Sunday, 1 February 2015

1st February - There Once Was An Ugly Duckling

More snow flurries overnight, but it did not hang about, it was though still very cold with a fresh north wind.  Yesterday was much the same, but Ian and I did manage some good birds away from Four Marks, details are here.  The morning was taken up with a trip to Basingstoke, but there was time for a walk in the afternoon after we had got back.  

As I walked along Lymington Bottom it was quiet, no bird song at all.  Turning up Brislands I looked back to the trees to see several Jackdaws perched in the tree, all facing into the north wind.



From Brislands I turned into Gradwell, and headed towatds the horse paddocks, yesterday these were where the thrush flocks were feeding, and I felt there would probably be the same here.

There were a few Blackbirds, and one Song Thrush, a small group of Redwing materialised from the mud, and flew into the trees along side the fence.  Once in the tree they just disappeared merging into the branches, can you find them?



I noticed something larger in the paddock further back, a Green Woodpecker.  There was a break in the hedge on the other side that was closer so I walked round hoping that the woodpecker would still be there.

It was and it was showing well as it fed amongst the long grass.



As it fed it would continually look around, being out in the open has its dangers.



I headed off into Old Down.  I was hoping I might be able to find some Roe Deer, but the first thing I found was a Robin.  I scraped away the leaf litter backed away and waited to see if the Robin would drop down to take advantage.  However it just sat there looking at the open patch, but never actually went down.



It was extremely quiet in the wood.  There would be the odd snatch of a Wren's call, but that was the only sign of life.  The only sounds were that of the wind blowing the trees about, and the squeaks and creaks from the trees that rubbed together.  As for movement this came from the Larch trees bending in the wind.  It really was the depth of winter and everything was fast asleep.

Then I noticed a little bit of movement lower down, a male Roe Deer was scratching its antlers on a twig.  The antlers are still covered with velvet, and were probably irritating the deer.



This was what I had hoped to find, and the deer stopped to look at me, and I noticed it was not alone as two others were also staring at me.



Roe Deer antlers grow at a different time to the other deer, starting in December then stop in April or May before falling off in September.  The antlers are much softer than bone and grow covered with the velvet which provides the blood source.  This velvet is much thicker than other deer, because they have to keep the antlers warm through the winter.

As I approached the main path I noticed green shoots appearing amongst the leaf litter, a sign that while we are in the depth of winter, spring is not that far away, and the Bluebells are just around the corner.



I came out of the wood, and decided to walk up to Lye Way by the path that cuts across the field.  Away over the field a large flock of probably Common Gulls were circling.



I flushed two Wrens from the grass as I walked, this one stopped in the hedge.



As I walked I scanned the fields, and noticed something strange sticking up by one of the fences.



Closer inspection revealed what was sticking up were actually ears, and in fact there were two pairs.



As I walked past I looked back and found that they were still watching me.  This was probably a female with here yearling, so the yearling will be chased off as the female prepares to give birth to the yearlings sibling.



I walked along Lye Way, and decided to walk out to the fields, I hoped there might be a Hare in the fields, but was more than pleased to find a huge group of Redwing and Fieldfare in the sheep paddock.

This gives you some impression of the numbers, I estimated there was around 800 Redwing, and slightly fewer Fieldfare at around 500.  An incredible sight.



I did find a hare, but it was keeping very low in the field.  From this picture you can see how difficult it was to find.



I headed back through Lye Way Farm.  Where the sheep are being fed on root crops in the field, Common Gulls were feeding with them.



I suspect as the sheep feed they turn over the soil and worms and insect larvae appear, the gulls taking advantage.  This now explains the large flocks of gulls circling above the field earlier.

Looking along the line of the hedge between the two fields on the east side of Lye Way, the dull earthy winter colours provide an interesting scene that typifies the season.



As I reached the junction with Kitwood, Great Tits were calling in the tree close to the road.  They are wonderful birds and if they were a rarity we would all be enthusing over them, as it is we just pass them by as just another Great Tit.



As I came around the corner at Kitwood I noticed a strange shape on a pole.  As is always the way the strange shape turned out to be a bird, and it was looking for its dinner.  I moved to a better viewing point, and as I was photographing it, the sun came out and lit up this lovely falcon.



The sun was out, but away to the north the skies were a dark grey, further enhanced by the low inter sunshine.  As I walked towards the school I flushed a Buzzard from the tree, it flew out across the field, and then back away from me.



I turned to walk up Gradwell, and noticed some Jackdaws above the trees, behind them I could see two larger birds, I thought they could be geese, but when I got on them with the bins I was amazed. 



Yes, two Mute Swans, a patch tick, and one I didn't think I would get.  Never have two Mute Swans been greeted with so much joy, I raised my hands and shouted out, Good job there was no one else about, as they would have thought I was mad.

They flew across in front of me, and then I lost them as they flew behind the trees.



I walked home with a big smile again, now I am up to 101 birds, and I didn't expect that today.  Now you know why I have titled it what I have!

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