At 4.00 am this morning a pair of Tawny Owls were calling, probably from the trees around the grass area at the top of Lymington Bottom. There was a clear Keevit, and a Tuwhoo, a little later as it started to get light I also heard a Greenfinch singing, my first of the year, an early start to Valentine's day.
When dawn arrived it was quite Foggy in Four Marks, not unusual after heavy overnight rain. It was fog that is only found in Four Marks, as once in Alton, the sun was out. The Sun did start to appear around 9.00 am, and I had decided to take the opportunity to walk around most of the patch today. As I got ready to leave the male Blackcap was feeding on the apples in the garden.
As well as the Blackcap a very smart plumaged Greenfinch arrived, probably the bird singing early this morning.
As I set off I could hear a Song Thrush singing in Lymington Rise, but as I walked up Brislands, you could hear several birds all in full song. They seem to sing from a position high up in the middle of a tree, which means to photograph them in song you have to be able to focus through a maze of branches.
Brislands Lane is about half a mile long to the junction with Gradwell, and in the whole length there were seven Song Thrushes singing.
As well as the Song Thrushes there were Chaffinches in song. Last week there was the odd bird, today they were singing all over the place. I counted six in song, and there were others just calling.
Dunnock were singing, as were more Greenfinches, and of course Robins were in song. I watched three Robins engaging in some handbags in the tree, each trying to get the higher branch, to dominate the other two. They push out there breasts and throw the head back to present a crimson banner.
I walked on past Old Down, deciding not to go in, the rain last night had probably made the paths very muddy, but more so, at this time of year the woods are very quiet, there would be more opportunity to see birds around the hedges, farm buildings and houses. The view down Brislands looks so typically winter.
It was quiet around the cattle barns, there was no sign of the House Sparrows. As I walked on I watched birds zipping about in front of me on the top of the hedge. Blue and Great Tits, Blackbirds and Dunnocks. As I reached the trees several Yellowhammers came out of the field and up into the tree, lit up by the sunshine.
They are still in quite large flocks, I counted 32 birds here, but off in the distance I could hear one in full song.
There was no sign of the Meadow Pipits in the grass at the bottom of the lane, so I turned up towards North Street. A lump in the field caught my eye, and a closer look revealed a cock pheasant in the middle of the field.
The sun was out and it felt a lot warmer, and this was probably the reason why all the birds were singing. More Chaffinches and Greenfinches could be heard, and of course the Song Thrush, they seemed to be singing everywhere. In the horse paddocks I flushed a single Fieldfare, and then a Mistle Thrush. A wagtail flew over, it didn't call, and I wasn't sure what type it was. This was confirmed for me as I looked across the field on the other side, as it was covered in Pied Wagtails. I counted 23 feeding on the wet grass.
The damp grass was also an attraction to the Rooks, they would move from the wires alongside the field to the field to feed. As they perched on the wires it was as if they were trying to carry on a conversation with the feeding birds.
The sheep had been given a selection of root vegetables to eat, and in amongst them more Pied Wagtail could be seen. The sheep were also accompanied by about 50 Common Gull.
I stopped at the bottom of Andrews Lane to check the trees, but apart from a pair of Collared Doves it was quiet. As I walked up the lane I could hear Goldcrest calling, so I stopped to wait and see what they would do.
There was just one bird, a male I think that was feeding amongst the ivy and lichen.
At first it was difficult to pin down, but then it came closer. It was quite dark and I had to use an ISO 3200, but I was pleased with the detail in the bird.
As it made its way amongst the leaves it would stop to call, it seems this must be an involuntary action or it was trying to attract another to join it.
Once the Goldcrest had moved away out of sight I left it and walked on. The sun was still out, and I could hear the mew of a Buzzard. I scanned the sky, but eventually found the own sitting, preening in a Larch tree.
From the top of the lane to the end of the footpath at Lye Way there was nothing, but turning on to the road I heard the piping call of a Bullfinch. There were two pairs in the hedge, and the males were chasing each other as were the females. This male succeeded in chasing the other away, then sat nicely in the open sunshine.
I headed off towards the estate. Stopping once again to scan the fields for Hare. There is always a a Hare in this field, but last Sunday the Hare was not there, today it was back.
It was a pleasant walk in the sun, and the weather was also conducive for the Buzzards too. More mews above me, but it took a while to locate the birds. I first found one, very high up in the sky. As I watched this one it was joined by another, then another, and three birds were soaring around above me.
