Saturday, 18 October 2014

18th October - One Man On a Lonely Platform

Last Sunday I reported that I had cleaned the bird feeders, in the week I had a skin reaction which I can only put down to cleaning the feeders, in addition the Goldfinches are also looking like they are suffering from some infection, the feathers around the base of the bill being missing on many of the birds visiting the garden.  .  



If they suffer in the same way as it irritated me then I feel for them, and I apologise for not cleaning the feeders sooner.  Going forward I will wear rubber gloves when I clean them next time, and I will do it on a regular basis.

Saturday was grey and overcast, and also very mild, just as I was about to go out it stated raining and my departure was delayed by about an hour.  When I finally set off I walked along Lymington Bottom, and could immediately hear the calls of Redwings above me.  The first for the year they passed over me and headed down the road.  I just managed to catch three as they passed.



I turned up Brislands, and could hear more Redwing passing overhead. At the junction with Gradwell two Woodpigeon burst from the tree above me, and a Robin called in alarm, then above me a bird of prey appeared, the forked tail telling me in was my first Red Kite for about two months.



I spent some time by the conifers and rhododendrons, there were calling Goldcrests and I managed to find at least two.  A Bullfinch too was very vocal, but stayed well inside the tree, hidden by the leaves.  The bird I hoped for though, a Firecrest was not about.  I wonder if they have moved on, or if they will appear in winter.

 When I came out into the open fields I could hear a Skylark above again, and in fact there was a steady trickle of Skylarks south all day as I walked the patch.  As I watched the Skylark I noticed a small flock of larger birds, they were going away from me and it was not possible to get a shape to identify them.

I walked on to a gap in the hedge, and scanned across the field.  There was a flock of a dozen Skylark flying low across the field, and as I watched them I picked up on a flock of eleven Golden Plover wheeling around the back of the field.



I watched them flying back and forth, these must have been the birds I had seen earlier.  This was the first sighting of the year, and they are always nice to see, very delicate and elegant waders.  Finally the flying stopped and they settled into the filed, but very distant from me.



I left them in the field and turned off the lane into Old Down.  I walked down the main path, then turned onto the perimeter path, but then veered left and down the new path through the middle of the wood.  It was quiet, the odd Robin alarm call could be hear but that was about it.  I checked the ground for fungi, and was finally rewarded with this Blushing Wood Mushroom



It was difficult to find the path at the end of the track, as there has been some more forestry work in the area.  It appears they are now removing the Ash trees, but have not bothered to clear the fallen branches away.



A shower saw me shelter under the big beech tree at the west end, and I watched a large flock of Rooks and Jackdaws feeding in the middle of the field, the seed drilled a a week ago probably on the menu.

The rain stopped I headed down through the paddocks.  A large Hornet flew past me, another reminder of the mild temperatures.  I climbed the style, and crossed to walk up Andrews Lane.  There was a little bit of activity in the trees above the lane, and I stopped to watch what was in them.  A Chaffinch called, but then a yellow green flash.  I waited and then a Willow Warbler called, and finally appeared in amongst the leaves.



A Nuthatch was calling and I watched it as it climbed through the conifer, finally appearing at the top to continue its call.



More Redwing called above, flying south, but what was more interesting was a thrush calling in the trees, it was a distinctive "tack" call, that was not a Blackbird.  I was convinced it was a Ring Ouzel, but couldn't find it.  I walked slowly along the lane looking, and then suddenly more "tack" calls, and then from the top of the tree a thrush flew out.  I got on it with the binoculars, and could see it was a female Ring Ouzel, the scaling on the wings and the less distinctive throat and chest band.  I watched rather than try and take a photograph of yet another silhouette.  Two ouzels this year is good result, and both in the same place.  This area along Andrews Lane is definitely attractive to the thrushes, as I have now seen all six here, and the fields prove a great attraction.

A little further on I could see two more thrushes in the larch tree.  As I got closer I could see that these were Mistle Thrushes.  One flew off leaving the other in the top branches.



I walked up to the gate to view the Larches, and today there were some birds present, a small group of Goldfinches were resting at the top.



There were Starlings settling on the pylons, there numbers definitely building up, and probably as a result of winter visitors.

The field at the top of the path was full of sheep which was a surprise, as this has always been arable.  An electric fence surrounds the field, and you have to stick to the path.  

Leaving the path I headed out along Lye Way.  Looking across the field I saw a brown shape that I thought might be of interest, I checked it thinking maybe Meadow Pipit, but was really pleased to find that I was right and wrong.  It was a bird, but not a pipit, it was in fact a Wheatear.



