Programme of outings and gatherings 2020

19th April Abbot’s Wood
3rd May Stodmarsh
17th May Seawatch – Splash Point, Seaford – early start!
24thMay Friends of the Forest walk – Old Lodge
14thJune Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve
25th June Friends Nightjar walk – Airstrip
12th July Pulborough Brooks
23th August Summer Social – Swynford, Maresfield
20th September Dungeness
18th October Seaford Head, Cuckmere Valley
13th December Pre-Christmas drinks – The Chequers, Maresfield

Please save these dates in your diary – and of course your support will be warmly welcomed.  Start times will generally be 9.30 with some exceptions – particularly the seawatch.

Old Lodge Walk – 22nd October 2017

Six Group members went on the Old Lodge walk yesterday morning. Though the wind was a bit brisk, and the temperature a bit low, we managed to find a few good birds.  As well as the usual forest birds, we were pleased to see a raven, cronking as it flew over us. A Dartford warbler was heard as we walked downhill towards the stream, and on the edge of the Reserve, we came across a flock of small birds which included long tailed, great and blue tits,  at least two Marsh tits, a nuthatch,  a goldcrest, and a foraging chiffchaff.

Hope Bottom and Arlington 11-09-2017

Martin, Sue, Shaun and Al met at the Barn car park, Seaford Head with clear skies.  Before setting off we had a small party of yellow wagtails fly over followed by a few linnetsChiffchaff could be heard in the bushes here too.  Walking across to the dung heap we found wheatear and meadow pipit, whilst crows were patrolling the fields along with large groups of starlings swirling around.

Moving down to Harry’s Bush we noted swallows along the path, but looking across the meanders we could only find mallard, little egret, a distant buzzard, curlew, sand martin, black-headed gull, cormorant.  A jay called from the woods and a stoat bounded across the slope.

Retracing our steps, we descended into Hope Bottom.  Regulars like dunnock, blue tit, goldfinch, great tit were in evidence, together with blackcap, whitethroat and a stonechat.  Flora alongside the path included fennel, wild parsnip, clustered bellflower, eyebright, wild basil and bartsia. Looking from the cliff top at the end, oystercatcher and a ruff were on the beach.

Returning to the car park, a feral pigeon and a kestrel were now perched on barn.

More in hope than expectation, we took the decision to relocate to Horseshoe Plantation, but saw nothing new here.

Sue and Al stopped at Arlington reservoir on their route home, but, with the weather looking decidedly unpromising by now and some temporary path closures there too, didn’t linger, though were able to add great-crested grebe, coot, pied wagtail, great black-backed and herring gull to the list.

Friends of the Forest Nightjar Walk – 29th June 2017

Around 25 members from Friends of the Forest joined members of the Ashdown Bird Group for a Nightjar walk at 8:30pm in Long car park. Once confident everyone had arrived we set out walking down the Airstrip and then turning left and walking through the wooded area to the left of the Airstrip. In this area we heard and saw Tree Pipit and a male Stonechat, further along Chiffchaff and Redstart were heard calling. Both Song Thrush and Blackbird were singing loudly from high perches.

Re-joining the main ride down just beyond the Airstrip, we stopped for a while to listen. A Whitethroat and family party of Stonechats were seen and someone had thought they’d heard a Nightjar churr briefly. There was no further sign after 10 or so minutes so we continued down a short way into some open pine woodland hoping for Woodcock, however, they were conspicuous by their absence.

We walked back up to where the initial Nightjar was thought to have been heard and waited around but no further sign was heard so we started to walk on. At this point the group had split into three with members of the ABG leading each. As the darkness of night fell and time ticked on all groups started to hear Nightjars. One group headed straight up the Airstrip, another around past the pond and to Five-ways and the other eventually coming back up the Airstrip.

Despite the lack of sightings, the birds could be heard calling, singing and wing clapping. I hope everyone enjoyed their evening, thank you all for coming, I would especially like to thank the Ashdown Bird Group members who came along and happily chatted and imparted their knowledge of birds.

ABG Trip Report – RSPB Dungeness – 24th June 2017

In not the best of conditions, Martin Jeffree, Bob and Judy Johnson , Al Nottage  and Sue Phillips, met at the visitor centre.

Whitethroat and reed bunting had been seen along the entrance track and egyyptian goose earlier at Scotney Pit.  From the car park, chaffinch were on the feeders, then a couple of linnet and a pied wagtail went over.

