Monday, 31 December 2012

31st December - The Four Trees

This has been a wonderful experience, watching and capturing the events in the natural world that have taken place around our home.  I set out  with the objective to find out how many birds I could see or hear in the year in an area around Four Marks, but it became much more.  A whole natural history has unfolded as the year has progressed.  We have seen flowers come and go, bone dry paths become streams of mud, and birds arrive, breed and then head back to warmer places.

My total of birds made 85 which exceeded my expectation, my target was 80.  There have been some amazing sightings that I never expected, like Peregrine, Osprey, Redshank (where did that come from?), Firecrest, Cormorant and Stonechat, and it has been wonderful to see birds like Barn Owl and Grey Partridge returning due to changing farming practice.

But I also I missed some species I have seen before, birds such as Brambling, Cuckoo, Little Egret, Mute Swan, and Golden Plover, plus there are those that I consider are around such as Woodcock, and Nightjar, and frustratingly the the ones that could not be confirmed, a kite species in May and mystery grey raptor that I am almost sure was a male Hen Harrier

There have been many different flowers and fungi seen, and through the year I have extended my knowledge of these, as well as learning more about the insects and smaller creatures that call this place home.

The butterfly count was a credible 21 with the highlights there being the Silver-washed and Dark green Fritilaries in Old Down Wood, and the incredible numbers of Red Admirals in the autumn.

Of the mammals there was the regular sightings of Roe Deer, along with a few Muntjac Deer.  The camera trap revealed the prescence of Badgers and Foxes, the latter did then show up in daylight.  The odd Stoat was also seen in Old Down.  The highlight for me though was the number of Hare, another testament to improved farming practice around the area.

I have had many favourite moments, and lots of surprises, the thousands of Swallows and House Martins flying over the fields in September, the emergence of Grey Partridges at Plain Farm, but of them all, the evening we were able to watch and photograph the Barn Owl flying around the field in August was the highlight for me.  We were so lucky it decided to hunt as we arrived, I hope that we get the chance to watch this magical bird again some time soon

Looking back it is amazing how much things have changed through the year.  Life moves on, events occur, and people we love come and unfortunately go, but nature is always there around us.  This video captures for me the changes, but also shows that things remain the same as we continue on this cycle of life.  The music comes from Elbow, and fits wonderfully to the scenes and message.  I hope you all enjoy it.

Finally, despite the fact the year has ended, and the birds have been counted, I will continue this blog, in the hope of finding those missing birds, and with the objective of recording the events that will start to unfold all over again, giving us the opportunity to compare and begin to understand how our small patch of natural history develops.

A very Happy New Year to everyone!

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!

Saturday, 29 December 2012

29th December - Going Clip Clippity Clop on the Stairs

Over the last two nights we have heard the scampering of little feet above our heads while in bed at night, the scampering sometimes being replaced by the thud of something being dropped or moved.  We frequently get Starlings trapped in the loft and we can hear them as the flap against the porthole window.  Our night visitor was not a Starling though, and I was concerned it may be something bigger.

Overnight I placed the camera trap in the roof space under the insulation, this afternoon I bought some rat poison, and a mouse trap.  However as I well know, I should have checked the camera trap first!  There were three recordings, all very poor due to the only position I could get the camera into.  But at 03.51 this morning I managed to record our visitor, and as you can see from the image it wasn't a rat, nor a house mouse, but a little Wood Mouse.  It may even be the wood mouse that I had filmed in the garden during the last winter.  It obviously doesn't like the rain and wet weather, but I haven't a clue how it has managed to get in the loft.

Now I was faced with a dilemma.  I couldn't kill it, (which apparently I was happy to do if it was a rat or house mouse), so we went out again all the way to Farnham Homebase and bought a live mouse trap.  The trap is now set, and we shall have to see if it likes peanut butter!

Friday, 28 December 2012

27th December - Got Any Books on Hawks Missis?

