While not being spring like in temperature, it has at least been dry, and there has been sunshine over the last few days of April. The year ticks continued to arrive on Sunday, when a pair of Canada Geese flew over Oak Green Parade as I went to get a paper, they probably hang out at either Alton or Alresford, where there are sizeable ponds. I never thought I would get excited about Canada Geese.
As it was a sunny evening I set off in the hope that something else may have dropped in. The winds have been in the north, and a kind of blocker, but when they are from the south the birds seem to go straight through. Saturday’s Redstart though had returned the enthusiasm that good birds can turn up on the patch.
At the horse paddock on Brislands I stopped as usual to scan the area. Wood Pigeons and Blackbirds made up the bird community, but at the back of the field there was a female Roe Deer lying down, enjoying the sunshine. Not something you see all the time, maybe she was coming to the end of her pregnancy and wanted to rest.
As I approached the turn to Gradwell I saw a pair of Swallows flying around the field, from their behaviour it looks like this is the resident pair that nests in the horse shed.
Just past the turn to Gradwell on the right hand side, a pair of Bullfinches have taken a liking to the bird feeders in the front garden. I have been able to get some good views recently, but they are very mobile, and difficult to photograph. As I stopped I found the female, and then shortly afterwards the male appeared, and this time perched conveniently in an open position in the birch tree. The sun caught the crimson breast, and I was able to get one of the best pictures of a Bullfinch for a long time.
I intended to go through Old Down, but as always when I approached the footpath, I debated whether or not I should walk out onto the field. I could hear Skylarks singing, and I saw one take off from the ground, so decided to walk along my own footprints, that for me now served as the footpath across the field.
As I headed out towards the middle of the filed, I noticed two birds ahead of me. At first I thought they were more Skylarks, but the upright posture demanded a closer look. They were in fact a pair of male and female Wheatears. The male was closer to me, and I quickly took some pictures.
I then stood and watched them as they moved around feeding in the field, the female always keeping a further distance away from me. I did though manage to get a record shot of both of the birds close together.
I had two very brief views of Wheatear last year, one very distant with no picture last April on Lye Way, and an extremely distant bird unusually in a tree last Autumn on Plain Farm. It was then really good to have these lengthy excellent views. The short growth of the crops in the fields has proved beneficial, and an obvious attraction to them. The male always stayed close, but they began to move away from the “footpath” area. I took some final pictures as the sun came back out.
It is a huge field, and what are the odds of them turning up on the "footpath". I have gone on about the neglect of this footpath for some time, but if the path hadn't have been there, then I would have missed these very smart birds.
Leaving the Wheatears I walked back in my own footprints, and then into Old Down. I decided to walk around the edge of the wood, where the trees were in the sunshine. A Peacock butterfly flew up from the ground where it had been sunning itself, then almost immediately flew back down again. It looks quite a tatty individual, so probably suffered either last autumn or during hibernation.
There were several Peacocks alongside the wood, all taking the opportunity to sun on the dry soil, I counted 6 in total.
Leaving the Peacock I had a scratchy song from the copse by the mobile aerial, so I walked back. The bird kept singing, and I was certain it was Garden Warbler. When a Blackcap sang from behind me along the path to the wood, I was convinced that was what it was. I searched the area, but the bird had gone quiet and I couldn’t find it
I walked back around the north perimeter, and back into he sunshine. The White Flowering Dead Nettles have started to flower, and were proving an attraction to the bees. Several were visiting the newly opened flowers. This one is I think Bombus Humilis, the Brown Banded Carder Bee, but as I have said many times before, I find these very difficult to identify, and any help or encouragement is welcome.
I walked down through the paddocks, and four or five swallows flew north past me. There were lambs in the next field, and you get used to them bleating as you walk past, and then running away back to their mothers. As I walked along the path, I noticed one on its own, it had a black patch on its shoulder which was very distinctive. It of course was bleating, however as I got closer it started to run towards me, and continued to bleat. It came right up to the fence, and allowed me to stroke it, something I have never experienced before. As I finally walked off it continued to bleat at me as if it did not want me to go. An adult sheep seemed to return the bleats of the lamb, but the lamb made no effort at all to go back to the possible parent.
From the paddocks I walked up Andrews Lane. I checked the fields on either side but there was nothing moving, it was quiet. At the gate where you can look over the paddocks I was amazed to count 16 Magpies feeding in the field. This picture shows 8 of them.
At the top of the lane a Blackcap sang, and a little further on two Chiffchaff called from the Horse Chestnut tree, I managed to find one but it was very mobile. I walked around by the farm, and disturbed Yellowhammers and Chaffinches from the small pond. Along the lane where the verge faced the sun, there was plenty of flowers. Barren Strawberry, the smaller strawberry plants were in flower, and in places there were large clumps of Cuckoo Flower or Lady’s Smock.
As I photographed the flowers I heard a brief snatch of Whitethroat song, and then the alarm call. I stood and waited, and managed to hear it once again, but I couldn’t find it. I had found one here about the same time last year, this year the hedge has been cut and is a lot thinner, and you would have thought it would have been easier to find, but I had to give up. I think if I hadn’t seen those two on Saturday I might have searched a little harder.
Movement in the field caught my eye, and I saw a Hare slip out of view. I walked a little closer, and could see that the Hare had obviously seen me, and was trying to get as low behind the crops in the field as possible
It soon realised that this was not working as it could obviously see me so it reverted to the next best tactic, run off at speed
Time was pushing on, so I continued on down the lane, and then along Lymington Bottom and home. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes were singing, as they do at this time of year, but I have noticed that there does not seem to be so many singing Chaffinches. Over the last few years one has constantly sang by the house, but so far this year there has not been any sign of it. Maybe because of the late season, he hasn’t warmed up yet, we shall have to see.