Friday, 29 March 2019

24th March - The Wind Is Pushing The Clouds Along

A beautiful morning continued through out the day, the air was full of the sounds of spring, bird song everywhere, and as I walked down Brislands Lane butterflies, the Brimstone could be seen fluttering at speed along the edge of the road and across the yellow Celandine.

Coming out into the fields as I headed towards Old Down Wood, the Skylarks were singing on either side of the lanes, to the right a field of Rape, and on the left greens hoots yet to reveal what crop they are.

On the verge in amongst the yellow Lesser Celandine were patches of Wood Anemone, a delicate white flower with lovely golden stamens.




Just before the entrance to the wood a Wren was singing from the Oak trees.  Every cell of it's tiny frame rattling out its song.




Walking into the wood the Pussy Willow was flowering, and back lit by sun against a dark background.



A little further along and another Wren creeping through the bushes.



I headed on towards the Kitwood path, checked once again for the Tawny Owl but there was no sign of it either in the tree or any droppings on the bark.  I have to now assume it has either moved on or more sadly either it or its mate has passed away.

On the southern perimeter path there were singing Marsh and Great Tits.  Goldcrests called from the Larches, and the Chiffchaffs were singing, with one coming close.



Reaching the main path I headed to the north, with the wide open ride there were many Brimstone about, but as is usually the case at this time of year they would not stop.  A darker butterfly flew over my head and as I followed it it settled on the pussy willow flowers.  As it nectared it turned the wings to capture the warm sun rays.



I have seen many exotic butterflies all around the world, but for me there is non more exotic than a freshly emerged Peacock in Spring.



At the crossroads a Brimstone dallied over the crisp dry fallen leaves.  I stood, watched and waited and finally it settled in the sun taking in the warm sunshine.  Unlike the Peacock it doesn't settle with open wings to sun, but angles the closed wings.



Pairs of Long-tailed Tits could be seen searching through the bramble, probably looking for a suitable nesting place.  Long-tailed Tits are one of the earliest nesters and build a beautiful delicate dome shaped nest of spiders webs, lichen and moss.



Coming out of the wood at the west end I could see the smoke of a train on the Watercress Line.  I stood and waited to see the train emerge from the cutting.



The Watercress Line is currently only running between Alresford and Four Marks while the new bridge is built at the Butts in Alton.  It is also a stirring sight to see as the steam locomotive brakes through the trees.



I walked down through the Desmond Paddocks, as I crossed the road to head up Andrew Lane I heard the calls of Mediterranean Gulls above me, looking up I found a lrge flock of Gulls kettling up on a thermal


I estimated about 20 Mediterranean Gulls based on the pure white wings and black hood.  The other gulls were mostly Common Gulls.  There had been some tractors in the fields, and they were tilling the ground so this probably was the attraction.  Here a definite Mediterranean Gull, the first time I have seen one in the area at this time of year, but I suspect they move through as the pre-breeding groups break up on the south coast.  fir more on this see here


There has been some considerable work along Andrew Lane, with a large house, probably a grand design being worked on.  The path is now quite easy to walk, the ruts all leveled out.  I had hoped for maybe a Swallow around the stables but nothing was moving at all.

At the top of the lane I walked along side the field where a couple of Crows could be seen.  At the Periwinkle bank I found a couple of Bee Fly nectaring on the Periwinkle flowers


I walked around to check the fields along Lye Way, there are fields of sheep, but no lambs yet.  I was hoping maybe for a Wheatear, but apart from singing Skylark above it was devoid of any bird life.  

As I walked back I sensed something above me, looking up I saw two Red Kite looking at me!


They both came very close, hanging in the air above, to the extent that I had to reduce the focal length on the camera to get them in to the frame



No matter how many times I have this experience with Red Kite it never fails to excite, they are a fantastic bird and I also never tire of watching or photographing them


I made my way back down the footpath through the field, and popped into the pond, around the back there were Treecreepers, Marsh Tit, and a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker.  Heard but not seen were my first singing Blackcap, a couple of Chiffchaffs, and Stock Doves in the garden of the house nearby.

My attention was taken once again by the pussy willow flowers against the black background of the trees


I made my way back home through Old Down once more, there were plenty of Brimstone, and as I left the wood a Comma flew past to complete three butterflies.

It had been a lovely walk, absence is good for the patch, and it was lovely to be able to see everything waking up in the warm late March sunshine.

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

10th February - Nothing Good Ever Comes Easy

Horrible start to the morning, with rain, and a forecast that said it would last all day, but by late morning the rain had eased and the forecast had changed.  I decided tyo go out for a walk, and headed for Old Down Wood the first time I have been in the wood for some time, probably since the summer.

As I walked between the fields along Brislands Skylark could be heard above, and I managed to pick out two of the birds above the fields.

Walking into the wood there was a Song thrush singing by the entrance, and all along the path several Robins singing.  In the field to my right there were Redwing on the edge of the field, and a couple of Yellowhammer flew up, the first of the year.

