Monday, 30 May 2016

29th May - Born With The Moon In Cancer

The sun had returned yesterday but along with a fresh northerly breeze,  This morning there was a lot more coud about, and it felt a little cool as I set out late in the morning.  After the sun yesterday I was hoping for some butterflies today, and as I walked along Brislands there were signs that the sun might be out soon.

Ahead of me in the road was a Robin, that was then joined by another.  It then came clear that the two were not a pair as the first bird started to posture towards the other bitd by thrusting its red breast out.

The exchange became a little more heated as the birds moved to the hedge where they both tried to get the higher position.  I am not sure which bird succeeded as it was difficult to tell them apart as they moved against each other.

I left them to it and walked along Brislands heading out into the open fields.  Skylarks sang on either side of me, and every so often I would hear the chatter of a Swallow as it flew back and forth across the lane.

The Cow Parsley is now fully out, and the bracken is reaching its height, the fronds unrolling like alien creatures looking great against the merged background of the field and wood.

As I reached the entrance to the wood alarm calls alerted me to a Buzzard that came out of the tree and circled above me.

It was sad to see a fly tipped divan bed by the side of the road, why do people do this?  I walked into the wood, then out through a gap to walk just outside.  Swallows were flying low over the field, and would drop down to pick up bits of straw.  

A whistle in front of me alerted to a bird flying up to the trunk of an Oak tree.  It was quick and all I could manage was a record shot of a Treecreeper carrying food.

I turned onto the perimeter path, and flushed a butterfly from the path.  Fortunately it did settled back down and I was able to get my first Speckled Wood picture of the year.

From the perimeter path I crossed onto one of the newer paths that have recently been created by the forestry work. and as I passed the conifers and pines I heard a Garden Warbler singing.  The song is a lot more scratchy than that of a Blackcap, and I just managed a glimpse of it as it sang in the middle of a bush before it flew off.  No photograph, but definitely a Garden Warbler.

I had made my way through bramble and nettles to get as close as I could, and as I turned away there was some consolation in the Silver Ground Carpet, a day flying moth.

I was now close to the main path that leads to the West End so I scrambled my way through the nettles and then turned on it towards the west end of the wood.  I then walked down through the paddocks hoping that the buttercups and clover we had seen last week may be attracting butterflies in what was now quite warm sunshine.  As I approached the field it was clear it had been cut, and there was nothing in the field.  On the other side of the path Swallows and House Martins were flying low through the long grass hawking for insects.

I decided to turn around and go back through the wood.  As I entered I could hear the piping whistle of  a Bullfinch, and in the thick green cover it was very difficult to see.  Every so often I would see a movement, but the bird was giving me the run around.  Finally I managed to get a good view, it was a male, worth the effort.

I headed up the main path disturbing a Red Admiral from the path, and a little further along I came across another Speckled Wood.

Speckled Woods proved to be the most numerous butterfly I saw today, with me counting ten in the wood.  The only other butterfly I saw was a Large White.

I turned onto the path to walk to the pond.  Stopping at the clearing by the Beech tree movement in the bramble caught my eye and I went over to get close to a Carder Bee.  As I walked up I disturbed an Azure Damselfly from the leaves.  Again I was lucky it settled back down.  From the colour this looks like an immature male.

The Bee was still there after I turned away from the Azure.  It was very interested in the early bramble flowers.

I left the wood and walked to the pond.  The Irises are just beginning to flower, the yellow petals standing out against the darkness of the water.

In around the Iris were several Damselflies.  I managed to see one Large Red but it wouldn't settle.  The most numerous though were the Azures with at least half a dozen.  The were active but did eventually settle on the leaves.

These were definitely adult males.

From the pond I walked down to the meadow on the corner at Kitwood.  As I climbed the style I saw a large grey bird in the taller grass.  I was able to get quite close to a Mistle Thrush that was occupied in collecting food, probably for nestlings somewhere close by.

As I crossed the field I was amazed by the profusion of white hawthorn blossom that dominated the view across the field.  It seemed as if very bush was covered in white.

I walked through the wood hoping that maybe there might be a Spotted Flycatcher about.  It is this time of year that one at least seems to turn up here.  Unfortunately it looks like this year they are not going to oblige though, as the wood as I walked through was very quiet.

Coming out of the wood and crossing the field towards Gradwell, again I was taken by the amount of Hawthorn blossom, the white May flowers contrasting with the pale blue of the sky.

