Wednesday 12 April 2023

Old Lodge - 12th April 2023

A day out: 

I have to admit to becoming a little tired with the weather this year.  It feels like it has been cold, wet and windy or at least a combination of some of these almost every time I have lead a trip. 

We met at Old Lodge NR (every car park is a Ringo now although one charge covers all parking spots in Ashdown Forest) at the leisurely time of 9am to give things a chance to warm up.  The forecast said that we should get away with dry and sunnyish through to about lunchtime but it was spitting when we arrived and sitting at a balmy 6c!

It had been raining heavily since late afternoon the previous day and the ground was saturated and running over the surface in places.  The circuit was quite unlike my usual June visits.

It makes it look so nice!

Thankfully the wind came and went and we were able to find Coal Tits and Goldcrests in the Pines and a couple of Siskins flew invisibly over but there was not a purr from a Dartford Warbler to be heard. I got lucky and found a pair of Woodlark feeding silently in a clearing and everyone got good scope views.  It was never going to be a day for singing in the heavens.

Essence of Woodlark  

Chiffchaffs were however striving to be heard.  We sloshed our way down the slope past the dragonfly pools with me straining to hear Redstart but at this stage I was equally happy to hear a Willow Warbler’s tumbling reprise coming from some Birches.  The sky had gone black and icy rain and hail thrashed down and we took vague shelter behind a Pine.  It was bitter!


Within a few minutes it had blown through and blue skies appeared again and thankfully the Willow Warbler popped right up on top to sing back in the sunshine.  Somehow we did not slide to the bottom of the gully and all made it to the bridge at the bottom where the normally trickling stream, gurgled and rushed its way underneath.  Just up the other side a male Redstart did the decent thing and popped right up in front of me and showed for a couple of minutes as it dropped from its perch to snatch a morsel from the ground.  There were smiles all round.


Above, Red Kite and Buzzard blew over and a Great Spotted Woodpecker was added to a Green Seen earlier. A breath catcher stop at the top became a very rewarding interlude.  A Swallow drifted through becoming yet another new bird for the year for me and Lesser Redpolls were singing and displaying around us.  They kept to the pines for the most part but we had a couple of great views of a rosy male in the top of the Birches.

A pair of Stonechats were feeding off the fenceline and were joined by another male Redstart.  We had a lull in the wind and sun at this point and he glowed in orange, black, white and steely blue grey and all the while quivered that tail. He started calling and even thought about singing but quickly changed his mind and went back to foraging.  A Willow Warbler also came down to feed on the ground in this sheltered corner and a little further back a Meadow Pipit parachuted.


The wind was picking up so we trudged up the slope to the next rise but there was almost no hope of a Dartford Warbler and very little was seen on the return leg back to the car but at least we had managed to stay dry! A glance back over the trees produced a tumbling Raven and a couple of Stock Doves but no Goshawks.

I do like a log pile

With the sun still shining I opted for a walk from Gills Lap just a short way up the road.  It was hard work even walking in the wind and we only encountered a couple of Robins and Chiffchaffs and a hovering Kestrel before retreating to the warmth of the cars for some lunch.

A north bound wiggle took us up to Bough Beech Reservoir which I had not visited in years.  The woods very full of burgeoning Bluebells and wet verges were full of banks of Dandelions and lilac Cuckoo Flowers while the road was full of water!  Of course it started to rain when we arrived and then the heavens opened and we were treated to five minutes of torrential horizontal battering rain that literally shock the cars.  We emerged into sunshine and a fabulous party of Swallows, House and Sand Martins frantically feeding low over the reservoir.  It was so good to hear the twittering song of Swallows above our heads. 

Another retreat from the next squall and then a final 15 minutes of freezing gale blown sunshine before we all decided that enough was enough and we should all go home!

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