Our Assistant Warden Matt arranged a visit to the reserve for some of our volunteers at dawn on 7 May to help them with their bird identification skills. Here's volunteer Elaine's notes on what they saw and heard:

After the deluge that was the May bank holiday, we were not expecting much of the weather, but the Warren had other ideas and was keen to show off at its Maytime best. At 5:30 the volunteers gathered in the car park with our leader Matt Orwin, the sky was overcast and there was a mist in the air, but for once, thank you very much 2024, it wasn’t raining. I was keen to try out my brand new RSPB binoculars, as I had had such difficulties with my old pair, and these had a greater potential as they were easier to focus for one thing. (Other binoculars are available!!)

Straight up greeting the dawn, was a bird that used to frequent my childhood garden, but one that I haven’t seen much of since, the song thrush. A glorious welcome from the top of a singular tree, Matt informed us that it was their regular patch and how he was determining, through repeat observation and mapping, of the bird species, whose territory was whose. The thrush was determined to keep theirs to themselves, with a spirited song.

Matt was keen instruct us on some of the ways that he has learnt to identify individual bird song and we were entertained by his interesting and very accurate analogies: a squeaky bike pump that is on the way out was the great tit, heard throughout the reserve and the squeaky bike pump in better repair, is the coal tit.

As we walked along the ride the sun was rising and burning off the mist, the reserve really was rather beautiful and the atmosphere expectant. The sun illuminated our next lesson which was the cheeky chiff chaff. We learnt that its head goes one way for the chiff and the other for the chaff and with my new “bins” I could see the musician clearly, in all its energetic movements. A whole new world of birdwatching was opening up for me.

Next up was the garden warbler and its distinctive and very melodic tune. Matt commented that it will often follow you down a ride, in a territorial way, or to my mind to drown out the ever present robins and their distracting but lovely song. We saw the warbler too and its elegant but dowdy form, so many birds, so little time.

As the early morning heated up the heather, we were on tenterhooks looking for the Dartford warbler, we had a quick coffee to galvanise us and Matt peeled away, hot on the scent. He had spotted something and signalled us to join him and there it was. The red eyed, brown body and long tail that had been described to me last time, that I hadn’t managed to spot was sunning themselves, just for our delight. No song to sing, but a flight behaviour that enabled us to predict where in the heather it would pop up next and did so, to our great delight.

With the Warren throwing in a couple of wood larks trying to hide in a heather scrape area and some whitethroats, linnets, willow warblers, and a stonechat, we were delighted with the mornings sighting and hearings.

Do look out for further events as it really was a joy and an uplifting experience to see the reserve in such a wonderful light.

Many thanks to Matt for his excellent tuition and encouragement to the less experienced birders, ie me, I am totally hooked now.

Wealden Reserves Office Manager