Sunday, 24 April 2016

23rd April - I Can Tell By The Look In Your Eye

Winter has returned, overnight the rain has passed through leaving blue skies but a very cold northerly wind.  In the garden the feeders were busy, the Goldfinches and Greenfinches dominating them.  It was nice to see that the Siskins are still about, a pair have been quite regular through the week, the male looking quite smart in a lovely green and black plumage.  Just before I left the house this morning I managed to capture the male in the Amelanchier tree, framed by the blossom that has just started to come out despite the cold weather.

I had the day today to explore, this date is usually when the main influx of summer visitors occurs around the patch, but with the overnight rain, and the cold northerly wind there was a doubt that I might find them today.

As I walked down Lymington Rise I actually saw the Firecrest before I heard it, once again it was in the Ivy.

Tucking myself into the side of the hedge I was able to watch as it moved around the Ivy and the tree.

That one has to be one of the best shots I have taken of this lovely little bird.  It seemed unaware or unconcerned of me as it went about singing and feeding.

I walked away with it still singing away, and headed up Brislands Lane, just before the turn to the recreation ground I noticed movement in the hedge, and there was the pinkish red flush of a male Bullfinch.  Fortunately it stayed in place as I tried to focus through the branches of the tree.

It wasn't alone, a female was there too, a much drabber looking bird in comparison to the male, but a little easier to focus on.

Then they were off, across the road and I expected them to just disappear as they always do, but the male landed on a branch that was just above the hedge, and posed nicely for me, and stayed there as i took quite a few shots.

A little further on and more movement, this time I thought it must be a Wren as it was low down in the hedge, but what appeared was a warbler, and in keeping with the morning, it too posed well for me.

From the short primaries, and the dark legs this was a Chiffchaff, and just to confirm it flew up into a nearby tree, and started to sing.

From Brislands I turned into Gradwell Lane, and stopped at the stables where there were two Swallows sitting on the fence.  It was cold and they were adopting an energy saving approach to hunting insects.  They would watch the area around them, and then fly up every so often, chase whatever  they had seen, and then return to the fence.

I crossed the field and walked towards Old Down.  Over to the right three pigeons flew up, nothing unusual there, but two were smaller and flying differently, as I got on them I could see they were two Stock Doves, the first of the year.

Despite Friday's rain the path was a lot dryer than the last time I had entered the wood here.  I decided to take the perimeter path, it would be easier than negotiating the central muddy paths.

Blue and Great Tits called from the edge of the wood, and then this Coal Tit appeared in the branches above me, moving through them searching for insects and small spiders.

The Larches were looking wonderful in the sunshine, with the new leaves a lovely lime green against the blue sky.

I crossed the main path and continued around the perimeter path.  Close to Old Down House is always a good spot for Blackcap, and as I approached I could hear one singing in a tree close by.

It really is a beautiful song, maybe overlooked, and it is delivered with considerable volume.

Looking out across the field I could see a male Roe Deer close to the fence.  They have been hard to find this year, and I have only managed to get some distant views.

I was walking now towards the West End, the Bluebells here are out in a greater density that elsewhere in the wood, but they still are only about 50% out.  The area though did provide some nice scenes.

Like the Firecrests and Red Kites I never tire of photographing the Bluebells.

Absolutely stunning.

All the above shots were taken low down, as this increases the blue.  Taken from above you can see what I mean about the coverage only being about 50%.

Coming out of the wood and looking out over the field towards Ropley, the clouds and sunshine were sending patterns across the emerging rape field.

I headed down through the paddocks, checking the hedges for any sign of migrants, but without any luck.

I headed up Andrew Lane with a single Swallow flying around the stables, and from the trees there was a Song Thrush singing, and a Nuthatch calling high above me.

A little further on and it seemed like the place was full of Wrens, they were singing from the hedge, trees and even an old shed.

While the majority would sing from cover or the middle of the hedge, one was quite happy to come out into the open.

With a song as loud as the Wren's it needs an awful lot of effort from such a tiny little bird.

I walked along the top of the lane, past the sheep and lambs.  A Chiffchaff sang from the copse, and a Blackcap also put in a brief burst of song.  

As I watched the Wrens I heard the unmistakable call of a Cuckoo coming from the woods to the west of me.  Leaving the Wrens I walked around the back of the field in the hope of finding it, but I couldn't see it anywhere, or even hear it again.

I walked along Lye Way, and again hoped fro a Wheatear in the field with the lambs but I was again out of luck.

