As I am sure may have been noticed we have been a way for a few weeks, this time our travels taking us the the USA, starting out in Chicago, but then heading off to Yellowstone National Park, the Grand Tetons and then finally Cape Cod. Full details are being posted on the "Away Blog" here. It will take some time to complete all the activities we undertook, so please keep checking back, it was an amazing trip!
Since arriving home on Sunday morning I don't think it has stopped raining, it has not been the sort of welcome home I was expecting. As a result I have not had the opportunity to get out around the patch, and any local observations have been restricted to the garden and from the car. It has though looked quite quiet out there, very few birds in the garden, as this is the time for moulting, and growing new feathers. I have heard the calls of Blue Tits and Robins, and every so often a Robin appears near the bird bath. Overhead the House Martins continue to feed chicks in the nests, but it seems as if my brood that was present when we left a couple of weeks ago have successfully fledged.
In the high winds there have been movements of gulls, and I have been able to pick out a few Black-headed and Common Gulls flying over, and This afternoon a good sized group of what appeared to be Herring Gulls, all immature birds.
The highlight though is something I have yet to see, but was reported to me this morning by Helen. A Hummingbird Hawk Moth in the garden, trying valiantly to hover around the hydrangea flower heads. Hopefully if there is any sign of the rain abating I can get the moth trap out as there have been many sightings of Convolvulus Hawk Moth on the south coast.
No pictures just yet, watch this space if the rain holds off.
Hang on, kindly disregard this letter....
Late afternoon the sun breaks through, the clouds move away, and it becomes a different world. I decided to head to Plain Farm, there have been a few commoner migrants around and maybe the hedgerows there would be a better bet than the woods. As i drove around the roads in the village there was plenty of evidence of the heavy rain we have been experiencing, gravel and rocks of some considerable size having been washed down the hill, especially at the bottom of Alton Lane. I parked at the cattle grid and walked up the hill.
A large white butterfly flew past me no doubt pleased to be able to get out, a little further a brown butterfly in the grass was behaving strangely. As I approached it would zip off then settle with wings snapped shut.
While i suspected Meadow Brown the behaviour was unlike that I had seen this year. I came upon another doing exactly the same, but this one conveniently opened its wings to confirm my instincts.
i walked around the pond, and then the shed but there was nothing of interest about. I then headed down the track towards the quarry. three weeks away and the landscape has changed, the flower heads of the cow parsley all brown and crinkled by the side of the track.
Ahead of me there were two duelling butterflies, the sun waking these insects up, one flew off, the other settled back down to show itself as a Speckled Wood. The brown butterflies are usually the ones to become active first.
It was quiet as I walked past the quarry, no bird calls of any sort, I crossed the road and headed up past the barns. A grain truck was in the final stages of filling up, and the dryer was on, yet another sign of the changing seasons.
heading up the hill I scanned the field to my left, and quickly found what I was hoping for. There were in fact three Hares in the field, but this was the only one sitting up. The others were lying flat down in the sunshine.
To my right there were Swallows flying around the cow shed, keeping themselves close to the hedges and trees.
I scanned the fields at the cottages and found yet another hare, and out in the middle Woodpigeon and Rooks were feeding in the stubble fields. Along the hedgerow were several flowering brambles and this was an attraction to a Green-veined White butterfly.
Linnets and Goldfinches lined the wires over the hedge, and from within the hedge I could hear every so often the tack call of a Blackcap. The wind was still fresh, and this was keeping the birds low, the finches on the wire also not staying long up there, but preferring the cover of the hedge.
The footpath away from the cottages was flooded but it was passable. Ahead of me I could see three dark shapes, at first I thought they were ducks but on getting closer I could see the y were pheasants, either females or young birds.
Once again I could hear the alarm, or contact calls of birds in the hedge, this time though it was of Willow Warblers, there was even a snatch of sub song, but try as I might I could not get to see them. I reckon there was at least three birds present maybe more. A Buzzard also flew over, and later I could hear the plaintive cries of a young buzzard begging for attention, its that time of year.
I followed the path to Charlwood, and headed back towards Lye Way. A male yellowhammer appeared on the wires above me with a large beetle in its beak. It must have yet another brood nearby. Yellowhammers are one of our farmland birds that nationally are in decline, thankfully around Four Marks they appear to be doing very well, and from the sightings I have had I would consider this to be yet again another good year for them.
The barley fields have all been harvested but the wheat is still place, which is unusual as by now over the last few years all the fields have been harvested I would expect these now to be harvested any day, but I would suspect the weather will play an important part in that decision.
The hedgerow is high on both sides of the lane, and the swallows seemed to be using the lift generate to hold in the wind above me as I walked along the road. Their chatter a continual accompaniment to my walk.
There were plenty of swallows by the houses and around the barns, both adult and young birds flying around. Nearby a field full of broad beans was an attraction to the swallows and and also quite a few finches. I could see Goldfinches, Chaffinches and Greenfinches coming and going from the field.
I headed back towards the car along Lye Way. The hedgerow in the sunshine was an attraction to many insects pleased at last to have some warmth. There were plenty of bees on the bramble flowers, and a Southern Hawker dragonfly flew up and down in front of me. Also on the brambles were several Small White butterflies.
Back at the car I decided to drive back along Lye Way to check the fields and the fences, as I came to the field just before the turn off there were several young swallows on the fence wire. I stopped, hoping nothing would come along to cause me to move, and used the car as a hide.
The adults were flying around feeding these young birds and as they came close the begging would begin.
Unfortunately it wasn't his turn.
A change of position reveals the lovely blues in the young feathers, feathers that will very soon see this youngster under take a considerable journey.
But for now it can sit, and enjoy the evening sunshine while waiting to be fed.
This was a bonus, this morning I didn't think there would be the chance to get out. There was not that much about, but enough to keep the interest there, with the forecast not looking to get much better as we head into the holiday weekend it is necessary to take every opportunity.
Don't forget the "Away Blog".....It's Raining Again!