Wednesday, 17 September 2014

16th September - Life Is Like a Hurricane

Yet another still misty start to the day, with the promise of the clouds being burnt away late in the morning.  What breeze there was from the east.  

With the mist and heavy dew the presence of spider's webs has noticeable.  It seems to synonymous with the time of year, but surely they have to be there all year round.  We have two yukka spikes that have become very popular with the webs strung between the spiky leaves.

The spider itself hides itself away either in a silk cocoon it has spun in the tip of the spike leaf.

Or lower down where the leaves are very close together.

The spikes are completely covered with webs, and I would be interesting to know exactly how many spiders there are.  They look like various different ages of Garden Orb spiders.

The moth trap has not been two busy, and there has not been that much variation of species, however this moth appeared and at first I thought it was a September Thorn.

But when it flew away as I tried to get it out, and it landed in the nearby tree I had a better view, and have some doubts, but I can't find a credible alternative.

This one though was definitely a Lunar Underwing.

In the mist the calls of birds seem to be accentuated, and a group of Long-tailed Tits were very loud.  Its that time of year when the feeders become an attraction, and like last winter its the "buggy nibbles" they go straight for.

It has been awhile since I have photographed the Long-tailed Tits, and this morning the conditions were not perfect, but this one stayed still long enough to allow me to get a half decent picture.

With the Long-tailed Tits were a pair of Blue Tits, but I also noticed a duller smaller bird, and only had a short brief view.

A Chiffchaff, and it soon became clear there were two as they chased each other around the Dogwood.  Finally one came to the top of the tree.  It looked as if it had either been bathing or, it had become wet from the mist and dew.

Other birds were now appearing from the Leylandi hedge.  This hedge has become a haven for House Sparrows, with quite a large flock using the dense hedge as a roosting site.  This female was one of the first out.

They seem also to have taken a liking to the nibbles, but the Goldfinches still prefer the sunflower hearts.

I am not sure if this is a young bird, or an adult coming of moult but you can see the red facial feathers developing.

The Goldfinches and the Greenfinches take the hearts from the feeder and delicately rotate the seed in their bill to break it up.  This results in parts of the seed being dropped to the floor.  In certain areas of the garden the slugs see this as a feats and you can see trails where they feed during the night.  Under this feeder I have placed the ground feeder, and the bits are falling onto the tray, and the resident Robin stopped singing to take advantage.

The Greenfinches are quite aggressive when on the feeders, but are very careful as they approach them, creeping through the branches.

There is at least six different Greenfinches coming to the feeders which is a good sign, because in many places elsewhere they are still being impacted by the trichomonosis disease caused by a protozoan parasite of the same name.  The disease is also known as ‘canker’ when seen in pigeons and doves, and as ‘frounce’ when seen in birds of prey. It has been known as a disease of cage birds for some time.  

The disease came to prominence in summer 2005, when it was first noted in British finches. Epidemics of the disease occurred in 2006 and 2007, with smaller scale mortality events noted in subsequent years. Greenfinches and Chaffinches are the species that have been most frequently affected, but the disease has also been documented in other garden bird species, including House Sparrow, Dunnock, Great Tit and Siskin.  Simple measures can help prevent this disease, clean and disinfect the feeders and feeding sites regularly, and possibly rotate the positions of the feeders in the garden to prevent the build up of contamination in any one area of ground below the feeders. 

Another bird creeping about the tree made a short appearance, which is typical of this shy and secretive bird at this timer of the year

The garden eventually went quiet, and by the end of the morning the mist had burned off, and warm sunshine had replaced it.

It was still quite warm late afternoon when i set off for a walk, the sunshine had also brought the spiders out into their webs on the yukkas.

I headed off towards Old Down with the intention of entering from the Brislands path.  The only item of interest before then was a pair of elusive but vocal Bullfinches at the junction with Gradwell.  

There are still piles of logs waiting to be collected at the entrance, and the path is still clear and flat leading into the wood.

I decided to take the north perimeter path, and as it came out into the open in the area where there are sapling trees planted I disturbed a Buzzard.  But for once it didn't fly away out of sight it settled onto a branch in the open, and I was able to get some good views and nice photographs. 

It was looking around and turning its head all the time, some of the positions making it look very endearing, not totally sure what to do, maybe it is one of the juveniles from this year's brood here in the wood.

Rather than stick to the path completely around the outside I turned inside and took the new path through the middle.  I disturbed a young buck Roe Deer in the same place I saw one last week, and considered it to be probably the same animal.

Away from the conifers the area opens up with just a few Ash trees, this is a recent change, and seems to be one for the good as the area was a big attraction to the birds, and suddenly I could hear calls and plenty of movement.  With the leaves on the trees it was difficult to get clear views but I could just see and definitely hear Blue and Great Tits, Goldcrests, Long-tailed Tits, Treecreepers and a single Great Spotted Woodpecker.  As this mixed flock moved through the trees it was joined by a couple of Nuthatches, they announced their entrance with a few calls then appeared in the Ash Tree above me.

