Friday, 13 January 2017

13th January - We'll Talk Like We're Friends

It has been forecast all week, the Daily Express has been predicting the end of the world as we know and it duly arrived yesterday afternoon at around 16.00.  What am I talking about?  Well snow of course, winter has arrived here in Four Marks with a lot of slushy snow.  Once the snow passed through the skies cleared and the temperature fell further.  First thing this morning the full moon was slipping away into the west, a little ahead of a rising sun in a clear sky.
 



The temperature was below zero, but not by much, but what made it feel cold was a strong northerly wind. As it became light the full extend of the settled snow could be seen around the gardens.


This has been the first serious snow for at least two years, and immediately the garden was full of birds, but it was too dark ey to get any meaningful photographs.  As the sun finally put in an appearance, its light clipping the roof tops I watched a Jackdaw walking along the apex of the house on the other side of the road.


Strangely, the Rooks and Jackdaws can be seen around the garden, but I have yet to see either actually come down into the garden.  This bird was intrigued by the comings and goings in the Rowan tree below the house and watched from above probably in case there was food that it would want about.


It decided there wasn't anything to interest it, and stood up and took in the morning sunshine.


There are still plenty of berries on the Rowan despite the attention all week of the Redwings, my hope stil is that with the cold spell the Waxwings will move further south, and it looks like these berries will be around for quite a time yet.

The Redwings were there though this morning, and were a lot bolder, unconcerned when the cars went by they sat in the tree close to their source of berries.


Much like last Friday, as they ate the would adopt some amusing poses, is this Rudolph, or maybe is it preparation for Red Nose day?


While some sat on branches in the sunshine, others went where there were large bunches of berries.


Here the orange red underwing that give them their name is clearly seen.
 


With all the berries around this one I wonder why it had its eyes on those just out of reach?


Finally a lovely pose for next years Christmas cards!


In the garden things were hotting up, but not the temperature.  I counted at least 26 Goldfinches at any one time, the highest count yet, there were definitely more about because as some fly out others come in from the distant gardens.
 


Every so often in amongst the feeding Goldfinches a pair of Siskins appear.  They seem totally unconcerned by the quarreling Goldfinches and just quietly go about their business.




The Chaffinches are little more wary, they prefer to feed on the ground under the feeders, but will use the feeder, flying in, and quickly taking something before the Goldfinches notice.


Unfortunately there have been very few Greenfinches about, I saw one earlier in the week but this morning there was no sign of any.  Another missing has been the male Bullfinch, the female turned up last Sunday on her own, and she did so again this morning, this is unusal because they usually travel about in pairs and groups.
 


The House Sparrows are late risers, and usually turn up once all the other birds have been about for some time.  This male was just sitting quietly in the tree.


The BTO are saying it was a bad breeding year in 2016 for the Blue Tit, and the numbers about in the garden this year tend to bare this out.  Last winter there were five to six individuals at any one time, this winter it has been rare to see more than one. 

Long-tailed Tits though are still coming through.  This one was hanging from the branch by one leg as it held a nibble in it's other foot.


Others were more conventional in the way that they went about feeding.


There was no sign of the Red Kite, I had expected to see it come over at some stage.  There was though another raptor about, a Buzzard, I picked it up out over Lymington Bottom.


It then drifted closer but was beginning to realise that this was a mistake.


The concern was due to mobbing Rooks and Jackdaws that seemed just to appear.


The Buzzard took evasive action and turned away while the Rooks and Jackdaws gave chase to ensure that it did leave.


During the cold weather the best place to watch the wildlife is from the warmth of your home.  The woods and fields will be very quiet, and many of the birds, especially if the cold spell lasts, will make their way to ready sources of food, and gardens are one of the best.

The forecast is for another cold day tomorrow, then a milder interlude before the cold weather returns late in the week.  I will be venturing a little farther afield tomorrow.

Monday, 9 January 2017

8th January - And I Feel Like I am Clinging to a Cloud

Since my last post the weather has turned decidedly mucky.  Saturday dawned foggy and drizzly, the forecast for today was better, and to be fair it was through not being as foggy and drizzly as Saturday.  With the fog though came milder temperatures.  Through the morning it turned worse again with a rain shower moving through to top up the drizzle.  Early afternoon the conditions improved, and I decided to go out, although I didn't have much hope of seeing much, this was one of those typical Four Marks days in the middle of winter.

The garden though had been busy, the Redwings were still making their way through the berries, and the Goldfinches were still intent on eating me out of house and home.  There was also a pair of Siskin about, and just as I was about to leave the house this female Bullfinch appeared, all on her own this time.


As I walked along Brislands Goldcrests called from within the conifers, and overhead Redwing called as they flew towards the hedges.  It would seem that there are quite a few about, and not all feeding on the berries outside my house.  There were at least 30 individuals in the hedges off Brislands. 


With the sudden appearance of mild weather I would not have been surprised to have heard a Song Thrush singing, but it seems this year they are holding back, where the last two years they could be heard singing on New year's Day.  There were though plenty of singing Robins in the hedges and trees.


As I turned into Gradwell I noticed a large shape in a distant tree, my first thought was maybe two Woodpigeons, but it didn't look right.  It was still gloomy, but as i got closer I could see that it was a Buzzard holding out its wings in an attempt to dry off.  I have seen several raptors adopting this position, they look a bit like they are wearing a cape.


Because it had been so wet, and because I didn't expect much to be about in the woods I stuck to the roads and from Gradwell headed up towards Kitwood.  In the field a large mixed flock of Linnets and Meadow Pipits were flying around, and above in the trees I could hear the chuckle of Fieldfares, and finally being able to pin one down.


the field has been left to fallow since the harvest back in August, but now it was partially ploughed and another thrush appeared from the field, flying up into the trees above me, a Mistle Thrush.


