Friday, 21 April 2017

20th April - Just You And I And Nature

A slight change in the weather today, more cloud, and maybe a little warmer, but with the overcast conditions it maybe didn't feel so much.  When I got home this evening I debated whether to go out, but finally the lure was far too much.  There were breaks in the cloud and it looked like these might become wider allowing some evening sunshine.  I drove to the pond and set off from there, my route was going to be through the wood, and then out across the paddocks to Andrew Lane, then back down Lyeway Road.

 Walking through Old Down the Chiffchaffs were singing again, and away under the Larches there was a single Blackcap in the song.  I turned to the west at the crossroads, and then took one of the man made tracks through the Bluebells.  In flower amongst the bluebells were the first Ransome's of the year.



The main event though were the Bluebells, here a ring of Bluebells around a wonderful old Beech tree.


With the overcast conditions the bluebells seem to come into their own, no dappled sunshine to to change the hue, the emphasis under cloud is the intensity of the iridescence colour in the flowers.


There is still plenty of time to enjoy the spectacular, and more than enough time for probably many more photographs.


Walking down through the paddocks I noticed a lone cow well away from the others lying down, not usual, but then I saw why.  Lying beside her was what looked like a newly born calf.


Mum clearly very proud.


A little further on I could see on the far side of the field another cow and calf, this time it looked as if they were an even younger family.


I crossed the road and headed up Andrew Lane.  With Swallows at both Charlwood and Gradwell, I was surprised not to see any around the stables at Andross Farm.   Heading up the lane several Blackbirds were singing in the hedge and trees.


I checked all the open paddocks, and fields, there was plenty of rabbit activity, but no sign of any migrants.  Blue and Great Tits sang from the trees, the new leaves being a source of caterpillars for them at this time of year.

I stopped at every viewing point to check the fields and the hedges.  A male Orange Tip surprised me, not expecting to see one on the wing in the conditions.  Of course it didn't stop.  There was very little else about, but I was then surprised to see this yellow head appear from the long grass.


At the top of the lane the number of lambs had increased dramatically, and while there were new ones the older lambs were gathering in little groups and marauding around clearly up to no good.


I walked around to Lye Way where I scanned the fields for anything of interest, but could only find pairs of crows, not what I was looking for.  I walked a little way to scan the sheep paddocks in the hope of maybe a Wheatear, but only found a single male Pied Wagtail.

As I walked back I noticed the many Dandelion seed heads in the verge.  It reminded me of five years ago when at this time of year, and through the summer there were hardly any Dandelions about due to the persistent rain we had.

As I headed west the weak sunlight was catching the seed heads.


Another aspect.


I suppose it was a sign of the amount about this evening that I spent time photographing the dandelions, and as I walked down Lyeway Road towards Kitwood I thought about the absence of Swallows tonight.  Then just as I did so I heard one above me, and a little further on I came across two sitting on the wires above the road.


Photographing them on a wire against the bright background is almost a bigger challenge as trying to get them in flight.  This one turned to look at me just before flying off.


As the Swallows flew off they were replaced by a male Linnet.


I made my way back to the car at the pond.  A Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed from the trees surrounding the pond as I arrived, and a Chiffchaff was in full song at the back of the pond.

When I got home, Helen was sitting in the garden and of course she was surrounded by the birds.  Both pairs of Robins were about, and as a result there were some interaction.  This Robin, one of the hedge pair was squaring up to one from the fence 


The Blackbird Scruffy has become a little braver, as a result of the whatI can only assume are a few mouths to feed.  One thing we have not seen before is the fact that his bill is twisted with the upper mandible bent over the lower.


Not sure what the impact of this would be, as it clearly does not affect his ability to feed.  It could be a reason for the feather wear, maybe it doesn't allow him to preen properly, and the stress of raising a family adds to the toll.

I love the brightness in his eye, plus probably a reflection of me taking his picture.


The Robins move across the lawn picking up any stray mealworm.  When we appear at the door or window they appear.  When the door opens you can hear one call with the high frequency whistle, and in the distance its partner will respond, they then both appear and guilt you into putting more worms out.


The Robins will take a maximum of about four worms off to the nest, but the Blackbird just fills up.  It is amusing to watch him try to pick one more, and then drop one and have to pick it up.


Anything a Puffin can do, so can a Blackbird.


More mealworms required today.

First thing in the morning and late into the evening the garden is alive, and it is wonderful to watch everything that is going on.


Thursday, 20 April 2017

19th April - Come Wander Quietly And Listen To The Wind

the dry and sunny weather continued through the early part of the week, although the breeze has been from the north which adds an edge to the warmth of the sun.  In the garden things have definitely moved on, both pairs of Robins seem to have young in the nest, and they must be very grateful for the supply of mealworms.  It is interesting to watch the interaction, the hedge Robins being the more dominant, while the fence Robins will wait their turn.  The pairs themselves seem to have difficulty identifying their partners, and there will be a little squaring up before they recognise each other.

