Wednesday (the dry day) in the Weald

3rd December 2009, Thursday

07.50: Taking advantage of a long-awaited break in the rain, leave home early to do a tetrad survey out near Battle.
08.10: Wife phones to ask whether I might have taken her car keys………….
08.40: Hastings gridlocked with School Run traffic, take circuitous route to Battle…
08.55: Battle gridlocked…
09.15: Arrive Robin’s house, Mountfield.
09.20: Bag containing “wellies” actually contains “waterproof trousers”…
09.25: Robin kindly lends me his size 10 boots & I clump off like a pantomime giant…

You can predict what’s going to be there from the photo. Marshy wood to the left: Marsh Tit, Treecreeper. Alders along the river: Goldfinch, Siskin, Redpoll. House: House Sparrow, mixed tits, Pied Wagtail, Rough field: Yellowhammer, Buzzard, Everywhere: Crow, Magpie, Blackbird, Robin, Dunnock, Wren.

Passing through ancient countryside of pond bays and mighty wood banks, I had to negotiate flooded woods and waterlogged meadows with hidden Herons exploiting the giant puddles and Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, Dunnocks and Bullfinches busy in the brambles of their neglected margins. Redwings and Fieldfares in the treetops, no fewer than 11 Moorhens on a front lawn, Greenfinches twittering out of a leylandii hedge round a turkey farm, Chaffinches bursting out of a chaotic mess of wrecked barns and plastic rags.
In the tight and complex mosaic Wealden mosaic of irregular woods, tiny fields and tall hedges, I missed the footpath and suddenly found myself on a massive old drove road flanked by tall banks. It must have been a busy route for centuries yet is now abandoned and on a slope suddenly braided and vanished, leaving me confronted by the railway rather than the road I had hoped for. But while I was wondering what to do, discouraged by barking dogs at a hillbilly settlement ahead, a flock of at least 30 Crossbills flew up from conifers the far side of the tracks. This has been an exceptional autumn for them; they nest early in the season so I shall be watching out for signs of breeding on my Late Visit.