It was just after midday and as I walked home there was little about.  I hadn't found the butterflies I had hoped for, but I did manage to see a Garden Warbler, the first for the year on the local patch.  May is nearly over, the trees other than the Ash are all in full leaf and everywhere look so wonderfully green.  June will bring a quiet spell, and the time to look for specialties like Roe Deer families and hopefully plenty of butterflies.

On the subject of butterflies on the last day of the Bank Holiday we went out in search of some to the west of the county, and didn't do too badly despite the loud and cool wind

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

24th May - Whack! Me Doo-dy Do

Since Sunday the weather has been dry, but a lot fresher with a north westerly wind, some sunshine and large cumulus clouds.  As I made my way home this afternoon the cloud cover was increasing, and the hope for a walk in the late afternoon sunshine was fading, but when I parked at the bottom of the footpath leading up onto the Estate the sun did decide to come out.

I scanned the rough ground close to the road in the hope of maybe finding some Spotted Orchids, but all I could see were the remains of this year's Cowslips, a reminder that we were now well into spring.  I walked up the hill towards the pond with Skylarks singing, and the grass very much longer than when I last visited here.

At the pond I disturbed two drake Mallard, and they flew off spraying me with water as they burst from the pond.  I waited to see if there were any sign of the year's first Damselflies, but apart from a sing Blackbird everything was very quiet.

Leaving the pond I headed down the footpath towards the quarry.  As I reached the gate that leads to the road I came across what I thought at first was a day flying moth, but when it settled it did so just like a butterfly with its wings held closed and upright.  On closer inspection, I could see that it was in fact a moth.

Back home I have been able to identify the moth as a Bordered White.  The male and female are very different, the males having a white or yellow ground colour, bordered with black, and the females a more subdued variation of the pattern, in yellowish and brown.

This looks like a lighter version, and probably a female,  yellow form tends to occur in the south, the white forms further north, but there is some gradation.

Flying in May and June, the species inhabits coniferous woodland, close to where I found it is a substantial copse of Larch and Pine.

I crossed the road and headed up through Plain Farm.  There were House Sparrows in the hedge surrounding the farmhouse, and amongst the barns plenty of Woodpigeon.  It was one of the latter that I thought was sitting on the roof of the cattle shed as I walked up the hill, but a closer look revealed it not to be.

Yet another Red-legged Partridge on a roof, strange behaviour but becoming a lot more common.  Maybe it affords them the opportunity for a better look out, but they seem to like the elevated position.

I carried on past the cattle barns where a couple of Pied Wagtails were chasing flies on the roof, and then up and past the cottages.  A little further along the path I heard a snippet of song that had so far eluded me on the patch, and looking along the hedge I saw the owner of the scratchy notes singing from the wires running above the hedge.

At last a Whitethroat, admittedly I have not been around this area since the 23rd April, but I would have expected to have come across one in some of the other locations I have been to since then.  

It continued to sing and fly up as part of the display as I watched.

Leaving the Whitethroat proudly declaring its territory, I walked on with Yellowhammers on both sides of the path, and also a few Linnets too.  A Bullfinch burst from the hedge as I reached the end of the path, and I watched it fly away from me, its white rump standing out against the distant grey clouds

At the start of the footpath I walked a short way into the field to see whether the path across the fields was there, it was and I decided that I would walk to the end of the footpath at Charlwood, and then come back and cross the field on my way back to the car.  As I turned to walk to the path once again I flushed a single Grey Partridge from the cover close to the path, and I watched it fly across the field and settle in long grass on the far side.

There were plenty of Yellowhammer in the bushes, and several Song Thrush singing in the scrub.  In fact one Song Thrush was singing quite quietly, and at first I thought I was hearing a Sedge Warbler.  As I reached the end of the path a Brown Hare came into view close to the edge of the field, it then settled down in the grass, but raised its head as I approached closer.

It then shot off out of sight, and I walked to the fallen tree, where I found it again on the edge of the field.

It then became clear that there were two, and they chased each other out of this field, and around the corner and out of sight.  I walked to the edge of the field and found them again, one sitting nicely for me just on the edge of the crops.

The first good views of Brown Hare this year,

I left the Hares and walked back down the path.  The Yellowhammers had moved from the bushes up on to the wires and were a little more approachable.

I turned onto the footpath and headed off towards the main road.  On either side of me Skylarks were singing, and I eventually found one of them against the white clouds, and it came closer as it dropped from its lofty position back down to the ground.  All the way it never stopped singing.

The first part of the path goes through rough ground with a substantial amount of weed growth, but on the far side there was a patch that had been cleared and ploughed.  In this area stood a single Lapwing.

