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.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

9th October - And Kingdoms Rise, And Kingdoms Fall

Yesterday I spent the morning at RSPB Arne, and the afternoon watching Ring Ouzels in the New Forest.  The weather was showery yesterday, but this morning it daned clear and bright, and as I set off in lovely sunshine the hope was that maybe the many Ring Ouzels that have come through the county over the last few days could be feeding on the berries around Four Marks.  My thoughts were encouraged as I heard the first Redwing of the autumn call overhead.

Coming down Lymington Rise I noticed a pair of Goldfinches feeding at the top of the birch tree.

The feeders have had to come in again in my garden, I just can't seem to get rid of the diseases, and sick birds can still be seen.  I suppose if other feeders are still out locally the birds will just transmit the disease there, when feeding away from my garden.  Maybe we need some cold frosts to kill off the virus.

As I turned into Brislands a Skylark flew over calling, and in the conifers I could hear Goldcrests.

The Roe Deer pair have been around all week in the same field, and this morning theey were once again lying down in the sunshine dozing.

Along Gradwell a Chiffchaff called, and crossing the field towards Old Down saw several Meadow Pipits calling in the field.  I stopped to check the hedges.  The hawthorn are covered in berries, but there were no birds at all, not even any Blackbirds feeding on them..

I crossed the field, and overhead a Red Kite flew over being mobbed by a single Rook.

The Kite simply gained height and the Rook gave up, the Kite drifting away towards Kitwood.

It was very quiet in the woods, I took the perimeter path hoping to find some fungi, or to see birds on the berries but neither appeared.  I turned back towards the main path, and tyhen at the crossroads back towards Swelling Hill.  A pair of Nuthatches were calling in the oak trees.

These birds are highly territorial ,and as one flew away the other chased after it to make sure it got the message.

Chiffchaffs were calling and I could see them flycatching and buzzing through the oak leaves above me.  There was movement everywhere, a Great Tit appeared and then a Wren high up in the Oak.  I thought it had come closer but the Wren had changed into a Coal Tit

There were at least six Chiffchaffs and I began to hope for maybe a Yellow-browed, again they seem to have been all over the south coast this weekend.  The Chiffchaffs appeared closer, and I was able to get some good views

But unfortunately there was no sign of anything different, just some nice views of the Chiffchaffs.

The small birds then moved through, and I headed off towards the pond.  Again I hunted the bushes and scrub, plus the area of damp ground in the hope of some more warblers.  They were there but once again only Chiffchaffs.

In the far corner sleeping amongst the lilies were a pair of Mallard, it is about now that the numbers start to build up, and it will be interesting to see how many gather this year.

There was a few fishermen around the pond, and there was no sign of any dragonflies.  I walked on towards Kitwood, as I reached the bend I heard a Crow call, and looked up to see it chasing a Sparrowhawk.  Both birds were very distant.  IOn the hedge there were more Chiffchaffs calling, along with Blue and Great Tits and a pair of Chaffinches.

I walked the path down through Homestead Farm, the path is fringed with hawthorn bushes and they were covered in berries, would this be where the thrushes were?  Unfortunately again, no it was empty other than for a single calling Chiffchaff, and above me a Buzzard.

It was one of three circling above me.

Closer to the farm I heard a Bullfinch calling, the female appeared and promptly disappeared again, the male though sat nicely for me in the sunshine.

I crossed the road and headed up hill towards the garden centre, again, plenty of bushes and berries but no birds.

From the garden centre I walked through the field to Blackberry Lane, once more Chiffchaffs called but that was all.  The hedges at the bottom of the valley are normally the first polace I find the winter thrushes, bu again there was nothing about,m well not actually nothing there was this Great Tit.  Interestingly it kept extending its head, as if to show of the yellow breast and black band to someone.

As I made my way home another Buzzard drifted over, and I also had a quick glimpse of a Brimstone butterfly as it came over the fence and away from me.  Unfortunately none of the special birds that seem to be all over the county but not here in Four Marks.  It seems to be the way October goes around here.

