Posted by: Ross Gardner | January 30, 2014

A Chance Encounter

On the airport run collecting my brother from Gatwick.  A wet day (surprise, surprise), but one which would not detract too much from a quick visit to nearby Weirwood Reservoir, a diversion I had done once before in the early-autumn.  Then, I had enjoyed watching Green Sandpiper probing in the shallows, admired the extravagancies of the Mandarin drakes and glimpsed a Kingfisher from the birdhide as it sped across the water.  I had seen a few Teal already gathering back then and anticipated a fair gathering of winter wildfowl to be viewed from the road and hide.  This may have indeed proved the case had I actually managed to make it there.  The inevitable hold-up on the drive from South Essex and the perhaps also inevitable missed turning in my search for the reservoir, left me without the time to get there and then back in time for the airport pick up.

The simple pleasure of chance encounters.  Heading back towards the motorway I noticed a footpath sign heading through some woods and pulling onto an unmade road by the same I discovered Hedgecourt Nature Reserve.  This is a Surrey Wildlife Trust reserve encompassing Hedgecourt Lake.  I had time only to squelch through the moss-clad fen woodland and across a tiny stream running beneath sprays of Hard Fern on its bank and did not make the lake.  I may have done had the chattering twitter of a 40-odd strong flock of Siskin not floated out of the trees and over a clearing in the wood.  I watched them for some minutes, sweeping over the birch tops, banking up and bounding away.  In constant conversation they would return, twisting and twittering, seemingly torn by the indecision of the best place to alight.  They reminded me of a miniature Starling murmuration.  Land they eventually did, among some of the taller birches by the clearing and gradually, a few at time, descended on some scrubby Alder to feed on the seed-laden catkins.

Hedgecourt Nature Reserve - wet woodland indeed.  Ross Gardner 2014

Hedgecourt Nature Reserve – wet woodland indeed. Ross Gardner 2014


  1. Enjoyed this post about Hedge Court Nature Reserve, which is close to Gatwick airport and organises informative strolls during the summer.

  2. Reblogged this on Green Living London and commented:
    Enjoyed this post about Hedge Court Nature Reserve, which is close to Gatwick airport and organises informative strolls during the summer.

  3. Thanks Tim. I look forward to visiting Hedgecourt again soon, perhaps in the spring.

  4. Love chance encounters. They are beautiful events in their own right but somehow so restorative: ‘wrong’ turns that turn out to be right for so many other reasons and lead you to places/people/things you’d never have discovered had all plans gone smoothly. Something to remember when one is having a bad time and it feels like everything is going sooo wrong.

  5. Very true. And it’s good to know that even in the most familiar of situations there is always the potential for something surprising. Sometimes it’s just a question of perspective.

  6. It’s very interesting that you should mention that the Siskins were like a small Starling murmuration. This winter there has been an actual Starling murmuration at Hedgecourt, numbering about 10,000 birds which roost in the reedbeds. I have written a post about it –

  7. Thanks for the link James. It must have been great to watch such a large roost. I’ll have to try and get to see it myself one of these days. If you haven’t seen it already you might want check out a superb murmuration video at

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