We walked along Brislands with the distant song of a Chiffchaff. Bird song is now quite hard to hear, but there is a Song Thrush that can still be heard singing in the morning, and is probably the same bird that has been singing now for eight months since December. I wonder if it will still be heard in August.
We turned into Gradwell and were greeted with the calls of young Long-tailed Tits in the oak trees.
From Gradwell we took the footpath towards Old Down. The Barley has grown quite high, and Swallows flew low over the cereal crops, and a few butterflies came up out of the grass to settle in the Barley. One of these was a first for the year, a Ringlet that settled on the crops.
Time for a moan, the borders of the fields have been seen as a way of allowing space for wildlife, providing the opportunity for wild flowers to grow along with grasses to hide small mammals that kestrels and barn owls hunt. However this year it seems the farmers are cutting them down, with no real reason for doing so. If the cut grass was collected for hay I could understand it but that does not seem to be the case.
This recent practice also seems to be in contradiction to the policy of restring walkers to the access these border strips bring. It is now much easier for the dog walkers to use this area. What with the "tidying" up of the hedges and road side on Blackberry and Alton Lane this summer we are greatly reducing the areas for wildlife>
Moving on, the sunshine and warm weather has suddenly accelerated the growth and colour of the cereal crops, the barley though always has a lovely soft look about it.
The crop also provides many different shades of green as you look at it. The path towards Old Down fringed with a dark green that melts away to the more familiar yellowish lime green.
As we both looked across the field Helen picked up a pair of ears sticking out of the field. They belonged to a female Roe Deer who was obviously laying down in the middle of the field.
As we walked along the path the aspect changed with the deer, and as we reached the entrance to the path we stopped to watch her again. As we watched it was possible to make out movement close to her, and on several occasions a smaller pair of ears would just flick above the barley. It was not possible unfortunately to get a better view.
After being startled by a collie that came bursting down the footpath we walked into the wood. Walking through the cleared path the sun began to emerge and there was plenty of butterflies coming out of the long grass, although they were all one species, Meadow Browns.
We turned down the Kitwood path where the Foxgloves are still quite spectacular but it is clear that they are now getting to the point where they are past there best.
This though did not deter the bees.
A Red Admiral appeared from the nettles and settled on a broken branch, another of those undervalued superb butterflies.
We walked around the perimeter path towards the main track that runs south to north, and turned north. Once again there were many Meadow Browns in the grass on either side of us. Some of the "brown" butterflies were darker than others and were probably Ringlets, but they never stopped to allow confirmation. However a Meadow Brown was photo bombed by a Ringlet as I tried to photograph it on the bramble.
The bramble is about 25 to 50% in flower, and was attracting several bee species and of course the Meadow Browns. But if you stood and watched others would appear like this Large Skipper.
A little further along the path a bee caught our eye, it looked grey as it flew past us, but when it settled it was clear it was covered in dust or pollen.
We turned down the path towards the West End. We could hear the calls of the young Kestrels to our left, and a little further on we could hear the mewing calls of young Buzzards. As we stopped to watch and listen the adult birds flew low over the top of the canopy calling back.
From Old Down we made our way down through the Desmond Paddocks, and then up Andrews Lane. The sky was now clear and there was plenty of sunshine making it feel quite warm. As we walked up the lane the shelter from the trees was quiet welcome. Swallows flew low over the paddocks and we could hear their chatter as we walked. The hedge was quite high and where the bramble was flowering there was a hive of activity involving mostly Meadow Browns, but in amongst them was the butterfly I was hoping to see today, the Marbled White.
There were in fact to here, but only one was busy nectaring and allowed me to get quite close.
In fact very close as it made its way around the bramble flowers.
Along with the Meadow browns there was also a few Ringlets.
The rings not easily visible in flight, but at rest they clearly identify the butterfly.
We carried on up the hill, stopping at the open gates to look across the fields. At one gate there has been a tree come down, and in amongst the fallen branches and broken bark were several Chiffchaffs foraging. They were probably recently fledged birds.
As we looked back down the lane, the Swallows were settling on the wires to preen and have a chat.
Almost at the top of the lane we were surprised by a large dragonfly, fortunately it seemed to want to rest frequently and I was able to get close to this beautiful insect. It is a male Southern Hawker.
At the top of the lane it was back out into the warm sunshine, and we walked past several sheep that looked quite uncomfortable in their woolly jumpers.
We turned back down towards Swelling Hill along the footpath by the hedgerow. The field was full of broad bean plants. Above us were three Buzzards, and at one time they were being mobbed by a Kestrel.
Fortunately the field border here had not been cut and as a result there was plenty of butterflies about. Once again they were mostly Meadow Browns, but every so often there would be something else of interest such as this Small Tortoiseshell
And this male Common Blue.
This area is always one of the first spots for Gatekeeper, but as we approached the road I was wondering if we were going to see one today, then a small brown and orange butterfly flew from the grass. When it settled it would not open its wings, but you can see from the under-wing markings that it is a Gatekeeper.
We turned onto the road and made our way to the pond. The hope was that it would be quiet there and we could sit and watch from one of the benches, but unfortunately it was not to be, there were several fishermen present.
Out over the water another large dragonfly was flying around. This one was a lot bluer, and was an Emperor dragonfly. Out in the middle of the lily pads an adult Moorhen was feeding. Once again there was no sign of any young.
We left the pond, and stopped a little further on to check the meadow. Once again many Meadow Browns, but also one single Marbled White.
We carried on along Kitwood as we passed the farm buildings I heard a familiar chirping call, I looked around and picked up four birds overhead. They continued to call, and I knew they were Crossbills. I watched as they flew away from me and settled briefly in the top of a distant tree, then flew off again calling. They had come from the direction of Dogford wood, but also may crossed from Winchester Wood. This was an unusual sighting as I haven't seen or heard any on the patch for sometime. Hopefully there will be more about in the autumn to see, but for now it was a welcome year tick.
We carried on down onto the main road with out anything else really catching the eye. As we walked towards Willis Lane the alarm calls went off, and a Kestrel flew up and then settled on a dead branch to survey the field below.
From here we walked on to the garden Centre where we stopped for a welcome cold drink, then it was across the field towards Blackberry Lane. The field has been cut, and all we could see were more Meadow Browns and Swallows flying low over the short grass.
At the bottom of the path there was no sign of any orchids in the field on the left hand side.
We made our way back home having added three more butterflies to the growing year list.