It was a clear and frosty start, which was a welcome relief after the storms that have swept through over the last few days. However as the sun came up slowly it created a strange sky with the moon still out and bright. The reddish orange tinge that was surrounding the moon, was probably a sign that there were yet more storms on the way, and it was likely to be a wet and windy Christmas.
The garden was alive with birds before the it was completely light. Four species of tit were on the feeders, and the Long-tailed's would disappear to the pond for a drink, and wash and brush up.
As it became light and the sun shone weakly through the trees our mini murmaration of starlings arrived. They take their turn in visiting the feeders, watching from the surrounding trees, waiting for the feeders to become free.
All around the house you could see birds perched at the top of the tall trees, looking to catch some warmth from the winter sun. Woodpigeons, Rooks and Jackdaws can be seen every morning when the sun is out sitting in the sunshine. These Magpies were also in this same spot for at least 15 minutes enjoying the rays.
The birds were in full swing in the garden, and I saw the first Blackcap of the winter, a red headed female on one of the fat balls. I have also put apples in the tree again and the Blue Tits found them straight away.
There are about a dozen House Sparrows in the garden, and they use the feeders, but I had to look a little more closely at this female as she has lost her tail feathers. How, is open to consideration, possibly a Sparrowhawk, or maybe even one of the local cats, which is probably more likely, we have caught a little black and white hiding under the Acer tree before.
With a horrendous forecast for Saturday, and the sun trying to warm up a blue sky, I decided on a walk at lunchtime around Plain Farm, I hadn't been there for awhile, and the conditions today would suit it well.
I walked up the hill towards the pond, and Blue Tits and Goldcrests called from the Yew that was by the path. I could hear a buzzard mewing, but never saw it, and at the pond there was nothing about, so I continued on down the hill, past the quarry and through the farm.
A Robin sang from the trees by the sheds, and in the Poplars I found this pair of Collared Doves sitting in the sunshine. They seemed quite happy preening and enjoying the sunshine.
As I came up the hill I could see that the large Oak in the field had finally given up it's leaves and succumbed to winter. In the winter light it does look quite spectacular though. You can almost see the trolley wheels turn.
As I reached the workshops I flushed a kestrel from the pole, it flew around me, then headed off towards the barns. A little closer and I saw some movement beneath the tree.
I had been thinking it would be nice to see some Grey Partridges today, I haven't seen any for awhile, and then two oblige. They sat in the long grass, then as I got closer they exploded along with six others that had been doing a good job of hiding. They called as they flew off, finally settling around the corner of the cottages. One though did land a little closer to the fence, and I was able to get a closer shot.
It quickly had enough too, and flew off to join its friends. With the sun so low, and approaching the shortest day of the year it was creating some different landscapes. Across the field the hedge was covered in places buy Old Man's Beard, and the sun was highlighting this on the top of the hedge.
I walked down the lane, and was soon being serenaded by the piping call of the Bullfinch. I saw two males, and then two more females, they would just keep moving in front of me, but eventually flew from the hedge across the lane and away into the field to my left.
I could hear Skylark, but I couldn't see them. I stopped to scan the fields, and also the hedgerows. As I did so I heard the Skylarks again, then saw a flock come up from the ground. There was at least 30 of them, quite a healthy population. Yellowhammers were also everywhere in the hedgerow. I could hear them calling, and every so often pairs would fly over. It was difficult to count them but there were at least 20 plus. This male sat nicely for me.
As well as the smaller birds, another kestrel sat on the wire watching the ground, then suddenly flew from its perch, and glided slowly low across the ground before dropping quickly into the ground, then it was up, with something in its talons and away over the hedge.
As I reached the copse by the cottages I could hear the piping call again, and another pair of Bullfinches flew over, and for once perched in the top of the trees at the back of the yard.
The male looked extra special in the sunshine.
I walked down the footpath after stopping to talk with the Game Conservancy guy. We shared some information on what we had seen, of which of interest to me was the report of a Short-eared Owl a week ago, if only, if only!
I checked the trees for finches, but there was very little moving at all. I also stopped to scan the field, and found a distant blob, that must be the kestrel I watched catch prey earlier. It appeared to be pulling something apart as it sat in the field. It bough back memories of the grey blob of last year that must have been a Hen Harrier!
I crossed the field to Charlwood, and walked along the lane. The hedges have been trimmed and it is now possible to see better across the fields, its a shame though that there was nothing to see.
The horse paddocks have always looked like they could be attractive to something, a Chat or Wheatear in the spring, or maybe even a Hoopoe, but up until now there has never been anything. Today though I saw this Song Thrush feeding.
As I watched it I noticed other birds, close to the Song Thrush a couple of Fieldfare, and away in the distance a group of about twenty Fieldfare.
It was about midday, and the sun was still below the surrounding trees, sending a glowing orangey light through the trees and scattering across the lane.
The leaves are all off the Beech trees, and the wood now seems much light, and the darkness that was a little foreboding has gone. Where rain drops were still hanging on the branches it created a magical scene with the low sun picking them out.
I walked on, listening to Blue and Great Tits calling out as they made their way through the hedges by the side of the road. Chaffinches would also fly out of the leaf little calling as they settled into the branches. I am not sure if it was because there is light in the wood now, or whether it had just emerged, but I came across this tree that was covered in Jelly Rot, something I don't recall seeing along here recently.
I walked down the hill, and back to the car, there was some thin cloud building up, a sign that the forecast storm was on its way. I hope there is the chance to get out Saturday, I will just have to wait and see.
PS It's now 13.00 on Saturday and as I write this the rain is still falling and the gales blowing oh well!