There are also now two Blackbird pairs, "Scruffy" (our Blackbird from last year that we have watched turn from a bedraggled bird back to splendid male), appears to have a brood, and is collecting mealworms too, the other pair are a little behind, as we saw them mating early in the week.  Unfortunately the effort of parenthood is having the same effect on Scruffy, and there are signs of feather wear once again.  I can only assume this has something to do with the nest location.

I am sure that in the next few days we will see fledgling Robins, the concern then will be about the local Sparrowhawk, twice this week we have witnessed the sight of it coming through the garden at phenomenal speed, fortunately not successful and as it disappeared the sound of the various alarm calls.

As I last reported our House martins have been seen around the old nest sites since last Thursday the 13th, 10days earlier than I have ever recorded them here.  This morning they were back again.


Not only are they early coming back, but they are starting to work on the nest earlier than they they have ever returned before.

Usually what happens is the House Sparrows move in to the old nest at the end of March to early April.  When the House Martins finally arrive back and look to use the nest they find it occupied, and on several occasions we have seen Sparrows holding House Martins wings as they fight them off.  Once the House Sparrows have fledged the House Martions return for their first broods.

This year though while the House Sparrows were preparing the nest it fell down, and consequently the House Sparrows have moved somewhere else.  As a result the House Martins are now free to rebuild, and this is what they were doing this morning.


As always there was lots of chatter as they brought in mud and started to lsy it on what little was left of the old nest.


The mud is laid in place from the bill, then pushed in with the feet to ensure it sticks.



There then ensues more chatter, calling to the mate that is flying around the house.


Then off to allow the partner to do its share, and off to collect more building materials.


I had to say goodbye to a family member this afternoon, we did not always see eye to eye, but I always admired her spirit through much adversity, may she be at peace now.

later with the sun still out I took the chance to get out and clear the air.  There was still a cool breeze, but with the sun and the emerging leaves everything looked beautiful along Brislands.


Blackbirds and Song Thrushes sang as I headed down the lane, and along the verge every so often a Robin would appear, no doubt looking to feed nestlings somewhere.  I turned into Gradwell, and stopped to check the stables for Swallows, but there was no sign.  I took the footpath out towards Old Down, in the hedge there were a pair of Bullfinch, and a Great Spotted Woodpecker flew past me.  At the clearing in the hedge I scanned the paddocks once again and found three Swallows flying around the old stable, and then out over the fields.  Once again the Swallow challenge has started.


Walking across the field to the wood a Pheasant was slowly walking through the green shoots, at the back the Ash trees still to show any sign of leaves. 


Walking into the wood I was greeted by a Wren, that was originally right next to the path, but flew off to a safer location as I passed.


In the late afternoon light the wood has different views all around.  To the west the darkness and lime greens highlighted by the back light from the sun.


While to the south the silver birches and Larches with their new leaves are a cascade of greens and straight lines.


I could hear Coal Tits within the Larches and  Blue Tits were singing either side of me.  One stopped on a branch quite close by.


I stopped to see if the Tawny Owl was in its tree, and could just make it out while keeping my distance.  There was no sign of any other owl present so hopefully they do still have young owlets.


A little further along I heard the song of a Firecrest, and found a male moving through the branches of a Hazel tree checking each leaf for possible food.


There now seems to be no rhyme or reason as to where they will turn up.  On my last visit there was no sign of the birds at the pond, this location was not too far away, so it could be possible that this was one of those birds.  Finally it came from behind the branches to give a better view.


It was quite mobile, and sang as it made its way through the various trees, finally moving just too far away for anymore photographs.

I left the wood and crossed the field, heading for Kitwood.  The view to the north east was quite spectacular, and emphasised by the tractor ridges in the field.


I crossed the small meadow to get to the road, unfortunately it has already been cut, it would seem that this is once again not going to be a good place for butterflies if the grass continues to be cut frequently.  One piece of good news, the stile to the road has been replaced with a metal gate, which I have to admit is much safer than having to jump down into the road.

I headed now for the pond, but stopped to admire the trees in blossom at the start of Lyeway Road.


Walking up to the pond, I always check the large grass area on the right as we approach.  Nothing much to report here this evening on the grass, but in the inaccessible trees at the back there was a Willow Warbler singing.  A quite infrequent bird around here so it was annoying I just couldn't see it.

I walked around the pond where at the edge in the shallows there were hundreds of tadpoles.


Another change was the flowering Bog Bean in amongst the horsetails and Iris shoots.


I took the chance to take some panoramic shots of the pond, at first looking from behind the jetty, unfortunately into the light.


