Thursday, 23 February 2017

Birding in Ashdown Forest

Last month after our trip to East Grinstead to see Waxwings we headed on to Old Lodge Nature Reserve on our way back. On the day we had good views of crossbills, bullfinches and stonechats, but birding in Ashdown Forest doesn't always come up trumps. It's not really the place to go if you're after a huge species list in a day, but it does throw up some nice rarities every now and then, with a short-toed eagle a few years back one of the most twitched. Being an incredibly vast area, it also provides a great varied habitat for many breeding and wintering species, one of the rarest being the dartford warbler, which can be found here all year round. Like the waxwing, it's a species I had never seen so Allan and I decided another morning's birding was in order.

We arrived at 8.15am to very heavy fog, not an ideal start. With poor visibility, most species were initially heard and not seen. In fact, when a helicopter flew seemingly very low over us we weren't even able to see it! Goldcrest, long-tailed tit, skylark, dunnock, robin, reed bunting and stonechat got us off to a start and it didn't take too long to add a pair of dartford warblers to the list. A joy to see but nearly impossible to photograph in the conditions, so after they seemed to disappear we decided to head on to Old Lodge again. Well, what a stark contrast to our trip just a month before. After half an hour the only things we had seen were robin, song thrush and wren. Fortunately on the way back the weather began to clear and a stonechat sat up nicely for photos, but that was about it. With the sun breaking through however, we decided going back to the old airstrip may be worth it so off we went. The first bird we saw was a woodlark, soon joined by a few others. The dartford warblers (4 in total) showed better in the sunshine, as did countless stonechats, a hovering kestrel, a distant buzzard, reed buntings, goldfinches, siskins and skylarks. All in all it was a very enjoyable morning, and though I didn't get any pictures I was really pleased with, they are at least worth sharing!

Reed bunting

Stonechat

Foggy...

Song thrush (Old Lodge)

Stonechat (Old Lodge)

2 hours later...

Stonechat

Dartford warbler

Dartford warbler

Pair of dartford warblers

Pair of dartford warblers

Woodlark

Kestrel


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