A clear night, a clear sky in the morning, and the first substantial frost of this winter. The air was still and the sky went from grey through pink to a yellowish hue. The Wood pigeons sat high in the trees awaiting the first rays of the sun to warm them up.
I have brought a Christmas treat for the birds, a fat cake in the shape of a snowman. I put it out this week, but so far nothing has taken a bite out of it. This Starling was having a look, but decided against it, perhaps they just don't want to ruin the Christmas decorations!
The Collared Doves appeared, and this one moved as always to the roof top, where the rising sun was just beginning to reach.
We spent the morning in Winchester, walking around the Christmas market at the cathedral. We were there early, and it was pleasant walking about as the stalls opened, but slowly through the morning the crowds built up, and by the time we left around midday the cars were lining up to come into the city centre.
After a stop for a coffee and something to eat we returned home, and set off to walk around Plain Farm. It was still cold, the temperature struggling to get above four degrees, but it was a glorious day, completely blue sky, and a lovely golden December sun. As we walked along Lye Way the sun was lighting up Winchester Wood, highlighting the the leaves that still remain.
At this time of year Lye Way is sheltered and in the shade, the low sun not managing to get above the surrounding trees. As a result the overnight frost still lingers on the bverge and the fallen leaves.
We walked past the Charlwood turn, and headed for the bye way that leads past Lye Way Cottage. It would seem that the off road activity is increasing, and as a result the route was difficult due to the deep ruts caused by the tracks. Fortunately the frost was still in the ground and it was not too muddy.
In complete contrast to last weekend there was no song anywhere, and when you stopped and just listened it was very still and quiet. Robins were though present in the hedges, rather than give their presence away through song, you would see movement as they crept through the branches. We came across one that allowed me to get close. It was watching us as we passed to see if we turned over any food opportunity.
A Robin, all puffed up against the weather, how very Christmassy. We turned back to see if it would drop to the ground to sort through the area we had turned over, but it just sat on the branch in the sunshine.
We came out onto Charlwood, and headed towards Plain Farm. Nothing moved in the fields, or in the hedges. We crossed the stile, and I looked across the field. One reason for coming this way this afternoon was in the hope that maybe there would be some raptors about. As I scanned though I got the usual response, nothing.
We headed towards the footpath, and above there was the raucous call of a Jay. Finally it came out of the tree, and flew to an Oak tree, after moving through the branches it breifly showed, but not that well.
The path towards the cottages on the farm was rutted, but again the ground was frozen, as we came onto the tarmac lane I could see a bird on the distant telegraph pole. As we got close we could see it was a Kestrel, using the pole as a vantage point, looking down in to the rough ground that runs around the edge of the field.
We could hear Bullfinches calling, and every so often one would fly across in front of us, there were a few finches up on the wires, and they were joined by a Meadow Pipit that had just had a wash, and was preening its feathers in the weak afternoon sunshine.
By the barns the field was full of Rooks and Jackdaws. As we walked up to the fence they all took to the air, and settled in the big Oak tree. Clearly this was not to their liking though and they suddenly all burst out of the tree and headed away to the south.
In the tree by the workshops a male Chaffinch sat in the sunshine, the light enhancing the pink on its breast.
We walked down past the grain barns, and then across the road. As we did so several flocks of Woodpigeon flew across in front of us and a Kestrel drifted across to the telegraph pole in the middle of the field.
We headed up the path past the cottages. Here there was a small enclosure with Chickens and Turkeys. The Turkeys were very noisy, and they were also quite inquisitive, them all walking over to see us. At the same time the males were intent on displaying, for what reason I don't know, but it does keep up the seasonal theme.
We walked along the avenue of trees, and looked out over the park estate towards East Tisted. There were quite a few Pheasants about, bursting from the long grass flying low over the ground away from us.
We turned back towards the walled garden, in the cold it was strange to think that along the wall seven days ago there were Red Admiral and Peacock butterflies. Once again there was very little bird calls, but we did manage to locate some Goldfinches that were collecting at the top of the trees in the garden. They were making the most of the high aspect to get the last warmth of the afternoon sun.
We could hear Redwing, but they were difficult to see, one was present in the holly bushes but apart from that there was little else about now. As we walked down towards the car the sun was casting very long shadows, and the contrasting areas of sunlight and shade would produce different colours in the landscape.
Away to the west the sun was setting, and had already fallen below the distant trees.
Back at the car we headed home. After sorting out the feeders, and cleaning up the task was the Christmas tree, however while in the middle of assembly (we don't have a real tree in the house), I received a call from my daughter to say that there was an amazing moon rising. So I headed off up to Brislands where she was watching the moon rise. It was a full moon, and as it came up had been quite red, but by the time I arrived this had faded, but it was no less spectacular. A little bit of cloud added to the scene.
As we photographed a Tawny Owl called from the wood, confirming what I already knew that Tuesday, the weather was all wrong for searching for Owls. Another surprise though was a calling Golden Plover over the fields.
A wonderful winter's day, a frosty day is always a treat, it may be cold, but there is something magical about being out on a day like today.
Lets hope that the snowman does become a hit with the birds in the garden, the weather is set to remain quite cold, and I am sure that in the end they will be unable to resist it!