Sunday, 7 September 2014

6th September - But You Will Be Rewarded In The End

It was another misty morning, with the sense that the sun was there somewhere though.  It wasn't cold, and there was no wind to speak of.  These conditions have been with us all week, and while there have not been any large "falls`' of migrants birds there has been a steady trickle along the south coast.  My theory is that these birds have to pass over Four Marks to turn up on the coast, so there must be the chance they could stop off here too if the conditions were right.  Unfortunately I am not sure what those conditions are yet.

A Chiffchaff in the garden was a good sign, but when I finally got out the first bird I came across was a bit of a surprise.  A juvenile Blackbird, which has only recently set out on its own by the look of the plumage.


I headed down Brislands, and wandered around the cemetery, and then out on to the playing field, there was very little about.  A little further along Brislands there was a singing duel taking place as two Robins were laying claim to territory that was very close to each other.


I tried to see if I could find the Firecrests, but there was no sign of them, in fact there was very little about amongst the rhododendrons.  I was trying to check all the likely spots where migrants would look to feed in the warm sheltered spots.  I went along Gradwell, but it was just as quiet with very little about.

I walked around the field, from the smell around the village yesterday I think it was spread with muck then.  This was a good sign, muck means insects, and where there are insects there are usually birds.  Off in the distance a huge flock of corvids took off, they had probably been feeding on the leftovers from the harvesting though.


I could hear swallows high above me, and as you looked you realised there were in fact quite a few.  They were feeding high up and around the trees.  At first I could only see Swallows, but gradually I was able to make out a few House Martins.  I walked around past the paddocks, and scanned across them.  There was ahuge flock of Goldfinches that were moving from the hedge to the seed heads that were bursting open in the field.  I got closer and was able to get better views of the flock, which consisting mostly of juvenile birds that lack the adults red face markings.


By now the number of hirundines had increased and they were flying low across the field, and all around the trees.


I estimated the number of Swallows to be about 500, and the House Martins around 100.  I did manage to also find at least 5 Sand Martins, which is always nice, they are smaller delicate little birds in comparison with their commoner cousins.

I left the Swallows in the hope that over the week the numbers present will increase.  Two years ago there were literally thousands in the evening over this field after it was muck spread.  Last year it was left and they did not turn up.

The area just around the entrance to the wood is always one of the first places to see autumn fungi.  The old tree stumps being a good site for Sulphur Tuft.  Today this fungi was just emerging.


A few metres on I noticed a white shape just off the path, This was a Stinkhorn fungus, along with some attentive flies.  The smell of this phallus like fungi is very obnoxious, but seems to be an irresistible to the flies.


When we walked through here last week I mentioned how much the wood has been cleaned up, and as a result is very open, and light.  You can see this from this photograph.


This time of year the different light, and the changing colours of autumn can produce some lovely scenes, and as I walked to the crossroads this panorama caught my eye.


I walked to the west end, and then out into the Desmond Paddocks.  I could hear calls from the hedge, but despite my best effort I couldn't locate the owner, so I can only assume it was a Great Tit.  I did though manage to find this Blue Tit enjoying the sunshine.


There were lots of sheep in the fields and these were attended to by Magpies and Jackdaws.  I crossed into Andrews Lane, and walked up the hill.  There were Swallows around the stables, and Robins singing in the hedges.  I stopped at the usual places to scan the paddocks and bushes, nothing.  House Martins above me, but no sign of any migrants in the bushes and on the grass.  The final spot is just in front of the larches, and as I walked up there was a Hare sitting in front of them, this is the first time I have seen one here.  Unfortunately it didn't stay, and shot off around the back of the long grass.  I waited to see if it would return, but it didn't and I was left with a couple of distant large white butterflies.

At the top of the path the hedgerow was now bathed in sunshine.  I could hear the "hueet" of Chiffchaffs and the "tack" call of Blackcaps, but couldn't see them.  There were also Jays present their raucous call announcing their presence.  I did though manage to photograph a Speckled Wood butterfly.  These are quite plentiful at the moment, and have been around since early May, one of the commoner butterflies on the patch.


I walked onto Lyeway and headed towards Plain Farm.  I continued to check the hedgerows, but there was nothing.  I stopped at the farm buildings as I could hear Goldfinches, while there were also Blackbirds squabbling over the berries in the bushes.  I noticed a large insect fly across and then disappear into one of the sleeps used as a wall.  I looked closer and could see white material and thought at first it was a wasp nest, but as I got closer i could see they were in fact Hornets.  I have never seen a Hornet Nest before, and it was fascinating to watch them as as they attended to the entrance, and came an went.



I can only assume they have bored the hole, and used the wood to construct the nest.


I turned off Lyeway, and walked past the Lyeway cottages.  Another calling Chiffchaff stopped me, and I was determined to get a photograph this time.  Fortunately the Chiffchaff wanted its picture taken too, and was very confiding.


I walked along Charlwood Lane, and then across the field to the footpath that leads to Plain Farm.  This was the perfect place to stop for a break and drink.  I scanned all the fields but could only find one thing of interest, this Common Puffball.


There were more warblers along the footpath, Chiffchaffs and the brighter yellow Willow Warblers, but they were electric fast in and out of the trees and leaves.  Coming out onto the main path, Bullfinches called from the hedge.  amazingly they flew up to the power line, something they never usually do.  As I photographed them I realised why, they were young first year birds, still to get their colour they did not seem as nervous as the adults, time will change that I am sure.


