Well the rain of the weekend has gone, but has been replaced by some of the coldest weather of the winter. On Monday the north-easterly wind was bitingly cold, dropping the air temperature considerably. I pity those reported Sand Martins and odd Swallow along the south coast, they must have had a big shock!
Tuesday afternoon the wind had eased and the sun was out. Late afternoon I went for a walk around Plain Farm in the hope that maybe the owls would at least show. I set off up the footpath onto the estate and noticed that there was a newly mounted Kestrel box on the small barn by the walled garden. From there I headed down the track towards the plantation and immediately flushed a Hare from the longer grass under a large oak tree. It shot off across the field, pausing once to look back at me.
Hares have not been so visible over the last few months so it was nice to see on in March, who knows I may be able to witness some Mad March Hare fighting, I missed the chance last year as I hadn't discovered them around here then.
I walked down the path towards the road with Pheasants calling from within the quarry. I crossed the road, and flushed a female pheasant from the hedge near the owl field. It was cold and quiet. What bird life there was was low down in the bushes, and consisted of Chaffinches and Blackbirds.
As I came past the farm buildings I looked for the Kestrel in the dead tree, but eventually found it on the telegraph post. As i approached to get a closer shot it flew off and headed across the filed to another barn. It landed on the roof, and below it was another Kestrel nest box. So who knows we may see the patter of tiny wings this summer. It will be interesting if the Barn Owls nest as well, as the two species are known to compete for the same prey, the Kestrel usually lying in ambush to take prey from the Barn Owl.
I walked on and flushed a pair of Grey Partridge from beside the road, they flew off calling as usual and settled into the hedge on the far side of the field.
As usual I stopped to scan the tree in the filed for Little Owl, and as usual there was no sign of anything resembling a Little Owl. Everything was seemingly perfect, cold, dusk, and near to breeding season, but they just do not seem to want to conform.
I walked on down the road, pausing to check the fields on both sides. There were plenty of Wood Pigeon about, and I flushed a large group from under the game feeders. Looking to the north on the other side, I found two hare feeding on the edge of the filed away in the distance. It has been a long time since I have seen more than a single Hare, so things are definitely looking up.
All along the hedge there was quick views of small birds darting in and out amongst the branches, but as I reached the cottages I was surprised to hear a Yellowhammer in full song. The cold weather not seemingly reducing his endeavour. In the dead trees around the small copse I counted five Yellowhammer and again a collection of Chaffinches and Blackbirds.
I walked the footpath from the cottages, there was still snow lying under the hedges, where presumably it had been blown by the wind. We did not get a lot of snow but it was very dry and easily blown about. A Sparrowhawk flew past me, and quickly disappeared, and when I reached the bottom of the path a flock of about 20 Fieldfare flew over calling. I checked the field to the north, nothing but a lone male Pheasant, and then rather than walk to the lane, I carried on around the edge of the field into Winchester Wood. I was on another search for the other elusive resident around here, the Woodcock.
On the edge of the wood there was plenty of contact calls from Great and Blue Tits, and these quickly changed to alarm calls as another Sparrowhawk shot through the bushes. This is a good time of day for them as the small song birds go to roost, they hunt low and scare them out of their roosts and then pick them off.
Another Hare came out of the grass in front of me and off into the wood. Four on the day the best since June last year. I tramped though the wood hoping to flush something but there was nothing, it was quiet cold and getting dark.
I made my way back to the car at the Mountains Plantation and as I did the setting sun came from behind the clouds and lit up the trees along the ridge. As I recall the sun this time last year when it was distinctively warmer seemed a much stronger light, but with the cold wind today it still shed a weak shadow.
Looking back up to the estate the large oak tree was also lit up, and so after I took this picture a Buzzard called and drifted away to the east.
I drove back to Plain Farm to see if the Barn Owl would appear, while I waited for dusk, I walked back to the Little Owl tree, where the Kestrel was happy to show for me, but as usual no sign of the Little Owls.
Back at the road my wait for the Barn Owl was in vain, it didn't show, perhaps it roosted somewhere else today. It was now very cold, but the wind had dropped. The forecast for the rest of the week was for it to get warmer slowly, with rain at the weekend. The winds go around the the south, so maybe there might be a hint of migrants arriving. Everything seems to be about two to three weeks later than last year though. I need Spring to come soon please.