Having consumed my monthly quota of booze this weekend, I very nearly swerved nature entirely. In fact, if it wasn’t for my absolute hatred of channel 4’s Sunday Brunch, I think I would have remained glued to the sofa, endlessly trawling Netflix.
Just as Tim Lovejoy made himself look like the thickest man alive for the thousandth time on live television, I thought, why am I watching this tripe? I grabbed my camera, laced up my boots and made my way to South Norwood Country Park & Nature Reserve. It was a narrow escape, as I think television’s two worst presenters were about to swallow my soul.
There was some cloud overhead and it was pretty cold. It wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for on the first official day of Spring. The birds more than made up for the weather though, and before long the sun was beginning to break through. I stood by the lake and watched a pair of Coots build their raft like nest.
I was going to feed the ducks, but a family showed up singing a Justin Bieber tune, causing the ducks and myself to run for cover. There were a lot of little birds in the trees. I spotted a puffed up chaffinch high on a branch, several long-tailed tits flitting about, as well as blue tits, robins, great tits etc. I was already very glad to have gone outside and had no plans to return home for at least two hours.
To my surprise, as I was looking for rats near the water’s edge, I found a robin taking an afternoon bath. He dunked himself several times before flying to a nearby branch to dry off.
My favourite thing about South Norwood Nature Reserve is the range of habitats. If you like feeding ducks, you go to the lake. If you want to see Moorhens you can wander the wetlands. If you’re looking for little birds you can meander through the woods. You can even watch birds of prey and search for pheasants in the fields. It is the most diverse, wild landscape in the least likely location.
Today I wandered all the habitats. I saw my first Dunnock, who kindly posed for a photograph before joining his mate on a nearby branch.
As all the different habitats are so close together, it can be quite surreal to walk from one, straight into another, as the landscapes are so contrasting. Just as I left the wetlands, I walked into what felt like a savannah. Crows perched on a tree that sat on a small green mound in the middle of a very dry field. Beyond the field, the Crystal Palace Antenna provided me with some beautiful juxtaposition.
Out of South Norwood Savannah, I was back in a green meadow. I heard the unmistakable call of a pheasant and went in search of it. I had wanted to photograph a pheasant for a long time. My thinking was, how can a photograph of a pheasant not be good? Pheasants are such colourful, exotic looking birds. I couldn’t believe my luck when I found this handsome chap creeping through the bushes. I then doubly couldn’t believe my luck when his wife appeared behind him. A pair of Pheasant lovers.
Still reeling from the delight of the pheasants, I was caught completely off guard by a Kestrel, hunting in the field across from me. I ran, or sort of hopped actually, across the field, ignoring the path for fear of losing it. I managed to get close enough to take this slightly disappointing picture, just before it shot down like a lightning bolt to catch its prey.
I am probably one of the least successful birders there is, but there in South Norwood, my luck was in. I thought I’d quit while I was ahead and call it a day. Really I just wanted to admire the pheasant for a while. On my way home I took note of the early Spring flowers. The sun was low now and cutting through the clouds, bathing the aforementioned savannah in light. The golden hour looked lush, and I felt like a champion birder.
To think I nearly spent the day watching Netflix.
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