Wednesday, 30 October 2013

29th October - Success, But Not What Was Suspected!

After the storms of Sunday evening and Monday morning, today was quite calm, and as the sun began to set, the skies cleared and a beautiful golden sun sent long shadows across the land, lingering there like a long goodbye from a train window.  

I was off to the estate to see if the Barn Owl would appear, but as I left the house I noticed the Starlings collecting on the TV aerial chattering away in the sunshine

As I arrived at the parking spot, the sun was slowly moving away from the the trees along side the plantations, and they were being bathed in more beautiful golden light.

As I walked up the path, I noticed movement in the field below, looking at it with the binoculars I could see it was a Buzzard, and it was pecking at the ground, probably in search of earthworms that may be emerging as the dew dampens the ground.  It reminded me of the mysterious grey bird I saw last December sitting in the middle of the field, this was definitely a buzzard though.

The sun was dropping quickly, but as I came up the path there were patches of sunlit grass.  I noticed some movement ahead, and I slowed down.  The movement became two heads that were being craned to see who was approaching.  I managed this shot, catching them in the sunshine, just before they exploded off in a flurry of wings and croaks.  Naturally they are a little jumpy around the estate at this time of year.

I walked down the path towards the park, I could hear Jackdaws from the surrounding trees, and I disturbed the kestrel again from the large oak tree.  It flew around me to a chorus of alarm calls from the robins and tits.  The fields were bathed in the golden light, and as I came back to the road I noticed the sun back lighting the autumn leaves on the beech trees that border one of the fields.

I continued to scan the fields, in the hope that something may show, and on one of the tracks I found a small covey of six Red-legged Partridges.  They too were enjoying the last rays of the sun.

All around the setting sun was creating some lovely scenes, contrasting the dark of the woods with an orange glow in the sky.

Finally the sun slipped away behind the trees, and the shadows became total.  The air changed with the cold suddenly being evident   I stood at the edge of the road, looking across the fields, scanning for that elusive ghost.  A Roe Deer appeared on the edge of the rough grass, and began to graze, as I photographed it I noticed another shape behind it that turned into a Hare.

Another Hare scampered across the field  and away from me, and I took a slow walk along the path.  There were a few moths flying around, and in the conifers on my right hand side, Robins sang and the blue and Long-tailed Tits called.  A Wren caught my attention as it called and crawled through the bramble beneath an oak tree.  Blackbirds would pass over head, flying into the trees to roost, and every so often you would hear the soft "seep" of the Redwing as they flew over, not passing through, but looking also for a safe roosting place.  

I walked back towards the road, and picked up a small group of birds in the distance.  As they got closer I could see they were duck, a very rare bird in my water less patch.  Despite my trying I could not turn them into anything other than mallard, and they flew past me like ducks on a wall in a terraced house.

As it became darker still the Blackbirds and Redwing continued to fly over my head.  A strange call turned out to be two Common Gulls flying over the distant woods, late for their watery roost, probably at Alresford.

My quarry did not appear, and by now it was very gloomy, the distant road to Fouir Marks being lit up by the commuting cars

I decided that was going to be the end of the chance, so I turned and walked back to the car. Walking down the hill a Tawny Owl called from across the field, as if to say I am here.  The sky was now a combination of blues, greys and a soft orange, and in amongst these colours the planet Venus shone brightly away to the west.  It looked and felt like we were probably going to get the first cold night of the autumn, I will probably be scraping ice off the car in the morning.

Rather than drive straight home, I decided to go along the Lye Way, and then through the farm and back to Kitwood.  A few Rabbit scurried along the side of the road, but a part from them and the sheep in the fields there was nothing of interest.  As I came through the the farm past the pile of rubble on my right hand side I noticed a shape that looked different.  I stopped reversed and on the top of the rubble sat a Little Owl.  I wound the window down, but it flew off to the top of one of the barns, and sat there watching me, stretching up at times as if to get a better look.  It was now dark, but I tried with the camera, and it refused to focus at first, but when it did it was to slow to hold, and this now must become the worst record shot ever!

Still, never mind, I had finally managed to catch up with an owl, not the owl I set off to find, but one that I have been desperate to find.  It takes the year list to 83, and also confirms my thoughts from last year that this location was ideal for a Little Owl.  I will have to come back again at dusk this winter when hopefully there is a little more light, and I can get some pictures.  A good end to the month though, what will November bring?

Sunday, 27 October 2013

27th October - The Calm is Over Long Before the Storm

Once again the overnight rain died away just after dawn, but there was a very strong wind.  The clocks had gone back overnight, so I was out quite early on, and decided to walk around the
Rotherfield Estate and Plain Farm, I couldn't face a walk around Old Down with the current state it is in.

