Wednesday, 1 April 2015

31st March - He's Hopping Along To The Beat Of The Band

Still no sign of the winds turning to a southerly direction, and over night Monday into Tuesday we were subjected to gale force north westerlies, that were still blowing as the afternoon arrived.  Fortunately the showers were skipping by to the north so I was able to get out for a walk.  I did not though harbour much hope for anything spectacular.  I drove down to the farm, and parked up and turned back up the hill towards Lye Way.  If you took away the strong wind it was quite pleasant in the sunshine, and the scene from the car was again one of a nice spring afternoon.  It all changed in the open though, the only sound was that of the wind roaring through the empty branches of the Beech trees as I walked.

There is a small amount of growth in the fields where the crops have developed, and as I walked towards a more open area I saw a brown lump sitting in amongst the green of the shoots.  I inched closer to get a better look and as I did so I disturbed two Red-legged Partridges, and they ran away across in front of me.

The Red Legs are now all in pairs, and can be seen close to the edge of the fields, scurrying away as they see you for the cover of the hedges, sometimes they may break into flight if they have ventured too far from cover, and in doing so will utter their noisy call which sounds a bit like "chuk, chuk".

I managed to creep up on the brown lump which was of course a Brown Hare, this time of year is a good time to see them with the fields open.  Despite the fact it had its back to me I am sure it could see me with those large brown eyes.  It sat there tensed ready to explode away if it felt I was getting too close.

I left it and headed along Lye Way.  Away over the fields I could just hear a singing Skylark above the noise of the wind.  I must admit to being impressed that this small bird could sing and maintain its position in the air in the near gale force winds.  All around me jackdaws and Rooks were whirling around as they fought to combat the strong gusts.

A little further on, another opening in the hedge revealed another Brown Hare tucked down close to the ground.  trying hard to keep out of the wind.

I carried on and turned into Charlwood where there was a little more shelter from the wind.  By the houses Blue Tits we chasing each other in some form of courtship, and Chaffinches were feeding on the Tarmac.  A couple of Robins could be heard in song but were hidden in the middle of the conifers.

In the field just past the horse paddocks the sheep were starting to lamb, several already had youngsters, and they were using their parent as a wind break, it must be a severe shock to come into the world from a warm and safe place to the then find the reality is of weather extremes like those we are currently having.  This little one must have been telling its Mum exactly that.

The walk along Charlwood was uneventful, I could just about hear one or two Yellowhammers calling above the whine of the wind through the wires, and the roaring as it battered the tops of the trees.  I was surprised to see that the footpath that stretches out from Charlwood across the field to Lyewood House was not there.  It would seem nobody has used the path since the filed was sown.

I turned into Plain Farm, and scanned across the fields.  There have been quite a few male pheasants close to the edge of the fields, and with them would be several females.  They were all though very distant, and as you can imagine on a shooting estate quite nervous, running for cover at the slightest sign of any possible threat.  As I watched the pheasants I was surprised by a female Mallard that appeared and flew over my head.  These ducks like it here, I am not sure why.

I walked to the fallen tree and scanned again, once more all I could see were pheasants.  I headed towards the cottages, Great Tits called from the cover of the Broom and Gorse, and as I passed the cottages a pair of Bullfinches flew across calling with that soft piping call.

A creature of habit, I walked through the gap and looked around the field.  I flushed on Grey Partridge and it flew off calling, slightly different to that of the Red Legged, more scratchy, and like a "kuta kut, kut".

Woodpigeon as usual were away to the far side of the field feeding in a large flock, and Rooks were wheeling above the field in the wind.  I turned and walked across the lane to the gap in the hedge, and viewed across the field.  As I turned towards the house I noticed a Red Kit sitting in the middle of the field, something I had not managed to see before.  Unfortunately as I lifted the camera it took off, and i could see the reason for it being on the ground.

It was carrying what looked like the tail feathers of a female pheasant, and had clearly been feeding on the base of the tail.  Red Kite are a scavenging bird, and have been successfully introduced on the back of plentiful road kill, that said there is still the view among those that shoot that these birds take the game birds.  They may take sick or dying birds, but they do not have the ability to kill with their talons as Buzzards do, as the feet are quite weak in the same way that vultures are.  This bird had either found this pheasant part from a road kill, or from the remains of a kill by probably a pheasant or even fox.  It flew away from me still carrying the tail.

With little else in the field I walked on.  Ahead of me a pair of mallard appeared from beneath the hedge, and then walked across the lane towards the barn.  There are at least two pairs here, and it looks like we could be having another bumper mallard year.

As i walked past the barn I flushed the duck, and a male kestrel that flew off into the field.  I knew that in this wind the Kestrel would not go far, so I suspected it had landed in the tree near the workshops.  I creeped along close to the hedge to prevent my shape being seen, and sure enough found the Kestrel, but what I didn't expect was to see two.  Love is very much in the air, and hopefully these two will get it on.

I tried to get a better, close view however the branches were obscuring the chance, however the female with the heavier streaking was tucked in against the branches of the tree, and I could just get a shot.

Past the barns there were more Brown Hares in the field.  At first there was this one and another just out of view.

These two definitely looked like adults, and away at the back of the field another two pairs appeared from behind the cow shed, and they looked quite big.  It is a little early for leverits this size so I would assume they were adults, which would mean this is one of my largest counts of adult Brown Hares at eight.

I walked down the hill, past the farm buildings and out towards the road, in the field to my left was yet another brown Hare, and away to the right was a large flock of mixed corvids and Woodpigeon.  Both were again a little nervous, and after a short while they all burst into the air.  However they left behind three grey blobs that on a close look were three Stock Dove, it looks already to be a good year for this smaller relative of the numerous Woodpigeon.  Easily identified from the Woodpigeon by the lack of white on the neck, but beware the juvenile Woodpigeon, that also do not have the white band. 

As with all doves and pigeons close up they have a quite beautiful plumage.  In this case if I was a little closer you would see the iridescent blue green band on the back of the neck, and black bands on the wings.  Unfortunately you will have to take my word for it from this distant shot.Easily identified from the Woodpigeon by the lack of white on the neck, but beware the juvenile Woodpigeon, that also do not have the white band.

As I walked up past the quarry I finally managed to get a male Pheasant to stop and pose for me.

But soon after that he was gone into the undergrowth.

I walked up the hill and out on to the estate.  As usual I checked the shed, and then walked around to the pond.  I was surprised not to find any frog spawn, so far this year I haven't seen any at all.

The skies were now almost clear, but the wind continued to gust strongly.  As I walked down towards the car I flushed another pair of Red-legged Partridges that this time flew away, and as I watched them I found yet another Brown Hare in the field, that made a total of ten.

As I watched the hare I could hear Bullfinch again, and I soon found a very distant male tucked away in the middle of the hedge, its crimson chest being picked out by the evening sunshine.

As I said at the beginning I hadn't expected much, I just wanted to be outside in the sunshine, and despite the wind it was a lovely walk.  I love to watch Brown Hare, there is just something about them that absolutely fascinates me.  Appropriate for the time of year as the Brown Hare is probably the original Easter bunny, as in Anglo Saxon times the hare was associated with reproduction and fertility, and was a symbol for their spring goddess Eostre.  The concept of Easter Eggs comes from the misconception by Europeans that Lapwings laid their eggs in the homes of hares.  

An added bonus was the Red Kite, but it concerns me that the wrong perception could be taken from a sight like that and the Red Kite starts to be persecuted here.

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