As I walked from the house I scanned the skies, now is about the time the House Martins arrive, but over the last few years they have become later and later. The cool conditions will not bring then in, so I it will probably be well into May this year before we see them in the skies above the houses.
At the recreation ground a Nuthatch was gathering moss from the trunk of one of the oak trees, creeping its way along the branch looking for the most suitable bit.
The Oak trees are finally beginning to leaf, and the newly emerged leaves contrasted well with the dark grey clouds overhead.
Bullfinches were calling at the corner with Gradwell but they never showed, and at the horse paddock there was also no sign of the Swallows. I set off towards Old Down, and as I walked into the opening I heard the familiar chattering call of a Swallow and one flew low past me quickly followed by another.
So once again the challenge was on, the Swallows swooped low over the field going past me and then turning to come back again.
Its a case of switch the IS on, and then track them as fly past. The problem is their ability to change direction at the slightest opportunity, meaning you are left with empty sky or the movement changes the focus. They say practice makes perfect, and slowly I am, I think, getting better as this series of photographs demonstrate.
Not their yet though still a long way to go for the perfect one
It also depends on the Swallow, the cream on the underneath provides the contrast, and helps, so for now this is probably the best.
The new lens is helping, the image stabiliser (IS) provides different movement stabilisation, and I can see the benefit in using it. I have to admire the Swallows though, incredible agility and speed, a worthy opponent.
Leaving the Swallows to swoop and loop across the field I headed into the wood. I was greeted by a Chiffchaff singing in the first oak trees. I decided to take the perimeter path, I haven't been along here for awhile, and was interested to see what if anything the more open, lighter conditions had produced. b I am used to the beautiful blue carpets of bluebells at this time of year, but I do not recall ever seeing a carpet of purple blue violets. There was an area of about 12 square metres of flowering violets, quite impressive.
A little further on and the bluebells appeared lining the path as I approached the main path to Swelling Hill, still not out in full.
There are though patches in more sheltered spots where the flowers are much further developed, and this creates that lovely hazy blue carpet.
I walked around to the pond, there was little sun so there were no insects, but the Moorhen was feeding over on the other bank. I checked the area where the nest is, and could see the female sitting tight, her bill visible through the reeds.
There was no sign of the Coot so I decided to walk around the pond. A Great-spotted Woodpecker called from the trees in the back of the pond. I wonder if it is nesting here again this year. If it is it must be using a new hole as the one from last year looks to be empty.
I made my way around the back, and out onto the far bank, the Bogbean is beginning to flower, and I stopped to look closer. As I did the Coot shot out of the middle, scaring the life out of me. It is amazing that a large black bird with a white bill and forehead can hide so well, the white must help in camouflaging it. It flew across the water and settled away from me close to the muddy edge.
It still appeared quite nervous, not a trait I would normally associate with a Coot.
I left both the Coot and Moorhen to it, and headed back into Old Down, I was intending to walk down to the West End and then back across the angled path to the Brislands entrance, but I go a little side tracked by a collection of small birds in one of the fallen, yet still alive beech trees.
One warbler looked quite yellowish, and it made me recall that so far I have not seen or heard any Willow Warblers. I stood watching the warbler flit through the leaves but never really got a good enough view. There was though a lot of other activity, a pair of Blackcaps were collecting moss, the male giving them away by its "tack" call. A Coal Tit was creeping and hanging its way through the leaves.
Its objective was to inspect the new leaves for aphids and caterpillars.
It looked like the Great Tits were doing much the same as they too moved through the fallen tree.
They really are a very handsome bird.
I could not find the warbler I had stopped to watch, but as I turned back to the footpath and headed west I did find another warbler, but unfortunately not the same one, this one was definitely a Chiffchaff.
I decided not to head down to the West End, but turned back up the angled path. This rea has had some trees moved and is lighter. The discarded branches though have covered some of the area where the Bluebells would put on a good show, however there are still plenty of patches that now look splendid.
The lime green leaves contrasting wonderfully with the vivid blue.
Overcast days can work really well for Bluebell photography as the lack of direct sunlight reduces the contrast and cloud cover reflects light back enhancing the colour. It is the same with photographing the blue in a glacier, it is enhanced under cloudy skies. The clouds were building up now, and you could see the difference when the sun was not out. Absolutely wonderful
A pair of Jays were busy in the trees and their presence was annoying the smaller birds, there alarm calls ring out, but only when they moved, while still in the trees it was very difficult to see them, which is amazing for such a beautifully marked bird, but at this time of year the colour of the newly emerging leaves seems to hide them.
I made my way out of the wood, walking past an ever increasing stack of wood, I thought that there was no work now until the end of the summer to prevent disturbing nesting birds, but these stacks have definitely increased in volume.
Over to the north the skies looked quite spectacular with large cumulus clouds building up.
There was no sign of any Whitethroat along Brislands, maybe the lower hedge is not of interest to them. I did come across this Cowslip. It was nice to be able to get a close shot as up to now all the ones I have seen have been distant and not accessible.
As I approached home I scanned the skies once more but there was no sign of any House Martin. The cool conditions are set to last until after the weekend, this will block any significant movement, but hopefully May will turn up something special.