For once the forecast was spot on, as we woke up to deep blue skies, sunshine and a frost. Everything indicated that it was going to be one of those glorious autumn days, so we decided to set off out walking, with the objective of getting around as many sites as possible.
Before we left the garden was providing a wonderful example of what we hoped to find in the woods. The Acer tree leaves are now showing some wonderful colour, and with the early morning sun, that colour was accentuated. I have two mature trees next to each other, one being a dark red tree which sees the leaves go a flame red, and the other which has its leaves go orange and yellow.
The garden has become a lot busier with the numbers of birds visiting increasing over the last few weeks, Blackbirds have increased, and the males can be seen arguing with each other, but normally it is the female birds that appear to be the more aggressive and successful when it comes to protecting a food supply.
We walked up the lane from Reads Field, and where the trees and bushes in the gardens were in the sun, they were being visited by several bees. This was a large, possibly queen Buff-tailed Bumble Bee. It had found some flowers on the bush, and was making its way around them, spending some time in the sun. As well as the bumble bee there were also several carder bees nectaring on the small flowers and using the leaves to warm up in the sun.
We took the footpath between Blackberry Lane and Alton Lane. The field there is quite a mess now. The trees alongside the hedge have been severely cut back, and where the tractors have been driven over the field the ground is very wet and muddy. The path beyond the garden centre was very wet too, and we made our way carefully down to Willis Lane, and then across onto the path on the other side. There were some sheep in the field, that were getting some unwanted attention from a few Jackdaws. The Jackdaws would jump onto the sheep's head, and body prompting the sheep to shake them off. I assume the jackdaws were looking for insects on the sheep's bodies in the way that ox-peckers do on African game. This jackdaw appears to be exploring the sheep's ear, needless to say it didn't stay there too long.
The trees alongside the footpath as we walked towards Hawthorn lane are mostly beech, the leaves are now beginning to fall after providing some lovely colour. The leaf litter is a good base for fungi and as we walked we kept an eye out for anything unusual. I came across this clump at the base of a large beech tree.
This is Shaggy Scalycap, it is typically found growing in clusters at the base of trees and stumps. Both the cap and the stem are covered in small, pointed scales that are pointed downward and backward. It was once thought to be edible, but it is now considered and known to be poisonous, especially if eaten in combination with alcohol. The fungus contains unique chemicals thought to help it infect plants by neutralising defensive responses employed by them. It known as a secondary parasite, in that it attacks trees that have already been weakened from prior injury or infection by bacteria or other fungi.
As we walked down towards Hawthorn Lane the temperature changed. This sheltered area was quite cold, and the ground still had the remains of last night's frost on the grass and plants. Looking closely the frost produces some lovely patterns on the leaves.
We walked though the Hawthorn Plantation, again the path was very muddy and walking was difficult, but the sunlight streaming through the conifers produced some lovely shards of light picking out the dark wood floor, and every so often a green fern.
Away from the conifers the leaves on the beech trees were also benefiting from the low November sunshine.
Where you come out of the wood, the footpath provides a lovely view away to the south west. The air was very clear today, and allowed us to see a very long way. While most of the time the pylons can be considered an eye sore, in this image I like the perspective they provide as they create the gap in the trees all the way over towards Lye Way and beyond.
From here the path takes us into the Newton Plantation. This is a small beech wood, and looking up the leaves provided some beautiful colours against the lovely blue sky.
We spent some time wandering around the wood, checking the leaf litter and old stumps for fungi, these were what we found:
Staghorns and Jelly Rot
Sheathed Wood Tuft
Dead Man's Fingers
Dead Man's Fingers are a common inhabitant of forest and woodland areas, usually growing from the bases of rotting or injured tree stumps and decaying wood. The dark fruiting body (often black or brown, but sometimes shades of blue/green) is surprisingly white on the inside, with a blackened dotted area all around. This blackened surrounding area produces the spores, and they are discharged from the top of the "finger".
Leaving the wood we came out and took the footpath towards Newton Farm. The power lines we had seen earlier continued parallel to the path, and sitting in the sunshine on one was a Buzzard, when I took the picture I didn't notice the jet behind it, American Airlines I think!
There were quite a few Meadow Pipits in the horse field, and they would fly up calling and eventually landing on the roof of a nearby shed, or on the telephone wire. There were more on the wire as I took this picture, but for some reason the horse bolted across the field disturbing them leaving just this one. There seems to have been an influx during the autumn as there were very few last winter.
