Midsummer's eve was last night, and as we move into the second half of the Earth' annual cycle the weather returned to something we are all more accepted too. Gone were the thirty plus degree temperatures, and back was a fresh breeze plenty of cloud and a temperature around twenty degrees.
Undeterred I had planned to go out around the patch until after dusk, but first stop was Swellinghill pond. It was still rather early and I didn't expect any bats, but there were Swallows taking an interest in the insects rising above the water. I walked around the pond and found an adult Moorhen with the first confirmed breeding of the year, and well developed youngster feeding in amongst the reeds and lily pads.
From the pond I walked into Old Down, and took a very overgrown perimeter path. In the fields there were tractors collecting the hay, and above the fields Buzzards calling.
The woods were full of the sound of young birds begging for food, and as I walked back out of the wood I stopped to watch a family group of Long-tailed Tits.
The young birds have now lost the red eye ring and are looking a lot more like the adult birds.
As I watched suddenly the calls increased and I sensed the rush of air and the sound of wings beside me, and I saw a male Sparrowhawk fly low over the grass and then up into the trees. I couldn't see if it took anything as they flew into the party of Long-tailed Tits but almost immediately flew on and out the back into another tree, and then away out of sight. It was a reminder that the tits are not the only family looking for food.
From the wood I then headed on to Newtown Farm, parking at the bottom of the Lye Way bridleway at the footpath. I could just make out a reddish brown shape in the field, and it then moved to reveal itself, a Roe Deer.
Roe Deer have been hard to find this year. They are best seen at dawn or dusk and this time of year is the best time to see them with the short nights. It turned at the sound of the camera shutter.
I then realised that there was another deer actually in the field, watching me, or at least looking where the sounds were coming from.
The deer in the the middle of the field the turned and then bounded away through the wheat field.
As I watched the deer alarm calls went out again as a Buzzard flew across the field through the deepening gloom.
There had been some sun when I first went out, but had succumbed to the clouds. However as I walked up the hill the sun appeared once again as it began to dip below the clouds before slipping under the horizon. Looking back down the hill the bottom half of the footpath was lit up by the golden light.
The fields around Newtown Farm have always been used for cereal crops, but now they have been turned over top grass for probably cattle. In the grass was a Brown Hare, sitting up and watching the surrounding field. You can see the large eyes that suit its crepuscular habits, and all round vision.
Another change here, the old barn that could have been a good location for Barn Owls has gone, and they are building a new barn with metal girder frame.
The fields that were used for grazing are now given over to arable, with wheat the crop this year. The sun just setting over the distant trees, and lighting up the ripening wheat.
A little further on there was another Brown Hare again in a field left over to grazing.
Raising the ears as I edged closer.
It then ran off, and I followed it and managed to get closer once it stopped and sat again to review its surroundings
By now it was around 9.00pm, and getting gloomy around the trees. I walked on and scanned across the distant fields and found two more Roe Deer feeding on the edge of the field.
So far everything was coming together, I had hoped for the deer and hare, but I was here for a dusk specialty, the Woodcock. At this time of year they can be seen "roding" over the trees and along the rides, and as they do it uttering a strange growling and warting call and whistle.
I found a place along a ride where it was open but around the trees. I stood waiting, listening to the song of several Song Thrushes. Down the ride the sky was turning pink.
Finally at 9.45 the first bird appeared, I heard it first and tracked the call as it flew over the trees, finding a clear spot to aim for, and then hope the bird flies into it. This one did, just.
I am not sure if it was the same bird circling but another came back from the same direction then flew up the ride. The wing beats seem to be rapid and much more fluttered, if that is the right word. As it came overhead I managed to get some more shots.
More came, but it was now to gloomy to manage any better shots. Just after 10.00pm I decided to make my way back. The conifers around me now taking on some strange shapes, this one looking very much like a witch riding a broomstick.
I had the bat detector with me and several were about, the detector picking up their echo location calls. The majority were around 45KHz which meant they were probably Pipistrelle Bats, they were small and buzzed around the trees very much in the same way the Swallows and House Martins do during daylight.
Using the detector to alert me when a bat was lose I tried to get a picture as they came out into the lighter sky. This was the best I could do.
I walked down the hill through the trees, and the detector picked up a much larger bat at 55KHz, I am not sure but from the sound, having checked it on the internet, I think it was a Long-eared Bat, either grey or brown.
I good evening with a lot of interest and the wonderful sight and experience of roding Woodcocks