Sunday, 31 August 2014

31st August - All Those Dreams and Visions of Mine

The signs were all good, from the good show of migrants here  on Thursday to the news of plenty of small migrant birds including Wryneck and warblers along the south coast.  Couple that with a nice sunny warm morning I was very optimistic as we got ourselves ready to go out this morning.

Before we left there was some activity in the garden, along with the usual Goldfinches and Greenfinches on the feeders (the latter of which seem to have had a good breeding season here), there was a single Coal Tit.  There has been a regular Copal Tit through the summer, and I have no reason to believe it is not the same bird. It calls as it creeps through the trees, and then appears on the feeders.  This morning the attraction was the buggy nibbles.

As we walked along Brislands all we could hear was Long-tailed Tits, but they never came into complete view. There was also of course the song of the Robin, no quite yet to be considered winter song, but it won't be long.  We turned into Gradwell and then across into Old Down Wood.  There was very little about, and the only thing of note was a few Poppies on the edge of the harvested field.

In the wood, there were more Long-tailed Tits, and with them Goldcrests.  There was plenty of butterflies but they were all the same species, Speckled Woods.  I did pick up on a small butterfly high in the trees, it was a reddish brown in colour, and I considered Brown Hairstreak, but with the vast number of Speckled Woods we saw, I can't rule out it being one of those without a good view.

The Speckled Woods seemed to be everywhere you looked, and there was plenty of duelling going on as they moved into each other's territories.  This one posed nicely with a spider's web for company.

We walked down the main path, it was nice to see the wood looking tidy.  All the fallen trees have been removed, and the many tracks have been flattened.  It looks like a different wood admittedly, but at least now it is tidy, and the paths are accessible.

We walked through the crossroads and headed for the west end.  Two Woodpigeon flew from the path, and what I thought was a woodpecker, as it came from the ground it could only be a Green Woodpecker.  I walked on a little further, and then saw a Green Woodpecker fly across in front of me and up into an Ash tree.

It looks like a juvenile bird, and sat on the tree for awhile, and then flew off calling.  We were to see two more birds throughout the walk, all were flying, and as they landed on a ree they would call just to confirm identity.

We lft the wood,and walked down through the paddocks, again the intention was to see if the hedgerows would produce any migrants, the paddocks produced nothing.  Above a Buzzard called, and there was a Kestrel hiding somewhere in the trees, elsewhere it was just empty.

As we walked up Andrew Lane I checked the paddocks, but there was nothing, even the Swallows that were present on Thursday night were not about.  At the gate though in the hawthorn bush there were two Spotted Flycatchers hawking insects.

But that was it, a couple of Small Whites flew through, and a Sparrowhawk flew along the tree tops away in the distance, but much to far away for any pictures, it was very frustrating.

We walked through Lye Way farm, and found a male Brimstone that settled very briefly and I was able to get this very poor photograph as a record.

We walked down the lane to Kitwood, and decided to check the small paddock, there was still some flowers in the paddock, but apart from a single small white it too was very quiet.  What was of interest, and something I hadn't noticed before was a small shrub tree with bunches of red berries.  

I had assumed all the trees here were hazel or hawthorn, but the red  berries mean this is different.  I think it is a form of Guelder-Rose, a member of the viburnum family.

We left the paddock and walked through Homestead Farm, but in keeping with the day as a whole the only item of interest was the amount of berries that are ripe on the Hawthorn trees.
The hedgerow looks bright red from a distance.

Just before the main road we came across a clump of Common Ink Caps, another sign that Summer is coming to an end.

We crossed the road and headed up towards the Garden Centre for a coffee.  The paddocks were empty, and the only sign of life was the number of Speckled Woods, abundant everywhere.

After coffee we walked across the field to Blackberry Lane, and then home.  A nice walk on a very pleasant day, but a very big disappointment from a wild life perspective.  Next week we are into September, and hopefully some movement of migrants.  For now though here are some posts from our trip to Borneo which as I think I have mentioned previously was a "challenging " holiday in many ways

Friday, 29 August 2014

28th August - I Saw a Fine Lady Ghost Across the Tree Tops

We have been away for the last two and a half weeks in the heat and humidity of Borneo, more of which later in the "Away" blog.  We arrived into Heathrow to be greeted with heavy rain and a cold temperature, we had been used to the heavy rain, but the cold was like a huge shock.  The rain then continued off and on until Thursday when finally the sun came out in the afternoon.

It would be interesting to see how the landscape has changed through August, and I carefully considered the route I would take.  I decided to head up Brislands towards old Down, I also wanted to see what work had been done in there as well.

