The cold weather of the weekend slowly moved away, and the temperatures warmed slightly through Monday despite the overcast conditions. Today started overcast but slowly the clouds broke up and the sun appeared and by the middle of the afternoon it was clear blue skies, perfect for the late afternoon walk. There had been quite a bit of bird activity on the south coast, with good numbers of common migrants arriving in conditions not recognised to produce a fall of migrants. As always I was hopeful, but at the same time resigned to the fact that the prime arrival time for migrants in Four Marks is usually around the 23rd to the 25th of the month.
Nevertheless I set off from the house in the sunshine determined that I would find something of interest. I had only gone about 50 yards when a burst of song told me that I had found something. In an oak tree covered in ivy a Firecrest was singing. I waited and in no time the bird appeared.
This is now the seventh location that I have managed to find a singing Firecrest, they seem to be spreading, and numbers increasing around the patch.
I can't say that I am disappointed.
I never tire of seeing and watching them, and absolute gem of a bird.
Leaving the Firecrest I walked along Lymington Bottom with plenty of Robins and Blackbirds singing. Walking up Brislands I found this male Blackbird singing while carrying worms. I would imagine that the young have hatched and he has to feed them, but hasn't quite got out of the "singing to declare his territory while the female sits on the nest" habit.
As I came out into the open, with fields on both sides, Skylarks were singing in the sky above the fields. The crops are now growing and seeing anything in them is now difficult. The hope was that there could be Wheatear about but there was no chance of any in the surrounding fields.
On the main path into Old Down I counted eight singing Robins, and several could be seen feeding on the path. I took the perimeter path around the north side of the wood, the path winding through this year's Bluebells. The recent cold weather has probably held them back, and i estimated that they were currently at about 50% coverage.
Once again it was that time of year to take the photographs of the lovely blue haze amongst the soft grey of the Hazel branches.
the sunshine and shadows adding to this iconic spring woodland scene.
In the distance I could hear Chiffchaffs singing, and there was the quick burst of a singing Blackcap, the first unusually of the year. For the last four years I have had a pair of Blackcaps visiting the garden during the winter, but the winter just passed there has been none. They have also been late arriving on the patch, this singing bird today being the first for the year, and about 10 days later than any singing bird over the last five years.
With these summer visitors singing away in the background the main chorus was provided by the Wrens. Every so often one would appear and burst out a song, and then chase off any other Wren that came to close.
With the forestry work over the last few years, and the fallen branches and trees the Wrens seem to have thrived, and their numbers in Old Down have definitely increased.
This bird was being wound up by another singing quite close, and in what I can only consider was an act of aggression it turned its back to the singer and waggled its tail in an upright position before flying off.
As I watched the Wren a Blackcap burst into song close by, and there was movement in a tree above me of a bird with a black head, but it turned out to be a Marsh Tit.
i carried on through the Bluebells and stopped to see if there was any sign yet of the Early Purple Orchids, but I couldn't find them. As I reached the edge of the wood there was a large flock of mixed finches flying over the tree top, the calls were mixed up and I thought I heard Redpoll, but as I came out of the wood to check the trees on the edge all I could find were Yellowhammer and Linnet.
There were about 30 Yellowhammers and quite a few more Linnets. They were coming off the ploughed field into the trees as I walked around the wood to get a better view. There was no sign or sound any more of any Redpoll, and I doubt there had been any, the behaviour just didn't fit with them.
As I walked towards the paddocks there were butterflies on the dry soil. This is always a good spot for butterflies when the sun is out as it is sheltered and in the afternoon facing the sun. First was a Peacock resting on a fallen branch.
Then a Small Tortoiseshell taken from an interesting angle.
I walked alongside the hedge at the top of the paddocks. A Blue Tit was fly catching from the top of the bushes, but more interesting was a bird in the hedge that was dropping to the ground and then back. I have seen Redstart here, and as I watched a flash of red raised my hopes, only for it to turn out to be close relative, the Robin.
As I walked back to the path Yellowhammer called from the top of the hedge.
Crossing into the next field I checked the hedge at the top of the field but with the same results only a Robin. As I walked past the rabbit warren a warbler called from the Blackthorn. The call was different to the familiar one the Chiffchaff has, and I stopped to see if it would appear and it did.
Pinkish legs and relatively long wings meant that this was a Willow Warbler, and it was feeding on the small insects attracted by the blossom of the Blackthorn.
Willow Warblers are not a common bid around the patch. Typically there are one or two singing birds a year, but mostly around the Plain Farm area where there are youngish trees in plantations. Last year struggled to find one until late June. The fall I referred to along the south coast today was dominated by Willow Warblers so I could assume this was a passage bird passing through.
It gave some of the best views I have had of Willow Warbler here on the patch.
From the paddocks I crossed the road and headed up Andrews Lane. Over the horse stables there were at least six Swallows flying around.
One settling on the wires and conducting some evening yoga poses.
Where the lane is sided by hedges the birds became quite numerous. Goldfinches and Chaffinches in the trees, Wrens singing from within the hedge and Blue Tits and Great Tits in the branches and on the hedge.
As I walked up the hill I pushed them all along in front of me and as I reached the last house I stopped to check the field and the surrounding hedges without anything unusual being found.
At the top of the hill a Willow Warbler burst into song, but as I searched the tree I didn't find the owner of the song, but a male Blackcap feeding around the tree's blossom.
The Willow Warbler was on the other side of the tree, and there was at least two feeding high up, confirming my thoughts that we were witnessing a passage of these warblers, as we never get three birds in the same location at any other time.
in the field at the top of the hill I was confronted once again with the bleats of lambs. It would seem that these recently born as they were smaller and younger than those I had seen previously, the earlier lambs having been moved on to pastures new. These lambs did not seem to concerned by me being close so I took the chance for some more pictures.
These two seem to be in conversations as they lie in the warm evening sunshine.
The copse at the top of the path is normally a good location to find warblers but it was quiet, and I walked around to Lye Way to look for Wheatear but again there was nothing there, so I headed back through Lye Way Farm, and then down towards Kitwood. Yellowhammer were singing on the telegraph posts, but a little further I was able to capture one singing in a more natural location.
The Red-legged Partridges were still in the field opposite to the school. One pair were visible on the horizon, but closer to the road were three, two of which were clearly a pair or it was a male with two females. The one at the back looks a little shifty to me!
As I reached the crossroads I noticed colour in the tree above Alton Lane, and it turned out to be the male Kestrel once again.
Same tree, probably the same bird as previously, I would assume a nest nearby. We shall have to wait and see. Last year I found three Kestrel nests, and not in this area so this could be good news for the local population.
I walked home to the chorus of Blackbird, Robin, Chaffinch and Greenfinch around me. It might not be in the same magnitude as the south coast falls, but I think I can safely say I have been able to record some migrant passage today. It would have been nice to get a Redstart, but there is still plenty of time.