Looking up the road towards the Kitwood Junction, the trees and hedge produces a tunnel effect.


More Goldcrests were calling from the hedges, moving quickly through the ivy that is attached to the tree trunks.  This one was a little more approachable.


Constantly moving all the time in search of the small insects and spiders that keep them alive through the cold winter days and nights.


 I walked towards the pond with a good number of Skylarks flying across the road just visible in the low cloud, but identifiable by their calls.

A much easier identification was a Grey Heron that flew past me heading towards the pond too, silhouetted against the grey sky, the shape though unmistakable.




 I had expected to see the Heron at the pond but there was no sign of it by the water or in the trees.  In fact there was nothing showing at the pond, and all I was left with was the lovely green moss reflecting in the dark water.


Leaving the pond I walked down Swelling Hill.  Once the slope evened out the trees open up and the sides of the lane here is one of the best places to find early Snowdrops.  True to find several shoots were showing white petals, with one or two fully out.  This one is covered in water drops that had probably collected from the earlier mist.


I carried on in the direction of Ropley, passing Andrew Lane, and then turning up Court Lane.  I had hoped for some gulls and corvids in the fields, and was surprised to find all the fields empty.  In the field alongside Court Lane though three Buzzards could be seen.  These were probably looking to catch worms, nutritious snacks that don't take a lot of energy at this time of year to catch.


The walk up the hill on Brislands lane was quiet, at the barns I could hear the House Sparrows already going to roost, and a Pied Wagtail was on the roof, but there was no sign of the hoped for Grey Wagtail.  A little further on a Kestrel flew across in front of me heading towards Old Down.

As I passed the entrance to Old Down it started to rain once again, and the mist was closing in.  I heard what I though was a Golden Plover call, but could not find anything.  Then out of the  mist I saw a flock of birds, and as they came closer they called again confirming that they were Golden Plover.


I counted 43 birds in the flock, and they continued to call and circle above me.


You can see how dark and gloomy it now was.


They headed away from me towards the A31, and finally disappeared into the mist, although I could still hear them calling.

It was good to get out, once again the best was saved to last, and it was nice to manage to see Golden Plover so early in the year.  It was though a typical winter's day here in Four Marks, not one to encourage you to explore more at this time of year.

Friday, 6 January 2017

6th January - Loving Him is Like Driving a New Maserati

So here we are 2017, and the sixth year of this blog, things drifted a little at the end of last year, with their definitely being a need to have an injection of expectation to lift things.  The New Year always provides that, and in the first week, with the weather cold and frosty, just as it should be at this time of year, there was definitely something of interest around the house.

Across the road there is a type of Rowan that is covered with red berries.  Amazingly these have been around throughout the autumn, but with the turn of the year, it has finally been found by a flock of Redwings.  Today though was the first chance I have had to photograph them.  They arrived while it was still quite gloomy, a challenge to the ISO of the camera.


As well as the Redwings, the garden has become inundated with Blackbirds, which has presented Scruffy with a problem, he was though up to the challenge chasing off as many as he could from the meal worm basket, and then following it up with an aggressive stance on the hedge, his tail spread out in an effort to make him look bigger.


The light was improving and the Redwings were becoming a little bolder 


Back in the garden the Blackbirds were deciding to stay around the bottom of the garden where I had spread seed for them.

  
The Goldfinches too were about in good numbers, the maximum flock today was 19.

  
Other visitors included the male Siskin, two Coal Tits, a pair of Bullfinches and Chaffinches, and Great and Blue TitsSadly no sign og any Greenfinches so far this year.

I turned my attention to the Rowan outside the house, the sun was starting to catch the roof of the house and the light was improving.  My hope had always been that these berries would be a major attraction to a large flock of Waxwings, so today I watched every bird as they came in but it wasn't to be, I think it is going to be yet another year when the talk of a Waxwing invasion come to nothing.

So having accepted that I put all the effort into getting some acceptable photographs of the Redwings, a bird that can be quite shy and difficult to approach, they either hide well in a tree and you can't see them before thy burst out and fly off, or as you try and get close they just fly off.

Today though I had a kind of hide, and after carefully opening the window I could finally get some interesting pictures.


You can see how they can disappear in the middle of a tree, even without leaves, they can turn, lift the head up and with the brown streaks melt into the background like a Bittern in reeds.
 

 The sun was now rising and picking out more of the berries, the Redwings were also increasing in number, and in boldness to come to the front of the tree.

 
 Their approach would be to come to the trees around the berries and wait, sitting still and waiting for a few birds to leave before dropping in to feed.  This individual sat nicely in the early sunshine, again it is easy to see how they just blend into the surrounding branches


Different feeding techniques are also applied, this bird sat still high in the branches, and would then slowly reach down to pick off a berry returning to swallow.


While others would get in amongst the berries and ferociously pick and swallow.


Getting the deed done quickly.

  
The sun was now picking out the whole tree, and the birds were moving about to feed.

  
While other just settled down in a sunny spot and warmed up, something that was definitely necessary on this cold morning.


I left the Redwings feeding in the sunshine.  However the bright weather was not going to last, and the clouds rolled in.  Gradually the number of Redwing feeding dropped to only a few.  Around lunch time I checked on them only to find another "red" bird circling above the house.  I rushed outside and managed to get some great views of our local Red Kite that can be seen most days scanning  the gardens in search of food.

  
Our garden birds are getting much bigger around here, what a wonderful sight, with that lovely forked tail spread out as it twists and turned above me

  
With the cloud the temperature began to pick up, but the garden remained very busy with the never ending movement of Goldfinches in and out, and the squabbling Blackbirds.  Hopefully I will be able to get out over the weekend, and who knows what will be about.