Over the last few weeks we have been far away from the patch touring Costa Rica, a fascinating country, with amazing wild life. We had a wonderful time, with many experiences some of which we were able to capture, and at some stage will share. Now we are back I was eager to see what had been going on around the patch. First thing this morning I awoke to the song of a Robin, it was singing the melancholic winter song, a sure sign that everything is now changing, there was no other bird song, which makes the Robin's song even more distinctive.
The most immediate change was that the House Martins have fledged and the nest is still in place, the birds are still flying around the houses and I will be looking to see if they will attempt a second brood. In past years they have still been feeding young into October.
The first chance we had to get out was this evening, and as we were putting on our boots the clouds were looking very ominous, despite the threat of rain we headed off, I think Costa Rica has made us accept rain as something to live with! We walked along Brislands heading for Old Down Wood, and as we passed the cemetery a Hobby flew past at high speed. The shape was unmistakable, but it didn't stop to oblige me, and disappeared over the trees away to the east.
The first change noticed was the appearance of some cyclamens in the road side. These may not be wild flowers but we do see quite a few in this area every year, but normally not until October at the earliest. They are usually found under the hedges in the dull and dark areas along with the ivy. This clump was very early and another indication of how the weird weather patterns have affected the natural world this year.
When we left the fields were still full of their cereal crops, with the improved weather we had while we were away we expected the fields to have been harvested, and sure enough as we walked past the fields we saw many bales of straw scattered across the field. The sky was quite black away to the east, and this emphasised the rich yellow straw of the bales and the stubble producing a nice image. Some people find these bales disturbing, but I love the way they decorate the landscape.
The road side verges were also looking very different, we still have the towering willow herb spikes, but the thistles have all now gone to seed, and the fluffy seed heads are beginning to dominate, all I need now is a the charm of goldfinches to brighten them up.
As we walked into Old Down Wood, one thing struck us, the silence. There was no bird song, and it was very dark, the trees and bushes looking tired, the colours of spring and summer now becoming dull and exhausted. This time of year everywhere seems like it has had enough of the excesses of summer, and just needs a rest. The berries have yet to fully arrive to brighten the bushes, and the birds are quiet as they complete their moults.
We walked through to the west end without seeing much and then walked down through the paddocks. The odd swallow drifted through, I was not sure if these were the resident birds from the farm or swallows on the move.
Looking across the fields there were more bales scattered around, but interestingly these were arranged in a more organised way. Six bales were lined up together rather than scattering them randomly. I am not sure why they were laid out like this, maybe it helps in the collection.
We walked up Swelling Hill Road, huge beech trees are on either side of what is a cutting and in many cases the trees have roots exposed and the soil being worn away under the trees. I haven't noticed this before, and unfortunately it was just too dark to get a picture, but I will definitely be back to keep and eye on it.
We stopped off at the pond to shelter from the rain, and found a family of Moorhens in the middle on the lily pads. There was four youngsters, and as we approached they made a dash for the reeds but were unsure if they had to swim, or walk across the pads, it reminded me a little of the Jacanas we watched on holiday. This is the first time I have seen juvenile Moorhens here, so it was of interest, and of course they are one of my two resident water birds!
The pond looked very dirty and covered in a scum, but interestingly the scum did not sit on the top of the water, and was not disturbed by the rain drops, you could also see it moving like sifting sand, it was very strange and I have no idea what was causing it.
The rain was also making some lovely patterns on the lily pads and I couldn't resist this shot of the rain drops on a leaf.
Just recently a large tree fell down at the pond blocking the path, The tree still lies there and sadly today we also saw some more damage. The small jetty that goes out across the water was broken, the support that held the sleepers having been broken. This little jetty holds some special memories.
The picture on the left is the jetty as we found it yesterday, the picture on the right was taken about 15 years ago, and shows me with my family, my Mother and Meg . My daughter Katie was pond dipping with a net, and declared that she was going to catch a fish, to which we all laughed, but then she put the net in the water and promptly pulled out a fish! Sadly that was the last time with Meg, she was a very special dog, I can also hear my mother laughing as I remember what happened. I hope that it is possible to repair the jetty, I would hate to see it go.
The rain was easing, so we headed off back towards home. In one of the gardens a Maple tree had leaves that were already showing some autumn colour, again an early but welcome sight amongst the tired greens that we currently have.
We walked back around Gradwell, it was quiet, and it will be interesting to see what turns up over the next few weeks as we head towards autumn. If I am going to add to my bird total, I think I will have to focus on the more open areas away from the darkness of the woods, and hope that something drops in. As the year so far has shown, if you look there are things there to see. Its nice to be back though.