Saturday, 29 October 2016

29th October - Handsome Smile, Wearing Handsome Shoes

We have been away all week, on the south coast in Dorset, details of where we went and what we saw can be found here on the "Away" blog.  The weather was very kind to us, with only one day of rain, and plenty of sunshine.  However returning yesterday at first it was quite cloudy, but slowly the sun did come out, and as a result we were treated to three Red Admirals nectaring on the new buddleia flowers in the garden.

Today though the overcast conditions came with a very light drizzle, probably more of a low mist.  There was hardly any wind, everything being completely still.  The bird feeders have now been down for over a month, and I decided to put them back out, yesterday evening, this morning they were quickly found by the Goldfinches.

There was also a Nuthatch about, although the Robin seemed to feel the feeders were only for him, and it proceeded to chase off anything that came close to them.

We set off for a walk with Louise and Boycie, and as we came around Lymington Rise she mentioned that there might be a cat having taken a bird in one of the gardens.  We walked on to see if we could get a better look, and I just caught sight of movement by the fence.  It definitely wasn't a cat, and as the four of us approached it turned and I could see it was a Sparrowhawk, and was mantling a Woodpigeon.  We were now too close, and it wasn't going to stay around and it immediately flew off with the pigeon before I realised what was going on.

This is the second time I have caught a female Sparrowhawk with a catch, hopefully it will be third time lucky.

We walked on and turned up Brislands, past Gradwell and towards Old Down.  The trees are now in full colour, they have changed a lot earlier this year.  Along the verge the Rosebay Willowherb has gone to seed with the smoke grey seeds contrasting with the golden leaves.

The woods were silent but for the melancholic song of the Robin.  The Beech trees are a lovely golden yellow, and it was a pity there wasn't the warm autumn sunshine to enhance their colour.

I left the Helen, Louise and Boycie to carry on, and took the perimeter path, hopefully to find some fungi, but it would seem this year that they are very much in short supply.  It has been very dry, and the fungi need moist conditions to allow the spores to germinate, we just haven't had these conditions yet.

Looking out from the wood the train on the Watercress Line whistled as it came out of the cover of the trees.

The field has been drilled and there were several flocks of Rooks and Jackdaws searching the ground, and also a few groups of Common Gulls, both adults and first year birds.

I walked to look out over the Desmond Paddocks, a Buzzard was sitting on one of the posts, but was chased off by a couple of Jackdaws.  I headed back into the wood, but turned back as I remembered that the beech tree by the footpath was a good site for Porcelain fungi.  Sure enough on one of the boughs there were a couple of cups forming, and some smaller heads emerging from the bark.

Walking up the path, more Beech trees showed some beautiful colour.

There were plenty of calls around these trees, and I stopped to listen and wait to see what was about.  Two Wrens skulked through the bracken, a Robin sang above me, and in the trees there were Great Tits, Coal Tits and a single Blue Tit.

I could also hear Long-tailed Tits, and a few Goldcrests, but they stayed high in the canopy.  Eventually the flock moved away, heading into the darker parts of the wood.  I walked on to the Crossroads, where I turned towards Swellinghill.  The trees change here, the dominant species now being Sweet Chestnut, the long leaves showing a mixture of green and yellow.

A little further on and there are Oak trees.  These are normally the last trees to lose their leaves, and they don't necessarily have a vibrant colour.

I stopped to check the Larch and Pine trees in the hope of maybe a Redpoll, there were Coal Tits and several Goldcrests, but the only finches present were a small flock of Goldfinches.

I came out of the wood and walked to the pond.  The water was covered in fallen leaves, and in the far corner there was the usual October group of Mallard.  I counted 15, nothing like highest count of previous years but a consistent build up.

On the lawn on the other side of the road there was a small clump of field mushrooms growing amongst the dew covered grass.

A little further along the lane yet another tree in splendid autumn colour, this time a Cherry, the leaves a gorgeous pinkish orange.

I decided to walk back into Old Down across the field, and as I climbed over the style I could see three Roe Deer in the field.  As I got closer they became aware of me, and turned to head into the wood, as they moved away from me I could see the white patches on their rears.

As I walked along Gradwell I could hear the calls of Redwing above me, the "seeep" calls distinctive in the still overcast conditions.  I saw several move over me, but as I turned into Brislands I could see thrushes in a dead tree alongside the lane.  At first there were two Song Thrushes, but soon they were joined by at least four Redwing.

