Escape to birding at Willen Lake


A view to the Willen Lake at dawn with the characteristic buddha monument. © Gyorgy Szimuly

After a mainly sleepless night I packed up for some birding utilising that rain did not arrive as it had been predicted. As I still had not much chance to explore the wider area I returned to a known birding spot, the Willen Lake.

This time I wanted to explore the whole area and count the birds present on both the north and south lakes and around. The morning finally turned to be partly sunny and warm spells made it comfortable. I arrived to the north lake in dusk but big flock of roosting gulls had already been left the area. This would be a very nice birding spot if the annoying and very loud traffic noise would not kill its atmosphere.

Bird variety was nice here and resembles my hometown birding at the Old Lake of Tata. I just have been missing the tens of thousands wintering wild geese and other waterbirds we watched all winter..


The northern Willen Lake reedbeds. Home for Cetti’s Warblers? © Gyorgy Szimuly

Full species list of the north lake birds seen:

Greylag Goose 13,
Canada Goose 65,
Mute Swan 30,
Gadwall 58,
Eurasian Wigeon 137,
Mallard 27,
Northern Shoveler 4,
Eurasian Teal 47,
Common Pochard 8,
Tufted Duck 65,
Little Grebe 12,
Great Crested Grebe 5,
Great Cormorant 2,
Common Kestrel 1,
Water Rail 1,
Common Moorhen 9,
Eurasian Coot 269,
Northern Lapwing 95,
Common Snipe 18,
Black-headed Gull 420,
Mew Gull 150,
European Herring Gull 2,
Lesser Black-backed Gull 3,
Common Wood Pigeon 4,
European Green Woodpecker 1,
Eurasian Magpie 5,
Carrion Crow 30,
Great Tit 5,
Eurasian Blue Tit 9,
Long-tailed Tit 14,
Goldcrest 1,
Eurasian Wren 4,
Common Starling 4,
Common Blackbird 14,
Fieldfare 8,
Redwing 42,
European Robin 13,
Dunnock 1,
Grey Wagtail 1,
White Wagtail 8,
Common Chaffinch 5,
European Greenfinch 6,
European Goldfinch 3.

At the birdwatching hide there was a good view on the roosting Common Snipes. The Grey Wagtail just landed 3 meters away where I sat down. This 10 m long reedless muddy edge should be an ideal feeding site for wintering Jack Snipes.

During my stay at the south lake the wind got stronger bringing some light rain. Northern Lapwings were continuously flying over the lake. Apparently they were looking for a roosting site. The majority of the flock finally landed on the piers just in front of the restaurant.


Willen Mute Swans © Gyorgy Szimuly

Full species list of the south lake birds seen:

Greylag Goose 8,
Canada Goose 22,
Mute Swan 157,
Gadwall 6,
Eurasian Wigeon 4,
Mallard 30,
Tufted Duck 55,
Common Goldeneye 2,
Little Grebe 2,
Great Crested Grebe 14,
Grey Heron 1,
Great Cormorant 19,
Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1,
Common Kestrel 1,
Common Moorhen 6,
Eurasian Coot 420,
Northern Lapwing 110,
Black-headed Gull 85,
Common Wood Pigeon 18,
Eurasian Magpie 6,
Carrion Crow 12,
Great Tit 1,
Eurasian Wren 2,
Common Starling 4,
Common Blackbird 5,
Fieldfare 36,
Redwing 3,
European Robin 9,
House Sparrow 10,
Dunnock 6,
White Wagtail 5,
European Goldfinch 2.


Grey Heron. @ Gyorgy Szimuly


The flooded gravel pit and pastures at Manor Farm. © Gyorgy Szimuly

From Willen I drove to the Manor Farm in Old Wolverton as I wanted to see the lapwings and hoped to see some golden plovers as well at the gravel pit next to the Manor Farm. By surprise all I saw was a huge flooding. The Great Ouse River has flooded the whole valley leaving no suitable habitat for waders. However the narrow and small dykes provided a roosting site for some lapwings.

During my presence the wind developed further and made some really strong pushes. A larger mixed flock of Fieldfares, Redwings and Common Starlings appeared over the pastures just before I left the area. An even larger mixed flock of Redwings and Fieldfares was seen at the A5/A508 roundabout next to Denshanger. Approximately 200 birds was seen with a majority of Redwings.

Birds seen during my 30 minutes stay at Manor Farm:

Northern Lapwing 73,
Black-headed Gull 22,
Common Gull 3,
Fieldfare 45,
Redwing 140,
Common Starling 60,
Western Jackdaw 55,
Carrion Crow 35,
White Wagtail 2,
European Goldfinch 3,
Yellowhammer 12.


I have been on the learning curve

Compared to my magical photography expert friend and project team fellow, Jan Wegener, I am way behind him when it comes to bird photography. My only advantage is the knowledge on birds, their behaviour and birdwatching (due to my age…). I often remember the single weekend we spent together at the Helgoland coastline photographing shorebirds and Northern Gannets. And I often smile as it was a great fun.

It amazed me how much knowledge he had on digital photography as well as on bird photography. I learned a lot of him on that single weekend and we came out some nice keepers. While I have been suspending my bird photography ‘career’, due to financial reasons, I keep my eyes on the latest technologies and get inspirations by the unbelievably growing number of excellent bird photographers. On the other hand I am deeply honoured by inspiring others by my bird photography. I am so grateful by the endless number of positive feedback and personal comments I have got so far only for those images I could take during that short period of time.

Let me post some of my personal favourites in the coming posts. Images are from my image gallery.


Eurasian Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus). © György Szimuly