Tuesday, 4 October 2016

3rd October - Back on Dry Land Once Again

A beautiful October day today, azure blue skies with wisps of white clouds and the scattered remains of aircraft vapour trails cris-crossing the skies, and a sun that in shelter was hot but with a cool air temperature to remind you that the year was moving to a close.

At home in the garden a few spikes of buddleia flowers remain, and they continue to attract the bees, and once again this afternoon yet another Painted Lady.  When I got home Helen had left a message that there had been one before she had gone out, and sure enough as I came out of the back door there it was nectaring hard on the tiny purple flowers.

It was very busy covering the tiny flower heads then flitting up to find another spike.

There was some slight damage in the upper right hand wing, and I always wonder how that happens, is it knocked against the branches, is it grabbed by an attacking bird, it never seems to bother the butterfly and flight is always possible.

As I watched and photographed the Painted Lady around me alarm calls rang out from the resident birds, and I turned to see a Sparrowhawk glide across the sky.  Unfortunately I had no time to expose for the bright sky as it moved away from the garden and gained height.

Back to the butterfly and it continual feeding.

The Painted Lady is a long-distance migrant, and has one of  the most spectacular butterfly migrations observed in Britain and Ireland.

Each year, it spreads northwards from the desert fringes of North Africa, the Middle East, and central Asia, recolonising mainland Europe and reaching Britain and Ireland. In some years it is an abundant butterfly, frequenting gardens and other flowery places in late summer.  The last major Painted Lady migration year was in 2009 when thousands, maybe millions could be seen traveling north throughout the United Kingdom from Europe.

This year has been my best on record around Four Marks for this lovely butterfly, with at least 6 individual sightings, in fact I have seen more painted ladies this year than Common Blues!

 After a while it would fly off and disappear, bit would then reappear back on the flowers, during one of these intervals I managed to find it sitting on my neighbour's roof fueling up on the sunshine like a modern day solar panel.

  The Goldfinches have returned, the feeders are back out, and their jingling song can be heard once again around the garden.  There has not been any sign of more diseased birds so its fingers crossed that we have managed to catch it early.

With the Painted Lady still sunning on the roof my attention turned to the bees that were also busy taking nectar from the flower spikes.  You could get in really close to watch them feed as diligently as the Painted lady was.

And then she returned for one final flourish as the sun began to fade away from the purple flower spikes, one last frantic feed across the flowers that she must have already exhausted.

Would this be the last sighting of the year?  The weather forecast is for it to remain dry and with more sunny spells, as a result there is no reason to not expect to see some more, lets hope the buddleia continues to flower, and to deliver these lovely butterflies.

As a coincidence there is a programme on the Painted lady migration, called The Great Butterfly Adventure on BBC 4 on the 10th October at 9.00pm.

A little later while walking around the village we watched a Sparrowhawk attack a large flock of Linnet in the middle of the fallow field along Gradwell Lane.  While in the field at the junction with Gradwell and Brislands the two Roe Deer I had seen Sunday morning were grazing by the far side hedge.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

2nd October - And Let Me Try With Pleasured Hands

And so to October, and the final quarter of the year.  Yesterday we saw heavy rain with a few odd sunshine breaks, overnight it was cool, and the morning started cloudy with a fresh north westerly but through the morning the clouds burnt away and the sun came through.  Around the house there are plenty of signs that we are well into autumn, trees changing colour, and ripe red berries covering the branches.

There were more signs as I walked along Lymington Bottom towards the turn to Brislands, cob webs standing out in the sunshine.

Robins sang from the trees, and Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests called from the conifers as I headed up the hill past the new houses.  At the turn to the recreation ground a Great Tit was calling loudly from the side of the large oak tree.

I checked the horse field, which for once had a horse in it.  In the next field there are the remnants of thistles that stick out above the grass, but today they looked different.  A closer look revealed a buck Roe Deer dozing in the morning sunshine.

Another shape beyond the buck revealed yet another pair of ears.

