Another sunny and warm day with little breeze had contributed to turning my car into a sand castle. Would these same winds deliver some early spring migrants I have been searching for? In the late afternoon I set off to find out.
The walk along Lymington Bottom and then up Brislands was only memorable for the number of stationary cars caused by the traffic lights at the crossroads. Never has Four Marks had so much traffic. Beyond Gradwell I stopped to see if I could hear the Firecrests, but all I managed to find were a pair of Bullfinches. They were piping softly to each other deep in the bushes, and never came out for the photo opportunity.
A little further on a Chiffchaff sang from the top of a Willow tree, it was difficult to pick up, because it was moving around the branches, and flying out to catch insects. Finally it settled but as you can see was constantly looking for a meal.
I walked along Brislands, and out into the open, the sun felt quite warm despite the fact it was five o'clock. skylarks sang on both sides of the lane, and a walk out into the middle of the field disturbed a few from the ground. Looking back down Brislands the lane looks much greener and with the celandines flowering spring is definitely here.
The entrance to the wood was sprinkled with sunshine, and the hawthorn bushes on either side of the path are beginning to sprout their lime green leaves.
the recent dry and warm weather has helped to dry out the mud that lay on the footpath. There are still many deep tracks cut into the ground, and many of these are still full of water, but where the footpaths and trails have been crossed by them there has been an effort to smooth the ruts out.
There is a feel of new growth about, I decided to take the diagonal footpath that joins up with the west path. This path has now been cleared, and before the work it was a dark and dead area, but now it is full of light. This was demonstrated by the fact that a Comma butterfly landed on a log in front of me, previously I would never have seen a butterfly here, let alone a Comma.
The tree planting continues, and I noticed that the cleared area off the path towards Old Down Cottage is now full of white plastic tubes. Although looking inside the saplings are very small, and it will be a while before these make an impression on the canopy.
On the ground bluebell shoots were everywhere, and looking over towards the conifer plantation, and area that was very dark is now awash with sunlight.
I turned onto the main path heading west. A pair of great Tits were making a lot of noise and I stopped to investigate closer, I thought maybe there was a owl nearby they had found, but it turned out the aggression was directed at another great Tit that appeared to be muscling in on the pair.
I took a small deer track that led close to the fence and through a very thick carpet of Bluebells and Dog Mercury. In places the Bluebells were flowering in clumps, if this weather continues mild then there is a good chance the woods could be covered in blue within two weeks.
A Chiffchaff sang from within the cleared area, and two Wrens rattled out their songs in a vocal battle. I came out at the west end, and scanned across the fields in the hope a stray hirundine might be making its was north with the Sahara dust, nothing giving though.
I climbed the stile and walked down the paddocks, a young rabbit sat under the hedge in the sunshine, and allowed me to get quite close.
When I came a little too close though it disappeared down its hole.
I walked through the paddocks listening to the bleats of lambs in the fields across the valley. I walked up Andrews Lane where Blackbirds were collecting food for a brood somewhere, and the House Sparrows chirped away from inside the hedge.
At the view point that looks over the fields and paddocks I noticed a strange shape on the top of one of the Larches, closer inspection revealed it to be a Buzzard, sitting in the sunshine as it scanned the ground below.
I walked up the lane, and out onto the path at the top. For me when walking I rely on my ears and what I hear as much as what I see. The familiar calls and songs are there all the time, a Great tit calling,. Blue Tits buzzing from the trees, a Blackbird and Robin singing, these are the common sounds. But every so often a different call can be heard, and you know it is something worth investigating. This evening it was the "seep" call of a Redwing, it is getting late for them, and as I searched the tree tops for them I heard another new call, the cackle of the Fieldfare, and pretty soon I realised there were a lot of Fieldfare about. I disturbed them from the trees, but realised they were in the fields as well.
The Fieldfare outnumbered the Redwing, I only managed to count twelve of them, but there was up to at least a 100 if not more Fieldfare. I made my way around the path and down alongside the field. They would fly from the field to the trees on the edge of the path, and as they did so it was clear there were many in the trees already.
This gathering here at this time of the year I now realise is a regular event. This is the third year in a row I have found them here in these numbers. They are very nervous, and I was only able to get relatively close to a few single birds.
Clearly the fields are the attraction, but it is not clear why. This year the ground will be quite soft, but three years ago it was very dry. I noticed this year that the field had been spread with muck, but can't recall if this was the case the previous two years, if so it may be the attraction.
i walked along the path, and as I did I flushed birds from the trees, and they flew across in sizeable flocks to the copse on the other side.
There are twenty one birds in this picture, and six flocks of similar size flew across the field, giving an estimate of 120 to 130 birds, plus those that were already in the field.
I made my way towards Swellinghill, the difference today was that I followed the footpath, and did not walk in the field. Tortoiseshells and Peacocks were still on the wing despite the lateness of the evening. I only managed to find one Brimstone today though.
A walk around the pond did not find anything. Another Chiffchaff sang from the back of the pond, a Nuthatch called and a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed on a tree to the back of the house.
Just recently everyday seems to find yet another new wild flower emerging, today it was a clump of Archangel by the entrance to the pond. This nettle like plant has lovely shaped yellow flowers, and leaves that have silvery veins.
I walked towards Kitwood from the pond, as is usually the case at this time of year Blackbirds were in full song, setting out their territories. This male was in full voice when I picked the camera up to photograph him, but he seemed to sense me, and stopped and turned to look at me.
I walked across the field back into Old Down, scanning all the way in the hope of that elusive swallow, but it wasn't to be. The southern perimeter path to the Gradwell entrance used to be one of the darkest spots in the wood, today it is open and bright, and the clumps of Bluebells look healthy, and almost ready to put on a unique show for this spot.
This clump of Wood Sorrel has grown on an old tree stump created a few years back, but who knows what we will find next spring.
As well as song to announce their territories, the Blackbird males were also engaging in chase intruders away, and if necessary fighting them off. I watched this pair as one chased the other into the tree, and then physically attacked each other knocking the loser out.
With the sun setting, the air was full of song, at the bottom of Lymington Rise one tree had a Blackbird, Song Thrush, Greenfinch and Goldfinch singing, while three jackdaws perched nearby.
As I arrived home this Collared Dove was also "cooing" away from the TV aerial.
No swallows, or other migrants today, but it was nice to walk in shirt sleeves, and see out the end of the day. I wonder what will be next on this small patch.