Yesterday was the first of my away trips, and the details and pictures are here.
The Red Kite sighting continued through the week, one or two birds drifting over the house. A Sparrowhawk was an unwelcome visitor to the garden this morning too, unwelcome to the feeding birds, but for me a very welcome visitor. It had been a cold clear night, and there had been a slight frost but the air was warming up when I set off for a quick walk around the woods. The sun was also out and this was the incentive for the birds to be calling. Robins were in full song, and I could hear at least two Song Thrushes singing high in the trees. Both Great and Blue Tits were also calling from the oaks around the cemetery.
I wanted to see if it was possible to walk around the woods, and I was also hopeful there might be some new birds feeding in the larches.
As I approached the entrance I could see the farmer had started to erect fences and gates to the fields. It seems that in Four Marks we are constantly facing challenges and battles, if it is not with the construction firms that want to turn every field and open area into a building site its the local farmers who for some reason are suddenly fighting those people that enjoy the countryside. It would appear the default position of the farmer is that we are all out to destroy or damage their land.
When these gates and fences are in place once again it will not be possible to use footpath #19 as the area has still not been cleared despite the council informing me the land owner had been told to clear and provide access. What has suddenly changed for this different approach to be taken by the farmers?
My rant over I negotiated the muddy path, and then took the diagonal footpath. Its a sheltered spot here and the foxglove leaves still hung on to the white frost from the night.
There are many large trails now in the wood created by the heavy vehicles that have moved through to clear out the tree trunks that have been cut down. These trails though are very wet and muddy. I walked along one towards the west end, a small group of Goldcrests called from the trees nearby, and I managed to catch one before it flitted away and out of sight.
At the west end of the wood the tree clearance is severe. Interestingly the majority of the trees clears seem to be hazel, and you have to wonder the possible impact that could have had on any Dormice that may be in the wood. There has been considerable effort taken to protect the dormice that are thought to be in the hedgerows around Brislands, providing them with a nice bridge to cross the entrance ways. I doubt there are any Dormice there, but I would reckon there were some in the hazel in Old Down and that they have probably been decimated now following this drastic clearance.
Oh dear I am rather grumpy today, which I really shouldn't be after the wonderful day yesterday. I walked along the footpath back into the wood, once the darkest part of the wood, now fully open with a path dried by both the sun and wind. I do feel the wood will benefit from this clearance, and that come the spring it will be easier to see the birds, and there will be a lovely show from the wild flowers.
I stopped to listen for bird calls, and immediately heard the sharp "kick" call that resonates around the wood. A female Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in to one of the trees still standing and continued to call as she sat there.
Blackbirds scurried around in the leaf litter under the large beech trees, and every so often there would be the call of a Song Thrush as it shot from the low branches. The blackbird numbers are as plentiful in the woods as they are around the gardens and fields. There has definitely been a big influx this year.
As I made my way up to the crossroads there was a a lot of activity on the path with birds drinking and bathing in the puddles. I stood and watched Wrens and Dunnocks appear in the fallen branches, and Great and Blue Tits flying backwards and forwards across the path.
Another increase this winter has been in the number of Grey Squirrels I have seen in the wood, it seems that they are everywhere, the rustle of leaves as they scamper through the leaf litter, and the barking calls from the trees as they move at speed across the branches. I suspect that the number hasn't increased but that it is again a result of the clearer space, and the fact that I can now see and hear them.
Looking across through the larches it is amazing how many dreys there are high up in the trees.
I stopped again to listen for birds. This area is usually the best place for Goldfinches and in the past Siskin and Redpoll and even Crossbill. But today I could hear a few Goldfinches, but nothing else.
I headed around the south perimeter, this part of the wood is dry, and the paths are much easier to walk. With the clearance though the markers I have always used to know where I am have gone, so you suddenly find your self at the Kitwood entrance. As I reached the Gradwell path I could hear knocking above me and I stopped to watch a Nuthatch attempting to open what looked like a hazel nut. It had wedged the nut into a crack in the bough of a large Oak Tree. It would constantly stop to look around for danger, then would go back to hamering the nut
The blows were very powerful, lifting the head and then bringing it down with quite a bit of force.
I came out of the wood and crossed to the paddocks. I could hear Yellowhammer calling, and as I got closer to the trees a flock of 26 came out of the tree and flew away out over the field.
As I watched the Yellowhammer a Buzzard called and then came out of the tree as well and flew away from me along the line of the hedge.
The Yellowhammer were still calling and it sounded like there were many still in the tree, I though, could only see one sitting on the edge of the tree.
I walked a little further, and another flock of 27 came out, then followed by another 22, making a total of 75 Yellowhammer, quite a good count.
I walked down Gradwell, and could hear the buzzards calling above. High in the sky there were two soaring, but the calls were quite close, suddenly from over the tree, a Buzzard swooped over me quite low.
Yet another buzzard picture but I do love watching and listening to them, the call, for me, epitomising the wildness.
There was still another about, and I watched this one come low over the field and then out of my view, but I knew it must be there, as a group of Woodpigeon suddenly took flight. I walked on and found it sitting in the bush behind the big house on the corner of Brislands and Gradwell.
A little further on I could see berries dropping to the ground from a Holly tree. I looked and found the culprit at the top of the tree, a Mistle Thrush, eating the berries, and obviously dropping a few.
I made my way back home, stopping quickly to take advantage of an opportunity that doesn't arrive that often, a perched and settled Carrion Crow, normally they fly off the moment the camera is raised. This one seemed quite content in the sunshine, and shows well the difference between it and the Rooks, no bare patch at the base of the bill.
A typical January walk, bits and pieces about, but nothing out of the ordinary, still a lovely morning.