To find out what we have been up to since the beginning of June you can pick up here on our walk around West Cornwall.
The last two days have miraculously been dry, and relatively calm, today was supposed to be almost summer like, but the early morning sunshine gave way to building clouds from mid morning. From my office window I noticed the House Martins flying around the house, and when I checked the eaves I found that over the last two weeks they have been very busy building what seems to be a very substantial nest. Over the last few years, nests have fallen before the young fledged, and just as they did fledge. Other dramas have included House Sparrows taking over the nests with some really aggressive fighting between both species. At one time we saw the Sparrow dangling the House Martin by it's wing from the nest, so it will be interesting to see how this one fares. As I watched the nest one of the adults dropped out.
I will be keeping a watch on the progress, and I am sure they will make sure I know they are around with their little "presents" on my car.
June is very much the quiet month from a birding perspective, there are usually lots of young birds around, but with the thick vegetation, it can be hard to find them. Migration is now over, and without the luxury of estuary or even a sizeable piece of inland water new birds are going to be very difficult for the next few months. The main opportunity is going to be from fly overs, so my walk will ensure that I have good access to the sky. With the birds taking a back seat my attention now turns to butterflies. With the cold, wet spring and summer we have had, they haven't been that numerous, but I thought with the warm weather today I should take advantage and have a look at the fields to see what was about. The forecast for the rest of the week was for a return to the cold wet weather so I decided to pop out at lunchtime to check the fields.
In the field between Alton Lane and Blackberry Lane there are quite a few Ox-eye daisies, and amongst them were quite a few Meadow Browns which were my firsts for the year. Because of the circumstances surrounding the owner of the field I did not venture from the footpath, so these long distance shots were the best I could get.
There were other insects flying around, but it was impossible to identify them. I also saw some small butterflies that were either skippers or blues, but I can only speculate as to what they might have been. While walking up and down, a Buzzard called loudly from the next field, and drifted over but pretty much stayed in the area. I have seen Buzzards here regularly which made me wonder if they are breeding close by.
The field behind the garden centre was my next hope. This was not fenced in, and I hoped I could get closer to the flowers to really see what was about. But as I walked down the footpath through the garden centre, I could hear machinery, and when I reached the field, I realised that this farmer had decided to make hay as soon as possible!
So no luck here so I then set off for Old Down to see if there was anything moving there. I walked in from the thatched cottage entrance and walked around the the large bramble patches on the main footpath The bramble was in flower, and in sunlight, but there was no sign of any butterflies, just bees. When I walked back towards the pond I did find one butterfly, a Speckled Wood that sat on the ground for me, but overall it was a disappointing return.
On the way back to the car I walked around the pond, the water is now becoming covered with pond weed, which makes it look quite a mess. Tadpoles were still to be seen along the edges, and every so often a fish would splash the water. A couple of fishermen were sitting patiently and staring at their floats. It made me think of the fishing trips I did as a boy on my local gravel pits. They were run by the local club, but I never caught anything in them, and I wondered if it was the same here.
Where the irises were in sunlight they became an attraction for damselfies. The majority were I think Azure Blue Damselflies, and these two were obviously enjoying the warmth.
At Kitwood I stopped to check the garden to see if the Spotted Flycatchers were about, but again there was no sign. When I found a pair at the end of May I was convinced they would be present for the summer, but that seems to have been wishful thinking. There was though quite a bit of activity, with young blue tits calling from the surrounding trees, and this recently fledged Nuthatch.
It was calling continuously, and I could hear others around the area as well, but never saw a parent. If you watched this year's Springwatch you would have seen the antics of the young Nuthatches, the take away information there was that almost as soon as they fledge they set up their own territory, and defend it. This one was clearly making a case for its patch while alerting the parent that it was hungry!
The sun did return during the afternoon, but later in the evening when I set out again, the cloud rolled back in, but it was quite humid and still. I walked through the fields again and down past the garden centre crossing over Willis Lane and up to Hawthorn. There were still a few Meadow Browns around, but distant, and the Buzzard appeared again, this time being mobbed by crows as it carried what looked to be a small bird. My thoughts earlier about there probably being a nest close by, being very much reinforced by seeing the buzzard with prey.
Along the lane from Willis to Hawthorn, I was amazed at the number of song birds along the footpath, blackbirds, song thrushes and wrens were in the bushes and the trees were full of blue and great tits, plus at least two singing Yellowhammers. While all this was going on Chiffchaffs seemed to be singing everywhere. I am not sure if it is because I am looking more this year, but there seems to be a lot more Chiffchaffs in the area this year. I read this week on the Portland Obs site that they have seen a marked increase in songbirds this spring. They could not determine whether it was due to the weather or numbers were just higher. It certainly looks that way with Chiffchaffs in Four Marks.
As I walked around the Newton Plantation I scanned the skies, other than three buzzard there wasn't anything, but as I looked at the trees I noticed what looked like smoke rippling off them. if you look at the photo you can just make out the grey shaded area. I am not sure whether this was insects or pollen being blown out, but it looked quite fascinating through binoculars.
Walking down the path I could hear Great Tits calling, and then the concentrated sound of young birds. Last year we had found a Great Tit nest in a metal fence pole, and once again this year they had used the same site.
The pole is fully open at the top, and has two sets of wire threaded through it. I looked in and could not see anything. The adult enters from the top, but how it gets down is a mystery, the other mysteries are how do the young keep dry when the adult isn't there, and how do they get out when they fledge? I waited a while to see if I could catch the adult going in, but didn't wait too long for fear of disturbance.
A little further down the path a movement of brown caught my eye. It turned out to be a female Roe Deer. It stood perfectly still looking at me, again I waited to if there was anything with it but nothing else appeared. Check out the size of the thistles behind her, they must be at least eight feet high.
From here back to Kitwood revealed nothing else. There were no Hares in the field, but that could have something to do with the Buzzards calling above. At the corner on Kitwood, that I know as Fieldfare Corner, a Great Spotted Woodpecker was calling. I scanned the trees but could not find one calling, but looking a little closer I did find this juvenile sitting still on a branch. I think the adult was calling because of me, so I quickly took a few photos and then moved away watching. Sure enough the adult did finally pass food to the youngster who continued to remain still on the same branch.
Rather than take the road, I walked across the field to Old Down. I didn't go into the wood, but walked around the outside. Swallows were skimming the tops of the wheat, and a Tawny Owl called from the thick conifers, but despite a search I couldn't see anything.
I walked home along Brislands, and when a Kestrel flew over a Bullfinch called, and then presented itself in the hawthorn tree. It was quite murky now so this is a little grainy, but I could not resist the opportunity to photograph this beautiful bird yet again.
Lets hope the summer returns quickly, and the butterflies take off.