News from the garden, the fighting Robins have turned to love. On Friday I photographed a pair sizing up to each other, then over the weekend I saw one Robin feeding the other with a buggy nibble (what else?). Now this may not have been the bird in the fight, but it would appear that we do have a couple in the garden, and who knows we may again hear strange whistles from our glass box.
On the way home this afternoon I saw two Hares in the middle of a field outside Alton, this used to be a common sight a few years ago but recently I haven't seen them, its nice to see they are back again. It may of course have something to do with the field rotation applied by the farmer.
The sunny day today had given way to wispy cloud by the late afternoon, it was though still and relatively mild. I decided to walk around the Newtown Farm area, and Plash Wood. With no sign of the Barn Owl at Plain Farm this is for me the only other suitable location. I came up Alton Lane, there were a few Rooks about, but at the Garden Centre the area was quiet. There is just one nest left, but that was deserted. It would seem the rookery here has suffered at the hands of the storms. There may be some activity at the nursery site, but it wasn't really clear.
However as I walked along Weathermore Lane past the golf course I could hear the familiar calls of Rooks, and in the trees to my right there were at least a dozen nests being attended too. It looks like there are Rooks are brooding, while the partner sits close by giving assuring calls.
Whilst a common bird around the patch it is more than often seen bursting from the undergrowth of heard calling from within the woods. The Pheasants are hunted and are very nervous (understandably) of any human contact. This superb male though was out in the open, but made a dash for it as I raised the camera.
I turned off the lane that has now become a very busy road as a result of the road closures in Farrington due to the flooding. It is only a single track, and the sides of the road are covered in huge muddy ruts in the verge where cars have pulled to one side. Despite this it is still considered necessary to drive at high speed and then to brake in surprise when something comes the other way.
The village has been extremely busy as a result of this A32 closure, with trucks and cars hurtling through the lanes. I can understand that the flooding requires vehicles to detour, but I would like to think that these drivers realise that the detour is on a country lane that requires a different driving style that considers the likely hazards they may face.
As I came out into the open I noticed a small bird on the power lines that stretch across the middle of the field. A closer look revealed a Kestrel. As it sat it looked down into the stubble field. I moved around to get a better angle, and to get closer. I quite like the combination of the metal and industrial nature of the pylon and this pretty little falcon using it to it's advantage.
We are now into March, the evenings are lighter and the birds are definitely thinking about breeding. I could hear Chaffinches singing, but the most dominant song was that of the Song Thrush. I looked to find the owner of one song, and as I found him at the top of a birch he was off to be replaced by a Great Spotted Woodpecker. A little further on there was a small patch of Larches that had two pairs of Nuthatches calling to each other as they foraged amongst the cones left on the branches
Continuing the courtship theme a pair of Buzzards were calling from the direction of Plash Wood. At one stage both were circling above the trees, but I only managed to capture this one.
I walked along the path to Plash Wood. At the gate there is a small copse that has always been good for spring warblers, and a very good site for Green Woodpecker, the attraction for the woodpecker being a very old dead tree. I could hear the woodpecker in the distance piping out its "yaffle" call, but unfortunately its dead tree has become yet another victim of the winter storms. All that is left now is the sawn base of the tree and a carpet of saw dust.
I walked as far as Plash Wood, there were Chaffinches in the hedge along with one singing Yellowhammer. I didn't go into the wood as I was keen to get back to the farm buildings. As I scanned across the trees in the distance I picked up a pair of mallard. They are becoming quite a regular sighting around here.
All the small birds were looking to go to roost by now, and as is the case there were lots of calls coming from within the hedges and the bramble bushes, a Wren was very vocal and agitated as I walked past.
The field to my left as I walked back was full of Redwing feeding in the grass. I estimated a flock in excess of 100 birds. They would drop down from the surrounding trees to feed on the grass, then flew up in a very large flock to disappear to roost in the conifers at the back of the field. It is about this time of year that flocks of Redwings and Fieldfare start to gather and collect around the local fields. Very soon they will be off to the summer breeding grounds.
I made my way to the farm buildings where it was very quiet apart from the cattle. At the barn I could hear Blue Tits calling, and Yellowhammers were collecting in the hedges at the back of the field. I checked the owl box, but it was difficult to determine whether there was any activity. There were droppings on the box, but it looked like there had been tractor work today beneath it so there was nothing to indicate an owl had been present recently.
I walked around the path to the gorse bushes. The Kestrel had moved from the pylons top the lower wires that crossed the patch of ground left for wildlife. Again it looked down to the ground, and at one stage dropped but was unsuccessful in its attempt.
Kestrels and Barn Owls do not make good neighbours, the Kestrel being very opportunistic in using the Barn Owls hunting skills to steal a meal. In addition I did hear that there had been a Barn Owl corpse found last autumn at Plain Farm, probably as a result of a Sparrowhawk attack.
What with the recent awful weather that would stretch the hunting capabilities of a Barn Owl to the limit, and these other predators it didn't bode well for seeing a Barn Owl tonight, or even this winter.
I waited, walking back and forth, but there was no sign of any owl. I made my way back to Weathermore, stopping frequently to look back to the barn in the gloom, and across the fields just in case I could see a white ghost drift across. There was no such luck
The sun was going down now, and as always seems the way just as it dropped below the horizon there was a pocket of clear sky that allowed the last rays to light up the trees before day turns to night.
As I watched the sun set, and hopefully scanned the fields for my owl, I was serenaded by the song of not one, but at least four Song Thrushes. For me this is the sound of early spring, thrushes singing as the evening unfolds into night, and the hope of a lovely day in the morning.
I found this songster at the top of an oak as I turned away from the fields. Mixed feelings as I headed home, no sign of the Barn Owl, but a sense of warmth associated with the oncoming of hopefully better, warmer weather as requested and signalled by the Song Thrushes.