As they fly between the trees they appear to be much bigger than most of the tits and finches, but in truth they are much the same size, maybe the large beak adds to the illusion of size.  Suddenly all the calls stopped and were replaced by the mewing of a Buzzard that came over the tree tops.

This new area should be interesting in the winter, and then on into the spring as the leaves come out and the warblers arrive.  Good coming out of the devastation of last winter.

I walked around the path at the west end, and then down through the paddocks, the sun feeling warm again after the shade of the wood.  I wasn't the only one enjoying the warm sun, rabbits were feeding in the sheltered area by the hedge in the sunshine.

As I walked up Andrew Lane I cast a glance at the roof of the first house, Hornets were still buzzing around the gutter.  I hadn't noticed any visible migration at all as I walked in the open, there were quite a few Swallows and House Martins in the sky around the stables, but these were local birds. As I walked up the lane the swallows calls changed to those of alarm, and as I scanned the sky I saw a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by the Swallows and House Martins.

The hirundines in the air would not be at danger from the hawk, but any young bird perched up somewhere could very well be a target of a surprise attack, the calls and attention of the flying birds ensuring everyone knows of the threat.

The paddocks were quiet, a flying Green Woodpecker being the only bird of interest, the pre roost activity seen last week not apparent today.

I walked around top of the hill in the sunshine and with the "hueet" calls of warblers coming from within the hedgerow intermittently, but with no sign of the owners.  As is the case in the sunshine here there were plenty of butterflies, Speckled Wood and Small Whites flying alongside me as I walked.  Movement over the field caught my eye and I watched an Emperor dragonfly chasing a Speckled Wood low over the stubble.  The butterfly evading the lunges of the dragonfly, and eventually flying off to safety as the dragonfly gave up.

I decided to walk back to the pond along side the field.  On the wires above the field, I found a small flock of Starlings beginning to prepare for the evening and making a lovely silhouette against the washed out evening sky. 

A little further on a strange call stopped me.  I was 99 percent sure it was a Great Tit, but that one percent just kept my interest.  I could see movement in the leaves as I watched the tree, and then from behind the leaves the owner appeared.

As suspected a Great Tit, looking quite splendid in its perfect new feathers, they are the most handsome and proudest of our common tits.

Over the last weeks I have noticed the increase in the sightings of jays.  At this time of year they are caching acorns for the winter, and they can be seen going between trees with their floppy flight, and the flash of blue in the wing, or white from the rump.  As I walked towards the road there were two making their way from Oak to Oak.

The othe nut hoarder is the Grey Squirrel, and like the Jay I have become aware of the squirrels in the trees as they forage for nuts to cache.  This one was busy burying its store in the middle of this paddock.

It has been awhile since I have walked around the pond, and with all the dry weather I was wondering what the water level was like (ever hopeful of that wader!).  As I approached I was amazed at the number of Mallard on the edge of the pond.  I stopped so as not to flush them and counted sixteen all in various states of feather moult by the side of the water.

Sixteen is by far the largest count I have had at the pond, but as I walked a little further I saw yet another five making a total of 21!

Those of you who have lakes and estuaries within their patch probably find it ridiculous that I could get so excited about a count of 21 Mallard, but you have to remember this is the only significant piece of water I have, and 21 ducks is mega!  I am not sure where they have come from, one thought I had was that they could be the first brood of ducks from Plain Farm finally kicked out.  Interestingly they are mostly males so I don't suppose they will stay.  It was nice to see them here, and to get a reflection shot in the evening sunshine.

I walked towards Kitwood checking the lawns and gardens but with the usual results.  I crossed the field towards Old Down.  There were huge flocks of corvids feeding, but still no hirundines, I wonder if they will appear again this autumn?

I walked into the wood and took the perimeter path.  This part of the wood is completely different too, with plenty of light coming through.  It will be possible to get a lovely winter sunset here when the leaves fall off the trees.  I disturbed a female Roe Deer, and she stopped to watch me.

She quickly ran out of patience with me, and turned away to be joined by another.  They both walked away, and then from the broken branches came two smaller deer which were probably this year's kids.  One stopped like it's mother to look at me, and the setting sun through the trees caught it's fur.

Unusual to see a group of four, I wonder if the other older deer was last year's offspring hanging around with mum and it's younger siblings.

The Sulphur Tuft aside its still a little early for fungi, but I checked the suitable areas.  It will be interesting to see what crop appears this year following the forestry work and all the dead wood about.

I walked towards Gradwell Lane, but stopped just before the entrance to watch the sunlit trees.  Finches were calling and flitting about from tree to tree, and in a sunlit patch of Ivy there were a few Chiffchaffs, I counted three definitely but they may have been more.

The Ivy flowers attract the insects, and in turn the insects attract the warblers and they dash about through the leaves and flowers to catch the insects just like this.

So the day ended as it began with Chiffchaffs and feeding birds.  Still in the middle of this quiet spell, there is always something to keep the interest.  Who would have thought 21 Mallard in Four Marks!

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