Then from almost the opposite side with the sun behind me.


There was no sign or sound of the Firecrest, but I could hear Goldcrests, and of course a Chiffchaff.  The Chiffchaff was quite close and was quite happy for me to approach closely.  Clearly not too concerned as it watched me walk up.


Then just ignored me.
 


From the pond I walked back into Old Down past the cottage.  A little further in the Bluebells were out and in the evening light were taking on an ultra violet hue.


Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps sang as I walked down the main path.  At the crossroads I had a decision to make, do I walk on back along Brislands, or return the way I came and have another go for the Swallows?

Of course I went for the Swallows and headed back across the field towards the stables where I could only find one Swallow but it came quite close.  I am sure there will be plenty more opportunities through the summer but for now this is the best this year!


Not a bad walk this evening, with the dry conditions in the wood it was a pleasure to walk through Old Down with all the birds in song.  At this time of year, when there is sunshine and birdsong it is so uplifting.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

16th April - My Heart Reached Out For You

We have been away over the last few days, so I have not managed to get out locally.  This though has not stopped the sightings, on Thursday evening two House Martins were inspecting the old nest on the house opposite.  This is ten days earlier than I have ever seen the House Martins return since we have lived here, and that is 23 years, it is also the first time I have seen a House Martin before a Swallow locally too.  They were still about on Friday morning, and then this morning from the garden there were a pair over the house.


There have also been Swallows too, as I drove down Charlwood past the horse stable there were three circling above the trees.

Despite a poor forecast the weather was quite pleasant, still a cool north westerly wind, but warm in the sunshine, and no sign of the forecast rain.  I set off along Lymington Bottom in the sun, and then up Brislands.  Unusually a Greenfinch showed very well in a hedge by the side of the lane.


As I reached the turn with Gradwell, there was a call coming from the hedge, at first I wasn't sure what it was but when I saw a male Blackbird I realised it had to be a fledgling calling.  Edging close to the hedge I could just see the youngster in the grass of the field.


And it continued to call for more food.


I carried on along the lane heading for Old Down.  On the verge someone has been planting Snake's Head Fritillaries, as I have not seen these here before.


Looking across the field towards Old Down the trees are now full of competing greens, even the colour in the field was varied.


Just before the entrance to the wood There were two Wrens competing in song.  One Wren was in the oak tree singing from the Ivy.


While the other was in the hedge next to the field gates.


Walking through the woods I could hear Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps, but the dominant song was coming from the many Wrens here.

I turned onto the perimeter path, and headed west, the Bluebells are now well advanced, and probably about 50% out.


With the tree canopy still not covered by leaves this is the best time to look for wildflowers.  The Wood Spurge is very evident, tall spikes of lime green foliage contrasting against a background of the deep blue haze.


Wood Anemones are still in flower, the petals turned towards the sunshine.


A Chiffchaff appeared and sang from some scrub, the background is of the crop in the field beyond.


Bumblebees could be seen flying amongst the Bluebells, and nectaring on the blue flowers.


The path wound through some familiar areas, and I kept scanning the floor of the wood.  In the usual spot I found an Early Purple Orchid, not quite in flower but not far off, and once again this is the earliest I have seen this flower out.


From the perimeter path I turned in and headed up the main path towards the crossroads.  A male Orange Tip flew past me not stopping, and then as I walked towards the Old Down entrance, another copied the feat.

The Thistles are just beginning to emerge, at the moment they are about a foot high, in a few weeks time they will be towering over me.


I came out of the wood, and before heading to the pond crossed the stile and walked along the south side of the hedge.  With some sun about there is always the chance of butterflies, and sure enough I could see an Orange Tip flying away from me.  I walked on and started to catch up with it as it hovered in one place.  It soon became clear the reason why it had stopped, there was a female on a flower.


It flew around the female trying to get close, but when she did become receptive to his advances he flew off!  I followed him as it flew up and down, finally landing on some Cuckoo flower.


It is always lovely to catch up with the years first Orange Tips, they are just so photogenic.


The first set of photographs of what I a sure will be many.


It finally flew off, so I turned back and joined the lane and walked on to the pond.  A Chiffchaff was creeping through the bramble at the side of the road.  It did show well, but not for the camera.


A single male Mallard was at the far end of the pond, and was calling which was strange.  I walked around the pond to try and see if I could hear the Firecrest I had seen a week ago.

There was no sign or sound of the Firecrest, but there was a Goldcrest which was just as nice.


Above a Great Spotted Woodpecker drummed, and there were Mistle Thrushes in the trees above the picnic area. 

I walked on, and down towards the school.  The two Red-legged Partridges were in the field as usual.


I headed home, pleased with some good butterfly pictures at last, and another new date for the orchid in Old Down.  Everything this year is starting to arrive early.