A week away

We have been away from here for a week and things have moved on. Still no baby animals on the trap camera but we did have this:

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Two!

We had presumed there must be more than one badger but this is the first hard evidence of it.

Secondly, as well as seeing that the foxes are now thankfully looking in good nick, we also captured this:

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A Jay

There are a lot of Jays here. Apparently they build a messy nest of twigs in a tree or shrub, lined with some softer fur and feathers. And they pair for life. I am not aware of ever having seen a Jays nest but there have to be some around here somewhere – probably on the cliff – and so I will try to watch Jay activity to see where they go.

Last weekend we laid 10 squares down around the place made out of felt roofing material which are used for amphibian and reptile sampling.

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A reptile and amphibian sampling square.

Under them is warm and protected and you never know what you will find basking in the heat. We looked under all ten of them as we walked around this afternoon and we found one heck of a lot of snails, an ants nest:

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A new ants nest has sprung up underneath a felt roofing square

and, under one, one of the things we were hoping to find, a lizard:

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A lizard under one of the squares.

 

Finally ( for now ) some of the lovely spring meadow flowers are starting to come up.

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Cowslip
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Salad burnet.

And, by the pond:

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Marsh marigold.

 

A cold north-easterly wind is blowing today and for the next couple of days which will slow any further burgeoning spring activity, but we will be around with eyes and ears open to see if anything interesting is going down.

Dragons in your garden

Last night we went to a talk on Dragons In Your Garden given by the Kent Reptile and Amphibian Group (or KRAG. I really wish they had named themselves Kent Reptile and Amphibian People).  I was unaware that there are only 6 native amphibians (three newts, two frogs, one toad) and 6 native reptiles (three lizards, three snakes) and this is because after the last ice age, when they all will have all been killed off, only six species made it back across the bridge from continental Europe, before the land bridge was cut off by rising sea level from the melting ice. There are many more species in Europe that didn’t make it across in time.

Anyway, that was all very interesting. Enthused by all this information, we went and looked in the pond in the dark with torches. And we were so pleased that we did. By day, we are seeing sunbathing tadpoles on the mud at the bottom and whirligig beetles madly making crazy circles on the surface of the water.

But by night we were completely delighted to see the pond thronging with life – there were three newts in the pond. We presume these to be smooth newts but we would need to try to catch one and get a closer look at it to tell for sure. It was dark and I didn’t have my camera anyway and so none of these photos are mine:

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Smooth newt

The nearest pond to this one must be at least 150m away and so these newts must have been speculatively wandering really large distances overground to have found our pond in just a year.

We also saw a large number of large dangerous looking dragonfly larvae:

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Southern Hawker nymph

They looked very much like this southern hawker nymph – and we certainly had these dragonflies last year – but again we will need to try to hoick one out to identify it properly. And if these dragonfly larvae looked dangerous then the Great Diving Beetles that were also swimming around were the stuff of nightmares. They were terrifyingly enormous and fast. I don’t fancy the chances of those tadpoles reaching froghood.

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Great diving beetle

A couple of years ago we went on a Pond Dipping For Grown-ups evening organised by Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxon Wildlife Trust which we thoroughly enjoyed. . It looks like this year we will now be doing that sort of thing here which is very exciting.

 

These weird things..

..have emerged from the soil:

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They are growing at the base of a Holm Oak, which is also where these White Saddles appeared last Autumn:

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I know that Holm Oaks are one of the trees used in truffle farms in France and so my supposition is that the root area of these trees creates a very specific habitat which favours more specialised fungus such as truffles and also these two above.

On trying to identify this cup fungus that has appeared, I find there are lots and lots of cup fungal species – the most well known perhaps being the Scarlet Elf Cup – and some of them are notoriously difficult to tell apart requiring microscope work.

My best guess is that this is Bay Cup fungus, Peziza badia, although no microscope work has been involved in this identification!

Also under the Holm Oak is this lovely wild strawberry in flower that I include here to provide happy contrast to weird fungal bits:

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