This morning was damp and miserable with heavy showers moving through and dark clouds in between.  As I forlornly looked out from the kitchen window I noticed a large bird slowly drifting above the tops of the trees.  The wings and tail moved in an unmistakable way so a dash upstairs for the camera was necessary.  By the time I got it set the bird had drifted a little further away, and was now being pursued by starlings.  You can still make out the long wings and beautiful tail of our now almost resident Red Kite.

The heavy rain turned to drizzle and then finally some clear spells, and then by early afternoon sunshine and blue skies.  You have to take every opportunity these days so quickly Helen and I set off to walk the lanes.  As we walked along Lymington Bottom the Starlings were singing, a Robin as well from the top of the pines, and away in the distance a Song Thrush could be heard.  The song thrushes start to sing now, and continue on well into the summer, their song is very distinctive as they seem to repeat each phrase.

The horse paddock on Brislands was now extremely muddy, but unusually there were no birds present.  The reason for this was quickly revealed when a Sparrowhawk appeared being harassed by a pair of Jackdaws.  A little further along I noticed a bird sitting in the sun on the roof of one of the houses.  A closer look revealed it to be a Kestrel.  The low sun was extremely bright and clearly very welcome following the rain we have had recently.

We headed along Brislands and walked past the entrance to the wood.  It was very quiet with very little in the way of bird life. The hedgerows are all covered with Old Man's Beard, and where the sun comes through the hedge it catches the feathery like petals of the flowers and they glow, brightening up an otherwise dull hedge.

Partridges again, but his time the red legged variety!  As we reached the farm buildings at the bottom of the lane we disturbed a group of eleven, and they flew off in a "whirr" of wings and dropped out of site behind a stone wall.  A little further on when we made our way towards Swelling Hill, Helen found another group in the field, this time of nine, and they too flew away from us across the field.

There appears to be plenty of these game birds about, but like the pheasants yesterday they are very nervous, and don't stick around, I would have thought though that it was in their interests not to fly off!

As we walked down the hill towards Swelling Hill, I noticed the trees away on the horizon.  For me a scene that captures winter around here is the sight of bare trees contrasting against a washed out sky.  The bleakness of the scene typifying the essence of the season.

A Kestrel flew through a group of pigeons, turned as if to come straight at us only to bank away and out of sight behind some houses.  A Sparrowhawk, also a distance away, circled in the sky in that unmistakable way with the wings and tail spread out as it caught what little thermal there was, and before you knew it the hawk was gone

We were now heading up the lane towards the paddocks.  As is usual this time of year we were passing people out walking off their Christmas excesses, and as we passed some a brown bird flew across the road skimming the hedge tops.  A little further on and it revealed itself, another kestrel, or possibly the bird we had seen earlier.  It began to hover in front of us, and we followed it to the paddocks.

The window of dry weather was now beginning to close, and the clouds were gathering once more.  The odd spot of rain also indicated that it might be a good idea to head home.  We paused briefly at the pond, but nothing was showing, and the fields were also quiet with no sign of any thrushes.

For once we did not see a Buzzard which is very unusual as they seem to be everywhere.  If we had of done it would have completed a four raptor day, which is always nice.  We walked up Gradwell in the hope of a calling owl, but there was nothing, however the paddock along Brislands was full again of feeding Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Redwings.  It was quite gloomy now so we didn't stop and made our way to home and a cup of coffee.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

26th December - Brief Respite!

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

Sunday, 23 December 2012

23rd December - Pictures Came and Broke Your Heart

I recovered the camera trap, which has been in Old Down all week.  There was a little more variety this time with Rabbits and Roe Deer being the main video stars.  However this short clip doesn't include either of these, you have to watch closely, what is upset by the fox walking by?

The wood has lots of paths and tracks created by man, but if you venture off these paths you can see the trails created by the animals, mainly I would think deer, but these then become used by the Foxes and Badgers that wander the wood in the dark.  This clip features the Roe Deer, and shows how they like to follow their paths in the same way the many human walkers follow their paths.

