While still overcast, it was much cooler today, with quite a strong breeze. As I walked down Brislands I noticed that the leaves on the oaks were now well developed, and made a lovely corridor as I looked up and down the lane.
It has been just over a week since I walked this route, and I was amazed how advanced the leaves now were. The Copper Beech was also now out, and it always is an impressive sight against the greens of the surrounding oaks
I walked into Old Down by the Gradwell footpath, Swallows continue to swoop across the field and in the horse paddocks were plenty of rabbits. As I started to cross to the wood a familiar scratchy song stopped me, and I found another Whitethroat in the hawthorn bushes. It was difficult to see as it skulked low down keeping out of the wind. In the wood itself the silence was deafening. Hardly any birds sang at all,. every so often a robin could be heard, or a wren would sent out a call, but in general it was quiet, much like the wood in winter. I walked around the perimeter, and then out along the main path to check the Tawny Owl. It was sitting in it's usual tree, and appeared quite calm with my presence, so I turned away to go back to the main track. As I did so I noticed a bird flying, and when I looked it was the owl. Silently it had flown out of the tree without me noticing, not like the Wood Pigeons that make a hell of a racket when they fly out of the trees.
As I walked past the frogspawn pool I found a male Blackbird just sitting in the tree, it hardly moved and made no effort to sing, it's inky black plumage standing out amongst the greens and grey of the surrounding trees.
The wood now was quite dense, the Beech trees were in full leaf, and the nettles and bracken were growing very rigorously forcing the dead nettle and mouse ear to grow taller to allow the flowers to get some light. The bluebells are now mostly dying back, and the leaves provide a yellowy look to the floor of the wood, in some places they look like they have been trampled. Spring has been with us for some time now, the warm weather of March accelerating the process, and the cool wet weather recently slowing the process down, all of a sudden the woods feel like summer with the thick vegetation, and silence that comes with it.
I stopped at the fence to look across the field, in the winter I took a picture of the field and gate in the water drop, now the green and leaves dominate the view, with a beautiful copper beech standing out in the distance.
I walked to the west end and scanned around finding two soaring buzzards, but still no swifts, with a lack of tall old buildings I am dependent on a storm pushing them in as they hunt for insects, or just be lucky as one heads over, so far neither has happened, and I still wait for my first swift on the patch. I walked the perimeter, and found another Early Purple Orchid, but nothing else. A whistle from the railway line attracted my attention, and a steam train passed by, the steam contrasting nicely with the bright yellow of the surrounding fields.
Continuing on a long the perimeter path, I came across this White-lipped Snail on a nettle stem. It stood out amongst the bank of greenery. I learnt yesterday that nettles can adjust their leaf growth to ensure that every leaf obtains the maximum amount of sunlight, ensuring not just the growth of the plant, but also ensuring that anything below them does not compete because they can't get light. As I wrote earlier the nettles are growing very vigorously, but this snail was taking advantage, as will the butterflies as spring turns to summer.
A Blackcap sang at the entrance to the wood in Brislands, and a Chiffchaff put in a short burst as I left the wood and walked towards home. Along Brislands Lane, the Cow Parsley has grown quickly, and the white flowers looked lovely as they moved in the wind.
Over the last few days I have been looking at some of the sightings reported around Hampshire, and must confess to feeling jealous that the habitat around my patch just doesn't provide for the variety of species seen elsewhere, I had hoped that maybe the Osprey seen recently in Alresford could fly over but with no luck. My list currently stands at 74, and when you see others getting well over 100 it can be a little frustrating. Today it was very quiet, and I had been looking at the sky and hoping, but then as is always the way on my walks something happened to make me realise that it isn't all about large patch lists, and rarer birds, it is about appreciating what there is around you, and how beautiful the so called common birds are.
As I reached the junction with Gradwell, a small bird flew up to the tree in front of me. It was a superb male Bullfinch, and as I slowly lifted the camera I whispered to it to please stay put. It did and below are the best of the shots I was able to get. They are a stunning bird to look at, the beautiful crimson pink chest with the matt black cap which masks quite a big bright eye. The bill is pretty substantial, and is the main reason these birds are not welcomed by fruit tree owners, as they like to rip out the blossom. It would move it's head from side to side, and also stick it's chest out to emphasise the colour. A really gorgeous bird that definitely brightened up a very dull and depressing day for me, restoring my faith in exploring and working this patch, thank you.
Leaving the Bullfinch I walked back down the lane, every time I walk past the cemetery, I notice the ivy growing on a stump, and think how nice it looks, so today I took a photo, I hope you agree
Just before home I heard a call from the trees above the village hall, and saw that there was a group of eight Jackdaws in the larch tree, even though they have paired up, they still like to group together, they regularly fly around the area as well.