The sultry conditions of Monday were replaced with deep blue skies today, but also with a fresh breeze. I had been hopeful the breeze would drop by the evening, but when I went out it was still cool, so I decided to try and find the sheltered sunny areas. I had chosen a smaller lighter lens today in the hope of getting the chance to photograph the Swallows in flight.
I headed off up Brislands with all the common birds singing. A Chiffchaff sang from the top of a Holly tree but avoided me by sitting within the leaves and branches. Out past the fields and there were several Whitethroat calling. One bird was in song, but I could hear contact calls as well. Last week I had seen an adult carrying food, so when I looked close at this photograph of a Whitethroat hiding in the hedge I wondered if it was a juvenile bird. There is some evidence of the remains of the yellow gape flange on the bill, but I can't be certain.
I turned into Old Down, and made my way to the perimeter path. The wind was now quite strong, and it was blowing across the path preventing any hope of insects or butterflies. I decided to walk outside the wood to try and find a sunny sheltered spot, but these were limited, and if it was sheltered the sun went in.
As I scanned across the fields I picked up a Buzzard with a very laboured flight. I could just make out it was carrying prey in it's talons.
From the size of the body, and the length of the tail I would say this was a Brown Rat, probably caught from the cow sheds at the bottom of Brislands.
It flew, dipping in flight every so often with the catch, into the bottom end of Old Down Wood. I went and explored the area but I couldn't find any sign of a nest or of any young calling. I have seen and heard Buzzard both in and above the wood here, so I am sure there must be a nest close by.
Coming back out of the wood and looking west, the crop in the field is growing nicely. I think these are oats.
I walked down through the paddocks, where yet another footpath detour is in place, and then up Andrew Lane. Young Blue Tits were calling everywhere, and in the trees above the lane at least two Blackbirds were in full song. The Swallows at the stables did not show so I headed on up the hill. As well as the tits there were young Chaffinches and two juvenile Robins.
I stopped at the view point and scanned the fields and paddocks. All I could find today were many Woodpigeon, but I had an interesting conversation with the lady who owns the land. She told me that they have Little Owls on the land, and even more interesting about three years ago they had a bright yellow bird around the orchard that the RSPB identified as a Golden Oriole, if only it would come back!
The path is sheltered in places, and the sun picks out one side of the bank, I disturbed a large dragonfly, and it flew around me. It was an yellow brown colour, with a very short and dumpy abdomen. Although it never settled again, I believe it was a Broad-bodied Chaser Dragonfly, a first for me around the patch. Other than the dragonfly the only other insect I could find was this Red Admiral.
At the top of the lane, I noticed that the farmer is putting up a fence around the field. This seems to be a growing trend in the area, and worryingly I wonder if we will also start to see the removal of the wildlife strips that lay next to the field. I read yesterday that the EU is to water down the policy of providing grants for using land for wildlife. Under the new proposals growing nitrogen fixing crops will be included as it improves the soil, and this would improve the wildlife. The decision lies with the individual member states, but the UK will be under pressure to ensure that UK farmers remain competitive. A sad day for wildllfie in agricultural regions.
I walked around Lye Way farm, and then out along Lye Way. Sadly the Horse Chestnut Trees that line the lane here are already showing signs of damage from the Leaf Miner Moth. The leaves have the dark brown stains, and several leaves are already looking dead. This is a lot earlier than previous years and may have something to do with the warm spring weather.
Again despite the shelter and the sunshine there was little insect action along the lane. I turned onto the footpath at Kitwood and headed into the wood. As I approached the entrance and the style I was taken by the pattern of the lush crop in the field, and the sunlight coming through the trees of the wood.
Looking to the north, the lines left by the seed sowing tractor also produced a lovely effect with the contrast of the distant trees
There had been no Swallows at Andrew Lane, and as I came out of the wood I was surprised to find only House Martins swooping over the field, hawking insects. They would fly high in the sky above the field, occasionally dropping low over the top of the crops.
A little further on and then I heard the familiar call of the Swallow, and they came dashing past me high at first but quickly falling low over the top of the field.
They have a different feeding technique to the House Martins, they continually fly low over the field, twisting and turning, but adopting a strategy of a circular feeding route. Once I had worked this out I could position myself to try to photograph them as they flew towards me, and then past.
At times they would even fly between the tractor furrows below the leaves.
lovely to watch and listen to as they went about collecting food to probably feed young in nests in the horse stables on Gradwell.
The photographs are slightly better than previous attempts but I will have to keep practising. It is an art to follow them to freeze the action, and that will only come with practice.
As I walked down Gradwell a Song Thrush was singing in the large Oak on the side of the road.
Back on Brislands the Chiffchaff was still in the Holly tree singing away, but this time clearly visible at the top.
It is now becoming much harder to find the singing birds with all the leaves now out, so it was nice of this one to show itself.
Along Lymington Bottom a large bird flew up into one off the Oaks. This is a Mistle Thrush, and I think it may be a juvenile from the way it behaved.
The weather is set fair for the rest of the week, and will become quite warm. Hopefully the wind will drop, and the butterflies will come out, we shall have to see. Tonight was a pleasant walk with always something of interest, if not earth shattering, but then that is something I have become used to, but I must enjoy it as I keep doing this.