Trip reports

RSPB Bexley Local Field Trip - Lesnes Abbey Woods - Saturday March 11th. Leaders Ralph and Brenda Todd

Sunday, 12 March 2017

RSPB Bexley Local Field Trip - Lesnes Abbey Woods - Saturday March 11th.
Leaders Ralph and Brenda Todd
Well this time the weather surpassed itself, possibly the best spring day of the year with warm, sunny blue skies so the omens were good. We arranged this walk hopefully to coincide with the bloom of wild daffodils in these ancient woods.
Fourteen members and friends (many first timers for our walks) gathered alongside the very smart new visitor centre. As the shutters rolled up to allow us our first view inside the centre our attention was diverted by a low thud and something brown dropping from the elevated shutter - a common toad. The toad was probably more shocked than us but it seemed to recover enough to move for shelter behind one of the metal stanchions thus avoiding being picked up and transferred to somewhere it clearly didn't want to be and also avoiding too many photos of its embarrassing arrival on the scene. A green woodpecker laughed in the background and some goldfinches arrived to see what the fuss was about.

Wandering down to the dipping pond we weren't able to relocate the three redwings that were perched when we first arrived but two pairs of mallard and six moorhen (two perched high in a tree) were the only visible signs of avian presence on/around the pond. We did notice some mating frogs but no spawn as yet. We nodded to the carved monk as we passed and noted this and other carvings in the woods (the work of Tom Harvey - more of his work can be found at www.carverharvey.co.uk )

Retracing our steps to pick up the Blue Trail blackbirds, dunnock, chaffinches, robins, long-tailed tits, carrion crows and magpies got the list off to a good start. The crocuses and garden daffodils were showing well.
We entered the woodland and were pleased to see the wild daffodils had waited for the date of our visit and were showing splendidly. We passed the carving of the Green Man, undertaken by a Latvian artist some years ago and then began the slow and relatively steep climb towards the heath. Wren, great tits, woodpigeons and our first great spotted woodpeckers added to the list while a cormorant flew over. Ring-necked parakeets were to be ever present along the length of the walk either visibly or audibly.
We rested a moment before doing a circuit of the heath which looked wonderful and open in contrast to the woods. Three great spotted woodpeckers were clearly having some sort of territorial dispute. A single small tortoiseshell butterfly fluttered across the heather and a chiffchaff briefly called. A slightly longer rest was taken at the heathland carved seating area which provided a grand seat for the leader and benches (depicting leaves) for the group. We were able to discuss a little more about the woods, review where we'd walked and where we were going and listen to the call of a nuthatch that was briefly seen as it flew across us. For more information about the woods, the Abbey and the project see http://www.visitlesnes.co.uk/
Continuing adjacent to some housing we were soon concentrating on the steep decline down quite difficult path and steps. We mostly emerged unscathed to a spot where some of us had our attention drawn to some noisy crows which were eventually seen mobbing a common buzzard as it quickly left the area. Yet another couple of great spotted woodpeckers called and another wren. Great tit song was an ever present reminder that spring had arrived in the woods. From here we decided on the short route back as time was marching on and so we adopted the red trail which took us to the fossil pit. Now the full beauty of the daffodils was evident as we slowly passed through the enclosures, a dazzle of yellow in the sunlight. I'd hardly finished saying we were surprised no wood anemones had been seen when the first clump appeared. From this point we saw more and more and also a few late flowering snowdrops.

For many of the group, even those who know the woods, to see the work that has been carried out as part the HLF funding project was a great surprise, not least the improvement to the access to the fossil pit. Being greeted by a coryphodon (another of carverharvey's work) was a new experience for some which was evidence of the Eocene period (54.5million years ago). Two young girls showed us the results of their family exploration in the sand - three sharks' teeth. What a treat to have them momentarily be part of our morning's enjoyment.

So, our walk was coming to an end, the last few hundred metres spent amongst the daffodils (and a couple of lesser celandines) plus a small flock of long-tailed tits and goldfinches before finally exiting through the formal gardens back to the Centre (and toilets which were much appreciated).
This was never going to be the best time of year for birds but to hear the first song of many species, some territorial behaviour and of course the main reason for our visit, the glorious display of daffodils, made this a most rewarding and enjoyable visit.
Birds seen. Cormorant (over), mallard (two pairs), common buzzard (over), moorhen (six), woodpigeon, green woodpecker (two), great spotted woodpecker (six+), carrion crow, magpie, great tit, blue tit, long-tailed tit, nuthatch, wren, song thrush, redwing (three), blackbird, robin, chiffchaff, dunnock, goldfinch, chaffinch. (22 species in all).
In addition two small tortoiseshell, a common toad and a common frog.
Ralph and Brenda Todd