I took the opportunity at lunch time to go up to Swelling Hill Pond to see if the periwinkle bank had attracted any more butterflies. The bank was in full sun, and there were bumblebees and bee flies, but no butterflies. I did though surprise the Moorhen, and finally managed to get a picture just to prove it does exist.
With no sign of any butterflies I headed off to Old Down Wood to see if there were any there. As I walked down the track a spot of orange attracted my attention, and as I crept closer I could see it was a Comma, my first for the year here on the patch. It allowed me to get closer as it soaked up the warm morning sun. A lovely bright Brimstone male flew by, but never settled, and headed off into the wood.
The Comma hibernates as an adult butterfly normally amongst dense vegetation and tree roots, and can sometimes be seen following warm mild weather during the winter. It gets it's name from the characteristic white "C" shape found on the underside of the hind wing, as can be seen in this photo.
The sun was warming up the broad bramble leaves, and this was proving an attraction to Peacock butterflies, in total I counted three Peacocks and five Brimstones. Needless to say the Brimstones just kept on going, but the Peacocks were up for showing off their beautiful markings.
The warm sunshine has accelerated the flowering of the bluebells, and where the sunlight can get to the wood floor you can now see clearly the bluebells coming through. Cooler weather is forecast for next week, but I think we will have the wood fully carpeted by Easter.
I walked a little way into the wood, and could hear Buzzard calling above me. The finches and tits were calling from the larches, when suddenly again the chatter turned to alarm calls, and looking up a Sparrowhawk flew over, it then began to flutter, climb and dive as it produced a lovely display. Sadly the trees and branches prevented a photo, but I will get one soon.
I walked back to the pond, but was only able to find another Brimstone. I did though manage a first for the year as I found a small clump of Primroses. We have been searching for these for sometime, but we have been careful to distinguish between cultivated and wild flowers. These were definitely wild ones, growing beneath the holly bush. Primroses along with daffodils hold a special place in our family.
A quick check of the Lyeway fields revealed only singing Skylarks and Yellowhammers.
In the evening I set off back very briefly into Old Down, I came in from the Gradwell footpath, where the path is now well defined and very dry.
Away in the distance I found a soaring buzzard, and by the time I had reached the wood it was spiralling above me. It seemed to cover quite a distance in a very short period of time, and it carried on going, enjoying the evening sunshine, as it searched the fields. In the wood the light continues to fascinate me, the dappled shadows highlighting the developing colour on the wood floor.
Walking the perimeter track I noticed a new flower amongst the wood anemones, the leaves are very delicate and clover shaped, or trefoil, while the flower itself is white but with clear pink veins on the petals. They are Wood Sorrel, and like a dry shady position, usually on rooting vegetation, which was exactly the habitat I found them in.
I wanted to walk along Kitwood Lane, so came out of the wood taking the footpath across the field. The evening was very clear, and the light was wonderful. I stopped in the middle of the field and took a panoramic view looking towards the village. In a few weeks time the trees will be covered in leaves as Spring fully arrives, and the different colours of the new vegetation will stand out, but for now I just enjoyed the view.
Walking along Kitwood I noticed another blue flower, these were very small, and are Germander Speedwell. It would seem we are well on the way to entering the blue flowering season.
Long-tailed tits are birds that you just want to photograph, but they never seem to stay still long enough to get that perfect shot. This evening though, one was very happy to allow me to photograph it as it perched on a branch in the evening sunshine. I hope I did it justice.
Another bird that seems to shy from the camera in the countryside is the Linnet. This one was singing at the top of an oak tree.
It happened with Treecreepers and Red-legged Partridges, and now it seems to be happening with Kestrels. I was only recently thinking how difficult it was to seem them within the patch, with buzzard and sparrowhawk being much more common, so I was pleased to find one yesterday. As I came up to Kitwood farm I flushed another from the tree by the road, and it flew up into the next tree and just scanned the field.
I always check the cattle sheds here, the cattle were out and there was movement beneath the straw. A Brown rat shot across the shed and then turned to watch me, as I waited I saw at least three. Rats always get a bad press, but these were where you would expect them to be and were not doing any harm. After looking at me for a while it shot off along the side of the shed. With it being dark in the shed, I was using a slow speed, so the effect was not intentional, but I like the image the blurred rat gives, it probably hides the fact it is a rat!
At the Kitwood Plantation, I dropped down to the bridleway. As I walked down the track, a pair of Jackdaws suddenly called, and following that alarms calls sounded as a male Sparrowhawk flew across the track. I wasn't sure if the Jackdaws had seen it from above the wood, and alerted the other birds, or the Jackdaw's calling spooked the Sparrowhawk, if it was the former then it only goes to emphasise the amazing eyesight and vigilance they have.
I made my way up the bridleway past the Newton Common Plantation, and then headed around the footpath to Newtonwood Farm. Rather than going on into Plash Wood I turned to walk back down past the Maryanne Plantation. Before I reached the plantation I noticed four duck flying up from the bottom of the valley. They were two pairs of Mallard, the largest count I have ever had! I checked the valley, and noticed a small dew pond, which was probably where they had come from. As I looked a Roe Deer came out of the wood and made it's way towards the water for a drink, ever watchful and alert as it went.
I walked back down Hawthorn, and where the fields have been ploughed and drilled there were plenty of corvids and Pheasants. The jackdaws though preferred to forage in the grassed areas.
While the pheasants walked slowly and watchful across the open soil. The sunlight seeming to emphasis the red wattle and golden plumage.
At the Garthowen rookery all was relatively quiet as the Rooks continued to sit on the nests while partners would chatter alongside. It was a far cry from the noise and activity at the beginning of the month. I commented then that it was thought the Rooks nest early to take advantage of the softer ground at this time of year, so I hope the recent dry weather does not impact there ability to feed the young once they do hatch. For now though, the scene was one of calm, interspersed with some calling and wing stretching in the evening sunshine.
As the sun finally began to set I couldn't resist this shot of a bandy legged Starling singing away from the roof top against a wonderful orange sunset sky. You long for this weather never to end, but you know it is just too good to be true!