I heard a Tawny Owl call around five am this morning, and then once the sun was up the birds could be heard celebrating a dry day. In fact it wasn't just a dry day, but blue skies, sunshine, and possibly an end to the storms. The birds obviously thought so, the Robins were singing, away off I could hear a Song Thrush in full song, and the House Sparrows were chirupping close to the window.
Once we were up it was clear today was going to be a good one. The Long Tailed Tits were in the garden, and one even came down to the bird bath for a drink
As we set off we could hear the familiar "mew" of a buzzard, but this one was loud, and the bird was obviously very close. We had not had any sign of one from the garden, and as we looked around us we couldn't see one anywhere. I then realised that it wasn't a buzzard calling, but an excellent imitation. I picked up a male Starling that was perched on the guttering next door. As I watched it I could see it calling, and this coincided with the Buzzard call, a perfect performance.
Incidently you can tell this is a male Starling by the blue under the bill.
There was more drama at the bottom of Lymington Rise. Two male Blackbirds were have an argument. This wasn't too dramatic, but then another male arrived and started to chase this particular bird.
The bird being attacked had a damaged tail, and also a white patch on the rump, the tail feather were all bedraggled, and the other two males were relentless in their attack, chasing the bird through hedges, and not letting him settle. It tried to hide, but the two would chase it out, and were not just content for it to fly away, they seemed to really want to attack. Finally it did seem to get away and the other two gave up the chase.
This was strange because the two birds attacking the other were males, and they were ganging up to do it, so it wasn't over immediate territory. May be it was seen as weak, anbd they were just being bullies, we will never know.
We turned up Brislands, and made our way around the road works, that have made a real mess of the lane, lets hope it gets better. Walking up the road the birds were all in full song, Robins, Dunnocks, and the loud chirps of House Sparrows. This male was so involved in its song iut allowed me to get quite close.
I received information this week from the BTO regarding the continued decline of the House Sparrow, fortunately around here they appear to be doing very well with good sized flocks almost everywhere.
The bird song was punctuated by the buzz of chain saws, more trees and branches have gone down this week with the storms, and they are being cleared up.
Along Gradwell there was another bird joining the ongoing chorus, a little Wren with a big voice. It burst out its song as we walked by, and again was unconcerned with us as it did so.
We headed across the field towards the wood. This entrance is usually drier, and it would be possible to get to the Kitwood footpath without too much effort. As we came around the path into the wood we were greeted with even more trees down. Helen called it as a war zone, and I can't think of a better description.
We had to climb over fallen trees, and negotiate broken branches to get to the main footpath. There has been some clearing up done, but an awful lot more is required. The good news though is that we have now had formal notification that the contractors will be doing this, once the weather improves. Outside the wood there was more trees that had succumbed to last week's winds.
We walked across the field towards Kitwood, Skylarks sang on either side of us, and managed to hide in the vastness of the blue sky.
Along Kitwood Lane a Dunnock sang in the open, and like the other birds today, was more involved in its song to worry about me approaching with a long lens.
We headed down Lye way, off to towards the pond a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming, and as we searched the trees to see if we could find it, a pair of Buzzards flew past. They were joined by another and almost immediately they started to display, gaining height and then folding back the wings to dive on each other. This would happen at great speed, and they would drop below the trees. I just managed to get this shot before they disappeared behind the branches.
As we waited for them to appear again, another call rang out, and we turned to see another Buzzard coming low over our heads, but with eyes on the three displaying birds. The light catching the leading edge of the wing appears to accentuate the curve of the wing, the shape of which gives the bird lift like in the wing of an aeroplane.
They headed out over the fields, and as we came out from under the trees we could see two birds on the wires. A little further on a Buzzard was seen chasing another from the trees, while at the same time upsetting a pheasant that called in alarm.
We walked around the farm, with more bird song. Here a male Chaffinch was in full song, competing with the Robins that seemed to be everywhere. The fields were empty, no sheep and consequently no birds. As we came past the ploughed fields Helen stopped and pointed to a single Red-legged Partridge that was scurrying across the over turned soil. It was difficult to see at first.