More birds then seemed to appear, and at one time there were six birds circling above me. This then caused the behaviour to change, and they started to fly close, and look to clash talons.
Then it seemed they became bored with this and all headed off on their own in different directions.
I turned into Charlwood where there were more singing Song Thrushes and Yellowhammers. A Fieldfare "chuckled" above me, and I finally found them all feeding in the main field. It was not a flock as large as a few weeks ago, but I estimated it to be around 100 birds.
Walking along the road, Yellowhammers were in the hedge, and Chaffinches were feeding on the edge of the road. They all flew ahead of me, never doubling back behind me.
The sun was still with me, but the cloud was beginning to build up, and the light was making the sky look quite dramatic. I saw a buzzard over the distant trees, then a few minutes later it didn't look quite right. That would be because I was now looking at a Red Kite.
It drifted away to the south, and out of view. I walked on, and then climbed the stile into Plain Farm. The field was quite muddy, and as I carefully made my way there were Jays fighting in the scrubby area by the footpath.
I stopped at the fallen tree to have a coffee and lunch, the sun had now all but gone, and the clouds began to look quit ominous. As I set off again I heard alarm calls from the Blue Tits. I looked across the field and there was a distant Sparrowhawk.
It was a long way from the Blue Tits, and I had to be impressed at how they managed to see it, or did they just hear somebody else's call,and joined in?
I walked down the lane towards the farm buildings. All the hdeges have been trimmed and they no longer seem to offer the protection to the birds, as a result it was quiet. A ren zipped across in front of me, and on the hedge on the other side a pair of Dunnocks werre flirting.
I stopped to scan the fields, above me Skylark were sing, but at the far end of the field was a huge flock of Woodpigeon that were spooked and flew up into the sky.
As I walked down the past the workshops the sky away to the east looked very threatening, the sun, somewhere catching and highlighting the white clouds against the black ones.
The walk past the farm buildings was quiet, all there was to report was a Kestrel that flew across the field and away out of sight. I crossed the road, and then up past the quarry. From there I negotiated the hill and muddy path, and stopped to look at the Pussy Willow that was out on the trees at the pond.
I did the obligatory check of the shed, but there was nothing there, then I walked to the estate park. As I walked along the path I saw a Red Kite over the house, then as I crossed the stile one flew past me. But as I came down through the park towards the road I suddenly realised that there were two circling above me. Then the two quickly became three.
I watched them as they circled, and came close to each other but never actually clashing, then two broke away, and the other headed off in the opposite direct. This made me think the pair were the adult birds and the single last year's youngster. However with the single bird that disappeared off to the south from Charlwood this was now four birds on the patch, my highest count.
This was even more amazing considering the weather now was not suitable at all for soaring raptors. It was drizzling, and quite dull, away on the A£" the car headlights looked very bright.
As I walked up the hill I could hear the calls of Redwing, and eventually found a small group in the top of the trees.
I could hear gun fire so decided against walking through Plash Wood, and took the path around it. Both Redwing and Fieldfare called as they flew over, and Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests could be hear on the edge of the wood.
A single Red Kite came from the direction of Newtown Farm, and flew over me.
I am assuming this was one of the three I had seen earlier.
As I walked towards the farm Meadow Pipits flew out of the field, you could never see them until they broke up into the air. I counted 24 birds as I walked past.
At the cow sheds I heard waht could have been a Green Sandpiper, but I couldn't find anything, and I was not sure. The area around the shed though could be good for them, with water and plenty of cow manure. This was though quite an attraction for the Pied Wagtail, once again there was a large flock here of 18 birds.
I walked towards the barns, and a white shape at the top of one got me quite excited, then I as I got closer it became quite clear it wasn't what I thought it was.
Alarm calls once again alerted me to a Kestrel that flew up to a nearby tree. I used the cows as cover to get closer, but it was finally flushed out when a distant gun shot rang out.
It was drizzling again, but this Pied Wagtail didn't seem to mind, and posed really nicely so that I could get its reflection in the puddle in the mud.
I walked on, down to Kitwood, and along the bridleway before heading up to Kitwood Lane. By now the drizzle had turned to quite heavy rain, and I covered everything up, and headed for home. Up until I stopped for lunch it was a lovely day, the sunshine was bringing out the songbirds. Then after my break a completely different day turned up, and this one was more typical with the time of year. Still it was good to get a long walk in, and to visit some of the areas I haven't been to for a while.