Now It's Really Started!
Well over the past few weeks, the season has changed and spring really is in evidence all over my local patch.
Inside the woodland areas, the Bluebells have rapidly gone from being little green shoots, to buds and are just about bursting into bloom.
Just before the Bluebells began to open, the floor of the woodland was and still is covered in tiny white stars - the Wood Anemones are in flower. If I walk early on in the day, they are all closed, but as the sun gradually filters into the woods, they open their little heads and shine.
Here and there are little pools of bright shiny yellow as the Aconites open - this little clump, which grows in the bole of a tree is nearly always the first to open. There are still more to bloom as across the woodland floor there is a carpet of their new leaves.
Where it has been relatively dry, none of the Wood Violets have appeared, although there are plenty of young Garlic Mustard plants, Wild Garlic and in places, Stitchwort. The Primroses are blooming well - they appear in the same locations each year, quite bashful amidst all the other fresh greenery.
Within the woods, I have been watching Blue Tits prospecting nest holes, they mostly seem to be foraging in pairs now, so I think the time has come for nest building! Those that haven't paired up yet are still calling and chasing whilst they decide on a mate.
The Blue Tits can often be seen exploring where branches have snapped from the trees, either to pick insects or if the hole is big enough, then as a possible nest site.
The Great Tits are also still in fine voice and can be seen and heard declaring from various perches in the lower branches of the trees, they have also been chasing prospective partners about and will soon be prospecting for nest sites too - I have seen them use old Great Spotted Woodpecker holes before, of which there are quite a selection!
Near the tree which came down in the middle of the woods, of late I have been seeing a very smart male Blackbird perched. He seems quite at ease, almost on lookout and sits there singing quietly; I'm not sure if he has a female nearby - the wreckage of the tree and the surrounding vegetation is quite dense, but if another Blackbird gets near, they are seen off of 'his patch'. His song contributes to the chorus that is the soundtrack in the woodland - click on the image below to have a listen!
Click on the image for a brief listen to the Woodland Chorus!
One of the contributors to the chorus is the Song Thrush. I find these to be incredibly shy and whilst I often hear them singing from a high vantage point, I rarely see them. Recently, I have seen one very warily collecting materials from the woodland floor - there's a pair! In the image below, he (?) appears to be collecting mud from a soft part of the path and on another day one was picking around in old vegetation for nesting materials.
Elsewhere in the woods, Wrens are still declaring, there seem to not be so many about as in previous years, although the regular territories are occupied, however there do seem to be a few more along the farside of the brook in the fallow field where they are relatively undisturbed by walkers.
Occasionally whilst in the woods I hear the Buzzards calling and see them soaring overhead, often being harassed by Rooks and Crows. One Morning, along the edge of the woods, I saw a large shape alight on one of the outside branches - I was treated to quite a glare!
A little later on, the same morning, another Buzzard had been perched on the far side of the brook, it took off and spent a while circling over the field whilst whilst it sought a thermal and I was afforded some beautiful views,
As it circled I could see that the bird appeared to be scanning the sky as well as watching me, after a few moments, thermal found it soared and calling from the East a second Buzzard joined it, possibly the one which had been glaring at me from the tree earlier on!
By the time they 'met' up, they were a little too high and fast to be in camera range, however they headed off Westwards towards more wood and farmland.
One bird I have seen very little of over the winter months have been the Treecreepers - these tiny fast agile little birds are often seen scooting and spiralling up treetrunks as they forage for food. Unlike the Nuthatches (also notable by their absence) Treecreepers can only go up, when they reach the top, they then fly down to the base of the next tree and start over again, probing the bark for titbits as they go.
The other weekend, after lurking near a Wren's territory for a while (glimpsed and heard only) I saw a familiar silhouette on the side of a tree. A treecreeper!
I watched for a while as he scooted up and around an elderberry tree and some of the larger trees - having to watch carefully as he was small, fast and very well camouflaged.
I returned the next day and, following muy usual route, was this time treated to close views of him and a female, who was foraging on an adjacent tree. She was favouring a hollow lump of tree, skimming up the side and against the sun, occasionally disappearing behind the lip of the stump to forage on the old wood still clinging to the bark. (It's kind of a curve of wood one side and bark the other, but open)
Every now and then, the pair of them would fly off into the thicket of elder, before returning again and resuming their favoured trees.
After a while, they flew off and hopefully, if I peer at enough gaps in the bark in some of the trees around that spot, I may see where they choose to nest (there are quite a few trees with 'flakey' bark or suitable looking holes...)
With the weather being milder of late, I have begun to keep my eyes open for butterfly activity. In my last blog, I mentioned that I'd seen a very smart looking Small Tortoiseshell. I have also seen a few Brimstone Butterflies - these flutter along quickly and go 'on patrol' so to speak, however, none of them were settling.