I checked the fields, and while the field was empty the edges were still covered in flowers.  There were a few Poppies still about.


The flowers were a big attraction to the insects, with plenty of bumblebees feeding. As well as the bees there were also butterflies, and with the blurred background of the colourful blue and purple petals of the flowers, and the general green it made for some more lovely butterfly pictures..

There was one Green-veined White.


This is one of several Large Whites.


And you can never be without a Small Tortoiseshell.


At the cottages there was plenty of birds flitting about.  Goldfinches and House Sparrows made up the majority, but there was also a few Linnets and at least two Chiffchaffs.

As I got closer I could hear some strange calls, and then from under a trailer came a large group of Mallards of different ages.  In this picture I have counted 19, but it doesn't include them all.


I can only conclude these are two broods and one mother.  Earlier in the year I found at least 16 ducklings, and it would seem she has now had another clutch, while the first brood do not want to leave, poor her, I know the feeling!

The fields are in various stages of attention, partially ploughed, and other areas left for now.  It makes for an interesting scene, with a male pheasant thrown in for good measure.


Rather than walk up past the quarry I walked along the road, a Buzzard flew low across in front of me.  I had been hearing them all the time I was out, but this was the first one I had actually seen.  I walked up the hill towards the park, and stopped again to see if I could find the Firecrests.  I had no luck with them, but was able to watch several Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers in the tree tops.


And this Treecreeper that appeared in front of me.


I turned to walk to the pond, and disturbed a Hare that was sitting in the grass almost next to me.  It shot off, but I suspected it wouldn't go far, and as I came around the tall maize that was growing in the field I could see it down the main path.


At the pond there was a good deal of activity, at lest four warblers were present, it wasn't possible to see what they were clearly though.  This Blue Tit came down for a drink and wash and scub.


There were also tow Emperor Dragionflies.  The first one must have been a female as the second was much larger, and as I watched them I saw the male dive bomb the female into the reeds, and then after a brief moment they flew out locked together.  They flew around the trees, but disappeared from view so I was not able to see what happened, I can only assume baby dragonflies (in about 18 months!).

After a shelter from a short rain shower, and the chance for a drink, I walked down the main path.  Another brown butterfly flew past me and settled on the grass.  If this had been July or August I would have dismissed it, but September is getting late for a Meadow Brown, and it is the lates I have seen one on the patch.


As you reach the style to cross over into Rotherfield Park, there is an avenue of trees that crosses the footpath.  Looking down the avenue your eye gets led to the light at the bottom.  Today the light was highlighting the change in leaf colour of the trees.  Yet another sign of autumn coming.


Another sign was the slight change in the leaf colour of the trees in the park.  While the sun wasn't out, there was a lovely panorama out over the park.


I cheated and didn't walk to the bottom of the hill, and picked up the path leading back up to the house.  A Mistle Thrush flew across in front of me, joined by another. I walked up the hill past one of the fenced plantations, as I did a Mistle Thrush called and then flew out of the trees, what followed then was amazing, more and more Mistle Thrush appeared flying across to the trees in Plash Wood.  In total I counted 115, but I think there were more.  I have never seen so many Mistle Thrush in one flock before, let alone here on the patch.


I walked up the main ride through Plash Wood, there were several Speckled Wood on the floor, but one flew much higher and stronger away from me.  Always on the look out for something different I followed it as it flew high into the tree and then vanished.  I scanned with binoculars, and found the butterfly sitting on a leaf.  It was in fact a Speckled Wood, but it was an interesting composition with the shadow of the butterfly on the leaf.


At the end of the ride is where I found my first Firecrests, and again I searched to see if they were about.  I think I did hear one calling amongst the Goldcrests, but I never saw anything.  Along with the Goldcrests was a group of Long-tailed Tits.


I was now at Newtown Farm, the location last year for Yellow Wagtail and Whinchat, today, nothing.  I walked down into the Maryanne plantation, and other than a single Chiffchaff nothing too.  Incidently this was an open area cleared of trees when I first discovered it two years ago, and I was hopeful this could be a site for Tree Pipit or even woodlark.  But is now very grown up, and not suitable for either of those at all.

The other area to check was the horse paddocks near the golf course, but these were empty too.  I walked on, and decided to check Old Down, and the muck spread field again, I wondered if the number of hirundines had increased.  But to my amazement there was nothing there, not even a swallow.

I walked towards the horse stables on Gradwell thinking that the return today for my efforts had been very poor.  A bird flew from the hedge and then up into the ash tree.  It didn't behave like the normal birds I see here, so I quickly checked it out at the top of the tree.  Rusty colour, white eye stripe, a Whinchat, and then blow me if it isn't joined by another.


At last a migrant that was one of the birds being found all along the south coast.  A quality year tick too.  While not in the same area as last year the timing is right, and the location too was one of those I had hoped to find something.  The first bird flew off leaving the other for me to enjoy.


The walk home now was not as painful as it looked like being, and when you think about it there were quite a few positives from today, a Stinkhorn, my first on the patch, a Hornet's nest, something I have not seen before, several Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs, and the cream, two Whinchats.

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