Sunday, 26 June 2016

26th June - Look What We Have Done

With weather still awful, and not conducive to getting out, once again the garden turned out to be the focus of attention.  There have been many young birds through this week.  Two juvenile Robins have been fighting for territory underneath the feeders, this competitive approach kicking in already, but this will be important come the winter.

The Blackbirds were busy, this is one of the fluffy male Blackbirds young.

It sits on the fence waiting for the parents to supply food.  Although it has taken an interest in the live mealworms I have bought.

I have seen young Goldfinches using the feeders, and drinking in the bird baths, and there are also a few young House Sparrows that hide themselves away in the trees or the Leylandii hedge.  I was surprised though to see a juvenile Blue Tit using the feeder eating the sunflower hearts.

The House Martins now have young calling from the nests under the eaves, and all the Starlings have fledged.  Twice in the week I have seen the Red Kite drifting over the houses and my garden, its head down and scanning the gardens for scraps.

I tried the moth trap once again, with similar results its previous outings, Hebrew Characters, a Brimstone, a couple of Small Waves and a Buff Tip.  Where are all the Hawkmoths?

With very little about locally, on Saturday I travelled once again out into the county in search of some specialities, you can catch up with the details here.

The week has seen torrential rain and thunderstorms, and the political thunderstorm that is Brexit.  The week ahead weather wise looks much the same with more storms and heavy rain, as for the political forecast it continues to look even more disastrous after the country decided to commit suicide without any consideration for the younger generations in the forlorn hope of "getting our country back".

Weather wise many of the days end after the storms with skies like these as the sun comes out, unfortunately as things stand I see no silver lining politically.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

19th June - Hiding In The Forest, Playing In The Rain

Saturday was still overcast, but at least dry, and quite warm.  I spent most of the day in Holybourne, but in the late afternoon was out in the garden where a Red Kite drifted over, the primaries looking a little worse for wear probably indicating that it was breeding.  A little later alarm calls from the House Martins revealed a Kestrel over the house, the first here for some time.

Sunday saw a brighter morning with breaks in the cloud allowing the sun to shine through, it was still quite warm, and I took the chance to get out for the first time for a while.  However before I got out of the house I stopped to watch a female Siskin on the feeder.  The male has been around all week, but this was the first time I had seen a female.

As I came outside to put my boots on the male Blackbird turned up, perching on the fence, watching me, the feathers as always fluffed up.

I headed along Brislands and there was quite a bit of activity with birds flying across the lane ahead of me.  A Song Thrush sang from the tops of a conifer, and I could also hear the calls of Blue Tits and Goldcrests as they moved through the canopy hidden by the fully grown thick lush green leaves in the oaks.

I turned down Gradwell, and then across towards Old Down Wood.  In the paddocks a pair of Crows were walking through the buttercups.

Crossing into Old Down Wood I had to avoid the spray of a tractor  moving through the field of rye.

Every so often the sun would break through, and I wasn't surprised that the first butterfly I saw was a Speckled Wood.  They always seem to be the first to wake up in the morning, their brown colour making it easier and quicker for them to warm up.

Another brown butterfly came up out of the grass as I walked through the wood.  This was the first Meadow Brown of the year here on the patch.  I followed it around, waiting for it to settle, which finally it did, and it partially opened its wings to show the spot on the upper wing.

I turned off the main path and headed towards the Kitwood entrance, the path was sunlit, and several more Speckled Wood could be seen duelling.  One settled on a leaf and I got down low to get a different view of the this butterfly.

Everything sounded busy, contact calls from the trees above and Wrens busy in the bramble, but every so often taking the time out to rattle off a few bars of song from within the dark of the bramble bushes.

All along the side of the path was an avenue of foxgloves, the purple spikes lining the side of the path.

As I walked past them I could hear the continual buzzing of bees as they moved in and out of the purple bells hanging from the tall spikes.

I turned on to the perimeter path, and was immediately taken by the density of the bramble that has suddenly overtaken all of the ground.  The opening up of the canopy has really given life to this plant, which now seems to be choking everything else that was beneath it.

As I photographed the bramble I noticed I was being watched.  A female Roe Deer was quite close, but as I slowly lifted the camera she decided to turn around and disappear into the bushes.

Calls above me turned out to be the first young Marsh Tits I have seen in the wood.  I guessed that they did breed here, but this was now confirmation.

The perimeter path is now very overgrown, and was difficult to walk.  I checked the field to see if there were any more Roe Deer but there was no sign at all.  As I came into an open patch I came across a group of dancing insects, there was at least 50 plus dancing in the air with one or two settled on the grasses.

This is Nemophora Degeerella, the commonest type of Longhorn moth in the UK, they are called longhorns because the males of this species of moth have the longest antennae of all British moths. Those of the female are much shorter.  They are quite beautifully patterned with bronze and gold markings
In May and June, the males can often be seen in groups, drifting up and down in the sunshine.  Their habitat is damp deciduous woodlands and hedgerows and is quite common over much of England and Wales.

