Sunday, 22 January 2012

22nd January - The First Snowdrops

The morning was dry, and bright with the occasional sunny periods, the wind though was still strong, and was blowing the trees around.  This morning Helen and I set off to explore the area to the east of the patch, the intention was to go into Weathermore, and head off to Brightstone lane.  As we walked through the village the House Sparrows were chirping, and this male gave the opportunity to see what a smart bird they are.  Typically overlooked this male was quite happy singing in the sunshine.

We walked along the footpath from Telegraph Lane and then walked east.  The wind was blowing the tall conifers around and it was difficult to determine the difference between the wind and the cars on the A31.

As we came out of the woodland the view to the north was quite stunning, the clouds and sun combining to send different colours across the landscape.

This was the first time we had walked along these footpaths, and probably wouldn’t have done had it not for the objective this year of recording the wildlife around Four Marks.  Looking back up the lane we were rewarded with a lovely scene as the sun lit up the avenue of trees.

We crossed the road and took the footpath around the field.  Eventually this turned into Lord’s Wood, the track passing by larch and other conifers.  The wood was not dense and we were able to see the tree tops where once again large flocks of Goldfinch fed on the cones.  The path turned down out of the woods, and as we did so we heard Crossbills.  We waited and hoped but were never able to see them, they were calling from well into the wood, but I was satisfied they were Crossbill.

We went the wrong way at the footpath intersection, but this allowed us to explore more of Lord’s Wood.  With the beech trees lining the outside there were quite a few tits, a nuthatch and a great spotted woodpecker in the trees, and I didn’t see the Buzzard in the tree until it flew off out of the wood and over the fields.  The floor of the wood had bluebells poking through, so it will probably be worth returning in April.  Once we realised we had gone the wrong way we turned around and eventually took the right track along Kitwood Lane, one of the fields had been of maize and the stubble had been left.  At the bend we crossed another stubble maize field and eventually came out on Headmore Lane.  From here we walked down Hawthorn Lane past the golf course.

Along Hawthorn we found our first clump of snow drops, the first for the year, but even more amazing was the snow drops found at the junction with Kitwood Lane and Hawthorn Road.  I had looked last week when I came down here but there was not a sign of anything, but in 8 days these snow drops had grown!

Along Kitwood Lane, we found another Great Spotted Woodpecker, but of greater interest were the Redwings that were feeding in the field.  They coud be seen coming from the trees by the roadside, and then dropping down frustratingly  into a dip in the field, there must have been at least 50 plus, with also the odd Fieldfare.

We made our way along Kitwood to the pond, and at last the Mallard had returned, when we got there it was sitting on the jetty, but dropped into the water.  That’s 2 water birds at the pond now, oh the excitement of it!  We walked around the pond but other than a dangerous hole and some more snow drops, there was nothing else to report.

More signs of spring were catkins along the roadside, not extensive but quite a few.

Walking into Old Down Wood we were greeted with another vocal tit flock, and further along we came across more Goldfinches.  While watching these Helen found a treecreeper, that was quite difficult to pin dowm.  I managed to get a few photos of it, this being the best.  It was only last year I managed to see a treecreeper on Alton Lane.  I had never seen one here in Old Down before, so perhaps that is a good omen for the rest of the year.

Going past the crossroads there were more tits, but this time the call was a lot different.  There was a pair of black capped tits together feeding on the tips of the branches quite close down.  From the call I knew they were Willow Tits, which is fantastic.  We had seen one last spring, and to see them here again this year is really good news.  The only disappointing thing was I could get a good photo, let's hope I get chances through the year.

Finally coming down Brisland’s towards Blackberry lane, a Redwing was very confiding as it ate the berries in the ivy, lit up by the now fading sunshine.  Three new birds today, I hoped to get to 50 before the summer migrants arrived but we have achieved that in January.  Who knows what will turn up!

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