Mothing 2016 season commencement

Since yesterday was sort of a lovely day (still a surprisingly cold wind here actually ) I decided that an inaugural 2016 mothing session was well overdue.

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Lovely to see the trap up and running again.

Got up really early this morning with eager anticipation ready to start sorting through the moth catch before the forecast bad weather came upon us. Turns out that it might have been possible to have a bit of a longer lie in since I had caught one moth. Yes, just the one. Oh, and a Caddis Fly.

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The Common Quaker

However, looking at it positively, I have had time and an opportunity to look into the life cycle of this lovely little moth in more detail. It overwinters as a pupa underground with the moth fully formed inside and then emerges as a moth from March to May. One generation only a year because the moth feeds on Blackthorn flowers which all fits together terribly well, because Blackthorn is about the only thing in flower in the meadows at the moment. The caterpillars are around from April to June feeding on a wide range of broadleaved trees.

And here is the Caddis Fly:

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Caddis Fly

It appears that there are many different species of Caddis Fly and in fact I do have an insect identification book that deals with 30 of the most common of these but I couldn’t work out which one this was.  So I am currently happy to just leave it at this being a Caddis Fly and taking it no further.

So it appears that it may still be a teensy bit early to wield the moth trap at the meadows. I will try again in a couple of weeks and see what I get then.

They’ve eaten all the spawn

We found the pond looking like this:

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A stirred up pond.

 

We couldn’t understand what had been going on until we realised that all the frogspawn was missing. We’ve worked out that the foxes had been wading around in there eating it. I so wish I’d got a video. And there was a huge amount. Not only was there the stuff that had been naturally laid there, but I’d also transferred three great buckets full from a nearby pond that has got fish in it in the mistaken belief I was keeping it safe.

An internet search revealed that foxes do indeed eat frogspawn and they probably need to eat whatever they can get these days- theres not much food out there anymore and its cold and wet and they’ve got cubs probably now to bring up. And we are no longer putting out the jam sandwiches.

Anyway, 2016 is already looking like a bad year for frogs.

 

Easter Projects

The Easter weekend starts tomorrow and some of our kids will be around.

Should they be so inclined, we’ve had some new stuff delivered today that they could help us with:

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Two Wren nests

Schwegler use something they call Wood Concrete to make an extensive range of specialised nest boxes. They are very heavy – I think Wood Concrete must be concrete with shredded wood mixed into it. We have bought two Wren boxes which are best hung low in dense vegetation such as ivy – got lots of that.

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A Spider Square

This is a bit unnecessary really but its a spider square in which a spider will build its web. The built up corner provides protection for the spider when its waiting for something to happen. Just thought it would be interesting. It comes with pages of information on spiders – all in German.

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A Kestrel box

This will be our second Kestrel box to go up in the meadows. Our existing one is wooden, this one is in the heavy wood concrete and getting it up high in a pine tree is going to be challenging. We are planning on putting it in the copse between the two meadows where the Kestrel has been lurking all winter.

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An insect house with a difference.

This insect house for solitary wasps and bees has a removable front to it and there are glass tubes behind the holes. So from time to time you can take the front off and see whats going on inside.

 

The weather forecast for the Easter long weekend is not great – more strong winds as usual – but hopefully we will find an opportunity to get these things sited and installed.

Badgergate

This is the latest weapon in our arsenal.

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The dog reluctantly posing beside the new badger gate.

A quick summary to set the scene: when we took over the meadows, one of our first jobs was to erect a completely new fence along the boundary with the cliff in an attempt to keep the dog in.The fence was trenched down to discourage burrowing cliff-dwelling animals from creating holes which would then leak the dog. Practically overnight, a burrowing cliff-dwelling animal DID create a hole. In fact there are now three holes in the 300m or so of the boundary with the cliff:

 

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However, in the past year the dog has not shown any inclination to go through these holes and so we were happily going along with the naive hope that this meant she wouldn’t. However, sadly she did go through a couple of days ago and we can no longer feel relaxed that she is safely contained.

