Friday, 23 October 2015

23rd October - Absolutely Nothing!

There was midweek rain that I missed, and the weather has changed, although it was still today.with plenty of clouds keeping it quite mild.

The garden has been very busy first thing in the morning, and then again as it starts to get gloomy in the afternoon.  There have been good numbers of Goldfinches, with a maximum count of 26 today.  There have also been three Coal Tits at any one time which is very unusual at this time of year, they have either got cleverer, realising there is food in the garden, or their natural food is not as plentiful in past years.

The first Redwings were heard flying over the house early yesterday morning, a very late first report, over the last 4 years they have been around at the end of September.  The number of Blackbirds in the garden have also started to increase.

What has become quite a saga has been the territorial disputes between the Robins.  I have three singing birds in the area of the garden and neighbouring gardens, and the boundaries are becoming clearer.  One Robin has the north end of the garden taking in the area around the shed and the main bird bath and two feeders.  The second bird has the pond and more feeders and the the Leylandii hedge on both sides and uses the cycle path sign on the street light to sing from.

This means that it is in the light so you can hear it singing all through the night!

Its main rival is a Robin on the other side of the road, and this bird seems to have realised that there are feeders in my garden, and makes little sorties through the hedge to try and use them, but the Robin whose territory is is quite alert, and regular fights break out, the Robin above always seems to take the high ground and is able to chase the invader off.  On Thursday evening we watched them squaring up to each other in the middle of the road.  This engagement never came to anything though.

I am still experimenting with the new camera, I was particularly interested in the images at the high ISO speeds.  This was taken at ISO 3200, and through a window.  I am very pleased with the results, little noise, and in the circumstances a sharp image.

This weekend will see more opportunities to experiment as long as the weather behaves!

Sunday, 18 October 2015

18th October - Funny All The Things That I have Found

We were in Wiltshire on Saturday night, spending the day in Salisbury and Shaftesbury during the day.  When we left in the morning under grey skies a lone Swallow flew across the A31 has we left the village.

Getting back late afternoon the skies were still leaden, but it was still and every so often the sun would break through lighting up the autumn leaves.

I have a new camera, it arrived on Friday, and I have been itching to use it since then.  I decided that there was better chance of finding something to test it on at the farm, so I drove to the base of the Mountains footpath and walked up the hill.  I stopped at the Yew trees to see if I could hear the Firecrests as they would make the perfect study.  I could hear them but they never came close, there were also Goldcrests, a Marsh Tit and quite a few Long-tailed Tits.

Now for the technical bits, this was taken at ISO 1600, and the detail is superb, with hardly any noise.

Around me I continued to hear the Firecrests, and a Nuthatch called from high in the trees.

I decided to walk up to the pond, hopeful that maybe there be quite a few warblers about.  Unfortunately there wasn't but there were a few birds moving around to keep me interested.  A Blue Tit had just had a bath in the pond.

And a female Chaffinch sat quietly waiting for the sun to strengthen.

I walked up to the style where the footpath leads down through the park, looking over in the direction of Chawton the trees look superb.

Driving around Wiltshire and Dorset over the last few days we noticed the wonderful colours in the trees, the Beech seem to have exploded just recently into a wonderful range of yellows and oranges.  The trees here to were also showing off in their autumn colours.

I walked around the estate and came down the path past the quarry.  There were two Chiffchaffs calling, and I managed to find them but they were very mobile and impossible to photograph.

I cross the road and headed up through Plain Farm.  Just past the workshops I turned off to check the field, and disturbed four Grey Partridges and they flew off across the field and finally merging into the grey brown of the soil.

Pied Wagtails were calling from around the barn, and on the wires.  There were six in total, with this one as usual sitting on the roof of the barn.

I walked down the lane, and there were Yellowhammer on the wires, and then I noticed two smaller birds fly catching from the wire.  They were Stonechats and a pair, probably the pair I saw a couple of weeks ago.  The male was happier in the bushes and disappeared while the female watched me closely as I crept up on it.

Then she dropped into the top of the hedge and I was able to get a photo of both of them.

Then the male decided to sit nicely for me, and I could really see the difference in the camera.

A little further on I heard a call from a Magpie followed by a Crow, and then almost immediately after that a Red Kite appeared and settled on the dead branches of the trees by the cottages, the crow though still not happy it was there.

The Crow also settled close by, but the Red Kite did not seem to be too concerned.

I managed to get a little closer and able to get a rare photograph of a Red Kite around here sitting in a tree.

