There had been dark clouds all day, but there had not been any rain so far. Helen and I set off late afternoon, hopeful that it wouldn't rain, but at the same time kind of expecting it. We were going to walk through the field between Blackberry and Alton Lane, but decided this time to get there by going along Thorn Lane, on the basis that it would make a change.
As we turned into Thorn Lane, we were confronted with a headless Wood Pigeon, perched up in an Ash Tree!
Fortunately it was preening, and very soon lifted it's head up to reveal it was practising for Halloween. As well as the Wood Pigeons the road was full of Rooks and Jackdaws, quite what was attracting them was difficult to see, but they seemed to be very interested in the road itself, picking up maybe ants.
There seems to have been a small window when these two bird species have gone there own way to breed, now they are back together, and as the summer draws to an end they will begin to start to gather in flocks to head off to roost together in Chawton Wood.
We took the narrow lane down towards Alton Lane, and then out into the field. Fortunately the field had not been cut for hay, and there was plenty of grass, vetch and thistles still growing. As has been the case these last few weeks the commonest butterfly was the meadow brown, and they could be seen around the purple thistle heads, a few small whites also flew through, but I did manage to find up to four Marbled Whites flitting about amongst the grasses. This one came the closest for me to photograph.
We then walked around Garthowen Garden Centre, and then down to Willis lane and across to Hawthorn Lane, from there we walked up Kitwood Lane, and there wasn't really much to report. We are now ell into summer, bird song is almost non existent, and the vegetation is very dense.
As we approached Kitwood Farm, a Whitethroat sang, we managed to locate it at the back of the barn on elder.
In the barn itself we disturbed a juvenile Kestrel, it was probably attracted by the rats and mice that use the barn as a hideout. Unfortunately it didn't stay and headed out across the field.
All along Kitwood lane the Giant Hogweed grew to amazing heights. They would tower above us to as much as ten feet high. The bracken too was very high and thick, something I don't recall from previous years. One thing missing that Helen pointed out was the lack of Dandelions. There does not seem to be any flowering, or seed heads any where, we can see only leaves but that is all, last year in July I remember photographing seed heads, this year there are none. Maybe the rain prevented any pollination, it would be interesting to know if this is the case elsewhere.
The Hogweed was also an attraction to a beetle sometimes known as a "bloodsucker". It is in fact a Red Soldier Beetle, and despite it's quite sinister name is perfectly harmless. They gather at this time of year on the flower heads to breed and scare little girls.
From Kitwood Lane we headed down towards the school, serenaded by one or two Yellowhammers, the only birds singing with any real desire. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called from the hedgerow, and we finally managed to locate her on a dead stump of an oak tree.
We set off up Gradwell in hope that maybe the Tawny Owl would be about, but with no luck. As we walked down Brislands towards home an adult male Sparrowhawk came over trailing a twig, but it was soon off over the fields and didn't allow me a clear opportunity to get a photo. When we got home the black clouds were still circling, but the evening stayed dry, probably the first time we have had a dry day for months!