In brilliant sunshine , I set off for what I considered 'unfinished business' at Ashdown Forest . Especially as 3 Cuckoos had been reported there , and good sightings of a flock of Crossbills . On arrival at the Reserve car park , a chilly wind was still blowing across the area , but I forgot all about that when a Cuckoo started calling as soon as I was ready to set off , brilliant , I thought .
That was the first of probably two and possibly three Cuckoos hear today . They all seemed to be in the little valley at the bottom of the Reserve , but unfortunately , when I reached the little bridge across the small stream , there was no calling , and positively no sightings . Heading back up the slope , a song that I haven't heard for some time , started to ring out , and I headed towards it . The song was coming from the top of a Pine , and the songster was a superb male Wood Lark . The song was filling the valley , and almost outdoing the Cuckoo that had started up again , in the area that I had just come up from . I carried on taking shots , and after a good few minutes , he flew down and started searching for food on the ground between the Pines . I followed him for a short while , then left him to have his breakfast in peace , whilst I tried to re-connect with the Cuckoo , which by now , had stopped calling again . This was followed by the first of three people saying they had had good views of the Cuckoo , had I ? A very smart looking male Pheasant , with two females in tow , was little compensation for what I had missed . Before long , the first of three or four male and two female Common Redstarts were found , but the only one that posed was a male that settled on a fence post , on the very top of the Reserve , where , as can be seen by his feathers , was fully in the wind . Later on , I did get shots of another male , but once again from a good distance . All the Common Redstarts were very flighty , disappearing as soon as you got anywhere near . The Cuckoo was calling again , and it seemed to be coming up the slope towards me . I tucked myself behind some Gorse and waited . After 15 minutes , it stopped calling again , and I never got a glimpse of it . I did get a shot of a male Stonechat , sat in some Heather whilst I was waiting . I decided to go down the slope and search the area at the bottom , where I found three people chatting . I enquired if any of them had had any sighting of the Cuckoo , to which the chap with the telescope and tripod said , 'yes , it's been sitting in that dead tree over there for 15 minutes and showing really well , and only flew off just before you got here' . He asked if I had seen any Crossbills , to which I said 'No' . He mentioned that on his last visit , he had a flock of 19 , showing reallt well at the top of a Pine . I thanked him for the information and moved on , to the song of one of the many Willow Warblers . So my visit ended without seeing a Cuckoo , nor hearing a single Tree Pipit , after hearing/seeing several last visit , and hearing the Ravens , but not seeing them either . The other species seen were , Kestrel , Goldcrest , Green and Gt.Spotted Woodpeckers , Chiffchaff , Blue , Great , Long tailed and Coal Tits ,Carrion Crow , Magpie , Chaffinch , Goldfinch , Song Thrush and Skylark , and most pleasing , good numbers of Swallows heading over from the South . Surprisingly , not a single Butterfly was seen and just the odd Common Heath moth .
As I was pulling out of the car park , a movement from the top of a small tree on the other side of the road , of a bird flying out , catching food , and returning , looking very dark with a bright white wing bar , had me reversing back , parking and heading over the road to photograph a passing Pied Flycatcher , I thought . Unfortunately , even that didn't work out , as it turned out to be a really dark backed male Stonechat , it just about summed up the day .
On the way home , I made the obligatory stop at the road junction where the Early Purple Orchids grow on the verge . Sure enough , the flower spike that was just colouring up last visit , is now in full flower , the first flowering Orchid for me this year . Looking around , there were very few rosettes or flower spikes showing , like the other site I visited , perhaps the long cold Winter has had it's effect on them .
2 hours ago