Pat Hart and I headed down on an already warm Wednesday morning to Old Lodge NR in Ashdown Forest. We took the wiggly scenic route and I was surprised to only find two ore cars in the car park. Treecreepers, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs and Wrens greeted us and the first Buzzard drifted over as we set out on the loop.
A Cuckoo sang down in the valley and a male Dartford Warbler popped up right along side us before being followed by the female and a well fledged youngster to the other side of the path where we watched them feeding their one offspring.
A Holly tree just a bit further on held two Redstarts, a pair of Bullfinch and Robin and Coal Tit, Linnet and Goldfinch could be heard up in the pines.
Meadow Grasshoppers were warming up and Common Heath and Grass Wave moths danced between the Heather and pines trees and we both grazed on the first Bilberries of the season.
Tree Pipits were singing down below us but were too far back by the time our view was clear but of course they reappeared once we were down the slope looking at Dragonflies and such like around the two pools where Cottongrass was swaying I the faint breeze.
Large Red and Azure Damsels were seen along with Emperor, Four Spotted and Broad Bodied Chasers. A teneral Keeled Skimmer posed nicely in the heather for us and gleamed in the sunshine on still bronzy wings and there were quite a few Brown China Marks that insisted on perching upside down and always facing away from me!
|Large Red Damselfly|
|Broad Bodied Chaser|
|Brown China Mark|
|1st Essex Skipper of the year|
Poecilobothrus nobilitatus were having a full on rave down on the water’s surface with wings flashing coded sexy messages at the unmarked females while I watched the edges for party pooping Raft Spiders that as usual failed to appear. Some big Horseflies with funky multi-hued stripy eyes were in attendance and dipping down to lay eggs much in the manner of the Chasers and I think that were Hybomitra bimaculata which has an obviously hairy middle leg (that sounds soooo wrong).
|Hybomitra bimaculata - possibly|
Siskins were up in the pines above and a Goldcrest sang and the persistent hoooweeet of Redstarts suggested a recently fledged brood and flashes of shivering red tails flicked to and fro.
The pool and stream in the valley bottom held the same invert life as further up but the bird life was good too with more Redstart and Dartford Warbler action, Mistle Thrushes, Stonechats and Whitethroat all seen and glancing back we saw three hind Fallow Deer cross the path we had just walked down.
The path up took us through some Heath Spotted Orchids and then a breather at the gate gave an amazing selection of Redstart encounters until we realised that the nest was actually in the tree tat we were sheltering behind. We backed up and left them to it.
|Heath Spotted Orchid|
|Heath Spotted Orchid|
Pat found another Tree Pipit in a birch and to think that we had heard at least six males just here while in Essex as a whole there are now none whatsoever.
A friendly local out Lookering pointed us onto an alternate route where we might see Woodlarks and although we failed it was a most worthwhile extra loop with more Redstarts, Dartfords and Stonechats, singing Bullfinches, a pair of Spotted Flycatchers, Long-tailed and Marsh Tits and a bonus Tawny Owl that was being harassed by the little stuff and flew into our view, perched in the open for a minute or two and then silently moved on again. I am not sure when I last saw an adult Tawny Owl – a magical encounter.
I found two Golden Ringed Dragonflies but both would not stop even though they came close to us but they are such amazing beasts on the wing that I should really just enjoy them that way. Similarly a Brilliant Emerald was also patrolling the heather and gleaming in the sunshine.
There were some fine stands of Foxgloves as we neared the car and Pat at last saw Goldcrests and Treecreepers. The former were feeding young and it was good to get a good look at the distinctive plumage with strong wing pattern and plain head.
Lunch in the shade of the car park and then a quick look around Ellison’s Pond where only Emperors and Broad Bodied Chasers were seen and Toadlets crawled around the margins. Two Garden Warblers were singing off against each other and then we headed back up to the King’s Standing car park for an ice-cream with a view over the forest to the east which produced three Buzzards, a male Peregrine and hulking female Goshawk which was a fine way to end our jaunt in the sunshine.
|Giant Pond Skater|
|Parrot's Feather - an invasive native of South America|
|An ice-cream with a view|