Coming out into the open fields a large mixed flock of Meadow Pipits, Skylarks and Yellowhammers flew across the road, and continued to loop around me all calling as they bobbed up and down.
As well as the small birds the stubble in the field was a big attraction to the corvids, and there was the sound of Jackdaws calling consistently.
At the entrance to Old Down there was a large pile of cattle muck, and enjoying it were several Blackbirds and a few Song Thrushes, one of which flew up to the tree above my head.
I had expected to hear a Song Thrush singing, they have been early over the last few years, but this year it seems to cooler weather has kept them quiet. I expect though to hear them singing very soon.
There was still frost on the stubble as I looked out across the open field.
As I walked into Old Down it was very quiet, away in the distance there was the song of a Robin, and every so often the contact calls of Blue Tits as they foraged in the trees above. This one was working its way through the lichen.
The lichen hides tiny insects and spiders, and the Blue Tit eases them out with its bill.
I walked through the wood and checked the conifer for any signs of the Tawny Owl, but it was empty, probably just a little bit too early yet.
Coming out onto the main path I could hear birds in the tree tops, there was a large flock of Goldfinches. I searched through them in hope of something a little more rare, but could see anything.
There were calling Dunnocks and Wrens from the bracken, and away in the middle of the wood I could hear the raucous call of a Jay. Coming out of the wood I disturbed a male Bulfinch that flew up into one of the bushes. A little bit distant, but unmistakable with the cherry red breast.
At the pond the water was frozen, two Mallard were walking around the outside on the bank, and the low sun was reflecting off the ice.
In the surrounding trees two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were quarrelling, then one started drumming, this was quite early and it must have been enjoying the sunshine despite the frost and frozen lake
From the pond I headed off towards Lye Way. In the hedge was another Robin, watching for any morsel of food that could appear in the mud and leaves by the side of the road. Here the sunlight was just catching the feathers.
A Buzzard was in the field and it flew up to the surrounding trees. Scanning further I noticed many small birds in the field, looking closer I could see that these were Fieldfare and Redwings. I estimated 750 Fieldfare, and at least 250 Redwing.
Here is a small shot of the thrushes spread out across a huge field.
As well as the thrushes there were three more Buzzards, probably catching earthworms something that were also attracting the thrushes.
We walked through the farm, and around towards Lyeway Lane. In the field to the west there were at least 54 Common Gulls of varying ages.
There were more Redwing also with the sheep and this little first winter female Pied Wagtail making the most of some sheep deposits.
As I was watching the thrushes I thought I had heard the call of a Golden Plover, as I walked along the lane towards Charlwood I definitely heard them and a huge flock appeared above, the numbers of birds meaning that I could hear the rush of their wings above me.
They flew off and dropped down into the field beyond the sheep field. A little further on I came across another Buzzard feeding around several Mole hills.
I relocated a small flock of Golden Plover in the next field, and as I watched them they were joined but what seemed the rest of the flock.
Although they didn't settle for long and were off again, their calls and the sound of their wings very clear as they flew over me once again.
It was difficult to count them, I estimated at least 300 which would be the largest flock I have seen around here. This time they settled back into the field, and immediately merged into the ground.
I was intending to walk down Charlwood and through Plain Farm, the first time I have been here for quite a while. As I turned down into Charlwood another Robin posed by the side of the road.
In the field behind the horse paddocks in Charlwood was once again full of Thrushes, this time the dominant species was the Redwing with 400 against the 300 Fieldfare. These could not have been the same birds seen in Lyeway as they would have had to fly over me. These then were additional meaning there were over a thousand Fieldfare and nearly a thousand Redwing, record numbers for me here.
The walk though Plain Farm was uneventful, Yellowhammers, Skylarks and Meadow Pipits once again flying over and in the bushes, while Woodpigeons were all in the fields. One contributor to the lack of birds could be the constant sound of gun fire as many Pheasants and Partridge faced the barrage.
I walked along the Ropley Road, and then up the hill to retrace my earlier walk. Passing the open area of bracken there was still frost about despite the sunshine.
Looking along Lyeway there were large patches of frost.
Where there was puddles I disturbed several Chaffinches from a drink, and then came across this very confiding Nuthatch.
As I approached the open fields the Buzzard I had seen earlier around the mole hills flew from the hedge across the field.
I scanned the fields but couldn't see the Golden Plover, then I heard their calls and flock appeared from the field on the other side of the lane.
Flying around again and out over the fields and then back over my head.
The flock gathered together, but I was unable to get them all in the frame. Here there are about two thirds of the flock, and I can count 220, which means my estimate of 300 may have been a little under.
I walked back done Lye Way where the field was empty, no thrushes no buzzards, and then along the hedgerow scouring the ground like a bird of prey came this single Common Gull.
At the junction with Kitwood a Blue Tit was busy searching the branches on an Oak tree, it was so occupied with feeding it paid no attention to me. We forget how pretty these little birds are, with their stunning plumage. If one of these turned up on the east coast of America the North American Birds would be enthralled, but we just pass them by. So now is the time to enjoy them.
Coming past the school a female Bullfinch flew up above me, not as stunning as the male, but at the same time quite a handsome finch.
As I reached Lymington Rise, the Rooks were still about, and one was perched on the wires above me, and stayed there which is very unusual, as they normally fly off at the slightest approach with a camera. Instead I was able to get this lovely portrait of yet another overlooked bird. You can see the bare skin at the base of the bill which helps identify it from the Crow.
This has been my longest walk around the patch for sometime, and it was very enjoyable delivering a year tick in the Golden Plover, and some record numbers of Fieldfare and Redwings. Winter is always a difficult and frustrating time around here. It may very well be that I need to get a different perspective on the countryside here, we shall have to wait and see.