Trip reports

RSPB Bexley Group local walk, in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust, Braeburn Park, Saturday 28 April 2018

RSPB Bexley Group local walk, in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust, Braeburn Park, Saturday 28 April 2018
Nicky Wilson

Saturday, 28 April 2018

RSPB Bexley Group local walk, in partnership with the London Wildlife Trust, Braeburn Park, Saturday 28th April 2018

Martin Burke, RSPB Bexley
Shaun Marriott, London Wildlife Trust
Sara Jones, London Wildlife Trust

After the torrential downpour overnight, it was heartening to see that around thirty adults, plus children, had donned their wellies and arrived at Braeburn park for a guided bird walk. The sun had vanished since last week, but it had stopped raining at least and bird song could be heard from all around the park. Even before we had all convened, a great spotted woodpecker (GSW) was seen nearby, a collared dove was seen collecting nesting material (albeit one twig at a time), and two jays did a brief flyby.
We all assembled at the playground near Falstaff Close, and whilst Martin Burke from the RSPB handed out maps, comprehensive woodland guides and extra binoculars, Shaun Marriott, from the London Wildlife Trust, gave us a quick talk on the route we would be taking through the park, advising us the footpaths were likely to be muddy and slippery. This turned out to be quite an understatement but many of the children enjoyed splashing through the puddles in their wellies, whilst the adults tried to avoid falling in!

With tick sheets in hand we set off towards the woodland. A blackcap and wren sang a wonderful tune as we walked right by them, but they were masters at hiding in plain sight and could not be spotted. Magpies and parakeets were the most commonly seen and blue tits could just about be seen silhouetted against the branches high up in the trees. In the distance, at regular intervals, we could hear the distinctive call of the green woodpecker and the unique and very loud call of the great tit also accompanied us along our muddy path. As we reached the end of the trail and into more open woodland, several Canada geese flew above us announcing their arrival into Hall Place, and the distinguishing clicking call of the great spotted woodpecker could be heard as it flitted through the far trees. However, despite several pairs of binoculars directed towards the sound, it remained hidden from prying eyes.

A few more puddles later and we had our first clear bird sighting - a greenfinch! As we walked by the railway line, it perched at the top of a branch singing a wonderful song as we passed by only a few feet away. If only other birds had been so obliging! It was wonderful to see a bird that has been in such decline over the last few years, doing so well in Bexley. Whilst stopping to admire the greenfinch, a song thrush could be heard singing in a tree nearby, along with the lilting sound of a goldfinch as it flew overhead.

After our brief stop, we continued down the path next to the railway track and a very loud whitethroat sang to us from behind a hedge. Infuriatingly it was so very near but again, did a great impression of a singing branch and remained out of sight (it was however briefly spotted later further up the path).

We headed back towards the playground and over the other side of the woodland, but although the birds continued to elude us, they could certainly be heard. Chiffchaff were very vocal throughout the walk, although again the light and foliage made it very difficult to spot them. A flock of starling were evident above us and the GSW continued to tease us with its call wherever we went.

At the end of the walk, Shaun gave a brief overview of the projects that LWT are carrying out on the reserve, including butterfly transect and reptile and amphibian monitoring. Volunteers are always welcome so please do email Shaun if you are interested in getting involved, there's always a lot of practical work to do.

We finished the walk back at the playground where a robin, perched high in a tree, was singing us on our merry way and a woodland favourite, the blackbird, sang a wonderful song on our departure. As people were leaving a kestrel flew overhead, the only bird of prey that was seen although there are surely a few more in the area.

To summarise, Braeburn Park is a fantastic habitat for wildlife and well worth a visit. Despite not seeing many birds on today's visit (possibly because of the large group and poor light), the potential for seeing many different species of birds is high and on a warmer, sunnier day there is perfect habitat for butterflies and bees. If you haven't yet visited, add it to your list - it's well worth a look!

Birds Seen/Heard - jay, woodpigeon, collared dove, ring-necked parakeet, green woodpecker, great spotted woodpecker, blackcap, whitethroat, chiffchaff, greenfinch, goldfinch, dunnock, robin, starling, wren, blackbird, song thrush, blackcap, blue tit, great tit, magpie, carrion crow, kestrel (23 species)