Wonderful woodland for spring birdwatching
TOP TIP Be prepared to sit and wait, time your visit for early or late in the day
I– probably Welsh and Scottish, too – county has an unwritten list of quintessential little woodlands that everyone knows; the kind Miss Marple cycles past. Essex is no exception and there are plenty of suggestions for the most quintessential of them all! After time spent working in woodlands for a Wildlife Trust, a short while ago I concluded that ‘wood watching’ might very well be my favourite type of birdwatching. I love sitting on a discarded log or pile of coppiced branches watching the woodland world. Chalkney Wood near Wakes Colne fits my bill perfectly. I also hold it dear because it once gave me four woodpecker species on my list…yes, four! A recent October afternoon threw in a migrant Wryneck to my expected Great and unexpected Lesser Spots to go with the noisy Green Woodpeckers. The clearings are good here, aiding visibility and access to good numbers of tit and finch species – Hawfinch included sometimes. The Crossbills I had there recently may have been passing through, of course. I have been lucky here with occasional Woodcock (right) under my feet and on a walk at dusk I saw Tawny, Little and Barn Owl. It is a wood of about 65 hectares, enhanced by its flora and, due to the location, birdwatchers can augment the day’s list with a walk alongside the rewarding River Colne, in delightful Wakes Colne. Have a mooch here in late April and summer and, as well as lots of visitors, you may see a Fieldfare or two. When I lived on woodland-free Alderney, Chalkney Wood was one of the places I took every opportunity to visit when back in England for birdwatching. I really missed it – you mustn’t!