Thursday, 31 December 2015

31st December - Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot

As the year ends it is time to reflect on what has happened this year as a way of looking forward to the New Year of 2016

January saw the mild wet conditions continue into the New Year, there were some good counts of local resident birds notably, 75 Yellowhammer along Gradwell Lane and 15 Grey Partridges at Plain Farm.  The big surprise of the month though was of a Grey Wagtail at Manor Farm along Brislands Lane, my 100th bird for the patch.  With the mild weather Snowdrops were early flowering on Swelling Hill, while in the woods the green shoots of Blue bells were appearing.



Into February, and a new bird for the patch with two Mute Swans flying over Gradwell Lane on the 1st.  Winter thrush flocks peaked in the fields along Lye Way with 800 Redwing and 500 Fieldfare on the 5th.  At Plain Farm four Red Kite on the 14th was my highest count around the patch.  In the woods the resident birds continued to gather in feeding flocks as they waited for spring to arrive.



In contrast to the mild conditions at the start of the year, March saw cold northerly winds throughout, suppressing any thought of an early spring.  What activity there was restricted to the end of the month as the days lengthened.  The rookeries in Alton merged with one large colony of 52 nests.  A pair of Ravens were regular around Desmond Paddocks, just when the sheep start lambing.

Lesser Celandine and Wood Anemone were flowering from the 22nd when the first butterfly of the year a Small Tortoiseshell was seen.  Common Toads were spawning from the 23rd.  At Plain Farm ten Brown Hare was a notable count.



More weather records were broken with April being the sunniest since records began.  The first Swallow appeared on the 7th, but was alone until the the 17th when others joined it.  Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs were singing in the woods with a Garden Warbler present on the 17th, and a Whitethroat arriving on the 25th.  The sightings of the month though were three Wheatear on Lye Way for two days, and a Coot on Swellinghill Pond from the 25th and well into May.

Peacock and Brimstone butterflies were seen from the 7th, and by the end of the month there were Orange Tips, Speckled Woods and Comma.  The end of the month also saw an explosion of flowers in Old Down with the highlight being a wonderful carpet of Bluebells ably supported by Primroses Violets and Ransom's.  In the paddocks around the patch Lambs could be heard bleating as they enjoyed the sunshine.




From the sunshine of April to a cool almost autumnal May.  House Martins finally turned up on the 9th, when the only Cuckoo was seen along Charlwood Lane.  The cool weather suppressed the number of moths caught in the garden.  The cool weather also affected the bird passage with very little of interest, however there were little windows of improved weather, and I was able to find three roding Woodcock in the Maryanne Plantations, and there was Spotted Flycatcher in Old Down Wood on the 30th, 

The Bluebells continued to put on a lovely show in Old Down, the forestry work having open up the canopy, and the flowers thrived.  It was also possible to catch up with several different Roe Deer in the woods too.



The cool weather was maintained into June, conditions that were still not conducive to attracting significant numbers of moths to the trap.  The woods were full of the calls of young birds as they begged for food from their parents.

Of the butterflies about I finally managed to find a Holly Blue, my first for two years, but more significant was a single Painted Lady the first for at least eight years.

Five Mediterranean Gulls were the birding highlight of the month, seen in the Desmond paddocks, a first again for the patch.

I finally managed to catch up with doe Roe Deer and her two kids at the beginning of the month, they spent their time in the long grass in the fields next to Old Down.  In the woods Foxgloves replaced the Bluebells, their long pink red spikes seemingly almost everywhere.



July was a month of extremes with the hottest day recorded on the 3rd, but by the end of the month it was cool enough for the central heating to come on.  A Willow Warbler was the birding highlight of the month with a single present at Plain Farm.  Typically this month sees the attention turn to butterflies and they were all about despite the strange weather, the numerous Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers were joined by Ringlet, Silver-washed Fritillary and Large, Small and Essex Skippers.

The moth trap was still very quiet, but I was rewarded for my persistence with a gorgeous Green Silver Line, a first for the garden.



The contrasting weather continued into August, the summer never really establishing itself. The local Swallows seemed to have a good year with large flocks of young birds being seen around the paddocks and stables.  The end of the month saw the start of the autumn migration with Willow Warblers and Spotted Flycatcher seen at Kitwood.

Butterflies continued to dominate the sightings with my only White Admiral on the 4th, and then a Brown Argus, the first for the patch on the 7th, with also Small Coppers and Common Blues

I had been aware of the presence of Violet Helleborines in the lanes around the village, but only managed to find them this month on Swelling Hill.



The month of September turned out to be one of the best birding months I have had since I started this blog.  It started with my highest counts of six Spotted Flycatchers in Old Down Wood on the 6th and six Firecrests at the Mountain's Plantation on the 17th.  On the same day there was another Grey Wagtail on Lye Way.  The 19th saw two Common Redstarts, a female at the Desmond Paddocks, and a male at Plain Farm, a Peregrine hunting Woodpigeon along Lye Way, and a pair of Stonechats in Charlwood where there was also a Whinchat.  At the end of the month, there was a Hobby and a pair of Cormorants over my garden.

The end of the month saw sunny and warm weather which brought out Southern Hawker, and Common Darter dragonflies at the pond, and a Hummingbird Hawkmoth in the garden.



October was dry and bright, with much lower than average rainfall.  A pair of Stonechats were present at Plain Farm for most of the month, and yet another Grey Wagtail was seen there on the 18th.  The last Swallow left on the 17th, but the Redwing were late with a pair being seen as late as the 22nd.

Last year saw a large count of 65 Mallard on Swelling Hill Pond, this year the maximum count was 20.  A male Siskin was on the garden feeders at home along with an ever increasing flock of Goldfinches

The last dragonfly of the year, a Common Darter was seen at Plain Farm on the 18th.



Wild storms heralded the start of November, putting an end to the dry weather and bringing in some very mild and dull conditions.  The high winds very quickly removed the leaves from the trees ending the autumnal colour.  The mild weather though did suit the Comma butterflies that were present throughout the month.

Getting out and about was not easy, and walks were confined to the roads and lanes.  Large flocks of Yellowhammer were present in the hedges, and Bullfinch flocks seemed to be everywhere.  In the fields along Brislands on the 21st there was a significant count of 94 Skylark, and over the fields of Lye Way was a flock of 186 Golden Plover.  My only Lapwing sighting of the year was this month with just two birds.

Fieldfares finally arrived on the 13th, and numbers of both Fieldfare and Redwing built up through the month.



The very unseasonable weather continued into December.  Temperatures on some days being the same as they were in May.  A Red Admiral was seen on the wing in Old Down Wood on the 5th, my latest ever here, and catkins were appearing on the Hazel trees.  in the gardens around the village daffodils and primroses were flowering in the crazy weather a contrast to the festive lights.

The autumn saw an influx of Goldcrests and large groups could be seen with tits in the woods, and a pair were even on the feeders in the garden.  Lesser Redpoll and Siskin have been absent from Old Down Wood since the forestry work started there two years ago, so it was nice to see both of these delightful small finches there on the 23rd.




Despite the fact that I have not spent as much time out and about the patch as in previous years I have managed my second highest year total for birds seen at 82, and my highest count of butterflies at 25 just one short of the patch total.

I would now like to say a Happy New Year to you all, and for the hope of more wonderful wildlife in 2016, and to leave you with a compilation of all the best bits throughout the year, enjoy both the photographs, and the music.  Every day is truly an Amazing Day in 2015 Around Found Four Marks






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