Trip reports

Wintry Wood Walk on 15th Dec 2019

Nuthatch on branch
Nuthatch by John Bridges (rspb-images.com)

Sunday, 15 December 2019

Thanks to Rich for this write-up:

To help finish off the 50th Year Celebrations since RSPB local groups began in 1969 and as the Epping Forest Group was the first in the country (from which our group derives), we thought it quite fitting to visit another part of this ancient forest for our last walk of 2019.
This is one of the most northerly parts of the forest with Wintry Wood itself appearing in records dating back to the 13th Century.

We set off from the Woodyard car park and very shortly came across a mixed flock of tits including Blue, Great and Long-tailed as well as Goldcrests foraging for food in the bare branches above us. We then heard at least two Great Spotted Woodpeckers in different directions, alerting us to their presence with their sharp 'kick, kick' like calls. We eventually caught sight of one of them, a male bird told by the red patch on the back of its head.
We moved on making our way along a narrow winding track, small flocks of Redwings seemed to be on the move all around us as they looked for winter berries within the wood. A Treecreeper was then spotted doing what they do best, it was making its way up the trunk of a tree looking for its insect prey (they never move in a downwards direction). These birds are often described as 'mouse like' and its jerky movements are very characteristic of this species. Suddenly, several small birds sounded their alarm calls nearby which can only mean one thing, there was a predator around. We then briefly saw a Sparrowhawk dashing through the trees in front of us but then soon disappeared again just as quickly.

We made our way to where the forest opened up to grassland where we heard the soft 'seep' like contact calls of more Redwings flying above us, this time a larger flock than what we had seen earlier. Heading back into the wood again, we came across a Nuthatch, it appeared to be wedging some kind of tree seed into a crevice of a branch, these birds will do this either to help them peck and crack it open (hence the name Nut - hatch) or they will 'stash' it there and return back to feed on the seed when perhaps food is harder to find as winter draws on.

A couple of Green Woodpeckers shouted their 'laughing' calls close by as we watched another small group of mixed tits that caught our attention. They were all searching for food at the base of an old tree stump, and we picked up a different species amongst them, a Coat Tit, smaller than the Great Tits and with that prominent white stripe on the back of the head helping to identify it.
Walking on along the 'Stump Road' track (once part of the old road between London and Newmarket), we could hear a Mistle Thrush singing in the distance which is similar to the Blackbird's song but is often described as sounding more 'melancholy'. We took a quick detour around a pond that was dug in the late 1800s for swimming in the summer and ice skating in the winter back then. It appeared very quiet but I remembered when on a previous visit back in the 1980s (!) with the Epping Forest Y.O.C group, we found a leech in this very same pond!

Nearing back to the start of the walk a buck and a doe Fallow Deer were seen cautiously wandering through the trees and as we arrived back at the car park, a male Pheasant strutted away from us rather quickly out of site into the undergrowth.

Total different bird species noted: 21