We have been away over the Bank Holiday, and details of that and our trip to the south coast earlier in the month will be posted soon on the "Away" blog. I am keeping it to India at the moment because I have been fortunate enough to have Inntravel, the company we used for our trip to India, wanting to use a link to the blog in their recent marketing email letter.
Today was the first opportunity to get out around Four Marks due to both the weather and available time. At home the Blue Tits are busy feeding their young in the nest box outside my office, and as I write this I can see them going back and forth from the Rowan tree. The House Martins have also returned and are currently conducting running repairs to the nest over the lounge window. Blackbirds are busy in the garden, and at last the noisy Starlings have all fledged.
We set off in the late afternoon to explore Old Down Wood. I had received reports that in the evening there is a Roe Deer doe with a fawn, and we were going to see if we could find her. As we turned up Brislands we were greeted with yet another change in the view.
The leaves are now almost all out, the Ash is probably the last to emerge and they are about halfway, still at least they are alive. Past the Gradwell turn the gardens also have flowering rhododendrons, which brought back some memories as we walked past them.
Walking past the houses and out along the lane through the fields there were also plenty of butterflies about. Mostly white butterflies, I was pleased though to find this Green-veined White nectaring on the Field Mouse-ear alongside the road.
We turned into the wood along the main footpath, and were greeted by a Blackbird in full song, they are overlooked, and if you stop and listen any where at the moment I bet you will hear one singing, it is a lovely rich song, usually produced from on high, either the top of a tree, or house or on the TV aerial, as I write now I can hear one close by. This one was tucked away high in the tree, with it's mate probably close by sitting on the nest.
Now time for a moan, as we walked along the path we were having to watch our step, as the path was littered with various sizes of dog poo! It seems dog walkers assume once they are off the road they can let their dogs go anywhere, and they do not have to clear it up. A footpath is no different to the pavement, and they have to remove it, or at least move into off the path. I just hope they end up stepping in it!
Rant over and now back to the wildlife, the bluebells are still out, but are now past their best. They have become a paler blue, and don't have that iridescence quality that was there a couple of weeks ago. As the canopy closes over the bluebell flowers start to die back, in a few weeks the floor of the wood will look completely dead. Nevertheless they still produce little areas of beauty. This will probably be my final bluebell picture of the year, that is unless I find the fawn amongst them.
The woods seemed to be alive with bird song, it is the first time this year I have heard so much, it shows how late spring is this year. We walked around the main path and then checked in on the owl. Once again there were signs it had been around, but the tree was empty. As we walked away we disturbed a young Roe Deer, probably a yearling and it headed off into the wood. We carried on around the many tracks and came out by the footpath stile that heads to Kitwood. I heard a completely different bird song, but one that I had heard before. There are times when I doubt myself as to whether I have identified the bird to the song, and this was one of those times, so I checked with the calls and songs I had on my phone. As I played the song I thought the bird was, it confirmed I was right, and then as if to completely ram home the identification the bird appeared almost alongside me!
The flared orange red crest was unmistakable, a male Firecrest! I will apologise for the photographs now, they are a bit dark, grainy and not as sharp as I would like, but that said the bird was highly mobile, and it was a little dark under the larches. I called Helen over, and we decided to let the recording continue to play, which brought the Firecrest closer.
It came quite close and was very interested in us, or should I say the intruder that was singing in its area.
It is a very beautiful bird, the white eye stripe standing out against the black supercillium, and the fiery orange red crest. The upper parts are a lovely green. It is one of my favourite birds, and I was thrilled to have found one it what I consider to be my wood!
Not only was I able to see it I was also able to get some photographs even if they were not as I would have wanted them to be.
Reluctantly we left the little bird singing away, hopeful I am sure of attracting a mate. We walked along the perimeter and came out on the main path at the Old Down Cottage entrance. We walked back towards the crossroads, and took the track to the west perimeter. There was no sign of any deer, but we did see a Tawny Owl fly from a tree, probably flushed out by a Grey Squirrel.
We decided to visit the pond, before returning to the wood. As we came out at Old Down Cottage there were three Whitethroats singing in the trees and hedge. This is the most I have ever seen in one spot, and was probably the sign of birds moving through. Even though it is late in the year there has still been quite significant numbers of migrants seen on the south coast.
The grass was being cut at the pond so we abandoned that idea, and returned to the wood. Chiffchaffs were sing around us as we came in, and I managed to see this individual quite well. It wasn't singing, and spent a lot of time quite close to the ground. It had a definite supercilium, but more prominent at the front, and paler behind the eye. Its upper parts were very greyish brown, and the breast and flanks were slightly streaked, which I have never seen in a Chiffchaff. The legs were also quite pale. Looking it up at home, there is nothing there that matches this, so I am no wiser. Any one have any thoughts?
We checked the Buzzard nest, as we had seen an adult earlier, but there was nothing showing anywhere close to the nest. We walked off to the west, and spent some time watching the edge of the field. With nothing showing, we walked to the west end, but took a deer track through the bluebells. We were trying to work out how the fawn would get into the fields, the mother could jump over the fence, but we didn't think the fawn could, and all the wire fences were closed in.
Our search did not find anything, but we did find the next blue flower that will be out after the bluebells have gone, the Bugle.
It was getting a little cool now, and so we decided to make our way home. We walked around the north perimeter, and then back along the footpath to Brislands. The Blackbird had been joined by a Song Thrush, and then were both in full song as we walked past them.
As we walked along Brislands, I saw what I thought was a poppy in the middle of the field. It wasn't a poppy!
We hadn't seen what we set off for, but we had found one of the most stunning little birds in the British Isles, once again the patch manages to turn up big surprises. We won't give up on the Roe Deer though, and maybe we need to try an early morning visit.