Friday, 11 November 2016

11th November - In Hearts At Peace, Under An English Heaven.

And now we are into November, the year rushing towards another winter.  The weather over the last week has been mixed with sunshine, frosts, a bitingly cold northerly wind, and some heavy rain.  This morning though it was clear and cold with some frost about.  It has been quiet around the patch just recently, and I have ventured further a field to find some interesting wildlife.  Details of my visit to the New Forest and Farlington Marshes last week can be found here

The Blackbird Scruffy has become a permanent member of the family now, every morning just before sun rise Helen goes out to put mealworms in the tray.  He is never far away when she does this and this morning he was sitting in the tree watching her.

As she turns to come back inside he drops down to the lawn, and to thetray where he has his breakfast.  Scruffy is only a reference to how he was in the summer and early autumn, his plumage now looks fine, the diet of protein rich mealworms having done the trick it would seem.

He would normally eat what he wanted and then would fly off to allow his side kick, Robin (yes we have Blackbird and Robin in the garden!), but today the Robin was not about.

The other good piece of news is that the Goldfinches and Greenfinches now seemt ot be free of the disease.  The feeders have been up for a couple of weeks now and there has been no sign of sick birds.  It has taken a while for the birds to return but this morning there were at least a dozen Goldfinches on the feeders, all looking quite healthy.

As the sun rose the Woodpigeons appeared, this one warming up on a frost covered roof.

The Starlings too had left their roost and were taking the chance to chatter away and preen on the television aerials.

 It was clear azure blue skies through the morning, a glorious late autumn day, and with the forecast for the weekend looking decidedly dodgy, I set off to have an hour walking around Old Down and Swelling Hill Pond at lunch time.

As I arrived at the pond there were three pairs of Mallard and a single Moorhen out in the open water.  The pond looked splendid with the surrounding colours of the leaves reflecting in the mirror like water.  

The Moorhen was one of this year's fledglings as it lacked the bill colour of an adult, earlier in the year they were not that jumpy, but it seems to have learnt form the adult and apidly swam to the safety of the reeds.

The Mallard were less concerned and stayed out in the open.

I managed to find four pairs, the number having reduced from the fifteen that were present in October.

Leaving the pond I walked into the wood.  A few Goldcrest called from the bushes and I could hear the raucous calls of Jays deep in the wood.  As I walked along the path two Jays flew across in front of me, they must still be busy building their cache for the winter.

The larch leaves have finally turned a lovely golden brown, and every year this sight never ceases to impress me, you have to though see it with a lovely deep blue autumn sky, and the low golden sunshine.

As I walked along the path a male Pheasant was just a little ahead of me.

In sheltered spots there was still some warmth in the sunshine, and a few flys could be seen sitting on the bark of the beech trees in the full sunshine warming up.

I turned at the crossroads and headed towards the west, all around me the beech trees were a glorious yellowy brown colour, the leaves standing out against the dark inky blackness of the deeper wood.

I walked to the open area of pine trees, and stopped to look out over the fields.  Rooks and Jackdaws were feeding among the cattle.  Around me flocks of Woodpigeon burst from beneath the Beech trees, they were obviously feeding on the fallen beech mast.

I turned to walk back and looking up the path again the scene was one of wonderful autumn colour.

There was little bird song, just the odd call of a Jay, and the a Wren.  Interestingly no Robins singing, maybe because tit was midday.

I found two Wrens facing off in the bracken, this bird eventually chasing off the intruder and claiming the high ground.

I stopped by the Larch trees to wait and listen.  I heard Goldfinches calling in the distance, but despite some best efforts could not make out any Redpolls.  Close by both Great Tit and Blue Tit foraged in the trees.

As I came out of the wood I noticed some more Beech leaves, this time still a lime green in colour, and back lit by the sunshine.  Once again the flys were using the flat surface to warm up on, and you could clearly see their reflection through the thin leaf.

There was the constant calls of Rooks, crows and Jackdaws from the adjacent field, and as I came out of the wood I could see a large gathering of Jackdaws in the tall Eucalyptus tree.

Back at the pond I decided to walk around the outside.  I could hear tapping in the trees and after searching through the branches finally located the owner, a male Great Spotted Woodpecker.

As I walked back to the car, I could not help being impressed by the wonderful colours surrounding the pond, and those reflected in the water.

Truly wonderful.

Back home, as I stepped out into the garden, a Red Admiral flew past me, this is the latest one I have recorded here in Four Marks.

