Monday, 18 October 2021

18th October - Red Sky by Morning, Shepherd's Warning

 Summer has passed us by and once again the days are shorter and the sky takes on some incredible colours as a low sun rises with a background of cloud.

There have been some wonderful sun rises around Four Marks over the last week, but this morning with still twenty minutes to go before the official sun rise beat them all.  The sky turned a vivid red as the clouds produced a break around the horizon.  

Here looking to the north east




But the light was changing the sky all over, here the view to the west, not as vivid, more of a pastel shade


Then almost as quickly as it arrived the cloud closed the gaps in the sky and the colour immediately washed out and around the time the sun should have been rising the sky was a monochromatic grey.

Wednesday, 26 May 2021

16th - 28th May - Butterflies and Owls

The cold wet spring continued into the second half of May, when we were treated to the sunshine it was brief but warm, but only served as a reminder of what we should be experiencing.

The weather was having an influence on the wildlife around Four Marks, comparisons with previous years showing how much the weather directs what goes on.  As I write this it is nearing the end of May and there has still not been any sign of the House Martins that usually nest around the housing estate, I do not recall a year when I haven't seen them in place by at least the middle of May.  Butterflies too have been in short supply and on the odd occasion I deem to put the moth trap out the return is measly to non existent.

However what the weather has done is to extend the flowering time of the bluebells in Old Down Wood, with them still being in a good condition well into the tird week of the month.


The wood though is benefiting, the dry April had it looking a little tired for spring but now after the rain of May it has taken on a lush green appearance.


By the end of May the Tawny Owl seems to leave the usual tree so I took the opportunity to visit him on the 18th of the month.  Fortunately it was showing well with not too many branches in the way.



I have yet, in all the 10 years, not managed to find the nest hole or to see any youngsters, the closest I have come to this is hearing their calls


I edged a little too close and it turned away from me, it didn't fly off as I expected it to, but just turned its head to reveal the large dark, inky black eyes.


As I walked away not wanting to disturb the owl more I wondered  to myself if this would be the last time I see it this year and would I see it again next year.

Walking the path that leads to Old Down Cottage I noticed a single Red Campion flower the first I had seen in the wood this year.  The change over from Blue to red as late as the flowers this year.


As I left the wood that day a Blackcap was still singing from the branches of the tree near to what was a very wet and muddy entrance path.


At Swellinghill Pond the number of Mallard was rising once again.  I counted nine drake Mallard and a couple of females.  I liked the reflection of this drake in the still and high water of the pond.


Back home there is was lull in the breeding activity of the Robins for the early part of the reporting period.  My tame bird would come towards the end of the afternoon, early evening and I can only assume she was sitting on eggs.  The Wren would appear at the same time to take advantage of the meal worms.

At the end of the month I was proved right as the frantic begging for meal worms has begun, we have to run the gauntlet of the Robins as we walk through the kitchen.  They know we are there and as they perch on the patio table they make you feel guilty and you just have to feed them.

A welcome visitor on the 20th during a spell of sunshine was a female Orange-tip butterfly.  Found it nectaring on the aubretia in the garden.


As I mentioned earlier butterflies have been conspicuous by their absence in the dreadful weather we have been having, and none more so than the Orange-tip, so I took the opportunity to get some photographs.




It seems incredible that we are now almost into June, it is as if the year has never really started, a combination of Lockdown since the start of the year and the cold weather through April and May has combined to make the time fly by without really doing anything.  But here we are 4 weeks away from the longest day.  What will June bring?

Monday, 17 May 2021

1st -15th May - There Is a Silent Eloquence In Every Wild Bluebell

 April was one of the driest April on record and probably one of the coldest too with night frosts and cold biting winds.  So what of May then?  Well it seems that once again Mother Nature is all about righting the wrongs of April and delivering more rain to even things out.  The cold conditions continued but with, sometimes heavy, showers.  The first half of May being much more like April showers.

The weather then has had an impact on the wildlife with flowers at least ten to fourteen days behind where they were last year, butterflies severely reduced and migrants held up on their journey north with very few Swallows and House Martins to be seen around the village.  Eventually the Bluebells burst into flower and Old Down wood was once again carpeted by these beautiful flowers.  Even the small area of Old Down Wood shows a variation in the flowering of these flowers, with those on the south side of the wood coming into bloom first.


