Thursday, 11 October 2012

10th October - You Can't Start a Fire Without a Spark

There was heavy rain last night so we didn't get the chance to run.  I decided then to go for a run this lunchtime.  While the sun was out we appeared to be right on the edge of the cloud line to the north west, and it didn't look if it was going to last too long. 

However in the sun there were still plenty of Red Admirals about, with several Large Whites and a single Comma.  A male Common Darter dragonfly was also about along Brislands.  A pair of Bullfinches called from the hedge in Brislands Lane, and another was heard along Kitwood.  There was still a number of calling Chiffchaffs, and many Jays, I counted 11 as I ran along Kitwood Lane.

I have been having some problems with my pond and waterfall, it will run OK for a few days then I will go out and find about half of the water has drained out.  I have changed pipes but it makes no difference.  The latest idea is that an animal may be blocking the flow, so I have set the camera trap up, but nothing yet.  This afternoon I saw a Heron fly low over the house, it did the same yesterday.  Not sure if it is connected but I will have to keep an eye out for it, all the fish are still there.

As suspected the lovely sunshine at lunchtime gave way to quite low thick cloud in the afternoon.  I went out, for what could quite likely be my last mid week evening walk, in quite a gloomy environment, not conducive to photography, so I apologise now for the dark grainy efforts I have posted here.

After parking the car I spent some time checking the field by the mountains plantation.  Swallows and House Martins were flying over the trees, I counted one group of 24 swallows and 15 house martins.  A Buzzard drifted across the field and then flew close to the top of the trees, in what appeared an effort to avoid the jackdaws that were congregating in the tops of the trees.  The Buzzard mewed as it flew, and almost immediately turned back as if to avoid the jackdaw flock.

I had seen quite a few Jays at lunch time, and two also flew across my view as I scanned the field.  They have become a familiar sight as they fly from the trees.  It would seem that there has been a general increase of Jay sightings this autumn, with reports of significant flocks along the south coast, and with good sighting of birds coming in off the sea in Norfolk.

As I walked up the footpath to the Rotherfield estate, I noticed a small raptor circling, as I got on it I also found another close to it.  These were both sparrowhawks, I am not sure if these were resident birds, or maybe passing through.  They drifted away still circling towards the west.

Walking around the field and woods it became clear that the activity was in the air.  Two Fieldfares flew over my head, these were the first for the winter.  A large flock of birds to the east caught my eye and at first I thought they might be geese, but they turned out to be gulls, and mostly Black-headed Gulls.  They flew off to the south west, presumably looking for a roost site for the night.  A flock of this size was the more impressive for being quite low as they flew over.

Pheasants called from the wood along side the path, and over in the distance I could see a hot air balloon heading in my direction.  I walked towards the quarry, a couple of chiffchaffs called from the hawthorn bushes, and a Kestrel flew up the path, only to take evasive action when it realised I was in the way.  Overhead I could hear the burner of the balloon, and I assumed they must be trying to gain height, however when I came out of the trees i could see they were having a problem.

The balloon was dropping quickly, and the burner was having no effect on stopping it.  I watched as the balloon sank below the trees.

I thought it was going to land in the field I had just walked through, but then the movement ceased, and the balloon seemed to fall to one side.  It had become stuck in the trees, and there it stayed.

We had seen a balloon here a couple of weeks ago, but that had made it down into the field by the road.  This one was stuck in the trees, and as I watched the support team came screaming around the bend, nearly hitting a car coming the other way.  I didn't go and see what happened, I had other places to go, but when I returned to the car later they were gone so I assume everyone one was released safe and sound.  Not really wildlife I know, but with gloom this evening it did brighten things up.

I walked up through Plain Farm.  Another Sparrowhawk, this time definitely a resident bird, flew across the field, and then looped back close to the hedge.  This was a male from the slate grey back and wings, and was obviously hunting as the small birds went to roost in the hedges.

As I walked up the hill to the out buildings a Jay flew across the field again, but this time you could see the reason for the journey, as it carries what is probably an acorn in its bill to go and hide somewhere.

When I reached the cottages I noticed that there was some activity around the mist nets in the garden.  It turned out that the owners were turning the nets up for the night, and I took the opportunity to find out about what they were doing. 

It appears that they are studying House Sparrows, but in the course of ringing the sparrows they have actually caught since June over 900 individual birds, that is 900 they have not already rung.  In the last two weeks they have caught 90 different Blue Tits, which I find remarkable.  Unfortunately no Tree Sparrows or Corn Bunting, but he did say yet.  I also got some tips on winter birds to look out for, but I won't spoil the surprise just yet, hopefully I can find them before the end of the year.

Leaving the ringers I followed another Sparrowhawk down the road, this one was a dark brown and slightly larger, probably a female.  It was hunting in the same manner, low to the ground and close to the hedge, and you could hear the alarm calls from within the hedge.

As always I scanned the fields, but there was nothing.  As I walked down the lane towards Lye Way, I did manage to find a bird I haven't seen since early July, the Yellowhammer.  It sat on the overhead wires calling.

As i got closer it flew off, as did a Kestrel that I hadn't seen on the pole a little further on.  I walked around to the Mountains Plantation without seeing anything of note, I had checked the fields and woods, but apart from calling goldcrests there was nothing to report.  I decided to wait at the car and scan the field as it got dark, who knows an owl may have appeared.  All  I managed to see was a flock of Rooks heading to the north west to roost I assume, and a couple of Buzzards that came from the plantation across the field in the gloom.

However I did manage to see two Hares in the field, again a first since July.  The picture is awful, as it was very dark.  The hares are the two dark blobs in the middle.

I finally gave up, there was not to be an owl sighting, but a Tawny Owl did call from the woods behind me.  I drove round to the Oak Green Parade where on Monday I had seen a good gathering of Pied Wagtails.  This evening they were roosting on the roofs of the flats and I managed to count 39 before it just became too dark.

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