They have just said that this has been one of the wettest Aprils on record, and the amount of rain that fell this week was more than in the whole of December. It was raining in the morning but the forecast for Friday was for sunny periods in the afternoon, I was optimistic at being able to get out later, and as it turned out Helen and I had a nice evening walk.
We set off across a very wet field between Blackberry Lane and Alton Lane, and then took the footpath past Garthowen. Blackbirds were singing everywhere, and the Rooks were very busy at the rookery at Garthowen.
In the field between Blackberry and Alton, a pair of Swallows quartered the grass, swooping low over the field, and sweeping back and forth. Despite the fact they came quite close to us they were too quick and agile for me to get a photo.
We turned down Willis Lane, taking the chance to check the Lords and Ladies, there was evidence of the flowers being eaten, but we couldn't find any flowers. Near the horses we found some cowslips, which have been difficult to find considering we are on chalk, and they seem to be flowering everywhere else, this is probably due to the fact that we do not have that much grassland that suits them.
As we walked towards Kitwood I thought the swallows might have turned up at Beech Farm, where they have nested for years, but there was no sign of them. Again it was quiet along Kitwood, and looking over towards Dogford Wood, the clouds gave a very impressive view, somewhere it was going to get wet again.
If the weather in April has not be conducive to the incoming summer residents, it has contributed to producing some dramatic scenery. From Kitwood we walked towards the pond, as we approached we could hear Blackbirds making a hell of a noise, and along with them there was a Blackcap that was very unsettled. We could only presume there was an Owl somewhere that they had found. We have heard them here so we know they are about, but we could not find the source of the Blackbirds concerns. The water level in the pond is very high, probably the highest I have seen it for some time. The lily pads are starting to develop, and also on the water's surface were a few pond skaters.
Leaving the pond we set of to walk through Old Down. We knew it was going to be wet, but was hopeful that the main track was passable. It was but you had to tread carefully. What a difference a few weeks makes, in the middle of March the ground was like rock, now it is wet and sticky mud. The Bluebells did not appear to have progressed at all, and you could see shoots with buds that were yet to flower. I couldn't resist another chance to capture these beautiful flowers, and now the beech leaves were coming out in a lovely lime green colour which contrasts with the blue.
Another flower in the wood caught the eye, this was a Red Campion, the first I have seen this year. The flowers seem to go through a colour season, starting with the white of the snowdrops, yellow of the daffodil, and the blue of the bluebells. The next season is the red and pink of the Campion and Foxglove, and this was the first sign.
We came out of the woods and set off along Brislands, the clouds were closing in and it was becoming quite dull again despite the fact the sun was still quite high. The clouds though did contribute again to a dramatic sky to the west towards Winchester.
As we walked along Lymington Rise I noticed a small bird flying above the houses, at first I thought it was a displaying Greenfinch, but looking closer it was a House Martin. House Martins have nested around the estate for as long as we have been here, and I have been expecting them back any day. In fact I predicted they would be here on the 23rd April, which is the usual date they are seen, so this year they are late! At this time of year they seem to appear in the evening, it won't be until the middle of May when they start to seriously inspect the old nests, and the young ones start to build new nests. For now I will have to make do with this grainy shot of the first House Martin of the year, I am sure I will get the chance to take many more, and I will also have plenty of stories about the Reads Field House Martins.
In the garden at home a Greenfinch was singing. There are concerns about the Greenfinch, due to the fact that they are suffering from a disease called trichomonosis, and large numbers of greenfinches are dying and the population is falling rapidly. The number in the garden has been well down this winter, and I hope it was due to the mild weather and not this horrible disease. At the moment we have about three pairs visiting, and this male was enjoying the evening sun, that had reappeared from behind the clouds.