Wednesday, 12 February 2014

11th February - Snowy, Snowy, Pay The Rent, Pay The Rent

Went out in the late afternoon.  There had been heavy rain during the morning that had given way to clear skies and a relatively light wind, possibly good conditions for an owl to hunt, well that was my thought as I drove to Plain Farm.

When I got out of the car I scanned the rough grass for any sign of the Stonechat, but there was absolutely nothing.  Stonechats are usually pretty loyal to a location once they settle and as the bird has been around for a month it is probably still about, just refusing to show for me today.

I headed up the hill to walk the circle towards the farm, ending up there as the sun set and it became a little dark.  As I approached the turn into Hawthorn Road I noticed that there has been some tree and bush clearing on the corner.  It has completely changed the view, and I can't understand why it has been done.  It looks like it will continue along the road, maybe to prevent the possibility of trees being blown down onto the road.  It just seems that everywhere in the village and surrounding area people are set on destroying the trees, hedges and fields.

A couple of weeks ago I had found a pair of Marsh Tits here, but that habitat has gone, this though didn't seem to have bothered the tits as I saw 2 Marsh Tits a little further on.  I could hear a Song Thrush singing.  The song is a wonderful rich set of notes that the thrush repeats.  It seems as if once it starts it can't stop.  They usually deliver their song from high at the tiop of a tree, but I just couldn't find it anywhere.

What I did find though were three Mistle Thrushes in the field.  Although as soon as they saw me they were off and away to the back of the field.  Mistle Thrushes will soon be in song too, they have a country name of Stormcock, because they will often be seen singing during rain storms.  Lets hope that when they finally do start to sing they do not live up to this name.

The sky was clear by now, and looking around I could sense I was being followed, and looking up I could see a beautiful waxing moon, so called because its illuminated size is increases as it approaches a full moon.

Once past the full moon it is known as a waning moon, the amount visible decreasing towards the new moon.  A Full moon though means high tides, and with the high winds forecast for the next few days I am sure there are plenty of people on the south coast that are not looking forward to it.

The sun was now getting low, and looking along Lye Way as it came through the woods it was lighting up areas of the hedgerow in a spectacular way.

a shape on the field to my right caught my eye, and I could see through binoculars it was a Buzzard, but almost as soon as I realised it flew off and lost itself in the trees of Dogford Wood.  A little further on I saw a similar shape, yet another Buzzard that stayed still, and was definitely not the earlier bird.

Buzzards are opportunists, and they were probably making the most of the water logged conditions, and hunting for worms, and easy prey that doesn't use up too much energy.

I turned into Charlwood, and came across a group of Great Tits, there were six in total, and they were calling and moving through the hedge and trees.  I could also hear what I thought was hte call of a Bullfinch, but I couldn't find.  One Great Tit stopped long enough for me to get a picture through the branches.

Goldfinches and Chaffinches were also busy calling and making the most of the last minutes of day light.  I walked on, and as I came past the horse paddock was greeted by the low sunlight which was turning everywhere into a golden hue. Looking away to the west the sky looked wonderful.

It was quiet as I walked past the fields, I resisted the temptation to photograph across the fields, I have quite a few of the view now.  As I walked into the field I did my usual scan, and almost immediately above me I heard the familiar "chack" of Fieldfare, and watched as a flock flew over my head and into the field.

In flight they are surprisingly large looking birds.  They flew around as if deciding what next to do, then one turned and headed back, the others followed and they finally ended up perching at the top of a tree behind me.

I continued to check the fields, but all I could see were the odd Woodpigeon flying off into the woods.  The walk down the path was muddy, not helped by the tyre tracks and horses that have gone up and down it.  Once I reached the tarmac it was easier, and I soon noticed a good number of Yellowhammers.  I heard them first, then found one on the top of the hedge.

I knew there were more, but it was hard to see them as they were buried deep in the hedge.  Finally several began to show, their yellow feathers highlighting them in the hedge.

Usually as I walk down this lane there is a Kestrel on one of the poles, but today and the last visit I haven't managed to see it.  As I came past the gap in the hedge on the I noticed something different in the field.  It was the Kestrel, and it had obviously caught something and was eating it.

This Kestrel is very aware of me, and the slightest move usually ends with it flying off.  Today I thought it might be distracted so I tried to get closer, and of course it didn't let me down, it was off.  I did though manage to catch it with the legs down, and it looks on closer inspection to have caught a vole, the tail is quite short so my money would be on a Bank or Field Vole being on the Kestrel's menu tonight.

House Sparrows chirped from the ivy near the cottages, and I could hear a Song Thrush singing, this time though there were two, and one would seem to answer the other.  As I walked past the barn the first bird faded away behind me, and the second one's song would then become louder, almost like a stereo effect.  The song was almost like it was directed at me, just like it was telling me something, and repeating it to make a point, although hardly stopping to let me reply.  If you get the chance, take the time to listen to this lovely repertoire and see if you can make out what it is telling you.

I finally found my Song Thrush, characteristically at the top of the Beech Tree by the workshops, it was gloomy but with enough light to pick him out.

I came down past the barns, another Mistle Thrush flew up to the top of one of the Poplars, but just sat there not singing.  As I came down the hill to the road I noticed a large bird away ahead of me in the distance.  The movement caught my eye, and I knew immediately that it was a Red Kite.  It never came any closer, and it was now quite dark, so this was the best I could get.

I walked up past the quarry, and as I came out on to the field I saw the kite once again heading off in a northerly direction, and it was quickly gone from view.  A Roe Deer crashed across from the field in front of me, heading for the cover of the trees, but there was no sign of any Hares.

There was also no sign of my original quarry I waited as it got dark, hearing and finding a pair of Red-legged Partridges as I waited.

When it was too dark for me to either see or allow the camera to function I decided to walk back to the car.  I decided to drive around Lye Way Farm in the hope I might find a Little Owl, but other than disturbing a settled Buzzard there was nothing else to be found.  Still it was a welcome opportunity to get out in some decent weather.  It doesn't look like it will last though.

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