Tag Archives: Staines reservoir

A bad case of ‘telescope eye’ and the DDDs


Staines Reservoir, South Basin

The Staines Reservoirs are one of the best birding locations in London. The site is also a bogey location for me; something good at Staines probably won’t be there, or be visible when I arrive. Matters aren’t helped by it being about as far away from where I live as you can possibly get whilst still being in London.


The bisecting causeway

I was drawn there today with the hope of seeing some terns. Anything other than Common Tern would be a year tick at least for me, and I thought I might have a chance with Arctic Tern or even a Black Tern. I had also heard that some rather late Black-necked Grebe were there this morning, which would also have been a year tick.

I scanned the vast expanse of water, first with my bins and then switched to ‘scope, slowly working my way around the fringes, but the only grebes were Great-crested Grebe, and the only terns were Common Tern (although both were here in large numbers).

I don’t know whether other birders have noticed, but using a spotting ‘scope for long periods of time screws you up. Having the vision of one eye vastly magnified for long periods of time, and the vision of the other eye completely restricted; closed to aid focus in the other eye. When I put the scope down, a weird asymmetrical sensation occurs.

I spent a bit of time watching Common Tern on the rafts with all the Black-Headed Gulls.

One pair were getting ‘close’ to each other if ya know what I mean…


Common Tern (Sterna hirundo)

At first, the male didn’t really look like he knew what to do and he just stood on the female’s back for about minute:


But shortly afterwards things seemed to get … er… going.


Whilst interesting, it was another ‘day of disappointing dipping’ for me, or ‘DDD’ as I like to call it.


Birding and blogging frustrations

I had intended to celebrate my first anniversary of blogging by looking back at some of the things I had photographed over the past year.

My intentions were frustrated by a technical problem with my external hard drive (where I store the 40,000 or so photos I have taken in the past couple of years). [*Yawn]

So, not only did I miss my own anniversary, I have also not posted anything for three weeks.

Technical issues drive me up the wall – patience is not one of my virtues – but my passion, birding, can also be frustrating…

Birders travel all over the world to feed their habit: the constant urge to spot ‘new’ species of bird and add them to one of their lists: life/country/window (these are the three I keep). Birders will often visit remote and exotic locations. The other day I travelled to … [dramatic pause] … Staines. For those of you who are not familiar with the South East of England, to put it kindly, Staines is not a town to attract many visitors for its beauty or culture.

Staines recently became Staines-on-Thames. It was a bid to sex up or add class to a town mostly famous for the location of the fictional Ali-G.

Staines does, however, have a set of large reservoirs that are famous in the birding community…

Staines reservoir

Only two of the reservoirs can be viewed by the public via a narrow causeway that runs between them…


Staines reservoir is famous amongst birders because of the large number of rare birds that visit it. I spent nearly two hours travelling across London with the hope of spotting something like… a Long-billed Dowitcher, or a Collared Pratincole, or Whiskered Tern, or how about a mighty Osprey, or Montagu’s Harrier, or the more delicate Bee-eater, or Icterine Warbler. All of these wonderfully named birds have been spotted at Staines Reservoir over the years.

But I was not to be so lucky. I well and truly dipped.

Oh, I’m sorry did I just spring some birding terminology on you there without explaining it?

To dip (v.) to miss a bird that one had hoped or expected to see to add to one’s list

The common birds I did see, and the beautiful views, made up for any real disappointment. Birding wouldn’t be as fun if you always saw what you hoped for.

Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor)
Mute Swan

Gadwall (Anas strepera)

And finally, a rather wistful looking and slightly blurry Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
Pied Wagtail