Early morning there was some sunshine, the clouds thinned and it was possible to see a pale blue sky, and experience the sight of your shadow once again. This though did not last for long, and by lunchtime we were back to the heavy overcast skies, and a fresh mild breeze. I decided to walk around Plain Farm. The woods have been pretty much the same over the last few visits so I decided there may be better luck around open farmland.
As I drove down the road towards the cattle grid to park, a large tractor towing an equally large trailer came past me. There was mud everywhere and the sound of chain saws in Winchester Wood and I thought at first the tractors were supporting the tree felling, but it turns out that they were moving manure into the fields, and as a result the roads were covered in thick oozing mud or maybe something else.
As I walked up the hill a Buzzard drifted over the tree tops.
It was silent as I walked up the hill, no calls no song, scanning across the fields it was dull and looked very damp. I walked down to the quarry, glad that I had decided to wear wellington boots as it was very wet, and extremely muddy. Looking out across the fields a large flock of Woodpigeon suddenly flew out of the trees and circled around over the trees.
I crossed the road and headed up past the barns, again the only sound being that of the tractors working in the yard.
As I walked up the hill ahead of me was the large Oak tree in the middle of the field, the bare branches standing out against the dark grey sky. However what struck me more was the green grass in the field. With the mild temperatures and the persistent rain the grass has continued to grow, and here it was quite long and extremely lush and vibrant.
As I walked past the cattle barns I could hear Pied Wagtail calling. It was difficult to pick them up at first, because as usual they were on the barn roof, their black and white plumage merging into the grey of the roof. I finally managed to find one sitting on the roof.
Annoyingly a few more steps and I disturbed a Kestrel on a pole that I was very close to. It then flew into the tree, and I tried to get a better view. As I did so it would move, but not very far, almost as if it had a problem. Finally it flew to another post, where it sat holding the wings low. Looking at it maybe it had just had become soaked in the rain and was looking to dry the wings, which could explain why it was wanting to fly too far.
I edged closer, and it flew again, this time with more purpose, and settled on yet another post in a more typical pose, looking down into the long grass below the post.
Once again I scanned the field, and recalled four years ago when I picked up a grey bird in the middle of the field that I wasn't able to positively identify, but to this day believe it was a male Hen Harrier.
Today the field was completely empty, but again away in the distance close to the trees there was a huge flock of Woodpigeons, Rooks and Jackdaws.
I walked down the lane, with a few Linnet on the wires to my left but very little else.
As I got closer to the cottages I heard the all too familiar piping call of a Bullfinch, but as usual they were well hidden and would only appear as they flew off. At one stage a flock of nine birds appeared and flew away across the field. There were still other birds around after these had left, so I would estimate that there was at least 14 Bullfinch in the area. This has always been a good spot to see them, but the numbers have increased year on year.
I could still hear Bullfinches as I walked along the footpath, but there was also the call of Yellowhammer. Several flew out of the bushes and headed out into the middle of the field, but one male remained, trying to hide in the branches, but with its brilliant yellow plumage it was standing out on a dull day.
After the Yellowhammers came Chaffinches, one male sitting out in the open.
Plenty of Chaffinches about, but no sign of their brightly coloured cousins the Brambling.
I negotiated the muddy path, then crossed the field which was quite waterlogged, and out into Charlwood Lane. Here I walked on while more Woodpigeon flew overhead in the direction of the trees to the west After the pigeons there was little else until I got to the houses where there was a large flock of tits, but only Great and Blue Tits. A little further on I came across a Blackbird just sitting in a conifer. I would not have been surprised to hear it sing, but it didn't, they are not as early as the Song Thrush to sing.
As I came to the junction with Lye Way I noticed yet another large flock of Corvids and Woodpigeon in the field beyond the hedge. As I tried to get close they were off. They are very aware of any possible threat and do not stay close to the road.
I walked back towards the car with little to challenge the camera. However I was taken by the bark of the Silver Birch trees close to the road, with the dying brown bracken, Silver Birch are probably my favourite tree at this time of year.
The last part of the walk was a little bit of a trial, as the tractors had deposited a lot of mud on the roads, and a Post Office van going back and forth had no concerns about splashing mud everywhere.
I finally got back to the car where I once again scanned the field to find nothing. As I sorted myself out a flock of about 20 Goldfinches flew up into a nearby tree.
This post was my four hundredth since starting this blog back in 2012, I suppose I had hoped for something special to celebrate the fact, but unfortunately the recent mild weather has conspired to keep it very quiet. Still nothing in nature is guaranteed as I have found out over the last four year, but there is always the chance and that is what keeps me going. Over the last few weeks with the weather and conditions being what they have I have questioned myself about going out, would there be anything different to what there has been. The answer has been no, but there may have been, and that is the thing about nature and wildlife, its not about what is there, its about what might and could be.
Four hundred posts in just under four years, means on average a walk around the patch every four days. When I look back at what I have seen and recorded I can't complain. I knew when I set out to write this blog there would be significant challenges and there have been. I don't have the luxury of open water, estuary and sea that is a major attraction for wildlife of all sorts and found on many other blogs I read. But I feel I have been able to compile a really interesting study of what can be seen in countryside like we have here in Four Marks if you put in the effort. You just have to get out there and look and listen, and very soon a wealth of interesting things will turn up. Key moments have been the Autumn migration with Redstarts and Whinchats, the number of birds of prey seen including Osprey, Honey Buzzard and Goshawk, and the excitement a pair of Mute Swans and a single Coot can generate. Here's to the next four hundred