Saturday, 9 July 2011

Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest

 Old Lodge, Ashdown Forest was drawn to my attention by Mike Hook (who managed some cracking photos of restarts and tree pipits) so having the whole day to go birding  I went there today with Pete PW.
It was overcast and  little breezy when we arrived  but we soon found a group of juvenile stonechats but they wouldn’t stay still and we failed to get a shot.
A little further along we saw our first redstart, a female, but like the stonechats she disappeared over the horizon pdq.  At this point we started seeing mistle thrushes - there were loads of them flitting about from wires to tree tops and having a good go at the rowan berries. At the same place later in the day we had 25 fly past – that’s about a years worth in East Kent.
Moving on we heard the hew-eet of a redstart and found a male perched up high but it too disappeared after a single shot. (We went back to the same area a little later and again had brilliant views but always too distant to photograph).
 Down on the ground there were ~ 4 juveniles diving in and out of the bracken but they too quickly moved off.
In total we saw 8-10 female/juvvy redstarts around the reserve but never managed to get closer than 30 yrds. We didn't see another male.
Moving onto a more open area we found our first tree pipit singing high up and we continued to see these throughout the morning. Most were seen as they were flushed from the ground  as they were feeding in the heather but we did find another singer. After a while it moved to another tree but lower down allowing better shots:
Tree Pipit

It then dropped to the ground to feed. Luckily there was a dead bush between me and the pipit and I got pretty close:
Tree Pipit
In all we saw about a dozen tree pipits.
In the trees we found nuthatch (just one,) tree creepers, blue and coal tit plus goldcrest but they were always very high and moving though the canopy.
There were a lot of great spotted woodpeckers around and a lone green wood. The only raptors we saw were a sparrow hawk and a kestrel.
Finally as we made our way back to the car Pete spotted a deer – well 2 actually, a foal and it’s mum. These are the first fallow deer I’ve seen.

Fallow Deer
So what of Old Lodge – it has a good head of redstarts and these are a heck of a lot closer than Mid Wales and a lot more tree pipits than I’ve ever managed to find at Kings Wood. I just wish they would let you get a little closer.
All in all well worth a visit.
After Old Lodge we went down to Rye but most of the terns and gulls have fledged so it was pretty quiet. The little terns seem to have left their nesting area but we did see a flock of about  20 of them over the beach.

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