Saturday, 31 December 2016

31st December - 2016 Another Year Around Four Marks

Once again another year comes to a close, my fifth recording the natural world around Four Marks.  There have been further challenges this year, more houses going up, the completion of the estate behind Brislands, and more worrying the disappearance of the field edge strips, and constant cutting of meadows and grass.

Through the year I managed 82 species of bird this year, but with no new additions to the lifetime list.  I did though manage a new butterfly, a Green Hairstreak, and a record number of Painted Lady sightings.  These are the highlights:

The mild weather was responsible for the Song Thrushes being in song from the start of the year.  A Grey Wagtail turned up along Brislands, while there was a singing Firecrest in Swellinghill.  In the fields along Brislands there were large gatherings of winter thrushes, with 500 Fieldfare and 100 Redwing.  A new garden visitor was a Red Kite that was seen frequently drifting over the houses in search of a snack or two.  

The month continued with stormy and mild weather, as a result many of the resident birds were in song.  A pair of Stonechat were at Plain Farm late in the month, and Lapwings could be seen displaying over the fields.  Tawny Owls were calling during the early jours a sign that they had started breeding.  And the for the fifth year "Morris" the Tawny Owl was in the same tree in Old Down

With Spring not far away the weather turned to winter.  As a result both the early spring migrant birds and the butterflies were late arriving, the first Chiffchaff not until the 22nd.  The rookeries were very busy, with a record number of nests in Alton Lane.  Brown Hares were about late in the month too, with young leverets being seen at the end of the month.  Frog spawn was seen on the 13th, but with the dry cold weather all the pools dried up

The start of the month saw snow showers and overnight frost, spring definitely on hold.  Chiffchaffs finally started to sing on the 10th, and there was a small influx of Willow Warblers on the 19th not a usual occurrence here.  Butterflies were also difficult to find, there had been some sightings of Small Tortoiseshell and Brimstone, but the first Orange Tip was not until the 23rd.  The bluebells once again put on a wonderful show in Old Down at the end of the month.

Cow Parsley and Bracken started to dominate the village lanes.  I finally managed to find a Whitethroat, late this year, on the 19th.  The stand out bird of the year was a Tree Pipit found around the Mountains Plantation on the 24th.  Two Firecrests were singing in Old Down, where the bluebells lasted until the middle of the month.  the butterfly highlight of the month was a Holly Blue the first for a few years.

Highlight of the month was a new butterfly for the patch, a Green Hairstreak in Old Down Wood on the 5th.  I could find any Roe Deer kids this year, and in fact Roe Deer sightings have been very low this year.  Juvenile Siskins were on the feeders in my garden, the first I have seen here.  In Old Down Wood the bluebells were replaced by towering spires of pink foxgloves.  Spotted Flycatchers were seen at the pond with a juvenile, the first recorded breeding here.

The weather performed like summer this month with high temperatures and plenty of sunshine.  However a lot of the grassland and meadows flowers had been cut, the result of this being that I couldn't find either Common Blue or Small Copper butterflies.  On the 2nd two Swifts were over the garden, a rare bird around here.  The first of this year's record Painted Lady sightings was at Plain Farm on the 7th.

Swallows and House Martins gathered over the fields towards the end of the month.  My garden feeders were constantly occupied by Goldfinches, Greenfinches, and Siskins, however there was to be a dark side to this later in the year.  At Swelling Hill Pond Southern Hawker and Red-eyed Damselfies were present.

The month started hot and dry and produced two Wheatear at Plain Farm, and more Spotted Flycatchers in Old Down.  At the pond there were plenty of Common Darters, and Southern Hawkers, while in the gardens migrant Red Admiral and Painted Ladies were to be seen on the buddleia.

It was a dry and bright month, and once again Painted Ladies and Red Admiral could be seen taking advantage of the buddleia flowers in the gardens.  The last House Martins and Swallows were about mid month, while Chiffchaffs stayed throughout the month.  A Peregrine was along Lye Way, following the Woodpigeons on the 12th. Unfortunately in a year when Yellow-browed Warblers were everywhere, there were no sightings around Four Marks.  Unfortunately an outbreak of Trichomonosis in my garden persisted through the month, and I was forced to take in all the feeders, I had found several dead Goldfinches and Greenfinches.

My walks were much reduced in November.  The highlight though was a Red Admiral, my latest record in the garden on the 11th, ending an excellent year for this butterfly.  Tawny Owls were regularly calling in Lymington Bottom, and with the feeders back in the garden Goldfinch numbers increased significantly.

Again dry and cold weather dominated, the highlight was at the end of the month with record numbers of Fieldfare with in excess of 1000 being in the fields along Lye WAy.  With them were over 500 Redwing.  Golden Plover were also present, again with over 300 birds about.

I hope you can all enjoy this year's collection of photographs put to music.

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