Ashdown Forest in late June

First light exposes the tall pines on the ridge; dawn is warm with no mist in the valleys that run down off the high heathland plateau or dew drenching the purple moor grass, heather and bracken. Midsummer arrives to the sound of churring nightjars and fluting song thrushes. A cock pheasant is caught in the open so crouches, half-hidden, convinced of his security. An old fox emerges from a meadow and is harried by a pair of anxious crows. Fallow deer browse silently and stonechats chat noisily. The pastel colours of the cloudless dawn are beautiful in their brief ascendance before the sun steals the day.

Dartford warblers churr from the deep heather and are busy with broods; there is no song or display, just the to and fro of foraging and feeding. These plucky little birds are resident on the forest. In our warming world, the species is expanding north and west from its former stronghold on the southern heaths; this is a marked reversal of fortune after the hard winter of 1962/3 nearly wiped them from the map of England. The expectation this century is that the small world population will continue its decline across Spain and increase in Great Britain. One day soon, birds will be churring on the Scottish moors.

Other birds are following a similar rhythm including a diversity of finches: siskins, redpolls, goldfinches and linnets. A woodlark sings briefly, a yellowhammer calls incessantly and a male redstart keeps up a warning hweet.

Silver-studded blues are in good numbers on the wide track beneath Smugglers car park, mainly males flying erratically, low over the heath seeking out a female, only stopping to nectar briefly. The females are fewer in number, perhaps only because their behaviour is less obvious, sitting quietly and egg-laying on the bell heather. One mating pair proves the constant effort by the dashing males is worth the while.

At Old Lodge nature reserve, the mires have a small number of bright yellow, bog asphodels amongst the abundant cotton-grass. Dragonflies and damselflies are on the wing and rest on the vegetation hanging over the ponds.

Published by Steve Parr

Professional ecologist and amateur photographer. Love to travel and explore.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: