October bucked the recent trend, both August and September have started the month with hot days and sunshine, today was grey and damp, despite the fact that the weather men were saying it would be dry with sunny intervals. There was though, still a fresh easterly wind, and the pressure map showed a high over Scandinavia, and a blocking low coming in from the west. Over the last few days there has been an influx of Yellow-browed Warblers so you never know, and I set off this evening in the damp misty conditions as ever hopeful.
The first thing that came to my attention was a calling Chiffchaff along Lymington Rise, the "hueet" call unmistakable, and the first time I had heard one close to home for some time. As I turned up Brislands I hear two more, and made the conscious decision to keep count. I intended to walk the hedges and fields, but I had to make my way through Old Down too.
There were calling Tit flocks along Brislands, but the dominant sound apart from the warblers was that of the singing Robins. At the junction with Gradwell there were three going head to head in glorious fashion.
In this picture you can see the moisture that was in the air, it wasn't rain, but remnants of the low cloud that was being blown around in the easterly wind and it just felt damp.
As I came past the horse paddock and the large ash trees I heard two more Chiffchaffs calling, but there was nothing moving over the fields. The mist was getting heavier, and looking across to Old Down to the east from the entrance on Brislands it was almost impossible to see the hedges.
There were at least two Chiffchaffs calling in the bushes by the mobile tower, and two more as I walked along the outside of the wood. I stood and watched to see if they would show, but they all stayed well inside the hedge and bushes.
I walked into the wood, and took the diagonal path from the main one, heading towards the west end. It was immediately evident that the tree felling had stated with many of the Beech Trees that had been marked for removal laying on the ground, their leaves now dry and shriveled There was though light, and it has already made a huge difference. I hope they do remove the trees, or at least tidy things up. There were signs that they would not be left.
From the west end I walked down through the paddocks, I could haer Crows calling, and I thought I heard the "gronk" of Raven. I stood and waited but I didn't hear it again. From the paddocks I crossed the road and head up Andrews Lane. More Chiff chaffs called, by now the count was 16.
As always I scanned across the fields by the shed, there were plenty of Wood Pigeon, plus six Magpies. Smaller birds that looked like pipits were flying around the field, but in the mist and gloom it was impossible to identify them. I did notice something on a fence post and a closer look revealed it to be a Green Woodpecker, the first for quite a while. You can see how misty it is from this picture.
I stopped at the two gates and checked the hedges, three more Chiffchaffs called, but never showed, however two Pied Wagtails flew over, as i stood looking at the larches. I walked through the tunnel, and out into the field at the top of the lane. It was getting mistier and even more gloomy, but i heard yet another Chiffchaff, and this time manged to see at least five birds flitting furiously about the top of an oak tree.
I walked on towards the farm, and was thinking about the good days and bad days i have when I go out, and of course those days which are both good and bad. I wondered how I would classify today, despite the number of Chiffchaffs it was going down as quiet, but then a large bird burst from the horse chestnut and flew out over the field. It was impossible to make out colour, but from the flight it was definitely a hawk, and most probably a large female Sparrowhawk.
Because of the size, I did consider Goshawk, as I have seen one around here before, but I have also seen Sparrowhawk here. It was nice to see one though, again I haven't for some time.
I carried on down Lye Way with crows in both fields calling. As I approached the junction I heard a familiar call I haven't heard for a while, and looked up to see two Fieldfare flying over, and heading south west. Redwing yesterday, Fieldfare today, winter is truly just around the corner.
I decided to walk down past the school rather than cross the field to the wood. The stubble field was quite an attraction to the Rooks and there was a large flock feeding.
The Chiffchaffs continued to call from the hedge and bushes, and as I turned up Gradwell a flock of six Pied Wagtails flew over. By now it was very gloomy, and seemed more like an November afternoon. The tree canopy made it very dark as I walked down Brislands, but just by the cemetery in the hawthorn bushes I saw quite a bit of movement and could hear both Chiffchaffs calling, and Long-tailed Tits. I counted at least six Chiffchaffs which took the total to 37 for the walk, my highest day count for chiffchaffs in either the spring or autumn. I stood and watched them catching flys, and chasing each other, and finally managed to get some pictures.
The photos are very grainy, because it was so dark. The Long-tailed Tits were as active, but would show every so often.
This is the second time in a week I have seen Chiffchaffs with Long-tailed Tits, but not in the same numbers.
Gradually they all flew away, and out of view, calling as they went. I turned away and headed home deciding to classify today as a little above a neither good or bad day.