The rest of the walk was quiet, there were Great Tits and Blue Tits in the trees by the road, and a Song Thrush was singing from somewhere in the tree, but it wasn't until we walked past that we found it when it flew off. Nuthatches were chasing each other around the tops of the branches, and Goldfinches were tinkling away amongst the ash seeds. The birds seemed convinced that spring is here.
We walked into Plain Farm, and down the path to the cottages. Once on the road, I saw the Kestrel sitting on the wires looking attentively down into the field. We got a little closer, and didn't seem to care, this is unusual for this bird, but food seemed to be the priority.
From this picture you can see how it manages to perch and stay still on the wires. You can also see how deadly those talons must be to a vole or mouse.
We walked though the farm, I heard Bullfinch and Yellowhammer but didn't manage to see them, the Yellowhammer was also singing, the first time this year. Coming down the hill we picked up more Buzzards above the cottages on the other side of the road. At least six were seen soaring above us, and a smaller bird turned out to be a Sparrowhawk, which are always nice to see. Helen had seen one earlier, but I had missed it. To complete the picture another Kestrel was sat on the telegraph pole, making three for the day, the weather was definitely providing the right raptor conditions.
We walked past the quarry, and up the hill and into the fields. As we walked along the path Helen pointed out footprints in the mud. From the shape, and size we considered them to be Badger. It probably made its way along here last night. The tracks continued quite clearly for some way before they faded away.
I went off to check the pond, it sits facing the south, and in this sunshine I thought there might be the chance of an early butterfly. There wasn't but the mallard pair were there again. With very few ducks seen on the patch, I felt I should celebrate the mallard. The drake looked absolutely stunning in the sunshine. The bottle green head shining brightly as it turned it back and forth, at time it would appear black, but then would turn back to the wonderful green.
Leaving the pond we walked down the hill. I was surprised to find to Hare's Foot Inkcaps by the side of the path. These are quite common fungi, but are usually found in the summer and autumn. Another sign of the topsy turvy mad weather we have been having.
We made our way up the hill and along Hawthorn Road. We have driven along this road many times, the last being yesterday, but it is only when you walk it that you notice things. We were amazed to see so much litter, coke tins, sandwich wrappers, plastic bottles were laying amongst the hedge, they can only have been thrown from car windows. There was even a carrier bag full of empty bottles and cans, that was hanging in a tree. Why do people feel the need to do such things?
As we reached Kitcombe Lane a pair of Buzzards flew in front od us. I stopped to watch them, and then Helen told me to look up. Above us Buzzards were circling high up. At firs there were four, and then five, and eventually seven birds above us soaring in the clouds. This picture shows five together at one time.
We carried on along Kitcombe, and then climbed up to Kitwood Lane. The sun now felt quite warm and the jackets and fleeces we had on were becoming a problem. I had heard Song Thrushes in several places today, but had not managed to see one clearly. As we came along the lane I noticed a bird by the side of the road. Closer inspection revealed that it was a Song Thrush, and it wasn't singing.
We walked down to the school, and at the crossing I could hear Rooks, they were all in the trees at the bottom of Alton Lane, so they were still not looking to repair the nests at he rookery. I wonder if it will be used this year?
As we came up Lymington Rise we could hear a Chaffinch singing, there were little bits that sounded like the bird we had singing about two years ago. It didn't sing last year so we thought it must have died. Maybe this male was one of its offspring, we shall have to see if it does have the same song.
We are told that they do not expect storms this week, and that the weather should be more "normal" what ever that is, we shall have to see. The weather today has been a pleasure, and clearly suited the local Buzzards. It was difficult to have an accurate count, but I would estimate we saw somewhere between 15 and 20 different birds today. Clearly the UK's most common bird of prey now.
For the record the title I have used to day came from the song "Buzzard" from "Porgy and Bess". Being based in the US though it refers to a Turkey Vulture, known in the US as a Turkey Buzzard. If you check out the song you will find they are concerned its presence means death!