Sunday, 31 May 2015

30th May - Just When You Think Its All Over

We have just come back from a wonderful week in Pembrokeshire, the weather was kind to us, and we were able to be outside for the whole week.  Details of the first part of the week can be seen here, but over the week the remaining day posts will be issued too.

We left Marloes at 6.00 am, and arrived back in Four Marks at 10.00 am.  After sorting things out and some garden tidying I decided to have a late afternoon walk around the patch.  It had been a warm sunny day, but by the time I set off there was a little more cloud and the wind had picked up, a sign of the approaching cold front that was due to give us rain on Sunday.

There was little to report other than a Large White by the cemetery as I walked down Brislands, by the junction with Gradwell a female Blackbird took the opportunity to have a bath in a puddle.

I headed out down Brislands to Old Down.  Walking down the main path into the wood it was clear that there had been quite a significant removal of logs as there is now only one stack.

A Song Thrush sang from the top of the trees somewhere, with the leaves now fully out it is very difficult to find the birds.  A Blackcap was also singing somewhere away from the path.

I walked the diagonal path, through the open space and then into the beech woods.  There was still a few clumps of Bluebells about contrasting with the now very lush green leaves.

The Bluebell season though is now over in Old Down, there are lots of Foxgloves beginning to show signs of flowers, but for now the dominant plant is the grasses, their feathery wispy stalks giving a soft look to the wood.

I walked back to the main path, and headed out towards Old Down Cottage.  I could hear the young Blue Tits calling form their nest hole, and waited to see if the parents would arrive.  It would seem they were having a rest, as after five minutes they had not shown.  I carried on, then turned onto the perimeter path, there had been reports of the Roe Deer with a Kid, and I was hoping it would show.

I stopped to check the Kestrels, the female still sitting, but as I watched her she was moving about a bit so I would imagine they should hatch soon.

I could not find the deer, it was maybe to early yet, and they were probably both lying down somewhere in the field, hidden by the tall grass.

I came back around to the main path, and headed to the pond.  A Chiffchaff sang from the large Oak near the entrance.  The Chiffchaff being the dominant song bird this afternoon

On the grass lawn outside the wood a pair of Mistle Thrush were feeding along with a Song Thrush, and a pair of Magpies.

As I approached the pond I could hear young Blue Tits again, at first I thought they were out in the tree, but it then became clear they were still in a nest, the question was where.  As I got closer the calls became louder and I then realised they were calling from behind a sign on the tree.  I stood back and waited for the adult, very soon one appeared with a beak of caterpillars.

The nest was some how behind the sign, probably wedged in the ivy, very resourceful.

I decided to walk around the pond, and immediately came across three Mallard, two drakes and a duck.  Only another 58 required to break 2014's record.

With the pair here it is clear that they were not successful breeding which is a shame.

Alarm calls then rang out, and through the trees appeared a Buzzard

It circled around the pond while all the song birds called in alarm.

There have been bits about today, but it was very quiet and the doldrum days of the summer are fast approaching, but for now there was not that much about to keep the interest.

As I walked towards Kitwood I could hear Great Spotted Woodpecker chicks calling, but I couldn't find the nest hole in the trees.

I walked through the butterfly meadow, the flowers are coming through, and in a couple of weeks this should be good, but for now it was empty.  The same can be said for the walk across the field, there was nothing about.  I walked back into the wood not confident I was going to find anything.  The entrance now opens up into a cleared area, and on one of the dead trees in the middle a Wren was singing for all its might.

Above me there were Swallows, House Martins and a solitary Swift hawking the insects above and below the trees.  This area could also be good for bats and would be worth coming back on a still evening later on in the summer.

I walked on, down the path, and then out towards the Gradwell entrance.  A Chiffchaff and Robin were singing as I reached the cleared space, and I disturbed a single Speckled Wood on the brambles.

A bird flew up into the oak tree, and when I got on to it, at first I thought it was the Chiffchaff, but it was too large and sat differently.  Then it flew off on a sortie out  and back to the perch.  The day had brightened up,  a Spotted Flycatcher!

The light was bad, and it was catching flys in the canopy, turning its head to look around for possible opportunities

Of all my Spotted Flycatcher sightings this one was in an area that is so suited to them, open canopy, and plenty of insects.  I hoped there could be two, but couldn't find one.  It moved to another tree, and I tried again to get a closer picture but the back light was very frustrating.

As I was watching the flycatcher I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker behind me, as I walked out it called again, and I managed to find it on the trunk of an oak tree.

Happier I headed back across the field with a couple of Swallows around me.  As I walked down Brislands I could see another first for me in Four Marks, a Fun Fair on the Recreation Ground.

