Having been away in the week I was a little disappointed to find that there was no activity around the nest box at home. I am not sure if the Blue Tits have fledged or something worse has happened. On Friday both a Starling and a cock House Sparrow were hanging around the box, but I haven't seen any Blue Tits. As I never saw anything, I will assume they have fledged, it will make me feel better.
Saturday started sunny and bright, but with a cool north easterly wind. I had all day and was going to walk around as much of the patch as possible, but headed off towards Old Down. I wanted to see if the deer were about. As I reached the junction of Lymington Bottom and Brislands I could hear tits calling, and I quickly realised that they were a family party of Coal Tits. After some camera problems I finally managed to capture one of the youngsters in the Sycamore tree.
The scene down Brislands was worth taking as well, we are now in full leaf everywhere, and the greens are wonderful.
I turned off Brislands to enter the wood from Gradwell, walking past the horse stables the paddocks were full of Rabbits these two baby bunnies looked gorgeous in amongst the buttercups.
I walked around the outside of the wood, playing the Firecrest song but with no reaction, heading into the wood I was also disappointed to find that the owl wasn't there again, there are still signs though so the roost must be used sometimes.
As I walked along the footpaths I scanned the surrounding area for deer, but there was no sign of the doe from last Monday. I crossed the main path and took the small track to the west perimeter. Looking out across the fields the view looked wonderful in the morning sunshine.
I turned to take the path towards Swelling Hill, and stopped immediately, I could just make out in the field through the branches a doe Roe Deer and her Kid.
It wasn't the best photograph, and I edged closer, climbing onto a stump to get a view over the branches. The doe saw me and turned, but only walked away slowly, the kid following.
They didn't go too far away until they stopped, they both seemed to be interested in something in the wood.
It couldn't have been anything as they stopped looking, the kid turned to look across the field, while the doe looked straight at me.
I decided to see if I could get a little closer, but that was a little too much for the doe, and she shot off, leaping over the tall grass. The kid followed, jumping as well, but not as high as the doe. I don't think it will be too long before it will be able to spring over the fence.
This kid seemed to be a little larger than the one I saw on Monday, so I am now convinced there are at least two kids in the wood. A really good start to the day, I only hope the rest of the day lives up to it. You will have to wait and see.
I walked around to the Buzzard nest but there was no activity. I had seen a Buzzard over the wood but there was nothing happening here. I walked back to the field to see if the deer had wandered back. I could see the doe way down at the bottom of the field, and the grass moving beside her. She was watching, or listening for me, and slowly she wandered off, down the hill, the grass moving behind her as she slowly went from view.
Chiffchaff and Blackcap were heard singing in the wood, along with the usual resident tits, robins and wren. I walked out at the cottage entrance and headed off to the pond, hopeful that there may be some insects on the sunny bank.
When I arrived it was quiet, but I sat and watched and slowly there was some activity. First was a Common Blue Damselfly, my first for the year.
And then a few hover flies appeared, this is Helophilus pendulus, a common hover fly the larva living in muddy water.
I was also joined by a Large Red Damselfly, that sat close by on one of the larger nettle leaves.
The water was covered with small midges, and you could also see some tadpoles in the water. By the floating weed every so often a Carp would break the surface sending ripples across the water. I left the bank with a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling behind me, and walked around to the road. The Yellow Irises are just starting to flower, and from ground level they look lovely against the dark green background.
Left the pond and made my way towards Kitwood. A Nuthatch called above me, and I found it at the top of the tree, on a dead branch.
As I walked along Kitwood there were two Chiffchaffs singing, along with singles of Blackcap and a Whitethroat. As I walked past the farm I could hear young birds calling from a nest in the ivy, I realised they were Blackbirds as the female came crashing out.
I turned off Kitwood and headed down to the bridleway. A Chiffchaff was calling the hueet call, and I managed to find it in the open, but more interestingly with a bill full of caterpillars and insects. There must be a nest close by, but all the time I watched it just stayed in the tree.
A little further on a male Blackcap sang from the top of an oak.
By now it was about 11.00, and despite the brisk breeze I would have expected to have come across butterflies in the sheltered spots, but the only sighting had been of an Orange-Tip along Kitwood. At the bottom of the track it was quite sheltered, and I found at least three Green-veined Whites.
Along the south facing edge of the bridleway, there was plenty of flowers to attract the butteflies, but despite this there were hardly any. I did though, find a couple of differrent flowers that I was able to identify. This is Tormentil.
