The rain overnight gave way to clear skies in the morning and sunshine, the forecast was good for the day with a light south easterly breeze. I was off early with the hope that there might be something that signalled spring is definitely here.
As I walked down Lymington Rise I could hear a Song Thrush in full song. They have a habit of being able to make themselves invisible when they sing, but I finally managed to find the owner of a beautiful song.
A little further on a Dunnock was doing exactly the same thing, singing it's heart out in the name of babies.
I set of up Brislands, and as I passed the turn for Gradwell I heard a familiar song, surely not again, but I was certain. I stopped and waited, listened and pished, then out of the rhododendrons I could see the unmistakeable orange flash, amazingly this is my third location of the year for Firecrest, and once again the camera went into overdrive.
There was a female in the background, but the male took centre stage, the orange crest catching the filtered sunlight that came through the leaves.
I left it singing away and wondered whether this was a possible nesting site, we shall have to wait and see.
I carried on towards Old Down. Skylarks sang on either side of the lane, and the anemones were in full bloom in the morning sunshine. At the entrance to the wood almost all of the timber has been cleared.
I walked around the outside of the wood, and entered by the north perimeter trail. The ground is now thick with the green shoots of Bluebells, and I managed to find the first Bluebell flower in amongst them,.
As I came across the the main path I was very pleased to see that there were white plastic tubes everywhere. New trees have been planted just as was promised, from the devastation new life is being established. With this and the wild flowers it looks so much better, its just a sahme sdo many good trees suffered in the storms.
Wood Anemones are flowering everywhere, in the sunshine they look a very delicate flower.
Where the side of the track opens up I could see out into the fields and I noticed a Buzzard and a Crow in the middle of the field. The Crow seemed quite upset by the Buzzard, which is unusual, as when they mob a Buzzard once it lands in either the land or a tree they consider it job done. This one was calling and lunging at the Buzzard that just stared at the crow.
A little further on I heard a Marsh Tit singing, and quickly located a pair inthe tree above me, once again they seemed more occupied with territory, and I was able to get some nice close pictures.
In between the song they were also inspecting various holes in the trees possibly for nest sites.
I walked down through the paddocks, and then up Andrews Lane, it was quiet, but once I reached the south facing slope I found a couple of Brimstones and this large queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee.
I turned on to Lyeway, and I could hear bleating in the distance, as I came onto the road I could see the owners, the fields full of young lambs.
Some were sleeping making the most of the warm sunshine.
While others were clearly up to no good!
Another flower along Lyeway, this time a Field Mouse Ear.
I headed toward the Mountains Plantation, walking past Winchester Wood. The Jackdaws were house hunting, this old tree proving to be quite an attractive residence.
I walked up to the pond on the estate, but it was quiet, I then made my way down to the quarry, where it was sheltered and warm. I stopped for a drink and a break, but I was not alone, a Peacock Butterfly was enjoying the warm sun too.
And there were two Brimstones about as well, this is the female.
Walking up towards Plain Farm the field was being tilled, and this attracted quite a few Jackdaws and Rooks, they all seemed to prefer one corner of the field though.
Having walked past the grain barns I noticed the Kestrel on the wires. It didn't seem settled though, and flew around the field, hovering and then moving on.
As I walked past the workshops I flushed another out of the tree, and the two then flew around the main field together.
Walking on I could hear Lapwing calling, and as I reached the path to the field I could see three over the far field. One settled on the ground while the other two engaged in some aerobatics, probably in an attempt to impress the other on the ground that must have been the female
The rest of the farm was quiet. Chiffchaffs were singing, and today there was definitely an increase in the number of Chiffchaffs all over the patch. I carried on and made my way down Charlwood, and then along Lye Way. I flushed the first Small Tortoiseshell of the day, and it settled on a Buttercup in amongst the grass.
As I walked along the road I noticed a shape on top of the hedge, with the binoculars I could see it was a male Wheatear, but as I focused the camera it was gone, and this was all I was left with.
This was my earliest Wheatear for the patch, in a location I always believed would deliver one. I searched both sides of the hedge, but with no luck. A great find, but a shame there was no picture.
I carried on and turned off the road and walked to the footpath that leads to Swellinghill. A Chiffchaff sang again, and finally I was able to get a good picture.
Walking down the footpath I stopped to watch some Great Tits, and from above me I heard Fieldfare calling. They headed across the field, and disappeared into the small copse. I searched the tree branches and managed to find this one.
In total I counted 20 birds as they flew off. This is a reliable place to find them at this time of year, I could also hear Redwing, but never managed to see them.
Another certainty here at this time of year and in the sunshine are Small Tortoiseshells, and they didn't let me down. They like the dandelions to nectar on. Here two were using the same flower.
On the banks of Swellinghill Road were these little white flowers. They are Barren Strawberries, tiny little strawberry flowers that emerge at this time of year.
At the pond I was looking for Bee Flies, another good location to find them in the sunshine. My first pass resulted in nothing, but I did find this Cuckooflower just about to flower. This is a favourite of the Orange Tip, so they must appear soon.
Walking back, I found what I was looking for, the Bee Fly. It looks like a bee, but is a fly with a ling proboscis. They use this to extract nectar from the early flowers.
At Kitwood I took the footpath back towards Old Down. In the field I disturbed a Mistle Thrush which was collecting worms and insects probably for a brood nearby.
Being just after midday the wood was quiet, but as I came out of the wood towards Gradwell I noticed a small flock of Black-headed Gulls overhead, quite unusual here.
I decided to take the foot path between Gradwell and Lymington Bottom, one more chance for something to turn up at the horse paddocks. Walking down Gradwell I thought I heard a snatch of Blackcap singing but couldn't locate the bird. The paddocks, predictably were quiet, and for my efforts I had to negotiate a very muddy path.
The sun was now quite warm, and I headed home, satisfied once again with some wonderful views of Firecrest, and my earliest Wheatear. New life is emerging all around us, and the warm weather just puts a smile on a very red face.