February is always a difficult month for nature, the days are getting longer, and if the sun appears there are signs of spring, but the cold is never far away. Around the patch there were lots of the winter thrushes, with Redwings the most numerous. This is also a good time to see the resident Red Kites as they patrol the roads, garden and fields around the village. The garden feeders were brightened through the month with male Siskins taking on their lemon green breeding plumage.
March saw the emergence of some early butterflies, with Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell being seen on the same day, the 9th. Chiffchaffs were around from the middle of the month, while in Old Down Wood the Tawny Owl was back in its tree for the sixth year running. Stock Doves were a surprise this spring with their whooping song being heard at several locations around the patch. From the middle of the month the country lanes were carpeted with the lovely yellow Lesser Celandine.
The highlight of April was the return ten days earlier than ever before of the House Martins to Reads Field. Swallows were also back and around the horse stables. This year was excellent for Holly Blue butterfly sightings, and a pair of Firecrests were seen a the pond, yet another location for this gorgeous little bird. Those two harbingers of spring appeared this month, the bluebells starting to appear, and the the bleating of lambs in the fields.
May sees the carpet of bluebells in Old Down Wood, a spectacle that never ceases to disappoint. In the garden the Blackbirds were busy raising their second brood, while at Swelling Hill Pond there was a first in the arrival of five ducklings. Unfortunately it seems that they did not survive for too long. A Tree Pipit was singing late int the month at the Mountains Plantation.
Old Down Wood in June replaces the blue of the Bluebell carpet with the spires of reddish pink Foxgloves. Butterflies were once again early, this time the arrival of a Meadow Brown eight days earlier than seen before. It took some time though to find the Marbled Whites. Their habitat seems to be shrinking, with very few meadows being left to grow these days. The long days of summer are an excellent time to see roding Woodcock in Plash wood, with at lease 4 birds being seen on one visit.
July is all about the butterflies. Old Down Wood was dominated by Meadow Browns, with hundreds being seen along the rides and paths. Specialties, though came in the form of the White Admiral, and Silver-washed Fritillary. It is also a good time for the moth trap, and I was treated once again to the beauty of the Elephant Hawk Moth.
My walks in August were limited due to our summer vacation. The butterflies continued to perform in Old Down, while the cereals ripened in the sunshine.
If visits were restricted in August they became difficult too in September, sadly I lost my Dad on the 16th. I did though manage to get out. Common Darters are best seen this month, and put on some spectacular flying displays along with Southern Hawkers at Swelling Hill Pond. While a fly through Hobby was a nice surprise towards the end of the month
October saw the only new bird species added to the patch list this year, a very unexpected Marsh Harrier that flew over the village heading south. Unfortunately there was no camera with me when I saw it! The month itself was very dreary and mostly overcast. Chiffchaffs and Swallow were with us until the middle of the month, with the Starling numbers building up towards the end of the month, the little groups to be seen flying around the houses just before dusk.
This year has been a very good one for the Red Admiral butterfly, and they were still about, on the wing in November. There were several sightings this month, with the last being on the 19th. Redwings were back this month too with their calls being heard at night as they passed through. This autumn though was not a good one for finding fungi, with very little about.
December saw a cold snap, and even some snow mid month, this brought lots of birds into the garden, with a record count of twelve Siskin at one time. Thee were also sightings of male and female Blackcaps, and the Redwings devoured the berries that usually stay until February. With the cold clear skies there were some spectacular sunsets.
Whilst I haven't been out as much as in previous years there has always been something of interest. I have been spending more time exploring the beautiful county of Hampshire, and of course our holidays further afield. You can keep up with these trips here on the "Away Blog".
Here is my end of year video, the music is "Stand Still" by The Album Leaf
For now it only remains to wish you all a very Happy New Year