At 5.55 this morning I heard a Song Thrush singing, it was still quite dull, but a clear sign that the morning are getting brighter, and the days are getting longer.
As well as the Song Thrush, a little later on when I finally got up and was making tea I noticed three visitors to the feeders that have not been around much this winter, a male and two female Siskins. The only camera I had access to was that on my phone hence the very poor quality as I tried to zoom in as much as possible, but please believe me they were Siskins.
It was a cold day, with a fresh easterly wind that really got into you. I was going to walk around Plain Farm for the first time this year, but first I just wanted to check Old Down Wood. If the Siskins were visiting the garden then maybe there could be some activity in the wood.
I parked at the pond where the female Mallard was sitting on the jetty, there was no sign of the males though.
On the bank behind the jetty were a pair of Moorhen, but as usual they were of at the slightest sign of me. I walked into the wood, the cold was obviously having an impact on the birds as there was no song from the robins and the only sound was that of the wind in the trees. I stood and listened and picked up the jingle of Goldfinches high in the larch trees, and the odd call of a Blue Tit, but that was about it.
I walked around to where I had seen the owl a few weeks ago but couldn't find any sign of it today. I made my way around the perimeter path, and out of the wood and back to the pond. As I approached the pond there was the call of a crow, and then a Buzzard broke from the trees being pursued by the owner of the call.
I walked around the pond, and found a pair of Mallard in the small pond, and they flew off. I was interested to see if there was any sign of the Toads arriving but I couldn't see any, the water level was very high, as high as I have seen it for some time.
I set off for Plain Farm driving along Lye Way. In the field to the north a Buzzard was sat on a post and being rocked by the wind.
When I parked at the bottom of the hill I was told that there was a drag hunt coming through a little later on, hopefully it would not get in my way. I walked up the hill towards the estate in the bushes on my left there was a small party of Long-tailed Tits making their way through the bramble. I stopped and waited to see if there was any sign of Firecrests around the yew tree, but there was nothing calling let alone a Firecrest.
I walked up to the pond, and found a drake Mallard sitting in the sun, he stood out amongst the ivy on the bank. A little to the right of the drake was a t first a brown patch, then I realised it was its mate the duck, showing how effective the brown plumage is at hiding her when it is necessary.
I walked down past the quarry where there were a pair of Bullfinches calling but doing a very good job of being hidden. As I crossed the road I disturbed a Red-legged Partridge from one of the seed dispensers. I walked up the hill past the grain dryers where House Sparrows chirped away from the middle of the hedge.
A little further on as I came out into the fields I noticed a small bird fly across the path from the bramble and settle on the fence wire. I thought at first it was a Meadow Pipit but a closer look revealed a white patch in the wing, I couldn't see the head but thought it could be a Stonechat. Then from the same patch the bird had come from another flew up on to the overhead wire and I could see immediately that this was a male Stonechat. It then flew to the fence to join the other bird that I could now see was a female Stonechat.
I must assume these are the same pair that were here late last year and have over wintered here. Both birds then flew off as I walked up the path and headed into the field where both birds perched on a small sprig of grass, the male being closer than the female.
A Buzzard was flying low along the top of the hedge at the back of the field, then it drifted away only to be mobbed by a pair of Lapwing. It was nice to catch up with Lapwing early in the year, last year I didn't find one until November. The buzzard headed away and then one of the Lapwing went into the aerobatic display flight that they perform at this time of year.
A Skylark was singing above the fields, and at the cottages a male Chaffinch was singing from the overhead wires.
I walked on checking both fields for a possible Grey Partridge or Brown Hare, but neither were about. At the end of the lane by the cottages a Kestrel was hunting.
I walked to the end of the footpath in almost silence, everything concentrating today on keeping warm, not something they have had to do this winter.
As I headed towards Charlwood I noticed this dandelion flower with a small Hover Fly sitting on. The fly was alive, but only just
A tractor was topping the hedges along Charlwood, it seems such a brutal way to do it, and I wonder if it helps the hedges or is just something to do this time of year. As I reached the bridleway turn off I saw a Red Kite drifting across the field heading north.
I watched it fly away, and then continued along the road. As I approached the paddocks I noticed two dark shapes at the back of the field in the distance. I thought at first they could be Brown Hare, but when I looked closely I could see that they were in fact a Buzzard that was eating something, and Red Kite that seemed very interested in what the Buzzard was eating.
The Kite then walked around the Buzzard, and found something that it could eat.
If I walked around the bridleway I could get closer so I ran back to see if I could get a better view, I did check first to make sure no one else was about!
When I arrived at the best point I used the hedge as cover, and looked across the field, both birds were gone though, and there was no sign of any possible food on the ground.
Then the Red Kite appeared and drifted past me, what a beautiful bird they are, the rich reddish brown standing out with the dark streaks on the breast and the lovely grey of the head.
It drifted away again with that lazy unhurried style keeping just above the hedge.
Then it was gone, so I decided against continuing along the bridleway, there were deep water filled ruts and a lot of mud, the 4x4's that use this small track have really messed it up this winter. I went back the way I came, and then back on the road and around to Lye Way.
As I walked towards the car the fields on the left hand side were being ploughed and this was attracting an awful lot of Gulls, once again the dominant bird was the Common Gull, but there were a few Herring Gulls and Black-headed Gulls. As you can see here there were also Buzzards looking to pick up an easy meal.
The gulls then suddenly disappeared, but the Buzzards remained, there were four circling around the field, one coming low and hovering holding its legs down to help with keeping it stationary in the wind.
A Mistle Thrush called from the trees, and then two flew across in front of me, strangely a first for the year, usually these are seen all the time during the winter.
As I made my way down the hill I could see riders heading up towards the estate, the drag hunt was making its way through the area. As I reached the car they had all gone though.
Not a bad day, two good birds for the patch in Stonechat and Lapwing, and some new Red Kite behaviour. In two days time the meteorological spring starts, as I mentioned at the start the days are getting longer, it just needs now to warm up, and then hopefully the migrants, insects and flowers will arrive.