Klimt at Headley

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.


"Imagine you are in a clearing in an infinite forest..."
Steve Gale said…
Where does that quote come from Simon?
Gibster said…
Those birches! I had such a strong urge to cut them down I almost jumped out of my chair! Cleared an area like that on Epsoom Common a few years back - halo released some veteran oaks and pollarded sallows for Purple Emperor usage. Two of us were slamming through birches like that at the rate of 3 a minute. Each. With 24" bowsaws! Loved it. So did the Purple Emperors, took the sallows just 3 years to become suitable for egglaying females. Starfruit, now there's another story eh Steve? ;)
Steve Gale said…
What causes this tight grouping then Seth. They all look young trees. Previously cleared area?
Gibster said…
I think just a complete lack of competition, possibly due to clearance although that was never the case on Epsom Common. I think that birch is just massively successful at getting a toe-hold and growing very quickly. And they really don't mind growing in very close proximity to their neighbours, just spend a day clearing seedlings to see what I mean! Maybe it's one of those species that Roe Deer aren't too fond of? If grazing isn't established then *boom!* you have a dense single-age woodland about as diverse as a cornfield. Great fun to cut down though :)
Derek Faulkner said…
It's amazing how quick those areas grow back, within two years or so. The MOD do it regularly in Hawley Woods near Blackwater in Surrey.
Steve Gale said…
Not something you see too often on Sheppey I'll wager Derek!
Derek Faulkner said…
Certainly not that kind Steve, but we have our own kind of short term devastation which eventually grows back better than it was. It's a matter of taking your kind of attitude towards it and seeing the positives that it can produce rather than daily moaning about what a land owner is entitled to do as some bloggers do.

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