The weather has been cool, and not conducive to butterflies so I was surprised when I saw one fluttering around a bush on Brislands, it was a Large White and after awhile sat on one of the leaves in the sun.

One of the signs of Autumn along Brislands is the emergence of the Cyclamens around the cemetery, I am not sure how they got there, and they are definitely not wild, but always have a bitter-sweet presence, lovely to see them, but at the same time a reminder that Summer has past and winter looms.  They were just beginning to flower when we left, but now they are in full bloom.

Thee was a bit of a breeze as I walked along Brislands and past the houses, it was also very quiet, no bird song at all.  At the entrance to Old Down there were still piles of logs that have yet to be removed, and the path in looked very tidy and neat, with no large tracks filled with mud and water.

The fields around the wood had all been harvested, and small groups of Woodpigeon and Corvids could been seen feeding amongst the stubble.  The main feature of the landscape though was the haystacks, not the modern round bales but square monoliths just waiting to be climbed!

The woods, like Brislands were deathly quiet.  I walked down the main path, and then took the perimeter path, I was keen to see what work had been done, but on the other hand was also wanting to try and see some wild life, and inside the wood there was nothing moving.  I opted then to walk around the outside, and was immediately rewards with a Small White butterfly.  It flew along the edge of the wood, and at one point was dive bombed by another before it settled again in what was now quite warm sunshine.

I walked around the wood, and then down through the paddocks to Andrew Lane.  Swallows were buzzing around the trees and hedges, and a family group of Long-tailed Tits called from within a tree, but never showed.  As I walked up the lane the lawn in front of one of the cottages was covered in huge fungi, that I think are Golden Bootleg, but I may be wrong, they were the nearest I could compare them with in my books, and the location and time is about right.

Suddenly the Swallows started calling loudly and the sky seemed to be full of them, then I saw the reason why, a Hobby flew over being hotly pursued by the Swallows, unfortunately I couldn't get the camera out in time as it zipped away from the attentions of the swallows.  A first for the year, and I hope there will be more that are a little more confiding.  

It quickly became clear why the area had attracted the attention of a Hobby, the sky was full of Swallows, young that have just fledges and adult birds guiding them on. This youngster though was quite happy to sit on the roof despite being buzzed by the adults and siblings.

Flying Swallows means yet another attempt at photographing them, and this is the latest effort.

I walked up the lane checking the across the paddocks, where there was only a few Magpies, and a distant Buzzard.  At the next gate there is a line of Hawthorn bushes facing south west, and this evening in the sunshine.  The trees were also full of berries.  I scanned through the line of trees, and immediately found what I had hoped would be here, a Spotted Flycatcher.

As I watched it became clear there were at least three flycatchers, and several Chiffchaffs and a bright yellow Willow Warbler.  I watched them for a while in the hope that there might be something new, but I couldn't see anything.  This is a regular spot for autumn Spotted Flycatchers, with one last year and three the year before.  The aspect and habitat being very good for a fall of birds too, somewhere to watch over the next few weeks.

With the hedges clearly being an attraction today I decided to walk down to the pond via the footpath by the hedge.  It was now turning into a very pleasant evening, and looking through the hedge the sun was lighting up the farmhouse below, where earlier I had photographed the Swallows.

I disturbed another butterfly from the ground, and it flew away from me and settled in the sunshine amongst the stubble.  A Speckled Wood in a different location.

There was little else and I turned on to the road, and then stopped at the pond, where in the far corner an eclipse male Mallard was feeding amongst the green duck weed.

A juvenile Moorhen also walked along the back of the reeds not coming out into the open.  Despite the rain the water level is still quite low, so there is still hope for that wader!

I walked on, checking as ever the lawns, but only finding a single Woodpigeon.  I turned to walk across the field to the wood, taking at first the path through the small meadow.  The flowers of early August have almost gone, there is still some wild carrot, and knapweed, but it was not enough to attract butterflies and insects tonight.

Once again the field was just stubble and large hay stacks were dotted around the field.

I must admit it is nice to see the more traditional haystack of my youth than the round bales.  
Once again there were plenty of Rooks and Jackdaws feeding in the stubble, the "clacks and caws" ringing out as small disputes set off, and the birds took to the air.

As I approached the wood the first thing I noticed was that the warning sign had gone, and then as I climbed the style the fallen tree had also been removed.

I walked around the perimeter path to the Gradwell entrance, the fallen Larch of the winter were now gone, and the area looked an awful lot more tidy, and open.  Yet another landscape for the wood, the third in a year, I wonder what this will now attract into the area.

