Sunday, 30 December 2012

30th December - The End of the Year is Nigh!

We woke to sunshine and some blue sky, which has been a very rare sight just recently.  The garden was once again very busy, with finches dominating the feeders.  Once again the Goldfinches were the most numerous, and there was another record count for the garden with 16 birds being present around the feeders at one time.  Another welcome return was that of a male Blackcap, there has been one every year for the last four years.

As seems to be the way recently the day couldn't pass without some rain, and once a shower had passed we set off out for a walk.  Because of the conditions though we need to be selective with footwear, so the decision was to drive to plain Farm, and then take the wellingtons for Old Down Wood.

As we pulled up at the Mountain Plantation Helen picked up three Buzzards above the trees, where were they on Thursday?  Even better though was the Raven that performed some aerobatics for us as we prepared to walk.  This is the first one we have seen for sometime, and it flew up and down along the ridge.

We walked up the lane with Wood Pigeon scattering every where ahead of us.  They are all over the place at the moment and must be the most numerous of the local birds, the residents probably having their numbers swelled by migrants from the continent.

After checking the barn and finding nothing as usual we walked down towards Plain Farm.  The hedges were busy with Chaffinches and House Sparrows as usual, the fallen grain proving very tempting.  Helen picked up a large bird above the trees, and as it drifted towards us it was obvious it was a Red Kite.  I never tire of these beautiful birds, I can watch them fly for ever, they drift slowly looking around and using that gorgeous red tail to control the speed and angle with which the bird flies.  With a very weak sun the red stands out against the grey of the head.  This was one of the best views I have had recently, and I was able to get some nice photographs that shows how that tail is used.

We walked up the hill, and stopped to scan the owl tree, but there was absolutely nothing.  I am going to have to stop calling it an owl tree I think.  Pied Wagtail were around the farm buildings and there were more House Sparrows in the hedges.  As we walked along the road we saw two Kestrels sitting on the same telegraph pole, in the way the Goldfinches were using the feeders this morning.  I don't recall seeing two birds in such close proximity before.

As we tried to get closer they of course flew off.  We stopped to scan the field, it was very quiet apart from a covey of 16 Grey Partridge sitting in the middle of the field.  This seems to be a consistent number now.

The skylarks and linnets that had been present earlier in the month seem to all have gone.  There was no sign of any activity at all.

At the cottages we came across a Kestrel again, this time perched in a dead tree, looking down across the field.  The trick here was to keep photographing as you walk closer to allow the chance to get a closer shot, but not missing out.  The old branch contrast well with the bird.

As we walked onto the footpath I looked to see if there was a better view of the Grey Partridges, I found three, but they were not Greys, but Red-legged.  Along the footpath there was more Bullfinches, and some Redwing, but nothing else.  I scanned the field in hope, but it was quiet, very quiet.  We managed to flush a single Roe Deer from the hedge at the bottom of the path, and it some how disappeared as it ran across the field away from us.  A Crossbill called as we crossed the field, but I was no t able to see it. We crossed to the road. and made our way along Charlwood Lane.

As we approached the houses it became very busy with small birds, there were Blue and Great Tits, Goldcrests and Chaffinches and Goldfinches singing.  They seemed to be every where, and were clearly attracted to the feeders in the gardens.  One Yew tree seemed to be alive with Goldfinches, it was impossible to count them but there appeared to be a significant amount here, as there was in the garden at home.  It would be interesting to know if this influx of birds is consistent across the county.

We turned to make our way to the car, every so often a group of tits would call from the trees, and along the hedges.  They were mostly Long-tailed Tits, and they could be seen and heard in the trees and at the base of the hedges.

After warming up with a coffee we drove to the pond, parked up and put on the wellingtons and waded into Old Down Wood.  It was very quiet in the wood, there was hardly any bird song.  The quantities of birds we have seen today have been around the buildings and gardens, perhaps this is another sign that the failed seed crop this winter is having an impact on birds in the countryside. 

We made our way around the perimeter of the wood, pausing every so often to listen, just in case there might be something calling.  It wasn't until we reached the northern perimeter path that we saw any activity.  As we watched a Goldcrest in the branches Helen picked up a single Treecreeper, the first for some time.  Apologies for the quality of the photo.

We made our way around the wood, sometimes slipping and sliding through the mud.  It one dry area we stopped to look at the moss on the tree, and found these small green shoots beginning to emerge.  At the end of the year, signs of the new one coming along.  I am not sure what they are, we did not recall Snow Drops here last winter, but there were Daffodils, we will just have to keep an eye on them to see what they turn into.

The rest of the walk did not produce anything else.  As we left the wood a Robin watched us kick up the leaf litter, and at the pond the Moorhen went scurrying off across the water to the safety of the reeds.

This will be the last walk of the year, and it looks like unless a Brambling or (PLEASE!) a Waxwing turns up in the garden tomorrow I am not going to find a new bird in December, never mind.

Mouse update:  Despite hearing what seemed like the trap closing this morning, it remained open so the mouse remains at large!

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