I set off in sunshine, and as usual the Starlings were making the most of the sun in the larches, on Reads Field, chattering away as they sat on the branches.
A little further on along the back lane a single rook flew up into the tree above, me and fro once was not concerned by me photographing it.
The intention today was to walk through Weathermore, to Lords Wood and then around to Plain Farm and home. I haven't been through the Weathermore area for sometime, and I was hoping I may be able to find the elusive Redpolls.
The path undulates, and as a result you get the chance to look directly into the trees. It creates a lovely scene and with still some leaves around a colourful one too.
Blackbird, Robins, Dunnocks and a Squirrel were rummaging in the leaf litter on the path, while around me in the branches were Great and Blue Tits, and a Nuthatch. The Nuthatch would call, drop to the path, take a seed from the ground then return to the tree to hammer away at it to open it.
The last time we had been here there was plenty of fungi, but today there was none to be seen. There is a turn that takes a path down towards Chawton. I walked a little way along the path scanning the tree tops, and listening for bird calls. I did find some birds at the top of a Larch, but they were all Goldfinches, and there was no sign of any Redpolls.
A Squirrel caught my eye, running through the branches of the larches before diving into its drey. I don't recall ever seeing one go into a drey before, it just seemed to bury its way in.
Along the side of the field, Coal and Blue Tits foraged, while Chaffinches called out as they flew up into the branches of the beech trees. Another Nuthatch called from the oaks, and this one was a little easier to photograph.
I returned to the main path, and carried on towards Lord's Wood. The trees on the edge of the wood that falsl away down towards Alton have lost a lot of their leaves, but in places there was still some colour, and despite the lack of rain, and the cold weather the grass still looks very lush.
When I reached the road I could hear tapping on metal, and scanning around the filed I found the source. A Great Spotted Woodpecker had taken a liking to the tin nailed to the top of a pole. I can't believe it was after food, perhaps it just liked the sound it made.
Lord's Wood is always muddy, but today it wasn't as bad as I have seen it. Walking along the bridleway several Goldcrests were calling from the trees, and I found a pair of Marsh Tits. Along the path a Robin watched my progress, looking for any food I might overturn as I made my way along the path.
At the gate to Kitcombe Lane there were more Goldcrests, and I looked in the top branches, but again there was only a few Goldfinches. As I walked up the lane, in the hazel tunnel a patch of orange brown leaves stood out.
The path was very dry, and as a result I managed to find two types of fungi. This one is a Chestnut Dapperling.
While this is a Meadow Puffball, and by the hole at the top has recently released it's spores
I left the lane and headed out across the field. There was a small flock of Pied Wagtail, with a couple of Meadow Pipits as well feeding in amongst the small shoots. As usual as I got closer they would fly up and then settle about the same distance ahead of me.
A Buzzard came low across the field, and then out towards the plantation.
It was then joined by another and they drifted up above the trees circling around and then drifted of towards the north.
The promised sunshine and blue sky had not materialised, and in places the sky looked quite grey and threatening. Every so often huge flocks of Woodpigeon would emerge above the trees. I am not sure what has spooked them, it may have been the distant gun fire. The population around the patch is incredible, it must be well in the 1000's. You can see them sitting on the tops of the trees, as if waiting for the signal to all move and take over the world!
Crossing the stile I walked past the horse paddock. Two Mistle Thrush were feeding amongst the horses, and unusually amongst the thrushes were five Goldfinch.
I turned off and walked down the track where the trees have been cleared. I stopped here and had a coffee while watching a pair of Wrens fighting over a fallen tree for territory.
After coffee I headed towards the farm. There were only two Pied Wagtails amongst the cattle which was unusual, but as I headed towards Plash Wood suddenly a flock of eight appeared and one posed very nicely on a post for me.
