Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Wednesday 1st. February 2012

I knew it was going to be cold , but , with the promise of sunshine and no wet stuff , I set off with one target species in mind , Crossbill . So I was off to Old Lodge Reserve , the Sussex Wildlife Trust site on Ashdown Forest , the home of Pooh Bear for those who read the books . As I was almost passing on the way , I made a stop at Bough Beech Reservoir , a Kent Wildlife Trust site on the way . Since my last visit , when the water level was very low , the Water Board must have been pumping non stop from the River Eden , which runs behind the dam at the far end of the reservoir , as the water level is well on the way to full . I stopped first at the orchard near the Visitor Centre , in the hope of finding my first Brambling of the year on the feeders , but although there were plenty of Chaffinches on and below the main feeder , no Brambling . As usual plenty of Tits , including one Marsh , were constantly arriving , together with Starling , Greenfinch and Goldfinch . It was good to
see several House Sparrows too , as Warren said the other day , they have been few and far between recently . A Nuthatch was calling in the area too , bit it seemed a lot more interested in the dead
Apple tree than the feeders . At least 6 female Pheasants were hoovering up below the seed feeder , but the main noise was coming from the orchard and the surrounding high trees , where probably
hundreds of Fieldfares and a few Mistle Thrushes , were feeding on the large number of fallen apples on the ground . With so many eyes ,the alarm call went up on a regular basis , and everyone headed for the tall trees . Fortunately , the odd bird , possibly intoxicated from the fermenting apples , didn't
respond to the call , and just sat , looking . These were the only birds that I could get anywhere near .
Quite a bit of the small North Lake was frozen over , and held very little apart from Teal , Moorhens and the odd Pheasant , disturbed by someone in Winkworth Wood trying to bring a dog that was totally out of control , under control . It reminded me of the dog owner in Richmond Park trying to stop his dog from chasing the Deer . The main Reservoir , being much deeper , just had a few areas around the edges frozen over . Something was happening down the right hand side of the reservoir , as all the waterfowl that had been dozing on the edge , moved out en masse onto the water . These
included at least 20 Mandarin Ducks , they are the lighter birds across the middle of the shot . There were lots more wildfowl further down the reservoir , but with choppy water and low Winter sun , it was difficult to make them out . Whereas the Fieldfares fed on the fallen Apples , it seems that the
Blackbirds prefer the ones still in the trees , as six birds were gorging on this tree . By the time I got back in the car , I was frozen , and as glad to warm up on the way to Old Lodge .
If I thought Bough Beech was cold , I definitely wasn't ready for stepping out of the car at the top of Ashdown Forest . A strong , bitter easterly was blowing across the site , making it almost impossible to hear anything . The tops of the Pine trees was my focus , looking for Crossbills , but , by the time I
had reached the end of the top path , the only bird that I had found was a Carrion Crow . albeit at the top of a Pine . Dropping down into the valley proved no better , with just a few Great Tit calls , and a fleeting glimpse of a pair of Reed Buntings in an area that I had hoped would produce Stonechat . On
the other side of the path I disturbed a Green Woodpecker on the ground , which flew to the nearest tree and tried to stay out of view .Over the little stream , and on the way up the other side of the valley , passing the dead tree on MoD land , where a Great Grey Shrike was seen a while back , but not today . Just before turning left at the
power lines at the top , I found a small group of Fallow Deer , grazing quietly , until one spotted me , and all disappeared from view into the woods . Along the power lines I met a couple who were doing the circuit in the opposite direction , and had seen absolutely nothing since they got out of the car . A few Chaffinches feeding under Beech with a mixed Tit flock and a Nuthatch calling from the Beech . I zig-zagged through the Pines back to the top path , but still no Crossbills , or much of anything else for that matter . Almost back at the car park , a fleeting glimpse of a male Bullfinch in flight and kept him in view till he landed . I made my way to the spot to find that there were four birds , 3 males and a female , as usual with the species , very flighty . I followed the birds at a distance , finding en route
a pair of Coal Tits feeding in a Pine and constantly calling to each other . After quite a chase , I managed to get close to two of the Bullfinches , who could well have paused for a break on the stock
proof fencing , one of the males and the female . Over the next few minutes , I managed to get

reasonably close to the birds and got portraits of a male and a female . But just before they
disappeared fro good , I managed to get one of each close together . By now I  was hungry and cold again , so drove to another car park where the GGShrike has been seen , and although warmed up , did not see it . After lunch I spent an hour and a half looking around two other sites it has favoured , but still nothing . And the Crossbills , they escaped me all day as well .


Warren Baker said...

I'd sttle for the Bullfinch's all day Greenie.

Boy was that wind cold today, just not used to it this winter!!

Marc Heath said...

Great selection of shots, like the Fieldfare and Mandarin frenzy. A good day.... but very cold I would imagine.

Rohrerbot said...

Great shots of the bullfinches. Love their look. It sounds like you had a very eventful walk around this beautiful place. Those are the best.

Mike H said...

Probably give that a miss then until it warms up greenie. Great bullfinch shots not easy.

ShySongbird said...

A shame about the Crossbills and the GG Shrike, Greenie but it still sounded like an enjoyable if chilly visit. A lovely selection of photos too, it was nice to see the Nuthatch, not a bird I see very often and one which I have only ever managed to photograph (very badly) once.