Sunday, 1 July 2012

30th June - Butterfly Baby, Well You Got it All

Rain first thing, but this cleared through to leave partly cloudy skies, some sunshine, and a stiffening breeze.  The forecast was good for the rest of the day, so I was off to see how much of the patch I could cover.  As I left I picked up a Swift over the house, that was now five for the year.

I headed off towards Telegraph, and then walked though Weathermore Copse.  The last time I had been here was back in April, and it looked so different.  Birds were singing in the wood, and as is now quite common a Chiffchaff sang from back in the trees, but unlike April you couldn't see them.  The sun would come and go, and when it was out it would light up the fields.  This field has maize just starting to grow.  Maize appears to be more and more common, a sign of warmer temperatures.  Who knows we may see scenes like those you get in the US where the corn (as you they call it) is used to create mazes in the autumn, and there are organised rides around the farm in a cart.  I hope not!

This view looked lovely in the sun, the greens emphasised by the dark branches.

Weathermore Lane was very wet, again much different from when I had last been here.  I stopped just past the junction with the footpaths and looked over towards Alton.  The view here seems to change everytime you look at it, but it still remains stunning.

From Weathermore, I walked across the road and up into Lord's Wood.  It was very quiet here, with only a Chiffchaff singing.  I walked around the outside of the wood avoiding the muddy main path.  I took Kitwood Lane and headed towards the Maryanne Plantation.  The Hazel Trees made the lane very dark.

The path, as seems to be everywhere this June, was wet and very difficult to walk along, however this Dunnock was enjoying the opportunity to take a bath, even though the water in the puddle was very muddy!

A little further on a Whitethroat flew up into the hedge, I waited to see if it would show as it was constantly calling from within the hedge, it was soon joined by another which probably indicates that they were a pair, and the Whitethroat do breed here.  Up to this year I though Whitethroat were rare around here, which again shows the benefit from spending time around the patch.

I walked through a meadow field towards Headmore Lane, It was very windy now, but I finally saw a butterfly in the grass, it was a Meadow Brown, the first butterfly of the day.  From here I walked along Headmore Lane past the golf course and Hawthorn Lane,

At the horse stud I noticed a Woodpigeon on the wires with a Swallow.  Another tried to get on to the wire but the other Swallow didn't seem to want it there, and they were having one hell of an argument, maybe the Swallow on the wire didn't want to share the Woodpigeon!

I then turned off and took the road that leads to Newtown Farm.  It was a little sheltered here from the wind, and I disturbed a Red Admiral, which proceeded to fly around and took an age to settle, finally it did and it started to to nectar on the bramble flowers. 

I turned of the road and down a track into an area of the Maryanne Plantation that has been felled of trees, I came here in early May, but hadn't been back since, again it had changed.  It was full of foxgloves and thistles, which were a huge attraction to insects.  There were a lot of bees around the foxgloves and thistles, but he dead logs and bracken were an attraction to others as well.  This Scorpion Fly posed nicely for me.

On the track Meadow Browns were sunning themselves, I counted at least six in the area.  There were also moths but they wouldn't settle to allow me to identify them.  While trying to see the moths some movement in the bramble revealled a Wren, it then came out of the growth and sat on a branch in clear view.

The Foxgloves looked magnificent, and I took the chance to take some photographs that hopefuly show their beauty.

You could hear grasshoppers and crickets from the grass, something that has been very rare this summer.  I managed to find this one, I think it is a Rosel's Bush Cricket, and as I watched it it began to rub it's backlegs and sing.

As I walked out of the plantation, a Willow Warbler started to sing, which again probably means that they have bred here.  Again I thought Willow Warblers quite rare, so was very pleased to hear the song again.

I took the road to the farm, and then headed down the footpath towards Plash Wood.  Alongside the fields there were more Meadow Browns, and two more Red Admirals.  In Plash Wood the birds were in full song.  I head Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Wren, Garden Warbler, Nuthatch, and Goldcrest, while overhead a Buzzard was continually calling.  The main ride through the wood is quite wide, and as a result quite windy, but at the bottom end it was a little more sheltered, and again there was plenty of Meadow Browns, I counted eight this time.

Coming out of the wood I walked around the Rotherfield house, and the farm buildings, I paused at one point to scan the fields and found this Hare sitting in the grass on one of the rides.

I took the footpath off the road and headed towards Plain Farm.  The path went though a very nice grassy meadow, and once again more Meadow Browns, but this time there was also a Small Tortoiseshell, but it wouldn't stop.  A little further on I saw what I thought was a moth, but as I got closer I could see it was a white butterfly, closer still and I could confirm it was my first Marbled White of the year.  With the meadows being cut for hay, I was a little worried I wouldn't find any this year so I was really pleased to find this one, it also sat very nicely for me, and looks to be newly emerged, as the colour and wings look immaculate.

I walked through Plain Farm, and took the road past the buildings.  A Small Tortoiseshell was on the road, and with butterflies being in such short supply recently, I didn't let the opportunity pass.

At a barn I heard the calls of nestlings, and from the fact that two Pied Wagtails wouldn't leave the area, I assumed the nest must be theirs.  I waited to see if they would go in, but they seemed to get agitated so I left them, looking back they did indeed go into the nest

It was now quite windy but with plenty of sunshine, perfect raptor weather and I wasn't let down.  A pair of Buzzards flew over, one being very pale. 

They were then joined by three others and at one time there were five soaring above the farm, unfortunately I could only get three in the picture.

