Monday was wet and dreary, but once the cloud was gone in the early evening the skies cleared and Tuesday was a beautiful day after a cold start. Wall to wall sunshine, and again that feel of Spring in the air. The days have lengthened quite a lot recently, and with the sunshine and clear skies thee was probably going to be enough light to see up to about 18.00. It was with this in mind i set off for a walk late afternoon, with the sun still quite high and bright.
For the time of day I was surprised to hear quite a bit of bird song. Song Thrushes could be heard in the distance, and of course the Robins, but Blue Tits were chasing each other in the branches, and even a pair of Coal Tits were engaged in some flirting in a Leylandii. The activity and calls also was an attraction to a Sparrowhawk that was using the distraction to hunt. The first I knew of it was when I saw this shape come over the hedge, drop low into a garden and over the fence, and then speed through the village hall car park. For once the alarm calls were late, and I saw as it flew in amongst the Blue Tits, but I could not see if the hunt was successful.
I walked along Brislands, and could hear the calls of Redwing overhead, and a few settled in a tree in the full sunshine.
I decided to walk around the lanes, the rain of yesterday probably ensuring that the woods were very muddy. As I headed out along Brislands into the open fields Skylarks were singing high up in the sky on either side of me. As I approached the entrance to the woods I saw some shapes in the field on my right. I guessed they must be partridges, but it wasn't until I took the photograph that I realised that they were Red-legged and not the hoped for Greys.
There were quite a few Great Tits in the trees as I headed down the hill. They like the hedge alongside the road, just beneath the Beech Trees. At a recent meeting we we informed that Great Tits "lek", i.e., they will perform in certain locations to attract a mate, the display attracting several females that then select the male.
I have researched this and can't find any real evidence or record specifically, but Great Tits do display, and it seems that the females tend to select a mate based on the song, and the size of the malar stripe, broad and bold being a very good indicator of the prowess of the bird. So a form of "lekking", but not necessarily in the true sense of the word, the birds remaining monogamous once selecting a mate
In the late afternoon sunshine this Great Tit looked extremely splendid, witha lovely yelllow and contrasting bold black stripe.
I headed down the hill, and as I approached the barns I could hear the House Sparrows. The majority of calls were coming from within the barns, but a few males were sitting in the brambles in the sunshine.
Walking into the sun it was difficult to see, but I could hear Yellowhammer calling around me, and every so often a Blackbird would burst from the hedge ringing out an alarm call
I finally managed to turn out of the sun, and headed up hill towards Gilbert Street. As I walked past the winery there was more bird song, and I stopped to watch a Coal Tit in the branches of a Hawthorn tree in the full sunshine.
Alarm calls once again rang out and a Kestrel flew up to the top of one of the conifers, however as I started to raise the camera it flew off, collecting more alarm calls as ot sped away down the hill.
I turned back up towards Swelling Hill. The ground around the horse paddocks was quiet, and empty, but at the top of a nearby tree a pair of Mistle Thrushes were calling with the dry rattle that they make.
During the day this is a busy area with gulls and corvids feeding in the fields and smaller birds such as the thrushes and maybe Pied Wagtails, but this evening they were now all gone. I could see small flocks of maybe Chaffinches and Goldfinches gathering and heading off to the bushes and hedgerows, and was not surprised to see the second Sparrowhawk of the evening. It came from the direction of Andrews Lane, and was obviously in survey mode, as you can see from this poor photograph that it is actively looking around from the angle position of the head.
Looking up the paddocks towards Old Down's west end the light had transformed the scene, casting it with a golden glow.
I had been hearing Bullfinch's piping call all evening but had only managed a few fleeting glimpses. As I walked up the hill a pair were chasing each other around the trees, the male finally settling at the top in the sunshine.
There was plenty of activity now, Nuthatches calling, Wren and Dunnocks in the bushes and Chaffinches in the trees. Above all this was the "kick" of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, and once again one was sitting at the top of a small conifer. The moment I found it though a small bird mobbed it, and it flew down, but as I waited it began to climb the conifer once again before finally fly away to the west.
The pond was quiet, and there was no sign of any frog activity, perhaps still a little early, and too cold. As I walked along Kitwood Lane the sunshine finally disappeared. I could hear Goldcrests in the Laurels, and as I reached the turn a flock of Long-tailed Tits came alongside me, working their way through the branches as they started to look for a warm roosting site. With the sunshine gone the temperature had dropped quite quickly and it was going to be a cold night.
At Kitwwod I scanned the posts and tree tops for the resident Kestrel, and found it on a conifer. Once again though as I tried to get a little close it decided it was time to go.
I headed down the hill, towards the school, looking back the thinned out Larches in Old Down looked like they had a fire burning behind them as the sun lit the sky from beneath the horizon.
Looking across in the direction of the north, the sky was decorated with the remains of vapour trails the weakening sunlight picking them out with a golden tinge in an ever changing sky. You can just see the tops of the Four Trees.
I walked up Gradwell in the hope I could find a Tawny Owl, but other than the rattling calls of Blackbirds there was nothing showing. A pleasant evening walk, but by now it was getting cold. It was though encouraging, spring is not that far away now, we will probably though have one or more cold spells to encounter before it is finally here.