END OF LOCKDOWN 3 TRAVEL RESTRICTIONS - MORNING WALK AROUND THE GROUNDS OF MELBURY HOUSE
WEATHER; a cloudy start but from 11am a clear blue sky. Still a cold light wind but a much warmer day. Temp 13C
Our first day with the lockdown restrictions eased a little, we can now go out for more than just exercise and although we advised to stay at home it is not law and we are allowed to travel as far as we like at our own discretion. From looking at Twitter posts this evening I can see that birders have travelled all over the country to ‘tick’ as many rarities as possible, some of this is a bit reckless and irresponsible, we chose to travel 5 miles from home but will go to the coast a couple times this week which is 25-30 miles.
There are public footpaths and bridleways all through the 1,500 acres of Melbury Park, it has many acres of woodland, three or four lakes and large open pastures, the tracks and lanes are lined with some incredibly old trees. Melbury is about 5 miles from home so we drove there and arrived around 10am, our walk lasted 3 hours and we covered 5 miles. Not long after we arrived the sun came out and it stayed out for the rest of the day.
a Wood Anemone
We parked near a clump of buildings called Town’s End and took the main driveway towards Melbury House, along this part of the route we found a few Wood Anemones in flower as well as Primroses. After half a mile we turned onto a footpath which took us alongside a strip of woodland and brought us to one of the four main lakes of the Park, Lake Lucerne.
a view of Lake Lucerne in Melbury Park
Along the track besides the wood we saw our first flowering Bluebells of the year with plenty of Dog’s Mercury also in flower. Chiffchaffs were singing all through the woodland, we heard 10 throughout the walk. Nuthatches we also very common, we heard at least 5 of them and probably five different calls from their large repertoire.
a white morph of Common Dog Violet
The most interesting birding for me was at Lake Lucerne where we saw several duck species, three of which were March ticks and one was a year tick!! Four Common Coots and two Moorhens were feeding around the edge of the lake and we found a pair of Gadwall (a year tick), a single male Shoveler, a pair of Teal, some Mallards and a Little Grebe. I was well made up after that bit of birding. My March list is now 78 and with a visit to the coast tomorrow I am sure to get near the 100 mark.
a view looking northeast from the long straight track
The next part of the walk is a long straight track that rises gently up to the village of Evershot, it is east-facing, so we had direct sunlight and shelter from the cold breeze. Along this stretch we saw Brimstone Butterflies, lots of Bee-fly (Dark Bordered), several Bumblebees and a host of Primroses.
The strange looking Great Horsetail plant was growing along the grass verge and further up the lane we saw a White version of Common Dog Violet. The lane back into Melbury Park from the south side at Evershot has high banks and these were covered in flowering plants, it was a profusion of yellows from the Primroses, Celandines, Dandelions and Wild Strawberry plants.
our first Bluebell of the year
The walk through the main pastures was quite uneventful, these monocultured sheep fields held nothing but sheep, we did see a Pied Wagtail and a couple of Nuthatches called from the mature hornbeams, but it wasn’t until after we walked through the parkland that we started to see wild flowers, birds and butterflies again.
the main drive looking south to Melbury House, you can just make out the House behind Dawn
A Peacock Butterfly was our second species of the day and flowering Ramsons (Wild Garlic) was new flower for the year, we also found Ground Ivy in flower.
Ramsons - or Wild Garlic
It was 1pm when we got back to the car and after a short drive home we enjoyed our lunch after a such along walk. We had car business to do for the rest of the afternoon so no more birding for today.