Wednesday, 26 September 2012

25th September - When They Leave Capistrano

The penultimate Costa Rica post is now live here, I hope you enjoy it as much as we did on the day.

There had been showers on and off all day, but I was hoping these would die away into the evening.  The evenings are now getting shorter, with sunset just before 19.00, it might be a good time to start counting Tawny Owls calling as they look to establish their territories.  I also hadn't given up on the hedges, so I decided to walk down through the garden centre again, and follow the path around to Kitwood and then Old Down Wood.

As I set off it started to rain again, but only briefly.  At Blackberry Lane I noticed this young Wood Pigeon picking up grit in the middle of the road., note the lack of white bars on the side of the neck.

It seemed to me a risky business, as despite the set speed limit this road attracts many fast cars, and frequently we see piles of feathers.  As one car approached, the pigeon laboured up into the air and away from the potential danger.

I took the footpath down to the field and at the bottom came across a flock of tits calling from the pine tree and hedge.  As I waited they made their way past me, moving quickly through the branches.  This Long-tailed Tit paused long enough for me to get the photo, but what with it being very dull, and the fact that the birds were obviously on a mission it was difficult to get any other pictures.

As well as the Long-tailed Tits there were Blue and Great as well, plus at least three Chiffchaffs, and a pair of Chaffinches.  The Chiffchaffs were calling once again as they moved, and on perched very close to my head before realising the mistake and flying off.  I walked on, but turned back when I heard more calls, and managed to see a greener warbler which I am assuming was a Willow Warbler, but from now on it will be worth checking each warbler species carefully.

I walked up the hill to Alton Lane, and crossed to the footpath past the garden centre.  The rooks were busy calling again, it appears they group around the rookery site at this time of the evening.  I had seen them here on Monday along with Jackdaws a little later in the afternoon than today, so they must be beginning to roost together.

As I watched the rooks there was an amusing episode going on.  This Rook appeared to be calling loudly at others in the a tree close to it.  Perched on the edge of the hedge it would throw its whole body into the calls, and would gesticulate to the others.

The Rooks in the tree it appeared to be calling at just didn't move but appeared to look back at the rook with amazement.  In the end the lone rook flew off, as if in disgust.

There were a few more warbler calls as I walked along the footpath.  I counted for the walk this evening 11 separate calls, probably chiffchaffs and at least one willow warbler.  I took the footpath down through the field, alongside the fence.  This is a relatively new routefor me, so I thought I would post exactly what the area looks like, and why I am convinced at some stage this autumn, something is going to be found perched on the wire or posts.

I walked down the footpath, and despite the wishful thinking there was nothing other than a wren calling, and the odd blue tit, never mind, plenty of time yet!

I crossed the road, and walked through the field towards Kitwood, the sun was sinking now, and it was getting quite cool, and the sun was setting behind dark clouds to the west.  I saw a group of birds on the telegraph wires and thought at first they were swallows, mainly because I had seen some around the fields, and that is what they do in the autumn.  As I got closer I could see they were Greenfinches, and as I watched more birds joined them on the wires.  It would seem that greenfinches have done rather well breeding this season.  There are many juvenile birds feeding in the garden at the moment, and the majority of these birds were juveniles.

I decided against walking to Old Down past the pond, and decided to cross the field to the wood.  I am glad I did, as I would have never expected the sight that greeted me as I climbed over the style into the field.  The field was literally covered with swallows, they seemed to be everywhere flying low over the stubble.  I soon found out the reason, as the footpath was covered in manure.  It was quite dark now and photography was difficult, plus the swallows were so fast it was very difficult to get a shot to represent the sight.  While this is a little blurred it gives an impression of what was going on. 

I decided then on trying to capture the individuals, and these were the results.

As well as the swallows there were House Martins too.  I recorded an estimate of 300 plus on the Hampshire Birding site, but I had probably under estimated, when you consider the size of the field and the fact that everywhere you looked there were hirundines then it was probably higher.  I say hirundines, because as well as the House Martins I also managed to locate at least three Sand Martins which was nice considering the other birds I have seen this year have been very high overhead individuals, they also became my latest sand martins ever.  The House Martins were also given a close inspection in case their rumps showed the slightest pink tinges, but they were all a bright white.  It was an amazing sight, and I do not recall seeing so many hirundines so far inland away from any water ever before.

It was now dark, and as I walked towards the wood, I noticed some dark shapes on the edge of the field.  It was the Roe Deer family I have been trying to catch up with.  I had seen them a few weeks ago while out on a run, but now I was able to photograph them.  The young deer still have a white rump that shows very conspicuously as they run.  The mother was watching all the time as I walked closer, but the youngsters seemed quite happy to feed.

I walked through the wood, and for some reason it didn't seem as dark, despite the trees.  There were quite a few bird calls, mainly goldcrests but chaffinches and linnets too.  The recent rain had once again turned the footpaths into mud, and it was difficult going.  I turned right and headed out at the Gradwell footpath.  When I set off I wondered if there may be calling owls, but there was nothing in the woods, perhaps it is still a little too early.

A passing shower caused me to wait at the entrance to the wood, and I watched the swallows and house martins still swooping over the field.  I am beginning to build up a collection of silhouetted photographs of birds of prey, answers on a postcard if you know what this one is.

The rain eased and I made my way across the field towards Gradwell Lane, the sun was setting over the fields off to the west, and as it did it caught the still many swallows flying around the field, You can just see them in this picture.  I wonder where they will roost?


  1. Nothing like a bit of NKC to serenade the swallows to their holiday homes...just hope that sparrowhawk doesn't stop them first!

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  2. Good to have you back, where have you been?

    Nice try, but the the reference to capistrano came from the Beach Boys "Goin' South", and the silohuette is of a buzzard. The swallows were all gone the next day, I would have loved to have found out where they roosted.

  3. Ah haaa! Got a bit mixed up all round. When I thought of Nat K C, I meant The Ink Spots -When the Swallows come back to Capistrano! I can see the buzzard now you mention it, can be difficult in a photo- well thats my excuse! Did you see The Beach Boys on later with Jools? Incredible!
    Seen lots of swallows and house martins over the garden here 50+ overhead on wednesday,plus lots of chiffchaff and willow warbler passing through the garden.
    Have been away on hols like yourself - except a bit closer to home...a SC caravan in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight. An amazing place, lots of fantastic walks and incredible wildlife - just outside the window too, especially the Red squirrels..such characters! Freshwater Fruit Farm I can thoroughly recommend which is right opposite the site of the original Isle of Wight festival in 1970. Been catching up on your blogs though...especially Costa Rica...just bloomin WOW! Thats the bestest shortest adjective to describe your shots.:)


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