Monday, 16 April 2012

14th April - And After the Storm...

During the week we had a short break in Verona, and you can find an account of this here.  When we arrived home though we were itching to get out, but the morning rain proved to be quite heavy so it wasn't until the afternoon before we could set off.  The forecast was for it to brighten up, but as we walked towards Old Down Wood it was quite dull and cool.  The bluebells by the north perimeter had not progressed that much from last weekend, so the cooler wet weather has held them back.  We checked the trail for any other flowers, but could only find the usual celandine, wood anemones, and sorrel.  There was plenty of greenery though with Dog Mercury, and Ransoms plentiful, and waiting to flower soon.  We walked around the perimeter and then along the main footpath back into the centre of the wood.  Here the bluebells had progressed, and the overcast conditions helped to emphasis the blue beneath the beech trees.

In amongst the blue there were little oasis of white flowers, at first we thought one of these was different, and maybe a hellebore, but under closer inspection it was agreed that it was a bluebells too.  As well as the flowers, the ferns are now beginning to emerge, and these provide a lovely composition as the fronds unfurl like someone waking up in the morning and having a good stretch.  They could be seen all around the edges of the bracken, all at different stages of growth.

We walked through the centre of the wood.  In general it was very quiet, the occasional Chiffchaff would sing and every so often a wren would burst into song from the bracken, but overall it felt very much like a mid winter walk.  But as usual something came along that made the day, and allowed us to feel the effort had been worth it.  At the turn off for the Kitwood entrance a Chiffchaff was calling, at first I found just one, but this wasn't calling, when I eventually found the calling bird it was very active and did not seem at all bothered by us.  It kept flitting around it front of us while continually calling.  The other bird meanwhile kept a distance but was obviously the attention of the calling Chiffchaff.  The calling bird snapped a small twig from the tree, and then dropped it, but then just after this we saw it take another twig, and then fly at the other bird as if to give the twig to it.  They didn't stay close together too long,  but then flew off into the wood.  It would appear this was part of the courtship display, and can also involve little aerial displays as well as the dive bombing by the male.  As a result I was able to get some very nice photo as the male (I assume) flitted and called in front of me.

We walked around the south perimeter, and then came out into the main track running north to south.  We spent some time here watching the large finch flock in the larch trees.  Recently I have been asked questions about the presence of Willow Tit in the wood, and this was the are I first saw them this year.  Despite waiting and listening there was no sign of them.  The finch flock was of Goldfinches and Chaffinches, a Brambling was reported last week, but I could not find any sign.  A single male Blackcap sang from the lower trees, it came out on to the bracken, but in keeping with other male Blackcaps so far this year, it was determined to hide from the camera.  This was the best I could achieve.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker also turned up while we were watching the finches.  This is a male as can be seen by the red on the back of the neck.  There has been quite a bit of activity with pairs seen flying around, chasing off other pairs.  Drumming can also be heard every now and then from in the wood.  This male was only intent though on chiseling the bark away, probably to get to food.

The Hawthorn is beginning to blossom now, some trees more developed than others and the wood scenery is complemented with the snow white flowers both on the trees, and on the ground as a result of the rain and wind.  This blossom looked lovely with the yellow lichen on the branch.

We came out of the wood, and then walked around the pond.  The rain had topped the water level a bit, but it still has a long way to go.  Around the outside of the pond irises were emerging in the wet marshy areas.  We walked down towards Kitwood Lane where we were amazed to find a Cowslip in the verge, it was alongside a Primrose, another flower that is not seen that much in the area.

The sun was becoming to come out now, but the air temperature was cooling as the wind had turned to come from the north, so we headed back up Willis Lane and then across the fields to home.  As we turned to walk up the footpath at Willis Lane, the Cuckooflower on the bank produced a lovely photo opportunity.

The fields between Willis and Alton Lane were now full of Rooks and the odd Jackdaw, so clearly their must be activity in the nests in the rookery, and there is the need to feed the hungry young.

Finally an unusual sight was finding the guinea fowl flock, not because there were guinea fowl, but more to do with where they were.  There has been a flock of Guinea Fowl at the bottom of Alton Lane for as long as we have been living in Four Marks, but I never realised they travelled far.  These were seen in the field next to Garthowen.  Strange birds to have as domestics, but they probably act as guards, we normally see them as we run, when they make a hell of a noise at roost time.

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