The Buzzards were not alone in the sky, as Swifts seemed to be everywhere, these were probably birds that had migrated but not bred and were on the move.  They were difficult to count but there must have been at least up to twenty pass through. 

I now walked down the road, the road goes between two fields, and there is a lot of meadow grass either side.  I walked through the grass, again disturbing Meadow Browns and Red Admirals.  I stopped to watch the Swifts, and was then treated to a Sparrowhawk flashing over the hedge top at lightning speed, and then off in the direction of the farm.  As I turned to follow it's progress a partridge broke from the grass behind me, and I was delighted to see that it wasn't the usual Red-Legged, but in fact a Grey Partridge.  The estate is clearly farming for wildlife, the Hares are the first testiment to this, but finding a Grey Parridge was even better.  The area reminds me of the Duke of Norfolk estate near Arundel and Burpham, in West Sussex and that has been a magnet for raptors over the last two years, so I am looking forward to watching this area in September.

From the road I took a footpath in the direction of Lyeway.  This was new ground for me, and it also turned up a new flower.  This is Dark Mullien, and was growing alongside the edge of the field.  The yellow flowered spikes looked quite spectacular.

On Lyeway the Swifts were back, flying around the cereal fields, and heading off in a southerly direction.  This time I stopped and spent some time trying to get some shots, it was difficult, but this one was not too bad

From Lyeway I walked towards Swellinghill Lane, stopping to check for butterflies but with no luck.  A quick detour to the pond did not find anything other than the "DJ" ducks and family, the sun was not so evident now and it was getting very windy.  I walked back from the pond and went into Old Down Wood.  At the entrance there is a little clump of Musk Mallow.  The flowers look very bright against the nettles.

I had tried to time the walk through Old Down so that the day had warmed up sufficiently to allow butterflies to fly.  My tactics were spot on, there was plenty of butterflies, but mostly of just one species.  The wood seemed to be alive with Meadow Browns, and other than one Red Admiral, they were all I could find.  I counted 36 in total, but there may have been more. Most of the time when they settled they would do so with the wings closed, showing the underwing, so it was nice to get this one sunning itself with the wings open.

I checked the owl's tree, but it wasn't there, and then headed out of the wood and along Gradwell Lane.  By the recreation ground a Kestrel came low across the field upsetting the blackbirds, tat made three raptors for the day.

I had walked nearly 10 miles, and had a relatively succesful day, being able to add another bird to the list, and a new butterfly for the year.  I had hoped for Red Kite, as I hadn't seen one in the area for some time, but there had not been any sign, that is until I stood outside washing my boots and one drifted over the house and headed off towards Old Down. 

It may have been quiet for the last month, but there is always something around, the first six months of this year have been wonderful.  I have seen things around the village that I never expected, and I am looking forward to see what the next six months turn up, you never know!


  1. Hi Chris,
    Spent a few hours on your patch Saturday. It was really good to put a face to a place we have read so much about, it puts on a whole different aspect to what you have described about so far.The next six months reading will feel alot more tangible than before. We saw much of what you have posted here on our circular stroll.
    Started off in Gradwell lane heading north and anti clockwise. Kestrel, Yellowhammer,Skylark,honeysuckle down Brislands. Into old down wood which has a real prescence about it, especially in the dappled sunlight. As you experienced we saw dozens of meadow browns, an odd red admiral and even an occasional speckled wood - all around the tall thistles which had many common carder bees too. No marbled whites or small tortoiseshells for us though. Your pics of the foxgloves are wonderful and captured the real essence of them in the wild...they are everywhere!
    Cut across they field of seeded rape to swellinghill pond where we said hello to the ducks and youngsters.
    On the corner of lyeway and kitwood where there is a horsey/sheep field, I stopped and noticed 6 mistle thrush and 1 juvenile great spotted woodpecker feeding on the grass. Above us were a couple of swifts too. Back down past the school to the car and one large red damselfly in the foliage to finish. Our next stop was the pub with no name in Priors Dean for a super lunch washed down with a good drop of local ale. We were going to head back home as another walk for my Sarah was a walk too far for her back, but having heard the chuff-chuff-toot of the watercress line while in Old down wood we took a detour to catch the last train from Alton to Alresford,filling up with some ale from the off licence in Alresford courtesy of the fff brewery at Alton - i can recommend their Gilbert White smoked ale of which I am savouring as I write. Back on the train to Alton and I can confirm your observation that the poppies in the field that edge the track do look wonderful from the train...with my head leaning from the window-my head drinking in the view-my nose drawing in the heady mix of the steam,coal, oil and nature, I was a picture of content- couldn't wipe the grin off my face for the rest of the day. You live in a beautiful part of the world and we were so glad we spent some time there.
    Didn't manage to see a Red Kite though, but as you know,nature turns up when you least expect it! I had hoped to see a lesser spotted telephotolens blogman...but maybe next time eh?
    Hope you don't mind my miniblog.
    All the best

    1. It is great that I have been able to share this with you. I covered a lot of ground on Saturday, and was able to get to some areas I had not been to before. The area around Plain Farm is definitely one to watch, the way it is being managed can only encourage the wildlife. I hope I can catch up with the Barn Owl, soon, but I am sure I will get the chance in the winter.
      Looking at the weather today, we were lucky to get such a good day on Saturday, I hope it behaves next weekend

  2. I'm just about to move to four marks.. What's it like?

    1. Hi

      I am going to need a bit more information to reply to this, in what area did you want me to espond on?


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