Old Lodge warblers, larks and starts

The last week of April is the week when Old Lodge reserve on Ashdown Forest comes alive with the sound of birds; the most obvious is the liquid song of willow warblers foraging in the birches but also blackcaps and redstarts. A mistle thrush sings from a tall pine. A pair of woodlarks forage quietly…

March descending

On the last day of March, the sun makes a slow descent behind the dark hedgerow and April emerges under a blue sky. On the downs, ravens and buzzards are mobbed by nesting carrion crows. Chiffchaffs, finches and buntings are calling from the trees. Bumblebees work the willow catkins in the evening sun and appear…

Spring butterflies

The early butterflies are nearly all widespread species including orange tips, brimstones and ‘cabbage whites’, the exception in southern England is the Duke of Burgundy fritillary and the nearest colony is near Canterbury. Peacocks and small tortoiseshells are also out and both common this year. The hedge garlic and lady’s smock are the host plant…

Red kite mobbed by a carrion crow

Red kites are renowned nest predators especially of rooks and crows. In mid April, most carrion crows pairs have a nest on the go, probably with with four blue speckled eggs in a stick nest lined with wool, and if a kite approaches then the male will climb vertically out of the woods to harry…

Early Spring woodland flowers

Spring in the ancient oak, ash, beech and hornbeam woodlands of the North Downs is announced by wood anemones, sweet violets and celandine but quickly followed by a flurry of others. Moschatel, colloquially known as townhall clock or five-faced bishop is a diminutive and uncommon plant found in small colonies amongst the much showier swathes…

Nuthatches and woodpeckers

An old ash tree probably suffering from ash dieback, has three woodpecker holes in its dying wood. The middle hole is occupied by a pair of great tits that carry in beakfuls of moss. The other two holes are being inspected by a pair of nuthatches but also, from time to time, a pair of…

Sissinghurst on Leap Day

The last day of February brings more squalls from the west with intervals of piercing blue sky and pristine spring sunshine. The castle garden is subdued with the plants starting to grow but needing a run of warmer, gentler days; white magnolias are bursting; the crocus, iris, squill and summer snowflake are out; and a…

Eleochorio

The hill village of Eleochorio perches on the edge of a wooded ravine; most of the houses are empty, some crumbling away and others just used by visiting families. On the cliffs below at least two pairs of kestrels and a raven nest; the red-rumped swallows fly around the church and houses at the top…

Below Kastania

This side of the Mani peninsula is a narrow belt of land between mountains and sea, untamed where the slopes are too steep to create terraces. The narrow road between the hill villages of Kastania and Saidona runs along narrow ridge through rocky maquis where swathes of pink and white cistus are flowering as well…