They didn't stick around and soon flew off, leaving me to walk back home hoping that maybe the Sparrowhawk would be there once again, but of course it wasn't.

Autumn is well and truly with us, the colours are lovely, all we need now is just some sunshine and blue skies, tomorrow maybe?

Saturday, 15 October 2016

15th October - No More Plastic Money

Through out the week the winds have been coming from the east, and there has been a stream of rarities and migrants arriving on the east coast.  Friday saw the start of a change in the weather with rain during the evening, and this morning the wind was more southerly, and it felt a little milder.

October is an indifferent month here, usually something of nothing as the trees stay green, but this year due to the dry weather it would seem they are starting to change earlier this year.  Maybe It could bring some surprises

Conditions were overcast with some rain as I set off for Plain Farm, and as a result I decided to drive around Lye Way.  I stopped at the fences, alerted by a lot of gulls flying around, as I got out of the car there were a lot of Black-headed and Common Gulls in the field.  As I reached for the camera and binoculars the gulls all took to the air, and out on the field a pair of male pheasants were scurrying away towards the hedges.

I looked out towards the pylons and saw what at first I almost dismissed as a Woodpigeon, but there was something about the rapid wing beats that it was maybe something else.  It flew up to the pylon, and then I knew that it was a Peregrine Falcon.  It perched up at the top of the pylon, and scanned across the field, while behind it the gulls circled around.

Both sides were under scrutiny.

Then it dropped off the perch and flew back away from me

It flew to the next pylon.

Settling again at the top.

October has been the month to see Peregrine here regularly over the last few years, it can be no coincidence that this is also the time when the large flocks of Woodpigeon start to congregate.

The gulls regrouped, but decided to leave the field and crossed the road the field on the other side.

I left and made my way to the farm where I parked at the cattle grid and then walked up the hill.  As I passed the Yew tree I could hear Goldcrests and Coal Tits, but despite waiting they never showed preferring to stay in the cover of the dense yew trees.

Further up the path I could see a Kestrel using the wires across the field as a perch to search for prey.

Two falcons could this be a good raptor day.

I stopped at the pond but there was only a couple of Chaffinches present.  From there I walked down the main path towards the Beech avenue.  I could hear Mistle Thrush calling, and managed to locate them at the top of the birch trees.

As I walked along the avenue several Chiffchaff called but again I couldn't find them.  In the Autumn the numbers of Chiffchaff increase as migrant bird swell the local birds.  In complete contrast we never see Blackcap or Whitethroat coming through, the resident birds disappearing in August.

As if to confirm my thoughts about why the Peregrine was seen today a large flockl of Woodpigeon burst out of the Beech trees.

Another bird with increased numbers was the Blackbird, they seemed to be everywhere, but despite some close inspection I couldn't manage to turn any of them into Ring Ouzels.  This female sat in the middle of the hedge clucking away.

By the barns the House Sparrows were chirping away, some from the middle of th hedge while others like this male were happy to show themselves.

As I walked up the hill I noticed that another barn was being constructed, that will be good news for the Pied Wagtails, more roof space to run around on.

The Bull and his friend were enjoying some fresh hay as I passed, the way the hay fell from its mouth reminded me of a beard, the Bull of ZZ Top.

At the cottages I walked around the bushes, again there were plenty of Blackbirds and several agitated Wrens in the Ivy.

Overhead were several Skylarks, despite the fact that they were calling they seemed to be resident birds and not migrants moving through.

The wires here run just over the hedges, and the birds come from the hedge to the wires.  There were Linnets and Yellowhammers plus a few House Sparrows, then on its on I noticed a slightly larger and sandier bird.  It was a Reed Bunting.  Having seen several in the New Forest last week I did wonder if I could find one here today, so was pleased to see it sitting there on the wire, the first of the year.

Past the cottages along the footpath there were a lot of Yellowhammers on both sides.

Rather than walk around Charlwood I decided to head back the way I had come, however there was not the birds about that I had hoped for, this Robin being the best opportunity for a photograph.

As I came past the barns and stables a Red Kite drifted past me on the far side of the field.

As it came up over the trees another came out of the tree calling.  I can only assume that this was a juvenile pursuing the parent in the hope of food.

Past the drying barns a large flock of Long-tailed Tits were calling in the Poplars.  There were several opportunities as they perched out in the open, this was the best of quite a few.

Coming down the hill a Buzzard flew across towards the Mountains Plantation, the fourth raptor of the day, and then a Kestrel low over the field imitating a Merlin!

