases and some nice views later, we moved on.....

The bird was still present on the way back (at 1725), and is (as far as I know) the first to reach the London area this year. Despite odd birds having been recorded nationwide in the last dew days, and several others today as far north as Yorkshire, it still seems ridiculously early.

It may sound a little ungrateful, but (bizarrely) such a fluke find wasn't the highlight of the day. A few minutes walk west along the track which seperates the marshes from the reservoirs, I heard a quiet crunching sound from the dyke just beside us. Looking down, and less than a metre and a half away, a Water Vole sat, chewing contentedly on plant matter, looking straight at us. It stayed there for a good ten minutes, despite kids on BMX's passing and feral chavs barking like rottweilers within the same distance, completely unconcerned.

A few steps further along, and a second vole appeared just as close, swam past us, and joined its mate for supper. Unforgettable, and as far as I can remember, the first decent views I've had of this Disney-esque little mammal.