A big thank you to Duncan Evered for leading a very informative walk on Troopers Hill and in the woodland learning more about birds and how to observe them.
Duncan grew up nearby and first learnt about birds visiting Troopers Hill and the area of thin scrub and rubble that is now Troopers Hill woodland. He has worked for over 20 years as a professional ornithologist (much of that time in the USA). Duncan has been recording his bird sightings at Troopers Hill on eBird over the past few months and offered to lead this walk after a chance meeting with Susan of Friends of Troopers Hill earlier in the year.
On a cloudy, but mild, February morning, with very little wind, we were surprised at the number of species that we saw or heard, the final total was 26. Duncan demonstrated the use of the Merlin Bird ID app to help identify birds through their song, which confirmed a Coal Tit in the allotments.
There were many gulls flying south-west overhead and several magpies were building nests - we watched them bringing in building material. There were several great-tits and blue-tits, together with wrens and robins. A sparrow hawk was seen briefly, pursued by a crow. Later on Lamb Hill we saw two goldcrests and at the end of the walk a fieldfare was seen, and photographed by Duncan, on an apple tree at the edge of the Field.
The highlight of the day though, was in the gully where a recent arrival at Troopers Hill - a Dartford Warbler - flew out of some heather and over the group. Later we both saw it and heard it in the gorse; while difficult to be sure there seemed to be at least two of them present. While these birds shelter in gorse, they also seem to need areas of heather, so it seems that the conservation management work carried out over the last 20 years - with the primary aim of protecting the heather and the heathland from encroaching scrub for invertebrates - has also benefited this spiecies.
While numbers are increasing in the UK, the Dartford Warbler is still regarded as an Amber List species, as such its presence is suppressed so it is not listed on eBird, hence the list below shows 25 not 26 species. However, the presence of this bird at Troopers Hill is now well known via social media, so we have no concerns about mentioning it here.
The demand for this walk was such that Duncan Evered agreed to lead a second walk a week later.