Last weeks weekend weather got you thinking that maybe spring was here, and there were a few migrants trickling in along the south coast. This weekend though the weather forecast was for cold and cloudy weather, so it was quite a pleasant surprise as we walked from the car park to the Acres Down viewpoint and the sun started to emerge. It was still cold to start but a breeze picked up, and it was necessary to find a spot sheltered from a north easterly.
Ian and I had returned to the Forest, this time to Acres Down in the hope that the Goshawks would perform. As we settled in, there was a minor panic with the camera batteries, the moral of which is, extreme cold weather destroys camera batteries, fortunately I had one that seemed to have survived the Svalbard experience, and interesting it was the genuine Canon battery.
When I returned to the view point I found out that there had been one Goshawk soaring distantly. It wasn't long though before two showed again over the distant pines, good views in the telescope but way to far off for even my new lens!
At least two pairs showed off and on, and we were also treated to a Peregrine, again distant, but it was possible to see quite clearly the difference between these wonderful birds of prey.
As usual it was a buzzard that came the closet and seemed to be checking us out as it soared above us.
Finally a Goshawk drifted closer to us, and through the telescope you could clearly see the white under-tail coverts, the definite eye stripe and barred underparts. As you can see from the photograph, it was still a fair way off.
Siskin were flying over calling, and early there were Hawfinch reported, but we were not able to see them. A calling Dartford Warbler sent us off in a brief walk around the gorse and heather, but all we were able to find was a pair of Stonechat.
The Goshawk flights became fewer, so we decided to head back to the car, and to try our luck elsewhere. As we walked down the hill to the cars a Wren sat out in the open in the bracken at the base of a bush.
We decided to head back to Mark Ash Wood in the hope that the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker might be showing. When we arrived it was quiet, gone were the Redwing and Chaffinches that were here two weeks ago. We walked to see if the Tawny Owl was showing but it must have too cold. We took the time to have lunch, listening, but nothing showed. There was though a Stock Dove sitting at the top of a dead tree, maybe a possible nest site.
Rather than sit and wait we headed into the wood across the road. As we did alarm calls rang out and a very pale almost ghostly bird flew slowly through the trees. We wondered was it a Goshawk, but as we walked down the hill it flew from a perch in the tree, across in front of us and then into another tree. The alarm calls went off again, but the calls were not for a hawk, but a very pale Buzzard. In the tree its colour provided some excellent camouflage against the bark.
When it flew off it showed once again the pale rump and breast that when seen quickly gives the impression of something else, and not just a Buzzard.
Some movement at the base of one of the trees caught my eye, and closer inspection revealed a small bird with a definite eye stripe, a Firecrest and a male with a fiery orange crest.
We edged closer and watched as it buzzed around the tree calling and singing.
A beautiful bird, the orange crest, white eye stripe and olive green shoulders a wonderful colourful combination.
It also spent a lot of time foraging around in the leaf litter.
From Mark Ash Wood the next stop was Blackwater Arboretum. Hawfinch had been reported, so we wondered around the area listening. The dominant calls were those of Siskin, but they preferred to stay at the top of the very tall conifers, and became just dots as they flew around.
It was very quiet though, but we did manage to find a small flock of Goldcrests, and I was able to get a picture of one, that shows the significant difference with the more colourful Firecrest.
The next destination was Denny Wood, parking in Shatterford we walked across the open heath and bog towards the wood. A Buzzard appeared and then promptly disappeared, and a Kestrel flew across in front of us, but that was the only bird life we saw. As we entered the wood, Robins could be heard singing, and Great and Blue Tits were busy in the tallest branches.
Strange calls led us into the wood, going off the paths to investigate, these calls were either a Great Tit, or even a Chaffinch. We did though manage to find a single Marsh Tit.
Two stag Fallow Deer wandered in front of us, both sporting quite an impressive set of antlers. As we watched another appeared but not with same impressive head gear, its antlers only just beginning. They kept themselves well hidden, but eventually there curiosity got the better of one.
We came out of the wood, and headed along Bishop's Dyke and then back down the path to the car park. In all that walk we only saw a pair of Mallard in the pond, a single Lapwing and another annoying calling Chaffinch.
March can be frustrating, and almost there month, but on the days when it is not there its very quiet. Still really shouldn't complain, Goshawk, Peregrine and Firecrest isn't bad.