The Sunday newspapers were full of dramatic warnings of a super storm that was going to hit the south later today, with strong winds in excess of 80 mph moving through overnight.  The wind had already picked up as I walked up the hill, and looking down towards the quarry path, orange leaves were being blown across the path between the trees.

I walked up to the pond, but it was very quiet, then turned to walk past the barn, and down the path towards the open parkland that over looks the village of East Tisted.  As I passed the oak tree a Kestrel flew out and then headed off towards the trees in the distance.  It perched on a branch, and as I watched it you could see it was having difficulty perching on the branch in the wind.  It found the most comfortable position to be with the body held horizontal, and the head looking down.

As I approached closer it flew off, initially into the wind with difficulty, then it banked, and came past me at speed with the very strong tail wind.

I reached the style, and looked across the park.  The trees are still very green here, but there were some signs of autumn colour.  You can just make out East Tisted church between the trees.

I turned to head back to the barn, and ultimately to make my way to the quarry, but looking to my left the beech tree avenue looked lovely.

The trees are only just beginning to change, with the season being about two weeks later than normal, probably due to the mild weather we have had just recently.  However with the high winds that are forecast, the chance is they will be gone very soon too, so I took the time to capture some autumn colour with the blue skies today.  This is the south side of the Mountains Plantation as I walked down towards the quarry

There was more bird calls in the quarry than there has been for some time, probably due to the shelter it afforded, birds don't call in high winds, its a waste of energy.  I managed to find Chaffinch, Wren, Dunnock, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit, Goldcrest and this splendid Great Tit.

I left the calling birds, and crossed the road and up towards Plain Farm.  It was quiet past the barns, with no sign of any Chaffinch or House Sparrow, another sign of the plentiful natural food, or maybe the deteriorating weather conditions?

Coming up the hill, the oak tree in the field stood out rather dramatically.

The strong wind was causing the smaller birds to take cover in the hedgerow.  Above as I walked the lane I could hear Skylark, but I couldn't find them.  There had been a small passage yesterday, and it seemed the movement was continuing today.

As I came onto the footpath the sun came out and lit up the colour on the edge of Winchester Wood.

The footpath was covered in Sweet Chestnuts, either blown down by the strong winds, or more likely due to the ripeness of the chestnuts naturally fallen.

Despite the cover along the path, the wind was still very strong, and there was no calls or any sign of birds in the bushes.  At the end of the path, I walked to the other field.  I noticed two shapes moving on the edge of the field, and as I watched they started to walk into the filed, two Roe Deer, that were cautious at first but soon became a little braver, and started to graze.

As I watched the deer, I noticed two buzzards seemingly playing above the tops of the trees.  There was a group of beech trees here, and once again the ground was covered in mast, and I could hear tits and chaffinches calling.  I spent some time "pishing" and managed to coax this male Chaffinch out.

After scanning the next field, and finding only a Jay, I  headed towards Charlwood Lane.  I scanned the fields to the west, and it was quiet, but a little further on at the entrance to the two fields I happened to look to the west, and immediately saw a large flock of birds.  I knew at once they were Golden Plover.  They flew between the two fields at first.

From this photograph I counted 143, but there were more behind the hedge.  They came back and headed out into the field.

It is very difficult to count in this picture, but it is clear that it was a large flock.  I walked along the edge of the field, in the hope I could get a better view, but they must have settled down in a dip out of the wind and I could not find them.  I waited to see if they flew up, but they didn't so I headed back to the road.  

I was walking back to the car, but the day wasn't finished as a large black bird with a diamond shaped tail flew over me, a Raven and my first since April.  Unfortunately it had a tail wind, and was gone before I could get the camera ready.

I walked back to the car via Dogford wood, but the fungi I hoped might be under the beech were not there.  I drove back via Lye Way, but saw nothing else but another Kestrel, precariously balanced in the wind on top of a telegraph pole.

26th October - Weapons of Mass Destruction

Overnight rain, gave way to some blue sky and clouds by about 8.30 am, so I set off in the hope that the showers would keep away.  The garden has been very quiet for October, a sign of the natural food that is readily available  but as I came out of the back door there were three Blue Tits in the tree, flirting with the feeders.

There was a lot of birds flying overhead, a flock of Redwing flew over calling, and there was quite a sizeable flock of Starling about.  They start to build up about now, and I would estimate we have about 60 plus just now.  This was a smaller flock, and they settled in the Sycamore tree, and I watched them feeding on the seeds that are on the tree in abundance

I decide to head towards Old Down, and as I walked up the hill along Brislands I noticed the first real signs of the development starting.  The hedgerow had been opened up with three trees cut down, this is where the trucks are going to enter the site, and make a complete mess of the lane.