I walked on to the West End, where the footpath has still not be returned.  In fatc people have been walking on the part further away from the side of the field, avoiding the deep ruts produced from the deep ploughing.

Looking out across the field towards the Watercress Line there was a swathe of redaround the outside of the field and up to the railway line.

On the south side of the A31 going through Ropley, the field is completely covered in blood red poppies, and amazing sight.

I turned back and walked along the main path.  I could hear young Buzzards calling from the centre of the wood, I decided not to try and find them, their mewing calls for now sufficient confirmation that once again the Buzzard has raised chicks in the wood.

As I walked up the path I disturbed many Meadow Browns, I counted 62 in total, and they could be seen sharing buttercups, and almost all of them would sit with their wings open.

The first of the year so I am allowed two photographs, but it won't be long until they take on the reputation as the butterfly Woodpigeon

A calling warbler in a Hazel tree, surprisingly turned out to be a Willow Warbler.  While I watched it a single Chiffchaff was calling a little further into the wood.

The only butterflies I saw all day were the two browns, and as I walked out of the wood I disturbed a few more Meadow Browns.  At the entrance to the wood a Goldcrest was very vocal, calling and singing, she had young in the tree along with Blue Tits, so was probably keen to make sure they didn't get mixed up.

I left the wood and headed to the pond, as I approached I could see a young Moorhen on the water eating amongst the lily pads.  I edged closer, knowing that these birds are easily disturbed.

I finally got too clsoe and it turned and moved into the Iris bed.

As I came around the path into the pond I noticed a small bird on the lily pads.  It turned out to be a male Chaffinch, and it was catching insects on the lily pads, hovering at times to catch something.

As I watched the Chaffinch, a Wren appeared on the tree trunk in front of me carrying food for young somewhere in the bushes.

A little further around the pond a Robin was sitting on the bench, just after this it too was flitting across the lily pads chasing insects.

One or two damselfies were on the Iris.  This is a male Azure Damselfly.

From the pond I went to look and see if I could find the Violet Helleborines.  They normally start to emerge in June, flowering in early August.  I found two that had just emerged, the shoots having a purple violet colour, that would probably give them their name.  When they flower in August they are more or less green.

I took the footpath from Kitwood that goes through Homestead farm, as it came out into the fields I could hear the calls of small birds once again.  This time they belonged to Great Tits, but were difficult to see and photograph, the adult being very busy moving through the bush.

The fields were full of high grass and a few buttercups, and if left would be good for butterflies later in the month, but I have a horrible feeling the gras will be cut for hay very soon.

I walked down to Hawthorn Lane, and crossed and started up the footpath.  The filed was full of Starlings with several young birds on the fence begging to the parents for food.

Seeing the parent feed this young bird, one of its siblings decided to join it on the post, the two nibbling away at each other.

Then two became three as another joined the two birds.  They sat waiting for the adult to return.

As I walked up the path there were young Starlings and House Sparrows begging for food from their parents, every so often small groups of Starlings would fly out across the field and circle around before settling back in the bushes.

In the field before the garden centre a Swallow was sitting on the wires above the field once again.

I walked through the garden centre car park, and then took the footpath to Blackberry Lane.  As I left the road and onto the footpath I heard a Wren calling, and stopped to see an adult bird with three juvenile birds close by.  One bird was sitting on a Bramble branch, and I waited with the camera to see if the adult would feed it.  But as I stood there with the camera up a dog walker pushed past me and disturbed all of the Wrens, so all I manged to get was this picture of the young bird waiting to be fed.

The clouds were now getting quite thick, and the sunshine had gone, probably for good.  I made my way home along the footpath and then down through Reads Field.

Over night I had put the moth trap out, on the thinking that in the middle of June there would be a good chance of something good.  This morning though all I found were several Buff Ermine, four Sebaceous Hebrew Characters, a single Diamond Back Moth that flew off as I tried to photograph it.  The one interesting moth was the first Buff Tip of the year, and I took it from the trap and placed it on the dead wood I have at the bottom of the garden.  When I came back I decided to see if it was still there, and it was using the incredible camouflage to protect it.  It looks like a piece of bark or twig lying amongst the old wood.

Good to get out, with quite a bit of interest to see.  By mid afternoon the rain had moved in.  The forecast for the week is not great, but with the chance it will warm up and possibly dry out by the end of the week.

Friday, 17 June 2016

17th June - Tickly Under There?

More rain again overnight and early in the morning.  At dawn now there are hardly any singing birds of note.  What can be heard is interestingly the same bird that is probably the one that is first to sing at the start of the year, a Song Thrush.  This individual has been heard singing early in the morning, and through the day and into the evening.  The song is delivered typically from a Silver Birch, the Thrush taking the highest point.  The thrush taking the opportunity to preen.

