Monday, 11 April 2016

10th April - I'm Gonna Call Up Some Of My Buddies

The weekend has been quite dismal, Saturday was all about April showers and a cold wind, today was about sunshine but still with that cold wind.  All this was a long way from the time we had in Portugal, the details of which you can see here.  But its that time of year again, the time when Red-legged Partridges decide they want to become a garden bird, and not a bird of fields and farmland.  Looking out of my office window over the weekend I was amazed to see two of these dumpy birds walking nonchalantly along the roof of my neighbour's house.  Unfortunately by the time I could get the camera one had dropped off, leaving the other to perform acrobatics by standing on one leg.  I don't know what the attraction is of the gardens to them at this time of year, but over the last five years they have turned up like clockwork, I can only think that in pairs they are looking for a suitable nesting site. 



Lots of things about in the county over the weekend, so this afternoon after a family event I wondered this afternoon if there might be something about in Four Marks.  There was a decision to be made though, the weather wasn't inspiring and it was Tottenham v Man Utd on the television, then the news came in that the kick ff had been delayed so I set off to see if I could find something.  As I headed down Brislands I could see dark clouds gathering in the west, I wasn't going to be out for too long.

No Chiffchaffs singing along Brislands as I walked towards Old Down, but at the back of the field a female Roe Deer was grazing.


The daffodils are now wilting, and the Lesser Celandines look a little sad, but there was another yellow flower appearing in the verge, a small clump of Cowslips the first for the year.



As I came out into the open fields along Brislands I could see that the wild flowers were also beginning to show here.  There is always a good show around this time of year before the bracken grows too high and covers everything.

Along with the sad Celandines, Wood Anemones have now burst into flower.  They love the sun, the petals staying closed when its overcast.  This afternoon there was some watery sunshine and they were all in flower, petals open pointing towards the sun.



One interesting feature of the wood anemones is that Brislands Lane runs east to west with a hedge on either side, you can only find the significant clumps of Wood Anemone on the north side of the lane, this is where the sunshine gets.

I walked into Old Dow in almost silence, except for the odd burst of Wren there was no bird song, this was not a good sign.  Most of the trees are still to show their true colours, the leaves only just beginning to bud, however one Silver Birch for some reason was different to the rest showing a profusion of golden green leaves.



From the crossroads I headed to wards the cottage entrance and could hear what  I thought was a strange Blackbird song, you could hear the blackbird notes but they were not necessarily in the right order.  I scanned the trees because I knew it had to be a thrush of sorts somewhere.

I found it tucked away in the middle of a large Beech Tree.  It was a Mistle Thrush, first time I had found one singing here.  Sometimes known as a Storm Cock due to their habit of singing just before and during rain storms, this was not a good sign.



The path was quite muddy as I headed towards the style.  Once again I could see the ploughed field right to the edge and I inwardly moaned.  This was the site of the Blues and Brown Argus last year, I had hoped that they would return this year.  The are is always wet, and sheltered by the surrounding trees so it may not cultivate well, we shall have to see.  As I passed by though I was surprised to see the Mallard pair appear and then slowly walk away from me.  Like the Partridges they seem to get  lost at this time of year.



A Chiffchaff was singing in the Willow trees at the pond, but eluded me once again as I tried to get a photograph.  There was nothing on the water, and there was no sign of any Toad Spawn, maybe the erection of the sign to warn motorists has scared them all away, or just maybe breeding here has failed and they are just not returning.

A sign of spring though at the point  was the emerging Iris leaves, they all look a lovely lime-green at this stage.

From the high Beech trees surrounding the pond a Great Spotted Woodpecker called.  This is a good site for them, and you can either hear them drumming or calling from the trees, and they have nested here for several years.  I finally managed to find the owner of the call, but had to look through plenty of branches to get a view of the red vent feathers.



All the resident finches are now moving around in pairs.  Greenfinches are performing their fluttering display flights which make you think it could be a House Martin, and Goldfinches fly around together with their jingling calls, while Bullfinches hide in amongst the branches, their piping calls the only sign they are there.

Chaffinches are the most  approachable, the males singing from prominent positions while the drabber females skulk though the hedgerows.



As i came down Kitwood lane past the school I saw what  at first dismissed as a Woodpigeon fly up into a tree at the bottom of Alton Lane.  But then a series of alarm calls went out and I decided it might be worth a closer look, and was pleased to find a male Kestrel sitting on one of the branches.



I always love to see these falcons, a strong reminder of my child hood when they were the countries commonest bird of prey.

On a similar topic, when I stopped to find a calling Chiffchaff more alarm calls started up, and above me the current commonest British bird of prey appeared above me, in fact there were two, and they were displaying, the male soaring upwards and then diving down and clasping talons as they tumbled in the air.



I did mange to find the Chiffchaff, but again it flew off, I have not had much luck this year so far.  The Chiffchaff though appears to be the only summer migrant that has arrived in Four Marks.  I have not heard any Blackcaps singing, they are late this year, and there has been no sign of any hirundines.  The northerly winds probably being responsible for holding up any mass movement through the country.

This time last  year a lone Swallow had arrived along Gradwell and had to wait 10 days before it was joined by others.  It would seem that it has learnt its lesson and that it is staying with its friends this year.

I walked home with the dark grey clouds approaching closer.  The forecast is for it to be warmer through the week, with the winds going round to the south so lets hopew that has some influence on things.

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