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Thursday, April 25, 2013

Woodland walk near Chaffcombe

 This morning I was lucky enough to be invited on a walk through a private woodland near Chaffcombe. Although the weather was not sunny it was quite mild and the birds were singing enthusiastically, including Nuthatches, Chiffchaff, Coal Tits, Wrens, Robins and Song thrush as well as drumming Great Spotted Woodpeckers.
The main reason for the walk was to see the beautiful spread of Bluebells, but unfortunately they were barely out and the colour not as dramatic as we had hoped for.
Nevertheless there were a good number of other spring woodland flowers to be seen in this remnant of ancient woodland, as well as unusual lichen and fungi, and I have added a few photos here to demonstrate the variety.

Primroses amongst the wild garlic
Early Purple Orchid
Herb Paris
Wood Sorrel

Wood Anemone

Lungwort (Lichen)
Unusual fungi known as Alfred's cakes, with their "burnt offering" appearance,  which grow on dead trees
Alfred's cakes on an ash branch
Close up of Alfred's cakes
Nearby the wood there was a lovely area with Cowslips in full bloom, the first I have seen this year.

Lastly, whilst there were no butterflies on the wing today there was a very unusual "caterpillar"- what a way to end a truly lovely spring woodland walk!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Green woodpecker in the garden

As work continues at mum's (the bathroom project has proved trickier than expected) I am still relying on spotting birds in her back garden when I can't be spared  to go out for a walk. Still, luckily as mum has always fed "her" birds on a variety of food, from live mealworms to nuts and seed to fat balls, she attracts a good variety of birds too. She has recently had a male Blackcap feeding on the seed feeder and today, though not eating the food provided,  I was pleased to see a beautiful Green woodpecker just over the fence in a tree in her neighbours' garden. I suspect it had been attracted to the newly mown lawns as the ants, its favourite food, would be easier to  find. Unfortunately I didn't have my camera with me so got no photos on this occasion. Never mind, perhaps next time.
The funny thing is that on Saturday we went on a field trip to Arne RSPB reserve in Dorset and we kept hearing Green woodpeckers yaffling but we never got a sighting. Obviously we should have stayed in Combe!

Bluebells at last?

Bluebell in Scrapton Lane

After the excitement of seeing the first swallows in the parish and noting on the 14 th April both swallows and field fare as I walked across the field at Polerue, (something I do not recall happening before, as the latter should have keft for their breeding ground in Scandinavia before the former arrive for the summer) I was on the look out for my first Bluebell. At last, on the 17 th I spotted a very poor specimen in Scrapton Lane on the verge.

Perhaps the warmer weather that finally arrived this weekend, faltered on Sunday/Monday and reached the dizzy heights of 19C today means it will be joined by more soon.

Farmers have been busy muck spreading and rolling the grass pastures since the weather has been dry and very neat they look too!


Rolled fields between Stantway and Combe Wood Lane


Saturday, April 13, 2013

Swallows have arrived!

We went to the Chew Valley Lake Bird Fair yesterday, mainly to look at camera gear, but also for a spot of bird watching. The weather was wet and windy for most of the day so there were very few small birds about, but we we were pleased to see good numbers of Sand and House Martins and Swallows, hawking for insects over the lake.
Clearly the change in wind direction had finally allowed good  numbers of these summer migrants to arrive for the breeding season. On the way home we also saw a few Swallows flying over the fields near Peasmarsh alongside the A358 so we can at least say they have arrived locally too!
We were also lucky to see a raft of four Velvet Scoter duck out on a very choppy lake at Chew. These birds are actually sea duck and are normally seen on the East coast of GB so the recent easterly winds have presumably blown them off course. The large expanse of water at Chew was probably a welcome sight and they chose to rest before continuing to their summer breeding sites in the far noth of Europe.
The wet and windy weather continued today, so the only birding was to be done from the kitchen window. The Blue and Great tits were feeding on the seed, fat balls and nuts on the bird feeders, which no doubt was a necessity as the insects are being washed out of the air.
Let's hope the weather improves soon or another poor breeding season will befall our feathered friends yet again!.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Spring and winter still at odds

Yesterday morning, as we are still working at mum's,  I decided to get up early to have a walk as I feel I am missing out on getting my usual countryside "fix".
I went up to the top of Stantway and then along Holland's Wash Drove, which after being more or less unpassable in the wet weather, has finally dried out enough to venture along it without the fear of losing one's boots in the mud!
A few buzzards were soaring and a lone raven flew overhead  making its unmistakeable cronking call. Then I heard and, after some scanning the sky, saw my first Skylark of the season. What an uplifting sound it is and a real harbinger of spring as it flew ever higher, singing non stop to advertise itself to any possible mate. 
The odd thing was that in the next field there were a flock of Fieldfare feeding, a bird that should have headed off to their breeding grounds in Scandinavia by now, but, because of the cold and easterly winds, have delayed their departure so they are still around.

