Dawn Walk Results in Waves of Song

Tawny Owl - Wikimedia File Image

Dawn Walk Results in Waves of Song

Steve Hallam led a small group on the annual Dawn Chorus Walk when they were greeted by waves of song.  His account of the walk is shown below…

Steve Hallam describing the waves of song

On the morning of 18th May, the population of West Bergholt could be divided into two groups:

  • the eight people who came on this year’s Dawn Chorus walk, and
  • those who had made a mistake.

This was one of the best ‘shows’ since I have been leading these walks (and this was nothing to do with me!), as I will explain.

Continue reading “Dawn Walk Results in Waves of Song”

Early Start for Dawn Chorus – 18th May

Blue Tit leaves nest hole

Early start to see a Blue Tit leaving nest holeEarly Start for Dawn Chorus

To get the best from the Dawn Chorus means an early start but it is well worth it.  Steve Hallam will be leading this years’ Dawn Chorus Walk around Hillhouse Wood, offering the chance to see and/or hear nightingales and many other dawn choristers like the Blue Tit having its own early start (see right).

Previous years’ walks have seen and/or heard over Continue reading “Early Start for Dawn Chorus – 18th May”

Dawn Chorus can reward an early start

Blackcap singingDawn Chorus can reward an early start

It might be an early start but the Dawn Chorus can truly deliver its own reward.  Once again Steve Hallam will be leading the Dawn Chorus Walk around Hillhouse Wood, offering the chance to see and/or hear nightingales and many other brilliant dawn choristers like the Blackcap (see right).

Previous years’ walks have seen and/or heard over Continue reading “Dawn Chorus can reward an early start”

Nightingales at Hillhouse Wood

Dawn Chorus walk 2016

Dawn Chorus 2016Hillhouse Wood for Nightingales & more

If you miss out on the guided Bluebell walk today, why not come to the Dawn Chorus walk tomorrow morning?  Led by Steve Hallam, this walk offers the chance to see nightingales and many other brilliant choristers.  Previous years’ walks have seen and/or heard over 20 species, for example, in 2013 the following list was collected:

  • Tawny Owl.
  • Whitethroat.
  • Robin.
  • Nightingale.
  • Blackbird.
  • Wren.
  • Pheasant.
  • Rook.
  • Wood Pigeon.
  • Blackcap.
  • Blue Tit.
  • Chaffinch.
  • Canade Goose.
  • Chiffchaff.
  • Goldcrest.
  • Mallard.
  • Jackdaw.
  • Great Tit.
  • Buzzard.
  • Green Woodpecker.
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

The walk will start from the Old Church at 3:45am on Sunday 8th May.  You should bring warm clothing, stout footwear, a flask of hot drink and a torch – please note that the walk will only go ahead weather permitting.

If you haven’t been on one of these walks before you will find it a rewarding and delightful experience at a very special time for the wood’s varied wildlife; if you would like to know more then check out this report from the 2013 dawn chorus walk.

Other useful links are:

 Woodland Trust  Colchester Natural History Society Essex Wildlife Trust

Early start for Dawn Chorus Walk 2015

Dawn Chorus Walk 2015Dawn Chorus Walk 2015

Once again Steve Hallam will be leading the Dawn Chorus Walk 2015 around Hillhouse Wood, offering the chance to see and/or hear nightingales and many other brilliant dawn choristers. Previous years’ walks have seen and/or heard over 20 species, for example, in 2013 the following list was collected:

  • Tawny Owl.
  • Whitethroat.
  • Robin.
  • Nightingale.
  • Blackbird.
  • Wren.
  • Pheasant.
  • Rook.
  • Wood Pigeon.
  • Blackcap.
  • Blue Tit.
  • Chaffinch.
  • Canade Goose.
  • Chiffchaff.
  • Goldcrest.
  • Mallard.
  • Jackdaw.
  • Great Tit.
  • Buzzard.
  • Green Woodpecker.
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

The walk will start from the Old Church at 3:45am on Sunday 17th May.  You should bring warm clothing, stout footwear, a flask of hot drink and a torch – please note that the walk will only go ahead weather permitting.

If you haven’t been on one of these walks before you will find it a rewarding and delightful experience at a very special time for the wood’s varied wildlife; if you would like to know more then check out this report from the 2013 dawn chorus walk.

Other useful links are:

 Woodland Trust  Colchester Natural History Society Essex Wildlife Trust

Dawn Invasion of Hillhouse Wood

Dawn walkers in Hillhouse Wood
Dawn Walkers in Hillhouse Wood

Dawn Walkers in Hillhouse Wood

Dawn Invasion of Hillhouse Wood

Steve Hallam reports on this year’s Dawn Chorus walk in Hillhouse Wood.

