Wednesday, 13 November 2013

12th November - Dicky-bird, Why Do You Sit?

Early rain gave way to clearing skies, and eventually sunshine, working from my home office gave me the chance to have a short walk at lunch time, so I set off for a circular walk that would take in Old Down Wood, the pond and the footpath across from Gradwell to Lymington Bottom.

As I left the house I heard a lone Skylark over head, something of a feature over the last few days.  There was also the calls from the trees of a pair of Magpies. and as I reached the main road a single Jay flew across in front of me.

i made my way up Brislands, and passed several workers in hard hats heading for the development area, a sign of things to come I am afraid.  Interestingly they parked in the recreation ground, but not in the car park but alongside the lane.

The Holly tree was continuing to get attention from the Redwings, and as I passed I could see five in the tree tearing the berries off, and several in the surrounding tress waiting their turn.

It wasn't just the Redwings that were interested though, this female Blackbird would fly into the tree from the hedge, and then return to wait for the next opportunity.

I decided to enter the wood from Gradwell, the Brislands entrance probably busy with vehicles moving logs, I could hear the sounds of large tractors and chain saws in the distance.

As I came alongside the horse paddocks the sun just came out and lit up the edge of the distant wood, and with the rolling clouds looked very atmospheric with the rusty orange leaves of the beech trees, and the winding green of the field.

For a while now there has been a lot of discussion around the use of the buffer zones around the fields for walking, the farmers have started to block off the access points, and have also been vocal in telling people to stop using them.  Because the locals have been using these edges to walk along for years now there has been a lot of out cry, but strictly speaking they are not footpaths, and the land owner is within his right.  But maybe they could have been a bit more aware of the local usage, and the fact that it does not do the harm they claim.  However all that is thrown out of the window when you see people doing this:

Walking their dogs, off leads over the field, well away from the footpath.  Yes the field is left to fallow, but that is not an open invitation to walk across it, and ruin any chance we may have of convincing the farmer that walking on the perimeter is not harmful.  If this pair, for whatever reason, see this, then I hope that they change their behaviour in the future for all of us.

I walked into the wood, and decided to take the main path, the area is opening up now, and in the places where you can't see the destruction it looks quite good.

I heard a strange call above me, and looking up I saw a Skylark, quite low over the tree tops, the call turned into a sub song, and as I watched at least five more passed over.

Over the course of the walk today in the open areas I counted 28 Skylark all heading towards the west.  This group was the maximum flock I saw, the others were mostly twos and threes.

Whether it is the fact that the wood has been opened up, or that there is an incredible abundance of natural food available this autumn, it seems that there are some sizeable flocks of tits and associated birds in many pockets around the wood.  I crossed one of the many flooded tracks, and walked towards the stile to the Kitwood path.  I stopped to watch Coal, Great, Blue and Long-tailed Tits in amongst the fading Sweet Chestnut leaves.  I could also hear a Marsh Tit calling, but could get to find it.  The tits were quickly joined by a pair of Goldcrests, who spent the time flitting about catching flys or small spiders under the large canopy of leaves.

Movement on the branch of a tree caught my eye, and I saw a Treecreeper investigating the lichen that covered the branch.  If you hear bird calls, stand and watch, and youmay be lucky to see quite a few different species, that group together as they search the area.  As well as the Treecreeper there were plenty of Chaffinches too, but no Brambling.

I walked on, and above me a large flock of Fieldfare flew over the tops of the trees, I wasn't able to count them, but I estimated a flock in excess of 20.  I made my way through the cleared area, passed the Owl's tree which now stands on its own amongst the carnage of cut branches and dead brown larch leaves.  Needless to say there was no owl in the tree.

Having reached the perimeter path I came across another flock of tits, smaller this time, I was alerted immediately to one that flew to a branch with a red berry in its beak.

two things caught my interest, the very white cheeks and the largest bib underneath the bill, could this be a Willow Tit?  it was away from the previous locations I have seen them in here, but then with all the forestry work, that could be expected.  I watched as it held the berry with its claws, and pecked away.

While the cheek was pale there are not complete, but the bib did look large, I was still thinking it maybe was a Willow Tit when it looked straight at me.

The bib doesn't flare out as you would expect in a Willow Tit, but it was large.  The cheeks as well do not look so white in this picture, I couldn't get a good look at the wings to see if these showed any features that would help.  But then it dropped the berry, and jumped to another branch and called.

here the bib doesn't look so big, but the call was unmistakably Marsh Tit.  The search goes on, will the recent forestry work provide the habitat needed?  Only time will tell.

I carried on around the perimeter, and as I reached the main path a Fox came across my path, I am not sure who was more surprised, and it was gone before I could get the camera up.  This is the first time I have seen a fox in daylight in the wood for some time.

I left the wood and headed towards the pond, several Skylark continued overhead.  At the pond the trees around the water's edge still had the beautiful rusty brown colour, and this would reflect in the water.

As I walked around the pond I disturbed a Buzzard from one of the trees, there were also nuthatches calling, and every so often you could hear the tapping as they attacked a nut.  As I left the pond I heard the Buzzard mewing in the field on the other side of the road, and looking across I could see it being chased by a pair of crows.  Once they were satisfied it was well away from their patch they returned to their watch in the trees.

At the Kitwood turn, I stopped to watch a pair of Goldcrests amongst the leaves, one was a male with a very smart yellow head stripe.  As I did I heard a familiar "clacking" call, and looking up I saw a flock of Fieldfare flying towards Thrush Corner on Kitwood.

I managed to count 37 birds, there may have been more.  They flew around then disappeared into the hedges and trees to the north.

i walked down the road towards the school, stopping to look across the field towards old Down.  The larches stood out with their orange foliage, and you can now clearly see gaps in the trees as the clearance continues.

I walked on past the school and then I turned up Gradwell with the intention of crossing the fields on the footpath towards Lymington Bottom.  As I came through the gate I flushed a small group of Blackbirds, and these were quickly joined by several Redwing, that "seeped" as they flew away from me.  They didn't go far, and ended up in the hawthorns by the footpath stile.  the berries were once again the attraction, but as I got closer I was alerted to something else, a male Bullfinch called and flew into the same tree.  I climbed the stile to get a look on the other side, and found it sitting in the open holding a berry in its bill, and twisting it around to get the flesh off.

After watching for awhile to see if anything else turned up, I checked the owl box, but there was nothing there, and then walked down the path.  The horse paddock was empty, but as i walked past the bramble I flushed a reddish brown bird from the leaf litter.  As it flew off I could see the long bill, unmistakably a Woodcock, and I was about a metre from it when it flew!  But then you never expect these things when they happen, how many times have I traipsed around woods in the winter in the hope of doing exactly what I had just experienced, and nothing happens.  next time I will be on my guard, but you can guarantee it won't be there.

As the sun dropped in the afternoon, I noticed a Buzzard over the garden from my office window, and as it came closer to dusk small flocks of Starling would drift past the window, slowly they started to gather on the roof tops and TV aerials.  As ever they were busy chattering away to each other.

I managed to count a total of 57, they were not all on the aerial as can be seen from the above picture, but they were spread out around the area until they suddenly all flew off

Joined together to create a mini-murmaration as they flew around the roof tops, and then off towards the larches at the top of Reads Field as it became very dark.  Lets hope the numbers increase as the winter comes on, however there were about 60 year, so these are probably local birds that enjoy Four Marks.

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