Eleven of the group met at this Essex Wildlife Trust reserve on the River Colne. After several windy days we were met beautiful sunny day with an almost cloudless sky. This reserve has a mix of habitats including woodland, scrub, marsh and a relatively new intertidal area where the river wall was breached to allow regular inundation at high tide.
From the car park we heard chiffchaff, blackcap, dunnock, blue tit and a faint rattle of nightingale. A pair of Mediterranean gull flew over and some saw a buzzard circling overhead. A pair of swallow were flying around the roof of the centre and occasionally settled on nearby wires.
The reserve staff kindly opened the centre early to allow access to the facilities and after discussing the latest news with them we ventured out on the woodland loop for the morning. Nightingale was our main hope for the day, and they didn’t disappoint with at least five different individuals calling during the morning. As always they were elusive but just hearing them around us was a delight.
As we continued along the path we identified blackbird, robin, and heard a group of long-tailed tit making their delightful contact noises from deep inside shrubs. Eventually they perched up nearby and everyone got great views. Three goldfinch were seen, one doing a display flight whilst the others watched seemingly unimpressed as they flew off in the opposite direction. More birds were singing, many of them unseen including Cetti’s warbler, wren, chaffinch, common whitethroat, great tit, blackcap and garden warbler (*more of which later). Orange tip was the star of the butterfly show with several bright stunning males seen during the day, along with speckled wood, brimstone, comma and small heath. At least two hornet were seen, and a bee colony appeared to have taken over a hole in a large tree. Great tit were bringing food into the same tree, and probably had a nest out of our view.
Common pheasant were seen and heard throughout the day. We also heard cuckoo calling. Great spotted woodpecker was seen by Hazel, it then disappeared for a while before reappearing as it flew across our view and out of sight again.
As we returned towards the centre and lunch, we caught up with little egret and jackdaw. Investigation of a small pond produced azure damselfly, large red damselfly and blue-tailed damselfly. Scanning part of a larger pond revealed little grebe, coot, a pair of tufted duck and a moorhen.
By this time we were all keen to have lunch, where we noticed a great tit coming into a hole in a nearby brick wall, it regularly brought food in, so hopefully another successful nest site.
After a lunch break, some enjoying the excellent cakes and drinks on offer, we started off on a similar track to the morning walk in the hope of hearing a turtle dove which had been reported, sadly we were not rewarded by the dove on this occasion.
Nightingales, however, had a different agenda and we were thrown into a virtual cacophony of sound from three different directions. One, in particular, was drawing us in with its loud call tempting us to find it. A comment from Bruce of “I can see it” caused excitement. After realising that we were all looking too far back, which led to frustrating scanning, we all managed to see the bird singing through a narrow window. Sitting at eye level on a spindly Elder bush through a rather confusing tangle of twigs it was doing its best not to be seen, although shadow from a higher branch didn’t help!
Eventually we found two more angles to view this wonderful bird and managed to get some other visitors onto it as well. As we moved on the path took us towards the Colne river and some reed-bed habitat. Immediately we heard both reed and Cetti’s warbler singing nearby. A little egret was perched in a tree and as we continued to view a nearby pool in the intertidal area, we found several pochard, a greylag goose pair with several young, an oystercatcher was seen on the edge of a pool whilst another stood on guard duty on a tree at the back of the pool.
Eventually we arrived on the riverside path and from the first hides we saw hobby, shelduck, many black-headed gull, and two redshank flying inland. Further along curlew fed on the recently revealed muddy river edges along with a whimbrel. A second whimbrel flew overhead as we scanned the river.
Another pool provided more damselfly and (mainly azure and blue-tailed) and what looked to be an emperor dragonfly.
By now our time was almost up and even though we hadn’t found a turtle dove we had heard many nightingales, other spring migrant species and our own resident birds, all claiming their territories, displaying and singing – all in all a delightful day.
* So back to blackcap and garden warbler. Their songs have always been a real confusion for me. It doesn’t matter how many times I listen to them at home to compare, in the field it’s a different matter. However, with the new technology available to recognise birdsong I had spent a few days in Suffolk before our visit to Fingringhoe listening for garden warbler where they had been reported. I thought I had finally sorted them out in my head. Seeing them also gave me confidence to believe I had finally cracked it! I also used a smartphone app to see if it would sort out the two species and it seemed to work really well. So armed with my new knowledge I was hopeful that I could sort them out if we heard them at Fingringhoe. I’m sure you will not be surprised to hear that the technology identified four garden warblers and I felt I definitely heard one. Just shows every day’s a school day!
If you want to try for yourself, follow the links below.
Thank you for all who came on Saturday, we had a great day and enjoyed some beautiful wildlife in great surroundings. Thanks as always to Steve for the excellent photos.
Looking forward to our Coach Trip to Minsmere next weekend, where we will hopefully have an equally enjoyable day. If you haven’t booked your place yet, click the link here for details.