The crazy weather took another interesting turn this morning, at dawn it was snowing in Four Marks, wet snow mixed with rain, but it was snow and it was settling on the grass. It didn't last for too long though, and the clouds blew through and just after nine o'clock there was blue sky, but a very strong northerly wind. It was the wind that made the day very difficult with some very strong gusts, it was also the dominate noise over everything, even the cars.
I set off along Brislands, as I reached the turn to Gradwell, you could see how the lanes had been transformed by the strong winds we have had all week, all the leaves were almost gone.
I turned down Gradwell, and I debated a walk through the wood but decided that it would be better in the open, it was going to be very difficult to hear and see small song birds in the woods.
I headed down the lane, pausing to look along the line of the hedge towards Old Down. Again the trees now look quite bare.
There was movement in the hedge and I could hear both Redwing and Blackbirds, but as soon as I found them they were off, and it was impossible to get on to them long enough to get a suitable photograph. This Robin though was quite happy to sit in the sunshine, sheltered from the cold wind.
While the Redwings were calling from the hedges, I could also hear Skylarks calling from the field. I scanned across the field, and was amazed as a huge flock of Skylarks flew up from the ground. I managed to capture a part of the flock, and here there are 38 birds, away to the right more flew in, and I counted another 56, making a total of 94 birds, and there was probably more in the field.
I walked up past the school with even more Redwing streaming over my head. At the top of the hill I turned into Kitwood to check the hedges around the bend there. Again there were Redwing, and they just seemed to pour out of the trees and then head out across the fields. They may have been late arriving this year but they are now here in large numbers.
The trees were busy with Blue and Coal Tits, and on the style to the footpath a Dunnock sat for quite a while.
I headed down Lye Way, the hedges on either side giving a little shelter from the wind, but it was all you could hear, there was no chance of hearing any bird calls. Looking out across the field it looked cold, which it was, something that has been a long time coming this autumn.
I walked through the farm area, the trees billowing in the wind, past the barns and then the small paddocks where once again Redwing kept appearing out of the trees. A bit of variety was provided by a pair of Bullfinches, their piping call just audible above the sound of the trees in the wind. They too though were very elusive, only giving very brief views before dropping out of sight.
At the junction I walked to the field gate and scanned across the field. There were several pairs of Crows scattered across the field, but over by the left hand side, there was a single Lapwing, the first of the year, an amazing fact considering the amount of farmland around here. It was though much to far away for a photograph, so I walked on.
A familiar chuckling call alerted me to Fieldfare flying up from the other side of the hedge and into the tree by the side of the road. There were about a dozen birds finally in the tree.
The gap in the hedge allowed me to be able to scan the field once again, and I re-found the Lapwing and it had been joined by another, and this time they were closer.
With the wind and the bright conditions visibility was excellent, and as I walked along the road I noticed a flock of birds fly up from the field to the north. I watched as they wheeled around, then headed towards me, they could only be Golden Plover, and as they came closer it was clear that was whet they were. The flock flew past me, and headed into the field on the other side.
Counting the birds in the photograph there are 91, but as they dropped down into the field, I noticed another flock coming from the same direction, this time I counted 95 birds.
This made a total of 186, the highest count I have had on the patch. I did think there was a chance today, they are usually around this time of year, and they didn't let me down. Two patch year ticks in the space of a few minutes.
I walked on then finally heard a Golden Plover call, and a small group came out of the field where the large flocks had dropped down, and flew overhead.
The intention was to head towards the Estate, so I continued along The Lye Way. The road was in the shade, but the fields were in full sunshine, and over towards Dogwood Wood there was a large flock of Woodpigeon.
I wondered if the wind would stop me seeing any raptors today, but my question was answered as two Buzzards appeared from over the trees heading out towards the field where they were immediately mobbed by Rooks.
I walked up the hill to the Estate, stopping for awhile to see if I could hear any birds in the Mountains Plantation. Needless to say the wind blocked any chance of hearing anything, so I gave up and headed to the barn for the chance to sit and have a coffee and reflect on where to go next.
Rather than walk around the outside of the estate I headed straight to the quarry, I heard a Fieldfare call, and looked up to see a Red Kite drift across in front of me. It floated up over the trees and then just disappeared behind the Mountains Plantation. I walked down the hill and crossed the road. As I walked past the drying barns a pair of Pied Wagtails were busy around the roof and sheltered sunny areas of the barns.
It turned out that Pied Wagtails were the main birds around Plain Farm. The wind seemed to keep everything within the hedges, usually there would be birds on the wire but they were all empty. A Kestrel flew past, and hovered in the middle of the field, then banked away and out of sight.
I walked to the end of the lane, and then out towards Charlwood. There was nothing of any interest along Charlwood, so I took the bridleway in the hope of finding something in the hedges but I couldn't find a thing. I came out onto Lye Way, and as I past the Bramble bushes I was amazed to see a butterfly fly past me. It settled on the Bramble leaves and I could identify it as a Comma.
As I said the other week a Comma in November was not unusual, but I didn't expect to find one with the temperature about 3 or 4 degrees and the windchill taking it below freezing.
At the sheep paddocks a Fieldfare flew across the road in front of me, and settled in the field. I walked closer and it didn't seem to bothered.
It was concentrating on searching the grass so I edged closer.
They really are impressive looking birds, again they probably are over looked because they do appear in such large numbers.
I headed back down the footpath towards Swelling Hill. Woodpigeons flew over, and Crows and Rooks were in the field, but that was it. Looking West I could see an awful long way, being able to make out the Science Centre just out side Winchester, and the copse around Cheesefoot Head.
The wind seemed to have dropped so I decided to walk through Old Down, but as soon as I entered the wood it picked up again, I did though manage to see and hear a pair of distant Marsh Tits and there were also a few Goldfinches about in the Larches, but that was it.
I walked through the wood, and then down Brislands towards home. As I approached the house I could see a Rook mobbing something, it turned out to be a Sparrowhawk above my house.
It is always nice to get four raptors in the day, this Sparrowhawk probably the bird that terrorises the birds on my feeders.
It has been a long while since I have walked as far around the patch, and today was probably not as productive as other times I have put in the miles. But there were two year ticks today, and some lovely views of a stunning Fieldfare. The wind played a large part in restricting any further sightings, with many birds keeping out of it and bedding down in the hedgerows. Still it was nice to get out in the fresh air, and to experience a temperature that was more in keeping with the time of year.
When the wind blows like that though it does make it very difficult.