Then the Magpie decided to mob it once again and it flew off, coming towards me.

And as it flew off, the Crow decided to make sure it kept going away.

Then coming over my head.

I walked on, and as I came around the corner I heard a call I had heard yesterday as we walked along a chalk stream, I didn't expect to hear it here again though, but in front of me was a Grey Wagtail and it was pumping its tail up an down in that exhausting way.

This now makes three sightings this year, this time though it was in a place that did look about right for this species.

A little purple patch of birds, which was great, and the perfect way to test out the camera.  

I headed towards Charlwood where there was very little about, a few Yellowhammers were on the wires, but nothing much else.  As we approached the houses a Robin was acting aggressively on a fence post, the target of its aggression was feeding on the grass.

The fields were full of Corvids and Woodpigeons, and there were also lots of Jackdaws and Rooks in the sky calling and performing acrobatics.  Every so often the Rooks would fly up in huge flocks.

I have remarked about the wonderful autumn colour in the trees all over the place, but in Winchester Wood there was still a few green leafy glades.

I was now close to the car, and as I came down the hill a Buzzard was circling over the Mountains area, the sun highlighting it against the grey clouds.

The camera is superb, I have a Canon 7D mark II, and it works so much better with my large 100-400mm lens.  However I only have it for a few weeks before it goes back into the packaging for Christmas.  It is going to be a long time to Christmas when I give it back up!

Great walk today,some quality birds and views, the camera never lies!

Friday, 16 October 2015

16th October - I Walk Among The Leaves of Days Yet to Pass

I have been away for three days of the week in Germany where it was wet and very cold, but I understand that here it was dry overcast but with a cold north easterly wind.  This morning it was still overcast and gloomy as the first birds arrived in the garden to use the feeders.

I first noticed a few Long-tailed Tits arriving and heading for the sunflower seeds, but as I watched they just continued to appear as if from nowhere.  I counted at least a dozen of these little balls of feathers, the highest count this autumn so far in the garden.

As well as the Long-tailed Tits there was also several Blue Tits, and singles of Great and Coal Tit, the latter adopting its smash and grab technique on the feeders. 

A single Chiffchaff was also tagging along with the tits, it explored the leaves that remained on the trees, pecking at their underside, and hovering around the branches.  

I could also hear it calling to its friends the Long-tailed Tits who it would appear it was hanging out with.

A Greenfinch on the lawn looked a little unusual, and was a cause for concern, I will now have to give the feeders and baths a good clean.

A robin then appeared again making its way through the branches and then dropping down onto the feeders.

At lunchtime I decided to head up to the pond with the intention of then walking around Old Down.  With the numbers of Goldfinches about and the reports of Siskin I wondered if there might be the chance of some finches in the larches, plus there was also the chance of some fungi.

As I pulled up at the pond I noticed two Moorhen doing what they always do when I appear heading for cover.  As they did so a splash to my left saw another explode into the reed bed, three is a good count for this time of year, it looks like this year's young birds have hung around.

In the far corner there were six Mallard, two females and four males.  It may be that the numbers increase in the late afternoon, but so far it seems that the high count of last year is still safe.

As I left the pond and walked towards the wood alarm calls could be heard, a shape then flew into the trees above me, and then out again and I could see it was a Sparrowhawk, and it was carrying something, probably one of the Blue Tits I had just heard calling from the hedge.

As I walked into the wood there was quite a commotion going on.  There seemed to be many Wrens calling, and at first I thought they might have found something that they were not happy with.  

As I watched a Squirrel dropped out of a tree, and I thought maybe that was the problem, but the calls and posturing continued. 

I walked into the bracken to get a closer look, and could see at least three Wrens behaving in an agitated way.  I now thought it could only be a territorial issue, then another squirrel appeared, was it the squirrels after all.

I continued to watch and the Wrens continued to call. 

In the end I decided that it must be territorial, and after awhile the calls subsided, and the Wrens disappeared into the bracken.

I made my way back to the main path and headed to the crossroads.  Around the bramble bushes there were quite a few Hornets, and I watched them in the hope that they would settle but this never happened.  They seemed to be present where there was bramble and dead wood, could the wood be the attraction for the Hornets?  They seemed to be everywhere at the moment.

Above me I could hear Goldfinches, and looking up a flock of about a hundred passed over my head.  There were also still some settled in the tops of the trees.

I stopped to look over the field towards Swellinghill.  The colours in the trees were now starting to look spectacular.

