Sunday, 25 January 2015

Big Pulpit Hill Birdwatch

We decided to take a walk up to the hill fort on Pulpit Hill and count the birds up there (in the spirit of the Big Garden Birdwatch). We counted anything that was flying, regardless of whether it landed or not and what a brilliant morning! Not only had I seen my first raven in the garden earlier that morning, but we saw two more flying overhead while we were out walking. But more of that later ...

As soon as we got out of the car we started seeing birds, including a fieldfare, jay, great tits, long-tailed tits, a chaffinch and a robin. We started the steep climb up the hill to the top and all the birds just seemed to disappear, so we admired the lovely trees instead! The birds seemed to prefer the edges of the woods and the open grassland.

Up at the top there was ice in the puddles. We headed into the hill fort, but still no sign of any birds, until we spotted some crows shouting at each other. We sat on the giant squid and watched, but not much was happening, so we went for a look around within the raised hill fort.

The giant squid we discovered on a previous very foggy trip to the hill fort

Icy puddle
The Batchelor's Buttons we'd found in the autumn were still there, but looked a bit 'old'. We also spotted some Oyster Mushrooms growing on a tree trunk.

Batchelor's Buttons

Oyster Mushrooms
There was lots of moss growing on the tree stumps and wood sorrel was staring to grow through the leaf litter.

wood sorrel
From the hill fort, you can see down through the trees to Grangelands below. It's an amazing chalk grassland site that's a brilliant spot for butterflies and wildflowers, especially orchids, later in the year. We decided to take the slightly scary, very steep path down the hill to take a look.
Looking down on Grangelands from the hill fort
As we slithered down the slope, a couple of pheasants crashed out of the trees and flew away, a blue tit flitted about above us and a pigeon sat and watched us.

Safely down the slope, we were very glad we'd gone down there. The red kites were flying around, a kestrel was hovering above us and then two ravens flew past. They were a similar size to the red kites and were making a very distinctive call, very different to the call I'd heard this morning, it was more like a gurgling sort of noise. They headed off towards the woods that we'd just come from.

At the bottom of the slope, with Grangelands in front of us

A kestrel hovered overhead
The red kites were flying all around us
Red Kite
a raven
We walked across the grassland to make our way back to the car. There was quite a lot of Great Mullein around - I'll look out for Dark Mullein in the summer and see if I can find any Striped Lychnis moth caterpillars. We also spotted lots of seagulls in a nearby field - must be stormy on the coast as we only see them this far in land when the weather's bad.
Mullein - probably Great Mullein
There were a few marked off areas, that looked like scrapes, where the soil is scraped right back to the bare chalk. Some types of wildflowers need chalk to grow on, so I suspect they're there to help them to thrive. Will take a look in the summer and see what's growing on them.
Looks like a scrape, marked with black posts on each corner
Walking back through the woods we found a large clump of heart's-tongue fern growing. It was on a slope, but in a damp, soggy part of the wood. I suspect it was the perfect place for it, as this was the only large patch of it that we saw (everywhere else it was growing as individual plants).

Heart's-tongue ferns
So our bird counts for Pulpit Hill and Grangelands were 1 jay, 1 fieldfare, 1 chaffinch, 3 long-tailed tits, 1 robin, 2 great tits, 13 crows, 1 pigeon, 5 red kites, 2 pheasants, 1 blue tit, 1 blackbird, 15 seagulls, 1 kestrel and 2 ravens.

What a fabulous, raveny sort of a day!!

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