Following the gloom and cold of the weekend, yesterday was clear and bright with sunshine and an acceptable temperature, almost as if the worst was over and spring was just around the corner. As I came home last night the Starlings were singing from the nest spots on the gutters, and away in the distance a Song Thrush was ploughing its trade from the top of a Silver Birch tree.
When I woke up this morning it was to the grey and dampness that we had endured last week, but with one difference it was definitely milder. Once again the garden was busy, the pair of Long-tailed Tits beat the Blackbird to the mealworms, and the three Robins continued their arguments over who actually does own which part of the garden. On the Robins, it is interesting to watch the interactions. Despite the fact that the hedge Robins seem now to be a pair, there does seem to be some recognition problems, with what I assume is the male looking to chase the female away, only for her to stand her ground until the male realises and then allows her to feed. The Shed Robin though is mercilessly chased away by both birds, and it skulks off to sing from the tree to gardens down.
A notable return to the garden today was the female Blackcap, the first time she has been around for a few weeks. A poor shot of her hiding in amongst the branches.
Even more notable was that she was then joined by not one, but two males, with them squabbling over the feeders along with the goldfinches.
Just as I thought to myself that the Siskins were becoming more common garden birds than the Greenfinch, a male Greenfinch appeared. Over the last few years the numbers visiting the garden has definitely declined, and what was once an overlooked bird is now something special for all the wrong reasons.
We still have plenty of Woodpigeons about and at one stage I watched a Woodpigeon chased violently around the garden bu a Blackbird, I was not sure why, but the Blackbird was clearly annoyed by the pigeon, and wanted it gone.
A much more gentler alternative to the Woodpigeon appeared, a pair of Collared Doves that proceeded to feed on the rooftop of a neighbour's house.
At one stage through the morning the cloud lifted and we were treated to the slightest hint of blue sky and some sunshine. It didn't last though and the cloud became both thicker and darker through the afternoon.
Drifting over the trees at the back of the house, I was alerted to a Red Kite by the calls and grouping of jackdaws and Rooks.
It seems that the gardens must be a good source of scraps, as it would drop swiftly down and out of view as if checking out any possible item, then appear again to be mobbed by the Rooks.
these aren't the best shots, the gloom meaning that they were quite grainy and not well defined. But they capture the jizz and grace of this supreme glider that controls everything with the twisting angles of the lovely red forked tail.
Then slowly it drifted away as if grazing the tree tops as it passed.
hard to appreciate that when I started this blog in 2012 a sighting of a Red Kite was still a major event, through the years since then the sightings have been come more regular, and the behaviour of the Kites has changed, they are less wary, and more prepared to visit the gardens as a source of food. This is the closest this one came though.
Boycie and Louise arrived late afternoon so we went out for a walk. It was quite dark though even accounting for the time, the cloud by now quite thick. As we walked along Lymington Bottom a Song Thrush sang again from the tree tops, hidden away in amongst the branches I could not find it, all I could hear was the repetitive notes that echo around on February days like this.
On the school playing fields there was a small group of Redwing feeding in amongst the turned over grass, probably left over from an impromptu football match.
At the top of Kitwood the bare branches reveal a monolith of a nest belonging to the magpie. A pair have nested here every year. The nest consists of a bowl in the traditional way but also with what looks like a bower above it to provide protection. This one still looks to be in good condition, the lack of strong winter storms meaning that it has not been damaged. The owners should be able to move back in quite quickly when the urge to breed arrives.
As we headed towards Swelling Hill more Song Thrushes were singing, and in the bare branches of the trees lining the side of the field more Redwing were sat before heading off to roost with the whispery calls.
A pair of Mallard could just be seen at the back of the pond, the light there much too dark for acceptable photography.
As we headed down Swelling Hill Lane the Snowdrops now in bloom, brightened the scene.
More Song Thrushes sang as we walked on, and above us you could hear the calls of the Redwings as they headed into the bushes and trees to roost. We turned up Court Lane, and passed by a single Buzzard sitting on a branch in the trees.
Out in the fields were at least five Red-legged Partridges. any movement would blur the picture in this light, so I was fortunate to capture this one individual as it paused in its bid to get away from us.
On the roof of the cow sheds at the bottom of Brislands was a Kestrel, peering down on to the ground in the hope that stray mouse or vole would come out of the barn. As we headed own towards Lymington Bottom I could hear the first Blackbird in song for the year, maybe there is hope that spring is just around the corner. The walk though did reinforce my belief that away from the gardens there is little to really see as everything strives to survive at this time of year.
Last post I promised some photographs from my travels away from the patch, go here to see the bird that I have been hoping for all winter.