With so many Lambs, and with many being quite young I was not surprised to see a Red Kite drift over.  It came across and over me quite low.

Again I couldn't waste the opportunity as it came very close to me, never concerned about me, just looking down at the field.

As this bird settled in a tree at the back of the field, another came in from the west, and then did exactly the same as the other bird.

As I was watching the Kites I could hear Skylarks in the next field, and as the Kite drifted away I decided to see if I could find them.  I don't think I have managed to get close to a Skylark on the ground around here, and while this is not brilliant, it is a start.

They drop into a field, and then walk through the crops to the nest, so that they can hide and not give away the location of the nest.  As I watched this one it walked off out of sight.

I walked along Lye Way, and just before the turn onto the Bye Way the view looking up Lye Way, was changing into a Spring one.

From the Bye Way I turned onto Charlwood, and headed south towards the path into Plain Farm.  Where the sheep have been grazing the grass was quite short and this was providing good feeding for a Mistle Thrush.

There were also plenty of Blackbirds feeding, and this lovely Song Thrush.

For once the walk along the lane through the farm turned up very little, a Pied Wagtail at the barns, ad plenty of Linnets and Chaffinches being the only birds of note.  Looking across the fields the crops and spring sunshine created a scene of definite contrasting colours.

As I walked down the hill towards the main road two birds flew across in front of me, one sitting up in the hedge.  At firs I thought they might be juvenile Great Tits, but on a closer look I could just see that they were Coal Tits, looking at the picture you can see there is a look of Great Tit about it.

I walked up the hill past the quarry, and then across the field to the pond.  Looking into the Plantation, the leaves of the Silver Birch were being picked out by the sunshine.

At the pond with the attraction of the water, this is a good spot for migrants, and I could see warblers at the back of the pond.  As I watched and waited for them to appear I could sight of a white butterfly coming over the water.  It wasn't just white there were orange tips to the wings.  

On a really cold day as today (when the sun went in I had to put a hat and gloves on, only to take them off when the sun came out again!) I had not expected to see any butterflies, let alone the first Orange Tip of the year.

The underwing is as spectacular as the vibrant orange tips.

The Orange Tip flew off, and I returned to the trees in search of the warblers.  They appeared and I could see that these were in fact Willow Warblers.

It was decision time now, do I go through the estate, or head down the hill and back along Lye Way again.  I decided on heading to Lye Way.  I stopped half way along and sat on a log to eat my lunch.  While sitting there Goldcrests called around me, a Buzzard drifted over and a Raven announced itself with a "gronk" as it flew across the field.

As the Raven flew away I noticed two Brown Hares at the far side of the field.

I t was back to the sheep in the fields around Lye Way farm, but there was still no Wheatear unfortunately.  As I said early a lot of the lambs are very young.  This one though looked like it had just been born, there was no number sprayed on it, and there was still signs of the umbilical cord.  Welcome to the world little one.

From Lye Way I walked alongside the field heading towards Swelling Hill.  A female Kestrel flew from a tree, sending out alarm calls from the song birds.  It flew around the trees, and then out across the field and up onto the power lines.

A little further on I disturbed another Kestrel, this times a male, it headed in the opposite direction towards Andrew Lane.

I walked around Swelling Hill Pond where there was nothing about at all, and then through Old Down Wood where there seemed to be Robins everywhere.  I came out of the wood onto Brislands Land and across the field yet another Red Kite was drifting east towards the village.  From the feathers in the wings this looks like a different bird to those I saw on Lye Way

As I walked along Brislands another warbler flew up in front of me.  At first I thought is was a Willow Warbler, but then it sang, and it could only be a Chiffchaff.

In the  paddock opposite the recreation ground there were a lot of Blackbirds feeding, and this one male Pied Wagtail.

I made my way home, the weather as I suspected had conspired to block anything unusual turning up.  I still haven't found any Whitethroats, they are usually here by now, but there hasn't been any sign of them.  Still I have managed to get some wonderful pictures today, and to hear Cuckoo, and find an early Orange Tip for around here, it wasn't too bad a day.  

Now I was off to meet the newest arrival to the family...Meet Boycie

As a postscript to Saturdays sightings.  On Sunday morning while painting the fence in the garden, suddenly the Starlings got all upset, and started calling along withe Robins and Blue Tits.  Looking up there was a Peregrine drifting over the house.  A little later a Red Kite was being mobbed by a Rook.  Not bad for garden birds!


  1. Your pictures just seem to get better and better. Thanks for all your time and effort in producing this smashing blog of your local patch.

  2. Thanks for your kind comments John


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