Saturday, 30 January 2016

Sunshine and Rain

To say that the Thursday of this past week was the brightest sunshine-filled day we have seen for most of this winter, would possibly not be an exaggeration in the slightest. I spent the morning at work, but upon returning home at lunch time, my only thought was to get out on the patch for a walk to make the most of every drop of that rare sunlight. Predictably, I hadn't made it very far along the road when a blustery wind got up and blew in a number of later-afternoon clouds to obscure the sun and hint cryptically at potential rainfall sometime in the near future. (Am I the only one, or do you find that this always happens to you too? Nature is tricksy!) None-the-less I persevered with my walk and found more than enough to distract me from the horizon clouds and the wind finding its way into the back of my neck under my scarf. 

It seems as though I was not the only one coaxed out by the sun. Spring growth in the hedgerow understory has kicked off early with the mild damp weather; primroses have been flowering since last year, bright golden stars of celandine appear on the banks, wild arum arrowhead-leaves unfurl and even the green leaf spikes of bluebell are shooting from the wet soil. 
By the bus stop is a swathe of pale slender mauve flowers from the early spring crocus.

I had decided to head out from home, along the main road and take a right turn into Pitsham Lane, to take me along the farm track completing a round circuit, and approaching the farm from the opposite direction to 'normal' for a refreshing change. 

Passing under the old railway bridge and crossing the rife, I noticed a very freshly used badger latrine in the winter-dead bracken at the top of the stream bank. I suspect the badgers have their set dug into the embankment somewhere along the disused railway line, deeper in to the woodland, but I'd love to discover more and know them better. 
I scanned the long paddock for the three roe deer I had seen there on my previous visit but no sign of them today. The 'manor house' was busy, probably the last shoot-lunch of the game season, so I suspect the deer had sought quieter browsing elsewhere. 
House sparrows chirped and gossiped as always in the hedge opposite the house, sedentary and sociable, their feathers fluffed against the wind. 

The fields were quiet at first glance, the water level is high and standing puddles caught the light. Cattle did their best to look doleful and piteous in the vain hope I might turn into a tractor bringing them an extra feed. Above their heads, flocks of starlings used the three stands of telegraph wires as though to mark out musical notation. 
A kestrel swooping up to perch on one of the telegraph poles was my first raptor of the day. 
Passing the brickworks a large bird in the distant sky caught my eye and a brief view revealed a red kite. Long wings rode the air and with a slight lean to the side, the kite changed direction and was lost to view behind the trees. 

Turning the corner past the dairy and walking along the straight section of track, the sun returned, bathing the fields and standing oaks in a golden light. Pheasants were cavorting in the field edge. It was as I raised my binoculars to take a closer look at the pheasants, that a small flock of goldfinches leaving the track-side hedge attracted my attention and drew me to a previously unnoticed bird, perched on the top of the brambles some metres along the track. It was a male stonechat, my first for this location. 

A third raptor ended up being a lovely finale to my walk. As the stonechat dropped out of view behind the hedge, I could here the distinctive sound of crows mobbing something. It turned out they were bullying a large buzzard which flew low across the field into the line of trees that mark the boundary with the next field beyond. Eventually shaking off the crows' harassment, the buzzard perched first on a fence post then in a low branch of one of the large oak trees, watching the sun move towards its time to sink behind the western hills. 

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Hello! Thank you for viewing my blogs and profile. I am passionate about the countryside and british wildlife and I hope that this comes through in my blog. I am a nature writer and have been pursuing photography since early teenage years, whilst building a career in conservation. Helping people to reconnect with the natural world is very important to me, whether through direct hands on interaction, education or literature. Please also visit my website, for more information, my current CV, and further examples of writing and photography. You can contact me or keep up to date with new blog posts via Twitter @SophiEcoWild and/or Feedback, comments and audience participation are always welcome! Sophie May Lewis