Mystery diggings and Other Stories

This rather large excavation appeared overnight

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There was a hole at the back which was too small for a rabbit, but with this level of output we couldn’t think what could have made it and so quickly.

So obviously this needed to be investigated further:

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We have had the trap camera trained onto the pile for a week now and it has taken hundreds of photos. There was a vast amount of activity through the nights and all by one little animal – a Wood Mouse.

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Can this little animal really be responsible for all this?

Elsewhere, we have a new mystery species appearing in the pond. Several colonies each of hundreds of red worms and every single worm thrashing around wildly..

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So these are not very good photos – we need to buy an underwater camera – but perhaps you can make out these worms. And they are all waving around. We have looked them up and found that they are Tubifex. There are 13 different Tubifex worms and we don’t know which these are, but we do know that they have their heads burrowed into the silt while their tails wiggle in the water. Their bodies have haemoglobin which gives them their red colour and this is to help them get in sufficient oxygen if they are in polluted conditions. If the water is disturbed they all disappear immediately into their individual burrows.

Weird but strangely fascinating – and how did these colonies arrive in the pond?

Finally, there have now been sightings of three different slow worms under the reptile sampling mats, of which this is the largest and most impressive:

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The Hedgerows in Autumn

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Ivy and Hawthorn
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Sloes on the Blackthorn
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Rose Hips on the Field Rose
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Robins Pincushion gall (Rose Bedeguar gall) on the Field Rose
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Ivy in flower – thousands, many thousands of Ivy Bees swarming around it.
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Blackberries
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Old Man’s Beard setting seed.
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Most butterflies gone but still some Red Admirals around.
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Ivy Flowers

The Naming of the Shrew

That is, is it a Common or a Pygmy?

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We think its a Pygmy Shrew, rather than a Common one. They are smaller with a body of 4-6cms and a tail that is 2/3 of its body length:

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Off it goes.

Found this morning under a reptile sampling square, we have not seen a Shrew here before. There are probably many of them in the meadows but they forage in dense cover, under long grass and brambles. They are active night and day, resting for only a couple of hours at a time.

The  Pygmy Shrew takes spiders, woodlice and smaller insects – thats probably the sort of thing it was looking for under the sampling square, actually. There is a lot of that sort of thing under there.

Another interesting thing about Shrews is that they have scent glands on their flanks which mammals find distasteful and so they are not eaten by mammals – however, unfortunately for Shrews, birds have no sense of smell and so they form a significant part of Owls and Kestrels diet.

Well, I thought it was interesting.

 

 

Slow worm arrives at last.

There are so few species of reptiles in the UK that it was wonderful to today find a new one for here:

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A slow worm asleep under one of the reptile sampling squares.

We also found 5 lizards as we went round looking under them and this nest:

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Presume this is a voles nest.

The swallows are gathered and swooping low across the meadows, feeding while they wait for a clement opportunity to travel south across the channel. The only sound is the thundering of the dogs great feet as she tries to chase them all, the stupid animal.

The ivy is in flower and ivy bees are buzzing everywhere in a cloud around them making the most of the bounty they have to offer.

Hawthorn berries, rose hips, sloes, everywhere the hedgerows are dripping with autumn fruitfulness.

Its lovely out there.

 

Stake Out

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It could be madness or it could be commitment, but it was certainly very hot sitting in the mobile hide. I was trying to identify a jittery flock of 50 to 70 birds in this hawthorn above the pond. For the past fortnight they have been swirling up, flying in circles, going down to the pond en masse and abruptly exploding out again and always returning to this Hawthorn.

They were silhouetted, constantly moving and their markings seemed very bland so standing at a distance with binoculars wasn’t helping. So this what I was doing in this mobile sauna.

And it worked – here they are:

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And what are they? Well, I think they are Linnets. Reasonably certain, although I will check when I next see someone who actually knows what they are talking about.

What I also noticed while I was in there was what a heavy crop on the Hawthorns there is this year. They are dripping:

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Lovely! Hardly any sloes though, but no need to make sloe gin this year – haven’t started drinking what we made last year yet.

 

 

A new butterfly and bird species no. 43

We have been seeing this new butterfly species flying around:

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What a beauty. A Small Copper. Still common and widespread in the UK but underwent a major decline in the 20th century. Since we are now in September, this must be the third generation of this butterfly this year, but it is the first time we have been seeing it in the meadows.

This morning we also saw this butterfly, a Common Blue, that we have seen before many times but is simply too beautiful not to include:

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And what of bird species no. 43? Well, hold onto your seats because its quite a bird. And it was also incredibly noisy and intrusive – a Tawny Owl, about an hour after dark. It was sitting in one of the large Corsican Pines at the cliff edge. Sorry – no photos are available..

Insect Hostel

So thats like an Insect Hotel, but a bit more rough and ready.

And here it is, newly completed and down by the pond:

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The main wooden structure is a very strong box used to deliver stone and this, along with several other items such as the three breeze blocks acting as ballast, were retrieved from the rubbish pile of our local garden centre. The Edwardian edging tiles came from deep storage in my fathers garden and the sea washed bricks and stones with holes in them holding down the roof came from the beach in front of us. The logs are from some tree work on a Holm Oak we had done here last year. Finally, the three air bricks and the slates for the roof were purchased from a builders merchant.

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Well, it was great fun to do and I love the up cycling element of it. Hopefully it will become a home and safe refuge for all manner of bits of wildlife over the coming years.

All along the fence behind this insect hostel we are planning on planting a new hedgerow this autumn. I am researching it currently to see what mix of plants should go into it. It will be a big autumn project – along with an even bigger project due to start in a couple of weeks – the digging of a new pond up by the allotment and near the field shed which we will then use as a hide to lurk in and see whats going on.