Firstly Happy New Year everyone, and to welcome 2013 the sun came out and we were treated to a dry day. It was almost a pleasure driving back from Bristol this morning in the sun. When we arrived home it was too nice to sit around, so we both set off to walk around the lanes, the woods and fields are extremely muddy so we gave them a miss.
We headed up Reads Field, and then around the lane to Oak Green, from there we walked along Badger Close. At the end by the footpath I stopped as I heard a Bullfinch, and almost immediately a male flew across in front of us. It flew up into a tree that had quite a few birds in it, as they were using the feeders in the nearby garden. As I looked for the Bullfinch I picked up a bird with an orange chest. I couldn't believe it, a male Brambling. A great start to the year, but so frustrating that I couldn't have found a couple of days earlier.
It hung about with the Chaffinches, but then disappeared into the ivy, and despite searching and trying to get closer we couldn't find it again. We walked around the path to Fairfield Green, and it seemed the sun was cheering everyone up. A single Rook in a trees was calling and throwing its head back while spreading the tail, this is the courtship behaviour they show normally around the rookery, it is very early yet, but the weather has been very mild.
From here we set off along Telegraph Lane towards Hawthorn Lane. The fields were all very wet and muddy, and in places small pools had formed. Scanning the through the stubble in the field I found six male pheasants, but I am sure there were more. The light was getting quite golden now, and the fields and the trees looking across to the south looked very nice.
Turning away from the field, a largish bird flew up to the tree, and then almost immediately flew off. My first instincy was Jay, but as it flew off therer was no white rump, and it was dark grey, a Sparrowhawk. It was a shame it didn't stay and pose for me, one day I am sure. As we walked down Hawthorn the Great Tits could be heard calling from the hedges, they are not yet using the "teacher teacher" call, that will come as we head into February and March, for now the calls are varied, and make you look to just be sure it is a Great Tit.
We walked along to Kitwood Lane, checking for signs of Snow Drops but we couldn't find any. Wood Pigeons were everywhere, but you have to check them if you are not quite sure what it is. I picked up a bird coming from the hedge, flying low across the field, at first I thought it was another pigeon, but it was too small, it was also brown. As it flew away I could see the long bill, and the jerky twisting flight left me with no doubt, it was a Woodcock. Unbelievable, two new birds on the 1st January. It continued flying towards the south and out of sight. The only disappointment with that sighting was I couldn't get a picture, but I am sure there will b another chance somewhere.
At the farm there were a few small birds enjoying the sun. I took a few photos and it wasn't until I looked at them at home that I realised how nice this looks. It is not very often a female Chaffinch is the subject of a photograph, but the framing of this one through the branches makes it look something special.
We made our way down the road towards the school. In the field to the north I could see movement, and scanning across I could see many thrushes, mainly Fieldfare and Redwing, and quite a few Pied Wagtail. There was also a couple of Mistle Thrushes, and if you ever wondered which is the larger thrush, the Mistle of the Fieldfare then look at this. The Mistle Thrush stands out quite significantly on the right.
At the school we came across my current favourite subject, a Kestrel. This time perched in the fine branches of the tree caught by the lovely evening sunshine, I couldn't resist it.
By now the sun was quite low, and this was lighting up the lanes and hedges. This was the view looking down Gradwell, with the now almost obligatory puddle.
The birds were beginning to go to roost, and could be seen gathering in the trees. The Rooks normally gather together either in trees or on the ground before departing to their roost. This bird though was on its own sitting in the sun.
Brislands Lane was also being given the evening sunshine treatment, and looking down it as we passed the recreation it looked quite impressive, shame about the road signs though.
Even though the sun was now very low in the sky, if you could get to a high point, there was probably still some warmth available. We could hear this Great Spotted Woodpecker calling as we turned into Lymington Bottom. I finally located it at the top of the conifer.
On the other side of the road, Jackdaws were also getting as much sun as possible, this time perched at the top of the larches. The light picked out the lovely soft grey plumage on the neck, and the gorgeous blue eye.
So the New Year is off to a flying start with two birds I didn't see last year, and one, the Woodcock a new bird for the patch. On the subject of the patch, when I originally started this last year, I drew up boundaries that took in Chawton Park to the north of the Watercress Line. Both of us are not fans of the area so we decided today to move the boundaries to a similar area but south of the railway. This will take in some new footpaths that we will look forward to exploring, if it ever stops raining!