2018 / 51
Sunny spells / overcast spells. Light westerly. Warm 22°C
14:15 – 16:30
Walking down Woodside this afternoon, and across the fields on the bridleway everything is quiet and still. There is no birdsong, just the occasional calls of Robin or Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit. Other than Woodpigeons overhead I see only one or two Blackbirds in the gardens.
There is a flock of 50 corvids in the fields with the cattle nearest the farm – Rooks and Jackdaws. Carrion Crows calling from the edge of the wood too and drifting over.
The blackberries are ripening now, and some are juicy and sweet. Most resist when I try to pick them, and need more rain.
At the Roughs, Blue Tit and Nuthatch announce my passing from the magnificent pedunculate oak, and there are Dunnock and Greenfinch around too. Generally very little bird movement at this time of day and in midsummer. It’s a time to enjoy the wood and the the countryside for their ambience, rather than their wildlife.
Today, I am scanning the sky, and stand for half an hour by the pylons looking north for the Peregrines and Hobbies that are seen ‘most days’ it would seem over Valley Park, Chandlers Ford. I have no luck.
There are half a dozen House Martins – always VERY difficult to count – present throughout, and at quarter past three, a handful of Swallows come by from the west low over the fields. I’m excited for a moment by a bird that turns out to be a dark juvenile gull moving in the same direction. Lesser Black-back I think, confirmed within seconds as an adult follows close behind. Then a Buzzard goes up, and three Feral Pigeons – all white – swirl around beyond the road.
It is beautiful on this path today. More pleasant than I otherwise recall. The light is soft and playful, the trees calm and welcoming.
15:40, and after feasting on more blackberries at the corner, I descend the footpath towards the wood. Keeping an eye overhead, I notice there are now three Buzzards up together, two adults and a juvenile, the latter of which is calling plaintively and can be heard half a mile away. Watch carefully as they soar – they may attract company. Notice how they are completely ignored by all the pigeons. There are a couple of hundred pigeons around, and not one bothers to harass the raptors.
Marshalls Row has been cut. Very recently. There will be a wide grassy ride diagonally up the line of the stream and the ash trees. Wonderful. In the past week, FC have done significant clearance and improvement work in this area. The large bramble thicket now has a neat bay cut into it, and walking up towards the cleared area I notice the track has been widened significantly by six feet of brush cutting either side. At the junction, there are two or three more scalloped bays and two Hawkers whizzing around in the sunshine. I can only hear Wren, Great Spotted Woodpecker and a single Chiffchaff calling.
It is stuffy in the wood. And exceptionally quiet. A Chaffinch calls persistently. I can see little from the top end beneath the heavy cloud, and make my way back down after just ten minutes. The Firecrest singing loudly from beside the track at the junction startles me. He sings three or four times, but remains steadfastly invisible.
Back at the footpath it is 16:20 and the three Buzzards are still up. two have drifted east, but the third is close, over the Roughs. With him is another smaller raptor – a Sparrowhawk.
I will return Monday morning, to assist FC with clearance work on the Passage, with Stout boots and a strong pair of gloves. I should start calling it the ‘wayleave’ – “a right of way granted by a landowner, generally in exchange for payment and typically for purposes such as the erection of telegraph wires or laying of pipes.” Gas, in this case.
But I probably won’t.