Dawn seems very early

There are times when 3.45 am feels like a truly mad time to go for a walk.  Such times are generally around 3.15 am, when the alarm sounds.  And, as the guide for this year’s Dawn Chorus walk, I couldn’t help wondering if anyone else was going to be mad enough to turn up this year.  As it turned out, my timing was such that I arrived at the old church right on time (close enough to prompt some concerns by Andrew Savage concerning the reliability of the Hallam alarm clock).  As I drove down the lane to the church I saw one car (phew – someone’s turned up), then another, and more, and then lost count.  I then saw what looked like a small army standing by the bench.  Had a coach party turned up?

Andrew, being Andrew, was doing a head count – 32 people!  Amazing, and a Personal Lifetime Best!

Which, of course, raised the stakes for being able to find everyone some good birds to see and hear.  We had a guess regarding the first species we would hear (not withstanding the Tawny Owls that had been heard already).  The suggestions were Cuckoo and Nightingale – both good ones, as these birds have previously achieved this status.

First call from Whitethroat

In previous years we have heard something almost as soon as we’d started off.   This year, however, we were past the site of the hurdle maker’s cottage before we heard our first bird.  To make up for the delay it came from the hedge right next to us.  It was a single blast of Whitethroat, perhaps complaining about its sleep being disturbed.  They don’t normally sing this early (not that I have a robust ‘data bank’ to base this opinion on).

Dawn Walkers in Hillhouse Wood
An opportunity to catch some late bluebells as well

Things continued to be quiet as we approached the wood, such that I was starting to worry what to talk about.  However as we reached the main entrance a solitary Robin struck up its fluid song, and (relief!) we could hear a Nightingale singing lower down the wood.  As we stood and listened at least two Tawny Owls were calling at each other from either side of the wood, while the first Blackbird also started.  The Blackbird is sometimes referred to as ‘the poor man’s Nightingale’, so we had a good opportunity to compare the two.  The first Wrens also entered the fray at this point, while a Pheasant called somewhere in the dark.

Nightingale still singing

We moved on into the wood and took up position around the top pond (it was noticeable how many torches came into use as the group negotiated the narrow path to the pond!).  The Nightingale was continuing to sing and could now be heard more clearly.  Here we also heard our first Rooks and Wood Pigeons as they woke up.  We moved on down the hill to where we had arguably the highlight of the walk: the Nightingale that we had first heard had continued to sing throughout the walk so far.  By now we were only a few yards from its bush, but it continued to sing unabated.  Everyone in the party was able to thoroughly familiarise themselves with a Nightingale in full cry.  At the same time one of the wood’s Blackcaps finally woke up close by.  To complete the noisy ‘soundscape’ some Blue Tits started their incessant calling on the other side of the path.

Surprising Goldcrest

Moving on down to the stream at the bottom we heard a singing Chaffinch, some Canada Geese noisily flying nearby, the first Chiffchaff of the walk and the major pleasant surprise of the walk – a singing Goldcrest.  What he was doing there I have no idea, as they normally live in conifers.  He was near the large Alder trees, so maybe these were acting as a substitute habitat.  Reaching the lower pond we had our second surprise – a pair of Mallards.  They are presumably looking for a quiet place to breed – they may not have chosen wisely.  But it is an implicit comment on the relatively good state of the pond this year that they are even considering setting up home.  Whilst here we also heard our first Jackdaws and Great Tits.  At this point I (and hopefully at least a few of our guests) heard one call note from a Buzzard somewhere overhead.  As we continued round the rest of the wood things started to wind down, but we heard a Nightingale singing in a thicket that I’d not heard occupied before, along with both resident species of woodpecker.

Missing Song Thrush

So what did we fail to hear this year?  There are always some species that inexplicably keep quiet.  Our ‘roll of shame’ is headed by Song Thrush and Dunnock, while I was also hoping to hear the Nuthatches.  The solitary Cuckoo in the area failed to call, whilst it appears that the Yellowhammers who usually live by the track have disappeared. Overall, though, a tally of 21 species was very respectable.

Full list of species seen/heard

  • Tawny Owl
  • Whitethroat
  • Robin
  • Nightingale
  • Blackbird
  • Wren
  • Pheasant
  • Rook
  • Wood Pigeon
  • Blackcap
  • Blue Tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Canade Goose
  • Chiffchaff
  • Goldcrest
  • Mallard
  • Jackdaw
  • Great Tit
  • Buzzard
  • Green Woodpecker
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Other useful links are:

Woodland Trust  Colchester Natural History Society Essex Wildlife Trust