Much calmer weather again this morning and there was even a frost early on the required car windows to be scrapped. As the sun came up the garden was once again full of Goldfinches, and then Starlings. As the sun crept slowly above the distant trees the birds began to sing, Great Tits were calling "teach-er" from the bushes, Robins could be heard in full song, while the Starlings were providing plenty of different sounds from the mew of a Buzzard to what sounded like "wake up"!
Around mid morning I put on the wellingtons and headed off along Brislands to go and inspect Old Down Wood. I was interested to see if the opening up, and thinning out of the trees had allowed more storm damage.
As I came past the development land I noticed a large bird gliding towards me. It was a Buzzard, and it came close over me in what was lovely light.
As it came over me it turned, banked and the feet dropped and it appeared to look at me, and I got the sense of what it's prey must see just before the talons strike.
It is not usual to see a Buzzard this close to the houses, and it must have been attracted by the earth movement here, that has probably turned over some earthworms, and easy meal for a Buzzard.
I carried on along the lane, and just before the lane opens up into the fields I could hear a Nuthatch above me, looking up it was quite close and stayed in the light to allow me to photograph it.
The sides of the lane have been cleared of all the dead bracken, and the hedges trimmed. This gives the feel of a more open walk, and you can see into both fields. The water that was present on Boxing Day has receded a little, but the lane is still flooded at the entrance to the wood. The path leading into the wood is also very wet and muddy. There are still stacks of tree trunks waiting to be taken away.
I made my way through the mud, and felt carefully for the depth of some of the water in the ruts. These ruts cut across the footpaths, and as a result alternative path and tracks are being created as walkers look for ways to walk through the devastation.
There was bird song in the trees, mainly Tits and Goldcrests with the occasional chipping from a Nuthatch. If you stand still and watch you will see the movement, and I quickly located a pair of Goldcrests and a small group of Long-tailed Tits.
Movement on the bark of a tree caught my eye, and a Treecreeper came into view, if for only a brief moment.
I wanted to check the Owl tree,but had to walk well out of my way to find a place with which I could cross yet another huge rut caused by the vehicles that are ploughing through the wood. I eventually found the tree, and there was a bird in it, but not the owl.
Now on the official footpath heading towards the Kitwood entrance, the area to my left has been cleared of many Larch. There are still some left, but they are very tall with leaves and branches at the top.
Subsequently, the storm just before Christmas has had a devastating effect, and looking across I counted as many as twelve Larch that had been Free Fallin'.
Up close you can see the sandy nature of the soil, and the short roots that were probably the reason these were blown down. They were all laying in the same direction, the direction the winds were blowing in.
I picked my way through the broken and fallen branches, and followed some of the tracks to the main footpath. A pair of Marsh Tits called above me, and this one came out on to a branch to give a better view.
Just as I was leaving the wood a Robin burst into song close to me, and continued to do so while bobbing as if concerned by me being so close. I just love the way it seems to be looking at me intently.
I left the wood, and then crossed from Gradwell to the footpath that leads to Lymington Bottom. As is usual here there were plenty of Magpies in the field. I do not know what the attraction is, but regularly there are at least six birds if not more. A Bullfinch piped at me as I made my way through the mud, and then along the road to home.
Back home we waited as the clouds built up to see if it would rain. The intention was for both of us to go out. In the garden a Coal Tit was a visitor to the feeders, my fifth tit of the day
There has been a single Redwing hanging around the garden for a few days. I have seen it at the top of the trees and flying over. It is as if it knows there is food in the garden, but is unsure whether to come in, and just watches from afar. I saw it in the conifers two gardens away, just looking. It may need some cold weather to tempt it to make a move, as they are timid, and the Blackbirds would definitely not be happy with its presence.
The cloud moved away to the east, and the sun came out so we set off, heading towards Telegraph Lane, along the footpath behind the A31. A Bullfinch again piped away as we walked along the ally, and I managed to find the male as it climbed the branches of an apple tree, always a special sight.
We made our way to Weathermore Lane, which was a little sticky, but for once very quiet with very few calls or sightings of birds. We turned up the road rather than attempt Lord's Wood, and then turned at the crossroads walking past the golf course. Looking away to the west it was possible to see Old Down Wood, and to the left you can see the impact of the forestry "management".
We turned off the road and headed towards Newtown Farm. The wind picked up around here and it felt a little colder. The Maryanne plantation was quiet, and it wasn't until we came to the open fields that we saw any birds. These Starlings sitting at the top of the dead tree in the sunshine.
There had been Woodpigeon flocks flying past and above the trees, but as we walked around towards the Kitwood footpath a huge flock came off the ground on the edge of the field.
There have been many around this winter, and it appears that they have been gorging on the vast number of acorns. Now the acorn shell is poisonous to some animals, and narcotic to others. It seems that the Woodpigeon has been affected by the the amount available, and the many dead pigeons or piles of feathers I have seen are as a result of them being doped up, and out of it on the ground, and easy prey for buzzards and other carnivores such as foxes and stoats. We even had one fly into the dining room window yesterday, and although it seemed to recover there was a dead bird on the patio this morning.
We headed down the path, and in front of us was another free fallin' tree!
We negotiated our way around the tree, and cross ed the road onto the bridleway. We then came across yet another victim of the storm, this time though it was an already dead birch tree.
This was in fact the dead birch that last summer had a Great Spotted Woodpecker nest in it, and before that I have photographed the adults going in and out. We went to have a close look, and found the nest hole opened up.
I was expecting it to be quite messy, but in fact it looked quite clean, and roomy, amazing to think the woodpecker hollowed all this out.
We walked up to Kitwood Lane, then walked along the road past the farm. There was little bird song, and the only sound you could hear was that of the chain saw, as people cut up the many fallen trees. At Kitwood Farm there was a huge beech tree that was probably going to keep a log burner going for some time.
As we walked down towards the school a flock of Linnet flew up from the field, and flew around with their bouncing flight.
We turned up Gradwell, and again there were five Magpies at the gate to the footpath, and Rooks feeding in the field. It was very quiet after that, and with the sun now covered buy cloud it was beginning to get quite gloomy. As we made our way home along Brislands the only bit of interest was this Squirrel in the tree by the entrance to the recreation ground.
It is quiet, and its as if the land has gone to sleep now, waiting for the regeneration that the new year will bring. With all the changes we are going through right now it promises to be an interesting one.