A little further on there were patches of white flowers carpeting the floor. I thought at first it was Ransoms, but looking closer the petals were a distinct four pointed star. This is Woodruff, and it looked quite spectacular under the darkening canopy.
I stopped for a drink, and was joined by a very tatty looking Peacock butterfly. These have been flying since April, but I was just pleased to see a butterfly, regardless of the species or its condition.
Whilst sitting drinking, I heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker call, as I set off along the path, I could hear the unmistakable calls of young woodpeckers. I found the hole in an old birch tree, in fact two years ago they nested here, but last year it was left empty. I settled in to wait for the adult to return. Very soon I could see an adult flying around, but it could obviously see me, and never came to the nest hole.
Whenever the adult came close the youngsters sensed it, and the volume of the calls increased, but it never went to the hole. It just sat close by.
Despite attempting to hide in the hedge the bird knew I was there and never came, so I decided that I should leave them. As I walked off I could hear the calls of the young birds rise, the adult must have seen me leave and gone to the hole!
I crossed Hawthorn Road, and headed up the bridleway towards Newtown. I have found both Great Tit and Great Spotted Woodpeckers nests along here before, the former bizarely in a metal fence post, and the latter more traditionally in a hole in a dead tree. Unfortunately this year there was no sign of either.
The fields were covered in Rooks and a few Jackdaws, the Rooks in family parties, the youngsters giving themselves away with the constant begging for food, as I passed an open space all the Rooks went up into the air, recalling scenes from the winter.
Unfortunately one individual, I think a young one, had a damaged wing, and was frantically flapping around the field trying to join the others, the damage didn't look good. As I walked along the path, Rooks were everywhere, and as I passed the barns a huge flock of Jackdaws came out of the pit.
I turned off the main path and headed downtowards the Maryanne Plantation, I turned off the road to walk around the cleared area. There was some shelter here from the wind, but there was no sign of any butterflies, and a location that in the past has been good for insects was very quiet. A Chiffchaff called from the scrub area, and two Blackcaps were singing at either end of the clearing.
I made my way back out and headed back towards the farm. A Peacock butterfly flew strongly against the wind along the edge of the field, and I found this Scorpion Fly sitting on the side of a tree.
A little further on I heard some familiar squeaking calls. I turned off the path and into the wood. I was looking for a dead tree, and quickly located one from which the calls were coming from, and then I found the hole.
I settled behind a large tree this time in the hope that the adult would show and give me that Kodak moment, but once again, I could see it, and hear it, and it came close, but never went to the hole. I waited for quite a while, but in the end decided my presence was not a good thing, and turned away back to the road, as I stepped on to the road I heard the volume increase once again in the hole!
The Rooks were still in the field, and this juvenile was begging to its parents for food.
I am not sure if they gave it anything, but all three flew off, the youngster still calling for food as they headed away.
I took the footpath towards Plash Wood, and as I approached a small copse close to the path, I could hear a warbler singing. I wasn't sure if it was Blackcap or Garden Warbler, the song didn't sound that fast, but it wasn't like a Blackcap. I decided to play Garden Warbler on my phone, if it was a Blackcap I probably wouldn't get a reaction, but just maybe a Garden Warbler would.
As I played the song a bird burst out of the bush, and settled in a sapling, and rattled its song back, a Garden Warbler, and probably the best photograph I have managed to get of one. You can see how plain, and "un-sylvia" warbler looking they are.
I turned off the footpath, and headed through Plash Wood. There were a few more Large and Small White butterflies here, fluttering abouve the sunny glades. Down the main path there were four mist nest stretched across the path. I am assumning these are in place to catch Woodcock, as the Game Conservancy has a project here where they catch and track the birds. I will have to come back in the evening, I would love to see one roding.
I walked down the path towards the A32, because that is where the footpath starts back up the hill. A pair of Jackdaws were calling madly as a Kestrel flew over carrying prey. A little further on another raptor glided over, giving me a better chance for a photograph, a Sparrowhawk, probaly a female, looking a little worse for wear on the wings and tail.
I made my way back up towards the house, again no butterflies, but a pair of Buzzards called from the trees behind me. There was nothing of note as I made my way to the barn, and then I decided to check the small pond. This proved to be a good move, as I finally found my first Holly Blue of the year, it was very mobile around the far side of the pond, where it was very sheltered. As I edged closer I was surprised to see a drake Mallard come out of the reeds, and then burst into the air when it saw me.
