Rain on Christmas Eve, and during the morning on Christmas Day gave way to some weak sunshine in the morning on Boxing Day. After a wasted trip with the wrong boots I finally set off around Lye way and Charlwood lanes. There was activity in the hedges with Blue and Great Tits calling as they made there way through the thin branches. A Great Spotted Woodpecker also put in a very brief appearance in an old Apple tree, called, then immediately flew off.
The sun provided some welcome sunshine, and looking across towards Dogford Wood, the earthy colours of the fields and woods stood out nicely against that rarity just recently, a blue sky.
Some of the fields have been ploughed and tilled, some have been seeded and show signs of small shoots, while some have just been left. This adds different colours to the landscape, and once again the morning sunshine added a glow to the view.
From the lane I took the footpath that leads onto Plain Farm. I took the opportunity to scan the fields that open out from the path on both sides. I am now almost certain the mystery bird seen on the 21st was a male Hen Harrier, but to be 100% certain, I needed to find it again, and I feel these fields around Plain Farm are probably the most likely area for it. As I scanned the field I disturbed a pair of Pheasants, they are very easily spooked at the moment, for understandable reasons. The spooked Pheasants in turn flushed a pair of Roe Deer, and they quickly ran across the field. As I watched the deer they were joined by another, and wasted no time in putting space between me and them.
The trees alongside the field was full of corvids. Mostly Rooks, they would gather in the trees and then drop down into the field to feed amongst the stubble, their calls could be heard from quite a way off as I walked away.
It was now close to eleven o'clock, and as you would expect at this time of year the sun was very low in the sky. The only good news about this is that at least the days are now beginning to draw out again, and gradually over the next few weeks and months the the sun will climb higher, and the days will get longer.
A flock of Redwing flew over as I set off down the lane towards the farm building. I counted 22 which was a good number. A little further on a small group of seven Fieldfare flew in the same direction.
I stopped once again at the Owl Tree to see if they were showing, but as usual there was no sign of them. As I walked a little closer I disturbed a group of 14 Grey Partridge, and they flew across the field to the safety of the hedge on the far side.
As I came down past the farm buildings I passed a shooting party, they did though assure me that they had no intention of shooting the greys! A little further on the weak calls of the Bullfinch stopped me, and in the hedge was a group of seven birds, four males and three females. This year I have been amazed to find so many, this area around the farm has consistently produced good numbers but they do seem to be almost everywhere calling from the hedges.
To get back to the car I walked via the Rotherfield Estate checking for Barn Owl, but again no luck. Two Buzzards put in an appearance over the Mountains Plantation, and as I walked up the road a group of Mamils went up the hill!
Sightings of Mamils have become more frequent all over the country, following the successes recently at the Tour de France and the Olympics. They are seen more often on most weekends and public holidays (Middle Aged Men in Lycra), but then I am sure they have their thoughts on my hobby too!
I tramped around in Winchester Wood, and walked through the now dead bracken in the hope I could flush a Woodcock, but with no luck. By now the sun had gone the clouds had rolled back again and it was threatening rain, so I headed home. At home I was informed the garden had been very busy, with plenty of Goldfinches using the feeders. I took the time to watch them, and counted 31 Goldfinches in the surrounding trees. Every so often they would drop down into the garden. They never descended altogether, the maximum group was of 12 at one time, but they would come in feed and then return to the tree. They are lovely to watch, and I hope that with the size of the flock they attract others in.
While they seem quite happy to sit side by side on the feeder, there are little quarrels breaking out when somebody tries to muscle in on to a perch.
They stayed for the rest of the day, and would even come to fed during the heavy rain that finally came to turn Boxing Day back into the same as every other day just recently