As I came out of the wood there was a large group of Magpies fighting with a pair of Crows.  As I tried to photograph them I realised the batteries had died, so no pictures I am afraid.  I made my way back home fearful something good was going to turn up, and I couldn't capture it.  Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately nothing did, and I had to be satisfied with two year ticks, mustn't be greedy!

Friday, 8 August 2014

7th August - A Short Note

This afternoon I was considering the birds and butterflies that I have so far this year not managed to see, and wondered ion the chances of doing so.  

Hobby has been absent so far as have Spotted Flycatcher and Redstart, there will though be a good opportunity to find these in September as the height of the migration season starts.

Of the butterflies the missing species this year are the migratory ones.  Painted Lady has not been regular, and since starting this blog I have not seen one at all around the patch, but I live in hope.  The other, the Clouded Yellow was a first find last year, and with plenty of sightings along the south coast in the warm weather I did think we would have seen one by now.  

Fast forward to the evening, and while I am cutting the grass, I notice a bright yellow butterfly coming through the garden.  It was definitely not a Brimstone, the yellow was too orange, and as it carried on past me I could see it was a Clouded Yellow.  Funny old game!

Wednesday, 6 August 2014

5th August - And Then Loafs About In The Sun

Indifferent weather over the last two days with the threat of showers.  The forecast for the end of the week is for the possibility of the remnants of Hurricane Bertie, so Summer may be coming to an end pretty soon.

There were a few showers about in the afternoon, but it looked to be dry as I set off in the late afternoon.  I was heading for the farm once again, there have been quite a few sightings of Whinchat recently and I wondered if just maybe one could have dropped in around the fields.

I made my way up the footpath as normal, and over the trees I could hear the pleading calls of young Buzzards.  I am not sure if you describe it as a bleat or a mew, but at the moment is the dominant bird call around the patch.  I saw one Buzzard drift over, and then another bird came into view with a slightly different behaviour.  It was one of the adult Red Kites we had seen last week.  From the feather damage I think it may be the female.

The feathers really do look in a bad way.  There was no sign of any other Kites, and slowly it drifted away across the fields.

Turning away from the Kite I noticed a butterfly or moth flying just above me.  I could see it was a reddish brown, and for a moment my hopes were raised that it might be a Brown Hairstreak.  However it soon became clear that it was a moth, and finally it settled on a leaf high up in one of the Beech trees.  I managed this poor photograph from which I was able to identify it as I believe a Vapourer.

Reaching the open fields I could see a lump on the path in front of me, knowing instantly what it was I adopted the "photograph, creep up a little bit, photograph again" technique to see how close I could get, this was the result.

Wonderful isn't it?  Just after this it was off, turning away and sprinting into the maize field.

I walked along side the field, the cut grass has almost been gathered in, but there is a little remaining.  I walked down to the quarry, and paused to look across to the road and the surrounding fields.  The sun was trying to come out, but there was a hazy feel to the clouds and it produced some strange light.

I walked up past the dryers where once again they were working at full pelt.  There wasn't the dust today, but you could see the flames from the heaters.  A single Kestrel sat on top of one of the cattle sheds.

It was then joined by another that buzzed the first, and then flew off to perch on the shed roof next door.  

I couldn't make out if these were both adult birds or an adult and a juvenile.  It would be nice to think that they have managed to raise some young this year as well.

I walked past the workshops and scanned the field.  The cattle were now grazing in the field with the oak tree, and watching them was another Hare, this time sitting upright and quite alert.

The field of Rapeseed has been harvested but the grasses and plants alongside it has been left.  As I carefully looked along the side I disturbed a large mixed group of Partridges.  I could make out Red-legged and Grey adult birds, and then a lot of young birds all feeding amongst the stubble.

I wasn't the only one interested in watching the birds, another Hare ambled out of the grass, and sat watching as they walked away.

Where possible I stopped to scan the fields to see if there was anything about.  Linnest perched on the wires, and there were plenty of Woodpigeons taking advantage of the stubble fields.  A lone Kestrel flew just above the distant hedge, probably in the hope of flushing some birds out.

As I reached the end of the lane I came across a clump of ragwort, and on it was an enormous Bumble Bee, it must have been 40 mm long.  As you can see it swamped the ragwort flower heads.

Just past the cottages I stopped as two Roe Deer walked out in front of me.  They were inquisitive but not unduly concerned.  The wind was in my face so probably they were not sure what I was, if they could see me at all.  They look like young deer, probably from this year.

I then noticed another away in the distance down the path.  One crossed the path and carried on eating while the other was a little more cautious.  Eventually the second deer stopped eating to look in my direction.  

I edged forward and they moved away, and I walked towards the distant one.  I though that maybe this was the adult, but as I got closer I could see this was a young deer too, the remains of the baby spots still visible on its flanks.