The fields were covered in Rooks and Crows, and they could also be seen perched in the trees in the Maryanne Plantation. They were clearly enjoying the sunshine as much as we were. Every so often they would fly off, and their places would be filled by birds coming up from the field.
We walked along the path between the fields, having crossed the style we flushed what sounded like partridges from beneath the hedge, but as they flew around us I could see that they were in fact three mallards, a drake and two ducks. They probably use the small dew pond in the valley.
Small finches flew along the hedge, the most striking being a pair of Bullfinches, just before we turned into Plash Wood, large numbers of Wood Pigeon came out and flew across the field. In Plash Wood the colours were as spectacular as anywhere. The colours seemed to be richer due mainly to the fact that the wood was not dominated by one species. Huge beech trees stood next to tall conifers, which made the golden yellow and brown leaves of the beech trees stand out even more against the blue sky.
We walked down the ride, and then followed the footpath down the road through the Rotherfield Estate. At the bottom the footpath takes you across the fields, and looking back towards East Tisted the view was wonderfully clear you could see for miles.
The path now took us past the walled garden, and through an area planted with sapling trees, every so often Yellowhammers would fly up out of the grass, and across the field and up into the holly bushes. There they would sit in the sunshine, before they would fly down again in sizeable flocks to the grass amongst the saplings. I counted two flock of 15 and 13 birds, of course some could have been the same birds but the area seemed alive with yellowhammers.
At this time of year the sun doesn't stay high for too long, and by now it was beginning to get lower, and as a result the light becomes much richer and everything looks wonderful. As we walked by the quarry the lack of leaves in the bushes revealed a view that I had not experienced before, this is looking up Hawthorn lane, I have taken photographs of the tree in the distance from the other angle, but with the sunshine, and the leaf colour it looks just as lovely this way.
We walked past Plain Farm, and checked the tree in the field, there was nothing there, a little further down the road I went to scan the fields to the south in the gap. When I got there I was greeted with this spectacular sight, the fields are covered in spider's silk, and the low autumn sunshine was catching the silk and highlighting it. Without the sunshine you just would not have seen it. I wonder how many spiders are responsible for covering this field. It was a truly magical sight.
I called Helen over to see it, and as I did I flushed a pheasant, which in turn made me jump, and that flushed a covey of twelve Grey Partridge that had been feeding on the ground about three metres from me. I have only seen a maximum of two Grey Partridge here, so this was a really nice find. Unfortunately I was only able to get a shot of them in flight as they sped off away from me, but you can see the characteristic belly markings on the left hand bird, and the rufous outer tail feathers on the right one.
Back on the road, we could hear Bullfinches calling from the hedge. For me these have been a big find this year. I have seen them and heard them calling from almost all the major areas on the patch, they seem to have been very successful all over, which is great because they are a beautiful bird. I saw one fly up to a tree, and managed to get the camera in position only to find that there was not one but three males in the tree, the sun picking out their gorgeous pinkish red breast feathers.
We walked around the fields, I scanned as usual, but also as usual there was nothing to be seen. We followed the road to Lye Way, and then made our way towards the houses and Andrews Lane.
A Goldfinch sang from the top of one of the trees alongside the road, obviously the sunshine was having a good effect on it, but by now it was losing it's strength, and the cold air was beginning to make its presence felt
Along with the sheep in the field I found a group of four Red-legged Partridges, it has been a long time since I have seen both partridge species in the same day.
As soon as we walked down Andrews Lane and into the shade we noticed a distinct change in temperature. In places where the sun couldn't reach there was still a good covering of dew on the grass. As the sun came through the trees it would catch the drops of water and they would shine.
It was very quiet as we walked up through the paddocks, the sun was now shining on our backs, and was bale to provide a little warmth. The sun was also picking out the colours of Old Down Wood, and it looked splendid away to the east with the low light enhancing the shadows and leaves of the oak, beech and larch.
We made our way around the north perimeter path, and came out by the Brislands footpath, so I didn't get the chance to see if the footpaths were back. I would expect the regular walkers had marked them, but with the recent wet weather I don't think it will make for an enjoyable walk at the moment.
We walked down Brislands towards home. As we passed the reserved land close to Lymington Bottom I noticed this Kestrel perched on the pole in the middle of the field. It was obviously watching and waiting for any movement in the field, and looks all fluffed up in the late sunshine.
It has been a beautiful autumn day, with hardly a cloud in the sky. We had walked over ten miles and while we didn't see anything overly exciting, we did get the chance to be out and amongst some beautiful scenery, wonderful colours and amazing sights.