I have been away this week in New Jersey, so when I arrived home Friday and saw the weather I was optimistic for the weekend. Saturday morning started dry and with some high clouds. The sun was there but the forecast was for it to become a little more cloudier through the day. In the house opposite a pair of House Martins had started to build a nest. Over the years this has been a popular nest site, but more recently the existing nest was occupied by House Sparrows, and we have witnessed some amazing fights over its residency. The outcome of these battles was that the nest fell down, and for the last two or three years there has not been any attempt to rebuild, until this year. The pair work together to place the mud a the bottom to start with.
They chatter away all the time, and it often sounds like they are arguing.
One places the mud while the other watches and chatters. It seems to take forever and I will follow the progress to see if when and if they finish it.
While watching the House Martins I noticed the rockery at the bottom of the garden was looking quite spectacular. This is the best time of year for flowers in the garden, the blues pinks and whites all coming out and mixing together.
I set off to walk to the wood, and then who knows where. The season is coming to an ned for birds, but there is still the flycatchers to find, my other concern is finding a Holly Blue butterfly, the two sites I have seen them previously have not delivered yet, and time is running out, I just hope the cold spring last year has not wiped them out.
Walking down Lymington Rise it was all about nests. Starling sang from the rain gutters and House Sparrows chirped away in similar locations. This pair of Jackdaws are nesting in the chimney pot of this house and were enjoying the morning sunshine on the ready made perch that was above it.
All around there was bird song, and from within the large oak trees there were the contact calls of Great and Blue Tits. Young had obviously hatched and needed feeding either in the nest holes or actually out amongst the trees.
On the fields and lawns Blackbirds hunted continuously for food for their youngsters. This male almost hidden amongst the buttercups.
I stopped to see if the Firecrests were about and was rewarded yet again with some lovely views of both the male and female.
I just can't resist them, they are strikingly beautiful little birds
Walking on I noticed a Mistle Thrush fly across the lane in front of me, and then I found it moving through the long grass around the old huts.
The sun was beginning to win its battle with the wispy cloud and walking along Brislands the Skylarks were singing on either side of the path, and the cow parsley lining the lane was looking quite spectacular, having grown significantly over the last few days. The nettles too have suddenly shot up, and I spotted a single Ladybird on one of the leaves. This is the seven spot Ladybird the commonest in the UK, and our native ladybird.
The Oak trees close to the wood entrance are now almost in full leaf, and I could see a Yellowhammer at the top with a beak full of insects. There was also a Whitethroat singing in the tree, and it was coming from the top, both being an unusual place for this species, that is usually found skulking in the middle of a hedge.
Walking down the path a Blackcap was singing in the trees. Again it came out into the open to sing, and showed very well.
I took the main path to the crossroads, and then headed west. The destruction of the winter seems a long time ago now, the only signs being the fallen trees or branches that were lying higher than a metre. Grass and nettles are growing rapidly and changing the look of the wood floor.
The Bluebells are hanging on, and in some places there is some new growth.
I walked down the path to the west, and then turned onto the perimeter path. I stopped to look out over the field, looking west over towards Andrew Lane, the large white house standing out against the Copper Beech.
The grass in the field had grown significantly and I wondered if the Roe Deer would be present like last year, I checked the spot but couldn't find any signs, so carried on out of the wood. At the stile I noticed this flowering Knapweed. But I don't think it is wild, and probably "escaped" from the cottage garden nearby.
The sun was intermittent at the moment, so I wasn't too confident of finding any butterflies along the road side let alone the targeted Holly Blue. I have seen them here in the past, but there was nothing this morning. There was still another site, and I hoped by the time I got there the sun would be out and the butterflies would be flying.
Up ahead as I walked towards the pond was a Song Thrush feeding on the side of the road.
I paused at the pond, there were a few tadpoles by the iris bed.
And the Bogbean is flowering amongst the stalks of the iris that have yet to flower.
Across from the pond there is a small house with an immaculately kept lawn. This is an attraction to the Blackbirds and Thrushes, and this Robin, that clearly uses this perch a lot.
