Trip reports

RSPB Northward Hill (Leader David Saunders)

RSPB Northward Hill (Leader David Saunders)
Peregrine [Ben Hall]

Sunday, 25 March 2018

I have to admit the weather for the morning didn't look too promising but at least it wasn't raining or cold but expectations of high numbers of birds were not, well, high!

So, nine members attended and we were joined by a family of four, the Taylors from Essex, bringing the count up to 13. After a quick briefing and a chat with Will the Warden to find out what was about, (we had just missed a firecrest caught by the ringers, but at least Roger Kiddie sent me a good picture of it!), we set off on a leisurely stroll to Ernest Hemsley View Point and soon found a still-naked silver birch with a colourful male chaffinch, blue tit and three redpolls, which were nice to see, but a bit too far away to say which species.

Continuing on, a greenfinch was in the next tree - even against the light showing that 'Oh so distinctive' forked tail. I spotted a common buzzard landing on a distant telegraph pole which took off and flew over the heads of the group, the first raptor of the day.

Up on the view-point we saw what was the highlight of the day (for me), a male and female peregrine falcon perched (about three quarters of a mile out) on a distant wooden fleet gate. The two Swarovski owners found them, allowing fine views to all and really showing the difference in size, the male almost a third smaller than the female. Plenty of gulls were on high including a couple of Mediterranean gulls. By now we had been joined by a couple of new ladies.

We made our way up to Sweeney View Point which gave me a moment to reflect on the sadly missed Owen and Linda, whom I never met, and the prospect of the soon-returning nightingales in two or so week's time.

Out on the marsh Richard had a brief glimpse of a marsh harrier dropping down into the far reed bed where they are known to breed.

Down in the dip we heard our first chiffchaff and the ever amazingly-voluminous song of a wren, a brilliant bird with a song unbelievably bigger even than its Latin name, troglodytes troglodytes.

Reaching Ewarts Orchard another peregrine was spied on a distant pylon. So on to the heronry the subject of this mornings walk.

Access to the wooded section where herons build their huge twiggy nests is restricted but by walking out into the field about a dozen could be seen amongst the corvid nests that appear to be somewhat crowding them out.

Towards the Thames some of us saw a hare hot footing it through a gulley - not so much mad as madly dashing.

After a twenty minute viewing we were all 'heroned out' and slowly made our way back, popping into Gordon's Hide and picking up shelducks, shovelers, wigeons, teal and gadwall.

David Saunders