The cold spell seems now to be coming to an end, yesterday was a little warmer but still with the cold easterly wind. There was also a fair bit of cloud around inland. Today the skies were clear, and the wind had eased, and despite the fact that the temperature early in the morning was only several degrees above freezing it felt warmer in the sunshine. As we drank our morning tea in bed this morning, a Red Kite drifted past the window, and later on a male Blackcap joined the female in the garden, it has been around since Tuesday.
Yesterday we were down at Farlington Marshes and it was all about the ducks and geese. Today we off around the village in the sunshine, and all the birds seemed to welcome the change in the weather. As we walked down Lymington Rise a Chaffinch was singing, the first time I have heard one this year. As well as the Chaffinch there were Robins, Wren, Dunnock and a Song Thrush singing away as if spring was already here.
Today though was all about Great Tits, they were very vocal, and seemed to be everywhere. They were also very busy, not settling as I walked along Brislands, and it was impossible to get a photograph. Their teacher song was ringing out and all the other permutations of calls they mange to produce.
The first bird to behave was a Chaffinch, but this one was not singing, it had just had a bath in a puddle.
A little further on a strange shape in one of the trees turned out to be a Song Thrush.
We turned down Gradwell, and then across the field and into Old Down. After a little incident with a dog walker, we entered the wood. I love dogs, but I do object to dogs that jump up at you. This dog jumped up at Helen with muddy paws, and the owner said nothing and had to be told to call the dog off.
Bird song had been everywhere as we walked along the lanes past the houses, but as we came into the wood it all went quiet. We walked around the perimeter path where it is still quite dry. Four Roe Deer ran through the wood, probably spooked by other walkers who were talking quite loudly.
Today was quickly becoming one of those days when you ear things more than see them. We stopped on the main path and listened and watched. There were Goldfinch calling, Nuthatch flying around in pairs, a coal Tit, and of course plenty of Great Tits.
Leaving the wood we set off across the field towards Lye Way, the same route I took last week. As we walked along the hedge, the Great Tits called and flitted about. Finally I managed to pin one down, only because it had stopped to open an nut it had found.
Looking back down the footpath you can see what a beautiful day it was.
In amongst the Oak trees that line the edge of the field are quite a few Hazel, and the catkins looked quite special against the blue sky.
A small flock of Redwing flew out of the trees and settled in the field a long way off. I could also hear the chuckle of a Fieldfare but could not find the bird. A seep call caught my attention, and I was convinced that this was the call of a Chiffchaff, I have yet to find a winter one here. As I waited and listened the call became closer, and then I found that the owner was in fact a Great Tit!
As we stood there the birds seemed to appear, a Nuthatch searching the lichen and moss on the branches.
Blue Tits were also busy chasing each other through the trees, then stooping to call out.
We walked to Lye Way to check the fields, but where there were hundreds of thrushes last week there was nothing, and the fields to the south were also missing any sign of Hare. We turned back and walked around to Lye Way farm. At last a Great Tit posed in the open long enough.
This one though looked a little pale. The breast and belly stripe is also quite narrow which is the way you can tell male from female, the narrower stripe belonging to the female.
As we came past the farm buildings a flock of Long-tailed Tits came through. We watched as they inspected the lichen that covered the branches of the trees.
As always they are on the move all the time, only stopping when they have to inspect the lichen to see if there is a food in the shape of insects or spiders about.
We walked, the sheep still feeding in the fields, but today without there companions the gulls, although I did see two Common Gulls fly over.
It really was a beautiful day, and the sun felt warm on the back. As we walked we scanned the fields, all was quiet until suddenly a huge flock appeared above the trees. It was a massive flock of Wood Pigeon that had be spooked by gun fire. The sky was full of them, and a quick estimate had to be into the thousands.
While the sky was full, the trees too were full of them, birds that weren't scared of the gun. We have so many for some reason. Peregrine do come through, but are not really regular, with so many you would think this would be ideal for them. A female Sparrowhawk would take one, but what we really need are a few Goshawks, that would sort them out.
As you walk along Lye Way towards Kitwood the skyline is dominated by an orange tree.
The orange is the colour of the bark, and I think it must be from the size and shape an Acer, probably Acer Palmatum, which has this stem colour. In the sunshine it really stands out amongst the dull grey trees around it.
When we reached the horse paddocks there were several Chaffinch about, one was even singing. It was not quite full song like the bird down Lymington Rise, it seemed to be trying out its song, and wasn't yet quite confident enough.
In the sunshine you can see the beautiful colours in the male Chaffinch, the green rump, reddish brown back, and the grey blue cap.
We took the footpath across the field back into Old Down, and as we walked through the stubble field, we flushed several Skylark. They would fly up and circle around us, calling as they flew past.
Then one or two gained height, and started to sing, a real tonic after the recent bitterly cold days.
We walked through the wood, and then out through the Brislands entrance. There is a lot of timber to be moved away, and hopefully this will be the last of the work in the wood, if they take any more there will not be a wood!
As we walked along Brislands I commented on the fact that this seemed like the perfect day for Buzzards to soar, but we hadn't seen one. Then on cue one appeared over Old Down, circling around with no wing flaps.
Just before the junction with Gradwell there are several large Spruce trees, and they are a haven for quite a few Goldcrests. We watched as they moved through the branches pushing their way in between the needles in search of insects.
Like the Long-tailed Tits they rely on small insects and spiders to feed on, they have found a niche in the conifers, while the Long-tailed Tits seem to prefer the lichen, I can't recall seeing Long-tailed Tits in conifers.
We walked on, and as we reached the horse paddock, I noticed yet another large bird soaring away to the south. It was a Red Kite, and there was another soaring bird with it, that at first I thought was another Kite but turned out to be a Buzzard. By now they had become quite distant.
The bird song continued still, and as we walked up Lymington Rise, we could hear a Song Thrush in full song. It was singing from a small bush, enjoying the afternoon sun, and telling everybody in triplicate this was his place.
An interesting day, in contrast to our walk yesterday. The weather had been superb, one of those days where you want to stay outside to make the most of it, and one of those days where you feel that spring is not that far away now, well Parus Major definitely thought that!