Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Wednesday 21st.April 2010

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 .


Steve said...

What a great trip out Fred. Can you email me where you go in Ashdown Forest?

Kingsdowner said...

Nice woodlark and redstart..... great birds, pleasing in their own very different ways.
And the first orchid! It's so cold down here that there's hardly a sign..... but at least the daffodils are starting to come out (well, it is nearly St George's Day).

Phil said...

I was lucky enough to see two Cuckoos at Dungeness today Greenie, but I certainly didn't see a Woodlark, more's the pity!

Ken Browne. said...

Hi Fred.
On the way to Dunge today I said to Pam that I want to go to Ashdown Forest after reading Alan Woodcock's blog the other day, then I was just reading your daily blog, and I said to Pam that I will have to ask you to email as to where you park and any other info you can give me as I have never been there, then I see that Steve has beat me to it as he wants some info from you.
Shame you didn't get a photo of the Cuckoo, still the Common Redstart shots are good.