It was a perfect day for the first of our new series of Bird Discovery Walks, which took place at Burton and Chingford Ponds as the sun shone and the birds sang!
We started by scanning Burton Mill Pond, where there were plenty of Tufted Ducks and a splendid pair of Great Crested Grebes. The sky was wonderfully blue and everybody left their coats in the boot!
We began walking along the wooded footpath by the side of the pond, listening to the songs of Firecrest and Goldcrest, Chaffinch and Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Blackbird. A Treecreeper announced itself a little way from the path, but after waiting for a minute or two it alighted in a tree right next to us then gave several minutes of views as it worked from tree to tree.
Further along, we enjoyed superb views of a pair of Marsh Tits, making their 'sneezing' contact call as they foraged and cached food. We also got close looks at some Chaffinches, now revealing their bright spring colours, and a small charm of Goldfinches.
A pair of Green Woodpeckers teased us as they 'yaffled' repeatedly but remained stubbornly out of sight in trees by the edge of a field. Eventually, one was glimpsed as it flew low through the trees. A Sparrowhawk dashed past, while a trio of Buzzards performed some impressive manoeuvres as they soared high above.
After admiring the incredible forms of some of the old trees towards the end of the wooded path, we continued to Chingford Pond. We started to scan the water for wildfowl but were soon distracted by a showy pair of Grey Wagtails, which were obliging enough to be lined up in the telescope for an extra close-up! A Brimstone butterfly floated by before pausing on a dandelion.
Even though many wildfowl have cleared out of the South Downs in the recent good weather, there was still plenty to see on the pond. As well as dozens more Tufted Ducks, we enjoyed improved views of Great Crested Grebes and had great fun watching the antics of a couple of pairs of Little Grebes (and listening to their amazing trill!)
A drake Pochard was making a thorough job of washing and brushing himself up, while a fine drake Shoveler swam by and several Gadwall dabbled around the margins. It's always fun to watch a big bird land — two Mute Swans ended a flight across the water at our end of the pond. While all this was going on, a few Siskins flew overhead.
On the way back, a Great Spotted Woodpecker landed in a tree just above, making us crane our necks for a view. The highlight of the return leg, though, was nice views of a pair of Bullfinches munching on buds, located after hearing their melancholy — but easily missed — contact calls. A superb way to finish such a peaceful and productive morning, during which we logged 45 bird species. (Although a Nuthatch got the last word, adding itself to our list as we went through the walk's sightings!)
You can book one of our upcoming Bird Discovery Walks here.
Great Crested Grebe
Great Spotted Woodpecker