After Monday's warm sunny day, Tuesday was mostly overcast, spring returned today though and the temperatures were even higher than those on Monday, with eighteen degrees recorded in the car as I headed home. Both Peacock and Brimstone were about all day, but never stopping too long to show themselves off.
I took advantage of the weather for another evening walk, I was hoping to have a reunion with some one who has been about for the six years I have been doing this blog. As I walked up Brislands a clump of daffodils back lit by the sunshine caught my eye.
Once again there were Blackbirds and Robins singing. Song Thrushes could be heard too, but they have a way of melting into the trees and being almost impossible to find. As I watched a singing Blackbird I heard then saw a Nuthatch above it, as I raised the camera the Nuthatch flew towards me, and over my head and into the trees behind me. It went straight to a Squirrel drey, and started to work its way around the leaves.
It was exploring every little aspect of the drey, and I wondered what it's intentions were.
Then it emerged with something to eat, the search was basically about finding food and nothing sinister.
Turning into Gradwell it was lovely to find a Greenfinch singing away at the top of an Oak tree.
I took the footpath into Old Down, fortunately the farmer had deemed to leave a patch of ground that was the footpath, I would not have been surprised to see it ploughed right up to the edge. The crossing to the wood was also firm as well, so maybe there is a recognition that footpaths do exist.
As I crossed I could see a Buzzard in the tree on the corner of the wood.
A silhouette in the late afternoon light, I took my time and saw a s close as I could get, recognising that at some point I was going to disturb it as I would have to pass underneath it.
It did fly off, and circled above the wood as I entered. It was then joined by another and they called to each other above the wood. This area has plenty of substantial conifers that they like to nest in, so maybe this could be their new location this year.
Walking along the main path the sunlight was coming through the bare trees and sending patches of light across the ground.
The search was now on and the hope was my old friend would be about. As I looked at the normal tree I was looking for those initial signs. At first the trunk was clean, then I found a branch with some white, then more white, I moved up the trunk, and there, close to the trunk behind a collection of coniferous branches, he was, "Morris" the Tawny Owl, back for his sixth year running.
I moved slightly to get a better view through the branches and I could see him watching me as I did so.
An adult Tawny Owl's entire universe will be the territory thery have pretty much occupied for all their life. Woodland territories on average have been found to be around 18 square hectares. And the boundaries of these territories remain stable even if the owners die.
At this time of year it is very probable that his mate is sitting on eggs somewhere in a tree cavity. It is his responsibility to feed the female, and she will only leave the nest for a toilet break, or if real danger threatens. Interestingly Morris uses the same roost site, which must be close to the nest, but I have never found it. The female can be extremely aggressive if disturbed so its probably just as well.
Most Tawny Owls are considered to be monogamous from year to year, with studies showing that well over two thirds of females have only bred with one male during their reproductive life. It is also likely that the remaining percentage were only forced to do so due to the disappearance of the original mate.
Another interesting fact about the Tawny Owl is that there has never been any recovery of British ringed birds outside of the British Isles, leading to the distinct possibility that the birds could one day become their own distinct sub-species.
I watched him quietly for a little longer, but never approached any closer. The bracken and bramble was quite thick and to try and get closer would definitely spook him. So I back off, leaving him watching me, and me thinking about the beauty of nature.
After a triumphant punch of the air I headed along the path. Away in the field I could hear the drone of a tractor as it tilled and drilled the field with seeds. In the open spaces of the wood where the light was still getting through midges and flies dances like woodland nymphs.
I came out on to the main footpath, and immediately heard a Chiffchaff singing quite close. I scrambled over the bracken and puddles to get a good look away from the glare of the now low sun, and found it at the top of a tree.
I had heard one earlier just past the entrance but couldn't locate it. Both birds must be newly arrived, as Chiffchaffs are not winter stayers here in Four Marks unlike the Blackcaps.
It continued to alternate between singing and exploring for food amongst the buds at the top of the trees.
In between the song of the Chiffchaff, and the constant calls of the Guinea Fowl in Old Down Hose I heard a different call. It is one that I liken to that of a Howler Monkey, but probably not so aggressive and it comes from a Stock Dove. I could see a bird on a wire that I assumed was a Woodpigeon, but as I got closer I could see the call was coming from it, and that this had to be the Stock Dove. Closer up you cans see the slighter build and more dove like appearance, but unfortunately the sum was only producing a silhouette at best.
Watching through binoculars I could see it was clearly a Stock Dove, as I said it is slighter, and to use it's name more stocky, while the tail is much shorter than that of the Woodpigeon. Fortunately it decided to fly, and in flight the wings appear more triangular than those of the Woodpigeon, and the head is held horizontal rather than raised.
It flew into the pine trees, and at first I thought I had lost it, then it appeared and gave a good if rather grainy view.
Here you can see the other distinguishing features from a Woodpigeon, the red bill with a whitish tip, and the lack of any white collar, the adult Stock Dove having an iridescent green collar and the eye is dark compared to the white eye of the Woodpigeon. This was one of the best views of Stock Dove I have had on the patch despite the gloom.
As I made my way back I heard the call of a Raven followed by that of a Crow. I looked up to see the Crow force the Raven down into a tree so I jumped and ran through the puddles and bracken to try and get a better look.
Just as I reached a good spot the Raven flew off calling, moving low behind the branches and the only picture I could get was this:
I moved on, heading towards the pond. There was no sign of either the Mallard or Moorhens on the water. Above me a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed once again, and behind me a Chiffchaff sang, the third of the evening's walk, and the first this year at the pond.
Another first was the presence of frogspawn in the pond, and the odd call of a frog amongst the Irises. On Monday I remarked on the fact that there had not been any in the pond for awhile, they must have heard me.
There was no sign though of any Common Toads, or any spawn.
I walked on to Kitwood, and then down the hill. The skies were completely clear tonight, no cloud to provide some backdrop to the setting sun. The sky behind Old Down wood though was a bright orange with the silhouetted Larches standing out in front of it.
Despite the gloom there were still Rooks feeding in the field. They were probably finding seed not completely drilled into the ground by the the tractor earlier. I would assume these are birds from the rookery along Alton Lane. I found a place where I could just capture them standing on the horizon.
The walk home was in collecting darkness, but despite this I could hear Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrests calling. As I walked up Lymington Rise I was faced with a very sad sight. On the corner there has always been a very large Beech tree, In the winter and spring this was a place to see the Starlings collect at sunset, or to listen to a Blackbird or Song Thrush singing. In the summer the House Martins would fly around it catching insects for their young in nests in Reads Field. Today that tree was gone, and in its place is yet another empty space in Four Marks. The tree was right where the middle house are shown in this photograph, until today I didn't know those houses existed.
A sad day as yet more natural life has to make way for human satisfaction. The houses have been there for quite some time along side that tree, what has changed that it had to be got rid of, it appeared perfectly healthy.
A disappointing end to a lovely walk and a reunion wth an old friend, the return of the Morris