Since we early and the visitor centre was yet to open, we made a start outside Dennis hide overlooking Burrowes Pit.  In an increasing breeze, we saw ringed plover, house and the odd sand martin, pochard, great-crested grebe, cormorant, shelduck, tufted duck, common and sandwich tern, nesting common gull, gadwall, coot, lesser black-backed gull and very briefly from inside, cuckoo too.

After checking in at the Visitor Centre (and an early coffee break!) we walked up to Firth hide.  With reed warbler being heard along the path, we added avocet, little ringed plover and cettis warbler to our list.  Venturing farther on to Makepiece hide didn’t provide anything further, though we did have a better view of the cormorants from here!  With the weather now deteriorating, we took the brave decision to relocate to the beach by the Power Station!

Heading out along the Reserve entrance track we had a nice view of a hunting marsh harrier near the road and mute swan on Hansen ARC as we drove past.  It was pretty windy at The Point, so we didn’t linger, but taking shelter in the lee of the (locked) hide, we gave it a go and though we couldn’t find any auks, we did see several groups of gannets going west.   Brief views of a small bird within the Station enclosure might have been black redstart, but it wasn’t the day for them really.

Re-tracing our steps, we returned, via the Hansen ARC pit, to take lunch and here, walking up to the to the hide, were sedge warbler,  great tit and some evening primrose, with black-tailed godwit, knot, shoveller duck, dunlin, a little egret, moorhen, blackcap, little grebe and black-headed gull  all seen over sandwiches.  A fortuitous fly-by of the presumed earlier cuckoo gave us all better view this time.

Sue and Al headed home via Pett, seeing curlew, fulmar, buzzard and swallow.

ABG Trip to Norfolk 2017 – Thursday 2nd to Sunday 5th February

Trip Report by Bob Johnson.

In the end nine members attended the Norfolk Trip, and we had to count ourselves very lucky with the weather, as Sussex was awash whilst our stay in Norfolk remained mainly dry.

We met Thursday morning for breakfast at the Little Chef in Ely, before travelling on to spend the morning at the Ouse Washes RSPB reserve, where we had good views of our target species, Whooper & Bewick swans, plus a mixture of other wetland birds and raptors and finished off eating  sandwiches at the visitor centre whilst watching Tree Sparrows.

After lunch we took the short journey to the Nene Washes, eventually finding the rather elusive Eldernell view point that allowed good views over an undisturbed area. It was a worthwhile visit with a flock of 19 Common Cranes seen well feeding, even though they were rather distant. Our  other target bird of Short Eared Owl failed to show. We did however have close views of Barn Owl, Plus Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, perched Peregrine, Marsh Harriers, also Kingfisher & Little Egret – out on the washes huge flocks of Golden Plover & Lapwing taking to the sky were impressive as a spectacle, the skyline becoming covered in birds.

We ended the day as some rain eventually started by travelling on to our accommodation, the Caley Hall Hotel in Old Hunstanton, arriving in plenty of time to relax a bit before we all had a very nice 3 course dinner.

Friday after breakfast we took the short journey to Titchwell RSPB managing to be on site by 9:30. The plan was to start with a seawatch as the tide was ideal.  This proved very productive for those that went straight  to the beach, huge flocks of birds sitting on the sea, 50+ Velvet Scoter as a flock, hundreds of Common Scoter, an official count of 200 Long-tailed Duck was taken at one point, also plenty of  Red breasted Mergansers and Goldeneye, up to 6 Slavonian Grebes, Red throated divers flew by, plus a Great Northern Diver flew by later, seen by some.  Sanderling were noted at the tide line.

As the seabirds drifted away, the rest of the reserve was visited. All the usual Duck & wildfowl were around, including Pintail & Pink Footed Geese, Water Rails were seen well.  Noted were the usual common waders plus flock of Avocet, 3 Greenshank, 3 Ruff & Bar-tailed Godwit.  A highlight was a Water Pipit feeding on the bare mud.

After lunch we nipped up the road to Chooseley Drying Barns – A short visit saw 20+ Red-Legged Partridge, a flock of c.1000 Pink Footed Geese flyover which was impressive, also a few Buzzards plus some Hares.

With plenty of time still left, it was decided to go to Roydon Common a large heathland near Kings Lynn for the Hen Harrier roost.  This was a new site for many, luckily it proved worthwhile with up to 2 Male & 1 Ringtail Hen Harrier being seen towards dusk, also noted were a few of the more common heathland species.

Saturday we decided to visit the within walking distance site of Holme Dunes.  The area was alive with singing Skylarks, Meadow Pipits, Reed Buntings, 40+ Linnet, the target species of 20+ Snow Bunting eventually being found, but the hoped for Twite proved elusive and not confirmed.

