Bird Watching (UK) - - Go Birding - ALAS­TAIR RI­LEY

ONE OF THE BEST-KNOWN and vis­ited his­tor­i­cal vil­lages in Es­sex, this lo­ca­tion for pleas­ant easy bird­watch­ing is sur­rounded by rel­a­tively un­du­lat­ing var­ied coun­try­side of a kind not usu­ally con­nected with the county. The tracts of wood­land are es­tab­lished, the river me­an­ders in a very ‘English coun­try­side’ sort of way, qui­etly giv­ing Colch­ester its name as it does so; the farm­land is lit­tle changed from when I grew up here and there’s a ubiq­ui­tous stretch of dis­used rail­way line. All that’s re­ally miss­ing for the birder is the sound of the Curlew on those fields… but then that’s gone miss­ing all over. Spring is prob­a­bly the best time to visit but in all sea­sons a de­cent walk here will re­ward. There are well-marked foot­paths as well as the rail­way tract and the lanes you tra­verse are sur­pris­ingly quiet. Be­ing rather level land to walk on you could be out all day dip­ping back in to the vil­lage for an ex­cel­lent lunch if you didn’t pack a pic­nic. In win­ter, it’s still pos­si­ble to en­counter Lap­wing flocks though smaller these days, while in sum­mer there still ex­ists the chance of Grasshop­per War­bler close to the river. The hum of bees fur­ther calms your soul and if you like flora then her of­fer­ings are pro­fuse in places. If you’ve time, en­joy the cen­tre of the vil­lage, too, and take a peek at the cas­tle. The church­yard is a goodie. Look for Jay, Jack­daw, Spar­rowhawk, Gold­crest (and Firecrest in sea­son), Bullfinch, Long-tailed Tit, Siskin and Red­poll (win­ter). Scan the first fields both sides of the road. If you are early or late you’ll see the Barn Owl.

1Leave the lane, turn­ing right onto a path. The large conifers at Dyne’s Hall fur­ther on have given up Cross­bill ev­ery win­ter. Farm­ers’ fields will add Rook, Mag­pie, Stock Dove at times and gulls fol­low­ing the plough – Com­mon Gull in­cluded.

2The rail­way line can be checked for war­blers in­clud­ing Lesser Whitethroat. Reed Buntings hide here, too, and Foxes like the banks.

3Cross Alder­ford Lane head­ing for Maiden Ley farm. The river twists and turns into view. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, early win­ter reg­u­larly fea­tures Snipe on the mini mud­banks, along with Grey Heron and some­times Wa­ter Rail. Per­son­ally, I have seen Jack Snipe and Green Sand­piper on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

4Take a mini scope – there’s of­ten ‘some­thing’ be­yond your bins!

Treecreeper Tufted Duck

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