The sheltered spot also produced a Red Admiral, my first for a while, although again it had a damaged wing.
The pond itself was choked with pond weed, and all over the surface were Common Blue Damselflies. They were mating, the males holdingthe females up as they look to lay their eggs under the water, the males being responsible for ensuring the females can get out of the water and through the meniscus, which for such a small and light insect can be very difficult
They seemed to be everywhere, and with the pond very well sheltered from the north east wind, the sun had obviously brought them out.
I left the pond and headed for the quarry, this seemed like a nice spot to take a break, and a drink. A Blackcap was singing as I walked in, and while I was there I also heard Chiffchaff. I could also hear the calls of young woodpeckers again, and once I had finished my drink I set out to search for the nest. I found the hole quite quickly, and, thinking third time lucky,settled down to wait for the adult.
I don't have to tell you what happened. I saw the birds flying around, and one even landed on the trunk, but they never came close to the hole. I walked away, and when I was well away from the sight of the nest the volume increased, and I turned back to see the bird fly off. I waited again but nothing so I walked slowly away. Once I heard the calls increase again I dashed back, and managed to get this. It isn't just the hole, look at the bottom of the picture.
Once again, no butterflies, the quarry was sheltered and sunny, but there was no sign of any type of butterfly, what is going on?
I left the quarry, crossed the road and headed up towards Plain Farm, on the telegraph wire, as I crossed the road, was a male Kestrel, but it didn't stay, and flew off. Two today, I will have to send in the report as advised on Springwatch.
I walked up the hill, past the tree that is now in full leaf, and if there was a Little Owl in it you would never see it. I walked around the edge of the main path, through the long grass, but once again no butterflies. I turned to check the field, and as I walked along the edge I flushed a young Roe Deer buck from the long grass, and it shot off leaping across the field.
As it went I saw a distant partidge fly from cover, and a Lapwing flew up circling and calling. In the field on the other side of the road, there were two more Lapwing, and as I broke cover one became quite agitated, and made its way towards me, while the other, obviously a mate took to the sky. I scanned the field, and could just make out two little sods of earth moving around. See if you can see them in this picture.
Both birds kept calling and heading towards me, diverting my attention form the chicks, so I ducked back through the hedge, and continued on my way. Off the road and onto the footpath, the hedge was full of Goldfinches. This one was totally unconcerned about me,and allowed me to get quite close.
Scanning across the field, I picked up two lumps of brown, that stood up and walked slowly to the erdge of the field. Hares are very easy to see here at this time of the year, and I don't tire of watching them.
At the end of the footpath there was an unusual sight, a small group of five Small Whites, and three Large Whites. I followed one Small White alongthe path, and once I had worked out that it liked to nectar on Herb Robert, it decided it had enough and was off.
I headed around the field, and out along the footpath to Charlwood. The edges of the road were covered in flowers, Mouse-ear, Red Campion and Buttercups provided a lovely scene. I turned off onto the footpath to Lye Way. Ahead of me I saw movement in the grass, it was a Grey Partridge, and it looked at me through the grass.
As I tried to get a little closer it decided that was just close enough and exploded from the grass and flew across the field before dropping from sight.
I have seen a pair here before so lets hope they are now looking to breed away from Plain Farm. I walked on along Lye Way with only the sound of singing Yellowhammers. I walked towards Andrews Lane, and took my time along the south facing bank. There was a couple of Small Whites flying around, but of more interest was this Brimstone, a rather late Brimstone at that.
Andrews Lane was extremely quiet, and didn't trouble the binoculars, I crossed over into the Desmond Paddocks, and immediately let out a little "yes" as I picked up a lone Swift heading towards Old Down. A very uncommon bird around here, last year I saw some on the 26th May, and then again on the 30th June.
Around the entrance to Old Down there were again a few white butterflies, and as I walked down the main path there were more butterflies than I had seen all day. They were Small and Large Whites and they were flying around the open sunny areas.
As yet the Ash trees in the patch seem to be ok, without any infection. There is a small plantation in the wood of young Ash trees, and I thought I would capture these beautiful trees now in leaf, I hope I get more chances in the coming years, but some how I doubt it.
I had been out now for about eight hours, and as I walked home along Brislands I realised how different the light was. I took the picture to show the difference and to provide closure to a lovely day.
While the day was highlighted by the babies, it was also quite concerning not to see many butterflies. At this time of year when the sun's out, they should be everywhere, but they weren't. I am hoping that right now we are between flights, because if not then the months of June and July are going to be very quiet.