Trip reports

Connaught Water & Chingford Plain Walk on 5th May 2019

Willow warbler
Willow Warbler (rspb-images)

Sunday, 5 May 2019

Thanks to Marion (with some help from Rich) for the write up:

To help celebrate 50 years of the RSPB local groups and to coincide with International Dawn Chorus Day, we did an earlier than normal morning walk led by Richard Nelson which took place around Connaught Water and Chingford Plain. Dawn was at 04:07 that morning, but we started at a slightly later time of 6.30am on what was a beautiful spring morning with plenty of sunshine.

Magpies, Ring-necked Parakeets, and two Pied Wagtails were spotted in Barn Hoppitt car park before we set off across the plain, where we hoped to spot a number of different warblers. It wasn't long before a male Whitethroat was spotted by Butler's Retreat with its distinctive grey head and white throat, singing its staccato song. As we started across the plain we soon heard the repeated "chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff" the unmistakeable song of a Chiffchaff.
We stopped for a while on the plain to listen to the bird song and were rewarded with the sounds of a Willow Warbler, Garden Warbler and Blackcap all calling at the same time. It can be difficult to spot warblers as the foliage increases in woodland and hedgerows so a reliable way to identify them is by their song. Fortunately, Richard was able to indicate which song was coming from each bird. The Willow Warbler's melodic song with its descending notes, the Blackcap's beautiful fluting song which has earned it the name 'northern Nightingale' and the Garden Warbler's long melodic song which has earned it the unfortunate nickname of 'garbled warbler'!

We then saw a Green Woodpecker fly past and within minutes, followed by a Great Spotted Woodpecker flying in the opposite direction. As we walked down towards Connaught Water, we spotted a Jay, Goldfinches and a Long-tailed Tit. On the water were Coots, Mallard, Moorhens, Tufted Ducks and a lone Little Grebe. Many of the Coots were on nests as was a Great Crested Grebe next to the central island with its mate close by.
We were hoping to see Mandarin Ducks which had been seen here the previous month, but unfortunately there were no sign of them and could well be now at their tree hole nest sites nearby. We were rewarded though with the sight of a solitary Grey Heron on its nest in the trees of the central island.
Walking around the lake we came across a pair of Greylag Geese with their five young goslings. Greylag Geese are Britain's only native breeding goose and the ancestor of most domesticated, farmyard geese. As we approached they soon ushered their young to the safety of the water.

We made our way back to the car park and took a short walk to Warren Pond where we hoped to see Nuthatches amongst the ancient oak pollards. However, our only spots were a fleeting glimpse of Cormorant as it took off from the pond, a rather quiet Ring-necked Parakeet and a Great Tit.
We completed our walk with breakfast taken outside at Butler's Retreat, one of the few remaining Victorian 'retreats' in Epping Forest. Then to round off the morning, a Sparrowhawk made an appearance, circling above us, distinguishable from the Kestrel by its rounded wings and relatively long, narrow tail and also the lovely summer sound of a Swallow as it twittered overhead.

Total number of different bird species seen: 37