Rain overnight, but a clear sky in the morning, and a cold north wind. Katie had sent me a text to say that she had seen the Barn Owl at Plain Farm around 6.30, so I decided to start there and search the area.
When I arrived the light was wonderful, it was picking out the green shoots in the fields, and highlighting the moss on the tree branches.
I walked up the hill and then along the footpath towards the Rotherfield Park. In the long grass Yellowhammers called while keeping well out of sight, a few would fly up and head across to the Holly trees, but they didn't show for long. As I walked along the path I flushed a covey of ten Red legged Partridges, and the scurried across the muddy field.
There was quite a bit of activity in the trees and amongst the holly. Great Tits could be heard calling, and Blue Tits were flying back and forth at the top of the trees. I had read in the week that Chaffinches start to sing about now, and this was confirmed to me as one sang a sub song from the top of a larch tree. It didn't quite manage the full run up and bowl, abut it was nearly there!
I walked down past the quarry, and looked across the field, normal service has been resumed, after the lack of Wood Pigeons last week, they had returned and a large flock were feeding in the middle of the field.
As I came down the hill and started to cross the road, something spooked them and they flew across the road and over my head, there must have been about 300, and I could hear the sound of their wings as they flew over my head.
As I walked up the road to the farm I flushed a male Sparrowhawk from a tree and it flew off to the usual alarm calls from the small birds. Unusually there was not much activity around the drying barns, a few Chaffinches called and there was also a few House Sparrows, but nothing like the numbers I have seen here before.
Lone trees look spectacular in full leaf, and with autumn colour, but I think they look dramatic in the winter when they have bare branches that show the splendour of their shape and size. This Oak looks amazing against the blue sky and wispy white clouds.
I always check the trees from a distance to see if there is any sign of a Little Owl. There wasn't but I did pick up a Buzzard perched in the bush to the right of the tree.
A Kestrel flew across the road and perched on the wires, a little further on I flushed a covey of 12 Grey Partridges, they flew off, and I couldn't find them again.
At the end of the footpath I scanned across the field, and found a large flock of Rooks and Jackdaws. At first they were feeding, but then they started to get spooked, and started to fly around.
Eventually they all left the ground and flew off into the trees at the back of the wood, and stayed there.
As I watched them I heard a Green Woodpecker call from behind me, I turned to see it fly across the field, and perch up on a telegraph pole.
It explored the pole, and then flew off to the next one, and after that the next one again. I wonder if there is an attraction or it just uses them for a rest?
I walked along the road to the houses where there was quite a bit of activity. The sun was obviously encouraging the songbirds, and as well as the Chaffinches and Greta Tits a Greenfinch sang its ZZZZZ call from the top of a tree, I watched to see if it flew around in the fluttering display flight, but it decided that was a bit too much at the moment,
A Blue Tit posed for me nicely in a tree by the side of the road.
I wanted to check Winchester Wood for Woodcock, and spent some time following the trails, there was no sign of Woodcock, and hardly any bird life at all. I did disturb a lone Hare, and there were Roe Deer everywhere, but that was all. The trees did look nice though with the sunlight streaming through them.
I wondered if all the woods were so quiet, so I stopped of to walk through Dogford.. It was, but again the the trees were providing a lovely scene.
The trail at the end of Dogford wood almost reaches the Kitwood footpath, all I had to do was climb the fence and gate and I was on it. Looking across the field, the pylons once again looked quite spectacular.
From the wood I drove up to the pond and parked, I was going to look in Old Down, but as I got out of the car once again I disturbed the Moorhens on the pond, and they were off.
The walk into Old Down was treacherous, with mud and standing water, but once in the perimeter path was relatively dry. There was as well bird calls, but they were mainly tits. A Treecreeper appeared in front of me, but quickly disappeared to the other side of the trunk. A little further on I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and it flew up into the larch in front of me.
There were more woodpecker calls in the trees, and I watched a pair fighting, and chasing each other off. There was some drumming, but I think that was more about looking for food than display.
Along with the woodpeckers, I watched a pair of Grey Squirrels chasing each other through the small branches at the top of the larches.
I stood still for a while listening and hoping there would be some finches, but I heard nothing. I don't know where they have gone, there isn't even any Goldfinches now, they seem to have left for the gardens, and the bird feeders.
As I stood there I noticed some movement low in the bramble. As I picked the bird up I noticed a black cap. and grey brown back. I have seen Willow Tit here, and I hoped.
But as it turned around I could see the back of the neck was light, and the bib under the beak was quite small. If this had been a Willow Tit the back of the neck would almost certainly been the same colour as the back, and the bib larger and more of a distinct triangle. It was a Marsh Tit, and just to confirm it called at me.
I had seen quite a few Roe Deer to day, but as I made my way back to the main path I came eye to eye with one, and had my closest view. We watched each other for a while, then it was off through the bramble and bushes.
Despite the quiet of the wood, and the lack of birds there are signs of spring. The trees and bushes have green shoots, and on the ground the Bluebells are begining to push their way through the leaves and mud.
In the afternoon we went off to Portsmouth for some shopping, the journey home meant that we were coming past Plain Farm just after sunset, and we were rewarded with the wonderful sight of the Barn Owl flying around the field next to the road. We were able to pull over and watch it cross the road, and then fly around the filed on the other side, and then fly out of view into the wood by the farm buildings. No camera, but wonderful views, I think I may be seeing more this year, and hopefully with the camera.