Back in the garden, our disappearance for a week has not meant that our feathered friends have deserted us, it didn't take long for them all to return as soon as the feeders were topped up, and the mealworms served up. It would seem the Blackbird has yet another brood in the nest to feed, and the Robins too are carrying the worms off so they must have young also.
Saturday morning as I started to work in the garden, I heard the alarm call of a Blackbird coming from my neighbour's garden. I was able to look over the fence, and could see a brown bird on the lawn, at first I thought it was a female Blackbird, but then realised it was slightly larger, and was surrounded by feathers! I immediately rushed indoors and grabbed the camera, fortunately when I got back it was still there.
A female Sparrowhawk with what I think is a House Sparrow, it definitely wasn't a Blackbird.
It was a strange feeling, I was probably watching one of the birds I had been feeding being ripped apart, but couldn't but help be enthralled to be so close to this apex predator.
As she ripped the feathers she continued to be vigilant, looking around her, while a Blackbird continued to scold.
This is probably the same female Sparrowhawk that has been around the area for some time, unfortunately when you attract birds to your garden in the sort of numbers that we do then very soon it will come to the attention of the predators. I would imagine she has a nest somewhere in the woods, maybe Old Down, and this is a known spot to find food. In talking with the staff on the Rotherfield Estate they have tracked Sparrowhawks that have come considerable distances to take the young partridges and pheasants.
Finally she turned as if to leave, hopping with the unfortunate victim in her talons.
Then she flew off, the alarm calls rang out as she flew away, but the Blackbird's scolding ceased. I called, and almost immediately our Blackbird appeared on the fence, so safe and sound.
Overnight Saturday I put the moth trap out, the garden is now full of flowers, and the honeysuckle too is very fragrant, however the results Sunday morning was very poor. the only new moth for the year being a Buff Ermine.
It was a morning of clouds and sunshine with a fresher wind. I waited for it to warm a little before heading out for a walk, the hope was that in the sunshine there might be some butterflies about. As i reached the crossroads at Blackberry Lane and Brislands I was surprised to see there had been some changes to the sign post, a new one replacing the old one that I use in the heading of this blog. I hope that they intend to paint it!. But even if they do it doesn't look or feel the same
I walked along Brislands, and then down Gradwell and crossed to Old Down. You can see that the field is full of Rye, patches of which are showing the ears of the seed heads. Swallows from the horse paddocks were flying out across the field, challenging me once again to get the ideal picture.
Walking through the wood, Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sang, and Goldcrests called from the conifers. Walking along the path I noticed that there was a large amount of Cuckoo Spit on the grass and plants close to the path, the fact that I noticed it made me think this was different from previous years, but I can't be sure, maybe the dry weather has allowed the little collection of spit, produced by the nymphs of the Froghopper, to stay, and therefore be more visible.
Another feature of the wood was that the blue haze of the Bluebell carpet was now gone, and in its place were the reddish pink spires of the Foxgloves, although the Bramble seems to have swamped many of the places where they were seen in previous years.
The Foxglove is a biennial plant, and this may have an impact on the amount flowering every year.
I crossed to Kitwood and made my way to the pond. As I arrived the drake Mallard was back, but there was no sign of the female, or the Moorhens.
I walked around to the Iris patch, the sun was now in, and the cloud cover was increasing. On the Iris leaves were many Azure Blue Damselfies, sitting it out waiting for the sunshine to return.
I was able to get in quite close to them as they were not very active.
As I turned to leave the pond a large Carp broke the surface of the water, I wonder how many times this fish has been caught?
My next stop was the field at the back of the path that leads down to Lye Way farm. Just before we went away this was looking very good for butterflies, but there were none there. I was hoping that it hadn't been cut. As I arrived I was pleased to see it was still in place, and that there was lots of trefoil now in flower. Unfortunately no one had told the butterflies, and I couldn't see any. The sun was still obscured by the clouds though.
A small trail took me down the hill past several ant hills covered in trefoil. There were several bees, and as i looked closely through them I found my first Five Spot Burnet Moth of the year. The potential then is definitely there for this little meadow, lets hope the owner resists cutting.
I turned back, and headed into Old Down. Despite the overcast conditions, which at this time of year with the now complete canopy can make the wood quite dark, a Red Admiral flew past.
A little further on I disturbed a brown butterfly from the grass, and it flew up and fortunately settled close by. It was another first for the year, a Meadow Brown, and the earliest I have seen one since keeping records, the earliest by 15 days!
The Meadow Brown is the commonest butterfly in Hampshire, and after today my enthusiasm for this butterfly will wane as their numbers increase, but for now I can enjoy the first for the year.
The sun returned and in the patches of sunshine along the paths of the wood several Speckled Woods appeared, taking in the sun, and rising up to duel with any other that dared to enter their space.
As I walked out of the wood and headed home the sun once again decided to go away, and was replaced by some very dark clouds away to the west. On reaching home the House Martins were busy around the houses, another sign that maybe we were due some rain. It had been a typical early June walk. The birds all busy with young, hidden behind the thick foliage of the trees and hedges. The butterflies in that transition phase, and of course the weather becoming very typically June like.