Saturday, 29 November 2014

29th November - Do They Know It's Christmas Time At All?

Incredibly the month of November is coming to an end, it has been a strange month with very mild temperatures and only two days of frost, one of which occurred this week.  The garden has been very quiet, with only a little activity in the mornings.  Just before dawn the Tawny Owls continue to call, but it is very difficult to locate where they actually are.

So to today, the forecast was for a calm day with unseasonable temperatures about 4 or 5 degrees above the average for the month.  I set off early to walk most of the patch, I haven't been able to get out that much this month so today had to make up for it.  As I walked towards Lymington Bottom the starlings that had just left the roost were taking the time to wake up at the top of the trees.

This time of year you do hear Robins singing, in fact as i woke up this morning I could hear one in the tree across the road from the bedroom window.  However what you don't expect to hear is a Song Thrush singing, but as I turned down the road I could hear one above me, the familiar repetitive notes as loud as you like.  I found the songster in the tree.

Song Thrush are early singers, but usually they start in late January, at this time of year they are normally seen foraging in the leaf litter under the hedges.  As I walked on I could hear the song behind, but then I could hear another one in front of me.  I turned up Brislands and saw another Song Thrush in full song on a TV aerial.

These birds obviously have been totally confused by the mild weather, the song declares territory, and then a mate.  We need a cold snap quickly to turn all the body clocks back to normal.  Right now the Song Thrush feel they have made it through the winter, they don't realise its not yet Christmas!

As promised it was a calm morning, but there was a little cloud about, the sun was up, and away to the east a lone Woodpigeon sat in the hedge with the morning sky glowing orange.

A little further on and I could hear yet another Song Thrush singing, it really is a crazy time.  I stopped for a tit flock that was moving through the hedge.  With them was a Chiffchaff, but it moved through quite quickly.

At the Rhododendrons I stooped to watch a pair of Goldcrests, but there was no sign of the Firecrests.  I carried on to Old Down, and after assisting the truck driver negotiate his load of tree trunks past a badly parked car i headed into the wood.  I walked to the crossroads, and then turned down towards the west end.  For the first time the path here has been rutted and has become muddy.  There was activity in the brambles and fallen trees, they were mostly Great Tits and Blue Tits, but there was also a Coal Tit that came down to drink in the puddles.

A pair of Marsh Tits then appeared but kept themselves a distance away.

The familiar call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker announced the arrival of one above.  The view was not brilliant, but I managed to focus on it through the many branches.

After stopping for a short chat with a fellow walker, I headed down through the paddocks and out and up Andrews Lane.  Another tit flock stopped me, this time it seemed as if they were unhappy about something in the ivy of a tree.  The Great Tits were the noisiest, but despite getting good views of the Ivy I couldn't see anything that might be upsetting them.  The Great Tits though continued to call from the tree close by.

There were Redwing and Fieldfare in the small orchard, and also a few Blackbirds.  I could hear the Redwing and the Fieldfare but never saw them.

At the top of the lane Blackbirds now were making a lot of noise, and again I had a good look at the trees close to where they were upset.  The Ivy again seemed to be the subject of their abuse but I couldn't see anything.

The field at the top of the Lane is now fenced properly.  I can understand why there is a need for the fence to a degree, but to top it off with barbed wire is a bit too much for me.

Two weeks ago the field to the north was full of beetroot, today though it was full of sheep that had eaten the beetroot, clearly this is the strategy, as away in the distance sheep could be seen in another patch of the field.

The sky though looked impressive as the clouds were now clearing, and the sun was out.

I walked along Lye Way Road, it was quiet, but the sun felt quite warm on the back.  If you were to ask anyone what month do we see the leaves change colour and the fall, people will probably say October.  Around here though it is November when the colours arrive, and they can last into December.  Lye Way was looking quite spectacular in the low November sunshine.

I expected Thrushes here, but there were none, the trees were empty, as was the hedgerow.  I turned into Charlwood and walked south.  At this time of year any dampness on the roads can dazzle, and this was definitely the case as I walked along the middle.