The weather looks bad for Christmas Eve, so this is likely to be the last post before Christmas, so I would just like to wish everyone a Very Merry Christmas!

Saturday, 22 December 2012

21st December - On the First Day of Christmas

Today started dry and cloudy, and then gradually through the morning the sun appeared.  With the forecast for the weekend a complete wash out, I decided to pop out at lunchtime to make the most of the dry and sunny weather.   I decided to start at Plain Farm, and as I walked up the road all around me were signs of the birds also taking the opportunity to enjoy a respite from the heavy rain we have been having.

This Blue Tit was all puffed up, either as a result of a bath or just heavy preening.

A little further on at the back of the farm yard the hedge was full of Chaffinches just sitting in the sunshine.  You have to look closely, but they are there.

Ahead of me on the road was a lot of spilled grain, and where there is grain there are usually sparrows.  A group of House Sparrows would drop down from the bushes and very quickly pick up grain, and then return to the safety of the bushes.  On the road the maximum would be about twenty, I waited to try and catch the maximum number but every time I tried to catch them they would fly off, and I would end up with either a few, or some in flight.  That said I quite like this photograph though, the blur of the wings adding a nice effect to the picture.

I walked up the road towards the fields, and stopped to look across the field towards  the lone tree.  A kestrel was sitting at the top of the tree, preening in the sun.  I stopped to talk to a man who lived in the cottage close to the field, and he referred to the tree as "The Owl Tree".  It is apparently home to a pair of Little Owls.  I scanned the tree thoroughly but couldn't see any.  He informed me that they are almost heard every night squeaking from the tree, and are seen in the evening on the fence posts.  I'll keep looking because they are always entertaining birds.

There was one bird in the field though, and it called as I exchanged sightings with the man from the cottage.  It was a Pied Wagtail and it was sitting on the water trough, again in the sunshine.

I turned away from the tree, and headed along the road.  The Kestrel that had been in the tree was now sitting on the post looking out across the field.  I find kestrels quite lovable looking birds, but I wouldn't expect a bank vole or field mouse to have the same opinion.

I crossed over to check the field to the south.  There was a patch where a considerable amount of hay had been spread, and I disturbed a large flock of about 50 plus Wood Pigeons that were feeding on it.  As well as the pigeons there was also a good sized flock of Yellowhammer, and again they would sit in the hedgerow, and then in smaller groups fly down to the field, where they would stay for a short while, then fly back to the hedge and the sun.

Large flocks of Linnets were also flying around, but the only chance I managed to get to photograph them was with this lone bird sitting at the top of a tree, again in the sunshine, by the road.

I passed through a gap in the hedge to check the field to the north.  I scanned across the field and could see the large flock of linnet, and also quite a few Skylark flying around and feeding in amongst the green shoots that were appearing.  As I scanned I picked up a bird sitting on the ground well over to the back of the field.  From the shape and the fact that it sat still I considered it to be a raptor, but I wasn't sure what.  It seemed like the bill was yellow, and the underparts showed very white.  The head was grey, and the back was a darker maybe a cross between dark blue and a maroon, with dark primary feathers.  I stood and watched it hoping it would fly which would give me a better chance of identification.  The best shot I could get of it is this heavily cropped picture.

My view is that it is probably a Sparrowhawk, but there are things about which do not add up.  The lack of markings on the head would indicate an adult male, but there is no rufous on the underparts, although this could be hidden.  The browner appearance of the upper parts would also not be consistent with an adult male.  It will remain a mystery, so if anyone has any suggestions I am open to ideas.

At one stage I decided to move a little to my right, to maybe get a different view.  As I did so I disturbed some birds about two metres away from me.  I knew they were partridges, and I hoped not Red-legs, and they weren't, they were Greys.  For once they did not fly off, but just slowly walked away from me, glancing back every so often to check where I was.

