Yet another sunny start to the day, and as a cold front had been forecast overnight I set off to check the hedgerows to see if anything may have dropped in. However it would appear the cold front turned out to be nothing, and everywhere was quiet other that the singing of Wrens. They were everywhere, and in some places they were conducting sing offs as a way of sorting out territories. It is incredible the amount of sound that can come from such a small bird. The pictures below were taken at the top of a bush in Brislands, and then in the bracken in Old Down Wood. In total during the morning I counted 34 Wrens singing between home, Old Down Wood and Swelling Hill Pond.
Another songster was the Chiffchaff, again they could be heard as I entered the wood and all along the track around the perimeter. Despite the fact that the trees are still bare it was impossible to get a good picture. I will keep trying, as I am sure they will keep singing. While I was not successful in finding any migrants I did notice the constant passage of Common and Black-headed gulls heading north. They like to spend time on the fields by the paddocks, but today there was a regular fly over of small flocks.
Along Brislands Lane, before I walked into the wood, a pair of Nuthatches were taking on a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers which made for an entertaining sight. The woodpeckers were obviously seen as a threat by the Nuthatches. Woodpeckers will hammer their way into nest holes to get at the nestlings, and I would imagine in this situation the nuthatches had found a suitable site and just wanted the woodpeckers away. I didn't manage to get them all together but I did manage to capture the female Great Spotted Woodpecker.
I took the path through the Bluebells again, and walked around the perimeter to the west of the wood. The path comes out into the open, and as I paused here I heard squeaking and then saw a Brown Rat run up the old tree stump. As I waited to see if it would reappear, a Treecreeper flew into a nearby oak tree, and began to inspect an area of loose bark. It was able to go well into the bark, and appeared to like what it found so it may be an idea to keep an eye on the tree in case it gets used as a nest site.
Instead of looping around the wood I walked down through the Desmond Paddocks to Swelling Hill Lane, then made my way up towards the pond. Along the road side there was a single Brimstone, but at the pond there were three all paying special attention to the bank of Periwinkle. With the warm sun on the flowers they were more inclined to settle allowing the chance for a photo. They were joined by a pair of Peacocks but these were much more flighty.
Myth has it that the Brimstone was referred to as the "butter coloured" fly which led to the shortened "Butterfly". Whether this is true or not I don't know, but I like to think that it is.
As well as the Brimstones, the periwinkle was also attracting another insect. At first I thought that it was a bumblebee, but on closer inspection saw that it had quite a long proboscis, and that it would hover like a hummingbird moth as it fed on the flower heads. I managed to get a few shots, as I knew I would have to look this up when I got home.
It turns out that they are Bee Flies, or Bombylius Major. In some regions of the country they are referred to as "Beewhals" due to the long needle like proboscis. They are neither bees despite the furry appearance, or moths, despite the similar feed habits, but in fact a fly. Walking around the pond I managed to disturb the Moorhen, so I had managed to see the sum total of Four Marks water birds in two days!
Once I was home as I came out into the garden I noticed a pair of black birds flying west. These turned out to be a pair of Cormorants.
The picture is awful, but if you look closely you can see the white thigh patch and silver grey markings on the neck of the lead bird, indicating that they are adults and of the race "sinesis". This was not something I expected today, but I am learning that anything can turn up here, and does.
Other sightings of note from the garden in the afternoon was a Sparrowhawk playing particular attention to the resident Jackdaws, but only to find the Jackdaws chasing it off, and a Red-tailed Bumblebee on the lavender.
In the evening Helen and I set off between Blackberry and Alton Lane, and then down Hawthorn to the Kitwood bridleway. The sun was dropping and providing some lovely light which made even the most unimpressive areas look stunning. As a case in point this is the footpath between Willis and Hawthorn that has wooden posts to keep you from straying!
As we came along the road, I noticed a pair of male Pheasants fighting in the field to the north. They were along way off, but I managed to capture some action.
Eventually the fight ended as the victor chased the other off, but they were really going for it, and the legs were flying around with those nasty spurs.
Along the bridleway I quickly picked up a pair of Hare in the field, they were chasing each other around, but didn't start to "box". One slunk off into Dogford Wood, but the other sat and posed nicely for a picture
After a while it too walked off onto the wood. This seemed a little strange for animals that normally spend their time in open fields to want to use the wood for cover.
Great Spotted Woodpeckers were calling from the wood, and then the pair appeared on the power lines above us. This seemed quite bizarre, but they would move from the trees to the lines as they called to each other.
Even more bizarre was the attraction the pylon had, I like this picture as the Great Spotted Woodpecker seems quite happy amongst the steel and iron.
We walked on along the bridleway, which despite the fact it was dry had quite deep ruts that made the going difficult. The field to the south had been ploughed, and represents the best chance of Dotterel during passage as any area I have seen locally. Scanning the field I could only see crows and rooks for now, but I will definitely give it a good chance as we go through late April, early May. As we approached Lyeway I noticed some more gulls, again these turned out to be a big surprise as I had now found my second unexpected seabird of the day, a pair of Great Black-backed Gulls. They didn't stay long but I did manage to get a record shot as they flew off.
My total for birds this year now stands at 65, which amazes me, but also teaches me that if you look you will find, you just have to be there to do it!
Walking back along Gradwell at the end of the day, the light once again created a lovely scene.