The field that I was always consider to be perfect for raptors, but hasn't been had also been cut, and there were plenty of corvids feeding, and a single Lesser Black-backed Gull was amongst them.

As I walked a little further on it became clear that there were in fact many more gulls on the field, they had been hidden in the dip of the field.

As well as the Lesser Black-backed there were Common and Black-headed Gulls all feeding amongst the stubble.

I walked along Charlwood, it was very quiet, not even the chatter of Swallows.  By the houses there was the sound of Blue Tits and Goldfinches, but they were from inside the trees and I never managed to see them.

Turning on to Lye Way there were a lot of Rooks in the grass field, and amongst them yet again more Hares.  This time three, they were feeding amongst the Rooks in the evening sunshine.

And that wasn't the end of the Hares either, as I stopped to listen to bird calls near Gillwood house another crossed the road as I looked down the path.  That made seven in total for the walk.

The reason I stopped for the bird calls was because I hear yet another Firecrest.  It called from within the bushes, and despite my best efforts it would not show, but with so many around here now (this makes the fourth location) I am pretty confident I know the call.

Convinced that it wasn't going to show I headed off towards the car.  The open area here is full of red-orange berries on stalks.  This is the fruit of the Lords & Ladies.  The berries are extremely poisonous, and are one of the commonest causes of accidental plant poisoning according to the hospital A&E departments

I decided to take a detour on the way home to check the pond.  I referred Sunday to the open mud that was there now due to the low water levels, and I suppose I will always be optimistic about something turning up.  When I got there there was indeed a bird wading through the mud.

But unfortunately not one that I was hoping to see!

Monday, 4 August 2014

3rd August - Her Daddy Gave Her Magic

On Saturday I took the chance to visit the south coast, but on the way stopped off to see if the Barn Owl had returned.  As I walked up the hill I could hear Firecrests calling from within the conifers, hopefully they have had a successful breeding season here.

As I came to the roost site there was no sign of the owl in the open, but then I heard a rustle, and saw a flash of a white wing as it jumped into the box.  It was there which was a good sign.  I decided to leave, and walking back top the car I could see and hear the young Buzzards and what I can assume is the parent bird above the tree tops.

As they drifted away from me another bird of prey cruised just above the tree tops, this time it wasn't a Buzzard but a Red Kite.  From the cleanliness of the feathers I would say it was the juvenile bird we saw last Tuesday.

Early morning Sunday it was clear blue sky, but with a very fresh feel to the temperature.  By the time we left the house the clouds had rolled in, and there was even the threat of a shower away to the south.  The weather behaved though out our walk though, which took us through Old Down, and across Homestead farm to Alton Lane and home.

This time last year the land along Brislands was full of tall grasses, knapweed and ragwort, and plenty of butterflies and moth.  Today there is constant noise from the site as the construction vehicles move to turn it into land suitable to build over a hundred houses.  The butterflies have gone, but by the side of the road near the entrance there was a single ragwort, and amazingly it is covered in Cinnabar moth caterpillars.

These must have been left over from last year.  Other ragwort nearby had no visitors at all.  I was left wondering if this was a sad sight, or a maybe a strong defiant one.

Along Brislands lane there were Large White and Green-veined White butterflies.  The Ash tree that every spring becomes a battle ground between Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpecker for the available nest sites was sporting a brand new bracket fungus body.  This is the Shaggy Bracket and is a parasitic fungus, that is quite common on Ash trees, sporulating in the late summer.

As we came out into the open fields I noticed that the bracken was now extremely thick by the side of the road.  Hard to believe that there were Wood Anemones and Celandines in flower along here.  The whole circle of life though will begin once again.  The bracken though was a very popular source of warmth for the little Gatekeeper butterflies.

The field to the north had just started to be harvested, and looking across towards the distant fields it looks again a picture of an English summer.

I hadn't been into the wood from this entrance for sometime, and I was interested to see what if any forestry the signs that were about referred too.  As we turned into the entrance we saw immediately piles of logs on either side of the path.  these were mostly Larch, but there was also some Oak, Beech and Ash too.  Looking down the path it looks just like it did at the start of the year, minus the mud, and with a bit more green.

I hoped that the trunks were from the trees that had fallen during the winter storms, and that there was not another effort to fell more.  Walking down the main path it became clear that they had removed some existing trees, for what reason though was not clear.  The area around the start of the north perimeter path had been tidied up, the ruts flattened out

looking back along the path though a huge area had been opened up, and the only reason could be to allow access for construction vehicles.

Walking on it became a little clearer that maybe this was about putting right some of the damage caused by the tyre tracks in the winter.  This area here had deep ruts that were filled with water, but now it has been levelled out.