As I made my way to the West End all I could hear were the calls of Goldcrests, getting them to stay still long enough for a photograph was almost impossible.  They seemed to prefer the denser cover of the trees still with leaves.

At the West End a train from the Watercress Line steamed along with the trees alongside the line looking splendid in their autumn colours.

I then followed the north perimeter path in the hope of finding some fungi.  There was though nothing about.  Chiffchaffs could be heard calling amongst the tit flocks, but I was also never able to see them.

Back on the main path I watched as golden orange birch leaves fell from the trees, and it made me think that only a few weeks ago these rides were full of butterflies doing exactly the same thing. I made my way around to the south perimeter path and I finally found a new fungus, the fruiting body of a Birch Polypore just emerged on the trunk of a dead Silver Birch.

Coming out onto the main path I looked back, and the favourite Beech tree as it does every year was showing some lovely colour amongst the greens of the Oak.

From the wood I made my way back to the pond and as I approached the bushes there were Blackbirds and Long-tailed Tits calling.  I walked around the back of the pond to try and find the flock, but only managed to disturb them, and watched them fly away.  Coming to the pond at a different angle I could see the reflection of the trees in the water.

The Mallard had moved to the side close to the road, and were feeding in the lily pads.

September and October are the prime months for autumn migration, but around Four Marks it is September that seems to be the peak month, once we reach October it is as if the winter is upon us for the birds.  However this year I have still not seen or heard either Redwing or Fieldfare yet, despite there being plenty of berries on the Holly Bushes.

Incidently when I was in Sweden two weeks ago I was a little dismayed to see plenty of berries there meaning the chances of a good Waxwing year are not good.

There is still chance for the month to pick up, and there are birds that I did not see at the start of the year that can still turn up as we head into the second winter of 2015.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

9th October - And Now My Ship Is Sinking

The day had been clear and sunny all the way until the early afternoon, a welcome change at the end of the week from the heavy rain we experienced.  But from mid afternoon onward a large patch of cloud seemed to position itself over Four Marks blocking out all the sunshine, and completely changing the day.

We had decided to walk around the patch from the late afternoon, and our walk would take in the Golf Course, and maybe some refreshments.  We headed up Reads Field, and then across the field to Alton Lane.  The sun would peep through on the dark grey clouds and further darken the clouds.  A Rook on a TV aerial was highlighted by the grey in the clouds.

We turned up Alton Lane, and then across to Weathermore Lane and into the woods.  In the field before we turned onto the bridleway there were a couple of Rabbits sitting in the long grass.

At the back of the field a Magpie was using the water trough as a bath, which must have been something of an achievement as it seemed to plunge itself into the water, it looked far too deep for it to stand up in.

The walk along the lane was very quiet, every so often you could hear the call of a Goldcrest, and then maybe a Great Tit, but apart from that it was still and quiet as the clouds and setting sun turned the lane quite gloomy.

We passed a singing Robin as we reached the end of the lane, the first one we had seen or heard.  Looking to the west a gap in the clouds created an ominous scene with the distant trees silhouetted against the bright patch in the sky.

We headed up the lane to Telegraph Lane, then turned left and popped into the Golf Club where we sat outside and did partake in some refreshments while watching the distant orange sky, and at the same time gained some useful information about some visitors to the course.

Leaving the club we walked down Hawthorn Lane, and apart from hearing a calling Pheasant again it was very quiet.  From Hawthorn we turned onto Kitwood and walked towards the farm.  We flushed a Sparrowhawk from the hedgerow, and a Brown Rat ran across the road in front of us.  

We decided to walk to the pond, and then to go through Old Down wood, and back home along Brislands.  At the back of the pond there were several Mallard, I counted twenty in total, it was about this time last year the number of ducks built up last year, they still have a long way to go to beat 65.

In Old Down there were calls from the top of the larches, and encouragingly I could hear Siskin calling but couldn't find them in the trees as it was now quite gloomy.

Helen found one of those little events that must take place and escape the notice of many.  A Dor Beetle was burying into the mud as many can be seen doing on the paths at this time of year, but in this case the beetle had picked a spot where a slug was lying.  As the beetle dug away it was actually moving the slug.  I wonder what the slug was thinking was going on?

The sun was now set, and the sky away to the west was changing colour quickly.  In amongst the trees away in the distance you could see the mist hanging as the temperature started to fall, and the air became damp with that autumn smell.

We walked home with the Dusk moving now to night.  Not one of the most interesting of walks, but we were outside and enjoying the walk.  Over the weekend I have been out an about away from Four Marks, and you will find details on the Away Blog