Monday, 24 February 2014

23rd February - How Many Seas Must a White Dove Sail?

The female Blackcap that I saw in the garden earlier in the week appeared again on Friday.  As seems to be the way this winter the attraction was the buggy nibbles, but she did also pay some attention to the apples in the basket feeder.  Her approach is always cautious though, looking around and creeping slowly through the branches. 

The Long-tailed Tits are completely unnerved and zip around her as she just waits and looks until she feels it is safe to feed.

We went away for the weekend to see the rugby at Twickenham.  On Friday we stopped of at the London Wetland Centre, I didn't take the camera, but we were lucky to see two bitterns, one well out in the open preening.  An amazing sight when you consider how close you are to the centre of London.

We returned at midday, and as it was dry but overcast I decided to take a short walk around the woods.  What I didn't realise was how windy it had become, and I am sure this had a bearing on what was about.

Heading off down Lymington Bottom it was very quiet.  The two days in London had been in quite mild conditions, with sunshine and a light breeze.  As a result birds were singing everywhere.  Today though you were lucky to hear a Robin, as most of the birds were keeping there heads down in the trees and bushes.

At the corner with Gradwell I heard the familiar piping call of the Bullfinch, but all I managed to find was a male Greenfinch, the owner of the call keeping itself well hidden.  i found a Great Tit in the branches of a conifer, recently they have been calling monotonously but today this one was silent as it moved amongst the lichen, probably looking for food.

I walked along Brislands and out into the open, the wind was blowing strongly across the hedges, but I could hear a Skylark away in the distance, as always scanning the sky revealed nothing, but then I saw movement in the field and found it about a metre off the ground singing away.

It finally stopped and dropped to the ground and out of view in the stubble, the wind being too much for the songster.

The lane is slowly drying out, the huge flood just before the entrance to Old Down Wood has finally gone, and as a result you can now see the large potholes that have probably been caused by the contractors vehicles that have been taking the lumber away.  

I intended to walk through the wood because I wanted to see what the north western part was like, however the only way I was able to get to it was by walking around the outside of the field, and picking up the path by the old pheasant pens.  There was still a path here, and on either side you can see the bluebells shoots coming through quite nicely.  This area once you get by the mess on the main path is relatively untouched by the contractors, and should still put on a good show.

While the contractors haven't been here the wind has, and several trees on the outside of the wood have succumbed to the storms, and in places you still have to negotiate your way around fallen trees and broken branches.  Out of the wind you could hear the contact calls of Blue, Coal and Long-tailed Tits as they foraged in the trees and fallen branches.

This part of the wood is predominantly Hazel, probably the reason why the contractors have left it alone.  As well as the Bluebell shoots you could see the leaves of the Lesser Celandine, and emerging Dog's Mercury.

Dog's mercury is a member of the Spurge family, and is found typically on calcareous soils usually in Oak and Beech woodland.  The name "dog" is said to refer to the fact that it is not a striking flower.  It prefers semi to full shade, and general spreads very quickly at the expense of other flowers such as orchids and anemone.  It is a poisonous plant, but unlike other spurges does not have the milky juice in the stem.  By March the area here is generally carpeted with the plant, we shall have to see if the clearing work lets in more light than the plant likes.

I came out of the the wood at the west end, and headed down towards Gilbert Street through the paddocks.  A Buzzard flew away from me, the only one I was to see today, and gulls circled above the field in the strong wind.  Mostly Common Gulls there were also a few Black-headed, and two first winter Herring Gulls.

The gulls dropped to the field with a larger flock of corvids.  These were mostly rooks but there were also several crows and a few Jackdaws.  Despite searching I could not find a raven.  They are usually about here as they wait for the sheep to Lamb.

I walked up Swellinghill, it never gets easier, and I wondered why I never walk down it!  Out of the wind, the temperature increased and a s a result I removed my hat.   It seems that there were more trees and bushes gone from the southern ridge, there was much more light coming through as a result.  

At the pond I walked around the outside.  Nuthatch called from the trees at the back, and a lone Chaffinch attempted a song.  The water level is still high, but the around around the outside was surprisingly dry.  

As I walked along the road towards Kitwood I noticed some activity around a puddle.  A Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Blue Tit were either drinking.

Or taking a bath...  

With all the water there is about this behaviour is quite common, the birds seem to like the puddles in the road, maybe they see the water as being cleaner.  The birds were feeding in amongst the leaf litter, and then would fly across to the puddle.  They were not in the least aggressive to each other, and quite happily shared the puddle.

As well as these three a Great Tit was busy throwing leaves about as it searched the grass on the side of the road.

And this male Chaffinch was very busy digging into the mud and grass.  After this picture was taken it even tried to move the twig.

The other side of the road was the horse field, and the birds would fly into this, and feed in a similar way amongst the soil.  There were more Goldfinches, plus a couple of Robins and a Dunnock all taking advantage of the soil that had been overturned  by the horses.

Out in the open again I could feel the wind, so I went to put my hat back on, only to realise it wasn't in my pocket.  I retraced my steps to see if I could find but I couldn't.  I don't know whwere it went in that short time.  Fortunately the wind wasn't too bad now and managed to survive the walk home.

The bushes around the bike cage at the school are becoming a good site for parties of tits and crests.  As I passed today I could hear a Goldcrest, and I stopped to see if it would show.  It didn't at first but this Nuthatch appeared quite close, but in a dark place.

It was searching all over the trunks of the trees and eventually came into a much better area of light.  This time of year is the best time to see them with there not being any leaves to hide behind, they are also very vocal, and their call of "twoi, twoi, twoi" carries quite a distance, alerting you to the fact that this busy little bird is close by, and always worth a look.

It was still grey, and it was still windy, but more importantly it was dry, almost three days without rain.  In some places with the wind and the sunshine the ground looked quite dry.  I headed back down Lymington Bottom to home.  Spring is hopefully just around the corner.

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