Sunday, 22 January 2017

21st January - Up, Up to the Sky

The cold weather had persisted through the week, but not as cold as it was in Munich.  Early morning temperatures there were -15 degrees, here today it was -3 degrees.  After a trip into Alton I was out and walking in the sunshine.  Despite the cold weather the birds were singing along Lymington Bottom, the most vocal being the Starlings, this male sending out a real mix of tunes from the top of a chimney.


However the bird I had expected to hear was very quiet.  This tree is normally the perch where the Song Thrush can be heard singing at this time of year.  There was a Song Thrush in it but it was silent.


Rather than sing the thrushes were occupied with finding food.  The frozen ground was posing a problem, and the search was on under the leaves by the side of the lane.  I disturbed this Song thrush from the verge and it flew up into the bushes.


Once upon a time the Song Thrush was a common garden visitor, leaving the remains of snails on rocks.  This is not so much the case these days, but at this time of the year they suddenly become visible.

In the trees above me as I walked along Brislands Great Tits were busy foraging on the lichen on the branches.


From Brislands I turned into Gradwell, and passed several Redwing feeding in the field alongside the lane.  I turned on to the footpath leading to Old Down as a Red KIte flew above me.

The thrushes were busy feeding in the ruts where the sun had partially melted the ground.


Looking across to the entrance to Old Down it looked cold.


Part of the field had been ploughed before the cold weather came, and here the soil was easy to find food on, and there were large flocks of Rooks and Jackdaws, and Gulls.  Every so often they would fly up.


I walked into a silent wood, no Robins singing just the odd nasal call of a Coal Tit.  Walking was easy with the ground frozen, when the thaw eventually comes it will be very muddy.  I turned off the main path and checked to see if the Tawny Owl was in its usal tree, but there was no sign it has been there.  

I decided to head out across the field towards Kitwood.  This took me over the hard fallow ground, and then on to the ploughed part.  The clods were still frozen, and it wasn't too difficult walking over them.  

In the middle of the field the gulls took off again, a mixed flock of Black-headed and Common Gulls, with one or two Herring Gulls.


Then a surprise, a flock of Lapwing took off rising out of the dark earth and flying around along with Skylarks and Meadow Pipits.


I counted 34 Lapwing, this is the first significant flock I have seen in this field, they circled around for a while then slowly headed back down to the earth, the flock resembling a sheet settling down onto a bed.


From Kitwood I walked along to the pond.  The water was frozen on the main pond so I checked the small pond to the side.  The water there was frozen too.  A Wrem appeared on a piece of wood stuck in the ice, and I watched as it crept around the edge looking to drink water where the ice met the edge of the wood.  Times are tough when the freeze comes.

 
A Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming from the surrounding trees, it would seem despite the cold, the presence of sunshine seems to encourage them to display.  Great Tits were also calling and chasing each other through the branches.

I walked on and into Old Down, again the path was frozen solid making it easy to get by.  As I walked I was watched by Robins, looking to see if I disturb the ground and give them the chance to find something to eat.


Alarm calls then rang out, and above me drifted a Red Kite, probably the same bird I had seen earlier.


When I reached the crossroads I was joined once again by a Robin.  It sat in the hedge, and I was able to get quite close.


Robins are a very important bird to birders on the first of January, as they look to get that all important year tick, then that is it.  I took the chance to enjoy this one, and to take some lovely shots in wonderful light.


It too wanted a closer look.


Again if this turned up on the east coast of the United States it would be considered stunning.


I left the wood at Brislands and headed back into the village.  The sun was no at its highest point and the birds were now much more vocal.  I stopped to watch a pair of Goldcrests feeding in a pine tree.


It is always a challenge to pin them down as they are constantly moving.



As well as the Goldcrests there was a Coal Tit.  It was feeding in a similar manner to the Goldcrests, hovering under the pine needles and constantly moving all the time.


As I reached the recreation ground a Song Thrush was sat on the fence.  Still no song from them, but it won't be long before we hear those lovely flutely notes repeated up to three of four times to ensure we don't miss anything.


As I walked home I thought about the same time last year.  We had daffodils out then, this year there is no sign of them yet.  I much prefer a real winter with temperatures that challenge us and the wildlife. Today I was blessed with some wonderful light that has shown some of the local birds beautifully.

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