On the first day of the month we walked on Pitch Hill at midday and the sun shone giving the stands of Scots Pines a coppery light which bore out Dickinson’s observations of March light. Up on the heathland at the hilltop the pines are counterpointed by the silvery white of the Birch trees and an undercover layer of fallen pine needles. The Gorse bushes are a brilliant yellow and the darker green of the Bilberry plants make dense ground cover. The wide bridle ways on Pitch Hill made for easier walking than we had become used to in the lowland area and it felt good to be free of the clay for a while. A Buzzard, a bird that seems to have become as “common as a sparrow” around Ewhurst, flew across the ride and I was struck by the mirroring of the pine trees with the tawny wings of the bird.

The walk took us to the car park in Peaslake, across the upland region and then down the valley side onto the path which follows the valley bottom. The feeling is quite different lower down, where it is shady and enclosed. There are streams flowing down the valley and it is quite damp. I saw a Chiffchaff, hopping from bush to bush; a bird that is well camouflaged with olive brown plumage and a pale beige chest. In recent years increasing numbers over-winter here, particularly in the southern half of the country. This is undoubtedly because of our warming climate; there is usually a migration of birds at the end of March, adding to the numbers. This bird was searching for insects, which, together with spiders forms the main diet. Later in the month I saw a bird perching on a telegraph wire on Ewhurst Street, singing for all its worth the familiar tune of chiffchaff. The Chiffchaff likes prominent positions to sing from and this is the best way to see them in the spring.

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