Trip reports

Chingford Plains/Connaught Waters walk on 17th Jun 2018

Chingford Plains/Connaught Waters walk on 17th Jun 2018
Mandarin ducks - female with two ducklings

Sunday, 17 June 2018

Thanks to Rich for his write up:-

A change to our normal morning start, we set off on this early evening walk and made our way to the large scrubby area known as the 'plains'. The first thing that drew our attention was a mixed flock of crows including Carrion and Magpie attacking a smaller bird which turned out to be a juvenile Blackbird. These corvids appeared to be taking it in turns to peck at the unfortunate bird who was literally pinned down on its back and calling loudly as it tried to fight them off.

We moved on letting nature take its course and came across a singing Chiffchaff, followed shortly by the lovely liquid descending song of the very similar looking Willow Warbler (the songs of these two birds are one of the good ways of actually separating them), we were keen to see it but it remained hidden from view.
Our frustration was soon compensated by a low flyover of a Red Kite giving our group good views of this impressive bird of prey whose numbers have seen a dramatic increase and a spread in its range in recent years due the successful breeding programmes in various parts of the UK.

Walking on across the plains we came across a small herd of the Longhorn cattle the Corporation of London use to help maintain a healthy ecosystem within the more open areas of Epping Forest. These large but docile breed of cow help and protect the growth of various flora as they move about and graze.
In the same area a mixed flock of noisy juvenile Blue and Great Tits were busily feeding in a nearby thicket, their yellower plumages and more fluffy appearance indicating that these were this year's fledglings.
A small reddish/brown bird with a long tail then flew out from deep within a bush in front of us, it was a Whitethroat and we were able to watch as it searched for insects in the surrounding scrub and we soon realised it must have young in a nest as it kept returning to the original bush we first saw it emerge from. Swifts flew low all around us as they hunted with their screaming calls which is one of the brilliant sounds of the summer.

We made our way along the approach path to Connaught Water but were stopped in our tracks with what seemed like hundreds of froglets on the ground in front of us, these perfect miniature forms of the adult common Frog would have very recently left the water and will have been on their way to find refuge in the damper surrounding areas of the forest.
The lake itself seemed fairly quiet at first, Coots and Moorhens were still sitting on their nests around the edges of the islands, a lone Great Crested Grebe fished, while a Stock Dove cooed nearby. A Common Tern circled the lake looking for small fish as well as a Lesser Black Backed Gull looking for a stray duckling!

Carrying on around the circular path, we passed a juvenile Heron standing on the side of the bank motionless which allowed us to get great views on the scope. Mandarin ducks were dabbling around the edges, but none of the males were in their striking plumage as they were now in their eclipse plumages looking very similar to the females for a few months. We were also treated to a female with several young feeding on the bank a few feet away from where we stood seemingly not threatened by our presence to the delight of the group.
The light was starting to fade so we made our way back across the plains, a Kestrel sat in a tree before taking flight and a Song Thrush sang his dusk song which was a nice ending to our evening stroll.

Total number of birds seen was 39