Monday, 2 November 2015

1st November - The Smell of Leaf Mould and The Sweetness of Decay

October seems to have passed me by, one minute it was there and now it is gone!  The last week of the month we were away in Suffolk, the details of which you can read about here.  The weather was kind to us while we were away, although it changed when we returned and this weekend it has been still and quite mild for the time of year with Saturday a lovely sunny day.  This morning I expected to look out and see fog as this was the forecast, but instead it was clear and sunny, and was still like that as I went to pick up the Sunday papers, but as i came back down the hill I could see the fog away to the south below us.  This is typical Four Marks weather, when there is fog everywhere else Four Marks seems to rise above it.  The mist though did eventually role in as we were having breakfast and was still about when I headed out for my first walk around the patch for a couple of weeks.

Once again I decided to start at the farm, but as I walked up the hill, and looked out across the fields at the bottom of the Mountains Plantation I wondered what I was going to see in the mist.

Once at the top I walked along the footpath in wet dew grass, the mist seemed as if it was closing in even more, I could make out birds in the tree tops but it turned out they were only Woodpigeons.

In conditions such as these everything gets accentuated, things look larger and the sounds travel further.  This Pheasant perched on the fence behind the gate looked huge, but it was just a common old pheasant.

I walked down the beech avenue, and Long-tailed Tits seemed to be everywhere their calls highlighted in the misty conditions.  I could see them hanging from the thinnest branches.

Coming back down the path that leads past the Gamekeeper's Cottages I could hear Goldcrests.  I stopped and watched as a large flock moved through a conifer, and then into the surrounding Oaks, calling as they went.

Both the conifers and the branches of the oaks were covered in cob webs made by the small spiders the Goldcrests were hunting for.

I carried on across the road and up the hill towards Plain Farm.  By the dryers I saw a raptor fly up into the tall Ash tree.  It settled in the branches at the top and at first I thought it was a Kestrel as this is a usual spot for one, but the tail did not look long enough.  I walked forward and managed to get a photograph but the mist has washed it out.  However it is good enough to show that this was in fact a Sparrowhawk.

Typical, I don't get many chances to photograph a Sparrowhawk perched and today it decides to be misty!

The hawk though did not stay too long, and flew off towards the barns and trees on the other side of the lane, scattering a large flock of Jackdaws that were sitting at the top of one of the trees.

walking up the hill towards the workshops the large black bull in the field watched me closely, I think it was hoping that I would admire his new head gear.

The sun was by now trying to make an impression on the mist, and in places was breaking through creating a very creepy scene over the single tree in the field.

I could hear Pied Wagtails calling and managed to find six sitting on the barn roof, and another on the wire singing.

As I walked past the barn I could hear "peeping" calls coming from the field, but all I could see were chickens from the cottages, then I saw movement in the grass and realised that one of the hens actually had a brood of chicks with her.

Around the cottages there were a lot of Chaffinches about, and several Yellowhammers, one sitting in the open at the top of the hedge.

I walked down the lane accompanied by the piping call of a Bullfinch.  Every so often one would fly out across the path in front of me, and then dive into the cover of the bushes on the other side of the path, never showing once.  However as i reached the end of the lane I could just make out a smart male in the top branches.

It didn't stay long flying off as I tried to get closer.

I made my way down the path to the wood, and decided to check the area around the pheasant feeders.  With an increased number of Chaffinch about I was looking for a Brambling, but unfortunately there was no sign of one, or for that matter any Chaffinches.  The Beech trees looked wonderful even in the overcast and misty conditions.

I decided to walk through Winchester Wood attracted in by the fantastic golden colours of the beech and birch trees.

The colours of the trees were complimented by the dark reddish brown of the damp Bracken, everything was wet and damp and the smell was quite distinct.  Spiders webs were also highlighted by the moisture in the air.

I would make my way under the trees and as I came out into the open rides I would be greeted by some wonderful colour.

I probably say it every year, but this year the co;ours do seem to appear to be a lot more vibrant, especially in the beech trees.

I followed the path around the outside of the wood, coming out close to where I had left the car.  Early the distant tree had been shrouded by the mist, but now when the sun managed to peep through the mist blanket there was some colour.

Both in the fields and in the trees.

I decided to head to the pond, I would leave the car there and then walk around Old Down Wood.  As I pulled up in the car park I could see Mallard and at least two Moorhen.

There were in fact three Moorhen, two adults and a juvenile bird.  There was also quite a few mallard, I counted 17 both on the water and lounging around on the bank.

Once again the trees were looking splendid cast a dark golden brown reflection in the black water.

In the trees at the back of the wood Nuthatch were calling, and I watched two male Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other through the trees.  I suspect one of them was a young bird from this year's brood and the older bird wanted it gone.  It settled briefly on the bough of an Oak before the other found it again and chased it off.

As I walked to the wood I noticed a large number of Woodpigeon feeding at the edge of the field.  I wondered what they could be eating when I noticed a Jay in amongst them, and assumed then that it must be acorns that had fallen from the oak trees.

As I walked into the wood I was pleasantly surprised.  The main path has been cleared and the whole area has been opened up.  It looked really great, and was a pleasure to walk through.

I stopped just past the Beech tree and listened to the birds around me.  I could hear and see Goldfinches at the top of the Ash trees and Wrens calling from the bracken.  Slightly higher up were Great, Blue and Coal Tits, then they were joined by the calls of another large flock of Goldcrests and Long-tailed Tits.

It was lovely just standing there listening to the birds wings as they flew from tree to tree.  Deeper into the trees I watched a Great Spotted Woodpecker climb the trunk of a tree, and then a little closer a Treecreeper was crawling up a pine like a little mouse.

The Wrens seemed to be everywhere, and every so often you would get brief glimpse as they crawled through the brown bracken leaves.

At the crossroads the Beech trees were covered in lovely golden browns and yellows, accentuated by the dark damp trunks.

I walked around the main path towards the Kitwood entrance.  here the Larch trees could be seen to be changing colour, and I thought back to the spring when the leaves start to emerge and they are that lovely sage green, now they are turning orange as their season comes to an end.

Strangely this area, while being as open as that on the main path, was without any bird life.  The larch are dominant here, so maybe its the diverse nature of the trees and bushes in the area on the main path that is the attraction, another benefit in the forestry work of the last two years.

The other dominate tree colour in the wood is that of the Sweet Chestnut.  The floor of the wood is carpeted with the fallen orange leaves, and in amongst them you can see the open cases of the sweet chestnuts.  However for me the leaves look at their best when backlit by the sun which was still trying to beat the lingering mist.

I made my way back to the car reflecting on the day.  I had hoped for blues sky and sunshine and the opportunity for some photographs but all I got was a misty grey damp day, however it didn't take anything from the scenery, and maybe it put it into its right context.  Autumn is all about oranges and yellows and grey and misty conditions, and that is exactly what I found today.  The trees were definitely the stars today, but were ably supported by the resident birds.

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