Sunday, 16 September 2012

15th September - Those Were the Days and I Thank the Stars Above

Another glorious September Saturday with clear blue skies again, although it was cool and fresh, it's a shame we didn't get this weather in the summer.  We decided on a short walk today, and set off to go through the woods and see where it took us.  As we walked along Lymington Bottom, there was another sign of autumn, spider's webs stretched across the pavement.  This one was stretched across the path from a grit bin to the sign post, and it glistened in the morning sun.

Along Brislands Lane there was quite a bit of bird activity with Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests calling.  We stood and watched them flitting around in the large Ash tree, the tits making their way methodically through the branches while the goldcrests would hover around the leaves.

A Chiffchaff was flycatching from the conifers, and every so often would let out a few bars of song, as if enjoying the sun.  In the spring we watched a pair of Nuthatches prepare a nest hole in the Ash tree, but it seems they never used it.  Right underneath that hole now is a huge bracket fungus.  I think this is called a Lumpy Bracket, it would have a green algae on the top, but that was impossible to see.

The sun was by now quite warm, but there was still a fresh breeze.  As we walked along Brislands towards the wood Swallows and House Martins could be seen flying across the road, low over the hedges.  Along the north side of the road the beginning of Old Man's Beard could be found amongst the honeysuckle and ferns.  Very soon this will have the characteristic wispy grey seeds that give it the name.

We walked around the outside of the wood, keeping in the sunshine.  If we hadn't have taken this route we would have missed the long stream of gulls that flew over our heads from the south.  I do not recall ever having seen so many gulls fly over before.  I can only assume that somewhere close by the fields were being ploughed.  They headed off purposely to the north flying across the fields and away.

We turned into the wood and took the main path to the west end.  Where there were pockets of sunshine you would find insects on the bracken and bramble leaves, and where there were insects you would find lots of spider's webs.  This one was different in that it was horizontal with the spider sitting in it.  It is an orb spider, possibly Lariniodies cornutus, but I can't be sure.

An interesting sight was the collections of flies that would gather on the sun lit leaves.  These are I think cluster flies that at this time of year look to warm up in sunshine at the start of the day.  They typically look to hibernate later in the season in warm areas, and can be found inside windows on south facing walls.  They differ from other flies by folding their wings flat when settled and appear almost like a spider as they creep about.

At the west end there are still a few poppies flowering, reminding us of the summer that never was.  The flower heads are small, but they still provide a splash of colour against the drab greys and brown of the stubble.

We walked through the paddocks, and after a conversation with the sheep headed up Andrews Lane.  I checked the paddocks here and the grassland for migrants, but other than the odd swallow it was quiet.  Just before the overgrown footpath we stopped to count the number of White butterflies in the field.  Mostly small whites there were at least a dozen flying round the meadow.  This Small White paused on some holly close to the fence.

As we watched the butterflies we noticed some birds moving in the tall Scots Pine, a closer look revealed a autumn migrant, Spotted Flycatcher.  There was in fact four of them and they would fly out over the field, and then back to the tree in a good advantage point to be able to launch themselves off into another attack on the insects.  I watched one try and chase a bee, but give up as the bee sped off.

Amazingly I have now seen six spotted flycatchers on the patch this year, before that I hadn't seen any.  If we hadn't have stopped to watch the "boring cabbage whites" we would not have seen these, so it always pays to check everything.

Leaving the flycatchers we went through the overgrown path, and then around the top and back down Lye Way.  The field we had watched being harvested a couple of weeks ago now had been ploughed, but the field next to it which had broad beans was now being cut.  We watched the combine come across the field and deposit the beans into the waiting tractor.  It seemed amazing how this was done, but the tractor driver told us the combine shakes the pods until the beans fall out, they are then sieved out and into the tractor.

We were not the only ones watching the proceedings, a Kestrel was sitting on the wires looking into the field for anything that might make a dash for it.

Along Lye Way as with Brislands the sun on the hedge attracted the insects.  This is a Whet Stem Borer, which is a saw fly that feeds on cereal crops.

Where there was honeysuckle it was an attraction to the bees, this White-tailed Bumble Bee being no exception.

This time of year sees plenty of Red Admirals on the wing, attracted to the ivy and brambles.  The upper wing is beautiful, but the under wing also is a collection of colours and amazing patterns

From Lye Way we took the footpath across the fields down to Hawthorn Lane.  It is a little difficult to follow, as the signs again have been removed and we found ourselves walking across a field covered in mown hay.

There had been quite a few dragonflies around during the morning, but this one was the only one that perched up in the tree.  The sun really picks out the veins in the amazing wings.

In the dragonfly picture you can see some of the hawthorn berries that are now ripening and looking splendid in the hedges, providing a vibrant red contrast to the dull greens of the tree itself.

A Buzzard called as we walked through the field, and as it flew over us it called continuously very loudly which called for it to open it's beak wide.

We crossed the road and headed up the path towards Alton Lane.  A fence has now been put up here to control where you walk.  As it was close to the bushed I kept checking the posts for birds but there was nothing of interest.  Suddenly there were alarm calls and a large female Sparrowhawk came over us.  She was mobbed by a large flock of House Martins that had gathered, and headed off away from us towards the south.

In this picture you can see her turning her head to watch the mobbing house martins

We walked past the garden centre, across the field towards Blackberry Lane and up the footpath.  The ivy here was flowering, and was a major attraction for the bees and this Comma Butterfly, you can see where it gets its name from by the little comma shape on the lower wing.

We headed home after our short walk had lasted four hours!

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