Nipping along the road for a quick look at Thornham  as another possible Twite site failed, however good views of a close Spotted Redshank and Bar Tailed Godwit made up for the disappointment.

We then went on to Holkham seeing 2 Grey Partridge from the road before having lunch at St Annes Drive whilst watching 2 Red Kites fly over, plus nearby Pink Footed  & Greater White fronted Geese.  After lunch we started with a failed beach walk to see Shore Larks!!!  However  walking back via the fresh marsh proved more worthwhile with flock of 50+ White Fronted Geese,  Egyptian Geese,  100’s Pink Footed Geese, Brent Geese, 1 Great White Egret, 2 Mistle Thrush, Little Grebe, Marsh Harriers & Buzzards.  Late afternoon gave close views of a Barn Owl, and Muntjac Deer, those that were slow to leave also had close views of a Spoonbill that came down near the Car Park at sunset.

Driving back a Woodcock flew across the road in front of us, and a Tawny Owl was heard back at the hotel Car Park.

Sunday was a more relaxed day, when everyone decided  what they wanted to do, with some visiting Gun Hill near Holkham for another attempt to see Shore Lark (which also failed) others going to the Hawk & Owl trust site at Sculthorpe Moor near Fakenham for woodland birds  and Bullfinch & Brambling.  Most also successfully stopped at Lynford Arboretum to see the roosting Hawfinches.  Plus Brambling, Siskin, Crossbill, Marsh Tit & Firecrest were seen by some at Lynford.

All were very happy with the hotel, and thought the trip went very well.

117 bird species were seen in total. Plus Grey Seal, Hare, Roe & Muntjac Deer were noted.

Dungeness Trip Report – 26/11/2016

Bob and Judy, Bob and Sue, Al and Jill met at the Centre car park at 9.30 on what had started out as a rather grey and foggy morning. (It seems the Visitor Centre opens at 10.00 now, and the Reserve itself was locked until 9.30.)

We had a look at the dipping pool and swiftly located the long eared owl. Scans from the first three hides were productive, with two goosanders being found, along with a good variety of duck. Pintail and goldeneye were the highlights, with avocet, shelduck and a chiffchaff soon added to the list.

We decided to search again for the ring necked duck, which was found soon after our arrival at the entrance track, as were three snipe, a common buzzard and a marsh harrier. There were many wigeon seen, and Canada and greylag geese were also noted.

From here we decided to have lunch at the Hanson ARC hide, and a kestrel was seen on the way. A bonus came in the form of  the six Bewick’s swans on one of the islands; common gulls were seen from here, too, and a Cettis warbler called from the reedbed.

We split up at about 1.30 p.m., and Bob and Judy had a good look at the various pits on the way to Scotney – one produced a black throated diver. A short return visit to the Centre produced a yellow legged gull. Bob and Sue had made a quick visit to Pett Pools, with only little grebe and the usual oystercatchers and curlews being added.

Total numbers of birds seen were +/-65, and a good time had been had by all.

It’s been a while…

As the title suggests it’s been a while since we last posted anything on our website. I was reminded by an e-mail that came through from someone asking if the Bird Group was still active as there had been little activity on this website. The truth is that social media has taken over, we shall make more of an effort to update the website with posts from social media. You can find our public Facebook group, called Ashdown Forest Wildlife, and join in there too and please let us know any wildlife sightings you’ve had.

Bird Group outing to Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve & Bough Beech on 14th Nov 2015

Shaun, Bob and Judy, Bob H, Bob P, Alan N and Sue met at Sevenoaks on what turned out to be an increasingly wet morning, with grey skies and poor visibility. However, we set out in good spirits, and were able to log some 44 species – including a number of sightings of goldcrests, the usual three species of geese, and the usual varieties of duck. Al found a small party of siskins on the alders near the Centre. There were snipe on the islands, and lapwings, but no other waders were found.

The only additional species seen at Bough Beech were shelduck and lesser black backed gull.

The complete list was as follows: Mistle thrush, blackbird, pied wagtail (six or so) goldfinch, chaffinch, greenfinch, siskin, blue tit, great tit, long tailed tit, dunnock, wren, treecreeper, robin, pheasant, wood pigeon, crow, magpie, jay, great spotted woodpecker, cormorant, herring gull, black headed gull, common gull, lesser black backed gull, lapwing, coot, snipe, moorhen, great crested grebe, grey heron, mute swan, little egret, Canada, greylag and Egyptian geese, mallard, tufted duck, shoveler, gadwall, shelduck, pochard, teal, wigeon.