More overnight rain, and morning mist and it was still cool in what was now a more north westerly. I managed to get out mid morning, and to ensure I maximised the time I decided to drive to the pond, and then walk from there around Lye Way and Plain Farm. I did not know at the time that this was going to prove beneficial.
As I got out of the car I checked to see if the Moorhen was still there, and I could make out the red on her bill so I left her and headed off.
I was hopeful that at last the Whitethroats had arrived, and I knew the best place to find them would be in the hedges and rough ground around Lye Way. I decided to take the footpath that runs parallel with with Andrew Lane, and follows a line of hedges and trees.
As I walked by the side of the field I noticed what I thought was a ball by the side of the field. As I got closer I could see it was more like a ball of feathers.
A Red-legged Partridge with its head tucked under its wing, and standing on one leg, it looked quite relaxed. But then it noticed me, and put its head up before sprinting across the field away from me.
I then disturbed another that flew off (which makes a change!) behind me. As I watched both birds I heard the chuckle of Fieldfare, and looked up to see three fly over towards the west. This is a good spot to see these late in the year, and this would be my latest besting last year by one day. I was surprised though they were heading west.
As I walked between the trees and the fence, I scanned the fences that stretched out across the fields. There was little about, and the only chat present was a Robin.
When I reached the top of the path I could hear Blackcap and Chiffchaff singing. I walked a little way down the path to see if I could find either of them. I could not see the Blackcap, but in between bursts of song the Chiffchaff was busy collecting nesting material.
I set off along Lye Way, checking both the fields and the hedges for any sign of migrants. There were plenty of Chaffinch and Goldfinch, but nothing else of interest. The road takes a dip as it heads towards the Cottages, and on the north side there is a copse with a few good sized trees and lots of bramble. As I approached I disturbed three Hares from the edge of the field, two of which seemed to be youngsters.
As I got closer I suddenly heard a burst of scratchy song from the bramble bushes, and sitting on top in full song was a male Whitethroat.
He performed well, and included a few sorties into the air. I love the way the whit on the throat is emphasised as they are in full song.
The sky was still very grey, but the mist was lifting. The yellow rape flowers though were glowing against the sky and the surrounding greens.
A little further on a pair of birds dived into the cover of bramble by the farm buildings on the south side. Very soon they emerged to identify themselves as a pair of Whitethroat.
Although not a huge movement there had been a steady trickle of Swallows moving north as I walked along the lane. I turned onto the bridleway past Lye Way Cottages, and in the sheep field there were several Swallows hawking between the Sheep and Lambs.
So once more the challenge is on again for the ultimate Swallow photograph in flight, these are the first two contenders from this year.
The Lambs in the field are a little older than those at the top of Andrew lane, and are a little more adventurous roaming away from their mothers to get up to no good. I watched these two go through some very good moves.
Quite a spring
A little shake of the head and back kick
And finished off with a full four leg leap.
Leaving the Lambs to their antics I turned onto Charlwood and walked towards Plain Farm. A couple of weeks ago Helen and I had walked across the fields looking for the footpath. On that day there were several tracks created which a t the time we thought could damage the crops unnecessarily. It would seem the farmer thought so too and as a result he has now made the footpath quite clear.
Just before the turn into Plain Farm I checked yet another field with sheep and lambs, there were plenty of Jackdaws following them around, but of interest was a Buzzard that flew up and glided across the field to the trees on the far side.
I was surprised to find the walk through the gorse and broom quiet, there was very little going on not even a Chiffchaff. Maybe it was the time of day. As I came out onto the main path I came across the Kestrel sitting as usual on top of one of the poles scanning the ground below. Clearly today was a little too cool for hovering.
Skylarks sang on both sides of the path, and Linnets were also very visible, they haven't been so for sometime. The males looking resplendent with their rosy pink chest patches.
Yellowhammers too could be seen and heard from both hedges. It is interesting how such a bright yellow plumage can hide the birds in the hedges, you would think they would stand out.
As I walked down the path four Mallard were flying around the barns ahead of me. I still don't know why this is a popular place for them, I can only assume it is to do wit the availability of grain. As I reached the barn I could just see their heads above the grass watching me walk past.
At the drying barns the House Sparrows were "churping" away, a good sign there are females on nests close by. A male Blackcap was in song, but as usual it did its best to hide on the trees where the leaves are now just beginning to provide suitable cover.
I walked across the road, and up past the Gamekeeper's Cottages. I walked along the avenue of Beech trees, and then down towards the gardens and the pond. An adult Brown Hare broke cover and ran across the open track, and was then followed by a smaller hare, probably a youngster again. It stopped though and waited giving me the opportunity for a clear photo.
It was now quite quiet. A Great Spotted Woodpecker called close by as I nervously walked down the hill through a large flock of cows. I don't no why I feel this way now, it never really bothered me until I was chased and charged last year.
I headed up the hill towards Lye Way. The leaves on the Beech Trees in Winchester Wood are at their prettiest, lime green and very delicate, they contrast wonderfully with the dark greys of the trunks.
There was little to report bird wise as I made my way back to the pond. As I passed the Lye Way farm buildings I noticed some shapes in the distant field, and as I got closer I could see these were Brown Hare. There was one large oner and two smaller so these were probably the three I had seen earlier, it would be quite possible for them to have made their way through the Rape field to this one. They were quite happy feeding, and I wonder at what point they become a nuisance.
I turned onto Kitwood to walk down to the pond, and a Mistle Thrush flew up to the wires, and gave a really good view. Again they probably have a second brood close by.
Usually on the walks I will visit the pond and move on. Today though I was having to go their twice. As I came up to for some reason a white patch caught my eye, and it looked unusual, a closer look revealed that it was indeed unusual, the white patch was the beak of a Coot, a patch tick number 102!
It was sitting in the water at the edge of horsetails and Irises. As I tried to get closer to get maybe a better view it slunked back into the cover of the vegetation, and all I could see was the white of the bill.
As I did get a little close it broke from the vegetation and headed into a much thicker area of Iris. This led me to think that this bird was unsure of where it was. Coot are usually quite brazen, and not that easily spooked so maybe this one was it passing through and was probably exhausted and felt vulnerable, so felt safer hiding.
I suppose Coot was always a possibility as we have Moorhen, but because there has never really been any significant additions to the water birds on the pond since I can remember this was a big surprise. It also made me go back and check the muddy regions for any hiding Snipe! Well you never no, and well maybe that dream of a Kingfisher isn't just that, a dream!
So as seems to be the way, April has delivered a new bird, and I drove home quite satisfied.