It has been awhile I know, but we are back from our travels, more of which will be given when I finally finish processing the photographs. Today provided the opportunity to get out and see if anything has changed since we have been away. The trees don’t look any different with hardly any sign of leaves coming out, but as I walked down Lymington Rise I noticed a large carpet of Lesser Celandine at the bottom, very much a welcome sight, if not a little late.
I walked up Brislands towards Old Down Wood, as I passed the recreation ground I heard my first singing Chiffchaff of the year, but I couldn’t find the bird. The horse paddock was empty, with no sign of the thrushes that had been present at the end of March. Ash dieback disease is a concern for this year, so as I passed the ash trees along Brislands I had a look at the buds. For now these seem to be OK.
There were more Celandines at the junction of Brislands and Gradwell, but as I paused to look I heard a familiar song above me, and looking up I found the owner on the wires. My first Swallow of the year, last year the first one was on the 15th April, so pretty much the same. There was in fact two birds, the other flying around while this on quite happily sang away on the wire.
Once I came past the houses and the lane opened out into the fields I could hear Skylark singing from both sides. As well as the Celandines here there was also many patches of Wood Anemones. It is interesting as to why these are found here, perhaps at one stage the hedgerow was a lot taller and thicker, but now these delicate white flowers enjoy the full sun. Once the sun moves off the flowers the petals close.
The fields had changed, they were no longer the brown lifeless patches of March, but were now showing the light green shoots that in the evening sunshine provides a lovely pattern away to the distance. As I approached the footpath into Old Down, I noticed a Red-legged Partridge scurrying across the field. I decided to walk around to the field to get closer, and as I did it ran away faster, they never seem to want to fly.
There is still no visible sign of the footpath across the field, so I decided to walk out, mainly to see if there were any more hirundines around. The field was a lot dryer than the last time I had walked out here. All I could find were singing Skylarks, so I headed back. As I walked up to the opening I noticed a small bird fly up from the puddle and into the hedge. A closer look revealed a male Blackcap the first this year away from the garden.
I walked into Old Down half expecting to hear Chiffchaff, but all that was singing was a Robin. It wasn’t until I reached the turn off for the northern perimeter that I did hear one burst into a brief song, after which I could hear another bird call from behind me. I managed to locate the first bird at the top of a willow tree. As I did so it started to sing again, but was also quite mobile, and eventually it flew off.
As I walked around the perimeter I heard another 3 singing Chiffchaffs making a total of 5 so far in the wood. The floor of the wood is covered with Bluebell shoots, by this time last year I was probably becoming a bore with the many pictures taken of the Bluebells, but this year there isn’t any sign of blue amongst them, I would imagine we will not see the beauty of these flowers until early May, but I do think the show could be something special this year.
Although the larger trees do not look as if the leaves are beginning to emerge, the Hazels along the edge of the wood do have signs of leaves arriving. In the evening sunshine against the brown background of the bark, the lime green leaves look lovely.
The path was almost dry, which made walking a lot easier, and as a result I didn’t have to look where I was treading, which was probably the reason why I was able to see this pair of Roe Deer. They stood perfectly still watching me as I got myself into a position where I could get a good view. The female looked quite large, so maybe there will be fawns soon.
I stepped out of the wood before the turn, and watched a pair of distant Buzzards circling over the Watercress Line, as I came around the corner I found a small group of Violets on the edge of the wood in the sunshine.
I scanned across the fields to the west, then made my way down through the Desmond Paddocks. As I walked down the paddock two Swallows skimmed across the grass beside me, and then headed off towards the west. I checked the posts and the hedges for any signs of migrants, but all was quiet. Looking back towards Old Down, I saw two Buzzards come for the wood, low at first but then picking up heights as they circled around the field. The evening sun picking out their underside as they turned into the light.
Looking back down the paddock a Rabbit sat motionless, probably as a result of the presence of the two Buzzards.
In the fields to the west you could hear the bleating of lambs, they were a way off in the distance, but nevertheless in the evening sunshine the white of their brand new woollen coats stood out from the ewes.
I walked back up the hill, and went back into the wood. I wanted to walk around the pond so I took the main footpath, and then walked around the western perimeter. The ground was still quite muddy here, but in one open patch I was pleased to find a nice clump of Primroses.
Great and Blue Tits were calling from the Larches, and there was at least one Nuthatch. I did wonder if I might come across the Willow Tits, but I didn’t even see a Marsh Tit. I walked out of the wood, and then made my way to the pond. A Yellowhammer sang for the wire, but as soon as I tried to get a look it was gone. The water in the pond was quite high, and there was a significant patch of duckweed in the middle, but on the edges I could see ripples in the water, so I went to get a closer look.
I had felt that I was likely to have missed the toads spawning this year, but as looking in the shallow water and around the vegetation there was hardly any toad spawn at all. There were Toads though, and they were spread about, mostly in pairs, and not the huge balls of toads we saw last year. There was some spawn ribbons in the water, but not to the same degree as we had seen last year.
I believe that the spawning has only just begun, which would make it about 5 weeks behind last year. In fact at this time last year I found tadpoles in the pond. As I watched the Toads two Chiffchaffs called from the trees, and one greener warbler led me a merry dance as I tried to see it in the hedge by the road, it may have been a Willow Warbler, but I could not be certain. A male Blackbird was foraging alongside a sun lit hedge; he probably has a nest with young close by, as I also saw a female carrying food by the road.
I then walked along the road, and took the footpath at Kitwood across the field and back into Old down, I wanted to see if my old friend was about, as it was a little late there was a chance he would not be there, but as I walked up to his tree, he looked down on me, watching my every move. I know the picture always looks the same, but I can’t resist taking it. Morris looked quite restful there, eyes half open, tolerating me.
Time was moving on and the sun was going down, As I came out of the wood I heard another two Chiffchaffs singing, and I made my way to the Gradwell path, and as I walked across the field swallows zipped past me. I counted 11 in total, and they spent the time flying low over the field, and then banking up and around me. It was very much like the last time I had seen them in October last year. It is wonderful to have them back.
As I walked towards Gradwell, alarm calls alerted me to a pair of Buzzards coming from just above the tree tops. They were struggling to get height, and as a result presented me with the opportunity to get some lovely shots.
As they tried to gain height they came quite close together in the air.
I left them drifting away towards Old Down, and then made my way home along Brislands. The birds were all singing, I could hear Chaffinch, Blackbird, and Robin, and as I started down the hill I could see a Song Thrush singing from the top of a conifer, throwing its head back as it delivered the notes.
It had been a lovely evening’s walk, and it was lovely to see that at last Spring was finally on its way. Yes it is nice to go travelling, but it is also so nice to be home.