But after that into the song once again, it standing out now like it would in January due to the fact that no other birds are singing.

The birds were busy on the lawn this morning, with the first young Starlings appearing with their parents, begging to be fed.  The male Blackbird was also busy the the rain having softened the lawn once again.  As it searched the grass it would also take the time to chase off any other Blackbird that came close.

Despite the rain the feathers didn't look to bad this morning.

It had probably got wet this morning but had a rather novel way of drying out the feathers by sun bathing on the dry patio slabs that had been warmed up and dried out by the sun when it arrived.

It is interesting to follow the progress of this Blackbird, it look awful when its wet, but doesn't seem to be hindered and is doing so well.  

Thursday, 16 June 2016

16th June - One Step, Two Step...

The weather has continued to be awful, heavy showers and dark overcast skies.  I had hoped to get out one evening but the weather decided it had other plans.  This morning watching the garden I saw the partially leucistic male House Sparrow singing from the roof top opposite.

You can see the white flecks on the head, and the white plumage on the chest and the belly where this would normally be grey with black flecks coming down from the black under the bill.

A Snow Sparrow?  It really stands out from the other male birds when they are alongside each other.

As well as the House Sparrows there has been a male Siskin still visiting the feeders and the bird bath, this is the first time I have seen them in June

From the House Sparrow I turned my attention to the Foxgloves we planted a few weeks ago.  I am sure that the Foxgloves are putting on a good show in the woods, but as yet haven't had the chance to check them so far this month.

Our Foxgloves though were the centre of attention from a few Bumblebees

Even through the rain we could see the bees moving in and out of the bells, so these Foxgloves look to be an invaluable addition to the garden.

There seems to be a definite increase in the number of House Martins around the houses in Reads Field, and they are continually buzzing low over the houses and garden.  A challenge then.

Sometimes hanging just below the eaves where there are nests, then just dropping at speed and twisting and turning.

They also interact in the air, calling and flying close together.  Not the sharpest of shots, but does demonstrate the speed at which they can twist and turn, while chattering away to each other

Lets hope that the weather is a little more amiable at the weekend, and that I get the chance to get out, I am sure there will have been some changes.  But for now I have to make do with the garden, and the last day of the web cams on Springwatch.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

12th June - Hangin' Around Nothing To Do But Frown

Yesterday I was in Dorset, the weather behaved and it was a great day in many ways, you can find out about it here.  This morning though the rain came, and it arrived in style, and stayed with us for most of the day stopping me from getting out.  I had hoped to look for Roe Deer families, but that will have to wait.  Overnight I had decided to put the moth trap out, sultry weather with very little wind, perfect conditions.  But with the morning rain it looked a little bit of a mistake.  I did manage to get some moths though, but really nothing like I had hoped for.

These were the pick of the lot, a Peppered Moth, always a good one to see, with its beautiful black and white markings.

A Coronet

And a Varied Coronet.

A more plainer L-Stripe Wainscot

And finally a Willow Beauty.

Lets hope over the coming weeks as we move into the peak moth season the haul improves and we can get some of those spectacular hawk-moths.

Over the last few weeks we have noticed one particular male Blackbird that has a very strange appearance.  The chest and belly feathers seem to be very fluffy, if that is the right word, but I can't think of any other way to describe it.  This morning though the rain had not been kind and the poor old Blackbird was having a very bad hair day.

Fortunately later in the afternoon when the rain had eased and there had been a little bit of sunshine his feathers had dried out, and he was looking a little bit better.

While it doesn't look to be very comfortable for the bird it doesn't seem to have impaired him, and he has gone about his duties all the same.  Their are the calls of young birds about, and he is doing his bit in collecting food.  Hopefully the moult will put things right.

Some other interesting behaviour was a female Blackbird, maybe his mate, who had caught a slug.  Rather than just take it away, she was rolling it on the patio slab.  She did this with her bill turning the slug over quite a few times before taking away.

I can only guess she was doing this to take the unpleasant slime off the slug, that probably doesn't taste too good.

Another breeding bird in the garden that was enjoying the rain were the Starlings, they were probing the lawn looking for leatherjackets, the larvae of the Daddy Long-legs that turn up as flying adults in the autumn.

The Starlings do this by pushing their bills into the grass, and opening the bill to move the soil and allow the tongue to feel for the grubs

They are very successful, removing the grubs that destroy the lawn, and at the same time providing welcome food to the noisy young up in the roof just outside my bedroom.

Pulling it out of the lawn

Tossing it about to get the position right.

Then taking off to the nest and those hungry mouths.

The starling in summer looks a really lovely bird, the petrol colours in the feathers looking beautiful on a very dreary morning.

This one is the male, it has a bluish flush on the lower mandible.  Beautiful bird.

Hopefully the weather will improve in the week and then I get the chance to get into the woods to look for the deer this week, we will just have to see.