They are really beautiful birds, that probably just get dismissed as brown partridges in the same way a female pheasant looks dull.  The rusty feathers on the head contrast wonderfully with the slate grey neck and chest feathers that give the bird it's name, while the brown streaks on the wings and flanks  really stand out.

There were six birds in the covey, and they moved along the edge of the field going in and out from the longer grass to the field.  As you can see the birds all have rings on their legs and are part of the project being run by the Rotherfield Estate and the Game Conservancy.  It is lovely to see these native birds once again.

Leaving the partridges I went back to check the mystery bird, but it hadn't moved and didn't look like it was going to.  Skylark and Linnet flocks continued to fly around the field, and it seemed to show no interest at all in these, and I began to wonder if it was a feral pigeon, but it seemed unlikely.  In the end I had to leave it, and I made my way back down the road.

The Kestrel had returned to the tree, but there was still no sign of the owls.  As I made my way to the farm buildings I could hear some strange calls from across the field.  Scanning across i found another covey of Grey Partridge

The grey partridge is one of Great Britain's most endangered species, and is in serious decline, mainly on open grassland and arable farmland.  Reasons for the decline are considered to be varied, a combination of a break in the food chain caused by the increased use of insecticides and herbicides, killing the insects that are vital for the young birds diet, and as a result the young become vulnerable to predators as they have to travel further to find food.  Intensive farming has led to fewer suitable nesting sites for instance hedgerows and other habitats have been destroyed or degraded causing increased predation.  Wet weather over the last decades during late spring has caused death to the young birds, but the most likely cause could be the reduction in spring-sown cereals, which cause a loss in the winter of stubble fields that would be available as a food source.

Although the shooting of grey partridge can continue, only a maximum of 25% of the population can be shot, but only when it is considered the partridge population can sustain it.

I managed to count 18 birds in the field, although this group of 10 seemed to be the most settled with the other birds running around calling by the edge of the hedgerow.

This meant that I had seen 24 Grey Partridges on the farm, a record count for me and not a pear tree in sight!

I then drove round to the pond, flushing two Red-legged Partridges along Lyeway.  From the pond I walked to Old Down Wood and and had to wade through some deep puddles as I entered.  The Long-tailed Tits were in their usual place, calling loudly, and a Mistle Thrush could be heard over by the cottage.  However a little deeper into the wood and it went quiet. 

I walked round to the larches by the the Kitwood footpath, and just stood and listened.  A few Goldcrests were about, so I decided to "pish" and very soon there was some Great Tits and a Nuthatch calling.  These were joined by a Great Spotted Woodpecker, but they were all very high in the trees, and extremely mobile.  Eventually I found what I was looking for, high at the top of the larches feeding on the cones was a flock of seven Crossbills.  They were very distant but the red of the males stands out against what was now an overcast sky.

I made my way back to the car, negotiating my way through some very muddy patches.  At the pond a single Moorhen made its way across the water, speeding up as usual when it saw me.  I wonder why they are spooked so easily here, maybe they are chased by dogs.  The sun had now gone, and the clouds were threatening rain again.  The window of dry weather was closing so I made my way home, hoping that there might be a chance to get out again before Christmas.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

20th December - I'm Not Proud to Say

The weather has been absolutely horrendous, and the birds have been hiding away, I am hoping that there will be a break that allows me to get out to see if anything different is about before the end of the year.

I am proud to say though that one of my photographs has been chosen as "Photo of the Month" in the BBC Wildlife magazine.  The picture is of the Purple Throated Mountaingem taken in Costa Rica this year.  The actual picture is the second one into this post on the visit to Bajos del Toro.  If you don't get chance to read the magazine, try it as it is one of the best.

Fingers crossed for the weekend.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

15th December - I'm Up In The Woods

The cold weather has now been replaced with milder conditions, but in order to get this, we did endure some heavy rain on Friday.  With it warmer though the birds seem to have abandoned the garden for now, there was a few Blue Tits around this morning, and a Blackbird devoured an apple but that was about all.

