Thursday, 16 April 2015

15th April - When I Was Young, I Never Needed Anyone

Another gloriously sunny and warm day, I hope that this is not our summer.  The breeze was from the south west, and not too chilled.  I decided once again to explore the same areas as yesterday, the hedgerows and field at this time of year can be good habitat for any new arrivals and the open rides in Old Down now are attractive to early butterflies too.

There was nothing of any different interest along Brislands, and I decided to go into the wood via the Gradwell entrance.  As I turned on to the footpath at the stables the lone Swallow was still there swooping low over the fields, and than up around the trees.



It has now been here for eight days all on its own, all by itself.  It must be feeling insecure, I can only hope the others turn up soon.  Last year there were three pairs nesting here, but those days are distant now, I hope they haven't gone.



In the paddocks were a few Woodpigeon, and the pair of Jackdaws, a scan of the fences and posts revealed nothing else.

As I walked across the field I could make out a squabble going on between what I thought were two crows, but were in fact two Pheasants, as I watched them I could see the reason for the fight.



One bird then decided it wasn't worth it and made a break.



Racing towards the female.



Who in turn was not interested in hanging around and decided to head back into the wood, which seemed to spur the winner on even more to chase off the loser.



The excitement over I walked into the woods, where even in the course of 24 hours you could see the difference in the trees, the Silver Birch in particular seem to have just burst into life.



As I walked along the entrance path two Speckled Woods flew towards me engaged in a duel that involved spiralling around each other.  As a result they were never going to land, and despite my best efforts I was not able to capture the behaviour, finally I lost them as the spiralled their way out of sight.

What was noticeable was the marked increase in singing Chiffchaffs, and Blackcaps from yesterday.  Walking on I could hear tapping from above, and I scanned around looking for the carpenter.  Finally I found this male Great Spotted Woodpecker hammering away at a dead tree trunk.



I walked on with the woodpecker still battering the tree.  In front of me was the tree that the Great Tits were building their nest in yesterday.  I had managed to catch one of the birds as it came out of the hole.  As I passed it this evening I was shocked and very angry, plus I just couldn't believe that someone would do such a thing.  



The hole has been stuffed with bramble branches, and it looks like the moss the Tits had taken in has been pulled out.  This was not done by an animal, this to me looks like the action of human beings, but why I just don't know.  It is coincidental that we are still on half term here in Hampshire, I don't want to think that way, but can't help it.  Someone or somebody must have seen the birds like I did and decided to have some "fun".  Why that is fun I do not know, and as I said it both sickens me, and angers me.  All I can hope is that they cut their hands handling the bramble.

I made my way to the cross roads with only a few Peacocks about, but as I turned towards Old Down Cottage I came across my first Comma of the year sunning on the ground.



Still perfect in both colour and shape, I left it sitting there in the sun.

I then headed to the perimeter and made my way around to the fence.  Wood Anemones are the dominant white flower on the floor of the wood, but in sheltered spots you can now find the delicate Wood Sorrel in flower.  A lovely flower with tissue like petals with pink veins.  It is an edible plant, and has been eaten to address wide ranging ailments from sore throats to nausea.



A Chiffchaff was singing and calling above me.  It hen realised there were actually two birds in the tree.  The singing bird, presumably the male would sing, then stop and in the open on a branch hold out and flicker its wings.  This would attract the other who was simply calling to come closer.



The male bird (presumably) would then fly off with the other following and would repeat the behaviour, the other bird still calling.  I watched them do this from branch to branch above me, then they flew off together out of sight.

I walked around the path, coming out into the open, where two jays were chasing each other through the conifers.  A Brimstone flew past, and was joined by a Peacock, then as I reached the West End a white butterfly teased me as it flew over the Dog Mercury, daring to stop.  Finally it did and I was able to see it was Small White.



More evidence of the effect of the warm weather was in front of me as I came out of the wood.  The Rapeseed is coming into flower transforming the view and landscape.  For some this will not be a very welcome sight, but for me I thought it looked quite spectacular.



I followed the same rout as yesterday, down through the paddocks, and like yesterday the only bird I encountered was a Chaffinch singing while hidden in the middle of the hedge.  I crossed over into Andrew Lane, and heard the calls of Swallows above.  These were not contact calls as are often heard as bird fly over, but alarm calls, and were quickly joined by those of a Robin.  I looked up to see a Sparrowhawk being mobbed by three swallows.



The Sparrowhawk gained height and the Swallows moved on, I watched them head towards Old Down, they had no interest in the stables at Andross farm where it was still swallow-less.

The Sparrowhawk didn't move on though and drifted down from its lofty position causing the Blue Tits and Robins to start their alarm calls once again.



Finally it moved away to the south and out of view.  Interestingly I had a similar encounter a year ago here, Swallows alerting me to a Sparrowhawk overhead, was this an omen?

I reached the outlook point and scanned hopefully the fields, nothing.  Well that wasn't quite true there was a group of nine Stock Doves, a record count for he patch.  I picked up the firs one flying in to join the others feeding on the ground.



As I watched two flew a little closer, this one perching on the gate while the other drank from the water butt.



A little despondent I walked up the hill Great Tits were busy calling from the hedge and another Blackcap was in song by at the top of the hill.  

In the sheep field the straw bales have been removed so the only item the lambs had to play with were the food buckets.  Some though preferred to sleep away the afternoon safe in the knowledge that mum will always be there.



A Chiffchaff sang from the trees at the top of the path, it would seem now they have been here awhile they are a little more confident to come out into the open.



I toyed with the idea of walking around to the road again to see if the Wheatear were still there, and if they had maybe been joined by anything else.  Based in the fact that it had been a clear night I reckoned the Wheatear would have left. and a scan from the farm showed it may have been the right choice as there was nothing I could make out in the field.

As I walked past the farm buildings the field in front of me caught  my eye, the rape here was not as developed as from the West End but it still produced a nice scene looking out towards the distant trees.



I walked down Lye Way lane hopeful of something in the hedge, as I reached the gate I saw a white flash, and knew it belonged to a "white arse", another Wheatear.  It flew a little way and then stood upright in the field.



Was this a new bird, or one of the three seen yesterday?  On its own it was difficult to tell, so I scanned the field.  A Buzzard flew off the pylon, and away to the distant middle I could see a Brown Hare settled on the ground.



I came back to the Wheatear, and found that it had been joined by another male, now it seemed they maybe yesterday's birds



Then a little of a way to the left there was some movement and a third bird appeared.  For me that clinched it, what are the chances of yesterday's three leaving to be replaced by three more, and as they are about half a mile from where I left them yesterday they have to be the three from yesterday.  The third bird was closer to the road, so I was able to get a reasonable photograph.



They looked settled, and who knows they may be there the next day.

I left them and walked on, as well as the song of Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Robins, there has been a lot of singing Greenfinches, their nasal twitterings making you think it could be something else.  They have though been difficult to see, and this one is not a perfect shot, but it does show the lovely lime green plumage when caught in the sunshine.



The greenfinch finally flew off, and was then replaced by three Goldfinches, that were clearly not happy.  They kept attacking each other in the same way they get feisty around the feeders.  Finally just one was left, and it seemed satisfied as it viewed its surroundings.



Rather than walk back through the wood I carried on towards the school.  In the verge I found my first Field Mouse Ear of the year, again this time last year they were out in good numbers.



Another lovely day, and on any other walk I would have been more than satisfied with three Wheatear, but then I am always greedy.  I made my way home in the warm sunshine with two thoughts, One I wish this weather would stay, and two, I hope for the Swallow at Gradwell, those days are not gone.

Apologies to Eric Carmen

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