Isabella, Melanie and I started our city birding tour at the London Wetland Centre, the urban Wildfowl and Wetland Trust reserve opened by Sir Peter Scott at the turn of the millennium. Greeted by Coots and Moorhens at the entrance, we got straight into the birding by taking an initial look out from the main observatory.
Through the glass we could see Grey Herons passing the day away on the edges of the reedbeds and spotted Tufted Ducks floating on the water. Gadwall, Lapwing and a pair of Egyptian Geese were taking it easier, resting on the edge of an island.
A couple of Swifts and a Sand Martin flew past on the far side, these species currently leaving the UK on their way to Africa. A Great Black-backed Gull also flew through. Mute Swans, seldom seen back in Virginia, went down a treat!
We headed for the feeding station, where a Great Spotted Woodpecker heard and seen flying in that direction was enjoying the peanuts, just as we hoped! There were plenty of Great Tits and Blue Tits coming and going, and we managed views of a couple of Blackcaps, Robins and a few Long-tailed Tits in the surrounding bushes, and glimpses of elusive Greenfinches.
We continued to the next hide, adding Teal and Shoveler to our list of ducks for the day. The Sheltered Lagoon offered good views of Pochard but this was eclipsed by the appearance of a Hobby in the sky above.
From the Peacock Tower we enjoyed a flock of Lapwings and further views of the variety of wildfowl on the main lake, as well as a close-by family of Coots with young chicks and a hunting Grey Heron. Our stomachs were beginning to rumble so we headed to the visitor centre for some lunch.
Richmond Park was the perfect follow-up site, so we drove there and birded the area around Pen Ponds. A Jay was a highlight, flying into an oak and patient watching resulting in getting this beautiful corvid in the telescope for a couple of minutes.
After marvelling at the Great Crested Grebes and Mandarin Ducks, and getting up close and personal with some very friendly Egyptian Geese, the wider area offered us views of woodland species such as Treecreeper and Nuthatch.
On the way to Pond Slade, Isabella spotted a Kestrel perched just beside the path. We stopped and it proceeded to hunt as though we were not there, diving down presumably at invertebrates in the grass just feet away before settling on a branch nearby at arm's reach! What a thrill!
Pond Slade came up trumps with a Whinchat touring the bracken alongside a male Stonechat. A very satisfying conclusion to a very fun afternoon of birding in London!