Winter Bird Walk 2023
The Winter Bird Walk 2023 takes place on Saturday 4th March at Hillhouse Wood with Steve Hallam leading. Walkers should meet at the Old Church at 10 am (weather permitting). We advise wearing stout footwear and warm clothing & with a warm drink in a flask. Walkers can expect to see a range of resident woodland and meadow species as well as some winter visitors. Last year the walkers saw or heard:
- Great Spotted Woodpecker,
- Wood Pigeon,
- Blue Tit,
- Great Tit,
- Red Kite,
- Carrion Crow,
- Yellowhammer, and
- Grey Wagtail.
Other more exotic species might also show up such as Waxwing, Goldcrest, Nuthatch, Brambling, Bullfinch as well as more regulars like Robin, Blackbird, Redwing and Fieldfare.
If you want to know what to expect, you can read the report from the 2022 Winter Bird Walk below:
Steve’s Report on the 2022 Winter Bird Walk
The fates were kind to this years’ Winter bird walk, the first we could run since 2019, in three ways. The first was that the weather was lovely – sunny, with a light breeze and cotton wool clouds. The second was eighteen people had come along, which was most pleasing. As for the third – read on.
Nature making a fool of Steve
Regular readers may recall that nature has a way of making a fool of me on these walks. Normally by doing the opposite of something that I have recently announced to the group. You will be glad to hear that this tradition is alive and well. In opening remarks I said that the Winter bird walk might find very few birds, but that I hoped they would not be disappointed.
This time, however, birds started making themselves apparent while we were still assembling. In fact my welcoming words were most rudely interrupted by the sighting of a Greater Spotted Woodpecker, which flew into the top of a tree in the hall garden. The woodpecker was much the more interesting of the two! Barely had the woodpecker moved on, when a Chaffinch started singing – a lovely sound heard all too infrequently these days.
Chaffinch, Dunnock & Wren singing in harmony
I led the group off down the track to the wood. But we had not moved more than a few yards when two low flying Buzzards were easily seen towards Stitching wood. While watching the Buzzards, we were rewarded by the Chaffinch deciding to sing right over our heads – accompanied by a Wren singing in the graveyard and a Dunnock in the field hedge. I barely had time to talk about each bird. As we continued down the track we heard or saw Wood pigeons, Blue tits, Great tits, Long tailed tits and Jackdaws.
Arriving at the sharp bend in the track, I thought that a pause for breadth was called for. As we scanned the view, the most obvious further development was the presence of singing Skylarks. I have not experienced this on previous Winter bird walks – coupled with the other birds heard singing, this would suggest that this season is running early at the moment. Also spotted from this point were a solitary Rook and a Jay.
Moving off down the slope towards the wood, I thought I should check out one of the local Buzzards that was soaring over Hillhouse Wood. Its wings seemed suspiciously long, and then it turned an revealed a sharply forked tail – a Red Kite! Not a total surprise, but still sufficiently unusual to generate some excitement. While enjoying excellent views of this bird, a Goldfinch flew over out heads, while a Carrion crow was also seen.
Moving on down the side of the wood, a calling male Yellowhammer was heard, and seen by some, in a hedge to our right. We checked the stream side Alders for Siskins, and the arable fields for Fieldfares, but on this occasion nature let us down. In fact the latter half of the walk, through the wood, could not match the level of the start – with one exception.
When we arrived by the recently dredged lower pond in the wood, movement was seen by the water’s edge on the far side. A closer look through the binoculars revealed this to be a Grey wagtail. This was truly unexpected – Grey wagtails live by fast flowing water flowing past rocks or concrete. They do not visit ponds in the middle of a wood! Needless to say, this was the first time that I have seen one in the vicinity.
Spring is on the way
The other thing we noticed in the wood was that all the tits we saw were in pairs or threes – not in roving groups. Further indications that nature thinks that Spring is on the way. As confirmation, our walk back up the track to the old church was accompanied by long views of a Buzzard seemingly patrolling the boundary of its territory.
Andrew Savage Interviewed on BBC Radio
Last year, Andrew Savage, Chair of the FoHW, was interviewed on the Steve & Ian show on BBC Essex radio:
The Woodland Trust and members of the Friends of Hillhouse Wood support the work to maintain Hillhouse Wood.