Another grey day, but humid and slightly damp, it wasn't as cold as it has been, but the weather is still depressing. The feeders in the garden are being used a lot just recently. Up to now it has been adult birds coming in to hopefully get an easy meal, while they take time from hunting baby food, but just recently we have started to see juvenile birds coming to the feeders with the adults. The Goldfinches have done well, and this youngster is obviously learning from the adult.
The adult Goldfiches don't look too worse for wear following the breeding season, in fact the feathers look quite sharp and new, so maybe it has already moulted.
Other finches that are regulars are the Linnets and Greenfinches. It is nice to see that the Greenfinches have bred succesfully, they currently need all the help they can get. This juvenile seems to prefer the cover the tree provides, and was content to feed for quite a while.
The garden is full of unsuspecting relationships, as the finches use the hanging feeders, both Woodpigeon, Dunnocks and Blackbirds patrol the grass beneath them to pick up the seeds the finches discard. The juvenile Blackbirds have quickly learnt this trick from their parents, but they are very wary of the Woodpigeons.
Unfortunately the Blue Tits have not fared as well as the Goldfinches, this individual looks like it is just about ready for a well earned vacation, probably at a spa to recuperate!
As I have frequently said this month, June is the quiet time, the time the birds raise families, and hopefully the flowers come into their own, and butterflies and insects are a plenty. This year has not seemed too be the case though, butterflies are far and few between, and the flowers seem to have been choked by vigourous nettle and grass growth. However at the weekend as we drove out of the village I noticed a field with poppies growing in them just on the edge of the patch. This evening was the first chance I had to go and get a good look, and hopefully they would provide a bit of colour to brighten another very dull day.
The poppies were growing in a rapeseed field that was now turning to seed, they skirted the outside of the field but a few patches could be also found stretching through the middle. Poppies thrive on disturbed ground and can tolerate high amounts of lime. The plant also produces millions of seeds and the seeds can lie dormant in the ground for years until disturbed. It must be about 5 years since I last saw poppies in this particular field. Over the last few years they seem to have rotated around the various fields in the area. It is difficult to say what actually happened to cause them to flower in this field this year, but it is lovely to see them against the drab grey June skies.
This one was taken looking south with Old Down Wood in the background (as seen on BBC South Today News!).
With the bluebells gone and the poppies having such a short flowering season I endulged myself with quite a few photos, they do make for a stunning sight.
This field also runs alongside the Watercress Line, so must form quite a lovely view for the passengers as they ride up and down the line.
Leaving the poppies I walked across the field footpath into Old Down. The wood was extremely dark, and thick with nettles, grass, bracken and bramble. Only 2 months ago the wood was light and carpeted with bluebells, sorrel, celandines and dog mercury, now it looks completely dead with no vegetation on the ground beneath the trees. Despite the dark Chiffchaffs could be heard singing still, and every so often a Wren would announce itself as I walked by. I disturbed a Roe Deer, and was pleased to see it had a fawn with it, but it was so dark I didn't see it in time to sort the camera out to compensate for the light. I am pleased I did manage to see the pair at last though, the fawn is quite big now, but still with it's baby spots.
I took the north perimeter track which was very muddy, as a result I completely missed the Buzzard sitting in the tree until almost on top of it whereby it just flew off though the trees to the accompaniment of alarm calls from the songbirds.
I left the darkness of the wood, and walked down through the paddocks, Swallows hawked the recently mown grass while rooks and crows foraged amongst the drying hay. I walked up Andrews Lane, scanning the fields for anything interesting, but it was extremely quiet. At the top of the bridleway it was quite damp and muddy, but this seemed to be ideal for slugs, they were everywhere. They were all Black Slugs, or Black Arions as they are also known. I became fascinated with slugs last year when on holiday in Vancouver Island. There they have large yellow Banana Slugs, and I was amazed to find out that these Black Slugs can also be found in British Columbia. Both the Banana and the Black Slug are members of the family Arionidae, The slug covers itself in a thick foul-tasting mucus which serves as both protection against predators as well as a measure to keep moist. Like other members of the family Arionidae, the black slug has a pneumostome (breathing hole) on the right side of its mantle through which it breathes. You can see this quite clearly in the photo.
I walked back along Lyeway, with it being very humid, the hedgerows were full of the scent of Honeysuckle. These climbers seem to have benefited from the damp weather and are flowering throughout the woods, but nowhere was the perfume so strong as along the hedgerows of Lyeway. The bees were also very attracted and every clump would hold many bees, but sadly no butterflies, where are you all?
Back in the winter I took special trips along Lyeway looking for Yellowhammer, I shouldn't have worried. This evening the song of the yellowhammer seemed to be everywhere, from the top of telegraph posts, from with trees, and on the top of the hedges "a little bit of cheese" would ring out, sometimes a distant bird completeing the song of another. I particularly liked this individual, as he popped his head up from within the hedge.
The electricity pylons and power lines were an attraction for many birds, a pair of Kestrels perched on the pylons while the power lines had quite a few different species. Wood Pigeons being the most numerous users, but there were also smaller birds perched on the lines, and I was amazed to find that these were mainly Greenfinches, along with the Yellowhammers and Blackbirds. Scanning the power lines I picked up what was only my fourth Swift of the year, the other three being a group seen over the house.
From Lyeway I checked the garden at Kitwood once again but there was nothing moving, so I took the long walk back past the school and to home. There is not much of June left, and the signs are that there may not be much improvement for July, still it pays to be positive, there are White Storks flying around West Sussex, who knows they may find the fields around Four Marks an attraction!