I made my way to the fallen tree in Plain Farm, but didn't stop for a break.  There was a lot of activity amongst the fallen leaves, and in the trees.  Despite a good search I could not find anything other than Chaffinches, this time last year Brambling were feeding here amongst he Chaffinches, but there was no sign of them today.

In the bare branches Nuthatches were having a right ding-dong.  I could see three birds and there seemed to be a dispute over territory.   The call were loud, and they also engaged in fights and chases.

I headed down the path, and then out on to the lane.  I could hear the soft piping calls of Bullfinches but couldn't see them, all that showed in the hedge were House Sparrows and Dunnocks

I could hear Grey Partridge on the other side of the hedge, and bizarrely Mallard from beyond the cottages.  At the barn I searched the bushes for birds, but found only more House Sparrows.  As I scanned across the field I could see something drifting over the grass.  It was a butterfly, and with bins I could see it was a Clouded Yellow.  An amazing record, the weather clearly being the reason, a warm day with a light south easterly breeze, but I suspect this may be an insect that has recently emerged here after the parents arriving in the summer.

This is a poor record shot!

As I turned away from the field, a Small Tortoiseshell then flew past me, butterflies in late November do happen, but it is always a treat.

The Bullfinches then appeared, but quickly flew away behind the hedge.  At a gap I was able to find this male in the bush, there were at least three females present too.

The partridges were still calling, and I found three in the middle of the field, who were then joined by another from the rough grass.

At the barns the roof was again popular.  There was a Pied Wagtail, Dunnock and this Meadow Pipit that had found something of interest that had been attracted by the warmth of the roof.

Once again I could hear Fieldfare, and turned to see them pour out of the owl tree.  This was the largest flock I have seen this winter.  I counted 78, this being a small selection as they flew overhead.

I headed down past the barns, and then across the road to the quarry.  A flock of Long-tailed Tits called as I walked up the hill, but my attention was taken once again by a superb male Bullfinch in front of me.

He didn't stay long and was gone the soft piping call the only reminder it was there.  The Long-tailed Tits though were still about, and this one posed quite nicely.

I headed up the path, and then stopped to watch what looked like a white butterfly.  It was in fact a female Brimstone, and it teased me as it fluttered around the Ivy, but never settled.  It then headed off down the path towards the road.  

I headed on towards the shed, where I stopped for a break.  As I sat drinking coffee a Sparrowhawk flew low level over the grass past me, intent on attacking something.  I left my camera on a box, and didn't get the chance for a picture which was very frustrating.

Outside the shed is a stone wall with Holly above it.  This also faced South as was sheltered.  As a result insects were about.  There were flies and bees, but best of all a Hornet.  Another butterfly appeared this time a Peacock, but it didn't stop.  

I packed up and headed off, almost immediately I came across a Red Admiral, it looked pretty worst for wear, but was enjoying the sunshine.

A little further on, and I found another on the stone wall, this time a perfect specimen.

That was now five butterfly species for the day, you would be pleased with that count in April!

I walked the length of the wall and found three more Red Admiral.  I then headed down through the park.  The view away to the east looking splendid.

The ground was covered with Corvids and Woodpigeons feeding.   Every so often they would fly up and move to the trees.

As I approached the copse I could see another butterfly, what is going on!  This time it was another Brimstone, it didn't stop, but I did manage to get a better record shot!

I walked to the path thinking on a day last this it seemed strange not to see at least a Buzzard soaring.  A Red Kite was also something that I felt should be about, but there had not be a sign of either.  I don't know what made me turn, but I did to the call of a Jackdaw, and found it mobbing a Red Kite.  I don't know where it had come from, maybe it had been in a tree.

The Jackdaw was persistent, and behaved like a fighter escorting a Russian bomber out of the air space.  As the Kite turned so did the Jackdaw, giving a perfect display of wing man flying.

The Jackdaw succeeded in getting the Kite to fly away from the flock, but continued to track it closely as it flew away towards the house.

I decided to walk around the footpath, and after almost falling on one of the stiles, I made my way through the outside of Plash Wood.  As I walked down a ride I could hear Bullfinch calling again, then another from the other side of the ride.  Then a Sparrowhawk came hurtling down the path low.  When it saw me it swiftly turned away and into the trees, the alarm calls continuing as it went from my sight.  I find it amazing how the songbirds do manage to see this danger and relate it as danger and then call.