Then above me there was the wheezy drawn out whistle of a Lapwing, and I looked up to see another bird flying above me in that lazy but controlled manner, clearly it was not happy I was here.

I stayed on the path, and was about 100 metres from the rough ground where I i had seent he first bird, but  this was it seemed too close for the Lapwings, and both birds were now flying around calling.

The bird is sometimes known by the name that resembles their call, the Peewit, but it is the black and white appearance and the round winged shape of the wings in flight that give it the more familiar name of Lapwing.  In display they give a masterly performance of acrobatics, but these flying skills were also evident as they continued to monitor my position as I walked along the path.

The two Skylarks I had seen earlier were now joined by at least ten other birds, they were rising out of the weeds singing almost in unison.

As I walked across the field the song of the skylark was all around me, along with the now distant calls of the Lapwing that continued to circle the area.

The last time I was here the Gamekeeper assured me that the path would be laid out, and he was true to his word.  A decent wide path stretched out in front of me, the crops having been killed to ensure the walking was easy.

As you can see the path goes through a copse of trees, and in the distance is the Mountains Plantation.  As I came out of the trees into the next field there was another Brown Hare at the side of the field on my right.

While to my left two more sprinted away up the hill and  out of sight.

The clouds were now starting to break up, and there was some evening sunshine to enjoy.  Away to the left just beyond the path that leads up to the Estate and House the greens in the many different trees, shrubs and crops looked quite splendid.

All though despite the idyllic scene it was not all calm and quiet, a Chinook helicopter was flying low over the area beyond the A32, not something unusual as they head away towards Frensham Common for exercises, but this one continued to fly around in almost circles as if looking for something, the noise and vibration being quite intense.

On reaching the car I decided to scan the area once more, checking the distant trees and across the field.  The Chinook was still around and every so often cars would pass me at speed.  But in between these periods of intense noise as it quietened down I could hear a bird song that stood out from the rest.  I took the time to keep listening between the bouts of traffic, and after a few more bursts realised that it was the song of a Tree Pipit, but where was it, and how far away.

I have seen Tree Pipit on the patch once before, it was in July 2014, and in the same place, but that was a fleeting glimpse after hearing the song once again.  I wanted to get a better look, and hopefully some photographs.  It seemed as if the song was coming from above me, there is a Pine tree and Oak by the cattle grid, the Pine tree though seemed the best bet.  Then a bird flew into the hawthorn bush in front of me, and there it was.

It had something on its beak, but I think this was just a result of feeding, I did not think there were young to feed close by.  It stayed in the middle of the bush singing quietly, and looking around.

It looks very similar to the resident Meadow Pipits we have on the patch, but the Tree Pipit is a true summer visitor, with the first birds returning from sub-Saharan Africa in late March and the bulk of passage taking place from mid-April to mid-May. As its name suggests, it is associated much more with trees than is Meadow Pipit, although it must be remembered that the latter can land in the tops of trees and bushes, particularly when flushed. But Tree Pipits habitually use trees for both singing and feeding, when they may walk up and down the branches searching for food, constantly wagging their tails as they do so.  This  one moved through the Hawthorn and came more out into the open.

In fresh summer plumage the Tree Pipit shows rich buff tones to the face and breast, which the Meadow Pipit lacks, having instead a colder buff background colour to the face and underparts. Most significant is that Tree Pipit has only fine streaking on the flanks. This means that it looks as though the underpart streaking is confined to a broad band across the rich orange-buff breast and this contrasts with a whiter belly. Meadow Pipit’s breast streaking extends quite noticeably down the flanks.  

The song as well is distinctively different, while similar to start with the Tree Pipit the final far carrying flourish  may suggest the song of Chaffinch, and this phase of the song is often the first indication of the presence of a distant Tree Pipit, it was indeed this that caught my ear between the drone of the helicopter and the passing cars.

Tree Pipits are characteristically birds of heathland, forest clearings and young forestry plantations, with scattered trees and bushes usually being a requirement.  I have seen them at Noar Hill close to here, and have always suspected that they could be found here, and Gilbert White writing in 1773 knew of these birds around Selborne, but referred to them then as just Titlarks

So I ended up going home quite pleased with myself, I had finally managed to catch up with this year's elusive bird, the Whitethroat, managed some great views of Brown Hare, and found a singing Titlark that very obligingly provided some lovely photographs.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

22nd May - For We Won't Be The Young Ones For Very Long.

Listening to the forecast on Friday it seemed the weekend would be a wash out, but rain coming late yesterday allowed us to finish the work we had to do, and then blue sky and some warm sun this morning meant we had the chance to get out for a walk.  As we got ourselves sorted out in the garden, on the TV aerial opposite the partially white House Sparrow was chirping away and telling everyone this was his territory.

