Yet another clear still morning but it was cold than of late, the temperature dropping down to four degrees. All around Four Marks there was fog and mist, but our little bit of elevation helped to keep us clear. The sky was full of vapour trails a sign of the cold and dry conditions, it also shows how many planes cross us during the early morning.
Today was announced by Google as the first day of autumn, as of today the nights become longer than the days, something the birds seem to have reacted to as they were late to wake up this morning. This House Sparrow was waiting his turn for the breakfast feeder.
There is something very British (I can still say that now) about a House Sparrow, when you see them abroad they just don't look they are in the right place. Once upon a time they were everywhere, but have suffered a bit of a decline, however around Reads Field and the farms locally they are doing very well, roosts in their hundreds are easy to see.
There was a warbler flitting about in my garden, but it didn't stay long. A little later I found out what it was as a familiar song rang out, albeit at completely the wrong time of year. In the Silver Birch tree across the road was a singing Chiffchaff.
The song though had an effect and very soon it was joined by another and they chased each other around the branches.
On one of the TV aerials was a strange pairing, a Starling and a Woodpigeon, it looks almost as if they are having a conversation.
Throughout the morning the hazy cloud built up and despite the sun the air remained quite chilled and a lot cooler than we have been used too. By the late afternoon it was almost overcast but with the sun still having a presence, it had all the makings for a good sunset.
Late afternoon I drove to the estate to walk the loop around Charlwood and Plain Farm, I like to keep the coverage across the patch, and the woods have had some recent attention. When I parked the car I could see that the field of maize had been recently harvested, and as I walked up the hill I could hear the sound of machinery, and it soon became clear that the field by the main road was also being harvested. It must take some special equipment to cut though those stems.
It seems early to harvest maize, this usually takes place in October, this year must have been a productive one, with the crops ripening very early, the September weather helping.
The good September weather was not helping the birds though, and again as I walked along the Lye way there was pretty much silence. It wasn't until I reached the junction with Charlwood and the small pond that I heard the "hueet" calls of Chiffchaffs. I could see movement in the ivy leaves, and I waited. First one appeared quickly followed by another, they were catching flies attracted to the ivy flowers. When you watch Chiffchaffs fly catching it seems as if they are chasing small flies, but in this picture it is clear they are adapt at catching the big ones too.
I walked down Charlwood and it became clear that there were in fact quite a few Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers about, there calls and the occasional appearance in the hedges giving them away. I turned into the field where in the distance there were Rooks, a Pheasant and a Buzzard on the ground. Along the footpath Linnets were gathering on the wires, and Blackbirds called from within the hedge along with more calls from the warblers.
At the cottages a Great Spotted Woodpecker called, and once again I found it sitting at the top of a tree. This time a dead branch that was clearly popular with the woodpeckers.
As always I checked the fields, and in doing so I flushed a small group of Grey Partridges, and in the field there was a gathering of Common and Black-headed Gulls. Further on down the road towards the grain barns young Pheasants scrambled to get away from me as I walked behind them.
In the hedge by the farm houses the House Sparrow flock has built up once again. At first you see one bird in the hedge, then another appears and before you know you can see many sparrows within the hedge.
Tractors with trailers were coming and going, dropping off cut up maize stems, I am not sure if this included the actual maize or was just the mulched plant stems. The trailers though were huge and there was a lot of it.
I crossed the road and walked up past the quarry. I stopped to listen to the Long-tailed Tits, and very quickly these were joined by Chiffchaffs and Nuthatches. Leaving the flock I walked up the hill, and out into the open. I am not sure if it was me or the Woodpigeons that crashed out of the surrounding trees, but something upset this buck Roe Deer and it shot across the path in front of me and into the safety of the woods.
The field here had been harvested of maize, and was now looking very sorry for itself with short stumps sticking up. I walked down the path and watched a Hare run across the field, there is no shelter now and hopefully there will be more sightings to ascertain actual numbers.
I noticed Mistle Thrushes at the top of the oak tree, and they were joined by finches. They dropped down to the field, and almost immediately a huge flock of mixed finches flew up, joined by at least ten Mistle Thrushes. The flock consisted of Chaffinches, Greenfinches, Goldfinches, Yellowhammers and Linnets, and they were feeding in amongst the stubble probably on the seeds of the plants that were caught up in the harvest and not any fallen maize. Every so often parts of the flock would fly up and head off to the garden trees.
i picked up a bird flying low over the field and it was a Mistle Thrush, I then noticed a fast flying raptor behind it. I could only see the silhouette, but it was unmistakeable.
Fast flight, long sickle wings resembling a large hirundine, a Hobby and it was going fast. I think the Mistle Thrush was probably not the focus of its attention, but I can't blame the bird for taking evasive action, as the Hobby was coming at an amazing speed. I just kept shooting and managed just to get some defining colour to show the characteristic moustache.
They have been far and few between this year, but are regular and at this time of year they follow the swallows and martins, which is probably what this one was doing. The Hobby has been a success story recently unlike other birds of prey, and it expanding its presence in the UK, with it now reaching as far as the borders of Scotland.
I walked back down the main path, looking out for any sign of the Barn Owl, but of course there wasn't. Two Kestrels flew over heading towards Plain Farm. As I walked down the lane to the car I was serenaded by the calls of yet more Chiffchaffs, today had definitely seen an influx.
As I walked down the path I was taken by the golden sun catching the seed head of a Dandelion, and I gave justice to this by lying down in the grass and capturing the glow on the edge of the seeds, beautiful.
I drove home along Lye Way, and then towards the farm. The sun was now setting, and I hate to tell you so, but I was right, it was quite a spectacular sunset, the sun breaking through the clouds and creating a glare on the camera.
As I reached the end of Lye Way I saw six Herring Gulls flying across the fields, but other than that there was nothing else. I arrived home just in time to catch a flock of the "Little Guys" moving through the garden. When they do this they come in waves, chattering away, flooding the feeders, and are totally unaware I am there. Consequently I am able to get close to them, and I couldn't resist the opportunity.
The regular visits of Long-tailed Tits is a sign that winter is on the way. Overnight there was rain, and today (Wednesday) as I write this there has been a small fall of migrants that have included Yellow-browed Warbler. I will continue to check the warbler flocks that I come across, i think I have now identified a new bogey bird.