The full itinerary:
0930 - 1015 Meet at the entrance, head for the cafe and grab a coffee while discussing camera settings and tactics for the day.
1030 Take our private guided tour of the wetland centre, during which we will become familiar with the site and its inhabitants.
1130 Begin our first photograph session along the South Route. These are all wild areas and you can shoot from hides or in the open. In small groups we will shoot sand martins, herons, small grebe, woodpeckers, wigeon and more.
1300 Meet back at the cafe for lunch for those that want it, free shooting time for those who don't or who bring a packed lunch and want to eat on the job.
1345 Head over to the otter holts for their afternoon feeding, with time to get into position and discuss camera settings.
1400 Second photograph session - otter feeding. We will get some great close ups here.
1430 Third photograph session - wood ducks. A quick session to fit in these extremely rare and beautiful birds before the afternoon feed begins.
Fourth photograph session - captive wetland birds, accompanied by a warden who will allow us to help feed them, giving us good opportunities for photographs.
1600 The end of our organised day. Use the free time to visit any unseen areas, or areas you would like to return to. As dusk falls, the bats come out and make a great subject to try to photograph as they swoop over the water!
1700 The reserve closes.
Clothes - Remember to bring enough warm clothes to keep you going all day. It gets very cold and damp very quickly in the afternoons at this time of year, and you won't be moving much so hats, gloves and a spare jumper won't hurt. Waterproofs are a must.
Cameras - Ideally you will bring a DSLR. The captive birds are easily shot with short lenses or compacts. Try using your macro lens as a a high quality portrait lens. There's no limit to long lenses - I've used 500mm with a 2x convertor and a 1.6x cropped sensor and still wanted it longer ;)
Supports - Tripods may be brought, but will be cumbersome in the hides. Use them outdoors in the wild areas only. I would suggest bringing either a monopod or beanbag rest. You can buy a beanbag rest (just google it for hundreds of options) or you can make one out of a large sock or similar - just stuff it with dried beans, rice, sand, or whatever springs to mind, and then just tie it at the end. This is the best solution for the hides which have very narrow windows.
Food - the cafe is great for food and drink and I'll make sure we have enough tables reserved, but you can purchase food in Barnes before you arrive or bring a packed lunch and flask of something hot if you'd prefer.
About the site:
Over 200 species of bird have been recorded on site since 2000. Also making their home amongst the 300,000 plants and 27,000 trees we planted during the centre’s creation are water voles, dragonflies, frogs, snakes, slow worms, bats, newts and butterflies, to name just a few.
There are numerous different wildlife habitats such as lakes, pools and gardens, there are scrapes for wading birds to feed on, reed beds where up to seven bitterns make their home each winter and grazing marshes and wildflower meadows.
There are six hides, perfect for both watching wildlife and photography. If you are lucky – and patient – you can see reptiles, amphibians and numerous dragonflies and butterflies as well as water voles.
Winter is one of the best times to visit the nature reserve because then some of the prettiest wild ducks, such as wigeon, teal and pintails arrive. At dusk you may see bats swooping across the water, hunting for insects.
The paths at London Wetland Centre are all flat and there are plenty of benches dotted about. The centre is fully accessible for those with specific needs. Please let me know at least two weeks in advance if you will require any assistance on the day (carers of registered disabled visitors may attend without any charge – please contact me directly about this before RSVPing).
The 283 bus goes direct to the centre from Hammersmith bus station (stand K), or 33, 72 and 209 stop nearby (alight at the Red Lion stop, approximately 150 metres walk from the wetland centre).
Barnes rail station is just 25 minutes from Waterloo or 10 minutes from Clapham Junction. It is then a 15 minute walk to the wetland centre (or 5 minutes by buses 72 or 33). You can also alight at Barnes Bridge station then walk through Barnes village (about a 15 minute walk) or catch a 209 bus (alight at the bus stop opposite the Red Lion pub, which is approximately 150 metres from the Centre).
Hammersmith tube (on the Piccadilly and District & Circle Lines) is the nearest tube station. From here it is just a 10 minute bus ride (see above).
The London Wetland Centre is situated on Cycle Route 4, which includes access from the River Thames towpath.
There is free parking for cars on site, and you will have free access to your vehicle all day if you need it.