Winter decided this week to remind us that it has not left us yet with a return to cold winds and snow flurries at the end of the week after sunshine and signs of spring at the start. We had a weekend away in Norfolk, details of which I will post soon, but I had the chance Sunday afternoon when we got back to take a walk around the patch.
With the return of the bitterly cold weather around the middle of the week, a Grey Heron was once again patrolling the area, not doubt in search of an unfrozen garden pond. As I walked along Lymington Bottom and then up Brislands it was very quiet. By the reserve site, a Bullfinch called and I walked up on to the open ground to see if I could find it. The land has been cleared a bit, and it looks like they will be starting work here soon.
The Bullfinch was not being cooperative so I continued up the lane. At the horse paddock I expected there to be a few thrushes, but there was nothing, not even a Blackbird. The only thing I could find was this Rabbit sitting by the side of the field.
I was heading for Old Down Wood, and as I came out of the cover of the trees a snow flurry started. Looking across the field, it had been lightly ploughed, and had attracted one or two Rooks. They appeared to be arguing with each other, and little spats would start up and one or two would fly off, circle around and then return to the filed somewhere else.
The work in the field was also attracting the attention of some gulls, and a couple of adult Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew over circled the filed, but then continued on their way.
The ground in Old Down was frozen, and it was quite pleasant to walk along the paths without slipping and constantly checking where to put your feet. I was in two minds where to actually walk, but as I reached the cross roads I decided to go left and away to the larches. It was very quiet, and I would stop every so often to see if there was anything calling. I would occasionally hear a blue tit, or the weak call of a Goldcrest but other than that nothing.
I decided to see if the owl had returned. On our last visit there had been signs but nobody home, today though there was someone home. As I approached the tree I disturbed a lone Roe Deer, that shot off away into the middle of the wood. The Tawny Owl took on the familiar stance of slowly turning its head and then opening its eyes to look at me. I suspect that it has a partner nearby sitting on eggs. I didn't manage to find them last year, so I hope this year is more successful. The picture below looks like all the others I have taken of this bird, it was there today believe me!
I have decided to name him Morris, I am sure both of them will be pleased. The last walk I had with him was to try and see this owl last May, we unfortunately didn't see him, which was disappointing as Morris was determined to make the walk into the wood regardless of whether it was going to tire him. Sorry Morris but I prefer owls to seagulls.
I left the owl, and walked along a path around to the perimeter, at last there was some activity in the trees, and I found a small group of tits and goldcrests in the pine trees. As I searched for them I also heard Crossbills chipping above me, and I looked up to see a flock of 25 flying away in the direction of the pond. Turning my attention back to the wood I found a Treecreeper searching through the moss on the trunk of a tree right in front of me.
It would make its way up the tree, and then drop to the base of another and start the process all over again.
I made my way around the path to the main track, and then headed back towards the crossroads again. I then decided to walk to the west end and took a short track to the perimeter. At the fence I looked out over the fields, it was cold and again there was some snow in the air. Away over the fields smoke from the houses drifted up into the air.
A group of Long-tailed Tits entertained me for awhile, and as they moved off I noticed another tit in the trees, it called a few times, with a nasal buzz, and as I managed to find it I could see it wasn't a Great Tit. The throat bib was quite large for once and I think this may be a Willow Tit, but I couldn't be sure as it was dark. I managed to get some photos and this one is the clearest after enhancement.
I finally started to make my way towards the west end, and paused to check the wild Daffodils, they are still in bud, and do not look like flowering just yet. I scanned across the paddocks once again, and this time was amazed to find some quite large flocks of Thrushes in amongst the sheep. As well as the thrushes, there was also a good sized flock of Lapwing. I made my way down the path to get closer, and then walked to the fence to get a better view. The thrushes were still there, the majority being Fieldfare, the rest Redwing. The Lapwing though had moved, and I had to scan around. I found them again in another field, and counted 43 in total, my largest count
I moved again to see if I could get closer. But when I came into an opening they had gone, I scanned around and found the flock flying off towards the west, I couldn't see anything that would have disturbed them, and I was quite away from them so they were obviously very nervous.
It was very difficult to be able to show the quite incredible number of Filedfare in the fields, they seemed to be everywhere and in eavery field. This gives some idea.
It was difficult to count them all, but by counting groups, and using that to estimate the numbers I settled on a conservative count of around 500 Fieldfare, and 200 Redwing. They were also quite flighty, and would move between each field, the "chak-chak" calls being heard as they set off.
I scanned all the fields for the Lapwing again, and found a small group amongst the sheep. I had hoped there might be a few Golden Plover, but my lucjk today didn't extend that far. Finally I left the paddocks and returned to the wood. It was much darker now, and the woods were silent. I came out at Gradwell and walked the footpath to Lymington Bottom. There was nothing in the fields or around the owl box.
The wind had picked up again, and I made my way briskly home, spring starts on Friday, I hope someone has told the weather!.