Since my last post the weather has turned decidedly mucky. Saturday dawned foggy and drizzly, the forecast for today was better, and to be fair it was through not being as foggy and drizzly as Saturday. With the fog though came milder temperatures. Through the morning it turned worse again with a rain shower moving through to top up the drizzle. Early afternoon the conditions improved, and I decided to go out, although I didn't have much hope of seeing much, this was one of those typical Four Marks days in the middle of winter.
The garden though had been busy, the Redwings were still making their way through the berries, and the Goldfinches were still intent on eating me out of house and home. There was also a pair of Siskin about, and just as I was about to leave the house this female Bullfinch appeared, all on her own this time.
As I walked along Brislands Goldcrests called from within the conifers, and overhead Redwing called as they flew towards the hedges. It would seem that there are quite a few about, and not all feeding on the berries outside my house. There were at least 30 individuals in the hedges off Brislands.
With the sudden appearance of mild weather I would not have been surprised to have heard a Song Thrush singing, but it seems this year they are holding back, where the last two years they could be heard singing on New year's Day. There were though plenty of singing Robins in the hedges and trees.
As I turned into Gradwell I noticed a large shape in a distant tree, my first thought was maybe two Woodpigeons, but it didn't look right. It was still gloomy, but as i got closer I could see that it was a Buzzard holding out its wings in an attempt to dry off. I have seen several raptors adopting this position, they look a bit like they are wearing a cape.
Because it had been so wet, and because I didn't expect much to be about in the woods I stuck to the roads and from Gradwell headed up towards Kitwood. In the field a large mixed flock of Linnets and Meadow Pipits were flying around, and above in the trees I could hear the chuckle of Fieldfares, and finally being able to pin one down.
the field has been left to fallow since the harvest back in August, but now it was partially ploughed and another thrush appeared from the field, flying up into the trees above me, a Mistle Thrush.
Looking up the road towards the Kitwood Junction, the trees and hedge produces a tunnel effect.
More Goldcrests were calling from the hedges, moving quickly through the ivy that is attached to the tree trunks. This one was a little more approachable.
Constantly moving all the time in search of the small insects and spiders that keep them alive through the cold winter days and nights.
I walked towards the pond with a good number of Skylarks flying across the road just visible in the low cloud, but identifiable by their calls.
A much easier identification was a Grey Heron that flew past me heading towards the pond too, silhouetted against the grey sky, the shape though unmistakable.
I had expected to see the Heron at the pond but there was no sign of it by the water or in the trees. In fact there was nothing showing at the pond, and all I was left with was the lovely green moss reflecting in the dark water.
Leaving the pond I walked down Swelling Hill. Once the slope evened out the trees open up and the sides of the lane here is one of the best places to find early Snowdrops. True to find several shoots were showing white petals, with one or two fully out. This one is covered in water drops that had probably collected from the earlier mist.
I carried on in the direction of Ropley, passing Andrew Lane, and then turning up Court Lane. I had hoped for some gulls and corvids in the fields, and was surprised to find all the fields empty. In the field alongside Court Lane though three Buzzards could be seen. These were probably looking to catch worms, nutritious snacks that don't take a lot of energy at this time of year to catch.
The walk up the hill on Brislands lane was quiet, at the barns I could hear the House Sparrows already going to roost, and a Pied Wagtail was on the roof, but there was no sign of the hoped for Grey Wagtail. A little further on a Kestrel flew across in front of me heading towards Old Down.
As I passed the entrance to Old Down it started to rain once again, and the mist was closing in. I heard what I though was a Golden Plover call, but could not find anything. Then out of the mist I saw a flock of birds, and as they came closer they called again confirming that they were Golden Plover.
I counted 43 birds in the flock, and they continued to call and circle above me.
You can see how dark and gloomy it now was.
They headed away from me towards the A31, and finally disappeared into the mist, although I could still hear them calling.
It was good to get out, once again the best was saved to last, and it was nice to manage to see Golden Plover so early in the year. It was though a typical winter's day here in Four Marks, not one to encourage you to explore more at this time of year.