A little further on a Nuthatch was calling, it took a little while but finally I found it sitting on a broken branch.  The call was the alarm call





A little deeper into the wood I picked up the buzzing call of a Marsh Tit, there were in fact two birds present, this one calling from the hazel tree, catkins and all.


As I approached the cross roads I came across birds flying up out of the beech leaves on the ground.  There were Great Tits and Blue Tits, but the most numerous were the Chaffinches.  They would fly from the ground to the surrounding bushes and trees.


The parrot like call of the Jay rang out and a Jay flew low over the ground and then up into a tree at the back of the path.


I searched through the Chaffinches for any sign of their cousin the Brambling.  There was plenty of white flashes but no distinctive white rump that would have belonged to a Brambling.  There was another addition to the tits present, with both Coal and Long-tailed Tits joining the flock.

I walked around to see if the Tawny Owl was in the tree I have seen him in for the last six years.  Unfortunately though there was no sign of him.  There are paths trodden down around the tree as people have avoided some of the fallen trees, and maybe this has contributed to the owl's absence, I like to think he is perched somewhere else.

Heading back towards the pond, I turned back when I could see another flock of birds around the beech trees towards the fields.  I doubled back and walked through the new plantation.  Bullfinches were about, and another Nuthatch again calling as it hammered away at another dead branch


A little further along I came across another group of Marsh Tits, this time I counted six which along with the two earlier made a good count of eight birds


I stood watching and searching for anything out of the ordinary, chaffinches fed on the damp ground, along with Robins, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes.

My first walk through Old Down for some time was welcome, and also quite encouraging.  The paths have been flattened out and there is no deep puddles, the ground being quite firm.  A lot of the bramble has also been cut back opening up the main rides and looking quite good for butterflies in the spring and summer.

I left the wood and walked to the pond where I walked around it hoping for something, but went unrewarded.  From the pond I walked on towards Kitwood.  I was going to head across the field and walk back into Old Down, but scanning the field I picked out a covey of partridges.  So I decided to turn back and walk down the hill to the school where I was able to get a better view of a group or covey of twelve Red-legged Partridges, another year tick



I headed up Gradwell, and coming around the bend  by the horse stables I came across a Great Tit with a lovely background.


It had made a lovely change, and not having been in the wood for so long meant it was once again interesting, and I thoroughly enjoyed spending some time just standing still and watching the birds all around me.  There was nothing special, but that didn't matter, it made a nice change.  I think I had become bored with the sameness around me, with maybe not the quantity and quality of birds I could get elsewhere.  Today though it was very rewarding, and worth a visit later as spring arrives

Thursday, 7 February 2019

3rd February - Come To Believe That I Better Not Leave

With the first real frosts, the Redwing appeared and started to strip the berries from the tree opposite the house.  There was the first snow earlier in the week, and that brought more to the tree, but a heavy fall on Thursday night and through Friday brought in the big guns, the Fieldfare.

Close up these thrushes are beautiful birds, with the grey and maroon colours and the checked arrow head markings down the sides.





They also sit with the bill point upwards which emphasises the markings on the throat


The Fieldfare is probably the shyest of the thrushes, run very close by the Ring Ouzel.  But whe the snow comes they seem to be able to override this behaviour, and are quite prepared to come into the garden


The berries being an major attraction of course



Here there was the chance to compare both of our regular winter thrushes, the Fieldfare being much larger and with the distinctive grey head and rump.


While the Fieldfare would come and go, and probably only two to three birds the Redwing were around in good numbers.  At one point I counted ten birds in the berry tree, and there were several more hiding in the surrounding bushes.  As one decided it had enough, it would fly off to be replaced by one from the bushes.


The Redwings to sit with the bill pointing slightly upwards



Previously there have only been single birds feeding on the branches, but with demand now high for the berries it was every man for their self.



The broad evergreen leaves catch what warmth there is in the sun


Another beautiful thrush, most of the Redwings we get here the UK move in from Scandinavia and Iceland, who knows when we visit Iceland in the spring we could be hearing the same birds singing!




The road up past the house is on a slope, and come the snow come the abandoned cars.  The owner of the is Mini, when they abandoned it Friday evening, clearly did not know where they were leaving it, the thrushes have probably ensured it will not be left there again.



As ever the other garden birds were about in good numbers, these Blue Tits waiting and deciding on when best to move into the feeders, probably looking to avoid the Starlings


The garden has become over run with Blackbirds and it has been difficult to know which one is our tame bird from inside the house.  This is him though, I know his as he would stay when I went into the garden while the others all flew off


The two male and one female Blackcaps are still about, both males aggressively defend their tree territories, chasing off the Goldfinches and Siskins when they get too close.


But it was back to the Fieldfare, this being the real opportunity to photograph them close up in the year.




The snow doesn't look like it will remain for long.  There are reports of the cold weather possibly returning later in the month, but by then the berries will be gone, hopefully they will be brave enough to come to the apples that no doubt we will put out.