Ashdown Forest is a bit of a misnomer. It is more like heathland with areas of woodland, in fact nearly two thirds of its 6500 acre site is heathland, which is 2.5% of the UK’s extent of this rare habitat. A special place to see special flora and fauna. As a group of us met on Sunday morning we were hoping to see some of that special life. Woodlarks, tree pipits, redstarts to mention just a few. As we collected in the car park we were regaled with blackcap firstly and then also a garden warbler. A good chance to compare the two songs. It was a cool morning, but we were hopeful it would stay at least dry and we were not disappointed. We also had the chance to compare the songs of the chiffchaff and the willow warbler as both were present and singing, although not showing themselves for the most part. Except one individual who was skulking about in a bush giving some of us views. The jury remained out on the final identification.
Further along the track we could not believe our luck when a woodlark was spotted in a tree preening. It remained for several minutes allowing us all to have good views. One down, two to go. More unseen birds were noted, wren, robin, goldfinch and then another small bird was seen perched up high. The light was difficult but eventually we decided on redpoll. Following the slope down a cuckoo was heard calling, and in fact later in the day we also managed to see cuckoo flying.
One of our group was very keen to catch up with a redstart and had us climbing back up the slope in search of a singing male. Most of us missed it unfortunately but we had luck with a displaying tree pipit instead. Scanning some telegraph wires, we spotted a couple of small birds. Getting the scope on them, one turned out to be another woodlark and the other the tree pipit who would fly up in the sky and parachute down, all the while singing to attract a mate or telling any other males around “this is my patch, keep out”.
Looking skyward one eagle-eyed member of the group found two hobbies soaring over. Not feeding on dragonflies but still good to see. Lunch beckoned and so we found somewhere to sit and have our lunch. It was beginning to brighten and warm up. Five buzzards put on a bit of a distant show for us flying in circles to catch the thermals.
Lunch finished, and we were keen to catch up with our last target bird. Again, hearing a redstart singing we headed off in its direction and this time we eventually found one about as high as it could be in a tree. Terry managed a photo, but you might need to use your imagination a little too. It was warming up nicely now as we returned towards the car park and added blue tit, pheasant, green woodpecker, stonechat and one lone greylag goose flying over. Not what you would really expect to find on heathland. Unfortunately, I believe the day was butterfly free, not sunny enough, but there were several small moths flying, heath moths of course.
Back at the cars we decided to head to the Forest Centre for much needed facilities and as the sun was now properly out we had a short walk around the heathland before heading home.
Thank you to all who join us.
Irene and Terry.
Thanks to Irene and Terry for leading the walk and for the trip report and the photographs.