Some wonderful colour, on a wonderful day, it is a shame this will not last into the weekend.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

29th October - Handsome Smile, Wearing Handsome Shoes

We have been away all week, on the south coast in Dorset, details of where we went and what we saw can be found here on the "Away" blog.  The weather was very kind to us, with only one day of rain, and plenty of sunshine.  However returning yesterday at first it was quite cloudy, but slowly the sun did come out, and as a result we were treated to three Red Admirals nectaring on the new buddleia flowers in the garden.

Today though the overcast conditions came with a very light drizzle, probably more of a low mist.  There was hardly any wind, everything being completely still.  The bird feeders have now been down for over a month, and I decided to put them back out, yesterday evening, this morning they were quickly found by the Goldfinches.

There was also a Nuthatch about, although the Robin seemed to feel the feeders were only for him, and it proceeded to chase off anything that came close to them.

We set off for a walk with Louise and Boycie, and as we came around Lymington Rise she mentioned that there might be a cat having taken a bird in one of the gardens.  We walked on to see if we could get a better look, and I just caught sight of movement by the fence.  It definitely wasn't a cat, and as the four of us approached it turned and I could see it was a Sparrowhawk, and was mantling a Woodpigeon.  We were now too close, and it wasn't going to stay around and it immediately flew off with the pigeon before I realised what was going on.

This is the second time I have caught a female Sparrowhawk with a catch, hopefully it will be third time lucky.

We walked on and turned up Brislands, past Gradwell and towards Old Down.  The trees are now in full colour, they have changed a lot earlier this year.  Along the verge the Rosebay Willowherb has gone to seed with the smoke grey seeds contrasting with the golden leaves.

The woods were silent but for the melancholic song of the Robin.  The Beech trees are a lovely golden yellow, and it was a pity there wasn't the warm autumn sunshine to enhance their colour.

I left the Helen, Louise and Boycie to carry on, and took the perimeter path, hopefully to find some fungi, but it would seem this year that they are very much in short supply.  It has been very dry, and the fungi need moist conditions to allow the spores to germinate, we just haven't had these conditions yet.

Looking out from the wood the train on the Watercress Line whistled as it came out of the cover of the trees.

The field has been drilled and there were several flocks of Rooks and Jackdaws searching the ground, and also a few groups of Common Gulls, both adults and first year birds.

I walked to look out over the Desmond Paddocks, a Buzzard was sitting on one of the posts, but was chased off by a couple of Jackdaws.  I headed back into the wood, but turned back as I remembered that the beech tree by the footpath was a good site for Porcelain fungi.  Sure enough on one of the boughs there were a couple of cups forming, and some smaller heads emerging from the bark.

Walking up the path, more Beech trees showed some beautiful colour.

There were plenty of calls around these trees, and I stopped to listen and wait to see what was about.  Two Wrens skulked through the bracken, a Robin sang above me, and in the trees there were Great Tits, Coal Tits and a single Blue Tit.

I could also hear Long-tailed Tits, and a few Goldcrests, but they stayed high in the canopy.  Eventually the flock moved away, heading into the darker parts of the wood.  I walked on to the Crossroads, where I turned towards Swellinghill.  The trees change here, the dominant species now being Sweet Chestnut, the long leaves showing a mixture of green and yellow.

A little further on and there are Oak trees.  These are normally the last trees to lose their leaves, and they don't necessarily have a vibrant colour.

I stopped to check the Larch and Pine trees in the hope of maybe a Redpoll, there were Coal Tits and several Goldcrests, but the only finches present were a small flock of Goldfinches.

I came out of the wood and walked to the pond.  The water was covered in fallen leaves, and in the far corner there was the usual October group of Mallard.  I counted 15, nothing like highest count of previous years but a consistent build up.

On the lawn on the other side of the road there was a small clump of field mushrooms growing amongst the dew covered grass.

A little further along the lane yet another tree in splendid autumn colour, this time a Cherry, the leaves a gorgeous pinkish orange.

I decided to walk back into Old Down across the field, and as I climbed over the style I could see three Roe Deer in the field.  As I got closer they became aware of me, and turned to head into the wood, as they moved away from me I could see the white patches on their rears.

As I walked along Gradwell I could hear the calls of Redwing above me, the "seeep" calls distinctive in the still overcast conditions.  I saw several move over me, but as I turned into Brislands I could see thrushes in a dead tree alongside the lane.  At first there were two Song Thrushes, but soon they were joined by at least four Redwing.

They didn't stick around and soon flew off, leaving me to walk back home hoping that maybe the Sparrowhawk would be there once again, but of course it wasn't.

