The forecast for the weekend looked awful, and the only opportunity to get out was on Friday afternoon. The garden has been quiet all week, but with the colder weather over the weekend there was some activity. The most notable being four Robins in the garden. There does seem to be a pair together now, as I saw two Robins feeding together on the feeder. But two were clearly squaring up to each other in the trees, with both of them pushing their red breasts out at each other before one backed down.
Any way back to Friday, it had been sunny all morning, but as the afternoon dragged on the clouds rolled in. It was cold though, and there was the threat of snow in the air. I started off at the bottom of the road leading to Plain Farm. Once again there was little activity around the drying barns, the Chaffinches, and Sparrows seem to have moved on. I walked up the road, and took the time again to scan the tree, as usual there was nothing. I walked past the barn and paused to scan the fields. As I looked across I flushed a Hare from the long grass, and it set off across the field.
As I followed it across the field I noticed some brown lumps amongst the green. A closer look revealed these lumps to be birds, and little more detailed look revealed them to be Redwings. I counted 47 in the field, which is the largest count so far this year. This photograph, while not very good, shows you what I could see.
As I walked down the footpath, I flushed some partridges. I never saw them, just heard them as they flew off behind the hedge. If I had to guess I would have said they were Greys, as they are usually here. I walked to the field, and as I came into the open, a Buzzard drifted across the field, and away over the trees of Winchester Wood.
I had seen the Kestrel earlier on the telegraph poles, but it was quite flighty and avoided the camera. I scanned the field and noticed a couple of male pheasants squaring up to each other. They were quite a way off, but i took particular notice because one was almost Black. It reminded me of the blue pheasant we had seen in Wales last year. They never actually fought, the black one backing off into the wood.
The sun had begun to peak through the clouds once again and looking back across the fields towards the cottages at the bottom of the lane, the light was producing a lovely winter's scene, it would have been much better with a Hen Harrier in it!
Walking along Charlwood Lane there seemed to be Yellowhammers everywhere. They were on the wires and in the hedgerow. The males were brightening up a dull afternoon as they flew from wire to hedge.
I did look twice at this one, because it looked quite dull and I thought it might have been something else, but it turned out to be a female Yellowhammer.
The sun was low now, and was picking out the larches and beeches in Dogford Wood. Contrasted against the lush green of the field it made for another lovely view.
Walking past the woods I would hear different calls coming from the trees and bushes. My first reaction is Great Tit, then it calls again, and again, and I think "is it? I should check just in case", and I do and it is of course a Great Tit. They have many varied calls, and some can be quite unusual.
A little further along Lye Way I stopped again to check the fields and trees in the distance and was amazed to see the number of Wood Pigeon in the trees. I would estimate there must have been thousands. You can see them here a little grey dots.
They were moving from the trees to the field, and there must have been the same number feeding on the ground. They have to be the most numerous bird around here, they were not phased by the bird scarer that kept firing, they didn't move at all.
It was sunset yet, but it was quite gloomy. I made my way up the footpath to the estate, pausing to scan the fields. A covey of Red-Legged Partridge scurried across the path, and I could hear Buzzards calling. I walked to the quarry, and then down the path to the car. Scanning across the fields I saw a creamy white shape lying by the side of the hedge. I couldn't make out what it was, and hoped it wasn't what I thought it could be, the Barn Owl. I walked up the road to see if I could see it better. I don't know what made me turn around but I did to see the Barn Owl flying across the far field. I stopped, tried a few photos but the light was poor. I changed the ISO setting and tried again as it flew towards me with that wonderful gliding silent flight.
As you can see it is a very grainy picture, but no matter, what a beautiful bird. It flew into the field, and I managed to get another shot as it flew past me.
It flew around the field like a ghost in the gloom, suddenly it flew up and dropped to the ground. Stayed there for a while, and I could see it looking around with its wings out stretched on the grass.
Finally it flew up, and made its way into the corner of the field on a fence. I took a few shots but it was very dark. As I watched it I could see it was swallowing as it threw the head back in the characteristic way. Once it had swallowed what ever it had caught it stayed on the fence. When I got home I found that I had managed to capture some very grainy pictures of it holding what looks like a vole.
It sat for quite a while, and I alternated between camera and binoculars. This was the best I could get.
Finally it flew off and away around the back of the farm building. As a result of finding the owl, I thought I would drive up the lane to see if I could now find the Little Owl, but as usual no luck. The Grey Partridge were calling from the field though and they sounded quite scary.
The Friday window had proved to be quite successful after all, and with the bad weekend weather it was welcome.