Wednesday, 13 April 2016

12th April - Shady's Back, Tell a Friend

Probably one of the warmest days of the year so far and we escaped the sunshine setting off those annoying April showers.  As a result I set off to Plain farm for the late afternoon, but before I left a male Brimstone flew through the garden.

As I parked at the bottom of the hill, I noticed patches of yellow in the grass on the field opposite, the Cowslips were out in force here.


I walked up the path towards the pond, where there were Chaffinches and Blue Tits but no sight or sound of the hoped for Warblers.  As I turned to walk to the barn two Peacock butterflies came off the wall, and flew around the grass, one settling on the ground to show off the wonderful markings and colour, they are a truly beautiful butterfly but suffer for being so common almost throughout the summer here in the UK.


Then suddenly two smaller orange butterflies flew past and caused absolute mayhem.  The Small Tortoiseshells seemed to upset the Peacocks and they just chased after the smaller butterfly, but it seemed to be the tortoiseshells that came off better, the Peacocks leaving the sun trap, and the Small Tortoiseshells taking over as they settled in the sunshine on the grass.


I left the barn and headed down the footpath towards the quarry, a single Chiffchaff sang from the Mountains Plantation, its song coming through the many singing Blackbirds.  At the quarry I walked around the top and looked down.  Another Chiffchaff was singing along with a distant Nuthatch and a Wren every so often.  I watched a Long-tailed Tit collecting the remains of an Old-man's beard, and around my feet a White-tailed Bumble Bee queen was searching the small purple flowers for nectar.


From the quarry I crossed the road, and stopped to watch two Brown hares in the field.  From their behaviour I would think these were young leveretts just away from the parent, probably siblings they seemed to be exploring the field.


i had seen a Red-legged Partridge and tried to get closer using the hedge as cover, but when I peered over it was gone, and above me could have been the reason for its disappearance as a Sparrowhawk glided past me.


There was no sign of any swallows around the farm buildings, in fact the only birds about was a male Chaffinch and the usual chirping House Sparrows.  I stopped to catch up with the gamekeeper, and he informed me that there has not been any sign of the Barn Owls locally this winter which was a little disappointing.  I did though get some more information that could be interesting as we move into spring and summer.

Walking up the hill and past the workshops the tree in the middle of the field dominates the view, the stark bare branches against the pale blue sky an indicator that we still have some way to go before we can claim spring is truly here.


i checked the fields as i always do, but the only bird to report was a rather handsome male Pheasant in amongst the rapeseed in the field to the south of the lane.


The hedge seemed to be full of mainly House Sparrows although I could hear the song of a Yellowhammer.  i looked for the Yellowhammer on the wires but the only bird present there was this Linnet.  


Pairs of Linnet could be seen and heard flying around, and dropping down into the fields.

In the trees by the cottages at the end of the lane another Chiffchaff was singing, and for the first time this year I was successful in getting some reasonable views and as a result some photographs.


By the way it was shaking itself and preening I think it must have just had a bath in one of the many puddles.  In between shakes it would reel off a few lines of song, before resorting to the contact call.


From the cottages I walked down the lane, it was very wet and muddy and as i walked I pushed a large flock of Yellowhammers and a few Chaffinches ahead of me, from within the bushes yet another Chiffchaff sang.

Along the lane the Gorse was in flower.  Gorse is a very opportunistic plant, flowering almost immediately the temperature warms up and the sun comes out.  This is why you almost see it flowering all year long.


i made my way through a very sticky, muddy field, and out onto Charlwood.  As i walked along the lane the bleats of the now much older looking lambs could be heard from the field on my right.  I stopped at the junction with the bridleway to scan the fields, and as i did so I was almost dive bombed by the first Swallow of the summer on the patch.


Just as the Swallow appeared a pair of lapwing went into display in the distance over the field, their calls alerting them to me.  I watched the Lapwing to see if they would come close but they kept their distance.  Returning to the Swallow it was winding low over the field, winding in and out of the sheep.  Very soon one became two Swallows, and then as I walked towards the house two became three, four, five and six.  I could hear them twittering as they flew around the house, and came low over the horse paddocks.

If you have been reading the "Away Blog" from Portugal you will know that I just can't resist trying to perfect my photography of hirundines in flight so of course I settled in to try with these newly arrived Swallows.  This one of quite a few attempts was not too bad.


Obviously the exertions of migration and the evening search for food took its toll and one had decided to rest on the overhead cables and that provided the easier opportunity to capture a new arrival.


I left the Swallows and carried on back towards the car.  Yellowhammers sang away in the distance and I watched pairs of Buzzards over the woods in full looping display flight.  All around I could hear the songs of the resident birds, Blackbird, Robin, Great Tit and Wren, and every so often the quick snatch of a Chiffchaff high at the top of the Beech trees.


i returned too the car and drove along Lye Way in the hope that  there might be a Wheatear in the fields but I couldn't find anything.  So far the two new arrivals were Swallow and Chiffchaff.  I had hoped there would at least have been a singing Blackcap, they are late this year.  If the warm weather continues for the next few days then I am sure they will arrive.  But for now I will just have to be content with the Swallows, but remember six do not make a summer!

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