Trip reports

Coach trip to Ashdown Forest, 11th June 2016

Coach trip to Ashdown Forest, 11th June 2016
Sparrowhawk by Ben Hall (rspb-images.com)

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

We set out on a rather grey, but dry day with scattered showers forecast, this made it quite warm in the unsheltered areas.

Ashdown has a circular trail and we set off through the kissing gate into the forest. Its not a forest like you visualise, full of tall trees and not much more. Instead, heather grows on the open hillsides so you walk through a varied habitat.

Our first sighting was a Sparrowhawk! Having only just taken out our binoculars some of us had to be quick to catch a glimpse of it, and while searching the skies, just a few minutes later, we saw a buzzard gliding high up on the thermals. What a way to start the day!

We had with us someone who was interested in the flora and she found some heath bedstraw and milkwort by looking down instead of up. There were a number of us also interested in the little flowers that pop up everywhere and so there were a few nodding heads (apart from the flowers) as we split our time between the skies and the ground.

Just a short way further along we spent some time under the welcome shade of some trees overlooking a cluster of bushes where we watched quite a number of stonechat flitting between the shrubs. Our ears were also kept busy and we could hear Chaffinch and Blackcap in the nearby trees. Turning around to look on the other side of the path, we saw a Kestrel hovering and a tree pipit come down to settle on a bush.

One of the target species we had on our list to see was redstart, and moving further along the path a few of us caught a glimpse of one moving in and out, up and down on a fallen tree branch. However as usually happens with this lovely bird, it didn't show for long and we eventually moved on hoping for another further along.

Continuing through a tree-lined section of the path we stopped a few times and were able to see a dunnock, meadow pipit and a very busy blue tit flying back and forth to the nestbox on one of the trees, feeding the chick. While here we could hear a willow warbler and a greenfinch calling and to our delight, there was another redstart which everyone got to see.

Coming out into a clearing there was a pond of still water which was home to large red, emperor and common dragonflies, as well as broad-bodied chasers. After a short walk through another stand of trees, we came across another pond and here were more of the same, but as we were leaving someone spotted a common toad, only a baby, which we all managed to get a good look at.

On we went, but a few of us slower ones stopped to look at the flowers again and found a heath spotted orchid to add to the list. By now most of the group had gone on ahead but were making slow progress as the path went down a steep hillside to a little stream where we crossed over the narrow, slatted bridge and then up an equally steep, if not steeper, hillside! Here we all took time out to sit under the shade of a tall tree and enjoy our well-earned lunch. The view from picnic spot was lovely and from here we saw skylark, hobby and buzzard.

After lunch, our leader called us all to order and on we continued on again. This time the terrain was flatter and looked down into a valley on one side where there were stands of purple foxgloves and the forest on the other. In the trees we had excellent views of a whitethroat singing in an Ash tree. We passed a group of 5 Konik ponies grazing along the path and further along there was a woodlark sitting on the wire.

Some people came back to the coach and some of the group went to investigate another part of the forest where the group had great views of a singing tree pipit, a quiet woodlark, a crimson linnet and a yellowhammer that was trying to hide under a leaf next to the path. Then when the first few spots of rain started to drop, we decided to call it a day just before 4pm.

Some of the other species we saw included redpoll and siskin. An excellent day's bird watching for all!