The wagtails were also joined by a nice sized group of Meadow Pipits, and they would fly with the wagtails on to the fence, and then back into the field. I had the chance to look closely at the pipits. Normally I dismiss them as little brown jobs, but on close examination they are quite smart and neat little birds.
I disturbed a few Pheasants along the footpath to Plash Wood, and as I turned in I heard a Marsh Tit call but I couldn't find it. I was hoping to find the Firecrests again, so I set up in the location I have seen them and waited an watched. In the background I could hear gun shot, and shouting, and as I watched a Roe Deer shot past me. Just as I was going to give up, I noticed a small bird fly across the path. Yes it was a Firecrest. I set my self up and managed to get my best pictures yet.
Satisfied, I left them, and made my way along the path. I could now both see and hear what was going on, there was a line of beaters walking through the wood banging and calling to flush out pheasants. They had dogs too, which would scrabble away under the bushes where the sticks and beaters couldn't get. When I reached them I walked the line with them, and as we walked along they flushed a Woodcock, which gave some lovely views, but was too quick to photograph, a Hare, and eight Pheasants, the last of which didn't make it, I saw it fall as the shot rang out.
Reaching the footpath I headed down towards the A32, then back up towards Plain Farm. As I scanned across the open park I saw a large raptor that could only be a Red Kite. For the first time I watched it fly and perch up in a tree in the middle of Plash Wood. It was some distance away, but you can see it is unmistakeably a Red Kite
I continued on up the hill and at the cross roads I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker calling, and as is normally the case I found it at the top of a dead branch. By now the sun had finally come out, and it looked quite smart against the blue sky.
From the walled garden I could hear the chattering and tinkling of Goldfinches. A Kestrel flew past and flushed a few, and I saw them settle at the top of a large leafless tree. Scanning through them I found at least two Siskins, but again no Redpolls. It was a large flock, and I counted 57 birds in total.
A stop at the pond revealed two female Chaffinches bathing in the shallow water, no doubt taking advantage of the sunshine that had warmed the day.
I walked to the quarry, and then across the road to Plain Farm. Last winter there was a good sized flock of House Sparrows and Chaffinches by the large barns, but so far this winter nothing. They installed a new grain dryer during the spring, and maybe this is more efficient and there is not so much grain about, and the birds have moved somewhere else.
The fields were quiet, and by the cottages I could hear the chatter of House Sparrows. On the wires there were a few Yellowhammers, but surprisingly I could only find one Linnet. I checked out the field, scanning as always for that Hen Harrier or Owl. Turning back I noticedsome birds in the hedge, and thinking they were Yellowhammers I wasn't going to look properly. I am glad I did as this Yellowhammer was actually a first year Reed Bunting, a late year tick.
Bullfinch had been teasing me all day, calling from inside the hedges or trees and never showing. I would look and wait, then give up. This one though gave the slightest opportunity. Can you see it?
I checked the beech trees for Brambling but couldn't find them, which was a little annoying. It is about this time of year that birdwatchers start to think about next years list, and start to hope that the late year birds will still be there in January. I hope the Brambling haven't gone, we shall just have to see.
After a break for more coffee I headed towards Charlwood. Instead of walking along the road I decided to take the path across the field. I have never walked here before, and after yesterday I can not see me bothering again, it was very open and quiet. I wished I had taken the road.
I walked around Lyeway, and looked to see if I could find the Little Owl. There was no sign, and in fact very little about in the fields and hedges. At Thrush Corner a solitary Fieldfare was perched at the top of a Leylandi conifer, the only one I saw throughout the day.
The sun had sank behind the clouds again during the afternoon, but as I walked along Lymington Bottom to home, it came out just before sinking into the west. The light was incredible, and where the trees still had leaves it turned the already orange colour even more golden.
I had been out all day, and it had been fruitful, the Firecrests are always magical, a really good view of a Woodcock, a perched Red Kite and of course a year tick in the form of a Reed Bunting. But above all I was out in the countryside enjoying the best nature could provide.