The air is slightly cooler today, and along with the sunshine it felt a little bit more like a proper winter. The buggy nibbles in the feeders, and on the table are still proving a great attraction, and they are being eaten quickly. The Robin though is still determined to defend them, and sat close to the covered feeder and and would launch itself at anything that came close.
This though did not deter the Long-tailed Tits, its always lovely when they come into the garden, and I have to stop and watch as they move around the trees and branches. This morning three ran the gauntlet of the Robin, making a careful and watchful approach to the feeder.
Then once they felt it safe on to the feeder to take the nibble.
There tactic is to swarm onto the feeder, pull out a nibble and then into the middle of the trees to hang from a branch with one foot while holding the nibble in its other foot to allow it to eat. Once finished they come to the top of the tree.
The forecast was for more heavy showers, but it had been dry during the morning. The radar was clear for at least 2 hours, so I decided to head on down to Plain Farm for a lunch time walk, hopefully in sunshine.
As I got out of the car I saw a small bird fly across the long grass and into a small tree by the side of the path. It was a Stonechat, and probably the same bird as I had seen just after Christmas. I thought it had moved on, which had been a bit of a surprise as the area and habitat was perfect for it.
It perched up nicely for me in the standard Stonechat pose, watching me as I tried to get closer.
I hope it does stick around for the rest of the winter, I would like to get the cahne to photograph it once I get my large lens back. Its been three weeks now, and I must admit to missing it, the substitute is doing a good job, but its not a L series.
With the Stonechat in the bag I wondered what else I could find today, its always nice to get something special at the start of a walk.
As I walked up the path, Long-tailed Tits called from the yew trees, and I headed on up to the pond. The recent rain had filled it up, and in the middle was a pair of Mallard.
With such a scarcity of water it is always nice to find water birds on the patch. Once again things were going well.
The Mallard flew off in an explosion of wings from the pond, and as they left I noticed silvery flowers on the trees surrounding the pond. Pussy Willow is coming out, another sign of the mild weather we have been having. The flowers are from the Grey Willow tree. They like wet habitats, and are common across the country. Here you can see both the silky grey buds, and the yellow catkins that flower from them.
I checked for the owl, but there was no sign, and I walked down the path towards the quarry. There wasn't the bird song of previous days, but there were Goldcrests calling from trees along side the path.
I walked down the hill, then up the road and past the grain stores. Robins were the only birds singing and they could be heard almost everywhere. I walked up the hill, and then past the cottages. I could hear House Sparrows calling from within the bushes, and looking out over the field I could see a flock of about thirty Skylark, and a flock that seemed to be in excess of a 100 Linnet.
As I walked up the hill I saw some movement on the edge of the road, and as I watched a pair of Grey Partridges walked onto the road, and continued walking ahead of me.
I had scanned the poles for the resident Kestrel, but there was no sign of anything, then I found it on the other side of the path, sitting on the wires looking down into the field.
I adopted the normal tactic, photograph, walk a little closer, take another picture, walk on, but as usual it saw me and flew off.
As I walked past the copse I could see that there was another victim of the recent storms as a large ivy covered tree was lying prostrate amongst the rusty metal.
The path towards Charlwood was very wet, but a bonus of these conditions is the ability to see the animal tracks, and this path was definitely a favourite of many Roe Deer as their tracks were everywhere.
At the end of the path, I went to see if the seed was attracting any interesting birds. However what I found was the tree I had seen the brambling in last November had fallen victim to the storm as well. It really has been an unprecedented winter for trees down.
Looking out over the fields past my "coffee" tree I could see the clouds beginning to build up. The showers were coming.
I walked on, and crossed the field to Charlwood, once again no raptors. It was also very quiet along Charlwood, no Lapwings, no Yellowhammers, but at the houses there was plenty of calling Goldfinches from the Sycamore trees, they seemed to be feeding on the seeds that bundle up at the end of the branches.
At the edge of the road, just under the hedges were small clumps of Snowdrops, always a welcome sight.
A Buzzard flew over at the junction to Lye Way, at first it had the pulse staring up, as it showed signs of possibly a Rough-legged, but as I watched it pass by I had to console myself it was a Common Buzzard.
As I reached the covered part of Lye Way by the wood there was a lot of tit calls. I stopped to watch, and was able to get some really good views of a pair of Marsh Tits. I always like to look at these closely because they may well be Willow Tits, but these were Marsh.
Leaving the Marsh Tits I could also hear above me a Nuthatch. Taking photos against the sky is always a challenge, you have t bracket the amount of light into thelens. This wasn't bad, but its not the L.
Like the treecreeper the Nuthatches seem to be benefiting from the broken branches which have exposed wood into the bark, this one was finding the break very attractive.
Suddenly it became quite dark, and the rain began to fall quite heavily. The car wasn't too far away so I covered the camera and headed down the hill. I wondered if the Stonechat would appear again, and as I approached the car I was looking around the grass, and as a result didn't see at firsyt what was coming over the tree tops. I began aware when I heard a crow calling and looked up to see my first Red Kite of the year.
It really wasn't bothered by the crow, and continued to drift towards me searching the long grass below, the forked tail working overtime to allow it to hang in the air and turn on a tight circle.
The feathers look in good condition, last year there were primaries damaged. It didn't come any closer, but drifted off towards the trees on Mountains Plantation.
I got in the car, and headed home feeling satisfied with the walk. When I got home the garden was full of Long-tailed Tits again, on the nibbles as usual. I crept close to the feeder, and waited for an opportunity. It didn't take long as this little fell stuck its head around the feeder to look at me.