Trip reports

Chingford Plains / Connaught Water Dawn Chorus Walk on 22nd May 2021 (& breakfast!)

Chingford Plains / Connaught Water Dawn Chorus Walk on 22nd May 2021 (& breakfast!)
Mandarin ducks by Ivor Hewstone

Saturday, 22 May 2021

Thanks to Rich for this write-up:

The weather forecast for this early 4.30am start was at one point looking very doubtful and when we first all met at the car park it was indeed raining but luckily only lightly. This seemed not to dampen the enthusiasm of our group nor did it stop the birds from singing!

We made our way towards the start of the plains and the usual suspects such as Blackbird and Robin were the first species to be tuning up and were soon joined by Wood Pigeon. We walked around the other side of the Butler's Retreat café and we happened upon five doe Fallow Deer standing motionless, we were just as surprised to see them as they were us and they eventually trotted off and melted away back into the scrub.
The rain seemed to be easing off a little more as the songs of Garden Warbler and Blackcap were exploding from what seemed to be every bush as well as Song Thrush, Wren and Dunnock all singing nearby. A Great Spotted Woodpecker then joined in and drummed away which is the equivalent of its song.

The dawn chorus was now really growing in strength and variety and sounded lovely in the still morning air and we all just stood and enjoyed it. Suddenly we then heard a Cuckoo and we tried to establish where it was as it seemed to be turning its head when it called so making it tricky to pinpoint.
After some perseverance we spotted the bird perched up with its characteristic drooping wings and tail fanned but we also noted the bird then spreading its wings momentarily each time it called, behaviour none of us had witnessed before.

Two rabbits quietly grazed at the edge of the scrub as a Chaffinch then joined the 'show' and began singing at the top of a tree. A Muntjac Deer ran out onto the path, it stared at us for a while before running off back into the undergrowth.
We moved on and made our way to Connaught Water as two Jays flew overhead, their broad wings and 'floppy' flight helping us to identify them. We arrived at the lake which at first glance looked rather quiet, we spotted a pair of Tufted Duck and also a pair of Great Crested Grebe with only one chick. These Grebes normally have 3-4 young so can only imagine some had already been unfortunately predated. Coot were sitting on their nests and adult Canada and Greylag Geese quietly led their goslings and fed around the edge of the water.

We spotted several male Mandarin skulking in the wet areas on the edge of the wood, we presumed the lack of females present meant they were sitting on eggs nearby. These ducks will nest in holes in trees, quite often an old oak.
Three young Grey Herons sat in a tree on one of the islands, they had clearly 'branched' away from the nest but were still reliant on parents bringing them food.

On our return walk back, the Cuckoo was still calling and a Whitethroat sang its scratchy song in the distance. A Kestrel hunted overhead while five Swift screamed and soared above us. Our last species were the Starlings perched on the roof of the Royal Forest Hotel where we also stopped and enjoyed a well-earned breakfast!

Total different bird species seen: 37