Florence, Peter, Melanie and I were greeted by thick fog at Waltham Brooks last Sunday morning but also a healthy chorus of birdsong. First up was a Garden Warbler, followed by the bubbling verses of a Nightingale after a few steps, the first of three.
We caught sight of a pair of Long-tailed Tits, listened to Chiffchaffs and watched a male Whitethroat singing in the brambles as we crossed the railway, the voice of a Sedge Warbler on the other side leading the way. Once on the west side, we were in the midst of a Sedge Warbler sing-off as three birds proclaimed their territories.
A couple of Cetti's Warblers belted out their explosive song and we caught sight of a pair of Stonechats in the rough ground nearby. Crossing a footbridge, we managed to get 'scope views of a lovely male Greenfinch.
Two drake Tufted Ducks swam out from the near corner of the lake and a Grey Heron flew through the mist, followed by three Gadwall, with their distinctive white wing patches. We soaked in the song of a Reed Warbler chuntering away in the reeds.
Passing a bank of brambles, a Lesser Whitethroat suddenly announced itself with a loud rattle just feet away, but we only managed a glimpse as it disappeared into a thicket. We were soon distracted by a drake Shoveler flying over with a couple of Mallards, and the sound of two Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming in their respective territories.
The Cuckoo that had been calling intermittently all morning was now visible in the top of a distant tree. The light wasn't great, but the bird could be seen clearly through the telescope as it preened in between bouts of 'cuckoo'-ing.
A Reed Bunting made an appearance by the path and a small party of Swallows zipped by, probably still in active migration mode. As we neared the gate to complete the loop, we finally managed views of a couple of Linnets after some fleeting glimpses earlier.
The sounds of Stock Dove and a fly-by Chaffinch concluded the visit as we got back to the car for a quick coffee break before moving on to our next site.
Things got off to a good start at our heathland stop, with nice views of Goldcrest and Treecreeper as soon as we opened the car doors. An about-turn allowed views of a singing Woodlark floating around in the sky to the south.
Making our way out onto the heath, a much closer Woodlark appeared in the air above us, allowing us to enjoy a much clearer performance of the species' incredible song. The bird then alighted at the top of a pine tree not too far away, allowing amazing views of this special heathland species.
This was followed by a couple of Siskins, another pair of Woodlarks, a Kestrel and a pair of Stonechats.