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Guide to watching wildlife from the train launched

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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 19:15   #1
Chris Monk
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Guide to watching wildlife from the train launched

Hello deer, I'm watching from the train

By Charles Clover, Environment Editor, The Daily Telegraph
(Filed: 19/04/2005)

Next time the 07.16 from Brighton to Victoria grinds to a halt on the wrong side of the Thames, commuters could consider conquering their frustration by spotting peregrines swooping around the towers of Battersea Power Station.

That is the hope, at least, of the train operating companies, which have produced a free guide to spotting wildlife on 10 of the nation's busiest routes, in conjunction with the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Mammals Trust UK.

While the guide will have its work cut out assuaging the anger of delayed travellers, it does remind anyone who spends most of the time on trains doing the crossword how much of our native wildlife could be just outside the window.

On the London to Brighton route - with a journey time described improbably as "approximately one hour" - the guide invites travellers to spot herons, cormorants and gulls on the Thames at Battersea, foxes and grey squirrels in the suburbs and muntjac and roe deer in the crops on forest fringes near Gatwick.

However, a touch of desperation seems to creep in to the description of some heavily-used routes - were we aware, for instance, that there were rabbits nibbling grass beside the London to Brighton line? I think so - and there are useful reminders of when to look up. Along the Stour on the way from London Liverpool Street to Harwich in Essex, for instance, commuters should be aware they could see curlew out on the mudflats or shelduck, which from the distance look black and white.

Travellers from Peterborough to Norwich may get a glimpse of the introduced Chinese water deer in the Fens or marsh harriers at the Lakenheath RSPB reserve in between Ely and Brandon. Some entries appear to have been inserted for people with prodigious eyesight: one wonders how many are going to spot the mice and voles which we are told can be seen beside the Harwich line, as well as more spottable hedgehogs and foxes.

The train would have to be moving pretty slowly, too, on the route from Southampton to Weymouth for a glimpse of the Dartford warbler on the areas of gorse and heather in the New Forest, or the hobby, the small agile falcon which visits in summer. New Forest ponies are more likely to be seen.

There are sights, though, that travellers, especially with families, may be happy to be alerted to: for instance, the Exeter to Penzance line runs so close to the coast that it is possible to see little egrets - which have introduced themselves to the British Isles in recent years - as well as bottlenosed dolphins and grey seals, where there is a view of the open sea.

It would be difficult to travel the Heart of Wales line from Llanelli to Shrewsbury without seeing at least one red kite and the route offers the strongest possibility of seeing a greater horseshoe bat, which now lives only in the west of Britain, as light begins to fade. Travellers between Oxford and Hereford stand the chance of seeing a raven, though it seems far-fetched to expect that they might see otters, which the guide says have now re-colonised the Avon near Evesham.

And it might not be obvious that there are mountain hares - whose coats go white in winter - on the route from Leeds to Manchester, as the route skirts the Peak District national park after Huddersfield. Knowing these possibilities exist might indeed enhance the pleasure of travelling the route by train - though only if the windows are clean and it arrives on time.

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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 19:44   #2
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And remember if you are not quite sure of the ID, you can pull the communication cord and ask the driver to back up a bit for a second look
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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 19:56   #3
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Sounds interesting! Heard it on the news earlier.
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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 21:21   #4
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Thanks for that Chris,

Think that's my wildlife spotting holiday solved will use the trains, wonder if they do a "round trip ticket and timetable"? just don't expect to see your TV Diary on time.

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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 22:16   #5
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According to the 'This is London' website, the London-Brighton route is also good for spotting moles - I wonder how slow the train would have to be travelling (or how long you'd have to be stopped in one place) to achieve that.

Would have thought the Tube would have been a better bet for them!
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Old Tuesday 19th April 2005, 22:19   #6
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Norwich - Yarmouth is a great train journey across the marshes

Bean Geese at Cantley/Buckenham, harriers and large numbers of wildfowl. Berney arms station is a good spot to (Semi-P a couple of years back)

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Old Wednesday 20th April 2005, 15:48   #7
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I'd particularly recommend the east coast mainline between Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Peregrine are quite regular around the Tay Bridge and the train goes past (and stops at) Montrose Basin, where various waders and wildfowl can be seen. I've also had Merlin from the train along this route.

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Old Thursday 21st April 2005, 18:40   #8
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As Tim says, Norwich-Great Yarmouth is a great journey.

Ely-Thetford (past RSPB Lakenheath and then through Thetford Forest) is beautiful and I have seen Marsh Harrier from here.

Exeter-Newton Abbot (past the Exe and Teign estuaries and the red sandstone sea cliffs around Dawlish) is spectacular and Brent Geese, Little Egrets, Wigeon and waders can be seen at the right times of year.

Any rail route north of Edinburgh/Glasgow is great for scenery and wildlife.

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Old Thursday 21st April 2005, 19:44   #9
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Another vote for the Yarmouth - Norwich line ! Saw a couple of harriers, 2 little egrets, swallows and a barn owl on the way home

Actually there was an advert along these lines on Yarmouth station earlier that i wish i'd paid a bit more attention to
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