So just when you thought the day was going to be completely dull something turns up, I thought the day was all over but the Spotted Flycatcher saved it.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

19th May - Everybody's Gonna Get their Fill

The morning started sunny and with plenty of blue sky, but by the time the afternoon arrived the clouds rolled in and the forecast showers arrived, along with a very stiff north westerly wind.  Not the best conditions for an evening walk but I decided to go anyway.  As I set off there were dark clouds all around, and I had just come through a heavy shower in Farnham on the way home.  I was hopeful though it would stay dry and the clouds would zip away to the east.

Along Brislands a Song Thrush was singing loudly, and in the oak trees the contact calls of Blue Tits could be heard, but I could not see any fledglings, I think that the calls were adults hunting for caterpillars amongst the leaves.

I managed to get a good view of one Blue Tit that is beginning to look a little worse for wear as it brings up and feeds to youngsters.

At the junction with Gradwell another Song Thrush was singing, at first from the centre of a tree, but then it flew out and for once perched in the open on a wire from where it continued to sing with an incredible amount of enthusiasm.

I continued down Brislands with Skylark and Yellowhammer songs coming form both sides.  At the entrance to Old Down a Chaffinch was singing as if guarding the entrance.

I wanted to see if I could find any more Deer, so walked down the middle of the wood along the new track towards the West End.  A doe Roe Deer appeared in the hairy grass and just stood looking at me.

I walked towards her and she stood her ground, always a good sign that she is reluctant to leave the area, and I decided to search the grass.  She moved away a little further, continuing to watch me closely.

I couldn't find anything, and looking behind me I watched as she raced off away, probably signalling that there wasn't anything worth looking for.

I continued on down the path.  In the clearing Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sang, and every so often a Wren would rattle out a song letting you know they were there too.  I turned back up the path.  Ahead of me the skies were still looking threatening despite the sunshine.

As I turned off the main path onto the perimeter alarm calls rang out and a male Kestrel glided through the and out into the open field.  I scanned across the field but couldn't find him, all I could see was the distant trees that were making up a lovely view.

The Kestrel's mate was till sitting tight in the nest box.

I came out onto the main path, and headed back towards the centre of the wood.  A pair of Nuthatches were busy by the large beech tree, and it seemed as if they were collecting food and possible had a nest in the tree.  I managed to find what could have been a suitable hole, but the birds never returned so I am not sure if it was a nest hole or not.

Last night I had a lot of difficulty in locating the Blue Tit nest hole I had found on Sunday, it being that little bit later the birds were not feeding.  This evening it was a little earlier and a Blue Tit flew up to the hole as I walked up to it.

It checked all was clear before entering.

Once happy in it went

After a few seconds it appeared at the hole form the inside, checked again all was safe.

And then was off to search for more food.

I stood watching them for about ten minutes and in that time there was a bird going into the hole nine times, they must have amazing energy, and they do have an incredible commitment.

Leaving the Blue Tits I walked around the corner and saw a Coal Tit fly from a broken tree stump.  When I managed to get on it it was searching the nearby leaves and already had a beak full of small insects.

It then flew closer to the stump, and was joined by another Coal Tit.  Both seemed a little wary, both were carrying food and one was flicking its wings as if in agitation.  Realising it was probably because of me, I backed away and took some cover.  The Tits continued to hold their ground, but were also still collecting insects.  They were then joined by what I thought was another, and considered that maybe there was a fledgling out.  It turned out the third bird was in fact a Chiffchaff, it was probably attracted by the Coal Tits activity searching for food.

The Chiffchaff moved away, and finally the Coal Tits felt comfortable enough to go to the nest, which to my surprise was at the base of the stump close to the ground.  I kept my distance and watch both birds go in and come out again.

My next stop was to be the area around where we had seen the owl last night, but once again the search was fruitless, and I made my way around to the great Tits nest, but this too was quiet, with no sign of any Great Tits, just this Chiffchaff feeding in the Oak tree lease, it has been a busy night for the Chiffchaffs.

I headed out of the wood, and across the field.  Swallows were skimming the field in the very stiff wind.  Away to the west the clouds were looking extremely threatening, so I quickened my pace to get home before the rain came.  I didn't quite make it, the rain starting as I turned up Lymington Rise.

We are now beginning to see the start of the doldrum days as we move towards the end of May.  Unfortunately the weather has been very cool and this has suppressed the rise of the summer insects to add some alternative interest.  The forecast for the coming week is encouraging, but still not what I would call late May temperatures

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

18th May - He Was As Gentle As The Night Wind

Through the morning there was heavy rain with quite strong winds.  We were assured that the rain would pass by the early afternoon.  The rain did pass through, but the winds remained.  The skies cleared and the sun came out which was good for the evening intentions, but the wind remained which was not so good.

