Early cloud broke slowly through the early part of the morning to give some lovely periods of sunshine. The wind though was still quite cool coming as it did yesterday from the north east. After a good breakfast Helen and I set off along Lymington Bottom and up Brislands.
There were Robins and Greenfinch singing as we walked along the lane, but I was surprised not to hear any Skylarks as we came out into the open. The sun was warming, but the breeze very fresh. In the south facing side of the lane the first Wood Anemones were out in full bloom in the sunshine. These have flowered since Tuesday as there was none around then.
We walked into Old Down and I was hopeful of a singing Chiffchaff, but there was nothing but Robins again, they seemed to be singing everywhere. Any vantage point by the side of the path had a singing Robin.
We walked around to the gate that over looks the fields. We could see the lambs in the distance, and four more lambs had appeared since I was here on Tuesday. The field was again full of Pied Wagtails, I counted at least 20. I scanned through them in hope of a White Wagtail, but I was satisfied these were all Pied.
We walked past the Daffodils, and headed to the West End of the wood. Looking out across the fields and away to the distant wood there were six Buzzards circling. As we walked down through the Desmond Paddocks there was a single Buzzard perched in a tree.
As usual there were plenty of Magpies at Andross Farm. Most of them were sitting in this tree.
We walked up Andrew Lane, and stopped at the gate to scan across the paddocks. I am always hopeful of something here at migration time, and was rewarded in April last year with a fine male Ring Ouzel. Today there was a single large thrush too, but this time a Fieldfare.
Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits were in the trees as we walked up the lane. Ahead of us there was a large crow on the top of the pylon, the bill though looked very heavy and a closer look revealed it to be a Raven.
As we watched it we could hear it tapping on something at the top of the pylon, not sure what is was looking to achieve, maybe it just liked the sound it made.
We walked to the top of the lane, and then along the footpath in the sunshine. It faces south here, and is sheltered, and I was hoping for a butterfly or other insect. As we walked a loud "gronk" call came from above us, and the Raven appeared and flew away from us.
As it flew it continued to call.
As I said this is a south facing bank, and there was a lot of Periwinkle out, but also a lot of Celandine. It was the yellow flower that was attracting the Honey Bees, while the Buff-tailed Bumble Bees were happier with the purple Periwinkle.
The trees too seemed a lot more advanced along the bank, this Horse Chestnut beginning to leaf while others are not showing any signs. The buds before the leaves burst out are extremely sticky, the leaves as they unfold a pinkish orange.
We walked down the footpath towards Swelling Hill, the Great Tits were again very active chasing each other through the branches.
The chasing stopped and alarm calls rang out as a Kestrel flew over and out over the field where it settled on a wire. We were back in the sun, and sheltered from the wind and it again felt warm. Stopping at the stile to look out towards the west, you could see Ropley railway station, and Thomas the Tank Engine, and his friends being prepared for their Easter duties.
As we started along Swelling Hill towards the pond a Small Tortoiseshell flew past and over the hedge and out of sight, the first of the year here in Four Marks. At the pond there were the first signs of the annual Toad spawning, a single toad just on the surface.
The Mallard pair were still present, the drake looking splendid in the sunshine, it's bottle green head shining.
We walked around the pond while the Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed above us. On the other side there were quite a few Toads, their heads sticking up above the water.
It was clearly early days, and the mad panic had not yet started and there was no sign of any spawn. One or two male Toads had found a mate and were hanging on to make sure they did not lose her.
Over the course of the next few days more and more Toads will arrive and there will be balls of Toads as males fight each other to mate with the females. Then as quickly as they arrive they will be gone, and all that will be left will be the long strings of spawn amongst the pond weed.
The Woodpecker continued to drum, and as we stood and tried to find it a Treecreeper appeared on the side of a nearby tree. As it climbed the bark it stopped to look at me.
There was no sign of any Frogs, the area they used last year is not under water, and I wonder if this has kept them away.
We left the pond and walked along the road to Kitwood Lane, from there we headed down towards Hawthorn Lane. A male Blackbird was feeding in one of the recently tilled fields, and in the sunshine looked really good against the brown soil.
As we approached Kitwood farm, there was some movement by the side of the barn. As we waited and watched a Brown Rat appeared and walked over to the grass under the hedge.
Eventually it crept from the grass to a muddy pond where it stopped to drink from the water hole. It was quite a large rat, and was clearly a male.
We walked on, down to Hawthorn Lane, and then over to Willis Lane. In the paddock alongside the lane a Mistle Thrush was feeding in the middle. I would imagine this one has a nest somewhere, and the partner is either sitting on eggs, or maybe nestlings.
The rest of the walk was uneventful, we stopped off for a coffee, and then crossed the field to Blackberry Lane. Yesterday we had seen carpets of Sweet Violets alongside the roads at Pennington and Normandy. There were a few Violets about today, but these were the Dog Violet, and lot paler and white than the Sweet variety.
The sunshine was very welcome, but the cold north easterly wind is holding back migration., and spring. I am surprised though that there has not been any singing Chiffchaffs, they are normally about by now. Back home in the garden another Small Tortoiseshell flew through, again teasing you.