A wild­fowl walk in the Colne Val­ley

Bird Watching (UK) - - World War I Centenary - PAUL TRODD

The Colne Val­ley has some of the most ma­ture gravel pits to be found any­where in the Lon­don area. Com­bine that with the river it­self, the Grand Union Canal and relict wa­ter­cress beds and you have the recipe for a walk rich in ri­par­ian birds. Stands of water­side wil­lows and Alders, reedbeds, scrub and graz­ing land by the canal lock all add to the habi­tat di­ver­sity, while a se­ries of hides along the south­ern flank af­ford good view­ing across the wa­ter. Win­ter­ing wild­fowl will be the main at­trac­tion, with the main lake at­tract­ing sub­stan­tial flocks of both div­ing and dab­bling ducks, in­clud­ing a good chance of Smew, Goosander and oc­ca­sion­ally some­thing rarer, such as a diver or scarce grebe, while scat­tered reedbeds can har­bour Bit­tern, Cetti’s War­bler and Bearded Tit. At dusk, large gull roosts form on the open wa­ters and Tawny Owls call from ivy-clad trees. This quiet back­wa­ter on the out­skirts of Rick­mansworth was very much a part of my for­ma­tive years and where I de­vel­oped a love of na­ture back in the 1960s, so this walk is some­thing of a per­sonal trip down mem­ory lane. While the com­mer­cial wa­ter­cress beds, with their Wa­ter Pip­its and Jack Snipes, have long gone, there is still much to en­joy on this river val­ley odyssey, and who would ever have be­lieved back then that Lit­tle Egrets, Ring-necked Para­keets and Red Kites would be a com­mon sight along the Colne Val­ley?

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