With the way the weather has been over the last week there was a risk of getting soaked during the day, and the last few days early morning has been the best time with sun and clear skies. We had talked about a pre-dawn start this spring, so decided today was as good a day as any to give it a try. The alarm went off at 4.45 am, and we were on our way by 5.00 am!
The birds were already singing, but these were mainly Blackbirds and Robins. A Wren would holler out it's song every so often, and in between the Blackbirds, a few Song Thrushes could also be heard. I am assuming these were all resident birds, that have been here all winter, and were probably nesting by now. As we walked along Lymington Bottom, and up Brislands Blackbirds could be seen on roof tops singing away.
As we left the houses and walked alongside the fields, the bird song declined, there was not the expected chorus coming from the wood as we approached. A Roe Deer ran along the field, and then into the wood at the footpath entrance, it's white behind catching our attention as it bounced through the field.
It was about 45 minutes until sunrise as we walked along Brislands but it was getting quite light, and it was possible to see the mist hanging over the fields. Looking to the east the skies were also getting lighter.
As we entered the wood, there was bird song, but again mainly Blackbirds and Robins. The Song Thrush though was singing from the same tree as yesterday. We took the perimeter path to the east of the wood, it was still very wet, and the paths were very muddy. In the lower trees both Blackcap and Chiffchaffs started to sing, the first change from the residents, it was now nearly 6.00 am, and the sun was almost up.
With yesterday's rain, and the overnight clear skies everywhere was very wet, the trees had raindrops on the branches, and the grass and fields were very heavy with dew. As the sun rose the raindrops sparkled like jewels on the branches.
With the rising sun the mist enhanced, and mixed in with the the trees around the edge of the field, this produced some more lovely atmospheric views.
The mist also seemed to just hang above the fields, like a delicate blanket, but you could only really see it against the trees in the distance. This view of the Kitwood footpath shows exactly what I mean.
The sun was now up, and with the mist came a golden glow, from the low angle of the sun. As we walked along the perimeter to the south, we had to keep stopping to take in the lovely views. Helen also managed to get the camera.
Blackcaps were singing all over the wood, just like yesterday, Tits could also be heard calling, along with the occasional Great Spotted Woodpecker, but other than that there were no other new songs or call. We saw three more Roe Deer bounce across the path and disappear into the wood, but after that not much more. We decided to leave the wood and have a look at the pond. The mist was hanging over the water as we walked around the outside. Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs sang from the surrounding trees, while we also heard Goldcrests in the scrub at the back. A Moorhen walked slowly around the water's edge, and as it was a little dark it was difficult to get a good view. This reflected image though, I think looks quite nice.
The mist on the pond seemed to increase, and as we looked across the pond from the far side we noticed that a pair of Mallards had arrived and were sitting in the middle of the pond. The duck, the mist and the reflections made for yet another lovely composition.
Swelling Hill Pond is the only real wetland on the patch, and believe me it isn't very big. Surrounded by trees it probably doesn't get seen from the air, and as a result does not seem to attract that many avian visitors. This panoramic gives an idea of what I mean, it did look lovely this morning though with the mist and golden sunshine.
The sun was also lighting up Swelling Hill Road, and as we looked back as we walked back to Old Down, the road was transformed by the early morning sunshine.
The rape field was also getting the sunlight treatment, and looking south from the road at the wood entrance the yellow rape flowers were lit up by the morning light. Again, you either love it or loathe it, and I am not sure what I think, but this morning it looked glorious.
This early morning excursion was turning into more about the scenery than the wildlife, everywhere we looked the sun was producing some fantastic scenes. As we walked back into Old Down, the trees along the southern edge were lit up, and the newly emerging leaves picked out against the darker tree branches.
We took the perimeter track heading west, it was extremely muddy and quite hard going. Keeping your head down to watch where you are stepping means you don't see what is going on around you, but the wood was still very quiet, not quite what I had expected for this time of year. At the West End in the paddocks a mother cow was giving her calf breakfast.
In the trees along the hedgerow surrounding the paddocks, crows had gathered. This was quite interesting as it in unusual to see so many crows all together, I originally thought that they were Rooks, but they weren't.
We followed the perimeter around to the north, and just before the main track headed into the wood and along another path in the direction of the crossroads. Like everywhere else it was very wet. With the sun behind us, the shadows and the bluebells looked very nice, so I couldn't resist another bluebell scene!
From the crossroads we walked in the direction of the Gradwell entrance. These two pictures give some idea of how wet the wood has now become, with the weather forecast for the coming week giving little chance of any change, the ground is only going to get wetter, good news for the thrushes and robins searching for food.
We headed down Gradwell, and I became excited by the sight of a bird on the roof of the old barn with the owl box, however despite trying I couldn't turn a Wood Pigeon into a Little Owl. The opportunity to photograph birds had been very difficult due to the light, and the fact that they didn't seem to be about. However along Lymington Bottom a singing Blackcap male presented itself, and allowed me to finally get a good picture of a Blackcap. As you can see from the feathers on the throat, it was in full song.
We headed to home for breakfast, and wondered when the rain would return. It had been a lovely walk for the atmospherics, but a little disappointing for the wildlife.