Well that is that for another year, as long as it takes to prepare the inverse is how quickly it is gone! Christmas Day was a lovely day, cold clear and sunny. The garden was busy all day, the starlings the main event supported well by feisty little Goldfinches. I was lucky enough to see a Sparrowhawk zip through, coming over the fence, dropping low over the lawn and then turning sharply through an impossibly small gap in the hedge and away. The small birds scattered and were successful in evading this wonderfully agile hunter.
There were two predictions on Christmas Eve, one that the snowman would be gone by Boxing Day, and that the Redwings would start in force on the berries on the tree across the road. Both were wrong, although the snowman is just hanging on, and the berries were visited by the Redwing but not in sufficient numbers to clean out the tree.
It was a cold bleak day with a very fresh northerly wind. A Red Kite had been over the house during the morning, probably looking out for bits of left over turkey.
The morning had been sunny but by the time we set off to blow the cobwebs away the clouds had rolled in. We walked up Brislands, and came across a Rook with a deformed bill, in comparison with the other Rook, both mandibles do not look right, but it does not seem to have stopped the Rook from growing and obviously it doesn't impact its chance of finding friends.
Once again the bird calls had fallen quiet, the cold meaning that they had to focus on finding food to keep warm. As we came out into the open looking across the stubble field the colours in the ground contrasted with the grey of the trees and the sky.
We walked past the entrance to Old Down, just stopping briefly to watch a pair of Wrens calling. As we headed down the lane towards the Soak, a pair of Jays flew ahead of us, and then started calling noisily in the tree by the side of the lane. We stopped to see if we could get a view, several Woodpigeon flew out, then finally the Jays, and as I followed them I noticed a larger bird coming from the direction of Old Down. It was a Red Kite, by the light chest and vent this is a juvenile bird, and probably the same one that was over the house earlier today.
The Kite drifted off towards the A31, and we walked on only to see a Kestrel hunting over the side of the hedgerow.
Once again it was so intent on hunting it allowed us to walk towards it getting a closer view.
There are no suitable posts or wires here, so it was dependent on hovering, which in this weather is not very efficient.
We headed down to the barns expecting to see and hear the house Sparrows, it was though very quiet. As we walked past the barns Helen pointed out a single Sparrow in the hedge.
Closer inspection though revealed there to be quite a few in the hedge, they were just keeping quiet.
At the bottom of the hill we turned up towards Ropley. A large flock of gulls, both Black-headed and Common drifted over heading towards the fields on the other side of the A31 with the sheep.
As we walked we could here the chuffing of the steam trains on the Watercress Line, and every so often there was the whistle that pierced the cold afternoon air.
Fieldfare were flying over, their chuckling calls giving them away, there were also a few Redwing seeps mixed in, but for once the dominant thrush was the Fieldfare.
The sun came out momentarily, and once again the low winter sunshine would set the tree tops with the Fieldfare in them a glow against the dark grey of the cold clouds.
The road side verge here is quite sheltered and is always one of the first places to find flowering Snow drops in the winter. This year the mild November has sped them up, and the first flowers are just appearing, and it is not yet 2015.
As we walked towards the pond I noticed a distant bird, which turned out to be a Sparrowhawk. A little further on, and it suddenly appeared closer causing the alarm calls to ring out from the hedgerows and trees.
Three raptors today, but no sign yet of the commonest.
The horse paddocks held a few Redwing and Blackbird, and as we turned down towards the school, a Mistle Thrush could be seen sitting on a roof. It for once allowed me to get quite close. The spots on a Mistle Thrush are round, where as those of a Song Thrush have the appearance of an arrow. By the condition of the bill I would suggest this one had been in the horse paddock, and was now taking a rest.
We walked along Lymington Bottom, and the dark clouds in the distance threatened rain. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called, and we found it in a Silver Birch tree. For once this one was a male, the red visible on the back of the neck.
As we approached home the familiar silhouette appeared above the trees in Lymington Rise once more. The Red Kite was back, I wonder if it does find food in the gardens?
Back home as I took off my boots I could hear the starlings chattering away in the trees around the garden. They sit here and send little sorties down to the garden, they have been extremely entertaining this Christmas.
As the sun dropped and the we drank a warm cup of coffee the birds put in one final feeding frenzy. Right on time the Long-tailed Tits arrived, I counted at least ten in this flock, but they never managed to cover the feeder in the same way as Christmas Eve.
This female Blackbird guarded this apple, chasing off anything that tried to have a slice.
As the rain came, and sun started to slip away the birds left the garden, and the only sound that could be heard was the whistles and puffing of the trains away in the distance.