Friday was the meteorological first day of Spring, But I don't think anyone told the weather. The week has been cold, and where I was in Germany covered in some deep snow. Saturday afternoon though saw the sun come out, and I was hopeful that maybe we might have a good day on Sunday, but it wasn't to be. It was grey and cold with a biting north easterly wind, and as we set out we could tell that there wasn't going to be much about today.
Before we left I checked on what was about this time last year. There were flowering Aconites along Brislands, but as we walked down the lane today everywhere looked cold and quite brown. No signs of any flowers emerging just yet. However to put things in perspective on the 4th March last year we had snow showers.
A Buzzard flew along side the lane, and up into the nuthatch ash tree. As usual it flew off as we got closer, but in doing so flew past us. It was gloomy so it was difficult to get some perfect shots but these were the best.
A little further on there was a group of Yellowhammers sitting at the top of one of the Four Trees. Their yellow plumage standing out on a dull cold day.
We walked down the lane, and a singing Skylark could just be heard over the fields, it was though very quiet. At the farm buildings the House Sparrows had gone. I am not sure where over 150 sparrows would go to but there was no sign of them any where. In the distant trees there was flock of about 40 Fieldfare, but they flew off as we approached and headed towards Old Down.
We turned up the lane towards Ropley. A few Common Gulls were over the field, but nothing else. We took the footpath towards Old Down. The wind picking up as we walked across the field it was very cold.
In the sheep field near to the path a pair of Mistle Thrushes were feeding amongst the cast off sheep wool. One flew off into the tree, but its mate was a lot braver and stayed in the field.
We walked down through the paddocks which today only had the sheep, the Fieldfare and Redwings were gone, and there was no sign of any Lapwing. It has been a while since we walked up Andrews Lane, so today we decided to give it a go. The sides of the lane were covered in Snow Drops, and there were small signs of Primrose leaves.
At the top of the lane, the hedge faces south, and last year this was a good butterfly spot early in the season. There were no butterflies today it was too cold, but there were signs that just maybe things are beginning to change. The bank is covered in Periwinkle, and there was a few purple flowers emerging amongst the snow drops.
Rather than take the walk down Lye Way, we followed the footpath back to Swelling Hill. In the fields to the west we found the Fieldfare. While not as many as last week there was a large flock feeding on the grass, accompanied by Starling, Blackbirds, and the odd Redwing.
At the end of the footpath we went along the road to the pond. We walked around it checking to see if there was any frog or toad activity. Last year the toads were seen spawning on the 11th, only a week away, but this year the pond looked cold and very quiet. There was no sign of anything wanting to get up to anything.
In the trees by the reeds Helen found a Treecreeper and a Marsh Tit, the Marsh Tit was exploring the Lichen on the branches.
Looking at this picture and the one I took last week of the possible Willow Tit, you can see a difference in the throat bib. I will go back where there is a chance the bird will sing. It is much too cold right now.
The cold though does not seem to have deterred the Chaffinches from singing. Every so often we would hear one trundle out their song. The Greenfinches too were warming up for spring, with one or two performing the fluttering display flight.
From the pond we walked along Kitwood. The wind blew strongly along the lane, coming across the open fields. As we passed one of the hedges a single pheasant was sitting on the edge of the field. Helen said I was getting desperate for material for todays's blog as it was so quiet, but I quite like this scene.
We walked around to Willis Lane, and then up the footpath towards Garthowen. At the gardens there was quiet a collection of Greenfinches and Goldfinches, all singing from the trees. The birds are still favouring staying around the houses and gardens where there is more chance of food.
The Rooks were busy at the rookery, and were accompanied by the Jackdaws. The Jackdaws seem to hang around the rookeries even when the Rooks start nesting. Maybe they benefit from the Rooks ability to locate food sites, I can't think of any other reason.
The Rooks are now in repair mode and birds can be seen flying around with twigs in their beaks putting the finishing touches to the nests that were probably damaged during some of the summer and winter storms. This individual was calling out to its mate as it flew around the nest.
From the rookery we walked across the field to Blackberry and home. The sun did evenyually come out late afternoon, but the temperature did not change. The signs are that the week will become gradually warmer, lets hope that with the warmth the flowers and insects start to arrive.
I have now loaded the Norfolk trip on the "Away Blog" here.