I walked along the road back to the car, and in the fields the Pheasants were gathering close to the edge of the road.  They have been everywhere today, do they not know that it is the season to be shot!

So quite an eventful morning, some great views of Peregrine for once, not just a flash as it passes through, three more raptors and the first Reed Bunting of the year.  It would be nice to find one of those Yellow-browed Warblers but there is still time.

Sunday, 9 October 2016

9th October - And Kingdoms Rise, And Kingdoms Fall

Yesterday I spent the morning at RSPB Arne, and the afternoon watching Ring Ouzels in the New Forest.  The weather was showery yesterday, but this morning it daned clear and bright, and as I set off in lovely sunshine the hope was that maybe the many Ring Ouzels that have come through the county over the last few days could be feeding on the berries around Four Marks.  My thoughts were encouraged as I heard the first Redwing of the autumn call overhead.

Coming down Lymington Rise I noticed a pair of Goldfinches feeding at the top of the birch tree.

The feeders have had to come in again in my garden, I just can't seem to get rid of the diseases, and sick birds can still be seen.  I suppose if other feeders are still out locally the birds will just transmit the disease there, when feeding away from my garden.  Maybe we need some cold frosts to kill off the virus.

As I turned into Brislands a Skylark flew over calling, and in the conifers I could hear Goldcrests.

The Roe Deer pair have been around all week in the same field, and this morning theey were once again lying down in the sunshine dozing.

Along Gradwell a Chiffchaff called, and crossing the field towards Old Down saw several Meadow Pipits calling in the field.  I stopped to check the hedges.  The hawthorn are covered in berries, but there were no birds at all, not even any Blackbirds feeding on them..

I crossed the field, and overhead a Red Kite flew over being mobbed by a single Rook.

The Kite simply gained height and the Rook gave up, the Kite drifting away towards Kitwood.

It was very quiet in the woods, I took the perimeter path hoping to find some fungi, or to see birds on the berries but neither appeared.  I turned back towards the main path, and tyhen at the crossroads back towards Swelling Hill.  A pair of Nuthatches were calling in the oak trees.

These birds are highly territorial ,and as one flew away the other chased after it to make sure it got the message.

Chiffchaffs were calling and I could see them flycatching and buzzing through the oak leaves above me.  There was movement everywhere, a Great Tit appeared and then a Wren high up in the Oak.  I thought it had come closer but the Wren had changed into a Coal Tit

There were at least six Chiffchaffs and I began to hope for maybe a Yellow-browed, again they seem to have been all over the south coast this weekend.  The Chiffchaffs appeared closer, and I was able to get some good views

But unfortunately there was no sign of anything different, just some nice views of the Chiffchaffs.

The small birds then moved through, and I headed off towards the pond.  Again I hunted the bushes and scrub, plus the area of damp ground in the hope of some more warblers.  They were there but once again only Chiffchaffs.

In the far corner sleeping amongst the lilies were a pair of Mallard, it is about now that the numbers start to build up, and it will be interesting to see how many gather this year.

There was a few fishermen around the pond, and there was no sign of any dragonflies.  I walked on towards Kitwood, as I reached the bend I heard a Crow call, and looked up to see it chasing a Sparrowhawk.  Both birds were very distant.  IOn the hedge there were more Chiffchaffs calling, along with Blue and Great Tits and a pair of Chaffinches.

I walked the path down through Homestead Farm, the path is fringed with hawthorn bushes and they were covered in berries, would this be where the thrushes were?  Unfortunately again, no it was empty other than for a single calling Chiffchaff, and above me a Buzzard.

It was one of three circling above me.

Closer to the farm I heard a Bullfinch calling, the female appeared and promptly disappeared again, the male though sat nicely for me in the sunshine.

I crossed the road and headed up hill towards the garden centre, again, plenty of bushes and berries but no birds.

From the garden centre I walked through the field to Blackberry Lane, once more Chiffchaffs called but that was all.  The hedges at the bottom of the valley are normally the first polace I find the winter thrushes, bu again there was nothing about,m well not actually nothing there was this Great Tit.  Interestingly it kept extending its head, as if to show of the yellow breast and black band to someone.

As I made my way home another Buzzard drifted over, and I also had a quick glimpse of a Brimstone butterfly as it came over the fence and away from me.  Unfortunately none of the special birds that seem to be all over the county but not here in Four Marks.  It seems to be the way October goes around here.