When the work was first done I was appalled at the state the land was left, but as we have gone through the spring and summer, and the ground has been accepted by the wood, I had come to terms with it.  It seemed a good source of water for the insects, maybe dragonflies, and the fallen trees had provided plenty of cover for the birds, Robins and Wrens seemingly everywhere during the spring.

This area here had a huge pool, there had always been water here, but the winter's work had created a bigger pool, that was covered in Frogs Spawn.  Now it is all filled in, and must admit to having mixed feelings.

The open areas though have been good for the butterflies, there were plenty of Meadow Browns as usual, and Helen found yet another Common Blue in amongst the grass.

We made our way along the path, the large oak that had laid across the path now gone, and parts of the surrounding bramble all broken down.  There was no sign of the Silver-washed Fritillaries which somehow wasn't a surprise.

From the wood we walked to the pond, as we approached we could see the Moorhen family in the irises.  An Emperor Dragonfly circled the middle of the pond, and there were a few Azure Damselflies around the sunny bank and on the Iris leaves.  I was though interested in a dragonfly that  flew close to the bank of the pond, and was actually stopping.  It was a large dragonfly, similar to the size of the Emperor.  I finally managed to get a good look at it as it settled on one of the sleepers by the bank.  It was a Southern Hawker.

Ironically I had seen my first yesterday at Titchfield Haven and here was one, a first for the patch at the pond.  Its always pleasing to find something new, and this now becomes the third dragonfly species for the patch after finding a Broad-bodied Chaser earlier in the year.  The hawkers are the largest and fastest flying dragonfly family, like the Emperor they like to patrol their "patch" hawking for insects that they can catch in mid flight.

Looking back at the pond it is desperately in need of a top up.  There are plenty of muddy fringes.  I would like to think that those muddy areas would attract a wader, but I am a realist, and will not pin my hopes to much on that happening, although a just a Snipe maybe?

We walked along the road towards Kitwood.  here we went into the small paddock that has been left to wild flowers.  There are plenty of Knapweed, Wild Carrot and Birds Foot Tre-foil, and amongst them were Common Blues, Meadow Browns and a few Small Whites.  There were also plenty of bees taking advantage of the flowers and the sunshine, this Red-tailed Bumble Bee looking very smart.

The paddock looks wonderful, transformed into a wild flower meadow, and a tribute to the owner who has obviously left it to grow for that very reason.

We took the footpath that leads through Homestead Farm, the field have been cut for hay, and a Buzzard sat on the branches of a dead tree looking across the field.  It had probably been around when the field was cut looking for an easy meal as the tractor  revealed what was hidden within.

As we walked through the fields, and across the road and up the footpath on the other side by the paddocks Buzzards called and circled above us.  Again I think these were parents and young birds, but it wasn't easy to separate them.  this one came very close as it dropped low over the paddock.  I know I have taken many Buzzard pictures but they are worth it (sometimes).

Walking up the hill  through the paddocks we would flush birds from the hedge.  Sometimes these would be Woodpigeons, and the noise they make as they flap there way out of the hedge really made us jump.

At the top of the hill the footpaths meet, we headed towards Garthowen through an area of dappled sunshine and speckled wood butterflies.  In the trees around the garden centre a Rook sat enjoying the warm sunshine.

After a stop for a coffee in the Tree House Coffee hose we continued down to Blackberry Lane on the footpath that goes through the field.  I have remarked how this year it has been left, and not immediately cut for hay.  This was still the case, and as you can see it provided some wonderful chalk grass habitat.

And the butterflies welcomed it too, there were Meadow Browns everywhere, and the largest concentration of Common Blues I have seen around the patch.  The Blues were also being quite confiding too, settling with their wings open for once displaying the beautiful vivid blue upper wings.  As a result I was faced with an identification issue.  These two butterflies, I believe are both Common Blues, but as you can see from the patterns on the wings, and the pattern around the edge of the wings they are different.  I have checked, and sought a second opinion, but the belief is that these two are of the same species, a Common Blue.

If anyone out there has reason to consider something else then I would be happy to hear.

We carried on down the hill, a large clump of nettles and ragwort was proving an attraction to quite a few butterflies.  This was the spot where I had found Small Copper last month, and sure enough, on the same patch of ragwort there was one.

The path then heads up a narrow lane, that is covered both sides by a hedge.  We could hear Swallows singing away from the other side of the hedge, but it wasn't until there was a clearing that I was able to see it.  

Sitting on a dead branch it was chattering away almost as if to its self.

From here we made our way home, an interesting walk, with a new species which is always nice to record.