No apologies for the amount of photographs of the scenes around the wood, the Bluebell season is restricted to about three weeks and you have to take advantage of this slot.

These from the north perimeter path area of the wood just past the Brislands Lane entrance.




This along the south west perimeter path




A white "bluebell" amongst the blues.


These from the north east perimeter path towards the middle of the month.






A lovely contrast of the blue and sunlit patches with the dark shadows



the footpaths around the wood are surrounded by the delicate greens of the emerging leaves and the blue hue of the bluebells.

Other flowers and plants are emerging around the wood.  As the leaves appear the canopy closes in and the light is restricted to the floor.  Dog Mercury and Solomon's Seal are beginning to replace the blue bells.  Wood Spurge can be found in clumps, the lime green leaves standing out in the darker patches.

In places the Wild Garlic or Ransoms is also starting to flower.  The best place to find this though is along Brisland's lane just past the entrance to the wood, it covers the side of the lane and the garlic fragrance is best just after a shower (which we have had a lot of!).

However the one flower I am looking for at this time of year is the Early Purple Orchid.  Their appearance is hit or miss with some years finding them along the perimeter path.  However there is always one in the same spot, the trick is to get there before someone tramples it down.  This year my timing was perfect.



As its name suggests, the Early purple orchid is one of our earliest flowering orchids, appearing from April to June. It is often found in habitats with non-acidic soils, such as hedgerows, banks, ancient woodland and open grassland. The pinkish-purple flowers appear on a spike of medium height.


The Tawny Owl is still to be seen in the usual tree and sometimes it is joined by its mate.  It is never easy to see and fortunately I would imagine it watches many persons walk by, oblivious of its presence.



A surprise walking along Brislands just past the Recreation Ground turn was a calling Stock Dove.  I managed to locate it in one of the taller trees.  This is the first time I have seen one away from the wood and pond.  This year is looking like a good year for them.


Firecrests are all now in song around the village.  I managed to find one in Goldcrest Way right in the middle of the new housing estate.  This one though is the well photographed bird along Brislands.


This is my favourite photograph so far this year.










A Nuthatch surprised me along Brislands too, foraging amongst the lichen.




I had my concerns about the Long-tailed Tit nest, but they seem to have been unnecessary.  Gradually over the days since the start of the month the nest appears to have swelled and I have been able to witness the adults bring food and actually taking it into the nest.
 






Second broods are now the story and many of the local birds are singing once again.  Robins, Blackbirds and this Song Thrush can all be heard in song.


I mentioned earlier that the Swallows and House Martins have been delayed, I was able to catch up with this Swallow hawking over the field alongside the footpath from Gradwell on the 10th, the first I have seen there this year.




A Treecreeper has been a regular visitor to the dead pine tree along the north-south footpath through the wood.

Juvenile starlings can be seen all around the houses and on lawns and one unfortunately fell to the resident Sparrowhawk in the garden.  The adults though have set about their second brood.  A male bird uses the same tree branch outside my office window to sing and display while I suspect its mate is sitting on another brood in the roof of the house.  In the afternoon when the sun comes out it highlights the beautiful iridescent petrol colours in the plumage of the starling.





And while we are the subject of second broods it looks like Donald's mate is sitting again.  Donald though comes to be fed on a regular basis, staring me out with this stare at me through the kitchen window.

While walking along the north east perimeter path I was able to get a view of the Four Trees along Brislands that have always caught my eye as I leave the wood walking towards Gradwell.  It was nice to see them in a different aspect.

Butterflies have been conspicuous by their absence, the only records being a Red Admiral, the first of the year, in Old Down Wood on the 10th and a Orange Tip and Small White through the garden on the 12th, all dodging showers and taking advantage of the warm sunshine.

Finally one animal that appears to be doing very well is the Rabbit.  The horse paddock alongside the footpath towards Gradwell Lane was covered in Rabbits with more than one on look out for the resident Buzzards in Old Down Wood.

Hopefully the latter half of the month will bring some more settled weather and some warmth, we shall see.