As we came around Lymington Rise I noticed a Jackdaw feeding on something on a roof. In the sunlight they are quite gorgeous birds, with slate grey neck, and the lovely sky blue eyes
We walked up Brislands, pausing to check the thrushes in the horse paddock, and also to see if we could locate the calling Nuthatch. The Nuthatch played hard to get, but as we looked up into the Ash Tree the branches formed a lovely scene against the blue sky.
There are quite a few Ash trees along Brislands Lane, I wonder if they are infected with the fungus, we shall have to wait until the spring to find out.
We continued down the lane, past the large beech trees that usually in the winter hold many finches and thrushes. This year though there was a Robin singing, and a few Blackbirds feeding in the leaf litter but that was it. As with many places around the patch the birds seem to have not turned up this winter.
One feature we have noticed though has been the amount of moss that has appeared on the trees and stumps. This upright branch was covered and created a nice scene.
At the farm buildings there was a sizeable flock of House Sparrows in the hedge, but as we walked past they just seemed to disappear. A Pied Wagtail flew around the roof of the barn, and a small flock of gulls drifted over heading towards the north. They were mostly Black-headed Gulls.
A little further on Helen found a group of Red-legged Partridges in the field. We had to peer through the hedge to see them, and as usual they sensed us and scuttled away through the stubble.
We turned up the lane towards Ropley, and decided to take the footpath towards Old Down Wood. The path was a little sticky but walkable, and it was nice to get off the tarmac. In the fields alongside the path there were more gulls feeding amongst the sheep. As well as Black-headed Gulls, there was also a few Common Gulls, and a third year Herring Gull.
The sunshine was lighting up the wood, and in an area where the edge was open the sun was getting all the way into the wood creating a nice image of brightly lit branches.
Behind us we could hear Buzzards calling, but were unable to see them, but as we turned back two appeared above the wood, and proceeded to soar together over the trees. They would gain height, then draw their wings in and fall only to pull out and swoop back up again.
We walked down through the paddocks after trying unsuccessfully to locate a calling Fieldfare by the style. Looking over towards Andrews Lane there were three buzzards flying around the field, and they were calling to each other so maybe they were last summer's youngsters yet to leave the parents.
We walked up Swelling Hill, stopping to watch the small birds in the trees, once again it seemed the birds were to be found where there was settlements and probably feeders. The banks of the lane were covered with emerging Snow Drops, and in one sunlit patch we found a group that were in bloom. This is about 14 days earlier than last year.
One feature of the morning again was the song of the Robin, they seem to be everywhere right now. This individual was sitting in a conifer, and was lit up by the winter sun, and was really pouring out his notes.
After the Robin we heard plenty of Nuthatchs too this one was working its way along the lichen covered branch busily inspecting every little crevice and hammering away at the broken branches.
We walked up the hill through the chalk cutting, and in the leaf litter there were quite a few Lords and Ladies leaves making their way out. It seems early to find them, but last year we were not looking for them at this time, so I am not sure if they are early or its just normal to see them now.
We decided not to walk around the pond, as it looked quite wet, but we did pause to see this Moorhen swimming away from us to hide itself away in the woods at the back of the pond. They are very nervous here, paddling off at the slightest sign of anyone, I can only assume it has something to do with dogs.
Redwings can be found all over the place, the rutted horse paddocks proving to be a major attraction to them and all the thrushes.
As we walked along Kitwood Lane they could also be found sitting in the top of the trees alongside the fields.
Last week we had found the snow drop shoots at the bottom of Kitwood, and wondered if they would flower by this weekend. There are still a lot of emerging shoots, but there was also some in flower. This spot does not get the sun like the bank along Swelling Hill, so it is a good sign of the mild weather we have been having.
We headed up Willis Lane, and paused again to look up into the trees to find another calling Nuthatch. We have wondered why we feel quite stiff after these walks, maybe its because we spend so much time looking up into the trees. This Nuthatch was just like the others, busily moving all over the branch checking every millimetre. They turn upside down and move very quickly while also taking the time to check around them for predators. I love the sideways picture here, I haven't turned the image this is how it moved.
After the nuthatch there was very little else as we made our way up Willis Lane, and then along Telegraph Lane. The trig point field was quiet with a few crows in the middle. The Rooks and Jackdaws were gathering in the trees around the garden of the large houses. I couldn't see what the attraction was but where they were perched in the trees they were picked out by the sunshine.
We made our way down Alton Lane, specifically to check the rookeries. The weather seems to have destroyed a lot of nests at the Garthowen rookery, there were a few Rooks about, but no sign of them looking to start work. At the nursery rookery the nests seem to have survived a little better, but there was not the number of nests present last spring.
In the fields with the sheep were some more gulls, this time I could only find Common and Black-headed Gulls.
We headed home along Gradwell, and then Brislands hoping to have the lane lit up by the winter sun, but we were foiled by the clouds. Magpies had been seen in all over the fields, but I am only allowed to publish any photographs where I have managed to capture two birds in the same view. With the threat of bad weather coming I didn't want to tempt fate and have one for sorrow, so here are a pair of a much maligned bird.