We decided to go out in the morning, and as we stepped out the back door I noticed a large bird over Lymington Bottom, and as it drifted along lazily I realised it was a Red Kite.  By the time I got the camera up it had drifted further away and all I managed to get was another silhouette of a bird of prey.

The sun was extremely weak, but at least it was out, as we walked down Lymington Rise I could hear starlings calling.  Looking up they were at the top of the tree, enjoying the early morning sun, and taking the chance to sing, and preen.

Last weekend the only thrush I had not been able to find was the Mistle Thrush, but as we came along Brislands by the cemetery one flew up on to the branch above us.  They are deceptively large birds, and on many occasions I have seen one and thought it might be a small falcon only to realise it was just a thrush.  This one watched us for a while, then flew off.

The horse field was once again full of Blackbirds,  I counted them today, and was amazed to find that there were 35 feeding on the paddock.  There was also a group of 16 Redwing, and a lone Song Thrush, but no Fieldfare.  The Redwings were more photogenic though.

The light coming across Brislands changes the appearance, the cold weather has not yet killed off the grasses and they still look quite lush along the edge of the verge

Nuthatch were calling from the trees, and this individual seemed to be taking an interest in the old Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest in the ash tree.  During the spring I was able to witness some battles between the two, perhaps they think if they get in early they can claim squatters rights.

We walked into the woods, and then took the main path down towards the paddocks, it was very quiet, but still extremely muddy.  We didn't go all the way to the west end, but paused by the southern perimeter path to look out across the fields.  Nothing much was happening, there was very few corvids, and no gulls at all in the fields.  The weak sunshine though lit up the paddocks and Andrews Lane away in the distance.

There was hardly any bird calls as we made our way around the path, and through the mud.  Every so often a Great Tit would  call, and a Wren would show, but that was about it, it was very much like the garden.  We crossed the main path and continued around the outside.  A few Long-tailed Tits called, and we stopped to wait and see if anything else would go through.  In amongst the Blue and Great Tits I found a pair of Marsh Tits, and after some chasing just managed to get a photo of one high in the trees.

The overnight rain had left drops of water on the tree branches and stumps, and with the low sun, they would sparkle like little gems.  If you got close you could also see the woods refracted in the water droplets, and along with the sunshine they would provide an nice composition.

The trees are now all bare, and looking up against the blue sky some of the silver birch look quite lovely, with the white bark at the bottom stretching to the darker branches against the sky.

One fallen birch bough was covered in a fungus.  This was called Turkey Tail because of the similarity in colour, and the way it fans out like the tail of a turkey, once again the light helped to enhance the scene.

We walked back into the wood, and checked for the owl, that wasn't there.  I took the chance to replace the card in the camera trap.  I had managed to catch a badger but it only showed it's back as it walked past the camera.  A few deer were also on it, but nothing else.  I could hear crossbill calling but was not able to find them.

We walked around the outside of the north path to the east, and came out at the Gradwell footpath.  Once again I took the chance to get a shot of the four trees.

Where the farmer decided to plough the footpath and not replace it, there were now several tracks appearing as people decided on their own paths, serve him right!

As we walked towards Gradwell, I heard chipping calls from above us.  At first I thought they might be Waxwings, but as they flew on I realised they were more crossbills heading for Old Down.

Along Brislands in the hedge there was a nuthatch calling.  When we looked closer we found that there wasn't just one but three in the hedge.  They continued to call loudly at each other until one flew off.  The other two kept their distance from each other, while still calling out.  This one would call while holding its head high, as if to show off the orange belly.

On the wall of the cottages at the bottom of Brislands are some pyracantha trees.  They are covered with berries which is a rare sight this winter.  They stand out very brightly so I will continue to keep an eye on them, who knows what will be interested in them.