The sunshine continued on Friday, but there was also some mist around, at lunchtime when I went into Alton it was very misty, but this did burn off later. However by the time we set off for our late afternoon walk the mist was returning, and the sun had gone. The light was very strange, not dark but gloomy and almost yellow, and this was going to make photography difficult.
A Collared Dove perched conveniently for me as we turned up Brislands Lane. These are very pretty birds, and right now they have paired up and can be seen displaying to each other. Their nests are extremely sparse, with just a few twigs and sticks forming a platform for usually a single egg, and finally chick.
Robins were singing all around us as we walked down Brislands. I counted at least twelve individuals singing. There were quite a few more in the woods, but I didn't actually keep count, something for another day. Snowdrops were in large clumps along the verge, and they now seem to be at their peak, however there were signs of a change to the yellow phase with Lesser Celandines appearing in the grass at the corner of Gradwell Lane. These are actually a herb, and are one of the earliest flowering perennials.
Just before the cemetry in Brislands there are these boxes hanging in the bushes alongside the road.
These are dormouse nestboxes, and there are now about a half a dozen in the bushes. Not sure why they have been put there, but I have my suspicions that they are an attempt to prove the presence of dormice, to try and counter the housing development due in the area. I just hope they get a dormouse, because I would love to see one.
We walked into the wood from the track along Gradwell. It was now even darker, and the mist was closing in. In the wood Song Thrush and Blackbird were singing and we walked around the outside towards the centre. The bluebells are well advanced now and it looks like there will be some superb cover.
From the path, we could hear Blackbirds scolding calls, and when these were joined by the calls of Jay, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker, we felt that perhaps there was a reason for this noisy commotion. We walked off the path and through the undergrowth, trying to head towards where the calls were coming from. As we got closer the calls seemed to subdue, the Jay was gone and all that could be heard was the Blackbirds. A pair of deer ran off through the wood, and maybe it could have been them upsetting the birds, but it didn't seem likely. Helen located one Blackbird around a conifer, and there was another calling still from within it. I walked towards the conifer, and the Blackbird flew off. Silence ensued, and I went to check the conifer. As I looked up I saw a brown mass on one of the branches at the top. Closer inspection revealed that the mass was in fact feathers!
There are two good ways to find owls, one is to look for droppings or pellets on the floor under trees, the other is to listen out for smaller birds mobbing the owl as it sits in the tree. Blackbirds are very good at this, and their scolding can be very persistent. In this case we had found a Tawny Owl, and it seemed to be unconcerned by the attention it had received from the birds, or in fact from us as we moved around the tree to get a better look. In fact it seemed as interested in us as we were of it.
While we were trying to locate, and eventually finding the owl, a group of people walked along the track, oblivious to what we had found. They were so immersed in their conversations, and really didn't seem bothered with what was around them. As I said the light was very bad, but these are some photos I was able to get.
We left the Tawny Owl in the tree, and walked back around the perimeter of the wood. Another Tawny Owl called from the region of Swelling Hill Pond. You have to wonder how many Tawny Owls there are in the patch. I have heard or seen owls in at least 5 different areas and I bet there are more. The mist was quite heavy now, and it was getting dark. Pigeons exploded out of the tree tops, and we disturbed a three more deer. I hoped we may disturb that longed for Woodcock, but with no success, however two birds flying over turned out to be Stock Doves which was another patch tick for the year!
We walked back through the wood, and down Brislands, despite the dark, Blackbirds, Robin and Song Thrushes continued to sing. From across the field another Tawny Owl called, probably from the copse in Gradwell. We waited to see if it would grace us by flying across the field, but it didn't. Still it was a lovely way to start the meteorological spring.