Trip reports

Ashdown Forest (Leaders Sue Carter & Steve Goodrich)

Ashdown Forest (Leaders Sue Carter & Steve Goodrich)
Blackcap [Richard Hanman]

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Eleven members assembled on a dry but overcast morning at the Old Lodge, Sussex Wildlife Trust Reserve in the Ashdown Forest. We were met with a chorus of song from blackcap, song thrush, garden warbler and chiffchaff and managed to see fleeting glimpses of them all.

Setting off on the scenic circuit we had good views of a pair of coal tits plus lesser redpoll, chaffinch, long-tailed tits, siskin, linnets and the first of several woodlarks. A green woodpecker was perched on a tree trunk and its great-spotted cousin flew across ahead of us.

Swifts, swallows and herring gulls patrolled above and as we reached the steep slope down towards the stream we stopped to admire the ponies and take photos of them. Judy found a stunning male redstart at the top of a tree which we all managed to see. Chiffchaffs and willow warblers were in full song, which assisted with their identification! Bluebells were everywhere and made a wonderful contrast with the green carpet of grass.

Having safely crossed the wooden bridge, we tackled the steepest section of the walk and saw and heard more tree pipits and another great-spotted woodpecker, which unusually was feeding on the ground.

Corvids were represented by carrion cows, magpies, jackdaws and a single jay and more tree pipits and woodlarks were seen and heard. We reached the car park at midday and had our lunch. True to form, several buzzards appeared overhead, having decided to shake off their lethargy and join each other on the rising thermals.

Lunch over, nine of us then decided to drive the two miles to the Stonehill area where some Dartford warblers had been seen a few weeks before by Judy and Nigel and Simon Ginnaw. We heard a skylark singing aloft and saw linnets, meadow pipits and whitethroats. It was only when we checked the other side of the hill that we saw some stonechats and eventually a male Dartford warbler. The two species have a symbiotic relationship in that the warbler hunts for spiders at the base of the gorse bushes and disturbs flies which the chats feed on. The latter bird returns the favour by warning the warbler of any approaching predator.

It was good to see that the perky Dartford warbler is still thriving in the Ashdown forest, despite the worst excesses of the Beast from the East!

A total of thirty-seven species were seen and thanks to all present for your input and camaraderie.

Sue Carter & Steve Goodrich