Birds

During early morning in summer, the marshy meadowlands of the Kennet are loud with bird song. Among the most vocal are the warblers, rather skulking birds most easily detected by their distinctive songs. The churr of the Sedge Warbler is a common sound near the river, while the descending notes of the Willow Warbler and the monotonous song of the similar-looking Chiffchaff are likely to be heard from bushes.

Sedge Warbler
Above: Sedge Warbler

The sound of a fishing reel from tall grass is likely to be the rarely-seen Grasshopper Warbler. Their habitat is shared by the Reed Bunting, whose handsome cocks sing from the tops of bushes and are more easily spotted.
Female Reed Buntin
Above: Female Reed Bunting

The Kennet has good numbers of Cuckoo and Woodcock, which is most often seen on its straight 'roding' flights at dusk. The Nightingale, too, sings from riverside thickets in Ramsbury. We are now at the western edge of the range of this declining bird. Every year it returns from Africa in mid-April to sing from apparently the same bush.

Many water birds use the river, from the universal Mallards, some of the crossed with domestic ducks, to Grey Herons and the rarely-seen Water Rail, whose presence is given away by its strange loud squeal.

Water Rail by Derek Pinchen
Above: Water Rail by Derek Pinchen

The 'revving-up' sound of the Little Grebe is often heard from the river. Another bird very much at home here is the Grey Wagtail, with its canary-yellow breast feathers and contrasting dark grey back. It feeds in shallow water, and has adapted well to village life, foraging in roof gutters and often nesting in outbuildings and bridges. Kingfishers are occasionally seen, usually as a vivid metallic-blue flash, but they need steep river banks to nest.