Headley Heath is a special place for me - some of my earliest birding took place here, with warm summer evenings in the company of churring Nightjars and roding Woodcocks. In recent years I have twice come across Hawfinch flocks, but my efforts to do so again have been unsuccessful. I went back again this morning for another try.
The western side of Headley Heath is divided by several steep-sided, shallow valleys. The ground here is wet and the eroded sides spew forth flints. Most of the ground is heavily vegetated, with the scrub becoming wood, most of the mature trees being at the top of the ridge on the western most boundary. And it is here where I have seen those near-mythical Hawfinches before. But not today. I did, however, record 15+ Bullfinch and 5 Marsh Tit, amongst few other birds - it was very quiet.
Away from the valleys, Silver Birch is the predominant tree. There are a few places where they dominate an area, young trees packed tight and growing with thin, straight trunks, the branches weedy little things up top. I am always reminded of Gustav Klimt's paintings of a Birch forest when I see a sight like that above.
It was good to see that the National Trust are scraping away bracken and top soil to try and encourage the specialist heathland flora to return, via the exposed seed bank. The eastern and northern parts of the heath are more like what you'd expect heathland to be - sandy soils, gorse and heather. There are a few ponds (that once held Starfruit). It will be interesting to see just what pops up in the areas that they have cleared.