This morning the overcast conditions returned, as did the north easterly wind, I had hoped for the sunshine of yesterday to try and find some butterflies, so as I walked along Brislands I was hoping the weather would change.
From leaving home along Lymington Bottom, and the walk along Brislands the one dominant song was that of the Goldcrest. As I passed the turn to Gradwell the song became much more louder and I stopped to find the owner. Fortunately it appeared in the conifers, and showed quite well as it sang and chased its food probably tiny insects and spiders
For me they have a look of surprise all the time.
The verges have become overtaken with Cow Parsley and the nettles, but in places where the trees shut out the light there are still some patches of cultivated Bluebells, but also this lovely specimen of Lords and Ladies. It is rare to seen one undamaged as the stipe seems to be like cat nip to small rodents.
Further on there was a pair of Great Tits moving low over the ground through the stems of the Cow Parsley. I would think this was in search of caterpillars and insects, and they probably have young somewhere close by.
Turning into Old Down I could hear a Blackcap singing. This location nearly always has a Blackcap, and I am sure it can't be the same bird that has been present over the last five years. For once I was able to find it high up in one of birch trees.
Very soon the trees will be hiding the warblers, and the song will die away and we will just be left with calls. So I made the most of this male Blackcap.
I turned off the main track, and walked along the north perimeter path. This area is covered in Bluebells, and with the overcast conditions the blue was quite intense and stretched well into the woods.
The Bluebells are pretty much now at their best, and probably have about another seven to ten days at their best.
One upsetting thing though was the fact that their are now many new paths that stretch out across the carpet of bluebell, the plants trampled down, and damaged. There are always signs of trails produced by the deer and other animals here in the wood, but these trails have been caused by man, and are just another example of wanton destruction. The existing trails provide ample access and allow good viewing points, these new trails just spoil the spectacle for everyone else. I would recommend if you live locally to come and enjoy this display, but if you do, please stick to the main paths.
The new Hazel leaves contrasting with the hazy blue.
At this time of the year, while the trees still do not have the full coverage of leaves, the light that streams into the wood for over 12 hours a day encourages the wild flowers to grow. The Celandines and Anemones have now given way to many more flowers as well as the Bluebells. Here the yellow Archangel is flowering amongst the Bluebells, much to the benefit of the bees.
Field Mouse-ear, along with the Ransom's adds a splash of white amongst the Blue.
The Solomon's Seals with their flowers hanging like jewels from below the leaves that hang just above the Bluebells.
The Early Purple Orchids are by now just going beyond their best, this one though is still to flower properly, a little further along the path I found a clump that were well past their best.
At the West End the view out to the west was still one of overcast conditions, so I turned and head back into the wood passing yet another Wren declaring its territory to all the other Wrens close by.
Walking up the hIll, the large and old Beech tree was now coming into leaf, their colour still more sage than the deep green we are normally used to.
Back in late April I photographed the ring of Bluebells at the base of the Beech tree, today they were enhanced by sage green of the leaves that were now well and truly out.
From the Crossroads, I turned towards Swellinghill. Along the side of the path the Red Campion was just beginning to come into flower.
Imade my way to the pond, but found that the pond itself was being dredged, by hand. Every year the pond is cleared of pond weed to improve the conditions for the anglers, as a result there was not much about. The Moorhen though was around the Iris beds, and as I walked away I saw this Blue Tit arrive with nesting material, the nest was behind one of the large signs fixed to a tree by the side of the pond.
Looking to the north the skies were clearing and it suddenly began to look like a different day. As I left the pond a Swift flew through, again this year is producing good numbers of those species that have been difficult to find over the last few years.
I walked to Kitwood, then across the field and back into Old Down Wood. As I approached the wood it looked wonderful, with the new leaves adding a variation in colour that was highlighted by the sun that was now out, and a background of puffy white clouds against the blue sky.
As I walked into the wood it was like another day, the dappled sunlight bringing outthe best.
The first butterfly of the day, appearing about 10 minutes after the sun had come out was a Green-veined White. It took a liking to the Bluebells, burying deep inside to get to the nectar.
Coming back out to start on another flute.
A little further along and another butterfly, this time yet another Holly Blue, it has been a very good year for this butterfly. It settled nicely on a Bramble leaf in the sunshine for me.
With the sunshine I decided that I could pursue one of my earlier plans, on the west main path last year I found my first Green Hairstreak on the patch. The hope was the sun might bring some out today. Passing the crossroads, the bluebells were showing under the Beech trees, but not in the depth and coverage of previous years. The forestry clearance a few years ago has allowed the bracken and bramble to run rampant, and this is obscuring a lot of the Bluebells
I reached the spot where I had seen the hairstreak last year, and stood waiting. The sun came out, and a butterfly appeared, once again it was another Holly Blue, this year they are everywhere. A Brimstone flew through but there was no sign of the Green Hairstreak. It was a little late in the month last year so there is still hope.
As I stood watch above me a Chiffchaff made its presence known. I found it in amongst the pine needles.
The cloud was increasing above me, and this was an influence in my decision to move on. As I headed up the path once again I was greeted with another lovely spring scene here in Old Down.
What I thought was a butterfly landed on a leaf, and turned out to be a Longhorn Moth. This is Nemophora Degeerella, the commonest type of Longhorn moth in the UK, they are called longhorns because the males of this species of moth have the longest antennae of all British moths. Those of the female are much shorter. They are quite beautifully patterned with bronze and gold markings
In May and June, the males can often be seen in groups, drifting up and down in the sunshine like wood nymphs Their habitat is damp deciduous woodlands and hedgerows and is quite common over much of England and Wales.
I was heading east towards the Gradwell entrance, the path going through a nice open ride, with now plenty of sunshine. A Peacock butterfly settled on the bramble bushes on one side of the track. It looked quite pale, and had damaged wings, a sign that this first flying season of the Peacocks were coming to an end.
As I walked home along Brislands, yet another Blackcap appeared in a Hazel bush by the side of the road.
Brislands Lane is home to one of my favourite trees, an Oak tree which is just opposite the entrance to the Recreation Ground. The trees have just come out, and the shape will always remind me a set of lungs, with the branches and the leaves the aeoli. I will post other photographs of this tree through the seasons this year.
Back home in the afternoon the skies cleared and it was very warm in the May sunshine. In the skies above the house the House Martins were very busy, fixing and building nests on both sides of the house.
Now for some interesting news. I was informed of a report of a Long-eared Bat found outside a house in Hawthorn Road. Fortunately I was also given a photograph. Apparently the bat was found clinging to the wall of the house, and clearly with it being in an unusual place, and out during the middle of the day it was not well, and unfortunately died a short while after being found. Still it is an interesting record of an animal that would be difficult to see let alone photograph.