Back to the buck, and my presence had woken him, and he just watched me as I took more photographs.

Just past the turn to Gradwell a large flock of Long-tailed Tits buzzed into the canopy of a large Oak.  I watched as they swung on the branches continually calling to each other.  This one was watching as several above it moved through the leaves.

As well as the tits there were several Chiffchaffs hanging around with them, these were the first of quite a few around the patch today.  They were though very mobile, and were very difficult to get a clear shot on.

I decided to walk along Brislands for a change.  Overhead I could hear a Skylark singing, and there was a group of six Skylarks that flew over calling heading West.  Two Swallows also passed through.

I turned into the wood and made the way along the main path.  The vegetation on both sides has finally recovered from all the forestry work, and now it looks very much like it did over three years ago.

I turned right at the crossroads, negotiating the muddy paths that had sprung up after yesterday's heavy rain.  The woods are still very green and there is very little sight yet of the beech trees turning their autumnal golden colour.

At the west end the field has been left to fallow and there is plenty of grass and odd Rapeseed.  I crossed a little way into the field, Meadow Pipits calling overhead, and a further two more Swallows moving through.  A lone Poppy stood proud in the sunshine amongst the grass.

I walked down through the paddocks with the call of a distant Raven overhead, but I could not find it.  I crossed over to Andrew Lane, and headed up the path past the houses.  I always stop at the two gates to check the paddocks, the first one has never had anything in it all the time I have been checking, but this morning there was another sleepy Roe Deer.

The view across the wider paddocks produced only Magpies and Woodpigeons, but the single Beech trees out in the open were beginning to shows signs of autumn colour.

I came out at the top of the hill and walked past the sheep field with more Long-tailed Tits, and Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs calling.  I would see them as they broke cover to chase after an insect, but never long enough to photograph.

Coming past Lye Way Farm there were more Chiffchaffs in the Horse Chestnut trees, and I finally managed to isolate one, but it is only a record shot.

As I waited and watched the warblers two large raptors broke the cover of the trees up a bove, two Red Kites circling above the sheep pastures.

A large combine harvester was outside the barns, and was an attraction to a pair of Dunnocks that seemed to be searching out insects amongst the old seed and green shoots.

As I headed along Lye Way towards Kitwood I could see the field was full of Gulls.  Mostly Black-headed there were also Common and Herring Gulls.

I turned towards the pond, and above there were calls of Pied Wagtails everywhere, one settled on the roof of one of the cottages.

I had hoped to find the dragonflies around the pond, but there was no sign of any.  There had been a dog in the water so maybe this had scared them away.  I left the pond and walked on seeing two Song Thrush fly across in front of me, and then sitting deep in the middle of the trees, they watched me carefully.

I turned back into Old Down, and after negotiating the barks of the dog in the garden. |I came out into the open to hear a Nuthatch calling.  I found it at the top of a Larch tree, trying to do an impression of a woodpecker

As I walked the main path I disturbed a butterfly, a Speckled Wood, then a dragonfly, that fortunately after flying around for a while settled back on to the bramble leaves in the full sun.  It was a Southern Hawker, not sure now how often they will be about.

I turned towards the Gradwell path, and walked out of the wood, and crossed the field.  In the hedge by the footpath a Red Admiral flew up from the nettles, and then settled back down again.

A little further on a large bird came from behind the trees, I was surprised to see a Grey Heron, what wasn't a surprise it was heading towards the pond.

Nothing spectacular today, but plenty of activity with lots of Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers, and a good visible movement of Pied Wagtails and Skylarks.  Hirundines were in short supply though with only a handful of Swallows.

Back home the feeders went out again, the signs are that the diseased birds are gone, but we will have to be watchful.  Other birds that seem to be gone are the House Martins.  There was a large flock about on Monday last week, and Helen saw them Tuesday, but since then they have been conspicuous by their absence.  Finally good news, Scruffy the Blackbird now has some lovely body feathers, and only some slight wear around the head and neck.  He seems to be finally getting better.

All in all a lovely day to reflect the time of the season.