Walking along Brislands I remarked on how much the hedgerow and verge had grown up over the last few days.  As we reached the turn to Gradwell alarm calls rang out as a male Sparrowhawk zipped past in front of and then headed up the footpath under the cover of the trees.  As we turned down Gradwell the alarm calls continued.

We crossed towards Old Down, and in the field a Small White flew past us settling on the shoots of the crop sown in the field.

In the wood it was so different, everywhere was a lovely green, even the cones on the Larch were a gorgeous sagey green.

Chiffchaff, Chaffinch and Robin were singing close by, away in the distance we could hear Song Thrush and Blackbirds.  As we walked along the main path a Great Spotted Woodpecker called close by, and we stopped to watch it work its way through the branches.

A male bird, and from its condition it would seem it has a nest close by.  As we walked on, a Cuckoo called away in the distance, probably from the area around the back of the pond.  This was the second bird of the year for me.

A little way along the path a Blackcap sang from the Oak tree, and then showed briefly.

In this area the butterflies drift past on either side of the open path, a Large White settled on one of the few remaining Bluebells.

We walked along the main path, then turned down the path towards the Kitwood entrance.  We checked the tree for the owl, but there was no sign of it.  We followed the perimeter path, and then came out on the main path, and turned right heading for the crossroads.

Another white butterfly flew past us, setting in the bramble.  This was a lot smaller and getting low I could see the lovely green pattern on the underwing of a female Orange Tip.

Turning towards the West End, the Bracken close to the path was just beginning to unfold, against the background of the Beech Trees looked wonderful.

Another feature of the Beech woods around this part of the wood is the wispy grass that grows on the edge of the wood providing a lovely contrast to the darkness created by the heavy Beech canopy.

A little further on a strange shape in the grass caught my attention, it could have been a "Y" shaped branch, but it turned out to be the ears of a Roe Deer doe.

She had seen us before we saw her, and she watched as we walked to a better viewing area.

Maybe she has young somewhere, or maybe she is just a young female, a first year.  She watched us as we watched her, then she turned and lept away into the darkness of the wood.

The path that leads towards the West End is always a good spot at this time of the year for Orange Tips, and there were plenty about this morning in the warm sunshine.

The main plant of interest was the Wild Carrot, and there were lots of males and females, and every so often they would tangle and then settle down together.

We came out of the wood and headed through the Desmond Paddocks.  The bottom field was full of buttercups and daisies with also a few clover flowers coming through.  There were several crows in the field walking through the flowers.

We crossed and headed up Andrews Lane.  Looking across the paddocks it was a very quintessential English Spring scene.

A little further on, the call of a Buzzard alerted us to one just above us, the wings being caught by the sunshine, making them semi translucent.

At the last house several House Martins were flying around the trees and bushes, but apart from that there was little else about.  The lambs at the top of the path have grown up but were still following their mothers around in the field.

As we left the top of the field and headed towards Lye Way Farm a small butterfly caught my attention.  At first I thought it was another female Orange Tip but once I got on it with binoculars I could see that it was a pale blue.  It flew high into the nearby tree, and I assumed it must have been a Holly Blue.

We made our way towards Lye Way Lane and I was hoping to find my first Whitethroat of the year, they haven't been in their usual places so far this year.  As we walked through the farm yard, the Horse Chestnuts looked splendid with the candles standing out, and they were also a big attraction to bees that we could hear everywhere.

A Yellowhammer sang away in the distance, and a Linnet sat on the wires above us as we walked along Lye Way towards Kitwood.

The field to our right was in full bloom the yellow of the Rapeseed looking amazing and contrasting the industrial view of the pylons.

Coming onto Kitwood we took the road at the top, but with very little about to set the pulses racing.  There was no sign of the hoped for Whitethroats.  We took the path up towards the Garden Centre.  As we crossed the last field above us we could hear the chatter of Swallows sitting on the wires.

We stopped off at the Garden Centre for a drink, then headed home across the field.  As we came down the path towards Reads Field we stopped at the sound of the many calls of Long-tailed Tits in the trees.  It turned out it was a family party, the young ones calling incessantly.  They look so different at this age lacking the facial marking and a very distinctive red eye.

They then started to give some very good views.

Yes it is that time of year, plenty of ahhs.

The sun had now gone, the clouds had rolled in, and there was the threat of rain as we walked home.  It was a pleasant walk, nothing spectacular, but with the usual moments of interest.