This should read “Trip to Old Lodge” but try as we might we could not persuade the Conservators of Ashdown Forest car parking website to accept that the cars registered with them were the same cars as we were trying to pay for, so we decided on a day out on another heathy site at Iping Common. We had a good start en route when a Red Kite landed on the road in front of us to deftly scoop up some road kill but unfortunately Iping didn’t work thanks to the gods of the wind who made it impossible to listen out for the typical birds of that habitat (and it was blooming cold and lacked a café!). So after a short walk we decided to head off to Pulborough Brooks and a much-needed coffee. So who were the “we”? Nige, Debbie, 2 x Janes, John and Brian.

Hearts sank when we arrived at Pulborough where a sign informed us the café was closed Mondays and Tuesdays ……………… but there was a coffee grab point which also sold flapjack. Yihaa! After sustenance we were ready for a second bout of birding and made for the feeding station where you are guaranteed some action. This was totally overgrown so no feeders. “We’re doomed” rang in my pessimistic ear as though Private Fraser was with us. “Don’t panic” countered this in my optimistic ear and indeed won the day.

As we progressed down the hill towards the hides, small birds began to move around the trees and bushes and even sang a few tunes for us. By the time we got to the first hide Long Tailed Tit, Great & Blue Tit, Blackbird, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and of course the ubiquitous Wren had made themselves known. Anyone who came to the play at HBW’s recent talk will resonate with the conversation that took place in the first hide. “There’s a Tufted Duck” said I. “No there’s two” chipped in someone else. “There’s three” from Brian trumped us both. Swans with cygnets were a hit, Jane H was introduced to Gadwalls while Little Egret, Egyptian Goose, Coot, Moorhen, Canada & Grey Lag Geese and Heron were all on show and as we were about to leave some Cattle Egrets flew over far in the distance. The biggest WOW moment was when Jane E spotted an obliging Hobby which flew in close and momentarily landed much to the consternation of the smaller birds.

As we walked towards the next hide Swallows and Swifts were aloft and a Cetti’s exploded in the reeds (its voice that is). While I was fretting that three of the group were taking ages to enter the second hide and possibly going to miss the huge number of Sand Martins flitting over the marsh they were enjoying the fine voice of a Sedge Warbler in an adjoining bush. I missed out on that while they still had plenty of time to enjoy all the Sand Martins! It may have been at this point that Debbie made an official complaint to me that we hadn’t seen a Sea Eagle yet. John had tried his best after spotting a big bird perched up in a far distant tree but on scoping it he discovered it was a Heron.

We moved on and while migrating to the remaining hides we were accompanied by the dulcet tones of Whitethroat and Chiffchaff and the staccato cry of the Debbie when she found us a Rook to add to our growing day’s tally. At the hides were Avocet including one which John spotted sitting on a nest. Both Avocet and Lapwing had a full-time job fending off the Crows. By this time lunch was beckoning and we sauntered back to the visitor centre and had our picnic. This started outdoors but soon moved inside!

After lunch John led us on a walk through the woods and past the heathland where, had we waited till dark, we may have seen and heard Nightjars. What we did hear in the woods was rather splendid though as we had a few breakneck speed bursts from a Garden Warbler to complement the pretty, but less effusive, song of a Chaffinch. The walk was splendid and took in some great views across  to the Downs.

By the time we called it a day and returned to Henfield we had forgotten the early bad luck at Iping and remembered a terrific day out at Pulborough Brooks. We had found 55 species of bird across the two sites which was excellent.