Wivenhoe Watching Wildlife: Dawn Chorus Walk

As previously advertised, WWW will hold its regular spring Dawn Chorus walk tomorrow, 7 May, fortuitously on International Dawn Chorus Day.

Meeting time is 0430, in the Station carpark, and we expect to finish between 0800 and 0900.

Given the forecast stiff north-easterly, we have decided to take advantage of the shelter from Wivenhoe Wood, and head upriver along the trail, potentially as far as the Uni, and then back through the woods. Going underfoot should be fine, unless there is a deluge today, but it could be on the chilly side - please wrap up warm!

See you there!
Chris, Greg & Richard (with apols from Glyn)


  • Thanks to those of you who braved the chill and joined us on our Dawn Chorus Walk today… 

    We gathered in the less-than-half light at 0430, the clouds hanging low and a keen northerly breeze which meant we tried to find less-exposed spots wherever possible to hear and see the unfolding events of the day. All in all we heard or saw around 52 species of bird in four hours, while other things of interest included brown-tail moth caterpillar ‘nests’, wild strawberry in full flower, a small oak tree covered in oak-apple galls, a roaring muntjac and otter footprints in the exposed river mud.

    As we assembled, robins and blackbirds were just starting into song, swelling to a crescendo about 30 minutes later. Meanwhile, wrens, chiffchaffs and woodpigeons had joined them on the stage, and as we headed onto Ferry Marsh, both reed bunting and reed warbler sprung into song, and indeed reed warblers continued to do so from almost every patch of reedbed giving virtuoso performances which were almost the highlight of the morning.

     As dawn broke properly, several little egrets flew over, presumably leaving roost, and the first greenshank showed (and called) well on the river. Although late in the season for winter waders, passage migrant greenshanks kept on appearing as we walked, possibly half a dozen birds in total. The importance of Hythe lagoons for water birds was demonstrated amply when a buzzard flew over, spooked the birds into our line of sight, including flocks of both teal and black-tailed godwit: only isolated individuals of both these species were seen on the river channel.

    The next virtuosic songster was a lesser whitethroat on the edge of Wivenhoe Wood, a simple, insistent song but new for some of the group, and a good contrast with the scratchier common whitethroats we heard later. And then a seriously show-off sedge warbler, singing and songflighting from a tiny patch of reeds right in front of us. We had been hearing a cuckoo all morning, and all three of us instinctively called ‘cuckoo’ as an attenuated shape flew over us and across the river. Wrong! We soon realized the error as its sleek shape and scything flight changed to diagnosis to ‘hobby’.

    But a few minutes later, not one but two cuckoos flew alongside is and perched their way along the railway electricity lines, flickering along a few metres at a time. Both seemed to be males (the only calls were the familiar male-only one), and they treated us to a wonderful display of display behaviour, with wing flicking and tail lifting, the like of which few of us had witnessed before.

    The end of our walk was the University rail crossing, always a good spot for nightingales. But such was the cold that a brief but distinctive, sonorous flourish was all we picked up…until we finally decided to call it a day, set off home, and came to a rapid halt just 30 seconds later as the nightingale sang a couple of full song phrases and rounded off an excellent four hours’ walk. Glyn will have been sorry to have missed it – although I am sure he was enjoying his own event at the Bridge of Orchy, a pine marten, news of which he texted through so as not to forget him!

     Chris, Greg & Richard

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