I came out onto the main path, and found at last a Buzzard over the distant trees.

Another appeared, and they soared and called above the field.  I headed on, but stopped to scan across the field again.  I could see what I thought was the Buzzard as the last time i had seen it was in this area.  A closer look though and I could see it was Red Kite, and a different one to the one I had seen earlier, the head being a darker grey, and the tail feather a little more defined.

The Kite drifted away out of sight, and I then found the Buzzard sitting at the top of a tree in the Maryanne Plantation.

I walked through the farm, Chaffinches, Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits were around the barns.  I stopped to check the Owl box, there were signs of activity, but nothing showed.  As I watched the box I could hear another Bullfinch, and it then appeared at the top of the hedge.

The gorse on the side of the path was in flower, yet another sign of this crazy weather.

And as I walked past it I could hear bees, and stopped to see the flowers covered in Honey Bees.

Looking down the path the afternoon sun was enhancing the remaining leaves on the Beech trees.

There were more aggravated Great Tits as I walked down the path, and again their anger was turned onto Ivy, but again I couldn't see anything.  Looking back the moon was now quite high in the sky.

I crossed the road and took the bye way, then climbed up the hill to Kitwood Lane.  The clouds in the sky were quite impressive as the sun was now dropping in the sky.  

The walk long Kitwood was quiet, there were no thrushes on the corner, and it wasn't until I came down towards the school that I found some birds.  A Group of Yellowhammers were calling from the tree, and then moving backwards and forwards from the field on the other side of the road.

At the school I could hear Redwing calling, but only managed to find this single bird

The holly and the ivy around the school is a good place to watch Goldcrests, there seems to be a regular little group hear.  I stopped to watch them, and was treated to some lovely views in the late afternoon sunshine.

This one was very seasonable, but I still don't believe the wildlife knows it's Christmas!

As I walked home the Starlings were starting to prepare to roost.  A group was gathered in the tree tops, and were singing away in the sunshine.

The House Sparrows too were collecting, again in preparation to roost, they were though a lot lower down.

I still had time to clear the leaves before it got dark, and it was still time for a Red Admiral to fly through the garden.  The weather has been strange and totally unseasonable.  It is as if the wildlife is not sure what to do, and I believe it requires an injection of cold weather to kick start the season.  Where are the Lapwing?  Even the Woodpigeon flocks have not arrived, Five butterfly species at the end of November, what is going on?  Something has to happen and I hope it does soon.


  1. I saw those Yellowhammers too, perched on the wires above Lyeway as the sun began to set. Thanks for the tip about the Goldcrests by the school. Phil.

    1. The Goldcrests are normally very vocal and easy to see.

  2. Thoroughly enjoyed this entry and particularly the pictures of the Song Thrush, Bullfinches and the delightful little Goldcrest. Thanks very much.

    1. Thank you for your kind comments

  3. What fantastic photography and a very enjoyable blog. I recently found your article on Old Down Wood in the Feb 2014 edition of Four Marks News, and wanted to comment on that. Did you have any response from Judith Maxwell about the problem of the woodland management? As a local Walking For Health group leader, it has progressively ceased being a pleasure walking in this wood. Hopefully you are finding and photographing the more positive things about this area, regarding the wildlife at least.

    1. Thanks for your comments Wendy. In the end I did not contact the owners of the wood, conversations with the Forestry Commission and actions taken to clear the paths and re-plant trees meant I felt work was being done to put the situation right. However once again we are faced with more work this autumn, but this time the work is taking place around areas that do not include footpaths, so I wonder if the paths that are there, especially around the perimeter will be cleared. The other problem is again the huge ruts and furrows that the trucks and tractors create, this does take place down the footpaths as was put right this summer, but would be impossible to sort now.

      All this said as far as the wildlife is concerned this summer saw a lot more butterflies, and now the birds are more visible, and maybe next spring there will be more nesting sites available as a result so, while I do get a little upset when I see the destruction at the moment, I do believe that next spring there will be benefits. I hope this optimism is not misplaced.


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