Katie and I set off around 19.30 and parked at the pond.  It was the intention to walk around Old Down to search for owls and deer, first though a check of the pond where all we could see was tadpoles.

As we entered the wood the clouds darkened and we were treated to a short shower.  Once it had passed we walked around the area where the deer had been recently, but with no luck at all.  From there the next stop was the owls.  Morris was in his tree, but flew off across the wood.  We followed searching the surrounding trees for both im and any sign of the owlets, but there was nothing showing.  A calling Chaffinch threw me for a while before it burst into song, and alarm calls from Blackbirds proved to be just as frustrating.

On deciding to leave we walked down to the west end view point where the clouds were providing quite an impressive scene indicating perhaps further showers to come

I had been advised that the Kestrels I had seen in wood during April mating were nesting close by.  I managed to get a view of the nest in the dark with the female sitting.

We left the wood and walked back to the car.  After a quick check around the pond for bats with the detector which did not turn up anything we headed off to Newtown Farm.  Leaving the car and walking towards the barns three mallard flew up from the field.  They are now becoming quite regular, but the thought on why they are here still remains.  The three were a female and two males.  A pair broke off leaving the lone male to circle on his own.

Looking across the fields towards the setting sun the clouds were just as equally dramatic, the scene enhanced by the Rooks making their way back to the rookery.

Looking across the fields where the sun was just managing to filter through the clouds the light was just reaching the edge of the field and surrounding trees.

We headed to the barn to check the Barn owl box, as we did a Hare came running off the field and sped away down the track from us.  There was no sign of any Barn owls, but underneath the box there were plenty of droppings and pellets, some of the pellets were quite fresh.

Looking across the field a brown shape appeared at the edge of the pollinating strip.  At first I thought it might be a Muntjac Deer as it looked quite small as it  fed, but once it lifted its head it was clear to see it was a Roe Deer.

Having failed with the Barn Owls we turned back to try for Plash Woods speciality, the Woodcock.  In front of us a Brown Rat scampered across the path, and at the barns we came across at least three large rats, all quite content to stare us out.

We walked the footpath east and stopped to check the fields for any more sign of Deer.  we found one and watched as it fed in the grass strip.  From there we walked up the main ride of the wood and watched and waited to see if the Woodcock would appear.

Out of the trees a buck Roe Deer appeared in the gloom.  It was very difficult to make out, but it knew we were there as it started to bark at us.  In this shot it is walking away, but I had no idea where it really was or what it was doing.

Suddenly from behind us there was a "pissip pissip" call and two Woodcock came through the trees and past us overhead.  As they went by it was close enough to see the rufous brown plumage and the long bill.

We stood and waited and then the two appeared again, this time the "pissip" call followed by a series of grunting noises.  They both flew off down the ride as if one was chasing the other.

Gloomy but acceptable record shots.

We had one more fly past before we decided to make our way back to the car, and as we came out of the wood two zipped across in front us again.

As we walked through the trees in the gloom Katie thought she saw a bat in front of us, then as we were coming out on to the path what I think was a Pipistrelle nearly flew into Katie (unfortunately I had left the detector in the car thinking it was too cold for bats!).  It then appeared again as we walked along the path and we were constantly buzzed by it as it flew up and down the path close to the hedge and trees.

I tried as best I could to get a picture in the gloom, and the best I could come up with was this as the bat turned across the bright sky to the east at the end of the path.

I know it could be anything, but its dark, and there was definitely a bat about.

The ducks were still flying around, for what reason I don't know, and looking away to the east there were patches of cloud showing that rain was falling somewhere.

We had been fortunate though, one short shower being the only rain we encountered.  The conditions had not been the best, but we had managed to see good views of roding Woodcock, a Tawny Owl and the first bats of the year, not a bad evenings work.

Monday, 18 May 2015

17th May - What Can Make Me Feel This Way

It was nice to see the sunshine this morning, I was expecting overcast and dull conditions.  It was though still cool in the shade as the wind was a coming from the north west.

I can only assume it is the cold conditions we have had that is keeping the number of moths caught down.  This morning there were literally two moths in the trap.  Fortunately these were two different species, but i would be expecting more at this time of year.

First was a Brimstone Moth.

And its partner was a Muslim Moth, or a John Snow Moth as it looks like a character from Game of Thrones

A male House Sparrow was chirping away at the apex of the house next door.  Beneath it was a House Martin nest, and it looks like the House Sparrows have moved in, serve the House Martins right for turning up late this year.

I set off after breakfast heading for Old Down.  Along Brislands two Song Thrushes were singing, hidden away in the middle of the trees.  A Nuthatch also frustrated me as it moved through a tree hiding behind the branches.

