Monday, 25 June 2018

Bronze DofE: Practice Expedition, North Downs - Day 2, 20th May 2018

If you didn't get bored reading about the last post, walking around the north downs for my dofe, then you'll remember me saying that the second day was better.

It all began at stupid o'clock, when I decided to get up early at 04:25am to get an experience of the dawn chorus - something I'd never done before. It was incredible, and I took a short video of it before going back to snooze again. The array of birds singing was great, but the sheer volume and intensity made me feel thrilled.

After packing and eating and getting ready to complete the remaining 15km or so, we were able to get lost within 5 minutes, before we were back on trail by 07:45am. Birds were still performing, and some Mistle Thrush were worm-catching in a field. Firecrests were singing, and jackdaws chacked away. By 8am we entered an area of forest called Hurt Wood, near Peaslake. Warblers dominated the song by now, and Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Garden Warbler, Willow Warbler and Whitethroat were all singing at once. I then heard a song from a field of gorse and pine trees, like you find at Arne, that was very familiar to me as it had been my alarm for waking up for a long time (the only way I'll get up is hearing a bird call/song that excites me.) In order to get a chance to find it, I strategically called a drinks break. Almost immediately it sang again and flew low across the ground, the final thing I wanted to check before calling Dartford Warbler! A very pleasing bird to find, especially as it was unexpected and self-found! Though I hunted for it again it didn't show, singing only once. 

Moving on, our man in charge of the map took a wrong turn meaning we added another 3 kilometres onto the journey. Few things were seen now except the odd chiffy and whitethroat, though an interesting yellow bird flew high among the trees. A poor sighting meant I put it down as a Green Woodpecker. A few thrushes were seen, and a Cuckoo began singing making the diversion more pleasant. A surprise, and a welcome one at that, was a calling Curlew that was heard from an area of heath. It's becoming an all too rare sight and sound in the moors and heaths at the moment, and though it's likely to have been a flyover let's hope they return to these areas in the future. 

Soon after leaving Hurt Wood, we approached an area of dense woodland, with a rocky path, between Holmbury St Mary and a place called High Ashes farm, where I heard numerous Willow Warblers (my favourite song) and a Hobby nest, with 2-3 fledglings in it. Firecrests continued singing, possibly overtaking Goldcrests.

Skipping forward, we reached Wotton Common with time to spare and a Nightingale was a possibility hidden amongst the scrub. Birds for another hour were pretty quiet to be honest, other than a Grey Wagtail on the road. 

After a tiring few hours, we stopped for lunch somewhere where the Tilling Bourne ran through. In the adjacent fields a Kestrel hunted, a Whitethroat sang, 3 Pheasants wandered and Linnets flew along. Further on a Buzzard nest was located, as was a Grey Wagtail nest. With time pushing on, I didn't see anymore birds other than a few Rook before we arrived back at Ranmore 2 hours after lunch. 

Here are a few more pictures, though I took few. It was a pleasant few days wandering in the country - hopefully the final expedition in July will be as successful!

Speckled Wood

m Pheasant 

m Grey Wagtail

another group chilling after completion

Hurt Wood

Hurt Wood

Tilling Bourne

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