Monday, 4 August 2014

3rd August - Her Daddy Gave Her Magic

On Saturday I took the chance to visit the south coast, but on the way stopped off to see if the Barn Owl had returned.  As I walked up the hill I could hear Firecrests calling from within the conifers, hopefully they have had a successful breeding season here.

As I came to the roost site there was no sign of the owl in the open, but then I heard a rustle, and saw a flash of a white wing as it jumped into the box.  It was there which was a good sign.  I decided to leave, and walking back top the car I could see and hear the young Buzzards and what I can assume is the parent bird above the tree tops.


As they drifted away from me another bird of prey cruised just above the tree tops, this time it wasn't a Buzzard but a Red Kite.  From the cleanliness of the feathers I would say it was the juvenile bird we saw last Tuesday.


Early morning Sunday it was clear blue sky, but with a very fresh feel to the temperature.  By the time we left the house the clouds had rolled in, and there was even the threat of a shower away to the south.  The weather behaved though out our walk though, which took us through Old Down, and across Homestead farm to Alton Lane and home.

This time last year the land along Brislands was full of tall grasses, knapweed and ragwort, and plenty of butterflies and moth.  Today there is constant noise from the site as the construction vehicles move to turn it into land suitable to build over a hundred houses.  The butterflies have gone, but by the side of the road near the entrance there was a single ragwort, and amazingly it is covered in Cinnabar moth caterpillars.


These must have been left over from last year.  Other ragwort nearby had no visitors at all.  I was left wondering if this was a sad sight, or a maybe a strong defiant one.

Along Brislands lane there were Large White and Green-veined White butterflies.  The Ash tree that every spring becomes a battle ground between Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpecker for the available nest sites was sporting a brand new bracket fungus body.  This is the Shaggy Bracket and is a parasitic fungus, that is quite common on Ash trees, sporulating in the late summer.


As we came out into the open fields I noticed that the bracken was now extremely thick by the side of the road.  Hard to believe that there were Wood Anemones and Celandines in flower along here.  The whole circle of life though will begin once again.  The bracken though was a very popular source of warmth for the little Gatekeeper butterflies.

The field to the north had just started to be harvested, and looking across towards the distant fields it looks again a picture of an English summer.


I hadn't been into the wood from this entrance for sometime, and I was interested to see what if any forestry the signs that were about referred too.  As we turned into the entrance we saw immediately piles of logs on either side of the path.  these were mostly Larch, but there was also some Oak, Beech and Ash too.  Looking down the path it looks just like it did at the start of the year, minus the mud, and with a bit more green.


I hoped that the trunks were from the trees that had fallen during the winter storms, and that there was not another effort to fell more.  Walking down the main path it became clear that they had removed some existing trees, for what reason though was not clear.  The area around the start of the north perimeter path had been tidied up, the ruts flattened out


looking back along the path though a huge area had been opened up, and the only reason could be to allow access for construction vehicles.


Walking on it became a little clearer that maybe this was about putting right some of the damage caused by the tyre tracks in the winter.  This area here had deep ruts that were filled with water, but now it has been levelled out.


When the work was first done I was appalled at the state the land was left, but as we have gone through the spring and summer, and the ground has been accepted by the wood, I had come to terms with it.  It seemed a good source of water for the insects, maybe dragonflies, and the fallen trees had provided plenty of cover for the birds, Robins and Wrens seemingly everywhere during the spring.

This area here had a huge pool, there had always been water here, but the winter's work had created a bigger pool, that was covered in Frogs Spawn.  Now it is all filled in, and must admit to having mixed feelings.


The open areas though have been good for the butterflies, there were plenty of Meadow Browns as usual, and Helen found yet another Common Blue in amongst the grass.


We made our way along the path, the large oak that had laid across the path now gone, and parts of the surrounding bramble all broken down.  There was no sign of the Silver-washed Fritillaries which somehow wasn't a surprise.

From the wood we walked to the pond, as we approached we could see the Moorhen family in the irises.  An Emperor Dragonfly circled the middle of the pond, and there were a few Azure Damselflies around the sunny bank and on the Iris leaves.  I was though interested in a dragonfly that  flew close to the bank of the pond, and was actually stopping.  It was a large dragonfly, similar to the size of the Emperor.  I finally managed to get a good look at it as it settled on one of the sleepers by the bank.  It was a Southern Hawker.


Ironically I had seen my first yesterday at Titchfield Haven and here was one, a first for the patch at the pond.  Its always pleasing to find something new, and this now becomes the third dragonfly species for the patch after finding a Broad-bodied Chaser earlier in the year.  The hawkers are the largest and fastest flying dragonfly family, like the Emperor they like to patrol their "patch" hawking for insects that they can catch in mid flight.

Looking back at the pond it is desperately in need of a top up.  There are plenty of muddy fringes.  I would like to think that those muddy areas would attract a wader, but I am a realist, and will not pin my hopes to much on that happening, although a just a Snipe maybe?


We walked along the road towards Kitwood.  here we went into the small paddock that has been left to wild flowers.  There are plenty of Knapweed, Wild Carrot and Birds Foot Tre-foil, and amongst them were Common Blues, Meadow Browns and a few Small Whites.  There were also plenty of bees taking advantage of the flowers and the sunshine, this Red-tailed Bumble Bee looking very smart.


The paddock looks wonderful, transformed into a wild flower meadow, and a tribute to the owner who has obviously left it to grow for that very reason.


We took the footpath that leads through Homestead Farm, the field have been cut for hay, and a Buzzard sat on the branches of a dead tree looking across the field.  It had probably been around when the field was cut looking for an easy meal as the tractor  revealed what was hidden within.


As we walked through the fields, and across the road and up the footpath on the other side by the paddocks Buzzards called and circled above us.  Again I think these were parents and young birds, but it wasn't easy to separate them.  this one came very close as it dropped low over the paddock.  I know I have taken many Buzzard pictures but they are worth it (sometimes).


Walking up the hill  through the paddocks we would flush birds from the hedge.  Sometimes these would be Woodpigeons, and the noise they make as they flap there way out of the hedge really made us jump.

At the top of the hill the footpaths meet, we headed towards Garthowen through an area of dappled sunshine and speckled wood butterflies.  In the trees around the garden centre a Rook sat enjoying the warm sunshine.


After a stop for a coffee in the Tree House Coffee hose we continued down to Blackberry Lane on the footpath that goes through the field.  I have remarked how this year it has been left, and not immediately cut for hay.  This was still the case, and as you can see it provided some wonderful chalk grass habitat.


And the butterflies welcomed it too, there were Meadow Browns everywhere, and the largest concentration of Common Blues I have seen around the patch.  The Blues were also being quite confiding too, settling with their wings open for once displaying the beautiful vivid blue upper wings.  As a result I was faced with an identification issue.  These two butterflies, I believe are both Common Blues, but as you can see from the patterns on the wings, and the pattern around the edge of the wings they are different.  I have checked, and sought a second opinion, but the belief is that these two are of the same species, a Common Blue.




If anyone out there has reason to consider something else then I would be happy to hear.

We carried on down the hill, a large clump of nettles and ragwort was proving an attraction to quite a few butterflies.  This was the spot where I had found Small Copper last month, and sure enough, on the same patch of ragwort there was one.


The path then heads up a narrow lane, that is covered both sides by a hedge.  We could hear Swallows singing away from the other side of the hedge, but it wasn't until there was a clearing that I was able to see it.  


Sitting on a dead branch it was chattering away almost as if to its self.


From here we made our way home, an interesting walk, with a new species which is always nice to record.

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