Therefore, we have bought this Badger Gate to go in the fence at the point where she went through. This gate is meant to be used to let badgers through rabbit proof fences. They can push through it like a cat flap but it is too heavy for a rabbit to do so. This stops the badger forcing its way through the fence, creating holes that the rabbits will then get through. Alternatively, by judicious use of a nail, it can be made into a one-way only gate which can be used to let badgers out of setts but not let them back in again, if you wanted to clear a sett. However, badgers are protected animals and you need a licence to do anything like that at or near to a sett – a fact that sits very uncomfortably with the Government ordered badger culling that is going on at the moment.

Anyway, we will shortly install this gate and cross our fingers that the dog will not just simply go through the gate like she used to go through the cat flap in our back door when she was a puppy.

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Three New Additions

In the past couple of weeks we have done three things in the meadows:

A Whitebeam has been planted down by the pond in memory of a much loved mother who died last month. She had a huge Whitebeam by the back door of her home and last year it had Nuthatches nesting in it. Every year it produced a blanket of orange berries that fell and were adored by the birds. We hope that, in time, our new Whitebeam might prove to be equally as popular.

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Our newly planted Whitebeam – already about 15 feet high.

We are trying to improve the habitat around the pond – provide increased protection for amphibians and more cover and perches for birds. Eventually, we might build a hide overlooking this area and envisage the two of us holed up in there with our binoculars and photographic equipment and coffee in a flask. Well, you’ve got to have a plan and dreams and this is one of ours.

But as a small step in this direction, we have put a feeder up by the pond to start to encourage more activity in the area. Filled it with sunflower seeds with the husks still on which we haven’t got in feeders elsewhere and which seemed to be very popular in the feeders at reserves we visited on a recent birding trip to Norfolk.

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Thirdly, we have put a quirky bird box up in an ivy covered tree in the boundary with the cliff.We saw these boxes for sale in Sandwich Bay Bird Observatory and couldn’t resist the upcycling nature of it. We saw two wrens in this tree this morning and so this is where the box has gone since it is good for Robins or Wrens.

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The teapot nesting box going up

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The Advancement of Spring

Progress is being made – Spring is not here yet but there are signs that its on its way.

The hedgerows are starting to come alive:

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New leaves on the Hawthorns
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Blackthorn blossom
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Dew on Blackthorn blossom

The frogspawn in the pond is developing into little tadpoles:

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Frog Spawn

And deep underground in their burrows in the cliffs below the meadows there should already be baby foxes and badgers born. Looking forward to seeing what we can capture on our trap cameras once they come above ground in April.

We have been feeding jam sandwiches laced with medicine to the foxes on a daily basis for the past 6 or 7 weeks, hoping that it is doing something to help improve the mange that many of them seem to have. A trap camera is trained on the sandwich area but the images aren’t good enough to properly see whats going on. However, this image was taken a few days ago:

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Is this cause for hope? Is this the hair growing back?

We have decided to stop putting out the medicine now – the advice was four drops of medicine per day per fox for 3 weeks minimum but up to 6 weeks if necessary. We  will continue to monitor our foxes to see if the situation is getting better or worse.  I think that they will miss the sandwiches though – they had started waiting for them to arrive.

Another feature of right now is the enormous flock of wood pigeons that is feeding on the field of Brassicas next to the meadows. When the flock goes up, it fills and darkens the sky, there must be 500 of them. They have then been resting up in the hedgerows surrounding our land and it feels slightly unnerving seeing so many:

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A small selection of our current pigeon flock.

Surely this concentration of pigeons cannot escape the attentions of a peregrine or a sparrow hawk?

Finally for now, we also continue to enjoy the daily visitations of the Kestrel and the Grey Heron:

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The heron by the pond this afternoon.

So all sorts going on here – just need this bitter, eye-wateringly cold east wind to die down a bit and we can get out there and enjoy it.