Ashdown Forest

I am considering another Habitat book: Hill & Heathland Birds. I soaked up a few of the mountain/moorland species with my Birds of the North West Highlands but I would like to do a logbook for our uplands and heath areas, as they are precious habitats and require careful management to maintain their benefits. I am fortunate to have the South Downs in one direction and Ashdown Forest in the other, and both the chalk grassland and peaty heath are beautifully sound underfoot after the sticky Weald clay I usually have to deal with.

I’d also like the book to be suitable for areas such as the Lake District, Peak District, Chiltern Hills, Purbeck Heath, and Snowdonia, to name a few. At the weekend we went to Black Cap near Plumpton, and today I visited Ashdown Forest.

I was really sunny so I kept the dog close as it’s good adder country and I thought they might be basking in the bracken. I heard a Robin, and saw a Raven, and Chiffchaffs were chiffchaffing enthusiastically. I saw a fluttering bird and thought it was a Skylark, but the song was all wrong and I realised it was a Woodlark. It obligingly sat atop a lone holly giving me a a good chance to see its beautiful markings. There were a group of Coal Tits too, and I heard what was possibly a Goldcrest but I couldn’t be sure.

On the way back, Ned found a muddy stream and I found an amazing tree, so we were both happy. I think this silver birch must have been struck by lightning at some point, but its supporting branches look like elbows propping it up. I wonder if it has rooted from those branches; if not, that particular limb is surviving from a tiny strip of retained cambium.

I stopped to do a little sketch which I finished when I got home:

My list for the new book has a few new birds to paint (yay!) so I need to get on with these:

  • Crossbill
  • Woodlark
  • Golden Plover
  • Redstart
  • Great Grey Shrike

I was so pleased to see the Woodlark today as I’ve never knowingly seen one and it’s always really helpful to bond with the birds when I paint them.

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