We took a bracing and frosty walk with the dog on Sunday morning, ended up walking about 5.5 miles (that was Mrs Sciencebase’s plot, I got 5.7 miles), took us about 2.5 hours but lots of stopping to chat to other dogwalkers and friends along the way and to take photographs.
Within 20 minutes of setting off we’d spotted a distant fox in the field on the west side of Rampton Road. The fox appeared to be snuffling around in the grass, perhaps munching on a few insects and grubs. It didn’t seem to notice the pheasant which ran straight in front of it after the bird heard my distant camera shutter. It wasn’t until the last moments that the fox looked up and seemed, in this snap, to be stalking the bird, but the photo taken a split second later saw the bird running past and the fox going back to its grubbing around. The pheasant coolly headed for the cover of the nearest hedgerow unscathed. Presumably, the fox didn’t fancy the chase.
I took the shot from the roadside verge about 500 metres away but with a short lens fully extended to just 105mm so not a proper big zoom, I’ve cropped it right in and you can see it’s a fox watching a male pheasant, honest.
Further along the road and we turn on to the grassy footpath proper, heading along the drainage ditch (lode) parallel to Rampton Spinney. At the dogleg in the ditch a kingfisher we’ve spotted before flits along the water course and over the bank out of sight. Kingfisher numbers seem to be on the rise, I’ve seen 4 or 5 in recent weeks in different places. Didn’t get a shot of that bird though.
There was a solitary cygnet on the icy lode, we also spotted a snipe (don’t think I’ve seen a snipe in these here parts before) and heard what we imagined was a curlew in the distance (very unlikely here). Further along the lode there lapped lapwings on the wing, fieldfares faring well in the fields, a less than egregious egret and at least one heron lolloping in the air heroically. Further on still, heading towards All Saints Church, there are goldfinches, long-tailed tits, robins, blackbirds, rooks, blackheaded gulls in winter plumage (usual stuff).
We weren’t enraptured by raptors on this walk, not even a kestrel and certainly not the red kites I spotted several years ago along this stretch. There weren’t even the usual buzzards buzzing the rooks.
Next, a pedestrian U-turn back up Twentypence Road and past the church, up the lane past the old buildings that aren’t there any more and then Mrs Sciencebase spots more animals in the distance, not farm animals (lots of sheep grazing locally of late). Muntjac deer, perhaps? Nope, two foxes this time grubbing around and then scrapping or courting (hard to tell at this distance).
More chit-chat with friends heading in the opposite direction as we head up Long Drove and by the time we’re back in the village proper we assume wildlife sightings will drop to zero, but a redwing in a tree at the edge of Coolidge Gardens adds another tick in the mental Eye-Spy-Book-of-Birds.