As I left the Robin I noticed a different shape in the trees that run alongside the field at the back of the houses. Different shapes that don't belong are always worth checking out, and when I did I could see it was in fact a Heron perched on a branch. I usually see them flying over the houses, probably after raiding a garden pond, or away off in the distance, this was the first time I had managed to catch one at rest, and the first one this year.
The plan was to walk along the Kitwood Bridleway. It faces the south and always is a good site for insects and butterflies. It is also another place where I have found the elusive Holly Blue before, but not last year.
As I walked Lye Way to the bridleway I noticed something running down the middle of the road.
It was a young Hare, and when it finally realised I was there it veered off a shot into the horse stables. I just love the eyes, and this shot captures it wonderfully.
The hare seem to be spreading out, with sightings now coming even further away from Plain Farm.
I turned onto the bridleway and made my way through the ruts. The sun by now had come out, and I could hear Blackcap, Chiffchaff and Whitethroat singing from the nearby trees and bushes. At one stage I stopped because I thought I had heard a sedge warbler but it turned out to be a combination of Chiffchaff and Whitethroat.
The hoped for butterflies were not about despite the sunshine, there were though plenty of bees. As I reached the end of the rutted path I found another confiding Blackcap.
It became clear there was a pair present as the female appeared later with the male as I was photographing a very loud Chiffchaff.
A feature of the grasses and fields at the moment is the number of Dandelion seed heads, they look so delicate as they appear in clumps everywhere.
In this more open area suddenly butterflies appeared. They were though mainly Brimstones, both male and female, and very few would stop to allow any pictures. They would tease me by inspecting the flowers but not actually stopping long enough to allow focus. This female Brimstone though did linger long enough.
As did this Peacock, although its upper wings looked very pale and tatty, so it seemed to hide its embarrassment by closing the wings.
A short piece of song caught my ear, surely not, and then it went again, and then again and revealed the true owner. It belonged to a Chaffinch, but it was stuck in the run up part of the song, and this can sound like a Wood Warbler starting. The third listen though revealed the delivery that was definitely Chaffinch
The area just before the main road is quite open, and has a good amount of flowers. The Speedwell look gorgeous carpeting the floor.
I now had a decision to make, did I walk on, or did I return the way I had come? The Holly Blue was my quarry and with little flying time left I need to find one soon. The sun was now well out, it was warm and there were butterflies about, good conditions indeed.
I crossed the road and scanned the field by the Mountains Plantation. It has recently been seeded, and there were green lines of shoots crossing the soil and flint. With the late seeding and the shoots I think this will be a maize field which will be interesting to watch develop, and eventually in the autumn harvested because maize is an attraction to many. For now though the shoots produced an interesting pattern on the soil.
The side of the bridleway was covered in cow parsley which again was quite stunning when viewed close up.
I made the decision and turned to go back the way I had come. Almost immediately the decision was vindicated by finding a confiding Speckled Wood.
But then the sun went in, a few butterflies passed me, but they were whites and Orange Tips, there was no sign of the hoped for Holly Blue. At one of the pools created by the tyre tracks a Brown Rat came out of the undergrowth to drink.
The rat along with a very vocal Green Woodpecker turned out to be the highlight of the trek back, and as I turned back into Lye Way I was considering that Holly Blue may be a no this year which was concerning.
A small bird dropped to the road in front of me, and I was surprised to see it was a Nuthatch. It was concerned about something in the hedge nearby, and was joined by a Great Tit that was also calling in alarm.
It was carrying insects so it had young close by and was obviously concerned for their safety. I couldn't see any bird, and maybe it was a Stoat or Weasel
I walked into the small paddock to cross to the wood. A white butterfly was nectaring on the hawthorn bush close to the path, and I was pleased to see it was a Green-veined White, the first of the year, at least I had found one new butterfly.
There was plenty of song in the woods, with the Wren winning the volume contest. By now the sky was clear and the sun high and it was warm. The opening of the rides in the wood following the forestry work have let the light in, and it looks lovely with the lush green grasses.
I love just being out on days like these with the lush clean greens of the plants the optimism of a butterfly, and the wonderful collection of bird song, this time of year is absolutely wonderful. However it was time to return home and off to the theatre, Katie has been performing in Basingstoke and we were off to see her.
PS. The show was superb, and I was very proud of her :)