Autumn is well and truly with us, the colours are lovely, all we need now is just some sunshine and blue skies, tomorrow maybe?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

15th October - No More Plastic Money

Through out the week the winds have been coming from the east, and there has been a stream of rarities and migrants arriving on the east coast.  Friday saw the start of a change in the weather with rain during the evening, and this morning the wind was more southerly, and it felt a little milder.

October is an indifferent month here, usually something of nothing as the trees stay green, but this year due to the dry weather it would seem they are starting to change earlier this year.  Maybe It could bring some surprises

Conditions were overcast with some rain as I set off for Plain Farm, and as a result I decided to drive around Lye Way.  I stopped at the fences, alerted by a lot of gulls flying around, as I got out of the car there were a lot of Black-headed and Common Gulls in the field.  As I reached for the camera and binoculars the gulls all took to the air, and out on the field a pair of male pheasants were scurrying away towards the hedges.

I looked out towards the pylons and saw what at first I almost dismissed as a Woodpigeon, but there was something about the rapid wing beats that it was maybe something else.  It flew up to the pylon, and then I knew that it was a Peregrine Falcon.  It perched up at the top of the pylon, and scanned across the field, while behind it the gulls circled around.

Both sides were under scrutiny.

Then it dropped off the perch and flew back away from me

It flew to the next pylon.

Settling again at the top.

October has been the month to see Peregrine here regularly over the last few years, it can be no coincidence that this is also the time when the large flocks of Woodpigeon start to congregate.

The gulls regrouped, but decided to leave the field and crossed the road the field on the other side.

I left and made my way to the farm where I parked at the cattle grid and then walked up the hill.  As I passed the Yew tree I could hear Goldcrests and Coal Tits, but despite waiting they never showed preferring to stay in the cover of the dense yew trees.

Further up the path I could see a Kestrel using the wires across the field as a perch to search for prey.

Two falcons could this be a good raptor day.

I stopped at the pond but there was only a couple of Chaffinches present.  From there I walked down the main path towards the Beech avenue.  I could hear Mistle Thrush calling, and managed to locate them at the top of the birch trees.

As I walked along the avenue several Chiffchaff called but again I couldn't find them.  In the Autumn the numbers of Chiffchaff increase as migrant bird swell the local birds.  In complete contrast we never see Blackcap or Whitethroat coming through, the resident birds disappearing in August.

As if to confirm my thoughts about why the Peregrine was seen today a large flockl of Woodpigeon burst out of the Beech trees.

Another bird with increased numbers was the Blackbird, they seemed to be everywhere, but despite some close inspection I couldn't manage to turn any of them into Ring Ouzels.  This female sat in the middle of the hedge clucking away.

By the barns the House Sparrows were chirping away, some from the middle of th hedge while others like this male were happy to show themselves.

As I walked up the hill I noticed that another barn was being constructed, that will be good news for the Pied Wagtails, more roof space to run around on.

The Bull and his friend were enjoying some fresh hay as I passed, the way the hay fell from its mouth reminded me of a beard, the Bull of ZZ Top.

At the cottages I walked around the bushes, again there were plenty of Blackbirds and several agitated Wrens in the Ivy.

Overhead were several Skylarks, despite the fact that they were calling they seemed to be resident birds and not migrants moving through.

The wires here run just over the hedges, and the birds come from the hedge to the wires.  There were Linnets and Yellowhammers plus a few House Sparrows, then on its on I noticed a slightly larger and sandier bird.  It was a Reed Bunting.  Having seen several in the New Forest last week I did wonder if I could find one here today, so was pleased to see it sitting there on the wire, the first of the year.

Past the cottages along the footpath there were a lot of Yellowhammers on both sides.

Rather than walk around Charlwood I decided to head back the way I had come, however there was not the birds about that I had hoped for, this Robin being the best opportunity for a photograph.

As I came past the barns and stables a Red Kite drifted past me on the far side of the field.

As it came up over the trees another came out of the tree calling.  I can only assume that this was a juvenile pursuing the parent in the hope of food.

Past the drying barns a large flock of Long-tailed Tits were calling in the Poplars.  There were several opportunities as they perched out in the open, this was the best of quite a few.

Coming down the hill a Buzzard flew across towards the Mountains Plantation, the fourth raptor of the day, and then a Kestrel low over the field imitating a Merlin!

I walked along the road back to the car, and in the fields the Pheasants were gathering close to the edge of the road.  They have been everywhere today, do they not know that it is the season to be shot!

So quite an eventful morning, some great views of Peregrine for once, not just a flash as it passes through, three more raptors and the first Reed Bunting of the year.  It would be nice to find one of those Yellow-browed Warblers but there is still time.