I had a wander along the paths at the end of the fallow field one warm morning and was pleasantly surprised to see several fresh looking Comma Butterflies, either basking or flying along,
one pair were even busy disputing territory! A number of late season Comma's will hibernate over the winter months and emerge once the weather warms up - these are the ones I have been watching. They are slightly smaller and have a slightly varied underwing colouration (thought to aid camouflage when hibernating) to some of the larger Comma's which may also hibernate and survive the winter. All of those I have seen so far look in very smart condition.
All of the Blackthorn trees are now out in bloom and there is fresh green budburst on most of the Hawthorns, where the blossom will shortly follow. There is budburst too on many of the Salix, Birch and Beech trees, everything is starting to look fresh, lush and green.
Along one bank of Blackthorn, I had a very smart Peacock butterfly rise up from sunning itself on the path, this time of year I have to look up and down at the same time - fortunately they feel my steps and flutter up ahead of me.
There have also been a lot of huge Bumble Bees drifting about as well as smaller Honey and Mining Bees, these together with quite a few hoverflies can be found feeding on any nectar source - mostly blossom at the moment.
Along the farside of the brook, I have seen Long Tailed Tits nest building and whilst I am still catching glimpses of this activity, there are much smaller troupes of them flitting along the treelines - many of them have now paired up for the year and are busy. From time to time I have still seen them though, foraging around in the trees - either for lichen, which forms part of their nest building material or for food.
In the woodland at various spots and along the edge of the fallow field, there are now at least six Chiff Chaffs, all calling away for a mate. From observing them in previous years, they each seem to return to approximately the same spot and have their own territories. At the weekend, I was Chiff Chaffed to by a few of them and one of them at least seemed to have found a mate, calling and following another around.
Much of the time they will call from the treetops, at others they will pause briefly to forage amongst the blossom or branches for food - they eat small insects and currently, along with hoverflies there are plenty of tiny black flower beetles on the wing and taking advantage of the clouds of white blossom which have appeared.
In amidst the blooms, other small birds are also taking advantage of the insect life, notably the Blue Tits, who dangle acrobatically on the slenderest of branches as they feast,
and you can always tell which ones have been feasting amidst the blossom - their faces are stained yellow from the pollen!
Speaking of Summer visitors, on the weekend just past, I glimpsed one and heard another two Blackcaps. I think that these have the most beautiful song, however, the singers are very shy and can mostly be heard singing from deep within the branches of Blackthorns or Hawthorns, well and truly out of sight. Hopefully as more arrive, I will have a better chance of seeing one of these smart little warblers.
It would appear that there is at least one other spot for me to keep my eyes open for Marsh Tits. You may recall me mentioning previously that there is one corner that I am almost guaranteed of seeing a pair; well the other day, I was walking at the western end of the fallow field, which is overhung by an old Oak and the remains of an Alder. Anyway, these two trees often host Long Tailed Tits, Robins and the occasional Treecreeper, however I heard a familiar call and just above me was a very smart Marsh Tit declaring!
I understand that they don't travel far, but just maybe this is one of last year's birds, a few hundred yards from where I see the others? Hopefully there will be a Lady Marsh Tit around nearby for him!
I also had a little wander in the patch of woodland at the Western end of the field, full of birdsong - (notably Blackcaps) and I could also see Great Tits chasing, Goldcrests here and there swirling amidst the branches, Wrens popping up, declaring and then diving undercover again.. it was pretty busy in there!
One nearby movement got my attention though, a Coal Tit. I looked around and in a tree right in front of me, peering from behind a clump of moss was a most confiding bird!
After a moment, he placed the moss carefully on the branch and peered more closely at me,
before deciding that I was no threat and then proceeding to 'pose' for a good ten minutes or so - well, it was rude to say no so....
Although, to ensure I got his best side, he did try a couple of different perches!
After a while, he decided that nest material collection was to resume, so I said 'Thank you' and off he went. Sometimes moments like this with wildlife are simply magical!
And finally, something a little bit special....
For a few years now I have not seen any Kestrels hunting over the fallow field - but that has now changed! A few years back there was at least one who would have various lookout points on a couple of favoured trees, but certainly after the last time the field was mown (mown... stripped and scoured bare would be more accurate) all the habitat that housed voles had gone and with it the Kestrels. I see them along the roadside when driving to work, but not on the local patch.
The other weekend, whilst I was inside the woods, I could hear a commotion at the east end of the field, Ki Ki Ki Ki! As I looked through the trees, I could see a Kestrel in pursuit mode and it seemed to be chasing off an intruder. A while later, when I emerged from the woods, I could see a female atop a big Oak tree at the Eastern end.
She stayed around on and off, either there or watching from high up at the edge of the woods and I glimpsed her again the following day.
I thought no more of it (beyond being pleased to see a Kestrel back on the patch) however as I was returning from a walk the next day, I think I saw who she was chasing off her hunting patch - a very smart male!
He seems to have settled on hunting over the middle part of the field. As always with Kestrels, as soon as I get vaguely near to where they are on lookout, they are off, so whilst there were both very long distance views, I am absolutely delighted at seeing them - hopefully they will be here to stay.
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