They are not the only winter birds still about as Redwing are also about, on various fields, such as the football field and school playing field, searching for food before they finally decide to leave us for another year. 

Lucky sighting!

Despite the improved weather this last weekend, a job we have promised to do for my mum has meant that I have not been able to get out for a walk and enjoy the sun. Our good deeds were rewarded though, as, when standing washing up,  I noticed something different in the holly bush at the top of her garden. Borrowing mum's binoculars to investigate I was amazed to see it was a tawny owl, sunning itself out of the wind on a sheltered branch. Mum was delighted to get such good views and I hastily dashed home for my camera, not really expecting it to be still be there on my return. To my surprise it was, and it allowed me to creep up the garden taking photos as though it posed for such events every day!

Sadly it had gone the next morning, but what a treat and the next day we saw a tiny Goldcrest as well as Chiff Chaff hopping about in the same bush, so, despite not being able to get out in the sun, we did at least have some good wildlife sightings!

Rooks in good voice!

The first week of April and the weather has continued to bring bitter easterly winds and hard frosts, although more sunshine than in March. 
The rooks are in full voice, cawing loudly in and around the various rookery's near the village now, such as at this particularly large one in Combe Wood.
Seen here on the left,  from the fields between Scrapton and the A30 and below, a close up from  Scrapton Lane.
The birds seem to be constantly bickering but as they are gregarious, it just seems to be par for the course!

Looking directly up from the footpath that passes almost below the rookery it is quite difficult  to spot the birds, but the noise alone advertises their presence! They continually fly back and forth with twigs to enlarge their untidy nests and will dive bomb any passing buzzard when it soars too close.

What happened to March?!

Apologies to anyone who follows my blog and has wondered why there have not been any posts recently. March was a hectic time for me, racing towards retirement and some family matters to be dealt with, so whilst I did get out for a few walks and have some pictures to upload I didn't get a chance to sit down at the computer and put words to screen.

This post then is a catch up of what I saw over the month and starts with foggy conditions on the 5th. I went for a short walk across the fields from Stantway to towards Combe Wood Lane as the early morning fog began to lift. 
Looking towards Wadeford

There were good numbers of Redwing feeding on the short grass, though they must have struggled to find much as the ground was covered in frost  and crunchy underfoot.

As more of the fog lifted I noticed some movement on a hedgerow towards Holland's Wash Drove. On closer inspection I could see two buzzard sitting side by side on the top of the hedge, perhaps waiting for a passing meal?

After a while, one appeared to jump up and pounce back down but I couldn't see if it was after prey or just wing stretching. 
On the 13th I visited Barrington Court on one of the few bright, if still very cold days. The gardens were nearly empty and the few birds that were about, like this male blackbird, were taking advantage of the recently dug earth to search for worms. It was quite happy to let me walk up close,and was probably a resident and quite used to the public being about.

On the 19th, on my usual route to get my morning paper, across the fields from Stantway and then into SSW via the green lane from Combe Wood Lane I was pleased to see a song thrush feeding. It seems such a shame that this lovely shy bird is seen less and less these days. 
On reaching SSW I was pleased to see that one of the nest boxes( number 4)  which had fallen down from one of the trees at north end had been put back up, this time on a tree towards the south end. (Thanks to the chaps who work so hard to maintain this peaceful little haven in the village centre). I was even more delighted to see it was being inspected by a blue tit and can report that a pair have been seen taking in nesting material since.

Finally, on the 28th, after some overnight snow which gave some wintry scenes across the valley once again and 

no doubt to the annoyance of the wildlife, like this rabbit in a field near Cat tail, in Wadeford,
I was delighted to see some Siskins in someone's garden, having failed to see any in my own this year, feeding alongside a Goldfinch. What I was actually looking for though were Redpoll,  as I had never seen these in the parish and I was getting very frustrated as at least three different people had reported them on their bird feeders this winter and every time I tired to spot them I "dipped" out, as they say in birding parlance! Anyway, I can report that I did in fact see them in the same garden as I saw these Siskins, but unfortunately I have not, as yet, managed to get any good photos of them, though I will go on trying!

Anyway, sorry for such a long post, I will endeavour to keep more up to date in future!