I met Karen and Allan at at Burton Mill Pond at 8am on Monday last week for what turned out to be a fantastic Sussex Birding Mini-Trip.
An initial scan of the main pond produced Tufted Ducks and Gadwall, along with pairs of Great Crested Grebes and Mute Swans. A House Martin flew north, and a a female Sparrowhawk hurtled right past us and chased a passerine into a clump of bramble - an exciting moment!
We also enjoyed great views of a female Grey Wagtail perched up on the roof of the mill house. Two Mandarins flew over our heads and a Reed Warbler was seen flitting about on the far side, where we later heard at least two singing. A Water Rail called in the reeds, unseen.
Heading through the woods, we made our way around to Chingford Pond, stopping to enjoy the song of a couple of Blackcaps and a Mistle Thrush along the way. Both Stock and Collared Doves were encountered along this stretch.
As we ascended the dam to view Chingford Pond, we heard the unmistakable song of a Cetti’s Warbler, but it typically remained well hidden despite singing several more times as we scanned the water. Out on the pond we saw more Tufted Ducks and Gadwall, while a pair of Egyptian Geese were snoozing and a flock of five others flew over.
Along the east path we heard a number of Firecrest and Goldcrest and I explained to Karen and Allan the differences between the two species.
Next up, we headed to a nearby heathland site, almost immediately hearing a Siskin flying over, and a little while further we saw and heard our first Woodlarks of the session - singing and giving their distinctive 'tu-der-lu' flight call. Two pairs of Stonechat were seen, perched in birches and flycatching, and several pairs of Linnet were showing well too.
The cloud had started to break up and it was turning into a very pleasant afternoon. At least eight Buzzards and a Red Kite were thermalling and Brimstone, Peacock and Speckled Wood butterflies appeared on the wing.
As we enjoyed watching another pair of Stonechat, another bird appeared nearby, with a long tail: a Dartford Warbler! A lifer for both Karen and Allan, and one I had hoped we would encounter at this site. All in all, a very rewarding few hours!