After a week of very cool conditions (to put it mildly) warmth returned at last for our trip to Ashdown Forest. Oaks, birches, bracken and beeches, all green and fresh, held the birds and wildlife we had come to see. And we soon heard the songs of wren, willow warbler, chiffchaff and chaffinch, with mistle thrush – or was it blackbird? – and robin singing in the distance. Also very soon we saw three woodlarks, foraging on the ground and flying up into a nearby conifer, which was handy as we got good views of them. Common redstarts were, for once, quite common. They seemed to be using the nest boxes placed on conifers in various parts of the reserve. The males were looking grand, with their red plumage, grey backs and black heads, they flitted from tree to tree, collecting insects for the young.
As we watched the redstarts we became aware of the display song of the tree pipit, another bird special to this habitat. The male stood on the highest branch of a tall tree singing loudly, then flew up high and gently parachuted down to another nearby tree top. A super display.
Further along our route we saw a spotted flycatcher and a nuthatch near a dead tree, seeking grubs & insects perhaps, or maybe visiting a nest….
Near the end of our walk, we were treated to the sight of two cuckoos, one of which boldly sat on the telegraph wire so that we could get a good view. These birds will not be with us for much longer, having only arrived at the end of April, they have laid their eggs in some other bird’s nest and are almost ready to fly back to the warmth of Africa – which after last week, I say is an excellent idea.
Many thanks to Sue & Ian for leading our trip. Sue & Ian are also flying off soon, to the birds, countryside and fresh air of another county. We wish them well in their new home and thank them for many years of support for the Gravesend RSPB Group.