The last two days have seen the low cloud develop into morning mist and fog, but at the same time demonstrate the different weather we get here in Four Marks. Once the sun broke through on Monday the clear skies remained over night and into Tuesday, with blues skies and sunshine all around, but just a couple of miles down the hill to either Alton or Winchester you were into mist and fog. Even though we are just over 200 metres above sea level here, the aspect creates a completely different weather at times.
The House Martins were still buzzing around the houses through out the day, but unlike over the weekend there was not a noticeable movement of Swallows or House Martins overhead as I set off late afternoon to walk around the fields. I had decided because of the wethaer to concentrate on the open areas, and the hedgerows that were still in the sun. As a result I continued on down Lymington Bottom, and took the footpath across the fields to Gradwell Lane.
The first part takes you down a corridor created by the bushes on either side, and the setting sun turned it into quite an impressive scene, with the misty light away in the distance.
There was no activity around the horse paddocks, and the only indication there were birds about was a singing Robin hidden in the conifers. The footpath comes out into a field, and the hedgerow was in full sunshine. I could see insects all around the trees, while white butterflies drifted by. I decided to just stand and wait to see if there was movement. There were a few Sparrows about, but they flew off. A flash of yellow around the blackberries was encouraging but it turned out to be a small flock of Greenfinches.
Deciding that there was nothing more of interest about I carried on, crossed the road, and walked around the field to the next hedgerow in sunshine. This was a bit more promising, I could hear a calling Chiffchaff, but never saw it. I could also hear what sounded like Blackcap sub song, but despite my best efforts to get it to show, I failed miserably. There was the odd Swallow above me, and scanning across the field, I saw a flock of about 30 Linnets, and a steady movement of calling Meadow Pipits.
There has been good numbers of Swallows and House Martins all around the south moving through. This time last year there were huge flocks over these fields, but this year the difference is that the fields have not been spread with muck, and those that have been are now ploughed and drilled with seed. The result is the swallows are carrying on through, and maybe the movement I saw last Friday was going to be the high point this year. Looking out along the hedge, it was pretty devoid of birds.
Rather than walk through Old Down, I decided to head up Gradwell, and then along Brislands to enter the wood there. As I came down on to Gradwell, a Robin was singing from a wire under the conifers.
I wanted to stay in the open, as that would be my best chance of finding something. As I came past the houses and into the open, I could see movement in the bracken and hedges. As i got closer I could hear Long-tailed Tits, and with them were what looked like Chiffchaffs. They were very mobile, and again despite best efforts I could only manage to parting glimpse of a Long-tailed Tit, the Chiffchaffs were impossible!
The sun had brought out lots of butterflies, as well as the whites at lunchtime a Brimstone had flown through the garden at home, and here along the lane there were several Speckled Woods.
I walked out into the field on the non-existent footpath again, scanning over the newly drill soil. There were plenty of Wood Pigeons as usual, and I full expect a gas gun here soon, but nothing else, so I turned back and then into the wood. By the entrance there were signs asking that the gate be kept clear at all times, something I had not seen before, and they were definitely no there on Friday. At first I suspected the farmer, but once I climbed over the style, I saw another sign that explained what was going on.
The signs have been there that this was coming, tree trunks have red lines on them. It can only be a good thing, and previously when this type of clearance was done before, there was an incredible show from the bluebells and foxgloves. However I don't think that work included the wholesale removal of trees, so this could be quite interesting, and hopefully beneficial for the butterflies as well, the opening of the paths will give them the sort of habitat that they thrive in. My only concern is the reference to removal of non-native conifers, does this mean the larches? If it does then the chance of Crossbill in the future will diminish. We shall have to just wait and see, we have to trust in the Forestry Commission, and look to change as beneficial to the habitat.
As a result of this all the main paths have been cut, and opened up, all the nettles and bracken now gone.
I walked down the main path to the crossroads, that now has a round-a-bout as a result of the cutting back! I headed towards the Old Down Cottage, and by the large beech tree stopped to listen and watch a good sized tit flock. There were Coal tits calling, along with Goldcrests and a few Blue Tits.
The sun was now only getting to the tops of the trees, and I found some warblers fly catching from the tops of the pine trees. They were Chiffchaffs and they were very busy making the most of the insects that were attracted by the sunshine.
They were not the only ones to take advantage of the warmth, as I watched the Chiffchaffs I picked up this Emperor Dragonfly, probably hunting the same insects.
Rather than come out of the wood, I turned down the south perimeter track, hoping that I could find some more interesting fungi. This side is definitely the best for them, as there is a mixture of habitat, pine, needles amongst both beech and birch trees. I wonder for how long?
I came across this very fresh collection of Milk Cap, I believe them to be Mild Milk Cap, a common fungus at his time of year, but easy to overlook.
I found this one near the exit at Gradwell, at first I thought it might be a Death Cap, but I am now not sure. Any suggestions out there?
In the area by the exit there are a lot of fallen trees which are covered in moss, and at this time of year fungi. This is, again I think, a Beech Milk Cap, it was on a piece of old Beech tree
Another by product of the tree felling to take place, will hopefully be more fungi as a result of the stumps and old branches that get left behind, a change is coming.
As I came out of the wood I stopped to watch the skies, but there was nothing moving. Back in the wood i heard a Tawny Owl call, about the same time as last Friday, its up early. I walked back home, with the sun setting and the air turning cool.
This morning the moth trap had a couple of new moths present. The first was this Little Emerald. They emerge a very light green, but very quickly the colour fades and they appear white.
This one is another challenge, it is I think a Common Marbled Carpet, but there are so many variations for these moths in the books I can't be 100% certain, but I do know I have not caught one before.
Finally I have caught this one, but identified it as a Dun-bar, after more research I think it is a Least Yellow Underwing.
If the mist and warm air continues there may be others.