6 February 2010

2020 / 05

1300 – 1600
Bright and sunny, but not warm. 8°C and light S/SE breeze
Silver ‘snow’ moon in its second quarter

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It’s a joy to be out at last.

The layby is technically ‘closed’ but occupied by three construction vehicles, so I have taken the liberty (and indulged in my authority) to park INSIDE the gate today.
It’s really VERY muddy. And there is more cloud cover than I would have liked most of the afternoon, but it drifts in and out.

Just yesterday, as the year’s first prolonged spell of ‘nice’ weather now reaches its thrid day (shock! horror!), one lucky birder had a male Goshawk drifting high NW of Southampton Common. That’s VERY close to Wood, so I have an eye on the sky. Two Buzzards are up over the east clearfell and very noisy as they move off over the farmland. I expect it is their presence that prompts a Herring Gull cry, but I can’t see the latter at all.
By way of a change, I make my way into the Upper Quarter, where there is a noisy and active mixed bunch of Coal / Blue and Long-tailed Tits. Twice, I disturb the same Jay who swoops silently ahead each time. There is a Bullfinch calling too, but I get only the briefest view. The gorse is high here, probably the biggest stand left in the wood. Scattered with a few ragged yellow flowers.

In the Crow’s Tree, a fluttering flap catches my eye and I spend a few delightful minutes watching a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing one another amorously. They each parachute down a few brances, followed by the other, then creep in stop-motion back up again. It becomes apparent there are THREE together here, which I have never seen before – a second male is also trying his luck – until all three are disturbed by a Helicopter that smashes in from the northwest.

The refugia plate No. 6 in the Passage catches my eye, and I am drawn to lift it.
Bingo! Underneath, and apparently quite at ease, is a beautiful FIELD VOLE (microtus agrestis) that shows no inclination to run off and hide. I crouch down to see him better, and the cute little thing just looks back up at me. Making eye contact with wildlife is mesmerising, and its not until he does eventually scuttle away into the grass that I curse myself for not taking a photograph. One of those lovely moments that will forever be a memory. And a sign of things to come as the weather warms up and spring settles in. Fabulous, and my spirit soars with the vapour trails up into the big blue above.

When I arrived this afternoon, I was of a mind to get to the Sitting Spot and just watch the sky, but it is colder and windier than I was expecting and I’m a bit frustrated. So instead I hunt Firecrests, and that doesn’t work out either. Today there is only one inclined to respond to me, though he does show beautifully for some considerable time. This is down in the holly ‘hedge’ along the farmland on the Lower East Side. This male bird is unringed – and we have met before.

A (white-tailed?) Bumble Bee lurches ahead of me, looking for a nesting place.

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Following my feet brings me to the part of the fence on Velmore Drive that the equestrians ‘next door’ have cut away to access the Wood, so I see no harm in using it in the opposite direction. Immediately in the paddock are a half-dozen nervous and flighty Redwings, along with 2 Song Thrushes, 1 Mistle Thrush and 35 Black-headed Gulls in various moults and most coming into breeding plumage; 6 Magpies, 40+ Woodpigeons, another Buzzard (presumably one of the same) and a noisy crowd of about 150 corvids.
These include, and in fact are mostly Rooks – the first ones I have noted on the site this year. Scanning the paddocks also turns up a couple of Starlings in a hedgerow. The second yeartick in the same minute. That’s 40 now. There’s also one Pied Wagtail and, over the outbuildings as I leave, a single Grey Wagtail goes over calling persistently. Add two different singing male Greenfinches and four House Sparrows and suddenly that’s quite a flurry of birds.

Back in the Woods, through the north belt, it is shady and cold. Nothing is stirring other than a few Great Tits. It’s very wet in the long grass here, and the wind has picked up by the time I reach the clearfell. But the clouds are barely moving and the sky is huge. Yet I feel cold, and there is a chill breeze at low level whcih may account for the abscence here of almost any small birds. Another factor in that will be the male Sparrowhawk circling overhead in the south east corner, being mobbed by Stock Doves. In fact, are they ALL Stock Doves? At least 6 birds, and two more perched up over there. Four pairs.
And what’s that, circling really high? It’s brown, but it’s a gull. In fact they both are – two birds just ‘hanging around’. Quiet a challenge for the ID and I am inclined to go with my instinct. Their upperwings are very dark, especially the outer primaries; and from below, there is not the obvious translucent wedge that would define Herring Gull. So these are Lesser Black-backs. Last year’s young. That’s three gull species in one day, which is almost unheard of. I will only see LBBGs in ones and twos maybe three more times this year. It’s a Good Bird hereabouts.

I’m in no hurry to leave, and it is much warmer on the south side in the shelter of the Chilworth Pines and along the South Side of the Track. Twice, I note the intense, high-pitched song of a Treecreeper, but I can’t manage to see either bird. I want to get to grips with these this year, but they can be hard to see when you are looking for them.

Oh, and I found this painted copper plate.
Belongs perhaps to the LARPERS…?

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