As a light spatter of rain stopped almost on the dot of 10 am, fifteen members headed south from the Newlands Corner car park towards St Martha’s Hill and church in the distance. A short stop below allowed good views of a couple of Whitethroats, a single Linnet, a preening Jay and the continuing call of a Chaffinch. At the foot of the slope a singing Skylark was seen ascending from the barley field below and further views of multiple Skylarks were enjoyed through the descent through the field towards the farm. The only, very distant Cuckoo of the walk was heard from the direction of Albury. The farm and its buildings gave Swallows, House Martins, House Sparrows & views of a distant Buzzard. Along the footpath adjacent to a coniferous plantation there where views of a singing Blackcap, the tail-ends of two Green Woodpeckers, a Nuthatch and a Kestrel fly-past. Over the fallen tree and across the road ascending up to St Martha’s, the first Firecrest was heard but, as was the theme for the entire walk, sadly not seen. The pit stop at the top by the church was sound-tracked by a wheezing Greenfinch and a displaying Whitethroat, while three Buzzards circled and called overhead. During the descent from the Church into the tall pines, there were several more singing Firecrests and at least one Goldcrest. Nice views of a Chiffchaff dispatching a juicy caterpillar were followed by a fleeting glimpse by a few of a streak of grey through the pines. Minutes later a Sparrowhawk was flap-flap-gliding in a gap of blue sky right above. The meander back up to the chalk grassland slope into the woods was quiet, and a last attempt at spotting a vocal Firecrest was to no avail. A final detour down to the newly installed Yew Tree Project boardwalk gave a final boost to morale among the ancient trees! It was an excellent walk of great views, kind skies and frustratingly elusive Firecrests. The final final tally was 34 species.
A party of nineteen assembled near the Newlands Corner visitor centre on a bright sunny morning, eagerly anticipating a walk in a location new for the group. Wrens, chaffinches, song thrushes and blackbirds were in good voice while a blue tit enjoyed the feeders in the revamped wild life garden. We began with a descent of Albury Down through thickets that were alive with singing whitethroats a couple of which gave fleeting views. A kestrel hovered in front of us while two buzzards could be seen circling high above. Two swifts swooped past closely followed by a house martin and some swallows. Chiffchaffs and blackcaps started to make their presence felt. The farm at the bottom of the Down was the home of some house sparrows. There we were alerted to the presence of a sparrowhawk by the shrill alarm call of two passing swallows. As we turned west a stock dove cooed out of sight and a green woodpecker mocked our inability to see it. By now we were hearing the repeated calls of a cuckoo (or possibly two). At the foot of St Martha’s Hill we could hear both goldcrests and firecrests but could not spot them among the leaf cover. After a refreshing climb to the church we rested to the song of a greenfinch on top of the weather vane. Towards the foot of the hill on the downwards path more firecrests were singing and one allowed a brief view as it flitted about. Back on the open meadow a skylark at last ascended pouring out its sweet song. Finally in the woods we heard the songs of a coal tit and a nuthatch followed by an unusual call from within a large yew; a bird dropped to the grounds and astonishingly was identified as a hawfinch, certainly the bird of the day. As a last hurrah two nuthatches appeared on the path ahead and could be seen gathering food for nestlings. We enjoyed a most productive day with a species list of 38.