Rain and very strong winds lashed into the windows at the back of the house last night, but with the dawn came blue skies and sunshine. I imagine the rain and wind eased during the early hours as I did hear the male Tawny Owl calling while it was still dark out there. The female is probably sitting on eggs or with the young, the Tawny Owl being one of the earliest to nest. Another early breeder, the Song Thrush was singing through out the morning, competing with local Robins, but always seeming to drown them out with long clear notes that are repeated to ensure you realise it is a Song Thrush singing.
Helen and I set off for a walk around the area after deciding against a trip further a field. As we passed the village hall the cherry blossom was just coming out. This year the blossom is about three weeks earlier than it has been for the last four years.
With the recent heavy rain, any thoughts about walking through the woods were quickly dismissed and we headed out along Brislands with the plan to circle around and back along Gilbert Street and Swelling Hill.
At the Cemetery two Great Tits were trying to out do each other with their calls, they have quite a repertoire and the competition was undertaken with different calls.
Both birds were in superb breeding colours, the bright yellow contrasting with the deep shiny black belly stripe.
In the verge the Lesser Celandine were in flower, the petals though not completely open as the sunshine had not reached them.
As we walked along Brislands towards the Old Down entrance I commented on how the clear and open verges we were passing now in two months time will be exploding into a mass of vegetation. But for now it looks open, and very tidy, if not a little wet.
Goldcrests were calling in the bushes around the mobile stand just by the entrance to the wood, as I stood and waited a bird did move, but it wasn't the hoped for Goldcrest, but a Dunnock. Close inspection reveals an often overlooked bird of quite lovely markings.
As we walked down the tree lined hill I commented again about the fact that in the past here there would be thrushes, and Chaffinches and even the chance of a Brambling, but today it was very quiet with nothing moving, not even a Wren.
Out in the open once again we stopped to take in the white clouds, and beautiful blue sky, something we have not be able to do many times this winter.
I checked all the pools and puddles around Manor Farm cow sheds but there was no sign of the recent Grey Wagtail, in front of us a flock of about 100 Fieldfare and Redwing flew across and away to the fields to the south, and in the field close to the farm a single male Pheasant was walking slowly through the long grass.
Looking south a large Oak tree on the horizon showed the vulnerability these large trees have against the winter storms. With all the leaves gone the tree does not form a barrier to the storms, but where ivy grows amongst it then the tree does and can as a result be blown down.
We turned up hill towards Gilbert Street, the last time we were here the rains came, but today it was nice as we walked in the sunshine. Catkins could be seen in the hedgerows, again very early in this very different winter.
The view over towards Old Down Wood was looking splendid in the sunshine, it made you feel that maybe spring is not that far away.
Walking past the paddocks along Gilbert Street there was a large flock of Common Gulls overhead, and as we passed a field on our right a Buzzard drifted over, being chased by the gulls.
A little further along more Common Gulls flew at us from the other fields.
Coming over quite low.
In the hedgerows and the surrounding trees we could hear the chirps of the house Sparrows and of course singing Robins. At the top of one trees a male Starling was singing away, the feathers on the throat bristling as it went through the tunes.
With the fields so wet where sheep were grazing the ground has been turned over quite a bit. When I first started this blog back in 2012, the winter and early spring was very dry, and the Rooks were having difficulty finding food. Fast forward five years and the Rooks are having a field day.
Pushing their bills into the soft earth, they spread the mandibles to open up the ground in search of insects, worms and leatherjackets.
Not without some sticky problems though.
As well as the Rooks there were plenty of Magpies about, and a single Raven flew over going out of sight before I could get a photograph.
As always we scanned the trees at Andrews Lane in hope of finding a Little Owl in one of the trees, and like every time we do this we found nothing. There were two Song Thrushes feeding on the grass, one flew off, while the other continued the search for worms. There is every chance that these two could have young somewhere in a nest in the hedge.
As we walked up Swelling Hill, there seemed to be Robins singing everywhere. They find a prominent perch and sing away, sometimes with a rival very close by in another tree.
I have often said that Silver Birch are my favourite tree, and it is at this time of year for me they are at their very best. Here the tree is moving in the wind contrasting against the blue sky with many different colours.
I had hoped to find the Firecrest that sang last time we were here, but it wasn't to be, there were though plenty of Blue Tits about.
As we walked past the pond, having made it up the hill, there were seven Mallard, four males and three females all sitting on the side of the water, all asleep.
All around the pond the daffodils were in flower, again something you would normally see in early March, not four weeks earlier.
As we walked down the hill towards the school a flock of Linnets flew across the field. In the picture there are 29 of them. They flew across the field in their dipping jaunty flight.
We turned up Gradwell, where there has been a lot of hedge clearing and fencing going on. Once again the fences are topped with barbed wire, for what I can only assume is to stop people climbing over, something I am sure the majority who walk around here would not attempt even if there wasn't barbed wire. My concern though is for the deer. They can move through the fields, but will jump the fences, and I have seen where they don't judge it well, get impaled and must die a horrible death. It is only recently thatthe farmers and land owners have taken to fencing in the fields around here, I am not sure what has changed to make them want to do this.
Just before the turn into Brislands I watched two Nuthatch fly up into one of the Oak trees. They then proceeded to forage amongst the lichen on the boughs, giving some great views.
Delightful to watch as they move up and down the branches.
As well as the Nuthatches there were Blue and Great Tits, and a single Coal Tit.
The clouds were now gathering as we headed home down Brislands, the forecast was for the rain to return later this afternoon. We stopped at the junction with Lymington Bottom to watch a Feral Pigeon that had got in amongst the Dove Cope. If the Dunnock is overlooked then the Feral Pigeon is probably invisible to many. The colours in the neck feathers are wonderful reflecting green, blue and pink as they catch the light.
We walked back home after probably the best walk around the patch this year. It was of course made all the better by the weather, it was really nice to appreciate the sun and blue sky, something that always makes you feel better, the sun has been hiding away for too long!