A robin sang its sad winter song, and it seemed appropriate, a sad song for the pending destruction that was to come.

At the cemetery, looking down the lane there was the first real sign of autumn colour, while the trees still retain their greens yellow and orange leaves line the lane.

Robins could be heard along the lane, and this particular individual could be seen quite clearly banging out it's tune, totally unconcerned as I came in close for the picture.

As I walk along the lane, I check all the gardens and open ground, as I passed the last garden before the fields I always look for the rabbits, but they were not there today, only a distant pair of Jays.

Last year we were seeing Jays almost every where.  This year despite the abundance of acorns and beech mast they have not been so conspicuous, this probably means we had an influx of migrant birds last year.

As I walked along the open part of the lane I could hear Yellowhammer, and Chaffinches in the hedge.  In an open part covered in bracken a Wren called, and I waited until it popped out in answer to my calls.

The entrance to the wood has been changed beyond recognition  All the ground ahs been covered in brick, to make a substantial road for the trucks, and down the side trailers are parked with Larch trunks loaded and ready to be taken away.

As I walked down the now open lane, the road changed to mud with deep and flooded track marks.  Everywhere seemed light and open, but when I reached the normal turn off to take the north perimeter, the change was really evident.

The path was gone, and a new wide opening had been carved out.  Al the Larch trees had been removed and it looked completely different.  I finally managed to locate the path, and made my way around the northern edge of the wood.

I could hear flocks of tits in the canopy, but couldn't find them.  On my left hand side you could see the devastation the logging had done, with everywhere open and full of light.  I made my way to the West End, and scanned across the fields.  As usual there were Wood Pigeon moving across the sky, and a couple of crows in the field.

As I made my way back into the wood I could hear machinery, and as I reached the dark conifer plantation I came across machinery stripping the branches off conifer trunks.

I am quite happy to see this plantation stripped out, but unfortunately the tractors and machines that get in there are causing havoc along the paths and the surrounding scrub.

It was nice to see that the path up towards the crossroads was untouched, but you have to wonder for how long.

The crossroads looks so different it it difficult to orientate your self. 

I turned an headed toward the Old Down cottage exit, and again everything was just devastated.  At first it was difficult to find the right path, with huge swathes of devastation cutting across the footpath, and normal tracks.

At one point you can see through the trees and out acrsoo towards Ropley from the main footpath.

Fortunately the lovely Beech Tree is still there, but the scene around it looks like another wood.

At the beginning of last year when I spent some time in Chawton Wood, they were conducting forestry work then, and this looks very similar.  I haven't been back there since, so I don't know how that faired.  I will continue to be open minded, and hope that this work will revitalise the wood.  Who knows next spring I might see the red flash of a Redstart, or hear the trill of a Wood Warbler, and everything will be so wonderful, but right now all I see is a war zone, and it is a little depressing to say the least.

I left the wood and walked to the pond.  As usual I flushed a pair of Moorhen immediately, but as I walked around the edge of the pond, a pair of Mallard posed quite nicely for me. 

I crunched my way around the pond, walking on acorns and cob nuts.  The water was moving, and I could see the dorsal fins of carp.  I creeped closer, and could see the fish just below the surface.

The pond is just beginning to show signs of autumn too, so it was time for a panorama.

I left the pond and walked towards Kitwood.  The horse paddocks were quiet with no thrushes, so I then climbed the style, and walked back towards Old Down across the field.  Last week I felt the wood looked thinner, but changed my mind, this week it does look thinner on the left hand side, and you can see it from a distance.  It will be interesting to compare photographs through out the winter to see how the changes impact the wood.

As I got closer  I watched two Buzzards soaring above the tree tops, who knows perhaps they appreciate the open spaces now.

Of note as I crossed the field was a small movement of Skylark, I counted at least a dozen heading south west.

I climbed the gate and went to see if Morris's tree had survived.  It had but there was more devastation around it.  Understandably there was no sign of the owl.  As I turned to walk back I could hear a large flock of tits, so I decided to make the most of the open tracks, and walked into the are.  I stood by a holly tree and "pished" and started to attract the birds out of the cover. First out was a Coal Tit.

It was then joined buy a Long-tailed Tit

A Great Tit put in an appearance.

And then a pair of Long-tailed Tits appeared

The Long-tailed Tits never fail to amuse me, and I can watch their antics all the time.  I love the way this one is looking at me.

There were also a pair of Goldcrests but I was not able to photograph them.  When I finally left the flock, I realised that if it hadn't been for the clearance then I would not have been able to get close to the flock, so it made me think that maybe the work could benefit, I just wish it did not look so devastated.