In the morning there was an indifferent forecast for the afternoon, but the reality was sun and blue skies, so we were off out again, at this time of year anything could turn up. As we walked along Lymington Bottom the alarm calls from Robins and Blue Tits suddenly rang out, and above us was a Sparrowhawk. There ensued a mad scramble to get the camera up to only find out I hadn't switched it on. When I finally switched it on the bird was heading for one of the tall Beech trees at the back of the village hall, and I just managed to catch it as it flew up to perch.
I moved to see if I could get a better view, but it flew off, seemingly in pursuit of a Woodpigeon that passed by. So I thought that was it, but after a few steps Helen picked it up again. It was drifting back towards us, scanning for any opportunity.
This is a quite large female, and is regularly seen around the area, and is probably the reason for the occasional pile of feather we may seen on the lawns. It drifted closer before turning and heading off towards the A31.
Once the aerial threat was removed the birds returned to song, once again mostly Robins, Blackbirds and Song Thrushes, but every so often the hi-speed delivery from a Chaffinch could be heard, along with the high pitched volume of a Wren from inside a hedge or bush.
We walked along Brislands, and headed towards Old Down Wood. Once out in the open I picked up four Buzzards circling above the trees, here are only three, the fourth keeping a little distance from the others.
As we watched the Buzzards from behind us there was what is now becoming a quite common place call of the Raven. Both birds were present once again, and they flew from the north, across the lane and out over the field towards Old Down Wood. When they got there they were met by the Buzzards, but there was no interaction, the Raven flew around the the wood together while the Buzzards drifted away to the east.
At last though I did manage to get a shot of the pair of Ravens, even if one is just out of focus.
Looking away to the north, in the distant fields the Rapeseed flowers are just starting to emerge.
We walked into the wood, but instead of taking the main path through the middle we turned onto the north perimeter track, after about 100 metres I stopped as i heard my first Blackcap song of the year, unfortunately though I couldn't actually see the owner. This though was not the first bird of the year as there has been a male and female on and off in the garden through the winter. A little further on and there were plenty of singing Chiffchaffs.
On Monday we were pleased to find our first flowering Bluebells, however on this side of the wood there was quite a few out, along with the Wood Anemones. There was also emerging Dog Mercury and the start of the Solomon's Seal.
Rather than follow the track around the outside I turned in to the wood and walked along one of the new paths created by the forestry work. It was though rather boggy and this made the going a little difficult. I did though disturb a Red Admiral, but it didn't stop for us.
Coming out at the West End I disturbed another butterfly, this time a Small Tortoiseshell from the dried ground. Because of the aspect here this is a regular place to find early season butterflies and insects. Some one else was on the look out for the insects, this Robin seemed unconcerned by us as it concentrated on the possibility of food.
looking back into the wood at the start of the south perimeter path the Bluebells were even more advanced, sufficiently to provide the first full carpet of the year and a spectacular show in the late afternoon sunshine.
Climbing the style to walk through the Desmond Paddocks I heard the call of a gull, it was not the familiar sound you hear at the seaside, but more like a "kaw, kaw" which at first I thought could be Mediterranean Gull, but realised this was more harsher. I scanned over the fields and could see several Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the distance.
Looking into the sun made it difficult, but I could see that they were all mostly adults, and probably part of a pre-breeding flock gathering in the fields before heading off to nest.
As we walked down the path we disturbed a pair of Small Tortoiseshells from the path, and they both flew to one of the fence posts in full sun.
I avoided getting my shadow on them, and disturbing them as i tried to get closer, which I managed to do.
Beautiful butterflies in the evening sunshine.
We carried on down through the paddocks, and I could now get a better view of the Lesser Black-backed Gulls in the field. I counted 37 in total, the highest count I have had around the patch.
At the bottom of the hill we climbed the style and crossed to Andrew Lane. From the field close by on the right we could hear the bleats of lambs and stopped to look at our first of the year.
There were not too many sheep in the field but most had twin lambs, and the siblings were taking advantage of the sunshine to play. Why walk when you can run and skip?
Some though preferred to stay close to their mothers shadow.
We walked up the lane, and in the middle of one of the horse paddocks was a Mistle Thrush. These have not been an easy bird to photograph over the years, either being high in the trees or very distant before being spooked. This one was very confiding, and shows the greyish nape, and the heavy spots rather than arrow shapes on the breast that distinguish it from the slightly smaller and more familiar Song Thrush.
In amongst the grass and Wood Anemones in the verge at the side of the lane was the odd Barren Strawberry. The flowers are much smaller than the Wild Strawberry, and has a slightly different leaf shape, the main point of the leaf being shorter. It does produce a fruit but this is very un like a wild strawberry in appearance and in taste.
At the top of the lane there were more Lambs, but the majority of sheep still looked like they were still to give birth. Again some lambs were taking in the evening sunshine huddled together, while others were clearly up to no good.
A hay bale provides a good place to assert authority and dominance.
Another two Tortoiseshells passed us as we walked towards Lye Way. Away across the fields of sheep the yellow of the rapeseed is becoming a major part of the landscape, another sign we are well into spring.
The walk down Lye Way did not produce that much, a couple of Yellowhammers disturbed from the hedge and in the field several lone crows looking for any opportunity. As we reached Kitwood we were greeted by singing Chaffinches and a few busy Blue Tits.
Walking towards the school I picked out a couple of Red-legged Partridges in field on our left.
We walked along Lymington Bottom towards home. Stopped to inspect what looked like a brown shape in one of the fields, and it turned out to be a Buzzard, which duly took off and flew away to a chorus of alarm calls from the surrounding trees.
Still no sign of any Swallows, they were reported today from Avington Lake, but as yet have not returned to their nest sites in Gradwell or Andrew Lane. I am sure that if the weather holds as it is forecast, they will appear soon.