Brislands Lane is now looking splendid with the Cow Parsley in flower on both sides of the road.

As I came out from beneath the tree canopy and into the open fields a Buzzard flew up from the field, and headed off back into the trees.

I could hear both Yellowhammer and Skylark singing as I walked the lane, but I wasn't able to see them.  There was though no sign of any Whitethroats, it would seem that they have chosen not to nest along the lane this year.

As I entered the wood yet another Song Thrush was singing in the tree by the entrance, and along the lane Wrens and Great Tits zipped about.

I stopped to listen to Blue Tits calling in an Oak tree, thinking maybe there would be young birds too.  As I watched the sky a dark shape appeared in the sky above me.  It was moving fast, and the wings were drawn in close to the body.  It was a Peregrine and was heading across to the wood.  I broke through the trees and out into the open to see loads of Woodpigeons burst from the top of the trees, and the fast moving black dot disappear.  A brief but spectacular view of the master predator.

Having given up on the Blue Tits I carried along the path.  The Bluebells are beginning now to fade, but in places they still manage to impress.  Another feature of the cleared trees is the fact that grass has grown up quite tall, and provides a softening effect to the wood floor, where once the bluebells had died back could look quite harsh.

The canopy is beginning to close with the leaves now coming out.  The greens are mixed with the copper leaves.

Just like on Friday the Wrens were very local.  This individual sang on one side of the ride, then crossed to this Hazel tree and bellowed at me once again.

After singing it sat still and allowed me to approach a little closer, watching me as I did so.

Then suddenly it was off, joined by another wren, they flew close together into a pile of branches, I wasn't sure if this was the female he had been singing for, and was off to show her the nest, or if it was a rival male it wanted to chase off.

I left the Wrens to it and walked towards the Kitwood path entrance.  Ahead of me I suddenly saw a Stoat dash across the path in front of me.  It was shame it didn't stop, but it did draw my attention to the lovely scene looking towards the stile.

The forestry work has definitely changes the complexion of the wood, and right now I can only think for the better.

I searched for the owlets, but was unable to find either them of the adults.  After awhile I gave up, and walked the perimeter path to the Old Down entrance.  As I reached the end of the path I flushed a Tawny Owl.  I have not seen one here before, although I have heard them calling from by the cottage.

I walked around to the pond.  I had hoped for some Damselflies, but there was nothing about, not even butterflies.  All I could find was a long black train of tadpoles at the surface of the pond.

The pond was empty I could not find the Coot, the Mallard or the Moorhen family.  A pair of Swallows hawked over the water, and Carp lept out of the water after the same insects as the Swallows

The sun was now warming things up, and I headed back to the wood.  On the way I could hear a strange call, at first I thought it might be young in a hole, but it didn't seem right.  Finally I managed to locate the call to the trees alongside the field, and stood under the calling bird.  I waited and finally I saw movement, then I could make out the bird.  The excitement then drained completely when I realised I had been fooled once again by a Great Tit.

In the wood the sunshine had brought out the butterflies.  A female Orange Tip avoided me, as did Peacock, but this Green-veined White showed well.  The first brood lacks the spot on the upper forewing.

A bee flying close to me presented another challenge, and I reverted to manual focus.  Quite please with this, but I have no idea what the bee is.

Another Green-veined appeared and this time posed nicely amongst the Field Mouse Ear.

A Blue Tit was busy above me, and as I watched it flew across me,and into a hole in a tree.  I waited and it came out, squeezing through the hole.

Then off to continue the never ending search for the ever hungry beaks inside.

I turned down the main path, the sun lighting up the bramble.  Another Green-veined White taking the chance to warm up

I turned down the diagonal path, hopeful that maybe the dead wood there would attract some more butterflies and insects, but there was nothing.  A Chiffchaff sang in a birch tree.  Have you ever wondered how a Chiffchaff manages to keep that monotonous song going?  Well if you listen to this you will find out that after the "chiff  chaffs" finish it get wound up!

The Great tits too appear to have hungry mouths to feed, I watched this Great tit go in, and then very quickly come out again.  Nearby another great Tit was singing "teacher", I would have thought it needed to save it's energy

As I came out of the wood another white butterfly drifted past me and settled on a Dandelion, this was a Large White, look closely and you can just see the two white spots on the upper wing.

Back home while processing the photographs a Blackbird was getting upset in the Rowan tree outside my office.  I looked and there was a Jay sitting in the tree.  Fortunately I had the camera handy and was able to get some nice close shots of this beautiful member of the crow family.

The Blackbird did not think so and saw the Jay off.

Could be an interesting week ahead, hopefully some of the more elusive species will make themselves available.