Ashenbank Wood is often worth a visit at this time of year to see parties of small birds feeding in the tree tops. The wood is managed by the Woodland Trust and has an nice mix of deciduous trees. Our walk started at Shorne Country Park. Just by the visitor centre we spotted a Turkey Oak with an unusual gall which we have seen in only one other place. The gall causes the leaf petiole to become swollen as the picture shows. We are hoping to be able to identify it soon.
Further along the path a robin sang from a perch high in a birch tree. Robins often sing in winter, I’m not sure why, to attract a mate maybe, or defend a territory, or for pleasure? We certainly enjoyed hearing him. His bright plumage was set off against the yellow and gold of the autumn leaves.
In the grounds of Cobham Hall we saw jackdaws, black-headed gulls, starlings and crows attracted to an area flooded after rain, splashing about and I’m sure enjoying it….
Ashenbank Wood was damp, cold and seemed empty but soon the high pitched contact calls of small birds, moving through the bare branches of the oaks, sycamores and birches could be heard. High above, tits constantly flitted from twig to twig – blue tits, great tits, many long-tailed tits, a coal tit and, a special treat, a marsh tit.
The marsh tit is on the Red list. The conservation status of 246 UK bird species have been assessed against a set of objective criteria to place each on one of three lists – green, amber and red – indicating an increasing level of conservation concern. There has been a 50% decline in the species over the last 30+ years. There is good evidence that changes in the habitat quality of woodlands, namely a loss of understorey, have been responsible for the decline in Marsh Tits.
The wood was far from empty!