It was feeding in the field that would usually have sheep, but they seem to have gone next door.  Leaving the perfect field for a Wheatear.  There had been a brief sighting in the spring on the hedge nearby, but this was a bird that stayed to be photographed.  However as I watched it became clear it wasn't on its own, there was another with it.  They flew around together, finally settling a long way away from me.



I left the Wheatears and headed towards Charlwood.  A call above alerted me to more Golden Plover flying away in the distance over the field.



I could see 22 birds, but there were constant calls.  The flock would fly away and then return, wheeling away above the fields.

I stopped the barns, the Hornets nest was still occupied, and the nest material falling out of the wooden fence.



As I watched the Hornets I heard my calls and turned to see that the Golden Plover flock had increased to 57 birds.  There is a chance that the birds I saw on Brislands were now a part of this larger flock, the calls would indicate other birds coming in and joining the flock.



As I walked around Charlwood and the associated paths I could see the plover flying around, the flash of their white bellies standing out against the distant trees.  It would be nice if  they were to stay, but they never do, we seem to be a stopping off point for these birds in the autumn, and never get an over wintering flock.

I checked the usual places on Charlwood, but there was nothing of any interest.  I walked down to the bottom of the lane and then crossed into the field.  As I walked towards my coffee spot I saw a huge flock of Woodpigeons burst from the trees followed by the barking of dogs.  The barking got louder and then a large pack of Beagle hounds appeared and then they raced away around the field.



The fallen log that serves as a coffee bench has been cut up, but there was still sufficient to use as a table.  As I drank my coffee I was visited by a stray Beagle that seemed to have lost the pack, as it came and went several times and appeared lost.  After coffee, I set back off down the path. I could hear the hounds in the distance, and could ee people in green jackets running across the fields. It was a hunt of some sorts but without any horses, does that make it right?

On the wires were plenty of Yellowhammer, but as I got close this was the only one that was brave enough to face me down.



I stopped to check the open fields as I walked the lane, there were no birds, but the verge of the field was still covered in flowers, blue cornflowers, white daisies and a single poppy.


The hounds were still chasing something, their barks could be heard from the other side of the fields, the dogs racing across the ground being followed by green clothed humans.  I was challenged because I was photographing, I asked if it was because there was any thing illegal going on and I was assured there wasn't.  When I asked what they were chasing I was told Rabbits, but I have my suspicions it was probably their cousins the Hare

Above the hounds I saw a Red Kite drifting slowly watching the ground in that lazy, floppy flight they have.



The Kite stayed with me, and I watched as it was mobbed by Jackdaws and then flew purposely away to the Mountains Plantation.  I met another member of the hunt, and we talked about Red Kites, he was concerned there were to many, and that the gamekeepers were worried.  I told him the Kites were never going to take live birds, they have no talons capable, and that they prefer carrion, the Buzzard population would be more of a concern.  

More of a concern though is the fact that they are considering the birds of prey a problem full stop.

I crossed the road and walked up past the quarry.  I stopped to see if there were any tits in the bushes, but could only find a Blue Tit today.  As I walked up the hill I looked across to the Mountains and they were showing the first wedge of autumn colour.


From the quarry I walked up the hill and out into the fields.  A Kestrel was mobbing a Buzzard in the distance, and familiar theme with different characters.  As I walked towards the main path the drizzle started, I was at the furthest point to home, and it was clear the rain was coming, and it was going to be heavy.

I walked along the path, and into the estate field, as I walked down the hill, the rain became heavier.  I made my way on to the path, and then as the rain became heavy I sheltered in Plash Wood, and used the waterproof bag to house the camera.

At Newtown Farm there was a large flock of Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails, I had no camera or binoculars because of the rain, and for once I prayed there would not be anything special, there wasn't.

I walked on towards Telegraph Lane, the rain finally eased and sunshine bizarrely suddenly came out.  I took out the camera once again and then set off down Alton Lane, and then across the field towards Blackberry Lane.  Two things then happened that I just did not expect.  Firs A Red Admiral appeared and flew along the edge of the trees, then out in the field I saw a dragonfly.  Getting close I could see it was a Common Darter, and just to make it even better it perched on a seed head in the field.



I decided to try and get closer, and then found out why it had stopped, it had caught a beetle and was eating it, which allowed me to get closer.



A lovely bokum.

After stopping to unsuccessfully chase down a calling Chiffchaff I headed home.  Before turning in I decided to drive to the pond, were the Mallard still there, had they returned after the fishermen had spooked them?  The answer was no, and interestingly the water levels were high after the recent rain, was the low water level the reason they had been there?  We shall see, but for now the pond was very quiet.

I headed home, a very grey day now showing a bit of colour, but I am sure it will not take long before it fades to grey once again.

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